Monthly Archives: December, 2005

Wind Singer

I did end up finishing this yesterday, thanks to a long trip to Melbourne. It was excellent. A bit odd, in that there were lots of interesting things – ideas – that weren’t fully explained, ideas that were integral to the world. I think this is a hard thing for lots of authors to find the balance of: you don’t want it to sound like a children’s story, where everything is laid out for you, but still you need to make it transparent for the reader. I want to know more about the Morah! I’m hoping that the sequel, Slaves to the Master, explains this more fully.

This was a good book. I liked it. I may have to revise my opinion about it being less sophisticated than Nix, but I am not entirely sure yet. I think the fact that there are still some things that I don’t fully understand lowers it a bit.

Christmas Cryptics

The ma gave me a book on how to solve cryptic crosswords, something we every now and then have a go at. It’s got about 20 or so pages on the different sorts of clues you come across, and the rest is actual crosswords. I have read through the stuff about the the clues, and had a go at a couple… it’s still pretty hard. I don’t think I’ve really got the brain for it yet.

The Wind Singer

This is the third book I started yesterday, by William Nicholson. I’m not too far into it, and almost certainly won’t finish it today given Family Stuff, but it too is really good. Probably between Owl Light and Garth Nix in terms of age, I guess – certainly not as sophisticated as Nix, at least so far. It promises to be an interesting story about the disintegration of a civilisation, basically, presumably with some sort of redemption for the population given it’s aimed at a younger audience.

Crazy Dog

The Dog has been eating grasshoppers. Last year she ate them, too, but only the brown ones; she tried a green one and spat it out. This year, though, she is less picky: she is eating both brown and green. It’s hilarious to watch her jumping around the verandah, like a grasshopper herself, trying to catch them. Mad.

Owl Light

I read this book, by Maggie Pearson, yesterday – after Lirael. I don’t quite know what owl light has to do with the story, except that lots of it has to do with being out at night.

This is definitely aimed at a younger audience than Garth Nix was – I’d say 12 year olds or so. I did enjoy it, nonetheless: there are fascinating characters – the Stittle clan is hilarious, the local reprobates who turn out to be not so bad – and Miss Letty is just the sort of person I always wanted to be, a spinster who has the whole town under her sway. The main family is appealing in its normality. It barely rates as fantasy, I think, given it is set in the real world… the only fantastic element is a werewolf. He is not a huge part, although significant; I really liked the way he was incorporated, actually, because in some ways it made it seem quite normal, although fantastic at the same time.

Definitely recommended; in fact, I think I will probably read the next in the series.

Holidays

What happens when a teacher gets to the holidays? She gets sick. Of course. I thought it was hayfever for a few days – we were moving furniture in our office and there was dust everwhere, and one of the others had a cold and so had eucalyptus oil on a cloth or something, which gave me a rotten headache – but it turns out it was a cold coming on. Thankfully it seems to have skipped the nose and gone to the chest; I think I prefer nasty coughs to wanting to remove my sinuses forever.

Anyway. Hopefully it will be better by Sunday, otherwise I will be really sad.

The Old Kingdom Trilogy

This trilogy is by Garth Nix, and was written before the Keys of the Kingdom series I have mentioned before. They’ve been sitting in the school library, waiting for me, all year.

I read Sabriel yesterday. Yes, the whole thing; it’s not that long. It was completely absorbing, obviously. It took me a little while to realise that the ‘real’ world, Ancelstierre, was not actually in our world (although as a word it does seem remarkably similar to England (terra=land)… which makes the Old Kingdom Scotland, I guess… heh, heh. Anyway, it was fantastic. Sabriel is a great character… it is always interesting when authors choose to write from the perspective of the other gender, I think. I can imagine why Nix chose to do it in this instance; I would guess he thought a girl is allowed to spend a bit more time being introspective, as well as being more emotional (in a good sense, here) than a boy might get away with. It also allows for a nice bit of gender-stereotype bending. But anyway. The Old Kingdom itself is, I think, incredibly well imagined. There are a couple of aspects that are a bit frustrating – some things have simply not been explained, but I have hopes that they will be eventually. Nix is definitely not afraid of making things difficult for his characters, or of forcing them and the reader to contend with serious issues like death. I like it.

I read Lirael today. Again, yes, the whole thing; this one is a bit longer, at nearly 600 pages, but again it is really aimed at a teenage audience, so it wasn’t that hard. Besides, I’m on holiday. This one did a couple of things that annoy me – the whole two-characters-eventually-meeting thing, and the jump-a-couple-of-years thing. But that aside, I liked this one a great deal. Nix certainly deals with the big issues – family, identity, destiny, death… He draws characters exceptionally well, in my opinion. He also hints at major revelations and then draws back. Interestingly, I’ve just realised that I don’t think he spends much time on setting – at least not in describing it – but that doesn’t detract at all. In fact too much detail too often gets in the way. These books move incredibly quickly much of the time, sucking the reader in.

I can’t wait to read the final book, Abhorsen. Stupidly, I don’t have it – didn’t think I would get through these two so quickly, nor that they would be so absorbing. Hopefully I can get it tomorrow.

Across the Nightingale Floor

I read this because the squister insisted. I had heard of it but thought it wasn’t really my thing. However, having read it, I thought it was excellent. In a strange way it reminded me of a Raynmond E Feist book I read ages ago… I think the series he wrote with Janny Wurts, about the other side of the Rift… it involved a stranger living in a very Japanese world and making his way there. The main similarity is the fact that it is a Japanese-type world; the author acknowledges this, saying at the same time that she (I think) has taken a lot of poetic licence.

It often really annoys me when books follow two – or more – different main characters and then they eventaully meet up and the story starts to cohese better. It is one of the few things that sometimes drives me stark mad with Lord of the Rings. This book does it. I totally understand why you would do it, but that doesn’t usually make it any easier to deal with.

I liked the characters here. Takeo was well-drawn; his emotional swings and warring loyalties were realistic, I thought. And the supranatural elements to him and others were introduced quite deviously, which I admired greatly. It may well class as a fantasy, but only just I think, and mainly because it is set in an obviously non-real place.

I don’t have the other two in the trilogy. I may have to find them.

Quarantine Tank; Angel Babies

I am seriously thinking of ditching the QT. It is mostly not used… and quite frankly, I would just LOVE to have a betta in there instead! It would be so much fun – Hektor #2! I am worried this will make me a bad fish keeper.

Did I mention all the babies got et again? J had thought to rescue them, and tried to scoop them up in the net… they didn’t go in the net, but went flying all around the place. The rest of the fish thought it was lunchtime. We think now it is not the parental fishies who do the eating of babies. Anyway, I think they lasted longer this time than previously, but still – no survivors.

Thirteen days

We watched this last night, again. It was just as good the – third? – time around. The blokes playing the Kennedys are great; the guy who plays Bobby plays a head Republican dude in The West Wing, which was pretty weird. And this time we noticed that that guy also has some occasional non-Americanish slips in his lingo; sounds almost Australian, which makes me think he might be Canadian. But no, just checked IMDB, and he is American. Anyway; it’s a great movie. I really liked the way they interweave the b&w with colour, and I don’t know whether the old-looking bits really are old or not, but they’re convincing. I know the Walter Kronkheit bits are original. It’s such a cool movie.