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Goats, gripes, and grasping for greatness
Books: Spellcast 
3rd-Jul-2012 06:36 am
Today to Read
Spellcast, by Barbara Ashford. Fiction that just happens to be urban fantasy, 433 pages, paperback. First in the series.

Spellcast is about 33-year-old Maggie, who doesn't really know what she wants in life. After her layoff from a help desk job in New York City, Maggie packs her bags for a weekend road trip Away. While wandering through Vermont, she encounters a little theater that is just holding auditions for the summer show season. Minus resume, headshot, etc., she tries out and is cast... oddly. As she talks with the rest of the new cast, she realizes that the majority of the cast are major misfits for the roles, have no acting experience, or both. When asked, the director only explains that they were cast in the roles that "they needed."

What follows is a long summer of self-discovery, friendship, energy, and huge emotions as Maggie participates in a theater experience where making theater magic is a calling for some people and a necessity for others. Maggie's doubts, baggage, and relationship with her mother made this book a lot richer than it might otherwise be if all the hangups we had to read were about the new friendships she formed. The major magic revolves around the theater's director, who becomes the romantic interest in this book in the genuine, frustrating, argue/insult/compliment/avoid/obsess way that a real theater romance should be born.

I laughed a lot in the first half. Then I started crying. Ashford did not flippantly give a Happily Ever After ending to her audience. She gave a real, now-we-go-on ending that had a lot of grown-up pain and understanding in it. The various numbers of Carosel that are revisited with different emotions as Maggie comes to terms with her father's abandonment, her romantic involvement with the director, and with her strained relationship with her mother, could have been annoyingly repetative. Instead, they gave even more depth to the characters both on and off the stage. And while Maggie's stubborn refusal to do what the theater crew wanted her to do to/for the director might have robbed the ending of some of the expected joy, it was a necessary refusal that gave credence to everything that had gone before it, and brought Maggie herself to the end of the book on her feet.

Spellcast is not an amazing book in either its craftsmanship or its presentation. And yet, it is a captivating book with unexpected depths that I enjoyed most as mental echoes every time I put it down. While I likely won't be going to it as a frequent re-read, right now I have to say that it is the best book I've read yet this year.

I picked it up as a Christmas present for my sister. She finished it and gave it back.

I recommend it to theater junkies, modern fiction readers, and performers who can make "You'll Never Walk Alone" believable.

New-to-me Books for 2012

January
House of the Star by Caitlin Brennan, YA fantasy. 282 pages; hardback; stand-alone. 3/5 stars on Goodreads (3 = "liked it"), 4/5 stars on Amazon (4 = "liked it"); straight into the giveawaybox (eta: gone)
Gwenhwyfar by Mercedes Lackey, Fantasy. 404 pages; hardback; stand-alone. 2/5 stars on Goodreads (2 = "it was OK"), 3/5 stars on Amazon (3 = "it was OK"); straight into the giveawaybox (eta: gone)
Blood Engines by T.A. Pratt, Urban fantasy. 336 pages; paperback; first in the series. 3/5 stars on Goodreads (3 = "liked it"), 4/5 stars on Amazon (4 = "liked it"); going to keep it around and loan it to friends
Hexed edited by uncredited, listed under the first author, Ilona Andrews. Urban Fantasy, 326 pages. Paperback; anthology of four novellas. 3/5 stars on Goodreads, 4/5 stars on Amazon; going to loan it to friends who like Kate Daniels, then likely give it away.
Paranormalcy, by Kiersten White. YA Fantasy, 335 pages. Hardback; first in the series. [3/5 on Goodreads] Giveawaybox. (eta: gone)
Stormwalker, by Allyson James. Urban Fantasy, 330 pages. Paperback; first in the series. [3/5 on Goodreads] Giveawaybox. (eta: gone)
The Girl of Fire and Thorns, by Rae Carson. YA Fantasy, 423 pages. Hardback, stand-alone. [3/5 on Goodreads] Giveawaybox. (eta: gone)
Shadow Ops: Control Point, by Myke Cole. Urban Fantasy... sort of... 382 pages. Paperback, first in the series. [4/5 on Goodreads] Giveawaybox.

February
Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson, fantasy. 672 pages. Paperback; first in the series.[4/5 on Goodreads] Borrowed.
Westward Weird edited by Martin Greenberg and Kerrie Hughes. Hell-if-I-know, 302 pages. Paperback, anthology. [3/5 on Goodreads] Giveawaybox.(eta: gone)
Discount Armageddon, by Seanan McGuire. Urban fantasy, 360 pages. Paperback; first in the series. Keeping it for now.

March
Fair Game, by Patricia Briggs, Urban fantasy. 293 pages; hardback; third in the series. Keeping it.
The Modern Fae's Guide to Surviving Humanity, edited by Joshua Palmatier and Patricia Bray, Urban fantasy. 308 pages; paperback; anthology. Giveawaybox.(eta: gone)
Tempting Danger, by Eileen Wilks. Paranormal romance, 301 pages. Paperback, first in the series. Giveawaybox.(eta: gone)
Too Much Information, by Gene Ambaum and Bill Barnes. Comic book, 127 pages. Paperback. 9th in the series. Keeping it.
Touch of Power, by Maria V. Snyder. Fantasy romance. 390 pages, paperback. First in the series. Giveawaybox.(eta: gone)
Out Whom Shall We Gross?, by Brooke McEldowney. Comic book. 87 pages, paperback. First in the series. Keeping it.
Sonata for Piano and Armpit, by Brooke McEldowney. Comic book. 87 pages, paperback. Second in the series. Keeping it.
Sphinx's Princess, by Esther Friesner. YA Fantasy. 365 pages, paperback. First in the duology. It was a loan. 4/5 on GoodReads.
Sphinx's Queen, by Esther Friesner. YA Fantasy. 347 pages, paperback. Second in the duology. It was a loan. 4/5 on GoodReads.

April
Bone Shop, by T. A. Pratt. Urban Fantasy. Online. Prequel to the Marla Mason series.
Kitemaster and Other Stories, by Jim C. Hines. Fantasy. e-book anthology. 3/5 on GoodReads, 4/5 on Amazon.
How is that Underling Thing Working out for You?, by Scott Adams. 128 pages, paperback. Comic. Keeping it.
Teamwork Means You Can't Pick the Side That's Right by Scott Adams. 128 pages, paperback. Comic. Keeping it.
The Sentinel Mage, by Emily Gee. Fantasy. 509 pages, paperback. First in the trilogy. It was a loan. 4/5 on GoodReads; 4/5 on Amazon.

May
Dragon Ship, by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller. e-ARC. Science Fiction. Fourth in the series; 14th in the Universe.
Grave Mercy, by Robin LaFevers, YA fantasy. 549 pages; hardback; stand-alone. Giveawaybox. 4/5 on GoodReads; 4/5 on Amazon.(eta: gone)
Eon, by Allison Goodman. YA Fantasy. 531 pages, paperback. First in the duology. It was a loan.
Silence, by Michele Sagara. YA Fantasy. 289 pages, hardback. First in the series. Keeping it.
Divergent, by Veronica Roth. YA Dystopia, paperback, 487 pages of story, 72 pages of afterwards. First in the duology.
Princeps, by L. E. Modesitt, Jr. Fantasy. 496 pages; hardback; fifth/second in the series. Keeping it.
Black Blade Blues, by L. A. Pratt. Urban Fantasy. 398 pages; paperback; first in the series. It was a loan.

June
Home from the Sea by Mercedes Lackey, fantasy. 311 pages; hardback; seventh/eighth in the series. Keeping it for now.
Kitty's Greatest Hits by Carrie Vaughn, urban fantasy. 308 pages; paperback; anthology related to the series. Keeping it for now.
Nightshifted by Cassie Alexander, urban fantasy. 331 pages; paperback; first in the series. Giveawaybox.
Hex Appeal edited by P. N. Elrod, urban fantasy. 356 pages; paperback; anthology. Keeping it for now.

July
Spellcast by Barbara Ashford, fiction (urban fantasy). 433 pages; paperback; first in the series. Keeping it for now.


In case you want back references, here is the Books for 2011 round-up post
Comments 
3rd-Jul-2012 05:13 pm (UTC)
For some reason when you gave it to me at Christmas, I was in just the right head space for it to really ring for me. It is one I have re-read often and given to other folks as gifts. Want to hear what you think of book #2 when you get through it.
3rd-Jul-2012 06:48 pm (UTC)
It was surprisingly deep. I thought I was giving you a fiction/humor book. I was amazed by what it turned out to comprise, in terms of emotional depths and character development. The further I get from having finished it, the more I like it...

Edited at 2012-07-14 11:15 pm (UTC)
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