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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 August ’12

So. End of August. Summer pretty much over. It’s sort of a good thing, as you can see from my previous post, but on the other hand I’ll miss the sun. You can already feel the darkness and depression creeping in… But we’ll fight it! And books will help!

My regular shifts ended two weeks ago, and the last shift was a week ago, so I’ve had slightly more time to read. Still not my usual speed, but much better than July!

 

Mark Lawrence: Prince of Thorns

When he was nine, he watched as his mother and brother were killed before him. At thirteen, he led a band of bloodthirsty thugs. By fifteen, he intends to be king…
It’s time for Prince Honorous Jorg Ancrath to return to the castle he turned his back on, to take what’s rightfully his. Since the day he hung pinned on the thorns of a briar patch and watched Count Renar’s men slaughter his mother and young brother, Jorg has been driven to vent his rage. Life and death are no more than a game to him–and he has nothing left to lose. But treachery awaits him in his father’s castle. Treachery and dark magic. No matter how fierce his will, can one young man conquer enemies with power beyond his imagining?

(Goodreads)

Of course, the first book in the Broken Empire trilogy had to be reread in anticipation of the second part. I’ve been putting of the reread in fear I wouldn’t like the book as well as I did the first time around – but that fear proved unnecessary. By chapter two (starting on page 6) I was in love again. I read slower this time, and noticed a whole lot more. Usually I’m not big on personal reflection, but when Jorg does it, I just can’t seem to get enough. Something’s broken in his head, I swear, and that makes attractive reading!

Published: Harper Voyager 2011

Pages: 373

 

Ellen Kushner: The Privilege of the Sword

Reread for bi-monthly favourite – you can read more about it here!

 

J. B. Priestley: The Prince of Pleasure and His Regency 1811-1820

The Regency Period is perhaps the most romantic of British history. It was an age which swung between extremes of elegance and refinement, and depths of sodden brutality. The central figure is the Prince Regent, Prinny, and though he sometimes appears as a gigantic spoilt child, he was famously good company and a notable patron of the arts. The author portrays the personalities of the giants of the romantic age – Byron, Shelley, Sheridan, Wordsworth, Jane Austen and Sir Walter Scott; Davy Faraday and Macadam; Turner, Constable and Cotman – to name a few. It was an age of extravagance; an age marked by great eccentricities and prodigous jokes; the luddite riots; the Battles of Waterloo and Peterloo; the first waltzes and the first locomotives.

(Goodreads)

Ah, the Regency period, how I love thee! Priestley’s book takes some getting used to, since it is a little different from your general history book. As he says in the foreword, this book sprung from his love of the period, and it shows throughout the reading. He tends to say things like, “This would be interesting but there’s not enough room in this book to discuss it” too often, and sometimes dismisses topics simply because they don’t interest him personally, but on the other hand he goes through the Regency (1811-1820) year by year, introducing hot topics of the year and explaining the on-going war with Napoleon in a way that spreads it nicely instead of info-dumping it. After you get it into it, you really get into it – the last 150 pages I just devoured. Very interesting, very entertaining! Even those averse to history would, I think, enjoy this one.

Published: Heinemann

Pages: 293

 

E. L. James: Fifty Shades of Grey

 A book that started out as a simple Twilight fan fiction, but then turned into a bestseller phenomena on its own.

When literature student Anastasia Steele goes to interview young entrepreneur Christian Grey, she encounters a man who is beautiful, brilliant, and intimidating. The unworldly, innocent Ana is startled to realize she wants this man and, despite his enigmatic reserve, finds she is desperate to get close to him. Unable to resist Ana’s quiet beauty, wit, and independent spirit, Grey admits he wants her, too—but on his own terms.

Shocked yet thrilled by Grey’s singular erotic tastes, Ana hesitates. For all the trappings of success—his multinational businesses, his vast wealth, his loving family—Grey is a man tormented by demons and consumed by the need to control. When the couple embarks on a daring, passionately physical affair, Ana discovers Christian Grey’s secrets and explores her own dark desires.

(Goodreads)

Err… Yeah. This book? Thinly veiled fanfiction, with annoying characters. If you publish, make sure the style is suitable for print. If you write genre – in this case romance – be aware of the conventions. And for heaven’s sake, hire a good editor.

Y’all know I read both romance and fanfiction. This one is such an average mix of both it could work as an example of what fanfiction on average looks like. I have to give a point for the end though – not what happens, no no no, way too predictable when you know it’s A) first in a trilogy and B) based on Twilight, but Christian’s emotion was nicely conveyed, at least to my romantic sensibilities.

My friend is having the time of her life reading these. She asked whether I intend to read the sequels, seeing as the whole business is so funny. I said I wouldn’t buy them or get them from the library, but if she bought them I would read them.

She bought the rest of the series. Oh well. It’s not like they take a long time to read…

Published: Arrow Books 2012

Pages: 514

 

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes

 Eleven of the best and most popular tales of the immortal sleuth include “Silver Blaze,” concerning the “curious incident of the dog in the night-time”; “The Greek Interpreter,” starring Holmes’ even more formidable brother, Mycroft; and “The Final Problem,” the detective’s notorious confrontation with arch-criminal Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls.

(Goodreads)

There’s very little I can say about Sherlock Holmes that hasn’t been said, that people don’t know. So I’m not going to even try. They are exciting, and fun, and an excellent work-read. (I spent a rainy Sunday reading it. Double wages for doing practically nothing but reading, oh yeah!) Some of the stories I remember from the Granada series, but most of them were new to me. The collection ended in “The Final Problem”, which brought emotions to the surface.

Looking forward to getting started with The Return of Sherlock Holmes and finally officially meeting my current character-to-obsess-over, Colonel Sebastian Moran!

First published: George Newnes 1894

Pages: 200 (Dover Thrift 2010 edition, wonderful edition this!)

 

Glen Duncan: Talulla Rising

 When I change I change fast. The moon drags the whatever-it-is up from the earth and it goes through me with crazy wriggling impatience . . . I’m twisted, torn, churned, throttled—then rushed through a blind chicane into ludicrous power . . . A heel settles. A last canine hurries through. A shoulder blade pops. The woman is a werewolf.

The woman is Talulla Demetriou.
She’s grieving for her werewolf lover, Jake, whose violent death has left her alone with her own sublime monstrousness. On the run, pursued by the hunters of WOCOP (World Organisation for the Control of Occult Phenomena), she must find a place to give birth to Jake’s child in secret.
The birth, under a full moon at a remote Alaska lodge, leaves Talulla ravaged, but with her infant son in her arms she believes the worst is over—until the windows crash in, and she discovers that the worst has only just begun . . .
What follows throws Talulla into a race against time to save both herself and her child as she faces down the new, psychotic leader of WOCOP, a cabal of blood-drinking religious fanatics, and (rumor has it) the oldest living vampire.
Harnessing the same audacious imagination and dark humor, the same depths of horror and sympathy, the same full-tilt narrative energy with which he crafted his acclaimed novel The Last Werewolf, Glen Duncan now gives us a heroine like no other, the definitive twenty-first-century female of the species.

(Goodreads)

Second part in The Last Werewolf  trilogy, Talulla Rising is almost better than the first part. Duncan has an amazing way with words, seriously. I’m completely enamoured by his way of putting things, describing the transformation into a werewolf, the cultural allusions (not as many and not as clever as in The Last Werewolf, or maybe they are too subtle and clever for me to recognise), the action. All beautiful. If you have never tried Duncan, do!

Published: Canongate 2012

Pages: 425

 

Currently reading:

Professor Moriarty and the Hound of the D’Urbervilles by Kim Newman

Books bought:

Erm. It’s getting better, is it not? The pile isn’t as ridiculously big as in the last couple of months. It’s still more than I promised myself I’d buy, but hey – my bookstore still doesn’t have King of Thorns by Mark Lawrence, so that needed recompensating! Lots of ACD, as you can see: I’m trying to familiarize myself with the original canon now that the tease words for the third season of BBC’s Sherlock have been announced and I want to be part of the guessing game.

Next week we’ll take a look at how I did with the summer reading list!

Happy autumn, people!

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The 2012 Anticipation

New year, new books! This is the first year when I am actually aware of the books that are coming out, and although my anticipation list is not the longest possible I am very excited about the books on it.

Here they are, in release order (most release dates are from http://en.risingshadow.net/):

Saladin Ahmed: The Throne of the Crescent Moon (February 2nd)

This book seems so very promising it is hard not to want to read it! The first chapter is very promising – you can read it here: http://www.saladinahmed.com/wordpress/2011/10/28/throne-of-the-crescent-moon-chapter-one/

The book speaks for itself, I think.

Anne Rice: The Wolf Gift (February 14th)

When I started high school, I found Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles (you know – Interview with the Vampire, Vampire Lestat, Queen of the Damned…). And now she has finally written a novel about werewolves! I am currently plotting the fastest way of acquiring the book.

Douglas Hulick: Sworn in Steel (April)

Even though the first book in the Tales of the Kin series, Among Thieves, did not pull my heartstrings like I had expected it to do, I am curious about the second instalment. I expect to get more into Drothe’s world, although I have a feeling this will be on my list for light summer reading.

Sam Sykes: The Skybound Sea (April)

I have yet to read the second book in this trilogy, but I nonetheless anticipate this last one. The first book, Tome of the Undergates, got better the farther you got, and I have a hope that this trend will continue throughout the series – which, of course, would mean that Skybound Sea would be the best one. I will have to make an effort to get my hands on Black Halo (Aeon’s Gate #2) before this one comes out.

Mark Lawrence: King of Thorns (August)

The second on my Most Exciting list is this book, the second book in the Broken Empire trilogy. Prince of Thorns surprised me with its pull, so it was a relief to find out the next instalment in the series was not too far a wait away.

Hannu Rajaniemi: The Fractal Prince (September)

What can I say? The Quantum Thief was the first sci-fi book I had read in years, and I liked it more than I ever thought I would, so I am excited for the next book in the trilogy!

Scott Lynch: Republic of Thieves (October)

This is absolutely my number one anticipation book. The release date has been pushed back several times due to all sorts of difficulties, but I remain hopeful. I decided some time ago to do my utmost not to spoil myself, which has been a little difficult since the blurb is out as well as the prologue, of which I read about half before I decided I would much rather know nothing about the book before actually starting to read it.

This is not a multitude of books, but I find this soothing – the fewer books I anticipate, the bigger percentage of them it is possible for me to buy. That, if anything, is a happy thought!

I will, as usual, return at the end of the month. Until then, keep turning those pages!

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Great Is the Art of Beginning

The beginning is the most important part of a book. It needs to captivate the reader, make them want to know more, go forward, find out. I’ve fallen into the habit of picking up an interesting-looking book at the bookstore and, instead of reading the blurb, turning to the first page. If there is a prologue, I will also see how the first actually chapter begins.

Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. In any case, I thought I would gather here some great beginnings of books I have read (and own, since quoting becomes harder when you don’t have the material at hand). Some are just the first sentence, some the first paragraph. Some are from prologues, some from first chapters.

“I am the Vampire Lestat. I’m immortal. More or less. The light of the sun, the sustained heat of an intense fire – these things might destroy me. But then again, they might not.”

–       The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice

“In the land of Ingary, where such things as seven-league boots and cloaks of invisibility really exist, it is quite a misfortune to be born the eldest of three. Everyone knows you are the one who will fail first, and worst, if the three of you set out to seek your fortunes.”

–       Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

“Harry Potter was a highly unusual boy in many ways. For one thing, he hated the summer holidays more than any other time of year. For another, he really wanted to do his homework, but was forced to do it in secret, in the dead of night. And he also happened to be a wizard.”

–       Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling

“Contrary to whatever stories and songs there may be about the subject, there are only a handful of respectable things a man can do after he picks up a sword.”

–       Tome of the Undergates by Sam Sykes

“Ravens! Always the ravens. They settled on the gables of the church even before the injured became the dead.”

–       Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

“As always, before the warmind and I shoot each other, I try to make small talk.”

–       The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi

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

–       The Lies of Locke Lamora b Scott Lynch

“The game was Carousel Hazard, the stakes were roughly half of all the wealth they commanded in the entire world, and the plain truth was that Locke Lamora and Jean Tannen were getting beaten like a pair of dusty carpets.”

–       Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch

All of these are excellent books, and if any of the beginning appealed to you, I recommend from my heart that you read the book it is from.

I will return at the end of the month!

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Books in September

So, September’s up, and I’m here to tell you what I read this month!

I started Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall in August, but finished it in September, so it counts. It tells the story of Thomas Cromwell, who was King Henry VIII’s chief minister between 1532 and 1540. Between these years fall some very interesting instances, for example Henry’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon. Usually seen as a cold, calculating man, Mantel shows us a more humane Cromwell, who takes good care Cardinal Wolsey and does his best to keep his family safe. This is not a book to read in a hurry (as I did): the style is rather heavy, chapters are long, and you have to be constantly aware of who is who and what is going on. If you stick with it, it gets very interesting, and I even felt it ended too soon. But no fear! There will be a sequel, which, I read, is under work and will be called the Mirror and the Light. It’s on my to-read list, and I will be reading Wolf Hall again before that. With more time.

Published: Picador 2009

Pages: 604

Wolf Hall was already slightly school-related (I’m taking a course on the Tudors), and the next book continued on that vein. Homer’s Odyssey is required reading for a course, and since I have a friendship with the classics, it wasn’t too hard to pick it up. For those who are for some reason unaware of what it’s about, I’ll give a brief summary. Odysseus (or Ulysses, if you’d prefer) is returning home to his family after the Trojan War, but the journey is more complicated than you’d think. The war has already lasted ten years, and his way home is just as long. He is out of favour with some gods, who then vex him and his ship, and all kinds of adventures follow. We have Circe, the sirens, the Cyclops, Scylla and Charybdis… everything you’ve heard of but maybe didn’t link with this epic.

The version I read was a Finnish translation – I don’t speak any Greek, unfortunately, old or modern – and, as there were two choices, I chose the more prosaic one instead of the ghastly hexameter. The story itself is amusing, although it suffers some for being so familiar. Odysseus as a character is ridiculously perfect and knows it far too well, which can get rather annoying. Those are the major problems, but they don’t make the reading as much of a pain as one might think. Perhaps I’m blinded by the status Odyssey has as a classic epic, but I find myself fond of it despite its shortcomings. It’s an easy read, too – as long as you go with a prose version.

Published: somewhere between 800-600 BC

Translation: Pentti Saarikoski 1972

Pages: 250

After that dose of considered-serious literature I was free to lay my hands on a book I’d been eyeing since I bought it sometime in the end of August. Mark Lawrence’s debut fantasy novel Prince of Thorns, the first book in the Broken Empire series, was a positive surprise. I’d heard good things, and thought the opening lines (“Ravens! Always the ravens. They settled on the gables of the church even before the injured became the dead.”) catchy enough. The blurb didn’t sound too good, but I’ve read bad blurbs before. The story sucked me in by chapter three – which starts from page 11. We meet the main character, Jorg, when he is 13-going-on-14, and we find him with his Brothers on the road. Things happen, and it becomes clear that Jorg is not exactly normal. Soon we see glimpses of his past and can start to understand where he comes from, who he is, and what motivates him. We also get information on his Brothers in small snippets between the short chapters, which I found utterly charming. To those who are wary of the fantasy world: fear not! This is an easy world to slip into. It’s like an alternate version of our own, with familiar history and places.

For a couple of summers now I have found a book that particularly WOW!ed me. I have a feeling this will the WOW of 2011. It has first person point of view, which I’m not a fan of; Lawrence pulls it off. It has a young teen, which only a few authors can write with any credibility. Lawrence pulls that off.

There will be a sequel, too. I’m anxiously waiting for that now!

Published: Harper Voyager 2011

Pages: 373

Finally I got George R. R. Martin’s A Fest for Crows! It is the fourth part of A Song of Ice and Fire series (you know, the one they’ve started a TV series on! Game of Thrones is the first book, and the first season).  I will not say much about the plot, since many people are starting the series now, but there were a couple of small surprises. Martin never fails to have me gasping and going “What? No! Not possible! I must have misunderstood!”

It took me a long time to read this, and I didn’t think it was as good as the previous parts, but I liked it all the same. I’m on the library waiting list for A Dance with Dragons – I have my fingers crossed that the 45 people before me make quick work of it and that I have it by Christmas.

Published: Harper Voyager 2006

Pages: 854 (not counting the appendixes)

Yesterday, then, I read another course requirement book, a Greek tragedy: Medea by Euripides. Medea was Jason’s wife (the guy who went to get the golden fleece), and in the beginning of the story Jason has a new wife, a king’s daughter, and Medea is distraught. She screams and yells, and finally the king himself exiles her. She begs for a day to figure out what she’ll do, and then proceeds to scheme and plot. Lots of blood and deaths ensue. The Greeks knew how to be dramatic.

What you learn from Medea is definitely how to rage. She’s one angry woman, she is. This is a surprisingly entertaining play, or then it was just the translation I had. It’s always a pleasure to read the Greeks, anyway. I recommend trying; Oedipus Rex by Sophocles is quite wonderful.

Published: 431 BC (first performed)

Translation: Kirsti Simonsuuri 1999(?)

Pages: 50

I also bought some books this month, mostly for school. Two for Comparative Literature, one for English (Renaissance Literature and Culture by Lisa Hopkins and Matthew Steggle) and Ellen Datlow’s new urban fantasy anthology Naked City. Right now I’m on my way to the post office, to get Snow White and Rose Red by Patricia C. Wrede.

Currently I’m reading Glen Duncan’s the Last Werewolf, which has been waiting for me since before I got A Feast for Crows. Martin was more urgent, though, so the werewolf had to wait.

I’m thinking of doing some sorts of posts during the upcoming month, provided I find the time. But I will return at the end of October to tell you of the books I’ve read!

Read! It’s good for your brain.

Wil

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