Book Review: The Dragon’s In the Details

Chism, Holly. The Dragon’s In the Details. 2023 Kindle edition

Dragons come in small packages. And not so small. This collection of short stories features dragons in urban fantasy – big dragons, small, tiny, numerous, and singular. And all of them are life-changing for the women and men who encounter them.

The first story begins with a tired mother and a daughter who is a bit disconcerted to discover a basset-sized reptile in the young lady’s wagon. Happily, the dragon is housebroken. Another story features a pocket-sized dragon. In some cases, the dragons change size, or mass (mostly). They can be singular or numerous. In all cases, they are forces for good.

One of the linking themes in these short stories is healing. The human characters recover from the past, from sorrow, from bad deals or other problems. Another theme is self-reliance.All the characters are doing what they can with what they have when a dragon or two appear in their lives.

The stories are all short, as is the collection. It is a treat of a book to be dipped in and out of, or read through. I’d recommend reading and coming back. There is a similarity in the stories beyond theme and style. This isn’t bad, just noticeable in spots. It’s light as well. Any violence is limited, and makes the collection suitable for mid-teens and up.

It’s a fun little read, good for a rainy afternoon, or waiting for an appointment, or any time you want some dragons in your life. (And cats. there are a few cats as well. More or less. Ish.)

FTC Disclaimer: I purchased this book for my own use and received no remuneration or consideration from the author for this review.


Book Review: Between Two Graves

Grant, Dorothy. Between Two Graves: Combined Operations Book 4. Kindle edition, 2022.

When home isn’t “home,” and family is what you make, what does it mean to be ordered back to the place of your birth and your genetic kin? AJ, a career space-soldier, and his (fairly new) wife Jenna go back to his birth family for his mother’s funeral. Things are different. The roads are actually roads (mostly), the new house is large and pretty modern, and his siblings’ kids are tall because they actually got enough to eat. And the bad guys are hanging around because they literally want to buy the farm, the family property. AJ would prefer that they bought the farm in the metaphorical sense.

Then the shooting, back-stabbing, sibling rivalry, and casserole serving begins . . .

Between Two Graves is a little different from the other books in this series, because the main characters are not falling in love. They are already married and are navigating the shoals of “Um, Jenna, this is the family”—all two hundred or so of them. OK, not that many, but AJ comes with a goodly number of kinfolk. Some of whom still detest, despise, dislike, or disregard him. The feeling is rather mutual, and Jenna pours oil on waters when she’s not giving as good as she gets.

If that were not enough drama, the Feds show up and crash the “party.” Why do they want the farm? And what’s the secret hiding up in the rough pasture on the hills? And most important of all, why does AJ even bother hoping that a shopping trip with Jenna will end quietly? She’s 2-0 for “I was just looking at clothes! I didn’t start it.”

The book is very well written, and the cultural differences between parts of the Empire become very clear. Grant explains the blessings and curses of a justice system based on older values than the Imperial “normal,” and goes deeper into the difference between AJ’s military training and equipment as compared to earlier characters in the series. Conditioning someone who fights outside the hull of a space ship to go “cold” and freeze when shocked or injured makes excellent sense. What works in-atmosphere isn’t so great when only a space-suit separates you from Space. Grant weaves the tech bits in deftly and as appropriate.

This series has been called “tactical romance” because the military actions are realistic for the world and the situation. The romance is about people finding each other, and coming home, even if that home doesn’t include blood kin.

FTC NOTICE: I purchased this book for my own used and got no remuneration from the author or publisher for this review.

Book Review: Breverton’s Phantasmagoria

Breverton, Terry. Breverton’s Phantasmagoria: A Compendium of Monsters, Myths, and Legends. (London: Quercus Publishing Plc. 2011)

Some days, or times of day, you just want something you can pick up, nibble for a page or two, then set aside. This is that sort of book. If you want to read about the Gordian Knot, the Ship of Fools, The Flying Dutchman, learn if snakes really do flee from naked men, or puzzled over the story of Prince Madoc, you can find all that and more in this book. It is great for trivia buffs, writers in search of plot seeds or McGuffins, or people who occasionally read while in the, ahem, Reading Room.

I get the feeling that Mr. Breverton collected odd bits and things, snippets and archaeology reports and mythologies and folk lore and archaeological reports a bit like a bower bird. It is a book you can read through by topic, or just open at a random page and nibble at random moments. The writing style is light and somewhat breezy. A few things I sort of shook my head at, because there’s a bit of “gee-whiz!” at times. Spaceflight in the Mahabarata? Um, I’d like to see other translations of the text. The book starts with people, then monsters and ghosts, then magical places (real and otherwise), flying monsters and odd things in the sky. Mysteries of the deep comes next, then strange artefacts and maps and stuff, treasure tales (Oak Island again), and wraps up with “is this legend true? Well, here’s what inspired it.)

All in all it is a fun book, and the two things that I back-tracked he was correct as far as sources went (did a boloid explosion do-in Soddom and Gamorrah? Quite possible, which led to my reading about something similar, at about the same time, in the Alps.)

The book is available on Kindle, but that takes some of the fun of “open to a random page” out of it. Breverton seems to be a trivia buff, because he has several more themed titles.

Two paws up.

FTC Note: I purchased this book with my own funds, and received no remuneration for this review.

Book Review: Pearl of Fire

Chancy, C. Pearl of Fire (Kindle Edition).

Life inside the caldera of an active volcano is interesting. Life in an active volcano kept in check by magic, and threatened by followers of a fire-god, is a bit too interesting for Allen Helleson, police detective and elemental Spirit worker. And theologian, but that’s the family business and he tries to keep out of that. When blind fire-worker Shane Redstone stops a bomb from igniting a chain reaction that would wipe out part of the city, Halleson has to sort out what to do with her, and to find whoever set the bomb.

A fantasy police procedural, and the story of a woman still fighting a war she can no longer see, Pearl of Fire starts with a near-bang and wraps tighter and tighter. Caldera City is just that – a city in an active volcano, one tamed by magic and populated by dragons. The people fled war and an implacable foe, taking shelter in a place too dangerous for any others. However, their enemies will stop at nothing to eliminate the calderans. The calderans believe that the Lord of Light made five elements, all of which people might use, should they be so blessed. Shane Redstone was the army’s strongest fire worker until a curse blinded her. Allen Helleson has a weak spirit gift, but one that allows him to sense truth and falsehood. That is a valuable talent for a police officer, even one from outside Caldera City. Helleson left his family because he believes that the laws should be followed. Redstone too follows the law . . . in her own ways.

Chancy weaves a fast-paced tale in a rich, detailed world. She elides some things, leaving it to the reader to fill in what are sketched outlines. Helleson, Redstone, and the others are believable people, and Helleson’s struggle to balance his faith and his dawning understanding of outside evil unfolds well. As with her other books (Seeds of Blood and A Net of Dawn and Bones), religion plays a major role. Yes, the bad-guys’ faith resembles that in the non-fiction world, but humans have developed several ideologies that include “believe what I say or I will destroy you.” Some are called political systems, not religions, but the same mental pattern exists, alas. However, the book is far more about Redstone and Helleson as people, and about solving a mystery, than about religion. The tension between bureaucracies is, alas, a bit too realistic for my taste, but credit-claiming is also a human universal whenever two or more departments compete for budgets and praise.

There is room for a sequel, and I hope Chancy writes one. I agree with one on-line reviewer that the followers of Ba’al are a bit too close to an existing real-world faith, but they are more of the outside driver of the story. The characters of Redstone and Helleson are the core of the book, and both suffer and grow, coming from rather different places to work together and—perhaps—find peace and friendship. Or at least not kill each other before they get the problem solved!

FTC Notice: I purchased this book with my own funds for my own use, and received no remuneration or consideration from the author or publisher for this review.

Book Review: 1620

Wood, Peter W. 1620: A Critical Response to the 1619 Project. (New York: Encounter Books, 2020)

The New York Times sponsored the 1619 Project to tell a previously ignored aspect of the history of the US. At least, that was the original claim. The actual project paints all of US history as a product of the importation of chattel slavery and its evils to the English colonies in 1619. Peter W. Wood, former president of the National Association of Scholars, penned this rebuttal and critique. In his view, the signing of the Mayflower Compact of 1620 is far more important start-point for the American story. Continue reading

Book Review: Unmasked

Ngo, Andy. Unmasked: Inside Antifa’s Radical Plan to Destroy Democracy. (New York: Center Street Press, 2021)

Andy Ngo’s book, Unmasked, pulls together the history, methodology, and activities of Antifa. Although they proclaim themselves to be fighting fascists, their tactics and philosophy copy those used by the Fascists, the fighting wing of the NSDAP and it’s successors, and of course, the Communist Antifascistiche Aktion of Germany in the 1920s-30s. Ngo connects the past with the present, showing how the movement came to the US and what its goals are. For some of us, this is well-known material. Even so, it is worth reading. Continue reading

Books That Shape You

No, not that one about weight-lifting that made everything click, or the aerobics instruction guide. 😛

I’m thinking of titles that were just what you needed at a certain point in your life, or that served as a touchstone (perhaps still do), or inspired you to hold on more tightly and try one more time (“Mary Ellen Carter” books). They might be associated with a religion, or perhaps not. Continue reading