shadowfireflame: (Sherlock in Molly's lab)
It’s been a great summer of books for me, so I thought I’d share some of my favorites:

-- The Oliver & Jack series by Christina E. Piltz (starts with Fagin’s Boy)
After I finished C.S. Pacat’s astounding Captive Prince series, I was desperate for something to fill the gap, and this series did it for me. Yes, it’s basically a continuation of Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist novels but with a very, very slow-building romantic relationship between Oliver Twist and the Artful Dodger (Jack Dawkins here). Absolutely incredible, meticulously researched historical m/m that has a lot to say about life in the Dickensian era and class-based hardship. The fifth novel in the series has just been released. The parts in the workhouse reminded me of one of my favorite Sherlock fanfics, Chryse’s brilliant The Frost is All Over.

--The Temeraire series by Naomi Novik (who also helped found AO3 and writes great fanfic, which is how I found out about this series!)
I very much liked her novel Uprooted, but I just adored this series and its two adorable main characters to pieces. This is an alternate history set in the early 1800s in which the British are fighting Napoleon…via exciting aerial combat on specially trained dragons! Will Laurence is a stiff and proper navy man, captain of his ship, when they engage in battle with the French and capture a precious dragon egg. When it hatches onboard, Laurence names the dragon Temeraire, and they form a special lifelong bond (the dragon talks!). This series just flew by: the world-building is rich and the action scenes are thrilling, but it’s really the three-dimensional characters that make the world come alive. There is a little het romance (because there are awesomely badass female dragon riders), but the novel focuses more deeply on the bonds of friendship, community, and duty, and the deep relationship between Laurence and Temeraire. Fans of the Horatio Hornblower miniseries will love this! I’ve been told I should tackle Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey & Maturin series after this, so it’s on my to-read list. EDIT November 2016: I'm reading this series now and totally loving it!

--We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
All is not what it seems in this suspenseful family drama featuring four teen friends from a wealthy family and the summer everything went wrong. Cadence (Cady) Sinclair, her cousins Mirren and Johnny, and her boyfriend Gat form the “Liars,” a tight-knit group that meets every summer on a private island off Martha’s Vineyard owned by Cady’s grandfather. While Cady’s narration is often strange and stilted, it’s worth fighting through it for the realistic portrayals of old-money problems (the horrors of racism, secrets, and masks for the preservation of the family’s “image”), the foreboding atmosphere, and the devastating ending (worthy of Megan Whalen Turner’s The Thief) that brilliantly ties everything together.
shadowfireflame: (Sherlock in Molly's lab)
Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (play) by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne

Read more )
shadowfireflame: (Sherlock in Molly's lab)
So I picked up this wartime memoir The Taliban Shuffle by Kim Barker after hearing rumors that it will soon be made into a movie starring Tina Fey with Martin Freeman as her love interest (!!)—two of my favourite comedy actors working together! And of course I’m greatly interested in anything that draws Martin Freeman’s attention in particular.

I quickly found what attracted them to the material: the book is quirky, insightful, and illuminating, capturing what it was like to be a female journalist in very tense regions of the world. Barker’s account is a great combination of what was happening in Afghanistan and Pakistan with sprinklings of her personal life.

Read Full Review )

I can't wait to see how Tina Fey adapts the book to screen!
shadowfireflame: (Sherlock in Molly's lab)
Skylar Dorset’s young adult novel The Boy with the Hidden Name is the sequel to last year’s The Girl Who Never Was, which I reviewed here. It was an entertaining story in which a Bostonian girl named Selkie discovers she is a half-faerie, half-ogre princess. Along the way, she falls in love with Ben, her former protector, whom she has to rescue from the faerie court.

In this sequel, she and Ben have a falling-out because of their fight at the end of the first book, which was so upsetting to me! And of course they still do love each other, and of course they keep saving each other, but to me the root of their problem—that Ben chose to leave Selkie despite her begging him not to—is never fully resolved. I know, at the time Ben thought he had to leave in order to find his mother and eventually save Selkie and the world, but I would have liked to have a scene where Ben acknowledges where he went wrong and what his intentions were and maybe apologizes to Selkie for the pain he put her through. Anything to heal this rift between two star-crossed lovers.

Beyond that, I liked the world-building and new characters, but I really wanted more action scenes, or maybe I just wanted it to be longer so I could sink my teeth into the world instead of just touching on parts of it. It seemed that the good stuff kept getting interrupted or cut off. I wish this series could have been more than just two books!

But overall, this was a very enjoyable story of a faerie world meshing with ours, with two very appealing leads who are much better together than apart. Can’t wait to read more by this author.
shadowfireflame: (Sherlock in Molly's lab)
Hmm, I liked this YA novel, but not as much as I thought I might like it.

Review behind the cut! )
shadowfireflame: (Sherlock in Molly's lab)
OMG, one of my favorite fic authors wrote a novel, and I bought it and adored it!! (Not sure if she wants her fandom identity linked with this, so I won’t tag her, but that’s how I found out about her novel and what really motivated me to read it ASAP!)

In this young adult fantasy novel, Selkie Stewart thinks she’s a normal Boston teenager…who is being raised by her eccentric aunts because her father is in a mental institution and her mother abandoned her on the doorstep when she was a baby. When she turns seventeen and goes searching for her long-lost mother, though, is when things really start getting weird, and Selkie discovers her connection to a magical world of faeries, ogres, wizards, and the dreaded Seelie Court. And meanwhile there’s a hot and very special boy in her life…

This one took me a couple of chapters to sink into—a bit too much Bostonian history at the beginning, as well as Selkie’s understandable confusion about the faerie world and frustration that no one will answer her questions. But once it got going, I was so hooked, and it’s partially because of the fun, deceptively straightforward world-building, but mostly because of the two wonderful leads.

It’s great to see the narrator, Selkie, evolve throughout the story. While at the beginning she’s naturally bewildered and lost, once she gets her bearings, she’s brave, resilient, and determined—and delightfully stubborn, a particularly magical trait of hers (as you will see!).

And then there’s Ben, who’s just swoon-worthy: attractive but so vulnerable and with lots of secrets. For those of us who mentally align Benedict Le Fay with the looks of a young Benedict Cumberbatch, he is even more of a treat (Le Fay is tall and thin and graceful with dark curly hair and changeable blue/green/gray eyes and he does the nose crinkle, and it’s just perfect and so enjoyable). I fell in love with him pretty much instantly and loved him more with every scene. My favorite part is how the book starts off with him protecting her but then quickly moves to her doing her best to rescue him. Their touching loyalty to one another is what really drives this novel.

The sequel, The Boy with the Hidden Name, is expected to be published December 2, 2014, and I really can’t wait!

EDIT: The sequel is out, and I reviewed it at this link.
shadowfireflame: (Sherlock in Molly's lab)
Just finished this, J.K. Rowling’s second mystery novel under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. The Silkworm is the sequel to 2013’s The Cuckoo’s Calling (which I reviewed here), introducing private detective Cormoran Strike (a disheveled war vet with an amputated leg) and his clever secretary/detective-in-training, Robin Ellacott.

This time, Strike and Robin are hired by the wife of a controversial writer who has mysteriously disappeared. Unlike Lula Landry, the victim of The Cuckoo’s Calling, who by all accounts was a beautiful person universally adored, the missing writer Owen Quine is described as ugly inside and out, hated by almost everyone in his life (Strike included), who has penned a depraved new novel that viciously insults everyone close to him. It’s Quine’s straightforward and stubborn wife, Leonora, who provides the novel’s sympathetic driving force when Strike agrees to take her on as a client and find out what happened to her husband.

As always, Rowling is a master of world-building and dialogue. From Strike’s “farting leather sofa” to publishing parties at exclusive clubs, every detail is presented to transport readers into the middle of literary London (and an opportunity for Rowling to tease and divulge information about the seedy underside of the publishing world).

This installment introduces welcome new additions in the form of characters from Strike’s past, such as his privileged younger half-brother, childhood friends, and army mates. It also reminds us of the fallout from the previous novel, showing details like how Strike’s leg continues to pain him as he limps around London, how their business and even fellow tenants have been affected by the publicity from their success in the Lula Landry case.

Robin and Strike’s relationship continues to develop, as they finally come together to form a real investigative team: wordlessly communicating while questioning witnesses, Robin taking more initiative in her work and her personal life while trusting her own instincts, and Strike beginning to follow her lead more and more, particularly with witnesses who need a softer touch. At this point, it’s pretty much impossible not to ship them.

While Rowling does introduce characters with developmental disabilities, characters with AIDS, transgender characters, etc., and issues such as mental illness, animal testing, and the conditions in women’s prisons, one wishes a writer of her caliber would delve more deeply in their lives instead of just touching upon them but not exploring them in much detail. The writing is more powerful when discussing relationships and when showing female characters who exert a kind of quiet dignity to take control of their lives.

Ultimately, although it breaks no new ground, The Silkworm remains a solid British detective mystery. Let’s hope the rumors that Rowling has planned at least six more novels in the series are true!

P.S. Harry Potter fans might also notice a shout-out in the novel to Emma Watson (Hermione) being on a magazine cover, which made me giggle. :)
shadowfireflame: (White Collar)
On my quest to find Lymond-like characters, I’ve recently read three books by authors that I believe have all influenced one another and that all kind of hit the same pleasure centers for me:

  • Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones,

  • The Sunbird by Elizabeth Wein (part of the Lion Hunter’s series),

  • and The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner (part of the Queen’s Thief series).

All three are Children’s or Young Adult titles with excellent world-building and angsty, misunderstood heroes who meet badass heroines who become love interests. The hurt/comfort potential on all is very high, but the thing I love about them all is how very adorable all the heroes are, even as they all gain national (or international) reputations that are crazily out-of-character for who they really are (cute softies). Really, really enjoyed all three of these.

Speaking of YA titles, I haven’t read the books, but I saw the Divergent movie yesterday and wasn’t terribly impressed with the world-building or plot. But I adored the hero love interest, Four, played by Theo James. Wanted a movie just about his backstory. Lots of fun.

And finally, I read that White Collar will be coming to an end with a short season 6. I feel that the fan-fiction has been better than the actual series since after season 1, but not going to lie, I still cried. It just hit me all at once. I adore Neal Caffrey.
shadowfireflame: (Harry/Draco corsets)
When a gorgeous and adored supermodel’s death is judged a suicide, her brother hires detective Cormoran Strike, a war-vet amputee with his own connection to fame as the son of a rock star and his groupie girlfriend. Strike’s life is in shambles: he’s physically a wreck, he’s homeless after a horrible breakup, and he’s on the edge of financial ruin. This case—his only one—feels like his last lifeline, and he’s determined to find the truth, even if that is that Lula Landry did actually choose to kill herself. But there are barriers to his investigation at every turn, and everyone he interviews seems to have his or her own secrets to hide.

Yes, J.K. Rowling is back, baby! After her first published novel for adults, The Casual Vacancy (which I reviewed here), I felt that perhaps her writing had been overtaken by her cynicism and disillusionment with modern-day government and the state of the poor. That novel felt so anxious to prove it was for adults and had complex characters that virtually none of them emerged likeable, and the novel was something of a mood-killer to get through. In The Cuckoo’s Calling, however, I couldn’t be happier to have been proven wrong: Rowling has hit the sweet spot with regard to character development, presenting them as complex and real while still being empathetic and charming in their own way, even the villains.
The Cuckoo’s Calling falls somewhere in between the grating realism of The Casual Vacancy and the magic of Harry Potter, which I think is a lovely combination. And most of the success we can lay on the broad shoulders of Mr. Cormoran Strike himself: Rowling seems to excel at the limits of having just a handful of third-person narrators instead of a whole cast of them. Here we are mainly shown Strike’s perspective and that of his temporary secretary, Robin Ellacott, both of whom are dogged and likeable. Robin isn’t really like any other Rowling character, but Strike is a wonderful mixture of Harry Potter’s Hagrid (in body type and perhaps accent), Mad-Eye Moody (with the war wounds and attitude of eternal suspicion), and Remus Lupin (the woeful, shaggy look, the intelligence, the life plagued with hardships).
But perhaps the most pleasant surprise is how Rowling leads us to feel empathy for most of the cast whom Strike interviews, those connected to Lula Landry: her driver, her adopted and biological family, her friends from rehab, her designer, her make-up artist, her security guard, her apartment cleaner, her rock-star boyfriend—people from both ends of the social and economic spectrum—in order to form a picture of the only person we never have a chance to meet, Lula herself. In doing so with light satire, Rowling takes a measured look at racial tensions, the price of fame, paparazzi, drugs, modeling, the police, the army, and even the politics of war and socialism.
The only slightly awkward parts of the novel are Rowling’s continued manner of writing out characters’ accents phonetically (which I suppose makes it easier for the audiobook actors but still seems vaguely demeaning) and that last fourth or so of the novel when Strike has figured out the solution to the case but we as readers haven’t quite cottoned on yet, making it necessary for Strike to censor his own thoughts. While it’s slightly awkward, yes, it’s nonetheless intriguing in just the right way.
This novel was lots of fun while still being moving, and it kept me rooting for Strike and Robin and guessing right up to the end. I’d love to read another about Strike’s continuing investigations.
shadowfireflame: (Sherlock in Molly's lab)
Man, I love tricksy thieves...(a.k.a. Lymond, Gen, and Neal Caffrey appreciation post)

Cut for some Lymond fangirling & despairing, recs )
Happy Thanksgiving!
shadowfireflame: (Vampire Knight)
I can’t believe I haven’t heard anybody talking about this movie! C’mon, fanfiction fans! Long story short: it’s not terrible, which is more than can be said about some other young adult franchises, but it’s not particularly good either.

Cut for mild spoilers )
shadowfireflame: (Sherlock in Molly's lab)
I may have become a bit obsessed with watching other adaptations of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes characters, to the point where it seemed prudent to put up a masterlist of my thoughts/reviews to keep things organized. Yay! The Russian adaptation is definitely on my to-watch-at-some-point list.

::: Live-Action Films :::

  • The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970), starring Robert Stephens and Colin Blakeley: (here)

  • Young Sherlock: the Mystery of the Manor House (1982), starring Guy Henry: (here)

  • Young Sherlock Holmes (1985), starring Nicholas Rowe and Alan Cox: (here)

  • Without a Clue (1988), starring Ben Kingsley and Michael Caine: (here)

::: Animation :::

  • The Great Mouse Detective (1986): (here)

  • Tom and Jerry Meet Sherlock Holmes (2010): (here)

::: TV Series :::

::: Novels :::

::: Radio :::

  • BBC radio drama of the Mary Russell series by Laurie R. King, starring Monica Dolan and James Fox (2013): (review)
shadowfireflame: (Sherlock)
“The next time Mycroft asks us to do something,” Russell says wryly to Holmes toward the end of The Game by Laurie R. King (on page 363), “we really must tell him no.”

Review with minor plot spoilers )
shadowfireflame: (Sherlock)
Just finished watching the movie adaptation of Fat Kid Rules the World, based on the novel by K.L. Going that I read in high school. I remember it as being possibly the funniest book I’d ever read, featuring refreshingly taboo topics and very loveable characters. Seriously, I remember I was sitting outside in the car with the windows rolled down reading this book while my parents ran some errand, and I was laughing so hard that someone actually came up to the window to ask if I was okay because it sounded like I was hyperventilating.

The book features a high-school-aged main character, Troy Billings, who is depressed to the point of suicide and obese. He is rescued from a suicide attempt by Curt McCrae, a high-school dropout and druggie who has troubles at home. Curt decides that Troy will become the drummer for his new band, Rage/Techtonic, and in this manner they both find ways to save each other.

It’s not until watching the movie adaptation that I realized how many similarities the initial situation and characters have with BBC’s Sherlock adaptation. Though the comparison isn’t perfect, I see Troy as being similar to John Watson and Curt as being similar to Sherlock Holmes.

Musings about characters in both stories )

Anyway, there’s something about this dynamic in both stories that I love. They’re connected by near-death experiences from the start of their relationship, end up closer than best friends (more like brothers or even lovers, if you prefer), and really complete each other and need each other. If anybody knows other relationships like this in books or TV or movies, please feel free to drop me a line. I love it. :)

The movie is on Netflix at the moment, and Curt’s name is changed to Marcus for some reason (probably too close to Kurt Cobain, the character he’s probably based on), which confused me at first. But it’s very entertaining, if not nearly as funny as the book it was based on, so check it out if you’re interested!
shadowfireflame: (Sherlock in Molly's lab)
I’ve been reading through a wonderful Sherlock Holmes pastiche, the Mary Russell series by Laurie R. King, in my spare time at work, and recently discovered that the first book, The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, had been adapted for the radio by the BBC: see here. Thanks to [ profile] awanderingbard for pointing out that this even exists; I wouldn’t have known about it otherwise!

Unfortunately, while I adore the book series, this radio series was rather disappointing.

Things I liked: Russell’s interaction with a young girl was very sweet, the foreshadowing throughout the series was cool, it’s very neat when Russell and Holmes use their deductive skills on each other, and the characters of Mycroft and John are in this and sound very good! I will also admit that the series improves as it goes on, if you give it a chance.

However, there are lots of things that could have been done better: the actors’ voices were the main problem for me because they were all wrong and threw the characterization off, but the structure of the series is a bit odd, too, rushing through the interesting bits and slowing down during the more dull bits: the framing device of the chess game with Miss Donleavy not being that interesting, though I understand its purpose. The director, Melanie Harris, also has an infuriating tendency to transition between short scenes with sudden shrill violin music.

But what I dislike most is that it seems all of the characters’ trademark loveable humor from the books is missing or so muted as to be nonexistent. Russell in this book is a sly 15-year-old tomboy who is slow to anger but nonetheless frustrated with her current position in the world. Holmes is still a crafty young man in an older man’s body with an ever-present dry sense of humor and outlook on life. But Russell (played by Monica Dolan from Appropriate Adult) in the radio adaptation sounds prim and proper, a prissy little know-it-all—exactly the opposite of her characterization in the books—and Holmes, who is a spry, sarcastic 54-year-old in this book, sounds more like a weary 70-year-old. (Ha, I was right, the voice-actor for Sherlock, James Fox, is actually 73.) A fine voice for Mycroft, perhaps, but not for Sherlock. Speaking of Mycroft, I did actually like the voice acting for him (by Gavin Muir) and for John Watson (the dramatist for the series, Shaun Prendergast), and I was pleased that the characters were included! They feature pretty heavily in the third episode, “The Segregation of the Queen,” making that one my favorite.

I had hoped that the radio series might draw new fans to the book series, but since it doesn’t seem to be that well done, I guess I shouldn’t hold out hopes for that. But please do believe me that the book series is great! I’ve reviewed the books here:

Brief Review of Book One, The Beekeeper’s Apprentice
Review of Book Two, A Monstrous Regiment of Women
Review of Book Three, A Letter of Mary
Review of Book Four, The Moor
Review of Book Five, O Jerusalem
Review of Book Six, Justice Hall
Review of Book Seven, The Game

Oh, to have Benedict Cumberbatch voice all things Sherlock-related. Alas.

Back to my Sherlock Holmes Adaptations Masterlist: (Taxi!)
shadowfireflame: (Sherlock)
Woot, more of the Mary Russell series by Laurie R. King about a female genius who is also the wife of Sherlock Holmes. Justice Hall is the sixth book and features characters from the previous book, O Jerusalem (which remains my favorite of the series).

Cut for significant character and thematic spoilers. )

For more, please see:
Brief Review of Book One, The Beekeeper’s Apprentice
Review of Book Two, A Monstrous Regiment of Women
Review of Book Three, A Letter of Mary
Review of Book Four, The Moor
Review of Book Five, O Jerusalem
Review of Book Seven, The Game
Review of Radio Drama, a radio adaptation of The Beekeeper’s Apprentice
shadowfireflame: (Sherlock)
Finally finished J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy and wanted to share my thoughts. I know that I really shouldn’t compare the two works and should just approach The Casual Vacancy on its own terms, but the fact is that I wouldn’t be reading that if not for Harry Potter, and I couldn’t help but make comparisons between the two while reading.

Beware pretty major spoilers for plot & characterization. )
shadowfireflame: (Sherlock)
Book Review: The Final Solution: A Story of Detection by Michael Chabon

Michael Chabon and the Sherlock connections just keep coming. :)

Thanks very much to the lovely [ profile] splix for bringing this little gem of a book to my attention!

This novel features an aged Sherlock Holmes—well, the novel never actually says his name, it just calls him “the old man,” but it’s pretty obvious it’s either him or someone exactly like him. He’s watching the street outside his window one day when he sees a little boy with an African parrot on his shoulder walk by. It turns out the boy is mute, and the parrot only speaks in strings of German numbers. Naturally, his curiosity is aroused, and pretty soon a birdnapping and murder are involved.

Although the mystery here is pretty intriguing and saddening with all the hints of the mistreatment of Jews (I mean, have a look at that title), it’s the characterizations that really stole my heart, particularly of Holmes and Linus, the little boy.

I kind of just want to quote every description of Holmes in the novel, but it’s a rather short book, so I might give too much away. What touched me most were the oblique references to Holmes’ past, including two or three little hints at his friendship with Watson (and what I think, on page 127, is a reference to their first post-Reichenbach meeting in which Watson would have “a flicker of anxiety in the eyes, even of doubt” that Holmes was alive).

It does make me sad, though, because while Holmes has his bees, that seems to be all he has. No mention of any friends or companions (except a family whose daughter comes over occasionally to look after him, but he pays them in honey). While he’s still remembered as a legend, his life seems to be a basically lonely and unhappy one, waiting for the end while his body and, worse, his mind start to break down. This is why I find it so hard to read retirement fics in Sherlock fandom: I can’t stand the idea of either Sherlock or John ever having to live without the other, regardless of whether they’re involved sexually or not. Because I worry that this is what would happen.

More than anything, though, I think in this novel Chabon gets at the heart of Sherlock Holmes and his life philosophy. From page 129:
The application of creative intelligence to a problem, the finding of a solution at once dogged, elegant, and wild, this had always seemed to him to be the essential business of human beings—the discovery of sense and causality amid the false leads, the noise, the trackless brambles of life.

When I read that, all I could think of was the character comparison Ivyblossom wrote about Irene vs. Sherlock—“Sherlock…strives to prevent innocent victimhood…, not to participate in it. Irene choses to participate in chaos while Sherlock always choses to turn chaos back into order.” It’s such a great insight because I usually think of Sherlock being all chaotic, and he is, but he’s always using that chaos to straighten out some real-world problem that will help directly people, whether or not he wants to admit it.

I think that’s the answer to Mycroft’s question to John of why Sherlock is a detective instead of a scientist or a philosopher. Because in his heart, Sherlock has this…oh, how was it mkhey put it? Ah yes: “John, like the audience, is hoping it means that Sherlock is desperate for human closeness, is applying all that mental machinery to understanding human nature.”

Chabon seems to agree. I just wish that Watson could have been there with Holmes in his retirement to see it.
shadowfireflame: (dragon)
To start off—OMG, thank you, [ profile] melusinahp, for the adorable little panda! Really made my day, and now my profile is totally cute. <3

And now to the review: I finished The Tempering of Men by Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear, the sequel to A Companion to Wolves (which I reviewed here) and the middle book in the trilogy (the third hasn’t been released yet).

I have to express my disappointment because while it was a good book, it wasn’t nearly as fun as the first one. First of all, I don’t think there was nearly as much explicit sex in the novel, maybe just two scenes total—which, considering how much sex there was in the first one, is quite the drop! Since I’m kind of in this series for the desperate bonding-heat sex scenes, not having much onscreen makes me rather sad.

The writers have also suddenly dropped Isolfr’s perspective and taken up three new ones: his two wolfjarls (Skaldwulf and Vethulf) and his friend/protégé, Brokkolfr (who is the brother of a female wolf, like Isolfr). This disappoints me because I adore Isolfr and being inside his head, with all his insecurities and contractions. And while I vaguely know Skaldwulf (who looks like a young Snape in my mind), the other two felt completely new to me.

Worse still, there was hardly any OT3 goodness between Skaldwulf, Vethulf, and Isolfr (and certainly none in the bedroom), largely because they were separated for much of the novel. It’s like the authors have set up this wonderful playground with all these cool elements but then won’t play in it yet. Perhaps they’re just setting up for the third book, but as a reader I found it frustrating.

This is not to say it’s a bad book; I just didn’t enjoy it as much as I did the first. The book serves mostly to answer the question: now that [mild spoiler if you haven’t read the first book:] the trolls are mostly wiped out, is there any point to having the wolfhealls?

In order to answer that question, the authors expand the universe in the form of world-building, and they do that very well: we learn more about the elf-like cave-dwelling svartalfar, as well as new human races in the forms of the Rheans (read: Roman Empire equilavent) and Brythoni (read: Britton equilavent) to counter the Scandinavian-equilavent wolfcarls. And we discover actual libraries! I was wondering how the cultures stored knowledge.

My favorite new character was Fargrimr, who is a “sworn-son,” i.e. a girl raised as a boy because his father had no male heirs; he takes the male pronouns, and it is understood that in everything but biology, he is a male. I was very impressed by the authors’ treatment of this transgender character and found him to be lots of fun with his confidence and wry sense of humor.

Despite my disappointment, though, I’m still desperate for the next installment. I just hope it will have more Isolfr and OT3-ness. :)
shadowfireflame: (Sherlock)
Book Rec: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon

For months I’ve been reading this book in fifteen-minute bursts during my breaks at work, and now I’m finished, yay! So a few months ago I was obsessively watching PBS’ Sherlock Q&A (with Benedict Cumberbatch, writer Steven Moffat, producer Sue Vertue, and Masterpiece executive producer Rebecca Eaton) when the question arose: what are your dream projects? Steven Moffat was cute and said Sherlock and Doctor Who, and Benedict Cumberbatch answered, “There’s a very good book called Kavalier & Clay.”

I had no idea what this was, so like a good fangirl I trooped off to my library and squirreled it away for months and read it. And let me just tell you, guys, in matters of literary taste, Benedict is impeccable; this book is phenomenal. I would love nothing more for his dream project to pan out for him (even though it’s currently in “development hell” and has been for years), because if he can do a decent Czech accent, Benedict was born to play the character of Joe Kavalier.

A bit of a summary first. Josef Kavalier is a young Jewish artist and apprentice magician/escape artist living in Nazi-occupied Prague with his father, mother, younger brother, and grandfather on the brink of World War II. Of the entire family, he is the only one who manages to secure a visa to leave for New York, where he will live with his aunt and his cousin, Sammy Klayman. Except it turns out that even with a visa, it requires a near-superhuman effort to actually escape.

Sam Clay, as his cousin will later be called, has a wonderful talent for writing and especially for thinking up character backstories. Oh, and he’s also a gay Jewish man living in the 1940s, with all the challenges that that entails. Upon Joe’s eventual arrival, he and Sam form a perfect team of artist/writer for comic books, the profits of which venture Joe hopes will allow him to purchase freedom for his family. But things go terribly wrong.

The novel covers a ton of ground. Chabon describes the horrifying restrictions placed on Jews in Prague, the woes of immigration (“There was no pursuit more disheartening than the immigration goose chase” (177)), the world of comic books, the tricks escape artists employ, magicians, being Jewish and gay in New York in the 1940s, life in Antarctica, and life during World War II. The book is eminently readable, and I swear to God that Chabon is using the same writing/storytelling style as Dorothy Dunnett in her Lymond Chronicles (one of my favorite series ever), right down to the damn sentence structure.

Allow me to demonstrate why I think Benedict would make such a good Joe Kavalier. There’s the physical similarities between the two of them, of course (Joe is tall and thin and smokes artistically), but there’s also the fact that this novel puts Joe through the wringer, and I think if there’s one thing everyone can agree on, it’s that Benedict is in his element when playing characters who suffer beautifully.

Here’s the first time Sammy sees his cousin (page 4):
In the livid light of the fluorescent tube over the kitchen sink, he made out a slender young man of about his own age, slumped like a question mark against the door frame, a disheveled pile of newspapers pinned under one arm, the other thrown as if in shame across his face.

The question mark posture, the slenderness. Oh, and it gets better because Joe starts acting Sherlockian (page 6):
Josef Kavalier settled back against the mattress, cleared his throat once, tucked his arms under his head, and then, as if he had been unplugged, stopped moving. He neither tossed nor fidgeted nor even so much as flexed a toe. The Big Ben on the nightstand ticked loudly. Josef’s breathing thickened and slowed.

And contrast the languid abandonment of that post-case crash with this (page 11):
Without warning, in a kind of kinetic discharge of activity that seemed to be both the counterpart and the product of the state of perfect indolence that had immediately preceded it, Josef rolled over and out of the bed.

And that’s just the first 11 pages! Later we find (page 215):
Joe Kavalier’s mouth bunched up at one corner in a small, eloquent smirk…

And then the glory of this final quote, wherein the author describes the painting of Joe that his girlfriend, Rosa Sparks, completes. Rosa is a fascinating character, but I felt that she was more interesting, almost Sherlockian herself with the organized chaos in her room, before she and Joe became a couple. However, their chemistry is off the charts, as I hope you will see:
In the piece, his doffed jacket, with a curled newspaper in its hip pocket, hangs from the back of the chair, and he leans against the arm, his head with its long wolfhound face cocked a little to one side, the fingers of his right hand lightly pressed to his right temple. His legs are crossed at the knee, and he ignores a cigarette in the fingers of his left hand. Rosa’s brush caught the rime of ash on his lapel, the missed button of his waistcoat, the tender, impatient, defiant expression in his eyes by means of which he is clearly trying to convey to the artist, telepathically, that he intends, in an hour or so, to fuck her.

It’s just too perfect. Tell me you’ve never seen Benedict give such a smoldering look. And I haven’t even played my trump card yet—because Joe Kavalier pulls a Reichenbach.

The novel, in my opinion, would make a wonderful mini-series instead of just one movie. The only possible issues I see arising are the Czech accent and the fact that Benedict’s 36 now, and the character in a large chunk of the book is much younger. But I feel confident that he can pull it off anyway. (As Third Star producer/writer Vaughn Sivell said, “If the character description says handsome: he is. If it says Nasty: he is. Older: he is…Younger: he is.” I agree.)

I’m dying to see an adaptation of this, and I’d love nothing more if Benedict were the main character.

May 2017

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