Category: Reviews


How to Review

One of the many things I’m behind on, especially in regard to this site, is my pile of review to-dos. That doesn’t mean manuscripts; it means books I’ve read (or listened to, in the case of audiobooks) and think are worth talking about.

But a review is actually a delicate sort of art, and — as readers here well know! — I tend to be more on the verbose side. That actually isn’t the way I should be doing it, and as I get back into the swing of things I need to watch that. Part of it is that because this site exists to focus on writing advice, I like pulling out lessons; but that isn’t always the best use of a review even for here, even if the only people reading the reviews are authors looking for tips and tricks.

So what does go into a good review? And what’s the difference between a review and a critique?  Continue reading

I haven’t posted in a while, because I’ve been buried under work. I certainly don’t lack for contracts to fill my spare time, but I’ve also been busy preparing my house for a kitchen remodel; I’m significantly handicapped, so that’s even more trouble than it might otherwise sound. I just haven’t had the energy for blogging.

However, today is Marvel Day. No, really; it’s not just that it’s when Captain America: Civil War is out in theaters, it’s also the day that I seem to have seen several MCU movies over the years. Not just the weekend, but the day, May 6th. Not sure how that’s happened, but it’s what my Facebook memory feed shows today. The coincidence gets eyebrow-raising with the fact that I didn’t even realize this when I’d made the decision to take today off.

But taking the day off also means that I have the time to write up my thoughts on this movie — spoiler-free, I might add.  Continue reading

No, that’s not all one topic (though it sounds like it would make an interesting discussion). I’m just giving you an update on some things over at my other site that you might be interested in.  Continue reading

Agent Carter is Back

Agent Carter titleThe first season of Agent Carter met with a lot of mixed press, mainly focused on whether it was misandrist messagefic. In the end, those issues were resolved, but as I described in my take on the first three episodes, it could have been avoided and still presented the same situation (that is, the unthinking sexism of that era) to the audience.  What with articles heralding the show’s second season as a feminist masterpiece, I saw several people assuming things would get even worse. I even got a bit of activity on my previous articles on the subject.

I took a more cautious approach. As I said last year, the show was excellent, in spite of the heavy-handed approach. I thought the first season ended on a very high note, propelling Carter’s World War II character into a Cold War setting, and having mostly traded in the poor attempts to portray the cultural difference for techniques that actually worked. I felt there was a good chance that we’d get an even better season this time around.

Well, the first two episodes came out last week, and over the snowed-in weekend I not only watched them, I enjoyed them. Peggy Carter is back, and better than ever.  Continue reading

star-wars-force-awakens-official-posterI’ve been busy, as evidenced by how little I’ve been posting. I’ve even been neglecting the other site I own and manage. However, I couldn’t just let something like Star Wars go by unwatched, particularly not before Christmas. What will my relatives think?

This review will be in two parts, and not very long, because there’s not a whole lot to say. The first part will be completely spoiler-free. When you see the spoiler graphic come up, that is your only warning. Beyond that, and especially in the comments section, will be hic sunt SithaeContinue reading

Elantris

20151222_000616[1]Prince Raoden of Arelon awoke early that morning, completely unaware that he had been damned for all eternity.

These are the opening words to one of the best novels ever written: Elantris, by Brandon Sanderson. I first read it in 2011, barely more than a year into my career as an editor. It immediately became one of my favorites, if not my most favorite novel ever.

It had been sitting on my shelf for years, though, waiting to be read. The problem was that the paperback copy doesn’t tell you what the story is about, and so I never knew if I was in the mood for it. My reading list is so long, and I stopped counting at a hundred, that I kept deciding to try something else. This is after reading both Mistborn and The Way of Kings. I’d heard good things, but not knowing what to expect kept making me pick something else.

Well, now it’s the only novel I’ve ever considered worth getting in a collector’s quality leatherbound edition. And not to give you a clickbait kind of hook, but what Brandon Sanderson put on the personalization inside made me tear up.

Considering how I feel about this book, I should have done a review on it years ago. I even said on this blog that it deserves its own review. For some reason, I kept putting it off. Maybe it’s just that I didn’t know if I could do it justice. I’m glad I didn’t, though. If I had, then I couldn’t have given my readers this story.  Continue reading

Son of the Black Sword 1A few weeks ago, I finished Son of the Black Sword, the latest book from Larry Correia. I’ve been delaying on writing blog posts, so this review isn’t the only one on my to-do list; but the thing is, if you like fantasy that’s a little bit different, you need to read this book. You’ll thank both me and Larry later.

Son of the Black Sword is the first in a new series for Correia. It’s also marketed as the first in a new genre; that’s not really true, since he’s been writing Iron Kingdoms tie-ins, but when it comes to his original fiction he’s known as an urban fantasy writer. He’s most famous for his bestselling Monster Hunter series, a contemporary story about a group of contractors whose job it is to hunt and kill the monsters humanity would rather pretend don’t exist. Second to that (and my personal favorite) is his Grimnoir Chronicles, an epic-scale alternate history/fantasy set in an alternate Great Depression where magic exists and the West is in a cold war with Imperial Japan. (Also, there are airships and Tesla superweapons.)

Compared against that, Son of the Black Sword is definitely something different — and not just because there isn’t a single gun to be found. It’s an epic fantasy, of the sort that might normally be described as “traditional fantasy” until you read through the first chapter. Son of the Black Sword is set in a world that heavily draws on South and East Asian concepts, in terms of society, politics, philosophy, and even the fantasy itself. But that’s all mere backdrop, however well-painted, supporting a story with three major twists, five minor twists, and a story where you’re not sure quite what’s going on but you’re hungry, starving for more.

This is epic fantasy at its finest. My favorite epic fantasy remains David Eddings’ The Belgariad and The Malloreon, despite such personages as Brandon Sanderson redefining and expanding the genre. Larry Correia is now approaching a rival for Sanderson, and after this start I would not be surprised if he starts rivaling Eddings for me on pure enjoyment.

Spoiler Warning

As you might expect, minor spoilers ahead. Only minor ones, though, so if you want to read more you should be safe.  Continue reading

Customs of the WorldWhenever I talk characters and worldbuilding, at conventions or in classrooms, I always recommend several books. One of them actually isn’t a book at all, and it’s the only one that I mention in both contexts.

It’s a lecture series from The Teaching Company, titled Customs of the World: Using Cultural Intelligence to Adapt, Wherever You Are. This is intended to be a course on understanding world cultures, but it’s a vital resource for creating cultures in both fantasy and science fiction. It’s also a great secondary resource for creating different personalities between characters.

As of this post, it is currently on sale at The Teaching Company’s website, starting at $35 for an audio download. I cannot recommend it too highly. You should all go get it now. If, however, you’re reading this after the sale has ended, I’ll explain why it’s worth getting. Continue reading

It’s no secret that I have a love-hate relationship with Agents of SHIELD, a show I had high hopes for which turned into something I abandoned, continued with again because of a friend’s insistence, and then would have abandoned again if it weren’t for how it gives me stuff to blog about. (When I remember to update the blog, that is.)

I rarely try to suck up every single bit of information about shows that I can. Part of it is because I don’t have a regular TV-watching schedule, and so sometimes I wind up taking in several episodes at a time and would prefer to avoid spoilers. Sometimes I just don’t care. Sometimes it’s just that I’d rather take it in as the story itself, as it was meant to be viewed. It’s somewhat of a treat for me to do that, actually; well, if it’s a good story, that is. I honestly should write a blog post on an editor’s perspective of stories both published and in draft form, but suffice for now to say that it’s hard to not feel like I’m working.

With Agents of SHIELD, even when it stopped sucking, I was still working. Even when it was good enough that I could enjoy it, it was still short of something I could sit back and enjoy on its own, without being an editor the whole way through. That’s probably why I wrote so many articles about Agents, but not about Flash or Arrow.

Last night, the season premiere of Agents aired, and I enjoyed myself. I had to remember to pause to take notes every so often. Last season, I cautiously opined that this was starting to live up to the hype when the show was first announced; now, it is the show that they announced. And apparently all they had to do was say “Hey, X-Men is a cool story.”

Oops, I need one of those spoiler banners before I say stuff like that, right? It’s been all summer. I’m rusty.

Spoiler Warning

Continue reading

If you haven’t seen it already, Netflix released a teaser for Jessica Jones over the weekend. It is a thing of beauty.

As my friend and fellow blogger (over at The Catholic Geeks) Andy Hauge observed, it sums up the tone of the show perfectly.  Continue reading

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