Forgive me for not giving this book five stars. Mantel's writing is a joy to immerse yourself in. I found my thoughts flying towards this book at anyForgive me for not giving this book five stars. Mantel's writing is a joy to immerse yourself in. I found my thoughts flying towards this book at any moment in the day in which there was a lull, because I knew that I could open these pages and immediately fill that space with gorgeous writing. Everything here feels real. This book is not an escapist adventure into an older time period, but rather a reminder that things never really change, and the brutalities we were once capable of facing head on have now been concealed, such that they are easier to commit, by anyone.
Human society is ugly and fierce. Hilary Mantel shows us one man's attempt to work through it and secure something for himself amidst that ugly ferocity. But the way in which he accomplishes it is not any the less ugly or fierce. We must read on, fascinated, that such a man was possible, that such a time period was possible, and that we are no the less different now, for all of our comforts and technologies. The baseness of men will never change. We are beasts in the jungle, fighting not just to survive, but to climb to the top of the hierarchy of our particular pack. Apes and wolves, all.
Why not five stars then? I could not recommend this book to everyone. Perhaps that is not a good criterion, but I feel that my goodreads ratings should at least have some practical purposes, and I feel that one purpose may be the ability for me to take anyone I meet and say, "Look at these books I gave five stars to. Read them. You will not be disappointed."
Anyone who loves pure and perfect style will enjoy the Cromwell books. Anyone who enjoys the full and complete deployment of character and personality, engaging with dire events will enjoy these books. But someone who reads to feel a gripping plot, to learn about themselves, or to escape into a rich imaginative world may not like these books. I have not, of course, exhausted all the reasons why people read books. That is something I am still learning about, myself. But I would worry that those who do not have an unyielding love for style would find it difficult to remain committed to reading all 650 pages of Wolf Hall and all 450 pages of Bring Up the Bodies. You must care deeply for words, for characters, for atmosphere, to enjoy these books. Many others will have to look elsewhere. ...more
Let's face it: Caelena is annoying. Her habit of never telling anyone anything important, even when it endangers them or her. The fact that she is wilLet's face it: Caelena is annoying. Her habit of never telling anyone anything important, even when it endangers them or her. The fact that she is willing to go through so much crap for the sake of her 'freedom', not daring to actually take on the role intended for her, when at other times she acts like such a complete badass that she could easily assassinate the King and be done with it. At one point, she takes on a room of like, twenty fully armed men trained in combat and kicks every one of their asses with hardly a scratch. And yet, for some reason, she is unwilling to just kill the King and escape with her freedom and whichever loverboy she happens to favor at the moment? All these 'flaws' have to do with the plot, of course, because if Caelena wasn't guilty of these things, there would be no story.
And that's the only problem with this book - Caelena's abilities are overwrought compared with her actual attempts to use them. Her character is too powerful to be limited by the plot that she has been placed in, such that she actually does have to make these consistently stupid decisions in order to keep the plot going. Her only real trap is herself, and the plot loses believability for that reason.
Why four stars then? Because the writing is good, the emotions are real, and the author's imagination is powerful and compelling. Even when Caelena's behavior makes you face-palm (multiple times), you still want to read on and find out what happens, because the author is an excellent craftswoman. The world is intriguing, and little revelations follow one after the other to make your faculty of fancy curious for these new discoveries. The worldbuilding is not entirely original, but it is unique enough and beautiful enough that no scene is boring, lacking in substance or chilling intrigue.
In sum: this book fails hard with suspension of disbelief, but so long as you are willing to consciously suspend your disbelief, you will enjoy everything: the characters, the drama, the romance, the tragedy, the mystery, and the magic....more
Very readable, relatively short biography that tells you everything a novice should like to know about this man's short and intense life. It includesVery readable, relatively short biography that tells you everything a novice should like to know about this man's short and intense life. It includes every relevant political event that happened during Robespierre's lifetime, fitting his decisions and actions in the context of his own personal history and the events that were going on around him. It is one interpretation of Robespierre, but as the author says in the preface, it is not an extreme one either favoruably or unfavourably. This is the best introduction I would recommend to anyone who wanted to know more about the real historical man over whom such a bloody banner looms. ...more
This is a difficult book to rate. The bottom line: it was an entertaining read. It makes you want to read to the very end. But 'enterActual rating 3.5
This is a difficult book to rate. The bottom line: it was an entertaining read. It makes you want to read to the very end. But 'entertaining' was also because of how ridiculous the main character was. Sarah J. Maas would be a genius if this characterization was intentional, although I kind of doubt it was, at least to the extent that I find Ms. Sardothien ridiculous.
The author is the epitome of an ingenue: she makes absurd situations and overblown emotional reactions appear plausible, mixing high-romantic feelings with youthful insouciance and tough-talking. This could not be the work of a practiced veteran, which is why it is both laughable and highly entertaining, like the best of fan fictions.
Caelena Sardothien is inconstant about almost everything - one minute she is fussing over her clothing, the next second she is thinking about how she wants to punch someone in the neck or stab their eyes out. The are some wondrously head-slapping moments when the captain of the guard (Choal, Chaol, however you spell it) and the Prince Dorian interact with her one after the other, and her feelings towards them flare and wane just as quickly as one of the men leaves the room and the other steps in.
Yet, somehow, the character gets our sympathy, perhaps precisely because of how helplessly lacking in self-awareness she is. She is no calm, cool, calculated narrator that knows she is more intelligent than everyone else in the book. No, Caelena only thinks she is more intelligent and stronger than everyone else, but this is really a cover-up for how insecure she is on the inside. It's actually quite an in-depth characterization, although it is not really obvious until the end that this is the case. Caelena's delusions of grandeur end up being validated, anyway, so the psychological crisis she is going through on an internal level is kind of moot. I think the author somehow knows that Caelena only acts and thinks this way because she has been scarred emotionally and this is conveyed as a consistent undercurrent that, I think, allows us to go along with the protagonist's insane vacillations about everything.
The writing itself is fine, not terrible, but nothing to write home about, although there are some moments in the final chapters that are quite nice. Catherine Fisher's prose in Incarceron/Sapphique has always been my golden standard to beat when it comes to YA novels, and although Maas comes nowhere near that excellent efficiency, I actually enjoy her writing more than the writing of, say, The Hunger Games.
In sum: the characters in this book are outrageous enough to be enjoyed quite for their own sake, although there is a compelling story to go along with it, and a conclusion that expands the world in a vivid, exciting way. ...more
The only bad thing about this novella is the cover: in the story, James is dark and rugged, a cold and ruthless assassin, who is yet capable of depthThe only bad thing about this novella is the cover: in the story, James is dark and rugged, a cold and ruthless assassin, who is yet capable of depth and feeling - much different than the eager, blonde, high school water polo player pictured on the cover.
The cover aside, this is something I've been longing to see: a well-written, no fluff, fantasy story set in an older time period, starring roguish characters fighting against a corrupt nobility. There are too many George R.R. Martin imitators on the market right now, too many Hunger Games wannabes, and too many horrible, masochistic YA romances, contemporary or paranormal as they may be. I have been aching for a fantasy story that was well written enough to feel realistic without going overboard with the gore and horror and freakyness you might find in Game of Thrones or its many imitators. Here is a novella that made me excited for what the author will do in the full-length to be released later this year.
Livia Blackburne's style is elegant and economical. No frills, but none are necessary, especially since we are seeing things from the third-person limited perspective of the young assassin James. The prose pitches you headlong into a narrative that I felt hard-pressed not to finish in one session (and which I would have, if my lunch break had not ended!). The pacing is strong, with the action consistently rising in intensity, with a beautiful climax at the end. We have forgotten what good writing can do to us - it means much more than the romance or the plot itself ever could. Good writing makes us care, because it makes us see into the small details that matter.
We smell the blood James has stained himself with, again and again. We see how James notes more and more of Thalia's beauty every time she dances, without even making it explicit to himself. We feel the mounting hatred he has for the pettiness of the people around him, and the injustices of the nobility, but all so beautifully subdued (just like his character) and written into his actions, never ever once told to us explicitly. This is the effect of good writing - conjuring something inside us that we only realize after the fact.
That is precisely why we are always told to show and not tell. Because in the showing, when it is done well, is where the magic happens.
Really looking forward to Ms. Blackburne's debut. ...more
While I absolutely adore Hilary Mantel's style and feel that she has few other peers in that regard, I did not give this book a five-star rating becauWhile I absolutely adore Hilary Mantel's style and feel that she has few other peers in that regard, I did not give this book a five-star rating because the plot did not cohere as powerfully at the end as I would have expected for a book this size. True, it is difficult to make known history very dramatic and suspenseful, and the fact that this is the first book in a planned trilogy makes it so that the most intense aspects of her subject matter - what made her choose to write about this era in the first place - have not happened yet. Stylistically, it is as good as A Place of Greater Safety, but I would recommend that book over this one because it feels like a complete work, and has such a power and beauty to it that I feel that was lacking in Wolf Hall, though the writing itself was as marvelous. I immediately began to read Bring Up the Bodies as soon as I finished Wolf Hall, because when it ended I merely felt like it was a break in a story that needed to be continued. ...more
The Twilight Stone reads very much like an anime... in fact, the narrative would fill perhaps about a half-hour's worth of an anime episode, and almosThe Twilight Stone reads very much like an anime... in fact, the narrative would fill perhaps about a half-hour's worth of an anime episode, and almost all scenes could be preserved exactly as they've been described here. It is odd how well a visual art like anime could be translated into a written style... even some images very typical of anime (a ghostly figures from a memory or a dream receding rapidly into the background, which the character chases to no avail) are transcribed here in such a way that makes you realize how culturally specific our narrative tropes really are.
This book is great for a third grader or advanced second grader who is moving from picture books to independent reading of chapter books. It is great to expose children at such a young age to a different genre than they might be used to (although, to be fair, manga is certainly much more mainstream now than it was when I was in elementary school). The illustrations are also quite well done and appear every three or four pages, giving life to characters that are little more than archetypes, although, I'm sure, pleasing to young imaginations who are discovering the joys of long-form narrative for the first time. ...more
I don't want people to think that a 3 star review means that it wasn't a well written book. This might be the time for me to clarify my rating strategI don't want people to think that a 3 star review means that it wasn't a well written book. This might be the time for me to clarify my rating strategies, since we are beginning a new year and I am trying to be more consistent with updating my goodreads account. I feel that I should rate books on an absolute scale, because I find it difficult to judge a novel by standards other than what I consider to be complex literary technique. Tales may be told simply enough for a child to understand them, yet have a depth of meaning, catching you fully in the tide of their plot, the richness of their characters, their imaginative fancy. Harry Potter is a good example, because even though the first books in the series were very well done, they do not posses the emotive power of the final novel.
And great novels, 5 star novels, seem like they must also possess this emotive power, beside original narrative technique. 3 star novels are well done, but do not display originality of the kind that you feel only this one particular author could create. 1 star novels are unreadable mishaps, while 2 star novels can be mildly entertaining, but display overall lack of stylistic control and may perhaps not be worth finishing.
With that in mind.... Fish is well written, with concise chapters that each have a defining incident. They do not meander and always end effectively. The reason I gave this book a 3 rather than a 4 is simply that there is nothing very interesting about the style. It was clear and unpretentious, but I don't think there was a single sentence that really captured my imagination or made me laugh.
I imagine this book would be satisfying to many young people who enjoy adventure stories about pirates and the sea. It would be worth recommending to children and struggling high school readers, but there is not much in it besides the story itself, and so I would not recommend it to an adult.
My progress update about halfway through the book might also be worth adding to the end of this review here:
"Though there isn't much interesting about the style of this book, the chapters are very well done in that they each present a clear situation, very vividly described, and also has brightly colored and memorable characters. I suppose that in middle grade novels style is rarely a significant consideration, which means that this book has done a very good job of engrossing me in its story." ...more