kristin cashore’s Fire and a sigh of relief

fireThe ever-awesome bookgeeks sent me an ARC of Kristin Cashore’s Fire, and the review will be up at the site a little closer to the publication date (the 24th of September–it’s worth grabbing a copy when you see them about).  It was an excellent fantasy novel, interesting and original.  I enjoyed it hugely, and, although the characters, plot, and world-building was great, part of the reason it was so much fun to read was that it felt like a straight old-school fantasy novel that I could reccomend to anyone without feeling the need to add the caveat “for adults” or “emmm, there are some adult themes”.

That is not to say that the novel is completely devoid from romance, sex, or physical love.  It even deals forthrightly with violence against women and struggles to be more than a pretty face. The difference between Fire and much of the epic fantasy being written now is the level of violence successfully wielded against the female characters and the use of sex as a weapon.  This distinction does not necessarily make Fire the better book, it is only the author’s second after all, but it did make Fire feel more like a book I would pass around my family and friends without hesitation.  It reminded me of the books I read by Robin McKinley, Mercedes Lackey, and Isaac Asimov–the ones that got me hooked on reading and on the fantasy and science fiction genres in particular.  That doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate and understand what is going on in some of the more convoluted and violent epic fantasies.  But, it does show that there is certainly a place for a book that reminds me that is possible to write an entertaining and simpler story–and to enjoy reading one.

building a new life, brick by brick

bricksI’ve been in the U.K. nearly ten months now, and it has been amazing.  Rainy, snowy, sunny, exciting, (and, during driving lessons, occasionally terrifying), fun, and fascinating. Since February (when I have been keeping an “official” (okay, June is a bit shaky) tally), I have read over 150 book and started reviewing for Bookgeeks.  Who, I must say, are all sorts of awesome.

Aside from the fantastic Bookgeeks, I’ve also finally started reaching out and actively building a life here. Mostly by learning how to drive, which I must admit has been terrifying, hysterical, and frustrating all at once. The hysterical bits are usually at the beginning of the lesson when I reach for the seatbelt on the wrong side or (just the once!) stick my hand out the window while I thought I was reaching for the stick shift. Oops. Luckily, I appear to have the worlds-most-unflappable driving instructor, so he just gently corrects me, and we move on. (After telling me the story of one student who managed to drive into the centre of a roundabout and then attempt to flee the car in his stress and terror). Trust me, being a middle school teacher and being a driving instructor are closer than you might believe.  At least the fourteen year olds don’t have control of a thousand pounds of steel. Continue reading

a family story, the roots of reading, and margaret atwood

atwoodThere is a story, in my family, that takes place when I was ten years old.  Although it’s about me, I don’t actually remember it, and I had to hear it the first time from my father.  He was using it to illustrate a point he wanted to make to a bookstore clerk who was…concerned…that my then twelve-year-old self was buying “older” books along with my young adult sci-fi and fantasy (I actually can’t remember the book that prompted the conversation, although I had had issues a few times at the library and at school with “reading about my level”.).

So, as I was standing there, my dad explained why he didn’t think I needed policing in my book choices:

Well, when she was ten, I walked into the den and saw her reading Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.  When I mentioned that she might want to read that book when she was older, and it would make more sense, she looked up and told me ‘Oh, it’s okay; this is the second time I’m reading it.’ At that point, I decided she could read what she wanted.

And you know what? I could.  Continue reading