Reviews from a writer's point of view

Saturday, March 27, 2004

A day late, but at least I remembered!

Lady of the Lakes

By J.C. Hall
Published by Wings ePress

There's a particular kind of novel that, when you begin reading, you find yourself lingering over each and every word as if the words are sips of fine wine, or in my case, fine tea.

This is one such novel. Lady of the Lakes by J.C. Hall is written in a lyrical voice that flows like the gentlest of rivers--with only a hint of the raging rapids ahead. It's a literary voice, something that I've not found very often in modern fantasy. It tells the story of Corryn, a young Sandsman, and Jess, an unearthly knight-errant. From the start, this reader was drawn into a finely-wrought story.

I have just one thing to say: I hope there's a sequel in the works!

This is a wonderfully written novel. The setting and world are lushly described and well thought-out, and every character shines with an inner light. There are no cardboard characters in this one, folks!

I love the mythology of this world. It seems far too rich to 'waste' on one book, so again, I hope there's a sequel coming. And although this review is a bit on the short side, that's because you really have to read this book to appreciate it.

Keep an eye on this author! She's definitely one to watch.

Jennifer 7:00 PM

Sunday, March 21, 2004

The Zoo Gang Girls By: Joan Arndt

Set in a futuristic America, The Zoo Gang Girls by Joan Arndt offers a glimpse of an all female society where men have become unnecessary and extremely rare. Sister's Socialism is true communism at work, and it works very well. Everything is shared--chores, food, clothing, sex. In an all female society, the women cavort freely with each other and in groups. They take Joy in Sweat, a required fitness routine for all sisters. Melissa is a 22 year old sister who isn't quite sure what she wants from life and doesn't quite fit in with the other sisters. She befriends the Zoo Collective's man, who's kept in a cage on display, and eventually frees him, and they discover men living in the wild, who plan to return the world to the time of domination by men.

As a writer, I didn't like this book. It is described as a satire, and although there are some funny moments, I didn't see the satire. I saw a very skewed view of feminism and lesbianism in general. All words containing variants of the words "men" and "man" have been changed to reflect the society's blatant hatred of men. "Woman" becomes "womyn," "women" becomes "wimmin," "Amen" is "Amyn," "Comment" is "commynt" and so forth. I understand this logic, but reading through the book, especially at the beginning I had to stop and wonder if I those were a typo, especially when I saw "mynner" for "manner." Reading through almost 500 pages, I slowly got used to the new spelling, but I never liked it. The book also has numerous grammatical and typographical errors, at one point even repeating a half a paragraph. On top of the experimental spelling, the typos bothered me even more.

I found the plotting rather weak. Halfway through the book, I was wondering just what it was supposed to be about. The threat of men dominating the world doesn't happen until late in the book, and there is nothing leading in that direction, other than the mysterious appearance of an airplane. Most of the book deals with Melissa's search for a place to belong, and many of the scenes involving self-reflection, felt very disconnected. Melissa's character is meant to be something of a rebel, yet through most of the book she coasts along, without any great self-reflection, change or action. The focus instead is on her relationships with the Zoo Gang Girls, a group of women who have rejected the forced pregnancy lottery and are considered to be rather wild, but even these relationships are rather ordinary and do nothing to create any sort of tension within the plot. Groundbreaking research about the Sister's Socialist method of cloning offers a glimmer of a great plot, but that too fizzles off, as the book returns the focus to Melissa's attempts to befriend the zoo's man. Melissa's friendship with the man again offers hope for a great plot, but I didn't see it. Melissa and the man, Desmond, could have resurrected a new society, a better society, instead, Melissa, Desmond, and the sacrifices they make do nothing to change the society. They are just two characters in this backdrop of a perfect social system.

There are some funny moments in this book. I liked seeing iconic images such as the discovery of new cars, CD's, movies, and even Bud Light interspersed in the story, and the reaction of the sisters often gave me a chuckle. And my favorite character in the whole book was Gilda, a loner who has chosen to break with the ways of socialism, and become an individual in her her own right. She had great strength of character, and if the Zoo Gang Girls is meant to be a satire, I'd almost rather see the story told from someone like Gilda than the rather weak character of Melissa.

I'd been looking forward to this book, actually. It sounded excellent, and I was happy to see a piece of lesbian fiction presented to Ebook Reader for review. Reading, Zoo Gang Girls I was once again reminded of how many women feel that the "Fairer Sex" has been treated throughout history--a second class, inferior, group of people little better than animals in a cage. I have read many feminist and lesbian books and articles with that viewpoint, but this one almost offended me. In a perfect society, men and women would coexist equally, neither more powerful than the other. And despite the viewpoint of this book, I have long been of the opinion that women have always held more power than men, it's a quiet power, a hidden power, but power nonetheless. And although I am a lesbian, I have never liked the alternative spellings of womyn, wimmin, grrls, etc. I much prefer the traditional spellings.

The Zoo Gang Girls might be a good read for a young woman just discovering herself, but for me, it was rather disappointing.

Available From: Artemis Press

Written By: Joan Arndt

Reviewed By: Vicki McElfresh

Vicki 12:23 PM

Thursday, March 11, 2004

This week's review will be posted on Monday, March 15th.

Jennifer 7:45 PM

Friday, March 05, 2004

The Commitment by Karin Huxman

Industrial espionage, fake marriages, underhanded dealings, and a bit of romance abound in Karin Huxman's The Commitment, a romantic suspense story set in contemporary corporate America. Love has never treated Miranda well, and when she wakes up with a hangover in bed with a naked man, who just happens to be her boss, she's certain love has dealt her another lousy hand. And then she discovers she's married Drake McLain, even though she has no memory of doing so. Soon, she finds herself embroiled in a plot to catch a corporate spy, and even though she doesn't wish to be Drake McLain's wife, she can't deny her attraction to him. As they continue to work and live together as man and wife, Miranda wonders if attraction is all she feels for Drake.

Having read and enjoyed a previous novel of Huxman's, I expected a little more from The Commitement. It is billed as a romantic comedy, and the comedic elements of this novel are wonderfully executed. There are a number of funny, embarassing, and true to life moments that bring a smile to the reader's face. Miranda Symons is a likeable and sympathetic heroine, although, I could never really bring myself to like Drake McLain. Drake came across as arrogant, overbearing, and a little too perfect for me, though his character was a nice foil to Miranda.

My problem with The Commitment is that it wants to be more than just a romantic comedy. It truly wants to be a suspense novel. The corporate espionage plot was interesting, well introduced, but fell flat as the novel progressed. So much time was spent developing the relationship between Drake and Miranda, that I felt the spying and stealing part of the plot was rushed and underplotted, and in places, wildly unbelievable.

Huxman's novel has some steamy sex scenes, some great comedy, and some nice writing. It's an okay read. For contemporary romance fans, it might be very entertaining, but I enjoyed Karin Huxman's paranormals more.

Available from: New Concepts Publishing

Reviewed by: Vicki McElfresh

Vicki 10:57 PM

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