Category Archives: Reviews

The Artifacts, by Eric T. Reynolds

Don’t be a cube. Pick up a book and go back in time.

Remember the line from the Reading Rainbow song, “I can go anywhere…”? That’s more or less the case with The Artifacts, a novel by Eric T. Reynolds. I found this book quite fun.

Kayla buys a Victorian house on the outskirt of Sycamore Falls and moves in. Her property is vast and it includes the highest of the Flint Hills. On top of this hill is an old farmhouse that has not been lived in for generations.

In the farmhouse, there is a library with books that will take you back in time. When Kayla discovers this library, she is unable to resist going back to the earlier days of Sycamore Falls. She learns much about the town and secrets are unlocked.

Orange Is the New Black

Orange Is the New Black. I had followed the series since it launched on Netflix in 2013. I finished the final season about two weeks ago. I wanted to write something about the series, but wasn’t sure how to go at it. Then my sister told me Saturday night that she’d just gotten home from the women’s prison in Ohio, where she’d gone with members of her church to deliver the gospel. That sparked some inspiration for me.

Based on Piper Kerman’s memoir, Orange Is the New Black is a comedy-drama about women in prison. Though the show is a comedy, it touches on the dark truths of prison life.

There’s the drugs and violence, sure. But it’s more than that. In one episode, Piper explained to a girl what prison is. Facing who you really are and not having anywhere to run. She delivered that speech cold.

Many characters were mothers who wanted to finish out their sentences so they could get back to their kids. That is a reality about women in prison. There are also those with mental impairments who really should not be in prison, but in an institution where they can get the proper care.

In far too many cases, the only difference between the guard and the inmate is the guard is in uniform. This is true of prisons across the country. Prison guards are often not properly trained, they can be abusive and they can partake in criminal activity.

My sister said that one of the things the women at the Ohio prison wanted was guidance for when they get out of prison. A lot of women (and men) released from prison are unable to get their lives straightened out. They’ll need an income, a place to live, and there are expenses they’ll need to cover. Restrictions and curfews can make it difficult for them to find work.

Because of that, they might turn to crime to get by, and that eventually leads them back to prison. The Poussey Washington Fund was created to help these women.

The Prince of Tides, by Pat Conroy

I don’t feel like my review is going to do this novel the justice it deserves. I’m not feeling very crafty today and I’ll probably butcher it, but it’s my practice to write something about the books I read and I don’t want to make an exception for this one.

The Prince of Tides. I have seen the movie. It’s a movie that I remember well and often find myself thinking about. But the novel Pat Conroy wrote takes the story much deeper than any a movie ever could.

Tom Wingo is a southern from Celleton, South Carolina. He and his siblings, Luke and Savannah, grew up in a small house on an island. Their father, Henry, is a shrimper and their mother, Lila, was a house wife.

Tom gets word that Savannah had attempted suicide again and that she is in the hospital. He goes to New York City where Savannah has been living her entire adult life and spends the summer telling Savannah’s psychiatrist, Susan Lowenstein, the stories their lives in Celleton county so Lowenstein can understand Savannah better.

This is complex story with very believable characters and situations. Henry Wingo had been a violent, abusive father and husband, and Lila, although not quite as brutal with her fists, was abusive with words. Henry and Lila had scarred their children for life.

The story is full of heartbreak, joy, struggle, heroism, suffering, forgiveness and so much more. At times, I had tears in my eyes as I read. Other times, I laughed out loud.

I’m not pleased with my review here. It’s lacking much. There’s so much more about this novel that I didn’t touch on. I’m having one of those days where I can’t find the right words.

But this novel, I recommend it highly. There’s much to be learned from it.

The Passion Play (2019)

This is a first. Me reviewing a play. Never saw that coming.

My sister goes to the River Church in Holly. She invited me, my brother and our parents to see the play with her and my niece. I guess the church  has The Passion Play every year. I don’t know if the play is made up of members of the church or if they’re performers from anywhere who just happened to land the roles. I will say this, they are very professional.

The people who put this thing on know what they’re doing. The acting was great, the music was great, the singing was wonderful, the lights were great, the background videos were great. This is a very high quality performance with believable special effects.

I’m deaf. I can hear well enough to enjoy the music and I can hear when there’s dialog, but I could not make out a word that was said or sang. Even so, I know the story of Jesus and I knew what was going on.

There was a particular female singer who’s singing was so beautiful, it filled my heart. I was disappointed when her performance ended and she hurried offstage as others were coming on. I don’t know who she was cast as. Maybe Mary, maybe another woman from the Bible.

It was pretty neat how swiftly the stage changeups were. An act would end, the lights would go out for about twenty seconds. When the lights came back on, there would be one large object or another in the middle of the stage. I was like, how did you get that up there so fast?

Also, at times, I saw Jesus on one end of the stage. In the next couple seconds, I’d notice he was on the other end of the stage, and I’d wonder when he moved over there. I don’t know if that was part of the show or if I just lost track of him.

Whether you’re religious or not, whether you believe the Bible or not, I think you could enjoy The Passion Play.

I was very impressed.

Gustav Gloom and the People Taker, by Adam-Troy Castro

I really enjoyed this book. Gustav Gloom and the People Taker is the first of a series by Adam-Troy Castro.

Gustav is thought to be the saddest boy in the world. He lives in a dark house and has only shadows to keep him company, at least until the What family moves into the house across the street.

It’s an adventure that takes place in a big, scary house where nothing makes sense at all. I laughed a lot while reading this book. I’d say the Gallery of Awkward Statues was my favorite chapter.

The Apocalypse Ocean, by Tobias S. Buckell

In my review of Sly Mongoose, I said “I’m guessing Buckell had a better grasp on the craft, or at least the series, when he went to work on Sly Mongoose.” But now that I think about it, that’s probably not it. It’s probably not so simple to pinpoint what it was that made Sly Mongoose come out so well. Sometimes the writer just does better than he does other times and sometimes one story works better for the reader than another story. It could be either and it could be both.

Well, I just finished The Apocalypse Ocean. I feel The Apocalypse Ocean and Sly Mongoose weigh pretty even on my scale of what’s good and what’s great.

The Apocalypse Ocean is the fourth book of Tobias S. Buckell‘s Xenowealth series.

The Doaq is terrorizing Placa del Fuego. Kay, the leader of a criminal organization, wants the Doaq gone because its undermining her power. But the Doaq is a powerful creature with a wormhole for a mouth and even Pepper has to run from it.

Far as I can tell, The Apocalypse Ocean is the last of the Xenowealth novels and I don’t know if Buckell plans to continue the series. I know there is a collection of short stories set in Xenowealth. I’ll probably pick that up if I start missing Xenowealth too much.

I think Xenowealth is the first series I ever finished. I’ve been reading books my whole life, but I’m not sure that I ever got to the end of any multiple book series. At least I can’t recall any that I have finished. I read a few books of Stephen King’s Dark Tower. The last Ice & Fire book I finished was A Feast for Crows. I read the first two Harry Potter books.

Nope, I don’t think there’s any other series that I’ve finished.

Sly Mongoose, by Tobias S. Buckell

“We.”
“Are.”
“The.”
“Swarm.”

The new threat is the Swarm. They are zombies, but a little different than the zombies of the Walking Dead. The Swarm can speak, and think, but the goal is pretty much the same. The Swarm will bite you, infect you and turn you into one of them.

Pepper crash lands on Chilo and warns the people that the Swarm is coming.

Sly Mongoose is the third book of Tobias S. Buckell‘s Xenowealth series. I enjoyed Crystal Rain and Ragamuffin a great deal, but I felt Sly Mongoose was a major improvement. I’m guessing Buckell had a better grasp on the craft, or least the series, when he went to work on Sly Mongoose.

The writing is very good, easy to read, an excellent flow. The world building dazzled me and the scenes were interesting. I’m not saying Crystal Rain and Ragamuffin didn’t have all that, but I feel it’s better done in Sly Mongoose.

If I was to rank the three Xenowealth books that I’ve read, I’d say that although I enjoyed Ragamuffin, I didn’t like it as much as Crystal Rain, and I liked Sly Mongoose far more than I liked Crystal Rain. Even so, I recommend you start the series with the first book and work your way through. It’s action-packed science fiction and it’s fun.

Confessions of a Female Safety Engineer, by Wendy S. Delmater

I never doubted that construction sites are dangerous, but I don’t think I put much thought into how dangerous they are or what the dangers are. Wendy S. Delmater goes into all that in Confessions of a Female Safety Engineer.

Wendy was a safety manager who did much of her work in New York City. It was her job to make sure construction sites were run safely. She made sure that crews working on skyscrapers had fall protection, that gases, chemicals and oxygen were stored properly, she took steps to make sure crews did not have to work in areas with lead. What I just listed there is only a small percentage of what Wendy had to deal with on the job.

She was a couple blocks down the street, standing on the sidewalk when the Twin Towers collapsed on 9/11. Although that’s not really what the book is about, Wendy’s account of what happened on that day really drives home how terrible it was. It was bad enough for those who saw it on TV. Imagine if you were on the sidewalk, not far from the Towers.

I feel like I learned a lot from Confessions of a Female Safety Engineer. It’s a very interesting read and it gave me a better idea of what it’s like working construction in a big city like New York City.

A hard book to put down.

Ragamuffin, by Tobias S. Buckell

I feel like I owe Tobias Buckell an apology for taking so long to get back to Xenowealth. I read Crystal Rain years ago and I was blown away. I thought I would pick up Ragamuffin sooner, but I got sidetracked and this was before I started keeping a to-read list.

Everything I’ve read by Buckell, mostly short stories and novellas, was very good and very fun. Ragamuffin is no exception.

At first the characters were unfamiliar, but eventually Jerome, John and Pepper came into the story. I was reminded why Pepper was my favorite character in Crystal Rain.

Nashara, Kara and Etsudo are some of the new characters. They were all important in the fight against the Satrapy. Nashara being another badass like Pepper.