Sunday, December 31, 2006

Some of the Books I've Enjoyed

Well, it's taken me a while to post this, and the pile waiting for "quick" comments has grown to tottering, but I hope you enjoy the peeks into what I found compelling.

Urban Shaman by C.E. Murphy (a long-standing FM writer)

I'll be honest and say I picked up this book merely to support the author, and it took me a bit to get to reading it with the state of my to-be-read shelf. However, once I started, it was really hard to put it aside to work on what I needed to get done...and I stayed up way too late the last night on the "too close to the end" problem. It's a solid story with a likeable, mouthy character who drives her life even when fate seems to try to drive it for her. I suddenly understand why, after this one sale, she's had a cascading effect on the publishing industry. The story is good, the character compelling, and the sense of place, even when things are out of place, is wonderful. I didn't start out a grand fan of the urban fantasy trend, but I keep running into books that make modern day so much more interesting. This is definitely one of them. And a further sign of how good this book was...I just picked up the next in the series :).

The Privilege of the Sword by Ellen Kushner

I picked up this book as a case of mistaken identity. I thought I was picking up that book that everyone seems to be talking about: Kushneil's Dart. It wasn't that book, but I certainly don't regret the error. This is a strange story with an indirect narrative (meaning not a clear story being told), which would normally turn me off. However, it captures the feel of 18th Century London with the backbiting politics, the personal grievances, the cult of beauty, etc. that I've always loved in romance novels. The characters are compelling and you just can't wait to see what will come of this new tidbit you find. Okay, so on the story side, you don't always find out what that tidbit meant, even when the threads are somewhat resolved, but for once it didn't matter to me. I just went along for the ride and loved it. Will I be tracking down the first in the series? You better bet I will :).

Forest Mage by Robin Hobb

This is the sequel to the book I read as part of the publisher's reader review program. I picked it up out of curiosity mostly because, though I enjoyed the first one, the first was more about setting up a world than the story. It's what follows in that world that determines whether the author has taken advantage of the work. The answer in this case is clearly yes. Not only did she take advantage of the world she'd built in a grand way, but she even made me cry. I can say that without any spoilers at all, because the moment would not be what you could expect as a tearing up moment, but all the same it was. As usual with her books, the dense description took some time to get into. I have to remember that because first impressions would have me turn away from her books. They start out as they go on, however. The difference is not in the text or style, but in me. When I first start reading, I'm coming out of my busy, multitasking world and my hand is already rotating in the family signal of "get to the point already." Then, as if I've been walking through a muddy swamp, suddenly my foot comes free, lands on solid ground, and I'm completely enveloped in her forest. It's a change in state, in mindset, that doesn't come easy to me, but a talented author (and Robin Hobb has proved so twice now) can take me from my normal rush into complete absorption so that I want to stay in her world, heavy in detail and all, to become a part of it.

Crystal Rain by Tobias S. Buckell

This book is a poster child for promoting yourself through an Internet presence. When I saw the book, I said, "I know that author," and picked it up. I didn't realize until I looked through the cover that it was his first book. Anyway, here's another book that had the "no clear story" issue. I'm starting to wonder if this is a trend and I'm going to have to just get over it :p. While not as compelling as the Kushner, I enjoyed the characters and wished more for the story to link together in a beginning, middle, and end format. I had a bit of a hard time with some of the gimmies, while at the same time, I enjoyed those same elements. The use of dialect was superb, not just in the actual dialect but in how a character negotiated the dialect, being as he'd been brought up to another speech but had integrated into the dialect-using society. As much as the logic of recreating Aztec society didn't make sense to me (though honestly it was shown from the outside mostly instead of through those to whom it was the norm), I found its use within the story compelling and well integrated. If I let go of the gimmie, from there, it made sense, and though not a society I could support, I could understand how someone brainwashed from birth could think it normal. I also enjoyed the almost steampunk feel of the novel even though it clearly wasn't. They all know they're on another planet and that they came as colonists, but a war set them back to that period and rediscovered tech is coming out much like Victorian steampunk, as clearly shown by the cover art (which, by the way, is right on target for the book, showing the book's cross natures. Anyway, it was a fun, interesting read. Tobias Buckell clearly shows some strengths as a writer that will keep me coming back. It'll be interesting to see what he does with this world and if what I look for in a storyteller is something he'll grow into or if the market has changed so much that I'm a dinosaur in my tastes :).

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Disaster Magnet (Part Whatever...)

Okay, I really can't help this, I don't do anything to bring it on myself, I swear. It's just that life seems to line up this way. And it's fun to tell you all about it...after the fact.

So anyway, my son was trying out for a part in Fiddler on the Roof. This happens to be one of my favorite musicals so I was talking with him about it and I mentioned the Russian dance at one point in the movie version at least. Umm, this part IS my fault. I decided, with years since the last time I'd done the dance and in winter when my joints are not at their best, I would demonstrate it :). Needless to say, I did a piss-poor job and ended up with a very sore knee.

Years ago, I twinged my knee and ignored it until the inflammation was so bad I had to go around in a wheelchair for almost 2 months. This time, I was going to be smart. But my flexible brace was missing. Turns out my husband had thought, just a day before, that he would use it in a skit he was doing at work. After all, I hadn't used it in 7? 10? years? So what was the likelihood I'd need it then? Sigh. He forgot to factor in Fiddler ;).

So anyway, he brought it back home and I wore it on and off for a number of days, determined to be smart and careful.

Then I had some submissions to mail.

My husband's car is an automatic, so I asked him to switch, but our garage is very tight. After all the trouble getting into the car with the brace on, I parked it a bit wider than usual so I could get out. This meant when he parked my car next to it, he parked the car a bit wider than usual as well.

Then, when he brought the garbage can in on Monday, he didn't put it in snug, something that shouldn't have been an issue, but...

So anyway, I had more submissions to make. I asked him to leave his car, just to be cautious, but he forgot.

No problem. I wasn't needing the brace anymore, so I should be fine in the stick.

And then I backed up.

My side-view mirror hit the garbage can with the weight of a backing car.

I drove forward and swerved wider to get past it, annoyed but no biggie.

Ah, there's the failure point.

It turned out the momentum of the car had shifted the can enough so that it blocked the garage door sensor.

No problem, got out and shifted it.

The garage door still won't close.

(Just an aside for those of you who don't know, I live in a winter place now. There's snow on the ground and it isn't melting all that much in the heat of day. It was early morning because I wanted to miss the crowds. My car doesn't have a thermometer, but just two days before, when hubby went to work (about two hours earlier than the current time) it had been nine degrees. And that's not Celsius.)

So I clear the cobwebs off the sensor and try again. This time even holding the button for a manual override doesn't work. And the door makes funny noises.

I go back to look more carefully.

The car had indeed pushed the can. Hard enough to twist the rail of the garage door. So getting it closed? Just not going to happen.

I go looking for pliers. End up with a hammer and a metal clamp.

Small detail. I'm not as strong as a car. I can get it to budge a little, but not back to straight.

Still, it looks close.

I push the button.

It goes around the top curve and jars to a halt, then runs back.

I go take another look.

Hmm, it's not just bent a little. From my new angle, it's bent at least 2 inches.

And if that isn't enough, I look above me and the door now has one guide wheel hanging loose and another coming out.


I call hubby. Explain, and ask for suggestions. He has none. Plans to come home.

While waiting, I try to address the weight issue.

Figured out the perfect solution. Jam something between the rail and the wall to force it back into place. Only the only thing I had that was strong enough is about a half an inch too wide. BAH!

Searched for something of the right size then jammed it in there anyway, put the wheels back on the rail, and lowered the darn thing manually. Then called hubby, said no parking in the garage, but for now, it's set. Couldn't very well leave it open. The heater would have frozen :).

The good news is that I came through all of this with only a blood blister on my pinky (of course on the typing edge :p) and didn't get frostbite after warming up running around with a hammer :).

I couldn't put these circumstances together if I tried. It's a domino effect that only the fates, and a certain ancient Chinese curse, could manage. But at least it makes for an amusing blog post :).

Oh, and yes, I did get to the Post Office and my knee held up nicely :).

Welcome to my world. Stay at your own risk. I don't think it's infectious.

Epilogue in two parts:

Part 1 -

Hubby got home and, with the assistance of a monkey wrench, ratcheting bolt driver, and axe, we got the bracket back to mostly straight. But the rail was still off kilter. Back went the crate as a brace. Door's working okay, but we'll replace the bracket just in case. At least we come out of it in a pretty good position. Even life in suburbia has its adventures.

Part 2 -

I now understand why this keeps happening to me. It's not that I'm's genetic ;). I'll leave it to my dad if he's willing to explain in the credits. Suffice it to say, he sent me an email describing what would have been implausible on an Abbott and Costello routine :).