Monday, July 27, 2009

A prose poem about Neil Gaiman

This is from Shelf Awareness, and is marvelous and true:

Neil Gaiman is a storyteller.
The kind of storyteller
Who causes you to lean in
And listen to the story of a hand in the darkness
Holding a knife
And a child called Nobody Owens
Raised by ghosts in a graveyard--
The story that won the 2009 Newbery Medal.
On a Sunday night in July in the Windy City,
Neil Gaiman tells the story of a boy in a Sussex town in England,
"Raised by librarians among the stacks."
During his school holidays,
His parents would drop him at the library on their way to work,
Where he sometimes ate a sandwich in the library car park
But mostly feasted on J.P. Martin, Margaret Storey, Nicholas Stuart
"Victorian authors, Edwardian authors."
He loved A Wrinkle in Time, he said,
"Even though they messed up the first sentence in the Puffin edition:
'It was a dark and stormy night
In a small town somewhere in America.' "
Young Neil had a graveyard in his Sussex town,
Where a witch was buried.
Well, not a witch, he later discovered,
But rather three Protestant martyrs
Burned by order of a Catholic queen.
But the legend stayed with him.
Gaiman began his graveyard story 20 years ago
When his son Michael rode his tricycle
Among the headstones of that same graveyard.
But the author felt he wasn't ready yet to tell that tale.
He resumed it in December 2005.
He finished the story in February 2008.
Michael is now taller than his father;
He is 25; the same age Gaiman was when he started
The Graveyard Book.
As he wrote the last two lines, he realized,
"I had set out to write a book about a childhood . . .
I was now writing about being a parent.
The fundamental most comical tragedy of parenthood:
If you do your job properly . . .
They won't need you anymore.
If you did it properly,
They go away . . . .
I knew I'd written a book that was better
Than the one I had set out to write."

Ashley Bryan is a storyteller.
The kind of storyteller
Who causes you to shout out
In call-and-response--
To find the music in language.
"You are my people!" he begins, on that same July night in Chicago.
He leads us in a reading of Langston Hughes' "My People."
Ashley Bryan tells the story of a boy raised in the Bronx,
Among four- and five-story buildings, where
"Everyone looked after everyone as family."
"You are my family," says Ashley Bryan.
"Family need not be based solely on blood."
As its most recent winner,
He spoke of being humbled and deeply moved as a member of
The Laura Ingalls Wilder Award family.
As a small child, he and his two siblings,
The first three of six children,
Used orange crates to cart books home from the library.
In kindergarten, he made his own first book,
An alphabet book.
He was writer, illustrator, binder and . . .
"It was the rave reviews
For these limited editions, one-of-a-kind, that kept me going."
Years later in the 1960s, when Bryan was in his 40s,
Jean Karl, founding editor of children's books at Atheneum ,
Visited him in his studio.
She "was excited by my varied approach to texts," Bryan recalled.
She offered him a contract and encouraged him to
Tell the African tales in his own words.
Bryan's challenge was "to find a way
To keep the voice of the oral traditions alive
As it is carried over into the book."
His lead was poetry.
In elementary school in the Bronx, he'd been taught,
"The soul of poetry, like song, is experienced in hearing it."
He leads us then in a call-and-response to
Eloise Greenfield's "Things."
Though a candy gets eaten
And a sand castle washes away,
The lines of a poem stay:
"Still got it
Still got it"
He says the refrain in a na-na-na-na-na
Children-on-the-playground voice.
We do, too.
When one leading art institute told a 16-year-old Bryan
That "it would be a waste to give a scholarship to a colored person,"
He applied to Cooper Union,
Where the artist prepares an exam in three parts:
Drawing, architecture, and sculpture,
Displays it on a tray,
Then leaves, letting the work speak for the unseen artist.
Ashley Bryan was accepted.
He leads us now in
"Dreams" by Langston Hughes.
"Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly . . . "
Since he left Cooper Union, Ashley Bryan has experimented.
He used tempura paints in his first book of African tales,
In the tradition of African sculpture, masks and the Bushman rock
Swift line brush paintings inspired by Hokusai
For The Dancing Granny.
Woodblock prints for his spirituals
And, in Beautiful Blackbird, collage.
"Although now my books are printed in the thousands," he says,
"It is the feeling of the handmade book
That is at the heart of my bookmaking.
I'd like you, holding one of my books, to feel that I am offering you
A one-of-a-kind gift that you'll treasure and share."

Neil Gaiman and Ashley Bryan are storytellers.
They tell stories that cause you to lean in,
Stories that cause you to shout out,
Stories for child and parent.
These join us together, the storytellers say,
And make us family,
Raised by our neighbors in four-story buildings,
Raised by librarians among the stacks."--Jennifer M. Brown

The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

"But there are a lot of people with talent and passion, and many of them never get anywhere. This is only the first step in achieving anything in life. Natural talent is like an athlete's strength. You can be born with more or less ability, but nobody can become an athlete just because he or she was born tall, or strong, or fast. What makes the athlete or artist is the work, the vocation and the technique. The intelligence you are born with is just ammunition. To achieve something with it you need to transform your mind into a high-precision weapon. Every work of art is aggressive...every artist's life is a small war or a large one, beginning with oneself and one's limitations. To achieve anything you must first have ambition and then talent, knowledge and finally the opportunity."
From "The Angel's Game" Carlos Ruiz Zafon

"Inspiration comes when you stick your elbows on the table and your bottom on the chair and start sweating. Choose a theme, an idea and squeeze your brain until it hurts. That's called inspiration." Ibid

"Bascially you read thousands of pages to learn what you need to know and to get to the heart of a subject, to its emotional truth, and then you shed all that knowledge and start at square one...emotional truth is sincerity within fiction. One has to be not honest, but skilled. Emotional truth is not a moral quality, it's a technique...
Literature, at least good literature, is science tempered with the blood of art." Ibid

"God lives, to a smaller or greater extent, in books, and that is why (Senor Sempere) devoted his life to sharing them, to protecting them, and to making sure their pages, like our memories and our desires, are never lost. He believed, and he made me believe it too, that as long as there is one person left in the world who is capable of reading them and experiencing them, a small piece of God, or of life, will remain."

I was looking forward to the next novel by Zafon, author of the near-perfect "Shadow of the Wind" and anticipating another great page-turning gothic adventure about books and that wonderful creation, the Cemetery of Forgotten Books that everyone who read Shadow of the Wind longed to visit, myself included.

I was, therefore, surprised to discover that Angel's Game isn't about a passion for books or a love of them as much as it is about writing and art, obsession and love, religion and reality/belief.

The protagonist, David Martin, is a journalist who started writing sensational short stories for his local newspaper in Barcelona. He is so talented that his fellow journalists shun him out of jealousy, and he's eventually forced to leave. He then develops a pseudonym and churns out pulp noir fiction for a couple of crooked publishers who come off as clones of the opera house owners in Phantom of the Opera, clueless about art or literature, and only involved in book publishing for whatever profits they can gain from Martin under the auspices of his brutally enslaving contract.
Martin purchases an old house and takes on a teenage apprentice (mainly because she forces herself on him) and discovers "like a slow poison, the history of this place seeps into his bones as he struggles with an impossible love. Close to despair, David (Martin) receives a letter from a reclusive French editor, Andreas Corelli, who makes him the offer of a lifetime, (to create a religion.) In return, he will receive a fortune...but as David begins the work, he realizes that there is a connection between the book and the shadows that surround his home." excerpt quote from the jacket copy of Angel's Game

Though I believe the quotes above, about the nature of writing, I found myself saddened by the current of bitter cynicism that was woven throughout this novel. Perhaps it is because Zafon takes on religion and belief and their value to humanity (he obviously thinks that the bad aspects of religion, such as fanaticism and killing in the name of God, far outweigh whatever good religion brings to humanity)instead of just staying with the value of words, reading and writing to humanity. But whatever the reason, I found his references to Lucifer, the "bringer of light" and Gods favorite until the fall from grace, to be like a toxic gas that poisoned all the words that came after it with ugliness. Martin finds that anyone who has had dealings with Corelli, who it's intimated is Lucifer, has met with madness, death, disease and every other horror known to man. Yet, in his Faustian bargain, Martin manages to do what none of the previous writers have, in researching and creating a manuscript that will create a religion that will suit Corelli and his dark view of humanity as sheep needing to be used by those who are smarter/better than they are for nefarious purposes.
In agreeing to do this dark deed for Corelli, Martin in effect sells his soul, and spends the rest of the book madly searching for a way out of his bargain, and a way to win the love of his life, who is married to another man out of gratitude and not love.

There are more twists and turns in this tale than in the previous novel, and most of them are too convoluted to explain here. Suffice it to say that the nature of reality is questioned, and the reader is left wondering what is and isn't real or happening to Martin. Martin himself comes off as an arrogant jerk for much of the book, and he treats women, even the one he claims to love, with thinly veiled contempt, as if they're a lesser species by nature. The ending doesn't make a lot of sense, but if you're a cynic about life and belief, then you'll find it appropriate.

Zafon's prose, which was stellar in Shadow of the Wind, starts out strong in Angels Game and then gets a bit rough in the middle of the novel where most of the action takes place. It smooths out again in the end, but the plot stalls and nearly nosedives several times before Zafon pulls a rabbit out of his hat for the finale.

Though we do get to enter the Cemetery of Forgotten Books twice in Angels Game, I was still disappointed by this novel, and its ugly tone, mean-spirited and cruel male characters and selfish, stupid women characters. I would only recommend it to those who find the dark and cynical side of life and art amusing, and those journalists and novelists who have read Faust and feel that life imitates art.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Three Delicious Summertime Books

Jennifer Cruisie's "Bet Me," Jennifer Cruisie and Bob Mayer's "Agnes and the Hitman" and Kate Jacob's "Comfort Food" all had something in common--they were full of lush, sensual food descriptions and equally juicy relationships.

"Bet Me" is the story of Minerva "Min" Dobbs, a very straightlaced young plump woman who has been on a diet her whole life, and Calvin "Cal" Morrisy, a handsome young man who is used to having women fall at his feet, though they generally are the high-maintenance, low-soul types. Min and her two female best friends encounter Cal and his two best friends at their favorite local pub, and after Cals buddy and Mins ex-boyfriend bet him that he can't get Min to date him, (Min overhears and does it just for spite) Cal discovers that he's attracted to the witty and intelligent Min, curves, crabbiness and all. Though they vow to stay out of one anothers lives, fate seems to bring them together on a regular basis, and bizarre scenarios seem to mount up, until the warm, funny and delightful HEA explodes at the end of the novel. As a larger woman battling my weight, I could empathize with Min and her controlling family, her desire to stay away from heartache and her trust issues with men. As a sensualist, I could also understand her love of food, especially well-prepared Italian food, which is always at the top of the food porn list for dieters. Cal's lust for Min growing as he watches her eat and savor food was just plain hot, and made for some sizzling romantic scenes in the book. Cruisie's prose read like a great movie or mini-series script, and her plot was airtight and zippy. This is the kind of book that keeps you engrossed throughout, and provides fun and interesting characters that aren't too difficult to understand or embrace. It's a perfect vacation read for that long airplane ride, trip to the beach, camping cookout or just relaxing at poolside.

Cruisie joined with author Bob Mayer for an even juicier romp in "Agnes and the Hitman" wherein we meet Agnes Crandall, a crabby caterer and food columnist who bought the local Southern mansion on the condition that she have the former owners grand daughters wedding at the manse. The former owner, Brenda, proceeds to go to great lengths, including hiring a hit man or two, to have the wedding called off or held at the local country club so that she can claim the mansion as her own once again. Enter "Shane" a hitman whose Uncle Joe is a good friend of Agnes, and who ends up falling for her cooking and her curves. A rolicking cast of characters battle one another and reveal relationships from the past during the fastest moving plot in the genre, while the witty column excerpts that head up each chapter let the reader know what they're in for next. While there's a lot more violence in this book than in "Bet Me" (courtesy of the male half of the writing duo, I'd bet)the sex is also more fierce and frequent, and the wild characters spin through the pages faster than a twister and twice as breathtaking. I honestly could not put the book down by the time I was one-third of the way through it, because of the various plot developments and the heat building between Shane and Agnes. "Between a rival who wants to take him out and an uncle who may have lost 5 million in Agne's basement, Shane's plate is full...soon Agnes and Shane are tangled up with the lowlifes after the money, Southern mob wedding guests, a dog named Rhett and each other." This is another good vacation paperback that will amuse and rivet the reader throughout the afternoon or evening.

Kate Jacobs "Comfort Food" was slower going than Cruisie's books, mainly because her prose style was more 'chick lit' than screenplay and her dialog more formal than Cruisies. The book revolves around a Martha Stewart/Sandra Lee (from Semi-Homemade on the Food Network) hybrid character named Augusta "Gus" Simpson, who has had a cooking show for a dozen years on the network, until the station manager decides to put a Spanish beauty queen/chef on the show with Gus as a co-host and put Gus on probation with a new type of show, since her ratings were slipping. Gus is a widow who has two grown daughters, though you'd never know it from all the trouble they cause and get into on a regular basis. I found the more 'normal' daughter Aimee to be wishy-washy and needy and the 'fickle' daughter Sabrina to be spineless, stupid and a waste of ink.Hannah, the disgraced tennis star/agoraphobe neighbor was also somewhat unbelievable, as really, who can eat candy in mass quantities all day, every day, and still maintain a decent weight, or keep from the ravages of type 2 diabetes?
Gus comes off as a stiff, conservative b*tch who is too controlling and annoyingly "perfect" on the outside, while things spin out of control around her. Not until the end does Gus bend and learn to give a little to her co-host, whom she tries to undermine at every turn. Of course, Gus doesn't learn to play nice until she gets involved in a sexual relationship with her producer, that being the key to all up-tight women...not. I had a hard time liking Gus or her manipulative behavior and always "on" attitude, and I disliked her daughters as well. Yet because all the characters, no matter how stereotypical or spineless, learned a lesson and grew up toward the end, I'd still recommend this book to food channel devotees and those who enjoy savory recipes and chick lit tomes. The behind the scenes aspect of making a food network show was fascinating, and the slavish devotion to ratings rang true, from what I've gleaned from my husbands work in TV and radio.

Monday, July 20, 2009

RIP Frank McCourt

I found both "Angela's Ashes" and "Tis" and "Teacher Man" to be wonderful memoirs full of humor and courage in the face of adversity. Frank McCourt was a self-made man and an Irishman who knew the value of good storytelling. May he rest in peace.

Angela's Ashes Author McCourt Dies in NYC at 78 (AP)
Frank McCourt, the beloved raconteur and former public school teacher who enjoyed post-retirement fame as the author of Angela's Ashes, the Pulitzer Prize-winning "epic of woe" about his impoverished Irish childhood, died Sunday of cancer. NYT: McCourt was a storyteller even as a teacher. Salon: McCourt resisted sentimentality, lacing his unhappy memories with humor and joy.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Ballard Bookstore and The Ruby Key

First, a bit of business about a wonderful children's bookstore that is still open, despite the recession and rising rents in Ballard, where we lived for 10 years, (via Shelf Awareness)

Christy McDanold, owner of Secret Garden Bookshop, the "soon-to-be only
bookstore" in Seattle's Ballard neighborhood, told the News-Tribune

that the shop "has survived because it is good at what it does, and she
sees a potentially bright future."

"Yeah, I'm optimistic," she said. "I'm cautiously optimistic. . . . I
love being in a business where the thing I sell matters. This is
something I particularly value."

The News-Tribune reported that the "problem for independent businesses
in Ballard, as McDanold sees it, is that now that Ballard is growing
into a hip, happening place, landlords are looking to charge downtown
rents in a neighborhood area. . . . Ultimately though, Ballard's
business landscape isn't up to landlords and the economy, it's up to the
community itself, she said."

"Ballard is changing a lot," she added. "But, what I've found is that
new Ballard didn't know they wanted a community like this, but they
found it and are blown away by it."

Moon and Sun, book 1, "The Ruby Key" was written by an author I've not read since the late 80s, Holly Lisle.
It's a young adult fantasy along the lines of Harry Potter, though not as complex in terms of world building and cast of characters.
The story's main protagonist, Genna, is a 14 year old girl who, with her 12 year old brother Dan lives in a village that pays tribute to the "nightlings" a race of fairy/elven creatures who have jurisdiction over the forests and the health-giving sap of the trees at night, while the villagers can tap into the trees during the day. The villagers have made a deal with the nightlings that they won't harm the village or its people as long as tribute is paid regularly.
Unfortunately, Genna's father has disappeared and is thought to be dead, and her mother has succumbed to a kind of madness, while her evil Uncle Barris has taken her fathers place as chieftan and, unbeknownst to them, made a deal with the king of the nightlings that he will sacrifice all the villagers and the children in exchange for immortality.
Genna and Dan set out to make a deal with the Letrin, the evil nightling king who has enslaved generations of nightlings, and soon encounter a witch, a talking cat and a brave nightling girl named Yarri who is willing to help Genna and Dan thwart their uncle and save their village and parents, if the duo will retrieve the ruby key and set the nightling slaves free. In order to find the key, the kids have to travel the 'moonroads' which are only visible to Genna and the magical cat.
After encountering monsters, a blind huntress and a ghost warrior with a harp that calls up warrior ghosts, it all comes down to Genna's courage to continue in the face of fear for herself and her family. Because this is a quest fantasy, lessons in cooperation, determination and trust are learned along the way, as the team endures and triumphs over adversity.
Lisle's prose is clean and light, without too many details or embellishments that would weigh it down and lose the young adult reader. The plot isn't too simple or too complex, and Lisle strikes a nice balance between getting where she needs to go and having time for the characters to make discoveries about themselves and each other.The plot also moves swiftly and gracefully to the conclusion, which has a bit of a surprise, just enough to entice the reader into the second book in the series, "The Silver Door." There is an air of myth and fable about the book that I found intriguing, and I liked the fact that Lisle kept her teenage protagonists real, so that they had breakdowns, they cried with fear and weren't always noble and brave and courageous. Still, they were likable characters in a medieval setting that kept me reading until I finished the book within an afternoon.
I recommend this book for kids 12 and older, and those who enjoy fables, legends and quest myths.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

My brilliant friend Caryn and her dazzling portfolio

I don't normally try and sell any products or services on my book blog, but my friend Caryn has just completed a video portfolio that is breathtaking and beautiful, well worth the time it takes to watch it and marvel at her talent.
If you're in need of witty copywriting or illustration, she's your gal.

Here is the address of her video:

"Thank you! If you know someone who might need any graphics or copywriting or an iPhone app developed or a book illustrated...they can view the video online at;"

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Three Movies

After ordering a pile of old movies from the wonderful local library (the KCLS system rocks!) I've just watched three of them and it struck me that modern movies move at a much quicker pace than films made before 1970.
I watched "The Clock" with Judy Garland and Robert Walker, "The Big Street" with Henry Fonda and Lucille Ball and "Madame Curie" with Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon.
The Clock is the story of a wide-eyed Minnesota-born GI on leave for 72 hours in New York City, who meets up with Judy Garland, a secretary who has been in the Big Apple for three years, but still hasn't found love. Garland looks appropriately feminine and frail in the film, and it's directed by her future husband Vincente Minelli, but though it is supposed to be a tender tale of love blooming between two people who meet by accident under the clock at Penn Station, I found the male lead, Robert Walker, to be just too naive, over-eager and prissy enough that he seemed gay and not a spark really flew between himself and Garland. Though the film moves slowly at times, I wasn't as distressed by that as by the ending, which left us hanging as to whether Walker's character makes it home to settle down with his new wife, and where they were going to settle down even if he did make it back...he had been adamant that he wanted to go back to the Midwest, while Garlands character makes it plain that she loves city life.

The Big Street, based on a novel by Damon Runyon, is the story of "Little Pinks" Pinkerton (Fonda), a bus boy who carries a torch for the singer/girlfriend of a big local hood, Gloria Lyons, aka her Highness (Ball). Pinks doesn't seem to see that her Highness is really a gold-digging witch who is a huge narcissist and cares only for her own rise in society. She treats everyone around her like dirt, especially if she thinks they're of lower station than herself, and she is trying to land a local millionare, whom she only wants to marry for his money, not being a believer in love. When confronted by the hood for trying to leave the club to date said millionare, her Highness throws her engagement ring at him, telling him he doesn't own her, and is rewarded with a right hook to the jaw, sending her down a flight of stairs and breaking her back.
The hood and all her glamorous friends abandon her, and Pinks is left to come to her rescue and care for her with his band of scruffy gambling pals and poor friends and neighbors. Balls character isn't the least bit grateful for any of this, and continues throughout the film to be rude, derisive and mean to everyone around her. A sweet faced, young Henry Fonda spends the film doing everything in his power to make Ball's character happy, selling her diamonds and furs to pay her medical bills, bringing home leftover champagne and caviar from the club so she will still feel like royalty and constantly bolstering her flagging ego, since it becomes apparent that she is paralysed from the waist down, and will never dance or stand on a stage to sing again.
The horrible snob eventually cries her way into getting Pinks to agree to take her to Florida, even if it means him walking all the way while pushing her in her wheelchair. They eventually get several rides and land in Miami, where her nasty highness somehow thinks she will recover just because she is warm everyday. When that doesn't happen, she sobs all over Pinks again about wanting to wear a sparkling off shoulder gown and diamonds and sing to a room full of appreciative people "of the right kind," meaning wealthy and connected.
Pinks actually steals a dress for her, and jewels, and gets his friends to lie to society members that a real countess is coming to a party and will sing there. He blackmails the Hood to use his club for one night and forces him to provide champagne and caviar, and then has her Highness sit in a chair in the gown and sing her torch song while the police and the owner of the dress and jewels hear Pinks explanation for taking all that he took. They allow him to let her keep the dress for a night, and after carrying her all over the dance floor, Ball's character says she wants to try walking up the stairs with Pinks to show she's not a gimp, and after two steps, she dies in his arms, and Pinks solemnly carries her up the stairs to watch the sun go down. The end. So masochistic Fonda is left with nothing but jail time for caring for this horrible snobbish witch of a woman who was pretty but had a vile personality and no soul nor love of the one kind and compassionate man in her life. Yeesh. What message does that send to men about women, and women about themselves?

Though the opposite was true in "Madame Curie" it still made the woman in the movie out to be subservient to her man, who, though very polite and kind, was still not her equal in brain power. Even after his death, Marie Curie attributes most of her success to her husband Pierre, though it was her bright ideas and mental acuity that leads them to the discovery of Radium. She has two children that she seems to see as pleasant distractions, but not really as important as her scientific work or her husband. Walter Pidgeon shines as Pierre Curie, an affable and socially awkward professor who approaches Greer Garson as if she's made of spun glass and he is a bull with mad cow disease. Still, of the three movies this one was my favorite because there was real chemistry enacted between the main characters, and the plot didn't drag on and on. Van Johnson plays a small role as a reporter, and Greer Garson's Marie is so stunningly beautiful that she almost looks like a manequin. It's a plus that the movie was based on a biography of Madame Curie by her daughter Eve. The film was nominated for many academy awards, and it had several wonderful moments that showed the talents of both Greer and Pidgeon, who had worked together in Mrs Miniver.

I plan on watching "Good Night and Good Luck" another biographical film with my husband and grabbing a few more old movies from the library when I turn this lot in.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Wish List Almost Fulfilled and the Power of Powells

This July 4th weekend my husband, son and I traveled to Eugene, Oregon and Portland, Oregon for two Drum and Bugle Corps shows that were, ostensibly, the reason for our trip, however, hubby knew that I wasn't going to make a trip to Portland without a pilgrimage to Powells City of Books, one of the best bookstores on the planet.

So I gathered up as many of the books in my collection as I could bear to part with, and called ahead to check their open hours and to see if they still accepted books in trade (they do, hurrah!) Two big bags of books and one box of books later, I had a card with 114. worth of trade on it and 100. worth of books on hold waiting for me, among them the long lusted after "Angels Game" by the sublime Carlos Ruiz Zafon, (author of the nearly perfect novel, "The Shadow of the Wind"), Naamah's Kiss by Jacqueline Carey (I've been charmed into reading it by Carey's reading at the UW bookstore) and "Grave Goods" the third novel in the "Mistress of the Art of Death" series by Ariana Franklin, which I just finished and adored. I also snagged a copy of the marvelous "School of Essential Ingredients" by Seattlite Erica Bauermeister and "A Final Arc of Sky" by Jennifer Culkin. So with those books off the list, I can honestly say my 2009 book wish list is almost conquered!
Here it is, for those who might have forgotten it:

1) An Irish Country Doctor by Patrick Taylor
2) Up and Down in the Dales and
3) In the Heart of the Dales by Gervase Phinn
4) Muse of Fire by Dan Simmons
5) Dewey, the Small Town Library Cat...
6) Hope's Folly by Linnea Sinclair
7) Longeye by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
8) Among the Mad by Jacqueline Winspear
9) Dead And Gone by Charlaine Harris
10) Backup by Jim Butcher
11) The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
12) Anansi Boys By Neil Gaiman
13) Naamah's Kiss by Jacqueline Carey
14) Love Rosie and There's No Place Like Here by Cecelia Ahern
15) Fools Run and To Weave a Web of Magic by Patricia McKillip
16) King of Sword and Sky by CL Wilson
17) Runemarks by Joanne Harris
18) A butterfly and roses calendar
19) The Treasure Keeper by Shana Abe
20) Princess of the Sword by Lynn Kurland

There are only 6 books on that list that I've not read, and I am hoping to still find those used at the local Baker Street Books used bookstore, barring another trip to Powells, which I wouldn't mind at all. I also must recommend the Hotel Fifty, a trendy little place in downtown Portland that provided us with a nice cool room, a verandah, a perfect waterfall shower and two huge fluffy beds with fluffy pillows and fluffy down comforters that were light and warm all at once. The only thing they lack is a pool and happy wait/bar staff in the restaurant.
But Powells was a joy from beginning to end, though I popped open one of my belly stitches carrying bags of books. I got two t-shirts, books and some quality chin-wagging with the bibliophile booksellers. Heavenly!

A Lovely Email from Maria V Snyder

After reading the final book in her Poison Study trilogy, I noticed that the back of the "Fire Study" book I'd gotten from the library had a web site address and an email for the author, so I decided to write her a letter telling her how much I enjoyed the books she's written, so full of memorable characters.
She responded just a couple of days ago to say:

Hello DeAnn,

I'm so glad you enjoyed my books. I won't tell anyone about you jumping queue at your library :)

As for your question, I did leave readers hanging on the Commander's decision. He needed time to think about it ;> There are many factors to consider and there will be mention of his decision in a future book. I know I'm evil, making you read more my books ;>

Please send me a link to your blog so I can send fellow readers your way :)

FYI - I have two short stories about characters from my Study world (one about Valek and the other about Ari and Janco) on my website and a few other free stories to read. Here's a link: if you're interested.

Thanks so much for emailing and for your kind words!


What she is referring to is a question that I had after reading Fire Study about the Commander having twin souls, and finding out from Yelena that he does have magical ability that she could remove from him, along with that second pesky soul.
It would appear that master wordsmith Snyder is going to have more books set in her well-built universe, and that we readers will just have to wait to see what happens next!
I am a patient woman, especially when it comes to getting a new book that I really want to read, so I am willing to wait, but I will, of course, be gnawing my nails and pulling my hair with tension by the time it finally does appear, most likely a year or two hence.
I must also say that the short stories on Ms Snyders web site are a real treasure and more fun to read and delve into some side-kick characters than I'd imagined. She's got a way of making the reader pull for Ari and Janco, for instance, even when they're being annoying and bickering with one another like an old married couple (and that train of thought leads to the question of whether the two are homosexuals, but I hesitate to go there when the author clearly has her reasons for not hooking them up, and I assume she will reveal those reasons when the time is right.)

This also brings up my thought that Snyder's characters and her fantastic world building lead me to hope that some savvy producer at the SciFi Channel is also reading her wonderful fiction and noticing it's great potential as a SciFi mini-series.
Fingers crossed!

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Fire Study by Maria V Snyder and Book signing

I happened to be fortunate enough to attend Jacqueline Carey's book signing on Tuesday of this week at the University Bookstore, and was blown away by how delightful the author of the Kushiel's Dart series really is. Her book jacket photo must be at least 10 years old, however, because Carey is now a bit chubbier and looks much older than the photo, but she's aged well, so she's still beautiful and has a lively twinkle of mischief in her eyes, along with a witty sense of humor and an air of wisdom.
Carey's books are about the beautiful courtesans of Terre D'Ange, perhaps that is why so many of the crowd were not pretty folk...they're drawn to well-told tales of beautful, sexy people, just as so many are drawn to celebrity dramas in the media. And yes, I count myself among not pretty folk...
At any rate, Carey read from her new book, which isn't a Phaedra novel at all, and takes place in a Chinese environment rather than a French one, and is placed years in the future. So I am cautious about purchasing a copy, especially when its in expensive hardback form. But I loved the other books in the Kushiel's series, despite my dislike of the concept of people receiving pleasure in pain. I also enjoyed Carey's witty responses to audience questions and her willingness to sign as many of her books as you could bring to the table, though the U bookstore closed just as she was getting to sign my copies of her work. There was a long line behind me and she seemed undaunted by it, and responded to my accolades of her brilliantly told tales by saying "Thank you and all these fans for allowing me to make a living doing what I love to do, write."
Amen to that, Ms Carey!

I finally got my copy of the final book in Maria V Snyders "Poison Study" series on Sunday, through some great stroke of luck with the library gods.
I read through it on Monday, and though I was somewhat dismayed to learn that Snyder mentions going through a writing program, (often authors who go through graduate writing programs after they've published a couple of good books become terribly fussy and stilted writers who care more for style than substance and storytelling. Witness Christopher Paolini's Eragon series, with the first wonderful book, the second good book and the final book mired in detail, under-edited and deadly dull.) Snyder eventually pulls the plot together, the novel gets moving and sprints to it's HEA ending. I was thrilled that Snyder's amazing heroine, Yelena, was able to survive the twists and turns and traitors evident in this book. especially with the help of her friends, family and beloved Valek, the sexy super-spy-assassin. I'm also glad that Yelena finally came into her powers and learned what it means to be a Soulfinder. This series of romantic fantasy adventure should appeal to those who enjoy Linnea Sinclairs works, or Elizabeth Moons, or Jacqueline Careys.

Meanwhile, on the 'beach read' front, I am reading a book that was recommended to me called "Beach House" by Jane Green, "Comfort Food" by Kate Jacobs and I just finished "Isabel's Daughter" by Judith Ryan Hendricks. I've read two other books by Hendricks, both about a woman who works in a Seattle bakery, and I really enjoyed their optimistic spirit and lovely, quirky characters. That's why I was surprised that Isabels Daughter was so gloomy, sad and had such a pessimistic protagonist. Though things turn better at the end, I still felt a sense of forboding when I finished the novel. Fortunately, the marvelous "The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie" by Alan Bradley dispelled the clouds of gloom and brought the sun back with the delightful pre-teen Flavia de Luce. Set in 1950s Britain, "Sweetness.." is a fun book that harkens back to Nancy Drew and her crime-solving brethren who were filled with pluck and intellect.

Though Flavia lives with her dithering, shy and ineffectual father, her two scheming sisters,their wizened cook and a shell-shocked gardener in a huge old mansion, she's managed to carve out her niche in an ancestors chemistry laboratory, where she creates experiments and potions to torment her sisters and further her scientific intellect. When Flavia finds a corpse buried among the cucumbers in the garden, she swings into action to clear her fathers name after his arrest for the crime. Though chaos ensues, we get to see Flavia zooming about town on her trusty bicycle Gladys, investigating her fathers past like a pro. Though she's only 11 years old, Flavia's brilliant mind make her seem mature beyond her years, and her unusual way of seeing the chemistry in everyday life makes the book fascinating and fun to read. The prose is clean and spritely, the plot swift and sure and the characters so well drawn you can almost hear them breathe. Though stamps don't normally interest me, I still found myself engrossed in the plot to recover two very rare stamps and I laughed out loud at the letter from King George at the end. This is the kind of book I recommend to teens and adults because it's such a fast and happy read about a time when rebuilding and rebirth were the optimistic themes of the day.