notemily

I am often mistaken for a librarian.

The Comfortable Home

The Comfortable Home: A Inspirational Guide To Creating Feel Good Spaces - Jane Burdon Reviewing on my second read-through of this book. I really like [b:Room Rescues: Decorating Solutions For Awkward Spaces|1640523|Room Rescues Decorating Solutions For Awkward Spaces|Jane Burdon|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1186218376s/1640523.jpg|1634851], so I checked this one out as well. Unfortunately, it wasn't quite as useful to me as the other, because it relies too much on home renovations for its "comfort." And maybe the truth is that homes you can't change are never going to be truly comfortable for you, or something, but I wish there was more advice on creating comfort without changing bathroom fixtures and creating a kitchen from scratch. Which I suppose is what Room Rescues is for--those rooms you can't do much about.

On the other hand this book has a lot of practical advice. Particularly helpful are the brief explanations of which thread counts you should look for while buying various furnishings/textiles, and which fabrics are useful for which purposes. Since I buy new sheets and blankets all the time (a cheaper way to give my room a new look), that's useful for me. Burdon also wants me to throw out my mattress and soft furniture (couches and armchairs) every ten years and buy new ones, which... is not happening, but good to know if I ever have the money to do that.

She points out several times that comfort is personal. Some people are always cold, some people love the feeling of wood floors under their feet, some people like to be woken up by the sun on their face. Others like the opposite of those things. So to create your comfortable home, you have to figure out what is comfortable for you. That works a bit better if you live alone, but most decorating books assume nobody else has any input on the decorating, for some reason. She does recommend some solutions, for people who share a bed but prefer different levels of warmth, for example.

In the chapter on bedrooms, Burdon says that the bedroom should be a sanctuary and we should fill it only with calming, comfortable, non-stressful things--but then she doesn't provide a chapter on home offices. Or tell you what to do when you don't have a home office and you HAVE to turn your bedroom into a multi-use space. (Ikea recommends curtains separating the sleeping and working areas from each other.) While this book's content is way more practical than most decorating advice, there are some suggestions that just require more money than many people have. And my search for better decorating books continues.
The Comforts of Home: Creating Relaxed Rooms with a Romantic Feel - Atlanta Bartlett, Polly Wreford Meh?

So many of this book's photographs also appear in The Comfortable Home: A Inspirational Guide To Creating Feel Good Spaces took them, and they are quite pretty). I liked the other book better, and the whole time I was reading this one I just wished I was reading Burdon's book instead.

The text of this one bored me and towards the end I just started flipping through for the pictures, especially since I don't have an outdoor space or garden to decorate. One thing this book does have, though, is a brief chapter on home offices, which is missing from The Comfortable Home.

I do really want those floral armchairs though.
Modern Vintage Style - Emily Chalmers Is there a decorating book called "Actual People's Homes"? Maybe "Realistic Decorating"? I realize that many decorating books are meant to be used mainly as inspiration, but I'm sick of looking at perfect interiors that I'll never be able to afford or achieve. I'd like a book of the homes of people who aren't artists or designers, people who have no idea how to go about re-upholstering furniture and frankly don't have the time, people who can pretty much only afford Target and Ikea when they can't find anything cool on Craigslist, etc. Sometimes looking at decorating books makes me despair that I'll never have the "eye" for decorating that seems to transform these homes from mere collections of rooms to works of art, and I'd like a book of ideas that are a bit more achievable for the average human (and the below-average budget).

That said, there is some good stuff in this book. The main decorating philosophy of "modern vintage style" seems to be "mix it up." The book is full of examples of contrast, mainly of something "vintage" with something "modern," and the author (Sidenote: If the words are by Ali Hanan and the photographs are by Debi Treloar, what exactly did Emily Chalmers do?) recommends mixing "the best of the old" vintage pieces that stand the test of time with "the best of the new" modern design and technology. I can get behind that. I also like the philosophy that your stuff doesn't have to match or "go" together, that you can just buy things you love and your style will form itself.

Sometimes the contrast gets to be a little jarring, such as the bedroom on page 140 that's a nauseating mix of vintage wallpaper patterns, with nary a bare space for the eye to rest. But hey, if that works for the person sleeping in that bedroom, more power to them. Most of the homes featured in the book are those of artists, designers, and do-it-yourself crafters who manage to work magic with knitting and cardboard boxes. (Seriously, I would like to know how Ann Shore actually makes chairs out of cardboard that don't immediately collapse when someone sits on them.) These creative people have the diverse mix of styles you'd expect, and in addition to the busy, pattern-covered rooms, there are also examples of quiet minimalism and cheerful simplicity.

(Do people actually put lamps ON TOP of stacks of books? I see this all the time in decorating photos, and it seems so impractical to have to move your lamp in order to reach your books. Anyway.)
Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America - Barbara Ehrenreich Ehrenreich makes a solid case that the positive thinking movement is more harmful than helpful, especially when it leads to the converse of "The Secret"--that is, if people can attract good things by thinking positively, then people who have bad things happen to them must have been thinking too negatively. Ehrenreich provides hope for cynics and realists everywhere by exposing positive thinking as what it is: bullshit.
Tortall and Other Lands: A Collection of Tales - Tamora Pierce If you're new to Tortall, this book contains huge spoilers for the Immortals series and the Trickster duology, so you probably want to read those first. Tortall veterans, though, should love this book. It continues the stories of some familiar characters and creatures, and introduces others for the first time. I'm going to review each story on its own.

Student of Ostriches: Tammy takes a character who was mentioned ONCE in [b:Lioness Rampant|13837|Lioness Rampant (Song of the Lioness, #4)|Tamora Pierce|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1348887752s/13837.jpg|1123099] and gives her a complete and awesome backstory. I won't spoil which character it is--in fact I had to look her up to figure out where I had heard her name before--but I loved this story. It's set in what is obviously an analogue for Africa, where a girl learns first to run, and then to fight, from studying the ostriches and other animals she observes on the plains near her village. She looks to her future and sees only marriage and boredom, but when she is given a chance to show her skills, she discovers there might be another option.

Elder Brother: Finally, the story of the tree from [b:Wolf-Speaker|24094|Wolf-Speaker (Immortals, #2)|Tamora Pierce|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1347995618s/24094.jpg|1090193]! Ever since I read about Numair turning a man into a tree and how that would turn a tree into a man somewhere, I've wanted this story. It's from the tree's perspective, which is fascinating, but it also contains a Tammy staple: a girl who dresses as a boy to avoid her culture's restrictions on what girls can and can't do. Qiom, the apple tree, at first thinks he will forever be a tree trapped in a man's body, but Fadal, the girl, helps him learn to be human in more ways than one.

The Hidden Girl: This story is a continuation of "Elder Brother," but expands more on the religion from that story, which has shades of Islam. It requires that all women be veiled and covered at all times. While "Elder Brother" features a girl who rejected the veil entirely, at risk to her life, "The Hidden Girl" shows the other side: a girl who doesn't see the veil as a bad thing, and in fact uses it to her advantage. I am so glad that Tammy included this story. While her tales of girls dressing as boys are some of my favorite stories, not all girls are able or willing to do that, and many of them still want to change the sexist cultures they live in. Some women choose the veil, and that's okay.

Nawat: NAWAT AND ALY HAVE KIDS! It was delightful to see some of the characters from the Trickster duology again. This story is from Nawat's perspective, which is really cool to see. The crows decide Nawat is being too human and not crow enough, and he has to decide which of those sides of him is more important: Will he abandon his human family, or lose the community of his flock? There's also a really sweet note here about disability and what it means to have children who aren't considered "normal." And a surprisingly large amount of poop jokes.

The Dragon's Tale: KITTEN!! Finally we get a story from Kitten's perspective, and discover how frustrated she is that she can't communicate directly with humans or animals, even though she understands everything they say. While Daine and Numair are on a diplomatic mission with Kaddar, Kitten grows supremely bored and decides to go exploring. She finds a young, starving mother who has been cast out of the village, and sets about trying to help her, with the assistance of Spots, Numair's patient horse. There's lots of delicious magic in this one, and it's great to see a continuation of Kitten's story.

Lost: This was one of my favorites. A girl with an abusive father and a talent for mathematics thinks she'll never be able to follow her dreams of studying at the University, until she meets Lost, a darking who helps her gain the confidence she needs. Darkings are so awesome.

Time of Proving: I felt like I was missing something with this one, like it was incomplete or there was some kind of context in which it would make more sense. I'd like to know more about the Wind People and the Veiled City, and the image of a bull-man who wears silk and loves art and poetry was pretty great, but the story as a whole fell flat for me.

Plain Magic: Embroidery magic is one of my favorite things Tamora has written about. A poor girl from a small town is set to be sacrificed to a dragon, but a peddler woman from out of town comes to her aid. Another story about a girl choosing a future other than the one her family and/or society has chosen for her.

Mimic: A young shepherd rescues a helpless lizard-bird-creature from becoming an eagle's snack and tries to heal it of its wounds--but what type of creature is it? A dragon, or something else? To the shepherd, it doesn't matter, and she(? I don't think the gender of the narrator is mentioned) keeps working to heal it, even when it develops a life-threatening fever and her grandfather advises her to put it out of its misery. She names the creature Mimic for its habit of imitating the calls of birds and even a dog's bark, and Mimic becomes her friend and helper as he heals. Then, during a wild storm, something awesome happens. I don't think this story is set in Tortall, but the landscape is richly painted and it's easy to imagine everything that's happening. In the end, both Mimic and Ri must make choices about the kind of future they want to have, and the kind of people they want to be.

Huntress: A story set in contemporary New York! The narrator desperately wants to be part of the cool kids' crowd at her high school, but discovers that the price of acceptance is one she's not willing to pay. She ends up fighting for her life, and calls on the Goddess to help her. Haunting and evocative. Does my favorite "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" trick of taking a high school trope to its metaphorical extreme.

Testing: LOOK TAMMY WROTE A STORY WITHOUT ANY FANTASY IN IT. It's partly based on something that happened to Tamora herself, but really it's about the need for stability and the power of Not Leaving, which as [a:Markus Zusak|11466|Markus Zusak|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1311632768p2/11466.jpg] says is "an act of trust and love, often deciphered by children."
The Kingdom of Gods - N.K. Jemisin This book, while fairly awesome, suffers from a slight case of too many plots. I can't help thinking it would have been better served as two books, or as one really long book. The first two books in this trilogy are more coherent. In [b:The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms|6437061|The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (The Inheritance Trilogy, #1)|N.K. Jemisin|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1303143211s/6437061.jpg|6626657], almost the entire book takes place in the palace of Sky, and in [b:The Broken Kingdoms|7904453|The Broken Kingdoms (The Inheritance Trilogy, #2)|N.K. Jemisin|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1282522268s/7904453.jpg|11165787], it's the city of Shadow. The third book jumps from place to place, not really grounding itself anywhere. The love stories are similarly disjointed--the first book is essentially a romance between Yeine and Nahadoth, and the second between Oree and Shiny, and these are believable and moving because we spend time getting to know the characters and watching their love develop. The romances in KoG aren't given quite enough time to develop naturally, so they feel rushed. The whole book feels a bit rushed, to be honest.

This sounds like I didn't like the book. I did! It was enjoyable and I love spending time in the world Jemisin has created. But held up to the standards of the first two books, it falls short. This is emphasized by the inclusion of an Oree/Shiny story at the very end of the book, because it made me remember what I liked so much about the first two. The Kingdom of Gods is full of plot twists and interesting tidbits about the world of these gods, but it's missing the strong relationships between characters that made the first two so memorable.

tl;dr: The first two books are so mind-blowingly awesome that this one pales in comparison, but it's still worth reading.
Midnight Blue-Light Special - Seanan McGuire Hail the Goddess of All Things Fantasy and Horror! Hail the Series of the InCryptid! Now is the Ceremony of the Reading of the Second Book!

Hail the Humorous Situations! Hail the Plot! Hail the Fantastic Yet Realistic Characters! Hail the Nail-Biting Suspense! Hail the Fascinating Cryptid Species! Hail the Opportunity for Carnage! Amen!
The Queen's Fool - Philippa Gregory I've been reading a lot of historical novels lately, and I quite enjoyed this one. While it has the familiar backdrop of Tudor England, with all the drama and heartbreak and beheadings you'd expect, the addition of an original character as the narrator gives the story new life. As a secret Jew pretending to be Christian, Hannah is uniquely placed to comment on the religious persecutions brought about by the Spanish Inquisition and, eventually, Queen Mary I. She's also an engaging and likeable character whose own story was often more interesting to me than the Tudors'. She would have made a great Young Adult heroine--this book would be a good Alex Award-type crossover, in fact.

I was also fascinated with the portrayal of Elizabeth in this novel. It is set before her reign begins, when she is a young princess not sure if she will ever win the throne. She's portrayed as a shameless flirt who ensnares other women's husbands for the pleasure of it, but when you look deeper you find a woman determined to use every scrap of power she has in order to survive in the (literally) cutthroat world she was born into. She knows better than most how quickly a country's favor can turn to or against a monarch, and during a time when she could have been declared a traitor and killed like so many others, her flirting and seducing might have saved her life.

Hannah's story, though, is what ultimately makes this book work. By showing us the perspective of someone other than the royal family and the court, we see how the grand drama of the monarchs affected the lives of the lesser-known citizens of the country. In a time when the country went from Catholic to Protestant and back again in a few short decades, your beliefs could cost you your life, and Hannah knows that better than anyone.
The Daughter of Time - Josephine Tey My continuing obsession with the fate of the Princes in the Tower led me to this book. The author makes a fairly convincing case for Richard III's innocence, but without citing sources, it's difficult to say how accurate it is, and I found myself wanting to argue a few points with her. But regardless of where you stand on the Richard III issue, the real treat of this book is the fact that the main character, a detective recovering from a broken leg, solves a mystery without ever leaving his hospital bed. Not only that, but the mystery is, of course, hundreds of years old. It's an entertaining feat of trope-subversion, as the detective cannot interview witnesses or gather forensic evidence--he must rely on history books for his clues. History books which are, much like eyewitnesses, of questionable accuracy.

I found the characters to be delightful, especially the interactions between Inspector Alan Grant and his young American "Research Worker," Brent Carradine. Grant's slow, methodical police-work is contrasted nicely with Carradine's passionate enthusiasm for finding the truth, and his equally passionate despondence when he comes across a snag in his research.

The book examines the power of legend versus the power of the truth, and finds that often, things that "everybody knows," even things that end up in history books, are nothing more than myths and rumors given credence by widespread repetition. In this case, we have our mental picture of the villainous Richard III, which is often based on Shakespeare's characterization of him as such, which in turn is based on a history written in the Tudor era by someone who may have been Richard's enemy--in other words, someone who would have plenty of reason to paint him as a villain.

I found myself wishing that the word "Tonypandy" had entered the vernacular in the sense that the two use it here: meaning a piece of "history" that everyone believes is true even when there is clear evidence that it didn't actually happen. It's a great word.
A Dangerous Inheritance - Alison Weir Apparently having royal blood really sucks.

Anything with the words "Princes in the Tower" somewhere in the description gets my attention, and I was interested right away in these intertwining stories of two women, one Richard III's illegitimate daughter and one a possible heir to the throne in Tudor England. The parallels between them are striking, and Weir deftly weaves their lives together. Both were branded traitors after their families fell out of royal favor, both were forbidden to marry those they loved, and both suffered innumerable sorrows simply because of their royal blood.

Keeping the two stories straight in my head was difficult at first--perhaps they were a bit too similar. But Weir wisely tells one story in first person and one in third, and it becomes easier after a short while to differentiate between the two. Both of the girls--for they are girls at first, barely out of childhood--start off somewhat naive, and go through the tragedy of seeing their hopes dashed and their heroes brought low.

Katherine "Kate" Plantagenet's view of her father, Richard III, is more sympathetic than many accounts, and the impression is that of a loving father and husband who slowly gets caught up in his own paranoia and starts seeing threats to himself everywhere. Kate, after hearing the rumors that he killed the Princes in the Tower, vows to find out the truth and clear his name. She writes down some of her theories, and these are discovered decades later by Katherine Grey, the other protagonist of the book, who eventually becomes obsessed with learning the answer to the mystery of the princes as well. Grey feels something of a mystical connection to this other Katherine, as though in death her ghost is determined to discover the truth she could not find in life.

By the end of the book I got the impression that being a royal woman during these times was more of a curse than a blessing. You were used as a pawn by those seeking to gain power, forced to marry (or NOT marry) against your will, and you were basically powerless to change your fate. Sometimes your efforts got you locked in the Tower of London, and sometimes, through no fault of your own, your head got cut off.

This book was enjoyable and compelling, and made me want to read more about the time periods described in the book. It's the first book of Weir's I've read, and I will definitely be picking up more of her work.
Discount Armageddon - Seanan McGuire The main thing to notice about this book as opposed to McGuire's other books (and her work as [a:Mira Grant|3153776|Mira Grant|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1282493757p2/3153776.jpg]) is how unabashedly fun it is. Sure, it still has the high stakes and dire "and that was the last time I ever saw her alive" pronouncements, but tonally it's way more upbeat and silly than I was expecting. It's not better or worse than her usual style, IMO, but it's an interesting contrast.

The concept is a bit like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, in that we have a perky blonde monster-hunter who just wants to have something of a normal life ("normal" in this case being "professional ballroom dancer") but those pesky monsters keep getting in the way, so she fights them in short skirts and high heels, sacred duty, yadda yadda yadda. But Verity and her odd family are refreshingly original. It's not every day you meet a family that has a colony of religious mice worshiping them. Oh, man. Those mice will never stop being hilarious.

The backstory, as usual, is rich and detailed enough to make me wish for a prequel series. The book starts each chapter with a quote from one of Verity's amusing ancestors, and I kind of want to read their story now, too.

I'm looking forward to more books in this series, especially if they involve more smoking-hot scenes with Dominic and/or finding out why the Easter Bunny is serious business.
Ashes of Honor  - Seanan McGuire I'm finally caught up to the end of the currently published books in the series and have to wait for the next one like everyone else. ARGH.

The book opens with the scandalous idea of Etienne, straight-laced knight of Shadowed Hills, having a secret changeling daughter who is kidnapped before he even knows she exists. This, of course, hits a personal nerve for Toby, who has a changeling daughter of her own, and she's off on yet another kidnapping case. In the course of events, she returns to Tamed Lightning, visits a part of Faerie she was never meant to see, drives the Luidaeg's car, almost dies a few times (as usual), and does something to her wrists that I will never ever forgive her for because NIGHTMARES FOREVER. *shudder*

However, the real story of this book is the slow burn of the romance between Toby and Tybalt, finally taking on a more solid shape after being hinted at for several books. I'm not sure I agree with Tybalt's assertion that Connor loved "the girl Toby was" and not "the woman she's become," but I do believe that Toby and Tybalt can be good for each other, and I'm excited to see where their relationship goes in the future.

I really have to track down that "Tybalt origin story" that's apparently in A Fantasy Medley 2 is released.
In Sea-Salt Tears (October Daye, #5.1) - Seanan McGuire Omg so sad and so good. The detail of the clean hallway alone is enough to break your heart. An aching, perfect story.
One Salt Sea - Seanan McGuire This series just keeps getting better. In this one, we get a whole new part of faerie we've never seen before--the Undersea, which is populated with as many different types of fae as the land. We get some fascinating tidbits of Luidaeg backstory as well, which just makes me want more. I'll definitely be reading [b:In Sea-Salt Tears|15844724|In Sea-Salt Tears|Seanan McGuire|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1345738997s/15844724.jpg|21587708].

Now for the spoilery stuff: I should have known when this book opened with a sex scene that Connor would be dead by the end. I'm glad he and Toby got to have a relationship first.

I'm sad that he's dead. I liked him a lot. But one of the things I love about this series is that Anyone Can Die, which gave the climactic scene a lot of tension. I didn't know if it would be Gillian, or Quentin, or Tybalt, or whoever, but after Mary the Psychic Roane's dire warnings, I was pretty sure SOMEONE would be dead by the end. Toby can't be everywhere at once, to save everyone she loves, and sometimes she has to make hard choices.

I'm disappointed that Gillian chose humanity over faerie--I would have liked to see her added to the cast of characters. I hope this isn't the last time we see her, although I would understand if it was.

Toby's new powers are fascinating. Will she help the Luidaeg restore the Roane? Can she change the balance of Rayseline's blood to make her less horrible? I want to see this used more! Change ALL the bloods!


I only have one more left, and then I have to start waiting for the books in real time like everybody else. Dammit.
Late Eclipses - Seanan McGuire

This volume of the series is fantastic. If the Toby Daye books were a TV show, this book would be a season finale. So much game-changing mythology! I love it and I can't wait to see where the series takes Toby next.
Countdown - Mira Grant

So painful to read, but so compelling. Definitely read Feed first. It doesn't have the same impact otherwise.