I will make an exception and leave this unfinished one (I had reached page 63) unrated. I have not been displeased with its entertainment value at allI will make an exception and leave this unfinished one (I had reached page 63) unrated. I have not been displeased with its entertainment value at all when I was reading its first chapters, but whenever I had a chance to pick it up and continue I decided to read something else each time. The hauntingly beautiful eyes on the cover have started to look at me with reproach and the battered second hand volume seems to pop up unexpectedly all over the place to remind me of my lack of discipline and stamina. My solution to end this phase of discomfort is making the book disappear from my view - both physically and virtually. Sayonara, Otori Clan. We'll meet in volume One again some other day....more
Almost intimate insights into cramped, cluttered, partly messy, partly well-organized homes including toilets with the typical fluffy toilet-only slipAlmost intimate insights into cramped, cluttered, partly messy, partly well-organized homes including toilets with the typical fluffy toilet-only slippers in front, enriched by short written introductions to who lives there and what is his or her occupation. I love it. It is like being invited to visit and explore. Why don't you do the next project set in the county-side, Mr. Tsuzuki? When I pass those village-dwellings in Japan, my knuckles itch from refraining to knock and look.
My only complaint is about the binding of the book. It falls apart after the first leafing-through....more
Although the average rating of 3.25 stars strongly indicated „Beware, this book is not for everyone”, I never would have guessed that I might be one oAlthough the average rating of 3.25 stars strongly indicated „Beware, this book is not for everyone”, I never would have guessed that I might be one of those unlucky specimen the book prefers not to talk to. My conviction (which even resulted in my ordering the book in spite of my friend Arlene’s offer to include me in her book tour) that Bloodflower and I would be very compatible had been sustained by several powerful factors:
A) The cover is so very beautiful – but in a different way than some suspicion arousing young adult covers that have no connection to plot or characters whatsoever: The richly patterend red cloth in the background and that strong, callused and sexily dirty arm encased in leather armor which clearly belongs to Cam, the young main character recently returned from a war, made me want to own exactly this edition and not the pastel-colored one by the other publisher.
B) Melina Marchetta, one of the authors whose work I adore and who does not throw around blurbs and praise and advertisment about all her peers’ or tour mates’ work like it has become the custom among young adult novelists, wrote "I can’t tell you how much I loved this novel. I cried through the whole last chapter from the sheer beauty of these characters and their world." which made me want to go on reading until the end so I could wring out my tear ducts in the same way that she did, since in my experience life-like and likable characters are the main ingredient in the majority of those books which made me love them. I wanted to love the book and the world and I even glimpsed the shadows of the characters’ ability to become endearing to the reader in the very first chapter. The first word which comes to mind when I think about Cam and his family and how they treat each other is “tenderness”. Cam’s small sister Pin, who usually does not allow her family members to cuddle and pet her, isn’t shy at all around her big brother whom she barely knows and who everybody keeps his or her difference from since he returned from the war without his right arm and without all the other men from the village. Her unconditional adoration and love is unspeakably cute. Yet. The point of view switches soon from the Attlings to Cam’s betrothed Graceling, the twelve-years old daughter of the ruthless Fenister family, and from there to a young boy whose dog is shot by a farmer and then to Cam’s best friend Ban, who is secretly in love with Cam or maybe only lusts after him and then to … I forgot, because it changed so often and so spontaneously. At first I hoped the story would lead me quickly back into Cam’s or Pin’s mind, but after a while I gradually lost interest and became rather bored, although
C) The subject of the book is such an important and interesting one: It shows in detail how war affects and changes both the soldiers who went out to fight and the families, who stayed and hoped and went on with their daily lives as well as possible: Cam has lost his arm and gained a war horse. His lower limb count lowers his worth on the marriage market and the long-standing betrothal is revoked. Nobody understands why he wants to avoid talking about the various ways the other villagers died during the six-years-long war. Thus when the pestering about Uncle X and Sweetheart Y remains unsuccessful, resentful suspicions make the round: How did Cam manage to stay alive when everybody else did not? Graceful had thought the only uncertain things about her future were the day of her death and the number of her children, but suddenly she does not even know anymore whom she will marry. Graceful’s greedy father uses the war and the new overlord’s taste for fine silk as an excuse to push his property’s boundaries into the woods, the home of a nomad tribe and the game they live on. Acton has become an war-orphan and his dog turns into a farmer’s nuisance whose nerves wear so thin that he finally pulls the trigger ...
I have stopped reading after 75 pages and I will never find out whether the end would have moved me to tears or not. But I do not really care. A story with characters as wonderful as Marchetta’s would never had failed to keep my attention. Therefore in my opinion “Bloodflower” must be lacking in aspects that do matter. But do not be disheartened. It might be just me and not the book. I am positive that Melina Marchetta’s falling in love with it happened on grounds that might work for others, too.
P.S.: I am giving away my copy. If you are interested, inform me via comment on this review or on my profile until October 8th 2011. I will let an internet program pick a winner randomly....more
"Yamaguchi Hiroyuki, who rested agura-style in front of a too warm kotatsu, enjoyed a cup of fragrant genmaicha with a plate of fresh kusamochi from a"Yamaguchi Hiroyuki, who rested agura-style in front of a too warm kotatsu, enjoyed a cup of fragrant genmaicha with a plate of fresh kusamochi from a wagashiya at Higashi-Bashi and took a secret sip of shirozake in between, while reading the less shocking parts of the shimbun to his wataire-clad okusan Miyuki, who was supposed to fold the last Hinamatsuri origami, but nervously fingered a fertility omamori from the neighborhood jinja instead. If she did not conceive this very month there was nothing left but harakiri. 'Shou ga nai', she wispered to herself with a soft sigh reminiscent of the maiko she once had been." Huh? No, this paragraph was certainly not extracted from Jay Kristoff's debut novel Stormdancer, but it could be, for I jumbled together a paragraph that made the same exaggerated use of japanese nouns in a slightly clumsy attempt to create a kind of asian atmosphere. I was really peeved by the vocabulary overload, which even had characters answering with "Hai" instead of simply "Yes", but in the end there were all in all more aspects in the story that I enjoyed, adored or felt comfortably familiar with than those I disliked. I will try to point out both and I will explain why I would in fact recommend to pick up the book along the way.
What I liked ... * First of all: The cover. No, not that bland one one by Tor. It reminds me too much of the cover of Takashi Matsuoka's Cloud of Sparrows. I mean the gorgeous red and black one that shows a griffin, lotus-poisoned air, a sexy, young-enough-looking heroine and even a nine-tailed-fox tattoo on her arm. I really appreciate it, when publishers invest in creating a cover that actually reflects the story in detail. . . . * The abundance of action and gore. * The author's decision not to shy away from including sex in his plot. A lot of writers do so to appease those strange people who continue to pretend that sex is something not belonging into a normal teenager's life – both fictional and real. That really drives me bonkers from time to time. How refreshing to see a heroine who does not treat losing her virginity like a matter of life and death. * Several strong and extremely likable female characters – even in previously unexpected places. * The initially fragile, but later indestructible, Eragon-Saphira-style, exclusive bond between the paranormally gifted kick-ass heroine and the rare, conflicted and highly intelligent mythical creature thrown into her company. Who would not love Yukiko's "taming" of the proud and bristling griffin Buuru and their later mutual come-what-may trust in each other? * That under the disguise of a brutal, slightly romantic, steampunk fantasy set in an alternative Japan a highly relevant, thought-provoking environmental fairytale is genially smuggled onto many reading lists, which reminds me on the one hand of Hayao Miyazaki's masterworks Nausicaä and Princess Mononoke in a very positive way and on the other hand presses a hand-mirror reflecting our own planet-destructing behavior against our greedy noses. I am going to elaborate: - In Princess Mononoke the fierce Lady Eboshi runs a settlement that produces coal from cut-down forest trees to melt ironsand, which is needed to create firearms. The firearms are meant to kill the giant animal-gods protecting the forest and its inhabitants from human exploitation. Lady Eboshi is willing to sacrifice the forest and the magical creatures living there in order for her country's economy to flourish. She actually cares for her workers, but she doesn't see the connection between the mysterious illness many of the men are inflicted with and the destruction of the woods. The imperial hunters want the deer-god's head and they will receive it. In Stormdancer the ruthless ruler and a fanatic group called the Guild have considerably "bettered" the country's economic and political standing by forcing the farmers to grow lotus on their fields, a plant that fuels the various high-tech steampunk machines, appliances, weapons and airships, leads to addiction when consumed in the form of tea or smoke and unfortunately permanently poisons the air around it and the soil it is grown in. To highlight his power the monarch sends out his recently idle hunters to catch the very last magical beast, that had been spotted in one of the rare regions still untouched by the destructive effect of lotus production. - The easily influenced population in want of lotus money reminded me in turn of the Valley-of-the-Wind people in Nausicaä, who eagerly burn down each trace of fungus that reaches their fields, have to wear breathing masks when leaving their wind-filled haven and hold the Omu, huge insects roaming the supposedly deadly fungus forests, responsible for the actually man-made environmental catastrophe. Animal-loving Nausicaae finds out the truth, connects with the gentle Omus and deals with a steampunky, neighboring country threatening to invade the small paradise with their scifi airships. Oh, I can easily imagine Stormdancer turning into a Miyazaki animation film. The plot, the beast and the girl would be perfect. - But what is even more important – and worth a whole rating star for me – is the adaptability to our own present situation: The looming climate problem is evident, but it gets shoved again and again into a dusty backgroud corner to be dealt with later, because shortsightedly securing the immediate want and comfort and well-being of a handful of still thriving countries always gets prioritized. We destroy species after species and their habitats, we squirrel away radioactive time-bombs all over the planet, we make money at war, we figuratively design prettier breathing masks to avoid the stench of our own exhaust and we diplomatically close our eyes, when countries on the rise want to try their hands at high-impact beginners' mistakes, too. We do not import foreign slaves to do the dirty work in front of our doors like the Stormdancer's Emperor does, we prefer putting the factories themselves into far away countries, so we don't have to watch those people slaving away under unhealthy, inhuman conditions, and we can buy another cheap or not so cheap pair of of hip new jeans, while they have to decide between buying a daily bowl of rice or sending a kid to school. I am really grateful to Mr. Kristoff for writing a story that takes place in the midst of a barely stoppable destruction. The only other comparable example I have read so far was Firestorm by David Klass. Most young adult post-apocalyptic novels are – like the label says – set up in a time after an environmental collaps, after the wounded planet rebelled against being treated like something disposable. And usually the teenaged protagonists are handed the broken pieces and try to make the best of it: Living underwater, surviving a draught, contructing a dome ... They play the role of the innocent victim. We – like Yukiko – are not victims, we are doing the deed right now. * The "normal" fantasy plot parts. I had high expectations for the book to be completely different from everything else I have read, but it is certainly not. A lot of plot elements are very familiar, standard fare, really. But for those of us - like me - who usually enjoy high fantasy, that is not necessarily a bad thing. * The ending.
What I disliked ... * The above mentioned vocabulary overload. Glossary or no glossary, all the unnecessary Japanese made reading the first chapters at least extremely exhausting. In fact, it seemed to me like complete lists of traditional japanese weaponry and clothing were put next to the author's computer with the goal to cross off each of them eventually. A lot of concepts could have also been expressed by a simple English word and an unfamiliar, exotic vibe would still have been the outcome. A good example is in my opinion the fantasy debut City of a Thousand Dolls by Miriam Forster. The robes, the fans, the customs, the nomads ... everything was pretty visual, excitingly unfamiliar and special, but I couldn't pinpoint the setting to a single country. There were chinese, japanese and arabic elements and things I believe that were purely fiction. But no glossary and no inbuilt explanation was needed. I could understand it all. I hope that the final version of Stormdancer drops the occasional "Hai", uses plain English for things like jackets, trousers and knives and at least deletes American leanwords like sararimen (salary men). * The lack of world building in the midst of all the elaborate description. For example, I did not get a proper impression of the tree-house village (in comparison Yelena's first visit in the hidden jungle-city complete with floating bridges and braided furniture in Magic Study has burned itself into my memory), I was puzzled by ensuite bathrooms in the imperial palace, I would like to know more about the lotus business and how it facilitates warfare and I needed to dissect several scenes to finally understand Buuru's outer appearance. * Inconsistencies like love-interest Hiro, a green-eyed foreigner with a japanese name serving the nationalist, exclusive Guild and being a trusted servant of the Emperor in spite of obviously not being from "Shima". * The love triangle. * The very forseeable twists and turns on the way to the plot's climax. * The insignificance of Lady Aisha's role. She showed so much promise and surprise and then ... * The missing romance. There was lust and sex and a heroine lost in rather detached dreams of glowing green eyes, but there was nothing to make my heart flutter. I do not ask for an increase of boy-girl-scenes, but for those already there being more intense, more palatable.
I am afraid, this is getting unbearably long. Anyway, I am very grateful for the chance to read the book pre-publication and I recommend it in spite of the above mentioned obstacles, which might scare away a considerable number of potential fans before the story's lotus fumes have begun to lure them in....more