Fantasy · fiction

The Gilded Chain by Dave Duncan

Lately,   I have been reading voraciously and I have stumbled across some very good books but nothing noteworthy enough to recommend. However, I was tidying up my bookshelves I came across this gem and realized I had not yet spread the word about my love for Dave Duncan and, most especially, The Gilded Chain.

gilded-chain I am not sure where I was first introduced to this book or how I found it but The Gilded Chain is one of my all time favorite stories. It sits nestled next to The Princess Bride on my shelf for a reason. This book is actually one of a family (not series, not really) of books about The King’s Blades. All of them are incredibly well crafted, fast paced and pure fun to read but The Gilded Chain remains my favorite mostly because the main character, Durendal, is my idea of an ideal hero.

This book introduces the reader to the world of Chival where the King is protected by his Blades.  These men are raised from a young age at Ironhall to be the best swordsmen, strategists and all around protection for the person they are promised to protect. Their skills are then enhanced by magic that also binds them to their assigned ward. Many blades are assigned to the King but occasionally, the King will gift a Blade to someone.  Poor Durendal is gifted away and his very long and fascinating adventure begins.

Now, I must give two warnings about this book.  First, the story has a longer set up and so it can take a while to get to the real action.  Second, once you are into the action you will never want to leave Chival. Thankfully, Duncan has written many more books about the Blades with the newest, One Velvet Glove, coming out eventually (which is absolutely not fast enough.)

The Gilded Chain is like a great British murder mystery. It is so tightly written and so intensely interesting to me that every time I read it I find a detail I missed the last time. All of the King’s Blades books are wonderful – I will probably do a Serious Series Love on them after the new book comes out – but I could not wait to recommend this one.

nonfiction

Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives by Tim Harford

Mindfulness. Sharper Focus. Single-minded attention to task. Brain-training. Tidying-up! You can find a book about all of these things by just glancing through the bargain section at your local bookstore. But what about chaos and craziness and the unplanned events that make life interesting? That was what Tim Harford spend five years researching and writing for his book Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives.

I was, admittedly, reluctant to read this book. I had gone deep into the issue of tidiness when rmessyeviewing some cleaning books so, “messy” in the title had me assuming this book was in the same category. The book flap let me know that Tim Harford is an economist. I didn’t know how these things would fit together at all. I did know that economic studies are vitally important to understanding culture and historic events. And also, mind numbingly boring.

Still, I gave it the prescribed three chapters. This took me through some truly fascinating ideas.  First, Harford addresses why creativity is important and how famous people have used distractions to help solve problems.  This chapter introduced me to Brian Eno and his revolutionary way of inspiring music artists to produce their best work. Chapter two focused on collaboration. I despise teamwork and the idea that different teams, especially messy teams, get more done made me so happy. By chapter three I was hungrily reading about how distractions at work can make us more creative and productive. I was hooked.

If you are still unsure whether this book would interest you Tim Harford did a podcast on intelligencesquared.com and the video is a great debate on the ideas from his book.  He is obviously loves this topic and his presentation and writing reflect that enthusiasm.

This book is one of those nonfiction books that not only reads well, it is gripping in its facts and fascinating in its details. I was probably very annoying to my friends and family because I all but read whole sections of the book to them. This is not a non-fiction book for the note card system – this is a veritable reference on how too much of a good thing (tidiness, pre-planning, orderly robotic conversations) can keep us from really experiencing life to the fullest with all the messy nuances.

Fantasy · SeriousSeriesLove

Serious Series Love: Fablehaven

This is my go-to recommendation to any and all ages, especially in the summertime. Brandon Mull’s Fablehaven series is based on the ingenious premise that mythical creatures are gathered into a hidden refuge. The sanctuary is guarded by magic and age old covenants. It is overseen by caretakers. The preserve is called Fablehaven and the caretakers are Kendra and Seth Sorensen’s grandparents.

When Kendra and Seth (ages 11 and 13) have to visit their Grandparents at their (ahem) farm over summer, they are prepared for utter boredom. Instead they are witness to the awe that is trolls, fairies, witches and so much more. But, Fablehaven only remains relatively safe when rules are followed. When a rule is broken, evil is unleashed.

As the series develops, the problems and perils become more interesting and dire. From the introduction of the world of book one, Fablehaven, through the conclusion of the series in book 5, Keys to the Demon Prison, the action becomes more intense. Written in an engaging and intelligent style this is a book that I feel confident in recommending.

These are the covers of the books that I own. When I was looking through Brandon Mull’s website I noticed that there are updated covers and the wonderful Caretakers Guide to Fablehaven.  The guide is an nice addition if you adore the series. I love paging through it and looking at the illustrations of the items and creatures found in the world of Fablehaven. Kendra and Seth have even gone through and added their own notes. However, it is definitely a book I would leave for after you have read the series since it inherently includes spoilers.

At the end book five Brandon Mull wrote that Fablehaven was officially concluded and there would be no additional books for the series. However, he did say he would be happy to revisit the world and the characters. He has done so in the recently published (and fantasticDragonwatch. I will be reviewing it very soon. In the meantime, if you haven’t already enjoyed the series, I invite you to visit Fablehaven this summer.

not a review

Summer Learning!

June 1st through August 31st is my summer. I don’t care if school has been out for weeks or is still in session and the weather is cold, June 1st is the beginning of my summer state of mind. So, happy summer to everyone!

During the school year there are just so many (too many) have to-dos. So, I like to keep a little list of things I want to do when I have time. I find that when I am busy my mind is overflowing with ideas of things I wish I had time to do. But, when I finally get leisure time I can’t remember any of them. I have a list of about 100 things on my Summer Bucket List and #1 is always, “Learn something.”

Now, I am not studying up on Algebra (barf) or reading medical journals. For summer I like to learn about things that really interest me. This summer I have my big three: palmistry, calligraphy, and chords.

I became interested in palmistry years and years ago. My interest was just a little old flickering flame until a snobby girl told me it was, “a sin to practice witchcraft.” Um, what?!? Hell, yes. Who’s a witch? I’m a witch!

But, I really did not keep up with practicing it and so I have forgotten more than I remember.  To remedy that I have gathered three books and I am already getting ready to practice my craft.

palmistry

This is the book that kicked off my interest. I picked it up in the bargain book section of Barnes and Noble all those years ago and I still love it. Palmistry by Lori Reid is a great basic groundwork on reading the lines of the hand and I will re-read it cover to cover.

art_palmistry

I sprung for The Art of Palmistry by Anna Southgate brand new and just paging through it I became so excited. It has hundreds more pictures of palms and hand types than my introductory book and I cannot wait to study them more in-depth!

masters_destiny

Masters of Destiny by Josef Ranald is one of those gems I found when digging through the used book section. For two dollars I took this book home and I didn’t really care if it was worthwhile or not. I was overjoyed when I got a chance to look through and found that it is a mixture of palmistry and biography! It has a little two page synopsis of famous people and the palm line that matches their most well known characteristic.  For example, Albert Einstein may have had the line of scientific genius. Did he really have the corresponding line? I don’t care – this is summer fun learning!

handwriting

My Mom send me Creative Lettering and Beyond and a gorgeous set of calligraphy pens for Christmas. I have gotten them out….once. I plan to work my way through the book this summer and use those pens UP.

jazz_theory

This book has a similar story. It was a gift and I was so excited to tear right into it. But, it should really be entitled Jazz Theory for the Jazz Historian, Accomplished Musician and Practiced Theorist. It is a difficult book to use without instruction. Thankfully, I have a great music teacher who was able to break down the different sections for me. This summer I want to master all of my chords.

So, there is my #1 Summer Bucket List already lined up. I cannot wait! Do you have any summer learning traditions?