It is clear to me now what the modern European politicians are doing wrong. They are, obviously, not reading their classics.
Europe is in the midst ofIt is clear to me now what the modern European politicians are doing wrong. They are, obviously, not reading their classics.
Europe is in the midst of a dire financial crisis with all sorts of complicated schemes being proposed to resolve the situation. And here we have a practical and sensible solution that nobody appears to have considered, despite the fact that it has been around since 1729!
If you don't have enough money to feed your kids, EAT THEM!
What could be simpler?
Now, the author mentions that this is a solution devised specifically in the context of Ireland. And I admit that the calculations will need to be re-done to reflect the demographics and circumstances at hand. But really, there is no logical reason why this solution would not work in the context of the Eurozone sovereign debt crisis.
Somebody needs to send this to the Greeks.
Certain celebrities have already endorsed the idea:
My goodness. I whizzed through the first book within a day and couldn't wait to read the next instalment in the series. Yet I approached it w4.5 stars
My goodness. I whizzed through the first book within a day and couldn't wait to read the next instalment in the series. Yet I approached it with trepidation. The second book syndrome is a widely acknowledged and well studied phenomenon. Admittedly, I didn't have to trepidate that long. I finished Unearthly at like 3am, got up at 7 the next day and started reading Hallowed on the train on my way to work. I finished it within a day, at about 2 am last night. I thought I would pass out from exhaustion after the first one. But no. It's official. This book is better than caffeine at keeping me awake.
And guess what. IT WAS BETTER THAN THE FIRST ONE.
Although, I must warn you, this book is all about:
Where the first book was sweet and gentle and oh so romantic, this one was gloomy, emotional and, in some respects, gruelling. Hallowed continues with the coming of age, self-discovery, free will vs. destiny themes but it is also about death and grief and making difficult choices. I felt emotionally drained in the end and yet Ms Hand has managed to make me like all the angst.
At the start of the book Clara is blissfully in love with her boyfriend Tucker as she returns to school for the new academic year. She is worried about failing to fulfil her purpose at the end of the first book and about being found by the Black Wings but, generally, she is happy. The idyll is broken when she starts having visions again and realises that soon someone she cares deeply about will die.
Ms Hand appears to have settled into her writing very well with some wonderful flashes of humour shining through (I didn't notice those so much in the first book). Like here:
"This isn't going to become one of those creepy situations where you show up at all hours of the night to watch me sleep, is it?" he asks playfully. "Every moment I am away from you, I die a little," I say in return. "So that's yes, then."
It's like my own special form of birth control. The full body glow."
Ms Hand continues to make all the smart choices with this series and where her characters do things that appear like genre tropes, she has the grace to laugh at them, like in this little exchange which happens when Tucker catches Clara nearly falling asleep outside his window:
"Hi there," Tucker says brightly, like we're bumping into each other on the street. "Uh, hi". "Nice night for stalking," he observes. "No. I was-" "Get your butt in here, Carrots." I climb awkwardly into his room. He puts on a T-shirt and sits cross-legged on the bed, looking at me. "It's not stalking if you are happy to see me?" I suggest tremulously.
There are so many things I loved about this instalment. I loved the character development. Clara grows up so much in this. We get to know Christian a lot better and, almost despite myself, I grew to like him. Maggie is fabulous in this book. Where she was just a presence and a vehicle in many respects in the first instalment, here we learn her backstory and it is fantastic that she finally becomes a person, a complex character, rather than just a mother. I love the way she busts Clara's butt when the latter sneaks out for the night. The story arch progresses significantly and a lot of new information gradually emerges. Tucker is still the charming irresistible rogue we and Clara fell in love with. Hell, I even loved that the ending turned me inside out.
If I had any criticism, it was that the baddie continues to be somewhat less than terrifying (but I am sure we will learn a lot more about Black Wings in the next book and I will tremble in my boots), the father thing was quite predictable and I wish we saw more of Tucker. We got quite a lot of him in the last book, I know, and it was Christian's turn in the spotlight. But I am biased.
I am definitely buying the next book the minute it comes out. This is going to be a trilogy right? For some reason, I have this tendency to assume everything is a trilogy recently, mistakenly on a few occasions. I am so psyched for January but I don't think I'm worried any more. I am sure now that Cynthia Hand has enough smarts to take this story where it needs to go and make me like it, however she chooses to tie it up.
If I had to sum up this book in one word, that word would be fun. This is not a message book or a portrayal of anything. It is just an exceptionally eIf I had to sum up this book in one word, that word would be fun. This is not a message book or a portrayal of anything. It is just an exceptionally entertaining urban fantasy with a feisty queen of witty come backs heroine and a dark mysterious sex god of a hero with tortured past, no thinking required. It was precisely what I was looking for.
The heroine, Charley Davidson ("There's a certain responsibility that comes with having a name like Charley Davidson. It brooks no opposition. It takes shit from no one. And it lends a sense of familiarity when I meet clients. They feel like they know me already. Sort of like if my name was Martha Washington or Ted Bundy.") is a grim reaper. Or rather, she is the grim reaper. She sees the dead, the dead see her (apparently, she is very bright) and she helps them to cross to the other side by passing through her:
"...my job was to lead people into the light. Aka, the portal. Aka, me. But it didn't always go smoothly. Kind of like leading a horse to water and whatnot."
Charley works as a private investigator and also helps the police (namely, her Uncle Bob and her dad before him) to solve crimes (it is much easier to do that if you can ask the deceased who killed them) and every night for the past month she has been having wet dreams featuring a dark stranger who materialized out of smoke and shadows.
At the start of the book, Charley is woken up from one of those dreams and is thrust directly into a murder mystery which will lead her to several near death experiences, some discoveries about the world and her purpose in it and Reyes Farrow, a man she has only met once before but who has left quite an impression.
Charley's character is what made this book for me. She posesses that rare gift of which I am eternally jealous and appreciative. And that is humour. Charley is a hoot. And while Darynda Jones does go too far at times (Charley telling Garrett Swopes, aka Mr. tall, dark and skeptic, the names of her breasts was funny, until you realise that she is actually serious and she has named her own breasts and refers to them by their names during sex) but overall, I loved Charley and her witticisms. And I am totally looking forward to reading the other two books in the series....more
The Diary of a Madman is a short story about a man's descent into madness. The hero, Poprishchin, is a middle aged minor civil servant obsessed with SThe Diary of a Madman is a short story about a man's descent into madness. The hero, Poprishchin, is a middle aged minor civil servant obsessed with Sophie, the young and beautiful daughter of his boss, a senior official who stands on a much higher rank of the social ladder. As he begins to slide into insanity, the hero believes that he can hear a conversation between Madgie, Sophie's dog, and another dog and later steals letters written by Madgie to the other dog. The extracts from these letters and the hero's reaction to them were particularly hilarious.
Realising that the object of his affection is in love with a handsomer, younger and richer man and having learned that a donna is about to accede to the Spanish throne as there is no male heir, the hero suddenly realises that he is, in fact, the lost heir and, unsurprisingly, ends up in an insane asylum.
Poprishchin as drawn by Ilya Repin:
Gogol manages to be absurd and hilarious, while at the same time making a point about the self-delusional vain ideas we have about ourselves, which is still very much relevant today, and drawing a clever satire of the deep social divisions and beurocracy in 19th century Russia. And all in less than 30 pages. ...more
The Tale of Fedot-strelets is a satirical play in verse written in 1985 by Leonid Filatov and is hugely popular in Russia. Leonid Filatov was primarilThe Tale of Fedot-strelets is a satirical play in verse written in 1985 by Leonid Filatov and is hugely popular in Russia. Leonid Filatov was primarily an actor, though he also directed theatre and films and wrote a number of books of which Fedot-strelets is by far the most popular. I have stumbled across a translation into English here: http://samlib.ru/a/alec_v/fed-rus-eng... which may give an English speaker some idea of this book though, inevitably, it is just a shadow of the original as a lot of the humour is in the particular phrasing used by Filatov which is untranslatable.
The play is written in folk fairytale style with some modern terminology woven in to comical effect and you can often hear Russian people using phrases from the book without even realising they are doing so, because many have since become colloquialisms. All the characters are common Russian folklore figures which a Russian audience will recognise immediately.
The main cast:
Fedot, a wise cracking, vainglorious and incredibly lucky hunter/soldier:
The Tsar, a petty and malicious tyrant and an old lothario:
Marusja, a beautiful maiden of typical Russian folklore stock, one who will cook, clean, pander to the man's every whim, play the violin and solve every problem that he has ever had:
They all seem to have huge sad eyes. Don't think the one in the picture turned into a bird of any kind but plenty of them do turn into pigeons, swans, doves and the like. In Russian folklore there were even two types of bird women, Alkonost and Sirin, which I find fascinating. Both used to sing heavenly songs with the former making you forget everything and the latter being prophetic.
Baba Yaga, a forest dwelling evil witch:
The General, a lazy fool happy to follow all orders:
The tale is narrated by the jester who makes a number of shrewd observations along the way and starts with Fedot being ordered by the Tsar to bring a pheasant or a grouse from the hunt. While on this task, Fedot comes across a pigeon who begs him to spare her life and then turns into the beautiful maiden, Marusja. Unsurprisingly, Fedot is not the only one who thinks that Marusja is a real find. Having learned of Marusja from the General, the Tsar sends Fedot on a number of quests thought up by Baba Yaga in an attempt to kill him off on the sly so that the Tsar may marry Marusja, finally sending him to get that which cannot exist. There are a number of side characters including the Tsar's daughter, a spoilt princes who the Tsar tries to marry off to every foreign envoy (including one from a tribe of cannibals) and her nurse, an old woman with a sharp-tongue.
I really love this book but, I guess, when it comes right down to it, it's not a literary masterpiece by any stretch and my love for it has probably more to do with my own nostalgia than anything else. Plus it's really funny (in Russian at least). However, while not being an original folk tale itself, this book is closely based on one and does provide a very accurate and humorous look at the quintessential Russian fairytale and also represents an excellent example of the social and political satire in Russia both at the time when the book was written but also throughout most Russian history, with the Tsar and the General being caricatures of the political and executive powers, respectively, and Fedot representing the people. ...more
- there are vicious killer rabbits out there, so watch out;
- you can make a bomb out of pretty much anything, even a fThings I learned from this book:
- there are vicious killer rabbits out there, so watch out;
- you can make a bomb out of pretty much anything, even a five year old can do it;
- if you let a psychotic hippy with a penchant for psychological experiments bring up kids on an isolated island, the kids will invariably turn out to be looneys (well, duh).
This was good overall. I enjoy Banks' writing style and the characterisation was superb. The demented world of a teenage psychopath is delightfully realistic and logical and the book is full of black humour, the telephone conversations with the brother who is on the run from a mental institution were particularly hilarious.
"Porteneil 531." Pips sounded.
"Fuck it, Frank, I've got luna maria callouses on me feet. How the hell are ye, me young bucko?"
I looked at the handset, then up at my father, who was leaning over the rail from the floor above, tucking his pyjama top into his trousers. I spoke into the phone: "Hello there, Jamie, what are you doing calling me this late?"
"Wha-? Oh, the old man's there, is he?" Eric said. "T-ell him he's a bag of effervescent pus, from me."
"Jamie sends his regards," I called up to my father..."
"And how are you keeping?" I said quickly. "I mean, you must be sleeping rough. Aren't you catching cold or something?"
"I'm not sleeping."
"You're not sleeping?"
"Of course not. You don't have to sleep. That's just something they tell you to keep control over you. Nobody has to sleep; you're taught to sleep when you're a kid. If you're really determined, you can get over it. I've got over the need to sleep. I never sleep now. That way it's a lot easier to keep watch and make sure they don't creep up on you, and you can keep going as well. Nothing like keeping going. You become like a ship."
"Yeah? What did you forget?"
"Forget? I didn't forget anything! I remember everything! Everything!" screamed a familiar voice at the other end of the line.
I froze, then gulped, said: "Er-"
"Why are you accusing me of forgetting things? What are you accusing me of forgetting? What? I haven't forgotten anything!" Eric gasped and spluttered.
"Eric, I'm sorry! I thought you were somebody else!"
"I'm me!" he yelled. "I'm not anybody else! I'm me! Me!"
"I thought you were Jamie!" I wailed, closing my eyes.
"That dwarf? You bastard!"
"I'm sorry, I-" Then I broke off and thought. "What do you mean, 'that dwarf', in that tone? He's my friend. It isn't his fault he's small," I told him.
"Oh, yeah?" came the reply. "How do you know?"
"What do you mean how do I know? It wasn't his fault he was born like that!" I said, getting quite angry.
"You only have his word for that."
"I only have his word for what?" I said.
"That he's a dwarf!" Eric spat.
"What?" I shouted, scarcely able to believe my ears. "I can see he's a dwarf, you idiot!"
"That's what he wants you to think! Maybe he's really an alien! Maybe the rest of them are even smaller than he is! How do you know he isn't really a giant alien from a very small race of aliens? Eh?"
"Don't be stupid!" I screamed into the phone, gripping it sorely with my burned hand.
"Well, don't say I didn't warn you!" Eric shouted.
"Don't worry!" I shouted back.
"Anyway," Eric said in a suddenly calm voice, so that for a second or two I thought somebody else had come on the line, and I was left somewhat nonplussed as he went on in level, ordinary speech: "How are you?"
The ending was really disappointing though, and not the big reveal either, but the protagonists' musings afterwards. I was kind of enjoying the fact that Frank is a sociopath, misogynist and generally bat-shit crazy, so to have all of that rationalised, wiped clean and brushed under the carpet at the end (a) was a complete betrayal of the rest of the book and (b) just didn't make any logical, metaphysical or any other kind of sense. Oh yeah, I killed all those kids because I believed the ability to procreate had been taken away from me by cruel fate and they represented that very promise which I was forever denied. What? Frank was 5 at the time of the first kill, supposedly. I'm sorry but a 5 year old feeling seriously bereaved by the fact that he cannot have sex or kids to the point of homicide is ridiculous.
P.S. When I was very young (maybe 4 or 5 but the memory is very vague so I cannot be sure) and visiting my grandparents for the summer, one of my cousins (there were three of us in attendance) suggested we play concentration camp with catepillars. None of us thought this was in any way objectionable and we got as far as collecting a load of them in a jar, which we then put in the fridge for safekeeping. The story ended rather badly for us as we didn't bother putting a lid on the jar and the caterpillars went literally everywhere. Let's just say our grandmother was not best pleased. I'm not sure what my point is here, really. Both my cousins and I grew up to be reasonably well-adjusted adults despite our early sadistic tendencies so, maybe, it is that there is a little bit of a psycho in all of us and, given the right set of circumstances, it is totallly possible that I could now be checking sacrifice poles, fighting killer rabbits and collecting belly button fluff for ritual use. ...more