I don't necessarily agree with everything in this short book, though I do think the advice therein is finely tuned to how writer marketing works in th...moreI don't necessarily agree with everything in this short book, though I do think the advice therein is finely tuned to how writer marketing works in the age of social networking. Still, I can't help but wish that things didn't have to be so caught up in contacts and ulterior motives and all the "I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine" ways of the world. Useless thinking, I know.
(I may write a more detailed review at a later date, but I think this will suffice for now.)(less)
Oh my goodness, I'd forgotten how much fun it is to read about Seraphina, her dragon-tutor Orma, and plucky Princess Glisselda. "The Audition" really...moreOh my goodness, I'd forgotten how much fun it is to read about Seraphina, her dragon-tutor Orma, and plucky Princess Glisselda. "The Audition" really gives a great showcase of a few of the characters who appear in the full-length novel Seraphina, and this short story made me smile throughout because I love these characters and their world.
For anyone interested in reading Seraphina or even those unsure of trying it come its July 10th release date, please give this short story a read and see how you fare with it. I doubt you'll be disappointed.(less)
In some respects, Loki: Nine Naughty Tales of the Trickster fell a little short for me me due to my expectations. After having finished Mike Vasich's full-length novel Loki, I was eager to see what his short story collection about the trickster would entail. As I said in my review of Loki, I really adored Vasich's sympathetic take on Loki and wondered if the short stories of this collection would tie into the backstory of the character we had met in the novel.
Alas, the nine short stories therein rather support the Loki seen in traditional Norse mythology: he's less of a cunning strategist (as were seen in some shades of Loki's character in Loki) and more of the usual wily character who's sometimes quite petty and childish in his schemes. Granted, I love when writers are faithful to myths while at the same time offering a spin narrative-wise, but I guess I was still pondering the question of why the gods held such a low opinion of Loki within the novel's narrative frame and hoping that the "nine naughty tales of the trickster" would give that backstory. Instead, the novel and this short story collection are very much apart from each other, so readers should take that into account whether they be starting the novel or the short story collection first.
Many of these stories are familiar to anyone who has ever looked into Norse mythology -- the cutting of Sif's golden hair, the time Loki disguises Thor as Freyja so that they might reclaim Thor's hammer from the giants, the events that lead to Sleipnir's birth, Balder's death -- but Vasich brings his own spin to them through witty dialogue from Loki and others. Even with the sometimes distasteful things the gods do, it's still somewhat amusing to read about these gods' blunders and missteps, often orchestrated by Loki himself. This quote from the collection really sums up how Loki perceives his role among the gods:
It was a given that any of the gods could slay him in physical combat, and yet he survived–nay, he thrived–in their midst, making them dance like puppets at the end of his strings!
However, even with the amusement to be had from the other tales, the real stand-outs here are the final two which deal with Ragnarok and its aftermath: here Vasich really takes the myths into his own hands and fashions his own unique take. The seven tales preceding them seem almost like child's play by comparison and, by the time I finished, my eyes had gone wide because, egads, what if that had happened?
Somewhere, I think a certain trickster was laughing at me.
All in all, I think Loki: Nine Tales of the Trickster is an amusing take on Norse characters and their stories with a spotlight on the trickster's antics. Loki fans especially will likely find this collection worth reading.(less)
When I first read the synopsis for Cassandra Rose Clarke's The Assassin's Curse, I was very intrigued. Pirates? Assassins? Magic? Curses? Yes, please!...moreWhen I first read the synopsis for Cassandra Rose Clarke's The Assassin's Curse, I was very intrigued. Pirates? Assassins? Magic? Curses? Yes, please! Who wouldn't want to read a novel that seems like what might have happened if someone like Tamora Pierce had written Pirates of the Caribbean? As often as I've been burned by false promises in novel synopses, I need not have worried with this novel: The Assassin's Curse fulfilled its promises and managed to soar above and beyond my expectations.
In a world where a Pirate's Confederation rules the seas and assassins stalk the shadows, Ananna of the Tanarau finds herself in a precarious position: she is engaged to marry Tarrin, son of the Hariri, yet she has no plans to play wife to a pirate captain's son. Rather, she wants to be the pirate captain, leading her own ship and crew. Even though Tarrin promises that his family will send an assassin after her if she were to leave, Ananna takes her chance and escapes her arranged marriage...but her goals are put on hold when she finds herself faced with the assassin hired by the Hariri. Through a series of magical mishaps, the unthinkable happens: pirate princess and assassin end up journeying to find a way to break a curse that binds them together. What good can come of these happenings?
The first thing that really struck me about this novel was how subtle yet fascinating the world-building was. For one, I don't think I've read a novel recently that managed to contain so many culture cues and nods without being overwrought or feeling too authorially maneuvered for diversity's sake. Here everything felt natural, even with the shadow-traveling assassins (who reminded me of ninjas at times) and blood magic and mentions of mystical creatures. It was one of those worlds I never wanted to leave because it seemed so full of possibility.
Of course, Ananna herself really stole my attention. Recently, I've found myself really admiring narratives that manage to capture a character's specific voice (Moira Young's Blood Red Road and A.C. Gaughen's Scarlet come to mind), and I can add The Assassin's Curse to the list because this novel also bears quite a distinctive voice in Ananna. Beyond that, though, she's the kind of heroine who's really fun to follow because she does things. Ananna doesn't wait for people to do things for her or protect her (instead, she's usually very opposed to these things because she was raised to take care of herself in dangerous situations), and she's a whole spectrum away from passive.
With the assassin/would-be hero, Naji, there was quite a role reversal. In some ways, I think he actually took on some of the characteristics usually attributed to YA heroines (mind, I thought this was a *very good* thing). Despite being a capable assassin, Naji mucks things up quite a bit through some impulsive decisions over the course of the novel and, even with his magic, he's far from "invincible." (Rather, he often ends up drained due to his magic use, leaving Ananna in a bind to drag him to safety somehow.) It's also quite interesting that Naji seems to bear quite a bit of insecurity, all born from people and happenings in his past. Too often in YA novels I see the insecure "I'll never believe I'm beautiful"/"I'm too ugly to be loved" heroines, so it was very refreshing to read about a hero who, despite capability and intelligence, seems to think very little of himself on a person-to-person level. Usually in various media (not just YA novels) we see male characters who are confident, most oftentimes bordering on arrogant, yet rarely do we ever see the ones who bear self-esteem issues and quite a bit of uncertainty. In that respect, Naji seemed very "real" to me as a character, especially in how he acted and interacted with others.
Though the novel undoubtedly had flaws, I'm probably too close to it right now as far as "book infatuation" to point them out and note them in this review. The ending came far too abruptly for my liking, though that's likely due to the fact that I really, really wanted a resolution...only to reach the end and think, "Nononono, don't end, don't end... Oh, crap, now I have to wait for the sequel." (Don't we all hate when that happens?) I guess my reaction only gives more testament to how much I really enjoyed this novel and how much I look forward to the sequel, The Pirate's Wish.
Needless to say, I feel that The Assassin's Curse is definitely a notable addition to YA fantasy and one that I hope fantasy fans will flock to read and devour come October. It's a fun novel that should quench any reader's thirst for magic, pirates, assassins, and a world where the possible and impossible twine together. Here's hoping that Ananna and Naji's journey will enchant other readers as much as it did me.
Note: I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.(less)
Truly, Madly, Deeply, You: currently, it has a fairly middle-of-the-range average rating (hovering just over the 3.5 star mark) here on Goodreads...so...moreTruly, Madly, Deeply, You: currently, it has a fairly middle-of-the-range average rating (hovering just over the 3.5 star mark) here on Goodreads...so you might be wondering why I'm so far on the other end of the spectrum with a one-star "Sorry, I Didn't Like It" rating.
To be honest, what initially drew me to this novella (which clocks in at just around 70-80 pages) was the cover. I haven't had much exposure to interracial romances, so I was intrigued that this novella was so upfront about the kind of romance inside. Almost immediately, I wanted to know the characters depicted on the cover and how their relationship might develop within the story.
The blurb also intrigued me because it tackles an issue that I've seen discussed quite a bit over the past few weeks on the internet: the matter of the "friendzoned guy." Freytag "Frey" Meier is one such man, who has held a special place in his heart for his best friend Liese Hansfeld ever since they were thirteen years old...but Liese has seemingly never noticed. In fact, she went on to marry another, only for her to lose her husband a few short years after they wed. Given that kind of backstory, I was a bit concerned with how a male character in the friendzone would react to such a situation. Would he take advantage of his friend's grief and try to "make her love him" by smothering her with (some ill-motivated) kindness and attention? Or would he simply be the friend who lives his own life and tries to move on himself even as he wishes that his friend could (and would) do the same for herself? I was curious to find out.
So...what happened to make me react so negatively to this story? How did all my interest and curiosity turn into disappointment and irritation?
I really don't think the story started on the right foot when Frey, "being the good friend," ignores Liese's wishes to be alone during her yearly four-day grieving period and breaks into her home. Even though the intention was that Frey was doing all this "for her own good," I felt appalled on behalf of Liese. Why? This man is supposedly her best friend (and, given the context of the story, seemingly her only friend), yet he doesn't think to talk to her about any of this prior to swooping in and saying, "Okay, you don't get an opinion on this. You are not going to be alone this year because I say so." Great that you want to help her! Great that you seem to have good intentions! But why "your way or no way," huh? As best friends, shouldn't your relationship be a bit more equal than that?
Of course...as soon as I met and knew Liese, I found myself a bit appalled by her as well. Given her grief, I can understand some lapses in care of herself and such -- but it was a bit annoying that she needs to be reminded by Frey to take care of herself and he cooks every meal for her (otherwise, she doesn't seem to eat). Not to mention the fact that, even when she's in another room (such as the bathroom) and locks the door, Frey often "checks up" on her quickly and (at one point) believes he might have to break down the door "just to make sure she's all right."
Now, here's the thing: I could understand some of Frey's overprotectiveness and paranoia if Liese were suicidal. However, even with how often she cried, I never got the deep, frightening impression that "Man, if this girl were left alone, she might really do harm to herself." I don't know if the lack of worry on my end was due to Liese's characterization or something else. For all I know, she was meant to be portrayed as a potentially suicidal woman who needed to be brought back from the brink by her best friend who loves her. Truthfully, I never felt that from Liese while I was reading, but some other reader might see it another way and be more empathetic as to why Frey seemed to have a problem with respecting Liese's space. As for me...well, I found Frey was a manipulator hidden behind the mask of a "nice guy."
Only two other characters made an appearance in this novella: Ben (Frey's romantic rival for Liese) and Carmen (Frey's ex-girlfriend). Given that neither character is fleshed out or given complexities beyond being outside "obstacles" to Frey and Liese's romance, Ben and Carmen added nothing more to the story. It was a shame, really, since sometimes supporting characters can make up for some of the slack of the main characters (if said supporting characters are fleshed out enough).
Beyond all that, however, what really made me dislike this novella was that I saw no real depth to the friendship or the potential romantic relationship between Liese and Frey. They've known each other since they were in their early teens, yet no real backstory depth is given to their friendship other than Liese sometimes musing how they've already seen each other naked when they were younger or how they sometimes slept in the same bed (both musings of which add very little weight to the reality of friendship between these two characters, in my opinion). On Frey's end, it's a bit disturbing how he coddles Liese (he even compares her to a kitten once): there's no real respect on his end for her other than trying to "protect" her from other guys. As for the romance...well, it has little to do with admirable traits they see in each other but how attractive they find each other. Never once did I read how they admired each other's internal traits and characteristics but rather the external such as beauty and sex appeal. But why does Frey love Liese so much, beyond beauty? Why does Liese start to see him romantically even though she loved and married someone else? I wanted to know these things, but I never received any of the answers.
The sad thing is that I might not have had such a dislike for this story if the characters had been teenagers instead of adults. Mind, that's not a preference of mine (it's my personal view that characters of any work should be deep and complex), but rather the characters themselves weren't convincing as adults. Their dialogue, their behavior, their emotions -- all of it seemed more suitable for teenage characters wrought with the potential excuses of hormones, romantic entanglements and drama, and emotional confusion. (I know adults experience all those things as well to varying degrees, but it's not in a book's favor when you have a 24-year-old man who treats a grown woman like a child who must be babied and protected from others and herself. Nor is it a good sign when you have a 24-year-old woman shifting among crying fits, antidepressant-fueled stupor, or sudden lust for her best friend, all the while giving no real indicator that she can care for herself without the help of said best friend.)
Plus, we are never clued in to how these characters support themselves, what their hobbies may be, what connections they bear to the outside world other than to each other...and I find that a bit disquieting in and of itself. Other romances give their characters family backgrounds and such, so why couldn't I at least see some of that here? Instead, the story has romance as the one and only core goal, and it suffers for it.
By the end of the novella, nothing is truly resolved. Liese still has her issues, and Frey will likely suffocate her with his "love" and not give her the space she needs to try and heal in her own time. No, it's not the most destructive romance in fiction out there (far from it), but I still can't accept it as a "good romance" or even a desirable one (given the unequal balance between Frey and Liese). And I don't think other readers should accept it as such either.
However, that's just my opinion. If you're at all interested in Truly, Madly, Deeply, You, then by all means spend the two dollars for the e-book and see how the story fares for you.(less)
Sarah Diemer just keeps sharpening her craft with each story I read from her. This short story, The Witch Sea, is no exception, for it boasts exquisit...moreSarah Diemer just keeps sharpening her craft with each story I read from her. This short story, The Witch Sea, is no exception, for it boasts exquisite writing that rivals even some of the offerings in Diemer's longer works such as The Dark Wife and Sugar Moon. For those who have yet to read Diemer's work, I would say this short story is a great place to start. (If you need any more goading, the romance is between a witch and a selkie maiden... Can't say that isn't a hook in and of itself, right?)(less)
Kissed many frogs. Finally found prince. -Lacie Cannon
I kicked Romeo's ass. The End. -Lee Payne
To be honest, what I loved about Six-Word Memoirs on Love & Heartbreak was that the memoirs themselves were varied: some blunt, some thoughtful, some painfully honest, some ambiguous. Each one offered a story painted in few words, and I have to admire these people for sharing. Overall, I really adore the idea of six-word memoirs: I look forward to reading even more in the future.(less)
I've never written a proper review for any of the Queen's Thief books I have read (even though I love them so, however much portions of the story make...moreI've never written a proper review for any of the Queen's Thief books I have read (even though I love them so, however much portions of the story make my heart ache), but seeing and reading this short story inspired me a bit to give some of my impressions of this story and the main character, Eugenides. (Note: Here there be SPOILERS for the novels themselves, so read with caution if you have yet to read said novels for yourself.)
It's strange that I would come across this short story because, years and years ago, I actually read Disney Adventures (the monthly magazine in which this short story was first published) quite often -- but, if I did read this story back then, I sadly don't remember it. Of course, after reading this story now, I have some excuse: this prequel short story is best read and enjoyed if you have already followed Eugenides (the Queen's Thief of Eddis) in his novel adventures. Why? Well...you have more reason to understand (and admire) the kind of character (and thief) Gen is if you have known him prior. Just as this story illustrates, he is not a thief for personal gain: instead, he steals (and risks his safety and well-being) for the sake of others (or, in this case, to punish others) and his kingdom. Though that makes him a bit of a Robin Hood-esque thief, I am much more a Eugenides fan than a Robin Hood fan.
Oddly, my eyes cued in on this sentence even amid some of the wit and humor to be found in this short story:
[Gen] couldn't open the fingers on his right hand to achieve an entirely satisfying wave, and he had no sooner begun waving the fingers of the other hand when Stenides shook him hard and his hands dropped.
If you've read the second Queen's Thief novel, The Queen of Attolia (which, in the Author's Note of this story, Turner mentions had already been written when this story was originally published), then you might understand why this sentence -- so harmless in context -- caused a wave of grief to come over me as I read it. In just a few short years, Gen would no longer have that right hand to help him in his thieving exploits. If he had known that, would he have done things differently in his life as a thief, or would he have trudged on regardless? Because of who Gen is as a character, I like to think that the latter option -- however painful and arduous -- would have been his way because that's one thing Gen has never compromised on: he is who he is, and he doesn't let what fate or the gods might have in store define his own choices for himself...even if that may lead to repercussions and consequences on his end.
Needless to say, Eugenides is the type of character -- the type of hero -- I will gladly follow until the very end.(less)