Jonathan Dymond is a young gentleman with no cares, who makes a living by taking his unique portable cider-press round the countryside, and pressing c...moreJonathan Dymond is a young gentleman with no cares, who makes a living by taking his unique portable cider-press round the countryside, and pressing cider apples. When a note comes to his father from his dying uncle, things change. His father arrives to late to hear his Uncle's last wishes, and is willing to let it be forgotten. But Jonathan finds a scrap of the note that hints of dark secrets, and is plagued by nightmares of his Uncle. So our protagonist finds himself driven to investigate the mystery. Taking the cider press to help his Aunt Harriet with her apples is a convenient way to get into the household for a while, and there he meets Tamar, an unusual beggar-girl who has been hired as a maid by her aunt, and seems to know somewhat about the mystery of Uncle Robin's dying wishes.
The novel is set in 16th centry england shortly after cromwell's civil war (a period which McCann has obviously well researched for her first novel 'As Meat Loves Salt'). The setting works really well for the novel, with hints of the recent violent past still resting below the surface. And the practice of cider making seems to tinge the story with the scents of sweetness and underlying rot.
It has to be said that I did not rate this novel quite as highly as McCann's first novel, but then again I gave 'As Meat Loves Salt' a 5 star rating and cried continuously over it. It has to be hard first novel to live up to. Nevertheless McCann's writing is still brilliant, and the mystery was completely riveting. Highly recommended.
Lady Alexia Maccon is reduced to moving back in with her family. And it's all Lord Maccon's fault. It...more**warning: contains spoilers for books 1 and 2**
Lady Alexia Maccon is reduced to moving back in with her family. And it's all Lord Maccon's fault. It being common knowledge that Supernaturals cannot sire children. Her being increasingly *ahem* delicate (view spoiler)[- pregnant - (hide spoiler)]. And him of course being an emotionally turbulent werewolf, prone to jumping to conclusions in anger.
Poor Alexia, alienated from her husband, being the scandalous talk of the town, ousted from the shadow council by Queen Victoria, and suffering from morning sickness. Has no one to turn to, and no one to explain how she possibly got into this impossible situation, seeing as her friend Lord Akeldama has upped and left town. So of course the only choice, is to take a trip to Italy and get answers from the Templars. Taking the lovely, genius, inventor Madame Lefoux and the faithful Floote the butler with her.
I hope you paid attention to the spoiler warnings if you haven't yet read the first two books, as its completely impossible to write a summary without mentioning the improbable possibility of Alexia's supernatural pregnancy. (I'd like you to try saying that 10 times really fast).
Firstly I have to admit, I didn't enjoy this one quite as much as the last two. Mostly owing to the fact that Alexia and Lord Maccon are separated for the entire novel, and its their interactions that put the tasty topping on the book in my opinion.
Even though, Lord Maccon on his own is still entertaining, it's a dilemma not knowing whether to cry for him or laugh when he drown his sorrows in Professor Lyall's formaldehyde, poor guy, but he is to blame of course. And if he happens to lose Alexia to Madame Lefoux, it will be entirely his fault and I wouldn't blame Alexia in the least.
But Lord Maccon is nothing without Alexia, and once he gets that into his big hairy head, he may have a chance at being forgiven. I might forgive him I mean. Not telling if Alexia will. After all, she's got Pesto to keep her happy now. Pesto AND Madame Lefoux. Sometimes I really wish I were in Alexia's shoes.
I still think Miss Carriger is being a bit skimpy with the answers in this series. Even when the plot of the book resolves itself, too many things are still left mysterious. Yes I'm sure thats part of the pulling power of the series, but how long can one writer hold off for? I look forward to book 4 as soon as I can get hold of a copy!
See my other reviews of the Parasol Protectorate series: ← #2 Changeless | #4 (To-Read!)["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Alexia Tarabotti, is awoken by her irate werewolf husband, who promptly dissappears, and leaves her with an encampment of soldiers and werewolves on t...moreAlexia Tarabotti, is awoken by her irate werewolf husband, who promptly dissappears, and leaves her with an encampment of soldiers and werewolves on the front lawn, and instructions to visit a certain hat-shop. At the hat shop she makes the aquantence of Madame LeFoux, a fascinating suit-wearing mechanical genius, and gains a new parasol. Then when Alexia finds out about the problem of whole areas where vampires and werewolves are entirely losing their supernatural abilities.. and that this area has moved north to scotland, precisely where her husband has gone.. Alexia takes matters into her own hands, and takes a dirigible north, accompanied by Ivy Hisselpenny, her sister, Tunstall, and Madame LeFoux.
I enjoyed this book quite a bit more than the first one. Most entirely due to the introduction of the new character - Madame LeFoux. With her top-hats and suits, her mechanical prowess, and her subtle interests in Alexia; it wasn't so much openly noted that she was a lesbian, (but then it's never entirely openly said that Lord Akeldama is gay), but it doesn't need to be. Maybe I should be suprised about how much I can enjoy a book because of a single possibly lesbian character. But you just don't expect this in a popular paranormal book! And she was a well-written character, and certainly not one written for straight males, I applaud miss Carriger for this!
The plot was actually fairly good, and I was fairly suprised by the nice twist of the ending. I still wish the cause and the mechanics of this 'soulless' thing would be gone into in more detail, rather than just being a term for something she is, without any other repurcussions. I mean, the way things stand there is no evidence to say that she doesn't have a soul, and her powers could be explained just by any other meaningless arbitrary term. But I'm sure I said that in the first book review.. maybe book 3 will have more answers?
I'm still not entirely convinced on the style of writing, but thats just me. And I still have niggles about little things, (like calling a meal breakfast because they ate it in the morning, when really it can't be breakfast unless it's the first meal after fasting during sleeping - hence break fast). But, I am picky sometimes, thats just me.
Overall, I really thought it was a decent book, and you shouldn't let my niggles put you off, it's worth ignoring any possible failings and getting into!
Close Range is Annie Proulx's anthology of 11 ranch/cowboy themed short stories, including Brokeback Mountain.
I have to say, that there were a lot of...moreClose Range is Annie Proulx's anthology of 11 ranch/cowboy themed short stories, including Brokeback Mountain.
I have to say, that there were a lot of good stories in here, not just the last one. I was suprised by the book in a few ways, not least being that I enjoyed every one of them, more than I thought I would. But I was mostly suprised by the dirty gritty realness of the scenes and the writing. I suppose I was expecting a sort of idyllic happy set of cowboy stories (I'm not sure why), but this is totally not it. Don't think even one of them has a happy ending.
The last thing that suprised me was that, all of the of the stories seem to be written in a slightly different way, a different perspective, a twist of stories within stories, or read by a different internal voice; each has something different and special that made me keep checking the front cover to make sure they really were all the same author.
So I'm still not truly a short-story fanatic, and these were not the kind of thing that I would usually choose to read, and I'm still not really excited about cowboys.. and yet I really thought the book was good, really good. So that must say something for Annie Proulx's writing skill.
And what did I think of Brokeback Mountain in particular? Well I thought it was hands down the best of the bunch, without a doubt. It's like the others, gritty dirty realism, and it's not like I'd usually call a romance, There isn't a lot of space for romance, but there's something there between the lines, that isn't always explicity written, some kind of writer's magic trick. And it did make me cry. I'm certainly going to watch the movie now to see how well they did with it.
So, to sum it up. Not what I'd usually read at all. But the writing was brilliant, and I would reccommend it.(less)
High Fidelity is one of my Top 5 All-time favourite movies.
(And not only because it's a Cusack movie).
Strange then, that I didn't realise for a few y...moreHigh Fidelity is one of my Top 5 All-time favourite movies.
(And not only because it's a Cusack movie).
Strange then, that I didn't realise for a few years that it was based on a book, and embarassing that I didn't realise, 'til I picked it up, this year, that it was a British book. Shame on me.
Rob Flemming is a 30something Record store owner, whose life has hit a bit of a rut. He spends his working day (in a store which has very few customers), hanging out with his social misfit employees, making up Top 5 lists about records. Then he gets ditched by his girlfriend Laura. At first he's feeling pretty freed by it, back to his batchelor ways, doing whatever he likes; playing his records up loud. But soon he's depressed again. He makes his 'Top 5 breakup' list, and goes back to revisit each ex-gf to find out what it all means, why is he doomed to fall in love and be dumped repeatedly. Through it all he's constantly trying to win back Laura from the hated hippy Ray.
I know at first glance, a book like this can seem somewhat shallow in premise, but it's hidden gem like that.
And it's hard to think that a book about a 30something depressed bloke born 15/20? years before me.. could be relevent to me, but I constantly find it totally relevent, maybe that says something about me, or maybe it's just an awesome book.
I love the first person narritive in this book. Rob's point of view interspersed with 'Top 5' lists, flash backs, reminiscing, little anecdotes and ponderings. And his internal voice is just so perfect, he's clearly a flawed character, but that's what makes the realism. These little bits like; describing the way Laura got stuck in the door on the way out, and he had to faff around - no dramatic cliches, it's just real and honest. I also love the unsure, questioning way he likes to make semi-profound statements about the way things are, but then turn back on it at the end of the statement.
See, Laura? You won't change everything around like Jackie could. It's happened too many times, to both of us; we'll just go back to the friends and the pubs and the life we had before, and leave it at that, and nobody will notice the diffecence, probably.
I think the best thing for me, about this book. Is that it's a great break from reading (as I so often do) hundreds of fantasy romances, where the 36 year old single woman finally meets the handsome rich vampire of her dreams and everything is magical and perfect.. well this book is for everyone who is depressed, and hates their life, wishes they worked somewhere else, wishes they were with someone else, but knows there is nothing magic about to happen to save them from it. It's about reflecting on your life and realising that if you're always wishing for a fantasy, if you're always wishing for the all-time number 1 life of your dreams, you might miss that you're ACTUALLY perfectly happy where you are with plain old (but really just as nice) number 5 on your top 5 list.
So.. how well did this book translate from book to screen? Well the movie removed some of the more uninteresting scenes, changed Rob's last name, and moved the setting from London to Chicago. In order to change it to an American setting, very little was messed with. Simply switch every intstance of the word 'Bollocks' for the word 'Bullshit', make Marie deSalle black (because being american in america doesn't make her unusual anymore), and change a few of the place names and a couple of the song references. But as far as I'm concerned the translation from book to movie was still near perfect. Am I biased because I watched the movie first? Possibly. But if you watched the movie and never read the book, I will still respect you in the morning.
When I review one of my rare 5 star books, I know I can never do them justice. I can't write a perfect synopsis, I can't pick a perfect quote, I can't even spell perfectly. But maybe since this is a novel about not being being perfect, maybe that's okay. All I can say is, I loved this book. (less)
The truth is now out, and everyone knows that Yelena is a 'Soulfinder'. Most people don't like this, as the last known Soulfinder, only used his power...moreThe truth is now out, and everyone knows that Yelena is a 'Soulfinder'. Most people don't like this, as the last known Soulfinder, only used his powers for evil, everyone sees only the evil possibilities, necromancy etc. The council must debate what to do with Yelena.
Meanwhile Yelena has heard that Ferde the Soulstealer is back, and sets out to hunt him down, only to learn that there are more enemies now than those she's fought before.
This book was a little disappointing after the decent start of the first in the trilogy. I've seen many people think the same way. It's not a very smooth read at all, a little jumbled and not entirely clear. I suppose it doesn't help that I read as fast as I could because I'd grown tired of the whole thing. But still, there were no memorable parts.
The plot is very sloppy, and the characters are grown even more bland. It's very easy in this book to tell a bad guy, they're always obvious, always. There is no subtlety of character at all.
(view spoiler)[The most dissappointing 'twist' at the end.. So the entire book is spent hunting down people who steal people's souls to increse their magical power. At the end Yelena finds out that the entire magic plane where all people normally take their magic from is composed of... the souls of the dead.. And HOW is this a GOOD thing?! Rediculous. (hide spoiler)]
Very disappointing. The Auther could have done better, I know this because the first book had actual plot. She does need to work on making subtler bad guys, and holding her original characters together, and not just turning them into bland easy plot devices.
Not recommended, but hope perhaps the author improves her writing in future.
See my other reviews of the Study trilogy: ← #2 Magic Study | ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Yelena's recent 'outing' as a magic user, has made her outcast from Ixia. Now she returns to Sitia, the country she was born in but taken from as a yo...moreYelena's recent 'outing' as a magic user, has made her outcast from Ixia. Now she returns to Sitia, the country she was born in but taken from as a young child. Yelena rediscovers her lost family and culture, and then goes on to train with the master magicians, to learn to control and develop her new-found magic abilities. But it's not an easy change for Yelena, and many people openly reject her, including her brother, and the would-be king of Ixia, Cahil. And then of course Yelena cannot help but become involved in the search for a psychotic magician who has been randomly abducting, abusing and murdering young children.
I felt that Magic Study was a bit of a let down from the previous novel. The book could have had a lot going for it, the prospect of returning to Yelena's magical country of birth was quite an exciting one, and at first things were fairly interesting, but the story began to fall flat soon enough.
Snyder has not created a single interesting 'bad guy' character in this. Everyone that is against Yelena is obviously and openly so, shouting their opinions out in public. And none of them display enough cleverness to be a challenge.
Yelena begins to display a recklessness and insensitivity that I truly would not have expected from her character. She continuously jumps into dangerous situations on her own, and to use her magic without any training or knowledge of the consequences, even to the risk of innocent people's lives. She herself talks about how forcing knowledge out of another persons mind with magic is akin to rape, and she should know, but she continously uses her magic on other people, including mind-reading, without consent. As do the other magic users, who you would believe are the 'good guys' and have enough experience to know better too.
The style of the book is still firmly young-adult, like the last one. But I was shocked that there is even more incidence of adult themes than the last one, specifically rape. I am not going to say that rape shouldn't be mentioned in a YA book, but I think if you're going to use it, there should be some sensitivity in dealing with it. But here rape is just continuously thrown about, perhaps just for sensationalism on the writers behalf.. but I really don't think that's right, especially in a book for younger readers.
Another big disappointment was the relationship between Yelena and Valek. In the previous novel the slow build of their relationship was one of the best aspects. Their relationship was still new when this novel started, it could have made things quite interesting, as Yelena was forced to leave Valek just as they had truly realised their feelings for eachother. But suddenly in this book, it's as if they're an old married couple, Valek is almost wildly out of character, doing nothing but turning up conveniently to hop into bed with Yelena and then do her bidding, repeatedly. Very disappointing in that respect.
It's a shame as this book could have been better, and now it's putting me off YA-fantasy as a whole, and I'm not sure whether to read the 3rd book or not, no great loss since I bought them all 2nd hand (as I do most of my books when I can), but still... disappointed.
This is another one that is so incredibly hard to review; I feel like I've putting it off for forever.
It's a difficult book to synopsise (is that a wo...moreThis is another one that is so incredibly hard to review; I feel like I've putting it off for forever.
It's a difficult book to synopsise (is that a word?), but I'll have a go without giving away too many plot spoiling details..
Born a gentleman, but fell on hard times, Jacob Cullen and his brothers were raised as servants in a large house. As the book opens, Jacob is helping to search the lake for a missing girl. But they find another body instead, one that Jacob isn't truly suprised to find there, afterall, thats where he left it. For a while it looks like Jacob could get away with murder, and things may actually be turning out happily for him.. Then everything goes wrong, and he ends up fleeing the manor house. He joins up with Cromwells army, a pretty sorry lot it has to be said. But Jacob manages to find friendship in a fellow soldier; Ferris, and they end up deserting the army together.
Jacob Cullen is a truly messed up character. He is capable of so much love, and it is impossible not to care for him as a character. But he has so much violence bottled up inside of him, and when something angers him, it just all comes spilling out and he doesn't give a seconds thought to the consequences. But Jacob is never able to outrun the fallout of his violent attacks, sooner or later each action catches up with him. It's truly heartbreaking to watch.
It would be so much easier if I could hate Jacob, but I can't.. The power of Maria McCann's writing is such that from the first chapter, I was completely on Jacobs side, for better or for worse. And I had to stand by and watch while his emotions and violence ate up his life and the lives of those around him, and I couldn't do a thing to stop it, but I couldn't stop reading.
This is a book that will tear you up inside, you will love it and hate it, you will cry tears of joy and sadness, you might want to shout some sense into Jacob, you might hate him, or you may want to wrap him in cotton and try to protect him from the world and himself. But you cannot stop reading!
The story is told as the collected journals of Harrison Shepherd, put together after his death by his secretary and friend Violet Brown. Beginning wit...moreThe story is told as the collected journals of Harrison Shepherd, put together after his death by his secretary and friend Violet Brown. Beginning with his childhood, (just before WorldWar2), as his mexican mother leaves his american father and takes him with her back to mexico. Harrison writes his journals because he can't help but write, like other people cannot help breathing, he is destined to become an author one day. Harrison's childhood is surreally beautiful, the problems of his chain-smoking, gold digging mother are distant. His journals are all in the 3rd person, nothing ever happens directly to Harrison. It's like looking at everything from underwater.
Harrison gets a job mixing plaster for the famous mexican muralist Diego Rivera and his wife Frieda Kahlo. which gradually turns into a job as a cook, and then also a secretary. Then the exiled Lev Trotsky arrives, taken into the houshold of the Riveras, and Harrison can't help but be a part of the revolution, even so he is still always on the outside, an observer, written in the 3rd person.
In the second half of the novel, back in America, Harrison finally begins to use the personal pronoun, I. No longer talking about himself in the 3rd person, he finally owns his own words, and talks directly about himself. Yet somehow he is grown distant, like letters from a child hood friend that you grew apart from. I find it harder to connect with Harrison now, which is ironic. But it leaves space to be covered over with by the political upheaval in America. Harrison's personal life seems to happen far in the background, while in front of us the FBI and the Un-American commitee are hunting down communist sympathisers. I feel bad now for every silly joking utterance of 'bloody commies', because I never meant it, and I never realised how real it once was. I feel like I've never paid attention in history class.
"Whenever I hear thing kind of thing," he said, "a person speaking about constitutional rights, free speech, and so forth, I think, 'how can he be such a sap? Now I can be sure that man is a Red.' A word to the wise, Mr. Shepherd. We just do not hear a real American speaking in that Manner."
Theres a horribly real feeling of suffocation in this second half of the novel, neighbours turning against him, his readers turning against him, no matter how much they loved his first 2 books, now they believe any lies printed in the newspapers. The same happening to hundreds of US citizens, once they're labeled as communists, they're done for, no matter who they really are or what they really said. But it could easily be happening today. Replace the word 'communist' with the word 'terrorist', and this could be America today. It could be britain and any non mainstream political party - the British national party for instance, once the papers label you as a BNP supporter, you're demonised.
Violet Brown reminds us, when we're already well over 100 pages into the novel, that these are the private journals of a dead man who never wanted them published. And that we should stop reading if we want to respect his wishes. I almost stopped reading. It was hard to remember that the book is fiction. In fact that should be hard to remember, it should be, because in truth, in the end, it wasn't fiction. This is the most important thing about it. Harrison Shepherd and Violet Brown may never have existed, but these events too place, these things happened to someone. These things still happen to other people now, under other names and guises. It's not fiction. And that is the scariest thing about it.
Changing Planes begins with a tale about how Sita Dulip discovered a method of transporting oneself to another plane of reality, whilst waiting for he...moreChanging Planes begins with a tale about how Sita Dulip discovered a method of transporting oneself to another plane of reality, whilst waiting for her delayed flight at the airport. There then follows a series of short stories about one person's trips and experiences to these alternate planes.
My favourites among these were:
Seasons of the Ansarac: About a semi nomadic race, who live on a world where there are four seasons, but each season lasts for 6 years. And still their way of life is set by the seasons. Every twelve years, the entire race of people migrate between 2 continents, and every 'year' (24 years in fact) there is a mating season.
Porridge on Islac: a world where the populace experimented freely with genetic modification, and as a result almost none of the human population is entirely human anymore. Some people are in fact part vegetable, which brought a whole new meaning to 'you are what you eat'.
Although I did like most of the stories, I couldn't keep listing them. Suffice to say they were all very innovative and thought provoking ideas. But I could see that each 'plane' had certain flaws in it's world building, where you could see that if LeGuin had attempted to embelish any more on them they were going to run into huge problems of physics or metaphysics, or some plot hole or other that was going to need too much crafty explaining... Makes me think that this book was LeGuin's round filing cabinet for ideas that were never going to make it as real novels. Nifty idea really, good for her, don't let an interesting idea go to waste!
Several of the stories, I did feel, were trying a little to push some kind of moral on the reader, which sometimes I find uncomfortable. It's a little hard to explain, but there was a lot to do with governments or authorities and oppression, or people attempting to interfere with another people's way of life.. it was a very Star Trek: The Next Gen feel to it, if anyone knows what I mean by that! :)
But of course I did like the book, and I would definately reccommend it.(less)