Tag Archives: agatha christie

Books in January ’14

So I’m back to monthly wrap-ups! I almost forgot it was the last of the month, too. Reading has been impeded by various distractions, including the Gentleman Bastard Sequence fandom and the fact that I have a book exam on romance novels and another exam on the classics of literary theory, both in the beginning of March, one after the other. And on top of that, a course on literary adaptations, which takes its sweet time as well.

But enough excuses, this is what I managed this month:

Agatha Christie: The Moving Finger

[unfortunately I have returned the copy I had to the library and Goodreads does not have a summary]

I picked Christie from the library because hey, what better to read during the break than a good whodunit? The reason for choosing this particular mystery was that I love the TV adaptation – which means that I remembered who the murderer was and even the motive, but this caused very little trouble. What I found interesting is that the adaptation adds very little, which in my experience isn’t all that usual: a lot of the Christies you see on television add lots of red herrings and side plots to the fairly straightforward narratives. This one does not, which tells a lot about the way this book is executed. I can wholeheartedly recommend this!

Published: 1942

Pages: 299

Ellen Kushner: Swordspoint

On the treacherous streets of Riverside, a man lives and dies by the sword. Even the nobles on the Hill turn to duels to settle their disputes. Within this elite, dangerous world, Richard St. Vier is the undisputed master, as skilled as he is ruthless–until a death by the sword is met with outrage instead of awe, and the city discovers that the line between hero and villain can be altered in the blink of an eye.

(Goodreads)

Swordspoint remains one of my favourite novels of all time, and it only seems to get better the more you read. When describing the plot to someone one starts to wonder what exactly it is that happens in the book, only to realise that there actually isn’t much in terms on dramatic action, but boy, is there a lot of political intrigue going on! This time around I was most struck by the relationship between Alec and Richard, and the ending hit me hard and will require some further thought the next time around. Absolutely a masterpiece, this novel is.

Published: 1987

Pages: 286

Scott Lynch: The Lies of Locke Lamora

[Do I need to introduce this book again? I think not. I have it tagged.]

I know, I know. Yet again. But how could I not reread these books, particularly now that Republic of Thieves is finally out and there is so much to draw together? I got fascinated by Sabetha’s absence in this one – it reveals a lot about the other gang members, especially taking into consideration what we learned of their relationships in Republic. This is what I love about rereading a series: you start to pay attention to things like this and find new things to think about and words you previously just read gain new meaning.

Lies, like Swordspoint, is one of my favourite novels of all time. If you look at the Scott Lynch tag here on my blog, you’ll see I absolutely rave about this series.

Published: 2006

Pages: 530

Jane Austen: Pride and Prejudice

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”

So begins Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen’s witty comedy of manners–one of the most popular novels of all time–that features splendidly civilized sparring between the proud Mr. Darcy and the prejudiced Elizabeth Bennet as they play out their spirited courtship in a series of eighteenth-century drawing-room intrigues. Renowned literary critic and historian George Saintsbury in 1894 declared it the “most perfect, the most characteristic, the most eminently quintessential of its author’s works,” and Eudora Welty in the twentieth century described it as “irresistible and as nearly flawless as any fiction could be.”

(Goodreads)

This was my third time reading this novel, and I must say, the two years between readings had done much. I found it even more enjoyable than before, and was much more attuned to nuance. My understanding of Mr Darcy is now much better, and I must say this time around I really enjoyed Caroline Bingley, with her see-through attempts regarding Darcy and her malice towards Elizabeth. Absolutely delightful!

Published: 1813

Pages: 262

China Miéville: The City and the City

China Miéville delivers his most accomplished novel yet, an existential thriller set in a city unlike any other – real or imagined.

When the body of a murdered woman is found in the extraordinary, decaying city of Beszel, somewhere at the edge of Europe, it looks like a routine case for Inspector Tyador Borlú of the Extreme Crime Squad. But as he probes, the evidence begins to point to conspiracies far stranger, and more deadly, than anything he could have imagined. Soon his work puts him and those he cares for in danger. Borlú must travel to the only metropolis on Earth as strange as his own, across a border like no other.

With shades of Kafka and Philip K. Dick, Raymond Chandler and 1984, The City & The City is a murder mystery taken to dazzling metaphysical and artistic lengths.

(Back cover of Macmillan 2009 paperback)

The only novel-length text we are reading for the Science Fiction and Fantasy class. I must say I’m not overly fond of this. I read it with a focus on the detective plot, which wasn’t entirely satisfactorily executed, but I did enjoy the way the two cities function in regard to each other. It was what made the story complicated, but I’m not sure it was not unnecessarily complicated. I hope to gain some insight on Monday when we have a class discussion on it.

Published: 2009

Pages: 312

That is January. I apologise for the paltry commentary – several of the books were rereads and I only finished City and the City some minutes ago, so there has not been time for it to settle in my mind yet.

February will include the rest of the books for the romance exam, and hopefully some Regency romance, and something for the adaptation class. It is hard to plan ahead with reading at the moment, but here’s to trying!

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Books in June ’13

Let me tell you, it has been a busy month again! Work leaves me little free time, and what I have of it I tend to spend with friends. And I still have to take care of all the exchange business (like, you know, finding an apartment…) and studies and everything.

But I do manage to read, so here you guys go!

 

Jonathan L. Howard: Johannes Cabal the Necromancer

Johannes Cabal has never pretended to be a hero. There is, after all, little heroic about robbing graves, being chased around by torch-bearing mobs, and selling your soul to the devil. All routine inconveniences, however, when your business is raising the dead.

But now Cabal wants his soul back. He needs his soul back.

It means a trip through festering bureaucracy of Hell and a bet with Satan. It means that, in return for his own soul, Cabal must gather one hundred others.

Given control of a diabolical carnival – created to tempt to contentiousness, to blasphemy, argumentation and murder, but you can also win coconuts – and armed only with his intelligence, a very large handgun, and a total absence of whimsy, Cabal has one year. One year to beat the Devil at his own game.

And isn’t that, perhaps, just a little heroic?

(Back cover of Headline 2009 paperback)

This book was recommended to me based on my love of one of Locke Lamora’s made-up identities, the type of character I’ve now come to call Fastidious Vadran. The person who recommended this really hit the nail on the head – Johannes Cabal is exactly what I like. Very grumpy and indeed very fastidious, he seems to be the kind of character who has crooked morals and stops at nothing to achieve his own ends.

But there’s more to him than that, and Howard plays that out in this first book with skill. It’s very amusing in a vein of Terry Pratchett, while the subject material veers more towards Neil Gaiman, and I can promise you, this book does not fail to tug at your heartstrings amidst the laughter.

I very warmly recommend this book! I’m not one to go for books about necromancers, as that particular art doesn’t appeal to me, and would never had picked Johannes Cabal up had it not been recommended to me. Now that I have read it, I can honestly say I would have sorely missed out.

Published: 2009

Pages: 335

 

Jonathan L. Howard: Johannes Cabal the Detective

For necromancer Johannes Cabal, dealing with devils, demons and raising the dead is pretty much par for the course. But when his attempt to steal a rare book turns sour, he is faced by a far more terrifying entity – politics.

While awaiting execution for his crime, Cabal is forced to resurrect an inconveniently deceased emperor. Seizing his chance, the cunning Cabal engineers his escape, fleeing the country on a state-of-the-art flying ship.

But the ship has more than a few unpleasant surprises, including an unwelcome face from the past and the small matter of some mysterious murders. Cabal may work with corpses but he has absolutely no intention of becoming one. Drawn into a deadly conspiracy, is he shuffling dangerously close to the end of his mortal coil?

Johannes Cabal is back – a little older, a little wiser, but just as sharply funny, cuttingly sarcastic, and unexpectedly violent as ever.

(Back cover of Headline 2010 paperback)

Yes, I jumped right to the second part. This one I enjoyed even more than I did the first one, mostly because it plays a lot with the conventions of detective fiction – including a murder within confined quarters and a revelation scene in the best whodunit style – and I could really enjoy all the genre jokes. It’s also even more entertaining when it comes to humour than its predecessor.

I have an ever-growing soft spot for Cabal. Impatient, annoying, grumpy, darling man!

Published: 2010

Pages: 365

 

Torsten Ekman: Aleksanteri I: Keisari ja isänmaa

I’m sorry, another book in Finnish! Although this is translated from Swedish, there is no English translation, as far as I know. My apologies.

The title is at first misleading: the book is not strictly a biography of Alexander I. He is the main character, so to speak, but more attention is directed towards Finland and how the events of the Napoleonic Wars link different European countries. It’s often hard to tie Finland into the Napoleonic Wars: at the beginning of them, Finland was still a part of Sweden, whereas from 1808 onwards it became an autonomic part of Russia. This book truly helped me see these events in a wider context, with the focus naturally on the relationship between Finland, Russia and Sweden.

But I must say the translation was not very good. Lots of incorrectly inclined Finnish, some that made my shudder in disgust (“Rehbinder ei tietänyt”) and just general oddness. I have not checked, but this is probably a mark of the translator being either in a hurry or just very lost in the interlingual twilight zone – either way, they haven’t been able to step back from the original text in order to see the target language in the right light. (I’m not blaming, I do that myself whenever I have to translate something…)

But in general, it’s a nice primer to what went on around that time. I liked it, and can now confidently continue on to more in-depth works on the subject.

Published: 2011 (original title Alexander I. Kejsare och fosterland)

Translation: Martti Ahti 2013

Pages: 300

 

Agatha Christie: Appointment with Death

A tyrannical old martinet, a mental sadist and the incarnation of evil. These were only three of the character descriptions levelled at Mrs. Boynton, the matriarch who kept her family totally dependent on her. But did she really deserve to die on the excursion to beautiful Petra? Hercule Poirot hears about the murder and feels compelled to investigate-despite the family’s request not to do so. Do they have something to hide and, if so, can they keep it hidden from this master sleuth?

(Goodreads)

This Christie was originally on my project list, as the film version really appeals to me. I did enjoy the book, although concentrating on it was a little hard due to the strong visual memories from the film and the fact that work was busy at the time I was going through this one and had to read it in a very fragmented fashion. Nonetheless, it’s a gripping Christie, despite my trouble remembering what was the novel and what the film.

Published: 1938

Pages: 303

Scott Lynch: The Lies of Locke Lamora

Read this time for the read-along going on in Tumblr! I finished a little early.

The reasons why I love this book can be found in a previous post here.

Published: 2006

Pages: 530

 

David Lodge: Small World

Veteran rivals for an exclusive academic chair (recently endowed with $100,000 a year) do scholarly battle with each other in what the Washington Post Book World called a “delectable comedy of bad manners . . . infused with a rare creative exuberance”. From the author of the award-winning Changing Places.

(Goodreads)

This one was recommended to me by my father. We don’t really share an opinion on literature, but about this he was absolutely right – I loved it. Small World is funny, surprisingly gripping after you figure out who is who and how it’s structured, and probably even more deeply entrenched in literary jibes than I can recognise (I intend to read it again at some future date with the objective of dissecting it better). This is clearly a well thought out novel and consequently a pleasure to read. I particularly recommend it to those interested in literary theory, although it’s entertaining even if you’re just a general book lover like yours truly.

Published: 1984

Pages: 339

 

Agatha Christie: After the Funeral

When Cora is savagely murdered with a hatchet, the extraordinary remark she made the previous day at her brother’s Richard funeral suddenly takes on a chilling significance. At the reading of Richard’ s will, Cora was clearly heard to say: “It’s been hushed up very nicely, hasn’t it… But he was murdered, wasn’t he?”

In desperation, the family solicitor turns to Hercule Poirot to unravel the mystery…

(Goodreads)

Yet another Christie! This time I remembered the killer very well, even the clues leading up to them, but I nevertheless enjoyed this one very much! Perhaps one of the clues is a little too obviously a clue, but it’s hard to say, as it was one of the clues I remember from the film.

Published: 1953

Pages: 378

 

That is all I managed this month!

Books bought:

Michael Gregorio: Critique of Criminal Reason

Jonathan L. Howard: Johannes Cabal: Fear Institute

Honno (edit.): Wooing Mr Wickham

Jonathan Strahan (edit.): Fearsome Journeys

Venetia Murray: An Elegant Madness

…It is actually possible I bought other books as well, but the months are a little blurred in my mind.

Currently reading:

Georgette Heyer: Bath Tangle

 

Next weekend is Finncon! I will try and report about it!

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Books in May ’13

May turned out to be busier than anticipated. My intention was to catch up with reading and get through 13 books. I wasn’t supposed to be working yet, so that wasn’t supposed to be a problem: well, not all things go according to plan. I’ve been working since the beginning of the month. But I still managed nine books. That would have been ten if I hadn’t had a surprise shift today.

There was some unpleasant paper stuff that I needed to take care for university as well, but that is now more or less sorted.

What with all the work, now that my only co-worker got sick leave on the busiest weekend in all spring, I was hard pressed to get this post out at all. So you guys better enjoy it!

John Scalzi: Redshirts

Ensign Andrew Dahl has just been assigned to the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid, flagship of the Universal Union since the year 2456. It’s a prestige posting, and Andrew is thrilled all the more to be assigned to the ship’s Xenobiology laboratory.

Life couldn’t be better…until Andrew begins to pick up on the fact that (1) every Away Mission involves some kind of lethal confrontation with alien forces, (2) the ship’s captain, its chief science officer, and the handsome Lieutenant Kerensky always survive these confrontations, and (3) at least one low-ranked crew member is, sadly, always killed.

Not surprisingly, a great deal of energy below decks is expended on avoiding, at all costs, being assigned to an Away Mission. Then Andrew stumbles on information that completely transforms his and his colleagues’ understanding of what the starship Intrepid really is…and offers them a crazy, high-risk chance to save their own lives.

(Goodreads)

I have no idea why I’ve been putting this book off. I really enjoyed it. Without spoiling much, I can say it is hilarious and emotional and so meta I’m surprised I liked it, but I did. It’s a quick read, written in a light style, and accessible to people with a rather limited acquaintance with science fiction television like myself.

Just… go grab it. It’s really worth it.

Published: 2012

Pages: 314 (Tor hardback)

Agatha Christie: Elephants Can Remember

Hercule Poirot is determined to solve an old husband and wife double murder that is still an open verdict! Hercule Poirot stood on the cliff-top. Here, many years earlier, there had been a tragic accident. This was followed by the grisly discovery of two more bodies — a husband and wife — shot dead. But who had killed whom? Was it a suicide pact? A crime of passion? Or cold-blooded murder? Poirot delves back into the past and discovers that ‘old sin can leave long shadows

(Goodreads)

For a practiced reader, even one of only my experience, the clues in this one were fairly obvious. The general feeling I got was that this book was produced in a hurry – at times it read like drafts and bits that had been forgotten in. I did enjoy it, nonetheless, and am looking forward to the movie that will air June 9th!

Published: 1972

Pages: 256 (Harper Collins facsimile edition 2009)

Patricia Highsmith: The Talented Mr Ripley

Since his debut in 1955, Tom Ripley has evolved into the ultimate bad boy sociopath, influencing countless novelists and filmmakers. In this first novel, we are introduced to suave, handsome Tom Ripley: a young striver, newly arrived in the heady world of Manhattan in the 1950s. A product of a broken home, branded a “sissy” by his dismissive Aunt Dottie, Ripley becomes enamored of the moneyed world of his new friend, Dickie Greenleaf. This fondness turns obsessive when Ripley is sent to Italy to bring back his libertine pal but grows enraged by Dickie’s ambivalent feelings for Marge, a charming American dilettante. A dark reworking of Henry James’s The Ambassadors, The Talented Mr. Ripley—immortalized in the 1998 film starring Matt Damon, Jude Law, and Gywneth Paltrow—is an unforgettable introduction to this debonair confidence man, whose talent for self-invention and calculated murder is chronicled in four subsequent novels.

(Goodreads)

I watched the movie first, and, frankly, liked that better than the novel; it was more complicated and the ending so heart-breaking I was upset for a good few hours afterwards. My notes say, ‘fairly nice, although nothing spectacular’. Highsmith’s style is a bit on the heavy side, and reading this relatively slim novel took me a surprisingly long time (granted, I did most of the reading at work). I found Tom Ridley to be an interesting character, and the workings of his mind were fascinating to follow. I’m not sure if I’ll look to the sequels, but I might, some day.

Published: 1955

Pages: 249 (Vintage 1999 edition)

Gillian Gill: Agatha Christie

A little too heavy on the summaries of some of the novels, but at the same time I must give credit where credit is due – only a few endings were spoiled, and Gill warned of that in the introduction. Fortunately for me, I have seen the screen adaptations of the ones with spoilers, so they were not really even spoilers to me.

This biography is nice and concise, and the major focus is on the effect Christie’s life had on her writing. I did like the way it is divided to chapters, but am not so sure about the composition. I’m fond of a more linear approach.

Published: 1990

Pages: 208 (plus notes)

Mika Waltari: Tanssi yli hautojen

As regards this blog, this book is a bit problematic. What I know of my own readership (and I realise that is very little), it doesn’t include too many Finns – and Tanssi yli hautojen has not been translated into English. But I did read it, so I want to discuss it, and therefore I’ll do my best to explain it.

Mika Waltari (1908–1979) is one of the best-known Finnish authors, and his best-known work in Finland as well as internationally is The Egyptian (orig. Sinuhe egyptiläinen). It’s impossible to find a list of Books You Must Read Before You Die without having The Egyptian in it, not in this country. Having said that, I haven’t actually read it. Tanssi yli hautojen (lit. trans. Dance over Graves) is my first proper experience of Waltari, except for some short stories and the Komisario Palmu (Inspector Palmu) films.

Tanssi yli hautojen is about the romance between Tsar Alexander I of Russia and a Finnish bourgeoisie girl, Ulla Möllersvärd. This is a fact of history: the two met when Alexander came to the Diet of Porvoo in 1809. In this diet, it was decided that Finland was not to be directly a part of Russia, but could keep the old laws and ways, as well as have autonomy. Waltari describes the anticipation and the resentment the Finns felt towards the Russians, as well as the cultural differences Alexander observes when he crosses the border.

I just thoroughly enjoyed this book. It’s charming and made me giddy on several occasions, and I look forward to reading it again sometime. Maybe even writing my minor thesis on it?

Published: 1944

Pages: 282 (WSOY 2009)

Mary Balogh: A Summer to Remember

Kit Butler, Viscount Ravensberg, is cool, dangerous and fast becoming one of London’s most notorious rakehells – and marriage is the last thing on his mind. But Kit’s family has other plans. Desperate to thwart his father’s matchmaking, Kit needs a bride fast. Enter Miss Laure Edgeworth. A year after being abandoned at the altar, Lauren has determined that marriage is not for her. When these two fiercely independent souls meet, sparks fly – and a deal is hatched.

Lauren will masquerade as Kit’s intended if he agrees to provide a passionate, adventurous, unforgettable summer. When the summer ends, she will break off the engagement rendering herself unmarriageable and leaving them both free. Everything is going perfectly – until Kit does the unthinkable and begins to fall in love. A summer to remember is not enough for him. But how can he convince Lauren to be his, for better, for worse, and for the rest of their lives?

(Piatkus 2010 back cover)

I really liked this one. The hero is likeable, the heroine is more or less sensible, and their relationship progresses not in an absolute rush but at a nice pace that’s not so fast as to be unbelievable but fast enough to keep the book going without too long gaps.

An excellent read for the summer months, if you like romance! There are also other books revolving around the characters mentioned in this book, and I’m actually rather curious to see Freyja Bedwyn’s story, as I disliked her a whole lot in this one.

Published: 2002

Pages: 376 (Piatkus 2010)

Julia Quinn: An Offer from A Gentleman

As the illegitimate daughter of the Earl of Penwood, Sophie Beckett has never been accepted in polite society. And since her father’s untimely death, her step-mother has made her life doubly hard, forcing her to work as an unpaid servant. Sophie’s days are pure drudgery, until one night her fellow servants conspire to help her attend the Bridgerton masquerade ball.

There she meets her very own Prince Charming, handsome Benedict Bridgerton and falls head over heels in love. Benedict is equally smitten, but when the clock strikes midnight Sophie is forced to flee the ballroom, leaving only her glove in his hand…

(Piatkus 2011 back cover)

Not too keen on this one – it was nice, but as usual in Quinn the main conflict gets solved too early for good dramatic effect. The end, I admit, was very sweet! The dialogue is a bit dramatic though, and the Cinderella adaptation was a bit too obvious, especially considering how it got abandoned halfway through the novel.

Also, I’m miffed that I don’t think I figured out who Miss Whistledown is and therefore there’s nothing to it but to read the whole Bridgerton series. (Not that I’m complaining.)

Published: 2001

Pages: 358 (Piatkus 2011)

Diana Wynne Jones: Charmed Life

Cat doesn’t mind living in the shadow of his sister, Gwendolen, the most promising young witch ever seen on Coven Street. But trouble starts brewing the moment the two orphans are summoned to live in Chrestomanci Castle. Frustrated that the witches of the castle refuse to acknowledge her talents, Gwendolen conjures up a scheme that could throw whole worlds out of whack.

(Goodreads)

I do love Diana Wynne Jones, but I do not care for children as main characters. This was a slight problem with this first novel in her Chrestomaci series, as the main character is decidedly a child. The Chrestomanci himself is an interesting character, and if someone can promise me there is more of him in the subsequent books in the series I’ll be happy to read them as well. Actually, reading the other books is a good idea in another respect as well: the proper story seems to start at the very end of this novel, which annoyed me a great deal.

Tim Stevens’s illustrations must be mentioned. The edition I got from the library had a less than appealing cover, but the chapter illustrations made everything better!

Published: 1977

Pages: 267 (Collins Modern Classics 2001)

Mark Lawrence: King of Thorns

The second book in the Broken Empire series, Lawrence takes his young anti-hero one step closer to his grand ambition.

To reach greatness you must step on bodies, and many brothers lie trodden in my wake. I’ve walked from pawn to player and I’ll win this game of ours, though the cost of it may drown the world in blood…

The land burns with the fires of a hundred battles as lords and petty kings fight for the Broken Empire. The long road to avenge the slaughter of his mother and brother has shown Prince Honorous Jorg Ancrath the hidden hands behind this endless war. He saw the game and vowed to sweep the board. First though he must gather his own pieces, learn the rules of play, and discover how to break them.

A six nation army, twenty thousand strong, marches toward Jorg’s gates, led by a champion beloved of the people. Every decent man prays this shining hero will unite the empire and heal its wounds. Every omen says he will. Every good king knows to bend the knee in the face of overwhelming odds, if only to save their people and their lands. But King Jorg is not a good king.

Faced by an enemy many times his strength Jorg knows that he cannot win a fair fight. But playing fair was never part of Jorg’s game plan.

(Goodreads)

Finally had the chance to read this!

As with Prince of Thorns, I would be hard pressed to tell you what exactly happens during the course of the novel. The realisation that I don’t know bothered me for a while, until I came to the conclusion that it is because of the same reason that keeps me from actually understanding what happens in Hannu Rajaniemi’s novels: I get distracted by the prose. It doesn’t even matter much what happens, when I can have beautiful sentences that sound good in my head.

Having said that, I was confused by the mixture of past and present whenever they were in the same chapter. The time layers were a bit hard to follow, especially while distracted by beautiful words, and I kind of wish there had been more line breaks to signal time change.

Things I like about this novel include the older Jorg, whom I find to be more approachable, and, as with Prince, the way the novel’s old world – our world – is referred to. It makes me giddy every time I spot a word that looks weird but sounds terribly familiar, like “dena” and the cemetery.

The intensity got really high towards the end, and I was absolutely blown away. I kid you not, I gasped out loud on the bus and then kept grinning like a maniac.

I can’t wait for Emperor of Thorns. I also have a budding hope Lawrence would write a female main character next, as I enjoy Katherine a whole lot!

Published: 2012

Pages: 597

Books bought:

Again, no picture, because I was an idiot and left my camera in the country. Instead I’ll just tell you, although I’m not sure anymore what I got and when. But let’s try.

Agatha Christie: At Bertram’s Hotel

Appointment with Death

After the Funeral

Mika Waltari: Tanssi yli hautojen

Margaret C. Sullivan: The Jane Austen Handbook: A Sensible Yet Elegant Guide to Her World

Currently reading:

Jonathan L. Howard: Johannes Cabal the Necromancer (and enjoying it very much indeed)

That’s all for me for this month! I doubt I’ll be posting much during the summer ­– as I said, work keeps things hectic. I’ve abandoned Project Christie, and the only immediate plan of anything but regular monthly posts is the Finncon report, which hopefully I can manage!

Happy beginning of summer, everyone!

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Books in April ’13

Hello, sweet readers! It is the end of month, and you know what that means in this blog! YES! You get to hear what I read this month!

It was a rather stressful month, although nowhere near in the scale of February. I handed in my candidate’s essay (can I get a cheer for that?), finished a bunch of school things, and today celebrated Walpurgis Night! I had to leave early though, since I might get called to work tomorrow, but I had a bunch of fun!

Anyway, on to the books now!

 

Stephanie Laurens: The Lady Chosen

Tristan Wemyss, Earl of Trentham, never expected he’d need to wed within a year or forfeit his inheritance. But he is not one to bow to the matchmaking mamas of the ton. No, he will marry a lady of his own choosing. And the lady he chooses is the enchanting neighbor living with her family next door. Miss Leonora Carling has beauty, spirit and passion; unfortunately, matrimony is the last thing on her mind . . .

To Leonora, Tristan’s kisses are oh-so-tempting, but once bitten, forever shy, she has determinedly turned her back on marriage. But Tristan is a seasoned campaigner who will not accept defeat. And when a mysterious man attempts to scare Leonora and her family from their home, Tristan realizes he’s been given the perfect excuse to offer his services–as protector, seducer and, ultimately, husband.

(Goodreads)

The romance parts and the detective parts could have been better blended, I felt, and more carefully balanced: at times it felt like there were two books smashed into one. On the other hand, I really enjoyed the Bastion Club gents, them being fun and attractive to boot ­– quite the perfect heroes for series of romance novels. The heroine Leonoroa, however, annoyed me. Her aversion to marriage was flat and the trauma that lead to it could have been used to a more dramatic effect. In fact, the whole book could have kicked the drama up a notch – but just a notch, mind. Too much drama isn’t good, but a little bit is good. I’m also more partial to public scandal than private ones, as the high society of Regency England loved scandal, and, frankly, public scandal is very difficult to deal with.

Still not a fan of Laurens, but I have another book in the Bastion Club series waiting. I’m eager to see whether it’s better than this first book.

Published: 2003

Pages: 460

 

Scott Lynch: Red Seas Under Red Skies

After a brutal battle with the underworld that nearly destroyed him, Locke and his trusted sidekick, Jean, fled the island city of their birth and landed on the exotic shores of Tal Verrar to nurse their wounds. But even at this westernmost edge of civilization, they can’t rest for long—and are soon back to what they do best: stealing from the undeserving rich and pocketing the proceeds for themselves.

This time, however, they have targeted the grandest prize of all: the Sinspire, the most exclusive and heavily guarded gambling house in the world. Its nine floors attract the wealthiest clientele—and to rise to the top, one must impress with good credit, amusing behavior… and excruciatingly impeccable play. For there is one cardinal rule, enforced by Requin, the house’s cold-blooded master: it is death to cheat at any game at the Sinspire.

Brazenly undeterred, Locke and Jean have orchestrated an elaborate plan to lie, trick, and swindle their way up the nine floors… straight to Requin’s teeming vault. Under the cloak of false identities, they meticulously make their climb—until they are closer to the spoils than ever.

But someone in Tal Verrar has uncovered the duo’s secret. Someone from their past who has every intention of making the impudent criminals pay for their sins. Now it will take every ounce of cunning to save their mercenary souls. And even that may not be enough…

(Goodreads)

Once again, I reread this book. I do these things – I have already read Lies this year, and there is to be a read-along on tumblr in the summer, which means I’ll be reading both books soon, and I just don’t like the idea of having read RSURS fewer times. So there. Now there is balance in the world!

As usual, Red Seas is wonderful. It makes me grin and squeal and sigh and shout and cry. So very wonderful!

Published: 2007

Pages: 630

 

Brandon Sanderson: Warbreaker

T’Telir, capital of Hallandren, is a colorful city by the sea where gaily dressed crowds bustle through sunny streets and worship heroes who have been reborn as gods. Ruled by the silent, mysterious God King, the pantheon is nourished by offerings of Breath, the life force that keeps them alive and youthful.

Exiled in Idris, the former royal family reluctantly betrothed a princess to the God King. Arriving in T’Telir, she finds both the city and the marriage are not at all what she expected. Her only ally is Lightsong, a god who is skeptical of his own divinity, who fears that war with Idris is inevitable.

Meanwhile, another new arrival in T’Telir, one who bears the sentient sword Nightblood, makes cunning plans based on the unique magic of Hallandren, which uses color to focus the power of the Breath – plans that could change the world.

(Tor paperback back cover)

Took the first opportunity to read my wonderful find of a free book. And boy, did I love it! Sanderson is truly a brilliant world-builder. While his style is not something that would have me devour his books, I still find myself up at night reading just one more chapter. It happened with Warbreaker, as it did with the Mistborn trilogy.

The characters were wonderful. With Sanderson, you can trust no one is unimportant or a mere tool with no personality. They are all human, all believable, and no one goes without a part in the story. And there’s always another bloody secret. I just love that. I swear, I lost bunches and bunches of hair because I tore it out in frustration when I realised I didn’t see something coming, although I should have. It’s amazing.

Warbreaker got me out of a period of avoiding fantasy. I cannot tell you how relieving that is. It’s been a while since I’ve read any unfamiliar fantasy and I’ve had trouble immersing. It’s probably because my mind has constantly been on school, but now I could really lose myself into T’Telir and forget about work for a while.

You really should read Warbreaker if you haven’t. It is a standalone, it is wonderful, it is engaging, and it is a thrill. I loved all the characters, I loved the city, I loved the system of magic (explained very simply and clearly, which I thoroughly appreciate), and I’m rearing to read more Sanderson now. Elantis, Alloy of Law and Way of Kings, here I come!

Warning: I cried in the end. A lot. So prepare your poor feelings and have tissues at hand.

Published: 2009

Pages: 652 (Tor 2010 paperback)

 

Sean Thomas Russell: Under Enemy Colours

1793: the thunder of cannon fire echoes across the English Channel, chilling the stoutest hearts…

The French Revolutionary War threatens to wreak havoc across the English Channel. As the Royal Navy mobilizes its fleet, the frigate HMS Themis is ordered to patrol French coastal waters.

On deck is young Lieutenant Charles Hayden. With an English father and a French mother, he must earn the trust of officers and men. Now he finds himself acting as a bulwark between the Themis’s tyrannical Captain Hart and the mutinous crew. As disaffection turns to violence, Hayden is torn between honour, duty and saving his ship…

A sweeping and epic maritime adventure set during the momentous first clashes of the Napoleonic Wars, Under Enemy Colours is a masterpiece in the tradition of Patrick O’Brian and Bernard Cornwell.

(Penguin 2007 paperback back cover)

A friend recommended this book to me a couple of years ago, when my historical interest circled around Admiral Nelson and the naval part of Napoleonic Wars. Although my interests have no adjusted themselves slightly differently, I still wanted to read this one.

It was alright. I’m not familiar with sailing by any measure, and, quite honestly, if I hadn’t read Lynch’s Red Seas Under Red Skies for landlubber explanations for how a ship works I don’t know how I would have fared. It’s not too bad in terms of vocabulary, so don’t let that turn you away from the book – it’s manageable and some things do get explained (but not so many as would make the reader feel they’re being patronised, a thing that is very good in my books).

I would have wished for even more clashes between Hayden and Hart, but I’m sure they’ve been carefully chosen in order to keep things reasonable at the end of the book. What is of course interesting in the setting of the book is Hayden’s parentage: being half French and half English was not easy during the wars. That is used to nice effect. My favourite character, though, was young Mr Wickham, whose name offended my Janeite mind at first, but he grows on you very quickly.

Under Enemy Colours is part of a series, and I think I may read the sequel, A Battle Won. Nice books if you’re into ships and the Napoleonic Wars but don’t care for info dumps.

Published: 2007

Pages: 527

 

Agatha Christie: Murder Is Easy

Luke Fitzwilliam does not believe Miss Pinkerton’s wild allegation that a multiple murderer is at work in the quiet English village of Wychwood and that her local doctor is next in line.

But within hours, Miss Pinkerton has been killed in a hit-and-run car accident. Mere coincidence? Luke is inclined to think so–until he reads in the Times of the unexpected demise of Wychwood’s Dr. Humbleby…

(Goodreads)

This is only the second Christie I have read, and I have seen the film version just very recently. Therefore, this was a bit of an unfortunate choice of reading, considering I knew full well the identity of the murderer – but it was engaging nonetheless, not least because I know the adaptation rather well and could easily trace the changes.

I must say the murderer’s motive in the book felt much more satisfactory in the book than in the adaptation, although the latter was undeniably more dramatic. It did change my view of the character though, and while the film version made them more human I do understand the book character better.

I’ll be posting more about my relationship to Christie shortly, as I’m thinking of making her my summer project. You know, to keep the little grey cells working! Summer vacation means no university work, but I certainly don’t want it to mean no academic pursuits!

Published:1939

Pages: 254 (Harper Collins 2010 facsimile edition for the Crime Club)

 

P.G. Wodehouse: Much Obliged, Jeeves

When the infamous book, kept under lock and key at the Junior Ganymede Club goes missing it is up to the imperturbable Jeeves to save the assorted reputations of all those whose private lives are detailed within it. Many people including Bertie Wooster, rescued from imminent marriage, and even Augustus the cat have cause to be much obliged to Jeeves.

(Vintage 1990 edition back cover)

I come from a family who reads Wodehouse, so it is with some embarrassment that I admit how few of them I’ve read myself. They are always delightful: Wodehouse’s language is a treat, although as an EFL student I don’t always quite understand all the gags. In this one, I felt some recurring jokes were used a little too frequently, but then again, I did read this is one day and therefore was more inclined to notice these repetitions. Had I taken my time, they probably wouldn’t have bothered me at all.

Published: 1971

Pages: 192 (Vintage 1990 edition)

 

Books bought:

I ordered three books, and so far have received one in tact (Trollope’s The Way We Live Now) and another one damaged (David Copperfield; the replacement should arrive any day now). King of Thorns hasn’t arrived yet. I also bought Gaskell’s Cranford since it was on sale, and found yet another book on the recycling shelf, this time at the Department of Modern Languages at uni. That book was Elizabeth Bear’s All the Windwracked Stars. I will post a picture of all these once I get everything gathered together!

Currently reading:

Redshirts by John Scalzi (and boy am I loving it!)

 

That’s it for April! I don’t start doing regular shifts at work until June, so I hope May will be filled with books! I’m very much behind compared to last year, by some ten books, but then again, I knew this year would be busy and that there wouldn’t be as much time to read…

Anyway. I’m so happy spring is here and that school is ending!

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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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Books in April

I never expected April to be such a good reading month. Easter holidays of course helped, along the fact that I spent those in the country without internet access or indeed a computer. And since it snowed on the night we arrived, there was no work to be done outside, either, so my time was spent “studying” and reading. (The former included half-heartedly going through grammar exercises and reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban in Swedish.)

So be warned – this is a list of nine books.

Mary Balogh: First Comes Marriage

Elliott Wallace, Viscount Lyngate, has just acquired unwilling guardianship of Stephen Huxtable, the new young Earl of Merton. If he were to marry Stephen’s eldest sister, he would have the eligible wife he needs and she would be able to look after launching her younger sisters into society. It would be a comfortable arrangement all around. However, Vanessa, the middle sister, thinks otherwise. Margaret loves another man and has a secret agreement with him. And so Vanessa steps up as the sacrificial offering.

(back cover of Dell 2009 edition)

Let me start by saying that I like this book and am completely prepared to like other books by Balogh as well. The style is not too heavy and not too light but very amusing and readable. The period is set with casual mentions of all sorts of details in food, architecture, dress, and social customs. Marriage of convenience is a much-used plot point, and Balogh brings very little into it that I with my limited experience haven’t seen, but it is nevertheless very enjoyable. The characters are believable, and Vanessa’s feelings towards her deceased first husband are, I’m sure, familiar to many. The plot is perhaps a little slow – although that did not slow my reading even a little – and the scapegoat was not used to full capacity. The latter fault, I understand, has to do with the subsequent parts of the series. The hero is likable and the heroine a woman of sense, something that always finds favour with me. There is, once again, sex, but it is not disturbing. I believe I said previous month that the sex in Stephanie Laurens’s books did not bother me – well, compared to Balogh, it is positively offensive. (As, indeed, is Balogh’s compared to the subtlety of Georgette Heyer.)

Published: Dell 2009

Pages: 388

Scott Lynch: The Lies of Locke Lamora

Seeing as I have discussed this book at some length in this blog just recently, I suggest you refer to the Favourites post. If you have read the book, feel free to see also the Read-Along posts – beware of spoilers.

Published: Gollancz 2006

Pages: 537

Mary Balogh: Then Comes Seduction

In a night of drunken revelry, Jasper Finley, Baron Montford, gambles his reputation as London’s most notorious lover on one woman. His challenge? To seduce the exquisite, virtuous Katherine Huxtable within a fortnight. But when his best-laid plans go awry, Jasper devises a wager of his own. For Katherine, already wildly attracted to him, Jasper’s offer is irresistible: to make London’s most dangerous rake fall in love with her. Then Jasper suddenly ups the ante. Katherine knows she should refuse. But with scandal brewing and her reputation in jeopardy, she reluctantly agrees to become his wife. Now, as passion ignites, the seduction really begins. And this time the prize is nothing less than both their hearts.…

(Goodreads)

I find this second instalment in the Huxtable Quintet very, very similar to the first one, discussed above. The meeting of the hero and heroine is where these two books differ the most: while Vanessa and Elliott meet under very proper circumstances, Katherine and Jasper’s first actual meeting is far cry from proper. After the three-year gap the story really kicks off. There are horrible rumours, disgusting relatives, a question of guardianship and, after a fashion, a duel over the lady’s honour. It is all very sweet, and the book is most definitely entertaining (I spent a four-hour drive reading it and a couple of hours afterwards reading it), but it is not as good as First Comes Marriage. I don’t quite buy the breaking of the barrier between the lovers, and Jasper’s logic is not very clear, but the end is lovely in any case. I would have liked to have more repercussion of the rumours, as I don’t believe the solution the main characters come to will quell all the wacking tongues.

So a marriage of convenience and the finding of love. Very basic, but clichés become clichés because they work, and even if it doesn’t really work in two books in a row. It does not make me think ill of Balogh.

Published: Dell 2009

Pages: 419

Jane Aiken Hodge: The Private World of Georgette Heyer

Lavishly illustrated, and with extracts from her correspondence and references to her work, ‘The Private World of Georgette Heyer’ reveals a formidable and energetic woman with an impeccable sense of style and above all, a love for all things Regency.

(Goodreads)

To write the biography of a person as quiet about her personal life as Georgette Heyer is a difficult task. This also explains the superficial quality of Aiken Hodge’s book: there is very little said about Georgette Heyer as a person, but much more about her as a writer. If you have read Heyer’s books, you know she was a subtle writer and a meticulous researcher. Of that, there is a whole lot in this biography. The only more personal titbits are the quotes from her letters, which I found hilarious. Despite the lack of actual information the book creates an idea of what kind of woman she was – shy but professional, only really comfortable in her small circle of friends.

This is a biography that can be read for the entertainment value. It is a typical biography in that it probably makes the subject look better than it in reality was, but this time I did not mind it. Because my admiration towards Heyer comes not from her persona but from her style and dedication to detail, it was a pleasure to get a peek to her writing process and the pictures taken from her research notebooks.

Published: Bodley Head 1984

Pages: 208 (Bodley Head 1984 hardcover edition)

Agatha Christie: Murder On the Orient Express

Just after midnight, the famous Orient Express is stopped in its tracks by a snowdrift. By morning, the millionaire Samuel Edward Ratchett lies dead in his compartment, stabbed a dozen times, his door locked from the inside. One of his fellow passengers must be the murderer. Isolated by the storm, detective Hercule Poirot must find the killer among a dozen of the dead man’s enemies, before the murderer decides to strike again.

(Goodreads)

This is the first Christie book I have ever read. Shocking, I know. I would not have read one now had I not been at the country and out of books. Well, not exactly out of books, but out of books I had meant to read. I wanted a short read for the car ride, and ended up picking this one from the shelf.

The experience was a little disturbed by the fact that I love watching Christie adaptations on TV, and had seen this one as recently as last year. Even though I usually forget who the murderer is and can re-watch detective stories with ease, this one is too memorable for that. What I did not remember was the details, which made the book after all enjoyable. But it is the ending that makes it worthwhile in my books – and if you tend to read detective stories and for some reason have not picked this one up yet, I recommend you do so. It is a great puzzle!

Published: Collins Crime Club 1934 (copyrighted to Agatha Christie 1933)

Pages: 191 (Fontana 1974 edition)

Mary Balogh: At Last Comes Love

Only desperation could bring Duncan Pennethorne, the infamous Earl of Sheringford, back home after the spectacular scandal that had shocked even the jaded ton. Forced to wed in fifteen days or be cut off without a penny, Duncan chooses the one woman in London in frantic need of a husband. A lie to an old flame forces Margaret Huxtable to accept the irresistible stranger’s offer. But once she discovers who he really is, it’s too late—she’s already betrothed to the wickedly sensual rakehell. Quickly she issues an ultimatum: If Duncan wants her, he must woo her. And as passion slowly ignites, two people marrying for all the wrong reasons are discovering the joys of seduction—and awaiting the exquisite pleasure of what comes after….

(Goodreads)

There is little I can say about this book after having discussed the two previous parts in the series. This one involves the eldest Miss Huxtable, Margaret, and her marriage of convenience. I did like this one better than the Then Comes Seduction and, it might be, First Comes Marriage. This one has a through-and-through sensible main character, an illegitimate child, and a lately widowed first love. Mostly, though, it is similar to the previous parts in the series and thus very pleasant and fun read but nothing exactly special. Still more historically accurate than many other Regency Romances.

I’m not sure “Duncan” is a very Regency name, but I haven’t checked so can’t be sure. It didn’t sound right in any case.

Published: Dell 2009

Pages: 386

Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman: Good Omens

As I read this book in order to refresh my memory for the Favourites post this month, you can read what I have to say about it here.

Published: Gollancz 1990

Pages: 383 (Corgi 1991 paperback edition)

Terry Pratchett: Unseen Academicals

Football has come to the ancient city of Ankh-Morpork – not the old-fashioned, grubby pushing and shoving, but the new, fast football with pointy hats for goalposts and balls that go gloing when you drop them. And now the wizards of Unseen University must win a football match without using magic, so they’re in the mood for trying everything else.

The prospect of the Big Match draws a likely lad with a wonderful talent for kicking a tin can, a maker of jolly good pies, a dm but beautiful young woman, who might just turn out to be the greatest fashion model there has ever been, and the mysterious Mr Nutt. (No one knows anything much about Mr Nutt, not even Mr Nutt, which worries him, too.)

As the match approaches, four lives are entangled and changed for ever. Because the thing about football – the important thing about football – is that it is not just about football.

(Doubleday 2009 hardcover cover)

It has been a long time since I’ve last read Terry Pratchett, and it seems I need to reacquaint myself with his way of pretty much ignoring the plot. I’m not very familiar with football, which may mean I missed quite a few jokes, but not so many that I’d really notice. I don’t think this was Pratchett at his best by all means – and I do prefer a little more plot – but I was entertained once I got the hang of it. It took me a long time to finish it, which was partly due, again, to the lack of plot and the fact that the Internet is full of wonders.

With regret I have to say I can’t recommend this book. Experienced Pratchettists may want to take a look at it, but it’s not one to start acquainting yourself to Discworld with.

Published: Doubleday 2009

Pages: 400 (hardcover edition)

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: The Hound of the Baskervilles

Holmes and Watson are faced with their most terrifying case yet. The legend of the devil-beast that haunts the moors around the Baskerville families home warns the descendants of that ancient clan never to venture out in those dark hours when the power of evil is exalted. Now, the most recent Baskerville, Sir Charles, is dead and the footprints of a giant hound have been found near his body. Will the new heir meet the same fate?

(Goodreads)

There were two reasons I decided to read this book. The first one was that I had never done so before. The other was that my DVD of the second season of BBC’s ingenious Sherlock (of which I plan on raving about at some later time) arrived.

I have nothing negative to say. It’s an engaging book, even if you remember the story. It’s exciting and it’s fun, and I liked it better than Agatha Christie, which could probably be explained by my inclination towards pre-1900 literature. Sherlock Holmes is an interesting chap, and although Watson at times seems a little too simple it’s nothing unbearable.

Sherlock’s mention of his case of Vatican cameos had me giggling. Oh Moffat and Gatiss, you guys have used everything!

First published: George Newnes 1902

Pages: 174 (Penguin Popular Classics 1996 edition)

I didn’t buy many books this month, mostly because that budget got blown on those DVDs – and I’m not regretting one bit, because Sherlock is totally worth every penny! The books I got from an online auction. If you’re wondering about the one with Xena on the cover, it’s doctorate called Time of Fandom. The full title of the other one is a bit hard to read, but it’s Who Killed Albus Dumbledore? – What REALLY happened in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince? It’s a collection of essays, and I’m saving it up for work reading.

I also got Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations, but for some reason forgot it from the photo. I wanted to get it because of BBC’s new awesome mini series. Watch it! You won’t regret it!

Currently reading:

Scott Lynch: Red Seas Under Red Skies

Kaarina Nikunen: Faniuden aika (Time of Fandom – for an essay)

Happy May Day, people! 😀

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