Monthly Archives: July 2012

Books in July ’12

Well, there goes the idea of separating romance from other books. It’ll be back, don’t worry, but this month’s post is embarrassingly short as it is and doesn’t need to be chopped up. And when I say embarrassing… In a way that’s not true, but you’ll see why. On with the show!

Brent Weeks: The Way of Shadows

I’ve been giving Weeks’s Night Angel Trilogy for years, and finally made the decision to tackle it. And I liked the first book. It was good.

However, it didn’t blow my mind. The beginning was my favourite part: we witness Azoth’s first meeting with the “wetboy” (an assassin but better, and with Talent) Durzo Blint, just before we’re familiarized with Azoth’s life as a street rat in the bad side of town. And it’s very enjoyable. We then follow along as Azoth grows up, and the main plot point reveals itself as we go on. The prose is easy to read and the chapters are short, so this is not a long read despite the amount of pages. The characters are interesting, although I had a hard time trying to remember who is who and why exactly are they important, which means I didn’t get as invested in the story as I would have liked to. Another turn-off would be the classic Chosen One business, which has never sat well with me.

I’m afraid this series will suffer the same fate as Joe Abercrombie’s First Law Trilogy did with me: I’ve read the first one and kind of liked it, but haven’t gotten around to continuing the series. It’s a pity, but not everything can please. Give it a shot! I’m pretty sure a year ago I would have loved this, and maybe I will continue next year and wonder why I didn’t get the brilliance at once. Timing is all.

Published: 2008 Orbit

Pages: 645

Georgette Heyer: The Nonesuch

Now this is a prime example of a book where absolutely nothing happens but it still keeps you reading. Brilliant. I’ve probably said it before, but let me say it again – Heyer is as close to Austen as you can get without actually reading Austen. In this book, it took some time and effort to tell apart the characters – there’s a myriad of them, and then you have to remember first names and surnames and titles – and the ending came so suddenly I was a little baffled, but other than that, a very enjoyable read. The language is just wonderful, and there were a lot of Regency insults! (My particular favourite is ‘vulgar mushroom’.)

First published: 1962 Heinemann

Pages: 297 (Arrow Books 200 edition)

Leo Tolstoy: War and Peace

You won’t believe how I proud I am of myself for having read this. Seriously. War and Peace is one of those books I’ve always thought I’ll read when I’m old and smart – and I promise you, I consider myself neither.

The most interesting thing about this book is the fact that it’s not hard. Not even remotely. It’s just long, and among the interesting stuff there are boring bits, no matter what kind of stuff you like. I was interested in the main characters and what happens in their lives, and so I found all the philosophy of history and war tedious, but you might find it the other way around. Anyway, if you want to get a nice picture of what went on in Russia during the Napoleonic Wars, this is a good book to read. Tolstoy kept repeating names of people and places, so you’ll remember people like Kutuzov, Caulaincourt and Barclay de Tolly, and places like Borodino and Bagration. There are dates and very detailed descriptions of what went on, and a whole lot of Napoleon!

As I think most of my readers are fantasy oriented, there’s something I really want to raise up about this book. It’s a lot like Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. Seriously. Short chapters, usually following a character. Cliffhangers. You can’ be sure who dies, so beware of becoming attached. Much less scheming and virtually no incest, though, unless you count cousin/cousin. The characters are very well rounded, so you’ll end up hating the ones you initially liked and vice versa. A couple of characters mysteriously disappeared, not to be heard of again.

On Goodreads, I gave this book three stars. It’s a very nice book, and I recommend it. Not the most mind-blowing thing I’ve ever read, but decent. (And the translation I read was excellent.) The edition I had was very approachable, too – four 400-500-page volumes in total.

If you’re for some reason interested in what went on in my head during this monster of a read, you can take a look at my reading diary.

First published: 1869 (original title Война и миръ – Voyna i mir)

Translator: Esa Adrian 1975

Pages: 432+495+492+446=1865

So that’s all I managed this month. In a way it seems pathetic, since it’s only three books (actually four, but as the fourth is part of an omnibus I’m not counting it here), but on the other hand, one of them was almost 2000 pages long. I think that evens things out nicely.

Bought this month:

I may have gone a little crazy. Most of these books were really cheap, though. The Lives of English Rakes was so so so cheap I just had to get it! The one to the right of it is Master and Margarita, by the way – I’m not sure I like the translation, because it’s not the same one my brother has, but we’ll see when I get to it… sometime next year maybe. Redshirts I actually bought in June, but it didn’t arrive until July.

Currently (re)reading:

Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence (<3)

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Operation Classic: War and Peace – the Diary

Contains SPOILERS, some of them major, so beware!

(Well, not that major, but with this book little surprises help you along.)

July 15th 2012

Day one of diary, day five of reading. Only yesterday did I think of writing about this experience.

I’m reading a translated version (hence I write names as they are written in Finnish). It’s been split into four volumes, each 400-500 pages long, and I’m about a 100 pages into the second volume. So far it’s going nice, although the heavy battle descriptions can get tiring – my capacity can’t take all the detailed info of the location of French, Russian and Austrian troops. Seriously. And the guys on the front aren’t being very smart. Nikolai Rostov is annoying me horribly. I do, however, like Andrei Bolkonski and Boris. The women somewhat annoy me, although Anna Mihailovna is not as bad as the rest. And I resent the notion that it would seem characters named Vera tend to be somewhat prudish and mean.

One of my favourite things so far is the character Dolohov, because it’s fun to try and see how much of this character Rowling used in the Death Eater Dolohov. As there is so little known of the Potter Dolohov, I’m tempted to think of him as very similar to Tolstoy’s Dolohov.

I’m also very disappointed that Natasha didn’t accept Denisov’s proposal. I like Denisov. He’s a nice man, though admittedly a little old for Natasha.

 

July 16th 2012

I spoiled myself. I needed to check on some character names and family connections, and Wikipedia provided a list – but it was way too detailed. So now I know some upcoming pairings and reading about the characters isn’t all objective anymore. Sad face.

A thing I realised this morning while I read a couple of chapters before going to work – I like this book, damn it. Quite unexpected. These bigger classics seem to do this with me. The Finnish ones are even more unexpected than the other ones. I loved Väinö Linna’s The Unknown Soldier, and now I’m pretty certain that when I eventually get to Mika Waltari’s The Egyptian I’m going to love it.

 

July 17th 2012

Yesterday, I was talking to Kay about the book. I told her about the tragedy that is Prince Andrei’s life, and when I mentioned his wife died right after the birth of their child, she immediately asked, “Was it at least a boy?”

That hadn’t even occurred to me, although of course it should have. In historical fiction, and in factual history of course, begetting a male heir is vital. However, Tolstoy doesn’t really put any emphasis on that. None whatsoever. The only inheritance discussion is about Count Bezuhov, who has no legitimate children, only bastards. I’m not familiar with the Russian laws on this, and apparently I should do some research. Interesting issue. Thanks for pointing it out to me, Kay!

 

July 18th 2012

Just started the third volume. The second one was awesome, particularly towards the end, when the relationships started to get really tangled – and now I’m excited to see if anything more happens between Andrei and Natasha! Maria’s situation is interesting, too, and I keep hoping the French doctor whose name I can’t for the life of me remember would propose to her. Very little has been said about the doc, but I have a feeling he and Maria would suit each other. What I don’t want her to do is to leave her family and become a religious hermit or whatever they should be called.

I also made an observation while finishing the volume. The characters are just marvellous. I notice I had an opinion on everyone at the beginning, and now I think of them completely differently. Andrei annoyed the hell out of me – now I kinda like him. Natasha seemed like a vivacious, fun girl – now she bugs me SO much. (She’s seventeen at the moment, so yeah, I understand what goes on in her head and why she does the things she does, but understanding doesn’t mean liking!) What I think this shows is great crafting by Tolstoy. It’s not often that the characters really change and you sometimes love them and sometimes hate them. Beautifully done, sir!

Anatol is a sleaze. Just so you know. Ugh. I like Dolohov better. Not that he’s a good guy either.

 

July 19th 2012

Today I’ve gotten very little read though – I’m getting ready to leave for Finncon tomorrow and there’s been stuff that has needed to be done.

But that’s not relevant right now. What is relevant is that the beginning of this third volume is boring me. It’s year 1812, and Napoleon is declaring war on Russia. It’s been mostly upset royalty and officers and names and none of the actual main characters, except for Boris, and him very briefly. It’s hard to be interested, but it’ll get better again. Hopefully. I’m a little disappointed now, because the end of the second volume was so awesome. (Natasha and Andrei! What’s going to happen? Kick out the Frenchies so we can get back to them!)

 

July 24th 2012

Oh what a bit it was today! So much excitement! Anatol, Andrei, and the talk about Nikolas and Maria… Oh my. So awesome. It was a slow day at work, so I read about a hundred pages, barely containing my squees and trying not to grin like an idiot at customers. Awesome drama. Absolutely bloody marvellous.

 

July 25th 2012

Busy day at work. Hmph. Managed a couple of dozen pages, though. Finished volume three and moved on to volume four – didn’t finish the first mark on that one though. Way too tired. Ippolit made an appearance, though! I thought Tolstoy had abandoned him for good!

 

July 30th 2012

Finished! Gods, I can’t believe it! The end was so BORING! The epilogue was 150 pages, and in two parts. The first part was fun, the second one not so much – it was just Tolstoy pondering on how history should be interpreted and what can we really know and free will and leaders and power. So absolutely yawn-inducing. I’m sort of upset that we never saw Boris or Dolohov again, and that Ippolit wasn’t really there at all. But you can’t have everything, I suppose. I would have wanted Dolohov though. And Denisov and Sonja would have made a nice couple!

So there they all are. I am now glad to get back to books in English. This has been such a long stint of reading in Finnish that it almost frightens me.

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Finncon 2012

You may not have heard about Finncon. No surprise there – on a world scale it’s a small con, but at the same time it’s one of the biggest SFF cons in Europe. Held for the first time in 1986, it’s a cosy con with programs in three languages (Finnish, Swedish and English). At times it has been arranged together with Animecon, which from the point of view of a SFF fan has been unfortunate, as the anime/manga/Japanese culture programs ate up most of the SFF content. Now the cons have gone their separate ways, and this years program was very satisfactory.

The only previous time I’ve attended Finncon was 2010, when there was no Animecon, and the Guests of Honor were Ellen Kushner (squee!) and Pat Cadigan. It was awesome, so awesome, and I wanted to participate in 2011 as well. Family business took precedence, however, and so this year I couldn’t miss!

My friend and I arrived at Tampere around noon on Friday, July 20th, with the sun shining on the first day of con. After getting lost a couple of times we finally found our friend’s place, where we were staying, and dumped our stuff and went to look for something to eat and then looking for the university, which was the con location.

The first panel we attended was a Sherlock Holmes panel. Yes. This was the reason I wanted to be at the con on two days instead of just the one. And it was interesting. It helped a great deal that this appeared on the blackboard:

(Panelists Sari Polvinen, Erkka Leppänen, Jussi Katajala, and Iida Simes – if you are one of these people and want me to take this picture down, I will. Same goes with all pictures featuring people.)

Under discussion were the characters, how they are presented in different adaptations, and pastiches, fanfiction and all sorts of books to do with Sherlock Holmes. Following works were recommended:

–       Study in Lavender

–       My Dearest Holmes

–       Professor Moriarty and the Hound of the D’Urbervilles

–       The House of Silk

The Emmy nominations of Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman were warmly applauded, and pleased muttering went on about the subject. Congratulations, guys!

On Saturday the weather refused to co-operate, so we got wet for a couple of times as we ventured out to eat, but nothing could spoil the fun of con. In the morning, before the first panel, I ran into a booth for konsulttietsivät ry. (consulting detectives association), a group for the Finnish fans of BBC Sherlock. (They’re having a second season marathon in two weeks, so I suggest you check out their website!) After this glad chance encounter, we made our way to a panel about libraries and how they choose their books. Needless to say, my ambition to become a librarian was increased. (There was also Twilight-bashing, which always cheers me up.)

Bimbo panel, one of the funniest events in the whole con, had such a long line I didn’t even try my luck, and instead visited the lecture on apocalyptic religions. Very little of it I didn’t know, but it was entertaining.

The last panel we attended was, to translate it quickly, Hunger Games, vampires, and those other phenomena, where the panel pondered on trends in YA. It was hugely entertaining, the audience participated a great deal – and Sherlock got a mention again. One of the panelists voiced the question, “What is it that makes this guy so hot?” Immediate answer came from the audience – “Brain is the new sexy!”

So there it was, my con this year. It would have gone on until Sunday, but my friend had to travel on and I was under the impression I needed to be at a family function. Turns out the latter isn’t until next week.

I’m really looking forward to next year, when the con will be held in Helsinki! As nice as it is to visit other cities, the hassle of accommodation and transport is just that – a hassle.

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