Thursday, February 28, 2008

Queen of Dragons by Shana Abe

This is the third of Abe's Dragon books that I've devoured, and I must say that I loved this one as much as the first two.
Abe's prose is rich and sumptuous, and her plots subtle and beautiful, like a spider web covered in clinging drops of dew.
Her characters are beautiful, dangerous Drakon, and while they fall prey to love and lust as does mankind, the similarities end there.
The plot of this novel is no less intricate, as the princess of Zaharan Yse, (in Transylvania) comes to call on the Drakon of London, England in the 18th century. Princess Maricara is an Alpha dragon, and after meeting Kimber Langford, the Alpha of the London dragons, a searing love is created, though there is a stormy path to its consumation. Abe's plots twist and turn on a dime, and this novel is no exception. There were times when I gasped in surprise. But things always work out in the end, though never quite the way you assume that they will.
I adore these surprising dragon books, and in an effort not to spoil them for you, I will leave it at that, and recommend them for anyone who loves juicy romance and marvelous fantasy dragon tales intermingled. It's fascinating stuff, so prepare to be enchanted.
Note: The two other books in this series are The Smoke Thief and The Dream Thief.

Lynn Kurland's Nine Kingdoms Series

First, a wonderful quote:
"Author T.C. Boyle gives a eulogy for Dutton's Brentwood, remembering his
first visit to the store where immediately he was "tenderly wrapped in
the aura of a bibliophile's paradise--the lighting dim, the interior
hushed, a smell of print investing the air as if the presses were even
then churning away in the basement."

Ahhh, yes, I have known many a bookstore that was just that wonderful.

But back to our regularly scheduled review.

I have to say it flat out: I love Lynn Kurland's books. I'm not a straight romance reader, and yet her books that are only slightly paranormal romances are all wonderful fun, extremely well written, full of witty banter between main characters and they always have a satisfying HEA ending.
Yet I wondered, when I picked up a copy of "Star of the Morning" by Kurland if she could handle a fantasy/romance hybrid and still come out smelling like the proverbial rose.
The good news is yes, she can and does not only handle the fantasy brilliantly, she creates a whole kingdom full of romantic tension that she somehow manages to sustain through two books.
The bad news is that Kurland is a cruel mistress of prose, and she makes the reader wait until he or she is halfway through the second book, "The Mage's Daughter" before she even allows her two main characters to kiss. Yes, that's right, I said kiss. They don't get into any more hanky-panky than some smoldering looks, kisses and hand-holding throughout the second half of Mage's Daughter. And there's been all that love, that sensual tension, that perfect combination of two adults who were meant to be together for 324 plus 378 pages. I was salivating for these two to consumate their relationship, but all I got was strung along by the delicious prose created by the adept Ms Kurland, whom I am beginning to think has a wicked streak running through her creative veins. She's like a cat toying with put those readers down, Lynn Kurland and stop dangling them from your mouth by their tiny tails! Squeak!
Seriously, though, I loved Star of the Morning and The Mages Daughter. The prose was Kurland's usual beautiful style, which is not too florid and yet still detailed and elegant enough that you feel you can see the scenes she sets up. The plot marched right along, only dawdling a bit in the second book for some fluffing up of the relationship between the main characters, and to give the reader a bit more time with some wonderful secondary characters, like the horse master who talks to his horses and understands their speech. Above all, though, Kurland just knows how to tell a good story, and good storytelling is paramount in a fantasy novel, with or without the romance element.
The story so far is that our reluctant heroine, Morgan, is a trained warrior woman who is sent by her foster father on a quest to return a magical dagger to the King of Neroche. Meanwhile, back at the castle, the King of Neroche loses his magic and his magic sword (but he's such a buffoon the reader doesn't mind) and his bright brother (one of six siblings) who also happens to be the archmage of the kingdom, sends his braggart brother the king out into the kingdom to find that special someone who can wield the sword of Angesand, a magical sword made by a former queen. Foppish king sets off, gets himself repeatedly in trouble, and bright archmage follows to help him. Archmage meets up with reluctant heroine, loses his heart, and realizes, somewhere along the path back to Castle Neroche, that she is the magical sword wielder, but he doesn't tell her, because she has an aversion to magic and all things bespelled. Archmage and his doltish king brother take Morgan back to the castle, she encounters the sword of Angesand, and realizes, at the same time, that this men who have been traveling with her are the king and the archmage. She gets pissed off, naturally, and breaks the sword in a million pieces. She exits the room in disgust at the lies she's been told, and is given a cup of poisoned wine by the ultimate bad guy, a black mage named,oddly enough, Lothar (and I am certain I am not the only one who remembers the Mike Myers Saturday Night Live skit with Lothar of the Hill People, who called intercourse "walking") and is carried off to be cured by her foster father, who is more than he appears.
The second book shows us a weakened Morgan returning to her mercenary training ground to try and gain some perspective, only to have the archmage, Miach (pronounced Mike?) come to the training ground to learn swordplay and win the forgiveness of the love of his life, Morgan. Miach has discovered that Morgan has a dark and terrible heritage, and that she will have to confront that heritage and use her magic if the kingdom is to be saved. The two end up on a long and perilous quest, and are betrothed by the end of the book. There is a bit of puffery in the middle of the second book, but its so well done, and we get to spend time with more of Kurlands wonderful secondary characters, that I didn't actually mind. There is also more than a bit of Tolkien in these books, and a smattering of Arthurian legend as well. It makes for some tasty storytelling and I am certainly going to rush right out and get the next trade paperback in the series as soon as it hits the shelves.
Here's to hoping the sexual tension is finally relieved by the end of the third book!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Funny and Odd Book Titles

The following is from Shelf Awareness, a listserve I'm on that deals with librarians and booksellers.

Forget the Oscars. We now have the much-anticipated shortlist for this
year's Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year. In announcing
this year's list, the Bookseller magazine noted that "Horace Bent, the Bookseller diarist and custodian
of the Diagram Prize, said: 'I confess: I have been anxious that as
publishing becomes ever more corporate, the trade's quirky charms are
being squeezed out. Lists are pruned, targets are set, authors are
culled. But happily my fears have been proved unfounded: oddity lives

And now, the list:

* I Was Tortured by the Pygmy Love Queen
* How to Write a How to Write Book
* Are Women Human? And Other International Dialogues
* Cheese Problems Solved
* If You Want Closure in Your Relationship, Start With Your Legs
* People who Mattered in Southend and Beyond: From King Canute to Dr

The winner will be announced March 28.

Aww, gee, I'm blushing!

Here's my editor at Big Ole Face Full of Monster's reaction to the latest review I wrote for him:

I have posted your review at and sent it to the publisher as always. Thanks so much for the great review - I actually love the way you demand the fundamentals from authors.


What a great guy!

Here's the review I sent him:

Timeless Moon by C.T. Adams and Cathy Clamp
Published by Tor Paranormal Romance, 422 pages
Publication Date: March 2008
Reviewed for BOFFM by DeAnn Rossetti

I have a feeling that my editor at Big Ole Face Full of Monster thinks I am the world’s pickiest paranormal romance reader. Of all the books he’s sent me to review over the past year or two, I’ve not given one of them a rave. I really do enjoy this particular genre of fiction, too, I’m just a stickler for the standards of fine fiction and excellent storytelling, i.e. believable, well-fleshed-out characters, prose that is at least sturdy and cliché-free,(though I much prefer voluptuous, juicy prose that makes me fall in love with words all over again), plus a plot that moves briskly and doesn’t fall prey to huge holes or turgid prose, and a story that is worth telling, told by authors with a talent for page-turning tales. These are not impossible standards to reach, as I’ve accumulated works by authors who do the above with ease, regularly publishing books that I eagerly anticipate months in advance.
Unfortunately, perhaps because it is the sixth book in the “Sazi” series, Timeless Moon didn’t enthrall me. It was readable and fun, but not worthy of an overnight reading marathon.
It would appear that Timeless Moon isn’t really a stand-alone book, requiring the reader to have familiarized themselves with the world of the Sazi shape-shifters prior to attempting this particular tome.
Yet all Timeless Moon needs to be a good book is a judicious editor who can weed out the occasional cliché, prune the portly paragraph and delete the redundancies found in this novel. I can only assume its due to having dual authors that there’s also way too much detail in Timeless Moon that bogs down the plot and keeps the story from moving forward. An example:
“Folding up the map, he rose and crossed back to the phone, dumping his trash in the can by the door along the way. Another call to information got him the number of one of the cheap chain motels with a branch on Federal. He reserved a room, guaranteeing it with his credit card since he wasn’t sure how late he’d arrive. With that done, there was no other reason to linger. He stowed the map, slid on his sunglasses, and climbed on the bike.”
There was no need for that entire paragraph to exist. Does the fact that he’s not a litterbug with his trash make any difference to the plot of the story? No. Does his calling information and booking a room with his credit card, which is standard operating procedure, important to any actions taken later in the book? No. Nor do we need to know that he put his map away, donned his sunglasses and prepared to ride off. Details are only good when you use them sparingly, to give the reader a taste of background or a bit of insight--too many details are boring and stop the plot cold.
Speaking of the plot, Timeless Moon’s storyline is fairly complex. The tale revolves around Josette Monier, the most powerful seer (psychic) and, of course, beautiful shape-shifter in existence, and her ex-husband Richard Aleric Cooper Johnson, a shape-shifter and empath. Josette and Rick are both bobcat shifters and belong to a group of “good guy” shifters (called Wolven) who run the gamut from polar bears to wolves. The “bad guy” shifters are all snakes or spiders who have apparently had it out for Josette for centuries. She’s managed to foil their evil plots and keep them from killing her only by dint of her ability to see the future.
Unfortunately, a new enemy has made itself known by creating a ritual spell that enervates all the seers and destroys their ability to sense the future. But Josette, because she’s a marked woman, has kept herself apart from the other shifters for a long time, believing that Rick was dead. Rick, meanwhile, has been living with his regrets in the middle of nowhere, until he hears that Josette has been attacked and her house blown up, plus the draining spell has infected the head of the Wolven Sazi group, Charles, his mentor. The only person who might be able to break the spell is Josette, but none of the other Wolven have the guts to face the fierce bobcat, so Rick finds himself saddled with the task of making up to his ex-wife and helping her find the magician behind the draining spell. A great deal of chaos ensues, along with some hot love scenes between Rick and Josette once we get past the first 100 pages. The bad guys are routed and there’s the requisite “Happily Ever After” or HEA ending, which seems to always entail a wedding and/ or pregnancy in most paranormal romances.
I would recommend Timeless Moon to that slice of the paranormal romance demographic that loves stories about shape-shifters and psychics who can shift into cats. There are definitely cat fans among the paranormal and SF/romance faithful, so I imagine this novel will appeal to that crowd and those who like their romance detailed and rife with spicy love scenes.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Good Quote from an Author

I read this on one of my listserves, and, because it is true and insightful, felt I needed to post it here:
"During a panel discussion last Thursday, I heard author Susan Cheever
say, "Catharsis is not what the writer is supposed to have. Catharsis is
what the reader is supposed to have." She also said that the
relationship between writers and their readers is "like an unrequited
love affair." And she said, "Good writing is not self-expression; it's

Too many authors ignore the above, writing for purely selfish reasons. There are too many women, especially, that see writing a novel as a form of therapy, and feel the need to foist their horrible, boring whines on the rest of the world. There are others who use novels as a way to get revenge on their relatives or others whom they feel have done them wrong. I maintain that novels written for these purposes are nearly always total crap, not worth the dead trees they are printed on. The authors themselves rarely have any writing or storytelling talent, and take refuge in tired cliches and endless monologues about their pathetic victimhood.
I agree with Flannery O'Connor, who once said something about the University not squelching enough writers from trying to become bestselling hacks.
I just read two books, in fact, that were written by 'established' authors that were both awful. Luanne Rice's "Summer Girl" and Anna Quindlen's "Blessings."
I've read one of Quindlen's other works that I recall enjoying, though I don't recall the title. "Blessings" was fairly well written, in the sense that the prose was decent, the characters not cardboard cut outs or tacky stereotypes. But the story itself seemed unfocused, rambling and melancholy, with an edge of bitterness that made it hard to finish. The main character, an wealthy elderly woman, is unkind to the point of cruelty, and ridiculously secretive, even to her daughter, who never learns that her real father is a married man whom her mother had a fling with before WW2. To legitimize her pregnancy, the elderly woman marries her homosexual brothers secret lover, who conveniently dies in the war. Though she's obviously broken the rules herself, she's stiff and unyielding on traditions and rules for the rest of her life. She hires a young man just out of prison (he takes the rap for his sleazy friends) to be her groundskeeper, and when the groundskeeper finds a baby on his doorstep, he decides to raise the child and eventually enlists the help of the elderly woman and her housekeepers daughter. Unfortunately, the baby is discovered, and reunited with its stupid teenage mother, who really wants nothing to do with the child, but is forced by her parents to take custody of the baby anyway. Eventually, the elderly woman dies and leaves a great deal of money to the groundskeeper, who wants to establish his own landscaping business, but the ending is still unsatisfactory as it feels unfair and unenlightening.
Rice's novel purports to deal with the subject of domestic violence and abuse of women, and has pages of fearful bleating on the part of the main characters to prove it. Of course, because its supposed to be a romance novel, a romance develops between a physically wounded sea captain and an emotionally wounded woman and her daughter. The characters are nearly all stereotypes and the bad husband is not just an abuser, he's a thief and internet porn con man...because I assume Rice felt that just being abusive to two different women, both of whom had to flee his grasp to Canada, wasn't evil enough. The prose was average, and the plot moved fairly fast (mainly because the reader could see the denoument coming after chapter one) but the characters just had too little depth to be interesting.
I'm hoping to get a new Robin McKinley book this week, and if I'm lucky, a new Susan Vreeland novel for Valentines Day!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Lady of Light and Shadows by CL Wilson

I just finished the Lady of Light and Shadows, by new author CL Wilson, and I must say I was surprised and delighted that Wilson has entered the paranormal/fantasy/romance genre with this deft work of what used to be called 'high fantasy."
My friend Renee, who is a shameless book pimp for fantasy and SF books (mainly because she attends every SF convention within a thousand mile radius and collects books at all of them), gave me a tantalizing preview of this book back in December. I thought it sounded interesting, but not enough for me to run to the bookstore and grab a copy. Then I happened to find a copy in the drugstore, of all places, while I was waiting to pick up a prescription for my son, and the next thing I knew I was buying it because I'd become engrossed in the plot during the half-hour wait. It is unusual for me to spend full price on a mass market paperback book, as I like to buy used copies at the Library Guild book cart at the Maple Valley Library, but I fell under the spell of Lady of Light and Shadows, from its lovely cover, depicting the red-headed heroine, Ellysetta, to its juicy chapter one love scene with the delicious Rain Tairen Soul, a fey king who can shape-shift to become a dragon-esque puma-with-wings. Wilson differentiates, by the way, between Elves, a race of small sprites, and the fairies or fey, who are apparently larger than life, fierce and extremely magical, as well as immortal.
One again, it appears I've come into this series on the second book. The first book, entitled "Lord of the Fading Lands" established that young Ellysetta, the adopted woodcarver's daughter, has called Rainier vel'En Daris, the Tairen Soul, from the skies to be her 'truemate' or soul-bonded husband. The couple are engaged, and Rain has vowed to not consumate the relationship until they are truly wed. Meanwhile, though, evil Eld Mages, whose magic comes from the proverbial dark side of the force, are sending nightmares to Elly and suborning or possessing her friends and relatives so that the high mage, who had a hand in Ellys birth, can try to abduct her and force her to use her magic for evil. The Eld wish to take over Celieria so that they can have access to the Fey's Fading Lands, and all their power. Wilson uses her lush prose style to bewitch the reader with all the plots and intigues of the two sides, while simultaneously fleshing out the rich relationship that is blooming between Elly and Rain. The plot is stately and graceful, moving at a pace that is fast enough to keep the reader turning pages, but not so fast that one can't stop and admire the beauty of Wilsons world building, fully-realized characters and pretty prose. For a new writer, Wilson's ability to create an erotic scene between her main characters is masterful, and will leave readers breathlessly wanting more. I can't wait for the next two books, King of Sword and Sky and Queen of Song and Souls, which are coming out in October and November this year. I highly recommend Lady of Light and Shadows to all fantasy/romance readers who enjoy a good romantic fairy tale written in high style.