Tag Archives: conmen

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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Red Seas Under Red Skies Read-Along: WEEK 5

Shamefully late! I do beg your pardon!

“Now, if you find yourself in trouble wherever you go, you can hold up that little bag to whoever’s bothering you, and you san say, ‘You have no idea who you’re fucking with. I’m under the protection of the lady who gave me this object of her favour.’”

“And that’s supposed to make them stop?”

“Shit, no, that’s just to confuse them. Then you kill them while they’re standing there looking at you funny.”

I sob like a baby at the end of the battle. Like in Lies, Jean’s emotional reaction is so heartfelt and honest that it just breaks my heart. Even though I don’t like the kamikaze mode his grief seems to activate in him, it’s understandable. I don’t yet know whether he will recover, although of course I hope he will, eventually. He’s a down-to-earth guy, he will soon enough admit to himself that he can’t just keep living in grief and continue with his life (particularly now that Locke has forced him into it).

“What? How dare I contemplate doing what you’re now planning to do to me? You self’righteous strutting cock, I’ll – “

“What?”

“ – I’ll throw myself at you, and you’ll beat the shit out of me. And then you’ll feel awful! How about that, huh?”

Merrain! Oh, she’s just so very interesting! I’ve marked all the bits that give some sort of a clue about her identity. She might (hopefully) turn up in Republic of Thieves? I certainly want her to, because I want to know. Why is it so important no one knows she’s actually working for someone else than Stragos? Maybe she works for the bondsmagi, and the tattoo marks him as their foot soldier or something? A sword and a vine. That could be just about anything. I’m fairly certain she works on orders, and the way she wants to stick to them could mean she’s very dedicated to her master. Her calm and skill seem to denote experience.

Locke mimed shoving a dagger into an invisible Archon of Tal Verrar. It was so satisfying he mimed it again.

Now that I looked carefully and knew what Locke and Jean were up to with Requin, you could actually spot some hints. They are pretty casual, like Locke looking out of the window in Requin’s study, and Selendri leaning against the wall between two paintings etc. Very sneaky, Mr Lynch, very sneaky! I think it’s a wonderful game. It would, of course, have been wonderfully clever of Locke to get someone to tell him whether the paintings were fake or not (was there any mention of it being common knowledge that they would be real?), but he’s not an expert in art fraud or anything like that so he probably didn’t think about it that way. Requin’s not an idiot, although he’s rich, and I guess the Bastards are used to rich people who are stupid and trusting.

Requin seemed to derive a perverse pleasure in seating the seven Priori on fine chairs in the midst of the chaos and pretending that all was perfectly normal.

I’m just really fond of Requin. Particularly in the end. I think he’s quite amused by the fact that he got robbed and still got the upper hand. He’s my favourite of the sort of background characters. Him and Merrain, the latter for the mystery. Yes. Of course, Requin and Selendri and Jean and Ezri as couples, but if concentrated on just single characters… Requin and Merrain.

“Zamira, enough. Enough Ravelle this, Kosta that. Around the crew, sure. But my friends call me Locke.”

It feels so wrong to say this, but I guess I like The Lies of Locke Lamora more. The time structure is clearer, and we stay in one city. It just feels more comfortable. However, Red Seas offers a new depth to Locke and Jean.

Oh Lynn, do you even need to ask? The moment Republic of Thieves hits the stores I’ll be there. I’m sort of hoping it would be published in time for Christmas holidays, because then I could just read it and go nuts and it would interfere with schoolwork. On the other hand, it can’t be out soon enough. Fingers crossed it really happens this year!

Emerging from a long spell of false-facing could be like coming up for air after nearly drowning, Locke thought. Now all the baggage of their multi-tiered lies and identities was peeling away, sloughing off behind them as they pounded up the stairs to the Golden Steps one last time. Now that they knew the source of their mystery assassins, they had no need to sham as priests and skulk about; they could run like simple thieves with the powers of the city close on their heels.

Which was exactly what they were.

All good things must end, it would seem. I want to thank all of you lovely people who participated, and naturally the wonderful hosts of the read-alongs! It’s been a blast! We’ll see how long it takes to go back to not reading a dose of Lynch every week…

Almost forgot! I haven’t referred you people to Camorr, a website + forum dedicated to our favourite Bastards! It’s been quiet there for a while now, but things are very likely to spice up one Republic of Thieves comes out.

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Red Seas Under Red Skies Read-Along: WEEK 4

“All bullshit. I’m a bullshit artist, Zamira. A false-facer. An actor, an impersonator. I didn’t have any noble motives when I made that request. My life just wasn’t worth much if I didn’t do something utterly crazy to win back some respect. I faked every second of composure anyone glimpsed this morning.”

It feels a bit weird to see Locke lay himself bare like that, but it’s also very moving. That’s one of the reasons I like this chapter so much. He has to decide whether to trust or not, as he says himself, and he knows Jean is right in the matter. I dare say it would have been easier to go on lying if he’d not been part of the crew at any point and thus didn’t know anyone personally, but in now… Well, I would have been disappointed in him if he could have just given them to Stragos after all that scrub-watching.

“Gods, whatever’s out there knows my real name.”

“Mine as well.”

“I mean, it’s not calling me Locke. It knows my real name.”

“Oh. Shit.”

Took the words straight out of my mouth, Jean. That mist is creepy. It could be that the mist is some sort of chemical that affects the brains, and so it’s Locke’s own head talking to him, and naturally he knows his own real name. But it’s not just random mist, it comes from somewhere or is emitted by someone or something and that something/one uses the mist to lure its victims. It’s mentioned that Jean sees a dark shape, but that’s not really too much to go on.

It’s frightening in general, to think that something might know Locke’s real name. Jean would never tell anyone, but if the Bondsmagi got it… *shudder*

Also, if you have ever watched the 90s TV series Moomins, there’s an episode with a ghost ship that creeps the hell out of me even to this day. The ship glides out from the mists with ripped-up sails and passes through the bow of the boat the Moomins are in. The music is scary, and I hear parts of it reading the Parlour Passage bit.

“Legs are open, old man. Can you really get it up?”

I love the selling of the Red Messenger. I think Locke enjoys himself enormously, pulling off something he’s sure about. It’s a pretty simple trick, as he points out, but he was posing as a captain for a rather long time without a clue about what to do, and now he gets to be in total control of the situation. Must feel good, be doing something he has in hand the whole time for a change.

All the names, then. I don’t know whether Lynch does it on purpose, but I doubt Locke has the identities muddled up any more than the reader does. Of course, this is kind of reminiscent of what Arsène Lupin says in The Escape of Arsène Lupin: “… there comes a time when you cease to know yourself amid all these changes, and that is very sad. I feel at present as the man must have felt who lost his shadow…” (I’m shamelessly quoting from The Quantum Thief – that quote is at the beginning. But looking it up on Gutenberg would have taken forever.) We’ll see if this happens to Locke. Maybe one day there’ll be a game so elaborate he needs a dozen names and then slips with a character, and has to either think very quickly or run like hell.

“Look, we almost got killed today. Fuck these games. Do you want to have a drink with me?”

Ngh. Jean and Ezri. Damn them for being so infuriatingly adorable! Gods. I just squeal every time they are talking together. Or just mentioned in the same sentence. OTP? I think so!

Then something that bothered me in the last chapter. When Locke and Jean go to Sinspire, Selendri says, “Stay here in the service area, Valora.” Now, have I missed something? Shouldn’t Selendri be calling Jerome “de Ferra”? Did Locke at some point tell Requin what their names on board would be? If someone whose brain is working better would tell me what I’ve missed I’d be grateful. Almost lost sleep over it last night – I’ve never noticed it before.

“Tonight is delicate business. Misstepping in Port Prodigal after midnight is like pissing on an angry snake. I need – “

“Ahem. Originally, we’re from Camorr.”

“Oh. Be on the boat in five minutes.”

Teehee. That amuses me greatly. Go Camorr!

Ahem. Yes, that’s it for this week. Last section to go. One week. We’ll see what happens!

“Crooked Warden, I will fear no darkness, for the night is yours. Your night is my cloak, my shield, my escape from those who hunt to feed the noose. I will fear no evil, for you have made the night my friend.”

 

EDIT:// I found that episode of Moomins in English! It loses some of the creepiness in the English dub, unfortunately, and the music I associate with the ship is for the most part not in here but in a later part (apparently – it’s been long since I’ve watched these!) – but it’s still scary. The scene with the ship starts somewhere around 11 minutes, but feel free to watch the whole episode! 😀 Moomins are very entertaining.

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Red Seas Under Red Skies Read-Along WEEK 3

Okay. This is going to be a very, very random post. I wrote it Friday night, just after the questions arrived, and if I touch it too much now it will become very dull and short. (Vocabulary marvellously expands during the night, I find.)

Some of the set questions will be discussed, some not, and nothing is likely to be in any kind of order. Bear with me.

 

“Well, splendid. Once again we’ve engineered a brilliant escape from immediate peril and stolen something of value to take with us. This boat must be worth two solari.”

 

Seeing as I learned the word “mutiny” from the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, my mental images come heavily from that movie. As indeed do a lot of my mental images on piracy, to be frank.

“What do you mean, you haven’t been turning the glasses?”

“Captain Ravelle, sir, beggin’ your double-fuckin’ pardon, but we ain’t had no time to turn the glasses nor mind the log since… hell, I suppose I can’t say. Awhile now.”

Did anyone go “Oh shit oh shit oh shit oh SHIT!” when Caldris died? ‘Cause I remember the first I read that. I’d been reading all evening, it was probably two thirty in the morning and I really really REALLY needed to get some sleep in and then Caldris goes and dies and Locke and Jean are in the middle of a storm and oh gods. It was horrible. Now at least I can take a deep breath and assure myself that it’s okay. It’s too bad about Caldris though, I like him.

“I’ll wager I would have screwed things up regardless. But… can you imagine those poor bastards grappling their prey, leaping over the rails, swords in hand, screaming, ‘Your cats! Give us all your gads-damned cats!’”

The practical reason for cats is probably the rat-catching, ‘cause that can naturally be a real problem. I’m sort of partial to rat-catching dogs, actually, but that’s because I’m a dog person. And maybe the cats are there partly because Mr Lynch has a cat (or cats?). But as for the symbolic reason for their necessity is what Caldris said about them: they are proud creatures, and they please Iono, so I suppose it’s the kind of religious thing you tend to get.

“Ah, that’s wonderful. Another fine chance to explain myself to someone. How I do so love explaining myself.”

Women! I forgot to say last week how much I love it that NOT having women on board is bad luck. Uh yeah, why wouldn’t it be? And we finally met Ezri! I like Ezri so much! She’s real fun and spunky, and a damned good officer it would seem. (This may be strange, but if anyone follows Team Starkid and their musicals, Ezri reminds me of Lauren Lopez. Not much, but… somehow.) She’s yet another detail I’d love to see on a big screen, and particularly in the All Souls In Peril chapter; first ordering the crew around, being all bad-ass, and then fighting on the Kingfisher, being even more bad-ass! She’s great. Any actress playing her would have to have a certain kind of voice though, at least to get my acceptance.

Locke responded with a two-handed gesture he’d learned as a boy, one guaranteed to start fights in any city-state of the Therin world. The crowd of pirates returned it, with many creative variations.

First we just kind of slipped to Jean’s perspective, and suddenly we find we’re in his head a lot. I like how sneaky that is, and it’s really nice to get a better picture of Jean. Particularly because he’s such a sweetheart. I hope the trend carries through the series, and I also think that it provides us with certain possibilities.

“Marvellously clever, Jabril! You’ve tracked me unerringly to the cabin in which I’ve been fast asleep and motionless all bloody night. Who tipped you off?”

I’m sort of uneasy about Paolo and Cosetta, but then again I’m always a little vary of children. Cosetta seems to have the makings of a pirate queen though (Moot nust!), and it would be very interesting how they turn up when they are older.

Locke Lamora was small, but the Thorn of Camorr was larger than any of this. The Thorn couldn’t be touched by blade or spell or scorn. Locke thought of the Falconer, bleeding at his feet. He thought of the Grey King, dead beneath his knife. He thought of the fortunes that had run through his fingers, and he smiled.

This was the first time that the appearance of the Thorn had such an impact on me. I reread that little bit several times, and afterwards it made me giddy to have all the present crew whisper about Locke. It’s just wonderful, to see him gain respect, although this is the kind of respect and reputation that might easily get him killed.

… Locke meant to hit it wearing the biggest lie of his life like a costume. He might be dead in a few seconds, but until then, by gods, he was the Thorn of Camorr. He was Captain Orrin fucking Ravelle.

Kills my heart, by the way, to have Jean and Locke argue like that.

Oh, and I really like the name Orrin Ravelle. Nice sound, it has.

“Hey, time comes to board her, I’ll row the boat naked and attack the bastards with my good fuckin’ looks. Just wait and see if she’s prey, is all I’m sayin’.”

Next week, some of my favourite bits coming up! More Ezri! More Drakasha! Cats! Ships! Pirates! Err… Yeah.

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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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Red Seas Under Red Skies Read-Along WEEK 2

This week’s first question is about Requin and Selendri. If you’ve even skimmed through my monthly books, it’s pretty obvious I’m a sucker for romance – and gaaaaaaah, Selendri and Requin! The story behind her arm is just magic for me. It doesn’t do for me to read it just once, oh no – I read it a couple of times every reread. I think they are both tough, and they trust each other completely, despite what Requin said. They clearly want to protect each other, which completely endears them to me. It’s almost a pity Locke’s planning on robbing them.

“Ow! Madam, please! Allow me to introduce myself!”

“You’re too fat and well dressed to be an apprentice after patronage so you must be here to beg a favour, and when your kind says hello, it tends to take a while. No, shut up.”

Salon Corbeau. Ugh. The thought just makes me want to break something. It’s really awful. And knowing Locke’s background, it must be absolutely disgusting for him. The Amusement War is just cruel, and nothing else. Lynch really makes you feel it when that girl loses her hair. Horrid. Horrid, horrid, horrid.

In the same category comes the scene at Sinspire, with the stiletto wasps. (To lighten things up, is the Pokémon Beedrill familiar? That’s how I imagine stiletto wasps. Every time.) Locke’s sympathy breaks my heart, and the poor boy in the cage… Even though I just said I like Requin, there are limits. The wasps are not acceptable.

“Crooked Warden, a glass poured on the ground for a stranger without friends. Lord of gallants and fools, ease this man’s passage to the Lady of the Long Silence. This was a hell of a way to die. Do this for me and I’ll try not to ask for anything for a while. I really do mean it this time.”

Locke’s soft side bothers me, just the slightest bit, although it would equally bother me if he didn’t care two shits about people suffering for nothing. Actually, that would be worse. So go on caring, Locke. That makes you human, and that’s good. (Well wasn’t that a pointless few sentences?)

The mysterious assassins! They bother me so much! Who the hell are they? Is this some sort of game the Bondsmagi play, hiring assassins and then make something happen that allow Locke and Jean to escape? So they can never relax?

And who is Merrain? She’s clearly not the Archon’s creature, at least not originally. So for whom does she work? Who sent her to the Archon, and why? Is she some sort of agent for the Bondsmagi? Does she anything at all to do with the pompous Karthani sons of bitches?

She gives me a headache, I’m telling you.

“Eh? Well, the ignorant need room in which to risk their lives without bothering anybody else for a while. This here’s our own private pissing-pond. Never mind the soldiers of the walls; they’ll ignore us. Unless we drown. Then they’ll probably laugh.”

Caldris is such a charmer. He’s not the kind of teacher I’d particularly like, but he sure as hell could make anyone learn. And he knows what he’s talking about. A soft spot for me he is, really.

For learning some nautical words, this book is excellent. Nothing too specific or hard, just stuff that a foreign-language landlubber like me has to check but won’t forget in a hurry. Very very simple stuff, but somewhat essential. Words that’ll come up in other books, too, like ‘doldrums’, ‘capstan’… And thanks to Scott Lynch I can now tell starboard from larboard! Rejoice!

“It is something like a madman’s private language, isn’t it? So intricate in its convolutions. Say you have a rope lying on the deck; after the third hour of the afternoon on Idler’s Day it’s a half-stroke babblegibbet, and then at midnight on Throne’s Day it becomes a rope again, unless it’s raining.”

“Unless it’s raining, yes, in which case you take your clothes off and dance naked round the mizzenmast. Gods, yes. I swear, Je… Jerome, the next person who tells me something like, ‘Squiggle-fuck the rightwise cock-swatter with the starboard jib,’ is going to get a knife in the throat. Even if it’s Caldris. … “

And oh, the quotability of this section! By Their Own Rope was the hardest bit to mark, because quite honestly it’s just a huge verbal explosion of fun. However, this time the winning quote came from a little before that:

“Maxilan, darling. I knew you were driven, but I had no idea you could smoulder. Come, take me now! Jean won’t mind; he’ll avert his eyes like a gentleman.”

Got some looks on the bus again for that. And again today.

One of the things that popped to mind while reading was how big a kick I got from the scene where Locke tries on the uniform. It’s always a pleasure to see him work the details and such, and I’m pretty certain the Archon was duly impressed, although his reaction was minimal. He has the file, so of course he knows Locke is good, but I don’t think he realised just how good.

Plus another thing I’m a sucker for is uniforms, and a blue uniform makes me think of the English naval officer’s uniform from the 19th century.

(That’s young Admiral Nelson, peeps. The uniform’s not the one he wore at Trafalgar, but I like this one better. Less glitter. You can read more about the portrait here, if you’re interested – and if you happen to find yourself in London, the National Maritime Museum is awesome!)

One more quote, then you’ll be free of me. For a week anyway.

“Master Fehrwight, who are you?”

“A man who’s dead serious about chairs.”

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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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