Book Review – Black Horses for the King

TITLE: Black Horses For The King
AUTHOR: Anne McCaffrey
PUBLISHED: 1996
FORMAT: Mass Market

According to the introduction, Black Horses for the King is an Arthurian Legend, but from a direction that we don’t normally get the story.  I’m not a huge fan of Arthur stories, but I thought that a combination of McCaffrey and a new angle would make this interesting.

The story follows Galwyn, apprenticed to his uncle because his father sucked at life.  Lord Artos crosses his path and Galwyn jumps ship (literally) to get away from his uncle and go on an adventure like he wants.  He has an ease with language and is considered an asset to the group.

I liked the writing style for the most part, although there were some wordings that were a little clunky because she was trying to sound old fashioned with how she talked.  But the blatant “screw everything that isn’t my way” was totally unpalatable.   At one point, for instance, Galwyn makes a big deal out of being thankful that his Uncle was only his mother’s sister’s husband and not actually a blood relative because he was pagan.  And no wonder he was a bad person because, duh, he was pagan.

And I’m totally of the opinion that I don’t care what a character is or isn’t, but there better be a damn good reason for making fun of everything.  And there was’t a lot that justified the total pagans-are-shit treatment.  (Because they’re not me and my way is right doesn’t cut it)

In the end, I decided that the book was way too soap box and way too unpalatable to finish. I decided the review was valid, but because I only got through the first 40ish pages, I’m not going to give this a number review.  Voice good, soapbox bad.  Rating ?/5.

Book Review – TeenBoat

Title: TeenBoat!
Author/Illustrators: Dave Roman & John Green
Format: Hardback
Published:  2012

Okay, so I was browsing the graphic novel section of the library, and I came  across this.  Since the tagline is “The angst of being a teen, the thrill of being a boat!” I knew it would be cheesy, but I was hoping that it fell more on the lines of campy and less on the lines of the worst idea ever.

The book follows a few adventures with a kid we only know as TeenBoat!, and who looks a wee bit like Ron Stoppable from the old Kim Possible cartoon.  It doesn’t take long to decide that this book is every bit as campy as it first appeared, and I am so glad that the creators made it that way on porpoise.

(See what I did there?)

And I warn you now, the book has every single boat pun you can think of, plus a few you wish you hadn’t.  TeenBoat!’s love interest is a foreign exchange student named Nina Pinta Santa Maria. He wakes up covered in barnacle scales.  He falls in love with a Gondola on a school trip to Venice.

How campy is it?

So I found a new port of call named Catalina Safehaven.  Even though we’re in the same study hall, I never really noticed her because she always had her face behind a book.  But when she started reading Prince of Tides, it really caught my attention…

Yeah.  It’s totally like that.

So for a rating.  It’s campy, it’s silly.  But it’s short and it stands by itself. At around 130 pages, it’s worth it for a couple hours of your time when you’re in the mood for something light.  So I will give it a 4/5.

Book Review – The Wreck of the Zephyr

TITLE: The Wreck of the Zephyr
AUTHOR & ILLUSTRATOR: Chris Van Allsburg
FORMAT: Hardcover
PUBLISHED: 1983

In The Wreck of the Zephyr, a boy finds a boat on the hillside and an old man sitting near the boat. He asks the old man about it and then the next 95% of the story is the man telling the story of how it came to be there.
It’s got the same type of ending issues I had with Abdul Gasazi, so again, I’m going to recommend this for older kids (5+).

I liked the story enough, but it was told as a bunch of quoted paragraphs from the old man on the bench. I wish it would have been one of those things where they do a prologue of “how did this boat get here” and then just told the story. I think it lost a lot of the impact it could have had this way.
The illustrations were gorgeous, again done by Allsburg himself, and this time in full color. I could certainly see the appeal of the artwork, although the colors used had the same passive feel as the story.

I intentionally waited a couple weeks to write this review, and really, I can tell you the overall gist of the story, but the details didn’t really stand out. So I’m going to only give this a 3/5. It’s a high 3, but only a 3. Worth reading if you’re reading all of them, but he’s got others that are better.

Writer Wednesday – Amy McCorkle/Kate Lynd

Who are you? (A name would be good here…preferably the one you write under)
I write romantic suspense, crime fiction, and gritty romantic suspense under Amy McCorkle and SciFi and Dystopian under Kate Lynd

What type of stuff do you write? (Besides shopping lists)
See question one.

What do you want to pimp right now? (May it be your newest, your work-in-progress, your favorite or even your first)
I’m working on a screenplay right now that I plan on producing and directing called Rain Down On Me, an indie drama about a hard drinking, embittered disabled vet and his relationship with a woman on the run from her abusive sheriff husband. A web soap called Darius and Anastasia about a mob boss and his former CIA bodyguard. And I’m launching Blackout: An Aurora Black Novel and Letters to Daniel Vol. 2 at Imaginarium.

What is your favorite book? (Okay, or two or three or… I know how writers are as readers.)
Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut and The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

What other hats do you wear besides the writer hat?
Director and producer.

What link can we find you at?
Amy/Kate’s Blog

 

*****

Enter Catchy Title Involving A Boat Here

Alone in a boat. As a writer that’s what you are when it comes to making it in your career. I remember as a kid growing up I wanted to be a writer. Or perhaps published author would be a better way of putting it. I wanted to walk into a bookstore and see my name on the shelf. I dreamed of awards and signing my name and getting paid boatloads of money to do it.

I had no idea how to make this happen. I thought you went to college to make this happen. And you can get your MA in creative writing and set out along that path if you wish. But there’s no more guarantee that you’ll make than if you take my route which is going to conventions and conferences and making connections and being left alone to develop your voice.

But I have to admit my success came by way of the small press. And I picked great house to start with MuseItUp Publishing. They’re an e-press that will consider print after a year of your book being out on the market for a year. They nurtured me and helped me hone my voice as a writer. Lea Schizas had a vision and she has seen it through.

I found her at digicon, a free online writing conference put on by Savvy Authors. I had a fabulous mentor in Julie Butcher. I now have several people who’ve reached out to me along the way and supported my career in its early stages. Stephen Zimmer the boss that he is was big on getting me included in the con scene. Pamela Turner introduced me to Stephen and Fandom Fest.

The most important thing though is, no matter how many people are there to help you, you will get nowhere if you don’t reach up that ladder for the next rung while helping someone up with the next hand. Not only is it just good karma, it makes good business sense. You don’t want to alienate people with a bad attitude. Your success ultimately depends on you. Because your career is the boat and you are the one steering it with you paddles. No one is guaranteed the million dollar paycheck with the movie deal. You must define what is success for you. Compared to February of 2011 I am doing quite well. I still could do better. You can always do better. Be more. Do more. So my advice is don’t ever give up. Keep writing. Keep revising. And don’t be afraid to submit.

Books Review – Caroline, Rebecca, Kaya

Meet Caroline
Kathleen Ernst
Illustrations Robert Papp
Hardback, 2012

Meet Rebecca
Jacqueline Dembar Greene
Illustrations by Robert Hunt
Paperback, 2009

Meet Kaya
Janet Shaw
Illustrations by Bill Farnsworth
Hardback, 2002

As part of Pleasant Company/American Girl’s decision to retire Molly, Misheal and I went back and read through some of the books – Misheal tackled Molly’s six book series, but I went through and did Molly’s companion books and have now moved on to the other Meet whoever books from the American Girl catalogue.

In Meet Caroline, we’re looking at the first shots of the War of 1812, and a little girl who lives in upstate New York on the shore of a great lake.  When war breaks out, she’s in a boat that her father built with her father and two cousins.  As they go towards Upper Canada, still British owned, they get seized by the British Army, who takes the girls back to their family but hold her father and cousin, Oliver, as prisoners of war.  [Side note – if Oliver is from Upper Canada, he’s a British Citizen.  I don’t know why they took him prisoner…]

In Meet Rebecca, we’re with a Jewish family in the midst of World War I.  Her problems start with not being allowed to say the prayer to light the candles on Saturday, and end with her persecuted Jewish cousins trying to get out of Russia with their lives.

In Meet Kaya, we’re in the midst of a Native American tribe somewhere in the Oregon/Washington/Idaho area (they only show us a map of the tribal lands, they don’t really say where they are) during Salmon Fishing Season.

So now on to my feelings about the books themselves.  First of all, I am a little disappointed (no really) that they broke their format of all the dates ending in 4, but it did open them up to things like the War of 1812, which we learned sadly little about in school.  (The other one, so far, is Cecile and Marie-Grace in New Orleans in 1853.)  But it doesn’t have any bearing on what I thought about these stories, I just wanted to throw it out there.

Some of the early dolls/books were period specific but didn’t really have a lot to deal with/understand.  What I noticed in these three books is that they have gotten a little bit more serious in what they’re talking about.  Caroline is captured by troops, Rebecca is dealing with religious persecution and Kaya gets into a lot of cultural stuff that we may not be that familiar with – family/community obligation, behavior affecting everyone (at one point, something she does causes all of the children of the village to get whipped), etc.

Caroline and Rebecca feel similar, despite being 100 years apart, because they’re dealing with the same sorts of things.  They both have family in really precarious positions – Caroline’s father in a POW camp, Rebecca’s cousins trying to get here from Russia – and they’re both in New York and family centric (although that’s a common theme in all American Girl books).

Interesting, though, was that even though Rebecca’s book starts in 1914, there’s absolutely no discussion about WWI.  For now, I give it the benefit of the doubt, as the assassination of Frans Ferdinand didn’t happen until the end of July, but the way the series starts out, it doesn’t feel like they’re planning to talk about it at all, and that’s my interest in the era.  What I did find curious was that the Russians were persecuting the Jews way back then and that’s not something I’ve *ever* learned in history class.  Public Education Fail for sure.  America seriously needs to stop being so selfish and start teaching about the world.

Kaya’s book, on the other hand, was so totally different.  Her story takes place in 1764, and aside from the Small Pox epidemic being a fleeting comment (her grandmother has the scars and the story to tell), her family doesn’t really have much to do with anything outside her tribe.  What I did like, however, was how close the tribe was.  Even the ones who weren’t blood relation were considered cousins and part of the extended family.  When Kaya’s actions (leaving her little brothers in the care of a blind person so she can go off and race her horse) cause the Whipping Woman to come out and punish all the children of the village, Kaya learns humility and to be a team player.  I have to say, I kind of like the Nimiipuu (nee-MEE-poo aka Nez Perce) culture.  I like how the focus is for the greater good and having a group of people that are family even when they’re not; too often in modern culture, we have families who don’t speak to each other, people who move apart and then let distance cause an emotional separation as well, etc.  Kaya’s motivation was to be a citizen that her tribe was proud of.  If only we had that today.

In all, I love that these books deal with serious topics, but do so in a way that kids (well, girls anyway) can relate to.  In all of these books, we get to see that girls, even if they’re expected to do submit to the female roles of society, can be strong, courageous, and awesome.  Women are more than the cooking and the cleaning, and even if that’s what’s expected of them, they can rise to any occasion, and that is a lesson that I hope every girl gets – you can be amazing, you just have to do it.

I’m going to give these books a 4/5.  I know they’re geared towards 10-year-olds (all the characters turn 10 in their birthday books), but I think they have a broader range than that (easily 7-12, but beyond that), and they’re great as topics of conversation.

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