James Masters


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Smashwords book reviews by James Masters

  • A Luminous Future on June 24, 2012

    This memoir “A Luminous Future” starts off with a bang, and instantly we are thrust into a world in the past where a young boy watches helpless as his father is dragged off into the night. The next chapter is dated over fifty years later, as that same young man is now celebrating the birth of his own grandson. The magic in this story lies in what happened during those fifty years, and how one young boy grew up in the shadows of communism and how that shaped his existence. In a way, this biography serves to pull back the iron curtain a bit, so as to experience the life under Stalin’s regime. It is strangely at odds with itself on many levels, and that in of itself is the paradox of communism. For example, the government gets mad and harasses people who work hard, saying that they are “exploiting” others, yet that is what they themselves are doing. They set these impossible goals for the workers to reach, and when they can’t they are punished even more. It’s frightening to read how a tyrannical government can influence the lives of its most vulnerable citizens, but despite it all, Teodor Flonta is such a success story on many levels. It’s almost like he singlehandedly defeated Stalin and his comrades, only because he never allowed them to beat him, and lived to tell this glorious tale. This is definitely one of those “don’t miss” books that belongs on every shelf.
  • Return of the Crown on Feb. 03, 2013

    This was a fine read that I enjoyed. It tells the story of a girl named Ravyn who is sort of “expelled” from her home and her mother and father (the king and Queen) are presumed dead, even though they are really just in a frozen magical state (under a spell) from the queens evil (and I mean EVIL) sister Zelera, who assumes the role of ruler of not just the lands of Aigerach, but the whole world. But Ravyn has other ideas, and she, along with her trusted advisor Connor and best friend Blade (and magical creatures) plan to take back the crown and save her parents. But the evil empress wants Ravun dead, so there is plenty of peril and tension along the way. I enjoyed the ride and can see this being a big hit with teens and middle schoolers, but I will confess that I am well into my forties and though it was great.
  • The Daughter of the Sea and the Sky on Aug. 07, 2014

    Great! This was a top-notch novel from beginning to end. The author creates very clear and strong scenes that makes us feel like we are really there. I think this is a real strength of this particular author to make us the reader think we are part of the story and seeing everything through the characters eyes. The book moved at a steady pace and carefully revealed only what we need to know to keep the story progressing without killing the intrigue. Each chapter ending made we want to continue on more. Read most in one day.
  • The Sense of Touch on Aug. 07, 2014

    The best part about these stories, and therefore the book in general, was that even if the characters were quite ordinary people on the outside (student, farmer, etc) the author gives an insight where it’s like seeing the tip on the iceberg on the ocean, and then we see what’s underneath which is a whole different ballgame. Makes you think that the person you sit by or walk past has so much more going on than what appears. But the plots are pretty straightforward, not overdone or complex in a contrived way. For the most part all were similar in tone and style, but a few felt a bit flatter stylistically, and not as engaging as the others. But overall a very nice collection of stories, recommended for ages late-teen and up.
  • Thadius on Sep. 19, 2014

    Interesting, captivating, and well-written. “Thadius” by Lawrence Boarer Pitchford is the story of two men (and several other characters along the way) who get plucked from their life from an old friend who writes them telling of the murder of a young girl. They make their way across the land(and sea) to see what they can uncover and along the way the story unravels more mysteries and twists and turns. I liked that it wasn’t easy to figure out the ending because I was surprised when I realized who did it and why. I think the beginning was kind of slow, but once they leave on their journey the pace picks up, and there is some pretty good action along the way. There were a lot of places where the action was really tight and focused, but sometimes it seemed to drag a bit and some parts felt unnecessary. But all in all I’d say it was an entertaining and memorable read, and it seems like the ending leaves the door open for more stories about Thadius and Dominus in the future? If so I’d be happy to read them.
  • Connecting the Dots: Man, God, Angels, and Demons on Sep. 08, 2015

    at first I confess to being a bit wary when picking up this book by Dave Shaw, “Connecting the Dots…” as I was concerned that it might be written with a very specific target audience in mind, those who strongly believe in Christianity. Now I have no problem with people with these beliefs, and I feel people should practice whatever feels right and true for them. I consider myself more “spiritual” than “religious”, but I am on board with the “good” and “Evil”, “right” and “wrong” and seeing how we are all tested and challenged in life and how best to overcome and explain our difficulties. I read with an open mind and heart, and as I was reading, I found it to be applicable in all aspects of life, and to just about anyone who was reading it. Yes, it pertains to the Christian view of God and a persons’ life in accordance with his relationship with a Christian God according to Scripture. But there are many profound observations made and lessons taught that really cross any spiritual boundary. There is much discussion on Biblical elements, but the author(s) bring a fresh, new spin on it with personal insights and anecdotes relating to real-life experiences that we can all relate to. A positive, moving message that should be heard.
  • Flight of the Black Swan on Oct. 25, 2015

    An impressive level of complexity and character development for a shorter book. Although “Flight of the Black Swan” is shorter than the first 4 books of the series, it still delivers an action-packed entertaining read that had me glued to my Kindle (as usual with these books). The only thing I wish was different was if there could have been even a brief recap, summary throughout to refresh me of some character/situations, because even though I’ve read the previous books, it has been some time and I forget some details. But I still really enjoyed it, and this series continues to impress me as a whole. Recommend.
  • Falcon: Birds of Flight on Oct. 25, 2015

    Splendid! I love when a book takes me by surprise and keeps me on my toes, not being predictable. I like the fast pace and quick action, and how the author J.M. Erickson did an excellent job with conveying the worldbuilding through the dialogue and actions of the characters and no boring dense narrative prose. The writing overall is quite strong, there were only minor editing or formatting errors, nothing significant. These books are meant to be read in order in the series, so be prepared for quite a ride with a dynamic, fascinating cast of characters. Cool how it combines real life events and people with the events of the book… makes it more realistic, I think. Curious to see where Rachael takes it in “Black Swan”. An excellent series, thus far.
  • The Urban Boys: Discovery of the Five Senses on Feb. 04, 2016

    I read this book and found myself completely transported to the story, completely forgetting where I was. A modern day novel with more tangents and sub plots than many others I’ve read, with a large cast of characters each of whom have their own stories to tell and conflicts to overcome. At times I did think the pacing suffered with too much of the narrative telling the stories instead of letting the characters actions and dialogue push us through, but K.N. Smith’s skill with story, complex, creative and with passion—will captivate readers looking for the next big thing in YA fantasy/adventure.
  • Gol on Feb. 14, 2016

    I read a lot of fantasy and mythology books, so this is a genre I’m familiar with. Having read another of J.W. Webb’s books recently – “The Haven” and really enjoying it, I was curious to see how he would deliver in this one “Gol – The Legends of Ansu”. Mr. Webb is unarguably a very talented writer, but more than that he genuinely impressed me with his thorough world-building and sheer creativeness on many levels. All too often I read works that feel clearly derivative of other books, and although I appreciate literary influences (as is felt here as well), when something this original comes along it is a refreshing change of pace! Some of the writing was downright lyrical in the simple elegance of the prose, and other times I was nearly breathless from the intensity and violent passion. For such a long book I finished it in less than a week, and went through so many highs and lows, it felt like a rollercoaster. I was hoping for a different ending, but it was bittersweet (and more powerful this way) nonetheless. A must read for fans of high fantasy.
  • The Shattered Crown on Feb. 14, 2016

    4.5 stars- The Shattered Crown was an excellent fantasy novel. Now, I want to go ahead and make clear that this book is a straightforward fantasy adventure. Although it has its darker side, it isn’t an overly brooding piece of realistic fantasy like so many other novels these days. It isn’t a social commentary on our time, cleverly hidden in a fantasy setting of elves and dwarves. Nor is it a work of literary experimentation where the prose leaves one contemplating the brilliance of the one who penned it, although it is quite lovely. No, Mr. Webb has written a novel which is all about storytelling at its finest; the grandeur of the book lying in the very fact that the writing style, the language, and the Tolkienesque setting all disappear in the sheer enjoyment of the main characters and their quest to ballet forces of evil and save the lands. Has this idea been done before? Sure. But it is a timeless tale of strength, courage, good vs. evil that when told well will never go out of style and will take us along for the ride every time. Looking forward to seeing how it all plays out in the finale.
  • Not Black and White: From The Very Windy City to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue on May 02, 2016

    lately I’ve been in a rut of putting down books and not picking them up again because I lost interest at one point and just never continued. This was definitely not the case with this book, “Not Black and White” by G.A. Beller! From the very beginning of the book we are drawn into this seedy political underworld and the action flowed seamlessly from one page to the next, and was unpredictable and shocking enough to make me just *have* to see what would happen next. Not formulaic or cookie-cutter at all, even though there are plenty of “familiar elements” necessary for a political action thriller. I was impressed with Beller’s writing style and will look for more works from him in the future
  • Friend & Foe on May 02, 2016

    I really enjoyed this story and could not put it down. As I read this book I really began to care about the characters and was anxious to see how things would turn out for them. I thought sometimes the narrative went on too long though and would have liked to see more forward progression through dialogue instead of just reading about everything. And sometimes I didn’t feel like we needed to know “everything” about ‘everything”… beaning sometimes I felt there was too much backstory for the characters and events and felt like overall the focus was looser than I like. I prefer to have books have a more distinct arc, and I don’t feel like this one really did. But I did enjoy it for the writing and the characters and would recommend to others.
  • The Lost Prince on June 21, 2016

    This book, and this whole Legends of Ansu Series, in fact, has everything you could possibly want in a classic, epic fantasy: humble beginnings; reluctant self-discovery; prophecies; creepy, dark, evil enemies of various types; good guys with unknown motivations; a unique magic system; swords and fighting men (and women); memories and relics of old things; cities; remote places; survival on the run; a vast world with many glimpses of what is to come... I could go on and on. This, to me, is Fantasy at its best. There's not just a country or two, a city or two. There are several kingdoms, cultures, peoples, and races that are each vividly described so that it feels like an entire world. You can get completely absorbed in it if you want to. It is so well-developed as the books progress that I almost believe I've been there. I love the feeling of being in this world, and these 3 (soon to be 4) lengthy novels in the Ansu universe lets me soak it all in. Will probably be sad after I’ve finished the next one (due out 2016) but in the meanwhile at least I have that to look forward to. This whole series is an absolute must read for fans of high/epic fantasy.
  • Hurst: Book One Of The Hurst Chronicles on Aug. 20, 2016

    "Hurst” by Robin Crumby was for me a bit convoluted at times, and took a while to really get my attention and keep the (large cast of) characters straight, but I did think it kept getting better and better as it went along. I am a big fan of the current dystopian/scifi trend, and it I appreciate the lengths the author went thru to make his book stand out from much of the typical fare out there these days. In a way it reminded me a bit of the TV show, “The Walking Dead”, with its underlying themes of civilization and society as seen through the eyes of the outcasts/survivors. It felt deep, had heart, and had a strong message of hope and survival, even if for me it seemed to lose a bit of its focus at times. It takes a lot to really knock my socks off, but there were at least several times in this book that I was caught off guard and surprised (especially toward the end). Some things were a bit predictable, but still an engaging page turner. Decent editing, and some gorgeous prose, even when narrating some darker scenes. Admittedly there were times when I through there was too much ‘telling’ narrative and would have preferred to see more dialogue and character engagement pulling the story forward, and the tension seemed a bit thin at times… but overall a fast paced, emotionally fulfilling page turner (liked the shorter chapters) and I look forward to reading book 2 in the series when it’s available.
  • Pegasus to Paradise on Aug. 20, 2016

    3.5 stars I found myself wavering around a bit while reading “Pegasus to Paradise” by Michael Tappenden. At first I was immediately interested in the story, and became immersed in the interesting world building and complex plot development based on real life historical events and people. But there were times I felt the story wasn’t as focused as I’d like, with some conversations and scenes maybe weren’t necessary and perhaps could have been eliminated to tighten the narrative some. But at the same time, the pacing was steady, and there was pretty much nonstop action and some crazy developments toward the end. It felt fresh and unpredictable, always a nice experience, and it had a certain intelligence and depth that you don’t normally see with many of these types of books, was interesting to see it come full circle. I enjoyed the author’s voice, and was satisfied with the ending. While I enjoyed the characters as well and though they were ‘real’, some of the dialogue felt a bit stiff and at times unnecessary. But overall was an interesting and enlightening book and I feel it actually broadened my perspectives some. I would happily read more from Tappenden in the future.