Monthly Archives: March 2012

Book review: The Magical Misperception of Meridian


I have to be honest: this novella wasn’t nearly long enough to satisfy me. Part of the reason it’s taken me so long to review this is due to the freak snow storm and the resulting mess that followed (both humans in our household work retail after a fashion, and the locals went nuts after the snow, and it made work stressful, thus coddling of selves after work instead of working on our real passions, spinning and writing respectively), but since I’m being honest, I’ll also admit, at least here, that part of the reason it took me so long to review this is also because I had to sort through my reaction to the story.

Because while I was reading it I was enjoying it immensely, and then we hit the ending and I was left dissatisfied. Since I’m a conscientious reader, I’m aware that it’s not always the fault of the story or the writer when I find myself dissatisfied with a story; we all have our preferences that do not necessarily on the story-tellers ability to tell a tale. Especially when I’m reviewing, I try to keep that in mind. Especially especially when, until the ending, I’m enjoying the story.

Such is the case with this one. Early in we meet Jona, who is the younger daughter of a well-to-do merchant family in a smallish town. She’s a tomboy, more interested in sitting out doors and enjoying a day in her own company than going to see the Queen arrive and give a speech. Still, she wanders a bit closer into town to get a glimpse of the goings-on and meets a boy playing knight, surrounded by imaginary foes, and, being a helpful sort, rushes in to help even the odds. Together, they valiantly fight off their opponents and spend the rest of the day playing. When a local gang of kids show up and mock Jona’s newfound friend, she defends him, further earning his regard. When it’s discovered that Lee is, in fact, the Queen’s nephew, Jona is stunned. Not long after their first encounter, the Queen sends for Jona as a study-partner for Lee. A stutter that refuses to go away on its own, Lee relaxes enough around Jona to over-come his insecurities, and the Queen has no qualms about using that to her advantage. Their friendship deepens over the time they spend together, and it becomes clear that Lee is less interested in social class and rank, and more interested in honoring ties when they are forged.

The novella isn’t an overly complex one — which is good, since it’s a novella and not a novel. The story is heart-warming and over-all cheerful, a tale of honoring friendships, of standing up to archaic ways that no longer serve, of what it is to rule by love rather than by force and fear.

I cannot, and will not, blame the story for leaving me with wanting to know ┬ámore about Meridian and its history, which is what my dissatisfaction turned out to be, upon reflection. Ultimately, that’s a good thing, isn’t it? Wanting to read more? It’s going to make me seek out more of S.G. Roger’s writing. And, I think you should too.

Babbledybabbleybooks

To celebrate the impending arrival of Fair Game, the new Alpha and Omega book by Patricia Briggs, I decided to inhale reread the series. Because I have a copy of the first story in the series, and a copy of the second book but not the first book, I reread it all out of order. And did. not. care. Patricia Briggs has been one of my favorite writers since before she started writing urban fantasy, so naturally I was beyond pleased when she came out with the Mercedes books, and I’m extremely happy for her that they’re as popular as they are. Furthermore, I enjoy them a lot, too. But, man oh man do I love Anna and Charles. An oddity, because my preference is generally “human and ______” pairings. But, no, oh no, I adore these books. So much so that after I finished reading Alpha and Omega (the first story) I immediately re-re-read it again before moving on to the books.

I desperately want the new book. Now. Instead of now, it will be here by Thursday. I can wait.

To help me wait, I bought Queen of Shadows by Dianne Sylvan. I haven’t cracked it open yet — it’s my carrot for getting through some edits (almost done!) and a novella that I agreed (and want!) to review. I am beyond excited to learn of this series and cannot wait (well, can wait, and am waiting, but am still bouncing around like a five year old before Christmas) to read it.

And then I have the next Elemental Masters book to read. Never mind the two nonfiction books I have. And the writing. But I have tomorrow to spend the day curled up with writing (and floor washing, but our place is tiny, that’ll take 20 minutes, max!) and the dog and the cats.

I’m also sort of numb-with-shock when I think about packing for my trip East. With my Kindle, I will now have room for other stuff in my traveling backpack besides books. All those books! One small space! It’s magic!

Phoenix and Ashes

As I mentioned in my review of Winter Moon, I keep forgetting how much I enjoy Mercedes Lackey’s books. I also mentioned that I immediately ran to the library and took out a copy of one of her books. Not, mind you, one of the Five Hundred Kingdom books — in whose world the novella from Winter Moon was set — but rather one of the Elemental Masters novels, Pheonix and Ashes. I realized, at the very beginning of reading this book that, heh, I’d started it years before and lost interest in it almost immediately. I also discovered, upon returning home and visiting SciFan.com (if you haven’t, you should) that the book that I thought was the start of this series is, in fact, not, and I had yet to read the first one. In short, I’m reading them all sorts of out of order and I need to remedy that.

One thing I thoroughly enjoy about these books is a touch of fairy tale retelling to them. Take Phoenix and Ashes

Eleanor Robinson was the daughter of a successful merchant in pre-War Britian. She and her family were not members of the aristocracy, but they were well enough off that when Eleanor decided she wanted to go to Oxford to study, by golly, she was going to go. Her father was successful enough to indulge his daughter in this dream of hers, that women too can have a place in academia. (Mind you: pre-War Britian). But then, seemingly out of nowhere, Mr. Robinson brings home a new wife with two daughter’s of her own, and then the War (that is, WWI) breaks out, and then her father dies, and suddenly Eleanor is at the mercy of her step-mother, and her step-mother does not have a generous supply of mercy. I adore Cinderella tales.

So, we meet Ellie who spends a number of years tied to the hearth of her home, playing maid to her evil stepmother and her two wretched daughters as they scramble to climb the local social ladder. Step-Mom is, of course, an elemental master, and not a very nice one indeed. We also meet Reggie, the local Lord and veteran of the war, sent back home after a horrible attack (and Attack) on the Front, with a busted knee and a busted sense of self. And, we eventually meet Sarah, Ellie’s mother’s best friend, who reveals, if not all, a lot more than Ellie realized about her mother, and herself, and her potential to free herself from this captivity.

As I read through the book, newly aware of the fact that I do enjoy Lackey’s writing immensely, I discovered why. The Elemental Masters books are pagan-friendly — in fact, Mercedes Lackey’s writing in general seems to be pagan friendly. This series is decidedly written around concepts of Western mysteries and esoterica and Spiritualism . . . which is something I’m not generally a huge fan of. (When we talk mysteries, my mind is definitely wired a tad more easternly, if you follow). On top of that, this particular book is set during the beginning bits of the 20th century, in England. Now, my peoples come from Northern Europe, and mostly western Northern Europe, so I can’t say I’m disinterested in that region of the world and its history. I will say, though, that the early 20th century is not my favorite time period. It’s about a thousand years too recent. It hardly counts as history. Lackey does a brilliant job of texturing and layering her world. I came away intrigued by the time period, interested in the story, and pleasantly full, as if I’d eaten a nourishing, well-rounded meal that saw to all my needs. This book was the reading equivilant of a fresh spring salad followed by a hearty meal of stews and thick-crusted bread, a slice of apple pie and some rich hot cocoa with home made whipped cream on top. And, since I followed it up with the following book in the series, it only got better!

And it goes . . .

March has been dismal so far for regular progress. Well, March and half of February if we’re being honest, migraines notwithstanding. Upon reflection, I’ve realized that while I’ve allowed myself some big leeway, word count wise for tracking weekly progress (300 – 1500 words a day, 4-5 days a week) I’ve re-aligned my “acceptable word count numbers” back to 1k a day, and anything less is unacceptable, and so why even bother?

Now, I understand that these self-sabotage methods are insidious and tricky and annoying as all get out. I’m conversant with mindfulness and the need to be vigilant. And still it sneaks in and settles in to make it look as though it’s always been there, and suddenly half a month is gone and my interest in the novel lags.

Until I sit down, bust out a whole chapter, and get the rhythm back. The story is not going where I expected it to go, but I rather love it, and I can’t wait to get up in the morning and work on it some more.

Today I ordered Barefoot on Holy Ground and Patricia Brigg’s new Alpha and Omega story. I may trot out the other books in that series and do a re-read. I went back and forth: paper or Kindle? But, for these? Paper. Patricia Brigg’s is one of my favorites, after all. Even if I do miss her secondary world fantasy novels. *sigh* What can you do?

Womens Work: a (mini) book review

I have to admit that I wavered back and forth between two of Elizabeth Wayland Barber’s books, both Women’s Work and Prehistoric Textiles. I opted for Women’s Work solely because the university library had a copy I could read for free, verus the $50 price tag on the Prehistoric Textiles book. Having read the one, I realize I will very likely, at some point, buy the other. I enjoyed Women’s Work quite a bit, despite her tendency to treat the religious lives of prehistoric and early historic peoples as rather simple. They can figure out how to sustain fire, how to take plant matter and make fine thread to weave into elaborate cloth, they can create complex writing systems, but their religious understanding is base and under-developed and unsophisticated? This is a prevailing approach to indigenious religious history within academia which has gotten better with the passage of time, but is not yet perfect. More specifically, my issue with Barber’s writing is more one of inconsistency. In a number of places she goes from talking about the instances of textiles in relation to ‘Slavic pagan’ goddesses right on into the weaving of Athena’s peplos in Athens. Not once does she preface Athena with ‘pagan’, so the need to do so with any other non-Hellenic or non-Roman goddess was incredibly annoying. This is, however, a minor flaw, and does not detract from the rest of the book. Over all it was interesting read . . .

. . . and not nearly textbook-y enough for me. I want groupings broken up by time period and location. I want to read about the weaving within the context of cultural developement and advancement. I want plates and maps and time lines. I want, in essence, the other book.

See, but now I know I want the other book.

So, we have cats, revisited.

To refresh your memory:

This is what it looks like when our dainty kitty jumps across the counter onto the freshly baked brownies (happily protected from direct contact by a tea towel)

This, however:

is what happens when you add 5-7 pounds to that leaping cat. And then, of course, there’s the crashbangbom! as he scampers away, because I’m sure he didn’t expect the counter to be smooshy and hot.

He’s lucky it was a box mix, is all I’m saying.

Solstice Wood, revisited.

Okay, okay, I was wrong!

I’m firmly moving Patricia McKillip’s writing up there there with Catherynne M. Valente’s and China Meiville’s. Writing that I enjoy, writing that touches places I don’t know need touching until after it is done, but writing that I have to be in the mood for.

Her story telling is very rambly, very slow, and very ‘let’s talk about it without talking about it,’ which, in theory I dislike but in practice, if it is done well enough that I’m carried along, I don’t mind and have been known to love.

This was a haunting, lovely, heart-breaking story about love and trust and decades of being taught the wrong thing and our need for darkness and uncertainty. Because it’s me, the ending felt rushed in comparison to the rest of the novel, but I never know if that’s my fault or the author’s fault. It’s a novel about the fey, about doorways and crossroads and gateways, about belonging to both worlds and neither of them. It is decidedly *not* an “every girl is a faery princess waiting to be reclaimed by her faery worlds” novel (I say that like I don’t read and enjoy those, too). I was wrong about not liking it. I liked it a lot!