Archive | November, 2008

What Choices We Made by Sandy Lender

14 Nov

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After reading Choices Meant for Gods by Sandy Lender, I was held spellbound. Lender had done the impossible: she had revived the genre of high fantasy and brought it back to life, handling this impossible task with a deft hand and great scope. After reading Choices Meant for Gods, I knew I had read the work of a genius and found it hard to believe that it was her first novel.

Upon hearing of What Choices We Made, I was a little skeptical to read it. A companion book to the trilogy? I was wary of reading it as I was afraid it would take away from the power of Choices Meant for Gods. Thankfully, Sandy Lender is an author who loves to prove me wrong.

What Choices We Made was a sheer delight from start to finish. Not only do we learn more about the land of Onweald, but we get to know and learn more about some of the most amazing characters to grace high fantasy literature in years and, though short, this collection packs a whollop!

We get to visit with Chariss and Hrazon when Chariss is a child and just coming into her powers. We find out what happens when two unsuspecting men are charged with the task of releasing a dragon by order of the wizard Hrazon. We also meet with Gella, a young woman who possesses the Geasa, who must heal a king’s protector from harm and her heart from herself.

The stories in this collection are a rare gift, a look inside an already amazing world. Each story is a gem, a precious jewel, that shines when you read the words Lender has written. She has crafted such wonderful stories that you can’t help but fall in love with the world of Onweald all over again.

Filled with shocks, twists, turns, humour and magic, What Choices We Made is the work of a word artist at the height of her craft. What Choices We Made will leave you wanting more and will fill the need until Choices Meant for Kings, the second book in the epic fantasy trilogy, hits the shelves.

I know that I’ll be reading What Choices We Made again and again. It’s a treasure that deserves to be read.

 

Harry, A History by Melissa Anelli

14 Nov

 

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I am reading the most wonderfully, magnificent, incredible and enjoyable book I have read in ages. It is a breath of fresh air and I’m thrilled that I picked it up. I’m talking about Harry, A History by Melissa Anelli.

I remember the first time I read Harry Potter and The Philosophers Stone.

I had ignored the buzz surrounding Harry Potter for a long time. I remember thinking: No book could possibly be that good. I would see people reading it on the buss, on lunch breaks, line ups. “Bah,” I would say. No book could be that good. And I ignored it still.

I’m not sure why I did now. I must have been annoying about it however because one day, my closest friend at the time handed me something. It was a gift certificate. “What’s this for?” I asked her.

“If you won’t read the damn book, let me buy it for you.” She said.

“Which book?”

“You know damn well which book. You use this gift certificate to buy Harry Potter and The Philosophers Stone and nothing else. Then, if you don’t like it, you didn’t waste any money on it.” She glared at me, daring me to argue. “Alright?”

I remember staring at her, unbelieving, and taking the time to light a cigarette before responding. “The book is that good?”

She nodded. “The best.” She said. “Just read it and you’ll see.”

I did what she said. She and I had the same reading tastes and I figured if she said it was good, it probably was. A small part of me still doubted her. But I went to the bookstore at the mall downtown and picked up a copy of Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone. I hopped on a buss to go home and opened the book to the first page.

I remember being spellbound. I was held in place and all my focus was on the words on the pages in front of me. All that existed for me was Harry. I had found it. I had finally found home in the pages of a book.

I have the same feeling when I read Harry, A History by Melissa Anelli. Perhaps you can already guess at what it’s about.

Anelli, popular web mistress of the award winning The Leaky Cauldron (www.leakynews.com), a superb Harry Potter fan site, has penned a book of what the Harry Potter phenomenon was like from the inside out. She has written a stunning history of JK Rowling, the Harry Potter books and the Boy Who Lived. From the first page, I was pulled into what I knew was going to be a treat. I stopped walking and sat down in the middle of a mall on a hard metal chair, people milling about me, totally immersed in the words I was reading. Harry, A History pulled me in from the first words and didn’t let go.

The writing is lively and invites the reader to sit, to read, to enjoy. It’s lively and engaging and full of fact and tidbits of Harry’s beginnings and it’s first tentative steps and what it felt like for a fan, for any of us, to experience Harry Potter.

More than that though, it’s a beautiful portrait of one woman’s struggle to find herself, to find joy in books and finally, in the end, do something useful. It’s a brilliant, literary page turner about something that brings joy to so many.

I started it last week and I am fifty pages away from finishing the book a second time. Though there were a lot of things I should have done today, there was nothing that I wanted to do more than read Harry, A History.

You can learn more about the book by visiting www.harrahistory.com

If you have ever read Harry Potter, or experienced it’s life beyond the printed page, you will want to read Harry, A History. Trust me on this. I can’t afford to give out gift certificates to all of you; so you’re just going to have to take my word for it, okay?

Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Philips

14 Nov

 

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What would happen if the Greek Gods of myth actually existed? What would happen if the Gods lived among us? How would they exist? What would they do? And would people still believe in them?

This is the premise for Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Philips. 

The novel is a sheer delight and has cured me of my book reading blues. It tells the story of what would happen if all the former gods were forgotten and lived amongst mortals.

There’s Artemis, Goddess of hunting, now a dog walker. Aphrodite, Goddess of Beauty, now a phone sex operator. There’s Apollo, God of the Sun, now a cheesy telephone physic. Zeus is bedridden and is guarded by Hera. Persephone lives in the Underworld with Hades, finding live above ground tiresome.

All the Greek Gods of myths gone by are still alive. But their power is dwindling. They are growing older and, Artemis fears, they may soon dies. So they live in a dilapidated old house, existing for hundreds of years, bored by their life.  

All that changes, however, when a cleaner named Alice comes into their lives and turns them all upside-down in a heartbeat….

Gods Behaving Badly is one of the most amazingly funny books I have read all year. Not only is it a tale supremely told, it’s a interesting look at the way we interact with each other and how others, immortals lets say, would perceive us.

It’s also a heck of a fun read and, suffice it to say that it’s one of the best novels I’ve ever read. It’s funny, charming, delightful and, somehow, makes those divine being seem incredibly human.

If you haven’t picked up your copy, please do. It will satisfy any reader and leave you wanting more from the talented, wonderful Marie Philips.

Bag of Bones by Stephen King

14 Nov

 

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I am enjoying what I think is perhaps Stephen King’s best novel, ever.

The opinion on Stephen King’s best work differs depending on who you talk to; but for me, it will always be Bag of Bones.

It’s the one novel of Kings that I’ve read more than any other (nine times) and each time it’s just as wonderful and beautiful and engaging as it was the first time I opened up my hardcover copy ten years ago.

I think it was the beginning of King moving away from horror and toward a more literary style of writing. Hearts in Atlantis, Lisey’s Story and Duma Key (his most literary works) would come later, but Bag of Bones was the beginning of something, the capturing of time in the pages of a book.

I remember when I first read Stephen King’s Bag of Bones. I was on welfare at the time and living in a boarding house with nine other people. It was this big sprawling Victorian house that still had the servants quarters in the attic and the servants stairs to the kitchen. I remember going to the bookstore early in the morning and spending more money than I had on the book.

Even though it was fall, I sat outside on the front porch of the big old house and opened my book to the first page. I remember smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee; but I don’t remember much else except the words.

It was the words, the language that transported me.

I had thought that I was going to read a story of a writer haunted by ghosts. In a sense, that’s what the book was about. But in reality, Bag of Bones was and is about a man haunted by himself, haunted by the past.

It was the most beautiful book by King that I had ever read. I felt for and ached for Mike Noonan, newly widowed writer of thriller novels. Newly struggling with a writers block so intense that he could not write a word.

I remember thinking when I brought that book home that it was so big, that it was huge. That it would take me forever to finish it (and thus worth the fourty some dollars I had spent on it).

The book lasted me three days.

Three glorious days where I was held spellbound, enraptured, in rapture. Bag of Bones for me was more than a novel. It was a gift. While reading Bag of Bones, I realized that I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to see if I could write something as good as Bag of Boens.

I’m still trying.

That hardcover copy was lent out, only to be lent out to someone else. It was lost to me, never to be seen again. And so, when the book came out in paperback, I bought a copy. I read that copy twice a year for many years, always saving it for a dark, rainy day. It somehow seemed appropriate, reading Bag of Bones when the rain was falling down around me.

It would call to me on my shelf, begging to be read. I swear I could hear the book sigh with contentment when I took it off the shelf and held it in my hands.

Not learning my lesson the first time, I lent it out to someone who either lost it or lent it out to someone else. It was never clear what happened to the book. Suffice it to say that I felt like I had lost a part of me. After all, it was Bag of Bones that showed me what I wanted to do with my life.

It’s been a couple years since I’ve read Bag of Bones. So imagine my surprise when I saw a trade paperback edition on the shelves in the bookstore yesterday.

I had no reason being in the bookstore. I had little money but, when I saw Bag of Bones, sitting there nestled in between other paperbacks, I thought again of when I had first read the novel. I looked at the cover: 10th Anniversary Edition.

Ten years? That couldn’t be right, I thought. It can’t have been ten years. But I counted back and indeed it has been. Time flies when you’re having fun. I picked up the book and stroked the cover lightly, letting the memories flood back into my consciousness.

It was not lost on me that I found myself in much the same situation as I did ten years ago: Staring at the gorgeous white cover with little money to my name but knowing that I would leave the store a few dollars poorer but all the more richer with that book under my arm.

And what a book it is. Bag of Bones reads as fresh ten years later as it did ten years past. What I love most about the novel, I think, is its gothic nature. Mike Noonan, trying to find the power to write again by delving into his past. As a writer myself, I identify with Mike, with his struggle. With his search for peace.

There is some bonus material enclosed: we get to read an interview about why Stephen King wrote Bag of Bones and learn a bit more about what he thinks of the novel. We also get a short story, The Cat From Hell, from Kings upcoming collection of short stories Just After Sunset which will hit the shelves on November 11th.

But for me, it’s not the bonus material (though great it is) that makes the new edition of Bag of Bones so incredible. For me, then and now, it’s about the story, the language, the power of words and redemption from the ghosts of your past.

For, in the end, we are all bags of bones.