Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Dreamt Child (Earth's Pendulum, Book 3) - Yvonne Hertzberger

Fan of epic fantasy? Got a new Kindle? You could do worse than load it up with the three books of Yvonne Hertzberger's "Earth's Pendulum" series. And lucky for you, my friend, the final volume -- The Dreamt Child -- came out this fall.

Once again, we're back on the One Isle, where Earth is a character in her own right. If She ain't happy, nobody's happy -- which the people of Lieth learned to their sorrow two years previously. A political upheaval there threw the entire region into a drought, and the ensuing famine caused many to lose their lives.

But the ruling family of Bargia -- Lord Gaelen, Lady Marja, and their children -- have survived. And so has Liannis, their seer, and a particular favorite of Earth's. Seers historically have had no mates, but despite the tradition, Earth lets Liannis know that she is to join with (which is to say, marry) her manservant, Merrist. Luckily, the two like each other already, but Liannis has qualms. Earth seals the deal by giving Merrist the powers of a healer, thereby making him more or less an equal to Liannis and her power to truth-read and to see the future.

And Gaelen needs her. He is thinking of returning the neighboring demesne of Catania to self-rule. At the same time, the widow of the man whose mismanagement of Lieth precipitated the famine has petitioned Gaelen to let her rule the city as regent for her young son. Both Liannis and Merrist will need to ply their skills to bring about the outcome that's best for Earth -- which includes convincing the people to accept their own changed relationship.

I foundThe Dreamt Child to be a worthy final volume to the series.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Emotion Thesaurus - Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

If you have a fiction writer on your holiday list and you're still trying to figure out what to get him or her this year, I am here to recommend The Emotion Thesaurus.

One of the hardest things for a novelist to do is to figure out how to explain their characters' emotions to readers without hitting them over the head with them. We're supposed to be showing, not telling -- but how do you convey intangibles? How can you telegraph to your reader that Naomi was really, really angry at Joseph without saying it? How do you get your readers to feel her anger? Because it's the visceral experience that will bring them into your story and hook them there.

Ackerman and Puglisi provide entries for 75 emotions. Each entry offers both internal and external physical cues, mental responses, and other useful information. For the entry on anger, for example, we could say Naomi stood with her feet planted wide apart, glaring at Joseph. She might shake her fist at him. From inside her own body, she might feel her teeth grinding or her pulse pounding. Mentally, she might jump to conclusions or react irrationally to something that's not a big deal. If she's been mad at him for a long time, she might be in the habit of venting her anger by breaking her own things, or she might have an ulcer. Or if she doesn't want him to know how angry she is, she might turn her body away from him and avoid eye contact, or make passive-aggressive comments.

Mind you, you wouldn't want to include all of those cues in a single scene. One or two would be plenty, or else you'll be tipping it over into melodrama. But using any one of them sure beats simply stating, "She was mad." Right? And I got all of them from a single entry in The Emotion Thesaurus. It's a great resource.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Cascade Annihilator (The Second Internet Cafe, Part 2) - Chris James

Lucas Hunter is back in this second installment of Chris James' sci-fi series, and he's still jumping back and forth between historical timelines. But see, that's his job. He's a dimension researcher -- someone who travels to parallel universes that have branched off from ours, to discover what might have been in our world if history had gone a little differently.

In the first book, The Dimension Researcher, Lucas ran afoul of a guy named Dietrich on one of his trips. Dietrich is from a timeline that would like to see the Second Internet Cafe shut down. In this book, Lucas and Dietrich cross paths again, but this time Dietrich is packing the ultimate weapon -- a cascade annihilator, which is a device designed to collapse realities and make alternate timelines disappear as if they had never existed.

While Lucas is chasing Dietrich across realities to thwart his nefarious plan, the Second Internet Cafe itself is under threat of defunding by the international coalition that operates it. Shutdown is imminent -- and that could strand Lucas in unfriendly circumstances. An analyst named Paula Featherstone gets involved in the fight to keep the facility open and its mission intact.

James knows how to build tension, that's for sure. The Cascade Annihilator had me on the edge of my reading chair for a good bit of the book. My one quibble: both Lucas and Paula tell their stories in first person, which is fine, but sometimes I had to read a little way into the chapter to figure out which "I" was narrating. However, it's not a fatal problem by any stretch of the imagination. I enjoyed The Cascade Annihilator and I sure hope a third volume is on the way.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Through the Door (The Thin Veil #1) - Jodi McIsaac

For the past seven years, Cedar McLeod has been going through the motions: raising her six-year-old daughter Eden and working as a graphic designer at an ad agency to keep a roof over both their heads. Her mother, Maeve, watches Eden while Cedar works. But Cedar has never gotten over Eden's father, Finn, who just up and disappeared before Cedar could tell him she was pregnant. One day, they're so in love -- and the next, poof! He's disappeared. No explanation and no goodbye.

Then one day, Eden opens her bedroom door and finds Egypt on the other side.

Clearly, something weird is going on here. And soon, Cedar begins to figure out what it is. I won't give you any spoilers, but suffice it to say that faeries are involved, and maybe Finn was forced to leave, and maybe Eden's cool magical gift has put them all in danger.

I said Cedar starts to figure things out soon -- but she could have gotten there sooner.To me, Through the Door seemed to go on a tad too long. The fae kept refusing to give Cedar their secrets, Maeve kept telling Cedar not to trust them, Cedar kept getting more and more worked up, and I came very close to wanting to throw something at all of them and tell them to get on with it, already.

Still, Through the Door is a pretty good read, particularly if you're into urban fantasies that feature the fae. Book 2 of the trilogy, Into the Fire, is available now, and the third book is due out in May 2014. I wasn't so enamored of Through the Door that I rushed out to buy the next book, but I expect I will probably read the whole series eventually.