Maggie Stiefvater: Shiver trilogy

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Maggie Stiefvater: Shiver, Linger, Forever

There are werewolves, and then there are Sam and Grace. And Cole.

Have you ever read a trilogy and realized it was just a long prology? This happened to me, no fault of Maggie Stiefvater, but the fact I read Sinner before Shiver.

Maggie Stiefvater Shiver in Read, Write and Publish

Shiver was my second Stiefvater book. After Sinner, it felt a bit plain at first. This is a slower, more delicate story. But it grows through the book and in the end I was glad I could hop on to the next one in series, Linger, right away. It would have been too painful to wait for a year (or more).

Shiver tells the story of Grace, a girl whose parents are emotionally neglecting her and who has a life changing experience of a meet up with wolves. Now in her teens, Grace stumbles on her hopes and fears as Sam appears in the scene. They become inseparable, for want and necessity alike. This puts a little bit strain on the credibility of the setup Stiefvater has created, so much so, that apparently she recognized the need to address the issue in the story itself. As Sam is trying to remain human, he is also forced to remain in Grace’s house, unknown to her parents, basically dependent on Grace.

In the next book of the series, Linger, the problem is shoveled up into the faces of the readers and a confrontation with Grace’s parents is inevitable. The reactions of the parents and Grace’s relationship with them take a more and more prominent stage. At the same time Grace is under a new threat, this time directed against her.

Linger has plenty of the same beauty that Shiver, but the frustrating situation with Grace’s parents felt a bit too frustrating to read too. In this book Isabel has a bigger role and Cole St. Clare makes his entry and these two characters pretty much steal the show.

Forever is the culmination of the story of Sam and Grace. Their love is peaceful and natural – like an old couple, except they’re teenagers and fighting for their lives as wolfs. How does Stiefvater manage to combine these two opposite elements? But even more than a closure for Sam and Grace, this book is the real beginning for Isabel and Cole.

Forever brings the story of the werewolves to an inevitable climax that has been in the air since the first book, with a solution that gives each main character a decisive role – well suited to their personalities.

I’ve pretty much stayed clear of other werewolf stories (yes, there’s some werewolves in Harry Potter and Mortal Instruments series) so I can’t make many comparisons, but I think Stiefvater’s creations are quite elegant. When wolves, the characters are real wolves and it adds another level to the story. Can we ever really relate to another species? Our senses, perception of the world and desires are so different. Yet, we share some fundamental similarities: a need to survive and a want for pleasure. The question is where do these two things take us?

Stiefvater’s trilogy took me back to reread the Sinner – a spin off telling the tale of Isabel and Cole in California.

Susan

 

The pack circled around me, tongues and teeth and growls.

When a local boy is killed by wolves, Grace’s small town becomes a place of fear and suspicion. But Grace can’t help being fascinated by the pack, and by one yellow-eyed wolf in particular. There’s something about him – something almost human.

Then she meets a yellow-eyed boy whose familiarity takes her breath away…

A chilling love story that will have you hooked from the very first page.

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Julian Fellowes: Belgravia

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Julian Fellowes: Belgravia, Read, Write and Publish

Julian Fellowes: Belgravia
2016

Julian Fellowes is an acclaimed writer, who’s had his hand on Downton Abbey and Goshford park among other successes. His charms don’t fail in Belgravia either. It is a carefully structured drama with plenty of characters, beautiful settings in the Victorian era and plotting that knows where to place cliffhangers.

Reign of the older ladies

But what perhaps caught most my attention is the age range of the main characters in this novel. Anne Trenchard and Lady Caroline Brockenhurst are the two formidable women in their 60’s and 70’s who lead the events of this escalating intrigue. They are well-rounded characters, who feel real even in their 19th century ways of thinking. It is not possible to overcome the idea that this novel has been planned with a very special reader segment in mind: Anne and Caroline’s peers in the modern world, who also happen to represent the major book buying public.

Nevertheless, this makes the novel, if possible, even more interesting. It has a set of characters to please all age groups, but there’s no doubt the bit older ladies are the salt and pepper of this story. The other formidable group in this novel are the villains. There are juicy, well-fleshed villains of both sexes, who succeed to present their motivations in a very convincing way. John Bellasis, Oliver Trenchard, Susan Trenchard, Lady Templemore, Ellis and Turton, have all good reasons for their even less honorable actions. This firework of characters inevitably leaves the romantic couple – Lady Maria Grey and Mr. Charles Pope – somewhat plainer.

Netflix of books, anyone?

Julian Fellowes first published Belgravia as a serial, which could be purchased in installments. This form has raised mostly critique, and not without a reason. In the age, when people are used to binge watching tv series (binge reading has always been around), this kind of dietary attitude to reading is just not viable. Edwin Smith suggests that Belgravia’s creators should’ve learned from Netflix and offered the novel in three different pricing models. The basic version would give the reader access to the weekly installments as they are published. A goldilocks version would add audio to that. And the superduper version would give everything immediately and whenever the reader wants it.  That sounds like a plan.

Where is the Netflix of books, anyway? Libraries are great, but if you want to have all (e)books here and now, wouldn’t it be nice to get it with a small monthly fee? Or would it?

Susan

 

”It’s the eve of the Battle of Waterloo, 15th June 1815. The Duchess of Richmond throws a magnificent ball in Brussels for the Duke of Wellington.

The guests include James and Anne Trenchard, who have made their money in trade.  Their beautiful daughter Sophia has caught the eye of Edmund Bellasis, the son and heir of one of Britain’s most prominent families.

Twenty-five years later, when the two families are settled in the newly developed area of Belgravia, the events of the ball still resonate.

Because behind Belgravia’s magnificent doors is a world of secrets, gossip and intrigue…”

 

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Kerstin Gier: Just Dreaming

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Kerstin Gier Just Dreaming Read, Write and Publish

Kerstin Gier: Book of Dreams trilogy: Dream a little dream (2015), Dream on (2016), Just dreaming (tbp)

Kerstin Gier is a German author whose two trilogies have completely charmed me. The Gem trilogy is about time travel and the Dreams trilogy about a second reality in the world of dreams. Gier writes smoothly flowing prose and hooks up a reader from the page one.

Her stories mix fantasy with reality, have a female main character in her teens and of course a budding romance or two. Sounds familiar from a whole bunch of YA fiction, so what’s so special in Gier’s stories?

3 things separate them from the mass:

  • Authentic description of the life of teens. The plots are fantastical and family life lacks any serious problems. Yet, there is an authenticity that is definitely lacking from so many other similar series. Maybe the best way to describe it, is to call it unpolished.
  • Europeanness. These books are clearly and wonderfully European.
  • Fresh optimism. These books are essentially feel-good books. There’s mystery, action, suspense, romance and danger, but the overall feel is still happiness. Life is good, even if there are problems and hick-ups in the way. And sometimes it’s just good to feel good.

Liv is not just dreaming…

Book of Dreams trilogy’s main character is 16 year old Liv, who moves with her mother and little sister Mia and their ”nanny” Lottie to England. Liv is an independent, but somewhat scatty type of girl, who’s moved around the world with her family. Mia is a perfect sidekick to her with a kind of irony and quick wit so often present in a preteen girl. Lottie takes the place of warmhearted mother figure while Liv’s real mother is hoping her daughter would take up a bit wilder teenage existence in her footsteps.

She shouldn’t worry too much on Liv getting bored, though. Soon Liv discovers a second reality in her dreams, where she meets some of her new school mates. The dream world is exciting, but gets quickly completely out of hand. Well, just imagine that you’d actually shared the same dream with the people in it… and they would remember it just as well as you on the next day.

The problems with school, new friends, romance and family clash between the day world and the dream world. Gier weaves a net of mysteries, which tightens book by book and gets even a wee bit too tangled.

Mystery solved

Gier’s superb description of relationships and characters makes the story shine. Liv, and all the characters surrounding her, have their own unique personalities. There is no love triangle, which is refreshing, but the relationship between Liv and Henry goes through some very relatable and real problems. What perhaps makes these problems even more tangible is, that they are not caused by rivaling boyfriend candidates, but stem from the inner workings of the pair. Insecurities, misunderstandings and miscommunication. Yet, Gier hands them out in perfect portions, not causing irritation over overtly clueless characters. In the last book the problems of Liv’s relationship with Henry are all caused by her own insecurities and create some incredibly humorous situations. In this book Mia really comes into her own and has a crucial part in solving the mysteries and fighting the villains – just like a reincarnation of Miss Marple should.

I would warmly recommend this series, as every part of the trilogy has left me looking for the next, at the same time thoroughly happy of the time I’ve spent in the world created by Kerstin Gier.

Susan

 

”Liv’s dreams are becoming more and more dangerous and the relationship with Henry needs working up too. Somehow they have ended up in a situation, where Henry thinks Liv is incredibly experienced in all aspects of life, although that is not at all the case. A lot is happening at the home front too: Liv’s mother is getting remarried, which is causing all kinds of headaches. On top of all this, Arthur – hungry for revenge – is not only causing damage by night, but he has discovered a way to control people also outside the dream world. Liv really has her hands full, as she tries to stay alive both in the real and dream world.” (Translation from the Finnish version of Just dreaming: ”Liitto”.)

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The City of Bones and How to Improve the Original in Translation

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City of Bones, Cassandra Clare

Cassandra Clare: City of Bones, part 1, the Mortal Instruments series. The Finnish translation by Terhi Leskinen, 2010.

I’m a fan of Cassandra Clare’s world of Shadowhunters. I’ve read the Mortal Instruments and Infernal Devices series and enjoyed them – more or less – thoroughly. I usually read in English, Finnish or Swedish depending on what is accessible.  Some of Clare’s books I’ve read in English, the others in Finnish. Most bookworms seem to prefer original language, if possible. Me too. Normally. It’s just that sometimes a translation might actually be better than the original.

Better than the Original?!

I hadn’t really thought about this until I came across Chris Winkle’s dissection of Clare’s City of Bones. It’s a detailed analysis of the beginning of the book, only I couldn’t relate to it at all. Had I really been reading the same book?

I checked again the Finnish translation of the City of Bones, and indeed, the translator had improved several points where Clare had gone a bit wobbly with her writing…

Let’s take a look how a translator can improve a text with word choices. I’ll re-translate the Finnish version into English. Here are the changes in some of the points Chris Winkle commented on:

  • English version: “The fifty or so teenagers in line outside the Pandemonium Club leaned forward to eavesdrop.”
  • Finnish version: “The fifty or so teenagers in line outside the Pandemonium Club stretched their necks trying to eavesdrop.”

Stretching one’s neck trying to eavesdrop seems a bit more feasible for even fifty persons in line, than leaning forward. In fact I can vividly imagine this scene in my mind.

  • English version: “The kid hoisted the thing up over his head.”
  • Finnish version: “The boy lifted the thing up over his head.”

As hoist implies a heavy object being raised, lifting has nothing to do with the weight of the object – it can be either light or heavy.

  • English version: “The bouncer shrugged, abruptly bored.”
  • Finnish version: “Suddenly the bouncer shrugged in a bored fashion.”

In the Finnish version the boredom is clearly a description of the visible action of shrugging and doesn’t require any knowledge of the thoughts of the bouncer, hence no change of point of view.

  • English version: “She was beautiful, for a human—long hair nearly the precise color of black ink,”
  • Finnish version: “She was beautiful, for a human – long hair almost pitch black,”

Here the translator has gone for the basics and it works wonderfully.

Translator = Editor?

A translator can have a major impact on a book. A well done translation can enhance a story and  – of course – a poorly done can make a grave disservice to it. Even so, a translator is not an editor. Things that cannot be fixed with word choice or sentence structure are beyond translator’s powers. Anyway, a book should be as good as it gets before it ends up in translator’s hands?

Susan

 

 

“When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder — much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Clary knows she should call the police, but it’s hard to explain a murder when the body disappears into thin air and the murderers are invisible to everyone but Clary.

Equally startled by her ability to see them, the murderers explain themselves as Shadowhunters: a secret tribe of warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. Within twenty-four hours, Clary’s mother disappears and Clary herself is almost killed by a grotesque demon.

But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know….”

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The Man Who Lived – To Be Middle Aged

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, parts one and two, 2016

What a better way to start a book blog than with the newest Harry Potter! I’m reading (devouring) books all the time and more often than not feel the urge to tell about them to other bookworms. The best thing you can do with a good book is to share it with others, right?

I’m a potterhead – who isn’t? The original seven Harry Potter books are an amazing set. The plot, the characters, the whole Harry Potter universe are carefully thought through with keeping the tiniest details in mind. After the success of the series, the original saga has been continued in fanfiction in all possible and impossible ways. So, how to come up with something new now, nine years after the last book and a whole eternity of speculations later? Considering all this, it’s no easy feat to add another tome and make it work. Especially, when the writing is not done by J.K Rowling herself. So, while unwrapping the eighth book from its postal package, I had my doubts.

The eighth story in the Harry Potter saga tells the story nineteen years after the original ended. We’re back to the epilogue, Albus heading towards Hogwarts for the first time and the golden trio seeing their kids off for the school year. Albus and Rose climb on the train and decide to make the all important first friends already in the train – just like their parents. Albus meets Scorpius and the rest is history… In a way the beginning tells the theme of this story. It is constantly revisiting the original books and characters, sometimes hitting the bull’s eye, other times missing gigantically.

The book is not an actual novel, but a rehearsal script for a play. It makes a kind of a distanced impact compared with a  novel. I wonder if this is also part of the problem with the eighth Harry Potter story. It’s delivered in such a concise form, it doesn’t quite succeed in creating the suspence and expectation it would actually deserve. What is missing is also the well rounded worldbuild of the original Potter saga, with its humour, unique characters and description of the world that has enthralled so many readers.

However, despite all that, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a deacent read. The storyline flirts with fanfiction and gives a handful of new insights into the life of Harry Potter, sometimes bending the story of the original books. The Cursed Child has a kind of raw edge that was not present in the former books. What was previously perhaps only hinted on, is now bluntly exposed. However, towards the final twist of the plot the story takes on an entirely different logic from the previous books. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem very well motivated. It is probably true that this story is best to be seen on the stage.

Nevertheless, I read it at one go. After all the years with Potter, I just can’t put down a book telling me more about this world – even if it’s not quite pitch-perfect. As I doubt I’ll have a chance of seeing the play any time soon, I’m happy there’s a chance to another new potterstyle experience with the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them this autumn. Fingers crossed it will be worth the wait!

Susan

The eighth story, nineteen years later…

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband, and father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest sone Albus must struggle with the wight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse oinously, both father and sone learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.

Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a new play by Jack Thorne. It is the eight Harry Potter story and the first to be officially presented on stage. This Special Rehearsal Edition of the script brings the ontinued journey of Harry Potter and his friends and family to readers everywhere, immediately following the play’s world premiere in London’s West End on 30 July 2016.

The stage production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is produces by Sonia Friedman Productions, Colin Callender and Harry Potter Theathrical Productions.”

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