Saturday, August 5, 2017

On the Shelf? Or on the Desk? - Reference works for Indexing

I've kept a more or less running list of my indexing-related reference works along with links to reviews for many of them on the Books and Resources for Indexers page here on my blog.

Here, I'm briefly noting the books I've found myself turning to to the most often on the subject, now that I've been indexing for a few years.

Side note as well: When I say "on the desk", for the most part I mean stacked on the floor around my desk-chair where I can reach the book easily. Right now, I've got two such stacks going :)

Indexing Names - Ed. Noeline BridgeI'm going to start with the book Indexing Names  edited by Noeline Bridge. When I'm working, this book spends more time on my desk than on the shelf - to the point where most of the time this book ends up staying on my desk - and I do actually mean "on the desk". I've also ended up buying a second copy in e-book format for times when I'm working away from my desk.

My original review can be found here.

In short, Indexing Names is a compilation of articles from the international journal The Indexer, each of which covers a different aspect of indexing names, be it names from specific cultures, such as Dutch, French, or ancient and medieval names. This is a book I honestly think is one that should be on any indexer's shelf in some form or another.

The Webster's New Biographical Dictionary. Yes, this is an older book and therefore is missing a lot of the newer names - and even quite a few older ones. Still, it's worth having on the shelf. Personally I find it faster to try looking in here first, and only afterwards go online to get answers. Most often I'm using it to find a first name to go with a surname or to find a name to go with a title. Frequently the Webster's New Biographical Dictionary is also useful for sorting out first names from last names so I can then invert for use in the index.

As I noted, this is an older book, and therefore it's pretty inexpensive.

Chicago Manual of Style - 16th EditionThe Chicago Manual of Style. This book covers far more than just how to index, but I must admit that that is the part of the book I use the most often. Right now, I have the 16th edition, but I understand that there is a seventeenth edition coming out in the near future (the beginning of September). Should be interesting to see what kind of changes it suggests for indexing standards.

Most but not all publishers use one of the recent editions of this book to set out their requirements for index formatting, so it's a good idea to have a copy (or more than one for the different versions) on the shelf. Like Indexing Names, which I've mentioned above, the Chicago Manual of Style has sections covering the indexing of names from different languages, titles and all sorts of little details that come up now and again in the process. Different methods of alphabetizing too, to name another example.

Indexing Books - Second Edition - Nancy MulvaneyHowever, my first "go-to" for any indexing-related question is still Nancy Mulvaney's Indexing Books Second Edition. I've reviewed it previously on my blog. From reminders of how to determine index lengths (also known as interpreting the publisher's instructions) to formatting the locators for footnotes and endnotes, she covers most topics related to book indexing thoroughly. There are some areas where updates could be made, however, for the most part, this is still the most thorough and readable book on indexing I've seen to date. This book in conjunction with the Chicago Manual of Style answers about 80-90 percent of my questions (most of the rest are generally software-specific or name-related).

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Signs of Obliviousness

Despite the amusing title, I'm absolutely serious about this one - and furious too!

Really it's two issues, though the second one grows out of the first.

Every time. Every time I am in a park - regional, provincial or national - I see people ignoring the posted signs.

"PLEASE KEEP OFF THE RE-VEGETATED AREA"
The signs are posted, the area is clearly fenced off - at least from the path side - I'm slightly willing to cut some slack when it comes to people crossing from the other side. The beach continues along past the re-vegetated area with no access paths - but it's not clearly marked from that side. I've managed to do it once without realizing right away. In my defense, I think the tide was coming in pretty quickly too. However, I've also seen people just hop over the fence to go wander in that area - kids chasing the rabbits, or people not wanting to walk all the way back to the proper beach access path from the washrooms. The other day I even saw some people with bicycles on the wrong side of that fence! And if someone confronts a person doing that, they're likely to get told to F*** *** and mind their own business. I've seen that very response - and it makes me feel very uncomfortable about speaking up when I see this kind of behavior.

"NO DOGS ALLOWED ON THE BEACH BETWEEN THESE DATES"
Inevitably I'll see dogs running freely on the beach, off leash with their owners throwing balls or sticks. Ask them about it and the response is usually "I didn't see the signs". Said signs are placed at every access path. How could you not see them? Perhaps you just didn't want to see them?

Same thing is true for the signs that say "ALL DOGS MUST BE LEASHED".
Or, you'll hear "My dog is well behaved and doesn't need to be on a leash". Which suggests that the owner doesn't think that the rules need to apply to them.

The other one - one I haven't seen in person yet, but have definitely seen evidence for is people ignoring the "NO BICYCLES" signs along the trails. It's kind of hard to disguise the tire-tracks left behind in the mud, so I know this sign is another frequently ignored one.

Those are all bad enough. Here is the one that has me finally going ahead with this rant.

I live in British Columbia. This year we're having a real problem with forest fires all across the province. There's a fire ban in place for nearly all of the province. All the parks have clearly posted signs to say "NO FIRES" and also "NO SMOKING"  at the entries to each trail and also posted along the trails. I was out two days ago enjoying a wonderful hike up in the mountains two days ago - except that as I came along the route back, I was stuck behind a group who insisted on smoking - despite the signs. There were four of them, and only two of us, so I didn't feel comfortable about speaking up. Perhaps I should have anyway. I could see the cigarettes in their hands, and most definitely smell the smoke!

They're not the only ones though. Despite clear announcements of the fire ban, people are still lighting campfires! I just can't fathom the attitude.

Fire Restrictions Ignored By Campers
Ignored Fire Ban and Evac
Some Campers On The B.C. Coast Ignoring Open Fire Ban Despite Interior Wildfires
Campfire Ban Ignored
B.C. officials to investigate after firefighters reportedly breach campfire ban

And those are just a selection of articles on the topic. I just can't understand people sometimes. We're seeing the devastation caused by fires all around the province - not to mention more of them in the USA. It's bad enough when those fires are caused by lightning. There's not a lot we can do about that. But to risk causing more fires through human stupidity?

I sincerely hope that nobody reading this blog condones behavior like this, but I won't apologize for my attitude towards it all.

I am so sick and tired of the obliviousness to clearly posted signs and rules, either because people don't think they should apply to them, or they think they can get away with breaking the rules - sadly this is probably true all too often. I'm tired of it. Tired of going to the beach and seeing the remains of fires. Tired of hearing people in campgrounds stamping around in the brush to find wood to burn - when the rules clearly say it's not allowed. Tired of seeing dogs chasing birds in areas where dogs aren't allowed off leash. Tired of seeing unauthorized trails ground into the parks by people who figure they can just go anywhere they please. I'm tired of it all! And I don't know what can be done about it. 

Or, am I just an old-fashioned kill-joy of a stick in the mud who wants to take away peoples fun when I believe that these rules should be followed? Do we live in a society where rules don't mean anything anymore? Should I simply get used to seeing this kind of behavior and start closing my eyes towards it?  Sometimes I wonder.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Return...To Canada With Love (CD) - Liona Boyd

The Return...To Canada With Love - Liona BoydI don't usually comment much on music here, but I've recently been introduced to the music of Liona Boyd. Clearly I'm a late-comer to her albums, but all I can say is WOW!

Her classical guitar range is just beautiful and inspiring to listen to, but Liona Boyd has done far more than just that. She's got Christmas albums, and in more recent years has begun writing her own songs and composing her own music as well.

I'm particularly fond of this album - Return...To Canada With Love. I have to think it's somehow appropriate that I discovered it this year - Canada's 150th. This one apparently came out in 2013, however, I know that she is still going strong. It's not listed on Amazon as of yet, but I have seen on her website that there is supposed to be a new album coming out some time this year, apparently titled No Remedy For Love, which is also the title of her most recent autobiography.

Coming back to Return...To Canada With Love, quite a few of the songs seem to be autobiographical in nature, referencing events in her life. Others are very environmental in nature - not to mention the indigenous connection in at least one or two songs as well. One of the most amazing songs though is Canada My Canada. The list of singers she has included in that song is amazing.

I've seen reviews of her recent albums comparing her music to that of Enya's, and I have to agree - at least for some of the songs.

Perhaps I'm overstating things a bit, but I have to highly, highly recommend this cd and any of her earlier classical cds. As someone who likes to listen to music while working, I find them absolutely perfect for that, but they are also just wonderful to listen to.

Monday, May 29, 2017

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? - May 29, 2017

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week.  It's a great post to organize yourself. It's an opportunity to visit and comment, and er... add to that ever growing TBR pile! So welcome in everyone. This meme started with J Kaye's Blog   and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at the Book Date.

After a couple of dead weeks for reading - which explains the overly quiet blog, I've finally gotten back in the swing of things for reading - how long I'll be able to keep it up is another question.

Anyway, I've finished a couple of books in the past week:

Circus of the Damned - Laurell K. HamiltonThe first was Circus of the Damned by Laurell K. Hamilton.

The amazon.com product description:
First time in trade paperback: the third novel in the #1 New York Times bestselling series. In Circus of the Damned-now in trade paperback for the first time-a rogue master vampire hits town, and Anita gets caught in the middle of an undead turf war. Jean-Claude, the Master Vamp of the city, wants her for his own-but his enemies have other plans. And to make matters worse, Anita takes a hit to the heart when she meets a stunningly handsome junior high science teacher named Richard Zeeman. They're two humans caught in the crossfire-or so Anita thinks.
I'm not going to write up a separate review for this one - I stopped reading in the middle for long enough that I can't really remember what happened for the earlier parts of the book. The main thing that stuck with me is Anita's sheer stubborn nature. Of course, that's something laid out through the whole series, so it's not all that surprising.

1632 - Eric Flint
The second book I finished in the last week was 1632 by Eric Flint, which I posted about yesterday.

The amazon.com product description:
FREEDOM AND JUSTICE -- AMERICAN STYLE

1632 And in northern Germany things couldn't get much worse. Famine. Disease. Religous war laying waste the cities. Only the aristocrats remained relatively unscathed; for the peasants, death was a mercy.
2000 Things are going OK in Grantville, West Virginia, and everybody attending the wedding of Mike Stearn's sister (including the entire local chapter of the United Mine Workers of America, which Mike leads) is having a good time.
THEN, EVERYTHING CHANGED....
When the dust settles, Mike leads a group of armed miners to find out what happened and finds the road into town is cut, as with a sword. On the other side, a scene out of Hell: a man nailed to a farmhouse door, his wife and daughter attacked by men in steel vests. Faced with this, Mike and his friends don't have to ask who to shoot. At that moment Freedom and Justice, American style, are introduced to the middle of the Thirty Years' War.
This one I quite enjoyed, though I'm a bit hesitant about the rest of the series - based on the sheer quantity of books set in the world of the Ring of Fire.

My currently reading pile is pretty big:

The Mists of Avalon - Marion Zimmer BradleyThere's The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley.
Amazon.com product description:
In Marion Zimmer Bradley's masterpiece, we see the tumult and adventures of Camelot's court through the eyes of the women who bolstered the king's rise and schemed for his fall. From their childhoods through the ultimate fulfillment of their destinies, we follow these women and the diverse cast of characters that surrounds them as the great Arthurian epic unfolds stunningly before us. As Morgaine and Gwenhwyfar struggle for control over the fate of Arthur's kingdom, as the Knights of the Round Table take on their infamous quest, as Merlin and Viviane wield their magics for the future of Old Britain, the Isle of Avalon slips further into the impenetrable mists of memory, until the fissure between old and new worlds' and old and new religions' claims its most famous victim.
It's been quite a few years since I read this book, but I'm enjoying as much now as I did the last time. If my memory serves as well, the Mists of Avalon may well have been my first real introduction to the various Arthurian stories.

The Lunatic Cafe - Laurell K. HamiltonSecond on the list is The Lunatic Cafe by Laurell K. Hamilton

The amazon.com product description:
Vampire hunter and zombie animator Anita Blake is an expert at sniffing out the bad from the good. But in The Lunatic Cafe-now in trade paperback for the first time-she's about to learn that nothing is ever as it seems, especially in matters of the not-so-human heart.

Dating a werewolf with self-esteem issues is stressing Anita out. Especially when something-or someone-starts taking out the city's shapeshifters.
Here's where we start seeing more of the characters who are going to shape the next several books: Raina, Gabriel, Marcus... We've already been introduced to Richard and Larry in the previous book, so the stage is being set for future plotlines.

I'm only a couple of chapters in, so I can't say much more than that yet.

1633 - David Weber and Eric FlintAnd finally, 1633 by David Weber and Eric Flint

The amazon.com product description:
AMERICAN FREEDOM AND JUSTICE
VS. THE TYRANNIES OF
THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY

The new government in central Europe, called the Confederated Principalities of Europe, was formed by an alliance between Gustavus Adolphus, King of Sweden, and the West Virginians led by Mike Stearns who were transplanted into 17th-century Germany by a mysterious cosmic accident. The new regime is shaky. Outside its borders, the Thirty Years War continues to rage. Within, it is beset by financial crisis as well as the political and social tensions between the democratic ideals of the 20th-century Americans and the aristocracy which continues to rule the roost in the CPE as everywhere in Europe.

Worst of all, the CPE has aroused the implacable hostility of Cardinal Richelieu, the effective ruler of France. Richelieu has created the League of Ostend in order to strike at the weakest link in the CPE's armor—its dependence on the Baltic as the lifeline between Gustav Adolf's Sweden and the rest of his realm.

The greatest naval war in European history is about to erupt. Like it or not, Gustavus Adolphus will have to rely on Mike Stearns and the technical wizardry of his obstreperous Americans to save the King of Sweden from ruin.

Caught in the conflagration are two American diplomatic missions abroad: Rebecca Stearns' mission to France and Holland, and the embassy which Mike Stearns sent to King Charles of England headed by his sister Rita and Melissa Mailey. Rebecca finds herself trapped in war-torn Amsterdam; Rita and Melissa, imprisoned in the Tower of London.

And much as Mike wants to transport 20th-century values into war-torn 17th-century Europe by Sweet Reason, still he finds comfort in the fact that Julie, who once trained to be an Olympic marksman, still has her rifle . . .

At the publisher's request, this title is sold without DRM (DRM Rights Management).
It's the second book in the Ring of Fire series, I believe. However, I'm only a chapter or two in.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

1632 - Eric Flint

1632 - Eric Flint1632 (Ring of Fire)
Eric Flint
Baen Books
Copyright: 2001
978-0671319724

The amazon.com product description:
FREEDOM AND JUSTICE -- AMERICAN STYLE

1632 And in northern Germany things couldn't get much worse. Famine. Disease. Religous war laying waste the cities. Only the aristocrats remained relatively unscathed; for the peasants, death was a mercy.
2000 Things are going OK in Grantville, West Virginia, and everybody attending the wedding of Mike Stearn's sister (including the entire local chapter of the United Mine Workers of America, which Mike leads) is having a good time.
THEN, EVERYTHING CHANGED....
When the dust settles, Mike leads a group of armed miners to find out what happened and finds the road into town is cut, as with a sword. On the other side, a scene out of Hell: a man nailed to a farmhouse door, his wife and daughter attacked by men in steel vests. Faced with this, Mike and his friends don't have to ask who to shoot. At that moment Freedom and Justice, American style, are introduced to the middle of the Thirty Years' War.
It's been a while since I read any of the Ring of Fire series, but I was loading my Kobo a couple of weeks ago and discovered that I had the first two books of the series hiding away on my computer (thanks to the CD-Roms that Baen included with their books for a while (also the source for the first thirteen of the Honor Harrington series - note to self: load the first book in this series to the kobo to join the rest soon).

Anyway, I'd been hunting something to give me a bit of a break from The Mists of Avalon and Circus of the Damned/The Lunatic Cafe (Marion Zimmer Bradley and Laurell K. Hamilton respectively) and 1632 seemed to fit the bill. Suffice it to say, it did! - I went racing through it over the last four days, while continuing to read the other books (the biggest advantage of the Kobo is being able to switch from book to book at will).

I'm not a hundred percent certain on the way history is used in this series, however I'll admit that a lot of that is due to the fact that the sixteen-hundreds are not exactly my area of expertise - nor are the military tactics used. However, my memory of what I've read in By Sword and Fire some years ago says that yes, what is suggested in this book and the rest of the series is quite reasonable.

Either way, I found myself captured by the story and the characters.

One thing I hadn't realized on starting 1632 is just how large this series has gotten - three or four screens of titles on Amazon.com and several authors contributing too - both short stories in the many anthologies, and full novels set in this world too. There are a number of authors I recognize from other books too, including David Weber, but also quite a few authors whose names I don't recognize.

Honestly, at this point I'm not sure whether to hope I really get into this series or not. There's certainly plenty of reading here - but that's also the downside, trying to find about 17 years worth of books in one series and by different authors when the library might not have all of them.

For sure though, I'm looking forward to reading 1633 at the least - and any other of the earlier books in the series that I can find. I'm also finding myself inspired to try and hunt down the time-travel novels by S.M. Stirling again too.

One final note: At least at the time I'm writing this review, 1632 is free as a Kindle e-book. That means that there is absolutely no excuse to not give it a try.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Acer Spin 3 Convertible Laptop

Back in January I finally upgraded my laptop - which I primarily use for work purposes. I'd had my previous one since 2012/2013 and it needed an upgrade for a few reasons. 1. It had a solid-state drive in it - a small one and I was rapidly running out of room, even with keeping no music, photos or even many games on it. 2. Installing that solid-state made the computer a bit less reliable. I got semi-frequent blue-screens from day one. 3. There didn't seem to be a way to make a cloned-hard-disk back-up with the solid-state.

So, in January, I finally took the plunge and upgraded. I stayed with Acer for my brand - I've used Acer laptops for my last three laptops. After some debate - limited by what the stores had in stock at the time, I went with the Acer Spin 3. Now that I've had a couple of months to settle in with it I'm absolutely loving it.

I'm going to start with the features I've used the most. 
  1.  The touch-screen. This is the first proper computer I've had with a touch-screen (There were a few amusing moments with my last laptop where after using my iPad for too long, I'd reach out and try to scroll via the screen). It's not something I use most of the time, but I love it for when I'm using the Spin 3 away from my desk. For me, it works better than the touch-pad (Not a complaint about the specific touch-pad here at all! Every laptop I've had in the last ten years or so, I've found that I brush the touch-pad when I'm typing, leading to some rather amusing/frustrating situations) which I leave turned off most of the time. It's easy enough to select text for copying/pasting using the screen, once you've done it a few times.
  2. The back-lit keyboard. Again, I've not had one of these before, but my husband has. This turned into a must-have very quickly. Under most circumstances, it's a bit of a gimmick-type of thing, but in situations with less-than-ideal lighting, it's wonderful. I am a freelancer these days and as a result, I've found myself working in some fairly "interesting" locations, including evenings in the campgrounds. That's where I believe that the lit keyboard is going to be truly wonderful.
  3. Battery life. This one I've not fully tested to the limit. I know the literature claims up to 10 hours. I've certainly had no problems with 4-5 hours on battery so far, and there's been plenty left. That, though has not been tested under more than light-use circumstances: wi-fi turned off screen brightness turned as far down as possible etc, and only running those programs I truly need, such as Acrobat Reader and my indexing software. Certainly no videos or music running. Battery life has been one of the top considerations in my purchasing selection this time around.
  4. This one may not matter to most people, but the Acer laptops have stuck to the old configuration of having the F-keys as primary, with the other functions (using the Fn key) as secondary. As I said, it may not matter for most people, but the software I used most frequently uses those keys for common shortcuts within the program. I've taught myself to use a number of key combos. I didn't want to have to train myself to add the Fn key to those shortcuts!
I haven't tried using this computer fully spun around in tablet mode as of yet, though I probably will sooner or later - perhaps if I ever load Netflix on it.

One thing I still find myself trying to get used to a bit is that the ports are all in very different places than they were on any of my other laptops: Two of the three USB ports are on the left side, rather than the right, and the power and HDMI cables are on the right-hand side instead. Seeing as my second screen is situated on the left, that gets interesting on occasion.

My Acer Spin 3 also has no internal DVD drive - a first for me, but that's been easily remedied with the purchase of an external drive. However, I have to admit to only having used it a few times - mostly to install some older programs. Though the temptation is there to replace it with a Blu-ray capable external drive to make it easier to watch my favorite shows...

It's definitely a very light computer! The lightest laptop I've owned to date, which is another big plus, especially when it comes to travel.

I didn't go for a solid-state drive this time, but despite the fact that it's made the computer a hair slower, I'm not missing it. I like having that terrabyte of drive space! I really like not having to think twice about whether or not to install a program (games especially are space-hogs) or think about having enough space for my photos.

Monday, May 8, 2017

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? - May 8, 2017

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week.  It's a great post to organize yourself. It's an opportunity to visit and comment, and er... add to that ever growing TBR pile! So welcome in everyone. This meme started with J Kaye's Blog   and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at the Book Date.

 Well, I had a fantastic week of reading, as the last few days of posts shows. A somewhat rainy camping trip will do that.

Let's start with the book from the week before:
Owlflight - Mercedes LackeyOwlflight
Mercedes Lackey
DAW Books
Copyright: 1998
978-0886778040

The amazon.com product description:
Apprenticed to a venerable wizard when his hunter and trapper parents disappear into the forest never to be seen again, Darian is difficult and strong willed--much to the dismay of his kindly master. But a sudden twist of fate will change his life forever, when the ransacking of his village forces him to flee into the great mystical forest. It is here in the dark forest that he meets his destiny, as the terrifying and mysterious Hawkpeople lead him on the path to maturity. Now they must lead the assault on his besieged home in a desperate attempt to save his people from certain death!
I finished this one not last week, but the week before. However, as I didn't participate last week, I don't feel guilty about including it in this week's post.

A snippet from my review:
I can't forget the scene where Darian is thinking about the villagers who tend to harangue him and what that says about them, either. It's one of my favourites in the book. Also the variation on the "road to hell" proverb makes a whole lot of sense too.

Now for this week's reads.
The Ship Who Sang - Anne McCaffreyThe Ship Who Sang
Anne McCaffrey
Del Rey
Copyright: 1969 (I think?)
978-0552091152

The Amazon.com product description:
Helva had been born human, but only her brain had been saved and implanted into the titanium body of an intergalactic scout ship. But first she had to choose a human partner, to soar with her through the daring adventures and exhilarating escapades in space.
An excerpt from my review:
Not the most exciting of descriptions, but worth looking past and reading the book. The Ship Who Sang is the first book in the Brain Ships series. I have to admit that for a long time, this hasn't been one of my favorite Anne McCaffrey novels. However, I'm not sure why at this point. When I was reading it this time, I loved it!
Four And Twenty Blackbirds - Mercedes LackeyFour and Twenty Blackbirds (Bardic Voices 4)
Mercedes Lackey
Baen Books
Copyright: 1997
978-0671878535

The amazon.com product description:
A MAGICAL MANIAC IS LOOSE IN ALANDA!

A magical murderer is loose in Alanda. The victims are always women, always lower-class, and the weapon is always a three-sided stiletto, most often found among Church regalia. But the killers are never churchmen, and they always commit suicide immediately after the bloody deed.

Tal Rufen is just a simple constable. But he really cares about his job, and when one of these murder/suicides happens on his beat he becomes obsessed. His superiors don't care—the victims will never be missed, and their murderers are already justly dead. But every instinct Tal Rufen has cries out that he has seen only one small piece of a bigger and much nastier puzzle....

At the publisher's request, this title is sold without DRM (Digital Rights Management).
A snippet from my review:
Despite the many frustrating references to previous books, this turned into one of those reads that I couldn't put down. Every spare moment I had for a couple of days I was reading. And there are plenty of "spare moments" when it's a rainy day in the campground.

A Shadow in Summer - Daniel AbrahamA Shadow in Summer: Book One of the Long Price Quartet
Daniel Abraham
Tor Books
Copyright Date: 2007
978-0765351876

The amazon.com product description:
From debut author Daniel Abraham comes A Shadow in Summer, the first book in the Long Price Quartet fantasy series.
The powerful city-state of Saraykeht is a bastion of peace and culture, a major center of commerce and trade. Its economy depends on the power of the captive spirit, Seedless, an andat bound to the poet-sorcerer Heshai for life. Enter the Galts, a juggernaut of an empire committed to laying waste to all lands with their ferocious army. Saraykeht, though, has always been too strong for the Galts to attack, but now they see an opportunity. If they can dispose of Heshai, Seedless's bonded poet-sorcerer, Seedless will perish and the entire city will fall. With secret forces inside the city, the Galts prepare to enact their terrible plan.
In the middle is Otah, a simple laborer with a complex past. Recruited to act as a bodyguard for his girlfriend's boss at a secret meeting, he inadvertently learns of the Galtish plot. Otah finds himself as the sole hope of Saraykeht, either he stops the Galts, or the whole city and everyone in it perishes forever.
An excerpt from my review:
For me, this was one of those rare books I really struggled to finish. The opening absolutely grabbed me, but I found myself a bit lost about a third of the way through the book. Once I was lost, I never really figured things out again either.

And one final book finished in the last week:

Owlsight
Mercedes Lackey and Larry Dixon
Daw Books
Copyright: 1999
978-0886778033

The amazon.com product description:
It has been four years since Darian saw his village sacked and burned by barbarians. Taking refuge with the Hawkbrothers, he soon finds his life's calling--as a Healing Adept. But even as he learns the mystical ways of this ancient race, Darian cannot escape the dangers threatening his future. Another tribe of barbarians is approaching. The time has come...to stand up and fight.
An excerpt from my review:
My one complaint with Owlsight is just how quickly the story ends up winding down. Most of the book is leading to the build-up, and it feels as though only a few pages are devoted to the climax of the story.

I'm currently reading:
Owlkight - Mercedes Lackey and Larry DixonOwlknight
Mercedes Lackey
DAW Books
Copyright: 1999
978-0886778514

The amazon.com product description:
Brand new from Mercedes Lackey and Larry Dixon, "an unbeatable team in fantastic magic and adventure" (Kliatt)--the third and final book in the Darian's Tale trilogy, a powerful saga charged with war and magic, life and love.

Two years after his parents' disappearance, Darian has sought refuge and training from the mysterious Hawk-brothers. Now he has opened his heart to a beautiful young healer. Finally Darian has found peace and acceptance in his life. That is, until he learns that his parents are still alive--and trapped behind enemy borders....

I'm reading this one for the Valdemar Reading Challenge.

I want to read:
Ice Ghosts: The Epic Hunt For the Lost Franklin Expedition - Paul WatsonIce Ghosts: The Epic Hunt For the Lost Franklin Expedition
Paul Watson
W. W. Norton and Company
Copyright Date: March 21, 2017
978-0393249385

The Amazon.com product description:
The spellbinding true story of the greatest cold case in Arctic history―and how the rare mix of marine science and Inuit knowledge finally led to the recent discovery of the shipwrecks.
Spanning nearly 200 years, Ice Ghosts is a fast-paced detective story about Western science, indigenous beliefs, and the irrepressible spirit of exploration and discovery. It weaves together an epic account of the legendary Franklin Expedition of 1845―whose two ships, the HMS Erebus and the HMS Terror, and their crew of 129 were lost to the Arctic ice―with the modern tale of the scientists, researchers, divers, and local Inuit behind the recent discoveries of the two ships, which made news around the world.
The journalist Paul Watson was on the icebreaker that led the expedition that discovered the HMS Erebus in 2014, and he broke the news of the discovery of the HMS Terror in 2016. In a masterful work of history and contemporary reporting, he tells the full story of the Franklin Expedition: Sir John Franklin and his crew setting off from England in search of the fabled Northwest Passage; the hazards they encountered and the reasons they were forced to abandon ship after getting stuck in the ice hundreds of miles from the nearest outpost of Western civilization; and the dozens of search expeditions over more than 160 years, which collectively have been called “the most extensive, expensive, perverse, and ill-starred . . . manhunt in history.”
All that searching turned up a legendary trail of sailors’ relics, a fabled note, a lifeboat with skeletons lying next to loaded rifles, and rumors of cannibalism . . . but no sign of the ships until, finally, the discoveries in our own time. As Watson reveals, the epic hunt for the lost Franklin Expedition found success only when searchers combined the latest marine science with faith in Inuit lore that had been passed down orally for generations.
Ice Ghosts is narrative nonfiction of the highest order, full of drama and rich in characters: Lady Jane Franklin, who almost single-handedly kept the search alive for decades; an Inuit historian who worked for decades gathering elders’ accounts; an American software billionaire who launched his own hunt; and underwater archaeologists honing their skills to help find the ships. Watson also shows how the hunt for the Franklin Expedition was connected to such technological advances as SCUBA gear and sonar technology, and how it ignited debates over how to preserve the relics discovered with the ships.
A modern adventure story that arcs back through history, Ice Ghosts tells the complete and incredible story of the Franklin Expedition―the greatest of Arctic mysteries―for the ages.
8 pages of color illustrations
I've been hearing a lot of good things about this book. Now, I'm looking forward to reading it myself.

Owlsight - Mercedes Lackey

Owlsight
Mercedes Lackey
Daw Books
Copyright: 1999
978-0886778033

The amazon.com product description:
It has been four years since Darian saw his village sacked and burned by barbarians. Taking refuge with the Hawkbrothers, he soon finds his life's calling--as a Healing Adept. But even as he learns the mystical ways of this ancient race, Darian cannot escape the dangers threatening his future. Another tribe of barbarians is approaching. The time has come...to stand up and fight.
Owlsight is the second book in this trilogy, sequel to Owlflight. I did read and review Owlsight a few years ago now, but it's been a while. Although this is one of my favorite Valdemar novels, I'll admit that my main impetus for re-reading it now is the Valdemar Challenge I'm both running and participating in.

I'd wanted to get it read and reviewed back in April, but a camping trip interrupted. I don't like taking hardcover books camping - too much chance of damaging them, and this book already has a bit of damage from the time I tripped and fell in the mud while walking to work. No need to add any more to it.

Owlsight picks up four years after the ending of Owlflight, but starts out introducing us to a new set of characters in the village of Errolds Grove. Keisha is the new viewpoint character, and she quickly becomes a favorite as we see more of every-day village life through her eyes. I have to admit one of the reasons I like this book so much is all of the little details of fiber-arts scattered through it - comments on spinning, discussions of dyes and a look at the dying process, a couple of scenes with knitting etc.

As I noted in the first book, one of the things that makes the Owl trilogy stand out is that the Heralds are secondary characters at best. Instead, in this book, you've got a trainee Healer as one of the main characters of the story. If you want to see more of how the every-day person lives, and even the Tayledras every-day lives without an immediate crisis breathing down their necks, this is a good book for you.

My one complaint with Owlsight is just how quickly the story ends up winding down. Most of the book is leading to the build-up, and it feels as though only a few pages are devoted to the climax of the story.

Sadly, if my memory serves right, Owlsight is also the last book in the Valdemar world with full-page illustrations, one of the things I really enjoyed in the other books. I do know that Owlknight has little illustrated strips at the top of each new chapter, but that is all. Still, thanks to the illustrations, this is a book worth having in hardcover.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

A Shadow In Summer - Daniel Abraham

A Shadow in Summer - Daniel AbrahamA Shadow in Summer: Book One of the Long Price Quartet
Daniel Abraham
Tor Books
Copyright Date: 2007
978-0765351876

The amazon.com product description:
From debut author Daniel Abraham comes A Shadow in Summer, the first book in the Long Price Quartet fantasy series.
The powerful city-state of Saraykeht is a bastion of peace and culture, a major center of commerce and trade. Its economy depends on the power of the captive spirit, Seedless, an andat bound to the poet-sorcerer Heshai for life. Enter the Galts, a juggernaut of an empire committed to laying waste to all lands with their ferocious army. Saraykeht, though, has always been too strong for the Galts to attack, but now they see an opportunity. If they can dispose of Heshai, Seedless's bonded poet-sorcerer, Seedless will perish and the entire city will fall. With secret forces inside the city, the Galts prepare to enact their terrible plan.
In the middle is Otah, a simple laborer with a complex past. Recruited to act as a bodyguard for his girlfriend's boss at a secret meeting, he inadvertently learns of the Galtish plot. Otah finds himself as the sole hope of Saraykeht, either he stops the Galts, or the whole city and everyone in it perishes forever.
For me, this was one of those rare books I really struggled to finish. The opening absolutely grabbed me, but I found myself a bit lost about a third of the way through the book. Once I was lost, I never really figured things out again either.

Now, to be fair, this is a really detailed world and well fleshed out. It just felt a bit like two separate stories stuck together with a very abrupt join. I liked the details and the descriptions. However, I would have really liked a fair bit more background about who and why. Even if it were scattered throughout the story.

Perhaps some of what I'm looking for is hidden in the rest of the series. This is clearly the first of four books, and maybe that fact is what leads to a lot of my frustration with the story, because I also didn't feel like there was really a resolution at the end of the book. Rather, it seemed more like the ending of the Fellowship of the Ring or the Two Towers. At the same time, I also didn't feel a driving need to go hunt down the next book in the series.

As I said earlier, the author has clearly put a lot of thought into creating this world, magic system and back-story. One of the things I liked a lot (and I don't think I've seen done all that often) was the whole idea of poses and gestures forming a language of their own. I'd love to have seen more about that - perhaps some hints at how it originated. I also would have loved a bit of detail as to the origins of the school, and why the attitudes there were the way they were - actually, the whole beginning section there with Otah was in my mind the best part of the book.

Despite all that, I found that overall, I didn't really care about the story or the characters - I was finishing the read to not admit that I was defeated - that and I'd somehow forgotten to load on the first book in a series that I really did want to read.

I'd call this one a mixed bag. Your mileage may vary as I'm absolutely certain that there are people who really loved it (and presumably the sequels). If so, I'd love to know, and to know why you liked it so much.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Strawberry Fields Forever Shawl Progress Update

Last week I blogged about starting a new crochet project. Well, I definitely made progress over the week. I'm loving the pattern and the yarn colors! In terms of hard progress, I'm up to either row 19 or row 20 and am going to be starting the repeat rows soon. I think this is going to end up being a large shawl - though I wish the pattern maker had given dimensions for the different sizes.

The pattern is just what I was looking for, simple enough for the most part, but enough variety to keep things interesting. And yes, the variegated yarn does add to that variety. I'm never sure what color yarn is going to be next.

Strawberry Fields Forever is a pattern where complacency is a killer. I've already found one error that I've had to correct on the fly. Fixing it properly would have meant ripping back about five rows. With this yarn, that's not something I want to do! So, I improvised.


I know I had some doubts about the yarn, but as I've gotten farther into the ball, it's been no problem at all. Other than snagging back on itself when I've had to unravel stitches to fix mistakes. But, that's been no worse than say the Pattons Lace yarn I used on the Goldberry Shawl a couple of years ago.

This pattern displays the colors of the yarn (Red Heart Unforgettable Stained Glass) gorgeously. I think this may well be the brightest shawl I've ever done - if not the brightest crochet item ever for myself. Yep! this one I'm planning to keep. I hope to keep up the pace though as the rows get longer. I know I've had issues in the past and stalled out for a while - more than a year to finish the Goldberry shawl I linked earlier, and I'm still working on the Elise shawl I started back in 2013/2014 - though that one is getting closer to finished.

As I said, I'm loving this pattern. It's got plenty of variety, even within the rows - double crochet, single crochet, chains, shells clusters and more! The overall motif is a pineapple stitch - which I've never done before. Lots of fun! But keep checking your stitches and the pattern. It's easy to make a mistake and not pick up on it right away!.

Four And Twenty Blackbirds - Mercedes Lackey

Four And Twenty Blackbirds - Mercedes LackeyFour and Twenty Blackbirds (Bardic Voices 4)
Mercedes Lackey
Baen Books
Copyright: 1997
978-0671878535

The amazon.com product description:
A MAGICAL MANIAC IS LOOSE IN ALANDA!

A magical murderer is loose in Alanda. The victims are always women, always lower-class, and the weapon is always a three-sided stiletto, most often found among Church regalia. But the killers are never churchmen, and they always commit suicide immediately after the bloody deed.

Tal Rufen is just a simple constable. But he really cares about his job, and when one of these murder/suicides happens on his beat he becomes obsessed. His superiors don't care—the victims will never be missed, and their murderers are already justly dead. But every instinct Tal Rufen has cries out that he has seen only one small piece of a bigger and much nastier puzzle....

At the publisher's request, this title is sold without DRM (Digital Rights Management).
Four And Twenty Blackbirds is the fourth book set in the Bardic Voices world. The biggest issue I had with reading it at this point is that a lot of the events referenced are from the book A Cast of Corbies, which honestly I haven't read in years. In fact, I've basically forgotten the whole story for that one. The other book which is referenced frequently is the original Bardic Voices: The Lark and the Wren (Also found in the omnibus The Free Bards). Still, this book does seem to stand on it's own.

Despite the many frustrating references to previous books, this turned into one of those reads that I couldn't put down. Every spare moment I had for a couple of days I was reading. And there are plenty of "spare moments" when it's a rainy day in the campground.

Tal Rufen is an interesting character - and quite different from most of the other main characters in the world of the Free Bards. In fact, none of the main characters in this one are musicians, something I quite enjoyed. There are quite a few scenes illuminating how people at the lower end of the wealth-spectrum live in Alanda. I find those scenes in a fantasy novel, illuminating how the every-day person lives and their expectations to the future to be fascinating. Your mileage may vary.

Four and Twenty Blackbirds is a read that I quite enjoyed. It also counts as a bonus read in the Valdemar Reading Challenge I'm both hosting and participating in.

The Ship Who Sang - Anne McCaffrey

The Ship Who Sang - Anne McCaffreyThe Ship Who Sang
Anne McCaffrey
Del Rey
Copyright: 1969 (I think?)
978-0552091152

The Amazon.com product description:
Helva had been born human, but only her brain had been saved and implanted into the titanium body of an intergalactic scout ship. But first she had to choose a human partner, to soar with her through the daring adventures and exhilarating escapades in space.
Not the most exciting of descriptions, but worth looking past and reading the book. The Ship Who Sang is the first book in the Brain Ships series. I have to admit that for a long time, this hasn't been one of my favorite Anne McCaffrey novels. However, I'm not sure why at this point. When I was reading it this time, I loved it!

The Ship Who Sang is classic Anne McCaffrey science fiction - Story and Technology well blended. As well, it's aged very well. Little of the story seems dated - although there are a couple of elements near the beginning that I found to be a bit uncomfortable.

A couple of aspects of how things function seem to be contradicted by how it works in the later Brain Ships books like The Ship Who Searched, but some of that can be explained by how much time has passed between the settings of the books I think.

A second note with The Ship Who Sang is that there is a short story forming a sequel of sorts in the anthology Get off the Unicorn. At the moment, other than knowing that the name of that story is "Honeymoon", I can't remember anything more about it - or rather, the things I do remember about it would class as spoilers for this book. Safer not to say anything I think.

Either way, a read I really enjoyed, with a reminder that there is more in this universe as well. I'm looking forward to reading/re-reading some of the other stories too.

Friday, April 28, 2017

New crochet project: Strawberry Fields Forever Shawl

I've started a new crochet shawl project today - and no, I haven't finished any of my other projects yet. However, I do have some extenuating circumstances. With the usual camping trips coming this summer, I absolutely refuse to take a project in expensive (Madelinetosh), cream coloured yarn into the great outdoors - with risk of smudges from soot, grease etc. Ditto for the laceweight scarf project, which is also being done in Madelinetosh yarn.

Both sock projects are currently stalled out too because I'm having trouble figuring out what I'm supposed to be doing next. Which problem probably mostly stems from the fact that I'm teaching myself how to knit on these projects and I seem to have a ton of trouble every time I run into a new stitch.

So, I wanted a project I could do in a cheap yarn (or at least relatively cheap, anyway). A run through Ravelry's pattern database turned up this gem: Strawberry Fields Forever. And, I even like the look of the yarn it calls for. Acrylic, so washable if something happens during the making.

On the other hand, although the yarn feels nice and soft in my hands, it's horrible if it tangles. I fished out the center of the first ball, only to find a nasty frizzy knot in the yarn about three colour-changes in. So bad that I ended up pulling the yarn apart and spit joining it again after taking out the knot. I simply couldn't separate the yarn strands enough to loosen them.

The yarn is a singles-type - not something that usually bothers me - I loved the Bernat Mosaic line, which sadly has been discontinued. Had it not, I'd probably have gone with another of their shawls. However, this time, the yarn really doesn't seem to have a lot of twist. In places it spreads out to show the individual fiber strands and then frizzes.

Still, that's only my impressions after handling it for about fifteen to twenty minutes max. My opinions may change with more experience. I have to admit that I found that issue in only the one place. If I see it more often... we shall simply have to see. And, I really should get more than ten or so stitches into the project.

For now, I have to say that the pattern instructions seem to be clear and straightforward. It's all a written pattern, with no charts. In my mind, that can go either way. I started using written patterns only, but have since grown to quite like having charts as well (sometimes it's only the chart that I'll use, depending on the pattern).

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