Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Recent reading: variable but intense

I just re-read CRYOBURN. Parts of CAPTAIN VORPATRIL’S ALLIANCE, too. That was Maureen’s fault, since she’s been re-reading all the Vorkosigan books recently.

You know, I think I appreciate CRYOBURN more now than I did the first time I read it. It still isn’t my favorite Vorkosigan book — I think that might be THE WARRIOR’S APPRENTICE. Or maybe A CIVIL CAMPAIGN, though that’s rather different. I’d say the former is space opera and the second is a comedy of manners. Wouldn’t you say that’s right?

Anyway, I really did not like having so much of CRYOBURN be written from other peoples’ points of view. I still don’t really like that, but … the book has grown on me anyway.

And that last line, you know. That’s pretty intense.

I also recently re-read “Snow-Kissed” by Laura Florand. THIS time I got the fairy-tale — the first time I was too caught up in the story to pay attention and missed it completely, despite the protagonist being named Kai. Here is a great review — pair of reviews, really — for “Snow-Kissed”, over at Dear Author. I thought Sunita and Willaful did a really interesting job contrasting their different responses to the novella. And the soundtrack Willaful picked for the novella is PERFECT:

And February was so long that it lasted into March

And found us walking a path alone together.

You stopped and pointed and you said, “That’s a crocus,”

And I said, “What’s a crocus?” and you said, “It’s a flower,”

I tried to remember, but I said, “What’s a flower?”

You said, “I still love you.”

That’s from Dar Williams’ “February”, which I had never heard of, but you can click through from Willaful’s review and listen to the whole song if you like.

I will say, “Snow-Kissed” certainly is angsty, but the angst is a) fully justified by the recent experiences of the protagonists, and b) NOT DOES-HE-LOVE ME STUPID ANGST, which is the kind that drives me berserk. No, this is in a whole different category. So even thought this is an emotionally intense, claustrophobic story, it worked well for me. Her least angsty novella is “No Place Like Home”, btw, which also has a fairy-tale worked into it — that one is too obvious to miss, I think. Though my favorite of Florand’s novellas is “Turning Up The Heat”, btw, even without any fairy-tale element.

By the way, Florand’s most recent Chocolate Romance is out. THE CHOCOLATE TEMPTATION. I may read that today, though … I don’t know … I just got a good idea for a BLACK DOG short story and I think I will try playing with that, first, today, and see where it goes. I would like to bring out a couple or four BLACK DOG novellas or short stories later this year, maybe (no promises).

Okay, and then for something different: I do read more nonfiction when I’m working on projects of my own, and so I recently read A DOG FOR ALL SEASONS by Patti Sherlock. It’s a memoir, so the reading experience is similar to fiction. I basically don’t read memoirs (which means I kind of do, occasionally, if one falls into my hands, but I don’t seek them out). This one was really good, though — good as a story, well written. The author is a writer, and the structure of this memoir shows that.

You know, I am always saying that a person has to be crazy to get a border collie — unless they have sheep. Well, the author DID have sheep; she and her family raised sheep, and they needed a border collie to be a working dog.

Though the book isn’t about that, really. That is the frame within which we get the story of Patti Sherlock’s life. Not the whole thing, no, but . . . enough. I think I may steal elements of that life for a protagonist, some day. Because it has just the right kind of structure to be perfect for fiction. Which is too bad, in a way, since the author’s life had some grim stuff in it. Which she overcame, you know, or I would have hated the book.

And then there’s the dog. And a beautiful insight about what dogs mean to us:

“You’ve heard plenty of times how dogs love us unconditionally . . . dogs show us how to live big. They do everything with gusto . . . But here’s what strikes me as most important. And it’s not about what they give us, but about something we give ourselves. We get to love a dog full out. . . . we don’t often give our hearts without reserve. With dogs, though, we can. Our feeling isn’t complicated by hurts of the past or about our independence. We feel no need to be coy or cautious. The humans we love have aspirations that don’t always mesh with ours, and when we come up against those different longings, we rein ourselves in. But we aren’t so scared about loving a dog. . . . So we open our hearts to them and discover our hearts hold an extravagant amount of love. We let it flow out. Think what this does for us as people. Think how that enlarges us.”

I sure couldn’t put it better than that.

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3 Comments Recent reading: variable but intense

  1. Maureen E

    I have more power than I know!

    I’ve been meaning to re-read CRYOBURN sometime. I remember not loving it, but then being gobsmacked by the end. And having just read MIRROR DANCE, where Miles worries about that thing that happens happening, I suspect that would be even more emotional. (I’m not sure on a technical level how well the codas work, but I still have their images in my head, almost literally visually, which says something.)

  2. Maureen E

    Oh, and also, I loved Chocolate Temptation. Not sure if it beats out TOUCH–clearly, I need to reread that one to be sure!–but the way Patrick and Sarah have to negotiate their relationship past the point of initial attraction is awesome.

  3. Rachel

    I’m so looking forward to The Chocolate Temptation! But I still want Laura to write a dinner-party scene where everyone gets together, and if she doesn’t do that soon, just think how many more characters will have to be included!

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