The week before reading Alice's Adventures in Wonderland I read The Migraine Brain in which I learned that Lewis Carroll was a migraine-with-aura suf...moreThe week before reading Alice's Adventures in Wonderland I read The Migraine Brain in which I learned that Lewis Carroll was a migraine-with-aura sufferer. Migraines muddle thinking and reduce concentration. And for him, a migraine meant distorted vision. Disproportional Alice. Tall and small Alice. Strange tastes. Odd sights and sounds. Mixing up words. All inspired by migraines. Without knowing this, my experience of his most famous work would have been very different.
Carroll's preface is illuminating. The Mad Hatter's riddle has no answer. And he was quite generous, practically paying the public to read his story.
'Four shillings was a perfectly reasonable price to charge, considering the heavy initial outlay I had incurred: still, as the Public have practically said "We will will not give more than a shilling for a picture-book, however artistically got-up", I am content to reckon my outlay on the book as so much dead loss, and, rather than let the little ones, for whom it was written, go without it, I am selling it at a price which is, to me, much the same thing as giving it away.
I found this line from the introductory poem to be a highly accurate assessment of the story: "There will be nonsense in it!" Yes, lots and lots of nonsense. Most of it utterly boring. Skimming is the last resort of the desperate, and I was desperate. But I was thoroughly entertained by the rhyming poetry scattered throughout.
'I passed by his garden, and marked, with one eye, How the Owl and the Panther were sharing a pie: The Panther took pie-crust, and gravy, and meat, While the Owl had the dish as its share of the treat. When the pie was all finished, the Owl, as a boon, Was kindly permitted to pocket the spoon: While the Panther received the knife and fork with a growl, And concluded the banquet by--"
You can guess what the next three words are. LOL.
I also enjoyed the occasional play-on-words.
"We called him Tortoise because he taught us."
And of course, the most famous quote of all:
"But I don't want to go among mad people," Alice remarked. "Oh, you can't help that," said the Cat: "we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad." "How do you know I'm mad?" said Alice. "You must be, said the Cat, "or you wouldn't gave come here."
On why cats are the opposite of dogs:
"Well, then," the Cat went on, "you see a dog growls when it's angry, and wags its tail when it's pleased. Now I growl when I'm pleased, and wag my tail when I'm angry. Therefore I'm mad."
The Queen of Hearts is a figure of fun. Who hasn't wished to wield the power of the throne to eliminate those who've slighted us?
"Collar that Dormouse!" the Queen shrieked out. "Behead that Dormouse! Turn that Dormouse out of court! Suppress him! Pinch him! Off with his whiskers!"
On the prospect of decapitating a body-less Cheshire Cat:
'The executioner's argument was, that you couldn't cut off a head unless there was a body to cut it off from: that he had never had to do such a thing before, and he wasn't going to begin at his time of life.'
The Queen of Hearts indulging in her favourite sport isn't as lethal as one would think, which is a good thing because if every man, woman and animal she condemns to the guillotine were to really go to their deaths, there'd be no one left in Wonderland but the Queen herself.
Gryphon: "It's all her fancy, that: they never executes nobody, you know."
Alice has never intrigued me. I did hope reading the original would endear me more than the countless TV and movie adaptions. Poetry aside, it didn't. However, I do take pleasure from viewing the tons of gorgeous artwork inspired by Carroll's story.
* I read the 1920 edition illustrated by John Tenniel available for free on Google Play.(less)
Completely confounding. An intriguing idea poorly executed. Even reading slowly didn't improve understanding. Beautifully written sentences were meaningless without much background or context.
I honestly didn't perceive the allegory; the library representing the universe, its books filled with information detailing everything within it, though in an incomprehensible manner - multiple languages represented in each volume.
Unending patience and a generous mood are required for this one. I possessed neither. I expected more from this 1001 author.
*South American (Argentina) read for the Dead Writers Society's 2014 'Around the World' challenge.(less)
If you hated Throne of Glass because the supposedly violent assassin acted out Cinderella instead of Buffy, then you'll absolutely adore Crown of Mi...moreIf you hated Throne of Glass because the supposedly violent assassin acted out Cinderella instead of Buffy, then you'll absolutely adore Crown of Midnight. Rare is it these days, that an author will read critical reviews such as mine and actually make a concerted effort to make their readers happy by upping their game. And boy, did Ms. Maas raise the bar.
Let's address the issues that I brought up in my 2-star review of the debut.
Poorly constructed insta-love love triangle: Quashed. Winner is determined.
He would move on. Because he would not be like the ancient kings in the song and keep her for himself. She deserved a loyal, brave knight who saw her for what she was and did not fear her. And he deserved someone who would look at him like that, even if the love wouldn't be the same, even if the girl wouldn't be her. So Dorian closed his eyes, and took another long breath. And when he opened his eyes, he let her go. [p119]
Dorian shows surprising maturity and with the help of Celaena's bestie, Princess Nehemia, he attempts to move on without bitterness leaving the well-suited Chaol to win her affection.
"Don't cause trouble for them. You and I... We will always stand apart. We well always have... responsibilities. We will always have burdens that no one else can ever understand. That they" - she inclined her head toward Chaol and Celaena - "will never understand. And if they did, then they would not want them."
They would not want us, is what you mean. [p135]
Chaol and Celaena's romance deepens and heats up, finally culminating in consummation. 18-year-old Celaena was a virgin, and though it hurt, afterwards she was 'Tired but happy.' And in love. She felt whole and full of hope - something she'd never felt before.
The spoilt prince: Grows Up.
Dorian stands up to his father by opposing his proposal to expand the slave camps filled with the innocent of conquered foreign lands. Dorian's rage brings out his magic that he never knew he had and is desperate to hide it from everyone so he can't be executed by his father, the King. Dorian knows he's vastly outnumbered when it comes to his father's council, and yet he begins to fight back anyway. I worry about his newly arrived cousin. That guy has been positioned to become Dorian's confidant - he agrees with everything the prince says, while plotting behind his back.
An inconsistent heroine: Blood, death, intrigue - all on stage - and not a dress in sight. Celaena's far more tactful, except for a major and understandable incident - more on that later.
Celaena reached a gloved hand into the sack and tossed the severed head toward him. No one spoke as it bounced, a vulgar thudding of stiff and rotting flesh on marble. It rolled to a stop at the foot of the dais, milky eyes turned toward the ornate glass chandelier overhead.
Pages 221-3 of the UK paperback depict the most beautifully written fight scene - Celaena against multiple opponents as she infiltrates a building to save a kidnapped Chaol. Bloody and violent, yet graceful and beautiful. What follows is brilliantly written - more on this below.
"Enough! We have enough enemies as it is! There are worse things out there to face!" Calaena slowly turned to him, her face splattered with blood and eyes blazing bright. "No, there aren't." she said. "Because I'm here now."
Predictable: Much less so now. You get a feeling about certain people and situations but nothing is so painfully obvious that you're frustrated at what seems a slow pace or the ignorance of any characters. And there's a major incident I didn't see coming that has sad and disheartening ramifications - more on that in a moment.
'I wanted more action, politics and mystery...': I got all of these. There was no way I was DNFing this one.
****HUGE SPOILERS BEYOND THIS POINT****
Part II Nehemia's death. Celaena runs full speed to Nehamia's aid when she found out about the threat to her best friend's life via Archer and Chaol, only to find a corpse in Nehamia's now blood spattered rooms, obviously tortured before she was killed. This tips our heroine into the blinding rage and agony of grief.
They had done this. Her bloody fingers slid down Dorian's face. to his neck. He just stared at her, suddenly still. "Celaena," that familiar voice said. A warning. They had done this. They had betrayed her. Betrayed Nehemia. They had taken her away. Her nails brushed Dorian's exposed throat. "Celaena," the voice said. Celaena slowly turned. Chaol stared at her, a hand on his sword. The sword she's brought to the warehouse - the sword she'd left there. Archer had told her that Chaol had known they were going to do this. He had known. She shattered completely, and launched herself at him.
It's absolutely heartbreaking, and I felt every second of it.
"You will never be my friend. You will always be my enemy." She bellowed that last word with such soul-deep hatred that he felt it like a punch to the gut.
Dorian accidentally uses magic to stop Celaena's blade from stabbing and killing Chaol. It turned out Archer had Nehemia killed - Celaena kills him.
Celaena can't bare to live without Nehemia so she tries to bring her back to life, all the while Nehemia's last words to her at the end of an argument ringing in her ears:
"You are nothing more than a coward."
Risking life and limb for others who've done nothing for her, isn't in Celaena's nature. Going against the King is to court the possible pain and death of those she's come to love. Understandably, relative safety is a valuable commodity to her. Nehemia challenging this hurt her deeply because she may seem a hardened, almost unfeeling assassin on the outside but her personal history has left her soft and vulnerable on the inside.
By opening a portal, Celaena is able to speak to Nehemia one last time where the princess reveals her level of dedication to her people; her last act of bravery, the ultimate self-sacrifice - her death would bring them hope of a better future.
"You will not understand yet, but... I knew what me fate was to be, and I embraced it. I ran toward it. Because it was the only way for things to begin changing, for events to be set in motion."
Chaol finds out Celaena is part fae (she can shift between forms) and has a shit-ton of raw magic. Chaol trades his position and a chance to be with Celaena again to send her away - back to the safety of the fae. He made a deal with his father - he has to return to his homeland to be heir again.
In the process, Chaol makes an enemy of Dorian because Dorian doesn't know she's fae with magic, too dangerous to be so close to the King, who executes magic users. Her mission is to execute the royal family of a land yet to fall to Dorian's father.
As Celaena is sailing away she gives Chaol a clue as to her real identity; his research reveals: she's the last queen of Terrasen - the only person who rally an army large enough to defeat Dorian's father.
I'm incredibly impressed by this sequel. The series has gone from 'abandoned' - until I heard about the improvements in this one - to 'must read the next one'. I will say, I'm disappointed that Chaol and Celaena have been broken apart by his mistake, grief and now distance, but it was done so well that I can't 'hate' this development. Bring on book #3 of 6, Heir of Fire.(less)
Becoming a chess piece in a weird larger than life chess game is an intriguing concept echoed by a British BBC2 children's TV show (Words and Pictures, I think) about 25 years ago, and later by J.K. Rowling with Harry Potter. Moving to each new square was an adventure into an unknown wilderness never knowing who or what you were going to encounter.
I was surprised at the appearance of Humpty Dumpty of nursery rhyme fame and a bit confused about the Red Queen. There are no red queens in chess, just black and white. And sometimes I mistook the Red Queen for the Queen of Hearts. I guess standard black and white was too bland for Carroll. Or too racist?
But, again, I was troubled by the elaborate nonsense of Alice's dreamworld. Call it what you will - gibberish, balderdash, hooey, malarkey, twaddle, tosh - it's all frustrating nonsense. If there was an English translation of this little girl's dreams perhaps I'd enjoy it more.
Ms. Margolyes is the only reason I listened until the end.
Ever wanted to question the specifics of a villian's clichéd world domination plan? Call a villain out on the infantile nature of it, presenting the d...moreEver wanted to question the specifics of a villian's clichéd world domination plan? Call a villain out on the infantile nature of it, presenting the difficulties he'll face in accomplishing such a feat, and then maintaining leadership should he succeed? Skullduggery Pleasant does all that and more with his quick, dry wit and that sharp, sarcastic tongue of his, and it's deliciously satisfying and rib-ticklingly funny. An excellent non-essential freebie.
THERE ARE VITAMINS IN CHOCOLATE! According to Mrs Gloop. I wish. It's a shame the real Wonka Bars aren't infused with the A-Z vitamins mentioned in th...moreTHERE ARE VITAMINS IN CHOCOLATE! According to Mrs Gloop. I wish. It's a shame the real Wonka Bars aren't infused with the A-Z vitamins mentioned in the book. Mmm, those bars were nice.
Far more entertaining than I expected it to be and I enjoyed the little details not covered in the movie adaptations.
Loved the social commentary in the Oompa Loompa songs.
On spoiled children [p127]:
For though she's spoiled, and dreadfully so, A girl can't spoil herself, you know. Who spoiled her, then? Ah, who indeed? Who pandered to her every need? Who turned her into such a brat? Who are the culprits? Who did that? Alas! You needn't look so far To find out who these sinners are. They are (and this is very sad) Her loving parents, MUM and DAD.
And the commentary on TV [p146-7]:
IT ROTS THE SENSES IN THE HEAD! IT KILLS IMAGINATION DEAD! IT CLOGS AND CLUTTERS UP THE MIND! IT MAKES A CHILD SO DULL AND BLIND HE CAN NO LONGER UNDERSTAND A FANTASY, A FAIRYLAND! HIS BRAIN BECOMES AS SOFT AS CHEESE! HIS POWERS OF THINKING RUST AND FREEZE! HE CANNOT THINK - HE ONLY SEES! "All right!" you'll cry. "All right!" you'll say, "But if we take the set away, What shall we do to entertain Our darling children! Please explain!" We'll answer this by asking you, "What used they keep themselves contented Before this monster was invented?" Have you forgotten don't you know? We'll say it very loud and slow: THEY ... USED ... TO ... READ! They'd READ and READ, AND READ and READ, and then proceed TO READ some more. Great Scott! Gadzooks! One half their lives was reading books! The nursery shelved held books galore! Books cluttered up the nursery floor! And in the bedroom, by the bed, More books were waiting to be read!
Assassins are cool. Super powers, who wouldn't want some? That this is set outside the US and the UK, a huge plus. So what went wrong?
Early on I assum...moreAssassins are cool. Super powers, who wouldn't want some? That this is set outside the US and the UK, a huge plus. So what went wrong?
Early on I assumedAcross the Nightingale Floor had been translated due to inconsistent, simple and superficial language. And I wasn't alone in my thinking. However, a quick search revealed the author to have been born and raised a few miles from where I live in England.
Very little emotion is shown by Takeo, our hero, despite what should've been some harrowing scenes in the beginning in which he lost his entire family in the massacre of his village, witnessed by him. Balancing 'show' and 'tell' is a common problem and unfortunately there's far too much 'tell' than there really should be. Long conversations, flimsy explanations and detailed summaries are shortcuts used here contributing to a severe lack of depth concerning Takeo's character and a level of unreadability to his chapters as I was unable to connect or sympathise with him.
On the other hand, Kaede, our heroine, manages to engender sympathy for her plight right away. Her chapters were noticeably different in quality, contained more action and the feminist-themed commentary was intriguing.
"Even beauty is dangerous for a woman. Better not to be desired by men."
Again and again this is proved in this patriarchal, feudal Japan. Including superstitious nonsense regarding the powers of women cursing men just by being arbitrarily associated with them. If a man happens to die at the hands of the woman he tried to rape it's the would-be rapist's fault, not the woman's. That's the social norm of the time period this is set it.
Kaede's insta-love at first sight towards Takeo and its reciprocation turned me off for it's commonality and overuse amongst young adult novels but THT suggested it could be taken as "fated to be mated". I think, in the end, it was a mixture of both. Their relationship was engineered to be Shigeru and Maruyama's history repeating itself, an ill-fated one where being together would mean death. Our hope this second time around is that they'll finally be reunited and gain a happy-ever-after. For me, this isn't something I like, this repetition in the vain hope all will work out in spite of history attesting to that fact it most likely will not. I can see the poetic beauty and note the tragic Shakespearean nature of these circumstances, though I can't appreciate them here, not with this writing. And certainly not when it looks like the other books will draw out the angst-ridden will-they-or-won't-they. No, thank you.
Hearn gives away her ending early on via heavy foreshadowing. Predictablity isn't something I'm a fan of, although I am grateful the author didn't go full Romeo and Juliet on her characters, close call though it was. I'm also glad the issue of sex wasn't glossed over or ignored. Sex was heard, had with prostitutes, and had next to a rapidly cooling corpse in what must've been a blood-spattered room and clothing. Sexy.
Usually I'm an ardent lover of politics and dastardly machinations, I wasn't in this case. I had zero invested in the plot and no side ever revealed itself to be a favorable one to champion. Takeo, Shigeru, Iida, Kenji and the Tribe. I hoped for nothing. No, I tell a lie. I hoped they'd all die quickly so I could finish the damn book and move on.
As super secrets assassins go I wasn't terribly impressed with the Tribe. Like everyone else they had an agenda, not one I could get behind, and possessed no members I could warm to. They were petty and patronising with no respect for free will, what's to like about that? Their skills were only mildly paranormal, mostly standard stuff to use to fight, escape and evade: enhanced strength and hearing, fast reflexes, creating temporary shadow doppelgangers to distract, and hypnotic gazes that can send you to sleep. Out of all the assassin scenes Takeo's acts of mercy were the ones to make a good impression on me and a bad one on Kenji, Takeo's teacher:
"It's that softness he has," Kenji said. "It drives him to act from compassion, even when he kills."
Villain, Iida, is defeated unbelievably fast and easy. You could argue a stroke of luck, a fortuitous accident, if you will. Not in my eyes. Iida lost his credibility as a convincing foe in the moment he was beaten. For someone so completely paranoid and obsessed about security he underestimated his opponents and ignored possible threats, not just the one that brought him down either.
I understand what the author was trying to achieve with Across the Nightingale Floor and no doubt it would make for a beautiful, graceful yet tragic movie. As a book, it failed to seduce me. Reading shouldn't be hard work. Just skimming I struggled to stop my eyes from glazing over in utter boredom until the last 20% when the pace picks up. I couldn't, in good conscience, recommend this to anyone.