What makes a book interesting enough that you want to pick it up immediately and start reading? Or, for those of you who exclusively read e-books, what makes you willing to sit down and read the sample pages?
While no one’s quite sure of the answers to the above questions, one thing’s for certain: Books aren’t written in a vacuum, and it’s hard for them to gain traction if no one knows about them.
Even if you’re an author with a following, as is the case with Christopher G. “Chris” Nuttall, Katharine Eliska Kimbriel, and Rosemary Edghill, it’s unclear what makes someone decide to read one of your books as opposed to another. Sure, there’s genre preference and all — some people just enjoy reading, say, fantasy-romances, and if your book falls into that category, you’re more likely to be read. But a book that’s so good that people are willing to fall all over themselves recommending it is rare . . . unless you’re a regular book reviewer, as I am.
Then, perhaps, it’s not so rare.
At any rate, Chris Nuttall’s newest novel is SCHOOLED IN MAGIC, the first in a series about Emily, a girl from our Earth who’s transported to another world and finds she can do magic . . . but only if she can get away from the necromancer who transported her there, first.
I’ve read SCHOOLED IN MAGIC and found it to be an interesting take on the old “fish out of water” tale . . . what Emily does in this brand-new world is often life-affirming, but she can’t help but make mistake after mistake due to being unfamiliar with this world and its environs. (Note that this new world is never named; it’s simply “the world.” That’s done for a reason, as the people of this world are decidedly backward by Earthly standards, being roughly at a feudal level.)
A sample chapter is available here for your perusal . . . if you like what you see, please follow the links from that page (there are many) and get yourself your own copy (’cause I’m not sharing mine).
I recently reviewed two of Rosemary Edghill’s books over at Shiny Book Review, IDEALITY: VENGEANCE OF MASKS and FAILURE OF MOONLIGHT. The former is a dark fantasy with elements of SF and horror (tough to quantify, very interesting to read, and extremely thought provoking), while the latter is a series of short stories about Ms. Edghill’s popular character Bast, a Wiccan detective who has only her wits and her faith to help her solve crimes. Bast is extremely intelligent, makes many witty asides, and can be exceedingly trenchant in her opinions . . . which is one of the reasons I enjoy reading about her so much.
FAILURE OF MOONLIGHT is one of those books that you just can’t stop thinking about once you’ve finished reading it. While the one-liners are great and well worth the price of admission, it’s Bast’s mind, thoughts and opinions that call me back again and again. Bast is moral, ethical, and principled, and while she mostly walks apart from others due to her Wiccan faith being profoundly misunderstood (even by other NeoPagans), she’s someone many people would want to befriend if they ever met someone like her outside of a story.
Best of all, if you enjoy these stories, there are three excellent novels about Bast available in BELL, BOOK AND MURDER. These, too, are well worth reading, and are books I return to again and again as I ponder various thoughts and wonder just how Bast managed to come up with the answers this time . . .
Finally, what can I say about the incomparable Katharine Eliska Kimbriel that I haven’t said before? Her work in both hard science fiction with her Chronicles of Nuala series and now in dark fantasy/frontier fantasy with her Night Calls series is outstanding; best of all, she’s currently working on the third book of the latter series even as I write this.
Her most recent release is KINDRED RITES, book two in the Night Calls series; I reviewed it over at SBR back in January. It features Alfreda “Allie” Sorensson. Allie is now thirteen, a burgeoning magician with unusually strong powers, and is studying with her Aunt Marta as she must learn self-control. Fortunately, Allie is a good-hearted young lady who has no wish to coerce others; she only wishes to live her life unmolested, and help others as need be.
In other hands, Allie could easily have turned into a Mary Sue-type of character. Instead, Ms. Kimbriel wisely shows Allie struggling with the things any young girl struggles with — boys. How other girls treat boys. Puberty (or at least the fact of it, as inexorable as the sun coming up in the morning). Learning her craft, which includes birthing babies, digging for herbs in foul weather, and many other unpleasant things . . . and dealing with the effects of magical “hangovers” when too much magic is expended, no doubt. (This is more sketched than shown, but is there nonetheless.)
And, of course, because Allie is so powerful, other people want to steal her away before she can fully come into her own, magical birthright.
In other words, there’s many practical elements to both of Allie’s stories, NIGHT CALLS and KINDRED RITES, plus many speculative elements, and both add immeasurably to the richness of these tales. Allie’s innate goodness is refreshing, while her natural curiosity and wisdom also appeal . . . in short, if you’re looking for YA fantasy done right, look no further than Katharine Eliska Kimbriel.
So there you have it — three fine works of fiction by three disparate writers, all different, each with something interesting and special to offer. I consider all of them “comfort books” for different reasons, and enjoyed them all immensely.
Your next assignment, Dear Reader, is to figure out which one you want to devour first . . . then have at.
For those of you waiting for my review of Vera Nazarian’s COBWEB FOREST, I’m sorry to say that it’ll be another week before I’m able to review it.
Mostly, I ran out of time . . . partly, it’s because other things have gotten in the way of reviewing and blogging over the past week or so. (As you might’ve noticed from how little I’ve blogged lately.)
I’m hoping to blog tomorrow about a few new books I’ve enjoyed, including my friend Chris Nuttall’s new SCHOOLED IN MAGIC and perhaps discussing in a little more detail Rosemary Edghill’s new short-story collection FAILURE OF MOONLIGHT . . . maybe I’ll throw in a bit of talk about Katharine Eliska Kimbriel’s KINDRED RITES in the bargain.
But that’ll have to wait until the morrow . . . until then, keep on keepin’ on. (And for my fellow baseball fans, enjoy Spring Training — the most optimistic time of the year.)
Folks, Lightspeed’s “Women Destroy SF” issue has passed on my story, which I still won’t name as I’ve immediately sent it off to another market (as writers must do).
Let us hope the second market will be more interested than the last, hey?
Folks, I had a busy weekend with regards to reviews, which is one reason I wasn’t able to write an after-action report right away with regards to Friday’s review of Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s newest novel in their ongoing Liaden Universe, TRADE SECRET.
You see, my latest review, up as of a few, short minutes ago, is for Vera Nazarian’s haunting and compelling COBWEB EMPIRE, the second in her Cobweb Bride series. Her series is dark fantasy, yet there’s somehow an underpinning of optimism that carries you through nearly unimaginable suffering . . . in Ms. Nazarian’s conception, Death needs a bride and has refused to go on taking souls until he gets one. But he can’t have just any bride . . . oh, no. He needs a specific bride he calls the “Cobweb Bride” (hence the name of the first book of the series, COBWEB BRIDE, and the series itself, natch), and nothing else will do.
This universe is unlike anything I have ever seen. It is rich, dark, menacing, yet there are plenty of good people who populate it, including the couple at the heart of all the chaos, Persephone “Percy” Ayren and her own dark knight, Duke Beltain Chidair. (Note that Beltain hasn’t yet accustomed himself to being the Duke as his father is undead and certainly doesn’t wish to give up the title, being as distressing a personage as can be imagined . . . at least until an even worse one, Sovereign Rumalar Avalais of the Domain, shows up.)
I have enjoyed reading Ms. Nazarian’s conception thus far, and can’t wait to dive into COBWEB FOREST . . . which is why I plan to read and review it this week. (I’ve already skimmed it, but there’s many, many more things to discover by reading it multiple times.)
At any rate, I also enjoyed Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s TRADE SECRET quite a bit. It’s told in an unusual way that I likened to a mosaic, as nothing really fell into focus for me until right before the end — then I understood it completely.
Why a mosaic? Well, with a lot of mosaics, you can’t really tell what’s going on until you can stand outside and ponder them. And as that was definitely the case here, it seemed to fit.
So there you have it: Two new reviews are up at Shiny Book Review for two interesting and thoughtful books that both delighted me enormously, albeit in radically different ways.
Hope you’ll enjoy the reviews — then, if they intrigue you anywhere near as much as they did me, go buy the books. (Hours of reading enjoyment await. And the re-reads . . . did I mention the re-reads yet?)
Folks, sometimes I don’t get a chance after reviewing a book to come over here and write a quick blog about it in a timely manner.
I’m not sure why this is, except that the pace of my life seems to be accelerating the longer I’m on this planet. (Weird thing to say, I know. But it’s four a.m., so maybe that accounts for it.)
At any rate, I’m pleased to report that I reviewed two works by Rosemary Edghill at Shiny Book Review (SBR for short, as always) on Thursday afternoon, these being IDEALITY: VENGEANCE OF MASKS and the short-story collection FAILURE OF MOONLIGHT, which features Ms. Edghill’s popular Bast character (a Wiccan detective who takes no nonsense from anyone, not even herself).
Because IDEALITY is a new name for an older title, I mostly just wrote a quick few lines about it and pointed people at the earlier review. I spent most of my time on the six stories and essays comprising FAILURE OF MOONLIGHT.
At any rate, if you are in the mood for some interesting, intelligent stories that will keep your attention long after you’ve turned the final page, please take a gander at these two works. IDEALITY is a fantasy/horror hybrid that’s original, complex, and sometimes shocking — that’s one of the reasons I liked it so much — while FAILURE OF MOONLIGHT is set in our present-day world (albeit slightly in the past, now, as the stories range from the early 1970s to probably the mid-1990s) and features murder mysteries (and Bast; have I mentioned Bast yet?)
Note that IDEALITY is more of an adult read (mind you, if anyone had told me that a book is more of an adult read when I was thirteen or fourteen, that’s the first book I’d have grabbed off the shelf, so it feels really strange to say that), while there’s a mix of age-ranges in FAILURE OF MOONLIGHT.
So please do take a gander at my review, then go read the books.
Folks, it’s official — as of 6:50 PM CST, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer (R) has vetoed Arizona state Senate Bill 1062. MSNBC showed a press conference, where Gov. Brewer said many different things about how she listened to both sides, conferred with advisors, and came to the only decision that made sense.
Thus her veto.
This is a very good thing, both for Arizona and for the nation. As I said earlier, this was terrible legislation. It was impractical at best, too broadly worded (as Gov. Brewer herself said), and unConstitutional on its face.
Good for Gov. Brewer for vetoing this bill.
What is wrong with the Arizona legislature?
Last week, on a mostly party-line vote, the Arizona legislature passed controversial state Senate Bill 1062, titled the “Religious Freedom of Expression” bill in much of the media. This bill seeks to amend the Arizona state statutes in order to allow people to deny services to people who don’t meet their own religious standards, as best I can discern, and is widely seen as an anti-LGBT measure.
As you might expect, many people — in and out of Arizona — are calling upon Arizona Governor Jan Brewer (R) to veto SB 1062, including both of its United States Senators — Republican John McCain, and Republican Jeff Flake. In addition, three Republican members of the state Senate who just voted for the bill last week are also calling for it to be vetoed. And their reasoning is somewhat surprising.
“While our sincere intent in voting for this bill was to create a shield for all citizens’ religious liberties, the bill has instead been mischaracterized by its opponents as a sword for religious intolerance,” State Sens. Bob Worsley, Adam Driggs and Steve Pierce wrote in a letter. “These allegations are causing our state immeasurable harm.”
In other words, they are saying the perception of the bill is harming the state much more than they thought, so the bill should be vetoed even though they still believe it’s a good bill.
(Hard to believe they didn’t understand just last week that they were making a mistake, but better late than never.)
The problem I see with SB 1062 goes far beyond it conceivably being an anti-LGBT measure. While that’s more than bad enough, after reading this bill in its entirety, I see it as having a much more fundamental flaw:
It is against the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. Plain and simple.
Well, the First Amendment is pretty straightforward. It says that you cannot establish a state religion, but you cannot deny someone the ability to express his or her own religious faith, either. And it also says you cannot deny freedom of expression (among several other things) . . . all of which seem in direct contradiction to Arizona’s SB 1062.
You see, if you allow a bill like this to stand as read, it conceivably allows someone to deny someone service based upon your religious faith or your own, personal beliefs. It makes your own discrimination allowable under Arizona’s state constitution, and further it shields you from harm if someone then sues you because you contravened their rights guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution of freedom of expression or freedom of religion.
None of that is acceptable.
Furthermore, there are additional, practical reasons as to why SB 1062 should be vetoed without delay by Gov. Brewer, including these stated by the website Arizona Central:
The CEOs of the state’s top business groups – Greater Phoenix Economic Council, Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, Greater Phoenix Leadership and the Southern Arizona Leadership Council – want Brewer to veto.
“The legislation is also already clearly having a negative effect on our tourism industry, one of the largest sectors of the economy,” several of the CEOs wrote. “The bill could also harm job creation efforts and our ability to attract and retain talent.”
From reading this, it seems these CEOs see SB 1062 as being a job-killer.
But wait, here’s more. From Arizona Central’s editorial:
The damage will grow the longer this bill survives. Brewer can start the healing with a quick, decisive veto. She can use the opportunity to loudly and clearly tell the world that Arizona is an open, welcoming state that does not countenance discrimination.
The Legislature’s approval of the bill undermined the state’s goal of attracting high-tech industry. Seventy percent of people born after 1980 support same-sex marriage, according to Pew Research. High-tech firms locate in places talented, young people find attractive.
The right to refuse service bill makes Arizona an unattractive butt of late-night comedy and snarky tweets.
While I’m not necessarily moved by the need for any state to specifically attract “young people,” I agree that if you want high-tech industry, you want smart people of all ages. And most smart people just do not see the practical sense in legalized discrimination, regardless of age . . . which is why there are people in all age groups who believe marriage should be a civil right irrespective of whether or not your partner is of the opposite sex or the same sex, providing you are both of sound mind and are both adults.
So to sum up, here’s the two big problems with Arizona’s SB 1062:
- It appears to legalize discrimination against people based on a person’s religious beliefs — a no-no under the U.S. Constitution.
- And it appears to be something that’s highly impractical that actively harms the state of Arizona.
If I were Gov. Brewer, I would veto this bill without any further delay . . . it’s clearly the right thing to do, it will save the state of Arizona from having to defend this terrible bill in court (where it’s likely to be struck down and the state penalized for wasting the federal government’s precious time), and it will stop harming the state’s image in the court of public opinion.
The Governor has until February 28 to either veto this bill or sign it. So keep your eyes on Arizona, to see if she’ll do the right thing . . .