Les Semaines

April 29, 2007

what I'm thinking and doing § what I'm listening to § what I'm reading
what I'm writing § retrospective: old journal



Trying to be more upbeat and it's sometimes hard. I find myself just wanting to hole up at home with the kittens, my down comforter, and books I know will be good. I know I badly need some down time but can't see any time soon that I can do this other than in snatches of time here and there.

Wednesday night Devin called, and on a whim she and Jim and I went to the beach to get some air into our heads. The tide was the lowest there I've ever seen, and we could walk around the point below the railroad tracks, so we just kept walking. We could have gone all the way from Golden Gardens to Carkeek. Amazing. I had no idea that was possible. It was like the Red Sea parting, I swear.

And the air got in and cleaned out my brain. So did the sand and shells and seaweed and rocks and wood and the big barnacles you don't usually see.

Had a good, though busy with a board meeting, weekend.

Actually doing quite well.

Kittens grow fast! They're already both about double the size they were when we got them. It's three months ago today we brought them home.

Atia is a typically willful, independent calico, but way better socialized than Sophia. When I'm working on my computer she loves to jump on my lap and demand serious head rubs. She talks and turns around the whole time. Occasionally she'll settle to sleep there so I have to type with one hand but mostly she decides to move on if I start typing.

Titus is still our bobble-headed boy, and a total sweetheart. He's very social and greets visitors but also sleeps a LOT. He sleeps on the bed with us all night, which is lovely. I love how he's so extreme about stuff, stretching so very very far that he sometimes falls over. Racing so much he seems to trip over his own too-large feet.

Both are of course very playful.

Sophia is still quite stressed about them. I hope she and Titus sort out their issues soon, because he's at the point where he hisses and yells if she even looks at him. "Mom! She's looking at me!" She likes to corner him and whack him a little every few days (or maybe more often if they do it when we're not at home, I dunno). She never hurts him, but he makes a good racket.

Occasionally she tries it with Atia who just quietly defends herself so Sophia backs off. They also will chase each other in play. Atia loves to provoke Sophie. I suspect Atia is alpha cat, and Sophia and Titus have yet to quite sort it out. I wish they would get it over with, but apparently cats need to keep reinforcing these things.

last week's thinking and doing § next week's thinking and doing


Through an article in Mojo magazine I discovered Lisa Knapp. She does mostly stripped-down versions of traditional English folk. There's something fragile and powerfully evocative about her versions (she has a reedy kind of voice) which I'm not sure I can pin down. Maybe like if Kathryn Williams did trad folk? I've been obsessing on it. Here's her myspace page.

last week's listening § next week's listening


What an odd and interesting novel Scarlett Thomas' The End of Mr. Y is! Following the story of a woman who is to some mild degree autistic as she finds a famous missing book about explorations into the world of the mind--and repeats them--this novel manages to be gripping. Plot, character, philosophy, all knotting and spinning like balls being juggled. Fascinating, and not just for novelty's sake.

Catherine Fisher's young adult fantasy novel, Darkhenge follows Rob, whose parents are distracted by his sister's Chloe being in a coma. For something to do, Rob takes a job as photographer for a secretive archaeologist, who has discovered a wooden henge circle. Ron finds himself drawn through henge into a strange, mystical, faery tale underground world where his sister is being drawn in deeper and deeper ahead of him. Some very interesting bits but overall a little expected and unsatisfying.

Hard to figure out why I would read a book with the title of Elizabeth George's novel, What Came Before He Shot Her right now, but read it I did. It's the depressing story of how and young boy comes to be involved in the murder of Inspector Lynley's wife, which apparently happened in a previous volume of this ongoing mystery series. The boy is Joel, whose father was killed and whose mother is in a mental institution. His grandmother has just abandoned him, his older, extremely rebellious sister who has given up on life, and his younger brother who has serious emotional and mental problems, whom Joel has to protect with their reluctant aunt. Though the aunt is willing to give them shelter, the children are pretty much left on their own to deal with their new surroundings, new bullies, in the extreme poverty and violence of London's poorer areas. A dark, painfully realistic view of what for many is the entire, limited world of their possibilities.

Lois McMaster Bujold's fantasy novel The Sharing Knife (Volume 1 of a new series, Beguilement). There is always something beguiling about Bujold's novels--she's got a knack for writing books that are good, romping, easy reads that nonetheless have depth and unpredictable twists. This is no exception. Here a young woman runs away from home when she finds herself pregnant by a boy who has no further interest in her. On her way to the city to get a job and start a new life, she gets entangled with a man whose people are engaged in an ongoing, dangerous battle to save the world from being absorbed by malices--creatures with many strange powers who seem to suck the life right out of the world. When they wind up killing a malice together, they wind up more bound together than they might have thought, having accidently gotten entangled together with a charmed knife. A delightful read, and I'll be looking for the rest of the story.

Frewin Jones's young adult fantasy, The Faerie Path is the story of Anita who has grown up just a regular girl in the real world. When suddenly she is dragged away into faery, she discovers she is really Tania, one of the daughters of the fairy king and queen, Oberon and Titania. How she comes to understand the truth of her own nature and what happened to her is the heart of this novel. An interesting, though somewhat superficial at this point, tale. It's the first of a series, though.

Penni Russon's young adult fantasy novels, Undine and Breathe are part of a series, which I trust, given the ending to Breathe isn't yet over. In it a young girl, Undine, discovers that she has strong, almost uncontrollable magic; this changes her view of herself and her world. Her best friend, Trout, who is in love with her, is also shaken by this knowledge and by his unrequited feelings. When Undine starts the search the find out more about her powers. Trout also begins his own journey, as do the other people dragged along in her orbit. I'm reserving judgement until I read the end of this, and while I like this it could use a little more grounding, less arbitrariness. I trust this might full together in the conclusion. Worth reading, though.

John Connolly's children's fantasy novel The Book of Lost Things is about David, who is a child at the start of World War II and whose mother has died and his father has remarried and had another child. David is miserable and loses himself in reading. Then he notices that the book on the shelves whisper and he starts catching glimpses of another world. When a German bomber crashes into the garden, he finds a way into the other world and is trapped there. It's a dark world, where he is threatened by half-wolves, half-humans and other monsters, especially the Crooked Man, who wants him to make a deal for his way home, though he does find some friends along the way. This is a mix of fairy tales and a contemporary coming of age tale, rich with all kinds of horrific details, but David felt a little wooden on his predetermined journey.

Roderick Townley's young adult fantasy The Red Thread is about a young girl who starts getting haunted by images from a past life, which greatly complicates her current life. She's a wonderful photographer, which doesn't seem to have much to do with anything, except in a former life she was a great painter who toiled on behalf of a better-known painter and never got credit for it, and at another point she was a tapestry designer (hence the title). When her psychiatrist starts helping her regress in to her past lives, she starts discovering things about herself and her current life. This should have all the ingredients for an engaging book. It has a great concept and interesting plot. Alas, the characters all felt pretty two-dimensional, and I just wouldn't care about them. Would this work better for the age group for which it was written? I'd be curious to know.

Thank heaven for Justine Larbalestier and her Magic of Madness trilogy to restore my faith in the ability of young adult fantasy novels to have magic and depth. I just finished the third in the series, Magic's Child despite the fact that I own it and could read it anytime and have a large pile of library books that have due dates frowning at me from my shelves. I loved the first two in the series and have to admit I was a touch nervous starting this, wondering whether the third could be as good as them. I should have had faith. It is just as good--perhaps even better--and is a worthy closure to the trilogy. There's not much I can say about the plot without spoilers for the first two volumes--just go buy them--but I can say that the magic here feels truly magic, the characters complex and driven by real needs and desires and that the plot has a satisfying, nuanced conclusion. What a delight.

Kevin Brooks' young adult novel Being is a thriller about a teenage boy who is going for a medical test to see why his stomach is bothering him so much. He wakes up from anesthetic to discover that some strange kind of armed agents are there and inside him is machinery and filaments. He escapes from them and from then on is on the run. A good quick mysterious chase novel.

Scarlett Thomas' first novel Going Out is about a group of young eccentric 20-somethings who circle around Luke, a bubble boy who is kept inside his entire life because he is allergic to the sun and nearly everything else. All of them seem to be stuck until they hear about a healer who may be able to help Luke and they pile into a van to get him there. Scarlett Thomas has a way with unusual situations and characters that makes them fascinating.

Kim Antieu's young adult novel Broken Moon follows the story of a young woman from a small Pakistani town, whose brother has been accused of inappropriate behaviour with a young woman. The village elders have given the young girl's family permission to take revenge on her. She's scarred and miserable, and in shame her family has returned to Lahore and fallen into poverty and her father has died. When her youngest brother has been kidnapped--certainly off to the desert to become a camel jockey as so many other young boys have been sold or kidnapped--she decides to dress as a boy and try to find him. A story of courage.

last week's reading § next week's reading


A new poem was just accepted by Strange Horizons and another by The Malahat Review for their Robin Skelton issue. Robin was my poetry mentor, so I'm thrilled to be in that.

Novel revisions going pretty well.

last week's writing § next week's writing

Retrospective: old journal

Sorry, didn't get back to this yet.

last week's old journal § next week's old journal

Last Week § Les Semaines index § Next Week

Email comments, questions, and complaints to neile@sff.net § Neile's main page

2112 people have wandered through this week with me