Category Archives: fantasy

Book Review, Catalyst Moon: Breach, by Lauren L Garcia

Catalyst Moon: Breach (Catalyst Moon Saga Book 2)Catalyst Moon: Breach by Lauren L. Garcia

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I reviewed Book 1 in this series, Catalyst Moon: Incursion, I wrote “I’m glad I read this book, and I do want to know what happens to the characters. But I wish I didn’t have to wait so long to find out.”

It turns out I didn’t have to wait very long at all. Book 2, Breach, is here, and it’s significantly better than Book 1. The characters and relationships are more complex, and the story more riveting. Now there are so many threads to be resolved that I am wondering if the author has bitten off more than she can chew. Like Incursion, this volume does not stand on its own, and it leads you to want to read the next book in the series to find out what happens.

Breach essentially picks up where Incursion left off, with Stonewall and Kali separated and Kali beginning to receive magical treatment for her bad knee, the ostensible purpose of the trip that set this whole thing in motion. For a magical system that is otherwise quite well thought out, I think Kali’s knee poses a “transporter problem.” Like the transporter in Star Trek, the magic of this world should be capable of solving almost any problem a human writer can throw at it. But since that would make for a less dramatic story, the author has to set up some artificial obstacles and constraints that the technology (or magic) can’t easily solve. That is what Kali’s knee problem feels like to me. Magic that can cure the deathly ill and that works by rearranging fundamental subatomic particles is not going to be stopped by a limp. So I am wondering if there is more to Kali’s knee problem than we’ve been told so far. We don’t find out much in this installment.

We do, however, find out much more about Stonewall/Elan in Breach. His struggles with learning to lead his squad, with learning to read and write, and with his feelings about the reappearance of his long-lost brother, round him out as a character and lift this story above a simple cliched romance. I continued to enjoy the romantic plot between Stonewall and Kali, although it is a little sappy at times. And the fact that sentinels in this world don’t seem to live past age 40 very often would make the love story tragic enough even without all the other stuff going on.

The subplot involving Eris, Gid and the other mages also starts to take off in this book (literally). In Incursion, I found these characters somewhat puzzling and annoying, but here they find their voice. The author herself seems to be going through a similar process of finding her voice, and it is a pleasure to watch it happen.

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Book Review: The Time Table by Caroline Mather

The Time TableThe Time Table by Caroline Mather

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received this independently published book to review as a member of the Book Review Directory, where my blog is listed. The writing style is fluid and a little formal, which fits the setting, and the formatting is clean and error free. I read it in about an hour on a plane, and it made the flight time pass quickly.

The Time Table is about a billiard table, built from slate cut from a Standing Stone in the British Isles, which serves as a portal through which people can travel through time. The author spends just the right amount of time and effort on explaining how this works—that is, not much—and gets right to the stories, which are all set in attractive periods of English history, including the present day.

The book works well as a collection of loosely-related tales centered around the billiard table and the London house where it has been located since the early 1700s. Quite a few people end up going through the table—so many that one is a bit surprised that it’s still a secret in 2016.

Overall the pacing of the stories is pretty good, never draggy, but sometimes the kissing starts surprisingly quickly and without much warning. There is a lot of kissing, caressing, and stolen, smoldery looks, but nothing more. The sexism of past ages is invariably dealt with or mitigated by the love of good men, and the table itself is always a force for good, helping its hapless humans work through their modern and not-so-modern dissatisfactions. The author’s optimism about love, relationships, the power of conversation, and the possibility of living happily ever after, is refreshing.

I don’t usually read time travel romances, so others more familiar with the genre might be less forgiving of some of this book’s foibles than I, but I found it to be a delightful break from heavier reading fare, like a tasty chocolate bon bon.

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Book Review: The Winter Knife by Laramie Sasseville

The Winter Knife (Minnesota Strange Book 1)The Winter Knife by Laramie Sasseville

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Good YA literature will stay with me long after I am finished with it, even as an adult. I would have been in the prime target audience for this book when I was a teenager, and I would have devoured it (pun intended). The story was a pleasant surprise on several levels. First, the author has a real gift for character and voice, especially with young teens. She manages to tell a fantastical story without talking down or condescending to her audience, while at the same time not going to any of the despairing, hopeless, or crazy places I feared she might be heading with the supernatural element.  Continue reading Book Review: The Winter Knife by Laramie Sasseville

Book Review, Catalyst Moon: Incursion, by Lauren L Garcia

Incursion (Catalyst Moon #1)Incursion by Lauren L. Garcia

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the first installment of an enjoyable saga, Catalyst Moon. I don’t read many series, though, and this book reminds me of why. Incursion does a good job of setting up the characters, the world, and the conflicts, but the pace is leisurely and once things are really getting going, the book ends. I might read the next one, but I have so many other things to read in the meantime that it will be months if not years until I get around to it. I don’t believe this book stands on its own.

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Book Review: A Gleam of Light by TJ and ML Wolf

A Gleam of Light (The Survival Trilogy #1)A Gleam of Light by T.J. Wolf

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A Gleam of Light has many of the elements of a first-rate thriller: a sympathetic protagonist, mystery, conflict, and a fascinating backdrop. It’s clear that a great deal of thought and research has gone into this book. These elements, however, need to be put together differently to keep the reader really turning its pages.

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Book Review: Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern, by Anne McCaffrey

Author’s Note: Anne McCaffrey was one of my favorite authors as a teen. A high school friend gave me a copy of Dragonflight and I was hooked. But as time went on and I read more of the series I started to see its flaws. I wrote this review in college, when I was closer to both my love of and irritation with the books. Years later, I read the Harper Hall trilogy to my daughter, who enjoyed it but who never showed any inclination to pick up McCaffrey’s work on her own. The Harper Hall trilogy probably remains my favorite of all of McCaffrey’s work.

Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern (Pern, #7)Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern by Anne McCaffrey

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If you enjoyed Anne McCaffrey’s previous six Pern books, you’ll probably enjoy this one. If you were getting tired of meeting the same characters with different names or beginning to get frustrated by the discrepancy between the books’ potential and what they actually delivered, Moreta will be more of the same.

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Book Review: Tales From Alternate Earths

Tales From Alternate EarthsTales From Alternate Earths by Daniel M. Bensen

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I liked this idea for an anthology and even though the premise is popular and often tried, I was intrigued to pick it up and explore the stories. My favorites were “Twilight of the Mesozoic Moon,” which also had the best title and the most imaginative characters, and “The Secret War,” which provided a unique twist to a story I already thought I knew something about.

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Film Review: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

As the newest film set in the Harry Potter universe and J.K. Rowling’s screenplay debut, Fantastic Beasts has gotten a lot of hype, and quite a bit of criticism too for too much detail, plot holes, unclear motivations, and uneven pacing. My own kids and I were a bit confused when we went the first time, but that didn’t stop both of the kids from seeing it again with friends.

It is a visually arresting film, and I enjoyed the experience of watching it.  With the twisted cities of Doctor Strange still in my mind’s eye from the week before, the scenes of mayhem in old New York in Fantastic Beasts made an impressive counterpoint. I know the Harry Potter timeline and universe pretty well and so I also appreciated the world-building and the background to the more well known events from the HP books and movies.

Thematically, much of this debate about “craft” may be interesting, but beside the point. In this film Rowling returns to a theme that may ultimately define her body of work: the plight of wronged, abused children, the incompetent and/or evil adults who fail them, and the others who try to make it right. In the modern HP timeline, Voldemort/Tom Riddle came out of such a situation. In this film, and in other more recent work (notably, A Casual Vacancy) adults explicitly manipulate and use children to their own ends, and end up not only destroying the children’s innocence but unleashing a chaotic evil upon the world that can no longer be controlled.

This theme is rich, but sometimes, in Rowling’s hands, too simple–especially when the adults become caricatures. Newt Scamander is a worthy and well-meaning hero but IMO he needs more to do and to learn before this series can do justice to its ambition. The children are watching.