sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

October 21, 2009

into the stacks: sabriel
posted by soe 3:28 am

Karen and Grey Kitten have suggested that I ought to just start writing up my book reviews. I figure if I start with the most recent and work my way backwards, I at least have a shot at offering insights into what I’ve just read, rather than not remembering details of any of this year’s books…

Sabriel, by Garth Nix

From the jacket: “Sent to a boarding school in Ancelstierre as a young child, Sabriel has had little experience with the random power of Free Magic or the Dead who refuse to stay dead in the Old Kingdom. But during her final semester, her father, the Abhorsen, goes missing, and Sabriel knows she must enter the Old Kingdom to find him. She soon finds companions in Mogget, a cat whose aloof manner barely conceals its malevolent spirit, and Touchstone, a young Charter Mage long imprisoned by magic, now free in body but still trapped by painful memories. As the three travel deep into the Old Kingdom, threats mount on all sides. And every step brings them closer to a battle that will pit them against the true forces of life and death — and bring Sabriel face-to-face with her own destiny.”

My take: Dark fantasy is generally not a realm of fiction I choose to pursue. But I was in need of something to read at work one lunch hour, and Sabriel was sitting on the discard cart at the office. It looked promising, but I wasn’t wowed by the prologue. Later, though, I saw it mentioned as a young adult fantasy novel with a particularly strong female character and decided to give it another shot. I’m glad I did.

Sabriel is the teenage daughter of the Abhorsen, the necromancer in charge of protecting the Old Kingdom from the Dead (who sometimes refuse to stay dead). Sent to school in Ancelstierre (a land much like an early 20th-century England) on the other side of the border from the Old Kingdom), she doesn’t see much of her father. When he does visit her, though, he shares with her his knowledge of Charter Magic, the strong force which keeps the dead at bay, and of walking in Death. As she ages, her father increases his visits but appears to her mostly in a less corporeal way.

Until one night, when he fails to appear when expected. Instead, a golem materializes in the school, bearing her father’s sword and the bells of Death to her. Realizing that the Abhorsen would never part willingly with those items, she sets out to the Old Kingdom to rescue her father from whatever has trapped him somewhere between Life and Death.

Pursued by the Dead, their zombie-like minions, and their slaves, she arrives at the family homestead only to find that the supernatural servants there, including Mogget, a cat who isn’t really a cat, believe her father dead and greet her as the new Abhorsen. Mogget reminds her that her sworn familial duty is to protect the kingdom and to vanquish the Dead, not to mount rescue missions. With these two obligations vying for her loyalty and with the Dead dismantling the kingdom, Sabriel must figure out how to save the world — and her father — before it’s too late.

Carl is once again hosting his annual Halloween-themed read-along, the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril Challenge IV. Sabriel qualifies under the dark fantasy category and puts me halfway toward my Peril the Second quest.

Pages: 311

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October 16, 2009

speedy, warming, and stripey
posted by soe 1:23 am

Another week gone… And with it, three beautiful things:

1. A construction-free ride home from Connecticut. We accomplish the ride in a record-setting six hours…

2. Warm soup and baguette on a chilly, rainy night.

3. New kneesocks — black and white stripes with orange accents — for the Halloween season.

What’s been beautiful in your world this week?

Category: three beautiful things. There is/are 2 Comments.

October 8, 2009

familiar, hopeful, and surprising
posted by soe 3:06 pm

Thanks for the outpouring of concern earlier this week. I am feeling better and expect this weekend’s trip to Connecticut will put me firmly back into good spirits.

And along that train of thought, here are three beautiful things from the past week that have helped make my soul sing:

1. I have downloaded every picture I’ve taken since 2006 onto my computer (and the few kid photos people have emailed me, hint, hint) and set up my screen saver to cycle through them. Because Rudi and I have been watching more of our tv over the internet (thank you PBS!), I spend more time in my rocking chair while my computer sits idle. As familiar faces flash past me — weddings, holidays, sporting events, just hanging out, big events and small — I feel like you’re all in my living room with me.

2. Have you seen The Berlin Reunion yet, which commemorated last week the 19th anniversary of German reunification and the upcoming 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall? The Boston Globe has pictures of the political theater, and you just can’t help but be moved.

3. As I sat in Rock Creek Park Sunday afternoon, two large dogs walking by with their people suddenly looked intently over my shoulder. I turned, expecting to see another dog, but instead discovered a doe, probably 50 feet from the picnic bench where I sat talking to Erik on the phone. A rustling in the brush on the hillside behind the bike path alerted all of us in the vicinity that this deer was not on her own. A cyclist stopped and sat down, hoping to lure the companion into the open, and the dog owners held firmly to leashes. Soon, an adolescent doe picked her way out to follow her friend and then both bounded down the bike path, tails erect, until they veered off toward the creek far away from the rest of us.

Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that today’s TBT is dedicated to my dad and my great-aunt Maude, who both celebrate birthdays today.

What’s been beautiful in your world lately? Feel free to share in the comments.

Category: three beautiful things. There is/are 2 Comments.

October 6, 2009

i’m still here…
posted by soe 1:13 am

I am here and am hoping that regular blogging will return sometime this week. The trip to Salt Lake just took a lot out of me and I’ve been in a funk since our return.

It even got so bad last week that I took my brother’s advice and went out for drinks with friends. I ordered an alcoholic beverage — my first ever. But it was nasty, so my consumption was limited to three sips. (In defense of the drink, no one else seemed to be under the impression that it reeked of liquor. In fact, they kept telling me how sweet it was!)

But I’ve been occupying my time productively when not trying to acquire a new bad habit. I’ve done a bit of housecleaning and some laundry. I am running low on handknit socks, though, so a load of sink washing must move up on my priority list…

I’ve done a bit of cooking recently. We made a batch of Jenn’s tomato sauce last month and I followed it up with Mum’s recipe for baking tomatoes. Well, not so much baking, as preserving. Sort of… Tonight I baked an apple crisp as a follow-up to the delicious turnip soup Rudi made for supper. (Of course, I started it too late for it to be done before Rudi toddled off to bed, but I promised him he could eat it for breakfast if he wanted…) While in Salt Lake, we had a delicious pear coffee cake one morning at a cafe, and Rudi’s mom sent us home with a handful of pears (and plums and quinces and apples and herbs), so I may give that a shot sometime soon unless Rudi decides he’s going to start eating them.

The garden continues to give us petite tomatoes and the pepper plants all have flowers covering them. I planted a rather late crop of squash, so although the plants have come up, I’m not convinced they’ll make it to vegetable stage. Although our frosts come pretty late in the year, so who knows. A volunteer lettuce popped up from the spring’s harvest going to seed, and our chard remains ever faithful.

I’ve been knitting quite a bit, but not finishing an awful lot. I have one mitt and one sock done, so either half of me will be nice and toasty or I’ll have to switch it up and go the right sock/left mitt route and hope that keeps either side from too much shivering.

Reading has been more successful, although I think I failed to finish any of the three challenges I took on over the summer. Plus, I have gotten so behind on book reviews that I need to figure out a new way to handle them. Or just suck it up and crank them out and inundate you with reviews. Any thoughts on that? And I missed the National Book Festival while I was in Salt Lake, which just makes me crabby to think about…

I try to get out on the bike each weekend, but my progress is slow when I go on my own (and Julia and I have not been coordinating our schedules well lately…) Bike D.C. is coming up in two weeks, so maybe I’ll see if any of our friends are interested in signing up with me. I also should sign up for that yoga class I keep telling Elspeth and Julia I’m going to take. Maybe when I get back from our long Connecticut weekend. I have done more commuting on the bike this year than ever before, helped by the delays caused by the Red Line crash earlier this year. (They were completely necessary and understandable, but I had a way around them, so why not take advantage of my two wheels?)

Anyway, that’s my version of a catch-all catch-up. Maybe tomorrow I’ll offer you my reflections on the baseball season…

Category: books,garden,knitting. There is/are 5 Comments.

October 2, 2009

slow chase, meals, and song circle
posted by soe 8:29 am

I know, I know. I missed Thursday. I meant to write yesterday when I got home from cocoa with Amani, but, well, I was exhausted and toddled off to bed after dinner without remembering what day of the week it was.

So here are three belated beautiful things from my last week, served up with apologies:

1. At the cafe, a man sits with his coffee and a doberman the size of a Great Dane. The dog follows with careful attention the movements of two sparrows who are teasing it.

2. In Salt Lake, eating out is a highlight. Several breakfasts include fresh fruit — pears in a coffeecake and berries on French toast and oatmeal — and my raspberry-chocolate chip milkshake is so thick it’s served with a spoon instead of a straw.

3. After joining Garrett and Bethy and their friends for drinks and dessert, instruments are broken out and the songs flow joyously for the next couple hours.

What’s been beautiful in your world this week?

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