Monday, 30 December 2013

Ship of Magic - Robin Hobb

        I have been captured by pirates.  I am riding with Althea as she tries to find a way to get her liveship Vivacia back again. I am following the adventures of all her family members as they face various threats to the family since their father died early in Ship of Magic.

Fabulous?  Oh yes.

I am completely swept away by this series.  I LOVE it.  The Liveship Traders series has three books in it:  Ship of Magic, Mad Ship, and Ship of Destiny. I forget how much I am captured by Robin Hobb's writing, how much I am drawn into her world. Is it bad of me to wish very much that I could meet a Rain Wild Traders and know more about their world?  ie actually go there? 

I really really want to sail on a liveship.  What a lovely magical fabulous idea, a ship made of wizardwood, that slowly comes to life from the family members who live and die on her.

As some of you may know, I lived on a sailboat once, long ago as a teenager, and we sailed the Pacific coast of Central America for two years.   The boat I did live on?  It was  a 42 foot sailing yacht named Kalaha.  And I remember all the sailing (nautical) terms on her, except possibly the names of some of the different lines (ropes) used to haul the sails in and out.  I wish I had a scanner, so I could show you her.  She was a lovely boat, and my home for two years.  Long ago, in the 1970's.  I might be land-locked now in Ottawa, but in my dreams, I can still hear the small curl on the waves as they roll endless through the sea, and the wind in the sails........I still dream sometimes of being on the boat.  I have many good memories of living on water clear enough to see the bottom, and the dangers of pirates even then for the unwary boats.  I have seen flying fish, and water that glowed in the night with the passing of sea life.  We had dolphins swimming and jumping by our bow.  So when the Vivacia plows through water, or a sudden storm raises the waves, I remember what it is like to be in it.  And I remember what it is like to be coated in sea salt from the spray on very windy days, after sitting at the wheel for my turn on watch.   Reading this series is like being at sea again, only better, because there is magic and family drama that I'm only reading about, not part of !!  And I'm dry at home, eating cookies and drinking tea.

You don't have to have even seen the sea to enjoy this series.  I'm just sharing how real the life of Althea and Wintrow on the different merchant sailing vessels they are on, is for me. Hobb does such a good job capturing life at sea that you will feel like you've been at sea too, while reading this series.  In a good way, no seasickness like my sister Patricia suffered from, from day one.  Even she could read this series, there is not much about the heaving skyline or big waves (any motion made her sea sick).  Yet some of the story doesn't take place at sea, or on the boat, quite a bit of has to do with Althea's family in Bingtown, and the challenges they face as change comes as the ruler of their land begins to break the old promises to him, and threaten the delicate trading partnership between the Bingtown Traders and the Wild Rains Traders, and the secrets that bind them which include the secret of the liveships.

The trilogy also has:

- the possibility of dragons.

- And a heroine named Althea, who in true sea sailing lore, runs away to sea in disguise as a boy, when her family gives what was to be her liveship to her brother-in-law, in a bad mistake that might cost them everything.

I'm on book 2 now, Mad Ship.  I can't put it down.  I have been carried off by the series.  I hope to be back in time for New Year's Eve or New Year's Day, to finish my list of books of the year (yes ,sis, I haven't forgotten), and to talk about books I got for Christmas, and plans for the new year. 

The Liveship Traders is an excellent series, three books in all, and I hope to finish the series by the end of New Year's Day, since I have to go back to work on January 2.  It's very difficult to do anything else while reading them, as they are well-written, intense stories, with chapters that change view points and overall emerging slowly is a tapestry of a world full of wonderful lively characters, with good dialogue, and it just zips along, one adventure to another.  I have loved her other two series, the Farseer series and the Tawny Man series, and am delighted that I am falling in love with Althea and all the characters in this series too.  I am so happy I have nothing in my plans for the next few days, except to read.  All the parties are done except one.  And a deep freeze is descending on us once again. I can think of no better way to celebrate the end of the year, and this magical time between Christmas and New Year's day, than by reading.  And hide out from the cold, of course. 

Happy reading for the end of the year, everyone!!!  Back soon. I have to find out what Althea does when they learn the Vivacia has been captured by pirates......

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Special for My Sister, Part One

    Hello.  Yes.  You. Over there.  My faithful readers.  Hi. I'm back.

What?  Where have I been?  Oh yes.  It wasn't a planned absence.  It was a cumulation of everything this year, and especially, what my sister and her family have been going through. I suddenly couldn't say anything.  Not until now.

    My sister's son, my nephew Mathew, has Ewing's Sarcoma.  It's a rare form of bone cancer.  It hits young people and children only.  My nephew is 20.  One day last winter he started complaining that he had a pain in his leg.  It took 5 months and many, many trips to the ER and the doctor's before finally, the tumor was found, in June.  Then two months to get the diagnosis of what kind of cancer it was.  It is in his spine. It is aggressive. The treatment finally began in September.  And the very best news was received last week:  the tumor has shrunk by one third.

This is my Christmas present, and my sister's, and brother-in-law's, and niece's. And most especially my nephew's. This is the best news, and the only thing we all really wanted for Christmas. So thank you to the doctors, nurses, specialists, family and friends who are in New Brunswick where my sister lives, everyone helping in big ways and the small.  The cancer treatment lasts a year, so there is a long road ahead.  There is much needed light now on this road.

My sister is detailing Mathew's treatment on her blog over at Her hope is that as they go through the treatment with Mathew, the things he goes through, the mistakes and the successes, can/will help someone else who has this rare type of cancer.  If you know someone who has it, or has had it, please get in touch with her, and let her know what you are going through.  Sharing helps lighten the burden, especially in this long tough fight.

The news is so good, so wonderful, that my sister sent me a text earlier this week and asked me to get back on my blog and start posting about books so she could know what to read next. 

Her wish is my command.  So this is for you, sis.  Love you very much.

Susan's books of the year, Part one. 

I have been a bad blogger.  I have tried to blog about books I read and enjoyed, especially those I loved.  And yet, many of my favourites from this year somehow I missed!!  I think I was saving them for the special I-just-loved-this-book-post, so please consider if I write a review about a book now here in  this post and the next one (planned for tomorrow), as the post I would have done back then.

Books I Loved:

Of Blood and Honey - Stina Leicht.  I didn't post about this one, and this is a book that deserves it's on post. It is a fantasy about fairies, but not those fairies.  Faeries.  The dark and dangerous kind.  In this book, book one, Liam is growing up in 1970's war torn Derry, Northern Ireland.  He is caught in the Troubles, only his danger is coming from a small man in a red cap with pointed teeth.  Every time Liam sees him, trouble comes and he is in danger. Liam grew up a Catholic family, and his mother eventually reveals that his father is one of the Fallen, a man from ancient Irish myth, one of the main central figures of Irish myth. The war Liam is caught up in doesn't just involve the Protestants or the Catholics, but the Irish faeries, too.  Very different, and very good.  I really enjoyed this one, though a warning that it is dark, very dark, but then the Troubles were a terrible time, too. I like the extra dimension of the myths wandering in the pages, and trying to figure out which is which.

A Dying Fall - Elly Griffiths.  The most recent book in the Ruth Galloway series, set in Norfolk, England.  She is an archeologist,  and in this one she is called to Blackpool to help identify some bones that may or may not be old, or even ancient, and of great importance: are they the bones of King Arthur?  As preposterous as that sounds, it has to be investigated, so off she goes.  Blackpool is also the family home of Nelson, the police chief she has a daughter with.  He is married to someone else, and in this book, some of the characters start to put the pieces together.  I really enjoyed the meetings Ruth has with Nelson's mother and sister, and how Cathbad ends up there too.  This is a brilliant mystery series, with the crimes always believable, and for sad reasons, as they are in real life.  Ruth is fun, and engaging, and hilarious as she recounts why she feels like she can't manage being a single mother and working at the same time.  Often thoughts I have, and I am married, but balancing work and children is difficult. Highly recommended as a thoroughly entertaining mystery series.  I love how she writes about the sea, too, and the wind and the sky, in the marsh where Ruth lives.

The Vampire Tapestry - Suzy Charnas McKee - I reviewed the book, here.  It is one of the best vampire novels.  I have had most of the year to let it sink in, and I really like how we get the different perspectives in this book through the three linked stories.  He is evil, ruthless, but it is all to survive.  Can we blame him?  He simply is

The Beautiful Mystery - Louise Penny.  Outstanding.  I have a confession to make.  For a long time in my life, I have been fascinated by monasteries and retreats that ordinary people can make there.  The idea of two or three blissful weeks by myself, alone, in silence, has always called to me.  So, this summer, I took three weeks by myself when my family went to England to visit my husband's family.  I really needed the silence.  And since then, I have made a point to be more still, to find a time in the day when I sit, and be quiet.  It is amazing how powerful this is. And I realized I don't have to go to a monastery to find it.  I can find it in my own home.  So when I saw that the second to latest in the Armand Gamache series was set in a monastery, I was eager to read this mystery.  And it doesn't disappoint.  It was everything I wanted, in a mystery set in a monastery.  The monks in this book are of a group that were being hunted by the pope back in the 17th century for being heretics.  They fled to the wilderness of the province of Quebec, and remained hidden there for centuries.  Until one enterprising monk taped their music, and in the craze for Gregorian chants that really swept the world in the 1980's and 90's, these monks sent their tape out and it became a huge hit.  Suddenly, they were discovered.  And ordinary people came by the hundreds to seek them out. What does sudden fame and wealth do to a monastery that has no wealth and needed to remain hidden?  Why was the music sent out?  There is quite a bit about music in this book. Penny makes it an integral part of the monastery - all the monks who are there, are chosen for their voices.  This book is about harmony, and how each part fits into the whole, in the community and in the music.  It's wonderful writing.  When one monk is discovered dead in his garden, Armand Gamache as the head of the Surete de Quebec is called to investigate, along with his trusted second in command, Guy Beauvoir.  And in the secluded setting of the northern Quebec woods, the monastery on a lake, a beautiful setting, in the deep silence of the woods, secrets are revealed that change not just the future of the monastery, but also the lives of Gamache and Beauvoir, forever.

The Bone People - Keri Hulme.  Reviewed here.  I still feel the same way about this novel.  Amazing, brutal, beautiful, breathtakingly sad and poetic and haunting.

Some Kind of Fairy Tale - Graham Joyce.  What happens when you have a sister who disappeared one day, and 20 years later she comes back?  Where was she?  And then she says that she went away, taken by a fairy.  Would you believe her?  In this story, this is what happened to Tara Martin, and her brother Peter is the one who has had to hold the family together in the 20 years since.  When she walks back into their lives, 20 years has gone by.  Everything has changed.  For her, it has only been a year or so.  Not 20.  There is something unworldly about her, something that being in fairyland has done to her.  It's an odd story, about the effects her disappearance has had on her, and what her coming back does to them.  She is not the same, and nothing can be the same as it was. The frightening thing is that the fairies want the girls to go with them - in this story, as in the fairy story Tam Lin, it is girls the fairies want, to share their country with.  Tara hasn't come alone, the fairies didn't want to let her go.  The most unsettling part?  The fairies want young girls to go with them.  We meet another character who has been taken by the fairies, and the book ends with the threat of the fairies already laying their charms on another character.  Be careful of strangers, be careful in the woods, don't go in the woods alone......and you can't go home again.  Haunting and gentle, sweet, and melancholic.  This is what fairies are, and what they do.  It's not for children though, this is an adult fairy story. Effectively creepy and dangerous, which is what faeries really are, even if enchanting too.

Wide Open - Deborah Coates. Reviewed here.  I really like the tone of this debut mystery, and the main character herself.  I don't particularly like the ending, though the setting - South Dakota - and the characters are interesting, and the plot - that she can see ghosts - has a fresh air about it.  I haven't picked the second one up yet, but will be in the new year. 

The Burning - Jane Casey - also in the same review above.  I really want to read more in this series.  Bad me for not picking more of this series up this year.  Writing this post is making me realize how much I haven't followed up in mystery series yet!!!!

Despite my silence on here, I have been reading as much as I can this year.  The last two weeks I haven't been able to read anything.  Nothing seemed right. I tried three books, mostly science fiction so I could read for Carl's challenge, but nothing held my attention.  The night before last, I might have found the right one:  Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb.  I'll know more later today and tomorrow.  We are expecting freezing rain for much of the day tomorrow, after receiving close to 20cm of snow through the day yesterday.  Once I get my turkey for Christmas dinner, I plan to stay in and read.  The second best Christmas present for me.

Tomorrow:  Part Two of my books of the year.