dancing_moon: My books: Never enough shelf space (books)
Oh, really, the fictional perfect reader of this blog (or blargh, as I prefer to call it) must surely say by now; that whole writing blargh thing is long abandoned, isn't it?
To which I, smugly, reply: Nyeer~

Because really, the reason there are so few writings about books read here, lately, is that there have been terribly few books read lately. Mostly school reading and that does not always count.

But! Christmas (and birthdays) means square packages, and this year I got a bunch of good manga. Here's the rapid-review

Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, vol 1-2 (new edition). OH SO PRETTY. I have only skimmed them, checked a few key phrases, but mostly it looks good. Love the new covers too, even if the paper is slightly less fancy than in the Japanese edition.

Codename: Sailor V, vol 1-2 (first English edition evah) ALSO VERY PRETTY. AND ABOUT BLOODY TIME. Read more carefully, and whoa, it makes a loooot more sense than the old German (from French) translation did. Which does not keep the plot from being utter crack, but at least the lines are understandable.
Also, Danburite, you're like the epitome of "Nice Guy Syndrome", at least (anime) Jadeite had the decency to openly be a chauvinistic ass.

Chi's Sweet Home, vol 7. Aw, kitty. Which I'm not allergic too. Yay. (if I'd ever organize a bookshop like I'd organize a fanfic archive, Chi would be the very first title on the Fluff shelf)

The Drops of God vol 1. SOMMELIER MANGA!
After having gotten my theoretical grounding in ballet, Go, american football, bûche de noël-preparation, no holds barred martial art bread baking, French history and more japanese mythology than you can shake a stick at, it's about time that I learn a bit about the exclusive world of fine wines. Through a comic. An intense comic.
Manga, let me count the ways I love thee...

Valhall - Den samlade sagan 1. Collection of the first three Valhalla comic books, a very good Danish comic with the Old Norse gods as main characters.
The first story is truly fugly compared to the later comics, but by the third story it's already looking much better.
Here we get The Wolf is Loose (the re-chaining of Fenrir), Thor's Bridal Journey (Thor & Loki crossdress to marry the former off, in a bid to get his hammer back) and Odin's Bet (connects a bunch of shorter hero tales). I think I'll buy part two tomorrow on my big Christmas shopping trip ^_^ Valhall may just be my favorite non-manga comic

The Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson. Not a gift, a review book, but I thought I'd list it her for completeness sake. Got me interested in the main Mistborn series, disappointed me with the portrayal of female characters.

Rans magiska värld by Aki Irie, vol 1 (Ran's Magical World). A new manga in Swedish! Which has not previously been translated to a language I know! And which is really, really good and looks VERY nice. Whoa, that was much better than I had expected. Irie has a quirky drawing style that I find absolutely lovely; kind of hybrid-retro which nevertheless manages to feel fresh and modern.
It's a mahou shojo story of the oldest vintage - little girl has magical items that make her older and gives her power - but with a more modern look at what a sudden age-boost and a hot bod' would actually do to you. The family also appears more involved than the usual cardboard cutout kind parents, with a witchy mother and a shapeshifting father and brother. Funny, interesting and did I mention the drawings are gorgeous?

To be read:
The Cold Remains by Richard Morgan. Alas, I might not have time to read it before I'm going back to Berlin and I ain't bringing any hardcovers to Germany. But it looks interesting

Phew. Now I just have to finish Amerika before 2/1 and I'm done with the Christmas reading :)
dancing_moon: Wao Youka as Dracula (Creepy)
So I was going to do a nice, well-structured post on the German university system (because some of my former classmates from Sweden were curious) but that will have to wait a bit, since I'm feeling a bit too tired for that right now. My annoying almost-cold is beginning to become a real chest cold, which I am valiantly fighting with the help of fresh ginger tea, eucalyptus honey, hot steamy baths and a bit more actual shut-eye in the sleep/internet equation.

In the beginning of November, we'll go see the Norwegian all-female band Katzenjammer. According to our Katzenjammer-expert, they do "chaos pop with some folk-punk". It's fast, engaging and entertaining at least, and I think the concert might turn out to be really great - they seem like one of those bands that do extra well live.

One of my favorite songs, A bar in Amsterdam.

We bought the tickets today and, since we were at the ticket office already also got tickets for the musical Tanz der Vampire - one pair of plastic fangs included with the tickets!
Alas, it's based on the movie by Roman Polanski, him of serious skeevyness, and as such, I'm sure he'll get royalties. Otoh, I hope it's not too much, because Tanz der Vampire nicely filled some ticky-boxes on my mental "Stuffs I Must Do in Berlin This Exchange Year": Seeing some big-budget stage extravaganza, seeing a original German-language musical and vampires/gothy stuff. They'll show the Rocky Horror Picture Show here in Berlin too, in November, which works for ticky-box one and three, but since it will either be translated or in "denglish" (German talk, English songs) it moves to the second position.
Also, the stage images they have on the website look wonderful (eeeeeven though one of the posters has a bit of a Twilight-y vibe going on) so, uhm, I'll just be evil and go. Sorry.

A few days ago, I finished reading Walter Moer's Ensel and Krete: ein Märchen aus Zamonien. Bookblather goes here )

Basically, it's a take-it-or-leave-it book, though anyone who has a strong liking for Moer's style ought to have fun with it. It's also the first book where Hildegunst von Mythenmerz is introduced, which alone makes it worth a read.

When buying this one, I also noticed that the sequel to his Die Stadt der Träumenden Bücher had arrived: Das Labyrinth der Träumenden Bücher! Only out in hardcover so far, but I'm very much looking forward to reading it later :) And there's apparantly a third part coming out in about a year, swell!
dancing_moon: My books: Never enough shelf space (books)
One of the awesome things about German manga is that it's much cheaper than US manga and it's usually the same size as the Japanese editions. Buying only a leetle more than I planned, I've almost caught up with the local edition of Fullmetal Alchemist *happybounce*

This manga was, alas, cancelled in Sweden at volume 18. When I was here last summer, they'd just released that part, but now they're up to volume 24 (have bought 23). The back of the books also have the same design, so they'll fit nicely on the bookshelf

And it's really really good, we're so close to the end and I've managed to remain unspoiled and haven't even read scans - the reward is that it's absolutely breathtaking to see how Arakawa's plot threads are tied together, how they're racing towards salvation or apocalypse and I really don't know who's gonna survive in what shape and I don't even WANT to guess. Just let me follow and enjoy, please =D

Then I spent some time at the local library yesterday. Looked around a little at the books, but I was tired, so I sat down and read comics. Even for such a small library, they had a decent amount.
Tried two volumes of Donjon (Dungeon), which I've heard much about, but it really isn't my thing. Can't appreciate the humor in the funny part, the dark Monster-book felt a bit pointless (I don't think "So who cares?" was the reaction you were supposed to have for the endless misery in that one) and neither of the two drawing styles were quite my taste.

I had more luck with Fräulein Rühr-Mich-Nicht-An (Miss Don't-Touch-Me) an odd story set in Paris of the 1920ies. Unfortunately, I could only find volume 2-3 of this story, but it still caught my interest.
A very squirly, yet simple, French cartoon style and a story based in a luxurious bordello with murders seemed worth checking out.

And it was interesting, although I can't really judge it based on the parts I've read, since vol 1-2 make up one story and apparantly 3-4 another (according to this review which also links the very first pages)

It's about Blanche, who works together with her sister as a maid in Paris. When her sister is murdered, she follows the trail and ends up in a brothel, where she is (for reasons I don't quite know, since I missed the beginning) hired to only dom/whip customers but not sleep with them. She makes quite a splash as the strict virgin lady and gains both friends and enemies in the brothel, while she hunts her sister's murderer.

I definitely want to read more of it, because there were some bits - the characterization of Miss Jo, the setting etc that I really liked, but I also don't quite know if I can buy Blanche as a character and how she ended up hired there is also a big question-mark to me. I've gotta get myself over to Amerika-Gedenk-Bibliothek soon, they've got loads of... everything, really, it's pretty huge but they had a very nice comic selection when I was there last time (err, 10 years ago)
dancing_moon: My books: Never enough shelf space (books)
So, I just finished Paolo Bacigalupi's Windup Girl which Wiki describes as a biopunk novel. Good description as any

Set in the 23rd century and taking place in the Thai monarchy, it's about Anderson, a "calorie man" who has come to Thailand to find their seedbank (and steal it, basically); Emiko, a manufactured human abandoned by her Japanese owner and now an illegal immigrant forced into sex work; Hock Seng, Anderson's local factory chief and a refugee, and Jaidee and Kanya, the captain of the Enviromental Ministry's ground troops the "White Shirt" and his second-in-command. While the plot starts out in Anderson's corner, it moves more and more to focus on the other characters, with some of them growing quite surprisingly in importance and depth of personality.

Except for Jaidee and, in a way, Emiko they're all a pretty unpleasant, toughened bunch (that's what makes this book biopunk as opposed to just enviromental sf, I guess) but it's still hard not to feel sympathy for them. Because the world in is completely rotten: a constant lack of food - it's a "calorie culture" and if the concept doesn't make you shiver yet, reading this book will change that. Most of the plant and animal life has been extinguished, with calorie companies holding the majority of the world in food-dependant slavery with sterile GMO crops, there are tons of (originally bio-engineered (?)) plagues sweeping through the population, they've got severe travel and democracy deficits as we would see it, and basically the world has gone to hell and humanity still hasn't learned anything.

The plot is full of political intrigue, betrayal, self-discovery, discussions about trade vs. isolationism and more. It chugs along at a nice pace, without ever becoming too messy to follow and the characters are also distinct.

What Windup Girl is really about, though, is the future society and the enviromental issues. And here, I must admit, that I found it failing a leeetle bit. Yes, the calorie corps and the proprietary, sterile GMO seeds is scary as are the biological weapons that have been let loose and now ravage the world. But, in stifling hot Bangkok, under constant threat from the risen sea levels, people sit around burning methan gas and (if they're really rich) coal. There's also the kinetic forces: GMO elephants and pure human labour having made great returns into everyday life, as well as "spring-kinks", super-wound springs which store kinetic energy. But cooking seems to happen mostly on gas and cooling the houses is either by building them self-ventilating or having a hand-cranked fan, if you're a bit more wealthy.

Where is the solar power in all this? Wind? Even if rare metals are almost impossible to find and much knowledge was lost in the first shock of the post-oil world (they call it the "Contraction"), you can make simpler solar powered devices that, while they can't drive high-energy machines work exceptionally well when you want to cool down a building. Windmills are pre-steel and electricity technology, and of course there are things like wave-power and other as-of-yet mostly experimental green sources. I find the lack of these things weird, not just from a science fiction-y POV, but also from the whole stratified social texture of the novel. If solar panels are rare, would using them not be even more fancy than a personal servant? If coal is such a scarse product, how can the government allow the pumps critical to Bangkok's survival to run solely on them? Especially when we know that there have been even more isolationist governments before the novel.
And of course, who wouldn't want some kind of air-conditioning that doesn't include bribing every White Shirt who passes by so they don't shut off your illegal gas...

This part, alas, doesn't really make sense to me, which unfortunately drags the book down. It's still a very good reading experience, but I get less out of the message when I'm distracted by the logical holes. Good ride, not much left after.

Also a word of warning: There is sexual violence in this book. For instance a rape scene that I found highly unpleasant, and I tend to have a strong stomach for disgusting fictional scenes.

Windup Girl reminds me in tone of Zoo City that I read a while ago, though I think I prefered that one. Zoo City, however, has a bit of magic in it, which might not be for everyone.
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)
All right, I admit it. Sometimes I buy so-so books because they look good and I want to complete my collection.

Case in point: Steelhands, part four of the Volstov/Ke-Han series, by former HP author Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennett. If their debut novel, Havemercy didn't get some award for prettiest fantasy cover of the year, something is clearly wrong. Especially since so many sci-fi and fantasy books are actually competing in Most/Least Fugly Cover of Any Given Year...

Steelhands isn't quite as nice, but it still looked good and the series was entertaining enough for me to buckle up and buy the hardcover. I do actually recommend one to read this series - it is one of the very rare modern fantasy books with several queer main characters (no lesbians as of yet, but I really liked the female lead in this one) that still feel like "mainstream" fantasy. Now, what do I mean there? These are rather simple, fluffy books. Compared to the Temeraire series by Novik, the plots are somewhat simpler, the dragons are both much more mechanical and have much smaller part in the plot (it's often -about- dragons, but it's not -with- dragons driving the story in the same way). However, compared to Novik's somewhat alarming lack of queer characters even in the border-enviroment of the Dragon Corps, where women can wear male dress and take on male roles (and the heavens have not yet fallen, omigosh!!) and to her increasingly flat characters, the much shorter portrayals of the Volstov/Ke-Han characters come off pretty good. Since Jones and Bennett's books alternate between diffferent first-person POV's and switch main characters pretty much every book, they don't have time to build up the kind of character growth arch that Lawrence and the others in Temeraire's universe can go through. Only, unfortunately, one of the few characters to actually grow and change after all he's gone through is Temeraire himself. Even Lawrence tends to stagnate at time

Oops, but now we're going OT. I found Steelhands entertaining with several quite funny scenes. The vaguely Rome-inspired setting makes it a bit less beset by the horrid tropes of "one-true-king" and "yay-feudalismdoesn't work that way btw", although there is still some slightly skeevy classification of people/nationalitites going on. Not as bad as the (overall quite dreadful) second book in the series which, Shadow Magic. Just skip that, unless you find yourself becoming extreme fans, because it's bad on pretty much all counts.

I mean, the books aren't all that great. Except for smart quips and a cast of constantly bantering characters, the world-building is pretty weak, the plots aren't super original or engaging, nor do the (nicely designed) dragons do as much in the story as they could. But for fluff fantasy, this is a very welcome change to the usual hack'n'slash male-dominated stuff I tend to find.

So. Looking for a light, funny fantasy? Give it a try, not perfect, but I'll give them plenty of cookie points for the mere fact that they are two female authors with a fandom background who still do positive shout-outs to their LJ community.

If nothing else, any modern fantasy books which manages to have a "spunky young girl" as a main character and does not: constantly undercut her decisions, have her wax poethic about her own fabulous looks and run around motivated solely by her love interest, deserves a mention. Heck, Laura and her poor OCD-plagued fiancé Toverre were probably my favorite characters. Oh, all right, together with Luvander because he's just the kind of jerk I like to read about
dancing_moon: My books: Never enough shelf space (books)
I finally finished this book! For some bloody reason, I kept losing it! Put it down in a bookbag to read to work, forget the book on my desk, finally bring it home 3 days later, put that (different) book bag down and cover it with laundry or other stuff... rinse and repeat.

The book in question is acclaimed German YA novel Tintenherz / Ink Heart by Cornelia Funke. I'd borrowed it a while ago from my dear Miko-chan, to read as one of several attempts to de-rust my language skills. Since Miko-chan is visiting me right now and will leave early on Wednesday - and tomorrow we're seeing Gackt - it was read under a bit of time pressure, if I put it like that.

However, the end of the book went by quickly. Since it is a YA novel, the language level wasn't very challenging to me; what I had trouble with is that about the first half of the book feels like characters just hurrying back and fort without anything much happening. I already knew the "secret" of Zauberzunge (Silver Tongue in English), spoiler ) and while I am not usually very spoiler-sensitive, that annoyed me. Especially since the characters didn't much grip me either. Meggie is a believable little girl, but not very captivating (or active, for much of the book), her father annoyed me, Staubfinger (Dustfinger) started off as the most interesting person in the book but then just went betrayer-no-wait-maybe-not for too long... Basically, the whole thing dragged. It also consists of like eleventyhundred (ok, maybe not) chapters, which sometimes feel like they appear just so Funke can have a nice little quote from a much better children's book at the beginning.

Once they've been captured by the villain the second time, iirc, things finally start moving and the end is not bad at all. But the journey there? Too slow; I'm not planning on reading the sequels unless I'm really bored.

Next to finish: the comic Five Star Stories which have to be returned on Friday, and then Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine!
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)
Ahhh I am slipping behind with my reading blog. I've pretty much given up on writing something about all the manga I read, because I read too damn much manga (also, what to say about wol 14 of umtpysomething of 20th Century Boys - or worse, Chi's Sweet Home? Still good, still buying, next!)

Anyway. To start off with, Jim Butcher's Ghost Story is not properly published and the short article I wrote for work is up on the homepage of the geeky bookstore (in Swedish). I've written a longer one too, which will go up as "Tip of the Month: Urban Fantasy" soon(ish), if I remember I'll link to that one too =)

Talking about urban fantasy, the other day I finally had the time to sit down and finish a book that has been on the "To read"-list for an embarrasingly long time. I read Udda Verklighet )

The reason I finished Udda Verklighet was btw that I spent about three hours waiting for poor _shown_ at the Central Station. Where did he spend these hours? Stuck on a train - in Gnesta of all places! Someone threatened to jump down onto the tracks that go into Stockholm, so they had to stop all traffic and it was a massive brouhaha. The first hour and a half went buy quickly, as I spent it with [personal profile] lanjelin and Maria at a café, but I was reeeally glad to have a good book when they had to go home :)

And today? Today, I carried books. LOADS AND LOADS OF BOOKS. One bookshelf emptied and moved down into my basement, only 3 left to empty ;_; At least tt's the only bookshelf I have to actually move, since I'm renting out the apartment furnished.

However, in the evening, my mother treated me (Well, actually Sho. I just got to come along too ;) to a fancy dinner, so all's well that ends well.
dancing_moon: My books: Never enough shelf space (books)
I finished Zoo City by Lauren Beukes today, and both began and finished Janet Evanovich's Smokin' Seventeen, the latest Stephanie Plum novel.

My impressions:
Zoo City )

Smokin' Seventeen )
dancing_moon: My books: Never enough shelf space (books)
Lordy lord, I am ill. Spent almost a week knocked out with a cold and tried to go to work today, which paid off with epic coughing and me having to leave after about half the day -_-

I'm trying to finish off my to-read shelf before Germany (luuulz, good luck with that) and began by finishing Started Early, Took my Dog by Kate Atkinson. It was basically the only thing in the entire Zurich Airport bookstore that looked remotely interesting that I had not already read (well, xcept the magazines then. We took Die Zeit and The Economist too).

It was odd for a crime mystery, but plenty more interesting than Connoly (or Koontz, whom I made a mistake to buy on a vacation a while ago. Bleh).

Here's a review from NY Times - I'm always so bad at spelling names of characters, so I have to check them up online.

I didn't realize that this book was a part of a series until oh, halfway through? Because Tracy Waterhouse, ex-cop who has become a mall security chief, appears much more as the main character than the PI Jackson Brody who makes his fourth appearance in this book.

Anyway, it's about Tracy buying something to change her life and Jackson looking for the biological parents for his client (an adopted woman in New Zeeland) and the people who get caught up in this and what happens to them.

But it's much less a novel about stuff happening, than it is about people remembering and forgetting. Tilly, the old actress who is suffering from dementia was one of the most vibrant characters in the book, despite the fact that she's slowly fading away in the narrativ and the mystery identities becomes less important as the book goes on.

The end is a bit vague, but it's a quite good ride there. If I'm ever standing around in an airport again, wondering what the heck to read since I've already ploughed all of King and Grisham's works, I'll keep an eye out for this author.
dancing_moon: My books: Never enough shelf space (books)

I really, really, REALLY liked the 13:th Dresden Files book, Ghost Story, by Jim Butcher.

Got it a few days ahead and wrote a little text for it, I'll link that later. But overall? Better tempo, more well-balanced and (despite the fact that Harry's friggin dead) less dark than several of the latest books. This is Butcher finding his voice again.

A few small spoilers )

The non-spoilery verdict: Awesome! Get it on the 26th!

& it has a nice cover too, it looks a bit pale in online pics but the actual book (I have the US edition) was very pretty
dancing_moon: My books: Never enough shelf space (books)
Michael Connely - The Threat : - (or worse)
Deon Meyer - Devils Peak : ++
Joseph Wambaugh - Hollywood Station : meh, but made me laugh some times

We're leaving for the airport soon, just gotta fix some stuffs online, but I thought I'd jot down what books I've read during the week. Although Devils Peak was less beach-reading and more "late night reading while the neighbours have a party with live guitar music and far too loud flamenco song, dammit". It's an South African criminal novel, quite depressing, but asks many interesting questions and contains thoughts. The kind of thoughts that hang around in your head and talk to other thoughts and give birth to new thoughts - that's good books, that do that.

Hollywood Station was about some cops in LAPD and contained not much thinkyness at all, except maybe some justified or not, idk, info about the increased control over the police force by bureocracy. But it had two cops nicknamed Flotsam and Jetsam (because they surfed, dont'cha know) and an ex-chief of police who had been lovingly named "Lord Voldemort" and I was amused

Connely was b-o-r-i-n-g and way too simplistic.
dancing_moon: My books: Never enough shelf space (books)
My univeristy library has a lovely system which sends out mails approx 2 days before you need to return a book (and then you get increasingly stern mails that you should Really Return That Book, NOW PLEASE, once the date has passed). For some reason it's called millenium, so I have a bunch of mails from "millenium". It feels a bit like being in contact with a Dan Brown novel

Anyway! I borrowed a whole bunch of books for my paper and have re-loaned all the ones I'm still working with. However, since there is absolutely no room for anything more in the paper as it is and I have no time at all to read them, I am returning Maria Nikolajeva's books about the structure of childrens literature. I managed to read her first one - Barnbokens byggklossar (The Building Blocks of Children's Books) before the essay writing began, since it was included in the reading suggestion list for the essay course. It was really good! I've also got "Power, Voice and Subjectivity in Literature for Young Readers" here, but I'm gonna return it unread and hope to pick it up later some day.

She uses narrativism to pick apart and analyze the structure in children's literature. It interested me, because it's a much better approach to studing manga than many other lit science entrances I've seen - not as good as actual, y'know, mangastudies but there is still a lack of a good "comic analysiz + story tropes + solid step-by-step analysis - Orientalist exoticism = GOOD FRAME FOR MANGA ANALYSES" book. What I like about using a structure such as Nikolajeva's children's focused narrativism, is that you can get to grips with the text as such, and (I hope) not get tangled up in Western perceptions of Japanese culture. I am, anyway, more interested in How Manga Reads Here than But What Does it Mean There? At least when it comes to trying to do any work of my own, I loved Kinsella's study of the Japanese publishing industry in Adult Manga. But hey, I'm in lit science, not sociology plus I don't speak Japanese - it's not like attempting to update her study will ever be anything that I can or should do :)

Anyway! Nikolajeva: Easy to follow, very structured, I haven't actually tried to apply any of her stuff, but it seemed nice and comprehensible.

This, and the intimatopia idea put forward by Elizabeth Woledge are both tools/theories that really ring true to certain experiences I've had as a fandom-focused reader, writer and all-around participant.
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)
So I finished another Torchwood book. That took only, what, eight months?

This one, Trace Memory by David Llewellyn was better in terms of characerization and mood moments than actual plot. The Torchwood team have an encounter with an involuntary time-traveler during multiple points of their lives.

It's actually quite a sweet and sad story, much like the fairy episode tried to be (and credit where credit is due, managed pretty well until the ugly CGI fairies turned up)

Slight spoiler )

The monstruous aliens are pretty blaha, but on the cover of the book they look suitably creepy. What drags this book down a bit is that it rehashes a lot of Whoniverse tropes (exactly how many "one of the most ancient races of the universe!" species are there, exactly?) and the plot isn't very tight. Lots of timey-wimey, which is normally one of those things I love, but not structured to it's best way. Also, the resolution and all falls a bit flat, plotwise, though it has a nice emotional payoff.

Worth a read, though, especially if one likes Jack Harkness and wants to see him act a bit decent.

Also, have started to use Spotify a bit more. If anyone has recs for not immediately obvious music to be found there that sounds good, do let me know! My most recent find was a nice version of Puttin' On the Ritz which didn't come with the super long end part. Done by Alex Swings Oscar Sings and yeees, they're the ones responsible for the Dita von Teese visit during the Eurovision contest. And the sparkly silver pants, I know, I know. I still liked their song.
dancing_moon: Synonyms are word's you can't spell (can't spell)
So I have read things and watched things and not quite slept enough this week, whoops. I'll get better at the last part, I promise.

Manga read: Bunny Drop #3 )

Book read: Dr W & Mr H )

Last but not least: I have bought John Ajvide Lindqvists "Lilla Stjärna". Will I dare to read it...? Of course. Will it creep the hell out of me? Ohohoho, yes, most likely!
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


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May 2012

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