miss_adventure: (wild things read)
2012-01-04 11:30 pm
Entry tags:

[book reviews] Tudor-era Hunchback Lawyers

Over the past week, I read all five of C.J. Sansom's Matthew Shardlake series. I cannot recommend them highly enough to fans of historical mysteries. Set in the England of King Henry VIII, they are told from the wry yet sensitive point of view of Matthew Shardlake, a barrister of Lincoln's Inn who attempts to see justice done in the corrupt courts of law and the even more corrupt courts of royalty. The author is a retired solicitor with a PhD in history, and it shows--he has clearly done impeccable research and one need not have a background in the Reformation to understand what is going on, so seamlessly is that information integrated into the text, and Sansom ends each book with a historical note and recommendations for further reading. Yet these are by no means dry tomes. Even minor players are well characterised, the pacing is fast, and the plots twist and turn.

Shardlake himself is a fascinating character: a hunchback in a time when superstition about his condition abounds, he has every reason to be bitter and to lash out at a world that often goes out of the way to be cruel to him, but he is not and does not. Indeed, he is a compassionate and honourable man of deep integrity seeking to do justice to the best of his considerable ability and is refreshing for it. Protagonists in most mystery series are dashing, womanising, too cool for school and prefer to solve problems with brawn. Shardlake's physical condition and general personality preclude this sort of James Bond nonsense; he is instead a brilliant legal mind who is socially awkward in his dealings outside the courtroom, is perpetually unlucky in love due in no small part to his fear of rejection, and who prevails by using his brain, sense of ethics, stubbornness, and courage (in the sense of carrying on despite long odds, great danger, and his own fear). Nor is he some unrealistically pure and virtuous paragon; he does his best, but at times is grumpy and short with people he cares about, leaps to erroneous conclusions, gets himself in over his head, and generally has believable flaws and foibles.

Further, Shardlake's worldview evolves and matures throughout the series as he reevaluates what he stands for and learns from his mistakes. When we first meet him in Dissolution, he is a keen reformer in the service of Thomas Cromwell, investigating a murder at a monastery in the process of being dissolved as Catholicism was gradually being outlawed. What he experiences over the course of that novel shakes his religious views to the core, leaving this once staunch religious radical no longer sure what he believes. By the third book in the series, he is becoming what would now be termed agnostic, struggling with his growing ambivalence about organised religion and unsure of his belief in God, dangerous beliefs to hold when one could be executed for voicing them. The novels increase in length as the series proceeds, but they rarely drag and I found that a couple of evenings turned into mornings as I could not put them down and go to sleep.

Five Tower Ravens out of five for the series as it stands so far. With the fifth and most recent book ending approximately six months before Henry VIII's death, I imagine it will continue into the reigns of Edward VI and of course Elizabeth I. I certainly hope so.

While I eagerly await the next installation, I've picked up a used copy of Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel and Peter Ackroyd's Life of Thomas More, in keeping with the theme.
miss_adventure: (wild things read)
2012-01-04 11:30 pm
Entry tags:

[book reviews] Tudor-era Hunchback Lawyers

Over the past week, I read all five of C.J. Sansom's Matthew Shardlake series. I cannot recommend them highly enough to fans of historical mysteries. Set in the England of King Henry VIII, they are told from the wry yet sensitive point of view of Matthew Shardlake, a barrister of Lincoln's Inn who attempts to see justice done in the corrupt courts of law and the even more corrupt courts of royalty. The author is a retired solicitor with a PhD in history, and it shows--he has clearly done impeccable research and one need not have a background in the Reformation to understand what is going on, so seamlessly is that information integrated into the text, and Sansom ends each book with a historical note and recommendations for further reading. Yet these are by no means dry tomes. Even minor players are well characterised, the pacing is fast, and the plots twist and turn.

Shardlake himself is a fascinating character: a hunchback in a time when superstition about his condition abounds, he has every reason to be bitter and to lash out at a world that often goes out of the way to be cruel to him, but he is not and does not. Indeed, he is a compassionate and honourable man of deep integrity seeking to do justice to the best of his considerable ability and is refreshing for it. Protagonists in most mystery series are dashing, womanising, too cool for school and prefer to solve problems with brawn. Shardlake's physical condition and general personality preclude this sort of James Bond nonsense; he is instead a brilliant legal mind who is socially awkward in his dealings outside the courtroom, is perpetually unlucky in love due in no small part to his fear of rejection, and who prevails by using his brain, sense of ethics, stubbornness, and courage (in the sense of carrying on despite long odds, great danger, and his own fear). Nor is he some unrealistically pure and virtuous paragon; he does his best, but at times is grumpy and short with people he cares about, leaps to erroneous conclusions, gets himself in over his head, and generally has believable flaws and foibles.

Further, Shardlake's worldview evolves and matures throughout the series as he reevaluates what he stands for and learns from his mistakes. When we first meet him in Dissolution, he is a keen reformer in the service of Thomas Cromwell, investigating a murder at a monastery in the process of being dissolved as Catholicism was gradually being outlawed. What he experiences over the course of that novel shakes his religious views to the core, leaving this once staunch religious radical no longer sure what he believes. By the third book in the series, he is becoming what would now be termed agnostic, struggling with his growing ambivalence about organised religion and unsure of his belief in God, dangerous beliefs to hold when one could be executed for voicing them. The novels increase in length as the series proceeds, but they rarely drag and I found that a couple of evenings turned into mornings as I could not put them down and go to sleep.

Five Tower Ravens out of five for the series as it stands so far. With the fifth and most recent book ending approximately six months before Henry VIII's death, I imagine it will continue into the reigns of Edward VI and of course Elizabeth I. I certainly hope so.

While I eagerly await the next installation, I've picked up a used copy of Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel and Peter Ackroyd's Life of Thomas More, in keeping with the theme.
miss_adventure: (rowan berries)
2010-10-02 08:25 pm
Entry tags:

Spirit Day

Originally posted by [livejournal.com profile] neo_prodigy at Spirit Day
 


It’s been decided. On October 20th, 2010, we will wear purple in honor of the 6 gay boys who committed suicide in recent weeks/months due to homophobic abuse in their homes and/or at their schools. Purple represents Spirit on the LGBTQ flag and that’s exactly what we’d like all of you to have with you: spirit. Please know that times will get better and that you will meet people who will love you and respect you for who you are, no matter your sexuality. Please wear purple on October 20th. Tell your friends, family, co-workers, neighbors and schools.

RIP Tyler Clementi, Seth Walsh (top)
RIP Justin Aaberg, Raymond Chase (middle)
RIP Asher Brown and Billy Lucas. (bottom)

REBLOG to spread a message of love, unity and peace.




Beyond this, every day should be spirit day. That means speaking out against intolerance and bigotry, and that means voting against anti-GLBTQ legislation and politicians.
miss_adventure: (Default)
2010-09-12 04:04 pm

(no subject)

I almost never log into this thing.

However, so many people are leaving lj I figured I'd stake my claim here just in case.
miss_adventure: (Default)
2007-08-08 10:26 pm

Once again, it's poll time! Vote to name the wee gargoyle pictured below:



Aw, isn't he cute? He secretly has a crush on the skelly-girl on the tile, but she won't give him the time of day until he gets a name. Meanwhile, Hedgehog the Ghost is unsure about the whole thing...

[Poll #1035986]
miss_adventure: (Default)
2007-08-08 10:26 pm

Once again, it's poll time! Vote to name the wee gargoyle pictured below:



Aw, isn't he cute? He secretly has a crush on the skelly-girl on the tile, but she won't give him the time of day until he gets a name. Meanwhile, Hedgehog the Ghost is unsure about the whole thing...

[Poll #1035986]
miss_adventure: (Default)
2006-12-16 03:05 am

Return of the Ticky-Boxes

Because I am still too bogged down by finals to post actual content, I bring you

[Poll #889847]
miss_adventure: (Default)
2006-12-16 03:05 am

Return of the Ticky-Boxes

Because I am still too bogged down by finals to post actual content, I bring you

[Poll #889847]
miss_adventure: (Default)
2006-11-16 01:36 am

Need braaaaains. Instead of content, zombie poll time!

[Poll #868821]

Eggplant parmigiana is sort of brain-like in appearance and texture. Mmm, braaaaains eggplant parmigiana.
miss_adventure: (faded purple hair)
2006-05-11 10:13 pm

(The Zillionth Wiretapping Rant on Your Friendslist)

"Those who would sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither."
miss_adventure: (Default)
2006-05-11 10:13 pm

(The Zillionth Wiretapping Rant on Your Friendslist)

"Those who would sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither."
miss_adventure: (Default)
2005-12-31 05:32 pm

Real-life Road Warriors

I don't celebrate NYE, preferring to start my year at Samhain; typical Western NYE is just another night of dealing with drunks and fights, albeit on a grand scale. However, 31 December is saved for this: it marks the start of the annual Dakar Rally. The Rally, which started in 1979, is an off-road race from Europe (this year's race started in Lisbon, Portugal) through the Maghreb and West Africa to Dakar, Senegal. Racers use cars and trucks, motorcycles and quads, and self-created customized machines--there is even an American sidecar rig competing this year. The 2006 route is expected to take 15 days to complete for the serious contenders, as it is plotted to be as rugged and unforgiving as possible.

Needless to say, I want to ride this rally someday. Just finishing would be a Grand Adventure(TM). (Or because I'd have to enter as a broke privateer and because I would not be competing as a serious contender, a Grand Misadventure.)
miss_adventure: (Default)
2005-08-31 12:46 am
Entry tags:

When the Levee Breaks

I'm a NOLA ex-pat. Ran screaming from the place, though I still feel fondly towards that hot, swampy, vile-smelling town that just oozes history and attitude: NOLA is like an ex-significant other with whom I remained on good terms with after the break-up. Maybe we're not a couple anymore and I think it's deeply flawed, but I'd never wish pain on that city. NYC could learn a thing or two about eating its young from New Orleans, but sometimes that steaming bowl of drunken tourists and odor could be unexpectedly beautiful. The fog would roll down the Mississippi at nightfall, a breeze would pick up, the muggers could be seen lurking in the dark, there was music everywhere, and it was possible to forget that earlier that day I had slogged five miles home, waist-deep in filthy water the entire time because a tropical storm had stalled over Texas and I was living several feet below sea level.

It boggles the mind that the Journey Steps and streetcars, the Clover Grill and Port of Call and Dragon's Den, Audubon Park and its spanish moss-covered live oaks and those bizarre damn bar/laundromats are all under water and that the emergency management people are talking about forced evacuations of the remainders, looters taking hostages, and years of recovery if they don't just abandon the Crescent City altogether...and the water is still rising because the pumping stations failed and the levees are breached. Interstate 10 is flooded and the Pontchartrain Causeway is destroyed and the West Bank is in equally bad shape, so the only way out is by air or by water. Wasn't there a bad 80s sci-fi movie about this, albeit set in a different city?

Until a couple of days ago, New Orleans was a grand lady fallen on hard times. Maybe she had to sell the family heirlooms and her house was falling down around her, but she could still pull out all the stops when she hosted a banquet. Now the poor old dame would be better off if she were living out of a shopping cart.

Here's hoping the NOLA people are safe: [livejournal.com profile] micahra and her critters, Robin and his mini-tribe, Bobby and her battered truck and oil-spewing bikes, and all the rest. Someday we'll meet again over beignets, pralines, and chicory coffee, even if we have to sit in a boat to do it.
miss_adventure: (Default)
2005-08-31 12:46 am
Entry tags:

When the Levee Breaks

I'm a NOLA ex-pat. Ran screaming from the place, though I still feel fondly towards that hot, swampy, vile-smelling town that just oozes history and attitude: NOLA is like an ex-significant other with whom I remained on good terms with after the break-up. Maybe we're not a couple anymore and I think it's deeply flawed, but I'd never wish pain on that city. NYC could learn a thing or two about eating its young from New Orleans, but sometimes that steaming bowl of drunken tourists and odor could be unexpectedly beautiful. The fog would roll down the Mississippi at nightfall, a breeze would pick up, the muggers could be seen lurking in the dark, there was music everywhere, and it was possible to forget that earlier that day I had slogged five miles home, waist-deep in filthy water the entire time because a tropical storm had stalled over Texas and I was living several feet below sea level.

It boggles the mind that the Journey Steps and streetcars, the Clover Grill and Port of Call and Dragon's Den, Audubon Park and its spanish moss-covered live oaks and those bizarre damn bar/laundromats are all under water and that the emergency management people are talking about forced evacuations of the remainders, looters taking hostages, and years of recovery if they don't just abandon the Crescent City altogether...and the water is still rising because the pumping stations failed and the levees are breached. Interstate 10 is flooded and the Pontchartrain Causeway is destroyed and the West Bank is in equally bad shape, so the only way out is by air or by water. Wasn't there a bad 80s sci-fi movie about this, albeit set in a different city?

Until a couple of days ago, New Orleans was a grand lady fallen on hard times. Maybe she had to sell the family heirlooms and her house was falling down around her, but she could still pull out all the stops when she hosted a banquet. Now the poor old dame would be better off if she were living out of a shopping cart.

Here's hoping the NOLA people are safe: [livejournal.com profile] micahra and her critters, Robin and his mini-tribe, Bobby and her battered truck and oil-spewing bikes, and all the rest. Someday we'll meet again over beignets, pralines, and chicory coffee, even if we have to sit in a boat to do it.
miss_adventure: (Default)
2005-08-19 11:47 pm

Mad Hatters in the Mist

Today was cool, rainy, and overcast, so it seemed a perfect plan for [livejournal.com profile] jwonderboy and I to head to the Metropolitan Museum of Art by way of Central Park, with the idea of traveling paths we don't normally take. One path lead us past the Boat Pond to the sculpture of the Mad Hatter's Tea Party. Around this sculpture are bronze plaques with some of the more popular lines from the books: the first few lines of Jabberwocky, one of the best nursery rhymes ever, and some very bad parenting advice.

Because Central Park was laid out by people who knew what they were doing, the Alice sculpture is right beside a hollow hill, on which oak trees and silver birch grow in a ring. Though the trees themselves were lush and green, the ground on the mound was covered in autumnal orange and golden fallen leaves.

While it isn't a tor, Cedar Hill has the feel of one, especially at dusk in the mist.

On a tangentially-related note, fresh figs filled with chopped walnuts and lemon curd are surprisingly good. I want to gather some of the local oddities for a tea party by the Mad Hatter scuplture, either on the sculpture plaza itself, or on the mound beside it, where we will feast on fresh figs and scones with clotted cream and lemon curd (and tea, of course).
miss_adventure: (Default)
2005-02-22 01:57 am

We are Road People.

We are motorcycle people; we walk tall and we laugh at whatever's funny. We shit on the chests of the Weird....
--Hunter S. Thompson, Song of the Sausage People

That, I think, says it all. It is a sad day for the gonzos.