The Iron King

The Iron King was first recommended to me through a friend, who is also a friend of Julie Kagawa, the author. I perused the author’s website and this website, which is devoted to the Iron Fey books. I was immediately intrigued, and I knew I just had to get my hands on this book. But I discovered a problem. The book is only published in paperback (or as an ebook). Anyone who knows me should understand how difficult it is for me to buy anything other than a hardcover to grace my shelves. However, for Ms. Kagawa’s creation, I sucked it up and purchased the paperback. I was not disappointed. This is the author’s debut novel, and even so, I was thrilled with the result. This is the first faery, or fey, book that I have ever read, and I have to say, this book interested me in reading more of this genre.

Meghan Chase is about to turn sixteen years old. She lost her father when she was six when he just disappeared. Now, she has also lost her younger half-brother. He has been kidnapped by faeries. To rescue him, Meghan journeys into Nevernever, Faery land, with her best friend, Robbie, whom she has just recently learned is none other than the infamous Puck.

Meghan’s journey takes her through the wyldwood, a neutral, and less tame, part of Nevernever. Here, she is treated as a plaything of some of the fey, nearly killed by a beautiful pale stranger’s arrow, and almost eaten. And she meets Grimalkin, the snarky yet lovable cat who becomes her guide. Her adventures take her through the Summer Court, where she learns things about herself she never could have dreamed, and through Tir Na Nog, the Winter Court. She finally finds herself in a different part of Nevernever, a place that was previously unknown to both the Summer and Winter Courts, and that threatens to destroy the rest of Nevernever as it expands.

Throughout her adventure, Meghan is accompanied by her long-time friend Puck, Grimalkin, and Ash, the dark-haired pale stranger. Ash is a Winter Prince who has been charged with delivering Meghan to his mother, Queen Mab. Unable to resist Meghan, Ash makes a contract with her, and for now, agrees to help her on her quest to find her brother, something that Puck is not overly thrilled about. While full of action and adventure, The Iron King also has an element of romance, with a subtle love triangle in the mix.

This book is a terrific read, full of very realistic characters and emotions. I absolutely can’t wait until August, when Meghan’s story continues in The Iron Daughter. In this book, I hope there will be a bit more romance, and Meghan and Ash will confront their feelings and what their involvement may mean for themselves and their families. But that’s just what I hope to hear about…I’m confident there will be so much more to the story. Ms. Kagawa has already distinguished herself as a successful and talented author, and I look forward to reading all of her future endeavors…even if they are in paperback.

Writing Update

In my first post I mentioned that I was working on a writing project. More specifically, I’m writing a novel. I almost said that I’m attempting to write a novel, but that sounds almost like I’m giving myself the option to fail. Which I’m not.

A few details about my project…it is a fantasy novel, with a female heroine. I do not have the book all planned out yet, but I definitely have a few ideas of the direction the book will take in order to get to the ending I have in mind.

I currently have about 9,500 words. My goal is 50,000 words, a number I decided to borrow from NaNoWriMo. I “finished” the first four chapters of the book before I realized that what had happened to the main character did not provide her with enough motivation to keep the story moving. I then started to rewrite what I’d already done. I still have about three pages left to rewrite.

I know that what I did is not the best way to get a first draft done, but I found it difficult to move on without first knowing what had really happened in the beginning. So now, I feel like I’m stuck again. I said I have a few ideas, which I do, but none of them are really what needs to come next in the story. I think what I might need to do next is draw a map of the fantasy world. That might be able to help me define a clear next step to the story.

So, there’s my writing update. And notice that a tag for this post is “project 1.” That’s just optimism that I will actually be able to complete this endeavor and move on to “project 2.”

The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever

While I do not sit around and read only romance novels, I still enjoy a good romance story occasionally. This book can definitely be considered “chick lit” (I really hate to use that term as I find it annoying, but in this case, it fits).

The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever is the first book I’ve read by Julia Quinn, and other reviews I’ve read suggest that it is definitely not her best work. However, I thought it was a decent book. It was an entertaining read, and I was able to finish it in a single afternoon. So, for me, it served its purpose.

Miranda Cheever has been in love with her best friend’s older brother, Turner, since she was ten years old and he was nineteen. He was the one who suggested she began keeping a journal in the first place. Skipping ahead a few years, she has grown into herself and is no longer a gangly child. Also, Turner’s horrible cheating wife, Leticia, has been killed by being thrown off a horse, for which he feels nothing but relief and gratitude. However, Leticia has left her mark on Turner. He is hard and cold. He believes himself unable to love, vows never to marry again, and finds it difficult to trust.

Meanwhile, Miranda and her best friend, Olivia, spend a season in London, going to balls and meeting many eligible men. Of course, Miranda lives with Olivia’s family while there, and she and Turner have a few interactions. Turner finds her the least intolerable of all the single women, they have witty conversations, and he finally realizes she is not a child anymore. At one point, Miranda admits her love for Turner.

On an outing to the country, Miranda and Turner are paired together in a scavenger hunt. When one clue incorrectly leads them to the hunting lodge, it begins to rain. The only thing to do is to wait out the storm, and of course, shed their wet clothes. One thing leads to another, the result of which is that a couple of weeks later, Miranda decides to retire to her grandparents’ home in Scotland for at least nine months.

Turner learns of the pregnancy and rushes to Edinburgh to insist upon their marriage. After all, what else is a “gentleman” to do? By this time, Miranda has had a miscarriage and rejects his proposal because he will not say that he loves her. Turner, however, still insists upon their marriage, as do Miranda’s grandparents. She finally gives in and they are married.

She finds that she enjoys being married to Turner and prompty becomes pregnant again. Turner constantly showers her with affection and compliments, and he believes that is enough for a while. Finally, he sees the pain in Miranda’s eyes, knowing that she wants his love in return. When Turner is leaving for London for a few days, Miranda says she loves him, something she has not reminded him of since a long time before they even married. He cannot say the words back. When he returns, Miranda demands to know which it is: does he love her, or does he not? His silence is her answer, so she takes up residence in a guest bedroom and becomes a different person.

The baby finally arrives after nearly a full day of labor. The baby is healthy, but Miranda has bled too much and is not fully expected to live. Turner loves the baby, realizing that he loves his daughter because she is a part of Miranda, not because she is a part of him. At this point, he realizes that he also loves Miranda. He finally tells her so, pulling her back from the brink of death. She recovers, and it is assumed that they live happily ever after.

Like I said, I’m definitely not one to read a bunch of romance novels, but I did enjoy this book. I was a bit disappointed in the main hero. I liked him well enough, but I did wish him to have a bit more depth and substance.

Sepulchre

Another review I’ve written in the past…

I recently read Sepulchre, by Kate Mosse. It is second in a “trilogy,” and I use that term loosely, as the first two books can stand alone. (The third book is due to be published sometime next year.) The book is set in both the late 19th century and the 21st century and tells the stories of two young women whose lives are connected.

One tale begins in 1891. Léonie Vernier is 17 years old and lives in an apartment in Paris with her mother and her older brother Anatole, whom she adores. She knows there is something going on in his life, but he hides his secrets from her, believing her to still be a child. He is attacked on the street, his good name is slandered in the newspapers, and he and his family recently attended the funeral of his lover. Out of the blue, an invitation arrives for Léonie and Anatole to escape city life for a few weeks to visit their aunt, Isolde, at her country estate, the Domaine de la Cade, close to Carcassonne. Isolde is the much younger widow of Léonie’s mother’s half brother. The invitation seems to come at a perfect time, as Anatole feels that he needs to get out of Paris.

Upon arriving at the Domaine, Léonie hears rumors of something evil that resides on the estate and hears stories of wild animals. She senses that there is something sinister lurking somewhere on the estate. Upon exploring the library, she discovers a book written by her uncle concerning the Tarot and his experiences with a mysterious building on the estate called the Sepulchre. Léonie takes it upon herself to have an adventure and discover the location of this building. She does find the dangerous structure and begins to understand the experience her uncle recounted in his book.

Meanwhile, Anatole is unaware that a maniac in Paris is hunting him down, having killed his mother after trying to obtain information concerning his location. Victor Constant’s syphilitic mind can only focus on revenge. Anatole stole his love, and he would take what he could from Anatole, including his life if he is able to do so. Using his wily means, Constant finally locates Anatole at the Domaine.

While this is happening, the reader discovers that the funeral the Vernier family attended was a ruse. Anatole and his love believed that was the only way Constant would leave her alone and finally let her go. Anatole and his “aunt” (no blood relation) are now finally together at the estate and make plans to be married. It is also learned that Anatole will soon be a father. But, their happiness is short-lived, as Constant discovers their hideaway. Anatole has also finally decided to confide in Léonie and treat her as an adult.

The other story takes place in 2007. Meredith Martin is a graduate student from North Carolina who has come to Paris in order to conduct research for her biography of Claude Debussy, who happens to have lived in the same apartment building as the Verniers. Meredith is also in France for personal reasons. She was adopted by a distant cousin after her birth mother’s suicide, and all she was left with was a piece of music, with the simple heading Sepulchre 1891, and a photograph of a soldier. While in Paris, Meredith finds herself drawn to a flyer advertising tarot card readings. When she arrives at the address listed and gets a reading, the reader tells her that lines between the past and present are unclear, which is not something that she normally sees while giving readings. Also, Meredith finds that the image of a woman printed on a tarot card has a striking resemblance to herself, unnerving her. Fleeing the room, the deck of cards is pressed upon her as a gift. She arrives later that day at an old restored hotel, the Domaine de la Cade.

As she is driving to her hotel, she swerves to avoid hitting a woman who is standing in the middle of the road. However, when she gets out of her car, she finds no one there. Throughout the next few days, she also experiences feeling the presence of this woman and even dreaming of her, able to picture her green eyes. At the hotel, she does discover pictures displayed on the wall that resemble her photograph of the soldier. She learns that the people in the picture are Anatole and Léonie Vernier and Isolde. Meredith also becomes friends with Hal, the nephew of the current owner of the hotel, and he eventually becomes her love interest. At the Domaine, Meredith finally does discover the secrets of her family and the terrifying and dreadful events that unfolded at the Domaine more than a century before.

Kate Mosse is a very talented writer and I am looking forward to her next installment in the set. The historical pictures that she painted were fantastic. I loved the supernatural elements, and found the book to be strong in elements of mystery, obsession, and revenge. I’d definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for an entertaining and fulfulling reading experience.

A Lion Called Christian

I read this book a few months ago and wrote a short review about it. I thought I’d share it now.

Someone recently sent me a link to a very touching and enchanting video on YouTube. After watching this reunion of two men with a grown lion they had raised as a cub, I had to buy the book to read the whole story.

A Lion Called Christian tells the true story of how two Australian men visiting London in the late 1960s purchased a lion cub at Harrod’s. For a few months, Anthony “Ace” Bourke and John Rendall shared their small apartment with Christian, the lion. Their apartment was located above a furniture shop called Sophistocat, so Christian seemed to become a mascot of sorts for a while. As he continued to grow, Ace and John began to explore options for Christian’s future. Life in a zoo was just not something they wanted to consider. Eventually, two English actors, Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers, wandered into Sophistocat, initially intending to purchase furniture. However, their meeting with Christian eventually led to his relocation to Kenya and integration into the wild under the care of George Adamson. A year later, Ace and John went to Kenya to visit Christian. At this point, he was already a member of a pride and according to George, quite possibly the largest lion in Kenya. Christian remembered his two friends and welcomed them gladly, as shown in the video.

I absolutely loved this inspirational story, and I recommend this book to all animal lovers.

Introductions

I definitely have a passion for the written word. I am an avid reader and will devour most anything I can get my hands on…well, almost. I’ve also been toying with the idea of writing for a few years now.

I recently stumbled upon something called NaNoWriMo while I was searching the internet, and I found the idea inspirational. NaNoWriMo stands for “National Novel Writing Month,” and the premise is that anyone can write a novel, the main motivation being a deadline. NaNoWriMo occurs every November, and it’s a race against the calendar to finish 50,000 words, a nice length for a rough draft, of a novel. There are literally thousands of participants from all over the world. So, I thought, if so many others can do this, what is there stopping me? I went ahead and registered on the website, and I am now an official participant for NaNoWriMo 2010. A committment made, so no backing out.

Then, I thought, why wait? And I pulled out the dusty first two chapters of a story I started about 2 and 1/2 years ago and got to work again.

So, the point of this blog is to share my thoughts on the books I’ve read, both good and bad, and to have some accountability (providing similar motivation to a deadline) regarding my writing project(s).