My general opinions on books & occasionally other stuff.
by Rosanna Amaka
This book starts out well with an interesting idea: The spirit of an African slave woman narrates the experiences of her descendants over 200 years. I thought the idea intriguing and really wanted to enjoy the book.
However, I found it meandering and had trouble with the jumps from one set of characters to another. It was also written in present tense, which makes it difficult to keep attention on the story.
I can't say much more about it because apart from that beginning, very little of what I read stuck in my mind. A great idea with a scattered execution.
Nope. You don't kill the animals in a story and expect me to keep reading. It was meandering along at a snail's pace anyway. Thus my Bingo card remains unfinished.
by Michael Dobrzycki, , Bob Berry, Cynthia Knox, Meredith Dillman
A look at the beautifully shaded drawings on the cover is enough to tell me this is above my drawing level, but I thought I would give it a try anyway and see if my perspective might improve.
Like many drawing books, it goes over tools and materials first. I noted the inclusion of tortillions, used for smudge shading. This is followed by a section on shading techniques, so a lot of possibility there for improving my skills. Then we get to the construction of creatures using basic shapes. They make it look so easy!
The creating textures section goes into more detail than I've seen in a lot of books. I can see this becoming the key, along with the shading, to making the drawings have that detailed finished look. The details on claws, horns and especially wing positions was extremely well done.
The creatures shown in the instructions include the western dragon, eastern dragon, wyvern (perhaps a good starting project as it has fewer fiddly bits), wyrm, water dragon, hydra, sui riu (Japanese rain dragon), centaur, fairy, minotaur, satyr, griffin and unicorn. The fact that it's weighted towards dragon-related creatures is part of the appeal of the book to me.
There is another section on tools and materials, this time for adding colour. This goes into using marker for an alternative dragon design, a pegasus in pencil and marker and another fairy in coloured pencil. Then a detailed drawing of a wisteria fairy is provided for working in water colour, though there are no instructions for drawing this one.
Overall I think the book is wonderful, but it's going to take some real practice to get to a level that looks as good as the pictures provided.
Free Ebook, Freedom: A Futuristic Fantasy by Author Jim Proctor
✦ F R E E ✦ F R E E ✦ F R E E ✦
Jazeen is a prisoner—not in a jail or a dungeon, but in her own home. Her parents, guilt-ridden since the death of their oldest daughter, never allow her out of the house except to attend school.
A chance encounter with Angus, an eccentric airship captain and retired wizard, is going to change all that, sending Jazeen's life in an entirely unexpected direction. Thrust into a reality where magic isn’t make-believe and evil witches really do exist, Jazeen faces a hard choice when Angus is taken prisoner by a bounty hunter set on delivering him to the Black Witch.
Jazeen isn’t about to sit by and let her new friend face the Black Witch alone. She knows exactly what the witch wants and is willing to risk her life to offer a trade.
That is, of course, if Jazeen can cross The Great Ocean in Angus’s airship, a week-long trip made even more dangerous with Jazeen’s limited piloting hours. There she must track down and bargain with an evil witch who kills anyone who so much as disappoints her.
Jazeen might be strong enough and clever enough for this endeavor, or a painful death might be her only reward for her efforts.
Add to your fantasy shelf on Goodreads
Jim Proctor has worked as a research engineer and scientist for more than 36 years. An avid reader of science-fiction and fantasy since high school, he began writing his first novel around 2009. He also enjoys writing short stories, and loves a good plot twist.
Connect with Jim
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by Laura Purcell
This started out with two of my personal cardinal sins: a list of characters, something I always skip past because it's meaningless until they have context in the story, and present tense writing. Having said that, the first chapter was very effective that way and would have made a great prologue. Dickens used to write the occasional present tense chapter to put immediacy into a segment of a story, but it doesn't work to do a whole book in present tense.
It starts out with a woman running from something, riding in an old time coach and wearing a dress that gives the impression of a lady, when she is not. An accident leads to her helping an injured man, remonstrating with herself for drawing attention so that people will remember her.
This is where I'm glad I skipped the character list. Learning who this woman is and what she's running from gives me a reason to continue! She has had some form of medical training, which makes her stand out as a woman healer in an older era when such things were uncommon.
We get a flashback of her history that explains where the dress came from and that her mother was a midwife. This is told in past tense and I found myself very interested in her story. A lot is put into her psychological make-up and motivations to develop a clear picture of the character.
There's a strong element of Cornish Pixie lore (though it should be Piskies there) to add a creepy element. The story behind the delicate blue and white china comes out by the end and the significance becomes clear.
I have mixed feelings about the end, but the story as a whole did keep my attention and had just that hint of Horror to make it fit firmly in the Gothic category.
So, 9 books finished this month. Not enough for a blackout, but not bad for me.
Stand outs were:
A Halloween Tale by Austin Crawley
Terror on the Tundra by J. Esker Millar
Wasteland by Frank Tayell
Honorable mention to I Am Legend by Richard Matheson.
I didn't hate any of this month's reads, so yay!
I now have a few Netgalley books to catch up and a gazillion samples I've been ignoring, so that's November sewn up.
Middle row across. :)
Two books not finished as the month ends.
by Margaret Atwood
My first impression of this book was that it reminded me of Anne Frank's diary, writing in journal form about an oppressive situation in which the person writing must survive. Considering it was first released in 1985, the present tense writing that continued caught me off guard. It was unusual before the self-pub explosion in 2010.
The tale shows a future society where the freedoms we take for granted have been removed and women in particular are assigned roles and expected to conform to them, including providing babies for couples in more privileged positions but unable to produce their own. Citizens spy on each other and dissention makes people disappear.
We are never given the main character's real name because women are referred to by their captain's name; Offred, Ofwarren, etc. She has flashbacks to how life was 'before' that identify this as a society that took over what we would recognise as modern Western life. She misses a lover whose fate she does not know and a child they had together who was taken from her. There is occasional mention of a war, but details are slow to be revealed.
I found the story continually depressing. Obviously the whole point is that no one would want to live in such an oppressive world and it was interesting to see how some women managed to adapt, though many didn't. The change is still first generation and those in charge insist the next generation will find the new society perfectly natural, as they've never known anything else.
I saw some parallels with American black slavery in that children were taken away from parents with no sympathy for the mother's sense of loss. Also in that deviating from what was considered accepted behaviour resulted in physical punishment or even death.
What I found most interesting is that the men weren't enjoying the restrictions on themselves either. Human nature was never meant to be regimented.
I found the ending... tedious. An attempt by the author to be clever that fell flat and some essential unanswered questions. I'm glad I've read this now, but even more glad that I don't have to read it again.
Second row down. Just three more books to finish, just two more calls to anticipate.
by Richard Matheson
Vampires have taken over the world and only one human, Robert Neville, is left, trying to survive night after night while the local vampires taunt him and try to lure him out of his fortress. This is a post-apocalyptic story that reminds me of many zombie stories, where a lone survivor scrounges the shops and homes of a deserted world to find food and materials to stay alive. One man against the monsters.
The difference is the vampires can only attack at night and Robert takes advantage of their daytime sleep to kill as many as he can. The trouble is, this distracts him from getting other things done.
Sometimes I've thought he's being stupid with some of his decisions and his dependency on a wind-up watch to know when to get back home to his safe fortress. If it were me, I'd be moving daily and making it harder for the vampires to find me. There's plenty of room in his station wagon to carry a generator and a lot of materials.
Some of it didn't ring realistic, especially the first close encounter with fighting the vampires. Too much luck against too many numbers. That one should have been his fatal mistake. I wouldn't have even gone home once I'd worked out it was late, but holed up somewhere else. It doesn't take that long to board up a few doors and windows.
One thing I did find very interesting is when he tried to research the various folkloric methods for repelling vampires, to find a scientific basis for how it works (if it does).
Despite the character's mistakes, I found it a good read. Survival against the odds well-written generally makes for a good story.
Also suitable for:
American Horror Story
Paint It Black
by Austin Crawley
I've read this author before so I was expecting something pretty creepy, but I think he's outdone himself this time. It's a haunted house story that goes beyond the usual ghosts and demons into some very creative supernatural entities from a variety of cultures.
It takes place in an unnamed small town, but I got the impression of somewhere in the Midwest. The main character, Tesha, is an American girl of Asian descent (she mentions a Bengali grandmother) who is still in high school. Some of her friends get an idea to try to get into the local 'haunted house' on Halloween, something that someone tries every year, so the County, who technically own the abandoned property, post security guards every year. She doesn't want to go and is worried about getting into trouble.
Meanwhile, the mayor of the town knows the house presents a problem and has called in an exorcist. One of his employees used to work for the security guard company and has stories to tell about the house.
Beyond that gets into spoilers, but everyone who goes to the house has weird and terrifying experiences, often related to their cultural experience. There are some very original ideas and the whole thing is well-written, perhaps even better than his previous books.
You don't really want to finish the story alone at night. I can see this one becoming an annual read.
Also suitable for:
Terror in a Small Town
American Horror Story
Paint it Black
and this year New Release