Review: The Dinosaur Lords by Victor Milán

My first thought when I finished this book was “I have died and gone to heaven…or maybe just to Paradise.”

In many ways, this is just another Alternate-Medieval-Europe fantasy (though quite well-written); it has bloody battles, secret (and not so secret) religious fanatics of various flavors, and plenty of political intrigue. I appreciated the author’s way of using languages; the book is written in English, but he uses a blend of English and other languages to give the sense of the different countries, for instance giving titles in both Spanish or French as well as in English. It leaves the reader not needing to guess what unfamiliar words mean, while still getting to see them, learn them, and appreciate the varied vocabulary.

In many ways, it is just another fantasy…but it also has dinosaurs.

Some reviewers have made the point that this story is not a Medieval Jurassic Park. I agree, and would then add that I think it’s much better than that. If you are a Jurassic Park fan and your favorite part is that a bunch of people run around screaming and then get eaten by the dinosaurs, this may not be the book for you (though some people do get killed/eaten by dinosaurs in the story).

I think the best way to describe it is to say that dinosaurs exist in the world of Paradise; they are animals that inhabit the land, and people have learned to exist with them, much as we exist with the many animals around us today. There are some unique challenges to life with dinosaurs, given their often-large size and definite ability to cause harm to humans, but in this world those are challenges that people have undertaken. Some dinosaurs still roam the wild, and are hunted for meat or sport or self-protection by the humans. Many have been tamed or domesticated to one degree or another; they are beasts of burden, war-steeds, pets. The dinosaurs in the world of Paradise feel real, because they are part of the landscape and the ecosystem and the culture; much better than attractions at an amusement park.

To many of the characters, this is all dinosaurs are: part of the landscape, a familiar backdrop to everyday life. But to a couple of the characters (and to the author, I believe), the dinosaurs are more than that: to these characters, dinosaurs are a source of awe. Even as they fully understand and constantly deal with the realities (pleasant and otherwise) of coexisting with dinosaurs, they never lose the lingering edge of breathless wonder at the existence of these great creatures. That, more than anything, was what sold me on this book’s premise and world (and not surprisingly, those two characters are my favorites so far!)

I did enjoy the story itself, and am interested to see where it goes in the next two books of this (I believe) trilogy. This is a very adult book – plenty of gore, sex, violence, and foul language. If you don’t mind those things, then I would recommend it to fans of dinosaurs (the author seems to have done his research fairly well), fans of epic medieval fantasy, and fans of stories with battles and political intrigue.


Quick Review: Sahara (2017)

This was a cute animated movie about snakes! Being a snake person myself, it was exciting to see a kids’ story with snakes as the main characters and good guys, rather than being the bad guys as they are so often portrayed.

The story is set in the Sahara Desert in Africa, and follows the story of a young cobra named Ajar. Ajar lives in the desert with the other venomous snakes, but is bullied and not accepted. He tries to escape to the local oasis where the green serpents (which maybe were supposed to be modeled after the boomslang? Unclear.) live. Here he runs into Eva, a green serpent who cannot stand life in the oasis anymore, and they try running away together. Eva is captured by an evil snake charmer, though, and so Ajar, his scorpion best friend, and Eva’s brother set out to cross the desert and rescue her.

There is very little accuracy in how the snakes are portrayed (early on, the venomous ones are shown eating a watermelon), but the story is cute and the animation was good. The music got a little strange at times, but was enjoyable.

If you are looking for a fun, not-too-serious movie, then I would recommend this! (It is a Netflix original movie.) If you will be really put off or desperately disappointed that the snakes are not portrayed accurately, then I would probably hold off. Personally, I hold out hope that someday we may get movies not only with snakes as the good guys, but also portrayed as carnivores/with correct movements and anatomy/etc. But, in the meantime, I will take (and support) a cute movie that at least doesn’t portray them as evil or scary.

Movie Review: Wonder Woman (2017)

I went to see this opening night, and was not even a little bit disappointed.

As a brief, spoiler-free review: Visually stunning, with good music, I would recommend it to fans of superhero/action movies. Setting it during World War I rather than World War II worked with some of the themes about human free-will in interesting ways (and contributed to some of the aforesaid stunning visuals). I thought the setup used to frame this (Wonder Woman’s origin story) was well-done. I am not greatly familiar with the DC universe, so this take on some of the Greek mythology struck me as strange, but interesting. Definitely recommended.

More in-depth thoughts (with spoilers) below.

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Update on The Wizard of Suomen

My editor (Facets Fiction Editing) returned her edits and suggestions to me several weeks ago. She was very positive about the story, and her suggestions were very helpful! Draft 5 was my working through these, and although there were no major structural changes to be made, it is definitely a stronger story now. She also did a copyedit for me, and helped me fix a number of small grammatical issues. (I have to improve my use of commas and em-dashes. >.>)

One of my other beta readers has been kind enough to do a final proof-read for me on a paper copy, and I am going to read through the same paper copy myself one last time, because I am feeling paranoid about everything right now. There will be some last minor adjustments to make, but the story is largely done.

So, that means it’s time to look at the next steps.

I am still very interested in self-publishing this story, and have been doing some research about this. I found the book Let’s Get Digital: How To Self-Publish, And Why You Should by David Gaughran very helpful in this regard. Not only does he lay out a clear path of the steps you need to go through to do a good job of self-publishing a book, but he also gives a very interesting overview of the history of the publishing industry, Amazon, and e-books, and how these have affected the publishing landscape over the last decade. (I, at least, found this very interesting, and learned many things that I didn’t know.)

My immediate next steps then are getting cover art (I’m looking at some options for this), and formatting the text as an actual e-book. Gaughran recommended Guido Henkel’s Take pride in your eBook formatting tutorial (free), which was very helpful. I also chose to purchase Henkel’s book, Zen of eBook Formatting, which is an expanded and updated version of the tutorial linked above. I am definitely glad that I bought the full book, but if you are putting together a book with a simple format, then the tutorial would probably be sufficient guidance. There were sections of the book that I skimmed, because they described formatting for things that I don’t need to do for my book, but I am glad to know that I have a resource for those things if I need it. Having read the basics twice now, and knowing that I have the book immediately on hand as a reference, I feel confident that I can do this part of the process myself.

I think those are the big things for now! There will be some other minor steps that I may talk about here as I do them, but for now the final editing, cover art, and formatting are my main concerns.

Other writing projects are still in progress. I have backstories for some of the TWoS characters that I’m planning to publish separately as a sort of prequel, and I have started the draft of my other (bigger) fantasy series. I have done a little bit of planning for the TWoS sequel, but that will be out a little ways yet. And it’s possible that I might even finish a short story or two somewhere along the way here. ^_^;;

I’ll continue to post some updates here as I go along. I will be looking for some people to give Advance Reader Copies to, at some point, and I’ll post about that here as well!

Thanks to everyone who has supported me on this project thus far! I’ve learned a lot and it’s really been a lot of fun bringing this world and these characters to life.


TV Review: BBC Sherlock, Season 4

Heads up, this one is long and chock full of spoilers below the cut. TL;DR – As a long-time BBC Sherlock fan, I am disappointed with Season 4.

I will say upfront that I was able to largely enjoy each episode of Season 4 as I was watching it. The acting was still excellent, and there were certainly scenes and parts of episodes that were fantastic. But once I had seen them all and had a chance to step back and look at the season as a whole, I had more and more problems with it. Ultimately, I am disappointed in the writers for not really living up to their own standards, which they set quite high during the first three seasons.

To be honest, I was worried about this season from the moment that Moffat and Gatiss started making public comments that season 4 was going to be especially “dark.” My worries were not unfounded. Let me see if I can articulate what I mean.

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