I would say that Bound South is a group of connected short stories. There's not really one plot that connects the chapters. Instead, I would say that...moreI would say that Bound South is a group of connected short stories. There's not really one plot that connects the chapters. Instead, I would say that the author uses these stories, told from the points of view of three different Southern ladies, to explore issues they each face and how hard it can be to move past them, even when they try.
I thought the author did a fantastic job giving each character her own voice. With each story being written in first person, it was very important that she get this right and she did. Louise, the upper-class society matron who holds some surprising views; Caroline, her teenage daughter who is constantly seeking; and Missy, their housekeeper's daughter who tries to hold tight to religion in an increasingly sinful world. Each told her own story in her own way and had something to contribute to the story.
At times funny, sometimes sad, and always thought-provoking, some of the issues the women face are the obvious, such as race, sexual orientation/identity, poverty, religion, and a middle-aged woman's constantly shifting role in her children's lives. Some of the others are not so obvious, such as the surprising directions exploitation can come from, stupid choices that can affect your whole life, how sometimes you're not the only one who carries the weight of your sins, and how hard it is to watch your children make mistakes. But these women face each challenge as it comes, do the best they can, and try to learn from it.
I loved this passage, as Louise is thinking about her daughter:
"How do I tell her that what I want is to know her, to know the woman who made these birds, to see what she might become if she is allowed to spread out, to expand. How do I say, Darling, please. Don't shrink yourself so soon." (Emphasis is the author's)
But I like to feel a connection to the characters I'm reading about and that never happened for me in this book. I loved that I was forced to think about my own beliefs and values, but I did miss that connection. That's why I only gave it three stars. But readers who don't mind that and who want to see what a Southern woman has to say about some current issues, should pick this up.(less)
During the siege of Leningrad in World War II, Lev and Kolya find themselves in jail at the same time. After a sleepless night in which they expect to...moreDuring the siege of Leningrad in World War II, Lev and Kolya find themselves in jail at the same time. After a sleepless night in which they expect to be executed the next morning, they instead find themselves facing a Colonel in the Red Army. He will let them go free if they agree to find a dozen eggs for his daughter's wedding cake. Leningrad is surrounded by Germans and people are starving to death in the streets. They don't know how they're going to do it but they undertake the task.
I really think I would have enjoyed this more in print. There was nothing really wrong with Ron Perlman's narration, but the tone of his voice is just so low that it was pretty easy for me to unintentionally tune him out as I was driving.
That said, I did enjoy it. Poor young, serious Lev, to be stuck with Kolya! But I loved Kolya. He's like that one person that you really like even though you're uncomfortable around him more often than not because of the things that he says. He has no idea when to shut up but he's so charming that he generally gets away with saying whatever he's thinking. He thinks a lot about girls and how much he hates the Germans and a book named The Courtyard Hound. He quotes it all the time! I would have been more of a Lev in their situation, terrified of everything, but Kolya kept young Lev going. He kept me laughing and shaking my head.
The novel felt a bit like The Odyssey, with the young man drifting from one insane adventure to the next. While their journey only lasts a week, so much happens that it felt like much longer. Cannibals, sadists, epic chess games, I just never knew what they were going to get into next. I liked that.
What I did not like was the ending. Not one little bit. I can see that it was necessary but that doesn't mean I have to like it.
This was a perfect read during the--what are they calling it? Polar Vortex?--that has chilled most of the US. I'll complain about the cold all day if I can but reading about these young men in the frigid temperatures of Russia, well the USSR at the time, with no food and inadequate clothing helped me keep things in perspective. Settle in to read this when it's cold outside, enjoy it, and be thankful for what you have.(less)
Truly Plaice has been larger than life since her conception. The town men wagered on how big she would be when she was born. They all guessed too low....moreTruly Plaice has been larger than life since her conception. The town men wagered on how big she would be when she was born. They all guessed too low. In contrast to her petite, doll-like older sister, Truly looks even bigger. Needless to say, the small town is not kind to Truly as she grows up. The other children are merciless and even adults want her safely out of the way. When she and Serena Jane are orphaned, Truly is shipped off to a farm on the outskirts of town while her sister lives in town with the vicar's wife. Truly does eventually make a few friends, children who are just as much outcasts as she is. She has their support as they grow older and the lives of the golden children of the town slowly fall apart.
This really didn't do anything for me and I feel like it should have. I listened to it, so maybe my attention span just wasn't up to par. But I really didn't care what happened to anybody, even Truly.
At first, I did love the way that Truly has made her birth and early years a personal mythology. The story is in a sort of omniscient first person. Truly shares her mother's dying thoughts and things she couldn't possibly know. I liked it.
But as Truly grew, I cared less and less.
The town is full of horrible people. The only ones who are kind to Truly are the ones who don't fit in for various reasons. She does find a place with them, but she's never fully content with it. She adores her sister and always wants to find a way to spend more time with her. That's admirable, but Serena Jane has no interest in Truly. None. She's a self-absorbed little ice princess. She doesn't care about anyone other than herself. Truly never seems to fully appreciate the friendship and love she does have but constantly worries about the lack of a relationship with Serena Jane.
She eventually finds herself back in town and nothing is any better. If anything, her situation is infinitely worse in most ways. And Truly just accepts it as her lot in life. She seems happy to be miserable.
Toward the end, she suffers a huge personal loss, but it doesn't seem to affect her at all. It was almost like, "Oh well. Lesson learned. Moving on." At least she learned from it, but there needed to be more of an expression of mourning. I was upset with her for appearing to be so uncaring.
Narrator Carrington MacDuffie did a pretty good job, but that's really all I have to say about her performance.
I think I'm in the minority with my opinion, but to me this was just a gray book that I listened to in a gray spring and I will probably forget about it pretty quickly. (less)
Kitty Norville is a late-night DJ who stumbles upon a popular idea for a talk show--"The Midnight Hour" in which she and her listeners discuss any and...moreKitty Norville is a late-night DJ who stumbles upon a popular idea for a talk show--"The Midnight Hour" in which she and her listeners discuss any and all thing supernatural. And the girl knows what she's talking about. She's a werewolf. Unfortunately, her new-found success brings her some unwanted attention. Her Alpha and the master of the local vampire family want her off the air. Someone hires a werewolf hunter to take her out. And Kitty has just found out that there's a rogue wolf in town making everyone else look bad.
This was good. It was. My issues with it were purely my own and don't even necessarily make sense. I admit it.
First, I personally didn't care too much for the narration by Marguerite Gavin. It was very consciously cadenced and very staccato, even when that style didn't feel appropriate for what she was reading. It just felt like she was trying too hard. I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to stick with this at first, but I did and it bothered me less as time went on.
Now for the big thing, and the thing that makes the least sense. I didn't like the pack dynamics. My head knows that a pack of werewolves would interact in exactly this manner. There would be an alpha and his female, and they would punish and reward as they chose. Strength would be a big factor in status. There would be power struggles. My heart just doesn't like reading about any man slamming a woman around and then having sex with her as a reward. I just can't get past it. That part definitely improved as Kitty grew more confident, and that was one of the points of the book, but it really did push my buttons.
That stuff out of the way, I did mostly manage to get caught up in the story. I would find myself speeding a little faster in my car when there was a fight scene or a confrontation. I wanted to know who the rogue was and what the pack was going to do about him. I wanted to know what was going on with Cormac (because there has got to be a juicy back story there). I honestly wanted to see Kitty kick some ass. There were some people--beings?--that were just begging for it. And what is up with the creepy faith healer?
I thought Vaughn did a really good job in exploring what would happen if supernaturals ever did "come out of the closet," so to speak. Would our laws apply to them? How would you give a vamp life in prison? Would it be murder to kill one? She grounded the whole idea pretty firmly in reality by including the NIH and CDC and classifying these conditions as diseases. I found myself actually pondering some of these questions!
Despite an ending that I was very unhappy about, I'm not sure if I'll continue the series. I've added it to my wishlist on my library's small audio website, so I might get to it someday, but I'm in no rush.
If you're less squeamish than I am about what I can only (unfairly) call violence toward women, and you do like paranormals, I think you'll like this one.(less)
Mickey Haller is a criminal defense attorney living in LA. His bail bondsman calls him up one day with a "franchise" case. A young man with money to b...moreMickey Haller is a criminal defense attorney living in LA. His bail bondsman calls him up one day with a "franchise" case. A young man with money to burn has been charged with a whole list of crimes, ranging from something like attempted rape to assault with a deadly weapon. Don't quote me on that. Anyway, Mickey, seeing dollar signs, takes the case and starts his investigation.
I would give this 4.5 stars if I could. I'd heard a lot of good things about this and I bugged a co-worker until he finally let me borrow it. I wasn't disappointed. The book was a page-turner from the get-go, but about halfway through Connelly threw a huge twist in and I could not stop reading.
As for Mickey himself...He first presents himself as a scumbag who will do anything for money. His first advertising campaign was "Reasonable doubt for a reasonable fee." Nice guy, right? I wasn't too sure about him at first. But one of his other mottoes is a saying his dad, another defense attorney, had: "There is no client as scary as an innocent man." He does his job and he does it well. Throughout the book, he explains his job as he sees it. We've all heard about the obviously guilty defendant getting off on a technicality. Had the case been worked correctly, that would not have happened. He keeps the system as honest as he can. But he's also lost his faith in the truth and the system somewhere along the way. His struggle to make peace with his job and his jaded view of the system are a pretty consistent theme throughout. It's not too preachy, but it does make you think.
But all that makes the book sound too serious. It was a legal thriller that kept me turning pages. And I'm not a huge fan of legal thrillers. The courtroom stuff was kept to a tolerable level for me, and the mystery is a strong one. I recommend this to anyone who's in the mood for this kind of thing.(less)
Matthew Shardlake has been asked to defend a young woman accused of the terrible murder of a child. The problem is that the girl refuses to speak in h...moreMatthew Shardlake has been asked to defend a young woman accused of the terrible murder of a child. The problem is that the girl refuses to speak in her own defense and time is running out. Luckily, Thomas Cromwell intervenes and gains Shardlake two more weeks to prepare a defense. In exchange, Matthew must find the secret to the recently rediscovered Greek Fire, a technology that promises to place England firmly in control of her own destiny.
For me, this was really as enjoyable a read as Dissolution. Shardlake is perhaps even more full of melancholy, doubt, and loneliness, but he hasn't quite lost his faith in either God or humanity. He sees innocence in the eyes of the accused murderess and sets out to prove it, despite the unpopularity of her case. She has already been tried and hanged in the court of public opinion, but Shardlake desperately wants to see justice done.
The one weakness for me was in the two plotlines. This could easily have been two separate books, but instead one book had the two stories jammed together. The deadline given for both adds to the urgency of the story, but that felt a bit like an artificial device added by the author for that very reason.
Overall, though, Sansom has created a great character in Matthew Shardlake and surrounded him with a few other characters that are more complex than meets the eye. Jack Barak is introduced in this book, and at first he appears to be a beautiful bully, but he quickly shows that he is much more than that.
In reading the author's notes at the end, it sounds like he has stayed as true to the period and history as possible. At the same time, he has taken something that was a bit of a mystery already and had fun with it. Something along the lines of, "Well, I know this didn't really cause that, but wouldn't it be interesting if it did?"
I would recommend this to readers who like their mysteries with a bit of history thrown in, or vice versa. This was a highly entertaining read and I look forward to reading the next in the series.(less)
Matthew Shardlake has been summoned by Archbishop Cranmer to assist with some law work as King Henry makes a royal progress through the rebellious nor...moreMatthew Shardlake has been summoned by Archbishop Cranmer to assist with some law work as King Henry makes a royal progress through the rebellious north. He must also try to keep a prisoner alive for later questioning. But conspiracies still abound in the area and Shardlake's life is endangered when he stumbles onto something.
Reading this felt like slogging through the mud created by the never-ending rain in the book. It just dragged on and on and on. Finally, in about the last hundred pages, the action picked up and everything started to get interesting.
I enjoyed reading more about Shardlake and Barak, but overall, I have a lot of problems with the book. There were a lot of typos that drove me crazy. The Bealknap case (remember that from Dark Fire?) is still. dragging. on. C'mon and let it die already! With Shardlake being in the barbarous north, he obviously doesn't really understand the dialect. The explanation of some of the more common terms was unbelievably clumsy. One character basically says out of the blue, "Oh, by the way, old boy, did you know that gate means street up here?" Yes, it really was that bad.
Reading this so soon after Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth was actually pretty interesting. In Pillars, we get to see how important the monasteries are and the hard work that goes into building a cathedral. In Sansom's books, the pendulum has swung the other way and they're being destroyed. I've never really thought too much about how much art, architecture, and history was lost in these kinds of purges, but the juxtaposition of the two books really brought that home for me.
I'll keep reading, and if you've read the others, I would recommend you do the same. It was still decent, and I do look forward to the next in the series. I just hope it's better.(less)
Vicar General Thomas Cromwell is sending his man, Matthew Shardlake, to investigate a brutal murder. As he brings Reformation to England, Cromwell is...moreVicar General Thomas Cromwell is sending his man, Matthew Shardlake, to investigate a brutal murder. As he brings Reformation to England, Cromwell is trying to subtly force monasteries to "voluntarily" dissolve, and the man he sent to the monastery in Scarnsea has been killed. Shardlake needs to find the killer--and try to convince the abbot to close the monastery.
This was really good historical fiction. I was drawn into the story immediately. I can't claim to know much about the period, so I don't know how accurate it is. What I do know is that every time I picked this book back up, I was immediately transported to sixteenth-century England. I don't know how Sansom did it, but his descriptions left me feeling that I had just visited a cold, snowy, monastery on the coast, where the monks live a little too well and know more than they are telling.
Shardlake was hugely likable. He's a jaded, acerbic, lonely, humpback lawyer who is still somewhat naive. He fervently believes in Reformation, but he can't see that the road Cromwell is taking isn't necessarily in the best interests of the country.
The mystery was solid. I never had any idea what was going on until the very end. But once I found out, it all made sense and fit together.
My biggest complaint? The color puce is mentioned five times in the book. Who ever says "puce?" It really stood out to me and got on my nerves. Does the fact that I counted them give that away? But that's a tiny thing to complain about. I will definitely be reading the rest of this series.
I recommend this one to readers interested in Reformation England, fans of Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose (although I've only seen the movie), and I think it would also work for those who liked Caleb Carr's The Alienist.(less)
Rick Bragg never knew his maternal grandfather, Charlie, but the man is a legend among the family and friends he left behind. A good provider, a lovin...moreRick Bragg never knew his maternal grandfather, Charlie, but the man is a legend among the family and friends he left behind. A good provider, a loving father, a teasing husband, a loyal friend, he was also a bootlegger who loved his own product and had a temper. He never turned it on anyone who didn't deserve it, and apparently some of the best stories about him took place when he'd been drinking.
My uncle has been telling me for--oh, years now, that I just have to read Rick Bragg. I do take his recommendations seriously, but my to-read list is out of control and I'm just now getting to him. How I wish I had listened to my uncle earlier. I will not be waiting years to read more of Bragg's work, that is for sure.
This book was great. It just felt like home, and can there be any higher praise for a book? Granted, my daddy doesn't drink alcohol and my parents still live in the same house we grew up in, but Bragg's language and stories felt right in a way that is hard to explain. They settled on me like well-worn clothes or shoes, for all that I've never read his work before. Read this: "He spoke in the language--the very specific language--of the Appalachian foothills. It was an unusual mix of formal English and mountain dialect. The simple word 'him' was two distinct sounds--'he-yum.' And a phrase like "Well, I better go," was, in the language of our people, more likely to sound like 'Weeeelllll, Ah bet' go.' Some words are chopped off and some are stretched out till they moan, creating a language like the terrain itself. Think of that language as a series of mountains, cliffs, valleys, and sinkholes, where only these people, born and raised here, know the trails." Yes. That. I have never and don't think I will ever read a better description of our dialect. That is it, right there. Don't judge it; listen to it and relax into it, give us time to get to our point, and enjoy the ride.
It's easy to see why Charlie's family still mourns him. His breed is becoming more and more scarce in the "New South." Bragg writes about this in his epilogue. "The realities of this new, true South are not as romantic as in Charlie's time, as bleak and painful as that time was for people of his class. The new, true South is, for people like him, a South of mills that will never reopen, of fields that will never be planted again, of train tracks that are being turned into bicycle trails. In the new, true South, it is harder to be poor and proud, harder to work your way into an unapologetic, hard-eyed independence." It's true. But we still see remnants and throwbacks from that time, and we honor them. Men like Charlie might not have had much education, but they did what they had to do to feed their families and they never backed down. They wrung every bit of life that they could out of their allotted time.
All that sounds all serious, but my favorite parts were the funny stories, and there were plenty of those. I kept reading bits aloud to my husband, and even he (not a Southerner or a reader) would bust out laughing. He'll still say, "But God ain't that gravy good," and crack himself up. That was a great story. I think I read that one to anyone who would listen for a few days, and they all laughed out loud as well. There are a few run-ins with the law, some run-ins with honest-to-goodness criminals, tales of fishing on the river, friends and strays picked up and cared for along the way, children and grandchildren loved beyond all reason, and Charlie's own hilarious quirks and screw-ups.
There's no big theme or lesson or plot here, just stories about a good man doing his best in a changing world. Except that is a lesson in itself, isn't it? Bragg obviously misses the grandfather he never met, and he writes so beautifully about Charlie that I miss him as well. Pick this one up, laugh and cry by turns, and be thankful that you got to know him too. (less)
Captain Will Laurence and his dragon, Temeraire--or is it the other way around?--are in something of a bind. Temeraire was meant to be a gift from the...moreCaptain Will Laurence and his dragon, Temeraire--or is it the other way around?--are in something of a bind. Temeraire was meant to be a gift from the Chinese emperor to Emperor Napoleon. The Chinese people are not happy when they find out that Temeraire is a mere captain's pet and he's being used to wage war on France. To resolve the issue, Laurence, Temeraire, their flight crew and a diplomatic delegation are sent on a journey to China.
This did feel a little like filler. But it was such fun filler that I didn't really mind.
The pacing was just a little off. The whole point is supposed to be resolving this conflict, but most of the book is taken up with the journey. All of that was mostly pretty interesting, but the best part was the part that takes place in China--only the last third of the book. I would have preferred more of that.
It was really cool to read about how the dragons and people interact in China. It's not like Britain, that's for sure. Novik came up with this whole different dragon culture that fit in with my vague ideas of Chinese culture. All those parts were really fun to read.
Temeraire's special fighting ability continues to crack me up. It's not supposed to be funny, but I find the whole idea so ludicrous that it's funny to me. Don't ask me why I'm willing to believe that a dragon can fly around with a crew of something like 15-20 men running around on his back, but I draw the line at this. I just do. But I mostly accepted it and just read this for a good yarn.
Laurence has finally learned to loosen up. He was such an uptight stick in the mud that he wasn't much fun in the first book. Now the airmen's slack ways are finally working on him and he's learning to have fun. And are there hints in this one that he might find a way to fit a woman into his life in the future? I hope so. He could turn into a book crush if a woman gets him completely out of his uptight Royal Navy ways.
I still adore Temeraire. I love the way he thinks outside the box and constantly questions things that others just accept as the status quo. He's curious as a cat but loyal to a fault. He's by far the best character of the book. Although I do have to say that Captain Roland and her daughter intrigue me. I wouldn't mind a spinoff series about them.
There is one very cool battle scene that I would have liked to read more about. But there's another one that just dragged on and on and on. I guess we're back to that pacing thing. But I really did like the one battle.
So, this might not have been the strongest second-in-the-series book I've ever read, but it was still pretty good. I'll definitely keep reading the series. If you liked the first one, I think you'll be pretty pleased with this one too.(less)
Dreams Made Flesh is a collection of four short stories/novellas centered around Jaenelle and her court. One of the events takes place immediately aft...moreDreams Made Flesh is a collection of four short stories/novellas centered around Jaenelle and her court. One of the events takes place immediately after the third in the Black Jewels series, so anyone reading this should keep that in mind. It definitely has spoilers for the previous books.
My favorite story by far, was "The Prince of Ebon Rih." How I grinned as I read it! I've always liked Lucivar, but he really is cast as the older brother in the series. There is definitely more to him than that, so it was great to see him as a powerful ruler in his own right and a sexy-as-hell man. Watching him deal with that bitch Roxie was a pleasure. Seeing his insecurity in dealing with Marian was delightful. He didn't know what hit him. Absolutely loved it.
My sister, who shoved this book into my hands saying only, "Read. This. Now." loves "Zuulaman." This is an event from Saetan's younger years that made him a legend. I liked it, but somehow couldn't help comparing it to Guy Gavriel Kay's Tigana. You probably have to be inside my head to see how that happened. I loved Tigana and this story suffered for the comparison. And probably from my sister's buildup. Still, it was a very cool showcase of Saetan's raw power.
"Kaeleer's Heart" would have been good, but it was a little too much like "The Prince of Ebon Rih." It was nice to see Daemon and Jaenelle together, but I felt like I had pretty much read the story already, just a few pages earlier. It is sexy to see the lengths that Daemon is willing to go to in order to protect Jaenelle though.
"Weaver of Dreams" was just a confusing little legend and that's all I have to say about that.
If you enjoy the Black Jewels books, read this one. It was mostly a very cool addition.(less)
Katya is the Sea King's youngest daughter--and his eyes and ears in trouble spots. Sasha is the seventh son of the King of Led Belarus, which makes hi...moreKatya is the Sea King's youngest daughter--and his eyes and ears in trouble spots. Sasha is the seventh son of the King of Led Belarus, which makes him a Fortunate Fool. But his foolery is only an act to gently steer the Tradition in ways that lead to peace and prosperity for his kingdom. The Tradition is made up of all the tropes that are always found in fairy tales. A seventh son meets an old beggar woman on the road? If he's nice to her, she'll help him with his task. If not, she'll curse him in some way. You get the idea. Anyway, something evil has popped up just outside the border of Led Belarus. The Sea King is worried and sends Katya to investigate. Sasha is worried about Katya and this darkness this close to his happy kingdom's borders. Will they defeat whatever's there with the help of some very unlikely allies?
First of all, this book starts off with a plot that has very little to do with where the novel is actually going. It sets up an element of the overall story, but it still felt like a hundred pages could have been trimmed off by just quickly explaining where Katya got this magic object.
That aside, I did like the book. Sasha and Katya have such big hearts that you can't help but like them and root for them. Katya is very feisty and intelligent, and you know I love those kinds of female characters. Other females in the book might not start off very promising, but even they start to gain some self-confidence by the time everything ends. Sasha is a handsome, unassuming charmer. He loves to tease people, but he's always quietly looking out for everyone's best interest. He's very smart as well. He understands quite a bit about the Tradition that dictates their lives and he's very careful about subtly manipulating it in ways he wants it to go. At the same time, he understands that perfection invites trouble, so he leaves minor darknesses alone, both to placate the Tradition and to keep his people from getting too complacent. How wise is that?
I love this world that Mercedes Lackey has created in her Five Hundred Kingdoms series. It's very much grounded in the best fairy tale traditions and yet everything fits together in a way that makes it unique. I loved reading the descriptions of the Sea King's kingdom, and the way that some old fairy tale favorites are woven into the story.
This is a series, but I don't think you necessarily have to read them in order. There are some recurrent characters, but very little of their backstory is given away, so I think you'd still be safe from most spoilers.
I recommend this for fairy tale fans looking for some light reading. It might not be Literature, but it sure is a lot of fun.(less)
His Majesty's Dragon begins when Captain Will Laurence's ship has just overpowered a French ship. Napoleon is slowly conquering Europe, so any defeat...moreHis Majesty's Dragon begins when Captain Will Laurence's ship has just overpowered a French ship. Napoleon is slowly conquering Europe, so any defeat of the French, no matter how small, is a big deal. As Will's crew is inventorying the French ship's cargo, they find something unusual: a dragon egg. But complications arise when they find out that the egg will hatch in a week and they're about three weeks from shore. Dragons have been tamed in this alternate world and they're used to wreak devastation on the enemy. But they must imprint on their rider within the first few minutes of hatching if they're to be put to harness. That means someone from the ship's crew must step forward and be willing to sacrifice his naval career for the good of England.
What a hugely fun fantasy/adventure! There's honestly no ground-breaking literature here, but if you want a good, swashbuckling adventure tale, this is it.
I loved the dragon, Temeraire. He was by far the best character overall. It was fun to watch Will grow from being this stick in the mud British sea captain to finally loosening up some and having fun. Somewhat related to that, I loved the very proper British English present throughout the book. I have no idea how accurate is, except that the author is American which probably means it isn't, but sentences like, "Celeritas tells me to ask you to show me about; will you be so good?" just tickled me for some reason. I could just hear the very plummy uppercrust British guys talking.
I don't really read military books, and this did sort of cross over to that genre. But the battle scenes were well-written and exciting. I didn't have any problem following what was going on.
I did have a few problems with the book. I'm a fantasy fan, so I'm obviously willing to suspend any disbelief and let an author tell me a good story. But I do like authors to be consistent within the worlds they create. This book is set pretty firmly in this world, there just happen to be dragons flying around overhead during the Napoleonic wars. There were just two things that really bugged me that I can't let go. I found one of them to be so unbelievable that I laughed out loud with incredulity while waiting for a ride in a hospital waiting room. Luckily at that time of day it was mostly empty. But that one thing was enough to knock the book from five stars to four stars. Maybe it will be explained later, but right now I'm not buying it.
It's impossible to read a book about a dragon and its rider without comparing it to Anne McCaffrey's Pern series. It's been too long since I read a Pern book, so I can't meaningfully comment on that. The other dragonrider series I have read is Mercedes Lackey's Joust series. I preferred His Majesty's Dragon. The whole backdrop of the Napoleonic wars was just hugely intriguing to me.
Despite the flaws, which were really only a small part, I do recommend this to readers who like adventure stories and dragon lovers. I'll be continuing the series.(less)
Elena Klovis is badly mistreated by her stepmother. She is forced to clean the house, cook the food, and dress her stepmother and her two stepsisters,...moreElena Klovis is badly mistreated by her stepmother. She is forced to clean the house, cook the food, and dress her stepmother and her two stepsisters, while she herself dresses in rags and goes hungry. Sound familiar? That's because Elena is supposed to be her kingdom's Cinderella. But her "Prince Charming" is completely wrong for her. So magic just keeps building and building around her. Finally, Elena's Fairy Godmother steps in with a most unusual offer. Elena's life is changed in a way that she could never have foretold. But will there eventually be a happily-ever-after for her?
I loved the whole concept of this story. I love fairy tales and I love to see twists on fairy tales. This one was a lot of fun and it really wasn't very predictable. It was a fun, light read, and I would recommend it to other fans of fairy tales.
Two things though: First, I was sort of thinking that my little cousin, a fan of all things princess and fairy, might enjoy having this book read aloud to her. Then I got to the sex scenes. There were probably only two, and they were pretty lightweight, but they were still there, so keep that in mind if you're thinking of the little princess in your life. Second, I've read several of Mercedes Lackey's books, and I would love to be her copyeditor. She absolutely kills me. She generally tells interesting, original stories, but the copyeditor whose red ink swirls through my veins cringes through her books. I would disable her italics key right off the bat. I don't mind the convention she uses of having a character's thoughts in italics. That actually makes things a little clearer. But I'm glancing through the book right now and it's almost impossible to find a page where italics aren't used for emphasis numerous times. How irritating! Typos abounded and I would swear that this sentence made an appearance, although, of course, I can't find it now: "Her heart was literally in her throat." Really? Literally? There are so many ways to make fun of that sentence that I don't know where to start. Did it use grappling hooks to climb up there? Don't bite down! How do you talk around that?
Enough of that. Overall, it's a fun, funny, sweet, original story. (less)
Abdullah is the son of a carpet merchant in the city of Zanzib. His inheritance wasn't much, but he's getting by pretty well. The rest of his extended...moreAbdullah is the son of a carpet merchant in the city of Zanzib. His inheritance wasn't much, but he's getting by pretty well. The rest of his extended family picks on him, but it's only once a month and he can take that. One day, a mysterious stranger shows up and sells him a magic carpet. That night, Abdullah falls asleep on the carpet and wakes up in a beautiful garden with a beautiful princess named Flower-in-the-Night. As you would expect, Abdullah and Flower-in-the-Night fall in love over several nighttime visits and plan to run away together. Then an evil djinn kidnaps her. Abdullah swears to rescue her at all costs.
So it's not quite Howl's Moving Castle. It was still a very engaging story with characters that I liked. Abdullah is the plucky protagonist who can only be likened to Aladdin. He's by far the poorest suitor a princess could have, but he's also the most faithful. He's the only man to go in pursuit of the evil djinn. He hits some big snags and faces down danger to save his lady-love.
Flower-in-the-Night was great! She's an intriguing mixture of innocence and wisdom. She's so protected that she's never seen a man except for her father. She's spent a lot of time reading books though, and learning about the world around her. When everything starts to reach its resolution, she's the one with the ideas.
The soldier was completely unexpected. He was a bit of a trickster figure and I could never put my finger on whether he was good, bad, or indifferent. He's a good guy to have on your side in a scrape, but he has a great big soft spot for the kitties.
The story itself was one great big magic carpet ride of a story. Following more in the tradition of Arabian Nights than Grimm's Fairy Tales, it stayed very true to its roots.
Highly recommended for fans of retold fairy tales. It's not a straightforward re-telling, but it definitely has that feel.(less)
Azoth is an 11-year-old boy barely surviving in the streets of Cenaria City. He's part of a brutal gang of children who will do anything in order to s...moreAzoth is an 11-year-old boy barely surviving in the streets of Cenaria City. He's part of a brutal gang of children who will do anything in order to survive. But Azoth wants to do more than survive; he wants a way out of the Warrens and he sees an apprenticeship with master assassin Durzo Blint as his ticket. Now if he can just find Durzo and persuade him of the same thing...
My sister shoved this book into my hands and said, "Read this. Now. It will be your next book crack fix." That might have set my hopes a little too high, but it was still a great read.
The beginning was a bit startling. Fairly or not, I think of my baby sister (who is 30, by the way) as being more innocent than I am. So when the book is suddenly talking about rape as a means of subduing the boys in the gang, I was appalled. It wasn't graphic, but there was no question what was going on. I started texting her about it. She didn't remember it at all. "Oh, maybe that's why The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo didn't bother me." Blink. Blink. Okay.... But the author addresses this in his interview at the end. He says, "Hope isn't vibrant unless it has to be chosen over despair. Redemption is cheap unless there's a suffocating darkness in which even a hero is tempted to hide....without that, light and peace are meaningless, worthless, boring." OK. I get it. I actually make this same argument to my husband whenever he asks why I read "stuff like that." Granted, what I normally read doesn't get this dark, but he has to listen to me working out what's going on within the darker parts of my books. He doesn't know that's what he's doing, and I just realized it myself. He's my sounding board to make sense of the darkness. Hmmm.
Philosophical meanderings aside...
This twisted and turned a lot. That's why my sister loved it. Sometime over the past several years I've actually gotten decent at predicting where a story will go, but I never knew with this book. I was absolutely clueless. And I still feel clueless about where the sequels will go.
I liked Azoth quite a bit. He's doing such terrible things for such a good reason. It's not just about his own survival, but that's all I'll say. He's conflicted but he's good at what he does. He ends up living a double life and making some friends, despite Durzo Blint teaching him to stay detached from everything. Blint's philosophy seems to be, "If you don't care, it doesn't hurt." Azoth just can't bring himself to live his life that way.
I mostly liked the other characters as well. I loved Mama K and wish I knew more about her. Her role is not very big, but it is hugely surprising. I like Azoth's friends a lot but I don't want to go into details. There are even some fairly minor characters that I want to know more about. I hope they get more page time in the rest of the series. I can't bring myself to like Blint. Even knowing more about him, I just can't like him. His aloof attitude turns me right off. What's the point of a life lived only for killing with no love or friendship mixed in? Yet that's what he chooses.
After a certain point, I did have a hard time putting the book down. The real action gets started, twists turn on twists, and I just had to see what was going to happen next.
If you can make it through the bleakness and violence of the first 75 pages or so, I do recommend this book. Azoth is a character you'll want to meet.(less)
Princess Andromeda feels like she can't do anything right. Her mother, Queen Cassiopeia, always seems to be disappointed in Andie's appearance and her...morePrincess Andromeda feels like she can't do anything right. Her mother, Queen Cassiopeia, always seems to be disappointed in Andie's appearance and her tendency to have her nose in a book. Finally, Andie finds a way to prove her value as a researcher to her mother--just in time to help try to discover a way to keep a marauding dragon happy. Unfortunately, the method she discovers involves sacrificing a virgin weekly. When Andie's name is drawn, can she find a way to save herself, or will this be a job for a Champion? And what exactly attracted the dragon to the kingdom in the first place?
This was the second in Mercedes Lackey's Five Hundred Kingdoms series. I didn't enjoy the overall plot as much as I enjoyed the first in the series, The Fairy Godmother, but the story was still fun and there were a few little things that I did like more in this book. First of all, there were no silly sex scenes. It wasn't bad in the first book, but they felt sort of pointless, so I definitely didn't miss them here. Second, they used a good copyeditor for this book. Most of the distracting italics are gone (a very good thing!). The story was still unpredictable and interesting, I just didn't care about the characters as much. Speaking of characters, Elena and Alexander make a few cameos in this book. I liked them so much from the first book that I was thrilled to have them show up here.
Overall, still fun fluff, but start with The Fairy Godmother and don't expect quite as much from this one.(less)