Tag Archives: fantasy


The man opens his eyes and finds himself strapped to a strange hospital bed. His naked body has electrodes plastered head to toe and tubes infiltrating every orifice. His “nurse” is a pair of robotic arms; the voice, feminine, with an emotionless drone. With sleep heavy eyes he scans the room and sees mummified remains in the other two beds. It seems he’s been “asleep” a long time. He doesn’t know how long because he doesn’t remember anything including his name.

After freeing himself, he stumbles around in search of someone or something to explain his circumstances.  Stunned he discovers he is completely alone on a space ship hurdling through space with no idea how he got there or why.

Suddenly a neuron fires in his head, and he has a blip of memory. He is in a coffee shop in San Francisco. He’s reading an email from the Pulkovo Observatory in Russia soliciting theories to explain why a line of infrared emissions are leaving the sun, dimming it, and heading toward Venus in a widening arc.

“Apparently my brain decided it was critical that I remember that email. Not trivial things like my own name.”

As Ryland Grace puts the puzzle together, he asks himself, “Why have I, a Junior High School science teacher ended up on a space ship? ” We learn, in a highly technical and scientific manner, that his presence on the ship wasn’t exactly voluntary but necessary. The sun is losing energy rapidly to some unknown space algae they named Astrophages. As a result, Earth faces a rapidly developing ice age leading to extinction of all life in the near future.  Quoting Martin Luther King, “We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now.”

When he puts it all together, Grace makes a decision. His death is a foregone conclusion. Might as well see if he can save the Earth before that happens. And in his search for an answer to save the world, he finds he isn’t as alone as he thought.

Revealing any more will spoil the story. I will give a heads up. This is a science fiction novel. It has a lot of technical jargon and space science stuff. Understanding and comprehending that material not my strong suit. I stuck to the pathos, ingenuity, jerry rigging, loneliness, entertainment, witty sequences, and humor that our reluctant and inexperienced astronaut provided. Space geeks seem to have a harder time accepting the plot. I did not feel I lost anything by skimming through the equations and astro-geek speak. To me, the heart of the story had a richer more personal message – loyalty and friendship – that left me cheering at the unexpected ending. I really enjoyed the book. (The Martian remains my favorite though.)

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“The old gods may be great, but they are neither kind nor merciful. . . If you insist on calling them, take heed: be careful what you ask for, be willing to pay the price . . .  And no matter how desperate or dire, never pray to gods that answer after dark.

July 29, 1714 should have been a joyful day for Adeline LaRue. It was her wedding day. The day most women in her Catholic based faith community accepted freely. The day girls all trained for under the tutelage of their mothers. But Adeline was different. She was that child that wanted to see over the next hill looking for adventure. As she matured, she wanted freedom to explore the world at large not trapped to a life of hard work on the farm with no individual freedoms under the thumb of a husband. 

She idolized the freedom held by the old woman who lived alone in the woods. The old woman taught her that there were ancient gods that came before organized religion but worshiping them was dangerous. Adeline listened carefully when the old woman told her, “If you are going to pray to the old gods, you must sacrifice something precious to you. If they choose to answer, be ready to pay the price they demand and never pray to night gods!

When Adeline was twenty-four-years old, her father, unwell and looking out for her future care, arranged a Catholic marriage to a widower. She had successfully averted suitors in the past, she believed because she had prayed in her mind to the Ancients for help. Thus, distraught, she raced to the woods to the place the strange old woman told her she could find the ancient gods. This was her last chance to avoid an unwanted marriage. She lost track of time in her desperation and failed to notice the sun had set. 

The sounds in the forest stilled as though time had frozen. Then strange winds swirled, a sound called out her name, and the image of her imaginative perfect man appeared before her.

What do you want ?  I want a chance to live. I want to be free. I want more time. How much time?  When he doesn’t get an answer, he declines to help. My deals have endings and your request has none.

She pleads. I will do anything. He responds, My dealings have a price. The price is your soul. The ancient gods are wily! Adeline cries out – You want an ending? Then take my life when I am done with it. You can have my soul when I don’t want it anymore. He smugly replies.  DONE!

Adeline rushes back to her village convinced she had outsmarted the devil. She becomes terrified by the physical reaction she receives from her parents. Who or what is this frantic creature that seems to have appeared out of no where? Her childless parents are terrified by this creature who insists she is their daughter. She is chased away.

girl alone in a crowd

Adeline’s story will be laborious to readers that cannot connect to her character. Others, intrigued with fantasy and magical realism will be willing to follow Addie as she adjusts to her fate over a three-hundred years. The story alternates with her past and places her in the present (2014). The scenes with Luc, the devil, are very interesting as he pops up now and then to disrupt Addie’s life hoping to knock her off her game, weaken her determination to make a life for herself.

My favorite sections of the book are the final chapters where the story takes an interesting twist, concluding with an ending the reader won’t see coming.  Reviewing this book has been difficult. I have written and destroyed several versions. I finally decided the fact I just couldn’t stop trying to tell her story without giving away the suspense led me to giving it four stars. Well written and thought provoking.

Thanks you, Netgalley and Tor Publishing for the advanced reader’s copy in exchange for review and my honest opinion.


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Rules for a Knight

plain netgalley

The Last Letter of

Sir Thomas Lemuel Hawke        coverRulesforaKnight

isbn 9780307962348
Fantasy Fiction
(e-reader edition) Knopf  2015
[Excerpts from Editor’s notes]…   
This letter was discovered …in the basement of our family farm.
How it came to be there and its authenticity have been sources of much inconclusive debate. Our family does …lay claim to a direct lineage to the noble Hawkes of Cornwall and Sir Thomas Lemuel Hawke was killed at the Battle of Slaughter Bridge in the winter of 1483.  The letter …had been severely damaged [and] pieced together, adapted and reconstructed by me, Ethan Hawke …

Who hasn’t daydreamed about discovering some fabulous ancestor hanging out in your family tree?

Ethan Hawke has imagined the last days of a noble warrior; Sir Thomas Lemuel Hawke. This man of integrity and honor did in fact exist; whether he is related to the author is doubtful.

The Ornate-Vintage-Book-Title-Page-GraphicsFairystory begins with Sir Thomas at Cornwall facing almost certain death in battle the next day.  In these final hours, he thinks of his children. They are young and unprepared for the future without him.  He tells them that their Grandfather prepared a rubric for him when he was a young aspiring knight and that he feels compelled “to pass on to you Grandfather’s list of ‘Rules’.”

Sir Thomas begins his letter with a description of his own childhood.  He describes a life out-of-control until one day he realizes, on his own at age 17, that he needs guidance.  “I decided to seek out the wisest man I could find Rulesand ask him to tell me how to live…The first thing I was given was a  small handwritten list entitled ‘Rules for a Knight’.”

The letter is broken up into these 20 rules; each followed by a parable from his own experience on that particular virtue.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book. In a way it reminded me of Rocky and Bullwinkle’s Aesop and Son fables.  (That’s a 1960s cartoon show.)

I have little knowledge of medieval life so I can’t spot gaffes in the story. Our hero, Sir Thomas, can wear a Timex watch for all I care.  But it was obvious to me that the author pulled his thoughts from a myriad of traditional self-help sources and other popular stories to create the medieval version of  Chicken Soup for Knights.

This adorable little book is  a family work;  Ethan’s wife, Ryan did all the cute b&w illustrations.  I believe the book would be best read to young children together with their parents.

In my perfect vision of quality family time, 20 star lit nights are spent reading and sharing chapters around a campfire with cocoa and marshmallows.

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