August 2008


This is McKinley’s second rewrite of the fairy tale of the Beauty and the Beast. It feels more magical than the previous Beauty. The world has sorcerers, greenwitches, and magicians but none of them are described in any detail; they’re just a part of the background.

The essential gradients of the story are the same and the difference and the meat of the story is in the details. The story focuses entirely on Beauty and her development.

Beauty is the youngest of three daughters; her eldest sister is called Lionheart because of her bravery and her other sister is called Jeweltongue because of her sharp tongue. Ever since Beauty was a small child she has had a nightmare about walking down a long hallway and there’s a beast waiting for her at the end of the hall…

The sisters live in grand style in the city as daughters of a wealthy merchant. Unfortunately, the merchant’s fortunes turn and he is left destitute. Everyone abandons the family and their father suffers a mental breakdown. Beauty goes through her father’s papers and notices the only thing that they still own: a little cottage near the town of Longchance. They gather their little belongings and leave.

They join a merchant caravan and while traveling with them, the sisters find out their special abilities: Lionheart is an excellent cook who can make a big meal out of small ingredients and Jeweltounge is just as good with mending and making clothes. They reach the Rose Cottage and settle there. Beauty finds out that she’s an excellent gardener when she nurses the plants around the cottage back to life. The cottage itself is surrounded by big bushes and she doesn’t at first recognize what plant they are because she’s never seen anything like them. But the next spring they bloom full of roses.

The villages are kind to the newcomers. Lionheart also finds out that she has a knack with horses and so she dresses up as a man and becomes a stable boy at the local squire’s stables. One day one of the villagers talks about a curse around the Rose Cottage when three sisters live there. Beauty is the only one to hear about it but she’s afraid to ask more and she doesn’t mention it to the others.

A couple of years go by and the sisters manage to make a living; Jeweltounge making clothing for the people in the town, Lionheart taking care of horses, and Beauty growing vegetables and making wreaths out of her roses. Even their father has recovered. Then they get a word that one of his ships has come to the harbor full of goods. The father goes back to the city and to the ship, hoping that he can get enough money from the goods that he can settle some of their debts. On his way back, he is lost in a snowstorm and finds a vast, empty, perhaps a magical palace where he spends the night. When he’s leaving, he takes the rose which is in a vase at the table where he has eaten to take it back to Beauty. Instantly, the Beast is upon him. The Beast demands that the merchant’s daughter comes back to pay for the theft of the rose. The merchant flees in horror.

Despite the pleading of her father and sisters, Beauty goes to the Beast’s palace. She doesn’t know what to expect.

McKinley tells the classic fairy tale in very much a magical manner. The theme of love is, of course, strongest but also the theme of transition to another life or another part of life. Change can be frightening at first but is only a part of life. The sisters grow also very close together after they lose the wealth they had and can only rely on each other.

While in the book “Beauty”, the magical library was very much in the center of the story, here the roses and gardening are at center stage.

By Johns, Morrison, Rucka, Waid, Giffen

The first volume of the DC mega series 52.

I’m not very familiar with the DC universe. Mostly, that’s because the Finnish comic publishers have concentrated more on Marvel. Oh, we had the occasional Superman and Batman titles but nothing much else. However, the long-running Superman title (before Byrne run and some years after it) had the JLA as the secondary story. That was the JLA when it was a funny title with Booster Gold, Blue Beetle, Batman, Mr Miracle, Big Barda, the Black Canary, etc. in the team. Was the four or three relaunches ago? Anyway, I loved that JLA incarnation and when the next relaunch came around I started to get it in English (the Finnish version lasted for only one issue… Sometimes I really think that publishers are looking for excuses to end titles and book series instead of, say, publicizing them) Around that time I also started to read Wonder Woman, Titans, Nightwing, and later Birds of Prey and JSA. So, that’s pretty much my knowledge about DC. This volume had quite a lot of characters and references to characters I don’t know. But I recognized enough of them to follow the plotline. We had about six issues of the Question come out in the 80’s so I’m vaguely familiar with him, I think.

Anyway, much of the plot is centered on Booster Gold and his struggle to fame and fortune through super heroics. Another story focuses on the Question and a former female detective Montoya who are investigating something in Gotham. Then there’s Black Adam who has now become a ruler of his own country and is out to unite other countries against the US and especially against the US superheroes. And a plotline that involves two scientists in robotics. One of them is in jail and still inventing stuff and the other come to see and talk with the jailed one. Apparently, someone is kidnapping mad scientists. Ralph Dibney is mourning his wife while some Kryptonian cult is trying to resurrect her and…

Yep, lots of story all rolled up in one title. The heroes are continuing their lives while most of JLA is missing. They are also trying to find the missing heroes and Luthor, of course, does what he can for himself.

The individual issues might have been slow-moving but in a trade, the pacing is quite nice with all of the stories. I especially like the political story because so many, or rather all, comics just shy away from any sort of politics at all. On the other hand, it is understandable if they want to keep up with current day politics but on the other… well, lots of missed opportunities there.

I liked the artwork as well.

Booking Through Thursday

If you’re anything like me, one of your favorite reasons to read is for the story. Not for the character development and interaction. Not because of the descriptive, emotive powers of the writer. Not because of deep, literary meaning hidden beneath layers of metaphor. (Even though those are all good things.) No … it’s because you want to know what happens next?

Or, um, is it just me?

I usually read to get a mix of plot/story and characters. After all, how can you get an interesting story without characters you can either hate or root for? ;)

This is the first in a science fiction series: the Retrieval Artist. It’s set in a future where humans have colonized the Moon and Mars and have interstellar trade with at least three alien species. And the aliens aren’t humanoid and neither do they have human values.

Ekaterina Maakestad has to leave her life as an interstellar lawyer and her fiancée if she wants herself to live. Why? Because she has broken the laws of one of the aliens, the Rev, and unless she can make herself disappear she will spend the rest of her life in a hard labor camp which is not designed for fragile humans. She has contracted a Disappearance service which is supposed to be the best around. They have specialized in making humans, and aliens, in need to disappear from their previous lives. Unfortunately, it looks like someone in the company sold her out. Ekaterina manages to evade the aliens who are after her only to land in the only place where she might have a chance of survival: the Moon with its habitable domes. Of course, since the Rev have a legal warrant now she has to evade the local police.

Jamal has been on the run from the alien Wygnin for ten years. He has disappeared successfully on the Moon, married, and even started a family. However, his and his wife Dylani’s son disappears from their home. Jamal knows that the Wygnin are responsible and he’s right; soon they hear the Wygnin, their son and another human boy have been stopped in the Moon’s customs because the aliens don’t have warrants for the boys. Jamal gets his son back but it’s likely to be only temporary; the Wygnin don’t punish the wrong-doer but the one most precious to him: his first-born. Jamal starts to find a way out of his desperate situation.

Miles Flint is a space-cop who has been recently promoted to a detective. He’s dreamed about it for a long time but things just don’t seem to go as he wanted them to. First, his new partner is a very experienced detective Noelle DeRicci but she seems to have nothing but loathing for her new partner. She’s also not in a good standing with her fellow officers and apparently only one reprimand away from losing her badge. Flint’s cases are also quite distressing; they all involve humans caught up in alien legal systems. One starship which seems to have three brutally murdered humans is apparently just one alien species, the Disty, following their legal vengeance on not only just the criminal but everyone who has helped him or her. The Wygnin have apparently kidnapped two human children but they just might have legal warrants to take them away from their human families. And one woman who seems to be fleeing an alien justice system and Flint has to hand her over back to them – if he can find her first. Flint’s own sense of justice is tried hard.

This sci-fi world is intriguing and I’d love to read more about it. The aliens seem really inhuman not just in their appearance but more importantly in the way they think. I was very impressed by that. On the other hand, it would have been great to see how these justice systems came about and how humans could agree to them in the first place. But hopefully that will be explored in the future books.

The premise of the series, according to the series name Retrieval Artist, is to focus on people who find the humans who have used the services of a disappearance company. However, here we see only one RA and her only briefly but perhaps some the other people will show up in the next books

This is the third book in the historical mystery series about Lord Meren, the Eyes and Ears of the Pharaoh Tutankhamen, and his adopted son Kysen. This time the pair gets mixed up with the worst kind of people: their family. ;)

After the events in the last book, Meren is on his way back to his sister’s house far from the court. He is looking for some peace and quiet with his two daughters and his sister. Unfortunately for Meren, his sister Idut has decided to hold a Feast of Rejoicing in his honor and she has invited the whole family to it. Meren is furious because his trip turns out not to be just a vacation but a secret mission from the Pharaoh; he is transporting the bodies of Tutankhamen’s heretic brother Akhenaten and his wife for a new burial. Their bodies and tombs were desecrated and the Pharaoh doesn’t want that to be public knowledge. And to make matters worse, the Pharaoh himself decides to pay a visit in secret.

The royal bodies are left in a nearby haunted temple with guards while Meren tries his best to tolerate his family and persuade the Pharaoh to return. Meren’s family is quite a handful: most of them want desperately Meren to remarry and sire a son, since they despise the common-born Kysen. Meren’s great-aunt Cherit still treats him like an ignorant boy and his aunt Nebetta and uncle Hub blame him for the death of their son Djet who was Meren’s best friend when they were growing up. Meren’s brother Ra also shows up. Ra has always been jealous of Meren’s success and is now a drunkard. Meren’s cousin Sennefer is married to the flirtatious Anhai and there’s a rumor that they might get a divorce. Meren’s sister is being courted by a man Meren loathes. Even Meren’s normally gentle daughters bring him some grief: they’ve grown up! And the older of them, Bener, is rumored to have something going on with an assistant scribe.

If this isn’t enough, Anhai if found dead in a granary. Surrounded by people who remember him as a little boy instead of a high noble, Meren might be facing the hardest case of his life and Kysen seems to be his only real ally.

Once again Robinson manages to capture the feel of ancient Egypt very well. The only thing that troubled me was the way that Meren was constantly putting down his daughters and women in general. To him, an intelligent woman is a liability or maybe a threat. This can, of course, be just a sign of the way women were treated at the time.

Otherwise, I enjoyed seeing Meren’s dysfunctional family which has only been hinted of earlier in the series. The mystery was cleverly done and I hope the consequences will be dealt with in the coming books, but still the ending felt a little bit too easy after many of the juicy speculations.

Booking Through Thursday

Whether you usually read off of your own book pile or from the library shelves NOW, chances are you started off with trips to the library. (There’s no way my parents could otherwise have kept up with my book habit when I was 10.) So … What is your earliest memory of a library? Who took you? Do you have you any funny/odd memories of the library?

I don’t remember anyone taking me to the library because my earliest library memories come when I was around 10 and living in Halssila, which is near Jyväskylä in Central Finland. The library was next to the school so it was very convenient to pop in almost daily.

As for odd memories… None that I can remember since “meeting” weird people and “going” to exotic locations is probably out. :) Libraries have always been very safe places for me.

Here’s another of my reviews: R. J. Pineiros’ Spyware

Four stars from five.

Over at Amy’s blog I saw this which seems like a very good idea! Essentially it’s celebrating all book bloggers. I’ve certainly enjoyed reading book blogs around the net and I’d also like to thank you all for you’re great work! So, thanks all of you!

Booking Through Thursday

First:

* Do you or have you ever read books about the Olympics? About sports in general?
* Fictional ones? Or non-fiction? Or both?

I guess it depends on how you define them. The only non-fiction books about sports I’ve read have been about horses and horse-back riding. I’ve also read about about ancient Greeks where the Olympics at their time have been described. I’ve also read fiction books where sports play some part. When I was a teenager, I read lots and lots of horse books. I’ve also read Dick Francis books which tend to center around race horses.

Are the Black Stallion books sports books?

And, Second:

* Do you consider yourself a sports fan?
* Because, of course, if you’re a rabid fan and read about sports constantly, there’s a logic there; if you hate sports and never read anything sports-related, that, too … but you don’t have to love sports to enjoy a good sports story.

Not really. I’ve done some horse-back riding when I was a teenager. I follow riding, slalom, and skating from time to time but I’m not rabid about out. I’d also like to watch fencing but unfortunately it’s now shown here. I don’t care about other sports and I don’t watch sports movies.

By Willingham, Sturges, Akins, Pepoy

This is the collection of the issues 6-11 and has two story archs.

The first story is a two-parter and tells the tale of how Jack of Fables became Jack Frost. After the successful escape (for some) at the end of the previous story in the (Nearly) Great Escape, a group of Fables is hiding in the hills among the snow. To pass the time, Jack tells them the story of how he became Jack Frost and what happened then. The story is set in the time before the Adversary had conquered most the lands of Fable.

Jack is wandering and happens upon the castle of Lumi, the Queen of Winter. In his usual style he decides to get into her pants even though her staff despises him. We are also introduced briefly to Lumi’s three sisters: Kesa the Queen of Summer, Kevat the Queen of Spring, and Syksy the Queen of Autumn. I was thrilled to see these names because they are all Finnish words! Lumi means snow in Finnish, Kesä is summer, Kevät is spring, and Syksy Is autumn.

This also sheds some light to Lumi’s character – if you believe the story.

The next story takes up rest of the trade. Jack wakes up in a hotel room in Las Vegas drunk and married. He remembers how he joined forces with another Fable, Gary, who can convince machines to do want he wants. Since Jack wanted back his fortune, he decided that naturally the best thing to do is to go to Las Vegas. They win quite a lot and Gary picks up a mannequin to be his girlfriend. However, the Vegas people don’t like their winning streak at all and throw them out. One of the women from Jack’s movie days rescues him and it turns out that she’s a rich heiress and really likes Jack. In the heat of the moment, they get married. The girl’s family is less than thrilled about it and a mysterious female wants her family dead. It seems that Jack didn’t make as good a deal as he thought at first.

The stories are fast-paced and entertaining. I liked this one better than the previous one and I hope the quality continues.

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