Monday, October 31, 2011

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? - October 31 - Halloween Edition

Happy Halloween, everyone. Hope the day is full of little ghouls, ghosts and vampires if that's what you want. I've still got to carve the pumpkins and do the decorating this afternoon.

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted each week over at One Person's Journey Through A World Of Books. Thanks, Sheila for keeping this one going for so long. Seeing what people are reading each week is a neat little window into both old and new books, and very dangerous for adding to my "I'd like to read that" list.

Last week I read:
Beauty and the Werewolf by Mercedes Lackey. Fantasy fiction, the latest book in the Five Hundred Kingdoms series, it's a take-off on the tale of Beauty and the Beast.

I'm currently reading:
Blue Dragon by Kylie Chan. Fantasy, urban fantasy, fiction. The third book in the Dark Heavens trilogy. I've been waiting for this book since I finished reading Red Phoenix.

A History of The Church In The Middle Ages by F. Donald Logan. Non Fiction, History. This is one of those books that I'm reading in chunks and otherwise leaving alone, so it's rather a sporadic read to be honest. Think it's going to be sitting on the dining table for a while yet. Well written and interesting however.

I'm planning to read:
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden. This will be a re-read, because I finally got around to watching the movie version the other day.

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. Non Fiction, biography.

Dragongirl by Todd McCaffrey. Fiction, Science Fiction. Saw it in the library and picked the book up on a whim. Generally, I haven't like Todd's books as much as Anne's. Also, I'm not too sure where in his series this one sits.

Invasion by Mercedes Lackey et al. Fiction, Science Fiction. I'm actually not sure if I'm going to read this one at all. I picked it up from the library to get a better look at it though.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Two Towers Read Along Week Three

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

This week the questions are from the second half of The Two Towers and should more or less, finish the book off:
Faramir strikes me as a noble, intelligent fellow, especially concerning powers beyond his control.  Had he gone to Elrond's Council instead of Boromir, how might the story have changed?
This is one of those questions that people love to debate. There's just so many ways it could have gone - some for the better, and some for the worse, but Boromir's attempt to claim the Ring was a catalyst for so much else to happen: The Fellowship split, Frodo and Sam off to Mordor and then the others to find Merry and Pippin. But, it was that split that led to them being able to pen in Saruman. I don't think the Ents would have joined in the fight without being prompted by the two hobbits. And then, going on from there, would the Witch-King have been killed when he was? But, I don't want to go more into this right now, simply because it's getting into unread territory now

But, then if the Company had split for some reason regardless, if Frodo and Sam had run into the Rangers of Ithilien, things might have turned out very differently there without Faramir leading that group. IIRC the laws of Gondor said that Faramir should have taken the two hobbits to Minas Tirith to have their fates decided. Instead, he lets them go and even helps them. Can you imaging the consequences if that hadn't happened?

Assuming the Company hadn't been broken up, would they all have been able to remain undetected all that time the way the two hobbits did?  And, what route would they have taken to get into that terrible country? The main gates were proven to be impossible, and I think there are those in the Fellowship who would have known what they were facing if they'd opted to try the way Frodo and Sam did.

There's more I could go into but that breaks into Return of the King territory.
What did you think of Shelob and her lair? Would you willingly go in there?  Yes, I know Gollum says "this is the only way", but Frodo could have demanded they explore and attempt to find another way.
Using what time? At that point in time, they'd just had a fairly close escape from the Witch-King. And, they've just seen how well guarded the main gates were, and how impassible the mountains were. I think that was the only way they had. I wouldn't have gone in there willingly - I hate spiders, although, I'm saying that I wouldn't with knowledge they don't have.
When Sam saves Frodo from Shelob, he finds himself in the vision he saw in Galadriel's mirror.  Knowing the future isn't always as helpful as one would think, is it?
No, it's not.
Having always been a sidekick/helper of sorts, Sam reluctantly realizes he may have to become the Ringbearer. What do you think Sam will do with the Ring of Power? If you were the sidekick of the hero, and suddenly had the opportunity to become the hero, to finish the quest, what would you do with the Ring of Power?
This one I'm declining to answer as all my answers are tangled up in the events of the Return of the King.
The conversation between the two Orcs at the end was highly amusing for me.  Yes, it serves to educate Sam on Frodo's condition, and Tolkien could have just left it at that, but he didn't. The Orc's commiserating could have been any soldiers in any war.  To me, it felt like Tolkien was humanizing the enemy, instead of the traditional dehumanizing of the enemy that you usually see in war stories. What do you think?
I'd never actually thought of it like that. I like that interpretation though. I'm more used to reading that passage and trying to figure out what events the orcs are referring to, as some of the debates I've participated in use those passages to prove/disprove theories on orcish lifespans.
The book ends on a cliffhanger. Are you excited to finish up the trilogy and see how it all turns out?
Yes! I remember one time I was reading the books on a trip and I'd finished the Two Towers and then realized that I'd accidentally brought the Fellowship of the Ring along instead of the Return of the King. I had to wait until I got home again to finish the read. I don't remember what I did in the mean time though anymore.

Saturday Snapshot - October 29

Saturday Snapshots is hosted each week by Alyce of At Home With Books. This is a great little piece of fun that I'm glad to participate in.

My photo of choice for this week:
It's been a while, but I think I took this photo from a neighbor's garden. It's the very centre parts of a large poppy. Just felt like posting something bright and colourful this week - maybe because of the grey, wet and cold weather that's going on now.

New Book Arrival

Every now and again, I discover (or re-discover) an old favourite book thanks to LibraryThing. Especially thanks to the group "Name That Book". They're absolutely great for telling you what the title and author is for a book based on what you can remember about it - plot synopsis, characters etc. So far, they've helped me rediscover Barbara Hodgson's The Tattooed Map and the Gone-Away Lake books by Elizabeth Enright.

This time, I went to the group for another book that I remembered reading years ago: about a boy and a dog who end up discovering some old bones. As has become usual for this group, there was an answer within a day. And, as has become usual too, my next stop was Abe Books to find the book. The book in question is Mr. Toast And The Woolly Mammoth by Stuart Brent and illustrated by Lilian Obligado. At the same time, I discovered that the book is actually part of a series, though I don't think I ever read any of the others.

The book arrived today. Now, this is where it's neat. I don't remember the cover looking like this at all - cloth outside and no dust jacket. On the other hand, it's been years since I last saw a copy of the book. But, the neat thing is the school library card still stuck in the back of the book. The last date stamped on it is December 15, 1967! And the book looks almost new. Typically when I've had school library discards before, they're in atrocious condition. Were kids just more careful with the books back then? or was this simply not as popular a book?

Either way, I'm looking forward to re-reading this little gem.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Beauty and the Werewolf - Mercedes Lackey

Beauty And The Werewolf
Mercedes Lackey
Luna Books
Copyright: October 2011

The product description:
The eldest daughter is often doomed in fairy tales. But Bella— Isabella Beauchamps, daughter of a wealthy merchant—vows to escape the usual pitfalls.
Anxious to avoid the Traditional path, Bella dons a red cloak and ventures into the forbidden forest to consult with "Granny," the local wisewoman.
But on the way home she's attacked by a wolf—who turns out to be a cursed nobleman! Secluded in his castle, Bella is torn between her family and this strange man who creates marvelous inventions and makes her laugh—when he isn't howling at the moon.
Breaking spells is never easy. But a determined beauty, a wizard (after all, he's only an occasional werewolf) and a little godmotherly interference might just be able to bring about a happy ending.…
Beauty and the Werewolf is an intriguing addition to Mercedes Lackey's collection of titles. First of all, it's the latest book in the Five Hundred Kingdoms series, meaning that it's a re-telling and modification of a traditional fairy-tale. This time, as I'm sure the title makes clear, it's a reworking of the tale of Beauty and the Beast. However, Mercedes Lackey has also mixed in a goodly portion of Little Red Riding Hood too.

This isn't the first time she's written a story around the theme of Beauty and the Beast - there's the novel The Fire Rose, which starts off the Elemental Masters series, also a series that's tied into fairy-tale themes, if not usually so directly.

As with most modern interpretations of fairy-tales and the rest of the Five Hundred Kingdoms series, there's a happy ending - although I'm wondering this time if it's going to be as happy as it seems.

I liked the way that Elena from The Fairy Godmother reappeared in this book, tying it further into the series.

Beauty and the Werewolf was a shorter read though, only taking me a day or so to get through - however, for that time, I couldn't put the book down, I had to know what happened next.

Recommended for fans of Mercedes Lackey.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Book Rambling: It's Monday! Meme and Reading Plans

I love the It's Monday! What Are You Reading? meme that Sheila of One Person's Journey Through A World of Books hosts each week, and I participate most Mondays. It's a great way to see what people are reading each week, and to round up the book reviews.

I've been looking at my track record though and noticed something. I've got no problems with "Currently Reading" and "last week I finished reading", but my track record on the third part of the meme "What I Plan To Read" leaves something to be desired. Half of the time, or more, the books I list there, despite doing so with the best of intentions, never even get cracked open. Instead, I end up picking up something completely different.

This current week is a good example of that. I've got Asenath and Crave on the go right now - as books I'm actually reading - and I managed to get my hands on Beauty and the Werewolf, the most recent book Mercedes Lackey's written, so that's the one I'm putting the most time into right now. I also know that when Kylie Chan's latest book, Blue Dragon gets into the local store, that I'm going to be dropping everything to read that.

Some of the other participants though, seem to manage to get those entire planned lists read. That always impresses me!

I think I know what part of it is though: I've always been someone who picks up their next book on a whim, or just based on what I feel like reading: That's something you can't always know at the beginning of the week - nor what opportunities might come during the week, such as the new Steve Jobs biography I got last night.

What about you? Are you opportunistic readers, or do you plan your weeks out - and how does that affect your participation in the It's Monday! What Are You Reading? meme - if you participate, that is?

Monday, October 24, 2011

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? October 24th

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted each week over at Sheila's blog, One Person's Journey Through A World Of Books. Thanks for hosting this piece of fun each week.

I had a pretty good reading week last week, finishing several books, and even getting them reviewed right away.

Last week I read, in reverse order:
War Horse by Michael Morpurgo. Kids, Fiction. This book reminded me strongly of the novel Black Beauty. With the movie coming out around Christmas, this might well be the perfect time to read it, and War Horse was definitely a good, if quick read.

Hannah And The Spindle Whorl by Carole Ann Shaw. Kids, Fiction. Another really neat kids book. This one struck my interest on two counts: the location and the use of spinning. Definitely a book I'd recommend for girls mostly though.

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. Fiction. An intriguing story set in the Depression years around the circus. I'd been told many times to read this book, and finally did. I'm definitely glad I did so.

I'm currently reading:
A History of the Church In The Middle Ages by Donald F. Logan. History, Non fiction. Well written and interesting are the two words that sum up this book. I will admit that I'm not reading this book very diligently, but am leaving it alone for long chunks of time.

Asenath by Anna Patrico. Novel, set in ancient Egypt. Reading as an e-book, which is one of the reasons I'm not as far into it yet. Enjoying the read nonetheless.

Crave by J.R. Ward. Fiction, Paranormal Romance. The second book in the Fallen Angels series, following on Covet. Was reminded about this book and that I hadn't yet read it, when I saw the third book, Envy in the store last week. Not entirely sure what I think of it yet - I'm not getting into it as fast as I did the first books or the Black Dagger Brotherhood series though.

I'm planning to read:
Dragongirl by Todd McCaffrey. Fiction, Science Fiction. Saw it in the library and picked the book up on a whim. Generally, I haven't like Todd's books as much as Anne's. Also, I'm not too sure where in his series this one sits.

Invasion by Mercedes Lackey et al. Fiction, Science Fiction. I'm actually not sure if I'm going to read this one at all. I picked it up from the library to get a better look at it though.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Two Towers Read Along Week Two

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

This week the questions are from the second half of The Two Towers:
1.  The Glittering Caves of Aglarond; Fangorn Forest:  Which of the two would you be most excited to visit once the war was over? 
I'd have to say the Glittering Caves. Gimli's descriptions are so vivid, and what he's describing just sounds so beautiful and varied.
2.  How did you like the reunion of at least part of the fellowship at Isengard?  Did any part of it stand out to you?
Loved it. Always have. The contrast between the destroyed landscape and the hobbits' joking around just works so well. And then, there's the immediate connection between Merry and King Theoden. That's one of my favourite bits of this section. Really, there's so much going on here, including links back to the earlier bits of The Fellowship and to the end of the whole book. It's surprising what a role Pipeweed plays.
3.  What are your thoughts about Gandalf's confrontation with Saruman?
That it really shows the different styles the two wizards used. I can see where Saruman got his reputation from, and how he could have been the leader of the Council for so long. To have someone with that kind of a verbal gift working with you instead of against would be a powerful thing. But, I can also see how it would have enabled Saruman to hide his true feelings for so long too.

Gandalf's starting to show his true abilities since his return too. Every time I read this section though, I find myself wondering about the staff that both Gandalf and Saruman carry. Is the staff more than just a symbol of membership in that order? The way Gandalf speaks, it could be.

I really get the feeling in this section that Gandalf's a bit freer than he was before. Freer to show his true abilities that is, and I like it.
4.  We learn a great deal about the Palantir in this section.  How do you feel about Saruman given Gandalf's speech about the use of the Palantir?  Would you, like Pippin, be tempted to look in to see what you could see?
Perhaps I'd be tempted at first, but not after Gandalf's speech. At least, I'd hope not. I can see where the use of the palantir could be one of the factors that twisted Saruman into what he became, but I think it was mostly his pride that did that.
5.  What are your thoughts about Smeagol/Gollum in this first part of his journey leading Frodo and Sam?  For those of you who've seen the film, are you hearing Andy Serkis in your head when you read Gollum's lines?
I kind of feel sorry for Smeagol at times. He's certainly not pure evil, and there's so many times when he does something truly helpful too. There are a few points where I'm honestly going "if only", such as when Sam calls him a sneak. That, I think is the point at which any hope for him is lost. And yet, that moment is so completely Sam too, that I can't see it going any other way.

Actually, for me, I do hear a voice doing the lines, but it's not Andy Serkis. I hear Peter Woodthorpe, who did the voice of Smeagol in the BBC Radio Play version of The Lord of the Rings. Now that's a spectacular production!
6.  Sam and Frodo are not traveling in the most picturesque part of Middle-earth.  Which would you find worse, the seemingly impossible to leave mountains or the Dead Marshes?
Definitely the Dead Marshes. That place is just creepy!
7.  Tolkien introduces us to a lot of places in this section of The Two Towers, many just getting a mention in passing.  What do you think of Tolkien's place names (Minas Morgul, Isengard, the Emyn Muil, and on and on)?  Do any stand out to you?  Are there any that you don't care for?
 I'm so used to them now that I don't have any preferences either way. The names are just a part of Middle-Earth to me, and no more out of line than some of the place names here on Earth.

Saturday Snapshot - October 22

Saturday Snapshots is a meme hosted by Alyce of At Home With Books where we can post photos we've taken. It's a neat one too - as this meme is a way to get into your creative side.

This is a photo I took some time ago:
Believe it or not, the flowers were part of a bouquet and I took the photo in the middle of the afternoon. Even so, the room was too dark, so I tried it again with a flashlight as well as my flash. This was the end result.

Friday, October 21, 2011

War Horse - Michael Morpurgo

War Horse
Michael Morpurgo
Egmont Books
Copyright: 2010

The product description:
In 1914, Joey, a beautiful bay-red foal with a distinctive cross on his nose, is sold to the army and thrust into the midst of the war on the Western Front. With his officer, he charges toward the enemy, witnessing the horror of the battles in France. But even in the desolation of the trenches, Joey's courage touches the soldiers around him and he is able to find warmth and hope. But his heart aches for Albert, the farmer's son he left behind. Will he ever see his true master again? 
To be honest, War Horse is a a book I picked up on a whim, seeing a whole stack of the movie tie-in edition at work. Turns out, this is a book that's a spectacular, if quick read. Especially in the edition I was reading: the hardcover Deluxe edition, which is lavishly illustrated with little watercolour renderings of the various scenes in the book.

In many ways War Horse reminded me of the classic Black Beauty. Like that book, this one is written from the perspective of the horse, and starts while Joey is just a colt, tracing his life all the way through WWI and the various owners he had.

One of the things I really liked about this book was the way that both the English and the Germans were treated throughout the course of the story - neither side being demonized by the other or the author. There's one incident especially that I liked in the No Man's Land between the trenches. It reminded me of some of the stories I've heard 3rd hand from that war: about one Christmas when the Germans had a wind-up record player and they deliberately played the music in such a way as to share it with the English soldiers in the trench on the other side of the no man's land.

War Horse was full of little anecdotes that left me smiling throughout, as well as a few times which were utterly heartbreaking. Nonetheless, it's a great read - one I'd recommend for both older children and teens, boys and girls alike.

And, to top it off, the book is being done as a movie, directed by Steven Spielberg. The trailer looks good, and the bit of the soundtrack we hear is incredible. In short, this is one movie I'd really like to see.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Hannah And The Spindle Whorl - Carole Ann Shaw

Hannah And The Spindle Whorl
Carole Ann Shaw
Copyright: 2010

The product description:
When twelve-year-old Hannah uncovers an ancient Salish spindle whorl hidden in a cave near her home in Cowichan Bay, she is transported back to a village called Tl´ulpalus, in a time before Europeans had settled in the area. Through the agency of a trickster raven, Hannah befriends Yisella,a young Salish girl, and is welcomed into village life. Here she discovers that the spindle whorl is the prize possession of Yisella´s mother, Skeepla, a famous spinner and weaver. When Skeepla falls victim to smallpox, Hannah finally begins to open up about the loss of her own mother. Hannah and Yisella are accidentally left behind when the villagers journey to the mainland, and witness the arrival of Governor James Douglas and numerous settlers on the Hecate. As the settlers pillage the village for souvenirs, Hannah and Yisella rescue the spindle whorl and escape into the forest, pursued by the ship´s crew. The darkness of the forest leads them back to the cave, and Hannah returns to her own time with a greater understanding of herself and the history of the First Nations.
Although a story written for children aged 9-12, Hannah and the Spindle Whorl is a good read for adults too. I certainly found it to be intriguing for several reasons:

First of all, the setting. The book is set in and around Cowichan Bay for the most part, although there is one part which is set in Victoria - the Royal B.C. Museum and Fort Street areas, both of which I've been to, so it was neat to see how they were described. I find there's a special thrill to reading books that are set in places I've been to. That was a bonus, though I'd picked the book up because of the Cowichan Bay aspect.

Second, the incorporation of spinning into the story. It's one of my hobbies, though to be honest, history-wise, I'm more familiar with the ancient Greek and Roman aspects, role and legends, so to see even a little bit of how it was done on the West Coast was something I liked. I actually wouldn't have minded more details on that, but I can see why it wouldn't have been included story-wise.

The third major thing I liked about Hannah And The Spindle Whorl was that it doesn't push an agenda like some of the childrens' books I read. It just tells the story and lets things fall as they may. Carole Ann Shaw has written a whole series of neat characters, and the way things all tie in together - modern day quirks, history and discovery along with the time-travel aspect, well it all works. I'd kind of thought that the two characters being able to understand each other because of the raven might be corny, but instead it just seemed natural within the context of the story. And the whole thing left me wanting to look up more on that period of history: 1860's Vancouver Island. I'm afraid that my grade-school history lessons on that period are rather foggy these days in my memory.

Interestingly, while I was reading the book, I found that both the beginning and the end of the novel kept me absolutely spellbound, but in the middle I was able to put the book down to read other books. Regardless, I found Carole Ann Shaw's book Hannah And The Spindle Whorl to be a very good read. One I'm definitely going to recommend.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

"Waiting On" Wednesday - October 19

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill over at her blog Breaking the Spine which spotlights upcoming books that we're eagerly awaiting. I'm not a regular participant, but I find it's a great way to share my enthusiasm (and sometimes impatience) for a book that I'm unable to read yet.

My pick this week is:
Blue Dragon
By Kylie Chan
Release Date: October 25th 2011

The product description:
Martial arts, magic, demons and science
The forces of Hell are poised to strike . . .
When Emma’s relatives come to visit her, they are totally freaked out by what they learn . . . Emma’s beloved, John Chen, is a 3,000-year-old Chinese god. Not only that, John is becoming weaker by the day. Demons pursue him relentlessly, hoping to use Emma and his child, Simone, as bargaining tools against him.
Emma battles to defend Simone as John’s energy is drained by the effort of both living in the mortal world and protecting them. While Emma is nagged by doubts about her own nature, she must find the courage to go on . . . 
Blue Dragon is the sequel to White Tiger and Red Phoenix, both of which I found to be great reads, and which left me wanting more of Kylie Chan's work - not to mention wanting to find out what happens to Emma, John and Simone. Frankly, based on the previous two books, Blue Dragon is a book that I'm hoping will come into the store early. Red Phoenix did, so here's hoping.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Water For Elephants - Sara Gruen

Water For Elephants
Sara Gruen
Harper Perennial
Copyright: 2006

The product description:
An atmospheric, gritty, and compelling novel of star-crossed lovers, set in the circus world circa 1932, by the bestselling author of Riding Lessons.

When Jacob Jankowski, recently orphaned and suddenly adrift, jumps onto a passing train, he enters a world of freaks, drifters, and misfits, a second-rate circus struggling to survive during the Great Depression, making one-night stands in town after endless town. A veterinary student who almost earned his degree, Jacob is put in charge of caring for the circus menagerie. It is there that he meets Marlena, the beautiful young star of the equestrian act, who is married to August, the charismatic but twisted animal trainer. He also meets Rosie, an elephant who seems untrainable until he discovers a way to reach her.

Beautifully written, Water for Elephants is illuminated by a wonderful sense of time and place. It tells a story of a love between two people that overcomes incredible odds in a world in which even love is a luxury that few can afford.
Water For Elephants is one of those books that everyone`s been telling me to read for the last couple of years. I gave it a brief try a year or so ago, but didn't get very far that time. This time though, I couldn't put the book down at all.

The perspective of the book is neat, alternating between chapters set in the modern day, and chapters where Jacob (and therefore us) is in the circus. The first time I was reading the book, I found that a bit jarring. This time though, I found it worked, and worked really well. He really didn't have much to do anymore but remember, and we're taken along for that ride.

There are times when this book is violent and graphic, but that just adds to the colour of the time and the details of what the other characters were like. In my opinion, none of it was gratuitous and all of it fit, as unpleasant as that was.

What a tangle of interpersonal relationships made up the cast of The Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth as it was crumbling into it's end days. And all of those characters are fully fleshed out and real. There's Marlena, the star of the equestrian act, Walter, the dwarf who's main focus is his little dog Queenie, Camel, August, Marlena's husband, who's also the man who got Jacob the job he had and we can't forget Uncle Al, the circus owner. But not all of them are quite as they seem. And, the animals are almost characters themselves - the chimps, horses, bear, and all of the others. We can't forget about Rosie the elephant either. She's definitely a personality!

According to the author's note at the end of the book, Sara Gruen has used a variety of actual incidents and personalities from the 1930's circus world to make up the book Water for Elephants. She's certainly left me intrigued by the world she depicts!

One of the things though that really made the book work for me was the use of archival circus photos at the beginnings of many of the chapters. Water For Elephants is only the second novel I've read that did that. The other one was The Day The Falls Stood Still by Cathy Marie Buchannan.

Water for Elephants is definitely a book I'd recommend. Thanks everyone for recommending it to me. Now to see the movie too, and see how that compares.

Monday, October 17, 2011

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? October 17th

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

I've been working on a little crochet project during some of the time I'm supposed to be reading in this  past week - a little case/bag for my phone. I don't want to risk scratching it with the keys etc that are in my purse.

Last week I finished reading:

Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend by Susan Orlean. Non Fiction, animal story, biography, films, you name it, the book might just fit in that category, at least in part. I definitely enjoyed the read, especially as I love German Shepherds.

I'm currently reading:

Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen. Fiction. I've been saying I'd read this book and I'm glad I am now. Everyone was right. This is a good book. At the moment I'm just over half-way through and I'm loving the read.

Hannah and the Spindle Whorl by Carole Ann Shaw. Kids fiction. I really need to get this one finished, as it's probably more than due back.

Asenath by Anna Patrico. Novel, set in ancient Egypt. Reading as an e-book, which is one of the reasons I'm not as far into it yet. Enjoying the read nonetheless.

A History of The Church In The Middle Ages by F. Donald Logan. Non Fiction, History. This is one of those books that I'm reading in chunks and otherwise leaving alone, so it's rather a sporadic read to be honest. Think it's going to be sitting on the dining table for a while yet. Well written and interesting however.

I'm planning to read:

I don't know what I'm planning to read at the moment. Guess I'll just pick something up as the mood strikes me.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Saturday Snapshot - October 15

Saturday Snapshot is hosted each week by Alyce of At Home With Books. I've been seeing this meme around for a while, but this is the first time I've actually participated.
My photo of choice, Niagara Falls, comes from the trip I took a couple of years ago to Ontario. I've also used this photo in my review of Cathy Marie Buchannan's novel The Day The Falls Stood Still.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend - Susan Orlean

Rin Tin Tin: The Life And The Legend
Susan Orlean
Simon and Schuster
Copyright: September 27, 2011

The product description:
He believed the dog was immortal.
So begins Susan Orlean’s sweeping, powerfully moving account of Rin Tin Tin’s journey from orphaned puppy to movie star and international icon. Orlean, a staff writer at The New Yorker who has been hailed as “a national treasure” by The Washington Post, spent nearly ten years researching and reporting her most captivating book to date: the story of a dog who was born in 1918 and never died.
It begins on a battlefield in France during World War I, when a young American soldier, Lee Duncan, discovered a newborn German shepherd in the ruins of a bombed-out dog kennel. To Duncan, who came of age in an orphanage, the dog’s survival was a miracle. He saw something in Rin Tin Tin that he felt compelled to share with the world. Duncan brought Rinty home to California, where the dog’s athleticism and acting ability drew the attention of Warner Bros. Over the next ten years, Rinty starred in twenty-three blockbuster silent films that saved the studio from bankruptcy and made him the most famous dog in the world. At the height of his popularity, Rin Tin Tin was Hollywood’s number one box office star.
During the decades that followed, Rinty and his descendants rose and fell with the times, making a tumultuous journey from silent films to talkies, from black-and-white to color, from radio programs to one of the most popular television shows of the baby boom era, The Adventures of Rin-Tin-Tin. The canine hero’s legacy was cemented by Duncan and a small group of others—including Bert Leonard, the producer of the TV series, and Daphne Hereford, the owner of the current Rin Tin Tin—who have dedicated their lives to making sure the dog’s legend will never die.
At its core, Rin Tin Tin is a poignant exploration of the enduring bond between humans and animals. It is also a richly textured history of twentieth-century entertainment and entrepreneurship. It spans ninety years and explores everything from the shift in status of dogs from working farmhands to beloved family members, from the birth of obedience training to the evolution of dog breeding, from the rise of Hollywood to the past and present of dogs in war. Filled with humor and heart and moments that will move you to tears, Susan Orlean’s first original book since The Orchid Thief is an irresistible blend of history, human interest, and masterful storytelling—a dazzling celebration of a great American dog by one of our most gifted writers. 
My own German Shepherd.

I've never seen a Rin Tin Tin show or movie, and yet I still knew of him, at least a little bit. I think everyone does. But, when I had the chance to read Susan Orlean's book, I jumped at the chance. My family has had German Shepherds off and on as long as I can remember, and I love the breed. In fact, at many points in the story I was remembering my own dog, Pixie, pictured at the right.

The book, Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend is about many things, not just the original Rin Tin Tin dog, but his owner, Lee Duncan, his successors, the movie business, and American culture from the First World War to today, and even the history of the German Shepherd breed, for the legend of Rin Tin Tin spans them all. Rin Tin Tin was clearly so many things to so many people, including that dream of the perfect dog every kid wanted.

That's basically why I went for the book though: because I love German Shepherds. And, it was everything I wanted in a dog story as well as being so much more. There's the story of the actual Rin Tin Tin, which is wound about the story of his owner, and then the building of the legend which lives even today. This book is also the story of dogs in the movies as it included brief anecdotes about other dogs starring in the early silent  movies, the evolution of Lassie etc.

I really liked the layout of the book as it broke into the author's experiences as she was researching the history of Rin Tin Tin, Lee Duncan and his family, along with her reminiscences of Rin Tin Tin and the meaning he'd held for her as a child. One of the best moments (and one which reminded me of my dog when we first got her) was when she was delivering a puppy to it's new family. It's almost the same feelings I had about my dog then when we first got her. The way the whole book was laid out really shows how Rin Tin Tin was both a real dog and also a symbol of so much more for the last half a century or so, with all of the personal meanings that have been attached to him by different people.

Recommended for any dog-lover and maybe even for aficionados of the old silent movies and early TV series as there's plenty to fascinate both in Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend. I certainly enjoyed the read and found the way the book continued past the life of the original dog into the legend he became to be a nice change from the inevitable sad ending to most animal stories.

This was an ARC copy that I was sent to read, but all the opinions are mine.

Monday, October 10, 2011

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? - October 10th

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!

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

Last week I finished reading:
Red Phoenix by Kylie Chan. Fantasy fiction. The sequel to White Tiger and just as good of a read. This was a book I almost didn't want to finish reading because it means I'm waiting for the next book to come out.

I'm currently reading:
Asenath by Anna Patrico. Fiction set in ancient Egypt. Sent to me as a review e-book. So far, I'm quite enjoying it, although I've only just started the read.

Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend by Susan Orlean. Non Fiction. Well, I'm nearly finished with this one and it's been a good read.

A History of the Church In the Middle Ages by F. Donald Logan. Non Fiction, History. This book is pleasantly reminding me of my history textbooks. The book starts with the Roman Empire and goes from there. Clearly laid out, in-depth and intriguing.

I'm planning to read:
Water for Elephants by Sarah Gruen. Maybe I'll actually get to this one this week. I know it's been on the list long enough!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Red Phoenix - Kylie Chan

Red Phoenix (Dark Heavens book two)
Kylie Chan
Copyright: September 2011

The product description:
Immortals, martial arts, gods, and demons
The intrigue deepens as the demon threat closes around mortals and gods alike . . .
When Emma Donahoe took the position of nanny to John Chen’s daughter Simone, she never expected to be caring for the child of a Chinese god, and she didn’t expect that demons would want him dead. Nor has moving from nanny to partner in his heavenly realm made Emma’s life any easier. Now a powerful race of demons has been created to hunt her and her family from Hong Kong to Europe. And she and Simone have become targets— pawns to be used in a deadly celestial power play. 
Red Phoenix is the sequel to the book White Tiger which I was raving about last week. It's also one of the novels I was talking about in my last post: Wanting and Not Wanting To Finish A Book. Well, I finally finished reading it, and I'm now waiting very eagerly for Blue Dragon, the third book in the trilogy to be released. Less than a month to wait...

Kylie Chan has created a wonderful world in this series. One that's very different from the standard Urban Fantasy type place - mostly because she's using the mythology from a completely different part of the world. There's no Fae or Werewolves here, instead it's nearly all from the oriental mythologies. And, you don't have to be familiar with it at all. I'm certainly not. Enough is explained within the context of the story to understand what's going on and who's who.

Red Phoenix picks up where White Tiger left off more or less and thoroughly sucks the reader in. Throughout the book, we find out more details about John and also about the other characters from the first book. It all melds together wonderfully, although it's hard to say anything without risking spoilers for both books. Suffice it to say that some of the questions I had from the first book were answered, but others were left for later, and new questions were raised to which I really want answers.

I'm definitely going to recommend this book and I can't wait for the next one, as I've already said.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Book Rambling: Wanting and Not Wanting To Finish A Book

This post has been inspired by the book I'm currently reading: Red Phoenix by Kylie Chan. It's one of those weird book where I want to know what happens next, and yet I also don't want to be reading it a whole lot - even though I do. And, no that's nothing to do with the story at all.

I've figured out what it is though. It's because the next book isn't out yet and I know I'm really going to be wanting to read it. The same thing happened when I finished reading the previous book in the series: White Tiger. The mark of a book that's captured the reader is that it won't let you go even after you've finished it. I was checking on a daily basis to see if the stores had this one yet. So, I want to prolong the enjoyment of reading this book for as long as I can and yet find out what happens.

I've had the same thing happen with Elizabeth Moon's latest series of books too. I'm now waiting for the third book in that series, Echoes of Betrayal ( link). But, I distinctly remember not wanting to turn the last page on Kings of the North.

The great thing and problem (it is both at the same time) is that once I've finished a book like this I find it really hard to settle to another book afterwards. I've had the same feeling repeatedly after finishing the Lord of the Rings. It feels as though I'm wandering around lost for a while sometimes. In that case though, it's because it's such a satisfying read. In these ones it's more because I have to know what happens next, and I can't.

I guess I should just grit my teeth and settle in for the wait. It's going to be the only answer. At least, in this case it's less than a month away. I'm sure I'm not the only one with this feeling.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Changes - Mercedes Lackey

Changes: The Collegium Chronicles Book Three
Mercedes Lackey
Daw Books
Copyright: September 22, 2011

The product description:

Enter the thrilling third volume in the epic Collegium Chronicles.
In Mercedes Lackey's classic coming-of-age story, the orphan Magpie pursues his quest for his parent's identity with burning urgency-while also discovering another hidden talent and being trained by the King's Own Herald as an undercover agent for Valdemar. Shy Bardic Trainee Lena has to face her famous but uncaring father, one of Valdemar's most renowned Bards. And Healing Trainee Bear must struggle against his disapproving parents, who are pressuring Bear to quit the Healers' Collegium because he lacks the magical Healing Gift.
Each of the three friends must face his or her demons and find their true strength as they seek to become the full Heralds, Bards, and Healers of Valdemar. 
Changes is the sequel to Foundation and Intrigues, which are also a good place to start reading the whole world of Valdemar. This one picks up where the last one left off, and resolves a couple of the storylines, while still leaving some of the main lines from the previous books unresolved.

Like a lot of Mercedes Lackey's books, I think that the Collegium Chronicles series is just as readable for the YA market as it is the general fantasy segment of the population. I know I've said it before, but when I was first introduced to her books, I found a few of them in the YA area of the library. This series is one that reads like those.

Suffice it to say, I'm already looking forward to the next book in the series. This one was a fairly quick read (or rather, I settled in to read first thing in the morning early and kept going until I had turned the last page), but there are times when that's what you need.

With Mercedes Lackey's novels, especially the ones set in Valdemar, I know I'm going to be getting a good read, no further questions needed.

I recommend Changes, but you'll probably need to read the first two books in this series first, just to know what's going on. These books don't summarize the previous ones in any way.

Monday, October 3, 2011

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? - October 2nd

It's time for another week's summary of what I've been reading/doing with It's Monday! What Are You Reading? hosted by Sheila of the blog One Person's Journey Through A World Of Books. Thanks for trying to keep us all on track with our reading each week.

This has been a week for buying books rather than reading them to be honest. I don't believe I finished a book at all. Nor have I finished reviewing last week's reading. I still need to write up a review for Mercedes Lackey's novel Changes.

Rather, I bought the following list:
Red Phoenix by Kylie Chan
Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire
The Axe and the Oath by Robert Fossier (which I bought at the bookstore, then the other day found at the used bookstore, much to my frustration)
A Short History of the Middle Ages by Barbara Rosenwein (the author of Reading The Middle Ages Volume II which I read a couple of years ago)
Pausanias Guide to Greece Volume One Translated by Peter Levy
The Ruin of the Roman Empire: A New History by James J. O'Donnell
Atlas of Medieval Europe

Most of these are historical books, which I have a bad habit of buying but not reading.

What I'm currently reading:
Red Phoenix by Kylie Chan. Fiction, urban fantasy, the sequel to White Tiger. This is a book that I'm absolutely loving, just as much as I did the previous book. It's also a fairly long read.

Hannah and the Spindle Whorl by Carole Ann Shaw. Kid's novel and one I'm enjoying reading because I'm familiar with the area it's set in. Also I'm intrigued by spinning, so to see a novel where it's hopefully featured is neat.

What I plan to read:
The same two books that were on my list the last few weeks. And maybe the Seanan McGuire book.


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