Books, I think I just rambled, Life

being whelmed and getting hitched

reading

I’ve been reading, quite extensively at times. Old favourites, new ones. Gorging on a new-found author. (Erm, not literally.)

Person Sitting While Open the Book

It seems that the closer I come to The Adventure, the more I try to avoid thinking about it. It’s subconscious, I don’t think ‘come now, Ness, let us avoid reality.’ But, it happens. I’m excited about The Adventure, terribly so. Nervous, anxious, itching to get on with it. But staying whelmed by reading.

(That’s the opposite of overwhelmed. I’m giving it a new definition.)

… or I’m reading so much because I am a dedicated bookworm at heart. It could just be that too.

i’m getting hitched

I didn’t know it until last night, but I am well on my way to matrimonial bliss. An Englishman, Irishman, and Scotsman (doesn’t that sound like the setup for a joke?) walked into my place of work.

(Well, I know that one was Irish, one was Scottish, and the other was either English or Irish or Scottish. I’m not sure; the ear I should have for accents is profoundly deaf.)

The probable Englishman (‘my name’s such and such, but you can call me ‘fiance”) admitted that he didn’t have enough cash for a quick elopement to Las Vegas, so the Scotsman gamely stepped up and offered (‘I do‘ he said, clearly foreshadowing our vows).

Woman Wearing Pink and White Low Top Shoes Dancing Beside Man

We’re getting married in Las Vegas on the 12th of September (he was too busy on the 10th) and are going to have matching tattoos, and flame-haired children.

So that’s that sorted, then.

writing

This is a bit embarrassing. I’ve been suffering a mighty writer’s block brought about by three things:

  • Tiredness, due to work
  • A Wish To Read Instead, due to my bookworm nature
  • Lack Of Will Power, I’ve got the word document open often enough – but rarely do I actually, oh, I don’t know, add actual words.

BUT I HAVE HAD A BREAKTHROUGH. (And this is the embarrassing bit.)

I’ve changed the font.

Boom.

I was writing until half one last night/early this morning. AND ALL I DID WAS CHANGE THE FONT.

I just … nope. Why? Why does my brain act this way? Why?! Why couldn’t it have been ‘you must bathe in the milk of a unicorn at dawn when the crow calls twice with lisp and once with a hiccup’ or something like that. But noooo, it turns out that I’m a simple woman with simple ways to get over things: have writer’s block? Change the font. Boom. Done.

I think I’d make a terrible arty book heroine; I’ve no complicated connection to my artistic soul. Fonts. That’s the key. I’m not bitter about it, or anything …

happy reading/writing!

Books, Recountings

Recountings: Musketeers (and trifles)

My second readolution is finished. The Three Musketeers was a hybrid read – I read about a third of it in paperback and finished the rest in ebook format. I know, I know. How terrible of me. I feel no guilt.

I have loosely watched the BBC adaption of The Three Musketeers and so had a mental image of some of the characters. It turns out that when I was reading and picturing Athos, I was actually picturing Aramis.

(Apparently, I’m quite good at mixing people like this – fictional or otherwise. I once spent an entire tennis match cheering for the wrong person. It was very confusing.)

Anyway, back to the recounting …

D’Artagnan is a) a playah and b) a victim of insta-lurve! At the same time. Dude.

… shall we talk about Kitty? Hmm?

How he meets the Musketeers is hilarious – he manages to offend them all, one after the other. Accidentally. He’s also a little puppy like and you can’t help but like him.

“I am at the age of extravagant hopes, monseigneur,” said d’Artganan.

Oh. And he’s also a Gascon. (A fact repeatedly mentioned.) Did anyone picture the below when Gascon was mentioned? (Yes, I know – there is a difference between a Gascon and Gaston. But still …)

Porthos … ah, Porthos. He’s brash and vain, but he can maintain a silence. A majestic silence. No. Really. He can:

Porthos maintained a majestic silence.

… anyone who can do such a thing has my respect.

Aramis is torn between the church, his one true love and the possession of a handkerchief.

Athos is my favourite musketeer. He’s rather cool.

Athos listened to him without a frown; and when he had finished, said, “Trifles, only trifles!” That was his favourite word.

He has a favourite word! (Mine isn’t ‘trifles’ but I’ll overlook our differences.) He’s haunted by a troublesome past, can barricade himself in the cellar of an inn with style and is the musketeer closest to d’Artagnan.

Milady … my word, she was such a good villain. She saw opportunities and she grabbed those opportunities and cast such petty things as morals and conscience to the wind. Villains – female villains – of her ilk you don’t often see.

Though you wouldn’t want to *see* them. You’d want to run. In the opposite direction.

Favourite Chapters

Chapter 26 ‘Aramis and His Thesis’ is brilliant. D’Artagnan arrives to find Aramis about to enter the church, in the company of a curate and a Jesuit. Sheer. Gold. The curate pretends to know Latin and just echoes it after the Jesuit, whilst d’Artagnan is just like ‘Wha-?’

“See what an exordium!” cried the Jesuit.

“Exordium,” repeated the curate, for the sake of saying something. “QUEMADMODUM INTER COELORUM IMMNSITATEM.”

Aramis cast a glance upon d’Artagnan to see what effect all this produced, and found his friend gaping enough to split his jaws.

Chapter 47 ‘The Council of the Musketeers’ is awesome. Basically the heroes need to have a chat but the cardinal has eyes and ears everywhere. Their solution? Simples. Make a bet that they can have lunch in the middle of some sort of no man’s land. The cardinal won’t suspect a thing.

So they’re in the middle of Serious Discussions and all the while they are under fire and have to oh so casually fight for their lives whilst eating lunch and plotting.  And they say women are the best multitaskers …

Chapters 63, 64, 65 and 66 – AKA the Ending. The whole thing. As I was with How to Train Your Dragon 2, I was shocked – shocked! – when a character died. I honestly thought that they were still alive until they were either burned or buried. It was then that I realised that they were dead. Not comic book dead. But dead dead.

“… but I was so sure.”

In short: It took a while for me to get into this book, but after it got moving? It was such great fun.

Two readolutions down, an attempt on Dickens is next …

Books, Quotables, Recountings

Recountings: in memory of the elephants

1168916Take a dash of daring do, throw in a bit of casual racism, a pinch of beautiful prose and a dollop of nail biting tension and what do you have?

King Solomon’s Mines

by H. Rider Haggard

***There Be Spoilers Ahead***

Look, let’s get the ‘casual racism’ out of the way. Yep, I know that it’s a classic and therefore a wee bit antiquated but still … it  yanks my chain to read Allan Quatermain’s condescending attitudes towards those of a different skin colour.

But no amount of beauty or refinement could have made an entanglement between Good and herself a desirable occurrence; for, as she herself put it, “Can the sun mate with the darkness, or the white with the black?”

Saith whaaaaaat? Ohmygosh. Holy bigoted, self-important, inequality, Batman!

“… your book has horrible views on a great portion of humanity.”

I’m not going to rant and rave, though. I’m simply going to say this: however old the book, wrong views are still wrong. Being a ‘classic’ doesn’t make it okay. Mmkay?

Right, and now I’ve vented my chief problem with the story (the other one is elephants. And the killing of them. WHY, Allan? Did you know that elephants walk on tip-toe. Why would you slaughter creatures that are literally charging on tip toe towards you? Me no understand) let’s move on to the rest of this recounting.

The Synopsisking solomon's mines

King Solomon’s Mines tells of the search by Sir Henry Curtis, Captain John Good and the narrator, Allan Quatermain, for Sir Henry’s younger brother George. He has been lost in the interior of Africa for two years in his quest for King Solomon’s Mines, the legendary source of the biblical king’s enormous riches. The three companions encounter fearful hardships, fierce warriors, mortal danger and the sinister and deadly witch Gagool.

The Intrepid Trio:

First, let me say that Sir Henry is my favourite character by far. I love him. He reminds of Radcliff Emerson and that, my friends, is a splendiferous thing. He’s big, strong and brave and can remove an evil man’s head with ease (it’s an important life skill).

Whilst I didn’t like Captain John Good too much, he still managed to tumble down slopes, nearly die in caverns and escape drowning all with an eyeglass screwed in. And if that isn’t the definition of epic, I don’t know what is.

And also, there’s this:

Whilst we were at Durban he [Good] cut off a Kafir’s big toe in a way which it was a pleasure to see.

… he does what now?

Personally I don’t find toe removal a pleasure to see. In fact, I’d rather avoid it. However, I do find the rest of that passage amusing:

But he was quite nonplussed when the Kafir, who had sat stolidly watching the operation, asked him to put on another, saying that a “white one” would do at a pinch.

Allan Quatermain is … an interesting chap. A hunter, he’s short, proclaims himself a timid sort of man and at the beginning, was annoyingly voluble. (I’m a timid man, he says. But not too timid to make long speeches of drawn out deliberation it seems.)

I warmed to him a little as thing went along, because he was quite an interesting character after all. (And yes, I’ve used ‘interesting’ twice to describe him, but it’s true.) He’s not entirely bland nor entirely bigoted – his opinions, though wrong, are a product of his time. Even his big game hunting was considered fine and dandy back then. (Even though I baulked at the wholesale slaughter of those poor, innocent elephants.) He calls himself a coward and yet still charges into the fray.

While I wouldn’t say, ‘My word, that Allan Quatermain!’ (As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t say that to anyone about anyone. But, ahem, that’s beside the point) he’s okay (mostly – those elephants and those views and that- No. Not going there.)

Also: his internal monologues are quite fascinating to read and this one stood out to me amidst the rest:

Yet man dies not whilst the world, at once his mother and his monument, remains. His name is lost, indeed, but the breath he breathed still stirs the pine-tops on the mountains, the sound of the words he spoke yet echoes on through space; the thoughts his brain gave birth to we have inherited to-day; his passions are our cause of life; the joys and sorrows that he knew are our familiar friends–the end from which he fled aghast will surely overtake us also!

Truly the universe is full of ghosts, not sheeted churchyard spectres, but the inextinguishable elements of individual life, which having once been, can never die, though they blend and change, and change again for ever.

I feel rather intelligent right now

Moments From The Story:

I’m going to put this into bullet points. Though do be warned – this is not in chronological order.

  • Someone gets ripped apart by an elephant (oh no! They’re fighting back?!)
  • Another gets crushed by a stone door (FATALITYYYYY!!! Too far? Too far.)
  • There’s a huge battle – which to be honest, I didn’t find too exciting. I think between Sutcliff and Henty I’ve accidently lost my love of battles. If I ever had one, that is. From what I recall of Henty he copied and pasted from history books. Or rather it always felt like he did.
  • A ‘will they survive the desert’ period which was so well written it made me anxious.
  • A brutal fight between Sir Henry and the Evil King. Sir Henry escapes with a scar on his face. The Evil King? You could say he was headed for trouble when he started fighting.
  • The above was a terrible pun.
  • A terribly funny pun

In Conclusion

Whilst there were moments I did enjoy, as a whole, I didn’t find this book an easy read. I’m not sure if it’s because I wasn’t quite in the right mood at the times of reading or if it and I just weren’t meant to be friends.

One readolution down, five more to go. I’m not sure I can face Crime and Punishment right now, or Lorna Doone. Nope, for the next book off my readolution list, I’m choosing The Three Musketeers because my thirst for adventure has yet to be quenched.


15281423855_0f07f2966b_z
via Flickr

In memory of all the fictional elephants slain in King Solomon’s Mines

Books, Recountings

Recountings: The Books of the Scarlet Pimpernel

(because it’s not the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel, it’s the Books of the Scarlet- what do you mean that’s a poor joke?!)

*** WARNING. FETCH DRINK. BE SEATED. LONG POST AHEAD ***

If you have never encountered him, the Scarlet Pimpernel is a fabulous fop, obsessed with lace and clothing by day and a dashing saviour of the aristos by … well, the other days. And nights.

I love him. Sir Percy Blakeney, Baronet. Finest bloke around. But! This is not the reason why this post is penned. I’ve recently read not one, but two books that have a Scarlet Pimpernel spin.

Two!

shockedI know. It’s hard to contain your enthusiasm, isn’t it?  But I shall compare, contrast and … [insert another word beginning with c] confuddule? (Wha-?)

scarletpimpernelrookandstarsweptSetting

Rook is set in a dystopian Paris. Something went kaboom! and the earth’s magnetic thingybobs shifted, satellites fell from the sky, Paris sank a wee bit and no one wants to use technology.

Things are pretty bleak in Paris, lots of people are dying, but vive la revolution!

Across A Star-Swept Sea is set in a world where genetic modification took a down-turn, resulting in generations of folk with damaged brains. It’s not nice. I think a nuclear war happened and now the folk on New Pacifica believe themselves to be the only survivors.

Everybody uses technology and there are killer orcas. You can change your DNA by downing a sludgy drink – it’s linked to palmports and fluttery things. And yes, I know this is an awful summary. On one island, Albion, all is seemingly well. On the other, Galatea, bad things are happening.

acrossastarsweptseaThey Seek Him Here // Scarlet Pimpernel Figure

Sophia Bellamy is the Red Rook of Rook, and Persis Blake is the Wild Poppy of Across a Star-Swept Sea.

Now, the Pimpernel himself has this … adventure drive/doin’ it for the thrill of the chase thing going on (forgive me, it’s been a while since I read the books) and Sophia has that. Only … I didn’t feel as if it was her. It felt as if it was a feeling that was lumped onto her character and didn’t need to be there at all. It didn’t seem to fit, alright?

Persis didn’t have the same thing. Which I suppose isn’t like the Pimpernel, but it felt true to her character.

Now … the Fop-ish, dandyish side that acts as the Pimpernel’s cover? Persis has a little of it, but nothing beats the Great Percy. Nothing.

It Must Be True Love // Marguerite St Just

In Rook, there is a character called Spear.

scarletpimpernelohno
Sink me! The fellow is a blithering buffoon

There is a one-sided love triangle. I prefer my books to be love triangle free. I can’t help it. And Spear deserves to stamp on some Lego bricks. Or something dreadful like that.

I felt that Across A Star-Swept Sea had a better Marguerite figure. Rook‘s lead hero – whose hair and eyes are frequently mentioned (red and blue, if you’re wondering) – is a sort of mix between a Percy and a Marguerite. Or maybe Sophia is part Marguerite. I don’t know.

The Figure Clad In Black, Great Evil In His Wake // Chauvelin

rookRook‘s villain was crazed and liked flipping coins and worshiping fate. (Perfectly normal activities, I’m sure.)

(Upon thinking about it, I wonder if he would like the song Que Sera Sera?)

Across A- I’m Not Typing The Whole Title Out Again had a teenage girl/young woman in the roll of the Evil One.

In Rook you have the Razor, AKA La Guillotine. In the Across A Star-Swept Sea, it is worse. The revolutionists drug the aristos, causing their brains resemble vegetables, vanquishing thought and extinguishing personality.

When you lose your mind, do you even know that it’s gone?

Across A Star-Swept Sea

Verdict

scarletpimpernelstars
Tell me. Or I’ll put pepper in your snuff-box.

I would dare to say that Rook is a story inspired by the Scarlet Pimpernel (in fact, if I recall correctly, the book is mentioned in it. Very meta). Across a Star-Swept Sea is a retelling. I don’t believe that you really can compare them (though I just did so … pfft).

I really enjoyed Across a Star-Swept Sea. The heroine was likeable, and her family was too (oh, but the heart ache!). Rook … the finale was thrilling. The middle wasn’t. Alas, Rook and I will never be friends, beautiful though I found its cover to be.

Nothing is quite as good as the original, and I’ll leave it to Percy himself to finish this (slightly rambling) post off nicely:

They seek him here, they seek him there
Those Frenchies seek him everywhere
Is he in heaven or is he in hell?
That demned elusive Pimpernel

The Scarlet Pimpernel can be read here // Rook // Across A Star Swept Sea

Life, On Writing

… so.

I’m supposed to be doing a tag post today, in fact, it’s in my drafts. However, I shall save it for another time.

// readingangelathirkell

I have read three books by Angela Thirkell: High Rising, Wild Strawberries and Summer Half. I enjoyed Summer Half the most.

In High Rising there is this glorious scene where an editor reads the book of the girl he’s in love with and … and realises she can’t write. At all. So he panics and enlists the heroine and oh, but it’s so funny!

She pointed to Sibyl’s typescript upon a table, but Adrian made no movement towards it, gazing at it as if it were a snake which had hypnotized him.

“Isn’t it ghastly?” he managed to get out.

I bought Rook by Sharon Cameron and I’m about half way through. The hero’s eyes are very blue and there is a very strong Scarlet Pimpernel thread – but nothing beats Percy, I’m afraid. I’m also half way in Summer Lightning by PG Wodehouse (who I always seem to call Woad-house but it’s Wood-house isn’t it? It’s confusing I tell you).

writingatnight// writing

I finished The Dragons We Hunt trilogy on the 20th of this month and my word, I’m so very glad that it’s finished. It is going to require a lot of butchery and such, but I shall enjoy it. No, really, I shall.

Of course there’s NaNoWriMo coming up, but at present I am caught in the grips of a short story. After finishing a big project, I’ve learned that it’s essential to not tax your brain too much. We are but human after all.

// ‘rithmeticstepsboots

Autumn has found me rich in books but poor in shelves. How very fortunate I am to be able to read and write. I don’t want to ever, ever take this gift for granted.

Right, the story calls. I’m calling it Sandwiches for the time being.

Have a lovely weekend, won’t you?