Book Review – Where the Crawdads Sing

Where the Crawdads SingWhere the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I just finished reading Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. It is a murder mystery that is wrapped in a story about nature and female empowerment. The protagonist is a young woman who grows up in abject poverty, living in the marshlands of coastal North Carolina. One by one her family abandons her because of her worthless abusive father. He drives them all away until in the end only she is left. She learns barely enough to survive on her own before her father abandons her as well.
The story alternates between two timelines separated initially by seventeen years and they slowly intersect as Kya grows up. The murder timeline is set in rural 1969 Barkley Cove, North Carolina. One of the town peacocks, former football star, Chase Andrews, has fallen off a tower with no solid evidence as to how, but the town sheriff thinks something nefarious has happened, due to the lack of fingerprints or footprints in the marshy land.
We learn a lot about the marsh and how Kya survives, but also how profoundly lonely she is through much of her teens and early twenties. This part was not a hard slog, but it was uncomfortable to see her living in these conditions and very few willing to help her.
The writing is colorful and despite a lot of detail, Owens holds my attention. We pity the young woman, but I didn’t have any real emotional moments until the end of the book. The courtroom drama is well done and the verdict brings all the emotions into a rolling boil.
I won’t spoil the finish, but suffice to say it is not a run of the mill ending. It was satisfying.
Another thing to mention is the poetry that is sprinkled in. It is wonderful and stark and extraordinary. I am not a poetry aficionado, but the poems really struck a chord with me, enough that I wanted to look up the writer. I would buy a book of poetry by her. In actually I already did. I will leave that for you to puzzle out.
The finish is so strong that I can give this book my recommendation.

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Book Review: Alien III by William Gibson

alien IIII am a huge William Gibson fan, and when I heard that his original screenplay for Aliens 3 was going to be made into a comic book I jumped all over it. Then they went and made an audiobook. I just listened to Alien III on Audible. But this was more than an audiobook, it was an audioplay with all the different roles portrayed by voice actors, including Michael Biehn and Lance Hendrickson reprising their original characters. It had sound effects to boot. It was basically a movie without the visuals.

This was a redux of the original script that Gibson wrote in 1987, but was never made. It picks up right where Aliens left off. The big beef is it does not focus on Ripley. She is in it briefly, but that was at the behest of the studio. Not sure why. It expands on the politics of the Alien universe and still has all the thriller moments you expect from an Alien story.

The presentation is fantastic. And it is an easy listen at only 2 hours and 16 minutes. It’s an Audible original and was a free download. Not sure how long that will last. I highly recommend it!

Book Review: Even Tree Nymphs Get the Blues by Molly Harper

tree nymphsMolly Harper joined the MFA program I graduated from. She came in already with several series published. I saw this book on Audible as a free download and decided to check it out. It is a novella set in her Mystic Bayou series.  It’s just a taste, but oh so good. It is a wonderful story and laugh out loud funny in parts. The characters are unique and interesting and her vision of tree nymphs was very cool. Molly’s voice is wonderful and this worked as planned because I am going to buy her other books now. I highly recommend!

Even Tree Nymphs Get the Blues

Review of Steel Victory by J. L. Gribble

J. L. Gribble has created a captivating alternate reality in her debut novel, full of magic and vampires and were-creatures. The story centers around a centuries old female vampire named Victory and her adopted family, and the city-state she’s cultivated as a safe zone between the British and Romans empires.
Victory has tried to step back in her control of the city politics, but as often happens, subversive elements creep in and try to undermine all she has accomplished. A new Roman Emperor also threatens to destroy the peace that has been established by treaty for decades.
But her family is not one to be trifled with. They all have military training and varying degrees of experience in the arts of war. A mercenary guild helps protect the city as well, with ties that go back to the birth of the city. But their little hamlet is no match for an entire legion from either the Brits or the Romans, so they must rely on savvy politics to keep their status as a free-state.
The characters are all singular, well-developed, and interesting. She uses strong female characters as the main points of view, while not a new thing, it does add flavor to the historical fantasy trope, especially Victory as a matriarch of the city-state and the anchor of the story.

Continue reading “Review of Steel Victory by J. L. Gribble”

Review – On Writing by Stephen King

This is from a paper I did for my MFA program.
Stephen King’s On Writing is more than just a book on how to write. It is a memoir and a journal about how he wrote several of his best sellers. It also showcases his keen eye for what makes a good story.
 
King is in the camp that believes writers are born, at various skill levels. A writer cannot be made of someone who is not born a “writer”. Mr. King does believe that the skill can be sharpened, thank goodness.
 
I found the memoir section engaging. I’m not sure why this surprised me. Each of these little vignettes was a little story of its own. Even though they were non-fiction, they were quite entertaining. He remembered things that had some aspect that was either jarring or gross. Elements that, no doubt, helped shape the direction his writing life would take. I definitely empathize with getting poison ivy in all the wrong places as a kid. I did notice, however, that even Stephen King uses passive voice when describing something, colorful and evocative though it may have been.

Continue reading “Review – On Writing by Stephen King”

Pimping a book: Lexicon by Max Barry

lexiconI just finished the audiobook version of Lexicon by Max Barry. It made my drive to Pennsylvania for the next residency in my MFA program a riveting adventure instead of drudgery.

I’ve been a Max Barry fan since he was Maxx Barry. I loved Jennifer Government, and I’ve made it a point to read every book he’s written. Max’s infectious, dark humor has always been a hallmark of his work, but the tone of Lexicon surprised me. It feels like an older, more mature brother of his other works. It’s a blisteringly brilliant book. I was a fan before this novel came out but this new book puts Max into a different tier.

Be careful…reading Lexicon will compromise you, turning you into one of his proselytes for this heart-stopping thriller. It’s a profoundly intelligent tale that covers a global conspiracy to use words as keys to unlock the human mind. Continue reading “Pimping a book: Lexicon by Max Barry”

Pimping a book: Gabriel’s Return

Do you like Science Fiction?  If you do, you will love the new series by Steve Umstead.  I read a review comparing Evan Gabriel with Snake Plissken and it is on the mark.  Think Snake Plissken on Mars, subtract the cheese, add a dollop of interstellar intrigue and pulse rifles and you have the world of Commander Evan Gabriel.

This is a new thing for me, I’ve only done a few book reviews in my time, but when I heard that Steve was releasing his second book and looking for a little help generating some interest I jumped in with both feet.  Hope you don’t mind if I wax eloquently on his new release.  No fancy bells or whistles here, just old-fashioned word of mouth.

I met Steve on twitter about a year ago and he was still working on his first release, Gabriel’s Redemption, and I immediately liked him.  When his book was published I bought it knowing full-well that it was self-published and wanted to throw him a bone, but it was extremely well-crafted, WITHOUT a lot of the pitfalls you hear about in the DIY format.  But that wasn’t all, the story moved fast and even though the protagonist is a grim man, it captured my attention from the word go.  I absolutely love his “Neuretics”, they are one of the cooler concepts I’ve read in quite a while.  Frankly, I’d love to steal this concept for my novel.  His near future world is extremely believable and his projected technology works like a charm.  Neuretics are a form of integrated brain-slash-nervous system-slash-secure internet-slash-radio tech that thoroughly rocks my world!  In Gabriel’s Return we find Commander Evan Gabriel in a happier place, and with a love interest.  I have to say the new life suits him well, even if he’s not entirely comfortable with it.  The second book is so often a letdown, but in this case it is an upgrade to the original.  Steve is getting better as a writer and it shows.   This Clancyesque story line takes us across the galaxy, but the stakes are more personal and more meaningful, ultimately creating a much more satisfying story.  I honestly can’t wait for the third book!

There is a great deal of discussion on the interwebs about traditional publishing vs. self-publishing and I for one haven’t decided which way I’m going to go, but Mr. Umstead is showing us how it’s done on the self-publishing side.  These books do not have typos or grammatical issues or discontinuities.  He has done his research and obviously has a very good editor.  I think Steve could go traditional with this series and I haven’t asked him why he didn’t, but I can tell you he is pumping them out very quickly now — all three in this trilogy within the same calendar year.  I’m guessing that has something to do with it.

 

The first two books are out now, the first available in soft cover or eBook, and the second only available on eBook currently with the 3rd novel in the trilogy coming out before Christmas!  He is shooting for a 1 December release.

I’m not going to go into detail on the plot, there are plenty of reviews on Amazon if you care to read them, in fact you can read the first three chapters for free here.  Stop by #pubwrite on twitter and say hello to the mayor, Steve Umstead himself.  I put my money where my mouth is, and it was well-spent.

Well done, sir!