Thursday, July 2, 2009

Glenraven by Marion Zimmer Bradley: Don't judge this book by it's cover

Posted by Simcha 3:05 PM, under | No comments

While sitting down to breakfast I was looking around for something to read (I take whatever opportunities are available to me) and I decided to give Glenraven a try since it was sitting on a shelf nearby. This book has actually been sitting on the shelf unread for a while because the garish cover just put me off (yes, I admit to judging books by their covers. But really, who doesn't?) The cover is a shiny red with a picture in the middle of a gray faced, fanged, vampire -looking creature (whom the book assures us is really good looking) gazing into the distance dramatically, while clutching an unconscious woman. I wasn't expecting too much from the book, other then a little something to entertain me while I enjoyed my morning eggs. But it turned out, that despite the cover, I actually liked the book.

Glenraven is a magical land that is in dire need of salvation from the evil sorceress who has taken over the land and steals the magic from the land and it's citizens, for her own use. She also strengthens her power by eating small children (a most vile villainous).

In an attempt to find someone so save them from the sorceress, a member of a revolutionary group in Glenraven crafted a magical device which was to be sent into the outside world in order to identify the hero who could save Glenraven and its citizens. This device takes the form of a Fodor's Guide book and ends up in a bookstore in North Carolina.

JayJay has been through two disastrous marriages and has just made an unpleasant discovery about her third husband. Sophie has never recovered from the death of her daughter, three years ago, and feels that she has nothing left to live for. JayJay's discovery, in the local bookstore, of the Fodor's Guide to Glenhaven seems like the perfect solution, giving her a place to escape to. Unintentionally, Sophie volunteer to come as well, despite the fact that she knows that no such country exists. But both Sophie and JayJay want to get away from their troubled lives and for some reason, Glenhaven calls to them.

Sophie and JayJay's journey to Glenhaven is not what they expected, particularly the strange, supposedly certified, guide who seems to have no interest in guiding them. And when their Fodor's Guide to Glenhaven begins exhibiting strange behaviors for a book, the women are forced to admit that they have gotten more then they bargained for.

While Glenhaven can't compare to Bradley's other epic works, such as the Avalon series of books, it was an easy and enjoyable read. I really liked JayJay and Sophie and found them to be sympathetic characters with a humorous wit reflected in their good-natured bantering, throughout the book. The other characters were not as well developed, but I didn't mind too much. The only thing that bothered me was the sinister behavior of the man who had contrived to bring the heroes to Glenhaven. There did not seem to be any reason why he behaved in such a strange way when he approached JayJay and Sophie, in Glenhaven, and why he went looking for them at night with an army of men. It was obvious that Bradley's purpose for doing this was to force the two women to flee, but it just didn't make sense in the context of the story.

But after the last book I read was such a disappointment, I was happy to read a book that I was really able to get into.

I think the next book that I'll try is Acacia, by David Anthony Durham. I've read good things about it and I've been meaning to read it for a while.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Sharon Green's The Blending: Not as good the second time around

Posted by Simcha 4:34 PM, under | No comments

Do you ever reread a book that you once enjoyed only to discover that it was not as good as you remember it being?

About five years ago,on a visit to America, I had picked up at a library book sale the first three books in Sharon Green's Blending series. I really enjoyed the books and regretted not having bought the last two books in the series as well. Now, years later, as I was purchasing books for my initial store inventory, I made sure to include this series so that I could finally finish it. Since it has been so long since I last read them, I had to go back and reread the first books again. But something seems to have happened to the books since I last read them and I now can barely get through them because the writing is so awful. I can't imagine how it is that I had previously enjoyed them.

The storyline is actually interesting and follows five variously different individuals, each of whom is powerful in a separate aspect of magic, and who are brought together for the purpose of having their magical abilities tested, as required by law. Each of them must past the tests given to them while dealing with personal issues from their pasts. And, of course, this all ties into a prophecy (what's a fantasy without a prophecy?), and the characters need to work together to discover what the true purpose of the testing is.

As I mentioned, the story is interesting and despite the poor writing, I've been trudging on through the series because I really do want to find out what happens in the end. There is something compelling about the books that keeps me reading even as I cringe over the pages .

One of the biggest problems is the dialogue. It's simply laughable. Ms. Green seems to underestimate the reader's ability to grasp the ideas that she want to convey and so she has her characters spell them out in the most inane manner. One example:

    "Is that sherbet," she asked...."How delightful. Now my palate will be cleared for the next course." That was the purpose of sherbet, of course, and Clarion was delighted to see that she knew it.

It's a good thing that the writer spelled all this out for us, otherwise we would have never have figured out how cultured this character was, which was proven by her knowledge of the purpose of sherbet.

But if you are into literary drinking games, these books are a great choice. Take a shot of your favorite alcoholic beverage each time the word "amused" comes up, and you will be swaying on your feet in no time. Everyone is either smiling in amusement, laughing in amusement, secretly amused, openly amused and generally amused in any manner that amusement is possible. I think someone needs to buy Ms. Green a thesaurus.

I'm thinking of just skipping to the end of the last book so that I can find out what happens without having to plow through three and half more books. I'm also trying to figure out how I can successfully sell books that I have so openly disparaged. Quite a quandary...

Monday, June 29, 2009

Welcome to my blog

Posted by Simcha 6:05 PM, under | No comments

Reading is one of my favorite activities, and is followed by my second favorite activity, talking about books. Personally, I find that half the pleasure in reading a book is discussing it with someone afterward. But since I live in a predominantly Hebrew speaking community, and I only read books in English (I still have a way to go before I can read in Hebrew for pleasure), the opportunity for me to discuss books does not occur too often.

This has not been too much of a problem, these past few years, since the Fantasy books that I enjoy reading are not so readily available or affordable here and so I have not been reading as much as I used to in America. But recently I started an online science fiction and fantasy bookstore and I find myself in the position of having a vast supply of books to read (yay!), but no one to discuss them with (sadly, none of my friends read these genres). So I decided to start this blog as a place for me to talk about SciFi and fantasy books that I'm currently reading and to voice my opinions as I come by them, without necessarily having to write a review about each book.

This blog is also related to my science fiction and fantasy website,, which includes book reviews, articles on SFF, news on SFF in Israel and a growing collection of biographies of SFF authors.

So if you are a speculative fiction fan, make sure to take a look.


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