We’re going on an adventure!

Or rather, we went to the lonely mountain and came back again. No dragons or insane axe-murderers were met, and the treasure is in our hearts.

About an hours drive from Tallinn is an abandoned quarry, that everyone and their grandma has gone to, but for me and my friend it was a first time. Fun fact, the foreigner (my friend’s co-worker) who came along as well, had been there before us.

The weather blessed us with some very dramatic views in the sky, thus also my fascination with the clouds. It was bit dark, so most likely my photos are not top-notch quality (due to weak lens), but I like them anyway ūüôā

More on flickr (link) as always.

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A forgotten travel journal.

One time I spent a few days on Faroe Islands, came back, told stories about the cute little islands with their old old fells rising from the ocean, their occasional sheep, their grass and moss roofs, and other very non-vegan tidbits. And then forgot about it, or forgot to share any photos, because I was a bit mad at myself for leaving my widescreen lens at home and being unable to take proper shots of things nearby.

Actually, I started today’s post because I wanted to share some of my most recent favorite music, and one of the tracks I had in mind is from a CD I bought at the Faroes, sung by a Faroese singer (who I’ve been told is quite well known in Europe as well). And decided if I was going into sharing things from the Faroe Islands, then why not buckle up and actually show a few (very few) photos from the trip as well. A slightly bigger selection and all the big panoramas can be seen on my flickr album (link).

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Reading books / watching movies

It appears WordPress cannot handle scheduling anymore. I’m not tech enough to figure out how to fix the problem without adding extra plugins, so no schedule for me after all. Well, maybe organic blogging is better suited for me anyway.

This week I finally finished reading City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett, a very enjoyable fantasy that mixes modern technology, myths and legends reminiscent of ancient Greek and Arabian and Slavic myths and tales, glitching architecture and a plot that goes from a murder mystery to the protagonist Shara Komayd turning around to change the world.

For me the most enjoyable aspect was the thought provoking world building and the authenticity of characters. If Bennett keeps up the quality of these in the next two books of the series, he’ll have cemented his spot in the top of my favorite authors.

***
After finishing City of Stairs I took up a small self-assigned reading project. I’ve kept thinking and saying I want to reread one or the other book, so I’ve picked ten books that I loved in my childhood, to reread now as an adult.

My first was Bibi, by Danish author Karin Michaelis, about a spunky little girl Bibi who as the stationmasters daughter has free rides on trains and goes exploring Denmark of 1920s on her own, and she reports back to her dear pa by writing letters riddled by grammar flaws, drawings of people and landscapes, and her own free spirited character. By the end of book one the plot moves her into the care of her estranged grandparents (who belonging into high-nobility have previously disowned their daughter for marrying Bibi’s bourgeois father) and in the beginning of book two Bibi and her super-rich grandparents embark on a journey to Germany and Silesia, and it’s most interesting how post-WWI Germany is depicted through Bibi’s eyes.

***

While I love going to cinema, truthfully I haven’t been for a while, the last movie I watched in cinema was Wonder Woman some two months ago, so it’s surprising I went to see two movies this week, one on Wednesday, the other with a friend on Thursday.

My first movie was Valerian and the City of a thousand planets, which plot wise isn’t exactly a good movie, but sports a beautiful and imaginative world filled with more silly and funny aliens than even the first Star Wars trilogy had (and now that I think of it.. the new Star Wars movies have toned the non-human aliens down a lot, keeping only one droid for merchandising per movie, is this the favor Jar-Jar Binks has lent to the franchise in the prequel trilogy?).

I loved and was highly amused by the beginning sequence, that started with 1975 US/Soviet mission and goes from friendly astronauts and cosmonauts greeting each other on board of the space station, with David Bowie’s Space Oddity playing in the background, and then friendly human nations coming on board, and later thousands of different alien shuttle’s joining to the station called Alfa and eventually evolving into the City of a Thousand Planets. Fun fact, apparently director Luc Besson had written a 600 page book containing information on all the aliens.

And while Dane DeHaan, an actor I’ve not seen in any movies before even though he does seem to have quite a list of movies under his belt, performed the main character Valerian in a slightly wooden way, something about him and his droopy eyes was very fascinating.. I dunno.. I just liked him, even though his acting wasn’t good. He is instantly my fan-cast for Colonel Roy Mustang if Fullmetal Alchemist ever gets a western live-action adaption, solely based on his (or shall I say Valerian’s) looks.

I also liked Cara Delevingne, and actress whom I’ve never liked before, strangely because her eyebrows have been super-distracting on screen. She’s had them un-bushed a little and I think the role of a sci-fi agent suited her well, even if the character Laureline, much like her counterpart Valerian, was underdeveloped.

Overall, I enjoyed the movie, despite it being far from a masterpiece plot and character development wise, it was just a fun and silly flick to watch after work for unwinding, nothing to take seriously, but just lean back and enjoy, visually very beautiful. And it did accomplish it’s goal, by making me interested in reading the source comic book “Valerian and Laureline” and watch the anime adaption.

***

The second movie I watched was Les Fantomes D’Ismael (Ismael’s Ghosts), and this one.. left me wondering. It started as a soft drama with beautiful beach scenes as Ismael, a film director, is on holiday with his now-girlfriend as his wife that has been missing for 20 years suddenly re-appears. This alone would have made for a fantastic and thoughtful movie.

Strangely though, the writers and director of Ismael’ Ghosts also decided to add clips from the movie Ismael has been making, apparently about his diplomat/spy brother, and flashbacks to a few years ago, when Ismael first met his now-girlfriend, and then a bit of a crazy sequence during which Ismael shoots his producer by accident… The promising and quietly profound beginning of the movie spiraled into a confusing mumble-jumble, with the protagonist making crazy-eyes at every chance.

I’m not saying it’s a bad movie, nor that I didn’t enjoy it, but I felt that the movie didn’t know what it wanted to be when it grows up.

Doodling with a hook

There are people out there who actually finish projects in freeform crochet, they make clothing, they make decorative pillows, they make brooches, etc, you get it. I hook up freeform scrumbles, and never make anything out of them. For me freeform crochet is the purest for of creation without any true aim, without any results, just being in the moment, meditating, hooking up some magic.

This weekend I finally, after a long absence took out my yarn supplies and my hook and started crocheting. I did a little challenge for myself, to keep crocheting with the same yarn as long as possible without cutting in or re-starting it at a new place after cutting. So the scrumble is one continuous yarn-strand. The changes in the shade are due to it being variegated yarn. I feel I quite succeeded with my task and.

1. Scrumble in process, testing with yellow beads

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2. Same from another angle.

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3. Naked final form.

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4. Testing with white beads (and one rogue yellow)

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5. Testing with yellow beads.

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6. Same from another angle.

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My Reading Week

Rise of Sparrows, by Sarina Langer, and it’s little sister Wardens of Archos.

I’ve been reading two books this week. One for my pleasure, and the other one beta-reading for Sarina Langer. I’ve tried to beta-read before, but that¬† didn’t go too well, I think both me and the author were inexperienced, and sometimes one as a reader just doesn’t connect with the book, however I do consider the experience definitely an learning arc for myself both in regards of writing and also reading.

Beta-reading Wardens of Archos for indie-author Sarina Langer however has been nothing but joy. First I found Sarina’s instructions for what she expected from the beta-readers very clear – basically I’ve just been reading and writing notes into a notebook as I go, mostly how I feel about one or the other scene, or sometimes a typo for Sarina to fix.

I had reread Rise of the Sparrows, the first book of the series, just before beginning beta-read Wardens of Archos, and I think while RotS had a lot of interesting ideas and intriguing characters, it did have slightly inexperienced writing style, now with WoA one of the first comments I made was, that the writing has improved a lot, and this alone has made reading the book enjoyable.

Overall it’s been an exciting ride, there were many chapters that for me stood out with well set mood and naturally flowing scenes, that transitioned from one topic to the other flawlessly.

The story itself is for me a nod towards more classical fantasy (non-Tolkien btw), and it has been interesting through out, with plenty of unexpected twists. Somehow it made me want to revisit Elric stories by Michael Moorcock.

Wardens of Archos is not yet released, but you may check Sarina’s website and blog, where I’m sure she’ll announce the release-date soon.

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My other read this week is purely for pleasure (not that Wardens of Archos hasn’t been one, it most certainly was), City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett. And what a pleasure it is, am loving the world Bennett has built, I think I haven’t seen one so cohesive and poignant since Ursula K. Le Guin, and I consider her the √ľber-master of all world-building.

Naturally with my beta-read, City of Stairs has taken a bit of a back-burner and I’ve been reading it mostly at moments, when I cannot make notes for my beta-read, like during my short morning commute. Generally though, I think I’ll dive into this book properly once I finish the beta-read, as I prefer to read one book at a time.

Quote of the week:

We are not ourselves. We are not allowed to be ourselves. To be ourselves is a crime, to be ourselves is a sin. To be ourselves is theft.

[—]

The gods are cruel not because they make us work. They are cruel because they allow us to hope.

Anonymous Saypuri testimonial, ca 1470

— City of Stairs, by Robert Jackson Bennett

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Have you ever beta-read a book for an author? How do you feel about reading several books at the same time? Do you feel you can do that without problems problem, or are you like me, and rather want to finish a book, before starting another?

Re-imagining & re-starting

I’ve been focusing a lot only on reading and bookstagramming for the first half of the year, neglecting this blog and my other hobbies immensely and I feel that a change is due.

First I want to start creating more. Most of my creative juices have gone into bookish macro-photography, but I miss drawing and free-from crochet. I still want to be reading, but at a much more relaxed pace. I also want to go into the nature more often, my choices as a non-driving person are a little limited, but maybe the challenge to find naturescapes accessible by train or bus, will be the more rewarding as I won’t have to rely on anyone to take me out (yay for spontaneity) .

And as I create and make and see the world, I also want to get back into blogging. This blog started out as sort of book-review site, but rather than focusing only on one hobby, I’d like this blog to revolve around all of them. I know blog-gurus say that you have to focus on only one type of content to gain followers and likes, but let’s be honest, who is actually a one-type person? I am not, I have several hobbies I’m passionate about, sometimes they rotate and I neglect others over one, but I find it moot point to start a new blog every time my preferences change.

So, what can you expect from this space in the future?

  • Thoughts & emotions on books I read,
  • Maybe thought on books I decide not to read based on kindle samples
  • Some book photography
  • Some nature phtotography, maybe stories of outings? Tentative idea really
  • Definitely macrophotography
  • Drawing, sketching and painting
  • Hopefully some wacky freeform crochet
  • And maybe one day a bit on writing as well.

I’d like to set up a schedule of sorts, but I’ll have to give this a bit more thought, to ensure, I won’t burn myself out, that this will be enjoyable for me at any given moment and in line with living with an open heart and mind.

I also hope I will make more time and space for reading all the blogs that I follow here on wordpress, as I’ve got so many interesting posts unread, it’s half criminal

Traitor to the Throne – Alwyn Hamilton

Rebel of the Sands was a perky pony, galloping through the deserts, laughing; Traitor to the Throne is a river, a wide river slowly gathering earth from its shores, transporting boats with people, cattle and merchant goods to the final port. The book is so well-paced, maybe slow for some tastes, especially at the beginning, but it all taking me along in the current of the great river that cannot be stopped.

Traitor to the Throne brings along world building: a world that feels so real (it has always bothered me how much of a caricature the world of a very very very popular series is), myth and legend are seamlessly blended into the main story, faraway countries not only appear on the map, but gain goals and motivations of their own. I want more of this world. A trilogy set in Gamanix, please?! Sam’s adventures, please? More Xicha, if possible?

I’ve never much liked in fantasy books the oh-so-necessary, but oh-so-boring parts of training the hero. Hamilton solves this in a way that doesn’t stop either character building or the plot from moving on, by letting Amani to learn on the go, from the best of the best, by observing others actions, rather than words. She gets development, and training, but not in an obvious training-arc. I appreciate this so much!

New characters are introduced, some old ones return. The introduction to the Sultan bringing along the question of the moral ambiguity of a rebellion, which is rarely explored in our era of hundreds of rebellion stories. No doubts left, of course, by the end. But the Sultan is such a compelling character, am really glad Hamilton gave so much insight into him.

I ugly cried. I ugly cried at the end chapters, once and then once more, but here’s a gem of a character in the middle of the book, for whom I ugly-cried as well.

I hope in the next book Jin, will get more character development. I liked him a lot in book 1, but he seems sort of a douche by end of Traitor to the Throne, and his role as the love interest is not enough at this point. I hope another character, a purple haired someone, will get more spot-light and action and character development. I hope a certain beauty will be with us through till the end. I hope.. my I’ve got so many hopes and fears for book three!

I enjoyed the book immensely, even as it made me go back and reread Rebel of the Sands, while I was some hundred pages into Traitor to the Throne. Hamilton proved herself to be a very solid writer, one I’ll look forward to read more from.

Review originally published on Goodreads. Possibly I could do better, but these are the incoherent and raw thoughts I had, after I finished the book, tossed around all night, my mind restless.

Review: Madeline Miller – The Song of Achilles

Good day,

long time no see. I’ve read books, I’ve typed mini-reviews into my Instagram captions, or in some cases have been shaken¬†by a book so¬†thoroughly that it left my brain unable to express, what it is that I found in the book.

I’m feeling conflicted about The Song of Achilles. I loved the writing style, I was not put off by the relatively relaxed pace, there are gems of scenes. So what is wrong?

Well, Patroclus is.

Patroclus in Homer’s Iliad is Achilles’ best friend and Miller has chosen him to be the 1st person narrator of the story. Great idea, why not?!

Except, she didn’t chose to develop him, give him character and reason. For the first half of the book I felt as if I was reading about Bella Swan (of Twilight fame), who has been whisked off to Ancient Greek and is wearing a mask of a gay male. Patroclus didn’t have anything else in his life other than his desire for Achilles, all his motivations are due to the passion, no hobbies, no interests, nothing, a big round zero.

Miller for some reason has opted out on the friendship part of Achilles and Patroclus’ relationship, or at least she doesn’t bother to show it. This was my first disappointment. It does come down to my belief of friendship being the foundation of a well working romantic relationship, and my general¬†grievance is that far too many relationships in popular literature bank on the sexual passion (disguised as ‘true love’), denying characters mutual trust and respect, and strong friendships.

Once they hit the shores of Troy Patroclus is given a tiny bit of other activities, a life separate from Achilles’ bed. This only serves to show that in truth, Patroclus is a modern boy, a 21st century boy, his fears and concerns and values are that of a boy, who could be sitting in trenches today or maybe at most in WWI. One might argue that we don’t know how a boy might have been thinking during the siege of Troy, but neither does the modern way Patroclus thinks believable for events some 3000 years ago in a very different world.

When in the first half of the book Patroclus reminds me Twilight-Bella, then in the second half he produces the image of another female character that I don’t like (I’ve fumed about Vhalla in some previous posts). Suddenly Patroclus is holier than thou, the good, the kind, the just, juxtaposed against the increasing foolish pride of Achilles, the latter the¬†downfall of them both.

At the end of the day, I’m confused why this book was written. What should I be taking away from this? I see that I’m supposed to feel something, but it falls flat.

The¬†book is quite popular and is generally loved (even got an award), so maybe it’s overshadowed by my recent read Days without End by Sebastian Barry and the Oscar-winning film Moonlight, both of which touched me very deeply. I mention these two because they both share the LGBT theme with The Song of Achilles. I’ve also recently read The Farseer trilogy by Robin Hobb, which has one of my favourite friendships (FitzChivalry and the Fool). The Song of Achilles pales in comparison and¬†for me feels as if a fan-fiction’ish version of Patroclus has been inserted into every key event known of Achilles’¬†myth.

As it stands, I wanted to love this book, but it’s clouded by everything that is wrong with Patroclus.¬†I’ve been a fan of Greek myth and legends since early teens, and I honestly don’t see reason for this re-telling and the only thing that saves the book is the writing and the last few chapters.

My rating for The Song of Achilles is 6 points out of 10.

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You can meet me over on Instagram @bookandmoon

Or stalk my reading habits on Goodreads.

Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

I started Nevernight by Jay Kristoff with low expectations, thinking it would be a very different book, than it really is. Don’t we all just love pleasant surprises. I do. Especially in the fantasy-genre.

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The first evening I read Nevernight, I kind of didn‚Äôt like it, but I think that might have be due to my own tiredness and the first chapter being intentionally confusing, with Mia’s memories and Mia’s present interwined and both sporting a slightly distant and a style rich in metaphors. Both Mia’s memories and present also banking on shock-value, either to draw in some readers or to repel others.

As of chapter two however all clicked into place for me and I went on to enjoy Nevernight till the end.

Nevernight treats one with¬†a well thought out world that mixes a setting reminiscent of lovely Venice and a political and lingual system like ancient Rome. The world and it’s history oft presented in humorous fourth-wall breaking footnotes (which I hear some readers found to be a chore, but were amusing for me).

Jay Kristoff plays delightfully with words and there was only one metaphor that got repeated (that I noticed) twice or trice. One about Mia’s temper. Luckily no more and the beautiful writing stays fresh throughout.

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When I think back on Nevernight, then one word to describe the book is: elegant. I had the UK-edition, which is one of the most beautifully crafted and designed book I have, and the amazing dust-jacket is only the tip of the iceberg of the design. But that is not all, Kristoff is elegant in his descriptions as well. In fact, my favourite chapter is one with Mia’s worst memories (nothing as cheesy as the ones Snape had), which utilises spaced text for great impact and it works simply so well.

Nevernight is amazingly¬†well paced. I’ve seen mentions of it being slow for the first fifty pages, slow over all, only picking up at the last hundred pages. But when you think about it, this is how most books are these days, slowly¬†adding to the excitement to get abruptly cut off with a cliffhanger so that you need to go¬†and buy the next book. I felt Nevernight was paced just right, it never drove me into a frenzy, making me swallow the book whole just to find out what happens. Instead I enjoyed every minute reading every single word and passage, not skipping any detail due to rushing. And that I appreciate.

Nevernight could work well as a stand-alone, and is confident enough that it does not need to trick me into getting the next book with a cliffhanger in the end. Very solid. And again much appreciated.

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Something that I’ve noticed that¬†often comes up in reviews is that: oh, this didn’t surprise me. Or I could see this or the other plot-point coming a long way. And then we deduce points from our enjoyment, because we think us cleverer than the author. I’m sure I’m not exactly guilt-free in this practice. So in Nevernight, there were things that I knew in advance, there were things that were hinted at with well-placed Chekhov’s Gun’s, which at times I only recognised after the gun had been shot, but the more I appreciated the deception. So no, I’m not cleverer than Jay Kristoff, and you know, I don’t even mind.

A few weeks ago I wrote how a romance-infested fantasy series made me doubt all I have ever loved about the genre. Well, Nevernight has restored my faith in fantasy genre. Jay Kristoff is one I’ll be looking out for more and he is¬†now securely shining among my other favourite authors like Scott Lynch, Ursula K. Le Guin etc.

So. What else can I say? Maybe.. if you like the Gentelman Bastards series by Scott Lynch; or liked the amusing world building foot-notes in the Bartimaeus trilogy by Jonathan Stroud; or have a thing for Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, then give Nevernight a go! Might be it’s just the book for you as well as it was for me.

My rating for Nevernight by Jay Kristoff is 9-10 points out of 10. Yes.

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You can meet me over on Instagram @bookandmoon

Or stalk my reading habits on Goodreads.

Indie 52: Earth’s End, Water’s Wrath and Crystal Crowned by Elise Kova

I never published the very angry review I wrote about the third book in the series, Earth’s End. Possibly cause I calmed down a bit, when I started reading the fourth book and I kind of liked that one… in the beginning… until they meet again…

My biggest issue with the series is that, here we have Elise Kova creating a whole world, a very interesting one, creating many lovable side-characters, and then just wasting it all on romance, a love story of a life-time, with rest of the plot serving only towards the sugar coated ending. The focus on the romance is as bad as it was in the Star Wars prequel trilogy. And that is not even the only parallel with the space-fable.

At some point I realised that whatever is happening on screen, it doesn’t really matter. Nothing had any¬†impact. At all. Beginning of book three Vhalla is racing to save her beloved, and enemies are trying to stop her, and of course she reaches her destination. No problem, wiping off specks of dust from her shoulder. And this is so with every other point of the plot, questions are raised for drama. Not very exciting to read about a fight or a rebellion if I¬†ahead that it will not actually change anything.

Then there’s¬†Vhalla, she is constantly described as brilliant by her admirers. I never like when writers do that, intelligence is one of the most trickiest things to fake. Even Hermione’s brilliance was set to shine against the backdrop of two teenage oafs. But it’s entirely a different thing to out-smart your¬†peers in a school setting, compared to¬†Vhalla¬†besting seasoned warriors and war-leaders in tactics and strategy. Vhalla is not brilliantly intelligent..¬†everyone else is made stupid. How did the world turn at all, before she came along?

Vhalla also isn’t a very nice person. She’s also constantly snapping at her friends, screaming like a madwoman at everything that doesn’t suit her needs, obsessing over Aldrik, but the next moment playing the holy saint to bring together families and lovers and teach life to the younglings. She also expects a ton of respect, because she is the future empress. Half of book five stresses that so much I wanted to vomit. At some point there’s talk, how Vhalla is so wonderful, because she only always cared about Aldrik and not his throne. Why, girl, but you do act, like you care a lot about the throne and the title.

I think the book that I wanted, was Aldrik dying, Vhalla fighting the enemies of the empire, and finally ascending the throne of her own. Sure, books like these have been done before (Twelve Kingdoms is a good example), but it would have been far more satisfying than the happy ending that Anakin Skywalker and Padme Amidala never got, but never was out of reach for Aldrik and Vhalla. In coming episodes VI, V and VI.

This whole series made me sad and mad. The first book was nice and showed a lot of promise, but after that… I only liked the first half of book four, cause there was some world development and Vhalla and Aldrik were separated.

Usually a good fantasy read makes me excited for more fantasy, more so, makes me excited to pick up developing my own little world and characters. This series worked the opposite effect, making me doubt all that I know, all good that I have experienced in other fantasy books.

My ratings for the series last three books:

Earth’s End 5 out 10.

Water’s Wrath 6¬†out of 10

Crystal Crowned n/a as I mostly just skipped the book.