Friday, June 26, 2015

Halfway Through 2015 and What Have I Done?

In real life, my daughter turned 6!  Yup.  6.  I feel old.  What happened to my baby? Also, I'm planning my son's 4th birthday.  4!  My baby boy!

Awesome Books I Read:

Lots of Grisha! 1, 2 + short story

Fun Movies I Saw:
Avengers: Age of Ultron
- Apparently I haven't watched that many movies lately


Also, I bought a bunch of books when a bookstore closed. *sniff* I got a job! *cheers*, but not before I compared interviews to blind dates and discovered my most disliked interview question. Not in that order. Did I mention that I had two printers and they both broke at the same time! Let's not forget - and maybe I should have led with this - I met Andrew Pyper!

I really need to make that Kofta Kabab again.  It was so tasty.  I also have two more Grisha short stories and the final novel calling my name. I'm thinking of trying my next turkey breast on the barbecue. I also plan on watching a couple more movies.  I used to watch movies all the time.  What happened? I think I'll be tackling a few more classics, like maybe Mansfield Park.  I hope everyone else has had a great first half of 2015.

Monday, June 22, 2015

The Closing of a Bookstore

I went to a charity book sale on the weekend.  I was so excited when I heard about it, I couldn't resist. I spent only $23 and got 16 books!  It was a three-day sale, but I didn't get to go until the third day.  I imagine I would have bought even MORE BOOKS if I was there on the first day.  As it was, I had to put stuff back, not that I couldn't afford it, but I couldn't imagine where I was going to put them.  My shelves are already overflowing and here I've added 16 more books (plus I ordered some online recently too, they're just not here yet.)  I'm turning into a book hoarder.  Shh... Don't tell my husband.

It's a bit sad though.  The book sale was put on by the local Literacy Council, because the local used bookstore had to close its doors.  They downsized last summer/fall, but it wasn't enough.  Rumour has it that the owner financed the store out of love, which is nice.  Until she passed and the people who were working there had to figure out a way to make it a viable business.  They tried and it didn't work out. The Literacy Council was brought in to liquidate the inventory. I'm sorry that this store, that I bought many books from over the years, closed.  I think at least a quarter of all the books in my house came from there.  I hope the books went to good homes. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest

Lisbeth Salander is amazing. So is Mikael Blomkvist.  So are Annika Giannini, Erika Berger, and Monica Figuerola. Stieg Larsson created some amazing characters, strong female characters that I appreciate, but not to the detriment of intelligent, caring male characters.  The balance is fantastic, from the characters, to the slow and quick points in the plot, the action and the thought. I also loved that there were basically two climaxes.  I wondered after the first one, why there was so much book left, I thought maybe an extended prologue, Lisbeth and Mikael working out their problems or something, but nope.  It was lulling us into a false sense of completeness before more danger crept up. Honestly, I had kind of forgotten about that guy, as I was wrapped up in the court trial and the bad men being arrested and the bad doctor being shredded. Those court scenes were amazing.

I started reading The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest with a lot of eager anticipation. I was not disappointed. The beginning of the novel primarily focused on Blomkvist and his quest to save Salander.  I love the character, even though he's a bit of a womanizer, though kind of not on purpose. Maybe that's what lets me enjoy him, that he is himself and doesn't pretend to be something else.  As the beginning was dominated by Blomkvist, the end was all Salander. I enjoyed following her journey.  I wondered how self-destructive it would become or if she would become a citizen of the world.  The two main characters of the story barely spent anytime together, but everything they did affected the other.

I really enjoyed Larsson's bits about the Amazons throughout the novel. He littered the Millenium trilogy with his own Amazons.  Lisbeth Salader, Berger, Linder, Figuerola, Giannini, Modig, all strong women.

I can't really go on without spoilers, so, you've been warned.

I can't believe they shot Zalachenko so soon.  He's creeping around, I'm getting ready for him to do something to Lisbeth, for some kind of confrontation, a final, epic struggle, then BAM!  He's shot and Lisbeth doesn't have to worry about him any more.  Also, who thought it was a good idea to put them two doors down from each other in the hospital? It was frustrating, but a good fake-out by Larsson. The story gets you thinking one thing, but then takes a sharp turn and there is something else to worry about.

I liked that Larsson did not blame all of the Security Police for what happened.  It was just a small part of Säpo doing these things, not the entire organization. When Figuerola told Blomkvist about why she worked there and the good work that she did, it really spoke to how Larsson handled the separation between Säpo and the Section for Special Analysis.  It was the Section, working on its own, that did this to Lisbeth Salader, that caused her not to trust psychiatrists and the police. It was good to see that as the story unfolded, Lisbeth could admit to herself that Modig and Bublanski were on her side, even though they were the authorities.

Have I mentioned how much I liked the Berger subplot? Another woman being threatened by a man in the Millennium series. Even though Lisbeth starts out not liking Berger, this is something she won't stand for. With Salander's secret help and the help of Milton's employee, Linder (another strong female), Berger is able to break through the threats and do what is right, not just for the child labourers in Vietnam, but for herself.

I haven't even mentioned Dr. Jonasson. I thought he was fantastic. I liked how his relationship with Lisbeth evolved beyond a doctor/patient one. I really like how he shut down Teleborian. I liked that he gave Teleborian an alternative diagnosis and became very suspicious as soon as he was shot down. I wonder if we will see him in any subsequent books or if Larsson ever intended on ever bringing him back. 

Where is Camilla Salander? I want to know. Is that in the unpublished material that we might not ever get to read?  Zalachenko talks about the children he has fathered, is there more information on any of them? Mostly though, I wonder about Camilla. She just left her sister and mother? She has her own classified file, is there something more? I wonder if any of her story will be dealt with in The Girl in the Spider's Web.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest kind of feels like the conclusion to a trilogy. There is the possibility for more, but with both Blomkvist and Salander finished with the Section and Zalachenko, there isn't anything else pressing them. Is it left open for the possibility of another book more like the end of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo? Yes. There are loads of stories that would have been possible, if Larsson had lived and decided to write them.  If he had decided to never publish another Millennium book again, I don't know if we'd miss it in the same was as if there wasn't another book after The Girl Who Played with Fire

I was excited by the story from the first page of The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest. The entire Millennium trilogy was brilliant. I'm glad I've finally read all the books and even if you don't like mysteries, I would recommend them to everyone.

Monday, June 08, 2015

Clay's Ark

There is a ship, Clay's Ark, which takes Earth's first ever interstellar explorers to another planet. That doesn't turn out so well. The last surviving crew member makes it back to Earth and goes into hiding. There is also a family. A doctor and his two daughters, their mother having died some time ago. It is 2021 and America does not seem like a great place to live. Smash all that together and we have the story of Clay's Ark.

What I liked most about Clay's Ark was Octavia E. Butler's allusions to the future.  Clay's Ark was published in 1984. To me, it doesn't seem that long ago, but it has been 31 years (and that makes me feel old).  Talking about her grandparents, Keira "wanted to visit them in the flesh, not just see them on a phone screen." That's something we can relate to now. We Skype and FaceTime our family and friends who live far away, even ones who don't, but sometimes it is nice to be with them in real life. Even the main character's name is called into question.  When Eli asks where Keira got "a name like that", her response is that her mother didn't want her children "to have names that sounded like everybody's." To which Eli starts calling her Kerry.  If Butler only knew, I know more than one Kiera (and Keiran) and her sister Rane does not have an unusual name for the 21st century either. At one point, the characters "turned on the map", which I think means they turned on the GPS.  From the descriptions of the screen in the car, I'm sure it's an onboard GPS. The vocabulary to describe it was just different in the early 80s.

Of all the things that were part of the "future", this quote struck me most, "She knew about ugly reactions. Probably Jacob knew more, or would learn more, but walking down a city street between her mother and her father had taught her quite a bit." Keira's mother was black and her father is white.  She remembers the racism she has had to deal with in her life (though Butler never uses the term "racism" throughout the entire novel), about people not believing Blake is her "real" father, as she is darker skinned than her sister.  I hope we are mostly past these reactions. I haven't experienced them here, but maybe that is also about where I live.  I have gone to other places and felt "different", a feeling I hope my children never experience.  I sometimes wonder if it would be worse for them too, because their father is white. Nobody has ever stared at them though, except to say that they are adorable. I appreciate Butler writing these kinds of characters in the 70s and 80s. I've read other works by her with interracial couples and I feel like those stories might have been difficult to get published.

The story takes place in 2021, which was a long time away for people living in 1984, but that is only six years from now.  Are we going to Proxima Centauri in six years? I doubt it. Though how they got there was not based on current technology (that of the 80s or of now). Here's how they did it...

I waited for half the book to tell me about Clay Dana and why Eli's ship was called "Clay's Ark". Then, it was barely a couple pages of information, about Clay Dana giving over information for interstellar drives, based on his own psionic powers and how the potential for these powers in others could power the drive.  I'm not sure I'm on board with this reasoning, but it is what happened.   The part that irked me the most was that the ship was the only information we got about Clay.  What about him as a person?  Yes, he was with Eli and the other astronauts, but what about his life?  Who was he with?  Did he have a wife and family? What was his life like after he left his brother behind? Where is he now? What about his brother and the Patternist people?

In the end, I felt like Clay's Ark was a set-up book.  With Doro gone by the end of Mind of my Mind, the Patternists had no enemies, no one to stand against them as they spread.  By the end of Clay's Ark, there is something that can now threaten the survival of the Patternists.  It had to come from outer space, but it is on earth now.  I wonder what the Patternists are going to do about it, but I also wonder if we needed a whole book to give the organism a back story.  I think I would have liked the story better if it felt more connected to the series, instead of me just waiting for information that was never coming.  Clay's Ark was okay.  I think the story had more potential, but it didn't dive deep enough.  It did make me think though, and I can always appreciate that. I am looking forward to Patternmaster. I have a feeling there is a showdown coming.

Friday, June 05, 2015

Siege and Storm

Siege and Storm was the perfect book for my mood. I wanted excitement, emotion, love, hate and the unexpected. Siege and Storm delivered all of that. I'll try to be vague with the spoilers, but there will be some. If you skip the rest of the post, just know that I loved the second book in Liegh Bardugo's Grisha trilogy and I'm happy that I already have a copy of Ruin and Rising. I devoured Siege and Storm, and I think book #3 is going to get the same treatment.

The story was full of the unexpected. I was really surprised that they found the sea whip so soon. I thought it would be more of a journey, like with the stag. I think there is something more to Mal. He can't be that good. I thought so when he found the stag in Shadow and Bone, but after the sea whip, I feel so certain of it. I am excited to see what happens with him in the next book. I was also surprised that we didn't get to spend more time with Alina and Mal on the run, especially after reading the synopsis. I thought there would be more build up, but if there were more, the book would have had to be longer and I think it was the right length.

I loved Sturmhond. Everything about him. The surprising and a bit of the expected, but in a good way. I was worried he'd turn out to be like his brother or the Darkling, but he was just right. He was coated in lies and personas, but I think there was truth there, genuine emotion and attachment to Alina and even Mal. His surprise was one of my favourites.

The twins were fantastic. Tamar and Tolya brought a new perspective to the Grisha, powerful people, who didn't rely solely on their power or want to be part of the Second Army. I think their surprise might be my actual favourite... Not that I necessary agreed with it, but I liked it in the story.

Honestly, all of the, all the characters, new and old, throughout Seige and Storm were wonderful. Genya! David! Nadia! They had purpose, they contributed to the plot. They moved the story along, but also showed unique personalities and growth, everyone from Alina to Zoya.

Alina's transformation was (of course) the most dramatic. Once the sea whip became a part of her, her personality started to alter. The Darkling got into her head, but the end, with the two of them, was amazing. Part of me thinks Mal shouldn't have gone back for her, for the sake of their country, but he had to, because he's Mal and he's a hero. Also, then the series would be over and we can't have that!

I can't wait to see what will happen to the white hair.  The country. The firebird. The cult. There are two short stories to read too, The Little Knife and The Demon in the Wood.  I'm excited for them. I love Bardugo's short stories in the world of the Grisha. I will be reading those before I get to Ruin and Rising.  A lot of reading to do, fun, tense, exciting read.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

The Cabin In The Woods

I don't know how to talk about The Cabin in the Woods without splashing spoilers all over the place....bloody, bloody, spoilers. So, I'll just start by saying that The Cabin in the Woods is a fantastic movie.  It's a horror movie about five friends who head up to a cabin for some weekend fun, but from the first scene, you know that's not all their is.  I liked how the trailers hinted at it being something else, but mostly focused on the five friends. The trailers made Chris Hemsworth's character look like a dumb jock, but he's not. He's smart and he suffers and he wants to save his friends. Nothing is what these friends think.  If you haven't seen the movie yet, even if you think you know about it (like me) there is more.

I loved Marty. He was the perfect fool. Like King Lear's fool, he saw everything more clearly than his friends, though they were being manipulated A LOT. These friends were each playing a role. The fool is the one who connects the pieces. He saves the virgin, not the jock or the scholar. Of course the whore is the first, but is that a horror movie cliché or is it that way for another reason? In the first scene of the movie, we know they were chosen. They were sent to the cabin. The scene in the cellar was creepy and cool. That was the moment where the friends got to make a choice.  The only right one was not to go down there though, but curiosity apparently always wins out. Though I think each character played their part, I feel so bad for the blond, who was pre-med, but had to dye her hair and change her fate. Marty definitely won the day for me.  Yay, to the end of the world!

A quick comment about the Japanese school girls: they were amazing.  They were nine and didn't need anyone else.  I loved the bowl of flowers, I loved the frog.

Also, when Curt jumped with the bike.  They were so full of hope, but the audience knew what was going to happen.

The crew, the people behind the scenes, watching the monitors were interesting.  On one hand, they were doing what they believed in, on the other, they were killing four to five people.  Apparently, it is optional for the virgin to die. I don't know entirely how I feel about them.  I think the new security guard, Truman, really gave a voice to humanity and compassion.  If he had to live with his acts as long as some of the others, maybe he would have been placing bets too, but he balanced those people nicely.

The end was amazing.  Perfect and surprising.  The gun, the werewolf, the Director, the hand, it was all perfect.  I don't know how someone could come up with that ending, with those sequence of events.  I wish I could see what happened after.  I doubt we will ever be able to, because that was a serious ending.  I know The Cabin in the Woods came out all the way in 2012, but if you haven't seen it yet, make sure you do.  It was a great, fun, exciting movie.

Monday, June 01, 2015

The Tailor, by Leigh Bardugo

The Tailor is a fantastic short story, by Leigh Bardugo.  It is a story told from Genya's point of view, the only Grisha with her particular abilities (as far as we know) and a maybe friend of Alina, the main character in Bardugo's Grisha series.  In about 16 pages, Genya breaks your heart.  Alina is possibly her only friend, but Genya has endured so much, living in the palace with a vengeful Queen and a lecherous King, that she makes a decision that she believes will result in her freedom.  I appreciate that Bardugo doesn't soften things in the palace, she gives Genya very believable, though horrible reasons for doing what she did.

I've read Bardugo's other Grisha related short stories, but The Witch of Duva and The Too-Clever Fox were both "folk tales". The Tailor is the first Grisha short story I have read that is from the perspective of one of the other characters. I really enjoyed the folk tales.  Those stories are what motivated me to read the Grisha series. The Tailor, however, sheds light on a character's motivations that are hinted at in the first novel, but don't get fully explored.  I also appreciate that this story is available for free, something that couldn't fit in the first novel, but fans of Bardugo's would want to read.  The Tailor is the perfect set up for Siege and Storm, not that it hints at anything or even feels like a set up, but it made me energized to read the second Grisha novel and more by Bardugo.