Tag Archives: characters

Good Things

I was thinking that I normally just have posts about negative references to individuals with disabilities, and I was reading a book (mock me if you will, you know you want to read it, even if you won’t admit it, because they’re fun!) by Tessa Dare and I realized I don’t do the opposite. Probably because I don’t come across them as often. I’ll put the book info at the bottom since I have this ongoing thing with inserting pictures into my posts where the text doesn’t cooperate with the picture, but I copied the message I sent to Ms. Dare:

Dear Ms. Dare,

I just finished reading “Any Duchess Will Do,” which I happened to like quite a lot (especially the peculiar knitted things).

I should back up just a little, though. I worked with individuals with disabilities for eleven years, and when I’m reading a book, if I come across any words that are considered derogatory toward those individuals, I will usually stop reading it, write the author, write a review, post it on my blog, and sometimes even write the publisher. This seems to be happening more often, unfortunately, especially in young adult books.

I realized that I’ve been concentrating on the negative half, and not the positive side, which deserves just as much recognition. I thought your portrayal of Daniela was particularly well done and very accurate. I’ve worked with people similar to her, and I could relate to her as an individual in your book, not just some person stuck in for the sake of the story. I also liked her relationship with Pauline, because I’ve seen brothers and sisters become extremely protective of their siblings with disabilities. Thank you for making Daniela a real character.

I know I’ve read other books by you, but this one is particularly fun, and definitely the first I’ve read where the strong and handsome duke has been kidnapped by his mother. I will definitely be recommending your books to others I know who like to read romance.

Very sincerely,
Wendy Clements

I do mean all of this–I enjoyed reading this book. The heroine, Pauline, is strong and funny, the Duke extremely confused and angsty, and I don’t think I’ve liked a character’s mother more. I highly recommend Any Duchess Will Do. There were many parts that made me laugh out loud.

Speaking of laughing out loud, I also just finished another two books, these in the M/M Romance category, that I read on my kindle but, when I have the money, I am going to buy in paperback simply because I liked them that much. They are extremely well written, the characters are extremely engaging, and the setting is historical–an off-kilter Victorian with a Lovecraftian background (one of the main characters, Whybourne, attended Miskatonic University, and there is a town of Arkham, although it hasn’t entered into the story). It’s just there enough to justify the oddness of what happens and make it creepily real. Oh. The books? The first is Widdershins, and the second is Threshold. The series is Whybourne and Griffin, the two main characters, although one of Whybourne’s wonderfully interesting colleagues is also involved much of the time. The really good news is that the third in the series is coming out December 3rd, 2013. Just to give a brief layout, Whybourne is a shy, retiring man, who has repressed his urges and attraction toward men all of his life. He attended Miskatonic to study Philology (linguistics, in the sense of historical languages, in his case, as well as some modern, and how they relate culturally–he also breaks ciphers). He speaks thirteen languages, but reads more (that’s important). A murder case comes up involving the museum he works at, and an ex-Pinkerton turned detective, Griffin, turns up to ask Whybourne some questions. They are instantly attracted to one another, and it’s fun and interesting to see Whybourne come out of his shell. His friend, Christine, his only real friend, also works at the museum as an archeologist who has just made an extremely important discovery in Egypt of a tomb which has been moved to the museum. If I’ve made it sound boring, it’s not. Really. I’ve added the series to my favorites on Goodreads, and Jordan L. Hawk has become one of my favorite authors. These books really stand out among many of the other M/M Romances, especially if you like the paranormal. And, oddly, it was partially the covers that drew me to them. They are elegant in their simplicity, and–gasp!–there are no half naked men. What can I say, I find Victorian suits a turn-on. One thing I think many cover designers have forgotten is sometimes half the fun is taking things off. It was just a very refreshing change. Not that I mind seeing half-naked men, but say you worked in a chocolate shop and could eat all the chocolate you wanted. Eventually, believe it or not, you would get sick of it. You might want some toffee or a lemon bar. Or cheescake, and that is not meant in any other way. Sometimes cheesecake is just cheesecake.

On that note, I think I’ll just put the covers up here, hopefully with the cover artist’s blessing, since I’ve done it before, and it is more exposure for them (I don’t mean the way in the above paragraph, either). Good grief.

Any Duchess Will Do

Kindle: $4.74

Paperback: $5.39

·  Series: Spindle Cove (#4)

·  Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages

·  Publisher: Avon (May 28, 2013)

·  Language: English

·  ISBN-10: 0062240129

·  ISBN-13: 978-0062240125

Widdershins

Kindle: $4.99

Paperback: $10.09

Audiobook: $17.95

(Prices from Amazon)

·  Series: Whyborne & Griffin (Volume 1)

·  Paperback: 226 pages

·  Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (March 15, 2013)

·  Language: English

·  ISBN-10: 1482528150

·  ISBN-13: 978-1482528152

Threshold

Kindle: $4.99

Paperback: $10.70

(both prices from Amazon)

·  Series: Whyborne & Griffin (Volume 2)

·  Paperback: 170 pages

·  Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (July 20, 2013)

·  Language: English

·  ISBN-10: 1490964630

·  ISBN-13: 978-1490964638

 

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SF Signal-MIND MELD: LGBT Themes in Fantasy and SF – Recommendations

I found this in the fanzine SF Signal, which I was unaware of (shamefully), and the recommendations are really good and interesting. Definitely worth checking out!

Chat

Revelations and Black Holes

Lewis Carroll Memorial Guildford   Sometimes it feels as if you are revealing parts of yourself, splattering them onto the computer, and they simply disappear into black holes. Emails, blogs, works in progress, comments on forums. All the years it has taken to get enough courage to write to complete strangers in the faith that someone somewhere understands the gibberish you’re speaking through the help of a babel fish or something of the like.

I was going through images looking for something from “Alice Through the Looking Glass,” and found pictures of this sculpture. It is in Guildford, at the last place Lewis Carroll lived, although he didn’t write those books there. It’s a little sinister, I think. I don’t know what it would feel like to see it in person. No comments about Han Solo and carbonite.Memorial from the Front

What makes a person respond to another person, and what makes them ignore the person standing next to the person who’s noticed? It’s all very strange. There’s this thing in autism that’s called the “hidden curriculum”–basically all the little social cues neurotypical people pick up that people with autism don’t. How to take subtle hints when someone wants to leave, reading body language in a conversation, things along those lines. Things that we supposedly learned unconsciously. Sometimes I feel like I didn’t learn all of those things the way I was supposed to, even though I don’t have autism. I was just a sheltered nerd.

This is probably why I like writing so much. I can give my characters the perfect thing to say as a retort in an argument because I have time to think about it, whereas if it were me, what I’d say would be more along the lines of, “Well, wha…I’m rubber and you’re glue and everything you say bounces off and sticks to you. Nyah.” If I could even come up with that. I don’t fight very often with anyone, not even my SO. I don’t like conflict, but there are some things I won’t back down from. I suppose that’s not even entirely true. I was so fed up with work, and tired of dealing with them–no one was on my side, and no one was going to listen to me. It seemed like quitting, while it fit perfectly into what they wanted me to do, was at least something I was doing to them instead of something they were doing to me. Of course, a little over a month later, I’m trying to be optimistic about finding a job that won’t send me into a tailspin again.

Remember Lief, the little boy with autism that I mentioned a while ago? Since then he’s had two open heart surgeries because the machine that keeps his valve pumping keeps clotting, then his blood antigen levels went to 100%–which meant his immune system could fight anything, including the heart transplant that he needs, because no heart would match as his body would fight anything. The doctors decided to try something on the chance it would work after nothing else did–they gave him the treatment that transplant recipients usually receive after they’ve had the transplant, and his blood antigen levels went down to 11%, which meant he was back on the path to being able to get a transplant again. Then the machine for his valve clogged again, and Saturday he had a stroke which affected the left half of his body. It wasn’t a bad stroke, he can still communicate using his keyboard pad, and he doesn’t seem to have suffered any cognitive damage. He’s had his 10th birthday in the hospital. This ten-year-old has been through more than many adults, and he keeps soldiering on. There was talk of palliative care at one point, but he didn’t want it. I called him the Energizer Bunny sometimes when I worked with him, and gods, is he ever. He really hasn’t changed much since he was six, except now he can communicate, which is wonderful. So while I feel a little down, I just keep trying to remind myself, “If Lief can do it, I can do it.” He is one incredibly special little guy, and if everyone who reads this could stop for a second and send him a happy thought, that would be nice. It doesn’t matter where you are, he’ll know.

Thoughts on the ending of The Clockwork Princess (spoilers)

I’ve browsed around a little at some of the reviews of the end of  The Clockwork Princess and there seems to be a debate about whether Tessa is just wishy-washy and can’t decide between Will and Jem, that you can’t love two people at the same time, and that the ending is contrived (and maybe, in a post I didn’t read, ruined the whole series). Normally I might not write anything, but The Infernal Devices is my favorite of the series for a couple of reasons (well, more than a couple). It’s set in the Victorian period, and I like historical settings, it was interesting to see the Shadowhunters in an earlier setting, and there were automatons. But, enough of that.

Tessa is confused in The Clockwork Angel, for more than one reason. She has been overly trusting, seemingly her whole life, always looking for the good in people, but recognizing the bad. Will presents himself as an arrogant, uncaring jerk (insert preferred word). The institute is overwhelming, with its own internal struggles and battles and interesting characters. Jem is the one who makes her feel welcome, his music is what draws her to him, and eventually, the language in which they can communicate without words. He knows he’s dying and he’s an addict, not a very good prospect. Tessa is his out of reach ideal.

Tessa, of course, falls for Will first, who treats her horrifically. You can’t help who you fall in love with, but you can help how much you’ll put up with from them. Even though it’s his attempts to drive her away from him, the things he says to her are more than unkind, they are really unforgivable. Working out an “arrangement” when it’s decided she’ll stay at the institute? She doesn’t know he isn’t the bad boy he pretends to be, she seeds glimpses of it. She doesn’t know he’s afraid she’ll die if he loves her. Instead, what he does is continually hurt her with little stings and barbs throughout the books.

Tessa and Jem fall in love because they become friends first, then fall in love. People can say it’s a cliche, but it’s actually somewhat archetypical to have a woman fall in love with two men, or a woman in a situation where two men are involved. Arthur/Guinevere/Lancelot, and Tristan/Iseulte(Isolde)/Mark–although Mark sort of got left out of the deal on that one. Guinevere loved Lancelot and Arthur both, and she didn’t want to hurt either of them, yet she loved them at the same time. I’m sure there are more than that I could think of if it wasn’t 6:40 in the morning.

Tessa, however, and wisely, I think, chooses Jem over Will. Jem has been the one who is there for her in the aftermath of whatever situation Will has caused. By the time Will realizes there is no curse, it’s too late for a relationship between him and Tessa, although he presumptuously assumes otherwise. Tessa understands that for whatever time Jem has left, they are happy together, and sometimes that is the greatest thing you can do for someone–she isn’t doing it out of pity, she does it because she loves him. Yes, she still loves Will, but she loves Jem as well, and she isn’t going to renege on a promise she made him. She’s not wishy-washy, she’s true to her word, which is honorable. She doesn’t let Will push her around.

Neither Will nor Tessa knew Jem was going to become a Silent Brother, which leaves Tessa in an odd position, but Jem says Silent Brothers can’t marry, effectively telling her she can marry Will. So she does and they live a life together, but every year at the same place she meets Jem and they talk–she still loves Jem–after all, they do this for 173 years or so, long after Will has died and her children have died.

I think it’s appropriate they end up together in the end, because they were meant to be together in the beginning. He was always the one who treated her the best, the one who didn’t think she would love him because he was an addict, who thought a girl like her would never look at him when put side-by-side next to Will, because it’s always the guys like Will who get the girl.

She loved Will, there’s no question of that, but she loved Jem, albeit in a different way, a quieter, sweeter way. Jem wanted them to marry–he knew they’d both be suffering and they were the only two who could truly help each other, Will over the loss of his Parabatai and Tessa over the loss of her husband and love.

Widows and widowers remarry. Some people marry their high school sweetheart and live happily ever after. Most people fumble along thinking they are fated to meet their “One True Love.” Well, at 44 years old and after about five long term relationships, I don’t think there is “One True Love.” That’s why we read fantasy and books like these, so we can vicariously experience what something we want to feel is like. Start asking people around you, “Have you met your true love?” and see what people say. I can’t say if people are fated. They control the choices they make, and yes, they do fall in love with more than one person at a time. Relationships and love are messy, painful, confusing things, accompanied by wishy-washiness, tears, ice cream and chocolate (and whatever the male equivilant is, if it’s different. If so, you’re missing out on the ice cream and chocolate. Or fries, it tends to swing toward the sweet end or the salty end).

I hope I’ve made sort of a coherent point. I’m not saying anyone is wrong in their opinion, just offering mine, for whatever it’s worth. I should add that this goes for all relationships, m/f, m/m, f/f. Love bounces people around like silly putty on the comics page (did anyone ever do that? Press silly putty onto the comics and then be endlessly amused that it copied it? Ok. Nevermind). It’s a primal emotion. The only thing holding it back is propriety and manners. Otherwise, you’re crossing into criminal, mug shot territory and that is not a place to go. Love is all about respect. Listening. Really listening.

Like Jem does to Tessa. He respects her. She is his treasure, his dream come true. Will is like the Tasmanian Devil. Dressed nicely and not smelly, and pretty to look at. But he still leaves chaos in his wake.

I will say she and Will blew it in the cave, however. How convenient, invisible walls. Hm. I’ll have to remember that one. “Sorry, I couldn’t make it to work, all of a sudden my car couldn’t move and I just happened to have my Kindle and all the notes for the book and story I’m working on with me. Isn’t that funny?”

I hope there aren’t any egregious errors. I’m posting this before work. th

See, I even found a cute Tasmanian Devil. 🙂

An Author’s Responsibility

I posted this review at Goodreads and Amazon after starting and getting about 140 pages into Forbidden, by Syrie James and Ryan M. James:

I didn’t actually finish this, I only reached page 137. It is your average paranormal high school angel romance, enough that I would have finished reading it, most likely, and probably given it a decent rating. So why did I stop?

I have noticed an increasing trend in young adult books using derogatory terms in reference to individuals with developmental disabilities, in this case, on page 137, “Holy crap,” Erica said. “We’ve been so short-bus about this.”

Teenagers probably think this is funny and just read it, laugh or not, and go on. As someone who writes and also works with children with disabilities in an elementary school, where we are trying to stamp out bullying and engender understanding, it truly dismays me when I see this happen in books that have recently been published. The children I work with are kind and loving, they are just different. They have autism or cerebral palsy or Down syndrome, in some cases other syndromes. There are some wonderful students at our school who come and volunteer as peer buddies to students in our class, and become their friends and understand their differences better.

Yes, sometimes people with disabilities act differently in public, make strange noises, or do strange things. They are honest, they don’t hide who they are. Just because some of them can’t speak doesn’t mean they don’t have things to say, they just need people willing to take the time to listen.

Authors have a responsibility, to an extent. If we put something in a book or story that’s derogatory, there needs to be a good reason for it, not simply put it there to make fun of people at their expense. There’s nothing wrong with people who are gay, lesbian, bi, transsexual, transgender, bi-racial, a difference race than our own, etc. etc., and if comments were made about anything like that, there would possibly be a stir about it, but often if it’s making fun of disabilities, it doesn’t get mentioned.

It is not open season on people with disabilities. Authors need to remember this, think about their audience, and remember that what they write sinks in. It encourages further devaluation of a population that doesn’t deserve it, and includes some of the best people I’ve known.

It’s truly a shame, because I think this book has promise. I just think that authors, editors, and publishers such as HarperTeen should think about these things a little more closely. Just because someone with a severe disability might not be reading your books, someone who loves someone who is might be.

Keeping the Castle (Review)

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Keeping the Castle
by
Patrice Kindl
Hardcover, 261 pages
Published June 14th 2012 by Viking Childrens Books
ISBN
0670014389 (ISBN13: 9780670014385)

My Goodreads review:

I have to admit that I am not entirely sure if this book deserves four stars or five. Maybe it is just four. But I have been having a couple of those days where my mood is just all over the map, and I simply feel worn out, and now I do actually feel better after finishing this.  This little book (and it is little, and it looks pretty) is funny, very much like Jane Austen, and while it does have it’s tense, wondering what’s going to happen moments, it has a certain degree of freedom in its reality–e.g. a certain character having a child from an unapproved marriage (by her parents), and presents the idea of not marrying and being able to do what one truly wants to–such as following artistic endeavors.

*****Some spoilers*****
There are a lot of Austen-like references–Pride and Prejudice and Emma are the two that pop to mind first. I liked Mr. Fredericks from the start simply because he seemed to be the only one that was looking at the world who wasn’t wearing rose-tinted glasses and saw things for what they were, and also because he was kind to Alexander. So did Althea, but she was still caught up in the necessity for marriage, trying to arrange things she thought would help but didn’t, and in some cases making things worse–things started to get a little out of control. Much like the castle, with all of its jutting turrets and odd angles, Althea is trying to fit into a world she doesn’t quite understand–all the knows is that she needs to marry for money to keep Crooked Castle. But what, really, is the point of keeping such a monstrosity, as eccentric and endearing as it may be? All she and her mother have been doing, their whole lives, it to pour money into this decrepit thing, which, as Mr. Fredericks pointed out, doesn’t have a strong enough foundation to even stand on.

Getting into my symbolism mode here, I think Crooked Castle could be used as a metaphor for marriages where the two people don’t have much in common. They try to make it work, and it gets edges and goes off in all directions. If they can keep the big storms at bay, maybe the foundation with survive. Maybe the Baron (Boring lol) and Charity will be able to succeed in their marriage as neither of them are particularly deep thinkers. Miss Vincy will work things out. Althea and her Mother will both be happy. I loved the fact that Mr. Fredericks proposes to Althea as Crooked Castle is continuing to crash over the cliff a little bit at a time–a few chairs, other bits of things. As the impossible thing Althea was trying to save is destroyed, a whole new life opens up for her, one far more pleasant than living in a leaky, damp, drafty, cold castle.

2nd Half of my Favorite Books of 2012

Series: His Fair Assassin**

#1: Grave Mercy

#2: Dark Triumph (4/2/13)

LaFevers, R.L. YA, assassins, convents, nuns, weapons, poisons, mystery, intrigue, romance
I was able to read this as an eGalley before it came out, and I was unbelievably excited about it. I think part of what caught my attention was the tagline, “Why be the sheep when you can be the wolf?” It may sound a little corny, but the premise of the novel is a convent who takes girls and young women in, rescuing them from abusive or other bad situations, and teaching them to be assassins. They learn everything depending on their talents, Ismae, our heroine (it gets interesting when your heroine is an assassin) is exceptionally good at what she does. The nuns of the convent of St. Mortain, the ancient god of death, wait for a sign from him to send out one of their assassins. Or, when things are slow, when there are problems in the capital and the Duchess needs protection. Ismae ends up in the retinue of Gavriel Duval, the Duchesses’ brother, as his lover, which she is not happy about, but they decided it was the best way to get her into the castle with a reasonable excuse. And boy, are there a cast of characters there, all scheming and plotting and trying to win the Duchesses’ hand in marriage. This book is so incredibly well written—the characters are fully fleshed out, and you truly feel for them when things go wrong. All the struggles for power are illustrated beautifully, circles within circles until it is no longer clear who the Duchess can trust. I liked the contrast between the convent taking in girls who are powerless vs. the situation the Duchess is in. Yes, her life is much better than the girls who enter the convent, but no one listens to her despite her position—everyone wants her to marry so a man can speak for the Duchy. She is not considered worthwhile or smart enough to rule on her own, and until she marries, will be constantly vulnerable to attack from numerous enemies. This was a very different kind of book than the ones coming out at the time, the fluffy somewhat no-brainer romances with various fallen creatures, etc. etc. and it was so refreshing that not only was it different, it was good. The sequel is about a new character, one we were introduced to briefly in Grave Mercy. I had wanted to see more of Ismae, but this could be interesting as well. I highly recommend this one.
Series: Lumatere Chronicles

#1: Finnikin of the Rock

#2: Froi of the Exiles

#3: Quintana of Charyn (4/9/13)

Marchetta, Melina YA, royalty, rightful heirs, adventure, travel, romance, relationships, family
I do have a confession to make here. The third book came out in September of last year in Australia, so I bought it then because I was unwilling to wait until April 2013. When I do anything like that it always involves this odd little ritual of calling my bank and telling them I’m going to be buying something from Australia, in this case. If I don’t, they put a hold on my card because they think someone has stolen it and the purchase is dubious. I had to do it before I went to Canada for a week too. Now, while I appreciate their concern, I’m slightly insulted by the fact they don’t think it’s possible that I could have popped over to Australia and bought it in person there. That would never, ever happen (it would be fun), but they don’t have to remind me of that fact. I can dream. I picked up Finnikin of the Rock on a lark because it was in the shelf in front of me at the library. I devoured it in one day. I loved everything about it, the way it was written, the way the character interacted so believably, all the little mysteries that started to clear up, the willingness of people to give others a second chance even when they had done something awful, with the knowledge that it still wouldn’t be forgotten, just shelved. The world Marchetta creates is so lifelike and real, the groups of people so distinct. I know she does a lot of research looking for places she thinks resemble what she imagines her world to look like (so she gets to go to some pretty cool places). None of the characters are flawless. They can work to remedy their flaws, but they still never get rid of them completely. There are fantastic characters in the last book, two of my favorite being the estranged elderly twin brothers who live across the courtyard from each other, come out to see each other every morning, then go back inside. Quintana is quite the character herself, very complicated, and as more is revealed about her childhood, etc., it’s easier to see that yes, she still may be a little crazy, but there’s a pretty darn good reason for it. This is also a book about forgiveness, and realizing the consequences of one’s actions—things happened in the first book that had long reaching effects they were never aware of until the third book. I absolutely love these books, and Marchetta has written others as well, some of which have won prizes and are very well acclaimed. I have tried to read those, but I can’t get into the real world stories, for some reason. I think it shows her talent that she can do an excellent job in YA fiction, even though it’s not my taste, and then write a YA fantasy series written so differently I have no issues with it at all, and that these are some of my favorite YA fantasy books (although there is a lot of crossover these days).
Flame of Sevenwaters Marillier, Juliet Adult, myth, druids, fey, magic, relationships, family, love, second sight, betrayal
This is the latest installment of the books beginning with Daughter of the Forest, the one that first addicted me to Juliet Marillier. A couple of generations have passed since then, and Sorcha, the main character of that tale, is the grandmother of the heroine of this one, Maeve. Maeve was in a fire ten years earlier which disfigured her face to a degree and rendered her hands useless, so she is dependent for help with nearly everything from her wonderfully portrayed maid (who is more of a friend). She has, however, an incredible gift with animals, which is possibly some consolation from losing her dog Bounder in the fire that injured her. Returning home for the first time in ten years (she had been living with her Aunt and Uncle—her Aunt, her father’s sister, is a Healer of some renown and they had hoped she might be able to help with Maeve’s hands). Coming home is as awkward as she was afraid it was going to be, with the exception of a few people. Maeve starts out as a character who seems to have settled for her lot in life—she’ll never marry, never have children, and lead a solitary life dependent on others. She doesn’t seem particularly self-pitying, and if she does, it’s more out of anger than anything else, why can’t she have those things. She overhears some of the men at her father’s talking about her and how her hands make their skin crawl, and it shatters any hope she had been building up. Her 7 year old brother Finbar, a boy who will most likely grow to be a very strong seer, is fascinated with her. Maeve worries he is too serious for a boy his age—he has a tutor/ bodyguard, Luachan, a druid her Uncle Cíaran (the interim head druid) chose. A terrible event has taken place—a large group of men from the neighboring Lord’s lands has disappeared, including his two sons, while they were traveling through her Uncle’s lands. Everyone at Sevenwaters believes it is Mac Dara, who kidnapped Finbar when he was a baby to try to get his own son to come home, but they try to keep the fact that Sevenwaters has this mystical/magical place within it for fear others wouldn’t understand. This time, Maeve is drawn into the forest, with no one to depend on but herself and two wild dogs she has tamed and named Bear and Badger. She realizes she does pretty well on her own, and gradually starts to piece together that everything isn’t right in the forest. The story is interesting, and the characters well-drawn. For anyone familiar with the Sevenwaters series, it’s like coming home again. I’m a sucker for happy endings. Maybe I shouldn’t say that, because others might not be. Terrible, terrible ending. Death, destruction, the end of civilization as they knew it as Sauron drags them into a new age…oh, wait, wrong book. It works as a stand alone book, but really these are best if you start from the beginning and read them in order, because they build on each other. This is a review gone horribly wrong. It’s a good book, definitely worth checking out.
A Monster Calls Ness, Patrick YA, adult, death, coping, guilt, resolution…
I don’t want to say too much about this one. I kept seeing it mentioned and finally put a hold on it at the library. It was not at all what I expected. I think everyone will have their own, personal reaction to it—reviews seemed to range from “best book ever” to “this book wouldn’t have helped at all, it sucked.” It’s a book I would want to give as a gift to someone who might need something like it, but I would be hesitant. It’s written in a spare style but isn’t so bare bones it has no flavor to it. The emotions of the characters are muted—the characters themselves are muted. The story isn’t complex and full of riddles and mysteries to be solved—it’s very straightforward. Not jarring, but flowing like thick cake batter toward its imminent resting place in the pan. (there’s a reason I’m not a poet). It doesn’t seem like it’s pulling you in, but it is, and when you reach the end it’s such a feeling of relief, to say what you feel out loud. I don’t know what else to say—if you have been a caregiver, a relative, a friend, a child, of anyone who has had a long term terminal illness, I would suggest this book. It might not have the same resonance for you as it did for me, but maybe it will.
For Darkness Shows the Stars Peterfreund, Diana YA, adult, dystopian, freedom, genetics, loosely based on Persuasion by Jane Austen, luddites, technology
I didn’t expect much from this, truthfully. I had read the author’s unicorn books (well, one and a half of them) and hadn’t really gotten into them. Then I heard it was loosely based on Persuasion and decided to check it out, which is a little ironic since that’s one of the Austen books I haven’t read. Now I want to, though. The novel has an interesting structure—the narrative goes along, and then there will be letters between Kai, the worker boy on the farm, and Elliot, the privileged daughter of the owner of the farm. They were friends since childhood until he decided he couldn’t stand it there anymore. She couldn’t run away with him, and that was the last she saw of him. She thought. While her father and older sister are supposed to be running the farm, Elliot is actually the one doing all the work, and a little more. She has been trying to genetically modify wheat so it will produce more, ensuring their workers won’t go hungry and possibly even having a little left over to sell. Her family is Luddite, as are all the landowners, and such meddling is prohibited. Her father discovers it and plows it under to keep anyone else from finding out—he’s going to put in a race track. Knowing they desperately need money, Elliot looks through her father’s correspondence and finds a letter from a well known adventurer, looking to rent the dock her grandfather owns for however long it takes for them to build a new ship. Elliot completes the rental agreement, even though it means moving her grandfather out of the only home he’s ever lived in to make room for the new tenants. Elliot’s grief, frustration, and disbelief at her father and sister’s behaviors are completely convincing. All of the characters, even those with minor roles, are fleshed out just enough to make them believable and real. Elliot truly does care for the people who work for her family, but her view has always been from the view of being the privileged one. When their new tenants arrive, Elliot is at a complete loss at the identity of one of the Captains. Ultimately, this is a story about moving forward and forgiveness, both on a personal and a technological level. The acceptance of things beyond our realm of imagination. The door-stopper stubbornness of the hero, as in the Austen novels, to do anything to indicate his true feelings that makes you want to whack him over the head with a broom—see, the writing really does pull you into the story, when you want to start hitting characters with cleaning implements. Not that Elliot isn’t stubborn herself. There is just enough detail to make everything seem real—to get really angry at the “bad” guys and cheer the “good” guys on.
Series: Sarah Tolerance**

#1: Point of Honor

#2: Petty Treason

#3: The Sleeping Partner

Robins, Madeleine E. Adult, mystery, alternate historical setting, fallen women, brothels, private investigators
These are all well-written, interesting reads. It’s interesting to see the juxtaposition of Sarah’s world as an investigator with her Aunt’s in the bordello. Sarah fights to be respected for her choice of profession, and the fact that she is as smart as any man who might be doing the job. She’s clever and quick thinking, and is able to fend for herself. Occasionally her business ends up involving her Aunt’s in some way, usually not in a good one. I’m not a huge mystery fan, but I really liked these (the third was the one I read this year). The dialogue is engaging, and by the third installment I felt like taking her brother and shaking him—yes, he’s in politics, but she’s still his sister. Maybe because I’ve been so much into family ties lately. Robins doesn’t go overboard with anything, it’s all just right. One thing that might be a little confusing—the first two are published by major publishing houses. The third is published by an Independent publisher, which is why it’s more expensive than the first two. It’s well worth the money, and the knowledge that by going to an independent publisher Robins had more creative control, along with the wisdom to know people did want more of Sarah Tolerance, is a good thing. I think authors get pushed into the “it has to be commercial” corner too much. I didn’t list publishers on here, because most of them are mainstream, but a few aren’t, and I think that’s a good thing. Robins is a talented author whose work is well above average and completely enjoyable. I highly recommend all three.
The Replacement

The Space Between

Yovanoff, Brenna YA, dark fantasy, fairies, alternate worlds
The first thing I thought when I started reading these was, “this is really different.” If you’ve seen a picture of Brenna Yovanoff, she looks like a woman who would write about sweet, happy romances, with rainbows and unicorns (ok, maybe that’s taking it too far), not dark, scary, dystopian worlds with dolls missing an eye or a limb lying in puddles. With incredibly unique and original stories that grab your attention and keep you reading, sometimes because you’re too interested to stop, sometimes because you’re too afraid to stop—what will happen to your hero or heroine if you leave them alone? Will the words squirm around and rearrange themselves if you close the book? This probably sounds creepy, and the books are creepy—these two aren’t a series, I just read both of them this year, but they are in chronological order as to publication. Given all this, the sense of atmosphere is very well developed, as well as the characters. The amazing thing is that while they are so different from everything else out there, her own books are so different from each other. They do follow the general main character gets into trouble of some sort/needs help getting out of it/someone will help but there’s a cost/eventually everything’s sorted/relatively happy resolution. That’s pretty much what all stories are. There’s the saying that there are only a certain number of stories in the world (5? 7? 11? Something like that) and it’s up to authors and storytellers to recreate them in different ways. Yovanoff has gone above and beyond—maybe I was just so disturbed it just felt different. I think that’s legitimate. The story is still there, in its cohesive state. The characters are still there. Sometimes they notice their environment, sometimes they do. The times they do are a validation of what we’re reading that seems so unreal, but the characters are seeing the same thing, so for this delineated world, that must be the norm for that particular spot. At times it feels as though the characters are just floating along, being propelled by the story until they take a hold of it again, when they’ve finally figured something out that allows them to take control. I think I should stop there. I found these both to be well-written novels, in artfully constructed worlds, each with their own separate voice. Or maybe that was the bug hiding in the spine of the book calling “help me, help me!”

My Favorite Books of 2012

I should probably add some notes here, various caveats, etc.—these are definitely based on my tastes, which I don’t expect others to necessarily like. Some are truly meant to be read as adult books, some as YA, but there is such a crossover between the two genres (sometimes it’s interesting to go into a bookstore with some specific titles in mind that you think are YA and see if they show up in the adult section as well). I’ve been an a bit of a Steampunk kick this year, but there aren’t as many on here as I would have thought. I think it’s partially because I’m not looking in the right places, and some of the ones I’ve been finding that are fairly decent are just Kindle books. I did read some series that I hadn’t heard about before until the latest one was released, so that was fun—more fun than reading the first one in a series and knowing you have to wait a year or more for the second one. I’ve starred the ones I really liked a lot. These are in alphabetical order, not in order of preference—it was easier than flipping through the sheets I printed out.

After further consideration and the realization that, as usual, things were getting longer than they should be, possibly without imparting any useful information, I’m going to post this in installments. That means, I suppose, if you are interested, you can read them, or if not, just look at the titles of the posts and skip the ones regarding my books of 2012 (I’ve never done anything like this, so I don’t really know what I’m doing and just going about it my own way). I started it as a table in a Word file, which is why it looks like a side bar from a science textbook.  The ones I’m including are the ones I really, truly liked (there are quite a few that I liked, but not enough to put down as something that would reveal to the world the inner workings of my soul and what books effect it. It’s a little confusing, but I decided to list all of the books in the series, either because I read all of them this year, or I read the last book in the series this year and wanted to list the previous books. They are all books I either gave four or five stars to on Goodreads. I don’t tend to give many books five stars, so I was surprised at the number of books I did–there are some very good books, I thought, that came out this year.

When I’m finished with the more in-depth ones, I’ll just list the rest I liked enough to mention, just so they don’t feel left out. 🙂

So, some of you may shudder, some may be slightly interested–here is the first installment of my best books for 2012, in all its World-tabled glory.

Title Author My (hopefully) Brief Comments
Series: Magnificent Devices

#1: Lady of Devices

#2: Her Own Devices

#3: Magnificent Devices

Adina, Shelley Steampunk, adventure, urchins (street, that is, not the purple spikey ones).
The third in the series is out, I just haven’t finished it yet. I liked this series because the protagonist is a strong female, there is a nice cast of characters, the plot moved fairly quickly, and there are little twists and turns that keep it interesting. The world is very believable. The inclusion of a group of former street urchins/pickpocketers/thieves that she is trying to reform so they can get real work—they’re all pretty bright kids—is interesting because she takes it upon herself and is willing to work at it until they trust her. There is even a flying chicken in a box. Truly.
Series: Ephemera

#1: Sebastian

#2: Belladonna

#3: Bridge of Dreams**

Bishop, Anne Fantasy, magic, evil forces trying to take over the world.
BoD was the one I read this year. I have to admit that the Black Jewels series is my favorite of Anne Bishop’s, and it took awhile for these to grow on me. A series where world-building is literally taking place in the author’s world-building—the realm has been split apart and can only be connected through magically constructed bridges that don’t always take you where you think they will, but sometimes to where you deserve to go. Only certain people have these powers. Sebastian, Belladonna, and, in the third book, Belladonna’s brother Lee. Wizards are trying to upset her power and her bridges are disappearing, so he sacrifices himself and ends up in an asylum. It sounds odd, I thought so at first as well. I liked this one enough that it made me reconsider the first two and want to read them again all in order.
The Dark Unwinding Cameron, Sharon Steampunk, historical, first in series.
I was really pleased with this one—it’s the first in a trilogy (of course). Catherine Tulman lives with her aunt and cousin in London, where she is basically her aunt’s accounting slave. Her cousin is set to inherit everything, and she is constantly reminded of that fact and she is only allowed there at his generosity (little brat). Her aunt becomes concerned that her uncle, on whom their financial legacy rests, is becoming unhinged and is spending all of his (their) money, so she sends Catherine to see just how crazy he is and wants him placed in an asylum. She discovers that he isn’t crazy, just eccentric, and a brilliant inventor of these interesting little steampunkish creations. And clocks, he loves clocks. Unlike the other estates in the area, he has moved all of his workers into the walled area of his estate and takes care of them. He and Catherine take to each other immediately, and she knows there is no possible way she can commit him to an asylum—it wouldn’t be fair to him or to the people he takes care of. In the meantime, as with all geniuses, there are those who would pray on his innocent eccentricities and steal his work. Catherine falls in love with one of the young men who live on the property—her uncle simply takes lost people in and provides for them. I liked Catherine as a character—she is young and not always sure what is best or what to do, but she’s not sure how else to do things. She has been so stifled living with her aunt, her aunt has managed to suck most of the curiosity and interest in life out of her, but it’s still there, and it reawakens at her uncle’s. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for the next one in this series
Dragonswood**

Dragon’s Keep

Carey, Janet Lee Fantasy, YA, witch trials, rival princes who are brothers, dragons, good plot twists.
Dragonswood fooled me completely with it’s cover. It’s a beautiful cover, but it looked so much like many of the other covers for YA romancy-type novels I thought that was what it was going to be. I was instead surprised by the plot, which was sometimes horrific (witch hunts), to the Dragonswood itself, where there lives, well, a real dragon. Dragonswood is guarded by a warden, who turns out to be the younger prince—his older brother is away fighting in some war. Their father has died, and everyone is waiting for the older prince to return home. Meanwhile, the truce between dragons, humans, and the fey is becoming strained as humans start to forget about the importance of the interrelationship between the three races. The treasure from the castle has been stolen and no one knows by whom or where it is. Tess is a good foil for the younger prince as they challenge each others’ beliefs (she was accused of witchcraft and threw herself in the nearby lake after finding out her two friends had been tortured and had said she was a witch). She was rescued from the lake by tortoises and a dragon. The royalty share kinship with the dragons, so far as to actually have, in some cases (as in the younger prince) actual spots where there are scales instead of skin. This is considered an abomination. The plot becomes more complicated when the older prince returns—it turns out the woman heading the inquisitions, burning of villages and witches—is the woman he was in love with. The characters were fairly well developed, especially Tess and Garth, and Garth proves to be a worthy adversary to his older brother in terms of getting what he wants to protect the woods where the dragons live. If I’d been reviewing these as I’d read them, I’d remember more details, but I liked this one and it’s prequel, Dragon’s Keep, quite a bit (in the latter, the princess is born with one whole finger as a dragon’s claw instead of a finger, and she’s forced to wear gloves to cover it, as well as go through all sorts of awful treatments her mother’s advisors think might get rid of it). I think she’s Garth’s grandmother—I don’t remember the exact connection. The strongest themes are tolerance for other being (including other humans) and to accept differences—there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with difference, it’s just…different.
Series: Fire and Thorns**

#1: The Girl of Fire and Thorns

#2: The Crown of Embers

Carson, Rae YA, coming-of-age, subterfuge and plots against the main character, family relationships
These are pretty amazing books. Elisa, the heroine of the books, makes an incredible transformation from the beginning of the first book, where she is a chunky, still growing, still learning and not very self-confident girl, to one who can deal with whatever gets tossed at her, mostly because she’s stubborn, doesn’t want to get teased, and wants to prove she can do what everyone else can. So, while she bewails her fate at having to leave her father’s home where there are no challenges and life is easy, leaving is the best thing that could have happened to her. She is very close to her nurse, Ximena, who is truly her best advisor. Elisa faces bloody violence, the subterfuges of court, a husband who doesn’t love her and who keeps a mistress openly, kidnapping, and a whole host of problems she doesn’t know how to deal with, surrounded by people she doesn’t know and unsure of who to trust. An interesting issue that I only remember being brought up in one other book that I am trying to remember is the fact that part of Elisa’s transformation is brought about by tramping through the desert after being kidnapped. As she comes more to terms with who she is and what she can do, she loses the weight, it serves almost as literal emotional baggage. Even though she’s “acceptably thin” at the end (a little annoying) it’s because she’s gone through a transformation. Princess Ben—that’s the other one, a sort of fairy tale, that deals with the princesses’ weight issue, especially when her parents die and she has to learn how to run the kingdom—for her, food serves much the same purpose as it does Elisa—comfort. Small deviation there, just remembered that. CoE concentrates more on what it’s like for Elisa to rule, and how she continues to grow and learn through her experience. I think I forgot to mention she has a godstone in her belly button, which makes some villainous type people want her for the sole reason she does. They want the godstone, not her necessarily attached to it. They are both very good reads, the middle book doesn’t suffer the “middle child” syndrome, and the third, I think, is coming out the end of this year (The Bitter Kingdom?).
Series: Graceling Realm**

#1: Graceling

#2: Fire

#3: Bitterblue

Cashore, Kristin YA, coming-of-age/coming to terms with one’s own Graces and how to use them, friendship, coming of age, attempting to rule when everyone around you seems to be insane.
I’ll start with the fact that I think these are some of my favorite books ever. I didn’t think I would like them as much as I did, with them switching characters and such, but I did. And Katsa and Po and their friends all show up in Bitterblue. Fire turns up at the end, much older than she was in Fire. Bitterblue is about waking up from a nightmare, both while awake and asleep, that has spread over the realm for the previous 35 years while Bitterblue’s father, Leck, was King. He is one of the most twisted, cruel, and inhumane characters, as is revealed through the course of the book, I think I’ve ever seen. He reminds me of a mad neo-nazi scientist. He had the power to control what everyone thinks, so for the entirety of his reign, used this power to convince everyone that things were fine, while in reality he was forcing his main advisors to do terrible things and then making them forget they did it. These are the same advisors Bitterblue has when she becomes queen, and she knows there is something wrong with the way they act, the way they hide her away in her tower and inundate her with paperwork. They don’t want her to find out any of the truth, and if she leaves the castle, she might. So, what would any frustrated, thwarted young queen do who believes everyone is lying to her do? She sneaks out of the castle at night and starts to learn the truth, which is dangerous. She starts to question her advisors, who either go blank, have an attack of the nerves, go get drunk, or simply leave. Bitterblue discovers just how deep the lies go, and how they are still being perpetuated by her own advisors. She’s a strong character by the end, and has her friends to help support her. Cashore’s writing is smooth and brilliant as it was for the first two, and the relationships between the characters are believable and at times heart-wrenching. While they are trying to topple other kingdoms with bad rulers, she is counting on them to help her save hers. The old starts to fall away and Bitterblue is able to replace and fill positions with younger people who will be better able to rule the realm she wants it to be—with an educated populated that isn’t mistreated by their lords. There are some really interesting characters—Death, the librarian (it’s pronounced Deeth, he insists) and his cat are unforgettable, and it’s endearing the way he helps Bitterblue when he realizes she isn’t like her father, ready to fling books into the fire, but values them as much as he does. I was sad to see this series end, but I’m curious as to what Cashore will come up with next.
Series: The Seven Realms**

#1: The Demon King

#2: The Exiled Queen

#3: The Grey Wolf Throne

#4: The Crimson Crown

Chima, Cinda Williams YA, different kinds of magic (earth magic and the kind learned at school), resolving differences between groups of people who have a common tie in Raisa, the realization that when you’re the one in charge with the power, sometimes you’re the loneliest one because of that.
Another ending series, the whole of which was altogether enjoyable. The Crimson Crown is the culmination of a lot of groundwork in the first three novels of the series. Raisa is now about to be crowned queen, both of the nobles and the clans. Neither side is sure of the other, as the nobles don’t trust the clans and the clans don’t trust magic, even the few of their own who have studied it and are accomplished wizards. All three sides compete to present a possible husband for Raisa, who only loves one man, who only loves her—Han Alister, a man taken in by her father, head of an important clan, who sends Han to learn to be a wizard. He doesn’t want Raisa to marry Han, he wants her to marry someone else he has chosen to take over the clan after him, Windwalker. And the wizards want her to marry Micah Bayer, another Wizard—the Bayers have been ruling over the Wizards for a very long time, and there are some that would be more than happy to see them overturned. The Wizards and the clan refuse to trust each other until they have no choice and are betrayed from within by their own commander, and then enemies to the East. Their leader also wants to, you guessed it, marry Raisa. She’s gotten to be awfully popular. She knows with fair certainty that the men, other than Han, want to marry her to use her as a pawn, and at times she’s not too certain of Han, either. When you end up under siege in your own castle, I’d be pretty suspicious of everyone as well. This is an excellent conclusion, where good pretty much triumphs and evil pretty much loses, but not without losses and a good deal of grey remaining. The air is so thick with lies at times it’s almost palpable, and while we’re reminded that Raisa is still queen with responsibilities to think of what’s best for everyone, she’s heartbroken at the same time, and it takes a lot of prodding from her friends to get her out of her sorrow and into a place where she can make decisions again. Raisa learns how truly difficult it is to keep peace, which is all she wants, when there are so many opposed to her who are ready to battle each other at a moment’s notice, even her own family. The writing is strong, characters are well developed (I actually did feel sorry for Micah Bayer in parts—I do think he wanted to break away from his father, he just didn’t have the strength), but changeable as they need to be in order to try to accomplish what they need to do, whether it be supporting Raisa or the enemy. Or an enemy that isn’t known to be an enemy who’s supporting Raisa—The Crimson Crown felt much more complicated than the ones before it in the series. It had to fill in a lot of gaps from the past, break long held beliefs on the clan’s part, and still end up with Raisa prevailing. Well, hopefully. One relationship that is definitely intriguing is the one between Han and Crow, which progresses significantly. Altogether, I feel satisfied with the conclusion, not left hanging anywhere, and will have to read them all back to back at some point so I get everything instead of having read them over the course of four years.
Series: Avian Shifters**

#1: Duck!

#2: Magpie

Dare, Kim Adult, m/m relationships, character growth and maturing, finding one’s place in the world, interesting system of hierarchy depending on avian shifted form.
In a serious shift (no pun intended) from the earlier books on this list, both of these are m/m romances with some BDSM in them. I thought they sounded a little odd, but I generally trust the opinions of the person who recommended them on Goodreads, and she was right about these. Granted, you have to be interested in m/m romances, which I am—I say because I have gay characters in my novels, but I’m actually starting to like the well-written ones because they’re just as good as anything else out there, they’re just a very marginalized niche genre. What initially fascinated me about these two books is the way the avian society is organized. They live mostly in human form, but they know, usually, what species of bird they are going to be from when they are young to when they shift officially to avian form for the first time in front of the council. In the case of Ori, the submissive character in Duck!, he doesn’t know what he is; he was raised among humans, only learned he was a shifter about six months earlier, and has been dubbed an ugly duckling, occupying the lowest rung in the nest. Each species has a specific task, and since no one knows what he is, he’s given menial tasks where he is tormented by his co-workers (crows, I think it was in this case). They are caught red-handed when they have thrown dishes at Ori, who is trying to clean them up, when a high ranking Hawk happens to be passing by, Raynaud. In an interesting part of their culture, all species have their species sign tattooed on their wrists that they use as a form of introduction, and everyone immediately knows where the others stand. Ori doesn’t have a tattoo, because no one knows what he is. Raynaud takes him to work at his home, and their master/slave relationship commences. Where Reynaud is very sure of himself and his place, Ori is in constant motion, always cleaning things and fixing things, expecting to be passed along to another “owner” at any time. They end up falling in love, and when the time comes for Ori to shift in front of the council, he shifts into a very rare Swan, the highest ranking of all the avian species. Immediately, he is whisked to the palace and given a huge living space which makes him extremely uncomfortable—in fact, the whole thing makes him uncomfortable. He just wants things to go back to the way they were with Raynaud. Raynaud, in the meantime, is going through a period of guilt that he was treating Ori as a possession when he was a Swan, a King. Ori doesn’t care. Finally the council agrees to let Reynaud work with Ori, basically to make sure he keeps himself out of danger, and their relationship continues under that guise. Magpie starts a little later than Duck!—I’m not entirely sure how long, because Ori is much more sure of himself in this one, but he isn’t a main character, more of a very influential side character. The two main characters are Everet (who is briefly seen as a character helping Ori once he becomes King in Duck!), a Raven who is part of the security team for the nest, and Kane, a drug-addicted young Magpie who will do literally anything for his next fix, and has been for the bulk of his teenage years. They meet when Everet is called to bring Kane in for thievery, at the request of the owner’s club he was “working” in. Kane has been beaten horribly, and looks on the brink of death. Everet tells the Elders he will take responsibility for rehabilitating Kane, which they think is impossible and a waste of time. Magpies will always steal. Kane takes more steps backward than he does forward, and is a huge challenge for Everet, who is unwilling to give up on him—early on because he thinks Kane has potential, and as the novel progresses, because he starts to fall in love with him. Kane continues to frustrate until Everet finds a solution, at least temporarily, of him spending time working on the cleaning crews, because Kane loves to clean things to make them sparkle. He does so well that eventually Everet has a huge surprise for him—he takes him down to a vault, where Ori is waiting, and in the vault is all the silver from the nest, silverware, teapots, everything. If Kane does well at his job, then he can come and polish silver with Ori, who has a hard time not being able to clean anything in his position as King of the Nest. Kane and Ori start to become friends, and Kane realizes he doesn’t have to steal, all of his treasure is right here. His family turns up and tries to ruin things for him, things don’t look so good for awhile, then he is saved by Renaud, Ori, and Everet. I like that the characters work hard (even when they don’t want to, which is probably why they end up having problems again) but even when they screw up, they have managed to make enough friends to help them. One of the other aspects of these books I really liked is that while there is some BDSM, there’s not much, and they feel like love stories—real love stories, not fake contrivances like some other books out there I could name that don’t involve avian shifters, which makes this one cool as well. In Duck! there is also the question of what happens when the dominant partner is suddenly inferior status-wise, and how that is resolved. There is a lot of very badly written material out there covering these themes, and it’s nice to know that Dare spent the time to make these both very loving stories. Yes, they do get explicit, but that’s part of their purpose. They aren’t raunchy. And I liked the covers as well, very tastefully done, and much sexier than the usual in your face, here I am covers. Highly recommended for those into m/m relationship stories.
Series: Nightrunner Series**

#1: Luck in the Shadows

#2: Stalking Darkness

#3: Traitor’s Moon

#4: Shadows Return

#5: The White Road

#6: Casket of Souls

Glimpses (short stories)

 

Flewelling, Lynn Adult/YA, mystery, intrigue, espionage, magic, definite character growth, even for Seregil, who has been around a long time and still manages to change in small ways as he learns he can trust other people, m/m relationships, interesting characters, political maneuvering, royal family infighting and bickering for power leading to betrayal.
Casket of Souls is the latest in Lynn Flewelling’s Nightrunner series. This series centers on two characters, Seregil and Alec, and their friends. They are very well developed characters, as are all the supporting characters. I’ll stick to Casket of Souls as it was the one published in 2012. Alec and Seregil have been working together as thieves and ‘information gatherers’ since the first book in the series, when Alec tried to steal Seregil’s coin pouch. Since then, he has taken Alec under his wing and trained him to be an expert thief and housebreaker, and where to look for important documents. When they are at home in Rhiminee, Seregil, who is very widely known for his eccentricities and outrageous behavior, also acts unbeknownst to the people who ask for help from the Rhiminee Cat. They inevitably fall into some sort of danger or plot and return to one of two places, Seregil’s former mentor’s tower where he apprenticed unsuccessfully to be a magician under Nysander’s tutelage. The other place is Seregil’s friend Micum Cavish’s house where he lives with his wife and growing number of children. This series does involve a relationship developing between Seregil and Alec, which they don’t even discuss until the end of the second book, so I was very disappointed to see in some of the reviews on Amazon that people still reading the first book were making comments such as, “Was reading this and enjoying it then realized it was one of those kind of books and threw it away in disgust.” Their relationship is mostly subtle, sometimes made fun of by relatives because they are so in love—they are essentially bound together. There is nothing explicit—Glimpses—a collection of fan art and short stories written by Flewelling elaborate on some of those experiences, Alec and Seregil’s first time together, for example, but those types of scenes don’t come up in the series itself (but if you’re into the series, Glimpses is a really nice companion volume). Anyway, I found it annoying that someone could be genuinely enjoying a story and then realize there’s a m/m relationship in it so out the window it goes. Casket of Souls finds Seregil and Alec running into a group of players (theatre) who are taking audiences by storm, and at the same time find out information that the Queen is plotting against the Princess, who is already engaged in a war. Then a plague starts to spread. I read this so long ago—I wish I remembered the details better. The main player has something to do with it, capturing souls in bottles and using them to keep eternally young. Nysander’s apprentice at the time of his death, Thero, who started out as an arrogant somewhat one sided character novels ago, is now a magician of some repute who Seregil and Alec know they can count on as much as they did Nysander. Thero is still arrogant at times, but he’s also developing a sense of humor and has fallen in love with the princess the Queen is plotting against, supplying her with ways to contact him if she needs help (this mostly happened in the previous installment in the series, when a diplomatic trip was taken to Seregil’s old homeland that he was exiled from thirty years earlier for being caught in a relationship with another man. He’s uncomfortable with the trip, but Alec meets his family, and they all like him. Thero is working with Princess Klia on her mission, spending most of his time with her, and they fall in love. I went backward instead of forward, didn’t I? I think it’s important to mention in here somewhere that Seregil is Aurënen, an almost Elven type race, and Alec is half-hâzadriëlfaie, another clan of elvish type people who are more secretive than Seregil’s clan. Everything is sorted at the end of Casket of Souls (sorry, that has to be one of the worst reviews ever—if I wrote the reviews right after I read the book it would be better—I originally read this in May). Sadly, there is going to be only one more book in this series. I have become quite attached to the characters, so even while I might not always get the plots straight, the writing and development of the characters are so good I do really feel unhappy there is only one more book. Oh well, I can always start them over.
Series: Havemercy**

#1: Havemercy

#2: Shadow Magic

#3: Dragon Soul

#4: Steelhands

Jones, Jaida, & Bennett, Danielle Mechanical, sentient, fighting dragons who can talk and interact with their riders, a widely varied corps of personalities. Do I need to say anything more than mechanical, sentient, fighting dragons?
I’m just going to come right out and confess I read these almost a year ago, but I really, really liked them at the time. The idea was very clever, I thought. Dragons that were built with a specific member of the flight corps in mind, in one case, the dragon had been built for one man’s brother, but his brother had died and he was genetically close enough that he could ride the same dragon. The dragons and the riders learn each others’ personalities—despite the fact they have been engineered, the dragons are sentient and learn. The series starts with the whole corps having been disciplined for their appalling behavior at an important event which involved women and large amounts of alcohol. It is decided, then, that they need “etiquette training,” and a young professor is sent in to teach them, supposedly, everything they are supposed to know. Naturally he meets with resistance and insolence, a naïve professor and a hardened flight corps—no problems here. There are characters that are lost through the course of the series, some of which I was surprised to feel sad about even though their characters were at times annoying—they all fit a purpose within the corps to make it a cohesive group, and their loss changed that. Steelhands centers on one young corpsman who has lost his hands in the battle in the previous book, and has new ones made from the same metal the dragons are constructed from, and how he learns to adapt as everything is different now. Two of the original Dragon Corps have decided to stay in the desert where the final battle occurred, but they begin to uncover mysterious and disturbing things about the dragons, which they report back to their old commander. Despite the fact that the Dragon Corps could generally be referred to at the beginning of the series as a very motley crew of men, they were a motley crew of men who depended and trusted each other to cover their backs, and they genuinely cared for each other. The idea of the importance of human interaction and relationships continues in Steelhands. Jones and Bennett have created a wonderful world populated by interesting people and creatures. I was lucky enough to have found out about the series when Steelhands was released, so was able to read all of them at once (one after the other, that is). I think sometimes that’s the most marvelous way to read books—to suddenly discover a new series that already has a few books out and just become inundated in their world, which was easy in this case. The characters are so different, yet fully realized, there is just enough description where is doesn’t become tedious, and the world-building is such that it makes perfect sense that these dragons exist. I’m hoping Steelhands isn’t the last one in the series, as I’m curious to learn more, but if it is, I’m very happy to have read the ones that are here.

The Speed of Stuck

I think I’ve mentioned in a couple of posts that I’ve been stuck at this one particular point in my writing. I’ll look at it, go back a few chapters and change a little, then go back to where I am, clean that up a little, but no forward progression whatsoever except for maybe a sentence or two. I haven’t actually been stuck quite this badly for a while.

Then my attention turned to the fact that I was extremely behind in my reading–I was doing the Goodreads Challenge thing and decided at the beginning of the year to read 143 books. I’d been fine until I started writing a lot again, then the reading sort of fell by the wayside. I know it isn’t a huge thing, the world isn’t going to end (I think we’ve had enough of that for one year, thank you) if I don’t finish reading the number of books I said I was going to. But it bugged me. So far I haven’t really accomplished much this year, for various reasons which don’t need to be discussed, and I just latched onto the necessity of finishing the books for the challenge. I was about 27 books behind in the second week of December, and didn’t think I’d make it.

Being stuck in my writing and not being distracted by that, suddenly a lot of time opened up for reading and I’ve been on a mad reading marathon for the past two and a half weeks or so. I can read pretty quickly if I’m engrossed in the story, and luckily the books I had around from the library and that I’d bought but hadn’t had time to read were, for the most part, really good and interesting. (Just don’t ask me questions about details of a book I read last week). I read quickly, but my retention isn’t all that great. I read for the story, and often don’t pay attention to little details (that’s what second readings are for <g>) and get caught up in it, so I can read about 2 books a day if I really try, well, more of a read one, finish it, start another, finish it the next day… it depends on how thick the book is. I did not deliberately choose books that were small, by the way <g>. I can’t help it if City of Lost Souls has the equivalent of  14 or 15 point font in it. I think I possibly could have read that one without my glasses. I read a lot of last books in trilogies, some which ended satisfactorily but a little open-ended, so I could put characters together in a relationship in my head without feeling guilty if that was what the author intended or not. It’s the last book, after all. It’s open to interpretation, right?

On a side note here, I just have to make a couple of comments on City of Lost Souls, because I’m becoming sadly annoyed with the Mortal Instruments series. When Cassandra Clare first started writing this series, I stuck up for her and said it didn’t matter what she’d done in her fan fiction, because I didn’t see anything that she’d taken from anywhere in the first books, I thought they were pretty well written, and they were interesting. I expected the Mortal Instruments to end at the first trilogy, and was actually pretty annoyed when it turned out there were going to be three more books. I do have to say I like the Infernal Devices series better. I don’t know why. Maybe because it’s a time period I like, and it’s also different enough from the Mortal Instruments that you don’t have to read one series with the other. I was OK with City of Fallen Angels–I didn’t think it was great, didn’t think it was awful, but while reading City of Lost Souls, I really, really wanted to tell Ms. Clare to stop. It’s too late to go back and undo the damage COLS did–not to mention that it’s beginning to sound a lot like Twilight, which was really disappointing, but the characters were all doing things that didn’t seem like things they would do. We’re five books in, here. This whole Clary/ Jace thing is really beginning to grate on my nerves. I know I’m not the only one who feels that way–I read some of the reviews afterward and about half of them felt the way I did. That now it’s for the money and not in the interest of writing good books. COLS was getting sloppy toward the end, and it was beginning to get genuinely weird. I don’t mind weird if it’s conducive to the plot, but when it’s weird in the sense of drawing out a very thin plot, I do mind. I also mind, and this is where the Twilight thing comes in, so there are *****spoilers here if you haven’t read COLS and plan to, when the book starts to echo some themes I didn’t particularly like in the original book, in this case, Twilight.  (I’ve made arguments in defense of and against Twilight, just to play devil’s advocate). Yes, Jace is being controlled by Sebastian, but does that make his treatment of Clary forgivable? He’s been nasty to her at various points in the whole series, but it was worse in this one, to the point of being abusive, yet she just takes it and goes on about how much she loves him and she has to save him, enough that she’d make a deal with the Seelie Queen and start making extremely stupid decisions in general. It was getting to the point where I didn’t care if they destroyed the world as they knew it and took over. They deserved it. Alec became this paranoid, insecure boyfriend who was overly worried about his mortality, a theme that shows up all the time  when there’s a romance involving someone who’s immortal and someone who isn’t. He is still obsessed with Magnus’ past lovers (honestly, how many hundreds of years has he been around? Alec expects him to have taken a purity vow or something and wear a ring for all that time?). It’s normal to be curious about former lovers, and possibly jealous to an extent if they are still friends or if you feel your partner isn’t being completely honest with you. Their relationship was one of the more interesting things in this trilogy, and Clare has Alec ruin the whole thing. In the other four books he wasn’t so whiny or snivelly. And I think the things he does in this book are out of character–he becomes more and more insecure until he makes a very stupid choice. People do that all the time, I suppose. But most people aren’t involved with 800 year old or so (sorry if I didn’t get the age right) warlock, either. Most likely, they have a lot of baggage. At least too much for carry-on. So that part sucked for me. And I know that coincidences happen when you’re writing and someone else has a very similar idea that you’ve been working on and you think “Damn, now they’re going to think I copied them!” but I don’t know if this falls into that category. In order to separate Jace’s link from Sebastian, Clary kills Jace with an angelic sword that burns all the evil out of him–if there’s enough good left, he’ll survive. But meanwhile, as someone in another review put it, he’s basically the Human Torch for a bit, and then (jarring, horrific jolt back to Twilight) he glows. Yes, he glows now. No one is sure why, not even the Silent Brothers. Sound familiar? Maybe a little…sparkly? And then–personal statement injectment here: I do not condone having sex before a person is emotionally and physically ready to do so. It should be something valuable, hopefully, and meaningful. But let’s face it, it happens all the time in YA novels. We’re five books in and Jace and Clary have only gotten to third base, so to speak–something always happens to stop them. It’s clearly obvious that Jace isn’t a virgin, but Clary is, so in that respect we’re back to the “it’s ok for boys but not for girls” scenario. And now, ta da, due to Jace’s current state of glowiness, he says they probably shouldn’t do anything because of it (presumably until they know what it is). Does that sound familiar?  Through the whole course of the book everyone is terrified of saying anything to the Clave regarding anything they know about Jace because they will probably consider it treason and kill him. Serious, serious stuff. But when he’s back? Clary can’t see him for days until she finally just goes and does it, everything seems fine with the Clave, and suddenly the book is populated by paper dolls. Truthfully, I’m mostly sad about this. I probably will get the next one, just because I feel sort of committed at this point (or should be committed for continuing to read them) and am hoping the last one will redeem this one. Enough of that.*******

I didn’t mean to go on about that for so long, it’s just that I finished a few series and was really satisfied with the way they ended–the Matched trilogy: Reached was far, far better than I thought it would be. I wasn’t so sure about the first two, they seemed a little hollowish to me but I thought they were alright, but Reached, I thought, was good enough that it didn’t matter–things made sense in the first two now that hadn’t, the characters were growing (some more than others, but still). The final book of the Seven Realms books, The Crimson Crown, was awesome. The Far West, concluding that series, was good. Quintana of the Charyn, and especially, although I know people are somewhat divided about this one as well, Bitterblue–both of those, but especially Bitterblue, I just sat there for a while after I finished it trying to soak it all in. I love Kristen Cashore’s writing style and her characters, and I loved how everything came together here. I didn’t want it to end. There were also some pretty amazing first books in trilogies (although it would be nice to get some stand-alones just so you don’t have to wait three years to finish a story): The Dark UnwindingGrave Mercy, Shadowfell, Defiance, Throne of Glass–I know I’m leaving some out, but there are plenty of books to look forward to next year. And I do recommend For Darkness Shows the Stars very highly. I started reading the unicorn series and didn’t like it so was hesitant about this one, but when I found out it was loosely based on Persuasion I was curious. Now I need to read Persuasion again.

Again, I’m straying from the original point. While reading all of these books in such rapid succession, the back of my mind was still thinking about where I was stuck, sort of poking it with a stick and trying to annoy into something workable. It was amazingly exhilarating to go through all those books so quickly–it was like being inundated with marvelousness. But I realized that’s what’s wrong with my book. I’m rushing it. Things happen before they should, I get impatient so I’ve rearranged things to happen when they originally didn’t, so not enough time has passed before important things happen. In my rush to get to the end of my book, I’m not paying attention to the details and things that I sometimes don’t pay attention to in other books because I’m so engrossed in the story, and read too fast when I should slow down and be more patient. So I’ve gone back (in my head, I just finished my last book for the challenge last night) to where I think I need to start slowing the story down a little, or at least letting things progress at a more natural pace. Yes, Madeleine can do such and such, she just needs to wait. She and Geoff are not particularly patient people, and he’s become more central than he was before, so I have two impatient characters telling each other not to be so impatient while I keep rushing them along, and now it’s turned into a log jam. So I’m curious, now that I think that’s what the problem might be, to see if it really is. Yes, the story does need to flow, but not run headfirst into a dam at full tilt. Plus, that would hurt.

Good vs. Evil, and Beauty

I was going through my email yesterday and went to a link from one, PW Daily or something, then went to a link from there–you know, the link domino effect, where you keep getting distracted by other topics on the page and forget what you were originally looking for but end up finding other interesting things instead?

Somehow I stumbled across an article on villainesses and their physical attributes, versus the physical attributes of the  heroine, and, equally important, how self-aware each of them are of their own appearance. Alright, I found the actual link to the article after looking through my history (well my computer’s history, to be more precise):

http://www.heroesandheartbreakers.com/blogs/2012/12/dont-hate-her-because-shes-beautiful-villains-and-the-weakness-of-beauty-in-romance?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+HomeHeroesAndHeartbreakerscom+%28H%26H%3A+Front+Page+Partial+-+Blogs+and+Stories%29

I’ll try to briefly summarize for those too busy to look at the moment, but if you’re a Michelle Pfeiffer fan, there is a picture of her from Snow or Snow White or whatever the movie was called (mea culpa–I didn’t see it, or the Huntsman one). The blogger, Elizabeth Vail, has an interesting theory, that once I started thinking about, really does seem true, not just in movies and romance novels, but in fantasy as well. She uses a couple of examples, one being Snow and the other being the Wizard of Oz, where it’s pretty obvious who the bad witch is because she’s hideous.

That’s the way that it is in most fairy tales and older works (we’re not talking the seductress/temptress type of character here, but the ones that are truly the villains). Snow White is sort of an exception to that, though, now that I think on it–the queen only makes herself look ugly when she’s giving Snow White the apple (another caveat, the blog pretty much stuck to Disney villainesses, and there are more exceptions the more I think about it, but we’ll just stick to fairy tale princesses for now. It simplifies things.)

However, what is, according to Vail, the most important concept of this is while the evil character is very aware of the way she looks and uses that to her advantage, as a means to an end and a way to use beauty as manipulating other people, usually men, the heroine is possibly just as beautiful, though completely unaware of it until–and this is where it gets interesting–the man who rescues her tells her she is, and then she finally starts to believe she is because he tells her she is. She still isn’t a villain, now that she’s more aware of her attractiveness, because another key feature to the difference between the beauty of the villainess and the heroine is the means by which they achieve their beauty.

The villainess’ beauty is, as Vail puts it, artificial. She has to work at being beautiful to keep people under her power. The heroine is naturally beautiful, she just is without trying, though oblivious to it.

The basic point was, why can’t you have a heroine who is aware of her beauty, especially the effect it has on men, but is also intelligent, without making her promiscuous  or any other thing one might care to label a woman who is self-possessed and sure of herself? So the author mentions a book, a romance called Beguiling the Beauty, where the heroine is supposedly not a meek, beautiful little thing in the corner waiting to be saved, but a woman who is attractive and knows it, and in the end of the 19th Century, also knows how to use it to maneuver her way through a society run by men, for men.

So, now a little curious, and not just using it as a chance to read another romance novel as a way to speed along my Goodreads Challenge, which I’m not going to meet by less than twenty books, maybe ten. Maybe I will, but at December 12th, I’m not finding it likely. Writing too much and not enough reading. Anyway, I checked out the library and it was a new book on the shelf–and actually on the shelf when I got there–small side rant–I love our library, it’s the best library I’ve ever had, even though we live just out of the city limits therefore have to pay $120/year to use it. Which is definitely money well spent, I think. I use it a lot. But after having worked in two different libraries and a bookstore, I feel a sense of trepidation when I go up to see if a book the computer says is there is actually there, because very often it’s not. The computer says when the book is being shelved, so it’s not being shelved. Most likely, someone has taken it off the shelf and put it back wherever, and it won’t be found until the library does an inventory or something. This is particularly bad in the Young Adult section. I’ve started simply putting books on hold instead of going specifically to look for them, unless I’m there already picking up books on hold for me, because it kept happening over and over and I finally got fed up. It’s not the library’s fault, but it’s annoying. They know the best places to look and I don’t. They probably think I’m lazy–I always am putting things on hold, mostly things that are already on hold, but the things that are supposed to be there as well. I know from experience that people often think they’re helping by putting things back. Don’t! For one thing, the library keeps track of what’s taken off the shelf and keeps statistics. If a book is put back just one or two sets of shelves over, no one is going to look that far unless they are truly determined or desperate.

Back on track: I checked it out and started reading it last night, but am not far enough into it to have anything to report, except that both the heroine and the person I’m assuming is going t0 be the hero are both interested, seemingly, in fossils, which is a new one on me. The cover is interesting, though

Beguiling-the-Beauty-by-Sherry-Thomas174x281

I read another article at some point talking about how romance novels but some other genres as well do the head-cutting-off thing, both on men and women. I think it’s interesting that it’s always above the lips. If it’s above the eyes, I suppose it would be too disproportionate. So we’re left with lips and quite a well exposed bosom.

But yes, it does look sufficiently fleshy. And on a completely separate note (remember what I said about outlines? This is why I need them)–personally I have not read any Jim C. Hines, yet. But this man has to be one of the funniest fantasy/sci fi authors I’ve never read. I’ve read little things on his page and first became aware of him when I found a link to him re-creating poses of females on fantasy covers to see if they were even physically possible. He later did one on male poses. They are hysterical. He is a brave, brave man. He is doing one now for charity for a non-profit foundation on a rare syndrome that effects girls–Aicardi Syndrome, which I’d never heard of even after working for nearly 13 years with people with disabilities. Research on this syndrome is definitely a worthwhile cause.

Jim C. Hines’ website:

http://www.jimchines.com

I’m thinking of starting with The Stepsister Scheme.  I should see if the library has them. The above mentioned poses are in his blog section, and are his most popular blogs, so they shouldn’t be too hard to find.

I suppose, getting back to the original subject, that what startled me was that I have done the same thing with my female characters (which I am trying to introduce more of). At first the only one was Gwyne, who Madeleine didn’t really relate to because she had grown up knowing she was going to marry Brion, accepted that role, and was, in most people’s eyes, living it as she should be–the good monarch’s wife who bears him heirs. They don’t realize how much influence she has over him, not a bad influence, but more of a ‘use your brain’ influence. The other brain. Brion’s habit of talking before he thinks is very much like his father’s, which isn’t a good trait for a King. So Madeleine grows up a complete tomboy, used to being around only her brothers and avoiding girls because they think she’s some sort of freak because of both her appearance and her way of thinking, and her complete lack of social etiquette. She is beautiful but doesn’t believe it, doesn’t like the way she looks and doesn’t even use mirrors. I think there’s more to the latter than avoiding her appearance, though. In a way she’s avoiding an identity by refusing to stop and really look at herself. In a scene that was edited out that I liked, Elvan tells her to go look in the mirror and stay there until she figures out what she has missed–the fact that one of her brothers is really a full brother and everyone has figured it out except her, including the brother. Maybe I can try to work that back in. Everyone tells her she is pretty, but she doesn’t believe them, possibly because the fact that she’s so short bothers her enough that she doesn’t believe the fact that she could be appealing. As in the blog above (not an article, sorry) where the heroine is naturally beautiful but doesn’t believe it–only Madeleine doesn’t believe it when men tell her. She looks at other women and realizes she’s completely unlike them physically. Miadryth, her cousin on the Vaundenbourgh side who Geoffrey married, is the opposite–very conscious of her appearance, her dresses, fashion, the very strong belief that she is entitled to more than she has–is meant to have more than she has. She is very beautiful, something that attracts Geoffrey to her immediately. She finds him attractive as well, but also his position and the possibility that he might elevate her status. Being around Madeleine tempered some of those beliefs for a while, but she goes back to being her original self, and more is revealed about her character that makes her seem somewhat two dimensional–she wants money and position, and wants it through an Aithin husband, not Geoffrey. Despite the face that he is a prince, which is something I tend to forget about all of the Lockienhylms other than Brion–I suppose the only one left is Adrian. Brion cares, position matters to him, but not of the others really do.

While Mia is cruel, I’m not sure she’s evil, just not a very nice person. She’s not ordering anyone killed. But not even her older brother can stand her anymore, hasn’t been able to for quite some time, and lives at Elverliane. She is very self-confident, the only person she’s afraid of is Antony. She and Madeleine were friends, though, and it still hurts her that Madeleine cuts her off once she realizes the situation with Mia and Geoffrey.

Bettina is an older, wiser woman who was originally hired by Kalliandra, Madeleine’s mother, when Kalliandra sill lived at Lherghard. She was Madeleine’s nanny, so she does try to improve her manners. She’s the one who comes up with the idea that Madeleine will only wear dresses when she’s at Elverliane. She’s the Head of House but also, and not very well known, the Seneschal. Adrian knows, obviously, as he knows all of the Seneschals, but he doesn’t say anything, figuring that there must be a reason she goes under the title Head of House instead.

The other two main female characters, Stasia and Deirdre, both have come from the same House. While Stasia has been a Courtesan for years, Deirdre only has been for the past four years, and since she was twelve, worked in the streets. Stasia is intelligent and knows more generally than Deirdre, whose focus for so long was staying alive and trying to avoid being killed. They’re both beautiful because they were both Courtesans, but people have a hard time seeing past that, which Stasia realizes can actually be used to her advantage at times, as she’s not expected to be able to think on her own by people who aren’t aware of the difference between Courtesans and the prostitutes on the street. Courtesans are generally better educated, and know more about both what is going on in the world around them as well as being able to carry on intelligent conversations. Stasia worried for Deirdre, an Empath, knowing that this situation is completely wrong for her but not wanting to put her back on the street.

So it is still a world mostly peopled by men. I think this is a result of the fact that I don’t always understand women very well myself, having been much more like Madeleine growing up. Except without the brothers. And being the oldest. I’ve thought a lot lately how would be nice to have an older brother somewhat along the lines of Adrian or Julian. It would be nice to have a place to go where acceptance isn’t a question, and the love is truly unconditional.

That’s possibly why my characters aren’t trying to kill each other off for the throne. I don’t want a Game of Thrones type scenario where no one can trust anyone. It becomes a little too much at times. I want a land where after years of distrust, they are trying to move forward, with a few stubborn people who still try to play the old games of stepping backward, and the process of discovering who they are and trying to bring them to justice without turning fields to trampled, muddy, blood-stained wastelands. I’m not putting Game of Thrones and on down, I have tried to read the first one, started about five times, and just haven’t been able to get into it. Sometimes that happens and I’ll read the book again later on when the time is somehow right and it clicks and I’m totally sucked in. I watched the first season, which renewed my interest in it, and not being phased by spoilers and wanting to know more what happens to the characters I’m interested in have looked that information up. Which I then cannot breathe a word about because my boyfriend hates spoilers.

I think it’s more a case that I simply couldn’t manage a world that large, with so many characters. I write what I’d want to read (I know that sounds cheesy), and if I want to read about wars and people dying, all I have to do is read about Syria or Afghanistan, to name a couple. Last time I checked, which was a week and a half ago or so, over 408,000 refugees had fled Syria into the neighboring countries, Turkey being a popular destination, among other places. In a country where President Assad says Democracy is at work. And refuses to step down. NATO finally stepped in at one point when Syria was threatening to use chemical weapons against Turkey, lobbed a few missiles over. But no one is really doing much as a large unit–I finally stopped following it so closely because it was so disheartening. Is the basic idea to let them kill each other off? I can see that as a strategy. The younger Geoffrey would have endorsed it. The older one might, but only if it was the last possible course of action. Eventually, Rial Oman does take in refugees from what is basically a war of persecution, not unlike the war against the Aithin years earlier under his father. It’s one of the first truly ethical decisions Brion makes at the opposition from his council for support from the provinces over a war too keep one boy safe–in the short term a decision that may not make sense to them, but in the long term, the key to how the two nations will relate and for a safe future for everyone on both sides.

What happens to the refugees in Game of Thrones? Are there none? Are they all simply killed? That’s one way to deal with it. It is a fantasy, and I haven’t read the books as of yet. Maybe I’ll wait until all eight, or nine, or however many are done. Not that I’m one to talk. I’ve been working on this second book for two years now. I guess I’m not an epic battle scene kind of gal. Instead I have a family that doesn’t vie for power, mostly because they either don’t want it or already have it to the degree they’re comfortable with. While they may not have agents in the field, Adrian and Elvan are becoming quite a formidable team, along with Antony to keep Brion calm so he’ll listen to them. There is truth to their discussion that Antony and Adrian together have equal power to Brion, both an interesting and somewhat treasonous idea. Neither Antony nor Adrian want Brion’s position. The two of them consider Gwyne a crucial part of this–they understand how important she is. And Elvan’s role is growing.

Unfortunately, I think a lot of the things I had hoped to fit into book 2 are going to be in book 3, which does have a name, I just don’t remember it off the top of my head. I’m also beginning to think the name I had originally for the second book, Cael’an, isn’t really going to work anymore, which is disappointing because I have a terrible time coming up with titles.

And how did we get here from villainesses? I don’t know. Good vs. Evil, I guess. I read a bit about the characters in Game of Thrones and I really did like one thing that George R.R. Martin said about Tyrion Lannister. He’s grey. Not totally good, not totally evil. That, I think, is one truth in the world.