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Final goodbye to this blog

Hello, friends!

You will have noticed that it has been very quiet indeed over here at Booky Pony for over a year. The reasons are simple: life interfered, and I had no motivation to churn out monthly posts anymore.

However, I blog together with one (soon to be two) friends over at Paperwights! Please take a look, and if the fancy takes you, give us a follow! I post reviews on Tuesdays, Alex posts hers on Thursdays, and we have been posting together on Saturdays, but that slot will soon be taken up by our friend Ryan.

Thank you for all the good times. The blogger community has been good to me, and I hope this continues!

Much love!

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Dame Agatha and I

I do not consider myself a fan of Agatha Christie.

In all honesty, I would be a horrid liar if I claimed I was, because in the 20+ years of my life I’ve read only two novels to date – Murder on the Orient Express last year and now Murder Is Easy.

What I have done, is watching Christie. I love to curl up on the couch and follow Monsieur Poirot or Miss Marple as they go about their business. David Suchet is wonderful. I’m more partial to the films made after 2000, for their visual prowess, and am positively squealing in anticipation of the five new episodes, which, I understand, will be the last ones. My experience of Miss Marple started with Geraldine McEwan and has now progressed to Julia MacKenzie, and I have yet to take up the older ones, but I do enjoy myself immensely every time. I’ve seen most of the episodes quite a few times.

Geraldine McEwan as Miss Marple

This, of course, creates some problems to me as a reader. Having seen the episodes so many times, reading the books seems rather pointless. I don’t always remember the murderer, but the more frequently I watch the episodes the better I’ll remember, and particularly if I know the actor who played the murderer. (There is one who always turns out to be the murderer, but I will not reveal their name in order not to spoil anyone!)

Actors are one of the reason I find the post-2000 films so appealing. The pool of British actors is relatively small, and you get the same faces from time to time. So far, it would seem the same actor does not play in two Poirots or two Marples, unless they are a recurring character (like Zoe Wanamaker’s charming Mrs Oliver), but most play some role in both. Well, when I say most… Actor spotting is one of my favourite pastimes anyway, so Christie adaptations are a source of fun in that sense as well.

While or after watching the films I often look at what other people have said about the adaptation. It’s very interesting, seeing as half the viewers seems to be without much experience of the books like me, and the other half are first fans of the books and second fans of the films. I understand their pain at the changes made; after all, you guys know how upset I can get over film adaptations. However, recently the comments that have caught my attention have been about the modernisation and adding of elements that Christie did not write.

See, I don’t really mind all that much, not anymore. If it’s well done, all is fine. I watch every Austen adaptation that comes out, and have been beyond pleased with the additions made. On the other hand, the additions can be horrible, like in the new Wilde adaptation Dorian Gray, where there was one or two added scenes that I liked. I suppose it’s mostly little things that can be changed, and any extra in the larger scale offends sensibilities; but how does that work in Christie, where details are what matters? I’ve seen less complaining about adding Miss Marple to stories she does not belong to than about person A being person B’s sister instead of cousin. Maybe in detective stories it is more important to keep the details in tact in order to please the audience than it is to keep the general setting close to the book.

As a person who is interested in book-to-film adaptations, Christie would seem like a must to me. There is a theory book on adaptation that I mean to read, and what better to keep my mind academically engaged during the summer months than work with Christie adaptations? I hope to look into four films, chosen because of personal preference, read the novels they are based on, and then write a little comparison of them. Although my summer projects tend to end up abandoned, this is one I hope to keep to!

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Liebster’d!

Oh gods. Lynn has nominated me for the Liebster Award. Thank you, Lynn! Perfect timing too, since I just finished reading my last books for both pro-sem and text analysis and thus have reserved the afternoon for things fun.

I don’t actually know much about the Liebster Award, only that you award it to one or more up and coming blogs with less than 200 followers and that you enjoy reading.

It would appear the decent thing is to tell five facts about yourself, answer five questions, and then come up with five new questions, to be answered by the blogger(s) to whom the award is then given. I’ve been told to feel free about bending the rules, so I’m going to do so by refusing to come up with questions of my own. (My questions tend to be rather lame.)

So on to business! Here be five facts about me:

1)   I tend to get obsessed. When I like something, I really, really like it. These spells can be really short and fade when I’ve sort of exhausted the whole business by finding out everything there is to know about the thing, but they can also be very long, as with Harry Potter. I don’t really feel comfortable if I have nothing to enthuse over. Some of the obsessions are recurring, surfacing when there is something new or any stimuli, like with Lord of the Rings. Current obsessions would be Vanity Fair and the Regency period and BBC’s Sherlock (I really need to blog about it one of these days) and particularly the character Sebastian Moran.

2)   There’s been very little time to watch TV lately, and people are usually disappointed when talking TV with me, because I don’t really follow series like CSI, True Blood, X-Files… Anything like that. Then again, I’m also always disappointed, because no one else seems to watch all the British detective stuff. I’m absolutely hooked on Lewis, New Tricks, Midsomer Murders, all the Agatha Christie adaptations, Sherlock Holmes, and the like. Saturday evening is the best TV time, as they run the Brits here then. (Don’t watch Scott & Bailey though, even though it has Rupert Graves. It’s too concentrated on the private lives of the characters. I want the crime.)

3)   I like weird languages. I don’t know many, but I would love to. I speak only two languages fluently – English and Finnish – and can sort of cope in one – Swedish – but other than that I don’t really speak anything. I studied Latin for several years, so understand it so some extent, and am now on a course for Old Welsh, which is absolutely fantastic. I’ve also tried to study Old English on my own, but with very little success. I wanted to start Hungarian this year, but unfortunately the course clashed tragically with television studies…

4)   Never had pets. Would love to have a dog. I did horseback riding for a few years and loved it. Was a dog sitter for about a year and a half. I did these workweek things in 8th and 9th grade at a cowshed, and fell in love with goats. My step mom used to have two dogs, and my stepsister currently has two. I love them to bits. One day, I’ll have one. An Icelandic sheep dog or a Belgian shepherd.

5)   I develop fictional character crushes probably faster than I actually read. Well, not really crushes, but I always need to pick a favourite person. It’s hard for me to be interested in a story if I don’t care for at least one character. There are some serious crushes though: Remus Lupin since I was maybe thirteen, Éomer from about the same time, and Jean Tannen for a couple of years now. There are a couple of them on my pending list, as they are fairly new to me and have yet to face the test of time: Sandor “The Hound” Clegane, and William Dobson from Vanity Fair.

Then the questions Lynn wanted answers for:

1)   Who would you want to have dinner with most in the world?

This is tough one. Do dead people count? If so, it would have to be one of the wits I love so much, Oscar Wilde or Jane Austen. Or William Thackeray. They would all think me dull company and talk me into a corner in a matter of seconds, but boy, would it be worth it!

If dead people don’t count, then… Humm. Well. I wouldn’t say no to Ewan McGregor or Karl Urban. Or Benedict Cumberbatch. Or J.K. Rowling. Or Scott Lynch. Or Patrick Rothfuss. Or… Oh let’s face it, the list is neverending.

But I think my answer would be Quentin Tarantino. It would be absolutely fabulous to have dinner with him, and discuss films. He seems to have seen pretty much every movie ever, and gets so passionate about what he does it’s unbelievable. And it would be a perfect opportunity to suggest a possible movie for him to make…

2)   What is your favourite word?

I like all words that sound like the thing they’ve been assigned to. And of course words for things I like best. (‘Literature’ of the book related. Such a nice word!) Often it’s the connotations that make the word so appealing. (‘Officer’. Ahem.)

This is so tough. I can’t remember any of the words I usually find the best.

3)   If you could choose 5 songs that would be the songs to the soundtrack of your life, what would they be?

1 – This Is It by Goodnight Nurse. One of my favourite bands. This also reminds me a great deal of the awesome trip to New Zealand.

2 – One Short Day from the musical Wicked. I’ve dubbed it my London song.

3 – Survive by Rise Against. The band has slowly crept its way to being my favourite, and so it would be impossible not to have something of theirs on the list. This one works every time.

4 – Belle from Beauty and the Beast. Seriously, how is that not relevant to my life? B&B is my favourite Disney movie, I read…

5- Here I Am from the movie Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron. It’s a happy life, all in all.

(Bonus song: Nervous Breakdown, Rise Against’s cover. Theme song of the last six weeks, definitely!)

I was afraid this’d turn into a favourite songs top five list, but it didn’t!

4)   What is the word you hate the most?

Same problem as in number two. Can’t remember which ones I don’t like. I know there are words I loathe, but they refuse to surface now.

Instead, take a look at this Monty Python sketch. Liking and disliking words brought this to mind. I think it’s one of their best!

5)   If you could choose your own name, what would it be?

I’m operating with several languages with this question, but still can’t say for sure. I can remember a couple of names I would have loved to be called by when I was younger – Camilla, for example, or Valeria, which happens to be my second name. However, I’ve at the moment I prefer simple names, Jane, Emma, Isabella, Linda…

If I had to choose, I think I’d just drop one letter from my own name, turning Veera into Vera and so making it just a little more international.

Or I could just be Wil. That’d work, too.

I notice I’ve been wordy again. Oh well…

Because my tech skills are limited, I can’t figure out how to check which of the blogs I follow have a following of fewer than 200. So here goes just one nomination, because I think she really should answer the same questions as Lynn and I did! 😛

Central Neural Pathway – have fun with questions two and four, Kay!

Thanks again, Lynn! ❤

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Lynchmob! Anything on this book?

I just got back from the bookstore, and I see they’ve stocked Rachel Aaron’s The Legend of Eli Monpress. Now, I’ve heard about it before, and I know it’s about a thief/thieves, and the cover looks really nice, and it has a little blurb saying “Fans of Scott Lynch’s Lies of Locke Lamora will be thrilled with Eli Monpress”, and so I am interested. I’m not too sure about the thief commanding magic though, and the glance I took at the innards, while not repellent, did not exactly impress, either.

So, dear Lynchmob – has anyone read this? Heard about it? Should I buy it? (It’s kind of a good bargain – the whole three-book omnibus for 15€.) Is it good? Is it crap?

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Summer Reading List 2012

Last summer my reading list contained ten books, of which I read three. That does not mean I only read three books, but I was kind of amused by my inability to stick to a list. So this year I have a list as well, and we’ll see if making it public helps me finish it. (Doubt it.) Summer naturally starts when school ends, which in this case is around mid-May (last hand-in date is 21st or something) and reading time ends when classes start again in the beginning of September. If I start a new book from the list a couple of days before I have to immerse myself into the horrid amount of classes I need to take in the autumn it still counts.

This year’s list is longer than last years. I tried to put all kinds of different books there, although I left out Romance because they are mostly impulse reading. I haven’t counted books that are coming out during the summer either, because there’s no guarantee when I can get to them. (Cf. the sad case with Anne Rice’s Wolf Gift)

SUMMER READING LIST 2012

Leo Tolstoy: War and Peace

China Miéville: The City and the City

Brandon Sanderson: Alloy of Law + The Way of Kings

Charles Dickens: Great Expectations

Graham Greene: Brighton Rock

Lev Grossman: The Magicians

Brent Weeks: The Night Angel Trilogy (Way of Shadows/Shadow’s Edge/Beyond the Shadows)

Frank Abagnale: Catch Me If You Can

Robin McKinley: Sunshine

So that would be thirteen books, assuming the Way of Kings comes in two parts. Right now I feel confident I can do this, despite work and changing moods, but then so I always do when I’m compiling these lists. But last year I didn’t take into account the different genres, so we’ll see if that helps!

What are you planning to read this summer?

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Favourites: Good Omens

It’s time for another favourite! I should probably point out that these favourites are not in any particular order – I mostly decide which one to introduce depending on the time of year and my own mood.

FAVOURITES

NEIL GAIMAN & TERRY PRATCHETT: GOOD OMENS

Published: May 1st 1990 Gollancz (UK) / Workman (US)

Pages: 288

 

According to the Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter – the world’s only totally reliable guide to the future – the world will end on a Saturday. Next Saturday, in fact. Just after tea…

There’s a mix-up with the baby Anti-Christ.

There’s a demon driving a 1926 black Bentley.

There’s an angel who runs a rare books shop.

There’s a technically challenged Witchfinder Private.

There’s a professional descendant.

And there’s the Apocalypse.

Sir Terry Prachett was one of the first fantasy authors I read with a passion. I was perhaps twelve, when a friend of mine gave me Equal Rites and Hogfather and told me to give them a shot. She did not make a misjudgement – I did like Discworld, as soon as I got the hang of it (which I still maintain takes a couple of books). For a couple of years I read whatever translated Discworld novels I could find from the library, but all too soon I realised there were no more translations available. So, at the age of fourteen, I wandered to the English shelves at the bookstore and picked up Good Omens, mostly because I had read a lot about it online and because it said ‘Pratchett’ on the cover. My English was not good and I understood very little, and around page 80 I gave up.

Two years later, after I had started reading in English and, as a result, gotten better at it, I thought I would try again. It was one of the best thoughts I have had.

The blurb tells you the plot pretty much as simply as it is possible to put. It’s a difficult one to explain without giving away too much, and I’m not going to even try. What I can say about the book, however, is that it’s hilarious. It’s fairly easy to see which bits are probably Gaiman and which Pratchett, particularly if you’ve read both, but they work together splendidly. My particular favourite bits tend to be the discussions between the angel Aziraphale (former Guardian of the Eastern Gate of Eden) and the demon Crowley (former Serpent in the Garden of Eden); after all, when you spend thousands of years with someone, a friendship tends to form, no matter what side you are on. I don’t think it’s possible to read their legendary Drunk Conversation with a straight face. Another favourite is a certain Rider of the Apocalypse who runs a diet and fast food company – his bits have some of my favourite quotes. (You can see I haven’t quoted anything. This is because they A) often require the whole setting to work or B) might spoil the fun reading them yourself provides.)

I’ve talked of this book so many times and to so many people I hardly know what more to say about it. I don’t think I know anyone who wouldn’t have liked it: some people like the light jokes Pratchett makes, and some the steadfast storytelling Gaiman is so good at. For me, this book combines the best of both. I still love Pratchett’s humour and parody (read Macbeth first and then pick up Wyrd Sisters – that was a lot of fun!), but the light heartedness is getting to be a little too light, as much as it pains me to admit it. This is why Good Omens is so perfect: it’s balanced, gripping, and incredibly funny.

On the cover of my copy there’s a recommendation from Time Out that sums it all up very neatly:

“Heaven to read, and you’ll laugh like hell”

Oh, and maybe I should warn you about it, because not everyone likes it – there are footnotes. Not in the scale of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, but footnotes nonetheless. And they make me chuckle, too.

My poor copy is a little battered. I’ve tried to protect it by taping the corners and spine, and here’s to hoping it’ll last. (Might have to get a hardcover at some point in life.)

You need to read this. That’s all you need to know.

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Favourites: The Lies of Locke Lamora

Hello!

This year, I thought I could do this introductory bit to my favourite books, one book at a time, second to last Sunday of every other month. So, without further ado, here is the first one!

FAVOURITES

SCOTT LYNCH: THE LIES OF LOCKE LAMORA

Published: June 27th 2006 Gollancz (UK) / Bantam Doubleday Dell (US)

Pages: 537

Series: The Gentleman Bastard Sequence book 1

The Thorn of Camorr is said to be an unbeatable swordsman, a master thief, a friend to the poor, a ghost that walks through walls.

Slightly built and barely competent with a sword, Locke Lamora is, much to his annoyance, the fabled Thorn. And while Locke does indeed steal from the rich (who else would be worth stealing from?), the poor never see a penny. All of Locke’s gains are strictly for himself and his tight-knit band of thieves: The Gentleman Bastards.

The capricious, colourful underworld of the ancient city of Camorr is the only home they’ve ever known. But now a clandestine war is threatening to tear it apart. Caught up in a murderous game, Locke and his friends are suddenly struggling just to stay alive…

In the summer of 2009 I decided it was time to broaden my fantasy horizon. SFX Magazine’s book special was a great help, and this is where I found Mr Lynch. He was number 88 on a list of 100 authors, and I’m not sure what set him apart from the others for me, but I have a feeling it was the use of the word “swashbuckling”. I got the book from the library, expecting very little, and then spent about a month reading it (my reading pace back then was not what it is today).

The beginning made me frown slightly:

At the height of the long wet summer of the Seventy-Seventh Year of Sendovani, the Thiefmaker of Camorr paid a sudden and unannounced visit to the Eyeless Priest at the Temple of Perelandro, desperately hoping to sell him the Lamora boy.

“Sendovani, Thiefmaker, Camorr, Perelandro… Too much new fantasy stuff to learn,” said my brain, but I kept on reading. At this point in time all my knowledge of Dickens’s Oliver Twist came from the Disney movie from the 90s, but the prologue – describing Locke’s time with the Thiefmaker – reminded me greatly of Fagin and his street urchins. “Hmph,” thought I, but still went on.

Then began “the book proper” as I like to think it as. Part one is furnished with an excellent quote from the Bard, and it is well in accordance with what will follow:

Why, I can smile, and murder whiles I smile

And cry ‘Content’ to that which grieves my heart,

And wet my cheeks with artificial tears,

And frame my face to all occasions.

(Henry IV, part 3)

And then we get the opening of the first chapter, which still makes me giddy every time I read it:

Locke Lamora’s rule of thumb was this – a good confidence game took three months to plan, three weeks to rehearse, and three seconds to win or lose the victim’s trust forever. This time around, he planned to spend those three seconds getting strangled.

From then on, the book is an absolute joy ride. Actual chapters tell us the main story, that of Locke and his gang of con artist thieves and the sudden obstacle that gets set in their way. In interludes, between chapters, tell us more about Locke’s childhood, mostly the training he and the other Gentleman Bastards receive under Father Chains. To the reader, the City of Camorr becomes a comfortable home, the thieves become friends, and the twelve (or thirteen, if you feel so inclined) gods become so familiar I find myself saying things like “Thirteen!” or “Perelandro’s balls!”

It is hard to describe Lynch’s style, and I have been trying to come up with suitable adjectives. It is flowing, fresh, crispy – there’s a wit, and a grittiness, and an edge to it that I enjoy. There is a lot of swearing, violence and sex, and while I understand most people might feel this not necessary and take offence, to me it is very refreshing. Besides, it is done with such flare and happy wordplay that it is hard not to laugh. And then there are the games the Bastards play – Lynch has said in an interview that he practices a strict policy of show, don’t tell, and that is more delightful than I can put to words. We see the thieves plan, and scheme, and use their “education” in accents, cultures, economy, religion and other things. Terminology and names are also easy to understand, as they are similar to familiar European languages, such as German, French, and, Camorr being based on Renaissance Venice, Italian.

For the fourth time in as many years the Gentleman Bastards were drawing a bead on one of the most powerful men in the city of Camorr. They were setting up a meeting that might eventually divest Don Lorenzo Salvara of nearly half his worldly wealth, and now it was up to the Don to be punctual.

But do not take Lynch for an entirely happy-go-lucky author. Oh no. As the book progresses, the darkness increases, and when we get to the end things get very nasty indeed. Let me describe my feelings when I finished the book for the first time on a warm, sunny summer’s day. I had been reading in our little garden, and came inside with eyes red from tears, clutching the book, agitated beyond belief. I kept walking in circles in the living room, ranting to my family about how horrid it was the book ended, how I needed to get more. I went into a slump, and the next book I read felt flat and boring in comparison to Lies.

The Gentleman Bastard Sequence will be seven books long. The second one, Red Seas Under Red Skies, was out in 2007, and all who have read the first two are eagerly awaiting the next one, Republic of Thieves (hopefully out this year, although it has been pushed back several times).

I bought the second book in the autumn of 2009 and read it in three days. For Christmas I got my own copy of The Lies of Locke Lamora. And since then I have acquired a second copy of both – a Gollancz 50 hardcover of Lies and a bigger paperback edition of Red Seas. I also have the 2010 anthology Swords and Dark Magic – the New Sword and Sorcery (edited by Lou Anders and Jonathan Strahan), which includes Lynch’s short story “In the Stacks”.

So go to your bookstore, be it physical or virtual, or to your library, and get your hands on The Lies of Locke Lamora. It is worth it. It is entertaining, hilarious, exciting – and I for one can’t even look at said book without wanting to read it.

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