Category Archives: From My Bookshelf

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!

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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.

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!

Damming The Heresy Or Adding To The Flow?

When reading a never ending series you realize the only way to reach the end is to never stop reading. That said every so often it’s good to pause and evaluate if you’re enjoying the series. Upon finishing the thirtieth book of The Horus Heresy I decided to do just that.

One of my early complaints about The Heresy was that every few books you’d get a story that didn’t advance the overall storyline. It felt like it would go sideways. This was a way of building up the series, of showing you what was happening all around the Imperium Of Man during The Heresy. The Damnation Of Pythos by David Annandale felt like one of those sideways books and I won’t lie I was a little frustrated by that at the start. Especially considering the previous book actually featured Horus and advanced the story greatly! To go from a book that’s focused on one of the central characters to the Heresy to a book that features a battered and near destroyed company of Space Marines trying to pull themselves together after being almost destroyed in events that took place in the fifth book of the series was a little like changing gears while driving without using a clutch.

However I must admit that as I read on in the book I started to see how this story fits in the overall story, and I was able to appreciate the added depth it brought to series. It’s also an amazing example of GrimDark SciFi such as you often see in the pages of a Warhammer40K book, I say that to say it felt more WH40K than Horus Heresy style and I’m happy with that. This book, whether intentionally or not, started to form more of a bridge between the events of The Horus Heresy and the events of the every day Imperium Of Man in the 40K universe. Less hope and more faith combined with inner struggles and ultimate sacrifices for gains you can’t yet see.

Thirty books into this Heresy and I’m still quite happy with this series and the directions the authors are taking it in. Truth told I’m going to be sad when I reach the end of this never ending series. I’m going to miss it because it has been such a great reading experience.

That said I’m also starting the thirty-first book right now. Because the only way to reach the end of a never ending series is to never stop reading it. Let The Heresy Continue.

Announcing The #ReadDune Group Read For Vintage SciFi Month!

Officially announcing the #ReadDune GroupRead I’ll be hosting for #VintageSciFiMonth this January!

We’ll be using the #ReadDune hashtag to help keep track and follow along of each other’s posts and be able to enjoy more discussions on it! So break out your copies of Dune by Frank Herbert and let’s start spreading the word!

For those new to how I handle GroupReads here are some details:

Each week we have a target page/location goal in the book. We don’t discuss in detail anything that takes place in the book until we reach that Saturday Goal, and then we discuss only the sections we’ve read so far. You’ll find it works really well. The Group DMs are normally very fun and respectful, and allow for discussing shared emotional reactions, general observations, and encouragement to reach the goal. Once we’ve reached a goal we discuss things that happened in detail and have fun with it. If anyone hasn’t reached the goal they’ll need to be careful about the Group DMs on the weekends as that’s when a lot of specifics get discussed. I’ll be looking into the page counts of the common versions but it’ll probably be between 130-150 pages a week of reading.

What are Group DMs? Everyone who wants to participate will be invited into a group DM on Instagram or on Twitter (whichever social network you prefer). There’s a limit on how many can join so there’ll be a few group DMs created. I’ll be in each one to help moderate and help keep spoilers to a minimum. We’ve got several first time readers joining in so everyone needs to be conscious about posting spoilers! That’s where the page goals will come in to play.

Since we tend to have more than one Group DM I’ll also post a #ReadDune Instagram post and Twitter Post every Saturday Morning so that everyone can publicly discuss the book (up to that page goal) with everyone else easily.

Ready for the cheesy fun part? At the end of it all on either Saturday the 27th or Sunday the 28th depending on people’s schedules we’ll all hit play at the same time on the fun and cheesy 80’s movie edition of Dune and have fun watching the movie together to celebrate finishing the book!

Posting photos of your reading of Dune is highly encouraged! Please post away and use the #ReadDune hashtag and we’d love if you used the #VintageSciFiMonth hashtag too! Above all have fun! This is one of my favorite books, and I think it has a broad appeal. I’m hopeful you’ll like it, but there is no pressure to like it! If you don’t it’s really ok as I’m not the author, just a fan.

Let me know on Twitter or on Instagram if you’ll be joining in! Check out my latest post on Instagram or my pinned tweet on Twitter to respond and let me know if you’re joining!

Five Books Fifty Pages!

As you can probably guess my TBR Pile has actually grown so much that it is a living breathing sentient being and desires world domination…. but that’s another post entirely! This post is about how I was inspired by my friend The Little Red Reviewer to select five books from my TBR Pile, read the first fifty pages, and decide if I want to read them now, later, or never! Time to find out which books were YAY, which were NAY, and if any were MEH! The books I selected were:

Norwegian By Night by Derek B Miller

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

The Vorrh by B Catling

The Depths Of Time by Roger MacBride Allen

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell


Norwegian By Night by Derek B Miller is interesting! I saw the cover and was immediately intrigued. A Crime Fiction that follows an older Korean War vet named Sheldon as his last surviving family member takes him away from NY to live in Norway. Sheldon is possibly suffering from dementia, he is xenophobic, he is combative, and he is out of his element. Yet he opens his door to help try to save a lady and her child from a violent crime which leads to an unexpected adventure. This book was really captivating. Sheldon isn’t a good person or a bad person; he just is a difficult person with uncomfortable views that have been negatively reinforced through the years, but he’s a person that you want to get to know and see how he might develop! Will I continue reading? Yes!

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes is a book that I have wanted to read for ages! I’ve heard only good things and rave reviews for this book. I picked it up excitedly andddddd forced myself through 50 pages. There is a house that time travels and it has selected a killer to travel through time and it wants him to murder people? It’s an interesting premise but I’m not impressed with either execution of the premise or the characters. I sadly found the book quite off putting. Will I continue reading? No. 

The Vorrh by B Catling was a book that captivated me as soon as I saw the cover! It was a gift from my lovely wife, and I went in knowing that it’s an odd story, but I don’t think I was prepared for exactly how odd it was! This is one that needs to be a solo focused read. Will I continue reading? Not now, but one Winter I’ll read this odd book!

The Depths Of Time by Roger MacBride Allen is a SciFi that has to do with the spread of humanity through the galaxy via time travel through closely guarded worm holes. It starts with a grand premise and then quickly gets lost in the weeds. Way too many little details that slow down the story and make it an unappealing read for me. Will I continue reading? Nah. 

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell You should stop whatever you’re reading and get this book now! A near future SciFi in which we’ve discovered alien life, and while humanity is deciding how to approach and contact them: The Jesuits do what they’ve done throughout their history and send their own mission to make contact. This book is so smartly written! The characters are fully realized, the style of writing creates a mystery that draws you in, and the author’s writing is a joy to read! Will I continue reading? YES!


In the end: Yay, Meh, or Nah:

Norwegian By Night Yay!

The Shining Girls Nah!

The Vorrh Meh…

The Depths Of Time Nah!

The Sparrow YAYYYYY!!!! 

Have you read any of these? Would you Yay, Meh, or Nah any of these? Also: I’d love hearing from you if this post has inspired you to try the five books fifty pages method yourself! Let me know about the results!