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Monthly Archives: January 2012

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The Freedom Maze by Delia Sherman

Sophie is a young girl who can do nothing to fill the shoes her mother has set out for her. Not that the shoes are a particularly good fit, but Sophie bows her head and takes her mother’s sharp comments in silence. When her mother has to move for schooling and work, Sophie spends a summer with her aunt and grandmother on what is left of the familial plantation in Louisiana. There she meets a mysterious, magical entity that sends her back in time. But Sophie quickly learns that adventure isn’t as grand as books generally make it seem, and that family has as much to do with emotion and experience as blood.

The Freedom Maze is an absolutely stunning book. I was honestly unable to pull myself away, needing to know how Sophie would survive her unexpected change in circumstance. Ms. Sherman obviously put an immense amount of time and love into researching for her story- the setting is heavy with life, the characters all effortlessly settle into a seamless whole. Unlike many books that deal with the issue of slavery in the South, The Freedom Maze is less concerned with the slavery itself, focusing instead on the people slavery made- how each side of the equation reacted and acted within the circumstance of their birth and skin color. Sophie is a unique entity, a young girl who when thrown into the past is mistaken for a mixed blood accident of an influential white male and a slave woman, not entirely because of her skin but because of her demeanor. She is so used to deferring to her mother it is impossible for her to pass as a young lady of proper birth in the past she finds herself in.

The book is about watching Sophie grow aware of, and grow out of, her self-imposed slavery. It is a beautiful book, and one everyone would benefit from reading.

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Guest Post- Nerine Dorman

With her new book, What Sweet Music They Make,  coming out from Lyrical Press January 23rd, I invited Nerine to introduce herself and her work.

“The Children of the Night…

One of the most common questions an author is asked is “Where did the idea for this novel come from?” I don’t think I can give a definite answer for What Sweet Music They Make. All I can say is that the story is inextricably bound with my love for music, my stomping ground—Cape Town—and vampires. Of course the title is a conscious nod to the vampire genre, for those in the know, and a bit tongue in cheek, really.

One of the reasons why I wrote What Sweet Music They Make is because I’m tired of reading stories about the high-powered individuals so popular in urban fantasy and paranormal romance nowadays. I continued with what I started in The Namaqualand Book of the Dead, and found characters who were ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances; pawns in others’ games.

Most of my stories take place in Cape Town. It’s a location that will be exotic to most of my foreign readers, but with enough touchstones of the familiar, while for my local readers, they get the thrill of seeing the Mother City through a different lens. I guess it helps that I regularly do travel writing for a newspaper publisher, so I’m glad to generate that sense of excitement to visit new places. My overactive imagination has always wanted to put forward a home town where vampires wander. And trust me, they don’t sparkle. Some of them are hundreds of years old, and are rather devious non-humans. There’s no sucking on blood bags or hunting animals. They might appear civilised on the surface, but they’re still monsters, and have no qualms about killing.

The protagonists in What Sweet Music They Make are Severin and Tersia. Severin is the epitome of new romantic turned vampire, during the early 1980s. A big David Bowie and Bauhaus fan, he has had his prodigious musical talent smothered over the years that he has been in service to his highly arrogant sire. He is little more than a skivvy in vampiric terms but has no idea how to break those bonds.

Tersia, on the other hand, is still mortal, but she has an otherness about her and her musical talent that the elder vampires of the city are keen to exploit. Up until the point where she meets Severin, her life has been rather disappointing, with a bad relationship and a dissatisfying job teaching music at a school. Her only joy thus far has been playing fiddle in an Irish band.

I’ve always had a great love for Irish music. One of my friends used to play fiddle in an Irish band here in Cape Town, and she started teaching my husband to play. We’d regularly go out to the restaurants where they played on Thursdays, and it was amazing seeing how they really livened up the guests. There’s something wild and magical about Irish folk, and the way it always makes one forget about the cares of the world. Also, a recent trip to Ireland definitely whet my appetite.

All in all, What Sweet Music They Make is a way for me to share my love of some of my favourite things with my readers. The story is somewhat bittersweet in places—definitely not your standard paranormal romance—and fits within a larger setting that overlaps with some of my other published works. I always love leaving little Easter eggs for those who’re familiar with my work, and this story is no exception, even though it stands on its own.

Feel free to step into my world. It’s magical. There’s some humour to counterbalance the seriousness, and you’ll meet some fascinating people.”

Nerine is kind enough to offer a copy of  What Sweet Music They Make to a lucky reader. As it is a book about music, comment and let me know what song highlights a landmark moment in your life and how do you feel when you hear it now? Winner will be chosen from the comments- be creative in your responses!

For me, its ‘Lea Halalela’, sung by Khululiwe Sithole/’Shadowland’ (Lion King Musical). We performed this at my high school graduation. It was just…so different than any other choral performance I had been a part of, and it mean’t so much. To all of us. It still makes me smile like a madman and gives me goosebumps when I hear it/sing along now, years and years later.

Useful links:

What Sweet Music They Make in a variety of non-DRM formats: http://www.lyricalpress.com/store/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=484

Nerine’s other titles at Lyrical Press: http://www.lyricalpress.com/store/index.php?main_page=authors&authors_id=107

Writing erotica as Therése von Willegen: http://www.bookstrand.com/therese-von-willegen

Blood and Fire, A recent collaboration with Carrie Clevenger: http://www.amazon.com/Blood-and-Fire-ebook/dp/B006SD3F2S/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1326463325&sr=1-1

Follow Nerine on Twitter @nerinedorman

Like Nerine’s Facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Nerine-Dorman-author/173330419365374


The Doomsday Vault by Steven Harper

The clockwork plague hits rich and poor alike, turning some into zombies covered in sores that hide from the sun and others into geniuses called Clockworkers before burning them out in fits of destructive madness. The balance of power between nations rests in the Clockworkers and the improbable and often deadly inventions they create before the plague finally takes them. Alice lost her mother and brother to the clockwork plague. Her father survived, but is an invalid. The daughter of a Baron, her chance at redeeming her family reputation was to marry into a good family- but her fiancee succumbed to the plague as well, thus securing her family’s fall from social grace. The debtors come calling, and still her father tries to establish a future for his daughter.

At a social gathering, her last hope, she catches the eye of a rich, unlanded man, and her title tempts him into courtship. Here, at last is all Alice could hope for.

At least in the mind of her failing father. But Alice is eccentric, having a brilliant mind for mechanics that she is trying to reconcile with the idea of being a traditional wife.

Gavin ruins it all- a young man from Boston with a daunting talent for music. He has survived air pirates and the streets of London only to be taken captive by a mysterious Lady in Red Velvet. Circumstance continues to throw Alice and Gavin together, and throw Alice’s attempt at a well ordered, traditional life into turmoil.

A fast paced mix of Victorian era romance and steampunk high adventure, The Doomsday Vault is a riot of zombies, secret organizations, sketchy politics, and mad scientists. I was utterly fascinated with the Clockwork Plague, even with my usual disdain for zombies. The zombies themselves were just different enough to keep them from being a tired rehash of old ideas, and were genuinely tragic entities. The Clockworkers though were the selling point of the book and the world. Mad scientists by disease, not natural inclination, creating things that were so improbable they were fascinating and enjoyable. They were forces of nature, more than anything else, and so wonderfully essential to the world build.

Alice was a fun take on the plucky urban fantasy heroine, and will appeal to fans of Gail Carriger’s Heartless books. I enjoy strong female characters so much more in the Victorian sort of setting- they come off as less abrasive, they tend to be avoid being written like they have something to prove. It is more of a sense that they are just trying to breathe around that damn corset, or to manage walking amidst all that cloth, and that is trouble enough, thank you.

All in all, a very enjoyable book and I look forward to the continuation of the series!

Matchbox Girls by Chrysoula Tzavelas

It starts out mundane enough- a call from the children of an acquaintance asking Marley to come over, that their uncle is missing and they were told to call her should anything happen.  The mundane ends there, shifting seamlessly into a world peopled with angels, demons, and their offspring- all of which seem to have an unhealthy interest in the kids Marley now finds herself in charge of, and determined to protect. A celestial war is unfolding, and the children are at the center of it all.

What caught me first about the book is the reality of Marley’s anxiety problem. As someone who has struggled with anxiety, the writing rang so very true, and made Marley not only a flawed and human character, but really someone I was rooting for on a very personal level. I cheered every triumph and winced in sympathy every time she stumbled. For someone with an anxiety disorder, it is sometimes an overwhelming feat to do something as basic as get behind the wheel and drive to work. To see Marley work through that and carry the book to its conclusion was magnificent.

I also became very attached to Marley’s friends, Penny and Branwyn. Their friendship is so tangible and true- it made me want to make some phone calls to friends I have accidentally neglected while life has been busy distracting me.

Tzavelas also has the benefit of having her fae and celestial beings act inhuman, something I adore in any books those forces appear in. On one hand there are the fae, the celestials, and the demons. On the other, the humans. Caught in the middle are the crossbreeds. The mistakes. The Nephilim. And it is in the dual nature, that sense of being caught between that twists through the Nephilim characters, where Tzavelas’ writing really shines. Here is an author who has a grasp on that anxious tension that results from being neither here nor there, and trying to figure out where and how you belong. Matchbox Girls is a book about twisting your own fate from the threads we are given at birth, and it is a splendid journey.