Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Hawkspar by Holly Lisle

Hawkspar is not a sequel to Talyn, but follows it in the same rich world of the Tonk and their enemies. Talyn hit me like a ton of bricks - I've read it three times already, and each time I discovered new layers. I'm on page 408 of 480 in Hawkspar, and so far, it has had the impact of a ton of feathers. Yes, I'm enjoying it, but no I'm not entranced and immersed as in Talyn.

I don't write critiques, I write reviews. I don't approach books objectively, analytically - I experience them subjectively, as a reader. I don't know if the difference in my experiences between Talyn and Hawkspar are because of differences in me, the reader, or in the writing. Maybe both.

Maybe I'm distracted by getting rid of forty years of accumulated *stuff* while scheduling contractors to give our twenty-five year-old house a make-over before putting it on the market. Going through some major life changes myself, I am less involved in fictional crisis. Goldibear's MCS has worsened steadily for the past year, and the slow torture of watching a loved one suffer overwhelms me at times.

So if you read Talyn and loved it, I think you will enjoy Hawkspar. If you like fantasy in general, you may enjoy Hawkspar. If you expect another novel like Talyn, as I did, you may be disappointed - not in the story, but in the comparison. So don't compare, just read and enjoy.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Omega Games by S. L. Viehl

I'm reading Omega Games, the latest addition to S. L. Viehl's fabulous StarDoc series. PBW never disappoints. I love not only her StarDoc series, and more recent Darkyn novels, but all of her back list that I've been able to find.

I've been packing for so long that when I look at the stack of boxes I have deja-vu. I'm convinced it won't all fit in the new apartment, even minus the things we're giving away. Do we own things or do they own us? Freedom from the tyranny of taking care of stuff lends glamor to a simpler life. What to do with all that time not dusting, washing, polishing? There's a private gym at our new apartment complex, and a media room with a giant wall screen. Exercise or entertainment? Eenie, meenie, minie - both!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Romance Genre, Characters and Motivation

Romance genre encompasses a vast range of style and content, from the light and witty dialog of Julia Quinn's historical novels, to the edgy banter in S. L. Viehl's "blade" trilogy; from the ingenuous maundering of Georgette Heyer to the explicit rapture of Elizabeth Hoyt. I'm fascinated with the endless variety of characters and motivation represented in the romance genre. Although I occasionally dip into settings other than English or Scottish history, the majority of my romance library is drawn from the Georgian or Regency period.

The social strictures on women and men in those times offer wonderful opportunity for creating characters with complex layers of motivation, endless opportunity for peril and tension, and devious plot twists that showcase clever, desperate, determined heroines and heroes. The rules of the genre generally prevent the main character from indulging in mindless and promiscuous sex, but the motivations of the characters can be shown (within the bounds of their society) to be similar to psychological needs such as those stripped bare in the memoir featured in my last post (usually within 'coming of age' plots).

Romance genre plus 'coming of age' plots may begin with the main character at an immature point and use adversity to demonstrate the character gaining wisdom with experience and moving from a needy self-involved personality to a mature, loving heroine. Other 'coming of age' plots begin with a mature and loving heroine whose coming of age revolves around the main character's sexual awakenings and how they (eventually) successfully integrate their physical needs within their social and psychological needs. What a challenge for a writer to demonstrate, within the historical context of a society that denied 'decent' woman had any sexual needs, and indeed insisted on quite the opposite.

"Married happily ever after" is the usual ending for romance novels, a defining point of the genre, even. I enjoy those endings, and even more, enjoy the creative and unusual paths that my favorite romance authors employ to arrive at an ending that is pretty much known from the beginning. I also like reading the historical details, especially when they include information new to me, and sometimes I have to look up a reference to an obscure event or item. I admire writers who combine excellent historical research with original plots and characters, and who seamlessly include authentic historical details in their setting. One such writer who I previously mentioned is Jo Beverley, and Madeline Hunter is another.

Well, back to packing today. Happy reading, all.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

The Final Frontier

Space. The final frontier, where no man has gone before.

No... not quite. The final frontier is surely the mind, the inner complexity of our thoughts, fears and desires, the root of our actions and obsessions. Does one ever sort it all out? Surely it helps to adopt a philosophy, a point of view, a rational construct of the world and what it all means? But lately I have pondered my life like a mysterious painting, which appears one way from a certain viewpoint, and then reveals an entirely different story from a different perspective.

In high school, I knew a young woman who was determined to become a psychologist. She had a generous nature and a desire to help other people, but she was also motivated by a need to understand herself and her own life better. If I had thought her chosen subject would reveal the answers she sought, I would have joined her quest. Even then I was more of a skeptic, with a sense of humor colored with some dark threads.

This morning I picked up Loose Girl, a Memoir of Promiscuity, by Kerry Cohen, published June 3rd. Kerry is a practicing psychotherapist specializing in treating teen girls addicted to sex. She's also a wife, mother and successful author, and someone who found her way to making a beautiful picture out of what first appears to be a sad and challenging life. I'm still in the midst of reading her book, but recommend it for anyone who wants to understand the underpinnings of our loose sexual culture, or who seeks answers for themselves or their loved ones.

Not everyone will find themselves in Kerry's memoir, but it is good for everyone to understand those who do.