My review for KBR of The American Game by Jeff MacArthur

NOTE: The Kindle Book Review received a free copy of this book for an independent, fair, and honest review. We are not associated with the author or Amazon.

This novel was originally planned as a movie, and it would make a fine one. A terrible war, a pair of brothers torn apart by circumstance, an enslaved man heading for freedom, and baseball. As a book, though, it reads rather like a novelization of that movie. Some characters are difficult to keep straight; time shifts unexpectedly; poorly spelled accents and broad regional stereotypes are indulged. Nevertheless, there is an untold and unexpected story here that is difficult to put down, skilfully researched and full of sympathy for poor soldiers on both sides of the conflict, as well as the enslaved. I recommend it for Civil War novel buffs.

My review for KBR of New Sun Rising: Ten Stories by Lindsay Edmunds

NOTE: The Kindle Book Review received a free copy of this book for an independent, fair, and honest review. We are not associated with the author or Amazon.

Lindsay Edmunds has created a compelling near-future world in the town of Stillwater, a commune-like town where everyone lives quietly in the houses that are standing and never build more. It’s a good place for aging hippies, but Kedzie Greer, a girl who was abandoned as an infant and raised by two Wiccan women, wants more out of life. She gets a job in a human warehouse and tries to use streaming video reports of the cruelty there to blow open the terrible injustices.

Although Edmunds did not want this to be “another ‘teenager with special powers saves the world’ story,” it is unfortunately just that when the stories are centered on Kedzie Greer, a girl with strange exotic beauty who inexplicably commands the attention and even the daydreams of everyone around her. Nonetheless, she is allowed to be irritating and lovesick, not a perfect soul, and the characters around her are well-drawn. This book is a good read with strong potential for other works in the same setting.

My review for KBR of Logos by John Neeleman

NOTE: The Kindle Book Review received a free copy of this book for an independent, fair, and honest review. We are not associated with the author or Amazon.

Like many of those who wandered away from Christianity, I am fascinated by any close examination of the life and times of Yeshua bar Miriam. This well-researched, sprawling historical novel (and yes, it is required to describe historical novels over a certain length as “sprawling”) aims to put the reader deeply in first-century Palestine and Rome, when people first came to debate among themselves what Yeshua was.

The hero, Jacob, begins as the weakest point in the novel. He is too much of an Everyman, too eager to fight for the right at every turning point in the dark history of Jerusalem’s revolt against Rome, and too easily taken to the bosom of major historical figures.

Nonetheless, the pace picks up considerably when Jacob stumbles across the story of Jesus as the Christ. Then the novel offers a fascinating rendering of life with the Essenes and with pre-Islamic Bedouins, and becomes a much more compelling read. The novel’s theory of the “invention” of Christianity as a syncretic, Hellenized religion is thoroughly plausible. I recommend this read as a primer or a companion primer for those with an interest in the birth of Christianity.

My review of At the End of the Line by Kathryn Longino for The Kindle Book Review

NOTE: The Kindle Book Review received a free copy of this book for an independent, fair, and honest review. We are not associated with the author or Amazon.

In this cinematic novel of the ’50s and ’60s, Beanie, a teenage Mormon girl, is sold into plural marriage by her parents. Desperate, she tries to make a long-distance call to the only person she knows outside the hell of Utah. It’s a wrong number. Instead, she reaches an aristocratic Boston lady who has been chafing at the confines of her manicured life. The lady hears the panic in her voice, responds with concern and with kindness – and their years-long story begins.

The beginning of the novel is suspenseful, heartrending, difficult to turn away from. The main characters, Beanie and Adeline, are well-drawn and appealing, although Adeline is the only one who is complicated and occasionally unlikable. Beanie’s evolution into a civil rights worker is too quickly done, especially for a girl who would have been taught all her life that African-Americans were lesser beings in God’s sight. The ending twist is too neat by half; life is never wrapped up so neatly – and yet there was a great deal of potential in it.

This book is a quick, gripping read that would make a fine movie, if it avoided making Nice White Ladies of Beanie and Adeline. I would give it 3.85 stars if I could.

My review of A Curse Upon the Saints by J. Rutger Madison for KBR

NOTE: The Kindle Book Review received a free copy of this book for an independent, fair, and honest review. We are not associated with the author or Amazon.

As a Mississippi sf/f author, I am perhaps biased by my delight at finding another one. This was only the first thing to delight me about Madison’s book. A Curse Upon the Saints is a dark, rugged fantasy, the first block of book laid down for an edifice of epic. This is a world shattered by religious war and interspecies rivalries. The vicious goat-men who appear in the first pages of the novel, the Sarbarah, are demonically cruel, but not entirely without honor or tenderness. The most appealing of the protagonists – a lawyer, of all people, who is enslaved by an invading army of Sarbarah – is allowed to survive because he happens to play the flute. Through his patience and cunning, he manages to purvey this tiny influence into a perilous position of power.

The author cheerfully acknowledges the influence of George R.R. Martin in this sprawling work. The depth of intrigue and worldbuilding make this the same kind of addictive setting as Westeros. The dialogue could have used some polishing, and the various sniping factions are often confusing, but this is not enough to keep one from turning the pages. I would give this 4 1/2 stars if I could, and I look forward to seeing more.

My review for KBR of Where Tomorrow Waits by Din Ka

NOTE: The Kindle Book Review received a free copy of this book for an independent, fair, and honest review. We are not associated with the author or Amazon.

The sheer scale of the brutality of the Cambodian genocide makes one gape, useless. It is blank, incomprehensible, a sheer mountain of skulls. This novel approaches it through a young girl’s life, one full at first of universal family traumas, dark personal secrets, money troubles. The heroine Dara’s life is far from an idyll, but the sudden rise of the Khmer Rouge is a wave of madness, sweeping aside every hope of stability she had.
A compelling story and a powerful, observant protagonist make this a difficult book to set aside. The absurd, murderous “agrarian society” of the Khmer Rouge is even harder for the mind to set aside, after reading. Although the prose is often pedestrian and the pace drags near the end, Dara’s story has genuine resonance, and the book is well worth a read.

My review for KBR of My Name Is Thank-You by Kaizen Love

NOTE: The Kindle Book Review received a free copy of this book for an independent, fair, and honest review. We are not associated with the author or Amazon.

This is a warm and immediately engaging story of two young African-American girls, one a biracial orphan, and another who, despite her family’s wealth, might as well be an orphan. The sweet, rich narrative voice of the girl named Thank-You drew me in right away, and it was well contrasted with the cool, educated voice of Josephine, the girl who grew up in another world right next to her, in the divided, half-patrician South.

There are some minor flaws. I wondered particularly why a very important choice was never mentioned in the narrative, in regards to Josephine’s health, but it’s impossible to mention here without spoiling the book, and in any case that would have meant a very different story. Nonetheless, this is a great book for young readers, or for anyone who wants something to make them choke up a little as they smile.

– L.T. Patridge (The Kindle Book Review)

My review for KBR of A Different Place to Die by R.R. Gall

NOTE: The Kindle Book Review received a free copy of this book for an independent, fair, and honest review. We are not associated with the author or Amazon.

The delightfully unlikable civilian inspector Shona Bally drags her superior Police Inspector Tom Quiss into a increasingly bizarre investigation, in which the bodies of elderly couples are found poisoned inside houses not their own. The pace is perfect, and the characters well-matched, with a real and unromantic tension between them. At the climax, the killers’ motive is found to be so startling that I balked at it for a moment. The skill of the scene, though, carried me through to a suspension of disbelief. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole book, and would read another adventure with this pair.

My review for KBR of Burning Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Carl Waters

NOTE: The Kindle Book Review received a free copy of this book for an independent, fair, and honest review. We are not associated with the author or Amazon.

This vigorous retelling of Uncle Tom’s Cabin focuses on George Harris, the young and innovative enslaved worker who ran away to find Canada and freedom for his family. Waters aims to find the story still alive behind the outdated original novel. Unlike the original, this book does not need to rely on the persuasion of white characters (or readers) of the essential equality of mankind. It tells a tense and nerve-wracking story of brutality and escape. The dialogue is a little weak, and I would have appreciated a darker, more lyrical prose. Nonetheless, I am looking forward to the sequels for a full reexamination of the themes that Stowe did not have the perspective to face.

My review for KBR of Per-Bast: A Tale of Cats in Ancient Egypt by Lara-Dawn Stiegler

NOTE: The Kindle Book Review received a free copy of this book for an independent, fair, and honest review. We are not associated with the author or Amazon.

As someone who loves historical fiction about ancient Egypt, I was quickly and easily drawn in, but this is Egyptian high fantasy, a little something different. It is a mythological tale, full of gods and monsters. I have to admit that I initially judged this book by its concept, because: cats. Talking cats. It did not sound promising. However, the strength of the prose and the solidity of the setting won me over. Besides, if you have ever known a “supervisor cat,” the kind of cat who watches everything you do, it is not hard to believe they are well up on human and divine affairs. I was also interested in the use of the actual drama between Ramesses III and Queen Tiye – a true story that did not end well. In sum, I recommend this book as a real departure from the run of ancient Egyptian novels.

– L.T. Patridge (The Kindle Book Review)