Friday, October 28, 2011

The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss

This book, the first of The Kingkiller Chronicle, starts off slowly, building a solid frame for the main character's life story. 

Although the device of a framed story (the story within a story) is no longer recommended for writers today, Rothfuss makes it work.  This is not just my personal opinion, as published authors Brandon Sanderson,  Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler of the popular Writing Excuses podcast are of the same opinion.  They discourage new writers from using the device, though, because it's tricky to get it right, and when it fails, it's a doozy.

Rothfuss makes it look easy to tell a story within a story, and I'm looking forward to the next book!

Main character Kote is actually living in hiding, and he is recognized by someone who wants more than anything to collect his story. He says it will take three days to tell, which is why the subtitles of the books include "Day 1" or "Day 2 of the Kingkiller Chronicle." The large books seem like far too much to be written in a single day (even with shorthand), but for the sake of the story, I will put aside any doubts as to the stamina of the hand and arm of the Chronicler.

The story is sweeping, the main character compelling, and his story is grand in scope. It contains tragedy, hardship, opportunities lost and taken, romance, education, magic, and cleverness, among many other elements. This is a story I love to recommend to others that love to read.

I had loaned out my copy of this book, and recently found it on my friend's bookshelf.  "Are you done with this one?" I asked, and he said he was. But his mother-in-law asked for it before I could walk out the door, and now I'm waiting for it again.

To console myself, I treated myself to the Audible (www.audible.com) audiobook, which is beautifully read by reader Nick Podehl. My husband is also listening to the story, and is at an earlier place than I am, but I never mind listening to the story, wherever it is in the timeline. That says a lot about how much I like the writing, the story, and the reader!

If you are looking for a new fantasy series to try, give this one a shot. It's got good storytelling, good characterization, good action, good tragedy, and excellent readability. This is a story that sticks in your mind, and maybe even deeper.

Happy reading!



Thursday, October 27, 2011

Dune, by Frank Herbert

DUNE, a fascinating science fiction novel with elements of fantasy, is still riveting and almost impossible to put down, even 46 years after it was first published.

I first read this novel when I was in my late teens, and reading it again last week was a different experience! 25 years has made a difference!

When I first read the book, I had no perspective on the parent's feelings in the book, and that added an entire new dimension that I enjoyed tremendously. I was able to enjoy it... "on another level." ;)

This book takes a young man of 15, Paul Atreides, whose family is moving to the desert planet of Arrakis by order of the Emperor, and whose father, Duke Leto Atreides, has reason to suspect treachery upon their arrival.

Paul's mother is the Duke's concubine, never married to him for political reasons. She has been grooming her son for greatness since he was born, but she never suspected the events that would come to shape his life, nor the decisions he might make to handle them.

This is a tale of black treachery, loyalty, secret societies, long-term plans, far-reaching goals, and one road to revenge and unusual distinction. There are unexpected losses, deaths, and twists of the knife, as Herbert walks us through a world where water is wealth, and poisons are playthings.

If you've read it, or if you read it as a result of this review, please let me know what you thought of the book!

(Note: My book photo and link are not presently working. I will post it as soon as I get it fixed.)

Hiatus is history!

After months of inactivity due to various distractions, I am following the example of a good friend and getting myself in gear for NaNoWriMo by getting my daily word count up.

One good way to do that is to blog!

I have been reading, of course, but I haven't been sharing my thoughts on these books here, because I've been driven to pick up the next book right away!

That will change.  I will begin posting reviews again as soon as I get time on my home computer.

See you soon!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Fired Up by Jayne Ann Krentz

Fired Up: Book One in the Dreamlight Trilogy
Category: Paranormal Romance - Contemporary

Jayne Ann Krentz writes under three different pen names: Amanda Quick for historicals, Jayne Castle for her futuristic fantasy novels, and her own name for her contemporary titles.

Within the last few years, Ms. Krentz has been writing series of these novels that cross her timelines and pen names.  Therefore, one story will be a historical, one a contemporary, and one a futuristic one, all paranormal, with heroes and heroines who have special psychic abilities.  Family bloodlines are one of the themes in these trilogies, and they are entertaining and worth checking out if you like romance.

In this particular novel, the first book in the Dreamlight trilogy, finacier Jack Winters hires paranormal PI Chloe Harper to help him find and manipulate a family heirloom -- one that is necessary to keep him from going mad and being slated for assassination, as a danger to himself and others.

The story, as her stories are, is fun, fairly fast-paced, well written, and satisfying.  Not only does she fill out her characters beautifully, she also creates a believable interaction between hero and heroine that does not rely on misunderstandings for tension, but on the developing relationship and the lack of knowledge the couple has of each other at the beginning.  As they learn more about the other, the pieces begin to fall into place, and their relationship becomes one of true partners who like, respect, and love each other, with some steamy attraction thrown into the mix for spice.

I was first hooked on Ms. Krentz's historical novels, and I will be looking forward to each of her future novels, as well.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Where Dreams Are Born / Joyce DeBacco

Where Dreams are Born


Genre: Romance/Suspense

Approximate word count: 65-70,000 words

Availability Kindle: YES    Nook: NO    Paper: YES
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon or B&N store

Author:

Joyce DeBacco is the mother of four adult daughters, a quilter, and the author of three novels: Serendipity House (2009), Rubies and Other Gems (2010), and Where Dreams Are Born (2011). Both of the earlier books have good reviews on Amazon.com. More information and sample chapters are available at the author’s website.


Description:

This book is a romance with some aspects of a thriller. Two emotionally wounded people meet by fortuitous accident, changing each other’s lives by becoming employee and employer. The grieving widower gains a housekeeper and nanny; the widow gains employment in the nicest part of town. Unexpected events bring the hero and heroine closer and closer together, and bring their children and themselves into danger. A marriage between them becomes the most rational course of action, but can a marriage of necessity become a marriage in truth?

Appraisal:

Where Dreams Are Born is a well-written romantic novel with elements of suspense. I found DeBacco’s writing fresh and evocative, highly readable and interesting. Characterization is good, the dialogue flows well, and the story was compelling enough to keep my attention and pique my curiosity about what would happen next. I found myself picking up the story in my spare moments during the day, wondering how the author was going to resolve certain issues.

I would recommend this book to friends, family, or anyone who might enjoy this genre. I found it a pleasurable read.

FYI:

There are some sexual scenes. They are not explicit, nor are they the innocuous scenes you would find in “sweet romances.” If you prefer sweet romances, this might be a little too racy for your tastes. If you prefer detailed erotica, this story might be too tame.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant issues.

Rating: **** Four stars

Kissing Kelli / Kathy Carmichael

Kissing Kelli


Genre: Romance

Approximate word count: 40,000 – 45,000 

Availability Kindle: YES    Nook: YES    Paper: YES
Click on a YES above to go to appropriate page in Amazon or B&N store

Author:

Kathy Carmichael is an award-winning author of books and writing workshops. She has a few other novels available for your Kindle: Angel Be Good, Diary of a Confessions Queen, and Hot Flash, and several others currently only available in paper formats. All of her novels, including the one in this review, have been well-received, earning average ratings of four to five stars in Amazon customer reviews. You can learn more about this author at her website.

Description: 

Veterinarian Kelli Palmer comes from both rich and royal bloodlines, making her a target for royalty hunters, and souring her on relationships. That and the fact that her sister brought as her date the cowboy that catches Kelli’s eye convince the animal doctor to keep her distance from rodeo star Bobby Gray Nelson. The problem is, Bobby Gray finds her avoidance of him totally unacceptable.

Appraisal:

This novel has characters that are fairly well fleshed out, interesting, and engaging. You care about Kelli, you care about Bobby Gray, and the more the reader sees through their eyes, the more the two go together. The romance between them is easy to visualize, and the attraction is there early on. Kelli fights what she feels for Bobby Gray, he fights to keep her attention, and in and about that dance weave two conflicts that threaten to keep the potential lovers apart.

These two conflicts are what weaken the story experience for me. I was all set for a sweet and fluffy romance, and the misunderstandings that generate the basis for these two conflicts were believable at the beginning, but over time lost all power to compel my compassion. I was with the star-crossed lovers at the beginning, hoping they could win through to love, and at some point in each of the conflict subplots that arose, I wanted to smack one of the characters around and say “Enough, already—talk it out!” There are always those classic misunderstandings in stories that last so long because of pride, because of anger, because of jealousy, and they are usually explained. There is an ongoing development of each character’s emotions, allowing there to be a moment of release of that tension. In both subplots of this story, the buildup of tension was too drawn out and aggravating, the release of tension was too quick, too pat, and eminently unsatisfactory. 

The most frustrating aspect of reading this novel is that I can tell that this author is a good writer, with an eye for detail, and yet it felt like she has left this perhaps one draft too early. The final tweaks would bring this light and frothy book up from merely good to I-can’t-wait-for-her-next-book great.

A couple more items that caught my eye are her referring to College Station as “South Texas,” which I, as a South Texan myself, would probably classify as “Central Texas;” and the awkward name “Bobby Gray.” It certainly doesn’t roll off the tongue, as a good Southern double name should. Bobby Joe, Bobby Lee, Bobby Mack, maybe, but Bobby Gray? It just don’t sound right, Ma’am. There is a fine tradition of these names, and this one might even be out there somewhere on a real person. But that still don’t make it sound right. (Excuse my Southern accent, y’all.)

Despite that, the story is fun, sweet, and has moments where I laughed out loud at the image Carmichael painted for me. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to a teen or tween girl who is interested in romantic novels, but I would hesitate to suggest this book to one of my more discerning friends, if only for these issues with the two overstretched conflict plots, and the sudden denouement. 

If you are looking for a light, undemanding summer read, you might want to add this to your reading list. 

FYI:

No warnings here. This romance is innocent enough to recommend to girls of any age, particularly if they have a fondness for animals.

Format/Typo Issues:

No significant Issues

Rating: *** Three stars

The Clan of the Cave Bear Series - An Overview

The Clan of the Cave Bear (Earth's Children, Book One)
I have been following Jean Auel's Earth's Children series for many years now (I can't remember when I began reading them).  With the last book of the series now available, I am going to give you an overview and then a review of the entire series.

First came The Clan of the Cave Bear, a book that begins with a young girl, perhaps 5 years old, losing her family in an earthquake.  They had been traveling on the peninsula near the Beran Sea, and now the girl, not knowing how to find food, wanders, hungry and thirsty, looking for people to take care of her.

From this traumatic beginning, this young girl does indeed find a place, but it's with people that don't look at all like her, think like her, or speak like she does. They are Neanderthals, while she is a Cro-Magnon child.

In this first book, Auel explores the rich culture she has posited for Neanderthal man, as well as the landscape, embroidered with details about their lives that put me right there. I learned more about finding food, about identifying edible plants, how to start a fire, skin an animal, and so many more activities that were part of daily life for ancient people that I developed a deeper appreciation for what a posh life we live today.

At the end of this book, Ayla, the orphaned girl, is now 13, and she is once again looking for a place to belong.

The Valley of Horses (Earth's Children, Book Two)
In The Valley of Horses, the second book in the Earth's Children series, our heroine Ayla searches for people more like herself. She has no idea what to do once she finds them, but she must at least try.

With winter fast approaching, and no reserves of food or a place to call her own, Ayla finds a small valley with a cave she can use, and she begins to lay in supplies for the cold season ahead.

We are introduced to two Cro-Magnon men, Jondalar and Thonolan, brothers who are on a long journey, travelling from west to east and meeting many different peoples along the way. Their story slowly winds around scenes of Ayla in her valley, and finally they intersect, in a traumatic and miraculous meeting, and a collision of vastly different cultures.

At the end of the second book, Ayla and Jondalar decide to travel together, looking for others like themselves, so that Ayla can broaden her horizons.

The Mammoth Hunters (Earth's Children, Book Three)
In The Mammoth Hunters, Ayla and Jondalar decide to visit a group of people who live only days away from her isolated little valley. They make friends, with Ayla finally having her first girlfriends, and she learns that there is also much to learn about social interactions between multiple people, esoteric knowledge that expands upon the expertise she learned from the Clan of the Cave Bear, and also about dealing with multiple admirers.

Because Ayla has never learned how to lie, she finds some of the falsehoods between people hard to understand. Her background sets her apart, for both good and bad, and Jondalar must learn to deal with this as time goes on.

At the end of the third book, Jondalar is ready to return to his own people, and Ayla joins him on his long journey home.


The Plains of Passage
In The Plains of Passage, Ayla and Jondalar travel for most of a year to reach his homeland. There are many challenges, dangers, and quandaries they must figure out, and their relationship suffers at times due to the stress of the journey.

They rest along the way, meeting new people, exploring new cultures, helping solve problems, leaving stories that legends are made of in their wake.

But at last, they reach Jondalar's homeland, right at the end of the book.

The Shelters of Stone (Earth's Children, Book Five)
The Shelters of Stone is a much different chapter in Ayla's story.  Although there are similarities, like learning to fit in, learning about the new cultural mores and customs of these people, and getting used to everything new, Ayla is now looking at the end of her journey, and she is feeling the pressure to find a way to fit in. If she can't, she might lose Jondalar and have to go on another journey, back to one of the peoples that did accept her.

By the end of the book, Ayla is accepted by most, though there are still some people who resent her presence. She has made a place and a name for herself, and she has come to an acceptance of the people around her, as well.

The Land of Painted Caves: A Novel (Earth's Children)
The Land of Painted Caves picks up not long after The Shelters of Stone left off, and like the first book, this one covers years in Ayla's life, rather than seasons or one single year. She is settling in, becoming a familiar and essential part of Jondalar's people, and she is learning the skills she needs to become a powerful spiritual leader among them. Her past experiences serve her well, giving her a broad foundation upon which to base her efforts to assist others. At the end of this book, Ayla is an accepted part of Jondalar's society, and she has found happiness and fulfillment in her work.

This very light overview of the series skips over 99% of the most compelling parts of the story, and it in no way does justice to the wealth of research and writing that Auel did to prepare for each novel. As such, it is just a light teaser to get you interested, or to let you know the general structure or overall story arc from beginning to end.

The rich feast that is Ms. Auel's storyline is not for every reader, I'm sure, but for anyone who is fascinated by cultural differences, by anthropology, by survival skills, self-sufficiency, natural first aid, or deeply researched landscapes within story are bound to be caught up in the narrative.

I recommend this series to any avid reader.

I am going to give a very general review of the novels.  Individually, I would rate them thus:

The Clan of the Cave Bear: ***** Five Stars
The Valley of Horses: ***** Five Stars
The Mammoth Hunters: ****  Four Stars
The Plains of Passage: ****  Four Stars
The Shelters of Stone: ***** Five Stars
The Land of Painted Caves: ****   Four Stars

The books that received four stars had conflicts within the plot that lasted a bit too long, and should have been (in my humble opinion) resolved more promptly. Their length weakened the rest of the storyline, but not to the point of ruin.

The series as a whole is beautifully written, in clear, straightforward language, and the imagery is striking. I learned a lot, I can easily imagine all of the cultures Auel presents as having existed, and I would love to visit with the main characters, in every one of the cultures.

Auel's deft touch with the animal characters is particularly wonderful, and they are some of the most memorable of the entire series. I reread this series every couple of years, and it is part of my inner landscape.

I have heard people say that Auel's heroine is a superwoman, but to me, she never comes off that way. She is simply someone who has learned how to learn; how to use her creativity to solve problems. And with the unique background that Auel has given her, I believe that all of her "super" powers make perfect sense.

In short, don't let the size of the books intimidate you. Grab the first and dive in!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

BigAl's Books and Pals

there, on his site, and I will also post the review here, just so that you don't miss anything!

I'd highly recommend the site for ideas on new books by independent authors; I find Al's reviews fair, even-handed, and I have to say that his honesty, good grammar, and spelling skills mean a lot to me, too.

Stay posted, and more will come your way.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Poisoner's Handbook, by Deborah Blum

The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York Pulitzer Prize winner Deborah Blum is an immensely readable writer of scientific fact.  Even though my eyes crossed in my college chemistry classes, and my textbooks put me to sleep, I found it difficult to put down Blum's detailed history of the birth of toxicology in Jazz Age New York City.

Easy to read, easy to understand, and chilling to contemplate, the history presented here reads like a well-written novel, and is essential reading for any novelist contemplating using any of the poisons covered in these pages.  Novelists writing about Jazz Age New York would do well to read this book, too, just for the rich detail and meticulous research that went into the preparation of this text.

For a general reader, I would also highly recommend this book, unless you are extremely squeamish. The narrative is compelling, character-driven, and full of good people fighting the good fight to put criminals behind bars, with increasing success.

I read this in hardcover, but I would highly recommend purchasing an e-book if you have a reader for it, as there are no graphics other than a handful of chemical compositions, spelled out rather than rendered as images.

Grammar and sentence structure were consistently well-done throughout, making the reading experience very smooth and pleasant.

Thank you, Ms. Blum, for an excellent and informative read!

***** Five Stars

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Once again, into the fray...

I have tried keeping a blog before, but life kept getting in the way.  But now that I'm working on increasing my word output on a daily basis, maybe I'll be able to pull this off with more success than before!

I will be posting on a variety of topics, to include my travels in reading, and crafting, and in writing, and in daily life in general.

I'm a picky reader, so if you like the genre of the book I review, and you like well-told, well-written books, you may very well like the ones I will be showcasing here. I will see about adding links to Amazon, to make it easy for any of my readers to purchase the  book pretty quickly.

I'm an experienced, but not expert knitter, a beginning crocheter and sewer, a noob spinner and weaver, and an extremely experienced reader.

Read on at your own peril.  But I hope you enjoy the journey!

Shade and sweet water,

Corina