Archives for category: Book Critic


On the September 2019 Tier Four, Nutritious Sustenance, I posted Excerpt 2 of Sticks & Stones Will Break My Bones, a memoir-in-progress about the violent criminal Attack on me in July 2018.
For October 2019 I’m shutting down Sticks & Stones, at least for now and at least temporarily. I’ve got about 40,000 words written of the memoir, but the material needs organizing and expansion and, frankly, I’m finding reliving the events too depressing.
Since I’ve got several fiction projects outstanding, the memoir is stealing much valuable time away. Accounts of people’s medical problems appear to be popular and elicit sympathy on Facebook, but I don’t know how much Patrons would want to contribute to them. If I get comments from Patrons and more Patrons support this Tier, I’ll carry on.
Also for October 2019, I’m setting up Tier Five, Delicious Sustenance, limited to ten participants per month and for considerably more of a monthly charge ($25). You’ll receive access to all other material, but at this Tier I’m inviting my wonderful Patrons to send me 1,000 words of your prose for a critique (that’s about five pages double-spaced). I have attended many writers’ workshops in twenty-five years and am known to be fair and sympathetic, but also honest. If the concept or language isn’t working for me, I will tell you. Also, I’ve written and edited technical material, nonfiction material, and screenplays, as well as short stories and books.
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The September 2019 Recipe
Lisa Mason’s Spicy California Rice
This is another recipe particularly satisfying for dinner on a chilly winter night, but the dish is good anytime of the year when you want to serve you and your family a nutritious dish with a Mexican flair. I used to call the dish “Mexican Rice,” but Mexican-inspired dishes have, I think, evolved into California cuisine. At our excellent local Mexican restaurant, for example, the menu makes a point that they don’t use lard—long a staple of Mexican cooking. And our veggie-centric dishes would be a novelty in traditional Mexican cuisine, which depends heavily on meat and corn tortillas.
By the way, as always, you can add a tablespoon more of olive oil to the recipe, if you want added fat (fat enhances taste, as all cooks know), or add ground turkey or even ground beef—already cooked, please—if you want meat.
But why would you want to?
In her landmark 1973 book, Diet for a Small Planet, Frances Moore Lappé presents a meticulous argument that meat doesn’t actually contain as much “usable protein” or “complete protein” as people suppose and that bean, vegetable and grain (and sometimes dairy) combinations do the job equally well. Your body does need protein (less protein as you grow older) and usable protein is what your body can metabolize to fuel you.
Think of the classic peanut butter on bread (I hope you’ll transition to whole wheat bread and skip the sugary jelly). The reason this simple meal is satisfying and nourishing is that peanuts and wheat form a complete protein. Eat your sandwich with milk (fat-free milk, if you don’t have a lactose intolerance) and you’re good to go.
Brown rice and beans (kidney, pinto, or black beans) in particular provide a complete protein which is just as good as meat without the bad saturated fat and with the good fiber and vitamins.
I was a teenager when Lappé’s book was published but I quickly discovered it when I went off to college and got out of my mother’s meat-centric kitchen. There weren’t a lot of good vegetarian options then—except cheese and whole wheat bread—and I was skeptical of, and didn’t know how to cook, beans. Like a lot of people who have long eaten meat and haven’t transitioned to beans, legumes at first can cause digestive distress. Trust me, when you ease the meat out of your diet and eat more beans, your system will adjust and you can eat beans freely without embarrassing social consequences (you know what I mean).
On that happy note, let’s begin with Lisa Mason’s Spicy California Rice.
For the rest of the September recipe, join Tier One of my Patreon page at
Note: I’ve grouped multiple posts on each Tier as a single post so that constitutes “one creation” under Patreon rules.
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I’m putting the finishing touches on my Patreon Tiers, which I’ll be blogging on WordPress as the autumnal days progress.
Tier One features a Tribute to Yoshio Kobayashi, the beloved Japanese translator of science fiction and fantasy who suddenly and tragically died in May, 2019. I considered him a friend. Tier One also features my original vegetarian recipe for Spicy California Rice and the September movie review, which will probably be a critique of “Can You Ever Forgive Me”? Plus, I’m adding The September Lifestyle Blog to Tier One.
On Tier Two, you’ll find another delightful Lisa Mason story. This one, “Crawl Space”, is an Abracadabra spin-off, with a Foreword introducing the story and an Afterword exploring the extensive research that went into writing a 4,000 word story. Plus, I’m adding The Writing Tip of the Month, analyzing inadvertent repetitions in a manuscript and how you can fix them. You could pay one of the how-to-write venues $4,000 to learn this stuff (and you can pay ME $4,000 if you like), but Tier Two will cost you a mere four bucks.
Your pledge at Tier Three gives you access to all of this material in One and Two, plus the on-going serialization of my acclaimed new novel CHROME. I’ll be adding Chromian blogs about the inspiration, research, and literary backdrop to this Tier.
Finally, your pledge at Tier Four will give you all of the above (at your leisure), plus my on-going memoir Sticks & Stones Will Break My Bones, about the violent criminal Attack against me. The aftermath of the Attack is why I need your help and support at Patreon.
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I’m so thrilled this book is back in print! And as timely as ever! Bast Books has reported that the print book and the ebook sold in the U.S., the U.K., France, and Germany last month.
What readers say:
“This book was so true to life that I felt like I was there. I recommend it to anyone.”
“More than a great science-fiction, a great novel as well.”
“My favourite SF book of all time, beautiful, cynical and completely involving….Unmissable!”
Brand-new 2018 review of SUMMER OF LOVE at
”Ever since the Save Betty project completed there has been degradation in the archives. The Luxon Institute for Superluminal Applications (LISA, still love that acronym) has determined that San Francisco in 1967 is a hot dim spot. They commission the Summer of Love project. Twenty-one year old Chiron Cat’s Eye in Draco will t-port from 2467 to the summer of love where he is to find the Axis, a teenage girl from the Midwest will have important descendants, and protect her through the summer. This Susan Stein takes an alias, so Chiron has only probabilities to know if he finds the right girl.
In 1967 Susan receives a postcard from Nance, aka Penny Lane, who is in San Francisco. Her parents find the postcard, tear it up and burn it. She runs away that night and takes the name Starbright. She arrives hoping to see Penny Lane, but instead meets up with Stan the Man, manager of the Double Boogie band. She is invited to live with them in a house that is a constant party. She loves it, but a week later Stan hooks up with someone new. She meets Ruby again and Ruby takes her in. That first night Chiron saw an eye symbol by Ruby’s shop, decided to hang around there and Ruby let him sleep on the couch. He’s not sure that Starbright is the Axis, but there is a high probability.
Without being preachy major themes in the book include the environment, population control, women’s rights, and addiction. These were put into the setting of real life 1967. Street names referenced in the book exist and the Grateful Dead did have a concert there on August 22. I enjoyed the story without any nostalgic feeling, other than references to old Star Trek episodes and other SF works.
I really enjoyed the book. It was excellent and the first chapter or two set up encounters throughout the rest of the book. I loved all three of the main characters, Starbright, Chiron and Ruby.” By John Loyd
Book Description: The year is 1967 and something new is sweeping across America: good vibes, bad vibes, psychedelic music, psychedelic drugs, anti-war protests, racial tension, free love, bikers, dropouts, flower children. An age of innocence, a time of danger. The Summer of Love.
San Francisco is the Summer of Love, where runaway flower children flock to join the hip elite and squares cruise the streets to view the human zoo.
Lost in these strange and wondrous days, teenager Susan Bell, alias Starbright, has run away from the straight suburbs of Cleveland to find her troubled best friend. Her path will cross with Chiron Cat’s Eye in Draco, a strange and beautiful young man who has journeyed farther than she could ever imagine.
With the help of Ruby A. Maverick, a wise and feisty half-black, half-white hip entrepreneur, Susan and Chi discover a love that spans five centuries. But can they save the world from demons threatening to destroy all space and time?
A harrowing coming of age. A friendship ending in tragedy. A terrifying far future. A love spanning five centuries. And a gritty portrait of a unique time in American history.
The cover, hand-drawn by Tom Robinson, is styled to look like a 1960s psychedelic poster.
What the professional book reviewers say:
“Captures the moment perfectly and offers a tantalizing glimpse of its wonderful and terrible consequences.” The San Francisco Chronicle
“A fine novel packed with vivid detail, colorful characters, and genuine insight.” The Washington Post Book World
“Remarkable. . . .the intellect on display within these psychedelically packaged pages is clear-sighted, witty, and wise.” Locus Magazine
“Mason has an astonishing gift. Her chief characters almost walk off the page. And the story is as significant as anyone could wish. This book will surely be on the prize ballots.” Analog
“A priority purchase.” Library Journal
5 stars From the Readers
Calling All Fans
Amazon Verified Purchase
‘Summer of Love is an important American literary contribution that may very well have a strong and viable fan base. Where are you? Join us!
This novel is loads of fun to read. The majority of the characters are hippies from the 1960s who meet a stranger from the future who’s looking to save his world. This fellow, Chiron, needs to find a troubled adolescent teen named Susan (a.k.a. Starbright) for a very compelling reason. The book has a great deal to offer: swift action, lovable characters, spiritual insight, and well-chosen primary documents such as essays, poems, and news articles which round out the reader’s understanding of the worldview of the novel.
I think Summer of Love has excellent potential for a wider audience. I hope it continues to enjoy a healthy amount of sales in the used books market on this site. I wish even more for it to be in wider circulation. Some books talk about the sixties. This novel IS the sixties, thanks to the spirit and scholarship of its author. And, as one reader aptly put it, ‘the sci-fi stuff is just plain off the hook.’ Get a copy. Most people who have read it seem to respect it and enjoy it every bit as much as I do.”
New Reader Review! “Just checked to see if this book was on Kindle. It has been many years since I’ve read it but I remember it as one of my very favorite books. Time to go back and re-read it!”
New Reader Review
Kent Peterson
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fine Story
10 February 2015 – Published on
Verified Purchase
Summer of Love, A Time Travel is a fine story. Lisa Mason takes three interesting characters, a time traveller from a future 500 years hence, a 14-year-old midwestern runaway flower child, and hip shopkeeper and places them all in the fascinating place and time that was San Francisco’s Summer of Love, 1967.
Mason has certainly done her homework. You can almost smell the pot and patchouli, see the painted faces and hear the sounds of Janis and the Grateful Dead as Chi, Starbright and Ruby fight to hold on to what really matters at a time when everything seems possible and even the smallest things can have huge consequences.
The time travel plot is nicely (if a bit predictably) done and the glimpses from Chi’s future world are fascinating, frightening and ultimately hopeful. Starbright is 100 percent convincing as a confused, loyal, idealistic, moody teenager who really could hold the key to what is to come. And Ruby Maverick, the shopkeeper who reluctantly gives the two young strangers shelter and strength in a strange and wondrous time is strong and smart and the kind of friend you’d want holding your hand or watching your back when the trip starts going strange.
Summer of Love, A Time Travel is not a rose-colored look backwards. It’s is a kaleidoscopic look at a time of both darkness and light, of confusion and clarity. It’s scary and beautiful, a strange trip where maybe all you need is a little love and some flowers in your hair.
New Reader Review
5.0 out of 5 starsTime travel done right
20 August 2017 – Published on
Verified Purchase
This is a longtime favorite novel. Mason’s time travel tale is fascinating as both a tale of the future and of the past. I am delighted it is now available as a Kindle edition as my paperback copy is long past its prime.
New Reader Review
paula ferre
5.0 out of 5 stars… the last 20 years – it is such a great story.
26 September 2016
Verified Purchase
I’ve read this book 3 or 4 times in the last 20 years – it is such a great story.
New French Reader Review (I’m ashamed to confess I can’t read this; if someone can translate, please leave a comment!)
4,0 sur 5 étoilesEntre Sci Fi et nostalgie hippie
8 février 2015
Achat vérifié
Un voyageur temporel venu d’un lointain futur est chargé d’une mission capitale et débarque au coeur du summer of love. Alors qu’il tente de s’intégrer, on se glisse avec lui dans les coulisses de ces quelques semaines qui ont marqué une époque et l’on découvre la vie au quotidien dans Haight Ashbury, le quartier de San Francisco investi par le mouvement hippie à l’époque. Distrayant et authentique.
Find the PRINT BOOK in the U.S., U.K.,  France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Japan.
The ebook is on US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, BarnesandNoble, Smashwords, Apple, and Kobo. On Kindle worldwide in Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, India, Mexico, and Netherlands.
So there you have it, my friends. Whether you’re a longtime reader or new to the book, I hope you enjoy this classic.
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Yes! A Brand-new Reader Review of Chrome, the First One:
“So Walter Mosley reread Animal Farm and The Island of Dr Moreau and says to himself, “Oh, yes indeed, I’ve got a terrific idea for my next best seller.” But! Lisa says, “Hold on, hot stuff. You’re too late. Chrome is already on the streets. Haha!”
Wow! I just tore through Chrome. So much fun. Oh, I guess I should take a time-out to say that it was very well-written too, but I was enjoying the characters and the story so much that the superb writing simply did its job and I had to consciously reflect to notice the excellent and clever construction and reveals. Uh, isn’t that the definition of good writing?
I’m not usually a fan of sequels, but could we please have at least one more romp with Ms Lightfoot and her sidekick Terralina?”
Yes, I’m working next on CHROME COBRA and a third book to round out a trilogy, plus a prequel novella. LIBERATION DAY, which will explore the mysteries of the events leading up to freeing of the Blends from their cages.
CHROME is in U.S. print as a beautiful trade paperback. Also in U.K. print, in German print, in French print, in Spanish print, in Italian print, and in Japanese print.
The ebook is on US Kindle, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, Apple, Kobo, and on UK Kindle, Canada Kindle, Australia Kindle, India Kindle, Germany Kindle, France Kindle, Spain Kindle, Italy Kindle, Netherlands Kindle, Japan Kindle, Brazil Kindle, and Mexico Kindle.

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The Critic’s Corner
Review of Aquaman
Aquaman stars Jason Momoa as the title character, with Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson, Dolph Lundgren, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, and Nicole Kidman in supporting roles. The film premiered in 2018, and we saw it at home in Late Spring, 2019.
This is yet another film based on yet another lucrative DC Comics universe. The outsized eponymous character, played by the amazing Jason Momoa, is a spin-off of a previous Avengers multicharacter universe. Apparently Aquaman made such an impression on the fans (and on the movie producers) in his brief appearance and role in that Avengers film that he got to make his own showcase.
First of all, the underwater scenery is so original (and what other comics take place mostly underwater?) and so dazzling that the visuals of the film nearly overwhelmed me. Seahorses as warrior horses, jellyfish, sharks, darting schools of colorful fish, even sea dragons. Wow. Yes, the visuals were overwhelming to this viewer.
Some overwhelming complex films I want to see right away a second time before I have to return the DVD to Netflix, or buy the film for our collection to see again sometime in the not-so-distant future.
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The Premier August Essential Digest
The August Book Blog
The Stack of YA Fantasy Books
Yet another neighbor is moving from the San Francisco Bay area, saying goodbye to California, and establishing a new residence in the State of Texas. The high cost of living in the Golden State, the high taxes, the crime, and other issues—well. I have no further comment.
She, the neighbor, gave me this stack of eight books (she added two more since this photo was taken, so that makes ten), as well as a dozen movie DVDs. I don’t know why people are always giving me books and movies. (Not that I’m complaining.) Husband Tom Robinson and I must own 20,000 books.
I don’t really need more books! Or do I?
As a Philip K. Dick Award Judge in 2015, I received hundreds of books from publishers hoping to win the award for their book. I’ve only just begun to clear out those stacks. I gave a big bag of books to another neighbor who is staying in California and reads and likes science fiction. Actually, two bags to two other neighbors. And I still have dozens of books left. Some (a very few) I’ll keep for my collection, of course. At some point, though (when I get off my lazy butt), I’ll take the rest up to our wonderful little local library and donate them.
So my neighbor left me this stack of books, plus two more, and moved away before I could ask questions. Are you a reviewer? Are you an aspiring YA fantasy author? Did you go to a convention? The books are pristine, unread. But she was gone. I’ll never know. It’s a mystery.
They are all beautifully produced hardcover books, with slip jackets, the author’s photograph on the back flap, mostly nice front covers (some I’m not crazy about), some with nicely done maps, all with excellent graphics and embellishments on the inside. All with “handwritten” notes from the author explaining why she wrote the book, all autographed (some with printed autographs), some with postcards of the book cover and a place on the back for a postage stamp and address lines. All were published in either 2017 or 2018 and all were priced at just under twenty dollars.
Eighteen dollars for a quality hardcover? Wow.
All by women. And all Young Adult Fantasy or borderline Science Fiction.
Three books are from the same Big Publisher, the rest from other Big Publishers. So that makes seven Big Publishers, altogether. And they’re all copying each other in terms production values and the extras. I’m sure the publishers—and especially the authors!—are hoping for another Twilight or The Hunger Games.
There must a big market for YA fantasy written from a teenage girl’s perspective, aimed at that audience, even given the overall declining market for fiction, especially print fiction. Especially hardcover fiction. A big, big market.
My novel dissecting the Sixties, Summer of Love, is told partly from the point of view of a fourteen-year-old girl. Bantam, the first publisher, tried to market the book as YA (briefly), with disclaimers about adult situations, drugs, and violence. But I was ahead of my time, book-marketing wise, by about twenty years. Now I hear that Netflix has a controversial teen-life series with many explicit issues. Okay. So you won’t be shocked by Summer of Love by Lisa Mason.
I did what I usually do when confronted with a stack of books. Read the book description on the jacket. Surprise! To be honest, I don’t care so much about the author’s credentials, where she lives, where she went to school, what she does for a living, whether she has a husband or a wife, a dog or a cat. I myself have sweated blood over my author’s bio to go on a book jacket. I surprised myself, this time, with my indifference to the author’s bio. I did read, though, the acknowledgements for purely selfish reasons: to see if there is someone I know mentioned.
But most of all, I read the first paragraph or the first page or a few first pages. They’re all well-written. Otherwise, the books wouldn’t be published by Big Publishers. But those first words don’t always appeal (to me, anyway) or don’t always make sense.
You, as the writer, are supposed to raise story questions in your first line, your first paragraph, your first page that compel the reader to read the rest of your story or book.
That seems obvious, but this is a subtle art. Who is the character who starts the book? What challenges does she face? Will she overcome those challenges and how?
You, the writer, do not want to raise questions of credulity. What do I mean? How and why the character would do such a stupid or unlikely action? Questions that stop the reader dead on the first page.
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