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Archive for June, 2011

Fantasy Friday – Green

Friday, June 24th, 2011

Green by Jake Lake

Review by Bowden P (Trey)

 

After Mainspring I admit I wasn’t thinking too highly of Mr. Lake. Worse, he found the review of Mainspring. He did have the good taste and class to not engage in the blog comments about it though. And I have to say this: I wish I’d found Green first. Four and a half stars.

What’s the book about? It’s Green’s story from her first memories, to her training as a courtesan and an assassin. Her escape, return home and her struggles with herself and within. The blurb from the book does a good job of describing the basics, but leaves out many, many things. Some for fear of spoiling the plot, some because they can get very detailed.

The language Lake uses for Green lends to the unique feel of the book, formal but with many sensorial details. Sensuous and languid are two ways I could describe it. It isn’t “You are there!” type language, but I found he’d mastered the art of showing and not telling with Green. And while its languid, it doesn’t waste time. There are portions of the book that could be novels in their own right.

I liked it – partly because the plot against the Undying Duke that in most novels would take up the entire book is disposed of in rapid sequence. Another is that the after effects echo down through the years and are corrupting to the original plotters and impacting the lives of their agent, Green. I also liked the hints that it is the same world as Gene Wolfe‘s New Sun series (Lives of the Seventeen Megatherians for one) are another joy. And if it isn’t a hint, then it’s a fun little Easter egg. The idea of a god of pain and his beneficial role in the world was something unique and worth pondering. And if I like anything, it’s a novel that can make you think.

Then there is Green herself. Sold by her family, raised in cruelty to a specific standard of courtesan, used as a weapon and on and on. She should have broken under all that. But she keeps on. She endures. She grows and changes.

I like her prickly pride, stubbornness, wit and temper. She’s also deadly as a viper. In all of these, she reminds me of Venera Fanning (Karl Schroeder’s Virga series) and Jamethiel Dream Weaver (of P.C Hodgell’s Kencyr series), with a touch of Hezhi from Greg Keyes Waterborn. I like reading about her though I doubt I’d want to deal with her regularly (sort of like Dr. House in that regard), and right now I want a copy of the sequel Endurance to read.

Four and a half stars easily.

Likes: Green, herself; The eternal quest for a home that doesn’t exist; Kalimpura and its unique way of government and life; The Temple of the Lilly Goddess; Blackblood the God of Pain and the role he fulfills; The divine shattering and the Father’s Tale and Mother’s Tale; The Pardines – they’re very alien and different for all their resemblance to humans.

Dislikes: Green does verge on the whiny and angsty with her quest for a home that doesn’t exist, but its forgivable, especially since he inverts the chosen by fate trope of fantasy novels.

Suggested for: Fans of character driven fantasy novels; fans of Karl Schroeder’s Virga series, P.C Hodgell’s Kencyr series and Greg Keyes’ Waterborn and Blackgod novels.

Hurray! It is National Pink Day!

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

Pink Day Musings by Hunter (Hunter1)

I’m tickled pink to announce that June 23rd is National Pink Day.


Who knew? How did I miss that memo? I did do a bit of research and

couldn’t find the origination of this fabulous day, but who cares?

I think we should all just celebrate this delightful day while basking in pink splendor! It’s easy to enjoy and celebrate this holiday. Think pink clothes, pink lipstick, pink toenails, pink lemonade, pink jello, Pink Floyd and of course, pink books!


So while sipping on that pink lady, here’s a few books for all ages that might whet your pink appetite!



Pink by Lili Wilkinson

Ava has a secret. She is tired of her ultracool attitude, ultra-radical politics, and ultrablack clothing. She’s ready to try something new—she’s even ready to be someone new. Someone who fits in, someone with a gorgeous boyfriend, someone who wears pink.


Pinkalicious Pinkalicious and the Pink Drink by Victoria Kann

One hot summer day, Pinkalicious gets an idea that is simply pinkerrific—a pink lemonade stand!


Pink Boots and a Machete: My Journey From NFL Cheerleader to National Geographic Explorer by Mireya Mayor

Against all odds, this self-professed former “girly girl” daughter of overprotective Cuban immigrants blossomed from NFL cheerleader to Fulbright Scholar to field scientist and ultimately, quintessential adventurer.


Shrimp: The Endless Quest for Pink Gold by Jack and Anne Rudloe

A deep and expert look not only at an important human food source, but also of the fragile complexity of the ecosystem in which it is created.


The Pink Society of the Pink Crystal Ball by Risa Green.

The crystal ball will give you answers about love and life… but at what price?

So how will you be celebrating Pink Day? 

Photo by Betty D. (bettyatlanta)

photo by Mary (kilchurn)

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Romance Review – The Grand Sophy

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer

Review by Cynthia F. (frazerc)

 

 

First a word about the author.  If you’ve never read a Georgette Heyer Regency she is the gold standard against which other Regency Romance authors are compared.  Her work is beautiful researched but still delightfully readable: filled with fascinating characters, complex plots and beautiful settings.

Sophy is the daughter of a diplomat who is sent to stay with English relatives who do not know her.  They are expecting a shy and timid mouse – are they in for a BIG surprise!

Sophy arrives complete with a monkey and a parrot [which was not raised in a vicarage] for the children, an Italian greyhound at her feet and her personal groom and maid in attendance.  She is tall and although not classically beautiful, her vivacious charm wins over all the family members in the first meeting except Charles, the dour eldest son.

Charles is pained by his cousin’s behavior.  She is forward, bold, out-spoken and a bad influence on his family.  Already she is encouraging sister Cecilia’s unfortunate infatuation with a poet, encouraging brother Hubert to confide in her rather than himself, fascinating the children and befriending his mother.  Everyone loves her except Charles’ fiancée…

Sophy is never bored, there is always something, or someone, to put to rights and she finds ample situations in her newly acquired family.  There’s Cecilia who is weeping over her poet and the ‘older man’ they want her to marry, there’s Hubert who is obviously laboring under a heavy burden of worry, and Charles who has become a domestic tyrant and is engaged to a truly tedious girl which he intends to inflict on the family by moving her into the house after the wedding.  But she’s set worse situations to rights, it’s only a matter of planning and initiative…

The book abounds with wits, rakes, snobs and eccentrics, all fashionably dressed and involved in a whirlwind of social activities.  It sparkles with intelligent, witty and charming conversation.  The plot has a satisfying number of twists without anyone stumbling over a dead body or kidnapping the king or even losing a diamond necklace.  The romance is warm and believable.  Like most of Georgette Heyer’s work, this is a stand alone novel.

Erotic Romance Review – Samson’s Lovely Mortal

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

Samson’s Lovely Mortal (Scanguards Vampires #1) by  Tina Folsom

Review by Cynthia F. (frazerc)

You don’t meet a lot of heroes with erectile dysfunction…  Samson should be a happy vampire: he’s got close friends, a skillion dollars, and a successful company. But he still seems to being striking out on the ‘life, love, and pursuit of happiness’ thing. And there’s his 237th birthday coming up and his buddies are going to throw him a ‘surprise party’ complete with a stripper who does ‘extras’.  Sigh.  So he really isn’t surprised when a strange woman bangs on his door and begs for help…

Delilah barely escapes a thug who then pursues her down the deserted, rain-slicked streets of San Francisco. Seeing a lighted window she pounds on the door which is jerked open by a very large and apparently not very happy homeowner.  But he pulls her inside and offers her a place by the fire as she jerks out her story.

So, the stripper was taking the ‘damsel in distress’ approach.  Unusual but very nice.  And the rain-soaked clothes make it clear that the mortal is very nicely put together.  One kiss proves that she’s just what the doctor ordered…

OK, sexually aggressive homeowner versus street thug – not a good choice even if he was the best kisser in the world.  One high heel equipped stomp and slap later they’re glaring at each other.  Delilah thinks the night can’t get any worse and then he makes it clear he thinks she’s a stripper.

Shocked when he finds that she really was a damsel in distress and even more horrified by his own misguided behavior he apologizes profusely and offers dry clothes and a ride home with his chauffeur.  His friends confirm that it had been a case of mistaken identity [they brought the stripper with them] so she accepts.

After her departure, Samson takes the stripper upstairs planning to give his newly cured body some long denied release.  Unfortunately his body knew what it wanted and it had just walked out the door.

The story continues with a fair amount of action, both in and out of the bedroom. Samson pursues Delilah [the whole Samson and Delilah thing?  Smirk.] Past and present betrayals surface but everyone gets by with a little help from their friends.  And Samson?  Let’s just say he doesn’t need a shrink anymore.

Scanguards Vampires Series:
Book 1: Samson’s Lovely Mortal
Book 2: Amaury’s Hellion
Book 3: Gabriel’s Mate
Book 4: Yvette’s Haven [published 5/2011]

Mystery Monday – Ink Flamingos

Monday, June 20th, 2011

Ink Flamingos by Karen E. Olson

Review by reacherfan1909

I started reading Karen E Olson back in with her first book in the Anne Seymour series, Sacred Cows.  I sort of lost track of her work over the years and thanks to the Mystery Thriller Virtual Box group, I heard about the Tattoo Shop series.  I hesitated a bit, I cannot tell how tired I am of those cozy clones with the many cutesy hooks, but The Missing Ink got such uniformly good reviews I gave it and Pretty in Ink a try.  I was immediately hooked and the Tattoo Shop books have been on pre-order ever since.  Ink Flamingos was released June 7 – and I obviously wasted no time reading it.

Brett Kavanaugh owns The Painted Lady, a high end tattoo shop in the shopping plaza of the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas.  Like the classy setting, The Painted Lady is no ordinary tattoo shop, they do custom work only – body art.  (The stock tattoos commonly seen are called ‘flash’.) Her staff are mostly well developed characters – Bitsy, her tough as nails ‘little person’ receptionist, and Joel, the forever unsuccessfully dieting artist.  Ace, her second artist who considers tattoos rather beneath him as he sees himself as a ‘real’ artist, but needs to make a living, has never really been fleshed out as well as the other characters.

Brett shares a home owned by her older brother, Tim, a detective with the Las Vegas Police Department.  She and Tim enjoy a good relationship, except for one little problem – Brett keeps getting involved with murders.  This time it’s different. Very different.  One of Brett’s clients, a young woman, Daisy ‘Dee’ Carmichael, who became an ‘overnight’ rock sensation, has turned up dead in a Vegas hotel.  A blog has photos that implicate Brett in causing the death with a bad tattoo.  Her apparent involvement is exacerbated by a tall female in a red wig claiming to be her.  Not one, but two blogs seem to be setting her up, blaming her for Dee’s death, and trashing her reputation and business.

Brett really liked Daisy and had been doing her tattoos – all plain black due to Daisy’s allergies – since before she and her band, the Flamingos, became famous.  Between someone seemingly out to ruin her, a sense of obligation to Daisy, whom she considered more than just a customer, her own curiosity, and the blogs driving some very negative public attention her way, Brett finds herself once again, ‘meddling’ in a police investigation.  Calling on Jeff Coleman, owner of Murder, Ink, a ‘flash’ style tattoo business and her frequent cohort in her rather questionable activities, they keep finding as many questions as they do answers.

Unemployed blackjack dealer and frequent Painted Lady visitor, the good natured Harry, helps Brett out on one of her forays, then takes her for a drink – absinthe.  Photos of her and Harry kissing land on the blog the within hours.  And someone makes sure Brett’s current beau, Dr Colin Bixby, sees them.  Colin quickly becomes her ex.  Jeff tells Brett the apparently genial Harry is actually a tattoo artist he fired for incompetence and has been lying to her right along.  And it turns out Harry’s kiss is nothing compared with Jeff’s, which curls Brett’s toes like no one ever has.  And the only one socked by it is Brett – everyone at Painted Lady figured it was about time!

The plot twists are good, even if one of them was a bit trite (sorry no spoiler, so I can’t reveal more).  As a newspaper writer, Ms Olson writing style is clean and descriptive, she keeps her story on track and well paced, and makes most of her characters and colorful Las Vegas setting.  I’ve come to really like Brett, Jeff and the supporting characters, including Jeff’s eccentric elderly mother Sylvia – a delightful original.  One of the interesting parts of this series is how she draws the reader into the philosophy and mindset of those who get ‘body modification’ in the form of tattoos.  Colorful, original, and very good reading.  The one trite plot trick keeps my score for Ink Flamingos at 4.5*, B+ to A-, but it is a highly recommended read!  You don’t need to read the series in order, but I think you’ll enjoy it more if you do.

 

 


Author Interview with Deanna Raybourn

Friday, June 17th, 2011

Author Interview with Deanna Raybourn by Jerelyn H. (I-F-Letty).  Thank you both!

 

 

Jerelyn: Well nothing could give me more pleasure than to welcome Rita-Award winning Deanna Raybourn to the PBS blog, thank-you for joining us today.   I have you to thank for my recent fixation with Victorian settings.

 

I get a sense that you really love this time period.  Is this why you chose to set your stories in the Victorian period?

Deanna: Absolutely! I initially set the first book in the Regency, but I got about fifty pages in before I realized that just wouldn’t work. I needed late Victorian, something darker and more atmospheric with fog and gas lit streets and a bit more grit. I did tons more research and started the book over and it clicked immediately.

 

Jerelyn: The upcoming The Dark Enquiry is your 5th Lady Julia Grey novel.  She is a wonderful character how did she come to you?

I think every author has at least one character that is largely autobiographical, and Julia is mine. We’re very different people, but I like to think that we look at the world from a similar point of view. She’s Victorian, but she’s very modern Victorian. She is always looking ahead to the twentieth century.

 

Jerelyn: Lady Julia comes from a large quirky family are you from a large family?

Deanna: I’m an only child! But my extended family is large and very colorful. I’ve told my editor some of our family stories and she says I can never use them in a book because no one would believe them.

 

Jerelyn: I love her relationship with Portia, is she Julia’s favorite sibling?

Deanna:  She’s Julia’s favorite sister, no doubt about that, and she’s an excellent foil to Julia, I think. The other sisters are very busy with their own lives and we see very little of them in the series. Julia has mentioned that her favorite brother is Benedick, whom we haven’t even met yet—I love keeping him offstage so readers get to wonder a little about why Julia is so fond of him. She has a soft spot for Valerius, of course, as the closest to her in age, and in the last few books, she’s really come to know and appreciate Plum.

 

Jerelyn: You write about England so well, that I was surprised you’re an American.  Did you travel often to England while researching the books?

Deanna: I’ve been to England several times, and my grandmother is English, so that part actually came pretty easily. I grew up reading English books and watching English television, and that sort of immersion is essential if you’re going to try to get across the syntax of another country. I’m always hugely thrilled when someone mistakes me for being English! My English editor actually did, and that tickled me to no end.

 

Jerelyn: Tell us about Nicholas Brisbane, if you will?   He is in a word YUMMY!

Deanna: Nicholas is an enigma even to me. I deliberately didn’t write a full back-story for him because I wanted to continually be surprised. And I think the biggest shock of writing him that way is that clues I laid in one or two books back—completely without intention—are now coming home to roost in revelations about him. He’s a great deal of fun to write.

 

Jerelyn: Will you tell us about Dark Enquiry?

Deanna: This is the first time we have Julia and Nicholas in London since the beginning of the series, and I’m tremendously excited about that. They go sleuthing around a Spiritualist club and end up exposing some terribly dangerous secrets…

 

Jerelyn: What characters are the most fun to write?

Deanna: I love writing Nicholas and Julia and the various Marches, of course, but I also thoroughly enjoy the assorted villains. It’s always a pleasure to spend some time in those dark and twisted minds because I know I can get out again!

 

Jerelyn: Who is the hardest to write?

Deanna: Any character without a discernible sense of humour. Sometimes it’s necessary, but if they don’t have entertaining quirks, I find them more difficult to relate to.

 

Jerelyn: What do you read, when you have the time?

Deanna: I read loads of research books, nonfiction things like letters, biographies, memoirs. I read novels written by the English, about the English—anything to help me keep my own writing voice sharp. I particularly love Agatha Christie and Mary Stewart for mystery and Gothic adventures.

 

Jerelyn: Did you always aspire to be a writer?

Deanna: Always! I was making up stories even before I knew how to hold a pencil. My degree is in English and history because I figured that was the most practical for someone who intended to write historical fiction, and it’s served me very well.

 

Jerelyn: Is there an author that inspired you?

Deanna: Ask this question any given day and you’ll get a different answer from the day before. Today I will say Daphne du Maurier because I think Rebecca is a perfect novel.

 

Jerelyn: What is up next for you?

Deanna: My editor and I are chatting just this week about what I’m writing next—very exciting!

 

Jerelyn: Are you comfortable with social media as it pertains to the marketing of your books?

Deanna: Absolutely. I think writers have to be prepared to engage with readers, whether it’s at book signings or conferences or through social media. I am on Facebook, I tweet, I blog, and I encourage readers to friend me or follow me!

 

Jerelyn: What are your views on sites like Paperback Swap?

Deanna: I think they are a great means for readers to find new authors, people they might not be willing to try if they had to pay full retail for a book. Having said that, I should mention that for my favorite authors, I always purchase retail for two reasons: first, I want to make sure that they are getting royalties which, of course, they don’t for anything after the initial sale. And second, I want that sale to count with the publisher’s numbers. If I don’t buy retail, then that book doesn’t go down as a sale for the publisher and they might decide not to keep putting out books by my favorite author. For out of print books, I of course have to buy second hand, and for new books I buy through online retailers, independents, and for my e-reader. I’m thrilled there are so many options!

 

Jerelyn: Thank-you Deanna for your time and for visiting with us today.

If you would like to read more about Deanna she has an excellent blog, you can go to her website http://www.deannaraybourn.com/ or follow her on face book  http://www.facebook.com/people/Deanna-Raybourn/1291673294 or on twitter.

 

 

The books of Deanna Raybourn:

And

due out 6-21-11

 

A copy of Ms Raybourn’s book, Dark Road to Darjeeling, will be sent to a member who comments on this interview. A winner will be chosen at Random. Good Luck!

The PBS Blog Team would like to wish Ms. Raybourn a very Happy Birthday!

http://www.paperbackswap.com/Dark-Enquiry-Deanna-Raybourn/book/0778312372/

Fantasy Friday – The Claw of the Conciliator

Friday, June 17th, 2011

Claw of the Conciliator by Gene Wolfe

Review by Bowden P. (Trey)

Not as good as The Shadow of the Torturer, but still very, very good. Four-and-a-half stars.

The Claw of the Conciliator picks up shortly after The Shadow of the Torturer ended with Severian preparing for a pair of executions at a festival at the town of Saltus. Jonas is present as his aide. Of the rest of the troupe, they cannot be found. The local alcalde retained them for a pair of executions. One is a spy for Vodalus, the other is Morwenna a woman who may have poisoned her husband and son. I say may because someone else confesses to the crimes. That doesn’t move the legalist Severian and he carries out the execution and torture so quickly as to be merciful.

From there Severian walks into a transparently obvious trap and from the pan to the fire. While Severian does pick up the idiot ball with this, it does allow Wolfe to show off how old the world is, with a mine that is the ruins of a high tech city. It also allows him to introduce the Morlock like ape men. Then he meets Vodalus again and is a guest of honor at a ritual cannibal feast with Thecla as the entrée. All of this to more tightly bind Vodalus’ followers to him. With this in place, Vodalus sets Severian a task at the House Absoloute. There, he re-encounters the troupe, carries out his mission and makes a decent guide to the House Absoloute, courtesy of Thecla’s memories. I could go into more detail, and even though the book is almost thirty years old, I’m loathe to spoil it for people discovering it for the first time.

It’s a very good book. Not as good as The Shadow of the Torturer, but still very good. What makes it weaker than the first?

  • Getting used to the techniques Wolfe uses – they aren’t as novel any more.
  • Sub-elements (“The Student and His Son” and “Eschatology and Genesis”) were both very good throwing the rest of the book into relief.
  • Realizing we aren’t seeing as much of the world as it seemed in The Shadow of the Torturer.

Still, for the flaws, Gene Wolfe is who writers want to write like when they grow up.

Verdict: Four and ½ Stars

Likes: Severian is growing as a character (against my memories as a twenty year old, he seems real); He drops hints that he’s risen high in the world, the question remains how high? “Genesis and Eschatology” was very good reminding me of John M. Ford and Shakespeare; “The Student and His Son” was a wonderful fairy tail retelling of Theseus and the Minotaur with a unique feel; Baldanders and Talos – we’re seeing something new here between those two; Poor Jolenta, she paid far too high a price for beauty; Mysteries are still there – the man in the crypt from The Shadow of the Torturer is a pre-Columbian ruler, but how did he get there? What are the witches up to? And what is the Autarch playing at?

Dislikes: Not too many – the setting seems smaller than in The Shadow of the Torturer; The future is grim given the fate of the city in the mines of Saltus.

Suggested for: Same as The Shadow of the Torturer – fans of Gene Wolfe, science fantasy, the New Weird, Jack Vance. Also for anyone who enjoys a book that can be a bit of a challenge.