Friday, October 30, 2009


I've decided (last minute, as usual) to participate in NaNoWriMo again this year.

The goal is 50,000 words between November 1 and November 30. I have to be insane, as I haven't even fully figured out a basic story idea yet.

Either way, it's going to cut into my reading time somewhat, so there may be a few fewer reviews and posts here over November. Still, it's a fun challenge, and I loved doing it last year.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Ariel - Steven R. Boyett

Steven R. Boyett
Ace Fantasy
Copyright Date: 1983, Second Ed. 2009

The back cover blurb:
It's been five years since the change...

Five years since the lights went out, cars stopped in the streets, and magical creatures began roaming the towns and countrysides of Earth.

Pete Garey, a young loner who survived the Change and the madness that followed, spent two years wandering and scavenging the near-deserted cities and towns alone - until the day he encountered an injured unicorn. He nursed her back to health and named her Ariel, and an unlikely friendship was formed.

But unicorns are rare, even in a Changed world - and the power of their magic is highly prized.

A necromancer in New York City covets that power and will stop at nothing to posess Ariel, dead or alive. Sought by bounty hunters both human and inhuman, Pete and Ariel decide to make a stand against their enemy - and journey to confront the dark sorcerer in the ruined heart of the city he has made his own twisted kingdom.

I'll be honest and admit that I ended up abandoning Ariel about half-way through the book. That said...

When I bought the book, back at the beginning of September, I thought it looked really promising. After all, there were review quotes by S. M. Stirling and Patricia Briggs on the cover, and they're two authors I really like. Not to mention, the storyline seemed fairly similar to that of Dies The Fire, another book I've really enjoyed.

When I started reading Ariel, it seemed really neat too. However, I kept finding little things that niggled at the storyline such as: Five years, and the stores are still useful resources for things such as food? Surely others had the same ideas you did Pete. Not to mention, wouldn't even canned things have gone bad?

Still able to find clothes and shoes in decent condition? Same point as above. It seems that the introduction of magic has done a fair amount for pollution and some of those problems. A third is that there seems to be very little evidence for the destruction caused by the Change. Yes there are the abandoned things that no longer work: cars, boats etc, but there seems to be little else.

I just couldn't find myself connecting to the characters to any great extent either.

On the other hand, the author's note at the end of the book (yes, I did skip to the end, once I'd figured I was abandoning the story) was extremely interesting. In it, Steven Boyett detailed the process of writing Ariel, and also the changes in his thoughts about the book over the years since it was first published back in 1983.

I did like the descriptions of learning to fight with a sword.

Overall, I just didn't feel that the book "worked" the way Dies The Fire did, and I couldn't stop comparing the two books. Others may well have a different opinion though.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Fiery Cross - Diana Gabaldon

The Fiery Cross
Diana Gabaldon
Copyright Date: 2005

The back cover blurb:
New York Times bestselling author Diana Gabaldon mesmerized readers with her award-winning Outlander novels, four dazzling New York Times bestsellers featuring 18th-century Scotsman James Fraser and his 20th-century time-traveling wife, Claire Randall.

Now, in this eagerly awaited fifth volume, Diana Gabaldon continues their extraordinary saga, a masterpiece of pure storytelling and her most astonishing Outlander novel yet....

The year is 1771, and war is coming. Jamie Fraser?s wife tells him so. Little as he wishes to, he must believe it, for hers is a gift of dreadful prophecy ? a time-traveler?s certain knowledge.

Born in the year of Our Lord 1918, Claire Randall served England as a nurse on the battlefields of World War II, and in the aftermath of peace found fresh conflicts when she walked through a cleftstone on the Scottish Highlands and found herself an outlander, an English lady in a place where no lady should be, in a time ? 1743 ? when the only English in Scotland were the officers and men of King George?s army.

Now wife, mother, and surgeon, Claire is still an outlander, out of place, and out of time, but now, by choice, linked by love to her only anchor ? Jamie Fraser. Her unique view of the future has brought him both danger and deliverance in the past; her knowledge of the oncoming revolution is a flickering torch that may light his way through the perilous years ahead ? or ignite a conflagration that will leave their lives in ashes....

The Fiery Cross is the fifth book in the saga of Jamie and Claire Fraiser, which began in Outlander, and it is the sequel to Voyageur.

I'll note right off that I've read the book before, but that was back when it first came out in hardcover. I'd tried several times since then, but ended up putting The Fiery Cross down in favor of other books that were more convenient to read (generally meaning paperbacks and pocketbooks for reading on the bus). As a result, this read was more like I'd never read the book before than it was a re-read.

Diana Gabaldon has a knack for description of all sorts, be it clothing, settings, behavior or any number of facets of life. She's got the details down. I can't say if they're all accurate, but the characters and the way the live in the late seventeen-hundreds "feels" right to me.

Each of the characters has his or her own style, and it shows in the sections written from their perspectives. Claire's perspective is the only one written differently though: her sections of the book are written in the first person. Not something I generally care for, but it works well for Diana Gabaldon's writing style.

I know it's not really a character, but one of my favorite characters was Adso the cat. Just about every time he appeared on the pages, I could see what he was doing, based on the behavior of my own cat (or things my cat would dream of doing, like making off with a turkey wing fresh off the bird).

The story in The Fiery Cross resolved itself nicely, but not too tidily, and leaving plenty of material to be told in A Breath of Snow And Ashes, which I have, but have yet to read. I want to read it, but it's going to have to wait for a week or two.

If you're going to read this series, start with Outlander and go from there. It's a great series, but also a sizeable time commitment, as the books are around a thousand pages each. But, it's a thousand pages of great writing.

Monday, October 26, 2009

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? - October 26

This is the Monday meme hosted each week by J. Kaye of J. Kaye's Book Blog. Looking at it, there are times when I feel a bit amazed, going "How can one person read that many books in a week?". Especially when I've only read one or two books, like this week.

Books completed this week:

Be #1 on Google by Jon Smith. Yes, I finished it, but I'm not reviewing it until I've tried out a few of the suggestions in the book.

Books I'm currently reading:

The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon. Yep, this one is still going strong. On the other hand, I should finish it this week, as the bookmark is well and truly past the half-way mark.

Books I intend to read this week:

One of the following list:
  1. Lady of Sherwood by Jennifer Roberson
  2. Lady of The Glen by Jennifer Roberson
  3. Lady of the Forest by Jennifer Roberson
  4. Confessions Of A Radical Industrialist by Ray Anderson

Saturday, October 24, 2009

LibraryThing Interview with Allison Hoover Bartlett

Allison Hoover Bartlett is the author of The Man Who Loved Books Too Much, which is my current favorite non-fiction read this year (still got two months to go, before I can claim it as my favorite for the year).

LibraryThing has posted a fascinating interview with her, and there's also an Author Chat going on at this time. Both are well worth checking out (as is her book for that matter).

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

In Celebration Of Lammas Night - Mercedes Lackey and Josepha Sherman

In Celebration of Lammas Night Created By Mercedes Lackey
Editor Josepha Sherman
Baen Books
Copyright Date: 1996

The back cover blurb:
The hour of choosing is at hand...

In "Lammas Night" a young weaver of spells is persuaded to bide a while in a small village, to make their village spells and keep the Dark at bay. As part of their persuasion, the villagers have given her the house of her predecessor. Not knowing that his spirit lingers there, she unwittingly breaks the spell that laid him. Now, a half-seen phantom courts her. He is either her lover for all time, the only one she will ever know - or a wicked spirits' seeming, the aim of which is to entrap her in a fate unspeakable.

Will she call him to her or banish him forever? Now is the time of choosing, the Witching on Lammas Night. Magic Dark and Light are in perfect balance. She begins the casting of her spell...

If you're a fan of Mercedes Lackey or Andre Norton you'll find that In Celebration of Lammas Night is filled with familiar names: Ellen Guon co-wrote the books of Bedlam's Bard with Mercedes Lackey. Josepha Sherman, the editor of this book, worked with her on A Cast Of Corbies. Holly Lisle co-wrote When The Bough Breaks, one of the Serrated Edge series, and also worked with Marion Zimmer Bradley. Susan Shwartz has written with Andre Norton in the past. The list goes on. It's full of authors I recognized: S. M. Stirling and Jody Lynn Nye are two other well known authors who have stories in this anthology.

As explained in the introduction, all of the stories in this volume were written to answer the question left to the listener in Mercedes Lackey's song of the same title. Despite the similarity in plotlines thus required, a number of the stories are quite original.

I particularly liked Diana L. Paxon's Lady of the Rock, which is set in the (moderately) modern "real" world, and has some interesting twists. Also Susan Shwartz's story A Choice Of Dawns, which was set in a more standard "fantasy" world. Yes, some of the stories do seem fairly stereotyped, but they're definitely still good reads.

Many of the stories have a 'feel' that I have trouble describing. I think it's the use of some of the terminology, such as Lammas Night, itself. It's "mandated" by the setting of the stories and the original song, but the terms, I think bring a certain set of expectations to the table, and some of the stories didn't quite work with it.

Anyway, this is a book I read for the Clear Off Your Shelves challenge.

The Really Old Classics Challenge

The Really Old Classics Challenge is a good one for any Pre-Printing Press Challenge participants still around.

It's also relatively easy to complete, as you only have to read one work dating to before 1600 AD. The challenge dates are between November 2009 and February 28, 2010.

There are some other options, such as the "Classicist" certification:

Optional “Classicist” certification: Become a “classicist” by reading four works written before 1600 A.D. between November 2009 and February 28, 2010.

Extra credit: For a little extra fun, also read a retelling of a classic work. It could be a retelling of the work you read for the first part of the challenge or it could a retelling of any other classic work.

Personally, I'm not going to attempt "Classicist". At least, not this year.

Monday, October 19, 2009

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? - October 19

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted each week by J. Kaye of J. Kaye's Book Blog. It's a lot of fun and a way to keep on track of your reading.

It's definitely been a slowish week for me.

Completed books for the week were:

The Day The Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan. No review posted yet, as it's been promised to Royal Reviews first. However, by the time I can post it here, I should have sorted through my photos from my trip and have some Niagara photos to add (although I'm not entirely certain of what one or two of them are of).

Bad Moon Rising by Sherrilyn Kenyon. This is the most recent of the Dark Hunter series of novels. A good read, but not my favorite of the series to date.

In Celebration Of Lammas Night created by Mercedes Lackey and edited by Josepha Sherman. This is an anthology of stories that are various resolutions for the unresolved song Lammas Night written by Mercedes Lackey. Read for my take on the Clear Off Your Shelves Challenge.

Books in progress:

The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon. This has turned up here before, and I rather think it'll be on this list for a while yet. I'm enjoying it, but it takes a while to read.

Gems in Myth, Legend And Lore Revised Edition by Bruce G. Knuth. Don't know that I'll complete this one as it's a library book, but I'm seriously thinking of hunting it down on abebooks to add to my collection. It's turning out to be very interesting.

Books I plan to start this week:

Mirror of Destiny by Andre Norton or The Scent of Magic also by Andre Norton. Interesting. says they're part of the Five Senses series. Does anyone know what the other books in the series are?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Booking Through Thursday

Just what I needed to discover, another meme.

Anyway, the question being asked this week on Booking Through Thursday is stunningly appropriate for me right now.

When’s the last time you weeded out your library? Do you regularly keep it pared down to your reading essentials? Or does it blossom into something out of control the minute you turn your back, like a garden after a Spring rain?

Or do you simply not get rid of books? At all? (This would have described me for most of my life, by the way.)

And–when you DO weed out books from your collection (assuming that you do) …what do you do with them? Throw them away (gasp)? Donate them to a charity or used bookstore? SELL them to a used bookstore? Trade them on Paperback Book Swap or some other exchange program?

I'm trying to prune down my library right now (and not having too much luck at it either). I try to pare it down every now and again, taking a couple of boxes to the used bookstore two or three times a year. However, a move is likely coming up in my future, so I'm really trying to trim things down. Regardless, this line describes my library perfectly: "Or does it blossom into something out of control the minute you turn your back, like a garden after a Spring rain?"

I guess the way I go about getting rid of the books doesn't exactly help either. The bookstore gives me credit back, and I usually end up taking up to a box of books back home (generally it's fewer books than I took to the store though). Said used bookstore has a really good history section and an even better science fiction/fantasy one. Library discards go to who-ever will take them.

The other thing not helping is my tendency to buy books and then not read them. I keep going "I could get rid of this....but....but I haven't read it yet and it still looks interesting/could be useful/is by an author I love..." and the book ends up back on the shelf.

Bad Moon Rising - Sherrilyn Kenyon

Bad Moon Rising
Sherrilyn Kenyon
St Martin's Press
Copyright Date: 2009

The description:
Fang Kattalakis isn't just a wolf. He is the brother of two of the most powerful members of the Omegrion: the ruling council that enforces the laws of the Were-Hunters. And when war erupts among the lycanthropes, sides must be chosen. Enemies are forced into shaky alliances. And when the woman Fang loves is accused of betraying her people, her only hope is that Fang believes in her. Yet in order to save her, Fang must break the law of his people and the faith of his brothers. That breech could very well spell the end of both their races and change their world forever.

The war is on and time is running out...
I love the Dark-Hunter series Sherrilyn Kenyon has been writing. Bad Moon Rising is the most recent addition, just being released in hardcover this past August.

Finally one of the loose ends of Night Play, the fate of Fang, is tied up. I'd been wondering about that since I first read the aforementioned book. Fury's story is told in one of the short stories Kenyon has written, but nothing more had been said about Fang.

His story, told in Bad Moon Rising begins just before the events of Night Play and spans the timeframe of several of the books, making reference to events in them. For instance, the story of Wren, told in Unleash The Night is mentioned from Fang's perspective.

This is, honestly, something I found a bit confusing, at least at first. So far when I've read the books in the Dark-Hunter series, they've more or less followed one on the next in order. Here we are, jumping back in the timeline quite a ways and running parallel to the other books. The story is also the somewhat more complicated storyline as seen in the most recent books (Acheron etc.), rather than the more individual story of the earlier ones.

Although this is the story of Fang Kattalakis, its also just as much the story of Aimee Peltier, the lone daughter of the bears who run Sanctuary. That meant that rather than the scattered references to Sanctuary and how it was run, we really got a good view of the running of the bar. Kind of neat to see that different view on the Were-hunters and their lives. I also liked the greater insight into how the Were-hunter women factored into their society. So far, nearly all the Were-hunter main characters we've seen had been male.

Still, it's a romance novel, which means that you know that somehow, the characters are going to get their happy ending, no matter how unlikely it seems at times. And, this book really had me wondering how the author was going to be able to get them together in the face of everything. Bear and Wolf? Parental Disapproval? Outside Plotting? All of those are factors and major plot points in the story.

This whole series is mind-candy, if violent at times. Still, it's a favorite series for me, and in Bad Moon Rising we revisit some of my favorite characters. I do recommend this whole series if you're a fan of the paranormal romance genre, and I'm eagerly waiting for the next installment in this series.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Newly Awarded!

JT Oldfield of Bibliofreak just notified me that she's given me the Humane Award.

The rules for the award are:

This award is to honor certain bloggers that are kindhearted individuals. They regularly take part in my blog and always leave the sweetest comments. If it wasn’t for them, my site would just be an ordinary book review blog. Their blogs are also amazing and are tastefully done on a daily basis. I thank them and look forward to our growing friendship through the blog world.

Nominate 10 bloggers you feel deserve the Humane Award.

Will seven do?
  1. J Kaye of J. Kaye's Book Blog. She turns up regularly with something interesting and inspiring.
  2. Marcia of The Printed Page. Host of Mailbox Mondays
  3. Marg of Reading Adventures.
  4. April, who I just discovered runs the Good Books and Good Wine blog.
  5. Wendi B of Wendi's Book Corner.
  6. Jennifer of Rundpinne. Interesting name, but does it mean anything?
  7. Shanra of Libri Touches.

Book Rambling: Reading Habits

Something I've noticed since January, when I really started working with this blog is that my reading habits have changed, and I'm wondering if this has happened to other who blog about the books they read.

I used to re-read books all the time. Now, as much as I'd like to do that, I don't feel like I should any more. I feel like I have too many books I should be reading instead of something I've read before, especially if I've read it in the previous year (such as the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs or the Black Dagger Brotherhood series by J.R. Ward).

I probably didn't help things by putting together my unread books list. Actually, I gave myself a bit of a shock when I created that list. I'd known I'm rather addicted to buying books and not reading them, but I hadn't realized the problem was that big!

Challenges don't actually help, either. I'm finding that (other than a challenge looking only for a specific quantity of books read, like the 100 Books Challenge at LibraryThing) they just add another layer of obligation.

Now, I'm starting to wonder if any of this is the reason I'm having trouble finishing the books I start right now (I will note that my spinning wheel is getting a lot of use these days, and I've started knitting a bit more lately). Or, it could just be the weather and seasons having an effect.

Aside from grumbling about not wanting to read anything at the moment (which I've also heard from other bloggers recently), have you found that your reading habits changed when you started blogging about books?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Lack of recent posts update

No, I haven't fallen off the face of the earth, or anything similar. I'm just having a bit of trouble actually finishing books these days. Currently in the line of books in progress:
  1. Cathy Marie Buchanan's The Day The Falls Stood Still (This will get finished. The review has been promised to Royal Reviews)
  2. Diana Gabaldon's The Fiery Cross (I've tried to re-read this book off and on a few times since it came out in paperback. No dice. Still, I have A Breath Of Snow And Ashes waiting for me to finish this one)
  3. Bad Moon Rising by Sherrilyn Kenyon (Almost finished, and a good thing! It's a library Speed-Read and due back in a day or so)
After those, absolutely nothing on my shelves is calling my name. Perhaps the mythology book I borrowed from the library...

Defenders of the Scroll - Shiraz

Defenders of the Scroll
Copyright Date: 2009

The description:
A teenage boy.A dark wizard.A mystic scroll. And the fate of a world hangs in the balance. . . When Alex "the Axeman" Logan is pulled from his world to help young princess Dara save her kingdom from the Shadow Lord, he thinks there has been a mistake. He's a teen guitar player close to failing 11th grade, not some defender of the realm. All he has are some school books, his wits, and his love of fantasy movies. Overnight his life is history. Alex must confront the Shadow Lord and his minions when he is thrust into a land that has changed from a magical paradise to a barren, hopeless, helpless realm invaded by a dark army. But Alex is not alone. He has the help of Dara, a magic scroll, and a band of unlikely companions drawn from his own history books: a hardened Roman Legionnaire, a swift Japanese Samurai, a mighty African Warrior, a fiery Amazon Archer, and a spirited Shaolin Monk. Can Alex become more than he believes and lead his small band of Defenders to the Hall of Shadows, the birthplace of the Shadow Lord? The fate of the realm and everyone in it rests on him.

This is in many ways an absolutely spectacular book. Each page is set on the background of a rolled scroll, which is a little detail I've never seen done before. And yet, despite the darker background, the text is still clear and easy to read. Also spectacular are the full page illustrations of the events and adventures the characters go through.

I said that I thought the book was marketed to the Young Adult segment of the population when I first got it. Now, having read Defenders of the Scroll, I'd like to revise my guess a bit. It's definitely geared to teens and young adults, but also, I think, to the nine to twelve year old set.

The characters are an interesting mix, even though some of them felt fairly stereotyped at the beginning of the book. They soon develop (mostly) out of that though, and start to become their own characters. I like the way Alex becomes more aware of reality (despite the fact he's in a fantasy realm). I think he becomes a better person for it too.

Some of the characters are definite surprises, making you think one thing, while something entirely different is going on.

This book does have a sequel, something that wasn't even hinted at anywhere (until the last page), and as a result, leaves the story and many questions completely unresolved. Despite this, I found Defenders of the Scroll to be quite a good read, and I think the book deserves the many awards it has won. It's certainly the most original fantasy I've read in a while.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Mailbox Monday - October 12

Happy Thanksgiving to all Canadians today.

Mailbox Mondays are hosted by Marcia of The Printed Page each week. She warns of the dangers of participating (namely book envy and an ever growing TBR pile), but I choose to ignore the dangers.

Anyway I only got two books this week, both ones I bought:

Gwenhwyfar: The White Spirit
Mercedes Lackey

The description:
Gwenhwyfar moves in a world where gods walk among their pagan worshipers, 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..
The second book was:

The Black Ships
Jo Graham Product Description:
The world is ending. One by one the mighty cities are falling, to earthquakes, to flood, to raiders on both land and sea.

In a time of war and doubt, Gull is an oracle. Daughter of a slave taken from fallen Troy, chosen at the age of seven to be the voice of the Lady of the Dead, it is her destiny to counsel kings.

When nine black ships appear, captained by an exiled Trojan prince, Gull must decide between the life she has been destined for and the most perilous adventure -- to join the remnant of her mother's people in their desperate flight. From the doomed bastions of the City of Pirates to the temples of Byblos, from the intrigues of the Egyptian court to the haunted caves beneath Mount Vesuvius, only Gull can guide Prince Aeneas on his quest, and only she can dare the gates of the Underworld itself to lead him to his destiny.

In the last shadowed days of the Age of Bronze, one woman dreams of the world beginning anew. This is her story.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Book Rambling: Memory And Anticipation

This was inspired by my rediscovery of Elizabeth Enright's Gone-Away Lake books.

Do you find that sometimes you remember a book as being better than it turns out to be when you re-read it after a long period of time?

I'm sure that I've discovered that in the past, but I can't remember any firm examples where memory and anticipation combined have painted a book as being better than it turned out on reading. Both recent times it has not been the case.

So far the two books I've rediscovered through the LibraryThing Name That Book group have turned out to be as good as I remembered, if not better. It actually surprised me a bit as one of the books was a children's book. Often reading those as an adult, I find it hard to get into the story as I did when I was the book's target age.

On the other hand, I don't know how many times I've bought a book I'd never read before thinking "this is going to be great" and been disappointed. Sometimes even from authors I've loved many times before with their other books. I'm reading one of those now actually, although it's not an author I've read before.

I don't know though, if it's that the anticipation of a good read has built the book up beyond where it actually is, or if I was simply looking forward to something the book is not. In the cases where the book was something I'd read a long time previously, I start to wonder if I'd misremembered the story. It doesn't always happen though. Most of the time a book I've been looking forward to turns out to be as good as I'd expected/hoped, if not better.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Geisha, A Life - Mineko Iwasaki

Geisha, A Life
Mineko Iwasaki and Rande Brown
Washington Square Press
Copyright Date: 2003

The description:
No woman in the three-hundred-year history of the karyukai has ever come forward in public to tell her story -- until now.

"Many say I was the best geisha of my generation," writes Mineko Iwasaki. "And yet, it was a life that I found too constricting to continue. And one that I ultimately had to leave." Trained to become a geisha from the age of five, Iwasaki would live among the other "women of art" in Kyoto's Gion Kobu district and practice the ancient customs of Japanese entertainment. She was loved by kings, princes, military heroes, and wealthy statesmen alike. But even though she became one of the most prized geishas in Japan's history, Iwasaki wanted more: her own life. And by the time she retired at age twenty-nine, Iwasaki was finally on her way toward a new beginning.

Geisha, a Life is her story -- at times heartbreaking, always awe-inspiring, and totally true.

Geisha, A Life was recommended to me when I read Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden a few months back. I finally got around to borrowing it from the library (it was on the recently returned shelf) on an impulse last week.

It was an interesting book, I have to say, although the similarities to Memoirs Of A Geisha were very strong. Geisha, A Life is written by Mineko Iwasaki, who was one of the top Geisha throughout her career. As a result, it's an enlightening window into that segment of Japanese society, albeit the top level of the society.

I've seen a few comments about how unrealistic it was for Mineko to be able to decide at such a young age that being a Geisha is what she wanted to do. I disagree. I had a friend who decided at the age of four that he wanted to be a violinist. And he succeeded. Perhaps it's unusual, but not impossible.

There is a sense in this book that Mineko is part of a rapidly disappearing society, which makes for an interesting atmosphere.

Geisha, A Life was an interesting read, and I may have to go hunting for more books on the subject. Memoirs Of A Geisha caught my imagination, and this book has only whetted my interest even more. A world where an adult can get by without any of the normal skills? Money and it's value? Cooking (the disasters Mineko manages to create are just plain amusing), etc.

I know very well, that although this is a world I find interesting to read about, I wouldn't want to live in it. Mineko lives a life of privilege, but from the start, she's been at the top of her society. How different was it for less fortunate Geisha? That's one thing this book (and, for that matter Arthur Golden's novel) doesn't really go into.

Mailbox Monday - October 5

Mailbox Monday is kindly hosted by Marcia of The Printed Page. She warns (accurately) that this meme can lead to massive TBR piles too. Read on at your own risk :).

I got off fairly lightly this week, at least compared to last week.

No books came in the mail, and I only bought three:

Order in Chaos by Jack Whyte:
The description:
Order in Chaos begins just prior to Friday the thirteenth of October 1307, the original Day of Infamy that marked the abrupt end of the Order of the Templars. On that day, without warning, King Philip IV sent his armies to arrest every Templar in France in a single morning. Then, with the aid of Pope Clement V, he seized all the Temple assets and set the Holy Inquisition against the Order.

Forewarned at the last minute by the Grand Master himself, who has discovered the king’s plot too late to thwart it, Sir William St. Clair flees France with the Temple’s legendary treasure, taking with him several hundred knights, along with the Scots-born widow of a French Baron, the Lady Jessica Randolph. As time passes and the evidence of the French King’s treachery becomes incontestable, St. Clair finds himself increasingly disillusioned and decides, on behalf of his Order, to abandon the past. He releases his men from their “sacred” vows of papal obedience and leads them into battle as Temple Knights one last time, in support of King Robert Bruce at the battle of Bannockburn. And in the aftermath of victory, he takes his surviving men away in search of another legend: the fabled land, mentioned in Templar lore, that lies beyond the Western Ocean and is known as Merica.
The bookstore had a signed copy on the shelf, and I couldn't resist.

Born of Night by Sherrilyn Kenyon
The product description:

In the Ichidian Universe, The League and their ruthless assassins rule all. Expertly trained and highly valued, the League Assassins are the backbone of the government. But not even the League is immune to corruption . . .

Command Assassin Nykyrian Quikiades once turned his back on the League—and has been hunted by them ever since. Though many have tried, none can kill him or stop him from completing his current mission: to protect Kiara Zamir, a woman whose father’s political alliance has made her a target.
As her world becomes even deadlier, Kiara must entrust her life to the same kind of beast who once killed her mother and left her for dead. Old enemies and new threaten them both and the only way they can survive is to overcome their suspicions and learn to trust in the very ones who threaten them the most: each other.

Winter Moon: Moontide\Heart Of The Moon\Banshee Cries by Mercedes Lackey, Tanith Lee and C. E. Murphy
The product description:
In an isolated land where the lure of the "Moontide" leads to shipwrecks, a woman is torn between obeying her father or her king. When she chooses to follow a Fool, she discovers magic she'd never expected… at a price that might be too high….
World Fantasy award winner Tanith Lee
Struggling under the curse of a dead comrade, Clirando, a warrior priestess unready to face the powers trapped within her, must face "The Heart of the Moon" to reveal what has been hidden….
C.E. Murphy
In "Banshee Cries," ritual murders under a full moon lead Jo Walker to confront a Harbinger of Death. Maybe this "gift" she has is one she shouldn't ignore— because the next life she has to save might be her own!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

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

I know, it's not Monday yet (at least not in my current time zone), but I'm writing this one now anyway. Maybe I'll actually get the final review for the week's books up tomorrow this way.

Anyway, It's Monday! What Are You Reading is kindly hosted each week by J. Kaye of J. Kaye's Book Blog.

This past week I finished reading the following books (I got horribly off track from what I said last week):

Gone Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright: A children's book, but a very good one. It's a Newberry Honor book too. What got me reading it now was I remembered enough details to post a query to the LibraryThing Name That Book Group and they identified it and it's sequel.

Return to Gone Away by Elizabeth Enright: The sequel to Gone Away Lake. I liked it just as much as the first book, too.

Geisha, A Life by Mineko Iwasaki: an autobiography that was very reminiscent of Memoirs Of A Geisha, the novel by Arthur Golden. It was also the third library book I picked up this week. Definitely an interesting read if you're interested in Japan and Japanese culture. I have to get the review written and posted soon.

Books I'm reading now:

Defenders of the Scroll: I'm just over two hundre pages in now. It's a children's/teens fantasy. I'm enjoying it, especially the lavishly done illustrations. I'd bet that if I posted this meme on Monday (my time-zone), I'd have this book in the completed section instead.

The Day The Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchanan: Set around Niagra Falls in 1915, this looks like a very good book. I've only just started reading it now though so I can't say yet. I do like the historical photos that are at the beginnings of most of the chapters though.

Books I intend to read:

I don't want to set this in stone at the moment. I will say I've joined the Clear Off Your Shelf Challenge with a threshold of 50% though.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Return to Gone-Away - Elizabeth Enright

Return To Gone-Away
Elizabeth Enright
Original Copyright Date: 1961

The description:
Summer has a magic all its own in Elizabeth Enright's beloved stories about two children and their discovery of a ghostly lakeside resort. These two modern classics are once again available in Odyssey/Harcourt Young Classic editions, but now with handsome new cover art by Mary GrandPré to complement Beth and Joe Krush's original interior illustrations.

Return to Gone-Away is the sequel to Elizabeth Enright's book Gone-Away Lake, which I reviewed here a couple of days ago.

At the end of the that book, Portia and Julian had found one of the abandoned houses that had been set away from the old lake and shut up very tightly - the Villa Caprice. When they showed it to their parents, the adults started discussing the possibility of buying the old house from the government.

At the beginning of Return to Gone-Away, it turns out that they managed to do so. This is the story of the family's rebuilding the place over the summer, the discoveries that Portia, Julian, Foster and their friends make while doing so, and more stories and memories from the two residents of the old houses by the lake.

No violence or inappropriate language, and yet there's a wonderfully fun and sweet story. Beautifully illustrated as well by Beth and Joe Krush, just as the first book of the pair was.

The characters are just as interesting this time too: Portia's still a bit of a tomboy, Julian's still set on becoming a scientist (and well on his way there already, given his collecting habits). Minnie and Pin are still as eccentric as ever, but wonderfully nice to the kids and their families.

Despite being half a century old, Return to Gone-Away isn't especially dated at all. Although, I can't think that any parent today would let their kids wander around an abandoned house the way these kids do. Mold, mildew, and what if the place collapsed. Lawsuit city! It was definitely a more relaxed time when children were freer to do their own thing all day (at least in the summer).

The book is marketed for children from nine to twelve years of age. If their reading is up to it, I'd bet that younger children would like both Gone-Away Lake and Return To Gone-Away as well. Certainly older readers are sure to get a smile out of the books. I know I have.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

And the Winner Is...

And the winner is...

The winner of the draw for this wonderful bookshelf is Angela!

Congratulations! I'm sending out the e-mail now.

Gone-Away Lake - Elizabeth Enright

Gone-Away Lake
Elizabeth Enright
Harcourt Young Classics
Original Copyright Date: 1957

The back jacket cover description:
Summer has a magic all its own.

When Portia sets out for a visit with her cousin Julian, she expects fun and adventure, but of the usual kind: exploring in the woods near Julian's house, collecting stones and bugs, playing games throughout the long, lazy days.

But this summer is different

On their first day exploring, Portia and Julian discover an enormous boulder with a mysterious message, a swamp choked with reeds and quicksand, and on the far side of the swamp...a ghost town.

Once upon a time the swamp was a splendid lake, and the fallen houses along its shore an elegant resort community. But though the lake is long gone and the resort faded away, the houses still hold a secret life: TWo people who never left Gone-Away...and who can tell the story of what happened there.

They say "don't judge a book by it's cover." However, the cover alone is all you'll need to know that Gone-Away Lake is a good book: the final deciding criteria is the Newberry Honor medallion printed on it. I've found that that award is almost a guarantor of a good children's/teen's read.

It's been over sixty years since this book was first published, and let me tell you: the story has not suffered over that time. Gone-Away Lake is one of those timeless stories that's great for both children and adults. There's no violence or inappropriate language at all, yet the story will keep you turning pages (at least it will if you like a quiet excitement and mystery).

The book is wonderfully illustrated with plenty of partial pages and even full page illustrations in black and white line drawings, all of which are charming and add to the story enjoyment.

This book has a bit of a funny story for me. I first read it years ago, and I loved it then, but over the years the book vanished, and I forgot the author, title and everything but the storyline (that I discovered last night, I'd remembered with great detail). Over on LibraryThing the Name That Book Group managed to identify the book for me, and let me tell you! it's at least as good as I'd remembered. And, there's a sequel, which I don't think I'd ever read.

I've been told that Gone-Away Lake is suited for Grades 5 and up, so the targeted audience is definitely the nine to twelve year old age group. Personally, I think boys and girls will like it equally (or at least they might have when the book was first written. Now, it may well suit girls a bit more than boys).

Elizabeth Enright, the author, had a knack for descriptions that are extremely visual, but unusual. In this book I came across herds of furniture, swamps that looked like cat's fur and many other, similar descriptions that were different, yet made me see exactly what the author intended. Aside from the story, those descriptions may be my favorite thing about Gone-Away Lake.

Highly recommended for everyone nine and up. Adults too, especially if you're looking for a quick read that will leave you smiling.


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