Choose… Wisely.

My Bride is a dangerous woman.

Every year, she picks a theme for how she’s going to select the books she’s going to read. One year, she asked friends for recommendations and only read things they recommended. Last year, she only read books we already owned but neither of us had read before.

Last year, I tried to pick a theme – let’s read only pocket paperback-sized books! – and I got about half the year before I read some mass market paperbacks… I don’t know if I’m made for year-long themes.

But this year, she’s still using a theme. This time her theme is terrifying: She’s having me pick every book she reads.

I have such power. Continue reading “Choose… Wisely.”

A Year of Books 2019 — The Best of the Year

The time has come.

Every year about this time, my Bride and I assess.. the BOOKSHELF OF DOOM!

Actually, it’s not very doom-y. It’s this bookshelf that sits next to our bed. The goal every year is to fill it with what we read. Finish a book? It goes on the shelf!

(Other than my professional reading for the ministry… those reviews go up every week over on my other blog.)

And now… it’s time to look at what we’ve read! I’m starting with what I consider the best of the year. These are the books that touched me the most. That doesn’t mean that everything else I read this year is bad. It also doesn’t mean that these are the books that will win the most awards. They’re the books that held my attention best and made me go, “Hm.”

These aren’t in any particular order, so don’t read into that at all. It’s just, as I said, the best of what I read this particular year.

Without further ado… Continue reading “A Year of Books 2019 — The Best of the Year”

A Tour of Worlds 2018 — the Dregs of the Galaxy

Not every world is worth a visit, is it? Each one of you has been fleeced by a flim-flam fraud! But I shan’t do that! Instead, I shall now warn you of the worlds that may not be worth your time! Yes, I admit it! Not every earth is worth a gander! My friends, you may want to do yourself a favor and not favor these worlds with your own tours. Find another place to set your feet and your imaginations! So what did I find so reprehensible about them? For the most part they’re competent. I was lucky this year! Let me tell you, not every year greets me with such a fine selection! But… well, now, shall we begin the tour?

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My friends, observe the fantasy world of The Ratastrophe Catastrophe by the daring David Lee Stone! Now, the prose in fact tells a story, and the concept is one that I wanted to read about! It’s a take on the Pied Piper of Hamelin, about what happens when all the children are gone. Right up this carny’s alley! I would delight if all the children were gone! Well, except you, my dear. How could I make my living without people like you? But this world! My tall, tall hat has indeed absorbed many a retold fairy tale and enjoyed it! Alas, when I wasn’t sure who the protagonist was, it makes it hard. As I stroll the world, who am I strolling with? Whom shall I cheer, and whom shall I boo? I wanted to enjoy this world far more than I did. Alas. Alas again for good measure.

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As I held the world of Glint by ace Ann Coburn, I see the text on the cover: “Two worlds. Two girls. Two desperate quests.” And the concept is just that! In the “real world” Ellie searches for her missing brother. In a fantasy world she created, Argent searches for a stolen dragon hatchling. According to the book, the two stories are meant to come together. This carny loves weaving disparate stories together, combining them in unexpected and delightful ways! But what happened, my dumplings? Alas, the stories remained two stories! Two fine novels told here, one a roller coaster and the other a tilt-a-whirl. Both fine on their own, but the combination left me wondering what they were doing together in one unholy amalgamation. It was like gluing two men together and claiming they were Siamese twins, when in fact they were merely two men glued together. In other words, don’t visit the freak show until we get a better replacement. But for this tour of two earths? Alas and alack, for both worlds held my attention, but not at the same time.

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Doctor Who: Time Lord Fairy Tales by jaunty Justin Richards drew me in with just the name. This is actually a little collection of little worlds, each bound in its own little hardcover book. What a delicious concept! Fairy tales that Time Lords tell!

And the worlds I got felt like little snippets of stories set in somewhat-stylized fairy tale worlds, but certainly not fairy tales Time Lords would tell. And while most of them are competent short stories I didn’t mind visiting, they were not what I was expecting at all. I would rather have seen each world explored a little more rather than getting this smattering collection of variable qualities. Alas, not every world is worth your visit, is it?

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Shadowbahn by stunning Steve Erickson took me to a world where the World Trade Center suddenly appears whole in the Badlands of South Dakota. Why are they there? What happened? And who is the shadowy figure that appears in the upper floors of the building?

The format of the novel also drew me in – short, punchy chapters of poetic prose made for a fast read. But folks, pretty words and a stunning set-up do not a good world make! It all amounted to much sound and much fury but little conclusion. It is a literary stunner, to be sure, and that may make it worth your visit, but I found myself as unfulfilled as when I sampled the borscht-flavored cotton candy.

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Perhaps you’ve visited the worlds of the alluring Lois Lowry before. Certainly, the world she tours you through in The Giver is a masterpiece. I mean the book version of the world. Listen kid, the moving pictures are all fine, but why don’t you try reading on occasion? You might find your brain a little less stunted and a little more wondrous.

Well, I toured the rest of her visits to the world of the Giver as I walked through Gathering Blue, Messenger, and Son. Each takes us to a different corner of the world to see other villages. Each introduces us to interesting characters. And indeed, had I not toured The Giver before I toured these corners of the world, I would have enjoyed them. As it was, they were disappointments, only in comparison. But alas, I surveyed the sparkling gemstone of that world first before coming to these not-as-stunning vistas. Son in particular saddened me; the first half of that visit arrests the attention like a tragedy on the Midway, but the second half feels like a totally different creature entirely. So, sure, spend some time with those visits to the world of the Giver, but be prepared for a visit not as well put together.

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Well, you’ve heard the glittering and the garish of my travels this year! But many fine worlds lay between those two extremes, ladies and gentlemen! Return with two bits and a bit more attention and I shall regale you with worlds designed for younger folks to tour, from the young at heart to the young at adulting, and I shall tell you more!