27 April 2009

The Definition of Sacrifice

According to the Oxford English Dictionary:

Sacrifice • noun 1 the practice or an act of killing an animal or person or surrendering a possession as an offering to a deity. 2 an animal, person, or object offered in this way. 3 an act of giving up something one values for the sake of something that is of greater importance.

Or....being 95% of the way through a JD Robb book and lending said book to your daughter when she asks if you have anything interesting to read that she could borrow. (No, not me, but a colleague. She had one chapter, yes, one chapter to go....)

Personally, I think I would calmly explain that I had almost finished a fantastic book and that they could borrow it as soon as I was finished (and that I would try to finish it quickly for them). So, would you lend a book to a loved one even if you hadn't quite finished it?

25 April 2009

Lest We Forget

Today, 25 April, is ANZAC Day in Australia and New Zealand. ANZAC stands for the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps and on 25 April we remember those who fought at Gallipoli, Turkey, during World War I and all those who have fought and died since. It is our equivalent to the UK's Armistice Day, which we also commemorate, and the US's Memorial Day.

Eight years ago exactly I was standing at ANZAC Cove, Gallipoli, for the dawn service. My great, great-uncle (my great-grandfather's brother) fought at Gallipoli, and I was fortunate enough to meet him before he died. Standing where he had stood looking up at the cliffs lining the shore was overwhelming. The one thing that I remember most clearly from my time at Gallipoli was the cemeteries, surrounded by trees, grass and flowers, loving tended by the Turkish people and all facing out to sea...facing home.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

23 April 2009

Blood

As in that which runs through our arteries and veins not 'The Blood' from Anne Bishop's Black Jewel series of books, although mentioning the latter provides me with a great excuse to mention my favourite cover from the Black Jewel series - Tangled Webs!

Late last year I donated blood for the first time. Needles and I have a history that goes...way back...and that, along with certain medications had prevented me from donating. However, I decided to...face my fear... The donation itself was an unmitigated disaster. I blacked out not even halfway through the donation and they had to stop collecting. Earlier this year (on my birthday to be precise, because who doesn't want to spend their birthday visiting the 'blood suckers'...although I'm sure if the 'blood suckers' in question were the BDB there would be a stampede!) I decided to try again, although I asked them to lay me as flat as possible (if I lie down while having a blood test I am usually fine). I should point out (how defensive am I?) that it isn't the site of blood that upsets me. I'm fine with blood. It's the needle (or a subconscious reaction to it). Who knows? *shrug* And that collection went well.

So, Tuesday was my third attempt...mainly to work out which of the last two visits were flukes. And the result? I PASSED! Ahhhh, it's not a test orannia! The New Zealand Blood Service now has 470 mL of my very boring O+ blood..I was hoping for an unusual blood type like my mother...but even my blood is boring *grin*

So, have you ever donated blood and, if so, how did you find it? And did you get chocolate biscuits afterwards?

21 April 2009

Robin Hood

As you are no doubt aware, Russell Crowe is starring in Ridley Scott's (US$130 million) Robin Hood.

And his Maid Marion? None other than Cate Blanchet!

19 April 2009

Giveaway Winner

And the winner is...

*drum roll please*

RENEE! Congratulations Renee!

Random Integer Generator
Here are your random numbers: 10
Timestamp: 2009-04-19 02:28:33 UTC


Please email me at orannia at gmail dot com with which book you would prefer - Mélusine (Sarah Monette) or To Ride Hell's Chasm (Janny Wurts) - and your address and I'll send you the book of your choice directly!

Thank you to everyone who entered!

18 April 2009

Moments

There are moments in life that we want to forget...moments we would like to erase and re-live. There are the moments that we treasure...that we want to hold on too with every breath in our body even as they slip away. And there are the moments when we realise that while humanity has the capacity to maim and destroy, it also has the capacity to create...and to reach out and touch the life of another...

I checked my post box this morning, and what did I find but Larissa Ione's three Demonica novels! *happy dance*

To the wonderful person who sent them to me - THANK YOU! Your generous gesture has touched my heart.

So, has anyone crossed your path this week and brought you joy?
 
Updated to add: Please don't forget my Mélusine/To Ride Hell's Chasm Giveaway! To enter, please leave a comment by Saturday 18 April 2009 11.59 PM NZ Time (7.55 AM EST; 11.55 PM GMT). Also, the lovely Aymless is giving away a copy of Magic Bites (Ilona Andrews).

14 April 2009

Giveaway

I've been rather lucky over the past few months with regard to contests and the like. Most recently, I won a copy of Ann Aguirre's Blue Diablo at CJ's The Thrillionth Page! (Thank you Ann, CJ & azteclady!) and a copy of Jo Davis' Under Fire at Michelle Buonfiglio's Romance: B(u)y The Book! (Thank you Jo & Michelle!)

So, I've decided to take a leaf out of Renee from Renee's Book Addction book and and give away a book. And not just any book *grin* Since I've been raving like mad over Sarah Monette's books and I think (I hope) my reviews of Mélusine and The Virtu have tempted you, I thought I would give a copy of Mélusine away. There is method to my madness. I figure that if you have the choice between buying a book you WANT to read and buying a book that has peaked your interest, you pick the former. So, I'm giving away the later.
Mélusine - a city of secrets and lies, pleasure and pain, magic and corruption - and destinies lost and found. Felix Harrowgate is a dashing, highly respected wizard. But his aristocratic peers don't know his dark past - how his abusive former master enslaved him, body and soul, and trained him to pass as a nobleman. Within the walls of the Mirador - Mélusine's citadel of power and wizardry - Felix believed he was safe. He was wrong. Now, the horrors of his previous life have found him and threaten to destroy all he has since become. Mildmay the Fox is used to being hunted. Raised as a kept-thief and trained as an assassin, he escaped his Keeper long ago and lives on his own as a cat burglar. But now he has been caught by a mysterious foreign wizard using a powerful calling charm. And yet the wizard was looking not for Mildmay - but for Felix Harrowgate. Thrown together by fate, the broken wizard Felix and the wanted killer Mildmay journey far from Mélusine through lands thick with strange magics and terrible demons of darkness. But it is the shocking secret from their pasts, linking them inexorably together, that will either save them, or destroy them.
However, I know some of you have read Mélusine and may eve own a copy. And I don't want to exclude anyone from my first ever giveaway, so I thought I would offer an alternative - To Ride
Hell's Chasm (Janny Wurts), which has to be one of my favourite fantasy books EVER!
An epic fantasy standalone novel from the Author of the stunning Wars of Light and Shadow series. When Princess Anja fails to appear at her betrothal banquet, the tiny, peaceful kingdom of Sessalie is plunged into intrigue. Two warriors are charged with recovering the distraught king's beloved daughter. Taskin, Commander of the Royal Guard, whose icy competence and impressive life-term as the Crown's right-hand man command the kingdom's deep-seated respect; and Mykkael, the rough-hewn newcomer who has won the post of Captain of the Garrison - a scarred veteran with a deadly record of field warfare, whose 'interesting' background and foreign breeding are held in contempt by court society. As the princess's trail vanishes outside the citadel's gates, anxiety and tension escalate. Mykkael's investigations lead him to a radical explanation for the mystery, but he finds himself under suspicion from the court factions. Will Commander Taskin's famous fair-mindedness be enough to unravel the truth behind the garrison captain's dramatic theory: that the resourceful, high-spirited princess was not taken by force, but fled the palace to escape a demonic evil?
To enter, please leave a comment by Saturday 18 April 2009 11.59 PM NZ Time (7.55 AM EST; 11.55 PM GMT). And yes, I will post anywhere. GOOD LUCK!

10 April 2009

The Virtu (Sarah Monette)

After reading (and loving) Mélusine, the first book in Sarah Monette's Doctrine of Labyrinths series, I could not help but pick up the sequel - The Virtu.
Felix Harrowgate was a dashing and powerful wizard until his former master wrenched Felix's magic from him and used it to shatter the Virtu -the orb that is the keystone for the protections and magic of the wizards of the city. Felix has painfully clawed his way back to sanity, and his only chance to reclaim the life he once knew is to repair the seemingly irreparable - to restore the Virtu. Mildmay the Fox was an assassin and a cat-burglar - until a curse caught up with him and his life changed forever. Haunted by death, his leg damaged by the curse that should have killed him, he does not know what awaits him in Mélusin, but for good or ill, his fate is tied to Felix's, by blood...and by magic. On their journey, Felix and Mildmay will encounter friends and enemies old and new, vengeful spirits and ancient godesses. They will uncover secrets better left buried. But nothing can prepare them for what awaits their return: Felix's former master, the cruel and decadent wizard Malker Gennadion...

I finished reading the book this morning and have attempted to cobble together a few of my wayward thoughts. Where to start? Firstly, did the book work for me? As with Mélusine, the answer is (again) a resounding YES! (Parts of me wish I had discovered this series earlier, but parts of me are rapt that I am discovering it for the first time.)

At its heart The Virtu, like Mélusine, is the story of Felix and his brother Mildmay... But more than that, it is the story of their developing relationship...and Felix's growth. Yes there is a plot, and yes it weaves lightly through the book, but if you're looking for a book seeped in plot..this isn't it. The plot, which ebbs and flows, is...almost an afterthought in places (although perhaps 'afterthought' it too harsh a word). For me, the ebbs and flows, allow the reader to assimilate the rich emotions that come pouring off the page and appreciate the author's deft hand with language and the worldbuilding. So, if you want a book that is character-driven, wrapped up in a very finely spun-out plot that takes second fiddle (but not in a bad way IMO) to the characters, then this is the book for you *grin*
 
Plot threads that were left hanging in Mélusine are tied up in The Virtu; the fate of characters that were left behind when Felix and Mildmay began their trek across the Empire of Kekropia is discovered and we are introduced to to the mysterious and multi-talented Miss Mehitabel Parr....who is far more than she seems IMO *grin*

Like Mélusine, The Virtu is written in the first person, with the reader again moving between the POV of the two main (male) protagonists - Mildmay and Felix. Their voices remains strong and distinctive and the characters stay true to the versions we met in Mélusine. Mildmay is still who and what he is. Felix is complex, and contradictory...and flawed.
I know it was my idea and everything, but the longer I thought about it, the more I couldn't believe we'd made it across the Grasslands once, and crossing it again felt like walking back into a lion's den, only this time with a slide trombone.

The author makes full use of her PhD in English Literature - there were a number of words I very rarely see...and I like that. I am explanding my knowlesge of the English language as well reading an amazing story. I found the language in this book to be....like a symphony I guess. It just...fit.

The crux of this book is the developing relationship between Felix and Mildmay. Two diametrically opposite, isolated individuals, both starved but yet craving affection, circling around each other in ever decreasing circles...wanting to connect but at the same time fighting the vunerability that comes with it. For them, love is...anathema.
It occurred to me that it said something very unpleasant about both of us that we saw concern and kindness as attacks.

Their relationship slowly develops throughout the book, as both Felix and Mildmay learn about each other. And the steps they take in this dance are a joy to behold....discovering what lies beneath the facade that each portrays...and yet a source of heartbreak. Why? Because Felix believes (and acts as though) he cannot change, cannot be other that what he was created to be.
'I've always been like this. It's not you...That's the important thing. It's not your fault. It's me. And I'd promise to change, except that it would be a lie.'
He is a product of Malkar Gennadion....he is what Malkar made him. However, within him lies the capacity to grow...if you'll excuse the phrase...beyond his programming.
Realised...that my treatment of Mildmay since we had come on board the White Otter would not have given any observer the impression that I regarded him as other that a hired thug. Malkar had placed strigent restrictions on my behavior, lest I disgrace him, but it was a new and appalling idea that my attitude toward another person could cause other people to disdain him.
...and I caught myself again and again watching Mildmay, trying to make sense of who he was, trying to sort my idea of him out into order and coherence. Trying to find an understanding that would help me not hurt him again.
Mildmay is under no illusions as to Felix's true nature:
'You like jealously. You like knowing people want you...It's like you got to have everybody's heart and if they don't give it, you rip it out and watch it bleed.
And yet he still makes himself vunerable:
He was all I had any more, the only person in the world who cared about me even a little - the only person left that I...loved.
And then halfway through the book the power balance changes. By choice, yes, but all choices have consequences. And Felix isn't above using (and abusing) what is his when required. Only after, does he realize that such actions may irreconciably break what has been forged between him and his brother...
So, yes, Felix is still a love/hate character...and yes I still love him. He travels a long way in this book, but he still has such a long way to go.
 
The Vitu contains little of Mélusine's back story, with the author (rightly or wrongly) assuming high memory retention. So, yes, I did get a little confused with regard to who certain characters were...but there were enough subtle hints to eventually pick it up. I actually appreciated the compliment; numerous books provide back story, and having to wade through facts that I already know is kind of frustrating. However, the world-building is so complex in this series that if you a) get frustrated when You don't know who somebody is, or b) have a bad memory for characters and plot points, be warned. For some reason, rather than getting fixated on knowing everything (which is very me), I surrended to the story and assumed that eventually I would work out who a certain character was...and I did....eventually *grin*
The characters all seem to have incredibly complex names...and being me I had to sound them out so that I didn't get thrown out of the story when their were menyoned. I probably haven't been prouncing them correctly - I remember being corrected by a school friend over how I prounced characters' the LOTR names... In the end, you prounouce the name how you want (although please don't dob me in to any LOTR fanatics for saying that!).
 
There is one paragraph, one Page 87 of my copy of The Virtu, that completely blew me away. I can't include it in its entirety, but...let's just say that Felix comes to a realisation about Mildmay that was rather...shocking. I am very interested to see where the author goes with this...
I will admit to still being lost with regard to the various states and the calenderical system, but as with remembering the characters, I just placed myself in the author's hands and let myself be swept away by the rich emotion pouring from the pages.
 
So, will I read the third book (The Mirador)? Definitely! This is one series that I will definitely read again and again. So much so that I am going to buy the books...well, I'm going to buy the first and third books. For some reason, the second book isn't available in paperback. I must investigate! And aren't the cover just gorgeous (AND relevant)?
Updated to add: Apologies for the lack of paragraph spacing. I'm having....issues!

07 April 2009

Tempt Me At Twilight (Lisa Kleypas)

After seeing the gorgeous cover for Tempt Me At Twilight (Lisa Kleypas), the third book in The Hathaways series, at The Book Smugglers, I just had to mention it!

From the author's website:
Poppy Hathaway, who has always longed for a normal, ordinary life, has been abandoned by her true love, Michael Bayning. Caught up in scandal, she has only one way out — to marry Harry Rutledge, a handsome and mysterious hotel owner. But Harry is a man of many secrets, and eventually Poppy faces a heartwrenching question: What does a heroine do when she ends up married to the villain?
And you can read an excerpt here!

Unfortunately, Tempt Me at Twilight will not be published until 22 September 2009... *deep breath*

06 April 2009

Honoured (Again)



I am very honoured to have been awarded The Zombie Chicken Award by the lovely CJ from The Thrillionth Page! Thank you CJ! (((CJ)))

The blogger who receives this award believes in the Tao of the zombie chicken - excellence, grace and persistence in all situations, even in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. These amazing bloggers regularly produce content so remarkable that their readers would brave a raving pack of zombie chickens just to be able to read their inspiring words. As a recipient of this world-renowned award, you now have the task of passing it on to at least 5 other worthy bloggers. Do not risk the wrath of the zombie chickens by choosing unwisely or not choosing at all...
And since you specifically mentioned my ecletic (hopefully good ecletic?) book content, I will try to continue on that same path *grin*

I am awarding The Zombie Chicken Award to:

- Ana & Thea from The Book Smugglers
- Azteclady (who I think delurks at Karen Knows Best)
- KatieBabs a.k.a KB from Babbling About Books, And More
- Renee from Renee's Book Addiction
- Starfire from Songs and Spinnings

Because you all deserve it!

05 April 2009

TBR

I was contemplating doing a very bad thing today... Yesterday, a friend and I were discussing our TBR lists/piles and she admitted to doing a bit of judicious trimming. My list is now well over 60 (which may be nothing in the grand scheme of things) and at times just the thought of all the books I have yet to read is rather...well... overwhelming. So, I was contemplating following her example. However, I didn't! And the reason? When I went to look at the list I couldn't find one book that I didn't want to read!!! *hangs head* I guess I'll just have to read faster AND avoid succumbing to the desire to add books to the TBR list. What are my chances do you think?

So, do you ever feel that your TBR list/pile has taken on a life of its own and is so overwhelming that you can't face it? Have you ever trimmed it?

02 April 2009

Books 2009: March Update

Total to date: 23 books (8 books this month)

The 2009 Support Your Local Library Challenge total to date: 19 books (8 books this month)

A list of all the books I've read to date (from 01 January 2008) can be found at Library Thing.

Favourite books of the month?

* Mélusine (Sarah Monette)

Currently reading: The Virtu (Sarah Monette)

Book(s) I 'did not finish':

* Black Dagger Brotherhood: An Insider's Guide (JR Ward) [Although I did read the novella Father Mine]

* House of Many Ways (Diana Wynne Jones)

And the books I'm most looking forward too next month are:

* Silent On The Moor (Deanna Raybourne)

* Storm Glass (Maria V Snyder)