Sunday, September 24, 2017

Arrows Flight - Mercedes Lackey

Arrow's Flight - Mercedes LackeyArrow's Flight
Mercedes Lackey
DAW Books
Copyright: 1987
978-0886773779

The amazon.com product description:
Follows the adventures of Talia as she travels the land as a Herald of Valdemar in the second book in the classic epic fantasy Arrows trilogy

Talia could scarcely believe that she had finally earned the rank of full Herald. Yet though this seemed like the fulfillment of all her dreams, it also meant she would face trials far greater than those she had previously survived. For now Talia must ride forth to patrol the kingdom of Valdemar, dispending Herald's justice throughout the land.

But in this realm beset by dangerous unrest, enforcing her rulings would require all the courage and skill Talia could command—for if she misused her own special powers, both she and Valdemar would pay the price!
Arrow's Flight is the sequel to Arrows of the Queen, Mercedes Lackey's introductory book in the world of Valdemar. It's also a book I've read and re-read many times. The most recent re-read can be found here. I should also note that I chose to re-read this one now for the Valdemar Reading Challenge that I run every year.

Either way, the last few times I've picked up Arrow's Flight, I've found more and more that there are parts of the book that irritate me a bit - mostly the fact that much of it seems to be misunderstanding central - and yet, each of those misunderstandings seems to build logically off the of the last. Of course, there are also plenty of amusing moments and we see Heralds on circuit in detail.

There were a few details that had me going "how is this supposed to work?" on this read through, one of which was the "fumigation bombs" that Kris and Talia use in the waystations. I couldn't help but think of the possibility of one setting the place on fire inadvertently if it landed in the wrong place/something had been knocked over and the like. Other than that, as someone else pointed out, much of the book is two people talking about a third person not currently with them - mostly foreshadowing for the third book.

Other than that, it was neat to see the Queen relaxing, and to get a first glimpse of Eldan, who we see primarily in parts of By The Sword, and also IIRC in Owlsight. I have to say, this is also the book that makes me want to hear some of the music described - namely Sun and Shadow. Think I'm going to have to head for YouTube to see if I can find some recordings of this or some of the other music that goes with the world of Valdemar. It's a bit hard to believe, but I've been reading these books for more than twenty years now, known about the music for a while, but never taken the time to go hunting for any of it before.

Arrow's Flight is definitely a "middle book" if you know what I mean, and sets up some of the situations for the third book, Arrow's Fall. Still, it's a read that I enjoyed, and I'm quite disappointed that part of the cover of my copy fell apart on this read. And I've since discovered that part of the cover on my copy of Arrow's Fall is missing too - I'm a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to the condition of my books.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Arrows of the Queen - Mercedes Lackey

Arrows of the Queen - Mercedes LackeyArrows of the Queen
Mercedes Lackey
DAW Books
Copyright Date: 1987
978-0886773786

The amazon.com product description:
Follows the adventures of Talia as she trains to become a Herald of Valdemar in the first book in the classic epic fantasy Arrows trilogy

Chosen by the Companion Rolan, a mystical horse-like being with powers beyond imagining, Talia, once a runaway, has now become a trainee Herald, destined to become one of the Queen’s own elite guard. For Talia has certain awakening talents of the mind that only a Companion like Rolan can truly sense.

But as Talia struggles to master her unique abilities, time is running out. For conspiracy is brewing in Valdemar, a deadly treason that could destroy Queen and kingdom. Opposed by unknown enemies capable of both diabolical magic and treacherous assassination, the Queen must turn to Talia and the Heralds for aid in protecting the realm and insuring the future of the Queen’s heir, a child already in danger of becoming bespelled by the Queen’s own foes. 
The very first Mercedes Lackey I ever read if my memory's not playing tricks on me (I know the date is more or less correct as I remember the waits for the third of the Gryphon set and also for the later Mage Storms books to be published), back in the mid '90's. I've been hooked ever since! I remember initially borrowing this trilogy (Arrows of the Queen, Arrow's Flight and Arrow's Fall) from my local library and renewing it twice (I wanted to re-read the books right away). At any rate, I chose to re-read this one now for the Valdemar Reading Challenge I've been running again this year.

Arrows of the Queen was the first book Mercedes Lackey wrote in this world and it is still one of the best entry-points I think. We, along with Talia, get introduced to the basic concepts of how this world and the country of Valdemar work, along with a brief history of it. In some ways it's a bit idealistic, but not by too much - I could wish more of the countries in the "Real World" worked as well as Valdemar seems to.

When I was borrowing Arrows of the Queen and the other Valdemar novels from the library, this trilogy was shelved with the YA books. I still think that it's equally as good a read for the teen audience as the adult fantasy readers. For the most part there's nothing too, too graphic in them, and many of the issues that Talia and the other characters face may resonate with younger readers - though I wouldn't suggest much younger than teens.

Like most of the other Valdemar-based novels, this is one that I can nearly always come back to and enjoy no matter how I'm feeling.

All of what I said here has been said previously in my earlier review of this book, found here. Honestly, I expect I'll be saying it again in some future year too. I've lost count of how many times I've re-read this one.

Friday, September 1, 2017

The latest book to join my collection - The Oxford Inklings

The newest book arrival to join my Tolkien collection turned up yesterday.
The Oxford Inklings - Colin Duriez
The Oxford Inklings
Colin Duriez
Lion Hudson
Copyright date: 2015
978-0745956343

The amazon.com product description:
A unique account of one of history's most intriguing literary groups, which will find itself on the reading list of every serious Tolkien, Lewis, or Inkling fan
The Inklings were an influential group, along the lines of the Lake Poets or the Bloomsbury Group. Acclaimed author Colin Duriez explores their lives, their writings, their ideas, and, crucially, the influence they had on each other. Examining the clear purpose behind the group while celebrating its diversity and lack of formality, Duriez explains how this eclectic group of friends, without formal membership, agenda, and minutes, could have a program that shaped the publication and ideas of the leading participants. The Inklings met weekly for many years in Oxford, to discuss and read their writings—conversation was as important to them as writing—and so the city of Oxford, and its pubs where conversations were borne out, feature, as does the Christian faith of the defining members, which influenced them greatly. C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien were at the group's center, but who else was involved, and why do Owen Barfield and Charles Williams matter so much? The Oxford Inklings explores the complex and fascinating interactions of the group, including the women on the fringes, such as Dorothy L. Sayers and Lewis's wife, Joy Davidman.
I have to admit, I'm curious about this book. Mostly though, I want to see how it compares with Humphrey Carpenter's The Inklings. I've long considered his Tolkien biography to be the gold standard as it were - though I do own other biographies, I just haven't gotten around to reading them yet.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

The Inherited - Lily Burlington

The Inherited - Lily BurlingtonThe Inherited - Book 1
Lily Burlington
Inkitt
Copyright Date: September 9, 2017
B0753S3X57

The amazon.com product description:
One second Catherine believes that she is a normal girl, the next she finds herself betrothed to a Prince. Together they are thrust into a world of political intrigue, ancient oaths, & deadly mystery.

All Cat wants is to make it through her final exams and to get into a good university but that is put on hold when two men show up on her doorstep and tell her she is the last descendant of an ancient and forgotten royal bloodline. Not only that, but they offer her the chance of a lifetime trip to spend the summer living it up in castles and yachts off the coast of France. The only hitch is that she has to be a brooding prince's arm candy.

A summer of parties and beaches changes faster than the tides when old secrets begin to be unearthed and blood binding decrees are called upon.

Can truth and love survive when the path to the throne and crown is riddled with deception and daggers?
First of all, I want to note that I got an ARC for this book through Inkitt in return for a review. That said, on with the review.

The Inherited - book one is definitely a "first book". There are plenty of loose ends left for the rest of the series. Right off the bat, it reminded me of The Selection by Kiera Cass. It's a quick read, but, for the most part, it kept my attention. However, there was one issue that honestly should have been caught before it got to this stage. First of all, while the description above calls the main character Catherine, all through the actual book she's called Winnifred or Fred. Her mother's name also changes through the book. It's a minor thing, but I have to admit that it's definitely a bit jarring.

In spite of that, this was a very readable book, and I wouldn't mind finding out what's going to happen in the next one. It definitely seems as though most of the meatier plots of this book got left to be resolved in future titles. Also, I found that the characters grew on me a bit as the book progressed. I also found it very refreshing to not have a love-triangle set-up for once.

Like The Selection, The Inherited reads to me like a teen/Young Adult book, and I'd recommend it to that age group.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Reading - albeit not reviewing

I know I've been quiet when it comes to reviewing books for the last few months. I've been doing a bit of reading nonetheless. Just not reviewing. In part that's because I've been getting more work of late - and it's hard enough to find time to read, much less put together some thoughts on the books I've been reading. Also, I've been doing a bit of camping and traveling over the summer too.

Anyway, to try and play catch-up with my books, here are some of the books I've been reading over the summer. I will admit to having a bit of a problem with starting books and not finishing them. I can tell you that doesn't help when it comes to reviewing too.

Terry Fox - Leslie ScrivenerTerry Fox: His Story
Leslie Scrivener
McLelland and Stewart
Copyright: 2000
978-0771080197

The Amazon.com product description:
Terry Fox, the one-legged runner from Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, made an indelible impression upon people across Canada and around the world. An outstanding athlete with a stubborn and competitive spirit, he lost his leg to cancer at 19, but said “nobody is ever going to call me a quitter.”

On April 12, 1980, Terry Fox set out from St. John’s, Newfoundland to begin the run across Canada that he named the Marathon of Hope. His ambition was to raise a million dollars for cancer research. It wasn’t easy. Initial support from communities varied from terrific to nothing at all. His prosthetic leg was painful to run on, and there were always traffic and extreme weather conditions to deal with. But, by the time he reached Ontario – a journey of more than 3,000 kilometres – word of his achievement had spread, and thousands cheered him and followed his progress. Terry’s spirits soared, and now he hoped to raise $22 million dollars – one dollar for every Canadian. He succeeded in this ambition, but the Marathon of Hope ended near Thunder Bay, Ontario on September 1, 1980. The cancer had spread to his lungs, and, after running 24 miles in one day, on the next he could run no further.

When cancer finally claimed his life in 1981, Canada mourned the loss of a hero, but the Terry Fox Marathon of Hope lives on. The Terry Fox Foundation raised more than $17 million in 1999, and support for the event nationally and around the world is growing.
I read this book after my husband recommended it to me and I really have to pass this recommendation along. It's a very well-written book that captures the attention right off and doesn't let go. It is something of a quick read however. At least I found that to be the case.

The Mists of Avalon - Marion Zimmer BradleyThe Mists of Avalon
Marion Zimmer Bradley
Ballantine Books
Copyright: 1984
978-0345350497

The amazon.com product description:
In Marion Zimmer Bradley's masterpiece, we see the tumult and adventures of Camelot's court through the eyes of the women who bolstered the king's rise and schemed for his fall. From their childhoods through the ultimate fulfillment of their destinies, we follow these women and the diverse cast of characters that surrounds them as the great Arthurian epic unfolds stunningly before us. As Morgaine and Gwenhwyfar struggle for control over the fate of Arthur's kingdom, as the Knights of the Round Table take on their infamous quest, as Merlin and Viviane wield their magics for the future of Old Britain, the Isle of Avalon slips further into the impenetrable mists of memory, until the fissure between old and new worlds' and old and new religions' claims its most famous victim.
I think this book was my first major exposure to the variations of the Arthurian stories. It's certainly shaped my impressions of how the story should go ever since. All I know at the moment is that it had been at least ten years or so since I'd last read it (or any of the other books in the Avalon saga). High time really. Now I kind of want to re-read Mercedes Lackey's take on the story - also from a woman's point of view.

The Ship Who Searched - Anne McCaffrey and Mercedes LackeyThe Ship Who Searched
Anne McCaffrey and Mercedes Lackey
Baen Books
978-1451638738

The amazon.com product description:
Special 20th Anniversary Edition, with a new introduction by Mercedes Lackey.  A beloved classic of romantic space adventure returns.  A novel of Anne McCaffrey’s Brainship series.  A young woman becomes paralyzed and must become a brainship—and find her Brawn, her human soul mate, so that she can discover a cure for her illness.

Tia Cade is a headstrong, smart, and very normal girl—until she contracts a terrible illness that leaves her with the bare semblance of life. Tia’s only hope: to become the oldest person ever to train to be one of the legendary star travelers, the brainships  But now that Tia is free of her ravaged body, there still remains the task of finding the right partner to be her Brawn, the human element every brainship requires. And when the disease that debilitated Tia threatens thousands more, selecting a Brawn who is her true soul mate may allow Tia to find the origin of the terrible plague—and perhaps even a cure.

20th Anniversary edition featuring a new introduction by Mercedes Lackey. 
The Ship Who Searched is my favorite of the whole Brainship series. Perhaps it's the way archaeology is woven through the story in this one that helps catch my attention. Not to mention the main character herself. Either way, this is the one that I end up re-reading the most often.

1633 - David Weber and Eric Flint1633
Eric Flint and David Weber
Baen Books
Copyright: 2003
978-0743471558

The amazon.com product description:
 AMERICAN FREEDOM AND JUSTICE
VS. THE TYRANNIES OF
THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY

The new government in central Europe, called the Confederated Principalities of Europe, was formed by an alliance between Gustavus Adolphus, King of Sweden, and the West Virginians led by Mike Stearns who were transplanted into 17th-century Germany by a mysterious cosmic accident. The new regime is shaky. Outside its borders, the Thirty Years War continues to rage. Within, it is beset by financial crisis as well as the political and social tensions between the democratic ideals of the 20th-century Americans and the aristocracy which continues to rule the roost in the CPE as everywhere in Europe.

Worst of all, the CPE has aroused the implacable hostility of Cardinal Richelieu, the effective ruler of France. Richelieu has created the League of Ostend in order to strike at the weakest link in the CPE's armor—its dependence on the Baltic as the lifeline between Gustav Adolf's Sweden and the rest of his realm.

The greatest naval war in European history is about to erupt. Like it or not, Gustavus Adolphus will have to rely on Mike Stearns and the technical wizardry of his obstreperous Americans to save the King of Sweden from ruin.

Caught in the conflagration are two American diplomatic missions abroad: Rebecca Stearns' mission to France and Holland, and the embassy which Mike Stearns sent to King Charles of England headed by his sister Rita and Melissa Mailey. Rebecca finds herself trapped in war-torn Amsterdam; Rita and Melissa, imprisoned in the Tower of London.

And much as Mike wants to transport 20th-century values into war-torn 17th-century Europe by Sweet Reason, still he finds comfort in the fact that Julie, who once trained to be an Olympic marksman, still has her rifle . . .
One for the alternate history fans out there... This is the second book in the series, following on 1632. Which is followed by many more books in the series as well as anthologies of short stories, all by different authors. The two books I've read feel pretty well researched and thought through. I'm going to suggest giving them a try some time.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

On the Shelf? Or on the Desk? - Reference works for Indexing

I've kept a more or less running list of my indexing-related reference works along with links to reviews for many of them on the Books and Resources for Indexers page here on my blog.

Here, I'm briefly noting the books I've found myself turning to to the most often on the subject, now that I've been indexing for a few years.

Side note as well: When I say "on the desk", for the most part I mean stacked on the floor around my desk-chair where I can reach the book easily. Right now, I've got two such stacks going :)

Indexing Names - Ed. Noeline BridgeI'm going to start with the book Indexing Names  edited by Noeline Bridge. When I'm working, this book spends more time on my desk than on the shelf - to the point where most of the time this book ends up staying on my desk - and I do actually mean "on the desk". I've also ended up buying a second copy in e-book format for times when I'm working away from my desk.

My original review can be found here.

In short, Indexing Names is a compilation of articles from the international journal The Indexer, each of which covers a different aspect of indexing names, be it names from specific cultures, such as Dutch, French, or ancient and medieval names. This is a book I honestly think is one that should be on any indexer's shelf in some form or another.

The Webster's New Biographical Dictionary. Yes, this is an older book and therefore is missing a lot of the newer names - and even quite a few older ones. Still, it's worth having on the shelf. Personally I find it faster to try looking in here first, and only afterwards go online to get answers. Most often I'm using it to find a first name to go with a surname or to find a name to go with a title. Frequently the Webster's New Biographical Dictionary is also useful for sorting out first names from last names so I can then invert for use in the index.

As I noted, this is an older book, and therefore it's pretty inexpensive.

Chicago Manual of Style - 16th EditionThe Chicago Manual of Style. This book covers far more than just how to index, but I must admit that that is the part of the book I use the most often. Right now, I have the 16th edition, but I understand that there is a seventeenth edition coming out in the near future (the beginning of September). Should be interesting to see what kind of changes it suggests for indexing standards.

Most but not all publishers use one of the recent editions of this book to set out their requirements for index formatting, so it's a good idea to have a copy (or more than one for the different versions) on the shelf. Like Indexing Names, which I've mentioned above, the Chicago Manual of Style has sections covering the indexing of names from different languages, titles and all sorts of little details that come up now and again in the process. Different methods of alphabetizing too, to name another example.

Indexing Books - Second Edition - Nancy MulvaneyHowever, my first "go-to" for any indexing-related question is still Nancy Mulvaney's Indexing Books Second Edition. I've reviewed it previously on my blog. From reminders of how to determine index lengths (also known as interpreting the publisher's instructions) to formatting the locators for footnotes and endnotes, she covers most topics related to book indexing thoroughly. There are some areas where updates could be made, however, for the most part, this is still the most thorough and readable book on indexing I've seen to date. This book in conjunction with the Chicago Manual of Style answers about 80-90 percent of my questions (most of the rest are generally software-specific or name-related).

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Signs of Obliviousness

Despite the amusing title, I'm absolutely serious about this one - and furious too!

Really it's two issues, though the second one grows out of the first.

Every time. Every time I am in a park - regional, provincial or national - I see people ignoring the posted signs.

"PLEASE KEEP OFF THE RE-VEGETATED AREA"
The signs are posted, the area is clearly fenced off - at least from the path side - I'm slightly willing to cut some slack when it comes to people crossing from the other side. The beach continues along past the re-vegetated area with no access paths - but it's not clearly marked from that side. I've managed to do it once without realizing right away. In my defense, I think the tide was coming in pretty quickly too. However, I've also seen people just hop over the fence to go wander in that area - kids chasing the rabbits, or people not wanting to walk all the way back to the proper beach access path from the washrooms. The other day I even saw some people with bicycles on the wrong side of that fence! And if someone confronts a person doing that, they're likely to get told to F*** *** and mind their own business. I've seen that very response - and it makes me feel very uncomfortable about speaking up when I see this kind of behavior.

"NO DOGS ALLOWED ON THE BEACH BETWEEN THESE DATES"
Inevitably I'll see dogs running freely on the beach, off leash with their owners throwing balls or sticks. Ask them about it and the response is usually "I didn't see the signs". Said signs are placed at every access path. How could you not see them? Perhaps you just didn't want to see them?

Same thing is true for the signs that say "ALL DOGS MUST BE LEASHED".
Or, you'll hear "My dog is well behaved and doesn't need to be on a leash". Which suggests that the owner doesn't think that the rules need to apply to them.

The other one - one I haven't seen in person yet, but have definitely seen evidence for is people ignoring the "NO BICYCLES" signs along the trails. It's kind of hard to disguise the tire-tracks left behind in the mud, so I know this sign is another frequently ignored one.

Those are all bad enough. Here is the one that has me finally going ahead with this rant.

I live in British Columbia. This year we're having a real problem with forest fires all across the province. There's a fire ban in place for nearly all of the province. All the parks have clearly posted signs to say "NO FIRES" and also "NO SMOKING"  at the entries to each trail and also posted along the trails. I was out two days ago enjoying a wonderful hike up in the mountains two days ago - except that as I came along the route back, I was stuck behind a group who insisted on smoking - despite the signs. There were four of them, and only two of us, so I didn't feel comfortable about speaking up. Perhaps I should have anyway. I could see the cigarettes in their hands, and most definitely smell the smoke!

They're not the only ones though. Despite clear announcements of the fire ban, people are still lighting campfires! I just can't fathom the attitude.

Fire Restrictions Ignored By Campers
Ignored Fire Ban and Evac
Some Campers On The B.C. Coast Ignoring Open Fire Ban Despite Interior Wildfires
Campfire Ban Ignored
B.C. officials to investigate after firefighters reportedly breach campfire ban

And those are just a selection of articles on the topic. I just can't understand people sometimes. We're seeing the devastation caused by fires all around the province - not to mention more of them in the USA. It's bad enough when those fires are caused by lightning. There's not a lot we can do about that. But to risk causing more fires through human stupidity?

I sincerely hope that nobody reading this blog condones behavior like this, but I won't apologize for my attitude towards it all.

I am so sick and tired of the obliviousness to clearly posted signs and rules, either because people don't think they should apply to them, or they think they can get away with breaking the rules - sadly this is probably true all too often. I'm tired of it. Tired of going to the beach and seeing the remains of fires. Tired of hearing people in campgrounds stamping around in the brush to find wood to burn - when the rules clearly say it's not allowed. Tired of seeing dogs chasing birds in areas where dogs aren't allowed off leash. Tired of seeing unauthorized trails ground into the parks by people who figure they can just go anywhere they please. I'm tired of it all! And I don't know what can be done about it. 

Or, am I just an old-fashioned kill-joy of a stick in the mud who wants to take away peoples fun when I believe that these rules should be followed? Do we live in a society where rules don't mean anything anymore? Should I simply get used to seeing this kind of behavior and start closing my eyes towards it?  Sometimes I wonder.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Return...To Canada With Love (CD) - Liona Boyd

The Return...To Canada With Love - Liona BoydI don't usually comment much on music here, but I've recently been introduced to the music of Liona Boyd. Clearly I'm a late-comer to her albums, but all I can say is WOW!

Her classical guitar range is just beautiful and inspiring to listen to, but Liona Boyd has done far more than just that. She's got Christmas albums, and in more recent years has begun writing her own songs and composing her own music as well.

I'm particularly fond of this album - Return...To Canada With Love. I have to think it's somehow appropriate that I discovered it this year - Canada's 150th. This one apparently came out in 2013, however, I know that she is still going strong. It's not listed on Amazon as of yet, but I have seen on her website that there is supposed to be a new album coming out some time this year, apparently titled No Remedy For Love, which is also the title of her most recent autobiography.

Coming back to Return...To Canada With Love, quite a few of the songs seem to be autobiographical in nature, referencing events in her life. Others are very environmental in nature - not to mention the indigenous connection in at least one or two songs as well. One of the most amazing songs though is Canada My Canada. The list of singers she has included in that song is amazing.

I've seen reviews of her recent albums comparing her music to that of Enya's, and I have to agree - at least for some of the songs.

Perhaps I'm overstating things a bit, but I have to highly, highly recommend this cd and any of her earlier classical cds. As someone who likes to listen to music while working, I find them absolutely perfect for that, but they are also just wonderful to listen to.

Monday, May 29, 2017

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? - May 29, 2017

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week.  It's a great post to organize yourself. It's an opportunity to visit and comment, and er... add to that ever growing TBR pile! So welcome in everyone. This meme started with J Kaye's Blog   and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at the Book Date.

After a couple of dead weeks for reading - which explains the overly quiet blog, I've finally gotten back in the swing of things for reading - how long I'll be able to keep it up is another question.

Anyway, I've finished a couple of books in the past week:

Circus of the Damned - Laurell K. HamiltonThe first was Circus of the Damned by Laurell K. Hamilton.

The amazon.com product description:
First time in trade paperback: the third novel in the #1 New York Times bestselling series. In Circus of the Damned-now in trade paperback for the first time-a rogue master vampire hits town, and Anita gets caught in the middle of an undead turf war. Jean-Claude, the Master Vamp of the city, wants her for his own-but his enemies have other plans. And to make matters worse, Anita takes a hit to the heart when she meets a stunningly handsome junior high science teacher named Richard Zeeman. They're two humans caught in the crossfire-or so Anita thinks.
I'm not going to write up a separate review for this one - I stopped reading in the middle for long enough that I can't really remember what happened for the earlier parts of the book. The main thing that stuck with me is Anita's sheer stubborn nature. Of course, that's something laid out through the whole series, so it's not all that surprising.

1632 - Eric Flint
The second book I finished in the last week was 1632 by Eric Flint, which I posted about yesterday.

The amazon.com product description:
FREEDOM AND JUSTICE -- AMERICAN STYLE

1632 And in northern Germany things couldn't get much worse. Famine. Disease. Religous war laying waste the cities. Only the aristocrats remained relatively unscathed; for the peasants, death was a mercy.
2000 Things are going OK in Grantville, West Virginia, and everybody attending the wedding of Mike Stearn's sister (including the entire local chapter of the United Mine Workers of America, which Mike leads) is having a good time.
THEN, EVERYTHING CHANGED....
When the dust settles, Mike leads a group of armed miners to find out what happened and finds the road into town is cut, as with a sword. On the other side, a scene out of Hell: a man nailed to a farmhouse door, his wife and daughter attacked by men in steel vests. Faced with this, Mike and his friends don't have to ask who to shoot. At that moment Freedom and Justice, American style, are introduced to the middle of the Thirty Years' War.
This one I quite enjoyed, though I'm a bit hesitant about the rest of the series - based on the sheer quantity of books set in the world of the Ring of Fire.

My currently reading pile is pretty big:

The Mists of Avalon - Marion Zimmer BradleyThere's The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley.
Amazon.com product description:
In Marion Zimmer Bradley's masterpiece, we see the tumult and adventures of Camelot's court through the eyes of the women who bolstered the king's rise and schemed for his fall. From their childhoods through the ultimate fulfillment of their destinies, we follow these women and the diverse cast of characters that surrounds them as the great Arthurian epic unfolds stunningly before us. As Morgaine and Gwenhwyfar struggle for control over the fate of Arthur's kingdom, as the Knights of the Round Table take on their infamous quest, as Merlin and Viviane wield their magics for the future of Old Britain, the Isle of Avalon slips further into the impenetrable mists of memory, until the fissure between old and new worlds' and old and new religions' claims its most famous victim.
It's been quite a few years since I read this book, but I'm enjoying as much now as I did the last time. If my memory serves as well, the Mists of Avalon may well have been my first real introduction to the various Arthurian stories.

The Lunatic Cafe - Laurell K. HamiltonSecond on the list is The Lunatic Cafe by Laurell K. Hamilton

The amazon.com product description:
Vampire hunter and zombie animator Anita Blake is an expert at sniffing out the bad from the good. But in The Lunatic Cafe-now in trade paperback for the first time-she's about to learn that nothing is ever as it seems, especially in matters of the not-so-human heart.

Dating a werewolf with self-esteem issues is stressing Anita out. Especially when something-or someone-starts taking out the city's shapeshifters.
Here's where we start seeing more of the characters who are going to shape the next several books: Raina, Gabriel, Marcus... We've already been introduced to Richard and Larry in the previous book, so the stage is being set for future plotlines.

I'm only a couple of chapters in, so I can't say much more than that yet.

1633 - David Weber and Eric FlintAnd finally, 1633 by David Weber and Eric Flint

The amazon.com product description:
AMERICAN FREEDOM AND JUSTICE
VS. THE TYRANNIES OF
THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY

The new government in central Europe, called the Confederated Principalities of Europe, was formed by an alliance between Gustavus Adolphus, King of Sweden, and the West Virginians led by Mike Stearns who were transplanted into 17th-century Germany by a mysterious cosmic accident. The new regime is shaky. Outside its borders, the Thirty Years War continues to rage. Within, it is beset by financial crisis as well as the political and social tensions between the democratic ideals of the 20th-century Americans and the aristocracy which continues to rule the roost in the CPE as everywhere in Europe.

Worst of all, the CPE has aroused the implacable hostility of Cardinal Richelieu, the effective ruler of France. Richelieu has created the League of Ostend in order to strike at the weakest link in the CPE's armor—its dependence on the Baltic as the lifeline between Gustav Adolf's Sweden and the rest of his realm.

The greatest naval war in European history is about to erupt. Like it or not, Gustavus Adolphus will have to rely on Mike Stearns and the technical wizardry of his obstreperous Americans to save the King of Sweden from ruin.

Caught in the conflagration are two American diplomatic missions abroad: Rebecca Stearns' mission to France and Holland, and the embassy which Mike Stearns sent to King Charles of England headed by his sister Rita and Melissa Mailey. Rebecca finds herself trapped in war-torn Amsterdam; Rita and Melissa, imprisoned in the Tower of London.

And much as Mike wants to transport 20th-century values into war-torn 17th-century Europe by Sweet Reason, still he finds comfort in the fact that Julie, who once trained to be an Olympic marksman, still has her rifle . . .

At the publisher's request, this title is sold without DRM (DRM Rights Management).
It's the second book in the Ring of Fire series, I believe. However, I'm only a chapter or two in.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

1632 - Eric Flint

1632 - Eric Flint1632 (Ring of Fire)
Eric Flint
Baen Books
Copyright: 2001
978-0671319724

The amazon.com product description:
FREEDOM AND JUSTICE -- AMERICAN STYLE

1632 And in northern Germany things couldn't get much worse. Famine. Disease. Religous war laying waste the cities. Only the aristocrats remained relatively unscathed; for the peasants, death was a mercy.
2000 Things are going OK in Grantville, West Virginia, and everybody attending the wedding of Mike Stearn's sister (including the entire local chapter of the United Mine Workers of America, which Mike leads) is having a good time.
THEN, EVERYTHING CHANGED....
When the dust settles, Mike leads a group of armed miners to find out what happened and finds the road into town is cut, as with a sword. On the other side, a scene out of Hell: a man nailed to a farmhouse door, his wife and daughter attacked by men in steel vests. Faced with this, Mike and his friends don't have to ask who to shoot. At that moment Freedom and Justice, American style, are introduced to the middle of the Thirty Years' War.
It's been a while since I read any of the Ring of Fire series, but I was loading my Kobo a couple of weeks ago and discovered that I had the first two books of the series hiding away on my computer (thanks to the CD-Roms that Baen included with their books for a while (also the source for the first thirteen of the Honor Harrington series - note to self: load the first book in this series to the kobo to join the rest soon).

Anyway, I'd been hunting something to give me a bit of a break from The Mists of Avalon and Circus of the Damned/The Lunatic Cafe (Marion Zimmer Bradley and Laurell K. Hamilton respectively) and 1632 seemed to fit the bill. Suffice it to say, it did! - I went racing through it over the last four days, while continuing to read the other books (the biggest advantage of the Kobo is being able to switch from book to book at will).

I'm not a hundred percent certain on the way history is used in this series, however I'll admit that a lot of that is due to the fact that the sixteen-hundreds are not exactly my area of expertise - nor are the military tactics used. However, my memory of what I've read in By Sword and Fire some years ago says that yes, what is suggested in this book and the rest of the series is quite reasonable.

Either way, I found myself captured by the story and the characters.

One thing I hadn't realized on starting 1632 is just how large this series has gotten - three or four screens of titles on Amazon.com and several authors contributing too - both short stories in the many anthologies, and full novels set in this world too. There are a number of authors I recognize from other books too, including David Weber, but also quite a few authors whose names I don't recognize.

Honestly, at this point I'm not sure whether to hope I really get into this series or not. There's certainly plenty of reading here - but that's also the downside, trying to find about 17 years worth of books in one series and by different authors when the library might not have all of them.

For sure though, I'm looking forward to reading 1633 at the least - and any other of the earlier books in the series that I can find. I'm also finding myself inspired to try and hunt down the time-travel novels by S.M. Stirling again too.

One final note: At least at the time I'm writing this review, 1632 is free as a Kindle e-book. That means that there is absolutely no excuse to not give it a try.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Acer Spin 3 Convertible Laptop

Back in January I finally upgraded my laptop - which I primarily use for work purposes. I'd had my previous one since 2012/2013 and it needed an upgrade for a few reasons. 1. It had a solid-state drive in it - a small one and I was rapidly running out of room, even with keeping no music, photos or even many games on it. 2. Installing that solid-state made the computer a bit less reliable. I got semi-frequent blue-screens from day one. 3. There didn't seem to be a way to make a cloned-hard-disk back-up with the solid-state.

So, in January, I finally took the plunge and upgraded. I stayed with Acer for my brand - I've used Acer laptops for my last three laptops. After some debate - limited by what the stores had in stock at the time, I went with the Acer Spin 3. Now that I've had a couple of months to settle in with it I'm absolutely loving it.

I'm going to start with the features I've used the most. 
  1.  The touch-screen. This is the first proper computer I've had with a touch-screen (There were a few amusing moments with my last laptop where after using my iPad for too long, I'd reach out and try to scroll via the screen). It's not something I use most of the time, but I love it for when I'm using the Spin 3 away from my desk. For me, it works better than the touch-pad (Not a complaint about the specific touch-pad here at all! Every laptop I've had in the last ten years or so, I've found that I brush the touch-pad when I'm typing, leading to some rather amusing/frustrating situations) which I leave turned off most of the time. It's easy enough to select text for copying/pasting using the screen, once you've done it a few times.
  2. The back-lit keyboard. Again, I've not had one of these before, but my husband has. This turned into a must-have very quickly. Under most circumstances, it's a bit of a gimmick-type of thing, but in situations with less-than-ideal lighting, it's wonderful. I am a freelancer these days and as a result, I've found myself working in some fairly "interesting" locations, including evenings in the campgrounds. That's where I believe that the lit keyboard is going to be truly wonderful.
  3. Battery life. This one I've not fully tested to the limit. I know the literature claims up to 10 hours. I've certainly had no problems with 4-5 hours on battery so far, and there's been plenty left. That, though has not been tested under more than light-use circumstances: wi-fi turned off screen brightness turned as far down as possible etc, and only running those programs I truly need, such as Acrobat Reader and my indexing software. Certainly no videos or music running. Battery life has been one of the top considerations in my purchasing selection this time around.
  4. This one may not matter to most people, but the Acer laptops have stuck to the old configuration of having the F-keys as primary, with the other functions (using the Fn key) as secondary. As I said, it may not matter for most people, but the software I used most frequently uses those keys for common shortcuts within the program. I've taught myself to use a number of key combos. I didn't want to have to train myself to add the Fn key to those shortcuts!
I haven't tried using this computer fully spun around in tablet mode as of yet, though I probably will sooner or later - perhaps if I ever load Netflix on it.

One thing I still find myself trying to get used to a bit is that the ports are all in very different places than they were on any of my other laptops: Two of the three USB ports are on the left side, rather than the right, and the power and HDMI cables are on the right-hand side instead. Seeing as my second screen is situated on the left, that gets interesting on occasion.

My Acer Spin 3 also has no internal DVD drive - a first for me, but that's been easily remedied with the purchase of an external drive. However, I have to admit to only having used it a few times - mostly to install some older programs. Though the temptation is there to replace it with a Blu-ray capable external drive to make it easier to watch my favorite shows...

It's definitely a very light computer! The lightest laptop I've owned to date, which is another big plus, especially when it comes to travel.

I didn't go for a solid-state drive this time, but despite the fact that it's made the computer a hair slower, I'm not missing it. I like having that terrabyte of drive space! I really like not having to think twice about whether or not to install a program (games especially are space-hogs) or think about having enough space for my photos.

Monday, May 8, 2017

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? - May 8, 2017

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week.  It's a great post to organize yourself. It's an opportunity to visit and comment, and er... add to that ever growing TBR pile! So welcome in everyone. This meme started with J Kaye's Blog   and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at the Book Date.

 Well, I had a fantastic week of reading, as the last few days of posts shows. A somewhat rainy camping trip will do that.

Let's start with the book from the week before:
Owlflight - Mercedes LackeyOwlflight
Mercedes Lackey
DAW Books
Copyright: 1998
978-0886778040

The amazon.com product description:
Apprenticed to a venerable wizard when his hunter and trapper parents disappear into the forest never to be seen again, Darian is difficult and strong willed--much to the dismay of his kindly master. But a sudden twist of fate will change his life forever, when the ransacking of his village forces him to flee into the great mystical forest. It is here in the dark forest that he meets his destiny, as the terrifying and mysterious Hawkpeople lead him on the path to maturity. Now they must lead the assault on his besieged home in a desperate attempt to save his people from certain death!
I finished this one not last week, but the week before. However, as I didn't participate last week, I don't feel guilty about including it in this week's post.

A snippet from my review:
I can't forget the scene where Darian is thinking about the villagers who tend to harangue him and what that says about them, either. It's one of my favourites in the book. Also the variation on the "road to hell" proverb makes a whole lot of sense too.

Now for this week's reads.
The Ship Who Sang - Anne McCaffreyThe Ship Who Sang
Anne McCaffrey
Del Rey
Copyright: 1969 (I think?)
978-0552091152

The Amazon.com product description:
Helva had been born human, but only her brain had been saved and implanted into the titanium body of an intergalactic scout ship. But first she had to choose a human partner, to soar with her through the daring adventures and exhilarating escapades in space.
An excerpt from my review:
Not the most exciting of descriptions, but worth looking past and reading the book. The Ship Who Sang is the first book in the Brain Ships series. I have to admit that for a long time, this hasn't been one of my favorite Anne McCaffrey novels. However, I'm not sure why at this point. When I was reading it this time, I loved it!
Four And Twenty Blackbirds - Mercedes LackeyFour and Twenty Blackbirds (Bardic Voices 4)
Mercedes Lackey
Baen Books
Copyright: 1997
978-0671878535

The amazon.com product description:
A MAGICAL MANIAC IS LOOSE IN ALANDA!

A magical murderer is loose in Alanda. The victims are always women, always lower-class, and the weapon is always a three-sided stiletto, most often found among Church regalia. But the killers are never churchmen, and they always commit suicide immediately after the bloody deed.

Tal Rufen is just a simple constable. But he really cares about his job, and when one of these murder/suicides happens on his beat he becomes obsessed. His superiors don't care—the victims will never be missed, and their murderers are already justly dead. But every instinct Tal Rufen has cries out that he has seen only one small piece of a bigger and much nastier puzzle....

At the publisher's request, this title is sold without DRM (Digital Rights Management).
A snippet from my review:
Despite the many frustrating references to previous books, this turned into one of those reads that I couldn't put down. Every spare moment I had for a couple of days I was reading. And there are plenty of "spare moments" when it's a rainy day in the campground.

A Shadow in Summer - Daniel AbrahamA Shadow in Summer: Book One of the Long Price Quartet
Daniel Abraham
Tor Books
Copyright Date: 2007
978-0765351876

The amazon.com product description:
From debut author Daniel Abraham comes A Shadow in Summer, the first book in the Long Price Quartet fantasy series.
The powerful city-state of Saraykeht is a bastion of peace and culture, a major center of commerce and trade. Its economy depends on the power of the captive spirit, Seedless, an andat bound to the poet-sorcerer Heshai for life. Enter the Galts, a juggernaut of an empire committed to laying waste to all lands with their ferocious army. Saraykeht, though, has always been too strong for the Galts to attack, but now they see an opportunity. If they can dispose of Heshai, Seedless's bonded poet-sorcerer, Seedless will perish and the entire city will fall. With secret forces inside the city, the Galts prepare to enact their terrible plan.
In the middle is Otah, a simple laborer with a complex past. Recruited to act as a bodyguard for his girlfriend's boss at a secret meeting, he inadvertently learns of the Galtish plot. Otah finds himself as the sole hope of Saraykeht, either he stops the Galts, or the whole city and everyone in it perishes forever.
An excerpt from my review:
For me, this was one of those rare books I really struggled to finish. The opening absolutely grabbed me, but I found myself a bit lost about a third of the way through the book. Once I was lost, I never really figured things out again either.

And one final book finished in the last week:

Owlsight
Mercedes Lackey and Larry Dixon
Daw Books
Copyright: 1999
978-0886778033

The amazon.com product description:
It has been four years since Darian saw his village sacked and burned by barbarians. Taking refuge with the Hawkbrothers, he soon finds his life's calling--as a Healing Adept. But even as he learns the mystical ways of this ancient race, Darian cannot escape the dangers threatening his future. Another tribe of barbarians is approaching. The time has come...to stand up and fight.
An excerpt from my review:
My one complaint with Owlsight is just how quickly the story ends up winding down. Most of the book is leading to the build-up, and it feels as though only a few pages are devoted to the climax of the story.

I'm currently reading:
Owlkight - Mercedes Lackey and Larry DixonOwlknight
Mercedes Lackey
DAW Books
Copyright: 1999
978-0886778514

The amazon.com product description:
Brand new from Mercedes Lackey and Larry Dixon, "an unbeatable team in fantastic magic and adventure" (Kliatt)--the third and final book in the Darian's Tale trilogy, a powerful saga charged with war and magic, life and love.

Two years after his parents' disappearance, Darian has sought refuge and training from the mysterious Hawk-brothers. Now he has opened his heart to a beautiful young healer. Finally Darian has found peace and acceptance in his life. That is, until he learns that his parents are still alive--and trapped behind enemy borders....

I'm reading this one for the Valdemar Reading Challenge.

I want to read:
Ice Ghosts: The Epic Hunt For the Lost Franklin Expedition - Paul WatsonIce Ghosts: The Epic Hunt For the Lost Franklin Expedition
Paul Watson
W. W. Norton and Company
Copyright Date: March 21, 2017
978-0393249385

The Amazon.com product description:
The spellbinding true story of the greatest cold case in Arctic history―and how the rare mix of marine science and Inuit knowledge finally led to the recent discovery of the shipwrecks.
Spanning nearly 200 years, Ice Ghosts is a fast-paced detective story about Western science, indigenous beliefs, and the irrepressible spirit of exploration and discovery. It weaves together an epic account of the legendary Franklin Expedition of 1845―whose two ships, the HMS Erebus and the HMS Terror, and their crew of 129 were lost to the Arctic ice―with the modern tale of the scientists, researchers, divers, and local Inuit behind the recent discoveries of the two ships, which made news around the world.
The journalist Paul Watson was on the icebreaker that led the expedition that discovered the HMS Erebus in 2014, and he broke the news of the discovery of the HMS Terror in 2016. In a masterful work of history and contemporary reporting, he tells the full story of the Franklin Expedition: Sir John Franklin and his crew setting off from England in search of the fabled Northwest Passage; the hazards they encountered and the reasons they were forced to abandon ship after getting stuck in the ice hundreds of miles from the nearest outpost of Western civilization; and the dozens of search expeditions over more than 160 years, which collectively have been called “the most extensive, expensive, perverse, and ill-starred . . . manhunt in history.”
All that searching turned up a legendary trail of sailors’ relics, a fabled note, a lifeboat with skeletons lying next to loaded rifles, and rumors of cannibalism . . . but no sign of the ships until, finally, the discoveries in our own time. As Watson reveals, the epic hunt for the lost Franklin Expedition found success only when searchers combined the latest marine science with faith in Inuit lore that had been passed down orally for generations.
Ice Ghosts is narrative nonfiction of the highest order, full of drama and rich in characters: Lady Jane Franklin, who almost single-handedly kept the search alive for decades; an Inuit historian who worked for decades gathering elders’ accounts; an American software billionaire who launched his own hunt; and underwater archaeologists honing their skills to help find the ships. Watson also shows how the hunt for the Franklin Expedition was connected to such technological advances as SCUBA gear and sonar technology, and how it ignited debates over how to preserve the relics discovered with the ships.
A modern adventure story that arcs back through history, Ice Ghosts tells the complete and incredible story of the Franklin Expedition―the greatest of Arctic mysteries―for the ages.
8 pages of color illustrations
I've been hearing a lot of good things about this book. Now, I'm looking forward to reading it myself.

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