Monday, July 28, 2008

Debut Showcase: Seaborn by Chris Howard

SEABORN (Amazon USA, UK, Canada)
by Chris Howard (website, blog)
Juno Books
Mass Market Paperback
Excerpt - read it! hear it! (additional formats available at Juno site)


All Life began in the ocean.
The tides, the salt, the rolling waves are in our souls.
The sea will always have the power to call us home.

There is a world deep under the sea, a kingdom that has endured thousands of years without the modern world knowing it exists. Those who dwell there are Thalassogenêis: SEABORN

Kassandra is the Seaborn king's granddaughter--the one he wishes he'd killed when he'd had the chance. She comes from the sea, but she has spent her whole life in exile on the surface, learning to control strange and frightening powers she barely understands. But now she's ready to declare war on the murderous king.

Corina Lairsey is a scuba-diving Californian who has freed herself from a controlling relationship...andfinds herself in another. Only this time, Aleximor, an ancient Seaborn sorcerer, is literally inside her head and wearing her body. Corina must strive for control of her self, fighting against time as Aleximor trades pieces of her life away in exchange for power over the path between the worlds of the living and the dead.

Aleximor wants revenge for his 400-year imprisonment and his dangerous machinations threaten to destroy both young women and the world of the Seaborn.

This novel is getting a lot of attention. Juno books has been gathering some momentum lately with both this novel and with Personal Demons. And that's only considering their most recent debuts. Juno also got this book into the hands of reviewers early, so I have a copy and I'm looking forward to reading it.

Here is the book trailer:

Your Opinion, Please

On a regular basis, I get invitations to "friend" someone on various social networking sites such as MySpace, LinkedIn and FaceBook, or library sharing sites like GoodReads and Shelfari. Also, every once in a while, my analytics program will pick up referrals from SF/F forums such as SFFWorld, Fantasy BookSpot and WotMania.

I realize I'm probably missing out by not participating in these communities. I'd love to frequent them all, but I am only be able to visit each type of site two or three times a week. Therefore, I'd like your recommendations. Which is the best:

  • Social networking site?
  • Library sharing site?
  • SF/F forum?
And why? Thanks!

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Sellsword by Cam Banks

The Sellsword by Cam Banks
Mass Market Paperback
Wizards of the Coast
Excerpt (zipfile)

I am an unapologetic Dragonlance fan, so when a "publicist/consort" (read: his wife. It took me a while to get that) got in touch with me about reviewing a new Dragonlance series, I said "sure." The name of the series is Tracy Hickman Presents The Anvil of Time. This is Volume One.

Dragonlance is the object of derision by some people, and that's ok. I understand what they have to criticize. However, I also believe that the Weis and Hickman team came up with some wonderful characters. In my opinion, that was (is?) their strength, along with their knack for both comic and touching scenes. (Who could ever forget the wicker dragon? And the two death scenes?). I could go on at length, but I won't. (Translation: I deleted a bunch of pointless ramblings at this point.)

The Sellsword has many recognizable themes for the seasoned Dragonlance reader. The gods are present, albeit for the most part unnamed, as are the dragons and evil dragon highlords. There are three major characters: the sellsword named Vanderjack, a gnome fighter named Theodenes, and a decidedly ugly young woman named Gredchen. There is also a dragon highmaster named Rivven and a wizard named Cazuvel. Of course, he's a Black Robe wizard, and even if you've never read Dragonlance, you can probably guess what that means. And as is typical with Dragonlance novels, the point of view wanders from character to character.

The novel got off to a rocky start for me. Every time things got moving with Vanderjack, the plot came to a screeching halt to dwell on either Rivven or Cazuvel. I would have been happier with more Vanderjack scenes and far fewer Rivven scenes. I suppose this turns out to be a good thing, because I enjoyed reading about Vanderjack, but whenever I came to a Rivven scene, I found the novel all too easy to set aside. Which, I believe, is why it took me so long to read it. And one very drawn-out battle scene reminded me too much of random encounters in D&D.

However, the book hinted at depth in the form of Gredchen, whom Vanderjack was beginning to find somewhat attractive despite her twisted features. I wanted to see how things turned out with Vanderjack and Gredchen, so that's what saw me through to the end. I enjoyed Theo as well, and I was glad that the author saw fit to omit the usual mode of gnome speech, whichwouldgosomethinglikethis. (Perhaps Theo had adapted to humanity's slower pace.) Theo is not your usual gnome; he has a lifequest to invent the perfect weapon. And although the weapon seems unwieldly for a gnome to carry, it has enough gadgets and features that he may have succeeded in his quest.

I enjoyed the ending and Vanderjack's resourcefulness in taking on two deadly enemies simultaenously. Vanderjack has a magic sword readily identifiable to any D&D player, but I really enjoyed the slant that the author put on this sword, and how he tied it seamlessly to the mythology of Dragonlance. There is a certain scene in the very end where the sword met its final destiny, and I thought it was very well done.

I do have one major criticism, and it has nothing to do with the author. Vanderjack is black. So why does the cover feature a man with pasty white skin? I thought the cover was well-done otherwise.

All in all, I found The Sellsword a satisfying and fun romp. If you enjoyed the Dragonlance world, or a sword-and-sorcery fantasy that in general aims toward a young adult crowd, you probably will enjoy it as well.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Sex and its Consequences in Times Past

We tend to forget, in these modern times, just what a big deal sex was in days gone by. Really, our attitudes toward sex are rather unnatural. In centuries (or even decades) past, unless a woman knew herself to be barren, the spectre of pregnancy always hung over her head and if she was wise, she constrained her behavior. For a man, the threat of a "shotgun wedding" or some other form of compelled marriage was very real. Both sexes had incentives to sexually behave themselves.

But of course, people do not always behave. And consequently, bastards abounded. You only need look at novels written in times past to discover what the consequences could be of a single steamy night of passion.

Tess of the d'Urbervilles is a great story about a fallen woman. Alec d'Urberville either seduces or rapes Tess (Hardy isn't really clear, but I think he raped her), and she gets pregnant. Her child doesn't survive long, but still she feels it necessary to live in another area in order to escape her shattered reputation. When she remarries and tries to come clean with her husband on her wedding night, all hell breaks loose. Alex's action affected her entire life.

In Les Miserables, Fantine is another unwed mother. She has an adorable little daughter, Cosette, upon whom she dotes. However, since she is an unwed mother, she has a difficult time finding a respectable occupation. She comes up with this plan to leave her daughter with the Thénardiers while she finds work in another town. She manages to keep her secret for a while, but the Thénardiers keep demanding more and more money to pay for non-existent medical problems until she is driven to prostitution anyway.

In The Scarlet Letter, Hester has a child through an adulterous relationship. Because she is clearly an adulteress (her husband is missing), she must wear the A and she is pressured to name the child's father. It's been some years since I read this one, but I remember it as a real page-turner; much more so than I expected.

All of the above novels are tragedies, with unhappy endings for the mothers. I enjoy reading novels written in centuries gone by because it is so interesting to learn about the way attitudes have changed from then to now.

I enjoy a fantasy that deals with sex realistically. Authors, please don't put modern-day sexual attitudes in novels that take place in the past UNLESS, like today, there is a viable system of birth control.

In The Deed of Paksenarrion, there was a viable system of birth control; however the heroine was asexual. Go figure.

In Master and Fool, the third book of The Book of Words, Melli gets married and has one encounter with her husband before he is murdered. And once was enough.

In Destiny by Elizabeth Haydon, Rhapsody has an encounter with Ashe. However, when she begins to doubt that it was Ashe after all, she lives in terror of being pregnant with a demonic child.

In The Book of Joby, a single encounter between Joby and Laura left her pregnant.

In Dragonlance, there was lots of sex, but very few pregnancies. And the one pregnancy that did occur was with a married couple.

In His Majesty's Dragon, Laurence has sex with one of his fellow aviators, but there is no mention of the possibility of her getting pregnant. We don't know her actual age--just that she's about Laurence's age--but we had no reason to presume that she was too old to be fertile.

Most of the time, there is little sex in fantasies because sex is not usually what fantasies are all about. Most of the romances in fantasies are just that--romances without sex. They're love stories. I love a good love story, but in my opinion, once you bring sex into the mix, you shatter all that great romantic tension. Drag it out for as long as possible. It's a great way to keep the pages turning.

* * *

On a totally unrealted note, I admit to some spectacular laziness as far as this blog is concerned. Please don't give up on me! It's brutally hot in Florida this time of year, and I just feel icky. After all, these are the dog days of summer. All I want to do when I get home is chill out, and it's hard to chill out on the computer. I'm almost done reading a novel that's turned out to be a pleasant surprise, so I hope to be able to post on that by Thursday.

In the meantime, as ever, I'll answer comments. What novels can you think of that handled sex and its consequences in a realistic way?

Monday, July 21, 2008

A Dearth of Debuts

Wow; I'm not finding as many debuts these days. And don't even ask how my reading's going. How about a few shout-outs instead?

  • The Antick Musings of G.B.H Hornswogger, Gent. is a skiffy blog with the longest subtitle I've ever seen. The gentleman in question, Andrew Wheeler, is a publishing professional.
  • VampireWire has linked to several of my posts lately, so I thought I'd return the favor. At VampireWire, Marta covers paranormal books, movies and television.
  • WJ Fantasy Reviews has been in my Google Reader so long that I"m a bit surprised (and embarassed) that I haven't given it a shout before now. WJ is the Wearied Juggler, and has a nicely laid-out blog.
  • I've recently learned what a Bodhisattva is while researching what the Dalai Lama is (don't ask) and no, it isn't a made-up word. The Tomio runs this blog that is affiliated with FantasyBookSpot and Heliotrope magazine.
  • Minnette Meador is an author who I announced a few months ago. She has a wicked-cool Shelfari bookshelf that almost has me tempted to check out Shelfari. She also is a fellow Backspacer!
  • Blood of the Muse as a beautifully put-together blog with lots of nice wigets, including one that echoes a snippet of every post I put up. It's worth checking out--very nicely done.
  • Another author I showcased back in January, Robert V.S. Redick, has added Fantasy Debut to his blogroll. He didn't have a blog back then, but he's started one recently.
  • Adam Whitehead's The Wertzone has been on my blogroll for quite a while. He's one of the must-read "old school" bloggers who's been around since way back when in 2006. Hey, in the blogging world, that's an eternity!
And I wanted to give a special plug to a new-to-me blogger whose excellence in blogging I've noticed recently. Calico Reaction has a great review format with one of the best rating systems I've come across. I've been tempted to rip it off, but I have restrained myself. Shara's been running this blog since 2005, so this practically makes her a blogging goddess. Check it out!

Debut Showcase: Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse

Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse (Amazon UK, Canada)

Victor Gischler (blog)


Trade Paperback



Mortimer Tate was a recently divorced insurance salesman when he holed up in a cave on top of a mountain in Tennessee and rode out the end of the world. Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse begins nine years later, when he emerges into a bizarre landscape filled with hollow reminders of an America that no longer exists. The highways are lined with abandoned automobiles; electricity is generated by indentured servants pedaling stationary bicycles. What little civilization remains revolves around Joey Armageddon's Sassy A-Go-Go strip clubs, where the beer is cold, the lap dancers are hot, and the bouncers are armed with M16s.

Accompanied by his cowboy sidekick Buffalo Bill, the gorgeous stripper Sheila, and the mountain man Ted, Mortimer journeys to the lost city of Atlanta -- and a showdown that might determine the fate of humanity. 

The author is making his SF debut with this one; he had previously written "hard-boiled" crime novels with titles like Gun Monkeys and Suicide Squeeze. This one looks hard-boiled and slightly zany. I was unable to find a website for the author, so I only included a link to his blog.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Belated Return

We enjoyed our visit with my parents so much that we extended our vacation by one day. Then, when I got back, I was too lazy to blog.

With all the visiting and socializing, I hardly got any reading done at all. I brought Mirrored Heavens and The Sellsword with me, but I was too busy to read very much. Since we went through all our spending money for this pay period, I'll have lots of time to read this weekend. It's about time. I've done shockingly little reading these days.

What is it about going away that makes you get a jump in traffic? I would have thought the opposite would have happened . . . unless my absence makes this place more popular? My Google Reader shows ten more subscribers and my Technorati shows some shout-outs that I'll reciprocate in a Blogrolling post later in the weekend. It appears that my sheme of prewritting blog posts and letting Blogger post them on a schedule worked well.

I really ought to put up a vacation picture or two. Maybe I'll have the energy to do so tomorrow. Perhaps I'll even put up a mystery photo.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Product Review: Neo by AlphaSmart

(Apologizes to those of you who have already seen this review, posted elsewhere.)

I wrote this review on a nifty little device called the Neo by AlphaSmart. What on earth is it? It's kind of like a word processor, except it's laptop-sized. It's designed for one purpose--the entry of text. Well, maybe two purposes, if you add the transmission of the text to and from a computer to its function as well.

Think of it as a $219 no-frills laptop. It's wonderful if you need a way to write away from your computer, but you don't want to spend the money on a fragile laptop.

I discovered the Neo via Kelly Gay, who is happily using her own Neo as well (and who calls it her "precious"). It allows me to write in the La-z-boy. No more sitting hunched over my computer all night after spending all day hunched over my computer at work. I actually prefer writing this way. My husband is going to get awful lonely in the computer room.

The Neo is tough. Supposedly, it will withstand being dropped, and I believe them. The thing is made of hard plastic. It has a 700 hour battery life. That's right, 700 hours. On 3 alkaline AA batteries. I haven't even put a dent in the battery life.

The file system is a bit strange, but it's quick to get used to. There are eight file positions, each accessed by the push of a button. To get to this file, I push the "file 5" button. That's it. And it remembers where I was when I last entered text. Not even Microsoft Word does that. As soon as you enter the text, it's saved.

You can have any number of files at each position by giving them a name. I have not named my files so far; when I'm done with them, I simply upload them to my computer and clear the version on the Neo.

The drawbacks? There is absolutely no formatting, except tabs. Also, each file has a hard limit. I found that I need not bother transferring files that have more than 8000 or so words. Otherwise, I don't have room to actually work in the file, which holds about 10000 words, max. You can adjust this maximum file size, but so far I have not bothered. 8000 words seems a comfortably large chunk for me to work with.

It reminds me of the word processors of the 80s, except it transfers files instead of typing them out right away. It emulates all the same key combinations that Windows uses, so you can still copy with Ctrl-C and paste with Ctrl-V. There's nothing like a mouse or a touchpad; navigation is done entirely through keys.

There is another version called the Dana, which blends the Neo with a full-featured PDA, including a touch-screen. However, it seemed to have more functionality than I needed and I really wanted the toughness of the Neo.

Ok, now I'm going to upload this into Blogger and write about that experience. Ciao for now . . .

Done. I plugged the Neo into my computer using the USB cable, and hit the "send" button on the Neo. It typed the file directly into this Blogger window. That's actually a slow way to send files; I usually just use the software that came with the Neo to just send the whole file as a chunk. But it's kinda cool to watch it type the text onto the screen.

It is NOT a laptop replacement, nor does it attempt to emulate a laptop in any way. It is simply a text entry and storage tool. Those of you in the market for a laptop, should go ahead and buy one. I was not in the market for a laptop. I wanted a replacement for my pen and notebook, which this tool suited admirably.

This is not a new product. When I posted my review on the Backspace writer's community (, a bunch of writers--some published novelists--sounded off on how much they loved their Neo. However, it's new for me, so I wanted to share it with the rest of you, because I know so many of you write in one form or another.

It's easy. It's fun. I'm taking it on vacation with me. I think every writer should have one. Check it out.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Debut Showcase: Island of Eternal Love

The Island of Eternal Love (Amazon USA, UK, Canada)
by Daina Chaviano (book trailer)
Riverhead (Penguin)

Cecilia is alone in a city that haunts her. Life in Miami evokes memories of Cuba: a scent in the breeze like the sea at the Malecón; the beat of a clave recalls island evenings when couples danced to forgotten rhythms. Far from her family, her history, and her home, Cecilia seeks refuge in a bar in Little Havana, where a mysterious old woman’s fascinating tale keeps her returning night after night.

It is a story of three families from opposite corners of the world—from Africa, Spain, and China—that spans more than a century. Within it, a Chinese widow seeks protection for her daughter in her family’s idols; an African slave brings the rhythms of her birth to an enchanted island; and a curse dances before the female descendants of a charmed Spanish matriarch, forming the mythic origins of one family’s indestructible bond. The connection strengthens with each generation into a legendary, unbreakable love. Under the story’s heady sway, Cecilia begins to discover the source of the elusive shadows that plague her and, along with it, a link to the past she cannot shake.

This isn't your traditional fantasy, but it had supernatural elements so I thought I'd give it some coverage. This is also not a traditional debut, since the author has been published since the '80s in the Spanish language.

I'm posting this in absentia--I'm on a short vacation, but hopefully I'll get a couple posts scheduled to keep you reading while I'm gone. I should be blogging again on Thursday, but until then I'll try to pop in and read comments from time to time.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Debut Showcase: A Darkness Forged in Fire

A Darkness Forged in Fire
by Chris Evans (website, blog)

Konowa Swift Dragon, former commander of the Empire's elite Iron Elves, is looked upon as anything but ordinary. He's murdered a Viceroy, been court-martialed, seen his beloved regiment disbanded, and finally been banished in disgrace to the one place he despises the most -- the forest.

Now, all he wants is to be left alone with his misery...but for Konowa, nothing is ever that simple. The mysterious and alluring Visyna Tekoy, the highborn daughter of an elfkynan governor, seeks him out in the dangerous wild with a royal decree that he resume his commission as an officer in Her Majesty's Imperial Army, effective immediately.

For in the east, a falling Red Star heralds the return of a magic long vanished from the earth. Rebellion grows within the Empire as a frantic race to reach the Star unfolds. It is a chance for Konowa to redeem himself -- even if the entire affair appears doomed to be a suicide mission...

and that the soldiers recruited for the task are not at all what he expects. And worse, his key adversary in the perilous race for the Star is the dreaded Shadow Monarch -- a legendary elf-witch whose machinations for absolute domination spread deeper than Konowa could ever imagine....

Iron and Elves have a tradition of not mixing very well in fantasy literature, so this one appears to be a new twist. However, it also seems to be gritty, and I don't seem to be having much luck reading gritty fantasy lately. Gritty science fiction I can enjoy in quite heavy doses, but for some reason, gritty fantasy is not working for me these days.

What about the rest of you? Sound interesting?

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

An Interview with Elizabeth C. Bunce!

I announced A Curse as Dark as Gold several months ago, and it's one of those books that have stayed on my to-read list, only to be crowded out by books sent by various authors and publishers. I went ahead and asked Elizabeth C. Bunce for an interview anyway, because a number of you seemed really interested in her novel. She kindly consented to answer any follow-up questions that I may have after I do read her novel. 

In the meantime, she's given us all some wonderful teasers below!

Please tell us a little bit about A CURSE DARK AS GOLD and about your inspiration for this novel.

My inspiration for this novel was, of course, the fairy tale "Rumpelstiltskin," particularly the miller's daughter and the concept of spinning straw into gold. As a fairy tale enthusiast, I was fascinated that a story about the power of names has an anonymous heroine. And as a needlewoman, I was instinctively drawn to gold thread. My interest in history led me to the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution, and those three ideas, somehow, were a natural fit.

Tell us about your favorite scene in A CURSE DARK AS GOLD.

I'm not sure I have a favorite scene, but there are some moments I'm particularly fond of: Charlotte and Randall at the tenterfields, Harte falling from the ladder, the big reveal at the crossroads, Uncle Wheeler's last scene. I think the reasons these spring to mind for me is because they came out almost exactly as I'd envisioned them, in the first draft, and that's always satisfying--to see a key moment almost write itself.

What about any scene that may have given you trouble?

The scene that gave me the most trouble actually didn't make it into the final book. I originally had Charlotte and Randall meet at a very ill-fated dinner party, where everyone was on their absolute worst behavior. I must have written six or seven different versions of the scene, and something about it just never worked. It was a fun scene--lots of awkward conversation, outrageous snobbery from Uncle Wheeler, and scandalous commentary from Rosie--but it involved several characters who were cut from the final story, and it just became cumbersome. So when I finally decided to axe it, it was actually with relief (although my mother did wonder what had become of it when she read the published book!).

Have you completed any other novels besides A CURSE DARK AS GOLD? If so, can we expect to see any of them in print?

CURSE was actually the second novel I finished. The first is another retelling that may or may not ever see the light of day. I've just sold two more books to Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic, and the first of those, currently called STARCROSSED, will be published in the fall of 2010.

Please share with us the story of how A CURSE DARK AS GOLD came to be published.

I belong to a wonderful critique group called Juvenile Writers of Kansas City. In 2004, we held our first big conference, where I met my agent, Erin Murphy. Inspired by the conference scene, I started looking for other such opportunities, and learned of an event near my parents' new home in Arizona. When I researched the faculty, I found a wonderful interview with Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine Books editor Cheryl Klein, talking about a book she'd edited, Kate Constable's wonderful THE SINGER OF ALL SONGS. I had really enjoyed that novel, so I read a little more closely... and when Cheryl said SINGER reminded her of her favorite childhood novel--MY favorite childhood novel!--I thought there was a really good chance she'd connect with my work (and even if she didn't, Arizona's a lovely place to be in November). As it happened, I was right! It took me several more months to finish the novel and get it to Cheryl, and the rest you know.

Please tell us about when you first realized that you are a storyteller, and about any authors who may have inspired you.

I've always told myself stories about imaginary people--when I was in third or fourth grade I drew a series of goofy picture books about best friends (both girls) named Stanley and Pickle Relish (I don't know). When I was about twelve, though, I started wondering why I still had so many odd companions populating my thoughts--hadn't most kids grown out of their imaginary friends long ago? But I couldn't shake them, and I finally put the pieces together when I was a sophomore in high school, and realized that the books that I loved were written by real people, as a job, and that I could do that, too. That was the moment I got really serious about my writing, and started studying my favorite authors for craft, particularly authors who wrote really lush fantasy with an incredible voice, like Peter S. Beagle and Robin McKinley.

Do you have anything else you would like to add?

Thank you so much for this opportunity! I hope your readers enjoyed it.

And Now, a Song!

I seem have helped inspire a song!

Page 123

Really, I don't know whether to be insulted or flattered. No, I'm just kidding; of course I'm not insulted. The guy wrote a hilarious song and it's worth listening to. His site is called Sci Fi Songs. I think he has a future in music!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Historical Debut: His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik

I've been looking forward to reading HIS MAJESTY'S DRAGON by Naomi Novik (blog) for a long time. As a longtime reader of fantasy, I am familiar with the concept of a dragon bonding to his or her rider. Two of the most famous novels of this microgenre are, of course, Dragonriders of Pern and Eragon. I remember reading Dragonriders and being so completely blown away by the ending that I just had to go back and reread it right away. HIS MAJESTY'S DRAGON didn't quite reach that height of enjoyment, but it came very close.

Captain Will Laurence of the HMS Reliant has just captured a French vessel. He is rather irked at the enemy captain for putting up what he thought of as an unnecessarily stiff resistance . . . until he sees what is in the hold of the enemy ship. It's a dragon's egg, carefully packed and hardening fast. And a hardening shell means it's about to hatch.

Laurence cannot risk the dragon ending up feral. It must bond to someone. The ship's officers draw straws to determine who is going to bond to the creature. They make their pick, but the dragon has another idea. He picks Laurence. He asks Laurence for a name and Laurence--completely unprepared--names it Temeraire after "a noble dreadnought which he had seen launched, many years before . . ."

It turns out to be an unusual name for a dragon, since they generally have grandiose Roman names such as Maximus, Levitas and even Excidium. There are many other differences between Navy and aviator life, several of which I have a bit of a quibble.

As an Air Force veteran, I have a bit of experience in being a member of the most casual of the armed forces, but I cannot imagine it having been so casual that neglect of even the appearance of my jet (I was an aircraft mechanic) would have been tolerated. It had to be wiped down after every flight. A significant storyline depends on one of Laurence's fellow officers neglecting his dragon to the extent that the poor dragon had sores under his harness. Such neglect always reflects poorly upon the commanding officer, but in this case, the commander's reputation didn't appear to suffer because of the junior officer's neglect.

Other than this and one or two other quibbles not worth mentioning, this novel is superb. Temeraire was an engaging character. Laurence was almost motherly to Temeraire and even called him "My dear." The major relationship explored here is between Laurence and Temeraire. I loved the surprises toward the end. Novik prepared the reader so well for the biggest surprise that I could not think of it as a deus ex machina, since it made such perfect sense. My favorite characters are probably predictable: Jane (Excidium's rider) and her daughter "Roland", along with Maximus's rider, the rather overweight Berkley.

Things I wish had been explored? I wish I could have seen a feral dragon. I'd like to know why dragons bond at all with humans. The thing that took me most aback--that dragons can talk right out of the shell--was nicely explained. But I wanted more.

I suppose that's what the future volumes are for!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy Day!

For all my fellow Americans who stop by today, happy Independence Day! Go off and be merry. Our air conditioning is broken. I'm sure we'll be paying top dollar to have it repaired on Independence Day.

I probably won't bother posting anything for the rest of the weekend. However, we're having a great discussion on the next post down on books we could not finish. We'd love to have you chime in.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Two Difficult Reads

I seem to be suffering from a summer slowdown, not only in blog posts but in reading in general. I've started a whole bunch of books lately but have not finished any. I'm furthest along with His Majesty's Dragon by Niomi Novik--which I've loved every bit as much as I thought I would--and I expect to post a review in a few days.

This is sort of a reverse review. I'm seeking your input. I've had trouble getting into two novels. If you've read either of these books, I'd to know what you thought. I've had both books for months.

In the Eye of Heaven by David Keck

I'm still interested in this book. The blurb hooked me quite nicely, but I'm having trouble getting through the opening chapters. I find the dialog a bit cryptic and I've reread sections while trying to understand what's going on. I generally enjoy knight stories so I really wanted to read this one. If you've read it, I'm past the point where Durand has his visitation by the Traveler (which I read twice just to make sure I understood) and he has left home and met up with a wandering bard named Heremund. If you read it, what did you think? I've read some reviews out there among blogs I frequent, and they appear to be mixed.

Seekers of the Chalice by Brian Cullen

I'm afraid that despite an engaging cover, this novel is not holding my attention. I cannot be interested in recovering the chalice and I don't feel any interest in Cumac, the main protagonist. An elf-girl named Fedlem has joined him, apparently in the nick of time. I'm not finding any reviews out there, outside of a couple Amazon reviews--certainly not any reviews among the blogs I frequent, or even that can be found via Google. Because it has not received much attention I was interested in reading it, but it's becoming a bit of a chore. Has anyone tried to read this? Or tried to?

I hate not finishing books, so I'll probably pick them up and try again at some point, especially if I get a recommendation here. However, I have a lot of book competing for my attention these days.

Have you tried to read any books lately, and failed?