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It was National Bookshop Day today, and my lovely local bookshop held a Harry Potter Afternoon Tea, which was BRILLIANT!

The staff made the snacks, and, as they said, 'We were going to have butter beer, but all the recipes we found on the internet were disgusting and the owner thought firewhisky was taking things a bit far, so it's champers and 'butter' (really ginger) beer floats, plus snacks! Pumpkin pasties were too hard, so we have scones, egg sandwiches, little cakes and cockroach clusters. Which are chocolate covered biscuits and dates.'

I should have taken a camera, or remembered that phones have cameras. Alas, I am a failure at the 21st century. However, there were about 18 people there including the two staff members and after a nervous start (Adult Harry Potter fans? Are these people weirdos or PLU*? seemed to be the general unspoken question) everyone started to chat about Rowling and the series, the films and what they had read since.

It was FABULOUS! I loved listening to their comments on what they loved and did not love. Everyone was a Rickman fan, no one understood people who had only seen the movies and not read the books ('My friend did that, and by movie six she was all "I have no idea what's happening!"' said one.) EVERYONE wanted more of the world, three people suggested chasing down good fanfiction – two of them boys ('Oh, there's a lot of it out there on the internet, you just have to wade through the rubbish.' To which I replied, 'Really? I might take a look.' *Nods innocently*) Dumbledore was seen as a very dodgy bastard, especially by the youngest in attendance (who were both awesome, and one of them plays the ukulele) – I loved the fact that the baby teenager, who looked all of 15, was the one who pointed out 'Dumbledore is happy to sacrifice them and play everyone like pieces for his own ends, and he sends Harry into the forest, all "only one of you can live" and then when Harry gets to the afterlife he's all "Oh, actually, you can totally go back. Up to you. You're not that dead", which just makes me think that he's horrible and that Harry's huge sacrifice, which is totally real because he thinks it's forever, is immediately devalued.'

They make 15 year olds clever in Newtown (their Dad was ACE).

There were five men there, as well as the bookshop boy, and they were well into it all. Most of the boys liked Book 4 the most (me too, I think, though it's subject to change) and one of them was able to explain why it's so satisfying really well: 'The Triwizard tournament gives it a natural structure at the same time as expanding the world beyond Hogwarts. And then in tandem you have the expansion of the problem beyond Harry being in danger to all of the wizarding world being in danger, but it's all happening behind the scenes, like the mechanics of the tournament.'

One of the women, who was small, dark and intense, so, naturally, I loved her, wanted to know more about the politics of what was going on. 'I was really cross when it got to 19 years later: I wanted 'Six months later' to see how they all got over the actual war!'

Conversation continued along this line at length. It really reinforced what I have always believed about the Potter books: there is so much more world indicated than what is filled in that it works to engage the reader, creating strong and close connections, whether they result in people keen to talk about the books with others or write and discuss fanfiction … We seriously could have formed a Potter book club then and there and I'm half-regretful we didn't (but where would I find the time? I already fail at fandom.)

And one of the TV girls (three of them worked for a telly station) confessed that she thought JKR was a brill story teller but not a great writer, which led to us all confessing that we were anxious about The Casual Vacancy. Ms Looks 15 was the only one who knew the release date. Super cool and organised kid!

In terms of book tips, I pimped Frances Hardinge, because the bookshop was already pimping Ben Aaronovitch, and left with two books by Patrick Ness, who came highly recommended. I'll let you know how that goes! I hope my bookshop does this again because Harry Potter people are just the best.

And I have birthday wishes to catch up on for all of August and the end of July, but I have a cold, which is not surprising because everyone in my office has a cold and they have given it to me (the same cold most of Sydney has had. It's passing quickly, I am just snotty and disgusting), and I am knackered after spending 9 hours on Friday editing two chapters of a book I had never seen before, which was a fun challenge but possibly more of one than my febrile brain really needed. So I will catch up on some sleep and then finish the freelance story I was going to hand in on Monday (could possibly still happen …) and then catch up on birthdays with my brain engaged!

* PLU = People Like Us
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An organised person would have posted these before now. She might also have tidied the house and caught up on the washing. Wish she lived here ...

February Books

13 The Water Room by Christopher Fowler
Another Bryant and May book, with the canniest ancient policemen in London. This time the story takes place amid the houses of the mobile middle classes, with a lost artwork at the centre of the story. I've said before that this series of novels is an obvious influence on Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London set (which I think Aaranovitch has said explicitly -- if not, he's certainly implied it), though darker in tone and with a looser narrative structure. This story also focussed on the city's lost rivers and the way our old geography still shapes us even though we pretend to be divorced from it. Genuinely creepy throughout, this was a book I read with the lights on and, although I guessed the killer, I was still rivitted.




14 Ratking by Michael Dibdin
I confess, I came to the Aurelio Zen books thanks to the Rufus Sewell TV series. Yes, yes I am very shallow. Dibdin was a British writer who lived in Italy for four years and set his most successful novels there. Zen is a Venetian-born detective who begins the series in disgrace having suffered from being on the wrong end of a series of political decisions in the past. In this book he travels to Perugia to investigate the kidnapping of a major industrialist and finds himself caught up in a rats' nest of family and Commune politics. With practically everyone a suspect, it's a satisfyingly twisty and turny novel, though terribly dark -- themes include the Red Brigade kidnappings, the Second World War, incest and Italian and Papal corruption throughout the 70s and 80s. Zen is a peculiar narrator, he is detached from everything -- his workmates, his mother, his girlfriend, the crime … For a while it looks as though he is one of the few uncorrupt parts of the Italian state, but by the end, he seems to be only not a part of any clique. Despite this, I found the evocation of Italy to be authentic and involving, and the intellectual puzzle was enjoyable to solve. And it didn't have the terrifyingly claustrophobic sequence that the TV version has. STILL QUIVERING!!

15 Vendetta by Michael Dibdin
Despite not being sure if I liked Aurelio Zen much as a character, I liked Dibdin enough as an author to come back. This time Zen is dispatched to Sardinia, where another super-wealthy industrialist has been murdered, this time in his intruder-proof fortress (complete with lion). Again, the 'local colour' is fabulously drawn (if rather reliant on All Sardinians Will Steal Your Grandmother tropes, but the geography is palpable) and fleshed-out side characters make the story-telling intriguing. This is the novel in which Zen's romance with his young, hot female workmate kicks off, and she is interestingly written as being more complex than Zen realises, even though we see her almost entirely through his eyes. There's another abused young woman in this book, which seems to have become the theme for my February reading, as you'll see. This book is grittier than the first, with Zen in more danger -- there's a subplot breathing down his neck, too -- which makes the whole thing a more thrilling prospect.

16 Cabal by Michael Dibdin
The Pope! The Vatican! Dead Bodies! The Fashion Industry! Sex! Brooding dark men! I undid an entire week's gym with chocolates reading through this one! Dibdin hits his stride here, without the need to give the reader an introduction to Zen and his life, and instead focusses on both the crimes and the world around them in visceral detail.



17 Cocaine Blues by Kerry Greenwood
In real life, I'm acquainted with the wizard Kerry Greenwood lives with, though his wizardlyness is all Anglo-Saxon to me … Which makes it shameful that it's taken me this long to read this series. I made up for it by whipping through the whole lot in about five weeks. Phryne Fisher is the daughter of an Earl (later a Baronet, briefly a Duke, I think, accurate editing is not this series' strong point) who grew up poor in Melbourne before enough male relatives met their end during World War I to see her father proclaimed heir and her family raised from obscurity to obscene wealth. She does Not Do Well as an Honourable Miss, and leaps at the opportunity to return to Australia in 1928. Before embarking on the sea voyage she is asked to look into the health of a young Melburnian woman with whom she is vaguely connected. On arrival in Australia she finds herself investigating a series of crimes including a rapacious abortionist, a cocaine ring, and the possible poisoning of her old friend. Greenwood quickly assembles an ensemble cast including a pioneering woman doctor, two Diggers turned cabbies (Bert and Cec, who are great value), an intelligent and enterprising policemen in Detective Inspector Jack Robinson, who comes complete with charming sidekick Hugh Collins, and the lovely Dot Williams, who Phryne meets when Dot is planning to murder her ex-employer's son after the lad has spread rumours regarding Dot's alleged lack of virtue.

One of the things I like most about Agatha Christie is that you can knock over a book in a lazy afternoon if you're prepared to let the phone ring out. The Phryne Fisher books all share this virtue. They are not as clever as Christie, but they aren't dumb, either. Instead, they're a witty play of flapper frippery wrapped around quirky crimes. The period is sketched in selective detail: Poiret coats, Vionnet frocks, Salade Russe and olive oil from the chemist. These touches, along with Phryne's makeshift 'family' are what hooked me into this series, as you'll see from the rest of the month's reading list. This first, though rough, was jolly good fun for a rainy afternoon.

18 Flying Too High by Kerry Greenwood
A child is kidnapped and a man is murdered, and Phryne is off on the chase again! This time there are (unsurprisingly) planes involved --  Of Course Phryne can both fly and wing walk. And again, there's a paedophile in the mix, who is thwarted excellently by his would-be victim. The ensemble cast is all back, and added to, in a smoother novel than the first.

19 Murder on the Ballarat Train by Kerry Greenwood
Paedophiles again! And lost girls for Phryne to rescue, plus a murdered old lady who no one is really sorry to lose, but still, she deserved better than what she got … Phryne picks up a pleasant young lover in this book who hovers around for a while. I approve of scandalous behaviour with consenting young men of a suitable age! This one is not actually a bad set of mysteries and I had to read carefully to spot whodunnit in one of the crimes, while nervously waiting to see if they could Get the Goods on the other blaggard.

20 Death at Victoria Docks by Kerry Greenwood
More abused girls! Hot Communists! Estonians! Guns! Dot being awfully brave! Pass the ginger beer and smelling salts!

21 The Green Mill Murder by Kerry Greenwood
This book contains no abused girls! HURRAH! Phryne is dancing with a young rake at the Green Mill dance hall when a man is murdered almost in front of her, which leads her on a trip through Melbourne's jazz underground and back into her plane and out into the wilds of Victoria. This was the book that convinced me that Greenwood's editors are all working in a rush over cups of gin-laced tea at the end of the day, as it is later completely forgotten that she was shocked to hear of Bert and Cec's experiences in the trenches when she is reinvented as an ambulance driver during the last years of WWI, and after this book I don't think we ever see her go near a plane again. Having said that, this book also has the most interesting and complex crimes of the whole series, and the loveliest writing when Phryne finds herself on her journey into the wilderness. Plus, nice little touches of homosexual life in the early 20th century that were done neatly in character.

22 Blood and Circuses by Kerry Greenwood
Clearly, Greenwood wanted to take a breather from massive amounts of research in this one and sets the whole thing in a circus, where Phryne goes undercover as a novice trick rider. Although the crime plot is thin, this was the most emotionally intriguing and convincing of all the Phryne books for me, and there were moments of real affecting sadness throughout this one.

23 Ruddy Gore by Kerry Greenwood
Death at the operetta! Hot Chinese men! Flying axes! Grateful grandmothers! This book introduces Lin Chung, Phryne's fabulous non-monogamous ongoing lover. The plot is fabulously silly and enormous fun, this one really does call out for some chocolate while reading.

24 Urn Burial by Kerry Greenwood
I could attempt to outline the plot of this one, but life is too short. Basically, Phryne goes on holidays and everything goes wrong. Some lovely touches to the writing in this book, especially the combination of awe-inspiring beauty and hideous weight provoked by the cave visit.




25 The Chalk Girl by Carol O'Connell
I shouldn't like this series, because the heroine is a Flawed SuperWoman and her main colleagues are all men, but … there's just something about the Kathy Mallory books that means I forgive myself for reading them every time. Here the main plot swirls around a young girl and the paedophile who tries to abduct her and who is connected with a series of murders stretching back decades. Broken people litter the stage and there is an awful lot of nastiness about, even for the nicest characters who find themselves acting against type to protect others. But there is some fine observation that lifts the novel out of Gritty Crime, and Mallory's revenge on the police psychologist who has worked against her is a delight.




26 Care of Wooden Floors by Will Wiles
I confess, I gave up on this book a bit after halfway through. I knew exactly what was going to happen before the writer put it on the page all the way through, and when he really did kill off one of the characters who I actually liked (not the narrator) in exactly the way he had foreshadowed, I just flicked to the end to confirm it was all going to end as I thought it was. If you're less annoyed by predictability than I am, Wiles's writing is nicely comic and dark and he has some great turns of phrase and nice insights on the confusion of modern life with modern objects, but I found it easy to step away from this book. I think that I should confess that one of the reasons for that ease was my consciousness that this book, which was critically well reviewed, would almost certainly have been dismissed as a 'smaller' book with insufficient satire to veneer its obvious plot if it had been written by a woman.


I was going to add March's to this list, but I need to get off for my ukulele lesson, so that can wait for the next rainy afternoon with a bit of time!
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HAPPY BIRTHDAY [livejournal.com profile] yourebrilliant! You are, you know! I hope that the present fairies have been suitably generous and the cake is astonishingly large! (And I am hoping you notice this in about eight hours, by which time it will be Feb 1 in Scotland, too!)

One of my plans for this year is to keep track of books read. A sensible person would have kept a record as she went. Please pass on my best wishes and admiration to all such people should you know any*! Instead, attempting to reconstruct from the Kindle and the pile beside my bed just waiting for a spot of shelving, I think it went something like this:


12 books, mostly rereads, it's summer here, my brain is melty! )

I was going to finish with a short discussion on Kindle v book, but I started a new programme at my gym today (since I am poor, I am using my time in pursuing greater fitness so things aren't a total write-off. And I'd already paid the gym fees, so I may as well use them to their maximum benefit!) Alas, despite being able to ride a bike and walk quickly up steep hills until the cows come home, squats and tricep exercises have left me feeling as though I have spent three days riding a camel. Radox bath it is!



* I exaggerate for comedic effect, [livejournal.com profile] rumpleghost alone would give my online peer group a good reputation for organisation! Which means ... oh cock, I'm the entertainingly disorganised second cousin in this story, aren't I?
blamebrampton: 15th century woodcut of a hound (Default)
HAPPY BIRTHDAY [livejournal.com profile] yourebrilliant! You are, you know! I hope that the present fairies have been suitably generous and the cake is astonishingly large! (And I am hoping you notice this in about eight hours, by which time it will be Feb 1 in Scotland, too!)

One of my plans for this year is to keep track of books read. A sensible person would have kept a record as she went. Please pass on my best wishes and admiration to all such people should you know any*! Instead, attempting to reconstruct from the Kindle and the pile beside my bed just waiting for a spot of shelving, I think it went something like this:


12 books, mostly rereads, it's summer here, my brain is melty! )

I was going to finish with a short discussion on Kindle v book, but I started a new programme at my gym today (since I am poor, I am using my time in pursuing greater fitness so things aren't a total write-off. And I'd already paid the gym fees, so I may as well use them to their maximum benefit!) Alas, despite being able to ride a bike and walk quickly up steep hills until the cows come home, squats and tricep exercises have left me feeling as though I have spent three days riding a camel. Radox bath it is!



* I exaggerate for comedic effect, [livejournal.com profile] rumpleghost alone would give my online peer group a good reputation for organisation! Which means ... oh cock, I'm the entertainingly disorganised second cousin in this story, aren't I?

Book rec

May. 13th, 2011 01:27 am
blamebrampton: 15th century woodcut of a hound (Default)
I have a cold.

Which is entirely my own fault as I spent January to halfway through April not sleeping, then Easter getting wet and cold and then the last couple of weeks hanging out with the parents of toddlers, or as I like to call them, prime virus incubators.

But on the good side, it has given me a chance to catch up on my reading. The Read Everything By Agatha Christie in Random Order Project is now more than 60% complete so I have had to slow things down as it will be a sad finishing (and I have to knock over the romances soon, so I don't find myself with them all at the end). Happily, all those books I ordered for review for my mag and which didn't make it on time for any of my deadlines arrived in one fell swoop, and so I have been immersed in print media.

Which leads me to the point of this post: it is extraordinarily likely that you, yes you, will massively enjoy Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London. Because most of you have vaguely similar taste to mine, and I adore it.

Part Urban Fantasy, part Police Procedural, it starts with a murder, uncovered by Martin Turner, who was innocently making his way home through Covent Garden when he tripped over a headless body.
As Martin noted to the detectives conducting his interview, it was a good thing he'd been inebriated because otherwise he would have wasted time screaming and running about – especially once he realised he was standing in a pool of blood. Instead, with the slow, methodical patience of the drunk and terrified, Martin Turner dialled 999 and asked for the police.

Probationary Police Constable Peter Grant finds himself guarding the scene that night, which is when he sees the ghost. All things considered, it's for the best that he sees the ghost, since Inspector Neblett has Peter (easily distracted, slightly disappointing) slated for a desk job. But a copper who can see the incorporeal is not to be wasted, which is how Peter ends up both a fully fledged Constable and an apprentice wizard, in training, to Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale.

Soon he is knee-deep in a series of inexplicably violent encounters plaguing the London metropolis, at the same time as trying to broker a peace between Mama Thames, who controls the tidal parts of the river, and Father Thames, who hasn't been down to London since the 1850s. And if you think that's odd, wait till you hear about Mama's daughters (Tyburn's a bitch).

Diana Gabaldon has a blurb on the cover saying 'What would happen if Harry Potter grew up and joined the Fuzz.' Which is wrong on multiple levels -- for a start, it's Blaise Zabini joining the Filth. But for everyone who loves Jo Rowling's passion for language and complex, clever worldbuilding, Aaronovitch will be a joy. The characters are appealing and the crimes intriguing, with enough learning the wizarding trade and other magical business to keep fantasy fans satisfied.

Throughout the novel little nuggets of London history and trivia are scattered -- excused textually thanks to Peter's passion for esoteric knowledge -- in a fashion that reminded me of Neil Gaiman, but compared to Gaiman's novels, as this one unwound, I found myself more involved, more enthralled and more entertained (I love Gaiman's cleverness, especially in the Sandman series, but it usually falls apart in more sustained texts.) Aaronovitch's geography is more convincing, too, and his weaving of lore into locale more effective. Though I have to say that I have always found the High Barnet branch of the Northern Line perfectly civilised in reality.

Even if you aren't ready to move on from The Bill as your Platonic ideal of British Police Fantasy, check out the excerpt below the cut and see if the consistent energy and wit of writing can't tempt you into binning Burnside. Best of all, Moon Over Soho, Aaronovitch's second novel, is already out. I have it right here. I have to type this excerpt really, really quickly so I can start reading it! 


Despoilered as much as possible, but still a bit spoilery! )

Book rec

May. 13th, 2011 01:27 am
blamebrampton: 15th century woodcut of a hound (Default)
I have a cold.

Which is entirely my own fault as I spent January to halfway through April not sleeping, then Easter getting wet and cold and then the last couple of weeks hanging out with the parents of toddlers, or as I like to call them, prime virus incubators.

But on the good side, it has given me a chance to catch up on my reading. The Read Everything By Agatha Christie in Random Order Project is now more than 60% complete so I have had to slow things down as it will be a sad finishing (and I have to knock over the romances soon, so I don't find myself with them all at the end). Happily, all those books I ordered for review for my mag and which didn't make it on time for any of my deadlines arrived in one fell swoop, and so I have been immersed in print media.

Which leads me to the point of this post: it is extraordinarily likely that you, yes you, will massively enjoy Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London. Because most of you have vaguely similar taste to mine, and I adore it.

Part Urban Fantasy, part Police Procedural, it starts with a murder, uncovered by Martin Turner, who was innocently making his way home through Covent Garden when he tripped over a headless body.
As Martin noted to the detectives conducting his interview, it was a good thing he'd been inebriated because otherwise he would have wasted time screaming and running about – especially once he realised he was standing in a pool of blood. Instead, with the slow, methodical patience of the drunk and terrified, Martin Turner dialled 999 and asked for the police.

Probationary Police Constable Peter Grant finds himself guarding the scene that night, which is when he sees the ghost. All things considered, it's for the best that he sees the ghost, since Inspector Neblett has Peter (easily distracted, slightly disappointing) slated for a desk job. But a copper who can see the incorporeal is not to be wasted, which is how Peter ends up both a fully fledged Constable and an apprentice wizard, in training, to Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale.

Soon he is knee-deep in a series of inexplicably violent encounters plaguing the London metropolis, at the same time as trying to broker a peace between Mama Thames, who controls the tidal parts of the river, and Father Thames, who hasn't been down to London since the 1850s. And if you think that's odd, wait till you hear about Mama's daughters (Tyburn's a bitch).

Diana Gabaldon has a blurb on the cover saying 'What would happen if Harry Potter grew up and joined the Fuzz.' Which is wrong on multiple levels -- for a start, it's Blaise Zabini joining the Filth. But for everyone who loves Jo Rowling's passion for language and complex, clever worldbuilding, Aaronovitch will be a joy. The characters are appealing and the crimes intriguing, with enough learning the wizarding trade and other magical business to keep fantasy fans satisfied.

Throughout the novel little nuggets of London history and trivia are scattered -- excused textually thanks to Peter's passion for esoteric knowledge -- in a fashion that reminded me of Neil Gaiman, but compared to Gaiman's novels, as this one unwound, I found myself more involved, more enthralled and more entertained (I love Gaiman's cleverness, especially in the Sandman series, but it usually falls apart in more sustained texts.) Aaronovitch's geography is more convincing, too, and his weaving of lore into locale more effective. Though I have to say that I have always found the High Barnet branch of the Northern Line perfectly civilised in reality.

Even if you aren't ready to move on from The Bill as your Platonic ideal of British Police Fantasy, check out the excerpt below the cut and see if the consistent energy and wit of writing can't tempt you into binning Burnside. Best of all, Moon Over Soho, Aaronovitch's second novel, is already out. I have it right here. I have to type this excerpt really, really quickly so I can start reading it! 


Despoilered as much as possible, but still a bit spoilery! )
blamebrampton: 15th century woodcut of a hound (Default)
I am still hugely enjoying the Temeraire books, but please, for the love of tiny bunnies, hire an actual editor to proofread your novels! The typos! They burn!

(I was doing well at ignoring them until we reached the Nemean region, which is in Ancient Greece, not New South Wales. It was rightly the Nepean earlier. Betas are for fanfic, Naomi. I'm sure you've earned enough to pay for a good editor by now!)

Must dash, plot twist has just occurred and I only have time for another hundred pages before bed.

Much love,

Brammers
blamebrampton: 15th century woodcut of a hound (Default)
I am still hugely enjoying the Temeraire books, but please, for the love of tiny bunnies, hire an actual editor to proofread your novels! The typos! They burn!

(I was doing well at ignoring them until we reached the Nemean region, which is in Ancient Greece, not New South Wales. It was rightly the Nepean earlier. Betas are for fanfic, Naomi. I'm sure you've earned enough to pay for a good editor by now!)

Must dash, plot twist has just occurred and I only have time for another hundred pages before bed.

Much love,

Brammers
blamebrampton: 15th century woodcut of a hound (Default)

Football? Never heard of it.

The joy of procrastinating is that I have been reading actual books (when not knitting). Since lots of you also read YA fiction, here are two reviews, which will abuse acronyms because they have long titles (and I am in full acronym mode).

To begin with, The Demon's Covenant by Sarah Rees Brennan. This is the second book in her trilogy following on from The Demon's Lexicon in which Mae and her brother Jamie meet Nick Ryves and his brother Alan and discover in short order that there are demons and magicians in the world, that the demons may be the lesser of two evils, and that their dysfunctional family has nothing on some others.

While the first book was told in Nick's voice, this is told in Mae's, and Brennan captures the insecurity and hope of a teenaged girl's voice beautifully. That whole trying on of things: is this someone I fancy? Is this love? Is this being a grown-up? Am I doing it right? Do they love me? -- so much of it is note-perfect. Particularly because Mae's sense of alienation from the adult world is fully justified, she knows secrets she just can't share.
 

spoilers for The Demon's Lexicon )
TDC answers many of the questions I had at the end of TDL: in particular, it gives far greater sense of the scope of the Magicians and of their power. One very nice note was the parallel question of what constitutes a family. Both Nick and Mae have real and legitimate questions about the adults in their lives, and Brennan deals with them in ways that respect the adults as well as the sense of abandonment the children feel, allowing that both can be right and wrong, even when they are trying.

To me, TDC is a book about family, disguised as an adventure novel, just as TDL was a mystery with the dustjacket of a romance. The adventure is well constructed and played out, as are the urban fantasy notes, but at the heart of the novel are some of the great questions of life: how do we know when love is real? Who can we trust? And what happens when we trust poorly? And it gripped me -- from the start to the end, I cared very deeply about each of these characters and what happened to them. I wasn't fully satisfied with where we leave them, but that is likely to be because this is the middle book of three, or because I am twenty years older than the target audience.

My quibble, which contains BIG spoilers for The Demon's Convenant )Small quibbles aside, it was a rollicking read that dealt intelligently with all the storyline arising from book 1 and set up a series of good plot points for book 3, without suffering in any way from the curses of Lulldom or Expositionitis that can affect middle books. TDC and last year's Flora's Dare revive my faith in the art of the trilogy!

Secondly, there's Will Grayson, Will Grayson, by American writers John Green and David Levithan. It's the story of two boys with the same name, who meet by chance, with each writer providing one Will Grayson and the two appearing in alternating chapters. This could have been a clever-clever disaster, but in fact works really well (you may need to read a few chapters of each to get used to them, a friend only liked the device after 60-odd pages). Will 1 is just trying to get through high school without drawing unnecessary attention to himself. Which he is reasonably successful at, aside from his best friend, Tiny Cooper, who is 'not the world's gayest person, and he is not the world's largest person, but [Will believes] he may be the world's largest person who is really, really gay ...' Despite the fact that he seems to delight in embarrassing straight and shy Will 1, Tiny is a truly brilliant friend, and Will knows it.

Will 2 is clinically depressed (and gay, and against capitalisation, but there's no causal connection), but holds onto hope that things will get better if he can just make it through each day. Alas, his friends are far less shiny than Will 1's, but that's not all bad news -- when a prank sends him off into the city, he runs into Will 1, and Tiny, and life improves dramatically even as it grows radically stranger.

Spoilers )
The writers really remember what it was like to be a teenager: the insecurities, the uncertainties, the hopes and simple goals. both Wills just want to get by -- the possibility of a girl or boyfriend seems up there with walking on the moon, and the shock to their systems delivered by Tiny Cooper arranging sundry things for them is akin to NASA training. For the reader, it's a sideways lurch to something fresh and unexpected. In a very blokey way, WG, WG is about love and friendship and compassion, while including fake IDs student politics, sport, gross moments of snot and a chorus line. I inhaled it, then went back to the start. Highly recommended!
blamebrampton: 15th century woodcut of a hound (Default)

Football? Never heard of it.

The joy of procrastinating is that I have been reading actual books (when not knitting). Since lots of you also read YA fiction, here are two reviews, which will abuse acronyms because they have long titles (and I am in full acronym mode).

To begin with, The Demon's Covenant by Sarah Rees Brennan. This is the second book in her trilogy following on from The Demon's Lexicon in which Mae and her brother Jamie meet Nick Ryves and his brother Alan and discover in short order that there are demons and magicians in the world, that the demons may be the lesser of two evils, and that their dysfunctional family has nothing on some others.

While the first book was told in Nick's voice, this is told in Mae's, and Brennan captures the insecurity and hope of a teenaged girl's voice beautifully. That whole trying on of things: is this someone I fancy? Is this love? Is this being a grown-up? Am I doing it right? Do they love me? -- so much of it is note-perfect. Particularly because Mae's sense of alienation from the adult world is fully justified, she knows secrets she just can't share.
 

spoilers for The Demon's Lexicon )
TDC answers many of the questions I had at the end of TDL: in particular, it gives far greater sense of the scope of the Magicians and of their power. One very nice note was the parallel question of what constitutes a family. Both Nick and Mae have real and legitimate questions about the adults in their lives, and Brennan deals with them in ways that respect the adults as well as the sense of abandonment the children feel, allowing that both can be right and wrong, even when they are trying.

To me, TDC is a book about family, disguised as an adventure novel, just as TDL was a mystery with the dustjacket of a romance. The adventure is well constructed and played out, as are the urban fantasy notes, but at the heart of the novel are some of the great questions of life: how do we know when love is real? Who can we trust? And what happens when we trust poorly? And it gripped me -- from the start to the end, I cared very deeply about each of these characters and what happened to them. I wasn't fully satisfied with where we leave them, but that is likely to be because this is the middle book of three, or because I am twenty years older than the target audience.

My quibble, which contains BIG spoilers for The Demon's Convenant )Small quibbles aside, it was a rollicking read that dealt intelligently with all the storyline arising from book 1 and set up a series of good plot points for book 3, without suffering in any way from the curses of Lulldom or Expositionitis that can affect middle books. TDC and last year's Flora's Dare revive my faith in the art of the trilogy!

Secondly, there's Will Grayson, Will Grayson, by American writers John Green and David Levithan. It's the story of two boys with the same name, who meet by chance, with each writer providing one Will Grayson and the two appearing in alternating chapters. This could have been a clever-clever disaster, but in fact works really well (you may need to read a few chapters of each to get used to them, a friend only liked the device after 60-odd pages). Will 1 is just trying to get through high school without drawing unnecessary attention to himself. Which he is reasonably successful at, aside from his best friend, Tiny Cooper, who is 'not the world's gayest person, and he is not the world's largest person, but [Will believes] he may be the world's largest person who is really, really gay ...' Despite the fact that he seems to delight in embarrassing straight and shy Will 1, Tiny is a truly brilliant friend, and Will knows it.

Will 2 is clinically depressed (and gay, and against capitalisation, but there's no causal connection), but holds onto hope that things will get better if he can just make it through each day. Alas, his friends are far less shiny than Will 1's, but that's not all bad news -- when a prank sends him off into the city, he runs into Will 1, and Tiny, and life improves dramatically even as it grows radically stranger.

Spoilers )
The writers really remember what it was like to be a teenager: the insecurities, the uncertainties, the hopes and simple goals. both Wills just want to get by -- the possibility of a girl or boyfriend seems up there with walking on the moon, and the shock to their systems delivered by Tiny Cooper arranging sundry things for them is akin to NASA training. For the reader, it's a sideways lurch to something fresh and unexpected. In a very blokey way, WG, WG is about love and friendship and compassion, while including fake IDs student politics, sport, gross moments of snot and a chorus line. I inhaled it, then went back to the start. Highly recommended!
blamebrampton: 15th century woodcut of a hound (Default)
... but it is really hot today (cue [livejournal.com profile] calanthe_fics , [livejournal.com profile] pingrid  and [livejournal.com profile] raitala  giggling, yes, I complain about ALL weather that's not 9-19 degrees C), so my brain has turned to slurry.

I do have one question though, for people who remember Conan Doyle better than I do: How likely would Holmes be to say 'discombobulate'? It sounds too American to me, but then, Holmes had wide acquaintance with Americans, so ...

Also, a book mini-review. I was going to write about this one in more depth, but I left my copy with Cal  after my laptop had died, so had no opportunity to do so with the book beside me. Apologies in advance for generalities rather than quotes.

I've bought and read all of Justine Larbalestier's novels, and been equally impressed and frustrated. She's really bright and talented, but her first trilogy had significant distracting elements for me, both in the copy editing and in the internal logic of the overall story. Her next, How to Ditch Your Fairy, was a great read all the way up to the end, which I found a bit too quick and unresolving: all these great questions, and so few answers to any of them (still worth the read, though!).

Liar, her most recent book, is one that you may have heard of, because it excited a lot of debate over a publisher's decision to pop a white girl on the cover, despite the lead character describing herself as black. And you may have also heard people talking about its unreliable narrator. Which I can't do without spoilers, so the rest of this is going under a cut.

The cut bit ... )
blamebrampton: 15th century woodcut of a hound (Default)
... but it is really hot today (cue [livejournal.com profile] calanthe_fics , [livejournal.com profile] pingrid  and [livejournal.com profile] raitala  giggling, yes, I complain about ALL weather that's not 9-19 degrees C), so my brain has turned to slurry.

I do have one question though, for people who remember Conan Doyle better than I do: How likely would Holmes be to say 'discombobulate'? It sounds too American to me, but then, Holmes had wide acquaintance with Americans, so ...

Also, a book mini-review. I was going to write about this one in more depth, but I left my copy with Cal  after my laptop had died, so had no opportunity to do so with the book beside me. Apologies in advance for generalities rather than quotes.

I've bought and read all of Justine Larbalestier's novels, and been equally impressed and frustrated. She's really bright and talented, but her first trilogy had significant distracting elements for me, both in the copy editing and in the internal logic of the overall story. Her next, How to Ditch Your Fairy, was a great read all the way up to the end, which I found a bit too quick and unresolving: all these great questions, and so few answers to any of them (still worth the read, though!).

Liar, her most recent book, is one that you may have heard of, because it excited a lot of debate over a publisher's decision to pop a white girl on the cover, despite the lead character describing herself as black. And you may have also heard people talking about its unreliable narrator. Which I can't do without spoilers, so the rest of this is going under a cut.

The cut bit ... )
blamebrampton: 15th century woodcut of a hound (Default)
[I've been meaning to write this up for weeks, but alas, the last month has been a case of overworked, sick, overworked, underslept. However, better late than never!]

This is the version of The Demon's Lexicon that Australian importers saw fit to release first: 

The last time I was this wrong-footed by a cover, it was Quentin Blake's cheery illustrations for a Joan Aiken book, which turned out to be a darkly twisty tale that saw a 1970s version of me (about the same height, skinnier, more pinafores) sitting wide-eyed through half the night waiting for something awful to happen. I was few chapters into TDL before I realised it had happened again. There I was half-expecting a normal-ish Young Adult fantasy in which a romance would percolate below the surface and we would be encouraged to personally identify with at least one of the characters, and instead I was in the middle of another darkly twisty tale that was in fact quite deliciously Aiken-y.
At length, why I liked it, with a small quibble or two ... )
blamebrampton: 15th century woodcut of a hound (Default)
[I've been meaning to write this up for weeks, but alas, the last month has been a case of overworked, sick, overworked, underslept. However, better late than never!]

This is the version of The Demon's Lexicon that Australian importers saw fit to release first: 

The last time I was this wrong-footed by a cover, it was Quentin Blake's cheery illustrations for a Joan Aiken book, which turned out to be a darkly twisty tale that saw a 1970s version of me (about the same height, skinnier, more pinafores) sitting wide-eyed through half the night waiting for something awful to happen. I was few chapters into TDL before I realised it had happened again. There I was half-expecting a normal-ish Young Adult fantasy in which a romance would percolate below the surface and we would be encouraged to personally identify with at least one of the characters, and instead I was in the middle of another darkly twisty tale that was in fact quite deliciously Aiken-y.
At length, why I liked it, with a small quibble or two ... )
blamebrampton: 15th century woodcut of a hound (Default)
A writer I like a great deal wrote a piece saying that he had stayed up far too late reading the new Alan Bennett novella in one fell swoop. This was good to hear; since the writer and I have similar tastes and Alan Bennett is a godlike wonder (The HIstory Boys, The Madness of George III and Talking Heads are among his most famous scripts), and, most importantly for me, I have run out of Simon Armitage and new YA fiction to read and everything else requires more time and mental energy than I currently possess.

So I popped into a bookshop and picked up a copy of the book on the way home. The Uncommon Reader, in which QEII finds herself in a mobile lending library at the back of Windsor and develops a passion for literature. It then proceeds through 124 small and beautifully typeset pages to a conclusion that was wholly startling and yet completely right. Like my writer friend, I sat down and consumed it. And, with a short break to consume dinner, 150 minutes later I have a very large smile on my face.

Bennett's writing is filled with delicious one-liners. Imagine Her Majesty pronouncing any of the following (I found it very easy to):

She read Ackerley's account of himself, unsurprised to find that, being a homosexual, he had worked for the BBC.

There were many who hoped for a similar meeting of minds by saying they were reading Harry Potter, but to this the Queen (who had no time for fantasy) invariably said briskly, 'Yes, One is saving that for a rainy day,' and passed swiftly on. [Pure Bennett editorialising there!]

It was Henry James she was reading one teatime when she said out loud, 'Oh, do get on.'

Men (and this included Mrs Thatcher) wanted show. [I think this was my favourite.]

more ... )
blamebrampton: 15th century woodcut of a hound (Default)
A writer I like a great deal wrote a piece saying that he had stayed up far too late reading the new Alan Bennett novella in one fell swoop. This was good to hear; since the writer and I have similar tastes and Alan Bennett is a godlike wonder (The HIstory Boys, The Madness of George III and Talking Heads are among his most famous scripts), and, most importantly for me, I have run out of Simon Armitage and new YA fiction to read and everything else requires more time and mental energy than I currently possess.

So I popped into a bookshop and picked up a copy of the book on the way home. The Uncommon Reader, in which QEII finds herself in a mobile lending library at the back of Windsor and develops a passion for literature. It then proceeds through 124 small and beautifully typeset pages to a conclusion that was wholly startling and yet completely right. Like my writer friend, I sat down and consumed it. And, with a short break to consume dinner, 150 minutes later I have a very large smile on my face.

Bennett's writing is filled with delicious one-liners. Imagine Her Majesty pronouncing any of the following (I found it very easy to):

She read Ackerley's account of himself, unsurprised to find that, being a homosexual, he had worked for the BBC.

There were many who hoped for a similar meeting of minds by saying they were reading Harry Potter, but to this the Queen (who had no time for fantasy) invariably said briskly, 'Yes, One is saving that for a rainy day,' and passed swiftly on. [Pure Bennett editorialising there!]

It was Henry James she was reading one teatime when she said out loud, 'Oh, do get on.'

Men (and this included Mrs Thatcher) wanted show. [I think this was my favourite.]

more ... )

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