2009 Books Read

It’s the last day of the year, so I think it’s safe to say I won’t be finishing any of my pending reads before midnight. I can therefore present to you the completed list of books I read in 2009:


Harpist in the Wind – Patricia A. McKillip

2dec42220f9ad4f593453665467434f414f4141Having learned from earlier mistakes, I started reading Harpist in the Wind, the final book in the Riddle-Master trilogy, just after finishing the second book.

The trilogy follows Morgon, the Prince of the tiny island of Hed, as he finds he’s heir to a much larger destiny, and begins a journey across the realm to discover what that destiny is.

In this final book, Morgon has been reunited with his love Raederle, and they journey together to the ruined city of Lungold, which was once the seat of the wizard’s school. The wizard’s power was broken many years ago, when they were bound in various shapes throughout the land. Morgon is able to free them, and they agree to help in his quest to find the High One, and defeat the Earth-Masters. This brief synopsis is why I recommend reading these three books together. If you don’t, you’re not going to remember what’s going on by the time you get to the third book.

The trilogy resolves in a way you can only understand by reading the entire story, and seeing the love story that Patricia McKillip has written about the land that this story is set in. It’s a lovely and fitting ending to this series. Lovely enough that I’ll likely go back at some point and read it again, to make sure I’m getting all of the nuances that weave together to reveal Morgon’s true destiny.

2009 Completed Reading Challenges

It’s time for my first year end wrap up post. Since I only have one challenge pending, which ends in 2010, it’s time to recap the reading challenges I completed this year, and clean out my sidebar so I can start signing up for all the cool looking challenges going on next year.

YA Challange 2009 (1/1/09-12/31/09) – Finished 11/12/2009
TBR Lite 2009 Reading Challenge 1/1/09-12/31/09 – Finished 9/2/2009


RIP IV Reading Challenge 9/1/2009 – 10/31/2009 – Finished 10/24/2009

Once Upon a Time III Reading Challenge 3/21/09 – 6/20/09 – finished 6/9/09
Vampire Reading Challenge 1/1/09-12/31/09 – Finished 12/6/09
The Patricia A McKillip Challenge 1/1/09-12/31/09 – Finished 9/6/09


It’s the End of the World Reading Challenge II – 3/10/09 – 10/9/09 – finished 6/25/09


Dream King Challenge 1/1/09 – 12/31/09 – finished 11/19/2009

I’m already seeing a ton of interesting looking challenges out there for 2010. I’m going to try and make myself branch out a bit more from my typical fantasy reading. We’ll see how well I keep that promise when I do my wrap up next year.

Booking Through Thursday

Today’s question:

Given the choice, which do you prefer? Real history? Or historical fiction? (Assume, for the purposes of this discussion that they are equally well-written and engaging.)

This is an excellent question, and one I don’t think I can answer fully in the parameters given above.

I enjoy reading true history books. I’ve always found it fascinating to see how different things were in various times and places both near and far to my own. I worked at the library in college, and in my weekly shelving shift, if I was assigned the second floor, I always tried for the D, E and F sections, which are the history portions under the LC classification system. I read a lot of really random books in those four years, and I can definitely say that a great history book is a treasure.

However, it can be hard to find a great history book. There’s probably two main reasons this happens. If the primary sources just aren’t there, and there’s enough speculation involved that it dances over and across the line into historical fiction, I’d hesitate to really consider that history. The other problem is when an academic writer keeps it very academic. I had a much higher tolerance for full-on academic writing when I was in school. These days, as much as I’d like to think I’m reading to expand my mind, a lot of my reading time is really for relaxing. Dry history turns me off like almost nothing else.

This leads me to why I don’t believe I can answer today’s question within the required parameters. I think historical fiction will always have the edge over history in being well written and engaging because it is fiction. My favorite historical fiction books are the ones where the author has clearly done their research and given the settings and characters an authentic feel. However, I think we all know that all the research in the world does not erase the fact that any author writing about a time period not their own is bringing their own time references into play, and is able to use those to enrich the story. I think using the lens of a more recent time makes the historical fiction more relate-able, and therefore often more enjoyable.

So, I’d like to think I’d prefer history, because I value the lessons of the past, but I have to admit, I’d pick up the historical fiction first, most days.

Knitting Notes

We had my family Christmas on Monday, and since this about half a knitting blog, I’ve got to share the gift that warmed my knitterly soul. My father and C got me a sampler of handspun wool from Darthia Farm. Not only is it handspun, it’s also naturally dyed. They specialize in indigo dying, and you can see the results above. My favorites are the little skeins of deep indigo and cochineal red (I’ve always loved the idea of cochineal red – it comes from snails), and the tiny skein of light green in the top of the picture, which turns out to be a mixture of indigo and goldenrod. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to knit with any of this. It’s just so cool to look at as is.

Heir of Sea and Fire – Patricia A. McKillip

954409b8a0cd3c959366f715567434f414f4141Raederle is pledged to marry Morgon, the Prince of Hed, but he has disappeared into the wilds near Erlenstar Mountain, and no one knows if he is dead or alive. With several friends, Raederle sets out to find Morgon, and along the way, discovers her own strange heritage.

This is the second book of the Riddlemaster series, and my first thought upon completing it is that I need to remember to read Patricia McKillip’s series books more closely together. I read the first book back in January, and her books are so densely packed with detail that I’ve forgotten much of the storyline that came before. I’ve learned from that mistake, and started Harpist in the Wind, the final book, last night, immediately upon finishing this one.

I’ve said it a thousand times, but I’ll say it again: McKillip has a gorgeous way with words. The histories and landscapes of the strange lands in this book leap from the pages, and I find myself wishing I could travel there, because it must surely be an incredible place. For the 50th time, I wonder how I didn’t discover her books before now, but I rejoice because that means I have at least a good ten books to go before I’m done working my way through her body of work. Run right out and read all her books. They’re really that good.

Knitting Notes

I’ve run into a bit of an issue with C’s socks. You see that incomplete toe? You see the tiny little thread hanging off of it? Yes, I’ve run out of yarn. In hindsight, I really should have realized that this pattern eats yarn like crazy, but I was denial until the very end. I’ve actually reached the last pattern repeat, and am poised to move onto the toe, but I’m now dead in the water. So I’ve ordered more yarn (because naturally, I had to use a mail order yarn for these socks). Family Christmas is this Monday, so C will be unwrapping his incomplete sock with an IOU. He’ll probably find the whole thing amusing, and he since he and my father are driving out to Michigan for the holiday, depending on how the mail works, I actually have a chance of finishing them before they get back. I’m just very annoyed with myself for not noticing until it was far to late to pick another pattern. Oh well. Live and learn.

Booking Through Thursday

Today’s question is:

What do you think of speed-reading? Is it a good way to get through a lot of books, or does the speed-reader miss depth and nuance? Do you speed-read? Is some material better suited to speed-reading than others?

I’ve thought about this question quite a bit over the years. I’m a pretty fast reader. This is both good, and bad. Good, in that I can average 75ish books a year when most of my reading time is the half an hour before I go to bed. (I miss the days when I could easily pull off an entire Saturday reading in my bedroom…) Bad, in that I know things pass me by.

I do think that some of my reading likes and dislikes are formed by the speed at which I read. I’ve never been a big fan of most poetry, and I think a large part of that is that poetry is meant to be savored. You simply cannot skim your way through a poem and expect to get much out of it. And while I am capable of slowing down when comprehension is important, I can’t maintain that for long, and inevitably find myself speeding along. That’s why most poetry is a failure to me.

I know I miss things because I’m often skimming what I read. (And the more I want to find out what happens next, the faster I skim.) When I was younger (and had more reading time), I frequently reread books multiple times. I was able to do this in part because I would often find details that I had missed the first, second or third time I’d read through the book. I remember noticing a major plot point in the middle book of one of my favorite series after the fourth or fifth read through. It informed some actions that were taken later that I’d always been a bit confused on the origins for. Took me the fourth or fifth time through to catch it. Still, I can’t help myself. I love seeing what’s going to happen next. It’s hard to sit back and smell the roses when there’s plot out there waiting to be discovered. I guess I’m just destined to always have new discoveries when I reread my favorite books. And I’m ok with that.

Obernewtyn – Isobelle Carmody

The Great White rained radiation from the skies, and much of the world was destroyed. What remained untouched were the lands far from the large cities. The people there were mostly farmers, and banded together to survive after the terrible holocaust. Over time, it became clear that the land and people had not been entirely untouched by the Great White, as people began to display strange powers. These people were named as Misfits, and if not killed outright, were sent to live far away from the normal folks, in councilfarms. The farthest away of these farms was Obernewtyn, where it was rumored that the doctor who had founded the place did experiments on the Misfits, to try and take away their power.

Elspeth Gordie is an Orphan, living on one of the orphan farms. She lives in constant fear that she will discovered, because she is a Misfit. She sometimes dreams the future, can read the mind of others, and has the ability to talk to animals. When the overseer of Obernewtyn comes to visit, she has a terrible foreboding, and the overseer does indeed discover her gifts. She’s swiftly whisked away to Obernewtyn.

Obernewtyn is an interesting place, high in the mountains. The denizens are a varied lot – some clearly evil, some clearly addled by their gifts. When one of Elspeth’s new friends disappears, it leads her on a quest to discover what’s going on in Obernewtyn, and reveals that Elspeth has a great destiny far beyond this place.

I’m actually rereading this book. I’d read it quite a while ago, back when I was actually in the young adult demographic. It’s clearly the beginning of a series, but I remember waiting to see if my library would purchase more, and when they didn’t, I forgot about the book. I found this copy used, and after a quick look online, was delighted to see there are five more books in their series. I’m quite looking forward to reading them. This book is a great set up for this post-apocalyptic land, and I look forward to seeing what happens next to Elspeth and her friends.

Labyrinth – Kate Mosse

Alice Tanner sometimes has dreams of life in the past. When she’s invited by a friend to help in an archaeological dig in the south of France, she finds herself in an oddly familiar landscape, and in the center of activities that will bring to a conclusion events that began in the 13th century.

Alais Pelletier is the daughter of the steward of the ruler of Carcassone in the 13th century. She’s newly married to one of the Viscount’s chevaliers, and learning to adjust to married life. This was the time that what is now called the Cathar movement of Christianity was strong in the south of France. The area was not subject to the French king in the north, and the northern barons used the Cathar heresy as an excuse to invade and subjugate the south.

Against this historical backdrop, which is well researched, and rich in detail, is the search for the Grail. Alais learns that her father has ties beyond those to the Viscount of Carcassone. He is one of the guardians of the Labyrinth trilogy, three ancient scrolls that will unlock the secret of the Grail. Alais’ life is forever caught up in the story of these scrolls, and Alice in the 20th century, picks up the threads of that story and follows it to the conclusion.

The historical parts of this book are lovely. The author’s clearly done her research, and brings an incredible air of authenticity to Alais’ story. You can almost hear the sounds of the old city of Carcossone. Alice’s story was a bit slower to me. I also felt like it became a giant exposition dump towards that end. I liked the book, but didn’t love it, and while I wouldn’t rule out reading another book by this author, she won’t be at the top of my must find list. I definitely recommend this book if you like reading history come alive, but I’m not sure I can recommend it for the overall story.