Betsy Whitt

I read. I write. I think. I live.

Category: Books (page 2 of 2)

Home Again

Now that I’m back in the land of wifi, it’s time for at least a quick update.

  1. Had a great time in Ohio with friends and family. My nephew William is just as much of a charmer as I thought, and I’m especially glad I got to meet him. Oh, and my brother got the job! Woohoo!
  2. Our neighbors moved while I was gone and were getting rid of some furniture, and Matt also found some sturdy decent-looking bookshelves in the trash area, so I came home to a new look. We’ll need to do a bit of rearranging, but I like it a lot and this means we don’t have such an urgent need for shelf space, which is really wonderful.
  3. Had a great meeting with my mentor (who just won two Bram Stoker Awards – woohoo Gary!) while I was in Columbus, and I’m feeling good about the manuscript, which is always nice.
  4. My flight got delayed two hours yesterday, but I had a book to read so it wasn’t that bad.
  5. I took four books to Ohio, and brought 15 back. Woohoo! Only paid for one of the new ones, a translation of an illustrated 15th century German guide to combat, including dirty rotten tricks. I’m very excited about that one.
  6. It’s great to be home.
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Request for Book Recommendations

I’m putting together my list of books to read for this upcoming school term, and I’ve come up against a bit of trouble. I know that some people out there have got to have ideas I haven’t considered, so I’m throwing this out to get a bit of help.

Here are my prime targets for things to find in required novels this term:

  1. Books that have deities or other forces of destiny which actively shape the lives of humans – as examples, the Shin’a’in/Tayledras star-eyed goddess from Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar books OR the Cheysuli idea of tahlmorra in Jennifer Roberson’s books.
  2. Books that involve a protagonist who runs away from home to pursue military or weapons training of some sort, whether entirely intentional or not. Examples: Elizabeth Moon’s Deed of Paksenarrion trilogy; Robin McKinley’s The Blue Sword.
  3. Books that feature groups in nomadic or semi-nomadic life, either in fantasy or in real life. I’d prefer nomads of the desert or desert edge, but others would be okay as well. Turkish or Mongolian steppes would work, too. The only fantasy novel I can think of that features this in any real way is Robin McKinley’s The Blue Sword again. Others have one person or a small group crossing the desert, but I want people groups for whom that life is the norm.
  4. Books that use a first person narrator, especially for epic fantasy; double especially for epic fantasy with multiple first-person narrators alternating POVs for the story. Prime example of this would be the last three books of Carol Berg’s Bridge of D’Arnath series.

Any help with any of these would be great. I’ve read a lot of fantasy, but not all of it, so feel free to give me a suggestion even if it seems like a book you think I would have already read. At the very least, I hope to stir the pot a bit.

Thanks in advance!

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Christmas Books

My good friend devilwrites wanted to know what books I got for Christmas, so here’s the list:

Books I bought at the used bookstore and that Matt confiscated as soon as I got home so he could give them to me:

Then Matt also got me How To Be Your Dog’s Best Friend by the Monks of New Skete.

My brother-in-law Daniel gave me Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy, The Annotated Brothers Grimm (which was on my wish list), and a copy of one of his favorites, Gene Wolfe’s The Knight, which I’ve never even heard of but which I am looking forward to reading.

And then with the gift cards I got, so far I’ve bought Susan Elizabeth Phillips’s Nobody’s Baby But Mine, which was pretty good; Carrie Vaughn’s Kitty and the Silver Bullet, which was excellent; and Carol Berg’s Breath and Bone, which I’m not reading until after residency but which I anticipate will be excellent as well. I have about $50 left to spend, but I don’t know what I’ll use it for.

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Dance With Me

That’s right!  It’s time for the end-of-term dance!  *dances like a fool*  I emailed everything off last night mere minutes before Official Deadline Time.  It might not all be shiny, but it’s not slop either.  I’ll take that.

Speaking of shiny, Leopard comes out today.   Please excuse my drool.  Lucky for me, I converted Matt to Mac last year, which means he’s just as excited as I am, and we’ll be buying a family pack license for the upgrade.  If he can get it before their big grand opening hoo-hah this evening, I expect it will be waiting for me when I get home from work.  Otherwise, tomorrow.

Not that it will matter much, since I’ll be spending this weekend at MileHiCon, meeting some people in person for the first time, taking some books to get signed (Carrie Vaughn will be there! Woo!), and generally having a good time sans deadline.   Carol Berg will also be there, and will be reading from Breath and Bone, which comes out this January and which I will have in my hands as soon as it’s available.

And then I get three days to finalize my decision about what to write for NaNoWriMo, develop as much of that plot as I can, and it’s off to the races again.

How’s your week going?

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Back to Work

As anticipated, I got very little work done over the weekend between visits with friends and family. On the other hand, it was really great to catch up with everybody. We hit up Minella’s Diner and Angelo’s Pizza, which was just heavenly, and even found a water ice stand still open this late in the season. I finished reading two books, both of which I started before the weekend, and wrote up three book reviews (check the Reading Journal link if you’re interested) with comments on a fourth still in progress, hopefully ready to post this evening.

I’m still wildly behind on the writing. I’ve got today and tomorrow off work, and need to finish my pages before work on Thursday so I can run edits at my desk there between answering the phones and turn it all in by Thursday night. And I have to put together my self-evaluation for the term. Also on the agenda for the next two days are unpacking, catching up on laundry, and baking yummy cookie-type things for the church bake sale this weekend, which might have to be abandoned. But I really like baking so I’m hoping to squeeze it in.

As a reward, I’m going to MileHiCon this weekend, where I’ll get to listen to Carol Berg’s reading for Breath and Bone, which comes out in January. I’m not sure I can properly express how much I’m looking forward to it.

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Life on the Boundary

I mentioned a few days ago that I’m reading From Homer to Harry Potter, which I neglected to mention before is written by Matthew Dickerson and David O’Hara, and which looks at the tradition and importance of myth, legend, fairy tales, fantasy, whatever you want to call all of it.

I’ve only read about 65 pages (in part because I keep putting the book down to process everything they’re saying) but already there is so much that I find both relevant and… not so much enlightening as seeming to put into words the things I have always felt and thought about fantasy stories. I keep telling myself I’m going to put together a ‘real’ post about all of this, but so far I haven’t had time, so perhaps I’ll turn it into a little series of bits and pieces.

So, for today I’ll start with a quote from philosopher Peter Kreeft, as quoted by Dickerson and O’Hara:

Death is the most natural thing in the world; why do we find it unnatural? … We complain about death and time…. There is never enough time. Time makes being into non-being. Time is a river that takes everything it brings: nations, civilizations, art, science, culture, plants, animals, our own bodies, the very stars–nothing stands outside the cosmic stream rushing headlong into the sea of death. Or does it? Something in us seems to stand outside it, for something in us protests this “nature” and asks: Is that all there is? We find this natural situation “vanity” [“meaningless”]: empty, frustrating, wretched, unhappy. Our nature contradicts nature.

As humans we stand with one foot rather literally in the mortal stew of time and decay and everything else, and yet there is some part of us that sees it as unnatural, as wrong, and struggles against it. Some part of us is eternal.

And, after quite a bit of discussion and inclusion of ideas from Tolkien, Lewis, and other luminaries, the two authors make this statement:

If man is indeed the spiritual animal, the creature who lives at once both in the world of the seen [mortal] and the unseen [eternal], then those stories that take place in both worlds–that is, on the borders of Faerie–will be far more relevant than stories that take place entirely in one world to the exclusion of the other.

It is after reading passages like these that I feel like jumping up and down and cheering. This is why I read fantasy. These stories touch on truths that illuminate and inform my everyday life, because I do not live simply in the material world. No other genre speaks so clearly to my walk-on-the-boundary life.

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His Majesty’s Dragon

I just finished Naomi Novik’s His Majesty’s Dragon.  Wow.  Definitely a fan.  More later, but it’s highly recommended from me.  Unfortunately, I have a lot of other things to do before I can justify picking up the second and third in the series, but rest assured it will happen in the next month.

Go now.  Fall in love with Temeraire.  You’ll be glad you did.

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Nope, No Spoilers….

I finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows earlier this evening, and I have to say that although it isn’t the best book I’ve ever read (and I mean that in the nicest way possible), it was quite enjoyable. Like visiting old friends, if you will – and really, they are old friends, characters I’ve known and adventured with for five or six years. I haven’t even known my husband for that long, which seems strange to say. It’s always a comfort to see Hermione pulling completely ridiculous facts out of thin air, Ron bumbling his way through and coming out winningly in the end, and Harry wondering the whole time if he should be going on without them, to spare them the danger.

I still don’t get how the magic system works, because even within this book there are discrepancies and entirely new features, but oddly enough in the end it doesn’t bother me much. I feel like it ought to, since I’m trying to put together a coherent, consistent magical world of my own and should be offended that something this well-known doesn’t seem to have been entirely thought through in terms of magic use, but there you have it. It doesn’t matter.

That’s not to say, when I get around to putting all my thoughts down for my personal reference that all my comments will be glowing and positive – just that I am satisfied by the ending of a good story.

Oh, and as I was waiting in the store for my copy of HP I found a copy of Melissa Marr’s debut, Wicked Lovely, and picked it up. Finished it this evening after HP and was very impressed. But then, I’ve always liked stories about faeries, too.

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When Books Entrap…

It’s hard to tell how much of the fact that I stayed up until 5:30 this morning reading is because I love all things Pride and Prejudice, because the particular book I was reading was so entirely captivating, or because with my glasses off I couldn’t see the clock and thereby had no way of knowing how very late it was. In fact, the sky was lightening noticeably when I closed the back cover on my latest find.

I spent all weekend in Pamela Aidan’s literary hands. She’s written a trilogy that complements Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, but from Mr. Darcy’s point of view. Extreme purists will always balk at such a project, but Aidan handles the task quite nicely. Though some of her extrapolations about what might have happened to Darcy (particularly during the notorious “dark time” between the Netherfield Ball and the visit to Rosings Park) are somewhat far-fetched, the trilogy’s primary pursuit is the examination of the sequence of thoughts and events that could have motivated Darcy throughout the story to act in all the ways that he does. I have to say that Aidan’s understanding of his character, of the man we all know Darcy to be, is admirable. Under her careful examination, all his actions seem natural and perfectly right, and I found myself very pleased by the end result.

I have always loved Darcy, and now I love him even better.

Having slept until noon to recover, it’s time to rejoin the real world. I hope you all had equally enjoyable weekends.

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Assassin Study -and- Flesh and Spirit

Chapter Four of Maria V. Snyder’s ‘Assassin Study’ has been posted here. This is good stuff – Chapter Five will conclude the mini-story, and then we’ll still all have to wait until March 2008 for Fire Study.

It’s a shame, really.

If you’d like to read another great first-person fantasy in the meantime, why don’t you check out Carol Berg? She’s got eight fantastic ready-to-read novels (two series and one stand-alone), which have garnered her several awards and a prime spot on my fiction shelves. AND her latest book, Flesh and Spirit, is hitting bookstores in a mere 12 days. That’s right, May 1. I’ve heard very good things from several friends who got their hands on ARCs, and my pre-ordered copy will be waiting for me to pick up as soon as I can possibly manage it. Read an excerpt here!

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