In the mood for a circus?

The Night CircusThe Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was an elegant and romantic read. I know that’s likely the last thing you’d expect to read in one of my reviews considering a large amount of the other things I review, but it’s true. I consider this a very mood oriented waltz through an era when the traveling circus was bigger than it is today.

I liked the main characters very much. This is the sort of circus I could imagine a young Ray Bradbury going to that became the fuel for his nostalgia based stories involving a carnival or a circus performer. The descriptions always upheld the mood.

The downside is, what if you’re not in that mood? What if a slow, romantic rivalry with a pretty clear path to the reader (if not the characters for some reason) is not what you’re looking for? That’s the only real danger here.

I think if you’ve read Shades of Milk and Honey and enjoyed it this is very much a book for you.

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Dealing With Dragons

Dealing with Dragons (Enchanted Forest Chronicles, #1)Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a fun book. It is certainly a book for a younger audience, but the author tells a good tale and doesn’t let the audience restrict the work. I am also very, very glad that my daughter read this. The lead character is a fun and strong example for girls. If you’ve got a middle grade reader this is a great book for them to pick up. I might even read on in the series with my daughter. It could be a lot of fun.

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Things Explained

Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple WordsThing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words by Randall Munroe
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Thing Explainer is such an appropriate title for this book. It is not a sit down and read it cover to cover kind of book. You could do that, but it’s not linear. I like it much better as a pick it up and learn about something book. Pick a point and see how (insert thing here) is explained in words everyone can understand. Fair warning – you may have to think about the words and the way they’re used to describe things. Do you know what a shape checker is? Fun, interesting and filled with detail. Fantastic book.

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The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentleman Bastard, #1)The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have spent a lot of time trying to figure out why I didn’t love this book. It’s a fantasy, it’s got a clever character, it’s got clear world building – in short it’s got a ton of everything I really like.

And somehow I only mostly liked it.

I thing the biggest trouble I had was that the really solid world building was as much a character as any character in the book. It became distracting. The elder glass towers were mentioned all the time and were great visuals that didn’t mean anything in the end really.

I became confused on one or two occasions when the point of view would flip. I figured it out quickly enough, but it was another distraction and it slowed me down. I think the interludes, when Locke was just a kid could have become their own book. Maybe not, but I think there’s more story there.

It IS nice to have a fantasy story where the hero isn’t secretly a prince and isn’t a mighty warrior that can battle any foe with his mighty sword. The Thorn survives on his will and his luck and if you’re into a protagonist like that you might just enjoy this one.

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I’ll pencil you in…

I’ve been criticized lately for being too busy. This is not from my family, this is from other people. Friends of mine seem to think I do too much – and I will tell you flat out I don’t understand that criticism. Just don’t get it. How can I NOT be busy? There are not enough hours in the day for all the cool stuff there is to do in the world!

There have been many flavors of this critique of how I use my time, but the least flattering of them was something along the lines of, “go ahead, tell us again how big your junk is…”

Am I busy? You bet I am. I’m scheduled flat out until sometime in June. No, I’m not joking. There are times in there that are less busy than others. There are things I’ve lined up that have piled on top of each other, but that happens from time to time. I can’t say that I’m always happy with it. Sometimes the circumstances mean I miss something along the way. Am I doing this as some form of competition? Of course not. It’s not a win/lose kind of thing! Everyone should find stuff they’re passionate about and get out there and do it!

I can say for certain that I have no intention of changing. The stuff I do is based on people I have made commitments to. I am cautious about who I commit to when I’m asked to do things. I am busy. I am also connected to some amazing things and wonderful people. IF I say I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it – and I don’t particularly care what you think of my schedule. I love the things I do. I help with conventions, I write, I create art, I run professional organizations – and have a great time on the way. Stay home and watch TV if you want, I’ve got things to do and people to meet. I mean, seriously – how many people have you met that do old timey strongman stunts these days like, tearing a license plate in half, ramming nails through board using bare hands OR:

Seriously, would you want to miss out on dinner with somebody that has stories like that?

The Top! (ish?)

I got this infographic thing in my e-mail box the other day:


I’m not really sure what to make of it. I mean, sure it’s cool and all but how is the “top 1%” figured out? I saw an estimate that Goodreads has somewhere in the area of 50 million users. IF that’s true being part of the top 1% is interesting, but it puts me in a group with about 500,000 other people. Not nearly as special as it might sound.

It’s also interesting to see the review of mine that got the most attention was related to Star Wars ~ and was 6 years ago. This is one of those good / bad things depending on how you want to look at it. Hopefully I’ll see another one of these in the future. Could be a neat way to look back at some of what I’ve done. Goodreads doesn’t catch everything though. I do put my reviews up at MilSciFi from time to time as well (when the book fits). I’ve posted my review philosophy there, but I don’t know how many folks have ever managed to get over there to see it so I thought I’d re-post it here. Pop over and check out MilSciFi too!

Review Philosophy

It’s important to start by stating the fact that I am a fan first. Yes, I help to publish a monthly fanzine. It’s also true that I’m an author and artist when I can squeeze that in along with my day job. It’s important to state these things because I make every effort to be honest and fair with my reviews. If I like something, I’ll tell you. If I don’t like something, I’ll try to figure out what it is exactly that bothers me, but I’m going to say I don’t like it. I don’t intend criticism to be personal about any author. I know how hard it is to make it work when you’re writing a novel.
I intend to stick with the five star rating system. I’ve always considered stars to be very limited, but I can’t really come up with a better system on my own. I’ll make them work. I am a terrible grader, in that I don’t consider average to be a horrible thing. I don’t just give five star ratings away. I consider five stars to be something rarely achievable. I also believe a book has to have gone really wrong to end up in the one star category. I can only recall two I’ve read that have landed at a single star. Getting it really right is tough, but it’s just as challenging to get it really wrong.
An example is probably best here. I would give The Hobbit five stars. The writing style struck a chord with me. The story is one that stands up to a reread despite the fact that I read it the first time when I was nine or ten. I’ve gone back and read the book more than once. The depth of world building shows through the writing without becoming a bludgeon. I feel that is a standard for the full five star rating. It moved me. It changed something in my outlook and really made me think. I haven’t put any others up to that level yet. I say “yet” not because I haven’t read other excellent and moving books, but because I’m not going to rate backwards in time. I will only rate/review a book should I read it *again*. While I consider The Good Earth another five star book, I’m not going to put something like that out for consideration until I read it again.
Having said all that about stars, I will also be upfront about any book (or books) where my own work shows up. Pretty easy to say that a book of my own, or an anthology containing a story of mine would get a five star rating from me. You should know that up front if I expect you to care about my reviews. I’ve seen others that give everything they read a four or five star rating. I don’t give those reviews much weight. I don’t expect you would either.
That’s my non legal disclaimer. I’m a fan. I try to be fair about what I read. I can’t wait to see the next cool story headed my way.