Witty Little Knitter

I read fantasy, crime, true crime, lgbt-romance and books written by my favourite comedians. List not necessarily complete.
Sometimes I write for Bibliodaze
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Books Read in August

Sword & Blood: The Vampire Musketeers - Sarah Marqués Jackaby - Raymond William Ritter;William Ritter Masks - E M Prazeman Manga Classics: Les Miserables Softcover - Victor Hugo How to Ruin a Queen: Marie Antoinette and the Diamond Necklace Affair - Jonathan Beckman Versunkene Gräber: Kriminalroman - Elisabeth Herrmann Death of a Musketeer - Sarah D'Almeida

Not a bad month. I did dnf Masks and Death of a Musketeer but I did get several review-copies done. I was also really happy with Versunkene Gräber. While it had some flaws it was much better than the previous in the series.

I think I enjoyed How to Ruin a Queen most and that's why I'm now reading Alexandre Dumas' The Queen's Necklace. To see a fictional take on the subject.

Next month I also want to read 221 Baker Streets a Holes-Pastiche short story collection I have a review-copy of (and in general continue working on my NetGalley-ratio)

Review: Heat Rises

Heat Rises - Richard Castle

I can't quite figure out why I'm more embarrassed to admit that I read weird Cop-show not-really!tie-ins than erotic Three Musketeers-fanfiction with vampires but somehow I am. There was I thinking my time for reading books that are inspired by TV-shows are over but apparently they aren't. 
I enjoy the Nikki Heat books. They have the same humour as the show and were clearly written by someone who knows the canon (both point against Max Allan Collins being behind the pseudonym). Additionally the relationship between Rook and Nikki is refreshingly without 'let's make this drama bigger than it is because we refuse to talk to/listen to each other'. In the first two books the cases were also entertaining enough.
This however is the third book and here the case was...meh. Admittedly I'm not a big fan of major conspiracies in which people higher up than the lead-detective try everything to stop her (or him) from solving the case. Did I say 'not a big fan'? I meant 'hate with a burning passion'. So this book and I weren't really off to a good start and it didn't get better when a certain person turned up with a big flashy neon-sign over their head saying 'I DID IT'

Review: Versunkene Gräber

Versunkene Gräber: Kriminalroman - Elisabeth Herrmann

Mit den ersten Kapiteln habe ich mir noch sehr schwer getan. Vernau wirkte auf einmal recht unsympathisch und der ganze Plot war doch sehr verworren. Das war aber bald überstanden und ich war wieder gebannt. 
Wie in den vorherigen Bänden liegt auch hier das Motiv tief in der Vergangenheit begraben (hier der deutsch-polnischen) und Elisabeth Herrmann gelingt es einfach solche Themen aufzugreifen und steht dabei weder mit dem erhobenen Zeigefinger daneben noch beschönigt sie irgendetwas. Damals gab es Opfer, Täter und unzählige die ein bisschen von beidem waren.
Erfreulich ist auch, dass Jaczek und Frau Huth (die Lebensabschnittsmitbewohnerin von Vernaus Mutter) die in den bisherigen Bänden ein bisschen sehr nahe am Klischee standen endlich ein bisschen mehr Tiefgang bekommen.
All das war so gut gemacht das ich fast bereit gewesen wäre den holprigen Anfang zu vergessen und das Buch trotzdem mit 4-5 Sternen zu bewerten. Fast. Denn leider finden sich in dem Buch auch Dinge die ich so gar nicht ausstehen kann und über die ich bei einer sonst so guten Autorin doppelt enttäuscht bin. Zum einen der Wechsel zwischen erster und dritter Person. Der geht für mich gar nicht und bisher musste ich mich damit nur in schlechten Lokalkrimis und Selfpubs herumschlagen. Das andere ist ein Cliffhanger gegen Ende der unglaublich künstlich in die Länge gezogen wird. Beides sind Dinge die mich bei Büchern normal ganz schnell in die entgegengesetzte Richtung rennen lassen und die ich nicht einfach vergeben kann.
Deswegen bleibt es dann doch bei 3-4 Sternen.

Review: How to Ruin a Queen

How to Ruin a Queen: Marie Antoinette and the Diamond Necklace Affair - Jonathan Beckman

If there was a less cliched way to describe the Affair of the Diamond Necklace I would but it's simply a story you couldn't make up. A Jeanne La Motte, a countess who is a close confidant of Marie Antoinette, approaches Cardinal Rohan and asks him to purchase an expensive diamond necklace in the name of the queen. Rohan was only to eager to oblige as this meant he was back in favour with her. (Marie Antoinette strongly disliked him since he displeased her mother during his time at the Court of Vienna). He hoped that by helping the queen he would also help his own political ambitions.

 

However, things weren't that simple. Marie Antoinette didn't even know that Jeanne existed, let alone consider her a friend. She had never asked her to find somebody to purchase the necklace for her and had no interest in it.
Jeanne had taken advantage from the fact that Rohan was desperate to get back in favour with the queen and had spun a complex web of deceit around him. It involved countless forged letters, supposedly from Marie Antoinette and even a meeting between Rohan and the queen - played by a prostitute who looked a bit like her. Once Rohan had given the necklace to Jeanne she and her husband tried to sell the single diamonds.

Of course the jewelers noticed that no payment from the queen was forthcoming and the whole plot unraveled. As Jeanne hadn't been to subtle about her newfound wealth she was soon discovered and arrested. And so was Rohan - on the basis that nobody could be as stupid as he claimed to have been and so must have been a co-conspirator. But in the subsequent trial he was acquitted, while Jeanne and her husband were found guilty.

How to Ruin a Queen tells not only this story but also discusses the consequences the whole affair had. The court also found Marie Antoinette innocent from any knowledge of the plot but her hatred for Rohan was well-known. People suspected that she was behind the whole thing in an attempt to get rid of Rohan. Sympathies for the queen began to chill considerably afterwards and most historians assumed that without the affair the French Revolution might have ended less tragic for the French Royals.

Jonathan Beckman gives a good description of the affair itself but also doesn't forget to discuss the consequences. In less detail of course but enough to understand why it was such a big deal.

 

The book is well-researched, in so far this is possible. Obviously none of the people involved was too keen on keeping anything that might implicate them so many documents were destroyed.
That leaves the author with accounts from people that weren't directly involved (who also might not know the truth) or things like Jeanne's memoirs. In which she was also more than economical with the truth and tried very much to paint herself as a victim.
Beckmann does point that out and most of the time he puts them into perspective but on some occasions I found he was not clear enough on which claims were to be taken with a grain of salt and which might have been true.


Somewhere in the middle were also two chapters that didn't bring much new information. Instead they discussed Les Liaisons Dangereuses, Twelfth Night and The Marriage of Figaro and speculated on whether any of the people involved had read or seen them and match the characters from the stories with the real ones involved in the affair. If that was (at that length) really necessary is questionable but that doesn't take much away.
If you're interested in French history that book is definitely reccomended.

Review: Les Miserables (Manga)

Manga Classics: Les Miserables Softcover - Victor Hugo

This just didn't really work for me. It felt too short, more like a illustrated summary than a proper story. Even Jean Valjean's backstory felt rushed and it was worse with the rest of the characters. The revolution seems to come out of nowhere and it didn't really feel like it was important to any of the participants. 

I liked the drawing-style well enough and perhaps if it had been longer and the characters had been given more depth I could have enjoyed the book more but this way I really couldn't bring myself to care about any of them.

Discworld Cover Quiz

 

It's fun. And even if you had different editions (as I did) you should get quite far if you know what happens in the books ;)

 

Quotes

Reblogged from Derrolyn Anderson:

 

Boy did he nail it about the blow.

DNF: Masks

Masks - E M Prazeman

DNF at 25%

If you've read a quarter of a book you should have a vague idea what is going on but I still have no clue what is happening and why.
Mark, the main-character, is a servant (or perhaps rather slave) in a rich household. Suddenly he decides to flee even though he knows that if he's caught it might cost him his life.

Why does he do it? Because after a conversation with Gutter, his master's jester, he is suddenly convinced that Gutter is incredibly evil and his life is in even more danger if he stays. That's fine except that the conversation didn't sound terribly ominous to me and Marc never really talked about Gutter's earlier behaviour which might have given some indication on why he suddenly suspects him of murder and arson...
Additionally I also didn't understand the world in general. Apparently jesters can bond with nobles and then...something happens? Except I still don't know if that is something magical or just symbolical.

I don't need every piece of information on a silver-tablet and I'm more than happy if authors don't infodump all the time but the opposite is just as bad. If I have no idea what's going on I also don't feel like reading the book.

 

ARC provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Jackaby

Jackaby - Raymond William Ritter;William Ritter

Interesting premise that could have made an awesome book but the fact that the author tried too hard to turn the main character in a Sherlock-ripoff made it all rather disappointing.
Full review at Bibliodaze

Review: Sword & Blood (Vampire Musketeers #1)

Sword & Blood: The Vampire Musketeers - Sarah Marqués

As Vampire-book Sword & Blood is entertaining. You might take that with a grain of salt as it comes from somebody whose knowledge of vampire-literature is limited to Dracula (and that only because the audio-book-narrator was Richard E. Grant). I enjoyed the portrayal of vampires in this book. They are proper monsters, and the world which they rule is a grim and dystopian place. Also Athos' suffering after being turned into a vampire gets described in painful detail. For him there is no getting used to it or accepting his fate, he suffers all through the book. Despite this the rest of the book is cheesy and silly at times. (Sex-magic. There is sex-magic. And soul-saving masturbation).

 

As Musketeer-pastiche it's sadly only mediocre. D'Artagnan's name is misspelled throughout the whole book but at least his characterization is well-done. He is a rash teenager, both in Dumas' novel and in this book. Aramis' characterization is also well-done, even including some of his uglier character-traits. Athos is somewhat different from the original book but he is also (even more) traumatized than the original one and most differences can be attributed to that.
The only qualms I have characterization-wise are with Porthos for he doesn't get any. He gets described as shy, says about 10 sentences in the whole book and that's it. I also missed the feeling of genuine friendship that was so prominent in the original.
Those were men who without hesitation would risk their lives for each other without even demanding an explanation. There are dangerous situations here as well but the musketeers are united by the desire to fight vampires rather than friendship.

 

The book also contains my favourite pet-peeve: ending almost every chapter on a cliff-hanger. But at least it is combined with alternating POVs so it works more or less. (I still found the number of times d'Artagnan gets abducted ridiculous but at least it's done in a way that makes it exiting.)

Books Read In July

Setting the Truth Free: The Inside Story of the Bloody Sunday Justice Campaign - Julieann Campbell Belfast Noir - Adrian McKinty, Stuart Neville Tödliches Bayern: Kriminalfälle aus zwei Jahrhunderten (German Edition) - Robert Hültner The Silkworm - Robert Galbraith, J.K. Rowling The Cardinal's Blades - Pierre Pevel

This months was...average. With three books that were average, one which was great and one which was boooooooooooring.

 

Next goal: Finishing Sword and Blood (basically Three Musketeer Fanfiction WITH VAMPIRES...cheesy and silly but quite nice)

Day 30: The book you read or plan to read because of Book-a-Day UK

Trinity - Leon Uris

Well...BookADay reminded me that I've been meaning to read this for ages

Day 29: Favorite Likeable Villain

And here I'm again failing to think of one. Without the 'likeable' I would have said Felice from James Barclay's Ascendants of Estoria-books. She makes a great villain because you can understand her reasons for her hatred of the main characters (quasi-immortal teenagers with powerful magical powers in a world where nobody else has proper magical powers? What could possibly go wrong?) but you still have a hard time justifying her actions (cutting throats of children is just generally speaking...bad) so I hate her but still think she's an awesome villain.

In A Song of Ice and Fire there are a lot of likeable characters that are morally...dark gray but I wouldn't call any of the 'proper' villains likeable.

There are of course a lot of sympathetic murderers in crime-novels (in Mankell's The Fifth Woman or George's Well Schooled in Murder or A Suitable Vengeance) but I'm not sure if murderers really qualify for that question. 

Review: Drachenklingen (Les Lames du Cardinal)

Drachenklingen: Roman (German Edition) - Pierre Pevel

We bought a new blender recently. The manual for it was more interesting than this book. I mean: it has recipes! For 'Cuban Milk' among other things. That's just banana-milk with lemon if you're wondering. And no I have no idea what's Cuban about that either.

Can you tell that I really don't want to talk about this book? I'm just not sure what I can say about it. It's not bad in an entertaining way and (at least) also not in and offensive way, just in a very, very, very, very boring way.

The characters are all so flat that even at the end I still had trouble telling them apart. They are all amazing fighters and that's pretty much it. Marciac sticks out because he has an on-off-girlfriend (whom he treats like crap) and another character has dragon-blood in him which gets mentioned a lot. In fact I'm think he's referred to as 'Mix-blood' almost as often as by his real name which I found...unfortunate. Yes it is just a fantastical creature but I still felt uncomfortable with the obsession about his heritage.

Apart from that...have I mentioned how boring that book was? Cause it was. Most of the time our main characters fight. Usually alone against an overwhelming number of enemies. Of course they win. Always. The one time one of them doesn't it's because his opponent didn't fight fair and brought a gun to a swordfight. 
When they're not fighting they are...planning fights, Marciac has sex or one of the characters angsts about their tragic past. But mostly they are fighting. Or fighting. Or fighting. Or...oh right I mentioned that already.
Now I don't mind fights, e.g. James Barclay's Raven-chronicles are also pretty packed with them. But there are two major differences:
a) the Raven sometimes loses. People die or get seriously injured. As mentioned this doesn't happen in The Cardinal's Blades. So why should I worry about them?
b) I actually care about the Raven. I don't want them to die. As mentioned above this doesn't happen in The Cardinal's Blades. So even if there was an actual sense of danger in the books my only reaction would be: great! one less character that bores me to death!

And the worst thing is: the author almost solely relies on the fact that his readers care about these characters and worry about them dying. Almost every chapter ends with some sort of cliffhanger that means danger for them. It often felt like reading fanfiction where the writer needs to make sure that the readers come back the next time. (Except that most fanfiction readers would have quit after that many three or four page-chapters in which nothing happens except fighting.)
The same is true for the ending. We are treated to some more dramatic reveals about the characters and their backstories. I assume that is meant to hook us for the second part but I cared as little about these revelations as about any of the previous ones. 

Reading progress update: I've read 66%.

Drachenklingen: Roman (German Edition) - Pierre Pevel

You know how crime-shows often have cold openings where you follow a person who either gets killed or finds a body after a few minutes? Some of these people I only saw for a few moments had more depths than the characters in this books and I've been with them for what feels like about 2367 pages and 3 years (yeah...it's more 200 pages and 2 weeks...but it is SO BOOOOORING...the manual of our new blender was more exiting)

Day 28: Favourite Animal Character

Rest in Pieces - Rita Mae Brown

The Mrs Murphy series lost a lot of steam over time and I stopped reading for a while. I picked up the most recent one which I enjoyed a bit more again. Mrs Murphy, however, is always adorable. As is Tea Tucker...and basically all the animal characters in this series.

Currently reading

Krieg und Frieden by Leo Tolstoy, Michael Grusemann
Progress: 520/1024pages
Stephen and Matilda by Jim Bradbury
Progress: 52/262pages
From Hell by Alan Moore, Eddie Campbell, Pete Mullins
Progress: 40/539pages