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A Beginner's Guide to Wooing Your Mate (Being(s) in Love)
A Beginner's Guide to Wooing Your Mate (Being(s) in Love)
Price: $5.38

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Loved it, March 14, 2015
For those who aren't familiar with the "Beings" stories, this is a series of independent stand-alone novels that take place in present-day America---but an America where all the fantasy beings of lore and legend are in fact quite real, and part of human society.

The two previous books were A Boy and His Dragon and Some Kind of Magic. I enjoyed both of those stories tremendously, and have read them multiple times. So when I heard there was a new Beings book on offer, I ordered it immediately.

Like "A Boy and His Dragon," you could say that nothing much actually HAPPENS in this new story. The characters in Cooper's books tend to think things through before acting. They analyze and question and think....and think....and THINK about their relationships before making a move. So if you're looking for something action-packed, this isn't the style of writing for you. However, it suits me to a T! I love her characters, no question. R. Cooper is the master of the slow burn; her stories feature a gradual build-up of repressed feelings and emotions that finally explode---and a happy ending is assured.

These "Beings" stories are real comfort reads for me, and I quite enjoyed this latest effort, though I think "A Boy and His Dragon" still remains my favourite out of the three Beings books published so far. This book is fairly short (187 pages by Amazon's count), but we have another much longer Beings novel to look forward to later in the year. The next will feature two characters who appear on the fringes of "Beginner's Guide...," and I can't wait---that will be a day one purchase for me as well.

As for the cover... The covers for the previous two Beings stories were, quite frankly, rather dreadful in my opinion. But the artwork is much improved this time around; I think it works well for the story.


H.R. Pufnstuf: The Complete Series
H.R. Pufnstuf: The Complete Series
DVD ~ -
Price: $16.98
28 used & new from $9.87

5.0 out of 5 stars Such nostalgia..., January 25, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I've been wandering down memory lane after giving my young nephews a DVD set of the complete series H.R. Pufnstuf. ("The adventures of a boy trapped in a fantastic land with a dragon friend and a witch enemy.") This Saturday-morning series was a huge part of my childhood; I had many fond memories of it, but hadn't seen it for nearly 40 years.

So I thought, what the heck---I went ahead and viewed the discs before giving them as a Christmas gift. And I was surprised at just how well I remembered the show! It all seemed very familiar, despite the many years that had passed since I watched it. A handful of episodes contained musical interludes, and I remembered every single song after hearing just a few notes.

I was also surprised to find that there were only 17 episodes ever produced. It was shot in 1969, and the network just kept repeating these same episodes over and over---it was on television constantly for about five years. The producers definitely wanted to shoot more episodes for additional seasons, but the network was cheap and figured that kids would keep on watching the same ones. It's a shame, because storywise I think a lot more could have been done with the basic premise.

However, the following year the producers (the Krofft brothers) did at least shoot a feature-length film version of the show before the cast was let go and all the sets and costumes put into storage. I'll have to talk more about the film later...

So, how does this series hold up as an adult? Hmmmm.... It definitely has the sheen of nostalgia for me, though watching it now I have to wince a bit about how LOUD and over-the-top it is. And all the very silly slapstick doesn't do much for me; this was intended for a young audience, to be sure. So what's in it for an adult? Well, all the drug references---ha! Man, talk about psychedelic; you have to assume that everyone involved with this show knew their way around a bong (and more).

What I got a kick out of, however, was the fact that all of the costumed characters speak in voices based on classic Hollywood actors. So, it's fun trying to figure out just who everyone is supposed to be. (For instance, the talking skull is Boris Karloff, Judy the frog is Judy Garland, etc., etc....)

Due to the fact that yes, to my aged ears and eyes a fair amount of the show now is slightly annoying, I'm not sure it is something I'd watch over and over, but I would get a kick out of viewing little bits and pieces every now and again...

Oh, in conclusion I'll add that one of the chief pleasures of H.R. Pufnstuf for me was Billie Hayes' over-the-top performance as Witchiepoo. Okay, I'm contradicting myself---I've only now just said that I didn't care for the much-too-loud, much-too-broadly-played antics in this show! But for some reason I feel a great fondness for that character and the actress who played her. She isn't so much a witch as a clown in witch make-up; very silly, not scary.

It's good to know that Billie Hayes, at 82 years of age, is still around. I viewed a few fairly recent videos of her on YouTube---she seems so nice!


Circle of Stones
Circle of Stones
by Catherine Fisher
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $13.20
88 used & new from $0.06

4.0 out of 5 stars Interaction of past and present, December 30, 2014
This review is from: Circle of Stones (Hardcover)
Very interesting premise---there are three different plots in three different timelines, written in alternating chapters. (Each timeline uses a different typeface, to make it easy to keep them all distinct. While that was not really necessary, it was helpful.) The ancient story is by far the least developed, but it sets events in place that have repercussions on both of the other (future) stories. In other words---all the plots are intertwined, though it isn't until the very end that they somewhat directly interact. And speaking of that ending---maybe it will surprise you! Or, perhaps you'll guess the twist in advance?

As I said, the ancient story basically sets the scene; there isn't much too it. The modern story is the most fully developed, and the one I found to be of the most interest. The 1700s portion of the book, well---I really had some problems with the narrator of those portions. Let's face it, his predicament was understandable, but he really wasn't very likeable, so I wasn't so thrilled to read the bits written in his voice. I wanted to shake some sense into him.

While the 1700s portion of the book is a fictionalized account of the building of the King's Circus in Bath (the main character lives in that same building in the modern portion of the story), the building itself is of course quite real (it's right near the Royal Crescent). As you read, you'll want to take full advantage of Google and look up photos of all the locations listed in the book; it will really help you get into the spirit of the story when you can perfectly visualize just where everything is and what it looks like.

I liked this one---recommended.

That cover... well... It fits the story well enough, but isn't exactly the sort of thing to grab your attention. I think they could have come up with something a bit more eye-catching and mysterious...


Grave's End
Grave's End
Price: $3.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Lovely tale, December 7, 2014
This review is from: Grave's End (Kindle Edition)
I found this little wisp of a tale (it only runs about 66 pages) to be thoroughly charming. It has a sort of delicate melancholy about it---though that isn't to say it's a sad story; it has a perfect ending. I quite enjoyed it.

The story can be purchased as a stand-alone, but it is also found in the paperback anthology "The Book of Lost Princes," a collection of three fantasy stories that are well suited to one another in tone. Recommended for all Hayden Thorne fans.


Foundation: Book One of the Collegium Chronicles (A Valdemar Novel)
Foundation: Book One of the Collegium Chronicles (A Valdemar Novel)
Offered by Penguin Group (USA) LLC
Price: $7.59

4.0 out of 5 stars Good start to a decent series, July 14, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I recently read Mercedes Lackey's five-volume series "The Collegium Chronicles." The books, in order, are:

Foundation
Intrigues
Changes
Redoubt
Bastion

Here, why don't I jot down a few words about the entire series, and not just the first book (no plot spoilers).

Lackey is perhaps best known for her long-running series about the fantasy kingdom Valdemar, and this set of five books are her most recent addition to the saga. The Valdemar books overall don't have to be read in any particular order; the series is made up of both sets of books (usually trilogies) and individual titles that are semi-independent of one another. However, it perhaps makes the most sense to read the stories in chronological order according to the history of the kingdom. The Collegium Chronicles , while the most recently written about Valdemar, take place fairly early in the history of the country.

It's been quite some time since I visited Valdemar, and I was quite happy to go back again. I've enjoyed the previous stories I've read very much, and had been thinking of doing a complete reading of the entire series in chronological order, so I had no problem in jumping in with these, since they detail an earlier portion of the country's time-line.

And---in general, I found the books to be quite enjoyable. I liked the main character and found his adventures to be quite interesting. While reviews for the series were mixed, this was in large part due to the leisurely pace of the stories, with unfinished plot points left hanging at the end of each of the first four volumes. Since these were published at a rate of about one book per year, some readers were very frustrated about all these loose ends regarding the primary plot, which dealt with the mystery of where Mags came from, who he was, and why strangers were hunting him down.

However, since I had the entire stack of books at hand, this wasn't an issue for me---as soon as I finished one I was able to jump right into the next.

Now, Lackey does have quite a knack for getting into her characters' heads, and imagining in complete detail the running commentary that fills their minds as they go about their daily tasks. In one sense this is a plus---we really get to see how these characters think. Problem is---she writes it all down, whether it has anything to do with advancing the plot or not! And this does tend to pad out her books to a certain degree.

I love the stories and fantasy realms Mercedes comes up with---I can only wish I had such an imagination. But I think she suffers from the same problem as a number of other very popular and prolific authors, in that her publisher doesn't seem to edit her any more, and as a result there's a LOT in her books that could be trimmed to make for a much tighter story.

Oh, I don't mind getting a moderate amount of unnecessary detail---I enjoy losing myself in these fantasy worlds. But I do have to admit that when we're talking about the mechanics of quality, first-rate writing, her books would be better with a strong editor at the helm.

For instance---in one of these books, there was a passage written about how the villains were able to hide their wagon from the eyes of the good guys. The description went on in detail for an entire page, but---we simply don't need to know this! It had nothing to do with the plot---just two or three sentences about this would have been quite sufficient.

Now---while each book was of a reasonable length, averaging out to 330 pages or so, all together this story did NOT need five volumes to be told. The text could have been edited and tightened down to four volumes. Heck, the complete tale could probably even have been knocked down to three 400-page books.

So, that is my primary reservation about the stories. But on the other hand, I enjoyed them despite problems in pacing, so I'll happily recommend these for those who enjoy Mercedes' work. There are still a lot of Valdemar books I haven't read yet, and I fully intend to continue on with the series.


Shadows
Shadows
Offered by Penguin Group (USA) LLC
Price: $8.72

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars More needed, June 30, 2014
This review is from: Shadows (Kindle Edition)
Unlike many of the author's previous novels, this isn't set in a fantasy world, but rather an alternate reality which mirrors our own in some ways, while in other ways is quite different. I enjoy alternate world stories, but it took me a while to get into the spirit of this novel.

To begin with, I found the heroine rather whiny and angsty. And the constant use of slang unique to this world may be a good example of world-building, but for some reason it annoyed the heck out of me. However, I kept reading and finally, about one-third of the way through the story, it took hold of my imagination at last and I was drawn into the lives of these characters.

However.... While the book does have a satisfactory conclusion, in the sense that there is no cliffhanger ending, it is also very open-ended and a lot of questions aren't answered. This is a book begging for a sequel, but I have no idea if one is in the cards or not. I do know that her sequels to Pegasus are still far from complete, so if she is going to continue with this tale I can only imagine that such a book is not scheduled for publication in the foreseeable future.

I'm a huge fan of McKinley's early work, but in recent years her novels have been hit-or-miss for me. So, on which end of the spectrum does this fall? I suppose it's more of a "hit" than a "miss"---however, my final opinion really depends on what happens next.

If she intended this to be a stand-alone, then quite frankly I'm left feeling more than a little ticked off. This is a fragment of a larger overall story, and if she didn't plan to revisit this world this book should have been condensed by at least a third of its length, and then a proper conclusion added.

Yep, I know---I have some nerve, telling an author what she should and shouldn't do! Not too demanding or overreaching of me to boss her around and tell her what she should do with her own creation, is it? Heh... But seriously, I would imagine that many editors would have had the same advice.

A lot of readers were irritated by the fact that Pegasus was published without an ending, and while she does intend to revisit that world with (last I heard) two sequels, there's still no telling how long it will be until they are released. If she's going the same route with this one, then I have no objection to waiting a while. But if this is IT, and there's no more story in the pipeline, then I am extremely unsatisfied with the way things were left.

It's quite a nice cover, though...
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 11, 2014 12:54 PM PDT


Wollstone
Wollstone
Price: $6.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Evocative fantasy, May 28, 2014
This review is from: Wollstone (Kindle Edition)
Hayden Thorne's fantasy stories have a very distinctive tone, unlike those from any other author I've read. The plot of this one perhaps isn't terribly complex, but I did find it satisfying. And what I enjoyed most of all about the story is the dreamy, otherworldly atmosphere she conjured here. How I wish I could find a spot like this (most particularly the chapel) in the real world!

This book was given a cover that is absolutely GORGEOUS.


Motel. Pool.
Motel. Pool.
Price: $6.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Loved it, May 15, 2014
This review is from: Motel. Pool. (Kindle Edition)
Anything written by Kim Fielding is pretty much an "auto buy" for me; she's one of a handful of writers whose work I always find to be first-rate. And I'm pleased to say this book is just as enjoyable as her others. It's a quick read, but a great little story, showing how two fellows who have made terrible choices in life are each able to find inspiration in the other for change.

(Though, for some reason I found myself getting all snuffly at certain points in the story.... darn allergies....)

Of course, you may wonder how a ghost and a living being can have any sort of relationship---or any sort of future together. Well.... you'll just have to read it to find if it could possibly work out! I'll happily recommend this one.

I love Paul Richmond's cover artwork for this title---it's very simple but quite evocative and atmospheric. Now, I've found that Dreamspinner Press, out of all the small independent gay publishing houses, consistently has the most polished and professional artwork on their covers. However, there is also a certain sameness to a great many of their jacket designs, so it's good to see some artwork that breaks the mould.


All This, and Heaven Too
All This, and Heaven Too
DVD ~ Bette Davis
Offered by feed_your_tv
Price: $24.09
5 used & new from $23.82

4.0 out of 5 stars Still one of the classic Davis films, January 22, 2014
This review is from: All This, and Heaven Too (DVD)
Well, I’ve watched a number of Crawford films lately and thought perhaps I’d better give Bette Davis her fair due as well, so I’ve just viewed "All This and Heaven Too" (1940).

Eh, I really wouldn’t call this a “romantic drama” at all (as the official blurb does); it certainly isn’t romantic in the typical sense, and in fact contains elements of a “true crime drama” (which is NOT what you’d think of when you think of “romance”).

Bette Davis was already well-established as one of Hollywood’s preeminent actresses by 1940; the “golden age” of her career dates from the mid 1930s through the mid 1940s. During that decade she made quite a few really excellent pictures, and it is those films that form the bedrock of her lasting reputation.

Now, by the time this picture was shot she already was well known for playing really nasty characters---this probably all started back in 1934 with her performance as Mildred in "Of Human Bondage." By 1940 her acting style also incorporated all the famous mannerisms and quirks that she fell back on more and more in her later years. However, in All This and Heaven Too she sets all that aside and gives a more subtle and nuanced performance as the quiet, self-effacing governess Henriette Deluzy-Desportes.

This isn’t my favourite Davis picture, not by a long shot---it runs a little long and doesn’t hold my attention as much as some of her more lively performances. Still, it is a good picture and one that every fan of classic cinema should view at least once.

Adding a little interest to the tale is the fact that it is based on a true-life story, one which had national implications at the time and was quite the scandal back in the 1840s. There were at least two books written about the case: the novel by Rachael Field which shares the title of the film (and which of course the film was based upon), and "A Crime of Passion" by Stanley Loomis, which takes a more clinical approach to the details of the case. From what I understand---I still haven’t read the Loomis book---the true life story still has some unanswered questions attached to the case, and there are also hints that many aspects of the actual events were in fact much more unsavory than what is depicted on the screen.

So---I’d recommend this one for classic movie fans and Davis fans. But if you’re not all that familiar with the work of the actress, I don’t think I’d start with this picture---try some of her other classics like "Now Voyager" or "The Letter" or "The Little Foxes."


Gumption & Gumshoes
Gumption & Gumshoes
Price: $6.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Very enjoyable, January 20, 2014
Due to the shifter aspect of this story, it really has to be placed in the "paranormal" category, though the plot itself fits just as well into both the "mystery" and "contemporary romance" genres.

I really enjoyed this one---it was a heck of a lot of fun to read. The very idea of the existence of a family of chinchilla shifters is quite amusing. Awwww---they're so tiny and cute and cuddly, which is not the first thing that comes to mind in typical shifter lit, which is usually all about wolves.

I also appreciated the fact that the main character is a bit geeky, as well as being on the short and chubby side. With so many gay genre novels featuring impossibly cute/handsome/well-endowed main characters, this is quite refreshing. We're not all perfect 10s on the hotness scale, after all (he said resignedly...heh).

The only thing missing here was a description of Sam's first meeting with August's extended family (such a meeting was due to take place the day after the book ended). I would have loved to see how that went!

I don't know if the author has any plans to revisit these characters in the future, but if it happens I will definitely be on board for the next book. I'm also interested in checking out some of the author's other stories, now.

Definitely recommended for those looking for a bit of light-hearted fun.

Oh, I LOVE the cover on this one! Again---awwwww, so cute....


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