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Review: and Falling, Fly by Skyler White

Posted by Cyn | Posted in Reading | Posted on 27-05-2011

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and Falling, Flyand Falling, Fly by Skyler White
My rat­ing: 5 of 5 stars

Sam Chupp has been after me to read this book for weeks, so as soon as I fin­ished All Clear, I start­ed it. This book is dif­fer­ent from any­thing else I’ve read in years. I hes­i­tate to say it’s more lit­er­ary than most fan­ta­sy, because I don’t like “lit­er­ary” books — they’re usu­al­ly stuffy, dry, and pre­sump­tu­ous.

After the first few chap­ters, there’s no slow­ing down, because you’re as caught up in what’s hap­pen­ing as the char­ac­ters are. I was trans­fixed by White’s descrip­tions, which can make even ugli­ness fas­ci­nat­ing.

We are trav­el­ing into time, burn­ing two hours for every one I endure beside this bab­bling, cursed child of Greece. I see them all the time, these bas­tard half chil­dren of sto­ries and mor­tals, trapped between worlds, the genet­ic lin­eage of myth reassert­ing itself across the inex­tri­ca­ble ages. Helen of Troy is born the socialite child of a par­tial Zeus mat­ed to half of a swan-lov­ing Leda, the myth­ic DNA in each of them dor­mant until they breed and damn their off­spring with its expres­sion.

White’s vam­pire mythos is like no oth­er I’ve encoun­tered. I found it far more believ­able than most of what’s being print­ed over and over and over again. Anoth­er refresh­ing thing about the book is that there’s no feel­ing of a set up for a series. Odd­ly, though, I’m now see­ing the book iden­ti­fied as the first of a series called Har­row­ing, at least on GoodReads, but as far as I can tell, the sec­ond book has no char­ac­ters in com­mon with the first. Per­haps it’s sim­ply set in the same uni­verse?

In any case, I’ve added In Dreams Begin to my to-read stack, and I’ll be keep­ing an eye on Skyler White.

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Review: All Clear by Connie Willis

Posted by Cyn | Posted in Reading | Posted on 27-05-2011

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All ClearAll Clear by Con­nie Willis
My rat­ing: 5 of 5 stars

Well, this vol­ume moved much more quick­ly than Black­out did! Hav­ing read a brief piece writ­ten by Ms. Willis thank­ing those who stood by her as one book spread into two, I think I have a slight­ly bet­ter under­stand­ing now of what hap­pened that led to my unhap­pi­ness with the way the first book end­ed. They real­ly shouldn’t be two books, but they couldn’t phys­i­cal­ly fit into one vol­ume. Or, for many e-read­ers, one ebook.

It is still a large book! And, as in Black­out, it isn’t always clear just who a char­ac­ter is. I’m read­ing along hap­pi­ly and all of a sud­den, there’s a new main char­ac­ter! Wait, who is this? Has Col­in got­ten through some­how? Or is it anoth­er his­to­ri­an? Or anoth­er trip by one of the peo­ple we already know? Or – but – …Ms. Willis does a mar­velous job of keep­ing us guess­ing. And the his­to­ri­ans’ habit of using dif­fer­ent names on dif­fer­ent assign­ments meant that I didn’t always know which per­son I was read­ing about even when I thought I did know who he or she was! The read­er has to catch the tini­est details to know that some­thing isn’t quite right, or be left com­plete­ly sur­prised at the reveal! The many ref­er­ences to Agatha Christie are def­i­nite­ly mean­ing­ful, and I’ve come to believe that I haven’t read near­ly enough of her work!

I’ve always con­sid­ered Ms. Willis a cere­bral author, but my emo­tions were heav­i­ly engaged here. The anal­o­gy of Pol­ly, Sir God­frey, and The Admirable Crich­ton was so apt, and that dread­ful busi­ness in the Phoenix had me bawl­ing. By the time a hero we’d grown to know and love dear­ly fell, and fell so, so close to home, I was a bas­ket case.

After fin­ish­ing this mas­sive duol­o­gy (which real­ly should count as one enor­mous book spread across two vol­umes), you would think that I would be sick and tired of all things Willis and not want to read anoth­er word by her for the next year or so. Instead, I want to know, right now, what comes next. I want to read about Eileen and the Vic­ar, and watch Alf and Bin­nie grow up. I want to see Pol­ly and Colin’s rela­tion­ship grow.

I imag­ine Ms. Willis is rather tired of all of them, though, and hap­py to rest for a while and remem­ber what it is to live back in this cen­tu­ry again. The Oxford Time Trav­el uni­verse offers so many rich and fas­ci­nat­ing pos­si­bil­i­ties for fic­tion, and I hope she choos­es to write many more nov­els set in it. I’ll def­i­nite­ly be will­ing to read them!

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Review: Blackout by Connie Willis

Posted by Cyn | Posted in Reading | Posted on 26-05-2011

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Blackout (All Clear #1)Black­out by Con­nie Willis
My rat­ing: 4 of 5 stars

Oh, Ms. Willis! I can­not believe you did this to me! A cliffhang­er? After 512 many pages? And I hung in there SO long in the begin­ning, when the book was so slow to get going!

Seri­ous­ly – dur­ing all that nat­ter­ing about over changed sched­ules and find­ing drop sites I near­ly screamed to just get on with it already! So it is absolute­ly ridicu­lous to find that after more than 500 pages, I am not a nice res­o­lu­tion to any of the var­i­ous plot lines, but rather am referred to the next boook, All Clear!

It’s a bloody good thing that I 1) real­ly, real­ly like Ms. Willis’ work; and 2) already have All Clear on hand and ready to go, or I would have been sore­ly tempt­ed, sore­ly, I say, to throw the book across the room. That isn’t near­ly so sat­is­fy­ing with ebooks, and tends to do absolute­ly noth­ing but dam­age one’s hard­ware, so I imag­ine I would have refrained.

But I absolute­ly would not sug­gest this work to a first-time Willis read­er. To Say Noth­ing of the Dog, cer­tain­ly. Bell­wether, even more so. But not this one, and not Dooms­day Book or Lincoln’s Dreams or, hon­est­ly, even Fire Watch (the sto­ry on which the All Clear duol­o­gy is based).

Willis doesn’t write sim­plis­tic sto­ries, or I prob­a­bly wouldn’t enjoy her work so much, but she has a way of mak­ing the com­plex clear that’s beau­ti­ful. It’s just that these require a bit more desire to get there on the part of the read­er, to my way of think­ing, than the oth­er two. And once one is seduced by those, it is clear that the effort is whol­ly worth­while.

In any case, there’s no doubt but that I’m going right on ahead to read All Clear. I’m just a bit put out with the author at the moment – and very, very glad, con­sid­er­ing the heft of these tomes, that I’ve switched to ebooks!

I still think that read­ers deserve some small reward for the sheer aggra­va­tion met­ed out thus far. Sure­ly resolv­ing some small plot issues would not have caused trou­ble? For instance, authors who are accus­tomed to work­ing with mul­ti-book series reg­u­lar­ly wrap up some issues in each book, while leav­ing oth­er, larg­er plot threads to car­ry over into future vol­umes to pro­vide con­ti­nu­ity.

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Question of the Day: Put it all together, it spells Mother

Posted by Cyn | Posted in Blogging, Family | Posted on 08-05-2011

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From LiveJournal’s “Writer’s Block” prompt:

What’s the most impor­tant les­son your mom taught you?

You can’t believe the words, only the actions.

No, I don’t ever recall her say­ing it. It’s some­thing I had to learn the hard way.

Book Reviews: A Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings

Posted by Cyn | Posted in Reading | Posted on 29-04-2011

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A Game of Thrones (Song of Ice & Fire, #1)A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Mar­tin
My rat­ing: 5 of 5 stars

I final­ly got around to read­ing A Game of Thrones, despite the fact that the series still wasn’t fin­ished when I start­ed, because the tele­vi­sion series was start­ing. Sam real­ly want­ed to watch it, and I didn’t want to see it with­out hav­ing read the book, so I gave in and start­ed read­ing.

Sam had repeat­ed­ly warned me that it was real­ly dark, and indeed it is. I think he said that there are no whol­ly good char­ac­ters. So far, at least, that isn’t quite true. It may be some­thing that becomes more accu­rate as the oth­er vol­umes unfold. There are cer­tain­ly no sim­ple char­ac­ters, or plots — but then, I remem­ber enough of Martin’s ear­li­er work (on the Wild Cards series and such) that I wouldn’t expect any­thing else. Peo­ple aren’t sim­ple, or pure­ly black and white, so why would char­ac­ters in good fic­tion be that way?

The best way I’ve found to maybe tell pro­tag­o­nists from antag­o­nists so far is to use the chap­ter names as guides: the peo­ple whose names are used as chap­ter names are either pro­tag­o­nists or sur­vivors. I’m not sure which. Cate­lyn and Tyri­on are the only peo­ple from the “old­er” gen­er­a­tion who have chap­ter names. No, wait — I just thought of some­one who kills my the­o­ry. I can’t say because that would be a spoil­er.

I did find sev­er­al inci­dents in this first book dis­turb­ing. I don’t like it when bad things hap­pen to chil­dren or ani­mals. Cer­sei would be a fun char­ac­ter to play, although I sup­pose she’ll get her come­up­pance at some point (or I hope she will). I’ve tried think­ing of her as a woman pro­tect­ing her chil­dren, but that’s not help­ing.

If you’re eas­i­ly dis­turbed, don’t read the book (or watch the tele­vi­sion series, appar­ent­ly). Just — don’t. You won’t be hap­py with the open­ing scene, and it sets the tone for the rest of the book. But if vio­lent war and polit­i­cal schem­ing, incest as a dynas­tic strat­e­gy, and very occa­sion­al creepy super­nat­ur­al hap­pen­ings are okay with you, it’s a very well-writ­ten book.

A Clash of Kings (A Song of Ice and Fire, #2)A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Mar­tin
My rat­ing: 5 of 5 stars

The end of A Clash of Kings snuck up on me. That’s some­thing I hadn’t real­ly thought about before, espe­cial­ly with an 874 page mon­ster like this, but it can hap­pen with an ebook. I’m read­ing along, eager to know what hap­pens next. The chap­ter ends, I go to the next page, and — Appen­dix? What do you mean, Appen­dix! That’s non­sense, there’s got to be more sto­ry here than that! I want to know what comes next, dammit! GIVE ME THE STORY!

As it hap­pens, I can start read­ing A Storm of Swords when­ev­er I like, unlike all those poor folk who read this book when it was first released. I think I might need to stop and read a few oth­er books first, though. I did read yesterday’s big announce­ment regard­ing A Dance with Drag­ons, but there’s no way I can stretch the next two vol­umes out to last through more than two months until book five actu­al­ly comes out. I’m sure the delay will be worth it, though!

One thing Sam and I have dis­cussed is Martin’s mar­velous sub­tle­ty with mag­ic. It’s only bare­ly there at all through­out A Game of Thrones, and can eas­i­ly be dis­missed by any­one who doesn’t have direct expe­ri­ence of it. It grows stronger in A Clash of Kings, but it is still some­thing that just about any­one in the Sev­en King­doms would say belongs in tales for chil­dren. Not rely­ing on mag­ic for plot takes more dis­ci­pline as an author, and hold­ing back as he is says a great deal about Martin’s care­ful pace.

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Cat & Dolphins!

Posted by Cyn | Posted in Critters | Posted on 11-04-2011

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This is just too cute for words.

Thoughts about what I want in a theme

Posted by Cyn | Posted in Blogging | Posted on 22-03-2011

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It’s been way too long since I start­ed, but didn’t actu­al­ly fin­ish, the process of mov­ing all the old arti­cles on this site over into Word­Press. I got bogged down and didn’t real­ly fin­ish, so the site stayed half-done and sucky. Now I don’t know if I should even both­er fin­ish­ing. Part of the trou­ble is that those arti­cles are SO old that when I start mov­ing them, I get bogged down in updat­ing them and I end up rewrit­ing them, and it’s hard to fin­ish even one sec­tion!

Why I’m Thankful for Caller ID

Posted by Cyn | Posted in Family | Posted on 07-02-2011

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Leaf

I’m not avoid­ing my moth­er, but I get tense when I see her on my caller ID late­ly.

We tend to stay in touch by email more than by phone, and if she calls it usu­al­ly means that there’s some­thing that can’t wait on email. We’ve lost five mem­bers of our extend­ed fam­i­ly since Octo­ber 2. We had absolute­ly no warn­ing with two of those peo­ple. One was a young teen.

So as much as I love my moth­er, every time I pick up the phone to talk to her now I’m expect­ing bad news.

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Needy Cat

Posted by Cyn | Posted in Critters, Family | Posted on 05-09-2010

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Katie and Kiyoshi in 2006
That’s an old pho­to of Katie and Kiyoshi. I’m not the fam­i­ly pho­tog­ra­ph­er. She is, fol­lowed by Sam. But there’s a pho­to, and this post real­ly needs one.

Oh No, I Have That Itch

Posted by Cyn | Posted in Art, Blogging | Posted on 04-09-2010

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No, noth­ing like that!

I’ve been look­ing at Word­Press themes. Again. Lots of them.

I have lots of tuto­ri­als book­marked about cre­at­ing your own themes, too. I even have a cou­ple of books on the sub­ject.

One is quite new.

Dan­ger, dan­ger, Will Robin­son!