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Monday, June 11, 2007

The School for Husbands by Wendy Holden

ISBN: 0452285887
Format: Paperback, 320pp
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
Price: $14.00

What if you could send your spouse to a school for husbands? He could learn to groom himself properly, help take care of the children, and help with chores around the house. All those things, that for the most part, you nag him about already.

Well in The School for Husbands Wendy Holden has imagined just such a place. With humor and a sharp eye we are introduced to Sophie and Mark. While their marriage is not perfect they are relatively happy and in love. With the birth of their son Arthur this happy family picture seems to be complete.

While Mark loses himself in work Sophie starts to feel neglected. It does not help that Mark’s work colleague, Persephone, seems to be out to get him even if he is clueless about the whole situation. So with the help of her overly involved mother Sophie packs up Arthur and leaves.

What Sophie does not know is that her mother has paired up with an old fling to make sure that she follows through with a divorce. Simon seems to have it all, a successful lawyer rolling in millions, but he is less than a nice guy. Greedy, selfish, and down right detestable Simon and Sophie’s mother Shirley scheme together.

Meanwhile Mark has enrolled in the School for Husbands hoping to save his marriage. While Mark works his way through classes Sophie and Simon get closer with some help from Shirley. But Mark is not going to give up his wife and child without a fight.

One of the things I enjoy most about reading something written by Wendy Holden is the light feeling of it. At the end of a hard day this is the kind of escape I enjoy most; you know that whatever craziness happens there is going to be a great happy ending.

Just plain fun and frothy, The School for Husbands, is the perfect book for summer. While there are not any surprises to be found you will enjoy the drama and the humor that fills each page.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Brotherhood of hte Wolf (Runelords Vol. 2) by David Farland

Book two of The Runelords series continues not long after book one ends. The Wolf Lord, Raj Ahten has begun to conquer some of the kingdoms of Rofehaven, using his massive Voice to either persuade surrender or to bring down the castles.

Meanwhile, the newly crowned Earth King, Gaborn Val Orden is Choosing those who will be loyal to him to help him in his fight against the Wolf Lord. Gaborn must decide how he is to defeat Ahten as the Earth has called him to save life and not to destroy it.

But, a new and ancient force is issuing from the Earth; the reavers are a giant race of hideous creatures that are pure evil in their conquest. All three...Raj Ahten, the Earth King and the at Carris for an epic battle.

The magic used in The Runelords is one of hoarding endowments from your servants, as I've written here. It's an interesting set of rules to live in.

The Brotherhood of the Wolf was a little slow to begin although it's ending battle takes up almost the final third of the book. One thing I've noticed in this series (I've not read anything else by this author) is that a whole novel may cover three to four days total. In fact, from the beginning of the the first book to the end of the second only covers a few weeks time. This in and of itself isn't a bad thing, but it can be a bit disorienting to read half the book and only cover a day, especially is you are reading other things concurrently. It took me a few weeks to read this book because I was reading the Harry Potter series also. I didn't find any real chronological inconsistencies with the story, but it was really tightly packed with background and parallel chapters.

Like I mentioned above, the pace may have suffered at times due to the seemingly slow rate of time per page, but the final battle scene is epic, to say the least. I found it hard to put down at work and was eager to see what came next. The overall plot seems to demand more due to the short supply of time involved in the book.

Overall, this has been an enjoyable series so far. Not my favorite, but one to continue to read along with the many other things I want to read.

Monday, June 4, 2007

David Anthony Durham's Acacia

I was extremely excited to get an advanced copy David Anthony Durham's epic fantasy Acacia because Durham is a Black man. Durham disproves the common belief that Black people do not read or write science fiction or fantasy. David Anthony Durham joins the ranks of Octavia Butler, Nalo Hopkinson, and Samuel R. Delaney in proving that Blacks do write science fiction and fantasy.

I am very ashamed to admit that I expected to see a book full of Black people using magic against orcs and dragons. I pictured something like a Wesley Snipes inspired Lord of the Rings. Thank goodness I was wrong.

There were no black people introduced until about 250 pages into the book, but I was not disappointed. For one thing, Durham's writing is so beautiful he could have been writing chick lit and I would not have minded. However, he did deal with two topics that I feel hits the African American community right at its heart: drug addiction and slavery. Durham mixes these three elements (fantasy, drug addiction and slavery) exquisitely resulting in one of the most original fantasy novels I've ever read.

At the heart of the Acacian empire is its king Leodan Akaran. He is the 22nd Akaran king to rule in peace. The Acacians have created a rich and prosperous empire that has built its wealth on enslaving its people and selling another portion of its people away to the Lothan Aklun in exchange for a drug which pacifies its users so that they will never be able to develop enough will power to complain about their life. Despite being a king that has enslaved thousands, Leodan is a kind, loving, and troubled man who loves his children more than his kingdom. Which brings up the question: can you rule a kingdom if you don't put your empire above all, including your children? The answer that question is no. Since during a banquet, Thasren Mein successfully travels from Mein Tahalian and assassinates Leodan.

Before his death, Leodan developed a plan to send his four children to the four corners of the known world with four separate guardians. Leodan hoped that eventually his four children would reunite and reclaim the Acacian throne.

Hanish Mein, the cheiftain of the Mein, is supposed to be the bad guy in Acacia. But, to Durham's credit, the line between the good guy and bad guy is so blurred that I ended up cheering for the bad guy. It didn't hurt that Hanish was this incredibly intelligent, charismatic, and extremely muscular.

Another element which sets Acacia apart from traditional fantasies is the use of magic. There is no magic (or fantastical elements) through most of the book. I was beginning to think it wasn't a fantasy novel. But towards the end of the novel, magic is used. There still weren't any orcs, dwarves, or goblins running around. However, Durham plans to release two more novels to make a trilogy. So for you orc lovers, there is still hope.

In conclusion, I loved this book because there are so many ways it can be examined, critiqued, and explored. A three hundred page thesis could be written on the race and gender relations alone. Time magazine has listed this novel as 18th of its 50 things to do this summer. I agree. In fact, I read most of this novel on a bus trip to a science fiction convention. It made the horrible 10 hour greyhound delay almost enjoyable! If you only read one novel this summer, I suggest you make it Acacia.