Category Reviews

Invasion! Review

The premise of Invasion! The Forgotten Adventures of Dolley Madison, Book One is clever enough. Dolley Madison, wife of America’s fourth President, James Madison, had another life during the War of 1812: a turbaned crusader, along with her trusty sidekick and servant girl Sukey, harrying and perplexing the invading British Army at every turn, rallying and leading American troops, turning the tide of battle after battle. Unbeknownst to historians everywhere, or forgotten by them, she was America’s secret weapon.

A clever premise, yes. In execution, not quite so much.

In his end notes, author Neil Garra reports that at one time he built war games for a certain government agency located in Maryland (likely the National Security Agency), and that around that same time he’d become fasc...

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Runaway Dancer, Getaway Tales Review

Jeri McAndrews is a classically trained ballet dancer who ran away from the School of American Ballet in New York and the demands and discipline of ballet. She landed eventually in southwestern Colorado, where among other things, she taught dance and choreographed and performed in modern dances in wild outdoor settings including the Great Sand Dunes National Monument. The title of the book is apt: while dance is certainly a core of McAndrews’ life, so it seems is running away, getting away from… many things: teaching middle school English (to be fair, a challenge only a few people are cut out for), marriage, parenthood, big cities (can’t argue with that one).

Why did she run? We’ll never truly know...

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Light of the Dragon review

Marielena is a young and extremely powerful witch, Sinnie a just-hatched baby dragon. No, wait. Let me let author Susan Trombley introduce them to you.

“Marielena ran as the world shattered around her. The ground cracked and crumbled beneath her feet. The roar of dragons and gods rent the air. It was the end of times, and it was Marielena’s fault. … It was Marielena’s magic that had built the gruesome portal, powered the gate, and provided the key. She’d done as they’d demanded, and she had doomed them all. …

“Then Marielena saw it, a small glow like a shard of sunlight trapped within the rubble. … The glow belonged to the burgeoning aura of a tiny dragon, uncurling its round body and serpentine tail from the remains of an eggshell held within a broken box...

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The Dragon’s Gold Review

By Ross B. Lampert

Small 4-star rating on dark blue background

Debrah Strait applies some unique twists to classic Young Adult story tropes in The Dragon’s Gold. While fire-breathing dragons, damsels in distress, and bumbling knights are nothing new, the same dragon with a bad cough and a damsel who doesn’t want to be rescued are new, at least in my limited YA reading.

The Tisbees, Sitwells, and Neales are three small but noble clans who occupy the eastern two-thirds of the Isle of Zuber. Before Queen Wiltrude passed away without an heir, the three clans were prosperous, trading with each other and the Sadirrans on the west side of the mountains, and with the peoples across the ocean. But since the queen died, the clans have been reduced to sloth, lethargy, and kidnapping members of the other families for ransom...

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Revision and Self-Editing for Publication Review

Small 3-star rating on dark blue background

Let’s get this on the table right now: Jim Bell does not write a bad craft-of-writing book. Does NOT.

In one case, however, the title of his book does not match the contents. That case is Revision and Self-Editing for Publication. As K. M. Weiland noted in her 3-star review of this book on Goodreads, there’s little here about revision or self-editing. That’s too bad because what little there is clearly shows that if Bell had focused on those tasks, rather than writing yet another book about writing a decent first draft, he could have done well.

Bell divides the book into two sections: “self-editing” and “revision...

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Wool Review

By Ross B. Lampert

4.5-star rating dark blue background

Wool is the title of both the first novella and the first five stories in the Silo series, and the book which rocketed Hugh Howey to science fiction stardom. Deservedly so.

WARNING: There are spoilers in this review. I’ll put them in a different font so you can spot and skip them if you wish.

Wool is the story of a large, thoroughly developed community of people (hundreds if not a few thousand) who have lived for a long time in a 144 story deep underground silo. One of many, as it turns out, but the residents of Silo 18 don’t know that there are other silos until late in the story. Until then, only a select few even know that they’re “Silo 18.”

The silo culture is divided into dozens of functional groups: the Mechanicals live in the “down deep,” the lowe...

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The Most Brilliant Thoughts of All Time Review

By Ross B. Lampert

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A high school buddy gave me this book a long, long time ago. Now that I’ve read it, I have to wonder why. In the spirit of its “(In Two Lines or Less)” subtitle, here are my thoughts.

Cynical: But Ambrose Bierce’s The Devil’s Dictionary did that better.

Repetitive: Go ahead and use the same quote in different chapters. No one will notice.

Egotistical: Never trust an editor who considers more of his own thoughts “brilliant” than those in all of the great religious works ever written… combined.

Repetitive: Go ahead and use nearly-identical quotes in the same chapter. No one will notice.

Disorganized: Organizing quotes like these along themes within a given chapter is a great idea. It’s just not required.

At least I learned the full or true names of v...

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The Portable American Realism Reader Review

By Ross B. Lampert

Small 4-star rating on dark blue background

I was introduced to this collection of short stories about ten years ago, when it was one of the assigned books in one of my master’s degree classes. The 47 stories were published between 1865 and 1918 and were written by both famous authors—Mark Twain, Kate Chopin, Ambrose Bierce, Stephen Crane, and Jack London, to name a few—to writers not known outside of literary circles, like Sioux author Zitkala-Sä and Chinese immigrant Sui Sin Far.

The stories are divided into three general categories whose time-frames overlap: regionalism and local color (1865 and after), realism (1890 and after), and naturalism (also 1890 and after). As the names of the categories and their periods suggest, they illustrate the changing tenors and interests of the times...

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Get Known Before the Book Deal Review

Small 3-star rating on dark blue background  (Non-fiction)

  (Fiction)

You’re a member of “writer mama” Christina Katz’s target audience if you’re (1) a female (2) non-fiction writer who’s (3) looking to traditionally publish (4) in around 2010 and (5) have plenty of time on your hands. The fewer of those categories you fall into, however, the less this book is for you. So for me as a male, indie-published, fiction author with precious little spare time in the middle of 2015, this book had limited value.

That’s not to say Get Known is a bad book. It’s not.

Katz, whom I discovered through one of many writers’ blogs I used to have time to read, treats the topic of “platform”—the base on which you establish your credibility and from which you grow your list of followers and readers—quite thoroughly...

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Love Life, with Parrots Review

Small 4-star rating on dark blue background

I don’t normally read memoirs but Love Life, with Parrots came highly recommended by a friend, so I thought I’d give it a try for something different.

The book covers the period between the end of Hanson’s first marriage and the early years of her second. Unfortunately, we never know for sure how many years that is.

What we do learn, in quite some detail, is that these are not easy years. Hanson struggles from one bad relationship to another, with each man having his own failings, some of them severe. While Hanson is never physically abused, she suffers a lot of emotional abuse which, combined with her low self-esteem (a legacy of her childhood), makes her struggles that much greater...

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