Jul. 3rd, 2017

duskpeterson: An apprentice builds a boat as a man looks on. (Default)
"Brain: Look at this plot twist I just came up with! It's so great!

"Me: It's unsolvable.

"Brain: That's what makes it GREAT!

"Me: You do realize that, as the author, I have to solve it?

"Brain: SO GREAT!"

--Stephanie Leary.


What I've been up to )
duskpeterson: An apprentice builds a boat as a man looks on. (Default)
First, a curse on all incompetent blurb-writers; this is the second time in a month that I've encountered a blurb that gives away virtually the entire plot. Fortunately, I know better than to read the blurbs of books I'm guaranteed to read.

I first encountered Mary Stewart's novels on my mother's bookshelf when I was thirteen. Mary Stewart's Merlin novel The Crystal Cave is my favorite (and by "favorite" I mean one of my top five favorite novels), but her romantic suspense novels aren't far behind. I reread them every few years.

The Wind off the Small Isles is a 1968 novella that was "long-lost," which I assume means that someone eventually got around to tracking down Mary Stewart's published short fiction. The novella is romantic suspense, but - unlike most of her novels - it isn't crime fiction, which helps to shorten the storyline.

What suffers most from the shorter length, I think, is the romance. Even though Mary Stewart drops an appropriate foreshadow of love at first sight, it's rather difficult to see what draws the hero and heroine together, other than good looks and an ability to survive the travails of a volcanic island. Character development suffers especially. All that I gathered about the hero is that - like all Mary Stewart heroes - he is charming, handsome, intelligent, affectionate, and alarmingly competent in crises. All that I gathered about the heroine is that - like all Mary Stewart heroines - she is charming, beautiful, intelligent, affectionate, and alarmingly competent in crises. Clearly, the two are well-matched for each other, but there never seems to be any doubt about that. In a word, there is no conflict, which makes for a rather dull love story. The suspense is exciting, however, which helps to make up for it.

Where the novella shines is where Mary Stewart's stories always shine: in the combination of landscape and history. I always want to grab a map and encyclopedia after reading her novels, because she makes the setting as exciting as the characters. In this case, the setting is one of the Canary Islands, and the fun is in trying to predict exactly what aspect of the island is going to end up getting the heroine into trouble. In the meantime, the description of the island is lush, the minor characters are interesting in their own right, and the history is vibrant. This story made for a delightful lunchtime reading.
duskpeterson: An apprentice builds a boat as a man looks on. (Default)
LifePrison


"I'd heard of guards like this; they existed in prisoners' tales like beautiful princesses exist in the tales of ugly boys. I supposed that I ought to be grateful to have been assigned such a guard. . . . I didn't feel grateful."

In the unmerciful world of Mercy Prison, there is no rule but unending pain. For Merrick, the arrival of his new guard provides hope that he may break beyond the boundaries of his life prison. But appearances can be deceptive, and Merrick does not yet recognize the danger this guard poses to his future.

Merrick's guard is bound in his own special imprisonment. The meeting of these two troubled men will determine their destinies, and the destiny of their nation's life prisons.




Law Links


"Sometimes I feel that he is as mysterious as the gods, and that he is hiding something of vital importance from me. Something that would transform my life."

Few events are more thrilling in a young man's life than a blood feud between two villages. Or so Adrian thought.

Torn between affection toward his traditional-minded father and worship of his peace-loving, heretical priest, Adrian finds himself caught between two incompatible visions of his duty to the gods. Then the Jackal God sends Adrian a message that will disrupt his world and send him fleeing to a new and perilous life.




Checkmate


"It's all about torture. That's what I didn't understand for a long time. The High Seeker has been seeking out and punishing those of us who wish to show greater mercy to the prisoners than the Code allows. Those of us who question whether it's right to torture prisoners."

The Eternal Dungeon is no longer a prison. It's a battlefield.

Split apart from their closest loves and friends, a small group of prison-workers seek to abolish the use of torture against prisoners in the queendom's royal dungeon. Time is running out, for the deadly High Seeker has already flogged and executed prison-workers who oppose his policies.

Do the reformers have enough time and skill to bring about radical change in the dungeon? Will they be able to overcome their mistrust of one another?




Survival School


"This is the right place for you, boy. They'll school you here to be a right-standing man, one who can keep control over his actions, like any good man should. You just got to keep yourself open to learn and to grow."

How far can trust grow, when you're in a place you despise?

Arrested for a crime he doesn't regret, Bat ends up handcuffed to a group of fellow city boys and sent on a long journey into the countryside. He know that he is being transported to a prison for delinquent servant boys, but what form will his imprisonment take?

Tattooed with the rank-mark of servant, Bat must learn how to keep from losing his temper with the men who carry the keys to his freedom. But in the unbelievable world where he has been deposited, in which a genial master orders strict punishments and a servant acts like a master, will Bat be able to locate the door to his release? Which of his fellow prisoners can he trust to help him?

And will he survive long enough to find out?

Inspired by true events at a turn-of-the-century reform school, this novella (short novel) is set in an alternative version of the Chesapeake Bay region during the 1910s.




Spy Hill


"Fairview was the finest friend a man could have, and the finest battle-companion. I dared not risk doing anything that might break our friendship."

On a hot summer's day, on a high hill surrounded by the enemy, the best battle-companion can turn out to be the truth.

Rook and Fairview have worked alongside each other for years, first as officers in the navy, then as officers on a steamship, and finally as colonels in an invading army. Members of a nation where tiny differences in rank are considered all-important, the two men defy convention by treating each other as equals.

But now their life-long bond is about to meet its greatest strain, when they are ordered to seize and defend a hill whose landscape is unknown, in the company of soldiers who may be incompetent or treacherous. Will Rook and Fairview's friendship remain by the end of the battle? Or will their lives take an unexpected detour as they struggle to survive on Spy Hill?

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