Monday, December 31, 2007

Stitching Schedule 2008

It's New Year's Eve here now, so I've updated the sidebar to include my stitching plans for 2008. I decided to drop the "Almost UFOs" category as the whole point is to make progress without stressing myself. So now it is focus projects most of the time, plus QS Garnet on Wednesdays, Defender of the Kingdom on the second weekend and Dawn Star on the third weekend.

I'm also stressing to myself that if I don't follow this, it doesn't matter. It is a guideline not a rule!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Progress on Garnet

I was planning to start Garnet today - Christmas Day. However, I haven't been feeling all that great the last few days. I've been feeling pretty stressed and like my brain chemistry is a bit messed up, which equals feeling anxious, a little depressed and very restless. I was wishing that I had brought The Alpine Garden on holiday with me, as I had no stitching until today when I opened up my Christmas presents and got Garnet out of the wrapping paper. Stitching tends to slow me down and therefore calm me down as well, which is why I was lamenting not having anything. Dave pointed out that I still had the .pdf on my laptop and I could always print the first page here and start stitching anyway.

It seemed such a good idea that I went and did exactly that. I now have confirmed the fact that ink jet printers are NOT the ideal printer for printing charts if you use highlighter pens to mark you stitching. It runs and is much harder to follow that a clear, laser printed page. But I got in a couple of days stitching and it did help me feel better, so that was the most important thing.

As I'll only be stitching on her one day a week come the new year, I'm planning to take a photo at the end of each stitching day. So I've done that so far. (Yes, at last we're getting to the pictures in the post, which are far more interesting that my rambling on.)

Day 1 - 23rd Dec, 2007

Day 2 - 24th Dec, 2007

Day 3 - 25th Dec, 2007

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Progress on The Alpine Garden

Here's my current progress on The Alpine Garden by The Drawn Thread.

We're going away on holiday tomorrow and I'm not going to take it with me, so I thought I'd take a photo before I put it away.

It remains fiddly to stitch, but it does look lovely as each band gets completed, so I'm looking forward to making more progress on it.

If I do any stitching while I'm away, I'm going to start HAED's QS Garnet. I'll just see how busy I am and how I feel.

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Christmas Spirit

Marcus and I were waiting in the supermarket for Dave to pay and there was one of those games where you put in a coin and try to use a claw to catch up a soft toy. A lady and her partner came along and she stopped to play. I hadn't seen anyone do it before and watched with interest. As for Marcus, he was fascinated.

She managed on her second try to scoop up a pink turtle. She put in another coin and skillfully collected a blue sheep. She then took them out, gave Marcus the turtle and started to walk away.

I checked she meant him to have it and she said she did. So I said thank you and wished her a "Happy Christmas". Marcus was and is absolutely delighted.

The turtle has now been named Myrtle (Daddy's suggestion) and is a happy new member of Marcus' family of stuffed animals.

What a lovely experience of the Christmas spirit.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

And the winners are...

Firstly, sorry I'm running a little late with the RAK results. Just the Christmas rush and my own forgetfulness.

Marcus and a friend helped me out by each drawing a name out of a box.

And the winners are...

Steph and selene1123, please email me at so that I can send you your charts. (I'm sure you can figure it out, but change the _at_ to @.)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


I just marked my third book of the month as a "did not finish". And none of them are bad books either, just ones I don't feel like carrying on reading. It's very much a case of "it's not you, it's me" as I find myself in a huge reading slump.

One of those three books - The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss - I know I would really like if I read it at the right time. I liked what I did read, but it is written in an autobiographical fashion and is 660 pages long and right now I can't cope with either of those things. It's a library book, so I've only have it for a limited time, so I decided to call it quits for now. My [FantasyFavorites] book group is reading it in April when it comes out in paperback, so I think I'll order a copy of that and try again then. Hopefully by April I'll be more energetic and can enjoy it as it deserves to be enjoyed.

I'm going for a reread now - Ascendant Sun by Catherine Asaro - which I want to read before the next book in her series comes out on New Year's Day. I'm hoping this will do the trick and break the slump.

My November Reads

I've just noticed that I never put up my November reading list. Since I like having these for myself, whether anyone else reads it or not, I'll belatedly put it up today.
  1. Lord Valentine's Castle - Robert Silverberg. Science
    Fiction/Fantasy. Reread. 9/10
    Read the review here.
  2. Lord of the Fading Lands - C. L. Wilson. Romantic Fantasy. 8/10
    Read the review here.
  3. The Last Hawk - Catherine Asaro. Science Fiction. Reread 10/10
    Read the review here.
  4. Outlander - Diana Gabaldon. Historical. DNF
    Read the review here.
  5. Dies the Fire - S. M. Stirling. Science Fiction. DNF
    Read the review here.
  6. Cast in Shadow - Michelle Sagara. Fantasy. Reread. 8/10
    Read the review here.
  7. Creation in Death - J. D. Robb. Futuristic Mystery. 8/10
    The latest Eve and Roarke book and another good story. The villian was certainly disturbing this time and it was a riot to see Roarke officially working with the police and trying to cope with being in the police station. His on-going disagreement with Eve about whether or not he should be shouting the entire task force decent meals to save them from the staff cafeteria was also fun. Eve did do something unusal at the end that I hope is brought up again in the future. The Eve from the beginning of the series would never have done such at thing and while the person Eve is now would, she wouldn't do it without at least so reflection on it later. I hope we get to see that reflection in future books. Not the best in the series, but certainly a good read.
  8. Kidnapped! - Jo Leigh. Category Romance. 6/10
    I wasn't feeling well and wanted something I could read quickly and easily so I did shoe shopping for a few Harlequin romance ebooks. I don't remember a lot about this one now, except that for an over-the-top premise (which I knew when I bought it) it was handled pretty well. I liked the hero and the heroine wasn't too stupid, which she could have been, given the setup. I particularly liked the end where she finally found her strength and the very end where she went to find him. Certainly not my best book of the year (and equally certainly not the worst) but perfect for where my brain was at at the time.
  9. Upon the Midnight Clear - Sherrilyn Kenyon. Paranormal Romance. 7/10
    I enjoyed this next installment in Kenyon's universe, although it was a pretty simple and short story really. A warning to readers, this is really a novella printed in large type to make it look like a book. If you know that going in, you're less likely to be disappointed. I don't mind her Dream-Hunter books, but they seem a bit pointless compared to the Dark-Hunters and Were-Hunters and I'd rather have more of them. Hopefully she's going to tie it all in together. The little Christmas vignettes at the end are not really necessary, but it is lovely to see a glimpse of favourite characters who haven't been around in a while. Poor Nick, he's got himself in a mess and I don't know how Kenyon is going to get him out. There's another Dream-Hunter book coming out early next year, but I'm really hanging out for Ash's book in August.
  10. Eternity in Death - J. D. Robb. Futuristic Mystery. Short Story. 7/10
    Just a cute short story in the "Dead of Night" anthology. Eve goes hunting for a killer that may or may not be a vampire. The atmosphere is nicely done and the resolution of the vampire-ness of the villian is neat.
  11. Lady of Light and Shadows - C. L. Wilson. Romantic Fantasy. 10/10
    This is the second half of Lord of the Fading Lands and it was a stronger, better book. I wish I had felt up to doing a full review as I did for the first book, but unfortunately I didn't. Ellie and Rain continue their courtship as things get nastier around them. By the end the mages are revealed as returned villians, a character is given a chance for redemption, significant characters are killed and Wilson rounds off the story in great style. I'm looking forward to the next pair of books next year.
  12. Poison Study - Maria V. Snyder. Fantasy. DNF
    I had read this before and loved it, although I found it slow reading at the time. I liked it all over again, but found it slow again and just didn't feel like persevering, which is a pity as this is a good book. Don't let the fact I didn't finish it put you off. It was a case of "it's not you, it's me".
Books read this month: 9
DNFs this month: 3
10/10 reads this month: 2
New reads this month: 6
Rereads this month: 3

Books read so far in 2007 = 121
DNFs so far in 2007 = 13
10/10 reads so far in 2007 = 16
New reads so far in 2007 = 106
Rereads so far in 2007 = 15

Monday, December 17, 2007

Flickr Update

I've just spent a good hour or a bit more, updating my Flickr Account. I let the pro status lapse back in June and recently realised that if I want to collect my various stitching projects in their own albums etc, then I needed to cough up the cash and get updating.

So I've just added the stitching photos I recently added to my blog - so if you've been reading this, you've seen them all.

I did also get my scrapbooking layouts album up to date. That means I've just added 39 layouts to Flickr. I did get a bit behind, didn't I?

If you want to take a look, my account is at

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Laying it on the Line

Here's my proposed stitching schedule for 2008. I honestly have no idea if I'll be able to keep to this, but I know I want to. When 2008 starts, I'll update my side bar to reflect this.
  1. Wednesdays (except any 5th Wednesdays):
    QS Wednesday with the HAED BB
  2. Second weekend (Fri to Mon):
    Heaven and Earth Designs SAL
  3. Third weekend (Fri to Mon):
    Character Creations SAL
  4. Fourth weekend (Sat and Sun):
    My almost UFOs
  5. Rest of the time:
    Focus projects
  • Focus projects = Alpine Seasons, The Alpine Garden
  • QS = QS Garnet
  • HAED = Defender of the Kingdom
  • CC = Dawn Star
  • Almost UFOs = Dawn Mist at Eilean Donan, The Ice Dragon's Kingdom, Aurora Castle

    It's in the focus projects that I hope to do some smaller designs and get some finishes, while the rest of it is so that I can continue to make a little progress on my current WIPs rather than stopping them completely. And as for QS Garnet, she got added in because I just can't resist her.


Man, NZ totally sucks at cricket.

Here we are, at 3/12 after 3 overs.

I talked Dave into getting the digital sports channels over the summer so I could watch the cricket. Normally we leave them off and save the money as neither of us is a great sports fan. Except that I like watching the cricket in summer and stitching.

But right now the only thing I can think is, "I'm paying money for this?"

I guess the less I'm prepared to look up at the disaster, the more stitching I'll get done.

Sunday Stitching Progress

The Alpine Garden - The Drawn Thread
Stitched on 30-count Moss Green Murano

I started this as a travelling project back in March - about the time I put my big projects on scroll rods - and I've worked on it slowly since then.

I decided to go back to it when I realised I need a break from Alpine Seasons. (The fact both are called "alpine" is a just a coincidence.) I've done the bottom of these bands (mountain violet) in the last few days. The rest was already stitched.

The second and third bands will both be getting beads for the centre of the stitched flowers. The pattern says french knots but I make awful french knots and I'm going to use beads instead. The odds are good that I have some in my stash that will work in each case.

There's another cricket match on this afternoon (which I predict NZ will lose) so I hope to get started on the next section, which is a picture panel of some mountains with flowers around the border.

I love this design, but I'm not particularly enjoying stitching it. There's a lot of empty space between stitches in a particular colour and I don't like carrying my thread across the back too far or across a space where there won't be stitching on top and I have to do that quite a lot. But it looks really pretty when done - I especially like the mountain violet band - so I'm sticking with it.

Christmas Concert

I've blanked out the name of Marcus' daycare centre. You should be able to read the labels in the big version.

Frame cluster by Natalie Braxton
Stars, heart, tag, folded ribbon from "Chloe's Treasures" by Paint the Moon Designs
Background paper, large alpha, present and greenery from "Christmas Warm" by Jofia Designs
Trees from "Candy Cane" by Heidi Larsen
Ornaments by Dani Mogstad
Small ribbon from "Project 26 - Lamington" by Tracy Ann Robinson
Block alpha by Natalie Braxton
Fonts are Jane Austen and Lisa

Saturday, December 15, 2007


Can you tell I just love this photo. I've already posted it here and on my LJ and now I've scrapped it as well.

Cardboard overlay by LindaGB; everything else by Tracy Ann Robinson (all from December Lucky Dip except background paper); font is FG Virgil.

Friday, December 14, 2007

And for something completely different...

It's hot and muggy here and Marcus fell asleep on the sofa in his t-shirt and undies yesterday afternoon. Look at that pose. Doesn't he look just so sweet and angelic?

Floss Toss for QS Garnet

I made my decision and chose QS Garnet to be my new HAED start. There's a needlework shop near here that is closing this week so I decided to go down there and see if that had any of the threads I was missing and/or some fabric at sale price.

I managed to buy 11/21 threads I needed and a fat quarter of Ash Rose 25-ct Lugana at just over half price. Being that close to having the whole thing kitted, I came home via Spotlight and picked up the rest of the threads. I'm two short as there are two on the pattern (781 and 3773) that simply don't exist on the DMC thread racks here in New Zealand. I have no idea if they exist in the US or if they shouldn't be in the pattern but I'm following up on it.

Since we're going to be going down to my parents' place for Christmas on the 23rd and I'll get to reopen Garnet on the 25th, I'm going to prep the threads and fabric now, take them down with me and make starting Garnet a Christmas treat to myself. It can be my holiday project and then I'll go to stitching it on Wednesdays with the HAED BB stitchalong.

Of course, these are all just plans at the moment. I have lots of good ideas about what and how I'm going to stitch but due to health and my own basic lack of organisation, it doesn't always pan out that day. Still, I enjoy the planning and imagining that I am finally going to be organised.

Latest on Alpine Seasons

Here's the latest photo of Alpine Seasons. This is about 5/12 of the two outer borders. I moved on to do the next section and found I just couldn't take the huge size of it, the scroll frame and all anymore. I know I'm so close to finishing, but I need a break from this. I figure that as long as it is done by the end of February then I've finished it within 3 years. So I'll just cover it up and take a bit of a break until I'm ready to tackle it again.

I'm going to get out something small to work with in the hand in the meantime. It will probably be Alpine Garden by The Drawn Thread, so I'm still in the mountains.

There's a cricket match on this afternoon, so the sofa, the TV and some stitching in the Q-Snaps sounds perfect.

More spoilage

Thanks to Barbara (see, I found out who you are) for another beautiful HAED chart. This time it's "Tapesty", again by Meredith Dillman. I love it.

I have been planning an ambitious stitching schedule for next year that will allow me to work on new and smaller projects as intended, but still keep up work on Defender of the Kingdom and Dawn Star. I've already altered it to add the HAED BB Quick Stitch Wednesdays to let me start Garnet. Now I can see I'm going to have to seriously stick with it and make good progress on these three projects or I'll never have the opportunity to start any of the other lovely patterns I have before I die.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

I am so spoiled

Heaven and Earth Designs are having a Christmas sale (go and take a look, you know you want to). I have been so spoiled in the last two days, being treated to RAKs from Shannon and Angie. I now have two lovely Meredith Dillman charts, QS Garnet and QS Amethyst, and a serious problem as I try to decide if I can justify starting one and if so, how will I choose which?

I would just love to share the Christmas spirit, but with our finances at present and the fact I've been Christmas shopping for the family, I can't really justify to cost. So I'm going to do something a little different. I'm going to give away two of my own charts, which I can afford to do.

For anyone who posts here on my blog listing their favourite Character Creations chart, I will randomly pick two winners next Wednesday and email them a PDF of their chart of choice. The only charts excluded are the really enormous $18 & $20 ones.

This only applies to replies on my actual (Blogger) blog, as these posts feed through to Multiply and LJ as well. You have to come to to play.

Thanks again to Shannon and Angie, who have been so lovely and given me such a warm, loved feeling. I will be printing both their charts, wrapping them up and putting them under the Christmas tree. Then I will be able to enjoy my presents all over again on Christmas day.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Alpine Seasons Part 10

Lookie, lookie! Only two more parts to go.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

December at Character Creations

Two lovely releases from Abranda Icle Sisson this month, both of which are 20% off for the first week.

Carrie by Abranda Icle Sisson

Ashley by Abranda Icle Sisson

I hope you like them.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Unreliable narrators

I've been skimming through the upcoming books lists on FantasticFiction. (Marcus has been sick for a week, I'm feeling totally shattered and that's about all my brainpower is up to doing. It's a rather glassy-eyed skim too.)

Anyway, I was reading the blurb for a book, which said:

"With characteristic subtlety, Forster holds back the essential truth till the end, when we realize that Louise is not as reliable as her matter-of-fact narration suggests."

And it made me realise that I detest unreliable narrators. I know it is considered a clever and edgy writing technique, but to me it just feels like a con. And I don't like being conned.

I don't want to invest my time and emotions (and I really do invest my emotions) and energy in a book and especially in the characters, only to get to the end and find out that nothing is what it seems.

I feel like the author is laughing at me. "Ha, ha, ha, tricked you! You spent all that time liking and empathising with and worrying about character X and she was having you on all along. So was I. Ha, ha ha!"

No thank you.

I don't mind plot twists, in fact good ones are fantastic, but to twist everything so that what I've read becomes a lie will ruin a book for me.

After saying that, I accept that a really good writer can pull of pretty much anything, but as a generalisation, I want the author and characters (if using a narrator) to be honest with me. I'm a naturally honest kind of person. I take the world at face value because I believe (hope?) that most people are fundamentally honest. I want my books to be honest as well.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Cast in Shadow by Michelle Sagara

Cast in Shadow by Michelle Sagara
Seven years ago Kaylin fled the crime-riddled streets of Nightshade, knowing that something was after her. Children were being murdered -- and all had the same odd markings that mysteriously appeared on her own skin . . .
Since then, she's learned to read, she's learned to fight and she's become one of the vaunted Hawks who patrol and police the City of Elantra. Alongside the winged Aerians and immortal Barrani, she's made a place for herself, far from the mean streets of her birth.

But children are once again dying, and a dark and familiar pattern is emerging, Kaylin is ordered back into Nightshade with a partner she knows she can't trust, a Dragon lord for a companion and a device to contain her powers -- powers that no other human has. Her task is simple -- find the killer, stop the murders . . . and survive the attentions of those who claim to be her allies!
This was another reread for me. The first time I read Cast in Shadow I came away from it a bit frustrated. I liked the story and the characters, but I was left with a feeling that I hadn't really got the book. A friend who borrowed it and liked it, admitted that she had read it twice, and it had made a lot more sense the second time. I decided I would reread it myself some time in the future, probably before reading the sequel as I knew I wanted to continue with the story.

Due to complications of US and Australian publication and budgetary constraints, I actually got hold of volume 2 and volume 3 of the series at about the same time. So all three books sat on the TBR shelf for a while until I finally picked up Cast in Shadow for that planned reread.

My friend was right. It made much more sense the second time. I liked the story just as much as before, but I understood it better this time as well. All the same, but original problems do remain. My feeling is that Sagara has done some excellent and probably complicated worldbuilding. However, she hasn't managed to convery the details of her world to the page as well as she might have done. I had to pay attention, knowing where I'd been confused before, to pick up on things I had missed. They were there, but still not easy to find.

My other issue had been that Sagara leaves just a bit too much up to the reader. I'm all for leaving the reader to do some of the work, but if the hints and clues aren't clear enough, said reader (or me, anyway) can't necessarily pick up on them. The characters kept sharing speaking glances or having moments of understanding where there wasn't enough information for me to work out whatever it was they were realising. In some cases it didn't seem to matter, but it others it might have done and I don't know because I missed it.

But it is still a good book. It's still an interesting story with engaging characters and some very clever ideas and plot twists. I was interested in reading the sequel before and I am more so now, especially since I feel like I understand the political system a bit better and everything suggests that will be significant in book two.

Don't let my comments put you off - this is a good book. It's just that you have to be awake and pay attention. Don't expect to skim along the surface and have everything explained to you, because it doesn't work that way.

There are a number of different races in this world and it is important to come to some understanding of each one, most especially the immortal Barrani, whose past seems to be coming back to haunt the entire population. They are left deliberately obscure by Sagara, but hopefully more will be revealed as the books go on. Cast in Shadow is the first of at least four books, possibly more, so I guess if everything was explained in the first volume there wouldn't be a lot left for the later ones.

So stay awake and you'll be rewarded with a very good story. As always, I have to find the time, but I'm looking forward to Cast in Courtlight (which has the most beautiful cover) and Cast in Secret.

Cast in Shadow
Michelle Sagara
The Chronicle of Elantra, Book 1
Followed by:
Cast in Courtlight
Cast in Secret
Cast in Fury

Dies the Fire by S. M. Stirling

Dies the Fire by S. M. Stirling
An electrical storm over Nantucket causes all electronic devices to cease to function-computers, radio, even firearms-and plunges the world into a darkness humanity is unprepared to face. But as some people band together to help, others are building armies for conquest...
This was my second DNF in a row, and that fact was even more of a disappointment than in the case of Outlander. This was a read for a book group and I'm the one who nominated it. I thought the concept was fascinating - electricity and even firearms stop working for no apparent reason and everyone is left to cope. I got about of a third of the way through and just found myself stopping reading. I don't even know why. It wasn't specifically the characters or the plot or even anything I can pinpoint about the writing style. I just didn't want to go on.

This is the second time I've tried to read Stirling and I had the same reaction then. I started Island in the Sea of Time, where the island of Nantucket gets thrown 3000 years back in time and again, the people have to find a way to survive. (And yes, it does seem the two events are connected and apparently Stirling is starting to show that in his latest book in the series.)

I find this incredibly frustrating, especially since the discussion on my book group suggests the story stayed interesting and thought-provoking. These are books I want to have read, but don't actually want to read. The idea works for me brilliantly, the books themselves don't. So, again I guess I'm just going to have to accept that this author doesn't work for me and move on to something else. A pity, as I still think I'm missing a good story.

Dies the Fire
S. M. Stirling
Did Not Finish

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Outlander (published in the UK as Cross Stitch) by Diana Gabaldon
Hurtled back through time more than two hundred years to Scotland in 1743, Claire Randall finds herself caught in the midst of an unfamiliar world torn apart by violence, pestilence, and revolution and haunted by her growing feelings for James Fraser, a young soldier.
This was my second attempt to read this book. After failing to finish it the first time (I barely made it back in time with Claire as I remember), I decided to use one of my book points to get the unabridged audiobook and try again.

I got futher this time and at points, did enjoy the book, but very close to halfway through I decided I had had enough and stopped. Essentially, the book just seemed to go on and on and on without making a whole lot of progress. It felt to me as if all Claire did was behave stupidly and get into trouble, get resuced by Jamie and then find reasons to yell at him like a shrew until they had (rough but fantastic) make up sex. I have many other things I'd rather spend my time on and decided Diana Gabaldon and I should part company.

I know there are people who just adore this book and its sequels - lots of them, both people and sequels - but it's failed to work for me twice, so I think it is time to accept that that Gabaldon isn't an author who works for me. A pity, as I still think the concept is brilliant, but the execution doesn't hold my attention.

Diana Gabaldon
Did Not Finish

The Last Hawk by Catherine Asaro

The Last Hawk by Catherine Asaro
The Last Hawk tells the tale of the lost heir to the Empire. Fleeing the heat of battle in a wounded spacecraft, Kelric crash-lands on a proscribed planet where a matriarchy rules through the medium of a complex game. The women in power help to heal him, but destroy his ship and determine that he can never leave - for his knowledge of their world, if revealed to the Empire, would cause the rapid fall of their civilization. And so his rescue turns into an imprisonment of years, decades, a time in which he finds love and a challenging place in the universal game.
This was a reread for me. I read the book last when I first discovered the series, back in the late '90s and I haven't had an opportunity to reread it since. I think this time around I loved the book even more than I did the first time.

I think that part of my problem on my first read was that I simply gobbled up the story and didn't have time to go slowly and savour the details. The thing that I had struggled most with was the Quis (the "complex game" mentioned in the blurb) and how it all worked.

On rereading I came to realise that I didn't need to know exactly how it worked (and indeed, that isn't explained) but to understand what it meant to Coba. It was like Kelric described it - as a communications network, but it was also a way of expressing abstract mathematics and physics concepts.

The thing I had missed before and that had made the story confusing, was that it also holds a lot of forgotten knowledge. Whether that was intentional when Quis was first developed or it just happened that the information went into the Quis even as it was being lost to everyday use isn't shown. I found it quite reminiscent (although a totally different method) of the Sybil network in Joan D. Vinge's Tiamat books. The lost knowledge is there for the asking - if you ask the sybil (or the Quis) the right question.

I also felt I got to know Kelric a lot better this time around. I'd always liked him, but I feel that now I understand more deeply what happens to him, I just love him to pieces and want to hold him close and heal all his hurts.

At one point in my reading, I both wanted to get some stitching done and keep up with the book. I managed to do both by moving to my audiobook for a bit. That lead to a previous post, the pertinent bits of which I'm going to reproduce here to have it all in one place.

Going back to why I've never reread my favourite series, it's because I keep putting off rereading them, both for matters of time and in case I don't like them as much. Also, bad stuff happens to the characters and I keep putting off reading that, even though I know things turn out fine in the end.

I've found I take things in better when I read them than when I listen to them. I followed the story fine, but I can't fall into an audiobook the way I can tumble into a paper (or electronic) book and just be absorbed into the story. So my previous intention of listening to books that aren't absolute favourites was probably right.

All the same, I made a point of stopping when the next part of The Last Hawk was one of the sections I wanted to savour and enjoy. I went back to reading the actual book. I love audiobooks, but I love "real" books even more.

It was, in a way, disappointing that the most significant relationship Kelric was to have on Coba, ended just as it was truly beginning. This was his marriage to Ixpar Karn. Despite their being together for several years, it was only as circumstances forced Kelric to leave Coba that there were in the right place to truly work and love together.

I did like the synchronicity of the way Kelric took the flyer Ixpar had left for him, not knowing she had left it, while Ixpar saw it was gone, but didn't know Kelric had taken it. It was sad neither of them knew what the other had come to realise - Ixpar that Kelric had to leave and Kelric that he loved her - but beautifully written the way it was done.

I suspect Catherine Asaro always knew she'd be writing about Kelric and Ixpar later and it was more important in this book to show the other interactions. Also, the relationship with which we spent the most time was one that ended badly. Rashiva pretty much betrayed Kelric and you've got to have relationship and trust for a betrayal to be devastating, so that relationship had to be built up first.

One thing that did trouble me, especially in my first reading, was that Kelric went through a lot of women in this book. Or, more accurately since Coba is a matriarchy and the men still clearly the subservient gender, a lot of woman went through Kelric. But I do realise that the book covers about 20 years, and it was made clear that Kelric was perfectly attractive to the Coban psyche. First time round I found it difficult the way Kelric seemed to come to love most of them (well, four out of six and of the other two, one was never a personal relationship and the other seriously mistreated him). But this time round I saw that he was never willing to offer any emotion when he still felt linked to the previous "wife". Only after they had died (Dahl and Savina) or rejected him (Rashiva) was he willing to risk. By Ixpar, he wasn't willing at all, but found love crept up on him all the same.

I think Kelric, adored littlest brother of a large family, must simply have a great capacity to love.

It'll be interested to see how that plays out as he redevelops a relationship with Ixpar - or at least I hope that's what he'll be doing in the new book.

This is a bit messier than my usual reviews as I've pulled it together from comments I posted on the [asaro] mailing list rather than making my brain start from scratch, so I hope it still makes sense.

The Last Hawk
Catherine Asaro
part of the Skolian series

(Almost Your) First Christmas

"Believe" by Lisa Whitney
"Ribbons Vol 1" by Natali Designs
"Beaded Letters" by Kimberly Giarrusso
"This Love: Bold Moves" by Dani Mogstad
Font: Jane Austen

O is for Ornaments (2006)

Just before Marcus’ first Christmas, I saw these Hallmark tree ornaments in a shop. The baby bear in his jumper was so cute that I succumbed to temptation and bought it. A year later, there the ornaments were again, each one dated with the year it was released. I decided I wanted this to become a tradition and bought the “second Christmas” bear to go on the tree. Now it’s time to decorate the tree for Marcus’ third Christmas and I’ve bought the next bear as well. I gave him the box to open and he was totally delighted by the little “superbear” pretending to fly a rocket ship. He helped me to decide where it should go on the tree - once he was convinced to stop playing with it. The bears only go up to “fifth Christmas” so we only have two more to go, and I will have all five to put on my tree when Marcus is all grown up and moved out, keeping a little bit of his childhood on my Christmas tree. 9th Dec, 2006

"Christmas Warm" by Jofia Devoe
"Ephemerals" by Jofia Devoe
"Happy Island" by Jofia Devoe
multiple frame by Nancy Comelab
"Vintage Frames" by Andrea Burns
"Christmas Trees" by Amy Martin
"Blue Christmas" by Janel Kretschman
"Notables" by K J Conners
"Is For Labels" by Meredith Fenwick
"Folded Notes" by Tracy Ann Robinson

Decorating the Tree (2006)

LOVE this new designer!

Everything is from "Christmas Warm" by Jofie Devoe; font is MA Simple Pleasures.

(I thought I should try to catch up on my pages for previous years' Christmases before this one arrived and I had more photos to work with.)

Never Too Young to Shave

I honestly don't know if I like this one. It's so much more stuff than I usually put on a page.

Background paper, torn paper and orange flower from "Fancy Free" by Eve Recinella; round alpha from "Mini Button Alpha" by Eve Recinella; frame from "Comic Book Frames Volume 1" by Nancy Comelab; wrapped ribbon from "Smooth as Silk - Soft Colours" by Paint the Moon Designs; clock stamp from "As Time Goes By" by Melanie Willman; red felt strip from "Ribbon Felties" by Gina Miller; ribbons from "Sew Twisty" by Karah Fredericks; 'shave' alpha from "Crazy Love" by Dani Mogstad; brown leaf from "Crumples Spice" by Tracy Ann Robinson; glitter arrow from "This Way Arrows by Tracy Ann Robinson; green leaves from "Project 26 - Koala" by Tracy Ann Robinson; cutout leaves from "Katjie's Flowers" by Kim Brodelet; buttoned flowers from "Those Bloomin Flowers" by Christy Lyle; font is Jane Austen.

Sky Tower

Frame cluster from Nancy Comelab; swirls from Tracy Ann Robinson; tie downs from Natalie Braxton; star from Andrea Burns; ladybird from Amanda Rockwell; fonts are Chiquita Banana and KGD Kirsty Script.


Marcus came home with a trophy from Playball on Friday. He was so very, very proud of it & of himself. He gets to keep it for the week and then it goes back for the next person to win. We're so proud of him too. He is such a big, strong boy now. Love you, Marcus! 15.11.07

Frame cluster and alpha from "Raincoats on the Beach" by Misty Cato; grid from "Grids Special" by Tracy Ann Robinson; stars from "Be Happy Stars" by Tracy Ann Robinson; font is Lou.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Books I Want to Reread, Part 2

Beauty by Robin McKinley

I'll always stop and look at fairy tale retellings, even if I don't necessarily read them. McKinley's Beauty is a version of Beauty and the Beast, told in delightful, spare but beautiful prose. Like many of the books on the list, I first read this many years ago and I've never taken the time to go back to it. (I don't have the pretty cover shown on my copy, but I can't find a picture of my cover on the 'net and I think this one is very nice, so I've used it instead.)

It's full of lovely moments and little twists on the classic tale that enhance McKinley's version rather than distracting from it. Beauty's real name turns out to be Honor, but when the concept of honour was explained to her when she was a girl, her reaction was to grumble, "I'd rather be a beauty" and the name stuck.

When living with the beast, Beauty discovers his library, which turns out to hold all the books ever written, even if they actually haven't been yet. As Beauty falls into the magic of the place she begins to see these extra books and reads them too, even if she doesn't always fully understand the content. What booklover isn't going to be entranced by the idea of such a library.

This is indeed a fairy tale, with a light and lovely touch and I hope I find time to reread it.

McKinley later wrote another version of Beauty and the Beast called Rose Daughter, which is a much more complicated and layered tale than this one. I never managed to finish it and I much perfer the light, gentle touch of this book. But of course, that's just me and others may not agree.

Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang by Kate Wilhelm

This is yet anothger long ago read, of which I only remember basic details. But like the other books on this list, it left a good impression on me and I'd like to go back to it and see if it holds up.

The cover shown here is from the Gollancz SF Masterworks edition, which shows this is not a new book. It was originally published in 1975. It is an apocalyptic tale about one family's attempts to save itself as human fertility goes into decline and the population begins to fail. It's a book about cloning, still firmly in the realm of science fiction for all by some cutting-edge researchers back in 1975 and does what SF is supposed do - looks at the possibilites inherent in current research and the dangers that might arise.

I don't remember all the details, but one line has stuck with me, from near the end (or possibly the very end) of the book where a character looks down on his community and relects on the wonder of it that "the children were all different".

Something about this book haunted me - and I suspect that at the age I read it, a lot of it went over my head - so I want to go back to it and see what I can discover in it as the person I am now and from the perspective of middle age and parenthood.

Alien Taste in the Ukiah Oregon series by Wen Spencer (followed by the rest of the series)

For a change, not an old book but still a relatively recent one. Alien Taste was published in 2001 and so far has been followed by another three books. I have no idea if Spencer plans to write any more about Ukiah, but I hope she does at some point.

In this book I found something rare - a completely new idea (at least to me - if it has been done somewhere else, I haven't read it) - and that was part of its appeal. Oh, the basic premise isn't so new, but some of Spencer's applications - the blood mice in particular - were new and clever. And Ukiah is just such a cool character.

The reasons for wanting to reread this time are just that simple. I liked the books, I loved the main character and I'd like to go off adventuring with him again.

The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge

A children's book this time, and while I don't remember exactly when I read it, I suspect I was in the target age group, if at the higher end. Another fairy tale kind of book about orphaned Maria who goes to live in this big old house and gets caught up in a mystery about the history of the house and family. I remember the plot twist, that I think I figured out even when I first read it, but that was okay as it was set up for you to do so if you were paying attention.

I remember the tone as being lovely and not talking down to children who read it - the magic of a children's book that adults can go back and enjoy later. Which is what I want to do.

I remember it as a magical book and I hope it still will be all these years later. I've seen adult bloggers reviewing it and having enoyed it and it is still in print after first being published in 1946, so those are all encourage signs that it will stand the test of time.

Touch Not the Cat by Mary Stewart

Another old book, but an adult one this time. Mary Stewart wrote modern novels with a mystery and a bit of romance, all with a gothic air, primarily between 1955 and 1975. I've read a lot of them over the years (favourites being The Ivy Tree, Airs Above the Ground and Nine Coaches Waiting) and while this one fits the basic pattern, I always felt it was a little on the different side as well.

It has a touch of the mystic - a psychic heroine who is in touch mentally with one of her cousins but doesn't know which - and a mention of New Zealand, both things to catch my attention.

And while The Ivy Tree will probably remain my favourite Mary Stewart, for some reason this is the one I want to reread.

No stitching for me

I've got an outbreak of eczema on my hands and the moment and its reached the point where it is quite painful to close my hands into a fist. So no more stitching for me until it has passed and I can bend my fingers more comfortably.

I sat down at the sewing machine this morning and got set up to do my quilting instead. Since I'm doing it on the machine, I don't really need to bend my fingers. I've got the straight lines all done (it's only a little wall hanging) and now I'm getting up the courage to do the freehand parts. I'm not a great machine quilter, but good enough to go on with. All the same, I get rather nervous as I get to the freestyle sections.

Since I can't cross my own fingers at the moment, if anyone would like to do it for me I'd be grateful.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Lord of the Fading Lands by C. L. Wilson

Lord of the Fading Lands by C. L. Wilson

This fantasy-romance debut features faerie king Rain Tairen Soul, a man tormented by age-old grief: a thousand years ago, the woman he loved was slain in battle, and in his rage he laid waste to half the world. Now his people are dying out and the evil mages of Eld are rising again. When Rain hears the call of his lost soul mate, Ellysetta, he journeys to the neighboring kingdom to find her; when he claims a woodcarver's daughter as his mate, he scandalizes the nobility of her country and rouses the interest of Eld's wicked wizards, who come seeking her in order to get at Rain.
There's been a lot of buzz around the romance blogsphere about this book and its sequel, Lady of Light and Shadows (which is the second half of the story and I have on reserve from the library).

I was both interested to read it and a bit sceptical at the same time. On one level a lot of it sounded very same-old/same-old. There were shapechangers, an innocent girl with unexected backbone, soul mates, magic and evil mages. None of it sounded new and unexpected. But after seeing good reviews I decided to see if my library had it. It didn't. But a friend pointed out to me that you could request that they buy certain books and she was going to do it with this one and its sequel. Inspired by this idea, I did the same (as we live in different regions of Auckland that have their own local government and therefore library systems).

I'm glad I did so as I enjoyed the book. It is different after all, and many of the differences are in the execution rather than the basic idea. First off, this book is slow. Not agonising and annoyingly slow, but delicately slow. Instead of rushing into a wild adventure, it slowly lets us get to know the characters as they get to know each other. This is a book about set up and I assume we'll get more plot in Lady of Light and Shadows which has just been published this month. I found the pace a little surprising as I'm so used to books that pack as much as they can into the pages, and often into just a few days of story time, but it was a pleasant surprise.

Instead of rushing into each other's arms as soul-mated lovers are wont to do (even if they are yelling about how much they hate it as they do it), Rain and Elly slowly get to know each other as Rain officially courts her and it is beautifully done. Wilson's concept of the soul-bond here is not as demanding and ruthless as they often are in novels of the kind. It's being demanding to Rain because he's already accepted it, but Elly has to take her time until she is ready to accept it - and that isn't chosing to say yes (or fall into bed), it's a gut-deep acceptance that she can't force. One that it is understood will only happen when it happens and no sooner. And she can choose to deny it if she wishes - although I'm sure she won't do that or it would all be a bit of a waste of story.

The worldbuilding is well done and the history of the world thought out and important to the plot. Wilson uses the device of having both a long-lived race and a short-lived one (and a couple of others that were mentioned in passing and may or may not turn up in later books) which allows for the conflict that grows between the Fey who cannot forget the war that raged 1000 years ago and the mortals who consider it ancient history and essentially irrelevant to today. Of course, it's going to be the Fey who are right as evil is rising again.

Which brings me to the villians, the main place where the book failed a bit for me. Really, the main villians of the piece, the Eld mages, are bog-standard fantasy fare. They seem to be evil for no real reason other than the fact that they're evil. They use forbidden, black, blood magic and are fudamentally nasty. Not only that but Rain and the other Fey are pretty much essentially unable to see there is any chance to them being any other way, a prejudice that we have been given hints is going to be tested. I didn't find the Eld to be particularly original or convincing villians and I didn't find myself greatly fearing the consequences of their actions.

On the other hand, Wilson includes a couple of minor villians who really creeped me out. Both are mortal and the reasons behind their actions are small, human and decidedly petty. They scared me a whole lot more than the mages and as they planned out their next steps I found myself really worrying about Elly (the focus of their plans in each case) and what might happen. While the mages failed for me, these two characters succeeded in a brilliant way because their evil was small and nasty and very real. They really worried me.

Be aware that Lord of the Fading Lands is not really a complete book on its own. The story pauses at a suitable place, but it is only a pause and the next book is required to finish the story of Rain and Elly's courtship. I suspect the bigger issue of the return of the mages will take even more books as I know another pair are being released (again in consecutive months) at the end of next year. But I liked that. I liked the slow development of their relationship, which felt so much more real than many romance books where everything thing happens so fast. It took me a couple of years to be sure enough of my feeling for and relationship with my now-husband to say yes, so I find the quick, quick pace of many books a little unrealistic. This was a lovely change for me.

All in all, this was a very satisfying novel, with two main downsides. One, as said above, was the mages. The other is that this is really only half a book. Part of what made it a satisfactory read was knowing that I'll be able to read Lady of Light and Shadows before too much time goes by. So I recommend this book to anyone who likes a nice, even balance of fantasy and romance, but make sure you'll have access to the next book to finish the story.

Wilson has said that there will be another two books late next year (again with lovely titles, King of Sword and Sky and Queen of Song and Souls) which I'm guessing may start dealing with the Eld mages once Rain and Elly are joined together. I have no idea if there will be more books after that or not. In a way, I hope not. I like the focus and slow pace of the relationship building and I don't want this to become a series where every character and his (or her) dog ends up getting a book of their own. I want this to be a concise and bordered tale with a clear beginning and end rather than something that goes on and on and on. Of course, what Wilson chooses to do has absolutely nothing to do with me.

Lord of the Fading Lands
Tairen Soul, Book 1
C. L. Wilson
followed by:
Lady of Light and Shadows (Nov '07)
King of Sword and Sky (Oct '08)
Queen of Song and Souls (Nov '08)

Friday, November 16, 2007

Books I Want to Reread, Part 1

Emerald Eyes in the Continuing Time series (followed by the rest of the series) - Daniel Keys Moran

Since it was Daniel Keys Moran who started prompted this wild idea, let's start there. A certain friend who has lead me into bibliophilic ruin before today, introduced me to DKM. He started a science fiction series back in the late 1980s called The Continuing Time, which promised to be long, detailed and fascinating. However, only three books were published which quickly became very hard to find. I read the two of these my friend owned, Emerald Eyes and The Last Dancer and was quickly dragged into the story. Then DMK seemed to vanish from sight, there were never any more books and the novels that were already hard to find became scarce and collectible. I never got my hands on any of them - my friend did get hold of the third one, the hardest to track down, but she paid quite a lot for it and I never liked to ask to borrow it.

Now, DKM has reappeared, put up the books for download (I grabbed everything he has up last night) and is talking about producing at least the next book. Of course, all this says nothing about the books themselves, which are hard to describe, so I've borrowed a very, very short summary from a Daniel Keys Moran fan site.

Emerald Eyes, Bantam Books, 1987; (ISBN 0-553-27347-7).
The first Continuing Time novel. It covers the period from about 2030 through 2062, and focuses on the creation and destruction of the Castanaveras telepaths.

The Long Run, Bantam Books, 1989; (ISBN 0-553-28144-5).
The second Continuing Time novel. It follows the exploits of Trent Castanaveras, called the Uncatchable, whom we first met in Emerald Eyes. The time period is 2069 through 2070.

The Last Dancer, Bantam Books, 1993; (ISBN 0-553-56249-5).
The third Continuing Time novel. This book is probably the hardest to summarize - it describes the experiences of Denice Castanaveras (who also appeared in Emerald Eyes and The Long Run) from the years 2072-2076, and the Tricentennial Revolution, but there is a long flashback which takes place in the years 48,800 B.C. to 35,000 B.C., which is in some ways necessary to understand what is happening to Denice in the 2070's.

Blood Trail in the Vicki Nelson series (followed by the rest of the series) - Tanya Huff

When Blood Ties came on the TV, I was inspired to reread Blood Price, the first book in the series on which the show was based. I gave that reread a 9/10 grade and described it as:
A story that stands up beautifully even 15 years after it was written. I thoroughly enjoyed this reread and may have to go on with rereading the rest of the series now. My only problem was that I kept expecting the characters to pull out cell phones and they all didn't have them.
The series stars Vicki Nelson, an ex-homicide detective who is now a private investigator after night blindness forced her out of the police force. She remains in contact with her ex-partner, Detective Mike Celluci and in the course of the first book, meets Henry Fitzroy, the bastard son of Henry VIII and a vampire. (In the novels, Henry makes a living writing "bodice rippers"; in the TV show they've updated that to writing and illustrating graphic novels.)

Each book features a classic "monster" and tells a story around that premise - demons (and vampires) in Blood Price, werewolves in Blood Trail, mummies in Blood Lines, Frankenstein's monster in Blood Pact and I can't remember what it is in the last one, Blood Debt. There is also the issue of Vicki's attraction to both Mike and Henry, both of whom love/come to love her in return. It is neatly and well-resolved by the end of the series and I certainly can't complain about Huff's final conclusion to the triangle.

After Blood Price stood the test of time so nicely - and it takes me so long to fit in rereads that most of these books will indeed be facing the "how does it stand up over time" test - I am looking forward to fitting in the rest of the series somewhere, starting with Blood Trail.

Brother to Dragons, Companion to Owls by Jane Lindskold

This is a book that I first read a long time ago (many of the books on the list will be). It was loaned to me by a friend and was the first Jane Lindskold I ever read - I've read more since then and another two will appear on this list later. In all honesty, I don't remember a lot of the details about it, just a sense of wonder and a kind of delightful weirdness that goes with the beautifully evocative title.

Sarah has grown up in a mental instution, but is released due to cutbacks and left to fend for herself. Unable to communicate normally, she falls in with a street gang and slowly finds a place for herself. Accompanied by her two-headed stuffed dragon, to whom she talks - and who may just talk back to her - she begins to make her way in the world and learn unexpected truths about herself and her abilities (or lack thereof).

At least, that's as best as I can remember it, helped along by the blurb on Fantastic Fiction (the link shows the nice new cover of the rerelease, although I have a soft spot for my cover). I read it a long time ago and want to find out if that sense of wonder I remember was real - and if I can recapture it.

The Gate of Ivory in the Ivory series by Doris Egan (followed by rest of the series)

Again, books I read a long time ago, this is the first of three books about Theodora of Pyrene and her adventures on the planet Ivory. There is a lovely blend of science fiction and fantasy in these books, something that I love when it is done well.

Theodora finds herself stranded on Ivory when (I think) her spaceship leaves without her and she is unable to get home. Also unable to get help from her consulate, she finds herself needing to find a way to feed herself. Ivory is a strange planet, especially from an off-world perspective, because magic works there. And Theodora finds herself with an unexpected talent at reading cards. She finds herself caught up in the fortunes of an Ivory native and things spiral out of control from there.

Doris Egan wrote three Ivory books (The Gate of Ivory, Two-Bit Heroes and Guilt-Edged Ivory)and would have been happy to write more about Theodora and Ran, but this wasn't what publishers were wanting to publish, leaving fans unhappy and Egan going on to write and do other things. That leaves me with books to reread since there aren't any new ones. The problem is that I'll probably eventually get to the end and find myself lamenting the lack of more books all over again.

I love the SF/fantasy blend and Theodora, who finds herself doing things she doesn't really even believe in, is a lovely character. There's a nice, light quirkiness to these books as I recall and they were a lot of fun with a good dose of culture-shock and a little bit of crazy thrown in to spice up the mix.

Song for the Basilisk by Patricia McKillip

This is my second-favourite book by Patricia McKillip (and yes, the first-favourite will show up on the list too, along with about three others). It was the first I bought in hardcover - I saw it on a bookseller's table at a convention actually, and it was so beautiful, with its small size and Kinuko Y. Craft cover that I snapped it up and went back to my room to caress it (okay, that didn't come out exactly as I intended).

I generally love McKillip. She writes strange, magical stories in strange and magical places. Her prose is generally beautiful, although sometimes it can be a bit too opaque and the reader is never sure if something is action, metaphor or dream. Some of her books I've never managed to finish because of that, but Song for the Basilisk is definitely not one of those.

It has all the requirements for a high fantasy, with a deposed line of princes, a villain who is partially sympathetic (and who has a daughter who is, while still being an adversary), a young boy grown into a man, music that can be magic, and a quest for restoration and revenge (not necessarily in that order).

I remember moments in this book more than lots of details, but they were imprinted on my mind, especially the images of dead ashes in a hearth that (if I recall correctly) are used at the beginning and end. I got lost in this book, and I'm hoping I'll be able to do so again.

Books I Want to Reread, Intro

Last night, while I was reading through my blog feeds, I discovered (through the very interesting SF Signal) that SF author Daniel Keys Moran has a blog. From there I discovered that he is putting most of his fiction online for readers to download. I immediately did a mad download, pulled several .rtf files into the ebook reader on my PDA and realised with a certain horror just how many books I have around the place, both electronic and paper, that I want to reread.

Anyone who has read this blog before has probably figured out that I love books. I love reading books and I have done for years. (My mother claims that I was a difficult child until I learned to read and from then on life was easy because all she had to do was give me a book.) Reading is one skill that has stayed with me most of the time through my CFS, which is a blessing I wouldn't begin to take for granted.

But I do have to rest and sleep a lot, there are times when I just can't focus on the text and I do (believe it or not) have other things in my life. This means I struggle to read all the new books I'm tempted by, and all those favourite books I want to reread tend to get pushed back to "when I have a bit more time".

All the same, I find myself very tempted to put down my current book (ironically a reread, so that I can go on with the series), pick up the PDA and dive into DKM's Emerald Eyes to see if it holds up over time.

In reality, right now I feel more up to mucking about on the computer than reading a detailed book. I have a raging cold, my lungs seem to have this urge to be hacked up my throat and I'm not exactly at my best. So I decided to waste some time making a list of the books/series I want to reread/complete. How long this inspiration will last I have no idea, but let's give it a go.

With the exception of the Daniel Keys Moran books, since they kicked this whole insanity off, books will be listed in no particular order, five at a time.

You make me laugh

This is just a silly photo really, of my silly boy, but it does make me laugh. He can be very funny.

I'm most proud of this because I used a new Photoshop technique I hadn't tried before, that let me wrap the swirl around the frame and the "me" word around the tops of the "U" and get the shadows right. It still isn't perfect, but I'm much more confident about doing it again in the future and that expands my horizons a lot.


Paper, swirls and frame from Tracy Ann Robinson; flowers from Paint the Moon Designs; large alpha from Dani Mogstad; word snippets from Lauren Grier; small alpha from Kimberly Giarrusso; font is FG Virgil.

Two corners done!

As you can see, I now have two corners done. I am so pleased with how this is turning out now. The real thing is ever so much nicer than the photo. It's getting so big it's hard to get everything in focus with my little camera.

I had been intending to go off and do some quilting now, but I have a raging cold and I'm seriously considering sitting in bed and doing some pointless blog posting instead.

I don't know what will happen. We'll see.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

For Remembrance Day

Marg over at Reading Adventures posted this on her blog for Remembrance Day. I've always loved the song, but oh boy did this version give me chills.

And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda...

Lest we Forget...

Lord Valentine's Castle by Robert Silverberg

Lord Valentine's Castle by Robert Silverberg

Come to the magical planet of Majipoor. Follow Valentine as he joins a motley band of jugglers to seek the secret of his lost past across a wide and wondrous world. In the shattered city of the Shapeshifters, in the temple of the Lady of Sleep and the Isle of the King of Dreams. From the depths of a dying emperor's dark domain, to the destiny that awaits him high atop Lord Valentine's Castle.
I first read this book long, long ago. It could easily have been twenty years ago. Then, somewhere in the years of house moves and book culls, my copy vanished. Of course, it was not long afterwards that I found myself with a hankering to reread the book. I checked out second hand copies as well as new, but somehow never quite made the decision to buy - buying books can be a long, complicated and expensive process here in New Zealand, especially if you want one that is older or not particularly popular. In the end, I bought an ecopy from Fictionwise and it then sat on my PDA waiting for me to find the time to read it.

I was a little concerned that the book might not stand up to my twenty (or however many) year old memories, but it came up trumps. I greatly enjoyed my long wander through Majipoor with Valentine and the others.

The plot is basically simple - the ruler of the world has his throne stolen from him and has to get it back - but Silverberg adds enough twists and turns to make it fresh. Valentine not only loses his throne, but also his memory and even his own body (although, given it was plagued with a limp, he eventually decides he got the better of the deal) and is dumped on the side of the road to make a new life and future. He falls in with a band of jugglers and, finding he has a natural talent for it, becomes one of the troop. However, his new and pleasant simple life is not allowed to last.

Plagued by dreams - on a planet where dreams hold truth, secrets and communication - the riddle of his past and identity is eventually revealed. Unable to believe it at first, he still finds himself drawn to follow the clues tossed out to him until he finds this amaing tale is true. From there, he sets about to regain his throne.

I like Valentine. At first he is almost simple, untroubled by the weights of life and responsibility, but even as he learns who he is and takes more and more onto himself, that sunny attitude almost never fades completely. The story is told in a close third person POV with Valentine as the focal character, so the only head we ever get inside is his. This means we get to know him very well, while the other characters are never as well developed. All the same, the reader (or this reader anyway) can develop a great liking for them. Besides Valentine himself, Carabella is probably my favourite character and while I fell I know her, I'd still like to know her a little better.

But really, it is Majipoor itself that is the star of the story. As Valentine and his companions slowly make their way from one side of the world to the other, the reader is taken on a fantastic journey around an amazing planet. Majipoor was originally home to the Metamorphs, a race of shapechangers, but people from Old Earth arrived fourteen thousand years ago and eventually took possession of the planet. A large range of other alien races also live on Majipoor and all are well described and make fascinating, well-rounded characters. There are the remains of the high-tech that came with the original settlers, but Majipoor is now in many ways more a fantasy world rather than a science fiction one. I love this mixture of the two genres and it is part of the attraction of the series for me.

As well as the strange races that populate the planet, the geography and flora and fauna are also unique and fascinating, from a mountain so high it's top sits outside the atmosphere and is maintained by ancient weather machines to amazing plants and creatures, Majipoor is a place of wonders and well worth the visit.

Oh, and we mustn't forget the Metamorph plot to regain their lost planet.

I never read any of the futher books in the series originally, but I am quite interested in doing so this time. The second book, Majipoor Chronicles, is now sitting on my PDA, waiting for me to have the time to read it.

Lord Valentine's Castle
Majipoor, Book 1
Robert Silverberg

First Swim of the Season

Frame cluster by Nancy Comelab; alpha by Dani Mogstad; background spray by Tracy Ann Robinson; fonts are Unnamed Melody and FG Virgil.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Reading vs. Listening

I've always known that I take in information better when I read it than when I listen to it, and last night was an interesting confirmation of that fact.

Catherine Asaro is probably my favourite author, with her Skolian series being one of my favourite (if not my favourite) series. However, I've only read most of the books once because I keep putting off rereading them, both for matters of time and in case I don't like them as much. Also, bad stuff happens to the characters and I keep putting off reading that, even though I know things turn out fine in the end.

However, with her newest book coming out on New Year's Day, we've decided to reread the two books that most relate to the new one on her mailing list. So a couple of days ago I started rereading The Last Hawk. I'm happy to say that I'm loving it all over again, possibly even more so this second time around. Usually, I just gobble up the new books, so reading slowly and savouring the story and its details is a delight. I always liked Kelric (the hero of this book) but now, as I understand more deeply what happens to him, I just love him to pieces and want to hold him close and heal all his hurts.

Anyway, that wasn't the point of the post. Last night, I found myself caught between wanting to finish the first corner on Alpine Seasons and reading more of The Last Hawk. Since we're planning to start discussing the book on Monday, it really had higher priority, but getting the corner finished was so tempting.

Then I remembered that I have all the Asaro audiobooks that have been released, but except for Primary Inversion, I've never listened to them. See above for reasons why I didn't reread; the same reasoning applies here.

So I did both. I stitched while listening from where I'd got up to while reading the book.

I enjoyed it. A lot. And I got the corner finished, which was great.


I was right. I take things in better when I read them than when I listen to them. I followed the story fine, but I can't fall into an audiobook the way I can tumble into a paper (or electronic) book and just be absorbed into the story. So my previous intention of listening to books that aren't absolute favourites was probably right.

The next part of The Last Hawk is one of the sections I want to savour and enjoy, so I'm going to go back to reading the actual book. I love audiobooks, but I love "real" books even more.

First corner done

Here's the first corner from part 10 of Alpine Seasons. It took me a little longer than I had hoped because I kept needing a rest, but that's okay. It was much, much faster than the recent parts. I hope to start on the next corner today or tomorrow.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Some days it's not a joke

I called my blog "Saving My Sanity..." with my tongue firmly in my cheek, but with a touch of seriousness because of how much stitching had helped me deal with day to day life with my CFS.

But today, it is totally not a joke.

I've got a bad case of PMS - it tends to make me depressed and feel extremely unable to cope - and a three year old at home who is toilet training. That has been going well overall, but he's slow at getting it. Today he hasn't made it to the potty on time once. I've cleaned the carpet three times, thrown four pair of underpants into the washing machine and DH is working late, meaning it's 7pm and I've got at least another half an hour before he gets home.

In the end I sat down and started stitching. I needed it to calm me down and stop me going into a total hysterical meltdown.

Marcus keeps climbing in the chair behind me and kicking, which is better than when he stands behind me, hugs me round the neck and then lifts his feet so he's hanging off my neck.

(Okay, I'm back from the next clean up now - that makes five pairs of underpants and six wet spots on the carpet. Now he's crying nearly hysterically because I won't put Thomas the Tank Engine on because I'm watching the news.)

I'm so glad I had something to keep me calm enough not to start screaming myself - or yelling at Marcus which isn't good for us both.

Some days just don't want to go well, do they?

(We won't talk about the frogging I had to do because I was half a stitch out. No, we won't.)

Monday, November 05, 2007

Look! Look! Look!

At last I've done it. I've finished part 9 of Alpine Seasons and completed the ring of mountains. I was beginning to feel like it would never be done.

I'm delighted with how it looks.

I know I still have 3 parts to go now, but I kind of feel like I'm at the beginning of the end now. I've gone over the top of the enormous mountains that was that huge ring of stitching and I can see the destination in the distance.

I'm going to keep working on this project for now as I want to see something new and different from those mountains coming to life.

I'm a bit tired - I haven't done steady stitching for a while - but very satisfied too.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Fantasy Favorites Contest for November

My Yahoo reading group [FantasyFavorites] has a contest each month and it is my turn to run it this time. Putting the pictures up here seemed to be the easiest way to do it, so if anyone not from the group reading this wants to play, try putting your answers in the comments.

[FF] members, these pictures are all from the covers of books the group has read. Please identify each one and post your answer to the list.