Monday, January 26, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

I know I'm a bit late in the day this week, but I got behind on my reviewing so I wanted to play catch-up and get the reviews finished and posted.

Anyway, It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a fun meme hosted by Sheila of the blog Book Journey each Monday. The meme allows us to talk about the books we read in the previous week, as well as the books we're currently reading, and even, to plan out the week ahead. It's also been known to lead to toppling TBR piles and other problems like that. Are those even problems?

Last week was another three-book week. I'm really enjoying those. Mostly, that's been due to the Valdemar Reading Challenge and the Hardcore Re-Reading Challenge. I've also had some success with some of my other hobbies, finishing a crocheted shawl after more than a year. That's spurred me on with some of my other projects too - I'm teaching myself how to card wool, and I'm about half-done plying the fiber I'd spun on my wheel over the fall and winter.

I read:
  1. Oathbreakers by Mercedes Lackey
  2. Oathblood by Mercedes Lackey. These are the collected short stories about Tarma and Kethry that were published in the Sword and Sorceress anthologies edited by Marion Zimmer Bradley.
  3. St Patrick's Gargoyle by Katherine Kurtz.
I'm currently reading:
Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon. I can't seem to get into Outlander this time, so I've tried jumping ahead by a book to the second book in the series. I've only just started the read, so I don't know yet if this is going to end up being abandoned later in the week.

Adrienne Mayor's book on the Amazons. Almost abandoned, but not quite. I've been enjoying the read, I'm just not reading enough pages at a time to be able to really keep my focus on this book.

With the two books on my currently reading list, I don't know if I'm going to have the time to add any books to the stack. I fully expect Dragonfly in Amber to take up most of the week, if not even longer.

St Patrick's Gargoyle - Katherine Kurtz.

St. Patrick's Gargoyle
Katherine Kurtz
Ace Books
Copyright: 2002
978-0441009053

The description from Katherine Kurtz's website:
In St. Patrick's Gargoyle, Dublin's St. Patrick's Cathedral becomes the target of an act of vandalism, and the gargoyle guardian of the building enlists the aid of an aging Knight of Malta to assist him in his pursuit of the vandals. Combining an interest in Irish history with snatches of Templar lore, the author of the Deryni and Adept series creates a story of angelic powers and demonic forces locked in an eternal struggle. Engaging characters and gentle irony add a light touch to a metaphysical drama that belongs in most fantasy collections.
I've read and reviewed St. Patrick's Gargoyle previously, back in 2011. It's a really good book, but I find that I have to be in the right mood for it these days. This time was close, but not quite, so I found some of the character attitudes to be a bit grating. Still, by half-way through, I was finding that yet again I couldn't put the book down.

St. Patrick's Gargoyle is whimsical at the right times, if more than a bit irreverent, and full of little bits of historical imagery. Also, as with so many other Katherine Kurtz novels, the Knights Templar do come up as a part of the story.

It's reading books like this one that make me want to travel to places like Ireland to see where the author's inspiration comes from. You? Do you find that reading a book makes you want to see the places described?

I know I'll be re-reading this one again at some point. Even when it grates, the story is beautiful - especially the ending.

Read for the Hardcore Re-Reading Challenge.

Oathblood - Mercedes Lackey

Oathblood - Mercedes Lackey
Oathblood
Mercedes Lackey
DAW Books
Copyright: 1998
978-0886777739

The amazon.com product description:
This exciting new anthology includes a new novella featuring Mercedes Lackey's most popular heroines, Tarma (one of the sword-sworn and most feared of all warriors) and Kethry (who wields magic and weapons for the greater good), whose fates are suddenly bound together in blood by the powers that control their destinies. Also included in the unique volume is the complete collection of Lackey's short stories about these two brave sisters as they answer the call of their destinies with sword and sorcery!  
Nearly all of the Tarma and Kethry stories published in the Sword and Sorceress anthologies edited by Marion Zimmer Bradley have been collected in this volume, along with two previously unpublished stories.

The stories are:
  • Sword Sworn (which was published in Sword and Sorceress III)
    This story details the events that triggered Tarma's taking the oath of Sword-Sworn, and the events that followed, including her meeting with Kethry.
  • Turnabout (Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Magazine)
    The story behind the song "Threes". Turnabout also formed a chapter in The Oathbound IIRC.
  • The Making of a Legend (Sword and Sorceress VI)
    Leslac's introduction, and rather hilarious. The story behind "The Leslac Version" published in the song section of Oathbreakers.
  • Keys (Sword and Sorceress V)
    Another story that made up a chapter in The Oathbound.
  • A Woman's Weapon (Sword and Sorceress IX)
    Tarma and Kethry end up investigating another poisoning. Rather a neat story.
  • The Talisman (Sword and Sorceress VII)
    Definitely a somewhat different story. And one that shows the dangers of a sword like Need.
  • A Tale of Heroes (Sword and Sorceress IV)
    A happy ending for a side-story. Kethry and Tarma aren't there this time to deal with the main problem, but instead end up resolving problems for some pretty ordinary folk. It's always nice to see Tarma around kids. They love her, and she loves them.
  • Friendly Fire (Sword and Sorceress X)
    This is, in my mind the funniest story of the lot. Just how badly can things go for our two heroes, without anything permanent happening to them?
  • Wings of Fire (Sword and Sorceress VIII)
    Set much later than the other previously published stories, this one has cameo appearances from Kethry's children. Aside from that, it's a story which involves the Tayledras.
  • Spring Plowing at Forst Reach
    One of the two previously unpublished stories, this is a good one. The Stud - and anyone who's read the Last Herald Mage trilogy knows just what horse I'm referring to - well his introduction into the Forst Reach horse breeding program has had some consequences. Consequences that Tarma and a couple of returning guest stars will have to deal with in a rather amusing fashion.
  • Oathblood
    The final story in the series, and the second of the previously unpublished stories. We get a picture of what life was like day-to-day in the two schools - Tarma's weaponswork classes and Kethry's mage-school, as well as getting to know Kethry's children, especially Jadrie. A longer story than all the others, and for good reason.
 There is a possibility of one or two more Tarma and Kethry stories in the Sword and Sorceress anthologies, but I'm not sure - Elizabeth Waters and Mercedes Lackey co-write a story called A Dragon In Distress which was published in Sword and Sorceress XII. I have vague memories of the story, but I'm not sure.

Overall, I found Oathblood to be a quick read - though, having read Oathbound just a short time ago, I will admit to skipping the stories that also make up a part of that book on this read. Definitely worth having as a part of your collection.

Read for both the Hardcore Re-Reading Challenge and my own Valdemar Reading Challenge.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Goldberry Shawl - FINISHED!!

After well over a year now, I've finally gotten the Goldberry shawl finished. My first post on the subject was on September 26th, 2013, and I finished it today. I'm very probably the last person to finish the crochet-along as well. Better late than never though.

To be honest, I ended up leaving the last little bit off - ran out of yarn, so I couldn't do the two single-crochet rows across the base of the shawl.

I'm definitely looking forward to wearing this at some point in the spring.

Oathbreakers - Mercedes Lackey

Oathbreakers - Mercedes Lackey
Oathbreakers (Vows and Honor Book II)
Mercedes Lackey
DAW Books
Copyright: 1989
978-0886774547

The amazon.com product description:
Evil had cast its shadow over the kingdom of Rethwellan. When Idra, leader of the Sunhawks mercenaries, failed to return from a journey to her home, Tarma and Kethry, warrior and mage, set out in search of their vanished leader.
Oathbreakers is the sequel to The Oathbound, and where I liked that one, I loved this book. It's got one of my favorite scenes between the main characters. Unfortunately, it's also absolutely full of spoilers so I don't want to give it here (and it's about three pages long). Suffice it to say that it's where the book title comes from.

Despite the slightly grimmer tone to Oathbreakers, there are still plenty of moments to make you laugh - usually involving Leslac. As well, we get a look at some of Tarma's other talents as a child-minder and teacher.

Like some of Mercedes Lackey's other early books, Oathbreakers has a section of songs allegedly by and about Tarma and Kethry and pertaining to various events in The Oathbound and Oathbreakers, some of which are absolutely hillarious. I definitely enjoyed reading through them at the end of the story.

Read for the Valdemar Reading Challenge and the Hardcore Re-Reading Challenge.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

My Top Seven Historical Fiction Novels

Inspired by the post over at Anna's Book Blog on her top ten favorite historical fiction novels. Here are my top seven favorite historical novels:

  1. Hand of Isis by Jo GrahamHand of Isis by Jo Graham.
    The amazon.com blurb:
    Set in ancient Egypt, Hand of Isis is the story of Charmian, a handmaiden, and her two sisters. It is a novel of lovers who transcend death, of gods who meddle in mortal affairs, and of women who guide empires.

    I love the mix of history and fantasy in this series of Jo Graham's novels.
  2.  Black Ships by Jo Graham.
    The amazon.com blurb:
    The world is ending. One by one the mighty cities are falling, to earthquakes, to flood, to raiders on both land and sea.

    In a time of war and doubt, Gull is an oracle. Daughter of a slave taken from fallen Troy, chosen at the age of seven to be the voice of the Lady of the Dead, it is her destiny to counsel kings.

    When nine black ships appear, captained by an exiled Trojan prince, Gull must decide between the life she has been destined for and the most perilous adventure -- to join the remnant of her mother's people in their desperate flight. From the doomed bastions of the City of Pirates to the temples of Byblos, from the intrigues of the Egyptian court to the haunted caves beneath Mount Vesuvius, only Gull can guide Prince Aeneas on his quest, and only she can dare the gates of the Underworld itself to lead him to his destiny.

    In the last shadowed days of the Age of Bronze, one woman dreams of the world beginning anew. This is her story.
    Black Ships is set in the same world as Hand of Isis, but covers the time-period just after the Trojan War.
  3. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
    The amazon.com blurb:
    In nineteenth-century China, in a remote Hunan county, a girl named Lily, at the tender age of seven, is paired with a laotong, an “old same,” in an emotional match that will last a lifetime. The laotong, Snow Flower, introduces herself by sending Lily a silk fan on which she’s written a poem in nu shu, a unique language that Chinese women created in order to communicate in secret, away from the influence of men. As the years pass, Lily and Snow Flower send messages on the fan and compose stories on handkerchiefs, reaching out of isolation to share their hopes, dreams, and accomplishments. Together they endure the agony of footbinding and reflect upon their arranged marriages, their loneliness, and the joys and tragedies of motherhood. The two find solace in their friendship, developing a bond that keeps their spirits alive. But when a misunderstanding arises, their relationship suddenly threatens to tear apart.

    Snow Flower and the Secret Fan is a captivating journey back to an era of Chinese history that is as deeply moving as it is sorrowful. Now in a deluxe paperback edition complete with an expanded Random House Reader’s Circle guide and an exclusive conversation between Lisa See and her mother, fellow writer Carolyn See, this lyrical and emotionally charged novel is, as the Seattle Times says, “a beautifully drawn portrait of female friendship and power.”
    I've read this book a couple of times now, and seen the movie, loving it every time.
  4. Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran
    The amazon.com blurb:
    The marriage of Marc Antony and Cleopatra is one of the greatest love stories of all time, a tale of unbridled passion with earth-shaking political consequences. Feared and hunted by the powers in Rome, the lovers choose to die by their own hands as the triumphant armies of Antony’s revengeful rival, Octavian, sweep into Egypt. Their three orphaned children are taken in chains to Rome; only two– the ten-year-old twins Selene and Alexander–survive the journey. Delivered to the household of Octavian’s sister, the siblings cling to each other and to the hope that they will return one day to their rightful place on the throne of Egypt. As they come of age, they are buffeted by the personal ambitions of Octavian’s family and court, by the ever-present threat of slave rebellion, and by the longings and desires deep within their own hearts.

    The fateful tale of Selene and Alexander is brought brilliantly to life in Cleopatra’s Daughter. Recounted in Selene’s youthful and engaging voice, it introduces a compelling cast of historical characters: Octavia, the emperor Octavian’s kind and compassionate sister, abandoned by Marc Antony for Cleopatra; Livia, Octavian's bitter and jealous wife; Marcellus, Octavian’s handsome, flirtatious nephew and heir apparent; Tiberius, Livia’s sardonic son and Marcellus’s great rival for power; and Juba, Octavian’s watchful aide, whose honored position at court has far-reaching effects on the lives of the young Egyptian royals.

    Selene’s narrative is animated by the concerns of a young girl in any time and place–the possibility of finding love, the pull of friendship and family, and the pursuit of her unique interests and talents. While coping with the loss of both her family and her ancestral kingdom, Selene must find a path around the dangers of a foreign land. Her accounts of life in Rome are filled with historical details that vividly capture both the glories and horrors of the times. She dines with the empire’s most illustrious poets and politicians, witnesses the creation of the Pantheon, and navigates the colorful, crowded marketplaces of the city where Roman-style justice is meted out with merciless authority.

    Based on meticulous research, Cleopatra’s Daughter is a fascinating portrait of imperial Rome and of the people and events of this glorious and most tumultuous period in human history. Emerging from the shadows of the past, Selene, a young woman of irresistible charm and preternatural intelligence, will capture your heart.
    I really need to re-read this one actually. The blurb is calling out to me again.
  5. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
    The amazon.com blurb:
    Claire Randall is leading a double life. She has a husband in one century, and a lover in another...

    In 1945, Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon--when she innocently touches a boulder in one of the ancient stone circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach—an "outlander"—in a Scotland torn by war and raiding border clans in the year of our Lord...1743.

    Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire's destiny in soon inextricably intertwined with Clan MacKenzie and the forbidden Castle Leoch. She is catapulted without warning into the intrigues of lairds and spies that may threaten her life ...and shatter her heart. For here, James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, shows her a passion so fierce and a love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire...and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.
    I remember reading this one for the first time over ten years ago. It was a book I picked up on a whim from a charity-sale table, and once I started, I couldn't put the book down. Then I discovered there were sequels...Except, I was about to go away for a month so couldn't borrow them from the library until I got back. Oh, the wait.
  6. Lammas Night - Katherine Kurtz
    Lammas Night by Katherine Kurtz
    The back cover blurb:
    What magic can stop Adolf Hitler - History's most evil Black Magician?

    Modern War
    The year is 1940
    Hitler's Germany is about to employ the secret arts of evil witchcraft to destroy England. What can stop them?

    Ancient Weapon
    It is the mission of John Graham, colonel in British Intelligence, to stop the onslaught of evil with an extraordinary strategy that defies all the rules of twentieth-century warfare: Unite the different witches' covens throughout England, drawing upon powers that reach back through dark centuries, in a ritual of awesome sacrifice on the first night of August, the magical Lammas Night.
    An older book that's well worth the hunt if you like historical fantasy.
  7. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
    The amazon.com blurb:
    In this literary tour de force, novelist Arthur Golden enters a remote and shimmeringly exotic world. For the protagonist of this peerlessly observant first novel is Sayuri, one of Japan's most celebrated geisha, a woman who is both performer and courtesan, slave and goddess.

    We follow Sayuri from her childhood in an impoverished fishing village, where in 1929, she is sold to a representative of a geisha house, who is drawn by the child's unusual blue-grey eyes. From there she is taken to Gion, the pleasure district of Kyoto. She is nine years old. In the years that follow, as she works to pay back the price of her purchase, Sayuri will be schooled in music and dance, learn to apply the geisha's elaborate makeup, wear elaborate kimono, and care for a coiffure so fragile that it requires a special pillow. She will also acquire a magnanimous tutor and a venomous rival. Surviving the intrigues of her trade and the upheavals of war, the resourceful Sayuri is a romantic heroine on the order of Jane Eyre and Scarlett O'Hara. And Memoirs of a Geisha is a triumphant work - suspenseful, and utterly persuasive.

    I've only read the book once, but it's stuck with me ever since.
I'd meant for this to go to a full ten books, but I'm reaching a point where they wouldn't truly be my favorites any more, only books I've thrown in to fill out the list.

Monday, January 19, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? January 19th, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a fun and dangerous meme hosted each week over at Book Journey. Fun, because we're sharing what we're reading. Dangerous, well, that comes from adding more books to the already shaky and toppling TBR stacks.

Anyway, it's been a long, long time since I've had a week as good as this past one. I finished reading three books!

Completed reads:

Arrow's Fall - Mercedes Lackey
Arrow's Fall (Heralds of Valdemar Vol. 3) 
Mercedes Lackey

The amazon.com product description:

With Elspeth, the heir to the throne of Valdemar, come of marriageable age, Talia, the Queen's Own Herald returns to court to find Queen and heir beset by diplomatic intrigue as various forces vie for control of Elspeth's future.
But just as Talia is about to uncover the traitor behind all these intrigues, she is sent off on a mission to the neighboring kingdom, chosen by the Queen to investigate the worth of a marriage proposal from Prince Ancar.
Of the three books in this trilogy, I've got to note that this one has my favorite cover art. My full review is here.

Read for both the Hardcore Re-Reading Challenge and my own Valdemar Reading Challenge.

The Children of Kings - Deborah J. Ross and Marion Zimmer Bradley
The Children of Kings
Marion Zimmer Bradley and Deborah J. Ross

The amazon.com product description:
Millennia ago, the planet Darkover, a cold world orbiting a giant red sun, was settled by a lost colony ship from the Terran Federation. Alone on a new world, survivors interbred with the native chieri, psychically Giften alien humanoids. The children of these matings were Gifted with telepathy and other psychic abilities, and their descendants, the aristocratic Comyn, forged a civilization in which the arts of the mind were cultivated and cherished.

When the Terrans rediscovered Darkover, the seven Domains of Comyn struggeld to maintain their unique culture and independence, often at a terrible price. More than once, assassins and environmental saboteurs from the Terran Empire attempted to bring Darkover to its knees and erode the native culture for the benefit of the Federation -- seing Darkover as nothing more than a port of call for Terran military and trade. Eventually, a vicious interstellar war forced Federation forces to withdraw from Darkover, but Darkovans knew that it was only a matter of time before they would return.

Prince Garth Elhalyn has grown up in the shadow of his legendary grandfather, Regis Hastur, one of the greatest leaders Darkover has ever known. But he is also haunted by fear of the insanity that is prevalent in his Elhalyn family line. His world has become an unbearable counterpoint of meaningless aristocratic frivoloty and dangerous political schemes -- plots in which powerful lords attmept to use him to further their own ambitions. He tries his best to better himself through the study of languages, swordplay, and training his psychic laran with his grandmother, Linnea Storn-Hastur, Keeper of Comyn Tower. But Gareth cannot stop dreaming about a future without fame or family.

In a desperate attempt to remove himself completely from the restricted life of the Comyn, Gareth confesses his desire to his powerful grandmother, and with her blessing, disguises himself as a simple trader and travels to Carthon, on the border of the barbarous, warklike Dry Towns. The Dry Towns do not live under the rule of the Comyn, and no one in this isolated part of Darkover will recognize a Comyn lord.

In Carthon, protected by his guise of anonymity, Gareth overhears rumors of deadly, illegal Terran blasters being used in the barren lands beyond Shainsa -- one of the main Dry Towns. If the Federation has returned and is now arming the bellicose Dry Towners with banned technology, it will mean a disastrous conflict for the Comyn of the Domains, who have long sworn themselves to the Compact, an oath of honor that forbids the use of distance weaponry. Venturing deeper and deeper into the desert lands, Gareth stumbles upon a terrible reality no one could have suspected and he is ill-prepared to deal with.

But in fact, Gareth holds the key to protecting his world, if he can only stay alive in the deadly Dry Towns long enough to discover what it is....

The Children of Kings follows The Alton Gift and Traitor's Sun in the Darkover timeline.
Not the best introduction to the world of Darkover as it assumes that the reader already has the background knowledge, but a book I really enjoyed reading nonetheless. My full review can be found here.


The Oathbound - Mercedes Lackey
The Oathbound Book I: Vows and Honor
Mercedes Lackey
DAW Books
Copyright: 1988
978-0886774141

The amazon.com product description:
Tarma witnessed her clan's murder and, swearing vengeance, became a master warrior. Kethry fled her forced "marriage" and became an adept--pledging her power to the greatest good. When Kethry obtains a magical sword which draws her to others in need, the two vow to avenge the wrongs done to womanhood.
This was the third book I read last week, and I haven't had a week like that in well over a year, perhaps two. My full review, though short, can be found here.

Read for both the Hardcore Re-Reading Challenge and my own Valdemar Reading Challenge.

 I'm currently reading:
Oathbreakers by Mercedes Lackey, the sequel to Oathbound above, and I'm still working away at Adrienne Mayor's book on the Amazons.

I honestly don't know what I'm going to read next, although I suspect that there's a good chance it'll be Oathblood, the completing volume in the Vows and Honor series by Mercedes Lackey.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Oathbound - Mercedes Lackey

The Oathbound - Mercedes Lackey
The Oathbound Book I: Vows and Honor
Mercedes Lackey
DAW Books
Copyright: 1988
978-0886774141

The amazon.com product description:
Tarma witnessed her clan's murder and, swearing vengeance, became a master warrior. Kethry fled her forced "marriage" and became an adept--pledging her power to the greatest good. When Kethry obtains a magical sword which draws her to others in need, the two vow to avenge the wrongs done to womanhood.
Oathblood - Mercedes Lackey
Neither blurb is all that accurate, they're mostly setting the scene with backdrop information from the first of the Tarma and Kethry short stories from Sword and Sorceress III, which details the first meeting between the two characters. And you don't have to go hunting very far to find that story and the others Mercedes Lackey wrote for that market. They've mostly (I say that, because I have vague memories of one that's not in this collected volume) been gathered together and presented in the book Oathblood.

That first story is really key to understanding these two characters, although enough of it is sketched out through the course of Oathbound that you can pick up on their background.

If you're familiar with the Sword and Sorceress series, one of the chapters in this book will seem very familiar to you - Chapter 6, which was published as a story on it's own in Sword and Sorceress V. It's the story based around the song Threes, and I'm glad it was included in Oathbound as well as the climax of the book is based around the events of that story.

Oathbound and Oathbreakers were Mercedes Lackey's first real forays beyond the borders of Valdemar, fleshing out the world of Velgarth quite nicely, and they're two of her books that I've really enjoyed reading over the years. I certainly enjoyed re-reading Oathbound this time for the Valdemar Reading Challenge and the Hardcore Re-reading Challenge (although it wasn't on my initial proposed reading list for the second challenge).

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Book Rambling: What Makes A Successful Book Adaptation?

Inspired by watching the third of the Hobbit movies on Wednesday, I started trying to figure out what, at least in my mind, makes for a good adaptation of a book into a movie or TV show.

I think it's a combination of a few things including just how faithful the makers are to their source material, although there are ways of being faithful that still allow for changes. Also, though, in many ways, the opinion of whether or not the directors/producers are being faithful to the source depends on how familiar the viewer is with that material.

Take Warhorse for an example. I've only read the book once. In my mind, the movie was pretty faithful to the book and they did a spectacular job. Yes, they did make some changes, but I felt that they kept the characters the same and touched on most of the best moments. But, I didn't (and still don't) know every word of the source material.

The movie version of Snow Flower And The Secret Fan was another adaptation that I really enjoyed. In some ways, I wasn't expecting to either because they decided to make quite a few additions to the book in the movie. However, it was done in a tasteful way, and although the movie-makers added their own characters in the modern story-line, the material from the book itself seemed to me to have stayed quite true to the characters and story Lisa See wrote.

In the same vein, but over to TV, are the two shows that I'm watching this year: Outlander (currently on it's mid-season break) and now the mini-series The Book of Negroes.

So far, the first half of the season of Outlander has stayed true to the book, at least as far as I can remember (it's been more than a few years since I've read Diana Gabaldon's books). Again though, barring a couple of additions, the characters are feeling 'right' to me - and even the small additions work. Still, as I've noted with other adaptations I'm watching or have watched, I don't know every little word or detail of these books.

And with The Book of Negroes, I haven't read the book at all. Which is why I'm asking what you think and how the show compares with the book. I have to say, coming at the show cold, without any knowledge from Lawrence Hill's book, it's been pretty good so far.

Now we come to the big ones when it comes to movie adaptations of books. The Lord of the Rings movies and The Hobbit movies. Everyone around me knows my opinions on the Lord of the Rings movies - although I'm finding a new appreciation of the soundtracks of late. Too many changes - most of which were unneeded at least in my opinion. I also didn't feel like any of the characters were true to their source characters at all. I remember making comments along the lines of "the only thing these characters have in common with Tolkien's is their names". It may simply be that this is the one case where I know too much about the books - I've re-read it more times than I can count by now.

Most of the changes that really bugged me were in two general categories:
  • changes to the characters and their motivations. Most of these changes were to the detriment of the characters. Denethor, for example. Where was his dignity? Aragorn too was made less. Sam would never have turned back, even for a moment the way I remember him doing in the movie.
  • Unneeded additions. Did Frodo and Sam really need to be at the battle in Osgiliath? Did we really need to see Aragorn falling off that cliff? 
What really adds insult to injury on the latter front is when they claim that there's too much material and so of course some needs to be cut. Fine. Just don't do it so you can add your own entire storyline in in it's place!

Paradoxically, The Hobbit movies felt truer to the source material - barring, of course the entire stupid chase sequence that lasted through all of them, and a few other specific incidents (Don't get me started on the whole Radagast and his rabbit-drawn sled). In this case, a lot of the "added material" aside from the chase and to a lesser extent the whole Tauriel/Kili storyline is stuff that I have no problems with - most of it is from Tolkien, specifically, if my memory isn't playing tricks, the chapter The Quest of Erebor in The Unfinished Tales.

What is it that makes a movie or tv adaptation of a book work for you?

Friday, January 16, 2015

The Children of Kings - Marion Zimmer Bradley and Deborah J. Ross

The Children of Kings - Deborah J. Ross and Marion Zimmer Bradley
The Children of Kings
Marion Zimmer Bradley and Deborah J. Ross
DAW Books
Copyright: 2013
978-0756408541

The amazon.com product description:
Millennia ago, the planet Darkover, a cold world orbiting a giant red sun, was settled by a lost colony ship from the Terran Federation. Alone on a new world, survivors interbred with the native chieri, psychically Giften alien humanoids. The children of these matings were Gifted with telepathy and other psychic abilities, and their descendants, the aristocratic Comyn, forged a civilization in which the arts of the mind were cultivated and cherished.

When the Terrans rediscovered Darkover, the seven Domains of Comyn struggeld to maintain their unique culture and independence, often at a terrible price. More than once, assassins and environmental saboteurs from the Terran Empire attempted to bring Darkover to its knees and erode the native culture for the benefit of the Federation -- seing Darkover as nothing more than a port of call for Terran military and trade. Eventually, a vicious interstellar war forced Federation forces to withdraw from Darkover, but Darkovans knew that it was only a matter of time before they would return.

Prince Garth Elhalyn has grown up in the shadow of his legendary grandfather, Regis Hastur, one of the greatest leaders Darkover has ever known. But he is also haunted by fear of the insanity that is prevalent in his Elhalyn family line. His world has become an unbearable counterpoint of meaningless aristocratic frivoloty and dangerous political schemes -- plots in which powerful lords attmept to use him to further their own ambitions. He tries his best to better himself through the study of languages, swordplay, and training his psychic laran with his grandmother, Linnea Storn-Hastur, Keeper of Comyn Tower. But Gareth cannot stop dreaming about a future without fame or family.

In a desperate attempt to remove himself completely from the restricted life of the Comyn, Gareth confesses his desire to his powerful grandmother, and with her blessing, disguises himself as a simple trader and travels to Carthon, on the border of the barbarous, warklike Dry Towns. The Dry Towns do not live under the rule of the Comyn, and no one in this isolated part of Darkover will recognize a Comyn lord.

In Carthon, protected by his guise of anonymity, Gareth overhears rumors of deadly, illegal Terran blasters being used in the barren lands beyond Shainsa -- one of the main Dry Towns. If the Federation has returned and is now arming the bellicose Dry Towners with banned technology, it will mean a disastrous conflict for the Comyn of the Domains, who have long sworn themselves to the Compact, an oath of honor that forbids the use of distance weaponry. Venturing deeper and deeper into the desert lands, Gareth stumbles upon a terrible reality no one could have suspected and he is ill-prepared to deal with.

But in fact, Gareth holds the key to protecting his world, if he can only stay alive in the deadly Dry Towns long enough to discover what it is....

The Children of Kings follows The Alton Gift and Traitor's Sun in the Darkover timeline.
Of late, I've done some muttering about the Amazon.com product descriptions. I take that back for this one. It's actually better than the back cover blurb (of course, it's also two or three times the length).

It's been a while since I've read any of the Darkover novels, and to a slight extent, that did affect my read-through of Children of Kings. Mostly because I was struggling to remember completely who the main character was in relation to all the other characters and what had happened in the previous books.

Once I got past the first hundred pages or so (and got the who's-who straightened out in my head again) I found myself almost unable to put the book down. I really liked Deborah's take on Darkover and the Dry-Towns - a place we just haven't heard a lot about before now. It's always been in the background, but not too much has been written about them or the inhabitants, aside from The Shattered Chain.

I think that about all I knew about the Dry-Towners before this book was how touchy they were about their honor. Now, they feel like a fully-fleshed out part of the whole world of Darkover. Actually, I'd love to see something written about their origins now, aside from the rumors and hints given in this book. They're just so different than the rest of the Darkover inhabitants.

Slightly an aside, but does anyone know offhand, which was the book where the Terrans and Darkovans were studying telepathic powers? I think it was a fairly early book in the recontact era, but I can't even remember the title. It's just that one of the characters from it - which I remember vaguely - was mentioned briefly in The Children of Kings, and that's made me curious about it again.

I'm also feeling the need to re-read the World Wreckers - one of the Darkover novels not in my personal collection - as the events in that book are fairly integral to the background of this one. More so than the rest of the recent Darkover books, I think.

The Children of Kings is probably not the best book to start with if you haven't read any of the Darkover novels before; for that I might suggest Exile's Song and its sequels, which introduce the word quite thoroughly and starts off the story-line for the characters and events in The Children of Kings.

Overall, a book that I really enjoyed reading.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Arrow's Fall - Mercedes Lackey

Arrow's Fall - Mercedes Lackey
Arrow's Fall (Heralds of Valdemar Vol. 3)
Mercedes Lackey
DAW Books
Copyright: 1988
978-0886774004

The amazon.com product description:
With Elspeth, the heir to the throne of Valdemar, come of marriageable age, Talia, the Queen's Own Herald returns to court to find Queen and heir beset by diplomatic intrigue as various forces vie for control of Elspeth's future.
But just as Talia is about to uncover the traitor behind all these intrigues, she is sent off on a mission to the neighboring kingdom, chosen by the Queen to investigate the worth of a marriage proposal from Prince Ancar.
The back cover blurb:
Valdemar's Peril!

With Elspeth, the heir to the throne of Valdemar, come of marriageable age, Talia, the Queen's Own Herald returns to court to find Queen and heir beset by diplomatic intrigue as various forces vie for control of Elspeth's future.
But just as Talia is about to uncover the traitor behind all these intrigues, she is sent off on a mission to the neighboring kingdom, chosen by the Queen to investigate the worth of a marriage proposal from Prince Ancar. And, to her horror, Talia soon discovers there is far more going on at Prince Ancar's court than just preparation for a hoped-for royal wedding. For a different magic than that of the Heralds is loose in Ancar's realm - an evil and ancient sorcery that may destroy all of Valdemar unless Talia can send warning to her Queen in time.
This is the third book in the Heralds of Valdemar Trilogy, following on Arrows of the Queen and Arrow's Flight, and all I can say on finishing it right now is WOW! This was a re-read, and even knowing the story ahead of time, I found myself absolutely racing through the book, more or less in just over a day.

Talia is only just barely back from a very eventful internship (as told in Arrow's Flight) when she is plunged right back into the court intrigues with news of a proposed royal wedding between Elspeth, the heir to the throne of Valdemar and Prince Ancar of the neighboring kingdom of Hardorn. Most of the Queen's councilors are all for the proposed union, but Elspeth is less than happy with the idea, and the Queen herself has doubts.

Add to all this Talia's personal problems and you've got a potent mix. There's quite a few moments here that knowing the story and also knowing about the later written books in the series just make better. And quite a few loose ends that you don't even realize are loose until they're tied up in this book. Or, at least you think they're tied up.

A lot of the story is personal interactions between the characters - sometimes how a simple misinterpretation can have dramatic results.

One of the neat things in the early Mercedes Lackey books are is the section of songs at the end: Arrow's Fall and Magic's Price both have them, and there were even cds made with the songs and music. The one for the Heralds of Valdemar was called Heralds, Harpers and Havoc. It's now more or less unavailable, but I'd love to hear opinions of it from anyone who's heard the music.

I really enjoyed this re-read of all three of the books and I'm looking forward to continuing my read through of Mercedes Lackey's books for my Valdemar Reading Challenge. Arrow's Fall was also read for the Hardcore Re-Reading Challenge.

Monday, January 12, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? - January 12th 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading is a regular - and dangerous meme hosted over at Book Journey each week. The purpose of the meme is to list off the books we've read in the past week, are reading, and intend to read. That's why it's so dangerous because this meme is full of temptation.

Last week I read one book:

Arrow's Flight - Mercedes Lackey
Arrow's Flight (The Heralds of Valdemar vol.2)
Mercedes Lackey

The amazon.com product description:
Set in the medieval fantasy kingdom of Valdemar, this unique and exciting novel continues the story of Talia. Having mastered the powers necessary to a guardian of the kingdom, she faces the final preparation for her initiation as adviser and protector of the Queen.
I found that I enjoyed the read far more than I thought I would. Read for both the Hardcore Re-Reading Challenge and my own Valdemar Reading Challenge.

My review can be found here.

I'm currently reading two books:
Arrow's Fall, the sequel to Arrow's Flight and Amazons by Adrienne Mayor, which I'm creeping through slowly.

I'm planning to read The Children of Kings by Marion Zimmer Bradley and Deborah J. Ross.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Arrow's Flight - Mercedes Lackey

Arrow's Flight - Mercedes Lackey
Arrow's Flight (The Heralds of Valdemar vol.2)
Mercedes Lackey
DAW Books
Copyright: 1987
978-0886773779

The amazon.com product description:
Set in the medieval fantasy kingdom of Valdemar, this unique and exciting novel continues the story of Talia. Having mastered the powers necessary to a guardian of the kingdom, she faces the final preparation for her initiation as adviser and protector of the Queen.
The back cover blurb:
Herald's Challenge!
Talia could scarcely believe that she had finally earned the rank of full Herald. yet thought this seemed like the fulfillment of all her dreams, it also meant she would face trials far greater than those she had previously survived. For now Talia must ride forth to patrol the kingdom of Valdemar, dispensing Herald's justice throughout the land.

But in this realm beset by dangerous unrest, enforcing her rulings would require all the courage and skill Talia could command - for if she misused her own special powers, both she and Valdemar would pay the price!
For all this isn't my favorite of the Heralds of Valdemar series (Arrows of the Queen, Arrow's Flight and Arrow's Fall), I found that I enjoyed the read more than I thought I would. I remembered the tension between Kris and Talia to be more all-encompassing than it turned out to be - perhaps also because it has been emphasized in the re-read of Arrow's Flight that's been going on over at TOR Books. Instead, it didn't overwhelm the story for me.

What's more, it seemed to be fairly realistic to me - especially the way Talia, her doubts and her Gift were all interacting.

There were a couple of other moments that caught my eye as this was a re-read. On page 56, "...a middle-aged Herald whose twin streaks of grey, one at each temple, stood out startlingly in the firelight." That Herald is going to turn up in By The Sword. The other, looking at this from a point of view of more knowledge than a first-time reader is the question of just what Gift Kris really has.

One of my favorite scenes in the book is Kris giving Talia the bouquet of Maiden's Hope at Midsummer - and the promise he makes to her as well.

Read for both the Hardcore Re-Reading Challenge and my own Valdemar Reading Challenge.

Paddington Bear Movie

How did I miss finding out about this until just now?

Paddington Bear is coming to movie theatres next week - in North America, at least. I get the feeling that it's already been out for a while in the UK.


Raise your hand if you read the Paddington Bear books as a kid. I sure did! Unfortunately it's been so long ago that I can only remember one little scene from one of the books. I don't even remember what book it was.

The scene was the one where he's entered some kind of a Christmas Cake/Christmas Pudding contest and ends up messing up his recipe badly enough that in the end, he ices and decorates the oven and takes that to be judged - with the cake inside!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Historical Fiction Reading Challenge 2015

I found this one a bit late for it to go into my round-up of reading challenges that I'm participating in, but I couldn't resist signing up anyway. I'm also not going to be too ambitious, signing up for only the lowest level of two books. The Historical Fiction Reading Challenge hosted at Passages To The Past is certainly a challenge that's right up my alley.

The rules of the challenge are:

Here are the Reading Challenge details:

Each month, a new post dedicated to the HF Challenge will be created. To participate, you only have to follow the rules:

  • Everyone can participate, even those who don't have a blog (you can add your book title and thoughts in the comment section if you wish)
  • Add the link(s) of your review(s) including your name and book title to the Mister Linky we’ll be adding to our monthly post (please, do not add your blog link, but the correct address that will guide us directly to your review)
  • Any sub-genre of historical fiction is accepted (Historical Romance, Historical Mystery, Historical Fantasy, Young Adult, etc.)
During the following 12 months you can choose one of the different reading levels:

20th century Reader - 2 books
Victorian Reader - 5 books
Renaissance Reader - 10 books
Medieval - 15 books
Ancient History - 25 books
Prehistoric - 50+ books

I'm only signing up for the lowest level, 20th Century Reader.

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