Deep in the throws of a good, old-fashioned deep-cleaning of my entire house, and with week-long visitors from out-of-state in the middle of it, time for both reading and writing has been in short supply. Of course, with our home office dumped unceremoniously into the living room while the freshly washed carpet dries, the chaos holds me back as much as anything. I don't necessarily need order to write, but open space seems to be necessary. I'm ultimately happy that I'm doing everything else, of course, but the strain is starting to show. Negotiations for increased writing time started yesterday, and will continue into the foreseeable future.

In the meantime, I'm carving out minutes wherever I can find them to edit both my short story and my "completed" novel. In fact, if I'm still awake after I finish this post, I'm opening that novel up. It makes for slow progress, but that's summer. At least the progress is happening.

Throughout all of this, I've been struggling with the issue in this post by Riley Banks. In it, Banks talks about the need for honest reviews in an age of vanity presses and self-published authors. She points out that indie-authors have created a hugely supportive network. So supportive, in fact, that we avoid even constructive criticism.

And that's a problem.

Now, I'm not saying that trolls and haters are helpful. Quite the opposite. But there's a not-so-fine line between trolling and giving honest feedback. Still, wanting to support other writers makes the kind of public honesty Banks calls for a somewhat delicate proposition. As with any constructive criticism, it takes time and energy and focus to do it well. So those comments and thoughts take longer to compile.

While I work on that, however, here's my review of The Lions of Al-Rassan

This book was recommended to me several months ago, specifically because of Kay's phenomenal world-building and research. Layered through and around the story of a young woman following her life and falling unexpectedly in love, are three fully-formed cultures. They co-exist and inform each other. They clash. They grow both together and apart.

We see this world, primarily, through the eyes of a handful of characters who come to know and love and trust each other despite the boundaries their society would rather put up between them. We feel the exhilaration and the pain of those relationships as they dance around each other. It's a story of hope and sorrow and over-coming and being over-come.

The characters do, indeed, shine. Each is a complete person, with faults and charms and complexities that bring them to life.

But the world is amazing. Building from a base in medieval Spain, Kay weaves a web of cultures that evolve across both time and space, interpreted and executed differently by each group of people we meet. The effect is, at times, both subtle and dazzling.

I can easily see myself going back to it, to uncover details missed in this first reading as well as for sheer enjoyment.