Monday, September 24, 2007

Book Review: A Kind of Magic by Susan Sizemore

A Kind of Magic
Susan Sizemore
Cerridwen Press
Available Here

Best-selling author Susan Sizemore dabbles in just about every sub-genre of romance there is. Her books have graced the USA Today’s best-seller’s list and been a favorite of fans for some time. For epublisher, Cerridwen Press, Sizemore created a delightful historical romance titled A Kind of Magic. This Highlander style romantic tale brings all the best of the genre and all the best of Sizemore.

Maddie McCullogh is a hard-headed modern day woman who holds a degree in engineering, holds her own on oil rigs in the North Sea and has all but given up on love until her mother tells her that her childhood crush is flying into Glasgow. Thinking she has one more chance to see him she boards a plane with a colleague from an archeological dig. After being talked into trying on a necklace that was found on the dig she finds herself transported back to the 13th century and directly into the path of Rowan Murray who has been told that to save his clan he must marry the first woman to cross his path. That woman is Maddie. Befuddled by Maddie’s engineering and mechanical prowess and astonished by her lack of more womanly skills, the Murray clan still bids the bride of the laird welcome. Her skills soon bring advancements to make the women’s lives easier including the introduction of the spinning wheel and more efficient looms. But adjusting to the 13th century isn’t Maddie’s biggest problem. That lies in convincing Rowan that the feelings between them don’t spell the doom of all he knows.

Hard headed lass disrupts life of handsome powerful highlander. Sound familiar? Is the story a bit clichéd? Yes, but it’s those very clichés that those who cherish the highland romance cannot get enough of. The story is told well and the characters are endearing and engaging. Add a lovely touch of magic and the interference of faerie folk and you have an enjoyable read.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Vintage: A Ghost Story
Steve Berman
Hawthorn Positronic Press
Link: Vintage

The unnamed narrator of this story is a seventeen year-old gay man…er boy. In some ways the narrator is mature and fairly well together for a kid whose parents threw him out of the house upon learning of his sexual orientation. In other ways he’s fairly naïve. A wonderful mix for a protagonist. The narrator runs away from home after an unsuccessful suicide attempt spurred on by his parents cruel rejection. He goes to his Aunt Jan’s. Aunt Jan is a quirky, loving woman who accepts the narrator into her home and gives him the exact kind of structured, (school or job, curfews, rules about boyfriends) unconditional acceptance that his parents should have.

Starting over in a new town, the narrator make friends with Trace, a “Goth” girl whose dysfunctional family clings to its remaining members with a fierce devotion seen only among the truly screwed up. Her younger brother, Second Mike, was named for her older brother who disappeared at age 11 and is assumed dead. Her mother is institutionalized and her best friend can see ghosts. And they aren’t exactly the friendly Casper sort.

The narrator discovers he can see the spirits of the departed when he actually sees and speaks to the town’s urban legend. The ghost of a young high school boy who was killed by a drunk driver on a lonely stretch of highway walking home from a party. The ghost, Josh, becomes fixated on the narrator and begins to haunt him obsessively to the point of nearly killing the narrator’s new boyfriend, Second Mike. The narrator must find a way to lay to rest Josh’s ghost before he actually succeeds in killing either Mike or him.

The story is a good one. The plot and characters are engaging. But it has some problems. First of all the book should have been a Young Adult novel. It even includes a blurb by Holly Black, writer of Tithe, on the cover. All that stands between it and the YA classification are two sex scenes that come across as unnecessary and forced. The intimacy could have been alluded to and left at that. They were poorly defined and really lacked any enhancement of the plot. They really do seem to be there just to keep the story from being YA. This is a shame because as a YA book this would have been stellar, as an adult book it lacks depth and complexity.

Most distressing, however, is the poor quality of the publishing and editing. The copyright is present at the bottom of the first page of each chapter. (Huh?) But worse are the serious mistakes the editor didn’t catch. In correct verb tenses and sloppy punctuation abound. I’m not nitpicking here. These are obvious and pull the reader out of the scene. The timeline is also flawed. Trace is supposed to be in high school, a very intelligent, articulate and well-read young woman. But by the count of time in the book, she’s 19 years old. An no, you can’t use “Goth” apathy as a justifier. As my own “Goth” and emo students will tell you, “Failing your classes is a lame-ass preppie thing to do.”

The story is flawed, but with some better editing it could be great. As an adult book…it’s maybe a 2 out of 5 rating. Sex scenes cut and it’s a 4 of 5 as a YA book.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Dragon*Con Day 2

Not so great a beginning to today. A bit of an accident crossing the sky walk from Peachtree Center into the Hyatt Hotel. You know that moment when you feel your foot slide out from under you as you step on a wet spot on the floor? How for a moment it seems as if you just might save it and not land on your arse in front of several dozens of people? And then the moment when you realize you ARE going to fall? Yep. That was me today. Only I very luckily managed to land on my knee. The one I dislocated last April. Nice.I spent the day limping.

We were disappointed right off. I mentioned in my last post about authors who left readers hanging at scheduled signing. We were two such readers today. The person we'd gotten up early to go see didn't show for her signing. So we spent the morning wandering the exhibit hall.

There were so many cool things. I'd love a sword, but my SO (significant other) tells me it's a really bad idea. (Reference level of gracefulness implied by above mentioned fall.) I saw several pieces of jewelery I wanted badly but I'm not so sure I can afford them. So we passed them by.

Was thrilled to get to Larry Elmore's table this year in time to finally get a copy of a print I've been looking for at the Con for three years now. That I don't have it already is my SO's fault. :P When one has to drag the dearest darling to the exhibit hall it usually means getting there too late. Not so this time. *Happy Dance.* If you don't recognize his name, Elmore is an artist. He has done several covers and other art for the DragonLance books. I finally got the print of Raistlin and that myopic idiotic priestess of Paladine. I love it. She's got her head on his shoulder and he has a hand on her back and is looking directly at you. The expression on his face says, "You are so screwed little girl. I have won." While his posture is an awkward, "there, there." I love Raistlin.

A few minutes later I was fortunate enough to have Margaret Weis sign a copy of Test of the Twins for me. I repeat. I love Raistlin.

The SO bought a leather choker that locks with a small silver padlock (what can I say? I'm married to a weirdo; at least it matched this year's vampire costume) and was thrilled with the prints we bought from Todd Lockwood. He also does art for DragonLance, but mostly for Forgotten Realms. So we now have prints of two dark elves. Drizzt and the girl from the Elaine Cunningham books that my SO will glare at me for not remembering.

I think we're taking tomorrow off for a breather, but back on Monday for Carrie Vaugh and two YA tracks that deal with using scifi/fantasy in the classroom.