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Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Cast in Shadow

Michelle Sagara (a.k.a. Michelle West) handles material in CAST IN SHADOW that would be melodrama in the hands of a less skilled writer. If you're looking for something fluffy and light, this isn't it. This is dense, deep, and passionate.

Kaylin is a Hawk, a soldier/detective in the city of Elantra. She worked hard to get here, clawing her way out of the lawless fief of Nightshade, a neighborhood within Elantra under complete control of a crime lord. Kaylin left Nightshade marked--figuratively by fear and mistrust, and literally by mysterious markings that cover her body and seem to be connected with her rare ability to heal others. Those markings grew on her skin when she was a child, while other children with those marks turned up dead. Seven years later, the murders are starting again and the markings are starting to change...

Under orders from the Lord of the Hawks, Kaylin returns to Nightshade for the first time in the company of a human-shaped dragon and a man she tries to kill on sight. This man, Severn, was once her friend and savior but seven years ago drove her away with an act of unspeakable horror. In the streets of Nightshade, she will be forced to relive her past, deal with the bewildering Lord Nightshade, and push her mysterious powers to the edge.

CAST IN SHADOW is a worthwhile read, with humor, mystery and a real emotional payoff. It's set in wonderful and complex world, populated by many races--from the lion-like Leontine to the perfect, immortal Barrani to the winged Aerians.

The thing that annoyed me the most was the publisher-inserted 'Coming soon - the sequel', stuck right after the final paragraph of the book--which jarred me out of enjoying the ending. While CAST IN SHADOW does stand alone, it is the first of a trilogy that Sagara has signed up to do for Luna. Book 2 is scheduled for summer 2006. If I hadn't been told instantly at the end that there was another one, I would have been perfectly happy with the ending, and even happier when I found out there would be more.

Posted by Preeti @ 11:21 PM ET [Link]

Monday, September 26, 2005

Jasper Fforde's Well of Lost Plots & Something Rotten (Rebekah)
The Well of Lost Plots

The Well of Lost Plots

After considerable assurances, I read this third book in the series. I enjoyed it a lot, as expected, but only because I knew that Landon is rescued in Book 4. The world of fiction (Bookworld) is fun and creative. It's also borderline too random because Fforde gave me little sense that there were rules or structure to the world. I have to debate the series' writers-are-just-conduits idea though. ;-) What a heinous plot against reading and books that the bad guys hatch! Great commentary on censorship and "best intentions". It was perfect that the GP appeared to everyone as themselves.--Rebekah


Something Rotten

Something Rotten

I'm very glad I read this! Landon and Thursday live happily ever after, even though Thursday dies twice in the book (only once permanently - at the age of 110). Fforde handles time travel well, mostly by acknowledging that it's extremely confusing. There's a great winding up of the huge number of miscellaneous threads. The Cindi thread even had a happy-ish ending. It was very circular but fun to see Hamlet-the-person experiencing Hamlet-the-play, Hamlet-the-movie, and Hamlet-the-breakfast-cereal. (Oddly enough, I had just listened to the Reduced Shakespeare Company's crazy version of Hamlet which intermixed in my mind with this.) I wonder if the next Thursday Next book will be a Friday Next one! I have mixed feelings on the idea, since it could be fun but I really like her as a protagonist. I'm sure that there are many more stories left in Thursday.--Rebekah

-- THE WELL OF LOST PLOTS at Amazon (Thursday Next Book 3)
-- SOMETHING ROTTEN at Amazon (Thursday Next Book 4)

Posted by Preeti [Link]

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Poll: What would you like to see more of on this site?
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What would you like to see more of on our Romantic SF site? (Management would like to know but reserves the right to completely ignore this poll's results. ;-))
More reviews 67 38%
More news 23 13%
More recommendation lists - i.e. RomSF Top10 28 16%
More polls 0 0%
More polls about polls 0 0%
More discussion in the forums 6 3%
Wider range of books reviewed 29 17%
More feature articles 11 6%
Site is fine as is 11 6%
Total votes: 175
Start date: 09/24/05
End date: 10/03/05

Posted by rebekah [Link]

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Kate Forsyth's THE TOWER OF RAVENS (Preeti)
Tower of Ravens

Hey, I've discovered a new author to follow. If this book hadn't taken a diversion into an unnecessary, trilogy-stretching ploy of a ghost story, I would actually given it higher marks. As it is, I loved the frame story of a half-human, fierce, wild girl fleeing to civilization after facing almost certain death from the brutish satyricorns. But civilization means a place where she may be punished as a murderer for something that was a matter of survival in the wild.

THE TOWER OF RAVENS seems perfect for a young adult female crowd. The cover alone appealed to the most girlie part of my psyche. The girl, later named Rhiannon by the nice family who takes her in, makes her bid for escape by first taming and bonding with a wild, horned, winged black horse.

So this girl-and-her-horse story is what I signed on to read. But, see, what happens is that this band of folks in the story set out for the big city, including a boy who is falling in love with Rhiannon even as he's aware he'll be turning her over to the king's law in the city.

So I'm totally ready to read about this continuing, meaty conflict. But what happens? The band comes across this haunted tower and some dark magic stuff happens and the band barely escapes this creepy, gothic episode with their lives. (I read this book months ago and now I'm confusing THE TOWER OF RAVENS and Sarah Monette's MELUSINE.) Maybe the creepy, ghost aspect is also supposed to appeal to a young girl audience, but *my* inner little girl just wanted horse, girl, boy, adventure, romance.

I have hopes the second book will get to the point and stay on the point. I never used to be a trilogy hater, but any more like this and I can get there.

By the way, the world here is apparently based on Celtic fantasy. I found it fascinating and really would love to read more set there. THE TOWER OF RAVENS is book one of a new trilogy, but it quickly becomes clear Forsyth's previous books must have been set one generation earlier, so anyone who's read those will either meet or see mention of familiar characters. It was an easy, enjoyable read despite my problems with the direction and focus of this episode.--Preeti

--THE TOWER OF RAVENS at Amazon (Book 1)
--THE TOWER OF RAVENS review page

Posted by Preeti [Link]

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Patricia McKillip's OD MAGIC (Preeti)
Od Magic

OD MAGIC didn't reach the level of ALPHABET OF THORN for me. It had elements that should have been great--a school of magic, wizards, kings, princesses, scholars, cops, illusionists, etc.--but the overall heavy-handedness of the message and the lack of focus on the character to whom we were first introduced in the book lessened my enjoyment of the book.

Brendan Vetch is an incredibly lonely and pain-filled young man, a shepherd, who has an innate gift with plants. An old, magic woman comes upon him and sends him to a school of magic in the royal city. There Brendan ends up a gardener rather than a student. His plight was so moving, i.e., McKillip's writing is so good, that I was invested in him immediately, and then for him to disappear mostly into the background of the story just kept nagging away at me as I read OD MAGIC.

The school was meant to nurture magic, but the kings have increasingly wanted to co-opt and constrain its use because they see it as a security risk. Od, the mysterious and powerful and often-absent founder of the school, has different ideas.

To repeat, as interesting as all the other characters and their stories were (many were romantic pairings), and as much as all the stories were woven together to reach a climax and make a point, I kept wanting to read a different story--the one my mind had projected for Brendan Vetch based on the opening of the book. McKillip wasn't having that though. I might have still come away feeling great about the story if she hadn't let me down by ending the story so abruptly, preachily, and all-too-conveniently.

OD MAGIC is a good but not great McKillip.--Preeti

--OD MAGIC review page
--OD MAGIC at Amazon

Posted by Preeti [Link]

Friday, September 16, 2005

A Question for our Readers: Fairy Tale Retellings?

We're in the process of revising and expanding our reader advisory lists, and we'd like to get your help! We'll regularly pose a question, then all our savvy readers can respond in the "comments" field. Let's see how this goes!

First question:
If your friend tells you that she enjoys Fairy Tale retellings, what books do you immediately recommend?

Posted by rebekah [Link]

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

WARPRIZE by Elizabeth Vaughan -- high recommend (Linda)

The heroine, Xylara, is daughter of the Warrior King, Xyron, and half-sister to the current king, Xymund. But none of that matters to her. All she has ever wanted to be is a healer. She fought her father and won over this, but now her brother is king. But her uneasy relationship with Xymund is the least of their problems. Their land is under attack by the warring Firelanders, and they are losing the battle.

Xylara is hardly aware of this, though, as she is busy working on their wounded soldiers. And when she's all done with them, she goes to the enemy prisoners and, against her brother's wishes, heals them too. When she saves the leg of an enemy soldier, it begins a set of events that bring her to the attention of the leader of the Firelanders, Keir.

When peace talks are initiated, part of the agreement is for Xylara to be given to Keir as a warprize. Xylara cannot be forced by her brother to do so, but her conscience will not let her do anything else if it will save the lives of her people.

This book is excellent. I enjoyed learning of the Firelanders and their culture through Xylara's eyes as she lives with them and earns their respect. Xylara is not a warrior but does not back down when it comes to what she feels is right. She is a very dedicated healer. There continues to be danger, betrayal, and a wonderful love story. A high recommend from me. It had everything to satisfy--great characters, gripping story, and a romance. This story was complete in itself but is just the first book. Hopefully we don't have to wait too long for the next.--Linda

--WARPRIZE at Amazon

Posted by rebekah [Link]

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Kim Harrison - EVERY WHICH WAY BUT DEAD (Shelley)
Every Which Way

Kim Harrison's EVERY WHICH WAY BUT DEAD opens with Rachel having to deal with the most pressing problem from the last book - the marks she carries from the deamon who saved her life. The action is pretty much nonstop at that point, and the book introduces some new and interesting characters.

I really enjoy this series and its worldbuilding, e.g., the Hollows as a sort of non-human ghetto and all the laws and customs that go into making a very magically diverse society work.

Rachel not only has to deal with a deamon, she also still needs to make a living and work on her personal relationships. All of this makes for very interesting reading as the secondary characters in these books are very three dimensional. I get totally caught up in wanting to see what next happens to these characters. Even the bad guys are fleshed out. It is also nice that Rachel's character is not even near perfect. She makes mistakes on a regular basis and has to deal with her own messes.

Definite recommend. I will be waiting for the next in the series. Another note: the action elements in EVERY WHICH WAY BUT DEAD were tied up well enough that although I am looking forward to the next book, I was not left with a cliffhanger. You could read this book as a stand alone--Harrison gives enough context to get the gist of why Rachel is in the difficulty she is in--but I thought having read the previous books added to the story.

I am currently half way through URBAN SHAMAN by CE Murphy and am loving it. I'll see how the second half holds up. Then I am going to read Laura Ann Gilman's CURSE THE DARK. I have been feeling blah about so many recent books that it is nice to have read some books that I really got into.--Shelley

--DEAD WITCH WALKING review page (Book 1)
--THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UNDEAD review page (Book 2)
--EVERY WHICH WAY BUT DEAD at Amazon (Book 3)

Posted by Preeti [Link]

Friday, September 9, 2005

News from September 2005 Locus

The September 2005 Locus features coverage of this year's Hugo Awards ceremony and results and quarterly listings of Forthcoming Books through June 2006.

News which caught our eye:
--Jo Walton's THOSE WHO FAVOR FIRE, sequel to World Fantasy Award winner TOOTH AND CLAW, sold to Tor.
--Tanya Huff sold a third novel in her "Torrin Kerr" military SF series to DAW and resold SMOKE AND SHADOWS and SMOKE AND MIRRORS to Orbit.
--Fiona Patton's THE SILVER TOWER, latest in her "Warriors of Estava" series, went to DAW.
--Faith Hunter's BLOODRING and two more novels in a "sexy urban fantasy series" went to Roc.
--Shiloh Walker's HUNTING THE HUNTER sold to Penguin Putnam.
--Charlaine Harris turned in DEFINITELY DEAD, her sixth "Sookie Stackhouse" novel, to Ace, and resold paperback rights to SHAKESPEARE'S CHAMPION, second in her "Lily Bard" mystery series, to Berkley Prime Crime.
--Kinley McGregor delivered SWORD OF DARKNESS, first in her "Lords of Avalon" Arthurian fantasy series, to HarperCollins.

Posted by rebekah [Link]

Thursday, September 8, 2005

MELUSINE by Sarah Monette -- Eh (Preeti)

Short version: I thought MELUSINE was a good story that didn't work with my reader ticks. I'm impatient--I felt like I was waiting forever for the story to really get going--and I wanted more to have been resolved in the ending. I'm not panting to read the sequel.

I read Sarah Monette's MELUSINE after seeing Suzanne's and others' take on it. It started off great. I particularly enjoyed the tour of MELUSINE through the lens of Mildmay the thief's daily life. And Mildmay himself is a charmer, really lovable. Felix, the courtier who started life on the streets, and the other viewpoint character in the book, was only initially interesting.

I think my interest in the book sharply decreased around the halfway point. I wanted more to happen, faster. By then, I didn't care any more about Felix's crappy, out-of-his-own-control life, which feels terribly cold to write considering the brutality to which he is subjected. But enough already. Felix was such a passive character in this book.

And I wanted Mildmay to move more into the center of the huge power struggles in his society. Was this too much of a "set up for really exciting future events" type of book? Because my thought upon skimming to the end was, "This is it?"

So, there were things I liked: some of the snapshots of secondary characters, the melusine episode, Mildmay's kindness and honor, attempts at tricky reveals after deflections (e.g. like hair colors, murders, probably the fraternal relationship, etc.)

I'd be interested to know what happens to Felix and Mildmay, particularly Mildmay, but the way I'm feeling right now, reading about it in a spoilery review of THE VIRTU might do me just fine.--Preeti

P.S. - I love that green-toned cover. It's like a fantasy novel analogue of a Fabio romance novel cover.

--MELUSINE at Amazon (Book 1)

Posted by Preeti [Link]

Tuesday, September 6, 2005

Fantasy Art Exhibit in New York City

I wish I lived in NYC. The Museum of American Illustration at the Society of Illustrators in New York City is hosting an exhibition of two hundred original works of art selected from the first eleven volumes of the SPECTRUM series of art books. There will be pieces by Kinuko Craft, Leo and Diane Dillon, Brian Froud, and many other artists whose works I've admired on book covers. (info via ad in Locus.)

September 7-October 1, 2005
128 East 63rd Street, New York, NY 10021
Tues 10 am-8pm; Wed-Fri 10am-5pm; Sat noon-4pm
Free Admission

Hmm, maybe a day trip to NYC is called for. Anyone planning to attend?

--SPECTRUM 12 at Amazon

Posted by Preeti [Link]

Books with Vampires, Vampires, Vampires (Laurie)
Here are a few review snippets from recent reads. Warning, I'm getting nearly impossible to please in my old age.

Dead as a Doornail

DEAD AS A DOORNAIL by Charlaine Harris

I enjoying this one quite a bit even though I haven't read the book (or two?) released prior to this one. Apparently, I missed out on some big, shocking happenings with Sookie and Bill. Despite all that, there was enough back-story to get me up to date and I had a lot of fun with all of the new characters. Sookie was still a very likeable and down to earth character, which was nice.--Laurie


UNDEAD AND UNEMPLOYED by MaryJanice Davidson

I was very much looking forward to this one because UNDEAD AND UNWED hit all of the right notes for me. Unfortunately, for the most part, I was seriously disappointed. Nothing much at all seemed to be happening besides lots of quips being thrown about. Sadly, they lacked the bite and fun of the first book, or maybe I'm just a complete crab. Also, the sexual tension, which was so much a part of the first book, seems to be nearly non-existent here :(

Eventually things picked up. This was an amusing enough read, but it did not live up to the promise and originality of UNDEAD AND UNWED. Still, I like Davidson's sass and will read the next in the series.--Laurie



SUNSHINE by Robin McKinley

It took me months to finish this book! I kept picking it up and putting it down for other books that interested me. The beginning reminded me a lot of Nancy Baker's KISS OF THE VAMPIRE, where a young woman is abducted and jailed with a vampire. This time it's a young woman who makes her living cooking cinnamon rolls (yum, I think I could live with that job) in a family run coffee shop. She has a close group of friends and a likable boyfriend and seems very content with the way her life is going until she's abducted by vampires and chained up with only a hungry, dying vampire for a companion. The writing is different from McKinley's usually lyrical style (DEERSKIN, BEAUTY). The tone is more modern both in slang and subject matter, and I enjoyed it very much in the beginning despite stumbling over some of the narrative.

As the story progresses, and our heroine "Sunshine" has plenty of time to reflect on her past, we learn she possesses some inherited magical power that increases when she's in full sunlight. In this world vampires and "Other" creatures are commonplace. Though the beginning grabbed me, I'm sorry to say I can't say the same about the rest of the book. Midway through it became a real struggle to finish and I ended up doing some major skimming to get to the end and ended up feeling "eh" about the whole thing. I didn't find it witty or all that interesting in the end.--Laurie


--DEAD AS A DOORNAIL at Amazon (Book 5)
--UNDEAD AND UNEMPLOYED at Amazon (Book 2)
--SUNSHINE at Amazon
--SUNSHINE review page

Posted by Preeti [Link]

Friday, September 2, 2005

Patricia McKillip's MOON-FLASH -- A Second Look (Rebekah)

I just reread MOON-FLASH and MOON AND THE FACE - reissued as one book by Firebird. I enjoyed the books a lot more this time. Not sure if I was just in the right mood, knew what to expect, or what. I particularly liked how McKillip described a technological world from the viewpoint of someone from a "primitive" nature-based culture. There's real poetry there as the Kyreol explains what she is seeing using her own vocabulary and references. Terje is a beautiful shaman and the "dreaming" powerful near-magic. I also liked how neither the technological culture nor the Riverworld are placed as being better or worse than the other, and that Kyreol and Terje are able to keep in some form both of their worlds. Their romance grows from a simple childhood friendship to a life-altering force, and they have to make hard decisions about their future. I got the reissue more as a support for McKillip (and because I liked the cover) but I'm glad that I decided to reread it and not just shelf it.

(I don't know what I was thinking when I wrote that review ages ago about the scientist falling in love ...)--Rebekah

--MOON-FLASH at Amazon, Books 1 and 2 combined

Posted by Preeti [Link]


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