Kay, Guy Gavriel. Summer Tree: The Fionavar Tapestry: Book One. New York: Roc Trade, 2001.
Expect the typical push and pull of good versus evil; light versus dark. Five typical college students are attending a lecture at the University of Toronto. This normal behavior grounds the lesser fan of fantasy and urges them to keep reading as the students are summoned by a dwarf and a mage to return to the world of Fionavar for a celebration. It’s High King Ailell of Brennin’s fiftieth year of rein and these five students are very important guests…or at least one of them seems to be. Being able to relate is the name of the game when trying to hook someone who isn’t a hard core fanatic of the fantasy genre. Summer Tree draws from Nordic and Celtic mythology as another way to insert familiarity into the plot. The characters are straight out of stereotyping (leave it to a burly man who has to avenge his humiliation with violence). The theme is definitely medieval, even in fashion with doublet and hose. The mystery of why these five students are important is dangled in front of the reader like a carrot on a stick. Another mystery is the sleeping danger that lurks beneath the mountain. This danger is hidden away and the possibility of its exposure is intriguing. All told, it is the dangerous Summer Tree that is the star of the show. The Summer Tree has blood magic and is sacred to Mornir of the Thunder. It is the place where people hang naked until the ultimate sacrifice of death.
Kevin, the musician.
Dave, the law student. He has a bad feeling about going to this new world and tries to bail at the last minute. He instead goes missing.
Kim Ford, studying to be a doctor. She becomes a seer early in the plot.
Paul Shafer, not well and grieving for a dead girlfriend.
Jennifer Lowell, a target for the prince’s affections.
Loren, the mage. Also known as Silvercloak.
Diamuid, the prince who has a thing for Jennifer.
One complaint is the implausible emotion brought on by unrealistic dialogue. Case in point: if a friend told me a dog “wanted” him I would have a hard time leaving the statement to hang in the air without so much as a raised eyebrow. I would be quizzically asking what he meant, or at the very least exclaiming the less intelligent, “whaa?!?”
A writing tactic I appreciated was the different perspectives of the same situation. It was reminiscent of Michael Dorris’s Yellow Raft in Blue Water, which I loved.
Expect a little sexism. Leave it to a man who has to avenge his humiliation. Case in point, most annoying quote: “She was growing too undisciplined; it was time to have her married.”
Author fact: Kay has been compared to Tolkien a bunch of times.
Book trivia: Summer Tree is Book One of the Fionavar Tapestry. There are two other books in the series.
Nancy said: Summer Tree was included in Pearl’s list of contemporary critically acclaimed fantasy.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror” (p 213).
Bantock, Nick. Alexandria: In Which the Extraordinary Correspondence of Griffin & Sabine Unfolds. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2002.
Reason: What a wicked game to play to make me feel this way. – Chris Isaac.
You all know the star couple of the early 1990s, Griffin Moss and Sabine Strohem, but do you know Matthew Sedon and his lovely paramour, Isabella de Reims? Matthew and Isabella are caught in that can’t-connect world Griffin and Sabine know all too well. Separated by continents, absence is making the heart turn passionate. Matthew struggles to keep his mind on archaeology dig in Egypt while Isabella attempts to study in France. Both encounter evil signs of nemesis Viktor Frolatti who seems bound and determined to keep them apart.
As always, Bantock’s art is stunning. Bold colors, violent insinuations, and passionate designs decorate every postcard, letter, envelope and stamp exchanged. As always, the voyeuristic thrill of opening someone’s mail cannot be ignored.
Nesbit, E. Five Children and It. New York: Dover Publications, 2002.
Reason read: Nesbit was born in the month of May.
The Psammead or Sammyad is a strange looking sand fairy capable of granting wishes. I loved the description of “it” as having eyes on long horns like a snail, ears like a bat, body like a spider, hands and feet like a monkey, and whiskers like a rat. And. And! And, the thing talks! When five children named Cyril (Squirrel), Roberts (Bobs), Anthea (Panther), Hilary (the Lamb), and Jane, digging in the sand discover the Psammead can grant wishes they immediately embark on making choices that always seem to backfire on them: wealth, becoming physically bigger than an opponent, living in a castle, growing angel wings, fighting wild Indians, to name a few. Even after they decide to be more thoughtful with their wishes they still run into disaster. Luckily, their parents are away dealing with an ailing grandmother so they have plenty of opportunities to get it right…and wrong. The best part of Five Children and It is the relationship between the siblings. It rings true no matter what drama they face.
Sometimes the language of the turn of the century really comes through. “Smell their fists” is a euphemism for fighting, for example.
Weird quotes to quote, “It is easy if you love the Baby as much as you ought to” (p 42) and “That lot’s all long hair, drink and rude women” (p 65).
Author fact: E. Nesbit is actually Edith Nesbit.
Book trivia: Five Children and It was originally published in 1902. My 2002 edition was illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky.
Nancy said: Pearl said Nesbit influenced writers before and after her.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Fantasy for Old and Young” (p 83).
I definitely didn’t do this on purpose because I never structure my reading this way, but January turned out to be a month of mostly woman authors (notated with a ‘w’). I am including the books I started in January but have not finished. Because they are not Challenge books they do not need to be finished in the same month. And. And! And, I have started running again. After a six month hiatus, I think I am back! Sort of.
- A Cold-Blooded Business by Dana Stabenow (w & EB)
- The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King (w & AB)
- Firewatch by Connie Willis (w & EB)
- The Good Times are Killing Me by Lynda Barry
- Lamb in Love by Carrie Brown (w & EB)
- Foundation by Isaac Asimov (AB)
- Take This Man by Frederick Busch
- ADDED: The Renunciation by Edgardo Rodriguez Julia
- Daisy Bates in the Desert by Julia Blackburn
- The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior edited by Chris Elphick, John Dunning & David Allen Sibley
- The Turk by Tom Standage
- ADDED: Freedom in Meditation by Patricia Carrington
- Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman
- To Lie with Lions by Dorothy Dunnett
Early Review Program for LibraryThing:
- Well-Read Black Girl by Glory Edim
- How to be a Patient by Sana Goldberg – not finished yet
- Sharp by Michelle Dean – not finished yet
- Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver – not finished yet
Pullman, Philip. The Amber Spyglass. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2000.
Reason read: to end the series started in November in honor of National Writing Month (Fantasy).
In Amber Spyglass, the last installment of the His Dark Materials trilogy, Lyra, who started off as an ordinary kid in The Golden Compass, is seen as the most important child who has ever lived according to the church. Their fate depends on Lyra’s journey into womanhood. She may be important but she is also seen as a threat as she is in the position of biblical Eve as the temptress of man’s downfall. Heavy, right? Remarkably, young Lyra is on the cusp of introducing the concept of sin (Dust) to the world. She must be stopped before the Dust (sin=evil) takes over. When we first catch up with Lyra in The Amber Spyglass, she has been hidden away and kept drugged and sleeping in a cave by her mother (remember Mrs Coulter?). But. But! But, is Mrs Coulter all that evil? She acts the grieving mother as she recounts how she almost killed Lyra earlier.
This is an epic battle between good and evil with lots of fight scenes and dying declarations (just wait until you get to the land of the dead). The references to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden are laid on pretty thick, but Lyra is coming into her own as a young woman and she has an equally adulting young man as her companion…
The good news is that many of your favorite characters are back even if they died in an earlier installment. Iorek Byrnison the armored bear is back with his army! I was excited to see the bears and the witches but there are plenty of new creatures like harpies and ghosts. Probably my favorite characters to imagine are Gallivespians. They are small, slender spies able to ride hawks and dragonflies.
As an aside, Pullman is a huge fan of the word anbaric. As far as I can tell it is derived from the Greek and refers to the electrostatic properties of amber. Yup.
Author fact: Pullman also wrote another trilogy of thrillers featuring Sally Lockhart.
Book trivia: Amber Spyglass wraps up the His Dark Materials trilogy.
Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about Amber Spyglass.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Romans-Fleuves” (p 208).
I try not to think about white rabbits running around with time pieces muttering about being late. Whenever I do I am reminded this is being written three days behind schedule. Nevertheless, here are the books:
- Foundation by Isaac Asimov – in honor of Asimov’s birth month.
- Lamb in Love by Carrie Brown – this is a stretch…All Creatures Great and Small first aired as a television show in January and there is a creature in the title.
- The Good Times are Killing Me by Lynda Barry – in honor of Barry’s birth month.
- A Cold Blooded Business by Dana Stabenow – in honor of Alaska becoming a state in January.
- Daisy Bates in the Desert by Julia Blackburn – in honor of Australia’s National Day on January 26th.
- The Turk by Tom Standage in honor of Wolfgang Von Klempelen’s birth month.
- Freedom in Meditation by Patricia Carrington – in honor of January being National Yoga month.
- Sibley’s Guide to Bird Life and Behavior by David Allen Sibley – in honor of Adopt a Bird Month. I read that somewhere…
- To Lie with Lions by Dorothy Dunnett – to continue the series started in August in honor of Dunnett’s birth month.
- Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman – to continue the series started in November in honor of National Writing Month (Fantasy).
Early Review for LibraryThing:
- Well-Read Black Girl by Glory Edim – I know what you are thinking. I am neither black nor a girl. I am a middle-aged white woman who barely remembers being a girl. I requested this book because I work in an extremely diverse environment and let’s face it, I want to be known as well-read, regardless of color.
- Sharp by Michelle Dean – my sister gave this to me as a Christmas gift. I wonder if she is trying to tell me something.
I may not be happy with my personal life in regards to fitness, health, and so on, but I am definitely satisfied with the number of books I was able to check off my Challenge list for the month of December. Special thanks to my kisa who did all the driving up and back and around the great state of Maine.
- The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin (EB/print).
- Any Old Iron by Anthony Burgess.
- Four Spirits by Sena Jeter Naslund.
- This Blinding Absence of Light by Tahar Ben Jelloun.
- Time Machines: the Best Time Travel Stories Ever Written edited by Bill Adler, Jr.
- The Black Tents of Arabia: (My Life Among the Bedouins by Carl Raswan.
- Lost Moon: the Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13 by Jim Lovell and Jeffrey Kluger.
- The Female Eunuch by Germain Greer.
- Stet: a Memoir by Diana Athill (EB and print).
- Cry of the Kalahari by Mark and Delia Owens (EB and print).
- Unicorn Hunt by Dorothy Dunnett. Confessional: I did not finish this.
- The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman (EB/print/AB).
Pullman, Philip. The Subtle Knife. Scholastic UK, 2007.
Pullman, Philip. The Subtle Knife. New York: Listening Library, 2000.
Reason read: to continue the series started in November in honor of National Writing Month.
In The Golden Compass Pullman introduced his readers to the possibility of more than one universe. He hinted there were actually three – the one we were in currently, a completely different universe and a third being a combination of the two. In The Subtle Knife we experience those different worlds first hand as Lyra and her new friend, Will Parry, move between them to escape their enemies. In The Golden Compass readers were also introduced to daemons. Now, we learn that people without daemons are without free will. They lack fear and imagination so they make perfect soldiers for the evil Mrs. Coulter. In addition to Mrs. Coulter, the otherworld of Cittagazze hides other enemies. Soul-eating Specters haunt the streets while children run wild without daemons or parents and rule Lord-of-the-Flies style.
As Lyra and Will travel from world to world they discover the Subtle Knife, a blade that can cut through anything. It’s power has yet to be fully understood.
Author fact: Pullman helped perform the audio version of The Subtle Knife.
Book Audio trivia: The Subtle Knife won an Audie Award in 2000.
Nancy said: The Subtle Knife is an “epic battle btween good and evil” (Book Lust p 209).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Romans-Fleuves” (p 209).
Pullman, Philip. His Dark Materials Book One: The Golden Compass New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995.
Reason read: November is National Writers Month and this month we are celebrating a writer of fantasy.
The Golden Compass seemingly takes place in Oxford, England, but there is an alternate universe at play. Young wild child Lyra Belacourt isn’t afraid of much, especially an alternate universe. But in the beginning of The Golden Compass all Lyra cares about is getting into the Retiring Room of Jordan College, a room where, if women are not allowed, then children definitely are not. Tell Lyra she can’t do something and of course, that’s all she wants to do. She lives in a world where shape-shifting spirit animals called daemon familiars are the norm. Every person has a daemon and when they die their daemon fades away like a wisp of smoke. Lyra’s daemon familiar is Pantalaimon, a fiercely protective companion who can be a moth, bird, mouse, ermine…whatever the situation requires. Pantalaimon won’t fix on a permanent shape until Lyra is older, closer to adulthood. But, I digress. Back to Lyra and the Retiring Room. She and Pantalaimon find a way to sneak into the room and eavesdrop on a secret meeting between her uncle and college officials. Uncle Asriel tells a tale of danger and mystique involving Dust in the North. Soon Lyra finds herself more than eavesdropping. Because of unknown talents she is pulled into a terrible world of evil scientists, kidnapped children, witch clans, and armored fighting bears. In The Golden Compass you will meet Gobblers, Tartars, Windsuckers, Breathless Ones, gyptians, Nalkainers, and many others, but it is Lyra and her daemon who will captivate you.
Author fact: Pullmann graduated from Oxford University with a degree in English. This is the third book in less than thirty days that mentions Oxford University.
Book trivia: Pullman took “His Dark Materials” from John Milton’s Paradise Lost in Book II. Also, The Golden Compass is the first book in a three volume set. The other two books are also on my list.
Nancy said: Nancy describes the overarching theme of Pullman’s His Dark Materials. She then goes on to say Pullman’s “finest invention was the daemon” (Book Lust p 209).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Romans-Fleuves” (p 208).
So, by the end of November I was a blathering mess, wasn’t I? I know I was. Mea culpa. Three xrays, five vials of blood taken, one CT scan, and two therapy sessions later, here are the updates. The protruding ribs are being blamed on chiropractic appointments even though I felt the rib cage move before I started see Dr. Jim. The nerve pain is being controlled by medication. The spot on the lung and possibly tumor…no results as of today. White blood cell count still elevated. Possibility of cancer…still a possibility.
But. But! But, enough of all that. Here are the books: I have a week off at the end of the month so I am anticipating it will be a good reading month. Here are the books planned:
- Any Old Iron by Anthony Burgess (EB) – in memory of the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7th.
- The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin – in memory of Le Guin passing in 2018.
- Four Spirits by Sena Jeter Naslund – to honor Alabama becoming a state in December.
- The Female Eunuch by Germain Greer – to honor women’s suffrage law.
- Cry of the Kalahari by Mark and Delia Owens (EB) – to honor the wedding anniversary of Mark and Delia.
- Lost Moon by Jim Lovell and Jeffrey Kluger – in honor of the moon landing.
- Stet: an Editor’s Life by Diana Athill (EB) – in honor of Athill being born in December.
- The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman (AB) – to continue the series His Dark Materials, started in November in honor of National Writing Month.
- The Unicorn Hunt by Dorothy Dunnett (EB) – to continue the series Niccolo House, started in August in honor of Dunnett’s birth month.
Early Review for LibraryThing:
- Squelched by Terry Beard.
If there is time:
- Black Tents of Arabia by Carl Raswan – in honor of Lawrence of Arabia.
- This Blinding Absence of Light by Tahar Ben Jelloun – in honor of Jelloun’s birth month.
“Live a life steeped in experiences.” That’s what my tea bag therapist said this morning. I’m not sure what to make of that advice, considering I have been passing each day as if waiting for something, but not exactly sure what.
I keep going back to the hospital for x-rays and answering mind-throttling questions like, “when did you break your back? How long have you been having extremity nerve pain?” Nearly passing out from lack of comprehension, I didn’t know what to say. I still don’t, but at that moment I sat there in silence with a stuck-in-dumb expression on my face. Yes, my back hurts from time to time, but broken? Yes, I have been complaining about my hands and feet falling asleep, but pain? I was there to get my protruding rib cage scrutinized. Now they tell me it’s a nodule on my lung and abnormally high white blood cell counts. “Probably a viral infection,” the nurse said of my white blood cell count. This was before the nodule on my left lung (25% malignant cancer) was a reality via CT scan. Are the two related? Am I falling to pieces? Sure feels that way. In the meantime, I have buried myself in books:
Fiction (Lots of books for kids and young adults):
- David and the Phoenix by Edward Ormondroyd (AB): a book for children, added in honor of Fantasy Month.
- The Pinballs By Betsy Byars: another kids book added in honor of Adoption month.
- Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko.
- Martin Dressler: the Tale of an American Dreamer by Steven Millhauser.
- The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman (EB).
- Foolscap, or, the Stages of Love by Michael Malone.
- Patience and Sarah by Isabel Miller.
- She’s Not There: a Life in Two Genders by Jennifer Finney Boylan.
- The Caliph’s House by Tahir Shah.
- Expecting Adam: the Story of Birth, Rebirth, and Magic by Martha Beck (AB)
- Scales of Gold by Dorothy Dunnett.
Ormondroyd, Edward. David and the Phoenix. Floyd, VA: SMK Books, 2014.
Ormondroyd, Edward. David and the Phoenix. Read by Edward Ormondroyd. Syracuse, NY: Full Cast Audio, 2002.
Reason read: November is Fantasy Month. This was a quick one to finish the month.
This is a really fun book. David has moved into a new house and is enthralled with the mountain in his backyard. Eager to climb it, he discovers this isn’t any ordinary mountain. For living on one of its ledges hides a curious talking bird who calls himself Phoenix. The Phoenix is a delightful character who promises David all sorts of adventures: some good, some bad. Insert some other mythical creatures and an evil scientist hell bent on catching the Phoenix for the purpose of nasty experiments and David and the Phoenix is fantastic story for young and old. Word of advice, listen to this on audio!
Author fact: Ormondroyd, in addition to being a writer, was also a librarian.
Book trivia: First the obvious, David and the Phoenix is Ormondroyd’s best known book. Second, the illustrations in David and the Phoenix by Joan Raysor are fantastic.
Nancy said: Pearl read David and the Phoenix in 1957 when it was first published. She doesn’t consider it “high fantasy” but rather a “charming adventure” for children (More Book Lust p 84).
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Fantasy for Young and Old” (p 83).
Millhauser, Steven. Martin Dressler. New York: Random House, 1996.
Reason read: November is a fascinating time to be in New York City.
Martin Dressler, the ambitious son of a cigar maker, has big dreams even as a young child. He starts by delivering cigars for his father and finds an ingenious way to make profits soar. As a teenager, he starts his career employed as a young hotel bellhop. He catches the eye of the hotel owner and soon becomes his secretary and mentor. As a young man he falls under the spell of a mother and her two grown daughters while building hotels of his own. One daughter becomes his business partner when he delves into opening a chain of diners while the other daughter, Caroline, mystifies him with her silent, elusive personality. She reminds him of a girl he used to know…Strangely enough, he ends up marrying this shadowy, ghostly woman.
This is not a coming of age story. Readers watch as Martin goes through childhood and teenage years to adulthood without exposing friendships; it’s as if he doesn’t have any, puberty, or any other angst-y growing up tribulation. His personality is firmly grounded in business. There is a moment when Martin decides it is time for him to lose his virginity and almost without ceremony or fanfare, he visits a brothel. This becomes a matter of fact, once a week habit he continues into adulthood. Not much is made of sex either way. However, his wedding night is particularly uncomfortable.
What is especially fun to watch is late nineteenth century New York City growing up along side Martin. The street names change over the years. Buildings grow taller. Oil lamps are crowded out by electricity one by one. The Manhattan we know today competes with Martin’s metropolis of his dreams until they are both so large there isn’t room enough for the both of them. But, which New York lives on?
Quotes I found interesting, “She looked like a new painting, all wet and shiny, but already she was fading into the darkness between lamps” (p 138) and “Here in the other world, here in the world beyond the world, anything was possible” (p 292).
Author fact: at the time of publication, Millhauser taught at Skidmore College.
Book trivia: Martin Dressler won a Pulitzer Prize.
Nancy said: Pearl didn’t say anything specific about Martin Dressler in Book Lust, but in Book Lust To Go she hinted the book takes place in New York, but it’s not the Manhattan we know (Book Lust To Go p 236).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust from the chapter called “New York, New York” (p 170). Also from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Travel To Imaginary Places” (p 236).
What do you do when the most inappropriate sentiment unexpectedly comes out of someone’s mouth? A confession that should never have left the lips of the confessor? Instead of thinking of the actions I should take I chose to take none. I do nothing. Distance makes it easy to ignore and deny. When I can’t avoid I read. Here are the books started for November:
- Foolscap, or, the Stages of Love by Michael Malone – Malone was born in the month of November; reading in his honor.
- Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko – in honor of November being Native American Heritage month.
- The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman – November is National Writing month. Choosing fantasy for this round.
- Patience and Sarah by Isabel Miller – Routsong’s birth month was in November. Reading in her honor.
- Martin Dressler by Steven Millhauser – reading in honor of Millhauser’s birth place, New York City.
- Expecting Adam: a True Story of Birth, Rebirth, and Everyday Magic by Martha Beck – in honor of my mother’s birth month.
- The Caliph’s House by Tahir Shah – in honor of Morocco’s independence was gained in November.
- Scales of Gold by Dorothy Dunnett – to continue the series started in honor of Dunnett’s birth month in August.
Fun: nothing decided yet.
Early Review: I have been chosen to receive an early review but I will refrain from naming it in case it doesn’t arrive.
Norton, Andre. The Warding of Witch World. New York: Warner Books, 1996.
Reason read: to continue the series started in April to honor Norton’s memory. She passed in the month of April.
From everything that I can tell, The Warding of Witch World is the final entry in the Witch World series. It is Book Six of the Turning Series. The premise is pretty simple, all the witches come together, future allies and past enemies must bond together to face impending doom. All of the gates of their Witch World are open and evil is about to descend upon them. The title of the book comes from the warding and watching of these gates. A robust cast of creatures, including a giant, come together for the battle of their lives.
I pretty much gave up on this book before it even began.
Author fact: Andre Norton is the pseudonym for Alice Mary Norton.
Book trivia: The Warding of Witch World is a hefty read, totaling 560 pages.
Nancy said: nothing.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Science Fiction, Horror, and Fantasy” (p 216).