At Readercon almost two years ago, [ profile] sdn pulled me over after a panel and said "You like Megan Whalen Turner? Megan loves Elizabeth Wein. You should read Elizabeth Wein." (Henceforth: [ profile] eegatland.) Ok, I said.

However, some big things happened in my life between then and, oh, December 2008. It didn't occur to me to bother finding more things to do. Until suddenly, it did. I don't quite remember what set me off, though it might have been a review that specifically discussed Medraut, but I went looking for The Winter Prince with a passion. Upon learning that it was out of print I went about scouring websites until I found a used copy at I eagerly awaited its arrival, and hid away upstairs at my grandmother-in-law's house on Christmas Day reading it.

I'm not a huge fan of Arthurian work. Honestly, it never presented archetypes that I could believe in, that I could root for. Arthur was too simple, a boy scout with his only flaw was allowing himself to be seduced by his sister/aunt. Or something. 'Cause G-d knows he couldn't have been an active participant, there. Guinevere always seemed like a simpering idiot to me. The whole love triangle made me sick - if I can't believe that anyone would want the main object of affection I am really unlikely to buy it. Perhaps needless to say, this book had a lot to do to make me enjoy it.

Reader, I enjoyed it. The idea of a Guinevere (or, as she's known here, Ginevra) who is a talented mapmaker, healer, and fluent in three languages was refreshing. This woman wasn't a symbol of courtly love or whatever, she was a partner for a king and a kind mother figure for Medraut (our Mordred) as well as her own children. In fact, the women in this book were incredibly refreshing. Even Morgause. Especially Morgause.

It is literally impossible to discuss the rest of the series in any kind of detail without spoiling this book. Which is a shame, because the rest of the series is even better. The point of view shifts from Medraut to his half-sister Goewin in the second book, A Coalition of Lions, and the action moves from Britain to the African nation of Aksum (from which Medraut had returned at the start of The Winter Prince). My poor planning and inadequate patience (the second book is also out of print) meant that I read the third book, The Sunbird, second. Telemakos, an Aksumite child we meet in the first chapter of A Coalition of Lions is the main protagonist of The Sunbird and the last two novels - collectively known as "The Mark of Solomon" books. I haven't yet read the last two (a combination of running out of time and money), but I am looking forward to doing so.

It's a fascinating series, partly because it takes its Arthurian origins and moves them. Partly because of the way it deals with duty, loyalty, love, and family. Medraut, in the first book, is widely acknowledged - even by Artos (Arthur, naturally) - as the one who should be left to rule Britain. Goewin - as loyal as she is to her twin, Lleu, who is Artos's acknowledged heir - openly discusses how she does not trust her brother not to plunge the kingdom her father built into ruin. But everyone - including Medraut - also understands his or her part and duty. Goewin is, perhaps, so fascinating in that she is the mirror of Morgause. She is the fiercely intelligent woman who cannot rule because less intelligent men seek to diminish her power. She is wise enough to see the turns that lead down the darker path, but not wise enough to avoid them entirely.

I was expecting to find Medraut a fascinating character - the reading I'd done prior to getting the book led me to expect it. I knew he would be a character to capture my imagination - gifted, tortured, vain and humble, yearning for acceptance and love. But I didn't expect the world that sprang up around him - full of characters that moved like true actors in the story - with their own agendas that were not always convenient and never simple. The story does not end where the book does - it keeps flying, and leaves you, as the reader, trailing in its wake, trying to catch up. Even as the characters move countries and continents, their motivations, their pain and their purpose remain rooted in how they were when we met them. It's fascinating, and a joy to read a story that develops this way.

P.S.: [ profile] eegatland and her kids have been doing a PlayMobil version of The Winter Prince over here.
adelynne: (dragon reading)
( Dec. 22nd, 2006 10:11 am)
Apparently all the talk of slash and yaoi annoyed [ profile] matociquala away from reading reviews. Which is a shame, I think, because I believe in positive reinforcement. And this might be my favorite of her books to date.

I'll try not to let the OMG!SQUEEEE!!! and drool overrun as I type, but no promises.

I wasn't going to get Carnival until after the New Year. With my habitual lack of faith in the library system (Actually not true, I think libraries are great. I just don't think they work well for me.) I've come to rely heavily on the kindness of strangers and my Discover card to provide me with Borders and B&N gift cards which allow me to buy books without compromising my ability to pay rent. And the holiday season is a time when bookstore gift cards are showered in my general direction because people (my family) understand that one of the greatest gifts they can give me is the license to prance around a bookstore and actually get to pick out things that I can take home with me. And other people may be stumped beyond the knowledge that "She likes books. And biology. But we can't really get her biology. And we're not too sure on what kind of books she likes." [ profile] mrsix is an exception, but he rocks like a rocking thing. (Sorry, tangent.)

Anyway, I was going to wait until I had accumulated a nice pile of gift cards before making the book purchases that would hopefully tide me over the next semester. But given the slash debate (on which I am not taking sides), I was intrigued enough to go read Amazon and see if I could find more reviews. And then I stumbled on the Exerpt.

Well, shit. There went that plan. Frantically I search for a bookstore in the general area, only to find they're all way out of my way. Annoying, but then it turns out that Doyle's doing some last-minute holiday shopping in the neighborhood of one store that says it has it. Yay! On the sixth night of Hanukkah my boyfriend gave to me....

It is somewhat amusing to realize just how much Bear's writing style (at least on the sci-fi end) appeals to my brain. Or maybe it's just training. Hammered took me a bit to really get into, it was on my second try that I actually did. Scardown was a race between myself and my dad (the last time I bring something he might want to read as my first book for a family vacation), and by the time I picked up Worldwired it was such a smooth transition I don't think I noticed. Much like Vincent hitting his stride, Carnival and I just clicked the moment I read that exerpt.

That's at least partly due to the fact that Our Heroes were giving off enough sexual and other tension to drive me up a wall. You read "Chapter One" and bang! here comes conflict. I love it.

Have I mentioned just how much I love the fact that Bear's protagonists are, as a rule, over the age of 50? It gives so much more to the plot - in wisdom, in knowledge, in experience and depth. When you say "these people were lovers who were separated" that doesn't mean "they had one or two screws and went their separate ways" but "they maintained a secret relationship for over 20 years before they were forced apart for 17." So much more history, so much more at stake. It explains everything from how well they work together to how much weight on their shoulders they're both carrying.

It is a love story. Without a single "I love you," without weepy dramatic sex, without things that may look fine to a romance writer but generally make me want to spork my eyes out in the cold light of day. (There is sex; it's not weepy.) It's difficult to describe just how the way Vincent and Angelo are presented together appeals to me, except to say that as I've grown, I've encountered the fact that love is like this. That no matter how much you love, there are things you will not sacrifice, or forsake for the fear of no longer being yourself. That the thought of giving something so precious up would terrify and hurt you, but to do the morally wrong thing would simply destroy you. And these two are the best example of it I ever read.

To put simpler, their love is not hearts and flowers. It's pain, and lies, and spoiler )

But the book cannot stand on its own with just the two of them. Ultimately, as much as it is about Vincent and Angelo's relationship, it is also about New Amazonia, about New Earth and Ur, and the OECC (which we never actually see, so that's pretty darn impressive), about Lesa and how far you will go to give your children the best chance you can, about cultures taken to the extreme, and about the lies we tell ourselves to live.

Pretty impressive, no? Throw in all that physics (I'm pretty sure one round of research on superstring theory will keep on giving as far as Bear's writing goes), more spoiler ), espionage and intrigue, a bit of art, and you get an incredible book.

When I first met Elizabeth Bear, I told her that I, traditionally, had a hard time reading science fiction. Not entirely true when I think back to my childhood - Verne was on top of the list - but generally true when I open an Asimov novel. I suspect that in this "deficiency" I am far from alone. I told her that what really made me care about the story was character driving plot driving character development. Perhaps that's why this novel works so well for me.

I do have some quibbles, though. I'm not sure if one of them isn't just an error in printing, but one is a small plot point that's never addressed. It doesn't detract from the story, but if I'm giving a full review, it feels right to note that as much as I love it, it's not a perfect book.
I've been feeling slightly sick of late, and thus more than slightly lethargic. So this afternoon I put my new Persuasion DVD in and watched.

I can't really nitpick at all. I loved it, not with the same passion one loves Pride and Prejudice, but with a softness that comes from it being a quieter, more mature love story. I loved the wardrobe decision to put the Musgroves in reds, bright and vibrant, and the subdued contrast of Anne's cloak. I loved the way Anne changes, seems to glow from within as the movie moves along. The music seemed especially appropriate, for reasons I can't exactly articulate.

It's a grand adaptation. And a just portrayal of one of my favorite Austen books.
One of the weird things about this book is how long it's taken me to really figure out what I think of it. In fact, it wasn't until I was sitting at the sushi bar two hours ago that it hit me.

For me, Blood and Iron, is a problem book. [ profile] matociquala has previously stated that it's a story told from the point-of-view of a villain, and that might cause people to have issues. That isn't mine. I find villains often much more interesting than the heroes, brave and true. At least in the stories, I look with fondness on my villains.

Stray with me into Stargate: Atlantis for a moment. A lot of fans (at least from what I could see) had serious problems with the moral choices the expedition (otherwise known as Our Heroes) made at the end of last season and the beginning of this one. [ profile] thepouncer pointed out, I think correctly, that they were faced with an "Us or Them" choice. And given that one, choose Us every time.

B&I also presents the reader with an "Us or Them." Significantly, it is told from the point-of-view of the Them. Which could be cool, and is at times. But here we have what was the problem for me. I can't bring myself to support the Sidhe. It is not for lack of trying, but for what I see as a lack of vision on their part. In The Three Musketeers, Cardinal Richelieu was undoubtably the villain. But he was a villain with vision. A goal he was working toward. Our Heroes might have opposed him, but at the end of the day they knew he was working to further France as much as they were. And from there we have a connection.

The fae may be dying. Horrible and beautiful and magical as they are they are dying, bound by their own bargain with the Devil Himself on one end and the iron chains of the Prometheans on the other. It is a truly horrible fate. But as much as I seek it and try to see, what is the alternative for the Us? We see the horror and the reason the Prometheans started their war in the first place, but we're never given a good reason to side with the fae. Carel says that the world shouldn't be safe, and to an extent I agree with her. But there must be a give and take, and for the danger they bring they must provide a reason for their existance, or in the "Us or Them" humanity would always choose us.

And as a reader, I'm still human.

Please don't think I didn't like the book. I did. It made me think, and rubbed at me in ways only a good book can. The characters are engaging and though I cannot be convinced to side with Elaine, I can see how she came to her choices. It is a good read, and I would recommend it for what, at least in my experience, is a unique take on the Sidhe, Arthurian legend, and dragons. I'll definitely read the sequel.

But it is a problem book for me.
Ursula Le Guin has an odd effect on me. I begin reading expecting to have difficulty with the story - it'll be too "hard sf" (more on what constitutes that in another entry, perhaps), or too dated, or I don't know what. It probably stems from my inability to truly get into reading A Wizard of Earthsea - on the surface it reads as perhaps a bit cliché though I know it is the novel that spawned the imitators. It may be that her protagonists start out detached, not unlike the jellyfish that begins The Lathe of Heaven. But whatever the reason, it takes me longer than I would generally like to get into her work. Nonetheless, when I do read for more than thirty minutes at a time, say, I find myself irreversibly enmeshed in her narrative.

Her use of language is exquisite. It pours over my senses like warm honey, and I wonder if it's possible to develop synaesthesia in response to such vivid work. It's absorbing, enchanting, bringing you that much closer to her character in both empathy and understanding.

In The Left Hand of Darkness Estraven's plight was sometimes eclipsed by Ai's search for understanding, but both were communicated to the reader, and in the end they were so entangled one could hardly separate them. Likewise, in The Lathe of Heaven I find myself agreeing with, and empathizing with, both Orr and Haber. As a scientist, Haber's desire to make the world a better place is more than understandable to me - it is my life's purpose. His reasoning is mostly sound, though a bit soulless, and I can see where critique of the character arises - hell, I have more than a few issues with him, given the moral and ethical training I received before I was allowed near other human beings in order to ask them simple survey questions! But Le Guin is writing in an era that's much closer to Stanley Milgram and Philip Zimbardo, who put their subjects through severe emotional and mental trauma (albeit without meaning to), much like Haber.

Thus our sympathies naturally turn to Orr and his philosophies. I must admit that it is difficult for me to attain empathy with such a passive personality. Orr is strong, as Le Guin remarks, but he is very passive, content to flow along in life, no matter how horrible, until there is no life left. He is afraid of change, one thing that frustrates me above all else in people I am closest too. I much prefer "to seek, to strive, to find, and not to yield" as Lord Tennyson says. I am a very pro-active personality, much more Heather, I like to think, who serves as the healthy balance of action and thought, straddling the divide created by Orr and Haber. In fact, the climax of the book rests not only on Orr's shoulders, but Heather's aid in his endeavor.

So overall, I liked it. Not as much as The Left Hand of Darkness, but there can only be one Estraven. And if the hard truths Le Guin wrestles with in this novel are difficult for me to swallow, then perhaps swallowing them is even more worthwhile.

As an added bonus, I found the most perfect line regarding love, ever: Love doesn't just sit there, like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; re-made all the time, made new. What could be more true?
I actually finished Mélusine Wednesday night, but work-related travel led me to a two-day disconnect from the internet. I did not suffer all that much - got a lot done, some of it writing some of it bio, and the break allowed me to distill why I love this novel so much. Of course, then I remembered that [ profile] truepenny rocks like a goddess and ran off to her website to read the first three chapters of the forthcoming The Virtu.

Is it June 27th yet? In other news, I so know what I'm getting for my sister's birthday (which is the 28th, and despite my own being five days later, I absolutely cannot wait!).

Review, of the non-spoilery variety. )
I'm sure you're all excited. ;-)

I'm not sure what to say about this one in general that doesn't come across as a total "duh!" I mean, it's a Datlow & Windling anthology - it is nothing short of wonderful. Plus, right on the cover it says "A World Fantasy Award Finalist." Not like they're being subtle about how much it rocks. So you know, onto the individual stories:

Cut for length and the typical squee )
But it's raining. Which makes me very sad.

I did buy Mélusine and am into Chapter 2. Exposition, who needs this exposition, I ask you? Just about everything that I'm spoiled for due to Amazon recommending The Virtu to me has already happened. Well, aside from the fact that the protagonists have yet to actually, you know, meet.

Still, as I read I continue to be startled by just how much one can pack into a chapter. It's also an excellent read as I continue to ponder [ profile] lareinenoire's rewrite, and how to better structure that behemoth.

Glamour I'm trying to avoid looking at while I ponder what's bothering me. I think it comes down to the fact that once I'm in an action scene, I do fine, but actually leading up to the action is like pulling teeth. It's like I'm driving past the car crash and screaming "no, don't make me look, I don't want to look.... Oooooh." Plus that opening thing? Remembering I'm not writing 23 short stories would be helpful in the way I structure chapters.

In other news,The Green Man anthology is holding its own against the full-length novel, which is impressive in an of itself. I read the McKillip story today - lovely as per usual. Looking forward to the rest.

Why is it that my reading list keeps growing the more I read? Shouldn't it work the other way around?
adelynne: (veronica mars)
( May. 9th, 2006 10:46 pm)
Okay, this finale? So much more satisfying than last season's.

Cut because I care. )
I have to admit - I wasn't a big short story fan. You couldn't (I thought) lose yourself in a short story the way you can in a long novel. Nothing is as well-rounded, there just isn't enough space. A short story captures a brief moment in time - not nearly as interesting.

Boy was I wrong.

On a whim, as I'd been collecting the Datlow & Windling anthologies for my favorite authors, I picked up Firebirds - the 2003 anthology edited by Sharyn November (that's [ profile] sdn) which celebrates, in its own words "original fantasy and science fiction."

I picked it up because it had names I recognized in it - Delia Sherman, Patricia McKillip, Charles Vess, and Nancy Farmer (who, along with Patricia and Sharyn, was a guest at The Witching Hour last fall) - but it was just so incredibly good that I read all the way through, most of it in two days. I discovered Megan Whelan Turner and Diana Wynne Jones. I finally got to read some Garth Nix without tackling one of those intimidating-sized volumes in the Coop.

First of all, hats of to Sharyn November, who put together a great anthology that focused on the amazing stories these authors had to tell where the only theme was excellence. I'm seriously impressed, and will obtain Firebirds Rising and first opportunity. And speaking of the stories, let me rave about a few selections:

Delia Sherman's Cotillion )

Megan Whalen Turner's The Baby in the Night Deposit Box )

A few comments about some others. )

Patricia McKillip's Byndley )

Charles Vess & Emma Bull's The Black Fox )

There are a few others, but really people should go an explore this for themselves. It is sheer beauty in 421 pages. I can't say that everything hit me the right way, but I can say that it all left a mark, and I'm now obsessively devouring more short stories - currently up, The Faery Reel.
adelynne: (a song of ice and fire)
( May. 1st, 2006 11:19 pm)
A few days ago, [ profile] queenofthorns assigned me the letter "L" for the 10-things-you-love meme. It took me quite a long time to come up with 10 things, and by the time I did, I had 11. Whoops. Here it is (in alphabetical order):

1. Languages - I think this one stems from my love of reading. Some of the earliest books I remember reading were translations, and it was always ingrained in me, even before we left the USSR, that I would need to know more than one language. They sound nice, each one with its own rhythm and style. Family and individuality. Communcation and my love of talking and writing also contribute, but there is, I think, an underlying unease about not knowing a language and not understanding what's said. It probably stems from immigrating - not understanding German, or Italian, and especially not English (and 2-5th graders are mean little bastards when you can't understand what they say). I don't ever want to be that helpless again.

2. Lannister, Jaime - ASoIaF Spoilers Through A Feast for Crows )

3. Lannister, Tyrion - ASoIaF Spoilers Through A Feast for Crows, once more )

4. Lavender - It's clean, soothing, and helps my migraines. I love the scent, as it can put me to sleep or revive my ability to think. Just breathing in lavender relaxes me, and it reminds me of undergrad evenings in my room, getting back massages from one of my housemates that allowed me to function during CS project all-nighters. It's odd that I miss that, but I do. There was a great deal of social that no longer happens now that I no longer live in a house with 5 people.

5. Left Hand of Darkness, The - Spoilers for... well, everything. )

6. Legends - Any kind, really. From folklore of Koschei the Undying and Ivan the Simple (and Baba Yaga, naturally) to the Celtic cycles, to Greek, Roman, Sumerian, Norse, Japanese, Hindu, Egyptian, and I'm sure I've forgotten a few pantheons. I grew up with my dad telling me the latter and my mom telling me the former. I think it's the concise storytelling and what it says about human nature that really appeals. Kind of like balladry (which can be a subset, too) - storytelling skeleton where only the essentials remain over time.

7. Lilacs - Lilac is the first scent I remember clearly, even from Kiev. They were my late grandfather's favorite flower, and while I still lived in Ohio, every spring we'd cut a branch or two and put it at his gravesite. But even before he passed away, it wasn't spring until I smelled lilacs blooming. Then May seemed that much brighter and the sun more refreshing. My mom also loves lilacs - I can count on a vase of them if I go visit this month. They remind her of Kiev, blooming with tulips, poppies, and lilacs, and buckeye trees in the springtime. I know I shouldn't remember it, but I do recall wide boulevards of tall, shady, blooming trees.

8. Literature - Do I really need to explain this one, given the blather on books and characters above? Yes? Oh, well. Here goes... )

9. Logan Echolls - Vague S2 Spoilers )

10. Lord of the Rings Trilogy, The - Hoo-boy. Unrepentant squeeing )

11. Loreena McKennitt - Other people spent their angsty teenage years listening to Nine Inch Nails, and I did too. But the memories I have of high school inevitably end in driving home with Loreena McKennitt in my CD player and my girl friends singing along with Book of Secrets or The Visit. She's got a haunting, melodic voice that draws you in and enchants. And the influence ranges the world over - from Celtic myths and Tennyson to the Trans-Siberian railroad and Morocco. She might very well be the musical equivalent of my reading obsession.
Reading Update: I'm about 200 pages into A Storm of Swords right now - for those who may have different editions or somesuch, I'm in the first Sam Tarly chapter - so my thoughts will be colored by what I've gleaned thus far.

A Song of Ice and Fire Discussion. Spoilers into the third book, enter at your own peril. )

I think I must stop there. I'm about falling over, and must rest if I drag myself to work tomorrow. I think I shall save the rest, including my thoughts on "the dungeon scene," for tomorrow.
So after finishing the lovely Delia Sherman's absolutely beautiful (yet simultaneously creepy) The Porcelain Dove on Friday morning, I turned toward that book that has been sitting and taunting me since October. Perhaps you've heard of it? It's called A Game of Thrones.

I had planned on cleaning. Or, you know, finishing my book. Yeah, not so much.

Spoilers only so far as I've managed to read in A Game of Thrones - about half-way. )
adelynne: (veronica mars)
( Nov. 19th, 2005 12:50 am)
I've been a bit lame (or swamped, depending on your view of things, I suppose) and haven't posted anything of note lately. Unfortunately, my sleep depravation skills have come to the point that while I'm actually shaking from exhaustion, I'm still too wide awake to sleep, and so I've decided to post something that isn't an update on how I'm doing in my novel. Because, let's face it, people get bored with that after a while, and it's not like I'm far enough along to post snatches.

Needless to say (but I'm saying it anyway): Spoilers Ahoy!

Veronica Mars: Nobody Puts Baby in a Corner )

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire )

I'm sure I had more comments, but sleep is finally descending upon me, and I think I'll stop there.
adelynne: (Default)
( Aug. 23rd, 2005 10:29 pm)
I went on a total Guy Gavriel Kay binge, though I think I'm recovering now. After Tigana I bought The Lions of Al-Rassan which broke my heart in beautiful and horrible ways and made me yearn for more all at the same time. Apparently, it's due to be made into a movie in 2007.

After that, read Sailing to Sarantium and just finished Lord of Emperors now. I must admit I wasn't as captivated by the latter two, but I think that's because he spent a great deal of the books leading up to the climax. Once we got to the second set of chariot races, it went at an excellent pace.

The upshot of all that is that I think I'm over the latest book binge. At least, there's a chance I won't be devouring them at the exclusion of all else. Which leads me to wonder how I'll spend my vacation time next week, but that can be decided later.
After all the trouble in waiting for Amazon to deliver the books, I gave up and just went to buy them at the Coop near MIT. Thus, I've decided to do the same for Book 7, whenever it should become avaliable.

My boyfriend refused to let me read until we were on the interstate, and I left the book in the car when we stopped for food. Also, given my surety that someone was going to die in the last chapters, I left off reading them until after I slept, thus while I did not finish the book until Sunday morning, it took a grand total of 6 hours, if we don't count the breaks.

And now, to spoilers! )
I see what people were talking about regarding them pushing the sex appeal in the promo. Mind you, I'm all for sex appeal, I just didn't expect that much of it.

Cut for SG-1, Atlantis, and BSG in one general impression )

SG-1 )

Atlantis )


And now, I go night night. It is sorely needed.
So, having none of this "waiting" business, I dragged my boyfriend out to see Batman Begins on openning night.

Cut for Spoilers and Massive Gushing )

In short, I (a) hope they'll get to make the other two films, and (b) really want to write that Batman vs. Le Comte de Monte-Cristo comparison now. A lot.
For you, my friends, I take two hours to watch an episode, writing out my notes longhand. I sacifice my hand and the subsequent cramping to bring you...

A slightly more coherent than a 'WTF?' review. Here be spoilers up to and including episode 21, but not the promo or the new scenes at UPN. )
Oh, man. [ profile] ohimesamamama is just going to love that last shot.

I'm going to have to wait a week, because my DVR does not love me enough to freeze on specific images in the trailer. Sometimes life is so hard!

Spoilers Ahoy! )

I need people to call and squeal with. Otherwise I'm just stuck reading the wails of twelve-year-olds and researching GHB.


adelynne: (Default)


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