BRWS.com, showcasing work by author/artist Betsy A. Riley

Book Reviews

Good Tales by Louis Winslow -- Tales Guaranteed to Entertain!

This collection of twenty short stories are set solidly in a man's world of deer/duck hunting, fishing, baseball, and war. Yet the stories will appeal to women as well, for Louis has some strong female characters that can match the men, shot for shot. I've never been a hunter, but I thoroughly enjoyed the stories with a hunting setting. They took me back to my days of reading Jack London

The first story "Bad Seed" has to be one of my favorites. I once had a dog that got bred by a pit bull and worried about the consequences too. "Artificial" displays the gallows humor men so often engage in, with just enough edge that you worry that the joke might be on you.There is a dark edge to most of these stories, with people doing bad things and suffering unexpected consequences. There is also a supernatural thread that dips in and out of the stories, which can be quite chilling. If you read this late at night, you'll want to leave the lights on!

The Interpreter by Shah Wali Fazil -- An Insider's look at War in Afghanistan

This book was amazing in its intimate details of the lives of the soldiers, and especially the native Afghanis that serve as interpreters for the U.S. military. The interpreters are often unarmed, but experience the same risks and discomforts as the soldiers. You can tell the author has been there in these situations.

He weaves a vivid tapestry of the personal lives, political intrigue, and past events that all contribute to the trauma of the experience. There is also a spiritual side, with the mysterious "angel" that the main character sees in times of greatest danger.

It shows brilliantly the futility of this particular war, and how confusing it is to all involved, with every meeting a potential trap. The reader will feel they have been there, in that claustrophobic mud hut, breathing the dusty air, plagued by fleas, knowing that death may be waiting around every corner outside.


Lily of the Nile by Stephanie Dray -- Unique, exotic magic that will charm the reader

When Stephanie Dray came to lecture at our writers' group, I was more interested in the Mythica dark romance series she writes as Stephanie Draven, than in her historicals. When she mentioned that there were magical aspects in her Cleopatra Selene series, I decided to check them out. I'm so glad I bought Lily of the Nile. I've always been more into urban fantasy than historicals, but the quality of her writing hooked me from the start. I could feel I was actually there, in the nexus of Ancient Egypt and the Roman empire, understanding the beliefs and motivations of the characters.

After a dramatic opening which detailed Selene's role in the suicide of her mother, Cleopatra, there was a lot of interesting action, but I wondered where the "magical aspect" was. Let me tell you, tt was worth waiting for. The magical communications from Isis represent a unique, exotic magic that fits perfectly in the mythology of Egypt. I have never read such a compelling account of pagan mysteries.

I came to care deeply about Cleopatra Selene, her twin Alexander Helios, and little brother Philadelphus, so much so that I couldn't wait to read "Song of the Nile", the next book in the series.


Song of the Nile by Stephanie Dray -- Triumph and Tragedy Torment Cleopatra Selene

After reading Lily of the Nile, the first book in Stephanie Dray's Cleopatra Selene series, I couldn't wait to read the next book. In "Song of the Nile", Selene develops a strong sense of self and comes to terms with her innate magical power.

The magical influence I loved in the first book, develops even stronger in the second, with more information about the Isis religion. The connections between the worship of Isis and the soon to come birth of Christianity are fascinating.

There is also more description of the convoluted intrigues in the court of Ceasar Augustus. There are deliciously evil characters for Selene to battle against, with her dream of returning to Egypt always tantalizing her. Selene's story is not over, and I eagerly await the final book in the series.

  c. 2011, B.A. Riley, bar@brws.com
  rev 2-12/7/11