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review 2018-02-14 05:44
Not all things are lights
The Night’s Dark Shade: A Novel of the Cathars - Elena Maria Vidal

Disclosure:  I downloaded only the free sample preview of the Kindle edition of this book.  I do not know the author nor have I had any personal direct communication with her about this book or any other matter, but I am aware of her through discussions here on BookLikes.  I have also read reviews of her books and her comments regarding those reviews.  I am an author of contemporary and historical romance novels.

 

The Amazon preview feature is an option afforded to self-publishing authors so that they can give potential readers the opportunity to look at the opening of the book the way they would if they were browsing the shelves in a brick and mortar book store or a library. If the reader likes the beginning, they can buy or borrow the book and take it home to read the rest.  If the beginning isn't quite so intriguing, the reader puts the book back on the shelf and moves on.

 

Elena Maria Vidal's book is, in my opinion, outrageously over-priced at $9.99 for a Kindle edition of approximately 228 pages.  A writer with no professional credentials or writing track record would be well advised to lower the price and hope to get some readership.  At the current price, however, it had to be one hell of a fine book to tempt me.  In truth, if not for the fracas surrounding Ms. Vidal, I would never even have considered this book.

 

I've been interested in the Cathar "heresy" at least since my first reading of Frank Yerby's The Saracen Blade when I was in high school in the 1960s.  This was about the same time as the popular song "Dominique" was topping the charts, sung by a Belgian Dominican nun.  The song chronicles the life of Saint Dominic.  Although the English lyrics

 

At a time when Johnny Lackland
Over England was the King
Dominique was in the backland
Fighting sin like anything

 

seem innocuous enough, the original French words reflect more of Dominic's history:

 

A l'e poque ou Jean-sans-Terre de' Angleterre etait Roi
Dominique, notre Pere, combattit les Albigeois

 

"Combattit les Albigeois" does not mean "fighting sin like anything."  It means "fought the Albigensian(s)."''

 

I already knew what that meant.  I knew who the Albigensians were -- the Cathars -- and I knew why the Catholic Church was determined to exterminate them.

 

Years later, I read Holy Blood, Holy Grail, the allegedly non-fiction account of Knights Templars and Cathars and the hilltop village of Rennes-le-Chateau in the south of France.  I also picked up Robert Shea's novel, All Things Are Lights, about the Cathars.  Right now it's on the top shelf of the big bookcase or I'd get it down and add a photo.

 

So I'm not totally ignorant of the history of the Languedoc and the Cathar heresy.

 

Oh, and one other thing.  In early February 1969, I hitchhiked from Paris to the Spanish border.  My journey took me through Cahors, Limoges, Montauban, and Toulouse before heading into the Pyrenees via Pamiers, Foix, and Col de Puymorens.

 

 

With this personal background, I downloaded the sample of The Night's Dark Shades.

 

For one thing, it's very short, hardly enough to get much of a taste of the story.  But, as I've noted often enough before, it's not difficult to determine a writer's skill at writing in just a few pages.

 

Elena Maria Vidal is not the greatest writer in the world.  Millions of murex snails would have to be sacrificed to produce so much purple prose.  It's not just the extravagance of adjectives and speech tags that make my eyes roll while reading, however.  It's also the fact that the text is boring. 

 

Lady Rafaelle is heading to her uncle's chateau where she will probably wed his son, her cousin, after the deaths of her father and her betrothed in . . . some war.  There's a lot of info dumping, but not much else.  Well, there are questions raised that should be answered right away.  They aren't.

 

Lady Rafaelle seems to be the heir to the estate of Miramande, in the somewhat distant region of Auvergne.  Her father is dead and there's no mention of any brothers or other siblings who would have inherited the estate and its chateau.  So, why is Rafaelle leaving her estate to go to her uncle's? Why did she initially consider entering a convent? Who is minding Miramande in her absence?

 

We get more information about Jehanette, the peasant who serves as Lady Rafaelle's handmaiden, than about why Rafaelle has seemingly abandoned her chateau.

 

That bothered me.  It seemed like that should have been an important plot point.

 

What also bothered me was that there's no description of the "rabble" of pilgrims who are accompanying Rafaelle and her troupe on the journey.  Well, no, that's not quite right.  There is some description, but it's not adequate.  How many are there?  I thought at first it must be a hundred or more, but apparently it's less than 20.  I would have liked to know that sooner.

 

Who else is in this train?  Two attending women, a couple of knights, and . . . . that's it?

 

This is important because one of the knights, in a tedious little info dump, informs Rafaelle that there are bandits in the mountains, murderous renegades of the religious war, I guess.  Because of the bandits, the knights advise against stopping for a brief rest.

 

Wait a minute.  What difference would stopping for a rest make?  I mean, if bandits are going to attack, couldn't they attack while the company from Miramande are on the move?  After all, they aren't moving very fast, because some of the pilgrims and men-at-arms are on foot.

 

If I as a reader think this, why didn't Rafaelle?  Why didn't she ask about this?  Well, of course she didn't because that wouldn't be good for the story, I suppose.  And also of course, Rafaelle prevails in demanding a brief rest and the bandits attack.

 

That's when I quit reading.

 

Purple prose for the sake of purple prose turns me off.  The opening paragraph that describes the pass in the Pyrenees would almost have been enough to make me put this book back on the figurative shelf.  But further reading didn't really improve my opinion.

 

There's no real sense of the historical period established.  Oh, the history is given: one king is dead, the new king is a minor, France is under the rule of the king's mother Queen Blanche, blah, blah, blah.  But it takes more than a few data points to make the reader feel as if she is in the scene.  Author Vidal wasn't able to bring me into that mountain pass.  She didn't give me a full sense of Rafaelle as a character, someone I could identify with as the story progressed.  I didn't know what she looked like, or even how old she was. 

 

Writers are free to write their stories any way they want.  Once they put their stories into the public marketplace, however, they must also accept the judgment of the readers who choose to look at those stories.  And readers are free to form and express their opinions on the writing, the stories, and yes, even the authors themselves.

 

As a reader, I'm not inclined to read any further into The Night's Dark Shade.  I'm more inclined to climb on a stepstool and pull All Things Are Lights down for a re-read.  Vidal's writing is insufficiently professional to command the price she's put on the book, but more importantly, it's insufficiently professional to command my attention.

 

One-half star and a Do Not Want to Read.

 

 

 

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review 2017-12-05 13:00
Soul Surfer by Bethany Hamilton
Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board - Bethany Hamilton,Sheryl Berk,Rick Bundschuh

She is really inspiring. Something major happened to her, but she got back up and continued to do what she loved.

 


I enjoyed the book, but not the writing style as much. I've seen people complain that she did not talk more about the shark and how things were different after, with having one arm, and how she adapted to doing things differently, or how she talked about the making of her movie. But this book isn't meant to dwell just the attack; it's meant to be about her life, and that would include her faith and the movie.

I also want to add, I love sharks. They get a bad rep for this sort of thing. They don't see humans as food, and usually leave after having a nibble (they mistake you as their food.) But that nibble is usually enough to kill or seriously maim someone. They are not evil killing machines or an useless animal as I've seen a lot of people say. It is their world people "invade" for a lack of a better word and they might be curious about you if you are flailing around and seem like a seal in distress.

I can't speak for her personally, but I do feel like she is the type of person who would not blame the shark, and would know it wasn't the sharks fault. I can't remember what she said exactly in the book about this, but I remember in the movie, she was upset when people went after sharks, hunting and killing a bunch. I mean she is a firm believer in God, and sharks are one of his creatures, right?

 

This is a true story, written by someone who is not a professional writer, so I did find some of it choppy and odd. She is amazing and I wish her well. I hope she continues to inspire people.

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review 2017-10-25 22:02
A vampire dragon zombie? Yes! Attack on the Overworld by Danica Davidson
Attack on the Overworld: An Unofficial Overworld Adventure, Book Two - Danica Davidson

Note: While this is Book 2 in the series, it works just fine as a stand alone story. Also, you don’t have to be a Minecraft fan to enjoy this tale.

Maison and Stevie return for another adventure! Though, admittedly, this isn’t one either signed up for. While Maison is visiting Stevie in the Overworld, she realizes her computer was hacked by some cyberbullies and they are most definitely up to no good! Destiny and her cousin wreak zombie havoc in Stevie’s home village.

This was quite a bit of fun and I liked it a little better than Book 1. The stakes were higher as people Stevie knows and cares about are turned into zombies by the bully TheVampireDragon555, who I will just call Vampire Dragon. It was both funny and a little disturbing for Maison and Stevie that Vampire Dragon was turned into a thinking angry zombie. Yep, you got that right – a Vampire Dragon zombie loose in the Overworld! Cue evil laughter!

I liked that the cyberbullying issue wasn’t a simple thing in this tale. Davidson does a great job of showing multiple facets to this real-life problem. Through the characters of Destiny and Vampire Dragon, she shows us a few reasons why bullies do what they do. Then through Maison and Stevie she shows what those targeted by the bullies can do. Sometimes it takes a few choice kind words and sometimes greater actions, perhaps using a sword, are needed.

While there is an obvious underlying message about bullying, the story works really well in the action and plot department. Maison really shines as a character as she feels very responsible for the bullies making their way into the Overworld and yet she doesn’t give up hope in saving the zombified villagers. She also has to make a leap of trust that could turn the tide one way or another.

Over all, it was a fun listen and makes me want to check out Minecraft and see what adventures I could go on.

I received a free copy of this book.

The Narration: Dan Woren is the perfect vampire dragon zombie! His voice for that character was excellent – a bit raspy, a bit evil, and a bit wannabe ruler of the world. I loved it! His character voices were all distinct and his female voices were definitely feminine. He sounds totally engaged in the plot as well, easily pulling off all the emotions the characters go through.

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text 2017-10-03 16:30
Who likes FREE comics?
Attack on Titan Anthology - Scott Snyder... Attack on Titan Anthology - Scott Snyder,Gail Simone,Faith Erin Hicks,Tomer Hanuka,Hajime Isayama
Marlowe Kana (Book 1, Volume 1) (Marlowe... Marlowe Kana (Book 1, Volume 1) (Marlowe Kana Book 1) - Joe Peacock,Rowena Yow
Stitched #1: The First Day of the Rest o... Stitched #1: The First Day of the Rest of Her Life - Mariah Huehner,Aaron Alexovich

In honor of New York Comic ConNoiseTrade invited me to curate a list of comics and sci-fi stories guaranteed to keep you in suspense! Featuring selections by Scott SnyderRafael Albuquerque,Samuel SattinMariah McCourtBlack MaskKodansha ComicsMatthew PetzKujaku Joe and more -- you have to check this out!

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review 2017-07-15 04:40
Man-eating Titans...
Attack on Titan, Volume 1 - Hajime Isayama

 

I read this manga for my grad school graphic novel class. This is my second manga (this past spring I read Orange). That was basically a teenage soap opera. This one was a sci-fi post-apocalyptic nightmare. The Titans are giant, man-eating, humanoid creatures who have taken over the world. Humans are forced to live in a walled area, for their own protection. In the first chapter, a Titan breaks through the wall and eats people. The drawings are in black & white, but still incredibly graphic. There are close-ups of the Titans biting people in half.

 

I didn't like this one much. I do enjoy post-apocalyptic stories, but this one was basically devoid of hope. I think this series is quite long, so maybe at one point, something hopeful happens.

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