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Newsletter #75 September - November, 2006

Short Recommendations
by Don Blyly

        Lois McMaster Bujold wrote a new fantasy novel, The Sharing Knife, which is unrelated to any of her other books, but her publisher decided to break it into 2 novels. The first half, Beguilement ($25.95), will arrive around October 9, and Lois will be signing at Uncle Hugo's Saturday, October 21 from 1 to 3 pm.
        Young Fawn Bluefield, pregnant and unwed, flees her family farm in hopes of reaching the big city. But before she reaches the city, she encounters dark magic and becomes involved with Dag and his group of seasoned soldier/sorcerers that travel the land fighting the secret pockets of dark magic. The novel is highly recommendable, stops at a good place, and we'll only have to wait about 9 months to get the second half of the story.

        Matriarch by Karen Traviss ($7.99, due early October) is the fourth in the series that began with City of Pearl ($7.99) and continued with Crossing the Line ($7.50) and The World Before ($7.50). In the first book, tough and highly-principled Environmental Hazard Enforcement officer Shan Frankland agreed to lead a mission to what the government has told her is a small human colony in trouble. The government did not tell her about the 3 alien races that are in conflict over the world. When the government pulls some dirty tricks and gets the human race into an interstellar war, Shan breaks with Earth's government and joins with one of the alien races. By the fourth book, some of the government officials back on Earth have just begun to realize how much trouble the human race is in, and one group invite the aliens to come to Earth to help clean up the environment. Shan has seen how extremely ruthless the aliens can be in imposing their idea of environmental correctness on other alien races, and has begun to worry about how much of the human race will survive the requested intervention. The interesting characters and conflicting cultures makes this an easy series to recommend.

        Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett ($16.99, due early October) is the third in the series that began with The Wee Free Men ($6.99) and continued with A Hat Full of Sky ($6.99). Young witch-in-training Tiffany Aching sees a Morris dance to signal the beginning of winter, and can't resist joining in. This brings her to the attention of the Wintersmith, the supernatural being in charge of winter. The Wintersmith becomes obsessed with her and decides to extend winter as long as it takes to win her affection. Tiffany, the other witches, and the Wee Free Men must find a solution, or winter will never end. I thought this was the best so far in the series, perhaps because of Tiffany's increasing maturity.

        I've enjoyed all of Kim Harrison's series about a witch, a vampire and a pixie that set up a private eye firm in an alternate Cincinnati. The series began with Dead Witch Walking ($7.99), followed by The Good, the Bad and the Undead ($7.99), Every Which Way But Dead ($7.99), and a novella in Dates From Hell ($6.99). I was delighted to see that A Fistful of Charms ($7.99) was coming in July, and I tried to get an advance copy so I could review it in the Newsletter pre-publication. Even though I had given a favorable review pre-publication of all of the previous novels, and the publisher had used a quote from me to help promote the second book in the series, the publisher wouldn't send me an advance copy. I had also requested since the first book came out that the publisher send Kim Harrison to Uncle Hugo's for a signing, and I again requested a signing for the new book. I was told that Kim doesn't tour. Imagine my surprise when Kim showed up at Uncle Hugo's one afternoon with no advance warning-the publisher had sent her to Minneapolis for a signing, but not to Uncle Hugo's. Kim was also surprised that the publisher didn't want her to do a formal signing at Uncle Hugo's, but she did sign all of her books that were in the store (both the Kim Harrison books and the more traditional fantasies she writes under a different name).
        A Fistful of Charms was a bit different from the earlier books. The earlier books all took place in the Cincinnati area, but in the new book Rachel Morgan (the witch) and Jenks (the pixie) head for Mackinaw City (where Michigan's upper peninsula meets the lower peninsula), to rescue a former friend being held captive by a pack of werewolves. Our heroes arrive just before the beginning of tourist season, when the "fudgies" (tourists) suddenly outnumber the year-round residents. Having been to Mackinaw City a couple of times during tourist season (and eaten fudge while there, although I never heard the term "fudgies" while there), I found this change of scene a lot of fun.
        It seemed to me that the latest novel had a bit less action and a bit more soap opera than the earlier books, but I still enjoyed it a lot. There is so much character development in the series that it's very important to read them in order.

        I'd heard of lot of good comments about the Weather Warden series by Rachel Caine, so I decided to sample the first of the series, Ill Wind ($7.99). By the time I was half way through Ill Wind, I had already set aside a copy of the second, Heat Stroke ($6.99) so that I could just keep reading. By the time I was a third of the way through Heat Stroke, I had already set aside copies of Chill Factor ($6.99) and Windfall ($7.99).
        The basic idea is that Mother Earth is angry with the human race, and when a storm becomes big enough it becomes sentient and tries to wipe out as many humans as possible. There are a small number of humans who have special powers and try to keep the rest of the human race safe (and ignorant of what's really going on). Joanne Baldwin is a Weather Warden whose main hobbies are hot cars and hot men, but when she is on the job she can tame most thunder storms and divert most hurricane to a less destructive path. There are other wardens who can reduce the severity of earthquakes, forest fires, floods, etc. Some of the senior wardens have djinn to give them even more power, but Joanne isn't senior enough to rate a djinn.
        Joanne is on the run from the beginning of the book, with a killer storm that has chased her from Florida to New England and is ready to follow her all the way to Oklahoma. She also has a bunch of her fellow wardens out to get her, under the mistaken impression that she killed one of the senior Weather Wardens. The book is a delightful, action-packed story. In the second book, Joanne learns a great deal about the djinn. In the third book, she learns about a less powerful group of magic users who believe that the wardens are actually creating more problems than they are solving. In the fourth book, she has gotten fed up with the politics within the Wardens Association and has taken a mundane job, as the "weather girl" on the early morning local TV news program in a smaller market in Florida. As the "weather girl", she puts on various silly outfits to illustrate the weather forecast given by a weatherman who doesn't have a fraction of her knowledge of meteorology. I'm eagerly looking forward to Firestorm ($6.99, due early September).



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