Book Review: GlowGems for Profit

GlowGems for Profit

by Bruce Davis

 

Okay, it’s kind of a funky title. Sounds like one of those get-rich-quick seminars you see signs for on the side of the road. Thing is, there’s a pun in there that you don’t recognize: the Profit is actually the name of the spaceship that carries our hero through the solar system; Davis is creating a series of adventures about the Profit and her crew and this is only the first – all of them (presumably) will have Profit in the title. So that’s part of the reason: and also, of course, the question of profit is one that runs through the book. The idea of a get-rich-quick scheme, especially one that isn’t really what it seems, is exactly what this book is about, and greed warring with caution is another theme that runs through the book.

And this book runs. That’s the first thing you should know: this is action from start to finish. Davis spends the first two chapters giving us enough exposition to understand who these characters are – and then starting with Chapter Three, the guns start blazing and the blood starts flowing, and it doesn’t really stop until the end. It’s got everything: hand to hand combat, gun battles, chase scenes, ship-to-ship space combat, locked door murder mysteries, betrayal, secrets – everything; and all of it is wonderfully well-done. I don’t know if it was hard to put down because I never really tried: I didn’t want to put it down, I wanted to keep reading, wanted to get to the next scene, the next fight, the next sticky situation, to see how the heroes could fight their way out of it.

That’s the next thing you should know: these are great heroes. Davis has created a fantastic hard-boiled sci-fi hero in Zack Mbele. He’s got a complicated past, remarkable abilities, good friends for whom he has fierce loyalty, a deep cynicism and an inability to trust strangers, and a lone wolf streak a mile wide: he’s Sam Spade and Harry Dresden and Simon Green’s John Taylor and all the rest of those kinds of guys. But he’s also thoroughly himself: I had no feeling at all that this was an imitation of any other author’s work; this world and this hero are entirely original.

In addition to the main character (I admit I didn’t like the other characters as much, apart from Deuce, who’s awesome – but then, I’m not supposed to.) and the action-packed plot, the intricacies of both the world Davis built and the intrigues that the characters get involved with were remarkable. Mbele is a disillusioned former revolutionary, and the way his past keeps rearing its head no matter how hard he tries to escape it was fascinating. And the characters and their complex, difficult motivations, all of them deciphered over the course of the novel by Mbele’s dogged investigating, was perfectly human and completely fascinating to me. You have no idea who’s telling the truth or why people are doing what they’re doing until Zack knows the truth, and you learn it along with him – it was excellent.

This was great stuff, an excellent sci-fi thriller/mystery – the sci-fi, too, by the way, was well done, just enough advanced tech to make the story complex and interesting, not so much that you get confused – and I highly recommend it.

Advertisements

Book Review: The Matriarch’s Devise

This one’s been a bit of a long time coming; I got this book  from the author herself at the Tucson Festival of Books, where Brick Cave Media had a booth just two down from mine. I meant to read it right away, but of course — school. And then moving. Now I’ve read it, and I’m glad.

The Matriarch's Devise (The Healer's Trilogy Book 2) by [Skinner, Sharon]

The Matriarch’s Devise

by Sharon Skinner

 

This is the second book I’ve read by Sharon Skinner – this is the sequel to the first book of hers which I read, The Healer’s Legacy – and like the first, this one’s going on the Keep Forever shelf. Maybe partly because Ms. Skinner signed it for me when I bought it from her at the Tucson Festival of Books, but that’s not the main reason: the main reason is that this is a book I needed to read.

In some ways it’s a second book in a series: the characters are already established, and of course I already had my favorites (Those who know me will be entirely unsurprised to hear it is the animals even more than the people, though I like the two main human characters quite a lot, especially Kira), and so I admit to some disappointment when my favorites were not the stars of this book; the animals and Kira are separated fairly early on, and the wyvern Vaith and the hunting cat Kelmir come back into the story later, but never play a major role. The plot picks up at the very second (almost) the last one left off, and after Skinner places the characters where she wants them, the book – ends. Something of a cliffhanger, though it does wrap up the story from this book (and MOST satisfactorily, I have to say), but yes, it leaves you wanting more. Perfectly normal, there’s plenty of development in this novel to satisfy, we’ve seen our people go through a lot; now I have to get the third book, and I have no problem at all with that.

In some ways, though? This is an entirely new story. The twist regarding Kira’s identity – by the end of the book you know who her parents were, what happened to them and to her, and also, how she has the ability to bond with her animal companions – is not something one could possibly see coming, aand the world she is thrown into because of it is fantastic and imaginative and basically entirely unlike the world of the first book. It’s like reading, say, a Tamora Pierce novel, and then the sequel to that suddenly moves the characters into a Rick Riordan novel – like the second book starts with, “Oh, didn’t you know? You’re also an Olympian demigod. Let’s deal with this, now!” Skinner shows a range of writing and world-building that I have not often seen. Let me also say that the change is not jarring: the stories do fit together, and there is more than enough consistency between the worlds and the characters to make it simply fascinating, to watch these characters jump into an entirely new situation.

No spoilers, but: I liked the new world and the people, and the depiction of their magical powers was super cool, especially the defense that keeps their land safe; the villain was extremely villainous, which made it a little frustrating (in a good way) that the villainy kept happening and I wanted to yell, “Why are you not figuring that out?!? IT’S THE BAD PERSON! GO GET THE BAD PERSON!” I was a little bummed that the final conflict sort of borrowed the bad guys from the first book; that did feel slightly out of place – but I loved how the book ended, and as I said, I love the characters and the ways they’ve developed over this book.

I also have to say that I am very pleased that Skinner has written a high fantasy book which not only has a female main character, who is involved with but in no way overshadowed by her romantic interest, but this book also has an absolutely lovely depiction of a long-term lesbian couple done in exactly the right way: like real people in a real relationship, without anything strange or remarkable about their love for each other. The two women are powerful and respected leaders in their country, interesting and sympathetic characters in the story, clearly in love but also with friction between them – it was wonderfully done. This element, though it doesn’t predominate in the story, was another reason why I needed to read this book.

Now I need to read the sequel. I can’t wait.

This 100th Morning

This morning I am writing my 100th daily post in a row.

I’m quite proud of this: I didn’t miss a day, and I ran the gamut of posts, from short jokes or links to long essays on important topics, with everything in between. It has been extremely good for me to have this daily deadline, especially during the last few months of the school year, when I tend to want to do nothing strenuous or intellectually challenging because I have to summon so much energy just to keep teaching. This blog has kept me writing, and it makes me happy and proud.

I’m very thankful for the people who have been reading: the numbers on this blog have all gone up, subscribers, visitors, and viewers. I admit that sometimes I’m surprised that people still come and read this, considering some of the crap I’ve said on here — both silly things and offensive, controversial things —  but I am grateful that you do, indeed, seem to  keep coming here to read what I say.

And I hate to do this to you.

But I have to shift my focus. It’s summertime, and though it sounds long it feels short; and this is the best chance I have to finish my book. The Adventures of Damnation Kane, Volume II. I have to keep my promise: I told people at the Festival of Books that I would have the second volume edited and published within a month or two; I didn’t make that deadline, but I can at least do it now.

I don’t plan to stop blogging: there are still things I want and need to say, and this is the best place to do it. I just won’t be doing it as much, at least for a little while. The book really is nearly  done: the main story is written and typed already, I just need to format and edit it; I’m nearly done with the bonus chapters, at least in first draft. So I am hopeful that it will be finished soon, and then maybe I can go back to daily posts — though there is also that third volume out there, waiting to be written . . .

 

I hope this doesn’t drive people away. I hope I’ve earned enough of your kindness and consideration that you will let me finish this other project without feeling that I’m too lame for not being able to do both. Who knows? Maybe I can do both. (I’m pretty sure I can’t do both and move, which pretty much eliminates blogging for the next week or so.) Maybe I can manage a really short post a day, just something to spark a thought or bring a snort of laughter. I’ll try. And I’ll keep trying. Even if you all do stop visiting here and reading what I have written.

Thanks again, and see you soon?

Also, read my book: the second volume is forthcoming.

The Adventures of Damnation Kane

This Week

I’m doing this a day early, because I already have the answer from this week’s experiment: exercising every day is not a good idea.

Of course there are degrees. I may have simply overdone it: I went through pretty serious workouts every day this week, and that may be the main reason why it seemed like too much. I’ve also had some stress and some trouble sleeping because of moving and such, and so I haven’t been as healthy in general as I should be; maybe that’s why.

But for me, this week, it was too much. So I’m resting today. I may work out tomorrow, but more likely my exercise this week will just be moving.

That’s part of the issue. My wife, who knows more about exercise than me (Like she knows more than me about pretty much everything) pointed out that working out when one is sore and tired is asking for an injury. And since we are moving this week, I couldn’t risk that — and wouldn’t want to risk it anyway. So let’s be clear: good exercise includes rest. It needs rest. Part of me thinks that if I work out more, faster and longer, that it will work even better, will make me lose more weight (Or more fat, really — one of the things I have to keep in mind is that, since I do weight training, I’m not going to lose a lot of pounds. Muscle weighs more than fat, so as I build up muscle, even if I lose a lot of fat, I won’t lose “weight.”), will make me stronger. But it isn’t true. I’m sure there are professional athlete types and body builder types who work out every day, but first, they are younger than me and so they recover faster and easier; and also, that’s what steroids are for. Most performance enhancers don’t actually make your muscles bigger or stronger: they shorten recovery time so you can work out again sooner.

So when people are turning to illegal and dangerous substances in order to achieve a faster pace of exercise, maybe I should calm the hell down, is my point.

I will say that I still had fun exercising this week. I like working out. I like riding my bike more than I like going to the gym, which tells me I may want to focus more on that; because I think the key to long term exercise — which is absolutely the best kind, you want to build habits that last a lifetime, so that even if you never hit some pinnacle of buffitude, you stay active and always have a way to work in some physical exertion, which will never be unimportant to overall health and well-being — is fun. Making it enjoyable is entirely necessary to exercise. I listen to music (Also necessary because my gym tends to play the most awful music imaginable — I can’t imagine who sets the music system to EDM, since the majority of the clientele are retirees, but whoever it is, I hate them.) and I give myself breaks and stay away from the specific exercises I really don’t like; things like that. I go at a time of day that is convenient for me, and because I am an introvert, I go by myself and don’t interact with anybody, or I go with my wife who is equally introverted and together we don’t interact with anybody but each other.

But still, I prefer riding my bike. I like the feeling of the wind, I like the forward progress of it, I like the changing views, I like seeing other people passing by. I’m lucky because Tucson has a wonderful bike path that goes around the whole city in a 100+ mile loop (I’m also lucky because it was recently named for a long-time county supervisor who had a lot to do with creating the path, and that man’s name is Chuck Huckleberry, which is one of my favorite names of all time — so now it is the Chuck Huckleberry Loop) and so there is an excellent place to ride, but I’ve pretty much always liked riding my bike and usually been able to find a place to do it. I am happy that I have put in the money for a good bike; it’s been worth it.

That’s it, really. Exercise is hard and you shouldn’t overdo it, but if you find a way to enjoy it, you should do so, for only so long and only so often as you feel comfortable doing it: because exercise is a good habit, and it is best in moderation.