This was my dog, Froggie. He escaped our house yesterday, was taken to http://www.coj.net/departments/neighborhoods/animal-care—protective-services.aspx, and murdered there, in the night, with no chance for us to retrieve him. He had a brain tumor, which we were watching along with our former vet, who claimed to have no knowledge of him when called. He did not seem to be in pain yesterday morning, but apparently was assumed to be by these idiots, and killed. I do not wish bad things on people anymore, but I hope they get whatever Karma thinks they deserve. I do have about half a post started. I know y’all don’t come here to see me whine. I hope to have my newest post finished by the end of the weekend.
There will be a new blog next weekend. Any of you folks who watched The Walking Dead this past weekend will know how hard it is to think about anything else.
Nevertheless, tune in soon for a discussion of erotic literature! Several works and authors will be featured in one of my meandering opinion pieces. It’ll be fun.
For a young reader, the Book Fair is an event to be anticipated all year. In my young heart, it was third in line of most important events of the year: Trip to Disney World, County Fair, Book Fair. When I was 8 or so, I discovered a book at my school’s Fair called True Haunted Houses and Ghosts. I am sure if I were to find it again today, it would be simply amusing, but at the time it scared the ever-loving crap out of me. I can remember one of the illustrations to this very day. A peasant father with his sobbing daughter’s hands in one of his, and an axe in the other to cut them off with. I can no longer remember the story, or WHY Papa wanted to cut off his daughter’s hands, but her look of terror, tear streaked face and long blonde braids stick in my mind. Did I mention I had long blonde braids? I was so terrified of this book that I would try to hide it from myself so that I wouldn’t read it. But I always went back to it.
I like to be scared, and after years of being a horror fan, my fear threshold, at least in the literary medium is pretty high. Take me to the movies, and I will jump and scream at every silly trick, but scaring me in a book is difficult. Grossing me out is tough to do as well.
I was privileged to be introduced to an author, Jack Wallen, who has managed both, by my friend Emma Jameson. The book I am going to share with you is called Hell’s Muse. As you might imagine, it’s the very definition of an irreverent work.
According to the author’s blurb: “In the beginning was the Word – and the Word was a lie.
A struggling writer dives into the dark pits of madness to create his most perfect work – a parallel of his own life, only twisted into a malignant hatred. When the written word opens a gateway to Hell, every truth the writer believes is challenged, every lie made truth.
As a trail of death and sorrow spills from the words, the writer is drawn into an unholy abyss to become Hell’s Muse.”
The story is in several layers, a novel within a novel. The characters come at you in snapshots, mostly because this dark carnival ride moves extremely quickly. The story flies. Jack’s writing at times has the hectic frivolity of an old EC Comic, at times the darkly sensual attention to detail we might have seen in Clive Barker’s early work. And, he’s not afraid to gross you out. As the layers of reality within the work begin to melt into each other, the reader will question everything, and I assure you, this is wise. By the end of the novel, I didn’t quite know what to believe. I will not spoiler you, but I will say everything will make a kind of sense when you get there.
Before I rate this work, I will give the caveat I sometimes do that this is not a work for the faint of heart. Additionally, I’ll include the weak of stomach. It’s odd to give a book so hellish a Heavenly rating. I guess the little girl who loved to be scared is still weighing in.
Dragons. Humans have a love-hate relationship with these fantasy creatures. My first tutor on the subject of dragons was C. S. Lewis, whose depiction of dragonish attributes in Voyage of the Dawn Treader assumed children of his time would know that dragons were greedy and hoarded gold. I had not known this previously, so my education obviously had been lacking. My later reading of The Hobbit confirmed this general idea. However, my ideas were being tainted by the glorious telepathic dragons of Anne McCaffery in her Dragonriders of Pern Series. The amazing dragons of Ms. McCaffery were a far cry from the greedy, evil creatures that bold knights would slay. Sir Terry modified my ideas about dragons still further, for on the Discworld, dragons are endangered creatures, as tame as pets. The point is that I am open-minded on the subject of dragons.
Tara West is a member of the Eclective, and I thoroughly enjoyed her stories in their Haunted Collection and Apocalypse Collection. So I was thrilled to be given the opportunity to review one of her novel length works, Curse of the Ice Dragon.
According to the author’s blurb, this is what we are expecting from Curse of the Ice Dragon : “Born with mark of the Mighty Hunter, Markus has the skill and strength to feed his people, but not to confront his own tyrannical father. Shamed by his cowardice, Markus releases his frustration on the forest creatures.
The village prophet warns that Markus’s reckless ways will bring down The Hunter’s Curse, and for every animal Markus kills, his loved ones will suffer the same fate. When the warnings go unheeded, the Sky Goddess unleashes her ice dragon. Now Markus must flee the dragon without killing it or his beloved brother will die.
Markus’s flight takes him to the lands of the mysterious Ice People. There, the beautiful maiden Ura helps Markus learn the compassion and courage he needs to face the wrath of the Goddess, but the final confrontation will not be without price, as Markus must choose between the life of his brother and the fate of the girl he loves.”
Curse of the Ice Dragon is a relatively unambiguous title, so my open-mindedness notwithstanding, I had a preconceived idea about the ice dragon in this book. However, without spoiling anything, I can tell you that the dragon is not what she appears, which is a reflection of this entire work. Expect the unexpected!
Markus is a sympathetic, although not thoroughly likeable, character in the beginning of the novel, but his growth throughout made me proud of him by the end. The Sky Goddess is treated as a positive force in the beginning but is she really? Each character we meet is not what he or she might appear, and proves this by the end of the book.
The pacing, description and characterizations here are first rate. Ms. West creates a plausible world, and an engaging story. As the beginning of a series, the piece wraps up its own story but builds interest for the next book. I’m grateful to have been given the chance to share this work with you. On the Imaqulotta Scale, I would rate Curse of the Ice Dragon as Heavenly.
Since we last met, I’ve been reading for my own pleasure. This is not to say the books I am requested to review, or chose to review are not a pleasure. Most often they are. I think it’s the pressure of a deadline. Obviously, I don’t often allow myself to be pressured, as you’ll note by my sporadic entries. Still, I want to share with you as often as I can. So my little vacation was enjoyable and carefree. Since I haven’t yet begun the next book I intend to share with you, I’m going to borrow from my childhood to give you:
What I Read On My Christmas Vacation
1. Death of a Kingdom(The Norothian Cycle), by M. Edward McNally- As I have shared with you my feelings about the first book in this series, The Sable City, I will merely say that this volume continues the tradition of excellence. Again, the characters are what make this book. If you enjoyed The Sable City, you’ll enjoy this one even more!
2. The Eclective: The Apocalypse Collection- I’ve introduced you all to the Eclective, and these stories are up to the standards of the previous collection I discussed with you. Even thought the world did not end, you’ll enjoy these visions of what might have been, or might yet be.
3. Driving Me Nuts, by PJ Jones- I envy the ability of authors to share the trauma of mental illness with humor and heart. Anytime I contemplate writing about my illness, I imagine some terrible melodrama. Jones is a virtuoso of comedy, but this novel is very different from the author’s other works. Although comedy is definitely a major component here, the work is very true to life and the realities of working through issues and coming out the other side. This was a moving read.
4. “A Face in the Crowd”, by Stephen King and Stewart O’Nan- One of the nicest things about the e-book revolution is the capacity to buy a single story. Although many people predicted the short story’s death a very short time ago, the form seems to be reviving with the ability to send these babies out all on their own. Amusingly, the man who is often criticized for his wordiness has never stopped turning out these self-contained bursts of story like a well-tipped bartender pouring tequila shots. “A Face in the Crowd” reads like a classic Twilight Zone episode, and is just plain spooky fun.
5. “In the Tall Grass”, by Stephen King- This is a longer story that does not go where anyone could be expecting. Again, the King of “overwriting” is perfectly capable of creating credible characters with brevity. THIS STORY IS DISTURBING. Think of the King stories that have unsettled you the most, then prepare for him to kick it up a notch.
6. Dodger, by Terry Pratchett- A Dickensian historical fantasy only seems to be a departure for Sir Terry. His work in Discworld has been filled with much of this flavor, and those of us who read his work on a regular basis will benefit from knowledge we’ve gained there. Dodger is a unique, intriguing novel, which combines actual historical figures with literary creations of the time, and Pratchett’s own amazing characters to take readers to a London they’ve heard about, but never really got to know. Mystery, comedy, romance, and a bit with a dog. What more could I ask?
In the New Year, I hope to give you more regular reviews, and some extra fun that I haven’t quite dreamed up yet! I look forward to taking Imaqulotta’s Irreverent Book Blog to the next level.
You see, what had happened was… My dad MADE me watch! I tried not to get hooked! The first one’s free! Oh, that’s a whole different thing. I do have a new blog in the works, hopefully to be finished within the next few days. I’m sure Daryl would apologize for stealing my brain, if he weren’t so busy keeping the entire world in suspense for another month. Oh, and being a bad-ass. He can multitask.