A bit rough around the edges in some places, but this is a very delightful, good-natured book. It has enough substance to keep it from being totally fA bit rough around the edges in some places, but this is a very delightful, good-natured book. It has enough substance to keep it from being totally frivolous, too. I loved it. ...more
OK, I seriously need to review this one. It's not really one I can just wordlessly assign a few stars and be done with it. I know this book was very cOK, I seriously need to review this one. It's not really one I can just wordlessly assign a few stars and be done with it. I know this book was very compelling to me, but I have trouble explaining why. I'll try, though.
So, first of all, this is a very ferocious read. Minnow's led a hard, hard life, and there are some moments of extreme violence. But her inner world can be just as brutal in some ways. I truly felt her helplessness and rage. This is kind of what I wanted out of The Walls Around Us. Less focus on the fantastical, and more focus on man's inhumanity to man. There's a reason I have a 'banality of evil' tag. Minnow was especially fascinating case study on this, because she abhorred the violence in her community. And yet, in the opening paragraph of the book, we learn that she attempted to murder someone. That's the true mystery of the book; the how and the why, there. (view spoiler)[And, boy, the answer we get is truly fascinating. I spent much of the book thinking he was from the Kevinian cult. I think you're led to believe that, but I'm not sure. In truth he's someone she didn't know, and someone likely to have suffered as much as her. But, during their encounter, Minnow was hurting- physically and mentally- and so she wanted to hurt someone right back. For all her ideals, this is something she's capable of doing when she's in total agony. Because this is what she's capable of doing. But, also, what many people are capable of doing whether they have opportunity or cause to do it. And whether they get caught or not. So much suffering is caused because a perpetrator was in pain in some way. (hide spoiler)]
But it's not an entirely bleak tale. Despite everything that's done to her, Minnow retains some of her crucial characteristics; namely her curiosity remains. She develops a strong friendship with her roommate in juvie, too. And she learns to navigate the world and finally decide for herself. The book shows the awful things she is capable of doing, but it also shows how she's capable of recovering and connecting with others. The story doesn't wrap things up in a bow but, when it leaves you, you can trust that things will be okay. It's fine that Minnow isn't 100%, because people are works in progress and she is okay with that.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
This reminded me of reading Wolf Hall / Bring Up the Bodies. On practically every page there was a sentence or a paragraph that made me go "yes, thisThis reminded me of reading Wolf Hall / Bring Up the Bodies. On practically every page there was a sentence or a paragraph that made me go "yes, this is my favorite quote ever."
The only part I wasn't wild about was the epilogue, but I'm going to dig around and see how others interpreted it. Regardless, it certainly didn't detract from the book for me. ...more
So, I think one of the biggest strengths and weaknesses of this series is in its POV structure. As the series goes on, more and more characters are adSo, I think one of the biggest strengths and weaknesses of this series is in its POV structure. As the series goes on, more and more characters are added as a POV. I love all the characters, and love to spend time in their minds, but by the time you get to the fourth book "Winter" doesn't always feel like Winter's book. I suspect she actually got as much material as Cinder got in her book. Cinder is only 390 pages, while Winter is 800+ after all. But with all the shift viewpoints it can sometimes feel like Winter is neglected.
Also I wish that (view spoiler)[so much more attention had been paid to how Cinder and Winter were best friends as young children, and were treated as cousins. This book threw around a lot of unexpected duos- Scarlet-Winter, Kai-Thorne, Kai-Cress, Cress-Wolf- that it seems like we could have been given a bit more time with Cinder-Winter, especially after Winter recovers in the end. They don't need to become BFFs again- sometimes time changes people too much- but it seems like a connection that should have been capitalized on a bit more. Luna in general needs more characterization. (hide spoiler)]
The Winter chapters are some of Meyer's best writing in this series. Unusually poetic, at times, in a series where the prose is very "just the facts, ma'am." There's a conversation she and Jacin have that almost made me cry in its emotional veracity. (view spoiler)[Him saying she was perfect just the way she was. Her saying she wants medical treatment for mental illness. I've been on both sides of that equation, and I loved that they both always figure out how to understand each other. (hide spoiler)]
Overall, this was a satisfying end to a series that has brought me a great deal of fun and joy over the past year and a half. The found family at the heart of this book is just delightful and, as I said, you do get a sense that people are friends outside of their love interest duos. Everything speeds along nicely, but not so much that humor and pathos gets buried.
I would love (view spoiler)[a Goblin Emperor style book of Cinder trying to figure out how to navigate the Lunar court, as she dismantles the monarchy in favor of a republic. The battles were exciting but, honestly, Cinder vs Politics somehow kept me on the edge of my seat more than anything else. (hide spoiler)]
This isn't my favorite book in the series- Cress is the best in terms of plotting and POV balance, I think- but there's so much good in here, and it's a great end to a delightful series.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
So this is the first book I'm choosing to fulfill one of the categories in Book Riot's Read Harder Challenge for 2015. One of the things I find intereSo this is the first book I'm choosing to fulfill one of the categories in Book Riot's Read Harder Challenge for 2015. One of the things I find interesting about this challenge is that many of the books I've been considering for it can fulfill several categories at once. For example, this book could fit "a book set in Asia," a "retelling of another story," or even "a guilty pleasure." However I'm going to slot this one into the "romance" category because that's the heart (heh) of this story.
And what a fun romance it is! The author clearly puts a lot of thought into both of the leads, how they relate to each other, and how they exist within the demands of their culture. Romance gets a bad rap but- and I know this from my own experiences in writing- it's very difficult to convey an effective romantic relationship. Lots of authors out there going through the motions. Here, the author shows every step in the process of falling in love. She even shows them joking around and having fun together. You can see why they would fight so hard to be together.
Also the book's description does a slight disservice to the character. Fei Long is described as "proud" and wanting to "take" her. When in the book it's more like he's this overly stressed out dude who loves the hell out of her and wants her in his life always. He's got many, many flaws but both of the characters are on even footing with each other, and they respect and understand each other so much. They're just two generally great people who really really want each other, but are also super aware of the world around them. This was a very refreshing read in many ways. Maybe not the most groundbreaking work I'll ever read, but sometimes all you want is a relatively simple idea that the author executes almost flawlessly....more
This fulfills the "a book that takes place in Asia" category of the Read Harder Challenge. One of the continuously interest aspects of doing this chalThis fulfills the "a book that takes place in Asia" category of the Read Harder Challenge. One of the continuously interest aspects of doing this challenge is how much thought I put into each category. I frequently read books set in Asia (fiction and non-fiction), but I'm using this one to fulfill this part of the challenge. Why? Because the Mongol empire, at the height of its power, was the largest ever Asian empire. It's common for some westerners to view Asia as some kind of cultural monolith, but studying the Mongol empire in any sort of depth reveals how false that is. A staggering number of cultures and cities and countries were conquered by Genghis Khan, with some wiped out entirely. If nothing else, I appreciate that this book made an effort to show that (particularly in the Fatima section.)
On to the book itself... As you can probably tell by my rating, I'm a bit ambivalent. This is a historical time period I feel passionate about, but I'm not one of those people who freaks out about creative liberties in fiction. If anything, this book has an abundance of accuracy. I read The Secret History of the Mongol Queens: How the Daughters of Genghis Khan Rescued His Empire a few years back, and it was such a vivid non-fiction book that I recognized many of its anecdotes and research reflected in this novel.
Half the time, The Tiger Queens is as vibrant as the historical events it depicts, the other half of the time the characters feel like beautifully carved game pieces being moved around by History. It's worth noting that this book is a series of four novellas, each narrated by a different woman. I disagree that there isn't enough time to tell each story, though. I've read many short stories that seem to contain entire universes. But this book doesn't quite reach that level, and I'm still trying to figure out why.
Though I do have some ideas. First, the characters are often in the habit of telling you outright that they are sad or happy or fearful. When the characters are engaged in some sort of action- divining the future, burying a beloved friend, giving birth for the first time- the author is so good at conveying how their state of mind. There's no need to punctuate it by stating the emotions that they feel. In this book it ends up introducing a note of artificiality that happens at such frequent intervals that it's hard to lose yourself in the story. Second, like The Lowland, the prose often leaps through entire months or years. This isn't a problem if nothing much is happening, but it occurs during important character-building moments for at least two of the novellas. (view spoiler)[In Alaqai's story, for example, it jumps over the years in which she rules in the stead of her invalid husband, with the help of her step-family. This is so frustrating because this is when so many of the character development is probably happening! Alaqai will later plead for her city to be treated with mercy, but if we don't actually see her pouring her blood, sweat, and tears into this city, then her incredible act of mercy rings hollow. This is one of my favorite moments in the entire history of the Mongol empire, and yet I was a bit bored by it here. The same thing happened with the Fatima novella. It skipped over her portion of time adjusting to the Mongol way of life, essentially speeding through it with a montage about the intense weather. Again, this is a huge problem. The way the story is set up, Fatima needs to grow attached to this family in spite of herself. And later on, the women will want to avenge her because she becomes a dear friend to all of them. And yet we don't see any of this bonding process, really. Again, the Toregene and Fatima relationship is deeply fascinating to me, but it was hard to feel anything for them because we saw so little of the growth of their relationship. What was there was beautiful, too, so it would have been nice to have so much more (hide spoiler)].
There were also a lot of Chekov's guns that didn't go off. This is less of a problem than the other two points, but there were so many moments when I thought the author was being clever, but then it went nowhere. (view spoiler)[Case in point, the book makes a big point of showing Alaqai realizing that Toregene has a very tragic past due to the culture of vengeance on the steppes. And yet this plays no role in her decision to show mercy to the city that rebelled against her. Even worse is how the book handles the rape of the Oirat girls. In Weatherford's book, it is one of the most horrifying incidents I've ever heard about. This novel wrings a few moments of pathos out of it, but Fatima should have reacted a bit more to it given her background. Ogodei makes a big show of only wanting willing women in his bed, and condones his wife having an affair, and yet he orders something like this. Many world rulers do evince these kinds of contradictions, so I was sort of fascinated by the author's decision to portray him that way. And yet this incident goes nowhere, it barely gives Fatima pause. It just introduces Guyuk's wife- a survivor of this mass gang rape- who the prose gets very derisive about. She's probably the biggest example of 'show not tell' in this whole book. We're told she's unstable, and we're told to despise her as much as we're told to despise Guyuk. Overall, this book seems to have disdain for the female characters that aren't 'The Tiger Queens.' It's one thing for the characters to have less than charitable emotions petaining to Genghis's other wives, or for Guyuk's POW bride. It's quite another to have the prose basically tell you to dislike them because they're not part of the Golden Family. No thanks. (hide spoiler)]
This review sounds so harsh. Maybe it is. There's a lot in this book that's good. When the author is confident (ie; not outright telling us how character's feel) the prose really sings. It's truly beautiful, painting a vivid picture of changing life in the steppes over a course of many decades. All the POV characters sound different from one another, and their friendship and support of one another are genuinely touching. Although I didn't love this book, I think I'd recommend it to anyone who wants to read historical fiction that tackles different subjects than the usual.
Edit 1/15/2016: I've decided to dock a point because of the author's obnoxious review of Marco Polo. All I have to say is it's a bit rich to rail on a show for sexism when you write a very sexist, ableist portrayal of a survivor of gang rape. Many of the things she identifies as flaws in Marco Polo exist in her own novel. At least Marco Polo wasn't condescending about women who weren't in the royal family. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I picked this one up because the descriptions sounded like... I wouldn't be bored, at least. In the end it actually veers away from the sort of 'knockI picked this one up because the descriptions sounded like... I wouldn't be bored, at least. In the end it actually veers away from the sort of 'knockoff of the lord of the flies!! with girls!! in the forest!!!!" scenario that the dust jacket promised. But I didn't mind; this book wound up being pretty profound, and speaking to things I've struggled with all of my life. I always like a story that paints capacity to change and reach self-fulfillment as worth striving for, even if one stumbles along the way. And this book does honor to that basic principle....more
Because I have a short reading attention span, reading Cleopatra: A Life reminded me that I had this book on my mental to-read list. And today I decidBecause I have a short reading attention span, reading Cleopatra: A Life reminded me that I had this book on my mental to-read list. And today I decided to take a detour into reading Cleopatra's Daughter before resuming that one. I wasn't super impressed with Nefertiti; in presentation, it struck me as a warmed over The Other Boleyn Girl... this time in Egypt! (And with a more interesting main character, to be fair.) Still, I have been curious about Cleopatra Selene for some time now and historical fiction is like my literary comfort food. tl;dr: I was totally destined to read this someday and, hurray!, this book proved to be well worth my while.
I will say that I was frustrated in some points; some of the character are tiresome caricatures and boring tropes, sticking out like sore thumbs among the more well-developed ones. Likewise, Moran's writing style is a puzzle to me, wherein stronger emotions occasionally fall flat. Nothing comes across as maudlin, but she had an unenviable task considering the sheer number of tragedies in Selene's life. Also, and this is probably petty, but I rather wish this book had been a duology. I really wanted to read about Selene's life after the time span covered in this book, because it's some pretty fascinating stuff. As it stands, the ending feels a bit abrupt, and I think a chapter or two more wouldn't have hurt.
Still, Cleopatra's Daughter is compulsively readable and ridiculously entertaining. Prickly, conscientious Selene is an appealing heroine, and a number of the side characters are equally interesting. Julia in particular steals the show, and I was so glad that the author made her and Selene have a somewhat complicated relationship. (Actually, and this might have been because I was just reading this books, I was slightly reminded of Gemma and Felicty from A Great and Terrible Beauty. This is a good thing!)
Moran is also pretty decent about sticking to historical fact. She does invent a slave uprising out of whole cloth, but this didn't bother me. It fit well into the climate of the day, and it didn't come across as the author going "well I think THIS should have happened instead!" Furthermore, Cleopatra's Daughter does a pretty damn decent job of developing the character's personalities, rather than merely going from point A to B in history.
This is more like a 4.5. Pretty much a perfect rainy day read! ...more