March 19, 2004
Book Reviews: Two Books

by Wen Spencer
hardcover from Baen, 2003

Master of Ecstasy
by Nina Banks
paperback from Love Spell (Dorchester Publishing Co.), 2004

As always, possible spoilers behind the cut...

The only thing these two books have in common? Both were enjoyable, fun, quick reads. But there the resemblance ends.

Tinker is Wen Spencer's fourth novel, her first hardcover, and her first about Alexander Graham Bell, the petite 18 year old girl who is otherwise known as Tinker. [surprisingly, I never found a Tinker Bell reference!!]

I had a little difficulty getting into it at first. But that "at first" faded quickly. Wen puts you into the middle of the action, the middle of the world, but it *is* the beginning of the story. The hard part is trying to sort out how the world works.

You see, once upon a time this guy created a gate between the worlds. There was this veil effect, and suddenly all of Pittsburgh was sent to Elfhome,as long as the gate's active. On Shutdown Day, Pittsburgh returns to Earth.

And thus the story begins, on Shutdown Day, and with people chasing the Viceroy of the local elven government. Wen's elves are human and not human all at once. Tinker is sweet and innocent and naive and adorable, yet strong and fun and enjoyable.

This is a love story. A growing up story. A mystery. An adventure. It moves from one moment to the next and never quite stops until it's over.

It reminds me a bit of Laurel Hamilton, but better written. That same intensity of relationships, and that same innocence and confusion about the men around her.

If you want something light and fun and feeling good at the end of it, pick this up. I look forward to Wen's next book.

Master of Ecstasy, despite the title, is NOT one of the erotica novels I picked up at Boskone. It is a vampire novel, and a normal mass-market romance novel.

That said, this is one of the sexiest, funniest, smuttiest romance novels I've read in a long time and I just loved it. I giggled through the whole damned thing.

Take one demoness in the form of a white cat ("But white makes me look fat!") who can't keep her mouth shut and is *always* talking about sex and working on getting people together. Add in one demon who now does only good but really really wants to do bad. Then take a vampire, and a woman from the far future who works for Ecstasy and needs t ofind a way to make this oh so hot vampire happy... without using sex.

It has tension, and silliness, and some wonderful quotes and images. It was just lovely and a great break in the otherwise serious stuff. I need that once in a while.

If you like regular fantasy? Nah, this isn't your thing. If romance entertains and amuses you, and you'd like something that's just plain fun and silly and sexy, go for it. I had fun, anyway.

Posted by Deb Atwood at 09:12 PM
March 15, 2004
Recipe: Seared chicken with balsamic glaze over ramen

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
ground marjoram, pepper, salt, paprika, cumin (to taste)
olive oil

balsamic vinegar
chicken broth
dried thyme

2 packages ramen noodles

Sprinkle both sides of chicken breasts with marjoram, pepper, salt, paprika and a TINY amount of cumin to taste. Heat olive oil in non-stick pan. Sear on both sides, 2-3 minutes each.

Drain olive oil to pan. Transfer chicken to another pan and place in 350 degree oven for 12 minutes. Mix 1/3 c broth and add balsamic vinegar to 3/4 c. Turn heat under pan to low and add vinegar. Sprinkle in dried thyme to taste. Simmer until reduced by half. Mix in 1 T butter to thicken.

Meanwhile, cook ramen noodles and drain. Do not add packaged spices. Split into 2 portions and toss with 1t butter each.

Let chicken breasts rest for a few minutes, then slice and place neatly on top of divided noodles. Drizzle sauce to taste over chicken and enjoy.

This was a complete cacophony of flavors that all mixed wonderfully. The cumin was actually a mistake on my part while I was throwing things together and I loved the little twist it added to the whole thing!

Posted by Deb Atwood at 06:58 PM
March 13, 2004
Wish 88: In Your Wildest Dreams
Do you ever dream about games and characters? Do you incorporate the dreams into your games? How? Has it been successful or unsuccessful?

I used to dream incredibly vivid dreams. My sugars must be better or something -- I learned when I was diabetic that low blood sugar induces dreams and sleepwalking. Now that I'm not low, byebye dreams. *sighs*


I do remember dreaming about the very first Amber campaign I was in. I walked up to my GM and said "I dreamed that Jenny found out that Brand was really her father." This was before the whole plotline (which he had already started) came to fruition. I dreamed that Jenny found out who was blackmailing her, and that it was her father, and that she freaked out (good reaction -- she did in game too).


Not really. I work things out in dreams. Puzzles. And games are puzzles to me, so it only makes sense that occassionally my characters should be able to grab a few CPU cycles and work on their own puzzles in my dreams.

I wish I could remember more game related dreams. I know there have been more over the years, but they have been forgotten. No really good ones recently, except for dreaming that I was at Ambercon. *smiles*

Posted by Deb Atwood at 12:07 PM
March 09, 2004
Book Review: A Wizard Alone

A Wizard Alone
by Diane Duane
paperback from Magic Carpet Books (Harcourt), 2003

This is the sixth volume in Diane Duane's Wizard series... I can't wait for the seventh to come out. I always enjoy these wonderful YA books and am looking forward to sharing them with my kids someday.

Possible spoilers behind the cut...

A Wizard Alone continues the story of Kit and Nita, with Nita and her family still in mourning after her mother's death (last book). Kit is asked to look into the apparent disappearance of an autistic boy (who hasn't actually *disappeared*) who is still on his Ordeal after several months. Meanwhile, Nita stumbles onto the same boy while she grieves.

The story explores the process of grief, autism, and as always, the fight against good and evil. It is a page turner, and enjoyable, and excellent for almost all ages I think. Not every topic is easy, but they aren't told in a way that would terrify a child. It's good stuff.

If you like YA novels, I highly recommend this series. I can't wait for the next one.

Posted by Deb Atwood at 07:30 PM
March 01, 2004
Book Reviews: Three Books

I've finished up three books in the last couple of weeks since Boskone. Yes, I know, my reading speed is a dim reflection of what it once was, but at the moment, I'm feeling actually pretty quick. *smile*

Paper Mage
by Leah R. Cutter
paperback from ROC, 2003

Seduced by Moonlight
by Laurell K. Hamilton
hardcover from Ballantine Books, 2004

A Perilous Power
by E. Rose Sabin
hardcover from TOR, 2004

And possible spoilers in the mini-reviews behind the cut...

Paper Mage

I can see why this one made the Locus recommended reading list. It was different. It was well written. It had a consistent voice which was articulate, pleasing, and didn't bog down even though it had some wonderful descriptions. I loved the way the two stories (which were all one story really) wove together through the book, as chapters alternated between past and present, allowing us to see the clues as they became important.

The best part? It didn't go for the predictable happily ever after ending. I wondered, I really wondered throughout the novel if it would go that route, and when it did not, I was pleased.

Seduced by Moonlight

In reading this, I was reminded of the oft-quoted advice on OWW. When you read a published work, don't ask what is wrong with it. Ask what the author did right.

I've grown as a writer. I can tell, because as I read Laurell's latest work I can see things that I consider errors. Yet I still find myself drawn forward, turning page after page in a quick read that at the end of it, I truly enjoyed.

So what does she do right?

I love her characters. I love the woman who can't quite figure out how to do what she's doing, trying to balance all these men in her life and about as twisted a set of relationships as it gets. I love the fact that it is fast-paced and never stops for a moment. A day passes in this novel. A day. I figure she might get to the climax of the dinner in the Seelie Court a couple of novels down the road.

Laurell's writing might not be perfect. But I can set it aside enough to be drawn along the (very sensual) romp and enjoy myself. I just have to set aside the crit hat for a while.

A Perilous Power

This is the second novel by this author -- I think I might've reviewed the first one as well. I liked the first one, well enough to buy this one. I found this one stumbling. I didn't like the main character, Trevor, although I liked his best friend Les. I found the writing style to be a little *too* YA for me.

But I liked the end. I liked the sacrifice. I liked the tone. And I liked the way it tied into the other novel -- it made me sniffle at the end and then it made me smile. Average book, but enjoyable.

Posted by Deb Atwood at 11:00 PM