Sunday, November 25, 2007

Anthropologie-inspired capelet

Anthropologie has to be my favourite I-can't-afford-it-but-aren't-they-pretty window shopping store. (Well, browser-window shopping mostly, since I moved back to Canada). So when I came across the pattern for a crochet Anthropologie-inspired capelet on Craftster, I had to make it.

Unlike the poncho, this is something I will definitely wear, can't wait to wear in fact. It's not too bulky to fit under a winter jacket, and cute enough to keep on inside. I've got a dress it will go nicely over, and it's just warm enough to keep my shoulders snug without stifling me.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Round the capelet

I made this following Teva Durham's free pattern for a vintage style capelet (though I'd call it a poncho). Big hook, thick plush yarn, very quick to make up.

I haven't decided yet if this is something I'll actually wear out where people can see me. It's too open to provide much protection on a cool day, too thick to look other than peculiar on a warmer one or indoors.

Earrings in beads and wire

In between working on crochet projects, I've found time to make myself a pair of earrings:

I made them by stringing size 15 silver seed beads and crystals on wire, then twisting it into shape - I was trying for an abstract floral shape. They've quickly become my favourite earrings, delicate but noticeable.

This next is a slightly more gaudy pair I made a few months ago:

They're just traditional granny squares, crocheted in silver-coloured wire, gauge 30. I'm fond of them, even if they did inspire a coworker to ask if I could make him something similar for Christmas tree ornaments.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Ladies of Grace Adieu and other stories by Susanna Clarke

A collection of stories by the author of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell,, which I have sitting on a shelf somewhere but haven't read much of. These stories are set (more or less) in the same world (an alternate England, with magic) in various time periods mostly preceding that book.

I think I liked the fictional "introduction", a scholarly note describing the volume as a sourcebook for the academic study of magic, more than any of the actual stories.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Vintage Crochet

Since making my Asphyxiation, I've become hooked on vintage crochet. On looking at it, at least... such beautiful lacy thready things, so much patience required to make!

Crochet at
Quite a bit of vintage material including a number of filet charts. I like the Roaring 20's patterns, especially the bird and rose filet sweaters, as well as the rose tam. I'm planning to make the tam and at least one of the sweaters. This site is especially helpful because the patterns have been rewritten to use modern terms, unlike those on many of the others.

Antique Pattern Library
A site devoted to scans of out-of-copyright pattern books, knitting and various kinds of lace as well as crochet, mostly from before 1922. Especially good for filet patterns and edgings. Too much to stuff to pick out only a few, but I particularly like the Corticelli series of books.

Celt's Vintage Crochet
Patterns mainly dating from the 1920s to the 1960s. Good collection of doilies, pineapple squares, filet and edgings as well as some wearables.

Vintage Stitch-O-Rama (where old patterns go to die a slow, painful death)
Knitting and crochet stockings, camisole yokes, undies etc., along with oddities like the Chicken Bone Necklace

Free Vintage Crochet
A couple of cute bulky sweaters, along with a number of hat and bag patterns, doll clothes etc. New patterns added often.

A Good Yarn
Has some vintage patterns including Fleisher's Knitting and Crocheting Manual from 1922. I particularly like the Delmar Sweater.

The Information on Making the Irish Crocheted Lace
Poor English, useful diagrams for various Irish crochet motifs.
A few cushions etc, and a scan of the Nufashond Rick Rack Book from 1916.

Yarn Lover's Room
Assorted patterns of uncertain date and source, mostly for babies and home. Nice: ballet slippers, shawls.

A few odds and ends under Free Patterns, including two lacy tank tops.

Soft Memories
A commercial vintage pattern site with a few free patterns, including this lovely Draped Bed Jacket.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


This is Severina's Asphyxiation Choker, made of venetian crochet motifs in black thread. I made it to wear to work on Hallowe'en, and did - with a black dress.

I'm planning on using the same pattern to make a hairband, in off-white thread.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Tweedy cloche, or the quest for flapperdom - with pattern

The Roaring 20's are one of my favourite fashion eras - I wear my own hair in a classic bob cut, and I like the insouciant smirk that often shows up in flapper-girl pictures.

So I wanted my own 20's style flapper hat, but most of the crochet flapper hat patterns I could find online didn't have the distinctive bell shape of the classic cloche. So I improvised my own pattern, and I am really happy with the result. (Well, with version three and somewhat with two. Version one I'm not posting about.)

This one is my favourite. I made it with two strands of yarn held together, one of Lion Brand wool in grey and one of Paton's Decor in pale aubergine. I really like the vintage, pink-grey heathered effect these yarns gave me. The ribbon's off an old top or something - the colour just happened to match.

This next is an earlier version, in Paton's Decor Aubergine and Red Heart black.

I've written out the basic pattern - it's pretty simple. If anyone makes this and has any problems, please let me know.

Use two strands of worsted weight yarn held together and a 6.0mm (J) hook.
Gauge: first two rounds in dc creates a circle about 2.5" (6 cm) in diameter. I crochet fairly tightly, so some people might go down a hook size to get this.

For the first six rows, I followed Yarncat's Basic Crown instructions.

For the grey hat, I did row 7 as dc each stitch around, as I have a rather small head. The other one I made a little larger: dc in 5 stitches, 2 dc in next stitch, repeat around.

Unless your head is small and your hair flat, I suggest the latter.

Row 8 - 11: dc in each stitch around.

Row 12: dc in 9 stitches, 2 dc in next stitch, repeat around

Row 13: dc in each stitch around

Row 14: dc in next 3 stitches, 2 dc in next stitch, repeat around

Row 15: sc around. (I did this with two strands of one colour to give a nice edge.)

Sunday, October 21, 2007

St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell

Collection of short stories, mostly some variant of our-world fantasy (or slightly skewed our-world), very avant-guard. I wanted to like it, I really did, I liked many of the concepts. But the stories themselves didn't work for me, quite. They were more ideas, sketches... the characters weren't people.

The two that worked the best were the ones about the boy whose father was a minotaur, and the title story. They had people.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Spirits that Walk in Shadow by Nina Kiriki Hoffman

Eh. Pretty good read, but didn't quite grab me, don't know why. Well. I liked Kim (one of the two narrators) better than Jamie. I like the world (basically the same as in her other urban fantasies), the concepts of magic, the way power plays itself out among families.

The ending didn't quite work for me.

Monday, October 01, 2007

The Mirador by Sarah Monette

The third in the planned four-book sequence that started with Melusine. (My spell-checker just suggested "Limousine" as a possible correction for that.)

I've delayed posting about this because I'm not sure what to say. I very much love this series - it's dark with a deliciously decadent setting, the characters are warped and human, tormenting themselves and others, and the relationships are central and painfully well-drawn. The world has geography and history, complex politics, architecture and aesthetics, a sense that the world goes on and on beyond the fragments we're shown. Like the others, this was compulsively readable, and pushed just about all of my "most desired in a fantasy novel" buttons. And yet...

Mildmay, for one. At the beginning of the book other characters are greatly concerned about him, by how much he's changed since the incidents in the last book. But they never mention how changed, exactly, or give examples, and the inside of his head, in his POV sections, looks much the same as ever.

And Mehitabel, the new, female narrator. Early in the book, she seemed to be setting up for the same sorts of internal and external conflicts and complexities that make Felix and Mildmay so compelling. But that faded - she guarded her secrets intensely one minute, then gave them up the next. I had the feeling she was being phased out, as unnecessary for the next novel.

It's occurred to me that I have very little idea what magic is actually used for, in the Mirador. Most of the spells we see are for clearing up the effects of other spells, except for the apparently minor witchlights. And spells are cast on people, to harm or control, but those are forbidden by the branch of magic most of the characters subscribe to. So what do they do? Felix and the others read books on magic, talk about magic, attend meetings on magic and teach magic, but there doesn't seem to be any real point to it.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Tomb of the Golden Bird by Elizabeth Peters

Latest installment in the Amelia Peabody Egyptian Archeology mystery series. This one centered around the discovery of King Tutankhamen's tomb, with the Peabody-Emersons taking part as bit players and observers.

Fortunately I still enjoy simply spending time with Peters' characters, because the biggest mystery in this book was "where's the plot?" A holy man might have been murdered (though nobody seemed to care very much) and an encrypted message sat around for a while. But the main characters weren't really involved in any of it.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Magic Study by Maria Snyder

Good book, fairly quick read. Yelena was kidnapped as a child from her home in Sitia and grew up in Ixia. (Note: I wish the author had given the countries names less easy to confuse.) In Snyder's previous book Poison Study, Yelena escaped death to become a poison taster and find a place for herself in Ixia. Here, she returns to Sitia to gain control of her newly discovered magical powers, under sentence of death if she doesn't succeed. (Certainly one way of getting her to focus on her studies.)

One of the things I liked about Poison Study was the political system - the semi-benevolent, if rather twisted, military dictatorship was an interesting change from the conventional fantasy monarchy or vague ruling by some sort of council arrangement. Sitia falls under the "vague council" governing category.

The main story arc involved catching a serial killer, and the main theme was Yelena coming to terms with her roots in Sitia. She spent remarkably little time on magic study, especially given the threat of death, which seemed to have been forgotten about by book's end.

Overall, an engrossing read, but a bit too much plot. I didn't get that feeling from the previous, although it was also action-filled.

I'd have liked to spend more time with Yelena's brother.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Saffron and Brimstone by Elizabeth Hand

Short stories. Elizabeth Hand is one of those authors that I think I should like - reviews and comments on the group rec.arts.sf.written put her in that branch of literary speculative fiction I like - but despite several tries, I've never made it further than a few pages into any of her novels. So I thought I'd give this collection a try.

I had no difficulty reading it, and it did indeed fall into that area of literary SF that I particuarly like. I suppose I shall try a novel again...

The stories varied considerably. I didn't like the final quartet as much; it's a slipstream set of meditations on friendship, leaping about through time, space and nominal genre, but in at least three of them I never had enough of a sense of the people to care much about their friendship.

Of the rest... two stick in my mind. The first, Cleopatra Brimstone, is an odd, indecipherable tale of geeky but attractive Jane, a budding lepidopterist. The plot is fairly straightforward - studies entomology, is raped, becomes a predator, turns into a moth - but Jane herself is opaque. I could say it's depersonalization made literal, but really I don't know quite what to make of it. It sticks, though.

The other is The Least Trumps. The main character is an agoraphobic tatoo artist, and the world changes. The ending is lovely - it's a delicate story, I don't want to disturb it by saying more.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Sharing Knife - Legacy by Lois McMaster Bujold

Another sequel, another car-trip book. This was readable, but... hmm. Too much in-law unpleasantness, and nothing getting resolved.

I feel like I should have liked it more than I did. I often like ambiguity, and stories where the world doesn't get saved, and in-law conflict, even. But I can't remember the names of any of the characters.

I was expecting the "sharing knife" of the series title (the particular one that featured in Beguilement) to be a more important element in this one.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Kushiel's Justice by Jacqueline Carey

Middle book in Carey's follow-up trilogy following Imriel, the foster-son on the hero and heroine of her first series. At least, I assume it's a trilogy, at first I thought it might be a duology. (Checks author's web site.) Yep, it's a trilogy.

Suffers from middle-book-of-trilogy-itis. Imriel spends a lot of time going places and doing things. I liked the first half of the book, the story of Imriel's doomed marriage. After that, though... well, he sets out on a quest, and various stuff happens to hinder him. At one point, when Imriel is interrupted yet again, this time by a shipwreck, I could almost hear the author muttering "ok, now shipwreck him, that'll fill up a few more pages..." Not that I have anything against a picaresque adventure where the hero overcomes a series of obstacles, but this just didn't work. It was dull.

Looking at that "didn't work" comment reminds me of a blog post by Sarah Monette, a fantasy writer I like quite a bit as a novelist and also as a blogger. Her fifth reason why a scene might suck is the bit I'm thinking of.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman

Short stories, fantasy. How to describe? A mix of good and very good, with a few poems thrown in. I prefer Gaiman's stories to his novels.

Mythic, pastiche, ghosts and fables. The introduction includes a story about mapmaking, which comments that the best description of a story is the story, itself.

I always have trouble summing up books, their plots and characters. If I say this, I think, I should say that as well, it's equally important.. and how about this other? This character is this, but not really: she's also this and this and this... and how much harder with a collection of widely varying stories.

I think they're worth reading. If you like that sort of thing, of course. Whatever that sort of thing is.

Friday, July 13, 2007

City of Bone by Martha Wells

Nice fantasy with a somewhat science-fictional feel - it's set in a post-apocalyptic world, where the apocalypse was brought about by an unfortunate combination of magic and hubris. A blurb described the setting as "Arabian Nights" style, but I didn't get that at all, apart from the desert setting. Most of the world's water was destroyed in the magical disaster, and the paired struggles for water and for knowledge of the Ancients drive the society and the plot.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Heloise and Abelard: a new biography by James Burge

Heloise and Abelard, the prototypical star-crossed lovers...

At one point, Burge sums up Abelard's autobiography roughly as follows: promising career ruined by the jealousy of his colleagues, a disastrous love affair that led to his castration, followed by exile to a land of homicidal monks. Very hard not to feel sorry for the fellow.

I'm still startled that they named their son Astralabe. I thought baby names like Apple or Telescope were modern innovations.

Winter Moon by Mercedes Lackey, Tanith Lee, C.E. Murphy

Picked this up at the library mostly for the Tanith Lee story - I haven't read anything new by her since the Venus series. But I found that actually the least appealing - stylistically it reminded me of her earlier writings, like The Birthgrave, which I didn't like as much. The Lackey had sympathetic characters, engaging writing, minimal plot and vaguely drawn setting, which is par for most of her writing. But the third, by C. E. Murphy, whom I haven't read before, was good - urban, slightly off-kilter setting, gritty supernatural stuff, strong characters.

Looking Tanith Lee up on Amazon, I see that someone's bringing out a two-volume compilation of selected stories. Must look for.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Throne of Jade by Naomi Novik

More of the Napoleonic War With Dragons saga. Except that this didn't involve much war...

Let's see. Temeraire belongs to an insanely rare and valuable, not to mention sacred, breed, and the Chinese who bred him want him back. So Temeraire, Laurence and crew take a very slow boat to China, where they are subjected to culture shock, formal dinners and diplomacy, not to mention intrigue.

Middle books in fantasy trilogies usually involve a lot of landscape and traveling from place to place, and this is no exception. (Actually, I've since realized that this isn't a trilogy. Oh well.)

The difference in status of dragons between China and Europe (and apparently most other places) is a major theme.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Dark Water by Linda Hall

A mystery, sort of... perhaps more of a literary-ish suspense novel. Took the basic plot convention of the abused woman being stalked and played around with it a little.

I was annoyed by the side tale of the philandering, adultering deacon who was seen as a pillar of his church community - it seemed too blatant.

The ending was remarkably unsatisfying. The second half of the book was much like watching a train wreck, or a spider spinning a web for a hapless fly. I'm used to mysteries with more satisfying closure.

Not a bad book, but not really my thing.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

A Scholar of Magics by Caroline Stevermer

Great fun. Not as memorable as College of Magics -- this was very much a comedy of manners in a fantasy guise, and had less poignancy. But the characters were just human enough to keep the story real.

Friday, June 01, 2007

His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik

The Napoleonic Wars, with dragons. Almost an alternate history, except that given the great difference this level of aerial transport and combat would have made to the course of history, everything was far too recognizable.

I was reluctant to read this at first, partly because of the Napoleonic war angle (I'm not fond of too much military detail in my historical reading) and partly because of the dragons (I'm not especially fond of traditional fantasy trappings, unless they're unusually well done, or used mythopoeically). That said, I very much enjoyed this; the dragons were neither mythic nor traditional, but fully fleshed out, as were the humans. They did resemble Anne McCaffery's dragons in some ways, but the pseudoscience behind them was better thought out. And the military details of how dragons might be used in combat were also carefully thought out and integral to the plot.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Claiming the Courtesan by Anna Campbell

Romances I like tend to fall in two categories: the gentle, healing, life-affirming sort that Mary-Jo Putney usually writes, and a rather darker and more twisted type exemplified by Anne Stuart's Black Ice. This was definitely the latter, and a good one.

Justin, the Duke of Something-or-other (why are so many romance figures Dukes?) has been left by his mistress Soraya. Soraya vanished because she's earned enough money as a courtesan to support herself and her family, and now wants to retire and live out her life as respectable Verity. Justin isn't very happy about this, and expresses his displeasure by tracking Soraya/Verity down, abducting her, and treating her abominably.

I have some difficulty explaining why I like

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Lady Silence by Blair Bancroft

This was a traditional Regency romance, a vaguely Jane Austen-influenced subgenre I've not read much in. I found it readable, but forgettable.

The Regency is a comedy of manners, but the plot of this book really felt like it wanted to be much more melodramatic- a mysterious child who didn't speak for years, a traumatized military officer readjusting to civilian life. But the tone was kept light, and it all felt wrong, awkward.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Angelica by Sharon Shinn

Another very readable Sharon Shinn- I think she's among the best writers of romantic sf that manages to scratch the itches of both genres. Only- this one felt a bit like a rerun, enjoyable but familiar. She's done the "archangel gets saddled with reluctant and unexpected angelica" before, and it was more interesting the first time around. I preferred Angel-Seeker; one woman found she preferred a human after all, and the culture clash in the other main plot played out very believably and painfully. Also - she has a way of typecasting members of her varying races that makes me uncomfortable - all Edori are feckless and pleasant, all Jansaii rather slimy, Mandavii money-grubbing. Angel-Seeker went a bit deeper into the whats and whys of culture, and showed some variation within members of the groups.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Machine's Child by Kage Baker


Good: back to the main plot, with Mendoza, Alec/Edward/Nicholas, Joseph and Buda.

Bad (semi-spoiler): well, not much of Mendoza, mentally or (at first) physically. Not much bite left to her.

Ugly: Alec/Edward/Nicholas. All at once. Sharing one body and quarreling continually. (This isn't a spoiler, it happened a book or two ago.)

At least the little weird people didn't put in an appearance. I'm really wondering how she's going to pull all this together at the end.

I'd like to spend more time with Suleyman and Latif.

What the Dead Know by Laura Lippman

A psychological mystery, and also a story about how a family falls apart.

Two sisters disappear, and, decades later, a woman shows up claiming to be one of them. The story of the disappearance, some of the family's life before, and how the parents endured, and didn't, after, is told in flashbacks.

I guessed the identity early (though not why), and so didn't care much about the maneuverings of the police officers. But the family tragedy was gripping.

Kushiel's Scion by Jacqueline Carey

A follow-up to her Kushiel's (blank) series featuring Phedre. This focuses on Phedre's foster son Imriel.

I didn't like Imriel's voice as much as Phedre's (both first person), and the book felt jerky to me. The plot didn't seem to have any shape to it. It's essentially Imriel's coming of age story, but too many of the events didn't mean enough, if that makes sense. The author nearly lost me when he moved to Rome-analog. Still, some very good passages... I'll see if the sequal redeems it.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

The Veil of Night

Historical romance. A decent read, but not as good as Music of the Night. I'd have liked to have met the main female character earlier and gotten to know her a little before she made her big choice - accepting the male character's scandalous bargain - so I could have seen that it was as out of character for her as the author said it was.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Plump-bottomed bag

Not much beading, lately - my creativity's been taken up with home renovation and crochet.
This purse is a variant on the "fat-bottomed bag" pattern in the Stitch-n-Bitch Happy Hooker book.

Any crocheters who have the pattern and are interested: I varied the pattern by stopping after the second gathering row, then added a flap to close it with, button and a shoulder strap. (The original is a handbag - I can't or won't carry a purse that doesn't hang from my shoulder.) The yarn is lion brand suede.

Here's a shot of the lining, which used to be part of a bedsheet. I followed Kel's tutorial for doing the lining:

And finally, a closeup of the on-topic button. It's circular peyote, increasing on one side and decreasing on the other (though I ran into trouble with the decreases), using size 8 seed beads.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

A Place Called Here by Cecelia Ahern

I liked this, though I had trouble getting into it at first. Actually, I'd put it aside, then loaned it to Melanie, a young friend (my ex's daughter) who was visiting that week. She devoured it in an afternoon, then told me she was going to recommend that her high school's library purchase it. So I picked it up again... if it wasn't too opaque for her, I wasn't going to let it be too opaque for me.

I had a dream once where I was wandering around a house and somehow came across a room which contained all the umbrellas I've ever lost. This book has a place like that, and I was enchanted by the idea. I liked the main character too, prickly and obsessed as she was.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Melusine and The Virtu by Sarah Monette

At first I didn't realize Melusine was the first in a series, but I should have. So I was very frustrated when I came to the end and it just stopped. I did get The Virtu a day or two later... if it hadn't been out yet I'd have been pissed.

The plots of the two books were basically fantasy quest variants (get to someplace, fix the whatsit), but hardly mattered to my reading of the book. What the books were about was the relationship between the two main characters, half brothers who meet for the first time part way through the first volume. The story's told in first person, with viewpoint switching back and forth between the two brothers, who have have very distinct voices. They're both emotionally screwed up to the point that it's something of a surprise that either is capable of walking around upright, and one of them spends most of the first volume being insane. I have to admit, I love that sort of thing when it's done well, and it was here.

There are two more coming out in the series, but Melusine and The Virtu make a solid duology - the story doesn't need any more.

Friday, March 02, 2007

The Ice Queen by Alice Hoffman

Odd book.

A woman of ice meets a man of fire. The ice is metaphorical -

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Night Fall by Anne Stuart

I read and loved Anne Stuart's earlier Black Ice and a review on All About Romance made this seem like a similar type of book, and also gave it a grade of A. So I requested it from the library.

I was disappointed. Um... ok, major spoilers here. The supposed hero needs to find someone to look after his children. The best plan he can come up with is: pick a woman whose picture he likes and treat her nastily to manipulate her into falling in lust with him. This apparently will induce in her a level of devotion sufficient to cause her to move to a different country and spend the next X years in hiding looking after aforementioned youngsters alone. He occasionally tests her fitness for the task, not by observing her with actual children or attempting to get her sympathy for his children by telling her their pitiful story, but by treating her ever more cruelly and noting with satisfaction her failure to sensibly flee. Were I the parent, I would not want a potential role model for my daughter to behave like that.

Black Ice had some similarity: a hero who behaved unheroically, even nastily. But once you accepted the basics of the plot (he was infiltrating a multinational arms cartel) his actions made sense; he behaved ruthlessly, but not psychotically. And when he started to care for the heroine, it changed him. It didn't make him into a nice person, but it had an impact, and watching that impact happen was the most fascinating aspect of the book.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Portrait of Mrs. Charbuque by Jeffrey Ford

Odd. Nowhere near as odd as his earlier fantasy The Physiognomy and sequels, but odd nonetheless.

I was expecting another fantasy, but this turned out to be a fairly straight historical fiction. The closest thing to a sfnal element in the setting was the unusual (and gruesome) disease/parasite.

Let's see, plot... a portraitist named Piambo recieves an unusual commission: to paint the portrait of a woman, Mrs. Charbuque (or Luciere), who will not allow him to either see her or question her on her appearance. He may question her on any other topic, and if he succeeds in portraying her accurately, his already substantial commission will be doubled. Piambo is becoming tired of society portraits and accepts the commission, hoping to earn enough to retire from portraiture for a time and devote himself to his art.

What ensues is a battle of wills between and psychological study of Piambo and Luciere. Meanwhile, women in the city start bleeding to death through their eyeballs.

I might have enjoyed this book more if I hadn't read the author's previous work. His earlier Cley and Bellow were most remarkably unpleasant characters, and I spent some time suspiciously watching Piambo, waiting for him to reveal himself to be equally unsympathetic. I ended up rather liking him, though.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

Before I write any more, let me confess: I fell in love with this book. It's a book for booklovers, too: everything from a girl who grew up in a bookstore to a moral dilemma that weighs literature against life.

The framing story is this: a dying author, Vida Winter, who has always hidden her past with outrageous lies, decides to tell the story of her childhood to Margaret Lea, who is an amateur biographer and has written an insightful study of a pair of twins. And it's quite a tale she has, too: a gothic with dark nights, bizarre deaths, madness and perversity, feral twins, old family servants and a governess. Incredible and un-realistic-fiction-like enough that at first I wondered if Vida would turn out to be spinning another tale - but if she was, she never confessed.

But surely some of it must have been invented, extrapolated, filled in: the picnic before her birth, for example - no possible informant I can see for that. Conversations recounted verbatim, that even the most detail-oriented family cook could not have retained or listening child recalled. Memory's a slipperier thing, a plague of biographers and framing-device novelists alike. At first my suspension of disbelief was jarred.

I couldn't quite discern what time either portion of the story was set in - Vida's story, or Margaret's, some 60-70 years later. Even the more modern frame seemed to belong to an era that did not know cell phones or computers. I think that was deliberate - it's a book meant to sit with the Brontes', or Du Maurier. Email wouldn't have gone well.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Child of a Rainless Year by Jane Lindskold

Oh, lovely. A very pretty, elegantly written, colourful book - the kind that makes real life seem just a little drab, on finishing. My life will never contain magic found surprisingly between things, just as my home will never demand to be painted in the blinding "midway fairground" style of Phineas House - though come to think of it, I don't regret the latter.

Urban fantasy, shading towards magic realism - the Spanish-tinged New Mexico setting rather reinforced this, I think. (Gene Wolfe's definition of magic realism: "Magical Realism is Fantasy written in Spanish.") And so another of Jane Lindskold's subgenre hops.

I liked the late middle-aged heroine.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Point of Honor and Petty Treason by Madeleine Robins

How can one not love a book that begins with the line "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a Fallen Woman of good family must, soon or late, descend to whoredom."

Sarah Tolerance is the heroine of these two books, and determined to defy the above statement. (Her aunt, who runs a whorehouse, didn't.) So she becomes an "Agent of Inquiry", which seems rather implausible, if entertaining. (And less implausible than the means by which other authors contrive to have their heroines entangled in murder after murder.)

Written with a very light, dry touch. It occurred to me that the ending to the first book, if written by another hand, could have been quite utterly devestating.

I didn't realize that this was a slightly alternate regency that was being written about, and so was rather historically disoriented for a while.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

More ladies

I created some more ladylike peyote tube earrings for Christmas. These little blue girls were a gift for my cousin's daughter, who requested them several months ago. I made them using size 15 seeds.

And these were my christmas earrings. I added wings to the basic tube pattern to create little angels. (Ok, I know they're cheesy, but sometimes I like that sort of thing.) Like the blue ones, these are 12 around even count peyote. The skirt is two rows of 3 bead netting followed by two rows of 5 bead netting.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Lady Sophia's Lover by Lisa Kleypas

Ok, I suppose the lover was a fine enough fellow, if rather uninteresting and occasionally unperceptive. But as far as the focus of the plot and centre of interest for Lady Sophia herself went, the book would have been more aptly titled Lady Sophia's Brother.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Buried Pyamid by Jane Lindskold

Odd but enjoyable.

I like Jane Lindskold's books. Ok, I lost interest in the Firekeeper saga a couple of books in, but I like her stand-alones. I especially like the way she bounces around between subgenres - she's done sword-and-sorcery (When the Gods are Silent), near-future cyberpunk (Brother to Dragons, Companion to Owls) and an off-planet SF espionage (Smoke and Mirrors), among others. This one was particularly odd: a Victorian-era novel of an Egyptian archaeological expedition, not unlike Elizabeth Peters' Amelia Peabody mysteries and complete with mysterious murderous thugs, which abruptly turns into a journey through an egyptiam mythological landscape accompanied by a sun god. Left me with a bit of whiplash...

Novels and stories from Kage Baker's Company series

The Graveyard Game, Life of the World to Come, The Children of the Company, Black Projects, White Knights. I read these fairly in one steady Company binge.

I'm not going to review these - it's been done better. All I can say is I like the Company... but. The Children of the Company drove me nearly insane! Life of the World to Come ended on practically a cliffhanger for Alex, and Graveyard for Joseph. I picked up Children desperately needing to find out What Happens Next to the characters I care about - and instead got what I later realised was a fix-up of short stories. If I'd been expecting short stories about random company-related things, that would have been one thing (as with Black Projects, White Knights), but I thought I'd picked up a novel.

Not that some of them weren't excellent short stories. But the main plot, such as it was, seemed to involve a rivalry between the unpleasant Labienus and one Aegeus, who is probably equally unpleasant, but stays offstage. Fight between Unpleasant and Unknown. Don't Care.

I was piqued enough that I haven't gotten the next book in the series, even though it apparently does carry on the plot from Life. I'm trying to hold out until it shows up in paperback, at least.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

An absence of posts

It seems that keeping up with the very simple premise of this blog - post a few words about each book I read, as I finish reading it - isn't as simple to accomplish as I thought it would be. I'm not sure why this is.

Partly, I think, my perfectionist tendancies combined with the fact that this is a public forum. I find myself wanting to post something close to a full review of each book, which requires that I set some time aside and think deeply and carefully, rather than simply writing an unvarnished reaction. And to also write serious reactions, thoughtfull meditations on this or that inspired by my reading - after I get the full review out of the way, of course. Which all becomes something like homework.

And really, much of what I read doesn't inspire such serious reactions. I read a grab bag that includes quite a bit of genre fiction - romances, murder mysteries, meant to be pure pleasant escapism. Maybe I don't want my less intellectual preferences showing.

Well, here's a list of unposted boks from the last little while. I'll write about some of them in more detail later, if the mood strikes.

Books and short stories from Kage Baker's Company series:

  • Mendoza in Hollywood
  • The Graveyard Game
  • The Life of the World to Come
  • The Children of the Company
  • Black Projects, White Knights (short story collection)

Mysteries and romances by Nora Roberts:

  • Going Home compilation, containing the books ”Mind Over Matter”, “Unfinished Business”, & “Island of Flowers”
  • Cordina's Royal Familiy series: Affaire Royale, Command Performance, Cordina's Crown Jewel
  • Mysteries written as J. D. Robb: Naked in Death, Ceremony in Death, Witness in Death


  • The Runaway Princess, Christina Dodd
  • Hidden Honor, Anne Stuart
  • Windflower, Nick Bantock
  • Forcing Amyrillis, Louise Ure
  • A Great and Terrible Beauty, Libba Bray
  • Beguilement, Lois McMaster Bujold
  • The Buried Pyramid, Jane Lindskold
  • The Silver Bough, Lisa Tuttle