Robin Hobb: Assassin’s Apprentice (The Farseer Trilogy #1) (review)

tumblr_static_assassins_aprenticeFor some reason, it’s important which book you start the year with. If you start the year with a lousy book, you sort of have to spend the rest of the year trying to make up for it, whereas if you start with a good or even great book, it’s like the year can’t go wrong. So a huge amount of pressure rests on that first book.
My first book this year was the first book in Robin Hobb’s The Farseer TrilogyAssassin’s Apprentice is a book I’ve been waiting to read for a while after my good friend Henrik told me about it. However, he also told me that I would cry my eyes out while reading it – and that sort of book demands a certain kind of mood. And even though I’m not quite sure how to describe that mood, apparently that was the mood I was in when I started reading this book – and it turned out to be perfect.
Assassin’s Apprentice is the story of the bastard Fitz. Fitz is born to the King-in-Waiting Chivalry and when his grandfather delivers the six-years old kid to the castle, he sets more events in motion than anyone could foresee. Fitz is handed over to the stable master Burrich who is told to take care of him. Burrich is the best at his job – at taking care of dogs, horses and falcons but not exactly skilled at taking care of boys. Still he does the absolutely best he can – by putting the boy in with one of his dogs and her puppies. Fitz survives but bonds with one of the puppies. Normally no one would mind that a boy bonds with a puppy but Fitz has a certain ability, the Wit, which makes him able to sense what animals see, smell, experience. And Burrich will not allow this bonding because he’s afraid that Fitz will turn into a dog himself as the old legends say will happen. So he takes the puppy away and Fitz is heartbroken.
However, Fitz’s uncle, the King-in-Waiting Verity interferes and orders that the boy is taken to the keep and trained properly as befits a boy of the royal blood – even if the boy is a bastard. Still, Fitz has to grow up in a hostile environment. He’s the bastard and his father gives up his position, apparently because of the shame of fathering a bastard and what this means to his barren queen. So just by being born, Fitz has upset the kingdom.
But king Shrewd recognizes the importance of a bastard and he lets the boy know that whenever the boy needs him, he can come see him. But despite all this, Fitz has to learn everything the hard way and not everyone wish to see him succeed. Especially his other uncle, Prince Regal, is keen to get rid of him.
But Fitz grows up and makes some friends – among them Verity and also his late father’s widow the Lady Patience who even gifts him a small terrier, the second animal Fitz bonds with. Smithy becomes Fitz’s strength in a harsh life that includes training as a assassin with the mysterious Chade. But even more important is Molly, the candle maker’s daughter he meets in the small town next to the King’s keep. The children spend many happy hours playing and growing up together – even though Fitz always hides from her that he’s the royal Bastard.
And when the kingdom of Six Duchies is attacked repeatedly by raiders who not only kill and destroy but also does something to the people they capture that leaves them as bare shells of themselves; shells that are still capable of killing whoever they come in contact with, Fitz has to prove his worth. These Forged ones, as they are called, and their destruction becomes one of Fitz’s first duties for his king.
This was fantasy when it’s best. It was just so very clever throughout. I could see some of Hobb’s tricks at times and whenever I noticed one, it was to marvel at how clever she was at creating a world with a believable magic that doesn’t overpower the world or the story. In this world, there’s two types of magic – the Wit which is bonding with animals and the Skill which is a sort of telepathy. Only the Skill is socially acceptable and actually a part of the Royal line whereas the Wit is frowned upon and therefore Fitz has to hide his bonds with animals and his ability to sense their thoughts and feelings.
I really liked how the people in the Royal family are named after the traits, they are hoped to possess. So we have King Shrewd, his three sons Chivalry, Verity and Regal, we have a lady Patience and much more. I also really really liked the way she describes the animals and Fitz’s connection to them. Here’s Fitz and Smithy on their way back home after meeting Molly: ‘All the way up to the keep Smithy keep prattling to himself about all the perfumes he’d smelt on her and how she had scratched him ust where he could never reach in front of his ears and of the sweet biscuit she’d fed him in the tea shop.’ (p. 282-283) And I liked that the characters are not just black or white but have several shades of grey. The bad guys are bad yes, but there are reasons that explains at least part of why they are the way they are. One of my favorite characters was Burrich. This big strong man who would do anything and everything for his master, king-in-waiting Chivalry and who is very hurt by being left behind at the keep when Chivalry abdicates. And even though he is a stern teacher, he takes care of Fitz as he knows best – and he can be a real mamma bear when someone hurts Fitz.
All in all I just flew through this one, enjoying everything about it. It was engaging, interesting and exciting. This is what fantasy can be when it’s strong. I am in love with this world, Hobb has created and I’m so glad that not only is this the first in a trilogy but there are several more trilogies taking place in this world – and some even claim that this is the weakest trilogy. Whether that is so or not, I’m looking so much forward to spending more time in this world.

First line: A history of the Six Duchies is of necessity a history of its ruling family, the Farseers.

  • Title: Assassin’s Apprentice (The Farseer Trilogy #1)
  • Author: Robin Hobb
  • Publisher: Harper Voyager
  • Year: 2007 (original 1995)
  • Pages:  460 pages
  • Source: Own collection
  • Stars: 5 stars out of 5
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Colm Tóibín: The Testament of Mary (review)

colm-toibin-the-testament-of-mary‘The boy became a man and left home and became a dying figure hanging on a cross.’ (location 952-58)
So a book about the mother of Jesus and how she doesn’t believe him to be the son of God? How could I possibly pass on that?
This book tells this well-known story of Jesus’ life from a new perspective, the point of view of his mother, which makes it so fresh and new – and I just loved it.
When we meet Mary, she’s living on her own, having lost both her husband and her son. She is regularly visited by a couple of Jesus’ disciple and otherwise just keeps to herself, staying out of trouble, and mostly lives in her memories.
Through her memories, we are shown Jesus’ life from his childhood to his death, the lovely times they had at the Sabbath when he was still and child – and the not so lovely time they had at the wedding at Kanaa for instance. We see Lazarus returning from his grave to lead a life that’s not so much a miracle as a zombie existence. We see Mary’s relatives shun her because they are afraid to be associated with her son through her. And we see Mary desperately trying to save her son, failing at it and then hoping desperately that he will be saved some other way. And of course, that hope is crushed and she even has to flee his crucifixion to save herself, leaving her son to die on his own.
I’ve read several reviews saying that Mary felt like a modern woman. I don’t know about that – it’s easy to say that since we haven’t always had the same view on children, parents and the relationships between them as we do now, that Mary’s love for her son isn’t right for her time. I don’t know if that’s true or not. For me, this is a story about mothers through the ages, about how a mother and child sometimes grow apart. The child makes some life choices you don’t agree with – but you always love them. The mother may also do things she’s not proud of but it’s not for lack of love and as mothers, we never feel we are as good as we can be – or as good as we should be. And so it is with Mary. She loves that boy.
So while I’m not sure whether Mary is too modern, there’s still a lot of modern themes. While we are used to hearing about this charismatic man who influenced his peers and a lot of other people around him to a better way of life, it’s definitely not that story we see here. This feels more like a story of peer pressure and what happens when you’re running with the wrong crowd. It also deals with retelling – and remaking – history. Even though Tóibín doesn’t deal with how the Bible was collected through a selection and voting process, he shows the disciples as misfits who exploits Jesus and uses him to create an idea, a faith – and how Mary tries to preserve her memories of what actually happened the day her son was killed and not give in to the disciples who keeps coming back and tries to persuade her that her memories are flawed.
And that of course is true. Memories are always flawed. But I think a mother remembers how her son died. And remembers too what she did that day.
I really really liked this short novella and I was so impressed with the amount of raw emotion and thought-provoking content, Tóibín was able to put into just 114 pages. I’m pretty sure that this novella has a lot of potential to rub some people the wrong way but I strongly recommend this one to just about anyone since it’s just a wonderful novella about so many aspects of the human existence, showcased through the story of one mother and her love of her only child.

First line: They appear more often now, both of them, and on every visit they seem more impatient with me and with the world.

  • Title: The Testament of Mary
  • Author: Colm Tóibín
  • Publisher: Penguin Books
  • Year: 2012
  • Pages: 114 pages
  • Source: Own collection – Kindle
  • Stars: 4 stars out of 5

I read this for Rick’s Novellas in November challenge.

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Alan Bennett: The Uncommon Reader (review)

pidab4370cda966432@large‘Hobbies involved preferences and preferences had to be avoided; preferences excluded people. One had no preferences. Her job was to take an interest, not to be interested herself.’ (location 38-44)

As most people probably can guess, I like to read. And because of this, I also like to read about other people reading. So when I heard about a book where the English Queen finds a mobile library while searching for her corgis and then feels obliged to borrow a book, I was hooked. She borrows the book and when she returns it, she takes another book out – and ends up promoting a boy from the kitchens she met at the library to help her with her reading lists and with acquiring new books.
And then she starts to read. And read. And read. And suddenly she starts getting bored by her official duties, she starts bringing books with her when driving anywhere, she starts cutting meetings and audiences short – she just wants to read.
And then everyone starts working against her. Her employees hide her books and they get rid of the boy who was helping her. And some even suspects her of suffering of a beginning senility: ‘/…/ the dawn of sensibility was mistaken for the onset of senility.’ (location 647-53). But a love of reading is not so easy to stop and so she keeps on reading until she has read a lot and starts feeling a need to not only be passive but be active. Do something herself. Like writing…
I loved how Bennett shows how she grows as a reader – and as a human being. How at the beginning she finds some books difficult and for instance has trouble understanding the differences in and importance of social status in Jane Austen’s novels because she is so high above everyone else that the subtle differences between the characters in Austen’s novels are lost on her. At first. But she learns. ‘Books did not care who was reading then or whether one read them or not. All readers were equal, herself included.’ (location 233-45)
Oh, and it was funny. When someone recommends Harry Potter to her, her answer is a very brisk ‘One is saving that for a rainy day.’ (location 336-42) And when her staff sends her off on a long trip to Canada and makes sure her books are not packed, she meets Alice Munro who kindly enough gives her some of her works. Which she loves, of course, which is quite fitting in this, Alice Munro’s year of winning the Nobel Prize.
Even though this is not a biography and the characters are not truly the persons they are based on, this book still made me think favorably of the English Queen. And I guess that’s what’s the issue with books like this, loosely based on real people. Even though it’s fiction, it reflects on the people the characters are based on. In this case, it’s favorably – in other cases it isn’t always.
I absolutely loved the ending. And it really makes me want to read Proust!

‘One reads for pleasure,’ said the Queen. ‘It is not a public duty.’
‘Perhaps,’ said Sir Kevin, ‘it should be.’ 
(location 349-55)

First line: At Windsor it was the evening of the state banquet, and as the president of France took his place beside Her Majesty, the royal family formed up behind and the procession slowly moved off and through into the Waterloo Chamber.

  • Title: The Uncommon Reader
  • Author: Alan Bennett
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Year: 2007
  • Pages: 120 pages
  • Source: Own collection – Kindle
  • Stars: 4 stars out of 5

I read this for Rick’s Novellas in November challenge.

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Thomas Steinbeck: Cabbages and Kings (review)

CABBAGES AND KINGS, Steinbeck - Cover‘The time has come, the Walrus said, to talk of many things. Of shoes and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings, and why the sea is boiling hot, and whether pigs have wings.’ (p. 55)

So when I was contacted by Post Hill Press and asked if I wanted to read some new novellas by John Steinbeck’s son Thomas Steinbeck, I was interested just because of the name. And then I read the synopsis and thought it sounded kind of like fantasy and thought that could be really interesting.
Of course, Thomas Steinbeck is his father’s son and of course, he didn’t write fantasy. He writes realistic fiction, set in the early 20th century and dealing with people in trouble.
Titus Gatelock is a man whom no one really knows. He never cares what anyone says about him and even when people start saying that he was a bandit and that he was part of a famous train robbery, he just smiles and shakes his head and says, ‘There’s real history and real truth out there everywhere, but when it bumps heads with a whopping good yarn that everybody enjoys, then the truth is sure to cross the line in last place every time.’ (p. 1-2)
But Titus is a good man. He does good things for the people around him and he’s almost a second father to the two boys living close by, Lobosito and our narrator. These two boys strike up a strong friendship despite the differences in their circumstances. The narrator’s father own a ranch, Titus is a tenant on it and he hires the mexican man and woman who are Lobosito’s parents to help him out. But the friendship between the boys never wavers, despite them making different choices with their lives they always stay close and work together towards a common goal. Especially as time gets rough, banks falter and people start starving. And it’s clear from the way Titus and the boys’ parents behave that they don’t have this from strangers.
There are several great things in this novella. I loved how Titus gets the two boys to dig a lot of holes for apple trees while making them believe they were digging for treasure – and then making them believe that they themselves come up with the idea of planting apple trees. And the pig, oh my, the pig. Titus has a pig, a heavy cast iron thing which he paints – and others paints – in various garish colors – thereby naming it The Speckled Pig of Destiny. That pig was amazing!
So this was a really good read. I went into it not really knowing what to expect but when I had finished and had read the last page, I was really impressed. I can’t compare Thomas to John, in part because what I love most of John’s work, are the long novels (East of Eden and The Grapes of Wrath) and this was only 59 pages – but mostly because it’s not really fair to do so. Even though this book takes place close to Salinas Valley where John was born and which he used as a setting for some of his books. And the type of person the author seems to be based on his work, seem to be impressive for both father and son. Suffice to say, that I think it’s definitely worth reading both Steinbecks.

‘My only responsibilities are to treat my fellow creatures with appropriate respect, do the best work I can do for those requiring my services, and treat all people as honestly as I would lie to be treated myself. And lastly, if possible, harm no one on my journey through life. Nothing else is anyone’s business.’ (p. 22)

First line: Titus Gatelock was well known to just about everybody around King City who possessed a horse, a mule, or any close approximation with “four legs and a whiny”; though this commonly used phrase would be highly misleading in the case of Mr. Gatelock.

  • Title: Cabbages and Kings
  • Author: Thomas Steinbeck
  • Publisher: Post Hill Press
  • Year: 2013
  • Pages:  59 pages
  • Source: Review copy – kindle
  • Stars: 4 stars out of 5

I read this for Rick’s Novellas in November challenge.

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Doctor Who 50th Anniversary #5

doctor_who___50th_anniversary_poster_by_disneydoctorwhosly23-d5gxelrThis year we celebrate Doctor Who’s 50th Anniversary. One of the ways we do this, is by getting eleven short stories written about eleven authors. Each story is based on one of the eleven doctors, of course. A range of different authors of children’s fiction get to play with a doctor each and each month, on the 23rd, a new short story will be released.

Here’s the schedule – with links to my reviews (and yeah, I’m behind…):

PatrickNess-TipoftheTongueIn a small town in Maine in 1945, things are happening. People starts telling each other the truth, no matter what it is – and that’s just not the way to make friends. Leading this charge of truth is the Acklin family who owns the local store and who are always first with the new things. Their daughter is organizing Truth Parties which just add a bit more nastiness to the whole teenage experience. And of course to participate in a Truth Party, you first have to buy a Truth Teller at the Acklin store. It’s always nice when families work together, right?
Not quite popular enough to be allowed in to these parties, are the two friends, Nettie and Jonny. The only mixed-race child and the only Jewish child in town, the two were destined to be friends when they met as five-years-old. Now, nine year later, Jonny has fallen in love with one of the popular girls in town and to have a chance with her, he buys a Truth Teller from Nettie. A Truth Teller, which immediately let her know, that he likes her only as a friend.
But of course a Truth Teller is not something that’s supposed to be in Maine in the 40s. So of course the Doctor shows up. A very elegant doctor in a white suit – with a celery in the lapel! And when a female companion wearing pants, the two are sure to attract attention.
What I really liked about this story was, that it wasn’t told from the point of view of the Doctor and his companion. I liked that it was told from Nettie and Jonny’s viewpoint. Normally we are with the Doctor and sees things from his side but I like to see it from the side of those who experience the Doctor waltzing in and doing something strange and – for them – unexplainable.
I also really liked how Patrick Ness used these small alien Truth Tellers to identify the Doctor. And that got me thinking, that I don’t think any of the novels have had a ‘Doctor Who’ moment, you know ‘I’m the Doctor.’ ‘Doctor Who?’ – and I kind of miss that. Of course they can’t put every trope in these short stories but I would like one of these moments in one of them.
Basically, I liked the whole idea of this story and it-s dealing with friendship, racism, bullying and how the rich and powerful can do whatever they want. I thought Patrick Ness manages to do a lot in a short amount of pages but I didn’t feel like I got a very good impression of this, the Fifth Doctor. So one of the strengths of the story becomes also one of it’s weaknesses. So a great short story, but maybe not a good Doctor Who story. But I still liked it …

First line: ‘Is it broken?’ Jonny asked, frowning.

  • Title: Tip of the Tongue
  • Author: Patrick Ness
  • Publisher: Puffin Books
  • Year: 2013
  • Pages: 38 pages
  • Source: Own collection – Kindle
  • Stars: 3 stars out of 5

I read this as part of the year-long celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who.

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Meike Ziervogel: Magda (review)

9781907773402frcvr.inddLately my cultural life has somehow gotten a common theme. And not a nice theme. Recently the latest – and maybe last – movie by the Danish director Niels Malmros has gotten a lot of attention in Danish medias since it’s a very personal movie about his personal life and how his wife killed their infant daughter 29 years ago. His wife suffered from manic depression which had turned into a psychosis. It seems to be a strong and powerful story about love and how you don’t need to forgive someone if you never blamed them in the first place. This has caused other similar stories to appear. On top of that, I just read a book where a mother kills her baby – and now I’m reading Magda; a book about Magda Goebbels and how she killed all six of her children. I wouldn’t mind a happier theme soon!

I never knew about Magda Goebbels and what she did before watching Der Untergang. In this movie, there’s a very powerful scene where we watches Magda kill five of her children in their sleep by giving them poison and then forcing her eldest who wakes up and realizes what’s going on, to also ingest the poison. And when I then heard that Meike Ziervogel had written about Magda, I definitely knew I had to read that book.
Magda is just a short book, a 115 pages novella. In this short span of pages, Ziervogel both deals with Magda’s childhood and difficult relationship with her mother and the father who left, as well as Magda’s love life and her first meeting with Adolf Hitler and Joseph Goebbels. The story is told both from Magda herself, from her mother and in diary pages from Magda’s oldest daughter, Helga. We get to experience what life was in the Führer Bunker in the final days in Berlin in World War II and what it’s like to be a teenage girl experiencing first love in rather unfortunate circumstances as well as a mother’s dread for what will happen with her children after the war if they are named Goebbels.

While this for me definitely was a powerful read that left my lying awake after finishing it and being slightly disturbed by Magda’s action and wondering what – if anything – she could have done otherwise and reflecting on what I would have done in the same situation – and what a mother must feel, killing her six children, the book was not as good as I had hoped. I think it would have benefitted from more pages – there was simply too much story, too many details, too many viewpoints and too much sadness for 115 pages.
I also couldn’t help comparing it to Beloved and the far stronger story of a former slave who kills her daughter to save her from becoming a slave. The action is the same. Magda  even does it in a much kinder way – but still I feel more for the mother in Beloved, maybe because you were forced to become a slave, you were not forced to become a Nazi. And I know that’s not completely fair or even true but I think that’s why. Or maybe it’s just because that Magda, while being a very good read, just isn’t as good a read as Beloved. Still, I recommend reading both as they are both interesting and thought provoking.

First line: Magda enters Joseph’s study without knocking.

  • Title: Magda
  • Author: Meike Ziervogel
  • Publisher: Salt
  • Year: 2013
  • Pages: 115 pages
  • Source: Kindle
  • Stars: 3 stars out of 5

I read this for Rick’s Novellas in November challenge.

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Doctor Who 50th Anniversary #4

doctor_who___50th_anniversary_poster_by_disneydoctorwhosly23-d5gxelrThis year we celebrate Doctor Who’s 50th Anniversary. One of the ways we do this, is by getting eleven short stories written about eleven authors. Each story is based on one of the eleven doctors, of course. A range of different authors of children’s fiction get to play with a doctor each and each month, on the 23rd, a new short story will be released.

Here’s the schedule – with links to my reviews (and yeah, I’m behind…):

17734251One of the things I’ve learned in this 50th Anniversary Year is that I love getting to know more about the history of Doctor Who. Growing up, I had never heard of Doctor Who but discovered it by chance when on maternity leave with my first daughter. My first doctor was David Tennant and one of the first episodes I remember watching, is School Reunion. But because of this 50th Anniversary coming up so very soon, I’ve been inspired to dive into the history of Doctor Who, not just by reading these short stories by various authors but also by watching some of the old episodes. I haven’t had as much time as I had hoped so I’ve only finished watching the existing episodes with the First Doctor and a lot of the Second Doctor episodes – and I just love watching how some themes and villains have survived all through the series.
The Fourth Doctor with his jelly babies and colorful scarf is one Doctor, I’m really looking forward to watching but for now, I’m happy to settle for reading this short story.
First of, I absolutely loved the setting – a giant tree floating in space. This is the home of a people who seem to not only have met the Doctor before but to have rather strong feelings about him. And it quickly becomes clear that these feelings are not positive in any way. Rather, this people have been carrying a grudge for 900 years and to remember this, they all have names like Vengeance-Will-Be-Ours-When-The-Docor-Dies-A-Thousand-Agonizing-Deaths. So it’s not exactly a friendly welcome, the Doctor and Leela receives when they go there to satisfy Leela’s need to see some trees.
But of course things quickly spiral somewhat out of control and the Doctor and Leela both have to figure out why the Doctor is so hated and what to do now when both the population of the tree and they themselves are under heavy attack.
My favorite thing about this novel was the setting and the humor. I haven’t watched the Fourth Doctor but he seems to be a humorous Doctor and that definitely showed through in this short story. He had a great reaction to finding out that all the inhabitants had anti-Doctor names and I love both the references to the 11th Doctor and how one person’s past is another person’s future.
So an enjoyable read – just too darn short!

‘I can just about accept that I might, one day, in a moment of weakness, wear a bow tie, but there is no way I will ever take up arms against anyone unless they thoroughly deserve it.’

First line: Above the dead surface of a nameless world, far out among the Autumn Stars, the Heligan Structure hangs alone in the hard, cold light of space.

  • Title: The Roots of Evil
  • Author: Philip Reeve
  • Publisher: Puffin Books
  • Year: 2013
  • Pages: 40 pages
  • Source: Own collection – Kindle
  • Stars: 3 stars out of 5

I read this as part of the year-long celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who.

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Jim Butcher: Fool Moon (Dresden Files #2)

91477‘Don’t mess with a wizard when he’s wizarding.’ (location 3055)

So immediately after finishing Storm Front, I picked up Fool Moon. In part because I was intrigued and wanted to keep on reading about Harry Dresden and in part because I just wasn’t ready to dive into anything more serious.
I had a good time reading Storm Front but didn’t love the book. But there’s no question about it – Fool Moon is the better book.
As usual – or can’t you say that when it’s only book two? – Harry is in serious need of work and money. But luckily he is called in to help the police and finds himself at the scene of a rather grizzly murder. A scene with large paw prints, a victim which seems to have been halfway eaten – and it’s a full moon. I’m not spoiling anything by saying that werewolves play a part in the plot.
But if it were just werewolves, it would be too easy. So as it turns out, there are different kinds of werewolves – and they don’t necessarily look with friendly eyes on each other. Or on the private eye wizard trying to figure out what’s going on…
There’s not much new under the sun. The plot follows roughly the same pattern as in the first book. There are several recurring characters who do pretty much the same as in the first book and Harry seems to react in the same ways. But there’s is something about these books and as the writing has improved from the first book, I’m still game.
Something I really like about this series is, that Harry doesn’t always seem to always know exactly what he’s doing and even though he’s a trained wizard, he sometimes overestimates his own abilities. And that works well for creating some great action. Another clever move is that Dresden can’t use modern technology so he can’t just look things up online because anything electric basically self-destructs whenever he gets near. This is such a smart move on Butcher’s part.
I also really like that Butcher doesn’t fully explain a lot of things. We are still left guessing about what a lot of things are and how the magic really works. Like the Nevernever. I’m pretty sure that Harry will go there at some point and I like that we are kept waiting.
But I think my favorite part of this book was the potion making. He makes a fade-into-the-background potion as well as a pick-me-up potion and the ingredients just makes sense – in a funny way. The fade-into-the dark potion is filled with boring stuff – like lettuce for taste and elevator music to camouflage the spirit whereas the pick-me-up potion contains morning doughnut, fresh soap, dawn sunshine, a to-do list, some bright cheerful music – and coffee! I’m really not sure it makes sense if you think too hard about it but it doesn’t have to. It works in the book.
So all in all, this book has more humor and feels better written than the first book in the series. Oh, and he mentions Benji too, a childhood favorite of mine. So again, an enjoyable read and I’ll definite read further on in the series at some point. Probably soon because I’m starting to fall asleep again when reading in bed at night…

  • Title: Fool’s Moon (The Dresden Files #2)
  • Author: Jim Butcher
  • Publisher: Roc 
  • Year: 2001
  • Pages:  421 pages
  • Source: Own collection – Kindle
  • Stars: 3 stars out of 5

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Stephen King: The Waste Lands (The Dark Tower #3) (review)

waste-lands‘Feed your need to read.’ (p. 156)
After the gathering of Susannah and Eddie in The Gathering of the Three, Roland’s ka-tet is to all appearances finished and the three set off for the Dark Tower. Roland teaches them the ways of the gunslinger to prepare them for whatever lies ahead – but also because he is slowly going mad. His mind is constantly arguing with itself about the boy Jake who travelled with Roland in The Gunslinger and was killed. Roland saved Jake from being killed in our world, thus preventing Jake from going to Roland’s world and dying there. This creates a paradox and now Roland has two sets of memories. Did Jake exist or not, did he die or not. These two strands of memories are pulling Roland apart in such a devastating way that he freely hands over his gun and knife, knowing that he might hurt Eddie and Susannah if he looses it completely – and still caries weapons.
But a ka-tet is nothing if not bound together by destiny and the members may be linked in more ways than they first thought. Eddie starts having weird dreams, dreams about a haunted house he remembers from his childhood. And in the corner of his eye, there’s a boy there. A boy watching him and his brother. A boy who is new.
In this novel, we get more glimpses and hints about what has happened to Roland’s world. It has changed, grown bigger and is at the same time slowly dying. And the dark tower is a part of this. The tower has guardians: huge, creepy half animal half robot creatures. We get the pleasure of meeting the giant bear Shardik. It is definitely a force to be reckoned with, as the trio finds out. As soon as I read the name Shardik, I knew it was a nod to Richard Adams and King plays it very cool, letting Eddie say: ‘I know that name, but I can’t place it. /…/ The thing is … /…/ I associate it with rabbits.’ Later in the book he does come out and names Adams as well as Watership Down but I loved the sly humor in this scene.
The bear guards the road to the tower. Everything is draw to the tower so the path is easy to follow when it has been found. Unfortunately this path leads them to the city of Lud, a city torn apart by war. But there they must go to continue their journey towards the tower.
King also manages to take a well-known children’s story and turn it into something scary and nasty. The story is about a train which only want to choo-choo along and enjoy the sky and the wind but which is pushed aside by a newer faster train but finally the old train gets it’s redemption and is allowed to carry children around an amusement park. My kids have that book – or a version of it anyhow – and now I’m scared to go find it and read it and most of all, I’m scared to look at the pictures. Because this train … this train is a serious freak!
For me, this was the best book so far in the The Dark Tower series. It was just pure pleasure to read it and I didn’t want to put it down. As always, King is a master story teller. There might be issues with his world building and with the connections between our world and Roland’s world – but who cares! It’s solid enough to make you pause and think over things and how the worlds are related but not so solid that you feel like you have to try to find small mistakes that can make the world building crumble.
My favorite (new) character in this novel is the dog-like creature Oy, a billy-bumbler. He is a clever, clever animal, dedicated and faithful, and even able to count and pronounce some syllables/words. He is indispensable in this novel and I’m just sad that he wandered into a King novel because the odds of him getting out of this alive, are not good. Not good at all.
In fact, now we know a tiny bit more about what we’re up against, I would be surprised if all our main characters will make it through to the tower.
So many times I’ve seen books marketed as ‘Harry Potter for adults’ etc (which is a bit weird since many adults, myself included, read Harry Potter). But if you’re looking for fantasy for an adult audience, this is it. King never shies back from anything. Here’s sex, drugs and rock’n’roll. Yes, the sex is with a demon. Yes, the drugs are only in Eddie’s reminiscing and yes, the rock’n’roll is not easily recognizable at first – but that’s what gives it edge and makes it stand out.

dark tower ral

I began reading this series as part of the epic read-along of The Dark Tower hosted by The Stephen King Challenge blog – and I have written earlier that I was fallen behind – now I’m not sure quite how far along the read-along has come – or if it’s even going on any more but I’m still trotting along, slow but kind of steady…

  • Title: The Waste Lands (The Dark Tower #3)
  • Author: Stephen King
  • Publisher: New English Library – Hodder & Stoughton
  • Year: 2003 (original 1991)
  • Pages: 584 pages
  • Source: My boyfriend’s collection
  • Stars: 5 stars out of 5

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F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Great Gatsby (review)

$(KGrHqJ,!h!E-7S82Jb6BP0N1CdgO!~~60_35Years ago, when I was a young teenager, I remember watching The Great Gatsby starring Robert Redford. I was not impressed. I don’t remember anything from the movie except an image of Redford in a white suit. An image, I’m not even completely sure is from that movie and not from some other Redford movie. I think I was too young to understand it and until now, this has been my only impression of The Great Gatsby.

But since Baz Luhrman decided to make a new Gatsby movie, The Great Gatsby has been everywhere. So I decided that not only did I want to read the book, I also wanted to watch both movies.

Of course I started with the book. I was slightly taken aback by it’s slow start. Being a novel of only 188 pages, it seemed odd at first how many pages went by without Gatsby appearing. But when he finally did step into the pages of the book, I was instantly intrigued.

The novel is told from the point of view of Nick Carraway, a young man who happens to live next door to the impressive mansion belonging to Jay Gatsby. From a distance, he watches the lavish parties thrown by Gatsby until finally he is invited and able to experience the extravaganza of Gatsby firsthand.

At this party, he meets Jordan Baker and is drawn into Gatsby’s inner circle and he finds out that Gatsby Is in love with a married woman living across the bay. Daisy Buchanan and Jay Gatsby were sweethearts when they were younger but Gatsby had to leave for the war and when he returned, Daisy was married.

Gatsby has never forgotten his love for Daisy and both Jordan and Nick becomes involved, not only both with Gatsby’s quest to get Daisy back but with each other as well.

Gatsby struck me as such a forceful character. I was immediately intrigued by him. His desperate longing for Daisy and for the status in life, a marriage with her will mean, is apparent on every page and his plight is just so real. I remember walking past the house where the boy I had a crush on lived – over and over and over, just wishing for him to look out the window and notice me. Gatsby, having way more money than teenage me, moves in across the bay from his crush, stares longingly at the green light on her pier, throws huge glamorous parties in order to entice everyone to participate in the hope that one day, Daisy will show up and step back into his life.

Alas, such all-consuming love is rarely rewarded but maybe Gatsby’s love, devotion and ambition will be enough to ensure a happy ending?

It’s a heart breaking novel. A man who struggles so, who does everything in his power to become the man he thinks his one true love wants him to be. A man who is the loneliest man in the world when he stands on his own front lawn, bidding the last of his guests farewell, another night wasted, another night without Daisy.

This is a book and a character that will stay with me. I’m already looking forward to rereading it after watching the movies and getting their perspectives on the story, nay, the life of Jay Gatsby, billionaire and star-crossed lover extraordinaire.

For anyone who has ever loved and lost and longed for that lost love, this is the perfect novel.

‘So we drove on toward death through the cooling twilight.’ (p. 142)

  • Title: The Great Gatsby
  • Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Publisher: Penguin
  • Year: 1994 (original 1926)
  • Pages: 188 pages
  • Source: Own collection
  • Stars: 5 stars out of 5