Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Marcus Review: Dragon’s Fat Cat

Dragon's Fat Cat: Dragon's Fourth Tale (Pilkey, Dav, Dragon Tales.) Dragon's Fat Cat: Dragon's Fourth Tale by Dav Pilkey

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I liked when Dragon got his cat back. And I loved the bit when he noticed that Cat had kittens and I loved the names he named the kittens - Kitty and Kitty and Kitty and Kitty and Kitty.

And I loved when he found Cat in the snow at the beginning.

It was easy peasy lemon-squeezy to read.

I would like to read more books about Dragon.

And I loved when he noticed the kittens. It was funny that the kitten slept on the bed and Dragon slept in their cat baskets.

View all my reviews >>

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

I’m starting to worry

6candles Marcus has his birthday party this coming Saturday (he turns six on Friday). Dave and I have been planning it since December. That’s not because we’re that obsessive, but because it was easier to invite his school friends on the last day of school rather than track down phone numbers and/or addresses for all of them to send out the invitations.

(Why did the kid have to be so impatient as to be born in the last week of the school holidays? I was happily planning for April; he’s the one who decided to arrive in January.)

So, way back around the 10th December, we decided to invite his friends around to our place for a pool party and barbeque. When I asked him who he wanted to come, he listed over half the class. And the list changed each time. So in the end I just invited all 21 of them. With that many, spreading them around our yard, the pool, the sandpit and the trainset seemed the best possible solution. There’s also going to be another birthday surprise (Marcus shouldn’t be reading my blog, but he could now, so I’m not going to risk spelling it out), but that is also an outdoor one.

At this point I have 13 confirmed attendees, several of whom are bringing their parents and siblings. And the long range weather forecast on the news tonight was for heavy rain on Saturday. My planned activities are all outdoor ones. What am I going to do with all these people if it’s pouring with rain?

My health is totally crap right now. I’m struggling to think straight – my thought patterns are certainly extremely linear and if I don’t have a list, I’ll just forget things. My body doesn’t feel sleepy, but it’s just done and keeps trying to tell me to lie down and close my eyes. And I have muscle aches all over and eyes that hurt just from being open. CFS is not kind to mothers looking after hyperactive nearly-six year olds for six weeks in a row. (I’ve had wonderful help from Dave, but there’s still I lot I just have to do myself, especially when he’s at work.) My resources are very, very thin at this point.

Which is a long winded way of saying that I simply don’t have the focus, brainpower and energy to start planning indoor games at this point. My mind goes blank if I just start to think about it.

I’m hoping and praying for good weather, and failing that, some other kind of miracle.

I foresee troubled sleep and/or nightmares in my future for the next couple of days.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Wolfe’s Hope by Lora Leigh

Leigh, Lora - Breeds 10 - Wolfe's Hope From

Hope believed Wolfe was dead, but he was only waiting for the right time to claim her. The scientist who created him, Hope's mother, has forced his hand. She wants her creation back, and she wants any children he may breed on her daughter.

He is a man whose DNA was altered, infused with the genetic code of the wolf. His unique genetic makeup has created a male unlike any other and will make itself known in the most surprising ways. Now Hope must convince her mate she hasn't betrayed him, and they must defeat the plans of a scientist gone mad.

This is one of Lora Leigh's early entries in her Breeds series, a short story published with Ellora's Cave. In the years since, the series has moved to mainstream publisher Berkley, and she has significantly expanded the world she has created.

I'm one of those people who really likes to read a series in order. This can become quite a stress when publication order and chronological order differ and I have to choose one or the other to follow. In this case, I'm working with the series chronology provided by Leigh on her website.

That makes this early story number 10 in the series and that's where I've read it. Sadly, it's a huge step down from the other Breed books I've read so far.

I realise that saying I read this series, which counts as erotic romance, for the worldbuilding probably sounds like claiming one reads Playboy for the articles. But it is true. I enjoy the romances and especially the wider developing story more than the sex scenes. Sure, I'm happy to read explicit sex scenes if that's what I'm in the mood for, but I want more than that.

In Wolfe's Hope that's really all that there is. There's a very cursory bit of backstory but mostly it's a case of a badly done I-hate-you, I-hate-you (but I can't help having sex with you), I-love-you story. Since that's a device that tends to annoy me unless it is done very well, this story didn't have a lot of a chance with me.

In its defence, it is a very short story, leaving very little space for plot if there needs to be explicit sex (and this was written for Ellora's Cave after all and is part of an erotic series). All the same, it really did nothing for me. There's no real story, no character development. It's just sex.

If you're reading the Breeds series and enjoying the characters and the Breeds' struggles to be accepted as being as much people as normal humans, give this one a miss. It doesn't have any of that at all.

Wolfe’s Hope
Lora Leigh
Breeds, Book 10
Read: 24-1-10 to 24-1-10

Breeds (in chronological order)

  1. Tempting the Beast
  2. The Man Within (Goodreads link)
  3. Elizabeth’s Wolf
  4. Kiss of Heat (Goodreads link)
  5. Soul Deep
  6. The Breed Next Door (in Hot Spell anthology) (Goodreads link)
  7. Megan’s Mark
  8. Harmony’s Way (Goodreads link)
  9. Tanner’s Scheme (Goodreads link)
  10. Wolfe’s Hope
  11. Jacob’s Faith (Goodreads link)
  12. Aiden’s Charity (Goodreads link)
  13. In a Wolf’s Embrace (in Beyond the Dark anthology) (Goodreads link)
  14. Dawn’s Awakening (Goodreads link)
  15. A Jaguar’s Kiss (in Shifter anthology) (Goodreads link)
  16. Mercury’s War (Goodreads link)
  17. Christmas Heat (in The Magical Christmas Cat anthology) (Goodreads link)
  18. Coyote’s Mate (Goodreads link)
  19. Bengal’s Heart (Goodreads link)
  20. A Christmas Kiss (in Hot for the Holidays anthology) (Goodreads link)
  21. Lion’s Heat (to be published 6-4-10) (Goodreads link)

Friday, January 22, 2010

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

L'Engle, Madeleine - Time 01 - A Wrinkle in Time (1) From

Meg's father mysteriously disappears after experimenting with the fifth dimension of time travel. Determined to rescue him, Meg and her friends must outwit the forces of evil on a heart-stopping journey through space and time. A commemorative edition with an Introduction by the author. A Newbery Medal winner

This was a favourite book - and the first in a favourite series - when I was a child. I'm sure I've read it several times over the years, along with A Swiftly Tilting Planet which is my absolute favourite of the five.

I promised not to take on lots of reading challenges in 2010, but when I saw that Kailana at The Written World was holding a readalong for the series over the first five months of the year, I just couldn't resist. After all, surely I can manage to read one children's book a month for five months?

It's always something of a risk, rereading childhood favourites as an adult. You come to them with such a range of experiences that you didn't have when you first loved them. And not only that, but if your childhood is as long ago as mine was, they the book is going to be several decades old and there is also the chance that it may have dated terribly.

I'm very happy to report that I really enjoyed rereading A Wrinkle in Time. Yes, with adult eyes I could see that it was a book for children, but I didn't care. That delightful sense of wonder I discovered so many years ago was still there and I read it quickly and easily, really enjoying my trip through the universe with Meg, Charles Wallace and Calvin.

I don’t remember a lot of details of my reaction to the book on first reading it. I remembered the story and I remembered loving Meg as the main protagonist, but not much more than that.

Firstly, let me say that I still love Meg. I guess she is one of the first characters I really felt I could relate to. I, too, was the different kid who didn’t properly fit in. I was more academic than Meg and didn’t get into such trouble, but I still felt, on reading her, that here was someone like me. Looking back now, I see that the superficial likeness isn’t all that great, but inside, inside I felt like Meg. And I can look back at my childhood self and look at Meg and still fell great sympathy between the two. The blessing given to Meg, “I give you your faults”, felt perfect. What child (or what adult) doesn’t want to be able to turn their faults into something powerful and positive like Meg did.

I also remember finding IT horrible, repulsive and scary. I still find the concept of IT and its control over Camazotz to be all those things, but the actual physical manifestation of IT no long scares me. Instead, I find myself wondering about size and scale and really, unless it was huge, it’s not all that frightening. I’m reminded of the Buffy episode, Fear, Itself where the demon seems terribly frightening until its scale is revealed and Buffy stomps on it. It felt to me that IT needed a good stomping. But because the power of IT remained so repulsive, this small failure didn’t damage my enjoyment of the book.

I did wonder, when I started, if the book would have dated. On the whole, really it hadn’t. Okay I did try to remember when Cape Canaveral turned into Cape Kennedy (1963, the year after A Wrinkle in Time was published I find after looking it up on Wikipedia, which make logical sense when I think about it). But really, the only time I stopped and thought, “Hey, this was written in the sixties”, was when the children walked into Camazotz Central Intelligence and the computer room was described as being full of enormous boxes full of reels of tape. That kind of technological dating is impossible to avoid in an old book – how could L’Engle (or anyone else) imagine what my computer experience would be in 2010 as I sit here with a laptop on my knees connected to you all by wireless broadband. I just noticed the old computers and moved on. Otherwise, the people remained real people, the problems real problems and the alien worlds were very nicely, if not exactly scientifically, portrayed.

I've already read some of the reviews posted by other "readalongers" and some points had been raised (points seen by adult eyes and at a distance of years as I mentioned above) that remained in the back of my mind as I read. Would I notice them too? Would they bother me too?

One in particular, mentioned by more than one reader, was the very Christian-centric view of the universe in the book. Several said that while they didn't mind the characters having such a belief set, they felt that the author was preaching to them by having the actual universe itself having that belief set. Being brought up in the Christian belief system myself, I certainly never noticed it when reading the book as a child. Or at least, I don't remember noticing it. Reading it now, I could see what the other readers meant - I felt there were two places in particular where Christianity was given as absolute truth of the universe rather than one of several possibilities. These were when Mrs Whatsit tried to translate the music on Uriel and later, when the children were asked to think of people on Earth who had fought against the Darkness and the first answer, given by Charles Wallace, was Jesus.

So yes, it was there. How did it affect my reading of the book. Well, it didn't really, I must admit. I thought for a second, "Oh, that's what they meant" and went on reading. Part of that is probably due to the fact I still hold that same belief set myself (if not with the absolute assurance I had as a child), but I also didn't feel that L'Engle was preaching at me. I couldn't say whether she wrote the book as she did because to her that's the way the world was, truth rather than choice, or because she chose to create her "universe" where that was the truth of things. Either way, it didn't feel to me like she was on any kind of soapbox, which would have annoyed me, but telling her story the way that was right for her. Of course, others who come to the book from a different background may not agree with me.

(It also helps that I'm quite capable of subscribing to the concept of each book I read belonging in its own alternate universe that exists alongside the real one - something that can be very useful when watching TV and film adaptions of favourite books as they often belong in totally different universes from each other. Although, as an aside, I admit that even I can't manage that when it comes to the atrocity that is the film of Susan Cooper's wonderful book, The Dark is Rising.)

Someone else mentioned that they felt the characterisation was choppy, especially with the way Meg's feelings jumped all over the place. I don't think I would have noticed that even this time if I hadn't already been aware it might be there. I didn't really find it choppy, but more as if everything was being shown right up front and centre. Subtle, Meg certainly wasn't. In an adult book this might have been a problem, but I didn't feel it was here. By that, I don't mean that L'Engle can "get away with it" because she was writing a book for children, but because subtlety is something we develop as we mature and spelling it out was probably appropriate for the reading audience. This is a book for children, not for adults or even young adults (a reading category that didn't even exist when this book was published in 1962) and I felt it fit the age group, especially considering when it was written.

Speaking of when it was written, do you like the cover of my edition? I had to go and scan it, since I couldn’t find it online anywhere. I really like it and feel it works well for the book. I’m kind of sorry there’s 50c written on the cover, but it helps with the whole nostalgic feel. I wish I could still buy books for 50c – and that New Zealand cents not American ones too.

Kailana asked us to come up with some questions for discussion. I've already addressed some other readers' points, so thought I'd throw out one of my own.

Do readers feel this book has a clear sense of place?

Because I do. For all that a significant portion of it occurs on other planets, this feels like a very American book to me. I don't mean that as a kind of judgement, just that the sense of place is very strong for me. And this is something I feel certain I picked up on original readings as well as it felt very familiar to me as I reread. I've been thinking about why that might be, and come to the conclusion that it is because most of the books available to me as a child living in New Zealand in the 1970s and early 80s were British books. The fiction world of my childhood was therefore very British. (There were a few New Zealand books available, noticeably books by Margaret Mahy and Maurice Gee's Under the Mountain but I don't remember many others off the top of my head.) Then along came these wonderful books that felt so different. I couldn't say why then and I still can't put my finger on it now, but the sense of place for me stood out because it was quite unlike the other books I read.

There are some obvious things, like mention of different kinds of trees and Mr Murray working at Cape Canaveral, but it was more subtle than that. A sense that seeps through the pages to give me a delicious, different feeling.

I'm not sure that actually makes sense, but that's how it feels to me and I'm going to stick by it.

So overall, yes, you can tell this is a children's book, but I just don't care. I loved rediscovering it and it spoke to me as much at age 40 as it did when I was 10. There's got to be some kind of magic in that.

And besides, tesseract is just a totally cool word.

A Wrinkle in Time
Madeleine L’Engle
Time Quintet, Book 1
Read: 19-1-10 to 21-1-10

Time Quintet

  1. A Wrinkle in Time
  2. A Wind in the Door (Goodreads link)
  3. A Swiftly Tilting Planet (Goodreads link)
  4. Many Waters (Goodreads link)
  5. An Acceptable Time (Goodreads link)

Marcus Review: Captain Clawbeak and the Red Herring

  Captain Clawbeak & the Red Herring by Anne Morgan

Morgan, Anne - Captain Clawbeak 01 - Captain Clawbeak and the Red HerringMy rating: 5 of 5 stars

I thought that when they found the secret tunnel out of Daggers' hideout and then when they found the entrance out of the secret tunnel were good parts of the book.

I liked two animals in the book and their names were Clawbeak and Fang. I liked what Fang said.

And I loved the bit when Dad let them keep Clawbeak for a week or two or if Clawbeak could stay for much longer than that.

Um, I loved the bit when they escaped from the blowhole.

 View all my reviews >>

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Mirror Dance by Lois McMaster Bujold

mirror dance From

Miles Vorkosigan faces more than his share of troubles as the protagonist in Mirror Dance. Not only is he deformed and undersized but he has a cloned brother who gets into a jam in the free enterprise plague spot known as Jackson's Whole. Miles tries to help his brother but ends up injured, placed on cryogenic suspension and then lost in intergalactic limbo. And that's just in the first 100 pages. The following 300 pages add a wealth more to this fantastic tale that's both humorous and finely written. Mirror Dance won the 1995 Hugo Award for Science Fiction.

I've been rather under the weather lately. I've done too much physically and my CFS has come along and thwacked me around the head to remind me it's still there. As a result, my brain isn't running on full steam either. So I don't have this post quite planned out in my head and I don't know how coherent I'm going to be. However, I know that the longer I put it off, the more and more likely it becomes that I won't write anything at all. So here we go. I'll start typing and we'll see what happens.

This is a reread for me, being read as the part of the Vorkosigan Series Read with the Beyond Reality group on Goodreads. I'm not sure how many times I've read it - it feels like the answer should be "many" but I rather suspect it is less times than I imagine. All the same, it's a book I remember as a favourite and the point where the series turns from books I really enjoy to books I love.

All the same, I was nervous about reading it. For once, I even knew why. You see, as the book begins, one of the two main protagonists does something incredibly stupid. I've always been very embarrassed for characters than do this kind of thing. I'll put the book down and need to take a breather (a few seconds or a few days, sometimes it can run long enough the make the book a DNF). If it's on TV I'll get up and leave the room and I think the only time I ever walked out of a movie before it finished was for this reason.

And in this case, that character, he's very close to being my favourite character in the series. Miles is such a brilliant creation that he remains my favourite, but Mark is always right there behind him breathing down his neck. And yes, it is Mark who does the colossally stupid thing. What makes it worse is that he doesn't actually do it out of stupidity, but from inexperience and youth and a desperate urge to get out of Miles' shadow and be a hero in his own right.

The problem is that Mark isn't Miles, no matter how much he was conditioned to be so, and he can't be a hero like Miles. The triumph of this book is that Mark gradually discovers that he can be a hero like Mark.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. I was talking about being nervous about reading the book. To do so, I was going to have to go through that with Mark and Miles and the other characters and watch it all unfold - and unfold badly. I tried to express this in a conversation on the group and was struggling to find the right words, and one of the other readers came back with "cringe". And yes, that's it exactly. If Mark had just being an idiot doing something idiotic, I could grimace a bit, but just think "well, you had that coming." But Mark isn't actually an idiot and he's trying so desperately hard (and is terrified the whole time but still keeps on going) and still he totally screws everything up. It makes me cringe.

In fact, it makes me cringe in advance, just when I start thinking that I'm going to have to read it soon. It doesn't help that Mark does something else awful, not out of meanness or maliciousness or evil, but out the situation of his very, very screwed-up childhood and upbringing. Yes, he's much more at fault in this case, but not completely and again, I cringe.

When I look at the dates I started and finished this book, I can break it down into the early "cringe" part of the novel and the rest. I would guess that it took me 4 days to read the first third of the novel and 2 to read the last two-thirds. Once I got past the hard bit, I couldn't stop reading and just kept going until I was finished.

Which brings me to the point of this very long ramble before I even move on to the meat of the book. I don't find the first part of the book cringe-worthy because it is bad; it is because it is just so damn good. You're right there with Mark; Bujold makes you understand his motivations right along with his dreams and his errors and his ignorance. If you start reading Mirror Dance and like me, find yourself cringing as you read this early part - please, please, please don't give up on the book. The payout at the end is so very worth it. In fact, you start getting payout on your uncomfortableness (yes, I know that's not a word but it best describes what I'm getting at) long before you get to the end of the book. Please stick it out. You'll be rewarded.

As for the rest of the book, on some levels it is another space adventure like earlier Vorkosigan books, but I think it is also something deeper. This is a book about identity. This has been a theme in earlier books in the series as Miles juggles Lord Vorkosigan and Admiral Naismaith, but here with the presence of Mark and the events towards the end of the book, it becomes so much more about identity than any of the earlier books have been.

For the first section of the book, Mark is never mentioned by name. We get several chapters entirely from his point of view, but still Bujold only uses "he" to identify her protagonist. While Miles gave him the name Mark back on Earth in Brothers in Arms, he hasn't chosen to claim it for himself, and sees himself essentially as without an identity. Or more importantly, if he doesn't identify with Miles himself, there's no-one left to be him. So he swans along to the Dendarii, posing as Admiral Naismith, and sends them on a mission of his own choosing, always angry with him that they don’t recognise that is, in fact, not Naismith. But all the same, he is not Miles and everything falls apart around him.

That's the cringe-worthy but good stuff. From there it moves on to the still good but no longer cringe-worthy stuff. With Miles out of the picture (I'm not going to tell you why or how as that's a spectacular spoiler), the remaining Dendarii, headed by Quinn, send Mark off to Barrayar. There he discovers he has a number of relatives, the most astounding of these being his parents (or grandparents, or parents-once-removed, or whatever you call people due to the tricky legalities of cloning). In her usual, clear-headed way Cordelia soon sets him straight that she would like to be, if he will let her, simply his newly-met mother. These people don't compare him to Miles (or not much), they don't expect him to do anything for them, they just want him to be a person in his own right - Lord Mark Pierre Vorkosigan. The problem, of course, as that he has no idea who that is or how to be him.

All the same, he slowly begins to learn.

There's a lovely part quite early on in his time of Barrayar, where Mark and Aral are talking and it is brought up that they have all studied each other and know a lot about each other.

So what's the test?" [asks Mark]

"Ah, that's the trick of it. It's not a test. It's real life." [Aral answers]

And this is a core of the identity issue here. Mark can't study to be himself - or Miles for that matter. All he can do is accept the potential of Mark and slowly find out what that is and who he can become.

The lovely thing about the book is that he does. It takes a while, but he does. As the action moves away from Barrayar and back into the wider galactic sphere, that respite on Barrayar (despite having some high drama of its own) has given Mark some time to take tentative steps towards developing an identity of his own. He's beginning to realise he has a mind just as smart as Miles' is; it's just that he can and wants to use it in different ways. He's had people around him react with him directly as Mark instead of as a substitute Miles (whether they know the truth about it all or not). True, that identity isn't very far developed yet, but it's enough that he knows he wants to discover who Mark is, not get tossed back into being the no-one/anyone he was before.

Meanwhile, there's Miles. When we re-encounter him, he's lost his memory. (This is foreshadowed early in the book and relates to Mark's colossal blunder, so I'm going to mention it but work very hard to avoid any conspicuous spoilers.) That brilliant brain is still spinning at its usual rate, but without the background knowledge and information he usually has, he can't make the leaps of intuition he usually does to take control of the situation. Instead Mark reappears, steely and determined to rescue his big brother and this leaves Miles, even memory-less, feeling like he's lost control of a situation in which he should be in charge.

From there, all the strands begin to weave themselves back together again, to the point where Miles, memory returned, sets out to rescue Mark, only to find his baby brother has already done it for himself and perhaps, even with his personality back together, he's not quite so in control of things as he always imagined he was.

Bujold does do some pretty nasty things to Mark in this book (I'm not going to say what) but they are all implied rather than shown and I'm perfectly happy to leave it that way. We get the full force of Mark's triumph without needing the gory details. Personally, I find this much easier to read than the cringe-worthy first section.

It is also lovely to see Aral and Cordelia back on their own turf, so to speak. Cordelia is her usual, clear-eyed self and her outsider’s view helps Mark appreciate the ways the reality of Barrayar doesn’t match the lies he was taught by Galen. But mostly, it is her honest, not necessarily comforting assessments of her husband and both her sons that take me love her all over again. Aral, Barrayaran to his soul even with his galactic wife, struggles with the whole mess that is so outside his experience, but remains the solid, stubborn and honest man we know him to be. And the book is almost worth it’s cover price just for the fun of watching Cordelia face down Simon Illyan and defeat him absolutely.

Another thing I like about this book is that by the end, Mark isn't actually fixed. He knows who he is and he's at peace with that - but he also knows that he's very screwed up inside his head and needs to do something about it. With Cordelia's support, he voluntarily decides to head off to Beta Colony for some serious therapy (which is apparently pretty good if they're not working on false assumptions like they were with Cordelia back in Shards of Honor). There's even a hint that in a more distant future, when she's older and he's less damaged, he might get the girl (I'm still holding out for that to happen.)

To finish on a fun note, my favourite line of the book comes when Miles tries to explain about Mark (although not the Vorkosigan part) and what he has done.

"You see," Miles explained in a hollow voice to the What-the-hell-are-they-talking-about portion of the room, "some people have an evil twin. I am not so lucky. What I have is an idiot twin."

This is an excellent book that sets us up for several more of my favourite books to come as I love Memory perhaps best of all, and love Komarr and A Civil Campaign especially for one of the new characters they introduce. I'm looking forward to it.

I love me a Vorkosigan book with Miles in it; but I love me even more a Vorkosigan book with both Miles and Mark in it. Mirror Dance is the reason why. The journey Mark takes in this book carries me along with it and leaves me exhausted and satisfied at the end. I cringe so much at the beginning because I so desperately want Mark to succeed and it hurts when he does the exact opposite. I don't know quite why I emphasise with him as much as I do, but the fact is that I do.

I love this book. I love this series. If you haven't, give it/them a try and stick with it through the cringe. I don't think you'll regret it.

Mirror Dance
Lois McMaster Bujold
Vorkosigan, Book 9
Read: 13-1-10 to 19-1-10

Vorkosigan Series (in chronological order)

  1. Shards of Honor (Goodreads link)
  2. Barrayar (Goodreads link)
  3. The Warrior’s Apprentice
  4. The Vor Game
  5. Cetaganda (Goodreads link)
  6. Ethan of Athos (Goodreads link)
  7. Borders of Infinity (Goodreads link)
  8. Brothers in Arms (Goodreads link)
  9. Mirror Dance
  10. Memory (Goodreads link)
  11. Komarr (Goodreads link)
  12. A Civil Campaign (Goodreads link)
  13. Diplomatic Immunity (Goodreads link)
  14. CryoBurn (hopefully due late 2010)

Friday, January 15, 2010

Raising Boys by Steve Biddulph

Biddulph, Steve - Raising Boys From

From award-winning psychologist Steve Biddulph comes an expanded and updated edition of RAISING BOYS, his international best seller published in 14 countries. His complete guide for parents, educators, and relatives includes chapters on testosterone, sports, and how boys' and girls' brains differ. With gentle humor and proven wisdom, RAISING BOYS focuses on boys' unique developmental needs to help them be happy and healthy at every stage of life.

This isn't what I was planning to read next, but I saw it sitting on the "recently returned" shelf at the library and vaguely remembered hearing about it (although I couldn't remember if what I'd heard was good or bad). So I picked it up and brought it home.

It isn't long, with larger print than normal and an easy style. That make for a quick read - although I admit I skimmed the latter chapters as my son isn't anywhere that old yet and I was feeling pretty tired anyway.

I don't think there's anything mind-bogglingly new here, but it's a solid collection on current theories on raising boys. There is, unsrprisingly given the title and subject, a focus on how boys are different from girls. The author stresses that these differences aren't enormous, but they are there. And because of that, no matter how much gender-equality you try to bring into your child raising, boys are always going to be different from girls.

Biddulph places boys into three age groups that he considers to be times when boys need different types of care and attention. My son is just transitioning from the first (zero to six and needing plenty of motherly attention) to the second (six to fourteen and starting to need more time and attention from dad). I must say, that we are starting to see exactly this progression of needs in our boy, so that gives me some faith in Biddulph's conclusions.

There is a lot of focus on fathers and how important fathers are in developing healthy, mature young men. He is also quick to point out the wonderful job single mothers do, but insists boys also need dependable, healthy male role models. Personally, I would agree with this and I'm very grateful my son has a loving and involved dad.

Because of that, the book didn't have lots of new things to say to me personally, but it was certainly an interesting read and did provide a few ideas to try. Although it isn't his kind of thing, I'm going to try to get my husband to read it before it goes back to the library, even if he just focuses on the six-to-fourteen part.

Raising Boys
Steve Biddulph
Read: 14-1-10 to 15-1-10

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Marcus Review: The Fairground Ghost

The Fairground Ghost (Usborne Young Readers) The Fairground Ghost by Felicity Everett

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I liked the little ghost because it was a bit funny.

The best part of the story was when Jake saw the little ghost and when the little ghost was the star of the show.

It was easy to read, but Mummy had to tell me some words like Dracula and zombies.

View all my reviews >>

The Eternal Rose by Gail Dayton

the eternal rose From

Kallista, now Reinine of all Adara, still has demons to seek out. She and her family journey south to her mate Obed's homeland in pursuit of the demon who absconded six years previously with Kallista's temple-bound ilian, Merinda, and her child. But when one of the godmarked dies, Kallista is devastated and her mates must cope without her. A trial by combat is needed to regain custody of a child and a new ninth godmarked must be located in order to make the magic whole again and powerful enough to defeat a truly formidable demon. But Kallista needs more than magic to heal her.

First of all, a big zero to Juno Books for the formatting of the ebook version of this novel. There are no chapter indexes at all, making navigating through the book difficult, sometimes there would be no spaces between words for a sentence or two and every so often the formatting would completely disappear, shoving everything into the same paragraph for a few pages until there was a section break in the story and it came right again. I found that incredibly frustrating and kept picking up my paper copy of the book to read that section (in this case I was very grateful to have both formats). For the record, I was reading the epub file I bought from Fictionwise. I don't know if other ebook formats have the same problems or not, but I was very unhappy with the version I have.

So that's my complaint about the production values, but what about the story?

I really enjoyed The Eternal Rose, finding it a more enjoyable read that The Barbed Rose and a fitting end to the series. I have to admit that I'm not exactly sure why it was this way. Some of the things that bothered me about the second book - most particularly the messy interpolitics of Kallista's ilian - remained in this one, but somehow it worked so much better for me.

The group finds themselves travelling to Obed's homeland to rescue Merinda and her son and are soon caught up in politics and dealing with demons once more. This book is set six years after the end of The Barbed Rose. Kallista has been Reinine of Adara for this time and settled well into the role, even if she still fells like she doesn't belong in it. After a magical assassination attempt that forces her to realise she has let her vigilance against the demons slip, they finally receive word of where Merinda might be and set of on a state visit to Daryath.

Adara's ilians are not accepted there, and they are forced to split themselves into the appearance of pairs in order not to offend their hosts. They all struggle with this, but most especially Obed, who found it hard to accept his place as one of a group in the first place and now, back in his homeland he finds himself slipping back into old, bad habits.

The book is told from the point of view of the Adarans and there is a certain feeling of superiority that their ways are best and the Daryathi are wrong and backward. On the whole, the reader can agree with this as I too disagree with the practice of slavery (mainly against Adarans in this case) and trial by combat. I can also accept that within the fantasy world created here it is better to let magic users work in the community than lock them away in a temple, but while I didn't like the Daryathi prejudice against the Adaran ilians, I also didn't like the Adaran assumption that they were totally right and the Daryathi totally wrong.

All the same, the developing problems within the ilian and their resolution was well done and interesting to read and I was totally involved in the story and wanted everything to work out well for all concerned.

The blurb on the back cover gives away one major plot point, so I guess I may as well address it here. One of Kallista's Godmarked is killed (I'm not going to say who or how) and while I was so sad that it happened, growing from the grief and devastation becomes another successful part of the story. Knowing this would happen, I felt it was pretty easy to pick out which character would be Godmarked to make the number back to the required nine, but the way not Kallista nor any of her remaining ilian see it worked perfectly within the context of the story and I liked that.

There's a lot of need for understanding between characters and even some long-standing issues are well resolved, especially between Obed and Torchay.

Kallista herself is a significant character in terms of self-development as well as plot in this book. There are a few hints early on that something might be wrong, all deftly slipped into her own POV sections where the reader is given a hint but Kallista is unable to pick up on it herself. This is developed nicely and it is only towards the end that she begins to realise what she is doing and where she is going wrong. She has never been perfect, and here her imperfections have been seized upon to weaken her. It is well done and I liked how it was resolved. Sure, it was a bit a case of one big personal revelation and all can start coming right, but this is fiction and there are only so many pages. I think Dayton did a good job.

I do feel a little sorry for the Daryathi, who end up having their entire society and way of life turned upside down by the arrival of Kallista and her family. But I also realise that the reader needs to remember that while it isn't spelled out very often, the One God/Goddess is a real entity in this world, not just something the people believe in. He/She is the driving force behind everything that happens in Daryath, not Kallista, who is simply His/Her conduit. So while, as I said, I feel sorry for the Daryathi, they had strayed from the right way according to the setup of the world (with some help) and the One chose to use Kallista to set things right.

This doesn't necessarily feel quite right to me, a real person in the real world where things are not that black and white, but Dayton makes it work within the world she has created.

This was a good, solid end to the series and I am very glad I finally finished the trilogy, even if it took me several years to get to do it. Dayton has told a good, solid and interesting story and I enjoyed reading it.

The Eternal Rose
Gail Dayton
The One Rose, Book 3
Read: 10-1-10 to 13-1-10

The One Rose

  1. The Compass Rose
  2. The Barbed Rose
  3. The Eternal Rose

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Barbed Rose by Gail Dayton

The Barbed Rose From

Demons are coming.
One woman has been chosen to face them . . .

Demon hordes still threaten the Kingdom while open rebellion has broken out within its cities, separating Kallista from her new family.

Assassination attempts, magical attacks -- she's surrounded by devastation unlike anything she's ever known, and her unique magic power no longer works as it should. Yet her own pain must yield to the needs of her country, for this military mage is charged with searching the four directions of the world for the other "Godmarked" -- the only ones who can help her keep demon invaders from shattering her world.

But can she find them in time?

After rereading and really enjoying The Compass Rose, I moved along to the second book in the series.

I'll admit straight up that I didn't enjoy this one as much as the first. It's a good read and the plot moves along very nicely, but I thought the interpersonal relationships of the main characters just got a bit too messy for me. I'm perfectly happy with Dayton's group marriage concept of an ilian that is a main part of the story (it's something that certainly wouldn't suit me in real life, but it works well as it is played out in these books). But it all got just a little too complicated.

Or maybe it's more that I didn't like Merinda, who managed to get herself added to the ilian and then went on to cause all sorts of problems. She was quite a realistic character in that she saw something she thought she really wanted, pulled strings and manipulated to get it and then found that it wasn't anything like what she had imagined after all. I guess many of us have done or seen something similar in our lives. So I could understand her, but I didn't like her. The others all had good and solid reasons for joining the ilian, for following Kallista and for, when called upon, opening themselves up to the call of the One. Merinda didn't. Everything was about her and because of that she totally messed up the balance of the ilian. Then it gets further changed at the end, and while I liked that part more, it still left me finished the book with a real sense of a lack of balance.

Of course, this is book 2 in a trilogy. These are the books that have a tendency to finish in a bad or difficult place, leaving everything to be worked out in the final book. Because I already knew that the last book, The Eternal Rose takes place six years later, even thought I'd read this book before, I still found myself expecting it to finish in a more settled place than it did.

(And now that I've started The Eternal Rose I find that in fact, that six years works well, but yes things have remained unbalanced all that time even if the characters have quite realised it. It's only now they are progressing towards a proper conclusion. All they had in that time was a breathing space.)

This is a good, solid book. The plot progresses well, the characters remain a pleasure to read and it moves us on towards the last book and the end of the story. But it certainly isn't a book for reading on its own. It works well in between the other two books, but it needs them to be complete.

The Barbed Rose
Gail Dayton
The One Rose, Book 2
Read: 7-1-10 to 10-1-10

The One Rose

  1. The Compass Rose
  2. The Barbed Rose
  3. The Eternal Rose (Goodreads link)

Friday, January 08, 2010

Marcus the Reader

I am such a proud and sappy mother.

Now that Marcus has officially started reading chapter books on his own (rather than me reading them to him), I’ve given him his own booklist over on Lists and Such and even set up a Goodreads account for him so that he can have a “books read” widget in my sidebar as well.

With the book we bought today and started reading at bedtime tonight, he’s been telling me what he likes about the book and I’ve been saving it in a text file. When we’re finished I’ll post a review for him of what he thinks about the book. Whether this will last or we will both get bored with it remains to be seen. Watch this space.

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

the knife of never letting go From

Todd Hewitt is the last boy in Prentisstown.

But Prentisstown isn't like other towns. Everyone can hear everyone else's thoughts in a constant, overwhelming, never-ending Noise. There is no privacy. There are no secrets.

Or are there?

Just one month away from the birthday that will make him a man, Todd unexpectedly stumbles upon a spot of complete silence.

Which is impossible.

Prentisstown has been lying to him.

And now he's going to have to run...

This book got a lot of buzz on a number of blogs I read last year (well, I think it was last year) and it went into the back of mind as something I might give a try. I can't remember what tipped the scales and got me to put it on hold at the library, but I picked it up last weekend and started reading it once I finished The Compass Rose. Like many others had said in their reviews, once I'd started reading I couldn't stop. I didn't actually read it in one sitting, but it took me less than 36 hours to get from start to finish. Then today, realising I couldn't wait however long it would take for me to climb from #12 to the top of the hold list for the sequel, I went out and bought myself a copy of The Ask and the Answer. So yes, I'm joining in with the crowds and highly recommending you give this book at try.

Right, so now that I've gushed about it, what else can I say?

I was a little nervous about the prose style, since I'd heard it was first person present tense and with the grammar and spelling of a poorly-schooled 13 year old boy. I don't do well with with things that are deliberately misspelled as I tend to stop to correct it. The wrong spellings in this book (for example, creacher for creature or preparayshans for preparations) were very like those of my five year old son when he tries to spell phonetically a word he doesn't know, so I actually discovered that I already had plenty of practice. Also, when a book's voice is well written, I find that it soon doesn't matter if it's different from usual. My brain switches over to the right state of mind for it and I just get on with reading. I still noticed the misspellings, but they were now part of the story rather than an impediment to it.

Todd is a excellent protagonist. He might not be well schooled (such things as reading and writing having been outlawed in Prentisstown) but he's quick and intelligent and surprisingly resilient. As the book progresses he slowly comes to learn that just about everything he's ever been told about the world is a lie and he constantly has to readjust his worldview. He balks at this at the beginning, but in a "this can't be true" kind of way rather than as a petulant child might do. His growing interaction with Viola is always very well done.

I've seen reviews saying she isn't such a well developed character as Todd, but that works perfectly for me. We only see her through Todd's eyes and since he's been able to hear the Noise of everyone he's ever known before this, at first he finds someone who is Silent very, very difficult to comprehend. The moment, at the end of the book, when he realises he can get to know a person without hearing their Noise, was just lovely.

The plot rolls on at a roaring pace, never really pausing for breath until the cliff-hanger moment at the end. (Yes, there's a cliff-hanger, so if at all possible, have the sequel at hand before you start. Unfortunately, I understand that it too ends on a cliff-hanger and the third book, Monsters of Men, doesn't come out until later in the year.) But even as the action rushes along, Ness manages to paint a clear picture of New World and the way it has fragmented both socially and culturally in the years since the colony ships landed. Prentisstown might be the most extreme case of this, but it is clear some communities have found better ways the deal with the consequences of the Noise germ than others.

Like many a first book in a series, in many ways The Knife of Never Letting Go is a set-up book plot-wise. We learn about the planet, the communities and slowly, as Todd learns the truths behind the lies he has been told, the history that has shaped its people. The blurb for The Ask and the Answer seems to suggest that the larger aspects of the plot begin to emerge in that book, and everything has been so beautifully and dramatically set up that we readers are more than ready for it.

I really liked this book. I highly recommend it and I'm really looking forward to picking up the sequel very soon.

Can you hear the but?


I had one major issue with The Knife of Never Letting Go. It uses the plot device of letting the protagonist (ie Todd) in on the answers to certain mysteries fairly early on, but makes a point of keeping the reader in the dark. This is one of my pet peeves and I really hate it. (It's part of why I love Catherine Asaro's books so much, because she does the opposite and lets the reader in on more than the characters know.) Especially if a book it told through first person POV, I feel that as the narrator learns something, I should learn it too. But instead, on three particular occasions, I'm kept out of the loop. And it left me feeling like I'd been manipulated to serve the story.


The thing is that now, as I'm a little further away from the book, I can see that it worked. Sure, by the time the answers were revealed I'd pretty much figured them out. But the thing is that Todd had pretty much figured them out too, but they were such huge truths behind such huge lies, that even though he'd pretty much picked it up already from other men's Noise, his brain refused to accept it at first. Slowly, as he changed from the Prentisstown boy to the man he's becoming (and such a better one that the Prentisstown definition of a Man), he became a person who could accept the truth and learn better from it. So while it annoyed me, telling me the answers sooner would have ruined the story and keeping them completely from Todd until the revelation near the end would probably have broken him when he had to face the truth. He needed that time to let it percolate in his subconscious before he actually had to deal with it all.

So damn you, Patrick Ness, you are right and I am wrong.

If this is a plot device that annoys you too, here I am, warning you that's it's in there so you're prepared, but begging you to trust the author. (Oh, then he does it again right on the second to last page, dropping in a new mystery and not answering it. But this time, I'm going to go with it and trust.)

I really, really enjoyed this book. In fact, while I rated it 8/10 when I finished it, now that it's all sunk it, I'm going to be generous and up that to 9/10 because it really does deserve it.

The Knife of Never Letting Go
Patrick Ness
Chaos Walking, Book 1
Read: 6-1-10 to 7-1-10

Chaos Walking

  1. The Knife of Never Letting Go
  2. The Ask and the Answer (Goodreads link)
  3. Monsters of Men (Goodreads link: Due for release 3-5-10)

I succumbed

the ask and the answer After I finished The Knife of Never Letting Go last night, I quickly realised that I really didn’t want to wait however long it was going to take to get from #12 on the library waiting list for the sequel to the top of the queue.

Today, because I am such a good mother, I took Marcus down to the nearby children’s bookshop, Next Page Please because he’s moving from picture books to beginning chapter books and I thought we’d get some expert suggestions on what he might like to read. It is, of course, a total coincidence that I was able to pick up a copy of The Ask and the Answer while we were there.

IMG_0154r While we’ve borrowed a few from the library, Marcus is now the proud owner of his first chapter book, that looks to be a rip-roaring pirate adventure called Captain Clawbeak and the Red Herring. He was so excited he was reading it before we even left the store.

One of my hopes when Marcus was born was that we would raise a reader. What can I say? My job here is done. Can I retire now?

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

A small rant on my current book

the knife of never letting go I’m currently reading The Knife of Never Letting Go, a YA book that received a lot of acclaim around the blogsphere last year. I think it deserves that acclaim because I’m enjoying so far.

You can here the but coming, can’t you?


I find it incredibly frustrating when characters have some useful and important information which they don't tell me, the reader, in order to stretch out the mystery. This is done here - Todd learns what's the big thing about becoming a man that Ben and Cillian are trying to protect him from quite early. But several chapters on, I still don't know and it annoys me. Not enough to stop me reading, but it niggles at the back of my mind. It makes me feel like I'm being cheated or played with.

Since it already seems that there are two mysteries - the manhood one and the here's a girl one - why not focus on the unexpected one Todd doesn't know anything about and let me know what he knows that I don't. Stop mucking me around because you're just pissing me off. I already know that no matter how good this book is, it won't be getting 10/10 because of this.

This is a personal thing, I acknowledge that, but I really, really annoys me. I read one of Kathy Reich’s Temperance Brennan books and the only thing I remember is that Tempe solved one of the mysteries early and I had to wait until the end of the book to find out what the answer was. And she kept on referring to it without telling me what she was referring to. Aaaaarrrrrgggghhhhhh.

Preorders In

I just rang my lovely, local, specialty bookstore, Barbara’s Books, and made my first set of preorders for the year. These are the books that I know I want for my keeper shelf, even if I’d also like ecopies for ease of reading. It’s going to be an expensive year I think, with four of them being hardcovers (and there’s also Lois McMaster Bujold’s new Miles book in hardcover to come later in the year).

shadows past Shadows Past
Lorna Freeman
Borderlands, Book 3
2 February, 2010

The bestselling Borderlands saga continues…
Rabbit is struggling to make sense of his new powers and his new position as King Jusson's heir when a man once scorned by his mother comes seeking retribution-and demands that Rabbit marry his daughter...

The previous two books in this series came out in 2004 and 2006, and this one kept disappearing off publishing schedules, so it was wonderful to see it showing up at last. The big question – will I decide to reread the first two before reading this one?

archangel's kiss Archangel’s Kiss
Nalini Singh
Guild Hunter, Book 2
2 February, 2010

Vampire hunter Elena Deveraux wakes from a year-long coma to find that she has become an angel-and that her lover, the stunningly dangerous archangel Raphael, likes having her under his control. But almost immediately, Raphael must ready Elena for a flight to Beijing, to attend a ball thrown by the archangel Lijuan. Ancient and without conscience, Lijuan's power lies with the dead. And she has organized the most perfect and most vicious of welcomes for Elena...

I’m very wary of books featuring angels – I think it’s my Catholic upbringing – but I loved Nalini’s first Guild Hunter book and I’m looking forward to this one.

shalador's lady Shalador’s Lady
Anne Bishop
Black Jewels, Book 8
2 March, 2010

For years the Shalador people suffered the cruelties of the corrupt Queens who ruled them, forbidding their traditions, punishing those who dared show defiance, and forcing many more into hiding. Now that their land has been cleansed of tainted Blood, the Rose-Jeweled Queen, Lady Cassidy, makes it her duty to restore it and prove her ability to rule.

But even if Lady Cassidy succeeds, other dangers await. For the Black Widows see visions within their tangled webs that something is coming that will change the land-and Lady Cassidy-forever...

Really, all I can say to this one, is YAY, more Black Jewels. Bring it on!

silver borne Silver Borne
Patricia Briggs
Mercy Thompson, Book 5
30 March, 2010

Being a mechanic is hard work. Mercy Thompson, for instance, just spent the last couple of months trying to evade the murderous queen of the local vampire seethe, and now the leader of the werewolf pack - who's maybe-more-than-just-a-friend - has asked for her help. A book of fae secrets has come to  light and they're all about to find out how implacable - and dangerous - the fae can be. OK, so maybe her troubles have nothing to do with the job. But she sure could use a holiday ...

I understand Sam has a lot of the focus in this book. I admit, I prefer Mercy and Adam, but I can happily enjoy myself some Sam.

saltation Saltation
Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
Liaden Universe, Book 10
6 April, 2010

Thrust mid-year into a school for pilots far from the safe haven of her birth home on scholarly Delgado, young Theo Waitley excels in hands-on flying while finding that she's behind the curve in social intricacies as well as in math.

After surviving a mid-air emergency with a spectacular mountain-top landing in her training soar plane Theo's notoriety brings her attention from local thugs as well as a gift from Win Ton, a scout pilot she enjoyed a flirtation with on her first space voyage. When Win Ton appears on campus Theo throws herself into a relationship even as he's on his way to a Liaden marriage-bed.

Meanwhile her mentors try to guide her studies and training into the channels best suited to her special abilities and inclinations, including suggesting that she should join in the off-world studenty association, a plan resulting in mixed success. After a series of confrontations, fights, and ultimately a riot after which she is thanked for not killing anyone, Theo is named a "nexus of violence" by the school's administration.

Facing suspension and carrying little more than hastily procured guild card, a pistol taken from an attacker, and the contents of her pants pockets, Theo must quickly decide if she's ready to return to Delgado in disgrace, or launch herself into the universe as a freelance pilot with credentials she's already earned.

Okay, so I admit I haven’t actually read Fledgling yet, the book before this one. But my goal is to do that in January or February as part of Carl’s Sci Fi Experience and then be all ready for this one, come April.

mouse and dragon Mouse and Dragon
Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
Liaden Universe, Book 11
1 June, 2010

Aelliana Caylon has endured much, and finally, she appears to have won all: a spaceship, comrades, friends -- and the love of a pilot she adores.

Even better that her lover - the man who was destined for her, a man as much a loner as she - is also the Delm of Korval, arguably the most powerful person on all of Liad. He has the power to remove her and protect her from the toxic environment of her home Clan. Best of all, he agrees to sit as her co-pilot and her partner in a courier business.

Even happy endings sometimes show a few flaws. Such as Aelliana's home clan being not as agreeable to letting her go as it had first seemed. And the fact that someone is stealing pilots in the Port, which falls within the Delm of Korval's honor. Oh, and the revelation that the man she loves - the man who is destined for her - isn't entirely the man she thought he was. And finally, she discovers that even the lift from Liad she'd so fervently desired, is part of a larger plan, a plan requiring her to be someone she never thought she was, or could be.

I really loved Aelliana and Daav in Scout’s Honor, so I’m delighted that there will be more of their story this year. I’m going to have to get on with that Liaden Universe reread I’m planning, aren’t I?

A Moment of Clarity

I was reading this wonderful post by Calico_Reaction yesterday. Okay, mainly it’s journal maintenance, but this here is the wonderful bit:

My novel-reading goal is always 50 books a year. That's the minimum. Obviously, getting to 100 is a perk, but I'd really like to SLOW DOWN and read some stuff I just can't speed through. So instead of killing myself to reach 100 books for 2010, I'm going to aim for 75. That's a fair compromise.

It was like my eyes were suddenly opened.

I had already decided that I want to do some rereading and get through some of those “big fat fantasy” books I have to read (although they actually cover more genres than just fantasy). But at the same time, I still had this magic number of 100 in my head. I wanted to read 100 books in 2010.

But which is more important, reading the books I want to read, or the number of books I read?

So I’m going to do what Calico_Reaction has done. I’m going to concentrate on WHAT I read. I’m going to SLOW DOWN and enjoy the books I choose to read. I’m going to read some of those long ones that have been scaring me – and I’ll take as long as I need to read them, savouring the story instead of worrying about all the other books I’m not reading and whether I’ll make that 100 goal or not.

I still like the idea of having a number in my head, but I’m going to make it 75 and keep reminding myself that it isn’t set in stone.

Thank you Calico_Reaction for that moment of clarity. I think I needed it.

Edited to attribute post to the right person. Oops and sorry.

The Compass Rose by Gail Dayton

The Compass Rose From

The legends of the Godstruck were just that -- legends.

Until, in an attempt to defend her people, Captain Kallista Varyl called on the One for aid and was granted abilities such as no one had seen in centuries.

Now Kallista has been charged with a new destiny as one of the most powerful women in the land -- but her power is useless if it cannot be controlled.

Mastering her "Godstruck" abilities is the first step. The next, learning that she cannot unlock the secrets of the Compass Rose and defeat her nation's enemy alone. And finally she must stop a demon-possessed king . . .

Originally published in 2005, The Compass Rose was one of the early books in Harlequin's Luna range. The idea was to publish fantasy novels with a light touch of romance and I rather enjoyed the early days of the line, including this one. Its sequel, The Barbed rose, came out a year later and I enjoyed that one too. Unfortunately, at that point Luna dropped the trilogy. The final book, The Eternal Rose, wasn't published until late 2007 when Juno picked it up.

That means that I bought and devoured the first two, but had a longer than expected wait for the third. And for some reason I can not now remember (probably just that I didn't get around to it) I never read that third book. I always wanted to, but as more time went by and my memories of the first ones grew vaguer and vaguer (and reading paper books got harder and harder for me) it just became too big a job and I didn't finish the trilogy.

Recently, all three books were rereleased as ebooks. Hooray! I bought them on the spot (yet more books I have in paper and electronic versions) and decided to reread the first two before finally tackling the third.

So how was the reread?

I enjoyed discovering the world again. I remember the basics, but there was so much detail I had forgotten that it was almost like a new read.

Dayton's matriarchal society surprised me a few times as I'd forgotten how dominant it was. I found myself feeling outraged on behalf of the male characters, which interested me as they are treated no worse (and often better) that any woman in a standard patriarchal-focused fantasy. And I accept that because I'm so used to it. But this switch kept suprising me. And yet, I don't think Dayton did it at all for shock value, but because that was part of the tale she had to tell.

The main things I had remembered was the enemy Kallista was fighting and the Adaran social custom of binding several people (up to twelve) into a form of group marriage. That is a major part of the story, again not for shock value, but because a group of people find themselves bound together not really by choice but at the will of the Goddess. They then have to learn how to live together, how to care for each other and how to love each other.

There is a lot of focus on choice in this book. On how much choice individuals really have and what exactly it might mean. I found this a little ironic (in a good way) as all the main characters made a huge choice at the beginning to open themselves up to the will of the Goddess and then fought desperately to avoid that little choices that were demanded by that freely given big one.

The heroine, Kallista, is especially guilty of this. She basically says "Your will be done" early in the book and then stubbornly fights the consequences of that until right at the end of the book, when she realises what she's doing and opens herself up again. Kallista is an appealing character, which made this stubbornness frustrating rather than annoying, but I did occasionally find myself wishing she'd just get over it and get on with things. All the same, her reasons are logical (at least to her) and it is something she needs to work through.

The other members of her bound family, or ilian, are four males and another woman, making for a total of six. They are all well drawn, although having so many main characters does require careful sharing of on-page time for each of the secondary five on Dayton's part. On the whole she does it well. I feel like I know all of Kallista's ilian and I certainly want things to work out for all of them.

The villain in this novel is, in many ways, rather small and easily defeated. The book is about the main six characters and how they learn to cope with their destiny and each other. The "baddies" will be showing up in more detail in the second book as I recall, and I have no idea about the last book as I know very little about it. This is clearly a "setup" book, with the main plot threads coming in its sequels. This is not a complaint, as it is instead a lovely character novel which also clearly establishes the plot conflict to come.

I am looking foward to reread The Barbed Rose and finally getting to The Eternal Rose.

The Compass Rose
Gail Dayton
The One Rose, Book 1
Read: 1-1-10 to 5-1-10

The One Rose

  1. The Compass Rose
  2. The Barbed Rose (Goodreads link)
  3. The Eternal Rose (Goodreads link)

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Time Quartet/Quintet Readalong

Time_Quartet_Readalong I swore I was going to do it. Really I did. No more challenges for 2010. I don’t want to get stressed, remember? But this one will fit in with my desire to do plenty of rereading in 2010 and count for the Flashback Challenge as well.

Kailana at The Written Word is hosting a read-a-long of Madeleine L’Engle’s Time Quartet (that started out as a trilogy and is now a quintet) and since I already wanted to reread A Wrinkle in Time this year, I decided to join.

I consider this a guideline rather than a requirement. If I manage to do it, that’s fantastic. If I don’t, it most definitely isn’t the end of the world. All the same, I hope I do manage to reread this wonderful kids’ series that has always been suitable  for adults too.

A full listing of the rules/guidelines are on Kailana’s blog and my reading list is here. If you’re a L’Engle fan, or want to find out about these books that get readers all enthused. Do come and join us.

Mercy Thompson: Homecoming by Patricia Briggs

mercy thompson homecoming Blurb from Goodreads:

Mercy Thompson is a walker, a magical being with the power to transform into a coyote. She lives on the fine line dividing the everyday world from a darker dimension, observing the supernatural community while standing apart.

When Mercy travels to the Tri-Cities of Washington for a job interview, she quickly finds herself smack-dab in the middle of a gang war between rival packs of werewolves. And as if fangs and fur weren’t bad enough, Mercy must deal with the scariest creature of all: her mother, who is convinced that Mercy is making a mess of her life and determined to set her daughter on the right course.

The thrilling adventures of Mercy Thompson–Moon Called, Blood Bound, and Iron Kissed–have topped the New York Times bestseller list. Now Mercy makes her comics debut in an exclusive new story created by Patricia Briggs. Mercy Thompson: Homecoming is sure to please longtime fans and capture new ones with its mix of unforgettable characters and thrilling supernatural intrigue.

Wow, I just read my first graphic novel. And I liked it. So have I been converted to a new book format? Unfortunately, I think the answer to that will be no. I've tried reading some of my husband's graphic novels before today and I've come to the conclusion that my brain just doesn't work in the right way to pick up the entire story in the combination of the images, words and layout. I hadn't realised how important page layout could be in a graphic novel until I tried reading one of Dave's and couldn't follow it at all.

It also doesn't help that I am very much NOT a visual person. I don't easily recognise visual patterns and struggle to remember people's names and faces (however do teachers do it?). I did one of those tests once, where you work out how you best take in information. I was so far onto the read/write scale even the guy giving me the test was surprised. I don't see pictures in my head when I read and I have to keep asking hubby "who's that character?" when we watch a movie, even if I saw them only a scene or two ago. I even frequently have to ask who an actor is and am usually quite surprised to discover it is someone famous whom I should recognise.

So no, I'm not a visual person, and I suspected a visual medium wouldn't work for me. So far, it hasn't.

But I found this book to be nicely straight forward for a graphic novel no-hoper like me. The story mostly moves progressively, and on the whole the flashbacks could be quickly recognised - even if I was a little confused the first time. But all the same, I think the fact I already knew the basics of the tale from backstory in the Mercy Thompson novels helped me a lot. I could say, "oooh, that's Zee" or "hey, there's Uncle Mike" because I already knew the characters. If it had just been a bunch of drawings and a sparsely-worded story I didn't know (strongly read/write, remember, I need words much more than I need pictures) then I think I would have struggled. Maybe that's why I struggled when trying to read hubby's graphic novels. I was going in cold and didn't have a clue.

So, after all those caveats, I'll say that I liked the book. I liked seeing Mercy come to the Tri-Cities. (Say, is that three cities that have merged or just once city called Tri-Cities? This New Zealander has no idea.) I like the way the person she came there to try to be was totally different from the one she actually turned into. It was nice to see her meet already-established characters like Zee and Stefan (and Tad too) and their first meeting makes her relationship with Adam in the very first book, where she goes out of her way to annoy him when she can, make lovely sense.

The drawings seemed good to me (don't forget, I'm the total and absolute opposite of an expert) and I could usually remember which character was which, something that isn't always the case with me. The book was beautifully made with slick, glossy pages and lovely production values. I suspect it hasn't been borrowed too many times as it hasn't started to lose that shine yet.

Would I read more graphic novels about Mercy? Yes, I would. But I admit that I would be reading them for more story about Mercy (or about Anna and Charles if they make it to comic format) than because it was a graphic novel in general.

As I said at the beginning, my brain just doesn't seem to "get" graphic novels and I've got way more than enough prose novels to keep me happy for a very long time yet. Like, say, the new Mercy book coming out in March. But if you are a Patricia Briggs fan anyway, give it a try. If you are a Patricia Briggs fan and a graphic novel fan, definitely give it a try.

I'd be interested to hear what regular graphic novel readers thought of it. Does the fact it was simple and linear enough for me to follow mean it was too easy for you? I came to it totally as a prose book reader with visual issues so I suspect I don't count as the target audience in any way.

Mercy Thompson: Homecoming
Patricia Briggs
Mercy Thompson, Book 0
Read: 3-1-10 to 3-1-10

Mercy Thompson Series

  1. Homecoming
  2. Moon Called (Goodreads link)
  3. Blood Bound
  4. Iron Kissed
  5. Bone Crossed
  6. Silver Borne (Goodreads link: Due for release 30-3-10)

Friday, January 01, 2010

Earth’s Magic – Pamela F. Service

earth's magic Blurb from

The exciting conclusion to this futuristic Arthurian trilogy!

Heather and Earl (called Merlin the wizard by most) are working with King Arthur to unite Britain following a terrible nuclear devastation. Merlin’s sworn enemy, Morgan LeFay, is also organizing her forces, hoping to take over the world once and for all. Earth’s only hope is for Earl to find his father, who has been trapped in an enchantment for two thousand years. The problem is, Earl doesn’t know where to look, and worse, doesn’t even know what form the enchantment takes. Time is running out and Earl and Heather must solve the ancient mystery and return with the key to the Earth’s Magic.

Traveling to one of the origins of humanity, the ancient kingdom of Kush, Merlin must decipher the key before the summer solstice when a great battle will be waged to decide the future of the earth.
With a terrific heroine and an exciting nod to many cultures and legends, this riveting conclusion to Pamela Service’s tightly crafted and ingenious Arthurian trilogy is an exciting homage to the great adventure classics, as well as a marvelous addition to the Arthurian legend.

I first discovered this series long ago when it was only two books (which have now been reprinted in a single volume). I was proabaly a young adult or close to it at the time and I was delighted last year when Pamela Service picked up the series again and continued it.

Now we have the last volume of the series. This one focuses primarily on Merlin, with Heather as the secondary character. Welly has much more of a bit part, but he had found himself and his future by the end of the previous book and he fitted nicely into his smaller role in this one.

Not only do we have the science fiction-ish trappings of the post-nuclear world and mutated creatures, but in the last two books the remergence of a new kind of magic has become more and more prevalent. In fact, the series in its newly published form is now called the "New Magic" trilogy. And really that is what this book is all about as Merlin strives to return some kind of balance between good and evil in the world so that the creatures of the normal world and the various otherworlds can live together.

I liked this series and I was nicely happy with its conclusion. The concept of how humanity created the otherworlds and their inhabitants and then forget them was nicely done. And I loved the idea that stopping believing in someone doesn't stop them exisitng.

As Osiris says to Merlin, "A child is created by his parents, right? But when the parents die, does the child just fade away? No. He may change as he grows, and he will have been molded by his parents. But he exists and will until his natural time is up."

The future of the world is going to be very interesting and I'm just sorry that there's a good chance we'll never see the characters living in it. That's a difficulty with books where there is a big problem to be solved to create a new future. They tend to end at the point where that future is created. I want to see what living in it is like, but unfortunately, unless more troubles arise, there generally isn't a suitable story to tell after that point. I'm not a great fan of short stories, but I think this is a good case for them as it is a way to give us a sneak peek at the result of all the characters' hard work. I'd like to get to see what Service's world is looking like a few years down the track and I hope we'll get to do so.

This is a good little series. Yes, it's technically for older children; probably those approaching the YA range rather than young adults themselves. But it's still a fun read for adults and I'm glad I've read them. They'll be staying on my shelves (and my computer as I have the latter two as ebooks) and I suspect I'll be rereading them again a few years down the track.

I'm only sorry that combining the two original books means that we've lost the wonderful title of the first - Winter of Magic's Return - as it is combined with the more prosaic Tomorrow's Magic. Oh well, it is the content that matters most. Take the time to travel 500 years into the future, meet Merlin and King Arthur in guises you've probably never seen before, and enjoy a story about creating a new world out of the ruins of the old.

Earth’s Magic
Pamela F. Service
New Magic Trilogy, Book 3
Read: 31-12-09 to 1-1-10

New Magic Trilogy:

  1. Tomorrow’s Magic (originally published in two volumes as Winter of Magic’s Return and Tomorrow’s Magic)
  2. Yesterday’s Magic
  3. Earth’s Magic