Hilarious and intelligent and yet moving dialogue, themes and subject matter that make me feel like it was written just for me (because who else would...moreHilarious and intelligent and yet moving dialogue, themes and subject matter that make me feel like it was written just for me (because who else would like all of that?), characters that make me feel stupid in comparison--yay, it's a play by Tom Stoppard, my very favorite playwright.
No one I've ever gone to see a Stoppard play with has ever agreed with me that it was the best thing ever or that they loved it, but this one I only read, so there was no one sulking on the way home. Unfortunately, that also means there was no one for me to grin at, or to explain the highly technical jokes to and feel smarter than. (less)
In a Victorian world where the supernatural not only exists but is out in the open, where vampires and werewolves, and a few ghosts, roam the night an...moreIn a Victorian world where the supernatural not only exists but is out in the open, where vampires and werewolves, and a few ghosts, roam the night and are kept in line by the Bureau of Unnatural Registry, Alexia Tarabotti has the invaluable characteristic of being so un-supernatural that she's gone almost full circle: she cancels out the supernatural. Naturally, that makes her of interest to all who are supernatural, to all who fear the supernatural, to all who wish to control and/or understand the supernatural, and to plenty of others as well.
I might as well admit it: I loved this book. I really feared that I wouldn't, based on a number of reasons including that the author's British accent is pretty terrible and that I think books about vampires and werewolves (together--and actually it's more just the werewolves) are silly and have historically usually refused to read them.
Well, those fears were well founded, in that it was kind of silly (but it was lots of fun that way) and that the dialogue never sounded particularly British. (The characters say "Uh" instead of "Er"! Plus--and this is actually unforgivable--a Scottish werewolf earl at one point says "Gee". There is no way I can suspend my disbelief enough to even imagine that.) But they didn't matter. I enjoyed this book so much after the first chapter that I read it throughout a five hour plane trip and missed the in-flight movie Invictus, and then, when my boyfriend was forty minutes late picking me up, I was happy, because I knew I'd have to close the book when he showed up.
I don't really know how to classify or describe this book. It's not horror, because it's not trying to be scary; it's not humour because there is plenty of danger and drama; it's not adventure because in between the dangerous bits is a fair amount about clothes and courting and Victorian society; it's not romance because the characters and plot are realistic (if fantastical) and...well, I just don't think it is; it's got a bit of a mystery, but it's an easy one to figure out; it's not exactly urban fantasy because it's not modern; it takes place in the past, but for some reason I can't really call it historical fiction; etc. I believe I've heard the author describe it as steampunk, but that was for a steampunk convention so that's awfully convenient...but it's the nearest I can get to covering all the genres it touches, so steampunk it is. Actually, on second thought I think it should be all of them. Many of the best books are. And bookstores can figure it out for themselves (or put a copy or two in every section).
I don't think anyone's pretending that this is deep, high quality lit-ra-choor, but most stuff isn't and most stuff isn't as enjoyable as this (including plenty of that high-quality stuff). I will for sure read this again, which is more than I can say for the last book I read, and I already bought the next in the series, which was the one I originally wanted to read, having heard Gail Carriger read a selection. I really wish more books were as enjoyable as this.(less)
This book deserves a much more detailed and thought-out review, which I'll give it when I have time to do both the thinking-out and the writing, but f...moreThis book deserves a much more detailed and thought-out review, which I'll give it when I have time to do both the thinking-out and the writing, but for now I just want to write a quick review: I'm having some trouble coming up with a plot summary, but this book is genius, fascinating, exciting, deep, mind-blowing, epic-feeling, and wonderful. Probably a few other great things as well. Tim Powers is my new favorite author. I'd decided he was just based on and interview and descriptions of his books, but having read him, I am not disappointed.
While reading this I was attending a six-hours-a-day, week long training session and I read during every five-minute break and lunch break we got (as well as some that I manufactured), and even though I was in an echo-y room with around thirty other people doing paperwork, I couldn't stop myself from exclaiming and trying to advise the characters out loud. It's that good, and sucked me in that much.
Lady Gruadh is born in 11th century Scotland into a royal (although not ruling) family, taught about--and proud of--her Celtic and Pictish heritage, g...moreLady Gruadh is born in 11th century Scotland into a royal (although not ruling) family, taught about--and proud of--her Celtic and Pictish heritage, groomed to become Queen of the Scots. She is a woman of her times and her culture: familiar with death and danger at an early age, a believer both in Christianity and in the Gaelic goddess Brigid--and in magic--ambitious and strong, she understands marriage as a political alliance rather than a romantic commitment, and is gifted (she hopes) with visions of the future. Rue, as she is called, both embroiders tapestries AND wields a sword.
In Susan Fraser King's version of her story, Gruadh is highly sought-after for marriage because of her lineage, and is the focus of her father's hopes of ruling the Scots. As a teenager, she is married to a contender for the throne, but before she even bares his first child he is killed and, as per tradition, she is forced to marry his killer, Mac Bethad. Over time, Rue and Macbeth learn to respect and care for each other and, more importantly, recognize and work toward their shared ambition to become King and Queen and to restore peace and unity to Scotland.
A real historical figure, not much is actually known about Gruadh (not even her exact name for sure), but given what we know about the historical--as opposed to the theatrical--Macbeth, this version of her seems more likely than that presented to us by the Bard. After all, his patron and ruler was the descendant of Macbeth's murderer.
Like good historical fiction, this novel is full of period details that are hidden in the daily lives of the characters and which, whether they are historically accurate or not (I suspect they are), FEEL genuine, and therefore make the reader feel like he or she is experiencing the time. The story is very interesting, and the first person narrative has an almost poetic quality that I enjoyed. The characters, although somewhat cold by modern values, are realistic and well defined and not, in my opinion, easily confusable. Unfortunately, because the characters are so cold, I wasn't really able to sympathize or empathize with them, and never felt like I was emotionally invested or a part of the story, even though Gruadh was telling it to me herself.
I love Scotland, love Shakespeare's Macbeth (I played Lady Macbeth once), love historical fiction, love re-imaginings and reinterpretations of well-known stories..and yet I didn't love this book. I found it interesting and enjoyable, and thought it was very good, but I unfortunately didn't really feel anything about it.(less)
I had to read this book for class. I loved the class, I hated the book--as did everyone else in the class. We hated reading the book so much that we c...moreI had to read this book for class. I loved the class, I hated the book--as did everyone else in the class. We hated reading the book so much that we couldn't even give the movie a fair shot.
The book is hard to read for multiple reasons. I can't talk about the quality of the writing, since that would depend on which translation one is reading, but no matter who did the translation, some things can't be fixed. First of all, this novel is made up of only the surviving parts of the original story. There is supposed to be more, but it's lost to us, and so all we have to read are bits and pieces. This makes it, understandably, difficult to follow the story. But beyond that there was, for me, a greater problem: the bits that were there were unpleasant. They were violent, disgusting, graphically sexual, and otherwise distasteful. I didn't want to find out what had happened in the missing bits, because I didn't enjoy what was happening in the bits there were.
Perhaps a different translation might be able to make up for the unpleasantness of the story by having excellent prose that would make me want to keep reading...perhaps. I've both loved and hated The Iliad because of different translators, so I can't say that it's impossible. But I doubt it.(less)
This book had a potentially interesting premise, and elements that would appeal to some people (namely teenagers) and might even be enjoyed by them. U...moreThis book had a potentially interesting premise, and elements that would appeal to some people (namely teenagers) and might even be enjoyed by them. Unfortunately, I'm not one of them, and I didn't enjoy it, found it to be not particularly good, and thought its potential was wasted.
I haven't read any of the myriad of teen vampire romance books that have flooded bookstores of late. The idea of vampires being not-evil and falling in love with humans seems uninteresting, silly, and kind of distasteful to me (except for Spike and Buffy, of course). I usually prefer vampires, if there must be some, to be scary and evil. Then there's the teen romance aspect, which is even less interesting, and more silly and distasteful, to me than sparkly vegetarian vampires. But this book promised a different take on the genre, and I thought I'd give it a chance.
There were some ideas that were new and actually interesting, such as the main character's thoughts about the changes in language and in conversation as well as in culture that she'll have to adapt to after 100 years, and some ideas about vampire senses and bodies, and the differences between them and those of humans. These ideas had potential for interesting exploration, but ended up being disappointing as they either weren't taken further (she doesn't have any problem conversing with anyone) or just led to contradictions. Other potentially interesting ideas withered similarly.
The two biggest problems with the writing were: 1. The contradictions that abounded throughout, and 2. That it was full of telling, and had very little showing. Don't get me wrong, there was a LOT of description. Too much, in fact--often the characters' appearance, surroundings, clothing, possessions, and even hairstyles are described down to the smallest detail. It rapidly became extremely annoying. I appreciate that the author can see her story and her characters so clearly, but sometimes it's not vital for the readers to see exactly the same thing as the author. Imagining for oneself is part of the pleasure of reading, and part of what makes reading different from watching TV.
But there was very little showing. We're not shown why the protagonist, Lenah, feels the way she does about most of the characters that she likes (although her reasons for hating some characters are shown very well). Several times a character says something to Lenah, and we're told that it was funny and that Lenah laughed very hard for a long time, but we're shown nothing funny.
Then there are all the contradictions throughout the book. Sometimes vampires have souls, sometimes they don't. They don't have nerve endings, and yet they have sex (why?). Lenah has to tell one character about her past, for his safety, but she can't tell another character--for his safety (huh?). She's been asleep for the last hundred years and doesn't know about cars (although I'm pretty sure there were cars in 1910) but she knows what formica and burgers are. Her vampire soul mate at one point says he loves her for her viciousness, but at another is horrified by it. There are numerous other contradictions, but some of the larger ones give away too much of the story. Also, there are many, many contradictions in the characters' behavior, but this could in part be because they're teenagers. Maybe.
Another problem is the uneven pacing. First what seems like weeks turns out to have only been a couple of days, and then an entire month passes by almost undescribed (this is especially odd given that it's the month when Lenah really begins and builds her romantic relationship with her human love interest), and then the days once again seem like weeks.
Despite the writing flaws and my complete lack of interest in either the teen or the vampire romances, I was almost interested in the story about Lenah's transition from vampire to human. Then, late in the book, the story takes a turn that made the whole story I'd been close to being interested in seem pointless (and it came with a host of fresh contradictions). Eventually I was only reading this so I could be done with it and move on to something good.
As I was reading this book, I kept thinking that it seemed like the author's way of expressing her own goth and romance fantasies by creating this Mary Sue character who's so goth that she was actually a vampire. This may not be even close to true, but that's what it feels like. As such, this book might be enjoyed teenagers, particularly teenagers who like the supernatural. They might not care about the quality of the writing or the story and simply enjoy the teenage romance and the goth sensibilities. Unfortunately, this is not one of those young adult books that can really be enjoyed by adults, because of the quality of writing and because of the teen romance subject matter.
I had a hard time rating this book. When I started reading it, I thought it deserved three stars. As it got worse and I stopped liking it at all, I thought it deserved two, but two stars supposedly means "it was ok"...which I didn't think it really was. One star means "I didn't like it" and this is most accurate, but I do think it might deserve some points for its bits of originality.
I received this book from a contest through goodreads' First Reads program.(less)
I admit that I found this book to be entertaining enough that I wanted to finish it, and that--unfortunately--it's is definitely not the worst book I'...moreI admit that I found this book to be entertaining enough that I wanted to finish it, and that--unfortunately--it's is definitely not the worst book I've read (although that's because I just read a truly awful book that was TERRIBLY written). I will also admit that there were items and ideas of definite interest in it. However, I cannot honestly say that it was at all good or that gave me any sort of satisfaction.
The writing in this book was not the best, but it wasn't the worst, and it wasn't the Dan Brown type of overly-simplistic prose--there was a style, it just wasn't particularly impressive. There were some typos and some misused words, but not so many that it made me angry. The world the author created was interesting, visually and in terms of the mythology, the history, and the way things were done, and in some ways it was well thought out. Unfortunately the workings of it and the magic in it it were unstructured and didn't seem to follow real rules. The teenage characters were, well, teenagers. They didn't have much depth and didn't behave very consistently, but they weren't too offensive, and their characterizations by the author weren't too bad. There were plenty of plot twists and huge reveals, but sadly there was not a single one that I didn't see coming from several hundred miles away. Usually I don't mind figuring something out before the characters, but this was too much. The dialogue was mostly interesting to read, although cliched, but was at times unnatural--sometimes I really felt like the author had set up a whole scene just to have a place for a line she thought up and wanted to use. Or a line she had heard somewhere else...in fact, the most problematic issue for me was how much of this story came from other stories; how much of it I recognized.
Clary Fray, a fifteen year old girl, discovers that she is not the mundane girl she'd always thought herself to be: she is a nephilim, has special abilities, and is part of a world with magic and creatures she never before knew existed, because her mother refused to acknowledge any existence of the supernatural. It turns out that within that world had been a dangerous group of people with the goal of trying to keep the world pure by wiping out all the Downworlders, the leader of whom was supposedly killed when Clary a baby, and her heritage was hidden from her for her protection. Unfortunately, it seems like Lord Valentine is back in the picture, and it's up to Clary and her new companions, other nephilim being trained to become Shadowhunters at the Institute (which is disguised from the sight of "mundanes"), to prevent him from getting what he needs to regain his power and complete his genocidal goal.
Hmmm, that sounds kind of familiar...a bit like Harry Potter. Wait, actually, it sounds exactly like Harry Potter. And amazingly, the similarities to Harry Potter don't end there: throw in a red-haired mother who sacrifices to protect her child, a flying motorcycle, a teacher who knew the protagonist's parents and their friends and a lot about "The Circle," parents turn out to have been with the bad guy but got off easy after his downfall, a conveyance that recklessly travels city streets--even driving right up and over cars--yet is bizarrely unnoticed, and a number of other things that are way to specifically spoilery to mention here. This basically IS Harry Potter, with a change of setting.
That's not to say that there aren't similarities in themes, ideas, characters, dialogue, and plot points to plenty of other books, movies, tv shows, et cetera. There are, and they are numerous and obvious. But the similarities to Harry Potter are too huge to go uncomplained about. It was ridiculous. I guess this shouldn't be too much of a surprise, since the author was a well known Harry Potter fan fiction writer before being published. I should admit that, having known that before reading this book, it's possible that I was actively looking for similarities to Harry Potter, but that doesn't change the fact that I found them--in, as you can see, spades.(less)
"So we are in the curious position with William Shakespeare of having three likenesses from which all others are derived: two that aren't very good by...more
"So we are in the curious position with William Shakespeare of having three likenesses from which all others are derived: two that aren't very good by artists working years after his death, and one that is rather more compelling as a portrait but that may well be of someone else altogether. The paradoxical consequence is that we all recognize a likeness of Shakespeare the instant we wee one, and yet we don't really know what he looked like. It is like this with nearly every aspect of his life and character: he is at once the best known and least known of figures."(less)