Friday 29 May 2015

7QT9: The Waiting Game

What does one do while pretending not to wait for a birth?

 1. Read something BIG
After coming across happy readers of Kristin Lavransdatter for maybe two years, I got a copy of the Norwegian trilogy, which won the Nobel prize for literature in 1928. One thousand pages of a historical (medieval) novel in the tradition of a Norse saga. I always thought that the concept of Ragnarok could only come from a people who spent half the year in the dark - I think the same goes for the reams of introspection and general sense of fate in this story. I have to say that some of Krtistin's interminable mental self-flagellation did get to me - by half way through I was beginning to sympathize with her feckless husband. On the whole, though, a read to satisfy grown-ups, as Virginia Woolf would say. It will take you to the heart of medieval Norway, and into the hearts of two people passionately in love and completely ill suited.

2. Tackle the almost-final frontier of decluttering
... in the shape of our wine closet aka living room cupboard. I forgot to take a before picture, but to give you some idea of the overall clutter, here is a picture of the living room after I recently rescued a flying squirrel from the cats:
I did not buy the boxed wine.
And here is the Konmari-ed cupboard: Not a squirrel in sight.

The final frontier, by the way, is photographs, but I don't have a spare six months for that yet.

 3. Become an independent trader
Our area has several great swap/sell Facebook groups, one exclusively for all things children. I've managed to sell my daughter's American Girl doll plus paraphernalia for a couple of hundred dollars (after she Konmari-ed her room) plus pick up some cheap baby items. We're giving her a cut on the principle that she should learn early that her unwanted stuff is worth money.

Lovely jubbly!

4. Spend too much time online looking up signs of labour, even though I know the only real sign is the appearance of a baby at the end of it. Start to hate Braxton Hicks.

5. Revisit my television youth
We were sporadically watching All Creatures Great and Small, but now we're getting in an episode a night. My younger daughter wants to be a vet so I thought she'd appreciate the series - and she loves it. Being an accurate portrayal of the British professional classes in the 30s, there is almost perpetual drinking. But boy... are some of those episodes really almost 40 years old? Something apart from the MCMLXXVII at the end of the credits that tells me I'm older: I would have had a thing for young Tristan Farnon (Peter Davison) first time around - now older brother Siegfried (Robert Hardy) is looking pretty handsome.

6. Wait, just wait...
Sometimes feel hopeful, sometimes cry a little...

7. And be rewarded
Alcuin Edward St John, who, at three days past his due date, is obligingly our earliest child ever!

For more Seven Quick Takes, join Kelly at This Ain't the Lyceum

Wednesday 13 May 2015

Review round-up

I'm putting my affairs in order/salving my conscience by catching up with with shout-outs and reviews I've been promising for months. Yes, I have critiqued, beta-read or edited these, or have other connections with the authors, but I'm also standing by their talented writing. I'd like to say I'm amazed by the rubbish put out by the big publishing houses versus the quality I so often see from smaller publishers or in self-published work - but no more, alas. So, in historical order, here are:

V.L. Smith - The White Spider of Savignac

The official blurb: When Sir John FitzAlan, lord of an elite mercenary company, is rewarded with the Aquitainian barony of Savignac by Richard Lionheart, his future seems straightforward enough: restore a neglected estate to readiness for war and make the best he can of an arranged marriage to its baroness, Mellisande, a woman he has never met. 
Twice-widowed Mellisande, however, is in no mood for a third marriage. Far from the demure chatelaine John expects, she is an expert vintner and herbalist – skills her people, and the local bishop, suspect she used to murder her two previous husbands.
As John’s disciplined soldiers clash with the unruly local people, and relations with his wife grow colder, John begins to wonder if the tales told of her are true. Will he be Mellisande’s next victim?
My two penny's worth: For those of us who are no longer twenty, Ms. Smith creates a mature hero and heroine you can connect with from the first pages of the novel. The setting is richly and believably detailed and the secondary characters fully fleshed and engaging. Having read other works-in-progress of Vicki's, I can attest to her particular talent in creating sexy vikings :) I especially appreciated the pace of the story - she avoids the current pressure for break-neck speed and develops a plot you can actually savor. I managed to read and enjoy it while still in the throes of morning sickness - what higher accolade could there be?

Diane Scott Parkinson - Ring of Stone

The official blurb: Rose Gwynn is determined to study as a physician in 1796 in England, a time when women were barred from medical school. When she prevails in assisting the local doctor, Rose uncovers a shocking secret that will threaten Dr. Nelson’s livelihood. Servant Catern Tresidder returns to the Cornish village to confront the man who raped her and committed murder. After Rose’s sister is betrothed to this brutal earl, Catern struggles with her demons to warn Rose of the truth. Rose’s attraction to a man far beneath her further complicates her situation. Three people fight society’s dictates to either face ruin or forge a happy ending. Through it all, the ancient stone circle near Rose’s house holds the key to her family’s past, and is positioned through the myths of Cornwall to save her sister’s life.

My two penny's worth: Ring of Stone is a romance by the strict literary definition: a story of love and adventure in a setting where the natural and supernatural coexist - here, the juxtaposition of emerging modern medical practice and the lingering magic of ancient Cornwall. Diane's prose is several cuts above the average romance novel, and the subplots make for a satisfyingly complex read. If you like Ring of Stone, check out Diane's latest Cornish novel, The Apothecary's Widow. Like White Spider, it features a mature hero and heroine the rest of us can relate to.

Amy Dupire - god-thing and other weird and worrisome tales

The official blurb: A Northern transplant teenager chafes under the culture of her Southern U.S. high school and creates her own deity. A reanimated corpse joins a zombie crawl, and stuffed animals spill the beans on their darkest secrets. These award-winning, YA short stories offer curious insights into human nature with humor as well as an unsettling view toward its darker truths. In this collection of tales, you’ll find fortune-telling pancakes, second-tier superheroes, and the occasional possum. 
And it may make you think twice before opening the kitchen cabinets.

My two penny's worth: I've read a lot of Amy's work, published and unpublished, and I love her oddball, dark, humorous take on life. As the blurb says, several of these stories have, deservedly, won or placed in writing competitions. It's hard for me to pick a favourite, but "Key Lime Pie at the Nightmare Diner" and "The Pancake Reader" would definitely be contenders. For young adults or preteens, depending on your child's maturity level/ threshold for the slightly scary.

Friday 8 May 2015

7 Quick Takes v.8: Reasons to be Cheerful, 1, 2...7

1. I submitted my final grades for classes at the weekend. No complaints/pleading/wheedling for grade changes from my students - in fact, I had two thank yous. I'm done until August!

2. Just thinking of the topic title reminded me of the Ian Dury and the Blockheads song.

3. A new princess. The girls and I approve of the name Charlotte Elizabeth Diana. I did remark that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were in trouble if they had another girl, as they've used up so many royal names, but my younger daughter came straight out with Victoria Caroline Alexandrina. You saw it here first, folks.

4. I managed to make it past my last big 'task' before my own imminent baby - the two hour trip to Jackson to the Mississippi Star student/teacher awards for academic excellence. Quick parental boast - our daughter was an All-Star.

5. It also meant I could visit a real lingerie shop for the first time ever, to get fitted for some decent bras. The lady was lovely, professional, listened, taught, and found the perfect choices.  I walked out feeling amazing. Who knew the right underwear could improve your posture so much?

6. No hung Parliament in the UK - good news whatever one's political leanings.

7. My daughter's pet rat doesn't have terminal cancer - just a plain old mammary tumour that can be removed for a mere $300!  Oh, wait...

For more Quick Takes, hop over to visit Kelly at This Ain't the Lyceum. And check out her post on Mother's Day crafts that mothers will actually want!