Saturday, December 31, 2011

100 Books Challenge 2011 - Failure

I well and truly failed at reading a hundred books this past year. Just totalled up the list and it turns out, I only managed to read 59 books. Need to try and do better for next year.

I am signing up again though.

Saturday Snapshot - December 31

Saturday Snapshots is a fun little photography meme hosted by Alyce of At Home With Books.

Felt like I needed a bit of sunshine today, it's been so grey and wet. This is another one out of my collection of flower photos. I think it's some kind of iris.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Kobo Vox Installing Overdrive and Borrowing Library Books

Edited in response to a question in the comments as of January 2, 2012

Like the Kobo WiFi and the Kobo Touch, you can read library books on the Kobo Vox. It's just done somewhat differently. Where with the previous Kobo e-readers, you would download the book to your computer and then load it onto the e-reader through Adobe Digital Editions, with the Vox you have to download an app.

Here's the up-side though, Overdrive, the makers of the app have it linked from their website, bypassing the Android Marketplace completely. Thus, it's a breeze to download to the Kobo Vox and install.

I googled Overdrive, then found on their site the Overdrive Media Console, selected the operating system (Android), chose to download it directly from them, and then agreed to the user agreement. From there, it took less than a minute to download.

To install, I've found that the best way is to bring down the notifications screen and then touch (I keep wanting to say "click") the file you've just downloaded. From there, follow the prompts.

The newly installed Overdrive Media Console app can be found under "All Apps".

Once you've opened Overdrive Media Console for the first time, the shelf will be empty except for the welcome option. You'll have to choose your libraries, which is one of the options you'll get in the menu from the button at the bottom of the screen. Go to "Get Books", and it will ask you to choose your libraries.

You can either use your postal code or browse for libraries. I tried the former and got told there were no results which I know is not true, as I've borrowed for my old Kobo before. So, I'm browsing to find libraries. It will bring it up by country. Narrow it down, until you find your libraries in the list. Save the library, and start browsing or searching.

Once you've found a book you want, add it to your cart and either keep searching for more books or proceed to check-out. Apparently, you can have a maximum of five titles out at any one time.

The first step in the check-out is to choose the library that issued your library card from their drop-down menu. Then, you have to type in your library card number. I found that doing it with no spaces worked. Choose your checkout period and confirm the check-out. Hit download, and now discover a quirk you didn't know about. You need to have an Adobe ID to use the book. Easy enough to get, and you might already have one.

The books you borrow will be stored and accessed within the Overdrive Media Console.

If you've checked out books on your computer, you can still get them onto the Kobo Vox:

First go to the "Get Books" option in the menu. Select the library you checked the book out from and go to the "My Digital Account" option.

Log in.

Go to the My Bookshelf option and from there you can download the books you've checked out.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Kobo Vox Further Impressions

I've had my Kobo Vox for a little over a week now and I'm still loving it for reading.

No, the backlit screen isn't quite as easy to read on as the e-ink of the Touch or Wi-Fi models, but it's not bad at all glare-wise, and in the evening it's actually kind of neat - I've taken to reading while waiting for my ride after work and things when I'm standing outside.

Pages turn really easily (occasionally too easily as I accidentally turn two pages once in a while), and books load quickly. That is, when I don't have one of the Live Wallpapers activated. Those are incredibly neat, and the ones that come with the Kobo don't slow it down any at all. The one that I found and downloaded on the other hand, it slowed things down quite a bit, enough that I reverted back to the static images.

For browsing the web, you've just got to get used to the mobile versions of the websites. Something that's not bothering me much, I have to say. It's really handy though, having access to my e-mail all of the time. Just have to figure out better how to use the Vox for typing up blog posts and the like for it to be even more perfect.

I love the ability to highlight and make notes (and then to be able to jump back to them in an instant). That's going to make finding quotes and things a breeze for book reviews.

Not having access to the Android Marketplace on the other hand is proving to be frustrating! Nearly every site that says it has an Android app you can use has it linked to the marketplace so I can't download it. On the other hand, I'm not that familiar with the Android system yet, so I haven't really tried all of the tricks out there to get them in other ways (or any of the tricks really, although I've seen a couple of tutorials).

Overdrive, the way to access the libraries, at least in Canada, though does have the app in a way you can download it straight from their site. That's something I've got to try in the near future, though that might end up being after Christmas.

Loading on non-Kobo e-books is a snap! If you have a micro-sd card and adaptor that is. I just copied them onto there and then once the card was inserted, imported the books into the Kobo Library, where they show up in the list just like any other book. And highlighting and note-taking both work fine in non-Kobo Epubs as well.

Music seems to stay on the SD card, although both photos and e-books seem to be imported right onto the Kobo. At least I'm sure of that with the e-pubs, but not quite so sure for photos (need to try things with them before I can say for sure). I also need to do some experimenting with playing video on the Kobo. I've heard a few too many contradicting things to really know what works and what doesn't.

My biggest gripe is with the charging cable that comes with the Kobo Vox. Because the battery life is so short, I tend to charge it quite regularly, and when sitting at my desk, the cable is just barely long enough to reach me from beside the desk. I think it's only a 3 foot wire - which also leaves me limited in where I can put the Kobo while I'm charging it. Guess I'm going to have to daisy-chain an extension cord or two in the near future.

Still, I'm loving the experience, even though I'm grumbling a bit here.

Monday, December 19, 2011

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? - December 19 (& Book Buying)

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted each week over at One Person's Journey Through A World Of Books. Thanks for trying to keep us all on track each week.

Last week I finished reading:
Gwenhwyfar: The White Spirit by Mercedes Lackey. Fantasy, Fiction. Mercedes Lackey's version of the Arthurian story and the Matter of Britain. Definitely a good read.

Writing Horses: The Fine Art of Getting It Right by Judith Tarr. Non Fiction. Quite a useful resource, whether you know horses or not, and it's written in a wonderfully readable form.

I'm currently reading:
Empire From The Ashes by David Weber. Fiction, Science Fiction. An omnibus book containing Mutineer's Moon, The Armageddon Inheritance and Heirs of Empire. I've read it before, and enjoyed it last time too.

Ancient Greece by Sarah B. Pomeroy et al. Non Fiction, History. One of my former textbooks, but it's turning out to be a good read on it's own too.

Ring Of Words: Tolkien And The Oxford English Dictionary by Peter Gilliver, Jeremy Marshall and Edmund Weiner. Non Fiction. This is kind of weird. I thought I knew what this book was going to be about, but it's turning out to be something completely different. Still interesting - perhaps even more interesting for all of that. I'd thought it was going to be a more detailed biography of Tolkien's years during which he was working on the OED, but instead it's turned out to be about the words he edited. Add to that all kinds of details about the languages that he invented.

As usual, I don't really know what I'm going to be reading next, but it's a fair guess that The Art of The Hobbit is going to be in there somewhere.

I've also done a fair bit of book-buying over the weekend (and one book that came in the mail):
The book that came in the mail was
By Fire, By Water 
Mitchell James Kaplan.
The product description:
Luis de Santángel, chancellor to the court and longtime friend of the lusty King Ferdinand, has had enough of the Spanish Inquisition. As the power of Inquisitor General Tomás de Torquemada grows, so does the brutality of the Spanish church and the suspicion and paranoia it inspires. When a dear friend’s demise brings the violence close to home, Santángel is enraged and takes retribution into his own hands.  But he is from a family of conversos, and his Jewish heritage makes him an easy target. As Santángel witnesses the horrific persecution of his loved ones, he begins slowly to reconnect with the Jewish faith his family left behind. Feeding his curiosity about his past is his growing love for Judith Migdal, a clever and beautiful Jewish woman navigating the mounting tensions in Granada. While he struggles to decide what his reputation is worth and what he can sacrifice, one man offers him a chance he thought he’d lost…the chance to hope for a better world. Christopher Columbus has plans to discover a route to paradise, and only Luis de Santángel can help him.
   Within the dramatic story lies a subtle, insightful examination of the crisis of faith at the heart of the Spanish Inquisition. Irresolvable conflict rages within the conversos in By Fire, By Water, torn between the religion they left behind and the conversion meant to ensure their safety. In this story of love, God, faith, and torture, fifteenth-century Spain comes to dazzling, engrossing life.
 The other books I bought were:
Kings of the North by Elizabeth Moon. I read the book when it first came out earlier this year, but didn't buy it until now.

The Art Of The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, Christina Scull and Wayne G. Hammond. An examination and display of all the art that Tolkien created for The Hobbit while he was writing it. Really looking forward to reading this one.

Dragon Art by Graeme Aymer. Not sure if this one will ever get read actually, it's more of an art book.

Ghost On The Throne by James Romm. Non fiction, History. A book on the aftermath of Alexander's death and how his empire was broken up. Looks really interesting.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Saturday Snapshot - December 17

Saturday Snapshots is a meme hosted by Alyce of At Home With Books. It's also the only non-book/reading related meme that I participate in regularly. I find that rather fun, to be able to go into another of my hobbies once in a while regularly.

This week's photo is another oldie if I'm remembering things rightly. I'm actually not even sure what kind of flower the photo is of. It was just absolutely spectacular. The one thing I'm absolutely sure of is that said flower was not in my garden.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Writing Horses: The Fine Art Of Getting It Right - Judith Tarr

Writing Horses - The Fine Art Of Getting It Right
Judith Tarr
Book View Cafe
Copyright: November 2010

The product description:
How far can a horse travel in a day? What does a horse eat? When is a brown horse really a sorrel (or a bay, or a dun)? What do tack and withers and canter mean?

In this long-awaited and much-requested book based on her "Horseblog" at Book View Café, author and horse breeder Judith Tarr answers these questions and many more. She looks at horses from the perspective of the writer whose book or story needs them as anything from basic transport to major plot device, and provides definitions, explanations, and links and references for further research--leavened with insight into the world of the horse and the humans who both use and serve him.

How fast can a horse run? What happens when a foal is born? How have humans and horses evolved together over the millennia? And above all, what mistakes do writers most often make when writing about horses, and how can the educated writer avoid them?

Here is a guide to the fine art of getting it right. 
I first read and reviewed Judith Tarr's guide to writing about horses back in February. Back then, I enjoyed the read on my e-ink Kobo E-reader. This time I was reading on the Kobo Vox, the new tablet style colour e-reader. Partly because of the surprise I had when I opened the book out of curiosity, I have to admit. This wasn't on my planned reading list at all. I'd just thought "I wonder", and decided to see if the images were in colour or not. They were, and at the same time, I found that the humour in the writing was even more apparent.

Not only that, but the little tidbits of information I didn't have, but would find useful as a writer were also more numerous than I remembered. Maybe it was the addition of the ability to highlight passages that made me keep an eye out for them more. All sorts of things that aren't always there in the riding manuals - genetics of which colours certain breeds don't have, for example and what kinds of personality traits are more suited for certain kinds of tasks - war horses etc.

And, there's several sections on how certain kinds of stables are run - breeders etc. That kind of thing is just not there if I'm remembering rightly the books I have. All of that, plus suggestions of how to write certain kinds of things - possible plot ideas to interwork, how things would be done in a lower technology society etc, are all very useful.

As I noted in my last review, the fact that my e-reader doesn't cope with links is rather frustrating with this book - it's littered with links to sites for specific breed registries, podcasts on various horse-related subjects etc, and I can't even mark down the url to go look from my computer because it's not listed anywhere. That, honestly, is my biggest gripe with Writing Horses: The Fine Art Of Getting It Right.

It's certainly an enjoyable and thought-provoking read though.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Gwenhwyfar: The White Spirit - Mercedes Lackey

Gwenhwyfar: The White Spirit
Mercedes Lackey
DAW Books
Copyright Date: 2009

The blurb:

Gwenhwyfar moves in a world where gods walk among their pagan worshippers, where nebulous visions warn of future perils, and where there are two paths for a woman: the path of the Blessing or the rarer path of the Warrior. Gwenhwyfar chooses the latter, giving up the power that she is born into. Yet the daughter of a King is never truly free to follow her own calling. Acting as the "son" her father never had, when called upon to serve another purpose by the Ladies of the Well, she bows to circumstances to become Arthur's queen-only to find herself facing temptation and treachery, intrigue and betrayal, but also love and redemption... 
I read Gwenhwyfar: the White Spirit back when it first came out in 2009, enjoying it greatly as my previous review shows. Going over that review right now, it feels as though it hit all the high points of my feelings this time too.

Otherwise, what really struck me was the combination of similarities and differences to Marion Zimmer Bradley's novel The Mists of Avalon. In Bradley's book, Morgaine is the main character of the story and is "good", whereas in this book, she is one of the villains of the story - her more traditional role. In part, it was something of a reminder just how differently done The Mists of Avalon is to most Arthurian literature.

This re-read was inspired by reading Anne McCaffrey's Arthurian novel Black Horses For The King.

Kobo Vox Impressions - 2nd Day

2nd day impressions:
Up until about six thirty tonight the Kobo Vox was more or less perfect in it's behaviour. Reading was smooth, the highlighting was easy to do - and I had a really neat unrelated surprise. Well, more or less unrelated. There's an e-book I was given to review, Writing Horses: The Fine Art of Getting It Right by Judith Tarr, that I read back in February on the Kobo Wi-Fi. At the time I'd rather wondered why the file was about 14 megs. However, I just figured it was because there were a lot of images. I opened it on the Kobo Vox this morning and had a wonderful surprise: All of those images I'd assumed were in black and white because the e-readers were turned out to be in full, glorious colour.

So, I read and highlighted away all day, having fun with the various settings. I figured out how to change the desktop image, and there are some absolutely beautiful ones that come with the Vox. Personally, I'm finding that the static beach scenes are the nicest, although there are also some really neat images which also contain movement - water rippling or colours changing, or even a rotating galaxy for example.

Got home and turned on my Vox, expecting it to work properly. After all, it had all day. Instead, I found myself with a bit of a problem.
Connection issue: Kobo can't start right now because of a problem connecting to the Kobo server. Please try again in a little while.
Now, I'm still not sure what the Kobo thought it was doing. You don't need to be connected to the wi-fi to be able to read. The books are stored on the device itself, but that message came up every time I tried to load the store, a book (both Kobo and non-Kobo) or the library itself. Tried re-starting - no luck. Tried removing the micro-SD card I'd left in from last night. Didn't change anything. Tried changing various settings with no success either. And, just in case, right at the beginning, I made sure that I was connected to the wi-fi. Browsed the internet, twitter etc with no problems.

Ended up resorting to searching Google for a solution to the problem. Two different messageboards suggested doing a factory re-set, which seems to have fixed the problem - along with removing all my books and other things of course. I found that this one had the clearest instructions. After going through that and redoing the initial set-up, I'm now waiting for all my Kobo books to re-download. After that, I have to re-import my non-Kobo books, although I think I might add a few more of them this time.

At this time, I'm also working out how to add music to my Vox, more or less by following the instructions in the user guide. Also in the near future, I need to figure out how to get Overdrive and access to library books. I've been told that the device can do that - but I need to try it for myself. Just hope I can find some library books I actually want to read this time around. That's why I didn't use that option much to date with my other Kobo E-reader.

Despite this issue, I'm still quite happy with my Kobo Vox and am not about to give up on it yet  (or at all)

Kobo Vox Setup and First Impressions

Testing out the Kobo Vox e-reader/tablet for the first time. So far, I'm really liking it, although all I've really done so far is the setup and some poking around.

Initial setup:
On the first attempt, the set up process got stuck in a loop at the video clip. Touching the "Get Started" button restarted the video clip as did touching anywhere else on the screen. Restarting the Vox got the setup process going again without any problems. Updates applied themselves quickly - 8 minutes give or take.

After the firmware update it went back to the first screen of the start-up and asked me to "get started" again. No problems it seems. Went to the "Connect" screen and the reader connected to the right network automatically. Asked me to check for updates again and then went to the "Date and Time" screen. Just choose your time-zone. The Vox does the rest.

The next step is to either create a Kobo Account or sign in with your existing account, although you also have the option of signing in with your Facebook account.

Once this is done, then the setup is complete and your books will download.

Beyond that, I'm finding that the keyboard works well for typing although arrow keys would be nice for making corrections, and for navigating around within the post.

Honestly, at this point I'm not familiar enough with the keyboard on the tablet to fully try to type a whole post there.

As to reading on the Vox, it's not the same as with the e-ink screen of either the Wi-Fi or the Touch models, but I like it. Page turning is quick and the text is crisp and clear. Admittedly though, this is only my experience with the books for the earlier Kobos. I have yet to try any of the books that are designed specifically for the Kobo Vox.

Monday, December 12, 2011

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? - December 12

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted each week over at One Person's Journey Through A World Of Books. Thanks Sheila for trying to keep us all on track with our reading.

It's been a decent week for reading this past week.
I finished reading:
The Rowan by Anne McCaffrey. Fiction, Science Fiction. More or less a science fiction novel that has a lot of romance to it, this is a book that's a classic in my opinion.

Under The Vale edited by Mercedes Lackey. Fantasy, Fiction, Anthology. The latest book of short stories set in the world of Valdemar. Some of the authors include Tanya Huff and Elizabeth Waters, as well as Fiona Patton, Larry Dixon and Mercedes Lackey herself.

I'm currently reading:
Gwenhwyfar by Mercedes Lackey. Fantasy, Fiction. I've read this book before, back when it first came out. The story is an Arthurian based one, and I'm really noticing similarities to Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Mists of Avalon this time around. I was inspired to read it by reading Black Horses For The King by Anne McCaffrey a couple of weeks ago. Nearly finished the read.

Ring Of Words: Tolkien And The Oxford English Dictionary by Peter Gilliver, Jeremy Marshall and Edmund Weiner. Non Fiction. This is kind of weird. I thought I knew what this book was going to be about, but it's turning out to be something completely different. Still interesting - perhaps even more interesting for all of that. I'd thought it was going to be a more detailed biography of Tolkien's years during which he was working on the OED, but instead it's turned out to be about the words he edited. Neat! Actually, I need to get back to this one.

Ancient Greece by Sarah B. Pomeroy, et al. Non Fiction, History. Actually this one was one of my college and university textbooks. Re-reading it now for various reasons.

Again, I don't really know what I'm going to be reading next.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Under The Vale - Ed. Mercedes Lackey

Under The Vale
Ed. Mercedes Lackey
Daw Books
Copyright: Dec. 6, 2011

The back jacket description:
Valdemar's Heralds...
...are an ancient order. Chosen from all across the land, from all walks of life, and at all ages, these unusual individuals are Gifted with abilities beyond those of normal men and women. They are Mindspeakers, FarSeers, Empaths, ForeSeers, Firestarters, FarSpeakers, and more. Trained to be emissaries, spies, judges, diplomats, scouts, counsellors, and even warriors, their unique inborn talents make them indispensable to their monarch and their realm. Sought and Chosen by mysterious horselike Companions, they are bonded for life to these telepathic, enigmatic creatures. With their Companions, the Heralds of Valdemar ride circuit throughout the kingdom protecting the peace and, when necessary, defending their land and monarch.
Now, eighteen authors ride with Mercedes Lackey to her magical land of Valdemar, adding their own unique gifts to the Heralds, Bards, Healers, and other heroes of this well-loved fantasy realm.
Join Tanya Huff, Fiona Patton, Rosemary Edghill, Larry Dixon, Elizabeth Waters, Nancy Asire and others in seventeen original stories, including an all-new novella by Mercedes Lackey and Larry Dixon set in the magical land of Valdemar where:
A runaway orphan gets a chance for a new life in Haven...a human transformed into a magical creature struggles to reclaim his legal rights as a man...a Herald, blessed - or burdened - with a variant of the gift of Foresight that allows him to see through another person's eyes, witnesses an event so terrible that its memory is slowly killing him, and finds restoration in a very unexpected way.
Under the Vale is the annual anthology of Valdemar stories that comes out every December. I have to admit that I look forward to it every year and do my best to get my hands on it as soon as possible. Last year, with Finding The Way, that meant that I got it in e-book format, but this year I was able to get the paperback version.

With so many stories and authors, it's inevitable that there are going to be some that are my favourites, and I have to say, that a lot of the stories this year fit that category. I really liked Mercedes Lackey's story in this one - not always a given, I have to admit, given the story she wrote for Moving Targets. The twist she adds to this story just works really well. Elizabeth A. Vaughan's story In An Instant felt perfect too. The way she wrote the story - Queen Selenay's perspective on her new lifebond with Daren - felt like the characters as written by Mercedes Lackey.

Warp and Weft, by Kristen Schwengel (a name I don't recognize off the top of my head) is another story which peaked my interest, given my love of spinning. Not spinning in this story for the most part, but weaving, although there is a good side of spinning, but again, it worked within the world of Valdemar as Mercedes Lackey writes it.

As with previous anthologies, there are some continuing stories, two in particular: that of Ree, the hobgoblin in the Empire - two new stories here, both of which I really liked, and one set in the family of the Haven Watch. I like the continuity these bring to the books.

On the other hand, I missed reading Judith Tarr's story. She's had one in each of the previous several volumes, and I was hoping to see one here. I don't especially find that they fit within the magical structures of Valdemar as it's written, but I enjoy reading them anyway - one of the few places that Dressage features within stories.

Larry Dixon has added a fascinating essay - the first of it's kind in the Valdemar anthologies, but something I hope they continue adding to future volumes. This one was on how the Tayledras Vales are created and structured, both above and below ground - it's where the title for the book comes from, I think. Fascinating and detailed, and something I liked seeing, both as a fan of the series and to see how things work towards world-building - all of the details that the author has to figure out.

In my review of the last book, I lamented the loss of the introductions to the stories. This time, they're not there again, but there is a series of brief biographies of the various authors at the end of the book - not quite as entertaining, but there none the less.

Overall, this is definitely a fascinating read for any fan of the Valdemar series. I'd almost be willing to say that this is one of the best of the anthology collections to date, but it's been so long since I've read some of them that I can't say for sure. Definitely worth the money spent though.

Saturday Snapshot - December 10

Saturday Snapshot is a fun little meme hosted by Alyce of At Home With Books. I've gotten to really enjoy participating in this - it makes me go back through my photo collection to see what I've taken over the years.

This week's is one from the summer - I love trying to take pictures of birds in flight, but it's a lot more difficult than it seems.

The Rowan - Anne McCaffrey

The Rowan
Anne McCaffrey
Ace Publishing
Copyright: 1991

The product description:
The Rowan was destined to become the greatest Prime Talent in human history, facing a lonely existence of servitude. Until she receives a telepathic plea from across the stars from a Prime named Jeff Raven-and falls in love with him. 
Although The Rowan came out in 1991, the kernel for this story was written much earlier, in 1959, that being the story Lady In The Tower, which can be found in the collection, Get Off The Unicorn. That story appears about midway through the book, and is the first meeting between The Rowan and Jeff.

I've been thinking about this novel for a little while now, since I finished reading it, and the best way I can think of to categorize The Rowan is that it's a combination of science fiction and romance novel, as it's setting is science fiction, but the focus is really that of the eventual relationship between the two characters. And yet, that doesn't quite cover it either, as the first half of the book covers The Rowan's childhood and coming of age.

One really neat little thing I noticed this time around (it wouldn't have been possible to notice more than a couple of years ago) was the presence of the barquecats in this story. What's so neat about it is that it's something of a connection for two of Anne McCaffrey's more recent novels: Catalyst and Catacombs, which are all about the barquecats.

Beyond that, the book The Rowan is really a central point for several other books. It starts the sequence for the Tower and the Hive series, but it's also the same world that To Ride Pegasus and Pegasus In Flight are set in - the early days and the discovery of Talent.

I do have to say that I really love the new cover art for The Rowan, and also for Damia. I haven't seen it for any of the other books in the series, but I hope they re-issue them with similar artwork.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Book Rambling: Short Story to Novel

When I read Anne McCaffrey's book of short stories Get Off The Unicorn a couple of weeks ago, the one thing that really struck me about the book was the way so many of the stories later became full novels. For sure there was the Thorns of Barevi (Freedom's Landing) and The Lady In The Tower, but I'm fairly certain also of the story A Meeting Of Minds as well. It seemed vaguely familiar when I read it. I just can't remember the title of the book for sure, although I think it was Damia.

Lady In The Tower turns up more or less in the middle of the novel The Rowan, and fits in pretty well. In fact I'm not that far past that point in the book now, and I wasn't at all jarred out of the read by reading the short story inserted into the novel.

Anne McCaffrey's not the only author to do that either. I've noticed it a few times with Mercedes Lackey as well. The first time I saw it was with a short story she wrote for one of the Sword and Sorceress anthologies edited by Marion Zimmer Bradley. That later became chapter 6 in the novel Oathbound.

The start of the pair of novels centering on Alberich is another of these stories too. Originally called Stolen Silver, it's supposed to have appeared in the anthology Horse Fantastic if my memory's not playing tricks on me. And, it almost seems like half the novel, but there are three short stories that make up a part of the novel The Wizard Of London.

Now, I'll admit that these are the only two authors where I've read their short stories extensively, but they're also the only two where I've seen this happen. Short stories set in the same worlds as the novels I've seen a lot of though - Sherrilyn Kenyon, J. R. Ward, Patricia Briggs etc have all done it.

Are there other authors who reuse short stories as parts of novels? And, what do you think of it when it happens? I personally don't tend to mind too much, at least if the story works well.

Monday, December 5, 2011

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? - December 5

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted each week over at One Person's Journey Through A World Of Books. Thanks Sheila for trying to keep us all on track with our reading.

As usual this week the books I was reading last week aren't the ones that got finished for this week.

Completed Books:
A Beautiful Friendship by David Weber. Young Adult, Science Fiction. Set in the world of the Honor Harrington novels, but much earlier in the history. This is the story of the discovery of the tree-cats and the first adoption.

Facing the Frozen Ocean by Bear Grylls. Non fiction, outdoors. A recounting of Bear Grylls trip across the northern Atlantic in an open inflatable boat. Quite the read!

I'm currently reading:
The Rowan by Anne McCaffrey. Fiction, Science Fiction. The story of the most famous telepath in the FT&T.

Ring Of Words: Tolkien And The Oxford English Dictionary by Peter Gilliver, Jeremy Marshall and Edmund Weiner. Non Fiction. This is kind of weird. I thought I knew what this book was going to be about, but it's turning out to be something completely different. Still interesting - perhaps even more interesting for all of that. I'd thought it was going to be a more detailed biography of Tolkien's years during which he was working on the OED, but instead it's turned out to be about the words he edited. Neat!

As usual. I'm not sure what I'm going to be reading next.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Beautiful Friendship - David Weber

A Beautiful Friendship
David Weber
Baen Books
Copyright: October, 2011

The product description:
Stephanie Harrington always expected to be a forest ranger on her homeworld of Meyerdahl . . . until her parents relocated to the frontier planet of Sphinx in the far distant Star Kingdom of Manticore. It should have been the perfect new home --- a virgin wilderness full of new species of every sort, just waiting to be discovered. But Sphinx is a far more dangerous place than ultra-civilized Meyerdahl, and Stephanie’s explorations come to a sudden halt when her parents lay down the law: no trips into the bush without adult supervision!

            Yet Stephanie is a young woman determined to make discoveries, and the biggest one of all awaits her: an intelligent alien species.

            The forest-dwelling treecats are small, cute, smart, and have a pronounced taste for celery. And they are also very, very deadly when they or their friends are threatened . . . as Stephanie discovers when she comes face-to-face with Sphinx’s most lethal predator after a hang-gliding accident.

            But her discoveries are only beginning, for the treecats are also telepathic and able to bond with certain humans, and Stephanie’s find --- and her first-of-its kind bond with the treecat Climbs Quickly --- land both of them in a fresh torrent of danger. Galactic-sized wealth is at stake, and Stephanie and the treecats are squarely in the path of highly-placed enemies determined to make sure the planet Sphinx remains entirely in human hands, even if that means the extermination of another thinking species.

            Unfortunately for those enemies, the treecats have saved Stephanie Harrington’s life. She owes them . . . and Stephanie is a young woman who stands by her friends.

            Which means things are about to get very interesting on Sphinx.
 Written as a teen book, A Beautiful Friendship is the start of a new series set in the same world as David Weber's Honor Harrington series (On Basilisk Station, etc). Stephanie Harrington, Honor's ancestor, was both the discoverer of and the first person to be adopted by the treecats, Sphinx's native sentient species. That event is also described in the short story of the same title in the anthology More Than Honor. But, that's not the only short story referenced in this novel. Linda Evan's story The Stray from the anthology Worlds of Honor is also used as background, and the characters involved are main characters here.

For teen cross-over novels, (stories set in the same universe as an author's existing series), this is the best one I've seen to date. Nothing seems to contradict the existing Honor Harrington books, and the story doesn't feel particularly as though it's aimed at a younger audience. There's less of the political manoeuvring though than there is in some of the adult books.

If you like David Weber's writing, don't shy away from picking up this addition. It's a great read, and I'm definitely going to be keeping an eye out for the next books in the series. Stephanie's most certainly an interesting character, and I can see where Honor might have gotten some of her inspiration and character from, if she used this ancestor as something of a role model.

Highly recommended for both teen and adult audiences.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Saturday Snapshot - December 3

Saturday Snapshots is hosted each week over at Alyce's blog, At Home With Books. Thanks for keeping this little piece of fun going every week, Alyce.

My post is ridiculously late this week, but I'm glad of it, because I can use a couple of photos I took today. I just can't choose between them though.
We went snowshoeing for what might as well have been my first time. I had gone once before, but that was way back when, when I was in the Girl Guides. Ended up having a heck of a lot of fun today, and I can't wait go again. I'm no expert, but the snowshoes I used were wonderful: light, comfortable, and the bindings were so easy to use.

Unfortunately, I decided at the last minute not to take my camera, figuring that with the cloudy sky, I wouldn't have much opportunity for taking photos. Thankfully I had the camera on my phone, which is how I got these pictures.

The first is across what we think is a frozen lake, and it was spectacular, and the second photo is a close-up of some of the snow that had fallen on the tree-branches, taken with the flash on.

The crystal formations are so neat in this. It's snow, but it looks like a giant frost of sorts.

Most of the people we came across on the trail didn't use poles, but I did, and I found them to be so helpful - especially when dealing with hills, and they were a comfort for some of the narrower bridges as well, as the effect may well be as much mental as physical. I just felt that much steadier.

I can't wait to go snowshoeing again soon! Next time though, I'm taking the camera with me.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Your Best Books of 2011?

All of the major booksellers have their lists of what they consider to be the best books of 2011. has theirs grouped by type - kids, fiction, non-fiction etc. Amazon's top 100 books of the year are located here, also broken down into categories.

Looking at the lists, I can see that they're mostly the top sellers, a few of which only just came out. The retailers are probably basing their lists on how many of the books sell - not always the best indicatator of how good a book is, just how much of a media influence there is. Of course, I think they're also limiting themselves to books that came out this year too. A reasonable limitation for this category.

I've got two questions for you though, to make my own list of the top books for 2011.

First of all, what was your favourite book that came out this year, i.e. the best read, the book that made your year perfect, the book that you've been waiting for for a long time?

My second question is more or less the same, but it's not limited to just books from 2011. What's your favourite read of this year? - the book that you can't believe that you waited this long to read, even though people have been telling you to read it for years. Or, it could have been a complete surprise, impulse buy off the shelves.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Facing The Frozen Ocean - Bear Grylls

Facing The Frozen Ocean
Bear Grylls
Pan Macmillan
Copyright: 2005

The product description:
Shortlisted for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award 2004, this is the compelling account of the most recent adventure of the bestselling author of "Facing Up". It started out as a carefully calculated attempt to complete the first unassisted crossing of the frozen north Atlantic in an open rigid inflatable boat, but it became a terrifying battle against storm-force winds, crashing waves and icebergs as large as cathedrals. Starting from the remote north Canadian coastline, Grylls and his crew crossed the infamous Labrador Sea, pushed on through ice-strewn waters to Greenland and then found themselves isolated in a perfect storm 400 miles from Iceland.
I've been enjoying Bear Gryll's show, Man Vs. Wild for a good part of the last year, and branched out into his books now too. Previously, I reviewed his book Living Wild, one of the survival guides he's written. Facing the Frozen Ocean is somewhat different from that previous book though, as this time he's recounting one of his adventures.

What an adventure - trying to cross the northern  Atlantic ocean in an open, rigid inflatable boat. There were times when I read this book that I was wondering how they were going to survive, it was that grim. And the conditions they were living under? Yikes. And yet, for all of the dire situations, Facing The Frozen Ocean is filled with moments to make you laugh.

Bear writes with personality and vividness, and the book is also full of the recollections of the other members of the team, and Bear's wife along with other people, chronicling their experiences during this trip as well.

This was definitely a book I couldn't put down! I started reading it on Monday, and ended up finishing it last night. I just had to know how they were going to survive.

Topping off the vivid words are two inserts of colour photos which really bring home the scale of what these men were trying to do and how they were living for those days - not to mention the kinds of weather they went through.

I can't wait until I can read Facing Up, Bear's other book on his experience climbing Mount Everest. From what I'm hearing, that one's just as good as this one, if not better.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Teaser Tuseday - November 29

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
My Teasers:
There had been many days where the expedition seemed unlikely to get off the ground, but now we were here on the docks. The next time I would see her would be in a very different harbour, thousands of miles away and further north, on the remote Nova Scotia coastline.
Facing The Frozen Ocean by Bear Grylls,  page 74

Monday, November 28, 2011

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? - November 28th

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted each week over at One Person's Journey Through A World Of Books. Thanks Sheila for keeping us all on track with our reading each week.

It's actually been an unusually good week for reading, at least partially inspired by the death of Anne McCaffrey, but I got several books read. Not to mention, getting inspired to get back into cooking once more.

Last week I read:
Restoree by Anne McCaffrey. Fiction, Science Fiction. Restoree was Anne McCaffrey's first novel, and to be honest, it's not one of my favourites of hers, but still it's an interesting read, and I hadn't realized that it was her first novel until this read.

Black Horses For the King by Anne McCaffrey. Fiction, Children's, Historical Fiction. Definitely a different take on the story of King Arthur, I'd have to say this was my favourite read of the week. She's integrated a fascinating mix of Celtic and Roman cultures, suited for the setting and period, and then taken a very different character's perspective on the story - that of a young boy who loves horses. Then, to top things off, she's made the story about the invention of horseshoes rather than directly about King Arthur. All in all, this story works. Perfect if you're looking for a quick and intriguing read which makes you wish you could find out more.

Get Off The Unicorn by Anne McCaffrey. Fiction, Science Fiction, Short Stories. Another book which is perhaps not one of my favourites, but it's still a good read. Besides, it's neat to see where some of her stories originated, and how long ago that was.

I'm currently reading:
The Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey. Fiction, Science Fiction. An omnibus edition of Dragonflight, Dragonquest and The White Dragon. I'm actually not sure if I'm going to complete this book at this time - I may have overdone my Anne McCaffrey reading at the moment.

Ring Of Words: Tolkien And The Oxford English Dictionary by Peter Gilliver, Jeremy Marshall and Edmund Weiner. Non Fiction. This is kind of weird. I thought I knew what this book was going to be about, but it's turning out to be something completely different. Still interesting - perhaps even more interesting for all of that. I'd thought it was going to be a more detailed biography of Tolkien's years during which he was working on the OED, but instead it's turned out to be about the words he edited. Neat!

As usual. I'm not sure what I'm going to be reading next.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Get Off The Unicorn - Anne McCaffrey

Get Off The Unicorn
Anne McCaffrey
Del Rey
Copyright: 1977

The product description:
Open these pages and discover 14 remarkable stories of fantasy by a grand master of the genre. A wonderful writer, as well as successful and beloved by fans across the world, Anne McCaffrey has created an exciting collection of telepaths, secret gifts, dangerous missions, dragonriders, and more.
As an introduction to the various series and world that Anne McCaffrey's written in, Get Off The Unicorn does fairly well. There's The Littlest Dragonboy, which is the only story set in the world of the Dragonriders of Pern, and it's also possibly my favourite story in this book. There's two stories set in the world of The Rowan, and one set during the two Pegasus books (which are really the same world, just two different time periods). There's a story that introduces the Freedom series too - Thorns of Barevi.

What's kind of neat (I could be wrong in some of these cases, no longer owning copies of the books in question) is that several of the stories in Get Off The Unicorn predate the books. For The Thorns of Barevi  that dating is definite, as I remember when the book, Freedom's Landing, first came out, and that had to be in the nineties. The introduction to Lady In The Tower suggests the same. I know that Thorns of Barevi was incorporated into the later novel, and I think the same thing is true for Lady in the Tower and The Rowan.

There are also a number of stories that stand alone - somewhere between half and two thirds of the book. Of those, my favourites are the two Nora Fenn stories, which I think might have made for a really neat full-length novel. Still, they, like a fair number of other stories in here had something of a dated feel - though they weren't the worst for that. That, unfortunately ended up being the story Apple, which is set in the world of To Ride Pegasus and Pegasus in Flight. There's nothing too dated that I remember about this story in particular, but the thing is, I know that the two books are set in the mid 1990's. It was rather weird reading them a few years ago, and knowing that that time had past with nothing like the stories progress.

All of these stories were written between 1959 and 1973, so some of the basic attitudes are explained away simply by when the books were written.

Of course, with any book of short stories, there's going to be a few that you like more than others, and some that just don't work, at least for that particular read. So, to be honest, I'm going to have to say I either skimmed or skipped reading: Weather on Welladay, Honeymoon (which I think under normal circumstances I'd really like, but it's been too long since I read The Ship Who Sang, and so I couldn't remember anything about the characters), and The Great Canine Chorus. Besides, even for the stories I didn't especially care for, the author's notes are both interesting and entertaining.

Definitely a book for any true Anne McCaffrey fan, even with my grumbling and grousing. There's definitely no way I'm going to sell this one on anytime soon, considering the trouble I had finding it in the first place!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Top Five Cookbooks

I've said it a few times, but I love cooking, and in the past few years my collection of cookbooks has grown exponentially (I'm not kidding here, either - about three years ago, I owned four, two of which were kids cookbooks). However, even with two shelves of cookbooks, there are about five that I keep coming back to on a regular basis (and I'm not even counting the recipes I've memorized). These five are the ones I now consider to be kitchen essentials:

#1 Jamie's Food Revolution: Rediscover How To Cook Simple, Delicious, Affordable Meals
Jamie Oliver

Tied into the show Jamie's Food Ministry, if I'm not mistaken, this cookbook is filled with great recipes using every-day ingredients. I've had the book since the middle of 2009 and there's still recipes I want to try doing. My favourite recipes from here though are the:
  1. Cheat's Fresh Pasta With Cherry Tomato Sauce - pages 54-55
  2. Macaroni and Cauliflower Cheese Bake - pages 48-49
  3. Chicken Fajitas - pages 38-39 (just made these again the other day)
I've made or tasted the fruit smoothies many times too, and I'm now using Jamie's methods for scrambling eggs too. So far, only one of the recipes didn't work out quite as I expected - the tomato soup, but I think I didn't care for it as much because I'm used to making the tomato soup from Mark Bittman's recipes. Besides, with a modification or two (more onion and some ground beef) it made a wonderful spaghetti sauce!

The illustrations in Jamie's Food Revolution are really well done - every recipe has it's illustration(s), as the various steps are shown, as well as the final result. I have to say, they really do inspire me to try some of the recipes.

#2 How To Cook Everything: 2000 Simple Recipes For Great Food, Completely Revised Tenth Anniversary Edition
Mark Bittman
I just call this one the red book, and I'm using it all the time. From just looking something up, for example, to see what capers are (you get an explanation, some recipes to use it in, and how to choose good ones and keep them), to getting inspiration for a meal, to great recipes. To date, only one recipe hasn't worked out, and that's probably more my fault than anything (attempting to make bread for the first time). There's breakfast, lunch or dinner recipes, not to mention dessert, dips and all kinds of odds and ends such as flavoured butter too. Ever thought of making your own cheese? It's in here and it's so simple to do - I've done it twice now. Some of my favourites from this book include:
  1. Cheese Quesadillas - page 109
  2. Tomato Soup - pages 130-131
  3. Beef Barley Soup - page 127
There's also the previous version, which I call the yellow book.  Yes, I do have and use both books in this case. This was actually the first cookbook I bought myself and started using on a regular basis. I still keep this book because, although most of the recipes are duplicated in the red book above, there are a few that I like which are not. Not to mention, the layout is a bit different, and I prefer that for some recipes, such as the turkey.

My favourite recipes from the yellow book are:
  1. Rice Pilaf with Onions, Raisins and Pine Nuts (The first variation) - page 202
  2. Salmon Filet Roasted In Butter - page 305
  3. Roast Turkey and Gravy Without Stuffing - pages 403-404
  4. Buttermilk Pancakes (variation) - page 748
  5. Baked Pumpkin Slices - page 600
Both of these books are unusual in my library in that they are not lavishly illustrated. There are line drawings that illustrate various techniques - knife skills, folding, shaping etc, but no photos. The entirety of the recipe is conveyed through the text.

Regardless of that difference, this is a wonderful resource which for me has taken the place of that kitchen classic, The Joy of Cooking.

#3 The Best of Chef At Home
Michael Smith

This is one of the more recent additions to my collection, inspired by watching the Chef At Home T.V. show on the Food Network. The first episode I saw all the way through was the baked Chicken episode and I just had to try the recipe. As with most of my other cookbooks, every recipe has an absolutely delicious photo included, and that just makes me want to try the recipe.

Admittedly, I haven't tried too many of the recipes here yet, but my favourites so far are the:
  1. Macaroni and Cheese - pages 158-159
  2. Classic Chicken Stew - pages 90-91
  3. Grilled Chicken Ten Ways - pages 96-97
The neatest thing about this book though is that you're really getting twice the recipes you think you are, because each one has a "Freestyle Variation" which you can try as well. Different herbs, cheeses or spices and the effect they have on the cooking and the flavours.

I've only tried a few recipes to date, but there are some other ones that I really want to try in the future, like some of the other pastas, particularly the Fettuccine Alfredo. I have this thing about raw eggs in things, and this is the first recipe for this that I've seen that doesn't include an egg yolk in the sauce. Then there's the fruit crumble recipe and the mushroom stew recipes to try.

Michael Smith's style comes through in the writing of the recipes too - each of the descriptions is amusing, entertaining and inspires me to want to try the recipe.

#4 Jamie Oliver's Meals In Minutes: A Revolutionary Approach To Cooking Good Food Fast
Jamie Oliver

The most recent cookbook to join my collection, and also the one with the most different approach to the other ones - Meals in Minutes doesn't just have you making one dish at a time, but a whole meal: main dish, dessert, salads. To be honest, when I first looked at this book, I found it downright intimidating. I'm used to doing one major dish and maybe something simple like frozen vegetables or rice. Now, it's teaching me how to time things to do several dishes at one.

I have to admit that I've been encouraged in using the Meals In Minutes book by watching the 30 Minute Meals show that's on the Food Network. It really does help to see the recipe, then do it from the book. Still, I've done three of the full meals, plus a couple of the different individual dishes. The starring dish so far has been the Fish Tray Bake from pages 168-171. However, the Sausage Cassoulet and the Wonky Summer Pasta meals were both delicious as well.

In terms of the individual dishes, to date I've tried two of the frozen yogourt desserts and they've both been good. As has also the Tuscan Tomato Salad.

The neatest thing about this cookbook is the way it's gotten me trying new things: capers and anchovies both come to mind, as do a whole host of new recipes and types of food. I'm going to say that I suspect that Meals in Minutes is likely to move it's way up my favourites list.

#5 Everyday Food Great Food Fast: 250 Recipes For Easy Delicious Meals All Year Long
From The Kitchens Of Martha Stewart Living

How many recipes do you generally use from any one cookbook regularly? Three? Four? More? I seem to find that it's generally about three. This book though, is the exception. To date I've tried at least six, and half of those have made their way into my regular use category. Some, I tend to save for specific circumstances, but they've all been delicious. And, there's more that I want to try. My favourites are:
  1. Pasta With Easy Italian Meat Sauce - pages 242-243
  2. Sloppy Joes - pages 216-217
  3. Grilled Peaches With Sweetened Sour Cream - pages 174-175
  4. Rhubarb Crisp - pages 88-89
I love the approach they've taken with this book, splitting it up by seasons, so the recipes suit the weather. Not that you're limited to following those seasons, but generally, they're what you'll want to eat at that time of the year, or the ingredients are more seasonal - for example, rhubarb (spring) or peaches (summer).

This is one of those cookbooks where the presentation constantly inspires me to try something new, and also where every single recipe I've tried has turned out wonderfully.

Of course, I have other favourite cookbooks, and limiting this post to just five was a real challenge, and that's with sneaking in a sixth by combining the two Mark Bittman books into one. Besides, this doesn't even begin to cover the fun you can have by modifying recipes or inventing your own.

I'm always on the lookout for new cookbooks, so tell me what your favourites are too. I love recommendations!

    The Lord of the Rings Read Along - Final Part

    My response to this week's instalment of The Lord of the Rings Read-Along. I have to be honest though and say that I'm not currently reading any part of The Lord Of The Rings, although I've read the whole thing many times before. The whole thing is being hosted over at Little Red Reviewer and Geek Daddy.

    The final questions are:
    1. What do you think Gandalf was going to speak with Tom Bombadil about?
      That, I think is going to be one of the unsolved mysteries of The Lord of the Rings. Perhaps the news of the destruction of the Ring (and all of the Rings of Power). Maybe something to do with the Barrow-Downs? After all, the wights there were believed to have been introduced by the Witch-King of Angmar, so maybe Sauron's destruction would have had an effect on them. Perhaps, it's just that Gandalf now has the time for a nice long chat - after all he did say that where Bombadil was a moss-gatherer, where he himself was a rolling stone. Presumably, now he no longer has a task to do, Gandalf can now just sit and relax - and who better to do it with. Especially given some of the theories I've heard about Bombadil.
    2. What did you think of the two weddings? Do you think Eowyn will eventually find happiness with Faramir?
      I thought they were really nice, and I certainly hope she does, although I'm not sure how well the two know each other at the point where they married. Really it was just the period of time they were in the Houses of Healing that the got to know each other, so only a few week. Still, historically that kind of thing was pretty common, so it hopefully will work out.
    3. What did you think of their meeting with Saruman on the road home?  I was half expecting someone to just kill Saruman.
      It's been so long now, that I don't remember my first reaction to the meeting with Saruman, but I have to say now that it makes for a wonderful tension builder.
    4. Holy Cow I was not expecting the scouring of the shire.  If this is your first time reading, were you surprised? And if this isn't your first time reading, does the shock get a little easier to swallow on re-read?
      Kind of, as you know it's going to happen. I think it's a horrible thing to have happened, but at the same time, it's kind of needed. There's no way that the hobbits would have been understood or appreciated without it, as sad as that sounds. I also wonder if there was any other way to really get the Shire to reconnect with the outside world as it were.
    5. What did you think of the very end, of the departure of the Havens?
      Incredibly beautiful and sad. Every time I read it I get a lump in my throat, and if I'm listening to in in the BBC radio play, I often end up with tears in my eyes. Of course, some of that could be the inclusion of the poem Bilbo's Last Song, which has become one of my favourite pieces of Tolkien's poetry.
    6. Characters are supposed to change and develop during a story, right?  Who changed more, Sam or Frodo?
      This is a hard one to answer, but I'm going to say Frodo. He's just been through so many things that have left their mark on him - the Morgul-Knife, torture, Shelob's bite, even losing the Ring, that there's not much left - and there's nothing really tying him to the Shire any more. And yet, I feel like I should say Sam, as he evolved from a servant, to someone who's respected as a leader. I really don't know which to say, so I'm going to say they both changed equally, though in different ways.
    This really has been lots of fun to participate in. Thanks Andrea for inviting me along for the ride.

    Saturday Snapshot - November 26th

    Saturday Snapshot is a fun way to end the week - posting a photo that you or someone in your family has taken. And it doesn't even have to have been taken in the previous week - something that I'm going to take advantage of this week. Thanks for hosting this each week, Alyce. The round-up is always at Alyce's blog At Home With Books.

    This one was taken some years ago now, just after I got my first digital camera, and I was playing with the different settings. Somehow I found the sepia mode and figured these two old-style garden chairs were perfect for the experiment.

    Black Horses for the King - Anne McCaffrey

    Black Horses For The King
    Anne McCaffrey
    Del Rey
    Copyright: 2006

    The product description:
    Lord Artos--later to rule as the legendary King Arthur--knew he could defeat the Saxon invaders if only he could find a race of horses swift and strong enough to carry warriors in full regalia fast and far. And so he set out for the Continent, in search of the famed horses of the desert.

    The key to Lord Artos' plan was the young runaway Galwyn Varianus, whose gift for horse-trading was second only to his skill with horses. What no one expected was how crucial Galwyn would be to the upcoming battles--as he mastered the secrets of the iron shoes that would protect the desert horses' delicate hooves . . .

    This fast-moving historical fantasy by bestselling author Anne McCaffrey--the story of King Arthur as it has never been told before--is about the beginnings of the British cavalry, as recounted by a boy growing up in exciting and perilous times.
    Black Horses For The King is quite a departure from Anne McCaffrey's usual style of books, being a historical fiction novel rather than science fiction or romance (she does have a few of those, including Three Women, The Lady etc.

    It's also one of the most different Arthurian stories I've read, and those range a bit, including such gems as Gwenhwyfar: The White Spirit, by Mercedes Lackey, The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley and the Skystone/Dream of Eagles Cycle by Jack Whyte. Where in each of those stories, the main character is one that is a known an major part of the general Arthurian story, such as Merlin or Morgan Le Fay, this time the character is an unknown.

    Anne McCaffrey's love of horses shows through in the writing of Black Horses For The King, to the point where the focus of the story is on the horses, and the invention of iron horseshoes, which she has set to the same time. It's neat, seeing the evolution of that through trial and error, and all of the little details.

    Seeing King Arthur's (or Lord Artos, as he's called in this book) court through the eyes of Galwyn, who has his own worries and problems is a very refreshing change, for he's not involved in the decision-making in any way, but just goes where he's ordered, and does his best to care for the horses the Companions need.

    Actually, one of the neatest bits of this book - it's a shorter book, written for young adults, is the author's note at the beginning of the story, about the history of horseshoes, and some little bits of trivia about King Arthur and Great Britain.

    I remember looking forward to this book and waiting for it to come out back in 1996 - I think I'd just started reading the Pern books around then too, and I've read it a couple of time since. I was inspired to read the book again now, because of Anne McCaffrey's death earlier this week.

    Thursday, November 24, 2011

    Restoree - Anne McCaffrey

    Anne McCafrey
    Del Rey
    Copyright: 1967

    The teaser from the copy I have:
    She was walking in Central Park when it happened...
    And afterwards...after it was over...she found she had a new and beautiful body...a new and beautiful face. She was apparently a nurse in a "home" controlled by guards, doctors, drugs and barred windows. But Sara knew she was not a nurse, and that the man was not an idiot. In fact, he was Harlan, Regent of Lothar...

    But what - and where - was Lothar?
    According to the io9 obituary for Anne McCaffrey who died earlier this week, Restoree was her first novel - one of the reasons I picked the book to re-read now. I have to say, I ended up with mixed feelings about the book. I think, that was at least in part due to how long ago it was originally published, but still some of the assumptions the characters make rather had me cringing. For example, near the beginning of the book, Sara's mother dismisses her feelings with "She's ill." and her father blames it all on "too much education".

    On the other hand, this is a novel that is still in print, almost fifty years later now. Although, the current cover is not, perhaps, the greatest. There's something about it that makes me think "Romance novel" rather than science fiction. Not that the cover on my copy is too much better. But, I was lucky enough to find it one day in a thrift store in the U.K.

    Still, if you're looking for a quick read, and willing to close your eyes to some issues that rather date the book, Restoree is a good one. I've read it before, and I'm absolutely certain that I will end up reading it again at some point.

    Tuesday, November 22, 2011

    R.I.P. Anne McCaffrey

    Anne McCaffrey died on Monday at age 85. The io9 Obituary has some wonderful anecdotes. and the msnbc article has the most information.

    I really can't believe this piece of news. On the other hand, I can, she's been a fixture of my science fiction reading for so long that it's not really surprising. I kind of think that one of her books might have been the first true science fiction novel I read.

    If my memory serves, it was The Dolphins of Pern, and a friend had left it in the car, so I picked it up and started to read it. Pretty quickly I was hooked - and getting scolded for not reading the series in order. Apparently, I should have started with Dragonflight and Dragonquest.

    Since then though, Anne McCaffrey has been one of my favourite science fiction and fantasy authors - sharing that space with Andre Norton, Robert Heinlein, Marion Zimmer Bradley and Elizabeth Moon.

    The Pern novels weren't Anne McCaffrey's only series. She also wrote (with co-writers sometimes) the Petaybee books (Power Lines, Power Play and The Powers that Be), the Brainships series, which included The Ship Who Sang (co-written with Mercedes Lackey) and The Ship Who Searched among other books in the series, plus a whole lot of individual books.

    Thank you for so many years of wonderful books and reading.

    Book Rambling: Re-reading and Reviewing

    In the years since I started reviewing books here at All Booked Up, I've tended to review the books I've re-read. Sometimes, the reviews stay mostly the same, but other times, I may have noticed something different about the book, or been reading it from a different perspective or emphasis, and that changes the review.

    I've been thinking about it, though, and I haven't really noticed repeat reviews of the same book on other blogs I read. Is it that you don't re-read a book as often? That's certainly something I can understand, as there are times I feel a big guilty for re-reading when I have books I've been sent to read waiting, and there's so many other books out there to be read, or is it just because if it's already been reviewed once, there's no real point to repeating a review?

    For myself, one other good reason for reviewing rereads is that without that review, there's going to be an even longer gap between posts and reviews. Sometimes that gap is far too long as it is.

    If I'm reviewing a book that I've already reviewed, I will always make a point of mentioning that fact and linking the previous review. On the other hand, a lot of the books that are getting reviewed for the first time are books that I've read before, at some point before I started this blog back in 2008.

    I'm just curious, because I can see reasons for choosing either way, and I wouldn't mind knowing what other people think. If perhaps there's something more interesting about a review for a book that's been read for the first time than there is for a book that you know already.

    Monday, November 21, 2011

    It's Monday! What Are You Reading? November 21

    It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted over at One Person's Journey Through A World Of Books every week. It's lots of fun to see what people are reading at any time, and a great way to get more book recommendations (like we need more of those some of the time :) ).

    I've been having a few weeks where I'm more likely to pick up a new book than to finish a read. On the other hand, I have managed to read a couple of books in the last week:

    Letters from Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien. Fantasy, Children's, Fiction. This is a charming little book where the letters that J.R.R. Tolkien wrote to his children in the guise of Father Christmas are collected. Lavishly and beautifully illustrated with the facsimiles of the letters, pictures, and even the envelopes that Tolkien created. Great for both kids and adults.

    Star Wars: The Jedi Path by Daniel Wallace. Fiction, Science Fiction. Another rather neat book. I found that it was the "annotations" that really made the book an experience.

    I'm currently reading:
    Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden. Fiction, Historical Fiction. I've read this book before, and loved it then. This re-read was inspired by watching the movie.

    The Twentieth Wife by Indu Sundaresan. Fiction, Historical Fiction. Set in India, which I quite like when the mood strikes, this was a book that was recommended to me a year or more ago. So far, the start was quite good, but I haven't been completely grabbed by the book.

    Red Land Black Land by Barbara Mertz. Non Fiction, History. A book about daily life in ancient Egypt. Barbara Mertz also writes as Elizabeth Peters, which means that the writing of the book should be engaging. So far, it is. My only issue is how old the book turned out to be - it's been revised in 1978. How many discoveries are there that will have made the conclusions drawn here inaccurate? Still, it's a good read to date.

    As usual, I'm not entirely certain what I'm going to read next. Guess I'll just have to see what strikes my fancy as the week goes by.

    Star Wars: The Jedi Path - Daniel Wallace

    Star Wars: The Jedi Path
    Daniel Wallace
    Chronicle Books
    Copyright: September 7, 2011

    The product description:
    Passed down from Master to apprentice, The Jedi Path is an ancient training manual that has educated and enlightened generations of Jedi. Within its pages, the Jedi-intraining will discover the history and lore of the Jedi Order, the ways of the Force and how to wield it, the subtle nuances of lightsaber combat, and the dangers of the Dark Side. The only remaining copy in existence, this hallowed tome features handwritten annotated notes by Yoda, Luke Skywalker, Count Dooku, and Darth Sidious, among many others. Created in collaboration with Lucasfilm along with an acclaimed Star Wars author and revered Star Wars illustrators this volume also introduces never-before-seen ships, creatures, characters, and details about the Star Wars galaxy.
    I thought the idea of this book was intriguing, as a window into the world of Star Wars, but for me it was the annotations that really made the book. They also make this one of those books that I just can't see as an e-book - at least not on any e-ink type screens.

    Those annotations seem to range through Yoda's life-span until Luke's new Jedi Academy, but the history covered is much greater. I have to admit, I'm not overly familiar with a lot of the early material discussed - I haven't read any of that material, nor have I played any of the computer games that I suspect are being referenced. On the other hand, the personalities of the various characters shines through clearly - especially Qui-Gon Jinn, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker. But, they're not the only annotators there, there's also the Emperor's thoughts shown too. Some of those annotations are almost like a conversation.

    The other thing that makes The Jedi Path into a gorgeous book is the way it's illustrated. Nearly every page has lavish illustrations, both in black and white and in colour. The latter are in watercolour, and I really like the chosen colour range, which is fairly subdued and suits the material and apparent age of the book.

    Definitely a neat little book for any Star Wars fan, and one that I found left me intrigued and wishing there was more information.


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