Sunday, July 31, 2011

July Readingfest 3

I'm thinking this reading frenzy is going to continue into August since it's not looking like Camp NaNo is going to work for me then either. At least I'm getting my TBR pile thinned out a little. A very little. But hey, it's constructive and it's progress. This week I was the crazy lady at the county fair, walking around with a book in her hand, reading for ten minutes here and there while my daughter rode the rides.

To finish out my mission of completing the entire Dune series, I sought out Winds of Dune. This is the story of Lady Jessica that continues on after Paul of Dune. For those of you who have questioned the necessity of these newer Dune novels, on this particular one, I agree with you. While Paul of Dune delved into major questions about what drove Paul to leave his new empire behind and disappear into the desert, the few further answers revealed in Winds of Dune could have been tucked into Paul's novel. Filled with what felt with a lot of repeated information, this novel didn't give me the same compelling urge to devour it as the other did. If you're a big fan of the House Vernius plotline, you'll find the answers to all those pesky little questions that have popped up since back in Dune: House Atreides and all the newer books that have followed. If that's not a priority, I'd recommend Paul of Dune and moving on to Children of Dune.

After finishing Hunters of Dune -- which is one of those novels you go into knowing that it's going to end with only half the story told thanks to the author's notes -- I was in such a lurch to find Sandworms of Dune immediately, that I read the last page, set the book down and picked up the phone. I called my local book consignment store (where I'm selling all my leftover NaNoWriMo bookdrive novels) and asked if they had it. They didn't. So I sucked it up and drove to Barnes and Noble.

I can't tell you how long it's been since I've bought a new book off the shelf. Years. This is the problem with reading and critiquing so many other peoples novels, belonging to a book club and living close to a used book store, I don't get out much in that sense. When did the price of a paperback rise to $9.99?

Sandworms of Dune was everything I'd hoped it would be, a well-told, satisfying conclusion to the entire series, old and new. If you can image all sixteen Dune books in a neat stack topped with a bow, that's pretty much what finishing Sandworms of Dune felt like. I was a little concerned when I read that many of the original characters were back (as gholas), trapped aboard a giant no-ship, jumping around the universe to hide from a mysterious unknown Enemy -- you know the nameless, unknown bad entity that hasn't done anything really yet but everyone fears just cause they feel the Enemy is "bad". Granted, there were a few points that seemed obvious to me before the characters figured them out, but as a whole, the novel worked and the series now feels complete.

Wrapping up an epic that spans thousands of years with so many main characters, both good and bad, was a tall order, but Brian Herbert and Kevin Anderson managed to do it. Hooray! And now I can set the Dune universe on my bookshelf, take a deep breath and move on. What will I reach for next?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

July Readingfest 2

Everyone benefits when I'm in reading mode. Well, everyone but my discarded horde and my current characters in limbo that is. My dog gets to go to the dog park where I can sit on a bench and read. My kids get to go to the beach, ChuckECheese, the park, and get to see me without a laptop attached to my person. My tub gets my attention with lots of long baths (though my shower probably misses me). My husband takes joy in not hearing the constant clickety clack of my fingers on the keyboard. Me, I'm getting a tan and feeling a little more accomplished with each book I take off my TBR pile.

I finished Jacqueline Carey's Naamah's Blessing since my last post. LOVED IT. And was overjoyed to have a strong ending to that trilogy with the promise of a new one to come. If I have to nitpick at something, it would be the overuse of single sentence paragraphs. Every chapter seemed to end with them and they were also scattered throughout. But really, that's digging for something to nitpick just to be fair.

Then I dove into Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson's, Paul of Dune. As much as I love Dune, this book has tragically languished on the bottom of my TBR pile since its release in 2008. That's how behind I am. Eek! This was a great point to dive back into the Dune universe. Reading of any of the previous books wasn't necessary, as necessary information was neatly tucked in. Of course, I had read all the previous books, but it's been a LONG time since reading the original six books. Focusing on Paul and the years between Dune and Dune Messiah, we learn the events that turned Paul Muad'dib into a terrifying ruler that brought massive change to the universe. Nitpick: The jump between childhood years and present day was jarring and off-putting at first but well indicated.

Currently I'm halfway into Hunters of Dune, also by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson's. The long awaited first part of the divided Book 7 of the original Dune series. Thankfully, this book also does a great job of inserting necessary snippets to jog the memory since Chapterhouse Dune was published in 1985 and I likely read it within a couple years of that. Yeah, it's been awhile. Easy to follow and as enjoyable as all the new Dune books have been, I have found nothing significant to nitpick on. Yet. The chapters are blessedly short, making it a perfect read for the constantly interrupted like myself. With a myriad of characters to follow, there's something for everyone as we follow the spiderweb of plotlines that clash and smash their way toward the climax of this awesome and inspirational series.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Special Guest: Marion Sipe

Please give a warm welcome to Marion Sipe, author of A Sign In Blood. I'll try to keep my discarded throngs at bay while we do this interview. They're used to me ignoring them lately. Just don't look any of them in the eye and we'll be fine.

With A Sign in Blood, what did you have the most fun writing?

The ending. It still gets me every single time I read it. I hope it does the same for others, but just knowing that it hasn't lost anything for me, despite my having read it at least a dozen times, makes me grin. So, it's my favorite part of the book, and the part I enjoyed writing the most.

When you can enjoy your own story even after all the hard work and multiple readings, you know you've created something wonderful. Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

I learned a lot of things, actually. Liral and Chadri are characters of color and through writing them, and researching in order to write them, I learned a bit about the subject. The rewriting and editing always teach me something new and through it I think I gain a better grasp of the craft. Even if it is just a little each time. Getting crits for the story taught me a lot, too, and really made me look at things from different angles, which is always fascinating.

Writing and editing seem to be an endless learning experience don't they? Speaking of which, you know I'm a NaNo nut. Have you ever participated in NaNoWriMo?

I did several years ago, and then again last year. I had a great time and made some really awesome friends. I won, too! I actually wrote something like 135k in a single month. It was glorious, but exhausting.

135k? That is glorious! What's your favorite NaNo Pep Talk?

Lemony Snicket did a pep talk last year and I still have it in my inbox! It's really fantastic, and I re-read it whenever I need a boost. It never fails to make me grin, and to keep me writing, which is, I suppose, the point of a pep talk! :-D

We all need a little motivation now and then. What gave you the idea to write your book?

I can't remember. It's been so long, I really have no idea what that initial spark was. It could have been anything, really. I know that, somewhere after I had started writing it, I got stalled and then I saw this wonderful documentary about deserts and that got me back into the story. I find deserts fascinating, and being able to build one really hooked me.

What kind of readers will enjoy your book?

My hope is that there's something for everyone, but I think we all want that for our books. I think people who enjoy an immersive world and complicated characters will enjoy A Sign in Blood. And, of course, the hardcore fantasy readers to whom 300 pages is a great start. :-D

Sounds good to me. What research did you do for the book?

For this book specifically I researched deserts, mountains, gunpowder, a variety of plants, toxins, several cultures, camels, cavalry, and a bunch more stuff. But I would have done all that anyway. I enjoy the research, too. I just hope that I did it justice.

I'm trying to imagine how that all comes together. Gun-toting camels clashing with the mountain camels who employ toxins! Ok, probably not. Ahem... What do you hope your readers come away with after reading your book?

A great big smile? Honestly, I'm not sure. I hope readers enjoy the story, and I hope it makes an impression, but there's not any one thing in particular I'm trying to say. I hope it makes people think, it certainly did me.

Thanks for stopping by, Marion! My discarded characters must like you, they behaved the entire time. Or maybe they're quietly plotting how to get ahold of a herd of those gun-toting camels...

You can purchase A Sign In Blood here Amazon or here B&N or here Smashwords

Thursday, July 7, 2011

July Readingfest

While many of my fellow writing pals are off at CampNano, I'm stuck in a work schedule that leaves my creative brain fried and my fingers reluctant to go anywhere near my laptop. I did manage to get away for a long holiday weekend to take our first official family camping trip.

Other than some majorly rude and annoyingly obnoxious camp site neighbors, it was a wonderful experience. The weather was perfect. We found interesting fossil rocks, played in the sand, paddled around in a canoe and cooked food over the fire. Good stuff. I also brought a book and tried to get a little reading done.

Honestly, I did more carrying the book around intending to read it than actual reading, but having the leisure to do so did manage to rekindle the urge to read for enjoyment that had been lacking due to critiquing for the past couple years and trying to get my own writing done. Once home and the camping gear put away, I sat down and poured through the sand speckled pages. Then I picked up another and read that. I just cracked open a third. I've declared this month my Readingfest.

I'm hoping to work through some of my towering TBR pile. So far I've conquered:
The Barbarian by Judith French A good romance tale with a little lite history on the side. Other than feeling, from the amount of backstory inserted, that this was a book two, I didn't find much to distract me from enjoying the story of Alexander's wife, Roxanne, her hidden child, Ptolemy's need to outshine his dead brother, his missing bastard... oh and, of course, the hot barbarian prince who rescues her. I enjoyed the fact that this was a more mature romance in that Mr. Hottie had adopted and raised two boys on his own and both of the MCs were on their second marriage. No heaving-breasted virgins here, no sir.

For the past two days, my head has been stuck in Dark Fire by Christine Feehan. While formulaic like I've found the Carpathian series generally to be, it was still an enjoyable, quick read. Stong-willed and perpetual loner Tempest finds herself employed as the mechanic of an eccentric band, who are all secretly Carpathians (not exactly vampires). When their large, domineering bodyguard declares she is his lifemate and bonds them together, she must come to grips with kissing her loner lifestyle goodbye for all eternity. Lots of sex seems to help her adjust. The dialogue felt stiff in places and the descriptions repetitive, but overall, I wasn't complaining.

This morning, I dove into the long awaited Jacqueline Carey's Naamah's Blessing which arrived in my mailbox yesterday. Having reached chapter eleven by lunch, I've already laughed and cried. It took Puss in Boots eyes and much tugging from my daughter to dislodge me from the book in order to get my motherly duties and work day going. I marvel at Carey's skill at weaving so much emotion into her characters and creating such a wonderfully detailed world. I'm sad to see another of her trilogies close but anxious to see if another will follow. More gushing on this novel when I finish it. Which will likely be tomorrow at this pace. Who needs sleep?