Sunday, December 31, 2006

The Changeling Sea

If you loved the movie, "The Secret of Roan Inish" as much as I did, you will love this wonderful tale of sea and magic, "The Changeling Sea" by my favorite fantasy author, Patricia McKillip. It's a kind of fable that starts with the scullery girl, Periwinkle, who gets mad at the sea for taking her father and putting her mother into a deep depression.
She hexes the sea, and in so doing, finds herself embroiled in a quest to get the kings changeling son back to the sea and his mer-mother. Along the way, the reader also encounters a sorcerer named Lyo, a sea-dragon with a golden chain and many greedy fisher-folk.
As usual, McKillip's prose is gold, full of lush descriptions and fanciful side trips to metaphor. I'd read this particular book years ago, but couldn't resist a new edition with better cover art. It's a slender volume, but one that is well worth the few hours of bliss spent reading it. By the end I had a hankering for seafood and felt that I could almost hear the waves crashing on the shore.
I'm reading Rhianna, by Michele Hauf now, and as I've not read any of her work before, I can't render an opinion on the quality yet until I've finished it.
Happy New Year to all my fellow Bibliophiles, and may 2007 bring us all towering TBR stacks and lots of great reading until all hours of the night!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Good Historical and Science Fiction Romance

I've just read two outstanding romance novels, and if you know me, you know that I'm not the usual romance reader or fan. I tend to read Science Fiction and Fantasy, Literature and Classics with some Modern Fiction thrown in for balance of the mental palate. I've not been a fan of the "throbbing manliness" school of bodice-ripping romance since I was about 12 years old. Even then, I always read Science Fiction in addition to romance, because most romances written in the 1970s were weak and formulaic tripe.
But a friend of mine, Renee Stern, happened to acquire a copy of Linnea Sinclairs "Finders Keepers" several years ago, and she passed it on to me, knowing that I enjoy Science Fiction with strong female characters and adventure. I read it, enjoyed it, and was surprised and pleased when Renee got me a copy of "Gabriels Ghost" by Sinclair this year. I devoured it, and found the characters to be engaging, fascinating and well-wrought. So I bought myself a copy of "An Accidental Goddess" with my Barnes and Noble gift card (my birthday and Christmas are close enough together that people tend to combine them and give me gift cards for both...which is perfectly fine by me. I love shopping for books!) and discovered that Sinclair just keeps getting better and better with each new novel. Her Science Fiction/Romance hybrids are a real treat to read, with just the right amount of futuristic aliens and technology to keep the geek in me happy, and just the right amount of interesting, fun characters and fast-moving plots with juicy male-female relationships to keep me turning pages long into the night.
I went to Sinclairs web site and found, to my joy, that she has a new book coming out in February that I will hasten to acquire from I also wrote to the author, and, kind Libran that she is, she wrote back to me and was quite charming to chat with about being a reporter and about her latest books. I found that one of her earlier works, "Wintertide", is only available online used, at a very dear cost. I am hoping that I will run across a copy when I scour the used bookstores in the spring.
The second good romance author I've discovered is Lynn Kurland, a local (Seattle) gal who writes historical romances. Like Sinclair, Kurland has a knack for storytelling and for well-formed characters who seem real, they're so accurately drawn. I found "This is All I Ask" on the Library Guild book sale cart at the local library, and it seemed interesting enough to warrant a 50 cent price tag. I enjoyed it so much that I bought "From This Moment On" and "The Very Thought of You" and enjoyed them tremendously. I happened to find a copy of "Love Came Just in Time" at a garage sale, and I snapped it up. It contains 4 short stories by Kurland that take place in Scotland. The first story was the best, and a real joy to read, as it entailed some Science Fiction in a time warp that catches a nearly suicidal woman off guard and hurls her into the 13th century, where she meets and falls in love with a poor but hunky Laird. Granted, this isn't the kind of stuff that wins huge literary awards or becomes a classic, but it is great fun and the kind of escapist literature that makes for good distraction when you are waiting in the doctors office for a colonoscopy, for example. Kurland has a sense of humor, too, so she doesn't take her characters or their situations too seriously, which is wonderful. Her prose is fluid and gets down to business without a lot of metaphorical side trips. And her characters are never the perfect model-types you see in so many romances. They have problems, flaws and all too real trouble connecting to others.
So I highly recommend both Linnea Sinclairs SF/Romances and Lynn Kurlands historical kiss-fests. You won't be subjected to bizarre descriptions of pulsating body parts or perfect hair and teeth, I guarentee.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Three December Reads

I've read three great books since the beginning of my natal month (I was born Dec 12, on our Lady of Guadalupe's feast day) and one book that I have already reviewed on my Crohns blog at
I'll start with the last first.
I just finished Jancee Dunn's brilliant "But Enough About Me..." cannily subtitled "A Jersey Girl's Unlikely Adventures Among the Absurdly Famous." I read on Salon that Jennifer Weiner, she of the fabulous "Good in Bed" and other works of chick lit, recommended this book as one of her two best books of 2006. It is everything Jennifer Weiner said it would be: A book that is by turns hilarious, sweet, riveting, compassionate, appalling and sad. You are left with a smile and an honest account of the life of a young journalist in the entertainment industry, which can be a bizarre and nightmarish place, but which also holds great treasures. I could empathize with Dunn every step of the way, as I had to interview celebrities at one time in my life, and I know how wierd that can be. Dunn gives some great advice on what to do and what not to do for such interviews, and the advice, though put forth in a funny manner, is sound and true.
I would recommend this book to anyone who has dreamed of a glamorous life writing about celebrities in the music and movie biz. I would also recommend it to star-struck folks who idolize some actor or music group, because once you get behind the scenes in this book, the reality of these people is revealed and the glitter wears off quickly. My only problem with the book, and its a small one, is that Dunn was a bit too flip at times, too glib with serious subjects like drug addiction and alcoholism. The fact that she managed to survive snorting a lot of cocaine doesn't mean that some other idiot who tries blow in that quantity won't have a heart attack and die on the spot.
My dear husband bought me a copy of Sharon Lee and Steve Millers "Crystal Dragon" which is the second in the duology about the beginnings of the planet Liad and its founders, Cantra, Jela, Tor An and the Tree. It was the perfect birthday present, and I read half the book on the 12th and the other half on the 13th. Though I read Crystal Soldier about two years ago, I don't recall it being as full of technical jargon and pages full of high-end mathematical theorums as this book was. I find math and all its theories boring, and was saddened that there were pages of this kind of discussion in Crystal Dragon. I have always felt that Lee and Millers beautifully-wrought three dimensional characters were their strong suit. The interaction of the characters, the relationships that develop and the culture of Liadens and the people of their galaxy are what make their books stand out and sing. Therefore I wanted to read more about Cantra, Jela, Tor An and the support characters, and was frustrated by the frequent side trips into math-and-theories land. But other than that one complaint, I really enjoyed the book, and was fascinated by the creation of Liad, and by meeting the worlds namesake. I was upset when Jela died, but thrilled to learn that Cantra carried his child. And the ending, as with all Lee and Miller books, was satisfying and solid. Lee and Miller have another Liaden book coming out called "Fledgling" next year, but its only available online, and donations are required. I am hoping that I can get in a small donation soon and secure myself a place in the online que to read the first pages of the e-book.
The book I read at the beginning of the month was called "Gabriels Ghost" by Linnea Sinclair. I've read her other book, Finders Keepers, and I recall enjoying it tremendously. Sinclair writes nice science fiction-romance hybrids that are fascinating to read and always have richly-drawn characters who feel real to the reader. Gabriel Ross Sullivan and Chasidah Bergren don't meet under the most auspicious circumstances. Chas has been court-martialed and sent to a deadly prison planet, where she's rescued from some horrible super-soldier-creature by Sullivan, who makes her an offer she can't refuse to work with him off planet. They form an odd alliance that turns to passion and a kind of mind-melded marriage. Oddly enough, Sinclair doesn't go for the easy "happily ever after" ending, wherein Sully and Chas find out who is creating the bad soldiers and then proceed to kill them all off for the sake of humanity. We are left with the duo going out into space together to try and track down the evil-doers and kill off the bad guys, but they'd only managed to scratch the surface of the conspiracy at books end. That's why I assume that this is only the first book of a series about these characters. I would recommend this book to those who like a juicy romance mingled with their spaceships and ray guns.
I also read "The Good Fairies of New York" by Martin Millar, and reviewed it on my Crohns Blog, but I won't repeat the review here except to say that it was a very cynical and bizarre work with one character, Kerry, who made the book worth reading, as she struggles with Crohn's disease.
I'm currently trying to read "The Amulet of Sammarkand" by Jonathan Stroud, the first of the Bartimaeus series, which is for young adults. I'm also just starting a book for January's book group called "The Madonnas of Leningrad" by Debra Dean.
Merry Christmas to all and happy reading this holiday season!