Sunday, March 27, 2011

"Pegasus" by Robin McKinley

I've loved Robin McKinley's work for a long time.  Her Hero and the Crown is one of my all-time favorites.  I have thoroughly enjoyed her takes on Robin Hood, Sleeping Beauty (two different versions!) and vampires.  So, when I saw she had a new one out, I was thrilled beyond belief.

And Pegasus lived up to my internal hype.  Is it her best novel?  Probably not.  Is it worth the price of admission?  Absolutely.

One of the things I love about her stories is her wonderful world-building.  One of the others is the deft way she handles the mental and cultural differences between species.  In Sunshine, it was the differences between humans and vampires, in Dragonhaven, the differences between humans and dragons.  And here, it's between humans and the Pegasi.

McKinley does here what she's done before, and with aplomb.  The world-building is superb, the cultural and mental strangeness of the Pegasi fascinating, and the characters compelling.  Does McKinley ramble at times?  Sure.  But for me, that's always been part of her charm.  I find such interesting gems in her tangents.  Sometimes, especially in genre writing, there is such a focus on linear storytelling.  Occasionally, it's nice to go where the story leads you, no matter how strange that path may look.

So, a full recommendation for Pegasus.  She's written better, but not by much.  And even on a bad day, McKinley's got my vote!  You can purchase Pegasus here.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

"Grendel" by John Gardner

If you haven't figured it out yet, I'm kinda all over the place with the books I choose to review.  Sometimes they're new.  Sometimes they're not.  Sometimes I don't really know (or care) if they're new or old or somewhere in between.  I just know that I like them.

You'll also notice that I bounce around from genre to genre.  That's mostly because I don't believe that any one genre has a corner on good writing.  So far I've reviewed some fantasy, some science fiction, some romance, some literature, some foreign stuff and a thriller, if memory serves.  I don't think I've delved into existentialist writing as of yet.

That changes today.

I will say that I'm not always a fan of existentialism.  I find it rather bleak.  A couple of exceptions to this?  Camus, for one... I like him quite a lot.  He was pretty chipper for a guy that believed that life ends with the void.  Matter of fact, I think he was called the existentialist saint.  Makes sense to me.

The other exception is this.  Is this novel chipper?  No.  Is there any sense of redemption here, in spite of our contemplation of the emptiness of life?  No.

It's just cool.

You take the epic poem Beowulf and tell it in modern language from the point of view of the monster.  How awesome is that?  And Grendel is interesting.  I didn't say lovable.  He's not.  He's kind of a whiner, actually, but he's got lots of interesting things to say.  There is something imminently intriguing about Grendel.  And then there's the dragon...

You know enough of me by now to know that there will be no blow-by-blow of the novel's contents.  I don't want to spoil it for anyone.  Sure, let's go with that.  Actually, I just don't have enough patience.  Or maybe it's that I'm lazy.

Whatever the real reason, if you haven't read this gem, I would highly suggest you do it.  At the very least you can use it to brag to your friends and make yourself seem erudite (and by extension, make them feel like ill-read buffoons). 

But honestly, I think you'll really dig it.  Plus, it's not that long.  So, go pick up a copy here.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

"Irish Moon" by @amberscottbooks

At some point, I'm simply going to run out of masculinity points here.  If you haven't followed what Bestseller for a Day is doing, the first thing you need to do is head over to their website to check it all out.  Once you've done that, you need to come right back here for me to tell you all about their next offering, Irish Moon.  Go ahead.  I'll wait.  Really.

Now that you've gone and seen that, as a reader, you're getting the best of all worlds here (stupendous novels for dirt cheap, as well as chances to win prizes AND help out the noble cause of indie writers), I can now talk to you about the sexy hotness that is Irish Moon.

Okay, at the risk of sounding truly girly, this romance is SWEET!  It's got an amazing locale, awesome characters (that you actually care about, instead of just lusting after), a tight plot and MAGIC!  That was my favorite part.  Seriously, though, I joke about losing man point and stuff, but I will read anything that's well written.  And this just is.  Yes, I am a man and I read paranormal romance.  No, I don't talk about it much with my guy friends.  Sue me.

The other thing that I love about this novel is that Scott doesn't drag it down into the mire.  She keeps the romance about what it should be about--character, chemistry and growing intimacy.  Not just about sex.  Sure, the sex is there, but it's not SEX with all caps, if you know what I mean.  If I want that, I'll read erotica.  Or, you know, Penthouse Forum or something.  Seriously.

So, if you love good romances with a hint of magic... If you love Ireland and history... If you love supporting indie authors, please go buy this book on Wednesday, March 16th.  It's only $.99 on that day, so... SCORE!  You can purchase the novel here.

Also, if you're an author or even just a reader who likes to keep up with the publishing industry, you MUST go check out Carolyn McCray's (@craftycmc and @writingnodrama on Twitter) article that just went up on the Digital Book World site here.  It's all about how to better sell your books on!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

"The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society" by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

There are certain novels that come along from time to time whose sole purpose seems to be to restore our faith in humanity.  This is one of them.
I'm not going to claim that this is the best written book ever, or that it deserves a Pulitzer or is crafted flawlessly.  What I will say is that I have never come away from a book with my heart and spirit more lifted.  The adjective that consistently comes to mind is "delightful".  The story is delightful.  The way it's treated is delightful.  The characters?  You guessed it.  Delightful.

The setting itself is almost a character.  I now want desperately to visit Guernsey.  Well, I want to visit post World War II Guernsey, which is a bit of a problem.  Anyone have a time machine they want to lend me?

For every ten positive critiques of this novel, there is a Negative Nelly out there, rambling on about the improbability of the plot, or the implausibility of the characters or the Pollyanna-ish qualities of the novel.  To them I say, "Knock it off!"  Seriously.  Go find a mud pit and roll around in it for a while.

I will say that for me, conflict is usually a huge part of whether or not I enjoy a book.  This book doesn't really have it.  At least,  not in the form I typically see in a novel.  It's light.  It's breezy.  Like I said, it's not going to win any Pulitzers.  But maybe it should.  Because there's something so very touching and beautiful about reading a book designed to simply charm and delight.

So, if you're up for something that will make you smile and possibly laugh out loud at times, this is the novel for you!  You can get The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society here.