Monthly Archives: June 2010

Harry Potter vs. Twilight

I got into a rather involved conversation with one of my friends recently, though we both got a bit growly with each other, it’s had me thinking. She loves Twilight, and I hate it. Not because it’s cool to hate it, because really, I got over that sort of thing when I got out of high school. I hate it because I’ve read one-too-many feminist readings, because I have a passion for books with round, fleshed-out characters, because I love books with plot. (And when they don’t have plot, I’d rather they admit it, instead of pretending they do.)

I was reminded of this conversation a few minutes ago when I was looking at Time‘s “5 Reasons we Love Harry Potter More than Twilight.” I enjoyed this comparison. I’m very securely in the generation which grew up with Harry. My first memories involve reading an ARC edition which my teacher’s wife thought I would like*. I didn’t think it was a series (oh how wrong I was), but I loved that I was really transported to a new world with a character who learned about it as I did. I went to midnight book and movie releases, I ran a Harry Potter Role-Play Forum for a while, I read and re-read the books, and I spent more time than is probably reasonable reading the Harry Potter Lexicon.

I’ve also read part of Twilight. By part, I mean I read Twilight when it was first released and made a big jump on the best-seller lists. It was alright, but I wasn’t that into it. If New Moon is the one where she goes suicidal and spends all that time with Jacob, then I’ve read that book, too. It didn’t make a strong impression on me, I hardly remember it. When asked, I couldn’t say more about Bella than that she was female, and whiny. I couldn’t say anything about Edward except that he was a sparkly vampire. I mean… sparkles? Is that why Dracula stayed out of the sun? I see how it would ruin his bad-ass image, but really now. It takes all the scare out of Vampires. They’re meant to be terrifying, they’re supposed to be evil, not fluffy sparkly… romantics.

I’ll admit that I read the sort of books where vampires have a “good” side– Karen Chance’s Pythia series, for example. They’re still blood-sucking monsters, but there is a shred of humanity left in some of them. By contrast, the vampires in Harry Potter remain evil, and are relegated to the fringe of magical society. Is Anne Rice the one who opened the door to “good” vampires when she created the rockstar Lestat? OK, so maybe I shouldn’t be calling Lestat good, but he’s not as evil as vampires were supposed to be. The werewolves of Harry Potter are still pretty badass. I would never, ever want to get on Lupin’s bad side. By contrast, Jacob is just awkward. Every time I think of Jacob, I think of that girlfriend, the girl who was horribly disfigured by her were boyfriend. He tries to be special and thoughtful, and then he robs the cradle. Eww.

The biggest selling point for me is that the girls of Harry Potter kick serious ass. Molly Weasley comes to mind immediately. Hermione, too, is both brainy and brave. By contrast, Bella is a spineless wimp. She whines, she cries, she angsts, she passively tries to kill herself with that cliff jumping thing. I like strong female protagonists, or when they have to be weak, I feel like they need a good reason for it.

I stand by the fact that I am too much of a Harry Potter fangirl to ever write an unbiased review**. I dislike Twilight too much to ever bring myself to read it the rest of the way in order to review it. So I doubt you’ll ever see me review either, even if I giggle a little bit every time someone slams Twilight, and I feel satisfied every time someone mentions that Harry Potter was (and is) great.

I’m going to end this one with a few questions, because I intened to discuss instead of whine. Why do you like/dislike Harry Potter, Twilight, or any other “great***” series? Is there one that you consider superior to others? (Why? What makes it better?) Where do you stand on “good” vampires?

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* The thing about small towns is that your teachers follow you a bit, advancing from one position to another with your class, and when their wives work at the bookstore, and you spend inordinate amounts of time and money in their shop, they get to know you. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was an early review copy the bookstore got, one they allowed me to read because they thought I’d like it. (Oh man were they right.)

** I still haven’t forgiven her for the combination of Epilogue and news-article releases. Either get it all in the damned book, or get it all in the damned epilogue, but don’t be saying things via news interviews later about crap you couldn’t be bothered to write about in a book that was weeks late anyway. I don’t care that Dumbledore was gay, but if you’re going to resolve Harry and Hermione and Ron, get it in the book and don’t make interviewers ask you about it later.

*** Things like Chronicles of Narnia or Lord of the Rings, for example.

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Bad Covers & Silly Titles III

There’s a bit more of an emphasis on silly, this month, which works for me because… silly is fun.

Silly Cover & Blurb He’s the new man from “O.R.G.Y.” which I somehow don’t think is an accidental acronym. Ted Mark actually wrote a whole series of books about “O.R.G.Y.”, the first of which is apparently titled The Man From O.R.G.Y., which features the tag-line “I’m a Sex Expert– among other things. If you’re squeamish, I’d better not tell you what O.R.G.Y. stands for…” There’s not a lot I can find out about this particular series, as it’s very far out of print. What I can find out about it is all from Fantastic Fiction. It’s clearly one of those old books which is long out of print, but which has such a silly name that it keeps popping up on the internet anyway. From Pop Sensation*?

Our next book is here because it is a picture of a hand on a butt. Or rather, it is a picture of a hand on the butt of a woman in white pants who is holding what I can only assume is a riding crop because this book is somehow about equestrians:

Set against the glorious Cotswold countryside and the playgrounds of the world, Jilly Cooper’s Rutshire chronicles, Riders, Rivals, Polo, The Man who made Husbands Jealous, Appassionata and Score!, offer an intoxicating blend of skulduggery, swooning romance, sexual adventure and hilarious high jinks.

Riders, the first and steamiest in the series, takes the lid off international show jumping, a sport where the brave horses are almost human, but the humans behave like animals.

The brooding hero, gypsy Jake Lovell, under whose magic hands the most difficult horse or woman becomes biddable, is driven to the top by his loathing of the beautiful bounder and darling of the show ring, Rupert Campbell-Black. Having filched each other’s horses, and fought and fornicated their way around the capitals of Europe, the feud between the two men finally erupts with devastating consequences at the Los Angeles Olympics.

From Fantastic Fiction.

Of course, there’s more.

Nine Kinds of Naked has a lawn gnome, a fly? and a very silly sounding title. It is an even crazier sounding book, actually:

Twenty-year-old drifter Diablo spies on Bridget Snapdragon, the pagan wife of a Normal, Ill., actuary, skinny dipping in her backyard creek. He is soon arrested, and while in jail, flips a playing card onto the back of a bee, setting in motion an atmospheric disturbance that begets the storm of the century. Meanwhile, a select group of misfits are unknowingly thrown into the storm’s path. There’s J.J. Speed, a priest turned special agent after becoming insane from celibacy; Elizabeth Wildhack, Bridget’s stripper daughter; Billy Pronto, a man who speaks in terms of the here and now only; and Clovis, a ninth-century serf, who, with the aid of gnomes, time-travels to Normal.

From amazon.com

Next up, because this is simply not enough silliness for one post, we  have… a dude with lobster hands. I have to admit that I’m not really sure what exactly is supposed to be going on here, but regardless, it’s a dude in a business suit with lobster claws for hands. Apparently, it has something to do with a reality TV show and a small town, and a battle relating to the three-channels of the small town, but I can’t say I really get it. It’s definitely got a silly cover though. (And it might actually be passable, though it’s not my sort of book.)

Next: Rampaging Fuckers of Everything on the Crazy Shitting Planet of the Vomit Atmosphere which strikes me as shock-fiction. It’s a collection of three Novellas: Monster Cocks, Journey to the Center of Agnes Cuddlebottom, and Crazy Shitting Planet. Yes, it is freaking weird. Yes, it was written *just* for the shock value. No, I’m not really sure what to make of it except to suggest that you never bother to read it. Unless you’re into stories about giant penis monsters and adventuring in the butt of a prostitute. (Which I definitely am not). Another book by the same author (which seems just as awful in another way) is HELP! A Bear is Eating Me!.

Back to the less-shock-value-and-more-just-silly sort of books… It’s a crazy cover from a classic book, and it features a girl in a torn bathing suit being eaten by an octopus. Apparently, the “Spicy” part is the half naked girl on the cover, because when I looked for Spicy-Adventure Stories, I found several half-naked-girl-on-the-cover style books.

I think this might be a decent note to end on. Classic covers are pretty crazy, and can be really, really funny at times. I’ll try to come up with a few more novels which aren’t surreal “comedies” next time around, and come up with books that are a bit more commonly funny.

Have you come across any books with silly covers or titles recently?

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* Apparently, it’s from a pretty cool paperback cover collection. I came across it while trying to find a cover image for Katie Mac’s Hard Day’s Knight.

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Lioness Rampant

Pierce, Tamora. Lioness Rampant (2005 ed.).  400 Pages. Simon Pulse. $6.99

Song of the Lioness: Book Four

Tamora Pierce wrote quartets, until (as she said) Harry Potter taught publishers that children would read longer volumes. I’ve read this series many times over the years, and this volume is both my favorite and my least favorite. It’s sad, and it’s triumphant, and things are dramatic and terrifying, but they also end well. Alanna is a strong protagonist, and she’s really finished growing up at the end of this novel, becoming the legend which we know she will be.

Alanna of Trebond and Olau is on an adventure to retrieve the Dominion Jewel. They’re in Maren, on the trail of the jewel, and their journey is just beginning. In Berat, Alanna meets Liam Ironarm, the Shang Dragon; “People like you change the world; a smart man keeps track of such folk” (12) he says. Shortly after meeting Liam, Alanna has her second encounter with the Great Mother Goddess, who presents her with the question “who will you be, Alanna?” (19). Unfortunately, Alanna doesn’t know who she will be, or what she wants, or even what she is truly capable of (not yet, anyway). All she knows is that she has a map that needs to be translated, and a need to be somewhere, anywhere besides Tortall.

Before she knows it, she’s on a great adventure, one that takes her through war-torn Sarain to the Roof of the World. By retrieving the Jewel, Alanna hopes to prove to the world that she’s a warrior in her own right, that she never used her Gift to cheat her way to her shield, that she is truly a force to be reckoned with. So, armed with a map, and her knightly skills, leading her motley troop of herself, Coram, Faithful, and Liam Ironarm, she heads through Sarain where she picks up even more strays.

Alanna’s strays are Princess Thayet and Buriram Tourokom, who are fleeing from Thayet’s father, the Warlord of Sarain. They decide to join forces with Alanna, and follow her to Chitral’s Pass, where the Dominion Jewel is supposedly held.

Of course, there’s more going on than Alanna’s quest. In Corus, much is going on; Queen Lianne has died, and King Roald died not long after. Jonathan is King, but has not been crowned yet. Thom has gotten himself into more trouble than he can handle, and is dying. The people are convinced that Jonathan’s reign is cursed– there has been famine and plague since Alanna left Corus. George is struggling with issues of his own, and there is a plot against Jonathan within the palace. Things go a little sideways, toward the end. There is a huge battle, and many characters are left dead. The ending, despite the deaths, is hopeful.

The Series as a Whole:

This was my first Tamora Pierce series, back when I was in middle school. My friends and I read it, and traded it and read it again until all of our books were worn thin, and we all knew the stories by heart. It really is ideal for middle schoolers, but it manages to be a book which adults can enjoy as well. It’s hard to outgrow a series like this, and because of its enduring re-readability, it gets a 4.5/5.

The Quick Version:

Alanna really comes into her own in this book. She finishes growing up, goes on a great adventure, and learns to balance Woman and Warrior. She makes a name for herself, and she changes the world. This is my very favorite from the series, and scores a 5 out of 5, because I love it so very much (even if I always cry at the end).

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On other notes, as I was flipping through my book, looking for the bibliographic information, I learned that it’s an autographed copy (which is way more exciting than I ever expected, even considering that it’s signed to “Kelli” and not to me). I got it second-hand though Swaptree not too long ago, and though I don’t think I got it from the Kelli it was signed to, it’s still pretty sweet. Now all I have to do is figure out how to get one signed to me, and I’ll be the happiest book nerd ever.

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Filed under Book Review, Children's Fiction, High Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction

Upcoming Reviews

I have to admit I’ve been a bit… distracted recently. I have quite the stack of books which I’ve read a few pages from, but haven’t actually gotten into, for a variety of reasons. So I’m going to make a teaser post to motivate myself. (Wish me luck!)

We’ve got:

Otomen 2, Dates from Hell, Lioness Rampant, Inked, Chronicles of Chrestomanci v. 1, Exit Strategy, Men of the Otherworld, My Big Fat Supernatural Honeymoon, Sword & Sorceress 22, Sword & Sorceress 24, The Lonely Hearts Club, Eyes Like Stars and Frostbitten.

These should all be making their appearance within the next two weeks (If I can just buckle down and read a single book!) I own quite a few of these, and have checked the rest out from the library. (Hooray for libraries!) I’ll get through them soon.

So, what do you do when you look at your “To be Read” stack and realize it’s gotten out of control? How do you buckle down and read when you’re super distracted?

Also upcoming: Diana Wynne Jones Week (hosted by Jenny of Jenny’s Books). I’ll either be attacking Howl’s Moving Castle or Chronicles of Chrestomanci volume 1. Maybe I’ll even go a bit crazy, and try to get through the entire Howl-related series (Howl’s Moving Castle, Castle in the Air, and House of Many Ways, just to make it a bit crazy and fun. It should be super fun, and I’m excited.

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La Petite Four

Scott, Regina. La Petite Four (2008). 231 Pages. $8.99. Penguin.

Lady Emily Southwell is the daughter of a Duke, and is also a Rebellious Teenager* who refuses to settle for anything less than her dream. Lady Emily and her three best friends– Priscilla Tate, Ariadne Courdebas, and Daphne Courdebas– have built this grand idea of their debut, and they will not let anything get in the way of their plans.

Their plans are set in motion as they graduate from the Barnsley School for Young Ladies, and are about to debut in their first Season. They plan for a ball to outdo all other balls– Priscilla’s family was beset by Scandal and she needs to use her good looks and charm to catch a rich husband, Daphne and Ariadne’s mother has Big Plans for her daughters and expects them to marry well. However, Emily’s fate has already been decided by her high-handed but well-meaning father; she will marry Lord Robert Townsend in eight day’s time, and she will not be attending the ball.

Of course, none of the girls are happy about it, and being Rebellious Teens, they are inclined to do things which are entirely improper and are likely to tarnish their good name in order to free Emily from her obligation. They follow Lord Robert about town and try to uncover some scandal which will make him so unmarriageable that Emily will never be expected to fulfill her engagement to the man.

Enter into this drama the incredibly handsome James Cropper, a mysterious man who crops up** at the strangest moments, confusing Lady Emily. Everything is not as it seems, and Lady Emily is the last one to catch on to the plot, leaving everything to her slightly-more-intelligent friends to figure out. By the end of the story, most readers will be sure of the end and just waiting for the characters to catch up.

Once I got over the fact that “Lady Emily” was what she was going to be called, and the fact that the cover was entirely anachronistic, and pink– a color which the character hates– and all of the other bits and pieces that drove me crazy, I found myself genuinely liking the story. It was terrible when I thought of it as a Regency story– there are so many things in here which other authors did better.

For being a well-bred young lady, the daughter of a Duke, and a recent graduate from finishing school, one might hope that a young lady would be aware that she should not be wandering around in the seedy parts of town without a guard. Sure, it creates the opening for Cropper to crop up the first time (hahahah, really, I’m brilliant, aren’t I?), and it sets the stage for the Romantic Entanglement, but really? Add to that the fact that over the course of eight days she apparently falls in love, and manages to (without actually figuring out a single thing) unveil the villain, and you’ve got something which is asking me to suspend my disbelief a little too high in that tree over there.

The Quick Version:***

It wasn’t terrible, but it was not brilliant. Regina Scott is clearly talented, as her writing itself is enjoyable. It’s her plot, and some of the finer details which made me raise an eyebrow (some times a bit higher than others). I liked the story as a whole, and was enthralled enough that I read it in a single sitting. It gets a 3 out of 5 for being solid, but having some issues.

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* She’s the Clever Princess, the Smart Princess, the girl who has everything in life, but is not happy with it. She’s the noble who’s not happy being noble, and thus does something silly. In short, she’s your typical rebellious teen wrapped up in noble trappings and thrown in a regency setting.

** Hahahaha, get it, cropper crops up!?! I kill myself sometimes.

*** I think I should just start calling this “the verdict” because really, it doesn’t re-state much. It just… declares.

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This book is now part of the Into the Wild Book Challenge. I’m not sure where I’ll release it yet, I’ll be sure to update this post when I’ve made up my mind though. If anyone reading the blog wants it, I’m more than happy to make this a controlled release and mail it to you. Just let me know!

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Filed under Book Review, Children's Fiction, Historical Romance, Mystery & Suspense, Young Adult Fiction

Unexpected Magic (Anthology)

Jones, Diana Wynne. Unexpected Magic (2004). 590 Pages. Greenwillow Books. $7.99

There are 16 stories here (fifteen of which are short stories, and one of which is a novella), all written by Diana Wynne Jones (which of course means that they’re fabulous). The highlight of the book is definitely the novella at the end, but all of the short stories are fun, and a bit witty with just a hint of magic. Of course, with a title like Unexpected Magic, one expects a lot of magic, and this book is certainly not disappointing. Despite the fact that the magic is entirely expected, it does find new and creative ways to manifest itself, ways which are certainly not what you thought they would be without feeling like a forced twist. For the sake of space, I’m attempting to keep the blurbs brief (bear with me where I fail.)

Continue reading

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Filed under Book Review, Children's Fiction, Fantasy, High Fantasy, Humor, Romance, Sci-Fi, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction

Otomen 1

Kanno, Aya. Otomen Volume 1 (2009) 208 Pages. Viz (Shojo Beat). $8.99

I love Shojo Manga, and I especially love it when it features pretty artwork. This is definitely a fluffy-happy manga with a fluffy-happy story (mostly). As with every shojo manga, there’s got to be a lot of angst before we get to the happy ending, but this one is exceptionally cute.

Asuka Masamune is the manliest man you’ll ever meet. He’s the best at Kendo, Judo, and Karate, he excels at everything academic or physical, and he despises sweets. (Or so he says). He’s strong, smart, and handsome; every boy wants to be him every girl wants to date him. So it’s really unfortunate that this is all a facade and he’s been hiding his true self since he was a child.

When he finds himself crushing on the adorable-but-not-at-all-feminine Ryo Miyakozuka, the manly-Asuka dissolves. His girly side comes out whenever he thinks about her, and before he knows it, he’s created all sorts of cute things. Ryo may be oblivious to Asuka’s feelings, but the school flirt Juta Tachibana certainly is not. He may have declared himself to be Asuka’s love-rival, but he seems like more of an instigator. Before Asuka knows what he’s doing, he’s committed himself to making bento lunch for himself, Ryo, and Juta. Through this cooking his inner feminine side comes out, and he finds himself becoming more girly every day.

As Asuka learns over the course of the volume, loving cute, sweet, girly things doesn’t make him weak, or unable to be a man. He learns (slowly) to accept himself, as he also comes to the realization that Ryo is very, very dense, and is oblivious to the fact that he’s super into her.

Of course, every volume has to have its story arcs. We’ve got Asuka trying to impress Ryo’s dad, Asuka writing Juta off as a player, and Asuka trying to take Ryo out on a date. It’s cute, and I really enjoyed it.

The Quick Version:

If you like fluffy manga, and happy romance stories, this is totally the book for you. It gets a 4/5, because it was very good.

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Filed under Book Review, Contemporary Romance, Graphic Novel, Shojo Manga, Young Adult Fiction

The Woman Who Rides Like a Man

Pierce, Tamora. The Woman Who Rides Like a Man (2005 ed.) 304 Pages. Simon Pulse. $6.99

Song of the Lioness: Book Three

Alanna of Trebond may have won her shield, but after everything she went through, she needs to get out of Corus for a while. With the paint on her shield still wet, she sets out for adventure. Having never been one to enjoy the cold, it’s not surprising that Alanna chooses to spend the winter down south in the Bazhir desert where it’s nice and warm. Well, she doesn’t exactly choose winter in the desert; she was aiming for Tyra and got waylaid.

To get to Tyra from Corus, it’s necessary to go through the Bazhir desert. Of course, with only half the Bazhir tribes recognizing the Tortallan king, and many of the desert’s residents being lawless hillmen, it’s a dangrous trip even for seasoned warriors. Unfortunately for Alanna, she and Coram are attacked by a group of hillmen who have a magical sword (which glows orange with the late Duke Roger’s magic) that breaks Lightning, leaving Alanna sad and swordless. The hillmen are attacked in turn by the Bloody Hawk Bazhir tribe, who take Alanna and Coram back to their camp.

At the Bloody Hawk camp, Alanna is recognized as the “Burning Brightly One” who helped defeat the Ysandir– she is now a legend to the Bazhir. However, the shaman is crazed, and claims that she is a liar (along with some other fun names). This culminates in a fight between Alanna and the shaman (Ibn Nazzir) where Alanna kills the man. Because of Bazhir law, the one who kills the shaman must become the shaman (at least until they can train a suitable replacement), so Alanna finds herself tied to a tribe when all she really wants to do is go on an adventure. There are three gifted teens in the camp- Ishtak, Kara, and Kourrem- who have never been trained to control their gift. Recognizing that untrained gifted teens could spell disaster for everyone in the tribe, Alanna declares them her successors and begins their training.

Jonathan and Sir Myles visit Alanna while she’s with the Bloody Hawk, and several things happen. Jonathan and Alanna renew (and end) their relationship. Sir Myles adopts Alanna, and Jon becomes The Voice of the Tribes. As soon as this is completed, Alanna flees the desert, heading to Port Caynn where she spends the summer avoiding Corus and Jonathan, instead focusing on George.

The end of the book sets us up for Lioness Rampant, as Alanna decides to go find the Dominion Jewel to save Tortall.

The Quick Version:

Like so many third-in-a-set-of-four novels, this book feels a bit like a bridge. A lot happens, and Alanna makes huge steps toward becoming the champion she is destined to be. She continues to grow in her sense of self, and her womanhood, and begins to truly embrace herself here. It’s a solid adventure, and it makes you want more. It gets a 4/5.

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Sword & Sorceress (Anthology, #21)

Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword & Sorceress XXI (2004). 308 Pages. DAW Books. $6.99

I really do love anthologies. They make you feel accomplished every time you reach the end of a story. Unfortunately, such bite-sized pieces mean that I’m much more easily distracted and have difficulty pacing myself properly to be able to review daily (or at least every-other day). Diana L Paxson is the editor of this anthology, which still bears Ms Bradley’s name because it was her creation.

There are 23 stories in this one, each and every one featuring a strong heroine. As with the last Sword & Sorceress I reviewed, we’re going to pick a few hilights, because there is so much to say about every single story in here.

“Growing up, I had imagined my life would be full of danger, excitement, and fabulous riches. I wound up with two out of the three…” (21) begins “The Spell of the Sparrow” by Jim C. Hines. It’s a lovely, funny story about family acceptance and magical sparrows. It isn’t what you expect, and that’s what makes it such a good story.

Esther M. Friesner’s “Child’s Play” is from the point-of-view of a child, which gives it a certain charm which it would otherwise lack. Mira’s father married That Woman after her mother’s death, and it has changed her life for the worse. When the King learns of her magical abilities he sends people to get her, but they want her father’s permission (they’ve learned something about taking seers against their will in the past). I can’t say much more without ruining the story, but it was really a very good one.

“Necessity and The Mother” by Lee Martindale was another gem. Donta has followed her family’s legacy in more than one way; like her ancestors before her, she was a mercenary until she lost a limb, and like those ancestors, too, she retired to run The Mercenary’s Mother, an Inn and Tavern built by her family. Things go a bit crazy when the town decides to ban all metal, causing all of the mercenaries in town to uproot and move to Donta’s family farm. The end is hardly unexpected, but that doesn’t make it any less entertaining.

“Plowshares” by Rebecca Maines is another good story which is not exactly surprising. It involves Canterbury*, bandits, and a not-so-surprising-if-you’re-familiar-with-fantasy-tropes twist. Or maybe because I read this before, I knew where it was going. Either way, it was fun, but not surprising.

Lynn Morgan Rosser’s “Favor of the Goddess” was a solid story, with a lot of lovely prose. Again, it plays with familiar themes, but it’s not exactly surprising. A beggar with amnesia finds out that she is much more important than she knows and learns an important lesson.

“Rose in Winter” by Marie M Loughin was not what I expected at all. Rosabel is the daughter of a lesser lord, and is more than a little overwhelmed by her first winter in the King’s court. She attracts the attention of the court Jester, as well as the King’s nephew, and is faced with a life-altering choice she is not prepared to make. The ending was surprising**.

“Kazhe’s Blade” by Terry McGarry is another mercenary tale; this time about one who’s lost herself in alcohol and doesn’t want to find a way out. Unfortunately, she’s not going to be able to wallow and lose herself in the bottom of any more glasses. She had a destiny once, and had thought herself a failure, only to learn that it is not as over as she thought.

“Oulu” by Aimee Kratts follows a very dark storyline which is not at all what you expected. Small towns can twist people, make them darker than anyone would expect. I don’t think I liked it, but it stands out in my memory.

The Quick Version:

I really did enjoy this volume a lot. Short stories are perfect for riding on trains, or for breaks at work. This collection especially tends to have good stories which follow familiar (but often re-thought) themes. It, like most volumes in the series, gets a 5 out of 5.

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* My college had a Great Books program which involved reading The Canterbury Tales so many times that I know some of the stories by heart. Every time I hear someone say “The Canterbury Tales” (especially my mother when she does it in her silly voice) my PTSD kicks in and I giggle like an idiot. When I read about a pilgrimage to Canterbury, it’s doubly so. I giggled like an idiot and was at a loss to explain it to anyone.

** Spoilers: It was sad, and I even found myself crying a little. Highlight to read.

This book is part of the Short Story Reading Challenge!

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Filed under Adult Fiction, Book Review, Fantasy, High Fantasy

Hard Day’s Knight

MacAlister, Katie. Hard Day’s Knight (2005). 344 Pages. Signet. $6.99

Hot men in tights and armor, women in bust-enhancing bodices, swords, horses, the world’s largest renaissance faire, and an international jousting tournament form the backdrop for Hard Day’s Knight. I love Faires, and enjoyed reading about them, especially because despite the increasing summer heat, I’m still cooler and more relaxed enjoying them in book form than wandering around in dry, dusty heat and longing for winter.

Anyway, Pepper Marsh is our newest heroine; she’s curvy, she’s sassy, and she’s wicked in bed.* The unemployed, single Pepper is more than willing to come to a Faire with her cousin CJ (especially when promised hot men in tights), and is even willing to work as a Harlot for a wench’s guild. Unfortunately for Pepper, things at the Faire don’t go exactly as she planned. Behemoth– the cat she is watching– does not like to behave, and leads Pepper straight into the path of two handsome men on very large horses (one of whom nearly runs her down, while the other “saves” her). We are introduced to Farrell– a blonde-haired blue-eyed drool-worthy knight– and Walker — the black-haired grey-eyed anti-hero. There is a long, bitter rivalry between the two which is about to overflow into a battle for Pepper’s heart.

Walker is a strong, distant hero with a sad past that haunts him, and is very much the center of the story (despite the fact that it is actually about Pepper, nearly everything revolves around Walker and his past). He’s not the hero you expect, and his past is not what you think it is. He and Pepper work well together, despite being seeming opposites. They both force each other to confront ghosts of their past, and they grow together.

As usual with Katie Mac, you find yourself laughing aloud a lot, there are several very steamy scenes, and there is a lot of drama. Two people who are seemingly too different find a way to work together, and the book itself really draws you in.

The Quick Version:

The setting really works for the story in this case; the faire gives it a concrete setting, the jousting gives it a solid future, and the characters do seem to grow (at least a little bit) from beginning to end. Toward the end of the book, there’s just a little too much “misunderstanding” to really leave me happy. I found myself wondering what the hell was going on, and not really sure what the characters were thinking. It was enjoyable, and I did tear through it like I do with all the other Katie MacAlister books I’ve read. As much as I like the Faire setting though, this book only gets a 3; it’s good, but not brilliant.

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* Unlike a few of the heroines, she’s not much of a babbler, which was nice.

This book is part of the Local Library Reading Challenge!

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Filed under Adult Fiction, Book Review, Chick-Lit, Contemporary Romance, Humor, Romance