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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Stack of TBR

Here are some of the library books I picked up the other day. There are several more - a couple by my bed and a couple by my chair. Currently, I have about 5 books that are in progress. The one that is actually getting my attention is Ghostwalk by Rebecca Stott.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Stolen Magic

Putney, M.J. Stolen Magic. A book of romantic fantasy in which Guardians, those with magical powers, attempt to prevent rogue mages from misusing their powers. Simon Malmain is a hunter, a Guardian who hunts rogue mages and strips them of their powers. However, Simon underestimates Lord Drayton, who has been stealing magic from others and keeping them in thrall in order to use their magic to augment his power.

Simon's confrontation goes wrong when Drayton channels the power of one of his thralls and transforms Simon into a unicorn. Drayton intends to kill Simon and use the unique power of the unicorn's horn to defeat the Guardian's and change the world. Simon manages to escape, but is recaptured when he is irresistibly drawn to a virgin. Mad Meggie realizes that she has been used and later frees the unicorn and escapes with him. The battle to prevent Drayton's mad plan makes up the majority of the book.

Although the book reads very quickly, there are some areas that don't quite work. In Simon's original confrontation with Drayton, he says he has gathered sufficient evidence to confict him, but when the Guardian Council meets, the evidence is lacking, and Drayton is exonerated. If the evidence was available initially, why wasn't it produced at the trial? Another area that I found intrusive was the "steamy sex" -- not terribly graphic, but seemingly inserted to appeal to a particular audience. In my opinion, these scenes distracted from the story, coming as interruptions rather than integral parts of the story.

It was a light read in the midst of a couple of nonfiction works. An interesting concept, but not entirely satisfying. I enjoyed it as a quick, magical, frivolous relief from nonfiction, but it won't make my list of really great fantasy.

Fiction. Fantasy. 2005. 337 pages.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

A more positive view of the elderly...

After posting my review of Dr. Rubin's 60 On Up: the Truth About Aging in America, I received a google-alert and went to Seniors World Chronicle, edited by Ravissant, where he had posted my review. Ravissant's blog is a look at all sides of the world of elders: informative, inspiring, innovative; there are daily articles gathered from across the globe that are of interest to the "60 on up" generation.

Since I spend a fair amount of time at The Cottage (where my father stays in an Alzheimer's unit modeled after the Johns Hopkins' Green House Model), I see how much these individuals enjoy and appreciate people who seem interested in them. One of my father's joys right now is the interest that an occupational therapist intern has shown in him. And believe me, this young man has gone way beyond the call of his internship.

This article, which was originally published in the Los Angeles Times and which Ravissant picked up, describes how gerontology students at the University of Southern California live in Kingsley Manor, a home which cares for the elderly.What a great idea! Learn and serve at the same time. The students provide 16 hours a week in volunteer services (teaching tai chi, helping with activities), and in return, get a free room and meals close to campus. Since Kingsley Manor is not, as The Cottages where my father resides, dedicated to dementia patients, the elders at this home benefit even more from the presence of the students...and the students benefit from real relationships with the segment of the population they eventually hope to serve. This is the kind of program that I think Lillian Rubin wants people to consider when thinking about ideas and policies that will improve the situation for the elderly.

Thanks, Ravissant, for providing a source of interesting, informative, and helpful articles!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Friday Miscellaneous

Here are some gorgeous photos. Scott Stulberg's photography is marvelous.

Have two books almost finished, and although I have a nice stack of books left to read, most are nonfiction, and I'm craving some good fiction. So...

today, I'm planning on taking a list to the library and seeing what kind of entertainment is on hand. Amazon is off my radar right now. Borrowing is more appealing than buying according to my checkbook which records some serious dents.

I want fantasy, mystery, science fiction, gothic thrillers. A good dose of non-reality.

The Abandoned Books topic on Booking Through Thursday has been fun to read; I've quite agreed on several of those that have been abandoned. Two that have been abandoned here are Puccini's Ghosts by Morag Joss (too much tension when the characters are so unlikable) and The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolano (this was an NPR rec that was a rare mistake for me).

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

60 on Up: The Truth About Aging in America

Rubin, Lillian B., Ph. D. 60 on Up: The Truth About Aging in America. I've put off reviewing this one partly because I continue to think about it. Lillian Rubin doesn't gloss over anything; she tackles the problems of aging with energy, intellect, and emotion. The book provides an honest, but not always encouraging, examination of what it is like to grow old, to be old.

"Getting old sucks! It always has, it always will," says 83-year-old Dr. Rubin. Those are the first two sentences in the book. Forget about the media's rosy picture of "the new old age, " she says. She's right, of course, in the sense that while we live longer and are healthier longer... the years of really old age are longer as well, and since we live in a culture that celebrates youth and beauty, those years can be lonely and frightening. Old age may come to us later than it did to our parents and grandparents, but with each year on that latter part of our journey, we will face the decline of our physical abilities, perhaps of our mental abilities. Rubin believes the pretense that age does not bring decline is a disingenuous view.

There are consequences to living longer, and these consequences are not always positive. Rubin's examination of old age, her interviews, her evaluation of her own situation are honest and informative, but honest appraisal and information can be troubling. Rubin wants us to think about what we will do with the additional years; about social policies that need to be in place for the large section of our aging population; about our emotional, economic, physical, and spiritual needs.

She is addressing those who are 60 and up, but she is also looking at those who are younger, and who suddenly have the responsibility of caring for illl or elderly parents. We are all attempting to negotiate changes for which history has not yet prepared a template. We live longer and healthier than ever before, but our extended life spans present new difficulties that were not always anticipated.

Dr. Rubin has an engaging, down-to-earth style; she writes with insight and clarity, compassion and humor. She has no answers, but she warns us that we should be asking some questions--of ourselves, our families, our governments.

I think Rubin has addressed the subject thoughtfully. In many ways, however, it is very discouraging, and many will probably say that Rubin is depressed about her own old age. However, denying that illness and dementia and loss of contemporaries are more likely after a certain age is to stick our heads in the sand. Not a comforting read, but a compelling one. Rubin addresses the realities of many, though certainly not all, of the elderly.

Nonfiction. Psychology/sociology. 2007. 172 pages.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Art and Nature

I've been busy experimenting with wet felting (results are on Bayou Quilts) and having a lot of fun as I learn.

Here is an idea I like: Leave Behind Some Art -- in the landscape. Unfortunately, our area is not really suitable for finding so many lovely, large rocks, but it would be such fun, so Goldsworthy. Check out Andy Goldsworthy: A Collaboration with Nature, just one of the books about his art.

In honor of the season, read this Daily Earth Poem. There is a lovely photo with the poem, but I didn't want to use it without permission, so here is a photo I took in the woods down at Raft Bayou last fall. I'm really going to do a review today. I hope. I'm so good at procrastination.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Waiting to Surface

Listfield, Emily. Waiting to Surface. I've put off writing this one because the book just didn't appeal to me. It is based on a period in the author's life in which her husband, an artist, vanished from a Florida beach. No body was ever recovered, and the author found herself in a strange limbo.

In the fictitious version, Sarah Larkin's husband Todd disappears. The local detective believes Todd has left his family and does not want to be found. Sarah hires a private detective, but nothing turns up. Did Todd Larkin drown by accident or by intent? Or has he just abandoned his family and gone on to create a new life?

One of the most annoying things about the book is the emphasis on designer clothing. Sarah works for a woman's magazine, in a highly competitive and bitchy environment. The descriptions of characters are often no more than the clothes they wore.

Paige "had on skintight jeans, emerald green Manolos, and a top that, to the untrained eye, looked suspiciously like lingerie."

Noah "strode in first, wearing jeans, a white Izod shirt, and battered Pumas, his hair ruffled and hinting at highlights just growing out, though of course they could have been put in last night with that very intention."

I wanted to find out about Todd, but never intensely. Nothing really pulled me into this novel - not the characters, not even what could have been a great plot. Feeling a little guilty because this was an ARC book sent by the publisher, I checked the Amazon reviews and all were quite positive. Oh, well...

Fiction (based on fact). Chic lit? 2007. 307 pages.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Too much going on to settle in on reading...

Amelia's shower was a lot of fun. The pictures are here on my other blog. The weekend was packed with activity, and until today, this entire week has been hectic. Today, I'm playing with my new toy, a needle felting machine called an embellisher.

I've received a couple more ARCs, but I have several books going at the moment, so they will have to wait. One is On Borrowed Wings by Chandra Prasad (love the cover) and the other is February Flowers by Fan Wu (another nice cover).


Also have a couple of reviews to write, but I'm still not spending much time reading. I know this trend away from reading will probably end soon, but right now, there are so many other things to do!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Projects and Overlays

Still reading several books at once. Keep starting new ones, but nothing has seriously grabbed my attention, and I've been so busy lately that there has not been a great deal of time for reading anyway.

I've been making pencil rolls when I have spare time -- instead of reading. The mouse fabric one is for Mila and is made from scraps left over from an apron I made her a couple of years ago.

From the little scraps left cut from the ends of the above project came a little landscape. Most of the little strips are 1/4 to 1 one inch wide, trimmed from squaring the fabric. I cut a wavy edge all around and then satin stitched instead of binding it. The scraps are covered with tulle to keep them in place.


Here is an interesting note relating to reading:

Colored overlay transparencies can improve your child's reading. My sister-in-law told me about this and let me try some of the overlays to see which ones improved my reading ease. I was surprised at the way almost all of the overlays made the words jump off the page, but the light blue and a bright yellow worked best. The overlays are a real aid for children with reading difficulties, but can make reading easier for anyone. I'm going to order some, as my eyes sometimes get tired, and the overlays could relieve some of the eye strain.

I've got a lot to do before getting ready for Amelia's baby shower, so I'd better get to it. Erin and her family are in town, and Mila will attend the shower with us. This should be fun.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Olivia



I love Olivia, star of the children's book of the same name by Ian Falconer. O.K. she has a lot in common with Eloise, my favorite character in the world of children's books, but she is written for younger children and is a delightful pig to know.





This is some of the cute fabric now available from equilter.com These are only the beginning, and I want them all and don't know what I'd do with half of them.

The Tortoise

I updated my completed reading list the other day, but didn't change the post date so it was still showing up in the August update slot. So, through September -- I've finished 84 books and and approximately 29,388 pages (who knows what mistakes I made punching in the numbers).

There is no way I'll read as many books as I did last year; at 146, it was an unusual year. My normal is around 120 books a year, not sure that will happen either.

The difference? Two things:

1) I'm reading much more nonfiction, which I read more slowly and which are often 400-500 pages, and

2) Until late last year, I rarely turned on the television, but this year I get my hand quilting or embroidery pieces and make a point of watching certain tv shows and my Netflix movies.

Right now I have 4 books started, but 2 are set aside for only occasional sessions (The Habit of Being- Flannery O'Connor's letters and The Art of Eating- M.F.K. Fisher's essays). I take Flannery outside and read a letter or two when I'm taking porch breaks. I read an essay of Fisher's sometimes before going to sleep; as it resides on my nightstand, I can reach over, grab it, read an essay, and put it down again.

Slow and steady.

2007 Reading update (updated 1/1/08)


December
10 books (106 total for the year)

The Yiddish Policeman's Union.
Michael Chabon. Mystery? Alternate history? 2007. 411 pages. My review.

The Whale Road. Robert Low. Historical novel. 2007. 338 pages. My review.

The Wheel of Darkness. Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. Mystery/supernatural. 2007. 385. My review.

Tips for Quilters. Rachel T. Pellman, ed. Nonfiction. 1993. 234 pages. My Review.

Your Handwriting Can Change Your Life. Vimala Rodgers. Nonfiction. 2000. 167 pages. My review.

Vivaldi's Virgins. Barbara Quick. Historical fiction. 2007. 278 pages. My review.

Shadows & Lies. Marjorie Eccles. Mystery. 2005. 333 pages. My review.

The Indian Bride.
Karin Fossum. Mystery. 2005. 297 pages. My review.

The Chinese Alchemist. Lyn Hamilton. Mystery. 2007. 257 pages. My review.

Kept: A Victorian Mystery. D.J. Taylor. Historical mystery. 2007. 351 pages. My review.



November 7 books (96 total)

Friend of the Devil.
Peter Robinson. Mystery/suspense. ARC 2008. 372 pages. My review.

A Boy Named Shel: The Life and Times of Shel Silverstein.
Lisa Rogak. Biography. 2007. 223 pages. My review.

The Warrior.
Kinley MacGregor. Historical Romance. 344 pages. My review.

Ghostwalk. Rebecca Stott. Mystery/supernatural . 2007. 284 pages. My review.

The Cliff House Strangler. Shirley Tallman. Mystery. 2007. 320 pages. My review.

On Borrowed Wings.
Chandra Prasad. Fiction. 2007. 310 pages. My review.

Without a Map: A Memoir.
Meredith Hall. Memoir. 2007. 220 pages. My review.


October 5 books (89 total)

Stolen Magic.
M. J. Putney. Fantasy. 2005. 337 pages. My review.

60 on Up: The Truth About Aging in America.
Lillian B. Rubin, Ph.D. Sociology. 2007. 172 pages. My review.

Waiting to Surface.
Emily Listfield. Fiction. 2007. 307 pages. My review.

The Lace Reader.
Brunonia Barry. Psychological/supernatural. 2006. 353 pages. My review.

Renfield: Slave of Dracula.
Barbara Hambly. Gothic. 2006. 306 pages. My review.


September (12) 84 total

The Zookeeper's Wife.
Diane Ackerman. Biography. 2007. 323 pages. My review.

Homebody.
Orson Scott Card. Supernatural. 1998. 432 pages. My review.

Rebel Angels.
Libba Bray. YA. 2005. 548 pages. My review.

The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch.
Joseph Delaney. YA. 2005. 343 pages. My review.

The Sisters Grimm: The Fairy Tale Detectives.
Michael Buckley. YA. 2007. 284 pages. My review.

The Moonstone. Wilkie Collins. Mystery. 493 pages. My review.

Long Ago in France. M.F.K. Fisher. Nonfiction. Memoir. 1997. 159 pages. My review.

Season of the Witch.
Natalie Mostert. Gothic mystery. 2007. 395 pages. My review.

Dissolution. C.J. Sansom. Historical mystery. 2003. 390 pages. My review.

A Great and Terrible Beauty. Libba Bray. YA. 2003. 403 pages. My review.

Bridge of Sighs.
Richard Russo. Fiction. 2007. 527 pages. My review.


August
(6) -- 72 total--
(**decided not to bother reviewing 2 of the books)

The Millionth Circle.
Jean Shinoda Bolen, M.D. 1999. 87 pages. **

The Spanish Bow.
Andromeda Romano-Lax. Fiction. Historical. 2007. 554 pages. My review.

Mademoiselle Victorine. Debra Finerman. Fiction. Historical. 2007. 289 pages. **

An Ocean of Air.
Gabrielle Walker. Nonfiction. Science. 2007. 238 pages. My review.

Among Other Things, I've Taken Up Smoking.
Aoibheann Sweeney. Fiction. Coming-of-age story. 2007. 257 pages. My review.

Elizabeth of the German Garden.
Leslie De Charms. Nonfiction. Biography. 1958. 424 pages. My review.

The Blue Castle. L.M. Montgomery. Romance. 1993/1926. 218 pages. My review.


July ( 13) 66 total


the guy not taken: stories.
Jennifer Weiner. 2006. 279 pages. My review.

The Janissary Tree.
Jason Goodwin. Mystery/historical. 2006. 299 pages. My review.

Elizabeth and Her German Garden
. Elizabeth von Arnim. Semi-autographical memoir. 1898/2007. 175 pages. My review.

Stealing the Dragon. Tim Maleeny. Mystery. 2007. 365 pages. My review.

The Black Sun
. James Twining. Mystery/thriller. 2006. 416 pages. My review.

Echoes of Honor. David Weber. Science fiction/ space opera. 1998. 569 pages. My review.

In Enemy Hands. David Weber. Science fiction/ space opera. 1997. 530 pages. My review.

The Sonnet Lover. Carol Goodman. Mystery. 2007. 350 pages. My review.

Messenger of Truth. Jacqueline Winspear. Mystery. 2006. 310 pages. My review.

The Chess Machine. Robert Lohr. Historical. 2007. 344 pages. My review.

Half Broken Things. Morag Joss. Suspense. 2004. 303 pages. My review.

Sandstorm. James Rollins. Adventure. 2004. 569. My review.

Shadow Cities. Robert Neuwirth. Nonfiction. Journalism/social criticism. 2005. 315 pages. My review.


June (7) 53

Sword & Blossom. Peter Pagnamento and Momoto Williams. Nonfiction. Biography/history/ memoir. 2007. 310 pages. My review.

Abandon. Pico Iyer. Mystery. 2003. 354 pages. My review.

The Book of Fate. Brad Meltzer. Political thriller. 2007. 616 pages. My Review.

Killer Weekend. Ridley Pearson. Mystery. 2007. 323 pages. My review.

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall. Kate Bernheimer, ed. Nonfiction. Essays. 1998. 358 pages. My review.

Police at the Funeral. Margery Allingham. Mystery. 1931. 252 pages. My review.

The Gyrth Chalice. Margery Allingham. Mystery. 1931. 191 pages. My review.

May (5) 46

Mystery Mile. Margery Allingham. Mystery. 1930. 254 pages. My review.

Water for Elephants. Sara Gruen. Historical/mystery. 2006. 331 pages. My review.

Jubilee Trail. Gwen Bristow. Historical romance/adventure. 1950. 564 pages. My review.

Inkheart. Cornelia Funke. YA Fantasy. 2003. 534 pages. My review.

All Creatures Great and Small. James Herriot. Memoir. 1972. 437 pages. My review.

April (15) 41

Mistakes Were Made (but not by me.) Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson. Nonfiction. 2007. 236 pages. My review.

The Honor of the Queen. David Weber. Science Fiction. 1993. 422 pages. My review.

On Basilisk Station. David Weber. Science Fiction. 1993. 419 pages. My review.


The Road.
Cormac McCarthy. Futuristic. 2006. 241 pages. My review.

Off Armageddon Reef. David Weber. Science ficition. 2006. 592 pages. My review.

The Lizard's Bite.
David Hewson. Mystery. 2006. 417 pages. My review.

The Orchid Shroud.
Michelle Wan. Mystery. 2006. 336 pages. My review.

The Silent Tower. Barbara Hambly. Fantasy. 1986. 369 pages. My review.

Coraline. Neil Gaiman. Fantasy. 2003. 162 pages.

The Amulet of Samarkand.
Jonathan Stroud. YA Fantasy. 2003. 462 pages. My review.

Summers at Castle Auburn.
Sharon Shinn. Fantasy. 2001. 342 pages. My review.

Mistress of the Art of Death.
Ariana Franklin. Mystery/Historical. 2007. 381 pages. My review.

Evil Genius.
Catherine Jinks. YA Fantasy. 2007. 486 pages. My review.

Spirit Gate.
Kate Elliott. Fantasy. 2006. 445 pages. My review.

The Book Without Words.
Avi. Fable/fantasy. 2005. 200 pages. My review.



March (9) 26

The Rossetti Letter.
Christy Phillips. Mystery/historical. 2006. 383 pages. My review.

Blind Submission.
Debra Ginsberg. Mystery. 2006. 328 pages. My review.

Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee.
Charles J. Shields. 2006. 285 pages. My review.

Finn.
Jon Clinch. Fiction. 2007. 283 pages. My review.

Break No Bones.
Kathy Reichs. Fiction. Mystery. 2006. 237 pages. My review.

Silent in the Grave.
Deanna Raybourn. Fiction. Mystery. 2007. 509 pages. My review.

The Shape-Changer's Wife.
Sharon Shinn. Fiction. Fantasy. 1995. 215 pages. My review.

Palace Walk. Naguib Mahfouz. Fiction. Foreign Culture. 1956. 498 pages. My Review.

Break, Blow, Burn.
Camille Paglia. Poetry/Criticism. 2005. 242 pages. My Review.


February (11) 17

(in progress: Palace Walk; Break, Blow, Burn; The Shape-Changer's Wife)


Quilted Memories.
Lesley Riley. Nonfiction. Quiliting. 125 pages. 2005. My review. (very brief)

40 Fabulous Quick-Cut Quilts.
Evelyn Sloppy. Nonfiction. Quilting. 2005. 159 pages. 2005. My review.

The Physics of the Buffyverse.
Jennifer Ouellette. Nonfiction. 283 pages. 2006. My review.

Weight.
Jeannette Winterson. Myth. 151 pages. 2005. My review.

Candide.
Voltaire. Satire. 113 pages. 2003. My review.

A Corpse in the Koryo.
James Church. Mystery. 280. 2006. My review.

Traveler.
Ron McLarty. Fiction. 280 pages. 2007. My review.

The Orphan's Tales: In the Night Garden.
Catherynne Valente. 483 pages. 2006. My Review.

Written in Bones: How Human Remains Unlock the Secrets of the Dead.
Paul Bahn, ed. 185 pages. Nonfiction/Archaeology. 2002. My Review.

The Winter Child. Margaret Maron. 324 pages. Mystery. 2006. My review.

The Poe Shadow. Matthew Pearl. 367 pages. Historical mystery. c. 2006. My review.



JANUARY (6)


The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop.
Lewis Buzbee. 216 pages. Memoir, history. My review.

Anne Boleyn: A New Life of England's Tragic Qyeen. Joanna Denny. 327 pages. Biography. My review.

Phantom. Terry Goodkind. 587 pages. Fantasy. My review.

Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found. Suketu Mehta. 542 pages. Journalism, travel, memoir. My review.

The Rest Falls Away. Colleen Gleason. 347 pages. Fiction. My review.

Voltaire Almighty. Roger Pearson. 420+ pages. Biography. My review.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

The Lace Reader


Barry, Brunonia. The Lace Reader. I'm so glad to have been sent this ARC/uncorrected manuscript. Barry's first paragraph establishes the tone and introduces her prose style:

"When the call comes in, I am dreaming of water. Not the warm blues and greens of these California beach towns, but the dark New England Atlantic of my youth. In my dream, I am swimming to the moon. Like all dreams, it seems logical. The idea that there is no pathway between sea and moon never occurs."

The call is from Towner Whitney's brother who tells her that Eva, her great-aunt, is missing. Towner must go home to Salem, Massachusetts, which she fled 17 years earlier and to which she has never returned.

Chapter 3 (the chapters are short and each is prefaced with a quote from The Lace Reader's Guide) begins:

"My name is Towner Whitney. No, that's not exactly true. My real first name is Sophya. Never believe me. I lie all the time.

I am a crazy woman, ...That last part is true."

I love the characters in this novel, most of whom create themselves with their actions and dialogue in the most believable way. How easy to fall headlong into this family of eccentrics that can read lace and minds; how easy to believe the impossible in the atmosphere of Salem and the surrounding islands. Mind you, the atmosphere of Salem is that of the modern Salem, a town that thrives on the tourist industry based on its historic past. Where there were no witches during the famous trials, but where witches are alive and well, enterprising and entrepreneurial in the present.

Witches, mind readers, clairvoyants become as acceptable and believable as your next door neighbors, but there is also the all-to-ordinary difficulties of grief and memory, of meanness and abuse. What to believe? Who to believe? What happened to Eva and to Lyndley?

Barry's prose is simple, well-paced, and visual. From the opening paragraph through the conclusion, I found myself captivated and...well, at home, in this strange and bewitching novel.
Hoping for much more from Brunonia Barry!


Fiction. Supernatural/psychological mystery. 2006. 353 pages.


Friday, October 05, 2007

Renfield Addendum

Something I intended to mention in connection with the novel was the fact that Hambly introduces Wotan (Odin) in the manifestation of Renfield's madness, especially in connection to Wagner's operatic version.

Odin, Odhinn, Woden, Wotan - Ruler of the Æsir, God of the runes, inspiration, shamanism, magic and war. God of the hanged and the Wild Hunt; God of storm, rain and harvest. A shape-shifter, he makes men mad or possessed with a blind raging fury. He produces the battle panic called "battle-fetter". Three different frenzies or madness are his gifts to humankind: the warrior in battle, the seer in trance, and the poet in creativity. Subtle, wily, mysterious and dangerous, he often ignores pacts made in honor with humans. Attended by his two ravens, two wolves and the Valkyries. Feared by ordinary people and worshiped only by princes, poets, the berzerkers, and sorcerers. Unpredictable when invoked... (from Norse Gods, Goddesses, Giants, Dwarves and Wights)

There are certain similarities that make Hambly's choice of Wotan in connection with Renfield's first obsession a good one as Renfield functions as a harbinger of Dracula, and the Wotan myth presages the Dracula myth. Another interesting aspect is the subtle connection Hambly makes with Germany's preoccupation with Wagner, especially The Ring cycle, (and Wagner's Wotan is the Wotan to whom Renfield refers) to the minor character Gelhorn who has an obsession with the superiority of the German race and a makes an almost throw-away prediction to future historical events.

Renfield: Slave of Dracula (R.I.P Challenge # 9)


Hambly, Barbara. Renfield: Slave of Dracula. I first read about this one on Chris's blog, and I'm so glad that I followed through with Chris's recommendation. Like The Historian, this novel is an extension of the Dracula story, managing both to keep to Stoker's version and to present another perspective-- from Renfield's point of view. There are some changes, but the changes are in keeping with another perspective, in much the same way that eye-witness accounts will differ according to each witness' individual experience and background.

Hambly skillfully recreates Stoker's original style and develops the story through the journals and letters of the participants with additional details supplied by Renfield's own journal. She interweaves the stories, but focuses on Renfield and his connection to Dracula so that the original story of Lucy and Mina and their defenders becomes somewhat peripheral to Renfield's struggle with his "Master."

One of the most interesting additions Hambly makes is the development of the three vampire wives. In the original, the women have a brief, but important role, yet the women never evolve into real characters. Hambly lets them emerge, stepping from the background, into influential roles. I like that Hambly chooses to elaborate on their roles, especially the role of Nomie, and make them a larger part of the story.

Parts of the first half become a bit repetitive, but didn't bother me much. Renfield:Slave of Dracula is, as Chris mentioned, an excellent companion to Dracula, a fascinating perspective on the original story.

Parts of the book are chilling, but on page 205, Renfield's notes of 8 October made me laugh out loud.

(The following list, which I think I will refer to for next year's R.I.P. challenge--if not sooner, via Patricia's Vampire Notes)

Following is a brief list of modern day novels using characters from Stoker's Dracula as protagonists.

Anno Dracula by Kim Newman.

Blood to Blood: The Dracula Story Continues by Elaine Bergstrom


Bloodline
by Kate Cary.

The Bloody Red Baron by Kim Newman

The Book of Renfield : A Gospel of Dracula by Tim Lucas

The Diaries of the Family Dracul. by Jeanne Kalogridis - a series of three novels which should be read in order.
Covenant With the Vampire
Children of the Vampire
Lord of the Vampires


The Dracula Tape by Fred Saberhagen.
This novel is followed by several others that are based on the closeness of Dracula (in this series he's a good guy) to Mina Harker and her descendants.

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

Judgement of Tears: Anno Dracula 1959 by Kim Newman

Mina by Elaine Bergstrom.

Renfield Slave of Dracula by Barbara Hambly

And a podcast about vampires before Dracula can be found here.

Fiction. Gothic. 2006. 306 pages.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Finished, In Progress, and TBR

I've been busy lately and am trying now to catch up with my blog reading (and posting, I guess).

Finished Renfield (thanks, Chris, for this recommendation!) Will review soon, but if you are a fan of Bram Stoker's Dracula, this one should be on your list. An excellent R.I.P. Challenge book.

I've been reading more of Flannery O'Connor's letters (The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O'Connor) and am determined to finish this one before the end of the year. The letters retain their zest and with each return to them, after either brief or lengthy absences, O'Connor charms me anew. I've posted at least 10 times about these letters, and my book is full (FULL) of sticky notes and highlighting. I know that some of you cringe at highlighting and annotation, but this book will never leave my possession, and I need to be able to refer to some of the funny, humane, fascinating stuff that catches my attention. She flat-out amazes me and my admiration only grows each time I return to the book.

M.F.K. Fisher's The Art of Eating has been sidelined for a while. I'd rather eat than read about eating at the moment. As mentioned previously, this one is a long term project, nothing like the novels I (excuse the metaphor) gobble up.

Started The Lace Reader last night, and I'm enthralled. An ARC from Gary at Flap Jacket Press, I picked it up at random after finishing Renfield, because I didn't have the energy to think about choosing the next book to read, then found I couldn't put it down.

I received a copy of The Thirteenth Tale from Simon & Schuster, and since I'd read Diane Setterfield's wonderful novel last year and loved it, I passed it on to my sister-in-law. Hopefully, it will make its way through the teachers' lounge and gain wider prominence. As those of you who have read and enjoyed it know, the book is a delicious play on all of our favorite Gothic novels, from The Woman in White to Rebecca (and many others). I gave a short review here. My thanks to the folks at Simon & Schuster for sending me a copy so I could share the pleasure.

New books received from Anna at FSB: Definitive Guide to Cancer: An Integrative Approach to Prevention, Treatment, and Healing (hopefully, only to be used because of an interest in the use of alternative and integrative medicine) and The Dead Guy Interviews: Conversations with 45 of the Most Accomplished, Notorious, and Deceased Personalities in History. The first one I expect to find both interesting and enlightening. The second, I think, may need to be taken in very small doses.

From Monica at Beacon Press: 60 On Up: The Truth About Aging in America. Well, of course, this one speaks to me! On the other hand, it may also have much to offer even to those who are nowhere close, but whose parents and grandparents fall into this category. As I have a little over a year left to go before reaching that marker, I am looking not only at my own entry into this group, but at my father, aunts, uncles, friends, and teachers who have reached the "on up" portion. Sobering.

This is hilarious. Found it at Basset Knitter.