Friday, February 17, 2006

Book Review and other schtuff.

Is it Friday again already? Must be time for the book review, then!

I’ve been enjoying Linnea Sinclair’s work so much that I decided to go check out her website and join her mailing list and as a result of that, I was introduced to another fabulous author, Elaine Corvidae. This week, I finished her novel, ”Winter's Orphans”, and absolutely loved it!

Corvidae has transplanted a very underutilized time in our own history (the textile mills of the American industrial revolution) into a setting where Seelie and Unseelie beings called “faelings” are battling for control of the world. She also gives the reader an unusual heroine in the main character, Mina Cole. Instead of following in the overused path of most heroes who suddenly discover they have incredible powers and immediately swear to use said powers only for good, Mina is far more tempted to kick a little butt in recompense for the poor lot she’s had in life. It’s refreshing to enjoy these different elements for a change. I will warn you that this is not a sweetness and light book. Bad stuff happens and doesn’t necessarily get made “all better,” either. In fact, the opening scene of the book is quite grisly so be prepared. Still, I give it an enthusiastic recommendation and I look forward to picking up more of Ms. Corvidae’s work to check out.

From faelings in textile mills, I moved on to cyborgs and AIs (artificial intelligences) in Elizabeth Bear’s ”Hammered” While this is normally “harder” sci fi than what I usually go for, I’ve always been a sucker for cyberpunk. Also, I liked that this book, too, has an unusual and unlikely heroine in Genevieve “Jenny” Casey – 50 years old, a bona fide war hero and reaching end-of-life cyborg. Although I enjoyed the book, it does have a few problems. Most of them are mentioned on the Amazon site so I won’t go into great detail on them except to say that I agree with the reviewers who found the prose choppy, the multiple viewpoints and time shifts confusing and untranslated French phrases jarring. I speak French and still found them to be a pain so I can only imagine what it would be like for readers who don’t speak the language. I would say to Ms. Bear that Jenny is the interesting character in this book so stop interrupting her scenes to follow minor characters down rabbit holes. Still, I did like the book and will probably pick up the sequel, “Scardown,” which is already out in paperback. However, if you decide to get this book, wait until you have a discount coupon or can check it out from the library.

Lastly, I’m bringing back another “blast from the past” since I once again didn’t get much done in the way of new books. I would say that Anne Bishop’s ”Black Jewels Trilogy: Daughter of the Blood / Heir to the Shadows / Queen of the Darkness” probably rank right up there on my list of favorite books of the last ten years. Bishop provides a unique, well-crafted and creative world peopled with fascinating characters of terrible power and gives new meaning to the words “battle of the sexes.” She deftly handles romance, adventure, tragedy and triumph to bring everything to a satisfying conclusion.

The only teeny tiny nit I’ve ever had with these books is that I’m not sure why she had to give so many of her main characters names that have such negative associations: Saetan, Lucivar, Daemon, Hecate, etc. For those who don’t come from a Judeo-Christian background, this will likely prove to be no problem whatsoever, but as I am a Christian, it was disturbing. And yet, Saetan, Lucivar and Daemon are the good guys in the series so obviously, their rather unfortunate names have nothing to do with the names more closely associated with the Judeo-Christian hell. I still haven’t quite figured out what Ms. Bishop was trying to accomplish by doing this, but once I decided to ignore it and not let it detract from my enjoyment of the stories, it became no big deal. But, I mention it because I know not everyone will feel that way and I wouldn’t want anyone to waste money on books that will offend them. I should also mention that there is a fair amount of violence and sex (and sometimes violent sex) in these books. Tragedies occur and terrible powers are employed. The stories are rather dark overall and yet ultimately, they are about hope – the hope that things CAN change.

Bishop also has a well-written, stand-alone novel in the same “universe” that is missing some of the darker, more disturbing elements of the trilogy. ”The Invisible Ring” is a terrific book in its own right and I highly recommend it as a good place to start to get a feel for Bishop’s world and style before diving into the trilogy. Although Daemon makes a brief appearance in this novel, the story is really completely separate and can be enjoyed whether one has read the trilogy or not.

And now, completely unrelated to the book review, but just because I’m in a crappy mood today, here’s a list of 10 things I hate:

10. Poor bathroom etiquette. Last time I checked, we’re all adults here so WHY can’t people remember to flush and just generally clean up after themselves? Ladies, if you really want to be that gross…the men’s room is across the hall.

9. Mascara that CLAIMS to be waterproof and yet is making dark, raccoon eye circles on my cheeks mere hours after I’ve applied it (and that was BEFORE I started crying!)

8. The fact that my arms are disproportionately too short compared with the rest of my body. Seriously, I do NOT have time to get the sleeve length altered on every single damn shirt or sweater I buy. Let’s hear it for ¾ length sleeves!

7. Reality TV. I mean it. I’m even fed up with “Project Runway” for choosing Santino over Nick. I’m done. I want real actors with real scripts and storylines and no more of these “competition” shows where the producers totally manipulate the outcome so it’s completely bogus anyway. And yes, they do so. Really. Okay, fine, go vote for the latest American Idol dweeb and keep living in your fantasy-verse. Whatever.

6. The unsightly things that are happening to my face now that I’m 40. And no, I’m not providing details, but laser removal, here I come.

5. Having to get out of a nice, warm bed on a cold winter morning before the sun is even up.

4. My nose.

3. People who stand too close to me…even after I’ve politely moved away to give them the oh-so-obvious hint that they are invading my personal space. Back the eff up, jerk!

2. Stupid people.

1. Selfish people who think only of themselves and have no concept of or concern about how their actions affect others. Guess what, asshat? Karma, she’s a comin’ for ya and she’s a real bitch.

Whew! Okay, I feel better. Well, not really, but I can stop thinking about these 10 things for now and move on to the next 10.

Have a good weekend everyone and don’t forget…we’re on “Stormwatch 2006!” Sometimes I hate living in Southern California.


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