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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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Musings: Less Stress and More Progress

Hello, readers!

I mean to post something on the 10th, as I’ve done these past couple of months, but it so happened I was dead tired on Wednesday. It was a long, long day.

What in general has kept me busy is, of course, school. Candidate’s essay needs to be handed in on the 23rd, while keeping in mind that there is a pub crawl on the 18th; a stylistics essay on one of D.H. Lawrence’s short stories needs to be handed in on Monday; and then there’s the course on post-modern historical novel…

The candidate’s essay is going well, I think. I’m only missing the conclusion, and some of the analysis needs to be elaborated on, but I think I can manage everything by the end of next week. Let me tell you, it will be a big relief!

My edition of Vanity Fair – can you tell I do a lot of marking?

My copy of Vanity Fair – can you tell I do a lot of marking?

As books go, there is little to tell. I spent some time rereading Red Seas Under Red Skies once again, and have just started Sanderson’s Warbreaker. I’ve only read the prologue, but it sounds fairly promising. I’m not big on Sanderson’s style, and lately fantasy has been a bit difficult to access for some reason, but it feels very good. It’s slowly sucking me in, just like the Mistborn trilogy did.

I’m currently trying to decide what to put on my summer reading list. As I’m practically out of school from the beginning of May, I’m probably including said month in the summer. I’ve ordered some books from BookDepository, and am really excited to get them! (King of Thorns, Lynn! I finally gave up on finding the edition I want and just ordered what was available!)

This has been a brief reminder that I’m still alive and still updating. I will think of something fun for May to make up for the long silences!

I hope your spring weather is better than mine – Finland is getting the usual second winter after a week of beautiful spring. There’s been snow and cold weather. Today’s a bit better, as it’s not cold but merely cloudy!

Anyway: happy spring!

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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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Books in December

Last day of the year. Feels a little festive – and then again, I never really liked the number 2011. 2012 has much nicer symmetry to it, don’t you think?

As ever, this month was about books. For the first part it was a lot of schoolbooks, but as soon as Christmas holidays started I was very much glued to the lovely blocks of paper. I managed quite a lot of them, compared to previous months, but I also had more leisure time.

So let’s start this thing off.

The latest book in George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, A Dance with Dragons, came out earlier this year, and a friend was good enough to lend me her copy. To my disappointment I did not like this book as well as the previous ones. The various points of views were scattered and did not feel as controlled as before, and we only briefly visit some of the characters from the earlier books. This is, of course, to let the readers know what came of the maddening cliff hangers left in the last book, and my guess is if I had waited for five years to find out I would have been very happy indeed. However, I read the fourth book only a short while ago, so the little bits did nothing for me. I find this to be a doldrums in the series: stagnant and slow.

Published: Harper Voyager 2011 (I read Bantam Books 2011)

Pages: 959

Julia Quinn’s Everything and the Moon, the first book in the Lyndon Sisters series, was meant as a break from doorstopper-sized books, and as such it did its job. It is a Regency romance, and as I happen to be particular about the genre, I did not much like this one.

I will borrow the blurb from the author’s website (http://www.juliaquinn.com):

Seven years ago she broke his heart…

When Robert Kemble stumbles across Victoria Lyndon in hedgerow maze, he can’t believe his eyes. The girl who’d torn him in two, who let him plan on elopement and then left him standing by the side of the road, was suddenly within arm’s reach, and even though his fury still knew no bounds, she was impossible to resist…

Seven years ago he left her all but ruined…

Victoria’s father had told her an earl would never marry a vicar’s daughter, and he was right. Robert had promised her marriage, then danced off to London while she suffered the shame of a foiled elopement. But even though Victoria doesn’t particularly enjoy her new life as a governess, when Robert offers her a job of a different sort—his mistress—she refuses, unable to sacrifice her honor, even for him.

But Robert won’t take no for an answer, and he vows to make her his, through any means possible. Can these star-crossed lovers learn to trust again? And is love really sweeter the second time around?

My misgivings with this book are as follows:

  • Style is not what one expects from a Regency romance. Expressions are at times too modern, and nothing kills the mood like unresearched diction.
  • Victoria is intended as an independent woman, but she often lapses into pathetic pining and the traditional there-is-no-way-he-loves-me.
  • From the first page, the story is very mushy, and overly sweet. I think there were eyes like deep pools, which is unforgivable. (I regret not writing the description down.)
  • Despite the possibility I will be labelled a prude I have to say I do not like sex in my Regency romance, thank you very much. It simply does not fit.
  • The plot gets boring when the truth of what actually happened on the night of their elopement becomes known to Robert – and this happens around the middle of the book.

The only positive comment I have in my notes is that Robert is quite amusing when he cares to be. There was a conversation about hedgehogs living in sin that made me giggle.

I have read the second part of the series, Brighter Than the Sun, which I did like better. That one I can almost recommend.

Published: Avon Books 2007 (I read Piatkus 2009)

Pages: 372

The next books are not in the order I read them but in groups.

I had wanted to read Maurice Leblanc’s Arsène Lupin books for a long time and finally borrowed three from a friend: Arsène Lupin, Gentleman Thief, Arsène Lupin vs Sherlock Holmes , and 813.

I love thieves, and Arsène Lupin is the best of them. He is a conman, confident, clever, and uncatchable. He is always cheerful, always wins – and never resorts to killing. That is central in some of Leblanc’s work. If there is a murder, you know it was not Lupin, for he does not need to stoop to violence to get what he wants. (And make no mistake – he will get what he wants.)

All the books I have read so far were charming, and I am going to try and read all of them!

Published: 1907/1908/1910

Translation: Jalmari Finne 1967/ Jalmari Finne 1967/ V. Hämeen-Anttila 1990

Pages: 182/204/426

My holiday project was to read the whole Mistborn trilogy by Brandon Sanderson. The project was success, and I enjoyed it.

I did not love the books with a passion, but I did like them. I will refrain from saying much about the plot for the fear of giving away too much – just know that there is rebelling against the governmental status quo and looking for the prophesied Hero of Ages. The plot is one of my favourite things about the series. There are clues you can pick up, ignore, or miss, and when you finally think you have things figured out your leads turn out to be red herrings. I prefer a more subtle kind of manipulation than Sanderson’s, the kind I cannot easily detect even after I know the truth. I am not saying that it bothered me much during reading: I went through the books fairly quickly in about ten days.

These books work as a mystery, and that is their charm. There is a lot of telling-not-showing with the minor characters, but I can forgive that simply because Sanderson is not afraid to kill off characters you grow to like.

So for anyone craving for a little brain exercise, I recommend this series.

Actually, read it anyway. It is a nice occupation. The order of books is the Final Empirethe Well of Ascensionthe Hero of Ages. There is also a standalone novel located in the same universe. It came out this year and is called the Alloy of Law. I have not read it yet myself, but I have a feeling it would be better to start with the trilogy.

Published: 2006/2007/2008 (Gollancz 2009)

Pages: 643/763/724

So that is all. I have two more weeks of vacation, and there will definitely be panic reading before school starts again. I’m about that start with Leblanc’s the Hollow Needle, which will b followed by the Countess of Cagliostro.

I also got some books for Christmas – our family agrees beforehand what to get each other so there will be no disappointments, although no surprises either. I got both of the books I had wished for:

Richard Hopton: Pistols at Dawn – A History of Duelling

William Gibson: Brief History of Britain – 1660-1851

I also bought a couple of books last week:

Georgette Heyer: Frederica

J. R. R. Tolkien: the Hobbit

Lots to read! I hope next year will be even fuller of books than this year was – for you all!

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