Book Report: The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen

wpid-wp-1438904248923.jpgI enjoyed The False Prince. The setting and characters felt fully formed and dynamic. Since someone spoiled the big reveal for me early on, I was able to study how Nielsen went about dropping hints and obscuring information. It’s a short read, so I recommend reading through once for enjoyment and then, if you’re a writer, going through a second time to learn how to write a good unreliable narrator.

Happy Yarning!

Book Report: Woven by Michael Jensen and David Powers King

wpid-wp-1436475450142.jpgRarely do my passions for string crafts and fantasy collide as “seamlessly” as in Woven.

This was a fun read, and it felt fresh and original despite its rather run-of-the-mill pseudo-medieval setting. (I didn’t read the back of the book beforehand, so I was surprised when the main character died a couple chapters in. He is loads of fun as a ghost!) I particularly enjoyed the magic system, as it is based on sewing and weaving.

My niece read the first half of the book to me while we drove back and forth to WIFYR, and I liked it so much that I bought a copy after I got back to Washington. I will be sure to watch for other books by these authors.

I recommend Woven for teens and up, particularly those of a crafty persuasion.

Happy Yarning!

Book Report: The Titan’s Curse by Rick Riordan

IMG_4486I’d forgotten how much fun these are. It’s been a few years since I read books 1 and 2.

This one has its dark moments, but it also made me laugh a lot. I like that the narrator is the first to point out irony in any situation. It makes me willing to suspend my disbelief almost indefinitely.

I recommend this series for anyone looking for adventure and a good dose of silliness.

Happy Yarning!

Book Report: His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik

IMG_4475I loved this book. It’s set during the Napoleonic wars, and it reads like it was written then, down to the punctuation. The main character had all the sensibilities of an upper class man of his time. He felt like he walked off the pages of a navy captain’s journal.

And then there were dragons inserted seamlessly into the world.

I can’t recommend this too highly. It’s so far above something like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

My kind of “historical” fiction!

Happy Yarning.

Book Report: The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

IMG_4389I put off reading this for years after it was recommended to me. I think it was the cover that turned me off. I couldn’t relate to that girl on the cover. She looked like the heroine of a sappy romance.

You’d think I would’ve learned by now not to judge books by their covers.

The Goose Girl is full of frank characters and great imagery. I enjoyed it very much. It didn’t matter that I knew the story already since I grew up on Grimms’ fairy tales.

Highly recommended.

Merry Christmas!

Book Report: Krondor The Betrayal by Ramond E. Feist

IMG_4354This novel has reminded me why I don’t usually go in for epic fantasy. If you just want an adventure, with some quirky guys, headstrong ladies, a big bad, magic, mysterious clues, a climactic battle, and a few side quests, this is perfect for you.

But I want more character depth. For example, the main characters slice up bandits and assassins every other page with about as much thought or emotion as a D&D player. Their actions are never called into question because they’re the good guys.

The writing was also nothing spectacular. It could have been edited closer for repetitve words and phrases.

I’m not saying all epic fantasy is flat and wordy, but I found this novel disappointingly so.

Edit: It turns out this is a novelization of a video game (not noted on the cover). Everything makes much more sense.

Fun Brainstorming Game

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On the drive back from a recent weekend adventure, my husband and I invented a new game.

We took turns challenging each other with random elements from fantasy or sci-fi. The object was to come up with a new and interesting way to use it in a story.

Some of the prompts we played with were Werewolves, Tree Spirits, People Living in Caves, and Music as Magic.

When one of us collected a few thoughts on how to use the element in a non-cliché way, we talked it out. Together, we developed it a little further, asking more questions, coming up with possible plots and sources of conflict. When we ran out of ideas for that prompt, we moved on.

We actually invented some pretty awesome stuff that I jotted down for possible use later.

Like, “Werewolves: They’re not human and never were. They’re a race of shapeshifters, wolf-like in appearance, whose power is tied to the sun and moon. So when the moon is near the sun and “new” they can shift into anything. As the moon gets fuller and farther from the sun, they have a harder time maintaining anything but their own shape.”

I don’t know if anyone has done werewolves that way before, but I’d read it.

I highly recommend this as a way to flex creative muscles and just play with stories.

Happy Yarning!

Pregnancy in Fantasy?

Conflict drives stories.

It’s probably a good thing.

But it seems to mean that the only time a pregnant woman is allowed “on screen” in a story is when the fact of her pregnancy causes conflict.

And I wish we could explore not only the tense and exciting parts of pregnancy (like the reveal and the delivery), but also the invisible, quiet bits.

Strangers couldn’t tell I was pregnant until just about yesterday (I’m 33 weeks along). Not too long ago a nurse at a new-patient visit, after taking my height and weight and blood pressure, was stunned I wasn’t worried that my last period was five months before.

~Three months. Can you spot the fourth person?

~Three months. Can’t spot the fourth person yet, but she’s there.

From week 1 there’s so much going on mentally and emotionally that affects only one girl. Is it enough to make a story out of? Maybe a subplot?

Can anyone point me to some fantasy that fills this gap? (And I do mean fantasy. I recognize there’s a good amount of contemporary fiction with pregnant characters.)

Happy Nesting! I mean, Yarning!

Book Report: Agatha H. and the Airship City by Phil and Kaja Foglio

IMG_4131I love the Foglios’ Girl Genius series and have avidly followed the comic online for nearly ten years. This novelization is a great companion to the first three volumes. It includes interesting new backstory for some of the characters and the setting!

Unfortunately, I do have to say that the backstory often came at the expense of the novel’s pacing. Stopping the action for two pages to give the personal histories of everyone who just walked into the room is…an inelegant method of exposition. I don’t think it is unfair of me to say that so far the Foglios are better graphic novelists than novelists.

I do recommend this book to fans of Girl Genius. And I recommend Girl Genius to every sci-fi and fantasy reader ages 11 and up. If you have never heard of it, head on over to girlgenius.net for some awesome Adventure! Romance! and Mad Science!

Happy Yarning.

Book Report: The Islands of Chaldea by Diana Wynne Jones, Completed by Ursula Jones

IMG_4106Entertaining, with her usual quirkiness and strong matriarchal figures, but not my favorite of Diana Wynne Jones’s books.

The plot seemed more simplistic than her other stories, especially toward the end. I felt there were several twists and turns that it could have taken and didn’t. But then, we might not have gotten this story at all, so who’s to complain?

A good read for girls 8 and up.