Friday, August 31, 2007

I abandoned... Ship of Destiny

Ship of Destiny by Robin Hobb

The dragon, Tintaglia, released from her wizardwood coffin, flies high over the Rain Wild River. Below her, Reyn and Selden have been left to drown; while Malta and the Satrap attempt to navigate the acid flow of the river in a decomposing boat. Althea and Brashen are finally at sea together, sailing the liveship Paragon into pirate waters to rescue the Vestrit family liveship, Vivacia, stolen by the pirate king, Kennit; but there is mutiny brewing in their ragtag crew; and in the mind of the mad ship itself. And all the while the waters around the Vivacia are seething with giant serpents, following the liveship as it sails to its destiny.
I started this book at the end of last year - literally as my reading list shows a start date of 31st December, 2006 - but almost half way through I got really stressed about what was going to happen to the characters next and stopped. It has been sitting on my shelf laughing at me ever since. Finally, this week I decided I couldn't take it any more and officially maked it as a "Did Not Finish".

I really enjoyed the series and I do want to finish it one day, but it wasn't worth the stress, so this book will go back to the library downstairs and I will get it back out and enjoy finishing it at another time when I feel more able to do so.

Ship of Destiny
Liveship Traders, Book 3
Robin Hobb

I finished reading... A Man in a Million

A Man in a Million by Jessica Bird

As far as bad boy Spike Moriarty was concerned, Madeline Maguire defined female perfection. When they'd met, she'd walked up as if she wasn't the most gorgeous thing on the planet and asked to see his tattoos. He--a tough guy who'd make grown men run--had just about passed out. But their connection was definitely one-way…it had to be. Because he could never be the man in a million she was looking for, not with the things he'd done and seen. So for as long as she'd let him, he'd give her whatever she wanted. He'd worry about her walking away when it happened.
Still wanting light reads, I took up the same romance-reading friend's recommendation of this Jessica Bird book, her previous publication to The Billionaire Next Door, which I read a few days earlier and really enjoyed.

While it was a fun read, I didn't like it as much as The Billionaire Next Door and that was largely due to the continual miscommunication between the hero and the heroine.

As my friend did, I loved Spike. I mean he's tall, buff, a little dangerous but with a beautiful heart underneath, sexy tattoos and he rides a Harley. Maybe not my ideal man in real life, but in a book he's fantastic. I found Madeline to be less inspiring, but still a decent character and the story was well told.

My problem was that the book just moved from one assumption and misunderstanding to another. It was one of those cases where if the characters just talked to each other, a lot of pain and heartbreak would be avoided. Of course, the book would be about 10 pages long as well.

Otherwise, I liked it. There were so lovely moments and Bird writes in a way that makes it easily to visualise what is happening (and I'm not really a visual reader). I could imagine Spike sitting on the veranda staring at the mountains as his sister came to join him, or Mad deliberately provoking her half brother by sitting at the table with one leg tucked under her.

The resolution was good and I'm sure they'll be happy together - they just need to remember to talk to each other and not keep secrets.

A Man in a Million
Jessica Bird

I finished reading... Slightly Dangerous

Slightly Dangerous by Mary Balogh

Balogh's fans have longed to see Wulfric, the imperturbable duke of Bewcastle, fall in love, and Balogh has created the perfect heroine to fell him—Christine Derrick, a lively but lowborn young widow who has a habit of getting herself into very improper situations. The two meet at a sedate house party, where Christine accidentally spills lemonade on the duke and then dares to laugh at him. Wulfric disapproves of Christine's working-class background and unladylike manners, but he can't help being enchanted by her effervescent personality. For her part, Christine disdains Wulf's icy, superior attitude, but she's drawn to him physically. As fans of the genre will anticipate, opposites attract no matter how hard the hero and heroine fight against it, and an unplanned sexual encounter complicates their feelings even further. Although the story lacks some of the dramatic tension of its predecessors, particularly Slightly Sinful, this book rings with humor and delightful echoes of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.
Not feeling up to reading any of my more "serious" books, I went looking for a nice, light-hearted romance to read instead. With the next Julia Quinn book still on reserve at the library, I remembered that a friend had recommended this one and tracked it down. I don't think I enjoyed it as much as she did, but I did enjoy it.

This is my second Mary Balogh book. The first was The Secret Pearl, which I did like (I rated it 7/10), but I found the pace to be very slow. That wasn't the case here, and the story moved along nicely, making it a much easier read. This was a good thing, since it was an easy read that I was looking for.

It is also the sixth and final book in a series about six siblings. This is one case where I didn't feel the urge to start at the beginning of the series, and I was delighted to find that I didn't need to have done so to enjoy this entry in the series. The other siblings (and their various spouses and children) did all turn up, but there was a quick paragraph on relevant details where any were required and the story carried on nicely with them there as a pleasant and fun set of characters. Maybe I would have got more from their presence if I had read their books, but it didn't worry me in the least that I hadn't.

Christine was a lovely character; vivid and bright if somewhat accident prone. This was the point of course, as she attracts the attention of her apparent polar opposite in Wulfric. I liked getting to see her in different settings, both in society and at home with her family and I loved the way she was with the children.

I liked Wulfric too, but I felt that I had the advantage of knowing more about him than the people he met, including Christine. For one thing, I knew he was the hero of the book and therefore he had to be a decent person and have more to him than could be seen on the surface. In fact, he was probably my main issue with the book, as I felt that although I knew he was changing into a less restrained individual, the author didn't manage to show me this in a satisfactory manner. She went on a little too much about his icy eyes and inscrutable manner and not enough about the fact he had learned to unbend enough to climb trees. He spent time thinking about how he wanted to laugh with Christine, but if he didn't actually do it, how was she supposed to know this?

All the same, they were a nice couple and I do believe they will do very nicely together.

The villain of the piece was unexpected - I didn't even realise there was a villain until he was unmasked - and I found that to be very clever and applaud Balogh for fooling me the same way he fooled the other characters.

Yes, there were Pride and Prejudice parallels, most notable when Wulfric proposes by telling Christine all the reasons why he shouldn't marry her, but that was really the only time they hit me between the eyes. After that, I just concentrated on this story without worrying about any others and enjoyed myself.

I still don't feel the need to go out and read the whole series, but I do rather think I'll go and read the second to last book, Slightly Sinful, because even though I'm kind of embarrassed to admit it, I find the combination of amnesia and a brothel to be just a little too tempting.

Slightly Dangerous
Bedwyn Family, Book 6
Mary Balogh

Rejigging my ratings

When I started rating my books as I read them, I picked 7/10 as my rating for an average read. That left me with three values above that for good books, but lately I've been finding that a bit limiting.

I've been wavering about making a change, as it will make it harder to compare recent reads to ones from longer ago, but I've decided I really need to do it.

So from now on, my rating scheme will essentially be as follows:

10 - excellent, blew me away (or occasionally "exactly what I needed right now")
9 - upper end of "very good"
8 - lower end of "very good"
7 - uppper end of "average"
6 - lower end of "average"
5 and below - below average to bad

I finished reading... The Billionaire Next Door

The Billionaire Next Door by Jessica Bird

Take–no–prisoners deal–maker Sean O’Banyon ate Wall Street financiers for lunch. So why was he losing sleep over a fresh–scrubbed nurse in old jeans and a too–big T–shirt? Maybe it was those warm green eyes. Or the way she blushed when he got personal. There was no denying the serious chemistry between them. But sooner or later Lizzie would learn his deep, dark secrets: First, he had trust issues. And second—he’d rather not go into the whole family thing. He didn’t do relationships…but amazingly, Lizzie made him want one anyway.
The main reason I decided to read this is because Jessica Bird and J. R. Ward are the same person. I'm one of the many fans of Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood books and I wanted to see what her category romances are like.

I was surprised at just how much I liked this book. The characters were lovely, the story was solid with some lovely moments (the time at the park and the frisbee game especially) and the conflict between the hero and heroine was sensible and reasonable.

I could sense in my reading the Bird and Ward are the same author, although I don't know that I would have figured it out if I didn't know already. Here, her hero is again a strong, determined male but Sean avoids being over the top in the way the Brothers are (although they work beautifully for me). He has issues, and they are logical and possible ones, and it is these that create the conflict, not so much of themselves but because his past so totally colours how he sees the world.

Lizzie falls into the nice, caring heroine category, but she is still nicely fleshed out and I cared about her. With a different background to Sean (and a totally different experience with another character to his - trying not to spoil anything here) she sees the world differently and this is what causes the conflict.

I felt the resolution of their issues was sensible - and I totally loved Lizzie's reaction to Sean's apology. She didn't automatically forgive him everything, but instead acknowledged that she understood his actions now and set conditions on their being together. The scene for this itself was wonderful but I don't want to ruin it for anyone else so will say no more.

This is a category romance, which means it is a short book, but Bird has packed a lovely story into her page count and I suspect this could easily become a comfort read for the future. Sean has two brothers and I find myself looking forward to their stories.

The Billionaire Next Door
Jessica Bird

I finished reading... The Sword of Shannara

The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks

Long ago, the wars of the ancient Evil had ruined the world and forced mankind to compete with many other races--gnomes, trolls, dwarfs, and elves. But in peaceful Shady Vale, half-elfin Shea Ohmsford knew little of such troubles.

Then came the giant, forbidding Allanon, possessed of strange Druidic powers, to reveal that the supposedly dead Warlock Lord was plotting to destroy the world. The sole weapon against this Power of Darkness was the Sword of Shannara, which could be used only by a true heir of Shannara. On Shea, last of the bloodline, rested the hope of all the races.

Soon a Skull Bearer, dread minion of Evil, flew into the Vale, seeking to destroy Shea. To save the Vale, Shea fled, drawing the Skull Bearer after him . . .
I first read this many, many years ago and it left a good impression on me. On checking the copyright date, I see that it is for 1977, which startled me. I thought the book was about 20 years old, not 30, but I guess this is proof, more than anything of the fact that I'm getting older. I suspect I read this a bit over 20 years ago as a teenager and lately I'd found myself wanting to reread it. I think it is Brooks' new books, linking the modern world to the Shannara world that did it, but being a bit anal (something I believe I've said before) I wanted to start at the beginning, so went back to this one.

I'm very sad to say that it was a mistake. This is a book that has most emphatically not stood the test of time. What possibly made it new and interesting all those years ago all counts against it now. I recognise that this was an important book in that it is one of the ones that helped open up the field of fantasy into the wonderful variety of opportunities it is today, but...

The book is wordy in the extreme - it doesn't need to be anywhere near as long as it is - and most of those words describe the action. There is very little dialogue, so that you never really feel a part of the action. The manner of the prose puts a distance been the action and the reader, to the book's detriment. There are pages and pages of characters walking and walking (and yet I really felt that the amount of time it took them to walk the distances shown on the map was much too short, or certainly not quite right) thought plains and swamps and forests and mountains and on and on and on, and even when some action happened, that distance between events and reader remained.

There are virtually no female characters in this book at all. We finally meet a woman (or more of a girl really) about 2/3 through and she's only there to be rescued and then become the chaste love interest of a main character (both of whom are deeply in love after about 2 days). I know strong women is a major trend in books at the moment, but it isn't like we only recently popped into being in the last few years. Or that older books don't have them. However, this one doesn't.

The characters have all these shocking encounters with troubles and monsters and they often think one or other of the company is dead, but in the end not one of them dies. They just improbably pop up again later, having caught up with the rest of the party (who were forced to leave them behind) by walking steadily through those marshes, forests and/or mountains all on their own. Sorry, but no. Doesn't work for me.

The Sword of Shannara has been described as heavily influenced by Tolkien and this does show, especially in the above points. However, despite my personal issues with rereading The Lord of the Rings (I read it all when younger, but have never managed to reread even The Fellowship of the Ring, getting less and less read each time I try - first time I got to Rivendell, then to Tom Bombadil, third time the hobbits never even got out of the Shire and I gave up trying) I have to say that Tolkien did it a whole lot better.

I started off reading the book, then skimming, then skipping and finally I just read the end and called it finished. I think I've been cured of my urge to reread Brooks, although I remain fascinated by the Word and Void concept and the tie up with the history of the Four Lands - someone tell me, should I try those ones or just give up completely?

The Sword of Shannara
Terry Brooks

I finished reading... Naked in Death

Naked in Death by J. D. Robb (aka Nora Roberts)

It is the year 2058, and technology now completely rules the world. But New York City Detective Eve Dallas knows that the irresistible impulses of the human heart are still ruled by just one thing-passion.

When a senator's daughter is killed, the secret life of prostitution she'd been leading is revealed. The high-profile case takes Lieutenant Eve Dallas into the rarefied circles of Washing-ton politics and society. Further complicating matters is Eve's growing attraction to Roarke, who is one of the wealthiest and most influential men on the planet, devilishly handsome . . . and the leading suspect in the investigation.
I love this series and recently hooked a friend on it (cue evil laughter), so when I was mucking around trying to decide what I wanted to read next, I decided to reread this, the first volume in the series.

It was both fun and interesting to reread. I have such a terrible memory (mostly due to my CFS) that I usually can't remember the "whodunnit" in a crime or mystery novel. For once, I actually could, but it didn't really matter as this read was all about rediscovering the beginnings of a couple of my favourite characters.

Counting the short stories, Robb is up to about book number 27 in this series now, so the relationship between Eve and Roarke, while always showing new facets, is very well established for me. It was fascinting to watch them meet, find themselves attracted, but not yet have the kind of trust and familiarity for and with each other that I am used to from the later books. Mostly, it was fun to see, atlhough there were moments that felt jarring simply because they were establishing their acquaintance and their relationship. Here, Roarke is a stranger who is a suspect in a series of murders; it is totally right that Eve shouldn't trust him, yet when she doesn't I wanted to get angry about it along with Roarke, because to me she should.

This newness/familiarity contrast was there for other now well-established characters as well. Mira is simply a consultant here, not a friend. Peabody and McNab aren't in the book at all. Nor is Leonardo, although flamboyant Mavis is as bright and wonderful as ever.

I really liked my reread and I think I may try to slip in some more from the series, even if I have plenty enough new books to read. If, like me, you've read the whole series and don't know what to do while you wait for the next one (I'm number 22 out of 66 holds for Creation in Death at the library) I highly recommend going back to the beginning. The murder plots are still good and rewatching the relationships between the characters, especially Eve and Roarke, is wonderful.

Naked in Death
J. D. Robb

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The War of the Worlds

Dave brought home a DVD of a live performance of Jeff Wayne's The War of the Worlds from the video library and we watched the first act tonight.

It was great to see the way they had put it all together, with the music, graphics and the singers. However, one of the most fascinating things was watching what instruments were used to make all the various music and sound effects that are so familiar. I rather liked seeing how much use was made of a harp - sure it was mostly for the underlying ambience, but it was great to watch.

I was also most impressed by the little electronic music stands all the musicians had. Basically it was a little LCD screen that I assume showed the score and presumably also automatically turned the pages as I never saw anyone rapidly flicking out an arm to adjust the music.

I have always loved this musical/show/score/whatever you call it (it kind of defies description really) and I'm thoroughly enjoying watching this performance. It is being put on here in Auckland later this year and Dave and I toyed with the idea of going, but unfortunately we simply can't justify the cost at this point in time. So getting to watch it on the DVD, while nowhere near beginning to compare with the "real thing", is still a nice consolation prize.

I'm now totally in the mood for the show - except the creepy little epilogue at the end that I can never listen to before going to sleep or I'll have nightmares - so I've loaded both the full version and the highlights onto my mp3 player to listen to as I drift off. I don't know which I'll listen to, but I expect it will be the highlights, just to make sure I miss the aforementioned epilogue.

LO: Love

Background paper from "Gypsy Circus" by Dragonflaire Studios (an RAK from Maggie - thank you very much); photo action by Michelle Coleman; greenery from "Garden Variety" by Doris Castle; tassel cluster from "Something Green" by Tracy Ann Robinson ribbon is from "Smooth as Silk Soft Colors" by Paint the Moon Designs; font is Jane Austen.

LO: You Call That Tidy?

I asked you to tidy up the playing cards that you had left lying scattered over the carpet. You don’t like tidying up at all, and get out of it whenever you can. After a moment’s thought, you pushed them all under the coffee table and gave me your best innocent look.. No, darling, that really doesn’t count as tidying up!

Background paper from "Bray's Mess" by Christina Renee; wooden frame, flowers, aged blue mat and stapled "J" from "Signature Collection #1" by Christina Renee; button from "Purty Buttons" by Christina Renee; yellow paper alpha, tab and staple from "French Countryside" by Christina Renee and Shabby Princess; sticker alpha by Christina Renee in the "In Memory of Miles" kit; cards from "Playing Card Alpha" by Miss Mint; "I" from "Dictionary Decoupage" by Miss Mint; journalling paper from "My Boy" by Laura 18k; polaroid frame from "Stained Paper Polaroids" by Sausan Designs; font is Pea Karen Script.

LO: Elation

Background paper from "Something Green" by Tracy Ann Robinson; star spray from "Frippery Stars" by Tracy Ann Robinson; frame from "File Frames 4" by Tracy Ann Robinson; wordart from "And I Quote... Happiness" by Manda Bean; big flower from "Funky Flowers Bright" by Paint the Moon Designs; felt flower from "Ribbon Felties" by Fee Jardine" small dotted from from "Itty Bitty Dotty Blooms" by Melissa Bennett; small plain flowers from "Itty Bitty Flowers" by Melissa Bennett; font is Kingthings Typewriter.

(Word art reads: Real elation is when you feel like you could touch a star without standing on tiptoe.)

I am just gutted

I finished making all my strip sets for the quilt on Friday.

Yesterday, we took Marcus out to a park that was near a quilt shop so that I could get a new blade for my rotary cutter (I wanted it to be cut really nice sharp edges when I started putting the strips together). Yesterday afternoon I cut up a couple of the strip sets, but didn't want to overdo it, so let the next ones for today. (And yes, the new blade was nice and sharp as the nick on the side of my thumb shows.)

This morning I started on the next one.

I had already used the old cutter to take a single strip off each of the first two sets because I wanted to see how the squares came together, so I already had a little bit done.

I cut the next strips, lined one up beside my sewn piece to see how it looked and stopped. The pattern didn't look right. I looked again. Definitely not right. So I checked the book. I was right. I'd make up the strip set as it told me to.

I looked further through the instructions and noticed that the next time the strip showed up it was different. THE SEWING INSTRUCTIONS IN THE BOOK ARE WRONG!!!!!!!

So I have four 110cm long strip sets that have their CENTRE strips sewn in the wrong fabric. I'm either going to have to undo each one and sew in the correct strip, or cut it up and pull out a square and sew in a new one on every one of 64 strips. I think the former method will be the least trouble, but I've already cut 10 strips off the mains strip set and those will be a lot more fiddly to fix. I am NOT a happy camper right now.

So I shall heed Marcus' very loud demand for a drink and come back to the problem later. I can't deal with it right now.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

I finished reading... The Sharing Knife: Legacy

The Sharing Knife: Legacy by Lois McMaster Bujold

Fawn Bluefield, the clever young farmer girl, and Dag Redwing Hickory, the seasoned Lakewalker soldier-sorcerer, have been married all of two hours when they depart her family's farm for Dag's home at Hickory Lake Camp. Having gained a hesitant acceptance from Fawn's family for their unlikely marriage, the couple hopes to find a similar reception among Dag's Lakewalker kin. But their arrival is met with prejudice and suspicion, setting many in the camp against them, including Dag's own mother and brother. A faction of Hickory Lake Camp, denying the literal bond between Dag and Fawn, woven in blood in the Lakewalker magical way, even goes so far as to threaten permanent exile for Dag.

Before their fate as a couple is decided, however, Dag is called away by an unexpected—and viciously magical—malice attack on a neighboring hinterland threatening Lakewalkers and farmers both. What his patrol discovers there will not only change Dag and his new bride, but will call into question the uneasy relationship between their peoples—and may even offer a glimmer of hope for a less divided future.
Lois McMaster Bujold is one of my favourite authors. I automatically buy her books in hardcover and she hasn't disappointed me yet. So it is with a certain amount of disbelief that I'm saying this about a Bujold book, that I admit that The Sharing Knife: Legacy did actually disappoint me in places. Parts of it were great, classic Bujold indeed, but other parts (and I really can't believe I"m saying this about a Bujold) were just plain boring.

This is technically the second half of the story begun in The Sharing Knife: Beguilement (so don't start with this one or you'll be jumping in at the middle of the story and be totally confused), and it begins where that book finished, finding Dag and Fawn on the road to Hickory Lake after their wedding in West Blue. The opening is delightful as they stop for the night and set out to "complete" their marriage when Dag has no useable hands and Fawn is still relatively inexperienced. This is delightfully written (without explicit details) as things don't progress without problems, but do reach a satisfactory conclusion for both.

Unfortunately, once the pair reach Hickory Lake Camp and are made much less than welcome, the pace slows and this is where the book gets boring. I'm not sure why and I'm not sure if the problem was the author or the the reader, but I didn't really enjoy the looking into Lakewalker life, Dag's family politics (or dysfunction, depending on how you want to look at it) or Fawn's attempts (and failure) to fit into this new culture. I was a little surprised, as often this can be a fascinating part of a book, but in this case I found myself struggling to keep going. In fact, I took a break and read The Duke and I instead.

Then, right about half way through, Dag gets called away to lead a patrol to deal with an unexpected and powerful malice. At this point the story picks up again. And the book morphs back into a strong, fascinating Bujold read. Dag finds a new and unexpected twist to the problem of the malice, Fawn pushes her way into where she isn't meant to be and thinks out of the box to solve the problem. Together they face down Dag's family and he comes up with a third solution to their problems, different from the two he was expected to chose between. The book ends satisfactorily, although clearly ready for book three (out next year and to be called The Sharing Knife: Passage) to begin.

So I find myself a little confused and conflicted about this book. It's rather like the little girl with the curl. When it's good, it's very, very good, but when it's bad it's not so much horrid as just plain boring. I don't know whether to recommend it or not. It's Bujold, so I was predisposed to like it. And the stuff I liked, I really liked. I'm already hanging out for the next book, as the set up (when it finally came) was fascinating. So I guess it's a qualified recommendation. Do read it. If you find the Hickory Lake part boring as I did, either skip it or stick with it, because it really does get better again.

The Sharing Knife: Legacy
Lois McMaster Bujold

Thursday, August 23, 2007

LO: Winter Out My Window

Background paper from "Peekaboo Shabby" by Tracy Ann Robinson; frame from "He's Krafty" by Robin Carlton; alpha is "Ink Swirl Alpha" by Christine Beasley; stitching from "Sparkling Icestorm Freebie" by Eve Kipler; font is Jane Austen.

LO: See the Zero

Marcus came out of his room and told me to "see the zero”. This totally failed to make sense to me until I took a closer look at what he was holding. He had pulled the two bridge pieces out of his train track and figured out that if he held them this way, the two arches came together to look like a zero. Pretty clever I thought.

Background from "Peekaboo Cardboard" by Tracy Ann Robinson; frames and hinges from "Get Hinged" by Tracy Ann Robinson; swirl from "Peekaboo Grunge 2" by Tracy Ann Robinson; alpha from "Summertime Fun" by Gina Cabrera; leaf from "Autumn Leaves" by Gina Maria; bow from "Double Em Up Bows" by Faith True; word element from "Simple Sayings Boys" by Eve Recinella; fonts are KGD Angela and Litho Pro. (I don't have a record of where the journalling paper came from. Sorry.)

LO: Sandpit Joy

Quick page by Lisa Carter; font is Arial.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Triple Irish Chain

Many years ago (probably about 7 or 8), I bought a book in a sale about making Irish Chain quilts using the strip piecing technique. I love Irish Chain quilts and always wanted to make one and this looked like a good way to do it.

A while later I bought the 15 metres of fabric I would need to make it in queen size. Then it sat in a drawer (or a box or wherever I kept my patchwork fabric at the time) and I never got myself organised enough to make it.

A while later again, I got engaged. Ah-ha! I thought. I'll make the quilt as a wedding quilt. However, it turned out that moving away from home and planning a wedding were quite enough for my energy stores and once again I never started making the quilt.

This October it is Dave and my fifth wedding anniversary. And I have finally started the quilt. I'm not giving myself any kind of deadline, so I don't expect it will be done for our anniversary, although I will be delighted if it is. I've been doing some sewing on it tonight, and I decided it was time to take some photos.

Here's my fabric. The teal dragons will be the background (ie the centre of the squares), with the green spirals as the first chain, the blue as the second and the silver as the centre chain.

My fabric, my calculations and the quilt in the book that I'm inspired by.

Sewing the strips.

So far I have one set of strips and the first one done for the second set. Once I have four sets (that will be 14 lots of strips in all), I can make the first set of blocks.

I got myself a jaguar

Nalini Singh is having a contest on her blog to celebrate the fact her latest Psy/Changeling book, Caressed by Ice is about to be released. I loved the first two, Slave to Sensation and Visions of Heat, and I already have Caressed by Ice on pre-order.

If you'd like a slightly different paranormal romance and you haven't tried Nalini's books, go and try Slave to Sensation. I loved it. (And besides, Nalini is a New Zealander, so I'll take any chance to promote a fellow Kiwi.)

Which Psy-Changeling Hero Is For You?

Your Psy/Changeling Hero: Vaughn

Protective, possessive and sensual to the core, Vaughn is a sentinel with the heart of a jaguar. If he decides to make you his, there's no getting away. So run...or get ready to tangle with the wild fury of a changeling who is more animal than most.Find out more about Vaughn and the series at
Take this quiz!

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

I finished reading... The Duke and I

The Duke and I by Julia Quinn

Relentlessly pursued by match-making mamas and their charges, Simon Bassett, the handsome Duke of Hastings, has grown tired of the societal chase. Tired too is the lovely Daphne Bridgerton, whose matrimonially minded mother is set on finding her daughter the perfect husband. Neither Simon nor Daphne is happy with this annoying state of affairs and both would give anything for a little peace and quiet. Their mutual wish for a respite from the ton's marriage mart leads to a pretend engagement--a scheme that is threatened with exposure by Daphne's suspicious older brother, who happens to know Simon's way with women very well. The two never anticipated that a mutual attraction would lead to the very thing they set out to avoid--a wedding. But Simon fears that his painful past may keep him from being able to truly love anyone. And though Daphne cares for him deeply, she won't settle for anything less than his heart.
After enjoying Quinn's The Secret Diaries on Miss Miranda Cheever and finding myself (much as I hate to say it about Bujold) struggling with The Sharing Knife: Legacy, I decided to read another Julia Quinn novel for a break. I chose this one as it is the first in the author's eight-book Brigerton series and I am, unfortunately for my own peace of mind and bank balance, one of those anal people who has to read a series in order.

Again, this was a fun read; not particularly challenging, but enjoyable, light and charming in tone and perfect for a break from more serious books.

I found Daphne a nice blend - she wants a husband and she wants children; she embraces those goals of genteel society and desires them without being totally caught up in the social whirl without another thought in her head. Her bargain with Simon seems at least partially sensible - it certainly works in that she suddenly has plenty of suitors - but at the same time she's setting herself up for trouble getting close to Simon knowing how easily she could fall in love with this man who, scarred by his past, is determined not to marry.

In my Julia Quinn reading, I've hit two out of two - in both cases the hero and heroine have been caught in a compromising situation and had to get married. I hope she uses other plot devices as well, but it has worked out well in both these cases.

Love isn't Daphne and Simon's problem. They have that - whether Simon is ready to admit it or not. Their problems stem from Simon's issues about childhood and his dead father and he has to get over that before they can have a happy ending. I liked that.

I did belive in their happy ending, although Simon's turnaround on their main issue was quite quick. I can look at it and justify it, but I just didn't automatically buy into it. All the same, that's a minor quibble.

I found Violet's bumbling attempts (and eventual failure) to explain the "marital act" to Daphne to be very cute, and the scene it led to between Simon and Daphne on their wedding night was hysterical. It also made Daphne's enormous sense of betrayal a little later on to be perfectly believable and reasonable.

While Quinn is true to her genre and this book is primarily about Daphne and Simon and their road to love, it also introduces the Brigerton family matriach, Violet, and her eight, alphabetically named children (which gives away the fact that while Daphne as the eldest daughter marries first, she is in fact the fourth child). I enjoyed meeting them all, especially overly-wise 10-year-old Hyacinth, and I am going to be reading all their books. I'll be saving up the Quinn books for whenever I need a "book break".

The Duke and I
Julia Quinn

I finished listening to... The Warrior's Apprentice

The Warrior's Apprentice by Lois McMaster Bujold

Discharged from the Barrarayan academy after flunking the physical, a discouraged Miles Vorkosigan takes possession of a jumpship and accidently becomes the leader of a mercenary force that expands to a fleet of treasonous proportions.
I'm a big Bujold fan, after a friend introduced me to the series - the same friend that recently had me avidly reading Kage Baker so while she's hard on my bank account I guess I'd better stay friends with her. This is the first of Bujold's Vorkosigan books and introduces Miles and his unstoppable "forward momentum". I've read it several times before this, and when I saw that was releasing the series as unabridged audios I immediately renewed my membership and started budgeting.

It was interesting to listen instead of read, especially since listening to a book does take me a long time, so it gives me a whole different kind of pacing. Thanks to my CFS-ravaged memory, while I remembered the basics of the book, most of the details had slipped away from me, so I went into this unable to remember how Miles got the Dendarii fleet out of trouble (although I could basically remember how he got himself out of trouble on Barrayar at the very end). It made me increasingly nervous as the forward momentum just kept on rolling and rolling and I had no idea how Miles was going to stop it. (A different friend did offer to remind me, but I chose to keep going blind and be surprised all over again.) With a book, if I get too nervous I'm a bad girl and I skip forward to the end to check everything will be okay (I can't take the stress), but I wasn't able to do that with an audiobook, so I just had to trust the author and wait, a difficult proposition for an end-peeker like me. (I try not to end-peek, really I do. I don't like being spoiled, but for the reasons given above, sometimes I just have to check - all for the sake of my blood-pressure of course.)

This book contains a couple of my favourite lines of all time, and it was a delight to hear them spoken aloud instead of just reading them on a page. One at least, is surely worth repeating, as it shows Bujold's great ability to toss in comic lines without ever making the pacing of the book or the story itself comic.

Yet here he sat, a man with an imaginary battle fleet negotiating for its services with a man with an imaginary budget. Well, the price was certainly right.

Miles is a wonderful character. Poisoned by an assasination attempt on his father while still in the womb, his growth has been stunted and his bones are brittle and shatter easily. Despite that, he has a brilliant mind, a stubborn ability to give up and a strong need to prove himself equal to anyone else. When all that is put together, you have an underpinning character who weaves all manner of stories around himself.

But Bujold doesn't limit herself to Miles; all her characters are a delight. Tortured and tormented Sargent Bothari, Elena who finds herself able to find herself only by leaving home, that-idiot-Ivan, who while acting supremely idiotish in this volume, I still believe will prove himself one day.

This is a great start to a great series, and I'm going to enjoy slowly (okay, probably very slowly) listening my way through the Vorkosigan stories again. If you haven't discovered Miles yet, either read the book or listen to the audio, but don't deny yourself the pleasure.

The Warrior's Apprentice
Lois McMaster Bujold

I finished reading... The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever

The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever by Julia Quinn

2 March 1810 . . .
Today, I fell in love.

At the age of ten, Miranda Cheever showed no signs of Great Beauty. And even at ten, Miranda learned to accept the expectations society held for her—until the afternoon when Nigel Bevelstoke, the handsome and dashing Viscount Turner, solemnly kissed her hand and promised her that one day she would grow into herself, that one day she would be as beautiful as she already was smart. And even at ten, Miranda knew she would love him forever.

But the years that followed were as cruel to Turner as they were kind to Miranda. She is as intriguing as the viscount boldly predicted on that memorable day—while he is a lonely, bitter man, crushed by a devastating loss. But Miranda has never forgotten the truth she set down on paper all those years earlier—and she will not allow the love that is her destiny to slip lightly through her fingers . . .
This was my first book by Julia Quinn, although she's been writing for a goodly long time. I think I saw the blurb on a website and thought it looked like fun. When a friend said she was getting it from the library I magnanimously offered to share the borrowing time with her. (I'm generous that way.)

I read this book in about a day and really liked it. It was fun and witty and, well... fun. If I was trying to write a cover quote for it, I'd come up with something like "light-hearted and sparkling". This is not a deep and difficult book, but it is peopled by engaging characters and I was cheering for their happy ending.

Miranda is a fun heroine. She isn't what is considered beautiful and she knows it - and while Turner finds her beautiful, he also acknowledges she's not conventionally beautiful, which was nice and real. Often, it seems to me that once the hero decides he finds the heroine beautiful, he insists that she is totally and absolutely so and anyone who doesn't agree is wrong. I like it much better that characters can find the beauty in each other and acknowledge the absolute truth of that for them, but still know that society in general may not agree with them.

Miranda's friend Olivia (who is also Turner's younger sister) is conventionally beautiful and has the admirers and reputation that go with that, but she too is a real character, and she knows Miranda's true worth - the scene where she confronts Turner over his actions is wonderful and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I found Turner to be a less well developed character than Miranda, which I found interesting as in my, admittedly limited, experience of romance novels it is often the other way around. He's a solid, decent guy who doesn't let himself look beyound his bitter experience with his recently-deceased wife, much to his detriment. But he does do his best and works well together with Miranda.

Neither Miranda nor Turner is ever really stupid, which is a plus for both of them. Any stupidities they show are minor. And as annoying as it was for Miranda, I really liked the way Turner progressed to knowing he was in love with her as that felt appropriate. As the reader I might have figured out early on that he loved her, but he wasn't in a place to be able to figure it out himself.

I really did enjoy this book. It was light and entertaining and just the break I was wanting at the point I picked it up. I don't think I could live on a diet of books like it, but I know I'll enjoy slipping one into the menu on a regular basis. I'll be reading more Julia Quinn.

The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever
Julia Quinn

Friday, August 17, 2007

I finished reading... The Invisible Ring

The Invisible Ring by Anne Bishop

Jared, who has murdered his owner and attempted escape, is recaptured and sold to the mysterious Gray Lady. It soon becomes clear that Jared's new queen is not what she seems to be, and he joins with his fellow slaves--all of whom hide their own secrets--to protect the Gray Lady. During her desperate flight from Dorothea SaDiablo, the Black Widow intent on destroying her and claiming her territory, Jared comes to terms with his own demons and discovers what it means to be truly bonded to a queen.

Having loved Anne Bishop's Black Jewels trilogy and Dreams Made Flesh, I naturally bought this book, set in the same universe. All the same, it's taken me a while to start reading it, partly to save up the pleasure and partly because I wasn't sure it would live up to the other Bishop books.

As the book began, I was afraid that it was the latter that was going to prove to be true. A good part of the beginning of the book is spent on Jared reflecting on his bad judgement, bad treamtment and probably terrible future. He's too busy being bitter and narrow minded to actually open his eyes and figure out what is really going on.

Fortunately, once we get past that, the story really takes off. This tale is set in the past relative to the main Black Jewels trilogy (and indeed, there is a brief nod to Jared in Queen of the Darkness, as Jaenelle's solution to her problem is in part pased on Lia's solution to the problem posed in this book). At this time Dorothea SaDiablo is still trying to gain influence over all of Terielle and she is shown as both ruthless and very dangerous, in a more active way than we saw in the other books, where she has already accomplished her goal and is resting on her laurels, so to speak. I found Dorothea to be a much more disturbing character in The Invisible Ring than in the Black Jewels trilogy, where she was a more complacent kind of evil.

I do like the world Bishop has created here and once again we are given the contrast between the corruption of the ways of the Blood that is being created by Dorothea and those who follow her, compared to those who keep the true ways and with it, balance and peace. The Gray Lady is a true Queen, keeping her territory under her protection and the balance of honor, power and love between her and the members of her court is maintained, much as Dorothea is trying to destroy it. She has raised Lia to be the same, and this is part of what drives Jared so crazy when he discovers Lia's deception.

Jared, despite his insistence that he's just a slave with no honour, is nothing of the kind, and as his true instincts reawaken after nine years of mistreatment, he does find himself battling himself more than Dorothea's schemes as he tries to find a proper balance within himself. He is the main protagonist of this book and the growth story is about him - as much as Lia is a lovely character, she doesn't change much beyond the normal developments time requires of us all. It is Jared who must battle his demons and Lia offers the support of a true queen and a caring woman that allows him to do this.

I couldn't decide if I found Jared's deliberate blindness to his own honour (and later, ability to love Lia) to be annoying or endearing, but I left the book in all charity with him, so I guess it was an amount of annoyance appropriate to the behaviour more than anything else. I did like the ending - that no magic hand waving could fix everything about him all at once and that he still had some work to do before he could change the silver invisible ring for gold.

I liked the metaphor of the title as well, although again, I think it took Jared a bit too long to figure it our considering that he wasn't really all that stupid. And it was great to see Daemon again (or, techically, previously) and to see his character as he endured his life while waiting for Janelle. The scene where Jared realises Daemon does love someone and Daemon agrees, but states that it is with a queen who has been promised but isn't yet born, was poignant and beautiful, made more so I think for having already read Daemon and Janelle's story.

So after a rocky start, this developed into a very satisfying story, told with Bishop's usual talent. I like Jared a lot - but I admit I still like Daemon and Jaenelle better. Sorry, Jared.

The Invisible Ring
Anne Bishop

I will not buy any more books...

There's a very amusing article here, all the funnier if you're like me and can't stop buying books, not matter how hard you try. It's an addiction, I tell you. And I don't want to be cured.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

New Books

I got some books from Amazon today. Yay, new books are always good.

Lois McMaster Bujold is one of my two "autobuy in hardcover" authors (the other is Catherine Asaro) so I knew I'd be buying Legacy as soon as it came out. I really liked the first half of this story (Beguilement) and I'm looking forward to reading this one. In fact, it's bumped Sebastian by Anne Bishop off the top of the TBR and I'll be reading it next.

I ordered the last Kage Baker because I couldn't wait to read the end of the story. In the end, the library got in its copy first (my books from Amazon take a circutious route that means the shipping is free but they take longer). I don't mind. I'm sure I'll be rereading the series again and it's a lovely looking book.

I really like Robin D. Owens' Celta series, but I'm disappointed that this one was released in trade when all the others have been mass market (making it both more expensive and a different size from the others) and I think the cover is just horrible. However, I'm looking forward to the story inside.

I loved Kate Elliott's Jaran books and enjoyed the first ion her Crown of Stars series. However, somehow I didn't keep up with the latter and since there are now six fat books I haven't read (not to mention the fact I'd need to reread the first one), I decided to try me some more Elliott with her new series, Crossroads. The fact this hardcover was on special for US$5.19 made me throw in in the order or I'd have been waiting for the paperback.

We also picked up our copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows from the local bookshop today. Oh boy, the UK cover is really horrible. I thought it was okay from looking at in on the internet, but then I saw it in person. Yuck.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

LO: Faces of Pamela

I haven't done any scrapping lately, but finished this one the other day and I'm pleased with how it came out.

The photos are a proof sheet from a photo shoot my grandparents had done of my mother when she was a little girl. So I didn't have to take all those photos and put them in a frame - it came that way.

Last year I scanned a whole lot of old family photos for my mother to preserve them and I brought home a copy of the scans folder as there are some great pictures there of both family I know/knew are great grandparents and beyond that I didn't. I want to save that family heritage and I plan to ask my mum to write some journalling for some of them so we can have the details of what they were about saved along with the photos. Happily my grandmother wrote on the back of a number of them, so we do have dates and details for at least some of them.

Background paper from "Peekaboo Glitter" by Tracy Ann Robinson; flowers (recoloured) from "Artlines 7 Flowers" by Tracy Ann Robinson; butterflies from "Schipp Schnapp" by Sausan Designs; ribbon (recoloured) from "Really Big Ribbon" by Natalie Braxton; glitter from "Glitter Paint Splats" by Christina Renee; barcode from "Everyday Romance" in the "This Love" collection by Dani Mogstad; fibre by Linda GB in "In Vogue" from "Scrap Artist".

Sunday, August 12, 2007

I finished reading... How to Lose an Extraterrestrial in 10 Days

How to Lose an Extraterrestrial in 10 Days by Susan Grant

Question: Where's the best place to hide an interstellar fugitive? Answer: Suburbia

His internal computers are offline, his former employers want him dead and the Men in Black are after him. Without his cyberpowers, Reef is as weak as a lowly Earthling. He's tried to kill every human he's met--so why on Earth would they help him?

Evie Holloway needs a bodyguard! Her fledgling chocolate business is mistaken as a money-laundering scheme for the mob and the bullets have started flying. But does the suburban soccer mom really want to shelter the alien hit man who almost offed her future brother-in-law?

She is desperate, and Reef is incredibly sexy. "Ten Days," she tells him--but it turns out that ten days just might be long enough to spark a love that's truly out of this world.
I like Susan Grant's books. I have ever since I picked up Contact in the bookstore and took a chance on a new-to-me author. How to Lose an Extraterrestrial in 10 Days is the the third book in her recent series about the Jasper family and how they accidently find themselves pivotal in the affairs of the galaxy.

This series was clearly intended to be more tongue-in-cheek that Grant's earlier work and I felt that that showed in the first two books. They were okay fun, but nothing special. This one is also fun, but it also has more depth and a better development of the characters and their relationship than its two predecessors did. The story is also a simpler one this time around, with intergalactic events having less effect on the story which may contribute to the increased success.

Evie has more of a past and more issues than her sister and brother, with an ex-husband, two children and a desperate need to please that has lead her to do what she thinks others want her to do rather than take the time to figure out what she wants for herself. Reef on the other hand has no past at all and is trying to reclaim both that and his humanity now that his main computer has been removed.

They need to learn from each other and as they do so they find they also simply need each other. The ending is very nicely done, with a trip off planet from Evie (and others) and I can easily see Evie and Reef living out their happily ever after.

Grant has a skill for giving her main characters children and managing to include them in the story in a satisfying way where they neither take over nor end up almost irrelevant. Evie's son and daughter are both a significant part of the story - her daughter Ellen more than her son John and I predict a book for Ellen some time in the future - and yet they don't hurt the story, but add to it, especially as Evie and Reef try to get in some personal time with two teenagers in the house!

Oh, and there's a clever little cameo from the pilot of the Roswell spaceship!

A solid and satisfying read. So if you were a bit uncertain about How to Lose an Extraterrestrial in 10 Days after reading the first two Jasper books, do give this one a go. I certainly enjoyed it.

How to Lose an Extraterrestrial in 10 Days
Susan Grant

I finished reading... Blood Secrets

Blood Secrets by Vivi Anna

A young human woman is found ritualistically murdered in a downtown Necropolis hotel. It is up to Caine Valorian, a 200-year-old vampire, and his Otherworld Crime Unit to solve the unusual crime, and quickly before the human press can jump onto the story and cause a panic. To add to their already tough case, a new member, Eve Grant, transfers to their lab at the request of the mayor. Not only is she green and eager to impress the boss, but she's human. The first human ever to work in an Otherworld unit. The mayor thought it would be great press especially now with the strange human murder.

Caine has his work cut out for him, especially with his unruly team who don't appreciate any help from a human. Not only is this the toughest case of his career, but he's unusually attracted to the new girl, which can only cause trouble for them all. However, as they sink deeper and deeper into the workings of the case, Caine and Eve become closer and closer. So close that neither of them can see past each other and at the real happenings behind the scenes. The more they poke and prod at the case, the more they realize that something is going on, that this murder is only one step toward a greater purpose. Someone in the Otherworld community is calling on dark forces, in a plot to wipe out the entire human population.
I bought this as an ebook ages ago because I found the idea of CSI crossing over with vampires to be an intriguing idea. It then sat on my PDA while I read other things. I found that I wanted something short and hopefully relatively simple to help me come down after the high of Kage Baker's Company series and remembered this. It fit the bill perfectly.

It's a Silhouette Nocture book, meaning it's a little shorter than your average single title, but Anna packs a full story into her word count. I did find the forensics aspect of the case to be rather on the light side - this is a story about the characters, and mainly Caine and Eve at that, not the science. So if you're looking for a crime thriller, you'll need to find another book.

All the same, it was the pleasant and easy read I was wanting. The world set up is interesting - I find that idea of a whole, fortified city of supernatural creatures - which at this point means vampires, werewolves and witches - that the world doesn't know about to be a little hard to swallow, but I'm willing to suspend my disbelief on that aspect.

I found Caine to be a more realised character than Eve (often the case in romances it seems, as if the author spends all their creative energy on the hero and doesn't have a lot left for the heroine). He had a past, a history and a solid personality, whereas she seemed to spend a lot of time rushing in to volunteer for things unwisely in order to prove herself. All the same, she wasn't annoying and her actions might have occasionally been reckless but they didn't go as far as being all out stupid.

The presence of a shadowy villain whom the reader knows exists, while the characters are not so sure, suggests this is the first in a series. And indeed, Dark Lies comes out in October. I'm still deciding if I'll buy it. If I want another "pleasant and easy read" I'm sure it will qualify. It will just depend on my budget.

Blood Secrets
Vivi Anna

I finished reading... The Sons of Heaven

...The Sons of Heaven by Kage Baker.

The forces gathering to seize power finally move on the Company. The immortal Lewis wakes to find himself blinded, crippled, and left with no weapons but his voice, his memory, and the friendship of one extraordinary little girl. Edward Alton Bell-Fairfax, resurrected Victorian superman, plans for world domination. The immortal Mendoza makes a desperate bargain to delay him. Enforcer Budu, assisted by Joseph, enlists an unexpected ally in his plans to free his old warriors and bring judgment on his former masters. Executive Facilitator Suleyman uses his intelligence operation to uncover the secret of Alpha-Omega, vital to the mortals' survival. The mortal masters of the Company, terrified of a coup, invest in a plan they believe will terminate their immortal servants. And they awaken a powerful AI whom they call Dr Zeus. This web of a story is filled with great climaxes, wonderful surprises, and gripping characters many readers have grown to love or hate.
Well, the roller coaster ride is over. The series is finished. And wow, what a ride it was.

Considering that Baker had about eight different factions (I'm not 100% sure how many, I kept losing track) all making plans for what would happen at the moment of Silence, I am highly impressed by the way she brought everything together and made it all fit together.

In a way, the solution was startlingly simple after all the machinations involved in getting there. I sort of feel like it should have been a little anti-climatic, but it wasn't. Instead, we slipped neatly into the resolution and fitted there rather nicely.

The main story of Mendoza and her men continues apace. I was terribly worried about Edward and what he was going to do by the end of the previous book, and again, Baker works out a neat solution. At it's topmost level, there's a little bit of a 'squick factor' in what she does, so I was very impressed with the way she made everything fall into place. This all led to a most delightful epilogue of a few paragraps that really summed up Mendoza's "happy ending". (And the opportunity this provides to totally disconcert Joseph was a delight.)

I also thought the reason for the Silence, once we found out what it was, was so beautifully simple it was totally brilliant.

I did get a little lost at one point, but as it was the moment when she jumped from "science" to "super science" I'm willing to take the blame myself and say that my brain failed to make the jump with the author. I still got the whole drift of where she was going and I'm happy with that, but I'm sure I missed some nice subtleties. However, give me a few years and I'm sure I'll be reading the series again (if I can get my grubby little paws on copies of the earlier books) so hopefully it will make more sense then. I find that that is usually the case for me.

I also found myself reading this book in small snippets instead of digesting in whole in one big gulp as I did with the earlier volumes. I think this was a combination of two thing - my health at the time and the fact I didn't want the story to end almost exactly as much as I wanted to find out the end of it. This didn't hurt my reading at all and I enjoyed my progress through the book and the ending.

So even if I did get a little confused for a bit, The Sons of Heaven got fully marks from me and the series as a whole would get a very solid 9/10 from this satisfied reader.

The Sons of Heaven
Kage Baker

As a reminder and guide, the full series is:
In the Garden of Iden
Sky Coyote
Mendoza in Hollywood
The Graveyard Game
The Life of the World to Come
The Children of the Company
The Machine's Child
The Sons of Heaven

There are also two books of short stories - Black Projects, White Knights and Gods and Pawns. All the stories are fun, but I feel the only one you really need to read to help the series make sense is Welcome to Olympus, Mr Hearst in Gods and Pawns.

Monday, August 06, 2007

I finished reading... The Machine's Child

The Machine's Child by Kage Baker.

Mendoza was banished long ago, to a prison lost in time where rebellious immortals are "dealt with." Now her past lovers: Alec, Nicholas, and Bell-Fairfax, are determined to rescue her, but first they must learn how to live together, because all three happen to be sharing Alec's body. What they find when they discover Mendoza is even worse than what they could imagined, and enough for them to decide to finally fight back against the Company.
It is getting harder and harder to comment on Baker's Company series without major spoilers as I get closer and closer to the resolution.

This volume is in many ways a direct sequel to The Life of the World to Come, as Nicholas, Edward and Alec, all fighting for the use of Alec's body, try to work together well enough to resuce Mendoza.

I loved the book, although it didn't work out exactly as I expected it to - which I guess is the sign of a good author, that she can continue to surprise me at the point where she is beginning to pull all her story lines together and work towards a resolution. Without any major spoilers, I expected more of an action story, where it took the whole book to resuce Mendoza, rather than what I got, which was much more character oriented and focused on the relationship between Edward, Alec and Nicholas and their individual and combined relationships with Mendoza - not to mention the progression of the plans of all the other characters as the Silence grows closer and closer.

I don't think I'm giving away too much to say that Mendoza is actually rescued early on, but as is usual in Baker's world, this doesn't make for a tidy conclusion to the plotline, but the beginning of more complications.

Baker continues to keep what should be way too many balls in the air without them all colliding and crashing down. She also continues to tell a great tale that captures the reader and keeps them glued to the page.

I'm very glad I did wait to read this one until I had The Sons of Heaven waiting for me, as I was opening its pages almost as soon as I closed the covers of The Machine's Child.

I have only one real complaint - that I still don't clearly understand what happened with the Captain and Mendoza right at the very end, even now that I've finished the next book as well. It hasn't brought down my grade because I was so captivated by the book, but if someone can explain, I'd be very grateful.

The Machine's Child
Kage Baker

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Defender of the Kingdom #009

Defender of the Kingdom #009
Originally uploaded by rocalisa.

Progress after a further five hours stitching.

I've got just a bit more of this navy (939) to do, then lots of back to fill in the space above where more of her hair will go.

It's very satisfying to have got some more done on this at last, and hopefully the new rotation means I'll get to it again before another six months or so go by.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

I finished reading... Over Sea, Under Stone

...Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper.

Like many adventures, this one begins with a holiday in Cornwall, the discovery of an ancient map and a search for an Arthurian treasure. But Simon, Jane and Barney soon realize that dark forces are at work to prevent them releazing King Arthur's power for good once more.
The second book in Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising Sequence (Over Sea, Under Stone is the first) is about to be released as a movie. After seeing the trailer one someone's blog and being horrified by the way the books appeared to have been totally destroyed (the casting doesn't work for me, Will totally can't be a blond American interested in girls and peer groups - I remember him as a loner - and it just doesn't look right) I commented on that blog that maybe I would read the books again instead.

I was partly serious and partly kidding, but when I hit an unexpected reading slump at the end of last month, I browsed around my books with a certain desperation, waiting for something to jump up and scream "Read me!". It was Over Sea, Under Stone that did that.

I have no idea how long ago I originally read these books, but I remember being amazed by them. I have always had a soft spot for Arthurian stories, of which this is one, and back then I loved it for that.

Over Sea, Under Stone (and I adore the evocativeness - if that's a word - of the title) is a relatively simple adventure story, first published in 1967. Simon, Jane and Barney (ages never supplied, leaving the reader to fill them in based on his/her own) are on holiday in the little Cornish village of Tressiwick with their (honorary) Great Uncle Merry. While exploring the house on a rainy day, they find an manuscript in the attic which seems to be some kind of treasure map.

From there, they find themselves caught up in a quest for a Celtic Grail that had been borne to safety by one of Artur's knights as Camelot fell and hidden away over sea and under stone centuries before. Strange, sinister characters appear, also looking for the treasure, and Great Uncle Merry tells them that they have become part of the everlasting battle between good and evil, that is never won, but also never lost.

This is a timeless tale. Sure, these are clearly not modern children (and it would be a totally different book if they were), but their fears, their motivations and interactions are those of children through all time. There is a lovely sense of the mythic in the book that fits perfectly with Cooper's storytelling, although it is never fully explored. On the surface, this is a children's treasure hunt, but there are all sorts of hints, clues and themes bubbling up from under the surface for the reader to catch and revel in.

As I remember, the following books are not as simplistic as this one (although it is not simple), but this is a lovely, solid foundation for the books to come as well as a very pleasant tale in its own right.

I also enjoyed this as a small trip back to my childhood and the feeling of wonder there was in books and life in general then. That feeling is in the book itself as well as in the fact it draws me back to when I was first reading Susan Cooper.

I am now looking forward to rereading the rest of the series (and avoiding seeing the movie), but I have Kage's Baker's last two Company books waiting for me now, so they will be taking me over for the immediate future.

I finished listening to... Northern Lights

...Northern Lights by Nora Roberts

Lunacy, Alaska - population 506 - is Nate Burke's last chance. As a Baltimore cop, he had watched his partner die - and the guilt still haunts him. Maybe serving as Chief of Police in this tiny, remote town, where darkness falls by mid-afternoon and temperatures fall to below zero, will bring some kind of solace. It isn't as if he has anywhere else to go. Aside from sorting out a run-in between a couple of motor vehicles and a moose - and pulling apart two brothers fighting over John Wayne's best movie - Nate's first weeks on the job are relatively quiet. But as he wonders whether this was all a big mistake, an unexpected kiss from feisty bush pilot Meg Galloway under the brilliant Northern Lights of the Alaska sky lifts his spirit - and convinces him to stay just a little longer... Born and raised in Lunacy, Meg has learned to be independent. But there's something about Nate's sad eyes that gets under her skin, and warms her frozen heart. However, when two climbers find a corpse on the mountain, Nate discovers that Lunacy isn't quite the sleeply little backwater he imagined...
I got the audiobook for this from the library and I've happily been listening to it over the last few weeks. It's been lovely to do a bit of stitching and listen to a book and I hope I can keep up the practice. (Going to finish listening to The Warrior's Apprentice by Lois McMaster Bujold next, I think. I started it ages ago and kept getting sidetracked from finishing listening to it.)

Anyway, what did I think of Northern Lights?

I wasn't sure I was going to like it at first. It all seemed rather bleak and dark to begin with, and the narrator kept doing funny voices for the characters than I didn't really like.

While I loved Nate straight away, I also wasn't sure about Meg, who wasn't really my favourite kind of character. She was just a little too brash and up-front for me, which I'm sure shows up my own introverted nature more than anything else.

But she grew on me a lot as the book progressed, and by the end I was delighted with her and I'm very happy with her happy ending. I just hope she doesn't mess it up. She could, and I think will have to pay attention to keep it.

As the book continued, I began to see that the dark feeling was intentional on the part of the author and very brilliantly done. Nate arrives at the end of the world in the middle of winter and a dark depression. What else should the mood of the book been? As the story progresses, Nate begins to climb out of depression and Lunacy begins to climb out of winter. As both these things happens, the tone of the book changes with them until the end, in spring and good health, the tone sparkles like the sun on the snow. Congratulations, Ms Roberts, on an expert piece of writing.

I found the spats between Nate and Meg to be kind of fun and a little strange at the same time. Again, this stems from me bringing my own experiences to the story, as we don't have arguments in my own marriage and I would find it very uncomfortable to do so. I can totally see how these work for the book characters and allow them to blow off steam safely and move forward, and once I recognised that, I was okay with them, just aware how different that is to my own experiences. I think they may have resonanted more because I was listening to them rather than reading them as well. Listening to a book can certainly emphasise different aspects of the book than reading it does.

I thought the mystery was well done too. Certainly, I was never 100% convinced I had the murderer pegged until right at the end, although it turned out that I was right in my choice.

So after an uncertain start, on the part of the reader rather than the author, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Northern Lights. The library has a couple of other Nora Roberts books on audio, and I suspect I'll have to find the time to listen to them too.

Northern Lights
Nora Roberts

My July Reading

Not a bad month, although it bottomed out a bit at the end. I think it may
be partly me as I'm struggling with reading right now.

1. The Life of the World to Come - Kage Baker (10/10)
SF. My favourite so far in the Company series. I am still loving this.
Just waiting for the last one to arrive from Amazon so that I can read the
last two. Saving up the second to last until the last one arrives.

2. Soul Song - Marjorie M. Liu (9/10)
Paranormal Romance. Another great story from Liu, who can do really dark
and nasty villains without going over the top and the story always triumphs
over the villains. Hard to explain, but they have grim components without
being at all grim books (but not light and fluffy either) which not many
authors can do.

3. The Bone Doll's Twin - Lynn Flewelling (9/10)
Fantasy. I really enjoyed this, which while dark in places, was a really
good story. I haven't felt quite like reading the second one yet, but I'm
sure I will, as it's a very good tale.

4. The Children of the Company - Kage Baker (9/10)
SF. Very interesting addition as it focussed on the antagonists of some
previous books and filled in the fates of several characters that were
currently unknown. Another excellent volume.

5. Gods and Pawn - Kage Baker (9/10)
SF. Short stories in the Company universe. Both some completely stand
alone tales and some that fill in more interesting points. I find it
impressive that Baker pulls of short stories and full length novels equally

6. Safe Harbor - Christine Feehan (8/10)
Paranormal Romance. A nice story, neatly told. An improvement over the
last volume I in the series (which I liked but required a serious suspension
of disbelief). This one was more realistic - as far as you can call a book
with witches, magic, the Russian mafia and super models realistic!

7. Dark Lover - J. R. Ward (9/10)
Vampire Romance. Reread. I decided to reread this series in preperation of
the next book coming out in October. It is totally over the top and should
be ridiculous, but it works. Great fun.

8. Fatal Voyage - Kathy Reichs (9/10)
Crime. I find Reichs very easy to read and can usually knock on off in a
day or two. I save her up for when I really need a break from other stuff
I've been reading. She's my palate cleanser I guess and as always, the book
did the job perfectly.

9. Persuasion - Jane Austen (9/10)
Classic. I've wanted to read this ever since I saw the movie. I bought a
copy and the print was so small I couldn't cope with reading it. Recently I
bought an ebook copy so I could make the print whatever size I liked and it
worked a charm. I loved the book. And now I want to watch the movie again.

10. Night Life - Elizabeth Guest (5/10)
Paranormal Romance. A clever variation on vampires that was totally ruined
by poor writing. Cardboard characters and everything very flat. It would
have been a waste of my time, except that I was sick and skimming this was
about all I was up to.

I had a couple of DNFs this month, both of which were really Did Not Starts.
I couldn't get going with either; in one case I think it was me and not
being in the mood, with the other it may be the book.

1. Wildwood Dancing - Juliet Marillier
Fantasy. This is a loose retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses about
five sisters and I think I just wasn't in the mood. I still think it sounds
very interesting and will give it another go some time.

2. Divine by Mistake - P. C. Cast
Fantasy Romance. This has all the components I should like, but I just
couldn't get into it. Not sure if I can take a whole book of the tone
either. May give it another try or may not.

Current Reads are

1. Ship of Destiny - Robin Hobb
Fantasy. Need to get back to reading this but I got worried about the
characters and stopped.

2. Northern Lights - Nora Roberts
Contemporary Romantic Suspense. Audiobook. I'm enjoying this and it's good
to be listening to a book again.

3. Over Sea, Under Stone - Susan Cooper
Children's Fantasy. Reread. After struggling with my last few books, I
looked around the shelves until my eyes lit on something I was drawn to.
This was it. After seeing a trailer for the upcoming "The Dark is Rising"
film which makes it look like the books have been totally destroyed, I
reflected that I might need to reread the books instead. I'm reading the
first one anyway. And loving it all over again.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Character Creations August Releases

It's dragons this month - one from Sylvia Koerner (formerly Sylvia Polster), one from Nicole Cadet and two lovely Tarot cards from Lisa Hunt. As an added bonus, all dragon patterns are 20% off for this week. (The discount shows up once the chart goes into the shopping cart, not in the listed price.)

Top of the World - Sylvia Koerner

Dragon Thrall - Nicole Cadet

Celtic Dragon Tarot - The Emperor - Lisa Hunt

Fantastical Creatures Tarot - Judgement - Lisa Hunt