#amreading: Jane Austen-inspired #fantasy (Feb’s 2017 Reading Challenge)

I’m sharing my thoughts on my February 2017 Reading Challenge picks, but first…

Wondering how I pick my books, where I get them, and how I choose which ones to read?

My Reading Challenge choices are based on personal interest and the fact that they fit my monthly theme. Then I either check them out of my local library or buy them. (If you’re wondering, it does help authors to check their books out of a library – it keeps that book in circulation longer and helps the library’s collection department know that at least one of its patrons is interested in that author, which might make it more likely the library will buy their next book.)

I’m not able to read all of my monthly choices (I wish) so, just because I’m giving my thoughts on some and not others, doesn’t necessarily mean they were the best of the bunch. And my site’s not monetized, so I don’t make any money if you choose to buy these books. (That’s why I often link to Goodreads, although not always).

I encourage everyone to get their books from a wide variety of places. Amazon, sure. We all do. But try to make it a point to buy from other vendors from time to time — and remember to check books out of your local library! It supports both the author and your library. 🙂

IndieBound: Find books at local independent book stores.

WorldCat: Find books at local libraries.

Shades of Milk and Honey

Features Jane Ellsworth, master glamour manipulator, and her sister, Melody, an au naturale beauty.

Months ago – just after the New Year – this was the first book I grabbed after the insanity of the holidays. It had been on my TBR list forever and I thought it would be interesting, fun, and even somewhat soothing after December’s mania. I was right. (Unfortunately, I didn’t know I’d be doing a reading challenge at the time, so I didn’t take good notes.) I do, however, remember liking many things about the book:

The magic – I love glamour magic. Fara Vanderlin from my Noon Onyx series also works with glamours and I love to see what other authors do with this type of magic. I liked that Jane refused to enhance her own appearance but was fantastic at creating sensory tableaus that incorporated not just the visual, but also other senses like sound, smell, and touch. It was fascinating that, in this society, people used galmourists like interior decorators. The richer someone was, the better glamourist they could hire. And the way the magic worked — weaved, woven, layered — was pretty cool.

It wasn’t a retelling – the story was set in an alternate version of Regency England, but it wasn’t based on any specific Jane Austen novel. I love a good redux, but it’s more impressive when writers use their inspirations as jumping off points.

The cover to the next book! There are a total of five books in the Glamourist Histories series. The cover of the second, Glamour in Glass, features a Regency heroine (I assume Jane) in… well, shades of milk and honey – but with bubbles. Makes me curious to say the least.

Heartstone

This was a retelling… of Pride and Prejudice, but with dragons. Tell me you can resist that. 😀

In the beginning, there were a lot of creatures and names to keep straight. There were wyverns, dragons, gnomes, and gryphons… beoryns, lamias, nakla, khela… Tekari, Shani…

There were Brysneys instead of Bingleys, Bentaines instead of Bennets, Daireds instead of Darcys, but I became immersed in the story soon enough.

The Fourfold God was interesting: Janna—Provider, She Who Sustains; Mikla—Protector, Shield of the Faithful; Odei—Creator, He Who Begins; and Thell—the Unmaker (i.e. Death).

And I liked that none of the characters seemed to be an exact replica of their match in P&P.

After reading it, I wished two things:

  1. That I’d chosen Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, instead of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters as my third book choice for February; and
  2. That I’d had time to read another book in February.

It would have been neat to see how Elle Katherine White’s retelling differed from Seth Grahame-Smith’s. (Have you read P&P&Z? What did you think? Are you wondering why I picked Sea Monsters over Zombies? Because the cover reminded me of Bill Nighy’s Davy Jones from Pirates of the Caribbean. And because I felt like Zombies had gotten more than enough attention with the movie.) 

In lieu of my thoughts on Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, I offer you its You Tube book trailer link. Absolutely worth the two minutes or so it takes to watch.

My final thought on Heartstone: Giving the Drakaina (the dragon queen) some of the characteristics of Lady Catherine de Bourgh was a nice touch.

So, how about you? Did you read any of my Feb 2017 Reading Challenge picks? Are you reading anything else? Can you think of any other Jane Austen-inspired fantasy? If so, let me know in the comments! Tomorrow, I’ll share March’s reading picks.

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In a dark, dark wood… there was a dark, dark house… (My thoughts on Ruth Ware’s debut – #bookclub)

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware was my book club’s February pick. (Originally, the club’s pick was Alexander Hamilton, but after realizing that book was 700+ pages and we had only 3 ½ weeks to read it, the woman who selected it was merciful and changed her selection.)

in-a-dark-dark-wood

The Kirkus review quote made In a Dark, Dark Wood sound more ghoulish than it was. It had tension, and in the beginning, the glass house back in the dark woods where most of the action took place felt suitably foreboding. But the story isn’t as eerie as the black & white title and jacket copy/design suggest. It’s one of those unreliable narrator thrillers.

It opens awesomely. The main character (Noralee, who is also known as Lee, Leo, and Nora) wakes up in the hospital after some sort of accident. She has amnesia (yeah, amnesia. Again. Didn’t these authors get the memo? But it works. Again. LESSON: anything is fair game if it works.) Anywho, Noralee has a deep sense that something is wrong and that she might be responsible.

Other thoughts, in no particular order:

Makes good use of the sage stage advice “Chekhov’s gun” (if you show the audience a gun in Act I, it had better go off in Act II).The author really did show us a gun in the first act… on a stage. That was one of the neatest things for me about the beginning of this novel – the set up. I really liked how Ware made us think that glass house in the woods was a stage. The question wasn’t what would happen, but who was watching.

Nora’s reluctance to share was understandable from a storytelling perspective but it became more irritating than intriguing as time went on.

“People don’t change. They just get more punctilious about hiding their true selves.” Immediately, I thought this sounded like a statement about the novel’s theme or a theory the author was testing. I think I was mostly right.

I liked that the author tipped her hand in subtle ways before big reveals (the Cat on a Hot Tin Roof reference, the Ouija board message).

As a writer, I loved the ending and thought it was brilliant that Ware didn’t say whether Nora clicked DELETE or REPLY. (For the record, I think Nora chose to reply).

I also loved the double meaning of “skeleton” in the traditional Halloween tale epigraph at the beginning of the novel. (You all know I adore stuff like that and try to use similar tricks in my own writing.)

But as a reader, I found the story pretty depressing. Still, I’d recommend it.

Who would I recommend this book to?

Anyone who hasn’t yet read an unreliable narrator story.

Anyone who has and loves them.

Anyone who wants an interesting book to discuss for their book club. (Our host set her own stage by providing tequila shots and a Ouija board.)

Have you read In a Dark, Dark Wood? What did you think?

The Taxidermist’s Daughter: a Gothic-tinged, avian-hued horror story

The Taxidermist’s Daughter by Kate Mosse is a difficult novel to classify. It’s set in Sussex in 1912, but I wouldn’t call it historical fiction; it’s more atmospheric than tediously accurate in its depiction of the time and place. It opens with a murder, a body, and a group of suspects, but it’s no detective story; throughout the novel, the reader knows far more than the late-on-the-scene policeman. If pressed, I’d call the book a Gothic-tinged, avian-hued horror story. It’s a story of revenge — or justice, depending on your perspective.

The Taxidermist's Daughter, Kate Mosse, horror, revenge, justice, Gothic, mystery, historical fiction

The titular character is Connie Gifford, whose memories before the age of twelve are lost. Amnesia can be a clichéd plot device, but Mosse makes it work well enough. In a Prologue, Connie visits the Church of St. Peter and St. Mary where, on the Eve of St. Mark, it’s thought the ghosts of those who will die in the coming year will be seen. Instead, a cloud of birds rush out of the church, striking hats and gravestones, killing themselves in the process. And then, through vague imagery, we see a woman garrotted. It’s an upfront warning to readers. The book is a bit more grisly than Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca.

The two things most readers will remember about the book are its setting and its focus on taxidermy, specifically with respect to birds (birds are a major motif). Mosse’s descriptions of Fishbourne’s marshes and mill pond, as well as the fictional Blackthorn House, Apuldram Woods, and the aptly named Themis Cottage, are vividly rendered. Instead of a windswept moor and a stormy winter, readers get a windswept coast and a stormy spring. Desolate, doomed places like Wuthering Heights, Manderly, and the House of Usher are evoked.

Most of the chapters end with an excerpt from the book Taxidermy: Or, the Art of Collecting, Preparing, and Mounting Objects of Natural History by R. Lee, which was published in 1820. These peeks into the ghoulish practice gave the story an authentic, if creepy feel, especially because they were immediately followed by the murderer’s journal entries. I’ll admit that I usually prefer my macabre to be more Grim Reaper than Jack the Ripper, but the gruesome aspects of the novel never quite reached a point where it was a major turn off for me. (In fact, my imagined ending was even grimmer than the one Mosse chose).

Two other quick thoughts:

There were a lot of characters whose names began with the letter C. Crowley and Crowther, I understood. Connie and Cassie, I did not.

Mosse used weather to heighten the tension in a way that was believable and effective. It’s a technique I’ve used and I’m always worried it won’t work — that adding a storm to a big set piece showdown will seem tacked on. But, writers, it’s a technique worth studying. I hope it’s not too big of a spoiler to share that Mosse ends the book with a big spring flood. You all know my thoughts on nature and how it can be both destructive and regenerative. I’m not sure she meant it as a metaphor, but it seemed to me that her cold, wet, inexorable tide seeped into the town like an insidious evil and then swept out, taking itself and everything it touched with it.

Have you read The Taxidermist’s Daughter? What did you think?

#SFF Genre Talk: The Queen of the Tearling and Low-Tech Futuristic Worlds

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen is the first book in a fantasy trilogy featuring Kelsea Raleigh, a nineteen year-old newly crowned queen. One of my favorite parts of the story was its world, which is a low-tech futuristic one.

fantasy, futuristic, medieval, magic, Erika Johansen, The Queen of the Tearling

The story takes place in a fictional country called Tear, which exists at some point in the future (Wikipedia says it takes place in the 24th century, although I couldn’t find where that was mentioned in the book) in a New World (which, I assume is somewhere in the Old World, i.e. Europe??). This vague backstory might be frustrating to some, but I was interested as both writer and reader in how Johansen built her world.

In the distant past, the new queen’s ancestor sailed himself and a bunch of followers from America to wherever they are now. But utopianism didn’t work out as well as everyone wanted and, at the story’s open, the country has been subjugated by the neighboring country, Mortmesne, which is ruled by a queen as evil as her country’s name suggests.

The world of the Tear and Morts might seem odd or inconsistent to a reader unwilling to imagine a low-tech future without a causative apocalyptic event. There are geneticists, but no cars. There are ruling monarchs and magic, but no guns. There are cities, but very few books. There was a Crossing, not a Catastrophe. But I think low-tech futuristic worlds are ripe with potential. (Yes, I’m admittedly biased; my Noon Onyx series takes place in a low-tech futuristic world. As a writer, I love the possibilities of this as yet unlabeled sub-genre… which I’m not necessarily suggesting we label. Are we any closer to understanding what “dark fantasy” is or what type of stories are truly “new adult”? Worth noting, though, that others have already taken a stab at naming it. Best Fantasy Books uses the term “Futuristic Fantasy” and its list of books shows how long the sub-genre has been around.)

Regardless of what we call them, low-tech futuristics seem to offer the best of two other sf/f sub-genres: historical fantasy and post-apocalyptic fantasy. Readers get to immerse themselves in a medieval-ish, make-believe otherworld, but one with recognizable references (e.g. the Brothers Grimm and Leonardo da Vinci). Instead of centering on how the characters will survive the immediate aftermath of some sort of grand catastrophe, a low-tech futuristic story has more room to breathe in terms of plot. It can be epic instead of laser-focused. Its pacing can be slower and less breakneck. Most importantly, however, it provides flexibility for a writer to pick and choose which real world elements work for them and their story. This expansive, though eclectic, approach can lead to a world that feels familiar, but different – to a world that has broken its historical constraints while at the same time remaining accessible and identifiable to readers.

The bottom line is that low-tech futuristic stories allow writers to play with the past, instead of being limited by it.

So what about the rest of the story?

The Queen of the Tearling is part of a trilogy (the third book, The Fate of the Tearling, comes out tomorrow) and this first book feels a lot like Act I of a bigger story, which is fine. There are lots of unanswered questions for future books to address, such as:

Who is Kelsea’s father?

What’s up with Andalie, her lady-in-waiting?

And the Robin Hood-like Fetch? (whose name brings out my sophomoric sense of humor because I could NOT stop thinking of Gretchen from Mean Girls every time his name was mentioned in the book)

Here are a few other brief, disjointed thoughts about the book:

I loved all the fictional epigraphs at the beginning of the chapters. Yes, they seem to give much of the plot away, but somehow story tension remains (see unanswered questions above).

The book has been shelved multiple times on Goodreads under Young Adult, but it’s not YA.

Emma Watson is starring in, and producing, the movie adaptation.

What do you think of low-tech futuristics? What do you call them?

Have you read The Queen of the Tearling? What did you think? Have any other, similar books to recommend?

What we’ve been reading and watching (mother-daughter reviews | #graphicnovel #fantasy #wuxia)

Penny’s younger sister – who shall hereafter be known as “E” – shares her thoughts on two middle grade graphic novels she read this summer. I share my thoughts on one fantasy novel and a wuxia film.

ROLLER GIRL

Roller GirlRoller Girl is about a girl named Astrid, who loves to roller skate. One day, Astrid and her mom went to a roller skating competition where Astrid found her role model – Rainbow Bite, a grown-up roller derby jammer. Astrid had so much fun watching the competition that her mom showed her a flyer for a roller derby camp. Immediately, Astrid got excited and wanted to go. She packed and got ready but then found out her best friend, Nicole, wouldn’t be coming because she was going to ballet camp with another friend.

Astrid was a little nervous about going to the derby camp because she wouldn’t know anybody and most of the girls there had been skating for longer than her. Luckily, Astrid sat next to a very nice girl named Zoey, who was also new. At camp, Zoey and Astrid worked hard on their skating skills. But then Astrid got in trouble and lost some of her friends because she lied and acted silly and selfish.

Will Astrid win back her friends? Will Astrid do well at the bout? Will Astrid ever meet Rainbow Bite?

Read the book to find out! 🙂

~E


AWKWARD

AwkwardAwkward is about a girl named Peppi, who just moved to a new town. Her first day of school did not go as planned. She humiliated herself and a boy named Jamie in front of the whole school. Peppi spends weeks trying to apologize to Jamie, but it is very… well, awkward.

Peppi is in the art club and she’s very good at art. Jamie is in the science club and he’s very good at science. So good that he becomes Peppi’s tutor, which makes things more awkward because Peppi never apologized to Jamie for what happened on the first day of school.

There are many conflicts between the two clubs throughout the school year. The principal finally ends up banning both of the clubs from having tables at the school club fair.

Will Peppi’s art club and Jamie’s science club work together so that their clubs can go to the fair?

Read the book to find out! 🙂

~E

Both Roller Girl and Awkward were Black Eyed Susan Nominees for 2016/17, Graphic Novels, Grade 6-9.


Favorite App? Musical.ly Follows on Instagram? The Final Five
Favorite App?
Musical.ly
Follows on Instagram?
The Final Five

More about “E”

  • I love dancing, tumbling, hiking, and going to the beach.
  • I also love to pet sit. I’ve watched cats, dogs, a lizard, and a fish. Next month, I’m going to start volunteering at our local pet shelter.
  • Graphic novels are my favorite type of book. I love Raina Telgemeier!
  • I signed up for Engineering by Design this year because, some day, I hope to be an architect.

WOODWALKER

WoodwalkerI ordered this from my local indie bookstore at the beginning of the summer. It checked off a lot of boxes for me: it’s a fantasy-adventure novel about a disgraced forest ranger leading three wandering royals on a dangerous mountain journey. The author is an illustrator and she did the artwork for the cover herself. (How often can a trad published author say that?)

I really enjoyed this! The world was solidly built and the main character, Mae, was strong and loyal. I liked how her relationship with Mona, the deposed queen, developed over the course of the story. I would have loved to see some magic and more romance, but only because I love those story elements – not because Woodwalker is lacking in any way.

The author’s website is fantastic, especially her EXPLORE tab, which has character sketches (text + illustrations) and a wonderful interactive map. Click on the map for place explanations and more drawings – beautiful!

~Jill


THE ASSASSIN

The AssassinE and I watched this a few nights ago. I’d had a crazy-hectic day and was in the mood for exactly what this film is – a slow-moving montage of visually stunning scenes. If you are daunted by subtitles, don’t be. Feel free to ignore them. I’m not sure how much help they’ll be in understanding the plot anyway. I got confused early on – in the B&W prologue! – so I paused the movie to look up the plot – yes, I cheated; remember, crazy-hectic day? I realized then that I wasn’t the only one who was confused by the amorphous plot structure. But so what? The beauty of the movie is… its beauty. It also doesn’t hurt that Qi Shu as Nie Yinniang is an amazing actress. Her minimalist performance maximizes its emotional impact.

What’s wuxia? It’s a genre of Chinese fiction/film that focuses on martial arts heroes. I’m by no means an expert, nor can I even call myself an aficionado – because I haven’t consumed enough of it yet – but I enjoyed this movie and would absolutely recommend it to anyone who loves breathtaking cinematography and/or female assassin stories.

If I watch it again, will I even bother with the subtitles? I haven’t decided yet. Would be nice to be less confused the second time… but also might be fun to watch without the distraction of intrusive text. (Q: Are subtitles optional with director Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s “meditative narrative” approach to filmmaking? Have you seen The Assassin? What do you think?)

~Jill

Let us know what you’ve been reading and/or watching this summer in the comments!

Egg Timer Reviews: 20 Stories! (Books, Movies, TV & Broadway Shows)

I was supposed to post an author interview yesterday, but I never received it. If I do, I’ll reschedule because I think her Q&A would be interesting and fun to read. In the meantime, however, I was in a bind bc I had nothing of my own ready to post. What to do?

Egg timer reviews.

What the heck are those? Well, it’s where I take a look at my bookshelf, Kindle, movie queue, etc. and see what I’ve watched and read lately (or eons ago) that I can talk about in three minutes or less. So these aren’t really reviews. They’re more like stream of consciousness goo. (I filled in some of the names via internet search later – my memory’s not that good. 😉 )

Are there spoilers? Is it still miserably cold outside!? Yes, there are some spoilers!

BOOKS

Stolen Songbird

Trolls! Trolls! TROLLS!! I always wanted to do a romance featuring a leprechaun but could never figure out how to make a leprechaun sexy. Well, Danielle Jensen found a way to make trolls sexy. When I read the back cover copy, I knew I had to read it just to see how she did it. The first part of the book is the best: the dynamic tension between Cecile and Tristan, the descriptions of Trollus and its inhabitants… good stuff. There was a bit too much coming and going in the end (it felt a little “fillerish” to me) and I worry that the trolls might really be “e—” (maybe not…? since that would take away from the Big Accomplishment here). But, if you love YA fantasy, pick this one up. You’ll love it. (Worth noting: Jensen started out with Strange Chemistry, Angry Robot’s now defunct YA imprint. I think Angry Robot picked this series up, but it’s still nice to support authors who end up in this situation).

The Girl of Fire and Thorns

I loved this character’s transformation. You all know I love big character growth arcs and Elisa has one! At the start of the book she is clueless, overweight, and timid. By the end of the novel, she has sought forbidden knowledge, grown physically stronger, and become much more confident and assertive. The only thing that gave me pause was the almost over emphasis on the character’s weight. I’m a big “love your own body” kind of person. And yet, I can also get behind a person’s wanting to change themselves. (My own work reflects my ideological tug of war between “learn to love yourself” versus “pursue your dream to change,” especially my first novel). The bigger question is always, why does a person want to change? Is it society telling them (perhaps subtly and evilly) that they should or is their desire to change truly coming from within? – But rest assured, genre fans, Girl of Fire and Thorns is mostly an adventure story with some magic and romance.

Throne of Glass

I think I read this in a day or two. (I’m a big DNF’er so that, in and of itself, is a rec to read). Hmm… what else can I say? Cool cover. She looks really bad ass. I think there’s a love triangle, but I don’t mind them. (Ahem 😀 ) Who would like this? Fans of YA female assassin characters and YA fantasy with equal emphasis on both romance and action. It’s been a long time since I read it, but this reminded me of Maria Snyder’s Poison Study.

Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover

It was the cover that drew me to this book. A historical romance heroine in pants! As with Jensen’s troll hero, I had to check it out. What was the story behind this heroine? I read quite a bit of historical romance. And many times the heroines run together. That doesn’t mean the books aren’t well written. They are. They’re doing exactly what they’ve promised their readers they will do: deliver a hot, sometimes witty, romance. So why egg time review this one? Well, the heroine backs up the cover and the title’s promise. There was a lot more going on with the plot than I expected. The heroine had not just one cover (aliases), but two. That’s three different personas for the author to keep track of. Sarah MacLean did a great job! (Worth noting: MacLean wrote Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake. I haven’t read it, but may now. MacLean was on an RWA panel last summer and discussed how hard it was to come up with titles, especially when you lock yourself into a format. She was funny. (I buy some of the recorded sessions). I’m currently trying to title Noon Onyx B4. It’s tough. Blank Blank of Blank. Left Hand of Darkness? Oops. Taken. 😉 Little Shop of Horrors? Dagnabbit. Nabbed too. 😀 In any case, I thought the title to Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover was extra awesome bc it fits MacLean’s “Rules of Scoundrels” series title format, it references the heroine’s aliases, and it’s a nod to the book’s unusual genre cover.)

MOVIES

Belle

A period romance with a great hero and heroine, Belle is inspired by the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, an illegitimate mixed-race daughter of a Royal Navy officer who was raised by her rich great-uncle. The film divides its time between the romance and the hero’s quest for social justice (he’s an aspiring lawyer attempting to change the law on slavery, albeit through a fairly narrow ruling). Gugu Mbatha-Raw was excellent.

Begin Again

I actually thought this would be awful. Like some sort of weird Juno [aging music aficionado has unrequited feelings for someone who’s totally inappropriate for him… am I remembering that movie right?] meets Love Actually [clichéd romance]. But it was better than that. My worst case scenario plot prediction did not come true. Instead this was a cool, little story about a down-on-his-luck music exec with zippo money who helps a talented, young up-and-comer. The story’s take on how imagination can be used to see a person’s potential and creatively solve funding problems was fun. I liked that the exec fixed his unhealthy family dynamics (he has a teenage daughter and estranged wife) instead of having a romance with his music mentee.

Chef

The shame of this movie is that it’s rated R but the best part about it was the story of how the character reconnected with his son. Minus a few parts, I’d love to watch this with my kids. What’s it about? A chef (duh) who is fired from his job bc he wants to create exotic dishes versus tried-and-true. When he gets panned by a food critic for his boring menu, he lashes out at his boss and gets the pink slip. After some soul searching, he decides to take it on the road. He gets a food truck and goes cross country. With the help of his social media savvy son, he draws crowds wherever he goes. It ends well. For foodie movie fans, road trip movie fans, Jon Favreau fans, food truck fans, fans of movies where characters reinvent themselves, tell their boss to shove it, and/or tell a critic to shove it (and then make up w them later).

Annie

Saw this over the holidays with my daughters. They loved it. And I did too. It was cute. Quvenzhane Wallis was wonderful. I was less taken with Jamie Foxx. Cameron Diaz as a reimagined Ms. Hannigan was ok, as was Rose Byrne. Who should see this? Quvenzhane Wallis fans and anyone who liked any of the other eighteen million Annies.

Box Trolls

We actually bought this, which meant we were able to watch the extras. And they were pretty neat. There was a featurette on how the filmmakers created characters that live in boxes and the world they inhabit and some cast member interviews, but my favorite was the one where Dee Bradley Baker and Steve Blum talk about how they came up with the Box Troll language. Oh, and I loved Winnie and Eggs! 🙂

Magic in the Moonlight

My recollection is that this was not a huge success but I enjoyed it. I like Emma Stone and Colin Firth. I’m not familiar with Woody Allen’s work (although I liked Midnight in Paris). Magic in the Moonlight is for anyone who likes the idea of a stage magician and would-be clairvoyant falling in love against the backdrop of the 1920s French Riviera.

Maze Runner

I had heard so much about this, and it had been hyped so much, before I watched it, that I’m amazed I wasn’t disappointed. That said, it didn’t make me think very much (not like Into the Woods or Predestination did) and that’s the main reason why it’s getting an egg timer review. I thought it was good. Definitely worth two hours of your time. None of the actors really wowed me, but I’d happily watch them again. The sets were visually interesting but not stunning. In fairness, maybe part of my mehness is bc I didn’t read the book so watching this didn’t give me the pleasure of seeing a favorite novel successfully adapted.

Lucy

Finally!! I had been wanting to watch this since the summer when I’d mistakenly assumed it was based on Laurence Gonzales’ book. It isn’t, but (as I’d suspected; it’s not like the reference was subtle) it is based on Lucy, the Australopithecus, and a “what if” evolution scenario. Bottom line: Scarlett Johansson is a good action heroine. I’d watch her in a similar role again. As for Lucy? Read Gonzales’ book instead. I didn’t love everything about it, but it was better.

Showrunners (documentary)

Featuring J.J. Abrams, Steven DeKnight, Jane Espenson, Michelle King, Damon Lindelhof, Janet Tamaro, Joss Whedon, and a gazillion other people, this is a full length documentary on showrunners – the head writers/creators of a show. If you’ve ever wanted a peek inside a writer’s room, or if you’d enjoy hearing behind-the-scenes interviews of some of the most well-known and/or interesting TV show wranglers, this doc is for you.

World without End (miniseries)

I’ve read the book (and read and watched Pillars of the Earth) so when I saw this was available for streaming, I had to see it. I loved the books (although Pillars was my favorite; I liked Aliena and Jack better than Caris and Merthin). Even though I utterly despised her (I was supposed to), the best part of World was Cynthia Nixon’s Petranilla. Conniving, deceitful, murderous, immoral… she was just Jaw Droppingly Awful. Which made the scene where Caris forgives her sins just before her death that much more powerful. If you’ve read the book, like TV miniseries set in the Middle Ages, or just want to see Nixon’s range, rent it.

TV

Finding a TV show that I love enough to watch every single episode is extremely rare. Ones I’ve enjoyed start to finish in the past: Alias, Lost, and Battlestar Gallactica. Shows I’m currently addicted to: Game of Thrones, Downton Abbey, Mr. Selfridge’s, and Outlander. So I wanted to find a new addiction. Below, my candidates.

Reign

I streamed 10 episodes of this before I couldn’t do it anymore. At first, it was amazingly addictive. Definitely a guilty pleasure type of show. Beautiful kids playing monarchs-to-be with friends who have names like Kenna. (Is that historically accurate? Do I care? Does anyone who watches a show like Reign? No! 😀 ) BUT the problem was exactly that. History. I know where this story is going. There wasn’t enough tension in the story questions. Will Mary wed Francis? Will Mary become Queen of France? Will Mary live happily ever after? I know the answers to those questions already.

Vikings

I watched 2 episodes before moving on, but may return. I like Lagertha. And kudos to the writer/director/showrunners/whoever for moving the story along at breakneck speed! I remember saying to my husband, “Wow! They’re already going to England.” I thought it would take Ragnar all season to gear up, find men, etc. And then – in that same episode – saying: “WOW! They’re going back home!” After they’d landed in England, I’d just assumed they’d spend all season there. And I liked that it’s based on real Norse mythological characters. But… it didn’t grab me as much as I’d hoped.

Arrow

I wanted to like it. The pilot opened well. It captured my attention… but couldn’t hold it. (My husband hated it, although we often differ on TV shows.) As with Vikings, I’m hard pressed to say exactly why. I might return to this. But would choose Vikings over Arrow.

House of Cards

Streamed 2 episodes so far and am very much looking forward to the next one. I had to talk my husband into this one (he watched Vikings and Arrow with me, not Reign; lol). He’s in DC a lot for work and I think he thought the show would be one big cerebral snooze fest. And the opening credits! Geesh, sorry, but horrible. They’d make anyone who works in DC feel like they’re commuting in instead of lounging on their couch getting ready to watch an entertaining show. (Although maybe that’s the feeling the credits hope to evoke…?) But the show itself – terrific! We’re hooked. Kevin Spacey! Robin Wright! My only worry is that the show may end up like The Newsroom, which I stopped watching midway through the first season.

SHOWS

Matilda at the Shubert

Saw this just this past weekend. Fantastic! If you are looking for an entertaining, funny, sometimes heartbreaking, but ultimately happy, family show – see Matilda. The whimsical, bright, colorful sets seemed custom-designed for book lovers. The letter tiles surrounding the proscenium and incorporated into the many sets were decidedly Scrabble-esque. Bookshelves, libraries, classrooms… not to mention swings, scooters, lasers, confetti, strobe lights, helium balloons, a story-in-story told partially through a vintage paper doll/shadow puppet-like presentation. But the best part (as it should be with live shows) was the singing and acting: Brooklyn Shuck as Matilda! So expressive, sweet, sympathetic, and adorable… So confident, bold, and fearless. Also loved Mrs. Wormwood and Rudolpho. And Christopher Sieber as Miss Trunchbull!! (10.0 for the vault number. 😀 )

The Illusionists at the Marquis

Saw this a few months ago. Seven magicians, each with completely different acts. There’s an escape artist, an archer, an inventor, a Vegas style comedian “trickster,” a truly phenomenal card manipulator, an Edward Scissorhands type “anti-conjuror,” and a dance performer “futurist.” It was fun trying to figure out the magicians’ tricks. (I’m no magician and lots of their acts stumped me). Watching audience members (who may have been pre-selected?) become part of the act was hilarious (glad it wasn’t me!). Who should see this? Anyone who likes top-notch stage magic and illusionists who can put on a diverse, spellbinding show.

So, please, go forth and purchase, rent, stream, read, or watch. Support creativity… and stories… and egg timer reviews!

What have you read or watched lately that’s worth mentioning? Come on, sharing only takes three minutes or less…

Ten Things from Summer 2014 (#movies #books)

My thoughts on ten things I watched or read this summer:

  1. The Lunch Box
  2. Outlander
  3. Snowpiercer
  4. The Amazing Spider-Man 2
  5. Guardians of the Galaxy
  6. The Giver
  7. Noah
  8. The Firebird
  9. Lucy
  10. Me Before You

The Lunch Box

This mixed-up lunch box story involves India’s dabbawallas, the men who pick up hot lunch from home and deliver them to office workers. I was nearly as fascinated by the dabbawallas as I was infatuated with the movie. And I’m not the only one. Apparently, others have been interested in the process by which the dabbawallas deliver hundreds of thousands of lunchboxes daily with very few mistakes or delays. But don’t watch the movie just to see the dabbawallas! Watch it for the wonderful characters: a lonely, unappreciated housewife who cooks amazing food, a cantankerous, soon-to-retire office worker, and his genial replacement.

Outlander

Who else is watching this series on Starz? I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was worried it might be too much Lifetime and not enough HBO, but I was pleasantly surprised by Episode 1 and now, after six episodes, I’m firmly entrenched. I read the books years ago so it’s been fun returning to the story and seeing how it’s being told on screen. Tobias Menzies as Frank/Jack Randall (remember him from Rome and GoT?) and Graham McTavish as Dougal (in truth, I did not remember him from The Hobbit) have been doing a terrific job. And Claire and Jamie (Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan), if not looking exactly as I imagined them, are skilled actors with great chemistry. And I loved the author’s cameo in Episode 4!

Snowpiercer

I loved this movie. Yes, it’s gory and violent and bloody. And, yes, it strains credulity (there’s steak up front; where are the cows?!) and, yes, there are a few things not to like about the MC (well, one thing in particular). But it sticks with you. It’s unique and memorable, as much for the story – admirable these days since post-apocalyptic stories seem to be everywhere 😉 – as for the juxtaposition of scenes and characters (gruesomely dark and wet ax fights; kids singing over-the-top propaganda songs inside a surreally calm and disturbingly charming classroom car; Tilda Swinton as a vile, deranged second-in-command; Octavia Spencer as a vengeful mother on a search and rescue mission; and Chris Evans as oh-so-conflicted Curtis).

The Amazing Spider-Man 2

I wanted to love it. I really enjoyed the first one, despite the fact that I didn’t think the franchise needed a reboot. But 2 didn’t wow me. It wasn’t the ending, it was the fact that the relationship between Gwen and Spidey before the end didn’t seem as fun as it did in the first movie and the villains were kind of meh. I’m still planning on seeing The Amazing Spider-Man 3, but only because Spidey is one of my favorite superheroes and I like Andrew Garfield. I think if everything around him comes together it could be great fun.

Guardians of the Galaxy

All the fun that was missing from Spidey 2. Word seems to be that this was everyone’s favorite summer ’14 film. Yeah. What they said. And for good reason. Mostly, the cast. I was largely unfamiliar with Chris Pratt before the film. I don’t watch Parks and Rec, I didn’t see Her, and, even though I saw Moneyball, I don’t remember his character. But he was terrific in Guardians! I read an Entertainment Weekly article before the movie that detailed his career to date. He sounded genuine and grounded. His portrayal of Peter Quill made the movie for me. And, of course, I loved Zoe Saldana as Gamora and Bradley Cooper as the voice of Rocket too. My kids loved Groot.

The Giver

I didn’t read the book. My older daughter did though and it was interesting hearing her take on how the book and the movie were different – namely, and among other things, that the movie’s characters were older and its ending less ambiguous. I found myself wondering if the novel’s vague ending was a subtle message and, if so, what that message might be. Ambiguous endings can be more powerful and achieve a more lasting impact because readers love to argue about them. Regardless of her original intent with respect to The Giver’s ending though, Lowry’s now written three other books that provide definitive closure.

Noah

I put this off for a while even though the trailer looked great and reviews were positive because I worried that it might be The Fountain meets Evan Almighty. But it wasn’t. If you are on the fence about this movie, rent it. Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly had already proved they worked well together in A Beautiful Mind and adding Emma Watson to the mix definitely cinched it. They all delivered emotional, compelling performances. The special effects and visuals were fantastic and the filmmakers’ take on one of our oldest stories (especially the watchers, a fanciful bit of storytelling) was interesting.

The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley

The story of modern-day Nicola who has the gift of psychometry (she can sense an object’s history by touching it) interwoven with the story of Anna, a young Scottish woman living in Russia during the aftermath of the 1715 Jacobite Uprising. I love parallel timeline plots when they are done well (Kate Mosse’s Labyrinth and Katherine Neville’s The Eight come to mind) so I very much enjoyed this. Two romances, historical detail, and a bit of ESP = an irresistible combination. I will definitely be searching for other Kearsley titles in the future!

Lucy by Laurence Gonzales

Last month, I promised to talk more about this. At the time, I wanted to see the movie so that I could compare and contrast it with the book, even though they are two entirely different stories. But I never made it to the theater. (I see very few R rated movies in the theater because I can’t bring my kids). In any case, my theory, which I’ll have to test later, is that the book and the movie share a similar title because each is about an evolutionarily advanced girl/woman and Lucy is a reference to “Lucy” our oldest human ancestor, the first Australopithecus afarensis skeleton ever found. [Incidentally – and as a wonderful example of how art can impact science deeply and directly – the Australopithecus afarensis skeleton was named after the Beatles song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.”]

So what about the book? If you like social science fiction, read it. It’s the story of a girl who is half-human, half-bonobo, which to someone like me (who spends lots of time in a fictional world inhabited by all sorts of shapeshifters and human hybrids) doesn’t sound too outlandish. But the story initially appealed to me because it wasn’t fantasy. It’s billed as a Crichton-esque “biotechnical thriller.” And the book jacket copy describing the fifteen year old “adorable, lovely, magical Lucy” made me curious. I was worried about what would happen to her before I even started reading her story.

The two best parts of the book for me were the character’s relationships (more time is spent on these than on the scientific aspects, which suited me fine but may disappoint others) and the author’s idea of The Stream (his term for the whole ecosystem of living things and their observable and imperceptible, though real, effects on that ecosystem and other living things within it).

Me Before You by JoJo Moyes

I saved this one for last because it was the toughest one for me to gather my thoughts on. Initially, I downloaded this book because I was simply looking for a nice, warm emotional romance – one I could read in 24 hours and would, by and large, likely forget about 48 hours later. [As an aside, this is not a criticism of stories that can be consumed quickly or are forgotten easily; there’s an art to crafting them too – just because a story’s easy to read doesn’t mean it’s easy to write]. But Me Before You *isn’t* that kind of story. Parts of it are nice, warm, emotional, and romantic. But the book is a lot more than that and it’s not easily forgotten. Nor should it be.

It’s the story of a 26-year-old woman (Lou) who’s a little lost. At the start of the book, she’s living with her parents, she’s in a so-so relationship, and she’s lost her job. It wasn’t a glamorous or high paying job but it was one she enjoyed and its loss propels her in search of another. She finds one caring for a 35-year-old quadriplegic (Will) who’s not lost (he knows all too well what he wants). He’s rich and handsome… a former business tycoon and lady charmer who is now at times angry, withdrawn, or resigned.

SPOILERS… don’t read ahead if you want to read it and don’t like spoilers…

Before reading Me Before You I’d never heard of DIGNITAS, the Swiss right-to-die organization. And then, the day after I finished it, CNN ran this article. And then, the next week, a very close friend of mine had a family member take her own life. She wasn’t quadriplegic, but she was dealing with issues that were just as serious as Will’s. So I’ve been thinking, on and off nearly every day since I read Me Before You not just about the dignity of life, but the dignity of death. Is it a happy topic? No, but that doesn’t mean it should be ignored. It’s a huge, meaningful topic. A blog post can’t do it justice. So, for now, I’ll simply say that Jojo Moyes’ book should be read – as much for the author’s thoughtful portrayal of Will and his struggles as for the author’s down-to-earth and at times truly humorous take on Lou and Lou’s life.

UPDATE 6/2/16: I’ve thought about this book on and off since I read it, and with increasing frequency lately since the movie is being released tomorrow. I can’t say my thoughts have gelled any further. Perhaps because the issues raised by the book are too complicated for a simple reaction.

Stephen Spohn, COO of AbleGamers, offers an interesting, thoughtful response to Me Before You over at Chuck Wendig’s blog. As someone who values both life and an individual’s right to direct their own destiny, the ending to Me Before You would have been excruciating for me to write. Everyone reading/watching the story will likely identify with Will in different ways. It’s impossible for an author to satisfy everyone’s desires with respect to that character.

‘Me Before You’ was an opportunity to create a commercially successful, Nicholas-Sparks-level, true genre-defining romantic movie starring someone who is severely physically handicapped conquering his demons, winning the girl and riding off into the sunset like we see in so many other Hollywood romances. – Stephen Spohn

Ironically, I picked up Me Before You looking for a fairly typical romance featuring a handicapped hero who conquered his demons, won the girl, and rode off into the sunset. Which isn’t what I got, obviously. But I can’t in good conscience say what I got wasn’t worthwhile or valuable. In hindsight, Moyes probably wishes she’d done her research differently. But I still admire her for writing a difficult story about a sympathetic character readers loved and wanted to champion. Do I wish the story would have ended differently? Sure. But I think that about lots of books. If Moyes had chosen a different ending, my guess is she’d have just as many critics, they’d just be saying different things.

Writers should think carefully about the effect of their work upon the world. But they also deserve the right to write the endings for their characters that they feel are appropriate for those individual characters.

Have any of you watched or read any of the above? If so, what did you think? If not, are you watching or reading anything worth sharing? Let me know in the comments! I hope everyone’s September is off to a great start.

Book Recommendation: The Spirit Keeper by K.B. Laugheed

A story for readers who enjoy emotional journeys and adventurous tales, K.B. Laugheed’s THE SPIRIT KEEPER is historical fiction that would likely appeal to fans of Kathleen O’Neal Gear and W. Michael Gear’s “People Books” (the First North Americans) and Jean Auel fans. I also think the book would appeal to fantasy romance readers and upper YA readers who are looking for something outside of their genres to try.

There’s no fantasy in The Spirit Keeper, but there’s lots of spirituality. The main character, Katie O’Toole, is an unlucky child, as she herself explains to us in the first few pages. The thirteenth child of abusive Irish immigrant parents, Katie nonetheless tries to be dutiful even as she wishes for a different life. That chance is offered to her when her home is raided in March of 1747. Two Native Americans traveling with the raiding party take her captive, but then give her a choice: stay with them and fulfill a great destiny or return to a family that, at best, is indifferent to her very existence.

Her companions call her the Creature of Fire and Ice. After all, Katie has fiery red hair and ice blue eyes. But her looks are not what makes her special. Despite her horrid childhood, Katie has a deep and personal sense of what is right and wrong and a vast, almost limitless, ability to love. The story is as much a journey of hearts and spirits as it is bodies. And, of course, the author part of me appreciated Laugheed’s take on perception, reality, truth, knowledge… and storytelling.

After finishing the book, I immediately searched for the next, which I couldn’t find. Laugheed’s website is vague about a sequel (“if you loved Part I–have faith. Sooner or later, I’m sure you’ll have a chance to read the whole story!!”) but I’ll say this— even if there isn’t a sequel, Laugheed provides a very satisfying ending.

What’s everyone else reading? Anything you want to recommend?

My neglected TBR pile (which includes a brief paragraph on why The Spirit Keeper caught my attention)

Best wishes and happy reading, everyone! 😀

What to Read and Watch: 3 Fantasy Novels + 2 Futuristic Movies + 1 Horror Show #SFF

I’m a panelist at SF Signal’s Mind Meld today. The question was:

What lesser-known books have you read, fairly recently, that you think deserve more attention, and why?

If you stop by, you’ll get to see what my answer was (hint: 3 fantasy novels), as well as read the other panelists’ answers, which should give you some great reading ideas for your holiday break.

For those of you who need to take a break from your TBR pile (it happens; you’re forgiven 😉 ), below are my thoughts on what I’ve been watching.

General Spoiler Warning: I find it hard to discuss things without giving too much away. I’m not a reviewer, I’m a fan. So… if you don’t like spoilers, go watch MR. NOBODY, HOW I LIVE NOW, and AMERICAN HORROR STORY (COVEN) and come back.

Mr. Nobody

Like Inception and Cloud Atlas, this is a movie you’re gonna wanna watch twice. I knew from the trailer that it was trippy science fiction (a good thing). Even so I still had to resort to some post-viewing internet searches to get the red-yellow-blue thing. But once I did, I thought it was a brilliant visual way of reinforcing Nemo’s various life choices/paths. The story is about a man named Nemo Nobody who is 118 years old when the movie starts. He is the last mortal man in a futuristic society that has learned how to achieve immortality through stem cell compatible pigs (that part sounds absurd, but the movie isn’t, and the filmmakers treat the concept as absurdly as it sounds… perhaps a commentary on the futility and absurdity of man’s constant search for immortality?).

In any case, Nemo is being interviewed on his deathbed. A journalist has snuck into his room and wants to hear his life’s story. But his joy at snagging the scoop turns to confusion as Nemo weaves a story that is full of multiple inconsistencies and not a few earlier deaths. Nemo isn’t just musing about “what if” or “wish I woulda.” His constructs three different realities with alternate endings in each. Most of us tell our life’s story in chronological order. Not Nemo. His story is full of all the choices he made – and all the ones he didn’t. It’s pretty neat. (Although I found his “blue” life and wife hard to take, but she’s supposed to be that way. Great acting by Sarah Polley, btw. Who saw The Claim? That’s another good one to rent, although there’s not even a whiff of SFF in it).

All of the above aside, I’m not sure I agree with the ending premise: that all your life’s paths are just as worthy, equal, or meaningful. At the same time though, since we live in the real world (where smoke will not go back into the cigarette even if we live to be 118), I think it’s important not to regret past choices or wonder too much about paths not taken.

Interested in reading more about Mr. Nobody?

How I Live Now

Fifteen year old Elizabeth a.k.a. “Daisy” – a troubled teen who hears voices and has a constant need to wash her hands – arrives from the U.S. to spend a summer with cousins on a remote farm in the English countryside. A nuclear bomb is dropped on London. WWIII breaks out. Martial law is declared. And then… bad stuff happens. The kind of stuff you can imagine. And then are glad that you’re only imagining it, not remembering it.

The movie opens with scenes of idyllic summer days (you know their only purpose is to sharply contrast with whatever’s coming next) and scenes from an idyllic summer love (the fact that the young lovers are cousins is glossed over and, in light of the film’s true horrors, I had no trouble forgetting about that too).

Saoirse Ronan plays Daisy and she is terrific, as always. I wanted to know more about Daisy’s character. Why did she hear voices before the war even started? Why was she always washing her hands? There was other evidence of mental and/or emotional vulnerability (medication, a vague reference to a possible eating disorder) but the underlying cause was never explained. Were all of Daisy’s pre-war problems just due to the fact that her dad ignored her? Maybe the character was more fully fleshed out in the novel. Or maybe it doesn’t matter. The message of the film was survival and forward motion, not looking back.

Regardless of the cause of Daisy’s initial troubles, the one bright spot of the film was watching her transform from a prickly, obsessive, anti-social teen into someone with close family relationships, the competence to plan and execute a cross-country trek back home through land pock-marked with enemies and other dangers, and the will not just to survive but to make sure those she cares about do too.

Above all, How I Live Now is a film that makes you appreciate life. All of it. The big stuff. Family. A safe place. A sense of self. And the small stuff. Gardens. Sunshine. Clean water.

American Horror Show (Coven)

Even though I’m a speculative fiction fan, I don’t read or watch a lot of horror. But I love certain aspects of it: dark, macabre storylines, monsters, usually a twist or two, and sometimes, humor. I think I first heard about this show in Entertainment Weekly and the premise intrigued me: a New Orleans boarding school for non-conformists who also happen to be witches. In the first episode, a witch accidentally kills her boyfriend – by her act of passion, not in an act of passion – and another is burned at the stake (she comes back to life in E2). The show never looked back. Each episode just got more and more outlandish, which is what makes it so entertaining.

Ordinarily, by now, I would be wondering how the creators could possibly sustain the dramatic trajectory they’ve put themselves on, but that brings me to the other reason I got hooked on the show: its unique anthology format. Each season is a standalone story, with its own story arc – a promised beginning, middle, and end – all in one season. Each season stars many of the same cast members: Jessica Lange, Taissa Farmiga, Evan Peters… As well as some who are there only for that season: Kathy Bates, Angela Bassett, Emma Roberts, Zachary Quinto… So, of course, I had to go back and start watching season 1 (Murder House) in between episodes of S3. Be forewarned, however, this is not a show for the meek. (Fans of True Blood or Game of Thrones, you’ll be fine. 😀 ).

What about you? Have you seen Mr. Nobody, How I Live Now, or American Horror Story (Coven)? What do YOU think? Hope everyone’s having a great week!

Book Review: Larissa Ione’s Rogue Rider

‘Morning, all! I said I’d try and post more book reviews. Here’s one from one of my online buds: fellow writer, Celia Breslin. She reviewed Larissa Ione’s Rogue Rider, which sounds fantastic. If you would like to post a book review here, please contact me. Welcome, Celia & Happy Friday, everyone!

Rogue Rider Larissa Ione
Larissa Ione’s Rogue Rider
Book 4 in the Lords of Deliverance series

Hi Everyone! Nice to pay another visit to Jill’s blog!

Today, Jill is allowing me to go all Fan Girl over author Larissa Ione. She was a 2013 RITA award finalist in the paranormal romance category for her novel, Rogue Rider, the fourth book in her awesome Lords of Deliverance series.

SERIES SET-UP

The series centers around three horsemen and one horsewoman of the Apocalypse and the two prophecies that govern their actions. One prophecy predicts they’ll fight for Team Good while the other maintains they’ll fight for Team Evil if their Seals break. Well, guess what? Reseph’s Seal breaks and he spends the first three books in the series on a completely riveting rampage for Team Evil.

ROGUE RIDER STARS

Reseph, aka Pestilence is our hero in Rogue Rider. Stabbed and presumed dead at the opening of this fourth book, we find Reseph in Hell, suffering from the knowledge of the horrors he committed as Pestilence. But someone (sorry, no spoilers here) sets him free back in the human world with his memory stripped. With a real tabula rasa, Reseph has a chance to start over. Until he remembers…

Former air traffic controller and demon-attack survivor Jillian finds Reseph unconscious and naked in a snowdrift in the dead of winter on her property in Colorado. She takes pity on him and drags him home (literally). Reseph awakens with amnesia and Jillian wonders what on earth she should do with the most gorgeous man on the planet who knows nothing but his name?

The answer is, of course, fall in love. And deal with the fall-out when Reseph gets his memory back.

PTSD, HORSEMAN STYLE

Ione does a masterful job painting Reseph as the tortured hero. When Reseph’s switch was set to Evil and Pestilence ruled him, he committed some jaw-dropping atrocities. My mind went “he’s not going to…no, way…he just didn’t…oh yes, he did. OMG…” So you can imagine how Reseph feels when he gets his memory back and has to deal with his past actions, and face everyone that he wronged, including his brothers and sister. His post-traumatic stress – both physical and mental – broke my heart and kept me rooting for his HEA.

REDEMPTION ROAD

Reseph’s journey to redemption is a rocky one. And Ione crafts his struggle so well that I felt every iota of his agony as he tried to forgive himself, and then sympathized with him while watching his family struggle to forgive him, too.

But, as much as the story is about righting wrongs and forgiving oneself and others, it’s also about the healing power of love. Can two damaged people overcome their respective pasts and trust enough to find happiness together?

Yes, they can.

THE BRIGHT SIDE

Okay, enough about the torture. Let’s talk about The Happy. 🙂

Jillian is smart, independent, wary, loving, and brave. Her selfless acts in the story got me all misty-eyed (again, sorry, no spoilers here).

Reseph is funny, says whatever is on his mind (seriously, the man has no filters), protective, powerful, thoughtful, and off-the-charts gorgeous. He’s also freakin’ enormous yet emotionally vulnerable. Ultimately, it’s his vulnerability and his intense drive to make things right that make you root for him and for his HEA with Jillian.

Reseph and Jillian have great chemistry and share many intimate moments both sweet and sexy. The story also provides well-crafted action scenes. And true to Ione’s style, the narrative is dotted with humorous bits and the right amount of snark that had me smilin’ and/or laughin’ out loud.

For example:

“He’s mine,” Thanatos roared.

“Wraith’s gonna be pissed!” Kynan shouted… “He ordered Lance for dinner.”

Thanatos flashed a set of wicked fangs…. “I’ll take him a doggie bag of leftovers.”

So, yes, dear readers, there is brightness. 🙂

THE LORDS OF DELIVERANCE

Rogue Rider is a must-read for series fans. For new readers in the audience, I recommend starting with the other three books in order. You’ll witness first-hand just how horrible Pestilence is and it will add to your awe and amazement over Reseph’s path to redemption in this fourth book.

SERIES READING ORDER

Eternal Rider – Ares
Immortal Rider – Limos
Lethal Rider – Thanatos
Rogue Rider  – Reseph

ABOUT CELIA

Celia lives in California with her husband, daughter, and two feisty cats. She writes urban fantasy and paranormal romance, and has a particular fondness for vampires and the Fae. When not writing, you’ll find her exercising, reading a good book or indulging her addiction to Joss Whedon’s TV shows and movies. Her debut novel HAVEN, an urban fantasy romance, is available now on Amazon, AllRomance, and more.

Web site: http://www.celiabreslin.com/
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/celiabreslin
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CeliaBreslinAuthor
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/CeliaBreslin

Thanks for guest blogging today, Celia, and for sharing your thoughts on Larissa’s fourth Lords of Deliverance novel.

Are you a fan of Larissa Ione? Have you read the Lords of Deliverance series? If so, what’s your favorite of the four?

Speaking of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, did anyone see the new Sleepy Hollow premiere on Fox this week? Thoughts? It’s a very cool premise, but time will tell if the show keeps me engaged. In the meantime, back to books! Cheers and happy reading over the weekend, all!

What to Read & Watch: 3 Fantasy Books and 2 Science Fiction Movies

Today, a few thoughts on the books I’ve been reading and the movies I’ve been watching, and then Thursday 8/15/13 Suzanne Johnson is guest blogging about her latest release in her “Sentinels of New Orleans Series” – ELYSIAN FIELDS. There will be chances to win some GREAT PRIZES (including an iPad 2!) so be sure to stop by again tomorrow.

Assassin’s Gambit

(Fantasy Romance)

I found this title because Amy and I connected online and the story intrigued me. (Click here for her guest post on “Brainy Heroes”). The plot was almost equally divided between the romance between Vitala (a Caturanga champion and deadly assassin) and Lucien (a charismatic amputee emperor) and a coup d’état and the war that follows. Vitala and Lucien were unique and memorable and their path to happiness full of enough bumps and hurdles to keep me turning the pages. The secondary characters were interesting too (loved Flavia!). The second book in the series focuses on the romance between Rhianne (Lucien’s cousin, a mind mage) and Jan-Torres (a foreign prince). I can’t help wondering if Celeste (Lucien’s sister) or Ista (another assassin) will get their HEA’s in future books. Amy will have to let us know! 🙂

Generation V

(Urban Fantasy)

I found this book because I read Brennan’s post during the Supernatural Smack Down event that my character Noon Onyx participated in. The voice of her character, Fortitude Scott, immediately captured my attention (click here for Fort’s Smack Down post) and made me laugh and I thought, “I just have to read this.” Brennan’s writing style is terrific and her vampires feel fresh and new (even though most of them are ancient). Half the reason I was turning the pages in the beginning was to learn more about the character and the world he lived in. He made me laugh, he made me feel sorry for him, and he made me root for him. There are some dark parts to the story, but urban fantasy readers are prepared for dark. Those parts of the story are well-balanced by the humor. I loved Suzume, the trickster kitsune who is Fort’s body-guard, life coach, and partner in crime. The ending nicely wrapped up loose ends while leaving plenty of room for Fort to grow and take on new challenges. I’m definitely looking forward to the second book, Iron Night!

House Of Shadows

(Fantasy)

I already posted a bit about this already. Just wanted to say I finished it and adored it. I’ll be looking for more of Rachel Neumeier’s books in the future. I read in the extras at the back of the book that she started this book three different ways (with the three main characters) and then decided to make up a plot that tied everything together. Fascinating. Each of the characters were very well-rounded and developed so her method made sense in hindsight. There was also a bit of sweet romance, but the twin stars of this story were the magic and the world itself.

Oblivion

I have to admit that Tom Cruise is not automatically box office gold for me anymore. That said, this role reminded me again that he’s a great actor, equally able to play an action hero and show a lot of soul. In terms of the depth of emotion the character shows, this role reminded me more of Vanilla Sky or Jerry Maguire than Mission Impossible or Minority Report. Nothing about the plot was mind-blowing (i.e. like The Matrix or Inception were the first time I saw them), but it absolutely held my attention. The visuals were stunning. Since this movie is so easy to spoil (and very worth watching!) I’ll just say that it’s set in a post-apocalyptic earth wasteland. Cruise plays a droid technician who’s living a lonely existence with his partner, Vika, when he discovers a human survivor in the wreckage of a recent spaceship crash – a beautiful woman whom he recognizes from his dreams or memories. The story that follows is just trippy enough to be interesting and just a hair’s breadth shy of sappy sentimentalism, all set against a very slick futuristic backdrop. In other words: I loved it!

Never Let Me Go

The most un-science fiction science fiction movie I’ve ever seen. The least creepy beyond-creepy movie I’ve ever seen. This movie is about as far from a movie like Aliens as you can get. There are no monsters jumping out at you, but that doesn’t mean the movie doesn’t have them. But, oh, are they hidden. And besides, the story isn’t about the monsters. It’s about their victims. But by phrasing my thoughts this way, I’m probably giving you a misimpression. This is not a scary movie. It’s a horrifying movie. And there is a difference. I can’t say I loved it. It was too sad and depressing for that. But it did make me think and it was incredibly well done. If you like science fiction movies that are slow and reflective, this is one to rent.

So what is it about? Since I don’t want to ruin your sense of discovery if you watch it, I’ll just say that it’s about a group of children at a boarding school who learn that they aren’t exactly who they always thought they were. More specifically, the story tracks the lives of three of the kids caught in a love triangle. But it isn’t a typical angsty contemporary high school romance drama. The movie was based on Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel of the same name. Ishiguro clearly deals in topics no less weighty than the nature of humanity, the existence of souls, and the ethics of some practices that are still speculative but only all too imaginable.

Noon Onyx Series

White Heart of Justice

We just finished the back cover copy – yay! Will be posting that once I have the new cover. I’ll be offering some fun prizes during that event as well so stay tuned…

How about you? Have you read Assassin’s Gambit, Generation V, or House of Shadows? Have you seen Oblivion or Never Let Me Go? Did you read that book? If so, feel free to share your thoughts and don’t forget to stop by tomorrow for Suzanne Johnson’s post (and a chance to win an iPad 2)!

Everything but the… (fav flav of Ben & Jerry’s… and all sorts of Other Stuff)

Another chance to win FIERY EDGE OF STEEL + a few brief thoughts on the movie DANGEROUS BEAUTY, Rachel Neumeier’s HOUSE OF SHADOWS, HBO’s THE NEWSROOM, winner of the Bewitching Book Tours Sizzling Summer Giveaway event, and a release day for WHITE HEART OF JUSTICE!

The online California magazine, Kings River Life, has a sister site, Kings River Lite, which primarily publishes fantasy book reviews. They recently sent me a link to their review of FIERY EDGE OF STEEL, which I enjoyed reading. The magazine is generously giving away a copy of Fiery Edge of Steel (US only). Drop by their site and comment or send them an e-mail for a chance to win. (If you’ve already read or purchased Fiery Edge of Steel, but know someone who hasn’t who may like it, send them the link! 😀 )

I watched Dangerous Beauty a few nights ago. (Catherine McCormack, Rufus Sewell, Oliver Platt, Naomi Watts, Moira Kelly, Jacqueline Bisset). Has anyone else seen this movie? It’s older — from 1998 — but it’s a favorite of mine. It’s based on the 1992 biographical book The Honest Courtesan by Margaret Rosenthal, which is the story of Veronica Franco, a Venetian courtesan. I don’t know how closely the movie followed the book or how closely either followed the real world inspiration. What I do know is that I love watching how Veronica’s character grows and develops over the course of the movie.

In the beginning, Veronica’s not quite completely naïve, but she’s young and inexperienced enough to be hopeful about an unrealistic love match. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that she then becomes a successful courtesan. I thought the movie did a good job of showing (in the world the story was set in) how education both elevated and devalued a woman. By the near end, Veronica has survived abandonment, the plague, and the death of a loved one when she is summoned to appear before the Inquisition on charges of witchcraft. She defends herself with a poignant and touching speech on the nature of love and beauty. My favorite scene? When Veronica and Oliver Platt’s character square off in a battle of wit and swords.

First off, HBO’s promo poster. It makes you think they’re covering the news in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. What does “Together they stand alone” even mean? Is it me? Am I biased? Am I seeing post-apocalyptic elements even where they don’t actually exist? Ahem, perhaps. But unintended post-apocalyptic visual elements and misleading taglines aside, I’ve been enjoying the show. I’ve seen three episodes now. I was ready to quit after some of the more cringe-worthy parts of episode two but a trusted source (i.e. a close family member with viewing tastes that often align with mine) said I should stick with it. And there is something compelling about the show. The dialog is fast — as in Gilmore Girls fast. But instead of pop culture references, it’s news and “current” events that fuel the stories. The fact that the fictional news show covers real events that happened only a few years ago is an interesting aspect. I think some journalists have criticized the show for being unrealistic. Maybe. I couldn’t say because I’ve never been a journalist. But I never criticized Ally McBeal for not being realistic. It wasn’t written to be realistic. Similarly, I doubt Aaron Sorkin means The Newsroom to be spot-on realistic. I think he just means it to be entertaining. Are you watching The Newsroom? What do you think?

I’ve also been reading Rachel Neumeier’s HOUSE OF SHADOWS. This was a book I found the old-fashioned way — by browsing in a bookstore. The front cover caught my eye and the back cover copy made the story sound intriguing. So I bought it and then did not have time to start reading it until just a few days ago. I really like Neumeier’s voice. Slipping into the world she created felt effortless. There was no nail-biting tension, just hints of danger… like whispers or ocean waves, which seemed to fit her story and her setting very well. I’m now caught up in each of the storylines and am looking forward to learning more about Kalchesene bardic sorcery, the mages of Lonne, and what might be in store for each of the characters and how their lives might become further entwined. How about you? Have you read HOUSE OF SHADOWS or any of Neumeier’s other books?

Release Day Set for

White Heart of Justice (Noon Onyx #3)

I now have a release day for WHITE HEART OF JUSTICE — May 27, 2014. No pre-order links or cover yet, but it’s on Goodreads. Click here if you’d like to add it to your TBR list. Obviously, that’s a long time from now… so I’ll try to keep everyone updated on other things I’ll be working on in the meantime. 😀

My final news for today is letting everyone know that Samantha M. won the copies of DARK LIGHT OF DAY and FIERY EDGE OF STEEL that I was giving away for the Bewitching Book Tours Sizzling Summer Giveaway. I hope everyone had fun participating in the event. I know I did!

Hope everyone is eating lots of ice cream this summer, especially chocolate and vanilla mixed with peanut butter cups, Heath bar chunks, white chocolate chunks, and fudge covered almonds! 😉

3 Unconventional Heroines for Your Un-Princesses (and Misc. Updates)

These have all been out for a while, but I thought I’d share three of my family’s favorite picture books with you. GREAT FOR ALL AGES, BUT ESPECIALLY FOR YOUNG UN-PRINCESSES! Each of these stories also has some great character inspirations for last-minute Halloween costumes!

Cinderella Skeleton

Let us know if you decide to dress up as Cinderella Skeleton, Prince Charnel, or stepsisters Gristlene and Bony-Jane!

Why we love Cinderella Skeleton: Why?! Well because she’s “everything a ghoul should be” of course! 😀 Don’t take my word for it. Here’s a few more wonderful lines from author Robert D. San Souci:

Her build was long and lean and lank;
Her dankish hair hung down in hanks;
Her nails were yellow; her teeth were green—
The ghastliest haunt you've ever seen.
Foulest in the land was she.

Bonus: David Catrow’s gorgeous pictures! It’s a wonderfully macabre, colorfully detailed reinterpretation of the Cinderella story.

Violet the Pilot

Let us know if you or your daughter dresses up as Violet the Pilot (or her dog Orville!)

Why we love Violet: What’s not to like about a girl who reads Popular Science, has a dog named “Orville” and who rescues a bunch of Boy Scouts?

Bonus: Getting to see all of Violet’s various flying contraptions. Among them: the Tub-bubbler, the Pogo Plane, and the Wing-a-ma-jig.  Violet’s inventive and inspiring!

The Paper Bag Princess

Do a Google Images search for “Paper Bag Princess” and you’ll see lots of other neat costumes that people have made based on this character.

Why we love the Elizabeth: Sure, Elizabeth’s beautiful, has “expensive princess clothes” and is going to marry a prince, but fairly early on she loses most of what she holds dear. Her new best friend is the titular paper bag and we get to see that Elizabeth is as beautifully strong as her new dress is not.

Bonus: Elizabeth’s last lines to Prince Ronald (oft-quoted in our house).

Have you read any of these books? If so, which is your favorite?

Book Signing Update

This Saturday I’m doing my last in-person event for Dark Light of Day. I’m signing books at a multi-author event featuring Nora Roberts, who is signing the third book in the InnBoonsBoro Trilogy, The Perfect Hope. The book signing is in Boonsboro, Maryland at Turn the Page bookstore from 12:00-2:00. For more information (including a list of the other authors who are attending), please click here. If you live in the area, I’d love to see you there!

Blog Tour Update

Yesterday, I was at Laurie’s Paranormal Thoughts and Reviews. Laurie interviewed me and I shared what my family thinks of Dark Light of Day, whether my husband reads my work or not, and how I’ve responded to negative and mixed reviews. If you have a chance, stop by!

Carving Pumpkins Update

Carving pumpkins; Halloween
This pattern reminded me of the Sleepy Hollow tree…

Halloween pumpkin

Carved pumpkins
Every year my cat (under the table) tells me he wants to go as Jiji, the black cat from Kiki’s Delivery Service. Unfortunately, he’s an indoor cat.

Are you carving pumpkins this year? What will your pumpkins look like?

Frankenstorm / Superstorm Sandy Update

Superstorm Sandy
Pre-Sandy: I told them umbrellas would turn inside out. They improvised. 🙂

Gusts of nearly 50 mph. Lost power for a while and though there was a swarm of no less than a dozen BGE trucks outside our house at one point, we were up and running yesterday having lost nothing more than a window screen. Today, school is cancelled for the third day, we are in a “brownout” with limited power and have no internet. (I’m posting this using a cellular hotspot). How is everyone else? I hope everyone is safe and that you suffered minimal flooding and wind damage. My thoughts are with everyone in NYC, New Jersey, and elsewhere where the impact was much worse than it was here. Gotta put in a pitch to donate to the Red Cross or your favorite disaster relief charity if you haven’t already!

Best wishes for Halloween! Here’s to hoping that Mother Nature will be much kinder to us for Thanksgiving.

Review: Neil Gaiman’s Audio Collection & Odd and the Frost Giants

The Neil Gaiman Audio Collection

Recently, I had a chance to listen to a collection of short stories by Neil Gaiman, admirably performed by the author himself. The collection included:

  • The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish
  • The Wolves in the Walls
  • Cinnamon
  • Crazy Hair

THE WOLVES IN THE WALLS is sure to become a new favorite in my family. My youngest, age 8, has already requested repeat performances. It’s easy to imagine why Lucy, the plucky heroine of Wolves, struck my daughter’s fancy. She’s got an ear for danger, crawls through walls, and doesn’t take kindly to carnivores in her kitchen.

Our second favorite was THE DAY I SWAPPED MY DAD FOR TWO GOLDFISH.  The title and its opening lines had me immediately thinking of Dr. Seuss’ THE CAT IN THE HAT. But the young protagonist of Goldfish needs no tall hated feline accomplice to create his own brand of trouble. If this kid and the Duck from Doreen Cronin’s CLICK, CLACK, MOO, COWS THAT TYPE ever get together — Look Out!

The CD also includes an interview with Gaiman, which I particularly enjoyed. The interviewer was none other than Gaiman’s unbelievably adorably voiced daughter, Maddy, who asked her dad great questions such as “Why did you want to write for kids as well as adults?” and “What’s your favorite story?” We get to hear Gaiman’s answers, which include all kinds of neat extras, like the fact that Gaiman briefly considered being an astronaut and a rock-n-roll star before settling on writing 😉 and what it’s like to work with his illustrator, Dave McKean. This brief interview was, for me, the gem of the CD. The rapport between the father and daughter duo was cute and the fact that the interviewer was not only a kid herself but also his daughter gave the interview added interest and meaning for both me and my kids. My daughters thought Maddy was almost as cool as her dad.

Odd and the Frost Giants

With its references to vikings, fjords, longships, and sea raids, the beginning of this story felt like the wonderful HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON, although Gaiman wrote this story well before Dreamworks’ 2010 movie. Instead of dragons, Gaiman’s tale incorporates other mythical and magical creatures — Norse gods and giants.

Odd, the main character, has a lucky name but an unlucky background. After his wood-cutter father was killed at sea, Odd took his dad’s best ax out into the forest and tried to chop down a tree. His leg was crushed in the accident that followed and now he’s crippled and walks with a wooden crutch. It makes walking through snow and ice, and up and down mountains, challenging.

The story opens during one particularly cold and long winter, one that simply will not end. Odd’s fellow villagers are getting restless — and mean. Odd knows something must be done. So he sets out one morning in late March with a side of smoked salmon, a glowing ember, and an ax, and heads for his father’s old wood cutting hut.

During his travels, he meets a fox, a bear, and an eagle. They are more than they appear though and, through them, Odd will be given the chance to battle giants, save a city, and — if he can harness some of the luck his name should have given him — restore peace and usher in the spring.

I very much enjoyed ODD AND THE FROST GIANTS. Gaiman is an excellent audio performer, Odd is a sympathetic character, and the story unfolded at a nice, unhurried pace. Perfect for a 90 minute car ride.

So, how about you? Are you a Neil Gaiman fan? Do you read his adult stuff, kid stuff, or both? What’s your favorite story of his? Do you listen to audio books? Have any recommendations?

Review: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

The Scorpio Races Teens Ride For Their Lives

Everything about this book was appealing from the get go: a good friend of mine who is heavily into YA had recommended it, it’s written by Maggie Stiefvater (author of SHIVER, which I thought was wonderful), and it had an immediately interesting premise. The story is about a deadly water horse race.

What’s a water horse?

A mythical, terrifying water beast whose closest relative on land is the horse, but which it has about as much in common with as alligators do salamanders. Apparently there are several versions of this creature in various cultures, including the Scottish kelpie. Stiefvater used the differing legends as inspiration but created a magical water steed that was all her own, the capall uisce, for her fearless teens to ride.

The Race

I’ve mentioned before how much I loved Laura Hillenbrand’s SEABISCUIT. What’s not to like about a story of a scrappy rider and a tenacious horse? Well, the horses in the Scorpio Races could eat Seabiscuit alive, so, of course, anticipating what will happen in the race is mighty exhilarating. And Stiefvater immediately establishes tension regarding the race in the book’s very first sentence: “It is the first day of November and so, today, someone will die.” She tells you immediately there will be blood. It’s only a matter of how much and whose it is.

The Romance

The book jacket describes a nineteen year old returning champion, a man of few words and few fears. Fate forces the other protagonist (a fierce, yet sentimental girl) into the races. She’s the only girl to ever enter. The young couple’s budding romance makes race questions such as Who will win? and Who will die? even more compelling than they might otherwise be.

Stiefvater’s Use of Magic

One of the things I enjoyed the most about the book was how seamlessly Stiefvater wove magic into her story. The fantasy elements were subtle. The story had a magical realism feel to it, as if these equine monsters might actually exist in our world. Consider these two sentences from the prologue: “Men hang the bridles with red tassels and daisies to lessen the danger of the dark November sea, but I wouldn’t trust a handful of petals to save my life. Last year a water horse trailing flowers and bells tore a man’s arm half from his body.”

Young Adult

There’s been a lot said lately about the YA genre. With headlining authors such as J.K. Rowling, Stephenie Meyer, and Suzanne Collins creating characters that turn non-readers into readers and readers into rabid fans, it’s no wonder the genre’s been getting so much attention. And, inevitably, with increased attention, comes increased criticism. Two complaints you often hear about YA is that the stories are too violent for the target audience and the plots are all variations on the same theme. Maybe. But so were the tales of Charles Perrault and the Brothers Grimm and no one argues about their contributions to the literary world. It’s okay not to like these stories, but it’s foolish to discount their impact. For my part, I’m simply going to enjoy. The dozen or so young adult novels I’ve read lately have been incredibly well written, including this latest by the talented Stiefvater.

How about you? Read any good YA books lately? Have you read THE SCORPIO RACES or any other books by Maggie Stiefvater? Do you like magical realism or stories inspired by real world legends and myths?

Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

During one rainy day this past summer, I spent a very pleasant afternoon perusing and purchasing hardbacks (a luxury for me!) from Atlantic Books in Stone Harbor, NJ. One of them was MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN by Ransom Riggs. I had read a review in Entertainment Weekly about it weeks before and the whole concept had piqued my interest.

An author who combined creepy vintage photography with a novel? I was IN!

I bought about a dozen or so books that day and PECULIAR CHILDREN was the first one I read. Why? The pictures, of course. They drew me in as much as the story itself. Who can resist bizarre black and white photographs of the strange and macabre? Not even my kids could, who at 7 and 9, were sneaking peaks when I wasn’t reading it.

So what is PECULIAR CHILDREN about anyway?

To say that the book is about peculiar children would be a bit disingenuous, but there you have it in a nutshell. But the story is so much more. Since it recently came out and I’m not into providing spoilers, I’ll just say that the book is about a boy, Jacob, who suffers (and witnesses) a terrible family tragedy. This tragedy sparks a search for information and that search leads Jacob to some very strange and peculiar places. Places well worth visiting as a reader.

Jacob ends up making contact with a girl, Emma, who has a special relationship with fire. Whether this girl is real or imaginary, human or supernatural, dead or alive, etc. I leave to you to find out. Telling you about her, in and of itself, is no spoiler — her picture is on the title page, before the Prologue even begins.

I thoroughly enjoyed PECULIAR CHILDREN. It’s full of all kinds of story elements I adore:

  • The strange and the creepy
  • Boarding schools
  • Carnival references
  • Reality versus illusion
  • Romance
  • Horror
  • Quirk (what else would one expect from Quirk Books out of Philadelphia, the folks who brought you PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES?)

Regarding the photographs, I thought it was brilliant how Riggs almost seamlessly wove them into his story. He says in a note at the end that all of the pictures are authentic and, with the exception of a few that had “minimal post-processing” were unaltered. Fascinating. The book would have been good without them but the visual elements certainly added to the experience. Equally impressive was how Riggs worked in other real life details (references to Jeffrey Dahmer, the 1908 Siberian explosion, and WWII’s holocaust).

PECULIAR CHILDREN is also a good work to study. There’s all kinds of things that can be learned from it but two things, in particular, that struck me were his use of motif (birds — see what I have to say about motifs under my “For Writers” page) and his exceptionally well written descriptive prose. Consider the following two sentences:

“What stood before me now was no refuge from monsters but a monster itself, staring down from its perch on the hill with vacant hunger. Trees burst forth from broken windows and skins of scabrous vine gnawed at the walls like antibodies attacking a virus — as if nature itself had waged war against it — but the house seemed unkillable, resolutely upright despite the wrongness of its angels and the jagged teeth of sky visible through sections of collapsed roof.”

I don’t know about you, but I just had to get inside that house and see what was there.

How about you? Have you read PECULIAR CHILDREN? How do you feel about combining story mediums? Are there any other books you’ve read that allow readers to interact with the story world through more than just words?