Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Review: Triumph

by Carolyn Jessop with Laura Palmer

I thought I’d break things up again with a review that’s not science fiction or fantasy.  In fact, it’s not even fiction.

Triumph is Carolyn Jessop’s second memoir.  The first, NYT Bestseller Escape, chronicled her life as a member of the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints, the largest polygamist sect of Mormonism.  Jessop was born into the cult as a sixth generation member.  She married at 18 a much older man with three other wives, and two more wives soon followed.  She had eight children in seventeen years, and then left the cult in the dead of night with all eight children.  She is the only woman known to have escaped with all her children, and she is the only one to have won full custody of them after she left.  Escape not only chronicles Jessop’s own life, but also examines some of the beliefs and the culture of the FLDS.  Upon the publishing of her first memoir, Jessop became one of the media’s go to people when they wanted to learn something about the FLDS.  This means that when the state of Texas raided an FLDS ranch near Eldorado on suspicion of child abuse, Jessop was one of the people they called to try and understand what they just walked into.

This is where Triumph picks up: with the raid.  The first half of the book chronicles the events that took place, from the phone call to CPS to late 2009.  Jessop specifically talks about the challenges Texas faced in putting an additional four hundred children into its foster care system, as well as how the case eventually broke down, but how it has also lead to several criminal cases against several FLDS men.  She examines the media circus surrounding the incident with a unique eye: she is someone who is now outside the cult, but who knows all of the major players within the cult.  In fact, it is her ex-husband who is running the Yearning for Zion Ranch, and nearly everyone living at the ranch is in some way related to him.  Jessop knows how the powerful adults all connect to each other, and shows how the cult used the public’s ignorance of them in their favor.

The second half of the book answers questions Jessop received after the publishing of Escape dealing with how she was able to mentally extract herself from such an abusive situation.  Each chapter is a different piece of the puzzle, ranging from random acts of kindness from non-FLDS members to working out at a Curves gym.  Most importantly, she presents her information in a way that can be useful to other people living in abusive relationships.  Most of her techniques can be applied to other situations, which is important because her situation was truly bizarre.

Jessop ends the book by catching us up on her own life from 2007 to 2009, back tracking a bit to flesh out the information she gave in Escape about her initial problems after she escaped the cult.  She talks about taking her ex husband to court for child support, as well as touching base on each of her children and how they are doing six years after leaving the FLDS.

Overall, this is an excellent book.  While it is biased, it does provide a look into the FLDS that I was frustrated with not finding while the raid in Texas was playing out in the media.  However, if you’re interested in more detailed information about the cult, pick up Escape and start there.  The second half of the book dealing with how to pull yourself out of an abusive situation can stand on its own, but as many of the examples come from Jessop’s own life, a full understanding of those examples can be gained by reading Escape as well.

One of my early frustrations in reading Escape was that in 2007 there were very few books on the FLDS cult at that time.  The only other one I could find was Lost Boy by Brent Jeffs, whose family was forced out of the cult when he was a teenager.   After the raid in Texas and the media attention it generated, more books about the FLDS have been published, and they’ve also gotten a bit more marketing.  They include Church of Lies by Flora Jessop, When Men Become Gods: Mormon Polygamist Warren Jeffs, His Cult of Fear, and the Women Who Fought Back by Stephen Singular, and Stolen Innocence: My Story of Growing Up in a Polygamous Sect, Becoming a Teenage Bride, and Break Free of Warren Jeffs by Elissa Wall.  I do intend to read these in the future.  There are also several other books looking at different polygamist groups in the United States other than the FLDS.

Triumph is available in hardback and e-book editions.  Escape is available in paberback, audio book, and e-book editions.

Friday, July 23, 2010

I’m going to ask for a bit of patience here today.  When I first started this blog, I had no intention of dealing with the millage the library I work for is trying to renew, for the simple reason that I am extremely biased.  However, on Wednesday our local paper ran an editorial in support of the millage.  While the editorial itself was in support of the renewing the millage, some of the comments posted online were extremely misinformed, and quite frankly downright rude.  In response to this, I’ve decided to post my own little piece of info about the library system in question itself, as well as information about the millage.  Again, I am extremly biased.  I am also NOT an employee who is high up (I'm actually all the way at the bottom).  Some of the information below is observations from my own work experience, as well as taking a look at Board Reports and Budget Reports during my breaks.  I will provide links at the end to what information I know is located on the web.  Nothing in this blog should be taken to be reflective of anything but my own opinion, and should not be taken to reflect the opinions or political stance of the library itself.

I work for the Capitol Area District Library, which operates in Ingham County, Michigan.  We operate all public libraries in the county except for the public library in the city of East Lansing.  CADL was formed 12 years ago, as a way to combine all the public libraries under one umbrella, and thus save money in consolidation.  All the communities in the county voted on the proposal to do this (and the original CADL millage), and all except East Lansing approved it.  You might not understand how it saves money to have one giant library system instead of many smaller ones, but consider this: we all now have one Director.  We have one Human Resources, Public Relations, Building Management, Financing, Information Technologies, and Processing departments instead of many.  We maintain one singular website, and use one computer program to track our materials.  We buy all of our materials together.  CADL operates thirteen branches, so imagine duplicating all of those vital services thirteen times.

There have also been other positive aspects of combining.  Because CADL is one system, we allow our patrons to check out materials at any of our branches with their library card.  They can then return those materials to any other branch free of charge.  They can also reserve an item at a branch and have it delivered to another branch, usually within twenty-four hours again, free of charge.  This means that even though each library has control over its own collection (what’s ordered, what’s discarded), from our patrons’ point of view, CADL maintains one singular collection that is housed in thirteen locations.  So patrons living in Aurelius Township can go to the tiny Aurelius branch library, and still have full access to the downtown Lansing Library without having to drive an hour to get there.

I saw some questions on the editorial about how money was allocated within the system, and how much each community got back of the millage it paid.  And the truth is that almost the entire budget is centrally allocated.  Employees are hired by and paid by CADL itself.  Instead of saying that each branch gets this much money to spend on staffing, CADL takes a look at the size of the collection and the circulation numbers (in short, how much work needs to be done on a weekly basis) and assigns a number of hours to that branch broken down by department.  Each branch has a head librarian, other librarians, library assistants, circulation clerks, and pages.  Now, a theoretical example of why it’s not a set dollar amount could go something like this: the head librarian in Leslie has been at CADL since it started, and so has received a number of raises.  The head librarian at South Lansing has only been at CADL for a few years, and has received only a few raises.  Their base pay is the same, because they are doing the same job.  But South Lansing is a busier library than Leslie.  If CADL allocated staffing by dollar values instead of hours, the head librarian at Leslie at some point would have had to either accept a pay cap, or move to another branch with a bigger budget.  This may not seem like a big deal, but CADL tries to maintain ties between the staff and the community they serve.  Employees of CADL do not move between branches other than substitute shifts (someone is sick, on vacation, or there is a vacancy that has yet to be filled), or if they are moving up in the system (page to clerk, clerk to library assistant, etc).  The building maintenance budget is also central, and doled out as needed.  Otherwise, if a branch doesn’t need the money that was earmarked for that purpose, that money has not gone to waste.  Conversely, if a library needs more money than was earmarked for it, it doesn’t go wanting.  The only part of the budget that I know of that is allocated in dollar amounts per branch is the materials budget.  And as I talked about above, materials are shared throughout the system, so librarians are only controlling what is shelved in their library, not what their patrons have access to.

A big point a lot of people are chocking in is even with the cut, the 1.56 mills CADL is asking for will generate $10 million next year.  That seems like a lot to a lot of people, and it is.  Far and away, the largest part of the budget is staffing.  I can say from experience, that CADL employees have made sacrifices in the last few years to keep that cost from rising.  We’ve taken less pay raises, and smaller ones.  Those with health benefits are paying more of their own costs.  Vacation time has been lessened.  We’re also hiring fewer people to replace those who have left.  We have restructured, moving people sideways within the organization in order to eliminate positions we no longer feel are necessary.  But CADL still employs well over a hundred people (I’m not sure on the exact number, but it is large).  We have also made significant investments in technology, both in the form of public use computers, wifi in ever branch, and more sophisticated and faster ways to track our materials through the system.  Think about it this way: divide 10 by 13.  If all those communities paid the same millage, but it was evenly split between them (which it wouldn’t be due to population distribution), each area would receive roughly $769,000 dollars.  How far do you think you can stretch that?

Another assumption made by many people on the LSJ editorial comments is that CADL is only really supplying research materials, at which point people should either use the internet (more current) or school/university/college libraries.  I think the mistake here is assuming that most of CADL’s circulation is in research materials, or non-fiction materials.  It is not.  Far and away, our circulation is based in children’s, adult fiction, and audio-visual materials.  Most people come into CADL to check out novels/children’s fiction, movies, cds, and audio books.  Of course, the next complaint would by why am I paying for other people to read books for entertainment?  I think I’ll once again refer you to CADL’s Library Use Value Calculator.  It is far and away cheaper to buy collectively than it is to buy everything yourself.  If you were really interested in saving money, you’d vote yes on the millage and then use the library and save more money than you would have by voting no and not having a library.  I’ll post this link, among others, at the end of this.  For instance, my parents check out on average about 5 movies per week.  They save roughly $1,000/year by borrowing from the library and not a movie rental store.  The average CADL resident pays between $50-$80/year to CADL in the form of the millage.

The next assumption is that not everyone in Ingham County is paying for the library, and likely those saying this are pointing their figures at people like me, who are living in rental housing.  But here’s the fact of the matter, I pay money to the agency who owns my apartment complex.  They, as property owners, then pay all property taxes (including the millage) on the apartment I live in.  They include this cost of doing business in my rent payment.  So I do pay this millage, though it’s indirectly.  I’ll also point out that the likelihood of my rent going down as a result of the millage failing is low.

I’ll end this by saying a few facts about the millage itself.  It is on the August 3 ballot.  It calls for a straight renewal of the current millage, and is strictly for operational costs.  The operational millage accounts for 90% of our budget.  The millage calls for 1.56 mills, which will generate less than when this millage was originally approved in 2006.  TIFAs, or Tax Increment Financing Act, will be taken out of the millage, because CADL does not have the ability to opt out of them.

I’ll wrap this up with some links:
Ingham County August Ballot The CADL Millage is near the end of the page.  This is the official language of the millage to be voted on.
Support CADL The official website of the campaign being run by Libraries Now.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Review: Chimera

by Rob Thurman

Chimera is Rob Thurman’s latest release.  It’s her seventh book, though it was actually written just after her debut novel.  It’s so far a stand alone, and does not tie into the alternative universe that hosts the Cal Leandros books or the Trickster books.  Like her earlier books, however, it is an urban fantasy.

Chimera features the first person narration of Stefan Korsak, a first generation Russian-American working for the Russian mafia in Miami.  Stefan is not terribly interested in the mafia, he’s instead using the money and the connections to look for his younger brother Lukas, who has been missing for ten years.  And one of his leads just struck gold.  Stefan rushes off to the rescue, only to find that Lukas is terribly changed.  He’s been made over into a killer that’s been designed from his DNA on up.

If you’re familiar with Thurman’s work to date, you won’t find many surprises here.  Stefan, especially at the beginning of the book, sounds a lot like Cal without the severe self deprecating humor/self-hate.  And since Trixa in Trick of Light has the same general flavor, it feels like you already know Stefan when you pick up the book.  Which is a shame, because as the book progresses you realize that Stefan is a deeply different character underneath the surface snark.  However, Stefan undergoes an incredible amount of character growth during this book, which hasn’t been a feature with the other two characters mentioned above.

Also familiar is the overarching theme of brothers.  This book is about the relationship between Stefan and Lukas more than anything else.  Forget the great escape and the dash across country to find information and safety; this is all about Stefan and Lukas getting to know each other and coming to trust each other.  It’s about these two characters remembering and relearning what it is to be a brother, even what it is to care about another human being.

So those are the strong points of this book: deeply crafted and endearing characters that undergo deftly executed transformations.  The weak points: this book starts really slow.  The first sixty pages are Stefan setting the stage.  Except for a few minor blips of action to establish that yes, he’s in the mafia, nothing happens.  Second, a lot of the action in the entire book feels rather superfluous.  Yes, these points are important to help the brothers grow together, but there is a feeling of randomness to them rather than the feeling that they are driving towards something.  And, as I mentioned earlier, the fact that the main narrative character is so close in style and temperament to Thurman’s other two narrative characters.  Part of me really wants her to stretch herself but then, this is the book she wrote while she was shopping Nightlife to publishers.

Chimera is available in paperback and e-book editions.  I’d recommend it to fans of Thurman’s earlier work, or fans of the Dresden Files, Ann Aguirre, Carrie Vaughn, Patricia C. Briggs, or urban fantasy buffs in general.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Review: Lightborn

Book #2 of the Darkborn Trilogy
by Alison Sinclair

Lightborn is the second book in the Darkborn Trilogy by Alison Sinclair.  The final volume, Shadowborn, is scheduled to be released in 2011.  The first volume is Darkborn, and was recently reviewed by me.

In this installment, Sinclair expands the reader’s view of her unique world by introducing three Lightborn characters (the previous book followed three Darkborn characters.  For more information on the world, please see my review of Darkborn).  We had already met Floria White Hand briefly in the previous book, and now she becomes a main character.  We follow her into the ruling court of the Lightborn, where she introduces us to Fejelis, son and heir to the prince, and the rebellious mage Magister Tammorn.  Darkborn Lady Telmaine also returns to keep us abreast of developments on the other side of sunset.  The other two main characters from Darkborn, Dr. Balthasar Hearne and Baron Ishmael di Studier do not appear in this book, being offstage preparing for the third book.  I’m sure when we see them again, they will be chock full of useful information.

Floria White Hand is a valued and trusted guard and food taster for the Lightborn prince, and when he is assassinated in a bizarre fashion, she becomes a suspect.  Being unable to prove her innocence, and having far too many political enemies, she claims asylum from the Darkborn.  Before leaving, however, she gives Fejelis the advice of hiring Magister Tammorn to investigate his father’s death because Tammorn is as far removed from mage politics as it is possible to get.  Fejelis and Tammorn work on finding out who killed Prince Isidore while keeping Fejelis alive through another round of attempted assassinations.

Meanwhile, Lady Telmaine is in the Darkborn court trying to master her neglected magical skills enough to keep the Archduke and his brother, the spymaster, alive.  More assassination attempts here, and yes, all these people trying to kill other people are in fact connected.  In any case, things do not go well for Telmaine (this being the second book of three, nothing should go right).  However, all the important people survive and get enough clues to move on to the showdown in book three.

If you are still under the misconception that these books are fantasy romances, I shall further disabuse you of the notion here.  There is not a single romantic line in this book, unlike the hint of one in the earlier book.  Lots of action, lots of politics, lots of intrigue, and of course, lots of fantasy.

My only complaint about this book is that the Lightborn court is really glossed over.  We’ve had an entire book to figure out how the Darkborn politics and society work, but the Lightborn do not get equal billing.  Part of this is that they are, by force, more familiar to us because they have the same set of senses we do.  However, there’s a lot of socio-economical and geo-political stress in this society, and we get barely a taste of it and how it all came to be.  The need for space to explain all of the action has taken precedence over world building, and while the book works well, I’d still like some more background.

Lightborn is available in trade paperback, and e-book editions.  I would recommend this book to fans of Sharon Shinn, Mercedes Lackey, Gregory Frost, and N. K. Jemisin.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

by Meg Cabot

Insatiable is Meg Cabot’s newest adult book, and marks her entrance into the paranormal romance field.  As you might have heard, Cabot is a prolific author who is best known for her young adult Princess Diary Series.    Her works for adults are mostly romances.

Now, paranormal romance is a big thing these days.  Paranormal romance with vampires is even bigger.  And it seems that this subgenre has gotten so big that it’s developed its own tropes.  Cabot has taken full advantage of that in Insatiable, which is quite simply a very straight forward example of paranormal vampire romance.  However, don’t let that make you think that it’s not worth picking up.

The main character is Meena Harper, a dialogue writer for a daytime soap opera living in Manhattan.  She becomes very upset when the network not only passes her over for a promotion, but decides to introduce a vampire story line into the soap to hopefully appeal to a younger and larger audience.  Now, Meena has some issues with this because she wanted the promotion and the person who got is an idiot, but also because she really hates vampires, calling them monster misogynists on several occasions.  And, as you might know by now, no self respecting heroine in a paranormal romance is just your run-of-the-mill gal.  She has to have some special power, and Meena’s is the ability to know how people are most likely going to die.  Now, she’s figured out that what she sees does not always come true; if the circumstances around the death change (for example, the doomed person never shows up to the appointed time and place), then the death may not occur.  But, no one really listens to the crazy woman who thinks you’re gonna die, so most people end up dying anyway in the foreseen fashion.  It also makes it hard to find a steady date when you’re constantly telling them what to do to stay alive.  Something about having your blind date tell you that you need to be on Lipitor for your cholesterol just takes away the romance somehow.

Next up, we need our love interest.  He needs to be a vampire.  Check.  He needs to be really pretty.  Double check.  And since we’re being over the top and this is a romance, he needs to be wealthy and aristocratic and European.  Check, check, and check.  Of course, he needs a name as well, and that’s Lucien Antonescu.  When Meena meets him she, duh, falls head over heels in love with him.  It doesn’t hurt that she can’t see how he’s going to die, because he’s already dead.  Almost a Sookie Stackhouse moment here.  And yes, she does figure out at some point that he’s a vampire, and we therefore move smoothly into the part of the story where our lovers have some relationship issues.

And, paranormal romance grew out of urban fantasy, which centers on mysteries.  Here, we have a murder mystery du jour of a series of young women found dead in New York parks, covered in bite marks and missing all their blood.  Hmm…Paranormal romance and urban fantasy also love to have a contrasting love interest to tempt the heroine away, and so our (not-so) friendly (not really) neighborhood vampire slayer with lots and lots of issues shows up to catch the killer (who Lucien is also after, dead bodies being bad for business).  Alaric Wulf, true to form to his archetype, has a whole bag full of bad boy issues to work through.

Now, at this point all I’ve done is highlight just how archetypal this book is.  I don’t think you can get away from it unless you’ve never been exposed to vampire romances before and have somehow been living under a rock where Twilight can’t find you.  However, the book redeems itself in a few ways.  First, it is self aware of what it is, and the heroine isn’t exactly happy to have found herself in it.  Cabot can therefore make a lot of jokes about the vampire phenomenon in pop culture that other authors haven’t been able to, right down to poking fun at her own book within itself.  Second, Cabot’s gone back to the old school vampires and gotten rid of the sparkles and the every vampire must be pretty thing.  Her vampires are a lot closer to what you see in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, minus a few of the more encumbering traits like having to sleep in coffins.  Even though they are based far more firmly in old folktales, they come off as refreshing when set next to the vampires that we find in so many other popular books.  Finally, this is just a very well written book.  It’s very nicely paced, with engaging, well rounded, and believable characters.  A lot of paranormal romances (or romances in general) I’ve read don’t go to the lengths Cabot has to give their main characters depth, and Cabot has even done so with the supporting characters.  More importantly, everything is consistent.

In short, you’re not going to pick up Insatiable for its plot.  You’re going to pick it up either because you already like Cabot’s work, or because you want something light, fun, and with great characters.  Or, perhaps, because you just love paranormal romances in general and this happens to be a very good example of the genre.  Insatiable is available in hardcover and e-book editions.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Review: Darkborn

Book #1 of the Darkborn Trilogy
by Alison Sinclair

Darkborn is the fantasy debut of Alison Sinclair, though she has previously published several science fiction novels.  Darkborn is also the first book in a trilogy, the second of which, Lightborn, was recently released and the third of which, Shadowborn, is scheduled to be released in 2011.

Intrinsic to the book is its world building: eight hundred years ago, a particularly strong mage named Imogene and her accomplices cursed all of humanity.  Half of them would become the Lightborn, who gained enhanced eyesight, but for whom shadow was lethal.  The other half became the Darkborn.  They gained the ability to generate sonar (called sonn) along the lines of what bats use, and for whom light is lethal.  They are also completely blind, having no further need for their eyes.  For the most part, except in the capitol city, the Lightborn and the Darkborn live completely separated, as their living conditions are lethal to each other.  In the capitol city, they use many of the same streets and other infrastructure, alternating with sunrise and sunset. 

This first book follows three Darkborn characters, Lady Telmaine Stott Hearne, her husband Dr. Balthasar Hearne, and the Baron Ishmael di Studier.  When the book opens, Lady Telmaine is at a society function in the country with her family, at which she meets Baron di Studier for the first time.  At the behest of one of Telmaine’s cousins, he escorts her and her two daughters back to the city, where they find Dr. Hearne under attack by thugs, who then seize the opportunity to kidnap the elder Hearne girl.  It turns out that a few days previous, Balthasar helped a society lady bear illegitimate twins in secret.  These twins, however, were obviously strange, and the thugs want the two babies, who have already been sent to fosterage.  The rest of the book follows the Hearnes and di Studier as they try and figure out why these babies are important and get the Hearnes’ daughter back.

Darkborn has for some reason has been slipped into the paranormal romance subgenre, which I think is another fine example of marketing gone awry.  Telmaine is fiercely attached to her husband, though she and di Studier clearly develop some feelings for each other.  There is not, however, any hint of courtship or the idea that Telmaine might either have an affair or outright leave her husband.  Instead, this is an action adventure with political intrigue thrown up on a heroic journey frame.  Honestly, I like it better for it not being a romance.

Darkborn is well written, and by the end of the first quarter of the book I was fairly comfortable with the idea that all of the characters were blind and were using other senses to interact with each other and their surroundings.  It’s very deftly handled, right down to figures of speech: darkborn never say that they ‘see’ anything, because they can’t.  They never say ‘I see’ when they mean ‘I understand.’  The culture, and the various levels of society and how they speak and interact are also well developed.  I have read other reviews that complained that there could have been more world building and an expansion of the politics involved in the plot.  I can agree that there is a lot of room for expansion, as there are times when the plot has more slam/bang action than perhaps was necessary, however I don’t feel that there are any gaping holes that Sinclair forgot to fill.  This is a relatively short book, at 352 pages (well, short for a fantasy novel), especially considering how complicated the plot is.  So yes, she could have added another 100 pages to flesh things out, but overall those pages weren’t strictly necessary, and would have been detrimental in the subgenre it was marketed for.

Darkborn is available in trade paperback, mass market paperback, and e-book editions.  I would recommend this book to fans of Sharon Shinn, Mercedes Lackey, Gregory Frost, and N. K. Jemisin.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Also known as the Fourth of July in these parts.  I'm off preparing for the epicness that is this weekend, and so will leave you with the Muppets.  Enjoy yourselves, and try not to let any stray fireworks blow you up.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

There have been a lot of libraries in the news lately.  If you haven’t been aware, like all public services, libraries are potentially on the chopping block in communities where tax revenue or even overall population is down, and the government needs to shrink accordingly.  Most libraries are facing budget cuts in a time when demand on its resources is high, and many are being closed.

There’s also been a drastic change since the advent of the internet in how a library operates and what services it offered.  The last time you walked into a library, did you notice something missing?  How about that big case of file drawers, known as the card catalogue and a source of endless frustration?  Nearly all libraries have (or are in the process of) changing over to digital databases which can be searched in a number of ways.  Throw yourself back to elementary school, and you’re attempting to do a short paper on penguins.  So you walk over to the card catalogue, and open up the drawer labeled P, and you hope something with penguins in the title is there.  You then check for Antarctica under A.  And so on.  You then take your meager findings over to the shelf, and examine the books nearby whose titles don’t start with P or A for something useful.   Maybe you only find three books, which if you’re in elementary school, are likely plenty for your needs.  If you’re a college graduate student however…it’s time to get creative.  Under the electronic catalogues, you can search by author, subject, keyword, title, format, and a whole host of other things depending on the creativity of the database designer.  You can also search the catalogue from home, or anywhere in the country or even the world.  But while these catalogues are infinitely more powerful than their predecessors, they’re also more expensive to create and maintain.

Let’s add in the fact that most public libraries now keep public computers with internet access.  As the internet becomes more and more important in our daily lives for everything from gathering information to filling out job applications, the gap between those with internet access and those without will become insurmountable for those on the bottom.  Except, of course, for the areas where you can walk into your public library and take care of all your internet needs with tax dollars you’ve already paid.  Those dollars, I should add, are likely less than the price of a computer and twelve months of internet.  On the flip side, computers and internet access are new costs for libraries to cover.  Many also offer free computer classes, ranging from turning on a computer, to advanced word processing, Excel, and Photoshop.

I could go on, but I think you get my point.  In closing, I’ll leave you with a few links to explore:

On Monday, Diane Rehm of NPR’s WAMU 88.5 did a show entitled ‘The Changing Role of Libraries.’  It is available to listen to online.  Listen here.

The Huffington Post ran an article last week about what a library meant to a town in New Jersey, how they used it, and how they saved it.  Read about it here.

And finally, there’s a wonderful advocacy group called Geek the Library.  They’ve got a lot of information up about what libraries across the country do, their impact on communities, and how they are funded.  Learn more here.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Charles Stross just turned in his latest project “Rule 34” to his agent.  He’s stated that is a near-future science fiction set in a theoretical 2023.  Perhaps well see it in about two years. Read more about the book and it's developement here.

Spectra is celebrating its 25th anniversary by selecting feature books by the year they came out (one for each year).  They’re up to 1997, and have thus far featured books by Lynn Flewelling, George R. R. Martin, Isaac Asimov, Robin Hobb, Margret Weis, Tracy Hickman, Arthur C. Clark, Raymond E. Feist, among others.  There’s a new post every day, so check back in!  See all installments thus far.

Soulless by Gail Carriger is now available in audio format.  She is also contracted for books 4 through 6 of the Parasol Protectorate with Orbit.  Sample chapter available.

There’s a new Conan movie in the works, and the first still was released on Monday.  In the lead role is Jason Momoa, of Stargate: Atlantis not-quite fame.  Eye candy this way.

Casting for the HBO version of George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones is progressing.  IMDB puts the first episode airing sometime in 2011.  See the full list here.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


So, I was out at DucKon this weekend, and thus there is no new review for you this week.  I met some lovely people, attended some wonderful panels, and a fantastic writing workshop.  I especially enjoyed the panels by Steve Miller, though I was disappointed that his wife Sharon Lee was constantly scheduled opposite him.  Jennifer Stevenson offered a “Find Your Voice” workshop for writers that was incredible.  If you are a writer and ever get a chance to take this workshop, do so without hesitation.

Other than that, my brain has been whirring away on writerly (rather than readerly) things.  This, with the tripling of my musical excursions over these next six weeks, means things will slow down here a bit.  My apologies.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

It’s summer, and at the library that means it’s our busiest time of the year between summer reading programs and people checking out things to read/listen to/watch on their vacations.  In this spirit, I’ve decided to take a look at some midlist books and recommend them for summer reading, regardless of whether you are going anywhere this summer or not.  If you’re confused, a midlist book is one that has not made the New York Times Bestseller list.  They don’t receive a lot of publicity, and their authors eek out small livings rather than the mega fortunes of J. K. Rowling and Danielle Steel.  I assume you’ve filled your wish list with blockbusters like the new Dresden Files installment by Jim Butcher, and Paolo Baciagalupi’s The Wind Up Girl because everyone’s been talking about them.  Well, here’s a list of lesser known books that are just as good to add to your list.

Steampunk has exploded this past year, with the overnight successes of Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate Series and Cherie Priest’s Hugo nominated Boneshaker.  However, in keeping with my aim of sticking with midlist books, I’m going to point you in the direction of Dru Pagliasotti’s Clockwork Heart.  It’s a steampunk romance set in an original world, and has a bit of fantasy thrown in.  Set in the city of Ondinium, flying courier Taya witnesses a suspicious cable car accident during a routine errand.  With the help of the Forlore brothers, she sets out to unravel what happens.  What made this book stand out for me was interesting characters with complex reasons for their actions, as well as a highly stratified society and the resultant class tension.  The Clockwork Heart is available in paperback and e-book.

Misty Massey’s Mad Kestrel is a fun debut for those who enjoy epic fantasy.  The main character is Kestrel, a rogue mage working as a privateer.  When her captain is arrested for piracy, she takes control of the ship and sails off to rescue him.  I’m hoping at some point that she writes a sequel, as there’s a lot of space in this world to work with/in.  Mad Kestrel is available in trade and mass market paperbacks.

Paranormal/urban fantasy is huge right now, but a lot of it has been drifting into the realms of romance and outright smut.  Granted, many of the leading authors in this genre make a lot of money and sell a lot of books doing that, but in a long running series such things tend to bore me after a while.  The reasons why are a blog (or two) in and of themselves, so let’s move on to my recommendation for this subgenre: Rob Thurman’s Trick of Light.  Thurman is best known for her (yes, her) original series starring the Leandros brothers.  Trick of Light is set in the same alternate universe, where pucks are used car salesmen and valkyries are museum curators, but instead stars Trixia and takes place in Los Vegas, not New York.  This is also not the Los Vegas you know from CSI and Ocean’s Eleven.  Action takes place off the strip and away from the tourists, which was a twist I enjoyed.  Trixia is playing a long game of revenge for her younger brother’s death, and as part of that is searching for the Light of Life to use as a wedge in angelic/demonic information brokering.  The plot twists delightfully, because Trixia is never upfront and honest about anything, and keeps you guessing as to what is going on in her head throughout the entire book.  Trick of Light is available in paperback and e-book, and its sequel, Grimrose Path will be released September 7. 

Jim C. Hines has wonderful series going starring none other than Cinderella, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty as you’ve never seen them before.  He draws on the darker, original stories rather than the Disney version, and sets his tales after the original stories end.  He keeps things fairly upbeat and tongue and cheek, however, and has fast paced plots that keep you interested.  His princesses are pro-active, and more likely to save the prince from danger than to be saved themselves.   The Stepsister Scheme and the Mermaid’s Madness are available in paperback and in e-book, and the third book, Red Hood’s Revenge, will be out on July 6 of this year.  If you like Mercedes Lackey’s Five Hundred Kingdoms Series, but maybe don’t really like the romance sub genre, these are a good bet.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The White Road
Nightrunner Series #5
by Lynn Flewelling

The White Road is the fifth installment of Flewelling’s Nightrunner series, which started with Luck in the Shadows.  The series follows the escapades of Alec and Seregil, two elite spies, thieves, con artists, ect., who work for the Skalan Orëska, a school of wizards.

The book opens with Alec and Seregil’s return to Aurënen to deal with the fallout of their enslavement in Plenimar.  With them is the rhekaro Sebrahn, an alchemically created creature made from Alec’s essences.  Sebrahn is child sized, sexless, and capable of extreme feats of healing, as well as killing with his voice.  However, only being a few weeks old and not being human, so his grasp of what is going on and what he should and should not do is non-existent.  This makes it hard for Alec and Seregil to take care of him, as well as convince their hosts that Sebrahn is not a threat.  The rest of the book centers around finding out exactly what Sebrahn is, what his future will be, and preventing the making of more creatures like him.  And of course, it won’t be easy for our two heroes to stay alive.  Included in this is a great deal of Alec’s back story about the circumstances surrounding his birth, and Seregil’s back story is fleshed out as well.

I found this book to be enjoyable, and well written.  The plot was engaging, and I enjoyed it more than The Shadow’s Return, the previous book.  However, I have a small complaint in that I did not have time to re-read the previous four books before reading this one.  This series has a large cast of characters, and complex over-arching plot lines.  Actions taken in previous books can and will have direct consequences in later books.  I spent the first few chapters desperately trying to remember who everyone was, what their ulterior motives were, and what had taken place when and where.  I didn’t remember everything, but things calmed down eventually and I could concentrate on a few characters rather than a revolving door of minor characters that had supporting roles in previous books.  Complicating this is the fact that Luck in the Shadows, Flewelling’s debut, came out in 1996.  If you haven’t read it since then, I recommend you go back and re-read before picking up this book.  It’s doable without that, but you’ll get much more out of the book than I did if you do.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


Over the past two days I've been playing around adding links in Delicious, which is a 'social bookmarking' website.  It's a nice place for me to store bookmarks to other sites that people who read this blog might find useful/entertaining: author sites and blogs, agent sites and blogs, editor blogs, short fiction magazines, workshops, conventions with a literary tract, other book review blogs, etc.

I have no idea how (and am in the process of figuring it out) but when I opened my RSS reader today I saw that I had posted a new feed item...which was news to me!  I open it up....and there are all my links from Delicious from the past two days...

Before you ask, no, I did not give Delicious permission to post to my feed.  In fact, nowhere on my Delicious account is my blog even listed except as a bookmark!  (Perhaps this saved me from having to delete posts I didn’t make off my blog.)  The only thing I can figure out was doing that is that little innocuous Delicious network bad I had on my layout.  It has now been replaced with a generic 'bookmark this' button.  Hopefully, this will solve the problem.

I profusely apologize for the spam in your RSS reader/in box yesterday and today.  Until I find something better (and I’m open to suggestions!) to use for public bookmarks, they will still be on Delicious using the same username I have on my blog: merssong.  However, there will be no direct link between my blog and them, which kills a lot of its usefulness.  Let me know if you know of a better site!!!!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Review: Dead to Me

Dead to Me
Simon Canderous #1
by Anton Strout

This is the first book in a series which is now three books strong (Dead Matter released in mass market paperback in February).  The series is set in New York City and follows paranormal investigator and psychic Simon Canderous.  Dead to Me is also Anton Stout’s debut novel.

There’s a quote by Charlaine Harris on the covers of the second two books: “Following Simon’s adventures is like being the pinball in an especially antic game, but its well worth the wear and tear.”  That really does sum up the first book right there.  First, Simon is a psychometric; he gets psychic visions from touching things, and he’s not in control of what he sees, or even necessarily what he reads.  The visions he gets are from someone who’s touched that object’s memory, and he follows that person through that memory.  Now this sounds cool, until you get memories of your girlfriend’s past lovers in technicolored detail.  Then it’s not so cool.

Simon works for the Department of Extraordinary Affairs, which is a secret governmental agency linked to the mayor’s office.  They investigate and police all paranormal activity in the city.  Unlike many other urban fantasies, in this one magic and that paranormal are not widely known about, and the DEA likes to keep it that way.  Simon has only been working for the DEA for a few months, and his mentor/partner is Connor, who mainly works with ghosts.  One day at the local coffee shop, they find a ghost who is thoroughly convinced she is still alive.  They take her back to their office to sit down and explain some things.  Meanwhile, the cultist movement has set up the Sectarian Defense League to grab some political power away from their ancient do-good enemies, the DEA and its parent organization.  Of course, the DEA won’t stand for evil cultists getting away with their grisly crimes even if they now have a government sanctioned lobbyist group, so they start spinning their wheels to come up with a way to legally take the League down.
There are a lot of very tightly twisted subplots in this book, and Simon certainly does drag the reader through them like an antic pinball.  Just when you think he’s about to make some real headway on one plot line, you’re speeding away to the other one, and then just as fast to the third line, and then back to the first one.  While you move very quickly through the chapters, as a whole the plot seemed slow moving to me because all resolution was pushed to the very end.  There is no slow and steady climb to the finish in this book; you’re stuck on a runaway train hanging on for dear life.

Overall, it’s not a bad book.  I’ve got the other three books here to work through, and I will read through them at some point (other more pressing books that have to be returned the library sooner will break things up a bit).  If you like the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, and possibly the Cal Leandros books by Rob Thurman, you’ll likely like this book.  Simon has some of Harry Dresden’s pure bad luck, and some of Cal’s lack of self esteem (though NOT Cal’s self loathing) along with both characters’ full share of tendencies to run into situations headfirst and ill prepared.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Link Salad

I must apologize for not having another review ready to go.  I spent 16 out of 24 hours yesterday sleeping off an illness, so no reading got done.  Instead, I bring you the ubiquitous link salad.

Gail Carriger talks about the worldbuilding of the Parasol Protectorate at Redlines and Deadlines One of my favorite bits is where she talks about leaving the Victorians to react as Victorians to whatever is going on.  It’s this aspect of that really sold me on the series.  Too often, we project our modern ideas and reactions on people of an earlier era and/or different culture, and for me it just falls flat.

My friends will rejoice to know that Torchwood will return to the small screen with new episodes under a three way co-partnership between BBC Cymru Wales, BCC Worldwide, and Starz Entertainment.  You can read all about it here.

Sara Douglass talks about death and dying in a recent blog, focusing on her experience with terminal cancer.  On that same note, Jay Lake has not been silent about his cancer journey.  I'd also like to note here that Kage Baker died of cancer recently, before her last two books came out.

Hopefully I'll have something to review for you Thursday, in between sickness, returning to work, writing, and all that other stuff I do.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

So, a look at things I’m interested in that are being released this month.  Obviously, I’m not going to make it to all of these.  After the day-job, the writing-not-job-yet, housework (ugh, but it has to be done!) and social time, my reading time is not what it used to be.  I also have seven books on hold from the library, which will then come in an avalanche (because processing hates me and does everything at once) and bury me.  Plus the books I’ve already checked out.  So, this is essentially a look at things I think might be nifty.

Lightborn, by Alison Sinclair, is the second book in her paranormal-regency-romance was just released.  I haven’t read the first one yet (as we just got it in at the library), but I find the concept intriguing, as well as the favorable reviews it’s garnished for having a convoluted plot.

Nomansland is Lesley Hauge’s debut.  This seems to be a post-apocalyptic dystopian novel featuring Amazons.  As it’s been awhile since I read something post-apocalyptic, I’m game.

Bullet, the nineteenth book in Laurel K Hamilton’s Anita Blake series is out this month.  I will confess, I won’t be reading it.  But this is noteworthy as one of the original paranormal fantasy series, and I believe the longest running one.

Mercedes Lackey starts off a string of releases over the next six months with The Sleeping Beauty, installment number five in the Five Hundred Kingdom’s Series.  I don’t expect this to be a great book, but a fun and enjoyable romp.  My friend Hanna calls books like these potato chips: not all that good, not good for you, but enjoyable and a welcome break from heavier material.

Meg Cabot has made a move into the chick-lit vampire market with Insatiable.  First, I’m amused that someone like Cabot would move into that market as she already has a huge fan base in straight chick-lit.  Second, I’m intrigued as this is supposed to be more than a little tongue and cheek.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Dream of Perpetual Motion
by Dexter Palmer

I picked this book up off the new shelf expecting a steampunk novel, given the cover and the synopsis.  Oh, how misleading marketing divisions occasionally are.  This book, Dexter Palmer’s debut, is a hybrid book between literary fiction and science fiction, like The Time Traveler’s Wife is literary fiction mixed with fantasy.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that, I was simply taken by surprise.

The protagonist and narrator of the tale is Harry Winslow, a greeting card writer who has been imprisoned on a zeppelin, alone save for the disembodied voice of Miranda Taligent and a host of mechanical men.  At the novel’s opening, Harry has been alone on the ship for an entire year.  In a fit of boredom, and in a bid to not talk to Miranda, he writes his memoirs, starting when he was ten years old.  The memories he shares with us centers around his history with Miranda and her inventor father Prospero, leading up the present and how he came to be imprisoned on the ship.

Underlying the whole work is Shakespeare’s Tempest.  We obviously have Prospero and his daughter Miranda, but instead of being exiled they are exceedingly reclusive.  Harry is an extremely fleshed out version of Ferdinand, and Caliban occasionally pops up in excerpts from his journal that are quoted by Harry.  Instead of having underlying themes of magic, the novel centers on technology.  I should point out that while there are very strong ties between the novel and the play, Palmer is not retelling the Tempest.  The only character which bears a strong resemblance to the original is Prospero himself.

To me, this novel was not really steampunk.  But, then again, steampunk is not a very well defined genre, so perhaps you’ll find it wonderfully steampunk.  To me, steampunk is set in the nineteenth century, not the twentieth.  The novel, while it has a lot of technology going on, does not have specifically steam technology and not anything else.  Alternative steampunk histories usually freeze technology in the industrial revolution before Edison, Bell, and Ford change things drastically with electricity and combustion engines.  This novel has a lot of technology, like radios and electric lights, that don’t work on steam power.  There’s not a lot of exposed gear work, and the machines aren’t the size of a whole room.  In short, the novel is set in the twentieth century with early twentieth century technologies (aka, pre-computer).

Now, on the flip side, I found this book to be more of a dystopian novel like Huxley’s Brave New World or even Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.  The main overarching theme of this book is how technology can divide us from each other and de-humanize us until we are little more than machines ourselves.  Prospero and Miranda are surrounded more by machinery than by humans, and Prospero is even obsessed for the early part of the book on making mechanical men and women.  As a result, Prospero raises his daughter in almost complete isolation from other people, to the point where at ten years of age she has only a loose concept of grammar because she never talks to anyone.  Harry is the most intriguing and important character to this theme.  When we first meet him, he’s also completely isolated from human contact aboard the zeppelin.  We see through his memories that as a child he was far more like what we expect children to be: he engaged with other people, got excited about things, and in general had healthy emotions.  As technology progresses throughout his lifetime, Harry and the everyday people around him become more and more emotionally distant from each other.  They become dysfunctional in every aspect of their lives, until they are the people we in our society would give major psychiatric treatment to.  By the time Harry enters the zeppelin, he is so devoid of emotion that he is not, and never has, grieved for the deaths of his sister and father.  Perhaps the only person you could say he cares about is Miranda, yet he spends the next year avoiding communicating with her at all costs.  Don’t worry; in writing his memoirs to us, Harry does deal with the fact that he’s become so detached from everything.

As you can tell from this review, the book is extremely literary.  There’s some light parts (including an incident that reminded me strongly of Charlie in the Chocolate Factory), but the point of the book is more to make you think than to entertain.  It’s extremely well written on all levels, and very readable.  It’s just not at all what I expected.  But again, that’s not a bad thing.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Well, it’s time to wrap things up for the month.  I have happily set up a nice little rhythm here; hopefully I’ll be able to keep it up.  For those of you who (very likely) haven’t noticed, I’m now blogging twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  I’m trying to do a review a week, which gives me four reviews a month and four other posts to do whatever comes to mind.  Out of those four reviews, I’m trying to do one a month that’s not SFF, as something of a palette cleanser, if you will.  I’ve been trying to keep the word count down, with mixed results.

If you hadn’t picked up on it yet, I work at a public library.  No, I’m not a librarian.  I’m just a lowly checker-in and shelver of books.  How’s that for getting an expensive college education?  However, the bright side of things is that I get to work with books, and if you couldn’t tell, I love books.  I’ve been known to tell my friends that while they may be addicted to things like cigarettes and caffeine, I’m addicted to books.  It’s likely a healthier habit to have.

I’ve talked on here a bit about how a lot of the complaining on the web about the price of books is really silly, in my opinion.  Yes, I too have a huge personal library of books that I physically cannot fit onto the shelves I currently own.  I love them to pieces, but I really can’t bring a book a week (or more) home with me anymore without having to unload A LOT of books to make space for the new ones.  And who likes getting rid of books?  E-book readers, with their ability to store thousands of books in something that can fit in your purse, sound awesome until you realize that for the price of that e-book reader, I could buy more bookshelves than I could fit in my abode and thereby solving my shelf space problem.   But wait!  There is a solution to all this!  Your public library!  (Like you didn’t see that one coming.)

But how much money does a library really save you?  Well, a library in my home state has an answer for you.  Take a look at the Capital Area District Library’s Use Value Calculator.  Plug in some numbers, and while the numbers are estimated at the high end, I’m sure you’ll be astonished.  You might also be surprised at the sheer amount of items on the Calculator.  Many of these services are not unique, or even uncommon.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms
Inheritance Trilogy #1
by N. K. Jemisin

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is N.K. Jemisin’s debut novel, and has received a lot of attention on the blogsphere.  So, like Spellwright, I decided to grab it when it made an appearance on the library shelf.

This is a stunning debut.  Other people have said it, but I must concur.  The plot centers around Yeine, a nineteen year old ruler of a very minor country.  Her mother, however, was the only child of the de fact ruler of the world.  Near his deathbed, Yeine’s grandfather summons her to his court and names her a possible heir, along with two vicious cousins.  One more twist, the game of becoming sole heir is deadly not only for those involved, but for anyone or thing the heirs hold dear to their hearts.  Yeine is forced to struggle for a throne she does not want, that she never asked for, in order to save her life and protect her native country.  Her only allies are the castle steward, and four enslaved gods who want to use her to gain their freedom.

What makes this book so interesting is twofold.  First, it doesn’t follow any standard trope that I’ve run into before.  Yes, we’ve heard of the unwilling heir before, but this tale goes someplace completely new with it.  So much so that I can’t think of a comparable title in terms of plot line.  Second is the way the story is told: Yeine is telling the story while she’s recounting it for someone else, and she occasionally breaks the narrative to talk to that someone else, who we don’t see.  This has the effect, in some places, of seeming to break the fourth wall without quite doing so.  This technique could have been uncomfortably awkward, but somehow Jemisin pulls it off beautifully.

The sequel to this book, the Broken Kingdoms, will be released in hardcover on November 3 of this year.  A small sample is included in the back of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, and I am eagerly looking forward to it.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Nebula Awards

The Science Fiction Writers of America presented this year’s round of Nebula Awards and a few unrelated awards over the weekend in Cape Canaveral.  The winners were:

·         Novel:  Paolo Bacigalupi for The Windup Girl
·         Novella:  Kage Baker for The Women of Nell Gwynne’s (posthumously)
·         Novelette:  Eugie Foster for “Sinner, Baker, Fabulist, Priest: Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast”
·         Short Story: Kij Johnson for “Spar”
·         Ray Bradbury Award: Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell for District 9
·         Andre Norton Award: Catherynne M. Valente for The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making
·         Damon Knight Grand Master Award: Joe Haldeman
·         Author Emeritus: Neal Barrett Jr.
·         SFWA Service Award: Vonda N. McIntyre, Keith Stokes
·         SFWA Solstice Award: Tom Doherty, Terri Windling, Donald A. Wollheim (posthumously)

All of these awards deserve some talk, but I’m going to narrow my focus now to the Andre Norton Award because this year’s winner was such a game changer.  A few years ago Valente had just started making a living as a full time writer when her husband lost his job unexpectedly due to the recession.  A few months later, she decided to be innovative and daring.  She announced that she was writing a book that would only appear online, for free, with a donation button so that her readers could pay what they felt like for it, hoping to add at least a little extra cash to help pay the bills.  There was no editor involved, no agent, no publishing house.  Just Valente and her audience.  These sorts of projects are known as crowd funding, and until now they’ve received very little attention or recognition.  Not only did Valente find a significant audience for her work online, but she just won the premiere award for teen/young adult science fiction and fantasy in the country with it.  It is believed that hers is the first such work to win any major literary award.

Not only is it interesting to see a crow funded project like this rewarded, but it’s also one of the rare times a self published work in any medium has been so successful and rewarded.  Valente, whether she set out to or not, has proved that the publishing world is changing.  Now, she herself has said that she does not think that agents, editors, and publishing houses are going to go away because the fill very needed roles.  But Fairyland has illustrated just how powerful the web is.  I should also point out that Valente had much better odds of pulling this off than the average joe doing crowd funding.  Valente was already a traditionally published author with several books under her belt when she started this project.  She had an established blog and a community of fellow bloggers to rely on to spread the word of her new book.  Most people don’t have that.

And while I’m going on about how publishing is changing, I’d also like to look at two of the Solstice Award Winners, which honors those who have had a significant impact on science fiction and fantasy.  Tom Doherty is the founder, President and Publisher of Tom Doherty Associates, LLC, which publishes books under the imprints Tor, Forge, Orb, Starscape and Tor Teens.  Now a subsidiary of Holtzbrinck Publishers, Tor is one of the largest publishers of SF/F, and has published more award winners in this category than any other house.  Mr. Doherty previously worked at the publisher at Ace, another premiere science fiction/fantasy publishing house.  Donald A. Wollheim helped develop Ace as a paperback science fiction house until starting his own house, DAW.  Both Ace and DAW are now owned by the Penguin Group.  As an editor, Wollheim worked with such giants as Marion Zimmer Bradley, Andre Norton, Ursula K. Le Guin, Phillip K. Dick, Robert Silverburg, and Jack Vance to name a few.  As a publisher, he started the careers of C. J. Cherryh, Tanith Lee, Jennifer Roberson, and Tadd Williams, again, to name a few.  Most infamously, he published an unauthorized edition of Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings while at Ace.  While later found to be illegal, this edition popularized Tolkein in the United States and helped to create a huge fantasy audience.  Mr. Wollheim passed away in 1990.  His daughter Elizabeth Wollheim is a current publisher with DAW.

Valente is also up for a Hugo award this year for her traditionally published novel Palimpset.  Bacigalupi’s Windup Girl and Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker (which I’ve reviewed here) are also nominated.  Those awards are currently in the voting process, and will be announced at Aussiecon 4 in Melbourne, Australia in September.  The Hugo is award by the World Science Fiction Society.

The Girl Who Navigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making will be published by Feiwel and Friends in May 2011, and upon the request of the publisher, the final act is no longer available online.