Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Way Too Busy

Sorry folks. I've been thinking great thoughts but having no time to put them into pixels. I promise a post on Angry Housewives and another on Little Big will be forthcoming as soon as I can draw a breath.

In the meantime, if any of you are interested in the writing side of me, I've started posting to my livejournal with the life of my next novel. It's not a daily update, but is more frequent than this one. Of course no clever reviews or carefully constructed philosophical arguments either :). Just status, hints and process notes.

You can see it here:

Bring Out Your Dead

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Addendum to the Robin Hobb Review

I recently read an entry on Romancing the Blog about how writers can't be readers. Elsewhere, the question came up about whether writers can produce a negative review of a book they've read and not have it considered just sour grapes.

My perspective on this is that I can read as either and only when the writing is truly awful will it interfere with my enjoyment of the story. I'm not planning to post negative reviews on my blog. If a book didn't appeal in any aspect, then why should I share it with you and encourage you to look at it as well? That said, I suppose if I run into a book that is so awful it would be a public service to denounce, I'd like to think I would be willing to take that step. However, I preselect most of what I read, so this is a highly unlikely circumstance.

Regarding Robin Hobb's Shaman's Crossing, the review I presented was from the reader's perspective. From a writer's perspective, I would add that the book started a little slow for me. There were clear points of engagement and then areas that I just read to get to the next point. The story offers up Nevare's childhood as a way to introduce the world and its contradictions between cultures and realities. Because of this, there are some points that skate on the edge of pure exposition about the world.

The only other technical aspect I noticed as jarring was a tendency to restate what had already been conveyed regarding the world. This either stopped entirely after about the first 100 pages or I no longer cared. As a copy editor, I would have highlighted those restatements and suggested reminding the reader rather than restating the exact information. Still, as you can tell from my review, these technical issues hardly prevented me from enjoying the book :).

It's not that I don't see the technique; it's that I accept it as necessary to convey the story. When the technique falls down in the beginning, I'm more likely to notice it regardless of how the story engages me. Otherwise, as long as the story is compelling and I'm neither editing nor critiquing, I read with a reader perspective. As much as I've always been a storyteller, I've also been a storylistener. I see nothing contradictory or multiple personality in holding on to both of these aspects nor do I have any difficulty separating reading for work or education from reading for fun. While I might enjoy something I also analyze, I do not pick apart books as I'm reading them.

So, what's your take on this issue? Can you read as a reader if you write? And should writers avoid writing honest book reviews for fear of being perceived as envious?

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Shaman's Crossing by Robin Hobb

Sometime last year, I started signing up for publisher letters to see what they were publishing and get a feel for book blurbs. Then, I discovered the advance reader programs. Did you know that you can sign up to be an advance reader of books from all genres? In return for 100 or so words, you can read books both for free and before anyone else gets to see them. Needless to say, I've become an addict. It's a lottery-based program, so I don't get books every month, and occasionally I get caught with more than one coming in from different publishers with similar due dates, but overall, I love the program. I found Karen Traviss through it, learned what is published as horror is not anything like my impression of the genre and now I've joined my sister as a reader of Robin Hobb. I'll be tracking down her older books and looking forward to the rest of the series all because of the reader review program.

Even better, I now have a way to spread the joy further. I've included my reader review for Robin Hobb's Shaman's Crossing below. I really enjoyed this book, though writing about it without spoilers is difficult. If you like cultural fantasies, I think this one will please you.

My older sister has recommended Robin Hobb to me many times, but I never managed to give her books a try. Shaman's Crossing has changed all that. Enveloped in a rich and detailed world, I read this novel much faster than I normally would have, not because it was pure fluff, but because I found excuses for devoting more time than usual to reading. The characters are well drawn and appropriate for their environments; even when the attitudes they espouse run counter to my own, they fit so perfectly within this fictional world that any other approach would have been wrong. The main character starts out young and ignorant. Through the book, his eyes open wider and his world expands. A fascinating blend of magic and cultures, Shaman's Crossing shows both the prejudice between peoples and how it paints too simple a picture. Though matured by the end in comparison to his original state, I look forward to seeing how Nevare absorbs and reacts to the rest of his experiences as the trilogy continues. There is no question of whether I'll be reading the next two books. The characters were too fascinating and appealing for me not to learn what happened for the rest of their lives.