The King’s Blood

21 Apr

Firstly, I will say that I was given a copy of “The King’s Blood” by the author, Sabrina Zbasnik, to read and review.

I really enjoyed “The King’s Blood”. The premise is a fantasy trope of unlikely survivor of a royal massacre attempting to win his throne with the assistance of the usual unlikely allies.

And that is about as usual as the book gets.

“The King’s Blood” happily smashes its way through all the fairytale ideals and fantasy stereotypes like an ogre with a sledgehammer.

Sabrina Zbasnik’s sense of humour is evil in the extreme. Imagine “Lord of the Rings” written by a combination of Douglas Adams and George Carlin and you’ve almost got a handle on “The King’s Blood”.

The main characters of Aldrin and Ciara are well written and well rounded. Even though they are 15 when the book begins, this is not a young adult novel by any stretch of the imagination.

Strong, quirky characterisation sits “The King’s Blood” well above the average range of the current crop of fantasy novels.

Sabrina Zbasnik provides a wonderfully fun read, and in my opinion, her female characters can hold their own with any seen in Marion Zimmer Bradley’s “Sword and Sorceress” series or Esther Friesner’s “Chicks in Chainmail” series.

I recommend “The King’s Blood” to anyone who enjoys epic fantasy, strong female characters, and has a sense of humour.

A Little List For Easter

16 Apr

One of the joys of living in Australia is the fact that we have two public holidays over the Easter period, giving most people a much needed four day break.  I have decided that my four days are not to be frittered away, so to that end, I have written a To Do list for the Easter break.

  • Watch David Tennant in Hamlet;
  • Rewatch as much Sherlock as can be jammed into a four day period;
  • Nap;
  • Finish reading “The King’s Blood” by Sabrina Zbasnik which I promised to read and review a month ago (I got sidetracked by Sherlock fan fiction);
  • Reread The Hobbit:
  • Take a nap;
  • Watch the first Hobbit movie;
  • Watch Star Trek: Into Darkness;
  • Possibly take a nap;
  • One hour walk every day;
  • Cook a big pot of my Chicken & Three Vegetable soup;
  • Investigate the inherent possibilities of taking a nap;
  • Rewatch The Day of the Doctor;
  • Rewatch Jesus Christ Superstar (with Ben Forster channelling his inner Sherlock);
  • Have I mentioned that I might take a nap?

Think that’s enough to keep me occupied over this Easter.

Happy Easter, Pesach, or appropriate spring festival to all my readers. :)

The Last Word: Tales from the Tip of the Mother Tongue

15 Apr

If you love the bendy, wriggly, twisty entity that is the English language, then “The Last Word: Tales from the Tip of the Mother Tongue” is a must read for you.

The book started life as a newspaper column and Ben Macintyre writes enthusiastically about all facets of the English language and its usages.

It’s a real gem for anyone who reviews books, be it professionally, or on Good Reads, Amazon, or via blogs. Ben has a wonderful tongue-in-cheek article on the meaning of various phrases used in reviews. It is laugh out loud funny.

There is also an interesting article on book blurbs and how they come about. I won’t spoil it, but I will say I was shocked at what I learned, and I will be looking at the blurbs on books with a fairly jaundiced eye in the future.

Ben Macintyre also turns his attention on the various dialects, pidgins and creoles of English, giving anyone who has not experienced this area of the language a new and interesting language experience.

I recommend “The Last Word: Tales from the Tip of the Mother Tongue” to anyone who reviews books, loves books, and, like myself, has an ongoing love affair with the English language.

My Cup of Shakepearean Goodness Over-runneth.

6 Apr

Right now, as a Shakepearean fan girl of long standing, my cup not only over-runneth, it is in distinct danger of flooding every damn thing within reach.

A couple of weeks ago the news came out that Benedict Cumberbatch would be playing Hamlet at the Barbican in London next year.  When I saw the start date I damn near hyperventilated.  I WILL BE IN LONDON WHEN THE PLAY STARTS.  I will be busting my butt to get a ticket.  Hamlet is one of my favourite tragedies.  I try to see most productions I can access, be it live or on dvd.  I am jealously guarding a dvd of David Tennant’s performance that I managed to obtain a few months ago.  The idea of Benedict Cumberbatch in the role of the doomed Danish prince makes me drool.  I am sure he will be fantastic.  He has the brooding looks I associate with Hamlet, and frankly, the thought of that dulcet baritone delivering Shakespeare’s most famous monologue is almost enough to make me declare Benedict my most favourite Hamlet without even seeing the show.  However, I am not a critic from a dodgy newspaper, so I will wait until I have seen the production to make such a pronouncement.  Besides, Benedict has big fish to chase down and beat.  Sir Derek Jacobi for example.  The aforementioned David Tennant.  I even have a soft spot for Mel Gibson’s Hamlet.  The Oedipal angst of his performance, with Glen Close as Gertude, was mesmerizing.

Then came the news last Friday that Martin Freeman will be playing Richard III this summer in the West End.  No chance of seeing that, but a small, faint hope that maybe, just maybe, they might film that production for dvd release, as was done with David Tennant’s Hamlet.  I can see Martin making an awesome Richard III.  Though the Daily Mail could have been a little more respectful in it’s headline announcing the news – “From Hobbit to Hunchback” struck me as a little demeaning to a wonderful actor.

And what do I find when I come online this morning?  I find that Benedict Cumberbatch is also playing Richard III.  This time it’s for BBC2′s “Shakespeare’s Histories” series.  Pretty sure they heard me screaming three suburbs away.

To have my favourite actors playing major roles in plays by my favourite playwright, is a pleasure I am not sure I can properly describe.  Shakepeare is magic.  The plays have delighted and captivated me since I was first introduced to them by my English teacher when I was 13.  He encouraged me to read them for pleasure, not just because I had to study them.  Mr Clarihew taught me to appreciate the language, the rhythm, and unfolded the treasures of the Bard before my delighted eyes.  George Clarihew gave me a jewel beyond price. 

The Gospel of Loki

1 Apr

“The Gospel of Loki” by Joanne M. Harris is one of the best books I have read so far this year.

It is basically a retelling of the Norse myths featuring Loki, told from the point of view of Loki himself.

What raises this above the level of the ordinary is the character of Loki.  He is by turns curious, mischievous, dark, dangerous, and at some levels, quite innocent and gullible.

Joanne Harris’ Loki is, in my opinion, one of the best interpretations of a mythological figure I have ever come across.

Anyone who is familiar with Norse mythology knows how the book is going to end from the opening page, however, don’t let that stop you from reading. This retelling is brilliant and inspired.

The entire story is told by Loki, whom Joanne Harris has imbued with a gloriously wicked sense of humour. Joanne Harris has managed to give an age old story a feel of familiarity, and relevance for today.

I heartily recommend “The Gospel of Loki” to anyone who enjoys Norse mythology, fantasy, or just a damn good read.

Hooked on Hooked

30 Mar

Since changing my dietary habits I have discovered that my body no longer appreciates deep fried food, especially deep fried starch, aka chips/fries.  This has meant that my favourite takeaway of fish and chips was off the menu.

Until yesterday.

A fish cafe by the name of “Hooked” has opened in Glenferrie Road, Hawthorn, selling “healthy” fish and other things.  I decided to have lunch there yesterday.  For less that $15 I got a fillet of grilled blue grenadier, asian greens and rice, and a bottle of organic fruit juice.  I have had meals in expensive restaurants that didn’t taste as good as that meal.  The fish was perfectly cooked, as were the greens.  The rice was lightly spiced and an excellent counterpoint to the fish.

Blue Grenadier is the house fish, and is from a sustainable source.  They also have specials which are dependent on what is available at the Melbourne Fish Market.

You can have your fish fish grilled, as I did, or fried in a light tempura batter.  Chips are available instead of the greens and rice.  For an extra $2.00 you can have salad instead of the other options.  I noticed several people had gone for the salad, and the servings were downright generous.  Over half the plate being covered with delicious looking salads.  The Asian Coleslaw looked particularly tempting.  I may try that next time.

The drinks cabinet is interesting.  There is a small array of the usual soft drinks, but “Hooked” mostly stocks juices and smoothies made by the New Zealand company Charlie’s.  The also carry a large range of the Phoenix brand of organic juices and soft drinks.  Phoenix is the organic arm of Charlie’s.

The layout is comfortable and roomy, with small tables along the walls, and large communal tables down the middle of the cafe.  Everything is clean, white and bright.  Condiments are arranged generously along the tables.  Sea salt, pepper in a grinder, tomato sauce, chilli sauce, and malt vinegar.  Homemade tartar sauce is available in small pots for a nominal amount.

Great food, friendly staff, and excellent ambiance make “Hooked” at great place to drop in for lunch any day of the week.

 

Full Moon: Sherlock Werewolf AU Fan Fiction

20 Mar

Having been devoted to all things werewolvish when I was a kid, I decided to take a wander through the wonderful world of Sherlock werewolf AU fan fiction.

One thing I found interesting was that the quality of writing in this particular genre is much more unbalanced than in any other I have read so far. 

The thing that really annoyed me was the number of writers who referred to wolves as canines.  The correct description is lupine.  Wolves are of the genus Canis Lupus.  Dogs are Canis Familiaris.  Yes, they had a common ancestor, but are now two distinctly different species with different behavioral patterns.  Unless Sherlock and John are going to be werepoodles, then please don’t refer to them as canines.

Then there are the writers who turn werewolves into domesticated pets.  My mind palace just isn’t able to cope with the image of werewolf Sherlock chasing balls around Regents Park and being taken for walkies by John! No, just NO!  Sherlock Holmes, consulting German Shepherd just doesn’t cut it in my book.

There is Johnlock werewolf fiction.  Of course there is.  The same problem applies as with the dragon AUs (http://margysmusings.wordpress.com/2014/02/13/here-be-dragons-sherlock-dragon-au-fan-fiction/)  – overtones of bestiality.  Unfortunately, it is much worse with the werewolf genre than the dragon one.  Some writers seem to delight in Sherlock in werewolf form screwing John into the ground.  Cease and desist!  That particular act is illegal in damn near every country in the world.  I can cope with Sherlock and John in human form having sex, I can  cope with the same thing when they are both in wolf form, but one in wolf form and one human has me frantically hunting for a bucket!  I am sorry, but that is just so wrong on so many different levels.

I have managed to find some truly excellent Sherlock werewolf fan fiction.  Fiction where the writers know the werewolf mythos, and/or are familiar with wolf pack behaviour.  Those stories are true gems and I have even downloaded some of them for my kindle.  Well written and interesting.  I draw your attention to two stories on AO3 – “Fighting Instinct” and “Show Me How to Stop Running”.  Both have been well researched and it shows in the attention to detail.  They are both Johnlock stories, so if you don’t like, then don’t read.

Not sure where my Sherlock AU adventures are going to take me next.  If you have any suggestions I am keen to hear them.

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