Jade Dragon Mountain

When I looked at my TBR list the other day and realized that I am into my September ARCs already, I sat back onto my heels a bit. How are we already this late into the year? This weekend marked our one year anniversary in Dallas. We have been here for a WHOLE YEAR! What a ride it has been.

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I’ve had Jade Dragon Mountain in my queue for a long time…for some reason I received it way in advance. It felt strange to finally pick it up. This is Elsa Hart’s debut novel, and she has done a pretty decent job with it.

The story takes place in 1708 during the Qing Dynasty. Kangxi Emperor is passionate about astronomy and has calculated that an eclipse will be visible in Dayan. A festival is being prepared for his arrival. Li Du, an exile and imperial librarian, must visit his magistrate cousin on his way to Tibet, and arrives during the preparations. While he is there, a Jesuit priest is murdered, and Li Du sets out to find the killer before the emperor arrives.

Jade Dragon Mountain is part historical fiction, part Sherlockian mystery. I was fascinated by the Chinese lore and history–although most of the actual characters I think were made up, excepting the Emperor himself, the facts about the Jesuits and Kangxi’s fascination with astrology, all of that were real. A festival like this could have really happened. We are discussing this in my Coursera class–the art of historical fiction requires the author to stretch the truth just enough to convince the reader to believe the lie.

The mystery portion of the story was a bit of fun as well. It loops around and around, providing the bits of science and historical context, all while giving us a Sherlock/Watson kind of banter between Li Du and Hamza. Hamza is even a storyteller…which, hello, today he would TOTALLY be a blogger! *wink* Ok, maybe that part is a bit of a stretch, but I couldn’t help but make the jump. Fellow Johnlockers will understand.

Jade Dragon Mountain comes out September 1 and is bound to interest any fellow historical fiction lovers. It’s a great debut for Elsa Hart and I’ll be interesting to see what she comes up with next!

 

NetGalley provided this ARC for an unbiased review. Releases September 1.

 

Buy it Here:

Late Night Thoughts on Fanfiction

The thing I love about fanfiction isn’t the smut.

Ok.

It’s a little bit the smut.

But mostly, it’s that we as readers are never satisfied with THE END. Even after reading the most briliantly written book–maybe even more in that case–we always want more. What happens after the war is over and the rubble is swept away? The mystery is solved, so Sherlock and Watson just go back to smoking their pipes?!

NO! Of course not!

These characters are real to us. They are family, it’s personal. We may not have invented them, but we are invested and they must continue on with their lives as we do.

Most of us have our devoted ships, and we will go down to the depths with them. For me, it’s Johnlock and Drarry. And Hannigram. GODDAMN YOU BRYAN FULLER WHAT THE HELL?! I am amused by a few others, but those are the two I read the most.

Don’t come near me with your Sherlolly and Dramione. Get it away from me! *Shudder*

But I digress.

The world of fanfic is comprised of countless writers and artists who create amazing works for their OTP. The theories and stories range from almost cannon and totally plausible, to completely off the wall and nonsensical. Everyone has their niche. There are some seriously talented people out there. The stories are beautiful, funny…and yes, many are gloriously dirty. And really, they can’t even be called stories, as some are longer than the books they are about. The art is just as gorgeous, some based stricly off the canon characters, modeled after someone’s fanfic, or the artist completely creates their own interpretation of the fictional world. I cannot reblog it all fast enough.

Reading Drarry before bed has become my “guilty pleasure.” Except I don’t feel guilty about it. What better way to unwind at the end of a stressful day of fighting fires at work and filling my brain with new information, than to dive into my favorite place of all–The Wizarding World of Harry Potter–with a few fun twists thrown in? I especially like the ones from after the war–8th year or later, when they adults, trying to find their way. A little hate, a little lust, a little love. It’s all great fun.

What kind of fic are you drawn to? Who are your OTPs?

Frankenstein

In November, Fathom Events had a showing at AMC Theaters of the Benedict Cumberbatch/Jonny Lee Miller rendition of Frankenstein. Being a huge fan of both actors in Sherlock and Elementary, OF COURSE I had to go–even though it was not only the first “movie” I’d see by myself, but we hadn’t been in Dallas very long and it was farthest I’d been from home at that point.

That night, they played Jonny Lee Miller as The Monster (the actors played both lead roles, so there are two versions, and you don’t know until the start which you will see). It was nothing short of brilliant, as I expected. If you’ve seen JLM as Sherlock, you can understand the kind of fast, choppy movements he can make, and as The Monster, it was 100x more exaggerated. *sob* I want to watch it over and over and over.

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Anyway, I had not read the book, so I knew I’d have to read it soon. I’m really surprised it has taken this long. The book was just as gorgeous as the play, and I’m so glad I have a point of reference for The Monster that isn’t that horrific green thing from the Halloween stores.

Mary Shelley succeeded in writing the first science fiction novel, it’s true, but we have a ton of poorly written scifi books–and maybe that’s why I never read this one until this point. That boxy green thing really didn’t leave me with high expectations. But, her book has stayed with us because it is just so perfectly done, and it is extremely complex. This is The Monster’s narrative, within Frankenstein’s tale, within Walton’s letters. And though we never really think of Walton’s sister Margaret as a true narrator, it is her collection of his letters by which we get our final story.

It is no wonder, after four voices in one fiction alone, that so many people couldn’t help but retell Shelley’s story. There is science, love, horror, death, and the unknown. Man can’t help but want to be God, and Mary Shelley somehow managed to illustrate this drive perfectly.

 

This fulfills Boxall’s #74.

Fandom Crazy

I inadvertently chose a really bad day to do the Fandom Crazy post.

Why?

Because today people are boycotting Tumblr. Oops. Tumblr did an update last week and changed all the formatting. Now, I don’t create gifs, I don’t code, I don’t pretend to understand any of the issues that people are upset about. On one hand, I like the wider pictures–everything seems bigger, bolder, prettier. I don’t so much like the posts where everyone is trying to match the blue Tumblr background and those weeble woble posts that mess with my post of reference.

But, the reason I’m staying off Tumblr today is because I know there are so many talented artists whose work went to absolute shit last week. That website is a spectacular place for geeks, nerds, and really everyone who is passionate about ANYTHING, to come together about that THING, and talk about it, post about it, create art about it. Graphic artists, designers, and just talented kids with a flair for turning TV clips into 5 second gifs have been posting things on this website more and more frequently over the years, all for our amusement (and maybe a little notoriety).

All of the sudden, with this update, Their artwork is glitchy and cut off. Again, I don’t understand the technical details, but something in the formatting has changed. There’s a petition going around, but the main jist–it’s not working. And like the Facebook updates…they probably won’t change it back no matter how much we complain about it. I hate to see all of my favorites leave the site or give up, so I hope things get figured out, but right now it doesn’t seem hopeful. From what I’ve read, there hasn’t been a lot of response from the staff.

So today, as hard as it is to stay off such an addicting site, and I sure do miss my friends…No Tumblr for me today.

 

 

This was supposed to be a completely different post, but about Sherlock and Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, but this seemed way more important. If you want to support the petition whose work has been affected, click here. There’s been about 48,000 signatures so far.

Newest Purchase

I had a pretty great book haul in September. Some new books, some used ones. Even a free one, thanks to a Twitter contest! Here’s what I picked up:

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I’ve blogged about most of these already, so I’ll keep this short. But LOOK at that gorgeous purple Drop Caps from Penguin Books! Sorry if you follow me on Twitter and get annoyed by my constant retweets, but it was well worth it. Even the pages are purple on the outside!

The bottom green book I threw in to the picture because technically…I own it. But, that’s definitely a husband book. I may read it, eventually, when it makes it way into my TBR rotation. We’ll see if I even understand it. It’ll be awhile before that happens though.

And of course, I finally have a Sherlock book. I’ve read The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, but I haven’t yet read this one. I couldn’t resist it, when I saw it on the clearance rack!

The Name of the Rose

What I am figuring out by reading these Boxall books is that while I don’t always understand or like the plot–I am learning how to read literature. I feel as if I am taking a class. I am educating myself in a way I did not know I was capable of. That is why I set out to write this blog in the first place. I don’t only read for pleasure anymore, I’m actually grasping and remembering what I read.

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The Name of the Rose is one of those books that I definitely did not read for pleasure but I did learn from it. I have pages and pages of notes about the novel…and I can hardly explain the plot.

I can tell you that it’s a murder mystery set in a Catholic monastery in the 1300s. I know who the murderer is in the end, but there are so many details about how the murder was solved that went right over my head.

From a literary standpoint, the authenticity is really good. Umberto Eco obviously did a fantastic amount of research before writing this. I would believe more that this had been written centuries ago–not in 1980. In fact, I had to Google this multiple times to make sure that it actually was written so recently, because I didn’t believe it.

From a reader’s standpoint, however (or maybe because it was so authentically written), the book is completely droll. Anyone picking this up as a crime novel is going to immediately put it down. The main character is obviously based on Sherlock Holmes. The archetype is obvious, and he even is named William of Baskerville. Duh. But the Catholic doctrine and the debate between the Benedictines and the Franciscans and all the others just drowns out everything else in the storyline.

Another extremely difficult barrier to the reader is that the narrator–a young novice priest travelling with William–thinks/speaks in a mix of English and Latin. He speaks Latin so fluently that there is no pause for reader context and explanation of what he is saying. You either have to 1) stop and Google everything he says, or 2) pretend like you know what he’s talking about and move on.

For example:  “In fact, I now saw the girl better than I had seen her the previous night, and I understood her intus et in cute because in her I understood myself and in myself in her.”

“Intus et in cute” means inside and out, but there’s no context in the section to know that without looking it up.

Unless you know fluent Latin…you’re going to find this extremely annoying and frustrating. Sometimes I stopped and translated the phrases, but after while, I just gave up.

I learned some interesting things about the Catholic religion that I didn’t previously know, and I, at the very least, have a good 6 pages of journaling on the break down of this monster. Good enough for me. Not a book I’m going to recommend for anyone, but it was a worthy fight.

 

Book to Movie/TV

My dad has always been more of a nonfiction reader than the rest of us–always reading things on the field he’s interested in at the time (sometimes books on actual fields…since he was a farmer…badaCHING!). Agriculture, business, and now, more and more, politics. But, he instantly latched on to Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon series when they first came out.

Once his daughters realized how much he was zooming through these books, and we started hearing how popular they were…it didn’t take us long to start fighting over his copies.

It’s no wonder these books were so popular. The chapters are short, and the action is brisk. There are constant cliff-hangers that almost force you to keep turning pages. You don’t want to put the book down because you have to know what happens next. The puzzles are very Sherlockian in nature, and are extremely fun to solve for anyone with an interest in history.

When this moved into the big screen, Tom Hanks was a perfect fit for Robert Langdon. A skitterish professor, handsome, but slightly sweaty, used to being in a dusty college library. Hanks has this awkward stutter he does when the character doesn’t quite know what to say. And I absolutely love Audrey Tautou. Can I have her lips, please?

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Update:  I realized after I posted this that this is actually the question for today’s question for Trees of Reverie too! Woot! Two birds with one stone 🙂

Middlesex

There are some books that are all about timing. If you read them at the wrong point of your life, they aren’t going to make any sense, and you’ll think they are the worst book ever written.

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That’s how Middlesex was the first time I picked it up. I remember when it first became really popular when I was in high school. I’m from a very small, conservative town and I hadn’t been exposed to much, so I’m pretty sure I didn’t get too far my freshman/sophomore year of school.

It wasn’t that I wasn’t open minded, I just hadn’t been exposed to many of the topics in this book. This book has some pretty massive topics, and when I had hardly been exposed to the topic of sexuality yet…the idea of genders outside of male and female was outside of my grasp. (And while I know now that sexuality and gender are different, at 15/16…I was not quite as far along in that type of knowledge kids today are.)

Now, however, is the perfect time for Jeffrey Eugenides. The same fights and struggles occuring in Middlesex are those I hear about constantly online and in the media. The Black Bottom Riot is, essentially, Ferguson. And I can’t go on Tumblr without learning something new about the diversity in gender and sexuality that even a year ago I never knew existed. The world I live in is so wonderfully diverse, and the older I get, the more I’m learning about the people in it.

I loved the family history in this story. I admit I did cringe over the sister and brother marrying, but that was what brought about our main character. It was another time and another need. But the Greek culture and history in the book was extremely beautiful, and yet another part of the world that, aside from the common mythology, I don’t know much about. I know there was a war with Turkey, but that’s about the extent of it. Mark that down on the list of things to study.

That list just seems to get longer and longer, eh?

The voice in the characters were really well written. I could hear the Greek accents in my head (except for last night…but that probably had something to do with the all day Sherlock binge), and I even found myself looking up a few of the italicized words for their meanings because I was going on a tangent with the characters.

I say read this, but when you’re ready. It is a sensitive book to read, and not one to take lightly. You will come away changed. But that is the definition of literature, isn’t it? It makes you feel something, think differently. You will look at people differently after you read this.

 

Hero/OTP

This weekend completely knocked me off my feet, so I’m sorry for the wonky blogging. I completely neglected yesterday, which was supposed to be Hero/Heroine. Today is OTP (One True Paring). Thankfully….I can cheat and wrap these up in one post! Phew, problem solved.

Let’s face it, my real OTP is Johnlock. No question. But…that’s TV (yes, I know it’s a book too, but it wasn’t really prevalent until Cumberbatch and Freeman, because…reasons), and this is a book challenge.

And so I flip to two more of our favorite paired heroes. Mr. Frodo and Samwise Gamgee.

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I know, I know. Heroes, everyone understands. But an OTP? Really?

I think I’m probably the only person in the world who ships them. But, for some reason, I always did. In the books, and ESPECIALLY in the movies, when they were closer in age. Sam obviously loves his Mr. Frodo, and Frodo, even in his distraction, needs Sam. He could not have completed his quest without him.

Favorite Character to Actor Depiction

British Television, you are a cruel, cruel master.

I will admit, I am a bit of a anglophile. I think I’ve read more on British history, literature, etc than I have American. I don’t know why. There’s just something romantic about that culture.

And the men. Oh the men. They don’t make men like that here. We have pretty boys, hipsters, country boys.

But we don’t have classic British men. Unconventional, cultured, educated. Yes please.

OK, Haley, back on topic.

I think everyone reads pieces of Sir Arthur Conon Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes at some point, if not the actual books themselves. We grow up hearing about the Sherlockian adventures. They are so archetypal in our culture today. And because Doyle wrote the adventures as short stories, teachers and their textbooks can break them apart individually.

Not only that, but the Sherlockian archetype has been morphed into multiple characters in different shows and movies. Of course you have the actual Sherlock shows through the years, but then you also have characters like House and Gil Grissom (from CSI) that follow his same personality traits.

I’ve always been drawn to that mysterious, introverted character. He’s brilliant in his observations, and so exceedingly aware of it.

I started seeing references to the BBC show Sherlock on Pinterest, and became hooked before I even watched my first episode. When I found out it was on Netflix, well, it was over before it began. And now I am 100% a part of the fandom. And once you’re in….oh man. There’s no turning back is there?

 

Benedict Cumberbatch is just as brilliant as the character he plays. The curly-haired manic genius he becomes takes your breath away as he dashes facts all over your screen. You will have a hard time keeping up as he connects the dots, and makes things make absolute perfect sense.

And I would be remiss if I left out his relationship John Watson. Now, we are in hiatus at the moment, and the fandom has quite lost its mind. While I enjoy the ship…I doubt the show itself will actually go too extreme in that direction. However, I do think Sherlock loves Watson deeply and the little pieces of affection, and watching him barely contain control is so interesting. Cumberbatch is so good at just giving enough there. A little tweak or brush. A crinkle of his eyes when he smiles, and Sherlock almost never really smiles. But just enough. You guys know what I’m talking about, especially the shippers, because oh how you screen shot EVERYTHING. I love it!

Like all of you fans, I cannot wait for Season 4. Hopefully they don’t make us wait too long. His hair sure is getting curly. Think he’s growing it out? One can only hope…