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Books in May ’14

May is gone, and I’m late with this post due to a family thing yesterday and my computer refusing to work after it was over. So let’s not draw this out – here be the books!

 

Mary Robinette Kowal: Without A Summer

 

Up-and-coming fantasist Mary Robinette Kowal enchanted fans with award-winning short stories and beloved novels featuring Regency pair Jane and David Vincent. In Without A Summer, the master glamourists return home, but in a world where magic is real, nothing – not even the domestic sphere – is quite what it seems.

Jane and Vincent go to Long Parkmeade to spend time with Jane’s family, but quickly turn restless. The year is unseasonably cold. No one wants to be outside, and Mr. Ellsworth is concerned by the harvest, since a bad one may imperil Melody’s dowry. And Melody has concerns of her own, given the inadequate selection of eligible bachelors. When Jane and Vincent receive a commission from a prominent family in London, they decide to take it, and take Melody with them. They hope the change of scenery will do her good and her marriage prospects – and mood – will be brighter in London.

Once there, talk is of nothing but the crop failures caused by the cold and the increased unemployment of the coldmongers, which have provoked riots in several cities to the north. With each passing day, it’s more difficult to avoid getting embroiled in the intrigue, none of which really helps Melody’s chances for romance. It’s not long before Jane and Vincent realize that in addition to getting Melody to the church on time, they must take on one small task: solving a crisis of international proportions.

(Back cover of the Tor paperback)

Some of you may remember that Shades of Milk and Honey was my WOW book of last year. I loved it, and I loved Glamour in Glass – and Without A Summer continues that line. I think it better than it’s predecessor, vastly intriguing and oh so pleasant to read! Kowal’s period detail is wonderful and reading her you may trust you are in good hands. I very warmly recommend this series! It is magic mixed with history and, although light in style, takes on many important issues of the family circle and doesn’t shy even from the most difficult of topics. Janeites will also recognise the copious parallels to Emma!

This is one of my favourite series, and this book is excellent. I’m very much looking forward to getting my hands on the next instalment, Valour and Vanity!

Published: 2013

Pages: 349

 

Den Patrick: The Boy with the Porcelain Blade

 

Lucien di Fontein has grown up an outsider; one of the Orfano, the deformed of the Kingdom of Landfall. He is lonely, tormented by his difference and a pawn in a political game. The reclusive king and his majordomo rule Landfall from the vast castle of Demesne, but the walls are no barrier to darkness from without. Or within.

Landfall is a harsh world of secrets and rivalries, where whispers are as lethal as blades, where control is fragile and the peace waits to be broken. Lucien will have to rely on more than just his blade to protect the ones he loves.

Den Patrick’s richly imagined high fantasy introduces a memorable new hero. His is a story that will delight those who love Locke Lamora and Titus Groan alike.

(Back cover of Gollancz trade paperback 2014)

Yes, even I sometimes manage to read something the same year it comes out. What did you expect? Locke Lamora has been mentioned, political intrigue promised, and a fantastic title presented.

As a whole, I find this book rather average. Well, perhaps a little above average. There are some things that bothered me, but also a lot to admire. I shall break this review into bullet points, because I feel that is the clearest way to explain both my qualms and approvals.

Pros:

  • Despite being numerous, fight scenes do not get boring; very alive, very well described
  • The worldbuilding works well, although it took me a while to catch on. This is likely more me than the book, as I tend to skip scenery.
  • When the dialogue is witty, it really is witty! And it’s good in general.

 

Cons:

  • Some unnecessary repetition of details; they get underlined but aren’t all that significant.
  • I’m not too happy with the female characters. This gets a bit better towards the end, but the inaction and the very traditional roles they’re cast in grates.
  • Lucien spends a lot of time sleeping or unconscious; surely there are other wise of transitioning from one scene to another?
  • So. Many. Fires.

 

In general, I think it’s a nice, enjoyable book. I also think that Patrick has a lot of potential, which he will reach through more experience; this reads very much like a first novel. I will also mention that this edition could have used another round of proofreading, as there was a lot of punctuation missing and a few typos. The latter didn’t bother me as much as the former.

I will definitely read the next one as well, because I think there’s something here. It just needs some improvement to really snare me.

Published: 2014

Pages: 321

 

Scott Lynch: The Republic of Thieves

 

I will leave out the blurb and, indeed, a review. This was my third reading and it was conducted mostly to take notes and to see if there was anything I missed earlier.

Published: 2013

Pages: 598

 

M. C. Beaton: The Taming of Annabelle

 

From the moment the honey-tressed young Annabelle meets her sister Minerva’s intended, Lord Sylvester, she develops a secret passion for him that obsesses her. Now she is determined to take him away from Minerva – no matter what.

But Annabelle hadn’t reckoned on Lord Sylvester’s best friend, Peter, who falls in love with her and decides to tame her growing passions for the wrong man.

(Back cover of Constable & Robinson paperback)

This is the second book in The Six Sisters series. I hadn’t read Beaton before, but decided to get it from the library when it happened to sit there on the shelf.

Thing is, I’m too old for this book. This would work wonders for a teen reader; it’s quite fun and introduces the Regency period very well, with several rather entertaining explanatory paragraphs here and there. The plot is a bit childish, but so is the main character, and at times Annabelle annoyed me to no end. Peter hardly behaves any less childishly despite being 35 (I think) and that does not quite sit with me.

This book, and I assume the others in the series, could work well as easy introductions to Regency romance. The Taming of Annabelle is fun, but for older readers it may be too shallow. I would say a 13–15-year-old would be more in the target readership, and I would not hesitate to recommend this to someone of that age with an interest in romance.

Published: 1983

Pages: 250

 

Elizabeth Bear: Shoggoths in Bloom

 

Shoggoths in Bloom: A compilation of short science fiction and fantasy from Elizabeth Bear – tales of myth and mythic resonance, fantasies both subtle and epic in tone; hard science fiction and speculations about an unknowable universe. This collection, showcasing Bear’s unique imagination and singular voice, includes her Hugo- and Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award-winning story “Tideline” and Hugo-winning novelette “Shoggoth in Bloom”, as well as an original, never-published story. Recipient of the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, a World Fantasy, Nebula, and Philip K. Dick nominee, Bear is one of speculative fiction’s most acclaimed, respected, and prolific authors.

(Back cover of the Prime paperback)

Now, understand that I’m very bad at reading collections of short stories. Very bad. I manage one a year, if I try hard, and it can be slow going without a plot to pull me.

I didn’t have my usual troubles with Shoggoths.

Bear is amazingly versatile in her writing, and I promise you a swoon over how much research has gone into every single story in this collection. I am both enamoured and awed. If you read short story collection this year, read this one.

I cried at the end of the first one. Several made me uncomfortable, in the way good SF should. Two hit me really hard in my current situation in life, and I draw strength from them. And oh, I think I’ve found my favourite short story. Well, a new one for the small list of the ones I love: “The Cold Blacksmith” took me and chewed at my heart and now, days later, I’m still not over it.

Published: 2011

Pages: 329 (20 short stories)

 

Julia Quinn: Just Like Heaven

Honoria Smythe-Smith, the youngest daughter of the eldest son of the Earl of Winstead, plays the violin in the annual musicale performed by the Smythe-Smith quartet. She’s well aware that they are dreadful but she’s the sort who figures that nothing good will come of being mortified, so she puts on a good show and laughs about it.

Marcus Holroyd is the best friend of Honoria’s brother Daniel, who lives in exile. Marcus has promised to watch out for Honoria, but he faces a challenge when she sets off for Cambridge determined to marry by the end of the season. She’s got her eye on the only unmarried Bridgerton, who’s a bit wet behind the ears. When her advances are spurned, can Marcus swoop in and steal her heart in time for the musicale?

(Back cover of Piatkus 2011 paperback)

I don’t find the blurb terribly accurate. Just wanted to say that. I also want to say that my primary motive for reading this book is the rather hilarious dedication – “And also for Paul, even though when I went to him for medical advice to save my ailing hero, he replied, ‘He has to die.’”

I’m not particularly fond of this sort of “We have known each other since we were children and I am starting to realise I actually love you” romance. Not that I don’t occasionally enjoy it, but at least at this instance I was not in the mood for it. I also found this book rather flat and it failed to raise any particular feelings. It served its purpose of something light and quick to read, but apart from that, hardly memorable.

Published: 2011

Pages: 374

 

Mary Balogh: The Proposal

 

Lady Gwendoline Muir has experienced her fair share of tragedies in her short life: she lost her husband to a freak accident, and developed a limp after falling from horseback. Still young, Gwen is sure that she’s done with love, and that she will never be married again.

Gwen tries to be content with her life as it is, and to live through the marriages of her brother and her cousin and best friend, Viscountess Ravensburg. She’s happy for them, and for years that is enough for her… until she meets Lord Trentham – a man who returned from the Peninsular War a hero, but is unable to escape the bite of his survivor’s guilt. For he might just be the man who can convince her to believe in second chances.

(Back cover of Piatkus 2012 paperback)

Now we’re talking. I have been eager to start the Survivors’ Club series, of which this one is the first. Balogh writes very believable and mature characters and does it with such certainty that it is hard not to fall in with them – and indeed, why would you even want to avoid that? Some of you know of my penchant for wounded heroes, and that is exactly what this book, along with the rest of the series, provides. Trentham is particularly interesting for his utter bluntness; I don’t think I’ve read a Regency romance where sex is so explicitly discussed (never crudely, though – Balogh is never crude).

The charm of this book is mainly in the characters. When it comes to plot, it’s rather straightforward and un-dramatic, which I feel speaks of Balogh’s skill as a writer: the lack of drama does not diminish the experience or slow the reading, quite the opposite. There was a little too much retelling of moments from another point of view, but I hope that is only a lapse in this book and won’t occur in the rest of the series, the next of which I have waiting.

Published: 2012

Pages: 309

 

Fyodor Dostoyevsky: The Idiot

 Returning to Russia from a sanitarium in Switzerland, the Christ-like epileptic Prince Myshkin finds himself enmeshed in a tangle of love, torn between two women—the notorious kept woman Nastasya and the pure Aglaia—both involved, in turn, with the corrupt, money-hungry Ganya. In the end, Myshkin’s honesty, goodness, and integrity are shown to be unequal to the moral emptiness of those around him.

(Goodreads)

Not too fond of this one. It is obvious that Dostoyevsky was in need of money while writing this, and the serialisation is so obvious it was at times painfully dull going – there is a confession latter that lasts for three chapters (some 40 pages) and it largely unrelated to the plot. However, some of the characters – particularly Nastasja Filippovna and Rogozin (I’m using the Finnish version of the names) – were very interesting, and the last few chapters are excellent in their dramatic flair, although I wouldn’t say they are worth reading the whole thing. However, I’m glad I’ve read it and can now move the next Dostoyevsky to my more immediate list.

Published: 1868

Translation: Olli Kuukasjärvi

Pages: 829

 

Alexander Pushkin: Eugene Onegin

 

Eugene Onegin is the master work of the poet whom Russians regard as the fountainhead of their literature. Set in imperial Russia during the 1820s, Pushkin’s novel in verse follows the emotions and destiny of three men – Onegin the bored fop, Lensky the minor elegiast, and a stylized Pushkin himself – and the fates and affections of three women – Tatyana the provincial beauty, her sister Olga, and Pushkin’s mercurial Muse. Engaging, full of suspense, and varied in tone, it also portrays a large cast of other characters and offers the reader many literary, philosophical, and autobiographical digressions, often in a highly satirical vein. Eugene Onegin was Pushkin’s own favourite work, and it shows him attempting to transform himself from romantic poet into realistic novelist.

(Goodreads)

Now this was very much my thing! I started reading a bit sceptically, although I’ve long wanted to read this, and my, it was an absolute pleasure! Pushkin is much more fun than I’d expected, I wasn’t bored by his nature descriptions at all, he is very intertextual, and there is some damn good drama, although some of the motivations elude me. Nonetheless, very very good!

Published: 1823–31

Translation: Lauri Kemiläinen 1935

Pages: 242

 

Currently reading:
Andrei Belyi: Peterburg

That’s it for May!

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Books in January ’14

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

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

Agatha Christie: The Moving Finger

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

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

Published: 1942

Pages: 299

Ellen Kushner: Swordspoint

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

(Goodreads)

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

Published: 1987

Pages: 286

Scott Lynch: The Lies of Locke Lamora

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

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

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

Published: 2006

Pages: 530

Jane Austen: Pride and Prejudice

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

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

(Goodreads)

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

Published: 1813

Pages: 262

China Miéville: The City and the City

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

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

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

(Back cover of Macmillan 2009 paperback)

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

Published: 2009

Pages: 312

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

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

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Republic of Thieves Read Along – Weeks 2 & 3

Last week, I didn’t get around to answering any questions. Why? Because during the weekend I was in Brighton, meeting Scott and fellow Right People. Without my laptop. So I think I may be excused. This week, I’m doing both last and this week’s questions though!

WEEK TWO

Blood And Breath And Water: Patience tells Locke that the ritual to save him is serious business. She wasn’t kidding… What did you make of this scene, and do you think any of it might (perhaps literally) come back to haunt Locke?

I don’t think the pain and such will come back to haunt him, but oh, I do hope the ghost Bug will keep nagging at him because it was amazing! My heart was racing as I read it in the middle of the night! It was unexpected, and discomfiting, and I loved it! And I like sins-written-in-the-eyes thing, absolutely gorgeous.

Orphan’s Moon: Back to the childhood of the Gentlemen Bastards, and here we get another ritual, this one in service to the Nameless Thirteenth. It looks as though it might be Locke vs. Sabetha, round two – but this time Locke seems to be a little slow on that uptake… Who do you think deserves to be given the final oath? Locke or Sabetha?

I’ve got to say I squealed with utter delight on seeing the title of this interlude. I was hoping we’d see it some day! It intrigued me when it was mentioned in RSURS, and now we got it! I’m an absolute sucker for rituals and rules and all that, so it really hit the spot.

As to the Locke-Sabetha rivalry, well. At this point it seems Locke gets the things Sabetha wants, which is unfair considering how much drive she has, how hard she works, how ambitious she is, as opposed to his kind of drifting to places and turning out to be a natural. I wished Sabetha had gotten the final initiation, although of course we knew Locke was getting it. But there was that small flickering of hope they’d both get it…

Across The Amathel: This chapter takes a breather for quite a bit of Eldren history, while Locke starts recovering. What do you think of the history lesson, and Patience’s ominous speculation regarding the Eldren? Is this something you’d like to know more about?

I’m not really concerned with the Eldren, never have been. I like cities and countries and cultures and societies, but am not all that infatuated by obscure mysteries – something that probably sounds odd coming from a fantasy reader, but there it is. Mannerpunk is my thing more than epic fantasies. Unless it turns out the Eldren were rather people-like, I’m fine with anything we’re revealed about them. I am, however, interested in the magi of Karthain, those high-and-mighty assholes. Very, very interesting, they are, and I definitely like it that their power is far from infinite and that they are far from invincible.

Striking Sparks: The gang’s off to Espara, after a bad summer and a pretty thorough dressing-down from Chains, and we finally get to the source of the book’s title – they’re bound for the stage! What are your thoughts on this latest ‘challenge’ and the reasons for it?

Oh-ho-hoo, I love the teenage Bastards! Especially the twins! They are such annoying little ass-hats that you can’t but love them! I completely understand Chains, I would need a break, too. He’s harsh with them at this point, sure, but if you’ve lived with surly teenagers you know how bloody annoying it can get.

The Five-Year Game: Starting Position: The election gets underway with a party (as you do) and before it’s even over, the Deep Roots party has problems – and not just thanks to Sabetha. What do you make of Nikoros and his unfortunate habit?

I think the addiction really adds to his character. It’s a touch that gives him an identity, above that of a tool. He’s a person, he’s got weaknesses, an inconvenience, no matter how helpful he tries to be. I like it.

Bastards Abroad: The gang arrives in Espara, and already they’ve got problems (nicely mirroring the Five Year Game!)… This aside, we’ve also seen some more of what seems to be eating at Sabetha. Do you sympathise with her, or is Locke right to be frustrated with her?

Of course I sympathise with Sabetha! Being the only lady in a group of guys can be tough, and when you don’t get your voice heard except for occasionally – yeah, it’s frustrating. And wrong. Locke’s reasons for frustration make sense because you see things mostly through his focalisation and therefore understand him a bit better (not to mention we’ve had time to adjust to him over the course of two books), but when you think about Sabetha’s position it’s pretty clear why she is how she is. She’s tough, and she has to be. Where is Nazca, they should hang out more.

As an extra, I want to say how much I love it when Locke starts arranging security matters. There’s an urgency and a drive, and I enjoy it so so much. It’s great fun to read, and you can just hear the wheels spinning in his head, the sheer effort and joy of thinking. Love it to death!

WEEK THREE

The election competition.  Sabetha isn’t wasting any time throwing pranks at Locke and Jean.  Mostly it seemed fairly harmless, or at least not overly serious, until they were kidnapped and put onto a ship and taken out to sea.  What did you make of Sabetha’s latest plan? And what did you think about the way she executed it?

I readily admit I did not see it coming, and then chided myself because of course it was coming. It’s what I like about these books in general though – I’m always one-upped. I never expect the things that happen. And it’s great. Plus I think it was a very good plan, and I love the attention to detail Sabetha puts into it. It shows she knows them inside out. And I really appreciate the twenty men she placed outside the door to take Jean down, one of the most amusing things so far!

During the escape overboard and Jean’s rather subtle nose dive into the water – I was curious about the lights Locke saw deep in the water when he was performing his rescue – Locke thought they looked different once he was under the waves which I suppose they would but he also had the feeling that he was being watched?  Do you think this relates back to the Eldren or some other presence?

They’re probably something to do with the Eldren, given that no one seems to know what they are. Maybe something related to the mist at Parlour Passage (in RSURS)? For some reason I’d like to think so, although it might be the way in which the phenomenon’s are described, with that eerie Moomin Ghost Ship tone, and the connection to water and ships.

Given that Locke hadn’t seen Sabetha for five years how did you think their first meeting together went (well, it wasn’t strictly speaking their first meeting of course – were you surprised that Jean and Locke hadn’t figured out that the woman pickpocket was Sabetha?) and also what did you make of Jean and Sabetha’s reaction to each other?

Again, one of my favourite scenes. You need to reread it to see what was going on, once you’ve read it once. Ever so amused! At some point I started suspecting this was Sabetha though, as what are the odds she would find such an accomplished pickpocket in Karthain, where the underworld is quite non-existent? No, there’s no one who could match Sabetha in that respect, and oh the pure joy of it! It’s always good fun to see Locke so outplayed. You think you’re so clever mister.

So, the gang have arrived in Espara and already the plans have gone wrong through no fault of their own!  Jail for a year plus lose a hand for slapping a noble?? What do you think of the justice system in Espara and how does this bode for the gang?

Jasmer’s punishment serves to show that Esparans are not very tolerant, and you can only imagine the punishment for murder or some such crime. I will take this opportunity to say how much I like these little cities in the book. Espara is wonderful, by the sounds of it very small but having pretences at grandeur, and don’t even get me started on Lashain! I hope we go back there at some point, in the novels or in whatever short stories and novellas are forthcoming. Lashain seems like an excellent place for a game, a good place to exercise your attention to detail, with all the strict societal rules and the constant assessment of your peers. I’m only sad we didn’t stay there longer…

The acting company are finally coming together and we’re watching the gang as they try to read, act and grab the best parts – are you all ‘happy face’ with the whole theatre scenes or, sad face!  Also, I can’t help feeling like this whole storyline is a step out of character for the gang.  Any ideas of how it will play out?

Initially, I wasn’t too keen on the play: I don’t usually care for much recited fictional things inside fictional things, if you get my meaning. Having said that, I utterly enjoy the play The Swordsman Whose Name Was Not Death in Ellen Kushner’s The Privilege of the Sword, and therefore feel inclined to give especially plays some consideration inside narratives. Republic of Thieves is so Shakespearean that the metre (or lack thereof) bothers me to some extent, although of course there’s no reason to expect it there.

On discussing the play on tumblr, there arose some speculation as to the characterization and the correspondence to the Bastards and their immediate circle – but that’s a conversation for later, I think.

We are also being introduced to a number of new characters, particularly Moncraine and Boulidazi.  What are your first impressions of these two and the other new characters in the Company and any particular likes or dislikes so far?

Jasmer is exasperating, but I kind of write him off as an artist and let him be. Boulidazi, though… He makes me uncomfortable. He’s not all that smart or sophisticated, but he’s not unobservant, and that spells trouble. He draws conclusions very much to Locke and Sabetha’s advantage here, but that is also a dangerous aspect, because he takes what he sees for granted and doesn’t really stop to ponder on alternative explanations.

And I have a soft spot for nobility, titles, the upper class society. The social history fan in me squealed with delight when he asked how he should address Locke and Sabetha. I’ve marked it down as “useful information”.

The rooftop scene and the apology.  How did it all go so wrong?  And how will Locke get out of this latest fix with Boulidazi?

I refer you to my previous answer. Boulidazi interprets things based on his observations and doesn’t really entertain any thoughts of other options. Dangerous, very dangerous.

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Republic of Thieves Read Along – Week 1

It is time for the read-along, and I’m running late! I’m always done with my reread, as I want to be done before next weekend and the Brighton meet-up, so bear with me – I have my book next to me so I can check what’s happened and when, as I don’t know this one as well as the previous ones yet. Let’s get on with the questions, shall we?

(Short note: These read-along posts will end up looking way different from those I wrote last year, mostly because I haven’t read with an eye out for quotations. I’m sad not to be able to do it that way again, but perhaps in the future.)

We get to reminisce with several old friends in this section – Calo, Galdo, Chains. How did you like this? Bitter sweet or happy dance?

Happy dance! Without a doubt a happy dance! Oh, how I missed the twins and Chains! The Sanzas are even more annoying than I remember them – or ever conceived them – and Chains is just himself, with a tad more unsolved mystery, which drives me up the walls. I’m not kidding. I want to know more about him.

Finally, the infamous Sabetha makes a physical appearance, albeit in Locke’s reminisces. What are your impressions? How do you think the romance, if there is to be one, will play out?

I’m not going to comment much on this, as my impressions have formed on basis of the book as a whole, and although I’m pretty sure it won’t wreck havoc on anyone’s perception of her, I’d rather be simple. Young Sabetha is all edges and sharp words, which makes me apprehensive of her: the only time she softens is when she takes the trio of misfits to the hanging, and even that doesn’t change my attitude towards her. But she is clever, oh so clever, and thinks extremely well on her feet. She has my respect, if not my affection.

After trying absolutely everything to save Locke, Jean still won’t give up. What did you think of that little pep talk he gave Locke concerning Patience’s offer of healing?

I was actually expecting more mourning on his part. Or rather hoped for it. But of course, Jean is practical and rather throws himself to work than wallows in his feelings – the very opposite of Locke, actually. We saw that in Red Seas, and we see it here. When he brings up Ezri in Lashain, well, that got me in tears. Actually, I’ll quote that here, just so I’m not the only one crying:

What are you going to tell the woman I loved? The woman who burned so you could have the slightest chance in hell of even being here in the first place? If I can get up and live with that every gods-damned day, then so can you, you son of a bitch.” (98)

Gods damn you, Jean Tannen. You and your bloody big heart.

Locke has a few caveats to working for the Bondsmage. Wise or just Locke grasping for some control over his life? What would you ask Patience?

I’d say it’s wise. Locke if someone knows about semantics, a feature that particularly appeals to me, and he knows you don’t make deals with this kind of people without making absolutely sure both sides know what is implied, what is offered, what is off the table. As to what I would ask of Patience, I don’t know. Largely the same things as Locke, and he got a couple that I wouldn’t have thought of.

At the end of this section, we see that all is not as Patience laid it out. How much do you think Patience knows of the plot to off Locke and Jean? Do you see it interfering in the rigged election?

This is Locke and Jean. If something can interfere with their life and plans and everything included, it will.

 

So that’s it for this week! I apologise for being short and saying very little, but I hope that as we get on I will have more to say and more time to write it down in a coherent, semi-intelligent fashion!

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Thieves prosper again!

Hi everyone!

I’m sick and therefore excused from tonight’s party, which means I have the time to let you know that I got my hands on The Republic of Thieves two days ago and finished it last night!

Republic of ThievesI’m not going to into details here – suffice to say there were lots of things that required a brief break to absorb and then it took another moment to squeal before getting back to reading. There’s also the fact that because of school and social obligations, I speed-read it through in two sessions, all put together 16 hours of intense reading. Towards the end I lost track of details, but am now working my way through at a slower pace, looking around and musing at the details and their implications and speculating about what is to come. I missed Locke and Jean. So much.

Another reason, the one that has nothing to do with lack of sleep, for rereading is this: there is going to be a read-along! Sign up for it, if you feel like talking about these things – I think this is going to be an excellent opportunity to get my thoughts about the book into order! Find out more about the read-along in, for example, here!

I will at some point try and collect some thoughts that I had during and in the middle of the first read – actually, such a list exists, because I wrote one during spare moments at school. It’s already up on tumblr, but I’ll post it here sometime, perhaps after the read-along.

Can we declare this month Republic of Thieves month? Or the next 30 days? Because you’re unlikely to get much else out of me! My housemates were duly informed that I would be unsociable, and especially one of them has been very understanding – whenever I emerged to get tea or to eat or to just have a polite chat with him, he would first ask how it was going and then usher me back into my room, telling me to “go read!” I wanted to share this because it was extremely sweet of him not to mind my unsociableness and then listen to my commentary.

I will now get back on tumblr and the appropriate tags – the conversation is slowly starting to flow, as more people finish the book – and will be back later this month to discuss the book in earnest!

Oh, and if anyone is interested in what books I’ve read since the last monthly post, let me know! I can at the very least put up a list of the books, even if I have no prepared commentary on them!

See you again soon, guys!

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Books in June ’13

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

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

 

Jonathan L. Howard: Johannes Cabal the Necromancer

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

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

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

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

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

(Back cover of Headline 2009 paperback)

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

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

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

Published: 2009

Pages: 335

 

Jonathan L. Howard: Johannes Cabal the Detective

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

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

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

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

(Back cover of Headline 2010 paperback)

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

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

Published: 2010

Pages: 365

 

Torsten Ekman: Aleksanteri I: Keisari ja isänmaa

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

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

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

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

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

Translation: Martti Ahti 2013

Pages: 300

 

Agatha Christie: Appointment with Death

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

(Goodreads)

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

Published: 1938

Pages: 303

Scott Lynch: The Lies of Locke Lamora

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

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

Published: 2006

Pages: 530

 

David Lodge: Small World

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

(Goodreads)

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

Published: 1984

Pages: 339

 

Agatha Christie: After the Funeral

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

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

(Goodreads)

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

Published: 1953

Pages: 378

 

That is all I managed this month!

Books bought:

Michael Gregorio: Critique of Criminal Reason

Jonathan L. Howard: Johannes Cabal: Fear Institute

Honno (edit.): Wooing Mr Wickham

Jonathan Strahan (edit.): Fearsome Journeys

Venetia Murray: An Elegant Madness

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

Currently reading:

Georgette Heyer: Bath Tangle

 

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

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Books in 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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