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.

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