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Ramblings by Category

Ramblings by Year

The Witches of Eileanan

The Witches of Eileanan (Book 1)
by Kate Forsyth

In the Celtic land of Eileanan, witches and magic have been outlawed, and those caught for practicing witchcraft are put to death! It is a land ruled by an evil Queen, where sea-dwelling Fairgean stir, and children vanish in the night. But in a valley deep in the mountains, young Isabeau grows to womanhood under the guidance of an elderly witch, and must set out on a quest, carrying the last hopes of the persecuted witches. (goodreads.com)

If you asked me what my all-time favourite Fantasy series was I would answer with “The Belgariad! No! The Witches of Eileanan! No! Bellgariad! No! Witches!” and then my head would probably explode. But I have been thinking about this question a lot as I reread the series I first discovered in 1999. Though I adore David & Leigh Eddings’ Belgariad and Mallorean series, I think my favourite part of that series was a companion novel, Polgara the Sorceress. Kate Forsyth’s Witches series reminds me a lot of Polgara, or rather, the other way around.

ANYHOW… my point is that this 6-book series is fantastic and comfort food for my brain and soul. After the state of mind Plain Kate left me in I just could not get into a brand new book. I started and stopped 5 books after Plain Kate and finally decided since I was desperate to read something I would pick up an old favourite and see how that went. It’s been a while since I have read this first book and I was instantly transported back to the world of Eileanan within the first pages.

Many of you may only know Kate Forsyth from her two recent MG/YA novels – The Puzzle Ring (which I ADORED) and The Gypsy Crown, although I have loved her for much longer than that. I was working in a bookstore when the second book in this series came out and the cover caught my eye instantly and when I saw it was a Book 2 I went in search of Book 1. So, really, since 1999 I have been head-over-heels in love with this series and the author’s writing.

The series has quite a large cast of characters and it may seem a little daunting as you are introduced to the various clans of Eileanan. Even with this rereading I was trying to remember all of the clans and characters. Many are around much of the novel but some slip in under the radar and you are left trying to figure out what side they’re on. 😉

Oddly, my fondest memory of the book is Isabeau and yet much of the novel focuses on her sister Iseault and guardian Meghan. Some major plot points that happened in this book I remembered has happening later on in the novel, but in my defense by the time I got to the 6th book so much had happened! 😉

One thing I remember missing – and still do – from the books are the maps of the country. These can actually be found on the author’s website, but I like having maps at the front of my fantasy books so I can flip back and orient myself when a character goes from one place to the other. And these maps weren’t available online back in the days of yore that I originally read the books!

Another thing that I would have found very helpful is a glossary at the end and pronunciation guide. There are a lot of Gaelic words in this series and I never know how to pronounce them and that makes me angry! I was hoping perhaps such a guide would be available on the website, too, but sadly there isn’t. So I spent a few hours googling the words and trying to find pronunciation guides. Turns out these past 11 years I have been mispronouncing the words for King and Queen in this book – Rìgh and Banrìgh (Ree and BanREE). I was pronouncing it like RYE (like eye). Argh. I might be of Irish decent but I wasn’t born with an innate knowledge of Gaelic. ha! And I am not always certain I am pronouncing the names of people or faerie races all that well. Oh, dear. So I have been making google my friend when it comes to Gaelic terms.

Overall, this is a fantastic fantasy series. It’s magical, dragony, humourous, torturous and all around enchanting. I am immersed in Eileanan with each book and they are not small books either. They are all between 450-550 pages and so well written you’d almost have to believe the world exists and that the author spent a ton of time there.

I’m on to book two now and I think my emotions have settled enough from reading Plain Kate that I might actually be able to get to a review book after this!

The Witches of Eileanan series

  1. The Witches of Eileanan
  2. The Pool of Two Moons
  3. The Cursèd Towers
  4. The Forbidden Land
  5. The Skull of the World
  6. The Fathomless Caves

Rhiannon’s Ride

  1. The Tower of Ravens
  2. The Shining City
  3. The Heart of Stars

Plain Kate

Plain Kate
by Erin Bow

Plain Kate lives in a world of superstitions and curses, where a song can heal a wound and a shadow can work deep magic. As the wood-carver’s daughter, Kate held a carving knife before a spoon, and her wooden talismans are so fine that some even call her “witch-blade”: a dangerous nickname in a country where witches are hunted and burned in the square.

For Kate and her village have fallen on hard times. Kate’s father has died, leaving her alone in the world. And a mysterious fog now covers the countryside, ruining crops and spreading fear of hunger and sickness. The townspeople are looking for someone to blame, and their eyes have fallen on Kate.

Enter Linay, a stranger with a proposition: In exchange for her shadow, he’ll give Kate the means to escape the angry town, and what’s more, he’ll grant her heart’s wish. It’s a chance for her to start over, to find a home, a family, a place to belong. But Kate soon realizes she can’t live shadowless forever — and that Linay’s designs are darker than she ever dreamed. (goodreads.com)

I have struggled to write this review since I finished the book on September 22. When I first finished the book I knew I needed a least a day to get over how emotional I was. Two days later I was still tearing up when I would tell people about the book. I just cannot find the words to express how much this book made me feel and how strongly I adore everything about it.

Do NOT be like me and pick up the book in the store because the cover interests you but you don’t know much about the book so you put it back and then curse yourself all week because you’ve changed your mind and you CAN’T GET A COPY TO SAVE YOUR LIFE. True story.

Plain Kate is beautifully written, like reading a painting that’s coming to life before your very eyes. This is pure, simple, folk story that will capture your heart within the first few pages. I am not kidding when I say this book made me weep for a handful of days after I finished it. Weeping in a good way. The story is emotional, heartwarming, heartbreaking and captivating. From the first pages I felt Kate’s emotions like they were my own. I could taste her fear and loneliness on my tongue. I felt her joy and sadness, so real to me.

Kate and Taggle are two of the best characters ever. Taggle might even win as best character in a book ever in my mind.

Erin Bow wrote a powerful and magical tale and is a perfect example of how to write a beautiful book and an amazing story. And all of this for a debut author. More! More!!

I don’t know who has the power to get books nominated for fancy awards, but I want this book up on every book award nomination list in the world. I want this book to win copious amounts of awards for how brilliant it is.

I have read many fantastic novels so far this year but I will, hands down, proclaim that Plain Kate is the book that I will remember the most. It is the most emotional (in a good way) book I have read in years. I can’t recall the last time I felt so much after finishing a book that I couldn’t read ANYTHING ELSE for over a week because I couldn’t get it out of my head.

In fact I have gone back to an old favourite right now – the Witches of Eileanan series, because I started and stopped 4 books since finishing Plain Kate.  I need to wait until the book leaves my system and then… I might read it again.

33 minutes from nowhere

Our faculty’s undergraduate students’ association goes on a retreat weekend at the start of the school year and they tend to invite the Dean and other admin to a dinner on one of those nights. I was really touched to be included on the guest list this year. It was a small list, just our office, me, my boss and the Dean.

The thing is this retreat location is way the heck out in the middle of Nowhere. And it’s proven by the fact that the MAP link to the Nature Preserve on the University’s website is just a blank page. Then our TomTom said that the place didn’t exist. “No such location” it told me. Google maps proved slightly more useful until a little more research showed that Google maps was sending us somewhere COMPLETELY DIFFERENT.

Even though our TomTom claimed there was “no such location” it also told me it would take 33 minutes to get there.

So I apparently live 33 minutes from Nowhere.

Good to know.

Tracking out the route on the TomTom website by using cross streets proved to be much more helpful and on some obscure page on the University’s site I found a “hand-drawn” map which I noted looked a lot more similar to where TomTom was telling us to go than where Google was telling us to go.

So Shawn & I set out about 6PM and started an adventure. I figure 33 minutes or not, there’s buffer room for getting lost and or traffic and then if I was early I’d just wait until 7 in the car and call my student contact. My two  bosses went together since they were both leaving from the same area. Shawn was nice enough to drive me there and I hitched a ride back with the others.

So we drove… we took the exit we were told to take and ended up on all these VERY narrow roads that hosted a myriad of apple picking places. And the roads got windier and hillier and then we turned when TomTom told us to only to find: ROAD BLOCKED – LOCAL TRAFFIC ONLY. We decided to call ourselves Local Traffic and took it anyhow, after all, TomTom told us to! Until we got about 20 feet and realized the road was OUT completely. It was full of backhoes and piles and piles of dirt. Shawn said it looked like they were building ANOTHER mountain!

So we turned the car around, went back to the long and windy street and were about to decided whether or not to go into the gas station and ask for help or just give up and go home when the TomTom told us to just keep going down the original street. Um.. ok. We took a wrong turn somewhere (which isn’t our fault since apparently one road just bleeds into another and it’s not even an intersectiony sort of thing) and the road was dug up, bumpier than anything and wide enough for ONE car, but it was a two-way street.

We finally got me to where I thought I needed to be and I called the student to make sure and to be let in (since the gates were closed). Meanwhile Shawn was all “Who is this student person? Are you sure this is trustworthy? The Dean did say they might be cutting positions, maybe they’re just going to kill you.” Because this looked like a total set up for a slasher movie.

Once I got in I was told they had set a place for Shawn since he was here, but he’d already left to navigate the stupid roads of Mont-Saint-Hilare. (Turns out he would have stayed had I called him AND the TomTom sent him back on a different route which was TOTALLY EASY TO GET THROUGH. What the hell was it thinking on the way there? I chose fastest route not scenic!).

Anyhow the evening was fun, I was surprised. I get intimidated with groups of people I don’t really know. I knew a couple of the students in the association by sight, but that was about it. They made us dinner. And there was cake!

And there was much laughter and beer (I had ONE! Rebel, me!). I was trying desperately to stay awake past 9PM. It was hard, I tell you. There was scheduled FUN! at 9:30 (yes, with the exclamation mark!) and there was discussion about what we as admin could do to help the students and there was inane banter about burgers that could put you in the hospital and there was a very relaxed and happy atmosphere.

There was also a bonfire!

(Ok, not the best photo, but I took it with my phone!) Only Music students would sing songs from Wicked and other musicals and have 5 part harmony on our National Anthem around the fire. I was hoping for some old school Girl Guide camp songs, but these guys are a different generation. There was also a rousing (harmonized) rendition of the theme song for the cartoon Arthur and a discussion about how Arthur’s sister DW was annoying. And the Magic School Bus…  if these were people my age I am sure the Reading Rainbow song would have been sung, sadly no one knew it.

Way to make me feel really old.

I got home around 12:30 in the morning, talked to Shawn until about 1:25 and then proceeded to have a 3 hour coughing fit. I think I slept between 5-7AM but I was awake and coughing again by 7:20. So I have been up since then. I hope this stupid tickle in the back of my throat goes away soon because I am tired.

In the end, Nowhere is a very pretty area this time of year with all the colours in the trees, but it’s annoying as hell to get to.

destruction chronicles – i ? my city

Well, my loyal readers, it is with trepidation that I tell you that I may just be writing the final Destruction Chronicle for 2010. I make no promises, and to be honest, I thought the LAST post I wrote was the final one. At least, until I got my bottom in gear and emailed the city about the little problem that was left over from the paving of my driveway.

Did I think twice when the city Aqueduct truck pulled up in front of our driveway on Thursday morning and two men climbed down into the manhole with wires? Nah. The only thing I was thinking was, “Why the hell do they do these things exactly when we’re about to leave for work and now can’t get out of the driveway!? You’d think if they were blocking two driveways that have cars in them for any period of time, especially on a weekday morning at the time people are generally leaving for work, they would KNOCK ON YOUR DOOR AND ASK YOU TO MOVE FIRST.” So I was cranky as hell, didn’t think it had anything to do with the construction and didn’t whip out my camera to chronicle anything.

Thursday night I left work an hour and a bit late and therefore when Shawn picked me up at the bus terminus it was after 7PM and dark (SO sad that it’s dark at 7PM already!). We picked up bad-for-us-but-oh-so-good food on the way home and it was dark, so I didn’t notice anything different with our driveway.

Until we took the dogs out for a walk at 8:30 PM and I was about to tell Annie not to trip on the watermain valve… only…

The valve was no longer sticking up 4-5 inches from the ground! It was flush with the pavement!

And of course it was pitch black out and my iPhone can’t take photos in the dark so I made a note to myself to take photos in the morning (which I did with my phone). I was SO happy. I kept reminding myself all week to email the city and ask about the valve, but as I was out for 5 days with that plague (still lingering, too, drat!) I just didn’t have the energy. And to be honest, since I’d been emailing them since April to complain a) about why our driveway was dug up with no notice and b) the city killed our tree what can I do (that wasn’t a complaint so much as a concern), I didn’t feel comfortable emailing to ask if they could PLEASE fix this valve hazard.

So, either they are blog stalking me like my eye surgery place, or they had planned to fix this all along. I WAS giving them a couple of weeks grace because towards the end of the construction things would happen between longer gaps, but I was at the end of my 2 weeks and I thought I should ask about it before the first snowfall (which can happen at any time now, if you don’t think about how last night’s temperature went from 14C to 23C overnight… wth?).

My plan was to try and write about this on break at work, which is why I snapped the iPhone photos, but when we got home Friday, I noticed this:

They had freshly paved the side of the driveway around the valve! (the photo above is from my camera and not my phone). I was so impressed.

I feel like going to City Hall and hugging someone. 😉

Even will all my raving over the summer about the construction, I would like to take this moment to point out the following:

  • the construction crew that was around for the bulk of the project was always super friendly, polite, CLEAN and professional. I have been subject to other construction stuff around where I have lived and the crews would always leave their garbage all over the place and seemed to disrespect people’s property. This one was so great that I actually miss seeing them every day and waving. Especially Young Cousin John, he had such a kind face and awesome tattoos. heh
  • as long as this construction seemed to feel, it was done VERY fast and efficiently. I was actually surprised at how quickly things were getting done. I had no hope that this would be done by October and yet they have been off our street and on to others since early September.
  • I truly appreciate my new patio stones on the walkway. Only they are very bright, as you can see in the photos and that’s without flash!

So, although this felt long, we were honestly rarely completely inconvenienced (a handful of times we had to park on another street, big whoop) the streets and sidewalks look wonderful and I am sure our water is cleaner and the pipes have less change of bursting open and flooding the street in the winter.

So, thank you My City, for a job well done and for thinking of the people whose lives would be affected. Maybe you do care about us after all. Although I have to say a few more English books in the library would also be splendid. Oh, and please do not increase our property taxes due to the fact we have a shiny new street and water pipes now. 😉

Naked Heat

Naked Heat (Nikki Heat, #2)
by Richard Castle

Do you watch the TV show Castle? Are you a Nathan Fillion fan? If you answered “No” to one or both of those questions I have to stop talking to you immediately.

Just warning you.

However, I’ll also be nice to you and explain the background for this book (in case you answered “No” to question #1) – Castle is a tv show about a bestselling author, Richard Castle, who tags along with a NYPD detective, Kate Beckett and writes mystery novels based on her and her team. But mostly her. In a romantic sort of way. Like with sex. 😉

This book was a fun murder mystery with witty banter and fun characters. However the characters were fun because they are so obviously based on the TV show characters. The tv cast faces were dancing in my head while I read Naked Heat. This isn’t a bad thing because it makes the tie-in with the show more amusing. The main character in the novel, Jameson Rook is really a Mary-Sue version of Castle and his longing for Beckett. (Get it? Rook? Castle? Ha! See what he did there?)

As much fun as I had reading the book, the mystery, like those of the tv show wasn’t all that original and the witty banter on the pages wasn’t as fun as watching it play out live on the show. I think I prefer the show to the books BUT I will now enjoy the inside joke-slash-references to the book that are slid into the dialogue in the show.

I had wanted to pick up the first Rick Castle book, Heat Wave when it came out last year but it was never in stock when I went to the store. It’s now in mass market format which means (I hope) that the hard cover will show up as a bargain book around the holidays. I will certainly pick it up when that happens. Why wait for the bargain book when I always go off about wanting paper backs only? Well, I received the hard cover for review and I want the books in the series to match! 😉 OCD, that’s me!

If Rick Castle (aka ABC) puts out more books in the Nikki Heat series I will certainly pick them up. They are mindless mysterious fun and every once in a while my brain needs something like that!

Castle airs at 10PM EST on ABC and this season also on CTV in Canada. (Woo!) I watch them when my father passes me the DVD he records them on. I don’t have a digital recorder yet so I rely on my father. 😉

Richard Castle can be found on Twitter (so awesome): @WriteRCastle

Nathan Fillion (the god that he is) can be found on Twitter: @NathanFillion

Nikki Heat series

  1. Heat Wave
  2. Naked Heat