Sunday, November 22, 2009

Laurell K. Hamilton and NaNoWriMo Again

Laurell K. Hamilton's blog is turning into a wonderful resource for writing tips this month both for NaNoWriMo and for writers in general for the rest of the year. She's posted another post on working with your characters and plot this morning. There are a couple of spoilers for her books though, to watch out for, near the end of the article.

Friday, November 20, 2009

"Extra" NaNoWriMo Pep-Talk

Laurel K. Hamilton wrote a blog post about writing aimed at those of us who are doing NaNoWriMo this year, called "Getting That Novel Unstuck". I'm considering it to be an extra pep-talk, and I think it's full of ideas that might be helpful.

At the moment, I'm behind on word-count (30,918 words, where I should be at 31,667) but I left it at an interesting place last night, so I should be able to do some catch-up today.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Mailbox Monday - November 16

Mailbox Monday is hosted by The Printed Page each week, and they warn that "Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists."

I didn't think I was going to have any books to share this week, but these two came in:

An Echo In The Bone by Diana Gabaldon
The blurb:
Diana Gabaldon’s brilliant storytelling has captivated millions of readers in her bestselling and award-winning Outlander saga. Now, in An Echo in the Bone, the enormously anticipated seventh volume, Gabaldon continues the extraordinary story of the eighteenth-century Scotsman Jamie Fraser and his twentieth-century time-traveling wife, Claire Randall.

Jamie Fraser, former Jacobite and reluctant rebel, is already certain of three things about the American rebellion: The Americans will win, fighting on the side of victory is no guarantee of survival, and he’d rather die than have to face his illegitimate son–a young lieutenant in the British army–across the barrel of a gun.

Claire Randall knows that the Americans will win, too, but not what the ultimate price may be. That price won’t include Jamie’s life or his happiness, though–not if she has anything to say about it.

Meanwhile, in the relative safety of the twentieth century, Jamie and Claire’s daughter, Brianna, and her husband, Roger MacKenzie, have resettled in a historic Scottish home where, across a chasm of two centuries, the unfolding drama of Brianna’s parents’ story comes to life through Claire’s letters. The fragile pages reveal Claire’s love for battle-scarred Jamie Fraser and their flight from North Carolina to the high seas, where they encounter privateers and ocean battles–as Brianna and Roger search for clues not only to Claire’s fate but to their own. Because the future of the MacKenzie family in the Highlands is mysteriously, irrevocably, and intimately entwined with life and death in war-torn colonial America.

With stunning cameos of historical characters from Benedict Arnold to Benjamin Franklin, An Echo in the Bone is a soaring masterpiece of imagination, insight, character, and adventure–a novel that echoes in the mind long after the last page is turned.
And the second book is an ARC with a publishing date set at the end of March 2010:

Curiosity by Joan Thomas
The description:
More than 40 years before the publication of The Origin of Species, 12-year-old Mary Anning, a cabinet-maker's daughter, found the first intact skeleton of a prehistoric dolphin-like creature, and spent a year chipping it from the soft cliffs near Lyme Regis. This was only the first of many important discoveries made by this incredible woman, perhaps the most important paleontologist of her day.

Henry de la Beche was the son of a gentry family, owners of a slave-worked estate in Jamaica where he spent his childhood. As an adolescent back in England, he ran away from military college, and soon found himself living with his elegant, cynical mother in Lyme Regis, where he pursued his passion for drawing and painting the landscapes and fossils of the area. One morning on an expedition to see an extraordinary discovery — a giant fossil — he meets a young woman unlike anyone he has ever met…

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? - November 16

It's Monday! What Are You Reading is a weekly event hosted by J.Kaye of J. Kaye's Book Blog, where we list off the books we've read each week, what we're reading now, and what we want to read for the week.

I see it as incentive to get the reviews up, which I'm failing badly at right now.

Books I finished this past week are:

The Eagle's Daughter by Judith Tarr. Set in 10th century Germania/Gaul, it was a good read. Read for the Clear off Your Shelves Challenge.

The Shadow Hawk by Andre Norton. A departure from her usual science fiction/fantasy novel.

I'm really behind on reviewing! Got to get the reviews for these up.

What I'm reading now:

The Birth of Venus by Sara Dunant. I've just started the book really, and I'm not too sure what to make of it.

Guilty Pleasures by Laurell K. Hamilton. It's the graphic novel, and again, I'm not sure what I'm thinking about it yet. Both of these are for the Clearing Off Your Shelf Challenge.

Life After 187 by Wade J. Halverson. Not sure what to classify this book as, but I'm really enjoying it, even though it's not my usual reading fare.

Planning to read:

The second volume of the Guilty Pleasures graphic novel. Also for the Clear Off Your Shelves Challenge.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Day The Falls Stood Still - Cathy Marie Buchanan

A version of this review was posted to Royal Reviews on November 3, 2009.

The Day The Falls Stood Still
Cathy Marie Buchanan
HarperCollins Publishers
Copyright Date: 2009

The description:
Steeped in the intriguing history of Niagara Falls, this epic love story is as rich, spellbinding, and majestic as the falls themselves.

1915. The dawn of the hydroelectric power era in Niagara Falls. Seventeen-year-old Bess Heath has led a sheltered existence as the youngest daughter of the director of the Niagara Power Company. After graduation day at her boarding school, she is impatient to return to her picturesque family home near Niagara Falls. But when she arrives, nothing is as she had left it. Her father has lost his job at the power company, her mother is reduced to taking in sewing from the society ladies she once entertained, and Isabel, her vivacious older sister, is a shadow of her former self. She has shut herself in her bedroom, barely eating--and harboring a secret.

The night of her return, Bess meets Tom Cole by chance on a trolley platform. She finds herself inexplicably drawn to him--against her family's strong objections. He is not from their world. Rough-hewn and fearless, he lives off what the river provides and has an uncanny ability to predict the whims of the falls. His daring river rescues render him a local hero and cast him as a threat to the power companies that seek to harness the power of the falls for themselves. As their lives become more fully entwined, Bess is forced to make a painful choice between what she wants and what is best for her family and her future.

Set against the tumultuous backdrop of Niagara Falls, at a time when daredevils shot the river rapids in barrels and great industrial fortunes were made and lost as quickly as lives disappeared, The Day the Falls Stood Still is an intoxicating debut novel.

Cathy Marie Buchanan has woven a fascinating mix of history and fiction in this, her first novel. Everything about it shows that balance between what was real and what she chose to make up. The events described really do feel like they could have happened as she described them. That's because many of them really did happen. I can't say for sure if all of them did, but last month I was on a tour of Niagara Falls, and that's what inspired me to pick up this book. While on the tour, we saw the wreck of the grounded scow, which still sits on the riverbed today. We also saw photos of some of the daredevils and stunt-people who ventured the falls and survived (or not). All of that really added to the atmosphere of The Day The Falls Stood Still for me, making it more 'real', as I had an idea of the historical reality that grounds this story. However, I really don't think you have to have seen the falls to see the grandeur and awe they inspire in this book.

The other thing that added to the mix of history and fiction combined in this book is the use of archival photos at the start of many of the chapters. There's the ice bridge, pictures of the stunts, the powerhouses, and the falls themselves (among many others).

Tom Cole is, according to the author's note, closely based on a historical figure called William "Red" Hill. I can't say anything about it, not knowing the local history, but Tom is an interesting character, as is Bess Heath, the protagonist and viewpoint character of the story.

The Day The Falls Stood Still is rich with details and imagery of the First World War years, all told from the point of view of a woman who stayed at home to support the children while her husband enlisted. It's interesting the way life in those years is portrayed in this book. Scrimping and saving on food, while still wearing individually tailored dresses in fancy materials with embroidery and beadwork.

By the end of the book I found that I really had gotten to like Bess, and she'd become a 'real' person to me with all her flaws and quirks. All of the characters filled out and became true individuals, even the kids. However, I found the book a bit slow starting. That could have been just me though. Regardless of a slow start, it really took off at the start of the second part, and kept me up late.

The Day The Falls Stood Still is a book I'm glad to have read, and I'm definitely going to be keeping an eye out for anything else by Cathy Marie Buchanan in the future.

This first photo from my trip to Niagara Falls captures the awe and majesty of the falls. Having seen it, I can't believe the attitude of some of the characters in The Day The Falls Stood Still that it would be a good thing for the falls to be entirely diverted into power generation.

IIRC, the falls are more or less diverted at night now, but the flow is restored during the day. I don't know if that restores all the things that Tom Cole noted in his journals, such as the standing wave though.

The second photo was taken from the bus tour I was on, I suspect this is one of the power houses mentioned in the book. However, nobody on the tour identified the building.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Lady Of Sherwood - Jennifer Roberson

Lady Of Sherwood
Jennifer Roberson
Copyright Date: 2000

The author's page blurb:
During an age filled with great deeds and great men, King Richard the Lion-Hearted lies dying in France. With his last breath, he bequeaths his kingdom to his brother, Prince John, and his nephew, Prince Arthur. From this legacy comes a terrible war, as two men clash for what can only belong to one: the right to rule Britain. It is also these words that seal the destiny of of Richard's young champion, Robert of Locksley. Robert, the handsome son of a respected earl, had long fought the tyranny of Prince John--a man as weak as he is cruel. Now that power has shifted even more firmly into John's hands, and Robert has no choice but to fight as an outlaw--as Robin Hood.

Lady Marian of Ravenskeep, her honor proving stronger than her desire, has foresaken a wedding to Robert of Locksley, since she fears she can never bear his child. It is with this knowledge that she makes an irrevocable choice--to flee into the depths of Sherwood Forest, where, amid wild tangled woods, she will be transformed from lady to warrior, as Robin Hood's partner in stealing John's gold, and as the woman who has captured his heart.

Yet all who breath know that the penalty for such a theft is hanging. Pursued by the Sheriff's army, the hour soon approaches when Robin Hood, Marian, and their band of followers will wage a desperate fight for liberty and country.

I bought this book about a year and a half ago, so it definitely fits the requirements for the Clear Off Your Shelves Challenge, as did the first book in the pair, Lady of The Forest.

Lady of Sherwood starts right in the middle of the story, without introducing any of the characters, assuming the reader either knows the Robin Hood legends or has read the first book. As a result, we're thrown right into the action with Little John, Robin Hood, Maid Marian, Will Scarlet and Friar Tuck. The Sheriff of Nottingham is particularly vile in Jennifer Roberson's version of the story, taking out his petty jealousies on Marian and the others. Still, as in the previous book, he's not just a cardboard cut-out of a villain, but a character with understandable motivations, even if they're things we don't agree with.

This is a book that ends with a happy moment, but also leaves plenty of the tale still to be told, but then, a lot of legends are like that, always leaving room for another legend.

As with Lady of the Forest this was a quick read for its size, but it was also one that I couldn't put down. I ended up reading until two a.m. in order to finish it. One of the reasons it's a fairly quick read is that the font size is quite large. Not quite that of a large print book, but pretty close.

I did feel that there were a couple too many viewpoints, the same complaint I had with Lady of the Forest but there were definitely fewer of them than the previous book, and all of the characters were those from the first book too.

A romance novel or simple historical fiction? This book could be either I think, although I did buy it from the romance shelves of the bookstore. Whichever is your preference. Lady of Sherwood was definitely a good read, although I will recommend reading Lady of the Forest first.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Neat NaNoWriMo page

I just found the pep-talks page for NaNoWriMo this year. There's an interesting line up of authors they've gotten to do them which includes Kristin Cashore, author of Graceling and Fire; Robin McKinley (who's one of my favorites) author of The Blue Sword and Chalice among other books and Tamora Pierce who has written the Tortall world (The Alanna books etc) and the Magic Circle world.

These aren't the only authors who are doing the pep talks, but they're the ones I recognize. Their talks also haven't been posted yet. Probably next week or the week after. There's supposed to be two pep talks a week.

I've managed to stay on target for my NaNoWriMo story, but it hasn't left me with much time to do reviews. I know I have two books for which reviews are due (Lady of Sherwood and How To Be #1 on Google) and two books I'm enjoying reading right now.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Mailbox Monday - November 9

I actually have some books to post about today, and it's better a bit late than never.

Anyway, Mailbox Monday is hosted by Marcia of The Printed Page each Monday. She warns that it can cause toppling book piles and envy.

My books this week are:

Life After 187 by Wade J. Halverson
The blurb on the author page:
Sentenced to life in prison when he executes the men who murdered his wife, Kane Silver is singled out by the warden for his fighting ability. Along with inmates Valentino Lopez and Si’Ling Lee, Kane is drafted into service and forced to fight for money in high-stakes tournaments. But when the three friends escape during a New Year’s Eve match in Lake Tahoe—saving the warden’s life in the process—their situation becomes more complicated.
Their status undetermined, they vanish underground and sign on to help a young woman whose parents are being held by an Argentinean drug kingpin. Follow Kane and his friends as they compete and grow closer while rediscovering what it means to be free. From Lake Tahoe and the western United States to Costa Rica, Hong Kong, Buenos Aires, and Thailand, Life After 187 takes readers on an exhilarating ride filled with big money, intense action, justice, and the pursuit of honor.
Mercury Falls by Robert Kroese
The blurb:
Years of covering the antics of End Times cults for The Banner, a religious news magazine, have left Christine Temetri not only jaded but seriously questioning her career choice. That is, until she meets Mercury, an anti-establishment angel who's frittering his time away whipping up batches of Rice Krispy Treats and perfecting his ping-pong backhand instead of doing his job: helping to orchestrate Armageddon. With the end near and angels and demons debating the finer political points of the Apocalypse, Christine and Mercury accidentally foil an attempt to assassinate one Karl Grissom, a thirty-seven-year-old film school dropout about to make his big break as the Antichrist. Now, to save the world, she must negotiate the byzantine bureaucracies of Heaven and Hell and convince the apathetic Mercury to take a stand, all the while putting up with the obnoxious mouth-breathing Antichrist.

And, the third book, which arrived this morning is:
The Cost of Dreams by Gary Stelzer
The blurb:
A novel: Flora Enriquez trusts that she has found safe haven for her young family in the remote U.S. Southwest, after fleeing the murderous environs of Central America where her parents were slain in a civil war. Only to find that all of her life's greatest challenges, by far, still lie before her.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


I already knew I wasn't too fond of the canned meat. The live ones are putting themselves even lower than that on my scale of liking. In other words, All Booked Up has been discovered by the spammers. So far, it's not too bad, but I am contemplating deleting one or two posts that are particular favorite targets, and they've started hitting the rest of the blog as well.

My apologies if you see something inappropriate in the comments. I'm deleting the stuff as fast as I get notified about it. I don't want to go to moderated comments though, much less stop all comments, as they're part of what makes the blog so much fun for me.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Lady Of The Forest - Jennifer Roberson

Lady Of The Forest
Jennifer Roberson
Copyright Date: 1992, reprinted with a new cover in 2007

The author's page blurb:
It is a time of civil strife and divided loyalties in the land of Richard the Lionhearted, and in the silent shadows of Sherood Forest dwell a band of outlaws and renegades who know no law but their own. Each with a dark secret and a hidden purpose, they share only a desire to thwart the corrupt power of Prince John and ransom back their beloved King Richard. Alan a'Dale, the lusty minstrel; the giant wrestler known as Little John; Will Scarlet, the murderer with a heart of gold; and the kindly, overzealous Friar Tuck. They are strangers...until they are united in a common purpose by a man and a woman who will live forever in the legend of Robin Hood and Maid Marian.

Sir Robert of Locksley Back from Crusade a hero, knighted by the Lionheart himself, he is disillusioned by his country's failure to ransom their king from imprisonment in a foreign land, even as evil Prince John is bleeding England white with taxes and plotting to usurp the throne. Turning his back on the life of an aristocrat, Sir Robert achieves a new nobility among the outlaws of Sherwood. There they call him Robin Hood.

Lady Marian of Ravenskeep The proud and defiant chatelaine of a manor near Nottingham woods, she is relentlessly pursued by William DeLacey-- Sheriff of Nottingham-- a shrewd opportunist desperate for her hand. But there is only one man who claims her heart, and Marian embraces a life full of excitement, adventure, and danger to be at his side.

I bought this book about a year and a half ago, so it definitely fits the requirements for the Clear Off Your Shelves Challenge, as does its sequel Lady of Sherwood.

Lady Of The Forest is a romance novel set in the time of Richard the Lionheart that "retells" the starting of the Robin Hood legends. All of the familiar characters and settings are here: Friar Tuck, Will Scarlet, Robin of Locksley, and of course, Maid Marian. Not to mention the Sherriff of Nottingham, who makes a very effective villain.

None of the characters are two-dimensional in any way, they are all fleshed out enough to become real people with understandable motivations, even the villains.

One thing to note is that the book is written with viewpoints from all of the characters. While it's interesting, and it certainly helped to flesh out the characters and their motivations, after a while I got to feeling that there were too many viewpoints and that it was distracting from the story of Robin and Marian.

Lady of the Forest was definitely interesting. I haven't read too many versions of the Robin Hood stories, only an older children's edition, so although the characters were familiar, the story wasn't.

The book looks as though it will take some reading to get through: its almost six hundred pages long. On the other hand, the font is fairly large, making for quicker reading. Even so, there's plenty to the story, and the ending is a bit different from the typical romance novel, although it is definitely a happy ending.

Really, I think that this book could be classed as historical fiction as much as it is a romance. I called it a romance, because that's the section of the store I found it in.

Jennifer Roberson, the author has written quite a few other books including the Tiger and Del series and the Chronicles of the Cheysuli. However, the only other ones I've read were from the Tiger and Del series. They're fantasy, and this one is more historical fiction, but I'd have to say, if you're expecting Roberson to be only a fantasy author, be prepared to be surprised. She's done a great job with historical fiction as well, and has even included a list of suggested books and sources for more information on Robin Hood and the time period. That's something that I really love authors doing, and I wish more of them would.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

October Review Round Up

A few days late, I know, but I've been distracted by NaNoWriMo (which isn't going as well as I'd hoped it would. I'm only 3300 words in on the third day).

Anyway, these are the books I read and reviewed during October:

The Fiery Cross
Diana Gabaldon

A snippet from my review:
Diana Gabaldon has a knack for description of all sorts, be it clothing, settings, behavior or any number of facets of life. She's got the details down. I can't say if they're all accurate, but the characters and the way the live in the late seventeen-hundreds "feels" right to me.

In Celebration of Lammas Night Created By Mercedes Lackey
Editor: Josepha Sherman

A snippet from my review:
If you're a fan of Mercedes Lackey or Andre Norton you'll find that In Celebration of Lammas Night is filled with familiar names: Ellen Guon co-wrote the books of Bedlam's Bard with Mercedes Lackey. Josepha Sherman, the editor of this book, worked with her on A Cast Of Corbies. Holly Lisle co-wrote When The Bough Breaks, one of the Serrated Edge series, and also worked with Marion Zimmer Bradley. Susan Shwartz has written with Andre Norton in the past. The list goes on. It's full of authors I recognized: S. M. Stirling and Jody Lynn Nye are two other well known authors who have stories in this anthology.

Bad Moon Rising
Sherrilyn Kenyon

A snippet from my review:
Although this is the story of Fang Kattalakis, its also just as much the story of Aimee Peltier, the lone daughter of the bears who run Sanctuary. That meant that rather than the scattered references to Sanctuary and how it was run, we really got a good view of the running of the bar. Kind of neat to see that different view on the Were-hunters and their lives. I also liked the greater insight into how the Were-hunter women factored into their society. So far, nearly all the Were-hunter main characters we've seen had been male.

Defenders of the Scroll

A quote from my review:
This is in many ways an absolutely spectacular book. Each page is set on the background of a rolled scroll, which is a little detail I've never seen done before. And yet, despite the darker background, the text is still clear and easy to read. Also spectacular are the full page illustrations of the events and adventures the characters go through.

Geisha, A Life
Mineko Iwasaki and Rande Brown

A snippet from my review:
Geisha, A Life was an interesting read, and I may have to go hunting for more books on the subject. Memoirs Of A Geisha caught my imagination, and this book has only whetted my interest even more. A world where an adult can get by without any of the normal skills? Money and it's value? Cooking (the disasters Mineko manages to create are just plain amusing), etc.

I know very well, that although this is a world I find interesting to read about, I wouldn't want to live in it. Mineko lives a life of privilege, but from the start, she's been at the top of her society. How different was it for less fortunate Geisha? That's one thing this book (and, for that matter Arthur Golden's novel) doesn't really go into.

New Book Arrived: Life After 187 - Wade J. Halverson

An interesting package in the mail today turned out to be the book Life After 187 written by Wade J. Halverson, which was offered to me for review.

The book jacket blurb:

Sentenced to life in prison when he executes the men who murdered his wife, Kane Silver is singled out by the warden for his fighting ability. Along with inmates Valentino Lopez and Si’Ling Lee, Kane is drafted into service and forced to fight for money in high-stakes tournaments. But when the three friends escape during a New Year’s Eve match in Lake Tahoe—saving the warden’s life in the process—their situation becomes more complicated.

Their status undetermined, they vanish underground and sign on to help a young woman whose parents are being held by an Argentinean drug kingpin. Follow Kane and his friends as they compete and grow closer while rediscovering what it means to be free. From Lake Tahoe and the western United States to Costa Rica, Hong Kong, Buenos Aires, and Thailand, Life After 187 takes readers on an exhilarating ride filled with big money, intense action, justice, and the pursuit of honor.

Looks to be quite the exciting read.

Guest Post over at Royal Reviews

My review of The Day The Falls Stood Still has been posted over at Royal Reviews. I've been promising this one for a little while now, and it's finally up.

Monday, November 2, 2009

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? - November 2

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted each week by J. Kaye.

This past week I met my goals in reading, completing the following books:

The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon
It was almost as though I was reading this book for the first time, I had forgotten so much of the plot. Liked it a lot.

Lady of the Forest by Jennifer Roberson
A romance novel based on the tales of Robin Hood. A good read. I need to get the review written up and posted.

I'm not reading any books at the moment, having just finished Lady of the Forest yesterday.

For the upcoming week I intend to read Lady of Sherwood, the sequel to Lady of the Forest.

I know I'm not being overly ambitious, but its the month of NaNoWriMo.


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