Monday, August 25, 2008

SHOMI Contest

Interested in the new SHOMI line from Dorchester?

What's that, you say?

How about: cutting-edge, genre-crossing, speculative action adventure reading entertainment.

The stories range from apocalyptic tales, to time-travel, to cyber-reality, to manga-inspired showdowns.

Apprentice Writer's list of must-reads includes

HIDDEN by Eve Kenin

DRIVEN by Eve Kenin

COUNTDOWN by Michelle Maddox

The Book Binge is having a month-long spotlight on this new line, and challenging readers to give it a try. As an incentive, the Bingers are giving away a seven-book Shomi library.

Take a look atBook Binge: **CONTEST ALERT** I Showed You Mine, Now You Shomi Yours

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Lightning Reviews x 3


by Sarah Monette

Why Picked Up: On recommendation from a friend at 'GoodReads', and was absolutely blown away. A Ph.D. in English doesn't always translate to a compelling or elegant or convincing writing style; in this case, however, it did in spades. No scene was overwritten, not once did the reader confuse which character held point of view due to clear and adept distinction between education level, personal experience, and personality of protagonists. The author is a master of the most basic writerly rule of all: 'Show, don't Tell'. The story takes place in a world with unfamiliar calendar, currency, time measurement, languages and slang, social order, etc. etc. but the story hurtles ahead in full expectation the reader will grasp what is going on. Somehow, it works.

Cover: Another of the bare-chested male variety, but this one thankfully has a head, and for a change, is facing away and looking over his shoulder. Both the multi-colored tatoos running up to his elbows and his red mane are critical to the story. Apprentice Writer wouldn't particularly have been drawn to this cover without word-of-mouth, but neither does it repel her. The title itself gives precisely zero clues about the content; Apprentice Writer kept wrongly thinking of 'Melisande' (as in, the French ballet) instead.

Thoughts: The author tells this first of a series of connected tales in dual first person, through the eyes of Felix the wizard and Mildmay the cat burglar. Both live in the magical city of Melusine, a Dickensian place with a brutal suvival-of-the-fittest philosophy that forces everyone to live by whatever wits and skills they have or be trampled. Despite his strength as a wizard, ties to the brother of the Lord Protector (somewhat like a king), and dwelling in the priviliged area of the Mirador (inhabited by the upper class/wizards), circumstances expose Felix to a physical and psychological sadist who commits crimes that severely destabilize the city and then pins them on Felix. Due to abuse suffered and spells cast upon him, Felix cannot tell anyone what truly happened, and keeps slipping back and forth across the fine line of madness - made all the worse by attempts of various parties to punish him and force him to give up information.

Like many in the Lower City, Mildmay was sold to a brutal and exploitative Keeper in early childhood and has grown up with underworld talents and internal as well as external scars proving the high cost of staying alive. Despite the horrendous things he was forced to do, Mildmay (known as the Fox due to his red hair) has somehow developed an innate sense of justice and decency. Fleeing the city, the two main characters' paths eventually cross and make them journey across the empire together. They meet many human and magcial creatures along the way in their search for political sanctuary and healing for Felix. When the story ends, there remains many a loose end; but at 477 pages, it is understandable that author chose to bring this instalment to a close, and at an emotionally satisfying and significant moment.

Based on this book, seek out this author again?
Apprentice Writer cannot recommend this book highly enough. Be warned: Though the abusive scenes are not explicit, it is nevertheless always abundantly clear what is going on. AW's friend described it has 'hardcore', and AW took care not to leave the novel in a place where her children might pick it up.

by Julia Ross

Why Picked Up: Had seen the author praised by other authors in cyberlandia.

Cover: Bland landscape. Generic title. AW would never have picked this up on her own.

Thoughts: The author is indeed talented at evocative description. She described objects, landscapes and people in ways this reader had never encountered before. This is a wonderful talent, but AW is of the school of thought that a person's greatest strength can also be their greatest weakness; in this case, there came a point when she wished there might not be quite so much description of everything all the time.

The story involves a highly influential British arisocrat rescuing a young woman from drowning. She turns out to be a courtesan who claims to have committed a murder she can't quite remember and from who the rescuer must distance himself lest he be tainted by association with her crime. He, however, is convinced that she has been wronged and was only defending herself. Thus the two journey across England incognito, to evade her assailants and puzzle out who and why really committed the murder.

The story is entertaining and well-written, and the characters engaging enough (apart from the heroine's much-repeated refusal to provide information about what happened or accept assistance growing very tedious). Reading was fine up until the ending, when there was a triple blow to this reader's suspension of disbelief. The first two (having to do with reaction of noble families to liaisons of their firstborn sons with couresans, and manner of a rescue) were of a nature that Apprentice Writer was more or less willing to tolerate for the sake of the story and the drama provided. The third, however, made her snort "Oh, please. Enough already." It involved the same biologically so-improbable-it-should-be-impossible pet peeve that diminished AW's enjoyment of Elizabeth Hoyt's The Raven Prince.

Based on this book, seek out this author again?
The author writes well and overall the story was entertaining. She would not mind reading more, but other works will not fly to the top of the TBR list.

by Anne Gracie

Why Picked Up: Kept encountering author's name in cyberlandia.

Cover: Rose petals, a letter, a necklace. Title clues reader in that it is part of a series of 'Perfect's from this author. Apparently, this is the (or one of the) last of the series, and the aspect that binds them - protagonists being taken in by a non-relative and trained as servants despite their aristocratic background, or something like that - was not quite clear to this reader.

Thoughts; A perfectly (ha!) pleasant, quick and breezy read. Pairings and ending can be seen a mile away but that's not the point of such a story: it's how the characters get that that matters, not the final destination. And as promised, there were funny bits.

Based on this book, seek out this author again? Similar to above, AW enjoyed the writer's style and wouldn't mind reading more, but the story wasn't unique enough for further works to kick other books out of its path on the way to the top of the TBR pile.

Any Gentle Readers have an opinion on these stories? Please share!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Quotes of the Day

A pair of unrelated quotes that struck Apprentice Writer's fancy:

From the human nature department:

There are three kinds of people: those who arrive early, those who arrive on time, and those who arrive late. In general, the early ones are anxious, the punctual ones are obsessive, and late ones are hostile.


From the author department:

In fact, if romances are fantasies of love, and mysteries are fantasies of justice, I would now describe much SF as fantasies of political agency.

Lois McMaster Bujold

Gentle Reader, do you agree?

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

RITA - or, the Oscar of Romance

This past weekend in San Francisco, a few thousand published and aspiring writers gathered to learn, schmooze, and celebrate all things romantic. The gathering culminated in awards presented to published and not-yet creators of works in many different categories (in the latter, called 'Golden Heart' rather than 'Rita').

Apprentice Writer doesn't know who the original Rita was, nor was she in attendance at the gala (though some of her IRL and cyberfriends were, and seem to have had a blast, one and all). Of the works that made the finalist lists she has only read a few, and regarding these, it seems that her views diverge from those of the romance-judging powers that be.

Mine Till Midnight by Lisa Kleypas finalled in the HISTORICAL category. Ms. Kleypas is a Big Name in the industry, all of her titles arriving with much buzz and storms of reviews. Of her previous work, AW read and greatly enjoyed Devil in Winter due to a fantastic hero and unexpected but well-matched herioine. In MTM, the hero is likewise a compelling character, not least due to his Gypsy, or Roma, heritage. AW welcomed such an unusual hero choice, and felt the author did a great job in providing background about a culture usuallly mentioned only in passing and usually derision (in accordance with the then-prevailing view) in much historical fiction. So strongly was the character written, though, that the pendulum began to swing too far in the other direction for this reader. Cam Rohan is not only goodlooking, smart to near-genius level, wildly competent, insanely wealthy, etc. etc. but solves every single problem that comes the heroine's way to the point that the heroine seemed bland and ineffective. It never seemed clear to AW what drew this unique man to a more or less average heroine. Not only did she not stand out to this reader, but at the beginning of the book St. Vincent, Cam's employer and said hero of the delicious 'Devil in Winter' goes so far as to recommend to him that if he is tired of sophisticated fare (referring to his romantic interests) he should try something 'plain' for a change. MTM did not win in its category, but to this reader it seemed odd that of all the titles available, this was considered one of the best historicals. The winning title was 'Lessons of Desire' by Madeline Hunter, which AW has not read.

In the REGENCY category (which is the only time period to get such special treatment), The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever by Julia Quinn, another Big Name, not only finalled but won. Gentle Readers of this space will know that AW disliked this novel so intensely she did not finish it. In her view, it had the opposite problem of MTM: likeable heroine, unattractive hero. Yet here it is, decorated with a Rita.

What does it all mean?

That people inclined to lay bets on the outcome next year should ignore AW's predictions?

That AW is a strange and unpredictable creature?

That AW should not pay attention to the finalist lists at all?
Well, no, she would not go that far. The precise details of who gets included or left off as a finalist will always be a matter of debate, but it has not yet happened that she found no interesting titles to add to her TBR list.

This year, the ones that looked most promising included

Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourne (Winner, Novel with Strong Romantic Elements)

Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr (Winner, Young Adult)

Untouched by Anna Campbell (Finalist, Regency)

and the work of my lovely blogger buddy Julia's cousin -

Surrender to a Scoundrel by Julianne MacLean

What about you, Gentle Reader - what did you think of this year's awards?