Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Lost Goddess - Reviewed

The Lost GoddessThe Lost Goddess by Tom Knox

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received this book as an Advanced Reader Copy through Goodreads' giveaways program. I'll refrain from any commentary on the formatting or syntax, since it is an unproofed copy and will inevitably change shape come publication.

As the book description outlines, The Lost Goddess takes Julia Kerrigan, an archaeologist working in France, and Jake Thurby, a photographer in Southeast Asia, through a harrowing journey of ancient mysteries, genocide, and murder. It is a thriller, fast-paced, and grim. It is dark, very dark, both in tone and content. In many ways it is an answer to Dan Brown's novels, this one tying together ancient Angkor Wat mysteries with modern Khmer Rouge atrocities. But this time religion isn't on trial. Rather, Communism, specifically Communism as practiced in Asia, is.

For me the book came to a proper surprise ending. I didn't predict how much of it turned out. Given the tone and themes of the novel, the ending(s) seemed appropriate and were very thought provoking.

Perhaps Knox's greatest strength, aside from his in-depth research into the history of the cave paintings in France and the ancient civilization of Angkor Wat, is his ability to sit the reader in the setting. Knox has obviously traveled the places he describes, and it shines through in every sentence. I could picture the standing stones in France, feel the waters of the Mekong, and appreciate the majesty of China's remote Himalaya regions.

My only reservation with recommending this book is its very dark themes, gruesome scenes, and sexual content. It's a shame really, because such content (though it could have been much worse) limits Knox's audience. Regardless, I intend to read his other novels (and I'm a bit of a prude).

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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Empire of the Summer Moon - Reviewed

Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American HistoryEmpire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History by S.C. Gwynne

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is one of those books that will stick with you. I consider myself fairly well versed in US history, yet this book breathed life into an era I never really knew existed. The tale of the rise and fall of the Comanches alone is mesmerizing and compelling, but it is the tales of the individuals involved that make this work stand out.

Gwynne does an amazing job of bringing the Plains to life. Fans of Nathaniel Philbrick, Joseph Ellis, etc., need to read this book. I'll never look at the Great Plains, the Texas Rangers, or the mustang the same.

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Saturday, October 15, 2011

Unbroken - Reviewed

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It's hard to say you enjoyed a book that is as grim as this one can be in parts, so let's say I found it enthralling. As a biographer, Laura Hillenbrand does an amazing job of telling Louis Zamerini's life story. As a subject, Zamperini is hard to rival. This tale is both horrifying and inspiring. It'll give you a new appreciation of the war efforts in the Pacific, and for the triumph of forgiveness. Highly recommended, but only if you're prepared for grimness.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Heaven's Reach - Reviewed

Heaven's Reach (Uplift Storm Trilogy, #3)Heaven's Reach by David Brin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

David Brin delivers in this last novel of the Uplift Storm Trilogy. The hard science of Brin's world is much more in affect in this novel than in the previous two, and we're introduced to a few new characters. But it picks up exactly where Infinity's Shore dropped off. Though each subplot is tied off nicely, we never spend any time on Jijo, which was my favorite part of the novels. That's the main reason behind my 4-star rating, that little bit of disappointment.

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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Going Postal - Reviewed

Going Postal (Discworld, #33)Going Postal by Terry Pratchett

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was my first foray into Pratchett's writing. I'm glad I made it. Not only is Pratchett's writing thoroughly engaging, but it's hilarious too. The characters are impressive and completely sympathetic. Though this novel is one of his Disc World series, I didn't need any back story to enjoy it. Highly recommended.

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Friday, September 2, 2011

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers - Reviewed

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into PrintSelf-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print by Renni Browne

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is one of the best writing helps I've read in a long time. Getting insight on fiction writing from the other side of table, not as a writer or a reader, but as an editor, is invaluable. I highly recommend this to all fiction writers. It's a fast read.

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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The World Without Us - Reviewed

The World Without UsThe World Without Us by Alan Weisman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is amazingly informative and will have you looking about you and pondering exactly what would happen if *poof* we weren't around any more. He pulls from a a vast pool of sources and has toured all around the world to draw his conclusions. You'll learn how a house will decay over the decades, what will happen to New York city if the subway pumps turn off, how a forest will return, and how long it will take for all of our petroleum products to degrade. I particularly enjoyed the time he spent in Polish forests, the Pleistocene, and Texas. This book will stay with me for a long time and will have a permanent place on my shelf.

My only reservation about this book is that it is, in the end, very misanthropic. Weisman seems to see little of redeeming value in humanity. He even manages to find the good side of war: not only does it reduce the human population, but it also creates demilitarized zones and no-man's lands (such as in Korea and on Cyprus) where wildlife can reemerge. Regardless, I recommend this book, but only if you're prepared for a heavy read.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

eBook Conversion

I'm excited about this service. You can convert your files, cover and all, into Kindle and ebook formats easily, and for free.

I've been struggling with how to do this. CreateSpace charges for the service, and I, being a cheapskate, have been working on a free solution. And then wouldn't you know it, one of my buddies just does it for me on the side using Calibre. It's nice having friends who actually know what they're doing. Now I need to make a lawyer friend and a mechanic friend.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

How to Write a Sentence

I just listened to author Stanley Fish being interviewed on Talk of the Nation. His latest offering, How to Write a Sentence: And How to Read One, looks very intriguing. I've never read any of his work, but even if all it is is just a collection of great opening sentences, that'll be worth the read. But it sounds like he really delves into the craft and art of writing good sentences, and I crave anything that will help.

I'm consistently amazed at how little heed writers pay to the crafting of their sentences. Good ones are a joy to read. Bad ones make you want to jab forks in your eyeballs.