Press Release...


…yes, press release, in a literal sense. Today, February 11, 2016 marks the official launch of Raven Eye Press. Pop goes the cork. Champagne time!

(If the technical details matter, read about the press itself on the About page.)

Why today? Because it has happened:  I’ve re-released the digital versions of the Falcons Saga! I grabbed the polish and the buffing brush and shined them up a bit. Each of the three books has had a few typos fixed and some inconsistencies and phrasings revised. And Blood of the Falcon, volume 2 is now available as Sword of the Falcon, with an all-new cover.



Ain’t that pretty?

Better! If all goes well, Cry of the Falcon will be available for download this weekend. If that’s the case, then I nailed my Valentine’s release date. Woot! "Celebrate good times, c’mon!"

Print versions will be available before the end of the month, I hope. I’m having some trouble with CreateSpace and titling, but maybe we can have that ironed out soon. Crossing fingers. If not, I’ll be ranting and raving, and you’ll hear all about it.

But let’s leave the bad news and muddy shoes at the door. Today I am celebrating the opening of REP, my falcon kings, and my twins. Have some more champagne, on me.



REVIEW: The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss



Blurb:

"Deep below the University, there is a dark place. Few people know of it: a broken web of ancient passageways and abandoned rooms. A young woman lives there, tucked among the sprawling tunnels of the Underthing, snug in the heart of this forgotten place.

"Her name is Auri, and she is full of mysteries.

"The Slow Regard of Silent Things is a brief, bittersweet glimpse of Auri’s life, a small adventure all her own. At once joyous and haunting, this story offers a chance to see the world through Auri’s eyes. And it gives the reader a chance to learn things that only Auri knows....

"In this book, Patrick Rothfuss brings us into the world of one of The Kingkiller Chronicle’s most enigmatic characters. Full of secrets and mysteries, The Slow Regard of Silent Things is the story of a broken girl trying to live in a broken world."

Review:

While eagerly awaiting Day 3 of Patrick Rothfuss's The Kingkiller Chronicles, I hunted down a copy of Slow Regard, thinking it was Day 3 (shows how much I did my research, eh?). I saw the book sitting on the shelf at Barnes & Noble and thought, "That is waaaay too skinny to be a proper conclusion to Kvothe's adventures. Gasp. So what treasure is this?"

Treasure, indeed. As the blurb indicates, this novella focuses on Auri, the girl who lives beneath the University featured in The Kingkiller Chronicles. Auri happens to be one of my favorite characters in the series, maybe even one of my favorite characters ever written. Right alongside Tyrion and Samwise. So when I saw that this slender volume was all about Auri, I snatched it up and devoured it the first chance I got.

The Slow Regard of Silent Things is not a typical story. Even Mr. Rothfuss explains in the Author's Endnote, "It doesn't do the things a story is supposed to do. A story should have dialog, action, conflict. A story should have more than one character." Well, it doesn't, and the story works magnificently. The conflict, the tension, comes from a race against time. Auri has only six days until her friend returns for a visit. Everything must be just so in Auri's world, and if something is out of place, she must find a proper place, and if she cannot, her brokenness surfaces in very convincing panic attacks.

In truth, I was hoping for some spoilers, hoping for some insight into Auri's past, who she was before she was broken, how she came to be broken, what she knows that might help Kvothe the Bloodless in his search for the villains who ... (no spoilers, if you've read the series, you know what I almost let slip). While I was disappointed that the novella didn't cough up any of these secrets (maybe just a hint about Auri's past), it was still a delight to explore this strange, magical girl's day-to-day and the facets of her unique and shattered mind. I learned that Auri is obsessive-compulsive, and that she's a Namer. Two things I hadn't realized while reading the novels (how I missed the latter, I don't know).

The real treasure, however, is Auri's voice. The trove of words found in this book, many of them made up, left my mouth feeling full of moonlight and unicorns. Seriously. The language Rothfuss speaks through Auri is magical and so very appropriate. The mashed-up syllables all work beautifully together, and bring to mind the word-magic of Lewis Carroll. Only, Auri's word-magic is actually decipherable.

And let's not forget the illustrations. Yes! This book is illustrated. Nate Taylor's sketches depict the things that Auri slowly regards in lovely detail. Honestly, without the illustrations, I might've had trouble imagining the brazen gear and the steamworks running through the tunnels. They brought the pages to life.

Conclusion:

The Slow Regard of Silent Things is poetry and a meandering exploration of a world underground. Your host is shy, selfless, reclusive, and creative. Bring Auri a gift, tell her what's inside it, and she'll lead you into her world, and in her world, a sewer, a boiler room, an abandoned brothel become places of wonder.

In short, it's been a while since a story has enchanted me from beginning to end. Hell, even the Author's Endnote had me sniffling. Yes, broken. Me too.

Rating:


5/5 Magic Wands



The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss is published by DAW Books, 2014. It is available at Amazon and all major book retailers and at your local library.

REVIEW: The Map of Time by Felix J. Palma


Blurb:
Characters real and imaginary come vividly to life in this whimsical triple play of intertwined plots, in which a skeptical H. G. Wells is called upon to investigate purported incidents of time travel and to save lives and literary classics, including Dracula and The Time Machine, from being wiped from existence.

—Amazon

Review:

This spring I was on a desperate hunt for new authors to explore and happened upon what looked like a Steampunk novel sitting on the literary fiction shelves. “What’s that doing here?” I asked and picked up a copy to examine (yes, I judged a book by its cover, and I’m glad I did). The ensuing adventure was more than I expected.

Several elements of this novel struck me as noteworthy. That “whimsical triple play of intertwined plots” is the first. One of the main reasons I have not attempted to write a time travel story is the complex plotting that must surely be involved. The Map of Time provides an intimidating example of exactly that.

Part 1 centers on Andrew Harrington, a wealthy young man who has fallen in love with a prostitute from Whitechapel. As the names of characters and setting were gradually revealed, I began to cringe. History recap: Victorian England + prostitute + Whitechapel = Jack the Ripper. “Oh, Lord,” I groaned, anticipating what must surely be coming, “is this a Jack the Ripper story?” I hadn’t bargained for this. I was expecting steam engines and, well, time travel, not a plot involving the most notorious serial killer of all time. Indeed, Andrew Harrington turns to H.G. Wells for help, hoping to travel back in time to save his beloved from the Ripper’s blades.

Part 2, fortunately, moves away from the gore, and brings us to Claire Haggerty, a proper lady who is wholly disgusted with her life and the stifling mores of Victorian society. When she hears of an opportunity to travel to the year 2000, she eagerly jumps on board. In the future, she finds the man of her dreams. But can she keep him without irreparably damaging the fabric of time? Only the author of The Time Machine, who must be an expert on the subject of the time continuum, can help the lovers find a solution.

In Part 3 … well, I won’t give spoilers. Suffice to say that in this gripping conclusion, H.G. Wells must make the most difficult decision imaginable. It involves a letter from his future self, three famous novelists, and a heat ray gun. Which thread in the time continuum will Wells choose? Or is choice ultimately irrelevant?

That brings us to the second aspect of the novel that impressed me: the science of time travel. This is another reason I haven’t attempted to write a time travel story. The possible loops in time and splits in universes are just too big for my brain to fully comprehend. Some of Palma’s explanations and theories I just had to swallow because puzzling them out in my head threatened to make me dizzy. There are far too many fans of time travel for Palma to explore the theories and problems in any way he chooses. Had Palma done so, those fans and theorists would be able to call him out. Given to my own limited education on the subject, there’s nothing to criticize him for, and therefore, the story and its conclusions remain believable.

The third noteworthy aspect might have made an impression on me merely because I write. Through his rendering of H.G. Wells, Palma beautifully expresses insights into a writer’s life and psyche:

“…no other pleasure Wells could think of gave him a greater sense of well-being than when he added the final full stop to a novel. This culminating act always filled him with a  sense of giddy satisfaction born of the certainty that nothing he could achieve in life could fulfill him more than writing a novel, no matter how tedious, difficult, and thankless he found the task, for Wells was one of those writers who detest writing but love ‘having written.’ … 

"… for Wells the act of writing was much like a struggle, a bloodthirsty battle with an idea that refuses to be seized.” (p. 534)

And:

“He was back at the point of departure, at the place that filled writers with dread and excitement, for this was where they must decide which new story to tackle… At that moment, before reverently committing the first word to paper, he could write anything he wanted, and this fired his blood with a powerful sense of freedom, as wonderful as it was fleeting, for he knew it would vanish the moment he chose one story and sacrificed all the others.” (p. 676)

“That’s it, exactly!” I kept saying. Never before have I read explanations of what it’s like to be a writer in such clear, powerful language.

The only drawback I was able to pinpoint in the novel was that the ending seemed a bit drawn-out. I can’t go into detail without spoiling things, but suffice to say that I understand the reason that the mundane must follow the extraordinary, and so there lies the ending’s redemption.

Conclusion:

People have been fascinated with the idea of time travel ever since it was explored in Wells’ novel over a century ago. Palma takes what has since become a common science fiction theme back to its literary source and winds a whole new adventure around it, turning H.G Wells himself into an unlikely hero. More, the novel is exquisitely translated from the Spanish. My standards of competent language are quite high, and this novel does not disappoint on that count either. Nick Caistor, the translator, and presumably Palma himself manage to present the story in language as it would have been written at the turn of the 19th Century.

And so, The Map of Time impresses me on many different levels. I recommend the book to anyone interested in time travel, adventure, and fine writing.


Rating:


5 of 5 magic wands


Find The Map of Time at AmazonB&N, and many other booksellers.

The Map of Time, Book 1 of Victorian Trilogy (Trilogia Victoriana) by Felix J. Palma is published by Algaida Spain as El Mapa del Tiempo, 2009. English translation published by Simon and Schuster, 2011.

REVIEW: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Includes minor spoilers (or almost-spoilers).



Blurb:

"It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will become busier still.

"Liesel Meminger is a foster girl living outside of Munich, who scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can't resist--books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement."

Review:

An unforgettable experience. Unique in so many ways. It's been a while since I've read a book that I did not want to put down, that I set aside whole afternoons to devour.

*** Newsflash ***

This book will earn 5 of 5 magic wands.

No surprise there, given my preamble. At LegendFire, we writers discuss books. What else does one do at a writing forum? Over the past few years the title The Book Thief kept cropping up. I was like, yeah, but I've never heard of Markus Zusak, and because I'm one of those scaredy-cats who rarely ventures out of her comfort zone, I didn't bother looking for the book.

Until this autumn.

*** A Lesson Learned ***

Reach out, take a chance,
pull the book off the shelf,
experience something new
and extraordinary.

I finally told myself, "Self, you have got to expand your horizons. Go to the bookstore and pick out several books by authors you've never read before." Zusak was the first author I reached for. When I read the first couple of pages and discovered who our narrator was going to be for the long haul, I rolled my eyes. "How gimmicky," I said. Yes, I said it aloud. My fear was that the book was going to be cheesy, an author trying too hard to tell an old story in a new way, and I wondered if I would be able to stick with it.

*** A gimmick ***

Death himself is the narrator.

I'm always ecstatic when my fears are proved to be unfounded. It was Zusak's startling, poetic writing style (I learned new ways to use verbs, for one) and the glimpses of our young book thief that kept me reading for the next few pages. And soon even the narrator won me over. Death is troubled by humanity. How can humans be so beautiful and so horrendous, so good to one another and so cruel? How can they keep getting up when their wounds are so deep? He is tired of war; he is tired of plucking souls from bombed-out basements and battlefields. But every once in a while he crosses paths with a human who gives him hope. One such person is the book thief. Their paths cross too many times during the early years of World War II, and every time, the book thief is able to distract Death from his tiresome and disheartening duty.

Eventually, it becomes clear that Death's struggle to understand humanity, his desperate and jaded search for some redeeming qualities are as much a part of the story as the book thief's struggle to learn how to read, her discovery of the detrimental power of words, the saving power of words, and her friendship with the Jew hiding in her basement.

Conclusion:

I could go on and on about what makes this book memorable, but short and sweet is best these days. If you can stand a heartbreaking story, grab a copy, grab the box of tissues, and settle in for a remarkable journey.

Obviously, others thought the same. The movie version was released this year. I suppose I shall add it to my to-watch list. Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson among the cast? Yep, I'm sold.

Rating:

5 of 5 magic wands, as was foreshadowed...



*** An apology ***
For stealing Death's narrative inserts for this review
and reviewing a book that is several years old.
Comfort zones cause one to miss out.



REVIEW: The Perfect Player by Devon Winterson



Blurb:

"A forbidden tryst exposes a threat and sets a secret plan in motion, and twenty-year-old Marisa of Mynae discovers her life is all a lie. But even as a cryptic journal reveals her true purpose and a trail of hoofprints leads her to a demon renegade, Marisa balks at fate’s course until evil devours her people and imperils her father’s life. Only then does she learn what it takes to play – and win – a deadly game of predator versus prey." 

Review:

I had the privilege of reading a pre-release copy of Devon Winterson’s debut novel, The Perfect Player, which is due out on November 11, 2013—or, as I’m sure Devon would say, “On the eleventh day of the eleventh month at the eleventh hour.” Devon is a moderator at Writer’s Beat, an online community for writers, and her often hilarious and witty anecdotes and gracious interviews of indie authors can be found at her blog, The Ether of My Imagination.

As with all indie books I read, I started The Perfect Player as a skeptic, but soon became a believer. Granted, the hook in this dark fantasy comes a bit late. I didn’t feel fully engaged in the story until Marisa’s “crazy” mother makes an appearance toward the end of Chapter 2. After that point, there were times when the story was so intense that I could not put my Kindle down. While I read, I’m sure my eyes were bulging out.  

What I loved most about The Perfect Player were the layers of history and backstory woven into the plot. I kept saying to myself, “Wow, this is really complex.” The life Marisa thinks she is being prepared for is only a fa├žade masking what really happened in the lives of her parents, and even events as far back as the creation of the world. These secret events provide a delectable puzzle to be worked out, both by the reader and Marisa herself.

Now, I did find some of my pet peeves in the writing style, and on occasion, the villains and the heroine speak lines that are just short of original in flavor. But most of the time, Devon’s writing is poetic, powerful, and rife with treats to the senses. She has painted a vivid world in which Marisa walks through lavender grasses with bare feet and drinks scented, opalescent elixir instead of water. Her characters soon spring off the page, full of flaws, complexity, hidden motives, and deep unfulfilled desires.

One of the most rewarding elements is that none of these characters are safe, not even the heroes we come to love. Unexpected twists and sudden loss make The Perfect Player a page-turner. Who will survive until The End? You’ll want to add this debut novel to your to-read list and find out on the eleventh day of the eleventh month at the eleventh hour.

I give The Perfect Player 4 out of 5 magic wands:


Purchasing information: The Perfect Player available on Amazon, in print and for the Kindle.
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REVIEW: Wool by Hugh Howey




I have jumped on the Wool bandwagon. It's rare that a self-published book keeps me reading to the end, but Wool by Hugh Howey managed to pull it off.

A full review of this post-apocalyptic novella is up at The Bearded Scribe. I usually like to write a second version of these reviews to post on my own blog, but time is a luxury these days, so I invite you to head over to Joshua's fabulous blog and read the review there.

Blurb:

"Thousands of them have lived underground. They've lived there so long, there are only legends about people living anywhere else. Such a life requires rules. Strict rules. There are things that must not be discussed. Like going outside. Never mention you might like going outside.

Or you'll get what you wish for. "

In Brief:

Suffice to say that this short read does not disappoint. There is a good reason why it has attracted the attention of Simon & Schuster and 20th Century Fox. If I'm any judge, we'll be seeing a lot more of Wool and its talented author Hugh Howey. Check it out for yourself. The download at Amazon is currently free.

I give Wool 4 out of 5 magic wands.


Anyone who has followed Wordweaver for a while knows I'm a sucker for great art. Check out these other gorgeous covers for Wool:

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REVIEW: 19 Varieties of Gazelle by Naomi Shihab Nye





In celebration of National Poetry Month, how could I not write a review of my favorite book of poems?

Blurb:

"Fowzi, who beats everyone at dominoes; Ibtisam, who wanted to be a doctor; Abu Mahmoud, who knows every eggplant and peach in his West Bank garden; mysterious Uncle Mohammed, who moved to the mountain; a girl in a red sweater dangling a book bag; children in velvet dresses who haunt the candy bowl at the party; Baba Kamalyari, age 71; Mr. Dajani and his swans; Sitti Khadra, who never lost her peace inside.

"Maybe they have something to tell us.

"Naomi Shihab Nye has been writing about being Arab-American, about Jerusalem, about the West Bank, about family all her life."

Review: 

19 Varieties of Gazelle, was released in 2002, months after the attack on the World Trade Center. The collection is clearly close to the heart of poet Naomi Shihab Nye, who was born to a Palestinian immigrant and grew up in both San Antonio, Texas, and the Old City in Jerusalem.

I cannot state it more clearly: I love this book of poems. It's the book I keep on my nightstand and read morsel by morsel in stolen moments when I can stand to have my heart broken and seek to have my spirit lifted by the nobility of day-to-day human existence. These sixty poems are simple and profound. They draw tears from me and put my heart in my throat every time I read them. The words, the images bring people of a far-away culture right into the room with me, and they are not alien but familiar, not "those people" on the other side of the planet, but neighbors. Each poem is a snapshot that shows you details that you wouldn't have seen otherwise. And suddenly the barriers are gone.

It's no wonder that this remarkable collection was a National Book Award Finalist. I love poet William Stafford's statement that "reading her work enhances life." Yes, that's it exactly.

I give a blazing five magic wands to Nye's 19 Varieties of Gazelle:


(some of the proceeds from the sale of this book go to Seeds of Peace)

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REVIEW: Wild Cards I by George RR Martin, ed.





Blurb:
“There is a secret history of the world—a history in which an alien virus struck the Earth in the aftermath of World War II, endowing a handful of survivors with extraordinary powers. Some were called Aces—those with superhuman mental and physical abilities. Others were termed Jokers—cursed with bizarre mental or physical disabilities. Some turned their talents to the service of humanity. Others used their powers for evil. Wild Cards is their story.”

Review:
When I became a George RR Martin fan some years ago, I kept hearing Wild Card this and Wild Card that, but couldn’t figure out what the hype was about. When Wild Cards: Inside Straight, the seventeenth installment in the series, came out in 2008, I ran out and grabbed a copy. But I still didn’t see what the big deal was. For instance, I found myself asking the same question that opens Inside Straight: “Who the f—k was Jetboy?”

This wouldn’t do at all. I tried to track down a copy of volume one in the series, only to learn that the book was no longer in print. ‘How can a popular series no longer have volume one?’ I asked, highly disappointed. So when Martin announced on his Not A Blog that the book had been re-released and that the ebook was temporarily on sale, I whooped and hollered, grabbed my Kindle and downloaded a copy. I was in for one wild ride…

Originally published in 1986, the first installment of Wild Cards was a collection of 10 stories and several interludes that followed a timeline from the virus’s release in September 1946, up through the social changes of the 50s, 60s, and 70s, all filtered through the lenses of those who suffered the virus.

With its re-release in 2010, the original stories are joined by 3 new tales that enhance the early progression of the Wild Card virus. Michael Cassutt’s contribution, “Captain Cathode and the Secret Ace,” describes the fear in Hollywood after McCarthy’s Communist trials in the 50s, but with a twist. The HUAC hearings not only targeted suspected Communists, but aces as well. “Powers,” by David D. Levine, goes inside the CIA as a secret ace strives to save a kidnapped spy while trying to remain anonymous. And Carrie Vaughn explores Jokertown and the 80s club scene in “Ghost Girl Takes Manhattan.”

The progression of stories not only touches on well-known historical and social events, but also on phobias. The kind of phobia that comes to dictate how we treat our neighbors who look differently or live differently from what is deemed “normal.” The authors managed to weave this common and dangerous paranoia into the action until it becomes the predominant theme by the end.

Conclusion:
Wild Cards I provides my first run-in with a collaborative work on this scale. While reading, I was continuously astounded by how these authors managed to pool characters and information into an elaborate patchwork that forms a dramatic, cohesive whole. Though the book may be most accessible to readers who have some knowledge of the events that marked the last half of the 20th Century, I think the bizarre elements found in these stories will appeal to a new generation of sci-fi fans.

I give Wild Cards I five out of five magic wands:

(I’m also rating this book Mature, due to language and sexual situations)

For another review on Wild Cards I, visit Book Spotlights at The Bearded Scribe
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REVIEW: The Last Unicorn, Graphic Novel, by Peter S. Beagle


Well, it's now official. I am a guest blogger for The Bearded Scribe. For the record, I do not have a beard, but apparently Joshua Mercier does. He and I met via LegendFire, when he became a member there and he then proceeded to ask me if he could interview me. Remember that one a few weeks back?

Anyway, I'm getting to return the favor by offering book reviews for The Bearded Scribe. My first humble offering is a review of the graphic novel version of Peter S. Beagle's The Last Unicorn. The blog features frequent Book Spotlights by other reviewers as well, along with posts focusing on reading and writing the fantasy genre. Hop on over there and check it out!

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