The Lies of Locke Lamora Part V

The final week of the awesome Lies of Locke Lamora Readalong sees the group answering Lynn’s questions. I don’t really do book clubs or anything similar so this has been a really new experience. The book has been great and so have the discussions. I’ve come across a lot of good bloggers and enjoyed reading their answers which you can check out at Little Red Reviewers blog. Here are my answers.

1.       The Thorn of Camorr is renowned – he can beat anyone in a fight and he steals from the rich to give to the poor.  Except of course that clearly most of the myths surrounding him are based on fantasy and not fact.  Now that the book is finished how do you feel the man himself compares to his legend.  Did you feel that he changed as the story progressed and, if so, how did this make you feel about him by the time the conclusion was reached?

Locke is nothing like the myth of The Thorn of Camorr. He does not have many of the skills associated with the myth, doesn’t know what to do with the stuff he steals and is complacent when we first meet him. He is then pushed to his limits by the Grey King and is reduced to nothing so he has to dig deep to get past his complacency and find a new level of strength and direction. He knows his weaknesses and plays to his strengths which are deception and thinking on the fly which he uses brilliantly in the final battle. He also acquires a new level of bravery and ruthlessness considering the final series of confrontations and fights could have gone disastrously wrong. Interestingly the Grey King is what Locke might have become if he alone had survived and lost everything he loved.

2.       Scott Lynch certainly likes to give his leading ladies some entertaining and strong roles to play.  We have the Berangia sisters – and I definitely wouldn’t like to get on the wrong side of them or their blades plus Dona Vorchenza who is the Spider and played a very cool character – even play acting to catch the Thorn.  How did you feel about the treatment the sisters and Dona received at the hands of Jean and Locke – were you surprised, did it seem out of character at all or justified?

The women in this world do not take a back seat to men and are believably strong. They have established themselves in their professions through hard work and natural skills and by playing on the weaknesses of others.

The Dona has used intelligence and deception to maintain her position. Like Locke she has a degree of complacency and underestimates how desperate or devious her foe might be so when she is overcome by brute force it was absurd but believable and I must admit to finding it amusing (すみません!). I was expecting a conversation so the right hook caught me off-guard but then how else was Locke going to escape Dona Vorchenza since she had outwitted him?

As for Berangia sisters they were the natural equals of Jean and they went out fighting which is how they lived. I had little sympathy for them since they knew exactly what they were getting into and were confident that they could take him. I kind of liked them and so I felt that their fight was a bit of a let down since I wanted something more spectacular than a dust up in a warehouse.

Anyway, I prefer my girls tough.

Continue reading “The Lies of Locke Lamora Part V”

The Lies of Locke Lamora Readalong Part 4

This section of The Lies of Locke Lamora was intense. I read most of it in two sittings and was totally floored by what took place. In other Locke Lamora news I got my hands on a copy of Red Seas Under Red Skies. Check out the other conversations taking place.

1.      In the chapter “A Curious Tale for Countess Amberglass” we
learn of the tradition of the night tea in Camorr. I found that not so
much fantastical as realistic – how about you?

It was interesting to read about the whole tradition of night tea and it seemed believable. Real life aristocracy have indulged in all sorts of crazy fashions so the effort made to bring together a night tea complete with overly stylised cakes is not so far fetched. The difference between reality and this book is the fact that this particular tea party takes place at the top of a high tower. The length of the journey up the tower just reinforces the power of the person you are going to meet.

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The Lies of Locke Lamora Readalong Part Three

The third week of the Lies of Locke Lamora readalong is upon us and I’m ahead of the game for once. I was tempted to read ahead but decided to rein it in and watch some movies because I’m behind on my viewing… Anyway check out Little Red Reviewer, the lynch mob leader, for more information and opinions.

1. This section is where we finally get to sneak a peek at the magic in The Gentleman Bastards books. From what we read, what are your initial impressions of the magic Lynch is using? Is there any way that Locke and Company would be able to get around the Bondsmage’s powers?

I found the introduction of magic very intriguing. The Bondsmagi are NOT glass cannons. They seem over-powerful and I love the way that they have seemingly created a monopoly over magic. They even manipulate the genetics of creatures which means they breed interesting beasts. I want to find out how they do these things! Overall to get around the Bondsmage they’ll need one of their own.

Continue reading “The Lies of Locke Lamora Readalong Part Three”

Lies of Locke Lamora Part Two

Well things are certainly picking up in the Lies of Locke Lamora especially with the author Scott Lynch taking part by offering his notes from the creation of the book. Little Red Reviewer is herding an epic number of us so visit her blog for more opinions!

1) Do you think Locke can pull off his scheme of playing a Midnighter who is working with Don Salvara to capture the Thorn of Camorr? I mean, he is now playing two roles in this game – and thank goodness for that costume room the Gentlemen Bastards have!

Locke and his cohorts should have no problem pulling off his scheme since they seem to have trained extensively for this whole deception and disguises sort of thing and their smart control of the sitatuion – appearance at the dead of night – and method-acting is both bewildering and convincing. Anyway by adding layers of intrigue to the whole Lukas con he can confuse Don Salvara all the more. Unless somebody tells the Don about the deception. I liked the extensive wardrobe and make-up materials!

2) Are you digging the detail the author has put into the alcoholic drinks in this story?

A lot of effort has gone into the drinks and it adds to the world building but overall I’m not too interested in it. That said I do like the way that the properties of drinks can be manipulated by alchemy and I expect it to play a greater role in the plot.

3) Who is this mysterious lady Gentlemen Bastard Sabetha and what does she mean to Locke?

I have no idea who Sabetha is but she and Locke are in love with each other and it is one of those relationships where they will spend more time tearing bits out of each other rather than being honest. She’ll probably turn out to be a tsundere. I wonder what her part is in making the Secret Peace go up in flames. Chains has primed her for a crucial role.

4) Are you as creeped out over the use of Wraithstone to create Gentled animals as I am?

I thought it was a really nice detail and a substance that can present a great threat to anybody and everybody by robbing them of their will and personalities. And yes, I do find the stuff creepy but I can see its uses in a place as chaotic as Camorr. Just imagine the chaos an untamed animal might cause.

5) I got a kick out of child Locke’s first meeting with Capa Barsavi and his daughter Nazca, which was shortly followed up in the story by Barsavi granting adult Locke permission to court his daughter! Where do you think that will lead? Can you see these two together?

I would like to see them get married just to see how it complicates things. Although I didn’t detect any feelings beyond friendship I’m not sure how resistant Nazca is to the idea. Nor can I see how they can get out of the whole courtship/marriage thing as long as Capa Barsavi is alive. The two getting married would add a new layer of complication to things.

6) Capa Barsavi is freaked out over rumors of The Gray King and, in fact, us readers are privy to a gruesome torture scene. The Gray King is knocking garristas off left and right. What do you think that means?

This scene had blood. The situation gets “real” whenever blood appears.

7) In the Interlude: The Boy Who Cried for a Corpse, we learn that Father Chains owes an alchemist a favor, and that favor is a fresh corpse. He sets the boys to figuring out how to provide one, and they can’t ‘create’ the corpse themselves. How did you like Locke’s solution to this conundrum?

Very funny and inventive. A prelude to the sort of chap he’ll be. I’d add more but I’ve got to dash to another post.

Norwegian Wood ノルウェイの森 (2010)

Norwegian Wood  Norwegian Wood Japanese Film Poster

Japanese: ノルウェイの森

Romaji: Noruwei no Mori

Release Date: December 11th, 2010 (Japan)

Running Time: 128 mins.

Director: Anh Hung Tran

Writer: Anh Hung Tran (Screenplay), Haruki Murakami (Original Novel)

Starring: Kenichi Matsuyama, Rinko Kikuchi, Kiko Mizuhara, Tetsuji Tamayama, Kengo Kora, Reika Kirishima, Eriko Hatsune,

This review has taken me a long time to write because my reaction to the film was indifference despite the fact I liked the book. I went back to read it to see what the film lacked. It wasn’t the acting or direction but the fact that the adaptation (heroic and beautiful as it is) doesn’t capture the detail and depth that goes along hipness, grace and magic of Haruki Murakami’s prose.

1960’s Japan, a young student named Toru Watanabe (Matsuyama Ken’Ichi) reminisces about his childhood spent with best friend Kizuki (Kora Kengo) and Kizuki’s girlfriend, Naoko (Kikuchi Rinko). After the suicide of Kizuki, he leaves his hometown to attend a university in Tokyo which is in the grip of radical student politics. A chance encounter with Naoko leads to a brief fling but awakens deep feelings especially after her disappearance to a sanatorium. Whilst waiting for her to contact him, Watanabe finds himself adrift in a Tokyo full of interesting characters and relationships that will haunt and define him. This includes Midori (Mizuhara Kiko), a beautiful and vivacious student, a girl who he is attracted to despite strong feelings for Naoko who contacts him again which sets in the motion soul searching that Watanabe needs to get over the death of Kizuki.

It has been well documented that Murakami considered the novel un-filmable. It is easy to see why because adapting a 380+ page novel told in the first person requires a lot of imagination and skill to capture the voice, events and psychology of the narrator.

When it was announced that the director was Tran Anh Hung I was excited because his Vietnam-set films were beautiful, graceful and mesmerising (I taped Cyclo and The Height of Summer off BBC Four in the early 2000’s and re-watched them for weeks). On the one hand, his skill and vision makes this adaptation faithful to the book and very beautiful to look at but there is so much included yet so much left out that the atmosphere of the film never really grabbed me.

It shows the limitation of the medium of film. The novel’s first person narration builds up a unique sense of details and character that give a rich tapestry of life in 1960’s Tokyo and the people in Watanabe’s life. Even though the film is over two hours long, the film hacks away a lot of detail in favour of brief voice-overs and imagery that didn’t quite grip me. I was watching the film wondering why I should care about Storm Trooper when he appears in three scenes, has a few lines of dialogue and disappears. He is a poignant character in the book despite being minor. In the film he’s just minor.

Perhaps it was inevitable considering the number of characters but that doesn’t stop the actors giving it their all. There are many long takes with weaving conversations and Matsuyama Ken’Ichi proves a great lead but it is Kikuchi Rinko who deserves most praise. She captures the febrile nature of her character, displaying a fragility that masks anger, hatred and uncertainty. She was just as I imagined Naoko and the most powerful thing in the film. The other actors are just as good but Kikuchi Rinko acts up a storm.

The direction is also good as the mise-en-scene is superb. The arrangement of visuals and sound are excellent, bringing many moments from the book to life – there are many beautiful extreme long shots and pans of Japanese landscapes that show the strengths of cinema. One scene that was magical for me was the rooftop conversation between Toru and Midori, different from the book but spectacular to look at. So successful were the actors and the direction, I decided to just luxuriate in the images, certain that I would like to spend more time in the world the film created.

In fact, I felt that if this had been a television series allowing the script to breathe and the characters to grow, this would have been a classic. Despite the problems in the abbreviated adaptation of the novel this film is one of flawless beauty – well shot, well acted scenes – beautiful cinematography. I found much pleasure in just looking at the images but the story deserved similar treatment.

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie Apocalypse

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie ApocalypseMax Brooks

Have you ever played a game like ‘What if…?’ You start with a scenario and then each person spins a different take on the original scenario until you cover all eventualities? This is what the book, World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie Apocalypse does.

Would you be safe behind a locked door? Nope. If a zombie knows you’re there, he’ll get his friends to force it open.

Would you be safe behind a locked door made of reinforced steel? Nope. They’ll find a window.

Would you be safe behind a locked door made of reinforced steel that was the only entrance to a bunker? Only as long as your supplies last.

Things look grim for humanity in this fine addition to the horror genre. It is to the credit of Max Brooks (son of Mel Brooks) that this is a convincing look at just what would happen to contemporary societies around the world if a zombie apocalypse ever did occur.


World War Z Cover
A Collection of Chilling Tales

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Sherlock Holmes

Does Guy Ritchie’s Geezers with Guns style make this Sherlock Holmes film memorable or forgettable? Having read some of the stories and seeing numerous interpretations of Holmes and Watson (including a Chinese martial-arts display), I have to say that the film is better than I’d expected. Solidly built, it is the central performances that engage.

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