Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Shape-Changers Wife

'Until Aubrey arrived in the village to study with Glyrenden, he had no idea that the great wizard had taken a wife. At the time, drinking an ale in the warm, lightless tavern which was situated at the very center of town (in fact, the heart of the small community), he did not think it mattered one way or the other. Nonetheless, he was surprised. From what old Cyril had told him, Glyrenden did not seem like the kind of man disposed toward the softer passions. But then, it was obvious Cyril did not like the court magician, and perhaps his unflattering words could be traced to professional jealousy.'
First paragraph of The Shape-Changers Wife by Sharon Shinn

This is a fairy-tale story about Aubrey, a young magician sent to study with the cruel wizard, Glyrenden. Warned by his former mentor to always be on gaurd around Glyrenden, Aubrey enjoys his first months at the dusty strange castle, especially his time spent with the shape-changers wife, Lilith. But there is something very strange about the inhabitants of the castle, including Lilith. Can Aubrey unlock their secrets? A fun little magical read that I think should be in the young readers category. This one isn't as predictable as so many other fairy tales, so was quite enjoyable.

"But magic, I have discovered, is like any skill. It is not inherently good in itself. And some of it - yes, some of it is inherently evil. There are wicked spells, savage spells, enchantments that are so black that even to know them withers the heart a little, taints the soul. And yet to be a great magician, to be a sorcerer of any ability or renown, those spells must be learned as well. For if a magician does not know them, they can be used against him - and what is magic, after all, but a man's power to change the world while it is incapable of changing him?"

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Snow Falling On Cedars

'The accused man, Kabuo Miyamoto, sat proudly upright with a rigid grace, his palms placed softly on the defendant's table - the posture of a man who has detached himself insofar as this is possible at his own trial. Some in the gallery would later say that his stillness suggested a disdain for the proceedings; others felt certain it veiled a fear of the verdict that was to come. Whichever it was, Kabuo showed nothing - not even a flicker of the eyes. He was dressed in a white shirt worn buttoned to the throat and gray, neatly pressed trousers. His figure, especially the neck and shoulders, communicated the impression of irrefutable physical strength and of precise, even imperial bearing. Kabuo's features were smooth and angular; his hair had been cropped close to his skull in a manner that made its musculature prominent. In the face of the charge that had been leveled against him he sat with his dark eyes trained straight ahead and did not appear moved at all.'
First paragraph of Snow Falling On Cedars by David Guterson

I read this book as part of two different challenges. The first being the What's In a Name Challenge for the plant category and the second being my 5th book for the Back to History Challenge .

What an excellent read, emotional on so many different levels. The author writes so well that you can smell the musty ancient cedar forests as the rain drips onto the ferns. The warm sun beats down on us as we squat with the characters to pick juicy red strawberries from the local fields. This novel takes us to San Piedro Island in the Puget Sound of Washington State for a murder trial in 1954. Kabuo Miyamota, a gill-netter of Japanese descent stands accused of the murder of fellow fisherman and childhood friend, Carl Heine. Carl has been found dead in his own nets with a blow to the head. To understand why Kabuo is accused of this horrific crime we must go back in time to the days of their boyhood and the townsfolk around them. The story is narrated by Ishmael Chambers, the local newspaper man who also grew-up on the island beside the two other men. Ishmael had a long standing first romance with Hatsue Imada, who is now the accused man's wife, so this is also a tale of forbidden interracial love that ends abruptly when Pearl Harbor is bombed and the Japanese-Americans from the island are sent to interment camps in Montana and California.
Many of the local boys join the service, including those of Japanese descent, to defend our country. On returning, things have changed. The war has left many scars behind, both visible and invisible.
This is a novel of murder, mystery, racism, world war II, interment camps and forbidden romance. One that I will keep on my shelves and recommend many to read. Very, very good.

'One hour later, inside the cedar tree, she brought this matter up with Ishmael. "We've known each other forever," she said. "I can hardly remember not knowing you. It's hard to remember the days before you. I don't even know if there were any."'

Monday, April 14, 2008

Book Lovers Mail

JenClair over at A Garden Carried in the Pocket , was getting rid of some of her stash and I was the lucky winner of last weeks giveaway. Wa-hoo! I'll be reading The Shape-Changer's Wife really soon. It's next on my stack ~ moved it right to the top.

Thanks, Jen!

The Mistress of Spices

The Mistress of Spices by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
'I am a Mistress of Spices.
I can work the others too. Mineral, metal, earth and sand and stone. The gems with their cold clear light. The liguids that burn their hues into your eyes till you see nothing else. I learned them all on the island.
But the spices are my love.
I know their origins, and what their colors signify, and their smells. I can call each by the true-name it was given at the first, when earth split like skin and offered it up to the sky. Their heat runs in my blood. From amchur to zafran, they bow to my command. At a whisper they yield up to me their hidden properties, their magic powers.'

This book is a magical fable, written in a very poetic prose. It tells the story of Tilo, a girl born in India with the sight of a seer. This very power gets her kidnapped by pirates and eventually leads her to a magical island where she is taught the mystery of the spices and by the Old One. Once her education is complete, Tilo is made immortal and sent through time to an Indian spice shop in Oakland, California, in the body of an old woman. Here she administers the spices as a balm and healer for her customers. As a Mistress, there are many rules that Tilo must follow in order to stay in the good graces of the spices, but life and love call and Tilo finds herself breaking these rules.
This was a fun read, one of magic and mystery, that I did enjoy, but will probably not keep on my shelves to read again later.

'We are laughing but there is a raw edge to it, a laugh that knows how easily it could have turned to weeping. A laugh like this, when you share it, loosens the knots in the heart.'

I'm now off to spend sometime on San Peidre Island off the Washington Coast, beginning in 1942...

Friday, April 04, 2008

Drums of Autumn

"I've never been afraid of ghosts. I live with them daily, after all. When I look in a mirror, my mother's eyes look back at me; my mouth curls with the smile that lured my great-grandfather to the fate that was me."
First paragraph of Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon

I read Drums of Autumn as my 4th book for the Back To History Challenge , jumping into this chunkster with both feet, not realizing that it was actually the 4th in the "Outlander" series. For some reason when I picked it up, I thought I was going to be immersed in the civil war. I was completely wrong. This book is set in Pre-Revolutionary America and is a continuing time travel saga. I hadn't read the first 3 in the series, so know that there are things that I missed and somethings that I didn't quite know what had happened, but for the most part it read very well as a stand-alone book. The author did a good job of filling in details from the former novels.
A story of timeless love and adventure. Claire is a 20th century doctor who somehow (in the first novel) has traveled through time via an ancient stone circle in modern day Scotland. There she meets and falls in love with Jamie, an 18th century Scottish Highlander. Fast forward 20 or so years to our novel, where Claire and Jamie are living in 1770's North Carolina and their daughter, Briana is in 20th century Boston. Claire had traveled back through the circles while pregnant with Briana during the Scottish uprisings, given birth and raised her in modern day America. Claire has since re-joined Jamie in the 18th century and left Briana, a grown woman, to her own devises. Briana and her boyfriend, Roger, come across an old document that tells them that Briana's parents died prematurely in a fire, so Briana, unknown to Roger, heads through the circles to find her parents and try to change history. Roger figures out what she has done and follows her into the past. Much adventure follows.
It really was a good book and held my attention well, through most of the 1070 pages. At the end I was ready to be done and move on to the next book on my shelves. I did enjoy this one, but will probably not read the others in the series, though the reviews that I checked out on Amazon are all very positive.

I'm off now to San Francisco to spend a little time with the Mistress of the Spices...