Thursday, May 24, 2007

Biz & Books

First, a bit of business…

There’ve been a couple of recent inquiries about pricing on my jewelry so I just thought I’d put up a reminder that everything is available for sale at the Silver Parrot Designs website. I accept credit cards and will ship anywhere in the United States.

Okay, on to the books.

It took me forever to find a copy of “ Crystal Dragon,” the second book of Sharon Lee & Steve Miller’s Great Migration Duology. None of the local bookstores carried it and even Amazon was sold out of it for a while. I learned recently it’s because their publisher, Meisha Merlin, has gone out of business. That’s a real shame because they were doing a great job bringing new talent into the field and they were also set to publish the long (and I mean long – like 20 years) awaited new addition to Jacqueline Lichtenberg’s Sime/Gen series. I don’t think that book is EVER going to get published!

But anyway, back to Lee & Miller. I can’t say enough good things about the entire Liaden Universe series. Wonderful. Original. Action-packed. Romantic. Just plain good. The basic elements of the books speak for themselves, but I thought I’d point out that one of my personal favorite things about the way these authors write is their dialogue. There’s a certain cadence or rhythm to the way the characters (particularly the Liadens) speak that invokes a feeling of antiquity. There are always multiple unspoken levels of complexity for every word that IS spoken and the whole is infused with a very dry sense of wit. Altogether enjoyable!

I do think the Duology books are perhaps the weakest of the entire series, but this second book is definitely better than the first. The reader is given much more insight into the origin of the dramliza, the origin of Clan Korval, and the personalities and relationship of Cantra yos’Phelium and M. Jela. If you haven’t ventured into Liaden space yet, I probably would not start with the Duology (even though it is the “origin” story). It makes much more sense if one already has the background from the other books. I suppose with Meisha Merlin out of the picture, it will be a long time (if ever) before we get any more books in this series, but don’t despair, pilot! The adventuresome can find an on-line version of the latest Liaden story at the Korval website. The story is free, but if you are suitably impressed with the tale, you can make a donation to keep these wonderful authors afloat while they find a new publisher. I highly encourage everyone to do this as these two are the type of authors who should be supported. They’re turning out high quality, inventive, INTELLIGENT work as opposed another tired re-tread of Star Wars/vampire/werewolf novels.

Which is a wonderful segue into my review of Karen Chance’s two, um, well, vampire novels, “Touch the Dark” and “Claimed by Shadow.” Although, technically, they are really the story of Cassandra Palmer who is an oracle (and those of you who know your Greek mythology are now going “ooo…an oracle named Cassandra…how, er, daring). However, Cassandra has managed to deeply entangle herself into the affairs of vampires, weres and pretty much every other supernatural beastie around. Orphaned as a child when supernatural politic led to her parents’ death in a car bombing, Cassandra is raised at the vampire court of Antonio (sort of a combo of Tony Soprano and Dracula rolled into one neat package) who wants to control her in order to use her psychic gifts for his own material gains. Cassandra eventually escapes and teams up with the FBI for a little payback of the “even vampire gangsters have to pay their taxes” kind which eventually leads to her being in the witness protection program with a pack of vampires perennially trying to find her. One day, they do.

And that’s where our story begins. And, it’s actually a pretty good story, at that. Leaving aside some rookie author mistakes in the continuity department and the fact that Cassandra is not ALWAYS the brightest bulb in the room, these were an enjoyable read. The action is certainly non-stop. In fact, a few restful scenes here and there to allow the reader to recover would not go amiss in future installments. The vampires come in a variety of different flavors: creepy, evil, nice, sexy but dangerous and of course, just downright sexy. Which of course means that there are the de rigueur (apparently) sex scenes, but they are nowhere near as intense or as ubiquitous as those found in, oh, I don’t know, say, a Laurell K. Hamilton novel. I did find it a bit creepy that the one vampire Cassandra is most strongly attracted to is the guy who was kinda sorta her “guardian uncle” while she was growing up. But, given the essential immortality of vamps, I suppose it’s no creepier than say Harrison Ford and Callista Flockhart or Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones. Or Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher.

Then, I read the two remaining books in Diana Pharaoh Francis’s “Path” series: “Path of Honor” and “Path of Blood.”

The best thing I can say about this trilogy is that it is mediocre. After a promising, but somewhat juvenile, start in the first book, Francis meanders through a second book during which (as far as I can tell) nothing much happens except a lot of whining. Yes, the plague is terrible and yes, Reisil can’t seem to get her powers functioning to cure it, and that’s bad. But what I didn’t see in this book was Reisil really taking any ACTIONS to address this. There’s a lot of “poor me, nobody likes me” and “woe is me I can’t save everyone” moments, but is she running around looking up obscure magic texts, or spending hours on her knees in the temple praying or roaming the countryside trying to scare up the wizards so she can ask them questions? Nope.

The whole story really falls apart in the last book where a whole new character from another world is suddenly introduced and then Reisil has to go to his world and then she comes back and blah, blah, blah. THEN, the author skips over the actual RESOLUTION of everything and just gives us a synopsis of it in a flashback that occurs two years later. GRRR! And that’s not even what I hated the most (although it was pretty bad). I hated, hated, HATED the way the author chose to resolve Reisil’s romance with Yohuac. I suppose I won’t reveal that here in case anyone is actually tempted to read these books, but man, was it frustrating! The sad thing is that these books contained some nuggets of really quality stuff – too bad they didn’t come to fruition.

Which leaves me with the last thing I read this month – Jim Butcher’s second “Alera” book: “Academ’s Fury.” This book has been out for a while. In fact, it’s been out long enough that it’s now in paperback (originally released in hardback) and I waited to pick it up because I had mixed feelings about the first book in the series. It was well-written in true Jim Butcher style, but it just didn’t have quite the same “oomph” for me as the Dresden books do. Perhaps that’s an unfair comparison because of course the true, high fantasy, Alera books won’t have the same snappy, pop culture references and humor as the Dresden books. I also felt like the teenage character of Tavi not having any furycrafting ability in a world where everyone else DOES was so very reminiscent of the plot of the original installment of Piers Anthony’s “Xanth” series. Of course, the two series could not possibly be more different in every other respect. I’m just saying I felt I’d seen this device before.

But, there it was in paperback and I was having a hard time finding anything else decent to read so I thought I’d give the series another chance. I knew it would at least be intelligent and tightly crafted if nothing else.

Wow. Am I glad I picked this book up. It completely blows the first book away! Non-stop action (in fact, this book could’ve used a couple of “respite” moments, too), non-stop plots, and danger, danger, danger Will Robinson. Thoroughly entertaining from cover to cover. In fact, I ran out as soon as I’d finished it to pick up the third book in the series (which is out only in hardcover thus far) only to have to throw a fit in the bookstore because they were out of stock! If I have one critique (other than the request for a breather from the action) it would be that while the use of overwhelming odds is a tried-and-true device, I found the odds against Tavi, Isana, Bernard and Amara in this book to be SO overwhelming as to be unbelievable that they accomplished what they did. This is exacerbated by the fact that they all survived a “battle of overwhelming odds” in the first book of the series already. Still, there are hints that perhaps Tavi is more than what he seems and that this may account for some of his “luck” despite his apparent lack of furycrafting ability. I’m headed to a different bookstore at lunch today in the hopes of picking up the next installment so I’ll have to let you know how it all turns out.

That’s it for now.

Take care all and have a Happy Memorial Day weekend!


P.S. Dratted Barnes & Nobel didn't have "Cursor's Fury" so off to I go!

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