How much time do I spend on content creation? Andrea at the Little Red Reviewer had an interesting post about this very topic and here’s my answer — not much as I’m posting barely once a week which got me wondering as to whether or not I want or should continue since I’m not actually offering much in terms of book reviews or news. I’ve seen this from a number of bloggers lately so I know I’m not alone but I don’t want to get caught up in that thought because even though I may not be sitting and creating, I’m constantly thinking about topics to write about. In fact, I have a whole list of topics in a file that I just keep adding to. Of course, I’m not writing but that’s another story.
Life got complicated a few months back and while things are better, there are still other things that occupy my time and thoughts. I’ve even been reading less. Shocking but in a way it’s a good thing because I’m also doing other things that I’ve been wanting to do and I feel very good about. Hello, yoga! There’s a trade off to everything. For me, it’s about the time. Time to read books, time to write down thoughts, time to edit, and time to post. I also want to find time to write about things other than blog stuff. Writing is something I enjoy and I keep saying I’m going to find time to do it but I’ve yet to get there. I need to do that which means that the blog may need to take a little hiatus for me to get things in order. I’d be okay with that actually but I don’t really want to do that either which means I need to find a better system. (This is when I get envious of all the people out there who seem to be able to wring every usable second out of a day. Obviously, I’m not one of those people. If you are, I envy you. Know that.)
So this question of Andrea’s has me thinking about all things now and not just the blog. Although, I have been thinking about the blog lately and how I need to get things done. It also got me thinking about how I haven’t seen the last few episodes of Doctor Who. I know the tragedy! I don’t even watch that much TV and I can’t seem to find the time to watch a show I enjoy. What is it I’m doing then? How the hell should I know?! Okay, I should know the answer to that and it’s been bothering me because I highly suspect I’ve been doing nothing. We spent two weekends in a row traveling and I had a work conference that sucked hours and the life out of me. I’ve been doing some reading and reviewing for another website too. I know, I’m cheating on myself. I started writing for this site long before I started my own blog; it was one of the reasons I started my blog actually. I agreed to do a few reviews that were out of the regular pattern for me and it reminded me how much I still like reviewing.
Back to the topic that started this whole string of random thoughts, how much time. I don’t really know but I think the next few weeks are going to be a little experiment to find out and see how organized I can be. I warn you, this probably won’t last long.
This is the second book in Mary Stewart’s Arthurian legend series following The Crystal Cave. Some spoilers may apply.
Arthur is about to be born and Merlin is called on by Igraine and Uther to keep him safe, which he agrees to do until the time is right for the world to know of the new High King who will unite the land of Britain. Keeping a small child safe and well-hidden is not an easy task in a country fighting over land. When the time to reveal Arthur comes, Merlin is left in awe of the gods and Arthur as the new High King.
I love Arthurian legend and I liked The Crystal Cave very much. I’ve read only a few stories told with Merlin as the narrator and that was certainly a reason for picking up the series. However, this second book was extremely slow reading for me. At one point, I considered scrapping it and moving on but decided to keep going. I was rewarded in the end but there were way too many info dumps to get to that point. Stewart takes this story slow telling you everything about Merlin and repeating often told tales more than once. Yes, Merlin is the one telling you these things so he can explain how wrong it is or how valuable the tale is for the ages but, I don’t want all that. Maybe it’s because I’ve read so many Arthurian based books that I get bored with the back story sometimes, but I don’t think that was the case here. Frankly, the first part of the book was just boring. Merlin is roaming around making sure no one knows about Arthur but it’s boring with him meandering around. When he finally settles down, and meets Arthur, it does get more interesting.
Also, I wanted more of the magic and there isn’t much of that here. It’s not necessarily a bad thing as I don’t usually want magic in these tales but honestly, I just wanted something, anything other than what I had here. It was slow moving, meandered just as badly as Merlin rambling about the countryside, and was just boring in parts. Yes, I know I already said that but if Merlin can do it, so can I.
Here’s the deal I made with myself about this series. I have the third book in my house. I will read it and if it gets better, I’ll turn to the library for the rest. If it bores more, the series is done but I can say I gave it a good try. My quest to read Arthurian legend has not come to an end and I’m hoping Stewart’s third book makes up for it.
Did you read this? Thoughts? If you liked it, I want to hear why. My opinion is not the last. Also, here’s my review of The Crystal Cave. As you can see, I loved the first book.
The Hollow Hills
By Mary Stewart
William Morrow & Company
Book Club Edition
Today, something different — me gushing about book outside my normal reading habits.
I tend to read heavily in the fantasy and historical fiction genres but every once in awhile I like to step outside of my reading habits and try something new. Palisades Park was that something new. Let’s just say that stepping out of routine is a very good thing, because if I hadn’t taken that chance, I never would have found this book.
Eddie Stopka is a kid with dreams. Looking to escape an abusive step-father, he runs away as a teenager but he can’t stay away from his little hometown on the New Jersey coast for long. When he returns, he finds a job at the Palisades Amusement Park, a place that holds very happy childhood memories for him, and it’s there he meets the woman who will become his wife. Taking a chance, the two buy into a French fry stand at the park, start a family, and live a life. However, it’s their oldest child, a daughter named Toni, who is the true dreamer in the family. Having seen a woman high diver at the park, Toni immediately knows that’s what she wants to do when she grows up.
Even with her mother telling her women can’t be high divers, Toni persists. Her mother gives in enough to get her and her brother swimming lessons, but beyond that, doesn’t give much encouragement to her diving dreams. Toni, however, knows her heart and it sits at the top of the high platform in front of an audience.
I’m a character driven reader. Yes, plots are nice and I like when they stick together for a story to play out properly, but when characters are wonderful, I’m in for the duration. The Stopka family, well, even for all their faults and problems, they are a pleasure to be with. Also, Brennert manages to evoke such a sense of time and place in this story that I felt right at home with the characters and setting.
Brennert knows how to draw a reader in and keep them in the pages of the book. Palisades Park spans over 50 years and the characters are not immune to the world around them — WWII, Korean War — as well as smaller scale problems pertaining to family life and work. Even with all the years in between, the story doesn’t falter and the characters feel very genuine.
Palisades Park is what I think of as a soft-spoken book. There’s not always a great deal of happiness in the lives of the characters, and we are reminded that bad things do happen to even the best of people, but somewhere in all the mess that is life, there is a wonderful story. The laughter is tinged with a bit of bitterness, sometimes even sadness, but the dreams that are held dear, can sometimes come true. I like leaving a book with that kind of ending.
In addition to this blog, I also do reviews for The Book Reporter website. The above review was done for the Book Reporter which can be found here. The book was provided to me by the publisher.
By Alan Brennert
St. Martin’s Press
Otto Rotfeld is a lonely man who wants a wife. Knowing his chances are nearly impossible with the women of his Polish village, he turns to an outsider to fulfill his request. A man who practices dark magic agrees to make him a wife of clay, a golem. The request is difficult to fill but the strange old man manages the creation, and shortly after, the golem and her master board a ship for America. Rotfeld wakes the golem on the ship but dies soon after leaving her to fend for herself in a world she doesn’t understand with no one to watch over her. After arriving at Ellis Island, the golem runs, inundated by the wants and needs of those crowded around her. Rabbi Meyer, a widower making his way in New York, spies the golem. Knowing what she is and fearing for not only the golem but those around her, he takes her in and names her Chava.
Maryam Faddoul is the heart of her Syrian neighborhood. One day, she takes an old copper flask, a family heirloom, to the local metal smith, Arbeely, to be repaired. While fixing the flask, Arbeely unknowingly releases a jinni. The jinni, now named Ahmed, has trouble living by the strict rules that govern human form. Chained by the spell that captured him hundreds of years ago, he can no longer take his true jinni form. He struggles to accept what little he can experience of life as a human. While roaming the dark streets of New York City he attempts to find a bit of freedom. It’s on one of these explorations that he meets Chava and becomes fascinated by her and what she is.
Mythical creatures struggling to fit into the daily life of 1890s New York City, Chava and Ahmed want to stay hidden but chafe at pretending to be human. Taking to the night, the two explore the city, grow close, and begin accepting that life will always be this way for them. When they are involved in a tragic event, their lives, and the lives of those around them, change forever. Choices are made, lives move forward, and the golem and jinni once more find ways to survive.
How can you not love a story about mythical creatures set in 1890s New York City? It’s such a rich story and I enjoyed how Chava and Ahmed fought to fit in. The Syrian and Jewish neighborhoods that take them in are full of incredible characters and their lives become mirror images of the immigrants around them.
Chava is particularly interesting in the way she fights not to fulfill every want and wish she is mentally bombarded by. Built to obey a master, but living without one, she learns to control the impulse to help everyone and fix everything. It’s painful and troubling but she endures. Ahmed, on the other hand, steeps himself in sorrow and self-pity longing for a former life far out of reach. It’s Chava who teaches him there’s more to being human than what he believes. It’s the limitations of these mythical creatures that make them human.
Wecker does a fine job of pulling strings in this story. What might feel like several story lines is really one very long tale that twists and turns but never tangles. It’s an incredible web that draws people together in ways never imagined. There’s nothing better than a story like that. This may be a story of mythical creatures, but in the end, it’s a story of people adjusting to new lives and learning how to fit in. The simplicity of that is what makes this wonderful.
I don’t usually go in for book trailers, but why not, here’s the trailer for The Golem and the Jinni.
The Golem and the Jinni
By Helene Wecker
It’s week five of The Shadow of the Sun read along. Also, the end of the read along so I’m writing this post with a glass of wine to celebrate the conclusion of a good book. This week, we’re covering chapters 29 – end. Once again, thanks to nrlymrtl of Dab of Darkness for putting together the questions.
As a side note, this has been a fun read along and I’m looking forward to book two more than ever. I’ll be doing a review soon and tying together a few of the posts because if you haven’t heard of this one, I’m going to try and make sure you do.
1) These final chapters show us much more of Iminor’s character and his growing Talent. What stuck out the most for you about how he handled the various exploding aspects of his life?
It’s hard to say. On one hand, he’s calm about all that’s happening to him and seems to be taking it in stride, as if he knew something like this might happen along the way. The seething hatred he’s nurturing toward Ellion may be a side effect of the stress he’s feeling (and Ellion’s night activities with Letitia which he has to know about) and I think he’s channeling that stress into not dealing with the problems with his growing Talent. As with the other Tan, he’s pretty good at hiding some, not all, of his feelings and I think he’d doing that and putting up a front so no one really knows what’s going on with him. I don’t see good things for him though in the future though.
2) While Rohini is a late addition to the party, she is an interesting one. What aspect of her character or objectives would you like to see more of in forthcoming book(s)?
I want her to kick more ass. That is all. Thank you.
3) Amien has been managing and maneuvering Ellion quite a bit in this last section. What do you think his motivations are?
Amien. I don’t know what to think of him. I want to like him, and in some respects, I can and do appreciate his skills, but I don’t trust him. He’s incredibly manipulative and that shows in the way he’s been treating Ellion. I don’t know what he’s up to and maybe he doesn’t know either which is why he’s pushing Ellion so hard. Or maybe he knows something that no one else does and that’s his motivation. Secrets, secrets…
4) Letitia continued to learn more about her abilities, but everyone agrees she still lacks the ability to go toe to toe with Nechton. What more would you empower her with?
Confidence. Loads and loads of it. I think she’s got some skill but having been groomed for something all her life, she’s not confident in the end goal. While she certainly has her convictions and very distinct lines of right and wrong, as well as a healthy respect for duty and responsibility, she’s not mentally equipped to deal with what she has to face. Does it sound like I’m worried about her? A bit. Not sure she has what it takes, although I’m hoping she pulls out all the stops in the end.
Also, another thing that sort of worries me, she makes bad choices. I won’t name him, oh why not, Ellion! How many times can she keep showing up naked with this boy.
As a note to clarify, I complain because I like it. I’m totally enjoying all the bad choices they’re gettin’ on here.
5) Throughout this entire book, the deities have played an important, if a backseat driver, role. As a reader, how has this worked for you in the world-building/plot department?
I’ve enjoyed the way the gods have been interacting with the characters. On a larger scale, it’s set a tone for the book and shows just how important the gods are in the characters’ lives and the driving force, even on the sidelines, they can be.
Ellion’s making choices based on what he thinks the gods want but he doesn’t really know what they want, and no matter, he’s still guessing. In many ways, for as prominent as the gods are, they’re still not telling anyone what to do and that I do like.
As for the world-building, it’s an inventive way to show this world. I read in pictures and this book has been a great stream of images for me.
6) We had yet one more assassination attempt in the hot water baths of Sucello. Now that we are at the end of the book, what are your insights into who is behind these attempts?
I still have no idea. I want to say it’s Nechton but I’m not sure about that theory any more. Maybe it’s Carina back from the not-so-dead out to stop everyone after having gone crazy from the battle with Nechton.
7) Bealtan reveals much about our narrative hero, Ellion. From his reuniting with Conar, to the revelation of Amien’s intentions, to his argument with Letitia, and his own internal recriminations about himself. Here at the end, what are your lasting impressions of Ellion?
He’s still not sure of who he is or what he wants to be. I’m good with that actually. I’m enjoying his folly and I don’t think badly about him because I like him. Yes, I’m willing to gloss over some major flaws in his character because I think he’s a good guy at heart even if he isn’t so sure.
Some of you might disagree with me about this but sometimes a character like Ellion is what makes a story. Stories don’t move along when everyone gets along and everything happens according to plan. Bad choices make the story go round.
How long until book two?
Question for Barbara this week: Have you ever thought of a graphic novel adaptation of The Shadow of the Sun? Maybe Ellion’s early life or a spin-off dealing with the gods, or the Deluge, the battle between Nechton and Carina? nrlymrtl’s question about illustrations got me thinking about this one. There are so many great scenes that I think it could easily work in that form.
It’s week four of The Shadow of the Sun read along. This week, we’re covering Chapters 22 – 28. Once again, thanks to nrlymrtl of Dab of Darkness for putting together the questions. I will be around to discuss with everyone this week.
1) Ellion and Letitia finally have not 1, not 2, not 3, but four trysts in this section of the book. What insights into the characters did you gain from these assignations?
Umm, that they need to learn to keep their pants on. OK. That’s obvious.
Actually, it occurred to me that these are two very hurt people looking to assuage guilt and be assured by someone, or something, even if that something is sex, that what they’re feeling is normal, and that it’s OK to feel they way they do. Letitia has no idea what she’s up against and has no faith in her abilities. Ellion is running so fast he’s bumping into every wall, real and imagined, that he can find as if he’s doing it out of some need to punish himself. Ignore this. I seriously have no idea what I’m talking about. I’m not going any further with my analysis than that.
2) Letitia’s retinue has diminished even further. How did this affect you as the reader and how do you think it will affect the dynamics of the remaining Tanaan?
It’s making me nervous! Barbara, please stop the killing!
Are they going to make it is the question that keeps rattling around in my head. Also, I’m beginning to think Amien is slightly useless on the wizard front. I want him to do more than throw green bolts. For god sakes, he a wizard! Also, I want him to get off Ellion’s case. Ellion needs some tough love but there’s too much guilt being passed between them to help matters.
I do think it’s starting to stress the Tanaan though. They’ve watching so many of their friends die that it has to be hard to them.
3) We’ve learned a bit more about the missing Carina in this section. What do you think is in her grimoire that has Letitia so secretive?
I think Letitia’s embarrassed because she doesn’t understand what she’s reading. She’s obviously had no training, believes that she’s supposed to know and understand everything on her own, and doesn’t want to admit this to anyone. I think she’s also terrified of what she has to face.
Letitia said she was willing to die if needed, so she seems to understand on some level what she’s up against, but I think she’s truly misread everything and it’s not her fault at all. It’s almost as though everyone expects her to know. How can she understand, be capable, if no one can or will help her? I’m feeling bad for her but also — keep ya pants on!
4) We’ve heard plenty about how much Ellion’s vow not to draw power means to him. But then we also see him finding several ways to feel, touch, smell, and use someone else’s power. What do you make of this and where do you think it will take Ellion?
Oh, all the wrong places. Totally off topic, is that a lyric to a country music song because it feels like it? Also, it fits with Ellion right now. This boy. I like him, I want him to finally come around and be what he’s supposed to be but, can he do more to make me question his judgement? Can he make a good decision here? He’s such an addict when it comes to power and I give him some credit for holding himself back but he’s cheating. He knows it too but doesn’t seem inclined to stop at all.
5) Nechton also played a larger role in this section. Which aspect has caught your attentions so far?
That he’s pretty much a badass. Although, Ellion’s description of Nechton when he sees a vision of him while touching the Spear is kinda eye opening. It’s a rather sexual description too which for Ellion is all normal. I mean, really. Pants. On. Ya just had sex too…it’s impressive but…not a race boy.
6) The mummers were in and out of this section, turning up in city and on the river. What did you make of their antics?
I found them disconcerting. They know entirely too much. Each time they showed up I was waiting for trouble. Although, they have been amusing and let’s face it, the death toll is a bit high not to laugh at something.
7) So far throughout the book we have gotten maps as we read. How is this working for you as the reader?
I like it. It helps me visualize the setting, where they’re going, and how they’re getting there. While I’m awful at directions, and honestly can’t read a map to save my life, (While in California last year, my husband asked where we were and I told him somewhere in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. That was all I could come up with.) I appreciate seeing the terrain. Although, if it’s possible to drop a temple on a corner where they need to turn, that would help me so much.
Awesome Con happened this weekend in Washington, DC. Since it was in walking distance of our house, we decided to stroll over and see what it had to offer. It’s a small con, and the first in DC actually, but over 3,000 came out for it, which was, well, awesome. (Oh, like you wouldn’t have gone there!) I didn’t get to see everything I wanted to, but there were some great moments and great costumes.
We couldn’t get into the costume judging but there was a small parade after.
We found this in the exhibit hall. The husband went back and bought it for me.
One day two, I ran over early to stand in line to see Phil LaMarr and Billy West discuss Futurama. It was like listening in on a conversation and so funny. If you’re fan of the show, (Hi, me!) it was a fantastically entertaining. The line for this one was huge, and for a few minutes, I cursed my need for coffee hoping it wouldn’t mean I would be standing outside the door while it was going on. I lucked out, making it in the room to one of the few seats left in the back.
I also dropped in on a session on writing fantasy novels and comics featuring: Justin Jordan, Allison Pang, Diana Peterfreund, Meagan Spooner, Tom King, and Alma Katsu. It was interesting to hear their take on the genre and how the publishing industry views it. Also, Katsu said her final book in The Taker trilogy is coming out soon. Yay!
A few more random pics.
Yes, I know I take truly awful photos but there you have it. I may write more about it in the next few days when I don’t have deadlines looming over my head.
Were you at Awesome Con? Questions? Let me know and I’ll answer as best I can.
I’m off to read a bit more of The Shadow of the Sun and questions will be answered tomorrow since that’s read along Q&A day. Be prepared, there are some sexytimes happening.