The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus is a play, so reading it as a novel has its disadvantages. That being said, I still found it to be a fascinating study on pride, desire, and what a person is willing to do to get what they feel they deserve.
The first thing the audience (or reader, in this case) is made to understand is that Dr. Faustus feels underappreciated and that he does not get the credit or riches he deserves. He decides to sell his soul to the devil in exchange for power and riches. Obviously, this isn’t an unheard-of idea, but Dr. Faustus is one of the earlier examples. What follows feels to me more like an examination of the value of a soul, and what exactly damns it, than anything else. That might disappoint some people, but I found it fascinating, especially when viewed through the lens of society at that time.
Mephistopheles was my favorite character (his name is absolutely absurd, though). On the surface, his driving force can be summed up when he utters the lines, “ O what will not I do to obtain his soul!”, but he is actually much more complicated than that. I see him as a representation between the religious expectation of the time and desire. There was kind of a “fall in line” attitude toward religion when this was originally written (in the early 1600’s, I think), so Mephistopheles is pretty much the personification of dissent. Plus, he was fun. He was so desperate to gather those souls!
The pacing is definitely odd, but a good chunk of that is because it’s supposed to be seen performed and I haven’t been able to yet. There are a plethora of monologues, and a lot of introspection, so it’s a slower and more complex read. What pushed The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus from a “like” to a “love” for me is the ending. I don’t want to give it away, but I’ll just say that it pretty perfectly embodies one of humanity’s more prevalent characteristics.
Did you know that the second week in November is National Young Readers Week in the U.S.? This is a week to encourage and promote the love of literature in young readers. While mainly celebrated in public schools, I think all of us everywhere should get in on the fun. I’m a homeschool parent (going on seven years of homeschooling!), so my “classroom” looks a little different. Here are some ways that I encourage my young readers:
Book It! Program – This has been around since I was young and it’s as much fun now as it was then. Basically, you sign your kid up and give them a reading goal based on age or skill level. When that goal is reached, Pizza Hut provides the child with a certificate for a one-topping personal pan pizza. Yum!
Lego Magazine– I believe that this is only available in the U.S. and Canada (please correct me if I’m wrong). My kids love getting mail and this magazine, while in essence a long advertisement, still has little comics and such whatnot for young kids to read.
Origami Yoda– My oldest loves the Origami Yoda books by Tom Angleberger. They’re a blast to read. After reading them, have your kids check out the Origami Yoda website for free origami instructions. They can make their own origami Star Wars characters, and (with parental supervision) even create and submit their own foldable fun on the site. Warning: you will go through a ridiculous amount of paper while your kids fold away.
Lunch Doodle with Mo Willems– If you have a little reader, you’re probably familiar with the Pigeon books by Mo Willems. If not, you definitely need to fix that. They’re a blast! Well, author Mo Willems has a delightful YouTube channel which he started back in March when the U.S went on Quarantine lockdown. It is just a fun, calm way to encourage kids to get creating along with Mo Willems. There is also an email address where kids can send their own doodles.
I think it’s important to encourage reading of any kind. Yes, I mean that comics are just as valid as picture books, or even The Great American Novel. Reading is reading. If it excites your kid, then there’s a bigger chance they’ll keep reading. What are some great free reading resources for kids that I’ve missed? Are you doing anything special with your littles to spark a love of reading?
Piranesi’s house is no ordinary building: its rooms are infinite, its corridors endless, its walls are lined with thousands upon thousands of statues, each one different from all the others. Within the labyrinth of halls an ocean is imprisoned; waves thunder up staircases, rooms are flooded in an instant. But Piranesi is not afraid; he understands the tides as he understands the pattern of the labyrinth itself. He lives to explore the house.
There is one other person in the house―a man called The Other, who visits Piranesi twice a week and asks for help with research into A Great and Secret Knowledge. But as Piranesi explores, evidence emerges of another person, and a terrible truth begins to unravel, revealing a world beyond the one Piranesi has always known. (taken from Amazon)
Bizarre and beautiful, Piranesi is unlike anything I’ve ever read. Susanna Clarke crafts an unforgettable tale of solitude, loss, and finding oneself in unexpected ways. While it was difficult to predict where the story was going (or indeed, where it started), I was swept away by it, and happily wandered the corridors of this labyrinthine book.
Piranesi has always lived in the House. At least, he thinks so. A flooded place filled with statues, birds, and the ever-present tides, he is mostly content. However, he is alone, aside from the Other. The Other is a mysterious figure whom Piranesi has agreed to look for a Great Knowledge with. What follows this simple premise is something new and entirely unique.
I can’t tell you much about the plot because I’m honestly still going through things in my mind. I would say that it’s convoluted, but the opposite is true. There are very few answers given throughout the book, making my imagination work overtime to fill in gaps in the narrative. Who is Piranesi? Who is the Other? What and where is the House?
As with the rest of Piranesi, the people are intentionally vague. A picture unfolds slowly, and little details are fleshed out, revealing amazingly deep characters. I honestly have no idea how Susanna Clarke was able to bring so much to life with so few words. The book is told almost entirely through journal entries, so physical descriptions of the characters were understandably few and far between. Normally that would really irk me, but I found that a character’s physical description matters much less in Piranesi than in other books I’ve read.
In a complete turnabout from the characters, there was a plethora of descriptions surrounding the House. It was done so well that I’m still half-convinced I’ve been there. I could hear the bird wings. I could smell the salt water. I could feel bits of seaweed in between my toes. It was astounding. To read this book is to become fully immersed in a different, introspective world.
It is absolutely impossible for me to compare this book to any other, including the author’s previous book. It stands alone and, while it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, I’m planning to revisit it soon. I highly recommend Piranesi to readers who appreciate beautiful prose, who like open-ended books, and who want to be swept away.
Banished to an otherworldly prison for centuries, the monstrous Emperor Naradawk is about to break free and wreak havoc upon the world of Spira. The archmage Abernathy can no longer keep Naradawk at bay, and has summoned a collection of would-be heroes to help set things right.
Surely he made a mistake. These can’t be the right people.
Dranko is a priest-turned-pickpocket, expelled from his church for his antics. Kibilhathur is a painfully shy craftsman who speaks to stones. Aravia is a wizard’s apprentice whose intellect is eclipsed only by her arrogance. Ernest is a terrified baker’s son. Morningstar is a priestess forbidden from daylight. Tor is a young nobleman with attention issues. Ysabel is an elderly farm woman. Grey Wolf is a hard-bitten mercenary.
None of them are qualified to save the world, but they’ll have to do. Even Abernathy himself seems uncertain as to why he chose them.
Ardor Benn is no ordinary thief. Rakish, ambitious, and master of wildly complex heists, he styles himself a Ruse Artist Extraordinaire.
When a priest hires him for the most daring ruse yet, Ardor knows he’ll need more than quick wit and sleight of hand. Assembling a dream team of forgers, disguisers, schemers, and thieves, he sets out to steal from the most powerful king the realm has ever known.
But it soon becomes clear there’s more at stake than fame and glory — Ard and his team might just be the last hope for human civilization.
Discover the start of an epic fantasy trilogy that begins with a heist and quickly explodes into a full-tilt, last ditch plan to save humanity. (taken from Amazon)
Thank you to Angela Man and Orbit books for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book is available now.
Wow! The Thousand Death of Ardor Benn started with a boom (quite literally), and segued right into an epic adventure that kept me riveted from start to finish. Take the movie Ocean’s 11, throw in dragons and a kick-butt fantasy world, and you’ve got the general idea. It’s so much more than that, though.
One of the many things that I loved about this book is that it’s smart. The heists-ahem, ruses– that Ardor plans are nothing short of ingenious. True, things rarely go according to plan, but the plans are brilliant. His character’s ability to adapt and even thrive under the unexpected made him a blast to read. Ardor existed in the vein of Kvothe, or Kaz Brekker. He was completely uninhibited by realistic thinking and possessed way too much charm. I liked that he wasn’t a young upstart. He had an interesting backstory and a history that eventually caught up with him, but he never brooded. There was no looking off into the distance moodily.
Of course, you can’t pull off a convoluted heist without help. Ardor’s partner in crime, Raek, was quite possibly my favorite character. He kept Ardor grounded, as much as anyone could. I loved that he was a wall of muscle, but his skills lay in being brilliant with chemistry. It’s the little switch-ups that made The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn so different from other books of this nature.
I can’t leave out Quarrah,the third major addition to the group. An incredibly talented thief, I feel like she was the most complex of the characters. The way she grew, and the choices she made, felt so real and natural. She had a strength of character underneath her insecurities that was fantastic to read.
Of course, what begins as a complicated and lucrative ruse (Ardor is hired by a priest, no less!) turns into something much more important than the ragtag group could have expected. It also becomes quite a bit more complicated. I honestly preferred reading about the heists more than what came after, although the latter part of the book was also fantastic. It’s just so rare to read such a perfect storm of thievery, trickery, and flat-out luck, that I was loathe to move on toward something else. Even though that something else was engrossing.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the magic system. It’s actually more chemistry and less magic and is pretty stinking cool. There’s a rhyme and reason to it that makes it even more interesting. The author knew exactly what everything did and how it worked. It is easily one of the most creative uses of magic (for lack of a better term) that I’ve read in years.
The world itself is rich with history and religion. I liked that the beliefs were explained without any sort of info dumping, especially since religion played into it quite a bit later on. And there were dragons! Real dragons! That alone would be enough to make me happy, but the writing skill, fantastic characters, and interesting plot made The Ten Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn an amazing read.
If you like heists, roguish characters, political machinations, great group dynamics, and excellent world building, this book is for you. In case you can’t tell, I enthusiastically recommend it.
When Henry Attkinson, divorcee and semi-retired attorney, decided to do a little research into his family tree, he never expected it to take him on the adventure of a lifetime. Now, he must unravel the mystery of his strange second cousin’s past to stay one step ahead of him – and stay alive. As Henry digs deeper, his predictable life becomes anything but as he begins receiving ominous threats from his second cousin Shelley and noticing the increasing number of bodies showing up in his wake. Henry must go on the run, joined by Carolyn Trellis, a woman who stumbled into his life at just the right – or perhaps wrong -time. Together they must disguise themselves and hop from cities to small towns along the east coast in an attempt to evade Shelley and pursue justice. Though the chemistry between them becomes undeniable, Shelley refuses to be forgotten. Henry and Carolyn’s minds and hearts will be put to the test as they try to untangle Shelley’s past – little do they know they will soon be facing an even more ruthless villain. When asked about his writing process, Dr. Toppell stated, “I write without an outline. Therefore, if I think the story works better in a new direction while I’m writing, I simply go there. I try it out to see what would catch my reader unaware or surprised.” Discover the intricate web of mystery and betrayal conjured up by Henry’s seemingly innocuous genealogy research in Second Cousin Once Removed. With plenty of twists and turns, as well as Toppell’s dry humor, readers will be engrossed from page one to the end as they try to catch their breath in this fast-paced, sweaty-palm thriller.
Thank you to the Write Reads for allowing me to be part of the blog tour for this book. It is available for purchase now.
What an interesting premise! The main character in this book is Henry Atkinson, a lawyer who is sort-of retired. He’s looking into his family tree, which ends up being the catalyst for all kinds of trouble. Henry’s second cousin, Shelley, sends some threats and the next thing he knows, Henry finds himself on the run. Enter Carolyn, a woman who gets tangled up in everything at a very inopportune time. She ends up fleeing a dastardly villain along with Henry. Can they survive long enough to bring the bad guy to justice?
The story is told from multiple points of view. That makes me nervous in thrillers, but it works out well in Second Cousin Once Removed. The book moves at a fast clip, and there’s never a boring moment. In fact, it moves quickly enough that the relationship between Henry and Carolyn felt…weird. It didn’t develop so much as pop up out of nowhere. That was just a little blip in the story to me, though, and not enough to dull my enjoyment of the book.
The plot was incredibly unique and well thought out. Who would have thought that genealogy could be so rife with danger? I really liked the pacing of the story, and Henry’s character was a blast to read. If you want a quick, entertaining thriller, pick this book up.
Hi, everyone! I have a treat today: you don’t have to read my ramblings. Instead, I’ve got an exerpt from Mirror in Time, D. Ellis Overttun’s upcoming book. Enjoy!
It’s been a while since I’ve done a guest post excerpt. The world has changed, and I guess I have been caught up in it. It’s hard not to be deeply affected by a global pandemic, economic uncertainty, climate change and rising geopolitical tensions.
I’ve also just finished rereading A Short History of Progress by Ronald Wright. Its basic premise is that progress itself leads to the fall of societies. For me, the most vivid example was the decimation of Easter Island. It used to be a paradise until the veneration of ancestors led to the felling of trees to move large stone blocks that were used to build the iconic moai that immediately identify this now‑barren location. I am paraphrasing Wright when he wrote that it must have occurred to the people cutting down the last tree that hey, there are no more trees. But they did it any way. Sound familiar?
Combine this with what’s going on in the world right now, and it should be the perfect environment for an author, like myself, to draw upon and ferment ideas, a primordial dystopian soup if you will. And it did. I have another series that I have been mulling over tentatively titled Reality AV that describes the challenges faced by a federation of planets. It will draw extensively on current world events, Wright’s ideas and an argument once presented by Abraham Lincoln that “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
Oh, right, the guest post…
Book 3 in the Terra Nova series, Prophecy: Eve of Darkness, came out earlier this year. I should have moved on to the final book in the series (working title, Exodus: Flight from Arkos) but another inspiration pushed it aside, and I knew I would have to address it before I could move on. Enter Mirror in Time. From the title, you can see it is about time travel. It is a stand‑alone that moves, not Dan Brown fast but fast enough. I have also curbed my indulgence for detail and have restrained my technical writing tendencies to make the science as accessible as possible.
Until the beginning of June, I was bopping along like I normally do. It takes me about a week to write the first draft for each paperback chapter (5 to 6 ebook chapters). I was about halfway through when a once‑in‑a‑lifetime opportunity presented itself. How many of those come along? (Answer: By definition, only one.) Unfortunately, this detour was an every‑waking hour kind of endeavor that will span the next year or so at least. Unfortunately, I had no choice but to set Mirror aside. Even worse, I have also had to pull my wife, Natasha, away from social media promotion to help me on this project. Currently, I have only been able to squeeze dabs of writing here and there when I can find the time. Sadly, during the past 4 months, I’ve only managed to get to the three-quarter mark even though I have the plotline to the end.
Do you remember the Big Bang episode “The Closure Alternative”? Well, I have some obsessiveness in me just like Sheldon. It really bugs me that I haven’t finished Mirror.I thought, if I put something out there, it would “encourage” me to finish to avoid that haunting question that strikes fear into the hearts of all authors with unfinished works: “So, how is your novel coming along?”
@WS_BOOKCLUB to the rescue! I approached her with my problem, and she has graciously agreed to let me do a guest post of the ARC of the prologue. Many thanks!
“Track AVs. Priority link to Jomo Langma Mountain Observatory. Display time to contact.”
“Tracking. Linked,” the computer replied as a digital countdown displayed to the upper‑left.
“Jomo, this is AV Sundog. Requesting assistance. Six AVs just appeared on sensors. Threat assessment hostile. Estimated time to contact five minutes.”
“Sundog, this is Jomo. We see the same thing. Dispatching interceptors.”
“Understood. Activating distress beacon, frequency gamma. Sundog out,” the pilot replied nervously. She then tapped on the intercom icon on her control panel. “Ma’am, please engage seat restraints. I am expecting some…turbulence.” A yellow light just to her left confirmed that her passenger had complied. “Computer, combat mode,” she said on a separate channel.
“Engaging combat mode, shields at maximum.”
A harness engaged to secure her shoulders and waist, and a holographic sphere appeared around her, giving her a 360‑degree view of the outside of the craft. The AV seemed to have disappeared. From her point of view, she was now a transparent orb in flight.
“Access topography. Indicate any areas suitable for landing,” she said as she made a rapid descent to a valley below.
Sundog made its way to a ledge and set down.
“Activate holographic camouflage.”
While combat‑ready, the pilot was hoping to remain hidden until the arrival of the interceptors. And so, she waited in tense silence.
“Why have we landed?”
“Please maintain communication silence.”
“You dare order me about?!”
“I reiterate. Please maintain communication silence,” the pilot said firmly. “I will not ask again.”
At length, she felt a dull pressure on the top of her head. She swiveled her seat until its back was positioned horizontally. Above her, she could see six red dots. They had inexplicably altered course and were headed straight toward her location.
While it was inconceivable that she could be tracked, she was trained to never take anything for granted. “Magnify.”
The dots transformed into a squadron of combat AVs.
“They are closing fast,” she thought. “Computer, identify markings and transponder signals.”
“There are no markings. Transponder signals have been masked.”
“They are spoiling for a fight. Computer, designate hostiles one through six.”
A number superimposed on each AV.
“Activate targeting. Lock on to hostile three. Weapons hot.”
“Targeting activated. Locked. Weapons hot,” the computer replied as the images faded and were replaced by six red numbers.
“Estimated time to contact?”
Her seat slowly moved as it tracked the lead AV of the approaching squadron. Then, six smaller red dots appeared followed by another six and another six.
“Shit!” She quickly tapped a number of icons on her console, and the AV abruptly jetted skyward. “Launch chaff!”
Six small missiles shot out from the rear of Sundog. All but one of the incoming projectiles spread out then quickly slowed to a stop as the remaining one accelerated toward the defensive swarm. Then, there was an explosion, and the attacking missiles resumed course, quickly closing the distance.
The sensors indicated another six small red dots had emerged from the squadron as a cloud of chaff formed a bowl‑shaped shield protecting Sundog’s six.
“Guess I am not the only one who dislikes Godvina. Well, at least now, I have an excuse,” she said to herself with a smile. She started executing a series of aviation maneuvers.
“Is this…your idea…of turbulence!” Godvina screamed as her words were punctuated with the sounds of retching and vomiting.
“Sorry, Ma’am, please remain calm.”
Behind them, small explosions erupted as individual components of the protective shield disengaged to neutralize an incoming missile. Suddenly, four green dots appeared in close proximity to the attacking squadron. Then, four red dots disappeared from sensors indicating downed AVs.
“Sundog, this is Escort 1. Bogeys are bugging out!”
“Is that you, Avenger?!”
“Who else, Wind Goddess?!”
“And I suppose Golden Boy is with you?!”
“Escort 2 at your service!”
“We are life‑takers…” Avenger exclaimed.
“…and Gendu breakers!” Golden Boy chimed in.
“WAHOO!” they shouted.
“We are closing in on your position,” Avenger said.
On her screen, two green dots broke away from the dogfight.
“We would love to,” Golden Boy replied, “but we have our orders. We are supposed to protect…”
“Affirm!” the escorts replied.
“Take your time. I got this one. I need some target practice.”
“Are you sure? What about your passenger?”
“Not a problem. I already told her to expect ‘turbulence’,” Wind Goddess said as roars of laughter erupted in response.
“Ok, we will sit back and watch,” Golden Boy replied.
Wind Goddess turned to face the rear. “Computer, I count…nine incoming. Confirm.”
“Execute full reverse.”
Over the next several minutes, each small red dot disappeared from sensors. A short time later, the interceptors arrived and escorted AV Sundog to its terminus.
The summit of Jomo Langma Mountain was a series of closely packed mesas that were ideal locations for structures. “Jomo” as it was commonly referred to was perched atop its namesake. There were two observatories located at either end of a long I-shaped building that acted as a connecting corridor between two telescopes. Rooms off the corridors housed administrative offices, an infirmary, main dining hall, pantries and food storage, a digital library, simgrid and maintenance facility. Staff quarters and a small recreation area were located in a second building on a lower mesa. In addition to high altitude, it was located north of the Northern Polar Circle giving it at least 100 days of total darkness and 100 days of total daylight. It was the premier place on the planet to study stellar as well as solar phenomena.
“Jomo, this is AV Sundog. Requesting clearance to land. Transmitting authorization.”
“AV Sundog, this is Jomo. Authorization received and confirmed. You are cleared to land. Details have been transmitted.”
“Jomo, receipt of landing instructions confirmed. AV Sundog out.”
The Observatory had been exempted from the standard security required for all military and civilian aeronautical installations. But recent events required a strict interpretation of the regulation. Each mesa was now surrounded by an energy dome, an ionized field that extended above a perimeter fence. The control tower identified all approaching craft by their transponder signal. However, in addition, an authorization code was required. Once confirmed, an opening was created in the dome and instructions sent from the control tower to the incoming craft’s onboard computer specifying the approach vector and velocity required to land.
AV Sundog approached and hovered above and a short distance from a landing pad before slowly descending to the tarmac.
“Ma’am, we have arrived at the Jomo Langma Mountain Observatory. You may disengage seat restraints and debark. Please make sure you take all your personal belongings. It was a pleasure to have you on board today. I hope your sojourn here is a pleasant one.” She disengaged her own seat restraints then made her way to the rear to exit the AV. Upon opening the door from the flight deck, she was hit with an unmistakable, acidic, pungent odor. It was something that she had not experienced for a long time, not personally but from comrades who had had too much to drink.
Godvina lay unconscious in her seat restraints. Her clothing and various parts of the cabin were daubed with this disgusting concoction.
“What have you done to my ship?!”
* * * * *
There is no better way to give a story pace than a dogfight. Remember Top Gun? But more than that, the descriptions are designed to give you an idea of the technology that is the backdrop to the story. Yes, this is sci‑fi. What happens as night falls hints at some sort of calamity. Dystopian right? Or at the very least an Armageddon‑like event.
Godvina’s journey to the Observatory suggests she is a scientist, one of sufficient import to warrant a military escort. Although, what kind of scientist needs that kind of protection? Is she in weapons development? The attack on her alludes to a time of conflict or impending conflict with the Gendu. (By the way, “gendu” is an ancient Eurasian word that means “male”.) Who are they, and who were the defenders in this opening volley?
Many thanks to Natasha for the gif to help you visualize the opening scene, a place called “Jomo Langma Mountain”. The name is a variant of the Tibetan name for Mount Everest. What better name for a high‑altitude location. However, the mountain she used was not Everest because she needed plateaus in the landscape to accommodate a research facility (not seen in this visual). She used the Checkerboard Mesa in Mount Zion Park, Utah.
As for my description of the Observatory, I based its design on the Lick Observatory on the summit of Mount Hamilton in California.
Beauty comes at a price. And not one knows that better than Ebenezer Tweezer, who has stayed beautiful for 511 years. How, you may wonder? Ebenezer simply has to feed the beast in the attic of his mansion. In return for meals of performing monkeys, statues of Winston Churchill, and the occasional cactus, Ebenezer gets potions that keep him young and beautiful, as well as other presents.
But the beast grows ever greedier with each meal, and one day he announces that he’d like to eat a nice, juicy child next. Ebenezer has never done anything quite this terrible to hold onto his wonderful life. Still, he finds the absolutely snottiest, naughtiest, and most frankly unpleasant child he can and prepares to feed her to the beast.
The child, Bethany, may just be more than Ebenezer bargained for. She’s certainly a really rather rude houseguest, but Ebenezer still finds himself…