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Monthly Archives: April 2011

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Rage by Jackie Morse Kessler

After reading Hunger, I waited so very anxiously for this book. The premise, teens expressing the (unfortunate) traits that relate to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are selected and fumble their way through accepting the job, is fascinating and Kessler’s writing is utterly enthralling.

In Rage we are introduced to Missy, a young woman who is driven to cutting herself to maintain control of her excessive emotions. She is afraid of losing control. High School is swamped with emotion, and much of it can be difficult for anyone to process with grace, much less someone who already has a tendency towards self harm. At a party Missy is humiliated past all hope of control by an ex boyfriend, she flees and cuts. When Death offers Missy the Sword of War in the aftermath, she accepts and then has to come to terms with the spirit of War who is not at all concerned with the control so precious to her.

Rage deals with the cutting issue without allowing that to take the readers’s focus away from the story. All of Missy’s actions feel true to the character Kessler is sharing with us and not like recitations of symptoms from a medical manual. Missy’s issues support the novel, but are not the singular driving force.

Rage is a sequel in theme to Hunger, but they are wonderfully unique from each other. I felt Rage to be the stronger novel. I could not put Hunger down, and it hurt in all the right ways, but it focused much more on the eating disorders and their fall out and the plot seemed to roll out in the background. Kessler is tackling some rough, important topics and weaving them into something accessible, something stealthily informative. It is a brilliant project and I highly recommend reading.

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Wicked Lovely and Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr

I love stories about the Fae. Dark, dangerous, decidedly inhuman Fae. Like vampires and werewolves, urban fantasy has a tendency to soften the edges of the Fae, to make them work within a mortal framework. Not Melissa Marr. I am in the middle of reading Fragile Eternity, the third book in the sequence, and her ability to keep the often poisonous bite to all things Fae makes me so very happy.

In Wicked Lovely we are introduced to Keenan, the Summer King who has been searching for his Queen, leaving a trail of mortals who didn’t fit the position in his wake. He is beautiful, charismatic, and Fae to the core. We see how manipulative he can be as he works to win over the one he is convinced is to be his queen, disrupting her mortal life without hesitation. The sheer depth of his lack of anything resembling human ethics or morals is more apparent in Ink Exchange, but it shines throughout Wicked Lovely in his single minded determination to get what he wants. And he wants Aislinn, who has lived her left trying to ignore the Fae she sees with her Second Sight. Who has a life and loves that will be turned upside-down under the full force of the Summer King’s attention.

In Ink Exchange, the focus shifts to Aislinn’s friend Leslie who is desperate for a change, for control. When she chooses to get a tattoo made up of dark wings and enthralling eyes, she catches the attention of Irial, the Dark King, who will use her to feed his starving court. As with Keenan, we see hints and echoes of what can almost be a human concern, but it is ultimately overwhelmed by the inhuman Other that they are. The struggle between Fae and mortal sensibilities comes to a head in Ink Exchange, and spills over magnificently into Fragile Eternity.

The books are written for anyone who ever dreamed of the Faeries coming to take them away, and were properly terrified by the idea. They are rich with a beautifully skewed romance and contain such a sharp edge of emotion that they appeal to audiences far beyond the young adults they are marketed towards.

Author Introduction- Barbara Ashford

 

I do so love talking with authors about what they do. Barbara Ashford’s first book, “Spellcast”, will be released May 3rd, and I managed to snag a few minutes of Barbara’s time so that she could introduce herself, as well as her upcoming book.

Barbara writes-

“I basically cannibalized my life to create Spellcast. Like my protagonist Maggie Graham, I grew up in Wilmington, Delaware, began performing at an early age, continued acting in college, and – after a series of jobs in educational administration – ran away to the theatre.

I performed on the stages of opera houses and elementary school auditoriums, in theatres that had once been barns, churches, and used car showrooms. My days in summer stock inspired the world of the Crossroads Theatre, from the hectic schedule of rehearsing one show during the day and performing in another at night to details like the roadside grill – affectionately known as the Ptomaine Stand – where the actors grab lunch.

Like Maggie, I held down a series of jobs to pay the bills: retail store clerk, accounts receivable manager, merchandising director, and office temp. Like Maggie, I eventually landed at a not-for-profit organization that ran a telephone helpline. And like Maggie, I made enduring friendships during my summer stock days – and found love.

The fantastic elements in Spellcast are purely the product of my imagination, as is Maggie’s family life. But the rest of the novel comes as close to autobiography as I’m ever likely to write.”

Barbara can be visited at her website  www.Barbara-Ashford.com

Spellcast will be released May 3rd, and sounds like an absolutely beautiful blend of urban fantasy and a bit of romance (right up my alley!). I have dabbled enough in theater to know I am awful at it, but I adore reading books that take place with the stage or theater as the setting. There has always been something magical about theater for me- what better backdrop for a fantasy novel could there be?
“Maggie Graham is having a very bad day. First, she loses her job. Then her bathroom ceilingcollapses. Hoping a weekend getaway will restore her spirits, she drives to Vermont – and windsup auditioning for the Crossroads Theatre.

Director Rowan Mackenzie is even odder than the misfits who comprise the company. Whatkind of director casts people in the roles they need? And never leaves the grounds of the theatre?And possesses the power to transform a train wreck of a show into something…magical?

There’s a secret at the Crossroads, and Maggie is determined to uncover it. She never imaginesshe’ll discover secrets about her past that will change her life – and Rowan’s – forever.

Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente

She watched the husbands fall out of the tree and come for her sisters. Handsome birds that became humans as they hit the ground and came to the door to knock. She waited for a bird of her own, but as the years went by and no bird fell into a husband for her, Marya despaired of being bird-less forever. She sees the magic in the little things, the way her house, groaning and stretching to accommodate twelve families under the fiercely cooperative reign of Stalin, starts to grow under the careful hands of the house spirits. She sees the domoviye, attends one of their meetings, and learns that Papa Koschei is coming for her.

Koschei the Deathless, Tsar of Life, has chosen Marya to be his. He carries her off across the land in a car that runs with no driver, to a land where everything is living. Houses are made of skin that gathers gooseflesh in chill breezes and the fountains bubble up living blood instead of water. She enters a world of Life that is constantly at war with Death and changes ever so slowly and subtly from the bookish, odd girl who had watched birds fall to be husbands to a fierce woman who hunts firebirds for sport and keeps company with rifle imps and woodland spirits. And yet, Koschei does not marry her. Marya wants for nothing, her life is filled with every imaginable opulent pleasure, but that one thing. And that one thing is impossible without the permission of Koschei’s sister.

Baba Yaga, Koschei’s sister, gives Marya three impossible tasks. Should Marya complete them, Baba Yaga will give her blessing on the marriage. With the help of her closest companions, Marya struggles through the tasks, learning more about herself and her desired husband, and eventually gaining Koschei’s marriage vows.

But the Tsar of Death wriggles into their world and everything changes. There is a war going on, and the war is going badly.

Deathless tells two stories, one about revolutionary, communist Russia. The other the mystical world of the Tsar of Life and his endless war against the Tsar of Death. Both conflicts weave in and out of each other, coming to a collective crisis point that will leave a reader breathless in a mix of horror and anticipation. There were points where the reader is hard-pressed to decide which is the nightmare and which reality.

It is a brutal, bloody, and passionate book, filled with the oldest and best pieces of romance in all their stark beauty. Here is devotion that goes beyond death. Here is death that is inexorable and greedy and frighteningly patient.

Deathless is a beautiful book. It is historical, mythological, and one of the most wonderful romances I have ever read. Highly recommended.

Hounded by Kevin Hearne

I remember being skeptical when I picked up “Hounded”. I didn’t remain that way for too long. Hearne gets major kudos for doing something that most of the urban fantasy genre misses- he takes a powerful character, inserts reasonable limits to that power, and then throws something strong enough at the character to cause actual danger and a sense of tension. And then there is an Irish Wolfhound that would very much like to be Genghis Khan. Instead of being horrifyingly corny it was almost…endearing. Atticus, the owner of said Wolfhound also retains werewolves and an ancient vampire as his legal counsel. The usual urban fantasy tropes have been jiggled around a bit and the new arrangement keeps them interesting to an avid reader of the genre.

 
“Hounded” is rotten with gods. The Morrigan has a sketchy deal with our protagonist, who happens to have stolen a sword that Aenghus Og is determined to get back. Atticus, a very old druid with the Old World powers that station grant him, makes a fitting opponent for divine familial squabbling and territorial disputes. He is not as overpowered as the back of the book makes him sound- druids are limited to their contact with the earth so to use the bulk of his powers he needs to hunt down patches of earth in this modern world and press skin against it. Not as easy as it may sound when the bad guys rarely think to attack someplace convenient like the city park.

 
There is a wonderfully skewed bit of divine politicking that makes the whole book tick, and I found myself turning pages with delighted haste, determined to find out what happens next.