An Audio-Book Review: Arf! I mean Woof! Oh… Oops…

Wizard at Large

By Terry Brooks

Published by Books in Motion

Read by Cameron Beierle

 

The Book:

This is the third offering in the “Magic Kingdom of Landover” series and it, apparently is very popular among fantasy readers. Therefore, take what I am about to say with a grain of salt; I find myself increasingly less enchanted by the series, which involves Ben “Doc” Holliday, corporate lawyer and his new position as the High Lord of Landover, a magical land that exists in some other world that can only be accessed via a magical pendant, unless you are a dragon, it seems. Dragons can go anywhere they want. It also involves Ben’s new love, a green-skinned and haired sylph named, Willow, the Wizard, Questor Thews, and a man Questor turned into a dog, named Abernathy. There are also a fair sized minor cast of characters, some of whom seem to be there just to add extra chapters to the story and some of whom, even if necessary to the plot, are terminally annoying.

By the way, the dragon seems to be the best-drawn character and his only clearly defined trait is that he is a grouch. Of course, he has a right to be grouchy, since Holliday and his minions are apt to force the dragon to do stuff he doesn’t want to do and never do any of them deign to say, “Thank you.”

The characters (dragon included) seem rather one, or at best two-dimensional and there is no real character development, unless you count Questor Thews becoming annoyingly smug in the fact that, for once, his magic seems to be working as he wants it to.

The story, I found somewhat slim as well; Questor claims to have found a way to turn Abernathy back into a man but when he tries it, he botches the magic by sneezing (supposedly, I suspect he just did not know what he was doing) and instead, the man-dog disappears and a fancy bottle shows up in his place. It’s a rather distinctive bottle and Questor ought to have recognized it instantly, but that would have shortened the story, or at least forced Mister Brooks into plotting this one a bit more interestingly. Eventually, Questor remembers that he last saw the bottle in the hands of the former prince of Landover (who along with Questor’s brother, Meeks, sold the kingdom to Holliday – long story – see Magic Kingdom for Sale – Sold) and that the bottle contained a “darkling” which in any other world would have just been called a genie or djinn, and one of the more malicious ones.

By the time he remembers that, the bottle has been stolen by the most annoying characters of the series, Pip and Sot – the G’home Gnomes, from whom it is stolen by trolls who kill each other over the bottle and then it ends up in various other hands (which pushes the plot not at all) and eventually it ends up with one of Holliday’s arch nemeses, which gives us a sort of climax… actually the same climax we see in the first two books.

Meanwhile, it is determined that Abernathy ended up in this world with Ben’s pendant (which ought to have meant that he and the pendant was lost) but Questor manages to send Ben and Willow to Los Vegas (Polution is apparently not good for sylphs and other living things) and they must find out where Abernathy is. This turns out not to be much of a problem, nor is their lack of any real money, etc., since Ben just has to call his old partner and get bailed out. Everything is just too darned pat. There’s a problem and they quickly solve it.

I’ll stop the plot description there and just say, I am not really sure just what sort of story this (and the whole series) is supposed to be. Is it supposed to be epic fantasy? Not really. It’s is not quite serious enough. Is it light fantasy? Almost, but then it is not really light enough. Is it supposed to be a satire on the whole fantasy genre? Maybe, since it uses nearly every cliché in the genre, but it is not clearly satirical. It takes itself too seriously. It needs a few jokes to work as a satire. There are situations that could be amusing, but they really are not written that way. Even the G’home Gnomes just come off as annoying and likely deserving of all the kicks in their backsides they receive from the other characters.

It’s sort of a shame. I think the concept is a great one, but it feels like Mister Brooks was just phoning it in while working on his Shanara stories. Then again, thousands of fans disagree with me…

 

The Audiobook:

I have to admit that Cameron Beierle read this volume better, for the most part than I felt he did in the previous stories, however, he has still not lost his penchant for really bad “funny voices,” and, worst of all, he is still mispronouncing the word “Paladin.” Considering how important the Paladin is to the series (Ben uses the pendant to become the invincible Paladin – all “deus ex machina” – to defeat his foes at the end of the stories – so far at least) this mispronunciation is not forgivable. The word is used repeatedly and getting it wrong would have been enough to ruin the story for me, had I liked it in the first place.

So, if you are a fan of Terry Brooks, you will probably like the story. If not, I advise looking for something else to read and definitely see if you can find someone else’s reading of it.

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I Want a “Fake News Award”

This is not normally a political blog. Yes, I do have some rather strong opinions when it comes to politics and the way my country ought to be run. To put it all in context, I like to think of myself as a Heinleinian “Rational Anarchist,” not entirely unlike Professor  de la Paz from The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. Of course that means I have serious issues with both Republican and Democratic parties (NB to Republicans: the name of the party in opposition to you is “The Democratic Party,” not “The Democrat Party.” Because there are only two major political parties in the USA, getting one of them habitually wrong makes you appear to be both ignorant and loutish. Seriously? Are you people incapable of remembering the names of two whole parties? No matter how much you might disagree with their agenda, try, at least, to accord just barely enough courtesy to get their name right. Alternatively, just rush ahead to the logical conclusion and call them the Jackass Party and they can call you the Hephalump Party. Btw, the Hephalump of the Pooh books was not particularly wise.)

Anyway, with the news this morning that the “Fake News Awards” that President Trump proposes to hand out are being pushed back to January 17, I feel it is not too late to get in the running. Why are they getting pushed back? Not sure, but it’s possible he is still looking for a venue, some celebrity guests (aside from potential host, Scott Baio). It’s also possible there was a hold-up in the proposed trophies. I mean, he is giving out little statuettes, isn’t he? Also, it’s possible the entertainment needs an extra week of rehearsal time. All this gives me a chance to get in on it, right?

Now, I understand these awards are supposedly for the “Mainstream Media,” and in spite of years of publishing a fan rag called “The Pre-Dawn Leftist,” (name borrowed from Johnny Hart’s B.C. comic strip), I probably do not qualify as mainstream anything, but it seems to me that fake news is fake news and there should be an amateur category to encourage the rest of us who might be emerging mainstream mediaites (is that a word?. Probably not, but all this is fake news and I stand by it!

Now I suppose to qualify, I need to publish a fake story and I have to admit that all the goods ones have already been taken. There was last week’s post of my “:Big Nuclear Button…” In case you’re wondering, you do not get a special blazer when you join the Nuclear Club, but that was just commentary. I need a story. The good news is, I’m a novelist, I can make up a story, right?

So, I implore the Academy of Fake News to take note of the following paragraph and keep me in consideration for an award next week;

President Trump recently stripped down and went skinny dipping in one of the water hazards at his Mar-a-Lago resort. The incident was covered up by a mysterious truck that rolled up and stopped between Mister Trump and the observing news cameras (I’ll bet you were wondering what that truck was really doing, weren’t you?). While the members of the news media, which are forced to keep their distance when ever Trump is at a Monopoly property to which he owns the title deed, were unable to record the incident, the president was observed by staff members and residents of Mar-a-Lago. The sight of the president’s naked body caused half a dozen women and two grown men to collapse from shock, one of whom was rushed to a near-by hospital for resuscitation and the others have been forced to seek counselling following the traumatic incident. When fellow residents protested Mister Trump’s actions, he replied, “I own this @#$% place and I have options on the rest of the @#$% world. I’ll do whatever I @#$% want!” However, two minutes later he was heard to say, “It was another hole-in-one. That’s eighty-seven in a row now. I’m a very stable genius on the golf course!”

So, there you go, my own contribution to fake news. Please remember to nominate me to the Academy and vote for me when your ballots arrive. Who knows? Maybe it will help me sell some more of my books. It sure didn’t harm Michael Wolff.

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I Have One On My Desk Too!

Nuclear Button.jpg

Just saying…

Posted in Humor, Jonathan Edward Feinstein, Nuclear Button, Politics, Social Commentary | Leave a comment

Starting the New Year With a New Book Release

Happy New Year To One and All!

I hope 2018 turns well for all of us.

ElderGod-epub Now, I’m not sure if this counts as something that turns out well, but I am happy to announce the release of my latest book in electronic format; The Care and Feeding of Your Elder God, which is the twelfth offering in my “A Plethora of Deities” series. This book picks up where the last one, Chasing Rainbows, left off.  Enki has been attacked and possibly left for dead and then Ratatosk disappears while looking into the matter, leaving our usual cast of deities, angels and demons at a loss for who might be responsible. As they delve deeper into the matter they find the danger comes at them from out of the ancient world. Like the rest of the series, this is light and humorous fantasy, although I’m told I occasionally toss in interesting and even workable ideas (who knew?) In any case, you’ll find this and my other titles available in various electronic formats at my web site. This particular title is available both in .mobi / Kindle format and in HTML format… just in case. It will be available in dead-tree format later this year.

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An Audio-Book Review: Oops! Wrong New Year!

New Year Greeting

By Louise R. Waite

Published by Librivox.org

Read by Algy Pug, David Lawrence, Ernst Pattynama, Lee Ann Howlett, Nicholas James bridgewater, Naseem, and ravenotation

 

The Poem and Reading:

Louise R. Waite was a Bahá’í poet and song writer. She wrote this poem, entitled “New Year Greeting”, for Naw-Rúz, 1909. Naw-Rúz actually occurs on March 21, not January 1, but is the start of the New Year in the Bahá’í religion. Starting the year on the first day of spring, is actually more sensible than January 1. Many cultures have done the same. The Vernal Equinox is fairly easy to spot by anyone willing to track the sun’s progress across the sky for a year and even easier to mark once it has been established. It is the time when the length of daytime is the same as the length of night in the spring (obviously this happens again in the autumn) and it is easy to see it as the beginning of the Earthly life cycle as plants sprout and flower, deciduous trees grow (and start growing) leaves for the warm season and so forth.

In comparison, January 1 is an arbitrary time to start a year, roughly a week and a half after the start of winter and while the days are already starting to get longer at that point, the sun is does not begin to rise earlier for another few days. Who’s to blame? Well, let’s blame the ancient Romans who chose to name the month after their two-faced god, Janus. Specifically, we can blame Julius Caesar who adopted the Julian Calendar, moving Rome from a lunar calendar to a solar one, similar to the one already in use by the Egyptians, and he was the one who decreed that the year would start in January rather than March as was previously done.

Then again, the practice e fell out of use during the Middle Ages as the inaccuracy of the Julian Calendar built up until January 1 was ten days “late” by the year 1000. This was eventually repaired by the Gregorian Calendar (and more recently adjusted here and there by a second or two when necessary) which once more placed the start of the year on January 1, at least in Western culture.

Except for mention about how the world is coming back to life in this poem and new growth, the feeling of new beginning is the same as we celebrate each New Year’s Eve and Day, so the poem is not out of place at this time of year, however. In fact, it fits in fairly well, once again save for mentions of spring and had this been an “Ode to Spring” I would not have even mentioned it. Of course, I also would not have chosen it for this particular post, but that is my fault, not the poet’s.

Unfortunately, while the poem seems to have found favor in its day, I was not at all pleased by it. The sentiments were fine. In fact, what she had to say about the rebirth signified by the beginning of a new year was beautiful,  but I felt that the rhyming couplets were entirely too sing-song (a trait none of the readers were able to escape) and somewhat uninspired. So while what Louise Waite had to say was of note, the way she said it left me yawning, and depending on who was reading, enduring the torture until the recitation was over. One of the readers really tried too hard to make it a dramatic reading which seemed badly out of place too, but at least it was different. If you’re looking for this one, though,  be advised there may be better readings out there.

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An Audio-Book Review: Ho… Ho… Ho

A Visit from St. Nicholas 
aka
‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

By Clement Clarke Moore

Published by LIbrivox.org

Read by Annie Coleman Rothenberg, Betsie Bush, Chris Goringe, Brad and Grace Bush, Kara Shallenberg, Peter Yearsley, Mark Bradford, Sam Lipten and Sean Randall

 

The Poem:

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro’ the house Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse; The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there; The children were nestled all snug in their beds, While visions of sugar plums danced in their heads And Mama in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap, Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap‍—‌ When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter, I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter. Away to the window I flew like a flash, Tore open the shutters, and threw up the sash. The moon on the breast of the new fallen snow, Gave the luster of mid-day to objects below; When, what to my wondering eyes should appear, But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer, With a little old driver, so lively and quick, I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick. More rapid than eagles his coursers they came, And he whistled, and shouted, and call’d them by name: “Now! Dasher, now! Dancer, now! Prancer and Vixen, “On! Comet, on! Cupid, on! Dunder and Blixem; “To the top of the porch! To the top of the wall! “Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!” As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly, When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky; So up to the house-top the coursers they flew, With the sleigh full of toys‍—‌and St. Nicholas too: And then in a twinkling, I heard on the roof The prancing and pawing of each little hoof. As I drew in my head, and was turning around, Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound: He was dress’d all in fur, from his head to his foot, And his clothes were all tarnish’d with ashes and soot; A bundle of toys was flung on his back, And he look’d like a peddler just opening his pack: His eyes‍—‌how they twinkled! His dimples: how merry, His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry; His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow, And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow; The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth, And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath. He had a broad face, and a little round belly That shook when he laugh’d, like a bowl full of jelly: He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf, And I laugh’d when I saw him in spite of myself; A wink of his eye and a twist of his head Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread. He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work, And fill’d all the stockings; then turn’d with a jerk, And laying his finger aside of his nose And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose. He sprung to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle, And away they all flew, like the down of a thistle: But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight‍—‌

Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night

 

Not much to add to that, I think except that this seem singularly appropriate to a blog post today. I copied these words, by the way, from Wikipedia. The names might ring wrong to some listeners and readers although on my own research I discovered that Dunder and Blixem were in the original poem. Later editions changed them to Donner and Blitzen. Most of the readers used the original names in this recording. This is the poem that made the reindeer names canon. In spite of recent commercials, Bob Humbug, Gregg Nog and Vertigo did not make the cut and Rudolph was another late addition. However, these names were not yet engraved in stone when L. Frank Baum wrote his Adventures of Santa Claus which I reviewed a few years ago, but they seem to be these days. Amazing influence for a single poem.

The Audiobook:

As they have done with other famous short works, Librivox has recorded this poem numerous times in a variety of collections. This one however is all the same poem, but read in nine different versions and I think each one had its own charm. None of the readers were over-polished, which is good, so the compilation comes off as a bunch of friends sitting around the fireplace, taking turns reading. Perhaps the most charming one was by Brad Bush and (his daughter?) Grace, who took turns reading couplets.

The poem itself is all couplets and not particularly sophisticated, but it makes up for that by its charming content and the fact that it is not quite sing-song in nature – something I cannot say about next week’s offering.

All told, this may be one of the most favorite bits of Christmas lore for most people and listening to this compilation is bound to put you in the spirit.

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An Audio-Book Review: Highs and Lows

High Deryni

By Katherine Kurtz

Published by Brilliance Audio

Read by Jeff Woodman

 

The Book:

This third book of Katherine Kurtz’s initial trilogy about the Deryni and the Kingdom of Gwynedd continues the story a few months later on from where it left off in Deryni Checkmate, and does so in the same manner that entranced readers, myself included, in the previous volumes.

Alaric Morgan and Duncan McLain are still excommunicated and skulking about the kingdom and young King Kelson, also on the outs with the Church is about to invade the rebellious Duchy of Corwyn to confront the anti-Deryni extremist, Warin de Grey and the equally closed-minded Archbishop. It is a vast undertaking to have one’s excommunication removed, finding grace once more within the arms of the Church, and even harder to accomplish, it seems, when one is of the Deryni, a race of magic-using, psychic people (capable of interbreeding with normal humans) who once ruled the land, but now are a persecuted minority. And even if they manage to once again find the Church’s grace and remove the Interdict from Gwynedd, there is still the anti-Deryni rebellion against King Kelson (who is half Deryni himself) an intra-ecclesiastical schism to resolve. And then the Machiavellian scheming and threat from the full Deryni King next door to handle.

I really enjoyed Ms. Kurtz’s writing style. It is serious enough to fit the material without getting uncomfortably graphic and grimy as so many modern epic fantasies have a habit of getting into. This is not to say it’s all light and airy, far from it, but the author manages to strike the proper dark notes without miring her readers in the literary muck. In all, I found her style to be perfectly balanced, leaving the reader exactly enough details from which he or she can fill in as per their comfort zone. In other words, the nasty stuff is there, but you don’t have your face pushed into it. It is a very fine line to tread, but Katherine Kurtz did it perfectly.

If I have one complaint it is only in that the story just sort of stops moving on the last page with no denouement or epilogue. That worked at the end of the second book since it was obvious this was supposed to be a trilogy, but this was the third book and while the story of King Kelson does continue from here in another series, that was not written for some years during which the prequel series about Camber of Culdi was published. All told, it was a long gap for the readers.

Aside from that, however, I enjoyed the story both in style and content and the trilogy stands as a fine example of epic fantasy.

 

The Audiobook:

Jeff Woodman’s reading was a good one. In my previous two reviews of this series, I wrote that I thought he was trying too hard. That was not the sense I got this time around and was so much better, I had to go back through my notes to make sure he was the same reader I had listened to previously.

Maybe I have just gotten used to him? Perhaps, but this time around I certainly had no complaints with his vocalizations and did not feel he was trying to project more drama that the story already contained (which is quite a bit, really).

So, High Deryni is the fine conclusion to a fine series and a must-read for any fan of the fantasy genre, and it is read very well, indeed, by Jeff Woodman.

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