The Patricia A McKillip Challenge

I’m on a challenge signing up roll today! (Ok, maybe not, only because I got a little indecisive after completing this list, but I pondered four more challenges!)

I really enjoyed Lenneth’s Mythopoeic challenge last year, and she’s put up another challenge for this year that’s right up my alley. I very much enjoy Patricia A. McKillip’s fantasic prose and wonderful imagery. Reading of her books over the year should be an easy pleasure.

I plan to read:

The Riddle-Master of Hed
The Sorceress and the Cygnet
Solstice Wood

I may also add The Forgotten Beasts of Eld to the list, but I have a sneaking suspicion I’ve already read that book, so that would be just be for fun.


2009 TBR Lite Challenge

I know I said I wasn’t going to do the TBR challenge this year, but there’s now a TBR Lite Challenge, and being able to read 6 books from my TBR pile, and change the list whenever I want to (option B) definitely appeals to me.

I know I can switch out the list whenever I want, but I figure I might as well start from somewhere, and that somewhere will be the remains of last year’s TBR list:

The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break – Steve Sherrill
The Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing – Melissa Banks
The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse – Robert Rankin
Carter Beats the Devil – Glen David Gold
Gonzalez & Daughter Trucking Company – Maria Amparo Escandon
The Yiddish Policeman’s Union – Michael Chabon
The Silver Rose – Susan Carroll
The Hero with a Thousand Faces – Joseph Campbell
Civilzation and the Limpet – Martin Wells
The Botany of Desire – Michael Pollan
The Professor and the Madman – Simon Winchester

If I switch these out, the switched book will either need to come from my current blog TBR list, or my Amazon wishlist (which is all the books available at my library or Paperspine that I’ve had in a to read list for a very, very long time). And I’ll make sure they were TBR in 2007 or earlier. I did enjoy having a reason to pare down the stacks (literal and digital) last year, but it’ll be nice to have slightly less pressure to do so.

Snow Crash – Neal Stephenson

Neal Stephenson has a fairly insane imagination.

Snow Crash is the story of a guy named Hiro and a girl named Y.T., both of who live in a near future L.A. where society has broken up into innumerable franchises where most people live out their lives in predictable sameness.

However, for those who are able to access it, there’s also the Metaverse, where people wander a virtual world of infinite vareity. But there’s a new virus that’s striking people in the Metaverse, and Hiro and Y.T. end up in the middle of the fight to stop this virus.

The story brings together ancient Sumerian myth and modern technology into a dizzying story that finally makes sense in the end. I didn’t find this book quite as dense as The Diamond Age (the other Stephenson book I’ve read), but it’s definitely heading in that direction. The author is a master in interweaving a number of complex stories of seemingly unrelated people into something that manages to be surprisingly whole at the end. (That being said, he did a few back and forth forays in time in this book that were a little disconcerting.) He’s a great author, but certainly not someone you’d want to read in a hurry.

New Moon – Stephenie Meyer

Ok, I have to admit it. Stephenie Meyer spins a good tale. I can’t say I’m teenage girl-level obsessed with this series, but despite the fact that I felt like slapping a little sense into Bella a couple of times in the beginning of this book, I occasionally had a hard time putting it down. (BF came into our bedroom on a work night earlier in the week to confirm I was indeed working the next morning, since I was still up and reading an hour past my usual work night bedtime. Oops.)

So Bella loves Edward and apparently Edward loves Bella too, except he bails on her when there’s a little mishap with the family involving a cut (it is a vampire family after all), and Bella overreacts to her broken heart with typical late-teenage flair. (Ok, ok, I realize I spent about a week doing much the same thing the one and only time my heart was broken, but not quite on that scale (I was in my early twenties at that point after all ;). But I guess I can sort of sympathize, deep down in my post-adolescent heart…) So Bella starts hanging out with her friend Jacob on the local Indian reservation until Jacob abruptly cuts off all contact and she has to figure out what’s going on with him. Yep. It’s high teenage drama. It’s cheesy as all hell. And I have to confess, I enjoyed it.

So now, I just have to figure out how to get my hands on the last two books, since I don’t want to buy them, but they’re still in hard cover, so Paperspine doesn’t have them available. Who knows how long it will take me to get to the end of this adolescent angst? (Oy. I think I may have to read a non-fiction book or two to cleanse these from my system…)

Knitting Notes

Pattern: Flame Chevron Scarf by Rebecca LaRose
Yarn: Pagewood Farms Denali sock yarn in the Sky Blue Pink colorway
Needles: size 2

It was definitely down to the wire, but I finished the scarf for my MIL last night! Granted, it’s going to be wrapped in its unblocked form, as there’s no way I could get it dry if I’d blocked it last night, but I don’t think that’ll be a problem.

The pattern was quite easy, though I never did quite get it memorized. I had to keep glancing at the pattern to remind myself where I was. Still, it went quite quickly on the days I was able to devote a good chunk of time to it.

The Pagewood Farms Denali is a good, solid sock yarn. I’d definitely have no problem using it again. This particular colorway has some interesting variation, and I love the base blue.

So now I just have to finish my mother’s second pair of socks to be done with Christmas knitting. Fortunately, she’s in CA right now, and won’t be back until after the new year. While packing last night, I briefly toyed with the idea of bringing them along to VT for the long weekend, but I’ve been knitting non-stop most nights for about a month now, and it occurred to me that I could probably use a long weekend of knitting vacation.

YA Reading Challenge 2009

I’m hopelessly addicted to my reading challenges (and my sidebar’s already looking a little empty), so I figured I might as well cave and sign up for at least one reading challenge I know I’m going to do next year. I really enjoyed the 2008 version of the YA reading challenge, so I’m back again for more for next year.

Here’s my planned list:

Sorcery and Cecilia: Or the Enchanted Flower Pot – Patricia Wrede & Caroline Stevermer
Squire – Tamora Pierce
Castle in the Air – Dianna Wynne Jones
Enna Burning – Shannon Hale
The Blue Girl – Charles de Lint
Green Boy – Susan Cooper
Slam- Nick Hornby
Inkspell – Cornelia Funke
The Crow – Allison Croggon
Bound – Donna Jo Napoli
The Tale of Beedle the Bard – JK Rowling
Stargirl – Jerri Spinelli

Fortunately, I can change the list at any time, so I’m not going to add in any alternates for the moment.

Silver on the Tree – Susan Cooper

f0255efeabd916f593752325451434f414f4141Silver on the Tree is the final book of the Dark is Rising Sequence. It falls third in my ranking list. In the book, Will, Bran, the Drew children, John Rowland and Merriman all come together in the final battle against the Dark.

I’m of two minds on this book. On the one hand, I love the section where Will and Bran visit the Lost Land. Cooper’s words throughout this middle section are simply gorgeous, and the imagery of their journey to the sea is a treat to read.

I’m not enthralled with the remaining sections of the book. There are charming little interludes here and there, but the whole climatic scene when they finally defeat the Dark isn’t as grand as I feel like it should be. And the ending has always rather bugged me. It seems too simple, somehow.

Still, by the strength of her beautiful words alone, I will always deeply love this series of books.

Completed 2008 Reading Challenges

There’s only about two weeks left in the month of December, and I’ve finally finished the last of the reading challenges I signed up for in 2008. Here’s what I read:

Once Upon a Time Challenge II (3/21/08-6/20/08) – Finished 6/15/08

Beast – Donna Jo Napoli – finished 3/26/08
Anansi Boys – Neil Gaiman – finished 4/8/08
The Line Between – Peter Beagle – finished 4/21/08
The Naming – Alison Croggon – finished 5/2/08
The Sorceress and the Cygnet – Patricia A. McKillip – finished 5/31/08
Howl’s Moving Castle – Dianne Wynne Jones – finished 6/15/08

R.I.P III Reading Challenge 9/1/08 – 10/31/08 – Finished 10/26/08

Mythopoeic Award Challenge 1/1/08-12/31/08 – Finished 9/9/08

YA Challange 2008 (1/1/08-12/31/08) – Finished 12/9/08


TBR 2008 Challenge 1/1/08-12/31/08 – Finished 12/19/08

American Gods – Neil Gaiman – finished 7/9/08
Cordelia Underwood – Van Reid – finished 8/6/08
Coyote Blue – Christopher Moore – finished 8/28/08
The Stolen Child – Keith Donohue – Finished 1/31/08
Lord of Light – Roger Zelazny – finished 10/2/08
Idylls of the King – Alfred, Lord Tennyson – finished 6/23/08
Herodotus – The Histories – finished 12/19/08

Tam Lin – Pamela Dean – finished 9/9/08
The Thirteenth Tale – Diane Setterfield – Finished 3/21/08
The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger – finished 7/26/08
Austenland – Shannon Hale – finished 8/21/08
On Writing – Stephen King – finished 11/29/08

I also started and abandoned the Graphic Novels Challenge and the Soup’s On Challenge. Soup’s On doesn’t actually end until next March, but I haven’t been in much of a cooking phase this year, so I’m just going to be honest with myself and give that one up now, and start 2009 with a clean slate.

One thing I did learn was to be careful with the number of 12 month/12 books challenges I did. While I won’t completely rule out 12 month challenges for next year, I’m going to try to do ones that don’t involve quite so many books, in order to preserve my sanity. I think I like the smaller theme challenges that I can do in a short burst of time better than the longer ones.

I already have a number of interesting looking 2009 challenges bookmarked for consideration, so I’m sure once I get back from the Christmas festivities, those will be showing up here in the sidebar.

TBR 2008 Reading Challenge

I’ve completed my final reading challenge of 2008! The TBR challenge was a challenge to read 12 books I’d had hanging around for some period of time. We were allowed a main list, and a list of alternates. My main list was of books I actually had at home, and my alternate list was books I had on my Amazon wishlist that I hadn’t bought yet because they were available at the library.

Here’s what I read:

American Gods – Neil Gaiman – finished 7/9/08
Cordelia Underwood – Van Reid – finished 8/6/08
Coyote Blue – Christopher Moore – finished 8/28/08
The Stolen Child – Keith Donohue – Finished 1/31/08
Lord of Light – Roger Zelazny – finished 10/2/08
Idylls of the King – Alfred, Lord Tennyson – finished 6/23/08
Herodotus – The Histories – finished 12/19/08

Tam Lin – Pamela Dean – finished 9/9/08
The Thirteenth Tale – Diane Setterfield – Finished 3/21/08
The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger – finished 7/26/08
Austenland – Shannon Hale – finished 8/21/08
On Writing – Stephen King – finished 11/29/08

I had one book I tried to start and just couldn’t get into (The Devil in the White City – Erik Larson). This was actually the only book I started and failed to finish this year.

At times, I had a hard time actually making myself read these books, especially the ones that were sitting around the house. I realized I operate on a surprisingly emotional level with my books, and I’m very wont to go seek something out to fit my mood, and the reason some of these books have sat around for so long is that they don’t easily fit into my reading cycles.

I also found this to be the most pressure of any of the challenges I did this year. I think it was the wide ranging nature of the books, and the fact that a couple of the ones I did read were rather weighty, and took some time to get through (Herodotus and Idylls of the King). When I wasn’t hitting my one book a month target, I got a little antsy.

For this reason, I’ve decided to sit out the 2009 challenge. I think if I do this more than once, it can’t be a regular yearly thing.

Herodotus – The Histories

bf60ca231c5976059357a555277434f414f4141Read of the TBR 2008 Reading Challenge.

I don’t read classic texts in translation very often anymore, and I could really feel that while reading through The Histories. I feel like I’ve been reading this book forever, but it’s really only been since some time in November.

Herodotus lived in the 5th century BC, in one of the Greek kingdoms of Asia Minor (Turkey). He was fairly widely traveled for his time, having been to Greece itself, Egypt, and other parts of Africa. His book relates the history of these regions, but especially the history of the Persian invasions of Greece under Cyrus, Darius and Xerxes.

Herodotus is called the father of history, but it’s a history you have to take with a grain of salt. He’s sometimes very fair in his methods – for instance, he refuses to believe in the actual existence of the Tin Isles (Britain) because he can’t find anyone that’s ever actually been there to satisfy him of their existence. On the other hand, he often resorts to here say about the various native peoples of lands he’s not actually visited.

Still it’s an engaging, if extremely dense, narrative, and manages to convey a surprising amount of personality, even through the translation. I’m definitely not going to ever need to read this again, but I enjoyed my one run through.

My one criticism of this particular addition (Penguin Classics, first published in 1954), is the introduction. I normally enjoy introductions to historic texts, but this one was a real yawn. I actually ended up skipping most of it. I’d definitely recommend finding a different edition if you’re into good contextual introductions.