Sunday, September 28, 2008

Getting My Fiction Fix Part I

The US economy is in turmoil. We’re still at war. My truck needs an oil change. My cat, Larry, is missing and I need a fiction fix bad but gas prices, grocery bills, and even my favorite book seller prices have all risen. What do I do to escape?
Thank God for the Library. Living in Palm Beach County Florida
I am very lucky because we have an excellent library system.

No matter where in the County I live I am only 15 minutes from a fiction fix. I consider the Library to be my one stop shop book paradise. The best thing about the Library is it’s FREE! I can get hard back, soft back, large print and audio books, as well as, music cd’s and movies on dvd. I can peruse current magazines and newspapers in the reading lounge. The library provides high speed internet access for me too. When I can’t get there, I can log onto their website to renew my books, or reserve books I want, download an audio book, (I love to listen at work), or download an e-book. For Free!

When life gets me down I retreat to my library. I take a deep breath when I walk in and the scent of the books gets my endorphins singing and my blood pressure lowering. While the library isn’t a completely silent place there is a sense of hushed understanding for quiet and respect for the other visitors like at a church or museum. I love walking through the stacks checking out titles, touching covers, admiring book cover artwork, and feeling the weight of my next read in my hand. Oh! And did I mention it’s FREE!
(Disclaimer: There is no cost for books as long as materials are returned on time. There is a .10 cent daily fine for overdue items, which is still better than buying in these financially stressed times for this besotted bookworm.)

Besides checking out reading materials, the Library also offers a variety of other activities. I can join a book club, or take a class in glass painting, computers and the internet. My husband and I can have an evening out at the movies with showings of the classics. Did I mention I can do any or all of these activities for FREE?!
Do something good for yourself and your wallet this week,
visit your neighborhood library!

Check here to see what is going on this month at the main branch of the Palm Beach County Library.

P.S. for those who were worried too, Larry has been found! He was hiding behind the bookshelf in the guest bedroom and we accidently closed the door on him. Maybe he likes to read too!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Fairytales for Grownups

I loved fairy tales as a kid. For me, they were so cut and dry. Bad always loses. Good always wins and in between there is high adventure, love found, love lost then found again and more adventure. Yum!
For years I’ve had to satisfy my fairy tale fix with romance, fantasy and children’s novels. Of course I didn’t call them fairy tales that would be childish, right? Well, a few years ago one of the most prolific and fun fantasy writers in the biz turned her attention to the genre of the fairy tale and I am so glad she did. Mercedes Lackey may be a very familiar name to you. Not only does she write solo but she is also a happy collaborator with a dozen of her writing friends. Every time I go to the library or bookstore I see a new book with her name on it. One would think from gryphons to mages Ms. Lakey’s talent would be satisfied but no. She has taken on the task of remaking classic fairytales and I for one am very glad she did. She has called the series” Tales of The 500 Kingdoms.”
Ms. Lackey has created a world where the traditions of fairy tales become the power of destiny for the different characters in each story. Godmothers are the protectors and directors of the TRADITION. They oversee their little kingdoms keeping a sharp eye out for a build up of tradition around their charges. When one person seems to be pulled into a certain fairy tale path it is the job of the Fairy Godmothers to provide magical assistance for the proverbial Happy Ending. Some characters get punished for their evilness and others are rewarded for their heroism and all provide a weekend of entertainment for the reader.
In “The Fairy Godmother”, (published 2004), a Cinderella character finds herself in difficult circumstances when her prince charming doesn’t show up and Elena changes her destiny by becoming a Fairy Godmother herself.

“One Good Knight”, (published 2006), takes on the Beauty and the Beast when the poor little rich Princess Andie finds herself being sacrificed to a pillaging dragon thanks to her evil and crazy mom, the Queen. She is rescued by an interesting hero in Sir George who is not what he seems. Romance grows as trouble brews. With the help of Godmother Elena and the Tradition a happy ending is in the offing.

In “Fotune’s Fool”, (published 2007), the Little Mermaid goes spy and gets kidnapped by an evil Jin. With her prince from the dry land she manages to not only escape but save all the other magical princesses held by the bad Jin.

The most recent offering in the series of “The 500 Kingodoms” is “The Snow Queen.” In this tale Ms. Lackey takes hints of traditional fairytales of Snow Queens, questing heroes and evil witches to create an adventure for the relatively new Fairy Godmother of the North. Godmother Aleksia brings vain young swains to humble heel while strengthening lovely damsels. The adventure takes off after she brings Kay, the young swain and Gerda, his light o’ love together. An evil witch is impersonating her and she along with 2 mages, a wise woman and valiant young girl confront the witch and win the day.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

FireFly Lane By Kristin Hannah brings memories, laughter and tears

Debbie said “Mame, it is going to make you laugh and cry. You better keep the Kleenex close by.” My co-worker and fellow bookworm was talking about Kristin Hannah’s newest offering Firefly Lane. I have to say here and now I am not a huge fan of mushy books. Beaches, neither the book nor the movie, did very much for me. Danielle Steele got old after the Promise, so I didn’t think I would be interested in Ms. Hannah’s book. Debbie however is nothing if not persuasive and managed to convince me to give it a try, she said, “The main characters of the book are our age and it will take you back Mame .” I had to give a try since she is the one who turned me onto the The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd and I loved it!
I have to acknowledge Debbie here and now. She gave me another winner with Firefly Lane.
The story is of two girls growing up in the Northwest in the 70’s and follows their friendship and relationships to present time. Kate and Tully are pretty typical teenagers in 1974. Kate comes from a middle class family while Tully’s childhood has been dysfunctional and even tragic. Kate is awkward. She struggles with the rules of mom and dad and dreams of being popular and cool. Tully is old beyond her years. Her mom is an aging flower child with a bad habit. She yearns for someone to love her. This unlikely pair becomes best friends and as the plot unfolds their friendship will be tested in a myriad of ways. Kate’s self esteem issues will eat at her while Tully’s need for love will make her lie to protect what she has. While the story grabbed me immediately with memories of Little Kittles, and Tab cola I stayed for the tension of a relationship that was born of mutual need and the struggle of keeping it together through the changes life brings. There is a lot in this story that feels very formula to me. Opposites become friends, one envies the other, misunderstandings seem to break them apart and a coming together of sorts in the end. What Ms. Hannah does with this formula makes this a great read. This felt like a very personal story to her. I have come to find out since it was very personal.
Once again, to say much more about the story will ruin it. I can tell you that I laughed at the memories Ms. Hannah invoked with Gunny Sax prom dresses, bell bottoms and platform clogs. I felt like she had stopped by my past and grabbed up some of my favorite parts and placed them with care into her story. Because Debbie had warned me of crying I made a promise to myself I wouldn’t get sucked in. The crying didn’t begin until the last 50 pages or so and I blubbered like a baby and it felt really good. My 18 yr. old son walked into my room and walked right back out saying, “Dad! Mom is crying over another stupid book. Why does she do that?” Thanks Debbie for another great read though I still disagree about Gone With the Wind.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Southern Vampires get True Blood

Last night HBO premiered its new series TRUE BLOOD. This is an awesome turn of events. The new show is based on a series of pop fiction novels written by Charlaine Harris called “The Southern Vampire Series”. Most of the time I dislike it when a book is converted to the screen no matter the screen size but HBO has pulled it off. (Two years ago SHOWTIME did it with the “Dexter” series to great success but Dexter is a topic for another installment). Back to Sookie: “The Southern Vampire Series revolves around a telepathic waitress named Sookie Stackhouse and her interactions with, the recently out of the coffin, Vampires.
With a delicious mix of humor, paranormal creatures and just the right amount of sexy Ms. Harris has created a world where Vampires are our next door neighbors. Some people welcome the Vampires into the community and other view them with suspicion, fear and even envy. Sookie finds them very comforting and attractive. Being telepathic she has spent a life time trying to avoid being in other people’s heads. She can’t hear the Vampires’ thoughts and that is rare indeed for her. She finds it oh so peaceful and intriguing. She finds Vampire Bill most intriguing and attractive. She rescues him from a pair of drainers. He will in turn rescue her and make her fall in love with him. (Note: Drainers are people who attack vampires and drain them of their blood to sell it on the black market. Vampire blood works on humans like an ecstasy, steroid cocktail. It is the ultimate addictive drug).
TRUE BLOOD starts at the beginning of the story in a little town just outside of Shreveport, LA. Bon Temps has been a quiet little town but that is all about to change. The opening scene when the Jason and his current girl go into the convenience store where they notice a sign selling True Blood. True Blood is a synthetic blood drink that the newly outed Vamps use for food instean of chomping down on the innocent and tasy humans. The guy behind the counter is all done up in Goth clothes, with black nail polish and skeleton rings on his fingers He scares crud out of them pretending to be a vamp. Jason and he have a great laugh when he reveals he was only kidding. All the while another guy who looks like a fat ol’ redneck watching scene takes offense at the slurs and ridicule coming from the little group and says so. Jason threatens him to stay out of their conversation when the redneck turns out to be an actual vampire, sharp fangs and all. It was GREAT! Isn’t that so true?! Danger is most often wrapped in the most unassuming packages. The storyline follows along the first book with the only deviation of the time. Her first books take place before Katrina hit Louisiana and TRUE BLOOD takes place after. The hour long premier moves swiftly introducing the main characters: Sookie, her brother Jason, her best friend Tara, her boss Sam (wait until you find out about the secret he is hiding), her love interest Vampire Bill, her grandma and the town of Bon Temps. The story line is set when Sookie rescues Bill. Jason is arrested for murder. The credits begin rolling as Sookie finds herself at the mercy of the drainers she just saved Bill from. The end leaves me wanting more, especially Eric. Don’t worry, you will meet him soon but you won’t soon forget him. Vamps Rule!
The complete list of Southern Vampire Series:
Dead until Dark Living Dead in Dallas Club Dead
Dead to the World Dead as a Doornail Definitely Dead
All together Dead From Dead to Worse
Check out Charlaine Harris’ other great series heroines: Aurora Teagarden, the Librarian Sleuth; Lily Bard, the crime attracting cleaning lady; and Harper Connelly, she makes a living talking to dead people. All her books are widely available online, at the local bookstore or library.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

This isn't just another Black Out

When I think of a black out I think of a night when I slammed one too many tequilas in college. I was partying, laughing and the next thing I know I was home in bed with my make-up stuck to the pillow, the sunlight poking daggers into my eyelids and a blank space where the rest of my night should have been. It was an experience I have been loathed to experience ever again. Imagine for a moment what it would feel like if entire years and events were just gone from your memory. Then imagine that the safety of your family depends on you remembering.
In Lisa Unger’s “Black Out” her character Ophelia is suffering from Post Traumatic Stress syndrome and has holes in her memory. Her mother emotionally abandons her for the love of a convicted death row serial killer. Mom moves them from New York to Central Florida so she can be close to the man of her dreams and assist in appeals which will eventually free him from death row and prison. It is during this time when Ophelia becomes involved with the killer’s son, Marlowe. Let me just say here, “Like Father, Like Son.” Later after being rescued from Marlowe and creating a new life with a new name Annie she realizes one cannot escape the past only reconcile it. The suspense is in the reconciliation.
The story did not flow. It leaped, bounded and skipped across the Past, Present and future, from a trailer park in Central Florida to a tattoo parlor in New York to a cargo ship on the ocean back to a high end neighborhood in South Florida. Not until the very end of the book do all the unrelated bits and pieces come together for a shocking conclusion. This is a tightly drawn suspense novel that had more twists and turns in it that a Gordian knot. There were times while reading this book I wasn’t sure where I was anymore than Annie knew where she was and that was the fun. Who were the good guys? Gray, her husband? Drew and Vivian, the concerned in-laws? Who were the bad guys? Marlowe? Her mother? And the biggest question of all: who was really the victim? I kept turning pages just so I could maybe figure out where reality began and delusion ended. ? I would love to supply more detail and plot but then that would ruin the story and I wouldn’t dream of ruining it for you. The book comes to an end but the story left me wondering. Could there be a sequel? Maybe we will finally find out what happened to Gray’s sister. Where did Ella go? Hmmm….. This is my first taste of Lisa Unger’s story telling and it won’t be the last. Keep ‘em coming Ms. Unger!