Monthly Archives: November 2012

Books in November ’12

Hello hello hello hello hello, and welcome, to the – ! Okay too much QI. I apologise.

This has been a measly month when it comes to books. School has been really busy, and I’ve been so lazy to read anything after the Victorian pile we did. Hopefully Christmas holidays will allow me more time to read – I plan to have a whole ten days off school stuff between a Television Studies essay and writing the first draft of my thesis. I have some books I plan to read, but we’ll be seeing about those later.

Anne Rice: The Wolf Gift

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Man or monster?

Anne Rice reinvented the vampire legend. Discover what she’s done with the werewolf myth.

After a brutal attack, Reuben finds himself changing. His hair is longer, his skin is more sensitive and he can hear things he never could before.

Now he must confront the beast within him – or lose himself completely.

(Back cover of Arrow Books edition)

I started reading Anne Rice in the first year of high school, and stopped sometime during the third year. So in a way, starting The Wolf Gift felt a little like coming home. I actually tried to start quite another book, but it didn’t draw me in immediately. Wolf Gift did. And it was such an engaging book I had a hard time putting it down from time to time to attend to school stuff.

Rice doesn’t do to werewolves what she did to vampires, though she brings up a new twist to werewolf lore. But that is something you will have to find out on your own. What you might want to know is that Wolf Gift is not just horror – it’s also a thriller, a philosophical work, and just beautiful prose. It’s not heavy, despite the frequent descriptive bits, and it’s a good one to have with you if you commute. You get easily sucked into the story, and the characters are very likable, although I felt some of them remained somewhat flat. On the other hand, this leaves open the possibility of other books dealing with werewolves. And I would like that very much.

Published: 2012

Pages: 580 (Arrow Books paperback edition)

Toby Barlow: Sharp Teeth

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Reread for the fave post, so you can just click here and read why I love this book to tiny little bits.

Published: Harper Collins 2008

Pages: 313

Jules Verne: The Castle of the Carpathians https://i0.wp.com/i43.tower.com/images/mm100788706/castle-carpathians-jules-verne-paperback-cover-art.jpg

The descriptions of the quaint villagers of Werst, their costumes, manner of living, and belief in the supernatural world would in themselves prove an interesting narrative, but when coupled with the exciting adventures of Nic Deck, the two Counts, the cowardly Doctor, and the beautiful La Stilla, the story is undoubtedly one of the most enchanting ever offered.

This mysterious tale takes place in the area which in just a few years would become known as Dracula’s homeland. Jules Verne has the knack of it. He knows how to make the scientifically romantic story. You might not know what a “nyctalop” was, but if you saw one flapping his wings around the dark fortress in the Carpathians, you would run for it, as did Nic Deck.. Orfanik is head conjurer, and in his trial he explains how he brought into play for a wicked purpose a variety of ingenious inventions.

(Goodreads)

Second book for the fantasy course in Comparative Literature. I wasn’t overly impressed with this one. It starts slowly, switches characters around before we actually meet the main character, and unfortunately the end is rather predictable if you know anything at all about Verne. It wasn’t particularly scary, or even very exciting. The main character’s history was, I grant, interesting, but it is not enough to make me like the book. Translation, of course, can be a part of my disinterest, as the Finnish used was adequate but not exactly compelling.

First published: 1892

Translation: Pentti Kähkönen 1978

Pages: 211 (WSOY 1978 edition)

Kenneth Grahame: The Wind in the Willows

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Meek little Mole, willful Ratty, Badger the perennial bachelor, and petulant Toad. In the almost one hundred years since their first appearance in 1908, they’ve become emblematic archetypes of eccentricity, folly, and friendship. And their misadventures-in gypsy caravans, stolen sports cars, and their Wild Wood-continue to capture readers’ imaginations and warm their hearts long after they grow up. Begun as a series of letters from Kenneth Grahame to his son, The Wind in the Willows is a timeless tale of animal cunning and human camaraderie. This Penguin Classics edition features an appendix of the letters in which Grahame first related the exploits of Toad.

(Goodreads)

I didn’t like this one too much. Of course, it is a classic children’s story – and I hear I liked it a lot when I was a kid – but right now it felt very slow-paced, and some of the chapters felt unnecessary. That is, of course, partly a rather charming detail that tells a lot about the time the book was published: “The Wayfarer” is about as important to The Wind in the Willows and the Tom Bombadil interlude is to The Lord of the Rings, and neither section would be printed today. It seems that in the first half of the 20th century relevance and progressing plot weren’t quite as important, at least not in Britain – could this have something to do with the tradition of serially published novels? I don’t know, but I’m inclined to think so, as also the Victorian novels seem to have these unnecessary bits that make me want to bang my head against the table. Well, not when I’m reading for enjoyment, but when I’m in a hurry and not particularly fond of the book it’s among the most annoying things.

The Wind in the Willows is very English in style, and the style is very similar to The Hobbit, or rather the other way around. The class distinctions and propaganda are clearly there, with the “good” animals representing the middle and upper classes, and the weasels and stoats standing in for the working class. My favourite character might be Mr Mole – he undergoes some delightful character development, unlike the other characters. He reminds me a little of Neville Longbottom.

First published: 1908

Pages: 207 (Oxford Children’s Classics 2008 edition)

Georgette Heyer: An Infamous Army

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In 1815, beneath the aegis of the Army of Occupation, Brussels is the gayest town in Europe. And the widow Lady Barbara Childe, renowned for being as outrageous as she is beautiful, is at the centre of all that is fashionable and light-hearted. When she meets Charles Audley, the elegant and handsome aide-de-camp to the great Duke of Wellington himself, her joie de vivre knows no bounds – until the eve of the fateful Battle of Waterloo…

(Back cover of Arrow Books edition)

As my initial plan was to write my thesis about things happening around the Battle of Waterloo, it was very natural to pick up this book of Heyer’s. I’d read The Spanish Bride before and was ready for the war descriptions, although in this book they definitely contain many more names and detailed information about the position of troops et cetera. If you’re completely unfamiliar with what went on during the battle, I advise you to do some light reading on it before starting, if just to acquaint yourself with the main personage and the leaders. This book is absolutely riddled with people who really existed, and I was at times bummed because I wasn’t sure if someone was real or fictional.

There are also characters from Heyer’s earlier books, including my favourites from The Devil’s Cub! I may have squealed in delight when I realised they were present.

Even more than with The Spanish Bride, this book contain two main storylines: the first one is the courtship of Barbara and Charles, and the other one, naturally, the war. They fit together admirably, although are still very clearly distinguishable from each other.

The prose is usual Heyer: Austen-esque, witty, and very flowing. As always, be prepared for long sentences. When you get used to it you don’t have to think after every comma, What does this refer to again? Trust me, it’s worth it.

First published: 1937

Pages:  427 (Arrow Books 2004 edition)

A. A. Milne: Winnie the Pooh

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To my surprise I really enjoyed Winnie the Pooh. It’s a pleasant read, easy to get through, and at times so accurate in its way of describing things I’m starting to feel disappointed I wasn’t introduced to it earlier in life. I’m even planning on getting my own copy, as particularly some of Eeyore’s scenes really made an impact on me. This, I think, is a very good children’s book. Easy, fun, and yet meaningful. Well done, Mr Milne – well done!

First published: 1926

Pages: 161 (E. P. Dutton 1998)

So that’s it.

Books bought:

I’ve bought a few books, but they haven’t arrived yet except for one: Wellington – Years of the Sword by Elizabeth Longford. I’ll take a picture of the books for next month!

Currently reading:

Sgt Dan Mills: Sniper One (Loving it so much)

I wish you all strength for the rest of the year – I know I’m stressed and can’t wait for the holidays!

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Favourites: Sharp Teeth

Better late than never – here’s the second to last favourite books post!

FAVOURITES

TOBY BARLOW: SHARP TEETH

 

Published: 2008 Harper Collins

Pages: 313

An ancient race of lycanthropes survives in modern L.A., and its numbers are growing as the pack converts the city’s downtrodden into their fold. Stuck in the middle are a local dog-catcher and the woman he loves, whose secret past haunts her as she fights a bloody one-woman battle to save their relationship.

It was getting close to Christmas of 2008 when I saw this book in the “new releases” shelf at the bookstore. It looked fascinating: the cover, the title, the blurb at the back, all good. I’m a bit of a sucker for werewolves, and leafing the book and reading bits from the beginning convinced me to put it on my Christmas list. Santa was kind enough to bring it, and so I read it over the New Years.

So what is Sharp Teeth about, exactly? You can see some of it in the blurb, although I don’t think it does the book much justice. It exaggerates the love story. It’s there all right, and it’s a quite a central bit, but it’s not just a love story. There’s also more than one pack, which adds tension.

Oh yeah, and I guess the blurb leaves out the fact that it’s written in beautiful blank verse.

Yup. It’s nothing to be scared of – I speculate that that’s why it’s been left off the cover altogether – quite the opposite! It adds much to the action, to the general flow. It’s dynamic and intense. Sometimes it’s so pretty I have to put the book down for a while to muse over a nice turn of phrase.

Bone, love, meat, gristle, heat, anger, exhaustion, drive, hunger, blood, fat, marrow

 

Fifteen men lying in one house.

Listen to the night as

they softly growl

someone chases something in his dreams

desperate for satisfaction

then silent.

There’s one woman here.

There’s one leader here.

The pack does what he says,

she comes and goes

as she pleases.

There are lots of different kind of elements in the book. Love is a big one – the dog-catcher and Her above all, although other couples are seen as well – but between the lines there’s coincidence, or, more like, the explanations we tend to form for things that happen completely by accident. The main observer of these coincidences is Detective Peabody, who gets more in the middle of the whole business than the lovers mentioned in the blurb do. And then there’s revenge, on several levels.

For this post, I read the book for the fourth time. I now noticed how enticed I’ve always been by Barlow’s style: this is the first time that I actually managed to piece together the details that make up the connections between events. Let me tell you, it’s like magic. I think this book needs to be read a couple of times at least, unless you’ve got a good head for small, off-hand details. I’m not sure it’s even possible to link the details the first time around because you don’t know where it is all going. On subsequent readings the details become more significant, and the puzzle starts to form a picture.

It’s got some very heart-wrenching sections. Amusing sections. Sections filled with intense action.

There has lately been talk of a movie. Simon Beaufoy is working on the script, and Danny Boyle (they’ve worked together before, in Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours) has expressed keen interest. I’m a little scared, naturally. I’m afraid they’ll make the movie pounce and attack, when I want it to prowl, to stalk. And I have this irrational fear that they’ll cast Michael Fassbender… (Before anyone asks, I have nothing against him per se. He’s a good actor. It’s just that he’s sodding everywhere! And he doesn’t fit the part of anyone in the book. As I said, it is a completely ridiculous fear, but there you go.)

There is also a new book coming from the author, apparently due to be released next year! It’ll be called Babayaga: A Novel, and I hear it’s about Russian witches in 1950s Paris. (If you do a search on Babayaga, you’ll find she is indeed a witch from Russian fairy tales.) Looking forward to it!

Let’s sing about the man there

at the breakfast table

his olive hand making endless circles

in the classifieds

‘wanted’ ‘wanted’ ‘wanted’

small jobs little money

but you have to start somewhere.

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Movie Review: Dredd 3D

NB: I wrote this last night, straight when I got home. This morning it saw only slight editing, because I think I got it down pretty much as I like it. You’ll be happy to hear I cut some Karl Urban fangirling out!

It was with horrified disbelief that I received the news that Dredd wasn’t going to have a run in Finland. Yes. It’s unbelievable. There was supposed to be one show at the Night Visions festival, and that’s it. It was sold out in minutes. People were going to the theatre and asking them what they meant, not going to be there later on at all?

So they made the decision to have two more shows. Two. Tickets became available Tuesday morning.

My friend and I only got tickets thanks to an awesome friend of mine who reserved us tickets for Friday.

Because me, miss the chance to see Mr Karl Urban on the big screen? Pfft. Good one.

And holy –

I can’t think of a suitable word to continue that with. It was great. It was beautiful. It was awesome.

Here’s what IMDb says about the plot:

In a violent, futuristic city where the police have the authority to act as judge, jury and executioner, a cop teams with a trainee to take down a gang that deals the reality-altering drug, SLO-MO.

I was expecting ass-kickery, yes, but not on this scale. It was very violent, yes, a little too violent for me, but still so very entrancing. No ammo was saved, no structure left standing when you could just blow it up. Sound effects made the floor tremble without the volume being deafening.

Karl Urban did great. When you’re supposed to be stone-faced and emotionless, I can only imagine how hard it is to build a character. He managed that. And he was funny, bless him. Olivia Thirlby, who played the trainee Anderson, was subtle and very decent. I really applaud the fact that Anderson’s special ability was used to maximum effect – sometimes it was maybe a little too convenient, but we’ll let that pass – without it becoming the point of the movie.

What is the point of the movie, then? I really can’t say. I suppose some sort of message could be dug out of it, but I’m not going to do that. This movie isn’t really about a message. It’s about entertainment made beautiful and, well, entertaining. It’s also very well sorted out in terms of length – any longer, and it would turn boring. As it is, it’s a good use of an hour and a half.

Those who have discussed films with me know perfectly well that I’m not happy with 3D. It’s not that I’m completely opposed to it; I just don’t think it works properly yet. But this experience really was positive. It’s hard to say whether it was the new 3D glasses the theatre had (lighter and better suited for us bespectacled folk) or whether the movie was just better made, but I think this one really benefitted from the 3D. Particularly the SLO-MO scenes, which I suspect were made by using that super slow motion camera (you have seen the Alan Rickman Epic Tea Time, right?), are extremely beautiful.

Let it be noted I just got back from the cinema, and my judgement (pun half intended) isn’t clearest at 2am. However, I can assure you this movie is well worth seeing, if you can handle skinned people and bullets piercing faces in slow motion, or gauging out of eyes. I just closed my eyes during those – sound effects are a sufficient cue.

His pouty face kept me giggling.

Before I go, I have to add that I absolutely loved the Clan Techie, played by Domhnall Gleeson. His eyes are so cool, and he’s an adorable little nerd.

Oh, and I also have to mention the lack of subtitles. For those who don’t know, in Finland movies are subtitled in both Finnish and Swedish. It was unbelievably good to enjoy a movie without them, as reading them is a reflex more than a need and it distracts me a great deal. And without them, you can see full frames, which is blissful.

Such a pity this won’t run for longer. I would have loved to recommend it to everyone and their grandmother.

Because it was actually rather beautiful.

Dredd 3D (2012)

Director: Pete Travis

Starring: Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, Lena Headey

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Movie Review – Game of Werewolves

This week there’s the Night Visions festival. As usual, I got tickets to see just one film, as they are all horror and I’m one of those people who doesn’t sleep for a week after a scary movie. Previously I’ve seen Kick-Ass and Sucker Punch at this very festival.

This year it was a little different. Lobos de Arga (Eng. Game of Werewolves, 2011) isn’t a big budget CGI and stunts galore. It’s a low budget, Spanish horror comedy. It’s about this guy Tomás (Gorka Otxoa) who goes back to the little village he was born in, invited by the villagers. He thinks he’ll have a good time, and maybe even write his second novel! But things aren’t exactly as he thought they would be. There’s a curse on the village he wasn’t aware of, and breaking it… Well.

It was so much fun. It’s not very scary, although the effects are surprisingly good. I was ever so sceptical after seeing the trailer (“Oh gods, what have I promised to go and watch?”) but I was pretty much solidly entertained throughout. The opening sequence was absolutely beautiful, and although it takes a minute for the movie to really pick up after it, it’s worth the wait. At times wandering in dark (or, now that I think about it, not so dark) places took a little too long and at least for me the tension didn’t quite last, but hey, that happened like what, twice?

I’d say it’s more fun with genre than an actual horror movie. I don’t get scared by werewolves in general (for some reason – I’m scared of just about everything else) so it’s a little hard to judge, but with a tight budget, the make-up and such can be only so good. I’m not saying they weren’t good! They were very adequate and a positive surprise.

And the music. So good. I noticed some in the audience actually dancing a little in their seats.

The director, Juan Martínez Moreno, was a special quest at the show, and both introduced the movie and answered questions afterwards. He was an awesome guy, very funny – he told us about how frustrating the dog they used in the movie was – and very humble and down to earth. He also had some soundtracks of the film with him, and handed them out to those who could correctly answer questions about werewolf films. I’m a little disappointed with myself, as I’d seen the movies but couldn’t for the life of me remember directors, script writers or even the main actors…

If you get the chance, go and see it! I promise you entertainment. I’d also like to see this movie supported more. It has gotten some prizes around Europe, but it could have more. I don’t mean it’s the best film I’ve seen all year (The Hobbit is still not out yet!) but it’s rare that I’m so thoroughly pleased and content afterwards.

If there’s a detail that bothered me, it’s that there was a full moon on two consecutive nights. I’m not all sure that can be. If I got it right, the moon wasn’t exactly the trigger, but it was there, and therefore I noticed it.

I didn’t find the trailer with English subtitles, so we’ll have to make do with the one where no one talks. Sorry about that.

Lobos de Arga (2011)

Director: Juan Martínez Moreno

Starring: Gorka Otxoa, Secun de la Rosa, Carlos Areces, Manuel Manquiña

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