Reading Report for Northern, Central Texas: May and June 2018

MayJune2018It seems like so long since I have had the opportunity to write!  May and June are grueling months in my world.  In Texas, we can tell it is summer even though it is only a short time after the Summer Solstice.  We have already had several days over 100˚. I am looking forward to some cool summer reading.

Jim

  • Reynolds, Alastair. Revelation Space.  New York: Ace, 2000.

This is a book that Jim received during the Christmas Book Flood Celebration.  He has been enjoying it.  It looks like he may finish it soon.

Robin

  • Bryson, Bill.  The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid. New York: Broadway Books, 2006.

I started this book a couple of evenings ago.  It is Bill Bryson’s description (imagination?) of growing up in Des Moines, Iowa.  I can already tell that it is a book I can’t read in bed.  I chuckle too much.  He grew up in the 1950s and 60s like I did.  I am eager to see, if his experiences mirror mine.

  • Carey, Jacqueline. Kushiel’s Dart. New York: TOR Books, 2001.

I have resisted reading this book for a time.  I am glad that I gave up and read it.  It was an engaging and entertaining book.

  • Gilliam, Richard, Martin H. Greenberg, Eds. Grails: Quests of Dawn. New York: ROC Book, 1994.

I can’t remember when I bought this book at Half-Price Books.  It has been in my reading pile for at least 5 or 6 years.  I am not certain what kept me from digging into it although I prefer novels to short stories.  This is a lovely book! I shouldn’t have waited so long to read it.  It has an afterword by one of my favorite authors, Fritz Leiber.  It has stories and poetry by some other authors I favor, like Jane Yolen, Andre Norton, Mercedes Lackey, and Marion Zimmer Bradley to name a few.

  • Grisham, John. The Litigators.  New York: Dell, 2012.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  John Grisham took it a little on the lighter side for this book.  A young, fast-track attorney can’t face another day of billable hours in his prestigious law firm.  He abandons his job and goes to get very, very drunk.  He lands at the very shady litigation firm of Finley & Fig.  How does it all end?  Read it and find out.

  • Michaels, Kasey.  Maggie by the Book. New York: Kensington Books, 2003.

Another easy read!  I needed this one as it has been a busy June.  Maggie Kelly is a romance/mystery author, who can’t seem to stay out of danger and trouble.  Her current trouble (aside from the dreaded Chapter 10) is Alexandre Black and his side-kick, Sterling Balder. They have come from her imagination to her apartment in New York.  It is difficult and aggravating to see your imagination living in your apartment. Will they stay? Will they go?  It was an amusing book.

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Old Kingdom Series

Old Kingdom series books: Clariel, Lireal, Goldenhand, Sabrial, & AbhorsenNix, Garth. Sabriel. New York: Harper Trophy, 1995.
Nix, Garth. Lirael, Daughter of the Clayr. New York: HarperCollins, 2001.
Nix, Garth. Abhorsen. New York: HarperCollins, 2003.
Nix, Garth. Clariel. New York: HarperCollins, 2014.
Nix, Garth. Goldenhand. New York: HarperCollins, 2016.

It has taken me a long time to figure out what to write about this series that wasn’t covered in other blogs.  I realized I couldn’t.  This is a wonderful series about strong women, who have choices to do what is right and uncomfortable or to forget about responsibility.  Sometimes is goes right and good prevails.  Sometimes it goes right and good prevails, but there isn’t a happy ending for everyone. Everyone works hard and there is sorrow and joy in equal measure, much like life.

This series could be considered tales of two countries: a country of magic and a country of technology.  These countries are separated by a mysterious Perimeter Wall.  South of the wall is Ancelstierre.  This is the land of technology.  Many in the southern part of this country don’t believe in magic.  North of the wall is the Old Kingdom.  It is a place of magic.  Some of it constrained in the Great Charter and some in Free Magic.  The Perimeter Wall between the two countries has an important purpose, to keep magic and the Dead out of Ancelstierre.  In the Old Kingdom, the Dead don’t stay dead.  Free magic sorcerers and necromancers use the Dead to do their bidding.  This causes problems for the living as The Dead crave life. It is the work of the Abhorsen to find and send the Dead back to the River of Death and through the Ninth Gate, where they are gone forever.  The Abhorsen, both Charter Mage and Necromancer, is the only Charter Mage who can use Free Magic and Charter Magic.  The Abhorsen and Free Magic necromancers use a set of seven bells to control the Dead and other creatures. The Abhorsen wields free magic bells and a charter magic marked sword in his/her work. At the beginning of their stories, Sabriel and Lirael are Abhorsens-in-Waiting.  Their books are coming of age stories about how they accepted their roles and strove to save both kingdoms.  I think Clariel’s story, a prequel to Sabriel, is a warning for what happens when a society becomes complacent and those with important responsibilities don’t accept them. All five of these are wonderful, compelling stories.  I am looking forward to the next installment in this series.

As noted earlier, writing about this series has been difficult. My impetus to write again is the news that my nephew and his wife are having a baby girl.  I have prepared my husband for the idea of creating another new library for a young relative.  I have more time to think about books for this little girl.  There are so many great girl protagonists in books: Anne of Green Gables, Pippi Longstocking, Jo of Little Women, and Elizabeth of Pride and Prejudice.  I will start her books with these four heroines and I will add Sabriel.

If you haven’t had the opportunity to read this series, please do so.  The long, hot days of summer are a great time for kicking back and reading something new.  Better yet, pour a glass of tea or lemonade and share these stories with a young person you know.

Garth Nix

I admire Garth Nix and have for many years.  For this series I wondered how he got the idea to use bells as a weapon.  As I was reading about him, someone else asked this question.  Dorothy L. Sayers The Nine Tailors influenced him.  If I didn’t admire him before how could I resist?  Her Lord Peter Wimsey series of which The Nine Tailors is a part is one of my favorites.  In that story he learned that church bells had names and he went on to name the Abhorsen’s bells and describe their characteristics.

Reading Report for Northern, Central Texas: March, and April 2018

Spring has arrived here in Central Texas.  We are having lovely weather.  It looks like I have spent the last three months reading and not writing.  I hope to change that dynamic this month.  It was lovely just to read.  I haven’t seen much of what the girls have read.  I think everyone has been busy these last few months.

Jim’s List

Jim finished The Chaos Chronicles this month.  He has moved on to the book he was given for the Christmas Book Flood.

  • Carver, Jeffrey A. The Chaos Chronicles, Books 1-3 (Neptune Crossing, Strange Attractor, & Infinite Sea). NP: Starstream Publications, 2010 (nook book).
  • Reynolds, Alastair. Revelation Space. New York: Ace, 2000.

Robin’s List

  • Colfer, Eoin. And Another Thing. New York: Hyperion, 2009.
  • Duncan, Rod. The Bullet-Catcher’s Daughter. Nottingham, UK: Angry Robot, 2014.
  • Gibbs, Stuart. Spy School. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2012.The
  • Gilman, Sarah Jane. The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street. New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2016.
  • Hanks, Tom. Uncommon Type Some Stories. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2017.
  • Jacka, Benedict. New York: Ace Books, 2012.
  • Lawrence, Mark. Prince of Thorns. New York: Ace Books, 2011.
  • Nix, Garth. New York: Harper Trophy, 1995.
  • Nix, Garth. Lirael: Daughter of the Clayr. New York: Harper Collins, 2001.
  • Nix, Garth. New York: 2003.
  • Nix, Garth. Clariel: The Lost Abhorsen. New York: Harper Collins, 2014.
  • Nix, Garth. New York: Harper Collins, 2016.
  • Novick, Naomi. New York: Del Rey, 2015.
  • Robb, J.D. Echoes in Death. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2017.
  • Willis, Connie. Uncharted Territory. New York: Bantam Books, 1994.

Reading Report for Northern, Central Texas: January and February 2018

Greetings!

January was a great reading month for me.  I was able to read my way through some of the large stack of books I received for Christmas.  I love getting books as gifts.  I bought Neil Gaiman’s book, Norse Mythology last year for Spring Break.  I finally got around to reading it in January.  It was wonderfully informative and entertaining.  I have blogged about Bridge of Birds, Frogkisser, and Finding the Constellations. These were all stellar books.  I am a Nora Roberts fan so I especially enjoyed reading her new book.  I am reading Finding Your Why for work.  It is an interesting read.  We have been working to find our personal whys.  February was a slower reading month as you can see by the size of the stack.

These days I find out what both girls are reading from their Facebook posts.  The three of us are participating in the 52 Book Challenge 2018.

All of us here at Haus Reimund love reading and we wish you “Happy Reading, Too!”

Robin’s list

  • Hughart, Barry, Bridge of Birds: A Novel of China That Never Was. New York: Del Rey, 1984
  • Nix, Garth. New York: Scholastic, 2017
  • Sarath, Patrice. The Unexpected Miss Bennett. New York: Berkley Books, 2011.
  • Thomas, Sherry. A Conspiracy in Belgravia. New York: Berkley Books, 2017.
  • Gaiman, Neil. Norse Mythology. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2017
  • Roberts, Nora. Year One. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2017.
  • Hambly, Barbara. Bride of the Rat God. New York: Del Rey, 1994.
  • Rey, H.A. Finding the Constellations, 2nd New York: Sandpiper, 2008.
  • Hanks, Tom. Uncommon Type. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2017.
  • Sinek, Simon, David Mead, and Peter Docker. Finding Your Why: A Practical Guide for Discovering Purpose for You and Your Team. New York: Portfolio/Penguin, 2017.
  • Pilkey, Dav. The Adventures of Captain Underpants. New York: Scholastic, 1997.

Alexis’ list

  • Hughart, Barry, Bridge of Birds: A Novel of China That Never Was. New York: Del Rey, 1984
  • Sarath, Patrice. The Unexpected Miss Bennett. New York: Berkley Books, 2011.
  • Mertz, Barbara. Temples, Tombs, & Hieroglyphs: A Popular History of Ancient Egypt. New York: William Morrow, 1984, 2007
  • Lucas, Dale. The Fifth Ward: First Watch. New York: Orbit, 2017.
  • Maaren, Kari. Weave a Circle Round. New York: TOR Books, 2017.
  • Telfer, Tori. Lady Killers: Deadly Women throughout History. New York: Harper Perennial, 2017.
  • VanderMeer, James. Johanes Cabal the Necromancer. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2010.
  • VanderMeer, James. Annihilation: A Novel. New York: FSG Originals, 2014. (ebook)
  • Howard, Jonathan L. Johannes Cabal: The Feat Institute. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2014.

Jim’s list

  • Nye, Bill and Gregory Mone. Jack and the Geniuses at the Bottom of the World. New York: Scholastic, 2017.
  • Carver, Jeffrey A. The Chaos Chronicles, Books 1-3 (Neptune Crossing, Strange Attractor, & Infinite Sea). NP: Starstream Publications, 2010 (nook book).

Sarah’s list

  • Meyer, Scott. Off to Be the Wizard. Seattle, WA: 47North, 2014. (ebook)
  • Meyer, Scott. Spell or High Water. Seattle, WA: 47North, 2014. (ebook)
  • Cooper, Susan. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2006.
  • Holt, Tom. New York: Orbit, 2012 (ebook)
  • Howe, Deborah and James. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2010 (ebook). Originally published 1979.
  • Walker, Rysa. New York: Amazon Publishing, 2014.

Frogkisser!

FrogkisserNix, Garth. Frogkisser! New York: Scholastic, 2017.

This is the second book I received for the Christmas Book Flood on Christmas Eve.  I asked the daughter who gave it to me why she thought I’d like it.  First, she knows that I like Garth Nix.  Second, she read the acknowledgements in the back of the book.  Here is what the author wrote and what influenced her choice. He begins by acknowledging that all writers are influenced by the books they read.  Sometimes the influence is apparent and sometimes it is not.

With this book, I would like to particularly acknowledge the inspiration and positive influence that came from my youthful reading (and frequent rereading in later years) of the works of Lloyd Alexander, Nicholas Stuart Gray, Dianna Wynne Jones, Robin McKinley, and T.H. White. There are many other writers who have influenced my work, of course, but I think for Frogkisser! these five deserve special mention.

Wow!  Some of my favorites!  I am going to have to look up Nicholas Stuart Gray.  The others are writers of stories about reluctant or unexpected heroes and heroines.  Thank you Sarah for this wonderful book!

This book, as it happens, is about a reluctant heroine.  A princess, who just wants to be left to read, study, and be a companion to the royal dogs.  Enter Princess Anya, second daughter, to the queen of Trallonia.  As the story opens, Trallonia has lost its queen and her consort.  The queen died first.  Anya’s father married Countess Yselde, an enthusiastic botanist, who cared not for children.  After a year, he passed away.  Countess Yselde married Duke Rikard.  While Countess Yselde could have been the evil step-mother, she is merely disinterested. Duke Rikard, on the other hand, is the evil step-parent of this story.  He is a sorcerer and he wants to be king.  As the story opens, Anya’s sister, Morven is nearly sixteen.  At sixteen, she will be old enough to wed and to begin her reign as queen.  Duke Rikard wants to prevent this from happening, after all he has grand ambitions, first Trallonia and then the world.

Duke Rikard makes a strategic error.  He turns Morven’s current beau, Prince Denholm, into a frog.  Had he waited a little while, Morven would have found another beau, she was notoriously fickle.  Anya, the more practical of the two, tells Morven to dry up her tears and kiss Frog Prince Denholm and turn him back.  He is after all her theoretical true love.  Unfortunately, Denholm has escaped through the window and into the moat.

Here is where Anya’s adventures begin.  She finds a frog, but Morven refuses to kiss the icky thing.  Anya, goes to her friend the librarian, Gotfried.  They discover that not only true love’s kiss will reverse this spell, but so will the Transmogrification Reversal Lip Balm and he just happens to have a small amount. Anya anoints her lips with the balm and kisses the frog that she thought was Prince Denholm. Oops!  Not Prince Denholm, but the prince of the month from last November.  It seems the Duke has been transforming all Morven’s suitors into frogs.  He was taking no chances!

After feeling Anya’s reversal of his spell, he is determined to send her halfway across the world to a very good school even though it is a perilous journey to get there.  At this point, Anya takes counsel with Tanitha, oldest and wisest of the Royal Dogs.  She is advised to go on a quest to find help to defeat the Duke.  Like all reluctant heroines, she cries, “Why me!”  She remembers that her real parents would want her to do the right thing.  Reluctantly, she leaves the dubious safety of her home.  With Ardent, the royal dog  who has a quest of his own, she begins her quest.

Her quest, like most, takes her all over the country side.  She is pursued by transmogrified weasels and other agents of the Duke’s.  She befriends, Shrub, a thief boy, who was turned into a newt.  She meets Merlin and the seven dwarves.  She meets Bert, leader of the Association of Responsible Robbers, who tells her about the All-Encompassing Bill of Rights and Wrongs.  All of them have a part to play in her quest.

You must read this book.  It is a hoot!  Will Anya be able to defeat Duke Rikard?  Will she be able to save Princess Morven?  Once saved will Morven restore the All-Encompassing Bill?  Will that restore the kingdom?  Can Anya make enough lip balm to change back all the people the Duke and his fellow sorcerers have turned into frogs and other animals?  Does she get chapped lips?  You must read this book.  It turns the fairy tale of the Frog Prince on its ear.

 

Dragons Love Tacos

DragonsTacosRubin, Adam.  Dragons Love Tacos. Illustrated by Daniel Salmieri.  New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, 2012.

Here in Texas we are big taco lovers. According to the Texas Monthly, San Antonio is the Taco Capital of the World.  According to other sources, Austin is the Breakfast Taco Capital of the World.  We love all kinds of tacos, breakfast tacos, puffy tacos, fish tacos, vegetarian tacos.  Let’s face it, we Texans are crazy about tacos.  It might surprise you to learn that dragons love tacos, too.  It may be that their love of tacos exceeds that of even the most taco-loving Texan.

What do you love about tacos?  Is it the tortillas, flour or corn?  Is it one of the fillings?  This week I am making poblano and butternut squash tacos.  I hope they are good.  My mouth waters just thinking about them. Is it the sizzle of the pan, when meats and vegetables are getting caramelized?  Maybe you have a secret reason to love them.  Dragons are like Texans, they enjoy all kinds of tacos, big ones and little ones.  After reading this book, I am certain there that dragons love tacos down to the very last bite!

In this book, Robbie and his dog want some dragons for friends.  How do you get a dragon to be your friend?  You have a party, dragons love parties!  They like lots of things about parties like conversation, dancing, and laughter.  Make it a taco party and the dragons are sold and will flock to your do.  Robbie and dog invite all the dragons in their neighborhood to their party.  I wonder where the dragons live?  I haven’t seen one around here lately.

Robbie and Dog want to be good hosts so they make tacos, lots and lots of tacos. They make a boatload of tacos, you know you don’t want to run out. During their party preparations they learn dragons don’t like spicy salsa, not one little bit and for good reason. What do you think happens when a fire-breathing dragon encounters spicy salsa?  Something explosive happens!

This is a silly, funny book!  I chuckled all the way through to the end.  You will have to read it to see if the party was a success.  Did the dragons like the party?  Were there enough tacos?  Did Robbie and Dog bury all the spicy salsa in the back yard? Remember the trick to getting a dragon friend is tacos!

Bridge of Birds: A Novel of Ancient China That Never Was

Asian girl with birdHughart, Barry.  Bridge of Birds: A Novel of Ancient China That Never Was. New York: Del Rey, 1984.

This blog is late, late, late, but I still say Happy New Year, everyone!  I was able to get in some extra reading over the holidays.  This was one of the books I enjoyed.

We had our 2nd annual Christmas Bookflood (Jólabókaflóð).  I think it must be making a splash over here.  If you are interested in reading about it, here is a link to a NPR story on the subject: https://www.npr.org/2012/12/25/167537939/literary-iceland-revels-in-its-annual-christmas-book-flood.  Everyone gets a book on Christmas Eve.  You snuggle up with your new book and a cup of something warm by the fire, or on the sofa, or in your bed and read until you fall asleep.

I received two books one from each of my daughters.  The first one I read was Barry Hughart’s Bridge of Birds: A Novel of Ancient China That Never Was. I asked the one who gave it to me, why she picked it.  I like to know what people are thinking, when they give me a book. She was looking for a funny science fiction or fantasy book for me.  She said it kept popping up on lists of best lighthearted fantasy novel.  Oh, the girl knows me well. As an aside, she said she also wanted to read it.

It is a funny book.  Amazingly, it begins with a double tragedy.  The village of Kufu raises silkworms for its livelihood.  All the children between 8 and 13 pick mulberry leaves to feed to the silkworms.  At the end of their feeding stage, all the silkworms die and all the children, who had picked the mulberry leaves were afflicted by a plague.  What was to be done?  Number 10 Ox was sent to Peking to find a wise man to help find an answer.  The wise man was Master Li Kao.   In a filthy, foul, hovel in Peking #10 Ox discovers a very drunk Master Li.  Master Li is a scholar with a slight flaw in his character. Is being inebriated this slight character flaw?  After this first auspicious meeting, it is off to the races.  Master Li is indeed a great scholar, but many quests are needed to solve the puzzle of the plague afflicting the village children.  In the end it is a race against time.

Despite the urgent mission of Master Li and #10 Ox, this is an amusing, bawdy, and at times poetic book.  The author skillfully weaves stories that could be myths of ancient China throughout the book. It gives the book the feel of a book from an ancient time.  Number 10 Ox and Master Li must work together to accomplish a delicate and dangerous mission.  Characters are many and some are of questionable character.  They disappear and reappear unexpectedly.  I was surprised how all were skillfully woven into the story. This is complicated, complex, comic tale for anyone to enjoy. It was the lighthearted fantasy my daughter wanted for me. Read this book and see how a wizened sage and a sturdy, young peasant solve a puzzle to save a village and reunite two lovers.