Monday, July 26, 2010

Once and Future Posts

The past is now....
I actually started the Tsunami Blue post below a week ago, and for some reason, Blogger likes to put the old date on it unless you actively change it. Which I usually do, but sometimes forget. So I posted it yesterday, but it's showing up with last Tuesday's date, which I think means it got lost in a lot of feeds. This post is an attempt to gently bump it to real time. Which might be a teeny bit presumptuous, so I'll also offer a smidgen of new content

...and in the FEW-CHA

Coming up next, Kelley Armstrong, Waking the Witch, with some possible color commentary about Stolen and Dime Store Magic.

I'm headed out of town on Sunday but if I can squeeze in a third post before I go it JUST MIGHT be about Melanie Rawn, who wrote one of my favorite high fantasy series ever, and is back with a contemporary urban fantasy about witches that I really enjoyed. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tsunami Blue, by Gayle Williams - Review

Ripped from the Headlines
I don't know about you, but when I hear the word "tsunami," my head goes to one place immediately-- the devastating southeast Asian tsunami that hit Indonesia the day after Christmas of 2004.

(The second place my head goes is to that surfer-dude episode of Gilligan's Island, which is, I think, where I first encountered the word... what can I say, I'm a child of the 70's).

The plot of Tsunami Blue is reminiscent of Kevin Costner's cinematic flop Waterworld from 1995: the sealevel has risen so that coastal cities are submerged, governments are in chaos, and marauding pirate gangs rule the waters.

Good Stuff
I quite liked Blue's character. Her wistfulness and loneliness come through sharply and the author does a good job of making us understand the level of danger she lives with. It's scary stuff. I also liked the "Tokyo Rose" inspiration, and the idea that Blue is a voice out in the world, bouncing off the moon.

Unlike lots of current popular fiction, the narration in this story is very consistently from Blue's point of view, which leads to uncertainty around the hero's actions and motivations. I think this worked very well for this story-- it really served to keep the reader's emotions and reactions aligned with Blue's. The voicing is strong, steady and appealing-- a big asset for the story.

World-building-- a bit uneven
Generally I like the premise, but the details don't always hold up (as Ciara astutely points out). As a Midwesterner (albeit transplanted) I couldn't help but wonder what was going on further inland. I'm no meteorologist, but as far as I know, tsunamis wouldn't cause a permanent change in the sea level (although of course they can certainly wreck coastal areas), nor would they cause much commotion for say, Iowa or Nevada. Washington DC and NYC might be wiped out but it seems to me that there would be enough government and naval remnants in the world to prevent the wholesale chaos that Williams portrays.

Now, that might be different if, as it says on the blurb (but not, I don't think, in the book) that the world has been transformed to a series of islands. But Williams doesn't give me enough of an event to really believe that. It may be that the details were in there and I skimmed over them, but I spent probably 3/4s of the book assuming that the continental interiors should be mostly intact. I'm still not really sure why they wouldn't be.

The Romance
Here again, I'm going to use the word "uneven." I think all the right ingredients are here, but it didn't quite gel for me. Blue is portrayed as both naive (from her isolation) and street-tough (from her time with her uncle) and somehow they both worked against her feelings for the hero. She distrusts him, but not quite enough... and then when she falls for him, it's also not quite enough-- for me, anyway.

One Other Completely Random Point
Blue is a pretty young character. And the cover model looks very young. My ten-year-old was dying to read it based on the pretty cover and the blurb. In some ways this book seemed like it was struggling to be a YA romance --if it weren't for the graphicness of the violent bits I would've been pretty much OK with handing it over to her.

Reena, linked below, had a similar comment:
Right off the back, I loved the voice—slightly insane, but fully aware. I’m not surprised Dorchester scooped Ms. Williams up. It was also youthful, repetitious at times (you know how young folks are), but done in a way which added flavor to Blue.

Bottom Line
Despite some technical flaws, the storytelling is excellent--I think Gayle Ann Williams is an author to watch. There will be a second book in the "Blue" world, with different characters, due in March of 2011, and I will be checking it out.

Bonus Material
The author has this to say in an article about what inspires her:

On Christmas night, in 2004 I boarded a plane out of Seattle and flew right into the Southeast Asian Tsunami. In the air when the deadly wave hit, I knew that if I had arrived earlier, I might have been a statistic. As I traveled around the region, I listened and observed, hugged and cried, and all along, the writer in me asked, what if?

As I continued to travel in the region over the next few months, I encountered a great deal of sadness. But also, something else. The resilience of the human spirit surfaced and with it, hope. Hope for a better tomorrow, hope for a better future. I did not know this at the time, but this experience, this life changing adventure, would become the foundation for TSUNAMI BLUE.
Author website: Gayle Ann Williams

Around the Blogosphere
Check out Caffey's Giveaway
Tez Says
Bitten By Books
Smexy Books
Reena's Blog

There are lots more, because I am super-late in posting this review. Pub date was ages ago-- April, I think. But... better late than never.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Does it ever get to you?

I think I've overdosed on urban fantasy lately. I really, really loved Devon Monk's series, and I've been reading Kelley Armstrong and I like it but... dang, the violence and mayhem is just really getting to me. I think I'm going to take a break with some lighter weight historical and contemporary for a few weeks. I mean, at the end of Stolen, there was just a flat massacre, and Dime Store Magic had plenty of murder.

None of it is so bad on a book-by-book basis, but I've been reading so much of it lately it's really starting to just... I don't know, it's getting to me. It's to the point where even though I've got Industrial Magic sitting in my pile just waiting, I need a break.

Last time this happened, Kristan Higgins was just what the doctor ordered, but I didn't love the last one of hers that I read (it was OK, just not as good as I'd been hoping).

Any recs for sweet and light stories or authors? Of course there has to be conflict, but a minimum of blood, torture, and murder would be preferred....

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Thursday Thirteen, Edition 20

Thirteen Lies About Why I Haven't Been Blogging
(the truth is, there *isn't* any really good reason. I thought that some lies would be more entertaining)

13. TOO BUSY. Good excuse right? Not true though. I was really busy for about two weeks on a home project and have been expending a lot of energy ever since to avoid doing all the clean-up stuff that needs to be done. Since this involves playing a lot of Sudoku on my iPhone, maybe it's not a total lie. Sudoku is definitely taking away from the blogging time.

12. TOOK UP RUNNING; I'm so hooked on this. I mean, it feels SOO good. The endorphins! I do it all the time and.... *oh I can't do this* HAHA HAHOHOHEE HEEHEEHEE!!! *wipes tears* HAHAHO *eats some fudge*

11. KIDS ARE SICK. Ooo, that would be a great one. Selfless, even. *checks foreheads all around* ... sigh. Nope. Not that either.

10. HOOKED ON "GLEE". Plausible. But no.

9. MY COMPUTER BROKE. Or maybe the internet was down? Something like that.

8. A GLITCH in the time-space continuum. I was doing some time-travel research and when I got back, I'd skipped like two months of blogging.

7. MYSTERIOUS POWERS. Recently, I discovered that I am descended from a supernatural race and have, um, some kind of superpowers that were activated when I, uh, hmmm, still working out those details... maybe there was a comet?... Anyway, I've been busy learning katana-fu and getting ready to save the world from Certain Destruction. Also, looking for a shade of red haircolor that really works for me.

6. BITTEN BY A VAMPIRE. One of the good, sexy ones; not a horrible one.

5. KIDNAPPED BY A GREEK BILLIONAIRE. As soon as I find a way to access email on Dmitri's complicated laptopper thingy and get myself rescued, I'll tell you all about it.

4. CONFRONTED BY SECRET BABY. So, I know it sounds a little implausible, but as it turns out, unbeknownst to me, some of my eggs were harvested back in the 80's when I was passed out at a frat party *scratch* in the hospital with mono *scratch* getting my tonsils out; then combined with genetic material from David Hasslehoff, and the result is this very bitter person who was apparently raised by evil scientists. It's been a headache. (What? it could happen. Ask Erika Kane).

3. ARRANGED MARRIAGE. Turns out my marriage of 12 years is a fraud, as my real parents legally married me by proxy to a Duke of the Realm when I was just a baby. Tragically, they were killed in an anachronistic carriage accident some few days later and loyal but misguided servants gave me to some kind, hardworking Midwesterners to raise-- to protect me in obscurity. Paperwork and DNA tests have only recently come to light. The Duke is pretty cute, but has some issues (don't they all??).

2. INHERITED $47.3 BILLION from a Nigerian princess. She was such sweetheart; so sad about the cancer of the amaryllis (apparently it's very painful). Not a great speller though. The paperwork has been a bitch but the funds should come through any day now.

and the number one lie........


Seriously, I've been reading my head off, and it's been some great, great stuff. Devon Monk, Kelley Armstrong, Vicki Pettersson, Melanie Rawn, Susan Mallery, Kristan Higgins, Jo Bourne, a bunch of new authors. Gonna really, really try to get some reviews up for you.

...I won't even wait for the Nigerian funds to clear.


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Monday, July 12, 2010

Naamah's Curse - Jacqueline Carey - Review

The Love Continues
I adore this series. Carey delivers quality epic adventure, book after book. To be honest, I don't have much new to say that I haven't said before about her writing --

-- but I can confirm that there's absolutely no fading to the power and lyricism of Carey's storytelling.

There are still lands untraveled in Carey's universe, and Naamah's Curse takes us with Moirin through the steppes of western China, Russia -- perhaps Mongolia would be a more correct analog (what can I say, I'm geography-challenged)-- and what I guess to be the Khyber Pass and Pakistan.

Once Upon A Time
Most of Carey's stories can be described as a quest, but that applies even more so to Curse than it did to Kiss. Moirin must find Bao, the stubborn boy and lover who bears half of her diadh-anam which is a sort of spirit-energy; a link to mother-bear deity of Moirin's people. Something I particularly loved about this story is how it inverts the classic fairy tale rescue motif: our intrepid princess must pass a number of harsh tests of strength, skill, and faith before she rescues the prince, who is imprisoned in a [surprisingly] passive state by an evil witch. You could easily imagine flying monkeys on the attack.

You know it's just too easy when she finds him within 100 pages. They are separated again through magic and ambition-- isn't it always the way?

A new theme emerges with Naamah's Curse, as she undergoes imprisonment and an Inquisition-esque forcible conversion. Along the way she questions her inquisitor's interpretation of his God's will, and finally has this to say:

"And yes, there are moments of glory and wonder in your tales. Yes, your Yeshua sounds like a decent fellow for a god, filled with love and kindness toward mankind. But there are also great, long boring bits about the genealogy of the Habiru, which holds little interest for me and there are tales that make no sense at all, and other parts that are simply harsh and cruel."

He looked aghast. "Only because you do not understand them yet!"

"Do you think so?" I shook my head. "No, I think I am beginning to understand. These scriptures, they were written by mortal men. And mayhap some of them were moved by divine grace, but others were petty, jealous fellows, moved by the ordinary concerns of everyday life, like being cuckolded by a straying wife."

Though Carey's world is particularly at odds with a Puritanical religion that considers sensuous pleasures a sin, this sort of questioning is repeated in other circumstances, as applied to other gods and scriptures, in attempts to make it an even-handed statement about divine will, and the fallacies of mortal interpretation. I suspect most readers who are already fans will not have major issues here, but it isn't much of a stretch to think that some readers who aren't expecting it might be offended.

Overall I give this story a huge win; I am loving this trilogy.

Reading order:
Naamah's Kiss (out now in paperback)
Naamah's Curse
Naamah's Blessing (due next year)

Bonus: I've been making it a habit to attend Carey's signings when she comes to Seattle, which are just a delight. I really enjoy the way she interacts with her readers, from the casual fan to the most obsessive fanatic dedicated (yes, I spotted more than one thorny rose tattoo in the audience). She usually reads an excerpt from the next, unreleased book and this year's was no exception. I don't think I'm overstepping to share with you that Moirin's next journey will intersect with..... {drumroll please} ....... the Aztec. Chocolate! Parrots! Human sacrifice! Cool, eh?

Someone actually videotaped and posted the Seattle event. My voice is in there somewhere and you totally can't hear what I asked. But maybe you can guess from my choice of excerpt.

Around the Blogosphere:
(I'm running really late to this party; the book has been out for a month now, so there are lots of reviews to choose from)

In Bed With Books
The Book Smugglers
The Discriminating Fangirl
Gripping Books
Inside of a Dog (which incidentally, has to be the VERY BEST name I have come across for a book blog in recent memory!) Awesome.

As always, if you have a review of this book, please feel free to leave a link in comments or email me and I will edit it in.

One Last Thing....
I was supposed to do a giveaway for this book, but I'm so late posting the review I'm not sure the offer from the publisher still stands. I'm checking... so you check too. Back here, that is. I'll put up a fresh post if there's a giveaway.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Real Vampires Don't Sparkle

I haven't talked about JR Ward here lately, have I? Don't worry, Lover Mine is on my list to review.

In the meantime, I give you this little Facebook exchange between a high school friend of mine and me:


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