Friday, December 12, 2014

Upcoming Release: Deeds of Honor by Elizabeth Moon

Deeds of Honor: Paksenarrion World Chronicles - Elizabeth Moon
Deeds of Honor: Paksenarrion World Chronicles
Elizabeth Moon
Jabberwocky Literary Agency Ltd.
Release Date: December 22, 2015
B00QVLWNG6

The amazon.com product description:
Elizabeth Moon, the New York Times bestselling author of the celebrated Deed of Paksenarrion and Paladin's Legacy epic fantasy series, presents Deeds of Honor, a brand new collection of short stories set in the world of Paksenarrion.

With two exclusive, never-before-published stories featuring characters from the Paladin's Legacy series, Deeds of Honor gathers together lore and legends from Paksenarrion’s world, along with tales from the Paladin’s Legacy era, all revised and updated for this special compilation.

Rich with the vivid and immersive storytelling for which Elizabeth Moon is known, the eight short stories in Deeds of Honor—collected here for the first time, with all-new author notes—are certain to please any fan of the Paksenarrion saga.

Deeds of Honor: Tales of Paksenarrion’s World
“Point of Honor” – “Falk's Oath” – “Cross Purposes” – “Torre's Ride” – “A Parrion of Cooking” – “Vardan's Tale” – “Those Who Walk in Darkness” – “The Last Lesson”
Elizabeth Moon is releasing a collection of short stories set in the world of The Deed of Paksenarrion. Most of them I haven't heard of, but Those Who Walk In Darkness is a story that I almost consider to be a chapter in The Deeds of Paksenarrion. It tells the story of the boy who was tortured along with Paks by the Liartians. The entirety of Those Who Walk In Darkness has been published on her website, but I've read it before in another of Elizabeth Moon's short story collections, Phases.

None of the other story titles are at all familiar to me, but I'm definitely looking forward to reading this short story collection, even though it's only available as an e-book.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Valdemar Reading Challenge - 2015

Image credits found at
http://endaewen.deviantart.com/art/Herald-and-Companion-499210107
Running from January 1, 2015 - December 31, 2015
I'm challenging people to have a go at one of my long-time favorite authors and worlds of books: Mercedes Lackey's world of Valdemar. It's one of my go-to worlds, with plenty of reading material and characters.

If you're a fan of fantasy and haven't given any of these books a try, 2015 is the year to do it! Magic - of varying flavors and styles, horses, and books that are great for everyone from young readers (some of them, anyway) on through to those young at heart. If you already know and love the series, this is the year for that big re-read!


There are several good entry-points to this series now, ranging from the Heralds of Valdemar trilogy (Arrows of the Queen, Arrow's Flight and Arrow's Fall) to the Collegium Chronicles, which starts with Foundation.

The Rules of the Challenge:
  1. Level One: 3-6 books.
  2. Level Two: 6-12 books.
  3. Level Three: All of the Valdemar books.
  4. Level Four: All of the Valdemar books, plus any two of the Valdemar anthologies.
  5. Bonus books: Any other Mercedes Lackey titles from her other series, including the Elemental Masters, Diana Tregarde, Five Hundred Kingdoms etc.
  6. Any reads for this challenge do count towards any other challenges you are participating in.
  7. To join up, just leave a comment here signing up, and, should you choose, comment with the links to your reviews of the books you've read.
  8. This is the most important rule of them all: Have fun!

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Hardcore Re-Reading Challenge

Given how much of my blog these days is re-reading - when I'm reading at all (or so it feels some of the time) this is the perfect challenge for me. Even so, I'm only signing up for the very lowest level of this intriguing challenge hosted at You, Me and a Cup of Tea.

There are so many books that I really want to re-read that I have decided to host the 2015 Hard Core Re-Reading Challenge! This is for those of us who have a loooooooong list of books we want to re-read.

Rules (And when I say rules please realize I'm one of the most flexible people in existence)

  • First off, this challenge is for EVERYBODY! That means YOU! I want anyone and everyone to join in on the fun!
  • I suggest you make a list of books that you want to re-read for 2015 and post it with your sign up post. You are welcome to add to it as the year goes on and you definitely don't have to read them all. I recommend it be a suggested list and you can just chose books off of it as you go along.
  • The challenge officially runs from January 1, 2015 to December 31, 2015. ONLY books started AND finished in that time frame will count. 
  • Once the challenge is officially on its way in January, I will have a post where you can link up your reviews of the books you are re-reading. That way not only can everyone enjoy other people's review but also that is how I'll keep track of how many books you complete for the drawing at the end (see below). I don't care how short or long your review is. :)
  • For every ten books you re-read your name will be entered in a drawing and if you complete the challenge you signed up for it is entered again. So even if you go overboard and think you can re-read fifty books but only end up re-reading 20, you can still be eligible for prizes! There will be three winners. The first place winner will get their choice of a book or a literary trinket (costing $20 or less) from Amazon. Second place will have the same option only costing $15 or less and third place the same costing $10 or less.... because I'm a poor nursing student people! ;)
  • All forms of books are allowable including actual book, ebook and audiobook. 
  • If you don't have a blog but still want to participate you can sign up with a comment and use Goodreads for reviews or I suppose even comment on the reviews page with your reviews. I don't want to exclude anyone from joining in the fun. :)
  • You can sign up below with the Linky tool. Registration is open from now right up until the end on December 31, 2015. 

Levels

Level 1 10-20 Re-reading itch
Level 2 20-30 Re-reading bug
Level 3 30-40 Re-reading fever
Level 4 40-50 Re-reading paralysis
Level 5 50+ Re-reading coma (if you can do this I highly commend you!)

My Reading List - very loose, as I tend to pick up whatever strikes my fancy at the time, or at most to plan a book or two in advance.
  1. The Serpent's Shadow - Mercedes Lackey
  2. Arrows of the Queen - Mercedes Lackey
  3. Arrow's Flight - Mercedes Lackey
  4. Arrow's Fall - Mercedes Lackey
  5. Oath of Fealty - Elizabeth Moon
  6. Kings of the North - Elizabeth Moon
  7. Limits of Power - Elizabeth Moon
  8. Crown of Renewal - Elizabeth Moon
  9. Echoes of Betrayal - Elizabeth Moon
  10. The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien (Is it a re-read if its an edition of the book that you haven't read before?)
  11. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan - Lisa See
  12. Night Play - Sherrilyn Kenyon
  13. Saint Patrick's Gargoyle - Katherine Kurtz
  14. Unleash The Night - Sherrilyn Kenyon

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Pre-Printing Press Challenge - 2015 Edition

The Pre-Printing Press Challenge
January 1st 2015-December 31 2015

I've seen a lot of challenges for reading romances, fiction, award winning books and many more. Challenges on various themes (King Arthur etc.) and challenges to fit certain criteria, such as the What's In A Name Challenge.

What I haven't seen is a challenge for reading books that pre-date the Printing Press. There's so many good pieces of writing that fit in this category (and I'm not asking you to read them in the original language unless you want to). So, for my first reading challenge, the pre-printing press challenge, I'm asking people to give these ancient and medieval books a try.

I started running this challenge back in 2009 and ran it again in 2010. Since then, I haven't run it, but I'm going to give it another try this year.

Just some rough examples of the sorts of books that count, both histories and fiction:
Thucydides History of the Peloponnesian War
Herodotus The Histories
Homer The Iliad and The Odyssey
Greek Tragedies and Comedies
Virgil
Ovid
Plutarch

Beowulf
Norse Sagas
Geoffrey of Monmouth The History of the Kings of Britain

The lists could continue on and on.

The rules of the Pre-Printing Press Challenge:
  1. All books must have come out before 1440, when the printing press was first invented.
  2. Books chosen for this challenge can overlap with other challenges.
  3. Books can be translated into the language of your choice.
  4. All the books you've chosen must be read by December 31, 2015.
  5. You can read 1-3 books, 4-6 books, 7-9 books or 10 or more books if you're feeling particularly ambitious.
  6. The choice of books is up to you. There are no set reading lists, and you don't have to set one when you join.
  7. Post your blog address where you'll be posting your comments on your choice of books in the comments of this post when you join, and tell me how many books you've chosen. I'll set up a link to participating blogs from here.
  8. Above all, Have fun.
The challenge starts January 1st.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Nancy Drew: The Ringmaster's Secret - Carolyn Keene

Nancy Drew: The Ringmaster's Secret - Carolyn Keene
Nancy Drew #31: The Ringmaster's Secret
Carolyn Keene
Grosset & Dunlap
Copyright : 1954
978-0448095318

The amazon.com product description:
Nancy is given a beautiful gold bracelet and finds that one of the charms is missing. When she learns the unusual story behind the jewelry, she sets out to solve the fascinating mystery. The bracelet had been presented to a former circus performer by a queen who loved horses. For some reason the performer had to sell the bracelet but would not reveal her true identity. Clues lead Nancy to Sims’ Circus, where she meets Lolita, an unhappy young aerialist who has a horse charm wrought exactly like those on Nancy’s bracelet. Will Nancy be able to find the original owner of the bracelet?
As a kid, I collected and read my way through quite a few of the original Nancy Drew series, and I still have several boxes of the books I loved as a kid stashed away around the house. This was one of my favorites. It held up fairly well on the re-read too, even though I'm now way, way out of the target age range. That, I think is the cause of any of my gripes with the book and the series.

Nancy Drew: The Ringmaster's Secret has held up pretty well. It's now 60 years old and still in print, which is pretty amazing in itself, but the story still works well too. Everyone loves the circus, and horses are always a draw too - that's what pulled me into this book if I'm remembering correctly from the first time I read it.

Now, though, I found myself gritting my teeth at the writing - had to remind myself that this book was really geared for kids between 9 and about 15 years old. Which is most definitely no longer me, and also that the characters and setting are those of the mind 1950's. With that in mind, I still found it an enjoyable and quick read - a bit of a nostalgic trip down memory lane.

Nancy's a clever character. None of my gripes can take away from that, nor do I want to. However, I did find that everyone around her was a bit too helpful - making it so that things came to her a bit too easily. Maybe that's just modern-day cynicism on my part though.

As a kid, I loved these books and collected any of them that I could. Always the original series though. For some reason I never did like any of the more modern versions. The same thing held true for the Bobsey Twins, Hardy Boys and the Cherry Ames series of books. Since then, I've recommended the original Nancy Drew books many a time when I worked in the bookstore. I still would recommend them.

Monday, November 3, 2014

A Choice Of Anglo-Saxon Verse - Ed. Richard Hammer

A Choice of Anglo-Saxon Verse - Trans. Richard Hammer
A Choice of Anglo-Saxon Verse
Ed. Richard Hammer
Faber and Faber Limited
Copyright: 1970
978-0571228362

The amazon.com product description:
 This new edition contains the Old English texts of all the major short poems, such as "The Battle of Maldon", "The Dream of the Rood", "The Wanderer" and "The Seafarer", as well as a generous representation of the many important fragments, riddles and gnomic verses that survive from the 7th to the 12th centuries, with facing-page verse translations. These poems are the wellspring of the English poetic tradition, and this anthology provides a unique window into the mind and culture of the Anglo-Saxons.
I bought this a number of years ago, just after I finished taking an introductory Old English course at university, but only just got around to reading it over the last month and a bit. Of course, after the number of years it's been, I've completely forgotten everything about Old English that I learned at the time.

That said, this is a facing page translation edition, so you don't need to know any Old English to read it. Even without that knowledge it's interesting reading.

Each poem has a short introduction where the editor/translator talks a little about the poem, scholarship, translation issues etc, giving some context for the reader. There's also a short bibliography for each poem as well - usually one to three items.

I do have one minor quibble that I hadn't realized about until I started reading A Choice of Anglo Saxon Verse: this edition is actually from 1970, not the 2006 that Amazon gives. That surprised me, and leaves me wondering if scholarly opinions and translations have changed any over the last 40 or so years.

A Choice Of Anglo-Saxon Verse was read for two separate challenges: my own Pre-Printing Press Challenge and for the Mount TBR Challenge.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

J.R.R. Tolkien: The Origin Of The Rings DVD

J.R.R. Tolkien: The Origin of the Rings
J.R.R. Tolkien: The Origin of the Rings
Run time: 63 minutes
Copyright: 2001

The back cover blurb:
Circles & Rings...
Dragons & Kings...
An unauthorized tribute
Perhaps the greatest book of the 20th century, J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" is the epic of epics. This timeless story of good vs. evil. complete with Wizards, warlocks, elves armies of terror and heroes has inspired authors, filmmakers and fans alike.

Join Michael Coren Author of "J.R.R. Tolkien: The man who created The Lord Of The Rings" on an epic journey - take a brief walk through the novels, speckled with biographical info on Tolkien and explore fantasy fiction as a topic in itself.

Lord of the Rings. The story behind the Myth. If you've ever wondered about life in a fantastical place, we beckon you to take a stroll into the magical and wondrous world of J.R.R. Tolkien. Leave your spell books at the door and join the epic adventure behind the myth.
I wasted an hour of my life yesterday on this dvd. That's honestly how I feel about it, which is a pity because it was a gift from someone who knows how much I love Tolkien's books. I'd had my doubts about the dvd from the start, mostly because I don't remember thinking too much of Michael Coren's biography of J.R.R. Tokien. I much prefer the Humphrey Carpenter biography.

My fears were borne out. The basic biographical information about Tolkien was there - in very brief form, although the filmmakers dwelled on a spider bite that JRRT received as a young child far more than was needed, at least in my opinion. However, they left a lot out from his life too, leaving a completely different impression than does the collected volume of Tolkien's own writings.

For example, there is no mention of any of Tolkien's writings pre-dating the Hobbit. It's suggested that all of the detailed back-story and language creation was part of the process of writing the Lord of the Rings. However, the world of Middle-Earth had been evolving well before that point, as had the languages, with the first stages appearing much earlier - the stories we know of as the Book of Lost Tales 1 and 2, thanks to Christopher Tolkien's editing and publishing them as part of the History of Middle-Earth series.

Strike two against the DVD was their "summary" of the Lord of the Rings - it bore no resemblance to the books as I know them. If my memory serves, it suggested that the Ring itself was the cause of all the wars and fighting.

Strike three, and by no means is this the last, is their panel of experts. There's a professor of English Literature from the U of T, the author of the Bone graphic novel series, a children's book author and a few other miscellaneous people. None of whom have any reputation as Tolkien specialists.

The next thing that bugged me about the J.R.R. Tolkien: The Origin of the Ring dvd was that they talked about Tolkien inspired artwork while showing pictures that weren't by the artists being discussed at all, in this case the Brothers Hildebrandt - not my favorites by a long shot, but still... Going in the same vein, was the whole chunk of time they wasted on the DVD discussing the costuming of the actors they used to set the mood for some of the scenes.

Overall, the whole DVD had a very cheap feeling to it - some of which may be accounted for by the fact it was made in 2000/2001, but I don't think so. I think the makers just didn't have much of a budget to work with - but some of that could have been compensated for by better research and being more on topic.

I really can't find anything positive to say about this program, and that honestly disappoints me a lot.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

New Edition of The Adventures of Tom Bombadil

I just found out that there's a new edition of The Adventures of Tom Bombadil that was released today. It's not just a re-print, but apparently also includes some new material:

The Adventures of Tom Bombadil - J.R.R. Tolkien
The Adventures of Tom Bombadil
J.R.R. Tolkien
HarperCollins
Release Date: Oct 9, 2014
978-0007557271

The amazon.com product description:
This revised and expanded edition of Tolkien's own Hobbit-inspired poetry includes previously unpublished poems and notes, and is beautifully illustrated by Narnia artist Pauline Baynes. 'Here is something that no devotee of the Hobbit epic can afford to miss, while awaiting a further instalment of the history of these fascinating people - a selection [of verses] offered as an 'interim report' to those interested in Hobbit-lore, and to any others who may find amusement in this mixed bag of old confections.' One of the most intriguing characters in The Lord of the Rings, the amusing and enigmatic Tom Bombadil, also appears in verses said to have been written by Hobbits and preserved in the 'Red Book' with stories of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins and their friends. The Adventures of Tom Bombadil collects these and other poems, mainly concerned with legends and jests of the Shire at the end of the Third Age. This special edition has been expanded to include earlier versions of some of Tolkien's poems, a fragment of a prose story with Tom Bombadil, and comprehensive notes by acclaimed Tolkien scholars Christina Scull and Wayne G. Hammond.
One thing I know with this book: Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull have a very, very good reputation in Tolkien scholarship circles. I know I've eagerly collected quite a number of the books they've either written or edited on various Tolkien-related subjects.

Based on that alone, I'm going to be hunting this book down, even though I've already got at least one edition of The Adventures of Tom Bombadil already. Not that duplicate copies are at all unusual in my collection.

Closer To Home - Mercedes Lackey

Closer To Home - Mercedes Lackey
Closer To Home: Book One of The Herald Spy
Mercedes Lackey
DAW Books
Release Date: October 7, 2014
978-0756408992

The amazon.com product description:
Mags was once an enslaved orphan living a harsh life in the mines, until the King's Own Herald discovered his talent and trained him as a spy. Now a Herald in his own right, at the newly established Heralds' Collegium, Mags has found a supportive family, including his Companion Dallen.

Although normally a Herald in his first year of Whites would be sent off on circuit, Mags is needed close to home for his abilities as a spy and his powerful Mindspeech gift. There is a secret, treacherous plot within the royal court to destroy the Heralds. The situation becomes dire after the life of Mags' mentor, King's Own Nikolas, is imperiled. His daughter Amily is chosen as the new King's Own, a complicated and dangerous job that is made more so by this perilous time. Can Mags and Amily save the court, the Heralds, and the Collegium itself?
This was a great, if short read, but one I found a bit unusual for the first book in a series. Usually, when I've picked up a new series in the world of Valdemar, it feels like a new series - a bit of an introduction to the world of the Heralds, an introduction to the characters, all the things a new reader of any of the Valdemar books would need in order to gather an understanding of the world Mercedes Lackey has created. Not this time. Closer To Home picks up after the ending of Bastion, the final book in the Collegium Chronicles series, and it doesn't feel like a new series at all. Instead, it's a continuation of the previous books. Now, by no means is the above paragraph a complaint!

I loved the book, and I'm looking forward to next year and the next book in the series. It's just that if you're thinking that this, being the first book in a new series, would be a good introduction to the world of Valdemar, you might want to try Foundation instead. That's the book that's going to introduce Mags, Bear and Lena (only mentioned in this one), Amily etc to you.

I do recommend this book and any other of Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar books quite highly. None of them to date has been a disappointment to me, and most I've read several times.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Catullus: The Complete Poems - Trans. Guy Lee

Catullus: The Complete Poems - Trans. Guy Lee
Catullus: The Complete Poems
Trans. Guy Lee
Oxford World's Classics
Copyright: 1990
978-0199537570

The amazon.com product description:
Of all Greek and Latin poets Catullus is perhaps the most accessible to the modern reader. Dealing candidly with the basic human emotions of love and hate, his virile, personal tone exerts a powerful appeal on all kinds of readers. The 116 poems collected in this new translation include the famous Lesbia poems and display the full range of Catullus's mastery of lyric meter, mythological themes, and epigrammatic invective and wit.

About the Series: For over 100 years Oxford World's Classics has made available the broadest spectrum of literature from around the globe. Each affordable volume reflects Oxford's commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, voluminous notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more.
It's taken me a few months, but I've finally completed my read through of the complete poems of Catullus. This book counts for two different challenges: first, my own Pre-Printing-Press Challenge, and second, the Mount TBR Challenge. It's certainly been on my list for a few years now. This was one of my textbooks back in university, but we only had to read selected poems from the book.

Now, on to my review:
The Oxford World's Classics series has a very good reputation - at least three of my classes used their translations and editions for textbooks while I was at both college and university. I'd say that Guy Lee's translation of the poems of Catullus is no exception.

At least a third of the book is detailed notes on the poems - translation quirks and explanations, identities of the people mentioned in the poems - at least as much as we can guess at, poetry formats and many other little details.

If you're a student of Latin, there's another feature of this edition that makes it stand out: it's a facing page translation, one of only a few that I've seen other than the Loeb series. At the same time, the translations are flowing and fit the meter of the poetry as far as I can tell. To be honest though, my Latin is nowhere near good enough for me to be able to compare the translations of the poems with the originals. Still, I had fun picking over some of the poems to see how much I remembered. Both more and less than I though.

Catullus's poetry makes for interesting reading. The subject matter ranges from myths and legends to the small and everyday, from praising the people around him to cursing them with invective. It's definitely an interesting window onto the Roman world, though I'd have to say it's quite biased.

I'd also say this is a book to keep out of the reach of children - Some of the poems get fairly crude, and the sexual language is fairly frequent; adultery - definitely a common topic, incest, sexual relationships and insults are themes in quite a few of Catullus's works.

And yet, there's a lot of emotions visible in the poems as well: sadness, scorn, pride, love, anger, the book touches on the whole spectrum of the human experience.

I would definitely recommend this for any student of Latin or of Roman history.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Wool-craft, knitting, crochet and Outlander

This is a clip from the latest episode of Outlander, Rent. At least, it's the latest episode for me, as I'm in Canada and I think we're about two weeks behind the US for air dates.

I've been admiring the various bits of knitting in the costuming on Outlander, shown on Sunday evenings on ShowCase, and keeping a close eye out for any hints of the making of them. This is the first hint of wool-working in the show, and it absolutely made my day to see it:

Waulking wool, the final step in the weaving process as far as I'm aware.
So neat to see in this, though I can't remember if it's actually a scene in the book or not. If not, I admire the research the show crew did to add scenes like this to the show.

The only other time I've seen anything like this was on the second dvd of Norman Kennedy's From Wool To Waulking workshop.

I certainly hope to see more of these kinds of scenes in future episodes of Outlander. Also nice would be to see some more patterns for some of the knit-wear on the show. Some people have already created some patterns and uploaded them to Ravelry. Mostly for knitted items. I'd like to see some adapted for crochet.

Friday, September 19, 2014

The iPhone hype has gone too far

The hype over the new iPhone 6 and 6+ has gone way too far. I say this as someone who's thinking of upgrading to one of them too. However, I am not going to do so without having the chance of handling one or both to see what I think of them. Personally I'm a bit skeptical of the larger sizes that smartphones are coming in these days.

I say the hype has gone too far though because of what happened when I went into a phone store today to see if they had any demo models I could look at.

I was asking the salesman about the new iPhones, and he wanted me to order one. "Nope" said I. I want to check out how they feel before I make a choice. This was his response: "How they feel doesn't matter. What matters is the new software."

OK. So, which one is going to be more comfortable for me to hold is immaterial. I still use my smartphone as a phone and want something that I can hold to my ear comfortably. Ridiculous! By what I was told, I must be in the minority in using my phone as a phone.

Not to mention, I like my phone to be able to fit in my pocket sometimes for convenience. The new, largest phones won't be able to do that. Again, I must be in the minority there, because actually, the larger size of the phone is something that's actively making me think twice about upgrading, even with the soon to come lack of support for my current phone.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Upcoming Books

Here's another selection of upcoming books that have caught my eye. One or two of them I've already pre-ordered too on the recommendation of one of my friends.

Closer To Home - Mercedes Lackey
Closer To Home: Book One of The Herald Spy
Mercedes Lackey
DAW Books
Release Date: October 7, 2014
978-0756408992

The amazon.com product description:
Mags was once an enslaved orphan living a harsh life in the mines, until the King's Own Herald discovered his talent and trained him as a spy. Now a Herald in his own right, at the newly established Heralds' Collegium, Mags has found a supportive family, including his Companion Dallen.

Although normally a Herald in his first year of Whites would be sent off on circuit, Mags is needed close to home for his abilities as a spy and his powerful Mindspeech gift. There is a secret, treacherous plot within the royal court to destroy the Heralds. The situation becomes dire after the life of Mags' mentor, King's Own Nikolas, is imperiled. His daughter Amily is chosen as the new King's Own, a complicated and dangerous job that is made more so by this perilous time. Can Mags and Amily save the court, the Heralds, and the Collegium itself?
Mercedes Lackey has started a new series about Mags, the main character in the Collegium Chronicles books. Based on the blurb, I'm looking forward to reading Closer to Home when it comes out. I do want to know how this situation that she's setting up is going to work out, and I really enjoyed reading the previous Mags books.

No True Way: A Valdemar Anthology
No True Way: All New Tales of Valdemar
Mercedes Lackey
DAW Books
Release Date: December 2, 2014
978-0756407698

The amazon.com product description:
In March 1987, Mercedes Lackey, a young author from Oklahoma, published her first novel, Arrows of the Queen. No one could have envisioned that this modest book about a magical land called Valdemar would be the beginning of a fantasy masterwork series that would span decades and include more than two dozen titles.

Now the voices of other authors add their own special touches to the ancient land where Heralds “Chosen” from all walks of life by magical horse-like Companions patrol their ancient kingdom, dispensing justice, facing adversaries, and protecting their monarch and country from whatever threatens. Trained rigorously by the Herald’s Collegium, these special protectors each have extraordinary Gifts: Mindspeaking, FarSeeing, FarSpeaking, Empathy, Firestarting and ForeSeeing, and are bonded for life with their mysterious Companions. Travel with these astouding adventurerers in sixteen original stories.
After two years where the annual anthology was from the world of the Elemental Masters, it's going to be nice to return to the world of Valdemar. I've been enjoying these anthologies since the first one came out years ago.

One oddity though, it's currently only available to pre-order in the kindle format. I sincerely hope there's going to be a paper-book release as well. I'll be quite disappointed if these books go to e-only.

The Amazons: Lives And Legends Of Warrior Women Across The Ancient World - Adrienne Mayor
The Amazons: Lives And Legends Of Warrior Women Across The Ancient World
Adrienne Mayor
Princeton University Press
Release Date: September 22, 2014
978-0691147208

The amazon.com product description:
Amazons--fierce warrior women dwelling on the fringes of the known world--were the mythic archenemies of the ancient Greeks. Heracles and Achilles displayed their valor in duels with Amazon queens, and the Athenians reveled in their victory over a powerful Amazon army. In historical times, Cyrus of Persia, Alexander the Great, and the Roman general Pompey tangled with Amazons.

But just who were these bold barbarian archers on horseback who gloried in fighting, hunting, and sexual freedom? Were Amazons real? In this deeply researched, wide-ranging, and lavishly illustrated book, National Book Award finalist Adrienne Mayor presents the Amazons as they have never been seen before. This is the first comprehensive account of warrior women in myth and history across the ancient world, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Great Wall of China.

Mayor tells how amazing new archaeological discoveries of battle-scarred female skeletons buried with their weapons prove that women warriors were not merely figments of the Greek imagination. Combining classical myth and art, nomad traditions, and scientific archaeology, she reveals intimate, surprising details and original insights about the lives and legends of the women known as Amazons. Provocatively arguing that a timeless search for a balance between the sexes explains the allure of the Amazons, Mayor reminds us that there were as many Amazon love stories as there were war stories. The Greeks were not the only people enchanted by Amazons--Mayor shows that warlike women of nomadic cultures inspired exciting tales in ancient Egypt, Persia, India, Central Asia, and China.

Driven by a detective's curiosity, Mayor unearths long-buried evidence and sifts fact from fiction to show how flesh-and-blood women of the Eurasian steppes were mythologized as Amazons, the equals of men. The result is likely to become a classic.
This is the book that I've pre-ordered on the strength of a friend's recommendation. It looks absolutely fascinating, and I know that Adrienne Mayor is an excellent writer, having read and reviewed one of her previous books, Greek Fire, Poison Arrows and Scorpion Bombs.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Freedom's Challenge - Anne McCaffrey

Freedom's Challenge - Anne McCaffrey
Freedom's Challenge
Anne McCaffrey
Ace Books
Copyright: 2009
978-0441006250

The amazon.com product description:
The alien Catteni invaded Earth and enslaved thousands of humans on the planet Botany, where they struggle to survive while colonizing the world for their overseers. Now that they’ve proved Botany is capable of sustaining life, Kris Bjornsen and her fellow settlers have no intention of surrendering the home they’ve created for themselves…

Armed with the knowledge that the true enemy behind the Catteni is the Eosi race, Kris has begun a campaign to free Botany’s settlers by raising a rebellion among her people against their parasitic oppressors.

Aided by her Catteni lover, Zainal, Kris and the colonists manage to steal warships—and discover dissidents on other Eosi-controlled worlds. If all of the subjugated races join forces, they will have an army large enough to win their freedom and their worlds.

The war of liberation has begun.
Freedom's Challenge is the third book in this series, following on Freedom's Landing and Freedom's Choice. Interestingly, this is also the book where certain scenes had stuck - vaguely - in my head from the last time I read it, back when the book first came out. Most notably, the scenes on Catten itself. At the same time, I'd forgotten enough of the read that it was like reading the book for the first time.

One note I have to make - the cover art above is the new art. Honestly in this case I really prefer the original cover art style.

Anyway, this was another book that I ended up racing through while on a camping trip. Loved it. However, I'm having trouble finding a way to describe the story and style without giving a ton of spoilers, or being confusing because by this point, a lot of the storyline really requires knowledge of the previous books in the series.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Booking Through Thursday - Your Recommendation

This weeks question over at Booking Through Thursday is a simple one for me to answer:
If a friend asks you to recommend a really good book—good writing, good characters, good story—but with no other qualifications … what would you recommend? 
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
As far as I'm concerned, there is only one answer: The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.

There's something for everyone, at least everyone who likes fiction, in this book. The world is so deep and fully realized - there are things mentioned which clearly have their own history, known to the characters, but not required for the story.

Consistency is well done throughout - Tolkien was even carefully checking the dates for the phases of the moon to make sure that the characters, separated were looking at the same moon on the same day.

The devil is in the details people say, and Tolkien put a lot of effort into making sure those details were all consistent throughout the story.

The same thing is true of the characters. They have depth, history and motivations which make them into real people who grab your interest and hold on to it until the last page is turned.

Personally, I love all the description, but I know some people have said there's too much of it. For me, it's that description that helps add the depth to the story - I can almost feel myself in Middle-Earth at times.

Tolkien knew language and how to use it, and that shows in every carefully chosen word in the book. Prose, poetry and song were all carefully written to best effect.

I could keep going for a while, but I won't. The Lord of the Rings has been my favorite book for about two decades now, and it shows.

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