Thursday, June 27, 2013

Through Kestrel's Eyes (Earth's Pendulum, Book II) - Yvonne Hertzberger

Sometimes the middle book (or books) of an epic fantasy series drags, or else it seems like an overly-long wind-up for the final volume. The good news is that Through Kestrel's Eyes avoids this dreaded middle-book syndrome.  Hertzberger has changed up enough elements in her tale to keep things fresh and the plot moving along.

This second volume of the Earth's Pendulum series is told by the main character, Liannis, in her own voice.  Liannis, the daughter of arch-spy Klast and his wife, Brensa, is a seer -- perhaps the most powerful of the age.  But her training is interrupted when her teacher dies.  Still, however unprepared she feels, the Earth calls her to take her white garments and assist King Gaelen with rooting out a coup at home, and treachery in neighboring kingdoms.

In the process, Earth is wounded -- and it becomes abundantly clear that Hertzberger's Earth is a sentient being that wants everything to be in balance.  If Mama Earth ain't happy, nobody's happy; famine, disease, and general chaos are the result. It's the job of Liannis to help Gaelen and his queen, Marja, fight to keep things on an even keel.

There's sadness in this book, as death rocks Liannis's world more than once.  But death, too, is part of the cycle of life -- part of the cycle of Earth.

I'm looking forward to reading the third book.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Summer of the Frogs - Tressa Green

Tomorrow's the first day of summer, so a seasonal read is in order.

This is one of the books I won in that grab-bag of indie titles a couple of Christmases ago, and I have to tell you: I would have liked this book better if I'd been able to read a blurb first.  Because the one on Goodreads says right upfront that the main character, Claire, is clinically psychotic. I read a fair amount of fantasy, as you know, and in any number of fantasies, the main character sees or hears stuff that makes other people think he or she is crazy.  So there was a pretty good chance, I thought, that the same thing was happening here.

Because if this book isn't a fantasy, then Claire really is crazy.  She's quite open about the fact that she's seeing a psychiatrist: "Sometimes I read my poetry to him.  Or just talk about what the flowers told me that day. He tries to get me to talk about how I got my scars, or about the fire or the accident or any of that kind of thing.  But I ignore him and talk about something else.  If I'm feeling agitated, I'll yell at him about how I don't want to talk about the stuff that I'm constantly trying to forget. The same stuff that insists on flashing like a picture show across my brain and makes me cry or try to kill myself."

So, yeah.  Pretty much crazy.  But I've read books in which trees and rocks speak to people -- so why not flowers?

The story is told in first person.  There's a real-world boy, another patient, who Claire goes out with a couple of times.  And there's a boy inside her head who alternately intrigues and frightens her, and who helps her to try to find her missing brother.

In the end, though, the show is Claire's, and I left it feeling unsatisfied, wishing I knew more of what was going on. 

Technicalities:  The book has some formatting issues -- in my .epub, for example, the text starts on the copyright page instead of on the next page -- and the punctuation and grammar need work.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Poppet and the Lune - Madeline Claire Franklin

I can't believe it.  I pulled up this book on Goodreads to steal the cover image, and discovered I'd reviewed it last year -- well before I started Rursday Reads.  So!  An easy week for me!

Here's what I wrote last year:
I really, really liked this book. All the children of a small village are killed at once; the village's witch takes pity on the parents and creates a new girl child from bits and pieces of all of their children. The poppet is brought to life, but the witch is killed, and the girl -- Elizabeth -- finds out years later that the witch was unable to finish her before she died.

The poppet strikes out on her own. In a magical forest, she meets a were-man -- a human man who has been turned into a wolf, except for the three days around each full moon when he becomes human again. His fondest wish is to end the curse so that he can go back to his own village and marry his sweetheart. The pair go through many adventures before they each find their happy ending.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Wool Omnibus -- Hugh Howey

Hugh Howey doesn't need a review from me, but I'm going to give him one anyway.

Chances are that if you like science fiction, you've heard of the Wool phenomenon by now.  Howey is an indie author who sold so many copies of this book that traditional publishers came knocking on his door, offering him a contract.  He finally got one to agree to buy just the print rights, keeping the very lucrative e-book rights for himself -- a deal that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.

Howey wrote and released these stories one at a time. The first is a novella; the following four books get progressively longer.  All of them tell the story of the inhabitants of an underground silo in post-apocalypse America.  The air outside is toxic, and no one ever goes outside -- except for certain people who, charged with egregious crimes against the silo government, are sentenced to clean the camera that provides the silo with a view of the outside world.  The criminals are sent out in a pressurized suit, and given steel wool with which to clean the camera lens.  Something always happens out there, and they never come back.

It would be a giant spoiler to explain why those sentenced to clean the camera actually follow through with it, and another giant spoiler to explain why they all die out there.  So I won't say any more, other than to say that if you haven't read Wool yet, I recommend that you do so at your earliest convenience.  I've also heard that the next volume, Shift, is just as good, and I've added it to my tottering TBR pile.  And I've pretty much forgiven Howey for beating me out for best sci-fi/fantasy novel in the Big Al's Books and Pals Reader's Choice Awards this year.