I should know better than to trust awards by now. Judges and critics seem to love all things pretentious. Why exactly did I think this would be differ...moreI should know better than to trust awards by now. Judges and critics seem to love all things pretentious. Why exactly did I think this would be different?
It might have been the idea. That there is a book of universe where all hours--all that was, all that is, all that could be--are written down. That you can change the world by scratching the vellum, spilling the ink, jumping from one page to another. That there is madness in the chaos and that madness has a seed of truth and reason in it if we only look closely enough.
Well, I tried and I couldn't find any. I'm giving up at the end of part one and on page 267 of 602. I don't know if everything suddenly makes sense on the last page, because I don't do that. I don't jump to the last page to see if a book will end the way I want it to before deciding to read it. The ending isn't what matters to me, the journey in between the covers is.
This reads like something written by and to a schizophrenic. The writing is slow, it switches between first and third person limited and has multiple points of views. The protagonists change names as they change times and phases in their lives. The chapters are long but the paragraphs are too short for any kind of real immersion to the story. Instead being more and more intrigued by the surfacing layers I found myself thrown out of the story time and time again. And finally, it was just too much.
Reading Vellum reminded me of reading The Lord of the Rings; I could see the brilliance but I was just too damn bored to fully appreciate it.(less)
Mariah Cooper wants a life for herself. She wants a husband and children, and she wants a career as a seamstress where she works for herself instead f...moreMariah Cooper wants a life for herself. She wants a husband and children, and she wants a career as a seamstress where she works for herself instead for her mother. None of these things she can get in Philadelphia, so with a little help from her aunt Mariah answers an advertisement for a housekeeper and travels across the continent to find a new life in California. Her reluctant employer, Logan Yates finds himself bewitched by the spirited widow. He ends up wanting to share his life and family with her and it only takes him a little over a week to decide this.
Jenkins takes the time to set up both Mariah’s life in Philadelphia and Logan’s life on his farm before bringing the characters together—with a clash or ten. Mariah’s decided to change her life and she won’t let anyone walk all over her ever again. This leads to repeated conflicts with Logan who is used to getting his way without having to invest too much of himself.
The banter between these two characters is wonderful as are the little titbits about Californian history the author sprinkles between the pages. I loved that all their troubles came from their characterisations instead of manufactured obstacles. Mariah wants to commit, Logan doesn’t, and neither is hiding the fact. There’s quite a lot of plain speaking and whatever lies or secrets are told, they don’t stay secret forever. Truths comes out and they have consequences. For example, Mariah admits she’s attracted to Logan but that doesn’t change her mind about wanting a commitment. For Logan, when he finally changes his inconstant ways, there are consequences for that too.
Even though the romance itself takes barely a week to develop, it doesn’t feel rushed. With the exception of the sex scenes. The initial kisses and seduction worked well for me, but their first actual sex scene and the events leading up to it felt more like a slapdash-afterthought method had been applied in writing them. It made me question whether or not the publisher had asked them to be added in later. This could also explain why I felt like the author missed the optimal notes for the emotional pay offs such as their I love yous and the umpteenth proposal. Luckily, Mariah’s confrontation with her mother saved a lot.
Destiny’s Embrace is the first book of a trilogy and there is the definite feeling that Jenkins is setting things up for a bigger story. She spends a lot of time on introducing secondary characters like Logan’s stepmother and half-brothers, and expanding their personal histories. For some reason the book also felt little anachronistic; it felt like a 1990’s kind of a book rather than a historical romance written in the 2010’s. I don’t have enough perspective to properly explain why this is.
My thanks to Sarah for gifting me this book when I had trouble buying a copy.(less)
This book is fools gold. It's pretty and it glimmers but there's absolutely nothing of worth inside.
Because Lucy already did the "let's take the blur...moreThis book is fools gold. It's pretty and it glimmers but there's absolutely nothing of worth inside.
Because Lucy already did the "let's take the blurb and point out each and every lie in it" review, I'm just going to say this—maybe more later maybe not, but for now this:
I did like many of the storytelling methods Morgenstern used. I liked the nonlinearity (see spoiler below), I liked the detailed description of the world, and I did even like some of the characters. What I didn't like was that all that beauty and theoretic storytelling genius was wasted on something as pointless, plotless, and wholly worthless endeavour as this story of a night circus. It's like looking at a beautiful spread of canvas thinking "I want that, I bet there's treasure inside" only to find out what you've been looking is a hot air balloon that'll occasionally waft a little warm air at your direction.
For Blodeuedd: (view spoiler)[These are the place and setting details from the beginning of each chapter (I removed the spoilery notes I made for myself): NEW YORK, FEBRUARY 1873 London October 1873 London January 1874 Magic lessons, 1875-1880 London, May-June 1884 July-November 1884 London December 1884 Concorde, Massachusetts, September 1897 London, February 1885 New York, March 1885 London, September 1885 Munich 1885 London, April 1886 x2 Concord, Massachusetts, October 1902 PART II London, October 13 and 14, 1886 x2 x3 Concord, Massachusetts, October 1902 1887-1889 Lyon, September 1889 Cairo, November 1890 Paris, May 1891 London, September 1891 1891-1892 September-December 1893 Vienna, January 1894 Prague, March 1894 Concord, Massachusetts, October 1902 Barcelona, November 1894 London, April 1895 Munich, April 1895 Celia meets Friedrick Glasgow, April 1895 Concord, Massachusetts, October 1902 London, August 1896 London, Friday, October 13, 1899 PART III Marco makes many unbelievable claims, quits the game, and storms out Concord, Massachusetts, October 1902 London, March 1900 London, Basel, and Constantinople 1900 Dublin, June 1901 Concord, Massachusetts, October 30, 1902 London, October 30, 1901 London, October 31–November 1, 1901 Concord, Massachusetts, October 31, 1902 London, October 31–November 1, 1901 Concord, Massachusetts, October 30 and 31, 1902 London, November 1, 1901 2x PART IV 3x En route from London to Munich, November 1, 1901 Concord and Boston, October 31, 1902 Montreal, August 1902 September 1902 En route from Boston to New York, October 31, 1902 2x London, October 31, 1902 New York, November 1, 1902 New York, October 31, 1902 New York, November 1, 1902 2x 3x PART V London, December 1902 Paris, January 1903 (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
The cover is pretty, isn't it. It makes you think of assassins who live in a mountain empire and in castles covered in mist. It makes you think about...moreThe cover is pretty, isn't it. It makes you think of assassins who live in a mountain empire and in castles covered in mist. It makes you think about creeping in the night and on empty streets. It makes you think of all the things an assassin or an Emperor might use his power for. Oh, that's just me?
Let's look at the blurb instead.
It looks... lengthy. Just a tad too long to really read though before picking up the pretty cover and removing the money from your purse to the retailer's, to publisher's, and ultimately, hopefully, to the author's pocketbook. I'm going to do you a favour and take you through it.
There is a cancer at the heart of the mighty Cerani Empire: a plague that attacks young and old, rich and poor alike, marking each victim with a fragment of a greater pattern.
You could call it a cancer, although, a tattoo epidemic would cover the symptoms just as well. That, and a new hobby among mathematitians.
Anyone showing the marks is put to death. That is Emperor Beyon's law . . .
Sure, if by anyone you mean everyone except the mighty and powerful like the Emperor himself. No, that's not a spoiler, it's revealed in the first chapter.
But now the pattern is reaching closer to the palace than ever before. In a hidden room, a forgotten prince has grown from child to man, and as the empire sickens, Sarmin, the emperor’s only surviving brother, is remembered. He awaits the bride his mother has chosen: a chieftain’s daughter from the northern plains.
Now, this sounds interesting. A forgotten prince to save the day. What they don't tell you is that he's an agoraphobic who can't leave that hidden room and will literally fall apart when he tries. This makes Sarmin a dull character regardless of how delightfully mad he might be.
Mesema travels from her homeland, an offering for the empire’s favour. She is a Windreader, used to riding free across the grasslands, not posing and primping in rare silks. She finds the Imperial Court’s protocols stifling, but she doesn’t take long to realise the politicking and intrigues are not a game, but deadly earnest.
It looks like there is a strong, independent female character in this story too. A survivor with a good head on her shoulders, a character who'll make the most of the unfortunate circumstances. What they don't tell you is that she's travelling for a HALF of the book and that when she finally reaches the Imperial Court things quickly fall apart and protocol is forgotten.
Eyul is burdened both by years and by the horrors he has carried out in service to the throne. At his emperor’s command he bears the emperor’s Knife to the desert in search of a cure for the pattern-markings.
Hey look, it's the titular character and it looks like he's going off adventuring. This also happens to be true, Eyul does go through some interesting events. Too bad this adventure happened during the first half of the book that is also responsible for my recommendations field.
As long-planned conspiracies boil over into open violence and rebellion, the enemy moves toward victory. Now only three people stand in his way: a lost prince, a world-weary killer, and a young girl from the steppes who once saw a path through a pattern, among the waving grasses.
If by long-planned you mean three generations in the making, then sure, this is true. But if you mean one man dedicating his life to usurping the throne in an Empire where the Emperor separates heads from torsos on a whim, we'll have to discuss the meaning of the term long-planned at length.
Mazarkis Williams pieces together a complex mosaic of personality and ambition in a brilliant work of magic and mystery set in a richly imagined world, the first book in a fantastic new series.
Mazarkis Williams pieces together such a complex mosaic that I'm still trying to see the pattern in the writing a day after having finished reading the book. True, every character had a personality and an ambition of sorts, but that's no less than I expect from each and every story I read. There was magic too, but mostly it was described in a way that put me to sleep. Repeatedly. The only mystery in this book is the identity of The Pattern Maker and anyone who has read through a handful of Agatha Christie's can point out the culprit the first time they are mentioned–with the caveat that they are conscious while this happens.
...in a fantastic new series.
About that. You might have noticed how kept mentioning falling asleep or insomnia... no? Well, how do I put this politely?
The writing in the first half of this book cures insomnia. It's sleep inducing. They should patent it and sell it in pills to everyone who has ever had trouble sleeping. I frequently fell asleep reading it. It didn't matter if I was reading right before bedtime, long after my bedtime or in the middle of the day, I would literally doze off in the middle of a sentence. It took me five days to read the first half of The Emperor's Knife, but only few hours to finish the second half. It turned out that all that was needed was something to happen in the story for me to stay awake.
So yes, I had my troubles with the book but it could still be a fantastic new series. I don't know yet, I've only read the one book. I could be persuaded to pick up the sequel to see if the author has learned anything about pacing, but I'd be wary about it. Better, or just senior, authors have taught me this lesson.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.(less)
A friend wanted my opinion on the accuracy of this book. It is that, disturbingly so. Several times, I laughed at things that I recognised about mysel...moreA friend wanted my opinion on the accuracy of this book. It is that, disturbingly so. Several times, I laughed at things that I recognised about myself or about my family. Still, not all Finns think exactly alike and there were things I thought were tasteless exaggerations too. The facts were presented in a humourous way whenever possible and when not, it crossed the line to tragedy as all best comedies do.
If you know nothing of Finland you can enjoy reading this book (I think), but if you know something you'll appreciate the jokes that much more. (less)
On my Goodreads profile on the “favourite books” line it says: Well written ones, but often I'll settle for entertaining. What it doesn’t say is that...moreOn my Goodreads profile on the “favourite books” line it says: Well written ones, but often I'll settle for entertaining. What it doesn’t say is that sometimes I’m just looking for something entertaining (disclaimer: basic grammar rules should always be adhered to).
That’s what I got here.
Probationary Constable Peter Grant dreams of being a detective in London’s Metropolitan Police. Too bad his superior plans to assign him to the Case Progression Unit, where the biggest threat he’ll face is a paper cut.
This is actually a sterilised version of the beginning of the book. Aside from using the first chapters to introduce the integral characters, Aaronovitch spends a lot of time fleshing out the procedural side of the drama. Expect to see lots of names and abbreviations that’ll come and bite you later if you forget them. Though, I must say, I miss the expression “bunny suit.”
But Peter’s prospects change in the aftermath of a puzzling murder, when he gains exclusive information from an eyewitness who happens to be a ghost.
And then there’s the paranormal side of this urban fantasy mystery. Like so many authors before him, Aaronovitch eases Peter into this new world exposing and explaining things as they come. There are ghosts, there’s magic, and there are deities that put a young man’s libido into overdrive.
Peter’s ability to speak with the lingering dead brings him to the attention of Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, who investigates crimes involving magic and other manifestations of the uncanny.
This is what I liked. The magical—uncanny—side of the world is embraced but science isn’t thrown aside either. Peter has an inquisitive mind and he reacts like I’d expect any modern person to react: He tries to make the two sides of his new reality fit together. It’s an ongoing struggle but every now and then he figures out something new.
Now, as a wave of brutal and bizarre murders engulfs the city, Peter is plunged into a world where gods and goddesses mingle with mortals and a long-dead evil is making a comeback on a rising tide of magic.
Aaronovitch takes all these familiar elements and somehow fits them together. He doesn’t completely rewrite the legends or invent his own, he just takes what he needs and builds on it. He gives his narrator a snarky and entertaining voice, and a bit of a mystery to stretch your grey cells.
Seeing as this a British book about magic, the inevitable Harry Potter references do come up and are addressed in the same manner as most other popular culture references: They’re acknowledged, joked about, and put aside.
Saying that this is like seeing Harry Potter grow up and become a policeman is doing Peter Grant a disservice, after all, Harry never really fit in with the muggles.
P.S. Trigger warnings: (view spoiler)[ Quite a nasty case of possession with gory aftereffects and a violent incident involving a baby. (hide spoiler)].["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)