Archive for March, 2009

Random Quotation

All books are either dreams or swords.
You can cut, or you can drug, with words.

from Sword Blades and Poppy Seed, a poem by Amy Lowell


The Art of M S Corley

harry-potterMock covers for the  Harry Potter books, redesigned as if they were classic Penguin Books.  M S Corley has also done the same for The Series of Unfortunate Events, The Spiderwick Chronicles and His Dark Materials.  Maybe one day these will be real book covers I can buy!

masque_of_the_red_death_copyThe Masque of the Red Death (Horrors of Literature series)

jonahI love the Japanese style Jonah.

That’s one wide-ranging style!  And there are lots more interesting pieces at M S Corley’s website.

I brought Thief with No Shadow, partly because the book itself appealed to me, and partly because I felt an affinity with the author.  Emily Gee is a New Zealander who enjoys travelling, she has a degree in science (geology, not quite as good as chemistry!) and she is the daughter of Maurice Gee, whose children’s books I have fond memories of reading.  I am so glad I took a chance on this book!

Thief With No Shadow is a dark fantasy with a hint of romance, and has a very intimate scale.  The conflict is life or death for the four main characters, but no-one else will really care if they fail.  There are no kingdoms to topple or ends of the world to prevent, just four people, each trying in their own way to save their sibling and create some sort of future.

Melke and her brother, Hantje, are wraiths, they can turn invisible at will.  When Hantje  is caught foolishly trying to steal from a den of salamanders, Melke agrees to steal a necklace in return for his life.

However, the necklace belongs to a psaaron (a sea creature) and was stolen from it a century ago by a member of the sal Vere family.  Cursed by the psaaron,  Bastian and his sister, Liana, are the last members of a once proud and wealthy family now reduced to poverty.  They need to return the necklace to break the curse.

All the characters except for Liana are broken in some way, and face horrible choices.  Bastian was my favourite, he is so filled with rage and despair, and tries so hard to hate Melke, but underneath he is a good and decent man, and this keeps breaking though.

Thief With No Shadow does have some flaws but I could not put the book down – when I was very close to the end there was a power cut and I had to finish reading by torchlight!  There was no way I was going to be able to wait for morning to find out what happened. 

I can  hardly wait for Emily Gee’s next book, The Laurentine Spy to be released on 5 May.  (There are quite a few books I want that are released in the first week of May.  Personally, I think it’s the authors’ way of wishing me Happy Birthday!)

I love re-told fairy tales and often re-read the books I own in that sub-genre (Mercedes Lackey, Robin McKinley, John Moore, Fables…).  I’m always on the lookout for some new, possibly lighthearted, possibly twisted take.

This animation (found via Suvudu) is a brillant re-interpretation of ‘Little Red Riding Hood’, done as an assignment by Swedish student Tomas Nilsson.

By day, Mercy is a car mechanic in the sprawling Tri-Cities of Eastern Washington.  By night, she explores her preternatural side.  As a shapeshifter with some unique talents, Mercy has often found herself having to maintain a tenuous harmony between the human and the not so human.  This time she may get more than she bargained for.

Marsilia, the local Vampire Queen, has learned that Mercy crossed her by slaying a member of her clan – and she’s out for blood.  But since Mercy is protected from direct reprisal by the werewolf pack (and her close relationship with its sexy alpha), it won’t be Mercy’s blood Marsilia is after.

It’ll be her friends’.

Bone Crossed is the fourth book in the Mercy Thompson series and the first to be published in hardcover.  I would not suggest starting with this book if you have never read the series before.

Bone Crossed necessarily deals with the repercussions of Mercy’s rape at the end of Iron Kissed.  Mercy is refusing to allow what happened to shape her life.  She doesn’t want to be a victim and feels angry when she has panic attacks.  Mercy doesn’t want to allow herself time to heal.  Luckily, she has people in her life who gently make her deal with her feelings and help her though the panic attacks.

I loved the interactions between Mercy and Adam, each trusting the other.  Despite being an Alpha, Adam has the self-control to let Mercy handle her problems, he will only help if she is unable to solve them.  Mercy understands Adam enough that she is not angry at him when, out of frantic concern and desperation, he does something that will permanently affect her, without her consent.

There is a lot going on in Bone Crossed, and the main mystery is only part of that.  A very intriging part however!  An old college friend asks for Mercy’s help in dealing with a ghost her son says he can see.  To reduce the danger to her friends from Marsilia, Mercy decides to go out of town and help her friend.  I loved the son, Chad, and his relief when Mercy says she can see the ghost.  It is (of course) more than a just a simple ghost.

While Mercy is out of the town the werewolves are negociating peace with Marsilia.  It was good to see the werewolves deal from their own position of power, and that unlike some other series, Mercy is not the only person who can solve a problem.

Bone Crossed was a wonderful installment in one of my favourite series.  Patricia Briggs has said that the next book, Silver Borne, will be out in Feb 2010, and will focus on Samuel.

Other books by Patricia Briggs that I have reviewed: Masques, Cry Wolf, Moon Called

Random Quotation

What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it.

Catcher in the Rye, J D Salinger

previously unknown portrait of Shakespeare has been found.

“We’re 90 per cent sure that it’s Shakespeare,” [Paul Edmondson of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust] said. “You’ll never be entirely certain. There will always be voices of dissent.”

He said scholars are convinced it is Shakespeare because so many copies of the painting were made, including the one at the Folger, and because the painting was handed down through the generations along with a portrait of the Earl of Southampton, Shakespeare’s main patron.

He said the portrait had long been part of the Cobbe collection owned by the Cobbe family, but had not been connected to Shakespeare until 2006, when one of the family members saw the Folger Shakespeare painting on display at a travelling exhibition in London and realized the similarity between the two. (from

All the uncertainties and controversies around Shakespeare are a fertile field for writers, inspiring many books, movies and short stories.  The latest one I’ve read is We Haven’t Got There Yet by Harry Turtledove, where an irate Shakespeare attends a performance he suspects is plagiarising Hamlet, but instead he is mesmerized by a performance of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.

Harry Turtledove on the genesis of the story (from comments on

This one owes something to the research I did for RULED BRITANNIA and a big something to my daughter Rebecca. She’s a theater major in college and a stone Stoppard freak. Because of her, the whole family went to see R&G. As we were walking out to the car after the performance, I wondered out loud what Shakespeare would have made of the play . . . and “We Haven’t Got There Yet” is the result.

A new library in the UK has some awesome typographic tree sculptures.  There are 14 oak tree trunks, each with a different passage in a carefully chosen typeface.

I find the design of new libraries is usually striking and innovative; probably since libraries are seen as the repositories of creative ideas, the architects get to have a little fun with the design.   The interior of this library looks fairly generic but they’ve made up for that with the unusual sculptures!

(Sometimes I miss being in London, but looking out the window in this photo makes me realise that I don’t miss the weather.  It’s pretty nice to live in Brisbane and have summer for nine months of the year!)

Crown Duel by Sherwood SmithBattle on and off the field, with sword and fan, with might and manners…

It begins in a cold and shabby tower room, where young Countess Meliara swears to her dying father that she and her brother will defend their people from the growing greed of the king.  That promise leads them into a war for which they are ill-prepared, a war that threatens the homes and lives of the very people they are trying to protect.

But war is simple compared to what follows, when the bloody fighting is done and a fragile peace is at hand.  Although she wants to turn her back on politics and the crown, Meliara is summoned to the royal palace.  There, she soon discovers, friends and ememies look alike, and intrigue fills the dance halls and the drawing rooms.  If she is to survive, Meliara must learn a whole new way of fighting – with wit and words and secret alliances.  In war, at least she knew whom she could trust.  Now she can trust no one…

This edition of Crown Duel was originally published as two separate books, Crown Duel and Court Duel, although author Sherwood Smith had always though of them as one story.  A additional short story is included at the end.

I found Meliara to be a great character.  She is prickly, stubborn, brave and loyal and makes mistakes that could have terrible consequences.  But she is intelligent and smart, and when she realises just how ignorant she is, she takes steps to educate herself.  Part of her personality is that she cares about how people see her, which makes her very self-defensive.  I could really relate to that!

In the second half of Crown Duel, I really liked that Mel recognised her ignorance of how to behave at Court,  faced her fear of ridicule and went to the Court because she felt it was the right thing to do.  This second part of the book was the best in my opinion, I enjoyed seeing Mel’s personal growth and her interactions with people whose motives she could not discern.  I loved how she grew more confident in how to behave at Court, but did not copy others, instead approaching her problems and solving them in a forthright and unusual manner,  That manner was entirely consistent with her personality and not just an action imposed by the author to make Mel be an unusual character.

Crown Duel is a thoroughly enjoyable character driven YA* fantasy.  I found it on Pollyanna’s Booklist, and it is well worth reading.

* YA is Young Adult – a genre where some of the best fantasy is being published these days.

Two Versions of I Will Survive

Both of these versions of I Will Survive should brighten up your day!

I Will Survive – Aliensong

I just hope she is an indestructible alien – maybe blob-like with no bones?

Igudesman & Joo

Now this one is hilarious – serious musicians having fun.  The last minute was so good, I wanted to applaud at the end!

(I thought I’d got the hang of using WordPress, but the learning curve just ramped up again.  I couldn’t figure out why these vidoes wouldn’t embed properly, and as for trying to add a cover to the book review I was writing this morning – hah!  I think it’s time to call the wonderful and computer literate brothers again.)