Sunday, August 13, 2017

Green Magic

The Waking LandThe Waking Land by Callie Bates

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It's worth the hype. I don't know if this one is ya or not, it doesn't need to be. Unlike some other recent reads, every single time I thought she was going for the usual, she turned the cliche around. I'm dazzled. Lady Elanna's grown up a hostage all her life, raised in luxury and favored by the king. What does she do when she's forced to flee her privileged life and face her feelings of betrayal and abandonment in the face of real dangers and responsibilities? Pretty much what any reader of fantasy hopes we would do, with green magic running through our veins: she steps up. The dangers of stepping up are not sugar-coated, either. Beautiful language, stellar character development, and two more books in the pipeline. Hurray, and HIGHLY recommended. I was lucky enough to win an ARC, and thank Del Rey profusely. There's nothing like getting to add someone new to your "favorite authors" list. (Note to publisher: look at those reviews on goodreads, maybe you need to market this as an adult fantasy. Me, Robin Hobb, other adults: 5-4 stars, great reviews; teenagers: 1-2 stars. This is more like Recluce and only mature readers evidently can see it.)

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Recent Reads

Friday, August 4, 2017

The New Voices of FantasyThe New Voices of Fantasy by Peter S. Beagle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wow. Hard times are good for great writing and serious reading. Here are serious practitioners of fantasy and lovers of language, tinged with truth and mudded with blood and myth. Many of the writers have won or been nominated for awards, and they know their stuff. Buy it, read it, and dream larger, possibly darker, definitely deeper dreams. Each story is a portal to a different world. Each is a literary gem, shining like a necklace of stars in the hands of a dragon. Even the ones that you may not like are beautiful. It was edited by Peter Beagle, after all. Delightful, but not light reading, highly recommended. (I received an EARC for review from the publisher and Netgalley.)

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Thursday, August 3, 2017

Moonbeams and Hard Truths Can Go Together

Ginny MoonGinny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ginny Moon's birth mother has trouble with drugs, men, cops, and her temper. She also has trouble with Ginny Moon, who has a LOT of trouble understanding people in general, due to her position on the autism spectrum. Ginny Moon was removed from her birth mother's custody four years ago when she was nine, and since then she has done nothing but do her best by hook or crook to get back to her birth mother and Ginny's job of taking care of Baby Doll. Lying, stealing, running away: Ginny knows these are wrong, but she doesn't know what else to do, because taking care of Baby Doll is VERY important, and none of the adults around her, even her therapist, seem to understand.
Things come to a head when her adoptive parents are about to have their own birth child. Ginny comes from a violent background; despite her obsession with Baby Doll, can she be trusted around the new baby? Ludwig does an amazing job of showing why it's hard to communicate for the autistic and with the autistic. The book is told in Ginny's voice and yet we can see when she can't how people are caring for her and about her, and feel empathy and frustration for everyone in the story. That's amazingly hard to do when you're taking on autism, social services, adoption and foster care, poverty and high school all at once. Both tender and tough, this is a great read for adults and teens.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Fantastic Fforde

A French Affair: A perfect feel good summer romanceA French Affair: A perfect feel good summer romance by Katie Fforde
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

At last Katie Fforde is reappearing to an American audience! Katie is one of Britain's rom-com queens, for she manages to get just the right touches of setting, character, and story to tug your heartstrings and make you smile. The challenge of writing (and reading!) romance is that it's basically the same story every single time, even if it's our favorite. One of the pleasures of reading Fforde is that she gives us different settings in each book, so we're always exploring something, whether it's barges or wool factories or old country houses.
She takes us backstage to the antiques world in A French Affair. The old country house in this story has been turned into one of those antiques shops where lots of dealers use tiny spaces for storefronts. Gina and Sally have inherited a stall from their eccentric aunt. Tall, handsome and grumpy Matthew owns the building. Trouble and attraction and good humor ensue, along with true love, of course.
A French Affair was originally published in Britain in 2013 and is sitting on my home bookshelf, so it is not due to the free electronic version I received from the publisher and Netgalley that I encourage you to buy and read it and keep it on your bookshelf, too. Katie Fforde's books, all of them, are go-to books for comfort reading anytime--and some are even better than this one. If you want to read and close the pages with a smile on your face, Katie Fforde is your girl!

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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Worth a Visit

The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True HermitThe Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit by Michael Finkel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The author shares his fascination with the story of Christopher Knight, who disappeared into the Maine woods in 1978 and was discovered 27 years later as the mysterious thief who'd become legendary in the local lake town. What makes a person withdraw from society? How does a thief not get caught for 27 years? These are the central questions driving the story, backed up by credible interviews and research.

Finkel calls Knight "the last true hermit" because all those years Knight had no intended interaction with another human being. Many disagree with Finkel's definition. Traditionally a hermit's withdrawn from society for spiritual reasons. In modern times, it can be a matter of philosophy or politics, too. A true hermit lives in seclusion, not isolation. Knight describes his walking into the woods as more of a whim, though it's obvious it was a compulsion. And it's hard to believe that he didn't pick his only ever job—working on home security alarms—with thieving in mind. Knight's certainly a recluse, but to call him a hermit is to reduce the stature of every non-thieving hermit in history. It's no wonder the unofficial arbiter of modern hermits, the Hermitary, refuses Knight membership.

Knight admits it is wrong to steal, but he did it; despite having made ingenious solutions to surviving Maine winters, he developed his skills in skulking and thieving instead of self-support. The residents of that Maine lake town seem to mostly hate or admire him; the break-ins, while Knight made sure to attack only empty houses, were frequent and some residents lived in fear while others left offerings of books and candy over the years.

It is indeed fascinating to read all about it and decide if you'd call him a nuisance, a bogeyman, a freak, or a lost soul. But not a hermit.

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Light Romance reading

A Stardance Summer (Eternity Springs, #13)A Stardance Summer by Emily March
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Emily March's books are my guilty pleasure. There's unashamed romance and hope in every one, and Stardance Summer ticks all the boxes once more. The Eternity Springs series in particular honors those who have transformed the trauma in their lives into compassion, hope, and renewed commitment to love--not only romantic love, but love for self and community. The romance is between Brick Callahan, who's got a great thing going on with glamping, and Lili Howe, who had a childhood crush on him that's never gone away. Lili went into accounting to please her parents, and her heart has never been in it. When she has a crisis at work and her parents are unsupportive, she impulsively runs away. She buys a trailer, joins her landlady's glamping club, and ends up in Eternity Springs at Brick's campground. Growing and learning ensue, and plenty of romance and frustration, too.
If you like Debbie Macomber, you're sure to like Emily March; this one in particular has a Macomber "Blossom Street" feeling, maybe because it's number 13 in the series. Hope it's good luck, for I'd like there to be more.
I received an early electronic copy from the publisher and Netgalley for review.

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