Monday, June 30, 2008

Quick stitching post

Since I'm on a posting spree, I'll add a quick stitching post.

I have loved my week working on Dawn Star and since I've almost finished the current page I'm working on, I'm going to keep going on that until I'm done.

I know it cuts into my Sampler del Lago Maggiore time, but I'll have another week for that later in the month and I really do want to finish this page.

Pictures once I get the page done.

Here Be Dragons challenge

The Here Be Dragons challenge ends today. Our mission was to read 3 to 5 dragon books between 1st January 2008 and 30th June 2008. I managed to read five. I have reveiws of the first two, but the other three got caught in my extended "CFS brain fuzz" of 2008, so I'm going to pop a short paragraph about each into my list here.
  1. Dragon Blood - Patricia Briggs Finished 15-Jan-08: Review here

  2. Dragonhaven - Robin McKinley Finished 12-Feb-08: Review here

  3. Rhapsody - Elizabeth Haydon Finished 6-Mar-08
    This was a great start to an excellent fantasy series and I have started the second book, but not got far yet. As far as dragons go, they don't appear in the flesh in this book (I belive that happens in the one I'm reading now) but they are a firm and established part of the world's mythology and are fundamental to the founding of at least one major civilisation. So I feel this still qualifies for the challenge despite the physical lack of dragons. This promises to be an excellent series and I'm really glad it was suggested to me to read.

  4. Here, There Be Dragons - James A. Owen Finished 11-Apr-08
    This was published as a YA book and I think the writing is aimed at that audience, but it was still a very pleasant read. The dragons here are rainbow coloured ships that can carry people between our world and the Archipelago of Dreams where mythological and fictional creatures live and the fate of which will determine that of our own (and vice versa). The main protagonists find themselves caretakers of a precious book of maps and on one of these dragons ships headed into adventure. Other dragonships appear as the book pregresses and battle is waged against evil. This is a pleasant series, although I do think it is probably better suited to teens than adults. I may continue to read the books, but haven't decided yet.

  5. The Changeling Sea - Patricia A. McKillip Finished 15-Jun-08: Comment here
    This book contains one of the most wonderful dragons. A sea dragon, it appears out of the sea chained by a golden chain. When the folks of the nearby fishing village find a magician to set it free, young Peri finds herself caught up in the fate of dragons, princes and kings. It is a beautiful book, beautifully and lyrically written and I highly recommend it to anyone. Don't let its YA designation put you off as it is a delight for anyone and a wonderful introduction to McKillip's beautiful writing.
This was a fun challenge and I'm very glad I joined in with it.

My June Reading

Since I haven't been managing to write any reviews, I thought I'd try to post a few comments on each book I read here, so this post may get long as I actually had a good reading month this time. I did have to move to "easier" books than the ones I've been trying to read lately due to my health, but I guess that's life and there's not a lot I can do about it but go with the flow.

(The order of these may be a bit off as my Library Thing glitched up and lost the finish dates for a number of books, leaving me totally confused. It really only matters to me, since I like having a correct record, but I thought I'd point it out.)

June reading:
Books read this month = 14
DNFs this month = 3
10/10 reads this month = 2
New reads this month = 10
Rereads this month = 4

  1. Demon Moon - Meljean Brook
    Guardians, Book 4; Paranormal Romance; 9/10
    I read Brook's first Guardians books a while back and while I really liked them while reading them, afterwards I found myself ambivalent about continuing the series. This book got very good reviews around the blogsphere and so did the next one, Demon Night, so I bought a copy of this one and put it on the TBR. I'm very glad I did as this is a wonderful book. I found Brook's world-building easier to follow this time and while I remembered next to nothing about the previous book, she dropped enough hints for me to pick up all the important points that were needed for this one. She still tended to leave some things kind of obscure, I suppose assuming the reader could figure it out. Some of the time I could, but other times I couldn't. The characters were all wonderful - it was lovely to see Hugh, Lillith and Sir Pup again. I loved the heroine, Savi and just adored the hero, Colin, despite (or perhaps because of) his many faults. Brook left me worrying right till the end that they wouldn't get their happy ending - quite a feat in for a book written in a genre where a HEA is pretty much guaranteed. A great book and the next one is now on the TBR.

  2. One Foot in the Grave - Jeaniene Frost
    Night Huntress, Book 2; Urban Fantasy; 8/10
    This was a fun read. Set four years after Halfway to the Grave, Cat is now on her own running a government team taking out vampires, but she soon finds herself reunited with Bones and has to reassess what she wants her relationship with him to be. She's a bit more grown up here, which made for an easier story (less whining) and Bones was still a great character. All the same, Cat still made some stupid choices and she deserves to be where she is at the end of the book (not a bad place to be, but one she didn't have time to think about whether or not she really wanted). I enjoyed it and plan to keep reading the series.

  3. The Mislaid Magician or Ten Years After - Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevemer
    Kate and Cecy, Book 3; YA Fantasty; 7/10
    Another light, fun read. I still think the first of these "books in letters", The Enchanted Chocolate Pot, was the best, but this was very enjoyable. What I found most interesting was the characters' reactions to the advent of the steam train. Trains being something that are so part of the landscape (especially if you have a four year old son and constantly need to call out, "Look Marcus, a train!") I found the reaction of them as a fad that wasn't going to catch on to be amusing. While not the strongest of stories, it was a lovely read and it was nice to see Kate and Cecy coping with being parents.

  4. Grave Secrets - Kathy Reichs
    Temperence Brennan, Book 5; Crime; 7/10
    Strange as it more sound for books about forensic anthropology, Kathy Reichs is my palate-cleanser author. I read her when I need to break from everything else, enjoy the books and can usually read them in a day or two. So I always have the next one on hand ready for when I might want it. This was a bit of a change as it did indeed deal with historial forensic anthropology as well as a modern crime, and the Guatemalan setting was a change from Canada and the US. I particularly like - and I hope this doesn't count as a spoiler - that for a change from many authors, Reichs didn't tie up all her different strands into one single solution, pretty bow included. Instead it was messier, more like real life. I continue to enjoy the series and will read the next one when I again want a break from other books.

  5. Magic Bites - Ilona Andrews
    Kate Daniels, Book 1; Urban Fantasy; DNF
    I'd heard good things about this book, and better ones about its sequel, but I'm one of those people who has to read a series in order, so I started with this one. I got about a third of the way through and admitted to myself that I simply didn't care about the world or the characters so I might as well stop wasting my time. A disappointment as it sounded like it had a lot of good ideas and I would have liked to like it.

  6. The Naming - Alison Croggon
    Pellinor, Book 1; YA Fantasy; DNF
    This was a good, solid YA fantasy. I liked the main character and the mentor she quickly picked up and, looking back, I realise that I would definitely like to pick it up again and finish it. The main reason I stopped was that I took a break when my mind was particularly fuzzy and because I needed to start Spirit Gate for a reading group. When I went back to pick it up again I once more couldn't face a big fat book and went for shorter, easier ones instead. I will go back to this one as I liked what I read a lot and would like to know how the story continues.

  7. Spirit Gate - Kate Elliott
    Crossroads, Book 1; Fantasy; DNF
    I like Kate Elliott (love Jaran most of all) and was pleased to try this new series. I liked what I read - this certainly isn't a bad book and don't let my DNF put you off - it's just that I was finding it hard going (because of my faulty CFS brain struggling with all the detail rather than any problems with the book) and I looked at it, realised that if I finished it I would want to read the next one and I was therefore setting myself up to read seven big fat books and I just couldn't cope with the idea. So I stopped. I'm sorry, as under other circumstances I'm pretty sure I would have liked it. I had the same problem with her Crown of Stars series, where I liked the premise and the writing but couldn't face seven big fat books.

  8. Moonstruck - Susan Grant
    Borderlands, Book 1; SF Romance; 7/10
    I like Susan Grant. Again, fun reads in a realistic but not overly complicated setting. This is the first in a new series that follows on from her last trilogy of books about the Jasper family. Those finished with an internal coup and peace after decades of war. Now the opposing sides have to learn to live together. In particular, Brit Bandar, starship commander and her second in command Finn Rokken. Both have past issues to get past as well as the fact they used to be on opposite sides. I liked Finn best as a character as he struggled to find a balance between fitting in and staying an individual (both for himself and for his crew) as well as loving Brit. I found Brit's attitudes and history a little over the top and so liked Finn's progression to love more than hers, but she was still a nice, strong character. Nice book. Keep up the good work, Susan.

  9. Paradise - Meljean Brook
    Guardians short story (in Wild Thing anthology); Paranormal Romance; 7/10
    I read Meljean Brook's Demon Moon ealier in the month and decided I should go back and read this story of Selah and Lucas, since they appeared or were mentioned in Demon Moon. It was a good little story, although nothing amazing. It's worth reading if you're reading the series, but if you're wanting to try Brook out, don't pick this one. Go with Demon Angel or Demon Moon.

  10. Nightkeepers - Jessica Andersen
    The Final Prophecy, Book 1; Paranormal Romance; 9/10
    I thought this looked really interesting when I first heard about it. Sure, it was the start of another series about warrior brothers fighting evil, but it was based of Mayan mythology for a change and the end of the world had a fixed date, four years from now. I read Andersen's excerpt on her website and decided to give it a try. I'm glad I did and I enjoyed the book a lot. Again, it's a "go along for a fun ride" book more than anything else, but there's nothing wrong with that. While it is marketed as a romance and does indeed feature a main couple, this book is really more about the overall story and setting up the book's universe than a close study of a couple's relationship. Strike and Leah's romance is well-written and I enjoyed it, but it is part of the book's story, not all of it. It's very well integrated, but you need to want to read about the Nightkeepers as a whole rather than just a single couple or you'll probably be disappointed. I'm planning on reading the next in the series when it comes out.

  11. The Changeling Sea - Patricia A. McKillip
    YA Fantasy; reread; 10/10
    When I realised I couldn't manage to read some of the more detailed books I had on the TBR at this time, I went down to the library room and pulled out some old favourites that I'd like to reread. The Changeling Sea has always been my favourite Patricia McKillip novel but I hadn't reread it in years. I was a little concerned it might not stand up to a reread, but it it absolutely did. This is just a gorgeous story about love and loss, told in beautiful, lyrical language that is a delight to read. I still think this is McKillip at her best and highly recommend it to anyone. And if you like dragons (and princes), you'll just love this one. It's beautiful and soulful and wonderful. (This book was my last read for the Here Be Dragons challenge that finished today and it was a great way to finish it.)

  12. Wicked Lovely - Melissa Marr
    YA Fantasy; 7/10
    This came highly recommended by a friend and I'd heard a lot of good things about it. I really liked the fae world Marr created and she developed a wonderful heroine in Aislinn who can see faeries but doesn't dare let them know it. When she finds herself courted by the Summer King she is horrified and caught in events she can't escape. I liked the books and I liked the setup and the characters, but I thought it was let down by the ending, which is the reason for the lower grade. I think the ending Marr chose was perfect for the story but the telling of it just kind of fell flat after the power of the buildup. I wouldn't want to change what happened, I just felt it could have been described better and with more emotion. Still a good book and I'm still interested in reading more Marr.

  13. The Vor Game - Lois McMaster Bujold
    Vorkosigan, Book 4; SF; audiobook; reread; 9/10
    I love Bujold and I love this series. I started listening to the audiobook of The Vor Game and loved it all over again. Then I hit a stage where I couldn't concentrate on much of anything (a theme you've probably already seen in these comments) and started listening to shorter podcasts instead of the book. It had been languishing for a while when I added it to my books to finish list for the Wind-Up Book Chronicle challenge. That encouraged me to go back to it and I thoroughly enjoyed finishing it up. It was geat to go along on another crazy adventure with Miles and I like the look we get at Gregor in this book, where he becomes much more of a person to the reader and not just a cut-out emperor. I'm now tempted to move on to Cetaganda but I'm going to listen to a couple of other things first. I can't recommend Bujold's work highly enough and encourage anyone who hasn't discovered Miles Vorkosigan to give his first book, The Warrior's Apprentice, a try.

  14. Dead Until Dark - Charlaine Harris
    Southern Vampire, Book 1; Fantasy; reread; 7/10
    I'd read this book before and wasn't inspired enough to continue on with the series. Then I listened to a recording of Charlaine Harris at a reading/signing and found myself interested in trying again. However, since I remembered next to nothing about this first book (usual for me) I decided to reread this one, then decide if I wanted to continue with the series. My response was still lukewarm, but I liked it enough to want to continue. These books make good book for reading while I sit with Marcus as he has his bath (he gets to play for a while before getting washed) and know I'm likely to be interrupted. I prefer to have a less "favourite" book for that, especially as it's likely to get splashed with a bit of water.

  15. Majipoor Chronicles - Robert Silverberg
    Majipoor, Book 2; SF; 7/10
    I read Silverberg's first Majipoor book, Lord Valentine's Castle, many years ago and really liked it, but I never got into this book of short stories. I reread Lord Valentine's Castle again last year and bought myself this book to have another go. It turned out to take me a long time to read my way through - I'm really not a short story reader - but I actually really enjoyed my trip through the past of Majipoor. It's not a totally amazing book, but explains and expands on a lot of things mentioned briefly in the first book. I'm now planning to go on and read the third in the trilogy, although I don't know when that wil be.

  16. Elizabeth's Wolf - Lora Leigh
    Breeds, Book 3; Paranormal Romance; reread; 8/10
    I started rereading Leigh's Breed books because I was planning to go on with the series, but wanted to reread these earlier ones first. So far, this remains my favourite of the ones I've read and I enjoyed visiting with Dash, Elizabeth and Cassie again. I'm still deciding if I'm going to keep rereading or jump to the volume I'm up to in the series.

  17. The Ruby Dice - Catherine Asaro
    Skolian Empire, Book 12; SF; 10/10
    I love Catherine Asaro's books and I love this series. I've had it since it was published in January but I kept putting it off and putting it off and I couldn't figure out why. I finally decided it was a combination of factors: I was afraid it wouldn't live up to my expectations (it did), I wanted to read it when my brain was at its best so I could take in all the details (in the end, I read it anyway as the brain hasn't cooperated on that front), I didn't want to read about bad things happening to the characters, especially Jaibriol who is in an unenviable position (none of it was totally awful, but not roses and rainbows either) and I wanted the chance to savour it without being interrupted (I managed that my taking longer to read it and reading when I was alone in the house). So while it wasn't necessarily an easy read, I loved this addition to the Skolian series. A major milestone was reached in Skolian/Trader relations and Jaibriol finally got to share some of his secrets, even if it did leave him understanding exactly how alone he is (poor, poor Jai). We got to see many favourite characters again and it was a wonderful visit to a wonderful world. It leaves me with many, many more questions than answers, and I hope Asaro will continue to tell tales of this point in her timeline (although the next book goes back ten years to tell the story of another character and I'm looking forward to that just as much). So I loved, loved this book and probably would have done if I'd read in in January too, but I had to wait until I felt ready to take it on. I guess it means I won't have to wait as long as some people for the next one, which doesn't come out until May 2009. This is totally not the place to start this series, but I do recommend giving it a try as it's a wonderful canvas Asaro has created and great stories. I'm planning on rereading the entire series, including short stories, in chronological order now I'm up-to-date. If you do want to try the books I suggest Primary Inversion (first published) or Skyfall (first chronologically) as a place to begin.
Well, I managed that better than I suspected. I guess the idea is not to be put off my the daunting idea of "real" reviews and just post a paragraph or so of comments as I finish each book I read. I'll give it a try, anyway.

Friday, June 27, 2008


Check out Marcus' latest.


And imagine me saying something stronger.

Bone Crossed, Patricia Briggs' new Mercy Thompson book, is going to be coming out it hardcover. I hate it when series switch from paperback to hardcover mid-series.

But that said, I can't decide if it is worse when it's a series I'm grown ambivalent about (say, J. R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood) which means I may use the change to hardcover as a reason to stop buying the books as they come out and use the library, or a series I love (like Mercy) where I know I'm going to want my own copy as soon as possible which means I'll probably have to find the cash to spring for the hardcover.

Yay for Briggs, but sigh for me.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Stitching Update

Since I'm working on my new rotation, that means I'm now stitching Dawn Star. I took a photo of my progress on Sampler del Lago Maggiore on Sunday before I switched over, but it's taken me until now to get the picture of the camera. I'm really pleased with how this is coming along. I think it's going to be really pretty.

Marcus has been living with my sitching since he was in the womb, so the other day I asked him if he'd like to try it. Knowing his attention span (very short) and his age, I didn't really expect him to take to it as a life-time hobby, but I thought he might like to try what Mummy does all the time.

So on Saturday we headed out to the LNS and bought some 6-ct Aida (boy, that stuff is big!) and some large-eye needles and over the weekend I showed Marcus how to cross stitch. He tends to be enthused for the length of time it takes to do one stitch and then he puts it away for later, but he is delighted by "his stitching".

Sunday, June 22, 2008

New Stitching Rotation

I've been feeling the lure of my BAPs in the last few days. I can hear them, calling softly (but progressively more loudly) in the background.

So I decided "what the heck" and I've changed my rotation to include my two main BAPs in it.
I don't have a good record with rotations - I just use one for as long as it suits me and then change it, so I have no qualms about making the change.

1st week of the month: Focus project
2nd week: Defender of the Kingdom (HAED)
3rd week: Focus project
4th week: Dawn Star (CC)
Rest of the month: Focus project

Hopefully this will let me get in a bit on both my smaller and bigger projects.

I've taken a photo of where I'm up to on Lago Maggiore (update with pic after I've got it off the camera later today), then packed it awayand taken out Dawn Star. It feels so nice to be stitching on it again. As much as I'm enjoying all these variegated threads, it's nice to pull out a length of plain old DMC for a change.

As always, everything is subject to changes in health or whim, but I'm hoping I'll be able to stick at this one for a while and make some progress on all three projects.

And for anyone not up with stitching acronyms; BAP - Big Ass Project. ie. something that is going to take ages to complete. In the cases of these two, we're definitely talking years.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Ooooooh, pretty!

Anne Bishop has just posted the cover for her upcoming Black Jewels novel, The Shadow Queen, on her website. (You can see it and read the blurb here.)

Ooooh, but it's pretty. And the book sounds really good too. I don't want to have to wait until next March for it. Of course, that's totally irrelevant, since that's when it's going to be published.

These are fantastic books and if you haven't read them yet, what are you waiting for. Go out and find a copy of Daughter of the Blood and start reading. You won't regret it.

Monday, June 09, 2008

WG7: Photo Post

Here's our mission for Weekly Geeks #7:

Whew! Catch Up On Reviews Week was hard work, wasn’t it? It was for me, anyway. So how about something easy this week? Let’s have Photos Week.

1. Decide what to illustrate and start taking photos: Most of you are book bloggers, so you may want to post photos of your favorite reading spot, your TBR pile(s), your local book store, your favorite librarian, your child reading, etc. You may want to post several photos of a certain topic (like all nine of your kids reading!) or a mixed bag of photos that are unrelated except that they’re bookish. Or you may want to post just one photo, it’s up to you. If you have a different type of blog, post photos of whatever you think is suitable.

2. Create a post of your photos.

3. Don’t forget! Also link in your post to another participant’s WG photo post. Weekly Geeks is a community thing, remember! If you’re one of the first finished, of course, you may have to add your link later. See if you can find someone you don’t normally read to link to.

I decided not to do book pictures - although book pictures are always good. Instead, here are some pictures of my stitching corner and my latest stitching project. I've only just started this one. It's called Sampler del Lago Maggiore and I'm stitching it for my parents. They went on holiday to Europe last year and spent a week at Lake Maggiore, so when I saw it I knew I wanted to stitch it for them. (Happily my mother agreed with me and she's the one for paid for all the pretty variegated threads it is stitched with.)

I'm going to link to Maree who has a post featuring cats, quilts and books, all of which are my kinds of things. She's also another Kiwi.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

WG6: Reviews Catch Up

Okay, so my attempt at Weekly Geeks 6 was a very, very minor success but a bit of a disappointment all the same.

I managed to review two of my backlog of books at that was all.

I had hoped to do more, but just didn't feel up to it. I have been so very totally exhausted lately and nothing I do (such as sleeping all the time) is doing anything to improve it. I was put on a higher dose of blood pressure pills a few weeks back and I'm wondering if this is actually a side-effect of that. I'll contact the doctor this week about it as this is getting ridiculous.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

The Sharing Knife: Passage - Lois McMaster Bujold

Young Fawn Bluefield and soldier-sorcerer Dag Redwing Hickory have survived magical dangers and found, in each other, love and loyalty. But even their strength and passion cannot overcome the bigotry of their own kin, and so, leaving behind all they have known, the couple sets off to find fresh solutions to the perilous split between their peoples.

But they will not journey alone. Along the way they acquire comrades, starting with Fawn's irrepressible brother Whit, whose future on the Bluefield family farm seems as hopeless as Fawn's once did. Planning to seek passage on a riverboat heading to the sea, Dag and Fawn find themselves allied with a young flatboat captain searching for her father and fiance, who mysteriously vanished on the river nearly a year earlier. They travel downstream, hoping to find word of the missing men, and inadvertently pick up more followers: a pair of novice Lakewalker patrollers running away from an honest mistake with catastrophic consequences; a shrewd backwoods hunter stranded in a wreck of boats and hopes; and a farmer boy Dag unintentionally beguiles, leaving Dag with more questions than answers about his growing magery.

As the ill-assorted crew is tested and tempered on its journey to where great rivers join, Fawn and Dag will discover surprising new abilities both Lakewalker and farmer, a growing understanding of the bonds between themselves and their kinfolk, and a new world of hazards both human and uncanny.

Blurb from

I was disappointed with Lois McMaster Bujold's previous book in this series, The Sharing Knife: Legacy. While an okay read, it didn't come anywhere near what I know Bujold is capable of producing and, as much as it felt like blasphemy to say it, I found significant portions of it just plain boring. (My review is here.) Because of that I had decided to get this new book from the library rather than buy a hardcover. Then it came out and got good reviews on blogs I trust - and I remembered how much it annoys me to have Paladin of Souls in paperback tucked in among all my other Bujold hardcovers. So I weakened and bought it.

I'm very glad I did. Bujold is back to form here and tells a lovely tale of a new marriage and how the partners in it complement each other as they find their way in the world. Of course, this is Dag and Fawn, so a bevy of extra complications ensue, from fitting in (or not) with Lakewalkers and farmers to defeating an evil that, this time, isn't a malice. Dag is also trying to figure out for himself how to be both a healer and a maker without any guidance or instruction.

Again it is the Lakewalkers, in their arrogant superiority, who come off worst here as people in new camps again refuse to believe in Dag's marriage to Fawn or to be willing to help them. The farmers they meet are more accomodating and even begin to gain some understanding of Lakewalker practices as Dag begins letting a lot of secret cats out of bags. But his haphazard methods seem to work and as the two young Lakewalkers with the group also begin to learn new ways the book shows that you can't change a society (or in this case, two) all at once but you can change people one at a time.

Bujold has said that, for the first two books in the series at least, she was trying to tell a story that was an equal balance of romance and fantasy. I've seen other authors try to do the same and I have to say that I am beginning to suspect that this simply isn't possible. Nothing is going to balance perfectly and when you try to bring in people who read in two different genres, aspects of the story are likely to annoy one of them - or possibly both of them. Even for someone like me - I enjoy both genres - I find that all the "mixed" books I've read still fall more to one side of the divide or the other. You still get a romance with strong fantasy elements or you get a fantasy with strong romantic elements. Trying for an equal balance really doesn't seem to work. Going for a 60-40 mix rather than a 50-50 seems to me to produce a better book.

Of course that's just my opinion and possibly not even relevant to this book - which is definitely a fantasy with romantic elements and an exploration of a new marriage and partnership. But reading this book got me thinking about the topic and that's my conclusion.

Dag's growing abilities with his groundsense are an important part of this book and he's discovering that there is a lot of information certain members of the Lakewalker community must have that the general population knows nothing about. He's making it all up as he goes along and while he's finding solutions, he's aware they may not be the most efficent or elegant ones. Of course, the questions he's asking may not have been asked before either, so whether or not a willing Lakewalker mentor could even help him is unknown. Of course, he doesn't have one of those, so the point is moot. But it becomes clear as the series progresses that one of its themes is that while some secrets are necessary, on the whole they tend to cause more harm than good.

If, like me, you were disappointed by the previous book, don't let it stop you reading this one. It is a very pleasant return to form for the author.

The Sharing Knife: Passage
Lois McMaster Bujold
The Sharing Knife, Book 3

Monday, June 02, 2008

Flying Monkeys - Glory Bee

I stitched this little quickie up for Dave to put up in his cubicle at work. I still have to frame it (maybe I'll be inspired tonight) but I'm really pleased how it came out.

It technically used a set of variegated threads that I couldn't justify buying for such a small piece. I was all set to use the DMC equivalents when I realised that most of the colours matched the Carrie's Creation threads I had for Book of Ink Circles, so I used those and I'm delighted with how it came out.

Book of Ink Circles Progress

Hooray, I'm up to date with Book of Ink Circles. I've done frogs and swirls since my last post and I'm pleased with how it is looking.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Judas Unchained - Peter F. Hamilton

After hundreds of years secretly manipulating the human race, the Starflyer alien has succeeded in engineering a war which should result in the destruction of the Intersolar Commonwealth. Now, thanks to Chief Investigator Paula Myo, the Commonwealth's political elite finally acknowledge the Starflyer's existence, and put together an unlikely partnership to track down this enegmatic and terrifying alien before it can cause any more damage.

The invasion from Dyson Alpha continues with dozens of Commonwealth worlds falling to the enemy. The Commonwealth navy fights back with what it believes to be war-winning superweapons, only to find that the alien fleet has been given equally powerful weapons. How the aliens got them and why the weapons are so similar is the question which haunts Admiral Kime. Could it be that the Commonwealth's top-secret defence project has been compromised by the Starflyer's agents, or is the truth even worse?

For Mark Vernon, mechanic and general repairman extraordinaire, it appears he's landed on his feet when he finds the perfect job on the most secure world in the Commonwealth. He and his family will never be in danger again now he's helping to build the starships that will evacuate the ultra-rich should the war be lost. Until one day when Nigel Sheldon arrives to ask him a small favour. You don't say no to the man who created the Commonwealth. But the problem with small favours is the way they tend to grow...

With the war going badly and the Starflyer's treachery threatening the very heart of the Commonwealth, only the alien's destruction can turn the tide. As Paula Myo finally begins to close in on her prey the operation is sabotaged from within. If the nemesis is ever to be beaten Paula will have to work out which of her colleagues is plotting to betray the entire human race.

Blurb from
In the end, it turned out to be a couple of years between reading book 1 and book 2 of this duology. As I've said before on this blog, the very large size of the book scared me off for a long time, but once I got going I soon got into the swing of things and managed to finish the book in about 10 days, which I thought was pretty good considering the size of it.

My biggest issue was that there is little or no back story from book 1 provided for a reader like me who had let a large space of time go between books and doesn't remember details very well anyway. In fact, if I'd read the books back to back there's probably still lots of bits and pieces from the first book I wouldn't have remembered while reading the second. So there were places where references to earlier events confused me or left me with a feeling of vague remembrance without being able to pull up the specifics.

Instead, this book begins right where the last one ended and continues on at once as if the story was one very, very large book. I can see the reasons for this, but it made it a struggle for me. Still, getting past that, I enjoyed the book all the same. Hamilton writes in an engaging and very readable style, and the book progressed easily.

Despite the large number of people killed off in the invasion at the end of Pandora's Star, almost all of the large cast of characters from the first book return. As the story progress they are slowly whittled down until it is only the core group that remain - although of course with relife technology most will get to live on eventually (there's a huge backlog at relife facilities as a result of the invasion).

In this book the Commonwealth is slowly beginning to get over the shock of the Prime invasion and starts to come up with ideas and methods for fighting back. It also becomes more and more clear that the Starflyer is real and an equal (or possibly greater) threat than the Primes, meaning humanity finds itself fighting a war on two fronts. One aspect of this I liked was that, because the reader had been inside MorningLightMountain's mind in Pandora's Star, I basically knew how the Prime strategy worked and what MorningLightMountain's intentions were. So it was interesting to see the theories on this that the humans came up with, all of which were wrong.

I did feel that it was a bit convenient how the two main plots turned out to hinge so much on each other and how time-wise both conclusions happened at once even though they were in totally different parts of the galaxy. I had been expecting one plot-strand to be resolved and then the other, when instead Hamilton chose to have them happening concurrently. All the same, I'm willing to chalk that up to artistic licence and leave it alone.

This is a "plot book" rather than a "science book" or a "character book". It's all about what is happening and how the problem is solved. It means that while the characters are well rounded, they're not particularly deep (especially considering how long some of them have lived). All the same, they people the book well and play their parts as required. It's not a failing in the book, just a fact of how it has been written and what the focus of it is. I was rather worried about whether or not Nigel Sheldon was going to turn out to be a Starflyer agent and what happens to Paula Myo as she is forced to go against her basic genetically-programmed nature was cleverly done. I also didn't particularly like Mellanie, which I consider to have been good characterisation rather than the opposite.

I enjoyed Judas Unchained. I was a easy read for all its large size and it wound up all required plot strands and told a rollicking good story. I find myself tempted by the new Commonwealth trilogy Hamilton is currently writing, but I think I'll take a break for a while before considering taking on another one (or in this case, three) of his doorstoppers.

Judas Unchained
Peter F. Hamilton
Commonwealth Saga, Book 2

If you have reviewed this book, please leave a link in the comments and I'll add it here.

A Timely Weekly Geeks

This week's mission is to catch up on book reviews.

I know there's no way I can catch up with everything, but I'll try to do some of my May books this week. Hopefully this will be the push I need to get on with it.