Friday, May 25, 2007

Books Shopping

Dave needed some spare time to work this morning, Marcus was home (he's had chicken pox and I decided that while it was most likely safe for him to return to daycare it was better to be safe than sorry) and I had promised to pick up some books for a friend from Barbara's Books.

I picked up four books for her and bought two for me.  I can't help it.  I'm addicted.  Okay?

Sebastian - Anne Bishop

City of Pearl - Karen Traviss

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Cinderella at Thursday Lunchtime

Here's a bit more done on Cinderella. I've got those trees done and will now go move on to more of the castle. Progress is slow, as expected, but it is so so so so so much better than doing nothing at all.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Books in the mail

The Invisible Ring - Anne Bishop

Down These Dark Spaceways - Mike Resnik (ed)

Seraphs - Faith Hunter

After a little thought, I decided to start Seraphs first, largely dictated by the fact I'm going out of town to visit my parents this weekend and I have a very good friend there who will want to read it after me (and probably her husband after her).

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Two Down

I just finished a second book for my personal May TBR Challenge.

I've finished Queen of the Darkness by Anne Bishop and I absolutely loved it.  A total 10/10 read. I may or may not get to do a more detailed response to it late, but for now I'm just going to rave a bit.

It was a brilliant conclusion to the problem.  And I nice way of having a solution without a devestating war and without turning the story totally unrealistic as the whole farm boy saves the world while the armies are poised thing so often can be.

And Jaenelle and Daemon.

What a beautiful, beautiful love story, told in such a nicely understated way that it didn't need the kind of explicit detail generally offered in a romance novel.  While I enjoy a good romance novel (and some sex in it too), this touched me so very, very much more.

I'm totally in love with both of them and I want them to be happy forever.

Not surprisingly, Dreams Made Flesh, with it's further glimpses into the world (and one about Jaenelle and Daemon I understand) is now at the top of my TBR pile.

Although I think I want a small break before going on to anything else, so will go back to Venetia in the meantime, until I'm ready for the next one.

I jsut want to savour this wonderful series a bit more first.

People were raving to me and telling me to read it and I didn't believe them.  Everyone, I was wrong.  You we right.

If you like excellent fantasy and you haven't read Anne Bishop's Black Jewels trilogy, go and do it.  Now!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Darn It! I Did it Again!

I'm currently reading "Queen of the Darkness" by Anne Bishop.

Okay, let me claify that.  I'm currently loving "Queen of the Darkness".

I've just finished Part 1.  And I tried.  Really, I did.  I tried my hardest.

But I can see that things are going to go bad from here.  Things are probably going to go really bad.  And while I have faith in the author, the story and the characters, I'm still very worried about them.

(Remember, I'm the person who still hasn't finished "Ship of Destiny" because I can't face the bad stuff to get to the satisfactory conclusion.)

So I read the last couple of pages.

I know I shouldn't have.  But I did.

I'm a terrible end reader.  Each book I swear I won't do it this time, but often I do.  Because I get so worried about the characters I have to sneak ahead to check on them.

If I'm lucky, the main story has been wound up by then and I get a sneak peek that people are okay and alive but I haven't spoiled myself to the main story.  (Sometimes I'm not so lucky and I do spoil myself.)

Fortunately, this time I can relax a bit and get on with the main tale.  But tomorrow I think.  If I start part 2 tonight, I suspect I'll just keep reading.  And since I have a sick child (I suspect chickenpox but need to wait until tomorrow to see if the blisters have started to crust over to confirm it - picture of the poor child here) I will need all the sleep I can get to cope with tomorrow.

Do other people have this problem or am I just weird and it's just me?

Marcus is Sick, Poor Kid

Details over on my livejournal.

Socks and Shoes

Socks and Shoes
Originally uploaded by rocalisa.

It’s not as if I really need any futher proof that you’re a smart cookie, but you provide it every day. Whenever I tell you that it’s time to put on your shoes and socks, you immediately correct me. “Socks and shoes” you say very firmly. Of course, logically you are absolutely right. I do need to put on your socks before I put on your shoes. Since I’ve probably been saying “shoes and socks” all my life, you worked that out all by yourself. You are one smart little boy and I can’t wait to see you take on the world. I think the world is going to have to watch out. You’re going to be amazing.

Background paper from "Rainy Days and Mondays" by Dani Mogstad; stamp from "Swimtrunks" by Kim Christensen and Meredith Fenwick; label from "Loosely Labeled" by Katie Pertiet; torn heart by Jessica Bolton in the "In Memory of Miles" kit; highlighting from "Highlight-It" by Vicki Stegall; frames and foil alpha from "Rock Star" by Dani Mogstad; yellow flower from "Raincoats on the Beach" by Misty Cato; buttons by Chere Edwards in the "In Memory of Miles" kit; red flower by Tiff Brady in the "In Memory of Miles" kit; cube bead alpha is "Alphablocks" by Natalie Braxton; font is KGD Angela.

Best Friends

Best Friends
Originally uploaded by rocalisa.

Everything by Dani Mogstad. Paper from "Hard@Play"; flower from "Flower Patch"; alpha from "Hand Stitched Alpha". Font is High Strung.


Originally uploaded by rocalisa.

Paper from "Story of Us" by Michelle Coleman; word art from "Love Me Tender" in the "This Love" collection; leaf stamp from "Ribbon Roses Collection - Stamps" by Anita Stergiou; butterflies from "Painted Butterflies" by Amber Clegg; font is Jane Austen.

Thursday's Child

Thursday's Child
Originally uploaded by rocalisa.

Background from "Artsy Fartsy II" by Lisa Whitney; frame from "Vintage Frames 2" by Nancy Comelab; alpha from "Garden Party" by Zoe Pearn; font is Freebooter Script.

Visiting Aunty Barbara

Visiting Aunty Barbara
Originally uploaded by rocalisa.

How do you know when you buy too many books? When you're heading off for a Sunday drive and your three year-old asks to go and visit "Aunty Barbara".

Aunty Barbara is actually Barbara ******, aka my pusher and occasionally even my pimp, although that last one may be a bit backwards. She and her husband Peter run my favourite, and lifesaving, bookshop. They import SF, fantasy and romance books from the US, most of which are never released through the New Zealand local publishing market. Barbara keeps me up to date with my favourite authors and series, as well as keeping me permanently tempted by new offerings.

Marcus has been going to visit Barbara's Books since he was a tiny baby just out of hospital, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised that he recognises the way to Aunty Barbara's. And I admit, I'm not going to complain too loudly about going there.

And Marcus' opinion? "Aunty Barbara drives a red car."

She must be a good person then, mustn't she?

Notepaper from "Just Need to Write Down My Thoughts" by Lauren Grier; paper flowers from "Paper Flowers" by Dani Mogstad; dragon stamp from "Prince Edward" by Katie Pertiet; round flowers from "Tiny Flowers" by Misty Cato; everything else from "Be Inspired" by the Sweet Shoppe Designers and Gina Miller; font is KGD Kirsty Script.

Updated my Flickr at Last

It's taken me a while, but I've just added my 14 latest layouts to my Flickr albums (although you'll only see 13 unless you're registed as family since one is on my niece and I don't currently have permission to share).

I'll post a couple of favourites here, but I'm not going to inundate you with 13 posts, so if you want to see the others, follow the link and take a look.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Cinderella on Friday Night

Cinderella #003
Originally uploaded by rocalisa.

Here's my process for the day. I just did a bit of work on the trees down the bottom. I probably did a couple of 15 minute session in the morning and perhaps half an hour in the evening. That's more than enough at a time, so I shall now pack up and head for bed and try to make up for the 5am start Marcus forced on me this morning.

If all goes well, I might even get a little bit done tomorrow as well. (But life has proved well to me that it's fine to make plans, but I mustn't get too attached to them as they are likely to change.)

Thirteen Mirabilia Patterns in My Stash

I want to use my blog more, so I decided to try doing the Thursday Thirteen each week.

Thirteen Mirabilia Patterns in My Stash
(that I haven't stitched)

1. Autumn Queen
This is my next planned stitch after Cinderella.
I've done the other three seasons already.

2. Mermaids of the Deep Blue

3. Titania, Queen of the Fairies

4. Stargazer

5. Royal Holiday

6. Scent of Old Roses

7. Feather Fairy

8. Deco Spirits

9. Summer in My Garden

10. Queen of Peace

11. Madonna of the Garden

12. Petal Fairy

13. Gathering Eggs

Links to other Thursday Thirteens!

1. (leave your link in comments, I’ll add you here!)

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Itching to be Stitching

Over the last week or so, I've had this desperate urge to do some stitching. However, I'm also aware I can't push myself to hard. And, to combat the urge to stitch is this feeling of exhaustion when I consider the physical effort involved in dong that stitching.

Yesterday I found myself surfing the Mirabilia Bulletin Board, looking at all the lovely works in progress and remembering how much I like Mirabilia designs.

I've been so caught up in the big and complicated things, like Chatelaine, Character Creations and Heaven and Earth Designs, that I was ignoring the loveliness of all those Mirabilias I have in my stash. Sure, they're still big, but they are a quieter, easier stitch.

So I got out my Cinderella, put her on the Q-Snaps and I've been doing a few stitches of trees. I'm only doing a little bit - 10 or 15 minutes here or there as I feel I can - so I'm not going to make lots of progress, but if I'm finding satsifaction for those itchy stitchy fingers, that's got to be a good thing.

(The photo shows what I had done - not much - before I started doing some today.)

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Personal TBR Challenge - One down for May

I did it. I've read one of the books I challenged myself to read for May.

I finished Song of the Beast by Carol Berg today. I really enjoyed it and rated it 8/10. The ending was just lovely and the story was different and clever.

It did have a couple of issues - mainly that the pacing was a little spotty and that she used multiple first person narrators and I don't think that was as well managed as it could be. (I'll try to do a more details review later.)

But I still really liked the book and I'll be reading more of Ms Berg's books. In fact, since my favourite bookstore is having books for sale at 10% off for the next month because the New Zealand dollar is currently so strong, I've ordered Transformation, the first in her Rai-kirah series.

Book obsession, I bow before you. You are strong and I am weak.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Atlantis Rising by Alyssa Day

Title: Atlantis Rising
Author: Alyssa Day
Published: March 2007
Grade: 7/10

Series: Warriors of Poseidon, Book 1

First Line(s):
Conlan waved a hand in front of the portal and briefly wondered whether its magic would even recognize a warrior who hadn’t passed through its gateway for more than seven years.

Why I Chose this Book:
Basically just because it looked interesting. Here was another paranormal romance with the same basic theme as most of them, but with the minor twist of warriors from Atlantis instead of vampires or werewolves.

Eleven thousand years ago, before the seas swallowed the Atlanteans, Poseidon assigned a few chosen warriors to act as sentinels for humans in the new world. There was only one rule-desiring them was forbidden. But rules were made to be broken...

When she calls... Riley Dawson is more than a dedicated Virginia Beach social worker. She's blessed with a mind link that only Atlanteans have been able to access for thousands of years. Being an "empath" may explain her wistful connection to the roiling waves of the ocean, the sanctuary it provides, and the sexual urges that seem to emanate from fathoms below...

He will come. Conlan, the High Prince of Atlantis, has surfaced on a mission to retrieve Poseidon's stolen trident. Yet something else has possessed Conlan: the intimate emotions-and desires-of a human. Irresistibly drawn to the uncanny beauty, Conlan soon shares more than his mind. But in the midst of a battle to reclaim Poseidon's power, how long can a forbidden love last between two different souls from two different worlds?

My Comments:
I really don't have a lot to say about this one. It's now a couple of weeks since I finished it and I simply remember it as an okay book. Yes, warriors from Atlantis was a different twist, but really the book was essentially the same as any other of the mid-line paranormal romances out there. It was a satisfying read without anything spectacular to make is rise above the rest. Athough I must say that Poseidon himself was pretty cool, even if he didn't make a physical appearance at all. If you get a chance to read it, it's a pleasant way to pass the time. If you don't, you're not really missing anything major. I may read the second book, I don't know. But I won't be buying it. I'll get it from the library.

Ysabel by Guy Gavriel Kay

Title: Ysabel
Author: Guy Gavriel Kay
Published: 2007
Grade: 9/10

Series: Related to The Fionavar Tapestry but a stand alone

Why I Chose this Book:
I read and loved The Fionavar Tapestry when it came out and went on to read Tigana when that was published. The latter was an amazing book, but fundamentally quite depressing (or at least, I remember finding it so at the time), so when Kay's books seemed to continue in that vein and get longer and longer as well, I stopped reading his books but always imagined I'd go back to them one day. When I heard about Ysabel coming out, and that it was more in the tone of the Fionavar books with mundane and otherworldly elements, I knew I wanted to read this one.

In this exhilarating, moving new work, Guy Gavriel Kay casts brilliant light on the ways in which history—whether of a culture or a family—refuses to be buried. Ned Marriner, fifteen years old, has accompanied his photographer father to Provence for a six-week "shoot" of images for a glossy coffee-table book. Gradually, Ned discovers a very old story playing itself out in this modern world of iPods, cellphones, and seven-seater vans whipping along roads walked by Celtic tribes and Roman legions. On one holy, haunted night of the ancient year, when the borders between the living and the dead are down and fires are lit upon the hills, Ned, his family, and his friends are shockingly drawn into this tale, as dangerous, mythic figures from conflicts of long ago erupt into the present, claiming and changing lives.

My Comments:
As I said, I read and loved the Fionavar books when they came out. Part of that was a matter of timing - I read them just as I was really becoming a dedicated fantasy reader and I would have been in my mid to late teens at the time. These were the first "out of our world" type books I'd read that had adult protagonists - before that I'd been reading books about teenagers having adventures - and to meet these university students (or they may even had been graduates, I don't 100% remember now) was like entering a new world. I loved it. And as good (but depressing) as I found Tigana, I missed that element in Kay's second work. Historical fiction/fantasy isn't as much my thing and I think that's a significant factor in my I didn't read Kay's other books.

In Ysabel it seemed that I might get the best of both worlds - that unreality in our reality theme I like combined with Kay's more matured writing talents.

For the first half of the book, I wasn't exactly sure. The book moved well, the charcters were excellently drawn and I was very interested - but I admit I wasn't captivated. I wondered if I had been expecting too much; if the combination of probably inaccurate memories of books I'd really liked joined with Kay's current reputation built on the books I hadn't read had made me demand far too much from one book. Then, about half way through, some new, but familiar characters turned up, their presence made some of the previously mysterious illusions make sense and the book really took off. And in the end, I loved it. It loses out on a perfect score because of that marginally weaker first half, but I recommend Ysabel whole-heartedly. And for all that I said the presence of those other characters (I didn't guess who they were going to be, so don't want to spoil it for anyone else who might otherwise be surprised) marked the turn in the book, I still believe the book would be just as satisfying for anyone who hasn't read Kay before. Their arrival in the turning point, but I doesn't matter if the reader has met them previously or not.

So, the book itself.

Nick, the protagonist, seems to me to be very well drawn. I admit I don't have any personal experience with 15 year old boys in 2007, but he felt real to me. He runs, listens to his ipod (verisimilitude or pop culture reference that will date?), emails his friends back at school and embarks on a tentative friendship with an American girl his own age on an exchange in Provence. But all is not as simple as it seems and an encounter with a strange man in a cathedral sets Nick and Kate on a strange journey, caught up in a centuries old love triangle. He's forced to discover, first that he isn't as grown up as he imagined and then to do that growing up as he must deal with adult issues and new mental abilities waking inside him.

The minor characters are also well drawn, especially Melanie with her green hair, organised mind and post-it notes. Of all the people filling the book, it is probably Kate who is the most broadly drawn, an odd situation considering that she, along with Nick, is part of the story from the beginning. Yet somehow, she never truly became part of the central, or at least it seemed that way to me. I'm still not sure if this was intentional or accidental.

The first half of the book is full of mysteries and unanswered questions; something I found a little frustrating and that reduced my enjoyment of that part of the book. There were so many hints of what was going on without telling me anything and that drives me nuts! However, my faith and persistence was rewarded, because once the answers started coming, around the halfway point, all the pieces that had been so carefully set up began to fall into place and everything began to pick up pace beautifully.

This is a tale about how history impinges on the present, not only the ancient history that is the central plot of the book, but family history as well. As the book progresses we discover that Nick's mother, a doctor working in the Sudan with Doctors Without Borders is running from her own past issues, focussing on her estrangement with her sister that has lasted the better part of twenty years. This is addressed and developed as Nick's aunt arrives to help with the mystical aspects of the tale and while a healing is begun, I was pleased that the two women still had work to do and it wasn't possible to dismiss two decades of acrimony overnight, no matter what the pressing world issues they might be facing.

All in all, I really enjoyed this book. While it is absolutely a stand alone novel, it would also be possible to see Nick and Company return in a future novel and I would be delighted to do so. A lovely book, it has also inspired me to put A Song for Arbonne on my TBR pile and The Summer Tree on my to-be-reread pile.

New Covers

At long last, there are some new covers up at A Cover a Day.

Smoke and Mirrors by Tanya Huff

Title: Smoke and Mirrors
Author: Tanya Huff
Published: June 2005
Grade: 6/10

Series: Tony Foster, Book 2

Why I Chose this Book:
I read the first book in this series a while back and had always figured I would read the next one some time. This was that time.

Poor Tony Foster with his burgeoning wizardly powers. No matter how many times he and his undead ex-boyfriend battle malevolent spirits to save the cast and crew of Darkest Night (the most popular vampire detective TV series in North America), everyone else on the set regards him as only a lowly production assistant. Having fended off evil shadows from another world, Tony now has to contend with filming haunted house scenes in a house that's actually haunted. When all the doors slam shut, he finds himself trapped with ghosts repeatedly reenacting their deaths, his painfully cynical and egotistical colleagues and—worst of all—the boss's bratty daughters.

My Comments:
While a fairly solid read, this isn't one of Huff's best efforts.

There's a good story idea here, but I felt that Huff had taken enough story for a short story or possibly a novella and then forced it to last through a full length novel. In my view the padding shows and the book suffers for it.

Tony is continuing to make a place for himself in the life he's chosen, even if he's still considered one of the more lowly in the pecking order of the production crew. No-one there but Tony remembers the events of "Smoke and Shadows" and he has chosen not to use the guidebook laptop he was given to develop his powers as a wizard. That power remains all the same and because of it Tony can see the ghosts of two children that haunt the house where the crew are shooting an episdoe of Darkest Night.

There is an evil living in the basement of the house and once it is woken, it is determined to claim as many lives as possible and hopefully gain enough power to break out of its physical prison. Tony and a group of others get trapped inside the house, while Henry and CB, the studio owner, remain impotently frustrated outside.

The story was going well up to this point, but this is where it began to fall apart. Huff takes two of her most powerful characters, if not the actual protagonist of the series, and locks them out of the action, rendering them powerless. If she was going to do that, she might as well have left them out of the book altogether, as this just make me, the reader, as frustrated as the two characters were.

Due to the malevolence of the house, those trapped inside so become panicked and hysterical and the book becomes equally hysterical with them as past murders replay themselves in a way only Tony can see, and everyone begins to turn on everyone else. The "boss's daughters" plot felt equally unnecessary and the girls themselves were beyond annoying. The supposed romantic subplot of Tony's feelings for second billed star Lee also failed for me, as suddenly everyone knew how he felt, with the possible exception of Lee himself and no-one seemed particulary to care, which while it might make for an ideal reaction from the rest of humanity, didn't strike me as particularly realistic, especially with other kinds of prejudice and over-reaction going on.

People die, people apparently go crazy, and while I kept reading, it all just failed to gel for me.

There's been a gap of about three weeks between when I finished the book and when I'm writing this and unfortunately I only seem to be able to remember the book's faults. I did keep reading and I don't remember ever feeling like giving up, so it can't have been all bad. Huff is a solid writer and that carried the book through to the end, but I won't ever be reading it again. I may still read the next one is the series though. This one certainly didn't leave that much of a bad taste in my mouth. I don't know. I'll try to whittle the TBR down some before going back to the library for "Smoke and Ashes".

Fat Books

These days, with my health and concentration impaired, fat books tend to scare me. There's just so much of them and it's intimidating.

So why is it that a large proportion of my TBR shelf is fat books?

I was thinking about this while lying on Marcus' bed trying to get him back to sleep. It's amazing what deep thoughts (or thoughts that seem to be deep) one can have at 4am.

It's because the fat books are (generally) the ones with the most satisfying story. There is time in a fat book to develop characters, develop setting and develop plot to build a world and a story that draws the reader in and takes them on a wonderful adventure.

But they are still long, they still take a lot of time and I still find them kind of scary.

I have my TBR shelf filled with the fantasy books at one end, romance at the other and a few odd-bods in the middle. The fantasy "end" takes up at least 2/3, if not 3/4, of the shelf and it consists primarily of longer books. Those are the ones I want to read. But I keep going to the other end because the books are skinnier and likely to demand less effort.

I guess I just need to take a deep breath and embrace my fat books. After all, fat books need lots of love too.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Personal TBR Challenge

I've found myself a whole lot of wonderful book blogs to read and I'm wasting lots of book reading time doing a lot of blog reading instead.

I see a lot of reading challenges that fascinate me, but with my health being as unpredictable as it is, I'm not really prepared to join up to those and then get stressed if I can't manage it.

So I'm setting up one for myself. I'm going to make a list of five books from my TBR and challenge myself to read a minimum of one of them this month. Next month, I start with the same list, adding any more I need to make the number back up to five and do the same thing - read a minimum of one for the month. Etc. Etc. Etc.

I'm hoping this will help me tackle the TBR without stressing myself too much. It also isn't cheating to add a book group (most likely FantasyFavorites) book to the list, even if that's the only one from the monthly list I actually manage to read.

So for May (and yes, I know I'm starting a bit late here), the list is:

  1. Song of the Beast - Carol Berg
  2. Queen of the Darkness - Anne Bishop
  3. Games of Command - Linnea Sinclair
  4. Sky Coyote - Kage Baker
  5. Persuasion - Jane Austen

Tuesday, May 01, 2007