Friday, October 26, 2007

A Writing Note of Interest

For those of you who are interested in writing who follow Stray Thoughts but not my novel blog (because I also posted this over there), here's something you might want to check out.

Holly Lisle, a favorite author of mine and one who does a lot to help other writers, is offering a teleseminar and a writing newsletter with writing prompts and the like. I'm part of her affiliate program and so she told us about this a little early. Anyway, if you're interested in checking out either the teleseminar or the newsletter, you can use the below links. In the interests of full disclosure :), they are tied into my affiliate program, but they'll get you where you need to be to learn about these new offerings.

The Teleseminar:

Information on the Teleseminar

The Newsletter:

Information on the Mailing List


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Threads of Malice and Valley of the Soul by Tamara Siler Jones

My plan was to profile each book separately, but these two are tied both by the author and the story. Even more, there's an interesting progression here. My involvement started with the first book in the series and I wrote comments about it here:

Threads of Malice by Tamara Siler Jones

(Acquired: bookstore)

I didn't write any notes on this book when I finished it because I read Threads of Malice during my crazy summer. Because of that, I don't have a lot of grand specifics and so I'm posting this note with the review of Valley of the Soul. Threads had all the elements I love in Tamara Siler Jones' writing with the characters I've enjoyed before growing and changing perspectives. It really pulls at the heartstrings and makes you aware no one is exempt from the troubles in this world. Since I've been following the progress of the seeding aspects of the mystery, I will say I found this book better seeded, though still not there yet for me. I felt neither the glance back and that makes sense nor that I really knew the answer when the killer was revealed, but I felt closer to knowing the answer if that makes sense in comparison to Ghosts in the Snow. The details of the world and the depth of the characters is what draws me to her writing though and those remained strong. The level of detail can be a bit intense, but I never felt it diminished the story. I'll admit I don't know if that level of sheer gross out is necessary, but then at the same time I watch CSI so maybe I'm not the best judge. Whatever you think about the graphic violence, the story is strong and compelling. If you have the stomach, go for it. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Valley of the Soul by Tamara Siler Jones

(Acquired: blog contest on by Jean Schara)

In Valley of the Soul, everything that I've liked about the previous two books was there, and every quibble I had with the previous two books is gone. This novel brings Tamara Siler Jones' talents to fruition with engaging characters, a compelling story line, her normal dash of gore (though maybe not in as much detail as usual), and the story seeds to pull me through the mystery. I've learned a lot about myself as a reader because Tamara challenged my statement about the very first book that it wasn't seeded well enough in the beginning. Usually I am a reader first and an analyst second, if at all. In the discussions regarding Ghosts in the Snow, though, I had to articulate and understand just what I look for in a book, specifically, what elements are there to involve me in the mystery and pull me along. I have to play the detective role, for example. I'm not one who can simply watch a mystery unfold and ooh and aah. And interestingly, I don't have to have the right clues; I just have to see things that have the potential to be clues. I'm a magpie looking for the bright shineys and when they're not there, I'm disappointed. But if I can collect a little pile of might-be-somethings, I'm pulled along in the search to prove which, if any, actually are something. I'll admit my accuracy is quite high, but that's because I'm a slow, detailed reader. I'll pick up clues the author doesn't even realize she dropped. Which is why when I don't see them, I really don't see them :).

Now enough about me, back to the book. I can't say much about this novel in specific without spoiling something, so for those of you who haven't read it yet, I'll refrain. What I will say is that the personal relationships and the grounded culture persist in this volume. You learn more about the characters' lives, their present and their past, while watching those same relationships mature and change. Dubric has his own monsters to face when trying to give himself permission to live again while Dien is torn between his duties and being a father. Lars and Jess continue their tale as well, with some interesting twists, and you'll get to visit with many other characters you've met in the previous books and, I hope, enjoyed as much as I did. Seriously, I found much to like in the first two, with a few rough edges that got more rounded with each book. Everything comes together in Valley of the Soul and would put Tamara on my always read list if she wasn't there already. Though this book has a lot that relates back to the earlier ones, I think it reads even as a stand alone. If you haven't tried Tamara Siler Jones, pick up Valley of the Soul. You won't be disappointed.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver,
and The Bull from the Sea

I know, I know, I should never have promised to try for more frequent updates. But in the week that I skipped, I had the best excuse of all...the flu. Which gave me time, of all things, to read :). I've now read Valley of the Soul, the first Alana book, and DragonQuest (recommended by my youngest). I've just started Scardown as well. It's been an interesting mix with the fantasy/mystery/thriller, two young adult books with very different approaches, and now a cyberpunkish science fiction. It's all in the mood when I approach that book shelf :).

Anyway, as promised, my notes on A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver. I'm combining this with the Renault notes because they are both older books and my notes were sparse.

A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver by E.L. Konigsburg

(Acquired: family)

Another book I was supposed to read. This one is a bit embarrassing because my older sister lent it to me and then bought me my own copy so she could have hers back because I took too long. On the other hand, I'm great at guilt motivation so I have now read it. This is a fascinating look at the history of Eleanor of Aquitaine from the perspective of Eleanor and her family and friends waiting for Henry to be released into heaven. I'd recommend it to those interested in the politics of the time but who prefer not to slog through dry history. It'll give a good sense of the place for sure :).

The Bull from the Sea by Mary Renault

(Acquired: bookshelf)

Though not written in a modern style, this is a compelling look at the Greek life in ancient times. I grew up on Greek mythology, so the tale of Theseus is not a new one to me, but Mary Renault brings it to life. She tells the tale not of the young man sent to the labyrinth but of the scarred warrior who came back. He makes some poor choices, mocks the warnings of the gods, and has to recover from his mistakes. These elements are very traditional for Greek mythology and so somewhat predictable, but putting the pieces together as you try to figure out what the gods meant and whether he's going to properly navigate those waters now is half the fun.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Into the Wilderness by Sara Donati

After failing to mark that I'd read this one already on the spreadsheet...which I will be updating soon, I thought I should start here.

Into the Wilderness by Sara Donati

(Acquired: blog contest on by Jean Schara)

This novel's comment ended up being a victim of the summer madness so I'm writing it not when the read is fresh but some time later. That said, sometimes the immediate reaction isn't always the true one. That's not the case with Into the Wilderness, or at least the sense of wonder and history and immersion still lingers.

It's been a while since I've read a historical novel set in the Americas with the exception of romance novels, and those are usually set in the American West. This book gave a good sense of the time and the contradiction between independence offered and actually given.

The female main character is betrayed on some level by practically everyone in her pursuit to be a teacher for the local children, even, she thinks, by the man she loves. The story takes us through a twisted tangle of deceit and desperation, showing both the perspective of those who had already settled the territory and those, primarily from Great Britain, who are the newcomers.

The tension between the "wild man" personalities of the original trappers who broke this ground and the "civilized" folks, who came later, is well drawn and compelling while at the same time not stereotypical. For example, one of the worst examples of the wild man, who doesn't wash, barely communicates, and is closer to the beasts he traps than those who live in their little houses, turns out to have more to him than the gruff appearance he presents...though not much more ;). The story also considers issues of racism and slavery with both Native Americans and characters with an African heritage as it is set on the brink of change when slavery is both no longer accepted by rote and still an important part of the economy.

I'm trying to speak in generalities so as not to spoil the book for anyone planning to read it, but at the same time pass on some of the flavor and depth of this story. It is very much a historical novel. If you don't like immersing yourself in a place and time where the rules are different and the people might not have exactly the same values you expect, save yourself the trouble. And the opposite is also true. If how you like to explore the flavor of a place is through fictional accounts where your eyes are opened to the contradictions and conflicts between people whose natures and beliefs are so opposed as to be a constant source of violence even among supposed friends? I'd highly recommend Sara's book. Her next one is out, and it's going on my to buy list for sure.