In the mist

Sep. 17th, 2017 06:06 pm
dolorosa_12: by ginnystar on lj (robin marian)
[personal profile] dolorosa_12
The weekend has been a good mix of social and hermity stuff, and I think I managed to strike exactly the right balance between the two. On Saturday we had four of our friends over -- [tumblr.com profile] ienthuse, her husband E, and our friends V and P. Last year, another friend had given Matthias and me a jeroboam of champagne as an engagement gift. Now, as much as we'd like to, the two of us are incapable of drinking three litres of champagne in one sitting, so the bottle had sat undrunk in our house for a year and a half. We finally decided that we'd have an afternoon party with champagne and snacks to celebrate various successes in our friendship group: Matthias has just started a new job, E recently got a new job (actually working as a library assistant in the library where Matthias is now working), as did [tumblr.com profile] ienthuse, V recently won a very prestigious translation award in Iceland (she translates Icelandic books into English), and I'd recently started a new and challenging secondment.

We had been intending to have the party outside in our courtyard, but it ended up pouring with rain, so instead we sat in the living room, eating, drinking the champagne, and generally having a good time. Given that most of my Cambridge friends are people I met while we were all MPhil/PhD students together, people tend to move on once they've finished their degrees, so I'm glad that at least these four are still around. Afternoon snacks turned into dinner, and we ended up getting really delicious takeaway from the south Indian restaurant down the road, which I hadn't eaten at for ages and really enjoyed.

Today I woke up good and early and made my usual trip to the markets in central Cambridge. It was a really beautiful misty morning, and everything looked gorgeous. I love this kind of weather, so cold and stark and still. Once I'd got back from the market, Matthias and I went out for brunch, and then stopped by the food fair (which happens about four times a year in one of the parks in the centre of town) to pick up stuff like olive oil, vinegar and other sauces.

I've spent the afternoon finishing off Ruin of Angels, the sixth book in Max Gladstone's Craft Sequence, which was absolutely wonderful, as all the books in the series are. I realised about midway through that about 95 per cent of the characters with speaking roles were female, whiich pleased me immmensely. The world of the series is just so clever and inventive, and has this unbelievably lived-in feel, and a sense of place that's stronger than pretty much any other fantasy series I've read.

I'm now just hanging around online while tonight's roast dinner bakes in the oven. It's proper autumn here in Cambridge now, which is my favourite time of the year. There's an icy undertone to the air, the trees are at their most beautiful, and my nesting tendencies go into complete overdrive. This weekend's been a good start!
emeraldarrows: Doctor Who - Fifth Doctor cheering while playing cricket with text "one for team doctor!" (1)
[personal profile] emeraldarrows
I saw a recommendation on tumblr for Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller and checked it out.



Summary on the back: Sent on a mission to retrieve an ancient hidden map - the key to a legendary treasure trove - seventeen-year-old pirate captain Alosa deliberately allows herself to be captured by her enemies, giving her the perfect opportunity to search their ship. More than a match for the ruthless pirate crew, Alosa has only one thing standing between her and the map: her captor, the unexpectedly clever and unfairly attractive first mate, Riden. But not to worry, for Alosa has a few tricks up her sleeve, and no lone pirate can stop the Daughter of the Pirate King.

My thoughts: This book had a slow start, and at first glance Alosa had most of the characteristics I dislike in a YA protagonist - too young, far too talented for her age, a violent, unnaturally good fighter, and annoyingly sassy - but I enjoyed the setting so I kept on reading. And before long it captured my interest. Yes, Alosa is all of the things I thought she was, and she is full of herself, but she does improve, and get layers - a tragic childhood of abuse, and a revelation as to exactly why she's so talented and unnatural - that helped change my opinion of her, and even grudgingly admit she wasn't so bad by the end. Similarly Riden starts out as relatively unlikable, but quickly grew on me, with layers of his own to uncover, and some impressive moments of self-sacrifice and honor.

The writing isn't perfect - a bit cheesy and occasionally bland - but there is some witty humor and several moments had me giggling or emotional. The darker moments don't blend well with the overall story - the writer couldn't seem to decide if she wanted a light-hearted swashbuckler or a gritty tale of a very unique girl trying to navigate a man's world - and the brief instances of torture and blood seemed entirely out of place. The real strength of the book, to me, was it's delightful concept, putting a fresh spin on the interactions of pirates and sirens. I'm actually surprised that both don't have more of a presence in YA fiction, but I'm always pleased when they appear, especially with the creativity in this plot. It was also refreshing to see a dash of the darker side of pirate and siren life, even if unpleasant - dubious consent/treatment of both women and men by the opposite gender, and violence. I did have one major issue with the way the topics were handled: while the violence/unwanted behavior of the male pirates to Alosa (and hinted at regarding other women) is rightfully and strongly condemned, the rape/murder of male sailors by female sirens is strangely romanticized as merely the way they reproduce (and one character is praised within the narrative for not trying to fight them off), which made me very uncomfortable, despite the briefness of the scene. But hopefully it's something that will addressed better in the sequel.

Despite its occasional side-eye worthy moments and imperfections, Daughter of the Pirate King was a mostly entertaining, relatively fun read that, if nothing else, left me wishing for more YA pirate books. Particularly ones with sirens.

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