Sunday, June 24, 2012

Book Two of Merlin’s Decedents: Guardian of the Trust by Irene Radford

Guardian fo the Trust
This is the second book in a series of novels focusing on the mythical bloodline of Merlin. This story is set about 800 years after “Guardian of the Balance,” which places the story in the 13th century. The protagonist of this novel is Resmiranda Griffin, nicknamed Ana.  She is the descendent of Arthur and Wren many generations down the line.  The story takes place during the rule of King John Plantagenet, best know as the villainous King John from the story of Robin Hood, i.e. Robin Locksley.  This story takes place many years after the Robin Hood tales, Robin Locksley is still against the King, but he is not the main male character nor even still actively antagonizing the King.  The King has been ensorcelled by his half-brother Radburn Blakely who’s mother was half demon.  Blakely wishes to rule Britain and only Resmiranda has the heritage and inherited power to resist him.  While Resmiranda has to fight with herself to embrace her “pagan” magic which is abhorred by her Christian upbringing.
There are many references to places and people from the “Guardian of the Balance” but if you haven’t read “Guardian of the Balance” it does not deter from “Guardian of the Trust".”  As this book deals with a completely new set of characters, the references from “Guardian of the Balance” just give a sense of history behind the story, but doesn't revel plot secrets. 
Radburn does a wonderful job of mixing historical fact with fiction to provide us with a magical tale.  King John is not the villain I thought he was, he is a conflicted and complicated character like most of Radburn’s characters.  And Resmiranda has a deep inner struggle that allows most of the plots conflicts to be internal rather than external.  The writing style of “Guardian of the Truth” was a much easier read than “Guardian of the Balance.”  The story seemed to just flow easily in and out of history seamlessly.  Resmiranda is a strong woman and in a time when women had little power, Resmiranda is written into very powerful role and is very relatable and likable.  This was a quick read for me, I was drawn into the story and couldn’t put it down, I read the whole book in two days.  This felt like a book written by an experienced writer who knows what makes a good story.  Guardian of the Truth is a great historical fiction novel. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Book One of Merlin’s Decedents: Guardian of the Balance by Irene Radford

Guardian of the Balance
This is the first book in a series of novels focusing on the mythical bloodline of Merlin.  This story is set in the late 5th century and early 6th century.  The protagonist of this first novel is Arylwren, nicknamed Wren,  the daughter of Merlin and the goddess whom he serves. Wren grows up in the shadow of and falls in love with the boy who will one day inherit the title of Pendragon. Meanwhile, to protect her from political and religious intrigues, her father forces Wren into a loveless marriage. Wren has a long and difficult journey through life and pursues a destiny spun for her by the goddess of the land, but whose contributions to Briton behind the scenes make her as important as Arthur himself.  Wren must balance the old with the new and her love with her duty.
This is not the first book Radford has ever written, but it feels like it.  The writing style in the first half of the book is rough, and the story line is choppy.  The second half of the book things begin to move smoother as Radford’s writing improves.  During the first half of the book, Radford throws out details regarding many Celtic rituals and Gods with no real enhancement to the storyline, it seems almost as if she want to show off her knowledge rather than enhance her story.  Thankfully, in the second half of the book the Celtic ritual details do enhance the story line and makes the reading much more enjoyable.  It is the second half of the book that drew me in, and I had trouble putting it down.  Radford kept most of the classic Arthurian legend details but her own spin on them that made the story seem fresh and engaging.
The personalities and reasons behind the actions of well known characters such as Morgaine and Merlin mad the story seem new and sometimes I wished for different outcomes than what I knew must happen.  There are also new players to the legend working in the background that add some depth to the story and provide new antagonists to thwart Arthur, Wren and Merlin, and lead to the conclusion that we all know must happen.  For example Nimue, is corrupted by her greed for power and her laziness to complete a task as instructed, if here flaws did not hinder her so, she could have been a larger threat than she was.  But, if her father Carrdoc had not been such a brutal man, she may have been able to user her power for good, and at first I felt sorry for her, in the end she got what her deeds deserved, but I still felt sympathy for the character, which shows that when Radford choose to focus on the story and the characters she could weave a magical tale.  I love that fact that “Guardian of the Balance” follows Arthur and Wren from childhood to death, and sets up the next book to be about their decedents rather than carrying the story of Arthur and Wren.  I am looking forward to “Guardian of the Truth”

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Fifty Shades Trilogy

Fifty Shades Trilogy
I went through these books so quickly, that I didn’t leave time to do individual reviews of each book, instead I am doing a review of all three read together.  I first heard about his trilogy on Good Morning America, and thought it would be on my future reading list.  Then a friend said she had them and loved them and loaned the trilogy to me.  My friend stated that they were along the lines of Anne Rice’s Sleeping Beauty trilogy, but I find that to be a gross misstatement.  The Fifty Shades Trilogy does have intense sex scenes with Dominant/Submissive tones, but unlike the Sleeping Beauty trilogy there is an actual story and character growth. The characters of Christen Grey and Ana Steele are very likable and wanting to get to know them better kept me turning the pages. 
Fifty Shades of Grey is where were are first introduced to Christen and Ana.  Christine is a vastly wealthy businessman, self made and controlling of all aspects of his life.  Ana is incredibly na├»ve and yes virginal.  Christen has a very specific type of relationship with women, and Ana must discover if she can provide that, especially since she has never been in a sexual relationship before it tests all her boundaries.  This book is mostly about Ana discovering who she is and what she will and won’t do in a relationship.  Christen is an enigma to both Ana and the reader, and leaves us both hungering for more information and insight into his character. 
Fifty Shades Darker is the next step in Christen and Ana’s relationship.  Christen is willing to test his relationship boundaries to give Ana what she wants and needs from him.  This book is mostly about Christen pushing and expanding his emotional limits.  There is also the excitement of an ex-lover coming for Christen and/or Ana and the suspense of how the unstable woman will attack them next.  I could not put this book down, I think I finished it less than 24 hours.  To me this was the best book of the three, EL James combined suspense, romance, and humor masterfully and the story just unfolded effortlessly and I found myself devouring it.
Fifty Shades Freed we continue with Christen and Ana’s story after they are married and there is yet another unstable person attacking them.  Jack Hyde is after revenge, but revenge for what?  This was the most boring of the three books, the suspense element wasn’t as good as in book two and the sex scenes felt a bit repetitive.  Also, the happy newlyweds did not really inspire me.  They were settling into boring married life, rather than exploring either’s emotional or sexual boundaries as in the first two books.  Still a great read though.
Overall the Darker Shades Trilogy is a great story of relationship boundaries, with some really hot sex scenes thrown in for fun.  The characters are memorable and make you love them within the first few chapters.  Christen and Ana are such extreme opposites and such extreme character types that you can’t help but cheer for their happiness.  Now I understand what all the hype was and agree is a hot summer read.

A River Runs Through It and Other Stories by Norman Maclean

A River Runs Through It
I am part of a book club, we read a book a month. This month we are reading A River Runs Through It and other Short Stories.    There are 3 short stories in this collection.
The 1st story in the book is A River Runs Through It, this is a story about fishing and family.  It is about the Maclean brothers Norman and Paul in the late 1930’s in Montana.  The narrator is the older brother Norman who talks about a fishing trip with his younger troubled brother and Norman’s attempt to help Paul get straightened out.  The Macleans are a Presbyterian family that describe life through their religion and their passion for fly fishing.  Personally, I found all the fishing commentary boring and tedious, but it is obviously important to MacLean and his story line.
The 2nd story in the book is Logging and Pimping and “Your Pal Jim, this is a story about Maclean’s summer working as logger with a adversarial partner Jim.  It tells how they spent the summer working against each other instead of with each other.
The 3rd story in the book is USFS 1919: The Ranger, the Cook, and the Hole in the Sky, this is a story about MacLean’s time in the forest service.  I was unable to complete this story, by page 16 I was so bored out of my mind I just couldn’t finish reading it.
Personally, I find Norman MacLean’s writing flat and uninteresting.  He narratives of his stories are of his family and experiences, but they are not engaging events.  MacLean seems to focus on unimportant details that have no purpose in the story and he describes these details to a painful degree.  For example, in Logging and Pimping and “Your Pal Jim, he spends an entire page of the story describing Jim’s logging boots and the boots have no significance to the storyline beyond this description.  The stories seem to ramble and do not have a point, there is no epiphany found at the end that gives us a reason to read the story.  In a way, I felt like I was listening to an old man talk about his youth with no point behind his recollections, just a desire to talk and not forget who he was when younger.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

A Lion Among Men by Gregory Maguire

A Lion Among men
This is the third book in the Oz trilogy.  In this book the Cowardly Lion is interviewing Mother Yackle regarding Elphaba and Liir, and during the interview we find out more about the Lion’s life.  And finally we find out what happened to Nor.  This book still leaves a great many mysteries unresolved.  Some mysteries are solved and/or clarified but if I told you which ones I would spoil all the fun.  A Lion Among Men was a more difficult read for me, the storyline seemed less cohesive then the first two books.  The storyline jumped between the Lion’s story, Mother Yackle’s story, and Nor’s story in such a way that the entire book seem disjointed.  The jumps sometimes were too abrupt and did not allow for a good flow.  I was glad to know the backgrounds of the characters and it made some events in the first two books clear, but it made it hard to read and follow too.  In the end there were still a great many things left unresolved hopefully Out of Oz will finally answer all my questions.  It seems to me in this book that Maguire has lost some of his story telling mojo.