Monday, December 28, 2009

Zombies, Vampires and Classics

Can someone explain how come this is so popular now? Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Classic Regency Romance - Now with Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem!( link), Sense And Sensibility And Sea Monsters ( link). Not to mention the two I saw the other day at work: Queen Victoria: Demon Hunter ( link) and Jane Bites Back: A Novel ( link). There's a whole bunch more I'm finding as I searched these ones out too. All of them have come out this year.

What's with the zombies? Zombie graphic novels, zombie christmas carols and more. I'm just completely confused. Of course, I'll admit that I haven't read any of these books as of yet, although I'm somewhat curious about Pride And Prejudice and Zombies. The good reviews have been absolutely great, but there've been a fair number of bad ones as well. On the other hand, not having read the original Pride And Prejudice, I wonder if I'd get the jokes.

I'd half-way blame it on the Twilight phenomenon, but as far as I can tell, these books are reverting to a completely different type of monster from the romance/paranormal genres. Pride And Prejudice And Zombies is most definitely classed as a horror novel.

If anyone has a clue why these have become so popular, I'd love to know.

Friday, December 25, 2009

The Golden Mean - Annabel Lyon

The Golden Mean
Annabel Lyon
Random House Canada
Copyright Date: 2009

The blurb:
What would it have been like to sit at the feet of the legendary philosopher Aristotle? Even more intriguing, what would it have been like to witness Aristotle instructing the most famous of his pupils, the young Alexander the Great?

In her first novel, acclaimed fiction writer Annabel Lyon boldly imagines one of history’s most intriguing relationships and the war at its heart between ideas and action as a way of knowing the world.

As The Golden Mean opens, Aristotle is forced to postpone his dream of succeeding Plato as the leader of the Academy in Athens when Philip of Macedon asks him to stay on in his capital city of Pella to tutor his precocious son, Alexander. At first the philosopher is appalled to be stuck in the brutal backwater of his childhood, but he is soon drawn to the boy’s intellectual potential and his capacity for surprise. What he does not know is whether his ideas are any match for the warrior culture that is Alexander’s birthright.

But he feels that teaching this startling, charming, sometimes horrifying boy is a desperate necessity. And that what the boy — thrown before his time onto his father’s battlefields — needs most is to learn the golden mean, that elusive balance between extremes that Aristotle hopes will mitigate the boy’s will to conquer.

Also at stake are his own ambitions, as he plays a cat-and-mouse game of power and influence with Philip, a boyhood friend who now controls his fate.

Exploring a fabled time and place, Annabel Lyon tells her story, breathtakingly, in the earthy, frank, and perceptive voice of Aristotle himself. With sensual and muscular prose, she explores how Aristotle’s genius touched the boy who would conquer the known world. And she reveals how we still live with the ghosts of both men.

The Golden Mean was listed as a finalist for the Governer General's Literary Awards this year, and also for the Giller Prize, so it's definitely got some impressive qualifications.

I got my copy through a Random House promotional event back in September, and finally got it finished last night. I liked the book, though there were times when I wondered where the story was going. It's very well written, and Annabel Lyon has a knack for description - both of character moods and of scenery/setting.

This is a story that's set in the ancient world, so the attitudes are quite different from those of our time. As a result, the book is a bit gruesome at times - but not overly so. It all rings true in my mind for the period. Aristotle is the same way. I don't know much about him - only what I've read in my textbooks, so I don't know how factual the author's description of him is personality-wise, but again, it feels true, and it works for the story she's telling.

I'm noting this a lot about historical fiction: this is another book where there's a note at the end discussing sources for characters and place, which is something I really like.

Overall, this was a good book, and one I enjoyed reading, although I don't feel it's for everybody. I'd say The Golden Mean is a four out of five star read.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all this Christmas time, whether it be white with snow or green. May you have a happy time with your family and a wonderful year to come.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Reading Update

Instead of the It's Monday, What are you Reading post, I'm doing this this week.

I'm nearly finished with The Golden Mean ( link) by Annabel Lyon. I'm enjoying the book overall, it's well written as a Giller Prize finalist, but the story is a bit brutal/gory in places. On the other hand, that fits the time period well.

I'm also reading The Midsummer Night's Dream by Shakespeare

Monday, December 21, 2009


I didn't buy any books this week, so no Mailbox Monday post from me, nor did I meet my goals from It's Monday, What Are You Reading?.

Don't know that I'll have any posts up until Christmas Eve either, so I guess this is going to be my Christmas holiday.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

New posts idea: What Would You Recommend?

I'm thinking of doing a new series of posts, one a week asking for recommendations from you readers.

I work in a bookstore, and I love it, but I often get asked "what would you suggest for someone who likes (insert book title here)?" Sometimes I can come up with suggestions, but others (and this does happen a lot) the books they're asking about are ones I haven't read, or even if I have, I can't think of another author who's similar.

So, I'm going to be asking for help. One book per week if there's interest. I don't know which day of the week it'll be, but I'm thinking perhaps Thursdays or Fridays, assuming I get internet one of those days (and if I don't I'll try and get it set up in advance to post automatically).

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Divine Misdemeanors - Laurell K. Hamilton

Divine Misdemeanors
Laurell K. Hamilton
Ballantine Books
ISBN: 978-0345495969

The blurb:
You may know me best as Meredith Nic Essus, princess of faerie. Or perhaps as Merry Gentry, Los Angeles private eye. In the fey and mortal realms alike, my life is the stuff of royal intrigue and celebrity drama. Among my own, I have confronted horrendous enemies, endured my noble kin’s treachery and malevolence, and honored my duty to conceive a royal heir—all for the right to claim the throne. But I turned my back on court and crown, choosing exile in the human world—and in the arms of my beloved Frost and Darkness.

While I may have rejected the monarchy, I cannot abandon my people. Someone is killing the fey, which has left the LAPD baffled and my guardsmen and me deeply disturbed. My kind are not easily captured or killed. At least not by mortals. I must get to the bottom of these horrendous murders, even if that means going up against Gilda, the Fairy Godmother, my rival for fey loyalties in Los Angeles.

But even stranger things are happening. Mortals I once healed with magic are suddenly performing miracles, a shocking phenomenon wreaking havoc on human/faerie relations. Though I am innocent, dark suspicions of banned magical activities swirl around me.

I thought I’d left the blood and politics behind in my own turbulent realm. I had dreamed of an idyllic life in sunny L.A. with my beloved ones beside me. But it becomes time to wake up and realize that evil knows no borders, and that nobody lives forever—even if they’re magical.
 This is the latest book set in the world of Merry Gentry, by Laurell K. Hamilton, following on Swallowing Darkness. Divine Misdemeanors was a quick read: I started it the day before yesterday and finished it last night, but that was at least in part because I couldn't put the book down.

This series is different from the Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series - magic and the various creatures of Faerie have always been known about and live in the open. In the other series, there's still a sense that they're still coming out of hiding. I like both sets of books equally, though they're very different.

I said this about Torch of Freedom yesterday, that I felt like I had to reread the series to figure out what was going on. I felt the same way about Divine Misdemeanors when I was reading it. Not so much "who is this?" but "when did this happen?" or "what was it that involved this?", especially for some of the side-plots such as the military group.

Divine Misdemeanors does tie up some loose ends from the first books very nicely, loose ends I'd completely forgotten about. It's all set in the human world with very little of the politics of faerie - either court involved. Definitely interesting to see what Merry's life is like under more 'normal' circumstances. Her life certainly deserves those quotes around 'normal'.

I haven't seen anything in Laurell K. Hamilton's blog about the next Merry Gentry book this time, but I'd definitely have to guess that she's got more story to tell after this one, just by all of the things that have been hinted at but not resolved by the end of the book. I do hope so as I've found that I like the story quite a bit.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Torch Of Freedom - David Weber and Eric Flint

Torch of Freedom
David Weber and Eric Flint
Baen Books
Copyright: 2009
ISBN: 978-1439133057

The product description:
As the slavemasters of Mesa plot against the Star Empire of Manticore and the newly liberated slave planet of Torch, Anton Zilwicki and the notorious Havenite secret agent Victor Cachat set off on a dangerous mission to uncover the truth concerning a wave of mysterious assassinations that have been launched against Manticore and Torch. Most people are sure that the Republic of Haven is behind the assassinations, but Zilwicki and Cachat suspect others of being the guilty party.
      Queen Berry of Torch was one of the targets of the unknown assassins. The former head of the Ballroom slave liberation organization, Jeremy X—now one of Torch's top officials, but still considered by many the most dangerous terrorist in the galaxy—calls in some past favors owed to him. In response, a security officer from Beowulf arrives in Torch to take charge of Queen Berry's security—a task made doubly difficult by the young monarch's resentment of bodyguards and the security officer's own growing attachment to her.

      Meanwhile, powerful forces in the Solarian League are maneuvering against each other to gain the upper hand in what they all expect to be an explosive crisis that threatens the very existence of the League itself.

David Weber's Honorverse is starting to need a time-chart showing where the books and stories are set in the timeline. That's my honest opinion anyway. I enjoyed reading this latest installment in the story arc, but at the same time, I really felt completely lost - as though I needed to re-read the entire series first to know what was happening and who all of the characters were. In that sense, this world is getting too large.

On the other hand, this was a great story, and once I got into it, it didn't matter that I recognized names but no longer 'knew' who they were. The story itself had me sucked in, even with the occasional "who's side are they on?" questions I was asking myself.

Typical of Weber's science fiction, this is a universe which is known to be tech-heavy and also very detailed in the social structures and political systems. Torch of Freedom is no different than any of the other books in that. Of course, by now, any reader should know that. This isn't exactly the book to jump in with if you don't know the world already. But, if you do, it's a great read, overlapping with Storm From The Shadows for a good part of the storyline.

If you haven't heard of the Honorverse, it seems to be made up of three different 'threads' now. There's the Honor Harrington storyline which starts the series off, and starts with On Basilisk Station, the storyline of other members of the Manticore armed forces, which begins with The Shadow of Saganami, and the third set is begun with Crown of Slaves ( link).

Honestly, this wasn't my favorite book in this world, but I still liked it enough that I do recommend it to fans of David Weber. My favorites are the true Honor Harrington books.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Upcoming books I'm looking forward to

I saw some interesting looking books in the pre-order lists today.

There's Anne Bishop's newest book set in the world of The Black Jewels: Shalador's Lady. It's supposed to be the sequel to The Shadow Queen. It's supposed to be out in early March.
The blurb is:
For years the Shalador people suffered the cruelties of the corrupt Queens who ruled them, forbidding their traditions, punishing those who dared show defiance, and forcing many more into hiding. Now that their land has been cleansed of tainted Blood, the Rose-Jeweled Queen, Lady Cassidy, makes it her duty to restore it and prove her ability to rule.

But even if Lady Cassidy succeeds, other dangers await. For the Black Widows see visions within their tangled webs that something is coming that will change the land-and Lady Cassidy-forever...
Catalyst by Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, due out at the beginning of next month. Just from the blurb, this book looks like it could be similar to Mercedes Lackey's SCat series from the Catfantastic books. Or, appeal to fans of Andre Norton. Either way, this is a book I'm looking forward to reading.
The blurb is:
Pilot, navigator, engineer, doctor, scientist—ship's cat? All are essential to the well-staffed space vessel. Since the early days of interstellar travel, when Tuxedo Thomas, a Maine coon cat, showed what a cat could do for a ship and its crew, the so-called Barque Cats have become highly prized crew members. Thomas's carefully bred progeny, ably assisted by humans—Cat Persons—with whom they share a deep and loving bond, now travel the galaxy, responsible for keeping spacecraft free of vermin, for alerting human crews to potential environmental hazards, and for acting as morale officers.

Even among Barque Cats, Chessie is something special. Her pedigree, skills, and intelligence, as well as the close rapport she has with her human, Janina, make her the most valuable crew member aboard the Molly Daise. And the litter of kittens in her belly only adds to her value.

Then the unthinkable happens. Chessie is kidnapped—er, catnapped—from Dr. Jared Vlast's vet clinic at Hood Station by a grizzled spacer named Carl Poindexter. But Chessie's newborn kittens turn out to be even more extraordinary than their mother. For while Chessie's connection to Janina is close and intuitive, the bond that the kitten Chester forms with Carl's son, Jubal, is downright telepathic. And when Chester is sent into space to learn his trade, neither he nor Jubal will rest until they're reunited.

But the announcement of a widespread epidemic affecting livestock on numerous planets throws their future into doubt. Suddenly the galactic government announces a plan to impound and possibly destroy all exposed animals. Not even the Barque Cats will be spared.

With the clock racing against them, Janina, Jubal, Dr. Vlast, and a handful of very special kittens will join forces with the mysterious Pshaw-Ra—an alien-looking cat with a hidden agenda—to save the Barque Cats, other animals, and quite possibly the universe as they know it from total destruction.

Oath of Fealty by Elizabeth Moon. Can't forget this book if you're a fan of the Deed of Paksenarrion. I know that's been a favorite of mine for a while, so I've been looking forward to this one. Just have to wait until March now.
The blurb is:
Elizabeth Moon’s bestselling science fiction novels featuring Kylara Vatta have earned her rave reviews and comparison to such giants as Robert Heinlein and Lois McMaster Bujold. But as Moon’s devoted fans know, she started her career as a fantasy writer. The superb trilogy known as The Deed of Paksenarrion is widely judged to be one of the great post-Tolkien fantasies, a masterpiece of sustained world-building and realistic military action. Now Moon returns to this thrilling realm for the first time in nearly twenty years. The result: another classic in the making.

Thanks to Paks’s courage and sacrifice, the long-vanished heir to the half-elven kingdom of Lyonya has been revealed as Kieri Phelan, a formidable mercenary captain who earned a title—and enemies—in the neighboring kingdom of Tsaia. Now, as Kieri ascends a throne he never sought, he must come to terms with his own half-elven heritage while protecting his new kingdom from his old enemies—and those he has not yet discovered.

Meanwhile, in Tsaia, Prince Mikeli prepares for his own coronation. But when an assassination attempt nearly succeeds, Mikeli suddenly faces the threat of a coup. Acting swiftly, Mikeli strikes at the powerful family behind the attack: the Verrakaien, magelords possessing ancient sorcery, steeped in death and evil. Mikeli’s survival—and that of Tsaia—depend on the only Verrakai whose magery is not tainted with innocent blood.

Two kings stand at a pivotal point in the history of their worlds. For dark forces are gathering against them, knit in a secret conspiracy more sinister—and far more ancient—than they can imagine. And even Paks may find her gods-given magic and peerless fighting skills stretched to the limit—and beyond.

Monday, December 14, 2009

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? - December 14

It's Monday! What Are You Reading is hosted each Monday by J. Kaye of J. Kaye's Book Blog.

In the last week (give or take a couple of days) I finished the following books:

Samson's Walls by Jud Nirenberg
The story of Samson and Delilah told in more detail than in the Bible.

Torch Of Freedom by David Weber and Eric Flint
The next installment set in the Honorverse. This part of the universe focuses on the planet Torch and the issues they are having with Mesa and Manpower. I've really got to get the review up soon.

Griffin And Sabine by Nick Bantock
Anyone know how to describe this series?

Sabine's Notebook by Nick Bantock.

What am I reading this week?

The Golden Mean by Annabell Lyon.
This is a Giller Prize finalist. The book is about Aristotle and Alexander the Great.

A Midsummer Night's Dream by Shakespeare.
Does anyone need a description for this?

What I plan on reading this week:

Who knows? Aside from my primary source history books, they're all still packed away in boxes from my move. About half are still at my parent's house.

Probably though, there's going to be Life After 187, which I'll probably need to start again (It got lost in the packing for a while) and The Golden Mean by Nick Bantock. This is going to get confusing, two books with the same title.

Mailbox Monday - December 14, 2009

Mailbox Monday is hosted by Marcia of The Printed Page blog, and she warns of massive TBR piles thanks to participation in this meme. I had one of those to start with, so I'm not all that worried.

Anyway, I've missed out on the last few weeks of this, so this one is a conglomerate of all of them.

What did I get or buy?

  1. Samson's Walls by Jud Nirenberg (Sent to me for review)
  2. Griffin And Sabine by Nick Bantock
  3. Sabine's Notebook by Nick Bantock
  4. Gryphon by Nick Bantock
  5. Alexandria by Nick Bantock
  6. Morning Star by Nick Bantock
  7. Promise Of The Wolves by ? (Don't have the book handy so can't remember the author)
  8. Peony In Love by Lisa See
  9. Derelict For Trade by Andre Norton
  10. Changing The World edited by Mercedes Lackey
  11. The Golden Mean by Nick Bantock
  12. Daily Living In The Twelfth Century
  13. Cathedral Forge And Waterwheel by Francis and Joseph Gies
  14. Medicine And Socety In Later Medieval England by Catherine Rawcliffe
  15. Londinium by John Morris
  16. Lord Of The Two Lands by Judith Tarr
  17. The Archaeology Of Roman Britain
  18. Into The Path Of Gods (Sent to me through LibraryThing for review).
I know the list isn't fancy, but it's too long to do the proper links and cover images.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Samson's Walls - Jud Nirenberg

Samson's Walls
Jud Nirenberg
Paul Mould Publishing
Publishing Date: December 2009?
ISBN: 9781586901028

This is what I was sent from Carol Fass Publicity as the offer of the book for me to review (Copied and pasted from the initial e-mail):

Jud Nirenberg, as an organizer of human and civil rights efforts, has seen first-hand the destructive forces of inter-ethnic violence. His experiences color a dark vision of one of the Old Testament's most powerful stories in his new novel, SAMSON'S WALLS.

the United States tries once more to draw Israeli and Arab leaders to the negotiation tables, SAMSON'S WALLS shows readers a much older view of the same region. Binding the psychology of its characters to the socio-political context of ancient Canaan, the novel breathes life into Samson, Delilah and others who struggle to survive and to connect with others in a world full of divisiveness and violence.
In a Canaan where Philistines and Hebrews vie for dominance, it is important to know one's place. Samson is isolated in his, trapped by unusual rules and expectations. He was promised to his parents by an angel, destined to grow into a great man and make his people strong. Raised with Philistines for playmates, he aches to be a part of their world. At marrying age, he chooses a Philistine wife. When his new family denies him the acceptance he craves, he releases years of frustration and loneliness in blood.

Samson goes into hiding, seeking to make peace with his wife's people. Other young Hebrews soon join him, each with their own reasons for rebellion. Even while longing for peace, Samson leads this growing army. He is trapped by his successes and grows in fame and power, taking enemy territory. He is alone.

He tastes love when he meets Delilah, the unlikely prostitute-queen of a village in no-man's land. She is the opposite of the clannish divisions he hates, with unclear ethnic origins and leading a mixed community. They become intimate as Philistine spies gather around them. Samson and Delilah are ensnared in Samson's fight to fulfill his own heart's need despite his tribe's and God's expectations.

SAMSON'S WALLS is now in pre-production as an opera, to be initially performed in 2010 in Washington, DC. Music is being composed by Gregg Martin, with Nirenberg consulting on the libretto. See for more information.

A Kindle version of the novel is available through Amazon, through Oak Tree Books. The paperback will also be available through Amazon and in select bookstores.
Now I've finished reading the book, it's December and I've been searching Amazon to find Samson's Walls there. All that comes up is the Kindle edition.

I've used the e-mail for the blurb for another reason as well: the copy of the book I was sent didn't have a jacket blurb for me to use, and not finding it on Amazon, I couldn't use that source either.

I have to say, I liked the story idea, although there were things I felt could have been fleshed out more, such as Samson's father and Delilah's motivations. Admittedly, I'm not overly familiar with the base story in the Bible, and maybe all that is made clearer there. There were just a few things brought up that made me go "what?" and then nothing more was made of that point, even though it seemed like something that could have been important.

Samson's Walls definitely caught my attention and kept it though, not letting me put the book down for any other books. I'm a fan of historical fiction, and this was a good one. The mix of groups, cultures and peoples worked to set up a vibrant and conflicted world, which fits with the story, and with what I know of the history of the era from reading textbooks.

It might be helpful for a reader to brush up on the biblical story of Samson and Delilah before reading this. At the least, it'll give you a shape for the story, to which Nirenberg will be adding colour and texture to the characters and the settings.

According to the publicity blurb I got sent, the story is going to be made into a theatrical/operatic production. That should be interesting to see!

Overall, I liked Samson's Walls quite a bit, but it's not going to be one of my favorite books of the year. Regardless, it was a good, but shortish read. If bible-based historical fiction is something you enjoy though, I'll recommend it.

Edited to add on January 29, 2010: The paperback version of the book is now available, and I've linked to the page for it.

Sabine's Notebook - Nick Bantock

Sabine's Notebook
Nick Bantock
Chronicle Books

The blurb (Publisher's Weekly):
Devotees of Bantock's enigmatic bestseller, Griffin & Sabine , won't be disappointed by this equally intriguing and perplexing--and equally gorgeous--sequel. London artist Griffin Moss and islander Sabine Strohem, who have never met face-to-face or spoken via phone, exchange hand-illustrated, handwritten letters and postcards--ostensibly reproduced here, tucked into envelopes and removable for reading. As this installment opens, Griffin, frightened by his psychic connection to his otherworldly correspondent, flees England on a night sea journey from Italy to Japan and Australia. He leaves a letter for Sabine, urging her to stay in his abandoned studio. Winter turns to summer and Griffin's courage overcomes his trepidation; still, Sabine warns him to "be . . . cautious; the eye of the storm is a deceptive place." Griffin's initial distress and progressively optimistic outlook shine through his paintings. Sabine's cryptic visual messages seem tinged with mysticism and, possibly, malevolence. Perhaps because it has been established in the previous book, the couple's supernatural bond is less of a focus here, and at times, his art and hers are a touch too similar. Nevertheless, Bantock's distinctive premise continues to puzzle and delight, the wonderful stationery has an authentic look and, not surprisingly, the finale leaves room for another chapter. Author tour.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.
The sequel to Griffin And Sabine, this is another extravaganza of art postcards and removable letters. As I said of the last book, it reminds me a lot of Barbara Hodgson's The Tattooed Map. Again, there's no resolution, and the story ends with yet another mystery. Is Sabine real? Who is she (and for that matter, who's Griffin?)?

Short in story, but long in art. That's the best way I can think of to sum up this book. It's easy to read in one sitting, but you'll spend time simply examining the art, and trying to see what relationship it has to the story, not to mention what the art says about it's creators.

Sabine's Notebook is definitely a book I enjoyed reading, although, I admit, given it's length, there's not much I can say about it without giving things away.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Griffin And Sabine - Nick Bantock

Griffin And Sabine
Nick Bantock
Chronicle Books

Back jacket blurb:
It all started with a mysterious and seemingly innocent postcard, but from that point nothing was to remain the same in the life of Griffin Moss, a quiet, solitary artist living in London. His logical, methodical world was suddenly turned upside down by a strangely exotic woman living on a tropical island thousands of miles away. Who is Sabine? How can she "see" what Griffin is painting when they have never met? Is she a long lost twin? A clairvoyant? Or a malevolent angel? Are we witnessing the flowering of a magical relationship or a descent into madness? This stunning visual novel unfolds in a series of postcards and letters, all brilliantly illustrated with whimsical designs, bizarre creatures and darkly imagined landscapes. Inside the book, Griffin and Sabine's letters are to be found nestling in their envelopes, permitting the reader to examine the intimate correspondance of these inexplicably linked strangers. This truly innovative novel combines a strangely fascinating story with lush artowrk in an altogether original format.

I'm actually not sure how to describe this book. Strange is one word that comes to mind. Compelling is another. However, I don't want to give the story away.

I was raving about The Tattooed Map by Barbara Hodgson a while ago, and someone told me that if I liked her book, I'd really like the books by Nick Bantock. Well, I never really followed up on that, until I was travelling in September. It turned out that one of the people I was visiting had Griffin and Sabine along with the two follow-ups at their house. I was able to get a look at this book and fell in love. I got the chance to pick up all six of the books the other day, and have alread read the first two.

They are definitely short books, making for quick reads, but the real meat of the book is the artwork. The sheer level of details there are. Different types of writing for the two characters: his seems to be a ball-point or other normal pen (except when typed). Sabine on the other hand writes with a dip pen of some sort, I'd guess with a squared off tip. Bantock has 'reproduced' the variations in ink tone such a pen produces.

When typed, Griffin's letters include various typos, either not caught, or corrected in pen. Those letters are kept folded in envelopes attached to the page, but not actually printed on the page. They're entirely separate pieces of paper.

Some of the postcards are downright surreal, for example the one labeled "The Blind Leading the Blind". Just creepy. However, all of the art is spectacularly detailed.

I will note that the story, though short is fascinating, and the book ends on an absolute cliff-hanger. I highly recommend this whole series.

Changing The World - Mercedes Lackey

Changing The World
Editor: Mercedes Lackey
Daw Books

The back jacket blurb:
The heroes of Valdemar
...are the Heralds, an ancient order trained to be emissaries, spies, judges, diplomats, scouts, counselors, and even warriors. But they are more than just protectors of the kingdom. Chosen from all across the land, from all walks of life, and at all ages, these unusual individuals are Gifted with abilities beyond those of normal men and women. They are Mindspeakers, FarSeers, Empaths, ForeSeers, Firestarters, FarSpeakers, and others who are uniquely suited to protecting their realm. Sought and Chosen by mysterious horselike Companions, they are bonded for life to these telepathic, enigmatic creatures. With their Companions, the Heralds of Valdemar ride patrol throughout the kingdom protecting the peace and, when necessary, defending their land amd monarch.

Now,sixteen authors join Mercedes Lackey adding their own adventurous touch to the heroes of this well-loved fantasy realm.

Join Tanya Huff, Mickey Zucker Reichert, Fiona Patton, Judith Tarr, Rosemary Edgehill and others in sixteen original stories, including an all-new novella from Mercedes Lackey, set in a land where: A woman shunned by her village and betrayed by her brother finds her true calling when she saves the lives of a wounded Herald and his Companion... a devoted young herbalist must choose between her chosen duty to her village and her destiny as a Herald... a man who is about to be happily married is shown the truth of his situation by a Companion he has refused to follow.

There are a lot of familiar names in this anthology - familiar from previous Valdemar anthologies that is, especially Crossroads the last anthology. Quite a few of the stories involve the characters the authors introduced there. In that, this is beginning to remind me of the Catfantastic series of anthologies. Judith Tarr, for example, has written another story involving her dressage-skilled Herald. There are two stories involving Ree and Jem this time.

The stories also range from the founding of Valdemar on to after the Mage Storms, and also cover the other countries of Velgarth, and even our own Earth.

Mercedes Lackey's story here is one of my favorites from the book, not like last time. This time it worked within her world, rather than forcing it to fit another story. The story Softly Falling Snow was another that fit really well.

As with any anthology though, I'll admit there are stories I liked more than others. As much as I like Judith Tarr's other writing, such as her novel King and Goddess, which I reviewed here recently, the notion of magic she's brought to Valdemar just doesn't quite work for me. It's a good story nonetheless. Also, the story set in our world. Valdemar and the Companions are something completely separate in my mind from our world and it's problems, although I could see what the author was trying for.

The introductions to the individual authors have to be one of my favorite parts of an anthology like this. They're just downright funny much of the time. I think Mercedes Lackey and the others here are following in the footsteps of Marion Zimmer Bradley with the Sword and Sorceress series.

If you like the Valdemar books (and know them fairly well), this is a book for you. It is, though designed for that specific audience, and if you haven't read any of the books, I'd suggest starting with Arrows of the Queen and it's sequels.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Newly Released Books

I discovered the other day that the mass market edition of Lover Avenged, the most recent book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series by J.R. Ward is now out. Apparently it's been out for a couple of weeks now, at least in the United States. In Canada, the book was just released on the first of December, so that's why I only just noticed it.

I know I've been waiting for the paperback to come out before I bought it, and I'd bet a few others have been too. My review of the hardcover is here.

Also, I've seen rumors that the next book is going to be called Lover Mine.

That's not the only book I've been waiting for either that I've seen. I just saw Divine Misdemeanors by Laurell K. Hamilton at Indigo today as well. That's the next book in the Merry Gentry series. I'm a bit surprised by that as I didn't think it was supposed to be on the shelves until the eighth - next Tuesday. Either way, given that I loved Swallowing Darkness, I'm going to be reading this one soon.

The next Anita Blake novel will be coming out in February apparently, at least that's what Amazon is saying.

I've also been able to get my hands on the latest anthology of Valdemar stories: Changing The World, edited by Mercedes Lackey. There are some incredible stories there - my review should be up in a few days, as I finished reading it this morning.

I want to write about specific stories though, and I don't have the book handy now, otherwise, I'd have the review up tonight. I can say that a number of the writers have brought back characters they wrote about in previous anthologies such as Crossroads. Mercedes Lackey's story in here is really good too.

There's a new Avalon novel by Diana L. Paxon out too. She's definitely taken over the series from Marion Zimmer Bradley. I think, going by the title, Sword of Avalon, that this story has a connection to Excalibur. Thing is, I haven't read any of the books since Ancestors of Avalon came out, so I'm rather lost as to what's going on in the world now.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Update: Internet Access

After this morning, I'm no longer going to have regular internet access for the foreseeable future. Instead, I'm going to be making use of the local library for my internet. This means that reviews and the like are more likely to be posted two or three at a time, and there may be delays in my responding to comments. I'm absolutely not giving up on the blog though. All Booked Up has been too much fun.

The Eagle's Daughter - Judith Tarr

The Eagle's Daughter
Judith Tarr
Tor Books
Copyright Date: 1996

The blurb:
Here in lush detail is the powerful story of the tenth-century Byzantine princess Theophano, who was sent to be the wife and Empress of Otto II, son of Otto the Great, the Holy Roman Emperor.

It is a long journey from the surviving Roman Empire in the East to the devastated Empire in the West. Theophano must apply all her Byzantine skills to truly become the Empress of the West, winning first her new husband's devotion, and then the love of her new people,

But when Otto II dies unexpectedly, laving the empire to his four-year-old son, the Empress Theophano must fight one of the greatest wars of succession of the Dark Ages. For Otto II's cousin, Henry of Burgandy, would have the Regency for himself and the Throne as well--if he can take them.

Another of Judith Tarr's stunning historical fiction novels. The Eagle's Daughter is straight historical fiction with no magic, as with King and Goddess. This time the book moves between tenth century Byzantium and the Ottonian Empire/Holy Roman Empire.

While in the author's note at the end, Tarr admits that she's condensed events a bit, the story is historically rich and gripping. The author has made use of a complex and fascinating era of history for this story: there's treachery, war, love, all the important things, as well as personal and interpersonal conflict.

I found Aspasia to be a fascinating character and true to the storyline, even though, unlike most of the others, she is a fictional construct. This is one of those books that's inclined to send me back to my textbooks to find out a bit more about the period.

I know this review is too short to be really much help, but at the same time I read The Eagle's Daughter I was writing frantically at my NaNoWriMo project, so this got pushed to the side a bit too long. Still, I really liked the book, and I'm going to have to keep an eye out for more of Tarr's historical fiction. I find I like it a bit better than her historical fantasy.

Gwenhwyfar: The White Spirit - Mercedes Lackey

Gwenhwyfar: The White Spirit
Mercedes Lackey
DAW Books
Copyright Date: 2009

The blurb:
Gwenhwyfar moves in a world where gods walk among their pagan worshipers, where nebulous visions warn of future perils, and where there are two paths for a woman: the path of the Blessing or the rarer path of the Warrior. Gwenhwyfar chooses the latter, giving up the power that she is born into. Yet the daughter of a King is never truly free to follow her own calling. Acting as the "son" her father never had, when called upon to serve another purpose by the Ladies of the Well, she bows to circumstances to become Arthur's queen-only to find herself facing temptation and treachery, intrigue and betrayal, but also love and redemption..

Mercedes Lackey has finally ventured into the realms of Arthurian fantasy with her latest novel. As far as I can tell, she's done a good job with it too. Gwenhwyfar kept me up late for the last two nights. I just had to know what happened next.

This book is rather reminiscent of Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Mists Of Avalon in that the story is told from a woman's perspective, but it's the opposing woman to that book: Gwenhwyfar, rather than Morgaine. Gwenhwyfar is also definitely something of a tomboy, chosing to follow a man's way of life, and doing a very good job at it.

Mercedes Lackey has taken a different tack on things than some of the other Arthurian fantasy I've read: rather than having the old religion and the new one (Christianity) in conflict, she's made it possible for the two to get along. She's also done something new with the magic, although it works well.

It's not Valdemar, but there were times when the writing felt similar to the books set in that world. Probably because in many ways that's the typical 'fantasy' setting that Lackey uses.

I also found this new book to be reminiscent of Anne McCaffrey's short novel Black Horses For The King. In other words, heavy on the Welsh names. Not that it's a complaint. For the time period the book is set, it works.

Overall, Gwenhwyfar: The White Spirit has taken a different read on the story. Mercedes Lackey, has found a way of sorting out the various conflicting versions of the life of Guenivere and working these little tidbits into her story, namely by making Guenivere into three women, and the main character of the story the youngest.

I recommend this book highly (as I do nearly all of Mercedes Lackey's).

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

King And Goddess - Judith Tarr

Now that NaNoWriMo is over with, I can go back to posting reviews of books (not to mention actually reading them). I did reach the goal of fifty thousand words in thirty days however.

King And Goddess
Judith Tarr
Tor Books
Copyright Date: 1996

The blurb (Publisher's Weekly):
Egypt's "most notorious" female king, Maatkare Hatshepsut, is the captivating subject of Tarr's latest novel of ancient Egypt. The story opens as Senenmut, a homely, arrogant young scribe, arrives at the royal palace in Thebes as a gift to the "girlchild" Queen Hatshepsut?the Great Royal Wife of King Thutmose II, who is her half-brother. Hatshepsut and the war-hungry king are living gods. The royal marriage has yet to be consummated, however, because the queen considers the king "a sweaty, panting lout without the least grain of delicacy." Recognizing her duty to produce an heir, she orders Isis, a beautiful maidservant, to prepare the king for her by teaching him the art of lovemaking. When Hatshepsut at last gives birth to a girl instead of the desired boy, the queen refuses to care for her, appointing Senenmut as her daughter's tutor and guardian. The birth of a stillborn son leaves the queen infertile. Her hatred toward the king crystallizes after Isis, now his calculating concubine, gives birth to an heir, Thutmose III. When the king suddenly dies, further intrigue unfolds, leading to Hatshepsut, now queen regent, seizing her chance to gain the throne. Tarr evokes Hatshepsut's ruthlessness as well as her vulnerability, and provides vivid portraits of Senenmut, Thutmose III and other real historical figures. Hatshepsut's courtship of the Egyptians, her peaceful reign and Thutmose III's ultimate revenge against her add up to a dramatic tale.

King And Goddess is the story of Hatshepsut, the striking female Pharaoh that has captured our imaginations, is told from the point of view of Senenmut, her one-time tutor and also through the eyes of Neshi, the man who became her guardsman and much more.

This is one of Judith Tarr's historical fiction novels, but one where there is no magic. So far in my experience there are two varieties of historical fiction she writes: This one, which is in the same vein as The Eagle's Daughter: closely based on historical fact, and then there's the type where the author mixes fact and fantasy, as in Rite of Conquest.

Yes, this is an older story, but the events of the novel still capture the imagination, and don't seem to be contradicted by any current archaeological evidence I'm aware of. It's interesting the way the building of the monuments is described: the obelisks and her mortuary temple especially. Both are famous and feature in several major art history textbooks.

Judith Tarr has a talent for capturing strong-willed characters in her writing, of which there are many in this story. Hatshepsut herself is one, as were several of the others.

In some ways the story in King and Goddess reminds me of the novels I read earlier this summer by Michelle Moran, but that's likely to be because they were the ones that set me on my current Egypt kick. I will say though that if you liked Nefertiti or The Heretic Queen, you'll probably like King and Goddess as well. I know Judith Tarr has written other books set in ancient Egypt, but I haven't gotten around to reading them yet.

At the end of the book is a historical note where the author noted any historical liberties she took with the story she chose to write. It turns out that for this book there were fewer than I'd thought there might be. For example both Senenmut and Neshi were apparently real figures with historical evidence backing them up.

I'll admit it, I've been reading quite a few books set in ancient Egypt this year. This has been another fine book, and I'm sure I'll find even more I like.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Laurell K. Hamilton and NaNoWriMo Again

Laurell K. Hamilton's blog is turning into a wonderful resource for writing tips this month both for NaNoWriMo and for writers in general for the rest of the year. She's posted another post on working with your characters and plot this morning. There are a couple of spoilers for her books though, to watch out for, near the end of the article.

Friday, November 20, 2009

"Extra" NaNoWriMo Pep-Talk

Laurel K. Hamilton wrote a blog post about writing aimed at those of us who are doing NaNoWriMo this year, called "Getting That Novel Unstuck". I'm considering it to be an extra pep-talk, and I think it's full of ideas that might be helpful.

At the moment, I'm behind on word-count (30,918 words, where I should be at 31,667) but I left it at an interesting place last night, so I should be able to do some catch-up today.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Mailbox Monday - November 16

Mailbox Monday is hosted by The Printed Page each week, and they warn that "Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists."

I didn't think I was going to have any books to share this week, but these two came in:

An Echo In The Bone by Diana Gabaldon
The blurb:
Diana Gabaldon’s brilliant storytelling has captivated millions of readers in her bestselling and award-winning Outlander saga. Now, in An Echo in the Bone, the enormously anticipated seventh volume, Gabaldon continues the extraordinary story of the eighteenth-century Scotsman Jamie Fraser and his twentieth-century time-traveling wife, Claire Randall.

Jamie Fraser, former Jacobite and reluctant rebel, is already certain of three things about the American rebellion: The Americans will win, fighting on the side of victory is no guarantee of survival, and he’d rather die than have to face his illegitimate son–a young lieutenant in the British army–across the barrel of a gun.

Claire Randall knows that the Americans will win, too, but not what the ultimate price may be. That price won’t include Jamie’s life or his happiness, though–not if she has anything to say about it.

Meanwhile, in the relative safety of the twentieth century, Jamie and Claire’s daughter, Brianna, and her husband, Roger MacKenzie, have resettled in a historic Scottish home where, across a chasm of two centuries, the unfolding drama of Brianna’s parents’ story comes to life through Claire’s letters. The fragile pages reveal Claire’s love for battle-scarred Jamie Fraser and their flight from North Carolina to the high seas, where they encounter privateers and ocean battles–as Brianna and Roger search for clues not only to Claire’s fate but to their own. Because the future of the MacKenzie family in the Highlands is mysteriously, irrevocably, and intimately entwined with life and death in war-torn colonial America.

With stunning cameos of historical characters from Benedict Arnold to Benjamin Franklin, An Echo in the Bone is a soaring masterpiece of imagination, insight, character, and adventure–a novel that echoes in the mind long after the last page is turned.
And the second book is an ARC with a publishing date set at the end of March 2010:

Curiosity by Joan Thomas
The description:
More than 40 years before the publication of The Origin of Species, 12-year-old Mary Anning, a cabinet-maker's daughter, found the first intact skeleton of a prehistoric dolphin-like creature, and spent a year chipping it from the soft cliffs near Lyme Regis. This was only the first of many important discoveries made by this incredible woman, perhaps the most important paleontologist of her day.

Henry de la Beche was the son of a gentry family, owners of a slave-worked estate in Jamaica where he spent his childhood. As an adolescent back in England, he ran away from military college, and soon found himself living with his elegant, cynical mother in Lyme Regis, where he pursued his passion for drawing and painting the landscapes and fossils of the area. One morning on an expedition to see an extraordinary discovery — a giant fossil — he meets a young woman unlike anyone he has ever met…

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? - November 16

It's Monday! What Are You Reading is a weekly event hosted by J.Kaye of J. Kaye's Book Blog, where we list off the books we've read each week, what we're reading now, and what we want to read for the week.

I see it as incentive to get the reviews up, which I'm failing badly at right now.

Books I finished this past week are:

The Eagle's Daughter by Judith Tarr. Set in 10th century Germania/Gaul, it was a good read. Read for the Clear off Your Shelves Challenge.

The Shadow Hawk by Andre Norton. A departure from her usual science fiction/fantasy novel.

I'm really behind on reviewing! Got to get the reviews for these up.

What I'm reading now:

The Birth of Venus by Sara Dunant. I've just started the book really, and I'm not too sure what to make of it.

Guilty Pleasures by Laurell K. Hamilton. It's the graphic novel, and again, I'm not sure what I'm thinking about it yet. Both of these are for the Clearing Off Your Shelf Challenge.

Life After 187 by Wade J. Halverson. Not sure what to classify this book as, but I'm really enjoying it, even though it's not my usual reading fare.

Planning to read:

The second volume of the Guilty Pleasures graphic novel. Also for the Clear Off Your Shelves Challenge.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Day The Falls Stood Still - Cathy Marie Buchanan

A version of this review was posted to Royal Reviews on November 3, 2009.

The Day The Falls Stood Still
Cathy Marie Buchanan
HarperCollins Publishers
Copyright Date: 2009

The description:
Steeped in the intriguing history of Niagara Falls, this epic love story is as rich, spellbinding, and majestic as the falls themselves.

1915. The dawn of the hydroelectric power era in Niagara Falls. Seventeen-year-old Bess Heath has led a sheltered existence as the youngest daughter of the director of the Niagara Power Company. After graduation day at her boarding school, she is impatient to return to her picturesque family home near Niagara Falls. But when she arrives, nothing is as she had left it. Her father has lost his job at the power company, her mother is reduced to taking in sewing from the society ladies she once entertained, and Isabel, her vivacious older sister, is a shadow of her former self. She has shut herself in her bedroom, barely eating--and harboring a secret.

The night of her return, Bess meets Tom Cole by chance on a trolley platform. She finds herself inexplicably drawn to him--against her family's strong objections. He is not from their world. Rough-hewn and fearless, he lives off what the river provides and has an uncanny ability to predict the whims of the falls. His daring river rescues render him a local hero and cast him as a threat to the power companies that seek to harness the power of the falls for themselves. As their lives become more fully entwined, Bess is forced to make a painful choice between what she wants and what is best for her family and her future.

Set against the tumultuous backdrop of Niagara Falls, at a time when daredevils shot the river rapids in barrels and great industrial fortunes were made and lost as quickly as lives disappeared, The Day the Falls Stood Still is an intoxicating debut novel.

Cathy Marie Buchanan has woven a fascinating mix of history and fiction in this, her first novel. Everything about it shows that balance between what was real and what she chose to make up. The events described really do feel like they could have happened as she described them. That's because many of them really did happen. I can't say for sure if all of them did, but last month I was on a tour of Niagara Falls, and that's what inspired me to pick up this book. While on the tour, we saw the wreck of the grounded scow, which still sits on the riverbed today. We also saw photos of some of the daredevils and stunt-people who ventured the falls and survived (or not). All of that really added to the atmosphere of The Day The Falls Stood Still for me, making it more 'real', as I had an idea of the historical reality that grounds this story. However, I really don't think you have to have seen the falls to see the grandeur and awe they inspire in this book.

The other thing that added to the mix of history and fiction combined in this book is the use of archival photos at the start of many of the chapters. There's the ice bridge, pictures of the stunts, the powerhouses, and the falls themselves (among many others).

Tom Cole is, according to the author's note, closely based on a historical figure called William "Red" Hill. I can't say anything about it, not knowing the local history, but Tom is an interesting character, as is Bess Heath, the protagonist and viewpoint character of the story.

The Day The Falls Stood Still is rich with details and imagery of the First World War years, all told from the point of view of a woman who stayed at home to support the children while her husband enlisted. It's interesting the way life in those years is portrayed in this book. Scrimping and saving on food, while still wearing individually tailored dresses in fancy materials with embroidery and beadwork.

By the end of the book I found that I really had gotten to like Bess, and she'd become a 'real' person to me with all her flaws and quirks. All of the characters filled out and became true individuals, even the kids. However, I found the book a bit slow starting. That could have been just me though. Regardless of a slow start, it really took off at the start of the second part, and kept me up late.

The Day The Falls Stood Still is a book I'm glad to have read, and I'm definitely going to be keeping an eye out for anything else by Cathy Marie Buchanan in the future.

This first photo from my trip to Niagara Falls captures the awe and majesty of the falls. Having seen it, I can't believe the attitude of some of the characters in The Day The Falls Stood Still that it would be a good thing for the falls to be entirely diverted into power generation.

IIRC, the falls are more or less diverted at night now, but the flow is restored during the day. I don't know if that restores all the things that Tom Cole noted in his journals, such as the standing wave though.

The second photo was taken from the bus tour I was on, I suspect this is one of the power houses mentioned in the book. However, nobody on the tour identified the building.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Lady Of Sherwood - Jennifer Roberson

Lady Of Sherwood
Jennifer Roberson
Copyright Date: 2000

The author's page blurb:
During an age filled with great deeds and great men, King Richard the Lion-Hearted lies dying in France. With his last breath, he bequeaths his kingdom to his brother, Prince John, and his nephew, Prince Arthur. From this legacy comes a terrible war, as two men clash for what can only belong to one: the right to rule Britain. It is also these words that seal the destiny of of Richard's young champion, Robert of Locksley. Robert, the handsome son of a respected earl, had long fought the tyranny of Prince John--a man as weak as he is cruel. Now that power has shifted even more firmly into John's hands, and Robert has no choice but to fight as an outlaw--as Robin Hood.

Lady Marian of Ravenskeep, her honor proving stronger than her desire, has foresaken a wedding to Robert of Locksley, since she fears she can never bear his child. It is with this knowledge that she makes an irrevocable choice--to flee into the depths of Sherwood Forest, where, amid wild tangled woods, she will be transformed from lady to warrior, as Robin Hood's partner in stealing John's gold, and as the woman who has captured his heart.

Yet all who breath know that the penalty for such a theft is hanging. Pursued by the Sheriff's army, the hour soon approaches when Robin Hood, Marian, and their band of followers will wage a desperate fight for liberty and country.

I bought this book about a year and a half ago, so it definitely fits the requirements for the Clear Off Your Shelves Challenge, as did the first book in the pair, Lady of The Forest.

Lady of Sherwood starts right in the middle of the story, without introducing any of the characters, assuming the reader either knows the Robin Hood legends or has read the first book. As a result, we're thrown right into the action with Little John, Robin Hood, Maid Marian, Will Scarlet and Friar Tuck. The Sheriff of Nottingham is particularly vile in Jennifer Roberson's version of the story, taking out his petty jealousies on Marian and the others. Still, as in the previous book, he's not just a cardboard cut-out of a villain, but a character with understandable motivations, even if they're things we don't agree with.

This is a book that ends with a happy moment, but also leaves plenty of the tale still to be told, but then, a lot of legends are like that, always leaving room for another legend.

As with Lady of the Forest this was a quick read for its size, but it was also one that I couldn't put down. I ended up reading until two a.m. in order to finish it. One of the reasons it's a fairly quick read is that the font size is quite large. Not quite that of a large print book, but pretty close.

I did feel that there were a couple too many viewpoints, the same complaint I had with Lady of the Forest but there were definitely fewer of them than the previous book, and all of the characters were those from the first book too.

A romance novel or simple historical fiction? This book could be either I think, although I did buy it from the romance shelves of the bookstore. Whichever is your preference. Lady of Sherwood was definitely a good read, although I will recommend reading Lady of the Forest first.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Neat NaNoWriMo page

I just found the pep-talks page for NaNoWriMo this year. There's an interesting line up of authors they've gotten to do them which includes Kristin Cashore, author of Graceling and Fire; Robin McKinley (who's one of my favorites) author of The Blue Sword and Chalice among other books and Tamora Pierce who has written the Tortall world (The Alanna books etc) and the Magic Circle world.

These aren't the only authors who are doing the pep talks, but they're the ones I recognize. Their talks also haven't been posted yet. Probably next week or the week after. There's supposed to be two pep talks a week.

I've managed to stay on target for my NaNoWriMo story, but it hasn't left me with much time to do reviews. I know I have two books for which reviews are due (Lady of Sherwood and How To Be #1 on Google) and two books I'm enjoying reading right now.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Mailbox Monday - November 9

I actually have some books to post about today, and it's better a bit late than never.

Anyway, Mailbox Monday is hosted by Marcia of The Printed Page each Monday. She warns that it can cause toppling book piles and envy.

My books this week are:

Life After 187 by Wade J. Halverson
The blurb on the author page:
Sentenced to life in prison when he executes the men who murdered his wife, Kane Silver is singled out by the warden for his fighting ability. Along with inmates Valentino Lopez and Si’Ling Lee, Kane is drafted into service and forced to fight for money in high-stakes tournaments. But when the three friends escape during a New Year’s Eve match in Lake Tahoe—saving the warden’s life in the process—their situation becomes more complicated.
Their status undetermined, they vanish underground and sign on to help a young woman whose parents are being held by an Argentinean drug kingpin. Follow Kane and his friends as they compete and grow closer while rediscovering what it means to be free. From Lake Tahoe and the western United States to Costa Rica, Hong Kong, Buenos Aires, and Thailand, Life After 187 takes readers on an exhilarating ride filled with big money, intense action, justice, and the pursuit of honor.
Mercury Falls by Robert Kroese
The blurb:
Years of covering the antics of End Times cults for The Banner, a religious news magazine, have left Christine Temetri not only jaded but seriously questioning her career choice. That is, until she meets Mercury, an anti-establishment angel who's frittering his time away whipping up batches of Rice Krispy Treats and perfecting his ping-pong backhand instead of doing his job: helping to orchestrate Armageddon. With the end near and angels and demons debating the finer political points of the Apocalypse, Christine and Mercury accidentally foil an attempt to assassinate one Karl Grissom, a thirty-seven-year-old film school dropout about to make his big break as the Antichrist. Now, to save the world, she must negotiate the byzantine bureaucracies of Heaven and Hell and convince the apathetic Mercury to take a stand, all the while putting up with the obnoxious mouth-breathing Antichrist.

And, the third book, which arrived this morning is:
The Cost of Dreams by Gary Stelzer
The blurb:
A novel: Flora Enriquez trusts that she has found safe haven for her young family in the remote U.S. Southwest, after fleeing the murderous environs of Central America where her parents were slain in a civil war. Only to find that all of her life's greatest challenges, by far, still lie before her.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


I already knew I wasn't too fond of the canned meat. The live ones are putting themselves even lower than that on my scale of liking. In other words, All Booked Up has been discovered by the spammers. So far, it's not too bad, but I am contemplating deleting one or two posts that are particular favorite targets, and they've started hitting the rest of the blog as well.

My apologies if you see something inappropriate in the comments. I'm deleting the stuff as fast as I get notified about it. I don't want to go to moderated comments though, much less stop all comments, as they're part of what makes the blog so much fun for me.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Lady Of The Forest - Jennifer Roberson

Lady Of The Forest
Jennifer Roberson
Copyright Date: 1992, reprinted with a new cover in 2007

The author's page blurb:
It is a time of civil strife and divided loyalties in the land of Richard the Lionhearted, and in the silent shadows of Sherood Forest dwell a band of outlaws and renegades who know no law but their own. Each with a dark secret and a hidden purpose, they share only a desire to thwart the corrupt power of Prince John and ransom back their beloved King Richard. Alan a'Dale, the lusty minstrel; the giant wrestler known as Little John; Will Scarlet, the murderer with a heart of gold; and the kindly, overzealous Friar Tuck. They are strangers...until they are united in a common purpose by a man and a woman who will live forever in the legend of Robin Hood and Maid Marian.

Sir Robert of Locksley Back from Crusade a hero, knighted by the Lionheart himself, he is disillusioned by his country's failure to ransom their king from imprisonment in a foreign land, even as evil Prince John is bleeding England white with taxes and plotting to usurp the throne. Turning his back on the life of an aristocrat, Sir Robert achieves a new nobility among the outlaws of Sherwood. There they call him Robin Hood.

Lady Marian of Ravenskeep The proud and defiant chatelaine of a manor near Nottingham woods, she is relentlessly pursued by William DeLacey-- Sheriff of Nottingham-- a shrewd opportunist desperate for her hand. But there is only one man who claims her heart, and Marian embraces a life full of excitement, adventure, and danger to be at his side.

I bought this book about a year and a half ago, so it definitely fits the requirements for the Clear Off Your Shelves Challenge, as does its sequel Lady of Sherwood.

Lady Of The Forest is a romance novel set in the time of Richard the Lionheart that "retells" the starting of the Robin Hood legends. All of the familiar characters and settings are here: Friar Tuck, Will Scarlet, Robin of Locksley, and of course, Maid Marian. Not to mention the Sherriff of Nottingham, who makes a very effective villain.

None of the characters are two-dimensional in any way, they are all fleshed out enough to become real people with understandable motivations, even the villains.

One thing to note is that the book is written with viewpoints from all of the characters. While it's interesting, and it certainly helped to flesh out the characters and their motivations, after a while I got to feeling that there were too many viewpoints and that it was distracting from the story of Robin and Marian.

Lady of the Forest was definitely interesting. I haven't read too many versions of the Robin Hood stories, only an older children's edition, so although the characters were familiar, the story wasn't.

The book looks as though it will take some reading to get through: its almost six hundred pages long. On the other hand, the font is fairly large, making for quicker reading. Even so, there's plenty to the story, and the ending is a bit different from the typical romance novel, although it is definitely a happy ending.

Really, I think that this book could be classed as historical fiction as much as it is a romance. I called it a romance, because that's the section of the store I found it in.

Jennifer Roberson, the author has written quite a few other books including the Tiger and Del series and the Chronicles of the Cheysuli. However, the only other ones I've read were from the Tiger and Del series. They're fantasy, and this one is more historical fiction, but I'd have to say, if you're expecting Roberson to be only a fantasy author, be prepared to be surprised. She's done a great job with historical fiction as well, and has even included a list of suggested books and sources for more information on Robin Hood and the time period. That's something that I really love authors doing, and I wish more of them would.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

October Review Round Up

A few days late, I know, but I've been distracted by NaNoWriMo (which isn't going as well as I'd hoped it would. I'm only 3300 words in on the third day).

Anyway, these are the books I read and reviewed during October:

The Fiery Cross
Diana Gabaldon

A snippet from my review:
Diana Gabaldon has a knack for description of all sorts, be it clothing, settings, behavior or any number of facets of life. She's got the details down. I can't say if they're all accurate, but the characters and the way the live in the late seventeen-hundreds "feels" right to me.

In Celebration of Lammas Night Created By Mercedes Lackey
Editor: Josepha Sherman

A snippet from my review:
If you're a fan of Mercedes Lackey or Andre Norton you'll find that In Celebration of Lammas Night is filled with familiar names: Ellen Guon co-wrote the books of Bedlam's Bard with Mercedes Lackey. Josepha Sherman, the editor of this book, worked with her on A Cast Of Corbies. Holly Lisle co-wrote When The Bough Breaks, one of the Serrated Edge series, and also worked with Marion Zimmer Bradley. Susan Shwartz has written with Andre Norton in the past. The list goes on. It's full of authors I recognized: S. M. Stirling and Jody Lynn Nye are two other well known authors who have stories in this anthology.

Bad Moon Rising
Sherrilyn Kenyon

A snippet from my review:
Although this is the story of Fang Kattalakis, its also just as much the story of Aimee Peltier, the lone daughter of the bears who run Sanctuary. That meant that rather than the scattered references to Sanctuary and how it was run, we really got a good view of the running of the bar. Kind of neat to see that different view on the Were-hunters and their lives. I also liked the greater insight into how the Were-hunter women factored into their society. So far, nearly all the Were-hunter main characters we've seen had been male.

Defenders of the Scroll

A quote from my review:
This is in many ways an absolutely spectacular book. Each page is set on the background of a rolled scroll, which is a little detail I've never seen done before. And yet, despite the darker background, the text is still clear and easy to read. Also spectacular are the full page illustrations of the events and adventures the characters go through.

Geisha, A Life
Mineko Iwasaki and Rande Brown

A snippet from my review:
Geisha, A Life was an interesting read, and I may have to go hunting for more books on the subject. Memoirs Of A Geisha caught my imagination, and this book has only whetted my interest even more. A world where an adult can get by without any of the normal skills? Money and it's value? Cooking (the disasters Mineko manages to create are just plain amusing), etc.

I know very well, that although this is a world I find interesting to read about, I wouldn't want to live in it. Mineko lives a life of privilege, but from the start, she's been at the top of her society. How different was it for less fortunate Geisha? That's one thing this book (and, for that matter Arthur Golden's novel) doesn't really go into.


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