dancing_moon: Kitty: *hugs* (*hugs*)
I bought John Ajvide Lindqvist's book Lilla Stjärna (Little Star*) months ago, read a bit and loved it. And then I lost the effing book somewhere. Looked in all the bookshelves, all my bags, at work, in the bathroom etc etc but no Little Star. Hoping that it would turn up when I moved I mentally shelved it and read other things, only occasionally wondering where the crap I managed to lose a book in my one-room apartment.

Wellp. Turns out I forgot it at mom's, in a bag beneath some papers. I found it two days ago and raced through it so I wouldn't have to wait an entire year.

Ajvide Lindqvist, for those not familiar with this exemplary good writer of modern horror, is a Swedish author who 1) scared the crap out of at least half the country with Låt den rätte komma in (Let me in) and 2) instantly made the bland Stockholm suburb Blackeberg a place as connected to vampires as the US state Maine is to murdering clowns, dogs and other unmentionable monsters from Stephen King's subconscious, in most people's opinions.

After that, he continued to turn Täby and Danderyd's sjukhus (where I have been several times) into places you cannot pass during swelteringly hot summer nights without a shiver down your spine due to the undead you know are about to wake up. Etcetera with making the archipelago of Stockholm into a potential hiding place for some rather "Old ones"-ish beings which can reanimate unruly bikers and steal children that come too near the lighthouse.

Ahem. Yes, thank you, Mr Ajvide Lindqvist, for helping to turn my mental map of Stockholm with surroundings into a far scarier place. I like you too...

In Little Star, he takes the cosyest of cosy Swedish television shows, Allsång på Skansen (which actually has an English wikipedia article, I am baffled) and the most boring of Swedish music, schlager from "Svensktoppen"* and makes it into a really HORRIFYING splatter book. With a lot of social realistic commentary, careful portrayals of painfully ordinary humans whom you still come to care for, pity and despise as they show off all their little admirable and disgusting traits.

It is also a book about bullying and how it tears into someone and twists them, killing something. It's the story about the ordinary girls and women (because although the first part of the story is much driven by a father and a son, it is really about the girl, the "little star" and the lonely, abused mother of the family. And then comes the other girl and everything really begins to take shape), the girls that weren't pretty enough but at least kept silent and were forgotten and how much that hurts. Them and those around.

It's a very sad book - it brings to mind an otherwise unmemorable book about film theory, which talked about the "elegiac mood" of some movies. The melancholia, the poem for the dead.

And that's what Lilla Stjärna is, a sad book written about those that are, either physically or spiritually dead from the very beginning of the book and how they bring over this deadness to the little girls until they are as broken as the adults around them. It is this by telling the story of an uncanny girl with the most perfect voice imaginable and the tragic massacre that happens when others keep trying to mold her into a money-making tool - and it does it very, very well.

If you can, read Lindqvist, he is one of the most interesting writers (horror and otherwise) I have encountered lately.

* as in the lullaby, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
** Svensktoppen charts the most popular Swedish music and, since it until recently only played songs in Swedish, it was dominated by "dance band" music. Which is the spiritual twin of country, basically, though they don't sound very alike.
dancing_moon: My books: Never enough shelf space (books)
My life is increasingly packed up. Boxes in the cellar, bags of books with my grandmother, clothes in the big luggage, important papers in the folder... Everything of me is getting put away from here and I'm counting the days til I leave.

Meanwhile, I try to read through the stack of titles I haven't gotten to yet.

First out was Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine. I. I can't quite talk about this book yet. I think I have to look into it again. It's very upsetting (took me ages to read through, one nibble at a time), it's extremely interesting and I recommend everyone to pick it up! Give it time, take it slowly, but read it through carefully. Wiki article here, I do believe I will return to this book when I have a bit more energy. But it certainly made me think

Second was China Miéville's latest, Embassytown which I'm not quite certain if I liked? Think I did, yes, all right, but it returned a bit to what I have problem with in the early Miéville books; too much distance from the characters and events. Embassytown is all about language, the truth, and whether concepts that we cannot articulate can really be real for us. Very geeky, light and easy-to-read prose (containing some damn mindtwisty concepts, though) but ultimately not his most engaging work. But a good read at the moment, when I'm somehow trying to prepare for switching my own main language for a while, comparing and contrasting what I have, what I used to talk and what I might be talking and reading during my second Berlin visit ^_^

Also, mom and I are watching Battlestar Galactica and, about halfway through the second season, we both love it. Bit too much religious mumbo-jumbo from time to time, and why aren't they training up more doctors? but overall, excellent stuff. It continues to outshine my (high) expectations
dancing_moon: My books: Never enough shelf space (books)
Packed up the last books going to grandma's today; or so I thought, because then I found the little shelf of cookbooks. Drat.

I have also managed to finish Katherine Kerr's Deverry Cycle!! That only took, what, 10-15 years? In my defence, most books were not published when I began, never mind translated into Swedish.

Fittingly enough for a book that jumps back and forth through time and reincarnations, I also did not read it entirely in the correct order. I got the two final books out of the "torn, smushed or otherwise wonky" heap at work (and thought that I had actually read all upp to The Shadow Isle. Which I obviously had not) and first thought I'd stick with that, until the "torn etc" heap turned up the remaining two. Only then I read about how Salamander had a prominent role in The Spirit Stone and since Salamander has been my favorite Deverry character since I was around 15, wellp, the decision was pretty much made for me.

Do I like it? Of course I like it! Most other series I started at around that time and couldn't finish in ~5 years are long abadoned. Jordan's Wheel of Time has been relocated to my mental "check the spoilers at Wikipedia" list years ago and unless I end up with a lot of time and the fantasy world goes up into a collective fangasm at the conclusion of A Song of Ice and Fire I fear that it too will end up there.

Despite Ms Kerr's confusing reincarnations, lack of proper who-is-who tables and endless tossings of heads, however, I have always known that I wanted to keep reading these to the end. It helps that I do not despise all the female characters that appear *cough*Jordan*cough* nor is the plot so twisty and the prose so thick that I have to re-read every book every time a new one deigns to appear *cough*Martin*cough*

The Deverry series has it's fault - an overabundance of reincarnations and names mostly, but I still prefer the characterization, the world and the general plotlines.
dancing_moon: Kitty: *hugs* (*hugs*)
Yay! I made paella for the first time, and it turned out really well =) Chicken, beef, white fish & bell peppers where the main ingredients, with some peas and carrots to fill it out. But I really need a bigger pan, this one was filled to the brim even after I took out a bowl of rice and meats...

Also, readingness! Finished Elin Fahlstedt's comic album Umbra and was very pleasantly surprised. Atmospheric, often very good and magical drawings and a nice, tragicsweet plot! I'm not very good with art, but I think she's used either wet ink or aquarall technique for Umbra? Anyway, it's about a girl in some kind of convent, who manages to escape on the night of the bloodred moon, ending up in a strange, magical place. Maybe the stories about child-eaters serving the devil weren't just scary tales anyway?

The one big problem with Umbra was that several scenes felt rushed, like when the main character befriends a fox demon boy. On the other hand, there are some truly terrifyingly illustrated moments and the background of the main character is given in a very effectiv way.

Absolutely worth checking out for those interested in Swedish indie comics (and who, uh, speak Swedish)bo

Publisher's homepage here!
dancing_moon: My books: Never enough shelf space (books)
Til today, the reading assignment for school was the first lesbian novel in Sweden. Charlie by Margareta Suber from 1932 is a neat little book of only a 100 pages.

While the author was widely read in her own time, this book was published semi-silently to avoid controversy and Suber fell almost completely to the side in Swedish literature history - no research done, no reprints for years. Charlie was re-issued by Normal förlag (now sadly defunct) and it was an absolut delight to read.

It is strongly influenced by The Well of Loneliness, although according to much teacher it ends on a more uplifting tone. Now, I haven't read that book (yet), but I did like Charlie a great deal and it reminded me of another author from the same era - Wodehouse. The milieu is a Swedish beach town, near the continent with a wealthy and international patronage. There is in the book examples of Russian, French, German and English and the titular character, a young New Woman/flapper type peppers her speech with American phrases, most notably calling her love interest "Baby".

But where Wodehouse is always light, frothy and unconcerned about deeper romantic emotions (for all the love quadrangles in his books, none really seem to mean much, do they?) Charlie has a much more critical view of this society. Controlling, sexist, too glossy and too false, where the men don't so much actively repress women as ignore and infantilize them utterly.

Still - it does end on a relatively good note and it was a very good read.

After school, I also visited a store where I had some gift vouchers from Christmas, and bought two spring jackets. It's been a long time since I went shopping properly, but it was surprisingly nice ^_^
dancing_moon: My books: Never enough shelf space (books)
I'd like to preface that I am, actually, occasionally a mature and responsible adult. See, justs this week I met up with [livejournal.com profile] alitna to write. Alas, I was just exhausted after working a full day while still a bit ill and couldn't think of anything to write. But! Instead of faffing around on the net, I checked up things with CSN and filled in forms for my exchange year, quite responsible of me, yes?

And then there's times like yesternight, when I sat up to 03:33 (yep, exactly, I checked my clock) because I couldn't put down Elizabeth Moon's Kings of the North. No, I did not wake up at nine o'clock like planned to do laundry and go shopping early...

This is the second book in the Paladin's Legacy trilogy which is a sequel to the trilogy The Deed of Paksenarrion. The original trilogy is a real classic and a well-deserved one. Excellent female main character, manages to have religious themes and characters that don't bug the hell out of me, interesting plot, detailed world-building with a lot of attention to soldiers and more regular people (Moon has thought of how the plumbing works. Extensively) and enchanted me when I was a teen and still holds up very well for adult readers who have read several good works in the high fantasy genre.

And Paks - Well, Paks was just awesomesauce cool to my younger self. Her, and Kushana from Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind were what I wanted to be if I ever got transported to magic land and learned sword fighting XD (only, with less background angst than Kushana, plz)

The Paladin's Legacy books are... weeeell, the first one was nice but a bit confusing since we don't follow one focus character in the same way as in the first books. And Kings of the North? I'm sorry to say that, while I had no problem keeping all the people apart, the overall plot structure in especially the later half of the book disappointed me a bit.

When I can start to see patterns and guess what's going to happen past 02:00, you're heading into dangerously easily-solved territory, ok?

I mean, there are a lot of concepts in this book I like - how things were set in movement by Paks, and not neccessarily by those events that impacted her personal development the most. Dorrin is a great character, and a very unusual type! A somewhat older woman (40-45ish) who gains a great amount of power and yields it with power, compassion and cool logic. That she is the second most prominent character in this trilogy so far makes me very happy.
And then there's Phelan, whom I just adored in the original books. He then had slight hints of Vetinari's characterization around him, although not at all as brilliant and all-knowing. He also has a very interesting backstory and many faults, which of course really come into play here as the books focus a lot on him.

But. Exactly like with the end of the Serrano Legacy* things just... fall into place far too easily during the final. We get new characters who more or less drop into the plot and wrap things up, we get a very rushed romantic subplot and a character makes some weird good-to-evil/no wait!/heel-face-turn I don't even really know journey.

Take the romance, (which, all righ, was slightly hinted): But that minor hint somehow morph into an almost shoujo manga-esque Love at first sight!! thing. Take note, Moon and JKR: Just because you know the characters love each other, doesn't mean the readers do. Have them bloody interact a bit more. At least this couple talks on a few pages and have a practice fight)

Spoilers ahoy )

The portrayal of the Pargunese was also a bit bwuh to me, but to be honest, I was too tired to properly consider the exact implications at that time.

Kings of the NorthAlso, let's talk about the cover for a moment! Because, see, this is a rather high-profile fantasy book. Not quite as big as the latest Robert Jordan/Brandon Sanderson, but large enough that they ship an impressive stack of hardcovers. They're also for some unknown reason (which I much appreciate :) release the trade paperback at the same time, so I don't have to wait six months to read about Phelan and the others' adventures.

All that taken to mind, it really surprises me that they couldn't fix a cover which contains a character actually in the book. See the picture there? That's Aragorn It's definitely not Paks, nor is it Dorrin, seeing as how they are women. (though Dorrin is probably on the cover of book one, Oath of Fealty, at least it's close to her colors).
Taken together with the title, I would assume the cover to contain either the king of Lyonya or Mikeli, the king of Tsaia. The latter, alas, is a young man just grown into maturity and he doesn't do any fighting in this book. Spoiler for the Paksenarrion trilogy )

So, all right, I've whined a lot about Kings of the North now. However, Paladin's Legacy is still 2/3 into the series, absolutely among the better half of fantasy literature that's out there to read. It's not as good as the amazing first trilogy, but until the big wrap-up which contains a bit too much fixit moments for my taste, it is quite interesting. What Moon does well is, among others, that she does not forget the non-kingly characters - the soldiers, the servants, the elderly who remember things. We also meet characters like the Duke of Andressat again and, I have to say, I never expected to like the old snob as much as I did now. Actions from the past have consequences, such that can't be just removed with a bit of magic.

Will I buy the next book? Oh yeah. Will I rec this book series to people? Oh yeah - And I usually anti-rec the Gird prequel to Paksenarrion, because that is just dull in great bits. But, for all the faults here, there are still many great characters and an underlying highly interesting plot thread that I think might remake the world of these characters a great deal.

And now I really gotta go and buy a fuse because one blew yesterday and I have no light in my (windowless) bedroom.

*I only bought one of the omnibuses, dunno exactly which books it contains
dancing_moon: My books: Never enough shelf space (books)
[insert maniacal laughter of the Mwahahaha- variant here]

With school, and work, and tons of other brain-exhausting things that needed to be done this autumn, my reading really slowed down. Now, I am addicted to texts, so it's not as if I stopped reading altogether - but I chose easier fare than books (not counting the school stuff). Thus it took me months to finish Der Schrecksenmeister by Walter Moers, which is a record for me if one only counts books I liked.

Because I did like this one, a great deal even. While not quite as perfect a blend of nonsense, thrilling moments and overwhelming book-nerdishness as his Die Stadt der Träumenden Bucher, it was still very funny and engaging.

The plot is rather simple; Echo, a talking magical cat-like animal (a Kratze, or Crat in the English translation) is on the verge of starving to death when his mistress dies. The Schrecksenmeister (Alchemaster) sees him and realizes that Echo is just the ingredient he needs to fulfill his life work. Thus, they make a deal: For one month, Echo will be given the best of foods one can imagine and when the time is up, he'll end up in the alchemical soup, after a fast, painless death. Of course it isn't as simple as that, but the plot on the whole follows this line.
What makes Moers so fascinating (and DIFFICULT for a German-third-language speakers such as myself) is the way he plays with words. Put it like this: I almost think he could teach Pratchett a trick or two...

Take the title; Schrecksenmeister. The Master of the Schrecksen - and what is that? Well... it's a fantastical being that only exists in Moers fantasy-world Zamonien. They're are part witches, part horrible dragon-thingies and culturally very much like the jews of Medieval towns - blamed for all kinds of ills, forced to follow special laws and generally treated quite badly, though the populace still buys their services.

The Master of the Schrecksen then, is the man that keeps them "in line" and Eißpin, the Schrecksenmeister of this tale, is one of the most horrible creations of fiction I've seen- An utterly ruthless genius alchemist who does not stand above cheating, lies, torture and murder to get what he wants. Manages to be both so evil and impressive that you don't know whether to hate and despise or hate and admire by the end of the book.

This is not a book for those who want straight to-the-point prose; Moers obviously loves his Zamonian details, wordplays and flights of fancy. It is, however, enjoyable to follow along with all the little side-roads in this story, because his sense of style is perfect and he evokes plenty of images with a few well-chosen words. Like the name of the town where it all takes place: Sledwaya, the unwholesomest city of Zamonia. To me, the description and the name of the story immediately woke images of the polluted cities of Eastern Europe, and as the story unfolds and we learn of Eißpin's cruel reign over the citizens, the image only felt more true.

To be honest, though I haven't read it, I am highly mistrustful of the English translation.

Translation thoughts )

But hey - in whatever language you can get your hands on this book, do give it a try. It's not every book that keeps my interest (and memory of the plot so fresh!) that I keep reading it, nibble by nibble, for several months. It's also got lots of wonderfully creepy illustrations, wicked humor and some rather fantastical culinary images.
dancing_moon: Jadeite / DM / Me (Default)
All right, now we're getting somewhere.

Today I finished a book about a dragon and yesterday I read another book about several dragons. There are many differences: The first dragon is mechanical and most of the plot is about finding it, while the dragons in the other book are very much alive and present. Though they do spend quite some time hunting dragon eggs, for what it's worth.

The books do however have one very startling similarity: They're both part of a series (part 3 and part 6, respectively) and they're both an immense improvement compared to the books just preceding them. Maybe last year was a bad year for dragon writers?

I'm talking about the books:
Dragon Soul by Jones and Bennett )
Tongues of Serpents by Naomi Novik )

ETA: I feel I should perhaps point out, outside of the cut, that the latest Temeraire book is damned good. Case in point: I began reading it yesterday too, and just kept on until I was finished. And then I wanted to go through the series again just to remember the details fresh
dancing_moon: Jadeite / DM / Me (Default)
Opening thoughts: OMG, I hope it's good!

Closing thought: Oh, Stibbons, you devious little bastard =D

This is the thirty-somethinged Discworld novel. It is not as good as Night Watch, Going Postal (or Nation) but it is a lot better than Making Money. I think I like it more than Thud! but their feel is so different that they're hard to compare.

Plenty of new characters, plenty of old characters and there's some wonderful scenes with Archacanellor Ridcully and one lovely part with Vetinari.

The plot? The wizards are forced to play football, to save their food. Vetinari feels that it is time for the Morporkian street football to shape up, start scoring goals and stop chewing ears. Religion and sports happen and on Discworld, they're both pretty similar to war.

There is also Nutt, a mysterious little man of undetermined species working in the university and two serving girls of wildly different personalities.

And it's lovely. It's a good, funny Discworld book which sneaks some really warm scenes in there. The tone is not nearly as dark as some of the more recent Watch books, but then - well, there's thoughts that bite in this book.

Lastly, it features the Librarian as a goalkeeper and Ponder going "Hmmmm" at someone in a not-nice way and that's friggin wonderful!

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