Long review post ahead!
You may wonder why I choose to enter these reading challenges when I dislike some of the genres that appear on the bingo card. Well, I’ll tell you! I think it’s valuable to read a variety of authors as well as genres in order to write well. If I’m only reading Regency romance, my thinking tends to narrow and my writing does too. I want loads of different ideas, styles, voices, etc., floating around in my head as my “muses” when I’m in the mood to work on a story.
1. For the young adult fantasy category, I tried to find a book that wasn’t the first in a series. My preference is to finish a complete, standalone story and not be tantalized with something getting resolved in a sequel, or after many sequels. I don’t mind related stories, if each one is complete (Lawrence Sanders [RIP] wrote excellent sets of novels and Anna’s Sugarplums are related via a workplace). Anyway, I chose The Fae of Darkwood: A Tellusm Tale (Beyond Horizon) by Ben McQueeny, despite the irritating title. It looked interesting from the blurb, and it wasn’t the typical setup about an orphaned teen girl fighting evil spirits and falling in love with someone from the wrong tribe. Geez, writers, a little variety, if you please!
So why do these mythical lands full of supernatural beings always have a map in the front that looks suspiciously like England? Rhetorical. The Fae story grabs me, right from the start, with a barber who has a side gig as a scientist. Rehan needs to collect “fresh specimens” of humans and other creatures to study in his lab. Gory, but cool. Unfortunately, there are a whole bunch of distracting typos scattered throughout. Ben seems to have taken David Gaughran’s advice about pestering readers to join a mailing list, but sadly not the advice about hiring a proofreader. As it turns out, this is only a short story to chronicle how the Fae of Darkwood came to be (no spoilers), and we must continue with more stories to discover his adventures. Sigh. I gave it 3 stars because I enjoyed it, especially the unexpected turns, but I’ve no desire to read more about the Fae.
2. The book (another short story really) I chose for the satire category is Happiness, Inc. by A.E. Hodge. It was OK, a quick read, kinda fun in the way it was styled with the protag never actually saying anything, but still it was soooo heavy-handed. I gave it 3 stars because I liked it enough (like the Fae story above), but it wasn’t anything great. In my opinion, satire is best with a lighter touch and it’s more difficult to do than people think. Comedy is hard, yo. It just so happens that Paula Light (aka me) has a novella that satirizes a huge swath of things, lightly. Hehe. Hodge does a great job with his marketing at the end of his story though, unlike some people (aka me). If you read his book, you’ll understand why I chose the pic of stones; if not, probably not!
3. For the historical nonfiction square, I chose An American Princess: The Many Lives of Allene Tew by Annejet van der Zijl. Wow, this book covered a lot of ground, from the founding of Jamestown, New York through WWII and beyond, focusing mostly (but not exclusively) on the life of Allene Tew… who had five other last names (along with a couple royal titles) in her life due to multiple marriages. Despite my usual disdain for nonfiction and history in particular, I really enjoyed this book. I gave it 4 out of 5 stars because I thought the chronology could have been smoother, and it took a bit too long to introduce (actually re-introduce) Allene ~ I didn’t need to know so much about the history of Jamestown and Lake Chautauqua. But overall the book is interesting and I recommend it. One thing that Annejet did very well was humanize the events I’d previously only studied in a dry way, such as the economic boom of the late 1800s and the subsequent crash of 1929. Imagine, ordinary people complaining that the wealthy are too greedy and ostentatious and we need to vote out politicians who cater to them. You’d think I was reading today’s news!
Alrighty then. Onward with the genre challenge…
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