Saturday, December 30, 2017

Books read in 2017: No. 50 -- The Planet Wizard

by John Jakes

Started: Dec. 26
Finished: Dec. 30

Notes: What some might not know is that before he became known for his sweeping historic novels, Jakes was a science fiction and fantasy writer, even being known for his Sword & Sorcery creation, Brak the barbarian. I've read a handful of Jakes' fantasy short stories over the years, but until now I've never enjoyed a longer novel of his in the speculative genres.

Mini review: More science fiction than fantasy, or maybe space fantasy, with even a touch of Sword & Planet. A few generations after two planets went to war and nearly destroyed one another, one of the planets is mostly a desert wasteland populated by lizard folk while the other has fallen into something akin to the Dark Ages. On the Dark Ages planet, a con-artist passing himself off as a wizard falls into trouble with the local authorities and is tasked with traveling to the other planet to exorcise its "demons" and to search for powerful magics. I'm barely touching what this novel really goes into, but I will say this was a fun one to read, more fun than the dark, moody cover by Jeff Jones would imply (not that that's Jeff's fault).

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Books read in 2017: No. 49 -- Kothar and The Demon Queen

by Gardner F. Fox

Started: Dec. 24
Finished: Dec. 26

Notes: He's been deceased several decades now, but this author was instrumental in the comic book industry, especially in his creation of many, many characters for DC Comics, perhaps his most famous creation being the original Flash from the 1940s (the one who wore the silver helmet). I had not known Fox had also been a novelist, so when I ran across this 1970 paperback, I knew I had to give it a try.

Mini review: This was a fun little novel, about as cookie cutter a Sword & Sorcery tale as I've ever seen. Kothar the northern barbarian is summoned by a queen to quest for a magic item stolen from her, and in the process he faces the wrath of multiple wizards, more than one demon, a city's prince, untold numbers of soldiers, and even something that kind of resembled Godzilla! Of course there has to be some beautiful, scantily-clad women as well, and a betrayal or two. Though there's not much original here, the writing was pretty good. To repeat, this was just a fun read, so I can recommend.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Books read in 2017: No. 48 -- Mark Dawson's Learn Amazon Ads

by Mark Dawson and Joseph Alexander

Started: Dec. 21
Finished: Dec 22

Notes: I've been considering doing some book advertising through Amazon, so I thought I should do some research, thus this e-book.

Mini review: As expected, this freebie was really an introduction to a longer e-book and an advertisement itself for other programs offered by the offers. Still, instead of being disappointed, I did find the basics of learning the Amazon advertising system are here as well as a few tips for improving one's results with such ads. This wouldn't be a bad beginning guide for those looking into advertising with Amazon.

Books read in 2017: No. 47 -- Heroic Visions

edited by Jessica Amanda Salmonson

Started: Dec. 18
Finished: Dec. 24

Notes: I was reading a lot of fantasy when this anthology was published in 1983, but somehow I missed it. In fact, I don't even remember it, and stumbled upon it recently in a used book store. I guess none of the book stores where I lived in 1983 had this book. Anyway, I recognize a number of the authors here, from Fritz Leiber to Alan Dean Foster to Robert Silverberg, but there are also a number of unfamiliar names. I tended to love fantasy anthologies in the early '80s, and I hope this one proves to bring just as much love.

Mini review: Like with all such collections, for me some are hits and some are misses. My favorites here were "Vovko" by Gordon Derevanchuk, in which a Slavic warrior must face a demonic son he had not know of, "The Monkey's Bride" by Michael Bishop, in which a maid finds herself forced to marry a man seemingly more ape than man, and "Dancers in the Time-Flux" by Robert Silverberg, in which a 14th Century man finds himself transported to a far future time in which humans are much changed from the humans he knows. There were other good tales here. Honestly, I wouldn't say this collection excited me, but none of the tales were truly awful.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Books read in 2017: No. 46 -- Elminster: The Making of a Mage

by Ed Greenwood

Started: Dec. 11
Finished: Dec. 18

Notes: With the exception of some of the works of R.A. Salvatore, I've not been a big reader of fictional works based upon D&D worlds, here the Forgotten Realms, though I have to admit these books are pretty popular on the fantasy shelves at book stores. Anyway, I've shared a few anthologies with Ed Greenwood, and since I've never read any of his longer works, I thought I'd check out one of his novels.

Mini review: Not bad. This read more like a serialized novel with various sections dealing with different parts of Elminster's early life, how he sought vengeance for the deaths of his parents by facing a realm of evil wizards. The climax I felt was a bit muddled with too much happening at once in too many different place with too many different people, but I could still follow what was happening. Other than that, an interesting tale.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Books read in 2017: No. 45 -- Xanathar's Guide to Everything

published by Wizards of the Coast

Started: Dec. 11
Finished: Dec. 11

Notes: Since it first came out a few years ago, the Fifth Edition of the Dungeons & Dragons tabletop rpg hasn't had a lot of rules extensions, unlike earlier versions of the game which often became glutted with tons of books with extra rules. However, this is the first such book for the fifth edition, and I'm looking forward to dipping into it to see what kind of changes have been brought about. Oh, and for those who don't know, Xanathar is the name of a Beholder, an intelligent and powerful monster that is sort of a giant floating eye with a big mouth full of sharp, pointy teeth and teen stalks sticking out of its body, each stalk also containing an eye.

Mini review: Most of the rules here I didn't find necessary, adding more flavor than really anything that would alter the game or characters much. Even the additions for character classes I mostly found a bit underwhelming. Still, there was some interesting material here, though I wouldn't call this a must-buy for D&D gamers, especially as much of the stuff is available online for free as Unearthed Arcana material.

Books read in 2017: No. 44 -- Searching for Jesus

by Robert J. Hutchinson

Started: Dec. 4
Finished: Dec. 10

Notes: Tis the season, so why not? My understanding is this book is sort of a Christian apologist's answer to the secular, skeptical study of the Bible from the last couple of centuries, sometimes popularized today by the writings of such authors as Bart Ehrman. I've had some concerns about these secular studies myself, usually more from a historical than a theological point of view, so I'll be interested to see what is presented here.

Mini review: I admit to some concern at first because the author showed some Christian glee early on, but I have to say he soon settled into a fairly objective viewpoint. This book would be a decent starting point for the layman interested in critical Biblical textual studies as well as pointing the way towards archaeological studies of Judaism and early Christianity. That being said, the author truly does not urge the reader towards any definite conclusions, though he obviously mentions his own Christianity. The footnotes here are quite extensive, drawing upon secular and religious professionals across the last couple of hundreds years as well as many historical figures going back to ancient times. The writing style is pretty good, straightforward without being too friendly but also not being overly pedantic, and without being boring. Whether or not this book will have an influence upon textual studies of the Bible is yet to be seen (as the book itself was just published in 2015), but there seems to be a number of modern scholars who are already critical of the critics, if that makes sense, and no small number of these scholars are not Christian, but sometimes Jewish and often enough secular, sometimes even agnostic or atheistic. And since I mentioned Ehrman above, he is mentioned and quoted fairly often in this book, presenting his various opinions. If one is seeking some sort of final word on Jesus, especially concerning his divinity, it's not to be found here, but as the author himself might say, "It's not to be found anywhere. At least not yet."

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Featured author at Book Reader Magazine site

Yes, that's me
at the NC Renaissance Festival.
Hey! Today I'm the featured author over at the Book Reader Magazine web site where I answer some interview questions. Go check it out!

Monday, December 04, 2017

Books read in 2017: No. 43 -- Cosmos

by Carl Sagan

Started: Nov. 23
Finished: Dec. 4

Notes: I'm not much of a science reader, though for some time I've been thinking it would be worth my while to read this most famous of science books, perhaps only surpassed by Darwin for popularity among the general reading public, and possibly not even that. I fully expect some of the information here to be dated, as this book is nearing 40 years of age, but with a foreward by Neil DeGrasse Tyson, my guess would be there might be some updating, if not within the actual text at least within the foreward and perhaps other notes.

Mini review: I'm glad I read this one, and wished I had decades ago. I needn't have worried about the science being out of date, for this isn't that kind of book for the most part but is almost more of a philosophy book, giving the general state of scientific thought towards the latter part of the 20th Century, much of which still stands up today. What few things were outdated are rare, though I'm no expert so there might have been more that I missed. This strikes me as a very '80s book, steeped in the political and scientific thought of that time, and in a way that was refreshing without all the modern hoopla that goes along with so much of our current ways of thinking and communicating. I also liked the fact that Sagan wasn't trying to convince anyone of anything here, but was more or less merely stating "this is how things are."

New novel - The God Sword

Well, it's been a while since I'm made such an announcement here, but I have a new fantasy novel available in e-book formats at Amazon and other major e-book distributors (the print version will be available in a week or two). The novel is titled The God Sword, a stand-alone book, and I will let the summary speak for itself:

Warrior and general, Lord Kavrik has been tasked by King Osrick to retrieve The God Sword from the city of Gloriolus where the famed blade has resided for untold centuries, in order to fulfill an ancient prophecy which would bring immortality to mankind, easing suffering and ending death itself.

Yet when Kavrik lays hands upon the divine sword, he finds not all is as expected, and the fate of man rests upon him.

Thus begins a journey which spans across thousands of years, from the past to the future and back, where Kavrik meets strange enemies and unlikely allies.

All in the name of faith.