My Favorite Books

The Walking Drum
Ender's Game
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
The Curse of Chalion
The Name of the Wind
Chronicles of the Black Company
The Faded Sun Trilogy
The Tar-Aiym Krang

Sunday, February 27, 2022

Review: Introduction to the Spiritual Life: Walking the Path of Prayer with Jesus

Introduction to the Spiritual Life: Walking the Path of Prayer with Jesus Introduction to the Spiritual Life: Walking the Path of Prayer with Jesus by Brant Pitre
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The book springs from the author’s “transformative” experience from discovering and reading the “spiritual classics”, weaving quotes from them into each chapter. He opens with describing the three (3) types of prayer and stages of spiritual growth along with the “universal call to holiness” or spirituality in the Introduction before going more in depth on Prayer in the first section. The rest of the book is organized to look at the three (3) major temptations and their remedies, three (3) spirit exercises, seven (7) mortal sins and opposing virtues, and then it provides some guidance to keep you on the path.

Each chapter starts with a brief introduction of the topic with several illustrative quotes before looking at the Jewish roots of the topic, then how it was used/illustrated by Jesus before finishing with Christian tradition. As expected, each topic is well researched and supported, although not all chapters had the same impact on me (The author does emphasize that this is an introductory work, so parts of it might already be familiar depending on where you are on your path). Over all, I believe this to be something to come back to and reread, especially when I find myself struggling (Spiritual Dryness is discussed in Chapter 22).


Chapter 1: Vocal Prayer
Chapter 2: Meditation
Chapter 3: Contemplation

The Spiritual Path
Chapter 4: The First Step
Chapter 5: The Ten Commandments
Chapter 6: The Three Temptations
Chapter 7: Fasting
Chapter 8: Almsgiving
Chapter 9: The Lord’s Prayer

Vices and Virtues
Chapter 10: The Seven Sins
Chapter 11: Pride vs Humility
Chapter 12: Envy vs Mercy
Chapter 13: Anger vs Meekness
Chapter 14: Avarice vs Generosity
Chapter 15: Lust vs Chastity
Chapter 16: Gluttony vs Temperance
Chapter 17: Sloth vs Diligences
Chapter 18: Sorrow vs Patience

Making Progress
Chapter 19: Examination of Heart
Chapter 20: Lectio Divine and Jacob’s Ladder
Chapter 21: The Battle Prayer
Chapter 22: The Dark Night
Chapter 23: The Living Water

I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#IntroductiontotheSpiritualLife #NetGalley.

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Friday, February 25, 2022

Review: Neverwhere

Neverwhere Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read the book, then watched the BBC series and I must say that I liked the series a little better. It seems that this story really does better with the visuals then the bare text.

The basic plot has an Alice in Wonderland quality with typical, understated British humor. The main character, Richard Mayhew, begins the story as a listless man who, despite having the 'good-life' finds something lacking in his existence. A chance encounter with one of the denizens of 'London Below' (Lady Door) pulls him into a shadowy and magical world that coexists with, and is invisible to, our real "London Above.' What follows is a typical journey of self-discovery ... Only Richard doesn't really stop being a putz until the end.

London Below appears to be the stomping ground for our dreams and nightmares where everything is surreal ... It also brings to mind the homeless within our cities in that when were aren't ignoring them (ie. not invisible), it is not uncommon to see them displaying symptoms of mental illness (talking to other invisible persons, rats, etc.). Add this up with a touch of word play and you get a very humorous trip into what seems to be a mental breakdown, trapping Richard within his unconscious or primitive mind where he can discover and become the hero that was denied him in the real world. Gaiman never really exploits the potential questions which arise from his brief foray into insanity, but then I don't think this was intended to be that serious a story either ... It was supposed to be fun and I did enjoy it much like I enjoyed Monty Python's Holy Grail.

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Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Review: Rise of the Mages

Rise of the Mages Rise of the Mages by Scott Drakeford
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Here is a story that was ten (10) years in the making … and the effort is clearly on display. Everything from the depth of the world building to the development of the characters fit together seamlessly. Even more impressive, is that the author was able to resist dumping all of the information on the reader all at once, content to slowly reveal details that hint of even deeper details that make the whole world more realistic. In other words, everything works well together and I rocked through the 400 pages in about 2 days.

The world building appears to center on a magic concept called infusori (which roughly corresponds to the life force of everything within the world. The magic system is primarily based upon crafting devices that use this magic for various desired effects. There are myths about mages that were able to manipulated this force directly, but they are to be feared if they are discovered.

The story takes place following a war of unification, with an uneasy acceptance between many of the ethnic peoples and the current governors; the main character appears to have a nominal claim to one of the conquered ‘provinces’ and this powers much of the political intrigue early in the story. There is also the typically ‘evil empire’ that pays a huge rule in how the story unfolds, and they seemed well developed and quite mysterious when these Malithii were encountered.

Behind all of these events, there are legends surrounding a trinity of deities known as the Fallen Glory and the Absent Sisters (Justice and Mercy). I must admit to being really curious about how this mythology will develop and that would be reason enough to add a star. For a debut novel … this was an awesome start.

I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#RiseoftheMages #NetGalley.

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Sunday, February 20, 2022

Review: Render Unto Caesar: The Struggle Over Christ and Culture in the New Testament

Render Unto Caesar: The Struggle Over Christ and Culture in the New Testament Render Unto Caesar: The Struggle Over Christ and Culture in the New Testament by John Dominic Crossan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"Render unto Caesar" is the beginning of a phrase attributed to Jesus in the synoptic gospels, which reads in full, "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's" [Matthew 22:21] - Wikipedia

This is an academic piece that looks to place this encounter within the greater cultural context of the first century Roman World. While I am not qualified to speak on the merits of the scholarship, I found the analysis presented in a clear and concise manner that allowed a layman to follow and understand it. As such, it greatly expanded my own understanding of what Jesus was really speaking about … although it does strike counter to some fundamentalist interpretations. To make his point, the author draws upon other areas of the Christian Bible as well as contemporary external sources to contrast the violent rule of Caesar/Man and non-violent rule of God that opposed it as a critique of acculturation by early christians; using Luke-Acts, Paul and Revelation to illustrate the struggle between “sanction” theology and “Sabbath” theology. This also opened up a new interpretation for me of another famous Jesus saying … “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”
The book was divided into three (3) parts:

Part 1: Culture Rejected and Demonized (Revelation & God’s future punishment)
Part 2: Culture Accepted and Canonized (Luke & Josephus acceptance of the status quo)
Part 3: Culture Confronted and Criticized (non-violent critical opposition as the fourth way)

This is a book that I will need to come back to after thinking more on it. As such, I think it should be a welcome addition to the bookshelf of any reader interested in biblical scholarship and exegesis.

I was given this free advance review copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#RenderUntoCaesar #NetGalley.

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Thursday, February 17, 2022

Review: Snow Crash

Snow Crash Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Narrated by Jonathan Davis

I really enjoyed the quality of the narration; Mr. Davis does an excellent job rendering the voices of the various characters within the story.

This was a fun read for the most part ... although the heavy exploitation of various stereo-types might be offensive to some, it really is the key to most of the humor in the story; at least Mr. Stephenson is an equal opportunity satirist in creating his dystopian society. The story pokes fun at corporate franchises, Christians (Orthodox Russians, Catholics and evangelists), the feds, the mafia, Columbian drug cartels, pizza delivery drivers, skateboard couriers, gated communities (burbclaves), apartheid, Alaskan red-necks, and a host of others. The characters themselves are very shallow and underdeveloped, though most are still memorable none the less.

This central plot merges ancient Sumerian mythology as alternate history with computer technology to construct an idea that humans have a basic or innate language ability that was 'hard coded' into our brain. This direct neural wiring left humans vulnerable to a memetic or 'meta virus' that basically turns humans into automatons. Stephenson uses a series of interactions (info-dumps) with a database AI (The Librarian) to introduce readers to the concepts needed to fully appreciate the plot climax. Unfortunately this is where Stephenson starts to lose his way (and a star) while the satire becomes less skillful and the story displays more violence (needlessly so in some cases). The strange introduction of teenage sex with a much older and very violent male antagonist toward the end of the book really detracted from the story as a whole. Finally, the conclusion seemed confused and somewhat aimless and unsatisfying by the end (Where was Raven's kaboom!).

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Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Review: The Starless Crown

The Starless Crown The Starless Crown by James Rollins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The narration was fairly solid with a good range of voices.

The story is based on a planet that has arrested its rotation and subsequently reducing civilization to small rings or crowns between the hot and cold while also providing a pseudo-steam-punk (think air-ships) world to play in. Most of the animals appear to have evolved into greater threats and/or intelligence, with bats in particular gaining a hive mind organization that was pretty interesting. There were a number of other takes on animal life that added to the general dystopian feel of the story. The principle societies appear to be marked off with a north/south divide and provide the engine for much of the plot conflict. There is a dash of magic that was based on visualizing songs that control the environment in some fashion mixed in with mechanical alchemy (which was a bit weird). Only all it felt like a solid setting for the story.

The main characters were also well developed and generally sympathetic figures. Nyx is a girl abandoned at birth in the beginning of the story under mysterious circumstances that are gradually revealed throughout the story and is generally pretty interesting. Raffe is a thief, betrayed by his guild who escapes from the Salt mines with a powerful artifact/weapon that Kingdom forces want to aid their desire for conquest/war. Kanthe is the spare Prince of the Realm on the run from assassins. These POV run mostly parallel for the first half of the story before you start to see them come together … and it takes a LONG time to develop that part of the story where you really don’t see much in the way of action (for 10 hrs or so). There is some … but mostly you just get people on the run, but most of the story is the characters trying to figure out what is happening to them and why. The second half gets a lot more exciting once they all get together and the hunt kicks into high gear, but the ending seems a tad unfinished (as if this was just the setup for the series).

So … the story is really 3.5 stars … but I am rounding up for the narration and world building.

I was given this free advance review copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#TheStarlessCrown #NetGalley.

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Sunday, February 13, 2022

Review: The Stoic Arsenal: 40 Lessons from Stoicism for a Better Life

The Stoic Arsenal: 40 Lessons from Stoicism for a Better Life The Stoic Arsenal: 40 Lessons from Stoicism for a Better Life by Leandro Faria
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An introduction to Stoic philosophy, updated for the modern practitioner seeking “the good life.” We get 40 “lessons” in six parts … the primary idea being to not worry about that for which you have no control. What follows are various techniques to put that into action, often further subdividing the lesson into manageable steps (example: lesson 1 - “Mens Omnis Regit” is further divided into self-sufficiency and constant presence to show how we can change the way we think about everything). Woven into each block of text are quotes from various famous stoics and several persons whose personal philosophy appears to intersect with Stoicism. I found the comparisons with Buddhism particularly interesting where they look at mindfulness and the instruction to avoid emotional attachments to the physical world (Lesson 15 & 16). As might be expected for a philosophy that evolved over a couple of millennia, there are apparent contradictions that could use a fear amount of personal mediation … such at the recognition that we are all connected (Part 4) being opposed to the tenant that one should look to your self first (Lessons 37). Regardless, this is a solid first step of a potentially life changing journey that is worth a tilt.

    Part 1: Life Is Only Perception - The mind rules over everything
    1. Mens Omnia Regit
    2. Train Perception
    3. Override Initial Reactions
    4. Trochotomy of Control
    5. Mindfulness
    6. The Inner Citadel
    Part 2: Keep Perspective - Accept everything that happens
    7. Amor Fati
    8. Cosmic Perspective
    9. Break the Hedonic Treadmill
    10. Memento Mori
    11. Fair Bookkeeping
    12. Poverty is a State of Mind
    Part 3: Downside Protection - Turn obstacles into opportunities/action 
    13. Wand of Hermes
    14. Premeditatio Malorum
    15. Fate only Lends
    16. Self-Denial
    17. Decatastrophize
    18. Change the Point of View
    Part 4: Sympatheia - It takes a village; we all depend on each other
    19. Cosmopolitanism
    20. We’re More Similar Than Different
    21. Forgive Wrongs of Others
    22. Focus on Virtues, Not Flaws
    23. Improve Others
    24. Show Appreciation
    25. Character is All That Matters
    Part 5: Pragmatism - Set realistic expectations
    26. Stop Complaining
    27. Don’t Seek Recognition
    28. Don’t Seek Happiness (which is a by-production of virtue)
    29. Choose Friends Wisely
    30. Have a Sense of Humor
    31. Control Your Anger
    32. Be Humble
    Part 6: Practice - Nobody is perfect
    33. Philosophy Takes Priority
    34. Learn For Yourself
    35. Excellence is a Habit
    36. Action, Not Words
    37. Protect Your Time
    38. Watch The Wise
    39. The Power of Reminders
    40. Create a New Path

    I was given this free advance review copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

    #TheStoicArsenal #BookSirens.

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    Thursday, February 10, 2022

    Review: Stranger in a Strange Land

    Stranger in a Strange Land Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein
    My rating: 2 of 5 stars

    I seem to be hit-or-miss with Heinlein. I have read and enjoyed Starship Troopers and The Glory Road; however I couldn't finish Job: A Comedy of Justice and was not impressed with Stranger in a Strange Land (SISL) ... It is simply NOT good Science-Fiction (even if it is a fair piece of satire).

    The book is divided into five (5) parts ...

    Part One [His Maculate Origin] was a good Sci-Fi plot that I actually enjoyed ... the premise being that of a lost human boy raised by non-humans (in this case Martians) along the lines of Tarzan of the Apes and The Jungle Book (which is thought to have been his original inspiration for the story). Next to nothing is actually revealed about Valentine Michael (Mike) Smith's time with his adoptive people, but the story keeps humming along with a little political intrigue and mystery. Unfortunately the plot begins to sink after this until it practically disappears by the end. The koolest concept here has to be the 'Fair Witness' characters ... A very limited version of human machine proxies that could easily be the precursor to the better developed Mentats of the Dune saga.

    Part Two [His Preposterous Heritage] introduces what is arguably the true main character in the story and Heinlein's alter ego, Jubal Harshaw, who proceeds to introduce 'Mike' to all the ills of human society. This wasn't all that bad a satire actually, even when Jubal waxes on the sermon a bit too much (it had the feel of watching re-runs of "Abbott and Costello', 'I Love Lucy' or 'The Dick Van Dyke Show.') Mike really takes a back seat here so that Jubal can pontificate at will, but the humor of it all was still mildly entertaining. Presumably Jubal's female secretaries provide the strong gender examples that Heinlein is noted for ... They are also incredibly shallow and boring (or as presented in one discussion thread ... They differ by a haircut). There is absolutely NO character development for anybody except Mike from here on out; and as far a Mikey is concerned, all of his character development happens all at once as he is 'wondrously converted from Tarzan/Mogli into the next Messiah of humanity. We also get two main plot items ... The term 'grok' which became a cult classic in the late 60's and the revelation that Mike has a super power to go with his naiveté that just about blows any plot discipline out of the water for the remainder of the story.

    "Thou Art G-d" saith the Man from Mars ...

    The rest is a complete Grokk.

    Part Three [His Eccentric Education] was an attempt to develop Mike a little further so that he learns the 'art of the con' that is apparently required to make a go of any religion. Mike needs this, because he wants to harness such shams to 'trick' humans into accepting his rather dubious views on human society (which social change has now exposed as mildly sexist and homophobic).

    Part Four [His Scandalous Career] Here is where Jubal comes back on stage in order whip the reader with guilt to make it easier to accept Heinlein's free love society. That is really all that you find here. We get such gems as: "I can at least see the beauty of Mike's attempt to devise an ideal human ethic and applaud his recognition that such a code must be founded on ideal sexual behavior ..." Really? Even if accepted as true, Heinlein completely FAILS to explore this concept other then to say that it is obviously good. To support his claim, he gives us a voyeuristic look into his 'Nest' (aka Harem) where such physical contact is open, natural and without jealousy BECAUSE everyone is an equally great looking sex god following the true path to happiness. The problem? We the reader get NO insight into how Mike's disciples change their thinking. They just do ... Possibly because they now see the inherent 'rightness' of the concept once it is properly explained to them (the only instance we get of that is between Jubal and Ben Caxton and that is left unresolved at the end of the encounter).

    Part Five [His Happy Destiny] After such a stinging rebuke of Christianity (specifically) earlier in the story, it seems surprising the Heinlein would so blatantly force the 'Passion of Christ' upon his protagonist here; and with very little rationale other then some need to highlight one of his more hypocritical definitions of 'grok' that includes consuming the physical body of a person in order to truly know him. Add to this a complete moral bankrupcy where it is okay to cheat, steal and kill as needed and I do not see any appeal what so ever to Heinlein's proposed utopia. Sure ... I get the fact that the story is not supposed to be realistic (it is supposed to be satire) and that it was not intended to be a guide to a practical utopia, but that just doesn't save the later half of the story from being so preachy and simpleminded that it not only obscures the "important questions" about contemporary social mores (specifically sex and religion), it actually fails to entertain with its long-winded monologs defending the 'rightness' of the title character's views on the subjects. While Heinlein may not have intended to provide convenient answers to the questions he thought he was raising, that is in fact what he did, displaying a remarkable ignorance of basic human psychology that ultimately dooms his 'social commentary' to failure.

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    Tuesday, February 8, 2022

    Review: The Last Shadow

    The Last Shadow The Last Shadow by Orson Scott Card
    My rating: 4 of 5 stars

    Full disclosure: I am a huge fan of the Enderverse, with Ender's Game sitting on my top 10 shelf. The Enderverse is basically divided into two parts: Ender’s Saga which of course follows Ender’s life … and the Shadow Series which follows the lives of his supporting cast. However, the style of the books after Ender’s Game was markedly different, taking a more thought provoking or philosophical approach that I found interesting, but not all that exciting. Generally the Shadow Series was a return the the original style of that first book, retelling the same story from a different perspective and I really enjoyed them. The Last Shadow is much more like Speaker for the Dead and Xenocide … and I highly recommend that you read through at least that far before reading this book, which actually picks up sometime after Children of the Mind and tones down the weirdness a little.

    Ender is Dead … Long Live Ender.

    Basic Premise
    … you got an apocalyptic virus with a team trying to save humanity
    … you got crazy genius kids (vaguely connected to Ender) straight from the Big Bang Theory that can help figure out who dunnit
    … you got space travel with time dilation (so 1000s of years in the future) with super secret blink tech to give you a “first contact” situation without the centuries of waiting.
    … despite all the bickering, all the kool kids are way civilized and rarely challenged much … it was amusing in a Calvin and Hobbes sort of way.

    Even with all of that silliness … I really enjoyed the book … reading it in just under two days, so it does pull you along nicely. Parts can come across as a tad preachy, but not too bad or over the top … and it does get you thinking about “things.” I would say it is not his best work, but it was better than Children of the Mind, so in that respect I am rounding up to four (4) stars.

    I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

    #TheLastShadow #NetGalley

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    Sunday, February 6, 2022

    Review: The Christian Moral Life: Directions for the Journey to Happiness

    The Christian Moral Life: Directions for the Journey to Happiness The Christian Moral Life: Directions for the Journey to Happiness by John Rziha
    My rating: 5 of 5 stars

    Performance: Let's be real ... I expected this book to read like a text book and that's okay because I am very interested in the topic. This makes evaluating the narration difficult ... so I started with a comparison to my college professors somewhat monotonous lectures (multiple character voices are obviously missing). In that regard, I enjoyed Andrew's performance. His tone and cadence varied just enough to keep me paying attention to the content ... which is the goal here right?

    Story: The first part of the book explores "ethical concept" of what it means to be created "in the image of G*d" ... specifically what is the soul and what is its connection to the body. The text skillfully includes references to some of the greatest Christian Theologist of the Western Faith to support the authors narrative (without subordinating the author's voice to these great thinkers). As might be expected, there are a few assumptions that are necessary to fully accept the philosophical arguments built upon these assumptions; principle of these would be the assumption that the reason or purpose behind the creation of man was for man to seek a knowing and loving relationship with his creator ... to be in harmony with body and soul and creation itself (aka perfection or paradise). Once the archtype of creation has been established, the author then explores the fallen nature of man. Finally the book gets to the whole point of the journey ... how do we get back to where we were ...

    Bottomline ... I learned a lot from this book that I didn't know or had not thought about. That gives this a solid 4 stars. The fact that I anticipate coming back to this book to reinforce my understanding of the material gives it another star (I rarely come back to books after the first read)

    Highly Recommended for any who wish to explore human morality.

    I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

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    Thursday, February 3, 2022

    Review: A Game of Thrones

    A Game of Thrones A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
    My rating: 3 of 5 stars

    This book was all about trade-offs. On the one hand, Martin introduces a fair amount of complex political intrigue and (what seemed like) realism in his world building gave it just enough grit to appear different then the standard epic (low) fantasy I had grown used to. In fact, some time later I read that Martin was quite pleased with the fact that just because a character was a 'good' guy, doesn't mean he will survive the story ... the only problem was that it really was difficult to find them. Jon Snow was perhaps the only individual I liked much at all, but his story seemed to be there to set him up for something much later. The nominal hero of the story was probably Eddard ... whose complete rigidity and lack of empathy really made him a detestable figure, despite his adherence to honor et. al. It was not until the War started that the story started to redeem itself ... And it did so admirably. The War of the Five Kings was the best part of the book; but even that drops a star because of the number and frequent changes of the various Points of View within (8 total POV across 3 major plotlines). 

    This was THE most frustrating aspect of the book as every single switch made it real easy to put the book down and forget about it for awhile (at least until the later part of the book where I was more tempted to just skip ahead and ignore the crap in between ... Then maybe going back and reading the next POV/storyline parts. I did struggle through to the end though ... And the irritation faded enough that I purchased the next book in the series after finding it in a yard sale for a quarter ... And it wasn't long before I encountered enough 'realism' and not enough 'idealism' to decide that this series wasn't as good as I had remembered. Parts of it were really fun; parts of it I really intensely disliked and I would have preferred to do without. I still haven't read past book two.

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    Tuesday, February 1, 2022

    Review: Raven: Reawakening

    Raven: Reawakening Raven: Reawakening by Mitchell Hogan
    My rating: 4 of 5 stars

    It’s a pretty common trope; a reluctant assassin fakes their death to escape the master’s control who then makes an abortive attempt to remove loose ends once they figure out the ruse. Fortunately Hogan does this fairly well, giving you a fun, basic hero’s journey with a relatable anti-hero. In addition, there isn’t much development outside of the MC PoV, which makes the story fairly straight forward if you actually like Raven; which I did. 

    However, it was the world building that put this book on my favorites shelf. The magic system was something that was well developed and something that I had not seen before, with the source of magic coming from dawn, dust and the abyss/demonic. World elements were introduced as needed and appropriate, always leaving a bit of mystery to keep you moving forward, but as the details are finally filled in, any sequels will need to focus more on the characters then what we see here in order to stay relevant and interesting (there is an obvious conflict between opposing groups developing, but not yet front and center) … for the first of a series, it was a good balance with a few twists to keep the reader on their toes.

    I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

    #RavenReawakening #NetGalley.

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    My Ratings Explained ...

    • [ ***** ] Amazing Read - Perfect story, exciting, engrossing, well developed complex characters, solid plot with few to no holes, descriptive environments and place settings, great mystery elements, realistic dialogue, believable reactions and behaviors; a favorite that I can re-read many times.
    • [ **** ] Great Read - Highly entertaining and enjoyable, exciting storyline, well developed characters and settings, a few discrepancies but nothing that can’t be overlooked. Some aspect of the story was new/refreshing to me and/or intriguing. Recommended for everyone.
    • [ *** ] Good Read - Solid story with a 'good' ending, or has some other redeeming feature. Limited character development and/or over reliance on tropes. Noticeable discrepancies in world building and/or dialog/behavior that were distracting. I connected enough with the characters/world to read the entire series. Most of the books I read for fun are here. Recommended for fans of the genre.
    • [ ** ] Okay Read - Suitable for a brief, afternoon escape … flat or shallow characters with little to no development. Over the top character dialog and/or behavior. Poor world building with significant issues and/or mistakes indicating poor research. Excessive use of trivial detail, info dumps and/or pontification. Any issues with the story/characters are offset by some other aspect that I enjoyed. Not very memorable. May only appeal to a niche group of readers. Recommended for some (YMMV).
    • [ * ] Bad Read - Awkward and/or confusing writing style. Poor world building and/or unbelievable (or unlikeable) characters. Victimization, gaslighting, blatant abuse, unnecessary violence, child endangerment, or any other highly objectionable behaviors by Main characters. I didn't connect with the story at all; significant aspects of this story irritated me enough that I struggled to finished it. Series was abandoned. Not recommended.