Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Zan-Gah and the Beautiful Country by Allan Richard Shickman

     The volcanic turbulence that shakes Dael's mind carries him to vicious extremes. It is Zan's task to calm his brother and lead him away from thoughts both destructive and self-destructive. But even the paradise of the Beautiful Country will not erase them.
--Taken from the Earthshaker Books website

     This novel was just as interesting as its predecessor, but in a different way. It focused more on the relations between the people of the Ba-Coro than on the adventures Zan had. We learned about Sparrow, Morda, Siraka-Finaka, and many more of the characters who played minor roles in the first book.
     The only complaint I have is about the way it ended. It seemed as if Shickman wrapped it up a little too quickly because it just wasn't very believable. None the less, I truly enjoy his writing skills. He puts you in the world of the novel with such ease! Even if you don't fully understand, or like, the characters, you can't help but relate with them just a bit.
     Dael, in particular, played a bigger part in the goings-on of this book. I was just as confused by his behavior as I was in the last book. I understand that he went through absolutely horrendous trials, but I still don't see how that could cause him to be, well, a horrendous person. Everyone goes through difficult times. Granted, his difficult times lasted for about two entire years, but that doesn't give him the right to act so cruelly. In my own personal opinion, he was a slight bit hypocritical. He hated the people who tortured him, and yet he was more than willing to do the same to others.
     I felt bad for Zan. He wanted so badly to have the brother he once knew back again. After all, he had gone through his own perils to rescue Dael. Despite all of his desperate attempts to help his brother regain his old self, it just wasn't meant to be. Once Dael lost his beautiful wife and child, it was all over for him. Even his small amount of happiness was gone. Zan didn't know how to fix that. He couldn't very well bring Lissa back from the dead. Not only were these difficulties on his mind, but so were his problems with the always amazing Pax. All of this Zan handled with compassion.
     Pax was just great. She, along with Siraka-Finaka, took feminism to a new level. Pax had hunting skills better than most men and Siraka-Finaka just had a bearing about her that gave her a sort of authority. I admired both of them for their wisdom and their kindly natures.
     I cannot wait for the next book! This one was so good! Allan Shickman is a talented writer. He brings the words to life and creates stories that you want to read.
     Rating: 6.5-7
*The fact that I received this book from the author did not influence my opinion of it in any way. This was my honest review.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Zan-Gah: A Prehistoric Adventure by Allan Richard Shickman

     A bad conscience and concern for Dael, his missing brother, cause Zan to begin a search which will lead him to captivity, conflict, love, and victory. In a time of war, the hero goes from an uncertain boyhood to a tried and proven manhood, and a role of leadership among his people.
     It's about survival, discovery, a long search, and a good fight.
--from the Earthshaker Books website

     I was enthralled by this book. At first, I thought it would be a bit childish, just because of the cover, but it really isn't. The language gives you a feel of being in ancient times, as does the plot itself, obviously. Shickman must have put a lot of thought into how to make this adventure come to life!
     Zan is just an ordinary kid in a prehistoric world. He lost his twin brother, Dael, and though life has gone on, he misses his best friend. I admire Zan's determination to find his brother and his willingness to leave behind all that he knows to rescue Dael. He shows amazing strength in bringing the clans together and enduring all that he is put through.
     I was so disappointed when we finally met Dael. He was far from the person built up in my imagination. Zan's view of him, and everyone else's actually, made him out to be a great person. Yet he is far from the person they once loved. Zan describes a meek, caring kid, but Dael is a withdrawn, disturbed young man now. Whatever he went through must have been beyond torture.
    Aniah seems so amazing and wise! He reminds me of a kindly grandpa, which, I suppose, he is. Despite his great status among the clans, Aniah is far from perfect and he doesn't try to hide the fact. He accepts who he is, which just adds to his aura of intelligence. I'd have to say he is one of the best minor characters I have met in a while.
     I really enjoyed this book. It had an amazing plot line and an awesome world. The Beautiful Country sounded so neat! I kind of wish I could see it for myself, maybe go swimming in the pristine lake. The different peoples that Shickman created in his story were fascinating as well. He really made interesting, deep characters that had entire backgrounds of their own. They could have stood alone, without the great plot, and still been great characters.
     Somehow, Shickman was able to turn the prehistoric era into a fascinating story of peril, growing up, the bond between family, and all that this encompasses. Zan-Gah was well-written and worth reading!
     Rating: 7.5
*The fact that I received this book from the author did not influence my opinion of it in any way. This was my honest review.

Friday, March 4, 2011

The King's Rose by Alisa M. Libby

     For some reason, I keep forgetting to push the publish button on a lot of my posts. I thought I had this scheduled for a while ago, but I guess not...
     Appointed to the queen’s household at the age of fourteen, Catherine Howard is not long at court before she catches the eye of King Henry VIII. The king is as enchanted with Catherine as he is disappointed with his newest wife — the German princess Anne of Cleves. Less than a year from her arrival at court, Catherine becomes the fifth wife of the overwhelmingly powerful, if aging, King of England.
     Caught up in a dazzling whirl of elaborate celebrations, rich gowns and royal jewels, young Catherine is dizzied by the absolute power that the king wields over his subjects. But does becoming the king’s wife make her safe above all others, or put her in more danger? Catherine must navigate the conspiracies, the silent enemies, the king’s unpredictable rages, as well as contend with the ghosts of King Henry’s former wives: the abandoned Catherine of Aragon, the tragic Jane Seymour, and her own cousin, the beheaded Anne Boleyn. The more Catherine learns about court, the more she can see the circles of danger constricting around her, the threats ever more dire.
--Alisa Libby's website

     This is what makes me love historical fiction. It was so vivid and real. Libby is a very talented writer for being able to bring history to life as she did in this novel.
     The characters said and did things that I could actually imagine the real Catherine or King Henry do. Catherine is a timid child to begin with, but she grows throughout the book. She grows into a woman through the trials of being Queen. This may not seem so terrible, but nothing is ever as it seems. She had responsibilities just as anyone else does and she had to bear the largest burden of all: pleasing the King. I think Catherine was a great character. She wasn't so naive as to believe that she could trust everyone, but at the same time she didn't try to seclude herself.
     Henry is an aging King. He isn't quite sure what to do to keep his position and status with his people. They are slipping away from him after all the years he has ruled. So, he turns to his
newest distraction: Catherine. I'm not quite sure how I felt about him. On one hand, I wanted to hate him. Knowing what I do about King Henry the Eigth (albeit very little), I was disgusted with his merciless actions towards women he supposedly loved. On the other hand, I could feel his desperation to have an heir to the throne.
     The plot of the novel was wonderful! It moved fast enough, but not too quickly, and of course it was interesting. I liked that we got to see Catherine's day-to-day activities and such. I could picture her chambers and the gardens. I could see her sneaking out late at night by the light of the moon to see... nope, can't tell you that. Her dresses sounded so beautiful! I also wish I could have heard her playing the lute in real life. It was just a very insightful book. Everything was imagined in detail and you can tell the author took great care to SHOW and not tell what happened.
     Rating: 8.5

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Lou Aronica

     Lou Aronica, author of Blue and several other novels, has graciously agreed to do an interview. His book was absolutely amazing and I'm glad I got the chance to know him better. I hope you enjoy the interview...


1. What inspired you to write Blue? Were there any specific events that led to your writing it?

     Interestingly, the thing that inspired me to write Blue was the fact that my oldest child was going away to college and I was worried about losing her. I realized that no one would want to read a novel about this, so I turned everything into a metaphor. My imagination just took over after that.

2. How did you create the fantasy land of Tamarisk? The names you came up with for some of the creatures were interesting, but how did you think of them? I have never heard of a wacasassa before...
     Before I started writing, I had a long history as a publisher, and my first serious job in the industry was as running the science fiction and fantasy line for Bantam and founding their Spectra imprint. I have a great deal of affection for the genre, but I often thought the way writers chose names left a good deal to be desired. When I decided to invent a world in Blue one of the first things I decided was that I would have a rational naming convention. Therefore, all of the characters are named after plants that represent them in some way (this is true for all characters, not just the Tamarisk characters), the places are named after explorers, the food is named after accomplished chefs, the trees and plants were named after US national forests, and the wildlife is named after US wildlife preserves. Waccasassa Bay Preserve State Park is on the west coast of Florida.

3. Family relationships play into the events of Blue quite a bit. Is family something that is important to you?
     Gigantically important, which is why I was so freaked out about my daughter going to college in the first place. Family meals and little traditions are a big part of our lives, and I didn't want to see that go away. As it turns out, I had nothing to fear. It took me so long to write Blue that she's actually finished with college and living nearby. We didn't lose her at all.

4. Becky, Chris, and Miea are amazing, dynamic characters. What was the inspiration for them? Do any of your characters represent people in your own life?
     Several people have wondered if Blue is autobiographical. Just about nothing in the novel actually happened to me or anyone I know. However, I do consider it to be an "emotional autobiography" in that I felt or experienced with others most of the emotions that happen in the novel. Similarly, Becky shares many of the characteristics of my oldest daughter, though none of the circumstances, and Chris is very much a mouthpiece for me, though our experiences are very different. Miea is an amalgam of several people.

5. Which of your lovely characters would you say is most like you? Why?
     Without question, Chris. Chris is in an endless state of trying to figure things out, and I absolutely share that with him.

6. Did you have a favorite part of Blue that was most fun to write?
     The scenes between Becky and Chris after she learns she can travel to Tamarisk were the most fun for me because I loved the way the two of them sparked together. I also had a great time writing the extended scene where Becky goes on her first waccasassa ride, as it allowed me to show a great deal about Tamarisk in a short stretch.

7. If you could travel to another time period, where would you go?
     I wouldn't go far because I would miss too much of what we have in the world now. I'm not sure I'd want to be anywhere that didn't have the internet, molecular gastronomy, and The Decemberists for very long. That said, I think I would have loved to have been a young adult in the early sixties. There was so much possibility then, and I think I would have embraced those opportunities.

8. Is there anything else you might like to share about yourself, Blue, or the writing process?
     Nothing other than to say that I'm extremely interested in what others think about the themes in Blue. If anyone wants to discuss them with me, they can reach me at