Audiobook Review: Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch

red seasBook Review: Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch (Gentleman Bastards #2)
Release Date: 6/20/2007
Publisher: Bantam Spectra
Source: Library
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After a brutal battle with the underworld that nearly destroyed him, Locke and his trusted sidekick, Jean, fled the island city of their birth and landed on the exotic shores of Tal Verrar to nurse their wounds. But even at this westernmost edge of civilization, they can’t rest for long — and are soon back to what they do best: stealing from the undeserving rich and pocketing the proceeds for themselves.

This time, however, they have targeted the grandest prize of all: the Sinspire, the most exclusive and heavily guarded gambling house in the world. Its nine floors attract the wealthiest clientele — and to rise to the top, one must impress with good credit, amusing behavior… and excruciatingly impeccable play. For there is one cardinal rule, enforced by Requin, the house’s cold-blooded master: it is death to cheat at any game at the Sinspire.

Brazenly undeterred, Locke and Jean have orchestrated an elaborate plan to lie, trick, and swindle their way up the nine floors… straight to Requin’s teeming vault. Under the cloak of false identities, they meticulously make their climb — until they are closer to the spoils than ever.

But someone in Tal Verrar has uncovered the duo’s secret. Someone from their past who has every intention of making the impudent criminals pay for their sins. Now it will take every ounce of cunning to save their mercenary souls. And even that may not be enough…

Review:
MAN.

You guys, Scott Lynch can write a fantasy book, let me tell you. Not only is his world-building ACES and unique, keeping his Gentleman Bastards series standing well apart from the rest, but Red Seas Under Red Skies has more than world-building to recommend it.

Friendship!- The bromance between Jean and Locke could bring a tear to your eye.

The WIT- Ahhhh, this dialogue. It goes from caustic sarcasm to smooth plays on words and back again. Amazing.

Plotting- Dude. DUDE. The plotting in this series is so intricate that it’s like a finely stitched tapestry. The heists within heists and plots within plots make my mind boggle and I have to bow to Scott Lynch’s abilities.

AWESOME LADIES- This was sort of my chief quibble with The Lies of Locke Lamora- not enough ladies by half. In fact, I seem to remember only one, and then she– ahem. Spoiler. But yeah, no ladies. But in Red Seas Under Red Skies, a couple of kick-ass women (and lady PIRATES, no less, btw) take center stage and they made me all flaily and just. God damn, this book, you guys.

The narration- I do not have time to compose an ode to Michael Page’s narration, but rest assured that if I did, I would. This is not just narrating, but skilled voice-acting. The story comes alive by an extra degree with Page’s portrayal of the characters.

Who needs pirates like Jack Sparrow when there’s Zamira Drakasha? And who needs heists like Oceans 11 when there’s Locke freaking Lamora?

And May the Odds Be Ever in Peggy’s Favor (Agent Carter recap 1×07: “SNAFU”)

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Back to back Agent Carter posts on the blog! So yeah… this penultimate episode gave me crazy anxiety and for more than half the episode I was just cursing the dudes from the SSR for continuing to believe that Peggy was evil and working for the enemy. Of course, Peggy was able to SHUT THEM DOWN in this episode when they finally come to their senses, but it was still ultra frustrating because how could anyone think anything less of her??? IDK.

1×07: SNAFU

Anyway, this week’s episode sees Peggy interrogated by Agents Sousa, Thompson a.k.a. CMM, and Dooley. They each attempt to take their own approach to getting some answers out of her, but obviously they all fail because SHE IS TELLING THE TRUTH. I suppose they can’t be blamed for not trusting her as they know close to nothing about Leviathan–they don’t even realize that the psychologist they saved in Russia is actually AN EVIL MASTERMIND with the ability to control your mind and actions. I must say that I think I was the most disappointed with Sousa. I mean, I’m not surprised at Dooley or CMM; the latter may be more understanding due to past ~moments they shared while overseas, but they’ve always been tough on her. Sousa? *Harry Potter voice* HE WAS HER FRIEND! C’MON, you obviously don’t know her that well if you really think she’s the bad girl.

Speaking of bad girls, Dottie continues to roam freely around the city, purchasing newborn baby items for unknown reasons. Nothing to be worried about there…

With Peggy trapped in the SSR HQ, Jarvis comes to the rescue with a signed confession from Howard Stark…except it’s a fake because along with cooking, cleaning, and chauffeuring skills, Jarvis is also an excellent forger. All seems well until Peggy decides to reveal that the confession isn’t real and Stark has actually been unreachable. She ends up actually confessing everything that went down and her involvement with the retrieval of Stark’s inventions. Eventually, they believe her. Unfortunately, it’s a liiiiiittle too late because Dr. Evil Russian Psychologist has used his mind control powers on Agent Dooley. Dr. E-R-P escapes with Item 17 of Stark’s inventions, and Dottie pulls a Jarvis and picks her accomplice up for a quick getaway.

Included in this episode are also the following: Jarvis charming the “phone operator ladies” with a ridiculous, but adorable smile; Peggy and Jarvis working together to knock down a mirror while handcuffed to the table, Peggy’s epic speech about how she was able to get away with her secret missions because she’s invisible to everyone, Dooley’s sacrifice via running into the window while wearing an explosive vest (R.I.P. Agent Dooley, you were kind of annoying, but still… You were just trying to do your job.), Dottie escaping down a stairwell using some hardcore stair/wall kicks/narrow-spaced Parkour; a bunch of civilians going absolutely BATSH*T VIOLENT IN THE MOVIE THEATRE.

Ah yes, so what IS Item 17, you ask? Ummm, well it’s not exactly clear. At first it seems to be some sort of poisonous gas, but then the people in the theatre its released in don’t choke to death. Instead, it sets off some sort of trigger that turns everyone into bloodthirsty District 2 tributes and the theatre into a Hunger Games arena. An usher opens the door to reveal everyone has been massacred… BY EACH OTHER. No victor here, but let’s just hope that Peggy and the team can win the final round. And I say the final round because there is only ONE EPISODE LEFT!

(Cross-posted to Up and Comers)

Secret Agent (Wo)man (Agent Carter recap 1×05: “The Iron Ceiling,” 1×06: “A Sin to Err”)

agentcarterDouble whammy episode recap since life did its usual thing and got way too busy so I only caught up on the Saga of Queen Peggy recently. Point form, it is! I’m sure this will escalate into paragraphs in point form, though, because I have a lot of feelings despite their late arrival.

1×05: The Iron Ceiling

• Episode opener: A seemingly super strict Russian boarding school for little girls… They’re learning how to speak English by repeating lines from Snow White, the first Disney feature film. How cute! Oh, look, gym class! It looks like today’s lesson is self-defense! But wait, they’re just little girls, why would they OH MY GOSH DID SHE JUST CRACK HER CLASSMATE’S NECK WHAT KIND OF SCHOOL IS THIS …..yeah.

• On a bright note, the Howling Commandos! Captain America memoriesss. Glad to see MOST of the original crew is there (but hey, where’s Tom Hiddleston look-a-like JJ Field?). This is also a great thing because of the Peggy flashbacks on Agents of SHIELD.

• Not only was it great to see Peggy team up with the HC, but it was also great to see Peggy IN ACTION in scenes reminiscent of her Captain America days. The mission is to investigate a city where some sketch stuff went down during the war. Despite the protests from her fellow SRR agents, Peggy gets to tag along… and she pretty much does everything for them. Among the accomplishments of this mission: Saving a psychologist who was employed by Leviathan against his choosing. Discovering the existence of some crazy boarding school where the students were handcuffed to their beds (no curfews broken here!). Finding Howard Stark’s blueprints to stuff, and realizing that they want his inventions to… be the very best like no one ever was, I guess.

• Here we also get some Agent Chad Michael Murray backstory. Ah, it seems he’s not just a douche, but has REASONS for why he’s so angry and overbearing: compensation. I have to admit that I did feel pretty bad for him when he froze up at the end. Thank goodness he had Peggy there to snap him the eff out of it. I suppose he does deserve a little more credit than I give him… Not a lot. Just a little. It’s still no excuse to be so rude to Peggy, and your fellow co-workers, but okay, you stick continue to stick around.

• While Peggy is overseas, Dottie breaks into her room and does a little snooping. STAY AWAY FROM THAT PHOTOGRAPH OF CAP, YOU LYING DAME. And not only is she a liar, but she’s also kind of creepy? I mean, most people don’t sneak into a fellow house-mate’s room, put on their lipstick, and then imitate them in the mirror. I know we all wanna be Peggy, but girl, that’s just weird.

• Agent Sousa decides to put his bootleg photoshopping skills on the back burner when he accidentally walks in on Peggy changing in the men’s locker room. He compares some of her battle scars to the marks on his mystery woman photograph. IT’S A MATCH. Dun dun dunnnnnnnnnn.

• At the end of this looong day Dottie goes to sleep, but not before handcuffing herself to the bed. No, she’s not a 50 Shades aficionado (sorry not sorry). She just can’t seem to break her childhood habits from that Russian girls’ weapon breeding boarding school.

1×06: A Sin to Err

• Jarvis and Peggy are talking again (yay!) even though she’s still super pissed off about the whole Steve Rogers blood capsule that Howard Stark was hiding from her.

• Peggy concludes that if there was a school training young girls to grow up to be lethal weapons/disciples of Leviathan, then that’s probably how Howard Stark’s stuff was stolen in the first place. He might be a genius, but he’s also a huge fan of the ladies. Everyone has a weakness, after all. With that theory, the Brits-in-America duo go on a mini-quest to narrow down who of Stark’s female conquests could be a secret agent set out to steal his goods. Apparently butler duties now include taking slaps for the team as the scorned ladies take out their anger on Jarvis’ face. Poor Edwin.

• While Peggy inspects one of the ladies’ bedrooms for clues of secret identities, Jarvis attempts to distract some mute child with money. It is, in a word, hilarious.

• Dottie continues to be super sketch. Her newest instructions are simply to take out Peggy Carter. She applies for a job to be a dentist’s assistant/secretary. The dentist turns out to be El Creepo Supremo, but the joke’s on him because she is about as sweet as a double cavity. She gets rid of him and uses his office space to get a good view of the SSR’s office across the street. She whips out her sniper and targets it straight at the Russian psychologist from last week’s episode, the one who was forced into joining Leviathan during the war. Dottie takes aim and… wait a minute…

• Yeah. It’s not a sniper rifle. It’s a communicative device. The Russian psychologist turns out to be evil, and working for Leviathan. Greaaaaat. Plus he’s working alongside Dottie. Even better. *insert assembly line of knife emojis here*

• PEGGY IS FOUND OUT. A bunch of agents attempt to apprehend her (and Jarvis) at her favourite diner. The duo kick ass and escape out the back, but unfortunately CMM is there waiting. I guess their newfound ~understanding~ of each other means nill :/ …Peggy manages to escape, but a wild Agent Sousa appears! He uses COMPASSION! It is super effective, and he lets her go (but okay, I don’t think he would’ve been able to chase her anyway because of oh, IDK, his absent leg?).

• Peggy retreats back to her apartment to collect her stuff and GTFO. With the help of Angie (bless her), she’s able to dodge the search team. But then, Dottie appears. She kisses her (whoa) and knocks Peggy out with whatever weird substance was laced into her lips. Before she can finish the job, the SSR agents arrive. Dottie is forced to play the doe-eyed out-of-towner again, feigning innocence. Her mission is a failure. TOO BAD, SO SAD.

• Peggy is taken back to the SSR NY headquarters… It sucks, but she’s probably safer with them considering Dottie’s current mission is to kill her. UGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.


There are only two episodes left and I know she’ll survive this, but dang is it nerve-wracking to watch. She’s been through so much already, and it’s probably just going to get more insane, but I do believe in Peggy. I do! I DO! As for the other characters, Idk, as we get closer to the end of this mini-series, I feel like NOBODY is safe. Gah.

I watched 50 Shades of Grey so you don’t have to

No, seriously. Save yourselves.

It got to me. The phenomenon effect. The hype. Call it whatever you want, but if nothing else, the marketing department for 50 Shades of Grey did its job. I was indeed…

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Here’s what I knew going in:

  • BDSM
  • Something about a tampon
  • A crazy sex contract?
  • A joke(?) about the actors hating each other
  • Twilight, twilight, twilight fic

What was “good for me”

Having not read the book, I think that it’s likely my problems with it would be only magnified. 50 shades the film had a couple of saving graces. (Though GOD there were few).

For instance, while Anastasia’s (Anna’s? BELLA’S?) lip biting and the attention that was drawn to it got old IMMEDIATELY, I could forgive it because her brand being awkward was funny. And I think it was intentionally so. Her drunk dial to Christian Grey was definitely played for laughs and I found myself laughing along with the rest of the audience. And before she falls down into that dark Grey hole, Anastasia seems… not unintelligent.

Then there were the laughs that I don’t think the creators of the film intended. These moments that were supposed to be ~serious and/or ~sexy.

Ex:

  • The abruptness of Grey’s come-on to Steele. She wakes up from a hangover. He suddenly removes his shirt and drags himself onto the bed, growling “If you were mine you wouldn’t be able to sit down for a week.”
    • A girl behind me flatly went “what” and I busted out laughing in an otherwise quiet theater.
  • Anastasia reveals she’s a virgin. Christian growls he growls a lot, “Where have you been?”
  • “You’re biting your bottom lip, you-know-what-that-does-to-me.”
  • “I’M FIFTY SHADES OF FUCKED UP.”
    • YOU CANNOT MAKE PUNS ON YOUR OWN MOVIE TITLE IN THE MOVIE. THAT IS NOT HOW THIS WORKS.

The sex:

Meh. The tampon thing was mysteriously absent. And idk, I’ve read plenty of sexier? Pick up a Tessa Dare book. Or hell, find a decent smut fic. And as far as visual representation… Outlander has them beat.

The Twilight:

AVERT YOUR EYES, IT WAS EVERYWHERE. Like, Christian’s sister had Alice’s hair cut.

The abusive behavior:

I repeat, save yourselves. It was really uncomfortable to 1) watch and 2) realize that this was a plotline that hordes and hordes of people found romantic, sexy, titillating.

A guy showing up when you do something without him? Not romantic. Creepy. Overbearing. Controlling. And those were the lesser of the evils.

The (?) plot:

When you take the sex and the rage-inducing abuse out of it, what was left was snooze-fest. The back and forth, the “no one can ever love me.” It was exhausting and awful.

When I was talking to a friend about it later and he asked if it was too “dull,” for me, my answer was yes. Take away some elements and it was boring.

Also, it was really SUPER long and ended in a really awkward place.

The bright side:

I now know exactly what it’s like to see bad smut fic acted out.

 

 

Baby, We’re the New Romantics

vday15It’s Valentine’s Day! V-Day. February 14th. The day restaurant reservations are impossible to procure and when the countdown to discount chocolate begins. On a grand scale, I feel like you can usually group Valentine’s Day into people who take it waaaaaay too seriously and people who are hardcore anti-romance whether it’s due to being single or disapproval of commercialism, blah blah blah. Me? Well, I’m definitely not “ZOMG HOW SCHWEEEEEET!” but neither am I “Screw you all! #FOREVERALONE.”

But I’m also not apathetic. That’s because I do genuinely believe that love, in whatever form it may take–romantic, platonic, friendly, familial–is important. Yeah, I’m single right now, and whatever to that (*insert lyrics to The Pussycat Dolls’ “I Don’t Need a Man” here*), but I’m also super thankful for the non-romantic relationships in my life that are absolutely full of love, even if it isn’t proclaimed with epic ballads or displayed with an arrangement of flowers.

If I get married or a find the love of my life or whatever, that’s GREAT, but that’s an event that still exists in the realm known as One Day. For now, I’m just going to focus on the positive relationships I do have in my life. I think that Valentine’s Day is definitely a day to celebrate love, and right now I’m at a point in my life when my friends and my family (and my job, ahahahaha) are the most important aspects of my life. With that said, I’ve highlighted a few of my all-star films, books, and television shows that feature epic friendships and eternal blood ties that truly capture the fact that love doesn’t have to be romantic. Sure, some will claim that I’ve got hidden bitterness underneath that sentiment. “You’re just saying that because you’re unattached!” they may accuse. But whatever, hater gonna hate.

On that truthful note, I’ve titled this post after one of Taylor Swift’s songs off 1989 just because I think it’s v. appropriate and speaks such thematic wonders to this post and my life right now. I’ve narrowed the list down to include only female characters just because …Idk, girl power and all that. Anyway, without further ado………..

Now and Then

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Are you tearing up already? Maybe I am. Maybe I am not. Seriously though, I just think about this film and I want to bawl my eyes out. Not only does it give me hardcore 90s nostalgia, but it’s just such a touching film about friendship and growing up. The four main characters, Roberta, Sam, Chrissy, and Teeny, are childhood BFFs who have the craziest summer ever, and after several years they all reunite in the town they grew up in to celebrate the birth of Chrissy’s first baby. (LMAO because I’m now imagining the bevy embarking on such an adventure, all four of us returning to NYC for the birth of the first official dauntless baby.) Time will most definitely play a factor in life, but you never forget your roots or the ones who shaped those early years of your life.

Crossroads

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I always joke around that this is one of my favourite movies, but I think deep down inside, it truly is one of my faves, and not just because I was/am a huge Britney fan. EVERYONE REMEMBERS THIS FILM, and everyone knows all of the songs, don’t even deny it. If your memory is in denial, Crossroads is about three ex-BFFs who have grown apart, but decide to go on a road trip together after prom for a variety of reasons (quest to find absent parent, quest to surprise college boyfriend, quest to …become a rockstar). This film includes most of, if not all, typical road trip stuff (except drugs, maybe? lol). Super cheesy and borderline bad film, I know, but whatever because I LOVE ROCK AND ROLL SO PUT ANOTHER DIME IN THE JUKEBOX BABY~

Since You’ve Been Gone

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Chances are if you know any member of the bevy (especially KT), then you’ll have heard of this book by Morgan Matson. I’m not even going to say anything about this one because I think it’s pretty obvi? Again, the whole theme of SUMMER and best friends and being apart, but never really leaving each other. Chillsssssssssssssssssss.

The Sisterhood of Traveling Pants

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Yes, this is a book, but I include a photo from the film because of the fact that the actresses who play the four main characters became friends during filming, and are still really great friends IRL. Perhaps this is THE ultimate YA story of a band of best friends. Their level of friendship is SO ultra-spectacular that a pair of jeans become MAGICAL in their presence. Lena, Tibby, Bridget, and Carmen all have completely different personalities and lives, but they stick with each other no matter what, even though they all don’t go to the same schools or live in the same cities. (This is another example of a friendship that reminds me of the bevy because all year round except for that one blissful, judgement-free week in May, we don’t get to see each other, but we are still ALWAYS only an iMessage or a tweet away).

Orphan Black

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Technically the ladies of Orphan Black are clones, not sisters, but their undeniable bond is one to be coveted. Except for like, Rachel wanting to kill them all and that one Russian clone being a sniper. Despite all of that drama and secret conspiracies, the core clones have formed a sisterhood (sestrahood?) and maybe it’s all just in their DNA, but I like how they have that unspoken bond. And yes, Helena is five hundred levels of cray, but her devotion and love for her twin sestra is pretty endearing (but super scary).

Code Name Verity

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Apologies to fellow bevy member Jennifer because I feel like I’m always semi-trolling her with a certain quote from this book. Anyway, Elizabeth Wein’s historical fiction focuses on the friendship between two young girls during WWII. I won’t get into much detail because spoilers and all, but basically despite the hardships of war, and of their dangerous occupations in said war, the girls form a friendship that etches so deeply that just makes me want to cry. Their story is suuuch a ride, and I’m still completely speechless about this book.

Reign

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So I don’t watch this show anymore because it seems to have hit that almost always inevitable second season slump, but I can still remember one of the leading reasons of why I enjoyed it so much in its first season. That’s the friendship between Mary and her ladies-in-waiting. Taken away from their home in Scotland and thrown right into the political arena of France, the girls are faced with maaany obstacles in the forms of suitors (sought and unwanted), dramatic and deadly predictions from Nostradamus, and perhaps an excess of too many dress choices (it’s a hard life, I tell ya).  Even though the girls had their own dramas going on, they would always try to be there for each other. Mary had to deal with so much crap from her fellow royals, but she always looked out for her friends’ well-being (even after Lola impulsively slept with Francis and got pregnant…). Friendship is thicker than blood… and there’s a lot of it on Reign. And R.I.P. Aylee who died BECAUSE she was so loyal to Mary.

Gossip Girl

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Serena van der Woodsen and Blair Waldorf may have had their fair share of fights, but no matter what they always worked it out. I only made it to book five in the book series and maybe season three-ish in the tv show, but their relationship truly always stuck with me, and to be honest, kind of reminds/reminded me of my own relationship with my bff. Bad decisions were made. Drama was had. Drinks were sipped. But it’s kinda like another song off 1989: S and B never went out of style.


 

It’s often said that ~you never forget your first love~ and yeah, that’s true, I’m sure. You also never forget your friends, whether you’ve grown apart or live next door. The people you laugh or cry with for hours. The sisters that you get to choose yourself. The people who won’t judge you because they know what’s up. The people you can trust and rely on. The people who won’t judge you when you buy like $20 worth of candy for dinner. So if you’re like me and not romantically attached to anyone this year, enjoy these times. Maybe later you’ll be married and have kids and you won’t have time for your friends. Seize your sestras, and Happy Valentine’s Day!