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Review: Curse on the Land, by Faith Hunter

Curse on the Land is all about soul: the souls who are lost, the ones who save themselves, the ones in conflict, the alien nature of the soul, and the soul of the land.  It’s the common thread that ties the elements of the second installment in the Soulwood series by Faith Hunter together.

Hunter doesn’t bash you over the head with it… it’s a theme that weaves itself gently throughout the storyline, much as ivy will work its way from its roots and weave itself into a pattern over anything it grabs.  Its subtlety is part of what makes it so lovely.

At the core of this story is the emergence of the protagonist Nell Ingram into mainstream society… but she does it in a truly roundabout way.  Her induction into this world is ushered in through her involvement with PsyLED (a magical law enforcement agency) and recent graduation from Spook School.  It’s a highly exclusive club whose members are anything but average.

Just as Nell is anything but average.  Here’s a sample of the goodies:curseontheland

“T. Laine?” I said again. She took another step. And another. I called her name, louder. When she didn’t turn, training took over. I rushed her. Dropped. Tackled her at the hips. One hand ripping the gun away from her. And to my feet.
She came up swearing, fists swinging, and she shouted,. “What the holy hell do you think you’re doing? Gimme me my gun!”
I held the weapon at her, centered on her chest.
T. Laine’s face underwent a series of changes. “What the holy hell. Nell?”
“Are you back in your right mind?”
“Huh?”
“Who is president of the US? Who is the leader of Unit Eighteen?”
She answered both questions, her expression shifting from anger to bewilderment. “What happened?”
I lowered the weapon. Uncurled my finger from the trigger and placed it along the slide. Dropped my shoulders, which had hunched up at the stress of watching T. Laine fall under some weird kind of compulsion.

She doesn’t even rate “average” among those whose standards include tails, magic slinging and mind reading abilities.  Nell is a square peg in a set of ovals.  But this isn’t to say that Nell’s a superstar.  She’s delightfully awkward, flawed, naive and child-like, despite her depths.

She’s a fascinating heroine, one who’s admirable in both her strengths and her weaknesses.  If you’re going to fall in love with a character (as have I), she’s a magificent example of a strong female who’s believable, likable and compelling… and for a paranormal book that’s saying something.

Bonus for word junkies — the prose in this book can be absolutely haunting:

I was met with a feeling of warmth, of welcome, as if the land was awake now and waiting for me.  As if it had expanded, unfolded, yawned and reached out to welcome me.

Just gorgeous. This is what happens when an author knows how to build emotion through the careful use of sentence structure and word choice.  That’s art.

Do yourself a favor and check out this novel.  It’s the shot in the literary arm paranormal fiction needs.

I received Curse on the Land as an ARC but I’m buying it on audio since I love the performances of Khristine Hvam, and especially loved her delivery on the first Soulwood novel, “Blood of the Earth” (you can find it at Audible here).

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Review: Anne Bishop’s “Vision in Silver” Shines

There’s nothing ho-hum about the characters, the world in which they live, or the premise of this book. Of the three books in the series to date, I enjoyed Vision in Silver the most. Here, you see how the progressive social project initiated by the Courtyard has long-reaching effects on humans (“a two-legged kudzu”) and others (Named’s creAnneBishopVision in Silverations) alike, and encounter the first results of the conflicts between them when it goes very wrong elsewhere.

I cannot say that there’s another series in the urban fantasy genre that’s remotely like this one.  That, in a genre that sometimes borders on — dare I say it? — dull, trite and cliché, owing to everyone and her third cousin dipping a toe into the supernatural pool, is a rare treat.

This isn’t a cop-out, but there hasn’t been another book outside the series that leaps to mind that has a similar premise. This is good, but it makes comparisons difficult. If you’re looking for a human-supernatural bodice ripper, this isn’t it. It’s also not a human-versus supernatural element the way the genre usually presents it; in this series, humans are the “clever meat” — how the dominant species (the Others) describes them.

Some scenes stood out and made me a bit teary-eyed.  It happens, but not as often as it should.  I became downright sniffly as I read scenes where human children and young Terra Indigene (earth natives that are the equivalent of supernatural shape shifters) interact… absolutely adorable.

I want to play with wolf puppies now.

Other notable moments:  “Words can be a weapon as devastating as a gun”
— this quote from the book applies to a number of situations in the book, a few of which made me a little angry. As for scenes that made my heart ache, the struggles of the relocated cassandra sangue endure qualify. To give further details would spoil a truly entertaining and engaging read.

I’ll tell you this: I enjoyed this series so much, I introduced my 70-year old mother to it. She enjoys it so much, she ordered her own shelf copies of the books, and has shared them with her friends. They loved them.

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Robin Hobb Has Outdone Herself:

I’m absolutely thunderstruck. I’ve been completely spellbound from the moment the words began spilling over to me. From the very first page, Fool’s Quest completely took me in, and, despite the fact that I’m a huge fan and I’ve read the entire
series with voracious abandon, this is in every sense, the best of the entire series to date.

First of all, yRobin Hobb Fools Questou should know that it will pull new readers back to events from earlier novels. If it seems a lot, it’s because the Farseer books and their companion series, while connected, are distinct in their stand-alone ability. They are incredibly rich and worth the time to explore on their own. Yes, you can still follow along through the masterful retelling of those events throughout the story arc… but having read the others, you will find yourself rewarded with an honestly amazing read.

I have cried twice already, damn it.

This series takes the best of it all and revisits Fitzchivalry Farseer at precisely the moment where the first book in the Fitz and the Fool series left off. This is our reward for being left gasping, “What on earth just happened?” at the conclusion of Fool’s Assassin.

You will barely have time to catch your breath.

It’s that good, and that incredible.

More than that, Hobb makes the transitions between the chapters incredible — those delicious, tantalizing “excerpts” from old ballads, letters, texts and observations from histories and characters both unknown and well-known to those who follow Hobb’s work. They are beautiful and quotable and they will leave you in delighted amazement. Hobb is a poet every bit as much as she is a spinner of epic fantasy, and her sense of humor and dramatic irony are an added bonus.

Her character building is among the best of any book series I’ve ever read… and I’ve read widely and continue to be amazed at the quality and breadth of writing she produces.

In terms of narration, it may be a bit of a jar initially if you’re used to the different narrators between the series. However, Elliot Hill delivers fantastically. He seems to flawlessly transition between characters — both human and non-human — and has a depth of storytelling ability that truly enhances an already wonderful book.

If you have credits to use, do not hesitate to use them on this book. My only regret is that, once I’ve devoured it, I have to soldier through the long wait until the third book’s release!

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Jim Butcher’s “Aeronaut’s Windlass” — Review, and The Shaking of Fists

Wow. Just… wow.  I received an ARC of The Aeronaut’s Windlass from the publisher and I’m still reeling from the effect this book has had on me.

Let me first note that I’m a huge Butcher fan. As much as I love the Dresden Files books, and the Codex Alera books even moreso, I initially balked at the news of the Cinder Spires project. Why? I resented any distractions that might redirect his efforts elsewhere. And, steampunk? Was it really necessary for Jim Butcher to go that route? No, I said. Absolutely not interested, I said.

How stupid of me. I should have known better.jim-butcher-aeronauts-windlass

Let’s forget it’s Jim Butcher we’re talking about here. Forget that The Cinder Spires series is not The Dresden Files or Codex Alera. It does not matter one damn bit. The book is amazing. The characters are compelling (I’ve a hard time trying to choose a favorite — how he managed to develop so many imaginative and varied characters in a single book blows me away — some of them aren’t even human; then again, this shouldn’t surprise me, considering how fond I am of some of his other non-human characters). Admittedly, I cringed a bit at the first few pages, and then forgot why, because I got sucked into this wonderful adventure against my will.

It’s so, so good. And I really did not expect it to be, and part of me didn’t want it to be.

It’s not fair, and it’s not right. Now I have to wait for him to write sequels to TWO COMPLETELY DISTINCT BOOK SERIES, and there are only so many hours in the day. I almost don’t care, except that I really, really do, and I hate the fact that I’m dying to read the next installment (and THIS BOOK isn’t even due to be released for a few months yet, which means he probably hasn’t even started the next book!). Ugh. Just, not what I needed in my life, Mr. Butcher. So not right.

This book is what might happen if Joss Whedon handed Jim Butcher the reins and said, “Dude. The people want more. Pretend Firefly had a half-sibling. Now author a new book series and blow them away.”

Now stop imagining it. Buy the book.

Back to “wow”.  This book not only holds its own against the best in the genre, but it’s going to displace some of the heavy hitters on many a bookshelf. You will not regret one minute of all the sleepless hours you’ll spend devouring it.

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Books Become Her, Undo Her

We all have vices.  Some of us swear or smoke or do any one of dozens of things that would earn us time in one of Dante’s 9 levels of h-e-double-hockey sticks.  My weakness, the object of my greed and much longing, is books.

I don’t just mean to say I like to read.  I’m insanely protective about my books.  I hoard them.  I take them with me on vacation, keep them in the car, read before bedtime and keep them with me while I’m waiting in line to get the kids.

Ask me what I want for Christmas, I’ll tell you: money for books.  If I see you in possession of a book you aren’t handling properly, I’ll say something.  When I’m at a bookstore, I become testy if I find a book that’s been improperly shelved.  If someone interrupts my reading time, they had better have a darn good reason for doing so (such as an axe murderer breaking into our home or sinkhole opening up near my favorite reading spot).

I love the way books make me feel, the way I can lose myself in a good read that doesn’t happen with most movies I see.   I dream about the books I read and I dream that I’m reading books.

This post is about someone with an addiction — the substance is the written word.  I admit it — it’s the first step, but I have no interest in recovery.  I’ll indulge my thirst for books like the glutton I am until I run out of things to read… and then, I’ll start over.

We all have vices.  Some of us swear or smoke.

I read.

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Recommended Young Adult Fiction

Young adult fiction can be overwhelming if you’re trying to find quality books that are worth the time and money. If you’re interested in reading young adult fiction but don’t know where to start, are a homeschooler, or perhaps you have a teen reader and you want to find some good books to read during vacation, I’ve put together a list of books that are both well-written and highly regarded. Many of them have either won awards or been nominated, and all of them are worth reading. 

If you want to stay within your comfort zone, there’s plenty of young adult fiction that reflects, in style, structure and quality, most of what’s available in the adult fiction section of your favorite bookstore. I’ve listed a few below.

Nothing personal to those who love the books.  They just didn’t make the cut.

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More Than Just Vampires and Wizards: Why Young Adult Fiction is Worth Your Time and Money

I love books, and always have. I’m always eager to uncover an old — or new — book to devour, and, if it’s a worthy candidate, share with others who also have a passion for reading. Many of the books I consider classics aren’t titles you’d find in the adult fiction section at your friendly neighborhood (or even online) bookstore. I’m an avid reader in just about any genre, but I’m frustrated about the bias and lack of enthusiasm I still encounter for the books in young adult fiction. This isn’t to say that I don’t understand the sentiment.

There’s both fantastic writing and less-than-stellar writing in any genre, to be sure. Lately, however, I’m finding a wonderful depth, richness and quality in the Y.A. (young adult) literature. For readers who know their books, there’s plenty to love about titles in this category: they may be written and marketed to folks between 14 and 21, but the best of them transcend any silly marketing ploys or over-saturated plot lines.

While young adult fiction is still part of children’s fiction, it’s distinctly different in tone and subject matter, and not only because the protagonists are teens or young adults. They still have the basic novel structure and character development of most adult books, but they’re typically more concerned with the coming-of-age of their protagonists or the difficulties faced by someone who’s growing up. So what makes them different from an adult fiction book with similar themes?

Read more here.

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