Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Lady Knight - review

Edited to add: spoilers ahead for the end of the book. Also, trigger warning for violence of a sexual nature, which is related to the spoiler.

Riannon of Gast is an outcast - a female knight in a heavily male-dominated society in a fantasy setting - sort of, that parallels medieval Europe; Crusades against infidels included.

When Riannon meets Eleanor - a lively young widow, sparks fly. The best parts of Lady Knight are definitely when Riannon and Eleanor are together, sparring verbally, flirting, or doing the horizontal fandango.

I'm really really torn on this one.  I mean, lady knight. Tick. Awesome noble lady in love with lady knight. Tick. Shenanigans of a very personal nature. Tick.

Reasonably well-realised medieval fantasy setting. Tick.

Ambitious priestess who tries to manipulate characters to her own ends. Tick.

Buuuuuuuuuuuuuut we also have uncomfortable religious parallels to the Crusades. It's a completely male-dominated and driven world wherein a woman literally has no value except as a wife with large .... lands, or as a priestess. Ambitious priestess Aveline isn't ... used enough? It feels like there's a much, much larger story that could be told. Honestly, there's enough in Lady Knight for it to be expanded into a trilogy. Romance! Ambitious priestesses! War! Magic swords!

Ultimately, it feels rushed and, after finishing it last night, I'm still mad at the last 40 pages or so. I get that there needed to be some kind of crisis to push Riannon to act in a way that wasn't contradictory to her character (Riannon is big on honour) but did it have to be that? IS THERE NOT ENOUGH OF THAT ALREADY?

"That" is rape. In the last 40 pages or so, Eleanor is raped by her son in law, and that's the crisis that sparks Riannon's change of heart. Which. Okay. It had to be extreme, but I'm so, so, so disappointed to see that particular plot device in a book by  a lady about ladies.

We should be able to do better than that.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Station Eleven - review

Let me say up front that this will not really be a review, because I'm completely incapable of being any kind of objective about Station Eleven.



I mean. I first read Station Eleven back in January and my first instinct - which I ignored for some reason - was to turn back to the front and start reading it again. The last time that happened to me I was an over-wrought 15 year old nerd (in the 1980s, before being a nerd was cool) and I had a strangely visceral response to the first Dragonlance book - Dragons of Autumn Twilight. That time, I did turn back and start re-reading immediately. There was something about it (Raistlin, let's be honest, it was Raistlin) that struck a chord.

FAST FORWARD MANY YEARS TO 2015. I got Station Eleven out of the library in January, expecting a good read but not expecting the book to come out of the gates and go OH ARE THOSE YOUR FEELS OVER THERE? LET ME GO AND KICK THEM FOR YOU. IS THAT YOUR HEART? AHAHAHAH IMMA EAT IT IN FRONT OF YOU AND YOU ARE GOING TO LIKE IT!

But ... that's what happened.


Station Eleven opens with an acclaimed but troubled actor having a heart attack on stage in Toronto, as he is playing King Lear. What no one knows yet, is this is also the night that the Georgia Flu - set to destroy 99% of the world's population, is about to be unleashed.

Station Eleven goes back and forth in time, ranging from well before the epidemic, to the world afterwards.

What I love - one of the things I love and I love ALL THE THINGS is that it's not your typical post-apocalyptic novel. There's a prophet, yes, who's set himself up as a kind of Randall Flagg character but what's beautiful is the prophet isn't even a MAIN character. He's an inconvenience, a  thorn in people's sides. He does cause antagonism and tragedy for some, but he drives nearly none of the action of the plot.

Although ... mmmm ... plot is the wrong word. Station Eleven is about the characters, and how they interweave in unexpected ways. And also about how life and art and creativity can be celebrated, even in a post-apocalyptic world.

For me, the best, saddest, most heart-wrenching part of the whole book is Clark, and his Museum of Civilisation. It struck something deep in me and honestly I'm thisclose to standing on a street corner and throwing copies of the book at people.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Sunday Post - number one

Hosted here at the Sunday Post is a chance to share our news from the week, and to chat about what's coming up.

Since I moved from to here, my blogging space has been pretty quiet, so I've been looking for some memes or regular posts to - hopefully - start chatting with bloggers again. :)

This is my first Sunday Post. :D

The only thing I've posted on my blog this week is this short review of A Knight's Tale:

Coming up this week, hopefully a review of Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel. And by "review" I mean ... well. I talk about it a bit further down. :)

On to the post ...

The week that was ... it was something, actually. Work - I'm a copyeditor (for now, I'm a very endangered species but more on that in another post) has rolled out new designs and templates and anything new always courts stress. Hopefully it will have settled down somewhat in the coming week, now that we're more used to the new looks.

I have Salem backed up on my hard drive, so I started watching that. I'm only a few episodes in and I'm torn. It's kind of great but also 100 per cent whackadoodle. But Lucy Lawless turns up in season 2 so I'm in for that.  Masterchef NZ starts (or started because I live in the future) tonight, and I have a deep and shameless love for all things Masterchef, My Kitchen Rules, etc. Give me a reality cooking show, and I'm in my happy place.

I've been re-reading Station Eleven, which I finished yesterday and it remains the book of my soul. I can't describe why I love it so much, but I love it so. much. For this week, I picked up The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, which has been on my radar for a while, so we'll see how that goes.

Went out to a quiz night on Friday with friends, which was a lot of fun, though I tend to get hyper-competitive. I tried to mitigate that tendency though, and we came sixth, which is respectable.

I've spent more of my weekend than I should on my second playthrough of Dragon Age: Origins. It's the first video game I have ever played and good gosh, I love it. It's like an old-school fantasy novel and for me, an uncritical shiny-eyed new player, everything about it is great. I'm also playing Dragon Age 2 concurrently, but I realised today that I'm going to have to over-write it with a new game because I just don't have enough lyrium/stamina potions to get through the final boss fights. Bah.

I also started poking at Star Wars the Old Republic, which a friend recommended to me, and it was free on so I thought hey, fate. I just need to get used to the gameplay and not feel guilty if I turn down invites to play with other people. It's not you random players, it's me. Probably. I'm very new and therefore very kind of terrible.

What else.  I have a plan for Thursday nights for reading. It probably sounds terrible, but there's nothing good on TV on a Thursday so I went "hmmm ... reading night." There's built-in shelves in the living room, and so I'm going to clear one and fill it with enormous, fat chunkster books and Thursday night from now on will be reading night. Friday night is movie night, and I have Watchmen on Netflix to watch this coming Friday.

On Saturday, I assume I'll be going to my friend's for our regular stitch-and-watch night, which is always fun, although I'm a terrible hermit and hate leaving my house if I don't have to.

How's your week been? What's coming up? :)

A Knight's Tale - review

A Knight's Tale

I never saw this when it came out, for some reason. I'm not sure why. It's on Netflix now, though, and I was curious enough to press play.

Heath Ledger is the squire to a knight who has up and died in the middle of a tournament. So Mr Ledger takes up the knight's mantle himself and starts jousting.

Of course, as he's not of noble birth, he's not really supposed to be doing that, but a little detail like that doesn't get in his way of pursuing gold, glory, food - and, of course, the girl.

I have to say ... hmmmmm ... I liked it? But it didn't grab me and rivet my attention to the screen. And, of course, every time I saw Heath Ledger, my brain went :(((((

But it's pleasantly diverting, has a pretty good soundtrack, and Rufus Sewell makes for an engaging villain.

Undemanding and fun.

But. Heath Ledger. :(

Saturday, 18 July 2015

A bookish list

I came across this on and thought it looked like fun. Make off with it if you feel like also answering the questions :-)

1. Favorite childhood book?

Ohhhh ... that's a hard one. Absolute top favourite above all others? Honestly I think I have to say A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, based on the number of times I trod the well-worn path to borrow it from the library.
2. What are you reading right now?

STATION ELEVEN. Ahem. I mean. Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel. It's a re-read for me - I read it in January but good gosh, I do love it. Also Lady Knight on iBooks, by L J Baker.

3. What books do you have on request at the library?

Nothing at the moment, though I'm considering reserving Uprooted by Naomi Novik.

4. Bad book habit?

Never, ever, ever, lend me books.  I'm the worst at returning them. 

5. What do you currently have checked out at the library?

Cover image for In wilderness : a novel
Thomas, Diane C. (Diane Coulter) 
Cover image for The companions
Salvatore, R. A., 1959- 
Cover image for Ring fire : the Fleabag trilogy
Webb, Beth, 1952- 
Cover image for Mary Poppins : the complete collection
Travers, P. L. (Pamela Lyndon), 1899-1996. 
Cover image for How to be a pirate
Cowell, Cressida. 
Cover image for The doom box
Farshtey, Greg. 
Cover image for Transformers : the novel
Wilkens, S. G. 
Cover image for The girl who circumnavigated Fairyland in a ship of her own making
Valente, Catherynne M., 1979- 
Cover image for The tale of Despereaux
DiCamillo, Kate. 
Cover image for Nefertiti : the book of the dead
Drake, Nick, 1961- 
Cover image for Royal assassin
Hobb, Robin. 
Cover image for The Grand Hotel
Kenemore, Scott. 
Cover image for The price of blood
Bracewell, Patricia, 1950- 

6. Do you have an e-reader?

Not as such. I use iBooks on my iPad though, and I like that a lot.

7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once?

I usually have about 2 or 3 on the go at the same time. One for lunchtime reading at work, one for weekends and sometimes a stray that just falls into my hands.

8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?

Yes, I think so. My to-read list has certainly expanded.

9. Least favorite book you read this year?

Shatter Me by Tahereh .Mafi

10. Favorite book you’ve read this year?


11. How often do you read outside of your comfort zone?

Not often but I like to think I have a reasonably broad comfort zone? Hard to say.

12. What is your reading comfort zone?

Fiction, mostly. Fantasy, sci-fi, dystopia, literary fiction, historical fiction, some crime fiction but I'm picky about what crime fiction I read. I'll read interesting biographies or autobiographies, if I'm interested in the person.

13. Can you read on the bus?

Yes. On short bus journeys, anyway.

14. Favorite place to read?

Bed first, and couch second.

15. What is your policy on book lending?

I lend books if I'm not worried about getting them back, or if I know I can trust the person to be responsible with my books.

16. Do you dog-ear your books?


17. Do you write notes on the margins of your books?

No, it never occurs to me.

18. Do you break/crack the spines?

Yes, especially if the binding has made it difficult to hold the book open enough.

19. What is your favorite language to read?


20. What makes you love a book?

Great characters.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015


 When Fitz is six, his small world is turned completely on its head.

He is discovered to be the bastard son of the King in Waiting, Prince Chivalry.

It's about as big a scandal as can be imagined, but Fitz is taken from his mother and his life to a new one in Buckkeep, the seat of  power for the Farseer royal family.

His arrival is akin to a stone thrown into a still pond - it creates ripples on ripples.

First, Chivalry renounces his claim to the throne, and retires with his wife Patience to a family vineyard. This leaves a void in the succession that is filled by Chivalry's younger brother, Verity - a capable man, but more military than subtle.

As for Fitz, he finds himself in the care of Burrich, Chivalry's stablemaster. Burrich is left behind when Chivalry and Patience leave Buckkeep, and he suffers for it but we only ever get hints of how, as Assassin's Apprentice is told entirely from Fitz's point of view.

Burrich is as kind to Fitz as he's capable of being, except where it comes to Fitz's talents. Fitz, it seems has The Wit - the ability to talk and bond with animals which, according to Burrich is a Bad Thing and he does all he can to try and pinch it out of Fitz.

That aside, Fitz grows up in the Keep under Burrich's sometimes rough but always considerate care. Fitz roams the castle, and the town below, meeting some of the town's children, in particular, Molly, the daughter of a chandler.

One day, however, Fitz's life is changed when he comes to the attention of King Shrewd. Fitz is about 13, and Shrewd demands an oath, making Fitz the king's man.

Fitz also meets Chade, the king's personal assassin, who helps to shape the person Fitz will become

Robin Hobb is one of those authors who has been on my radar for years but for one reason or another I never picked up her books. However, playing through Dragon Age has given me a huge hankering for some solid, old-school fantasy and so I started Assassin's Apprentice and I'm so glad I did. I loved it. Loved the whole premise of it, and the ups and downs of Fitz's life at the Keep and all of the intrigue and even the tragic horror of the Forged.

I'm 100 per cent looking forward to getting book 2 from the library and disappearing again.

 I don't have a lot to say about The Vines by Christopher Rice. It's a short book - just over 200 pages, and it felt to me like there wasn't enough time spent building up the necessary suspense and tension.

On the night of Caitlin Chaisson's birthday, she sees her husband cheating with another woman. Caitlin flees to an old gazebo on the restored New Orleans mansion where she and her husband live, and in an ill-thought out suicide attempt, Caitlin wakes up something under the earth that's been asleep for years.

I liked the premise of The Vines more than the execution of it. I think with a bit more build up, it could have been something great and sinister and spooky. As it is, I was left feeling just a bit confused.

Monday, 6 July 2015

It's Monday ...

... what are you reading?

Hosted by Sheila at or in Sheila's absence, check the hashtag #IMWAYR on twitter to expand your TBR and maybe meet some new bloggers. :)

I'm on holiday at the moment, and I've finished two books, which for me isn't bad at all.

I read Assassin's Apprentice by Robin Hobb and The Vines by Christopher Rice.

I absolutely loved Assassin's Apprentice. It took me back to being a wide-eyed 15 year old awkward nerd girl who discovered epic fantasy through Lord of the Rings. It has that feel of opening entire universes and good gosh, I loved it. Review later this week but mostly it'll be I LOVED THIS BOOK WHY DIDN'T I READ THIS YEARS AGO, etc.

I enjoyed The Vines. I didn't love it, and it felt too short for the story it was trying to tell - there was definitely scope for  a much longer book but it was readable, and spooky, and a fast read, so there's that.

I still have Lady Knight on iBooks though it's likely I won't get back to Riannon and Lady Eleanor until I go back to work next week, I'll see.

Up next .. I'm not sure actually. Maybe Life After Life. Or possibly The Casual Vacancy. Or Witches Abroad. Or the first book in a 35-book (YES 35) historical series, called The Founding, by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles.

Or ....

What are you reading?

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

In Bruges - review

Hitmen Ray and Ken land in Bruges (it's in Belgium) after a hit has gone badly wrong. Their boss, Harry (Ralph Fiennes) has told them to lay low for a couple of weeks, see the sights.

This is fine with Ken (Brendan Glesson) but Ken (Colin Farrell) is bored about two seconds after they land, and inevitably finds trouble.

In Bruges is one of those movies that keeps popping up on my radar before sinking out of sight again. I'd heard good things about it and was sort of curious so picked it up at the library last week.

Here's the thing though. I didn't really like it. I can see why other people like it - the dialogue is sharp, and Colin Farrell is playing against type as the impulsive, slightly stupid Ray, but it just didn't hook me in.

I have a low tolerance for man-child characters in films anyway, and that's essentially what Ray is, with Ken along as his permanently exasperated babysitter.

It's possible that I wasn't in the right mood for something like In Bruges.

It's not you, movie, it's me.