Friday, December 19, 2014

No True Way - Ed. Mercedes Lackey

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

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

Now the voices of other authors add their own special touches to the ancient land where Heralds “Chosen” from all walks of life by magical horse-like Companions patrol their ancient kingdom, dispensing justice, facing adversaries, and protecting their monarch and country from whatever threatens. Trained rigorously by the Herald’s Collegium, these special protectors each have extraordinary Gifts: Mindspeaking, FarSeeing, FarSpeaking, Empathy, Firestarting and ForeSeeing, and are bonded for life with their mysterious Companions. Travel with these astounding adventurers in sixteen original stories.
As always, there are great stories in the annual Valdemar anthology. I'm really glad to see it back after a two year hiatus where the annual anthology was based on Mercedes Lackey's Elemental Masters series instead.

After a two year hiatus, there weren't as many recurring storylines in this anthology as there had been in the previous ones, although there was a story set in the world of the Haven Watch - the latest in the series of those. I missed some of the others from the previous volumes.

Mercedes Lackey's story for this volume was one of my favorites, though I do have to say that there were no stories in No True Way that I actively disliked. Quite a few authors decided to work from a theme of woolwork - mostly weaving, but there was at least one story that used spinning as a key plot point. As a spinner myself, that was something that I found to be quite neat.

I know that the last time I mentioned this book - in an Upcoming Books post back in September, I'd commented that the only pre-order option I was seeing on was for an e-book; well No True Way was also released as a paperback thankfully and is available as such from Amazon as well.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Upcoming Release: Deeds of Honor by Elizabeth Moon

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Valdemar Reading Challenge - 2015

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Hardcore Re-Reading Challenge

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

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

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

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


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

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

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Pre-Printing Press Challenge - 2015 Edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

The lists could continue on and on.

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

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Nancy Drew: The Ringmaster's Secret - Carolyn Keene

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 3, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 9, 2014

New Edition of The Adventures of Tom Bombadil

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

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

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

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

Closer To Home - Mercedes Lackey

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Catullus: The Complete Poems - Trans. Guy Lee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 22, 2014

Wool-craft, knitting, crochet and Outlander

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 19, 2014

The iPhone hype has gone too far

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 15, 2014

Upcoming Books

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Freedom's Challenge - Anne McCaffrey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Booking Through Thursday - Your Recommendation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Crochet and Spinning Update

I'm pretty proud of myself for this, but for the last two months or so, since the TDF on Ravelry, I've been managing to spin and/or crochet at least a little bit nearly every day. I think I ended up missing only one day so far. This is a track record I want to keep going indefinitely.

It hasn't reduced the number of projects I have on the go at all though. As usual, I'm better at starting a project than I am at finishing it, although I did finish one small project, and one of the longer-running projects I've mentioned here before is nearing completion. I'm hoping to get it done this month.

In terms of spinning, I've added one project, with a new spindle: the fibre is something of a mystery, but I have four ounces in three roving strips, all different colors, and I'm spinning it as finely as I can on my new(ish) Snyder Mini-Turk. In the photo the colors are showing as more blue than they actually are. In reality, one strip of roving is purple, one is turquoise, and the third is striped in black, blue and purple. I've torn the roving into small patches, and I'm spinning them in order: turquoise, purple and then the multi-color. Right now, it's on the multicolor and I guess it is fairly blueish in tone.

I'm trying a new technique as well: Ply-On-The-Fly, so all of the spun fiber on the spindle is finished. The process is to spin a length in one direction, wind it off on your hand and then chain ply that section before winding the finished length (now quite a bit shorter) onto the spindle. The other neat thing with a turkish spindle is the way the cop ends up being a work of art in and of itself - if you're careful.

The downside to this method, especially with my effort at keeping the cop neat, is just how slowly it progresses. Of course, I have to admit that part of that is because I'm not doing too much of it at any one time.

The other spinning projects I'm focused on are:
1. A merino-silk blend I have on my wheel in shades of blue. There's 200 grams of this fiber, and I'm about half-way through spinning it. Eventually, my plan is to chain-ply it as well.

2. Alpaca fiber on my supported Ghstworks spindle. This is a one ounce sample that I got from the Spin-Off kit. I'm maybe a third of the way through it. Again, it's slow going.

3. Multi-colored sprinkle-dyed merino fiber on a plain drop spindle. I'm finally seeing the end of this spinning project after three or four years now. Enough is enough, but it's my fault because I bought four or five 100gram bags of it. This one's being spun into singles on the spindle, but I have a bobbin on the go on my wheel that I'm using to chain-ply the singles.

Going over to crochet, the list of projects is about the same length, perhaps longer, and definitely longer if you include photos.

1. The Elise Shawl. This is a project that's gotten a lot larger than it was intended to be when I started it back in May. Back then, it was a one-skein shawlette, but I decided that it would be too small for my tastes, so I'm expanding it. Thankfully, I chose to use undyed Madtosh yarn, so matching colors and dye-lots wasn't a problem. I also decided to add beads to the shawl, using a second crochet hook. As I've said a few times since, "why did I think that would be a good idea?". I'll be glad when this project is done with, but I've got two more skeins of yarn to cake and add, so I'm not even half-way at the moment.

2.  The Goldberry Shawl. No photos for this one right now, but I'm about seven rows from finishing, so I'd like to get it done by the 22nd of the month - Frodo and Bilbo's birthday. The rows have gotten long though - one of the stumbling blocks of this shawl, I'm finding.

3. Another Bernat Mosaic Shawl in the Optimistic colorway. I like to have these to work on in the summer, though maybe I should have picked another color. It's a bit boring, because I just finished one of these a couple of months ago. Still, they work up pretty fast. The other advantage of these is the yarn isn't expensive, so I don't worry about taking one of these to the beach or camping.

4. The Triumph crocheted sock pattern. This one shouldn't really be on the list as I'm not working on it at all. I'd have to say that the socks triumphed over me. The one sock I mentioned last year fit perfectly, but I really screwed up on the second sock. It's way too small, so I now have to unpick the whole thing and start again. I haven't been able to gather the will-power together for it yet.

5. My first attempt at a carry-bag. It's from the same magazine as the basket I did earlier in the year. I'm not entirely sure what I think of the result though. The bag turned out to be a bit smaller than I though it would be for the medium size based on the picture in the magazine. Some of that might be the yarn I used being less stretchy than the yarn the pattern called for. On the other hand, I haven't actually tried filling the bag with anything as a test yet.

 I made one change of my own as well, adding a couple of extra rows to the handle to make it a bit wider. I was afraid the handle as it's written in the pattern would be narrow enough that it would cut into my hand or shoulder too easily.
6. The Bristleberry scarf pattern from the Crochet One Skein Wonders book. The most recent addition to my in-progress list. Not that I needed to start another project with all the ones I have on the go right now, but I couldn't resist buying a skein of  Madtosh Lace yarn when I saw it in the store.

This is going to take a while because the yarn is so fine that each row doesn't add very much to the project on it's own. Then, after a few rows, you look at it again, and all of a sudden you can see the difference.

I love the way it's working up. The pattern is simple enough that I'm not too likely to make any mistakes, at least if I'm careful, but just different enough to keep my attention. And the colors are absolutely spectacular!

Freedom's Choice - Anne McCaffrey

Freedom's Choice - Anne McCaffrey
Freedom's Choice
Anne McCaffrey
Ace Books
Copyright Date: 1998

The product description:
Abducted by the alien Catteni, Kristin Bjornsen was one of many humans brought to the planet Botany as part of an experiment to see if it could support life. Enslaved and forced to colonize a world not their own, the settlers have accepted Botany as their home—a home worth fighting for…

Kristin’s people have learned that the aliens responsible for their imprisonment are merely mercenaries, subjugated by the parasitic Eosi Race, and that Botany is being farmed remotely by some unknown species—a species that may be sympathetic to the colonists’ struggle for freedom.

The “Farmers” refuse to join the humans in their rebellion against the Catteni, but they agree to use their technological skills to shield Botany and hide it from its enemies—buying Kristin and the settlers time to build up their forces and liberate their world…
The second book in the "Freedom" series, this is the sequel to Freedom's Landing, which I raced through a couple of weeks ago. It's taken me until now to get to this book because I had to wait for it to arrive. The first, third, and fourth books in the series I had found at my favorite used bookstore. They didn't have this one though, so I ended up ordering a copy, which finally arrived on Friday.

Freedom's Choice - Anne McCaffrey (New Cover Art)
That was a bit of a surprise too, because there are now some new covers for this series. I kind of like the new cover too, but at the same time, it's the odd one out because the other three all have the original cover art. As I've said before, I'm a bit odd about changing cover art in a series. Even more confusing, the Amazon listing for Freedom's Choice in the mass market edition still shows the original cover art. I had to pick up the correct cover image from the Kindle edition listing.

Anyway, the wait was worth it, although I'm now having a bit of trouble reviewing Freedom's Choice because I raced through it and then on to the third book, Freedom's Challenge, and I'm now well into the fourth and final book in the series, Freedom's Ransom.

There's plenty more universe-building going on, as well as more information about various things that were hinted at in the first book: the Farmers, also called the Mech-Makers, the Eosi; who they are and how they work etc.

Overall, a very fun read and a book I know I'll be re-reading again in the future.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Snow Queen - Mercedes Lackey

The Snow Queen - Mercedes LackeyThe Snow Queen
Mercedes Lackey
Luna Books
Copyright: 2008
ISBN: 9780373802654

The product description:
Aleksia, Queen of the Northern Lights, is mysterious, beautiful and widely known to have a heart of ice. But when she's falsely accused of unleashing evil on nearby villages, she realizes there's an impostor out there far more heartless than she could ever be.

And when a young warrior disappears, Aleksia's powers are needed as never before.

Now, on a journey through a realm of perpetual winter, it will take all her skills, a mother's faith and a little magic to face down an enemy more formidable than any she has ever known…. 
I've read and reviewed The Snow Queen before, but it had been a while. This is one of the Five Hundred Kingdoms series of fantasy romance novels based on fairy tales, often with interesting twists, especially as each story doesn't always follow only one fairy-tale.

Imagine a world where fairy-tales are real, and they don't always have a happy ending. What's more, if your circumstances even vaguely match the setting for one of those tales, your life will be forced into following that tale. That's the world of the Five Hundred Kingdoms. Not even the Godmothers, one of the forces that try to either prevent the Tradition from steering people into those tales, or at least to give them a happy ending, is immune from the force of the Tradition.

Even so, these stories fit the romance mold, which means that the characters are going to have their happy ending. That's a given, right from the start. The story, and the fun of the read are all about how they get there.

I enjoyed the read this time, as much as I did last time. Especially as it's been long enough now that I felt like I was reading The Snow Queen for the first time again. One thing I noticed on this read was the number of spinning and weaving references. Being into fibre-crafts myself, they almost jumped off the page for me - weaving a cloak at the beginning of the story, one of the background characters doing some tablet-weaving and another spinning with a drop spindle in one of the scenes.

Overall, a fun read.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

No Sailing Waits and Other Ferry Tales - Adrian Raeside

No Sailing Waits and Other Ferry Tales: 30 Years of BC Ferries Cartoons
Adrian Raeside
Harbour Publishing
Copyright Date: April 11, 2012

The product description:
As a part of our provincial highway system and a lifeline for coastal communities, BC Ferries plays an integral part in British Columbians lives. This is especially true for cartoonist Adrian Raeside, who has been drawing cartoons portraying the ferry fleet for over thirty years. From breakdowns, groundings, the Fast Ferry Fiasco, the Sunshine Breakfast, German-built ferries, the Million Dollar Man (David Hahn) and fuel surcharges, Raeside has covered it all in his unique style. The best of these hilarious and sometimes poignant cartoons are for the first time compiled into a book, a unique chronicle of our ferry fleet and a must-read for anyone who has ever endured a two-sailing wait at a ferry terminal.
One of the books I re-read over the weekend was this one, and a funnier read I haven't had in a long time. My original review was from two years ago, August 2012.

I'm using BC Ferries a lot more these days, so some of the issues really resonate still. Others are slightly more dated, and one in particular was very touching: his honoring of the two who died in the ferry sinking a couple of years back. Very poignant and special.

Otherwise, every single page left me laughing. If you know the BC Ferry system you'll recognize at least some of these issues: the Sunshine Breakfast - a regular appearance in this book, sailing waits (the two sailing wait mentioned above is nothing compared to one I had a couple of years ago, where we were stuck for two sailings outside the terminal, and then another sailing or so inside, before we finally were able to get on the last sailing of the day), Ferry fares - always going up, and strikes.

As I've said before, I'd be very surprised to find Adrian Raeside's No Sailing Waits and Other Ferry Tales in the BC Ferries gift store. The cartoons aren't very flattering to BC Ferries. On the other hand, editorial cartoons are usually pretty critical of whatever they're about - that's half the point.

Probably more of a local interest book, but one of the funniest I've read in a while.

Fortune's Fool - Mercedes Lackey

Fortune's Fool - Mercedes Lackey
Fortune's Fool
Mercedes Lackey
Luna Books
Copyright: 2008

The blurb:
 The seventh daughter of the Sea King, Ekaterina is more than a pampered princess-she's also the family spy. Which makes her the perfect emissary to check out interesting happenings in the neighboring kingdom…and nothing interests her more than Sasha, the seventh son of the king of Belrus. Ekaterina suspects he's far from the fool people think him. But before she can find out what lies beneath his facade, she is kidnapped!

Trapped in a castle at the mercy of a possessive Jinn, Ekaterina knows her chances of being found are slim. Now fortune, a fool and a paper bird are the only things she can count on-along with her own clever mind and intrepid heart.…
It's been a while since I read Fortune's Fool, but I was inspired to do a re-read by the previous book I read, Firebird, also by Mercedes Lackey. The two books have different takes on some of the same themes, namely their treatment of the seventh son and the role of the fool, something I found of interest on this read.

In Firebird, Ilya, the seventh son in question is genuinely despised by his family, while in Fortune's Fool, Sasha and his family are filling roles and working to use the Tradition to their own advantage, so while outwardly his treatment is similar, in private he's genuinely cared for by his family.

Both the similarities and the differences make these two stories intriguing to read back-to-back. They're both based on fairy-tales, though different tales (more or less), and using similar character types, even with the same expectations (the happy ending), and yet they're very different.

Fortune's Fool is part of the Five Hundred Kingdoms series, which is introduced in The Fairy Godmother. However, this is a series where each book also stands alone quite well as the rules of the world are explained again in each book. Not to mention that in each book, there's an entirely new set of main characters, although some of the characters from the earlier books might make a cameo appearance or two.

The basic explanation for the world of the Five Hundred Kingdoms is that it's one where all the fairy-tales are real. Cinderella? It's happened - enough times that it's now a Traditional path for a step-daughter. Rapunzel? Sleeping Beauty? The same is true of those tales too. Thing is, the stories aren't guaranteed a happy ending. In fact, more often than not it seems that the stories will have a bad ending for the participants. That's what the fairy godmothers are there for; to try and re-direct these Traditions to happy endings. But, there are plenty of Kingdoms where there is no Fairy Godmother. In some of those, they've come up with other methods, as in Fortune's Fool.

Mercedes Lackey has been using the Tradition to come up with some very interesting twists to add to some fairly famous fairy-tales in this series. If you're interested in fairy-tale retellings, this is a series I definitely recommend. It's one I turn to when I want a nice, quick, fairly light read.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Firebird - Mercedes Lackey

Firebird - Mercedes Lackey
Mercedes Lackey
Tor Books
Copyright: 2008

The product description:
Ilya, son of a Russian prince, is largely ignored by his father and tormented by his larger, older brothers.  His only friends are three old people: a priest, a magician, and a woman who toils in the palace dairy.  From them Ilya learns faith, a smattering of magic, and the power of love--all of which he will need desperately, for his life is about to be turned upside-down.

            The prince’s magnificent cherry orchard is visited at midnight by the legendary Firebird, whose wings are made of flame.  Ilya's brothers’ attempts capture the magical creature fail.  When Ilya tries to catch the Firebird, he sees her as a beautiful woman and earns a magical gift:  the speech of animals. 

            Banished, the young man journeys through a fantastical Russia full of magical mazes, enchanted creatures, and untold dangers.  As happens in the best fairy tales, Ilya falls in love with an enchanted princess, but to win her freedom will be no easy task.
I read and reviewed Firebird back in 2010, but over the intervening years I'd managed to forget most of the details until I re-read the book a few days ago, so it was almost like reading it for the first time again.

That said, one of the things that always draws me to Firebird is the cover art. It's some of the most beautiful I've seen on a Mercedes Lackey novel, and it's what pulled me into the read this time. In reality, I'm waiting for my ordered copy of Freedom's Choice to arrive so I can continue to read that series. So, a book I know is a moderately quick though gripping read was a good choice in my mine. At the same time, it sparked a reading streak.

I've started racing through the retellings of various fairy-tales that Mercedes Lackey has written - mostly in the Five Hundred Kingdoms series. Firebird led me to Fortune's Fool and then to The Snow Queen. Now I want to re-read One Good Knight, which I don't seem to have in my collection. I also want to hunt down Black Swan, which she wrote years ago.

Anyway, back to Firebird. This one's based on the Russian tale of the Firebird, and maintains the storyline as far as I can tell. At the same time, I'm fairly certain that Mercedes Lackey has added her own twists to the story. I'm just not familiar enough with her source material to know, though I can guess as to some of them.

As I noted in my previous review, there are a few lines that will make anyone familiar with her works laugh - because you'll recognize them from previous books. Still, they suit the situation and they gave me a chuckle, so I'm not complaining.

Definitely a book I recommend, especially if you have a soft spot in your heart for fairy-tales.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Freedom's Landing - Anne McCaffrey

Freedom's Landing - Anne McCaffrey
Freedom's Landing
Anne McCaffrey
Ace Publishing
Copyright: 1996

The product description:
Kristin Bjornsen lived a normal life, right up until the day the spaceships floated into view above Denver. As human slaves were herded into the maw of a massive vessel, Kristin realized her normal life was over and her fight for freedom was just beginning…

The alien Catteni value strength and intelligence in their slaves—and Kristin has managed to survive her enslavement while hundreds of other humans have not. But her trial has just begun, for now she finds herself part of a massive experiment. The aliens have discovered a new world, and they have a simple way of finding out if it’s habitable: drop hundreds of slaves on the surface and see what happens.

If they survive, colonization can begin. If not, there are always more slaves.
This is an older Anne McCaffrey novel, and one I'd nearly forgotten about until my latest trip to my favorite used bookstore. They just happened to have three of the four books in the series in (Of course, not the second one, so I'm waiting for my ordered copy of that to arrive. Hopefully later this week).

Freedom's Landing has an interesting combination going for it - science fiction with a hint of romance, and it works. The story has held up pretty well too, although fifteen years or so isn't all that much time.

One interesting little piece of trivia: The opening chapter or so of Freedom's Landing (with an alternative ending than that of the chapter in question in the novel) was published as Thorns of Barevi in Get Off The Unicorn back in the 1970's.

I'm definitely looking forward to reading the next book in the series, Freedom's Choice, and I don't want to risk spoiling things - although why I worry about that for a book that's not a new release, I don't know.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Gravity Dreams - L.E. Modesitt Jr.

Gravity Dreams
L. E. Modesitt
Tor Books
Copyright: 2000

The product description:
In Earth's distant future, Tyndel is both teacher and mentor, a staunch devotee to his conservative and rigidly structured religious culture. Then a rogue infection of nanotechnology transforms him into a "demon", something more than human, and he is forced into exile, fleeing to the more technologically advanced space-faring civilization that lies to the north, one that his own righteous people consider evil. Although shaken by his transformation, he has the rare talent required to become a space pilot. What no one, least of all Tyndel, expects, is his deep-space encounter with a vastly superior being--perhaps with God.
I've read and reviewed Gravity Dreams before, and loved it. No difference this time - just the challenge of getting my hands on a copy. I know I owned it previously, but for the last year or so I couldn't find it. Figuring it was lost in one of the boxes from my moving, I just shrugged, and thought it would turn up. Books have done this before - usually after I give up and replace them. Well, I replaced my copy of Gravity Dreams, but the original copy has yet to show up. I'm still waiting...

Aside from that - and the note that I ended up buying my replacement copy through Abebooks - I still found Gravity Dreams to be a very good read, racing through it over the course of about four days - including a camping trip.

L.E. Modesitt Jr. writes his science fiction with layers. The surface layer is the story, but there are other deeper layers and themes to each of his books as well. With Gravity Dreams, I'm sure there were layers that I was missing - quite a bit of the Dorchan culture left me scratching my head at their ways of thinking, but at the same time raising some interesting points.

One of the biggest themes in this book, as well as others of Modesitt's such as Adiamante is personal responsibility. In Adiamante, the personal responsibility theme was strongly focused on the environment, but there nonetheless. In Gravity Dreams, it's geared more to responsibility for your choices and the consequences thereof.

The other big theme in this book is honesty. Honesty with yourself and with others, distilled down to the most basic and even extreme levels, even to the point where it's forced on people - using some of the characters own words here. This is where I have to be honest myself and say that this is a world I wouldn't want to live in. I like my illusions a bit too much thank you - a comment I made in my previous review as well.

In terms of story structure, Gravity Dreams is rather interestingly put together with time-jumps both forwards and back. Thankfully, each chapter starts with the date for the events in that chapter, and also the location. Definitely something that I found was needed. Also, and I've seen reviews complaining about this, much of the story is set up around dialogue and internal thoughts. I liked it, but others obviously don't.

Following on that is the depth of descriptions that the author uses. I especially liked the use of color and music in overspace, making it a multi-sense experience rather than just simply visual. Humans have five senses, and Modesitt makes use of that as best he can though the medium of the written word. On the other hand, I quite like descriptive stories, so this was right up my alley.

If you like science fiction and also want a story that will make you think while you're reading it, I highly recommend Gravity Dreams and also L.E. Modesitt Jr.'s other science fiction novels.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Crown of Renewal - Elizabeth Moon

Crown of Renewal (Legend of Paksenarrion) - Elizabeth Moon
Crown of Renewal (Legend of Paksenarrion)
Elizabeth Moon
Del Rey
Release Date: May 27, 2014

The product description:
Acclaimed author Elizabeth Moon spins gripping, richly imagined epic fantasy novels that have earned comparisons to the work of such authors as Robin Hobb and Lois McMaster Bujold. In this volume, Moon’s brilliant masterwork reaches its triumphant conclusion.

The mysterious reappearance of magery throughout the land has been met with suspicion, fear, and violence. In the kingdom of Lyonya, Kieri, the half-elven, half-human king, struggles to balance the competing demands of his heritage while fighting a deadly threat to his rule: evil elves linked in some way to the rebirth of magic.

Meanwhile, in the neighboring kingdom of Tsaia, a set of ancient artifacts recovered by the former mercenary Dorrin Verrakai may hold the answer to the riddle of magery’s return. Thus Dorrin embarks on a dangerous quest to return these relics of a bygone age to their all-but-mythical place of origin. What she encounters there will change her in unimaginable ways—and spell doom or salvation for the entire world.
I mentioned in yesterday's post that I was nearly finished reading Crown of Renewal. Well, I finished it, and all I can say at the moment is "Wow!".

Crown of Renewal is the fifth book in the Paladin's Legacy series by Elizabeth Moon, starting with Oath of Fealty (which is probably going to be my next read/reread), and maybe the final book. I'm not sure on that, as the ending is one that could go either way.

One thing about this series at this point - familiarity with the earlier books is a must. I was finding myself a bit lost at points because it's been a while since I read Kings of the North and Echoes of Betrayal, much less the earlier books. That's part of why I'm planning a big re-read of the series. I'd actually like to be able to re-read The Legacy of Gird, which I struggle with as well, as aspects of that book affect the current one.

It was rather neat as I was reading to go "OK, so this is what she was talking about on her blog" at various points - discussion of researching different kinds of boats for example.

Definitely a read I enjoyed and will read again.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Rereads and a Reading Update

I've been doing a fair bit of re-reading over the last month and a bit, but I've also been away for a lot of that time as well - thus the lack of posts.

The thing with re-reading, especially here, is that I've already reviewed these books, sometimes more than once, and I'm having a lot of trouble thinking up new things to say about them. So, I'm going to cheat/take the lazy way and just group them together in this one post with links to my previous reviews.

The books are:
The Parafaith War by L.E. Modesitt Jr.
Overall, I've found that L.E. Modesitt's books are often quite challenging to review, mostly due to the different layers to the story. His science fiction is some of my favorite as well, also due to those layers, which leave me thinking about different aspects of society.

This one, despite being well over a decade old, has aged very well. It's not dated in any way and still very relevant to our own world despite being set in a very far future world.

The Adept - Katherine Kurtz and Deborah Turner Harris
The Adept by Katherine Kurtz and Deborah Turner Harris.
Another favorite novel. This one's the first in a series of five books, fantasy and set in Scotland. Again, being an older book, I have to say that it's aged quite well. The first time I heard of this series would have been over a decade ago on a Mercedes Lackey mailing-list. If my memory's not playing tricks, it was in reference to someone asking for recommendations of other books they might like to read. So, if you like Mercedes Lackey, especially her Diana Tregarde books, these could be well worth your while to hunt down.

Adiamante by L.E. Modesitt Jr.
Another thought-provoking science fiction novel that's aged very well. As I've noted in my earlier review of this book, it's a world that I don't know that I could live in, although there are some aspects that I really like - especially the environmental consciousness. At the same time, those are the same ones that I think I'd have the most trouble with.

Definitely worth a read though you might have to hunt to find this one.

If you're noticing a theme in this post, yes there is one. I've been on a bit of a L.E. Modesitt Jr. streak of late, and it's just going to continue. There's another of his books that I want to re-read: Gravity Dreams. And I finally can. For some reason over the last couple of years, my copy of the book simply disappeared. Maybe it's still hiding somewhere, packed away from my first move - five years ago now. (It's happened to me before. Only last month I rediscovered my original copy of Jo Graham's Black Ships, missing since that first move).

Anyway, I've been wanting to re-read Gravity Dreams for a while now with no luck in finding my copy. So, I ended up ordering another copy, which arrived last week.

The reading update portion of this post:
The Lady - Anne McCaffrey
The Lady by Anne McCaffrey
I'm about two thirds of the way through this one and struggling with it, even though I've read the book several times before and loved it. I think what's getting to me this time is the 1970's attitudes in Ireland. For some reason I'm really noticing them this time around.

Aside from that, it's a great story. Some romance, but I'd generally class this as regular fiction as half the story is from the daughter's point of view (13 year old), and more of a horse story than anything.

Crown of Renewal (Legend of Paksenarrion) - Elizabeth MoonI'm also still reading Elizabeth Moon's latest novel, Crown of Renewal. I can't believe it's taken me this long to get through it - no reflection on the quality of the book I have to say. My husband got interested in her books as well, and so I promised to read Crown of Renewal only while he's reading the first book, Oath of Fealty. From what he's said, he's really enjoying the read. It just takes him a while. Personally, I can't wait to get back to reading this one - then I'm going to be snatching back Oath of Fealty to start the whole cycle from book one.


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