The Hickory Staff

Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Book 1 of The Eldarn Sequence, written by Robert Scott and Jay Gordon.
I picked this book up on a whim and made several attempts before I got through it – not because it’s a bad book, I should add. But it hits nearly 600 pages and it’s a complex story
with about a dozen major characters.Nor does it help that the first chapter is labelled “Next winter.” Um, what? Did I miss something? Like, maybe, a few dozen chapters?The story then shifts to Rona, a land best described geographically as “elsewhere” (it has two moons so we know it’s not on earth) and then jumps to Colorado, in the late 1800s.
You see why I’ve had to go through it more than once?
Once you get pa
st that, however, it settles into a more reliable storyline. It revolves around Steven Taylor, a bored assistant bank manager in Idaho Springs, Colorado, and his friend and roommate, history teacher Mark Jenkins. They find what appears to be a large piece of finely woven cloth, but are a little unnerved by the glitter and flicker that hovers in the air over it. Both find out the hard way (one stumbles onto it and the other, after figuring out what has happened, steps onto it deliberately) that it is a portal to Rona.
Aha. Now we’ve got the connection.
Rona is a land filled with magic. It is also suffering under the oppression of Nerak, a rarely-seen and probably no-longer-human leader, who is trying to garner even more power than he already has. The results would be disastrous for not only Rona but earth as well ... for Ronans have travelled to earth and back for centuries.
Mark and Steven fall in with partisans battling Nerak and this first book tracks them across the country. Once I managed to figure out what was going on and who was where, I found it to be a very engaging book. The characters are three-dimensional: one, a skilled warrior and proficient killer, hates what he does but must use his talent to protect his friends. Steven has to face his own cowardice. Others reflect on what they should have done, or could do better in the future.
And the book actually is well-organized, despite my first impression. The 600 pages hold five books, according to the contents (and a map, which I never pay attention to as I can’t even read a standard map of earth). Book 1 focuses on Colorado; Book 2 on Rona, and each of the other three on a different area of the “elsewhere” land.
My one complaint is with Book 3: the party takes shelter in a trapper’s cabin. The trapper herself is introduced in the next chapter – for no apparent purpose other than to be introduced and die. It seemed to me a waste of a chapter; it could have been used to further the storyline or just left out altogether. However, since this is the first book in what is (at the moment) a trilogy, it’s obviously not the end of the story, and she may turn up again.
Overall, I’d recommend The Hickory Staff, although it’s the type of book that is best read over long stretches rather than in quick snatches. I’m looking forward to reading the sequels, and seeing how Steven, Mark and the partisans are faring.

Ghost of a Chance

Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Supernatural mystery novel written by Yasmine Galenorn
How would you react to a translucent figure hovering over your bed in the wee hours of darkness?
If you’r
e like most people, it would probably involve a screaming exit from the bed.
For Emerald O’Brien, however, it’s just an annoyance.
Emerald, divorced
mother of two children and a lifelong psychic trained by her “Nanna,” runs the Chintz ‘n’ China Tea Room (“Not Tea Shoppe, with the cutesy extra pe, but Room”) in the small town of Chiqetaw, Washington. Recently deceased romance author Susan Mitchell can’t speak but she can write ... her name and her plea: “I was murdered by my husband, but nobody knows. Help me.
The official report says Susan died after slipping into a diabetic coma. But she was hospitalized four times in the previous year for low-blood-sugar seizures, which suggests a certain sloppiness on her part. Susan later appears to Emerald's son, Kip, followed by something dark, formless and evil.
Ghost of a C
hance is the first of what is often called the ‘Chintz ‘n’ China series’ which features Emerald O’Brien. I enjoyed it well enough. It’s well-written with a good pace and I found the characters believable. Emerald struggles with problems common to divorced mothers everywhere -- including a disappearing and deadbeat husband.
However, I have to say it's also a fairly light read. I didn't find it to be the type of book that grips you to the point of letting dinner burn because you can't put it down.
Still, I like the addition of the supernatural -- the real thing, not a prank gone wrong. It adds a twist to what might otherwise be a basic mystery story.
It's not every day that a murder victim comes in person to plead for justice.

About Me

Thursday, February 3, 2011
I've always been an avid reader. I've read most genres (my interest in the classics came to a screeching halt with my attempt to read War and Peace).

My current interest is primarily fantasy novels. These range from 'adult' novels to the ones you find in the teens' and children's sections. My interest in this genre started about a decade ago with my purchase of the first book in a seven-book series about a certain boy wizard ....

Some of these books are complex and lengthy, others are extremely simplistic and short, but all have one thing in common: a lot of imagination. Somebody -- or, in the case of multi-author books, more than one somebody -- has to gone to considerable trouble to create and populate a whole new world.

In this blog I will share my opinions of these books. If I'm reviewing a series, I'll look at each book both individually and with an eye toward how it fits into the series. Does it add to the overall story arc, or does it seem as if the author has begun to flag? Are the characters still believable? Are there glaring inconsistencies?

To those who don't read this genre, I hope my comments will spark some interest in it. To those who do, if you have an author, book or series you would like to recommend, I would love to hear about it.