Saturday, May 29, 2010

Harry Potter at Our House Weekly Report

Now, Daddy's addicted.  Well, I taught our daughter to read as a baby (not joking), so, you know, the genes were already there. 
Before her report card came in, she managed to convince him to buy THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE on DVD.  We think she'll either be an attorney or a marketing director when she grows up.  So, Daddy watches that, is enthralled, and then they fight over her DEATHLY HALLOWS book.  She doesn't like to loan those out to anyone.  Finally, he gains possession of it.  I think her report card with the B in math finally arriving helped push things over the edge.  He spends two days reading it and we tease him for taking so long.  Speed-Reading's genetic too, it seems, from my side.  So, now Daddy's addicted to the Harry Potter universe too.  After all, it's STAR WARS on planet Earth with wands instead of lightsabers, basically.
Speaking of Star Wars, Daddy wants to be Darth Vader for Fall Festival (Halloween to the rest of yas) and I want to be Mrs. Malfoy. 

Our daughter is not pleased with this.  She says I must go as Mrs. Weasley.  I AM MRS. WEASLEY!  She says, right down to the red hair and massive herd of offspring.  Mrs. Weasley has seven, I have four.

But, I say if I'm going to pretend to be someone else, I want to be someone BAD because I'm nice and good in real life, you know, except when I have to go without coffee or chocolate for a while.  And, besides, Daddy gets to be Darth Vader!  But, then, she tells me Mrs. Weasley goes Mama Bear Ballistic in DEATHLY HALLOWS, which I'm resisting reading until right before the movie comes out.  Now, I'm conflicted.
Oh, by the way, I found the British edition of THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX at a second hand store and our daughter was thrilled out of her mind.  She gave me her American version.  Mom Tip:   It's always a good idea to keep several copies of favorite books on hand, just in case one gets loved to tatters or more than one member of your family wants to re-read one at the same time.
P.S. Anyone know where I can get a 'Howler?'  Actually, I need four of them.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Your Favorite Hero (or Heroine)

Nathan Bransford has a fun post up right now, which might be of educational value to writers too.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

SF Romance Haterz

Review: Highland Blessings by Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Highland Blessings
by Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Genre: Christian Historical Romance
Publisher: Abingdon Press
Release: May 1, 2010
Price: $11.19

What I Liked:
Well, as a *huge* fan of Scottish Historical romances, I had been looking forward to this book ever since I first heard about its release, months ago. Not only historical, but Scottish; not only Scottish but medieval; not only medieval but Christian. I really was waiting with bated breath for this release.

I was not disappointed in the book. It was historically accurate, it had a good plot, it had interesting characters, it was well-written, it was edifying. I really enjoyed it. I didn't *love* it, but if you read my reviews, you'll know that the sweet-sweet saccharine-y stuff is just too much for me. And I must confess that this book had some of that. It turned me off to the heroine after awhile, and I had to work to connect with her. But I did reconnect with her, around her love story, because that was definitely where I thought this book really shone. It had a great love story that felt real and deep.

An awful lot of books these days have motivations for their heroes or heroines that just don't make sense to me. But one of the reasons that I liked this book so much, and one of the reasons that I like Scottish historicals in general is that family and honor were *such* deep motivations, I would believe almost anything they did to protect them. There is so much at stake when a medieval Scot's family is attacked or threatened or when there's a clan war. So much at stake that any motivation is believable to me. I would believe that they would do anything. A good man, for instance, would kidnap a woman if he thought that's what his family required of him. I completely believe that. And he would marry for loyalty. I like that. So one of my favorite things about this book is that the characters had motivations that meant something. They had a lot at stake, and they made decisions that made sense with who they were.

So all in all, I thought this was a great book. I'm interested to see what this author releases next, because she writes not only about Scotland (my favorite place in the world), but also about the Carolinas (my other favorite place in the world). And I think she's a good writer, and I will likely enjoy whatever she releases next. If you like books with an inspirational bent, and good historical writing, I think you definitely need to pick this book up today.

The Book Blurb:
"Highland warrior Bryce MacPhearson kidnaps Akira MacKenzie on her wedding day to honor a promise he made to his dying father. When he forces Akira to wed him, hoping to end a half-century feud between their clans, she struggles to overcome her anger and resentment. . .Yet her strength in the Lord becomes a witness to Bryce. But there is a traitor in their midst . . . and murder is the ultimate weapon."

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Harry Potter's a Bad Influence On Me

Okay, now we've covered THE GOBLET OF FIRE, THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX, and we're, ahem, patiently awaiting THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE.  So, anyway, my daughter told me Dad told her he'd buy THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE on Blu-Ray DVD if she got her math grade up to a B.  So, I was like, "When's the report card getting here?"  And she was like, "I dunno."  And I said, "Well, if you don't make a B, I'll show you how to change it on the card."  And Dad was like, "Hey!"
The special effects in GOBLET OF FIRE were awesome, my poor boy Draco Malfoy got turned into a ferret, and the guy who played Cedric Diggory was really cute, you know, for a brown-haired guy.  Looked strangely familiar, hmmm.  I think his real name was, um, Robert Whathisname Pattinson, or something like that.  I've never actually watched TWILIGHT yet, but I've seen the trailors and I think he's cuter in HARRY POTTER because he laughs and has fun. 

I've always preferred fun-laughing, funny guys...and blonds.  But, no one's perfect.  Can't believe Professor Moody turned my boy into a ferret!
The pink lady in THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX was just plain freaky, totally my kind of villain.  Sweet, wonderful, eeeevill freakin' psycho!  Harry also got some num-nums from his first girlfriend, Cho.  I mean he got a kiss.  Me and my daughter ranked it at least an 9.  The mistletoe was a nice touch.
Only six more months until DEATHLY HALLOWS part one hits theaters.  Will I let my daughter skip school so we can hit the premier in Anchorage?  Heck, yeah!  Baaaad mommy!  Bad!
P.S. My daughter finally admitted Anakin is cuter than Luke Skywalker.  So, you see, she's turning out all right in spite of my shortcomings.

LEVIATHAN by Scott Westerfeld

Sorry, this this is, like, two weeks late or so.  My own novel-writing got in the way and killed my poor, Tendonitis-stricken hands.  And this isn't even a real review.
LEVIATHAN was a heart-breaker for me, 'cause I anticipated it so much.  I'd just read PEEPS and loved it and was so sure I'd love LEVIATHAN that I let out an audible squeeee! in the bookstore when I found it.  If it had been an ARC, I would be beating myself with a stack of free bookmarks.
LEVIATHAN is very cool.  Let's get that straight.  It's a bestseller.  It's Steampunk.  The world-building is freakin' awesome!  And Scott Westerfeld is obviously one of those authors who constantly strives to better his writing skills.  He doesn't score big one one novel and then sit back and phone the rest in.  LEVIATHAN is extremely well written.
So, what was my problem with it?  The characters.  If you've hung out around here long enough, you know how fiercely character-driven I am.  If the characters don't grab me, it doesn't matter how fabulous the world-building is or how riveting the plot, I kinda just sigh, set down the book, and move on. 
Prince Alek is certainly the most 'real,' probably because he's male and so is the author.  I really wanted to love the girl character.  She's certainly well-drawn, but she didn't come alive for me.  That really bummed me out because she's a pilot and I have a thing for pilots.  Married a boy-pilot and made a bunch of little co-pilots with him.  But, alas...  (((sigh)))
I should add that I had the same experience when I picked up UGLIES, so I handed it over to my daughter.  She's a member of the target readership and she loved it.
PEEPS remains my favorite Scott Westerfeld novel.  Again, the female character in that one didn't come alive for me, but the male hero did.  So, I think it's just that I don't connect with Mr. Westerfeld's female characters.  I recently picked up another one of his, THE MIDNIGHTERS, and it looks uber-cool too.  I'll be getting to that one eventually.
Meantime, you should really pop over to Scott Westerfeld's site-   and read up on all his books.  He's, I think, the foremost Young Adult Science Fiction author right now.
P.S. I own the hardback novel, which has different cover art.  The cover you see at the top of this post is for the paperback version which is due out soon.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Poison Study by Maria V Snyder

September 2007, Mira Books
Paperback, Personal Copy
Fantasy, Young Adult (sort of! Apparently this cover is a YA version...)

(As a reviewer from England...I might have slightly different spelling for some words. Watch out for the extra u! )

Possibly minor spoilers in this review

Summary from Mira 

Choose: A quick death or slow poison…

On the eve of her execution for murder, Yelena is reprieved, but her relief is short-lived. She is to be the Commander of Ixia’s food taster. Can Yelena learn all she needs to know about poisons before an assassin succeeds?

Her troubles have only just begun, however… Valek, her captor, has a uniquely cruel method to stop her escaping; General Brazell, father of the man she killed, still wants her dead; and someone is plotting against the Commander.

Resourceful and wily, Yelena gains friends, survival skills - and more than a few enemies. In a desperate race against time, the Commander’s life, the future of Ixia and the secrets of her own past will be in her hands

When KimberAn told me the good news about becoming a reviewer here, I instantly knew that I'd be reviewing Maria's books. I absolutely love them. I loved them the moment I read them. I haven't ever come across a food taster before, not one with magical powers. (Psst: for the foodie book lovers this one has food in!)

The thing is, Yelena doesn't know she has magic. She lives in a realm where magic is forbidden, and anyone with magic is in big trouble. So it's not really fun that on top of all the trouble she's in, she has to hide her new power. A power which she only discovers from an enemy of the land. She has to master the power or she will die. Yes, another do or die scenario for Yelena.

Yelena is a cool character. She knows enough to keep her alive initially. She knows she needs more tricks up her sleeve to survive, and works hard to learn them. It takes effort, but slowly she builds up a portfolio of moves and knowledge. This will go to helping her survive in the harsh environment. Her confident personality helps her fight for survival. An enjoyable part of Yelena was her vulnerability. She has been hurt badly by evil men. The things they do are inhumane, and not dwelt on too much by Maria. There is enough detail to be horrified by her past, but not too much to put me off reading further. There's a fine balance when discussing such issues, and Maria handles the balance delicately.

Her life isn't fun at all. But it's very exciting as a reader to watch her story unfold. I like books where the outlook starts off grim, and gets grimmer (please ignore the poor grammar). But amidst the darkness there is always hope. Okay, so it's a really thin hope that somehow Yelena will figure things out and manage to save herself, but the hope is there all the same.

And with that hope, she develops a few strong friendships. Friendships which had me choking up in places. Yelena doesn't expect anyone to care for her, to be nice to her. A lot of people hate her and treat her cruelly. But not her friends. Especially not Valek.

Yes, this has a romance element. It is sweetly done, one with pretty much a closed curtains policy. Valek in himself is an interesting character. He isn't all he seems (and he's pretty sneaky too!) He scares Yelena on more than one occasion (in different ways). He makes her life difficult. Yet at the same time he makes   life very easy for her, not that she realises it at the time.

I was fortunate enough to have Magic Study, book 2, in my TBR pile when I first read this series. I still have it waiting for me to re-read. (This is a series where the books get better with re-reading. Even though I know exactly what happens, my stomach still gets tied in knots and I clutch the metaphorical cushion tightly). It will naturally be reviewed here :)

Ok, and the best part, not only is this a trilogy, but the next series written by Maria focuses on a secondary character from this series!!! So Yelena features (briefly) in it! Yay!

Content: mildly sensual to sensual, mildly violent to violent (possibly a few scenes not very nice to read).

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Review: Hometown Princess by Lenora Worth

Hometown Princess
by Lenora Worth
Genre: Contemporary Inspirational Romance
: Harlequin/Steeple Hill
: $6.25
What I Liked:
I have to admit that I had never heard of Lenora Worth before, but when I opened the cover of the book and saw that she'd published over 40 books for HQ/SH, I was already impressed. Since I've been trying to read lots of SH/Love Inspired books lately, I just picked it up because it was on the shelf. But Lenora Worth definitely knows what she's doing. She's not one of the flukes out there who can write maybe one good book. If she's been writing for that long, and published that many books, she's got some kind of ability.
And I just adored this book. This is probably the best-written Love Inspired book I've read yet. The characters were deep and the conflict believable. The Christian interactions were a little over-the-top, but not *too* over-the-top. I sort of expect some over-the-top-ness, but I was pleased to see that there was some restraint. The love story was definitely the focus of this book.
Plus, I just have a soft spot in my heart for books about rural people. This town was definitely more hip and with it than most of the small towns I know, but not in an unbelievable way. Just something unique about it. I loved the heroine. She definitely made this book for me. The hero was great, but the heroine was my favorite part, and that's really unusual for me with romance novels. I often have a hard time connecting with heroines in romance novels. But not this one. No problem at all!
I look forward to reading more of Lenora Worth's books (previous and future, I hope). Truly a pleasure!
Book Blurb:
All Cari Duncan has ever wanted is family. Yet her late father chose his new young wife's children over Cari. Surprised—and hopeful— when he bequeaths her the old house she grew up in, Cari moves to Knotwood Mountain, Georgia. But she and her stepmother clash the minute she arrives. How can Cari make a fresh start in the small town? The handsome businessman next door, who happens to be the most eligible bachelor, claims to know exactly how. But following Rick Adams's time-tested advice means opening her heart…to faith, family and her very own Prince Charming! 

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Interview and Review: Whiter Than Snow by Sandra Dallas

Whiter Than Snow

Release Date: April 2010
Price: $12.49 (hardcover)

What I Liked:
First of all, I will say that Sandra Dallas is a superb writer. Whenever I read other reviews that say that about someone, I'm skeptical. But this time, my skepticism was unfounded. I found myself immediately drawn into the story, and could barely put it down when I needed to take a break. I love that feeling. As heartbreaking as it was to read in places, it was completely engaging.

Of course, since I also write about the 1920s in the West (well, at least the main setting was in the West), I was immediately drawn to the storyline, and she did not disappoint me. I found the setting and the details of the plot to be realistic and engaging, consistent with what I know of the West at this time, and consistent with the research I have done about the early 20th century (and earlier, although I know less about that). As a history buff, there is nothing that takes me out of a novel quicker than misinformation, but Sandra Dallas was impeccable on that front. There was absolutely nothing to pull me out of this story. I was in it until the end.

If I have any criticism at all, it was the breadth of the plot. I could easily have spent much more time inside this book even than I had, because the characters were so rich. I just so appreciated Ms. Dallas' writing style and development of her characters. The cast was rather large, and it's difficult to make a reader invest in many characters, but the nature of the plot and the great writing made that easy to do. All in all, I would highly recommend this book as a good historical women's fiction read.

Book Blurb:
WHITER THAN SNOW opens in 1920 on a spring afternoon in Swandyke, a small town near Colorado’s Tenmile Range. Just moments after four o’clock, a large split of snow separates from Jubilee Mountain high above the tiny hamlet and hurtles down the rocky slope, sweeping up everything in its path – including nine young children who are walking home from school. But only four children survive. 

WHITER THAN SNOW takes readers into the lives of each of these families. Ultimately, each story serves as an allegory to the greater theme of the novel by echoing that fate, chance and perhaps even divine providence, are all woven into the fabric of everyday life. And it’s through each character’s defining moment in his or her past that the reader understands how each child has become its parent’s purpose for living.
I would like to welcome New York Times bestselling novelist Sandra Dallas to our monthly Author Interview here at Enduring Romance. Sandra's latest release, Whiter Than Snow, came out in April and is now available for purchase at your nearest bookseller.

Rebecca: Whiter Than Snow, your latest release, takes place in the West in the 1920s. This is such an unusual time for a historical novel. Can you tell us what inspired you to write this time period?
That’s a tough one, Rebecca, because I don’t really know.  I think when I got the idea, it came complete with the time period.  I do love writing about the 1920s and 1930s, however.  1920 seems to me to be the ideal time period to include characters who range from a Civil War veteran to a Jewish girl on New York’s Lower East Side. 
R: What made you choose a small town as the location for this story?
Most mining towns are small.  But I wanted a cohesive group of people, characters who all related to a disaster, and that seemed to work best in a small town.

R: What's the one thing you'd like your readers to take away from this book?
The randomness of tragedy.  God does not punish us for our sins by bringing disaster; nor does He reward us with happy endings because we’re good.  Things happen for no reason.  You can explain them.  You can only react.

R: Our audience at Enduring Romance is comprised of both readers and writers. So, I'm sure the writers here would love to know: what draws you to the craft of writing?
I’ve never wanted to do anything else, except perhaps be a movie star, and that didn’t work out. I was a journalist for 35 years, and I can’t imagine not writing.  I love sitting at my computer and letting my imagination and my characters take over.  The most exciting things happen.  They surprise me, and sometimes, they disappoint me, too. When writing Whiter Than Snow, for instance, I kept asking why one or two more children couldn’t have survived. But that wasn’t to be.
R: As a reader, also, I would love to know: do you think about your audience as you're writing?
No, I write for myself and then my agent and editor.  If I fooled around trying to write what I thought readers wanted, I’d screw it up. Still, I am aware of what my readers want and don’t want.  They don’t want explicit love scenes or foul language, for instance, but then, I wouldn’t write that anyway.
R: Who are the fellow authors (past or present) whose writing you admire the most?
Truman Capote for the beauty of his language, and Anne Lamott for the wonderful insight and humor in her nonfiction books.
R: If you could, give us a sneak peek into the current Sandra Dallas project.
I’m writing something set in Colorado.  But not everything I write works.  So I don’t want to give specifics.
R: And a just-for-fun question. If you could go anywhere in the world right now, no strings and no rules, where would you go and why?
Turkey.  And I’m going there in the fall with my daughter Dana.  I love the beauty, the history, the friendliness of the people.  And, oh heck, I love shopping in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar.

R: One more just-for-fun question, because I'm a foodie and a nosy one, at that. What's the best restaurant you've ever eaten at, and what you order when you go there?
This week, my husband and I celebrated our 47th anniversary at Barolo Grill in Denver—tenderloin and chocolate truffles.  I also love the Ship Tavern in the Brown Palace Hotel in Denver, always prime rib.  I used to eat there all the time when I worked for Business Week.  (I was the magazine’s first female bureau chief.)  I integrated the bar, once reserved for men only. Funny, now that I write this, I realize I eat red meat when I go out.  I almost never eat it at home.
R: Any parting thoughts?
They will come later. Dorothy Parker once said her repartee was going home in a cab.  That’s where my parting thoughts are.

R: Thank you so much, Sandra, for taking the time to sit down with our readers at Enduring Romance. We're very happy that you took the time out to speak with us, and thanks for the opportunity to review your book.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Fellow Book Reviewer, Tia, to Publish First Fiction Story

Pop on over to Tia's writing blog to read all about it-
You may know Tia better as the moderator at Debuts and Reviews and formerly The Fantasy Debut blog-
Tia will have her story, THE SEVENFOLD SPELL, published by Carina Press, Harliquin's new digital imprint, probably in the autumn.
Congratulations!  I'm just so proud of you!
P.S. I'm going to post my review, which is due today, on Saturday, because I just received a couple of requests for Fulls for my Queryland novel, SUGAR RUSH, and I'm busy making sure every word is perfect before sending them out.  So, please, check back here Saturday.  Thanks!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have To Kill You by Ally Carter

This edition 6th May 2010, Orchard (UK)
Paperback, Personal Copy
Young Adult

(As a reviewer from England...I might have slightly different spelling for some words. Watch out for the extra u :)

Book summary from Orchard

Gallagher Academy might claim to be a school for geniuses – but it’s really a school for spies. Cammie Morgan is fluent in fourteen languages and capable of killing a man in seven different ways (three of which involve a piece of uncooked spaghetti). But the one thing the Gallagher Academy hasn’t prepared her for is what to do when she falls for an ordinary boy who thinks she’s an ordinary girl.

Sure, she can tap his phone, hack into his computer, and track him through a mall without his ever being the wiser, but can Cammie have a normal relationship with a boy who can never know the truth about her?

A school for spies! Sure, I've read a few books that are spy/espionage related, but they were firmly based in the children's section. A friend of mine, who is both a reader and a writer, felt I'd adore these. She was right. I do adore them. I'm eagerly awaiting the next one to land on the doormat. I'm eyeing up Heist, first in another series by Ally Carter. They'll all be reviewed here, I promise.

Cammie has a voice which I liked from the first sentence. Written from first person point of view, her report on events at the Gallagher Academy had me in stitches. It isn't all fun and games. It's not easy for Cammie having her mother as the headmistress. It makes her stick out a bit. Or it should.

Somehow, Cammie is known for blending into the background. She doesn't stick out like a sore thumb. She doesn't have a sign saying 'headmistress's daughter'. Blending into the background is a great skill for a spy. She's even called The Chamelon because of this skill. So why she stands out to a normal boy on a spy mission is quite a mystery.

Cammie is used to being a spy. She's used to speaking different languages at meal times. She understands what to do in a code red situation at the school (which isn't what you may think it is either! It's a highly cool scene in the book, which has me wanting to enroll in the fictional academy). She doesn't understand what it is to act normal. It's something she has to learn.

Thankfully her friends have a vague idea of what normal is (some of the time - it doesn't include breaking into a house to find out whether the boy in question is suitable for Cammie). More importantly, two new additions to the school make Cammie's personal mission in this book both easier and difficult.

Full of humour, there is a lot of suspense for Cammie in the first book of this series. I had thought the suspense would come from having to diffuse bombs or foil a villain, but I've been shown that suspense can be over more mundane things. Not that you can call spy girls 'normal'. Or life as mundane. Even something simple, such as the material homework is printed on, has a twist for Cammie and the other girls.

Emotion played a large part in this book for me. I was attached to Cammie, not just because she's funny, but because she explores upsetting issues. Some she experiences for herself. Others, she comes into contact with because of her friends. It is how she deals with them that had me reaching for the tissues. Many tissue moments here - not all through sadness. Some are so funny that I nearly cried from laughing.

Content: sweet and tame violence (nothing graphic). Lots of humour.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Best HARRY POTTER Scene Ever

My daughter made me post this.  We just watched the movie version of HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN.  As punishment, she must now listen to me sing this song over and over-  You know, other moms put their daughters in Time-Out.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Review: The Journey Home by Michael Baron

The Journey Home
by Michael Baron

Publisher: The Story Plant
Release: May 2010
Price: $5.99 (Kindle: $4.79)

What I Liked:
Any book that has cooking as a major part of the relational story is such a huge hit with me, so I loved that. I enjoyed the fact that the food was part of reconciliation and also that it could be non-sexual and still engage all the senses. I really appreciated this. He writes about food like someone who knows it well, like an old friend.

The storyline of this book is very engaging, and had me hooked from the beginning (which is good, because I felt like the beginning of the book was weak... in fact, if I hadn't read the back and decided I was going to love it, I may not have stuck through the entire book). Very Nicholas Sparks-esque in the best sense of that comparison. The characters were engaging and the story poignant. Michael Baron, writing under a pseudonym, has now finished three (soon to be four) books that are being compared to Sparks' works, and I must admit, at first, I was skeptical. But I can definitely see the basis for the comparison. Equal parts of sadness and hope. I think this is an interesting book that a multitude of people could enjoy.

Overall, Baron is not quite the same caliber writer as Sparks. (Not to mention the fact that there are typos on the back cover of the book... not his fault, but still, fail.) But... and this is a big But, I was definitely engaged in the story, and I thought the story arc and the ending were both well-done. Plus, I'm just a sucker for a foodie story. :-) I'm interested to read some of Baron's other books. He has another coming out in the fall that looks very interesting. I think I'll read more before making a sound judgment. This book was a good read.

Book Blurb:
Joseph, a man in his late thirties, awakens disoriented and uneasy in a place he doesn't recognize. He sets out on a journey to find his home with no sense of where he's going and only the precious, indelible vision of the woman he loves to guide him.

Antoinette is an elderly woman in an assisted living facility who has retreated inside her head. There, her body and mind haven't betrayed her. There, she's a young newlywed with a husband who dotes on her and an entire life of dreams to live. There, she is truly home.

Warren, Antoinette's son, is a man in his early forties going through the toughest year of his life. With far too much time on his hands, he decides to try to recreate his memories of home by attempting to cook his mother's greatest dishes and eating them with her.

Joseph, Antoinette, and Warren are three people on different searches for home. How they connect with each other at this critical stage in their lives, is the foundation for the kind of profound and deeply moving story we'e come to expect from Michael Baron. (from the back of the book)

Sunday, May 2, 2010


This is a positive review, I swear.  You just gotta bear with me.  'Kay?
This novel was originally published in 1970, but was updated with new information on Mars and re-released in 2006.  And guess what?  It's YOUNG ADULT SCIENCE FICTION ROMANCE!  Yes, it's Young Adult.  Yes!  It's Science Fiction.  And, oh yes, there is romance. 
Two things about this book.  First of all, the romance was not convincing.  If I was eighteen years old, I wouldn't have gone out with Ross or Alex, because neither of them were good kissers.  In fact, I don't remember any kissing at all, to say nothing of those wonderful fluttery feelings you get when you fall in love.  Wait, I take that half-back.  I would've gone out with Alex, but I would've been all over him like a bad rash.
Remember, this novel was originally published in 1970, back when there was little Romance for teens at all or any Romance in Science Fiction whatsover.  That girly, mushy stuff just was not okay.  Which makes this a pioneering book really.
The second thing about this book is that it's written in First Person Point of View.  I know 'Fluffy First Person' is all the rage in Young Adult fiction geared to girls right now thanks to Twilight, but I've never liked it and, anyway, there's nothing 'fluffy' about this story.  Very few authors write First Person POV in a way that I like.  Lisa Shearin is a rare example of an author who writes First Person POV I like.
Nevertheless, the story was so good that enjoyed it in spite of those things.  Kept wanting to rewrite it though.
The story starts out with Melinda getting ready for high school graduation and she's in love.  Well, actually, she's convinced herself she's in love, but I never bought it.  The thing is she likes to plan things out and have things all settled and for sure.  She thinks her boyfriend, Ross, is in love with her too and they're planning on getting married. 
Her mother died when she was young and father travels a lot for his job, so she's grown up at Grandma's house.  She loves Grandma and she loves Grandma's house.  She plans on marrying Ross, going to college, becoming a teacher, and living happily ever after right there in Grandma's house.  But, her genes are working against her.  She's descended from folks who traveled to Oregon in covered wagons and settled a wild land.
Dad shows up for graduation and presents her what he thinks is a mind-blowing graduation present, a ticket to visit the Mars colony for five months!    Of course, she doesn't tell Dad her true feelings.  She's much too reserved for that.  But, hello, a trip to Mars is NOT on the schedule.  She has her life planned out and it does NOT include space travel.  That's for freakin' lunatics, you know, although she says it a lot more politely, even to herself.  She makes up her mind to let Dad down gently, but she tells Ross about the Mars ticket first.  His reaction pushes her into a different opinion.  Although she doesn't exactly wrap all her brain cells around it, she realizes Ross is marrying her because she will make a good 'starter wife.'  She'll work to support them while he goes through law school.  She doesn't talk too much.  She'll follow him around like a puppy dog.  Ross has mistaken her lack of blabbermouthness as passivity.  Next thing you know, Melinda's boarding the ship bound for Mars and Ross is calling, stunned, and convinced she'll come running back and marry him.  She notes he never said he loved her.
Melinda meets Alex on the boat, uh, I mean the spaceship.  The trip to Mars is long and potentially boring, but, whattayaknow, Alex is actually interested in listening what she has to say about things!  She also makes friends with Janet who thinks the colonists are nuts for wanting to settle a barren planet.  Melinda more or less agrees, but Alex, her dad, and other new friends are opening her mind up to a much wider 'world' than she knew back home.
They all arrive on Mars and settle in.  Alex convinces Melinda to try Zero-Gs and wondering around outside the habitat bubble in a spacesuite.  She meets families and learns to make do with what is on hand because you can't just run down to Wal-Mart when you live on Mars and everything you can't produce must come to you by spaceship.
Like I said, this novel was written in First Person and Melinda and Alex really did not make out enough, or at all, actually.  So, the story delivery system was not within my usual range of preference, but I still got the story and it was great. 
Still, I wish the author would rewrite it just one more time.
I've also read ENCHANTRESS FROM THE STARS by this author and it was very good too.

Chicken or the Egg? Finding New and Interesting Books

Good morning, Blog Buds!  This is my Showcase Sunday post.  Not much, I know.  Just more whining from me.  Authors, you don't want a book reviewer to whine.  It's a very bad thing.
Here's my whine-   I'm not finding anything interesting to read in my two favorite genres!  Zip.  Zilch.  Nada.  I can't really come out and tell you what they are without hurting feelings, I'm afraid, but if you scroll down or you've read this blog for a while you'll probably figure it out.  It's not that these books are badly written.  It's that there's nothing new and interesting about them.  The plots, characters, and settings are recycled.
It got me wondering about chickens.  I like chickens, by the way.  You know the old saying, "Which came first?  The chicken or the egg?"  Since the economy crashed, publishers are very cautious.  They want the surest of the sure thing.  To Wit-   Perfectly understandable.  They need to make money or they die.  We all need to eat sometimes.
So, they publish what they know will sell.
And authors write what they know publishers will publish.
The trouble with all this, in my opinion, is that the readers have little that is new and interesting to read. 
*They Stop Buying New Releases.*
Instead, they go searching the used bookstores and libraries for new and interesting books they might have missed.
The trouble with this is that publishers, and authors and anyone associated with them, only make money on the sale of new books.
Methinks the chickens have turned on each other.
The bright side of this is that readers and reviewers, like me, are hunting down the 'new and interesting' and if you happen to squeeze one into the market, we're looking for you and we'll be very excited when we find you!  This could propel your book to the top of the heap.
So, spiffy up that website, be fun and easy to find, interview and review for, 'kay?
Added Later:  After I posted this, it got me thinking.  Maybe the market's ready for another 'phenomena,' like Harry Potter.  Can't imagine what though.

Saturday, May 1, 2010


Of course, this isn't a real review.  Like J.K. Rowling really needs my help!  Just letting you all know I finished it and can't wait to watch the movie now.  If you're an objective reader and she hasn's successfully cast her spell on you, you'll think the plot is getting repetitive.  Harry goes to school.  Voldimort and/or one of his goons tries to kill him all year.  However, if you're not under Rowling's spell by the time you read this book, you never would've gotten this far anyway.  Since millions and bazillions of readers have read the whole doggone series, I'd say she's pretty darn good at spellcasting.  By the time a reader gets this far, he or she is hooked on the characters and the Harry Potter universe and if the plot isn't that original anymore he or she really does not care. 
Rowling still does not disappoint with the characters' believability.  Harry Potter is 13 years old in this book and like any 13 year old he resents having his freedom curtailed in the name of personal security.  He's moody.  Those hormones are kicking in, you know.  His best friends, Ron and Hermione, are fighting like crazy, no doubt to make up for the fact that they have a crush on each other and haven't figured it out or what to do about it.  Yep, pretty normal 13 year old stuff.
In case, you're wondering, my daughter is starting to ease her restrictions on me reading Harry Potter.  Personally, I think she's just after my credit at the used bookstore.