Wednesday, February 28, 2007

More Fun!

Another new fun thing: check the link in the top navigation bar for a list to my "books I've read" list, plus a brief listing of books I want to read soon. (My whole TBR list is too big to post, but this is a place where I'll likely list up-and-coming book reviews.) Feel free to suggest books you think I'd like to read, too.


New Look

Whee! I like this look. I had been using the "harbor" template, which is very pretty, but there wasn't enough green in it for my tastes. I love green. This theme has lots of green. Yay!

Plus, it has the Hobbit. And that's always a fun thing.

The one thing I don't like is the fixed width. But, that way I can show off the fun patterned background.

Speaking of "The Hobbit," I hear that New Line Cinema is talking about going ahead with movie plans without Jackson as the director. I tend to be relieved at this prospect. I'd been really worried that he would take the battle of five armies and blow it up into half the movie like he did with the battle at Helm's Deep. (We are only supposed to see about 5 minutes worth of battle, before Bilbo gets bonked on the head and falls unconscious.) I'm not super-excited yet, because I don't know who (if anyone) will be directing, but I'm at least not as apprehensive as I was before.

I'm also looking forward to the next "Narnia" movie. It might not be super-spectacular, but I enjoyed the first one and hope to enjoy the rest. I really love that series of books.


Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Around The Blog ~*~ 2.27.07

Life is good, there’s a light dusting of snow on the hills, and I’ve spent the weekend happily eating Chinese New Year treats. (Okay, so we were a bit late. It took me that much time to get up the nerve to try to cook the dessert that had “add water until it looks like a rat’s tail” as the crucial part of the instructions.) And here’s what’s happening in the blogworld…

S. William has posted a Harry Potter spoiler. Charlie is really Captain Jean-Luc Picard. Paperback Writer is home again, and being bold. Phoenix is apparently busy, and needs prodding. The lady of the Invisible Crystalline Cave is looking at the beauty around her, and having issues with Blogger.

The guinea pigs have a new food dish. Mim has a new look, but is in pain. Nerd Knits is knitting sleeves. Kait is going to Hawaii (take me with you!). Holly Lisle has been doing a type-in edit since before dawn, but is happy. Hanna is reviewing movies and watching Heroes.

And what about me? I’m trying to figure out what to work on of my own, and editing AD for Phoenix, when I can find the time. I’ve still been spending a lot of time with M that I would otherwise have spent writing. But it makes me happy, so I’m not complaining. I just need to work on the balance a little more. I think one of the biggest problems as far as that goes is the half-hour-each-way drive needed to go see him. (Or to go to work. Same general location for both - which is convenient, but makes writing at home on my own computer difficult.) However, moving at the moment is not an option, nor a preferred choice, so I’ll have to make do for a bit.


Thursday, February 22, 2007

52 Weeks of Books

A wonderful friend on a forum I frequent has started up a group of us reading and reviewing a book-a-week. That makes 52 books in one year.

So, rather that just posting them on the forum, I'm going to post them here, too.

Since I started the 52 weeks with January 1, I'm going to back-date the initial ones to their proper week.



Wolves Return to Germany: Great News for Me

The Return of Wolves to Germany: “Fears Are Being Stoked” - International - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News


Now, what on Earth do I have to do with Germany, or wolves, you ask? Well, the sequel to SS is set in Germany. And the point of conflict? Local authorities think there’s a werewolf.

So - yay!

It seems that the Germans had killed off all wolves in their area in the late 20th century. Which makes it difficult for someone trying to put werewolves in Germany. Except that now the wolves are back!

This is very exciting. (In a nature-lover sense, too.) But now I NEED TO WRITE. In a bad way. Let’s hope that I can get going on this before I completely lose my momentum.


Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Trying it Again

Well, I used to really like Blogger. And then I discovered that I liked Wordpress better. And then Blogger went new, and now it seems to be better than it was before.

So, I'll now be trying Blogger again, because I like being able to use the javascript widgets that Wordpress doesn't allow (due to security issues).


For now, I will just be cross-posting writing blog stuff and CSFF Blog Tour stuff. Just to see if I like Blogger enough to switch back. I'm not sure yet; we'll have to see.


Week 8 ~ The Smoke Thief

Week 8 ~ Feb 19-25, 2007

The Smoke Thief

by Shana Abe
(fantasy, some romance)

I expected to like this book when I read the blurbs in my Sci-fi/Fantasy book club pamphlet. But then I read the prologue, and I wasn't sure. The style of the prologue is nice, but a bit omniscient for my tastes. And then I read the first chapter. And I was hooked.

I guess it makes sense that the prologue is more omniscient than I generally like, since it's giving the rather long background of a mythical people. These people, the drakon, are magical beings. (And I feel really stupid for not reading it aloud and realizing early on in the book that "drakon" = "dragon". I thought they were just similar.) The drakon are very good at adapting to avoid persecution, and when the story starts their rulers are concerned that they have gotten *too* good at it. None of the females can Turn. (From human to dragon. They have both forms, as well as an in-between one. Smoke.)

(The book is set in 18th century England, in a world that has magic without realizing it. The drakon value their secrecy, and the average Londoner has no clue the dragons exist. For a casual observer - me - it all stands up nicely to reality. For a history major, who knows?)

Over the course of the book, we follow the hero, Kit, and the heroine, Rue. They both have to learn how to deal with another Alpha - Kit, as the ruler of the drakon, is the Alpha male; Rue, as the only female who can Turn, by default becomes the Alpha female. Some of the happenings in the book (like the identity of the Smoke Thief and the happy ending) come as no surprise. However, the wonderful voice that Shana uses to tell the story makes the obvious parts of the plot very enjoyable, and there are still twists that have the potential to confuse.

I'm very glad there's a sequel. I can't wait to read more.


Off the Map...

Well, this is the last day of the CSFF Blog Tour featuring Where The Map Ends. I’ve enjoyed poking around the website; I hope you have, too.

Today we’ll focus on some of the Special Features.

This section of the blog seems to feature things that change monthly, though as there isn’t much of an introduction to the page I’m not really sure. But when I read “This month: the never-used prologue from Kathryn Mackel’s creepy novel, Outriders,” I assume that last month was something different.

The prologue posted was a fun read, though it seemed to stand on its own well enough as a short story. I’m not sure if the point of posting it was to give visitors something fun, or to promote the book that this prologue was originally written for. If it’s the former, great: it served its purpose. I had fun reading it. If the point was to get us to read the novel, however, it didn’t work for me. Following the short-story-esque snippet with a blurb about the rest of the novel might have succeeded in getting me excited about the book. As it was, I forgot until just now (while quoting text) that this wasn’t, in fact, a short story.

I also noticed that, if you go to the short story links at the top of the article and then click on the interview links there, that you get the current interview instead of the interview that’s mentioned. If you want to find the real previous interviews, you have to go here - to the interview archive.

Wow. There’s a lot that I’ve covered, but I still haven’t managed to go in-depth about it all. The tools for writers, for example, I’m going to have to go back an explore more myself. I know I certainly need the push every now and again to get myself to keep writing.

Thanks for the visit and the comments, everyone. I look forward to next month’s Tour, which features Randy Ingermanson’s Double Vision.


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Speaking Eels at Map's End

That title will probably make no sense to any of you. Even if you click on this link and go to “Where the Map Ends” and check out the Random Story Generator. Because it’s random. And so my story isn’t the same as the story you will see if you visit.

Just so that you don’t think I’m totally insane (even though I might be), here is my random story:

This is an epic fantasy story about a pretender who wants to find his/her place in the world but is prevented from doing so by guilt bent on tricking people out of their inheritance. God has designs on our hero, however. He wants to teach him/her that the self-punishment must end, a lesson he/she resists. In the end, through our hero’s sense of humor and the intervention of speaking eels, the cost of living goes way down.

See? Speaking eels.

Anyway, this is Day Two of the CSFF Blog Tour featuring Where the Map Yesterday we looked at a book list, and today we’re going to try to make our own book to add to that list.

So, we have a story idea featuring a con-artist, God, and speaking eels. What’s next, you ask?

Next would be the nice collection of Tools For Writers which Jeff (the site author) has compiled. Included in these tools are things that apply to all writers and not just writers of Christian Spec Fic. Here we have things like a list of books which can be used to help a writer improve his craft, and a large article on how to get published. Jeff offers his editorial skills, and provides a tip of the week. (This week’s tip, #18, is about understanding Christian Publishing.)

This is also where I found my speaking eels. ‘Nough said.

Anyway, this site is fun and far-reaching. I suppose it would have to be the latter in order to truly have a title like “Where the Map Ends.”


Monday, February 19, 2007

The Map Begins Here...

The first thing that struck me about “Where The Map Ends” was that I had no idea where to start. So I clicked, and I ended up finding a book list. (This is the one without the pretty pictures, since there are still poor souls – me! – with dial-up. There is one with pretty pictures of the covers which you can find here.)

And wow, what do you know? There are lots of spec fic books written by authors who admit to being Christian. Maybe it’s just me, but I didn’t expect that. Probably because in modern America the thought seems to be that Christianity doesn’t sell.

I suppose combating that is the whole point of this blog tour.

Anyway. Moving on.

I have even read several of these authors. Granted, some I knew were Christian fiction. But others… well, I didn’t know that Madeline L’Engle was writing something that could be considered Christian spec fic. And though I know now, I didn’t know way back when I first read CS Lewis that he was retelling Christian stories in a fantasy setting.

Now, some of these (like the “Left Behind” series) are very definitely Christian books. Others (like Shadowmancer, which I never finished and now think I must try again) didn’t strike me as religious at all. The one question that comes to the forefront of my mind is “what makes a book Christian fiction?” Because there seem to be lots of possible ways for the label to apply, and I’m not sure what counts and what doesn’t.

One thing that I certainly must say is that the books on this page have great art.

Another observation is that lots of the Christian fantasy listed seems to be young adult oriented. Not that this is a bad thing. I love reading good YA novels. It’s just a point of curiosity – do publishers think that kids are more likely to accept a book with morals than adults are? Or are publishers okay with putting out Christian books for kids because we’re supposed to be teaching our kids about good morals, and yet adults are supposed to already have them?

(There could, of course, be nothing to that observation. It could just be me noticing the YA books more than the adult ones. Still an interesting thought, though.)

There is a lot more to the website than just a booklist. And there is no way I will be able to cover it all in just one post.

More to come tomorrow…


Sunday, February 18, 2007

Week 7

Week 7 ~ Feb 12-18, 2007

Grammar Snobs are Great Big Meanies: A Guide to Language for Fun & Spite

by June Casagrande

I majored in English in college. So perhaps it is no surprise that I enjoyed a book which is, essentially, about grammar. (I don’t claim to use all of the information contained in said book correctly. I am not a grammar snob. So there.) I have actually enjoyed two books about grammar, but we’re only talking about one of them at the moment.

I think that June Casagrande used many of her newspaper columns to make up this book. (She writes a grammar column.) The chapters are short, and while this suits the subject matter, it also suits the length a newspaper column would be. Each chapter is nicely contained and can be read really in any order, though some of them do reference prior chapters. They also contain wonderfully humorous snippets and chapter titles such as:

“I’ll take ‘I Feel Like A Moron’ for $200, Alex”
“I’m Writing This While Naked”
"Do you know what a question mark is? If you don’t, then you can’t understand the last sentence, which means you’re no longer reading, which means the only people still reading are the ones who don’t need question marks defined.”
and “…a team of Santa Monica [police] officers stormed into a crime scene and ordered several suspects to make love on the floor.”

It’s a truly amusing book for those who are willing to accept that they might not always use proper grammar. (I don’t.) Also, if you consider yourself a grammar snob (or, as Lynne Truss of Eats, Shoots & Leaves puts it, a “stickler”) who wants to be better than those of us who don’t know how to properly use transitive verbs, you may want to avoid this book. Because as the title suggests, this book is for the average person who wants a better – and humorous – grasp of the English language.


Sunday, February 11, 2007

Week 6

Week 6 ~ Feb 5-11, 2007

Split Infinity

by Piers Anthony


Ah, Piers Anthony. Now see, I know him as the author of the oh-so-punny Xanth books. And so this one, the first of the Apprentice Adept trilogy set on the worlds of Proton and Phaze, confused me. It was published in 1980, and is like much other fantasy of that era. I do not mention this as a good thing or a bad thing. It is just the way it’s written.

Now, the basic premise (which doesn’t get found out until quite a ways into the book) is that there are two alternate worlds, and you have an alternate self living in the other world. You can’t, however, cross between these worlds – unless your alternate self dies. And so Stile, our hero, finds himself able to cross the curtain (between the worlds) and gets into Phaze – where magic works.

All in all, a good premise and an enjoyable book. There were some things that weren’t ideal to me, though. First was the way magic works. It is different for everyone, which I like. It needs a different spell to work each and every time, which I find amusing and a nice twist. Stile uses music to do magic, which I am not enchanted with. I like the premise of music being magic, don’t get me wrong. It’s just that I’ve read multiple books that use that idea, and this wasn’t the best executed one of those. (I liked Christopher Stashef’s Her Majesty’s Wizard much better for the execution of music-magic.)

The other thing that really bugged me was the flashbacks. I agree that we don’t need to start at the beginning of Stile’s career. But the flashbacks really bogged down the story for me.

I did enjoy the book enough to continue in the trilogy, but not enough that I’m going to go out and buy the next book today. I’m going to read something else in between, and get back to Stile and his problems (for there are many, only some of which get resolved in book one) on another day.


Sunday, February 4, 2007

Week 5

Week 5 ~ Jan 29-Feb 4, 2007

Rebel Ice

by S.L. Viehl
(science fiction)

This book (#6 in the Stardoc series) was a bit of a let-down for me. I had been greatly enjoying the series up to this point, and then found out prior to reading this one that the author moved from first person to third person tense for this book. Now, from short stories set in this world, I knew that I loved Duncan Reever from his own POV as well as from Cherijo’s, so I was really looking forward to getting more of that. Well, I was pleased with the Reever bits I got, but less-than-pleased with the plot twists in Cherijo’s life. I can’t really say more without spoilers, so I’ll stop there.

The book itself is well executed, with lots of unexpected twists that – if less well explained than their counterparts in previous books – would probably stand up to a re-reading without making the reader feel like the wool has been pulled over her eyes. The clues to the puzzle are there, just hidden. As a lover of books, it kept me occupied and had some neat premises. As a lover of the specific characters, however, I hated it.

I do highly recommend the previous books in the series, however. As long as you can suspend disbelief enough to let yourself become absorbed in a fun sci-fi (as opposed to a technical sci-fi) you should love the series, at least up to book #5. Book #6… I’ve heard mixed things about. Most fans seem to hate it. I will not be buying Rebel Ice (it was a library book for me) but I will be reading book #7, A Plague of Memory. This is one where I think it’s up to each individual reader to decide.