Tuesday, March 27, 2007

My two Latest BOFFM Reviews

The following two reviews are up on the Big Ol Face Full of Monster Web site (gomonstergo.com) and will be published in their next magazine as well.
Here are the links:


Meanwhile, I'm almost done with "The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio" by Terry Ryan for my book group, and I have really enjoyed this story of hope and determination on the part of a mother of 10 in the Midwest.

I'd also like to post that, while my review of Linnea Sinclairs "Games of Command" wasn't gushy and saccarine, it also wasn't damning with faint praise.
I love Linnea's books, and eagerly look forward to her next SF/Romance hybrid, which I snatch off the shelf of the bookstore the minute I am able to do so. Linnea is a rarity, in my book, as an author who can write credible science fiction and still manage to have at least one romance threading through the plot at the same time. No mean feat, considering how few modern authors can even write a decent SF novel without any romance. Linnea's characters are fully realized, fascinating and fun, her plots zoom along with vigor and a blessed lack of triteness, and her prose is generally tight and tough, exposing her background in journalism. Considering that the woman has had two other careers before this one, I think she's a marvel. I only wish she could create more SF/Romance books in short order, as I would enjoy having a nice backlog of them on my TBR stack to look forward to, after I finish my requisite books for reviews.
Thanks, Linnea, for your imaginative, fun world-building talents. You are a bright spot in a genre that can use as much light as it can get.

Monday, March 19, 2007

It's not a book, but...

This link isn't to a site about a book, but it is an excellent article about the struggle of working mothers to balance work and family in a biased workplace.


Teens Buying Books

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer's Celia Goodnow checks in on one of the happier publishing trends, where teens are buying books in numbers not seen in decades. "Kids are buying books in quantities we've never seen before," said Booklist magazine critic Michael Cart, a leading authority on young adult literature. "And publishers are courting young adults in ways we haven't seen since the 1940s." Credit a bulging teen population, a surge of global talent and perhaps a bit of Harry Potter afterglow as the preteen Muggles of yesteryear carry an ingrained reading habit into later adolescence.
Fantasy and graphic novels are especially hot, Goodnow discovers, and adventure, romance, humor and gritty coming-of-age tales remain perennial favorites. In addition, racy series such as GOSSIP GIRL -- often likened to a teen "Sex and the City" -- have created a buzz. More notably, though, there's a new strain of sophistication and literary heft as publishers cater to the older end of the spectrum with books that straddle teen and adult markets. Teens' increased disposable income is a big factor, too, leading to more sales, more choice and better quality. In other words, for those who might overlook YA fiction because it's ostensibly written for kids, you'd be doing a serious disservice - there's lots of good stuff out there, just waiting to be found.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Games of Command by Linnea Sinclair

Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on brokenglass. -Anton Chekhov, short-story writer and dramatist (1860-1904)

Games of Command by Linnea Sinclair
Published by Bantam Spectra, March, 2007, 525 pages

Having previously read “Finders Keepers,” “An Accidental Goddess” and, my favorite, “Gabriel’s Ghost,” by Sinclair, I can honestly say I was anticipating the release of her latest SF/Romance hybrid, “Games of Command” with all due fervor. Sinclair is a rarity, one of the few authors who can write decent science fiction and add in romance that doesn’t detract from the storyline, but enhances it. Games of Command is somewhat more complex than her previous novels, and contains fewer passionate clutches, looks and words between the main characters, yet it manages to give readers a secondary storyline, with the ships doctor and a rogue telepath, that allows us to experience all the romance and passion without interrupting the science fiction plot run by the main characters.The book is mainly about Captain “Sass” Tasha Sebastian, who has, in the past, been up to no good, but now is flying the straight and narrow space lanes when she’s ordered to duty on the ship of Admiral Branden Kel-Paten, a human-cyborg mix who has had a secret crush on Sass for years. Sebastian’s best friend, Dr. Eden Fynn, is also commandeered for the trip, and we learn early on that she is, thankfully, not another petite blonde with big breasts, but rather a voluptuous redhead who is an empath as well. Part of my problem with reading romances, paranormal, SF and fantasy-hybrids has been the authors insistence on using clichés and stereotypes in so much of the text. The heroine is always petite, usually blonde but occaisionally raven-haired, and always feisty. It’s as if that is the only kind of woman these writers assume that men find sexually attractive. Because a majority of women in the United States are a size 14 and over, I would think this one cliché alone would hack female romance readers off. There’s also the trope of the female protagonist never performing oral sex on the male protagonist that has had me wondering why for quite awhile. Fortunately, Sinclair takes a healthy stab at breaking those stereotypes and clichés with Dr Eden Fynn and her curvaceous, full-figured form, and Sass, the main character, performing oral sex on Kel Paten. What a relief to see some realistic sexuality and a realistic woman in this novel! Halleluiah! Kudos to Sinclair for her bravery in the face of romance novel convention.
The rest of “Games of Command” zings along like a well-written episode of Star Trek, The Next Generation, or Babylon 5. The Sebastian and Kel Paten characters go through a series of crisis and pages of sprightly dialog later, come out on the other end realizing that they love one another, which was not a given, at least for Sebastian, who was fairly embarrassed about the lovesick log entries she stole from Kel Patens personal computer. Dr Fynn, meanwhile, falls for secret agent and rouge telepath, Jace Serafino, and we learn all about the secret war being waged between the Psy-Serv command, (which reminded me of Psycorps from Babylon 5) a faintly Nazi-like organization that puts inhibitors on telepaths and controls their lives, and the Alliance, who only want peace and commerce, of course. We also learn that “furzels” and “fidgets” (cats and kittens, respectively) are embroiled in the war as a way to protect their humans and keep the galaxy smelling clean for all humankind. Though I enjoyed the telepathic cats and their exploits, I have to say that the cuteness of their childish dialog, calling their humans “mommy” and such got to be a bit too much. I know that people get very attached to their pets, and anthropomorphize them to the Nth degree, but they are still animals, not people, and their function as pets or deus ex machina (as is the case in the novel) shouldn’t be degraded by cutesy baby-talk. But that is a minor quibble with an otherwise great SF/Romance. My only other quibble is the use of clichéd euphemisms for anatomy during sex scenes. But I’d be willing to bet Sinclair will be one of the first to use words like “penis” and “vagina” or even, gasp, “clitoris” in one of her future novels. She’s just that gutsy.
I would recommend Games of Command to any reader who enjoy science fiction imbued with fascinating characters who come together in relationships that are wonderful fun. Sinclair's plots never plod and her prose is always sensible and clean, allowing her sparky dialog to shine each time she brings her characters together. Games of Command is well worth the late-night page-turning that will ensue when the reader must see what happens in the end.