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HAPPY BIRTHDAY [livejournal.com profile] steepholm!






I'm knitting as fast as I can...
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First one being, appropriately enough, Ravelry-related.  I love Ravelry so much, in part because it's wonderful to be in a place where so many people are goofy in such a compatible and generous way.  One thread on the forum I was just checking out was called "Inaugural Scarves", and sure enough, people who'd been glued to their televisions throughout the day, often in tears, had been noting the fantastic knit-wear being sported by attendees.  And sharing ideas for patterns similar to some of them, along with clips of special moments other people had missed.  I loved this one of the John Williams piece being played by a frozen-looking quartet.  Really lovely (and note the fingerless gloves on the hands of the Venezuelan pianist!).  I tried to find a picture of the teal blue knitted hat Natalie Morales was wearing on the day, for everyone's enjoyment, but failed.

Also very much enjoyed the clip of Jon Stewart's take on the inaguration which I saw on Robin Brande's blog.  The wheelchair comment cracked me up.

In terms of things which might actually have cracked me up on a more permanent basis, last night I happened to notice that Younger Daughter's bedside lamp (which is *still* acting as her only room light, so rubbish am I at getting things fixed around here) had somehow shed the cover to the plug.  It looked -- ominous -- plugged in and the lamp on and all the innards showing, so I decided to see if I could find the cover, which should just snap back on.  So, I leant over the bed (where the plug-strip was residing) to see if it had fallen down behind the bed -- it had indeed - and managed to put my hand directly on the plug.  Nasty shock ensued.  Nasty.  And boy, they don't use the word 'shock' for what happens when you get too much electricity going through you, lightly or ill-advisedly.  Anyway, I appear not to have managed to fry too much of my brain while zapping my hand... 

Nearly finished reading Eon: Rise of the Dragoneye, by Alison Goodman, which I picked up in Bristol airport, and it's kind of doing my head in.  I like it, and will certainly be eager to read the (inevitable) sequel, but I'm starting to realise it's a very odd mix.  Dragons and the special few who can commune with them, and essentially control them -bit standard fantasy.  A fantasy world 'inspired by' the history and culture of ancient China and Japan - not as standard, in YA, anyway.  Protagonist a girl pretending to be a boy because *only* boys can become Dragoneyes - or pretty much anything else, except wife/courtesan.  Not only standard fantasy fare, but part of an arc of the story that really is quite predictable.  And yet, within that, the consideration of gender and sex is anything BUT standard or predictable.  Will have more to say when I've finished, but part of what's throwing me is the mix of the common 'chosen one who will have to save the world' with a society so deeply classist and misogynistic that saving it seems barely worth the effort - except of course, that the peasants and servants would always suffer along with whichever ruling faction loses - and following three main characters who are, let's say, very 'gender-fluid' in a hideously gender-rigid society...  Well, it's sometimes an uncomfortable mix.

Graceling

Jan. 18th, 2009 05:02 pm
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Not so much a proper write-up of Graceling, as a) I'm lazy; b) I'm on [livejournal.com profile] steepholm 's computer (hello from Bristol!); c) this book is - deservedly in my oh-so-humble - being talked about a LOT. If I weren't a) and b) atm, I'd be able to find a lot of links of awards/shortlists and blogs, reviews, etc.

So, super-briefly, Katsa was born with a Grace, which is an inborn talent for something or other, from cooking to weather-sensing to fighting, inevitably marked by having eyes of different colours. In her country - one of the Seven Kingdoms of this world or part of it - people with a Grace are used but regarded at best as different, and probably as unchancey outsiders. She's used as an enforcer by her nasty uncle/King, as her Grace is seen to be for killing. Secretly, she's running a kind of Scarlet Pimpernel organization which aims to help anyone unfairly treated by the powers that be, across several of these small kingdoms. Enter Po, a prince from Leinid, who has come to try to find his grandfather, kidnapped by some unknown person for no obvious reason at all...

I loved the book -- loved Katsa, loved Po, loved the friendship and then romance that grows between them, love the other characters, the setting, and the Graces. It's very well-written and intelligent and definitely has a strong, independent heroine. For the sake of the one person on my friends' list who hadn't already read or ordered it but was thinking of doing so, I'll put this very carefully: it's not The Queen of Attolia, and if you read expecting that, it's likely to be a disappointment, but I do think there's something of the quality of emotional punch that that has. If that makes any sense.

There isn't a real 'but' coming about the book, as such..
Despite really liking the character who will rule after the villain-who's-killed, and liking the fact that Katsa not only trains her in fighting skills so she won't be as vulnerable, and goes on to train as many girls as she can -- I still felt a little bit unhappy that there was no way for anyone - male or female - to be safe, except to be good at fighting or to be protected by someone else who was.  This was reinforced by the fact that there was NO way to defeat the villain except by killing - and it couldn't be any kind of 'fair' fight, as that couldn't have worked.  I did like that Katsa felt bad about the way she killed this villain, as to my mind, it worked with the interesting consideration of control, both of self and of/by others.  And this just is the way this world is, I guess, whether it's my favourite kind of set-up or not.  But I am very hopeful for another book...  and extremely hopeful that one of those two acknowledgees in the back will be able to tell me that there will be another one.  Too many great characters for this to be all.  And if it weren't for the fact that they'd almost all be spoilers, I'd love to do an intertextual count comparison with someone who's read it!  

KNIFE

Jan. 9th, 2009 08:41 pm
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Not a threat, though it possibly should be a bit worrying that I find "Knife" a much more appealing title than "Faery Rebels"...  (I like the British cover more than the US one too, though it might be a bit misleadingly young.)

Anyway, the author,[livejournal.com profile] rj_anderson, is on my flist, and despite the reassurance of "there are humans at the bottom of the garden", and the enormous intelligence of what I've read of her non-fiction, when I picked up the book in town early, I said nothing, put aside the book I was reading (the wonderful Graceling), and set out to see what I might see.  Because, well, it's fairies.  And fairies - or faeries, even  - can be very difficult to get just the way you like them.  Cute has been done so much that the anti-cute, as in the "kick-ass" variety, is also pretty standard these days.  And the heartless-as-hell YA types are usually seen from the perspective of the teen who has to try to escape them, while this is clearly from the POV of the faery.  So it could have been competent and well-written but nothing to write home about. Or think about.  Or eagerly anticipate the sequel.  Oh - let's go for full disclosure here: or to say to oneself "That's a bit dim of Knife and friends, but I guess she doesn't have the experience of reading Fire and Hemlock, or she'd know to avoid that peril", only to find oneself totally and utterly wrong instead, because *nothing* was standard or predictable.

More about KNIFE, short reference to Auralia's Colors, and a short babble about fantasy as conservative or not )
No spoilers behind the cut, and I'll keep it that way for this post, but I may crack and need to do a whited-out mini-post with the thoughts I've been turning over and over concerning just one line near the end!  It's impossible to say anything about it and remain spoilerless. Or maybe I'll go searching for other reviews which do have spoilers on Goodreads, possibly.   I just can't see waiting however long it'll take for the sequel to come out....

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This is later than usual, partly because I realised my reading record-keeping last year had left a lot to be desired, so ended up reading through all my 2008 posts one night I thought I'd be doing this one.  In terms of quantity read, I'd mark myself with a large F(AIL) this year, but the quality (of the books, not my reading) was still great. 

To spare my friends' list pages.... )

2009 is already getting off to a good start, with Graceling, which I'm currently reading with great appreciation, and R.J. Anderson's Knife next up...
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So, I didn't get on here to wish those who were celebrating all the best of whatever season it was they were celebrating, but not for lack of thinking the wishes.

Christmas morning here started out with a treasure hunt for stockings!  Clues in verse written by Becca for Younger Daughter and me, no less.  (It was very Spiderweb for Two, with one clue even being inside the piano.)  Then church, which was as usual, Cute Overload-worthy, with babies galore.  One of the best moments was in the middle of the first reading, when a baby responded to the 'praise Him with singing' idea with a loud - a very loud - DADA DADA.  (The church is always child-friendly, so this wasn't empty sentiment for Christmas morning only.)  And as Y.D. pointed out, it was amusing to see the volume of the little kids' voices steadily increasing as the rector used his own good-volumed voice for the adults' sermon. 

Then cooking like crazy at my mother's, and eating similarly, and finally back home, to two hounds very glad to see us.

St. Stephen's Day, which should have been a glorious hang-around in slob clothes and relax kind of day, was marred by finding I'd sent spam to everyone in the whole world I'd ever emailed, except a few lucky people who'd changed their emails since I'd last emailed them.  Worse was finding that some people thought I might actually have sent them notice about a great webiste (sic).  Worst still was getting a reply from Cory Doctorow.  OUCH.  (Thankfully, it was an automatic reply as he was bouncing all mail while on holiday.)

I'll be posting my Books of 2008 list soon, but tonight I'm determined to finish Auralia's Colors, which I've liked a lot but have done a severe injustice to by reading in exhausted ten or fifteen minute stretches at night, and consequently seem to have been reading forever.  It'd be nice to start the new year with fresh reading.

At least I can still wish all who will be celebrating New Year's sometime around now A VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR. 




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...  Okay, the first day is not one I wish to write about.  Nothing going on but sickness and moaning.  Well, not moaning out loud.   Just about.  Cracking headache came on by evening, as I hadn't managed to get and keep any tea down till then, and I had one line of a song (a good Kings of Leon song, but still) stuck in my head, going over and over and over and the day kept passing in 15 minute increments and fever by nighttime too. 

The second day was infinitely better, as it involved no more throwing up AND I was able to read.  I started the day with an umpteenth reread of Catherine, Called Birdy, and then interrupted that to polish off the just-arrived Perks of Being a Wallflower.  (Thanks for the rec,[livejournal.com profile] vcmw .) I really liked it a lot, cried all over it, and then started having thoughts about it - you know, like you really want to discuss it with someone who's read it, because you've got niggles kind of thoughts.

I hadn't realised quite how long ago it came out, and everyone who's interested has probably read it already, butbehind a cut for the niggles anyway. )

When I finished that, the day was far from over, and I still hadn't eaten anything, so wasn't capable of getting up, and Bec brought me The Westing Game, which I'd never read - imagine!  That was perfect for the day that was in it, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. 

The third day of the etc, I still wasn't able to eat proper food, and felt oddly reluctant to start a reread of The King of Attolia, so did all the puzzles I could get my hands on.  Then I reread The King of Attolia, and enjoyed every second of it, naturally.  Well, every ship except the four fastest second except the ones in which I read the line about Gen being a 'king of kings' - I devoutly hope the next book doesn't move him too far in the direction of the Alexander.  I still think what the God of the Thieves tells Gen on the rooftop and his response and the perfect realness of their relationship is right up there as one of my favourite moments in a book ever.

The fourth day was getting better, and I was up and down, rather than just down.  No settled reading, though a bit of catching-up on the Christmas knitting, which isn't looking too good just now.  (Nor are cards, other presents, and the dinner itself was a bit shaky-looking until this afternoon.) And a bit of comfort from Anne of the Island.

The fifth day (we're up to yesterday now, so not much more to go) I was driven by necessity to try to get somewhere, only to find my car battery was dead.  Friendly garage guys were as wonderful as always, and came up and jump-started and took the car away.  I went back to bed.  And - well, I won't say much except that I had some fantastic reading, and cried all over the place, and it was all [livejournal.com profile] sartorias 's doing.

This morning Jeffrey Overstreet's Auralia's Colors (recommended by - everybody?  [livejournal.com profile] sartorias, for sure, I think?) arrived, and I've started it, though partial up-and-about-ness means I'll be back to slow reading.  And [livejournal.com profile] steepholm  should be over the Irish Sea, heading in the right direction, at this very minute!  (Massive headach today meant I'm not allowed go out to the airport to meet him there.  Sniff.) 

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But soggy, in this instance, is infinitely preferable to flooded.

Yesterday was, overall, not a great day. I spent some chunk of it in errands, for my elderly and ill next-door neighbour. Also, an inordinate amount of time in a queue in the Post Office to get a present off to my aunt in Maryland. (My queue-neighbours were friendly, and we passed some of the time in commenting on the HUGE number of parcels one woman was posting - €340's worth in total. I spent other bits reminding myself of Connie Willis's introduction to Miracle and Other Stories, with her saying she even loves standing in lines in the P.O. and then correcting herself, as nobody loves standing in lines in the P.O., even at Christmastime.)

Then I spent another rather frustrating chunk trying to talk my mother through adding a document as an attachment to an email, and when that failed, proof-reading the document in question before sending it off myself.  I might even - just possibly - got a little bit impatient at some points.  Was in the middle of that when Younger Daughter came into the room and told me the radiator in the dining room was acting funny, and was it ever.  (For some values of 'funny'.)  Finally located the leak, for actual hole in the radiator it was, but couldn't figure out how to turn the second valve on it off.  (Okay, it should have been obvious, but I was in the dark - the light in that room doesn't work - the radiator is behind a bookcase, and Y.D. was valiently holding a jug against the spray of water while I tried to lean over her.  I was a little flustered.

Call in to my lovely heating guy and me no more knowing what to do, I of course phoned a neighbour to come to the rescue.  See where I was going with the bread-casting?  These are friends as well as neighbours, and Dermot is very, very handy round the house.  Deirdre, with whom I  did Biochem in university all those decades ago, kindly said that she wouldn't have had a clue what to do either, which was nice of her, however honest it was or wasn't.

I felt better again when Deirdre also said that they might indeed call on me for English help for her daugher who's in Leaving Cert - even though the book being studied at the moment is Wuthering Heights, which I've carefully avoided forever, I have practice at helping Y.D. do the 'cultural context' question on books I haven't read, so that's fine. 

I got myself further into the 'credit' status with the universe this mornig by helping another friend who's doing a paper for an MA in Creative Writing, on YA's place in the marketplace.  This is despite her knowing nothing about YA (yet!), as she apparently waved my interest in the subject matter at her tutor when asked why she was doing this topic.  I'm also going to get her a couple (Irish couple) of good books to read, so she has more of a feel for the area. 

Pondering what those might be has been helping a bit to take my mind off the fact that the heating guy told me ALL the radiators in the house will have to be checked, as one going like that indicates it was under a lot of pressure.  Any ideas for perfect - I suppose representative of something or other! - YAs to hand her?  I'm thinking Sara Zarr's Sweethearts atm, for realist, though there are other possibilities floating around too.  Historical - fantasy - science fiction - adventure - there's a lot of ground to cover while she hasn't much time to do it!
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...no, that hardly seems the right Advent spirit! But how cool is this Advent basket?

Advent joy

It's not clear in the picture, but each tag is numbered in fine shading and the background coloured green. All made by Becca, as a total surprise for this morning! (Good chocolates in today's package.)
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This isn't even this week's travel, as last week's fun-and-games really precluded getting anything written here.  So I'm now behind this, the promised second "How Mad Are You?" episode tally, and a write-up of Ann Lawrence's Between the Forest and the Hills, recommended by [livejournal.com profile] intertext .  (And enjoyed, in case you're wondering!) 

A sad story of stupidity, must-go-down-with-consequences-of-my-stupid-blunder honourableness, traffic and toilets. Skip at will )

Having put all that behind me, I settled down for the usual boring wait (with the hysterical edge to it that is travel on Ryanair these days). I had Nancy Werlin's Impossible for reading, though I just couldn't bring myself to finish it, despite being more than three-quarters of the way through.   (Lucky [livejournal.com profile] steepholm  got much 'sharing' of passages over the weekend.  And they weren't shared in an admiring fashion.)  I always check the bookshop in airports, as the betterment of airport bookshops is one of the life-enhancing changes I've noticed over the last couple of decades.  Nothing of interest until I happened to spot something on nearly the bottom shelf of the small YA section - The Carbon Diaries 2015  (Saci Lloyd).  I'd heard nothing about it, but was very taken with the blurb on the back:  "It's 2015 and the UK is the first nation to introduce carbon dioxide rations, in a drastic bid to cut greenhouse gas emissions."  and the cover, which  is recycled and unbleached. Very cleverly - all the copyright material and all is at the back of the book, so what you see on opening is a little schematic of the damage done by the Great Storm and a news clip describing the carbon rationing scheme. 

I really, really liked this book so much.  I thought the combination of smart-arsed teen writing about her barking mad family, the huge changes forced on everyone by the carbon restrictions and typical school/crush woes, with an entirely credible and quite frightening picture of how things could be only 7 years from now, worked brilliantly.  And it's really funny - which makes it even more effective than a totally somber and serious prediction of future crisis would be. I was often laughing out loud in the airport (and on the plane, and bus back home), but found the ending very moving.  The thing which I found really impressive too was that it was giving this grim picture of the effects of climate change while still avoiding a complete One Message messagery.  Laura goes through the usual "we're so messed up" lines - and resents adults having handed her generation the crap they have, but she also thinks about the differing reactions of people around her.  At one point, someone's said that their black market business in carbon points (so rich people can still have their holidays in Tuscany and drive their Jeeps) is "kind of underground, y'know, like two fingers up at the state" and though she's sort of swayed, and is horrified by how brutally the government has responded to protestors, Laura thinks that right now she is the state: "I don't want spoilt pigs to go to Tuscany, I want them to clean up and sort their shit out once and for all."  Not preachey and more effective for it.

The only thing that made me laugh out loud in a not-good way was when Laura and the others in her band, dirty angels, get a lift from a friend of a relative of a friend from Ireland.  One of the girls gives him a right set-down for being so late and when he looks very taken aback, Laura thinks that girls don't talk like that in Ireland.  Uh, right.  Never mind, it's a tiny criticism, and I'm very much looking forward to The Carbon Diaries 2017.

Quick question: is it SF?  Is 7 years far enough into the future to make it qualify?  The cause of the societal changes are surely scientific enough for anyone, except a rabid climate change denier....

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Last night Becca and I got sucked into watching possibly the most horribly-ill-advised programme ever - or possibly it was genius.  It was "How Mad Are You?" on Horizon, so you can't blame me for the 'mad' in the subject line.  I suppose "Have any been diagnosed with one of these mental health problems, whether or not you're 'recovered', in remission, or just coping really, really well at the moment?" isn't as catchy a title...

If you don't feel like looking at the link, the premise was 5 people who had been diagnosed with depression, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, anorexia, schizophrenia and social anxiety (yes, I know that's six separate disorders - Bec and I went back and forth on that for a bit, and we think the social anxiety is likely to go with the depression, though could be another two entirely), and 5 people who don't have any of these, were stuck together for a week and three mental health professionals tried to figure out who was who.  Part of this involved challenges designed specifically to push someone with a disorder way beyond their comfort levels.  WAY beyond them.  Like doing a stand-up comedy routine in the local pub?  The first day they got there?!?

The thing was, all of the people - professionals and - what would you call them?  contestants? participants? -- alike, were mostly really likable and interesting people, and the professionals were notably devoid of the type of arrogance that can too often come with being an 'expert'.  And it was absolutely fascinating, though we cycled between horror, indignation, admiration and approval at a rate approaching centrifugal separation. 

In the first programme, they did the comedy routine, mucking out amazing amounts of cow excrement in a local farm, and a paint-ball type combat along with a few questionnaires, and a card game, and then the professionals had to choose one person with a disorder and one without.  Bec and I did as well as they did, getting one right and one wrong, though we were sure we'd done better! The good thing was that the guy with O.C.D. (we'd thought he didn't have it) who was spotted was fine with it, while the one who was supposedly problem free (we knew she wasn't) was thrilled to have fooled them and been thought the person most likely to be 'normal'.  Their both being happy took away a lot of our indignation at what could have been a massively exploitative programme.  But we'll see about next week, when they're photographing everyone in white leotards and then making them look at their photos...   (That caused the indignation part of the cycle to cycle back big time for us both.)

One last thought:  apologies for gender stereotypical observations here, but one thing I noticed was that almost all of the women were observing and commenting on the other participants - not in a bitchy sort of way, but thinking about how they interacted with the group or didn't, and just noticing their comfort or lack thereof.  Not one of the men did.  And the three professionals? All male.  They talked about one of the women's style of leading a combat-type game as being defeatist, because she got everyone together and then said something along the lines of "let's go for it, and then even if we lose, we'll still have had fun" - instead of seeing it as being a less-competitve, more comfortable way of playing a game which had nothing riding on it whatsoever.  We thought that was silly.  We think we know the ones with bipolar disorder and depression, and Bec's pretty sure about the person who had anorexia, but I'll report honestly next week on how right we were.  Or otherwise. 

But how the hell did anyone come up with such a - er, - crazy idea for a TV show?
 
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Serious question, of deep import, coming up.  Children's books set in Roman Britain - with the exception of those written by Rosemary Sutcliff* - seem to be universally Bad.  Sometimes entertainingly so, sometimes just unreadably so.  But why?  (Any good titles disproving this theory would be more than gratefully received, btw!) * [ETA - [livejournal.com profile] hafren  mentioned Kipling's stories as another exception, which I'd forgotten.]

Currently reading Roman Invasion (My Story) for the history project, and it's added evidence to my theory admirably.  The hero, Bran, an 11 year old "prince" of a British tribe, is given to declaiming ( a lot) about how he's a British warrior, and will NEVER submit to the Romans, but will die first.  Unfortunately, the first time his tribe finds a group of Roman soldiers small enough to take on, he, his mother (warrior Queen), his two male cousins and his 8 year old sister (brought into this battle because, as his mother says, the British LOVE their families and don't leave them behind like the Romans) are all taken uninjured.  And his mother proceeds to have a long conversation with the Roman govenor -- uh, she speaks Latin, why?  I guess there must be a translation spell floating around in the ether somewhere.

The best bit so far though, is when he's talking with the Greek surveyor working on the road the Roman army is building.  This man has his mute nephew with him and tells our Bran that the boy will have a good career as a surveyor, as he can communicate by drawing.

I said nothing to this, just ate my food, but Talos and Pentheus must have known what I was thinking.  The Romans weren't known for being caring to people with disabilities. 

FAIL.  In so many ways!

Another unintentionallly comic moment came when Bran accidentally killed a Brigantes warrior who attacked the Roman camp, while trying to protect the nephew (who had previously saved Bran's life).  Of course he'd feel bad about it, but having said a few pages before that the Brigantes were always fighting among themselves anyway, we get this drivel line:
 
 

My heart was heavy. I had committed a sin, one for which I should have died.  And yet I was still alive.  Was this to be part of my punishment: the torture of waiting? 

[next morning, in answer to being asked how he is...]

"I am cursed," I said. "I am waiting for the Goddess to send her messengers to kill me and carry my soul to hell for what I have done."

The Goddess, who's going to send him to hell (hunh?) for committing a sin (ditto), is Brigit.  Yup, a Goddess well known for killing her followers and sending their souls to -- oh, you know...  

 

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[livejournal.com profile] steepholm and I went to the British Musuem on Saturday, on our way to a wonderful dinner with [livejournal.com profile] fjm and [livejournal.com profile] chilperic, and I was very much taken with these figurines.

Shivering in my bikini?

Amazing that the one with the shades (lapis lazuli eyes, in fact) is about 4000 BC, isn't it? I know what the dotted area really is, but it looks so like a bikini bottom to me.

another picture from the BM - mystery spheres floating )

(Pictures with my mobile phone, so not great. I was thrilled to find I could get them onto my computer via bluetooth though - something I've never attempted before!)

(Oh, and I finished Cloud Atlas, and can see why people raved about it, despite having read it in the way most guaranteed to cause confusion and connection-missing.)
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Conor Kostick kindly commented this morning, with an invitation to the launch of his latest book, Move. It's in the Hughes and Hughes in the Stephen's Green Shopping Centre, at 6 tonight.  Can't make it myself, unfortunately, but he welcomed any readers of this blog.

Amazon says the book was out in September, but I didn't know to be looking for it, so can't say anything about its availability in bookshops around and about.  I shall defintely be checking for it now I know!

Also, another tid-bit of info on the third book in the Epic/Saga series - title will be 'Edda'.  ::hums with anticipatory happiness::

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Now here's one of life's joys: when you read an author's first book, very much like it but have a few reservations, and find that the second one not only lives up to the expectations from the first, but far exceeds them, and in a way that does away with the reservations...

There isn't much point in going on about the few quibbles I had with Flora Segunda (though they're here if anyone actually has the time to waste and wants to check) - in the time since reading it, it's settled in my head as a sort of slight degree of dissonance between the often childish language Flora uses, her being a child (about to turn 14) and the quite dark-and-twisted adult emotions floating around Crackpot Hall.  This, BTW, is purely for me as reader, not as gatekeeper, guide or protector of childish innocence. 

Anyway, Flora's Dare - again, to me as reader - feels as if everything shook down into a just-right YA book.  The childish language is still there, but this time, it feels like just another aspect of the vividly-imagined world.  Flora's not only having wild adventures like her hero Nini Mo, and trying to save all of Califa this time, she's also (literally) busting out of her stays, lusting over a sexy guy - and regularly flip-flopping between incredibly adult and responsible and whining about curfews.  Perfect.  When she finds a package of 'Madama Twanky's Netherglove sheaths, size extra large' in Udo's jacket pocket - while looking for his lip rouge - it's such a wonderfully funny moment it still has me chortling.

For all the funny bits, and the high adventure - which is even more gripping than in the first, I thought - there's a lot of real feeling as well.  The Big Revelation of this installment of Flora's story is nothing close to where I expected there to be a B.R., and I'm still turning it over in my head.  I wouldn't want to spoil anything for anyone, but the real strength of this plot-twist was not in its unexpectedness, but in the light it shed on the quiet emotional heroism of a character who hadn't seemed at all likely to have such a thing. 

Another thing I really liked was the fact that the Nini Mo sayings Flora quotes throughout not only continued to be entertaining, but got to be more meaningful.  Some were funny ("The best place to be in a stampede, said Nini Mo, is not in a stampede"), some the more standard adventure-story derring-do ("Fool me once, said Nini Mo, shame on you.  Fool me twice, and I'll kick you in the head."), but some have real wisdom ("That day, that sorrow, said Nini Mo").

A few more pleasures of the book were the way the expectations arising from the constant allusions to the 'yellowbacks' (Nini Mo's adventure stories) were thwarted and then met in totally different ways.  And the characters new for this book, or newly met, were wonderful, while the ones from the last book just got better.  And the last line?  Wow. Other things I could rave about would spoil some things, so are better left unraved. 

And though I want more just as strongly as I did after finishing the first book, this time I'm sure I'll like the third (and any number of others!) even if we find out nothing about the first Flora.  

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(That's the OS currently running on my Mac, BTW, for the curious...)

I haven't been able to keep up with blog-reading at all well recently, and so apologies for missing the chance to comment on - no doubt - fascinating discussions and real-life happenings.  I should be all caught up by the time I go next to Bristol, when I'll fall behind again.

Anyway, I was browsing through the 3,266 projects on Ravelry for the My So-Called Scarf yesterday, mostly in search of information on how people modified the edges to stop it curling and similar practical things, but also because it's just so interesting seeing what people put in their project pages.  At the most obvious level, it's visually satisfying seeing others' handiwork, and the endless variations possible with different types and colours of yarn. But aside from that, I kept coming across little snibbets of story in there, in the way that nosy - or interested, if you prefer - people like myself just love.  There was one scarf and the only thing written in the "Notes" section was that it was knitted for the aunt who was estranged from the family, and hopefully would help to soften hearts.  Brilliant!  Another version of the scarf was a lovely red one made as an ordination stole for a friend.  Liturgical gear with extra meaning - also brilliant.  Yet another knitter said she'd lost two stitches out of the pattern while watching election debates - probably because she'd been trying to figure out what McCain meant by "refundable tax credit".  (That one was a gorgeous blue-green chunky merino yarn, also being made as a gift, though the recipient wasn't mentioned.)  Needless to say I didn't read all 3,266, and many just have the sections for yarn type, amount and colour filled in, but this was a good gleaning...

In the 'otherwise' category, I had no pleasure at all out of reading one book [livejournal.com profile] steepholm and I picked up and I read on the last-but-one trip to Bristol, which I won't name here.  It lost all its points by opening with the household slaves of a just-deceased Roman master cutting off their iron fetters with a dagger and vegetable knives.  Skipping lightly over the fact that they were fettered to begin with, it then went into negative scores for the truly likely scene of the two British siblings running through the streets of Rome trying to escape the slave-catchers but one taking time out to stop and shout "I am CELTOI."  And the heroine then thinks "Celtoi, the name given us by the Greeks."  Oh right.

Much more sadly, I was also disappointed in Looking for Alibrandi, about which I'd heard so many good things, and which I expected to like, as I'd liked Finding Francesca a lot.  I've said this already on Goodreads, but I found the fact that the teens in Josie's convent school could give a tinker's curse about her illegitimacy, much less use it as a stick with which to beat her highly unconvincing (and yes, I have first-hand experience of a convent school!) and the treatment of suicide really quite inadequate.  The first-person narrative too often read like a poorly-disguised teacher's uplifting talk - as when Josie said she believed in life and "especially in the youth".  If Younger Daughter were to say something like that, I would be seriously disturbed.  (But I am sorry, all my Australian friends! )

Finally, I just failed on Cloud Atlas, which I've been reading for ages...  It's brilliant, and I loved the first three sections, somewhat disliked the fourth, got a bit bogged down in the fifth, and lost the will to live entirely during the interminable "Sloosha's Crossin' an' Ev'rythin' After".  I did finish that section, as I knew I'd miss too much by skipping, but being back to Sonmi couldn't keep me from putting it aside in favour of the second Flora Segunda, Flora's Dare, which had been calling to me for the last few days.  Started late last night, so not much progress, but it's great fun so far.  More Flora!  More Udo!  More Crackpot Hall!  Pleasures indeed...

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Yarny in both senses too...

This one is especially for [livejournal.com profile] gair , though I can only hope she finds it as happy-making as I do. 

Browsing through a large online yarn shop, (where I had NO business being) I found a new line of fingering/4-ply/sock weight yarn from one of  my favourite fibre artists: Gryphon Perkins.  How cool a name is Gryphon for starters?  Then, out of a bunch of wonderful names for the individual colours, I spotted this one: 'The Deep Bosomed Earth'. The Deep Bosomed Earth.  ::falls over dizzy with joy:: (again)  It's a glorious mix of greens, and I've felt the base yarn, which is fantastic too.

But that's not all!  The new line is called Kypria, and Gryphon says that the Kypria was a third work by Homer lost in the 3rd century - a prequel of sorts (as she puts it) to the Iliad. And - get this - she's 'reconstructing' the Kypria and each colour has part of the story on its tag. 

I immediately cornered the nearest person, who happened to be Becca, and demanded she choose a colour so I could knit something* for her out of it, and to her eternal credit, she complied.  I'd have been happy with almost any of the colours - and names - but it was doubly joyous that she liked the Deep Bosomed Earth best and it's the very first colour, so I get to read the beginning of this story.  (At $23 a shot, plus shipping from the US, I'm not counting on reading the whole Kypria any time soon, unless a LOT of people start demanding I knit them Christmas and birthday gifts from it.).** 

Unfortunately I can't give a link that shows The Deep Bosomed Earth (can you guess that I like that name?) atm, but here's one for the very nice Sanguine Gryphon website, and here's one for Kypria - feast your eyes!


*Not a pair of socks.  Becca eats socks alive.  Or dead.  Or whatever, but she's decided on armwarmers.  Like socks for your arms!

**  I know [livejournal.com profile] steepholm  gets a kick out of this too and he doesn't eat socks, but there's another, non-socky yarn for him on its way as I write, and there are only 18 other skeins in existence on the entire planet.  And it'll never be made again.  But sshhh, that's a surprise.
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I won't even pretend it's the first picture I took, but it's definitely one of the first that was in-focus, and amazingly, I was even *in* the stupid thing. I was trying to get a picture showing how the beret fit for Ravelry (link will only work if you're a member), and when I finally succeeded, decided to -- well, not exactly jump on the band-wagon, but at least hobble in its wake. To mix metaphors a bit.

Beret on head

The apparent crankiness is only concentration... Or possibly despair.
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That's better!

I had this bright idea for the SGG-EFGB the other day, when I'd just finished Younger Daughter's Orange Porphyria Mitts, made with some labour (I'm a very slow knitter) with the most gorgeous yarn, dyed naturally with madder from the dyer's garden.  A move towards borrowing another pair of fingerless gloves by another family member was vetoed by me very shortly thereafter, and I thought it would be good to have a basket full of just good-enough gloves, there for anyone to grab as they felt like it.  Not the most complicated patterns, not the unreplacable yarn, not perfectly chosen to match anyone's jacket or hand-size.  I floated this idea by Becca, who enthusiastically added the possibility of including unmatched gloves if I felt like it - and their being there for anyone to take, rather than just the three of us.  So - sui generis because they won't match anything, will be unique and may be different enough to be flawed (if you wanted to view it that way) - good enough for obvious reasons, and a basket - well, not really because I'm a bit of a basket case atm.  The glove seen above is of the first pair - as soon as I sat down with camera, Doug jumped up into my lap ecstatically, and gave the glove a nice baptismal licking.  (Malabrigo yarn, in Garnet - nobody's favourite colourway in person, as the red is mixed with more pink than it looked like on-screen.)

So, in the sui generis, good-enough mode of thought, I'm going to plod ahead with my rave for [livejournal.com profile] sartorias 's A Stranger to Command, though I've barely got enough brain cells to write my own name, let alone do it any kind of justice.  As many of you will know, A Stranger to Command is the prequel to Crown Duel (or more properly, to the Crown and Court Duet, as you can't read just the one!) If you haven't read that/them, you could easily still enjoy Stranger, but you might want to go read them before - or instead of - reading more here, as there'll be mild spoilers.  Also, there's so much pleasure to be had from thinking about the extraordinarily difficult task of writing a prequel - any prequel really, but especially one to books which are so deeply loved, and how well it's been done here.

Read more... )
[This is not even nearly good-enough, because I just remembered that I was very struck on reading A Stranger to Command by the similarity between the way Sherwood and Rosemary Sutcliff use references to their other books as part of the feeling they give of the sweep of history, rather than a crystallized chunk of it, as it were.  But I'll have to come back to that another time, as I don't think the preceding sentence even makes sense...  ]
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First, thanks are due to [personal profile] steepholm for posting the update for me, but even more importantly, for venturing over to a broadband-deprived house.  The problem was indeed a dying and then totally dead modem, but it took a very long time to get it diagnosed and then replaced. 

During the time since that last post, Younger Daughter got her Leaving Cert results (very good) and 5 days later, got the letter with the university offer...   That arrived, as expected, first thing Monday morning, and I was fast asleep and in the middle of a long, complicated dream about a family gathering related to some family history project, and had just asked an older woman with some interest about her time 'inside' - by which she turned out not to mean prison but the boarding school.  Still on automatic pilot I rushed downstairs to get the letter, without considering that if Y.D. had been that anxious to open it the second it arrived, she'd have got up herself.  (No mail arrives unnoticed in our house, given two dogs anxious to save our lives from the Death that stalks by post.) She was still asleep, and it took our combined efforts to understand the letter, but she WAS offered her first choice, despite a slight rise in the already hefty points required, and a sleepy 'Yay!' was heard from her as she collapsed back onto her pillow...

So, that was excellent news, and [personal profile] steepholm also had some good news, which I believe he hasn't shared: he's been invited to be on the Selection Committee choosing the next Children's Laureate.  Exciting, eh?  And Becca has got some really great mentions, reviews, and invitations for submitting stories, so all is good.  (Though I think if you asked Bell what she would like me to include in this round-up of my most important people, she might be less inclined to agree.  Life is pretty much always good for Doug-the-Mad.)

I also finished [personal profile] sartorias's A Stranger to Command, and loved it.  It was great in itself, and fantastic as a thoroughly satisfying prequel to the Crown & Court Duet, which is a combination not always easily achieved.  I'll write about it properly, as soon as I've caught up - or as much as I can, using [personal profile] steepholm's computer when he is working but is not needing the computer, on - gulp - the last two or three weeks of LJ.  Catching up on all blogs as well would probably kill me.  But I'll just add for now that I put aside Cassandra Clare's City of Ashes in order to read A Stranger to Command, without any hesitation. Even though it was when I was about two-thirds of the way in, and, and Jace -- !  And Simon -- !  (Boy, did I not see *that* one coming.) That (City of Ashes) was a [personal profile] sartorias recommendation, come to think of it, so rounding this off by saying that the book following the two just mentioned was King's Shield, makes it obvious that a huge chunk of my recent reading pleasure has come directly and indirectly from her.  I didn't quite manage to finish it (King's Shield this time) before coming to Bristol, and ended up unable to pack ANY book at all, but at least I did get to read it* before it was in print form, so wasn't forced to leave it with everyone shouting 'We who are [maybe] about to die salute you'....

* [personal profile] steepholm, consulted, said it wasn't swank to say that, and I could even quietly hum a little hum and - lalala - mention the acknowledgments page - dum-de-dum.  (I'm totally chuffed about it all, in case it doesn't come through.)
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