FIRST TO BURN, by Anna Richland A refreshing break from the turmoil and bloody violence of Westeros, I picked up a book I originally read in unfinished form, a very rough draft, a long time ago, written by fellow Greater Seattle RWA chapter member Anna Richland. I had a vague recollection of liking it back then. Some years later, Anna sold the finished, polished product to Carina Press (the digital arm of Harlequin). Of course, I had to pick it up when it came out and see how much had changed. Took a few months before I got to it, of course (let’s face it, those GRRM books do sort of take over), but I did get to it. Partly military romance and partly paranormal romance, FIRST TO BURN manages to bring to life an unlikely pairing by the use of a series of simple themes: opposites attract, love under fire, getting through tough times. And of course, what’s primarily the story: human and immortal, since our hero, Wulf (confession: I have always had a hard time pronouncing “wolf,” so I keep having to insert that “l” in my head, so it doesn’t sound like a dog’s bark), is a Viking from long ago, doomed to walk the earth, seeing loved ones and comrades age and die, century after century, so forth and so on. Richland was in the Army, so I knew those details would be fine (none of this fraternizing between the ranks!). And I know that Richland is a perfectionist, so I knew the details for the settings (Afghanistan, Rome, Denmark, among other places) would be accurate. And the cast of characters—the immortal Viking; the heroine, an Army doctor who finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time; and his (current) band of brothers were memorable, more polished from when I originally read it. I’m glad to say I still liked it, and you will too. Coming up next: THE LUCIFER EFFECT and maybe even the illustrated BEOWULF, depending on when my request from the local library comes through!
A FEAST FOR CROWS, George RR Martin (Book 4 of A Song of Ice and Fire)(you know, those Game of Thrones books) I'm starting to feel the effects of binge reading a series, in that I'm getting fatigued of the characters yet clamoring for more. Of course, it doesn't help -- or hurt, I guess -- that the books are HUGE. I borrow them from the library in digital form so I can hold these comfortably without hurting my hands, but then there's all the flipping of those digital pages...anyway, at the end of the last book, Storm of Swords, I read on eagerly, realizing that I was nearing the end of the book and needed to find out the conclusion of certain plot points -- only to have it end far quicker than I assumed it would. I was shocked and indignant, because I hadn't realized how long the cast of characters that Martin appended at the end was. And then I was amazed at the cast of characters, because while you're reading you're only vaguely realizing that there are HOLY GEEZ THERE ARE A LOT OF PEOPLE! but once you see them all set out ... good golly, Mr. Martin, I tip my hat to you. I've read books only a fraction of the length and complexity that weren't as well thought out or detailed. But then those books are often written within months instead of years. I'm just glad I had time to read these books years after they debuted, meaning I didn't have to wait for years for the next installment of events. Anyway, this time I was ready for the ending sooner than I expected. I should have been more surprised than I was that this particular work, according to the author's note at the end, was actually HALF of the book he'd plotted out and so the other half would be DANCE WITH DRAGONS. These characters in FEAST OF CROWS were the characters you always wondered about but didn't get a chapter, so it was nice to see what had been happening with them, no matter how curious I was about the characters whose lives were changed (or ended) in the previous work. By now I knew better than to expect any life to be spared, because once I understood there was no single viewpoint that we could depend on, each glimpse into a life had to be taken on its own merits -- and actually, that made each look more focused. I only requested the next book from the library after I finished this one, so I can get caught up with the other reading I've been meaning to do. And I know there will be more. Next: FIRST TO BURN by Anna Richland. I read a preliminary version of this book when she was still writing it, so I'm curious to see how the finished product differs from the earlier one.
Continuing on my break from Westeros... Off the Edge by Carolyn Crane: Since my days of college, I always thought a detective specializing in linguistics would be a nifty idea. Language, even in this day and age of international communication being easy as pie (easier, since the art of pie making can be tricky), is something that is as complex yet simple as being human. Crane's hero is a forensic linguist/spy. How neat and wonderful is THAT? The story is well crafted, and it kept me entertained, and even better, it would have kept me reading even if the guy hadn't been a detective after my own heart. If you're tired of the usual gumshoe, this story will draw you out of your suspense doldrums! Then there's something far away from the steaming underbelly of Bangkok, far far away, back on the planet of Celta... Heart Fortune by Robin D. Owens: Something like the twelfth in the series, this book revisits a world settled by a group of psychics from Earth. Hundreds of years have passed, and language has changed (because as far as I'm concerned, no story is complete unless there's a language component), culture has been established, and even the abilities of those survivors and their descendants have developed. This story concerns itself with the excavation of one of the ships of the original settlers. This particular one crash landed, and is only now, 421 years after colonization, being explored to find what might remain. I enjoyed the story and the plotting as always, although I had to wonder why there was no one specializing in archaeology involved. Okay, break from Westeros is over. Next time, A Feast for Crows!