Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Top Ten Favorite Books of 2017

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created hosted at The Broke and the Bookish.


Wow, I haven’t done a Top Ten Tuesday post in years!

But since this has been a good reading year for me and I actually have a variety of books to pick from, here are my top ten books I read in 2017 (in random order):

  1. Uprooted by Naomi Novik
  2. All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood
  3. Angels' Blood (Guild Hunter #1) by Nalini Singh – or really, the entire Guild Hunter series
  4. Beyond Jealousy (Beyond #4) by Kit Rocha – or, again, the entire Beyond series
  5. Ashwin (Gideon's Riders #1) by Kit Rocha
  6. Call Me by Your Name by  André Aciman
  7. Sweet Ruin (IAD #16) by Kresley Cole
  8. Sleeping Giants (Themis Files #1) by Sylvain Neuvel
  9. The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien by J.R.R. Tolkien
  10. The Book by Jessica Bell

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Virtual Advent Tour 2017: Winter Reads

It is that time of year again! Time for Virtual Advent Tour, organised by Sprite at Sprite Writes.

Virtual Advent Tour BadgeConsidering this is a book(ish) blog, I think it is high time for a book-related Virtual Advent post. (How haven’t I done one in all these years yet?) So, here are some of my favourite reads for winter time.   

As a child, I loved The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Andersen. Although I cried my heart out every time I read it. I guess my masochist fiction preferences were showing early on. ;)
     

 Lassie Come Home cover

The crying continued as I was a bit older with Lassie Come Home by Eric Knight. A good part of it is set in winter and it does contain the spirit of the season, implicitly if not explicitly.

I find His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman a good read for dark months of autumn and winter, both for its setting, story lines, and the philosophical and religious questions it provokes.

Winter Ghosts coverOne of my all-times favourite books is The Winter Ghosts by Kate Mosse. Happening over a winter night in Pyrenees, it is a poignant and touching story, written in beautiful, lyrical prose. 

And lastly, a novella from my favourite paranormal romance series (best read in order) to warm you up (ahem ;)): Untouchable (IAD #) by Kresely Cole. Ice, winter, and Christmas – it has it all.

I am always on the look-out for new book recommendations. 

What are your favourite winter/Christmas reads?

Monday, September 25, 2017

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things couldn’t have a more accurate and fitting title as it does.

It is a painful and difficult read, and I lost count of how many times I wanted to rage quite it, but I had intentionally spoiled myself about the ending, which made me go on, and I am so glad it did!

Going into the story, I was quite wary, but it has turned out that the number one reason for that was not at all justified, because of all the horrifying and frustrating things in All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, the one thing that never disgusted me was the relationship between Wavy and Kellen.

Of course, objectively and on principle, I wouldn't condone a relationship between real people their age. However, in their particular circumstances as described in this book I can’t judge them – not even Kellen – at all.

Because of all the terrible things in Wavy’s life – from her drug-addicted and neglectful parents to poverty and the general, mostly non-understanding, atmosphere of her time and environment – Kellen was not only the least terrible, but the best thing of only few good things in her life.

Bryn Greenwood does an astonishing job with her unique story-telling style with multiple POVs (I especially loved the ‘growth’ of Wavy’s voice) which enable the reader to grasp the full picture, making it obvious how Wavy and Kellen's love must have looked to outsiders and thus make their reactions perfectly understandable. But she also provides what we don’t get in real life: an unobstructed insight in the protagonists’ minds and hearts that made it impossible for me not to root for the pair.

Therefore, as much as All the Ugly and Wonderful Things is heart-wrenchingly poignant, its pay-off is also heart-warming, and I couldn’t but end up loving this book.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien

Cover of The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien
Tolkien’s letters are at times tedious and repetitive – just as life can be – but for the most part very compelling reading material.

For a fan of Tolkien’s works, it is interesting to read about the process of how they came to be written and published. Moreover, reading about his writing process itself is both inspiring and motivational to a writer, although Tolkien might be turning in his grave if he knew that people find his writing struggles either. Equally inspiring and thought-provoking are Tolkien’s world-views and philosophies, both general and academic, even if I disagree with some of them (which were a product of his time.)

The language, style, and tone of his letters range from intellectual and strictly formal to warm, familiar, and humorous in places, with an occasional special brand of ‘saltiness’ shining through which I greatly appreciated, and show him not only as an author but as a nuanced personality.  

Tolkien’s letters are probably best appreciated if read and digested little by little and not to be sped through, although I have done precisely that with the second half of the book because I got fed up with myself that it was taking me so long.

Overall, Tolkien’s letters are a fascinating read and therefore I definitely intend to return to them in the future.

Saturday, September 02, 2017

The Cold King by Amber Jaeger

Note: This review contains SPOILERS.

At first, this was so bad that it was sort of entertaining.

We have a Cinderella-meets-the-Beauty-and the-Beast-with-a-hint-of-the-Phantom-of-the-Opera-like story that reads like terrible BDSM, just without sex (which actually makes it worse), but with a generous dash of brainwashing.

The male protagonist (aka the villain, I am certainly not calling him a hero) is a sadistic and manipulative asshole, who throws the female protagonist in a dungeon to make the transition from her old life to the new one ‘easier’ – for him, of course. After all, it is much easier to brainwash someone to accept common human decency and having one’s basic needs met as luxury if one has only ever been shown cruelty – though, as they say, the absence of cruelty is not the same as kindness – than win them over by treating them right from the beginning.  

The cold king is a typical abuser, targeting the weak and isolated and tearing them down before building them back up to his own desires by making them completely dependent on him, all of which he justifies as improving their lives and showering them in luxury they could never experience otherwise.

Even Calia recognises that as shitty but falls for it hook, line, and sinker, as does everyone else – who, by the way, does nothing to help her at least with good advice. But, after all, that is neither Calia’s nor the others’ fault, since they are all victims and Calia with her reasoning the most typical of them all.

The cold king is supposed to be a tortured hero, but even if his pain is understandable, it doesn’t excuse his behaviour. I couldn’t feel even remotely sorry for him or his predicament for being cursed (with the curse of his own doing.) He also has a giant ego, and naturally, as people of his kind do, knows better what is best for Calia and others then they do themselves.

Calia herself is an ‘extreme Cinderella’, ignored and disliked by everyone, including her horrible, abusive, and neglectful mother. Her poor fortune and suffering (in comparison to everything else, all her crying was the least of a bother) is exaggerated to the maximum in order to garner sympathy. Needless to say, it didn’t work for me.

She is also quite a bit of a Mary Sue, suddenly becoming pretty (no, hair growth does not work like that!), graceful, and smart (she learns to read very fast, knows things she had nowhere to learn (such as doing cuff-links), passes sound judgements, etc.), except, of course, for her own situation.

All of the above perpetuates the terrible message that if a woman suffers quietly through abuse, accepts her lot in life, and moulds herself completely to the abuser’s wishers, she will get her fairy-tale ending.

Because, of course, in the end the male protagonist falls in love with her (which also undoes the curse, duh!) and learns the error of his ways and changes for the better and treats her like a queen (literally) – which doesn’t happen in real life.

Calia only develops a bit of a spine towards the end, but only because she is hurting by her love not being requited, and not, you know, because of all other terrible things the cold king has done to her.

The book only gets worse after the half-way mark when we suddenly get multiple, jumping POVs, including the omniscient POV (either that or Calia becomes telephathic), and every ridiculous romance (but not romantic) cliché in existence is used and abused for the contrived quasi-love story.

With putting Calia in the role of a personal servant – who basically does what a valet would – and other characters’ occupations, Jaeger tried to subvert gender roles, which would be commendable, but fell flat due to the characterization which was unflattering in Calia’s case and virtually non-existent in other characters who were mostly bland and one-dimensional.

Add to this an attempt of ‘progressiveness’ by having the cold king be accepting of a same-sex couple, except that it was poorly executed, since kindly ‘overlooking’ their ‘friendship’ is not exactly the same as not being homophobic.

I won’t even go into all the inconsistencies within the story. For example, the setting is undecided on whether to be steampunk-ish with some ‘high’ tech, such as a likeness of modern plumbing and the use of diamonds for industry and craft, or one of a pre-industrial impoverished agricultural society.

Perhaps indecisiveness is at the core of this book’s problems. The blurb says that “… Not every Beast is a prince charming at heart and not every Beauty is a maiden just waiting for love…” and perhaps the author wanted to be edgy and actually re-tell The Beauty and the Beast as a story about abuse, but failed at it, because the end result is something that goes back and forth between trying to be just that (mostly) and a classic HEA fairy-tale but ending up as a horrible mess instead.

Overall, by the end of the book, I wasn’t entertained by the bad-ness of it anymore, only disgusted. 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Finding Anna series by Sherri Hayes

Note: The series reviewed contains themes only appropriate for those over the age of 18. Some of the content may be triggering. Also, take heed that there may be some mild SPOILERS ahead.

Finding Anna isn’t what I expected it to be, but in a good way.

Although it is categorised as erotic romance, this 4-book series is really a story about a victim of human trafficking and sexual slavery taking back her life with both the help of other people and her own iron will.

Like the story, Stephan is not a typical protagonist of the genre, either. I liked that he isn’t the tortured hero with a dark past type, but is a genuinely good person and does not just his best to help Anna, but what actually is best for Anna. Which doesn’t mean that he doesn’t mess up, because he does.  

However, for a change from a lot of male protagonists in the genre, Stephan doesn’t hesitate to acknowledge his faults, apologise for his mistakes and try to fix them. For the most part, though, he is a level-headed man, with the patience and self-restraint of a saint, and would be almost too good to be true, if not for having a few actual flaws.

Even though Anna is very dependent on Stephan (as she would be on any other given person, considering that she literally cannot function on her own after her captivity), Stephan doesn’t take advantage of that. On the contrary, he encourages her to spread her wings and return into the world – but at the pace that is comfortable and safe for her. And even when, out of concern for her, he disagrees with her decisions, he still supports her and helps her carry them out in any way he can, even if it means having to step aside.

Additionally, I loved that Stephan isn’t Anna’s only source of support and doesn’t limit her to his social circle; Anna also reunites with a childhood friend, who also brings other people into her life, and I loved how both men put their mutual dislike and distrust of each other aside for her sake.

For erotic romance, Anna and Stephan’s relationship is pretty tame and doesn’t go further than light kink and develops slowly, progressing to intimacy only towards the end of the second book. Which is good and necessary, as it is contrasted against Anna’s horrendous past experiences.

Hence, Finding Anna is an emotionally demanding series, both for the references and flashbacks to the abuse Anna has been through (and which can be hard to stomach, so be warned) and the ways it affects her in the present.

That said, it is also very satisfying to see Anna recovering from her trauma, regaining her sense of self, and reclaiming her sexuality. And although that is bound to be a life-long process, Anna’s abusers don’t win. She does. And gets to live (mostly, I assume) happily ever after. 


Monday, May 08, 2017

The Adventures of Charls, the Veretian Cloth Merchant (Captive Prince short stories #3) by C. S. Pacat

SUMMARY (from Goodreads): The Adventures of Charls follows the dealings of a humble cloth merchant in the days before the royal Ascension. Set after the events of Kings Rising and The Summer Palace.

MY THOUGHTS:

I am only taking away a star because of that abrupt ending. I need Charls's reaction when he figures it out, damn it! And, well, Damen’s or Laurent’s POV would be immensely more welcome. Although, I can well imagine our beloved kings had fun trolling Charls behind his back the entire time.

I pretty much loved everything, from all the undercover shenanigans to Laurent totally being ‘chaotic good’ and the mention of the cuff (I assume Laurent is still wearing his, too) to all the glimpses into Damen and Laurent from Charls’s POV.

Seeing the events and characters through Charls’s eyes was definitely entertaining as he is very perceptive in some ways (and I loved his loyalty and concern for both Laurent and Damen, I mean, Lamen), but his wit fails him in certain aspects and leaves him terribly (but adorably) oblivious.

All in all, The Adventures of Charls, the Veretian Cloth Merchant made me laugh and smile and still does even days after reading it, and was a great addition to the Captive Prince universe.


Friday, May 05, 2017

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

This was a refresher reread for me due to the TV show Black Sails, which was created as sort-of a prequel for Treasure Island and you should totally watch it if you haven’t already.

I first read Treasure Island in 5th or 6th grade (I remember taking it from the 5/6th grade literature section in our school library, so it must have been around then). That was about a quarter of a century ago, and I only recalled a handful of names (namely, Flint, Silver, and, curiously, Ben Gunn) from it. Hence, now that the show ended, it seemed a good time for a reread.

Of course, Treasure Island is a YA (before there was YA, I guess) adventure story, while the show itself is much more serious, complex, and, of course, intended for adult audience. It is also more than superior to the novel (I know, blasphemy!) and I choose to actively ignore some elements of the book in favour of the show.

That said, I actually found Treasure Island fairly interesting this time around – and I suppose also the first time, because it is the kind of read that would have appealed to me at that age. I can see why I didn’t remember it well, though.

The story is a fast-paced adventure, which tells more than shows and is scarce with details and, thus, isn’t very memorable. The main character being a boy (and also kind-of the author’s self-insert, I think) might have contributed to it being easily forgettable, as well.

Nevertheless, I didn’t hate the book and I found certain elements entertaining in the light of Black Sails. Therefore, the reread was overall worth my time. 


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Search This Blog