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.
I always think I don’t enjoy fantasy as well as some other irreverent works. It may be from a youthful attempt to read The Lord of the Rings, which gave me an impression of the genre as stuffy and serious. However, when I look at my reading habits, I observe that there are some fantasies I enjoy very well. Humorous series such as The Xanth novels by Piers Anthony and The Myth Adventures of Robert Aspirin, the poignant urban fantasy of Charles De Lint, and of course, my beloved Terry Pratchett. So perhaps, it’s simply the stuffiness I don’t care for!
Last month, I shared with you the work of a talented group of individuals called The Eclective. Although I had known Ms. Emma Jameson for years, I was unfamiliar with the other authors included in The Haunted Collection. Having very much enjoyed “Empty Vessel”, I was pleased to hear from Mr. M. Edward McNally, with a suggestion that I read one of his full length novels for review. Always hungry for good books, I agreed.
The Sable City, according to Amazon, is “The desperate search for the exiled heir of her Trade House leads Matilda Lanai across a war-torn continent and to the gates of the Sable City, where centuries ago dark magic almost destroyed the world. Along with a sinister sorceress, a broken-hearted samurai, and a miscreant mercenary long on charm but lousy with a crossbow, Tilda must brave the demon-infested ruins. Only then can she find John Deskata, who may not want to be found at all.”
Such a short description can hardly do this densely populated novel justice. I doubt that I can either, but I do intend to try. This is, indeed, very serious fantasy, although McNally slips in quite a bit of heart and humor. The author creates characters as well as anyone I have ever read, and I may have mentioned how important that is to me. One of the reasons we accept a world that is mostly unfamiliar to us is that the people we meet we get to know fairly well, and they are people, for the most part, to whom the reader can relate. McNally says The Sable City is “basically a character piece about Tilda Lanai, trying to hold down a job, help out her friends, and survive the day-to-day.” Matilda Lanai is a descendant of a long line of kick-ass fantasy women, but is hardly a caricature. By the end of the book she feels more like an old friend. We don’t know anyone so well as Tilda, but all of the characters we meet are fully realized, and realistic. It’s why the fantasy works so well, because totally believable characters are there to believe the totally unbelievable events. I met people I loved, and people I hated, just as we do in life, and was gratified when many of the adventurers became friends.
The mythical city of Vod’ Adia is a character in and of itself, a mysterious place cut off from its world except for one month every 99 years. It is fabled to be a place of fabulous wealth, and incredible danger. I will tell you that the adventurers reach the Sable City, but I won’t spoil what happens to them there. I will say that after about a chapter of this work, I heaved a sigh of total contentment, and settled in for the epic journey. The best part is that there is more to discover. I look greatly forward to reading #2 Death of a Kingdom, #3 The Wind from Miilark, and #4 Devil Town. The series is called The Norothian Cycle. On the Imaqulotta Scale, I consider The Sable City to be completely Heavenly!
“The INDIE ECLECTIVE: What is it, who are they, and why can they spell neither “eclectic” nor “collective” correctly? The Indie Eclective is an ensemble of NINE AUTHORS operating under the assumption that Readers like Good Books. Whether you enjoy light or dark paranormal, YA or adult-themed genres, there’s bound to be a story to suit your tastes. Thanks for reading!”
The Members: Heather Marie Adkins
M. Edward McNally
As you’ll have noted in my choices thus far here at the Irreverent Book Blog, my tastes are eclectic, such that the only unifying factor in all that I love is that very irreverence. So, when Emma Jameson, who is one of my very dear friends, was asked to join such a creatively named group, I was intrigued. Since its most recent release coincided with that most wonderful time of the year, the Hallowe’en season, it seemed a perfect choice to share with you. The Haunted Collection has a little something for everyone.
The stories are described for you thus:
“Empty Vessel” by M. Edward McNally: Captain Wil has command of his own ship, the respect of his crew, and his wife is expecting their first child. But at sea, the winds always become calm just before the storm breaks.
“The Smell of Death” by Tara West: Maggie’s unusual powers bring new threats to her already troubled childhood.
“Safe” by Emma Jameson: In Victorian London, a grave robber makes a nice living off the dead, until he opens the wrong crypt.
“Soulfully Sweet” by Shéa MacLeod: As if helping the living isn’t enough of a pain in her divine hindquarters, Branwen (former goddess of love and beauty) is stuck helping the dead on All Hallow’s Eve.
“May I Go Play?” by Heather Marie Adkins: Micah inherits a southern mansion where ancestors long dead relive their violent deaths. And now, they want company…
“Blehdward, the Vampire who Couldn’t Sparkle” by Pj Jones: Blehdward desperately wants to fit in with the cool vamps. If only he could learn how to sparkle.
“Franscesca” by Alan Nayes: Break a promise to a feiticeira and you will live to regret it.
“Soul Eaters” by R.G. Porter: Kaitlyn never believed in the existence of other worlds. Now she’s in the middle of one where humans aren’t the hunters but the hunted.”
These stories share a common “haunted” theme, but are each very different, as are the authors’ styles and voices. I enjoyed the combination very much, as it seemed to touch on almost everything I enjoy about being a reader. Two stories introduce us to other worlds, one to another time, and they all present spooky stories from a different angle than we may have previously examined them. I cannot choose a favorite from among the stories presented, as each has things to recommend it.
“Empty Vessel” manages to introduces us to a brand new (to me, at least) world clearly and in detail, which is a difficult thing to manage in a short story; it doesn’t lose the chills in that precision, either. “The Smell of Death” is poignant, and maintains my assertions that youthful protagonists do not a juvenile work create. “Safe” is a new twist on the grave-robbing theme we think we know, and creates characters as only this author can! “Soulfully Sweet” was just that, answering questions about life and death in an original and amusing way. “May I Go Play?” is an enjoyable take on the Southern Gothic. “Blehdward, the Vampire who Couldn’t Sparkle” was ridiculously funny; Twi-hards beware! “Francesca” provides an exotic locale to a truly original twist on witches and hauntings. “Soul Eaters” takes us to another dimension, not at all a pleasant place to be, and thankfully gets us back again! This collection as a whole was Heavenly on the Imaqulotta Scale!
Another review and a half? Is this turning into a thing?
Speaking of Emma Jameson, I must mention her “Lord and Lady Hetheridge” Series, which currently consists of Ice Blue and Blue Murder. First of all, let me say that prior to my friend writing one, I had never heard of the “Cosy” subgenre. My taste in mysteries runs much more toward “Thrillers”. However, whatever sort of mystery you like, these are excellent examples. I’ve gotten to observe these works in progress, and in their polished finished form. Whether you read an Emma Jameson or a Stephanie Abbot work, you’ll recognize a depth of character creation unequaled by many authors in many genres. Without the wandering back-stories of my beloved Stephen King, or the dozens of novels with which to fill in character that Sir Terry Pratchett has, Jameson summons living breathing people to the page. This seems effortless, and is a trademark of her work. It’s one of the reasons I count her among my favorite authors. The series is Heavenly, and only leaves us wanting more.