Tag Archives: Rivka Spicer

Ascendent

It’s another glorious Saturday afternoon after a week of downpours, stormy rumblings, and muggy greyness. Rivka, Ivory and I have been out sunning ourselves with a pot of tea and some cake, and have returned in good spirits and ready to tackle the Saturday Night portion of the weekend.

Last weekend, Rivka bought a Game of Thrones 1-3 box set and we have been working our way through season one. I have seen season one already, but Rivka and Ivory haven’t (too busy writing!) so it’s nice to see them getting their teeth into it. We’ve all read the books (hahaha, a massive fantasy series we’ve not read between us?! Challenge accepted.) so the plot isn’t a surprise, but it’s quite fun, knowing what is coming, to go back to the beginning. Deaths so far have been minimal and boobs gratuitous.

I have not yet read A Dance With Dragons, so I’m not 100% up to date, but that’s only because I wanted to re-read the others first. The trouble is, I swept through one two and three (parts one and two) that by the time I got to A Feast for Crows again, I was sick of Westeros and started reading something else to have a break. Then I forgot what happened, again, and was bracing myself for a re-re-read. The other day I was so sick of putting everything off that I just read the book summary of AFFC so I could get on with it! Then I decided I wasn’t actually that bothered, and read the summary for ADWD as well. Mistake. I found out something really juicy and was gutted I’d spoilered myself. Now I won’t get the same OMG WHUT reaction when I read it. Patience, especially when it comes to my obsessions, is not my strong suit.

At the moment though I have been reading Robin Hobb. I have the Farseer trilogy in paperback and The Soldier Son trilogy on my Kindle, snapped up in a 0.99 sale (yay!) but her books are no less weighty than Martin or Feist. I read Assassin’s Apprentice about eighteen months ago and never got around to carrying on. Now I’m just over halfway through Royal Assassin and all wrapped up in classic high fantasy. I need it to ground myself.

I have posted before about books and using them as mood stabilisers. Reading is never just about the book for me. If I’m re-reading an old favourite it is partly to remember the time I first read it. I read Chocolat at Lent not just because the narrative spans that time frame. It reminds me of the darkness of winter evenings and chunky knitwear and the promise of spring.

Gemmell, and other high fantasy, takes me back to simpler times, and the long summers of my teens when I could literally spend a week in the holidays stretched out on my bed boxed in by a palisade of words. Sunny mornings in the garden where the grass in the shade was still slicked with dew.

So too with music. I’ve been building a “summer” playlist, but the tracks are those that take me back to different times. Some are good driving songs, others played on crackling radios in the park. Party songs and bands that had a heyday. Hearing Ocean Colour Scene and Hanson zooms me into my teens (I refuse to say “my youth” – I’m still young!) the way that Meat Loaf and the Eagles dump me smack bang into the bedroom of my first boyfriend.

Reading, writing, music… they cannot exist free of context. Ivory, I know, with her Darkness Falls books, has found catharsis in reliving difficult situations from her past. They say write about what you know. Rivka’s The Last Ancient series is set at a boarding school. Rivka went to a similar one (though presumably one without secret witches? Maybe not…). When I go back to Once Bitten I am back at uni, third year, struggling to find my feet again after a year abroad. Murder Express makes me restless, as I have mostly added to it when on the move. Quril draws together the many parts of my weird brain and makes me a little Zen.

I need those drafts. Expedition to the computer shop tomorrow. I will be writing again by this time tomorrow.

In the meantime, I feel in the mood to rearrange my bedroom furniture, though I doubt I have the motivation to empty the shelves of books and the drawers of my dresser to make them light enough to lift alone. I am yearning to rebuild my world around me. I think the sun has charged me up a little and I am stirring just like the ever-chirping birds.

Read this blog post again. I’m getting a bit eloquent. It’s spring clean time. It’s building time. It’s action stations for my insides.

 

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Marked

A disclaimer from the start: Rivka Spicer is my flatmate. That might make you think I am biased in this review but her books generally make me want to throw them across the room and I’m happy to tell her so. This is my genuine opinion and the fact that she is currently making my dinner has no bearing on the text below 😀

This week, I have been reading… Marked, by Rivka Spicer.

Marked is the sequel to Sage, and this is now looking to be a trilogy even though she was hoping to wrap things up in two books. The series, called The Last Ancient, follows Sage, a young witch at a boarding school in Yorkshire. The school is open to magical and non-magical pupils alike but the ‘norms’ don’t know about the witchcraft lessons. Sage goes through the usual teen drama of boys and bitchy boarding school girls, but there is also a prophecy about to become heart-breakingly relevant.

Some background: The magic that the witches use in the TLA universe is drawn from The Source (essentially Earth-magic crossed with The Force, and the living energy of all things) and some witches are ‘Ancients’ who channel this magic into the world to be used by the witches. If there are no Ancients then the magic is cut off. There is currently one known Ancient left, and The Coven (who are the high-ups that make the rules and are a little bit corrupt) are desperate to have little Ancient babies to ensure the continuation of the magical heritage. And then there are the Witchfinders (including a Witchfinder General) who, well, track down witches and kill them. So there’s political peril as well as physical danger.

The title Marked refers to the few witches with a strong enough bloodline themselves to be considered a Consort for an Ancient and able to produce children that will continue channelling the magic. The Consorts are all marked in some way – a birth mark, a difference in their magic – that proves they are Consorts.

Right then. I’ll try and keep things as spoiler-lite as possible, but as it’s a sequel there are some things you need to know. Sorry. The events of Marked take place six months after the end of Sage, towards the end of the same school year. Sage is almost eighteen, and has come to terms with her power and begrudgingly accepts that her future is to some extent out of her hands. She is in love and thing are looking rosy. Oh dear. That does not last long.

I found Marked to be a bit more dialogue-heavy than Sage, but then there are lots of important things to discuss, and more characters to do the discussing. It doesn’t affect the flow of the book really, but there were a few points where I wanted them to stop talking and get on with it! On the other hand it’s still just as funny even in the darker sections, and there are some laugh out loud moments. All I’ll say is… fake ninja moves…

Marked deals with a couple of serious issues in a real world setting. Sage is essentially being subjected to an arranged marriage and as a British citizen she has human rights, but they don’t apply in witch society, which is big on Tradition and Ceremony. So, unable to explain properly why she needs help, she is limited to an extremely emergency extraction plan from the women’s refuge as her real-world way out. She doesn’t take that way out, but I’m glad she investigates the option. This is where TLA differs from Harry Potter: while the witches live in secrecy, they still inhabit the real world and interact with it. They aren’t in a weird parallel bubble universe. The witch pupils still have smartphones and use the Internet (there is an official witch forum called Coven.net) and drive cars. They still call the Police if they’re in trouble.

An underlying theme of the book is Sage’s worries about being so young and being expected to marry and immediately start having children to preserve the bloodline and keep the magic in the world. She is frightened and angry and torn between her ultimate duty and her own personal ambitions. While they do overlap in places, Sage herself is quick to point out that she is not even eighteen and doesn’t feel ready for motherhood and matrimony. Call her again in ten years.

On top of the angst is a tournament to win Sage’s hand in marriage. She faces the possibility that she will be married off to a stranger, even though she is in a relationship with a suitable Consort already. This immediately raises her suspicions because The Coven seem determined to keep her apart from her lover, Dean, even though he is Marked and the two of them were planning to be married (eventually) anyway. So that’s interesting…

We veer a little bit into Hunger Games territory because Sage is a teen fighting a powerful oligarchy and it turns out she isn’t the only one who doesn’t like the way that the witches are being governed. So book three is going to be a belter. I hope Ben is still in it (he probably will be given he is present in the final scene of the book) because he has the best hair, and he always calls Sage ‘my Lady’ because he’s a gentleman. I also want him to have a happy ending maybe more than Sage. He’s been through a lot.

At the end of Marked there’s a bit of a cliff hanger and I literally sat in my chair and went AAAAAAAARRRRGHHHHH!!! but luckily there was no one else in the house. Rivka’s books often have that effect on me – when I finished Carnevale I almost threw my reader across the room – but this time it was just in frustration that the book stops RIGHT THERE. With Carnevale it was because of my hatred of a character and his continuing manipulation even after being a total douchebag. Speaking of Carnevale, that series is vaguely linked to TLA because a couple of characters appear or are mentioned, but according to the author there isn’t going to be a total crossover.

So, yeah. Read ­Sage and then read Marked and then you’ll know what I’m going through right now. And read Masquerade and Carnevale as well and let me know what you think of Tristan.

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Out of the Silent Blog

I know, OK? I know. I’ve been mysteriously and possibly to some of you thankfully silent for a few weeks. What a month it has been! I have barely read anything, although I did start reading The Written by Ben Galley (currently free!) last night on my tablet and I’m looking forward to the rest of that later in the week when I’m not so ungodly busy. I can sometimes be put off by books with a really detailed map in the front because I’m not in it for the geography, but we’ll see how it goes.

You wouldn’t think I’d just had two weeks’ holiday. Oh yes, I put the apostrophe in.

Do you know what I really feel like reading at the moment? Twilight. I’ve got a hankering for something so vacuous that my brain has a holiday. Rivka and I were discussing Twilight the other night and we came to the cautious agreement that it wasn’t all that bad. I’m currently building a palisade (out of sharpened wooden stakes, of course) to protect our home from screaming Twi-fighters. It’s a book/series with issues, yes, but as an adult reading a YA book, blessed with a brain and the sense I was born with, I can appreciate it as a light read. I’m not about to get sucked into a creepy relationship with someone who watched me sleep before we even became friends, or who forbids me from seeing my friends, I’m not going to get married at eighteen (that ship has sailed, anyway) and I’m not going to spend hours looking pale and biting my lip. I’m just going to read it.

I tell a lie, I have been reading the Cosmic Trilogy, by CS Lewis. I’m halfway through Perelandra at the moment and by ‘eck it can be tough going. I have pretty much zero background in Philosophy and Theology (I have a GCSE in RE, and a term attempting to teach Critical Thinking to teenagers under my belt as well as a failed attempt to read Sophie’s World when I was younger) so I’m a little dazzled. I’m enjoying it though. Out of the Silent Planet was interesting though the pseudo-twist was quite clumsy (I suppose it was to thoroughly hammer home the moral point), and the linguist in me was happy with the way the narrator describes learning the language of the Malacandrians, and the different accents of the Hrossa and the Sorns. It was also quite short, which was good. I’ve got the trilogy in one volume, and That Hideous Strength is pretty much all of the second half. I’m not sure if I’m looking forward to that or not. I’m glad I’m reading it as it’s making me think. It’s on the shelf for now though until I’ve recharged my brain a little.

So what else have I been doing? A little NaNoWriMo prep (it’s that time again) for my fifth run at 50k in 30 days, and hopefully my fifth Win. I’ve been sewing like mad for a wedding I’m going to this weekend, and we spent an amazing hour or so in Dobbie’s looking at all the Christmas stuff on Saturday night. We bloody well rock, in our house.

Yesterday was pretty autumnal. It was misty and damp and it just felt like a day for adventuring. So what did we do? We did a bit of cleaning (I still haven’t hovered…)* and we made butternut squash and bacon soup. Rivka made a nut roast as well, which we had with roasted vegetables and chibbly potatoes. We also watched Welcome to the Punch (I did sewing at the same time). Interesting. Just realised that the guy who plays Wearns the beardy guy was Neil in The Fades. Knew I knew him from somewhere…

Probably time for more updates as I procrastinate during NaNoWriMo. In the meantime, try not to let yourselves be drugged and kidnapped for a mission to Mars, eh?

*EDIT: Rivka read this and pretty much died laughing, imagining this:

Hovering

 

…at least I hope that’s what she meant when between fits of the giggles she connected Tom Cruise and hovering in her brain. Otherwise… she’s probably just shouting her superpower again. Right, Rivka? “Toooooommmm Cruuuuuiiiiiise!!!”

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Highland State of Mind

Those of you who follow me on Twitter (@Addison_Crow in case you don’t. And if not, why not? I’m lovely) will have noticed I wasn’t around as much this weekend. That is because I was supremely busy! Working full time means that all those odd jobs that require shops being open have to wait until Saturday morning when everyone else who works full time also decides to flock to the Post Office. I’m away for a week in Germany next week, and I had to go get some Euros; I had to get some cardmaking supplies to make a birthday card for a colleague who had a party for which our presence was gift enough (but a handmade card is a good compromise); I got fabric dye and buckets for an exciting textiles project and I still had time to have lunch out with my friend Rivka, who is also an author, donchaknow.

I saw a lovely cartoon on DeviantArt the other day about Introverts and how to interact with them. Like we’re a different species. Yes, I consider myself an introvert. Why do you think I communicate best through the written word and at a distance? I thought it was very good at explaining why I sometimes suddenly, with the almost audible sound of shutters coming down, run out of friendliness and have to get out of Dodge.

I have a weird relationship with my own company. I lived by myself for a year when I first moved to the Highlands and I am perfectly capable of looking after myself but there were times when I felt myself getting crusty and insular. I was so used to being alone that social interaction made me grumpy and everyone I met was an idiot because they didn’t see everything the way I did. I could go from Friday getting out of work to Monday going back in without speaking to anyone face to face. Texts, Skype, Facebook etc were at my fingertips, but I didn’t physically open my mouth to form words. I shuffled to and back from the supermarket with an invisible HazMat suit on, lest anyone infect me with their jolliness. I buried myself in my own little hermit hole.

Next month I’m moving in with my friend Rivka (have I mentioned she’s an author?) after having lived with my (now)ex for a year. I don’t think I’m ready for living with someone I have to share a bed with. I’m too wiggly, and I don’t like the sound of my bedmate existing when I’m trying to sleep. I definitely don’t like cuddles. Apparently that’s akin to rejection to some people. Weirdo clingy weirdos! Anyway, Rivka and I are quite well-suited in that we’re quite independent but need someone else to make sure we check in with reality every few days. I won’t be offended if she doesn’t talk to me for two days and in fact I’ll probably be glad of not being bothered as I hate being pestered when I’m in the middle of something. Companionable silence is an immeasurable joy.

Most of the time, being with someone (or a small group) while we’re all busy doing something but not talking together, is enough for me. We’re sharing an activity by dint of sharing the same space while we happily knit/sew/felt whatever and that counts as a social activity. MOST of the time. Sometimes I get a massive surge of I NEED TO BE CLOSE TO ALL THE PEOPLE and I can get a bit manic. I’ll crave company, physical contact, loud noises. I will link arms or hold hands with friends in the street and text them with every little detail if we’re apart. I want parties and banter and music.

I don’t know where it comes from. Maybe I really do have a store of social-energy inside me and sometimes my cup floweth over. I am quite far away from the core group of friends I made through my twenties. I have new friends here, don’t get me wrong, and fun times are had by all, but sometimes you just crave a particular brand of sweetness. If those people are unavailable then I crash. The ground slips out from under me and I feel a total disconnect from the Universe. It happened to me the other week. I had been to a barbecue and on the way home I still wasn’t done being social. I felt panicked. I was alone and I felt like I had been cut adrift in a sea of strangers. I called everyone I could think of. No one picked up. I panicked a little more. Then I told myself I’d best just get over it because the ironing wouldn’t do itself. I settled myself a little, and ended up talking to J on Skype for a bit, if I remember correctly. That grounded me enough.

 Whether hermit-y or Miss Highlands 2013, neither condition is good for my productivity. In one case I’m too shut down and in the other I’m too busy flirting. I need an even keel. I need to medicate with regular social interaction interspersed with gratuitous solo reading and moping. Hopefully, this new living situation will help. There’ll be a person there to talk to should we wish it (there is now, but it’s altogether too awkward!) but their presence will be enough to tide me over most of the time. I could talk or socialise if I wanted to. The potential is there.

That’s good, because I have an article to write for Opening Line, as well as a short fiction piece I want to bash out, and then the usual work on my actual books.

On top of that I’m moving house and going on a week-long trip to Germany, I’ve got a major sewing project to do (hence the fabric dyeing pic from the other day) and some major organisation to undertake.

I’m feeling quite positive. I’ve got Locke Lamora on audiobook (aftermath of Echo Hole ongoing) and Best Served Cold to read (second murder achieved, plus collateral) to get me out of reality if I need them.

Onward to Friday!

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Books and emotions

In the same way that there is a Meat Loaf song for every occasion, there is a book for every mood. I read to medicate my soul. Books are comforting and familiar, they don’t look at you in disgust if you haven’t showered, they don’t run away and they don’t talk back. Neither does a well-trained dog, but since I rent and I’m not allowed pets, books will have to do.

When I’m really feeling lost and out of touch with myself, I read Gemmell. Echoes of the Great Song or Winter Warriors usually. The stories are classic good-vs-evil, heroes-of-the-golden-age adventures and the derring-do of the main protagonists inspires me to take action in my own life. Gemmell anchors me to my late teens and a particular band of friends where I feel safe, and loved, and like people believe in me.

If I’m feeling sad, I find Pratchett. I need cheering up, but in a dry, dark way, and something like Jingo or Men at Arms does that. You know when you’re outside your own body, watching yourself lying on your bed listening to REM and feeling all Young Emo of the Year 2013, and you know how useless you’re being but you can’t snap yourself out of it? When you even sarcastically congratulate yourself on how productive you’re being in the hopes of angering your way out of a slump? That’s when I read Pratchett. Humour and satire that isn’t too silly, because in that mood silliness is contemptuous.

In an empowered mood, I read Valley of the Dolls. It’s glitz! It’s glamour! It’s actually quite bleak! But empowered-me pretends not to see the horrible parts. Valley is a guilty pleasure in some ways. It’s on my list of favourite books and I’ve read it many times. I sometimes feel like a hidden, fourth protagonist, if I’m really feeling puissant, observing the other three and carefully judging their actions. I sympathise, I cringe and cheer alongside them, but I secretly know I would have done it far better.

Anger makes me read angry books. Joe Abercrombie is my go-to for bitter rage. The First Law trilogy has a host of grotesques who are either as angry as me, or who give me a target for my unjust wrath. Barbarians, torturers, duellists, mages… all have their own grudges and agendas. All are out for what they can get and they don’t care who they tread into the dirt to get it. I do feel sorry for Major West, though. He’s always in the wrong place at the wrong time playing clean up for people who have royally messed up, or doing the difficult thing because someone has to. Major West makes me angry on his behalf.

On the seemingly rare occasion that I am in a happy mood, I read The Pyrates by George Macdonald Fraser. It’s a romp: an anachronistic, swash-buckling adventure with pirates and the Spanish Main, and natives and treasure and romance and sword fights and blackguards and the briny deep and silly accents. It takes historical figures and events, a bit of fluffing the actual year, the best of every pirate story you know, peppers them with awful jokes and modern references, and fires it at you from a cannon. My dad and I each own a copy – he got sick of me borrowing his and bought me an identical one.

When I get an attack of the romantic feels and I feel like wearing my ovaries on the outside for once, I have a few options. 1. Chocolat, which I will gush on and on about whether people want me to or not, 2. The Time Traveller’s Wife because oh, goodness, the feels, 3. Memoirs of a Geisha for its slow-burning love and lifetime of dedication. All three are guaranteed to be read snuggled in a blanket with chocolate to hand.

Of course, books can also evoke the whole gamut of emotions within me. I think the last book that really made me weep buckets was The Book Thief. It even tells you at the beginning how it’s going to end because most of the book is a “how we ended up here” thing, but somehow you manage to forget and then with a sense of impending doom you realise ohnonononononono… but it’s too late, you’re hooked, and the last few pages are blurry because of all the tears. Brilliant!

My friend Rivka is an author and her books have been known to provoke a strong reaction. She has an ongoing series called Masquerade which is at its most basic, a cautionary tale about vampires and sociopathy. The male protagonist of the first book, Tristan… my God, when I finished the book I wanted to hurl it across the room in unadulterated rage! Then I realised I was reading an ebook on my laptop and that probably wasn’t a good plan.
I see strong reaction – positive or negative – as a good sign. It means that I care one way or another. I have opinions about the characters or the story. I rarely these days read books which only garner a “meh”. Either I’m very easily-led or I’m extremely good at picking books that provoke a reaction. Reading a book is like signing a secret contract with my soul that states that the experience will teach me something. Whether I’m put through the wringer in a happy, sad, or ragequit way, it’s always a worthwhile experience. It shows me my limits. It pushes my limits. Reading is a way of navigating the dark forest of my insides where each book is a tiny fragment of the map.

…and now I’m feeling introspective. What’s my choice for that? A long stare at my nine shelves of maps before I give up and watch Avengers instead. Lovely.

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