Thursday, September 29, 2011

White Tiger - Kylie Chan

White Tiger (Dark Heavens book one)
Kylie Chan
Copyright: August 2011

The product description:
Action, intrigue, demons and dragons
Kylie Chan creates a fast and furious story balanced between the celestial and the mortal, the powerful and the innocent . . .
Emma Donahoe has just started her new job as nanny to Simone, the daughter of John Chen, a very rich Hong Kong businessman.
She understands that Simone may be a target for kidnappers but she does not expect to be drawn into a world of martial arts, magic and extreme danger, where both gods and demons can exist in the mortal domain.
When John and his American bodyguard, Leo, teach Emma their particular style of martial arts, they begin to realize that Emma herself is more than she seems . . . 
White Tiger is one of those unexpected books that just grabbed onto my mind and refused to let me go until I had turned the last page. I say "unexpected" because I picked up the novel on an impulse. It looked neat and I like a lot of urban fantasies. Not to mention that the setting is unusual. Maybe I just haven't read a lot of urban fantasy/paranormal novels, but this is the first one I've seen where the setting is not North America. Instead, the book is mostly set in Hong Kong.

From the first pages I just had to keep reading, to find out more about the characters and what was going to happen next. Emma's introduction to the world of her employer and his secrets worked really well for me, introducing me to a world I knew nothing about. And, knowing nothing about Chinese myth and culture is no barrier to enjoying White Tiger either. Enough is explained in the course of the book to make sense of it, and Kylie Chan has included a good glossary at the end.

The author has included something else I really like seeing in a book (though usually I make this comment about a historical novel, rather than a contemporary one): a list of sources for more information and further reading.

White Tiger is good value for your money too. It's a substantial book which took me several days to read (and believe me, I was putting a lot of my time into it). No four hour read here. Instead, it's a book that will grab you for several days and keep you intrigued and waiting for the next book in the series.

That's another bonus with this series. The second book, Red Phoenix is out now, and the third comes out at the end of next month, so it's not going to be too long a wait. Whether there's going to be more books after that, I don't know.

Right now, that doesn't matter too much to me. I just want to know what's going to happen next to the characters. Maybe I've been reading too much paranormal romance, but I've gotten into the habit of wanting everything to be resolved by the end of the book. Not happening here. Enough is resolved for a good ending, but also a lot isn't and you're left waiting for the next book. I'm still wondering about Emma's former employer, and why she keeps calling her. If you've read the books though, don't tell me. I want to find out for myself while I'm reading.

Monday, September 26, 2011

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

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

This past week I had either a really good week with reading or a really bad one. It just depends how you look at it. I got a fair amount of reading done, but none of it was on the books I said it would be last week. Now I just need to get more caught up on my reviewing.

From a previous week's reading, I finally got around to reviewing Lisa See's novel Peony In Love.

In the past week I finished reading:
St. Patrick's Gargoyle by Katherine Kurtz. Fantasy, fiction set in Dublin, Ireland. Definitely a fun, if light and short, read. Of course, I like Katherine Kurtz's novels anyway.

White Tiger by Kylie Chan. Fiction, Urban Fantasy. This was a completely different novel from the usual urban fantasies I've read. For one thing, it's set in Hong Kong and uses a completely different set of mythologies as a result. Loved it and am currently waiting for the store to get the next book in.

Changes by Mercedes Lackey. Fantasy, fiction. Changes is the third book in the Collegium Chronicles, following on Foundation and Intrigues. This is a book that I've been waiting for. Changes tied up some of the storylines from the previous two books and also set up some new ones as well.

I'm currently reading:
The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman: Historical fiction set during the Roman conquest of Judea. Not a bad read, but not my favourite so far.

Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend by Susan Orlean. Non fiction, a biography of the various dogs that made up the legend of Rin Tin Tin. Now, this is a good book!

The Mountain's Call by Caitlin Brennan. Fiction, Fantasy. I've had this one on my e-reader for a couple of months now, but more interesting is that I remember thinking about buying it when it first came out in paper a few years ago now. An interesting read, especially if you like horses.

I'm still planning on reading at least one of these from last week:
Water for Elephants by Sarah Gruen

Marley and Me by John Groban

Sunday, September 25, 2011

St. Patrick's Gargoyle - Katherine Kurtz

St. Patrick's Gargoyle
Katherine Kurtz
Ace Books
Copyright: 2002

The description from Katherine Kurtz's website:
In St. Patrick's Gargoyle, Dublin's St. Patrick's Cathedral becomes the target of an act of vandalism, and the gargoyle guardian of the building enlists the aid of an aging Knight of Malta to assist him in his pursuit of the vandals. Combining an interest in Irish history with snatches of Templar lore, the author of the Deryni and Adept series creates a story of angelic powers and demonic forces locked in an eternal struggle. Engaging characters and gentle irony add a light touch to a metaphysical drama that belongs in most fantasy collections.
St. Patrick's Gargoyle is another of Katherine Kurtz's fantasy novels set in the modern day world, somewhat along the lines of her Adept series (The Adept, The Adept: Lodge of the Lynx, The Adept: The Templar Treasure, Dagger Magic and Death of an Adept). There's all of her usual elements, along with a good sense of fun. And, some thought-provoking dialogue.

At the same time, it's got some beautifully bitter-sweet moments included and the whole book just kept me hooked the whole time I was reading it - even though I've read the book several times before.

I've seen some reviews of this book which called it more or less a tourist's guide to Dublin, and after skimming a travel guide or two to the city, I can see what they mean. On the other hand, it's something I liked about the book, not having been anywhere near Ireland ever. It was kind of neat to be recognizing the places in the tour guide descriptions from Katherine Kurtz's descriptions.

The biggest negative I can see with St. Patrick's Gargoyle is that it's a very short read. I was able to finish it in only a few hours reading time. And yet, there isn't really anything that could be added. Nor does the book really call out for a sequel. Although the ending was left open enough that one could be possible.

A wonderful, short read that I have to recommend to any fantasy lover.

Peony in Love - Lisa See

Peony In Love
Lisa See
Random House
Copyright: 2007

The product description:
“I finally understand what the poets have written. In spring, moved to passion; in autumn only regret.”

For young Peony, betrothed to a suitor she has never met, these lyrics from The Peony Pavilion mirror her own longings. In the garden of the Chen Family Villa, amid the scent of ginger, green tea, and jasmine, a small theatrical troupe is performing scenes from this epic opera, a live spectacle few females have ever seen. Like the heroine in the drama, Peony is the cloistered daughter of a wealthy family, trapped like a good-luck cricket in a bamboo-and-lacquer cage. Though raised to be obedient, Peony has dreams of her own.

Peony’s mother is against her daughter’s attending the production: “Unmarried girls should not be seen in public.” But Peony’s father assures his wife that proprieties will be maintained, and that the women will watch the opera from behind a screen. Yet through its cracks, Peony catches sight of an elegant, handsome man with hair as black as a cave–and is immediately overcome with emotion.

So begins Peony’s unforgettable journey of love and destiny, desire and sorrow–as Lisa See’s haunting new novel, based on actual historical events, takes readers back to seventeenth-century China, after the Manchus seize power and the Ming dynasty is crushed.

Steeped in traditions and ritual, this story brings to life another time and place–even the intricate realm of the afterworld, with its protocols, pathways, and stages of existence, a vividly imagined place where one’s soul is divided into three, ancestors offer guidance, misdeeds are punished, and hungry ghosts wander the earth. Immersed in the richness and magic of the Chinese vision of the afterlife, transcending even death, Peony in Love explores, beautifully, the many manifestations of love. Ultimately, Lisa See’s new novel addresses universal themes: the bonds of friendship, the power of words, and the age-old desire of women to be heard.
After reading Snow Flower and the Secret Fan for the second time earlier this year and absolutely loving it yet again, I finally gave Peony in Love a second try. I'm really glad I did. Compared to Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, this is quite a different work, almost hinging more on the fantasy side of things, and yet it fits.

I'll be honest and say I don't know very much at all about the history of the time period in question, seventeenth century China, nor about the culture. It doesn't matter though. Enough is explained through the context of the story.

This book really is about the characters - Peony, her family and her husband to be. There's also quite a bit about Chinese history and literature in here too, if I'm understanding the author's note at the end of the book correctly. One of the focuses of the story is the Chinese opera The Peony Pavilion, and it shapes Peony In Love throughout, as this is supposed to be a story about someone who wrote about the opera.

Lisa See is excellent at creating and writing her characters - I found myself getting really attached to Lily while reading Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, and the same thing happened with Peony in this book. I'm trying not to say too much that would spoil the story - there are some things about it that surprised me - probably through sheer unfamiliarity with the culture - that I don't want to give away.

Peony In Love is a great book, even if you don't know much about the setting. Perhaps not quite as good as Snow Flower, but definitely a good read and a book I'll probably end up re-reading at some point in the future.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Teaser Tuseday - September 20

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
My teaser this week:
Paddy recalled that this was the one where tourists were allowed  to view a few of the famous "mummies of St. Michan's." Though several relatively intact coffins were pushed against the wall to either side, their lids adorned with a few skulls and other assorted bones, there were three open coffins in the middle of the chamber, their heads pointed away from the doorway, and another open one beyond, set parallel to the back wall.
St. Patrick's Gargoyle by Katherine Kurtz, page 127

Monday, September 19, 2011

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? September 19th

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

The last couple of weeks I've been really bad about reading. Rather, I've been getting a fair amount of crochet done and I've gotten back into spinning in a big way. I've managed to finish the shawl I've been working on - it worked out great, and I want to do more of them in different colours! That was a pretty major accomplishment, in my mind. I've also started two more projects too. The Newport scarf from the Little Box of Crocheted Hats and Scarves is the first of those. It's done in a simple repeating shell stitch. The other pattern I've decided to attempt is the Short and Sweet jacket from the Stitch 'n' Bitch Crochet: Happy Hooker book. So far, it's not been too bad, but I'm coming up to a point where I'm not too sure what I'm supposed to do according to the pattern.

In terms of spinning, I'm back to wool on the wheel and in the last couple of days I've nearly filled a bobbin with singles.

On to the reading. A week ago, I promised to pick my next reads from a selection chosen for me by readers in the Booking Through Thursday post on the 8th.. I still haven't finished reading The Dovekeepers, so I haven't started one of the suggestions yet.

I haven't finished reading anything.

I'm currently reading:
The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman: Historical fiction set during the Roman conquest of Judea. Not a bad read, but not my favourite so far.

Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend by Susan Orlean. Non fiction, a biography of the various dogs that made up the legend of Rin Tin Tin. Now, this is a good book!

St Patrick's Gargoyle by Katherine Kurtz. Fantasy fiction, this is a book I've read before more than a few times, but I've absolutely loved it each time.

I'm planning to read at least one of these:
Water for Elephants by Sarah Gruen

Marley and Me by John Groban

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Lord of the Rings Read Along Part Two

I'm (sort of) participating in the Lord of the Rings Read Along hosted over at Little Red Reviewer and Geek Daddy. I'm saying sort of because I've read the books so many times that I don't actually have to be re-reading them at the same time anymore. It makes answering some of these questions a bit more difficult, because I'm coming at the story from a perspective where I know the whole thing. There are few surprises there for me now. It does make questions like "what were your first thoughts on ___ more difficult to answer because I simply don't remember. Although, I did re-read the Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers fairly recently and enjoy the reads.

This week's questions were:

1. What was your initial thoughts of Strider/Aragorn when Hobbits met up with him in The Prancing Pony? Did you think that he was linked with the Riders?
I don't remember anymore, to be honest. My response these days is to remember that Tolkien notes in his letters and the early drafts that apparently he didn't know who Strider was. IIRC, he was originally a hobbit named Trotter!
2.What was the biggest surprised to you during this section of the Fellowship of the Ring?
This is another question where I'm going to have to say "I don't remember".
3.Do you like that Tolkien goes in depth and tells the readers of the history events of the war that is upon the Fellowship?
That's one of the things I absolutely love about Tolkien's writings. That and all the little untold hints he leaves throughout the books.
4. How far do you think you would have lasted if you were Frodo and nearly becoming a Rider?
Probably nowhere near as long as he did.
5. As dangerous quest unfold to become, the other hobbits want to stick by Frodo til the end. Would you sacrifice yourself and stick with Frodo til the end?
I'd like to think I would but unfortunately to be honest, probably not.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

LOTR Read-along Response

I'm (sort of) participating in the Lord of the Rings Read Along hosted over at Little Red Reviewer and Geek Daddy. I'm saying sort of because I've read the books so many times that I don't actually have to be re-reading them at the same time. It makes answering some of these questions a bit more difficult, because I'm coming at the story from a perspective where I know the whole thing. There are few surprises there for me any more. Although, I did re-read the Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers fairly recently.

This week's questions are:
1. Hobbits seem to have songs for everything!  I didn't realize this was a musical. . . . how are you liking all the songs?
I actually like the songs quite a bit. Besides, they're not the only ones with poetry and songs - Tom Bombadil is a classic example. It seems as though half of his lines are in the form of poetry.
2. I love that we learn about Gollum and his past so early on. It gives a dark and foreboding (dare I say, perilous?) feeling to the whole thing. Were you surprised that the story took a dive towards the dark and scary so quickly?
I actually can't remember if it surprised me or not - I've more or less forgotten my reactions from the first time I read the Fellowship of the Ring. Now, it just seems to fit the story and I can't imagine it being any other way. Besides, as I understand things, a book needs some kind of a "hook" to pull the readers in. This seems to be that hook.
3. Tom Bombadil!  what and who is he???  If you met him in a forest, would you trust him?

Now, this is a can of worms you've opened. Everyone has a theory as to who Tom Bombadil is, and nobody has an answer. I certainly don't. I've seen discussions where one party claims he's really Iluvatar, and others that claim other things. There's a fairly comprehensive listing in this thread over at the LOTR Fanatics Forum.

I don't know that I would 'trust' him if I met him under the circumstances that the hobbits did, but I'd definitely accept his help - there don't seem to be any other options at that point in the story.
4. What did you think when Pippin, Merry and Sam told Frodo about their "conspiracy", and that they pretty much knew what he was planning from the beginning?
Loyal friends who really don't know what they're getting in to at this point. They'll find out though. And, they're friends that I'd be glad to have.
5. What's your favorite part of the book so far?
I'd have to say the bit where the horn call of Buckland rang out. That little hint of what's happening in The Shire after Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin have gone left a number of unanswered questions and hints. My true favourites though lie much farther along in The Lord of the Rings.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Booking Through Thursday - Queue

This week's Booking Through Thursday is made up of three simple questions:
What are you reading now?
Would you recommend it?
And what's next?

At the moment I'm reading Alice Hoffman's upcoming book The Dovekeepers. According to, it's due to be released on October 4th. The blurb is:

The Dovekeepers is Alice Hoffman’s most ambitious and mesmerizing novel, a tour de force of imagination and research, set in ancient Israel.
In 70 C.E., nine hundred Jews held out for months against armies of Romans on Masada, a mountain in the Judean desert. According to the ancient historian Josephus, two women and five children survived. Based on this tragic and iconic event, Hoffman’s novel is a spellbinding tale of four extraordinarily bold, resourceful, and sensuous women, each of whom has come to Masada by a different path. Yael’s mother died in childbirth, and her father, an expert assassin, never forgave her for that death. Revka, a village baker’s wife, watched the horrifically brutal murder of her daughter by Roman soldiers; she brings to Masada her young grandsons, rendered mute by what they have witnessed. Aziza is a warrior’s daughter, raised as a boy, a fearless rider and an expert marksman who finds passion with a fellow soldier. Shirah, born in Alexandria, is wise in the ways of ancient magic and medicine, a woman with uncanny insight and power.
The lives of these four complex and fiercely independent women intersect in the desperate days of the siege. All are dovekeepers, and all are also keeping secrets—about who they are, where they come from, who fathered them, and whom they love. The Dovekeepers is Alice Hoffman’s masterpiece.
 At the moment, I'm not that far into it yet, so the book hasn't completely grabbed onto me. On the other hand, that could be a bad sign that it's not going to. Still it's following on a read that I absolutely loved (Peony In Love by Lisa See), so The Dovekeepers has a bit of a tough act to follow. But, I want to read it - a couple of years ago I was able to see an exhibit on the Dead Sea Scrolls, so I want to read a bit more about the period, and I often find that reading a novel first helps.

For now, I'm going to say that yes, I would recommend it - to fans of historical fiction.

As for what's next? Why don't you suggest one for me? Here's my unread books list for this year. Books that are crossed out are in storage and therefore, not going to get read anytime soon - getting them out is more aggravation than I really want to think about any time soon. I'll make a choice from any suggestions I'm given.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Spinning, Crochet, Etc.

As I mentioned in this morning's (albeit a very late morning, so late its technically not morning at all) It's Monday! What Are You Reading? post, I've been doing a fair amount of crochet and spinning this past week. It's all thanks to the Spinner's guild table at the local fair. It's the only time of the year I get to really talk to other spinners - and there's a store there that sells fiber.

So, that always raises my enthusiasm.

Last year I bought a second spindle - along with a bag or two (actually three) of merino wool. I'm still on the first bag of that, although I've used up half a bag (I guess) of regular corriedale roving in a lovely turquoise on the wheel.

One thing I tried over the summer came from the book Get Spun. It's the only one I've tried to date from the book, though I bought some mohair locks to try spinning with for some of the other ideas in there - undyed though, so I don't know how well it will turn out. That attempt, which was the spinning plastic bags was more frustration than it was worth. It just didn't work for me, not wanting to feed through the wheel properly or wind onto the bobbin. So, that idea's a wash, but I want to try some of the others - maybe one day trying some of the ideas with beads.

At the time I wrote up my review of Get Spun, I was spinning a merino/silk blend. I have to say the spinning worked well, but one of the two hanks turned into a complete disaster - it's taken me three days to get it mostly untangled and wound into a ball - no thanks to the two kittens who managed to get their paws into it yesterday and bat it all the way around the place once. Thankfully they didn't tangle it up much, or break the strand.

In terms of crochet, I've been working on the shawl (still), it's up to row 28 now, and I've been trying to start a scarf from the Little Box of Crocheted Scarves and Hats by Denise Black. It's the Newport Scarf, and is the top right pattern in the photo. Thing is, I'm having trouble figuring out the stitches in the row, so I'm just not sure if I'm doing it right. At the moment, I'm figuring that it's going to have to wait until I can get to the local knitting/crochet group next week and see if someone can help.

At the same time, I've ripped out another project I had on the go to use the wool for one of those chain scarves - you know the type, where it's formed of loops in the shape of a chain? So, I'm attempting to remember how to knit after a year of crochet. And, I don't have a pattern.

This year's crop of buying as well is two bags of a soft blue corrriedale and the previously listed bag of mohair locks. Both of which are probably going to be spun on the wheel.

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

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

Last week wasn't as successful as I'd hoped in terms of reading, but I know exactly why that was. Two visits to the PNE with all the distractions that entails. Long term distractions from the PNE include getting re-fired-up about spinning, knitting and crochet. It happens every year that I go, talk to the spinners there and that's all I want to do when I get home - not to mention the new wool I end up buying. So, at the moment, I've spent a good part of the week detangling a hank of silk/merino I've spun earlier in the year, and also a mess from one of my previous crochet projects. Not to mention, the drop-spindle of merino I've got going right now.

Last week I read:
My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George. Children's fiction, 1960 Newberry Honour winner.

I'm currently reading:
Peony In Love by Lisa See. Fiction, history, set in 17th century China. I'm quite enjoying this read.

The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman. Fiction, history, ARC.

I have no clue what I intend to read next though.

My Side Of The Mountain - Jean Craighead George

My Side of the Mountain
Jean Craighead George
Penguin Young Readers
Copyright: 2001

The Chapters/Indigo description:
Sam Gribley is terribly unhappy living in New York City with his family, so he runs away to the Catskill Mountains to live in the woods-all by himself. With only a penknife, a ball of cord, forty dollars, and some flint and steel, he intends to survive on his own. Sam learns about courage, danger, and independence during his year in the wilderness, a year that changes his life forever.
This is a book I remember reading at least twice as a kid. And, bot times I absolutely loved it! The story is neat, being written from Sam's perspective as though we're reading the notebook he was keeping of his life in the wilderness for that year or so. Watching him gain confidence in the knowledge he had from the start as he finds that it does carry him through the year and the situations he finds himself in is just so natural.

And the friends he makes - although there's very few humans in the story, the animals more than make up for it: Frightful, the falcon Sam raises and trains to hunt for him, The Baron and also the raccoon all brought at least one smile to my face as I was reading. Not to mention the many sketches that this book is filled with. All of it has so much charm.

I don't know why it is, but so many of my favourite kids books are so old, because I also loved Gone Away Lake. My Side of the Mountain originally came out in 1960 and was made a Newberry Honor book. Despite being fifty years old now, the book didn't feel all that dated to me at all - despite the fact that a twelve-year-old boy was able to run away and live for more than a year on his own. I guess it is more than a bit unrealistic these days - at the very least, the librarian should have reported him as a run-away, and not to mention that his parents didn't seem to be too worried about him. I guess on second thought, the book is rather dated. But, it's still a great story.

When I first read My Side of the Mountain, I didn't realize there were sequels, but there are two. One of which, I knew about before I started this re-read: The Far Side of the Mountain. I have the feeling I've read the book before, but there's one after that too: Frightful's Mountain.

My Side of the Mountain is a book I'll gladly recommend for both boys and girls who are interested in the outdoors. I wonder though, if kids today might think the book is too tame compared with more modern books.

Another One You Might Like, Anassa

I saw this one while I was at work yesterday and thought of your current theme - the Year of the Superhero. This is a book that might be right up your alley:

Supergods: What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, And A Sun God From Smallville Can Teach Us About Being Human
Grant Morrison
Spiegel & Grau
Copyright: July 2011

The description:
From one of the most acclaimed and profound writers in the world of comics comes a thrilling and provocative exploration of humankind’s great modern myth: the superhero

The first superhero comic ever published, Action Comics no. 1 in 1938, introduced the world to something both unprecedented and timeless: Superman, a caped god for the modern age. In a matter of years, the skies of the imaginary world were filled with strange mutants, aliens, and vigilantes: Batman, Wonder Woman, the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, and the X-Men—the list of names as familiar as our own. In less than a century, they’ve gone from not existing at all to being everywhere we look: on our movie and television screens, in our videogames and dreams. But what are they trying to tell us?

For Grant Morrison, arguably the greatest of contemporary chroniclers of the “superworld,” these heroes are powerful archetypes whose ongoing, decades-spanning story arcs reflect and predict the course of human existence: Through them we tell the story of ourselves, our troubled history, and our starry aspirations. In this exhilarating work of a lifetime, Morrison draws on art, science, mythology, and his own astonishing journeys through this shadow universe to provide the first true history of the superhero—why they matter, why they will always be with us, and what they tell us about who we are . . . and what we may yet become.
I thought the blurb looked interesting, and then I remembered the theme of your blog for the year. Don't know if you've already seen this book or not, but thought I'd let you know anyway


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