A Bit of Earth and other stories

So, after six years of identifying with Gryffindor, I got Sorted on J.K. Rowling's Pottermore (still in beta) site this week.

Turns out, I'm a Hufflepuff.

A Hufflepuff! Not overly surprising, actually—I've sometimes called myself a Gryfflepuff, because I couldn’t quite decide between the two. I like Hufflepuff's openness, its generosity, and the intense goodness and loyalty many of its residents offered Harry. And when you spend the whole Sorting process going "Not Slytherin, not Slytherin", it's nice to wind up in the house that has produced the fewest Dark wizards.

Also, the House description felt like a perfect fit. I never realized that a Hufflepuff could be strong-willed, but the House is represented by a badger. More on that, eventually, at The Hog's Head.

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Having a garden brings to mind all kinds of literary references. Currently, I'm 'reaping where I did not sow,' in broccoli and tomatoes and kale. Also, I'm remembering the work Mary and Dickon and Colin went to in restoring their Secret Garden. The 'bit of earth' I've been given has definitely spent some time growing over with grass and weeds. It's both hard work and delight to restore.

I haven't found a good literary comparison for keeping neighborhood cats from digging in soft seed beds, or for building slipshod tomato shelters from bamboo sticks and twine and old sheets. Or for slugs and tomato worms and spiders. I've got a few good naughty words, though.

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Writers' link of the week: Bob Mayer's "If I were an unpublished author, would I self-publish?" He makes a great point about the importance of having multiple works.

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Music of the week: my new House theme song. I got such a kick out of all the little (properly spelled) icons in this video that I just went over to fanpop.com and downloaded a bunch of them. "No one ever suspects the Hufflepuff." LOL.

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Funny of the week: OK, one more Harry Potter link, and then I'll stop. For today. But seriously, I love the snarky answers to math test questions, and this one made my day. And if you need more funny answers to test questions, well... I thought I'd seen nearly everything the internet had to offer, but was surprised to tears of mirth by a couple of these.

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Time to clean house! According to the Sorting Hat, Hufflepuffs are "unafraid of toil." And hey, if we're talking about writing, I'm right there. With housework, however... I think I'm still a bit of a Gryffindor about that.

Happy weekend, everybody!


Currently Reading: Towers of Midnight (The Wheel of Time, book 13)

Towers of Midnight (Wheel of Time, #13; Memory of Light, #2)"Rand... she has called me back to the Tower. I'll need to go today."

Rand looked saddened. "Well, I suspected she might try to do that eventually." He took Nynaeve by the shoulder in an odd gesture. "Don't let them ruin you, Nynaeve. They'll try."

"Ruin me?"

"Your passion is part of you," Rand said. "I tried to be like them, though I wouldn't have admitted it. Cold. Always in control. It nearly destroyed me. That is strength to some, but it is not the only type of strength. Perhaps you could learn to control yourself a little more, but I like you as you are. It makes you genuine. I would not see you become another 'perfect' Aes Sedai with a painted mask of a face and no care for the feelings and emotions of others."

Authors: Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

Synopsis: As a suddenly different Rand tries to prepare the world for Tarmon Gai'don, Perrin faces attack from Graendal and Whitecloaks and works to keep from losing himself to the wolf. Mat and Thom prepare to enter the Tower of Ghenjei, hoping to free Moiraine from the Aelfinn and Eelfinn. Egwene and Gawyn try to work out their relationship as Egwene seeks to find and defeat Mesaana. And while Nynaeve goes through rigorous testing for the Tower, Lan raises the Golden Crane and rides to the first wave of the Last Battle.

Notes: Thirteen books. Between 675-1000 pages each. Two hundred fifty-plus words per page.

One more volume to go.

Well, two, if you count the prequel. For now, I'm overwhelmed at having gotten this far. I had to stay up well past midnight both last night and the night before to finish by today, so I'm sleepy and a little numb. But I'm glad I've done the reading.

Sanderson's writing is a little mellower than Jordan's. It comes across more peaceful, even more hopeful, though I couldn't say how much of that has to do with the voice and how much with the fact that what Jordan built to the heights of conflict, Sanderson has been given the task of resolving. Be that as it may, I've enjoyed reading both authors. Jordan pulled off poignant moments much better. I'd actually say that some of the scenes in this book came off a touch cheesy. But Sanderson's even pacing and quietness come as an immense relief.

The moments of resolution help, too. I won't spoil things, but the last two books have carried long-held suspense threads to their conclusion, though still prepping the reader for the Last Battle. I'm actually a little afraid of the next book. It's going to be gory, and there are some plot points for which I wish I didn't have to wait months to find out what happens. For those of you who have waited years, well... wow.

For now, the young people are ruling the world (mild spoilers):
  • Egwene al'Vere, 19, the Amyrlin Seat
  • Fortuona Athaem Kore Paendrag, 16, Empress of the Seanchan
  • Elayne Trakand, under 25, Queen of Andor
  • Rand al'Thor, under 25, the Dragon Reborn, king of Illian and in charge of both Tear and Arad Doman
  • Matrim Cauthon, under 25, Prince of the Ravens, leader of the Band of the Red Hand
  • Perrin Aybara, under 25, steward of the Two Rivers, married to the second in line for the throne of Saldaea, proving himself a great general
  • Galadedrid Damodred, under 30, Lord Captain Commander of the Whitecloaks
  • Nynaeve al'Meara Mandragoran, under 30, most powerful living Aes Sedai and wife to the uncrowned King of Malkier
This sort of thing rarely works outside of fantasy fiction, but practically defines the genre. It makes for a great story: the very young person generally has to face whole lives' worth of extraordinary challenges in a short amount of time, including contact with their own mortality, and prove themselves strong and sensible enough to handle great trials without becoming hell for the world. When most of us were teenagers, we couldn't handle the imposition of a curfew or a well-deserved punishment without becoming hell for the little world we knew. But it's nice to read and imagine what we might become.

It took me awhile to get into the book because I generally find Perrin and Mat less interesting than Rand, Egwene and Nynaeve. I did enjoy their journeys, however, and liked Perrin as much as I ever have. Mat was amusing, especially at the end.

As for Rand... I'll just say that it's good to have Rand back and better than ever. Those dark days were hard to read about.

Egwene continues to interest me, and I loved watching her work through things with Gawyn. His character progression fascinated me; I wound up liking him much more than I ever have.

Then there's Nynaeve, who I loved very early on, and who for a very long time seemed a bit stalled out in character development. Marrying Lan helped her out somewhat. But I took to loving her wholeheartedly again in this book. Maybe I just needed to hear what Rand said in the quote above. It's good to be reminded that there are kinds of strength that even we passionate types can aspire to.

Her belated testing for the shawl was one of my favorite parts of the book. I appreciated her conclusion at the end of it.

The last hundred pages of the book contained a great deal of creepiness and several cliffhangers. But then, it's the beginning of Tarmon Gai'don.

Afraid or not, I can hardly wait for the finale.

Recommendation: Well, yes.


Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Want To Re-read

The trouble with this topic is... I just partly used it a few weeks ago. But I'll note my list down again, so you all can comment and tell me what you want to re-read. :)

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish! Do come join the fun...

Right now, one book a week is just about all I can manage, especially when those books are monsters like those in the Wheel of Time series. And with big books like Anna Karenina on the to-read list, my re-reading time is incredibly limited. But maybe I'll do a few weeks of Percy Jacksons and Prydains and the like this fall, to give myself some time for the following.

1. The Goose Girl (Shannon Hale.) My number-one Must Re-read Immediately. Maybe next week.

2. The Harry Potter series (J.K. Rowling.) I just got Sorted on Pottermore... more about that later... but for now, I would very much like to read the series with my new perspective. :)

3. Pretty much everything Jane Austen wrote. Pride and Prejudice first, I think, although Emma and Sense and Sensibility are both asking to come off the shelf.

4. David Copperfield (Charles Dickens.) It's just been so long, and I only read it once.

5. 101 Dalmatians (Dodie Smith.) I read it to pieces in about fifth grade and haven't picked it up since. But I'd love to.

6. Out of the Silent Planet (C.S. Lewis.) The only one of the Space Trilogy that I've never re-read.

Those are the books that come to mind right off. But quite frankly, any book on my shelves—and a number that aren't—could get re-read any day. Unless, of course, I haven't read it in the first place.

What books do you hope to re-read?


Cinderella's Tree

A blogalectic with Masha and Mr. Pond.

Last week's topic of Beauty in Life brought out great posts from both of my sparring partners. Masha wrote a few poignant and poetic thoughts, with pictures. Mr. Pond wrote a hilarious little piece of meta-flash fiction. I highly recommend both.

This week's topic: beauty in fairy tale.

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The thing about beauty in fairy tale as a topic is that, though it was Masha's idea, it's pretty much the center of Mr. Pond's blog's existence. So, theoretically I could just tell you, well, go read Paradoxes.

But for the sake of contributing something to the discussion, let me start by suggesting that what most North Americans think of when they hear the words "fairy tale" involves a guy named Walt and a lot of colorful little animated stories stamped with a very recognizable pair of black mouse ears.

Aladdin was my favorite.

Unbelievable sights, indescribable feeling
Soaring, tumbling, freewheeling through an endless diamond sky
A whole new woooooooooooooooorld (Don't you dare close your eyes)
A hundred thousand things to see (Hold your breath, it gets better)
I'm like a shooting star
I've come so far
I can't go back to where I used to be...

Of course, fairy tale may be more usually associated with Cinderella or Snow White or Beauty and the Beast. Aladdin should qualify after a fashion, though, as it's one of the One Thousand and One Nights tales. Of course, the original is only half recognizable in Disney's jolly adventure-musical version, but I suppose the name Badroulbadour would have been a lot to throw at small English-speaking children. And allowing the couple to marry halfway through the story would have been rather unusual in the happy-ending tradition. And apparently Disney thought it a bad idea to treat free wish fulfillment as a totally, shamelessly good thing.

I've heard it said that fairy tales are bad for young girls, and perhaps where de-horrified and commercialized stories are concerned that may be true, though for myself I can't think of any problem I've had that I can blame on Cinderella or Snow White. I know my mother kept me from some of the stories when I was very young, but I don't remember not knowing them.

But—and here we get to the point—Disney is a fairly recent invention, and fairy tales are not. I wonder what difference it makes in the thought processes of small girls when, instead of a catchy little story involving mice and pumpkins and songs and Fairy Godmothers, the Cinderella they hear of receives her dresses and help from a white bird living in the tree planted over her mother's grave, and her stepsisters mutilate their own feet to try on the slipper. That's the Grimm version.

And, you know, it is kind of beautiful. Well, except for the knife—and the part where the pigeons peck out the stepsisters' eyes. Gross.

The white bird and the tree outshine every last frame in the movie, though. If there's a single poignant moment in that particular Princess flick, I don't remember. But the haunting little ache, so well placed by the existence and nature of Cinderella's tree, is the very breath of beauty.

Ain't gonna lie, as it were—I like Disney movies. Especially the music. But while I think there is beauty in some of the oversanitized and übermarketed, it's something I take in limited doses. Like McDonald's cheeseburgers. I like those, too, dang it. Once in a while.

And I don't always love the Grimms. I won't lie about that, either. Some of the tales leave me shaking my head and tsking like an old biddy and muttering "Was there a point to that?"

When I think of fairy tales, though, I think of a pale young girl in a peasant's dress, walking through a dark wood, eyes bright in the moonlight. She's out to leave behind the horror she's always known, face the monsters of the night, do the impossible, and find bliss. Or at least peace. And somewhere in the same wood, a youngest son prepares to meet three times with Death, courage and wit and goodness his only weapons.

Will the two wind up married to the royal offspring of nearby realms? Or will they meet in the dark wood under the moon? Or will they simply wend their separate ways and search out their own resolutions?

Either way, it could be beautiful.


Something to Hide and other stories

Maia's idea of a good hiding place in her new house:

Need a closer look?

At first I worried that she'd smother, but when I pulled her out, she went right back in. And after she proved she could survive for eight hours at a time completely buried in blankets, I quit worrying.

Friends and family, some of whom have never seen our cat because she refuses to visit with anyone but Lou and I, get a great laugh out of this. At least now they know she exists.

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For the first time in eighty thousand words—fifty-five thousand of which, I threw away—I got properly swept up into last year's NaNoWriMo novel this week. Little things like food and sleep suddenly became a bother, an interference.  I forgot to get bread at the grocery the other day; I've driven away from home without things I needed. I cheerfully double-booked myself for tonight, and if a friend hadn't asked me for directions, I might have gone out, entirely forgetting that book club was meeting at my house.

I've only made it a few chapters into The Wheel of Time book 13, which I have out from the library, and haven't even picked up Shannon Hale's Austenland. In a week. With both those books flaunting their probable awesomeness, begging for attention, and nothing else on deck for next Wednesday's post.

But my little story calls and yearns at me constantly, and I just have to know what happens next.

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Writers' link of the week: For all our despairing, disconsolate, why-the-hey-am-I-crazy-enough-to-keep-at-this moments: Craig Robertson's Why Am I Still Writing? He gives what might be the best reason I've ever heard.

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Music of the week: My sister-in-law Marie linked this on Facebook the other day, and I was floored. Behold the power of a capella.

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Funny of the week: How to watch Reality TV, according to Savage Chickens. H/T Father Z.

...of course, I got to reading Savage Chickens, and discovered the Books tag, and the Literature one. Hahahahahahaha. Recommended.

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I've got a to-do list and a half-written book vying for my attention. But I promise to try and finish reading something by next Wednesday, for the sake of the blog. In the meantime, Happy Weekend!


Currently Reading: The Sea of Monsters (Percy Jackson #2)

The Sea of Monsters (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #2)"Found one. Thank the gods." Annabeth pulled out a gold coin that I recognized as a drachma, the currency of Mount Olympus. It had Zeus's likeness on one side and the Empire State Building on the other.

"Annabeth," I said, "New York taxi drivers won't take that."

"Stêthi," she shouted in Ancient Greek. "Ô hárma diabolês!"

As usual, the moment she spoke in the language of Olympus, I somehow understood it. She'd said: Stop, Chariot of Damnation!

That didn't exactly make me feel real excited about whatever her plan was.

Author: Rick Riordan

Synopsis: When Percy starts having dreams about his best friend—a satyr named Grover—wearing a wedding dress and begging for help, he expects trouble. And he gets it, in the form of attacks on Camp Half-Blood, a Cyclops for a half-brother, a competitive daughter of Ares, and encounters with Luke, who has diabolical plans of his own.

With a little help from his friend Annabeth, his embarrassing half-brother, and Luke's father (Hermes), Percy sets out to find the Golden Fleece and save Grover and Camp Half-Blood all in one. It's more than enough quest for a seventh-grader.

Notes: Riordan's middle-grade-boy voice is perfect and hilarious in this second installment of the Percy series. I laughed a lot, and I never got bored.

In fact, I'd go so far as to say this book improved upon the first. The Vegas-y version of Charon and a few other things in The Lightning Thief stretched my suspension of disbelief a little bit. But Annabeth's close call with the sirens, the ultrafeminist Circe, the monster Polyphemus and the amusing portrayal of the Bermuda triangle never tripped me up. Annabeth's experience was chilling and even poignant, and the threads involving Tyson and Hermes provided something to really cheer for.

Especially since a part of me is kind of attached to Luke. I don't get it; I never really liked Snape or Malfoy and couldn't rouse much sympathy for Saruman, but for whatever reason, I want to see Luke redeemed. If it comes to shipping, I'm all in favor of Percy getting the girl. But I still hope Luke doesn't end up in Tartarus with Kronos.

Percy got to develop a bit as a character and a hero in this one, and I enjoyed the time I got to spend with him. And I can't imagine not liking Annabeth. Her story got fleshed out a lot in this tale, and I'm eager to see more of her past and her fate.

As anyone might expect from a bunch of superheroes with Greek gods for parents, things like right and wrong and religion are a tad muddy. Be advised, if you will. But overall, the books are just rip-roaring urban fantasy adventures, and squeaky clean (so far) other than the possible need for a little basic explaining about typical Greek-god morality.

Recommendation: Pure escapist fun, and also helpful for learning the Greek myths (in perhaps the sort of way that the Veggie Tales are helpful for learning Bible stories). I especially recommend it if you have to go anywhere near the Bermuda triangle.


Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Feel as if Everyone has Read but Me

Ah, I love this question. Everyone can make a list like this. Right?
Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish! Do come join the fun...

I'll start with the world of classics, where we all have missed something or other. Well, all of us except for perhaps a very few English professors.

1. Moby Dick (Herman Melville). Someday, I do actually plan to read this, if only to say I have. And because the first line is awesome.

2. The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald). See above.

3. Wuthering Heights (Emily Brontë). I probably will read this one, too... I just expect to dislike all the characters, which usually makes me loathe a story and regret wasting my time on it.

4. Anything by Tolstoy, but specifically, War and Peace or Anna Karenina. Most people seem to have read one or the other. I devoted my attention for endless rambling tales of chill and despair to Dostoevsky, though. And yes, I do hope eventually to read one or the other, or both.

5. Hamlet (Shakespeare). Not technically a book, but still. Lou and I joke that we're together one good Shakespeare reader; he's read the tragedies, and I've read the comedies. Or a goodly number of them, anyway.

6. Anything by James Patterson. The only thing that makes me think everyone but me has read his books is the sheer number of books he sells.

7. Lord of the Flies (William Golding). And reading The Hunger Games didn't make me any more likely to pick it up.

8. The Shannara books (Terry Brooks). I'm afraid I won't feel like a proper fantasy reader until I've read at least some of them.

9. Lolita (Vladimir Nabokov). Surely I'm not the only person who got fifteen pages in and was too squicked out to continue. But it feels like it. I just... ewwww.

10. The Call of Cthulhu (H.P. Lovecraft). This is a short story, but when you're into fantasy fiction and nerd stuff and The Hog's Head... yeah. I feel like I'm missing a nerd credential without this. One of these days!

What do you feel as if everyone has read but you?


Vital Beauty

A blogalectic with Masha and Mr. Pond.

Last week saw brief stories from both Masha and Mr. Pond, the former being—I believe—actuality, and the latter, I suspect, fiction; each of them were startlingly lovely in their own ways.

An unexpected little beauty.
This week's theme: beauty in life. Which makes me think, primarily, of two things.

The first is the movie Life is Beautiful—one of the best movies ever made, in my opinion—and its main character, Guido Orefice. I am not much like Guido, but though I only saw the movie once, he was inspiration from beginning to end and beyond.

The second is the book There and Back, by George MacDonald, which I've only read once and much longer ago than I saw Life is Beautiful. The inspiration in that came mainly from the character of Barbara Wylder. I am not much like her, either, but she has affected the way I look at life for as long as I can remember:

"She seemed to regard every one as of her own family. People were her property—hers to love! And her brain was as active as her heart, and constantly with it. She wanted to know what people thought and felt and imagined; what everything was; how a thing was done, and how it ought to be done. She seemed to understand what the animals were thinking, and what the flowers were feeling. She had from infancy spent the greater part of her life, both night and day, in the open air; and, having no companion, had sought the acquaintance of every live thing she saw.... She knew most of the stars, not by their astronomical names indeed, but by names she had herself given them. She had tales of her own, fashioned in part from the wild myths of the aborigines, to account for the special relations of such as made a group. She would weave the travels of the planets into the steady history of the motionless stars. Waning and waxing moons had a special and strange influence upon her. She would dart out of doors the moment she saw the new moon, and give a wild cry of joy if the old moon was in her arms. Any moon in a gusty night, with a scud of torn clouds, would wake in her an ecstasy."

I sleep with heavy dark curtains over the windows now, for the sake of rest and health, but it drives me a little crazy. Because I still rather feel that way about the moon.


The Strength of Samson and other stories

Once upon a time, a Very Tall Peasant decided that hair down to her waist was too much work to wash and dry, so she cut it.

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Of course, the only thing to do when you cut off fourteen inches of hair is to send it to Locks of Love. Unfortunately, I couldn't take a picture of this because I forgot the packeted ponytail at my parents' house. I'll have to mail it next week.

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As you may know, I've kept my hair long because of fantasy fiction. It's a lot of fun to attempt Danielle's hairstyles from Everafter, or Arwen's intricate braids, or Nynaeve's "wrist-thick braid to her waist" (my hair was that long; the braid itself came a little short, though.)

But then I realized that not every woman in fairylands and fantasy worlds has waist-length hair. There's always the brilliant and powerfully magical Hermione Granger:

"bushy brown hair, and rather large front teeth"

...and I never got the sense that Moiraine Damodred or most other of the Cairhienin nobility had excessively long hair:

I couldn't make my blue pendant work, so I had to use white. Sorry, Moiraine.

And I know Aviendha didn't.

I had way too much fun taking this picture.

So, unlike Samson, I've decided that my superpower isn't entirely in my hair. I may go for waist-length again someday, but for now it feels just lovely to be able to pick up a blow dryer and finish in ten minutes or less. The Pacific Northwest is too cold for constantly wet hair.

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Writers' link of the week: An interesting post on being realistic from author Athol Dickson. Favorite line, which has little to do with the main point of his post: "All I know is, like most writers I just want to write, and anything that interferes with writing is annoying."

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Music of the week: Apparently it's Gryffindor Pride day! And while I've not gotten my letter from Pottermore yet, and have not been Sorted (and could end up anywhere... but not Slytherin, please not Slytherin, I don't want to live in a dungeon under the lake with skulls), I do love Gryffindor. Take it away, Jason Munday!

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Funny of the week: Okay, I think I've linked Hyperbole and a Half at least two or three times lately. And everybody else on the internet has probably read every last one of her posts, but I'm still catching up... and I have to dedicate this to my best friend, MissPhotographerB. Spiders are scary. Apologies in advance for the swearing in this post, but spiders DO tend to bring out the worst in people.

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To Do:

  • Clean house
  • Find a way to cover tomato plants before it rains tonight
  • Get some writing done
  • Go sing karaoke for a friend (I got out of it by fainting last time, but I think tonight I'll actually have to do it)

Happy weekend, everybody!


Currently Reading: Across the Universe

Across the Universe (Across the Universe, #1)The doctor starts straightening the pencils I dumped on his desk. He's seriously OCD. But...I wonder how much of him is real. He's as expressionless with me as he is with Eldest. I doubt he likes me—but he did stand up for me when Eldest threatened to throw me out of the hatch. As for how the doctor feels about Eldest...I thought he respected him, maybe even feared him, but he seemed to move closer to the door when I was trying to listen in on his conversation with Eldest. Did he do that on purpose? Now—is he trying to get me to ask the right questions? Or am I just playing mind games with myself?

"Last Season," the doctor says, "we had some trouble. But it has nothing to do with this."

"It might. How do you know?"

"Because the person who caused trouble last Season is dead," the doctor says. "Anything else?"

Author: Beth Revis

Synopsis: When Amy Martin was cryogenically frozen with her parents, she expected to wake up three hundred years later on a new planet. Instead, she wakes up still on the ship, her freeze unit unplugged by someone who left her to die, and she would have drowned in melting ice if the doctor and Elder hadn't found her in time.

Meanwhile, sixteen-year-old Elder expects to take over running the ship from Eldest; he was born and raised with that expectation. But as he studies with Eldest and does his own searches, he discovers that nothing about the ship and the carefully ordered society is quite what it seems.

Notes: I hesitated over reading this book for a long time because a lot of its buzz—and it got a lot of buzz—included descriptions of a ship called Godspeed, fueled by lies. Out of a general dislike for antagonism, I tend to avoid works that appear to be based on the assumption that faith is evil.

Of course, that avoidance can be based on me making a bad assumption. Arabella mentioned the book several times, with a warm recommendation, so I read it. And to my delight, I was proved quite wrong. The story isn't finished yet, but while Revis may not use the sequels to make a case for religion, I doubt very much that she'll use them to make a case against.

Apart from showing some value for faith, Revis works with some very common YA themes; celebrating differences, for instance. She focuses on appearance, opinion, gift and personality, championing the humanity of true diversity. All that, however, works toward the ultimate question of free will. That, more than anything, is what Elder and Amy must grapple with aboard the ship Godspeed.

I am very interested to see where she goes with those ideas.

My favorite part of Revis' writing is her detail. This meant I sometimes got more than was at all comfortable; the freezing experience, for instance, was well imagined and horrifying. Also, an advisory for parents of the tender-aged: there is some open sexual behavior (not between the main characters, however), and an attempted rape is described in more detail than I'd give, say, a twelve-year-old. Neither is portrayed as a good thing. Elder is in lust with Amy, but I don't recall his thoughts being particularly graphic.

Beyond all that, the detail meant that the book was very vivid, the sort of thing to stick in your mind. I felt as though I could see Amy and Elder, Harley's paintings, the stars outside the hatch. I loved the grav tube rides and the rare bright colors. Revis managed to pull this off without long distracting paragraphs of description, blending the visual with the action. It was well done.

Twice in the course of the tale I was more surprised by information than I should've been. In both cases, I think it would have been easy and necessary to either delete the twist or prepare the reader for it. It really startled me; it's a bit unusual for something like that to make it past editing. Other than that, the pace and flow of the story were excellent, carried by good strong prose.

I don't know if it was intentional, but there's a rather poignant echo of Lewis' The Silver Chair in chapter 27.

Also, the story gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "'Tis the Season." Ack.

Many a YA book is written and left open for a sequel, but this one demands it. It didn't end on a cruel cliffhanger, but there's definitely more to this story.

Recommendation: Read it under an open sky. You might find yourself glad and grateful for Earth.


Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Read Because of Another Blogger

The big question for this week is: does it count if said blogger recommended the book in private email, rather than on their public blog? I'm going to have to say yes, since otherwise I might not make ten.

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish! Do come join the fun...

Of course, the Blogengamot is going to get more than their fair share of this list. They recommend a lot.

Arabella is a true recommending champion, going so far as to actually mail me books. My favorites from her: 1) Matched, 2) Impossible, and she gets partial credit for 3) The Host, which might be my favorite book I've read all year.

George and Arabella both recommended the Prydain books; possibly others did, too. 4) The Book of Three definitely belongs on this list.

Mr. Pond recommended 5) Howl's Moving Castle and 6) Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy; he also talked me into re-reading 7) Alec Forbes of Howglen, which I'll count because I barely remembered it from childhood.

Travis's rave review of 8) On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness got me started on those books.

And yes, all of the above friends are Blogengamot members, with Travis at the helm.

Jana recommended 9) A Tale of Despereaux in a post on Silhouette.

And I can't count how many bloggers have talked up 10) Divergent. But I read it primarily because I liked author Veronica Roth's blog, and because Katy Upperman claimed to be "very close to being over-saturated by all the dystopian literature coming out nowadays" and still loved it.

Have you read any books on the recommendation of some random reader scrawling thoughts on the internet? Which ones? Did you like them, or were you disappointed? What were your favorites?

Author credits:
1) Ally Condie
2) Nancy Werlin
3) Stephenie Meyer
4) Lloyd Alexander
5) Diana Wynne Jones
6) Douglas Adams
7) George MacDonald
8) Andrew Peterson
9) Kate DiCamillo
10) Veronica Roth


Art, Obviously

A blogalectic with Masha and Mr. Pond.

The Impressions series ended last week with technique, a word which Masha found uninspiring except perhaps as a calligraphic subject. Mr. Pond talked about subtle masteries and linked Victor Borge. (I love Victor Borge. God rest his soul.)

This week we have a theme to consider: art in less obvious places.

Which is a difficult concept for me, honestly. If you read my post The Influence of Art—a blogalectic installment from several weeks back—you know that for my family, art was everything from multi-layer glazing on walls to flower arrangements to cake decorating to painting and making music and writing. Blacksmithing. Gardening. Family traditions. Family itself. How to live.

I don't remember distinctions. Everything had its own technique. Each discipline involved a certain amount of craft. Head and heart and hands all went into the many processes (well, I won't claim to have loved wall-painting. But still.)

And then, there was Nature, God's great work of Art.

So what do I call 'less obvious?' I hardly know where to delineate between less and more. But I'm intrigued to find out what my fellow dialecticians and the rest of you have to say.


Little House with the Big Yard and other stories

At last! As promised! House pictures. Forgive me for not having a full-on front shot of the house. Chalk it up to paranoia regarding revealing of locations on the internet.

I love it. None of the inside doors will stay closed, and the toilet runs, but it's comfortable and adorable and light and it came with gardens. The strawberries were a surprise, buried in a mass of clover and grass. And I made a cobbler the other day from blackberries, though none of the canes are anywhere I want them.

* * *

Maia's reaction to the new house has been to go nocturnal. In the day, she sleeps behind the couch or burrows into the bedclothes. At night, she rampages. On her first free night, she managed to throw the kitchen sink drain basket through a stack of glass Pyrex containers. Last night, she got us out of bed by playing with a cucumber in the laundry room. Then there's always cardboard to shred, which is startlingly loud in a quiet house.

I don't know what to do about this, apart from bury my head in the pillow and tell myself she can only do so much damage.

* * *

Callie Kingston tagged me with this, so in the spirit of sportsmanship, I’m going to tell you ten things about me. Ten more, because I’ve already done this sort of thing a few times on the blog. Ah, the internet... celebrating random acts of narcissism. I get such a kick out of reading other people's, though, that I don't feel too guilty for making my own.
  1. I don’t wear a lot of jewelry. It’s just one more thing to put on in the morning, and I figure pants are more important.
  2. I know how to card and spin wool, and in fact, have a spinning wheel.
  3. Like a child, I tend to dream about scary things I read about or see on television. Most recently: cryogenic freezing. Last night. After reading Beth Revis’ Across the Universe.
  4. Also last night: I woke up and fainted after apparently twisting my leg wrong in my sleep.
  5. I’ve also fainted: while standing still to have my hair braided, while standing in line at school, off the back riser during a choir performance, under a parked car after bending my thumb backward, while standing around a family living room chatting, after hitting my hand wrong setting a volleyball, and after twisting my knee standing on the couch.
  6. That’s not counting the times I’ve blacked out at a sudden fright, which number at least two: sledding into a six-foot-deep irrigation ditch lined with rocks and ice, and swimming a river rapid called "Suffocator."
  7. When it comes to throwing things, I am a significant danger to anyone in the near vicinity.
  8. I once threw a rock, aiming at the ocean in front of me, and hit my sister, who was standing a few feet to my right.
  9. If I had all the time in the world, I’d join the Society for Creative Anachronism. It sounds like fun. It would be more fun if you could endow your character with magic powers, though. Maybe I should just get into RPGs instead.
  10. I don’t understand why the world is so dismissive of rainbows and unicorns.
Tagging five people (no pressure, but you know I’d enjoy reading it): Masha, Mr. Pond, Shallee McArthurLindsey, Sarah... and you, O reader. Link back in the comments if you do, and I’ll read it. Or post in the comments, if you don't have a blog and still want to tell me about yourself. I'll gladly read that, too. :D

* * *

Writers' link of the week: Nathan Bransford's "On the internet there is no such thing as a brand. There is only you." His blogging philosophy is mine as well.

* * *

Music of the week: David linked this for my benefit over a week ago, and ah, readers... it gives me chills. There's not a lot of music I love better than a good book-based song. This is an arrangement of "The Hanging Tree" from the Hunger Games series.

As David noted, the video's a little distracting... you can listen and look at something else. :)

* * *

Funny of the week: as you might have noticed from the rest of this post, I didn't sleep well last night. So I'm finding myself staring vacantly at a lot of supposedly funny things on the internet. But you can try this.

* * *

New house to clean! I'm off. Happy weekend!


Currently Reading: The Princess and the Goblin

The Princess and the Goblin "My name is Irene."

my name!" cried the princess.

"I know that. I let you have mine. I haven't got your name. You've got mine."

"How can that be?" asked the princess, bewildered. "I've always had my name."

"Your papa, the king, asked me if I had any objection to your having it; and, of course, I hadn't. I let you have it with pleasure."

"It was very kind of you to give me your name—and such a pretty one," said the princess.

"Oh, not so
very kind!" said the old lady. "A name is one of those things one can give away and keep all the same. I have a good many such things."

Author: George MacDonald

Synopsis: On a dull rainy day, Princess Irene gets lost upstairs and finds a beautiful huge old great-great-grandmother who no one else will believe exists. It is well she finds her, for soon little Irene and the miner's son, Curdie, are caught up trying to prevent a horde of goblins from stealing the princess to marry their horrible prince. And despite Curdie's bravery, Irene cannot be protected without trust in and help from her great-great-grandmother.

Notes: Generally speaking, I like MacDonald's realistic tales better than his fantasies. Which is odd for me, since I tend to think stories more fun if there's an element of magic somewhere.

On the other hand, I do like the fairy tales, and I enjoyed this one. It was a quick and simple read, lighter in nature than At the Back of the North Wind or even The Light Princess, and felt more obviously directed at children than I remember either of those being (granted, it's been awhile).

Irene's innocence and Curdie's courage set each other off in good old English fairy tale style, for Irene shows her own courage and Curdie works to be innocent. The king, the wise old great-great-grandmother, fearful Lootie, and Curdie's mother all make for interesting side characters, and the queen of the goblins has her own nasty-but-humorous role to play.

MacDonald is an unquestionably gifted storyteller, and like many of his works, this story holds up well to the passing of time. Also, it has a sequel, which would have been helpful information yesterday. I'm rather curious to find out what happens next to Curdie and Irene.

Recommendation: Read it aloud to your children, or silently to your inner child. Either way, it's worth the read.


Top Ten Tuesday: Sequels I'm Dying to Read

Only one problem with this topic: I don't read a lot of series, at least not until most or all of the books have come out. Too many authors leave off with mean cliffhangers. :D
Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish! Do come join the fun...

On the other hand, I'm not entirely proof against books that end but don't finish. Here's my list of sequels to read!

1. Crossed (Ally Condie). The sequel to Matched, a rare dystopian with a gentle protagonist.

2. Insurgent (Veronica Roth). Much as I drag my heels at reading dystopians, I couldn't help getting caught up in Tris' Dauntless world. Too many years of adventure-based education, I guess. That and the good writing and the fascinating Tris and Four.

3. The rest of the Ender and Bean books (Orson Scott Card). There are at least four I haven't gotten around to, and every time I read a Card novel, it blows my mind.

4. Forest Born (Shannon Hale). Not a true sequel, just the only Bayern book I haven't read. But I must read it. Must.

5. The last two Wheel of Time books (Robert Jordan/Brandon Sanderson). Can a world so based upon circular symbolism have a happy ending? We'll find out.

6. The rest of the Prydain books (Lloyd Alexander). Will Taran go on being a hero? Will Eilonwy kiss him or talk him to death? How many harp strings will Fflewddur Flan break with his compulsive stretching of the truth? I do intend to pursue this story eventually.

7. Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters (Rick Riordan). I just put in a request for this one at the library. The first one was a fun read; if I like the second, I just might read the third and fourth and fifth and... however many there are now.

...and that's all I can come up with at the moment. I'm probably forgetting something.

What sequels are on your must-read list?


Practice Makes Perfect

A blogalectic with Masha and Mr. Pond.

It's Sunday night, but tomorrow is a holiday and we're still getting settled in our new house (pictures coming soon, I promise!) Fair warning, then: tonight's blog is going to get short shrift.

Last week's impressions word was craft, and Masha talked about the witch side of it. Which, combined with my knitsy-kitschy post, prompted Mr. Pond to wonder why the word "conjures with it a stereotype of—shall we say—ladies of a certain age".

Interesting question. And since I'm tired out tonight, I leave it to yourself to determine.

This week's word: technique. It's a word that gets used a lot in art lessons. And perhaps even more in piano and voice lessons. The images it raises for me consist of shading to dark gray with the side of the pencil lead... imagining that all my fingers were simply digits to raise and lower, so that strength and expression came from the wrist... hours of chanting dee, tee, day, tay, dah, tah, doe, toe, doo, too to strengthen my tongue for the consonants in the German songs.

Oddly enough, it's a word I've heard less frequently in the work of writing. Maybe that's just because I learned so much of what I know simply from reading and writing, rather than from classes.

The concept is as important to the writer as to the artist or musician, of course. There are the exercises: simplifying the convoluted phrase, learning to think in the active voice, creating mood without resorting to cheat words and clichés. Then there are the higher levels of practice. I imagine Lewis listening for the melody of the right sentence, and Hemingway cutting his phrases with an ear to the desolate rhythm; Chesterton watching the weight of every word so the lines would flow light as fancy; Austen aligning each thought, refusing to commit it to paper till it made her laugh.

There's more to this concept, but my mind is out of ideas for the night. What have I missed? Masha, Mr. Pond, anyone else who wants to add a thought—you're up.