Tag Archives: Jane Yolen

Deal Alert: Humble Book Bundle: Super Nebula Author Showcase presented by SFWA

Hey, just wanted to let you guys know that, for those who enjoy good sci-fi, fantasy, and speculative fiction, Humble Bundle is currently hosting a bundle feature Nebula Award winners and nominees, as well as a few other collections and such thrown in. Several of the stories certainly looked interesting, including The Last Temptation by  Neil Gaiman and Sister Emily’s Lightship by Jane Yolen. If you’re interested, you can find this bundle at https://www.humblebundle.com/books/super-nebula-book-bundle. As of when I’m writing this post, the deal’s good for 12 more days. Enjoy!

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Deal Alert: Humble Bundle Women of Sci-Fi & Fantasy

So sorry to totally spam posts today, but I just realized that Humble Bundle has a really nice collection of sci-fi/fantasy books by female authors available right now–but it’s only available for the next 5 days. So late notice, sorry. Anyhow, the bundle includes authors such as Robin McKinley, Octavia E. Butler, Elizabeth Hand, Kate Elliott, Diana Pharaoh Francis, and Nalo Hopkinson. Personally, I’ve read the McKinley books, and the bundle would be worth it just for those books alone. But several of the other ones look interesting too. Oh, and the highest tier ($15) includes a Jane Yolen! If you’re interested, you can check it out here.

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Except the Queen

Authors: Jane Yolen & Midori SnyderExcept the Queen

My rating: 3 of 5

Warning: Mature Audience

Fey sisters Serana and Meteora have lived in ageless, carefree youth for uncounted years, but that all changes when one of them accidentally reveals their Queen’s most carefully kept secret. In punishment, the both of them are stripped of everything they have always relied on: youth, beauty, magical power, the freedom of the Greenwood, even the presence of each other. The two are dumped into the human world, miles apart, in the forms of fat, powerless old women. And so, they must find a new way to live, blending in with humanity and seeing humans in a new light. But even the Queen’s curse can’t keep them wholly separated, and in the midst of this new life, the two sisters find new purpose and unity.

So, I’m normally a huge fan of Jane Yolen’s writing, but Except the Queen just didn’t hit me right. I still liked it–a 3-star rating is still a definite like–but I probably won’t ever read it again. I even suspect it’s actually quite a good book, but still. . . . The first part of the story, while they’re still in the Greenwood, was very difficult for me to get into; I had to force myself to read the first 6 chapters or so. It was only after Serana and Meteora became a part of the human world, as they became more human themselves, that I found them at all possible to relate to. The actual structure and build-up of the story was quite good–I think if it had been written just a bit differently (maybe by just Jane Yolen; I’m not familiar with Snyder’s writing), this could have easily been a 4.5- or a 5-star read. I did love that a good chunk of the story is told in letters exchanged between the sisters, and that’s probably one of my favorite aspects of this story. One of the biggest negatives was that the story is told from numerous perspectives that flop from first person to third person to (very weirdly, and just for the Queen) second person. It’s kind of off-putting. Still, for those who don’t mind a few issues along those lines, I do think that Except the Queen is an original, intriguing sort of contemporary urban fantasy that melds intrigue, romance, and the sweet daily lives of two little old lady sisters quite nicely.

 

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The Gift of Sarah Barker

Author: Jane YolenGift of Sarah Barker

My rating: 4 of 5

It is truly stifling to be a free spirit in a world bound up with rules and ceremony. So Sarah finds to be true living in a highly structured Shaker community where every action is watched and judged. Yet though the consequences may be severe if she’s caught, she still dares to slip away to be alone and delight in the birds and beauty surrounding their small community. Meanwhile, Abel finds himself questioning the same rigid Shaker rules, struggling to match them with both reason and with the rampaging thoughts and feelings that growing up is forcing him through. And when he encounters Sarah, when he truly notices her for the first time, something changes irrevocably in a way that would be direly condemned in their society that forbids nearly all interaction between men and women.

How should I say this . . . The Gift of Sarah Barker, based on its cover, is exactly the sort of book I hate: sordid romance made to seem more thrilling by the danger of a highly disapproving society. If it hadn’t been written by Jane Yolen, I would never have even tried reading it. I’m glad I got past the cover (gross misrepresentation, by the way) and gave the story a try. What I found within was an intriguing historical novel, told in two voices, revealing a fascinating view of a most unusual community. I found out things about the Shaker community in the 1850’s that I had never heard of before, so that was interesting. Moreover, Sarah and Abel are well developed individuals who struggle with all sorts of complex issues (ones that are actually applicable to normal people today) and who have characters that I truly enjoyed reading–not just love-struck obsessives. There is a love story involved, true, but it doesn’t take up nearly so much of the book as I had expected AND it’s actually dealt with realistically. I actually would really recommend The Gift of Sarah Barker, especially to young adult (and older) readers who enjoy historical fiction or are interested in this time period.

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Werewolves

Edited by Jane Yolen & Martin H. GreenbergWerewolves

My rating: 3.5 of 5

They’re mysterious creatures of the night, weaving their way into legend. They’re magic, the freedom to run wild, unchecked by human bonds. Perhaps they’re also a picture of deep, intrinsic fears . . . of finding you suddenly don’t know someone who was once close to you, or of realizing you don’t know yourself anymore. Whatever the case, werewolves are certainly excellent story-telling material, and the authors in this short-story collection have made the most of the draw of this mysterious creature.

Jane Yolen and Martin Greenberg have always had my respect for being able to pull together excellent short-story collections, and  Werewolves is no exception. Although I wasn’t familiar with many of the authors in this collection, I found the writing to be consistently interesting and enjoyable–particularly notable since some of these stories are the first published works of the authors. (Bonus points to Yolen and Greenberg for including a Charles de Lint story in the collection; he’s one of my absolute favorite urban fantasy authors, and his treatment of the werewolf theme is excellent.) And while I would generally prefer to read a collection with a bit more variety (like Dragons & Dreams, for instance), over a collection entirely focused on one creature, I found there to be a pleasant mix of stories in this volume. There’s everything from dystopian science fiction to historical fiction with a fantasy twist (actually, there’s a wide variety just within this sort of story) to more contemporary slice-of-life stories. I think I particularly enjoyed the takes on historical events with a focus on werewolves–somehow, the authors threw human prejudices against each other into a clearer light in these stories. I do think that Werewolves is an interesting collection of short stories, most recommended for those who enjoy (surprise) short stories and stories about werewolves–it’s probably a bit too much of a good thing if you’re not already interested in the theme, I’d say.

Featured Authors: Debra Doyle, J. D. Macdonald, Ru Emerson, Leigh Ann Hussey, Harry Turtledove, Mary K. Whittington, Katharine Eliska Kimbriel, Elizabeth Scarborough, Sherwood Smith, Bruce Coville, Marguerite W. Davol, Jane Yolen, Susan Shwartz, Anne E. Crompton, Esther M. Friesner, & Charles de Lint

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A Plague of Unicorns

A Plague of UnicornsAuthor:  Jane Yolen

Illustrator: Tom McGrath

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Abbot Aelian took over Cranford Abbey with high hopes of turning it around, bringing it from (let’s face it) shabbiness back to glory. His secret recipe golden apple cider would be the perfect tool to make it happen, too. Only, every year an absolute horde of unicorns come rampaging in the orchards, eating all the golden apples before the abbey can harvest them! Not one to back down easily, Abbot Aelian begins to wage war–relatively peaceful war, as befits an abbey, but war nonetheless. Nothing seems to work, though. And just when all seems hopeless, a new arrival chatterbox boy with too many questions arrives . . . an arrival who just might hold the answer they need.

As expected, A Plague of Unicorns is another victory for Jane Yolen, although one fairly different from many of hers. I think the difference lies largely in the fact that this book is written to be appropriate for children in elementary (although it’s proven to be great fun for older readers as well!). Otherwise, this is classic Jane Yolen: an imaginative fantasy, full of varied and engaging characters, weaving history and legend into a seamlessly beautiful tale. I think it’s interesting how the first, maybe third?, of the story is told from Abbot Aelian’s perspective–and it is certainly amusing to see him struggling to find ways to defeat the unicorns. Then for the rest of the book, the perspective shifts to that of James, the son of the local duke. James is an interesting character to read (although he’d probably drive me crazy if I met him!), as is his sensible, daring big sister. I really felt drawn to relate to James throughout his part of the story and found that the problems he deals with go way beyond those of a fantasy, relating directly (but not obtrusively) to things kids deal with regularly in our own modern world. I would highly recommend A Plague of Unicorns to readers young and old, and especially to the curious.

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Armageddon Summer

Authors: Jane Yolen & Bruce Coville

The members of the charismatic Reverend Beelson’s congregations are convinced that he’s right: the world’s ending on July 27, 2000. And based on that belief, they’re packing up their families and heading out to Mount Weeupcut, the only safe place to be for the chosen few, according to the Reverend. In the wake of their respective families’ dissolution, Jed and Marina find themselves dragged along by their remaining parents. Marina wants to believe, if only because her mother believes and she so desperately needs for her mother to be right. Jed doesn’t give a care–he’s just there to protect his dad who’s been a bit batty since Jed’s mom left. When these two meet up on the mountain, they find something in each other they can relate to, someone they can really talk to without feeling judged for their unbelief. Which is good, because if Reverend Beelson’s right, they’re going to be stuck with each other for a long time.

I normally shy away from books like this; they’re just a bit too angsty and mercurial for my taste. But a Jane Yolen/Bruce Coville combo was something I just couldn’t pass up. Armageddon Summer was much better than I expected, even knowing and respecting the authors as I do. I guess the best way to put it is to say that it was tasteful and non-judgmental. Even though they were largely writing about folks who were clearly nuts, they also showed the good sides of those people. Furthermore, they depicted with painful honesty the challenges of faith and uncertainty, especially in circumstances such as when everyone around you is fully convinced or when your parents clearly believe and want you to. I think the struggle of what to do when your beliefs and your parents don’t mesh is a key element in this story–one on which I truly appreciate the authors’ thoughts. The writing itself is, as expected, flawless, engrossing, thoughtful, and dynamic. I really enjoyed the alternating voices between Marina and Jed, as well as the interlacing of snippets from radio broadcasts, sermons, and conversations for flavor. I don’t think Armageddon Summer is for everyone. Some might find it offensive; others may find the challenges it raises to their own beliefs to be disconcerting. But for the brave and the thinking reader, I think Armageddon Summer is sensitive, thoughtful, poignant, and well worth your time.

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