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The Dispossessed: A Novel (Perennial Classics)When I was a little girl in the 1970s, I discovered science fiction through fantasy. I started with the Hobbit, and then found a few dusty paperbacks to stretch my wings on: Battle for the Planet of the Apes by Pierre Boulin, Andre Norton‘s Breed to Come, and then worked my way through the Heinlein juveniles and the Robot series by Asimov. I discovered Madeline L’Engle and Ursula LeGuin and discovered that women wrote science fiction too (I had no idea Andre Norton was a woman).

I watched every Star Trek rerun I could get my hands on, all of the Twilight Zones, the original Battlestar Galactica, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, and even Lost in Space and Land of the Lost when I needed a fix. I watched both the Star Trek animated series and the Planet of the Apes animated series, both on old black and white TVs over the air with help from a rabbit-ear antenna.

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Cover of "Swords Of Haven: Hawk and Fisher

Simon R. Green writes tight, fast paced, carefully plotted fiction that treats both its readers and characters as three dimensional human beings. The Adventures of Hawk and Fisher as written in Guards of Haven and Swords of Haven are actually a total of six wonderful novella length noirs set in a fantasy universe.

Each story starts with a detailed account of how miserable a city Haven is, especially the Northend, where Captains Hawk and Fisher of the city Guard patrol. Green carefully describes each character, with Hawk a tall, wiry man in his early thirties beginning to ‘build a belly’, and Fisher a tall, handsome woman in her late twenties with a long braid weighted by a ball hanging to her waist. He points out that they are husband and wife. And then he turns them loose on a situation that is never what it appears to be.

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Cool friends who make stuff

I have been so busy today completely reorganizing and categorizing the site (look, see? much easier to navigate, more relevant categories. Really nifty, if I say so myself) that I don’t have time to write a real post. So instead, I’m going to introduce you to my cool friends who make stuff. If you like it, please buy it, and support small business.

This post was originally spawned by filkertom (Tom Smith) who writes and performs filk songs (no, not folk, filk — they are based off science fiction and fantasy, done in a folk song style). What he linked to wasn’t actually his (oh, the stars, the STARS! and the link plays music, too,) but in payment for pointing me to it, I’m linking to his buy stuff page at his website. Making music costs time and money. Please buy his stuff or subscribe to his streams. And I dare you to watch this video without laughing:

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Doctor Who TARDIS Mk VII

TARDIS Mk VII (Photo credit: >Rooners)

The Doctor in Doctor Who is the embodiment of quantum physics. His D&D alignment is Lawful Good, because he is the law (of time), which of course is chaos, which makes it all confusing. At least, that’s how I see it.

Is he another British metaphor for Jesus, like Aslan and Gandalf? Or is he something else entirely? If so, what? And what is the Tardis (or who)? Is it intentional that the Tardis makes me think of R2D2?

What is it that makes us love the Doctor through eleven (soon to be twelve) incarnations? Is it his compassion? His joie de vivre? His silliness? His completely mindful living in the present?

Please feel free to discuss. The best of science fiction always has a philosophical underpinning, which is what builds our suspension of disbelief. It explores our universe, our humanity, the meaning of life.

What does Doctor Who mean to you?

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As you may have noticed in the past, I have a love/hate relationship with Laurell K. Hamilton‘s work, particularly with her Anita Blake books. She is capable of amazing storytelling and truly human expression of love and the challenges of complicated relationships, as well as rollicking sex scenes and well crafted mysteries. She does not always deliver on that promise, but in Hit List, she has.

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English: A Picture of a eBook Español: Foto de...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My public library hasn’t seen me much lately, mostly because I’ve been using their ebook service rather than walking the half mile to the brick and mortar building. Some comments, and then the list of books with brief ratings/reviews.

1. Some publishers for whatever reason make their Kindle books only accessible through a wired connection. This flat pisses me off, not only for me, but on behalf of the many people who don’t have access to a wired connection. As a result, whenever possible I have been downloading books through the Overdrive application as Adobe Epub books whenever possible.
2. Adobe’s customer service is awesome. When I misunderstood how their device registration worked and accidentally set up too many devices with their DRM service, I used their tech support chat and it took less than five minutes (once a tech was available) to reset my device usage.
3. Ebooks are a great way to read at the gym. You can make the print huge if you need to (to overcome the effect movement makes on the ability to read) and you don’t bust the book spine holding the book open.
4. The library e-book service at my library is seriously understocked while simultaneously being seriously overstocked with trash reading. Every month they add more, but not nearly enough non-fiction, and not nearly enough of some of the good older fiction that is starting to be re-released as e-books but not yet copyright free.
The Books

Beauty and the Werewolf (Mercedes Lackey) From the 500 Kingdoms Series, this was a refreshing take on the fairytale trope, good enough that I reserved two more from the brick and mortar library. ****
Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New GirlieGirl Culture (Peggy Orenstein) A decent analysis of the Princess culture and its effects on American girls. A bit dry ***
Cover of
Cover via Amazon

Darcys & the Bingleys: Pride and Prejudice Continues (Marsha Altman) One of the good Austenalia books. I really liked the way the Darcy and Bingley families evolve in this author’s imaginations, and she did a good job of getting into Austen’s voice. ****

Dragon’sTime (Anne McCaffrey) Eh. If you like the Pern stories, this is okay, but it’s just more of the same. **
Dreaming of Mr. Darcy (Victoria Connelly) A lot of fun as a modern woman buys a place in Bath and meets a man that makes her Austen fantasies come true. Not the best, but a good one. ***
Fable: Blood Ties (Peter David) Ew. I forced my way through this, but it made me feel slimy. Unlikeable characters with too much cardboard in the mix. *
Cover of
Cover via Amazon

 

His Majesty’s Dragon [Temeraire] (NaomiNovik)  Really interesting take on the Napoleonic Wars if dragons had been in the mix. Feels almost more historical than fantastical. ****
Hood [King Raven Trilogy Book 1](Stephen R. Lawhead) Robin Hood in Wales? It works. Read it. ****
Inheritance (Christopher Paolini) More of the same. Too many derivative names, overly flowery language, characters based on a teenaged boy’s idea of women rather than on how real women would act, but a compelling story nevertheless.  ***
 
Cover of
Cover of The Iron Daughter (Harlequin Teen)

The Iron Fey Series [The Iron King, Winter's Passage, The Iron Daughter, The Iron Queen, Summer's Crossing, The Iron Knight] (Julie Kagawa) If you love fantasy, particularly YA fantasy, you will love this. It has elements of the classical mixed with elements of the new and fresh. I only hope that Kagawa gets around to giving the Trickster his own book (and his own true love). *****

The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals (Michael Pollan) A well written and insightful commentary on the business of food. Pollan deserves his reputation. ****
Oryx and Crake: A Novel (Margaret Atwood) Margaret Atwood is a great writer and thinker, and this is yet another example of her genius. A fable with elements of today that like in her other books are just too real to be comfortable, you won’t be able to put it down. *****
Unbroken: A World War II Story ofSurvival, Resiliance, and Redemption (Laura Hillenbrand) This got a lot of buzz, and deservedly so. Hillenbrand does not shrink from the unpleasantness and ugliness of her subject as well as the redemption mentioned in the title. ****
Utterly Charming (Kristine Grayson) This is not a serious read, but it is enjoyable light romance of the ‘Prince who ain’t all that’ variety. ***
 
Winter’s Bone: A Novel (Daniel Woodrell) This is high literature. Compelling and atmospheric and with characters that make your heart ache. *****
World War Z (Max Brooks) If you like zombie stories, you’ll love this. How does a global fight against zombies succeed? Very carefully. Compelling. ****
WWW Trilogy [Wake, Watch, Wonder] (Robert J. Sawyer) This is amazing and underrated. What if the world wide web woke up, and became sentient?  What if its primary motivation in life was curiosity and friendship? Makes me think of Heinlein and Spider Robinson. Loved it. *****There are a few I returned without noting, and I’m not including my brick and mortar finds here, but this should give you a taste. 

 

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Abby Knight has a flower shop, a sprained ankle, a hunky fiance who may be called back to active duty soon, and a bit of a problem. You see, hunky fiance has a friend by the name of Vlad. From Romania. And since Vlad has shown up in town rumors of vampirism are flying everywhere. And there’s that murder by exsanguination.

Sometimes you want to read something deep and spiritual and thought provoking, and sometimes you want to read the literary equivalent of cotton candy. Night of the Living Dandelion: A Flower Shop Mystery by Kate Collins is sweet, sticky, gloriously goofy rainbow colored literary cotton candy.

Is it an urban fantasy or isn’t it? If I told you, it’d be a spoiler. So I won’t. It is a mystery with a hint of romance and a cast of interesting if somewhat predictably middle class and white characters. And there are lots of potential murderers, too. And guardian teenagers. Teenaged girls with vivid imaginations and a thing for fangs.

Definitely a nice book for curling up on a crisp day near the fire or under an electric blanket. And don’t forget the cotton candy.

To Stay Connected and Spread the Merriment Please Like my Facebook Page or follow me at @odanu on Twitter.

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The Heroes of Olympus

The Heroes of Olympus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Rick Riordan’s The Lost Hero is the first book of his second series set in the Percy Jackson universe where kids with ADHD and dyslexia and one missing parent are all demigods.
This one begins with the hero, Jason, waking up on a bus to discover himself without a memory, but with a best friend and a girlfriend who insist he’s been their friend for ages and ages and ages.
It’s hard to write this review without being spoilerific, so I’m going to be pretty vague on the details. There’s a mechanical dragon, giants and monsters and gods and goddesses both helping and harming the heros (including one surprise) and a bunch of lonely teenagers get to do some seriously kick ass stuff. Even the girls. Sometimes especially the girls.
There is nothing deep about this series of books. It’s not a metaphor for anything, and nothing in them contains any significance for anything in our world – except perhaps that parents should do their jobs and actually parent.
That said, these books are well written adventures with a diverse cast and interesting twists on old myths. I look forward to each one and am satisfied when I have finished it.
But whatever you do, don’t go see the movie based on the first one. It sucked. Stick to the books.
(Oh, and the next one, The Son of Neptune, is up as well. I have it on hold at the library)
To Stay Connected and Spread the Merriment Please Like my Facebook Page or follow me at @odanu on Twitter.

 

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It is said that the most segregated hour of the week in the United States is the hour when people go worship the deity of their choice. I would contend that the bookshelf is perhaps the most segregated place in America. And it’s a damned shame. Midnight is a historical romance written for African Americans that I strongly suggest White readers ‘cross the aisle’ to read.

I have read most of the great and ‘crossover’ African American writers, and am aware of their rich and powerful literary tradition. Too often, though, fiction that is not written as a ‘great novel’, such as genre fiction, gets stacked separately, and not marketed to middle aged blonde women like me.

Such was the case with Midnight by Beverly Jenkins. It’s a historical romance set in and around Boston in the early days of the American Revolution, and the main characters are pulled out of the free Black working and middle class of the time. I picked it up in my latest library haul because I really liked the cover art and because far too little historical romance is set in that time period.

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Cover of "Ha'penny"

Cover of Ha’penny

Jo Walton gets people. No, I mean she really gets people. And I should know better than to check out two books of a trilogy at a time without checking out the third.* Because now I’m jonesing for that third book.

For, well, ever since World War II, there has been a genre of books somewhere between historicals, science fiction, and occasionally fantasy (Harry Turtledove’s Worldwar series comes to mind) that I call the ‘creeping fascism’ books. Somewhere between imagination and warning, the authors remind us that fascism crept up on Germany wearing the boots of democracy, and then sliced its throat using fear of the ‘other’ to unite the populace in the willingness to give up fundamental rights.
Ahem. (Puts away soapbox, sends it air express halfway across the continent to Jo Walton)

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Cover of Darcy’s Story

Cover of Darcy’s Story

I have to admit that when I first started reading ‘Darcy’s Story’ by Janet Alymer,  I was trying hard to dislike it. I’ve gotten kind of snobbish about my Austenalia, and coming off of Elizabeth Aston’s Writing Jane Austen, Ms. Alymer had a high bar to win my approval.

Also, I didn’t like the cover. I mean, look at it. We are given a headless crotch shot of Darcy with a bunch of purple detailing. Really? I mean REALLY?

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Hit List (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter, Book 20)After I bit the Bullet and completed my review, I thought I was done.  But no.  She posted an excerpt from her next book, Hit List, on her blog, and I had to go read it.  (Had to, I tell you.  It’s a law, or something).

I read it, and I’m going to like this one, unless she jumps the shark after the first chapter.  LKH wisely moved Anita out of St. Louis for this book, this time to Tacoma, Washington, and hooked her back up with her old (platonic) pal Ted (who is like Dexter, but not as sexy, and does his killing on the up and up, now, has a license and everything).  There is a mystery to be solved, and obvious bad guys.  Moving the story out of St. Louis reduces some of the Mary Sue effect, so maybe Anita can even get hurt. 

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The Winter OakThe sequel to The Summer Country is just as well crafted as its predecessor, the characters as well drawn, the action just as tight and interesting.  One thing I admire in James Hetley’s writing (and want to emulate) is his ability to completely combat stereotypes all the way through his books.  There is nothing rote or ordinary about his books.  He takes old fantasy tropes and makes them his own, and utterly different from anything I have ever read.

I used to be one of those people who would stay up to 3 AM to finish a book on a regular basis.  I had thought I had gotten too old for that.  Nope.  Just hadn’t found the right book.  This book kept me reading until I was done, and disappointed that there are no more in the series (hey, Jim.  Stop staring out your window and wishing for spring and write, already!).

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Cat Confederation

Before even selling a single story (buy my story, people!) I already have the first fan fiction being written in my Cat Confederation universe.

One of my test readers is my 13 year old son, Trouble.  He has an assignment for his Gifted Education class where he is supposed to write a mystery, and he decided to borrow a couple of characters from my universe and give them their own story. He has promised me I can post it when he finishes.

I am so proud (and so thrilled that he finds the universe engaging enough to ‘borrow’ from).  Yeah, I’ll probably be one of those authors that encourages fan fic.  Hoping I’ll have the opportunity some day.

 

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 Little Blog on the Prairie“Happiness is a good book and a mug of hot cocoa” — Maureen O’DanuMmmmm, yummy. Thursday, just before the slush storm that ate Kansas City, I went out to buy my husband his birthday presents,and swung by the library before I came home.

I should mention here that “swinging by” the library is a dangerous proposition for a book lover like me. I used to carry a little reusable sack to carry my books, but that was inadequate. I now carry a bright pink over-sized duffel bag, and I generally stuff it full.

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Sunset at Huntington Beach, California.

Sunset at Huntington Beach, California. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Turns out there was good reason for Love and Consequences by Margaret (Peggy) B. Jones to not be named “Truth and Consequences”. There was no truth in it, and Margaret was afraid of the consequences.

Turns out Margaret B. Jones, (supposedly half white, half Native American, poverty class) was actually Margaret Seltzer, an all white woman from Sherman Oaks, a wealthy suburb of Los Angeles. She “borrowed” the stories of people she worked with while doing anti-poverty and white ally work in Los Angeles gang territories, and worked them into a “memoir” about “her” difficult life.

There are so many things wrong with what Ms. Seltzer did that it’s difficult to pick a “worst”, but my vote would be on the betrayal of all those who considered her an ally by appropriating their stories for profit, without credit, without attribution.

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