Tove Jansson (1914 – 2001)

Tove-Jansson

© Aftonbladet

Yes, another Scandinavian writer of children literature – but what can you do? I was enchanted by the Moomins a long, long time ago, and the enchantment still holds, even when I read them now aloud, to kids. We’re talking about books here, mind you – not that dreadful Japanese-European animated series, nor the gloomy Polish puppet animated show (although I still remember the Groke from this show – with a memory of lingering terrified fascination).

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Actually, Tove Jansson wanted to be a painter; she studied art in Sweden, Finland and France, and she painted intermittently throughout her life, both commissioned and private works. The images of the Moomins’ world were also created by her – apparently the prototype for Moomin was Jansson’s caricature of Immanuel Kant. She drew “the ugliest creature imaginable” on the toilet wall and named it Kant after she lost a discussion about the philosopher with her brother. Fortunately, the final image of the Moomin is much more friendly and blobby, with a big, round nose, a big, round belly, short, fat arms and legs, and a thin, slightly incongruous tail. Tove Jansson’s illustrations form the world of Moomins as much as the text – and they are in perfect harmony with each other.

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George R.R.Martin, Lisa Tuttle, Windhaven (1981)

A collection of three novellas that are not what you’d expect from Martin. I’ve never read anything by his co-author here, Lisa Tuttle, and maybe that’s why I was very surprised by the book. I constantly re-checked the front cover to make sure it’s Martin on it and not Ursula Le Guin 😉 After that I’ve read that Tuttle wrote a book with straightforward title Encyclopedia of Feminism and the world made sense again. I don’t want to imply it’s not a good book, I love Le Guin and feminist is not an insult in my vocabulary. But it’s no Game of Thrones, in small scale political conflicts we encounter here hardly anybody dies and the reader is left feeling nostalgic, but optimistic about human nature.

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Glen Cook, The Silver Spike (1989)

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The final installment in Books of the South, not exactly a part of trilogy (although the chronological order is more or less maintained), but rather a spin-off from the Black Company series. Instead of Croaker and co. we get White Rose and Silent and Raven. And, of course, a certain silver spike, containing the soul of Dominator, conquered in the Barrowlands in the grand finale of The White Rose. There’s also a very peculiar severed head craving for a body, and a really nasty dog who doesn’t like toads :). But it all comes together thanks to a quartet of greedy and not very bright no-names from Oar, who get the brilliant idea of stealing the spike and selling it to the highest bidder. What could go wrong with such a crafty plan?

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House of Cards

No, not that:house-of-cards-kevin-spaceyAlthough I’m very happy that I could binge-watch it now, in Poland, on the day of release, on Netflix, like a normal human being, not one episode a week on… what was it called, television?

Not even that:

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Although I believe it’s a superior product. Kevin Spacey is excellent, but Ian Richardson is great. Shakespearean villain, veteran of political system even more ruthless than the one we know from the American version, Francis Urquhart would outmanoeuvre Frank Underwood before breakfast. And then Underwood would remind him that UK is a pygmy next to the world’s biggest superpower. Realpolitik is a tough business.

Actually I’d love to see a series where Urquhart/Underwood had to cooperate, sort of evil version of Roosevelt/Churchill duo. Magnificent bastards both of them…

Anyway.

Ladies and gentlemen, today I give you this:

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Michel Dobbs, House of Cards (1989)

or

the book that wasn’t better

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Ernest Cline, Ready Player One (2011)

ready-player-oneA YA book that made a lot of fuss in recent years, especially after Steven Spielberg announced that he would direct the movie adaptation (production is supposed to begin in spring this year). The book received the Alex Award and 2012 Prometheus Award, and was praised by many as the ultimate geek novel.

I admit I find it difficult to rate a novel like this. Ready Player One is undeniably YA; more YA than most YA novels I’ve read, Robin McKinley’s works included. My awareness of this fact pushes me toward applying a different set of rules to my rating than I would otherwise do – and that’s not something I want. I don’t think YA literature should be viewed as inherently worse or limited; though, undeniably, some themes usually are portrayed in a simplistic way and others are entirely missing. That’s perfectly understandable but doesn’t help in the least in solving my quandary.

So, after this rather lengthy disclaimer… What the fuss is really about?

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Chuck Wendig, Blackbirds (2012)

WARNING! Inappropriate words were used to create this review. A few of them. If you worry about stuff like that, do no read it. And, for f*k’s sake, keep away from the book, it’s waay worse in that regard.

One of my favourite Angry Robot covers. And a book that didn’t convince me.

Seriously though, covers of the series are great:

Urban fantasy with protagonist named Miriam, anti-heroine cursed with magical power of being able to accurately predict both time and circumstances of death of anybody she touches. This turned her into a cynical vulture robbing freshly deceased for living. She swears a lot, drinks even more, engages in risky dalliances and generally tries hard to be as unpleasant and annoying as possible. And my God is she saucy…

Ashley: You are one crafty little cunt, aren’t you?
Miriam: Nice. You go down on your mother with that mouth?

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