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Review: Blackout by Connie Willis

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

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

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!


This is just too cute for words.

Thoughts about what I want in a theme

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!
Con­tin­ue read­ing Thoughts about what I want in a theme

Why I’m Thankful for Caller ID

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

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.
Con­tin­ue read­ing Needy Cat

Oh No, I Have That Itch

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!

Fall Cleaning

It has to be fall clean­ing because it’s Sep­tem­ber, right? I haven’t done spring clean­ing at any time since we’ve lived in this house, hon­est­ly. I haven’t been able to do it. But between a new pain spe­cial­ist who isn’t all the way on the oth­er side of metro Atlanta (who actu­al­ly lis­tens to me and treats me like an adult human being who might know a thing or two about who own body, even!) and new, appar­ent­ly much more effec­tive dosages of two oth­er med­ica­tions, I’m feel­ing bet­ter despite that oth­er new pesky health thing. And Sam and Katie have been won­der­ful­ly coop­er­a­tive, as much as they can around work and school oblig­a­tions.
Con­tin­ue read­ing Fall Clean­ing

General Update

It has been some time since I post­ed much here, so I fig­ure that I should do a bit of an update. It isn’t as if any­thing has changed in any big way. Sam has the same nice and sta­ble job, and we’re still very hap­pi­ly togeth­er after—oh, wow, it’s twelve years this month.

Katie is a col­lege stu­dent now, and still liv­ing at home (I’m very hap­py about that!) since she decid­ed to attend a local school. Her health issues haven’t gone away, but she’s try­ing so very hard—I wor­ry about her con­stant­ly. She push­es and push­es until she col­laps­es every day and at the end of every week. She has a very active social life (what do you expect? she’s a babe!), and hap­pi­ly she has a great group of friends who are sup­port­ive about help­ing her get to class when nei­ther she nor I dri­ve.

One of the class­es she was sup­posed to take (French) was can­celed due to inad­e­quate enroll­ment. She was ter­ri­bly unhap­py, and I was a lit­tle dis­ap­point­ed because I was look­ing for­ward to help­ing her with the sub­ject. On the oth­er hand, it was an 8am class, and with­out it her ear­li­est class is much lat­er in the day. I think it worked out for the best for this semes­ter.

I’ve had anoth­er nui­sance come up with my own health, too. Annoy­ing bod­ies. They’re great when you want to taste choco­late, hug some­one, smell flow­ers, etc. but I have some com­plains about a few design flaws.

That’s enough for tonight. Tomor­row: More about Art!