I don’t care how “big” I get (not claiming to be big now); I’m always going to love sharing reviews. The five-star review below from Shawna is for The Power of Words.
I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.
These short stories were a great collection. I love having short stories by different authors in one book. It always seems to shake things up a little bit.
These stories really spoke to me and I loved every second of them. Usually, I can’t really connect too well with shorter stories but these ones all had me hooked from the moment I hit play. Very well done!
I truly appreciate the thoughtful words.
As always, please allow me this opportunity to ask that if you’ve read any of my books (especially Betrayed), please be kind enough to leave a rating and review on Amazon, Goodreads, or Audible (or all three). They really do help.
My Book Cover of the Month contest is back in the swing of things. It’s not entirely unexpected, but we’re off to a slow start. This weeks’ winner was actually a tie I had to break. I had six votes, and, sure enough, each vote was for a different cover. I’d love to get this back to the level of support it had a few years ago before I went on hiatus regarding book covers.
So first, let’s announce the winner for week 1.
I was just a big fan of this cover overall. It’s probably not the genre I’d like most, but I can’t deny how well Spellmaker by Charlie N. Holmberg sings.
I’d be grateful if you would be so kind as to watch my channel, where I talk about all seven of the covers and why I think they were so cool. My middle son joined me for this episode, so that was nice of him.
Remember to vote for your favorite through the link I provided above! This means that Spellmaker is in the finals for the 2021 April Book Cover of the Month! You guys can choose who wins the title and then support your favorite in the yearly competition (obviously next year)! I hope you’ll participate.
Spoiler Free Summary: The Masterharper of Pern by Anne McCaffrey is the biography of Pern’s Masterharper, Robinton, who is one of my favorite characters in the series. His story is beautiful and tragic. Here we see his birth and growth in both music and Pern politics. We see him from a boy to his full-fledged growth as the name of this title implies. This book takes a character I already love and multiplies his sympathy by infinity.
Character: If the above summary didn’t express it, Robinton is probably my third favorite character in the series (Ruth and Jaxom). He’s such a sympathetic (kind) person. He’s not necessarily proactive, but he doesn’t have to be because he’s not a main POV character so much. This allows him to have the same feeling I get when I see one of those kind mentor characters in a TV show like that neighbor from Home Improvement. This book addresses his proactivity by revealing the parts of his life that required more action. The lack of proactivity is actually offset by his confidence. He’s a clever, gifted person.
Exposition: For fans of Pern, this books is wonderful because McCaffrey assumes that readers are fans. The down side applies only to those who aren’t already fans because McCaffrey doesn’t take a lot of time catching readers up. So I’d recommend reading this book after the series. But this choice allows readers to see the plot and read at a fast pace without having to learn the history of Pern.
Worldbuilding: This book is way more about giving readers more Robinton than it is about expanding the world. We get a look into Pern politics and society a bit, which isn’t really my favorite thing. However, since the Pern saga is so great at this anyway, I really only read this book to get more of Robinton, so I got what I wanted. The bottom line here is if you want to see the world of Pern expanded, this isn’t what you’re looking for.
Dialogue: I feel like dialogue is already one of McCaffrey’s areas of strength. However, there’s one particular scene involving Robinton’s music that is based in dialogue, and it’s such a strong scene that it really conveys how to use dialogue effectively in a story to develop character. That scene alone holds in my mind even though it’s been years since I’ve read the book.
Description: I feel like the same relationship this story has with its decreased worldbuilding is the same here. The description that is here is great and visceral, there just aren’t a lot of new elements to note, so there isn’t much additional detail. So I’d say the description is good in quality but low in amount.
Overall: This book was exactly what I wanted it to be. After reading the main series, I wanted to know Robinton better. This is a great dramatic biography of one of the best characters I’ve ever had the joy to meet and fall in love with. If you’re a fan of Pern, this book is just a wonderful character journey, so if you like character driven drama, this is for you.
Spoiler Free Summary: I consider All the Weyrs of Pern by Anne McCaffrey to be the final book (sort of) in the Dragonriders of Pern series (at least what is commonly regarded as the first in the main arc). The discovery of AIVAS has changed everything. The Dragonriders of Pern have a hope and a plan that might just eliminate the Thread for good. A battle some have fought their whole lives may come to an end, but it won’t come without sacrifice.
Character: This was the first book I ever cried while reading. And I wept. It’s beautiful. We’ve seen everything these characters have been through and how hard they work together, and this book triumphs when they’re all faced with different challenges to see those dreams come true. If this were a spoilerific review, I would tell you which characters stood out, but that would really ruin certain parts of the story. Needless to say, this was the first series that ever showed me how characters can grow from one book to another. It also showed how endings can be beautiful no matter how sad.
Exposition: AIVAS sort of demands exposition and serves that role nicely. I will admit, when I saw someone go and talk to AIVAS, I was sort of like, “Buckle in. Here come the plot points.” However, given what AIVAS is, one has to expect that, and at least the plot points are hidden in some charming dialogue. Perhaps I’m writing this and giving you the wrong (worst) impression. There are no “super chunks” of exposition to be found in this wonderful book, but there are definitely parts where readers are fed information.
Worldbuilding: This book rewards readers with a final look at the galaxy (of Pern) at large. Readers have been piecing clues together for several books, and this book finally lays everything out nicely. We gain a better understanding of Thread, why is comes and how it relates to the universe at large. The best part is this galaxy is the conflict. These days it’s easy to develop a suitable “big bad” for the heroes to fight against. This book (and series) proves that conflict doesn’t always have to be a fight. Sure, it’s nice, but it’s not all we have to explore.
Dialogue: This story is heavier on dialogue, but most of it is because everything is getting wrapped up. The characters are growing, and this is the last book. Also, readers have to expect AIVAS to provide all the big plot reveals. But the dialogue is more charming, and the characters still have their own unique voices.
Description: This is the best of McCaffrey’s best element. This book is the literary version of a 4-D IMAX theatre just for your brain. She effortlessly provides all the stunning detail you could wish for while never slowing down the plot as it steamrolls to a conclusion that is anticipated despite the absence of a Thanos or Voldemort on the opposite side of a showdown. Instead, this is a cast of character united against an environmental threat that is all the more frightening because it has no motivation whatsoever.
Overall: This book is a large part of the reason I still consider this the best series ever. I love Wheel of Time. Mistborn is genius. Lord of the Rings is amazing worldbuilding, but this story is everything I ever want in a story and more. This series is everything great science fiction and fantasy should be: Wonderful, compelling characters. Great conflict. Fantastic storytelling. If you’re going to try a series to see what this genre is all about, read this one.
Spoiler Free Summary: The Renegades of Pern by Anne McCaffrey is the fourth book (sort of) in the Dragonriders of Pern series (at least what is commonly regarded as the first in the main arc). The renegades of Pern are cast-outs. They are those who live outside of the protection of a hold. Jayge is a trader, but when another holdless group composed of outlaws seeks Thella, one who can hear all dragons, he must protect his clan and his people.
Character: This was easily the most forgettable cast for me. Part of it is that this story is a side-story. The overall plot doesn’t move one inch in this story. The world is still great, but because these characters are so new to me, I had trouble giving them a chance because I wanted to see what was happening with the main cast. So I’m not saying these characters aren’t good, but I might recommend one read this after the series as sort of a side quest that’s interesting and entertaining. I wonder what others think. If you have feelings on this particular story, I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Exposition: This story had an expected increase in exposition because McCaffrey took the story in a new direction. By opening up the world more, she had to help readers understand these new details. For me, the combination of less familiar characters and more exposition brought this story down. I still enjoy it, but I don’t enjoy it nearly as much the others in the series.
Worldbuilding: This is still the calling card of the whole series. As frustrating as it may be to read a whole story that doesn’t advance the main objective of the saga, it’s still amazing to see that no matter how vast one may think this world is, there is still so much more to see, and that’s the reward of the series and what this book brings to it. These kinds of books are best after the saga is done so that you can truly appreciate what the book is doing rather than resent it for what it was never designed to do in the first place.
Dialogue: This is about where McCaffrey usually lands for me. The dialogue is interesting and detailed. It’s not just about moving the plot forward. Her dialogue probably isn’t as memorable as Koontz or Butcher, but it feels real, and that’s always a plus.
Description: The details McCaffrey adds are always what gives her stories more life. What I appreciate is that those details are sprinkled in and through the prose in a way that doesn’t overly bog down the story. I normally just keep description light to avoid the issue, but that takes away from the immersive feel of a story. What one should do is aspire to be more like McCaffrey in technique. The idea is to try and actually see the world as it happens, and she shows the world to readers in that manner. Based on what I recall from this story, I think there’s a lot that here that really adds to the overall feel of the world. Using the holdless to show that point of view was a truly inspired idea.
Overall: I always have a strange appreciative resentment for stories like this. They’re cool because of how they expand a world, but they’re frustrating in that they don’t advance the plot forward. The answer is simple with a series like this. Read the “main arc” books and enjoy them. Then come back and read a story like this to add depth to an already amazing world. By all means, read this. Just don’t read it hoping it’ll do something it was never intended to do.
Yet another two weeks in a row with some reviews to share! I still don’t think I get reviews consistently enough to warrant a “review day” post on my schedule, but if I keep getting them (this regularly), that might change.
The first review I’d like to share is a three-star review for Caught from Deedra. She was kind enough to post the review Amazon, Goodreads, and Audible.
I’m always so happy to receive reviews. Both of these reviews were every bit as informative and helpful as they were kind (even in how they expressed what they didn’t like). I thank both these reviewers.
If you’ve read any of my work, would you please consider leaving a rating and/or a review on Amazon, Goodreads or both? It really does help.
Amazon reviews are particularly valuable because they help improve an author’s visibility. I’m so grateful to the reviewer for taking the time to share his review. This particular review might be a little on the spoiler side of things, so I feel a bit of need to at least offer you fair warning. That doesn’t diminish my appreciation at all though.
Just when I thought it was too good to be true, I found this five-star review on Goodreads from Shawna! (Thank you again so much for your awesome support!)
If you’ve read any of my work, would you please consider leaving a rating and/or a review on Amazon, Goodreads or both? It really does help.
For now, I just want to thank this reviewer one more time.
Spoiler Free Summary: The White Dragon by Anne McCaffrey is the third book (sort of) in the Dragonriders of Pern series (at least what is commonly regarded as the first in the main arc). No one thought much of Lord Jaxom’s little white dragon, Ruth. But Jaxom believed. The two begin training to work together. Jaxom wants nothing more than to prove his dragon is indeed special. However, not even Jaxom can imagine just how special Ruth really is.
Character: I must be honest here. I’ve made it clear that Dragonriders is my favorite series ever, and Ruth is my favorite character ever. His relationship with Jaxom is so beautiful. Strangely, this book doesn’t have the action and suspense of a Mistborn book (my third favorite series). It’s not a thrilling ride. Instead, it’s a bout a friendship that defies the odds, and that’s why the story is so powerful to me. As a person who has been blessed with truly lifelong friendships, this story connects with me in a way that it might not for others. Still, when people talk about a boy and his dragon story, this is it. This, again, is proof that dragon stories don’t have to be about action. I’m not anti-action at all. I usually enjoy it more. But I think it bears contemplation that as much as I love action, I love characters I can connect with more. Writers should take that to heart. If you connect your readers to your characters, they won’t care what the plot is. They’ll care what happens to the characters no matter how physically dangerous the stakes are. There are still stakes in this story, and there’s even physical danger. But I read this story (at least three times so far) just to hang out with two characters I dearly love.
Exposition: As Dragonriders progresses, the exposition becomes less of a crutch. I barely even notice any here. There are some scenes where the dialogue gives us some data, but it’s well woven into the conversation in a natural way. At least two books into the series (there are books that fall between that I don’t believe one “has” to read), McCaffrey finds a rhythm that lets the pace move faster. I will say this, there is absolutely a mandatory reading order. If you pick up The White Dragon, and you haven’t read the other two books I’ve reviewed, you’re going to be very lost.
Worldbuilding: Just when you think this wonderful world can’t get anymore fascinating, McCaffrey opens up a whole new dimension (literally). This story takes the overall arc in a direction that gives the main characters a new hope. While some could argue the story builds slowly, I affirm McCaffrey allows readers to sink into her world the way one likes to sink into a hot bath. Sure, there are some intense moments, but the payoff is well worth it.
Dialogue: The dialogue here does have a few scenes where the characters are moving the plot along. It’s pretty easy to tell, but it’s at least woven into conversations that are relevant and motivating to the characters. There are several adorable conversations between Ruth and Jaxom that really help to build on their relationship. This is still very good dialogue, but it might not be as great as the first two books.
Description: McCaffrey is always so effortless in her description. Reading one of her books makes me feel like a two-year-old trying to finger paint. However, the brilliance of her work isn’t in complexity. Instead, it’s in the simplicity. She doesn’t beat the reader over the head with details. Instead, she gives you small details that make a location or action feel more real, and that’s how description should be.
Overall: The White Dragon is my favorite book in my favorite series featuring my two favorite characters, so I’m a little biased. However, this book is guaranteed to yank the heartstrings of anyone who has ever been a a part of a powerful friendship. It’s touching, dramatic, and powerful. So here’s the challenge. Read the three books I’ve reviewed so far. If you’re not in love with the characters by now, you probably lack a human heart, but I won’t make you read the rest. Ultimately, this is a story that shows that faith in friendship can help people achieve more than anyone thought possible, and I for one find that a beautiful thought.
It’s a new year, which means it’s time to share my top three reads of 2020 with you all. Goodreads says I’ve read 14 books in 2019. I’m still trending downward, but I don’t know that I read “less.” Considering how much I read the Bible, I think I’m reading as many pages as I normally do (given married life). It’s just that I’m reading much larger books. That said, I have to say 2020 was probably the weakest year since I’ve been doing this. That doesn’t mean my top three aren’t great, but I think the drop off is pretty steep. Was that the case for you all? Let me know in the comments below. This list was made without regard to publisher, format, or author.
How I did it: I kept track of books I liked and mentally compared one to the other. Without further delay, here’s my list.
#3 Starsight by Brandon Sanderson: You can find my review for that book here. If it weren’t for Sanderson, I probably wouldn’t name a top three. I read some non-fiction I really enjoyed, but I don’t enjoy non-fiction in the same way. He’s still my favorite. Starsight added depth the the charm of skyward, and I gain more interest as the universe (of this story) opens up. It’s still clearly YA, and so it lacks a lot of the impact his other books have, but it’s honestly growing stronger with each book. I freely admit it takes a degree of patience to read a non-cosmere book from Sanderson because you’re waiting for that next Stormlight book, but the stories are always enjoyable, and it’s a part of his style of writing.
#2 The Rhythm of War by Brandon Sanderson: This is not a cheat. You’re free to look at all 14 books I’ve read, and if you honestly think there are two better, let me know in the comments. I’m actually a bigger fan of ROW than other readers I know. That’s because I liked the science nature of this book. Here’s my review. It was very hard to decide this between this book and number one on my list for this year. I’ll explain that later. I just want it known that after a bit, I still personally think this is the second best book in the series so far. This book doesn’t rise because it’s still just a set up. Also, this book has some super odd breaks between characters (like some cast members vanish for an entire act). Regardless, This book put everything into place, but the rewards for this book will actually be in Book 5. Sanderson is a master, and if you haven’t read Stormlight, you’re really missing out. It’s just that simple.
#1 The Burning White by Brent Weeks: My review for this can be found here. What helped put this book over the edge was that it was the conclusion to a very good saga. A lot of things came together here in ways I thought were very pleasant. I think Lightbringer is solid. I don’t really know if it holds up against Night Angel or not. They’re actually pretty different books, so it’s hard to tell. Which ever is better, both deliver a great story that gives readers an ending that’s satisfying.
So that’s my top three. What are yours? Why? Do you have a review you can link it to? I’d love to reblog it for you.
Spoiler Free Summary: Dragonquest by Anne McCaffrey is the second book in the Dragonriders of Pern series (at least what is commonly regarded as the first in the main arc). The Thread has returned, but so have the dragonriders. Lessa’s actions (from Book One) have brought back the help F’lar needed to defend Pern, but the Oldtimers are breeding dissent, and their presence may actually turn into a hinderance. As F’lar works to find a way to defeat the Thread once and for all, he’s distracted by the need to keep order among the dragonriders.
Character: So normally I hate political drama. Adding dragons to the mix helps a lot, but that’s not why this story works for me. The reason it works is the characters. After Dragonflight, I’m in love with Lessa, F’lar and F’nor and their dragons. The political intrigue is amplified because the reader understand how driven F’lar is to defeat the Thread and how frustrating it is (and thus the readers are on his behalf) to be rebelled against. That emotional conflict is the only way to make political conflict interesting. It’s the same with a cop and robber story. If you don’t understand the motivations of the cop and robber, it’s just a hollow plot line. At least with cops and robbers, there’s guaranteed action. I will say I think the Oldtimers’ points of view could have been more relevant, but with how connected I was to the main cast already, I didn’t care.
Exposition: Dragonquest is sort of a reward for making it through the first five chapters of Dragonflight in regard to exposition. Now that the world is built and defined, there are far fewer blocks of exposition. As an epic fantasy story, there are absolutely blocks of exposition, but it’s not nearly as much as there were in Book One, where we had to learn pretty much everything about how the planet works.
Worldbuilding: Things only get better with this book. Without addition exposition, McCaffrey expands on Pern and the cause of Thread. We learn more about the world of Pern and its society. I’ll ever beleive Pern is the standard bearer for worldbuilding in fiction.
Dialogue: This book continues the trend set by Book One. The dialogue is so much more than plot positioning or badly hidden exposition. Instead, the dialogue adds to the characters and it adds to the emotion of the scene. The characters aren’t narrating information like a bad play. Instead, we’re immersed in a world in which we can hear the characters and the conversations they have. They are indeed relevant to the plot, but they’re not cookie-cutter plot outlines.
Description: What shines here in McCaffrey’s description is how carefully she uses adjectives near action verbs. If I were studying in school, I might find the time to read this book and underline the verbs and circle the adjectives she uses to give those verbs additional sensory value. There’s one particular scene in the book where she artfully depicts a chaotic event without loosing the reader or slowing down the pace of the story. Sure, there’s more description than I like, but it only adds to the immersive nature of the world.
Overall: Dragonquest is proof that political intrigue doesn’t have to be boring. I think McCaffrey did right what Herbert did wrong. I’m sure others disagree with me, and I respect that opinion, but stick with me. Herbert gave the worldbuilding and political intrigue first, and then added character. McCaffrey made us care about the characters first and then added the political conflict. When we connect emotionally to characters, we’re far more patient as readers than when writers want to show off their notes for 100 pages before we really come to understand our characters. This book highlights a lot of those aspects.