Archive | February 2012

Black Jewels Trilogy

The Black Jewels Trilogy

Book One, Daughter of the Blood, by Anne Bishop, Roc Fantasy, 1998.

Book Three, Queen of Darkness, by Anne Bishop, Roc Fantasy, 2000.

Yes, this review is missing the middle book. I couldn’t find it when I sat down to re-read the series. I also need to post a WARNING on this series. Sex in this series is used as a weapon against both women and men and is very brutal. It isn’t graphic, but it is disturbing. It’s also a very big symptom of what’s wrong in the world the characters inhabit.

This series carried me through one of the roughest times of my life. I haven’t touched these particular books since I left that situation. I have read the additional books ( 2 short story collections and 3, no 4 novels), but not the first trilogy.

They are even better than I remembered.

Tight writing, believable characters you can root for even when their names are Saetan and the Sadist. These are people with considerable power who have to make the tough choices. And there are consequences for their choices; The Twisted Kingdom, the realm of insanity, is travelled by more than one of the characters.

And quite frankly, the scene where Daemon comes to grips with her not returning to him, the fact that he become The Sadist again because she requested it, believing that everyone in his family would hate him but it was ok because she’d be there… and then she wasn’t… I’ve cried my eyeballs red every single time I’ve read that scene. I’ve read it a lot, too.

As I said, I met the books of Anne Bishop when I was going through the roughest time of my life and needed the escape.

I’m so happy that now I’m out of the situation, the books still resonate.

Cuz that’s what we’re all really after, isn’t it? A really great read.

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Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Movie Tie-in Edition)

By: Jonathan Safran Foer, Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

 

After saying that I stay away from books that have been made into movies, here is my second one. I hope you can forgive me. Truth is, I don’t know if I could forgive myself for *not* reading this book. It was that good.

It starts out with a whimsy about a teapot. It’s what drew me in and had me throwing the book into the cart in Target (that and the fact that I knew the only 4 new books I have at home are duds). The teapot is one of many inventions that the young narrator comes up with in his quest to safeguard those he loves and retain his closeness to his father, who died during the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Again, it’s a novel told in threes. Am I just  attracted to that? Or just noticing it more now? This one is told first person from Oskar, a young boy, and through the letters of his grandparents. It’s also full of color, pictures, weird pages… must have cost a bundle to print. I have to admit, I didn’t get the chapter with the red lined areas… Too much work for me LOL.

But the novel is beautiful, the writing great even as the format of the book challenges the way we normally write books. They do add another dimension to the novel, make it interactive. I searched, just as young Oskar must have, for his dad’s name on the pages in the art store. It’s an amazing technique to bring the reader right into the action.

 

Next time, I’m gonna get me some of my favorites out of the book case and turn myself loose on some of my all- time favorites. There’s Elizabeth Haydon, Carol Berg, Lynn Flewelling… We’re going to get our  fantasy on during the up- coming weeks.

 

Best Sellers

What makes a best seller? At its most basic component, a best seller is simply a book that book buyers buy a lot of.  But what gets the book there? Cuz it isn’t always what it should be.

It should consist of a great opening hook, tight writing, great characters and a plot that keeps you wanting more. It should offer late nights and blurry morning after eyes. Too often, though, they don’t.

Contrived.

Lack Luster.

Blah.

Some of it can be straight up attributed to taste. I’m not going to like exactly what you like every single time. And that’s ok. So right off the bat, we’re going to throw out all the non-fiction titles. I don’t generally read nonfiction. I read to escape, pure and simple. Well, except for the stuff you can learn if you pay attention to details.

Ok. Now for Danielle Steele, most mysteries and thrillers (I only like funny mysteries) and the MAN FICTION. Man fiction is defined as anything that can be said to be written in the style of Tom Clancy). Oh, and the legal thrillers can go too.

So there aren’t a whole lot left to choose from. But Romances do end up on the Best Seller list regularly. So why is it that something that is so lackluster that it wouldn’t even register on the date-o-meter in real life on the best seller list while so many great titles languish? Languish, I say!

Have you checked the fantasy and science fiction section of your local book store lately? The stacks LOOK nice and full. But do some searching. A lot of what’s ending up in the new part of it is paranormal romance. Which is fine. But it’s romance. Not really even urban fantasy. Meanwhile, many books and authors that TRULY ROCK languish. Eventually, their books are no longer kept on the shelves.

Did you know that we have power? If every single one of us went to the book store and asked them to order it in for us… They would more than likely take notice and stock the books. This Does Not Work if you use the web site. You have to order it from the book store to ship to them for us to pick them up.

So. We might not be able to control the actual best seller lists. But we can control what gets ordered in by recommending loudly and often those books we love. And instructing our fellow bibliophiles in how to get the books BACK where they belong

What are your favorite non-bestsellers?

Dragon Riders

What makes a book a classic? Is it universal themes? Or readability, five, ten, twenty, a hundred years into the future? Being a fantasy fanatic, there are very few “modern classics” to pull from. J.R.R. Tolkien. Zelzany. McCaffrey.

I resisted reading Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series for decades. How many, I didn’t realize until I read the copyright notice AFTER reading the book. The book was published a few months after I was born, so it is… twenty one twice plus one.  Hehehe.

The first time I remember anyone telling me about the books was while I was in college. At the time, I resisted because I was writing about dragons. I didn’t want any influences on my world building, characters and dragons. Quite frankly, I was jealous too. I *wanted* to be Queen of the Dragons!

For some reason, I never did pick up any of the Pern novels. Despite often running out of books to read, new authors to try, being bored out of my skull… You get the idea. Never. Once.

So on Saturday I was given a brief respite and ran to the book store. My brother Leonard, who has very different tastes in books than I do, highly recommended it. “You loved Tolkien. You love that Game of Thrones series. I can’t stand those types of books.”

“I guarantee you’ll like Anne McCaffrey,” he told me.

Normally I take recommendations with a grain of salt. This time I went ahead and jumped in and I am so glad I did. Because it is simply amazing. What makes it so? It’s a fairly great idea, even though I’m not sure why the Sci-Fi elements need to be in there (to be fair, there are a lot of books left to plow through, so it might actually be needed later). It reads well, even after forty some odd years (drat, I spilled the beans).

For popular fiction, or genre fiction, to become a classic though there has to be magic. An audible pop in the reader’s mind when all cylinder’s start firing and the book sets out pell mell for the finish line. It’s still kind of funny to me that I ignored this series for so long.

No more!

Yay! I have a new series by a writer who was very prolific and whose son has taken up the pen!

SIsters Weird

Sisters Weird

 How many of you have sisters? One thing about siblings is that we have a collective memory, a history that transcends the ups and downs of our lives. We also often love eachother feircely even when we can’t stand eachother.

Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown (Penguin Publishing Group, released in paperback 2/7/12.) Not only does it honor the collective memory, it tells the story from a collective first person point of view. I was charmed by many things in the story: characters, library cards instead of televisions, the use of The Bard… but what really rocked my world from both a reader’s and a writer’s viewpoint was the Point of View.

I have never even heard of a plural first person narrative. Nope. I take that back. But that was a split personality, and quite frankly each personality was different.  So, in fact, I have never read anything quite like this novel.

The plural first person perfectly captures the nuances of being sisters. An excellent read, I give it 5 out of 5 stars.  

This week, I’ll be posting on Tuesday and Thursday because I have a bag full of books which is always a good thing… Possibly on Wednesday. Thinking of doing a Writing Wednesday post, and get me honest about that as well.

Branching Out

There are times in a reader’s, even in a writer’s, life where one is forced to branch out. Not because what we read (or write) is suddenly boring, or because our favorite authors have suddenly become lame. Mostly because, if you’re like me, you’ve already read all the books that you like and suddenly find yourself with the prospect of either going without (OH! The Horrors!), re-reading favorites (which can be fun in and of itself) or branching out.

Let’s branch out for a bit. Not a whole lot, but just a wiggly little bit.

Enter Scrapbook of Secrets by Mollie Cox Bryan (release date February 2012, Kennsington Mystery). I like scrap booking, and I like funny mysteries so I decided to give this one a try. And really, who can resist any novel that begins with “For Vera, all of the day’s madness began when she saw the knife handle poking out of her mother’s neck.” (Never fear, her mother is a force to be reckoned with all throughout the novel). As a matter of fact, most of the novel revolves around Vera, her mother, and a newcomer to the area, Annie. I really identified with Annie, trying to balance being a wife and mother along with a need for some professional (writing) release. Although the novel is set up so that you think the author is extremely unsubtle about who did it— it was a surprise when the whodunit was revealed. And all the clues were there! I give this one a solid 4 out of 5 stars.

And let us not forget Austentatious by Alyssa Goodnight (release date February 2012, Kensington Books). Nicola James is an engineer with a list, a plan, and… a fairy godmother? With the appearance of a diary that gives her advice ala Jane Austen as fairy godmother, Nicola’s life goes from left-brain logical to a walk on the whimsical side. Especially when Fairy Jane decides that she needs a gentleman that decidedly does not fit in with her plans. Not only a good read, but the author appears to have had a rollicking good time writing it. I love books like that, where the author’s passions come out. Another four out of 5 stars.

In personal news, it’s early Sunday morning. Ray is out back playing. I already have my laptop on and thanks to my friend Rie, I have a great idea for a short story on a hoarder of a wizard. So I’m off to get that written. Have a great week, my lovelies! Hopefully I’ll have more to post by about midweek. I’m in the middle of a Sheryl Woods and have another in the stacks waiting to go.