Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Moon-Flash by Patricia A McKillip

by Patricia A. McKillip

I've enjoyed a lot of McKillip's stuff. She writes a beautiful fairy tale (or fantasy novel, if you prefer to call them that). And her style is eloquent and beautiful without overwhelming the story...I've really enjoyed lots of her books!

But this one? A cross-over into science fiction? Hmm....

At first I was pretty skeptical, and for good reason: the beginning is set in a primitive, simple place—which wouldn't be bad at all, normally, but since it's a sci-fi novel you know where it's going to lead: simple, happy people meet technology for the first time, and what do they think of it? etc. Been done many, many times.

But, as usual, she drew me in and took me places I wasn't expecting, and drew both truth and depth out of the story. By the end of the book, I had to admit I thoroughly enjoyed it. Hooray for McKillip!

Sorcery & Cecilia by Patricia C. Wrede AND Caroline Stevermer

Sorcery & Cecelia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot
by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer

I LOVED this book. It was thoroughly fun from start to finish.

Jane Austen and sorcery? Yeah, it has been done before to some extent (like Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell), but I liked this one better. It is entirely composed of correspondence between two ladies in Austen's England: one in London, and one in the country. And they have a very interesting time...

Really. If you like Jane Austen, and you don't mind a little bit of magic mixed in, this book is really too much fun to miss.

Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn

Ella Minnow Pea
by Mark Dunn

This book is clever. Maybe too clever. Really so clever it verges on annoying. But that is because it's a story not so much about characters (which is what I generally prefer: strong characters), or even driven by plot. It's a story about an idea. So of course it's clever. And if you like plot and character and that sort of thing, you might just find it annoying.

Not to say that there isn't characterization or a plot—there is--but it takes a back seat to the idea. It reminded me a bit of stories about utopian societies gone awry—Animal Farm, 1984, Orwell stuff in general—but the main point of the story is what would happen if we were no longer able to use certain letters of the alphabet, and we kept losing them, one by one?

And it's actually an appealing idea to me. So I did enjoy the story. And Dunn must've had a great time writing this, especially when he was writing toward the end of the book and only had a handful of letters left that he could use. I almost think that it was more fun for him to write it than it was to read? Who knows. Guess it depends on the person reading it!

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy

The Scarlet Pimpernel
by Baroness Orczy

I don't know entirely what I was expecting when I picked this up. Something similar to Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities, perhaps? Or a little Les Miserables? What did I know about the Reign of Terror except what I've read in novels, anyhow?

What I was not expecting was a swash-buckling romance. (I've never seen any of the numerous "Scarlet Pimpernel" movies, of course. If I had, I probably would have known what was coming.)

It is a story about a larger-than-life hero. Reminded me a great deal of James Bond, in fact, with one huge difference: Bond is the generic male's fantasy of what the coolest guy on earth would be like; the Scarlet Pimpernel is the generic woman's fantasy of the world's most desirable man. (Honestly, the richest man in Europe, devastatingly handsome, cares about what he wears, impeccably polite, and completely hides it all from the world so he can be secretly the bravest and most daring man in the world? Come on! Complete and total fantasy!)

There are other parallels, too: the Pimp's alter-ego is a complete buffoon (Hmm...Clark Kent took a page from his book); the Pimp has a secret room in his home where he conducts all his pimpy business that is accessible only to his valet (Bruce Wayne was paying attention to this, no doubt, and also to the fact that oodles of money can be very handy when you are in the business of rescuing people). And so I have seen the birthplace of many modern heroes in this book. (Unless, of course, there is a hero who leads a double life before Orczy's novel? Probably...)

It was a fun read: Orczy knows how to build the suspense and build an entertaining story. If the romance was a trifle...well, unrealistic, and if the main protagonist, Margurite (she is the protagonist more than the Pimpernel, of course: we see everything through her eyes) who is described repeatedly as the "cleverest woman in Europe" often behaves like an idiot with wool for brains, well, it's still very entertaining and fun to read.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Napoli Overdose

So it's not really an overdose. But it should be. I mean, how much can you read by one author at one time? Should you read all of their works in a week's time? Probably not. But I did read a lot of Donna Jo Napoli over the last two weeks, and I'm not sick of her at all. Quite the opposite. I started with...


...a retelling of the Ugly Duckling. Set in Australia. Well, why not?

Her stuff is imaginative, researched, and thoughtful. What indeed would it take for a lone chick to survive in the wild? What would that bird think after being rejected by the only family he knew? How in the world would he discover who he really was?

Light reading, but so nice. The mother duck really was quite wonderful, and the little swan brave. And Napoli doesn't play down the harsh reality of life and survival in the wild, and the Australian critters were so interesting to read about.

Writing about it makes it seem kinda lame, but it really wasn't at all. Really. I especially loved the friends that he manages to make along the way. (Okay, now that really makes it seem lame, but it ISN'T, I promise!)

Since I'm just slaughtering this, let's move on to the next:

The Prince of the Pond series:

1. The Prince of the Pond
2. Jimmy, the Pickpocket of the Palace
3. Gracie, the Pixie of the Puddle

All three stories are short and sweet, but they have such life in them! What indeed happened to the frog prince while he was a frog? How difficult would it be for him to figure out how to be a frog? And would he do what all froggies do—swim, eat bugs, have a family? And would he try to do it like a frog, or like a man?

And then, after he becomes a prince again by the princess kissing him—then what? Would he miss his life in the pond? Or would the life in the pond miss him?

It was a good series, and surprisingly touching. The ending of the first two books were very bittersweet—and the ending of the third quite a bit happier, though a little bittersweet still.

I love how she researched everything in and out (lots of strange factoids about frogs in here) and literally had to think like a frog to be able to write about so many frogs. Thoughtful and honest. Yeah, I like Napoli.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Halloween Reads

Okay, no reason to re-invent the wheel. I already did this post over at my main blog, but I figured, why not put a link here, too? I mean, it's not like anyone ever sees this blog, so who cares, right?

I did finish Tamsin again, and, oh, I do love that book. What could be spookier than reading about The Wild Hunt when it's windy outside? Go, Peter S. Beagle!