Friday, April 29, 2011

Awesome

In case you didn't already know, I spin yarn, and I love it.

My favorite place to order spinning supplies from is Pacific Wool and Fiber. And guess what I just discovered? They have some fiction books for nuts like me. Who'd have thought? Fiction for knitters, spinners, etc. :)

*sigh* Yet more books to add to my to-read list...

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Let's draw!

I am reading Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich. For school. :) I quickly found that I had to make a family tree to keep everyone straight, and here's what I've got so far.


After I got most of this down I discovered that there's also a family tree in the beginning of the book. I still like mine though because it's got some people that aren't in the book's family tree.

I'm also trying to figure out the names of some of these characters. For example, "no good Morrissey". I'm pretty sure that's not his name.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Thread magic

A certain someone was very enthusiastic about yarn magic yesterday, so today I'm doing a post about two witches who practice thread magic. Both are from books by Tamora Pierce.


Alanna, a.k.a. The Woman Who Rides Like a Man

Alanna is a witch (although she's called a mage, and I think once or twice a sorceress) who can do all kinds of cool magic. She is first and foremost a healer, but she also does some pretty neat tricks with thread.

I'd like to share an excerpt fromThe Woman Who Rides Like a Man, which is the third book in the Song of the Lioness quartet. (Oh yeah, she's also called The Lioness.) I've edited out chunks from this excerpt that are important to the plot but not to the bit of magic being done.

Alanna swiftly tied a knot in the thread. Ishak fell as the carpet he stood on yanked itself from under his feet, dumping the young man on the ground. The carpet then sailed around the tent frantically. . . .
Alanna swiftly tied a second knot. The carpet stopped its mad journey, coming to a halt directly over Ishak's head. . . .
She loosened the second knot, and the carpet began to lower itself onto Ishak's head. . . .
She untied the first knot, and the carpet whisked itself around the tent, stopping in front of Ishak this time. Alanna undid what remained of the second knot, and the carpet trembled. "You're in its way," she told the young man. Startled, he moved aside, and the carpet settled gently into its former spot.

Alanna appears in The Immortals quartet and Protector of the Smallquartet, although she plays a supporting role in those stories rather than being the big hero. She's also the mother of Aly, who is the heroine in The Daughter of the Lioness books.

I'd also like to mention the presence of a certain purple eyed black kitty on the cover of the book. Alanna named him Faithful, maybe because he faithfully gives her advice on everything, even things (or perhaps especially things) that she doesn't want his advice on.

Hmm, and there was a purple eyed talking cat who was a friend of the witch Beka Cooper, who liked giving her advice. And that story took place 200 years before this story in the same world. Oh yeah, and there's a funny cat constellation that sometimes disappears for decades at a time before mysteriously reappearing... ;)


Sandry

Sandry is in The Circle of Magic and The Circle Opens quartets.

Sandry is a stitch-witch. Yep, that's what she calls herself. :) I don't have any of her books on hand so I can't share any excerpts, but I can tell you about her.

She does all her magic with thread, yarn, and anything made from thread or yarn. String, yarn, and fabric both do whatever she wants them to do. Once when she gets angry she orders some tapestries to cocoon people so that they can't move. It takes a while for them to escape!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Yarn magic

The fantasy book I'm reading right now is Blackveil by Kristen Britain.

(This is the fourth book of the Green Rider series, and you can read my review of the first book here.)

Yet again, no one in this book (with the possible exception of one) is called a witch. But quite a few people use magic, so for the purposes of the party Witches in Fiction they're all witches. :)

There's one woman in particular whose magic interests me. She's just known as Grandmother. I'll share an excerpt from the first chapter of this book which demonstrates how her magic works.

From the basket she carried over her wrist, she removed a skein of red yarn and cut a length of it with a knife that hung from her belt. Her fingers were cold and stiff, but moved nimbly to tie knots, and as she did so, she spoke words of power. . . . .
When she finished tying the knots, she breathed on them, and they tightened of their own volition, flexing and melding together into a single mass that transformed into a luminous red salamander perched on her palm Her people, she knew, still only saw a snarled wad of yarn.
"Find the road," she commanded the salamander, for it was a compass
It gazed at her with eyes of coal andl ashed its serpentine tail this way and that until it settled on a direction, pointing the way with its tail. The others probably saw nothing more than a loose end of yarn lifting in an air current.
Maybe because I love to use yarn, and even spin my own yarn, I find the idea of using yarn in magic fascinating. Grandmother uses yarn for all her magic, and believe me she does cast a wide variety of spells. It seems that her yarn is quite versatile!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Beka Cooper

Magaly, over at Pagan Culture, is having a blog party called Witches in Fiction. Up until today I've participated by sharing short stories of my own on my main blog. But today I'm talking about a "witch" in one of my favorite books, and since this is a bookish topic I decided to share my post here:

I've run out of short stories to tell, but that doesn't mean I'm through writing posts for the Witches in Fiction blog party!

Today I would like to tell you about one of my favorite witches in fiction: Beka Cooper, fromTamora Pierce's Beka Cooper quartet. The first book is Terrier, the second is Bloodhound, and the third (unreleased) is Mastiff.

Beka isn't called a witch. In fact I don't think she's called anything. Not even mage or hedgewitch. But she's got magic, and I think that for the purposes of Witches in Fiction that makes her a witch. As for how her magic shows itself...

Now first of all, I've got to explain that in her world pigeons carry the ghosts of those who aren't ready to move on to the Peaceful Realms (their afterlife). This is a key point because Beka can hear their voices. When she was very small her mother was afraid that she was crazy, but fortunately her grandmother happened to know that it was a bit of family magic.

Because of this magic Beka feeds the pigeons on a very regular basis, and it's not unusual for the birds to seek her out. This is a win-win arrangement -- the winged nuisances get fed, and Beka gets info. Oh, did I mention that Beka is law enforcement? Hearing the voices of the dead can be helpful when trying to solve a murder, especially when they're complaining about who killed them and how.

Sound strange? Maybe. But the other way that her magic shows up is even weirder, and I think it's cooler.

Throughout Beka's city are things called dust spinners. Dust spinners are basically small vortexes of wind that generally go unnoticed. They stay in one place, collect dust, and more importantly they also collect snatches of conversation.

When Beka steps into a dust spinner she is able to hear the snatches of conversation that have been collected. This is also a bit of family magic, and it's something else that's useful to her as law enforcement.

Last but not least, is the cat you may have noticed on the cover of theTerrier. That cat is Pounce, and he's a purple eyed black cat who she found in a stable. Pounce has made her his friend, and is fond of giving her advice. Yep, he's a talking cat. If that doesn't make her a witch, what does? ;)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Bookish cakes

This post isn't about a book, but it's about something book related.

In honor of Library Week the blog "Cake Wrecks" posted some photos of beautiful cakes (which were most certainly not wrecks) whose decorations were inspired by books.

Best of all, I think, is the description given of a library:

"That little building was my literary nirvana - a kind of free candy shop, where the lollipops were spun poetry, and the chocolate bars were the stuff of legends, sci-fi, and fantasy."

To see the beautiful yummies click here.

Personally, I'm not sure if I could eat any of those cakes. They're too pretty!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Um...what?

I just picked up Blackveil by Kristen Britain. (And I would like to mention that yes, I am still getting my homework done!) This is the fourth book in a series and there's something that keeps bugging me.

SPOILER ALERT!!!

You've got Karigan, the heroine. She's a commoner, and as I said already is the heroine.

Then you've got King Zachary. Obviously, he's royalty.

(And may I just add that I have a crush on him? And now that I've got the new book I keep dreaming about him...)

Zachary and Karigan are in love with each other. This is something that one of the king's advisors has figured out and is concerned about because, supposedly, if the people realized that their king is in love with a commoner then his authority could be undermined (or something like that) and in the end there could be all kinds of trouble. Not to mention that his betrothed's father would be furious. It's also a point that is being emphasized in this book, and was emphasized big time in the last book and maybe even the one before that: that the king being in love with a commoner could cause big trouble for the whole country.

Um...what?

Wasn't it normal for nobles and even royalty to have mistresses? Would anyone even care enough about him being in love with a commoner to make a fuss about it? Ok, anyone other than his betrothed -- who wouldn't complain because she would understand, she's just that good -- and her family?

I don't mind drama in books. In fact, it's what makes a book! And I don't mind forbidden romance. Forbidden romance can be fun. But it doesn't make sense to put drama around a forbidden romance that wouldn't have been a big deal, and which might not be so forbidden after all. It's not like Zachary is trying to marry Karigan.

I would like to say that it is a mark of what a good story Britain is writing that, despite my complaints, I eagerly continue reading. (When I'm not doing homework, that is.) And I can't wait to see what happens next in the book.

Oh yes, and if you're wondering what's going on with these would be lovers...

Zachary has expressed his love to Karigan, but Karigan hasn't let Zachary know that she returns his feelings. But of course she has to tell him, sometime, and I'm expecting it'll happen in this book. Maybe in the next 100 pages. I can't wait to read!!!

....after I do my homework.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Making sense of something

I'm going to write about something that happens in The Dispossessed by Ursula K. le Guin, and there will be a major spoiler if you read much further.

SPOILER ALERT!!!

In a recent post I expressed extreme confusion when the hero, Shevek, sexually assaults a woman. The situation is as follows:

Shevek has come from a world where women and men are equals in society. He has a partner (their equivalent of marriage) who he respects and loves. The very word "partner" implies equality. If there is no equality, then whatever they have is not really a partnership.

Then he goes to this other world where women are a lower class and are not allowed to do much of anything. Really all they can do is look pretty, socialize, and shop. And when Shevek comments on the lack of women he is told that if he wants a woman then one can be found who suits his tastes.

Shevek is an academic, and after being dragged all over the place for two weeks to be showed the sights of the new world (he's a celebrity so the higher ups make a big fuss over him) he doesn't set foot off campus for quite some time. During his time on campus he never sees a woman. And even while being shown the tourist sites he didn't see many, if any, women. Certainly none of his guides were women.

Being surrounded 100% by men is something of a culture shock to Shevek, so he jumps at an opportunity to interact with a woman: the wife of a colleague who invites him to dinner at his home off campus. Shevek also enjoys playing with their children, because there are also no children on the campus where he has been living. The second woman he meets is this same colleague's sister.

I think that the above details are important to why the sexual encounter happens, and how it happens: Shevek is at a party and becomes drunk. The colleague's sister (darn, I don't remember her name..) takes him to a private room. He kisses her, and she welcomes his kisses. When he starts taking things further she tells him no, that she hasn't taken a contraceptive, but that they can arrange a time to meet for sex. It's obvious that she does want him. But the fact is that she says no, and he ignores her, even as she becomes more and more frantic. He does not actually penetrate her, but he does get her skirt messed up so that she has to change clothes before returning to the party.

I think that the reason for his actions can be summed up in this old cliche:

"When in Rome, do as the Romans do."


But I think that what le Guin is suggesting here is not just that when in Rome that you should choose do as the Romans do, but that when you are around the Romans long enough that you wind up doing as they do, no matter what your own personal beliefs are. After all, Shevek is not the type to sexually assault a woman.

Not that I'm excusing what he did. I'm just trying to make sense of what le Guin did with her character. After all, he's the "hero" and yet he sexually assaulted a woman.

Of course, you could just say that the moral of the story is that you shouldn't get drunk...

Wow

Guess what my mom brought home during her lunch break today? 40: A Doonesbury Retrospective by G.B. Trudeau.

I'd just like to share that this book is 9 1/2 pounds. Yes, I weighed it.

It's bigger than Harry Potter!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

What the heck???!!

I am currently reading The Dispossessed by Ursula K. le Guin.

(le Guin is a favorite author of mine, by the way, and I got this book for a mere 50 cents at a library book sale! Lucky me! :D)

While this is not my favorite book of le Guin's I have definitely been enjoying it, but I got to a part of it a couple days ago that shocked me.

SPOILER ALERT !!!

The "hero", if he can be called that anymore, attempted rape.

True, he was drunk, and in his naiveness was unaware that it was impairing his judgment.

True, she initially welcomed his kisses.

True, she did want sex, and was only saying no because she didn't have any birth control on hand at the moment, and didn't want to get pregnant by the hero. (What would her husband think?)

Fact: She said no, and he persisted. I'm pretty sure that, whatever the rest of the circumstances are -- even if she is hoping for sex at another time -- forcing himself on her when she's clearly and forcefully saying no is rape!

(Or is it technically rape when there's no penetration? Either way, it's sexual assault, which is just downright WRONG.)

I've read rape scenes in books before, but none of them have bugged me like this. I actually put my book down for the day when I finished the chapter, trying to process it. I think that what has me perplexed is that this is the "hero" who sexually assaulted a woman.

What the heck, le Guin? What are you doing, or saying, that your "hero" has sexually assaulted a woman? Hopefully I'll figure that out as I finish reading the book.

Or, did you set out to make him an anti-hero in the end, not a hero?

Slight change of direction, or change of book, anyways...

I realized while writing this post that there's another book where this same thing happens: Dragonquest by Anne McCaffrey.

SPOILER ALERT FOR DRAGONQUEST!!!

In Dragonquest you have Brekke and F'nor. The whole situation is more complicated than the situation in The Dispossessed, and Brekke is in love with F'nor. But make all the excuses you like, the fact is that in Dragonquest F'nor forces himself on Brekke when she's saying no.

F'nor is one of the good guys, by the way, and everyone loves him. Even Brekke, even after he rapes her. He's a "hero."

I'm pretty sure that le Guin and McCaffrey are both feminists. And I'm bemused.

Thoughts, anyone? Have any of you read these books? (If so, please don't give anything away in The Dispossessed past the rape scene since I haven't finished the book.) What do you think these authors are doing??

And I just realized that there's another case of a hero forcing himself on a woman in another of McCaffrey's books, though the woman does in the end say yes. Even so, that he persisted when she initially said no...and in the end did she change her answer to yes because she wanted him, or because she figured she had no choice and may as well make the experience as pleasant as possible?

Sorry if this post doesn't make much sense. My thoughts are scattered!

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