Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 Reading and Challenges Retrospective

2009 was a mixed year for me. It started off well; not only was I reading, I was reviewing as well. But then I had issues with my depression that took over a large part of the year and cut my reading down significantly. I only read three books in June, which is possibly a lifetime low for me since I learned to read.

I had started off in high hopes and joined a series of challenges. Some I finished and some I didn’t, but overall the year went quite well.

I had a bit of trouble defining a “read” as some challenges said a whole book, while others said anything would do, including short stories. If a series I’m reading has a short story in an anthology, I’m quite likely to read only that particular story since I’m not all that keen on shorts, and that continually confused me when working out totals. I’m still not convinced that everything matches.

Anyway, counting those single short stories as a “read”, I think I managed to read 101 things this year. Counting only “real” books, I think my total was 97 as that’s the total I have in my 100+ Challenge list.

Most interesting to me was the proportion of paper books to ebooks I read in 2009. In the past I’d thrown around a 50/50 figure without an data to back myself up, so I made a point of keeping a record this year. The final figure was 45% paper to 55% e, which was pretty close to what I’d guessed and skewed a bit by December when I read 9 ebooks and only 1 paper book.

I read 13 books I rated 10/10 this year and there were 11 I didn’t finish. I read 79 books I hadn’t read before and reread 16. (Like I said, I know my numbers may not add up, but it is much too much work to try to find the discrepancies – and my struggle with the definition of a “read” may be a factor as well. I apologise).

In terms of challenges, I just missed out on the 100+ challenge, falling 3 books short. Considering my year, I’m not worrying about that too much. You can see my list here.

I easily completed the eBook challenge (list here) and Romance challenge (list here) in February, meaning everything else I read for the rest of the year was a bonus in terms of challenges. I finished the first stage of the Library challenge (list here) in March, which was what I had signed up for. All the same I had hoped to make it to the second level of 25 books. I fell one short, reading 24 library books in 2009.

I also read three books my one of my favourite authors, Patricia McKillip, completing that challenge in October (list here).

I didn’t make the YA challenge, reading only 9 books out of 12 (list here) and almost finished the Once Upon a Time Challenge III (list here), only failing because I didn’t manage to watch or read A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

I’m not going to do a “best of” or “worst of” list this year, but here are those 13 books I rated 10/10 (in the order I read them):

  1. The Grey King – Susan Cooper
  2. Lear’s Daughters – Marjorie B. Kellogg
  3. The Ordinary Princess – M. M. Kaye
  4. Born in Ice – Nora Roberts
  5. Shards of Honor – Lois McMaster Bujold
  6. Branded by Fire – Nalini Singh
  7. Angels’ Blood – Nalini Singh
  8. The Invisible Ring – Anne Bishop
  9. Diamond Star – Catherine Asaro
  10. The Shadow Queen – Anne Bishop
  11. Daughter of the Blood – Anne Bishop
  12. Heir to the Shadows – Anne Bishop
  13. Queen of the Darkness – Anne Bishop

While I rated it 9 rather than 10, I’m also going to add Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier to my notable books of 2009 as I thought it was a fantastic book and I’m looking forward to reading more Marillier in 2010.

Of the books on the above list, six were new reads and seven rereads. If you add in Daughter of the Forest it balances out to seven each.

I’m going to continue keeping lists in 2010 as I found it rather a satisfying thing to do. I’ve only joined three challenges as I want to keep the pressure down, and I’m looking forward to a new reading year.

December 2009 Reading

I don’t think I’m quite going to make it to 100 books this year, but given how much I struggled to read during the year, I’m not unhappy about that.

I’m rereading Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan series with the Beyond Reality group on Goodreads and really enjoying it. I have so many books I remember fondly that I’d like to reread and I’m feeling pretty burnt out of a lot of the genre new releases that I’m thinking of doing some serious rereading in 2010. It helps that a lot of old favourites are starting to come out as ebooks which I find much easier to read, so that’s an added incentive.

  1. Cetaganda – Gail Lois McMaster Bujold
    Vorkosigan, Book 5; Science Fiction; eBook; Reread; 8/10
  2. Ethan of Athos – Lois McMaster Bujold
    Vorkosigan, Book 6; Science Fiction; eBook; Reread; 7/10
  3. Missing in Death – J. D. Robb (in the anthology The Lost)
    Eve Dallas, Book 36; Futuristic Mystery; eBook; 6/10
  4. Boneshaker – Cherie Priest
    Steampunk; Library Book; DNF
  5. Heart Change – Robin D. Owens
    Celta, Book 8; Fantasy; Romance; eBook; 7/10
  6. Brothers in Arms – Lois McMaster Bujold
    Vorkosigan, Book 7; Science Fiction; eBook; Reread; 9/10
  7. The Devil in Winter – Lisa Kleypas
    Wallflowers, Book 3; Romance; eBook; 8/10
  8. Tanner’s Scheme – Lora Leigh
    Breeds, Book 9; Paranormal; eBook; 7/10
  9. Daughter of the Blood – Anne Bishop
    Black Jewels, Book 1; Fantasy; eBook; Reread; 10/10
  10. Heir to the Shadows – Anne Bishop
    Black Jewels, Book 2; Fantasy; eBook; Reread; 10/10
  11. Queen of the Darkness – Anne Bishop
    Black Jewels, Book 3; Fantasy; eBook; Reread: 10/10

Best book of the month = Queen of the Darkness
Biggest disappointment of the month = Missing in Death

December Reading:
Books read this month = 10
DNFs this month = 1
10/10 reads this month = 3
New reads this month = 4
Rereads this month = 6
paper books : eBooks = 1 : 9 = 10% : 90%

December Challenges Progress:
100+ Reading Challenge = 10
Support Your Local Library Challenge = 0 (Stage 1 Completed 3-04-09)
Romance Reading Challenge = 3 (Challenge Completed 25-02-09)
YA Reading Challenge = 0
eBook Reading Challenge = 9 (Challenge Completed 24-02-09)

December Non-Challenges Progress:
SF/Fantasy books read = 7
Audiobooks listened to = 0

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Challenges for 2010

I signed up to my first reading challenges in 2009. Some I did well in and finish, some I didn’t manage to complete for various reasons. I’ll do a wrap up post for those challenges soon, most probably tomorrow (New Year’s Eve) or the next day (New Year’s Day).

Although I know I made sensible choices in my challenges, it was still hard work, mostly for health reasons which is the usual cause of problems for me.

So I have been even more picky this year and chosen just three challenges to try for the year.

FlashbackChallenge 2010 Flashback Reading Challenge

I’ve already posted about this one here, and that’s where you’ll find my list. I had already decided I wanted to do some serious rereading next year, so this was perfect for me.

I’ve already started well, getting caught up with the Beyond Reality group’s reading of Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan series. I’ve finished Brothers in Arms and I’m looking forward to Mirror Dance in January. I started to reread Anne Bishop’s Daughter of the Blood in December and got so caught up in the story and I had to keep right on reading to the end of the original trilogy. She has a new book coming out in March, so I’m hoping to reread the others before I read that. Of course, none of these ones will make the list as 2010 hasn’t started yet, but I hope to carry on with this as I have begun.

My list of books read for this challenge is here.

Howltext The Big Book Challenge 2010

Orannia over at Walkabout has set up The Big Book Challenge. It’s a nice, low stress one where the idea is to get one big book (over 500 pages) that’s been languishing on the TBR onto the night table and finally read. I admit that I have big-book-fear, especially big-fat-fantasy-book-fear. So I have a bunch of things I know are really good but the size scares me too much to take them off the shelf. Books currently on the TBR that qualify are:

  1. Ship of Destiny – Robin Hobb (816 pages)
  2. Prophecy – Elizabeth Haydon (736 pages)
  3. The Summer Queen – Joan D. Vinge (688 pages)
  4. This Alien Shore – C. S. Friedman (576 pages)
  5. Son of the Shadows – Juliet Marillier (608 pages)
  6. The Last Dancer – Daniel Keys Moran (594 pages)
  7. Dragon Prince – Melanie Rawn (576 pages)

Wonderfully, Orannia doesn’t require us to set a list (the one above is a guideline), doesn’t require reviews and will consider us a great success if we finish just one book that qualifies. This is the nice, kind of no-pressure challenge I want, where it encourages me but doesn’t beat me over the head if I stumble.

My list of books read for this challenge is here.

sf3two The Science Fiction Experience 2010

I think this is the third year Carl over at Stainless Steel Droppings has hosted this challenge. Again, it is a low-pressure one. All Carl does is encourage you to read/watch/play in the SF arena in January and February. I have some SF books waiting in the TBR that I haven’t got to in ages, so I’m going to use this as an excuse to try to get some of them read. Books currently on the TBR that qualify are:

  1. Doubleblind – Ann Aguirre
  2. The Empress of Mars – Kage Baker
  3. Mirror Dance – Lois McMaster Bujold (read January)
  4. To Trade the Stars – Julie E. Czerneda
  5. This Alien Shore – C. S. Friedman
  6. Fledgling – Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
  7. Agent of Change – Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
  8. Dragonsdawn – Anne McCaffrey
  9. Seeker – Jack McDevitt
  10. The Last Dancer – Daniel Keys Moran
  11. Valentine Pontifex – Robert Silverberg
  12. Archangel – Sharon Shinn
  13. Alien Taste – Wen Spencer
  14. Endless Blue – Wen Spencer
  15. City of Pearl/Crossing the Line – Karen Traviss
  16. The Summer Queen – Joan D. Vinge

My list of books read for this challenge is here.

I have no idea how many – if any – of these I will read, but I’ve going to try to give it a go. Wish me well.

ETA: List updated 22-2-10

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Out of the mouths of babes…

Marcus is having a bath.

It didn’t start well. I ran the bath and then he decided he wanted a shower. So he sat in the bath and had a little cry. I could hear these pathetic whinging sounds floating down the hall.

However, he’s playing now, so all is well.

Anyway, he just asked me a question, which went something like this…

In the olden days, were there no taps, and if people lived near a river, did they go there and get water and put it a jug and carry it back to their house on their heads and pour it into something else?

That’s a pretty complex thought for a five year old. I am both amused and impressed.

And speaking of Marcus gems, this one came last week.

I picked up Claire from school one day and dropped her home. On the way, she and Marcus were telling each other “jokes”. They do this quite often and their jokes are really more riddles, with answers that make perfect sense to them but no-one else. This is one of their favourites.

Why did the cow jump over the moon?
Because it had springs in its knees!

This is generally followed by gales of laughter.

This particular day, Claire had a new one.

Why did the cow jump over the moon?
Because the farmer was called Hans.

It took me a moment before I realised she must have overhead some adults and, not understanding the joke, misunderstood what they said.

I tried to explain, even knowing they wouldn’t get the details, that the farmer was supposed to have cold hands, but they weren’t having a bar of it. They had a new joke and they thought it was hilarious.

So that’s the current favourite. And if I laugh each time I hear it, it certainly isn’t for the same reason they both laugh.

That’s ridiculous

I ordered a book for my brother in law from the Whitcoulls NZ website. Cool, I thought, get it locally and then it'll arrive in time for Christmas.

It arrived today.
It shipped from the UK.
The address for returns is Australia.

That's just stupid.

I'm now feeling a bit worried about arrival times for the other two books I ordered later.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

How our pasts shape us…

I had the most fascinating interaction with Marcus yesterday.

It was raining cats and dogs, so I picked up not only Marcus from school, but his best friend, Claire, as well. She has a brand new baby brother (about a month old) and naturally, her mother didn’t want to take him and his two-year-old brother out in the rain if she could avoid it.

Since we were there, we let Claire and Marcus play for a while. Perhaps inspired by the baby, they had a wonderful game of “mummies and daddies” with one of Claire’s dolls as the baby.

Later, when we got home, Marcus decided he needed to “have a baby”. It couldn’t be one of his stuffed animals, it had to be a “person”, so his Spider-Man toy ended up stuffed under his shirt, ready to be “born” (and at five, I’m grateful to confirm he remains oblivious to the actual details thereof).

Suddenly, he announces to me, “Oh, I have to go and get the incubator!”

“Does he need an incubator?” I asked.

“Yes,” Marcus said. “He’s coming when he isn’t supposed to.”

“Is he coming early, like you did?” I asked.

“Yes,” Marcus told me and went off to find something to be an incubator.

(You’ll be pleased to know Spider-Man was born safely, even if it was a breech birth, and was soon climbing out of the incubator.)

We’ve never hidden his prematurity from Marcus and he’s seen pictures of himself in the incubator. But all the same, I was surprised by this sudden appearance of how that history has obviously shaped the way he sees thing. I shouldn’t expect that most five year olds playing “babies” would ever think about needing an incubator, if they even know what an incubator is. To Marcus, it’s a part of how babies come into the world.

Nothing amazing or earth-shattering, but a very interesting moment all the same.

Virtual Advent: Family

Large_Advent_1 Family and Christmas have always been linked for me. It’s been that way all my life, so much so that I never really thought about it, it just was.

When I was a child, it was a given that we would spend Christmas with either one or other set of grandparents, or more likely both. Sometimes they came to us, but more often than not, we went to stay with them. This was easier said than done, as my parents had moved away from the area where they were born and lived in New Zealand’s North Island, while their parents all lived in the South Island. We would all pile into the car – my mother, my father, my brother and sister and I – and start driving southwards.

When I was small, Mum would pack the footwells in the back of the car and then put a cot mattress on top. This was in the days before car seats, so my siblings and I had harness seatbelts that let us move around, and this meant we could lie down and have a sleep if we wanted or needed to. We usually left before daylight to drive two hours to Wellington where we waited in line to drive onto the ferry and start the three hour sail across Cook Strait.

It must have been hard on my parents, keeping us entertained for both the trip and the wait in the queue. I remember one particular year when I was probably in my early teens. I had borrowed a book of Goon Show scripts from the library and brought it with me. I distinctly remember my father sitting in the driver’s seat with his sleeves rolled up and the window rolled down, the sun shining outside (remember, Christmas is in summer in New Zealand), while he read one of the scripts and did all the silly voices. I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for The Dreaded Batter Pudding Hurler (of Bexhill-on-Sea) as a result.

It was about a twelve hour trip all up as I recall and we would arrive at my grandparents’ house all tired and cranky and quite possibly woken up from sleep. But we were children; we recovered quickly and soon got on with the serious business of the summer holiday.

hillcrest Christmas Day itself was shared between both sets of grandparents. We would spend Christmas Eve at my mother’s parents, open presents there in the morning and have a full-on Christmas Dinner at lunchtime. This was a full English Christmas Dinner, which makes less sense that you might think when you remember it was the middle of summer. After lunch we all climbed back into the car and drove about an hour and a half to my father’s parents. We would have leftovers and salad for tea and often shared it with our cousins.

On into the next generation, it never occurred to me that things would be any different. Sure, my husband and I live about 600km from our parents (although at least they live in the same town, which my grandparents didn’t) but at Christmas we load ourselves and Marcus into the car and, just as my family did a generation ago, head south. We have a meal with both families (and happily, summery meals like barbeques are much more common these days) and catch up with our siblings and their spouses, while Marcus gets to play with his cousin. Like when I was a child, this is just the way it is.


But our family had a big shock this year. In October, my sister-in-law was in a serious car accident. She was driving home from another town when a car going in the other direction lost control on the wet road and ploughed into her. She was air-lifted to hospital and it was touch and go for the first day or two. Seven weeks later, she is mending slowly, but is still in hospital and likely to be there for a while yet. She has a lot of rehabilitation and readjustment to go through in her future.

But she is still here with us. And that is an enormous blessing.

We have no idea at this point where we will be for Christmas Day, but it won’t be the routine we’re used to. My in-laws have been fantastic and are willing to fit in with my side of the family’s needs and plans – once we know what they are. And we will be together at Christmas, with my husband’s family and – thank God – with my family too. There might be an empty seat at the table, but that will mean we’ll be taking some Christmas dinner up to the hospital, not that my brother has lost his wife and my niece her mother.

So if you get together with your family this Christmas, no matter if there are squabbles, or frustrations, or embarrassments (all of which happen in the best of families) take a moment to be grateful that you’re all there to share the holiday together. I can assure you that my family will be doing exactly that.

My Christmas wishes to you and your family. May you have a wonderful day, together or apart, and remember what a blessing family is.

Follow the Virtual Advent Calendar here.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore

I don’t remember where I first saw this book mentioned, but it’s been on my “books to remember for 2010” list for a while now. I’ve just discovered that the author is having a promotional contest now the book has an official book trailer. So I thought I’d share it, both because I think it looks like a good book and because hey, who doesn’t like to try to win a prize.

(Sorry the video goes over the edge of the blog template. If you can’t see it all, pop over the You Tube to watch it there.)

Want to win a hardcover of MAGIC UNDER GLASS by Jaclyn Dolamore plus more prizes? See for details!

Nimira is a foreign music-hall girl forced to dance for mere pennies. When wealthy sorcerer Hollin Parry hires her to sing with a piano-playing automaton, Nimira believes it is the start of a new and better life. In Parry's world, however, buried secrets are beginning to stir. Unsettling below-stairs rumors swirl about ghosts, a madwoman roaming the halls, and Parry's involvement with a league of sorcerers who torture fairies for sport. Then Nimira discovers the spirit of a fairy gentleman named Erris is trapped inside the clockwork automaton, waiting for someone to break his curse. The two fall into a love that seems hopeless, and breaking the curse becomes a race against time, as not just their love, but the fate of the entire magical world may be in peril.

Monday, November 30, 2009

November 2009 Reading

  1. Soulless – Gail Carriger
    Paranormal; eBook; 7/10
  2. Christmas Angel for the Billionaire – Liz Fielding
    Category Romance; eBook; 8/10
  3. Blaze of Memory – Nalini Singh
    Psy/Changeling, Book 7; Paranormal Romance; eBook; 9/10
  4. Bones to Ashes – Kathy Reichs
    Temperance Brennan, Book 10; Mystery; eBook; 7/10
  5. Daughter of the Forest – Juliet Marillier
    Sevenwaters, Book 1; Fantasy; Library Book; 9/10
  6. Nightlife – Rob Thurman
    Cal Leandros, Book 1; Urban Fantasy; eBook; 9/10
  7. Barrayar – Lois McMaster Bujold
    Vorkosigan, Book 2; SF; eBook; Reread; 10/10
  8. The Warrior’s Apprentice – Lois McMaster Bujold
    Vorkosigan, Book 3; SF; eBook; Reread; 9/10
  9. Leviathan – Scott Westerfield
    YA; Library Book; 8/10
  10. Kindred in Death – J. D. Robb
    Eve Dallas, Book 35; Mystery; Library Book; 8/10

Best book of the month = Daughter of the Forest 
Biggest disappointment of the month = Soulless

November Reading:
Books read this month =  10
DNFs this month = 0
10/10 reads this month = 1
New reads this month = 8
Rereads this month = 2
paper books : eBooks = 3 :7 = 30% : 70%

November Challenges Progress:
100+ Reading Challenge = 10
Support Your Local Library Challenge = 3 (Stage 1 Completed 3-04-09)
Romance Reading Challenge = 2 (Challenge Completed 25-02-09)
YA Reading Challenge = 1
eBook Reading Challenge = 7 (Challenge Completed 24-02-09)

November Non-Challenges Progress:
SF/Fantasy books read = 7
Audiobooks listened to = 0

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

2010 Flashback Challenge

FlashbackChallenge After my health and consequently my reading imploded this year, I swore I wasn’t going to join any challenges for 2010. But…

The fact is I’m weak and tempted by shiny ideas. Aarti’s Flashback challenge is just too good to pass up. All the same, I have learned one lesson from this year and that is that realistically I have to consider challenges to be guidelines rather that hard and fast demands. If I do the latter, I stress myself to the point of taking all the fun out of it – not to mention making myself sick.

The Flashback Challenge will run from January 1, 2010 - December 31, 2010. If you're super-excited and want to reread a book before that, feel free, and let me know. If many people do so, then I'll do a December challenge linky post and you can all link to it here. Otherwise, we can hold them over to January.

You can sign up for the following levels:
Bookworm - Up to three books
Scholar - Four to six books
Literati - Over six books

Within these levels, we have mini-challenges! These are:

1. Re-read a favorite book from your childhood
2. Re-read a book assigned to you in high school
3. Re-read a book you loved as an adult

Thus, if you sign up for the Bookworm level, you could ostensibly choose to read one book from each mini-challenge. Or you could choose to do none of the above (though, granted, not sure what you could have possibly read that does not fit into either childhood, high school or adulthood).

Also, would just like to make clear that this isn't specifically limited to books you loved reading previously and want to reread. It could also be a book you don't remember enjoying. Or just don't remember reading. It might be interesting to see how your perceptions may have changed.

Rather than picking a level, I’m going to sign up for the challenge in general and just see how far I get.

I always have a long list of books I wish I had the time to reread, but I never seem to manage to do it. So here come two very long lists and one very short one (I can barely remember what I read at high school and the ones I can remember I don’t wish to reread). Obviously I won’t be reading all of these, but it’s fun to have a long list of old favourites to choose from.

Potential Rereads from Childhood (up to the end of high school)

  1. Wraiths of Time – Andre Norton
  2. The 101 Dalmations – Dodie Smith
  3. The Starlight Barking – Dodie Smith
  4. The Changeling Sea – Patricia A. McKillip
  5. The Riddle-Master of Hed – Patricia A. McKillip
  6. Children of Morrow – H. M. Hoover
  7. Children of the Dust – Louise Lawrence
  8. The Chrysalids – John Wyndham
  9. Trouble with Lichen – John Wyndham
  10. Beauty – Robin McKinley
  11. The Blue Sword – Robin McKinley
  12. The Hero and the Crown – Robin McKinley
  13. Magic Flutes – Eva Ibbotson
  14. Restoree – Anne McCaffrey
  15. The Blue Castle – L. M. Montgomery
  16. Barrayar - Lois McMaster Bujold (reread in November)
  17. The Warriors Apprentice - Lois McMaster Bujold (reread in November)
  18. The Vor Game - Lois McMaster Bujold (reread in November)
  19. Cetaganda - Lois McMaster Bujold (reread in December)
  20. Ethan of Athos - Lois McMaster Bujold (reread in December)
  21. Brothers in Arms - Lois McMaster Bujold (reread in December)
  22. Mirror Dance - Lois McMaster Bujold (reread in January)
  23. A Wrinkle in Time – Madeleine L’Engle (reread in January)
  24. A Wind in the Door – Madeleine L’Engle (reread in February)
  25. A Swiftly Tilting Planet – Madeleine L’Engle (reread in March)
  26. Many Waters – Madeleine L’Engle
  27. An Acceptable Time – Madeleine L’Engle
  28. The Ring of Allaire – Susan Dexter
  29. Can I Get There by Candlelight – Jean Slaughter Doty
  30. The People Collection – Zenna Henderson
  31. A Walk Out of the World – Ruth Nichols
  32. The Outlaws of Sherwood – Robin McKinley
  33. The Thirteen Problems – Agatha Christie
  34. Jaran – Kate Elliott
  35. The Gate of Ivory – Doris Egan
  36. The Outcast – Louise Cooper
  37. Brother to Dragons, Companion to Owls – Jane Lindskold
  38. Last Act – Jane Aiken Hodge
  39. Fool’s Run – Patricia A. McKillip
  40. Tea with the Black Dragon – R. A. MacAvoy
  41. Shapechangers – Jennifer Roberson
  42. Daddy-Long-Legs - Jean Webster

Potential Rereads from High School (assigned books)

  1. Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier
  2. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

Potential Rereads from Adulthood (after high school)

  1. Primary Inversion – Catherine Asaro
  2. Daughter of the Blood – Anne Bishop (reread in December)
  3. Heir to the Shadows – Anne Bishop (reread in December)
  4. Queen of the Darkness – Anne Bishop (reread in December)
  5. Dreams Made Flesh - Anne Bishop
  6. Moon Called – Patricia Briggs
  7. Memory – Lois McMaster Bujold (reread in March)
  8. Komarr – Lois McMaster Bujold (reread in March)
  9. A Civil Campaign – Lois McMaster Bujold (reread in April)
  10. Diplomatic Immunity – Lois McMaster Bujold
  11. The Compass Rose – Gail Dayton (reread in January)
  12. The Barbed Rose - Gail Dayton (reread in January)
  13. Agent of Change – Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
  14. Slave to Sensation – Nalini Singh
  15. Alien Taste – Wen Spencer
  16. Endless Blue – Wen Spencer
  17. Persuasion – Jane Austen
  18. Changer – Jane Lindskold
  19. Lord of the Fading Lands – C. L. Wilson
  20. New Moon – Midori Snyder
  21. The Heavenly Horse form the Outermost West – Mary Stanton
  22. Firebird – Kathy Tyers
  23. Stone of Farewell – Tad Williams
  24. The Summer Tree – Guy Gavriel Kay
  25. The Last Dancer – Daniel Keys Moran
  26. The Mirror of Her Dreams – Stephen Donaldson

Those lists are subject to my vague memory of when I read things, but they are probably not wildly inaccurate. Obviously I read a lot more when I was in high school (and some of those titles in the first list may have been read when I was at university; I can’t exactly remember and I’m much too lazy to check copyright dates). Or perhaps, it’s just longer ago and more reason I want to reread them. Or that all that “childhood” reading was done before I developed CFS. Anyway, it’s an interesting history of my reading life and I hope I manage to reread some of them.

ETA: I have set up my list for this challenge and you can find it here.
ETA: List updated 26-3-10

    Tuesday, November 17, 2009

    Weekly Geeks: Book Podcasts

    WG_Sticky[5] Wow, it’s a long time since I did a Weekly Geeks post – or much of anything at all on the blog really. But this was a topic that I felt I could make a useful post about, so here I am.

    Dewey worded it this way, "find and review a link to a book podcast." I'm modifying this just a bit and am asking you to share with us a podcast you love, preferably book related, but not necessarily so. Give us the link, of course, and share with us details about that podcast and why you enjoy it so much. If you have a couple or three favorites, share them all!

    I’ve skimmed around the blogs that have responded and neither of my favourite book podcasts have shown up, so I’m going to share them here.

    • Dragon Page: Cover to Cover
      Your hosts, Mike and Mike, cover fantasy and science fiction, with author (and occasionally publisher) interviews, book reviews, commentary, feedback and a library section. Both are very into ebooks and developing technologies, so those are often discussed which, personally, I find fascinating. I don’t always agree with them, but they’re always interesting to listen to.
    • Adventures in Sci Fi Publishing
      As the title suggests, another SF podcast, although fantasy is equally covered. Your host, Sean, has recently moved and taken on a new job, so episodes are currently sporadic, but always worth the time it takes to listen.

    I also listen to a bunch of other podcasts that are not book related and two good ones are Astronomy Cast, which is excellent and Cadmium2 where three friends discuss British Cult TV and Film (with a particular focus on classic Doctor Who) amidst a fair bit of banter and laughing. These two are very different, the first fairly formal and the second definitely not, but both are very enjoyable.

    Wednesday, November 11, 2009

    So cute

    I just think this is really cute. I love the turtle. Marcus has a soft toy turtle (although his is pink) so I may be biased. I am not, however, bored. I just love the picture.


    Sunday, November 01, 2009

    Reading posts for October

    It’s taken me several hours, but I have finally got all my reading posts for the year sorted out and up to date. I was trying to reuse the layout of an earlier month in Live Writer when I updated and I’ve finally worked out that doing it that way meant I actually overwrote the earlier post. I now know that I need to start a new post and copy and paste instead.

    Then I had where my reading challenge lists and my monthly lists didn’t match up. Now they do. I realise this doesn’t bother anyone on the entire planet except me, but since this is my blog, I needed to get it all fixed.

    So finally, here’s my measly reading stats for October.

    October 2009 Reading

    1. Harrowing the Dragon – Patricia A. McKillip
      Fantasy; eBook; 7/10
    2. To Ride Hell’s Chasm – Janny Wurts
      Fantasy; Library Book; 6/10
    3. Harmony’s Way – Lora Leigh
      Breeds, Book 8; Erotic Romance; eBook; 7/10
    4. The Changeover – Margaret Mahy
      YA; Paranormal; Library Book; DNF
    5. Angels’ Judgement in Must Love Hellhounds – Charlaine Harris et al. 
      Guild Hunters, Book 1.5; Urban Fantasy; 8/10

    Best book of the month = Harrowing the Dragon
    Biggest disappointment of the month = To Ride Hell’s Chasm

    October Reading:
    Books read this month = 4
    DNFs this month = 1
    10/10 reads this month = 0
    New reads this month = 4
    Rereads this month = 0
    paper books : eBooks = 2 : 2 = 50% : 50%

    October Challenges Progress:
    100+ Reading Challenge = 3
    Support Your Local Library Challenge = 1 (Stage 1 Completed 3-04-09)
    Romance Reading Challenge = 1 (Challenge Completed 25-02-09)
    YA Reading Challenge = 0
    eBook Reading Challenge = 2 (Challenge Completed 24-02-09)
    Patricia A. McKillip Reading Challenge = 1 (Challenge Completed 5-10-09)

    October Non-Challenges Progress:
    SF/Fantasy books read = 4
    Audiobooks listened to = 0

    Cumulative Totals – October 2009

    2009 Reading:
    Books read for 2009 = 81
    DNFs for 2009 = 10
    10/10 for 2009 = 9
    New reads for 2009 = 67
    Rereads for 2009 = 8
    paper books : eBooks = 39 : 36 = 52% : 48%

    2009 Challenges Progress:
    100+ Reading Challenge = 76
    Support Your Local Library Challenge = 21 (Stage 1 Completed 3-04-09)
    Romance Reading Challenge = 17 (Challenge Completed 25-02-09)
    YA Reading Challenge = 8
    eBook Reading Challenge = 35 (Challenge Completed 24-02-09)

    2009 Non-Challenges Progress:
    SF/Fantasy books read = 49
    Audiobooks listened to = 6

    Completed 2009 Challenges
    Once Upon a Time III Challenge = 7 (Books Component Completed 22-04-09; Challenge Ended 20-6-09 with A Midsummer Night’s Dream unwatched. Result = Failed, but only just)
    Patricia A. McKillip Reading Challenge = 3 (Challenge Completed 5-10-09)

    September 2009 Reading

    Okay, after messing up posting the August reading list, can I get September right? Maybe if I wait until November to post it.

    1. Memory and Dream – Charles de Lint
      Newford, Book 5; Urban Fantasy; eBook; 8/10
    2. Does Anything Eat Wasps – New Scientist
      Non-Fiction; Library Book; 8/10
    3. Seeing Eye in Strange Brew – Patricia Briggs et al
      Paranormal Romance; Library Book; 8/10
    4. Silent on the Moor – Deanna Raybourn
      Lady Julia Grey, Book 3; Mystery; Library Book; 7/10
    5. Why Don’t Penguins’ Feet Freeze – New Scientist
      Non-Fiction; Library Book; 7/10
    6. The Shadow Queen – Anne Bishop
      Black Jewels, Book 7; Fantasy; 10/10
    7. The Long Run – Daniel Keys Moran
      The Continuing Time, Book 2; SF; eBook; 7/10
    8. Hunting Ground – Patricia Briggs
      Alpha and Omega, Book 2; Urban Fantasy; 8/10
    9. To Say Nothing of the Dog – Connie Willis
      SF; 7/10
    10. The Little White Horse – Elizabeth Goudge
      Children; Audiobook; Reread; DNF
    11. The Mummy Case – Elizabeth Peters
      Amelia Peabody, Book 3; Mystery; eBook; 7/10

    Best book of the month = The Shadow Queen 
    (love this series, love this book, love the world and love the characters)
    Worst book of the month = 
    (nothing bad enough to call “worst”)
    Biggest disappointment of the month = The Long Run or To Say Nothing of the Dog
    (both were still good reads, but expected to like them more than I did)

    September Reading:
    Books read this month = 10
    DNFs this month = 1
    10/10 reads this month = 1
    New reads this month = 10
    Rereads this month = 0
    % paper books : % eBooks = 70 : 30

    May Challenges Progress:
    100+ Reading Challenge = 9
    Support Your Local Library Challenge = 3 (Stage 1 Completed 3-04-09)
    Romance Reading Challenge = 0 (Challenge Completed 25-02-09)
    YA Reading Challenge = 0
    eBook Reading Challenge = 3 (Challenge Completed 24-02-09)
    Patricia A. McKillip Reading Challenge = 0

    May Non-Challenges Progress:
    SF/Fantasy books read = 6
    Audiobooks listened to = 0

    Saturday, October 31, 2009

    Geographical Restrictions

    I am so TIRED of not being able to buy the books I want because of geographical ebook restrictions. I used to get angry about it, but now I’m just tired.

    In the last two days, there have been four books I wanted to buy and couldn’t because of where I live. Two I wanted enough to order from my local specialty store that imports books, but that was only because their catalogue arrived the same day and those two were in there. Otherwise I just wouldn’t have bothered. As it is, there go two lost sales. And it easily might have been four.

    I’m sick and I’m always tired, lately close to exhausted. My eyes are getting older and more tired. Paper books are just getting harder and harder for me to read. I can lie down on my bed and read on my iPhone and I can adjust the text size, the text colours and it’s small and it’s light. Even then, sometimes it’s too much effort to hold it up and I give up and put on a podcast or some music.

    Reading is HARD for me these days. I’m a life-long avid reader, but now it’s HARD. Why do publishers have to make it harder?

    It’s an effort for me to get organised enough to go out to the bookstore or the library. And then I have to find the energy to do it. And then I have to cope with the paper books anyway. If publishers keep making it harder and harder for me to get their books (and more expensive, because with the exchange rate and import costs to consider, paper books are much more expensive than ebooks here) I’ll just give up. They won’t be selling me their books.

    And I can see myself, a life-long reader, gradually stopping reading.

    Now that’s just SAD.

    Wednesday, October 07, 2009

    I finished a challenge!

    mckillipchallenge_300btn Wow, I did it! I actually completed a challenge. The other day I finished reading Patricia A. McKillip’s Harrowing the Dragon, a collection of short stories. In doing so, I read my third book of hers for the year and completed Lennth’s challenge. My updated challenge post is here.

    c14278 I have to admit this was far from my favourite on McKillip’s works. I think she’s better at full length novels than short stories.

    I usually love McKillip, but a lot of these stories failed to completely satisfy. I think a lot of the problem is that the endings tended to feel weak to me; the stories built beautifully, the writing was lovely and then they just kind of ended. My favourites were "The Stranger" and "The Lion and the Lark" and I think part of that is because the endings were stronger. But I'm left with the feeling that McKillip writes better at the longer length than the shorter one.

    All the same, I enjoyed the experience. I’m not really one for anthologies full of stories by different authors, but reading this collection by McKillip and Dreams Underfoot by Charles de Lint earlier this year I’ve discovered that I’m more likely to enjoy a collection by a favourite author where I know I already enjoy their world(s) and writing style.

    Harrowing the Dragon
    Patricia A. McKillip

    Qualifies for: 100+ Reading Challenge, Patricia A. McKillip Challenge, eBook Reading Challenge

    I’ve actually managed a few book comments over on my GoodReads entries lately, so I shall endeavour to add this to the blog over the next few weeks. It’s school holidays here and having Marcus at home for two weeks solid (well 1½ so far) has really knocked me over.

    Monday, September 28, 2009

    August 2009 Reading

    Edited yet again: I think I see where I've messed up. I suspect I just overwrote the July reading post with the August reading post. It is already past my bedtime, so I'm going to leave the mess as it is for now an try to fix it all up tomorrow. Sorry everyone.

    Better late than never when it comes to posting this. At least it isn’t quite the end of September yet.

    ETA: I didn't realise I'd already posted this (I think, I'm quite confused about the whole thing now), but I've added a few small comments and the month's one DNF to the list, so I'll post it again as a new post anyway.

    Another slow month for me, but I am reading, which is the most important thing.

    1. Angels’ Blood – Nalini Singh
      Guild Hunters, Book 1; Paranormal Romance/Urban Fantasy; 10/10
    2. The Invisible Ring – Anne Bishop
      Black Jewels, Book 4; Fantasy; eBook; Reread; 10/10
    3. The Stars Blue Yonder – Sandra McDonald
      Seven Sisters, Book 3; SF; Library Book; 9/10
    4. Diamond Star – Catherine AsaroSkolian Saga, Book 13; SF; 10/10
      Review here
    5. Scales of Gold – Dorothy Dunnett
      House of Niccolo, Book 4; Historical Fiction; DNF
      I still want to read this, but it just isn't what I can manage at the moment, so I'm marking it as a DNF and I'll go back to it some other time.
    6. Glory in Death – J. D. Robb
      Eve and Roarke, Book 2; Futuristic Mystery; Reread; 8/10
    7. Swan for the Money – Donna Andrews
      Meg Langslow, Book 11; Cozy Mystery; Library Book; 7/10
    8. Break No Bones – Kathy Reichs
      Temperance Brennan, Book 9; Mystery; eBook; 7/10
    9. Silent in the Sanctuary– Deanna Raybourn
      Lady Julia Grey, Book 2; Historical Mystery; eBook; 6/10
      ** spoiler alert ** I find myself vaguely unstaisfied by the ending, as one character seems to have "gotten away with it". While kind of realistic, it doesn't feel right. I wonder if this will ever be mentioned again or just let drop. I hope it gets resolved.

    August Reading:
    Books read this month = 8
    DNFs this month = 1
    10/10 reads this month = 3
    New reads this month = 6
    Rereads this month = 2
    % paper books : % eBooks = 5 : 3

    May Challenges Progress:
    100+ Reading Challenge = 8
    Support Your Local Library Challenge = 2 (Stage 1 Completed 3-04-09)
    Romance Reading Challenge = 0 (Challenge Completed 25-02-09)
    YA Reading Challenge = 0
    eBook Reading Challenge = 3 (Challenge Completed 24-02-09)
    Patricia A. McKillip Reading Challenge = 0

    May Non-Challenges Progress:
    SF/Fantasy books read = 4
    Audiobooks listened to = 0

    How to spend a rainy school holidays day


    Marcus and I decided that, since it is raining on and off and he’s pretty tired, the best way to spend the first “real” day of the school holidays is to have a snuggly day at home. He’s tucked up in a chair with a blanket and cushion and seems very happy just to lie there. Since he’s usually such a bundle of energy, if he wants to rest, I’m going to let him do so.

    Thursday, September 10, 2009


    I'm not sure that it feels like it, but my health has made some progress. I had the most awful anxiety as a side-effect of the anti-depressants. After I tried to tough it out until it went away, the doctor and I eventually agreed I needed some anti-anxiety medication to get me through it. Now I have a mild, annoying but not incapacitating anxiety sitting at the bottom of my stomach.

    The only possible upside to the anxiety was that since I couldn't relax, I was keeping up with keeping the house tidy and various jobs around the place. Now the anxiety is reduced, I've calmed down a lot and now I'm just tired and flat and blah from the depression. Sadly, that means the laundry pile has got bigger and Marcus' mess is starting to accumulate. I guess there are positives and negatives to everything.

    I'm not stitching at all. I've been putting the odd stitch into The Bookshelf from Little House Needleworks but it doesn't really count of stitching at all in my book. I've altered some of the authors' names to ones that are more familiar to me than in the original and I'm going to change one of the book titles. I have never been able to read Wuthering Heights and after some comments I've heard about it, I don't think I ever will. So the scene of a house beside a wild sea will be changed to something else. I know what, I just have figured out how I'm going to do the wording (feel free to guess, but no prize for a correct answer I'm afraid).

    Speaking of Little House Needleworks, I see the designer has started up a blog and is revealing snippets of her new release to be called The Library. I'm being suitably teased and have just added her to my feed reader so I don't miss out of anything. It's here for anyone wanting to take a look.

    I am doing some reading, although not with as much enthusiasm as I would like. Back in March, a friend gave me the book Do Polar Bears Get Lonely? for my birthday. It's a compilation of answers to questions posed in New Scientist's Last Word column where readers ask strange and/or interesting questions and other readers answer them. I thoroughly enjoyed the book - even if I didn't understand all of it and probably forgot most of it. Dave picked up the other two from the library, Does Anything Eat Wasps? and Why Don't Penguins' Feet Freeze? and I am enjoying those, having already finished the first one and started on the second. (For the record: No, polar bears don't get lonely being solitary animals and all sorts of things eat wasps including fish, frogs, many types of birds and other wasps.)

    I have also stared Silent on the Moor by Deanna Raybourn. I wasn't blowled over by the first two in the series, but I did enjoy reading them, so I shall give it a go.

    Sticking with books, I updated two of the widgets on my sidebar today, to use the provided GoodReads versions for "Current Books" and "Recently Read". Using GoodReads means I don't have to manually update either. Especially, I don't have to constantly find and upload book covers of my current reads. GoodReads does it for me and that makes my life a lot easier.

    I've been in a Doctor Who phase as I work through the anxiety, and have been listening to a lot of podcasts (I'm especially enjoying Cadmium2's story by story casts from the beginning, although I'm only up to The Space Museum, while they are about thirteen episodes ahead of me). I've also listened to a few Big Finish audio plays, mostly from the Eight Doctor range, as Paul McGann remains my favourite doctor, despite his very short time in the role.

    I've been very slowly watching Torchwood: Children of Earth over about the last 10 days. I watched episode four today and I hope to finish it tomorrow, although that will depend on just how my day goes. I had been warned about the bad thing that happens in episode four, so at least I wasn't shocked and could just appreciate the way they played it all out. I thought it was a lovely ending in a very-sad-lovely kind of way. Now just one more hour to watch.

    So all in all, I'm no longer terribly anxious, but remain flat and blah with a general feeling of not-rightness. Still the specialist told me it took me 14 months to stabalise last time, so I just hope it doesn't take that long this time, as it's only been a bit over four.

    Okay, time for me to head for bed. Early nights and the best sleep possible are my friends right now.

    Monday, August 31, 2009

    Trip Down Memory Lane

    On Friday, Marcus brought this book home from school for weekend reading. I’m pretty sure I remember reading books like this when I was at school and learning to read.

    jelly I checked the copyright date and it was 1968. I started school in 1974, so that would be about right.

    While I’m not sure that I remember this particular book, I was reading the titles on the back cover and I definitely remember reading The Hungry Lambs and I think The Stars in the Sky. They were big, fat hardcover books with a whole lot of stories in them and I can almost see them in my mind’s eye all these years later. The other titles sound familiar too.

    At least they were new when I read them. Not so much now. But the stories were still perfectly fine for reading practise. I did have to explain what “Primers” were (first year at school now has the original title of “Year 1”) and also what a penny was as we don’t even have one cent coins any more (our smallest coin here in NZ is 10 cents), but everything else was fine. Okay, so the pictures were a little dated, but that’s okay.

    Does this count as recycling?

    Saturday, August 29, 2009

    Diamond Star by Catherine Asaro

    Asaro, Catherine - Diamond Star Wow, I’m actually trying to write a book review. I haven’t done that in months and months, but we’ll see how it goes.

    Catherine Asaro is my favourite author and her Skolian series, of which Diamond Star is the latest chapter, is my favourite series. However, I often get incredibly anxious about reading her books, sometimes putting it off for months, and I’m never been completely sure about why. I am coming to the conclusion that it is a combination of the fact that I really connect with these books, meaning I tend to have a very intense reaction to them, and the fact I find her bad guys particularly nasty, so that the more they feature in a book, the more anxious I feel about reading it. But I love the books. The characters speak to me and I really respond to them. I care about them all and want to know what happens to them. If I was a writer (which I’m not, and certainly wouldn’t ever be one of Catherine’s talent) and I was trying to “write what you love and want to read”, these are they books I’d want to write. They just hit all my buttons, even if they terrify me a little bit as well.

    Borrowing the blurb from

    Del was a rock singer. He was also the renegade son of the Ruby Dynasty, which made his career choice less than respectable, and gave him more to worry about than getting gigs and not getting cheated by recording companies, club owners, or his agent. For one thing, the Ruby Dynasty ruled the Skolian Imperialate, an interstellar Empire, which had recently had a war with another empire, the Eubian Concord. For another, Del was singing on Earth, which was part of a third interstellar civilization, and one which had an uneasy relationship with the Imperialate. Del undeniably had talent, and was rapidly rising from an unknown fringe artist to stardom. But, with his life entangled in the politics of three interstellar civilizations, whether he wanted that or not, talent might not be enough. And that factor might have much more effect than his music on the lives of trillions of people on the thousands of inhabited worlds across the galaxy.

    As I read the book, I really wasn’t always sure if I liked Del or not. I certainly didn’t dislike him, but he could be an incredibly frustrating character at times. He could be pretty immature and needs to do some growing up. Most of her other characters have been much more mature and this is something new. It's done well, but I wanted to slap him occasionally. I think this is completely intentional, but he's still sometimes frustrating. Not annoying, because he's totally in character all the time, but frustrating because he has so much potential he isn't living up to yet.

    Of course, that’s part of the power of the character. For a lot of complicated reasons I don’t want to spoil, he’s missed out of a childhood really and he’s a grown man who is still finding his way out of adolescence with all of an adult’s weight on his shoulders. I found it particularly poignant that, for him, all that his family has suffered (and we readers have suffered it with them through the earlier books) has happened all in one brief, crushing moment, where in reality it has been spread out over 40 years. For them, there has been time to come to some sort of terms with it all and move on, even if only to the next crisis. For Del, it’s all happened to him at once and I doubt he’s had time to work through any of it. That’s why he takes the action he does at the end of the book, full of anger and also confusion I think, and it works perfectly. It’s probably also the beginning of some healing of all the pain, so it will good to see where his character goes in the aftermath of that.

    Apparently, Catherine’s next Skolian book is to be called Carnelians. “It's another stand-lone, like Diamond Star. However, it fits in with Diamond Star and another book called The Ruby Dice, because all three [sic] involve the same characters and universe.” (Catherine Asaro on Paraoddity)

    Firstly, I’m not sure what the third book mentioned here is as Catherine has only named two, but I’m not sure that I care. More Del, more Kelric, more Jai. Yay, I’m going to be happy (even if that whole anxiety thing happens again). But my real point is that I can see Del needing another book. His story doesn’t feel finished here. This chapter of it is, but he’s still got growing up and healing to do, probably quite a lot of both, and his character arc has plenty more places to go. But now that I have finished the book, I find that I do like him. I’m well established in his corner and I want to see him do that growing and become the man he can be. He’s made mistakes, but he learns from them and I want to see that keep happening. (Although a bit from Kelric’s point of view, to see his real feelings for Del, not his always stoic reactions as interpreted by Del in his frustration and anger, would be good too.)

    One other small comment – it was nice to have an aspect of the family tree that has always been confusing finally explained. Maybe in the next book we could have an update of the family tree and the timeline (with the “location” of the newer books added to it ).

    This is a slightly jointed review – I apologise. I started with a bang, then rather ran out of steam. Rather than leaving the draft sitting around for months, I decided to post what I had, so here you are. I hope it was interesting and/or useful.

    Diamond Star
    Catherine Asaro
    Skolian Saga, Book 13 (in publication order)

    Qualifies for: 100+ Reading Challenge

    Skolian Saga (in publication order):

    1. Primary Inversion
    2. Catch the Lightning
    3. The Last Hawk
    4. The Radiant Seas
    5. Ascendant Sun
    6. The Quantum Rose
    7. Spherical Harmonic
    8. The Moon’s Shadow
    9. Skyfall
    10. Schism
    11. The Final Key
    12. The Ruby Dice
    13. Diamond Star
    14. Carnelians (forthcoming from Baen in 2010)

    Wednesday, August 19, 2009

    Skolian hints

    Not only has Catherine Asaro given a great interview over at Paraoddity (with another to come on Friday apparently), in the comments she’s dropped a whole bunch of hints about her plans for the future of the Skolian series. Do go over and read it all.

    Catherine has kindly given me permission to repost those hints here as well.

    Great question, too. Yes, I do plan to finish it. The fifty years in the future just happens to coincide with, um ... the events in Catch the Lightning. Althor, the hero in that book, is the son that Dehya and Eldrin have after the events of Spherical Harmonic. The big series finale is the book that follows Catch the Lightning in the chronology.

    I also plan to visit what's going on with Soz and everyone on Prism in other books, too. In fact, I may even show some of that in the next book, Carnelians.

    And also:

    I do hope to do more with Rohka's story. She's one of my favorite characters of the "new" generation of Ruby Dynasty members. But Soz is definitely coming back. Big time. :-)

    Jaibriol will find answers, but with so much for him to deal with, it will happen over the course of several books. In each one, he becomes more aware of the history that separates his people from the Skolians.

    Don't worry about the ending of The Ruby Dice. It was actually rather triumphant. They finally got a peace treaty. Putting their ideas into action won't be easy, but don't worry, I'm not one for dark endings! Carnelians, the next book, looks at how they do that, and how they deal with the opposition.

    Yay, more Soz. She is totally my favourite character in the series. Yay, Jai finding his answers – if slowly; how will I wait patiently? Yay, there will be an ending and it won’t be a dark one. This is series I both want to reach a conclusion and never to end. I can’t wait.

    I’m also working on a review of Diamond Star that I hope will show up in a few days. I’m having a Catherine Asaro fangirl good time at the moment.

    Edited to add this one:

    I've definitely decided that Jai and Tarquine will have kids. Exactly how that is going to work, I'm not sure. I have some ideas, but I don't want to give away too many plot points. Tarquine is one of my favorite characters to write, along with Soz.

    Tuesday, August 18, 2009

    Follow up on “Grumble, Grumble”

    Just a quick not to say I picked up the library system’s second copy of The Stars Blue Yonder and I was very happy to see that it included the pages the other one was missing.

    I finished the book last night and highly recommend the entire series.

    Now, I’m aiming to go back and finish Diamond Star by Catherine Asaro.

    Sunday, August 16, 2009

    Musing on YA

    Over at The Book Smugglers, Ana and Thea have been holding a YA Appreciation Month (that has stretched out to something over a month I believe). Today is their equivalent of an open mike night on the subject, with anyone with a blog free to join in.

    I’ve always seen myself as someone who enjoys YA fiction even if it’s not my primary reading area, so I joined up to J. Kaye’s 2009 YA Challenge back at the end of last year, thinking I would easily read 12 YA books in 2009. So I’ve been rather surprised to find that it’s been more of a struggle than I expected. Here it is, now the middle of August, and I’ve managed to read just 8 books that I felt I could class as YA. In the interests of full disclosure I should add here that I’ve been in a serious reading dry spell since May, due to long, boring, health-related issues, but it has still been a bigger challenge that I originally anticipated.

    Some of it has been that books that in my youth would have been classed as YA are probably now considered children’s books. So I reread Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising sequence earlier this year, but felt I couldn’t really include them on the list (all the same, they are fantastic books and still a great read for anyone, be they children, young adults or “official” adults). I also felt I was stretching it a bit to include Jeanne duPrau’s Books of Ember as they read as fairly young to me. I did include them on my list, but I’m still not sure if that was a correct judgement call.

    I’ve been thoroughly enjoying Ana and Thea’s YA month, but I have to admit (and I feel kind of embarrassed doing this) that a lot of current YA books intimidate me. Something like Suzanne CollinsThe Hunger Games, which is getting great reviews all over the place (as is its sequel, Catching Fire) scares me. It sounds like such a powerful, dig-at-your-soul kind of book that this boring old adult isn’t sure if she can face it. (The whole reading dry-spell, depression issues don’t help either, I admit.) I’ve been a wimp of late, and I’m sticking to books I don’t feel anxious about when I contemplate reading them.

    YA books, on the whole, I think are more likely to invoke that kind of response – in me, at least. Everything often is intense when you’re a teen. Life is full of new (and old) issues to be faced; it’s a whole adventure waiting for you, ready to be lived with passion and power. This staid, middle aged woman with depression and a 20-year history of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome may have forgotten how to do that.

    I am reminded of a quote from Madeleine L’Engle (another author I love; if you haven’t read her books, get thee to a library or bookstore and give them a read) that I’ve seen used often recently in relation to YA books:

    "You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children."

    I think this is very true. There is a depth and a challenge to be found in YA (and also children’s) books that has been sacrificed in many (but definitely not all) adult books for blood, guts, sex and/or gore, which are actually all pretty simple. So perhaps the conclusion to this bit of stream-of-consciousness reflection is that I should rise above the anxiety and read more YA anyway. I still need four more this year to meet my challenge goal after all.

    I can’t finish on as wishy-washy a note as that. So here’s a little rave about my current favourite YA series – Isobelle Carmody’s Obernewtyn Chronicles. I’ve reviewed the first three books in the series, Obernewtyn, The Farseekers and Ashling, and I’ve also read the fourth, The Keeping Place, although I didn’t feel up to reviewing it (even thought I loved it and rated it 9/10). Let me quote the beginning of my Obernewtyn review:

    I have a memory of standing in a bookstore in my hometown and seeing Obernewtyn on the shelf. I don't know exactly how long ago it was, but I'm pretty sure it was when this was a standalone book and not the first of six as it is now. I can't imagine why I didn't take it home with me as it was just the sort of book I loved at the time. Now, having read it many years later, I can safely say that it's the sort of book I love now as well.

    These are post-apocalyptic books where Carmody set a perfect balance (for me, anyway) between the characters taking charge of the world they now live in and discovering just what the great disaster was, how it happened and how to stop it happening again. I love both aspects of post-apocalyptic tales, so I love how this series neatly blends both. It also has telepathy and other mind-talents (another favourite of mine), talking beasts and well-realised, complicated characters. I really do recommend these books and if you start now, you should just about be ready for the last book when it comes out next year.

    Wednesday, August 12, 2009

    Grumble, grumble


    I really enjoyed the first two books in Sandra McDonald’s Australian mythology-based SF series (The Outback Stars and The Stars Down Under), so I was pleased to get a copy of the final book in the trilogy, The Stars Blue Yonder from the library last week. I’m still struggling with my reading (although hopefully we’re finally getting a handle on which medications aren’t playing nice with which other medications), but I found this one moving along very nicely.

    So imagine my frustration when I was happily reading away, thoroughly enjoying myself, and the book jumped from p.194 to p.225 with nothing in between. It must have been misbound.

    I'm so frustrated, as I really want to know what happens next, but not only is it a library book, I'm in New Zealand. So if the library’s second copy is also misbound (I'll be ringing the appropriate branch tomorrow to ask them to check) goodness knows how long it will take for me to get my hands on another copy.

    It’s just not right. I finally get reading a book again and this is what happens? The book gods must be annoyed with me or something.

    Wednesday, July 01, 2009

    Once Upon a Time III Wrap Up Post


    This challenge ended on the 20th June, 2009. I was partially successful with it, completing the books component, but not getting A Midsummer Night's Dream watched. I've been unwell since the 20th April or thereabouts and that impacted on my participation in the challenge. All the same, I'm glad I joined in and I'll be signing up again next year.

    My Once Upon a Time III reading list (sadly no reviews as I haven’t been feeling up to writing them lately):

    1. The Ordinary Princess - M. M. Kaye
    2. Alphabet of Thorn - Patricia A. McKillip
    3. The Forest of Hands and Teeth - Carrie Ryan
    4. The Night Bird - Catherine Asaro
    5. Silver on the Tree - Susan Cooper

      Book component completed: 22nd April 2009

    6. Giants of the Frost - Kim Wilkins
    7. The Initiate - Louise Cooper

    I didn’t manage to write any reviews, but I enjoyed the books.

    I just loved my reread of The Ordinary Princess, which is actually a junior book, but it is such a lovely tale and it was a delight to visit with Amy and Perry again.

    Alphabet of Thorn was another excellent McKillip book that I happily recommend.

    I was disappointed with The Forest of Hands and Teeth and Giants of the Frost, neither turning out to be quite the book I was expecting. I was frustrated by the main character in Forest and the action in Giants was split into two locations each with a very different tone and voice – one I liked and the other frankly bored me silly.

    Of the other books, two (Silver on the Tree and The Initiate) were very enjoyable rereads and I pretty much always enjoy the adventure in an Asaro title, as I did with The Night Bird.

    June 2009 Reading

    1. The Warlord’s Daughter – Susan Grant
      Borderlands, Book 2; SF Romance; eBook; 7/10
    2. The Empress of Mars – Kage Baker
      SF; Library Book; DNF
    3. Shards of Honor – Lois McMaster Bujold
      Vorkosigan Saga, Book 1; SF; eBook; 10/10
    4. Inner Harbor – Nora Roberts
      Chesapeake Bay, Book 3; Audiobook; Reread; 7/10

    Best book of the month = Shards of Honor

    June Reading:
    Books read this month = 3
    DNFs this month = 1
    10/10 reads this month = 1
    New reads this month =  1
    Rereads this month = 2
    % paper books : % eBooks = 0 : 100

    May Challenges Progress:
    100+ Reading Challenge =  3
    Support Your Local Library Challenge = 0 (Stage 1 Completed 3-04-09)
    Romance Reading Challenge = 2 (Challenge Completed 25-02-09)
    YA Reading Challenge = 0
    eBook Reading Challenge = 2 (Challenge Completed 24-02-09)
    Patricia A. McKillip Reading Challenge = 0 
    Once Upon a Time III Challenge = 0 (Books Completed 22-4-09)

    May Non-Challenges Progress:
    SF/Fantasy books read = 2
    Audiobooks listened to = 1

    Tuesday, June 23, 2009

    Sixty Four Blocks

    chain013With everything being so mucky at the moment, I’ve been flitting from project to project as I try to find something I can settle into. Knowing it was like this, Dave helped me set up my sewing table in the dining room/conservatory so I could sew up a quilt block or two when I felt like it.

    This has worked pretty well in all and today I finished the last of the 64 blocks I need to make the main part of my Triple Irish Chain quilt. I’m really pleased with how it looks (even if I did have to pick it all up again because the cleaners were coming later) and hopefully I’ll slowly keep working on sewing the blocks together.


    Thursday, June 18, 2009

    Depression Update

    Since people have been so lovely as to leave me encouraging comments as I’ve dealt with this change in depression meds, I thought I’d post the latest update.

    Basically, I went back to the doctor today and we both agreed the new meds haven’t yet done the trick. After talking around the options, we decided to increase the dosage of the current med and hope that that works.

    I’m keeping my fingers crossed as I’m totally over this whole experiment already and starting to wish I’d never started the whole mess.

    But I say that with my cross stitch sitting beside me as I continue to make slow but steady progress with part 1 of Illuminated Medieval Sampler. I’d pretty much stopped stitching on the old medication, as well as slowing hugely with my reading and stopping patchwork and writing completely. I’m still struggling with the reading, but I’m not at a complete halt, so that’s something.

    Hopefully this latest change will be what is needed and things will go up from here.

    Monday, June 15, 2009

    2009 Cumulative Totals - May

    2009 Reading:
    Books read for 2009 = 50
    DNFs for 2009 = 4
    10/10 for 2009 = 3
    New reads for 2009 = 41
    Rereads for 2009 = 3
    % paper books : % eBooks = 54 : 46

    2009 Challenges Progress:
    100+ Reading Challenge = 48
    Support Your Local Library Challenge = 14 (Stage 1 Completed 3-04-09)
    Romance Reading Challenge = 10 (Challenge Completed 25-02-09)
    YA Reading Challenge = 7
    eBook Reading Challenge = 22 (Challenge Completed 24-02-09)
    Patricia A. McKillip Reading Challenge = 2
    Once Upon a Time III Challenge = 7 (Books Component Completed 22-04-09) 

    2009 Non-Challenges Progress:
    SF/Fantasy books read = 30
    Audiobooks listened to = 4

    May 2009 Reading

    Better late than never, here are my May reading statistics. Much to my frustration, I’m still struggling to read (and June has been even worse than May) and my totals are significantly down on other months. Oh well, there’s nothing I can do about it but hope that it passes.

    1. Monday Mourning – Kathy Reichs 
      Temperance Brennan, Book 7; Mystery; 7/10
    2. The Initiate – Louise Cooper
      The Time Master Trilogy, Book 1; Fantasy; eBook; Reread; 8/10
    3. Georgette Heyer’s Regency World – Jennifer Kloester
      Audiobook; 7/10
    4. Undercover – Lauren Dane
      Romance; eBook; DNF
    5. The Penderwicks – Jeanne Birdsall
      Childrens; Library Book; 8/10
    6. Cross Bones – Kathy Reichs
      Temperance Brennan, Book 8; Mystery; DNF
    7. It Happened One Autumn – Lisa Kelypas
      Wallflowers, Book 2; Romance; eBook; 7/10
    8. Madam, Will You Talk? – Mary Stewart
      Romantic Suspense; 9/10

    Best book of the month = Madam, Will You Talk?

    May Reading:
    Books read this month = 6
    DNFs this month = 2
    10/10 reads this month = 0
    New reads this month = 5
    Rereads this month = 1
    % paper books : % eBooks = 60 : 40 

    May Challenges Progress:
    100+ Reading Challenge =  6
    Support Your Local Library Challenge = 1 (Stage 1 Completed 3-04-09)
    Romance Reading Challenge = 1 (Challenge Completed 25-02-09)
    YA Reading Challenge = 0
    eBook Reading Challenge = 2 (Challenge Completed 24-02-09)
    Patricia A. McKillip Reading Challenge = 0
    Once Upon a Time III Challenge = 1 (Books Completed 22-4-09) 

    May Non-Challenges Progress:
    SF/Fantasy books read = 1
    Audiobooks listened to = 1

    Saturday, June 13, 2009

    How rude do you think we are?

    Marcus’ imaginary friend, Super Bear (aka one crooked index finger), came to the supermarket with us today. She was being very annoying, flying around the vegetables and generally being anti-social.

    Dave said something rather sharply to Marcus about controlling Super Bear and that “she was being very distracting.”

    The woman at the vegetable stand next to us looked over, worried, and said something.

    Horrified, I realised that she thought we were talking about her. I was quick to explain, “We’re not talking about you; it’s our son’s imaginary friend.” (Just how rude did she think we are? Even if she had been distracting – and she wasn’t – we never would have said anything.)

    I’m not sure if she believed me or not, but I sure hope so. Especially since we kept meeting her all the war around the supermarket aisles.

    Emotional level vs. Academic level

    For some reason, I decided it was time I set my mind to writing a blog post. But this isn’t the one I was going to write. Instead, it’s what came to me after following my way around some links.

    I’ve just read a fascinating article called “All in the Timing” that suggests that children reading ahead of their age level isn’t always a good thing. Not that it’s bad children are advanced readers, but that by pushing their reading level, they miss out on enjoying books that they are deemed to have “gone past” or read books before they are emotionally ready for them. It’s a very interesting article that I recommend reading, and one with which I mostly agree.

    It got me thinking about Marcus. Sure, he’s only five now and still learning to read, but the days are coming when Dave and I, as his parents, are going to need to start helping him read appropriate books, read with him and monitor his reading to some degree.

    I can’t help but be proud that he’s in the highest reading group in his class, even if his reading material is still Honey for Baby Bear or Naughty Max Monkey. As a reader (who currently isn’t managing to read, which is the blog post I was originally planning to write) I want Marcus to know the joy of books.

    But by that I don’t mean reading at as high a level as possible to show off how smart he is. I mean that absolute joy of getting caught up in a story and having it speak to your heart. I can do that with adult books, YA books and even children’s book and I’m not ashamed of reading any of them. Why should it be different for a child? (Although obviously in concept rather than with regard to the same books.)

    And while I wouldn’t consider Marcus to be an immature five year old, he’s certainly still a little kid and I think it’s very important to cater to his emotional level as well as his reading level. Finding books that do both those things may well turn out to be a challenge. I guess it’s time to start making a catalogue of useful links and resources.

    Thursday, June 04, 2009

    Half way along

    I’ve been stitching steadily on Illuminated Medieval Samper – I guess one of the few upsides to stabilising on new antidepressants is a need to keep myself busy (or I’d climb in bed by about 7.30pm and hide there for the rest of the night) so I’ve been stitching. I find myself a little intimidated by just how MUCH border there is to this design, but I must say that what I’ve done so far is looking very nice. The photos aren’t great, but here’s my progress for this week.




    For all that there’s still an awful lot of empty fabric, I’m starting to feel like I’m making my mark on the project and so long as I don’t focus on the enormity of the border, I’m enjoying myself.

    Of course, Chatelaines tend to breed and now that I’ve started this one, I’ve gone and ordered the materials pack for Pompeji Garden. It won’t be started before this is finished, so we’re talking a few years ahead, but I have some money to spend on it now and it’s always nice to have the next project stashed away in a cupboard waiting for its time to come.

    Sunday, May 31, 2009

    More IMS

    Here’s my first scroll corner. It looks very impressive, doesn’t it…


    … at least until you see it in context.


    Friday, May 29, 2009

    Thursday, May 28, 2009

    Latest on IMS

    Here’s my latest on Illuminated Medieval Sampler. The square-ish border has been filled in and I’m onto the swirly filigree border next.


    I also put it on the scanner to do a close up of all the Rhodes stitches and the sparkly backstitching. The actual colour, IRL, is probably somewhere between the two pictures, but the bottom picture is definitely a little washed. Given scanners, cameras and the differences between everyone’s monitors it is so hard to get an accurate image.


    I’m still enjoying myself stitching this, so I shall carry on with it while I am. It’s also been good as I deal with the whole depression medication thing as when I’m feeling less than relaxed, I can usually still manage to sit down and stitch a few stitches in a relatively calm manner.

    Regarding the depression, it came roaring back Saturday and I immediately decided against toughing it out any longer. I’m now on a new medication and waiting for it to get up to full strength. Hopefully it won’t be too long. Right now, I’m feeling okay, but I also know that everything is a bit “off”. I figure when I forget to ask myself if I’m feeling better, that’s when I will be.

    Thursday, May 21, 2009

    IMS – second line of border done

    I’ve completed the inner line of the border for Illuminated Medieval Sampler.

    ims002 While watching Doctor Who with a friend this evening (Planet of the Dead – yes, I’m running behind as always) I got started with the rhodes stitches and gold metallic back stitching that fill in the space between these two lines of the border. It looks really pretty, so when I get that done I’ll make sure to include a close up photo as well as the one of the whole thing.

    I know it isn’t very exciting to look at so far, but to me it feels fantastic. My enthusiasm for my stitching was just fading away and so to be enjoying myself doing this even (or perhaps especially) when it is just border, it' feels fabulous.

    So far on Madam, Will You Talk?

    So I’m up to page 94 out of 368. I’ve made my predictions on who are the good guys, the bad guys and the spectators. I know, because I know I can trust Mary Stewart, that the protagonist will survive and most likely end up with a good man (and I’m confident I know who it will be).

    There shouldn’t be anything to worry about, should there?

    But boy, the suspense is getting to me!

    Wednesday, May 20, 2009

    Slow reads and fast reads

    gaudy night AKA A Book Ramble…

    I have just updated my progress with the books I’m reading on Good Reads. It made me realise that three of the four books I’m currently reading are older books (all with a certain “classic” status – not actual classics but ones that have long time fans) that need to be read slowly and savoured and appreciated.

    It made me think. I wonder if these days, with so many books saturating the market, we tend to look for fast reads so that we can get on to the next one. We have these huge TBR lists/shelves/piles/mountains/Everests where we have so many books we want to read that if we ever stopped to think about how long it would take to read them all we’d probably run screaming (I know I certainly would).

    But for all their potential quick-read status, I’m currently not all that enthused by my TBR and finding great freedom in reading other things.

    For me it’s Mary Stewart (Madam, Will You Talk?), Dorothy L. Sayers (Gaudy Night) and Dorothy Dunnett (Scales of Gold). And I don’t mind slipping between the books and spending some time in France, Oxford and Portugal (at the moment, although Nicholas is on his way to Africa). Instead of rushing, rushing, rushing I think I need to take the quiet reading time. If I decide to go through with reading some more Mary Stewart as I am so tempted to do, that’s okay. If I decide to continue following Nicholas around the world or join Harriet and Peter as they explore married life, what’s to stop me?

    The only person who ever said I had to read books from the TBR and/or read them fast was me. Surely if anyone can change my mind, it should be me!

    I also have all three of these books both as paper copies and audiobooks. In the past I’ve always tried to listen to the audiobooks pretty much on their own merit. Gaudy Night is my official current listen and I’m struggling with it because I only get to listen at night and I keep falling asleep. This morning, I added Madam, Will You Talk? to my PDA after I’d read one chapter of the book. So while lying down for my daily rest (aka sleep of the dead) I listened to that first chapter. It was a great way to do it. Instead of trying to concentrate really hard (I take in information many times better when it’s written that when I listen), it just gently reinforced what I had already read and was a much more relaxing experience. So maybe I need to do that instead. Again, it’s a case of going slowly and savouring the experience rather than trying to get more books read by listening to one as well as reading others.

    Perhaps we’ve forgotten how to do that – take it slowly and enjoy the experience – in this fast paced world. I certainly think I had.

    While I readily admit that the TBR is sure to obsess me again before too long, I’m going to enjoy this new way of looking at things for as long as it lasts.

    Book in the Mail

    Yay, I got a new book in the mail today. What a nice surprise, as I’d completely forgotten it was coming. I won a copy of Mary Stewart’s Madam, Will You Talk? from Angie over at Angieville.

    Stewart, Mary - Madam, Will You Talk I’ve always loved Mary Stewart’s books, although it is years since I’ve read one. This, however, is not one I either own or have read, so I decided to forget about the TBR mountain an started in right away. I’ve only read the first chapter so far, but I’d forgotten how evocative Stewart’s writing just can be. In that first chapter she’s already given me a detailed feeling for the main character, her friend, the hotel where they are staying and several of the other characters.

    It’s making me want to go on a Mary Stewart reread, but I guess I should finish this one first, shouldn’t I?