#10 – Moon Dark, Patricia Wrightson – Illustrated by Noela Young

#10 – Moon Dark, Patricia Wrightson – Illustrated by Noela Young

EmFound this one rummaging at the Goodwill.  Sometimes it is hard to say what makes me pull a book off the shelf for perusal.  The look of the spine, the title, often the cover will convince to me either pull it out and read the fly or push it back, shaking my head thinking “oh noooooo”….  On rare occasion a book is chosen because there is an inscription.  In this case the story sounded interesting, a brief glimpse of the illustrations required a longer look and then the inscription was what made it wind up in my basket.

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“allegory” (like a parable)… and then the bit on the fly…  ancient magic and mystical night in the dark of the moon… you got me.  I’m interested now.

I almost quit this book several times and it took me far longer than it should have, partly because I started a new job, but partly because I found the beginning (truly, over half the book) to be quite dull and left me wondering when the story would begin.  Once it did begin, it got pretty good, pretty fast, although the way it ended was a little bit of a let down (and perhaps a relief) compared to the detailed and ponderous way it began.  I think one could have halved the set up of the real story.  Reading about Blue, the dog was neat and all the wildlife around him.  The author did a grand job of conveying the lives of the local fauna without humanizing them overly, but, in my opinion it went on just a little too long.

But.  To the good stuff.  There is an influx of flying foxes upset the balance of the territories and small animals are starving and have begun a war.  They wind up calling on an ancient power they call Keeting… who is… a moon man?… not the moon but the light that shines on the moon?… hard to say, but mystical and ancient and incredibly fascinating… cuz he sings… and glows…  and he comes to help them by showing them how they can help themselves.

I found the whole myth fascinating.  The thought of the animals being Eminent Men at one time and that they remembered when they were.  Eminent Man you ask?… yeah… me too… I could guess and gather, as I am quite familiar with Native American stories of the world, but I did go looking and found this eminent man entry in a document about native tribes of south east Australia.  I tried to find information about this Keeting… but… found nothing that seemed to fit.  Which was disappointing because now I am really curious to know more about Australian Aboriginal myths and astronomy.  Really cool stuff once she gets into the meat of the story.

What made this book totally worth wading into the middle were the illustrations at the beginnings of the chapters… here are some of my favorites…

 

So, although it was interesting, and I think well written, I did find this a bit slow going.  Not sure I would ever read it again, so will send it out to my Little Free Library and see if we can tempt anyone else!

Onwards to the next installment of me epic fantasy marathon…

 

 

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#8 – People of the Book, Geraldine Brooks

#8 – People of the Book, Geraldine Brooks

Okay.  You might have noticed that I skipped a number.  There is indeed a number seven in this reading  journey, however…  it is the first two in a series and I want to write about them as a whole so you will have to wait as I read one, order one, read one, order one…   it will be worth it.  Promise.  So, until then, here is numero eighto…

Okay.  I loved this.  I am taking the history with a grain of salt, but knowing what I know about medieval manuscripts, illumination and book making, I’m guessing she did a similar level of research on the rest of the info.  There is a lot of speculation, and she tells you that, but it is done well and an engaging story.  It almost got me wanting to take up paintbrushes again.  Almost.

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For many many years I played in the SCA or Society for Creative Anachronisms.  I had the extreme pleasure of being one of the driving forces in Drachenwald to get away from printed and marker colored in awards “scrolls”.  I loved, still love, the art form and really hated the Xeroxed and even mimiographed back then copies of the awards that were being given out.  I worked hard at encouraging others to try their hand, I taught, I entered the Arts and Sciences competitions, I scrounged and hunted and acquired as many books as I could on the subject.  I wound up getting left behind by the incredible talent out there in the world, but I know that my scrolls, personalized from arms to drolleries in the vines, are still loved by their recipients today.  Now, after so many, many years of giving my artwork away for free and getting a little burnt here and there I have swung the other way and think the establishment needs to get away from encouraging artists to give 40+ hours pieces of art away for free.  But.  No soapbox here today.rountree-albions001

Lousy photo from long ago… but one of my all time favorites made for two very dear friends, husband and wife, receiving this amazing service award.

pic… and this little gem, a more recent work, showing my most favoritest style of all.

So.  I come to this book about an illuminated manuscript with a lot of love in my heart and skepticism about how the whole thing will be portrayed.  But.  She did a very nice job IMHO of bringing the beauty of the hand written and hand illustrated book to life.

People of the Book is a tale of several people’s lives told through the conservation of a rare and precious real, live, manuscript known as the Sarajevo Haggadah.

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You can read more about it HERE …

It is an unusual manuscript in that it has very western illuminations in a book that should not have had an imagery in it at the time, and seems to have had a life wrought with peril.

The story jumps back and forth in time, linking things discovered as the book is restored such as a white hair and a butterfly wing with people and places of the past, working backwards to the manuscripts creation.  Although the “main” human character, the woman who drives the story forward by researching and hunting down answers to her questions about the document never seems to really grow as a person the true main character, the book itself, becomes more of a treasure as each piece of its past is uncovered.

haggadahAndrea Pataki is the real artist who did the restoration work on the actual book.

My favorite character, however, aside from the book… okay.. the book was my favorite character, but… the book would have not come to be if it wasn’t for Zahra bint Ibrahim al-Tarek, a Moorish slave whose artistic talent brought the images to life.  She put herself into one of the pictures illustrating the sedar…

sarajevo  Down there… bottom left…

I really did enjoy this book.  It read quickly and had me smiling and nodding and wanting to slap that silly Hanna woman and could not help but thinking that her family life situation reminded me of Meredith Grey in Grey’s Anatomy.

This story got me to thinking about my own collection.  How many of them were purchased new, how oh so very many of them were purchased second-hand and how many of those were purchased because of something found tucked between the pages or the inscription hand penned on the title page… Geraldine Brooks wrote “I think you have to accept a book as you receive it from past generations and to a certain extent damage and wear reflect that history”… so… don’t obsess about dog ears, broken spines, jotted notes or even crayon scribbles.. each one of those things is like the laugh lines around your own eyes… they show that the book was read, thought about and loved.

 

#6 – The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, by Claire North

#6 –  The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, by Claire North

Alright.  To be honest, I didn’t love this book at first.  To be honest, I started it and then put it down for something else.

When I picked it up again and started reading it must have been the right time and the right place in my life as I easily overcame what I had thought I didn’t like the first time and quickly got into the meat of the story.

An interesting and engaging story about a man (and some of the others) who live their lives, die and then are reborn back into their previous life.  At around age 3 or so they begin to remember who they are and the life they lived before.  Sometimes it goes well.  Sometimes it doesn’t.  Once the person is found by an organization of similar folks, their successive rebirths become easier.  But not necessarily their lives.  I was intrigued and very much liked the main character.  So much so that I got angry at him when he was a numpty.

But more than a good story this book got me to thinking.  About my own life.  About dying.  About what lies in store after… and could it be that I might die and be reborn back into my life once again.  An interesting twist to the age-old conundrum… If you could go back to 16, your 20’s or any other age, what would you do different?

Now, normally I skim through the book club questions that are becoming more and more prominent in the backs of books today.  Often they give me a chuckle, but more often they annoy the crap out of me.  Why on earth would you want to tear this story apart and over think all that as just happened?  This time, the very first question really got in the feels and I have been pondering it all day.  “Do you envy Harry in any way?  If you were destined to live your life over and over again, would you see it as a blessing or a curse?”  What I have come to decide, I think… for now… is that it would totally depend on how each life went.  Harry’s life was never quite the same.  Each time he would try different things and the people from previous lives never quite lived the same lives either, whether that be a linear life or a oroboran one.  I find that I would go to my death desperately afraid I would not have my beloved Beardface in the next one.  And what of my children?  Would I be able to go forward with different people?  Would I be able to watch Beardface go off and do the things he didn’t do because of our relationship and how we grew together?  I have a feeling that if I were to become aware of my past life as a child I would become a very quiet and withdrawn thing, afraid of never having the love the joy that I have had so far in this one.

And then… the devil on the other shoulder gives me a poke and points out all the adventures I didn’t have in this life that I could have in another if I lived it different….

Claire North you get a definite 5.  I will be looking for your other book “Touch” when next I go to the bookstore.  Very well written, very engaging and intriguing story.  Thank you for entertaining me and making me think.

#5 – A Fall of Moondust by Arthur C. Clarke

#5 – A Fall of Moondust by Arthur C. Clarke

Snagged this beauty at a library sale of strictly science fiction and fantasy.  I think they were a dollar a book…  Beardface and I left there with almost the entire sale.  It was full of older sci-fi, a lot of it we had not yet read or did not have in our collection.  You can look forward to more of these gems as the year goes on!

Now I’ve read quite a bit of Mr. Clarke, but most of it was his more main stream works.  This one is nowhere near mainstream, and probably for good reasons.  It was enjoyable and fun, full of interesting science conundrums but nowhere near as insightful or prophetic as some of his bigger works, although he does make some interesting observations.

I love me the old sci-fi, but as I get older I realize just how sexist they are.  Yes I know it was a different era.  Yes I know it was a boys club back then.  But that does not make them any less difficult for those of us ladies who love the genre today.  I cannot read hardly any of Jules Verne.  Some of his things are so anti female you feel like you are breaking laws just by cracking the cover.  But anyway.  I digress.

Normally I am a fully submerged reader.  I don’t over think things, I just like to get into the story and run.  This book was the first that made me want to take notes.  I don’t like taking notes, but I did whilst reading this one and it actually added to my enjoyment of the thing.  Very weird for me.  Very.  I actually took a Coursera class a couple of years ago, thinking it would be fun.  It was a class about the history of science fiction and fantasy.  And it was fun.  But I didn’t make it through the entire class because I became exhausted with how hard the reading was.  It was soul sucking to me to have to take notes at the level required in order to answer the essay questions.  It was fun and interesting to get your classmate’s considerations on your essays though, I must admit.  But.  Again I get off subject.

The first instance I realized I wanted to remember something I’d read was when Mr. Clarke talked about tv censorship being set aside in the 80’s and the programming it led to.  Then I was giggly and a little over come by some of the “high-tech” devices of the world, teletype, paper print outs (on the moon where people live).  I decided one had to put oneself into a special mindset in order to read the very old science fiction or one could very easily lose the fun of the story by wallowing in the science the author got wrong.

I really did like this story though.  In it, a cruise ship that took tourists around a sea of dust on the moon gets sucked into a pocket and sinks.  The majority of the story is about the group of people in the ship and those that work to rescue them.  Suspense is held very well with more than once you are sure that the outcome will not be good.  While they were stuck, to keep moral up and to distract from imminent death, the passengers take to sharing the small amount of reading material they have by taking turns reading aloud.  One of the books they read is Shane, a western novel by Jack Schaefer, originally published in 1949, 12 years before A Fall of Moondust was published.  In the front of the book is a forward written for that republishing of somewhere in the 2000’s where spaceflight has been going on since the 1970’s.  It delighted and fascinated me.  It talked about space and cowboys and why the western went out of style until the frontiers of space opened up.  The author of the forward talks about new space being like the old west… and of course… all I can think about is Firefly… and space cowboys.  🙂

Anyway.  If you can set aside the idea that specific things did not happen on the specific dates that are now in our past, give this lovely book a try.  There are fun characters and an interesting solution to an unusual problem.  Arthur C. Clarke is a Grand Master for a reason!

… and just for visual reference.  Beardface and me aboard the Liberty Clipper enroute to the Bahamas… You wanna have fun?  Book a cruise on a tall ship.  Just saying.  Oh, and wear a patch.  Seriously.  Wear a patch.

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#4 – The Buntline Special – National Reading Day Popcorn Read!

#4 – The Buntline Special – National Reading Day Popcorn Read!

So today was National Reading Day.  I had things to do in the morning, but once all my chores were done I settled in to enjoy a lovely popcorn book by Mike Resnick.  Now, I’m not a huge weird west fan, but I do enjoy playing the RPG Deadlands which is set in the “weird west”.  It’s fun.  It’s cooky.  It’s deadly.  Gunslingers, cowboys, Native Americans, steam, clockwork, magic, weird science.  It’s awesome when you get a group of people together who don’t take themselves too seriously, but jump into a genre with both feet.

My favorite character is Lonesome Chapman.  She has become known as The Whispering Widow.  She was married to a Texas Ranger and together her and her husband were hanged by Pinkertons… as it turns out she was only partially hanged having been saved by her husband’s super smart horse.  However, her larynx is crushed and she can speak at a whisper, anything louder and it is a croak.  I love her.  She is so much fun.  But… I digress.  She is nowhere to be found in this book.

Doc Holliday, Wyatt Earp and John Ringo are however.  It’s a bit of alternate fantastical history that kinda sorta tells a story about the OK Corral… kinda sorta… it has Edison and Buntline in it working together to create really nifty gizmos.  In short it was a whole lot of fun.  No thought needed.  Just sit back and enjoy the wild bronc ride!

My favorite bit, I think were the appendixes, appendisese, appendix?… there are three.  The first one tells you about an alternate history where the US stretches from coast to coast, not stopping at the Mississippi as in this story.   The second is an actual bonefide article from a said alternate history’s newspaper.  It’s a hoot.  Don’t forget to read them!

So.  I hope you all had a lovely National Reading Day.  I hope you got a chance to actually DO some reading.  I would love to hear about what you are reading now!  Drop me a line in the comments!

 

#3 – Revolutionary by Alex Myers

#3 – Revolutionary by Alex Myers

Kinda funny this book would get chosen at random from the The Staircase at a time when women are marching for their beliefs again.  When I purchased this book I hadn’t realized all the implications behind the story or the author, I’m not sure which part of the back cover blurb caught my eye, but I was quick-shopping and this one made it’s way into my basket, so, imagine my delight when I read about the author and his realtionship (in more ways than one) with the hero(heroin) of the story and how their struggles are pertinent in today’s world… although it is kinda sad that we STILL have to fight for this crap.  No.  No politics here.  Just books.

Okay, just a little ‘splainin’…  quick-shopping is something I do on occasion to branch out and expand my reading base.  I avoid the sci-fi/fantasy section (although I hate that they have been lumped together… but that is another story for another time) and browse the front tables.  You know the ones.  They have catchy signs with wordings like Book to Movie or Employee Pick, or Dark Fantasy.. okay, that one probably will never happen, but you get my meaning and know exactly where I’m talking about.  I browse and pick.  I only allow myself the quick cover blurb, no delving deeper.  If the snippet on the back makes me go hmmm, it goes in the basket.  I stop at a preset monetary value, go to the register and check out.  No thinking, no debating, nada.  Is fun.  I’ve found some really cool books this way.  You should try it.

Anyway.

Alex Myers began life as a female, grew to know himself, and worked towards becoming the male he wanted, needed, to be.  Deborah Samson, the main character of the story began life as a female, changed herself as best she could to be a male, enlisted in the army and served during the last part of the US’s revolutionary war.  According to the bio, Alex is a descendant of Deborah.  Pretty cool.

As the book begins to unfold we learn of Deborah, her life, her discontent.  To be quite honest, I would have been pretty discontent myself.  I am not known for being meek or demure or subservient.  She dresses like a man and attempts to sign up for army service, but silly girl does it in her home town and gets recognized and caught.  Before she can be brought to trial she is attacked, attacks back and makes a run for freedom.  She has adventures and gets far enough away from home to try enlisting again, with greater success.  The book goes on to tell her tale as a soldier in the continental army.  There are times when I wonder and worry that the book is straying into what I call “preach it land” where the author’s ideals and principals take over and the story is lost in the message the author wishes to get out there, but it never actually does.  Alex does a very good job of portraying what he believed Deborah might have been thinking and feeling.  In the end, she discovers much about herself and returns to being a woman.  I have to say, her life did not end up the way I thought it should… but… that’s life for you I guess.

This was quick and engaging read that was fun and thought provoking at the same time.  I liked the way details of daily life were dealt with, sometimes in depth, other times glossed over as not necessary for the story.  My questions of how she dealt with her female body and its functions was answered a bit vaguely, but, to be honest, those details were not necessary to the story and probably strayed into the realm of serious speculation.

I liked this book.  Overall a rating of 3.

Oh… and here is The Staircase.  Do not be fooled.  It is not a to-read pile.  My entire library is a to read-pile.  The books found here have yet to be scanned and cataloged.  Every couple of months I set a day aside to scan, catalog and shelf… read or not.  Just so’s you know.  I don’t do to-read piles.  😀  I will say though, that all of these have yet to be read.  There is an even bigger pile on a designated bookcase that is still waiting for catalog.  I guess I really need to set time aside and do that.

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#2b – “The Iron Ghost” by Jen Williams

#2b – “The Iron Ghost” by Jen Williams

I read the first book in this series, “The Copper Promise” this past fall.  I spent the first quarter of the book feeling like I had missed a book.  I kept stopping to check to make sure I hadn’t begun a series in the middle.  It was maddening, but eventually I settled into the writing style, got invested in the characters and totally forgot to wonder what I had missed.  Until the end.  At which point I went online and pre-ordered the second one… which came just as I was digging in to Salem’s Lot.  I almost put Mr. Barlow’s adventures down to jump into this one, but, I was too afraid of retribution from the creepy blood sucker.

These two books are stand alone, but follow the adventures of three heroes.  Two of the main characters have a history that predates the beginning of the first book, but that’s okay.  The author gives you tidbits as you go along, almost like she is gently reminding you of what you read at the beginning of the series, without there having been a beginning book. There are events that happened between the two tales.  Those that are important are relayed well, those that don’t add to the tale are touched on to fill the gap but not dwelled upon.  The stories told in these two volumes are tidbits of time in the lives of the characters.  Sure there are more mundane things attentended to.  Other jobs that the sell swords did, just, none of them were quite the story that these two were.   I totally get why the author picked these tales to tell.

One of the things I adored about these books is that they read very much like many of our table top rpg session would read if someone were to put them into story form.  Not all choices were good ones.  Not all outcomes were beneficial, but they carried on, they held to their purpose and they made a difference in their little pocket of the universes.  Now.  Some of you might know that my hubby and I met over Dungeons and Dragons in the 70’s.  Yes.  I know.  I’m old.  Our love of role playing has been our entertainment since we first got together.  Some people go bowling, we have game night.  We have spanned the genres leaving D&D for other pastures, some of our favorites over the years are Powers & Perils, Role Master, Shadow Run, EarthDawn and now we are in love with the Savage Worlds system and are currently enjoying forays into Victorian era monster hunting.  Not all our game sessions are exciting.  Not all our game sessions go well.  But, if you were to piece together and cleverly narrate the good bits, this is the sort of story you would come up with.

I thoroughly enjoyed them.  The characters are real, fallable and have hearts.  The magic in this world is different and creative and although it is very powerful, it isn’t common.  The creatures are just plain cool and the demon you meet is a nasty piece of work just like a demon should be.

I give it a 4 simply because I’m told I give too many books 5’s and these did make me crazy wondering what book I had missed previously.  Nice job Jen Williams.  You have a new fan.

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