In some ways Tigana reminds me of the Lord of the Rings, in some of the themes, the struggle against a...moreOne of the best books I've read in a long time.
In some ways Tigana reminds me of the Lord of the Rings, in some of the themes, the struggle against a foreign, magic power with horrible deads to its name, and mostly in the shape of a young, lost, wandering prince on a quest to return to a fallen home - Alessar reminds me so of Aragorn, sometimes. There is something in his quest to set things right that is like him. But in other ways, Tigana does a lot of things better than the Lord of the Rings - and coming from a massive Tolkien fan such as myself, that's saying something.
In the world of Tigana, nothing is black and white. The evil man loves, perhaps more truly than any other character in the book; in fact, his love and his pain after loss are what lead him to his evil, and even after all he's done, he never reads as irredeemable. There are many, many moments in this novel where, while reading, you know which course would be the best one for the whole of the realm, for the millions of innocent people affected by these events, and yet, in spite of all that, you wish it could be different. And knowing there is incredible, terrible goodness in this man, makes one feel all the more ambivalent about the hero's quest.
And this hero is not a fairytale prince either. He is a hero who forces his will onto those around him more than once, and who learns the hard way what a terrible price he asks his companions to pay. He does inspire an unfailing brand of loyalty, but Kay never lets the reader think for a second that this man is anything more than very, very fallible - and better yet, Alessar himself knows it too. The characters in this novel, all of them, are heartbreakingly real; they are so very fierce in their emotions, their affections, their vengeance...
So many times in this novel I found myself nearly weeping as young Devin (the main point of view character, though far from the only one) grew up some more, was brought face to face with the ugliest, most beautiful, and most inexplicable aspects of life, and I felt every realisation, every development, with him - with all of the characters. Because what Kay does, better than almost any fantasy author I know, is make you feel like you know these people, and he makes you love all of them, at least a little bit, each and every one, and some of them so much that whenever something terrible or wonderful happened to them, my heart could have burst.
The motivations behind the actions in this book are so true, so believable, simply because they are small, centre, core-like things at the heart of the fabric of the world; the grief of a father for a lost son, the terrible duality of goals at the heart of the evil man's lover - her affections for him on the one hand, her loyalty and grief for her country on the other... The hurt of a people adrift, torn from their home... And all of these little rituals too, these little acts of courage; these signs between friends, these little tokens of bonds underlying everything, Alessar's third glass of blue wine, Erlein's voluntary, selfless act in Senzio, such humanity.
I love how Kay takes many of the themes of a traditional epic fantasy novel, of loss, of hope, of a people scattered and leaderless, of great men burdened by the heavy weights of their positions... He takes the fabric of an amazing story, and yet never lets himself fall into tropes, into predictability, into what has been done and over-done before. For example, there is magic in the world of Tigana, several different yet related types of it, in fact, and it plays a massive part in the final throes of the plot, but it never overtakes the sense that this story is ultimately, first and foremost, about people, real and raw, and their actions and consequences.
Another thing Kay does very well is link everyone up; he never forgets about the people he's killed, or the people his characters have left behind. As you are reading, even though you don't see the full tapestry yet, you feel a sense of something larger, a certain measure of fate or providence guiding events in the novel in heartbreaking ways, people meeting and parting and remembering, most of all remembering, as we all do. Lord of the Rings has true evil, black as night; Tigana has humane evil, real evil, and is all the more compelling and heartwrenching for it. But also real love, real loyalty, real beauty and hope so fierce.
So, in the end, I suppose it would be wrong to compare them; Lord of the Rings reads like a fantasy, an incredible, astonishing fantasy, but Tigana reads as something real. I loved this book, so much.
(After everything, I must also mention Kay's prose; it is lyrical to an astonishing degree, but not too much so; in its rhythm, its descriptive power, it retains all throughout a measure of truth, a clarity and an insight and a clear-cut way of feeding the reader just enough for them to feel exactly what Kay wants you to feel; excited, enthralled, light at heart, emboldened, powerfully proud to be human, torturingly melancholy too many times to count. He stays within the bounds of how much the progression of his plot allows him to lyricise and elaborate, but contained within those bounds, there are such glorious peals of observations about everything, about what it means to be human, about this horrible, inevitable, beautiful life. He can create mystery and wonder with words that are blade sharp; with sentences that are full of sad and terrible honesty. Brilliant.)(less)
I don't typically read regular fiction; I tend to stray more into the domains of genre fiction, i.e. fantasy, s...moreThis was a complete dark horse for me.
I don't typically read regular fiction; I tend to stray more into the domains of genre fiction, i.e. fantasy, science fiction and historical fiction, or even young adult fiction. And even if I do read regular fiction, it's never this type of society-focused, upper-class-oriented stuff.
The novel, essentially, is about Edith Lavery, whom I would describe as a well-meaning and not intentionally materialistic gold digger. She manages to 'snag' Charles Uckfield, an earl, but dissatisfaction at the life she now finds herself in and the disparity with what she'd imagined it would be like get in the way of their happiness, and stuff happens. It's told from the eyes of a friend of the both of them, whom is never actually referred to by his full name.
What the novel does is paint a portrait of the English middle, upper middle and especially upper/aristocratic classes which rings painfully true (as little as I know about the subject), but is also quite charming and incredibly entertaining. Fellowes' skill at painting people accurately and amusingly is absolutely marvelous; it's been a long while since I found an author whose descriptions and character evaluations felt this honest and unstunted, completely taking into account, respecting, and even ironically mocking the essentially flawed nature of our kind.
I loved this book much, much more than I was initially expecting. A definite recommendation from me.(less)
Set at the turn of the 20th century, The Night Circus is about two young magicians/illusionists (but not of the magic-wands-and-sparkles-type-magician...moreSet at the turn of the 20th century, The Night Circus is about two young magicians/illusionists (but not of the magic-wands-and-sparkles-type-magicians persuasion - their craft is something which requires study, and is much more real than many of the magics that I've read about over the years) who become ensnared in their respective masters' game, facing off in the ultimate show of skills, which is unlike any duel I've ever read about. The setting for their 'battle' is this peculiar, mono-chromatic, wonderful circus that, oh my, if only it existed in real life, I'm sure I'd go every night it was in town. However, things quickly grow complicated when the two youngsters, Celia and Marco, realize that to fight this battle might have a more negative outcome than they ever expected - they might lose the person they have come to love.
There is something magical in the way that Morgenstern combines elements that are technical, scientific, almost, with things that seem to come straight from our dreams, and thus constructs a world which, although footed in reality, contains things that the loftiest dreamers would be proud to come up with. Not only that, she is wonderful at hinting at the close relationship between the circus and the players of the game, showing the ties between the board and pieces and the two magicians, and clueing us into the reality of the game before ever truly revealing anything. I'd recommend this to anyone who is up for a little dreamlike, offbeat modern fairytale, reminiscent of The Prestige meets Alice in Wonderland Tim Burton style.
My Favourite Quotes
"The body of the clock, which has been methodically turning itself inside out and expanding, is now entirely subtle shades of white and grey. And it is not just pieces, it is figures and objects, perfectly carved flowers and planets and tiny books with actual pages that turn. There is a silver dragon that curls around part of the now visible clockwork, a tiny princess in a carved tower who paces in distress, awaiting an absent prince. Teapots that pour into teacups and minuscule curls of steam that rise from them as the seconds tick. Wrapped presents open. Small cats chase small dogs. An entire game of chess is played." - p86
"(...) a child should not have their choices dictated for them. I have listened to you read books aloud to my cats. When you were five years old you turned a laundry tub into a pirate ship and launched an attack against the hydrangeas in my garden. Do not try to convince me that you would choose that farm." - p109
"Her rooms are modest in comparison to others hidden behind the circus tents, but they are filled with books and well-worn furniture. Mismatched candles burn merrily on every available surface, illuminating the sleeping doves in their cages hanging amongst sweeping curtains of richly colored tapestries. A cozy sanctuary, comfortable and quiet." - p165
"The title of rêveurs begins as a joke, but it sticks, secure in its appropriateness. (...) It is these aficionados, these rêveurs, who see the details in the bigger picture of the circus. They see the nuance of the costumes, the intricacy of the signs. They buy sugar flowers and do not eat them, wrapping them in paper instead and carefully bringing them home. They are enthusiasts, devotees. Addicts. Something about the circus stirs their souls, and they ache for it when it is absent. (...) The circus knows them, and appreciates them - performers spotting them in the audience will bring out their best tricks." - p176-79
"Alone in his flat, Marco constructs tiny rooms from scraps of paper. Hallways and doors crafted from pages of books and bits of blueprint, pieces of wallpaper and fragments of letters. He composes chambers that lead into others that Celia has created. Stairs that wind around her halls. Leaving spaces open for her to respond." - p186
"The air between them is electric as he leans in, gently brushing his lips against her neck. In the next room, the guests complain about the sudden increase in temperature. Fans are drawn from colorful bags, fluttering like tropical birds." - p291
"He picks one at random, a small round ceramic jar (...). He pulls the lid off and looks inside. A small wisp of smoke escapes, but other than that it is empty. As he peers inside he smells the smoke of a roaring fire, and a hint of snow and roasting chestnuts. Curious, he inhales deeply. There is the aroma of mulled wine and sugared candy, peppermint and pipe smoke. The crisp pine scent of a fir tree. The wax of dripping candles. He can almost feel the snow, the excitement, and the anticipation, the sugary taste of a striped candy." - p299
"Her gown is white, covered in what to Bailey looks like looping black embroidery, but as he walks closer he sees that the black marks are actually words written across the fabric. When he is near enough to read parts of the gown, he realizes that they are love letters, inscribed in handwritten text. Words of desire and longing rapping around her waist, flowing down the train of her gown as it spills over the platform." - p302
"When she opens her eyes, they are standing on the quarterdeck of a ship in the middle of the ocean. Only the ship is made of books, its sails thousands of overlapping pages, and the sea it floats upon is dark black ink. (...) Celia walks to the edge of the deck, running her hands along the spines of the books that form the rail. A soft breeze plays with her hair, bringing with it the mingling scent of dusty tomes and damp, rich ink." - p332
"On every surface, tables and desks and armchairs, there are meticulously constructed models of tents. Some made from newsprint, others from fabric. Bits of blueprint and novels and stationary, folded and cut and shaped into a flock of striped tents, all tied together with more string in black and white and red. They are bound to bits of clockwork, pieces of mirror, stumps of dripping candles." - p371
"While most of the train compartments are saturated with color, Tsukiko's private car is almost completely neutral. A bare space surrounded by paper screens and curtains of raw silk, perfumed with the scent of ginger and cream. Tsukiko sits on the floor in the centre of the room, wearing a red kimono. A beating crimson heart in a pale chamber." - p386
"As he kisses her, the bonfire glows brighter. The acrobats catch the light perfectly as they spin. The entire circus sparkles, dazzling every patron. And then the immaculate cohesion stops as Celia reluctantly breaks away." - p404
"'It is not a tent that is stumbled upon,' Marco says. 'It is found when it is needed, instead. (...) You take a candle from the box at the entrance and light it from one that already burns on the tree. Your wish is ignited by someone else's wish.' (...) Inside the adjoining tent there is a towering tree. As large as his old oak tree, growing right out of the ground. The branches are bare and black but they are covered with dripping white candles, translucent layers of wax frosting over the bark." - p453-6
"Stories have changed, my dear boy. (...) There are no more battles between good and evil, no monsters to slay, no maidens in need of rescue. Most maidens are perfectly capable of rescuing themselves in my experience, at least the ones worth something, in any case. There are no longer simple tales with quests and beasts and happy endings. The quests lack clarity or goal or path. The beasts take different forms and are difficult to recognize for what they are. And there are never really endings, happy or otherwise. Things keep going on, they overlap and blur, your story is part of your sister's story is part of many other stories, and there is no telling where any of them may lead. Good and evil are a great deal more complex than a princess and a dragon, or a wolf and a scarlet-clad little girl. And is not the dragon the hero of his own story? Is not the wolf simply acting as a wolf should act? Though perhaps it is a singular wolf who goes to such lengths as to dress as a grandmother to toy with its prey." - p477
"Someone needs to tell those tales. When the battles are fought and won and lost, when the pirates find their treasures and the dragons eat their foes for breakfast with a nice cup of Lapsang souchong, someone needs to tell their bits of overlapping narrative. There's magic in that. It is in the listener, and for each and every ear it will be different, and it will affect them in ways they can never predict. From the mundane to the profound. You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone's soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them, and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift. Your sister may be able to see the future, but you yourself can shape it, boy." p482-3
"Taking his time as though he has all of it in the world, in the universe, from the days when tales meant more than they do now, but perhaps less than they will someday, he draws a breath that releases the tangled knot of words in his heart, and they fall from his lips effortlessly. 'The circus arrives without warning.'" - p486(less)
At the base level, this is a novel about a young boy in Barcelona, growing up obsessed with a book he first got when he was ten from a secret library,...moreAt the base level, this is a novel about a young boy in Barcelona, growing up obsessed with a book he first got when he was ten from a secret library, and about how his life increasingly becomes entangled with that of the author of that book, to a point where the author's past seems like a mirror to young Daniel's future. But The Shadow of the Wind is about much more than that - it is about love and loss, about the beauty and sadness of life, about the myriad of lives and narratives that one can come across in an old, gorgeous city like Barcelona.
But most of all, for me, it's a novel about the nature of storytelling and reading, and about how wonderful it is that through writing, we can come to feel like we're not alone and like there are kindred spirits out there, and can get to a point where we feel like we know the author of a story (or perhaps the other way around) on a very fundamental level, perhaps even more so than we sometimes feel we know our loved ones - it's about how books can become our friends, and be so much more to us than what their physical form entails. The Shadow of the Wind has become such a book for me, and I love it without reserve.
My Favourite Quotes
"Every book, every volume you see here, has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it. Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens. (...) Every book you see here has been somebody's best friend. Now they only have us." - Isaac Monfort, p.4
"Once, in my father's bookshop, I heard a regular customer say that few things leave a deeper mark on a reader than the first book that finds its way into his heart. Those first images, the echo of the words we think we have left behind, accompany us throughout our lives and sculpt a place in our memory to which, sooner or later - no matter how many books we read, how many worlds we discover, or how much we learn or forget - we will return." - p.6
"In my world death was like a nameless and incomprehensible hand, a door-to-door salesman who took away mothers, beggars, or ninety-year-old neighbors, like a hellish lottery. But I couldn't absorb the idea that death could actually walk by my side, with a human face and a heart that was poisoned with hated, that death could be dressed in a uniform or a raincoat, queue up at a cinema, laugh in bars, or take his children out for a walk to Ciudadela Park in the morning, and then, in the afternoo, make someone disappear in the dungeons of Montjuic Castle (...)." - p. 33/34
"(...) if you ever have a daughter, you'll begin, without realizing it, to divide men into two camps: those you suspect are sleeping with her and those you don't. Whoever says that's not true is lying through his teeth." - Isaac Monfort, p, 70
"Nobody knows much about women, not even Freud, not even women themselves. But it's like electricity: you don't have to know how it works to get a shock." - Fermin Romero de Torres, p.89
"The trouble is that man, going back to Freud, heats up like a lightbulb: red hot in the twinkling of an eye and cold again in a flash. The female, on the other hand - and this is pure science - heats up like an iron, slowly, over a low heat, like a tasty stew. But then, once she has heated up, there's no stopping her." - Fermin Romero de Torres, p.134
"The female heart is a labyrinth of subtleties, too challenging for the uncouth mind of the ale racketeer. If you really want to possess a woman, you must think like her, and the first thing to do is to win over her soul. The rest, that sweet, soft wrapping which steals away your senses and your virtue, is a bonus." - Fermin Romero de Torres, p.135
"You remind me a bit of Julian (...). The way you look, and your gestures. He used to do what you are doing now. He would stare at you without saying a word, and you wouldn't know what he was thinking, and so, like an idiot, you'd tell him things it would have been better to keep to yourself..." - Nuria Monfort, p.167
"The words with which a child's heart is poisoned, whether through malice or through ignorance, remain branded in his memory, and sooner or later they burn his soul." Nuria Monfort, p.170
"Julian lived in his books. The body that ended up in the morgue was only a part of him. His soul is in his stories. I once asked him who inspired him to create his characters, and his answer was no one. That all of his characters were himself." - Nuria Monfort, p.171
This is and always will be my favourite out of the entire Kushiel's Legacy series - I haven't even read all of the books yet and I can already say wit...moreThis is and always will be my favourite out of the entire Kushiel's Legacy series - I haven't even read all of the books yet and I can already say without a doubt that this one is my favourite - that should tell you a lot about how much I love it, especially if you've heard me rave about previous books in the series.
Jacqueline Carey truly outdid herself here. The story of this particular novel is compelling beyond compelling, amazing almost to a fault, and frankly, addictive. Being in the process of reading this book is like being a victim of substance abuse - you simply can't stop. Even if you do have finals to study for and coursework to do and money to make - you simply can't stop. So I strongly advise you to read this during your summer vacation or something.
Here's the story; Phedre and her wonderful lover Joscelin, after having been given ten years of peace by fate, are once again swept up in the current of Carey; that mix of destiny and intrigue and a hint of random occurence that makes for such a great story. They set out to find Imriel, the lost son of Melisande Shahrizai, traitor to the crown.
What I love about this novel in particular, among all of them, is that in this one Phedre (the main character) feels more mature - and more herself. In the first two, she was always doing other people's work, finding out their secrets, trying to save their countries - noble, but not particularly fulfilling. Kushiel's Avatar starts out that way, but halfway through the novel Phedre grows a little more rebellious; it's like she starts fighting for herself for once, instead of being swept along by the current and making the best of it. She fights - makes some life-altering decisions, some terrible, terrible sacrifices, but there is a lovely message of hope in the book in that no matter how much she, Joscelin and Imriel suffer in captivity (because they are once again captured, in an even worse way than before), there is a streak of hope that runs through the entire thing. Like, in captivity, Phedre somehow convinces her fellow prisoner to help her break a way into a closed off courtyard where they can finally see the sun again after months of darkness, both physical and emotional darkness; and as that happens, you can just feel this incredible vibe of human strength course through the people present.
Also, in this book, Carey takes that everything-is-connected-ness, that humanity-in-her-characters-ness, that my-novels-are-speckled-with-little-moments-and-sentences-so-profound-they-will-leave-you-reeling-ness that is her own and takes it to a whole nother level. In short - fantastic novel, everyone who is even remotely into fantasy should read it. And even those that aren't. It might change your life.(less)
When people ask me how I'd rate The Lover's Dictionary, what I say is this;
'Throw all the rating systems out of the window, because there is no way yo...moreWhen people ask me how I'd rate The Lover's Dictionary, what I say is this;
'Throw all the rating systems out of the window, because there is no way you can capture the emotional magnitude of this novel in a single number. If you could, the rating would be approximately 1000000∞/10.'
This book reads like a diary of sorts - a universal diary that, in spite of talking about the nature of love in general, manages to be so specific at the same time that you kind of feel like calling the cops on David Levithan and getting him a restraining order for his birthday, because how did he get inside your head like that?
For me, literally every single one of the dictionary entries in this dictionary-style unconventional novel struck a chord in my heart - every single one of them moved me the way Titanic moves me, the way my dog dying moved me, the way loving someone moves you. There is something so profound, so poignant about all the emotions and feelings adressed in this book, it just gets to you. It gets to you and it stays with you way beyond the last page.
My personal favourite quotes;
"We have fallen through the surface of want and are deep in the trenches of need."
"Who came up with the term cheating anyway? A cheater, I imagine. Someone who thought 'liar' was too harsh. Someone who thought 'devastator' was too emotional.The same person who thought, oops, he'd gotten caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Fuck you. This isn't about slipping yourself an extra twenty dollars of Monopoly money. These are our lives. You went and broke our live.s You are so much worse than a cheater, You killed something. And you killed it when its back was turned."
"It scares me how hard it is to remember life before you. I can't even make the comparisons anymore, because my memories of that time have all the depth of a photograph. It seems foolish to play games of better or worse. It's simply a matter of 'is' and 'is no longer'."
"I have already spent roughly five-thousand hours asleep next to you. That has to mean something."
"Sometimes I am struck with a kind of awe that we're together. That someone like me could find someone like you - it renders me wordless. Because surely words would conspire against such luck, would protest the unlikelihood of such a turn of events."
"The slight acne scars. The penny-sized, penny-shaped birthmark right above your knee. The dot below your shoulder that must have been from when you had chicken pox in third grade. The scratch on your neck - did I do that? This brief transcript of moments, written on the body, is so deeply satisfyingly to read."
"The nape of your neck. Even the sound of the word 'nape' sounds holy to me. That and the hollow of your neck, the peek of your chest that your shirt sometimes reveals. These are the stations of my quietest, most insistent desire."
**spoiler alert** I feel like I sound almost repetitive in saying this because so many have gone before me to say the exact same thing, but I have to...more**spoiler alert** I feel like I sound almost repetitive in saying this because so many have gone before me to say the exact same thing, but I have to say it nonetheless; the book thief is incredible.
I'm not usually one to read war/holocaust novels - they tend to get me down a little and be so riddled with historical facts that the enjoyment is lost for me. The Book Thief, however, feels more like a young adult novel with themes of war and anti-semitism than an actual war novel, which is one of the many things I love about it.
I love the concept of the main character being a stealer of books (hence the title) and how the books she steals throughout The Book Thief all have a significance in the story; interconnectivity of books and stories and narratives is generally a theme I very much enjoy. Also, when I first found out about the book, the fact that it is narrated by a personification of Death seemed to me a little gothic and a little too easy to hit and miss. However, Zusak does it well and writes Death in a way that almost makes you forget he is a bad guy. In his own words; 'I am not violent. I am not malicious. I am a result.'
While Death narrates, the main character of the novel is the girl whose life story he tells; Liesel, a young jew in hiding with a German family. Her losses and sacrifices due to the war and her religion/race play a part, but not overbearingly so. The novel is poignant in its grief and the heaviness of the situations described in it, and yet manages to be light to read and, for me personally, left me feeling more touched and liberated rather than oppressed and depressed upon finishing it. Somehow, Zusak manages to make you feel a very sad but heartfelt brand of happiness when you reach the end of his novel, in spite of the many deaths. A truly remarkable feat.
I have to mention my two favourite scenes, hence the spoiler alert; when Liesel and Max reunite in the march, and when Liesel finally, despairingly, confesses her love for Rudy. Heartbreakingly beautiful. I won't go into any more detail and blabber on and on, because honestly, I can't do The Book Thief justice in any review no matter how long I make it. You simply have to read it yourself.(less)
I've always been a fan of the Tudor period of history, and as any Tudor freak will agree, we have a tendancy to focus only o...moreAbsolutely extraordinary.
I've always been a fan of the Tudor period of history, and as any Tudor freak will agree, we have a tendancy to focus only on the kings and their queens (and their less official dalliances). A prime example is the reign of Henry VIII, arguably the most prominent Tudor monarch. Nearly all books on his reign, certainly those in the historical fiction category, focus on the king and his wives themselves, especially Anne Boleyn.
Hilary Mantel transcends this stereotypical approach and instead gives us an incredibly insightful and gripping look into the character behind the scenes, the one to machinate most of Henry's reformations - an individual who, instead of having been privileged from birth like the king himself, worked himself up from being a butcher's son to the second most important man in the entire nation; Thomas Cromwell.
And yes, maybe Mantel takes some author's license with her portrayal of Cromwell - maybe he wasn't at all the witty, enigmatic, highly intelligent man with a hint of dangerous always clinging to him that Mantel conjures up for us. This is always the issue with historical fiction. Personally, I am not at all bothered by the possibility of history having been embellished by an author. Because this is exactly how I like to imagine a man like Thomas Cromwell; clever, an opportunist, not afraid to put his opinion out there and yet able to do it all under a thin veil of propriety.
Also, a shout-out to Mantel's side-cast; Cromwell's family and extended family are very nicely done and impressively rounded for side-characters in a mostly one-person-centred novel. I especially enjoyed Mary Boleyn's not-so-innocent flirtation with Cromwell and the character of Rafe, Cromwell's servant boy who over the course of the novel becomes more son and friend than servant.
The world Mantel paints for us is wonderful, and the book deserves every word of praise it has received. Anyone the least bit interested in Tudor history or historical fiction in a court setting in general would be foolish to pass this one up. (less)