Book cover for Graphite and Turbulence

Tuesday Book Review: Graphite and Turbulence by Jami Fairleigh

Book cover for Graphite and Turbulence

Graphite and Turbulence is Book Two of The Elemental Artist series by Jami Fairleigh. The first book, Oil and Dust, introduces Matthew Sugiyama, an Artist who has the magical ability to reshape the physical world through painting. The series is set in a post apocalyptic world where the survivors have come together to form small communities based on barter and a minimum of rules. Matthew is on a quest to find his birth family, who gave him up into the care of an Artist abbey when he was very small. His quest is opposed, both by the masters of his abbey, and by other darker forces. By the end of the first book, Matthew has gathered friends and companions on his quest, including a young orphan girl named Akiko, who, despite the prohibion of female Artists, has shown the same magical ability as Matthew. He adopts Akiko as his ward, and leaves with her to continue his search.

And that brings us to Graphite and Turbulance.

Matthew’s quest continues, but now he is caring for a small child and learning that parenting is not for the faint of heart. There are twists, and shocking revelations, and much like the first book, Matthew accumulates injuries fairly regularly along the way. Made of cast iron, he is not. But he is stubbornly persistent, and that takes him a long way towards meeting his objectives.

What I liked about this novel is its depth. The narrative drives everything, as it should, but the story functions on several different levels, as a commentary on current society, and an exploration of what family means for two examples. Matthew learns that the easy answers he was given in the abbey don’t always work in the larger world, and that dealing with people is always messy.

As the title suggests, the series plays a lot with the idea of duality, both in opposition and in support. Graphite, for example, is used as an artistic medium, and as an engineering lubricant. Physical and emotional turbulence abound, and the effect it has on the characters as well as the story is profound as Matthew struggles to find his place in the larger world, and to keep his friends and family safe and whole.

There are some major revelations in the book, and people are not always who they seem to be. Matthew has to learn who he can trust, and that is always a hard lesson.

Once again, Fairleigh has created a series of memorable characters while telling a story that immediately engages and challenges your imagination.

And for those of you who, like me, are not a big fan of cliffhanger endings, you can relax. Yes, it sets up the next book, but it doesn’t leave you hanging. Except for…well, I won’t spoil it for you.

Five Stars.

Crow Moon cover

Crow Moon by Cedar Sanderson

.Crow Moon coverCrow Moon is a collection of eight short fantasy tales by writer, editor, artist, publisher, and lord knows what else Cedar Sanderson. Sanderson, who did the art for the cover, also produced artwork for each of the stories. something that set this book apart, and made it worthwhile to purchase a physical copy instead of just the ebook.

Each one of the stories carry with it a sense of wonder, sometimes sweet, sometimes sad, and sometimes awful, in both meanings of the word. The characters span a wide range, from simple people and quiet heroes to monster slaying avatars of dark gods, but they are each defined by their sense of duty, or obligation. The stories revolve around what they are willing to do, what sacrifices they are willing to make in order to fulfill that duty. In other hands, these stories could easily become heavy and overbearing, but Sanderson uses a lighter touch. Instead of bearing down on the weight her characters carry, she focuses instead on how they carry it, showing that courage is not always found in fighting a dragon; sometimes it’s in answering a simple question for a little boy.

Sanderson writes these stories almost like an artist’s sketch. Rather than go into great detail about the settings, the characters, and the backstory, she chooses instead to provide just enough detail to bring the reader into the story. Her deft touch leaves plenty of room for the reader to fill in scenes with their own imagination, and to integrate their own emotions into the story. Reading is always a collaborative process between the writer and the reader; Sanderson brings the reader more deeply into that collaboration, which magnifies the emotional impact of each story.

All eight stories are good reads, but for me, three stand out above the others.

First is Milkweed. I’ve never read anything that so well evokes what it means to be a woman, a wife, and a mother.

Second is A Breathe of Air. It’s short, but Sanderson packs so many emotions into each sentence. The impact builds slowly then hits you right between the eyes. It’s a gorgeous story.

Finally, The Domovoi’s Blessing. Styled as a Russian fairy tale, this charming story is a sweet reminder that trust and perserverence can go a long way towards finding a happy ending.

Those are my favorites, but you may like other stories better, and that’s one of the best things bout this collection. There truly are stories here for everbody, no matter your taste.

Highly recommended!

David Carrico: The Blood is the Life

So what happens when a nice Jewish boy becomes a vampire?

First of all, if you’re Orthodox, like Chaim Caan, you have an immediate problem. Consuming blood is forbidden. He reaches out to a Rabbi who connects him to an organization that can help him.

And use his new abilities.

What struck me most about this story is that being a vampire is not glamorized in any way. No angsty, sparkly pedophiles here. These vampires are fierce, strong predators. Fortunately for Chaim, he finds his way to an organization that helps him harness the predator he’s become, channeling his aggression into the defense of others.

But it’s not easy. The list of deficits severely circumscribes his life and his relationships. There’s certainly no glamor in dealing with blood breath. He’s also limited in his ability to form relationships. He can’t eat, or go out drinking with classmates, nor can he have a girlfriend. And since he has an indefinite lifespan, anybody he manages to form a bond with will grow old and die, while he remains the same.

It’s a bleak prospect, and Chaim must find a reason to live and to fight off the anger that comes with his transformation.

He’s helped by Mordechai, an older vampire who mentors him, as well as a Jewish organization which acts to defend Jews from persecution throughout the world.

I got the feeling that Carrico has more to say in this world, as there are several questions raised, not least of which is discovering who selected Chaim to be turned and why. Turning rarely happens accidentally; it takes effort.

I don’t know whether Carrico is Jewish or not, but he clearly did his homework as Judaeism permeates every facet of the book. Chaim is devout and observant, and this is well communicated to the reader, so much so that I found myself placing my own Christian faith into a new context. I gained a deeper appreciation for the Jewish faith and those men and women who walk in it. It makes me want to learn more about their faith and their culture.

That’s not what I expected from reading a vampire novel, but it was a welcome surprise!

Cover of book Titans Rising

Titans Rising: Publishing in the 21st Century

Titans Rising is a manifesto combined with a how-to book on writing and publishing. I am not exaggerating when I say it may be the most important book on how to succeed in today’s everchanging climate. Independent presses are springing up everywhere. Amazon has crashed the gates of traditional publishing and the few major houses left standing are reeling, trying desperately to hold onto control of the market.

And failing.