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review 2018-06-16 03:10
A Comedic Fantasy Tells a Good Story While Playing with Too-Familiar Tropes
Kill the Farm Boy - Delilah S. Dawson,Kevin Hearne

Ugh. I wish the eARC didn't say I needed to hold off any quotations until I could compare it with the final copy -- or maybe, I wish I had noticed that very tiny print before I got half a draft of this finished. On the other hand, I was having trouble narrowing down which of my lengthy options to use, because, if nothing else, this is one of the more quotable books I've read in the last couple of years.

 

Kill the Farm Boy is a comedic fantasy, a satirical look at fantasy and even a parody of the genre. But what makes it effective is that for all the comedy, there's a decent story and some solid characters throughout. It's be easy for it to be a collection of jokes, with no story; or a tale full of character types, not characters. But Dawson and Hearne avoid those pitfalls.

 

The titular farm boy, Worstley, is going about his typical day, full of drudgery when an inebriated pixie shows up to announce that he is a Chosen One -- one who is destined to save, or at least change, the world. To demonstrate her power, the pixie gives one of his goats, Gustave, the power of speech. The goat isn't too happy about being able to speak, but since he was destined to end up in a curry in a few days, decides to travel with the newly appointed Chosen One, his former Pooboy. The pixie, having Chosened Worstley, disappears. Worstley the Pooboy (hey, Taran, worse things to be called than Assistant Pig-Keeper, eh?) and Gustave head off on a quest for glory.

 

Despite the book's title, we don't spend that much time with Worstley -- instead the focus shifts (for good reason) to a band of hero--well, a group of companions. There's Fia -- a fierce warrior from a distant land, who just wants to live a life of peace with some nice roses -- and some armor that would actually protect her (not that there's anyone who minds seeing here in her chain-mail bikini). Argabella, a struggling bard who is cursed to be covered in fur -- she's basically Fflewddur Fflam and Gurgi combined (last Prydian reference, probably). Every adventuring party needs a rogue/thief, this one has to settle for the klutzy and not necessarily bright, Poltro, and her guardian, the Dark Lord magician, Toby (though some would only consider him crepuscular), of dubious talents. I can't forget Grinda the sand witch (no, really), Worstley's aunt and a magic user of considerable talent.

 

There are no shortage of villains -- and/or antagonists to this party. There are some pretty annoying elves; a hungry giant; Løcher, the King's chamberlain and mortal enemy of Grinda; Staph, the pixie behind the Chosening; as well as several magical traps, Lastly, there's Steve. We don't meet him (I'm betting it'll be in Book 3 when we do), but throughout these adventures we how much this world, and our heroes lives, have been turned upside down my the worst Steve since one (allegedly) unleashed the preposterous hypothesis that Jemaine was a large water-dwelling mammal. Steve . . .

 

The writing is just spot-on good. Dawson and Hearne have taken all these various and disparate themes, tropes, characters and surrounded them with a lot of laughs. There's some pretty sophisticated humor, some stuff that's pretty clever -- but they also run the gamut to some pretty low-brow jokes as well. Really, these two are on a tight comedic budget, no joke is too cheap. The variation ensures there's a little something for everyone -- and that you can't predict where the humor will come from. I will admit that early on I got annoyed with a few running jokes, but I eventually got to the point that I enjoyed them -- not just in a "really? they're trying it again?" sense, either.

 

For all the comedy -- Kill the Farm Boy hits the emotional moments just right. There's a depiction of grief towards the end (spoiler?) that I found incredibly affecting and effective. There are smaller moments -- less extreme moments -- too that are dealt with just right. Maybe even better than some of the bigger comedic moments. This is the reward of populating this book with fully-realized characters, not just joke vehicles.

 

I have a couple of quibbles, nothing major, but I'm not wholly over the moon with this (but I can probably hit sub-orbital status). There was a bit about a fairly articulate Troll being taken down by a female using (primarily) her wits that could've used a dollop or five of subtly. Clearly they weren't going for subtle, or they'd have gotten a lot closer to it. But it bugged me a bit (while being funny and on point). Secondly, and this is going to be strange after the last 2 posts -- but this seemed to be too long. Now, I can't imagine cutting a single line, much less a scene or chapter from this, but it just felt a little long. I do worry that some of Poltro's backstory is too tragic and upon reflection makes it in poor taste (at best) to laugh about her -- which is a shame, because she was a pretty funny character until you learn about her.

 

This is probably the best comedic/parody/satire fantasy since Peter David's Sir Apropos of Nothing -- and this doesn't have all the problematic passages. I've appreciated Dawson's work in the past, and you have to spend 30 seconds here to know that I'm a huge Hearne fan, together they've created something unlike what they've done before. Well, except for their characteristic quality -- that's there. I cared about these characters -- and they made me laugh, and giggle, and roll my eyes. This is the whole package, folks, you'll be glad you gave it a chance.

 

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine via NetGalley in exchange for this post -- thanks to both for this.

Source: irresponsiblereader.com/2018/06/15/kill-the-farm-boy-by-delilah-s-dawson-and-kevin-hearne-a-comedic-fantasy-tells-a-good-story-while-playing-with-too-familiar-tropes
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review 2018-06-02 03:44
A reread, and I finally figured this one out
Be Buried in the Rain - Barbara Michaels

I've read this at least three times, maybe more, with the most recent reread about a year ago when I was reading all of the Barbara Michaels gothics that I have.

 

That particular reread was with a specific purpose: I had started writing another contemporary romantic-suspense-with-ghosts and I wanted to get good handle on how Michaels had structured hers.  I already knew Ammie, Come Home had serious plot and detail problems.  Be Buried in the Rain was written about twenty years later, so I was hoping she had improved her technique.

 

Be Buried in the Rain was also one of my favorites of the Michaels gothics, along with Houses of Stone and The Walker in Shadows.  Even though I read all three books last year, I still had some issues with both Houses and Be Buried.  So although I'm already involved in several other reading projects, this afternoon I picked up the latter to see if I could finally figure out the solution to my problem with it . . . or accept that maybe Michaels had left a major thread dangling.

 

And I think I did it.  In the process, I gained a grand new respect for the writer Michaels/Mertz/Peters became after the almost laughable errors in Ammie.

 

No spoiler posted here, and maybe everyone else who has read Be Buried in the Rain picked up on this detail the first time through and I'm just the dullard who missed it until the (at least) fourth read.  But I feel more confident tonight about my own writing. 

 

And now, back to my own ghosts!

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review 2018-06-01 04:31
The Farm...
The Farm - Amy Cross

The few books I've read by Cross haven't been "sleep with the lights on scary" but she can write a creepy, atmospheric ghost story that reels you in from page one and doesn't let up until the end. I had originally planned on rating this 5 stars but after pondering over the couple of issues I had with it, I felt like 4 stars was more appropriate.

 

The first thing that bothered me was: we were given the impression that Paula is a child, maybe very young teenager, still enrolled in school, yet the language she used (gd-d&mn this & gd that) and the way that she talked to her dad and acted wasn't very reflective of a young child. Then she was sleeping at home by herself and hanging out all night long with the snowplow guy who was a lot older and out of school already. So there was a definite age conflict going on.

 

Then we come to Jonah... Jonah supposedly had multiple brain surgeries over a period of 20+ years and had over 1/3 of his brain moved, yet his memory and ability to walk, talk and speak was not effected. That didn't come across as very believable to me.

 

Plus in Chapter 21,

 

one of the sisters, Elizabeth, shoots Jonah. The author writes- "Elizabeth fired, blasting a hole in the man's chest and sending him thudding back down into the muddy ground."

 

(spoiler show)

 

Then in Chapter 23,

 

the author writes- "Screaming, Elizabeth dropped the still smoking rifle as she fell to her knees. She put her hands over her face, as if to hide from the horrific sight of the dead man in front of her, whose head and neck had been blasted away. As Elizabeth continued to sob, Sara watched from a little further back. There was blood all over her, along with pieces of bone and brain matter that had been sprayed across her when the man had been shot."

 

(spoiler show)

 

Then toward the end we find out

 

Jonah is alive and well. The author tells us he was shot in the shoulder and he's out and about, talking, walking and starting fires like he didn't just die several chapters ago. So what is he- dead, alive, shot in the shoulder, shot in the chest or shot in the head?? According to the author, he's all of the above,

 

(spoiler show)

which I think is a huge plot hole that needs reworked.

 

If you can overlook those details it is a very entertaining ghost story and I had a lot of fun reading it as a buddy read with my GR friend Marie. : )

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text 2018-05-04 18:42
A little time in the studio with the rocks -- and 50,328

Yesterday was not a good writing day, but I have better hopes for today, even though I have several important projects to take care of before I can start writing.  However, I did get a little bit of time out in the studio with the rocks and the camera.

 

Four little chalcedony desert roses.

 

 

Close up the one on lower right. 

 

 

 

Comparison to one larger.  It weighs 592 grams.

 

 

The largest one I could find on a quick grab this morning.  It doesn't look nearly as pretty, but it's the same material.

 

 

That's 1318 gr (minus weight of paper towel) or 1.3 kilos or close to 3 pounds.

 

And now I have to get to work.

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text 2018-05-03 22:34
50,169 -- another day working

Another night with multiple interruptions, so I overslept this morning and lost a couple hours of cool time with the rocks.  I'm taking photos.

 

 

 

There is no sensible reason for me to keep all these damn rocks, so I'm putting some more of them individually in my Etsy shop.

 

Once I had taken some photos, it was time to sit down at the computer and . . . WRITE.

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