Category Archives: Book Reviews

The Books Of Summer

As I mentioned in episode two of my RedStarReviews Podcast I wanted to write a blog alongside the Podcast to share with you links to each of the twelve books I’m currently reading. If you didn’t know I have a Podcast: SURPRISE! I have a Podcast! It’s available wherever fine Podcasts are found! Here’s a link to it on Apple’s Podcasts: RedStarReviews

In my latest episode I’m discussing the books that I’m currently reading and I’ll be doing so each season of the year to give you a snapshot of what books I’m enjoying. I’m a PolyReader so I enjoy reading multiple books at once. I know this method isn’t for everyone so I’m not trying to convert anyone, just sharing what I’m reading. 🙂

On to the books! I’ll be sharing links to each one in case you’re interested in reading any!

First the books I’m reading on Kindle so I had to grab books of the same length to show off the pages “creatively” 😂

Book 1: Mad Wolf’s Daughter by Diane Magras is an amazingly fun adventure starring a badass Scottish girl in medieval times who lost her father and brothers into captivity and is now setting out to try and rescue them armed with her wits and a sword! I’m a quarter of the way in and this book is so much fun to read! It is a Middle Grade book so if you have early readers in your house this is perfect for them and if you like a good tale it’s perfect for you!

Book 2: Thistle And Spade by J Addison is an amazingly well crafted graphic novel in which the author is also the illustrated and the publisher! I got to meet them and was immediately impressed with both the art and story in the pages of this graphic novel! An alternate world reaching the end of a world war in which the regular soldiers suddenly turn on the mercenary forces. One merc survives and this is their tale!

Book 3: Another Bloody Love Letter by Anthony Lloyd is a nonfiction account of the author’s descent into heroin addiction and his coverage of the conflict in Kosovo. He’s quite biased but it is his perspective on events and I have to say the introspective look into why he’s a war corespondent and how he handles his addiction is interesting!

Book 4: Against A Dark Background by Iain M Banks is a SciFi written outside of Banks’ famous Culture Novels. It’s taken me half of the book to appreciate this work, but I’ve got the rhythm now. An intergalactic cult is chasing the heroine who is trying to find an ancient lost treasure which could destroy the universe while trying to work with her team which has been split by betrayal. It’s pretty good once you get past the first half 😂 with it being Banks I persevered knowing I’ll appreciate it in the end.

Book 5: Emperor Of Thorns by Mark Lawrence which is the third book of his Broken Empire trilogy. It’s a GrimDark Fantasy which follows the adventures of Jorg who isn’t a hero… he’s not really an antihero either… he’s really a villain and an awful person but he just might be our only hope as humanity is facing destruction! Dark and brutal but with surprising growth and insight!

Book 6: The Tower Of Living And Dying by Anna Smith Spark is the second book of her GrimDark Fantasy Empires Of Dust and it’s AMAZING. Bloody poetry, y’all. The first book Court Of Broken Knives was incredible and this continues on! Prose written in blood and gore and stream of consciousness. Beauty and horror all together. Can’t wait to see where this story goes!

Book 7: Deathfire by Nick Kyme which is the 32nd book of The never ending Horus Heresy and the only way to finish a never ending series is to never stop reading it! Slam bang Military SciFi action and intergalactic civil war!

Book 8: The Balkans Nationalism War And The Great Powers 1804-1999 by Misha Glenny and if you want to understand the Balkan region a little more then this is the book for you!

Book 9: Excession by Iain M Banks is the fifth book of his incredible Culture Novels and y’all, Banks is everything I’ve ever wanted in an author. His writing hits me on a deep level and this SciFi about AI Minds trying to communicate to sort out an issue facing the universe is engrossing and enjoyable!

Book 10: Embers Of War by Gareth L Powell was described as a cross between Iain M Banks and Ann Leckie so how could I pass that up? It’s living up to that promise with wonderfully crafted characters with deep flaws and AI driven starships battling issuers with their conscious. Truly enjoying this one!

Book 11: Winning The Hearts And Minds War Poems By Vietnam Vets is a collection of poems by Vietnam Vets during the Vietnam War and it’s a brutal collection of raw emotion that will break your heart.

Book 12: Poems by Iain Banks and Ken MacLeod is a collection of poems by these two excellent authors and I’m trying to branch out into more poetry by selecting authors and topics that fascinate me.

I’ll close this blog with a line from a Banks’ poem: “The bomb lives only as it is falling.”

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Blood And Poetry

A short while back I noticed that several authors whose works I enjoy were talking about a new book that was coming soon, and everything I read about this book sounded fascinating! Y’all know I enjoy a quality GrimDark Fantasy read, and so when authors who excel at GrimDark say you need to pay attention to a book you should pay attention to that book!

The Court Of Broken Knives written by Anna Smith Spark is poetry written in blood. That’s the best description I think I can use for this beautiful tragedy.

Hidden truths behind histories, ancient empires seeking their former glory, dark gods, powerful magic, love, hate, betrayal, twists, turns, death, ruin, blood, war, and dragons. This Fantasy delivers.

One of the aspects of this story I enjoy so much is the style of writing the author uses. So rich and descriptive! You feel each page! Each paragraph comes to life and draws you in deeper to the story. This is a powerful tale told well. This is poetry written in blood. This is a story you will want to read!

Hello, Thank You, And Books!

Allow me to start by saying thank you for staying with me even when it has been a little while since my last post. Life has been a bit busy! A few months back my wife and I welcomed our beautifully amazing daughter into our lives and I also started a new position at work. Both of these life changing events have reduced my reading and writing time, but both have also been very rewarding. One day I’ll post more on being a father but today I can say there is nothing more amazing that holding your child in your hands. It is as if you are holding your heart in your hands. Simply amazing. But this post is about books isn’t it? On to the post!

Once upon a time when I was a young lad with a library card I discovered a few authors who managed to capture my attention and fire up my imagination! Robert Jordan was one such author. Wheel Of Time has just reached its fifth volume (The Fires Of Heaven) and I devoured the series! I read through the first five books three times before book six had a chance to be published and then with each new release I would reread the entire series. I loved it. I discovered friends in the pages of those books that I identified with more than I did the people around me. As a result those first five books are intensely special to me and I’ll forever be thankful to Robert Jordan for them.

Around that same time I also discovered an author by the name of Tad Williams and I leapt into his Memory Sorrow And Thorn trilogy! I was young so I thought I identified with young Seoman Snowlock and I sadly rushed through the trilogy trying to get past all the other bits to enjoy the adventures of Seoman. I loved the story, and I know I appreciated it at the time in my limited way, but just this past year I returned to Osten Ard (the land the books are set in) with a reread of the trilogy. My first time returning to those books in about 25 years! What did I discover? Beauty. This trilogy is a beautiful work of marvelous art and I can’t sing its praises enough! I truly identify with the side characters. The ones whose stories I couldn’t get past quickly enough to get back to what I thought was the main story. Now I see the beauty in their inner struggles and understand how very human they are and how amazing of a work Tad Williams created.

You never know what treasures you might find when you open a book, even if you’ve read that book before! Rereading Dune Messiah gave me a deeper appreciation for Frank Herbert because when you realize just how much he packed into this tiny book you are amazed! Such a short work yet so powerful!

Those are my bookish musings for the moment. I wanted to say hi to everyone and to continue our conversations on books! I intend to be a little more present here but I know you’ll understand if the posts aren’t as frequent as we’d all like. However I do intend to announce something here soon so do keep checking RedStarReviews for some fun upcoming news! 😊 I appreciate you all so much!

From Beauty To Ashes: A Tale Of Two Halves

Y’all know I try to not post negative reviews. It’s just how I tend to prefer running my page. I try to avoid reading books I won’t like so that I’m not stuck feeling like I have to explain why I don’t like a book. One of the reasons is that I know if there’s a book I dislike one of you probably would love it so I don’t want to color your experience. That said this will possibly be as negative a review as I give. As this book is already widely loved and revered I’m confident I won’t scare any of you away from it by sharing my personal opinion. Mild spoilers ahead. Ok. Let’s talk about The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell.

This book started out heartbreakingly beautiful! The whole first half of this story is a gorgeously tragic look into the heart of humanity and it is such a rewarding read! The first half is incredible! The second half is almost as if it was another book that the author was told they have to make fit into the pages of the story. It’s boring and uninspired. The beauty in this book was never going to be in the alien civilization, it was in the human interaction. The author lost that in the second half.

If the second half had only been the interrogation/debriefing then the story would have been true to itself. However that isn’t the story written, and the story written doesn’t measure the promise of the start. As a result I forced myself to finish this book, but I wish I had walked away halfway through it so that I didn’t have to read the second half and be this disappointed.

Please keep in mind I’m in the vast minority in my opinion on this book. Also I should note that it isn’t the fates the characters encountered that turns me off for the second half. It’s the story itself. The time spent on the planet was so boring, clunky, and dull. This author did such an amazing job looking into humanity, then lost the plot and thought the aliens were the story. They weren’t and a beautiful book was wasted. As it stands I finished it, and I won’t be reading the sequel.

It’d Be A Sin To Miss This

Every now and again a friend will recommend a book by their friend and you wonder if it’s as good as they say it is. It’s a reasonable doubt to have because we all want to paint our friends in a positive light. So needless to say when several of my Bookstagram friends started insisting I need to read Michael Reid Jr’s books I had some hesitations because I was worried they might just be being nice to their friend, but so many voices I trust kept echoing this so I said ok! I am so happy I did!

Sins Of The Father is the first book I’ve read by Michael Reid Jr but it won’t be the last! This was the best thriller I’ve read since Tom Clancy. That’s not hyperbole that’s just truth. Part political thriller, part adventure, part anti terrorism, part special forces, all intensely woven together into one fast paced drama that quickly delivers on stories!

Sins Of The Father is actually a sequel to Debt Of Fear which I haven’t read yet but I’ll be reading soon! I always suggest reading books in order but from personal experience I can say you can read these in any order you want to. I just suggest you read them. A lot of stories try to build tension by hiding the story from you. This book doesn’t have to use tricks like that: it’s tense from the start and the story immediately unfolds before your eyes! It draws you in and keeps you turning page after page.

Seriously check this author out! Click on the links I provided to see his books on Amazon or his website. Once you read one book by him you’ll join me in eagerly reading everything by him.

Vintage SciFi Month 2018 Recap

As y’all already surely know if you’ve been following me for any amount of time: January is always Vintage SciFi Month and this January’s reading was incredible! Let’s take a look at the three books I read this year.

Tactics Of Mistake by Gordon R Dickson is the fourth book of The Childe Cycle which I’m working my way through bit by bit each January. While it isn’t the best book in the series it is really good! It is a strong addition to an excellent series. If you’ve read Dorsai and wanted to know how the Dorsai became the most badass soldiers in the known universe then this is the book for you! If you’ve never wondered that but you still enjoy Military SciFi combined with Vintage Philosophy then this is still the book for you!

Up next was Philip K Dick’s classic of SciFi: Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep and it was an excellent story! I watched Blade Runner as a kid but I had never made time for the story it was based upon. I am glad I finally did! It was a very subtle story with a slow burn that once lit wouldn’t go out. Very enjoyable and easy to lose yourself in the story.

This January close to fifty people joined me for the #ReadDune Group Read, several of them reading Frank Herbert’s Dune for the first time! The good news is that almost everyone loved it! I mean how could you not love this book? This was either my fourth or fifth time to read it and I enjoyed it yet again! Getting to see everyone’s reaction to it was so much fun. Dune will always be special to me and I’m happy to report that it gets better with each reread!

I hope to see y’all join in on Vintage SciFi Month next January!

Read Dune Weekly Goals

We recently announced the #ReadDune Group Read and now that we’re only a week away from starting we wanted to share the weekly target reading goals! This is a little tricky as there are so many different editions and each has its own page count. So it makes sense to do this by chapter, right? Right! Only… Frank Herbert didn’t number or name his damn chapters! The NERVE of that author! 😂

So everyone will need to keep count of the chapters they’ve read because we’re going to read a certain number each week. As this can get tricky we have another visual aide: each chapter starts with a section from fictitious history books and we’ll watch for specific chapter openings! This will (hopefully) work!

January week one we will read chapters one through fifteen and stop at the start of chapter sixteen you see pictured here! When you read “Greatness is a transitory experience.” you will have reached stopping point one. Everyone should be here by Saturday January the sixth. Next stopping point:

We will read chapters sixteen through the end of twenty-six and stop at the start of twenty-seven when you read: “At the age of fifteen, he had already learned silence.” This will be the stopping point on Saturday January the 13th. The next stopping point is fun:

That’s right! We stop at Book Three The Prophet! Frank Herbert came through for us on this split! Everyone should strive to be at The Prophet by Saturday January the twentieth.

The last week we shall read to the end of the story. With this pace we will all finish on Saturday January the twenty-seventh and then we’ll all hit play on the cheesy 80’s film adaptation and enjoy!

Read at your own pace but be aware that the conversations will include possible spoilers once we hit a Saturday goal as discussing anything from the week’s reading is fair game on a Saturday and beyond. Above all else please have fun!