Estara's Reviews > Barnburner

Barnburner by Sharon Lee
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's review
Dec 08, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: ebook, read-in-2010, re-read, read-in-2013
Recommended to Estara by: auto-buy author
Recommended for: fans of the author and of Maine
Read on February 12, 2013 — I own a copy

I really enjoyed this glimpse into life in a small town in Maine, which I feel fairly confident is life-like as the author and her husband have been living there for some years now.

It's also a look at the time of computer bulletin boards as the only lifeline to the outside for computer geeks and a time when a mobile phone was an advanced machine and quite cumbersome (around 1989).

The heroine herself is a grown-up woman nursing the physical and mental wounds of her past, and I'd say the story is as much about her integrating more into the small town community that she happened to inherit a house in, as it is about the murder mystery. There's a slight touch of the otherworldly via a very friendly witch's vision - necessary to the fast resolution (the book is 175 pages on my e-reader when I set the standard font size at 12 points).

The real appeal is the description of the town and its inhabitants, though - everyone met is a real personality. My favourites are Harry, the friend of the aunt that Jennifer has inherited the home from, Jasper the cat, Marian the 13-year-old computer geek girl, the midwife cum herbal specialist cum witch that sells Jennifer some tea for her migraines and the bulletin board sysop with a sad past.

I don't usually read mysteries, so I can't judge the story on that basis. But if you've enjoyed the author's voice and especially if you have enjoyed her recent Carousel Tides, this would be a great addition (if without the magic) to her world set in Maine.

1st read 10.12.10-13.12.10
I just reread this today to get the taste of a rather bland short novelette out of my mouth. This book was about 75 pages longer on my e-reader and just went wooooosh when I started. Sharon Lee just writes exactly the way I want to read, obviously.
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Comments (showing 1-21 of 21) (21 new)

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Katharine Kimbriel I need to re-read this -- it's been about two years. I might even re-read Gunshy first depending on what I find and whether I'm moving. I think I'd like living in Maine, except for winter -- which is so much of the year. But it wouldn't be the wondrous quirky place it is, without something to keep the tourists down!

Estara I'm totally enjoying Gunshy right now, I could even have done without the murder. I love that the mystery part of the story starts so late and that we see a lot of the characters from the previous story.

I'd read more in this series if she wrote them. Living in Bavaria I have quite enough snow, heh. I don't think I could handle Maine winters in a small town.

Katharine Kimbriel I would read more, too, but there are people who would look at this as dated instead of period, and like the mystery I wrote thirteen years ago, if you get tons of compliments from editors but no takers, you have to go focus elsewhere. So I understand why there's never been a third one. I liked the fact that the mystery suddenly rears its head late, too -- not all of us would put together something like this so easily, and police have many concerns and would not have had inside knowledge to help their suspicions.

(I think I can expand the ghosts and magic I really wanted in my mystery, and make it the urban fantasy it should have been. But this book is a slice of life mystery -- harder to slide magic into it.)

message 4: by Estara (last edited Dec 15, 2010 06:24AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Estara Yes, I could see that. It's a lovely example of slice of life but it's not a torrid drama hidden in the country or the abyss in a small town, so it probably has a niche audience, too.

I'm in luck in that I enjoy the Liaden series as well - and I wouldn't be surprised if there was another book in the Carousel Tides setting, IF the first one does really well. (If there were, I'd like the setting to stay in Maine - have the other worlds come contact ours again - like a Maine Kate Daniels' Atlanta version ^^.)

Katharine Kimbriel I imagine she'd lean toward mixing Earth/Maine and dollops of the other worlds. Kate is rooted here (in some senses literally, though not as much as her mother and grandmother) as is her potential love interest. So that suggests playing to the deceptive strength of Earth.

After all -- the finale should make a few people curious about the Maine coast. If "people" is the right word....

I'll do my part -- it's on my list for Nebula nominations.

Estara Oh lovely! Let's hype it up in our respective ways ^^.

message 7: by Kathleen (new)

Kathleen Good review. I am considering it. I like mysteries sometimes, and I love stories set in a smallish community, supported by interesting secondary characters.

How much of a woo-woo factor?

Katharine Kimbriel My memory is that the woo-woo is very minor, but since I read/write fantasy and SF, I have a high woo-woo tolerance! Let's see if Estara chimes in.

message 9: by Estara (last edited Feb 12, 2013 05:10PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Estara Very reduced woo-woo. Two visions, in fact. And they don't really help, only heighten the danger. There's a second story which I'll probably reread next ^^, Gunshy.

I bought my versions at Fictionwise, but I know for a fact that Sharon Lee has rereleased them on Kindle, because I helped her to the Fictionwise ebook versions when she was converting them for Amazon.

Oh and if you like smallish community with interesting secondary factors and a huge woo-woo factor (for the value of woo-woo = fantasy), there's the Maine-set Carousel Tides, by the same author - which Katharine and I were commenting about in these comments three years ago ^^.

The town of Archer's Beach is based on real life Old Orchard Beach. She just handed the second book in the trilogy to BAEN, so we'll get that next year, I expect.

message 10: by Kathleen (new)

Kathleen Thanks to both of you! I will check into Carousel Tides as well as Barnburner.

Estara Having finished Gunshy today I can confirm that the second book has no woo-woo at all, only mystery and a lovely, very slow understated romance if you can read between the lines.

message 12: by Kathleen (new)

Kathleen Ok, I will start with Carousel Tides and see how I like this author. (I do like a little romance in my readin' J

Estara I think if you like that, you'll probably like a large part of her oeuvre - the Liaden books she writes with her husband aren't all that different in their emphasis on characters, dialogue and world-building - it's just that they're space opera ^^ - oh and if you brows the books at the BAEN ebooks site, they have SIX CHAPTERS of excerpts for all their books, so you really would know if it's worth your money.

message 14: by Kathleen (new)

Kathleen Six chapters!!!! Unheard of. Does BAEN sell Kindle books?

message 15: by Estara (last edited Feb 13, 2013 06:25AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Estara Yes, they even send it directly to your kindle if you share your kindle e-mail address with them. BAEN was one of the very earliest ebook sellers - earlier than Amazon. They're just very niche in their concentration on certain kinds of sf. Although they also handle some smaller sf&f presses ebooks - like Nightshade for example.

They offer all kinds of formats, drm-free, redownloadable - and before they decided to also sell directly via Amazon their ebooks were some of the cheapest around *sigh*. Especially the omnibus editions. I still enjoy the fact that they offer e-ARCs half a year before the publication of the book (at a high price admittedly) so I can read my favourite authors there as soon as I want. The only thing that hasn't been done to the eARCs is final proofing, so the amount of mistakes is very low anyway.

OH and it's actually 10 chapters

message 16: by Kathleen (new)

Kathleen Thanks for all this great info! Will check it out.

Estara ^^ Enjoy!

message 18: by Kathleen (new)

Kathleen Thanks! Have already followed your link to the site, and started chapter 1. Pretty amazing, to get so many chapters.

Estara Agreed! They used to have certain hardcovers with FREE ebook novel CDs of previous books in a series included (this has also been discontinued) - so now I own all the Vorkosigan novels except for Memory in ebook just by having bought the Cryoburn hardcover 1st edition.

message 20: by Kathleen (new)

Kathleen What an amazingly liberal publisher. Amazon of course put a stop to all that nonsense. "What? are we a charitable organization?"

Estara Indeed. Well Toni Weisskopf, who is the publisher and main editor at BAEN these days, has said they might release slightly different versions of books (other foreword or short story included) and then they're not tied to the agreement of not selling those books cheaper than Amazon itself does, but who knows what will happen.

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