Friday, October 29, 2010

M is for Magic

"M Is for Magic" is a compilation of stories by Neil Gaiman. He tells us in the introduction that he got the idea for his title from Ray Bradbury's books "R is for Rocket" and "S Is for Space," and that Mr. Bradbury was more than happy to let him use the pattern for naming his book. I thought that was a neat tribute to an author that Gaiman told us he read as a kid.

There are 11 stories in this book and, as usual, they are full of imagination! The first story, "The Case of Four and Twenty Blackbirds," had me laughing the whole way through! Gaiman cleverly weaves famous nursery rhyme characters into a detective mystery that reads like a Dick Tracy story. You'll have a lot of fun finding out just who it was that offed Humpty Dumpty!

"Troll Bridge" brought me back to memories of my youth. My cousin and I would go up and visit our Granny and she had a little crick with a small bridge over it out back. We played many games out there, but one of the one's I remember the clearest was playing the classic story of the troll and the bridge. Maybe because I always seemed to end up being the troll.

Another story that really stuck out at me was "Sunbird." I've always been fascinated by the Pheonix, but it's not a creature I've encountered in too many tales. I thought this approach was quite unique, and one that quite frankly made me hungry!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Masquerade by Melissa de la Cruz

"Masquerade" is the second "Blue Bloods" novel by Melissa de la Cruz. My husband happened to come over to talk with me while I was curled up on the couch reading this one, and he commented on the creepy eyes behind the mask that are on the cover. So I told him a little bit about the story line. His comment, "sounds like a soap opera to me!" You know, I think my husbands right, it is a bit of a soap opera, but that's what makes it so much fun! A vampire soap opera set in the posh world of upper-class New York. All the drama you could wish for and plenty of fun too.

In "Masquerade" Schuyler is attempting to hunt down her long lost grandfather in the hopes that he will be able to help her with the mystery of the Silver Bloods. The Silver Bloods are vampires who feed off of other Vampires (the Blue Bloods), and this is the most heinous crime a vampire can commit. The council claims that all the Silver Bloods are gone, but after the recent events Schuyler believes differently.

Schuyler and Oscar (her human best friend) have traveled to Vienna to track down her Grandfather, and the "chase" takes a lot of twists and turns! She does eventually locate him, but he claims there is nothing he can do to help! Schuyler is crushed, but there's nothing else she can do but return home.

Back at home in New York Mimi Force (Schuyler's enemy and coincidentally her cousin) has been up to some of her usual tricks. She's decided to throw and after party for teen vampires only that will be held immediately after the annual Four Hundred Ball. To make things as full of social intrigue as possible, the party will be announced by text message the night of the party, and it will be a Masquerade party so that it's hard to tell who is there and who didn't get invited!

Unfortunately for Mimi, plans don't always work her way, and by the end of the ball she's angrier with Schuyler than she's ever been before. She is determined to take Schuyler out of the picture, and with the help of the new and mysterious Kingsley she just might succeed...

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Patchwork Girl of Oz by L. Frank Baum

In the last Oz book, "The Emerald City of Oz," Ozma was forced to cut the magical land of Oz off from the rest of the world. This, unfortunately, meant that the official historian of Oz could no longer get any stories about Oz! This made many children very sad, until one clever little child thought to ask why Dorothy couldn't send our favorite historian information via wireless telegraph? Well it was a brilliant idea, and with a little help from Ozma, it was soon worked out so that the children could continue to learn about the wonderful land of Oz!

"The Patchwork Girl of Oz" starts out with us meeting a boy named Ojo the Unlucky, and his Unc Nunkie. Ojo is unlucky because he's lost his parents, and he lives in a lonely part of the forest with only his Unc Nunkie, who hardly ever talks at all. One day their supply of food runs out, and they are forced to go off in search of new food.

Their search leads them to the house of the Crooked Magician, a man who is truly crooked in body, and maybe just a wee bit mentally as well. It was the Crooked Magician who made the Powder of Life that animated Jack Pumpkinhead and the Saw Horse. Making the Powder of Life was an extremely long process, 6 years long to be exact, and he was just now about to finish a second  batch. This time he was making it for the purpose of allowing his wife to animate a servant to help her around the house.

The magician's wife had sewn herself a servant out of a patchwork quilt that she had around the house. The girl was built quite well, with a riot of color that was rather unseemly for a Munchkin household, but that was good, because it would help her remember her place. She also added some brains from the jars her husband kept on the shelf, but only  enough for the Patchwork Girl to do as she wished. What she didn't know was that Ojo decided the Patchwork Girl deserved better brains than that and added quite a bit to the mix!

When the Patchwork Girl was brought to life a terrible accident happened knocking the Liquid of Petrification off the shelf and turning the magician's wife and Unc Nunkie into statues! Everyone was horrified by this, especially because the Powder of Life was spilled at the same time, so there was none left to save the new statues with! The only solutions were to wait the 6 years needed to make more, or to gather the mysterious ingredients needed for the spell to undo them. Not wanting to wait that long, Ojo sets off to find the ingredients, and the Patchwork Girl accompanies him. They have a wild adventure meeting lots of new residents of Oz!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Tales of the Elytheria - The Healing Field

Note: This story is just one story about a nomadic culture called "The Elytheria." I'm working on (among other things) a series of stories about them. These stories are not necessarily connected by anything other than than the culture, and I'm enjoying the freedom of that format! This is the first story I wrote, but at the moment I have two more in the works, and several hovering on the edges of my mind. Enjoy.

The Healing Field

She felt the power caress her skin like fine silk, heightening all her senses, and bringing with it a touch of euphoria. Bracing herself she pictured her goal as in her mind, focusing on getting each detail right, knowing that anything less than perfection would be letting her patient down. She couldn’t do that. Especially since it wasn’t just a simple patient, this was her lover.

But no. She mustn’t think of that, if she focused on anything other than the wound, than things could go awry.  That was one reason that most clans tried to keep two healers with them as they traveled. The battle had taken Jeri’s life though, and left her the only one who could deal with the aftermath.

It had been difficult, separating out the wounded and giving her attention first to those who needed her the most. Lianna and Richard had helped her. After all, it doesn’t take a healer to see that someone is bleeding out, and with three people working, they could more easily separate out who was dying and who could wait a few extra minutes.

If Lianna hadn’t had the gift of comfort though, their presence might not have been enough, and she might have rushed to Telger’s side immediately anyway. It’s hard to allow your lover to suffer, even knowing they’d be ok, while you treated other’s first.

Resolutely she shoved all those thoughts away. While Telger’s injuries were less severe than any others she’d treated so far, they still required a delicate hand, and she was getting tired. So, focusing with all her might, she placed her hand on his ribs, and began the work of stitching his ribs and flesh back together.

When she was done Miranda felt drained. The euphoria was gone and it left her feeling like an old woman. Looking up at Richard she asked, “How many more?”

“Two more,” he answered, with sympathy. “The rest will heal on their own. Lianna is bandaging the small injuries and double checking we didn’t miss anything. Here,” he said as he handed her a cup of Kaffa.

Miranda considered the steaming cup in his hands for a minute, blinking, before she took it. “Thanks, this will help.  I could really use a bite of food though if the next two can wait long enough.”

Richard grinned, “Here.”

Opening her eyes in hungry greed and wonder she asked as she took the offered bowl of stew, “How did you know?”

“I’ve been around long enough.”

Miranda considered Richard for a moment as she began to chew, “Someday you’ll have to tell me your story, something tells me this is not your first battle, or your first healing field.”  She watched carefully as his eyes clouded over, and he shrugged as casually as he could. Putting her hand on his arm she said, “But not tonight, and maybe not for some time, there are more important things today.” He nodded, returning to his normally taciturn self, and she knew it was going to be an interesting challenge getting his story out of him, but she had always known that. Now she just had a little bit more to work from.

As soon as she finished, Miranda went back to work and finished healing the last of the badly wounded. Then, unable to rest until she did so, she checked over the rest of the wounded, making sure once again that no one had been missed. Finally she let go of her power completely, and it felt like silk being slowly withdrawn from her skin. As soon as she had finished she fell into a deep sleep that carried her through the night without even a single dream.

The next morning she rose, stiff, but knowing that was the price to pay for her work of the night before. Walking out of her tent she climbed a nearby hill so she could look out over the battle field from yesterday.

They had been working their way through the Solsti Mountains when the attack came. Their attackers were too well armed to be simple bandits out for profit. Most of those were smart enough to avoid the Eletheria anyway. No, these looked like more of a small army. Which meant they’d been waiting for either the Eletheria themselves, or another target, and either of these options was bad.

Looking out she saw many things. The field was soaked with blood, but there were no bodies. If there was
one thing you could count on the Eletheria to be it was efficient. There was a fresh pile of dirt outside of the camp that told her that they had buried their dead attackers where their spirits would be trapped by the earth. A large burned circle in the center of camp told her that she had also missed the ceremonial burning of their own dead to release their spirits. She had expected that though, she just ached as she wondered who hadn’t made it. Who had been beyond the hope of healing from her touch.

Miranda also saw a series of tents pitched inside the circle of wagons. That was abnormal when there were no rains, but she knew that they had been put up to take care of the wounded. Those tents transformed the battle field into a healing field. What was originally a site of disaster; also had hope. Hope because, while many had died, many had also been saved who would have been lost without her touch. It filled her with a sense of satisfaction knowing she had been able to do good for her people.

She was also a little amazed and shocked by the fact that she had actually been able to do all that she’d done the night before. There was no way she should have been able to heal that much in one night, let alone going without a break until nearly the end. When Jeri died a little part of her had died, thinking of the people that she wouldn’t be able to save. She had set that aside though, focusing only on the work, and the people who Richard and Lianna had directed her too.

Drawing the silken sense of her healing abilities around her again, Miranda reached out to the field in front of her, searching for darkness that would tell her she was needed, and where. A smile crossed her face as she only felt small patches of grey. There were people in pain, but none in danger. It truly was a healing field in front of her.

The only question was how she’d done it.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Jumping Off of a Cliff

Jumping Off of a Cliff

Standing, teetering on the edge,
Gazing at the steep drop before me.

Deep breath in, preparing myself,
Pushing all questions and thoughts away.

I close my eyes, and with a rush of joy,
I commit myself to the plunge.

Without love, life is meaningless,
But love requires a leap of faith.

I know my lovers arms are waiting,
And I cast myself into the depths of love. 

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Poe Shadow by Matthew Pearl

"The Poe Shadow" is a story that starts with the strange facts concerning Edward Allan Poe's death, and creates a plausible fiction to explain what happened. I had heard some really good reviews on this book, and since I like a good mystery, I was excited to read it! Unfortunately, while it was an interesting read, I didn't think it was as good as the reviews had said. In many ways the style is similar to an older mystery novel, but it didn't capture my interest in the way that an Ellery Queen or Sherlock Holmes would.

In this story we meet Quentin Clark, a young lawyer with his life in front of him. He has a good secure job working in a firm with a close friend of his. He has a woman who is his best friend and will probably some day will be his wife. He even has an inheritance from his father that allows him to live in comfort above and beyond what his work might allow.

Clark puts all of this at great jeopardy though when he becomes caught up in the strange circumstances surrounding Poe's death. He had been acquainted with Poe, and the two of them had exchanged several letters. Clark was planning on helping him defend his new venture from libel, so when Poe dies, he simply decides that now it's his job to protect the poet from the mud that's being thrown at his dead body by the press.

In attempting to unravel the strange circumstances around Poe's death Clark decides to track down the man he believes was the inspiration for one of Poe's characters, a man named Dupin. Dupin, in Poe's stories, was a man who helped the police solve mysteries strange and peculiar with a brilliance that stunned all around him. Unfortunately for Clark there seem to be two men that fit the description. He believes that one is the correct man, but the other decides to set himself up as the "real Dupin" and it becomes a contest of wills to see who will uncover the truth first.

Clark throws away many things in his life with seeming little care as he pursues the mystery around Poe's death. While he does eventually seem to realize what he's done, it still frustrated me. I also didn't really like the character that he thought was the real Dupin, a man named Dupont. He was aloof, in a manner reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes, but whereas Holmes eventually lets you as to what he's thinking, for the vast majority of this book Dupont simply ridicules Clark for the things he's missing. That left me frustrated as I could never really figure out what Dupont was thinking. If he had let us in on his thoughts before the very end of the book I wouldn't have been as frustrated.