Monday, February 16, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? - February 16th 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted each week over at Book Journey and it's a great way to grow your TBR pile too by seeing what others are reading.

I missed out on posting last week, so I'm going to include my totals in this week's reading. I've also done some book buying this week, so I'm going to include a list of those as well at the end.

Since my last post, I've read:
The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women Across The Ancient World by Adrienne Mayor.

Although it took me a lot longer than I thought it would to get through this, it was a fascinating and educational read. If the legends and accounts of the Amazons, be they the ancient Greek, Persian, Chinese or others intrigue you, this is the book for you. Adrienne Mayor has gathered together the legends and the archaeological evidence that backs them up in her quest to prove that the Amazons were not just mythical but were real people.

Winds of Fate by Mercedes Lackey
Book one of the Mage Winds trilogy.
Read for the Valdemar Challenge and the Hardcore Re-Reading Challenge.

Winds of Change by Mercedes Lackey
Book Two of the Mage Winds trilogy.
Read for the Valdemar Challenge and the Hardcore Re-Reading Challenge.

I'm currently reading:
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand.
I started reading this one last night, and I'm already loving it - even though I'm only about 30 pages in at the moment. This was also one of the books I bought in the past week.

Winds of Fury by Mercedes Lackey
Book three of the Mage Winds trilogy. I read partway through the first chapter last night after finishing Winds of Change, and just stalled out. The book starts from Ancar's point of view - a first in the whole series - and it seems like his favorite word is the "B" word. I just couldn't take it at the time.

The books I bought in the past week:
Unbroken - Laura Hillenbrand
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
The product description:
#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • NOW A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE • Look for special features inside. Join the Random House Reader’s Circle for author chats and more.
In boyhood, Louis Zamperini was an incorrigible delinquent. As a teenager, he channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics. But when World War II began, the athlete became an airman, embarking on a journey that led to a doomed flight on a May afternoon in 1943. When his Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean, against all odds, Zamperini survived, adrift on a foundering life raft. Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater. Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion. His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will.

Appearing in paperback for the first time—with twenty arresting new photos and an extensive Q&A with the author—Unbroken is an unforgettable testament to the resilience of the human mind, body, and spirit, brought vividly to life by Seabiscuit author Laura Hillenbrand.

Hailed as the top nonfiction book of the year by Time magazine • Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for biography and the Indies Choice Adult Nonfiction Book of the Year award
I've just started reading this one and I'm already loving it. I can't believe that it took me until now to finally give the book a chance.

The Book of Negroes - Lawrence Hill
The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill
The product description:
Lawrence Hill’s award-winning novel is a major television miniseries airing on BET Networks.
The Book of Negroes (based on the novel Someone Knows My Name) will be BET’s first miniseries. The star-studded production includes lead actress Aunjanue Ellis (Ray, The Help), Oscar winner Cuba Gooding Jr. (Jerry Maguire, A Few Good Men), Oscar and Emmy winner Louis Gossett Jr. (A Raisin in the Sun, Boardwalk Empire), and features Lyriq Bent (Rookie Blue), Jane Alexander (The Cider House Rules), and Ben Chaplin (The Thin Red Line). Director and co-writer Clement Virgo is a feature film and television director (The Wire) who also serves as producer with executive producer Damon D’Oliveira (What We Have).
In this “transporting” (Entertainment Weekly) and “heart-stopping” (Washington Post) work, Aminata Diallo, one of the strongest women characters in contemporary fiction, is kidnapped from Africa as a child and sold as a slave in South Carolina. Fleeing to Canada after the Revolutionary War, she escapes to attempt a new life in freedom.
Ok. I'm going to shred this blurb a little bit. First of all, that they're saying it's based on the novel Someone Knows My Name - Up here in Canada, the book has always been called The Book of Negroes. It's only in the USA that they changed the name. Second, the blurb given is more about the stars in the TV series. has a better description, given for the illustrated edition (which I would dearly love to have):
This beautiful full-colour gift edition of the new Canadian classic, The Book of Negroes, shares with readers the many photos, works of art and documents that inspired Lawrence Hill to create his award-winning work. It adds to the novel more than 150 images: early maps and documents, archival photos, period paintings and never-before-published pages from the original handwritten ledger called the Book of Negroes. Readers will travel the world with Aminata Diallo, from a West African village to an indigo plantation in South Carolina, through the tough streets of New York City and the harsh climate of Nova Scotia to the coast of Sierra Leone, and finally to an abolitionist’s home in London.
However, I have to agree that the TV series The Book of Negroes was absolutely amazing. I'm now looking forward to the DVD release, and hoping that it comes out on Blu-Ray as well as DVD. There were moments where the series actually drove me to tears - and anger at the treatment meted out to Aminata.

The final book I bought this week was a crochet book:
Blueprint Crochet Sweaters - Robyn Chachula
Blueprint Crochet Sweaters by Robyn Chachula
The product description:
Learn the must-have basics of sweater construction and ways to achieve better-fitting garments!
Best-selling author of Blueprint Crochet, Robyn Chachula presents an approachable resource on the basics of crochet design. This friendly introduction to sweater and garment construction will give you a deeper understanding of working with crochet and help you make better-fitting garments in the process.

In this collection of 16 patterns, Robyn focuses on four basic garment types and their variations--"classic" construction (including raglan, drop-sleeve, and side-saddle sleeve); unique construction (side-to-side or from the bottom up, around the shoulder, and back down); motif construction; and top-down (both round and raglan types).

The perfect introduction to the building blocks of crochet sweater construction, Blueprint Crochet Sweaters breaks down intimidating garment design into easily digestible parts, offering a deeper appreciation and understanding of how to create projects that reflect your own personal style.
I know I've been hesitant to start a project as complex as a sweater - for several reasons, including the cost of that much yarn. Reading through the introduction to this book, well it isn't exactly helping to make things seem simple, but it's certainly going to make sure that I'm prepared when I do attempt a sweater. Not to mention, there are some great looking patterns in here too.

Winds of Change - Mercedes Lackey

Winds of Change - Mercedes Lackey
Winds of Change (Mage Winds book two)
Mercedes Lackey
DAW Books
Copyright: 1993

The product description:
 In The Mage Winds trilogy, which began with the best-selling novel, Winds of Fate, author Mercedes Lackey continues the epic that started with her first published book, Arrows of the Queen introduced readers to the remarkable land of Valdemar, the kingdom protected by its Heralds--men and women gifted with extraordinary mind powers--aided and served by their mysterious Companions--horselike beings who know the many secrets of Valdemar's magical heritage. None but the Companions remember the long-ago age when high magic was lost to Valdemar as the last Herald-Mage gave his life to protect his kingdom from destruction by dark sorceries.
But now the protective barrier set so long ago over Valdemar is crumbling, and with the realm imperiled by the dark magic of Ancar of Hardorn, Princess Elspeth, Herald and heir to the throne, has gone on a desperate quest in search of a mentor who can teach her to wield her fledgling mage-powers and help her to defend her threatened kingdom.
Winds of Change is the sequel to Winds of Fate, which I read and reviewed last week. Again, I found that I couldn't put the book down at all, following the various characters through their lives, although most of the chapters were alternating between the viewpoints of Elspeth and Darkwind, there were chapters seen through Skif's eyes and Nyara among others. And, of course the inevitable chapters from Mornelithe Falconsbane's veiwpoint.

This is the book that had several of my favorite scenes in it - the various tricks played on Falconsbane, Darkwind and Elspeth getting to know one another better - including the fashion show, and, of course, the reveal of Firesong's ancestry.

As with the previous book, there's plenty of foreshadowing going on for future books, and also lots that ties the Mage Winds books in with the earlier Valdemar novels - at both ends of the history, because we're getting a sketched outline of the events from the Mage Wars novels too. And, don't forget the other names that Falconsbane has gone by in previous lives.

At the same time, I do have some nit-picks for continuity and consistency going on as I read these books. Starting with the dyheli. In Winds of Change, they are portrayed as being rather abbreviated in how they mindspeak. However, in the Owl books, they're much, much stronger mindspeakers than that. We also see some slightly different views on Skif's background between these books and Take a Thief. Maybe I'm just more aware of it than usual given how closely together I'm reading my way through Mercedes Lackey's books.

I'm reading this for two separate challenges, the Valdemar Reading Challenge and the Hardcore Re-Reading Challenge.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Winds of Fate - Mercedes Lackey

Winds of Fate - Mercedes Lackey
Winds of Fate (Mage Winds Book One)
Mercedes Lackey
DAW Books
Copyright: 1991

The product description:
Lackey, who has enchanted readers since the publication of her first novel, Arrows of the Queen in 1987, scores another hit with the paperback release of the first book in an exciting new series. High magic had been lost to Valdemar when he gave his life to save his kingdom from destruction by the dark sorceries. Now it falls to Elspeth Herald, heir to the throne, to take up the challenge and seek a mentor who will awaken her mage abilities.
As the description is not that great, here's the jacket blurb as well:
High Magic has been lost to Valdemar centuries ago when the last Herald-Mage gave his life to save the kingdom from destruction by dark sorceries.

Yet now the realm is at risk again. And Elspeth, Herald and heir to the throne must take up the challenge, abandoning her home to find a mentor who can awaken her untrained mage abilities. But others, too, are being caught up in a war against sorcerous evil.
The Tayledras scout Darkwind is the first to stumble across the menace creeping forth from the "Uncleansed Lands." And as sorcery begins to take its toll, Darkwind may be forced to call upon powers he has sworn never to use again if he and his people are to survive an enemy able to wreak greater devastation with spells of destruction than with swords...
Yes, this is a re-read, but it's been so long ago that it might as well not be. I remembered the general course of events, but the specifics were almost new to me again. One thing I do remember though, is that the last time I tried to re-read Winds of Fate, I just couldn't get into it. Not the problem this time. Once I was past the first chapter or two, I couldn't put the book down.

I was also noticing a fair bit of foreshadowing going on as well - especially for the next series, the Mage Storms books (Storm Warning, Storm Rising and Storm Breaking). Not only foreshadowing, but little details that tied into the previous books that I hadn't really caught on to before - probably because I have never done a concentrated re-read through the whole series prior to this. It's little things mostly - the off-hand reference to Roald visiting the Plains or the mentions of Jendar for example.

Winds of Fate is the first of several Valdemar books that had black-and-white illustrations between the chapters, - in a few different styles over the series. Its also the first of six or so longer books with a smaller font-size IIRC. I like it, but unlike many of the other books in the series, I don't know if this trilogy crosses over to the YA market as well. On the other hand, I don't think this one's any more dark or violent than Arrow's Fall, so I don't really know.

This was also the first for a new style of story - alternating chapters and perspectives, where one chapter was from Elspeth's point of view and the next would be from the point of view of Darkwind - a Tayledras scout. As well, there were a few chapters from other points of view mixed in, although those were the main two.

I did get more of a feeling of the history of the world through reading Winds of Fate (and now Winds of Change, which I'm reading now) - things just seem to be a bit more fleshed out in these books, and Elspeth as a main character really grew on me.

I'm really struggling to understand why I was thinking that this wasn't one of my favorites in the Valdemar world, because I most definitely enjoyed the read this time.

I'm reading this for two separate challenges, the Valdemar Reading Challenge and the Hardcore Re-Reading Challenge.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Big And Lofty Yarns

My latest spinning-related order arrived today from Interweave:

Big and Lofty Yarns DVD
Big and Lofty Yarns
Maggie Casey
Interweave Press
Run Time: 71 Minutes
Copyright Date:2011

The product description:
When you start spinning, it seems like all you can spin are fat, lumpy yarns-then you get the hang of it and figure out how to make fine, smooth, thin yarns, and you spend the rest of your spinning career trying to figure out how to make those smooth yarns big and lofty. In this video, Maggie Casey demystifies the process, explaining just how to make miles of the soft big yarns you want to knit, weave, and crochet with. With this workshop, you will: Prepare you wool on a drumcarder. Learn how to adjust your wheel's take-up. Use the perfect drafting technique for trapping air in your yarn and getting it on your bobbin as quickly as possible. Learn how to preserve the loftiness of the yarn through plying and finishing. Maggie Casey's soothing voice and gentle encouragement are surpassed only by her spinning knowledge gleaned through years of teaching at her spinning shop in Boulder, Colorado. Let her guide you on your spinning journey to a land of big, beautiful yarns-made by you!
I ordered with it 4 ounces of raspberry colored wool roving to practice with.

The irony though, is that I've just started a 200 gram project that's going to take me a while to complete on the wheel: the finest lace-weight that I've managed to date. So, while I can watch the dvd through any time, it's going to be a while before I can put things into practice. Still, I'm looking forward to learning some new techniques.

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Amazons: Lives & Legends of Warrior Women Across The Ancient World - Adrienne Mayor

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
Copyright 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 was the book I pre-ordered back in September on the strength of a friend's recommendation. I'm really glad I did, even though it took me a while to get through it.

The Amazons: Lives & Legends of Warrior Women Across The Ancient World is the first book I've heard of to specifically examine the evidence for the existence of the Amazons that we mostly know through ancient Greek legends.

Adrienne Mayor takes us through her conclusions in an orderly and easy to understand manner, using Greek primary source material - e.g. Herodotus and also the Greek myths as well as archaeological evidence - discussing where and how the two match up, as well as where they don't. After she's covered the Greek sources, she branches out into other cultures which have similar myths and does the same with them: India, the Persians, Chinese etc - as well as the surviving myths from the cultures that spawned the Amazons themselves.

Aiding in our journey through these myths are the numerous photographs and maps scattered throughout the book. Most of them are black and white, but there is also one section of colour-plates as well.

This was definitely an interesting read that's making me take a second look at what I thought I knew about some aspects of Greek culture and myth. Overall, I also have to say that Adrienne Mayor is a very good author who transmits information clearly and in an interesting manner - see also my review of her earlier book, Greek Fire, Poison Arrows and Scorpion Bombs.

Monday, February 2, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? Feb. 2, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted each week by Sheila of the blog Book Journey.

Yes, I know I fell silent for the week this week, but it's been more or less a bust as far as finishing any books; something I thought might happen last week when I started reading Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon. I'm enjoying the read, but it's slow going - I'm only on chapter 12 right now. I've also had other things taking up my time: work and my crafting projects (but mostly work).

In terms of crafting though, I've gotten a couple more rows done on one of my shawl projects this week, and finished chain-plying the blue Merino-Silk blend. Now I've got to skein and wash it. Most of those two projects have been worked on in my daily 5-10 minutes I've challenged myself to do. Since last July, I've only missed about five days total. Otherwise I've managed to spend at least five minutes a day on some form of craft each day.

Books read in the last week: None

Books I'm currently reading:
Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon and the Amazons book by Adrienne Mayor.

Books I'm planning to read:
I refuse to start another book until one of these two has been finished.


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