A ramble on books, from old favorites to new freebies

I do love Barnes & Noble. I always have; I remember making trips to the nearby college town with my best friend, back in grade school, and staring at the shelves for as long as our parents would allow. That’s how we found The Serpent Never Sleeps, a historical fiction novel by Scott O’Dell (one of my favorite authors back then). I wore that book out like none since; it had adventure, the New World when it was still New, a mysterious magical ring that came to our heroine directly from royalty, and Pocahontas. This was a brilliant equation of what ifs that I loved. I haven’t picked it up in a long time; maybe I would find it disenchanting now. Regardless, it was great then.

But I digress. My intent was to mention Barnes & Noble’s Free Fridays: they highlight a free NookBook every week. Sometimes it’s only free for a day, sometimes longer, and the genres covered are quite diverse (although they probably tend toward the ones I don’t love so well–thrillers, mysteries, and romance). Recently they featured The Winds of Khalakovo, a fantasy novel with a Russian flavor written by Bradley Beaulieu. Below is my review as it is on barnesandnoble.com (I was responding in part to other reviews that complained about it being “too hard” because of unfamiliar names):

An intriguing fantasy — 4/5 stars

Maybe it’s because I’ve read some of the works of Dostoyevsky, Bulgakov, and Turgenev, but the Russian names didn’t bother me. It took a little bit to get used to them, since fantasy novels so often use Celtic or otherwise Western European names, but then it was kind of refreshingly different. I did have to look up a word or two that wasn’t Russian because I was unfamiliar with the archaic or alternate spelling (“gaoler” for “jailer,” for example).

I was worried that the story might be awkwardly pieced together when I saw one of the central characters described as an autistic savant. That kind of real-world technical term just wouldn’t fit in the oftentimes archaic language of fantasy. Thankfully, the book is never so explicit about the boy’s mental condition; in fact, I was left not even sure that it’s an accurate description, because the character of his mental state is only described (never given a name) and is so enmeshed with the magics of Anuskaya.

I did find the story a little bit difficult to follow at times, but in a good way–it kept me thinking, trying to figure out what exactly was going on. That much actually did remind me of some of the Russian literature I’ve read. And the mix of technology and magic reminds me of the Final Fantasy rpg series, with airships and summoning and so on.

In all, it’s not the easiest read you’ll pick up, but if you’re okay with that, the story and the characters are quite interesting. An enjoyable read.

So anyway, I’d recommend checking it out if you need a new fantasy read. It’s no longer free, unfortunately, but it is a lendable NookBook, so if you’d like to borrow mine (I can only lend it once), let me know. I think you have to be “Nook friends” to lend books; my username is the same over there.

Today’s free book is The Blue Light Project, which is apparently a social commentary wrapped up in a multiple-storyline fictional tale (drama? thriller?) of a hostage situation in a television studio. The people through whose eyes we see are neither the hostages nor the criminal, from the descriptions I’ve seen. We’ll see how it goes. It’s free for now, but like I said, some of these freebies expire quickly.

Update, July 4: It looks like the freebie offer on Blue Light Project has expired.


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