Stephanie Burgis
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My vacation joy is complete: I just got a phone call from PetStay, our local pet-sitting company, confirming that Maya will be able to stay in a family home while we're in Stockholm. Whew! Maya will be soooo much happier there than in a kennel, and Patrick and I will be happier in Stockholm knowing that she isn't lonely and scared while we're off having fun.

Now I can happily settle into fantasies of gorgeous Swedish kanalbulle (cinnamon rolls - omnipresent and soooooo delicious!) and 18th-century palaces. Perfect! And less than three weeks to wait. :)

In the meantime, I've been re-reading Patricia McKillip's Solstice Wood, which I like even more on the second reading. (The first reading was on a long plane trip, which is never a bonus for any book. I'm generally so exhausted and out of it by the end of the plane trip that whatever novel I'm reading is lucky to have even half my mind focused on it.) It's a really lovely book, written with all the lyricism of her high fantasy novels, but with a really convincing modern American setting. (Actually, she does something really interesting there, because it's a kind-of sequel to her earlier book Winter Rose [which I adore], which was DEFINITELY a high fantasy novel...except that now it's being looked back on as real history. Very strange, and it shouldn't work but somehow really does...)

My single quibble with the book is one of my old standbys: I really hate it when writers toss in dogs (or other pets) as character-flavor without actually thinking through the lifestyle implications. The heroine's boyfriend Madison is a great guy, very responsible and caring, and partway through the book, the heroine thinks about all the wonderful things about him, including his sweet mixed-breed dog...and I thought, wait...what???? - because the book started with Madison sleeping over at the heroine's house, as usual, after a nice evening together, and there's no dog in sight! So I was left wondering: did he leave the dog at home alone for at least 14-16 hours? And is that his regular routine? In which case, he is really not the nice, responsible guy he's supposed to be... Or was it just that the idea of a dog for Madison was tossed in to show off his nice-guy-ness without actually thinking the implications through?

It was a really small niggle in a book that's genuinely wonderful overall - evocative, magical, and insightful about family relationships and misunderstandings - so I don't want to put anyone off the book by my ranting. Patricia McKillip is one of my favorite fantasy authors, hands-down. But I do wish authors wouldn't toss in dependent pets - or, for that matter, children (I'm thinking of those awful romantic comedies where the hero's adorable and saccharine-sweet kids suddenly show up partway through just for a quick cameo to show off his softer side) - without taking them into consideration when they're showing the rest of their character's lifestyle. (On the other hand, I'm such a dog nut that if an author gives the protagonist a realistic dog, believably integrated into their lifestyle, I'll forgive a whole multitude of other flaws, just for the dog's sake! It's one of the things I love about Jenny Crusie's novels, and it sold me on Agatha Christie's By the Pricking of my Thumbs despite various other issues I had with the novel. I am a total sucker that way.)

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