Monday, April 14, 2014

MMGM: Ondelle of Grioth, by Danika Dinsmore

I'm excited today to announce a book launch that's happening tomorrow: local author Danika Dinsmore is launching the third book in her Faerie Tales from the White Forest series.

I reviewed the first two books here and here. Ondelle of Grioth continues the story of Brigitta, young faerie of the White Forest who has a large destiny on her small shoulders. The fate of the White Forest is at stake, but no one believes Brigitta is carrying Elder Ondelle's memories and knowledge. Brigitta is sure she knows how to prevent the coming crisis, but if no one will listen to her she'll have to take matters into her own hands. Again.

Danika has created a complex, believable world full of fun, tangible details. Her faerie society and mythology are entirely original, giving surprising depth and texture to sparkly little people with wings. (I've never been much of a faerie fan, but I can get behind the White Forest faeries!) Ondelle of Grioth adds to our understanding of the mythology and sees Brigitta struggling more as she realizes the extent of the burden laid on her by Ondelle.

In celebration of Ondelle's imminent launch, Danika agreed to answer a bunch of random questions, in which we discover her rabid Dr. Who fandom, her deep and wide-ranging love of poetry, and her eclectic desk decorating scheme:

1. Brigitta carries the memories of Ondelle with her, and they surface whenever she needs to learn a piece of knowledge. If you could choose someone's memories and knowledge to carry with you, who would it be? (Fictional or real)

Hands down, Doctor Who! (although that might completely blow my puny human mind)

2. Brigitta travels through a lot of inhospitable wilderness on her adventures. What sorts of wilderness have you travelled through? Are you more of a city girl or an outdoor adventurer? 

I like adventures of all shapes and sizes, although I used to spend a lot more time in the actual wilderness and traveling to offbeat places. I’m game for a live transmedia experience or a day in snow shoes. My husband and I like to bike-camp whenever we can.

3. What's on your desk right now?

Ummmm…. stuff? I actually have a very large desk. “L” shaped. It’s probably never moving from my office because it weighs a ton. 

I have an IN box, which I’ve realized I should change to an OUT box, because nothing ever leaves it. 

I also have an obsession with file folders. It gives the illusion that I’m organized. I’ve got 3 file folder holders on my desk stuffed with files on everything from writing projects to conference workshops to tax information.

Also: a dictionary I rarely open anymore thanks to my computer, a hat sporting the word PURE, desktop Cranium game, photo of my parents, caricature of my husband and me, basket of scratch paper, crystal faerie, faerie clock, stuffed monkey, stuffed gecko, Pillsbury Doughboy timer (for timed writing exercises), pens in holders, stapler, fasteners, reminders, binders, set of runes, box of business cards, small painting of orchids that I bought for my Dad when I was 12, massive notebook for current WIP, some journals, some exquisite corpses I drew with the kids, my Geek Girl Con panel name plate, and a bit of orgonite (mysteriously left for me on my book table at FaerieWorlds last year).

Yeah, it’s a big desk.

4. Dark chocolate or milk? 

Dark! (but I won’t turn away milk chocolate if you’re offering)

5. Is there a fictional character you wish were real so you could be best friends? 

See #1. 
(Or any of the Doctor’s companions. They’d all be fun. And I think River Song and I would get along splendidly)

From my own series, I’m drawn to Ondelle. She’s both tragic and wise. I think we would have been good friends. 

6. It's National Poetry Month! Do you have a favourite poem, or favourite poet? 

I actually have an MFA in poetry, and used to produce the Seattle Poetry Festival, but to pick a favourite poem or poet would be impossible. I will tell you it was due to an interest in Allen Ginsberg and the Beats that I ended up at Naropa University. I wrote my thesis on the experimental work of Bernadette Mayer. Studied under Anne Waldman, Andrew Schelling, and Anselm Hollo. And I have a soft spot for Neruda, Frank O’Hara, Toi Derricotte, Rumi, Joanne Kyger… and now I am feeling quite GUILTY because of all the neglected books of poetry on my shelf. Oh, poetry, how I have abandoned you… 

(Ginsberg’s “Father Death Blues” gets me every time. I have a framed and signed hand written print of it on my wall. He used to sing it and play his harmonium.) 

7. How many more books in the White Forest Chronicles (can you tell us?) Do you know how it all ends?

There are meant to be six, but several fans have asked for a book about Brigitta’s little sister Himalette. They really like her and she doesn’t really have much page time in the rest of the series. So, I’m thinking about adding her story. 

I DO know how it all ends. And although that has changed over the past few years, I’m pretty satisfied with the current version. And nobody, not even my publisher, knows what that is yet!

Thanks, Danika! Here's Allen Ginsberg, (and here's the lyrics):

For more Marvelous Middle-Grade books, go see what's up at Shannon Messenger's blog!

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Enchantment Emporium, and The Silvered, by Tanya Huff

I missed the deadline for MMGM again this week; I'll have one next Monday for sure! Instead, I'm going to veer slightly away from YA in order to plug another Canadian author. Canada has some great names in sci fi/fantasy that you may or may not have heard of or known they were Canadian. Julie Czerneda I've reviewed here, and need to read more of. Tanya Huff I'm just beginning to discover.

Here's part of my Goodreads review of The Enchantment Emporium, a fun urban fantasy/paranormal romance (whatever you want to call it) about a girl who moves away from her very magical family to inherit her grandmother's junk shop, which is definitely more than it seems:

Funny, sexy, intriguing, fast-paced, and, oh yes, very, very funny. The aunties try to manipulate people by sending them pies. I mean, that's what aunties do, isn't it? The fact that they're scary magical aunties and magical pies is just icing on the cake, so to speak.
Loved the characters, loved the family dynamics, loved that everyone behaved within the parameters of the magical system--it was weird and it took a long time to understand, but it was consistent. Loved the magic mirror. Loved the dragons. Loved that it was set in Calgary! (Great line about the Calgary Tower (Allie arrives from Toronto): "As freestanding phallic symbols went, it was smaller then the one Allie was used to, but maybe Calgary felt it had less to prove.")(It's funnier if you're Canadian.)
And there's a pretty steamy romance. Did I mention the dragons? In Calgary. In a country-western bar. Love it. There's a sequel I haven't read yet, but the story is self-contained. (If you've read the book, then read the rest of my Goodreads review, which has spoilers. I'm curious to know what you think.)(If you haven't read the book, don't read the Goodreads blurb, which is both terrible and spoilery!)

The Silvered is a mix of traditional fantasy, paranormal and steampunk, with a bit of regency romance thrown in. It's set in a world where a science-based empire is trying to take over a country governed by shapeshifters and magic users. It's the coming-of-age story of Mirian, a young, not-very-skilled magic user who sets off with the equally young werewolf Thomas to rescue five Mage-pack women from the clutches of a very evil emperor. Points of view include the implacable Captain Reiter who is pursuing them, and the courageous mage Danika, doing her best to free herself and her fellow mages even though most of her magic has been disabled.

I loved the Aydori society, with werewolves at the top and upper-class mothers parading their daughters at fancy-dress events, hoping someone from the Hunt Pack will catch their scent. I loved the developing relationship between Mirian, just learning to use magic she didn't think she had, and Thomas, trying to be the protector and leader his Pack leader brother would want him to be. Captain Reiter really grew on me. And Danika was so strong and wise in a terrifying situation, I was rooting for her all the way through.

Both of these books could work for an older YA audience. Emporium has more sex (all of it PG (ie: not explicit), though the variety of it could be more eye-opening than younger teens might want), and Silvered has more violence (the emperor is evil like Hitler, so there are a few disturbing scenes of torture/experimentation). But their stories of strong young women finding their place in the world will resonate with older teens.

The Enchantment Emporium has to be a pie: a big, flaky, juicy bumbleberry pie, served warm with ice cream. The Silvered is a little more epic, with more depth, maybe a roasted pumpkin soup with creme fraiche and cilantro.

These are books 5 and 6 in my Canadian Book Challenge. Seven more to go before June 30! Be sure to visit John Mutford's blog for more great Canadian reads.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Updates to blog and another book spine poem

Just spent all day figuring out more things about blogger, so I had to post to point out a few new features (which won't be very exciting to those of you who already knew how to do all these things!):

The background picture is now a photo of my own books. Well, two shelves of them, anyway. (If you stretch your browser window horizontally you can see more of them, but the image just repeats after a while.)

After the applause for that feat dies down, I will send you to check out my new book review indexes, on the handy tabs above: you can now search for books by title, and the Book Reviews by Author tab is now arranged by the authors' last name instead of first. Because I'm that clever.

And as a reward for being patient with my general blogger incompetence: another book spine poem!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

National Poetry Month: let's make book spine poems!

I love poetry. Not all poetry. Some poetry I hate. A lot of it I just don't get. But the poems I like, I really, really like and they are as necessary to my life as bread, or chocolate.

If you don't think you like poetry, I command you to go read Love That Dog. Right now. It will take you about 20 minutes.

Okay. Now that we're on the same page, let's talk about book spine poems, because what a fun, awesome thing to do to celebrate National Poetry Month!

I could explain what a book spine poem is, but it's easier just to show you. Here's one by librarian and blogger extraordinare Travis Jonker (who I got the idea from):

Go to Travis Jonker's blog to get a whole heap more examples.

I'm going to try making one just from the books on my shelves at home; then maybe I'll go to the library and try one there.

Oh, this is fun! And easy: the poems just make themselves.

The search for delicious
Things not seen
The secret garden
The song of the quarkbeast
Banjo of destiny

Alice, I think
A little princess
The last dragonslayer
The diary of a young girl

Igraine the Brave
Over sea, under stone,
A wrinkle in time:
The madness underneath.
The dark is rising.

Okay, now it's your turn! Post some on your blog and I'll link to it, or send me photos and I'll post them sometime in April. (kimaippersbach at gmail dot com)

The world needs more poetry!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Unraveling Isobel, by Eileen Cook

Haunted house on an island. There's a trope that never gets old. And even if it could, Eileen Cook would be able to shake it up. I went looking for another Cook novel after being pleasantly surprised by The Education of Hailey Kendrick (surprised because I don't usually enjoy realistic "I'm having problems with my social life" novels, but this one really worked for me). Unraveling Isobel sounded like it had the potential to be a fun ghost story (and I was in ghost mode after In the Shadow of Blackbirds and The Time of the Ghost).

The opening hooked me:
When the minister asked if anyone knew any reason why these two shouldn't be married, I should have said something. I could think of at least five reasons off the top of my head why my mom shouldn't have married Richard Wickham.
We've got a potentially evil stepfather ('cause he's a stepfather: they're always potentially evil), a good-looking but brooding stepbrother, and the mystery of what happened to the first wife and daughter. Plus the rumours about the big house they're moving into being haunted. And the west wing of the house is closed (cue Twilight Zone theme).  It's all there, and Cook does fun things with it.

She's a very funny writer. There are spooky bits, and a great spooky twist, but this is a lighthearted, laugh-out loud book. It also managed to deal sensitively with a number of issues, like having a disabled sister, what to think when you have a parent with a mental illness, whether to completely suppress your personality and join the cheerleading squad just to fit in. And whether it's okay to make out with your stepbrother. (Not such a serious issue, I suppose! But you never know: it might come up!)

Unraveling Isobel is Mayan Hot Chocolate: rich and creamy with a spicy kick (depending on where you get it, could be cinnamon, could be cayenne).

I am proud to say Eileen Cook is not only Canadian, but Vancouverian. For more Canadian books, John Mutford has a great blog and a challenge. This is my fourth Canadian book I've reviewed since last July 1. I've got to triple my efforts to reach 13 by June 30!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

DWJ Month: Let's celebrate Diana Wynne Jones!

It's Diana Wynne Jones month, you say? Who says? Who decides these things? Well, in this case it's Kristen at We Be Reading, who is going to have a DWJ post EVERY DAY this month. I salute her boundless energy and ambition! My ambitious plan is to read all Kristen's posts so that I can be reminded of DWJ books I haven't read for a while (or at all), and then read as many of those books as I can this month. And I might post once or twice about them.

This is great fun because I love rereading books when it's been long enough that I don't remember what happens in them. That was the case with Time of the Ghost and House of Many Ways.

House of Many Ways is a sequel to Howl's Moving Castle. Sophie and Howl show up as supporting characters in several very amusing scenes, but the heroine is the quietly stubborn Charmain, who would really rather be reading a book, thank you very much, but if she absolutely has to go take care of her great uncle's house while he is being treated by elves for a strange illness, then fine, at least it gets her away from her annoying parents. Little does she know what she's getting herself in for! I love the house, which similar to Howl's castle in its space-bending magic, but with its own personality and rules. I love Charmain's relationship with the unexpected apprentice who is rubbish at magic. (Charmain echoes Sophie's way of dealing with magical disasters: you just have to tell things very firmly what you want them to do!) I have a special spot of affection for the well-meaning King and Princess, who are doing their very best even though they have no idea what's going on under their very noses. I don't think it's too spoilery to say that the villains get a very satisfying comeuppance at the end!  A bit quieter and lighter than Howl's Moving Castle, but the same world, the same magic, the same fun.

Time of the Ghost has an entirely different feel to it: spooky and twisty, more like Fire and Hemlock or Hexwood, except for a slightly younger audience. It's a book that I don't want to spoil by revealing anything about the plot, because nothing is as it seems and you figure things out at the same time as the narrator does. I will say that DWJ gets the experience of being a ghost down perfect.* And I'll also say that this book convinced me never to participate in a seance or pretend to worship an imaginary ancient being: you never know what you might inadvertently awaken! (Reminds me of Verdigris Deep, by Francis Hardinge: better not wish on a wishing well, either!) There's some beautiful landscape description in this book, and it's also very interesting to read it after reading DWJ's autobiography, since many aspects of the family are taken from her own childhood (a rather terrifying thought).

*Because I totally know what that's like.

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Prince Who Fell from the Sky, by John Claude Bemis

I have a Marveous Middle-Grade Monday selection this week! It's a post-apocalyptic novel for younger readers, with an intriguing premise: humans have managed to wipe themselves out completely, and nature has reclaimed planet Earth. A bear named Casseomae lives in a Forest ruled by wolves—who claim they are the ones to get rid of the Skinless Ones* many years ago. Then a sky ship crashes in Casseomae's meadow, and a Skinless cub climbs out of the wreckage. Casseomae has never had a cub of her own, and against her better judgement she protects the young Skinless One from the wolves.

The Prince Who Fell from the Sky could have been trite, heavy-handed and cartoonish, but instead it is nuanced and believable, with great character interactions. The animal characters are brilliantly drawn: Casseomae reluctantly teams up with a rat named Dumpster—a viand, that a vora like Casseomae would normally never speak to—and Dumpster's attitudes, speech patterns, beliefs, quirks are all definitively rat-like, just as Casseomae sounds and thinks like a bear, and the wolves, coyotes and dogs are all equally distinct in their culture and characteristics. It's also wonderful how the character of the Skinless One comes across without him ever saying a word that we can understand (he, of course, can't speak vora).

Casseomae's quest to find a place her adopted cub can be safe is a fascinating journey through a convincing world. The animal enmities and alliances are well crafted; their understanding (or misunderstanding) of the Old Devils* and their relics is both humorous and telling. Each character has sympathetic motivations: even the wolf Ogeema is only trying to protect the Forest, and Cassaomae herself is conflicted about the wisdom of protecting one who could turn out to be as dangerous and destructive as the rest of his kind.

Bemis does have a message to convey, but he is subtle and thoughtful about it. There is no easy right and wrong; there are only the choices each character makes based on what they value most.

This was a fun read with humour and adventure that was also deeply moving and beautiful. Cassaomae gets added to my list of favourite characters, and Bemis is an author I want to read more of.

My grandmother's crispy-chewy oatmeal coconut cookies.

*That would be us humans. (It's always salutary to see one's kind from a different perspective. One of the great uses of sci fi.)

For more marvelous middle-grade books to choose from, head to Shannon Messenger's lovely blog every Monday.