I finally figured out what was bugging me about the garden, last night.     Despite the fact that it’s a week after Memorial Day, and I always do my planting on Memorial Day (but skipped this year because we went to VT, and it was so freaking cold!), the iris are still not blooming.    But, they’re just about to bloom, so I’m going to pray this too cold weather breaks, and my tomatoes don’t get frost bite.

So here’s the haul, minus what my mother brought me this morning, which was mostly replacements for the herbs I should have already had, if winter had not been so cruel.

I did pick up some replacement heucheras, but otherwise mostly concentrated on veggies and herbs.    I did get some marigolds and alyssum, to break up the large pots of tomatoes and Swiss chard, but that’s about it for the side yard.

The Backyard
The Side Yard

Child of the Prophecy – Juliet Marillier

Read for the Once Upon a Time VIII Reading Challenge.

I really can’t say enough about these books (the Sevenwaters Trilogy), which till the story of a family in Ireland trying to keep to the old ways as the Druids are dying out, and the English and Norse are starting to invade.

This third book is the story of Fainne, the daughter of Niamh and Ciaran of Sevenwaters, lost to the family because of her parent’s forbidden union (covered in the book before this).   Ciaran and Fianne are both sorcerers, as Ciaran is the son of the Lady Oonagh, who tried to turn the sons of Sevenwaters to swans so her son (their younger half brother) could inherit (covered in the first book).

Ciaran is sick, and has decided to send Fainne back to Sevenwaters to meet her relatives.     Fainne finds out that his illness is the work of Oonagh, who wants Fainne to deliver her final vengeance against the Sevenwaters family.     Naturally, Fainne loves her new found relatives, and must find a way to thwart Oonagh’s plans, and save her father’s life.

I really can’t put into words how good these stories are.     Each has a compelling center character, but the rest of the family is also real, and vivid.     The peril in these stories is real, and the magic they live amongst is fantastic.    I’m very happy that the author decided to continue these stories beyond the original trilogy.

The View from my Reading Perch in VT, the day I read this.

The Three Damosels – Vera Chapman

Read for the Once Upon a Time VIII Reading Challenge.

This is actually an omnibus containing three books: The Green Knight, The King’s Damosel and King Arthur’s Daughter.   They retell the Arthurian legends from the points of view of the women in the stories: the first is Merlin’s granddaughter Vivian (granddaughter of Morgan and Morgause’s sister Vivian-Nimue), the second is the story of Lynett, who in the legends, along with Sir Gareth, rescues her sister from the Red Knight, and finally, of Ursulet, the daughter of Arthur and Guinevere.

The stories are interwoven – Vivian marries Lynett’s nephew, and their son eventually marries Ursulet.    The second one is definitely based on the legends, while the first takes a great deal of liberty to reinterpret the Green Knight legend.     The author owns at the very beginning that the third book is entirely of her invention, but she’s tried to keep it as true to how the events following Arthur’s death would have worked.

I really liked these stories.   It’s nice to see a female perspective, and the author has tried to keep the stories true to the legends and the time frame.    These books are imports, and it did take  me a while to get my hands on this one (there’s also The Enchantresses, which tells the stories of Morgan, Morguase and Vivian-Nimue, that I’m still trying to get my hands on), but they’re worth seeking out, especially if you like reading different takes on the Arthur legends.

Garden Notes


Well, here’s what’s survived in the back yard.   I officially gave up on the heucheras today, as well as the lavender and lemon thyme from the side yard.

It’s definitely been a weird Spring, seeing what is coming back.

The climbing rose survived, but most of the top is dead.     That’s probably ultimately a good thing – I’ll be able to trim it back quite a bit this year, which should make it look better in the long run.     That’s basically what I’m trying to remind myself in general – it’s a good opportunity to try a few new things, and make what did survive stronger.

Thirteenth Child – Patricia C. Wrede

Read for the Once Upon a Time VIII Reading Challenge.

Eff is a twin, and her younger brother is the seventh son of a seventh son, making him a natural born magician with strong powers.     Problem is, because of the number of sisters they have, that makes her the thirteenth child, and even some of her extended family believe she’ll curse everyone around her at any moment.

After a particularly bad episode with her father’s oldest brother, Eff’s father announces that the family will be moving out to the frontier, where he’ll be teaching at a brand new college, near the Great Barrier.     This is one of those stories that changes the names around so you can basically understand where you are, but it’s meant to be different.    Here, we’re dealing with the American West, just after what is meant to be the Civil War, and the family has moved somewhere near what’s meant to be the Mississippi River.      The Great Barrier there protects all the lands on the east side of the river from magical creatures like steam dragons, and swarming weasels.

This is the first book in a trilogy, so it’s about Eff growing up.     Since several of her older siblings have stayed behind, no one there knows she’s the thirteenth child, so she’s able to start over without that cloud hanging over her.    She is also a twin, and having her brother be so powerful means that she should share in some of that power herself.

This is an interesting set up – the book ends with Eff being eighteen, and taking her first adventure across the Great Barrier.    If things go up from here, it should be a good series.

Wildwood Dancing – Juliet Marillier

Read for the Once Upon a Time VIII Reading Challenge.

Jena is the second of five sisters.     They live with their merchant father in the mountains of Transylvania, and they have a secret.    On the night of the full moon, as long as they are together, they can open a portal to the Fairy Realm, and they’re able to go to the court of the fairy queen, where the Full Moon Dance is held.

The girls have grown up with this secret, but now that Jena and her older sister Tatiana are nearly grown, things are changing.     Their father is ill, and must spend the winter near the coast, so leaves Tati and Jena in charge.    But in the Fairy Realm, the Night People have come to the Court, and it’s not clear if they’re there for good or ill.    With them is a young man named Sorrow, who may or may not be one of them, and Tati falls in love with him.     When the machinations of the Night People in the fairy court spill over into the real world, Jena must save her sister, as well as the fairies, who may be mistakenly targeted by the valley folk for the actions of the Night People.

This is a lovely mash up of the ‘Twelve Dancing Princesses’ tales with the folk tales of Transylvania.     When I was reading the back cover when I was through, I realized it’s meant to be a young adult book, but it really just came across as a great tale – basically like Robin McKinley’s work – fits as YA, but doesn’t have to be.

Winter of Magic’s Return – Pamela F. Service

Read for the Once Upon a Time VIII Reading Challenge.

Well here’s an interesting combination – an Arthurian post apocalyptic tale.    And it’s from the 80s, so it predates the current post-apocalyptic YA trend.

The story is set in a boarding school in what used to be called Wales.    It’s about 500 years past a nuclear disaster (oh end of Cold War – I’ve forgotten how much we used to think about this kind of thing…), and the world is much colder than it used to be, due to nuclear winter.     Sea levels have also fallen (increased polar ice caps – nuclear winter again), and there are marauding mutant beings, both human and animal about.

Three of the less popular kids at school – Welly (the chubby one), Heather (the girl), and Earl, who has no memory of who he was before he was found as the only survivor of  a devastating fire, have become friends, united in their unpopular-ness.    One day, a women claiming to be Earl’s aunt arrives, which sets off a chain of events that regains Earl his memory, and the knowledge that this woman is evil.     So they set off on a quest to escape her, and find King Arthur.    (Can you guess who Earl and the woman really are?    If you’re at all familiar with the Arthur legends, you’ll get it immediately.)

This is a serviceable little book, but I admit, the story seems a little lacking.      I think it’s because of the current post-apocalyptic craze – they’ve now gone darker, and more detailed than YA ever considering being in the past, and this older book just isn’t holding up.     Shame really, it’s a cute little book, and it’s happier in tone, which I sometimes wish the current books would try to aim for, at least a little more.

Garden Notes

This is definitely one of the best years for daffodils we’ve had in a while.

In other news, I managed to do a bit more gardening today.    First were the back yard pots.

The pots on the right are the hostas.     They’re starting to bud, and I actually transplanted a couple of the larger ones into new digs today, as they were outgrowing their old pots.

The pots on the the left are my heucheras and bleeding heart.     I’m not sure they survived the winter.    The bleeding heart, at least, should be doing something by now (and I thought it was when I took these out the garage a couple weeks ago).   So I may be in the market for some new foliage plants this year.    I suppose that’s not necessarily a bad thing.    It’s totally different back there with the fence gone, and I’m not sure how much more light that’s going to introduce into the equation.

I also got the trellis for the clematis up.     I’ve started some nasturtiums, blood sorrel, cilantro, arugula, and radishes directly outside.    We’ll see how that goes.     Especially after we got some light hail later in the afternoon…

The Masqueraders – Georgette Heyer

Read for the Georgette Heyer Reading Challenge.

Prudence and Robin have lived all their lives with their father as masqueraders – adventurers on the continent.    When they get mixed up in the Jacobite rebellion, and things go badly, their father hatches a plan to allow them to escape.

Thus, Peter (Prue) and Kate (Robin) are born, with each masquerading as the other sex, in London society.    It being a Heyer book, there’s naturally romance.    Oh, and did I mention their father claims to be a Viscount?

I’ll admit.   This one strained my credulity a bit.   Not to say that Heyer is a necessarily a model of factually based story-telling, but she’s got Regency manners down in a such a way you’re willing to ignore some of the more anachronistic things that sometimes creep into the stories.   Something about this one just bugged me.   It was spritely and enjoyable enough, but I can’t say it’s in my list of Heyer favorites.

Delicious! – Ruth Reichl

A LibraryThing EarlyReviewers book.

Billie has landed her ideal job – assistant to the editor of Delicious! magazine.   In no time flat, she’s installed in New York, meeting the absolutely fascinating cast of characters that work at the magazine as well as some of the interesting food sites in the city.

But as quickly as this wonderful opportunity arrives, it’s quickly dashed, as Delicious! is closed.     Billie is kept on, as she was in charge of responding to inquires about the Delicious! guarantee, and the publisher isn’t ready to let that go.      Now by herself in the mansion that an entire magazine’s staff once inhabited, she finds a secret room in the old library, filled with letters from subscribers.     In those letters are some written by a girl named Lulu to James Beard during WWII.     Billie is fascinated by Lulu’s story, and finding her letters among the others in the secret room becomes a bit of an obsession.

This is Ruth Reichl’s first novel.     I’ve read and loved several of her food-writing memoirs, and the wonderful way she writes about food comes through just fine in fiction form.    (Doesn’t hurt that it’s set in an alternate universe version of Gourmet.)    I’d have to characterize the book basically as chick lit, but it’s the kind of well written chick lit I enjoy as a counterpoint to my genre reading.     I’ll happily read more if she decides to keep exploring fiction.