Wow, folks. Homemade beef jerky is the best. We’ve been using our dehydrator like crazy, and I pretty much only stopped munching because my teeth were starting to hurt from gnawing on dried meat. Guess I wouldn’t have made a great cavewoman.

I spent a lovely Labor Day with a great friend, and we grabbed lunch at Neomonde to take to the JC Ralston Arboretum. Catching up was excellent and much-needed, and we got to see one of the new pieces of artwork, this brilliant mirror tree:

We were joined by my friend’s two-and-a-half-year-old, who, having grown up on a farm, is possibly more self-sufficient than I am, and eminently more fashionable. My friend says he already knows what death is (impossible to hide on a farm, really), and I look gleefully forward to him traumatizing his playmates with honest answers about the world and where food comes from. The beef for that jerky didn’t just materialize at the grocery store…

Links:

Today I’m off to another friend’s housewarming party in a bit, but first let me tell you about two amazing books I finished recently!

Books:
My husband had picked up Merlin Dreams by Peter Dickinson years ago on a whim but hadn’t read it. I’m enjoying going through our combined shelves now, reading new-to-me books that I’ve inherited by marriage. I’m used to knowing my shelves very thoroughly, so it’s exciting to stumble upon intriguing tales I didn’t know were in the house.

What a gem I stumbled upon here! This book is lovely, both visually and in terms of the storytelling. The artwork is done by the incomparable Alan Lee of Lord of the Rings fame, and they’re beautiful.

The stories are even more so. This book is labeled YA for some reason (perhaps because it’s illustrated), but the depth of the stories is impressive, and I think adults might appreciate their subtlety even more. Not a dud amongst the collection, all of which are loosely bound together by the theme of Merlin’s dreams. Arthurian fans will be in heaven, but you could read and fall in love with this book even if you’d never heard of King Arthur.

I love the author Robin McKinley, and Peter Dickinson was her husband. He passed away last year, and I can’t help but think how sad it would be to love and lose the creator of such beautifully spun tales.

I finished Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay last week too. “Exquisite” is frequently the word that comes to mind when attempting to describe Kay’s works. Unsurprisingly, I loved this book, as I’ve loved everything by Kay that I’ve read (I still haven’t read two or three of his works). His research is meticulous, his command of language positively poetic, and his characters utterly fascinating. The setting is utterly different from other Kay books: the equivalent of 8th century China during the Tang dynasty.

Linhtalintinh’s review of the book already does an exceptional job of tracing the connections between events/individuals and their historical counterparts, so I won’t attempt that here–but do read her insightful comments.

I will say, though: Under Heaven is more flawed than most of Kay’s works, which surprised me. Character development is Kay’s strong suit–so strong, in fact, that if anyone else had written this story, I still would’ve been fairly impressed–but he set his own bar too high with previous works. The characters here do not breathe realism in quite the same way, nor are their choices ultimately consistent with the personalities we’ve come to expect from them. Pacing was downright sluggish at times, which I also don’t associate with Kay. And there was a certain authorial self-awareness bordering on pretentiousness in the language that rubbed me the wrong way.

It’s still gorgeous. Go read the book.

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