Tag Archives: #space opera

Two More Book Reviews

You know I stint on five-star reviews, but I gave out five for both of these very different books. One, a memoir, the other a sci-fi book. Both on Kindle. As the brain freezes from finishing my own projects, it’s almost always possible to read something somebody else wrote.

Hippie at Heart: What I Used To Be, I Still AmHippie at Heart: What I Used To Be, I Still Am by Lynne Zotalis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

On a 30th anniversary trip to Mexico, her beloved husband dies on a beach of an apparent heart attack. That’s an opening frame in this memoir of discovery in her home state of Minnesota. As many youth in the sixties, she finds escape in a variety of drugs readily available then and well into the seventies and beyond. Miraculously, she encounters the love of her life in that world.

The title exemplifies the life the author and the man who would become her husband led for some time–the counterculture rejection of the staid life normal parents led. I didn’t go quite so far as they did–building a log cabin in the middle of nowhere. Yet, I can identify. Especially in the rejection of the traditional cultural and political values. The two found a very different spiritual path than I did–one I could never in my wildest nightmares have adopted. One so far from the drug culture that they had been a part of. Still, you will find that–and their eventual departure from it, a very intriguing journey.

If you can’t find this book engrossing, you must be from a very different place. Not just a time, but a culture. It’s well-written and should keep you wanting to know what happens next. Despite knowing the end, it’s how Zotalis gets there that is where the rich tapestry of this story lies.

Oddly enough, we might have met decades ago–or at least been at the same Zappa and the Mothers concert in the Depot, a former bus station for “the Dog,” that briefly became a club for music and dance in Minneapolis in 1970-71. We might have been neighbors in South Minneapolis as well–hard to say. But then, those girls in their early twenties and guys as well had certain features in common–long hair on both, freak or hippie styled clothes and beards on the guys.

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Spiders & Spice (Federation Diplomat #6)Spiders & Spice by E.J. Randolph
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another great story by EJ Randolph about Kate Stevens, Federation Diplomat. This is my fifth read in the series. I received an ARC copy through StoryOrigin. Yes, it is a space opera–of sorts. But tech and space are setting and incidental challenges, not the main story. NOTE: you don’t have to read the others before this one–each stands alone. But to paraphrase the food jingle– “Bet you can’t read just one.”

Revisit the same cast of quirky characters on the crew of the transport that takes Kate to strange planets.–or meet them for the first time.  In Spiders & Spice they’re on an  intentionally backward planet that chooses to avoid technology and change. Consensus is the rule–a very strong rule. For those who can’t abide that requirement, there’s banishment to a more freewheeling town.

As always, Kate is challenged to save a planetary culture from itself–and a nefarious enemy. What makes the series worthy of reading is the world and culture building–with a well-developed sense of engaging diplomacy in peculiar political environments. Randolph does a fine job of doing that. With a good bit of humor thrown in. Humor like her supervisor (humorously referred to as “Really Big”),  who plays his usual shell game on her. All part of the reality of those who have ever worked for any form of bureaucracy will identify with. Or the stomach churning food combinations like marshmallows on sauerkraut that crewmember Nick produces from the food fabricator.

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First Book Reviews for 2020

Two Good Books–Recently Read

The Magus CovenantThe Magus Covenant by Toni Pike
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you like Dan Brown (as in The Da Vinci Code) you will like this. I only just got on to this book through reading a review on a blog post. I’m glad I did.

This is the first in the Jotham Fletcher series. He is a rector in an Anglican parish in Australia. His research into Simon Magus leads him to deliver a lecture in Rome. (Could not help but recall the Silver Chalice–where Jack Palance portraying Magus, believes he can fly. I saw it as a child).

Like Brown’s Logdon, Pike’s Fletcher gets embroiled in controversial sectarian elements within the Catholic Church. Unlike Logdon, Fletcher faces much more serious danger personally. So, this story is really stronger in that respect. I have never been a Catholic, so I have no preconceived notions, much less actual knowledge, of the possible intrigues within a 2,000 year old faith. Yet, I find it all very intriguing and perhaps potentially possible, (if somewhat implausible) given human nature.

Pike’s book follows the mystery/thriller precepts of plot/suspense progression well and builds to a climax with heightened tension and twists. If you like the genre, you will like this book–it’s well written.

The Ambassador Calls Twice (The Federation Diplomat Stories)The Ambassador Calls Twice by E.J. Randolph
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One should always review a book soon after, if not immediately, upon completion. Such has been my spring of brain fog that didn’t happen. After refreshing my recollection, I learned there are TWO books in one Kindle. OK, not really two separate books, but two different stories with all the same cast of characters that E.J. Randolph introduced in the first in this series about Federation Diplomat Kate Stevens.

Somehow I missed this one when it came out and then I learned it won a best eBook award in Arizona/New Mexico. It’s worthy of the award. It’s space opera for the 21st century–updated with hilarious friends and enemies. Vivid imagery of planets, people and more make it eminently readable. The description in the Goodreads summary needs no repeating here–that’s all you need to know. Well, you do need to know there’s no graphic sex or violence, just a well written story with believable but odd characters. Like the crew member who likes to eat meals that combine ingredients that might cause normal folks to upchuck. An AI (that runs the ship) that makes all sorts of interesting observations in discussions with Kate.

You know Kate will survive, but how she does it is still rendered suspensefully.

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