Sunday, November 16, 2014

Tana French: Broken Harbour

I'm not going to be long-winded now. This one is about the self-absorbed, rule-following detective known as Scorcher, that Frankie Mackey spoke of with such contempt in Faithful Place.  Turns out of course that Scorcher, Mick Kennedy, is a real person too, with a history and feelings. He is called to a murder scene in one of those ghost estates that litter Ireland after the end of the Tiger era - badly built and badly planned to start with, with no proper town planning infrastructure in place at all. (As a municipal employee that makes me furious, the way they could just buy land and start building. What sort of a half-arsed way is that to build a society, eh?) This place goes by the awful name of Brianstown (COME ON), but once it was Broken Harbour and when Mick Kennedy was a boy his family came her every year for two weeks of caravan holidaying in the summers, something to keep them going for the whole rest of the year.

The basic set-up of the scene is grisly and suspenseful, but as I found with the other books it promises more than it delivers. I don't know why that is. Her writing is great and she crafts this mood around the place that makes me think that we're going to get the most un-thought of reveal EVER - it's just so weird. Two children dead in their beds, the father stabbed to bits in the kitchen, the mother next to him badly injured and just barely alive. Holes punched in the walls with cameras directed at them. No community around them, just the wind howling around mostly empty and falling-down houses. I was really intrigued. But then felt a bit flat at the end. What's that about?

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Book shopping!

Charity shop Saturday. :D I've read three out of the four, but I don't OWN them. So.

Also - I am the QUEEN of photography.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Cyril Hare: When The Wind Blows

I got this for myself when I bought a pair of shoes off Amazon (I know, I know, I hate Amazon as much as anyone, but they had the shoes and they had the book, so ....). Cyril Hare is delightful and I just CANNOT find any second-hand copies ever. My favourite approach to book-buying, browse and stumble upon, like. No luck whatsoever with Cyril Hare.

So I reminded myself of which ones I'd already read and bought this one. And you know what? I think I'm just going to buy myself the complete works of, in bits and pieces maybe but nonetheless. Cyril Hare is worth it.

One thing holding me back is that I don't fancy the covers much in these editions, and I am paying full price for them after all. Or what passes for full price on Amazon, I know, I know.

This one is about a small-town orchestra that happens to be fortunate enough to have a very skilled director of music to head it. Being almost blind he can't work professionally any more, but he can certainly lead this orchestra to hold a concert or two yearly and make it excellent. To do so, he hires in the extra musicians he might need from the side of the pros (because he will not settle for a half-arsed amateur), and they also hire the odd star to pull in the crowds. Unwillingly our hero, former barrister Francis Pettigrew, has been roped in to be the treasurer - a task he can't refuse since his wife plays the violin for it and he wouldn't want to seem unsupportive. Well, this concert the star performer is found murdered before her act, and of course Pettigrew can't help but detect. It's full of historical detail about rationings after the war and with such lovely little portraits of people - I really like it. I quote:
"My dear miss Carless!" Mrs. Basset planted herself firmly between them and took control of the situation. "This is delightful! We are all so looking forward to the Mendelssohn tomorrow. Good evening, Mr. Pettigrew. And Mrs. Pettigrew" [ ... ] "how well you are looking, dear! I had quite forgotten what a charming colour that dress was! It suits you so well!"

Before Eleanor had had time to recover from this body-blow Mrs. Basset had swept on, carrying with her Miss Carless and the rest of her attendants.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Charlaine Harris: Dead Ever After

The last of the Sookie Stackhouses, and talk about just wanting it to end. This is a terrible book.

Events are just piled on one another in a desperate attempt to get it over with so we can end the series. And the sex scene? THE sex scene between Sookie and Sam? Lolz. There is no heart in this book whatsoever.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Lookit lookit what I found! More Ursula Curtiss

So I'm was browsing the bookshelves in a charity shop I don't often go to (but when I do I ALWAYS find something), and lo:

Isn't it just a lovely paperback! The story was quite good too, but having now read two Curtisses I am starting to form the opinion that there is a little bit too much of the coincidence in the storyline. I'm not sure I buy the premises completely. Nonetheless, I liked this. Victoria Devlin has been asked by a friend to stay at her grand house for a weekend and pretend that the friend is there but very ill and can't receive visitors. In reality, the friend has gone away to sort out some sort of important business - Victoria doesn't know what. What is her friend afraid of? Then a murderer escapes from a nearby asylum, a murderer who kills his victims with a sickle ... DUN DUN DUUUHHHNN.

What I don't understand is why the Americans don't do more filming from the wealth of good suspense stories they have from the Golden Age of detective fiction. This stuff beats almost all of your modern scripts. A bit of retro flair, some Mad Men type styling - you could rake in the cash, surely. Instead we have the English filming Agatha Christie twenty million times. I call misogyny in the US to be honest. When we learn about American crime fiction from say the first half and a bit of the 20th century it's all men and Marlowe. The Story of Film (such a brilliant programme!!!) brought up and showed the huge part that women played in early cinema, something that isn't at all plain if you read about the history of films in the mainstream works on the subject. You'd be forgiven for starting to see conspiracies, a conscious wiping-out of female contributors. I call another one. :/Class, please discuss.

These pulp-type paperbacks also have those great ads at the back where you can send off for more of the same. There are ads for two Curtiss books that I'd quite like to read, then some others that meh, not so much. Knock 3-1-2 and The Lenient Beast sound like vile shite.

Just fantastic.

I fingered another pulpy novel when in the shop, but decided not to get it. I can't justify dragging home books just because the cover art appeals to my sense of nostalgia and my childhood memories... but look at this:


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Tana French x 3

Sometime before the summer my friend E, E the editor ya know (the reason why I always yap on about how Important Editors Are, i.e. I'm sucking up to her) - anyway, E recommended Tana French, and said I might like her. I immediately borrowed all the books at the library, read them, felt they motivated a proper post with notes and stuff and never found the time. Now, looking over my drafts folder, I found a photograph of the novel In the Woods (her debut)

and a cryptic note about mattocks. The note reads as follows honesttogod:
Mattock I had never heard of the word, but last week I was reading articles about Phelps who abused his kids beating them with mattock and now the archaeologists in book are mattocking away
What in the name of the god (as my niece used to say) did I mean by that, you may ask. Well. I think I quickly jotted it down because it was one of those moments when something you've never heard of before suddenly pops up all over the place. I was reading articles about the young ones who've defected from Westboro Baptist Cult, went on to listen to parts of an interview with the Papa Phelps son who left a long time ago and is a very vocal criticiser, and he told about the abuse suffered by him and his siblings at the hands of this so-called minister. Among other things he beat them with a mattock, which I then had to look up because ignorant. The sick, twisted man that he was. So, like two days later I'm reading this book and hey, mattocks being used, as they were meant to be used.

Anyway, this has very little bearing on the book in question or indeed on the authorship of Tana French. Also, only found one picture, yous may make do.

I've read her three first novels, In The Woods, The Likeness and Faithful Place, and will probably read the next two if the library buys them (god I know I'm like a broken record with my library library library but hey, this is my life, I borrow more than I buy). They are all set in Dublin and center around different members of the Gardaí (Irish police). They get one book each, basically, which is good, coz then it's a series without it being a series (except it is, the Dublin Murder Squad series it's called I read somewhere), but at the same time if you're the kind of reader that wants one single hero detective to follow you'll be disappointed. In The Woods is about Rob Ryan, murder detective, who despite being Irish grew up in England and has the accent to prove it, to the delight of piss-takers everywhere. His accent camouflages his past - nobody knows that he is actually Adam Ryan,  the young boy who went into the woods behind their rural Dublin-ish estate one day with his two best friends and was found hours later, terrified and speechless, with his shoes full of blood and no memory of what happened to the other two. Now, adult detective Rob is called out to investigate the murder of a child, right next to the woods where something happened to himself twenty years ago. It's a really gripping murder mystery, although I think the reader is inevitably more interested in the mystery of Rob than the crime he and his partner Cassie are investigating. Perhaps that's the point? The murderer turns out to be rather obvious and the explanation is a bit heavy-handed in my opinion, so I wonder if plot suffered in favour of the inner workings of Ryan's mind. So the ending was a bit of a let-down to be honest.

The next book is The Likeness and now Rob's partner Cassie is our main character. She used to be an undercover police agent but gave it up when she got stabbed. One day her boyfriend, also a police detective on the murder squad, rings her and asks her to come out and look at a body. Turns out the corpse is the spit of Cassie, and not only that, has the identity that Cassie used when she worked undercover. What gives? Cassie heads undercover again, pretending to be the victim who has survived with memory loss, and infiltrates the group of friends our dead girl lived with in order to find the murderer. This one is absolutely well written and all but the characters of these students living together just don't really work for me. I get these Merchant and Ivory vibes that don't gel with Ireland at all. Granted, this is the point. But it doesn't gel. On the other hand, what do I know. French isn't Irish but has lived in Ireland permanently since 1990 after a globetrotter childhood, she studied at Trinity, she trained to be an actress there and surely should be more attuned to Irish society than I could ever claim to be. But still.

The next one then is Faithful Place and centers on Cassie's undercover agent police boss, Frankie Mackey. When Frank was 16 he was going to run away from home with his girlfriend Rosie, but she never showed up. After waiting, Frank left anyway and has never been back to Faithful Place. But then Rosie's suitcase is found in a derelict building on the street. Reluctantly Frank returns and makes contact with his family again, as Rosie's disappearance all those years ago, in Dublin of the 80s, becomes investigated as something suspicious instead of a voluntary escape to the freedom of - as everyone had assumed - London.

A lot of the interest for me in this is the description of what life was like for these very poor Dublin youths growing up well before any Tiger was seen in Ireland at all. The poverty, the religion, the feeling of being trapped, the abusive alcoholic father and no way out. It's not a bad family drama at all. All the same I'm not sure if the tone is altogether spot-on... I can't fault it really though. I liked it. I did like all three of the books, despite any quibbles, and I'd happily read more. Ken Bruen might feel more genuinely Irish in tone but Jesus he was an annoying writer so I'd rather have French any day.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Curtiss, Reilly

I owe these next two "reads" (oh how Dorothy Sayers would spin in her grave) to the most excellent blog Pretty Sinister Books. It is devoted to little-known or forgotten genre fiction and a veritable treasure trove for the likes of myself. It's pretty much (no pun intended) what I'd like my own blog to be, had I but been more clever and/or dedicated beyond the stumble-upon approach to literature. I've only just discovered it and find myself bookmarking all the posts. Sadly haven't had a chance to read the whole blog though.

Anyway, blogger John wrote a post about Ursula Curtiss novel The Deadly Climate, a post which also touched on Curtiss' mother, also a well-known and popular Golden Age author, Helen Reilly. Go and read it.  I'd never heard of either, jumped on library website, discovered that both authors were represented in Swedish translation only and buried in the cellar storage to boot, so I ordered one from each immediately. Thanks to interwebz I found out the title of The Deadly Climate in Swedish (Mördande atmosfär), so I got that one. Now, just look at the retro folks (and at my fingers and feet and the tube of vaseline that needs to be put away in the bathroom):

I started with Helen Reilly's novel Mourned on a Sunday (Sörjd på en söndag), because logically one should start with the mother and not the daughter, right?

Once this belonged to Svinnegarns församlingsbibliotek (Svinnegarn parish library). I just love that. Svinnegarn is a little place not far from Enköping. The church is a dominant building dating from the 13th century, and Svinnegarn was an important place of pilgrimage during the Middle Ages with one of Sweden's most famous sacrificial wells. So there you go. Thank you Wikipedia. It's worth noting that the parish of Svinnegarn doesn't exist anymore, it's been merged with a bigger parish since 2006.

Erm, the plot then? Well, there is an excellent summary and review here on Beneath the Stains of Time - a blog I just googled myself to and think I'll really enjoy! Bookmarked! That's handy for me. I wasn't superkeen on the book, something about the tone of it just annoyed me a little. Too much of Nora (heroine) stepping "lightly" and being slim and gorgeous. Part of it was maybe a translation woe though. The translator was competent but got some things wrong (would you like an example? well tough, my note-taking days are over :((( ). What I do remember was how referring to someone's age as "in his sixties" is translated as "i sextiotalet". That is bizarre-sounding now. Did people really say that? Or is that one of the mis-translations?

Ok, so then I read The Deadly Climate, or Mördande atmosfär as it is in Swedish.

Such old! Ha, I only speak doge because it drives my eldest INSANE. Her eyes close and she makes an expression of genuine PAIN.
One of the covers featured in Pretty Sinister Books' post. Very pleased about that. Also, curves, what?

I enjoyed this one more. The atmosphere is dense and there is a feeling of suspense. If I'm perfectly honest I don't completely buy the basic storyline, and that they can find no safe place for the witness to murder apart from in a house that is apparently under siege - but no matter, it's still enjoyable.

Look, it was somebody's homework:

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Meredith Pierce: Den fjortonde bruden/The Dark Angel

There's this thing going around Facebook right now (and NO ONE has nominated me, the feckers) where you list your ten favourite books, and a friend of mine had this on her list; a list she'd modified to be "ten most influential books". And I just was so struck with the memory of it. I immediately went to see if the library had it. They did, but only in Swedish. As a matter of fact, I think I might have read this very edition as a child, the cover art is the very same. 

My daughter thought this was so so lame, by the way. Almost as lame as me speaking doge. 

It's not very good, but it's hard to say if it's also the translation doing it no favours. This is high fantasy, so the language is supposed to be saga-like and formal - something that seldom translates well unless you have a terrific translator, more of an interpreter. I realised for example that the word quest is translated to spaning which is just no. But even in English I suspect it's lacking in lasting quality. A bit if a mix of Tolkien (the names definitely), Ray Bradbury (location: the moon?), even some Ursula LeGuin if I'm not way off... But I just don't get into this secondary universe. There are hints of science fiction but without scientific explanations - instead everything is solved by magic. It's a bit of a cop-out. Wouldn't mind reading it in English if it falls into my lap, but I won't go out of my way for it. Fun to revisit all the same! 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

stuff I read this summer or up until like september or so

When we went to Ireland I ploughed through my sister's Agatha Christies and some kids' books they had. And when I got home I was still on an Agatha Christie kick so I borrowed some more at the library and have also been watching Miss Marple on Netflix like some mad thing (the Joan Hickson ones, natch). I tried the Hercule Poirot too but that was just too camp; I couldn't take it. I can't believe they spent (or spend!) so much time and effort at all these Agatha Christie series and made them so shite. Those stiff actors who seem to be sitting on set just waiting for their lines, which they then deliver with the most obvious of acting cues, in manner of school play. I'm surprised they know what to do with their hands, I wouldn't raise an eyebrow if they stood there with their appendages dangling limply or with fingesrs laced together awkwardly over their crotch area, like true amateurs do. Really dire. But after a terrible first four or so episodes the Joan Hickson series does pick up a bit, and she is an excellent Marple. The best, the tops. However, what I like about vintage detective fiction is that there really is a lot of subtext and information about society at the time going on under a repetitive sort of over-structure , and I don't see why they ever pick up on this and play it up a bit when they film the stories. They could easily tweak them darker, or turn a spotlight just ever-so-slightly on the implied gay relationships (I'm not asking for new storylines to be added, thus corrupting the original story, mind, just more interesting bits), or just do anything instead of falling into that god-awful trap of going bananas over the costumes.  Costume away, my dear friends, but think Mad Men instead - script and eye candy. Also - please be period correct!  And a lot of information needed to understand the characters involved seems to go missing in the filming - understandable, because you don't want a scene with somebody reciting the biography of X, Y and Z, in the way you can in a novel, but at the same time it's worth pointing out that it is possible to shed light on the background and motivations of people in films too without voice-overs or recitals. Scripts people, they need work.

Now, I still can't say Christie's my favourite. My previous grumbles do stand, but I'm warming to her. She's uneven though, isn't she? I still find it difficult to guess the killer, which I put down to needing more information than what is given. I am probably in the wrong, since I admittedly don't read carefully enough. Anyway, brief notes below based on memory alone - I'm writing this post in mid-September and half the books were read in mid-August.

4.50 from Paddington is one of my favourites. A great suspenseful killing on a train, that is only witnessed by accident. Maybe I'm just a sucker for train anything after commuting for so long and having a son who was train mad as a youngster. I also like the general set-up, the crumbling grand house in the middle of a changing community, the clever young woman who helps miss Marple by taking a post as housekeeper. Pleasing.
A Pocket Full of Rye is a little less good. A little too fantastical. Also, one has to make a few imaginative jumps here to guess the killer, surely? It's not obvious just from the clues in the text, is it? Or am I stupid? (Don't answer that.)
The Princess Bride: OMG OMG OMG I've wanted to read this for soooo long, why haven't I? And there it was, in my niece's bookshelf!

I have, of course, loved the film since childhood, and I remember my cousin (who introduced me to it) saying that it was based on this book, and she'd heard that the ending was actually really sad and that the spells wore off so Wesley died and Buttercup returned to Humperdinck. I am very grateful that the ending isn't quite so sad. More ambiguous. This is funny, entertaining, and clever. I don't know what I'd have made of it as a child/teen, if I could have appreciated the way fact and fiction is melded; Goldman writes as though he's adapting an original novel, written by S. Morgenstern, and the book is riddled with notes on what Morgenstern's (boring) original is like, why Goldman is cutting those bits out, loads of commentary on Goldman's own private life (all lies), and this edition has the epilogue where Goldman is bypassed by Morgenstern's estate for the sequel in favour of Stephen King. It's just brilliant. I think I'd have swallowed all the lies, until clocking (being a European after all), that there are no such places as Florin and Guilder. The question is how long it would have taken me. I was confused even now, as an adult. Awesome.

A Wrinkle in Time: Why is this book a classic? One of the poorest works of fiction I've ever read. I am so confused. Not one proper character in the whole book.

Benny and Omar: This was fun to read, but I don't know if it's very good, really. It reads like Colfer went to Tunisia and thought he might make a book out of that, but not like a tonne of research went into it. It was funny to read while in Wexford and hearing the "syrupy accent", that the Tunisians fail to recognize as English, live.

Endless Night is an artsy Agatha Christie. Inside the mind of the killer and all that. Meh, really. Not badly written, just not interesting beyond the props.
Ask a Policeman was a bit of a disappointment. It's a collaboration between several members of The Detection Club:  Anthony Berkely, Milward Kennedy, Gladys Mitchell, John Rhode, Dorothy Sayers and Helen Simpson. Each writer (except Rhode who writes the general set-up first chapter and a concluding one if I remember correctly) wrote a chapter featuring another writer's favourite sleuth. This is a highly entertaining premise if you are accquainted with said sleuths already so you can appreciate the jokes even better - but sadly I am not. I've only read Mitchell and Sayers out of this lot (I borrowed the book because of Sayers, obviously). Frankly I was bored to tears by the end when Rhode worked through the "true" solution. Sayers's bit was very good though. It's worth reading the Goodread's reviews on the book, by the way. The preface in this edition is by Agatha Christie, but was originally written for a Soviet magazine or something so it's not book-specific. (Any mistakes in facts now are due to me having to return this book before writing any notes - someone had put in a reservation for it at the library. Imagine!)

I don't remember what this one is about at all. Let me google... Oh right! Now I remember!  There were bits of this that I quite liked, but I didn't like how everyone was perfectly okay with a child dying because he was "a horrid boy". So that's alright then, push him out the window. Right. Makes perfect sense. Put that in your Discovery channel documentary "What Made Britain a Sick Sick Place", thank you. It's all jolly good and I say and then KILL THE KIDS.
Ah, this was Christie being clever again, causing outrage among the readers I believe. She'd claim she's not breaking the whodunnit rules, but I don't know - she's definitely bending them. I was surprised at the solution but I don't know if I approve. Tut tut.

Aaannnnddd finally a Marian Keyes I picked up on a whim. This novel must have been written during her latest bout of depression. It's very sad in places, very moving. Unfortunately also a bit uneven. The story doesn't hang together all the way. I wonder why these aren't being filmed? If this was a Swedish writer in Sweden the film deals would have come so fast, you guys.

She should allow herself to not have to be funny, I think she could write a better book. That said, the depressing paint scheme of the missing singer's house is hilarious! I found a quote on Goodreads so I'm pasting it in here, since I don't have the book anymore: “He'd done his walls with paint from Holy Basil. God, I yearned for their colors. I hadn't been able to afford them myself but I knew their color chart like the back of my hand. His hall was done in Gangrene, his stairs in Agony and his living room--unless I was very much mistaken--in Dead Whale. Colors I personally very much approved of.”  Paint colours for the depressed! 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Marisha Pessl: Night Film

My eldest got this as part of a gift when she graduated from school this June. I told her great, I really enjoyed Special Topics of Calamity Physics, Pessl is really good! And apparently she thoroughly enjoyed Night Film herself. She was "gripped and hypnotised" as the covers promised - me not so much. Because a) why are random words emphasised in italics through the whole book? So annoying, like in comics! I stopped after half a chapter to read only the italicized words to see if they spelled a different story but if there is a code (there might still be) I didn't get it. Also, not one of the characters really came alive for me, so I didn't care thus didn't scare. A bit meh for me I'm afraid. Written like she wants a movie deal. 

Diana Wynne Jones: Enchanted Glass and The Lives of Christopher Chant

I had a hankering to read some Diana Wynne Jones. Christ, what an imagination that woman had! So much that if I'm truthful the stories aren't even finished, they're tacked together at the end with more bits of fantastic events and creations peeking in that we hardly get to know. Always ending with the feeling that there could be more - just perfect for kids. I wish I'd read all of hers as a child.

The pictures crack me up. Underneath Enchanted Glass you see the heat wave phenomenon of Swimming Towel Drying on Balcony and my pajama legs and bare toes. Christopher Chant is held by a hand already busy holding a sports bra. I am just the BEST at snapshots.

Rennie Airth: The Dead of Winter

Last I read a Rennie Airth book was back in 2006, and then I was in such a mindset that I liked it. I am in no such mindset now, instead the formula bores me. All these serial killer books are always written in the same way, I've long since stopped feeling any suspense. Airth isn't great at producing characters with personality either, it's more like he only tells us that they have personality (like the producers of Doctor Who, Torchwood and Sherlock do, they turn to the camera and say, hey, these people care about each other, ok? now we shall proceed with a television production that never makes  you feel it but that's ok because we're after telling you sure). You can see Airth's "this is personality" tricks a mile off. Anyway, serial killer, WWII, rations, snow, bombs. There you go. 

Monday, June 30, 2014

Vary the length of your sentences please

In my second to last post I gave out about staccato writing, and thanks to soshul meeja I've found this link to Gary Provost's 100 Ways to Improve Your Writing. Quote:

 This sentence has five words. Here are five more words. Five-word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It's like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety. Now listen. I vary the sentence length, and I create music. Music. The writing sings. It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony. I use short sentences. And I use sentences of medium length. And sometimes when I am certain the reader is rested, I will engage him with a sentence of considerable length, a sentence that burns with energy and builds with all the impetus of a crescendo, the roll of the drums, the crash of the cymbals--sounds that say listen to this, it is important.
Got to love the internet - there's always someone out there who has already expressed what you were thinking in a coherent and succinct manner.

Sunday, June 29, 2014


Completely unreadable. Completely. I'm guessing this goes for the entirety of the authorship.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Ondvinter av Anders Björkelid (plus Eldbärare och Förbundsbryterskan)

Såvitt jag förstår är Björkelid oöversatt, så vi tar det väl på svenska då va. För omväxlings skull.

Faktum är att en av döttrarna haft författaren som lärare de senaste tre åren (hon tog studenten i år, hipp hipp och allt det där, och om detta var en normal blogg hade jag skrivit något smart om det då). Hon säger att han var väldigt bra, så det är ju kul. ("Har du haft den här Anders Björkelid som lärare förresten?" "Men mamma! Ja, i TRE ÅR. Jag har pratat jättemycket om honom! Varför lyssnar du inte?")

Boken är sådär, den är inte dålig men jag är inte helt såld. Jag ska läsa nästa så får jag se om det tar sig. Problemet är att det inte känns som om så mycket händer, fast huvudpersonernas liv vänds på ända när deras mystiska far dör och de attackeras av professionella strypare och monsterhundar och tvingas fly ut i vinternatten. Jag tror problemet är att allt är så mystiskt och de inte får svar på några frågor, vilket gör att berättelsen stampar. Först på slutet får de veta allt, men då är det fortsättning följer. Det blir lite lajvmanus över det hela, roligare att spela än att läsa kanske?

Uppdatering 2014-06-27: Nu har jag läst de följande två, Eldbärare och Förbundsbryterskan. Rättare sagt, jag har skummat dem, speciellt den senare. Och nu är jag inte snäll längre. Det är i stort sett omöjligt att få flyt i läsningen. Efter en tag upptäckte jag att jag läser den med rösten från killen som leder Barda på SVT i huvudet - något som är en bekräftelse på att boken känns som en lajvmanual. 
För så här går det, hela böckerna igenom: Någonting händer, dvs författaren lägger upp en scen som ska föra handlingen vidare - folk som träffas, dialoger, ev slagsmål - och därefter pratar huvudpersonerna Sunia och Wolf om vad som precis hänt, antingen med varandra eller i en inre monolog. Eller både ock. Det är precis som ett Barda-avsnitt! Och enormt tråkigt.

Språket är genomgående stackatoartat och upphugget, vilket gör läsningen monoton, och eftersom handlingen tydligen inte kan föras framåt utan att man pratar om den är det väldigt mycket dialog, något som också bidrar till en hackig läsupplevelse. Jag klarar inte av att läsa böcker där ingen mening tillåts vara längre än tio ord, jag minns att samma stilistiska grepp drev mig till vansinne den enda gången jag läste Ken Bruen. Det ska väl vara sparsmakat antar jag? Spända meningar = automatiskt spännande text? (Fast nej.)

Redigeringen är slarvig; kursiv stil används för att markera t.ex. en drömsekvens, men ibland kursiveras även det normala skeendet när korrekturläsningen inte fungerat. Och rent generellt hade hälften varit nog, böckerna hade mått bra av en riktigt sträng redaktör. Jag lämnas också med ett intryck av ett torftigt och enahanda språk, vilket jag misstänker kan vara orättvist för när jag söker på nätet ser jag att många uppskattar böckerna just för språkets skull. Själv hakar jag upp mig på att huvudpersonerna hela tiden utbrister och ropar. Nej, detta är ingen författare som målar bilder med sitt språk som Selma Lagerlöf, eller till och med Astrid Lindgren (som i ärlighetens namn kan vara mer än lovligt tjatig ibland) gör. I princip hela Förbundsbryterskan utspelar sig i underjorden, hos vittror och annat knytt, med referenser till sagor och de regler som finns i sagor, det är blod och mörker och det BORDE vara bra, men det är sååå trååååkigt. 

Kommer INTE att läsa den sista. Däremot barnböckerna var skojiga! De lånade jag och högläser för sjuåringen, så de är helt ok.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Traction man

This is one of our favourite books. We've borrowed it twice from the library - at the moment I'm forcing Minimus to listen to proper "chapter books" as we say in Swedish and have actually managed to make him PAY ATTENTION and ENJOY it, so we may be moving away from picture books. You never know, hope springs eternal. But Traction Man is a brilliant picture book, I highly recommend it. So funny, such a lot of little clues and extra information in the pictures, I love stuff like that. Sadly the library doesn't have the first Traction Man book - this is the second - and I was considering buying it but now that we are growing up, book-wise, I might not. We'll see. I should get it and donate it I suppose. I never blog about all those scores of kids' books I read for my son, but I thought I'd make an exception.

Fire and Bitterblue by Kristen Cashore

The second and  third part of the Graceling  series had to be read of course. My eldest daughter lolled and lolled at the covers of Fire and Graceling, which show the silhouettes of beautiful lithe girls ready to shoot arrows or something. Pretty lame, and they don’t really do the books justice. Somewhere on the internet someone has written something intelligent about this pervasive image of strong girls with bows or crossbows - as in, without one you're not strong, and you can't be strong in any other way. I don’t think these books are fantastic by any means, but they are, on the whole, well written and imaginative, with a strong ambition to discuss more difficult subjects – like how to forgive people who have been coerced to commit terrible acts of violence under an oppressive regime, with definite nods to the South African truth commissions (Bitterblue), or if a person whose parent was violent and tyrannical has a duty to atone for said parent, or a right to atone (Fire). The covers, however, are just pretty and shallow and kick-ass; elements that exist in the books, but aren't the most important by any means. The stories are darker than you'd imagine, but in my opinion they could have gone a little darker yet, and more philosophical.

Anything else I wanted to say I've long forgotten (this is another overdue draft being finished). 

Maze Runner by James Dashner (ha)

Enjoy my Paint skillz. Can't help but feeling my internet friend wasn't sharing my indignation enough.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Eld, Nyckeln

Oh lookit here, another crooked photo. Let's do this in English like I did for the first one, since they're also popular abroad. I read these for the book club, borrowed both and read them quickly. Like before, the strength is in the description of the inner lives of the teens and smalltown Swedish life. The fantasy bits are a bit so so. It's being filmed now and they've released a picture of the cast, which is all new talent. I hope a lot of the rest is new talent too because for some of this novel I was fecking casting it in my head, it felt a little predictable... Anyway, now the read is documented. 

Marie Phillips: Gods behaving badly

God, this has been sitting since March 28th too. I can hardly remember the plot at all. It wasn't as good as it wanted to be, I can tell you that. I was vividly reminded of Randall Garrett's Pagan Passions - read all about it if you click there, but you'll have to scroll down a bit there. This one is not at all as lurid as Pagan Passions, but ... anyway. Not too far off. Not very memorable. It was a spontaneous pick at the library, one must to that sometimes must one not.  

Jasper Fforde: The Song of the Quarkbeast

You know what? This post has been waiting to be written since the 28th of March, so the picture can just stay skew-ways. 

I do like a bit of Fforde, but I think I most often like the first book in a series - before he gets too clever. This is the second one of the Dragonslayer novels, I've already read the first. And well, the cleverness starts to take over sometimes and it gets a little masturbatory. Not literally omigod it's a kid's book. Come on. Anyway, that doesn't matter because it's a kid's book so it's not long enough for excessive punning and what have you, so I enjoyed it. That's all I remember. On to next draft, hey ho. 

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Look what I found

And bought:
As actual novels to read they seem shite, but I bought them in Myrornas for ten kr each which beats three times the price as collectible items and they are cuuuute. 

Monday, March 03, 2014

Feed and Graceling

These are also from the list of the soon to be filmed. Quite popular books too, took a while for them to work their way down to me from other library aficionados, but then they showed up at the same time. 
Another cracking photo of my bed, I really do spoil my readers.

I quite liked Graceling. I didn't fall head over heels for the characters, but close. It lacked a little fleshing-out somehow. But it's a decent fantasy novel with a decent secondary universe, and towards the end when the plot was coming together it was genuinely exciting too. A good amount of violence, just there because the world is a violent place; a very excellent feminist theme and a great heroine. I put in reservations for the other two books in the not-really-a-series and am looking forward to it. Feed was not as much my cup of tea at all. I like that it's a zombie book without focusing on the zombie gore. Instead it's about how humans are living after the disaster. The medical side of it is well-crafted. Everyone is infected with the dormant virus and will reanimate after death or after being bitten/otherwise exposed to the live version. This is very realistic, a nice touch. I just found the whole thing a little too Aaron Sorkiny, it became a mix of The West Wing and Newsroom and just a bit too snappy. Despite every opportunity to make me care about the characters they faded into the background and became accessories to the one-liners and the technology. I don't think I'll read the others in the series, even though they apparently are better ( even better if you're a fan).

Friday, February 28, 2014

Divergent and sequels

Well, this was fun! Sort of. Not good but you know, entertaining if you don't mind not thinking too much about things. If you think too much you might not even think it was fun. I think I've changed my mind now. It wasn't great at all.

Please gaze ecstatically upon these library books upon my lap in my bed just before me nodding off. Can I take a picture or what, what.

So, teen dystopia. Fabulous genre. These books, well the first one for starters, are being filmed now (as you can see if you've got good eyesight and can make out the print on that little black sticker on the right-hand book). Because teen dystopia is Hot. Sizzling even. I borrowed Divergent because it's on the list I wrote about with books you have to read before they're filmed. It's one of the most popular ones so it took a while for the library to give it to me. Then I read it and thought ok, pretty fun, so I borrowed Insurgent too. But then I got bored so I've read the synopsis for part three, Allegiant, on Wikipedia and I'm alright with that, thanks.

Divergent is often compared, I’ve noticed, to The Hunger Games, reasons presumably being a sixteen-year-old girl as main character, a first person narrative, that it’s based in the US (more specifically in Divergent, in a future, ravaged version of Chicago, populated by only a fraction of the current population) after somthing cataclysmic has happened to destroy society as we know it now, and, most importantly, that a bunch of teens spend a lot of time fighting bloodily against each other in a large part of the book. However, where THG has a very clear message about the horror of violence as entertainment, how violence desensitizes and violates both victims and aggressors, about living under an oppressive government and how even a person of some resources is never free in a dictatorship, Divergent has a message of … well… I dunno. Sex? Because honestly, there’s a lot of ogling going on. Nothing happens beyond petting (it’s all a bit Twilight without the obvious preaching, and I can’t help wondering about that since her acknowledgments at the end of the book start with a big thank you to God. Which makes me, a secular sort of Catholic, squirm more than a bit), but oh boy are we ever obsessed with the taut young adolescent male physique. The strip of skin between his t-shirt and his trousers. His tattoos stretched over his muscles, blah blah blah. Drowning in his eyes. Pressing of lips. Hands on curve of hips and melting sensation in stomach. All the while he is eighteen and she sixteen which, although not Twilight standard, still means that any sex is statutory rape if consummated. But never mind that. I’m Swedish and we have a more laissez-faire attitude to teens having sex after all; it’s mostly the adult woman clearly revelling in the hotness of the teen bod that is a bit disturbing. I had a rant half written out about how weird it is that a presumably middle-aged or so woman is leering over young men like this but then I looked Veronica Roth up and she's born in 1988 which makes her ... math is hard ... not so old as too make the idea of sexing an eighteen-year-old revolting. Not that I judge. Much. However, I betcha it goes down well in the target audience. I wonder though if it doesn’t become more a girl book than a unisex book? Also, nuclear family FTW? Is that a message? I think that ”it’s not really good to kick ass but it sure looks cool” is a sort of message too. And "tattoos are cool and Have Meaning and people who have tattoos aren't necessarily bad people you know". It's all very "I just discovered MTV" in 1991 or so.

I’m being facetious. Albeit with a heavy hand Roth wants to tell us that selflessness and bravery are good values and often amount to the same thing. How true courage is about being able to say you’re afraid and to stand up to peer pressure. Stuff like that. I just don't think it's very well done. She's a sort of competent writer (especially for her age) but not very original and a bit messy. Her writing is very sparse and brief (which fits the general emo moping mood) so you'd be excused for mistaking the style for clarity of thought. Her plot lines and entire secondary universe, however, lacks structure and cohesion, in my opinion. If you think about it, it's just not that believable.

One of my big issues with the books are that Roth is clearly incapable of truly imagining a world with different values than the one she lives in. You therefore have an unspecified future, after society has been turned upside down by wars and other horrors - but basic male-female gender roles of contemporary America remain the same, for example. Which means that her attitude to sex sucks. You might think – and I think she thinks -  that she is sex-positive, since she acknowledges sexual desire. It is however clear that to her abstinence is a virtue. Tris and Four can indulge in some heavy groping and then stop, and the only reason for them stopping seems to be that it isn’t right to do the sex. And there is no forthcoming explanation for why it isn’t right. And I’m not going to swear to it because I didn’t keep count or anything, but I do believe that the shifting is interrupted by Tris, who takes a deep breath and pulls down her t-shirt past her hips again, like. Now, I’m all for her backing out of sex if she loses the hots, and I would have gone whoop-whoop if that is what happened, but it’s not. She (and Four, who is a Good Guy you see and Respectful) backs off by exercising self-control. Which I can also be fine with but I’d appreciate some reasoning behind why this is important. Otherwise, the message is that sure, you get all hot and bothered and shift like mad but don’t go all the way girl, and most importantly, girl. This is not sex-positive. Fundamentally the idea that a promiscuous woman is a slut remains, a morality not at all so definite when it comes to men. Anyway, gender roles and views on sex were not the only examples I had of Roth's lack of imagination, but it'll have to do for now. Mostly because after a while I got a really icky feeling off it, like this book truly could have a negative impact on young people because it's so insidious.

That said, the two youngsters maybe do the deed in Insurgent,  the second book. But it’s a bit Asimov (I haven’t read Asimov really. But my husband told me once that he is meticulous about not writing sex scenes. Instead the two approach each other, and then new paragraph and ”Afterwards …”) so I’m not sure.

Right, this post has been sitting here for a month now I think without being posted, waiting for me to wrap up with something smart. Since that's not gonna happen I'll publish now. Oh, I'm obviously going to see the film - I'm not proud, also I'm a hypocrite. But I'll wait until it hits the television.