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Book Review: Creatures: A Novel

Hello my lovelies! Today I thought I’d talk to you about Creatures: A Novel by Crissy Van Meter. It’s the first physical book I’ve read in a while. I’ve read on my Nook, and physical magazines… but books? For enjoyment? Not so much.

On that last trip to Barnes & Noble, I found a couple of tables with “Buy 2 Get 1 Free!” Normally, I just walk on by. I enjoy reading on my Nook. It’s convenient. I can adjust the font size. But there is nothing quite like holding a book in your hands and smelling the pages as you read.

I picked up this one in particular because of the little sea creatures on the cover, and the setting being close to the sea (an island, so. Yah). The voice captured me, drew me in and held me even through the parts I hate.

And yes, there are things in this book I normally skip right out of. Drugs—especially parents using a lot of drugs. Van Meter handles it in a variety of ways. Time flows like the ocean, back and forward. The academic questions and answers regarding whales that explore Evangeline’s relationship with her dead father, who looms just as surely as the dead whale out on the beach. The innovation in the way the story is told, including an insert of the very far future (and only one! I wanted more!), is beautifully done. It comes organically from the story– which we all know means that Van Meter put a lot of effort into it. It was worth it.

Overall, the character’s voice drew me in and kept me, even past the time where I knew the subject matter wasn’t what I normally read. I was engrossed. I was rooting for Evangeline. Creatures is the perfect example of why it’s so important to find the right voice for our stories. Because that voice will carry even the most reluctant reader through.

Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels

The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels

By India Holton

For Social Media fix, I’ve been going to Redditt lately. I started when I realized that all the articles/stories I was reading on Facebook started over on the other platform. One of the things I discovered, much to my delight, is all of the different types of readers and writers over there. (I don’t know what it’s called—community? Thread?) And people who love books tend to share the love with other people.

I am finding that I love, love LOVE lighthearted  Fantasy-Romance mashups currently. It started with Gail Carringer and Rie Sheridan Rose. (Go check out their books. I’ll still be here when you come back!)

I’m here to share with you one of the books I found through Redditt: The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels by India Holton.

This story is a mad-cap romp. Celia is awaiting being called up to the high tea table with the lady pirates. Ned is… a many named, mysterious figure who has been contracted to kidnap, maim, kill or harass Celia. At least one. Possibly all three. And then there’s her dreadfully evil father, who writes (badly) and wants to subjugate women.

This has a lot of hilariously mangled literary references, and the writing sometimes delivers a heart-wrenching comment just as the laughter has escaped. I will admit that I might have enjoyed it more if I had read the Bronte sisters. But, Alas, I have not. I have read enough of Austen and others that I see the nods to comedy of manners, with a side eye to the skimming of the romance.  The pacing felt a bit off for me—too rushed and then too slow, until at the very end it settled back down again.

It’s a perfect book to settle down at the beach, or curl up in the air conditioning with a nice cuppa (iced) tea.

Broadening Horizons: Book Review of Reunited, A Cybil Lewis Story By Nicole Givens Kurtz

So I picked up something to read that I never in a million years would have imagined that I would love.

Reunited-Book Cover-1

Re-United, by Nicole Givens Kurtz. I know! I read a Sci-Fi title! Can you believe it? I haven’t read Sci Fi in too long, mainly because the titles that I picked up way back in the past seemed to sacrifice both character and plot for hard science. Or, you know, they’re all “The future sucks, we’re all going to die!”

But this story had everything that I love… Great story line, kick a** heroine and accessible story telling. I was caught up, and stayed captured for the duration. It’s great read, which means Kurtz doesn’t bounce you out of the story just to tell you how something whizbangcool works.

In a lot of ways, this reminded me of the urban fantasies that I love: Kim Harrison, Anne Bishop… only, you know… more mechanical and less magical. But here’s the thing… It reminded me that I actually started out loving Science Fiction. When I was a teeny bopper all those years ago, I’d check out Heinlein, Card, Herbert… (Never any Asimov, although I don’t know why. )

Oh. And I loved, loved loved the Crystal Singer Series by McCaffrey, though I didn’t read her Pern series until recently (I know, go figure).

Re-United caught that enthusiasm for the future and made it bubble again. Since then, I have checked out  a couple of SciFi titles…

And on pay day, I’m going to have a new Cybil story on my reader.

10 Books that changed me / made me/ got me through it

So there’s a meme going round on Facebook, where you give people some variation on the subject of the 10 books that stayed with you/ made you a better writer/ made you into a reader/ that you re-read…..

And my first thought after being tagged not once but twice was…. Only ten???

Hehehehehehehehe

Some of these are more author than books.

1. The Secret Garden & The Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnette. These two books captivated me and made me into the reader that I am today. I fell into those worlds on a regular basis. As a matter of fact, I have continuously owned these books since third grade. My last reread was a couple of years ago, when I had an idea of doing a homage to them. Might need to reread and then start writing that.

2. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. This book made me fall in love with Science. I wanted to go to MIT, I wanted to fly to the stars… What I didn’t realize is that this was my introduction to Sci Fi. I’d later devour titles such as Have Space Suit, Will Travel… but this one stays with me.

3. Xanth Series by Piers Anthony. OMG. If Madeleine L’Engle got me to appreciate Science Fiction, Piers Anthony gave me fantasy worlds that played, had characters that you liked and were dealing with sometimes funny things, sometimes big things. But always, always with a dose of humor. I owe him a huge debt.

4. Lynn Flewelling, Tamir books. These books were rich and complex and gorgeous. And even though they are a prequel to the Night Runner novels, they showed me that writers can write wildly different types of books, even within the same genre and world. I loved Seregil and Alec, but The Bone Doll’s Twin– that book took my breath away.

5. The Black Jewels series by Anne Bishop got me through one of the roughest times of my life. Thank you, Anne.

6. Cathy Lamb, specifically If you Could See What I See, well, that helped to put me back together after those tough times.

7. Henry V by Shakespeare. I love this play, it’s always been my favorite. The St Crispin’s speech floors me every. single. time.

8. The Queens Pleasure, by Brandy Purdy. Her use of language is so beautiful I actually marked up my book, highlighting the good bits. I haven’t done that since college, but wow. Amazing.

9. Eloisa James & Julia Quinn… for always giving me a good read, one that makes me feel better no matter what.

10. Charlie and the Chocolate Factoryby Roald Dahl. My flash fiction piece I just submitted is a homage to this. I love it. That candy garden captured me as a child and has not left me… I’ve even infected my child with my love for it.

So there you have it. These have all influenced me in ways that reverberating throughout my life and my writing. And my writing life. Hehehehe. What books / authors would you add to the mix?

Book Review: Fools Assassin by Robin Hobb

fools assassin

I told you a while ago to go forth and buy Robin Hobb’s Fitz & the Fool books. Did you do it my lovelies? Did you? Because I’m going to go right ahead and get my geek on over this book.

It starts a bit slow. I advised you to get the previous 2 trilogies under your belts because if you have, then the beginning of this will be fantastic. It’s like reading the happily ever after part of your favorite novel, except… umm… it’s Robin Hobb and the first in a new trilogy so it’s going to get bumpy. And boy howdy does it. By the end of the book, I was howling for book two already, and three pretty please because PLEASE DON’T LEAVE ME HANGING HERE LIKE THIS. (Note: she is one of the few authors that I will read a complete series, waiting (im)patiently for the followup. Normally I wait for the whole thing to be published hehehe).

There are themes that are being woven throughout this novel that harken back to the other novels. Fitz’s natural tendency to be caught up in his own head, the feeling of aloneness, being pitted against everyone else, the other, and gender identity whispers through it.

I read this as a galley copy, but have already bought my very own copy for myself so I can love it, hug it and call it my own.

 

What books or series do you geek out on?

Bawling my eyes out…. Thanks, Elizabeth Moon!

It has been a long time since I’ve read a book that literally made me bawl. Had to get up out of bed at midnight, find some tissue and blow my nose. It happens more often with romance than with fantasy fiction, I will admit to that. But it’s still rare.

And then this week I stayed up way too late, bawling my eyes out because of Elizabeth Moon. The Deed of Paksenarrion (contains all three books of the trilogy) did that to me. Right about the end of the second book, beginning of the third. Paks is a female warrior, and at that point she had nothing left from which she drew her identity. She was broken, desperate and alone. I had to stay with the novel long enough that I could in good conscious put it down until morning.

This is something, by the way, that really great fantasy excels at. I may be a female, but I’ve never held anything other than a foam/plastic sword. The only battles I’ve gone into with those swords were pretend, with my son. On a daily basis, it doesn’t matter whether or not I’m a coward.

But.

But…

It doesn’t matter. Because I do know what it’s like to walk away from a life you thought you couldn’t. I know what it’s like to feel that everything that defines you is gone. Somehow, Paks healed herself, became even more herself than before she was broken.

Sometimes, fantasy, especially epic fantasy, uses the framework to pin down a powerful message. And the mesaage was greatly needed, as was the crying session.

 

Check it out, my lovelies. I think you’ll like it.

Wyn

 

Book Review: A Natural History of Dragons, by Marie Brennan

A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent

 

Anyone who knows me, based on the title and cover of this book, would think that I would be stark raving bonkers over it. Madley, passionately letting my inner geek out to play with the dragons.

Eh. Not so much.

This is one of those novels that I circled around forever. Sometimes, when I finally bite it is a great read. This time, it was a pretty good story, but the voice in it kind of… hmm… how to explain it.

The voice of the character is spot on. Isabella is writing after a long career, obtaining and sharing knowledge of her beloved dragons. A pragmatic scientist in a country and time that didn’t allow easily for women to do such… well… she finds a way. Through her husband.

Using Lady Trent’s voice is both brilliant and little bit off putting. There are clues hidden here and there, among things that she says to her readers or about her editors. Things that contemporaries of hers would know, but we the reader wouldn’t. Such as the following:

(SPOILER ALERT BELOW>> SPOILER ALERT BELOW)

The careful reader will remember that she signs the preface as Isabella, Lady Trent. But her husband wasn’t anything beyond a Mr. Hmmm….. I knew what was coming before it did, but even still…. it just was… too remote.

The voice, however, also puts a wall between action and emotion. It’s a little old fashioned that way. I wasn’t as intently invested in this book as I have been in others simply because of that wall. I may be a lazy reader, but I just didn’t feel like breeching the wall and taking apart the book piece by piece.

I did end up reading it all the way through— if it had been atrocious there was no way that that would happen.

Mixed feelings on this one, peeps. Have any of you read it? What did you think? Have you read any books that you couldn’t decide if they were good or not?

Mercedes Lackey can do it…

But does that mean you can too?

Please Note: If you are a fan of the Valdemar series by Mercedes Lackey and have not yet read the Last Herald Mage (Vanyel) trilogy, or Brightly Burning (Lavan?). Quit reading this. Right now. Unless you are ok with unwanted spoilers. And these are huge.

Because there’s something Mercedes Lackey can do that most of us cannot. Well, she does a lot of things mere mortal writers such as us can’t do, but this one is very specific and very, very spoilery. In that it might, literally, spoil the novels for you.

 

Are you still here?

I love Mercedes Lackey, I prefer some of the earlier books but I’m still reading her, she can still catch up my imagination and keep me firmly in the grip of the novel. But there’s something she has done in not one book, but two that has floored me. Yes. She did it. It should have made me flee from reading her books ever, ever again.

Ok. So here it is.

She killed her heroes.

I know you guys know I am a firm believer in happily ever after. So how on earth can I stay with an author who routinely does this to me? I’ll tell you why. Because it was the only possible ending to the respective stories. Vanyel and Lavan, being who they are in the books, could have done nothing else. It broke my heart, both times. Made me sob. I gave up reading for a day or two while I processed my grief. Yes, I felt grief.

But I got over it.

Because those two heroes and their respective journeys were breathtaking.

I’ve written a novella here the heroine dies at the end. So does the hero. It needs a lot of work, but I’m still not sure that I’ll take it up and try to strengthen it and make it better or not. The ending makes sense for the story, the heroine already knows how it will end. But readers… we can be a finicky bunch. 

Here’s the thing. I’m *not* Mercedes Lackey. I only wish I could grow up to be like her. But you know what, being me isn’t so bad. Maybe I’ll go back one day and edit that story, tighten it up and make it shiney and new. Maybe it will languish in my Word Documents. No matter what, that story is precious to me, as are Mercedes Lackey’s stories. They taught me that the hard endings can be written, can be written beautifully… And i have the courage to try it.

Oh. And one other thing she can do… She completely took me by surprise with Moving Targets (with Larry Dixon). I didn’t catch on until just about the last minute, and i normally can suss these things out. All I can say is make sure to pack extra snacks. He. he. he.

 

BWAH HA HA

Till next time my Lovelies!

 

 

Book Review: Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl by David Barnett

Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl

I’ve seen this book a lot– the Nook app was forever recommending it, but I resisted. I had tried steam punk written by men before, and it just didn’t have the same soul that I loved in the female version of the genre. This one didn’t have the same soul, either… But that’s ok. Cuz I liked it.

Yes. You heard me right. I tried something new and I liked it.

At first I was like… What the Heck? Because by today’s standards, Gideon Smith is naive. So, so naive. But that what makes it great. It’s immersing yourself in what I imagine penny dreadfulls were. Just a great, rip roaring adventure. Gideon’s naivete is the perfect foil for his more damaged comrades. It’s a tight balance that has to be maintained by the author, and he does it well. I’m not sure how the followup novel will work, because some of that naivete will be lost, but I’m looking forward to finding out how it’s handled. 

I’ll be back later in the week with some thoughts on Mercedes Lackey.

Ta for now, lovelies!