Book Review – Tender Wings of Desire

TITLE: Tender Wings of Desire
AUTHOR: KFC (YUM Brands claims the copyright)
PUBLISHED: 2017
FORMAT: E-Book

“For mothers everywhere, I dedicate this to you – a brief escape from motherhood into the arms of your fantasy Colonel, whoever he may be.”

Lady Madeline Parker doesn’t want to marry the man who her parents have given her hand to, so she runs away the night before her wedding and finds work in a tavern, and finds love in the arms of a sailor (also running from his responsibilities) named Harland Sanders.

No, this is not a joke. For Mother’s Day, KFC put out a romance novel, complete with redhead in jeans, accessorized by a purse and a chicken drumstick, in the arms of a rather buff and sleeveless Colonel Harland Sanders, the founder of KFC. As the e-book was free*, I picked it up, and figured it would be a light read where I would giggle at the tropes I often encounter in romance novels. Oh no.

Whoever wrote this did no research into whatever era they placed this in, given the mistakes they made in forms of address for peers, most of which can be found with a quick internet search, or a character calling another a “dish”, as well as a lot of little things that just read like nails on a chalkboard to me. The plot was trite and, really, nothing was done to make us really care about Madeline, or, dare I say it, Harland. While there may be eleven herbs and spices in the Colonel’s secret recipe, they were all lacking from this book and these characters.

Which brings me to the biggest issue I had with this book – Colonel Harland Sanders. KFC/YUM Brands stuck a disclaimer in the beginning that “characters are fictitious or used in a fictitious manner.” But this is nothing more than someone at (or hired by) KFC writing real person romantic fan fiction about the founder of the restaurant. Frankly, the real Colonel Sanders, and yes, he was a real, actual person, deserves better than to be reduced to this, a bland caricature of a man running away from his responsibilities to his restaurant empire. While the real Colonel Harland Sanders’ rank was more honorary as a member of the Kentucky Colonels (an honor he shares with persons such as Muhammad Ali, John Glenn, several former U.S. Presidents, and Betty White), he was an actual human being, not just an actor in a white wig, and reading about his romancing this fictional woman just put me off this book entirely. I kept reading in the hope it would get better, and sadly, it never did.

I have to give it 1 out of 5 pages.

*As of today, it’s now $0.99 on Amazon for the e-book, unless you have Kindle Unlimited.

Book Review – The Other Side Of Oz

TITLE: The Other Side of Oz: An Autobiography
AUTHOR: Buddy Ebsen
FORMAT: Hardback
PUBLISHED: 1994

This book lets Buddy tell the story of his acting career.  I picked it up at the dollar store brand new a couple weeks ago  (who the heck is stockpliling quantities of Hardback books for twenty years?!), and it was a fairly quick read.

Fundamentally, I had a few issues with this – first of all, Buddy Ebsen was cast as the Tin Man and acted for just a couple weeks before the costume tried to kill him and he ended up hospitalized while his lung re-inflated.  So titling your book after the most famous role you never had seems weird.  Clearly he was trying to cash in on that fame, even though he never got to have any of it.  (I don’t think it’s much of an argument to say that The Wizard of Oz has way more staying power than any of the roles he ever had.  A lot of them are very dated to the time period they came out of.  TWoO seems to have a little bit better longevity as far as that sort of thing is concerned.)

Second of all, this book is not an autobiography.  An autobiography is supposed to cover your entire life up to that point.  A memoir, otoh, covers a specific aspect of your life.  So a book that barely says anything about his childhood, overlooks any aspect of his family life except for a few random mentions of things (“By this time I was divorced and had a new wife.  She suggested I take this role..”)  and doesn’t cover the duration, is certainly not an autobiography.  Honestly, I lose a little faith any time a publisher can’t manage to get those details right.  Then again, they couldn’t manage to sell this volume for 20 years so maybe that explains a lot.

With that said, the book is pretty much Mr. Ebsen telling stories.  Each chapter has a different focus (Shirley Temple, Vaudeville with his sister, acting without his sister, The Beverly Hillbillies, etc).  Unfortunately for a book about somebody that spent his time on the screen, there’s very little content about any of his shows.  “Walt Disney put a show on and there I was…”  isn’t really a description about Daniel Boone.  And if you’re covering fifty years in a career, maybe you *should* explain something or other about the shows because there’s a good chance your fans haven’t been around for all of it, and it’d be cool to get a better understanding of the show anyway.

The book suffers horribly from lack of content and organization.  At first it’s in order, then it skips around.  One chapter pretty much just exists to say that he worked with a famous but now dead actress.  I feel like somebody took a bun, added lettuce and ketchup, and then gave it to us before they put the burger patty there.  In other words, they forgot t he meat of the book.  Plus, don’t let the binding deceive you – the pages are thick and glossy, there are a ton of photos, and the font is large and much bolder than it needs to be.  In a more standard book format, this book would have been half the thickness.

I guess it’s not totally bad.  Some of the stories were entertaining.  It’s just not what I expected when I grabbed it at the store.

Over all, I’m only going to give it 2/5 stars.  If you like Hollywood or were a fan of Buddy, go ahead and give this a read if you come across it.  But just be aware that there’s a lot of fluff and it’s not as it appears.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review – The Ice Dragon

TITLE: The Ice Dragon
AUTHOR: George R R Martin
FORMAT: Hardback
ILLUSTRATIONS: Luis Royo
PUBLISHED: 2014 (this edition – story originally 1980)

 

I picked The Ice Dragon up at a bookstore because it was cheap and also short.  I estimated it to be a novelette.  I love GRRM’s stories, but I’m not always a fan of his writing style.  In fact, the last thing of his I read I found incredibly boring.  But I quite enjoyed Fevre Dream in graphic form and Game of Thrones on the screen.  So I wanted to give him another shot.

Four dollars later, this was mine.

As far as I knew, I was reading a short story that he did, and I was a little surprised to see it in chapter form, but not totally.

The story follows Adara, who is different and also the reason her mother died in childbirth.  While her father adores her siblings, she gets left to mostly her own devices, and ends up befriending an Ice Dragon, which nobody does.

I liked the story.  It was written more simply than his normal stuff, which means I wasn’t bogged down by unnecessary words and overly-long descriptions.  I found out later that the reason was that it’s actually a children’s book (Note: the bookstore hadn’t specified that.  I found it on the internet when I tried to look up word count)

So I guess the key here is that GRRM needs to write for Children for me to want to read it.

Still, the ending was annoying to me.  It was predictable and went in exactly the opposite direction from where I wanted it to go.

So a rating.  Whatever genre you want it to be, it was a nice story up until the very end.  I’ll give it a healthy 3/5.  Go ahead and give yourself a bit to read it, but don’t expect the most amazing story ever.

 

 

 

Book Review – Dead as a Doornail by Charlaine Harris

Title: Dead as a Doornail

Author: Christine Harris

Format: Hardback

Published: 2005

 

When I pick up a Sookie Stackhouse novel, many time I feel like I’m putting on warm fuzzy bunny slippers.  There is a familiar comfort to the cadence and the flow of these books that I simply enjoy.  When I read Charlaine’s books I simply just sit back, enjoy the ride and maybe live a little vicariously through Sookie seeing as she gets to be around the types of beings I only get to dream of, vampires and werewolves and the like.

 

While I enjoy the Sookie Stackhouse books and they all have that familiar comfort this book felt a little outside of the norm.  I enjoyed the read and it was just as cozy as I described above but it was lacking at the same time.  In picking up one of these novels I’ve come to expect a good bit of mystery and intrigue, Sookie’s life to be in danger on more than one occasion and for there to be some rather sexy moments between Sookie and a supernatural male of choice.  Sadly this was not the case with the book. It had promise it had intrigue – Sookie’s life was in danger but not in such thrilling ways where I was on the edge of my seat.

 

Sookie also spent most of her time swinging from one even to the next trying to keep her head afloat and not really digging into any mysterious events or deaths even though there was a serial killer roaming around trying to kill shifters.  It was kind of clear at least to me who did the shooting long before Sookie even pieced any of it together and honestly the discovery of who did it was merely by chance.  Additionally the only sexy moment was when Sookie was getting her leg licked by a newly introduced shifter.  It sounds kinky and weird I admit but given the situation it was less kinky and more logical and a bit sexual.

 

Honestly this book in the series was akin to the second movie in a trilogy, lot of important information and filler but a bit lacking in the action.  I will admit it made a lot of sense for Sookie as a character to not get too romantically involved with anyone given everything that had happened in her life.  She had recently been through a lot of drama in the previous books and most people like Sookie would need a break and would sort of swing from event to event as it played in the book – so I can credit Charlene Harris for her use of character development in this book but it was still highly disappointing when you are expecting something a little more both romantically and mystery wise.  I am hoping the next book will pick back up with the romantic interludes and mysterious intrigue.  With that said I’ll have to give this book a 3 out of 5 pages – it is not worth skipping but you don’t want to expect to get much out of this book.

Book Review – Redshirts by John Scalzi

Title: Redshirts

Author: John Scalzi

Format: Hardback

Published: 2012

 

This book came to me as a recommendation of a co-worker and friend of mine.  He told me that if I liked the TV series Star Trek I would like this book.  I was told that it is a comedic take on the classic trope of red shirts always dying.  If you know anything about Star Trek it was always true in the original series that if there was a random person in a red shirt that was part of an away team mission, they were going to die.  The book tells the story of a ship where this fact is known and no one wants to avoid away missions as they might be that person destined to die.

 

I will admit that when I started the book it felt a bit flat, the story progressed slowly as the main characters who were all ‘red shirts’ were introduced.  It also bothered me for a long while that there were two similarly named characters Duvall and Dahl.  There were times it was hard to keep them straight even though Dahl is the main protagonist, a pacifist and male while Duvall is one of the supporting main characters who is female and a bit of a partier.  Still, when first learning names it is hard to keep track particularly when they are speaking to one another.

 

However, when the characters get on the ship and Dahl starts experiencing first-hand the oddness that is the spaceship Intrepid things grow to be interesting.  One minute, Dahl can be speaking with his fellow officers and the next minute they are rushing off to get coffee or have vanished to do inventory yet again.  When this happens a senior officer walks in and recruits him for an important and impossible mission, speaking about science that makes very little sense yet must be accomplished.   Given task Dahl is supplied with a box that works much like a microwave and will give the solution to the problem at the last minute.   In addition to this oddity there is a strange yeti man who seems to know that there is more going on than meets the eye.

 

While there is so much that can be said about this book a lot of it would blow the surprises contained within.  So without blowing the story I’ll say that the story is worth the read and the effort to get past the slow start.  The story picks up with good comedy, classic tropes of science fiction and a nice sense of adventure and impending doom.   You really aren’t left lacking or wanting in the story and it satisfies you in the end giving you a story that is well worth the read.  Over all I’d give the book 4 pages.  It isn’t a book I’ll go running out to buy a copy and tell all my friends about but for the right person looking for the right book?  You-betcha, I’ll tell them about Redshirts.

Book Review – From a High Tower

Title: From a High Tower

Author: Mercedes Lackey

Format: eBook

Year Published: 2015

From a High Tower is the tenth book in Mercedes Lackey’s Elemental Masters series. As with most of the books, it’s based upon fairy tales/folklore – in this case, Rapunzel. Or well, it starts out with Rapunzel, but then it takes a hard left into Germanic tellings of the Wild West, based upon the books of Karl May, an author I’ve never heard of (not unexpected, as Lackey includes a foreword in the front of the book to give an overview of May’s books).

The novel begins with a heavy focus on the Rapunzel story-line: a husband with a heavily-pregnant wife, who steals food – specifically rampion – from an old, run-down, apparently abandoned house. He is caught, but in return for the food, the child his wife is carrying is demanded in return.

Unlike most versions of the story, Rapunzel – also known as Giselle – is not freed from the evil witch by a handsome prince, or cast out once it is discovered that she has been consorting with him. Instead, the evil witch is an Earth Master – kind and caring (though I spent the *entire* book waiting for something bad to come out about her) and the handsome prince – a rapist who wants Giselle’s power as an Air Master.

The story-proper begins as Giselle is traveling from town to town, entering and winning shooting contests to support herself. Done in the guise of a man, this plan goes awry when she is forced to kill an army officer – eventually resulting her joining a traveling Wild West Show as one of the stars. Not only does the show need her ability to shoot, her magical abilities are not out of place either.

They are joined by Rosamund, a Hunt Master of the Bruderschaft, a local organization that handles magical problems and creatures (and, had I read the series in order, I would have ‘met’ Rosamund in Blood Red) and together they travel with the show.

They have several adventures on the road, and end up wintering at Giselle’s tower, where the ‘handsome prince’ who had previously attacked her attempts to get her and her power again, this time with the help of his family. They are defeated with the combined power of Giselle, Rosamund, and the other two magicians with the show.

I’m… lukewarm on this book. I enjoy the series, for the most part (though honestly, the earlier books are my favorites), but felt that this one relied heavily upon the knowledge of Karl May’s books and therefore, I didn’t connect to it. I also dislike the recent trend in the books where the main character has a person who ends up being a romantic interest for them, but they barely interact or seem to connect.

I like the learning of magic that happens in the book, but there is very little of it, in total, and most of the magic Giselle performs is little, and things she already knows. I also felt that Giselle stayed naïve for far too long in the story, and could have done with far more seasoning earlier on.

Still, once I got going on the book it went fast, so I’ll rate this one 3/5 stars.

Book Review: Catalyst (Star Wars): A Rogue One Novel

TITLE: Catalyst (Star Wars): A Rogue One Novel

AUTHOR: James Luceno

PUBLISHED: 2016

FORMAT: E-Book

I’m just going to warn right now for potential spoilers for Rogue One, even though it’s been out over a month.  Also, yes, I am a huge Star Wars fan if you hadn’t guessed from my name.

Catalyst is a prequel novel to Rogue One, the latest movie in the Star Wars universe.  It starts near the end of the Clone Wars, and introduces us to Galen and Lyra Erso, their newborn daughter Jyn, and the complicated interaction between Galen Erso and Orson Krennic, the men behind the construction of the Death Star and it’s weaponry – whether they worked on it willingly or not.

The novel is an interesting bridge between the end of the Clone Wars and the rise of the Galactic Empire.  It mainly focuses on the two men, but we also get a look at Lyra Erso and her view of the war and how it affects the galaxy – and her family.  And how the players get from where they are at the end of the war, to where they are at the start of Rogue One.

This is not a book that can be read without any knowledge of the Star Wars universe, for certain.  At least familiarity with the prequel movies (Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith) is needed as events in those movies are heavily referenced – and it actually answers a few questions I know I had about certain things seen at the end of Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith.  And the author’s writing keeps the story flowing well from start to finish.

For those who are fans of the Star Wars universe, this book is a good addition to the canon.  I give it 4 of 5 pages.

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