Saturday, 31 March 2012

The Lies of Locke Lamora read along
[part four]

Dear fellow readers! This week is the fourth week of the Lies of Locke Lamora read along hosted by the Little Red Reviewer and her comrades, and it's the first time I am joining one! Every week we'll read around 120-140 pages of the book and every Saturday, each participant will reply to a bunch of secret questions and discuss around it.
Like the book? Good!
Want to have fun? Same here!
Groupie of Scott Lynch but afraid to tell? It's ok, we won't say anything...
Join the read along or come check the discussion every week!

Alright, since last week the proper re-read has started (it only takes a bit of Friday evening to go through each part, so why not?) and I am glad I did it, because things were a bit jammed in my head and I am glad to remember them properly now. Have you checked last week's discussion? It was good, but not as good as this one because we are now at That Point, also know as The Tragic Instance That Upset Me, for which I would have resented the author forever if he wasn't so good. And I am really glad he is.

[...] it confirms something they claim to know in their hearts — that Camorri are all gods-damned crazy.

1. In the chapter “A Curious Tale for Countess Amberglass” we learn of the tradition of the night tea in Camorr. I found that not so much fantastical as realistic – how about you?
I know it's bad but I mainly found it a bit boring. I know, it's good to have those details because they make everything seem more real and palpable, but gods damnit, Locke is dying in a barrel a piss and you want to interest me with the tea ceremony? To hell with your tea!!

2. When Jean meets with what will become the Wicked Sisters for the first time, the meeting is described very much like how people feel when they find their true work or home. Agree? Disagree? Some of both?
It's pretty fascinating how the Wicked Sisters indeed have a "character" place in the story—we learn of how they meet their master, we see him care for them and be relieved when Bug gets them back for him, so it's really more like a companion that an accessory. Well, I rarely throw my companions in the head of dummies when we meet, but one must has its hobbies I guess!

3. Salt devils. Bug. Jean. The description is intense. Do you find that description a help in visualizing the scene? Do you find yourself wishing the description was occasionally – well – a little less descriptive?
The salt devils reminded me a bit of the It movie (Stephen King) when they meet with the "spider" in the cave, and also a bit of the third Lord of the Ring movie when they also meet with the Spider. I have something against spiders, really, but there it wasn't too bad—maybe because they were called salt devils and not spiders, and also because they died without killing anyone. The splashing was yucky, though, but I didn't mind the description. I enjoyed it much more than the ones where we learn about sunsets, busy streets and seagulls life, which kind of bore me to death.

4. This section has so much action in it, it’s hard to find a place to pause. But…but.. oh, Locke. Oh, Jean. On their return to the House of Perelandro, their world is turned upside down. Did you see it coming?
First time I read it, I didn't see it coming. The second one, I dreaded it, but it was still there. I guess Lynch set the tone when he killed Nazca: no one has to be spared. And people noticed that there was less flashbacks and details about the other three gentlemen, and I am quite glad of it because it makes the departure less hard. Hard nonetheless, but well...
I'm afraid I will have trouble to digest the arrow in the neck, that was really horrible, and I still feel for the poor sweetie.

5. Tavrin Callas’s service to the House of Aza Guilla is recalled at an opportune moment, and may have something to do with saving a life or three. Do you believe Chains knew what he set in motion? Why or why not?
I think he hoped that all this crap he put them through will be useful to them someday, otherwise why would he have done it? I don't think he hoped they would need it on such a tragic occasion, but at least the training isn't lost, and even through hardship they remain smart and clear headed. I'm in awe.

6. As Locke and Jean prepare for Capa Raza, Dona Vorchenza’s remark that the Thorn of Camorr has never been violent – only greedy and resorting to trickery – comes to mind again. Will this pattern continue?
I think there's a difference between having to resort to violence and wanting to. Locke has killed before, and he will kill again, but he did it only because he had to, and never with pleasure. The grief has a strong power over the mind, but I don't think it would make him forget who he is and what his duties are. He owes a death-offering to his lads, and they will have it, but he won't kill randomly, I don't believe so.

7. Does Locke Lamora or the Thorn of Camorr enter Meraggio’s Countinghouse that day? Is there a difference?
The despair is probably the only difference. Usually, Locke does his tricks because it amuses him. Now, it's a case of sheer necessity, and he has to use his talents for a matter of life or death. I don't know if the Thorn of Camorr is that side of him who would do anything to survive, but he's more determined than ever to go through his plan, and that accounts for something.

Check out other discussions on the Little Red Reviewer blog, and let's meet again next week for the last part of the book!

Monday, 26 March 2012

Antoine de St Exupéry - The Little Prince

Title: The Little Prince
Original title: Le Petit Prince
Author: Antoine de St Exupéry
Pub. year: 1943
Pages: 96
Editor: Mariner Books

Summary: The Little Prince is a fantasy book about a pilot, stranded in the Sahara, who meets a small boy from another planet. The boy, who refers to himself as a prince, is on a quest for knowledge. The little prince asks questions of the pilot and tells the pilot of life on his own very small planet.

I guess if you know only one French book, it's this one. And that's probably because it's the most translated French book ever. I'd say it totally deserves it. It's one of my favorite since the first time I read it, 13 years ago (because they were many others).

As you can see, it's a very short book, with a lot of very nice pictures inside. So you can easily guess that it won't take long to read it. But it doesn't leave you unchanged. Because if it seems like a children book, a simply nice story, it's mostly a grown up book about remembering what it's like to be a child and what adulthood does to us. At least, that's part of what it is. Almost each time I read this book between my 11yo and now, I discover something else. Maybe because I was growing up, but mainly because you change all the time, you learn, you live and that gives you a different way of seeing the world.

It has this naive way of showing you stuff that you tend to forget about childhood, about relationships, about yourself. It's funny, it's poetic, sometimes a bit sad and I don't think it's possible to close this book without feeling a little bit different. But that's maybe just cheesy me loving this book.

I love how it makes you feel that imagination and make-beliefs games are the best thing ever, and I love how it is a constant reminder that even if I'm kind of an adult now, I don't want to forget what it's like to be a child.

So, all I can say if you haven't read it yet is GO READ IT NOW!

Saturday, 24 March 2012

The Lies of Locke Lamora read along
[part three]

Dear fellow readers! This week is the third week of the Lies of Locke Lamora read along hosted by the Little Red Reviewer and her comrades, and it's the first time I am joining one! Every week we'll read around 120-140 pages of the book and every Saturday, each participant will reply to a bunch of secret questions and discuss around it.
Like the book? Good!
Want to have fun? Same here!
Groupie of Scott Lynch but afraid to tell? It's ok, we won't say anything...
Join the read along or come check the discussion every week!

Darn, this week's questions are so precise! I usually cheat a bit and just re-read bits and pieces, but this time I had to re-read the whole part to remember it properly! Ok, maybe I enjoyed it too much and couldn't put the book down... it was totally worth it. Time to check out last week's answers, and now let's move on to this week's discussion!

1. This section is where we finally get to sneak a peek at the magic in The Gentleman Bastards books. From what we read, what are your initial impressions of the magic Lynch is using? Is there any way that Locke and Company would be able to get around the Bondsmage's powers?
I very much like how the magic is subtle in the story—I think it was Brandon Sanderson who wrote about the different kinds of magic, the showy kind and the subtle one, and how authors should use them the right way. Well, here it's subtle (because we don't know how it works and it's only for few selected people) but very well incorporated to the book's atmosphere and all, and I find it really great.
Locke is awesome, but we all know this Bondmage can kick his ass anytime, and I think he's up for a very serious ass kicking if he retaliate after what happens at the end of this part (and he has to retaliate, we're only halfway through the book!).

2. Not a question, but an area for rampant speculation: If you want to take a stab at who you think the Grey King might be, feel free to do it here.
2.5 (since 2 wasn't really a question) Anyone see the Nazca thing coming? Anyone? Do you think there are more crazy turns like this in store for the book? Would you like to speculate about them here? (yes, yes you would)

I suck at guessing, sorry, I'm totally clueless. Not even trying.
I couldn't believe the Nazca thing. I was just sooo sure it was fake, like Barsavi made it up, or the Grey King used a disguised corpse or whatever. And I held on to it for so long... I think I finally admitted she was really dead around the beginning of the next part, but I was really distressed. It shows that Lynch has the guts to do this, and that we must fear for whatever else he has in store for the rest of the good guys...

3. When Locke says "Nice bird, arsehole," I lose it. EVERY TIME. And not just because I have the UK version of the book and the word arsehole is funnier than asshole. Have there been any other places in the books so far where you found yourself laughing out loud, or giggling like a crazy person on the subway?
I'm always laughing, geez, I'm so easy... thankfully I don't read on the subway, that would be a disaster. No, instead, I laugh like mad on the couch/bed, and my other half looks at me like I'm crazy, and I'm always trying to explain ("Ah, the guy just flipped him! You know he's this really buffy kid and Locke pisses him off and he does this wrestling thing and it's hilarious!" "...whatever.") but ah, well, I guess you need to read it to understand.
I also lost it at the "nice bird, arsehole", especially after Chains tells him to be polite with them.
Is it just me or are you also unable to stop at the end of the "chapters"? I always know the very beginning of the next one will be awesome, I can't get myself to stop before reading a few extra lines.

4. By the end of this reading section, have your opinions changed about how clever the Bastards are? Do you still feel like they're "cleverer than all the rest?" Or have they been decidedly outplayed by the Grey King and his Bondsmage?
They are very clever but they are still kids, they have never left their city, never fought serious hardship in their games, never been outmatched by an opponent. Now there is this guy who has a lot less morals than they have coming on their turf, and it makes him much more dangerous than they are—clever too, maybe, but for me it's the craziness that differentiate them. The Bastards are good but reasonable; the Grey King? He has no limit.

5. I imagine that you've probably read ahead, since this was a huge cliffhanger of an ending for the "present" storyline, but I'll ask this anyway: Where do you see the story going from here, now that the Grey King is thought to be dead?
Nooo, I stopped at the end of the part, I swear. And not only because I already finished the book once!
Locke is obviously in deep shit, but he's not dead, and he's not alone, so he'll probably make it somehow. The Grey King will obviously use this opportunity to fuck something up, and I wish I could shake the Bastards and tell them "no, don't do this, be careful!". My poor little heart...

6. What do you think of the characters Scott Lynch has given us so far? Are they believable? Real? Fleshed out? If not, what are they lacking?
They are amazing. Do I need to say more than this? I think I can enumerate all their qualities, and all their flaws that become qualities because they make them who they are, so real. Even the bad guys are pretty awesome.
Sorry, I mean... AWESOME.

7. Now that you've seen how clever Chains is about his "apprenticeships," why do you think he's doing all of this? Does he have an endgame in sight? Is there a goal he wants them to achieve, or is it something more emotional like revenge?
I don't think Chains has ulterior motives, especially since in the present times he's dead and the Bastards are well, so if there was something we would have known about it... I just think he's a good master who wants his pupils to be the best, to be able to react to any situation and get out from any trouble. Has he done enough? Who knows...

Check out other discussions on the Little Red Reviewer blog, and let's meet again next week—if I haven't ripped the book in half with fury for being so powerless...

Monday, 19 March 2012

Justine Larbalestier - Liar

Title: Liar
Author: Justine Larbalestier
Pub. year: 2009
Pages: 376
Editor: Bloomsbury Publishing

Summary: Micah Wilkins is a liar. But when her boyfriend, Zach, dies under brutal circumstances, the shock might be enough to set her straight. Or maybe not. Especially when lying comes as naturally to her as breathing. Was Micah dating Zach? Did they kiss? Did she see him the night he died? And is she really hiding a family secret? Where does the actual truth lie?

First of all, we have bad news for you: you shouldn't read this review. It's not us saying it but the author herself, explaing why you should not be spoiled. So now, you are warned. We'll do our best not to spoil you and only refer to the general feeling, but if you can read the book first and come back afterwards, it would probably be best.

Was the story good?

Lily: Ah, well, I don't know. I'm not sure this is the kind of story really suited for me. As the author says, it's that sort of book which has many reads, and no one is right or wrong, and everyone sees it as they want to. I don't like that, I want to be told a story from start to end, not guessing what's true or not. I guess the story is good, and many people will find amazing how the reader can decide what to believe in, but I don't. Ok, so I was clearly bored with all the questioning, truth and untruth, and more questioning... bleh.

Lyra: I personnaly enjoyed it. The "many reads, no one's right or wrong" aspect didn't bother me. I was expecting a lot more messing with my head, so actually it wasn't that disturbing. Plus, open ends tends to both annoy me (I want to know what the author thought) and make me glad that I can imagine what happens next (because the story also belong to the reader), so I'm okay with them. Then, I liked the questioning even if sometimes it was a bit redundant because it made me thought about some stuff about myself and how I see things. So it's always a good point.

Were the characters moving?

Lily: No. It pains me to say it as plainly as that but THE character is Micah—the narrator—who only talks about herself or her dead boyfriend (and sometimes, friends and family, but they are only "helping" characters). The dead boyfriend could have been nice if he wasn't, like, dead. But Micah? Gosh, this girl... so she's a liar, ok, no surprise there. But beyond this (I don't care so much about the lying part) she's always, always asking questions, reflecting on herself, on others, bathing in self pity and mourning and complaining and oh-gosh-kill-me-now do I have to be with her for 376 pages?! I wish I would have liked her, because that would mean I would have liked the book. Well, that didn't happen.

Lyra: I agree on the "not moving" part, and the fact that sometimes you just want to slap Micah so she stops with the self pity. But other than that, I enjoyed her character. I liked to see the picture from the liar, get to know what she is thinking and why. I liked the fact that I felt I was in her mind (with limited access of course), not reading a book. We don't really have time to discover the other characters, so, not moving either. I felt like this book was shorter than it was, as if it was a short story, when it comes to what we know about the others.

So altogether... a must read or not?

Lily: I don't really need to explain more than I already did, right? This book is great, it's original, it's worth re-reading many times if you like making theories and chasing clues, but I never got into it. I'm just too old fashion, waiting for the story to come out by itself—if I need to dig for it, all is lost. I think anyone curious should read it because somehow, it's worth doing it, the mix of reality, fantasy and craziness is really something else. But well... it didn't work for me. Too bad!

Lyra: I can't really say. I think it's a very personnal appreciation (as always, I know, but especially here) because as you can see, this book devides. I hope our explanations of our perceptions helped you to position yourself about whether you could like it or not. Also, it's better if you have the paper version because if you want to be able to go back to check something (and trust me, it happens a lot), it's easier if it's not an ebook.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

The Lies of Locke Lamora read along
[part two]

Dear fellow readers! This week is the second week of the Lies of Locke Lamora read along hosted by the Little Red Reviewer and her comrades, and it's the first time I am joining one! Every week we'll read around 120-140 pages of the book and every Saturday, each participant will reply to a bunch of secret questions and discuss around it.
Like the book? Good!
Want to have fun? Same here!
Groupie of Scott Lynch but afraid to tell? It's ok, we won't say anything...
Join the read along or come check the discussion every week!

Last week was a blast! I didn't know what to expect but it was fun, and I loved going through everyone's post to see how they replied. I am so glad that almost everyone loved the book so far... if you want to see last week's questions, they're here. Otherwise, let's start with this week's discussion!

1. Do you think Locke can pull off his scheme of playing a Midnighter who is working with Don Salvara to capture the Thorn of Camorr? I mean, he is now playing two roles in this game - and thank goodness for that costume room the Gentlemen Bastards have!
Ah, well, I think I was kind of suspicious of his talent at the time—it's somewhat so big that you wonder how no one spots his devious scheme, but Locke is so good that you know, if someone can make it happen, that would be him. That said, I am very much convinced that he won't succeed, because that will create new twists, new drama and new work for Locke to think about, so all the best for us in the end!

2. Are you digging the detail the author has put into the alcoholic drinks in this story?
I think it's part of the thieves atmosphere, the dark mood of the city and all that. Lynch is already really good with details, great ones as well as (kinda) boring ones, so him being so fond of describing alcohol (which is quite omnipresent in those people's lives) makes it all the more real.

3. Who is this mysterious lady Gentlemen Bastard Sabetha and what does she mean to Locke?
She's his sweetheart, of course! He's just so cute at being grumpy and heartbroken because she's in a faraway country and he misses her. That guy, master of treachery and what-else, is unable to think of (or do despicable things to) other women. I think that makes him all the more charming.

4. Are you as creeped out over the use of Wraithstone to create Gentled animals as I am?
Totally creeped out. I wish someone would bloody do something, stop this nonsense!! Locke, go and save the world, please!

5. I got a kick out of child Locke's first meeting with Capa Barsavi and his daughter Nazca, which was shortly followed up in the story by Barsavi granting adult Locke permission to court his daughter! Where do you think that will lead? Can you see these two together?
Nazca is such a lovely child! I laughed so much when she declared: "He's a very ugly little boy, Father." How little do you know about how charming he'll become! But since Locke is how he is, and with Sabetha being the Thorn in his heart (wink), I think they'll stay good "friends". They don't have the temperament for anything beyond that.

6. Capa Barsavi is freaked out over rumors of The Gray King and, in fact, us readers are privy to a gruesome torture scene. The Gray King is knocking garristas off left and right. What do you think that means?
A total disaster. Beyond the scheme Locke is working on, this Grey King business seems to be the red line of the story, the matter that will keep amplifying until it becomes terrible, and people have to do something drastic about it. I fear a little for our dear Gentlemen Bastards...

7. In the Interlude: The Boy Who Cried for a Corpse, we learn that Father Chains owes an alchemist a favor, and that favor is a fresh corpse. He sets the boys to figuring out how to provide one, and they can't 'create' the corpse themselves. How did you like Locke's solution to this conundrum?
This, this was the BEST ever trick for me. So young and already so cunning, knowing how to use his money, his charms, and always getting more that what he bargained for. He a genius little prick, what else can I say.
"Bugger me bloody with a boathook," as Father Chains says so well, this boy soon will be unstoppable!

Check out other discussion on the Little Red Reviewer blog, and let's meet again next week, for more fun still to come!

Saturday, 10 March 2012

The Lies of Locke Lamora read along
[part one]

Dear fellow readers! This week is the first week of the Lies of Locke Lamora read along hosted by the Little Red Reviewer and her comrades, and it's the first time I am joining one! Every week we'll read around 120-140 pages of the book and every Saturday, each participant will reply to a bunch of secret questions and discuss around it.
Like the book? Good!
Want to have fun? Same here!
Groupie of Scott Lynch but afraid to tell? It's ok, we won't say anything...
Join the read along or come check the discussion every week!

Ahum, ok, I maybe omitted a little something... I will now actually (re)read the book along. I am already cheating, how lame is that? But though I won't be doing it thorougly, I will browse the concerned part of book every week and answer each question as well as I can. After all, I did read it, and enjoyed it like crazy (see?), so it's not actually cheating. Well, almost.

Anyway, here is this week discussion!

1. If this is your first time reading The Lies of Locke Lamora, what do you think of it so far? If this is a re-read for you, how does the book stand up to rereading?
It was my first time reading it, but the book is definitely going to the re-read list for later. I don't think I got gripped to the story at the first page, the beginning is a bit slow and quite different from the tone of the rest of the story, so maybe it was quite a challenge to go through this first part. I'm glad that I was smart enough to keep going, because it only gets better and better.

2. At last count, I found three time lines: Locke as as a 20-something adult, Locke meeting Father Chains for the first time, and Locke as a younger child in Shades Hill. How are you doing with the Flashback within a flashback style of introducing characters and the world?
It was a bit confusing at first, this back and forth in time, especially while you don't know the characters enough to really be interested in their past. However, I found that the youth of Locke in Shades Hill was as rough as it was pleasant to discover, and I loved his already building temper, humor and skills. What a sweet little one! I think I still like it better when the "introduction" is done through amusing anecdotes and past stories instead of heavy descriptions and boring monologues.

3. Speaking of the world, what do you think of Camorr and Lynch's world building?
Did I love it right away? It's kind of foggy in my mind now. Camorr left a blurry kind of feeling in my memory, in a way I can picture it so clearly and in another, I am absolutely convinced that I picture it completely wrong. It reminds me a bit of Venice (minus the tourists) and also of a very dark, old and foggy city, full of mysteries. A perfect city for the perfect thieves, no?

4. Father Chains and the death offering. . . quite the code of honor for thieves, isn't it? What kind of person do you think Chains is going to mold Locke into?
I think it's pretty hard to mold Locke into anything, but honor is something really serious for him, and I don't think he would do anything that would harm his friend or disrespect another thief's work. He's got the charm that Chains lacks, and the need to have adventures, and I think he'll stick to be the best thief one has ever heard of. I don't think he'd be able to do anything else!

5. It's been a while since I read this, and I'd forgotten how much of the beginning of the book is pure set up, for the characters, the plot, and the world. Generally speaking, do you prefer set up and world building done this way, or do you prefer to be thrown into the deep end with what's happening?
There's good and bad in both, I guess. With the slow set up, you always fear that the reader might be bored and give up, but if you don't set up anything he'll get confused and annoyed. Here, it's a bit in-between, the set up is still pretty heavy but as there are this time change in the middle, it still keeps you going. I suppose it's really hard to find a good balance, but Lynch managed it pretty well.

6. If you've already started attempting to pick the pockets of your family members (or even thought about it!) raise your hand.
Gosh, digging secrets already? Hum, I'm not really a good pickpocket... I did probably "borrow" some candy money when I was a kid, but nothing really subtle. And running elaborate scams like Locke team's do... I'm way too shy for that!!

Check out other discussion on the Little Red Reviewer blog, and come back next week for more!

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Scott Lynch - Red Seas Under Red Skies

Title: Red Seas Under Red Skies
Author: Scott Lynch
Pub. year: 2007
Pages: 640
Editor: Gollancz

Summary: Escaping from the attentions of the Bondsmagi Locke Lamora, the estwhile Thorn of Camorr and Jean Tannen have fled their home city. Taking ship they arrive in the city state of Tal Varrar where they are soon planning their most spectacular heist yet; they will take the luxurious gaming house, The Sinspire, for all of its countless riches. No-one has ever taken even a single coin from the Sinspire that wasn't won on the tables or in the other games of chance on offer there. But, as ever, the path of true crime rarely runs smooth and Locke and Jean soon find themselves co-opted into an attempt to bring the pirate fleet of the notorious Zamira Drakasha to justice. Fine work for thieves who don't know one end of galley from another. And all the while the Bondsmagi are plotting their very necessary revenge against the one man who believes e has humiliated them and lived; Locke Lamora.

You should know already (if you read this for example) that I am very fond of this series started quite some time ago—but no so long for myself. Last summer, I had the utter delight to meet the wonderful story maker that Scott Lynch is through his first book, beginning the adventure of the wonderful Locke Lamora and his witty mates—all of them highly talented thieves and scammers of all sorts. And I totally fell in love with them. I waited almost a year to read the second one, knowing that we should see the next coming this autumn.
And I can't believe I managed to wait that long.

I don't want to say too much about the story but it's sufficient to mention that once again, Lynch managed to have many stories inside the story without losing the main thread, and the various twists make the whole thing even more exciting than it already is. It's almost as if there wouldn't be any time to breath with this intense action, but Lynch hasn't lost his passion for long and excruciatingly detailed descriptions that quite often cut the suspense with some sunset/seagull story. But I guess it's also what makes the the whole thing so easy to visualize, so... bear with the descriptions, it's worth it.

It's becoming harder and harder not to skip the story to read the dialogues first: yes, that's how good they are. I just love (and laugh) so much when Locke and Jean talk that it's a torture to wait for their next piece of chat. After the quite heavy emotions we got from the end of the first book, here again we manage to feel as sad and we felt happy minutes before, and as excited as we felt wary. The rush of emotions, though sometimes easily anticipated, is really enticing.
And now I'm thinking, how am I gonna do to wait for the next book?! Well, after reading the extract graciously provided on the author's website, and dancing around in joy at the prospect of seeing Sabetha at last, I guess I'll just bite my nails and wait, wait, wait...