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review 2018-05-08 16:18
Dragonfly in Amber / Diana Gabaldon
Dragonfly in Amber - Diana Gabaldon

For twenty years Claire Randall has kept her secrets. But now she is returning with her grown daughter to Scotland's majestic mist-shrouded hills. Here Claire plans to reveal a truth as stunning as the events that gave it birth: about the mystery of an ancient circle of standing stones ...about a love that transcends the boundaries of time ...and about James Fraser, a Scottish warrior whose gallantry once drew a young Claire from the security of her century to the dangers of his ....

Now a legacy of blood and desire will test her beautiful copper-haired daughter, Brianna, as Claire's spellbinding journey of self-discovery continues in the intrigue-ridden Paris court of Charles Stuart ...in a race to thwart a doomed Highlands uprising ...and in a desperate fight to save both the child and the man she loves....

 

Not a bad historical fantasy, but I have some issues with it. I kept putting off my reading until close to its due date at the library. Even when I got started and the deadline was approaching, I kept looking longingly at other books on my library book pile and had to force myself to keep reading this one.

First, the book starts with Claire returning to Scotland (in the 20th century) with her grown-up daughter Brianna. They meet a charming young Scotsman, Roger MacKenzie, and sparks fly between Brianna and Roger. Well & good, I am interested in this new plot line. But does Gabadon stick with it? No, everything takes an abrupt left turn, back into the past and we’re back in time with Claire & Jamie. And there are HUNDREDS of pages between appearances of Roger & Brianna.

The historical fantasy isn’t bad, as historical fantasies go, it just wasn’t what I was interested in. Claire & Jamie, blah blah, blah, Bonnie Prince Charlie, blah, blah, blah, Battle of Culloden, more blather. The manuscript is padded with all kinds of vignettes which do absolutely nothing to move the action along and only bogged me down (when Claire & Jaime discover the cave paintings, anyone?)

And this is going to sound very pedantic, but she mentions birds in the course of the book four times and only gets it right once. In the very beginning, chickadees are referenced. Well, there aren’t any chickadees in Scotland—they have related birds, the tits. If Claire had seen/heard Blue Tits or Coal Tits, that would be accurate, but not chickadees. At another point, Claire is woken by a mockingbird. No dice, there aren’t mockingbirds in France. Claire hears a meadowlark—impossible! Maybe a Skylark, but there aren’t meadowlarks in Europe. At least when Jamie feeds crumbs to some sparrows, she just leaves them as generic sparrows and doesn’t assign a species. I even hauled out my Birds of Europe with North Africa and the Middle East just to check that I hadn’t lost my mind, but it backed me up. If you want accurate historical fiction, you can’t just go sticking North American birds into a novel set in Scotland and France!

Okay, bird rant over. I can tell how un-involved I was in the story that I’d be counting and evaluating the appearances of birds in the text.

One thing I did enjoy was the prominence of genealogical research in the plot line. Turns out that Claire’s 20th century husband, Frank, fortuitously counted some of the characters in this narrative in his family tree and had made a big enough deal of it that Claire was aware of these details. She spends a fair bit of time convincing the 18th century husband, Jamie, not to kill these relatives too soon, to ensure that Frank will be born. There’s more talk of the paradox of time travel in this novel, and I enjoyed those speculations.

Book number 283 in my Science Fiction and Fantasy Reading Project.

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review 2018-01-08 18:21
The Great Hunt / Robert Jordan
The Great Hunt - Robert Jordan

The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and pass. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow. For centuries, gleemen have told of The Great Hunt of the Horn. Now the Horn itself is found: the Horn of Valere long thought only legend, the Horn which will raise the dead heroes of the ages.  And it is stolen.

 

My second step on the Wheel of Time! The best part about it was that it got me feeling things about these characters. I mean, I wanted to bash heads together with Rand being all stubborn and Mat not helping himself a bit and Perrin not accepting who he has become! And despite that, I realize that these would be hard realizations to come to—they aren’t just country lads anymore. Plus, Nyaneve irritated me every bit as much as I appreciated her.

The echoes of the King Arthur story are strong—Galad, Gawyn, and Elayne have been added to the cast. And there was a reference to a sword in a stone that only the Dragon Reborn could use. References to the legendary warrior Arthur, who is born again in the Dragon—like Arthur Pendragon, who is said to be asleep and ready to return to the world if he is needed.

The Horn of Valere and its ability to summon warriors of the past reminded me of Tolkien’s Paths of the Dead. It felt to me like this was being used up awfully early in the course of the WoT—after all, this is only volume 2 of 14!

There are obviously many unanswered questions and I shall look forward to reading The Dragon Reborn as soon as possible. (One of the advantages of getting a late start on this series is that they are all available now.)

Book 270 of my Science Fiction and Fantasy reading project.

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review 2017-12-23 18:20
Someone is being turned into a crazy cat lady
The 12 Cats of Christmas (The Kitten Files) - Perry Kirkpatrick

Gloria has a problem, and it isn't that her dog has died.  (Don't worry, the dog dies before the story starts and it was old age).  Someone keeps leaving shelter cats at her front door.  She is being turned into a crazy cat lady.

 

The story is somewhat predictable, but quite sweet.  The cats are all differeent and well drawn as characters.

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review 2017-11-14 17:51
To Green Angel Tower / Tad Williams
To Green Angel Tower - Tad Williams

As the evil minions of the undead Sithi Storm King prepare for the kingdom-shattering culmination of their dark sorceries and King Elias is drawn ever deeper into their nightmarish, spell spun world, the loyal allies of Prince Josua desperately struggle to rally their forces at the Stone of Farewell. And with time running out, the remaining members of the now devastated League of the Scroll have also gathered there to unravel mysteries from the forgotten past in an attempt to find something to strike down their unslayable foe.

But whether or not they are successful, the call of battle will lead the valiant followers of Josua Lackhand on a memorable trek to the haunted halls of Asu'a itself - the Sithi's greatest stronghold.

 

A satisfying ending to an engaging trilogy. I can see why this final tome was originally published in two parts—it was a definite door-stop! I sprained my wrist two years ago, and I found that old injury aching at the end of lengthy reading sessions!

However, the size of the volume was necessary in order to tie up the many, many loose ends from the first two books. I especially appreciated the return of “Rachel the Dragon” as an honoured elder lady, even as I grieved the loss of other characters. I also have to say that I appreciated the focus on Miriamele, despite the fact that she often came across as spoiled and irrational. I was able to endure that portrayal because Simon was often angry and petulant for no particular reason that I could discern either. Equal opportunity bad behaviour!

I appreciated that Osten Ard was not just a clone of Middle Earth. Williams gave the world his own structure and rules, and created unique creatures and challenges for his characters. I really liked the ending--it worked for me. I always feel the tug of emotion as the war ends and the circle of friends must split up to return to their own lives—happy to get back to normal, sad to be parted.

Book number 267 in my Science Fiction & Fantasy reading project.

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review 2017-06-26 21:57
Sing to the Moon: Tales from the Kitten Cam (Pickford)
Sing to the Moon: Tales from the Kitten Cam - Jill Pickford

This is a slight book of occasional short stories and poetry that gives me a really disproportionate amount of pleasure: or, at least, I'm sure people would think it disproportionate who aren't also followers of the 24-hour live streams of foster kittens upon which its "characters" are based. Chief amongst these streams, and the only one I follow with any regularity, is the kitten cam of Foster Dad John, a middle-aged IT guy who lives just outside of Seattle, a gentle, knowledgeable cat-lover who is that rarest of males, neither camera-shy nor a grandstander. Though he sometimes gets other assignments, generally he sees a litter of kittens through from birth to adoptable age at 8 weeks or a little older; most often the mother cats are also part of the deal. He takes his educative role seriously, but never pompously, and famously does undignified things like sweeping out his "Critter Room's" floors, building elaborate anti-climbing contrivances (which inevitably fail eventually) and falling asleep on camera with the kittens crawling all over him.

 

Jill Pickford is part of his international following (she's based in Britain), but whereas others content themselves with chatting online, or donating to FDJ's parent shelter Purrfect Pals, or making drawings or craft-y gifts for the kittens' going-away, she has been composing occasion-driven cat point-of-view stories (or verse) for several years now, often helping other viewers through some of the more traumatic events in that little world like the death of a kitten. Encouraged by those other viewers, she has developed that alternate cat world - and chiefly its relation to the "other side" of the rainbow bridge - into a fantasy world with its own rules and dominant characters. The mother cats figure prominently in her stories, as do the fragile kittens who failed to thrive, those of their living siblings whose adoptive owners have signalled tolerance for publicity by inviting cam viewers on to dedicated post-adoptive facebook pages, and the brother and sister cats of those same adopted facebook cats. In short, there is a fairly large circle of reference through social media which pretty much dictates the extent of the expected readership for these stories.

 

That said, in the later stories in the volume, Pickford has allowed herself a bit of freedom from the constraints of real incidents and courtesy to private individuals (including FDJ himself), by inventing whole other lives for cats once they are across the Rainbow Bridge or, in the case of two lost kittens, their "next lives" (since cats have 9). This is where Pickford's generous imagination and clever writing sings, in my opinion - and it is here, too, that there is the opportunity to find readership not just amongst those in the social media fan club.

 

All proceeds go to Purrfect Pals, by the way - like many fan communities, this is a gift culture, as is evident by the wide variety of (international) collaboration that has gone into the publication. Even had it given me far less pleasure than it did, I would have been happy to know that its purchase (it was a generous gift from my sister, another Kitten Cam follower) put a few more pennies into the hands of that worthy shelter.

To find FDJ and his current batch of kittens, google "The Critter Room", or search youtube with that same phrase (youtube is his platform now; he was priced out of his previous one).

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