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Saturday, December 19, 2015

Lost and Found, Stories of Christmas






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Review of Lost and Found, Stories of Christmas by Wendell E. Mettey

Overview from www.barnesandnoble.com: Lost and Found, Stories of Christmas is a collection of stories written by Reverend Wendell Mettey for his congregations. While written over a span of years, the stories have a timelessness that appeals to readers of all ages. These simple stories share the emotional journey of characters whose struggles with doubts, fears and resentments cause them to lose hope, but who ultimately find a great gift through the discovery of the true meaning of Christmas. Readers will recognize their own anxieties and concerns in the reactions of the characters and celebrate with them their triumph as they discover the joy of giving… the true spirit of Christmas.

My Review:


This time we take a departure from the usual books and start with a story or stories related to the Christmas season. I have occasionally done reviews on short stories but it’s been a while so I am glad to review a few others.

The book that I review this week was interesting. Firstly, they all have a Christmas theme. I suppose that it was partly for this reason I immediately began to think of the famous short story by O’Henry called “The Gift of the Magi.” I mention that because the more I read, particularly on the first short story presented in this collection, the more it reminded me of that story. I can’t that this story was as good as “The Gift of the Magi” but “The Little Candle” had a similar message about giving and the spirit of Christmas. Some parts of the story were a little slow and I did find myself losing interest at times but I did like the message.

As I continued reading though I noticed something, the subsequent stories did not seem to be as good as the first. Also there was a lot more telling than showing which is usually the reverse of what most writing workshops and coaches recommend. I am a writer also so I can’t help but notice these things, I know. I do believe though that most other readers might get bored by it as well.

This is not to say that you shouldn’t read this book. I think it is nice if you want to read something to put you in the holiday mood or that is uplifting. This collection of short stories can provide both of those things. And the other nice thing about it is that it is free so you don’t have to worry about it coming out of your Christmas gift budget.

However overall, this writer is no O’Henry. I realize though that asking him to be one is probably asking a lot. Perhaps if I hadn’t made the O’Henry connection early on, I might have had a more positive impression of the book. Still you might want to read these stories to your family on Christmas Eve, if nothing else but to get you into the Christmas spirit. Just know that your expectations should not be too high.
 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Brothers in Exile





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Review of Brothers in Exile by Joe Vasicek

Overview from www.barnesandnoble.com: Deep in the Far Outworlds, a derelict space station holds the bones of a long-dead people—and a beautiful young woman locked in cryofreeze. When the star-wandering brothers Isaac and Aaron Deltana find the sleeping girl, they soon realize that they are her only hope for rescue. If they don't take her, then slavers certainly will.

With no way to revive her, they set a course for the New Pleiades in hopes of finding someone who can help. But a storm is brewing over that region of space. After a series of brutal civil wars, the Gaian Empire has turned its sights outward. A frontier war is on the verge of breaking out, and the brothers are about to be caught in the middle of it.
They both harbor a secret, though. Somewhere else in the Outworlds is another derelict station—one that they used to call home. That secret will either bind them together or draw them apart.

My Review:



I apologize in advance for not prioritizing correctly this week but it seems this next review is again for the Sci-Fi genre which is something I usually don’t do. That is, I try not repeat genres too much with the exception of Historical Fiction which is my favorite. I will try to do better next week.

Our novel, or novella, is the story of Aaron and Isaac, two brothers travelling out in space. Their home planet ran out of room for them as well as opportunities so they took off as space traders, which was something of a tradition among their people but only for the oldest son. However because of their situation, their father sent both of his sons out.

Things seem to be going fine until they reach a space station where almost everyone appears to be dead. Everyone except a girl covered in henna tattoos and frozen in a cryogenic state. They can’t figure out how to thaw her out so they take her with them, along with the other cargo they’ve collected, to prevent her from being discovered by slavers and made into a slave. Now they need to find someone who has the equipment to thaw her out and to do that they may need to search the galaxy.

Thus, begins Aaron and Isaac’s adventure. I won’t give any spoilers here, that’s not my style. But overall the story is good. The characters are interesting. The only that I didn’t like about this book were its use of the word “very,” which is meaningless, and because there were some other errors that probably could have been caught by hiring a good editor. Still, it is a free book, or at least it was last time I checked. If you like Sci-Fi, you might want to check it out. Not sure I like it enough to follow the series though.
 

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Unfinished


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Review of Unfinished Kendra C. Highley

Overview from www.barnesandnoble.com: In a world where genetically-engineered humans serve as slave labor to “real” humans, ten-year-old Quinn is an anomaly. Designed with superior intelligence and physical attributes, he lives and trains at Maren DeGaul’s lakeside mansion, being readied for some mysterious purpose as dictated by Precipice Corporation. Despite the comfortable surroundings, Quinn is frequently pushed to his limits by his human guardians, often learning lessons in pain and loneliness.
That all changes the day they introduce him to a new artificial, one who is both his equal and his soul-mate. But when Maren decides the new artificial is flawed and should be decommissioned, it’s up to Quinn to find a way to save his only friend.

My Review: 

For this week’s offering we delve into the world of Sci-Fi. Our main character is a young boy named Quinn. He is not a regular human but rather something called an artificial. I didn’t really fully understand what that meant because the context made it seem like it did not mean a robot but rather some kind of genetically-altered person. 


The people that he stays with then go on to create some other kind of genetically-altered person who is supposedly made just for him. His own personal Eve I guess except that her name is Lexa, a name Quinn has chosen for her. The book’s plot revolves around the adventures of Quinn and Alex as they attempt to break out of their environment—both literally and figuratively and attempt to find new lives that help them take full advantage of their potential.

My ranking on this one is simple. If I were using a five star rating, I would give this one a three out of five stars overall. 

The story is compelling but at the beginning it was hard to follow. Right after the chapter headings on most of the chapters it would read: Seven years ago. My first thought was, why not just wait till you get to that point in the story where it is the present and then put seven years later, just to indicate that seven years has passed? It makes more sense to me. But then the author kept doing that on almost every chapter and I was getting a little confused wondering if it was seven years before or after the last chapter. Finally there was a chapter in present day and if I remember correctly it had the heading “seven years later.” A bit strange but also convinces me that I was right and that the author should probably take out all those seven years ago headings.

The story itself was interesting though. It also became easier to follow after I started ignoring all of those headings. And now that we have travelled with the characters to the present point, the author asks us to take a journey with them to the next novel. It could be interesting but I am still not sure that I want to join them. For now, I have lots of other books to read though so I guess I best get cracking.

Contains:  mild swearing and elements of torture
 

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow


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Review of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving


Overview from www.barnesandnoble.com: The story is set in 1790 in the countryside around the Dutch settlement of Tarry Town (historical Tarrytown, New York), in a secluded glen called Sleepy Hollow.

The "Legend" relates the tale of Ichabod Crane, a lean, lanky and extremely superstitious schoolmaster from Connecticut, who competes with Abraham "Brom Bones" Van Brunt, for the hand of 18-year-old Katrina Van Tassel, the daughter and sole child of a wealthy farmer, Baltus Van Tassel. Crane, a Yankee and an outsider, sees marriage to Katrina as a means of procuring Van Tassel's extravagant wealth.


My Review:

 
In honor of the fact that many people here in the USA will soon celebrate Halloween, I have chosen a book, or rather a story, which reflects the Halloween mood. The Legend of Sleepy Hallow is of course a classic favorite. It has been so long since the last time that I read it that I wrongly assumed that it was a novel instead of a short story.


Still, I have always loved it. It is a great story which seemed unique to me from the first time I read it. The style of the writing is much more in the period of the time yet I have found it much easier to read than many of the works of Charles Dickens. 

One of the most obvious ways that it differs from modern stories is that three main characters emerge (or perhaps four if you include the headless horseman as a character as well). The first one is the one that I remember most—one Ichabod Crane. Mr. Crane is a local school teacher who is attempting to settle down in the area where he now lives when the story opens. In life he loves chiefly two things: food and girls. However he also hopes to improve his wealth with his latest pursuit of a local young Dutchwoman whose father owns a great deal of land.

The next main character is naturally the young lady herself. Her name is Katrina and she is described as attractive as well as plump. Boy how times have changed. She is also apparently quite a catch since many of the local bachelors have all tried, more or less unsuccessfully, to court her. She always keeps them guessing though.

Our final character is one Brom Bones who is also one of Katrina’s suitors. He is nearly the complete opposite of Crane. While Crane is the thin and scholarly type, Bones sounds more like what we would now call a jock. He is a big, burly sort of guy, or at least that’s how I had always pictured him.

In our story, Sleepy Hallow is haunted by one Headless Horseman. Brom Bones himself has boosted of nearly beating the horseman in a horse race. He claims that the same horseman disappeared as he passed a bridge otherwise he would have one. It is this claim that later leads to Crane’s own disappearance in connection with the same horseman.

Overall, this is still a great story. I enjoyed reading it. I think I could read it over and over again and not get bored. I try to imagine what really happened to Ichabod after I finished reading it. Last time I was trying to figure out who the horseman was. I still wonder about that but now I wonder more about Ichabod. What happened to him? Where is he now? Think about the next time you visit an isolated wooded area and keep a look out for the Headless Horseman.