Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Top 10 books from my childhood (or teen years) that I would love to revisit

I came into contact with this thingie via Ell's blog and then found out the source was from here. I was in a publisher's official book club thingie when I was little called Läslusen (rough translation is Book Worm). From this book club you could buy childrens and youth books at a discount and if you bought that month's chosen book you'd get a cool gift with it. Suffice to say I read a lot. By the time I was 11-12 the books from there were mostly too easy for me to read so I moved on to adult novels, but there are some books from there that remain vividly in my memory. A few of them still remain in my book shelf and it wouldn't surprise me if a bunch of them still remain in my parents' attic.

This is supposed to be a list of ten books, but I read a lot (I mean a lot) and this will be more like a list of ten authors that I loved. I used to live in the local library until I was about 14...

Here goes!

1. Enid Blyton. These books are old. Ms. Blyton's classic. My dad had a big collection of The Famous Five and I added to it myself. From The Famous Five I moved on to the Five Find-Outers series, The Secret Series, The Adventure Series... I found an Enid Blyton book and I devoured it.
The book covers I remember. Swedish version of each of the first books in each series: 1) Five on a treasure island, 2) Five Find-Outers Mystery of the burnt cottage 3) The Secret Island 4) The Island of Adventure

2. Eva Ibbotson. I think Dial-a-Ghost was the first one I read by her. Then came The Secret of Platform 13, Monster Mission, The Great Ghost Rescue, and Which Witch?. Monster Mission was my absolute favourite and some days I'm itching to buy them (I only borrowed them from the library at the time) and re-read them.
Swedish versions of 1) Dial-a-Ghost, 2) The Secret of Platform 13, 3) Monster Mission, 4) The Great Ghost Rescue, 5) Which Witch?

3. Francine Pascal. Or rather, Sweet Valley. This obsession started early, I remember reading those already in primary school. It started with Sweet Valley Kids, as I got older I turned to Sweet Valley Twins, and as I turned into a teenager I started reading Sweet Valley Junior High. That's where my attention veered towards fantasy and I never continued on with Sweet Valley High and Sweet Valley University.
Three of the Swedish books I had. 1) Sweet Valley Kids, 2) Sweet Valley Twins, 3) Sweet Valley Junior High, which was renamed into Jessica & Elisabeth in Swedish for some reason.

4. Maj Bylock. She's a Swedish author and I fell in love with one particular series of hers. It's about a witch, not the Harry Potter kind, but the historical kind, the one talking with spirits and who knows specific things about herbs and lore. But since it's a historical series it takes place in the sort of Sweden that prosecuted witches and so she has to hide her powers and knowledge. As the series progress her son takes over as the protagonist and he faces the same problems as her. Except that he's male and witches were typically women... Anyway, I never finished this series because my local library never had the last three books :( I'm interested in starting over actually. Might do that at some point.
Parts 1-4: loosely translated as The Witch Test, The Witch's Daughter, The Witch Boy, The Witch Gold

5. Celia Rees. The Cunning Man was the book that made me fall in love with this author back when I was about 12. Then came Witch Child and Sorceress and The Bailey Game. I loved the way all her books where slightly horror, but not really so it gave me that pleasant creepy feeling. I've probably re-read The Cunning Man about 10 times and it's still in my book shelf.
Swedish covers of 1) The Cunning Man, 2) Witch Child, 3) Sorceress, 4) The Bailey Game

6. Edith Nesbit. Another classic. I can't remember if I read The House of Arden or The Wonderful Garden first, but I remember loving them both. Those two were followed by The Magic City and The Enchanted Castle. I still remember all four vividly and those four books should be in my book shelf. I need to buy them. Nesbit was one of my earliest stops as I was slowly trying to find my way through the fantasy genre. Despite reading new translations they had kept the language old-fashioned in the versions I read and I remember appreciating that even at the age of 12.
Swedish versions of 1) The House of Arden, 2) The Wonderfal Garden, 3) The Magic City, 4) The Enchanted Castle

7. Allan Frewin Jones. I remember reading anthologies of Swedish ghost stories that I borrowed from the library back when I was 9 or 10. Then I came across The Plague Pit by Allan Frewin Jones when I was about 11. We had just talked about the Black Death in school and I was intrigued to find a modern horror story about a medieval disease. I borrowed it and later bought it. Last time I read it I was in my mid-teens and it still gave me some of my most unpleasant associations a book has ever done. You know the part where you actually travel into the story... I loved that it could scare me. The Plague Pit along with The Wicker Man that I bought and read afterwards are still in my book shelf and I've re-read them both lots of times.
My versions of 1) The Plague Pit, and 2) The Wicker Man

8. Lynne Ewing. I came across this series of hers when I was about 13 - The Daughters of the Moon. I immediately fell in love with it. But after the sixth book it took so long until the seventh came around. I don't know if they stopped translating them or what, but I lost interest. Now that I'm remembering them I'm feeling slightly nostalgic and I might want to check that series out again. I can't even remember what it was about, just that I loved it and I thought the covers were cool and the girls had awesome names.
The Swedish versions I owned: 1) Goddess of the Night, 2) Into the Cold Fire, 3) Night Shade, 4) The Secret Scroll, 5) The Sacrifice, 6) The Lost One

9. Margit Sandemo. I read her most popular series, The Legend of the Ice People, when I was 14, although the series is adult literature and contained a whole lot of sex. I loved this series to bits. It's still in my parents' attic and I would love to bring it home with me at some point and just re-read all 47 books. It still happens that I think back to that series and miss some of the characters. I was so stuck in that for such a long time, I can't seem to completely let go of it :P
Volumes 1, 11 and 29: loosely translated as 1) Spellbound, 2) Blood feud, 3) Lucifer's love

10. Michael Coleman. Or rather Internet Detectives. I came across this series in the youth section of the local library and thought it looked cool with all those little chat windows inside the book. I think I only ever read four (possibly five) of the books in this series (and not in order) because those were all the library had. It never occurred to me to buy them. I'm not sure I want to today. I'm scared I'll find out it hasn't aged well (not that it's very old it's just that the Internet has evolved a lot in the past 15 years).
Swedish versions of 1) Net Bandits, 2) Escape Key, 3) Cyber Feud, 4) System Crash

And there we have it. My childhood in books. I can't remember not reading. I can't remember not being interested in books and the written word. As a bonus I'll give you this picture:
This is me. 8 months old and inspecting the book shelf in the guest room. I was doing it already in 1991! ;)

Sunday, 8 March 2015

International Women's Day

So today is International Women's Day. I usually don't acknowledge this day because I'm not defined by my gender. I identify as female, but seriously I'm so much more than that. But I chose to do this post today because I feel there are some things I want to get off my chest. I've read some things lately about how far away we are from equality and how sexist and bigoted the world is. And sure, you can see it that way if you want. You can look at the glass and see it half empty if you want to. I, on the other hand, look at the glass and see it half full.

We have thousands of years of inequality to work through, but look how far we've gotten in the last 100 years! How big is the difference between 1915 and 2015? It's huge! 100 years is not a long time. I've met people born before 1920. I find it amazing how much shit we've changed in these 100 years.

100 years ago an unmarried woman became of age at 21. A married woman was not independent. How outlandish does that sound today? 100 years ago women couldn't vote. 100 years ago married women didn't work. 100 years ago women did not wear pants.

I know we're not 100% equal yet. But I remain positive and I remain amazed at what we have accomplished.

So what did I do today? I was at work. Which is a celebration in and of itself. I'm a woman and I work. I'm in my mid-twenties and I'm not married off to some dude because I'm supposed to, which I'm not in this day and age. I'm in my mid-twenties and I'm not a mother because I have the right and the privilege to choose when I want to be one. I'm a woman and I'm not confined to the home. The fact that I can do any of those things is a sign of progress of equality.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Getting back to reading

It took a while for me to start reading again this year. Between Christmas and mid-February I read nothing at all. But now I'm back in action!

I started this year with Half a King by Joe Abercrombie. I'm a big fan of Abercrombie's dark and twisted adult fantasy, and I was really excited to read the first book in his youth fantasy trilogy. It didn't disappoint. Like most his other books (Red Country being the only exception where I could see through the whole plot) I didn't expect a lot of the twists and turns, the least expected one was probably the final revelation which was very nicely hidden. I liked all the characters and unlike some authors of youth fiction who make their characters very plain and simple because their audience is young, the characters of Half a King were all very layered. The only problem I have with this book is that it seemed so finished in the end and I'm not sure how he's going to turn this into a trilogy. Still, I'm looking forward to reading the next one!

Next up was American Gods by Neil Gaiman. I hadn't read this one yet although it's considered one of his most important works. In general I liked it, but there were so many sub-plots that I lost track of some of them during the course of the book. I'm not even sure if all the sub-plots were resolved by the end. However, I did like Shadow as a character and I did not expect the revelation in the end. I also read the short story Monarch of the Glen, which was included in the end of my edition of American Gods. I had previously read it in either Fragile Things or Smoke & Mirrors (I tend to mix those two up), but it made a lot more sense now after I had read the main story ;) I think I'm seeing hints towards more stories with Shadow as the main protagonist and I'm looking forward to reading more Shadow. I also need to include my favourite quote from this book. I don't know why it's my favourite but there's something about it that I find strangely beautiful. But it's also ridiculously long.
"I can believe things that are true and I can believe things that aren't true and I can believe things nobody knows if they're true or not. I can believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and Marilyn Monroe and the Beatles and Elvis and Mister Ed. Listen - I believe that people are perfectible, that knowledge is infinite, that the world is run by secret banking cartels and is visited by aliens on a regular basis, nice ones that look like wrinkedly lemurs and bad ones who mutilate cattle and want our water and our women. I believe that the future rocks and I believe that one day White Buffalo woman is going to come back and kick everyone's ass. I believe that all men are just overgrown boys with deep problems communicating and that the decline in good sex in America is coincident with the decline in Drive-In Movie theatres from state to state. I believe that all politicians are unprinicpled crooks and I still believe they are better than the alternative. I believe that California is going to sink into the sea when the big one comes, while Florida is going to dissolve into madness and alligators and toxic waste. I believe that antibacterial soap is destroying our resistance to dirt and disease so that one day we'll all be wiped out by the common cold like the Martians in War of the Worlds. I believe that the greatest poets of the last century were Edith Sitwell and Don Marquis, that jade is dried dragon sperm, and that thousands of years ago in a former life I was a one-armed Siberian Shaman. I believe that Mankind's destiny lies in the stars. I believe that candy really did taste better when I was a kid, that it's aerodynamically impossible for a bumblebee to fly, that light is a wave and a particle, that there's a cat in a box somewhere who's alive and dead at the same time (although if they don't ever open the box to feed it it'll eventually just be two different kinds of dead), and that there are stars in the universe billions of years older than the universe itself. I believe in a personal god who cares about me and worries and oversees everything I do. I believe in an impersonal god who set the universe in motion and went off to hang with her girlfriends and doesn't even know I'm alive. I believe in an empty and godless universe of causal chaos, background noise and sheer blind luck. I believe that anyone who claims to know what's going on will lie about the little things too. I believe in absolute honesty and sensible social lies. I believe in a woman's right to choose, a baby's right  to live, that while all human life is sacred there's nothing wrong with the death penalty if you can trust the legal system implicitly, and that no one but a moron would ever trust the legal system. I believe that life is a game, life is a cruel joke and that life is what happens when you're alive and that you might as well lie back and enjoy it."

Then I moved on to more recent Gaiman publishings: First up was The Sleeper and the Spindle, which I absolutely adored. Snow White saving Sleeping Beauty instead of some handsome prince. The beautiful illustrations by Chris Riddell made everything even more fabulous. Then there was the nice twist in the end that took me by surprise. You think you know these fairy tales? Not when Gaiman's the story-teller.

Second of recent Gaiman publishings was Trigger Warning. He's amazing at writing short stories and Trigger Warning did not disappoint although I had previously read both The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains and The Sleeper and the Spindle. My favourite stories in this collection were the curious The Thing About Cassandra, the sci-fi Orange, the odd but strangely satisfying A Calendar of Tales, the Sherlock Holmes story The Case of Death and Honey, the horror stories Click-Clack the Rattlebag and Feminine Endings, as well as the latest American Gods' Shadow story Black Dog. I honestly thought that his Doctor Who story Nothing O'Clock would be amongst my favourites since I love Doctor Who and I've loved the two episodes he's written, but no. I liked it but I didn't love it. Could it have something to do with 11 not being exactly my favourite?

From today I'm reading The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith a.k.a J.K. Rowling. I've only read 100 pages so far, but it already seems more interesting than the last one!

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Digimon!

I've always loved both Digimon and Pokémon, but for two completely different reasons. I love Pokémon because of the merch and the games. I love Digimon because of the show. The Pokémon anime is great, but it's always the same. Ash doesn't age and it's always him and Pikachu battling, trying to become the best and as far as I know that hasn't happened yet (although the show's been on for 18 years). With Digimon it's different. The characters have depth. They have strengths and flaws and they develop throughout the show. The group keeps splitting up so the characters can learn more about themselves and then rejoin when their personal journey is over. You can see the progress they make and it's an amazing adventure just to watch the show.

I'm currently working on rewatching Pokémon, Sailor Moon and Digimon. This is the first time I watch the shows since I was 9 years old and Digimon is still my favourite. Like with Sailor Moon I watch Digimon in original Japanese and to be blunt - both the English and Swedish dubs can get out of here. They are nothing compared to the awesomeness that's the Japanese original. To begin with the English opening sucks, and if possible the Swedish opening that I grew up with sucks even worse. The Japanese opening is glorious.
English | Swedish | Japanese

Just like when I grew up Sora is my favourite character and Tailmon/Gatomon is my favourite Digimon. Although I really do like Patamon as well, but that may just be because he resembles a rabbit. A flying rabbit :3 On top of the awesome intro, the awesome character developments and awesome story of Digimon there's also the awesome song played when the Digimon digivolve and fight. Honestly, I was waving my arms around and lip-syncing to it like a crazy person during every single episode. So here are two videos with that song: One where it's subbed, because the lyrics are amazing, and one where it's during digivolution and preparation for the final battle. You gotta love it, people!
The song with subs | Preparations for final battle. The sound is a little off and there are no subs so if you want to skip to the digivolution it starts at 2:00

Then there are the names. Like some digimon names are changed. I can understand some of those changes. I can definitely understand why some of the characters' names are changed as well:
Taichi - Tai
Yamato - Matt
Sora - Sora
Jyou - Joe
Mimi - Mimi
Koushirou - Izzy
Takeru - T.K.
Hikari - Kari
So I can understand how most of those changes happened. But how the hell did Koushirou become Izzy? O_o
I'm also shipping Taichi with Sora, and if the movie Our War Games is any indication then that ship is very canon. But I also can't help creating headcanons for some of the Digimon. Like I can totally see Devimon, LadyDevimon and PicoDevimon/DemiDevimon as a family. 
Devimon and LadyDevimon

And I can also see Angemon and Angewomon as a couple. Is that just me?
Angewomon and Angemon
I'm really looking forward to continue watching this show. And I even have a brand new show to wait for: Digimon Adventure Tri is coming out this year! :D

Friday, 13 February 2015

Dragon Age: comparison post

This will be my last one for a while! I promise :P This post should be safe for reading even if you haven't played Inquisition. There are no spoilers to the story in this post.

Having played all three games several times now I can confidentely say that Origins is still the best and 2 is still the worst. As much as I love Inquisition it's missing a lot of the variety that Origin has. Inquisition is so much about mages and there's so much about elves going on, but dwarves have pretty much gotten the boot from the game. Orzammar, Kal-Sharok, Deep Roads and dwarven customs are only briefly mentioned in dialogue and on war table missions, and as much as I hate the Deep Roads they are a given part of a Dragon Age game, and I rather wish they would've kept the Deep Roads and kicked the Fade. The tiny bit in Valammar hardly counts. Even 2 has more dwarven stuff than Inquisition, tbf despite the lack of variety in areas in 2 that game still has more variety of people and customs than Inquisition does. Though I do appreciate the fact that the Avvar are finally in a game in Inquisition.

As much as I got tired of being stuck in Kirkwall in 2, I absolutely adore the time spent in Denerim in Origins and I miss cities so much in Inquisition. Val Royeux and Redcliffe don't count. Redcliffe is bigger in Origins than in Inquisition. In Inquisition Redcliffe is barely bigger than master Dennet's farm. Heck, even Lothering and Honnleath in Origins are bigger than Redcliffe in Inquisition! Val Royeux in Inquisition seemed cool at first but it's basically just a glorified village. There's no city atmosphere there. That said, Inquisition has some amazing areas to explore, my favourites being Hinterlands, Crestwood, Emerald Graves and Emprise du Lion. But just as much as I loved Denerim, Ostagar and Redcliffe in Origins, I hated Orzammar and the Circle Tower. And likewise I was so bored and/or annoyed going through the desert areas (Forbidden Oasis, Western Approach, Hissing Wastes) and Fallow Mire in Inquisition. Fallow Mire mostly because I always want to explore the entire region and to do that I have to enter the water and when I do that I get attacked by hordes of undead. It's so annoying.
Hinterlands, Crestwood, Emerald Graves, Emprise du Lion

I loved the story in Origins, but despite all the choices you can make in there, it doesn't seem to affect the world as much as one pivotal choice in Inquisition - the choice whether you should side with the mages or the templars. I have always felt that the mages were right in their rebellion so out of my four playthroughs of Inquisition I only sided with the templars once, in my latest one, just to see if it would make any difference. And actually it did! I feel like there's suddenly more substance to the storyline, but not only that - there are no red templars (thus far, I haven't completed that playthrough yet) every area that was previously occupied by red templars in my other playthroughs (like their camp in Crestwood) are no occupied solely by Venatori. The presence of Venatori when you side with the mages is never fully explained, it's only assumed that some vints still remain on the Elder One's side. But the fact that red templars just don't show when you've sided with them is strangely satisfying. It feels like you've saved an entire group of people just by taking them in. So which side you choose has an actual and prominent impact on the world. In Origins it doesn't matter. It's just a matter on what sort of army you get in the final onslaught. Side with mages, get mages in army. Side with templars, get templars in army. Side with elves, get elves in army. Side with werewolves, get werewolves in army. But there's no tangible difference in the world. In 2 even if you sided with the mages Orsino still turned into a monster, while it would've made more sense to have had him by my side and help me fight Meredith. There's virtually no difference what happens in 2 either.

It's my theory that 2 was so bad (although I did enjoy playing it) because it mostly worked as a prologue to Inquisition. Everything that happens in 2 leads up to what Inquisition is all about. It's also bad because Hawke has basically nothing to do with anything that happens in the game. Stuff would happen even if Hawke wasn't there, while in Origins the Warden makes things happen, and the Inquisitor is the reason things happen in Inquisition.

Something I missed both in 2 and Inquisition is the ability to just turn around whenever and wherever and have a dialogue with that specific companion. Why can't I do that?! It makes no sense! Also, in Inquisition there's a lot of party banter involving the Inquisitor, but there are no speech options for the Inquisitor. Like why can't I participate in a conversation concerning myself? I also miss gifts. I want gifts for my companions in Inquisition. I also want an approval bar so I can physically see how much someone likes me.
 
All of them have amazing companions and characters overall, But Origins win because of the quests. Sure, there are a few fetch quests and a few annoying quests that involve running back and forth between places and getting attacked on the way (because I can never travel from one place to another without getting attacked), but the major quests are amazing. As much as it scared me shitless the first time I played the game (and that's an accomplishment) Paragon of her Kind is an amazing quest, and there hasn't been a single one like it since. I hate the Deep Roads but that quest has me scared and excited at the same time. The quest with the Dalish is also amazing, and the whole mission to find the Urn of Sacred Ashes is incredible. There's already so much content in Origins, but when the Landsmeet draws close and thereby the end of the game I always wish for more. 2 doesn't have that and although In Your Heart Shall Burn has some amazing story sequences, and In Hushed Whispers is a really cool quest none of them manage to give me the same feeling Origins' quests do. Except for the scene where the Elder One walks through the fire. That scene along with The Dawn Will Come still give me chills.

Now I'm so tempted to start another playthrough of Origins... Maybe I should? I probably shouldn't... But I probably will.