Blood Bank – Tanya Huff

Blood Bank is technically the last book of the Blood Ties series by Tanya Huff, and the introduction begins with this rather depressing statement:

“Because the Blood books were as much about the relationship between the three protagonists as they were about the metaphysical or the mystery, and because in Blood Debt I had wrapped these relationships up definitely, there will be no more Vicki Nelson books. I have now said everything I have to say about these people. This is it. The end.”

It’s a hell of a way to begin the collection of all the short stories about these characters (and in the later edition I read, the script that Tanya Huff wrote for the short-lived television series). I did know that this was the case, but seeing that pronouncement in print did bring a finality of the ending of the series that I hadn’t felt before. On the one hand, I appreciate when something I love ends on a high note, when I still love it. On the other hand, I was starting to get a real kick out of reading Vicki Nelson’s life as a vampire, and I wish Tanya Huff could have brought me a little more of that. But at least this book is a bit of wish fulfillment in that direction.

About half the stories in the book are about Mike and Vicki after she’s become a vampire and returned to Toronto. There’s the tale of the vampire she has to kill to defend her territory (which was briefly mentioned in Blood Debt), which was a nice side story to see, but my favorite of these stories was “The Vengeful Spirit of Lake Nepeaka”, where Mike and Vicki head out to the country to investigate the disappearance of a surveyor who was working to put a resort next a lake that may or may not be the home of a Nessie-like lake monster. That part of the story is fun in a hokey lake monster sort of way, but what I really enjoyed was how Mike and Vicki worked together to solve the mystery now that Vicki’s a vampire, and has both advantages and disadvantages from that. It was fun, and I found myself wishing for a novel-sized story where the two of them could work together again in that timeframe.

The other half of the stories are stories of Henry, both past and present. My favorite of those is “What Manner of Man”, which the author notes was inspired by Georgette Heyer’s Regency novels. What can I say, I love a good Regency-era novel, so this story was right up my alley. Another place where I wanted more when I was done.

This edition of the book ended with the script for “Stone Cold”, and Tanya Huff’s thoughts on writing it. It was a fascinating window into the process of creating scripts for a series, and well worth the read for anyone curious about that process.

All and all, I enjoyed this book immensely, but I definitely read it with a bit of sadness. I’m sorry that I have no new Blood books to look forward to.


Knitting Notes

My blog entries for February are rather bare. It’s an unfortunate side effect of this month. It’s too cold to go out much, so I don’t have many pictures to post, and I’ve been on a bit of a book slump this month as well.

I’ve done next to no knitting updates because I’ve been rather single-mindedly focusing on the Cabled Swing Cardi, even though this month’s Sockdown designer was Yarnissima, and I actually have several different designs of hers I’d like to do. This does mean that I might actually finish a sweater in a season where I can wear it, so that at least is exciting. At this point, I’ve done the back, both side of the front, and am nearly done with sleeve #1. The sleeves move pretty fast, so I may have this finished sooner rather than later.

I do have intentions of participating in March’s Sockdown challenge. The theme of the month is lace, so I have a pattern picked out for that, and I may also try the mystery sock. We’ll see how far I get on those, considering I also have the Haruha scarf to finish up, and I frogged the Star Crossed Beret (I just knew I would never wear it, and I like that yarn too much to waste it), and have another pattern picked out to reuse that. I definitely have the potential to be very busy knitting the near future.

Carter Beats the Devil – Glen David Gold

Read for the Historical Fiction and TBR Lite 2010 Reading Challenges.

Carter Beats the Devil is set in the early 1920s, in the golden age of magic, when magicians such as Houdini ruled the stage. The story is a novelization of the life of Charles Carter, an actual magician from this period, but appears to have little to do with the real magician’s life.

The story opens with Carter performing in San Francisco, at the same time that President Warren G. Harding was traveling the country and had stopped in the city. Carter invites the president to take the stage with him, and the show is a rousing success. The president appears to have a smashingly good time, but later that night, has a sudden heart attack, and dies (the fact of Harding’s death is true). Carter is immediately suspected, and Secret Service Agent Jack Griffin begins to investigate him.

From here, the story journeys back to Carter’s first encounter with magic as a boy, and life on the vaudeville circuit, where he meets and marries a woman named Sarah Annabelle. Sarah is tragically killed, and Carter’s future actions are shaped by her death.

Back to the present day of the story, and with Griffin hot on his tail, Carter meets up a with a number of true historical figures, including Houdini, Max Friz, the founder of BMW, and Philo Farnsworth, the inventor of television. All of these people contribute to the eventual happy ending, and the revelation of who really killed President Harding.

This is a great book. It has a lovely air of authenticity about it, and the action moves along with some great twists and turns. It’ll pull you along for the ride, and you’ll be very satisfied when you get to the end.

The Ivory and the Horn – Charles de Lint

The Ivory and the Horn is a collection of stories set in Newford, de Lint’s fictional Every City where many of his urban fantasy novels are based. The beauty of Newford is that there are so many shorter stories set there, and it’s easy to ease yourself into this world, and meet the many recurring characters through these tales.

De Lint’s stories run the gamut from completely fantasy-based, to skirting just along the edges of reality, and this anthology has everything along this scale. It’s hard to name favorites when there’s such variety to choose from, but highlights include:

“Mr. Truepenny’s Book Emporium and Gallery” Sophie lives a whole other life when she’s asleep in the city of Mabon. This story touches on the power of this world that she may or may not have created, and how she discovers that she’s not the only person to visit there.
“A Tempest in Her Eyes” An interesting meditation on Shakepeare’s Puck.
“Pal O’ Mine” An absolutely heartbreaking of those left behind by suicide.
“The Pochade Box” A lovely character portrait of Jilly Coppercorn, a painter who’s a regular character in the Newford stories.

Knitting Notes

Pattern: Star Crossed Slouchy Beret by Natalie Larson
Yarn: Canopy Worsted in the Yerba Mate colorway
Needles: 10 and 11 circs

I finally recovered from my epic knitting fail and unraveled by original, far too small, nearly completed effort last week, and started again using the correct sized needles. The hat now fits, though now that I’ve made it, I’m not sure I like the style, which is a shame, because the hat came out quite nicely. I really enjoy working with this yarn, and would happily do so again. (In fact, I have some Canopy Fingering waiting in the wings to make yet another hat. We’ll see how long it takes me to cast that on.)

I’ve also been plugging alone on the Cabled Swing Cardi. I’ve finished the front cable panel, and am almost completely done with the back. Stockinette hell hasn’t been nearly as bad as I feared. I did have an evening where I thought moss stitch would be the death of me, but I figured out where I went wrong, and have flown through the rest of the moss stitch. I’ve been enjoying working on this sweater, enough that I may actually manage to finish it in a season where I can actually wear it. That would be exciting indeed if I could pull it off.

Matchless: A Christmas Story – Gregory Maguire

Matchless is a retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s tale “The Little Match Girl”. If you’re familiar with the original non-Disneyfied versions of some of his stories, you’re aware that they don’t always have a particularly happy ending, unless you’re really, really into morality tales.

In this story, which Gregory Maguire originally wrote to read aloud on NPR’s Christmas edition of All Things Considered, the author actually manages to give the story a happier ending, without removing the core tale. He does this by adding a character, a little boy named Frederick, who through a series of unlikely connected events, actually managed to gain something from the tragic ending of the match girl. I’m still not sure that makes this tale one I’d read around the fireside with little children, but it’s a lovely little book nonetheless. Definitely an interesting twist on the traditional Christmas tale.

If you’re wondering why I’m reading a Christmas book in February, I actually won this as an October Early Reviewer’s Selection on LibraryThing, but for some reason, the books weren’t shipped until January.

Really Old Classics Challenge 11/1/2009 – 2/28/2010

I feel like it’s entirely too early in the year to be saying this, but I’ve completed my first reading challenge of 2010. Considering it straddled the end of 2009, it’s not surprising, but here I am, surprised.

The challenge was to read at least one book written before 1600 anytime between 11/1/09 to 2-28-10. I read The Decameron for the challenge.

There was also an extra credit assignment to read a retelling of a classic book, for which I chose The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni.

I enjoyed this challenge, quick as it was. I was reminded of my college days, when I had access and time to read more classic (and often time-consuming) work. I don’t often have as much time to devote to this more active reading, but I do enjoy it when I do.

The Palace of Illusions – Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

1400096200-01-_sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_Read for the Really Old Classics Challenge.

The extra credit assignment for the Really Old Classics Challenge is to read a retelling of a classic. The Palace of Illusions is a retelling of the events in the Mahabharata, one of the great epic works of ancient India, and a major work of Hindu mythology.

The Mahabharata is mostly concerned with the dynastic fights between the Kaurava and Pandava families for the throne of Hastinapura. These men are cousins, so it’s a story of family alliances and betrayals, interspersed with the consequences of the interference of the gods with the affairs of these men. It’s an absolutely fascinating story. (I have to admit to only a cursory familiarity with ancient Indian history/mythology, so the story was all fresh to me, which it certainly wouldn’t be to a Hindu reader.)

This book has parallels to The Mists of Avalon, as the author has taken one of the female characters, Panchaali, the wife of the five (yes, five) Pandava brothers, and told the story through her eyes. I know how I felt about reading the Arthurian legend through the lens of the women in the story, and I imagine the experience of reading this book is similar if you’re steeped in the background story. Panchaali is not always sympathetic, but her story is compelling, and pulled me through the book.

This is an absolutely lovely story, filled with beauty, and utter despair, and everything in between. I highly recommend it to anyone that wants to sample the literature of India, with a modern twist.