If you enjoy literary fiction with strong moral themes and a bit of satire and dark humor, Mark Lages is the guy for you. He also writes science fiction, so if you’re like me, you’ll probably be tempted to choose Mr. Booker’s Summer Vacation. I received this book for free as a subscriber to his newsletter. If you’d like to receive a free book from Lages, sign up for his newsletter and he’ll ship one out to you—of your choice. And he’s got quite a list! The images are only of those books that I have. He’s not paying me to share this information. I just think he’s a great writer with beautiful pros and thought provoking messages. You can drop by his website at https://marklages.com/ to subscribe. His offer ends October 15, 2021. Let me know how you like his stories. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.
Title: The Phantom of Faerie Mountain
Author: E.M. McIntyre
Genre: Fantasy, YA, Middle-grade
Year Published: 2015
Date finished: April 9, 2021
The Phantom of Faerie Mountain, by E.M. McIntyre is a young adult/middle-grade fantasy story about a fourteen-year-old girl named Abby who finds herself in a world of magic and mystery.
This was a really fun read! Abby is a curious girl with a big heart. She’s not afraid of danger and will do whatever it takes to find out the truth. She also learns some secrets about her own family and herself.
This is a great story for young readers. It would also be a great bed-time story to read to the little ones. The dangers, the friendships, the talking dog, etc. all play an important role in Abby’s journey. I really liked Rory’s character. I loved his accent.
Who should read this: Everyone. It’s the kind of book that takes you away from reality and into a fun magical world. There’s no gore or deadly violence so all can enjoy it.
Title: Jonathan’s Vows
Author: Mark Lages
Genre: Literary fiction
Year Published: 2021
Date finished: March 30, 2021
Jonathan’s Vows by Mark Lages is a literary fiction novel about a young man who is about to get married and is writing his vows. In the process he reflects on his life. The story begins with the wedding and leads to the honeymoon, to buying his first house, to having his first child, and so on. There is sort of a chronological order to this story yet includes stories that are out of order. And, it’s written like a memoir yet includes a second person point-of-view: his wife. This is uniquely done.
I loved this book! The style is very different from anything I’ve read. Lages took something so simple and created this beautiful story about a man’s journey through life—through ups and downs. In the end, you’re left feeling like life is okay. If you’re ever too hard on yourself, read this book. It will make you see yourself in a much kinder way. It put a smile on my face. I laughed at times and sympathized other times. It’s wonderfully written.
Who should read this book: Everyone. It’s a book that we can all learn from. There are no lessons to teach and there are no end goals. It’s a simple story about one man’s life, yet there is so much to get out of.
Title: Gideon the Ninth
Author: Tamsyn Muir
Genre: Fantasy, Dystopian, Grimdark
Year Published: 2019
Date finished: March 25, 2021
Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir is a dark fantasy about a sort of princess, known as the Reverend Daughter, and her guard/soldier/protector. They were invited to an event where the game was about who wins and who dies. The soldier, Gideon, initially had no interest in being a part of this. She had her own plans to escape the House, but the Reverend Daughter found a way to keep her from leaving. The event was super brutal and extremely gory.
A couple of things I really enjoyed about this book:
- The writing is beautiful. The prose is very unique and left me completely amazed.
- The relationship between Gideon and the Reverend Daughter was superb. It starts out with both women detesting each other. One would not give in to the other. With the Reverend Daughter having most of the control, she was able to force Gideon to do as she says. The two eventually began to understand each other and eventually got on good terms. I thought this was nicely done.
One thing I want to point out is that the style of writing can be difficult to understand. I found myself looking up quite a few words. The story style reminds me of Dune by Frank Herbert. It’s a very complex storyline with layers and a lot of characters to remember. The world was fascinating. It’s got swords, magic, skeletons, trains, futuristic things.
I really enjoyed this book. I believe the relationship leaned toward LGBT, but it wasn’t in-your-face. I didn’t get that impression at all. It was subtle. You knew, but it wasn’t forced.
Who should read this: All lovers of fantasy, magic, future worlds, and horror and gore. The worldbuilding is extravagant. It’s a really amazing book.
Title: Dark Lover
Author: J.R. Ward
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Erotica
Year Published: 2018
Date finished: March 10, 2021
Dark Lover by J.R. Ward is an urban fantasy erotica romance about a vampire named Wrath who was asked to turn a half human half vampire woman into full vampire. Before he even considered doing the job, he’d already fallen in love with her. There’s more to the story but this is basically what I got out of it.
The romance came on quickly. There was no doubt between Wrath and the woman. The erotica was subtle. I’ve read erotica where the erotica was the focal point. Not so in this story. There’s a relationship.
Overall, I enjoyed it. This was my first urban fantasy vampire romance novel. The only other vampire story I read was I Am Legend by Richard Matheson, but it was in a totally different genre (sci-fi apocalyptic dystopian) so the two can’t be compared. Dark Lover was a fun and fast paced read. What I liked most about it was the relationship. It was refreshing to read something in the romance area where the couple didn’t fight with each other. Wrath was very protective and a gentleman—something I haven’t read in a long time where romance is part of the plot.
Who should read this: If you’re into romance/erotica romance, hot and steamy guy, and a world where vampires are the norm, this is for you. The writing is excellent and easy to read. It’s the kind of book you want to escape into.
Title: The Mask Falling (Book 4 of The Bone Season Series)
Author: Samantha Shannon
Genre: Paranormal Sci-fi
Year Published: 2021
Date finished: February 7, 2021
The Mask Falling by Samantha Shannon is the fourth book in the paranormal sci-fi, The Bone Season Series. After her recovery, Paige Mahoney finds herself working for a new group of people in what is known as the Domino Program. In her quest to learn more about the events to come, she takes the chance and goes against the group’s directives. Chaos ensues both in her choices and events she wasn’t aware of. The story ends in a cliffhanger.
I enjoyed this book. I also really liked that Warden was in the background. Initially, I wanted more of him, but I think Ms. Shannon sprinkled enough of him that it didn’t feel too overpowering or not enough. It was perfectly done. There were quite a few new characters thrown in that really helped move the story along. There were also characters from the previous books that I was happy to see again.
Who should read this book: Anyone who’s into paranormal sci-fi/fantasy, romance, action, dystopian societies. It’s a great book to escape to with excellent world building and unique characters. Even if you’re not into paranormal, I think you’ll find this book enjoyable.
Title: The Lost Queen
Author: Signe Pike
Year Published: 2018
The Lost Queen by Signe Pike is a novel written through the eyes of Languoreth, the daughter of Morken, a high chieftain in the Kingdom of Strathclyde. We follow Languoreth from ten-years-old until her mid-thirties.
The story takes place in 550 AD (6th century) in what is now Scotland. It is basically a different version and angle of the legend of King Arthur (Uther Pendragon). The focus isn’t on the legend that we are familiar with, instead it is about the family who took in the young Uther. In the book Uther is known as Gwenddolau and we only get glimpses of him. The focus is on Languoreth and her struggle between desperately wanting to help her brother, Lailoken (who is a warrior as well as the spiritual advisor to Gwenddalau out in the Borderlands), and her family in Strathclyde.
I found the first half of the story a little slow. It didn’t pick up until halfway, but when it did pick up, it was amazing. I loved it. I’m a die-hard King Arthur/Merlin fan and anything having to do with this legend, I pretty much eat it up. I really enjoyed this angle from a queen who played a huge part in the lives of those warriors.
To me, Languoreth is a little bit of Catelyn Stark from A Song of Ice and Fire and Aelswith from The Last Kingdom. What makes her different is that she’s not so strong mentally when it comes to relationships. She has a hard time letting go. She has this ideal image of what love is and for some reason it creates unnecessary conflict. I can’t relate to her in that sense, but I do love her character.
The book is well written with flowy and beautifully orchestrated words. It’s like a magical piece of artwork. It’s just brilliant.
Title: Fake Like Me
Author: Barbara Bourland
Genre: Fiction, Thriller
Year Published: 2019
Fake Like Me is a thriller by Barbara Bourland. The story is written in first person point-of-view through a no-name narrator who starts out as an art student and moves her way upward.
While in art school, the narrator becomes obsessed with a particular art student named Carey Logan. After graduating, Carey and her artist friends soon create attention grabbing visual art. They work as a team becoming very famous and banking. The narrator puts Carey on a pedestal and hopes to one day have talent and fame like Carey.
Things are not as they seem and suddenly Carey decides she doesn’t want to do art anymore. Instead, she wants to be an actor. The narrator found that odd and wondered what made Carey change her mind. Then, Carey drowns in a lake and the narrator is even more curious as to the cause.
The narrator loses her apartment in a fire and decides to move into a cabin in a village exclusive to exceptionally talented artists, and where Carey lived. Carey’s friends were all still there and narrator hoped to learn the cause of Carey’s death through them, but everyone is hush-hush, including the narrator’s girlfriend, Max, who lives in the neighborhood but in a gorgeous home.
While getting around the village, the narrator gets to know Tyler (Carey’s boyfriend) and falls in love with him. She also hoped that he’d be the one to tell her about Carey’s death, but he refused to talk about anything having to do with Carey. In fact, no one wanted to talk about Carey, not even Max.
With the narrator’s pushing, everything is eventually revealed and with this revelation, the narrator becomes a stronger person.
This story was one crazy ride and I loved every bit of it. I found it strange that the narrator didn’t have a first or last name. The story was written so well that I didn’t even know she didn’t have a name until I finished the story and went back to find where I had missed her name, only to find that it was never mentioned. Good trickery there.
I enjoyed the buildup, the tension, the confusion, the curiosity, the way the characters tried to hide the truth (they were good at it), and the determination the narrator had at finding the truth. It was one great story that had me reading until 5am in the morning. That’s right, it was one those books where I kept saying, “Just one more chapter then I’ll go to bed.” This book is definitely up there with the thrillers, mysteries, and suspense.
This was a free Amazon book I chose to read and review for Vine.
Title: Selected Stories of Philip K. Dick
Author: Philip K. Dick
Genre: Fiction, Sci-fi, Fantasy
Year Published: 2013
Selected Stories of Philip K. Dick is a collection of short stories in sci-fi and fantasy by Philip K. Dick. I would say it’s some of his best works. There are 21 stories and they were all enjoyable, but my favorites were:
“Beyond Lies the Wub”
“The King of the Elves”
“The Minority Report”
“The Days of Perky Pat”
“We Can Remember It for You Wholesale”
“Faith of Our Fathers”
“The Exit Door Leads in”
“I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon”
PKD has had quite a few of his short stories and novels made into movies and TV series/episodes. Since this post is about his short stories from Selected Stories of Philip K. Dick, I’ll only be mentioning the movie adaptations from these stories. I should also mention that if you have time, read the stories first. However, if you don’t have time because you have a long list of TBRs like I do, then watch the movies.
Adaptations (those marked in red are what I’ve seen):
“Second Variety” – Screamers (1995); Screamers: The Hunting (2009)
“Paycheck” – Paycheck (2003)
“Adjustment Team” – The Adjustment Bureau (2011)
“Autofac” – Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams episode (2017)
“The Minority Report” – Minority Report (2002); Minority Report TV sequel adaptation (2015)
“We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” – Total Recall (1990); Total Recall (2012); Total Recall 2070 TV series (1999)
Looks like I have a lot of watching to do. If you’ve seen any of these shows, let me know what you thought and if they are worth watching. I didn’t realize PKD had so many of his stories adapted. I think it’s crazy awesome because now I don’t have any excuse not watch TV when I have nothing else to do (non-existent, really) or need a break.
Title: Jesus and Magdalene
Author: João Cerqueira
Genre: Fiction, Literary, Satire, Contemporary
Year Published: 2015, 2016
Jesus and Magdalene by João Cerqueira is a contemporary fiction with satire and thought-provoking points. The story follows Jesus and Mary Magdalene as they try to figure out how to stop environmental damage, greed, and racism.
In the story, Magdalene is an environmental activist working for a group known as Green Are the Fields. This group consists of the apostles and Jesus’s mother, Mary. Judas is the leader of the group and while everyone goes along with his plans, Magdalene somewhat begins to listen to Jesus on a different approach. Jesus isn’t part of the group. He comes into the picture a little later, appearing from thin air. Magdalene brings him along to where the group was camping near the farm where genetically modified (GM) corn was being grown. They were planning to destroy the crops, but Jesus told them it was better to teach the farmer about the effects of GM rather than destroy his property.
The story jumps from GM crops to a town where a resort was going up. The labor and services provided from the resort would in turn provide money to the townspeople and boost their economy. However, greed from the engineers led to a terribly built hotel and thus nothing came of that town.
Then, the story jumps to a future Europe where gypsies, blacks, and whites live among each other. Things were peaceful until one group began blaming the other and things ended badly for everyone, including Jesus and Magdalene.
This was a very interesting story. I found myself enjoying it. I’d have to agree that in our world today, if Jesus suddenly appeared, he would actually be like the Jesus described in the book. However, if he was born and raised from birth in our world today, I believe he would have found a way to do what he could to make the world a better place. It’s not that he wasn’t trying in the book, he just wasn’t given the momentum as he was given in the New Testament. With that said, what if Jesus is actually in our world today and doing just that (making a difference) and we just don’t realize it like the characters in the book?
There were a couple things I found lacking. One was that the three chapters had no real ending or resolution. The third chapter also ended very quickly with little explanation. And two, none of the chapters came together to form one cohesive story. That aside, I didn’t find either of these points to impede the message and the sarcasm of it all.
The book is a great conversation starter and worth the read. I didn’t get the feel that the author was forcing anything onto me. It was satire at its finest. If you are faithfully religious, I’d recommend reading it with an open mind.
NOTE: This book was given to me to read and review, but the opinion is purely my own.