Category: book review

Book Review: The First Book of Swords

The First Book of Swords (Books of Swords, #1)

The First Book of Swords by Fred Saberhagen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


You never quite know what you’re going to get when you reread a book you loved as a kid. Sometimes you’re impressed with what wonderful taste you had back then, and sometimes . . . you’d rather forget you ever liked that book to begin with.

I first came across Saberhagen’s Book of Swords series in the public library. I remember thinking the covers were pretty cool (Swords!), and I was definitely in the “I’ll read anything you put in front of me” age. I loved the whole series, though I never really read them in order, because the library continually had one checked out or the other. I remember thinking the magic system was really cool and always wanting to know more about the swords.

So finally I broke down and bought the first book on Kindle, hoping that my fond memories were accurate and justified for once.

I’m ecstatic to say that they were. I finished the entire first book in a day, something which almost never happens for me anymore. The premise is simple: take a standard fantasy world and have the gods of that world create 12 magical swords, each with very specific powers. For example, one can cut through stone as if it were butter. One kills dragons exceptionally well. One makes you very lucky. One helps you find anything you want. The gods take those swords and scatter them through the land, and then they sit back to see what the humans do.

Violence and adventure ensue.

It’s a great start to the series. I loved how the Swords were mysteries to all the characters for the bulk of the book. The gods made them and spread them out, but they never told the humans about them, wanting the humans to find out on their own. And instead of focusing on obscure commoners who end up becoming royalty or supreme magic users, Saberhagen has his protagonists pretty much stay constant through the book. They’re scrappy, and they’ve got a couple of the magic Swords, but they don’t have any other real tools available to help them face their foes.

If you’re looking for a fun series that’s a quick read and has some really cool magic, you should definitely check this one out. I’m already deep into book 2.

View all my reviews

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Book Review: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I primarily read books to be entertained, plain and simple. Every now and then I’ll read non-fiction, and I dabble in the literary from time to time. It’s not that I don’t like literary fiction (I have an English Masters, after all), but I’m generally busy enough that when I finally have time for a break, I don’t want to have to think all that hard. I want plot. I want entertainment. And I don’t want to have to ponder the meaning of anything.

Most of the time, at least.

Every now and then I come across an author or book that makes me reevaluate my tastes. Something that makes me wonder if maybe it wouldn’t be better if I just read high brow stuff all the time. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, by Michael Chabon, is one such novel.

It’s centered around Prague and New York City during World War II. It ties in historical events and details with complex character studies and then frames it all around the rise to power of . . . comic books? Yup. Comic books. And it does it all in a really riveting, involving fashion.

Chabon’s text is not always easy to read, and that has to be on purpose. His vocabulary is so much better than mine, I at first constantly found myself looking up the definitions of words, until it got to the point that I just guessed what the words meant and kept on reading. (Remember: I don’t like having to think to much.) But he uses language so effectively that this doesn’t turn into a stumbling block. It makes me wish I had a better vocabulary myself–that the flaw is with me, the reader, being unable to rise to meet the challenge of him, the author. (Sort of like when you try to play a piece of beautiful music, only to discover it’s beyond you.)

This book wasn’t beyond me. I loved it. And I got through it in 9 days, which is a testament to how good it is. Usually a “you have to think” book is going to bog me down for a couple of weeks at least.

If any of this sounds remotely entertaining, I strongly encourage you to check this book out. It’s well worth your time. Already read it? Let me know what you thought.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.


Book Review: Senlin Ascends

Senlin Ascends (The Books of Babel, #1)

Senlin Ascends by Josiah Bancroft

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


It’s rare these days when I’ll start a new series and actually continue with it. As I’ve said in other reviews, I’m just too aware that each book I read is also another book I don’t read. So I need to find a book I really enjoy to make me decide to stick with it for the next in the series.

Much of what I read comes to me through Kindle book sales. I’ll see something interesting, I’ll read reviews on Goodreads, and I’ll buy it for later. Senlin Ascends is a book I’d heard about from a number of sources, and then one day it went on sale on Amazon. The concept was intriguing: a man goes to a steampunk Tower of Babel and works on making his way up the tower. I didn’t know much more than that, but I decided to give it a shot.

I bought the second book as soon as I finished the first, if that gives you any idea what I thought about it.

For the first while in the first book, I didn’t think I was going to like it. The main character was quite weak and did some fairly foolish things. But the setting was more than a little intriguing. This Tower of Babel is truly enormous. Each level is basically its own world, and it’s all very well described to the point that it feels real. And as I kept reading, caught by the setting, the main character began to grow and evolve as well. By the end of the book, it had really grabbed hold of me, and I was truly invested in the outcome.

That’s a tough trick to pull off, but it does a great job of it. In the end, it’s an impressive work. I gave it an 8/10, though again the middle and end were much stronger for me than the beginning, which is always preferable, I find. If you’re looking for a good steampunk read with very light fantasy elements, this is a good one to try.

Give it a shot!

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.


Book Review: Skyward

SkywardSkyward by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am not, as a rule, a cryer. Call me emotionally stunted, call me cold, but tears seldom try to trickle from the corner of my eyes. (I can’t even remember the last time I cried, honestly.) And yet when I got to the climax of Brandon Sanderson’s latest book, I got choked up. No, I didn’t cry, but I got the closest I’ve come in several years at least.

It’s that good.

Brandon has always excelled at writing satisfying endings of books. It’s been a strength of his for as long as I can remember, going right back to the days I was in his writing group and hanging out in his basement each week. His beginnings are solid. His middles are fine. His magic systems are awesome, but I really feel that his endings are what set him apart from the crowd. Managing a really satisfying ending is no small feat. Getting your readers to really invest in a character or group of characters so that when it all comes together, it feels right? That’s tough.

Usually, you can see a good ending coming in the distance. “Ah,” you’ll say. “That’s how the author could get the hero out of this mess.” And it’s no shame when that actually happens. But really incredible endings leave you guessing right until the end, and then when it all comes together, you’re stunned that you didn’t see that loophole of a happy ending to begin with.

Skyward is the sort of book that makes me want to go back and rerate other books I’ve rated, just so I have space at the top of the scale for me to give it a better rating than anything else I’ve read this year.

It’s not a literary book. I don’t mean that. Does it hold up against The Handmaid’s Tale, another book I gave a perfect 10/10 to this year? Well, no. But it’s not fighting in the same ring, so you can’t hold that against it. Skyward is a YA Science Fiction book about a girl who dreams of being a pilot, even while her entire society is telling her she can’t be. It’s post apocalyptic. It’s fast moving. And it has flat out the best ending I’ve read in a long time.

I don’t know how I can recommend it any more to you. I don’t think I need to describe the characters and the premise. Pick it up and read it. Give it to your friends as a present. Anyone who’s remotely interested in Sci-Fi would love this, I think.

10/10. Must read.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

View all my reviews

Book Review: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry (Logans, #4)Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m going back through books I never read growing up, reading award winners and the like just to see how they’re put together and what made them great. (It also helps that many of them go on sale over time in the Kindle store, so I can get them for about $2 each.)

While I continue to love fantasy, my obsession with it throughout grade school meant that I skipped over a lot of great reads at the time. (Though to be honest, a lot of these Newbery winners would have been skipped by younger me anyway, just because they would have looked boring. Island of the Blue Dolphins? Who wants to read that? Remember, this is 10 year old me speaking.)

This is just to say that I finally read Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, and wow! What an incredible book! For those of you who don’t know, it’s the story of an African American girl in the south at the height of segregation. It incorporates history and characters into a riveting account that does a wonderful job of personalizing this painful part of America’s past.

One of the things I love most about books is their ability to transport us into another person’s life. We get to see their thoughts and feelings as they go through the experiences of the novel. I feel like this can help humanize people who otherwise would be Other, if that makes sense. It’s what I tried to do to an extent in VODNIK (though sadly the book never really had a chance of getting published in Slovakia. Each time we tried, publishers froze up as soon as they heard it had a Roma as a main character.)

This is a fast read, which makes what it pulls off even more impressive. To pack that much emotion into so few pages is a feat to be applauded. I loved the book from start to finish, and definitely give it a 10/10. Should be read, even by young boys who might think it looks boring.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

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