I am slightly embarrassed, because I liked it. Anyway, I am not blind, and the book is far from perfect. The most glaring flaw – POV is jumping betwee...moreI am slightly embarrassed, because I liked it. Anyway, I am not blind, and the book is far from perfect. The most glaring flaw – POV is jumping between characters sometimes several times in the same scene – which is very annoying, even if I wasn’t trained by now to pick it up. Occasionally I had to come back and read a sentence again to figure out whose POV it is now. You get the picture. Then, the author occasionally goes overboard with descriptions and expositions, but I have to note, that it is not jarring most of the times.
Then, the situation is ridiculous and unbelievable. But, here goes praise: once I turned on me suspension of disbelief and dived into the story, I stopped caring about it. Because here goes what Amanda Brown did well. She wrote characters I liked and cared about – even if they started rather stereotyped. She dropped these characters into improbable situation and let them find their way in it. And it was nice. I loved that protagonists didn’t have a great physical attraction form the first sight, that they didn’t think about it at all, but made each other laugh and learn, and shared a companionship instead. And here is another thing I love: I think that the author has a talent for irony, and generally a god eye for funny. She mocks villains and secondary characters, and settings, and conventions, but she also mocks her protagonists without making them unsympathetic. That was what I loved in her first book, “Legally Blonde”. It is more ironic, and less fluffy and victorious than the movie, but the way the author pokes fun at Elle Woods, while sympathizing with her, is very dear to me. (less)
I am reading Wilkie Collins. Again. The Woman in White. And I love it again. I am quite fond of Walter Hartright, and I love, love, Marian Halcombe. S...moreI am reading Wilkie Collins. Again. The Woman in White. And I love it again. I am quite fond of Walter Hartright, and I love, love, Marian Halcombe. She is one of the most interesting female characters I know of. Ever. And what a description, and what a role physical beauty plays here. We meet with her turning back to the Walter – and to the reader. And with Walter we admire her back, her stature, her body, and then she turns, and… her face isn’t up to contemporary beauty standards. Oops.
She mostly isn’t feminine enough in her expressions. Then she starts talking and all ugliness is forgotten. Until, of course, Laura appears, the vision of a perfect beauty, not perfect in its features, but in its influence over a man. I don’t find Laura interesting per ce. I like her, she is a sweetie, but she is always an object – of love, greed, villainy, or nobility. She is like Irene from the Forsyte Saga, slipping through other lives, influencing other lives, but never acting themselves.
Beauty does mean a lot in our first impressions – whether we admit it or not. But the second impressions help us with a touch of reality.
And I loved Walter in the fateful meeting on the road to London with the Woman in White. How sincerely perplexed he is! How he is trying to justify himself in helping the stranger!
It is smart, funny, and about punctuation! What else a girl may need? (well, lots of stuff, but that’s another topic.)
Seriously, as much as I love fi...moreIt is smart, funny, and about punctuation! What else a girl may need? (well, lots of stuff, but that’s another topic.)
Seriously, as much as I love fiction, I often feel more passionate about non-fiction books on languages and history. It was this way since I was a child. I wouldn’t trade my fairytales on my encyclopedia, but the fairytales were a staple reading, whereas encyclopedias were a new magical, enticing world of knowledge about Stuff. I know a lot of Stuff since then, I’ve always been interested in Stuff that is hardly applicable in life.
One of my favourite books was A Book About Language – translated from English, though, of course I cannot name its author now. It was telling a lot of fancy stuff about different languages, and alphabets, and hieroglyphs, and smoke signals. The history of writing, the curious facts, the games with words – and thanks to the translator, appropriate examples with Russian language were included along with the English ones.
Lynne Truss doesn’t not explain every punctuation rule in English language, instead she talks about history of punctuation, its meaning, its changes through the time – together with language changes. She muses on prospects for the future of punctuation, rants about common misuse and indifference to the rules, overviews the proper usage, and she does it all in a wonderfully witty manner that makes me want to quote the whole book here. (less)
I liked it for the atmosphere, and the idea that is at the base of it – that at the edges of our world exist everything else, and you can find it by t...moreI liked it for the atmosphere, and the idea that is at the base of it – that at the edges of our world exist everything else, and you can find it by turning another street, and that ships are sailing into the sky to go to strange places where time and space bleed together. (less)
I liked it a lot, but I expected to like it much more. Unreasonable expectations? May be.
It is strange – reading a book everyone around read long ago...moreI liked it a lot, but I expected to like it much more. Unreasonable expectations? May be.
It is strange – reading a book everyone around read long ago and loves. Well, it is never every one really, but enough to pick up the general attitude.
War for the Oaks is a wonderful book and I thoroughly enjoyed it, plus it is the urban fantasy, which at this point is my favorite subgenre.
But there were “buts”. ;)
The heroine is a great fun. It is hard not to like Eddie – but this is the problem, too. Why is she so lovable, where are her shortcomings? She doesn’t leave an impression of a Mary Sue, but she doesn’t feel to me like a real person. She is just a little bit unbelievably cool. Or am I too critical?
The plot itself seems rather predictable – or every plot after certain amount of books read seems so? I can’t say what will happen, but I can guess what kind of event will happen and how it all will work with great certainty. It is not always a bad thing – I absolutely loved the whole development of love between Eddie and the phouka, and even though I could guess, it didn’t spoil the fun.
Oh, and the phouka is beyond adorable. ;)
On the other hand, I quite loved Willy as well – he possess two qualities that I value: desire to learn and curiosity and the ability to change. That’s why I was didn’t like that he died – he just started to change – and I would love to see the progress.
His death brought me thoughts about the characters’ death in general. The death in fiction is always happens by the author’s design, even if the author is following the story and its demands. How the death in fiction may be written (filmed) so it wouldn’t feel contrived? Sometimes it happens – death doesn’t necessarily feels natural, but I don’t think about author, I think about characters, and sometimes I keep thinking about the author, and what the authors means by it – which create the impression of the death for the sake of plot, not the natural part of the story.
For the positive example I can refer to The Sandman – there we enjoy Death’s company ;)
The clothes are described with amazing precision, and the eighties’ clothes sound so funny!
The music is confusing, too. I wish I could hear it – the music on paper is too complicated, it is something I cannot quite imagine, and for the most of the book I felt the characters are speaking a strange language that I should have understood but cannot. (less)
First time I read it at school, when I was sixteen, and I had a vague memory of something slow, sad, and calm – with the wonderful poems at the end. I...moreFirst time I read it at school, when I was sixteen, and I had a vague memory of something slow, sad, and calm – with the wonderful poems at the end. I remembered this poems much better than the actual book, and recently, having found the book in the library (in Russian) I grabbed and started reading.
It is funny how me reading habits change since my fandom involvement – and reading reviews of books, TV shows, movies, and writing the reviews myself. I notice so many things, and I get annoyed by many more things – or may be I can pinpoint what I am being annoyed with.
So, Doctor Zhivago: I was annoyed with many things: I was annoyed with the wandering point of view, with constant telling instead of showing, with the fact that many characters, supposedly important, seemed shadows, not people (what kind of person was Tonya? What was about Yuri’s uncle, Nikolai Nikolaevich? There was supposedly deep friendship between Yuri, Michael Gordon and Tonya – and I couldn’t see it and so on.) All the Fresh Deep Thoughts bored me to death, what was the turning point of Yuri’s attitude towards the revolution? Now he likes it, now he doesn’t.
In the second part of the book people annoyed me - mostly Zhivago and Lara- with their actions, lack of actions, and big pronouncements…
And yet I liked the book – again, and I liked it a lot. Why is that? I can be annoyed with this and that – and then, the sudden turn of phrase, the words are put together so right that everything comes alive and I believe in every word, and forgive all the annoyances I was harboring.
I love all the long descriptions – cities big and small, random people caught into the story, storms, nights, springs, wolves and the rowan-tree – all this is so bright and clear, and alive, so crispy-cold and sweet as the water from the well, so loving and magnificent that I forget the supposedly main characters for it.
Somewhere in the middle it came to me – the realization - that this book is not a novel.
Not a novel at all: it is a song - slow, sad, and calm, even if events it is describing are as far from calm as possible.
And the figure of the Author – behind the text, but ever so often intruding in the story with his notes, explanations, references of the future events and pronounced judgments suddenly is looking like a half-mythological Storyteller /Bard/ Boyan.
Another thing I noticed – how I cannot reconcile the fictional Moscow there (and in other books) with Moscow I know – I know all the places where the action goes on, but I cannot imagine the characters on the streets I walked. Well, with all these years the streets are different indeed, but still, the existence of several unconnected Moscows in my head is confounding.
Oh, and the poems – as wonderful as ever. I manage to restrain myself from reading them before finishing the previous chapters, and I can see how beautifully done this structure is – the characters are gone, but they continue in the poetry now and forever. And all the talk about how talented Zhivago is stopped being talk, and the previous chapter suddenly got a new colour as I cast Zhivago as hamlet and Gordon and Dudorov as Guildenstern and Rosencrantz.
One more thing – as much as I like the poems it is mind-boggling to figure out who wrote them? Zhivago? Pasternak writing as if he were Zhivago? Pasternak as himself? Poetry seems so personal, so the mimicry I find impossible, and the idea of writing perfectly good poems written by the fictional character is unsettling. On the other hand, I’ve never tried it – may be it is not?(less)
I have very mixed feelings about it. It is the type of quirky fantasy with a bit of romance that I should fall in love with. I didn't, and I feel unco...moreI have very mixed feelings about it. It is the type of quirky fantasy with a bit of romance that I should fall in love with. I didn't, and I feel uncomfortable about it, as it failed me even though it didn't owe me anything, but I am still annoyed.
1)a strong sense of deja-vu made me realize that the heroine, Alexia, is a brain twin of Amelia Peabody (of Elizabeth Peters' Egyptology mysteries.) The Britishness, the proud spinsterhood (that don't survive the end of the first book), the sharp mind, the assertiveness, the lack of conventional beauty... I adore Amelia Peabody and her husband Emerson, but I am not sure how many of her I need for my enjoyment. It has just occurred to me that both Amelia Peabody and Alexia are literary descendants of brilliant Marian Halcombe of Woman in White. Now, that's one lady whose adventures I'd love to follow...
Alexia and Lord Maccon work together as a romantic pair, but they felt to me kind of “meh”. They are probably the homage to Peabody and Emerson, but I feel that they are clones, and I'd rather re-read “Crocodile on the Sandbank” by Elizabeth Peters in the fifth time.
2)My major gripe is with the soul stuff. The book is called “Soulless”, and I kind of expected more exploration of the matter. What is the soul, what does it mean in that Universe? It is said that Alexia doesn't have a soul, which she was told at 6, and she read Greek philosophers to acquaint herself with the moral implications of that fact. But the thing is – it all falls empty, a tantalizing promise that never gets fulfilled. Alexia has a pronounced effect on supernatural beings, an effect that is attributed to her lack of soul. Except this is the only effect, and I reasonably suspect that either the soul here is something different from I am used to consider it, or the basic theories of her world are wrong, and Alexia does indeed have a soul, and her soulless effect is caused by something else. It might be explored further in the next books, but I was waiting for more soul stuff from the book that is called Soulless. After all, it would have been interesting whether good manners can be a person's moral compass. How love would look like without the soul in that world? What is the soul, anyway? Those are all questions I asked myself when I picked up the book, but I didn't find them – not even the questions themselves there.
3)Reading went much slower than I expected, and at the culmination I was frankly bored. Not a good sign.
4)I love omnipresent point of view and the narrator's voice separate from the author and the characters, being reasonably old-fashioned and raised on 18-19 century novels. I applaud the return of the narrator to modern stories, even if it is done to simulate the old time feel. But. But there is one giant difficulty: I need to love that narrator and don't want to smack it. Here so far it feels too twee, and I mostly grow annoyed. I still hope to befriend it as soon as I get used to the tone.
5)What did I like? I liked the world, the atmosphere, the new and different take on vampires and werewolves, and their effect on human history and politics. I liked the scientific ideas of the supernatural. The world, of course, pretty much didn't exist beyond British Isles and North America, but that goes with the mores of the time, and a topic for the following books, anyway. I wrote previously that I was tired of vampires, and I still am, but I wasn't here. The ecology of supernatural beings among humans was very different and very interesting from what we are used to.
So, when all is said and done, my resume is that it is why it fails for me personally, I can recommend it for my friends, or for any lover of romance and Victorian fantasy. I won't guaranteed that you fall in love with it – I didn't, but it is a glimpse into a curious world. I will be checking out the second book as soon as I dog through my immediate to-read pile.
I loved the dragons and their world – strange and different, and amazing, and makes the kind of sense that is not our sense. It also has a beautiful f...moreI loved the dragons and their world – strange and different, and amazing, and makes the kind of sense that is not our sense. It also has a beautiful flow, making it a perfect comfort read story.(less)
It is a very pleasant book, but I seem to have no luck with Robin McKinley's books, no matter how many times they are recommended to me. I want to lov...moreIt is a very pleasant book, but I seem to have no luck with Robin McKinley's books, no matter how many times they are recommended to me. I want to love them, I try to love them, but I cannot get more than a lukewarm like. They are beautiful, masterful stories with interesting characters - why can't I love them? Should I try harder? (less)
I was reading Robin McKinley’s Sherwood Outlaws and started thinking what the legend means to me.
I couldn't get into the book – even though I like the...moreI was reading Robin McKinley’s Sherwood Outlaws and started thinking what the legend means to me.
I couldn't get into the book – even though I like the characters (this incarnations of them) and the writing, they seem to be behind a glass wall that I couldn't break, and didn’t want to. I cannot start to care – and this feels to be of crucial importance in fiction for me lately. I don’t have to like everybody and everything in a book, but at least something must pull me into – even if it is a description of a sea, or beautiful style, or fancy ideas. Here it was nothing of the sort, and the only thing that elicit emotions was the marginalia on a page splattered with something brownish: “It is blood. Don’t lick it”.
I thought that may be the case is in the legend itself? That I grew disenchanted with Robin Hood and his merry band? I used to love the story and its heroes and heroines. Somewhere in the back of my mind I was always sure about the continuous existence of Robin Hood, Marion, Little John, Will Scarlet, Friar Tuck, Sheriff of Nottingham, Guy of Gizborne and others in the Sherwood forest and around. They add something to the world, some important tiny bit.
Why not to read a novel about them? I cannot say that the interpretation is too contrary to what I imagine – or any other interpretation, because I just don’t really imagine them at all. I have a vague picture that changes when I change or when my mood change. Robin can be young or grown man, blond or black-haired, bearded or not, asshole or sweetie or both, of gentle birth or of common, just a robber or an idealist – none of it ever sits in stone. Same with Marion (though I like her more when she is not a damsel in distress) and everyone else. I probably have a more definite image of Friar Tuck – he is short and round, good with his staff, optimistic, and the only monastic vow he takes seriously is the one of poverty.
But maybe that was the reason – I prefer my vague image to the detailed and rooted in the time and place version. Plus I always get annoyed when Richard the Lionheart came and resolved the matter. Because he would never do that. But I got even more annoyed when he took all the band with him to Holy Land – even though that's what he would definitely do. But Robin Hood cannot be outside of England! There mere idea of it destroys the Universe as we know it. (less)
So we meet a girl on brink of an adult life, who suddenly learns that she possesses unique strength and skills – and a destiny t...moreI do not regret it. :)
So we meet a girl on brink of an adult life, who suddenly learns that she possesses unique strength and skills – and a destiny to kill vampires. She doesn’t mind killing vampires, but she would rather have a normal life – with balls and entertainments, beautiful gowns and dances, and with handsome men who would want to marry her. Sound familiar? Duh!
She is not the Vampire Slayer, she is the Venator, and she is not the chosen one, though she has the potential to be the best. Her name is Victoria, and she lives in Regency London.
I have to admit, the first pages were like an old game of “find 10 differences in these pictures”. After a while, the story found its stride and sucked me in with its setting and the characters and the mythology.
The setting is so familiar and comfortable for us Regency epoch. Vampires don’t seem to be out of place there, but it is amusing to see how the presence of vampires influences a typical Regency romance. Apparently, it is much harder to hide a stake in a empire dress, and big purses are not yet in fashion, so our heroine has several stakes in different colours that her maid hides in a fancy hairdo. I think it was the blue-colored staked that won me over.
The characters grew on me fast enough – Victoria, her grandmother Eustasia, Marchess Rockley, maid Verbena, gloomy Italian guy Max, mysterious guy Sebastian…
Rockley is that perfect Regency hero that we are used to seeing as the ultimate reward for the heroine. And he really is that good. He is handsome and rich, and brave and generous in spirit… However, he has all the historically appropriate values. How would he react to his chosen bride hunting vampires at night? Hmmm….
Victoria herself is just a product of her time, yet she takes everything that happens to her in the stride. Well, more or less. She is brave, stubborn, reckless, smart, she makes mistakes and learns from them. And she really enjoys dancing.
One more thing I liked about this story is the vampire mythology. Let’s face it, Buffyverse mythology has more holes in it I can count, which I all forgive, because the story works for me on emotional and metaphorical level. This story has much less holes in it. It’s vampire myth is based on some Christian apocrypha, on the legends of Judas, and in this context vampires’ dislike of Christian symbols actually makes sense.
Another thing I liked that Victoria’s strength is a part of a legacy, and as such is in her blood. But when handed this destiny she still can refuse to follow it and forget all about vampires. On the other hand, one can be unrelated by blood, and still to choose the destiny of a Venator.(less)
Well, I finally picked the DVDs from the library and watched it. And then I downloaded the book from Gutenberg project site and read it.
What can I say...moreWell, I finally picked the DVDs from the library and watched it. And then I downloaded the book from Gutenberg project site and read it.
What can I say? I loved the book much more then the series, although I am glad I watched the series first. I loved the actors, especially the main characters, and I was glad to be able to put faces I liked in my head when I was reading.
The larger part of the series I was mostly meh. Of course, Mr. John Thornton (as presented by Richard Armitage) broods as the best of them, and I am very appreciative of a quality brooding, the whole as three episodes seemed to consist of walking and brooding and class struggle, and not much else. However, the fourth episode, mainly the ending, redeemed it all.
The book did not suffer from silent walks and long scenes where nothing happened - it had them, for sure, but it didn't suffer for all that. :) In fact, I was surprised just how engaging the slow beginning was - in contemporary fiction I would have been very annoyed if nothing much happened by the second chapter - but here everything flowed with the slow pace and yet I wasn't able to put the book away. The slow walks were not tedious but full of thought and passion. The looks have actual meaning, and the class struggle wasn't much of a grey mass affair as it was in a series. The Higgins family though are equally good in both book and TV form, but reading their accent was more tiresome than listening to it. :)
The ending, though, I loved it in book several times more than in the series. I guess it is just Victorian usage of familiar words, or that I am that much of a word person, but the book ending was damn hot! and very very satisfying. ;)(less)
It is a rare pleasure to read a book and feel that you are having a conversation with its author. Such pleasure I've had reading Anne Fadiman's Ex Lib...moreIt is a rare pleasure to read a book and feel that you are having a conversation with its author. Such pleasure I've had reading Anne Fadiman's Ex Libris. It is a collection of essays on books and I felt an immediate affinity to the author from the very page, even if occasionally I violently disagreed with her.
Agreeing and disagreeing in each particular case is much less important than the feeling of belonging to the same nation of the book people and speaking the tongue in regards of the most important matters.
Marrying the libraries – as opposed to the author, ours are not married. We are reading each other’s books, but we keep those books strictly apart. Another thing to say about our libraries – they are not whole, even if they are growing in the most destitute times. The huge parts of our libraries stayed in Russia, hidden away in the boxes somewhere with my parents. It was plainly impossible to move everything here, so we took some we couldn't part or planned to read. But I do miss my books that I left and haven't seen for so many years, and I still have no idea when and how they can join the rest that is with me…
One of the things I do disagree with her is the divide between “courtly lovers of books’ and “carnal lovers of books”. I guess it is a matter of preference what we do with the books, but most people neither disintegrate books in the process of reading nor keep unread and untouched. Most of us, I believe, are in the middle, though I, probably, am slightly closer to “courtly love”. I prefer my books to be well-cared of, and I cannot imagine purposefully doing something to book that leads to its decrepitude – like tearing pages, or writing in it, of dog-earing (I can remember where I finished a day before), or… On the other hand, I read everywhere – including dinner, so my books are exposed to various dangers of being in my bag and near my food. I also enjoy lending my books to friends – here is another risk involved. Any more than the fact that “carnal lovers” are somehow better than those who care about the paper form of a book as much as of its content Another thing I disagree with, closely related to the preference to "carnal booklove", is the author's conviction that only those kids grow to love and read books, who had the free reign to play with the all the books at home. I don't have any theory to counter this one, but I can talk the practice of my own family. I love books very much, read a lot and have a rather large library. I was not, however, encouraged to play with books, but to treat them with respect and care - the attitude I keep even now. The lack of play with books didn't seem to have any effect on me. The was a lot of books around, including children's books that I always loved to look at, and one day I started reading them. My parents love books very much, have a rather large library and read a lot. The connection seems clear, not? Let's go further. My grandparents on the father side are also big lovers of book and have had a nifty library that I considered a real treasure cove, mostly because I didn't visit them as often and all the books seemed new and unusual for me. Plus they had a good children's books collection that my father and uncle read. It all seem coming together so far, is it not? My maternal grandparents though didn't have a large library. But they knew and loved and read the books they did have - mostly Russian classics. My grandfather knew by heart a lot of poems that he used to tell his grandchildren instead of fairytales. And yes, I was not allowed to touch the grown-up books I was to small to read (when I got older and wanted to read them I was more than welcome). So, my parents and grandparents loved and read books. My parents got their booklove from my grandparents. But where my grandparents got it? I unfortunately don't know about book habits of greatgrandparents or their parents. And of course, it is quite possible they all got it from their parents. But the thing is, my ancestors were all workers and farmers - the very folk, for whose benefit the Russian revolution was supposedly happened. They just couldn't possibly have large libraries and they wouldn't let their children to play with books they had, if they had some. And unless I am the descendant of uncounted generations of strangely bookish peasants, someone along the line had to start reading books for pleasure first. Going back to the present - my close family, I want to mention one other beloved member of it: my sister. She grew up with book-loving parents, older sister (me) and the ample amounts of books lying around to read or to play. And here is the thing: she didn't. Much to our bewilderment we could count on our hands books she read by her own volition. She just had other interests and better (for her) ways to spend her time. All the books around didn't tempt her. O. Started reading - but much later, after she graduated the school, but she still way less attached to books than my parents or I am. So what it is exactly that makes one love books? Nature or nurture? Playing with books or looking at them with reverence? I don’t know. And I am not sure that the answer really exists. One more essay that I remember well – I read this book a month or more ago, and some moments slid away from me – is the one about pen and the feeling of having a special instrument for writing. I heartily agree with the author here – I love my ink pen with a passion and generally enjoy writing with ink much more. I remember how as a child I had acquired somewhere a turkey feather. It was long, with white and grey stripes and hollow inside – I stuffed a ball-point refill inside and imagined myself a writer of old. When my mother was taking me to a post office, I would always go to a table where simple wooden pens and interesting red ink was available and would start writing some strange scribbles with it. Somehow regular ball-point pen didn’t inspire me at all. And now – passion for ink or not, I do not cause paper to suffer my writing –well, almost. It is all about keyboard and the monitor for some years already and there is no turning back. Well, almost. ;-) I still cannot write poems on screen. I need the tangibility of paper and the clarity of long hand writing for them. (less)