Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (HP #2, reread)

I've reread HP#2 several times, and at this point, I assume that you all have too. If you haven't read it (and WHY not?!), beware forthcoming spoilers.

I love that Ginny joins the ranks of Hogwarts students and that though she doesn't pop up very often in the course of the book--till the end, of course--she develops a very distinct presence in the bigger picture. And who can't sympathize with a crush that huge? I look forward to seeing more of her character in the next books; I don't remember much about Ginny's role between this and the last couple books, except that she's present and that I think we'd notice if she weren't making regular appearances in the story.

Has anyone else found themselves rereading #2 and a little voice in the back of your mind screams, "Horcrux!"??? I'd almost forgotten that word.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (HP #1, reread)

I've re-read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone probably more than any of the others. Mostly this stemmed from an intent to reread the whole series before the next book came out, but sometimes it was just because. That might not seem strange to you, but frankly, this book is my least favorite of the whole series.

I'm looking forward to seeing, as I reread the rest of the series, how Rowling's writing improved, matured. I'm also remembering my first reactions to the movies, and I'm a little ashamed to say that I was surprised that I'd forgotten how different events actually happened in the book. Like the Devil's Snare after they get past Fluffy. I totally forgot how that all went down.

And more than ever, now that I'm rereading the series, I love (and want) these Harry Potter tattoos.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Interesting tidbit for Lisa Snelling and/or Peter S. Beagle fans

Amongst Lisa Snelling's Ebay listings is a chapbook by Peter S. Beagle (art by Snelling). Fans of Beagle and/or Snelling will want to check it out (if they haven't already).

Listed at $15 + $7 (UPS) shipping to Canada or $3.50 (USPS) to the US.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan

"You are pure-hearted, Branza, and lovely, and you have never done a moment's wrong. But you are a living creature, born to make a real life, however it cracks your heart."

Tender Morsels is one of those books that makes you breathe, "Wow. . ." every now and then while you flip a page.

Liga is a young woman who finds herself in horrible situations which lead to her getting pregnant. The book opens with a miscarriage, which she doesn't identify as such because her father keeps her in sight and uneducated. (Yes, you probably just figured out horrible situation #1.) After the second horrible incident, she is desperate to escape the totally cruel world she has become subject to the whims of, and her escape turns out to be another world. She enters her own dreamscape, her heart's desire, which is as simple as a safe place to raise her daughters and to feel unthreatened by anyone or anything.

Liga and her daughters Branza and Urdda would have spent their whole lives in that haven, untouched by the true world, if a mud-wife (a witch) in Liga's hometown hadn't decided to fiddle with things and try to send a cruel little man to his own dream-space. Her meddling interferes with the boundaries (and internal clocks) of the two places and strange Bears find themselves in Liga's world, as well as the little man, both possibly posing threats to Liga's family. Eventually, Liga finds herself compelled to return to the cruel world of her youth with her girls.

Lanagan employs a folksy dialect for her characters--some of them say "babby" for "baby" and "leddy" for "lady," for example--which manages to add to the richness of both the characters and setting instead of being distracting to the reader. (In fact, it took me a while to catch on to what "leddy" meant--I was reading it as something like "goody" or "goodwife" for the first half of the book. It worked.)

Lanagan also plays, mostly successfully, with point of view. When the story is following any of the males, they are allowed to tell their own story in first person point of view, which is a little confusing at first when the reader realizes that the "I" isn't necessarily the same person the last "I" was, but once that becomes obvious, the narrators are easy enough to keep track of. When the story is following Liga, Branza or Urdda, however, the narrator is omniscient, which mostly serves to provide a little bit of distance between Liga and the reader; the narrator gets to choose how detailed Liga's story is. (Readers will be just fine with certain parts of Liga's story being glossed over or summarily mentioned after the fact.)

Highly recommended for anyone (grade 8 & older) who has ever appreciated the darker side of fairy tales. If you liked Deerskin by Robin McKinley, you'll want to read this.

I purchased Tender Morsels at Powells in Portland, Oregon. It's going to become part of my mostly-permanent collection.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Angelology by Danielle Trussoni

I finished reading Angelology with a distinct impression that Trussoni would like to be the next Dan Brown. And you know how I felt about The Davinci Code.

Despite my misgivings from early on (starting with the patronizing marketing letter), I did read the book cover to cover, and I enjoyed many bits of the story. However, overall, I felt the plot and characters were still very rough around the edges and that the manuscript could have used a few more thorough revisions. The puerile naming of the characters--Evangeline, Angelina, Seraphina, Celestine--was over the top and like Dan Brown, Trussoni has a tendency to spell things out for readers just in case they missed it the light veiling of facts the first two or three times.

What troubles me most has to do with Evangeline, who lacks depth and credibility. We are told she had an amazing relationship with her father, but it wasn't shown. She's unconvincing as a young woman in general, but I also can't buy that she's a nun. She lacks a certain conviction, which may have been sacrificed (if it existed in the first place) in trying to make this book appeal to a more secular audience.

Last, I was completely disappointed by the ending, which was too abrupt and resolved nothing (a sequel seems inevitable, but I won't be reading it), and seemed in direct opposition to the characterization of Evangeline and Verlaine (the academic romantic interest) up to that point.

I admire all the work that Trussoni must have done to piece such a promising premise together, but in the end Angelology falls far short of its potential.

This ARC was won in a contest through And yes, I was drawn to this book because of its wonderful cover.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Live from Portland, Oregon: A frustrating week. . .

So I should be done with Angelology by now, but I'm only about 2/3 of the way through it. My husband and I are down in the US after buying a new VW Westfalia in Chico, California, last week. Yes, we bought it last week and WE'RE STILL HERE.

We spent four days keeping our new van in the driveway of a Vanagon-list friend in Chico while he and my wonderfully patient husband worked on fixing the issues with the van. We'd expected needing to make one or two fixes--hoses needing to be replaced, etc.--but when one was fixed, another cropped up. We'd pre-ordered some hoses and other bits in anticipation of needing to fix them right away or along the way, but we had to go in search of other things or find machinists to fix broken but practically irreplaceable parts. It's actually been a pretty educational experience.

After we finally left Chico, we discovered another problem--air in the coolant hose. Every 15-30 minutes, the engine would start to overheat and we'd have to stop and try to bleed the air out. We had this problem after we replaced the engine in our old van (I miss that van ever so much), but it cleared itself up after driving through a particularly hilly town. No such luck with this; no matter how much air we bled, somehow it managed to suck up more. In a start-and-stop manner, we made our way to Medford, Oregon, where another Vanagon-list friend lives; this guy is one of the go-to guys when van owners encounter a problem with their vehicles. After working on the problem in his yard for a few hours, they took it for a test run and declared it ready to continue homeward.

While they were tinkering and tweaking, I sat in the car, reading and playing poker on Facebook and petting the cat whenever she felt like she needed some cuddling. I was asked to get food from a local Mexican restaurant, but my GPS device led me astray and to a restaurant by the same name in the next town north. And then, although I knew the GPS was wrong on the way back and managed to recognize the exit I did need, I couldn't find my way back to the yard where they had expected me with food quite a bit earlier. And there was a root beer explosion on the way--and you know root beer spilled all over a front seat (endangering a borrowed laptop, our CD player, our Fountainhead discs, and drenching the last of my clean clothes) did not help me to stay calm and patient.

I looked forward to a night at an area hotel I had enjoyed before, The Rogue Regency Inn. Whenever we pass through the area, we at least stop to grab a bite in the restaurant. We were concerned a couple years ago that recent roadwork that made the hotel difficult to get to would force its closure, because we knew they were struggling. In fact, last week on our way down to pick up the new van, we'd stopped and enjoyed a night in one of their rooms, which now supply cute spa-style robes.

But when I asked for a room, I was told that we could not have our cat with us. The hotel has a policy against cats. I pointed out that it wasn't a problem the week before, and they said that it was a fluke that we'd been allowed to have the cat with us. I returned to the vehicles (I was driving the car we'd driven down from Canada) and promptly burst into tears.

We decided instead to try the nearby (well, technically--the strange roadways made it harder to get to) Quality Inn, and from now on, that is where we'll be staying when we pass through Medford. It was as nice as the Rogue Regency Inn (albeit without the robes) and managed to cost less, even with the pet fee, plus it provided a free breakfast with some of the best yogurt I've ever had. And it's less complicated to get to when you get off the highway. Bonus: I was able to wash some of my sticky clothes in the guest laundry facility.

So things were looking up when we managed to drive the next morning for a while before the engine overheated. And after a few more stops, about 200 miles south of Portland, there was suddenly a lot more steam pouring out the back of the van. Coolant hose busted. We called for a tow (I love AAA--or as we have in British Columbia, BCAA) and made it the rest of the way to Portland, where we parked both the van and the car at the Rodeway we'd booked while waiting for the tow truck, and the next morning when my beloved husband was replacing the coolant hose, he found a problem with the head gasket, which, as I understand it, shouldn't have been a problem at all considering that the engine was rebuilt a couple years ago and has less than 1000 miles on it. So we had it hauled to a local Westy repair shop that was highly recommended by our knowledgeable Westy-driving friends, and the verdict came in today: the engine is fried. And it sounds to me as though it was a sloppy rebuild job to begin with.

So we've rented a truck and tomorrow we're driving down to Sacramento to get another engine from another highly respected Westfalia repair place and we're bringing it back. It's going to be a long day. Sound crazy to go get it ourselves? Well, to ship it same-day would cost $1500. The rental is less than $400. Besides, we'd just be driving around Portland, which though fun would also be inevitably expensive. And it will take the shop three days to install the new-to-us engine, so we'll have at least a couple more days here.

And of course the obvious perk of being kinda stuck in Portland for a few days? I know some people here we might have dinner with. And Powell's. We were there today. $300 later, we have 27 more books for our shelves and a new calendar for my mother-in-law. Amongst the books we bought for me:

I guess I'll have something to read while we wait.