Faery Swap - A book review

One of the awesome things about the internet is that it makes it possible for you to be friends with so many people you might not meet in real life. Like a former rocket scientist and aerospace engineer turned speculative fiction author.

I have thoroughly enjoyed everything that I have read that Susan Kaye Quinn has written. If I were to get around to writing the novel in my head, I would try to make it the kind of story that changes you in some way, makes you more free, more aware, or at least, makes you think different when you've finished it. Susan comes pretty close to that in her writing. All of the things I have read by her were for older teens or adults, and not something I would give to my kids to read yet. So I was delighted when she announced she was releasing Faery Swap, a fantasy story for middle grade readers. Then she said she was taking the book on a blog tour and asked for reviews.

Well, I just happen to have a voracious middle grade reader in my house. Who better to write a review of a middle grade book? (Sneaky home schooler that I am, I'm all for getting my kid to write without making it sound like work.)

I went looking for a recent picture. This one of him goofing off in the back of a truck made me laugh.
 I will tell you that the Boy was a bit proud that he finished the book in less than a day, and a bit disappointed that it wasn't longer.

What follows are his words. I did help him with editing a bit, in terms of order.

Faery Swap is about a boy named Finn that does this swap with a faery warrior prince, and then is transported to this magical world while the faery prince takes over his body. Finn lives in the modern day time in England with his little sister. His mom died and he doesn't have a dad that takes care of him so much. Finn isn't happy to be in the otherworld. In the summer solstice the worlds are close enough for the spirits of the faeries to be able to go to earth and take over the body of a human and send the spirit of that human to the otherworld. 

Here's what happens. When it's still the summer solstice the faery spirits, called Anams, can inhabit a human body and can do magick on earth. When the solstice is over faeries in human bodies stay on earth until the next swap, which is a hundred years later in earth years, if they survive that long. Or they stay on earth until they die. If the faery leaves earth and goes back to the faery world the anam of the human stays in the otherworld and their body just dies. No human anam has ever been returned to it's body before.

I liked how it included faeries and the whole thing about dimensional worlds. She did a pretty good job of making it so the faery prince didn't actually act like Finn did at the beginning of the book, like he was getting used to acting like a modern human. If he acted the same way as the human right away it wouldn't have been as believable.

The thing I didn't understand was how does math go together with magick? 

In a book that included faeries, I expected the faeries to be rather mischievous. But they weren't really mischievous. All lot of the faeries were pretty stubborn though. Some of them were a bit stupid and evil, like the king and the kings servants. Except for the house of Ul and Glinn. They were opposing his house secretly because they knew that people would die if the earth and the otherworld were connected and they cared about the loss of faery AND human life.

If you like stories about magick and people with special powers, you might like this book. If you like stories with faeries, with sort of a cross between modern day and mythical then you'll probably like this book.

He had some questions about the book, so we emailed Susan and she answered right away, because she's awesome like that. Here it is.

The Boy-What culture did you get this from? It seems bit Irish.

Susan - In my story, the faery world was torn from Earth about 4000 years ago,
around the area near Stonehenge. In the real world at that time, a Celtic
(Irish) legend that says fairies descended from the Tuatha De Danaan (and
ancient people driven to another world by a wave of invaders). Some of the
legends say this "Otherworld" (which is what I call it in my story) is
called Tir Na Noog (Tír na nÓg ), and that there, time stands still. There
are many different stories about faeries (all the original stories were
oral, not written down), but one is the story of Oisin, a Celtic man, who
accidentally traveled to the Otherworld and then was dismayed when he
returned to find that 300 years had passed. I used some of this mythology to
create the backstory of my Faery Swap, and the idea that time stands still
in the Otherworld.

The Boy-Where did you get the idea for a spriggan?

Susan - Spriggans are http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spriggan real (mythical)
creatures from Cornish (English) faery lore. I used a picture from Faeries
by Brian Froud (a collection of faery art) to imagine what a spriggan would
look like. Then I used the idea of House Elves from Harry Potter to make
them loyal to a particular Faery House. Pyx's personality belongs all to

The Boy-Where did you get the idea that the faeries need to understand math to do

Susan - To me, mathematics seems kind of magical to begin with-in math, simple
numbers or symbols can capture tremendous knowledge into a simple equation
(like E=MC2). When I think of magic, I think of incantations and spells and
symbols... just like math. Add in that the faeries in my story use
dimensional magick-basically manipulating the spacetime forces around
them-and it makes sense that an understanding of math and physics would
enhance their ability to do that kind of magick. Also: I just think math is

Thanks Susan, for writing such a fun book, and giving me something different to do to encourage my son to write and answering his questions.

You can get your own copy of Faery Swap, in print or your e reader of choice. Check it out.



You guys, I have a confession to make. I'm a little embarrassed about it, to tell the truth. I'm worried you won't understand. Plus, I feel like I should be able to do it all myself. It's my mid-western, self reliant, up bringing I suppose. But it's time to come clean, literally. I've hired house help.

I know. I live in a big house in the country, and now I have people cleaning my house for me. Next I'll be sipping mint Juleps on the porch while fanning myself with my big hat. (Actually, that sounds good. I just put mint into my garden. I'm going to have to do that when it grows enough.)

But here's how it happened. We had a big party here at Christmas time. We invited pretty much the whole city to come to our house for festive things like cookie decorating, and hot chocolate, and singing. You know me, it's not a party without singing. Not too long before I went and bought new glasses, finally laying to rest the lenses I had been using since 2004. Seriously, 2004. I got home with my brand new, shiny, not scratched a bit, lenses, and realized just how deeply covered in grime my house was. Did I mention that all of the downstairs floor is white tile? Do you know what happens to white tile when kids with dirty feet step in a bathroom puddle and then walk all over the house? It really ain't pretty.

One of my friends had mentioned that her mae baan was looking for extra work. (That's Thai for house maid, or something close.) So I asked how much she charged and if she could come over the day of the party to help get it really, really clean. That led me to a referral to another friend, who referred me to Christine.

Christine is Burmese, but she's been a Thai resident for at least 20 years, worked a long time in Chiang Mai, and has experience as a Mae Baan. She now lives in a little bamboo house in a migrant work camp just outside our village and she and her husband have planted a little church there. She is teaching some of the women there how to be Mae Baan, instead of field laborers. It's a much better job.

So, for the equivalent of $10US!!!! she came to my house the day of the party, with a younger woman named Giley, and they made my house sparkle! It was amazing, like a miracle from heaven.

I had no idea how little it cost to hire someone. I'm told she's expensive compared to others, but I do have a really big house.

A little later I read this article, True Confessions of an Extreme Outsourcer. I realized that my pride was getting in the way of my productivity, in a big way. I mean, I don't expect to get any office work here done without our office assistant. That's just crazy talk. So why do I somehow think that I ought to be able to,
  • be up several times a night with short people
  • administrate a nonprofit corporation long distance, including managing volunteers and contractors on that end
  • Home School 4 children, including a wild and crazy toddler, and a pre-adolescent, while taking care of a baby
  • cook 3 meals a day
  • run an NGO office locally, manage staff and volunteers
  • design training materials for local women and families, and teach those classes
  • write 2 blogs and keep them current, plus manage 4+ facebook pages, and other social media
  • write monthly updates to all our supporters
  • create and edit content for new promotional materials
  • add any new chapters to the book we're trying to write. (that has totally not even been on the list the past several months)
  • Garden and do yard work
  • AND keep the whole house clean?
See that level of crazy going on right there? I am a firm believer that my kids should be responsible to clean up after themselves and the messes they make. And they do, they keep this house running. You can tell a day that they didn't do their jobs, because the whole place is awful. Which is testament to how much help they are on days when they do get things done.

One thing the article asked is what things would you delegate? On that whole list, housework would be the first to go.

So I started out by asking them to come every 2 weeks, just to help me deep clean, and keep on top of things.

After a month of that I said, come every week. If I had more money I'd have them come twice a week. They both have a little girl and they bring them along, I asked them to, and they run around and play while the mommies work.

We went to Chiang Mai for a week and it was a really messed up weekend. On our way out of town I stopped to give Christine the key and pay her in advance to come in while we were gone and clean. It was like a miracle. We got home, after a long hot dusty drive, and the house was perfect, more perfect than it's ever been, now that we were out of the way so they could work. I can't tell you what a gift it is to come home to something so peaceful. It lasted a whole 4 hours, because we went to the pool right away after unloading the car.

I am so much more relaxed about messes these days. "Sure we can eat noodle soup in the living room while we watch Ender's Game for family night." Worst case scenario, if I don't get to mopping the floors after that experiment, it will get done in a day or two anyway. It's not like I am not still totally swamped, and don't still fall asleep mid sentence with my hands resting on the keyboard of my laptop every second day or so, but it's one stress gone. I don't even try to clean up before she comes anymore.



If you want to adapt quickly to a subtropical climate I highly recommend showing up 7 months pregnant at the height of the hot season and living without air conditioning. Half an hour after Dek was born, just after I got out of the shower, I felt something I had almost forgotten existed, a chill. It was still pretty warm out, but that early morning air for the first time felt comfortably cool.

In rainy season, when we moved into our house, I was reveling in how pleasant the weather was and how comfortably cool I was feeling. An expat I had just met was telling me her problems with getting her air conditioner fixed and I commented that it was lucky it wasn’t very warm right now. That’s how I found out that it was still super warm for her, and she had been in Thailand way longer than me. So I felt pretty awesome because I had been worried about the heat and adapting to it before we moved here.

It turns out that the thing I find more difficult than heat is bugs. Not big interesting looking giant scary bugs. Those don’t bother me. I’m not scared of large insects, and there are a lot of those. I just don’t like the little biting kind, like mosquitoes, and red ants, and other insects that I had pleasantly forgotten existed living in southern California as long as I have. For one thing, the mosquitoes can make you sick, Aaron had Dengue fever for two weeks during rainy season, so I just really don't like them.

There are ants everywhere here. There is a colony of black ants that has dug in under our house through the concrete and cleared the grout from between the tiles in order to get in. But those ants don’t bite, at least, they don’t have venom, so I don’t mind them all that much.

I thought, my first few weeks here in Thailand that I could never get used to everyone driving on the wrong side of the road. It was just way too weird. Last week I was watching a movie and the person pulled out of a parking lot onto the right hand side of the road and my gut twisted waiting for them to get hit by oncoming traffic. It took a few minutes for me to realize that they were on the right side of the road in America, and that I had truly gotten used to driving on the left hand side of the road.

Does this look as weird to you as it did to me my first month here? I'm in the passenger seat taking this photo.
 I now check the water level in the holding tanks on a regular basis, and never take for granted that there will be water flowing when I turn the tap. Between a very inconsistent water supply from the city, requiring water to be delivered in a truck every few days to fill our tanks, and issues with the pump, we’ve gone days with no water in the house, and I have learned that running water is something that requires far more attention than I ever use to give it.

The one time, so far, I just sat down and cried and said, “I want to go home,” was when I tried to have the truck come out to fill our water tanks. They either didn’t understand me, or just didn’t want to come out on the day before the holiday. When I had someone with better Thai call for me they said it was too late to come today, but they would come tomorrow, which I knew wasn’t true, because no one does anything on the King’s birthday. So we had to go 2 more days without water after being without it for half a day already. It was pretty frustrating.

The absence of running water on occasion has taught me how thoroughly used I have gotten to using the sprayer beside the toilet. It really doesn’t feel clean now to just wipe with tissue and not use water to clean myself first. People in North America are just really disgusting and have no idea. I know I didn’t.

I'm pretty good at using these now too.
 I bow my head and put my hands together now when greeting people, out of habit, even my Western friends. That felt pretty silly when I was learning it, but it’s really pleasant way to greet people it turns out.

I’m getting used to honey on my pancakes, when we make them, instead of maple syrup. Because I’m a purist and if I can’t buy the real stuff I’m not going to eat the super expensive fake maple flavored syrup that I can buy here. That's ok though, because the honey here tastes amazing. Ever tasted honey made from the nectar collected from longan flowers? It's pretty fantastic.

Honey, meet pancakes.
I’m starting to forget what good ice cream, and chocolate, taste like. A word of advice? If it says chocolate on the package, and it also looks like it was made in Thailand, skip it. Just don’t even put it in your mouth. It will save you the trouble of spitting it right back out again, it’s that bad. I had the misfortune of once trying something that was labeled “hazelnut chocolate wafer”, which tasted more like wax and sand than anything else. I’ve stopped buying the imported chocolate very often, because more than $2 for a little taste of chocolate starts to add up after a while, especially when you consider that two people could eat a whole meal at a Thai restaurant for that much, depending on what they ordered. But I'm getting better at cooking Thai vegetables, hint, barely let them cook at all, and the food here is amazing.

I guess you could say I’m adapting, and making a life here, and that’s a good thing since it looks like we're going to be here for quite a while.
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