Monday, April 29, 2013

A few of my favorite books

I got tagged in this one by Robert Mullin. The idea is to list five or so of your favorite books (I understand it started as historical fiction, but apparently the last two people in the chain haven't done that. I'll toss in a few of each, just for fun.)

So, in no apparent order, here are some of my favorites:

Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffery

Lessa wakes to a sense of danger. The dragon riders come on search, and she's off to the Weyr, where F'lar insists she'll be the next Queen Rider, though there's no guarantee. And what of the rumors of the return of Thread, the deadly rain that eats anything living. She and F'lar seem to be the only ones who believe in those old stories anymore. If it does come, can they restore the Weyr in time to save everyone?

I love this book. It has great characters, a fully developed word, and, at the time, a different take on dragons. It also has an almost poetic or lyrical flow to the words that makes it almost magical to read. Sadly, this isn't repeated in the rest of the series, though the storytelling improves and the depth and scope of the world increase to epic proportions. (Though the books can still be enjoyed individually. I really like that. You can pick up a Pern book and read it and love it without reading the rest of the series... well, you'll want to when you're done, but...)

My Mom introduced me to this series when I was in junior high. I've tried to re-read the whole series every year since (with varying degrees of success. ;) )

I, Jedi, by Michale Stackpole

Coran Horn is despondent when his wife is kidnapped. Being a member of Rouge Squadron, though, he does everything he can to get her back. He has a bit of an identity crisis though. A former member of CorSec, he tries to use police methods. This gets him nowhere, as the kidnappers are one of the fragments of the Empire, and they've got Darkside force-users. So he learns about his past, and taps into his own families' jedi history. To save his wife, though, he has to learn to be walk his own path, and be true to himself, instead of following what others want him to be.

I grew up watching Star Wars. My Grandma had in on VHS tape, and we'd watch it every time we went over to her house. (Roughly once a week...) Naturally, I devoured everything Star Wars. Star Wars books can be really good, or really bad. Most of them are"meh". This is one of the really good ones. It's a story about true love and being true to yourself, and it's excellent writing. I'd recommend this book even if you aren't a Star Wars fan.

Remnant in the Stars, by Cindy Koepp

From the back of the book:
"Two hundred years ago, the Aolanian home world exploded and a remnant of survivors escaped. As their convoy combed the galaxy looking for a new world to colonize, they discovered Earth and were given permission to establish a temporary base while they continued their search for a new home world. When an Aolanian exploration vessel goes missing after transmitting a garbled distress call, the uneasy alliance between the humans and the Aolanians is put to the test as two anti-Aolanian groups jockey to use this opportunity to press their own agendas by foiling the rescue mission.
Because his daughter was onboard the Kesha when it vanished, Calonti Sora reluctantly signs on as an astrogator with the Gyrfalcon, one of the ships in the search party. There he meets up with an old human friend, Kirsten Abbott. Together, they work to overcome prejudice and political plots as they race toward an enemy no one could expect. "

Most of the books on this list I've loved since I was a kid and have re-read multiple times. This one's rather new. I first met Cindy in an online writing critique group. Lots of my author friends have books out, and I try to read all of them, by reading time is sadly limited by work and family and such. Cindy posted an "interview" with the characters, and that hooked me. I'm a sucker for great characters. I'll even read bad stories if I love the characters. So, I tried Remnant.
I was blown away. The book is set in a future universe with spaceships, aliens, and bad guys, and it has a wonderful sense of adventure.
The story is primarily about Sora, an self-outcast alien who's daughter has gone missing, but it has a great ensemble cast whose characters are all fleshed out (naturally, some get more character development than others, but there's a nice balance.)
The rest of the cast of main characters include Kirsten, a pilot who's having trouble with her replacement arm; Peter, the ex-military gunner; Derek, the freelance captain who's always dreamed of having his own ship; Janice, the engineer with a love for puns; and Vince the doctor.
The book feels similar to a combination of Han Solo (and Chewie and the Falcon) and Cowboy Bebop, with a storyline that's serious but still humorous at the same time.
I love it, and want more in the series! This book reminds me of why I love sci-fi.

The Greatest Knight, by Elizabeth Chadwick
This was apparently supposed to be your favorite historical fiction books, long before I was tagged. So here's my favorite (Almost all of G.A Henty's work would also go here).

William Marshal is one of my heroes. In a very turbulent political time, he still stood for loyalty, virtue, and honor. On top of that, women were considered more of a commodity than a person back then. Despite this, Marshal and his wife were still very close. By all accounts, he consulted with her about major decisions, and she went with him almost everywhere he went. When she didn't accompany him, he left her in charge of the castle instead of one of his knights.

Okay, so that's some of the virtues that knights were supposed to embody, but most didn't. That's still only part of what being a knight is about. So why's he called "The Greatest Knight," anyway? Heh, well, Chadwick didn't make up that title for him. That's what he was called by a few of his contemporaries, and most historians. For one, he was undefeated on the tourney circuit. How many knights did he defeat? All of them.
He also served King Richard the Lion-hearted. When Prince John tried to run the kingdom while Richard was off to the crusades, Marshal helped to hold the kingdom for Richard. Oddly enough, when Richard died and John became king, he kept Marshal at court. After John died, and his son Henry became king, Marshal was made regent of the kingdom.
During Marshall's time as Regent a bunch of uppity earls (with the help of the French) tried to take the throne from the young king. All it took was a then 60 year old William Marshal leading the king's troops into battle. Apparently the upstarts saw Marshal leading the battle, collectively crapped their pants, and went home. (Remember that at that time, 60 wasn't just a senior citizen, it was gezzer status... and he was still kicking butt and taking names!)

Anyway, Chadwick's novelization of Marshall's life is excellently done. There's only one scene near the beginning that I have a problem with (He has a bit of a fling with a questionable young lady. There is NO evidence that this ever happened at all. Even Chadwick admits that it "probably" never happened, but she felt she needed to make the character more human, since all the primary source accounts tell of a man that could beat up Chuck Norris with one hand tied behind his back.... and still defeat the whole French army at the same time.)

This is why I love historical fiction. You get real history, but it reads and engages like a novel.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, by Jules Verne

I could go on all day about books I love, but it's supposed to be five. So we'll close out with Jules Verne. Really, all his books, but this one's my favorite.

We'll just take a moment to say, if you've only seen a movie based on this book, and haven't actually read it, I feel a great deal of pity for you. (Well, this applies to ANY movie based on a book, but...) Seriously. Go read it right now. You can even get the eBook for free.

I'll not bother to sum up the story, as you should be familiar with it. I love the book because, like all Verne's work, it not only has great characters and a fun plot, but because Verne pretty much invented sci-fi. 20,000 Leagues, more than Verne's other books, it predicted the future (okay, not as much as most people think, but still.... more on that topic elsewhere...). Verne really nailed what sci-fi is: great stories that explore the human condition, and do so with imagination and cool tech.

The best part is Verne really did understand this. When interviewed about his books later, he said they weren't science-fiction, they were stories. (Either sci-fi got quickly filled with hacks, or Verne was just a crotchety old man... I'll leave that decision up to you...;) )

Ah, so many more I want to list, so little time...

So, what are some of your favorite books?

Do you also love, or hate anything on this list?

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Book Review: The Wishing Well Curse

From the back cover:

"Zeke Clay is down on his luck. He’s lost everything—an apartment, an education, a girlfriend, his job…

When a mysterious letter comes from a law firm in Colorado, he decides things just might be looking up. Now he stands to inherit a fortune, but it comes with a price. He must break a family curse and restore true love. What does he know about breaking a curse? And who is this Great Uncle Luther Clayton, who claims Zeke is the one? Can he piece together the clues left by his dearly departed?

Who can he trust? The Apache Indian attorney? Her great nephew? The leather-clad, Harley riding Pastor? Least of all, himself?
What about the Ghosts?

…And why does his three-year-old tattoo bleed every time he gets near the wishing well?"

Disclosure: I have read an early draft of this novel, and provided an early critique. Despite this, I'll do my best to do an honest review.

First, the cons. The book borders on being too preachy. I don't feel it gets there, as one of the characters is a pastor, so it'd be weird if he didn't get a little preachy... Even at that, the characters faith is a part of who they are, and it isn't really shoved at anyone.

The theology is also a little weird in parts. But then, it's speculative fiction. There's not really any such thing as ghosts, but in a story that asks, what if they're real, some things are going to have to get shuffled a little.

Neither of theses things took away from my enjoyment of the story. Despite having read an earlier draft of the story, I was still sucked into the tale. I feel like I'm beating a dead horse when I say "the characters all felt real", or other words to that effect, but characters are what draw me to a story. The story is set in an otherwise "normal" world, and the characters all respond realistically to what's happening to them.

The mystery element is nicely done too. Everything is revealed at the right pace to make you keep turning pages, and make the story flow naturally too.

I give it four stars.

Buy this book at:

The Wishing Well Curse

There's a giveaway, too!:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, April 8, 2013

Return of The One True Keyboard!

I recently bought a PS/2 keyboard adapter.

Why? Isn't that technology from the 80's? Why would I need to use a P/S2 device these days?

To use my IBM Model M keyboard, of course!

If you've never used one of these, you're missing out. (unless you can't touch-type, but that's another problem...)

There are all kinds of sites that rave about the benefits of the Model M, so I won't go into too much detail. To summarize, the tactile feedback is great, you know for sure if you've hit a key or not. Also, the thing is built like a tank--if mine were a human, it'd be old enough to drink.
I got mine from MSU salvage. That's right, they were just going to throw it out. I think I paid about five or ten dollars for it. It was filthy, and the right ALT key didn't work. After a few keyboard wipes, it looks brand-new. I didn't use the ALT key anyway, so that didn't bother me. A few years later I got a replacement spring... that's right, the only reason it wasn't working is that someone lost the spring under the key. I put it back in, and it's as good as new.

Mostly, though, I love it for how it types. Your fingers don't get as tired, you can feel when a key is pressed... it's great. The junky USB keyboard I've been using in the meantime feels mushy. Sometimes a key will press when I didn't think I'd hit it that hard, other times it'd double-key when I pressed too hard... yuck. In its defense, it was very cheap, but the Model M is two to three times as old, and has none of these problems. Many people have reported increased typing speeds on the Model M, and I believe it.

Also, no Windows keys! I can't stand them. I'm always hitting them on accident.

If you write (well, type) for a living, you've got to try one of these out. I can't really do it justice in words, you've got to try one. You can get them from a variety of places online for cheap, or brand-new from Unicomp.

Brand-new Model M's:

More info on the IBM Model M, as well as a few old ones to buy:

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Another critique applied, to be published this fall!

One more critique to "A New Threat" has been applied.

Oh, and this was kind of buried in an earlier post, but you can buy a copy of "A New Threat", the first book in the Psygen Chronicles, this fall.

That's right, it's been accepted for publication! More details will be posted as they become available.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Book Review: Daughter of Light

Today's book review is Daughter of Light!

We follow the story of Rowen Mar, as she is outcast from her village for witchcraft, then learns what and who she is...

Characters really make the book for me. We get some great characters here, from Rowan and Captain Lore, even the bad guy. They're all nicely developed. The only ones who's storylines aren't fleshed out is Father Ruff and Nicne (sp). I'm pretty sure they were just there for setup for book 2.

The first part of the book starts out a little slow. Mostly, this is because a new character that we've never met before keeps getting his own viewpoint every other chapter for about the first six chapters or so. I really prefer it when we meet the characters first, and then give them their own viewpoint. That way we're not constantly asking "Wait, who is, and why do I care?"

After the rough introductions are over, the story really picks up steam and I didn't want to put it down. The ending is a little rough and unresolved on it's own, but it's the perfect segue into book 2... which comes out in a week or so of the posting of this review. So, if you're new to the series, as I am, just buy both of them at the same time. You're going to want to. ;)

I give it four stars. Just missed out on five from the rough start.

Buy this book at: