Thursday, January 31, 2008

Updated Dream List

I also added some charts to my Dream List.

The Lake Maggiore one I am planning to buy and stitch for my mother. She and my dad went to Europe for five weeks last year and one of the places they went was Lake Maggiore. She showed me photos that look exactly like the pictures in the sampler.

When my credit card is more healthy than it is at present, I intend to go shopping.

Dawn Star Progress

Here's my progress after my first CC stitching weekend for 2008. I suppose it is technically a SAL as Jeannie-Maree and I are both intending to stitch on Character Creations charts on the 4th weekend of each month.



Close Up

I finished up the grey that had been started, did all the pink and beige and started the blue.

The Alpine Garden - The Drawn Thread

The Alpine Garden
The Drawn Thread
Started 10th March, 2007
Finished 22nd January, 2008
Stitched on 30-ct Moss Green Murano
Using the silks in the kit

I finished this while watching Sir Edmund Hillary's funeral on the televison (he was given a State Funeral) which seemed rather appropriate.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost

Half-vampire Catherine Crawfield is going after the undead with a vengeance, hoping that one of these deadbeats is her father – the one responsible for ruining her mother's life. Then she's captured by Bones, a vampire bounty hunter, and is forced into an unlikely partnership.

In exchange for help finding her father, Cat agrees to train with the sexy night stalker until her battle reflexes are as sharp as his fangs. She's amazed she doesn't end up as his dinner – are there actually good vampires? Pretty soon Bones will have her convinced that being half-dead doesn't have to be all bad. But before she can enjoy her status as kick-ass demon hunter, Cat and Bones are pursued by a group of killers. Now Cat will have to choose a side ... and Bones is turning out to be as tempting as any man with a heartbeat.

(Blurb from
The first I heard about this book was online buzz likening the characters to Buffy and Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I wasn't sure if I wanted to read such a book, since I loved both Spike and Buffy and didn't really feel the need to read a rip-off of the characters in a published novel. That's what tie-in books and fan fiction are for (and although I haven't the time or inclination to read either of those now I have done so in the past).

More recently I read several very glowing reviews of Halfway to the Grave on blogs I like and, more importantly, where I trust the opinions of the reviewers. None of them made a particular point about Buffy and Spike clones and I decided maybe this was a book I should try after all. Happily, the book is available as an ebook and so I went shopping, downloaded it and transferred it across to my PDA. Then I started reading.

Let's clear up the Spike and Buffy thing first. I feel that any similarities are superficial; Cat kills vampires and Bones is a blonde vampire with an English accent and an attitude. This may possibly be a deliberate nod to the TV show, but Frost is not writing about Buffy and Spike, she's writing about Cat and Bones.

Cat Crawford is half vampire; her mother was raped by a vampire and she was the result. Largely to please her mother, Cat has been hunting the undead since she was sixteen. Not suprisingly, she has a lot of issues when it comes to vampires. She is forced to face these when she tries taking on a Master vampire and instead finds herself pledged to train and hunt with him.

Slowly, Cat is forced to see that while some (maybe even most) vampires are evil, not all of them are. Ruthless and dangerous perhaps, but not actually evil. The developing partnership between Cat and Bones, filled with issues and setbacks progresses beautifully. Cat is caught between what she has been brought up to believe and what all her instincts are telling her about Bones. Add in the fact that she's desperate not to disappoint the mother she loves and there's a whole lot of conflict going on.

There were moments when I wished I could shake Cat and tell her to cut this guy a little slack, but that was more frustration because I knew he was the hero and able to be trusted that because I felt the author was going overboard with Cat's vampire issues. They were reasonable and well explained, but I felt so sorry for Bones, obviously hurt but Cat's frequent drawing back, than because I felt Cat was acting out of character.

Bones is a strong and appealing hero, but as I look back over the book, I find myself remembering Cat more. Of course, that fact this is written in the first person with Cat as the narrator may have something to do with that. I enjoyed their scenes together and their first love scene managed to be both sweet and hot which is a combination it can be difficult to pull off.

The plot grows more and more complex as the book progresses until, by the end, Cat finds herself in a situation it appears she will have no chance of escaping. The solution that turns up could be considered a little bit too pat, but it is certainly going to make the next book more interesting. For reader who want a happy ending for Cat and Bones, I trust Frost to give us one but be aware it isn't in this book. This is the first book in a series that is more urban fantasy than paranormal romance and it ends, not in a bad place, but with the main protagonists apart.

They'll be back together - and dealing with the fallout of Cat's self-sacrificing decision at the end of this novel - in the sequel, One Foot in the Grave, due out at the end of April. I'll be buying it.

Halfway to the Grave
Night Huntress, Book 1

Friday, January 25, 2008

Here Be Dragons Challenge Update

I was browsing the blogs of some of the other participants in this challenge and decided to expand my list of dragon books. I reserve the right to do this at any time if another good dragon tale comes to my attention. However, I'll also state now and up front, that I will not be trying to read all these books. It's a guide not a requirement.

So here's my updated list.
  1. Dragon Blood - Patricia Briggs Finished 15-Jan-08: Review here
  2. Empire of Ivory - Naomi Novik (next Temeraire book, on the TBR)
  3. Cast in Courtlight - Michelle Sagara (I'm assuming Tiamaris is in this one too, on the TBR)
  4. Tea with the Black Dragon - R. A. MacAvoy (on the want to reread list)
  5. Brother to Dragons, Companion to Owls - Jane Lindskold (on the want to reread list)
  6. The Copper Crown - Patricia Kennealy-Morrison (so it's a dragon-styled spaceship but that's got to be close, on the want to reread list)
  7. Dragonhaven - Robin McKinley (sounds like fun and the library has it)
  8. Rhapsody - Elizabeth Haydon (listed by another challenge participant; I've been wanting to read this series)
  9. Here, There Be Dragons - James A. Owen (listed by another challenge participant; sounds interesting)
  10. A Game of Thrones - George R. R. Martin (something I'd like to read, but I'm scared by its length)
  11. Dragon's Blood - Jane Yolen (loved this series when I read it years ago)
  12. Dragon Prince - Melanie Rawn (I've been wanting to reread this and this challenge might be the perfect excuse)
  13. Dragon Rider - Cornelia Funke (I liked Inkheart and would like to try more by Funke)

Me and Mr Darcy - Alexandra Potter

Me and Mr Darcy by Alexandra Potter

After a string of disastrous dates, Emily Albright decides she's had it with modern-day love and would much rather curl up with Pride and Prejudice and spend her time with Mr. Darcy, the dashing, honorable, and passionate hero of Jane Austen's classic. So when her best friend suggests a wild week of margaritas and men in Mexico with the girls, Emily abruptly flees to England on a guided tour of Jane Austen country instead. Far from inspiring romance, the company aboard the bus consists of a gaggle of little old ladies and one single man, Spike Hargreaves, a foul-tempered journalist writing an article on why the fictional Mr. Darcy has earned the title of Man Most Women Would Love to Date.

The last thing Emily expects to find on her excursion is a broodingly handsome man striding across a field, his damp shirt clinging to his chest. But that's exactly what happens when she comes face-to-face with none other than Mr. Darcy himself. Suddenly, every woman's fantasy becomes one woman's reality. . .

(Blurb from
I picked this one up on Swap Club and for a book that was going to cost me a couple of points, something of which I currently have plenty, I thought I'd give it a go. While I don't consider myself a Jane Austen fangirl, I've enjoyed what I've read and seen of hers and I have to admit that yes, Colin Firth's Mr Darcy in the BBC adaption of Pride and Prejudice did leave an impression on me (so did Jennifer Ehle's Elizabeth, but for completely different reasons and that's not relevant to this review anyway).

The book starts off well, first as we get to ride along on another of Emily's disasterous dates and then join her in the bookshop she manages and met her flaky friend. Is the flaky friend a requirement of chick lit type books? As I haven't read more that two or three I wouldn't know. And what about the use of present tense? That's something I really don't like, although it isn't a deal-breaker for me over whether I read the book. Usually I'll stop noticing it after a while and carry on reading, which was the case with Me and Mr Darcy.

Emily's trip to England also starts well, as she finds that as her friend (I'm blanking on her name and I've loaned the book to a friend) was right and everyone else on the tour is an elderly lady - except for Spike, the journalist out to write a story about what women find so attractive about Mr Darcy.

Unfortunately, once the book gets to about the halfway point, Potter's grasp on the characterisation seems to start falling apart. I think the problem is that all the various character traits that Austen handled with such brilliance and subtlety are just too strident in Potter's hands. Emily stops being appealing and, as she starts meeting Mr Darcy and jumping to all the wrong conclusions about Spike, simply turns into a bitch. Once the story progresses a little futher and she begins to find less to like about Darcy and more to like about Spike, Darcy turns from a prideful man into an (excuse the language) arrogant a**hole.

And as for Spike, Emily's reactions to him show a man of such total differences from beginning to end, that I don't believe it could really have been the same man, not even considering that he is always described through Emily's eyes and therefore her prejudices. When Emily doesn't like him, he's totally awful. He's pot-bellied and rude and totally impossible. When she begins to learn the truth and find he's not so bad, suddenly he's firmly muscled and attractive and too close to perfect for how he was described before. Sorry, but while I could buy the changes in Austen's Darcy, I can't buy them in Spike. Or in Emily for that matter.

There's also the possible identity of the tour guide, which I think was meant to be clever but just seemed silly to me.

I was skimming by the time I reached 2/3 through, but the text of Spike's article at the end was very well done and saved the end of the novel for me.

However, because this didn't work for me, I don't think means it won't work for everyone who reads it. If it sounds like your kind of book, give it a try. It's certainly not all bad and has some very nice moments, mostly at the beginning.

Me and Mr Darcy
Alexandra Potter

Dragon Blood - Patricia Briggs

Dragon Blood by Patricia Briggs
Ward of Hurog, Book 2

Ward, ruler of Hurog, joins the rebels against the tyrannical High King Jakoven. But Jakoven has a secret weapon. One that requires dragon's blood. The very blood that courses through Ward's veins.

(Blurb from
It's been a long time since I read the first book in this series, Dragon Bones, and sadly (as is often the case with me) I didn't remember a lot of the details. Fortunately, the absolute basics were there. Ward, who has been pretending to be a simpleton to protect himself from his father's wrath, must prove his sanity and capabilities when he inherits. He also has to save a dragon, break a curse and defeat invaders.

Equally fortunately, Briggs makes a point to remind the reader of all the important points, rerevealing them progressively throughout the text rather than dropping everything on the reader in one big infodump. While by the end I still didn't remember every detail of Dragon Bones, I had recovered all the information I needed to enjoy and understand this book. There were moments when I was worried that wouldn't be the case, so let me assure any potential reader that it is safe to trust the author.

Dragon Bones was told by Ward in the first person POV and Dragon Blood starts off with a different character. Tisala's escape from King Jakoven's torturer is told in standard third person POV, the chapter headed with her name. I wasn't sure if the book would continue that way, but by the second chapter, which is titled with Ward's name, we go back to his first person. Chapters are told through whichever eyes Briggs requires to tell the tale, but only Ward uses first person storytelling. This could have been confusing, but I had no trouble with it at all and enjoyed the variety. All the same, it is unusual and readers may like to be warned.

Ward has troubles aplenty in this story, most of them to be laid at Jakoven's door and Briggs doesn't pull her punches when the tale gets a bit nasty. The section where Ward is taken into the king's custody (under the pretext of determining if he really is healthy in mind as well as body and therefore fit to rule Hurog), he is placed in the king's custom-built insane asylum and tortured by the king's pet mages in an attempt to break him. I temporarily stopped reading at this point because it was very far from nice, light reading, but Briggs hasn't failed me yet and I took a deep breath and went back to the book.

Ward defeats the king's machinations beautifully - with some needed help - and the story carries onto into more comfortable territory, featuring such mild things as rebellion, war and assasination! Ward remains a most appealing character in all things we see him do, from fighting for his sanity to fighting for his home and the regard of the woman he has chosen. I was sorry to leave him at the end and would be delighted if Briggs goes back to his world one day.

The minor characters were also a pleasure to read, especially Tisala and Oreg.

Tisala is a strong and capable woman who has had her faith in herself tested but refuses to let it beat her. Ward's understanding that she is a woman he must let stand beside him rather than behind him is exactly what she needs, even if she takes a while to face up to it, and their gentle romance is a pleasure to read.

Oreg was my other favourite character, and while I have a feeling he may have annoyed me at times in Dragon Bones, here I thoroughly enjoyed his presence in the story. He could still be arrogant and potentially annoying, but I guess when you're an ancient dragon who can also appear as a young man, a bit of arrogance is understandable. I loved Ward's frustration as Oreg kept letting people know about him, despite it being meant to be a big secret. This culminated in him appearing as a dragon in front of a hall full of Ward's leigemen in a beautifully written and most dramatic scene.

The climax of the story happens rather abruptly, which was appropriate but a little frustrating. Sure, the immediate problem has been solved, Ward has once again channeled the power of the dragons of Hurog and saved the day, but I would have liked to have seen the fallout of what happened there. There's a kingdom to put back together and a new world order to build and we don't know how that's going to happen.

I've just finished Briggs' latest novel, Iron Kissed, and while the story is completely different, I got the same feeling there - that while it was a dramatic place to stop, the rebuilding of the situation still had to happen and I wanted to see how that worked out. But I've also read others of her books and I don't remember feeling like that, so it isn't a regular occurance.

To stick with the dragons for a moment, as I did read this for a dragon challenge, the brief little scene where Ward rides into the hills for a moment of peace and sees a juvenile dragon in the wild, showing the dragons are rebuilding their own place in Hurog just as Ward is rebuilding the Keep, was a lovely moment.

I will most definitely be reading more of Briggs' fantasy backlist while I wait for her next new urban fantasy novel.

Dragon Bones
Patricia Briggs
Ward of Hurog, Book 2

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Alpine Garden Progress

I had pretty much decided to switch to beads in the place of the charted French knots in this. But then when I was stitching today I saw just how many there were for the "veronica" band and faced up to the fact that it really would look better done with French knots. So I chose to ignore the instructions that said use 1 strand of thread, threaded up my needle with two strands and tried again. Today must have been a good day as I've managed to do all the French knots for the whole design. There were a few cases where I had an extra knot or had to carefully untwist one that had gone wrong, but I'm really pleased with how it has turned out.

Since I was adding extra dimension, I also added the charm and the beads and it is looking really nice.

I got one more band stitched as well tonight. I now have just one to go and the design is finished. I can't quite believe I'm this close to being done on a second finish after completing nothing for so long.

Can't turn your back

Marcus told me he needed to go to the toilet, so I sent him off to do his thing. (He's at the point where he's toilet trained but still feels the need to tell us when he needs to go.)

After a while, I decided things had got a bit quiet, about the same time he called for me (which usually means helping him get the right foot through the right hole in his underwear).

Instead, he proudly showed me the door handle. Naked from the waist down, he'd taken the screwdriver from his tool box (which Daddy made up for him with real tools) and quietly removed one of the screws holding the door handle to the door. There was no sign of the screw.

"Where's the screw?" I asked.

"In there," he told me, pointing at the wall cupboard.

Sure enough, there beside the spare rolls of toilet paper was the screw.

Fortunately, with a bit of praise and encouragement he was happy and willing to replace the screw and tighten it up again.

You can't turn your back on this kid.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Changing my stitching schedule

My reaction to working on Defender of the Kingdom has shown me that I'm not going to manage two concentrated stitching weekends in a row. So I'm switching my Character Creations stitching from the 3rd weekend of the month to the 4th weekend. That gives me more recovery time in between when I can rest or work on my small projects.

Since there's only one or two other people doing CC stitching as part of this SAL and one of them likes the idea of moving to the 4th weekend, I'm still calling it a SAL, but really it's more a change to my own personal stitching schedule than anything else.

Here's hoping this will work better.

No new Garnet

I didn't stitch on Garnet yesterday. I would have liked to, but I was just too done in. As I said (very unromantically) to Dave, I felt like a 20 year old corpse, warmed up.

It seems very stupid to have been exhausted by doing cross stitch, but I do think that's what happened. I got carried away by how much I was enjoying stitching on Defender of the Kingdom and did too much.

Hopefully in a day or two I can pick up my needle again and I'll be back stitching on Garnet next week.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Progress on Defender of the Kingdom

I've just finished my first HAED BB SAL (how's that for a lot of acronyms all at once?). I spent the weekend working on Thomas Canty's Defender of the Kingdom. I had a lovely time stitching it and wish I could have done more, but my CFS raised its head and insisted I couldn't do as much as I wanted. All the same, I'm very pleased with my progress.

The SAL is "officially" the Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday of the second weekend of the month. In order to give myself time to finish Alpine Seasons on Friday, I decided to stitch on US time, which meant I actually used Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday in New Zealand time. This turned out to be better for me as it includes on day when Marcus is at daycare (when I sleep) and one day when he's home (and I have to be up so I stitch). So I'm going to stick with this in future.

Anyway, enough on my rambling and on to the pictures.



The Down Home Zombie Blues by Linnea Sinclair

The Down Home Zombie Blues by Linnea Sinclair
Bahia Vista homicide detective Theo Petrakos thought he’d seen it all. Then a mummified corpse and a room full of futuristic hardware sends Guardian Force commander Jorie Mikkalah into his life. Before the night’s through, he’s become her unofficial partner—and official prisoner—in a race to save the Earth. And that’s only the start of his troubles.

Jorie’s mission is to stop a deadly infestation of bio-mechanical organisms from using Earth as its breeding ground. If she succeeds, she could save a world and win a captaincy. But she’ll need Theo’s help, even if their unlikely partnership does threaten to set off an intergalactic incident.

Because if she fails, she’ll lose not just a planet and a promotion, but a man who’s become far more important than she cares to admit.

(Blurb from
I've always enjoyed Linnea Sinclair's books, some more than others, but she's never failed for me. She didn't this time either. I was a bit nervous when I first leaned of the title as it seemed rather out there, but it fits the story well and in fact refers to a particular recurring motif in the novel.

This book is a departure from Sinclair's previous books, which all take place primarily in space and in a universe that may or may not feature Earth. The Down Home Zombie Blues, in contrast, is set on Earth in the here and now. It's a change that I know made some readers nervous, but the setting worked beautifully for me. Sinclair switches POV between her main characters and whenever we find ourselves in Jorie's head we see Earth (and all it's attendant weirdness) only through her eyes and vocabulary. It's a perfect contrast to Theo's more laid-back and, of course, familiar style and helps to show the differences between the protagonists. As they each get to know the situation and the other better, their styles begin to merge a little - never the same but sharing more of the same vocabularly and viewpoint. It's a very neat and well done way to show both character and relationship development and Sinclair does it well.

I enjoyed the characters, both Jorie and Theo and the minor players, all of which felt like real and solid people to me. My favourite secondary characters were Theo's partner Zeke and his wife Suzanne. I did find the Earth-based characters easier to relate to than the Guardians, and I'm chosing to consider this intentional of Sinclair's part as I've never felt that kind of dichotomy before in her books.

I had the same reaction to Jorie and Theo, relating to Theo much more easily. Don't get me wrong - I liked Jorie who was a well-written and strong women, both being things I like in a book. I just liked Theo more. I felt he responded to everything that happened to him in a reasonable manner, especially when he found himself trapped on an alien spaceship orbiting the Earth and being told he could never go home again.

I did find the frequent Star Trek references a little frustrating, but a throwaway line later in the book suggested it was intentional. If a check was done into the background of some of the show's writers and/or plotters it seems we might discover an extraterrestial or two, at least in Sinclair's version of the universe.

I would also have liked to understand the villains a bit more - they had been at war with Jorie's people, they were perfect to look at and they're evil seemed to be the sum total of what we learned. That wasn't quite enough for me. I don't need great sections of text inside their heads or anything, but I felt there wasn't quite enough there to make them real to me. The zombies - which were great - were more real than the Tresh.

This was a very slow read for me. It took me eight days to read a book that I would usually except to take about four at the most. I don't know if that was me or the book - everything I've tried to read lately has been slow going - but a friend who also read it agreed with me.

All the same, I liked this book. I liked the characters and the setting and enjoyed reading it. If you like, or would like to try, romantic science fiction, give The Down Home Zombie Blues a read.

Book in the Mail (and a ramble)

Whoo-hoo! My copy of Catherine Asaro's new release, The Ruby Dice, arrived from Amazon today. I've been in a real reading slump lately and I'm not sure if I'm ready to read it yet - I want to be able to get the most possible from it - but it's great to have it here. It means I can read it whenever I want now, whether that's tomorrow or in a couple of months. (I expect reality will be somewhere between the two.)

Everything I've read lately has been really slow going and I haven't felt properly engaged by a book for a while. (Which is part of why I'll wait until I feel ready to read The Ruby Dice - this is a book I want to feel engaged by.) It's taken me (comparative) ages to read anything and it is all very annoying to a bookaholic like me.

I finished Alexandra Potter's Mr Darcy and Me today. I picked it up on Swap Club (the NZ equivalent to something like Paperback Swap but with a whole lot less people and therefore a whole lot less books) because it looked interesting and it seemed to be a good time to try reading something different. I liked the first half to two-thirds, but got annoyed by the narrator at about that point and skimmed to the end. I'm still hoping to keep up with reviews this month (with Mr Darcy and Me I only have two to do at present, so I'm hoping to get those done) so will save futher comments for later.

I've now gone back to Patricia Briggs' Dragon Blood, which I had paused with when the villain tried to drive the hero insane and steal his blood to activate an ancient artefact. I've got past that part now and the good guys are gathering support to stand against the bad guys, so I'm not so squicked and enjoying it again.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Presenting... Alpine Seasons Garden by Chatelaine

Started: 10th March, 2005
Finished: 11th January, 2008
Stitched on: 32-ct Summer Khaki Linen
Stitched with: Recommended variegated threads, recommended beads and DMC conversion for solid colours

How my son watches TV

Stitching Dream List

Largely for the fun of it, and inspired by people like Mel, I made up a "Dream List" of charts that make me drool. It was a lot of fun cruising different websites and finding things I'd like to stitch if I had an excess of money, time and energy (all of which are severely lacking in my life).

You can find it here in my Flickr albums. I have also added a link in the sidebar.

Today I'm happily stitching away on Defender of the Kingdom as part of the HAED BB Stitch-a-long. I think I'll pretty much be stitching black and nothing else for the entire time as I fill in some background but it is very satisfying to see the fabric getting eaten up by the stitches.

Look out for a new Alpine Seasons photo soon. Dave has taken some pictures for me and as long as there's a good one, I'll try to post it tonight.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Two Wednesdays on Garnet

I didn't get last Wednesday's picture of Garnet up, so here it is a week late.

Today's stitching was more of a token effort. I stitch Garnet on Wednesdays, so I wanted to have stitched something, but I'm not up to very much. As I had expected, but holiday season has caught up with me and I'm pretty much flattened. I spent today - from when Dave and Marcus left at about 8am to when they got back just before 6pm - in bed. I would have been asleep for a minimum of half that time and in a dozing, not up to doing anything constructive, state for the rest of it. Certainly not a suitable condition for stitching. So I did a little (3 lengths of floss) after dinner and now I'm posting this and heading back to bed. Maybe by next Wednesday I'll be in better shape and able to do a bit more.

So here's Garnet after 6 days of stitching.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Granny Chart

Marcus missed his Granny Pam lots, so we made up a "Granny Chart" on which he could mark off the days until we went to Palmerston North to stay with Granny and Grandad. Marcus loved the idea and it was a good way to tick off the days until it was time to travel.

Paper and tree from "Soiree" by Tracy Ann Robinson
Star, glitter stain and heart from "Chole's Treasures" by Paint the Moon Designs
Ribbon from "Happy Island" by Jofia Designs
Frame from "Summer Afternoon" by Bren Boone
Journalling brush from "Grey Afternoon" by Deb Fisher
Paint from "Brush Strokes" by Kim Hill
Font is FG Jennifer

Car Wash

My father didn’t tell me how to live; he lived and let me watch him do it.
- Clarence B. Kelland

When Marcus saw Daddy washing the car, he hurried out to help. However, he soon decided that it would be more fun to wash his police car instead. He did everything that Daddy did, washing it carefully with a soapy brush (paying special attention to the wheels of course) and hosing it down when it was finished. But he couldn’t wait to sit in it once it was clean, meaning he ended up with a wet bottom as well as a clean car.
20 Sep‘07

Papers and swirl from "Snug" by Tracy Ann Robinson
Journalling paper from "Shabby Bits" by Tracy Ann Robinson
Alpha is "Gralpha 1" by Birgit
Flower from "Fudge Dream Supreme" by Robin Carlton and Lauren Grier
Photo Cluster from "Bent Bunch #11" by Penny's Miscellany
Fonts are FG Virgil and Kunstler Script

Sunday, January 06, 2008

The Well of Lost Plots - Jasper Fforde

The Well of Lost Plots by Jasper Fforde
Leaving Swindon behind her, to hide out in The Well of Lost Plots - the place where all fiction is created - Thursday Next, Literary Detective and soon-to-be one parent family, ponders her next move from inside an unpublished novel of dubious merit entitled Caversham Heights. Her husband, Landen, exists only in her memories and with Goliath and the Chronoguard on her tail in the real world, the safest place for her to be is inside the covers of a book.

But changes are afoot within the world of fiction. The much-awaited upgrade to the centuries-old book system - in which grammasites will be exterminated, punctuation standardised and the number of possible plots increased from eight to an astonishing thirty-two - is only weeks away. But if this is the beginning of a golden age in fictional narrative, then why are Jurisfiction agents mysteriously dying? Perkins is eaten by the minotaur, Snell succumbs to the Mispeling Vyrus and Godot is missing.

As the date of the upgrade looms closer and the bookworld prepares for the 923rd Annual Fiction Awards, Thursday must unmask the villain responsible for the murders, establish just what exactly the upgrade entails - and do battle with an old enemy intent on playing havoc with her memories.
Once again, Fforde has provided a totally insane and totally fun adventure. I hadn't read this one before, although it was on my bookshelf, so I'm not sure why I hadn't read it. I wish I had done so sooner - although since I didn't I got to enjoy it now. I listened to most of this as an audiobook (which makes footnotes interesting), but after I got the book out to check one chapter that I'd found a little confusing to listen to, I found myself alternating between both media. Today, I just wanted to get to the end, picked up the book and finished it.

Thursday remains a brilliant character and well-written narrator and she tells the story of her adventures in the Book World with great aplomb. I'm not the sort to laugh out loud (or not much anyway) but I certainly found myself giggling upon occasion.

Fforde's Book World is a well crafted place, complete with its own rules, regulations and police force. The Well of Lost Plots is a particularly clever creation, full of books in progress and a whole infrastructure to support this. I'm sure any would-be writer can relate to the character's fears for their future if their book fails to find a publisher and be fascinated by the development of a generic chracter (all of which attend a school called St. Tabula-Rasa's). The way all the book characters have full and complicated lives outside the times their books are being read and the way various characters, especially those from out of print books, turn up in other people's books is a delight. The Well of Lost Plots is full of puns, literary illusions (many of which I'm sure I missed since I was never an English major) and a very wicked sort of humour. If you like those sorts of things, you'll love this book. If you don't, you'll hate it.

I suspect part of the reason I didn't originally read this is that I was afraid my lack of reading in the classics would make me miss too much. I haven't found that to be a problem and I was surprised that I "got" more than I would have expected to. It's not all about "literature" either - there was a great scene in a rough bar down in one of the Well's sublevels that was a direct rip-off of the cantina scene in Star Wars, right down to the ratty human speaking in an unfamiliar dialect (in this case, courier bold). I also loved Thursday's near-fatal trip into an Enid Blyton novel, that proves things aren't all sunshine and smiles in even the most apparently innocuous book.

I'll be moving right on to Thursday's next adventure, Something Rotten, and hoping the fact none of my school English teachers ever chose to have the class study Hamlet won't hinder my enjoyment. Eventually, I'll also be reading Fforde's Nursery Crime series (after I finish this series of course), which was set up as a sub-plot in this book.

The Well of Lost Plots
Thursday Next, Book 3

My first ever reading challenge

I really shouldn't be doing this, but it's dragons so I'm going to let myself be tempted.

I read (or at least skim) at lot of book blogs these days and I am in awe of all these people who join all these reading challenges. I love the idea, but I am careful to avoid them, as I struggle to keep up with the books I want to read/buy that are just of interest to me, without trying to add in challenges as well.

But over at Stray Talk, there's a challenge to read dragon books. I don't read as many dragon books as I used to do, but the temptation is too great not to try to join in. However, I am going to put a restraint on myself - the books still have to come from either my TBR list or want to reread list. Otherwise I'll put my stress levels back up and my whole goal for 2008 is to work with realistic expectations so as to stay as calm and unstressed as possible.

So here's a list of dragon books. The challenge is to read 3 - 5 of them between 1st Jan 2008 and 30th June 2008, which I think I should be able to manage.
  1. Dragon Blood - Patricia Briggs (been on the TBR for ages)
  2. Empire of Ivory - Naomi Novik (next Temeraire book, on the TBR)
  3. Cast in Courtlight - Michelle Sagara (I'm assuming Tiamaris is in this one too, on the TBR)
  4. Tea with the Black Dragon - R. A. MacAvoy (on the want to reread list)
  5. Brother to Dragons, Companion to Owls - Jane Lindskold (on the want to reread list)
  6. The Copper Crown - Patricia Kennealy-Morrison (so it's a dragon-styled spaceship but that's got to be close, on the want to reread list)

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Spit Happens

Auntie Andie stitched this bib especially for Marcus, knowing he had a mother who liked dragons and that all babies need a cool bib to catch their spits and spills. It’s really only a tiny thing, but Marcus was so tiny himself to begin with, that it covered him from his chin almost all the way down to his legs. It was a lovely gift and has been saved in my box of baby treasures for me to look back at one day & remember how important friendship is, whether we are close or many miles apart.

Background, frame and purple flower from "Chloe's Treasures" by Paint the Moon Designs
Green flower from "Funky Blooms Brights" by Paint the Mood Designs
Butterflies from "Ephermerals II" by Jofia Designs
Button from "Variations Elements" by Natali Designs
Stitching from "Twine" by Natali Designs
Font is KGD Kerry Print

Friday, January 04, 2008

My December reading

December was a very low key reading month for me, with some rereads and several DNFs.
  1. Devil's Bride - Stephanie Laurens
    Historical Romance; 1st in the Cynster series; reread; 7/10
    This was a reread for while Marcus was in the bath as I was also reading hardcovers at the time and didn't want them getting wet. (He gets some play time in the bath before washing and I usually read a chaper or two.) I wasn't as bowled over at the first time, but I did still enjoy it.
  2. Endless Blue - Wen Spencer
    SF; 9/10
    For all most of it isn't set in space, this is very much a space-opera-y kind of book from a favourite author. As usual, Spencer drops you straight into the action and leaves you wondering what the heck the world is like and what is going on. As these things began to straighten themselves out I found myself really enjoying the story. By the time I got to the end, my reaction was to yell, "So, what happens next?" While the story is finished, I want to know how it will impact on the future. Not as detailed as some of her other books, but still a thoroughly enjoyable read.
  3. The Eyre Affair - Jasper Fforde
    Fiction; 1st Thursday Next book; audiobook; reread; 8/10
    I read these a number of years ago and decided to start listening to the audibook. I thoroughly enjoyed it all over again. These books are totally uncategorisable, set in an alternate 1985 where literature holds the same place as popular tv/media cultrue in ours, dods and neanderthals have been brought back from extinction and, if you really know what your doing, you can jump right into books. They are full of literary illusions, but as someone who know more about a number of classic books than has actually read them, I still easily followed the main plot and don't think I missed too many of the slyer illusions. All the same, having read Jane Eyre is a plus. I had so much fun listening to this I went straight on to book 2.
  4. Fool's Puzzle - Earlene Fowler
    Cozy mystery; 1st Benni Harper book; DNF
    I just couldn't really get into this and when my choices where this or rereading an Asaro book, there wasn't much competition.
  5. Untouched - Anna Campbell
    Historical Romance; DNF
    I don't know if this was a case of when I was reading it or what, but after finding the start okay, I found I just didn't care about reading on further. It's not a bad book - and a good number of people seem to think it a good one - but it didn't work for me.
  6. The Name of the Wind - Patrick Rothfuss
    Fantasy; 1st book in the Kingkiller Chronicle; DNF
    Now, what I read of this, I really did like. It's had a lot of buzz around blogs and I wanted to read it. I still do. But it's a big fat hardcover I had out from the library, Christmas was coming and I was reading it (and anything else I read) very slowly. I was feeling stressed instead of settling back to enjoy, so I decided to stop reading and relax. I've ordered the paperback and I'll be reading that with my book group come April. Hopefully that will be the answer.
  7. Ascendant Sun - Catherine Asaro
    SF; 4th Skolia book; reread; 10/10
    This was another thoroughly enjoyable reread in preparation for the new book in the series which is currently on its way to me from Amazon. I loved it all over again and loved reading more about Kelric. Soz remains my favourite character in the series, but Kelric is right up there. I can't wait to read the new one.
  8. Lost in a Good Book - Jasper Fforde
    Fiction; 2nd Thursday Next book; audiobook; reread; 9/10
    Most brilliant craziness ensues as Thursday learns more about book jumping, gets blackmailed by the Goliath Corporation; has her husband erradicated from time, solves the mystery of a lost Shakespeare play and gets apprenticed to Miss Havisham from Great Expectations (who drives like a maniac and is a dab hand with a pistol). I loved listening to this one even more than The Eyre Affair and I've moved right on to The Well of Lost Plots, which I haven't read before.
  9. Emerald Eyes - Daniel Keys Moran
    SF; 1st book in Continuing Time series; reread; 8/10
    A friend loaned me this many, many years ago and I've had a hankering to reread it (and the following volumes) but it and the others are out of print and very hard to find. I recently discovered that Moran has made a number of his books, including this one, available as editions on his blog. I downloaded them immediately and enjoyed my reread of what is actually quite a bleak book about the genetic engineering of a line of telepaths and what happens to them.
December Reading:
Books read this month: 6
DNFs this month: 3
10/10 reads this month: 1
New reads this month: 1
Rereads this month: 5

Cumulative (and final) totals for 2007:
Books read in 2007 = 127
DNFs 2007 = 16
10/10 reads in 2007 = 17
New reads in 2007 = 107
Rereads in 2007 = 20

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Stitching update

I did one more day's stitching on Garnet while on holiday, but only got the photo off the camera today. Since tomorrow is Wednesday and I'll be working on Garnet again, I thought I should post the current picture first.

Here's Garnet after 4 days of stitching (photo taken 26 Dec, 2007):

After taking a break between Christmas and New Year (aka needing a rest because I stitched too much), I got back to stitching yesterday with Alpine Seasons. I've now finished the section of borders down the middle of the sides.

I estimate I've now done about 2/3 of the outer borders (that's parts 11 and 12) and I hope to get the rest - and therefore the design - finished before too much more time goes past. As always, how it works out will depend on my health and how many other things I have to do.