Monthly Archives: November 2010

What I Read In November 2010

Heart’s Blood by Juliet Marillier
A Scholar of Magics by Caroline Stevermer (reread)
Widdershins by Charles de Lint (reread)
Lord of Emperors by Guy Gavriel Kay (reread)
Sailing to Sarantium by Guy Gavriel Kay (reread)
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis (reread)
All Clear by Connie Willis
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (reread)

I don’t have a lot of brain to recap, but in brief:

All Clear was simply excellent. It was so good I reread the last quarter again, then picked various scenes from Blackout to read in conjunction with scenes from All Clear in order to get a better idea of how things happened in a particular timeline, and then went headlong into rereading The Doomsday Book in order to get more of the Oxford time-travel project.

Catching Fire was good, Mockingjay was problematic. At first I thought the writing/pacing had fallen apart, but then I realised that it hadn’t failed, it was a reflection of a problematic narrator’s state of mind/sanity. Very interesting, though not comfortable, and has generated a lot of criticism around the Internet as a good/bad ending.

Heart’s Blood was a surprise; I had totally missed the fact that there was a new book from Juliet Marillier last year, so I found this one in paperback when it was released. It’s sort of got a Beauty & the Beast theme running through it, only it’s so much more, as you’d expect from Marillier with her Celtic settings and serious political stuff. I was worried it would be a bit too heavy on the romance, but it got very interesting about a quarter of the way in and absorbed me more and more, until I tore through the last third. Oddly, the marketing copy makes it sound like it’s primarily the male protagonist’s story, when in fact it’s told in the first-person from the female protagonist’s POV, and is more about her personal evolution/development that intersects with his.

Little Women has been my iPod book-on-the-go since the beginning of September, what I read if I’m waiting in a line or at the boy’s bus stop in the afternoon. I’d have finished it in October, except someone new moved into the neighbourhood and their kids were assigned our stop, so I had to be social instead of burying my nose in electrons. I’ve moved on to Little Men, also a reread.

Lots of rereads this month. I guess I was looking for comfort or a very particular feel in a novel, and so went to books where I knew I’d find that feeling or style.

Fine. I had more brain to recap than I thought.

ETA: I read both Mouse Guard Fall 1152 and Winter 1152 this month as well. Absolutely gorgeous art!

Major Milestone; Or, Reading Achievement Unlocked

Since the beginning of kindergarten, the boy has been enthusiastically experimenting with letter sounds and word recognition (especially repeated words within a large block of text, my favourite of which has been ‘gizzard’). Yesterday, however, he accomplished something huge, something that was the key to so much more.

He read an entire book to me.

He had two ped days at the end of last week, and woke up with a dreadful cold on Thursday. He was home with me on Thursday, spent Friday with his local grandma while HRH got the brakes changed on the car (all four, ouch ouch ouch), and had the weekend at home as usual (a lovely afternoon and dinner were had with HRH’s parents on Saturday, supplemented by the joy that Highway 30 is now 90% open between here and there, cutting our travel time by about twenty minutes!). Then despite all my efforts and prayers to the contrary, I had to keep him home from school yesterday because the cold just wasn’t fading quickly enough. His poor nose is a mess of chapped and cracked skin because we’ve been blowing it so often. Vaseline and Glysomed lotion are our friends. Anyway, I managed to get him to nap on Thursday, Saturday, and yesterday (possibly Sunday as well, but it’s such a blur I really don’t remember), although it was a battle each time. He kept insisting that he wasn’t tired; I pointed out over and over that more rest meant getting better faster. I resorted to easing into it step by step. He’d protest; I’d suggest snuggling and reading; then we’d turn out the light and snuggle and chat; then the chatting would get quieter until we were just snuggling; then the boy would pass out and I’d slip away. Each time he woke up with smiles and hugs and admitted to feeling better.

Yesterday he still wasn’t going to nap without a fight, despite yawning. “That’s my morning [meaning wake-up] yawn, not my tired yawn!” I was told indignantly. “Choose a book and we’ll read,” I said, and gave him a time limit within which to do it. When I got back, he was sitting on his bed waiting for me. “Mama, I’m going to read to you,” he said. “All right,” I agreed, and pulled the cover up over us, expecting him to do the first sentence then hand the book to me to finish as usual.

And he opened Lego City Adventures: All Aboard!, a level 1 reader, and he read the whole thing to me from cover to cover. I helped him with a word or two, but otherwise he sounded out the words he didn’t know on his own.

When he got to the end (even reading the advertisement in the back for other books in the series) he looked at me and said, “Mama, when I read you a book, can you not cry?”

How could I not? I was so proud of him, and so overcome by the thought of the freedom that now lies open to him. He can sound things out; he can learn anything, anywhere. With concentration he can read cereal boxes, street signs, books, flyers, magazines, letters. There is so much he now has the ability to do. And it’s that “so much” that overwhelms me. He’s been teetering on the edge, and now swoosh, here he goes into an entire universe of information and communication. It won’t be easy; he’ll get frustrated, and he already has, because blocks of letters in English aren’t pronounced consistently and his ear for discerning slight differences hasn’t fully developed yet (as demonstrated by his insistence that train starts with a ch sound, not helped by a picture of a train under the words “choo-choo” in more than one book). But it’s going to be a wild and wonderful ride.

It’s been a tough five days here. He’s been sorry for himself because he’s sick, I’ve been trying to fit work in while he’s home which never works, and we’ve been butting heads and rubbing one another the wrong way. We’ve had good times, too, of course, staying in jammies till noon, building train layouts and watching Sesame Street and Sid the Science Kid together (thanks be to all the gods for having PBS again!), making lunch together, and ‘working’ in my office together (he never stops drawing, it’s astonishing). I was very close to breaking yesterday when I was given the gift of my son reading a book from start to finish. No deciding he’s too tired and pushing the book at me to do it instead; no getting angry and slamming it shut; just a simple, focused recounting of the story. It was beautiful, and made up for a lot of the frustration we’d been experiencing together.

And then last night I lifted the calendar page to write something in December, and saw that he has YET ANOTHER PED DAY this coming Friday. That nearly broke me again, because Ceri and I had scheduled a trip to the yarn store to knit together that day (or rather, Ceri shall knit, and I shall spin or something) and I was kind of looking forward to a day off without him. But he can come with us, because he loves the yarn store, and I have promised to pack him a lunch. And there are the toys he usually plays with there, plus we’ll pack our usual going-out bag of his own toys and books, and I would not be at all surprised if Ceri, Ada, Molly Ann and whoever else may happen to be there are treated to a live reading of all 189 words in Lego City Adventures: All Aboard!. We happen to be going to the bookstore before the yarn store, and I suspect I will be buying him a new Lego City reader as a reward for reading the first one all on his own. Because the best thing to do when you finish one book is start a new one, of course.

Ladies and Gentlemen…

… it is currently snowing here on the eastern bank of Montreal’s south shore. (Geography and absolute cardinal points: Montreal scoffs at those.)

One of the reasons I enjoy checking in with online social media like Twitter is that I can see posts chronicling weather hitting eastern parts of Ontario, then west of Montreal, the island itself, and then look out my window and see it hit here. It’s fun.

One more hour of work. Then I ought to be finished my second pass of copyediting on this freelance project, and I shall knock off for the day and spin some more Polworth in the ‘Sunspot’ colourway. (“Is that called ‘Phoenix’?” Ceri asked me the other week. It ought to be; it’s all the different colours in a flame, and very enjoyable to spin on a grey day.)

There are tiny little specks of snow being blown all over out there. Nothing’s sticking, though it’s lovely to watch. By the end of January I will be so over the “hurrah, snow!” thing, but for now, it’s terrific.


Things are moving along. I feel somewhat as if I’m kind of walking in place, though.

More unconnected point-form stuff, also out of chronological sequence:

1. We had a wonderful concert on Saturday night. I did as well as I could have done considering the fall I’ve had, and I was fine with what I didn’t pull off. There was an odd moment in the Furiant, the final movement of Dvorak’s Czech Suite, where our conductor tried to up the tempo and I appear to have been the only one who noticed, so rather than play at his tempo for more than three bars and have it sound awful I stuck to what the rest of the orchestra was doing. It really was a terrific night overall and I want to say more except I can’t really think of what to say. Our flute soloist, a fifteen-year-old girl, was brilliant in Chaminade’s Concertino. The boy got to examine our percussionist’s tympani, which thrilled him to bits (and thank you so much for that, Terry!), and he saw his first piccolo on the way back to his seat. Jeff and Devon kept HRH and the boy company in the audience. The next concert will feature Beethoven’s 4th and Mozart’s Don Giovanni overture, two of my favourite pieces, and will take place on Saturday 2 April 2011, so don’t say I didn’t give you enough advance warning.

2. Saturday morning we moved the boy’s room around. We took out the armoire and put it downstairs in the laundry room (where I am now using it as a linen closet, and I am ridiculously pleased about having everything folded neatly behind its small doors or in its drawers), swung his bed around to be under the window, switched his dresser and his bookcase, and centered the toy storage unit along the wall between his cupboard and bed. It works extremely well, and the boy thought most of it up. (He was not entirely happy about giving up the armoire, though.) HRH also put a new-to-us television antenna on the roof, and holy cats, we now get HD channels and some big US channels like CBS and Fox and NBC, plus (this may be the best part for me) half a dozen PBS channels. Wow.

3. Sunday I had a group cello rehearsal, which I got to just in time. The boy went to a birthday party in the first half of the afternoon, and HRH went with him. Originally I was going to take him but HRH proposed giving me some time off, for which I was very thankful. I ended up chatting to my mum for an hour and a half on the phone. The birthday party was at a local gymnastics studio, complete with a trainer to guide the kids, and the boy had a blast, so they got home a bit later than we’d originally anticipated. Apparently they do a summer camp and lots of his friends from preschool will be taking classes there, so we shall keep that in mind. The rehearsal went all right: a lot of it is basic three-part carol arrangements that took a single play-through. However, there are two big main pieces we need to focus on next week, both with timing that requires a goodly amount of concentration on my part and I need to play them with other people to cement what the changes sound like. I really enjoy our group lessons.

4. On Friday Ceri and Ada came over to hang out, and we had a very nice time. Ada fell asleep on me, which was a wonderful experience. Then I went to their place on Monday to babysit Ada while Ceri went to the dentist, and I got her to fall asleep again. I am somewhat stunned. She is a lovely baby, so easy to handle, and with a sweet nature. In about two years I am going to host a Fairy Goddaughter Tea Party, because I may not be a fairy godmother, but I think I can safely classify all three of my goddaughters as fairy godschildren. We shall dress up and wear hats and have a real tea party, and we shall use the very good china tea set with violets on it, and have tiny butterfly sandwiches and miniature cakes, and we shall have a wonderful time.

5. Now that I have delivered projects and signed contracts, I have begun the long 6-8 week wait for cheques to arrive. Which puts their arrival… after Christmas, grr grr grr. My bank account is getting very thin; I can see the bottom, and that makes me very uncomfortable at any time of year, but one always feels more financially iffy in December. I should able to cover my regular bills, but even that may be tricky. This is the bad thing about freelancing: you can’t count on a regular paycheque, and sure the cheques are big when they arrive, but you have to make them last until the next undetermined paycheque.

6. I’m halfway through my copy-editing project. I ought to finish it tomorrow, in fact. But then, as the boy has two ped days (well, he’s home with me for the first ped day and off to visit with his local grandparents for the next, but HRH is planning stuff for Friday), I am anticipating not being able to really work again until next Monday, at which time I’ll do a final look-see to make sure I’ve covered everything and then hand it in.

That’s enough for now. Editing used up all my focus for the day.

A Brief Update…

… in point form, because putting together paragraphs that flow from one to the other takes more focus and energy than I’ve got, but some of this is news worth sharing:

1. How about the weather round here lately? This has got to be the brightest, warmest November I can remember in a long time. The forecast is either sunny, or says overcast and we get clear sun instead. Today was so beautiful I shucked off my jacket for the drive home. There was truly gorgeous fog this morning, too, which was lovely to watch while listening to Glenn Gould’s 1980 Goldberg Variations and drinking tea.

2. I got to spend a bit of time with Ceri and Ada this morning, which was thoroughly enjoyable. While I was there I finished prepping my 4oz of gorgeous firey Polworth fibre. I always forget how much I enjoy stripping and predrafting fibre; I always want to jump right into the spinning. Prepping the fibre means I get to handle it and touch it and get a real feel for the staple length is, what the crimp is like, how well it drafts, how springy it is, and generally listen to how it wants to be spun. Ceri sent me home with three pounds of Honeycrisp apples. Which, if you know how big Honeycrisps are, means there are six apples. I may eat them all myself and not share them with other family members. ( “Fruit? What fruit? We have no fruit.”)

3. I had a very good cello lesson today indeed. I had to skip last week due to work, so I was concerned about how today would go, but apart from being rocky on some of the Christmas ensemble stuff in extended sixth position, my recital piece went really very well. We’re just working on speed now. It felt very good indeed to hear my teacher say, “If you’re like this now, just think how good you’ll be in another month!”

4. I am rereading The Sarantine Mosaic by Guy Gavriel Kay. I remember being underwhelmed by this when it came out, but having read Under Heaven only a few months ago, I knew that’s the style I needed to read right now, so I pulled it out. I am enjoying it very much this time round.

5. I am annoyed at my printer. It told me it was out of the black ink, so I refilled the cartridge myself. Turns out this brand and model needs to have the cartridge chip reset if it’s refilled, or it keeps reading as empty, so I had to go out and buy a whole new one. Once I’d put that in, the printer informed me it now couldn’t work because the colour cartridges are low. Couldn’t it have told me all of this at the same time? I’ve been without a printer for two weeks now and I have to wait till the next paycheque to buy colour ink, which hasn’t gone down well with the boy at all, because he has been asking for colouring pages downloaded from the Internet to colour after school. I’ll stop by the ink refilling kiosk in the local mall next time I’m there and ask if they can reset the chips; if they can’t I’m doomed to buying new cartridges every time, which annoys me a lot.

6. Yesterday I returned the take-an-existing-manuscript-and-turn-it-into-a-different-book repurposing project with trepidation, but got a “Wonderful!” from the editor almost right away. I think it’s pretty solid, but if there’s anything that requires tweaking I told him to let me know and I’d handle it right away. I also told the copyediting department that I was good to go as of immediately, then idly wondered how long I’d be between projects. Well, not long, it seems! I was assigned my first copyediting project today, to be returned in two weeks. It’s relatively short, very formulaic so it has clear coding to be done, and has already been approved by the editor so it’s likely to only need a very light hand. It’s a great project with which to essay the copyediting waters. I am ridiculously excited about it. I get paid by the hour, too, which is so much more fair than a flat fee.

7. Half an hour after I got that e-mail today, I received an offer for the book I wrote a sample and proposal for last month. It looks like it’s a go! I’m not going to give you any more than that until I’ve signed the contract, but the terms were okay and we’ve got a verbal/e-mail go-ahead agreement. This is the first kind of book of this type the publisher has done, so we’re all taking a bit of a gamble on it. It’s due in May 2011, with 50% to be seen by February somethingth. So I’ve got very pleasant work ahead of me indeed, what with copyediting and a new book.

Weekend Roundup

What a glorious weekend! The sun was bright, and the temperatures were kind enough to be around 8 degrees C (which felt much warmer in the sun). It was very good for general morale.

The weekend began at 5:00 on Saturday morning when the boy woke us up in a panic because he was throwing up. We suspected one doughnut too many the evening before, but reconsidered our diagnosis to be the gag reflex brought on by a coughing jag when he demonstrated the coughing-almost-to-throwing-up again a couple of hours later. The boy snuggled in bed with me, feeling very sorry for himself, while HRH got up to made himself a pot of coffee and read a bit before heading out to get in line at the garage to have the tires changed to the winter set. He was back by 9:00, to our surprise (the garage opened at 7:00 and as it’s the weekend before Quebec law requires snow tires, we anticipated long lineups), and then he just kept going! He brought all the Christmas decoration boxes in from the back shed, tested all the sets of outdoor Christmas lights, then took the boy out to buy various caulking and sealants and strings of Christmas lights to replace the dead ones. While the boy napped (rare in this day and age, usually only when he’s ill) HRH climbed up on the roof and set the hooks, then put up the lights. When the boy got up he and HRH went for a walk to see the terribly overkill but amusing Christmas decorations on the house the next street over, complete with a Santa-piloted red biplane on the roof. (People, it isn’t even halfway through November yet!) My Saturday accomplishments were finishing weaving the black scarf then sewing the knitted hood to it, and rereading most of Sailing to Sarantium. I was pretty fried by an intense work week. I finished the repurposing project; all I need to do is finish the layout coding and I’m done, so it will be handed in right on deadline tomorrow.

Today I woke up feeling slightly dazed but good after eleven hours of sleep. I must have needed it! HRH was sorting through the boxes in his office and reorganizing things. The boy and I went out to the bookstore as soon as it opened to look for the fourth Ga’Hoole book and to take advantage of the 25% off sale for iRewards members. We finished book three last night, and last time we looked they had multiple copies of all fifteen books in the series, but today we were disappointed. I suppose they wanted shelf space for other things going into the holiday season, and the movie came out almost two months ago now, so they returned all but a few copies of books one through three, a copy of fifteen (what? I so do not understand how chain stores choose to stock their titles), and two copies of a short story collection. The boy chose the short stories and another small stuffed owl that he bought with his own money ( “I am collecting owls,” he told me), while I looked in vain for any of the books I want to read. I’m going to have to order them, which makes me sad, because I like shopping at real bookstores, and I miss it. We got home to find that HRH had vacuumed, and we all had lunch. Then I sat down to work on the programme notes. HRH called me downstairs to look at how he’d reorganized the laundry room (brilliant, and I now have a table to use for folding and sewing) and talked to me about a door for my office. I have been doorless since we moved in, because the French door we brought from the old place was 30″ wide, whereas the doorway is 32″. There was a knotty pine folding door in the storage room downstairs with beautiful stained glass insets that was supposed to go at the top of the stairs, but we never installed it because we didn’t want a door there. Well, today HRH measured it, found that it was 31 and some fraction of an inch wide, took it apart into two pieces, installed hinges on both sides, and hung them in my doorway. There are well-meant but slightly tacky roses woodburned on the hallway side, but HRH is going to sand those out. Then we shall oil the wood, and it will all be even prettier. Here’s what it looks like when the two halves of the door are closed:

And here’s my newly rearranged music corner next to it. I can reach the lightswitch properly instead of sliding my hand between the bookcase and the wall, I no longer trip over the music stand, and my cello isn’t crammed between the window and the shelves! The room feels even bigger now:

Once the doors were up, together we hung the pictures in the hallway that had been cluttering the hall table and lying underneath it since we moved in. I can’t believe the amount of work he accomplished this weekend.

Then I made cookies once I’d finished my work. (Translation programs are unintentionally amusing; Google told me that “sash dance” was “danse avec guillotine,” which made me laugh for much longer than it ought to have. I understand why it translated it that way — in French one of the terms for a window sash is a guillotine — but it’s still wrong, and just reinforces my interest in how idiom does or doesn’t translate.) Now there is a French roast in the oven, rubbed with butter, Dijon, garlic, and basil. The house smells amazing.

It’s been a wonderful weekend. It feels good to be going into a new week this refreshed and positive.

Lest We Forget

War’s not the answer most of the time; it’s often an excuse that veils another agenda. But that’s not going to stop me from honouring the men and women whose job it is, or who volunteer, to go out and risk their lives in confrontations beyond what most of us can envision. It’s their commitment and courage I honour on Remembrance Day. I honour our peacekeepers, too, the people who go to other countries to help rebuild after times of turmoil. And support staff — doctors, drivers, cooks, all those people who are necessary to the machine of war and who rarely get recognition for being in danger as well. And those left at home, who carry the double burden of hope and dread for their loved ones.

There has to be a better way. But even when someone figures it out, I’ll keep on saying thank you to all those individuals who gave lives, limbs, time, and innocence to the wars. I honour and respect their personal decisions, even if I disagree with the governmental decisions that created the need for them.