Jan 13

Review of Fairest by Marissa Meyer

Book Reviews 4

Review of Fairest by Marissa MeyerFairest (The Lunar Chronicles, #3.5) by Marissa Meyer
Published by Feiwel & Friends on January 27th 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 220
Goodreads

In this stunning bridge book between Cress and Winter in the bestselling Lunar Chronicles, Queen Levana’s story is finally told.
Mirror, mirror on the wall,Who is the fairest of them all?
Fans of the Lunar Chronicles know Queen Levana as a ruler who uses her “glamour” to gain power. But long before she crossed paths with Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress, Levana lived a very different story – a story that has never been told . . . until now.
Marissa Meyer spins yet another unforgettable tale about love and war, deceit and death. This extraordinary book includes full-color art and an excerpt from Winter, the next book in the Lunar Chronicles series.

I was so excited to have this book (along with the rest of the Lunar Chronicles #1-4!) under the tree for me this year! When I first heard of Fairest I wasn’t convinced I would want to read any story from Levana’s point of view (already having read the 4 main books), but I enjoyed the world so much I decided that yes, indeed, I would probably just have to read them all. So, I present you with my review of Fairest! (A few days late, because my DH was hit with an EXTREMELY violent bug of some kind and I was busy taking care of him!)


“Love is a conquest. Love is a war.”

Feels:

I went into this absolutely positive I would never feel anything remotely akin to sympathy for Levana. She’s such an unholy terror in the other books! And seemingly without reason. I felt like she just liked being evil and inflicting pain on others (which I guess is partially true but there’s so much more to it than that). However, about halfway through I changed my mind. Of course I already knew roughly how it would end, but it was just so tragic. I was so overwhelmingly sad. Levana as a young woman had so much potential, if she had just had someone to help her channel her emotions and teach her how to overcome.

Characters:

She tried to brush away the sting of rejection, the knowledge that she was still not good enough…she pressed the feelings down, down, letting them turn hard and cold inside, while her face was smiling and pleasant.

Obviously, this is Levana’s story. However, we see characters familiar to us sprinkled throughout (especially if you’ve already read Winter, like I had), which was fun. Some of the characters that have already passed on in the other books are here and alive, too. We get to see some of the events that are only speculated on by Cinder and her friends. There are a couple of other characters that are new to this story, that really wrung my little heart out as well.

When we first meet Levana here she’s a relatively normal 15 year old girl! She’s been abused at the hands of her egotistical, cruel older sister, neglected by cold, distracted parents, and pushed and pulled into the image of a perfect princess (since, as the second born daughter, she’s only fit to be married off). Levana is gifted – or cursed – with a quick mind, intelligent and resourceful – the mind of a queen. She’s also terribly scarred, as much mentally and emotionally as physically. This combination has resulted in her being an entirely self-centered, self-absorbed person who quite literally never thinks of other people or their feelings except as they pertain to HER feelings or desires.

I think that in the end, selfishness was Levana’s true issue. She is one of the most selfish characters I’ve met in a long time. She becomes egotistical, but she didn’t start out that way. She reacts to pain by assuming that the world owes her something (not a hard conclusion to come to, when you’re a spoiled princess anyway). She comes to believe that she is entitled to whatever she wants, no matter what it takes to get it. No matter how much she might hurt other people, even the one person she actually cares about. She has no concept of true love for anyone. She hurts, but beyond that she knows almost no emotion.

Plot:

This is a novella, so the plot is pretty straightforward. I.e., how Levana became queen and all the people she hurt in the process.

Worldbuilding/Setting:

If you’re familiar with any of the other Lunar Chronicles books, you’re already familiar with Luna and her people. If you’re not, I strongly recommend starting with Cinder! This story is basically the backstory that we never see fully in the main 4 books. You could start with Fairest, as chronologically it is actually first, but I don’t think it’s very interesting without that prior knowledge. The setting is there, but it’s not explained as well.

Rating:

3.5 stars. I’m struggling to give this one 4 because it really feels like a flashback that should have been somewhere in Cinder, also aside from Levana’s becoming a psycho it’s all focused on luuuuuuuv. And I just…I’m so tired of twu wuv being THE motivator of teen girls. I mean I know we were all there once. But come on! I’m stepping off my soapbox now…

Challenges:

This is 2/75 for my 75 in 2017 GoodReads Challenge, and 1/40 of my Beat the Backlist Challenge!

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Jan 11

TTT #10: 2016 Releases I Missed (but still plan to read)

Books/Writing 7


Linking up with the lovely folks at The Broke and the Bookish again this week! This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic is 2016 Releases I Missed (but still plan to read). There are SO MANY books still on my list from 2016, this one is just perfect. Below are 10 of them, not in any particular order.

     
  1. The Trespasser, by Tana French. This one is sitting on my shelf, and I have NO IDEA why I didn’t manage to read it as soon as it released.
  2. Heartless, by Marissa Meyer. I love the Lunar Chronicles so much, I’m convinced I’ll love anything Marissa Meyer writes. I’ve seen sort of mixed reviews on this one though, so now I’m scared. :-/
  3. Stars Above, by Marissa Meyer. See above. Also this one is actually PART of the Lunar Chronicles so I’m even more sure I will love it!
  4. The Serpent King, by Jeff Zentner. This one came in the March 2016 OwlCrate, and I’ve been meaning to read it ever since. Everyone loves it. In a painful sort of way.
  5. And I Darken, by Kiersten White. This sounds like MY KIND OF BOOK. It was under the tree for me at Christmas and I’m so excited to read it! Also a bit scared because it seems to be a love it or hate it book.
  6. Lilac Girls, by Martha Hall Kelly. A WWII historical fiction that sounds lovely, but I didn’t read nearly enough historical fiction last year.
  7. Shylock is My Name, by Howard Jacobson. I love Shakespeare. I love the Merchant of Venice story. A modern retelling? Yes please!
  8. Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi. This sounds painful but very important. Also, I’ve read great things about the author’s writing style.
  9. One Would Think the Deep, by Claire Zorn. I want to read some Australian authors, and this came highly recommended by PaperFury. I meant to get my hands on a copy before the end of the year but it didn’t happen. *trots off to TBD to see how expensive it is now*
  10. Red Queen (Alice #2), by Christina Henry. I have both of these, and LOVED the first one (also read last year). Exactly why I didn’t read the next is beyond me.

Are any of these on your list from last year? What is the biggest “I can’t believe I didn’t read that!” from 2016 for you?

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Jan 10

Review of The Bear and the Nightingale

Book Reviews 5 ★★★★★

Review of The Bear and the NightingaleThe Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
Published by Del Rey on January 10th 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Historical
Pages: 336
Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide
Goodreads five-stars

At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.
After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.
And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.
As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.

Before I get to my actual review of The Bear and the Nightingale (possibly my longest review ever), I have a little note:

Dear 2017,

I’m sure you’re aware of what a suck-tastic year 2016 was, for so many people. I really appreciate your efforts to make up for it by giving us this amazing treasure of a book so early in the year. The Bear in the Nightingale is the most beautiful thing I’ve read in a long time. It’s savage. It’s painful. And it’s phenomenally lovely. I had chills. I cried (and not just the tears-in-my-eyes kind…the I’m-on-a-public-bus-and-I’m-trying-so-hard-not-to-sob-I’m-shaking kind). Thank you for giving me a stellar 2017 book to recommend to everyone I know. Thank you for giving me another author to put on auto-buy.

Please send more books like this my way this year. 

~Lizzy

P.S. On second thought, maybe just one a year is fine. I had to order both the US and UK editions, so very many of these might break my bank.


There was a time, not long ago
When flowers grew all year
When days were long
And nights star-strewn
And men lived free from fear

Just to clarify: The Bear and the Nightingale (TBATN) is NOT a YA book. I’ve seen it pop up on several lists as such, but it is not. It’s also NOT historical fiction, though it is heavily inspired by historical, medieval Russia. It is adult fantasy that reads almost entirely like historical fiction until Part II, where it starts to feel like magical realism historical fiction…so let’s just keep it simple and say fantasy. Could some teenagers read it and appreciate it? Yes, but the style is very different from most YA, and some of the content is definitely adult (marital rape and a little graphic violence). This obviously didn’t deter me from ADORING it, but I thought the slight genre-confusion I’ve been noticing was worth a mention.

In Russian, Frost was called Morocco, the demon of winter. But long ago, the people called him Karachun, the death-god. Under that name, he was king of black midwinter who came for bad children and froze them in the night.

Feels:

I am in love. With everything. With the world, with the characters, with the woods, the village. With Vasya. A little bit with Alyosha. I wept with Vasya and her family. I saw the spirits as Vasya did. I felt the fear of the villagers. I felt the pain and confusion of a young child with a wild, free spirit in a world that didn’t accept her. The writing in TBATN is astounding. Lyrical, whimsical, and utterly entrancing.

Characters:

“I am only a country girl,” said Vasya. “I have never seen Tsargrad, or angels, or heard the voice of God. But I think you should be careful, Batyushka, that God does not speak in the voice of your own wishing. We have never needed saving before.”

Vasya, the main character, is my sister from another mother. I swear. Her love of nature, her stubborn refusal to accept the fate others wish to push on her, her refusal to be broken. I already said I love her but it bears repeating. The story spans from right before her birth to the time she is 14 years old. She doesn’t have an easy life, but she has to be one of the most resilient people I’ve ever met. Bent, at times, but never broken.

“All my life I am told how I will live, and I am told how I must die. I must be a man’s servant and a mare for his pleasure, or I must hide myself behind walls and surrender my flesh to a cold, silent god. I would walk into the jaws of hell itself, if it were a path of my own choosing.”

Now no joke, there are quite a few characters in this story. However, they are all so clear and distinct I was never confused. Not once. Not even with the Russian names. I did have to realize in the beginning that everyone had a given (fancy) name and a called (shorter, plainer) name, but since Arden stuck mostly to the called names it wasn’t hard. Also, each character experiences a growth arc in the book. No matter how minor, they show some growth and change – sometimes for good, sometimes for bad! That is an incredible feat and after reading so many books with such flat minor characters – amazing.

Romance – guess what? There is none. None. None, none, none, NONE! It’s such a beautiful breath of fresh air. There IS marriage. There’s also sex – and by sex I mean marital rape. It’s not graphic, but it’s obvious. I feel it’s treated as well as such a thing CAN be – these are medieval times, and in those times women were no more than property, no matter how highly valued that property. The women themselves often never questioned the right of their fathers and husbands to barter with them and then use their bodies for their own pleasure – it was a husband’s right and a wife’s duty! *insert much sarcasm* It definitely effects the entire dynamic of the story.

Plot:

TBATN is not a fast-paced book. It’s a slow burn building up to more and more – and it’s TOTALLY worth the read. All the details are beautiful and intriguing, and they really add to the mystery and overall atmosphere. The characters are really the driving force, and all the drama and suspense are very slow to build but after spending several chapters getting to know the people and the country I was already so invested I already knew I was in for the haul. Things really start to pick up with the arrival of a new priest in Vasya’s village. There is a struggle between the new Catholic church and the old spirits of the land and as things start to happen at first NOTHING is explained. Everything just kept building and building and there’s even a little mini-climax at one point (which was EXTREMELY satisfying), but things just keep going! Not only did it keep going, it picked up speed and I was completely wrapped up in the story.

As previously stated, there is no actual romance in TBATN. It doesn’t need it. There’s also not an entirely happy ending. It is…heartrending, yet hopeful at the same time. There’s no actual cliffhanger, but so much room for additional stories, and Vasya’s fate and path seem far from decided.

Worldbuilding/Setting:

Phenomenal. It truly has a historical feel to it. I’m not all the well-versed in Russian history or mythology, but the detailed notes on language and history at the end, as well as the comments I’ve read from people native to that part of the world seem to bear out that thought as well. The descriptions allow you to fall through the pages into the story, and it really feels like a full sensory experience. When the mythological creatures begin to appear, it feels so amazingly right.

Rating/Further Notes:

5 stars. I don’t have any more words for how beautifully savage this book is. I can’t wait to see what Katherine Arden comes up with next. I’ve heard rumors this is the first of a trilogy, but in her author Q&A page I only see mention of a sequel. I’ll be buying whatever she comes up with!

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for sending me an eARC in exchange for an honest review!

Challenges:

This one only counts towards my GoodReads challenge!

 

 

five-stars

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Jan 09

Down the TBR Hole #7

Books/Writing 4

down the tbr hole

Time to wield the axe again – I’m mercilessly culling my TBR list on GoodReads with the amazing Down the TBR Hole meme by Lia at Lost in a Story!

Most of you probably know this feeling. Your Goodreads TBR pile keeps growing and growing and it seems like there is no light at the end of the tunnel. You keep adding, but you add more than you actually read. And then when you’re scrolling through your list, you realize that you have no idea what half the books are about and why you added them. Well, that’s going to change!

It works like this:

  • Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf.
  • Order on ascending date added.
  • Take the first 5 (or 10 if you’re feeling adventurous) books. Of course if you do this weekly, you start where you left off the last time.
  • Read the synopses of the books.
  • Decide: keep it or should it go?

When I started this series of posts, I had 604 books on my TBR list. Since I am incapable of NOT CONTINUOUSLY ADDING books to the list, I am currently at 613 books. I seem to have made absolutely NO headway the last couple of weeks, even though I’ve been knocking 3-4 titles off I always have that many added back by the time the next week rolls around! This week up for inspection are books 32-36 of my original list. Covers link to GoodReads!

 

Title/Author: The Perfect Storm, by Sebastian Junger

Date Added: January 8, 2014

Thoughts: A true man-against-nature, non-fiction book. This one actually still appeals a lot to me.

Judgment: Keep.

 

 

Title/Author: The Holy Innocents (Roger the  Chapman #4), by Kate Medley

Date Added: January 8, 2014

Thoughts: Why is the 4th book in a series I’ve never read on my TBR?

Judgment: Go.

 

 

 

Title/Author: Firestorm (Anna Pigeon #4), by Nevada Barr

Date Added: January 8, 2014

Thoughts: Why is the 4th book in a series I’ve only read the FIRST of on my list? I’m sure the 2nd one is on here somewhere too.

Judgment: Go.

 

 

 

 

Title/Author: Killed at the Whim of a Hat, by Colin Cotterill

Date Added: January 8, 2014

Thoughts: I’m starting to think I was just extremely desperate for something to read on this particular day. I’ve been going through books added on January 8 for like 3 weeks now.

Judgment: Go.

 

 

Title/Author: Death and the Chapman (Roger the Chapman #1), by Kate Sedley

Date Added: January 8, 2014

Thoughts: Oh look, it’s the 1st of the series I was wondering about above. Don’t know why I had the 4th on the list before the 1st. Not at all interested now, though.

Judgment: Go.

 

 

4/5 again this week, I’m so proud of myself! Looking ahead though, I anticipate my number definitely going up next week because I already known most of the next several books will be staying on my list. Hehe. Woes of a bookworm. The only solution is to…say it with me…READ FASTER! Have a great week, all. 🙂 If you’re working on your own Down the TBR Hole posts, send me a link!

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Jan 08

Something Else Sunday #21: A Garden of Dreams

Gardening/Herbalism/Nature, Life 3

Welcome to another Something Else Sunday! This week I’m taking the opportunity to share another one of my passions with you all – my love of all things that grow. I haven’t had an actual garden in almost 4 years, but I’ve almost always had at least one or two houseplants during that time. I really miss my “big” little garden square in the community garden (that was back in 2012…yikes!). My only current houseplant is a beautiful moth orchid given to me by a friend last Thanksgiving. That Sir Tristan decided to un-pot…3 times. About two months ago I decided that, since it was still somehow showing signs of life, I would replant it and start watering it again. Also vigilantly guard it. Ahem. The leaves are growing, but it is still such a sad little flower compared to what it was when I received it!

  

^Then and now. The difference is ghastly. I’m hoping I can return it to health before we move. Since I can’t take it with me, I plan to give it back to the friend it came from. See the scar on the leaf in the second pic? Courtesy Sir Tristan. *angry face* The leaves are growing, but they are horizontal now as opposed to pointing up as in the first. I have ordered some new potting mix and fertilizer though, so hopefully once I can repot again, it will do better.


With our upcoming move, I can’t start any new plants or a garden just yet, but I’m dreaming! Even once we are settled back in the States (hopefully late May to early June…hopefully), I’ll have to limit my gardening attempts because of the state of limbo our residence and jobs will be in at that point. So, this is my chance to dream. To dream of the garden I would have, if I knew living arrangements and finances were going to be stable for the next 2-4 years. Do any of you guys garden? If so, how do you suit your plants to your living environment? I know many of us live in less-than-ideal places for gardens!

First, I would set up a pollinator garden. Mainly for bees, but also for butterflies and other pollinators. Did you know that record numbers of bees having been dying in the past several years? While the numbers seem to have stabilized somewhat, they are far from what they were a decade ago and they’re such a HUGE part of having a successful garden!

 

I’d use something like this Bee Feed Mix, left, and the Sensation Cosmos Mix on the right. Cosmos are phenomenal bloomers and I love their feathery leaves. Perfect for a low maintenance flower bed at the front of a house!

I’m dying to have an Old English rose, like this Munstead Wood from David Austin Roses. I could just live in their catalogue, every single one is so beautiful. My parents gave me my first rose (an actual plant) when I was 7 or 8, and I’ve been in love ever since.

These are “Kentucky Wonder Pole” green beans. I like that they climb so you don’t have to bend over to pick them. MANY hours of my middle grade years were spent bent over a bean patch in the summer! Haha.

I would have a huge vegetable garden. With enough green beans to feed not just me and my husband but friends and neighbors as well. Green beans are by far our favorite veggie! There are so many different types I want to try. I love heirloom and historic varieties, and there are SO MANY becoming available now. Look at how many beans – just beans – there are! Not to mention the tomatoes, melons, and all the other different veggies.

Comfrey, shown here from Strictly Medicinal Seeds. I’m fascinated by herbal medicine, and comfrey is one of the few I’ve actually tried myself and found it surprisingly effective! I really want to study herbs more, grow more, learn and experiment with them. Besides having herbs for seasoning, I’d like to start a medicinal herb garden and comfrey would be my first pick.

Last but FAR from least – bulbs. I adore bulb flowers. Their colors are almost universally bright and stunning and they are the most beautiful thing in spring. Hyacinths, like the above heirloom “Marie” from Old House Gardens, are my favorite. One day I want to have beds and beds of them. They smell positively divine.

There are SO MANY MORE plants and trees I want to grow and experience one day! These would just be my starting place. I love growing things. I love nature. I miss it. And I’m sure I’ve probably bored my bookish readers enough, so I’ll stop here. 😉

Coming Up This Week:

Down the TBR Hole #7
Review of The Bear and the Nightingale
TTT: 2016 Releases I Meant to Read but Didn’t Get To (and Totally Mean To)
Review of Fairest by Marissa Meyer
Review of Riddle’s Tea Shoppe Teas

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Jan 07

Review of Dracula by Bram Stoker

Book Reviews 2 ★★★★

Review of Dracula by Bram StokerDracula by Bram Stoker, Alan Cumming, Tim Curry, Simon Vance, Katherine Kellgren, Susan Duerden, John Lee, Graeme Malcolm, Steven Crossley, James Adams
on February 20th 2012
Genres: Classic, Paranormal
Pages: 16
Goodreads four-stars

15 hours and 28 minutes
Because of the widespread awareness of the story of the evil Transylvanian count and the success of numerous film adaptations that have been created over the years, the modern audience hasn't had a chance to truly appreciate the unknowing dread that readers would have felt when reading Bram Stoker's original 1897 manuscript. Most modern productions employ campiness or sound effects to try to bring back that gothic tension, but we've tried something different. By returning to Stoker's original storytelling structure - a series of letters and journal entries voiced by Jonathan Harker, Dr. Van Helsing, and other characters - with an all-star cast of narrators, we've sought to recapture its originally intended horror and power.
This production of Dracula is presented by what is possibly the best assemblage of narrating talent ever for one audiobook: Emmy Award nominees Alan Cumming and Tim Curry plus an all-star cast of Audie award-winners.

This review of Dracula is long, LONG overdue even if I just finished it last week. Why overdue? Because this was supposed to be part of my Halloween Read-a-Thon! Shameful, I know. To be honest, I got distracted about 2/3 of the way through and it took me forever to start it back up again. Also shameful. It’s a classic! It’s what started the popular image of vampires! Aaaaaand…yeah, I never did care for the whole vampire craze a few years ago. Bram Stoker’s book helped solidify the vampire’s place in literature and popular culture though, so I really wanted to read it. Sadly it doesn’t count for my audiobook challenge, as I finished it between Christmas and New Year’s! Bah.

Narration:

The narrators for this Audible Editions version were fabulous. Each character has their own narrator for their various journal entries, letters, etc., and they were all easily distinguished from each other. I listened at 1.25% speed, which helped with the 15 hour, 28 minute length.

Feels:

I was mostly just very intrigued the whole way through! It was so very different than anything I’ve ever read. I was invested in the characters but not terribly attached, if that makes sense. I felt like I learned a lot from this novel, even though it was fiction. I learned a lot about British/European culture at that time, how they looked at the supernatural, and how they looked at women.

Characters:

First of all, let’s get this Count Dracula straight. Dracula is not something out of True Blood or Twilight. He is not sexy. He does not sparkle. He is not emo or hurt and in need of someone to comfort and heal him. He is evil, cruel, barbaric, and intent on taking over the world. Ok, maybe just England, but still. He is imposing and has a certain ability to manipulate people even without his supernatural powers, something that I think must have been a part of even his regular-human personality.

Then you have the other main characters, which starts off with Jonathan Harker and his fiancee’ (later wife) Mina. They are just normal people trying to live a happy life, and suddenly they are thrown into this mess of Dracula’s creating. Jonathan actually travels to Dracula’s castle, never realizing until much later that the Count is much more than a normal man. Mina doesn’t actually meet Dracula until much later, but she has quite an experience with him due to his involvement with her dearest friend, Lucy.

Lucy is the person who actually brings all the other characters together. She is the typical Victorian blushing virgin, and somehow manages to attract marriage proposals from several men all at once. When she becomes a target for some unknown horror, they all come together – not without some awkwardness – to try to help her.

Plot:

The plot can be summed up in two words: vampire slayers. Because while this book takes AGES to get to the point, in the end that’s what it’s about. Vanquishing the evil that is Count Dracula and his minions, preventing him from further colonization. There are a couple of sub-plots, but they really don’t add a whole lot to the story, in my opinion. Like many books of this era, Dracula is very wordy and goes on and on and on about points that most modern readers really don’t care about.

Worldbuilding/Setting:

The castle is on the very edge of a terrible precipice. A stone falling from the window would fall a thousand feet without touching anything! As far as the eye can reach is a sea of green tree tops, with occasionally a deep rift where there is a chasm. Here and there are silver threads where the rivers wind in deep gorges through the forests.

Stoker does a marvelous job of making us see, here, feel, and even smell the setting of Transylvania, the seaside, London. I have absolutely no complaints. I never once felt as though I couldn’t picture the world of the characters. To him of course, the world was HIS world.

Rating/Other Thoughts:

Let me get to these other thoughts before I give my rating.

First of all, the religious atmosphere of this book. It really took me by surprise, but I guess, given that the main characters are British during the 1890s (Queen Victoria’s reign). I was disappointed that the only things (other than garlic) to repel the vampires are relics of the Christian church. I was extremely disappointed by how many pages were devoted to the characters musing on their rightness with God, on whether or not they would go to heaven or hell, and other similar topics. All very accurate to how people thought and believed during that time.

Thus are we ministers of God’s own wish: that the world, and men for whom His Son die, will not be given over to monsters, whose very existence would defame Him. He has allowed us to redeem one soul already, and we go out as the old knights of the Cross to redeem more. Like them we shall travel toward sunrise; and like them, if we fall, we fall in good cause.

Secondly, the treatment of women. Again it’s very accurate to how women in Victorian England were expected to behave, how they were looked at by men and the world at large. Mina Harker, at least, does not entirely accept the traditional role of the fainting female even if she is very willing to accept being the weaker sex. Accurate or not, I find the subservience the female characters demonstrate disturbing. Also disturbing is that Jonathan Harker objects to the female vampire who come to him based solely on the fact that they appear sexually attractive and do not behave like Victoria’s shrinking violet female model. He is attracted to them by their beauty and their open admission of their desire, and yet he feels he sins in the attraction.

I realize that this is all my perspective through a 21st century lens. The points that strike me as repression and bigotry were completely normal and accepted in society at that time. Does that make them right? Of course not. It does explain how and why characters reacted the way they did, however inexplicable their actions seem to a modern reader.

Overall, I’m giving 4 stars. The story, for all its faults, is still gripping even over a hundred years later. Dracula has given rise to countless spin-off tales, even if most modern day readers consider vampires (and werewolves) more sexy than terrifying. Vampires, with their super-human powers of shape changing and manipulation, have enthralled people’s imaginations for decades. I don’t see Dracula leaving the classics list any time soon.

 

four-stars

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Jan 05

November 2016 OwlCrate

Books/Writing, Reviews 7


Coming to you today with my November 2016 OwlCrate review! It’s no secret I love OwlCrate. I’ve been subscribed since January of last year (skipped one month that just didn’t sound like my thing at all) and so far every single box has been stellar. This month was one of my favorites! Sadly, I took the fewest pictures…ok, let’s be honest, most of them were crap and I didn’t realize it until I put them on the computer, and by then I had destroyed the box. Ahem.

I already knew the box was going to be Wonderland themed, but I still squealed when I opened it. 😀

Book:

The main book was an OwlCrate-exclusive cover of Marissa Meyer’s Heartless! I guessed that this would be the release this month and was already prepared to try to pawn my extra copy off on someone, but then I dug to the bottom of the box and OMG! A white cover! I was so happy. Because I might be somewhat obsessed with special editions.

This month actually included TWO books, expanding my collection of Rock Paper Books editions with a gorgeous softcover of Alice in Wonderland. This also turns out to be a special edition, but you can get a print of the cover and other stuffs with the same artwork!

Other Awesome Stuff:

  • Matching bookmark from Rock Paper Books
  • Exclusive OwlCrate “Falling Alice” button
  • “Imagination is the only weapon…” magnet from Evie Bookish . I’m so in love with Evie’s designs, I was tickled pink to get another one!
  • “Curiouser and Curiouser…” metal bookmark from Authored Adornments 

Authored Adornments has some gorgeous bookish jewelry that I’m absolutely drooling over. Like this Sense and Sensibility inspired ring.

  • Last but FAR from least, a Wonderland Elixir Tea Tin from Riddle’s Tea Shoppe Adagio Teas. I was so taken with this tea and the concept that I almost immediately went and ordered MORE tea from Riddle’s Adagio shop, which has everything from Lord of the Rings to Doctor Who to Sherlock inspired teas. I’ll have a full review of the teas, including the one in this box, up next week!

That’s it, folks! I hope you enjoyed seeing the box. If you subscribe, please use my referral link!  And oh, wait, one more pic…

Yes, that was a sign of blissful delight you just heard… 😉

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Jan 04

Review of The Virgins by Diana Gabaldon

Book Reviews 2 ★★★★

Review of The Virgins by Diana GabaldonVirgins (Outlander, #0.5) by Diana Gabaldon
on April 8th 2016
Genres: Historical
Pages: 86
Buy This Book from Book Depository, Free Delivery World Wide
Goodreads four-stars

Mourning the death of his father and gravely injured at the hands of the English, Jamie Fraser finds himself running with a band of mercenaries in the French countryside, where he reconnects with his old friend Ian Murray. Both are nursing wounds; both have good reason to stay out of Scotland; and both are still virgins, despite several opportunities to remedy that deplorable situation with ladies of easy virtue. But Jamie’s love life becomes infinitely more complicated—and dangerous—when fate brings the young men into the service of Dr. Hasdi, a Jewish gentleman who hires them to escort two priceless treasures to Paris. One is an old Torah; the other is the doctor’s beautiful daughter, Rebekah, destined for an arranged marriage. Both Jamie and Ian are instantly drawn to the bride-to-be—but they might be more cautious if they had any idea who they’re truly dealing with.
Note: Originally published as part of the Dangerous Women anthology.

It feels like it’s been FOREVER since I posted an actual book review! Last week was all about ALL the reading challenges, hehe. I’m excited to get back into the groove. So without further ado, I present my review of The Virgins, by Diana Gabaldon.

Please excuse me while I indulge my love of Jamie.

The Virgins felt short-story in length to me, though I think it’s actually classified as a novella. I read it in less than an hour though, so…maybe I just read fast? The hardcover addition available from The Book Depository is 256 pages…which I don’t understand since my e-book version was only 86 pages! HUGE difference there and I feel slightly cheated, but it doesn’t seem that there’s actually a difference in content. HOW.

Feels:

I was so happy to be back with Jamie and Ian! Seeing them before Claire came to Scotland, and seeing Jamie so soon after all the horrific events that we only see in flashback in the the full length novels, was both heartrending and exciting. I also really enjoyed that this story was just straight-up historical fiction, no woo-woo added. Not that I haven’t enjoyed those aspects of the novels, but this was just the down and dirty, the nitty-gritty. Even for such a short story, I was totally invested back into the characters and their world.

Characters:

Jamie and Ian are SO YOUNG! They distinctly remind me of my own 17-year-old brother in the way they react to some things. This is Jamie before he became the confident, skilled warrior we meet in Outlander. This is Ian before Jenny. This is both of them as complete virgins in every sense of the word, and they are gregarious, lovable, and heartbreaking. Also cringe-worthy at a few points. I swear I can almost smell the teen-boy sweat coming off of them.

The secondary characters here are interesting and colorful, but I didn’t get attached to any of them. I was rather hoping someone would drive a dagger through a certain female person’s heart, but alas. Despite my non-attachment, I was devastated after a particular scene near the end. Not so much because of who died, but because of how it affected Jamie.

Plot:

The main line of the plot doesn’t become apparent right away. First, we’re thrown into Jamie and Ian’s meeting almost immediately after Jamie’s escape from Black Jack Randall. This, I think, is where it becomes apparent that this story is not to introduce a reader to Outlander. This story is for the fans. I loved it, naturally. However, the actual plot starts off a bit slow. Does it work? Yes. But I think it was secondary to showing us a young Jamie and Ian and just how they actually thought of each other.

“Did ye not mean to go to Confession yourself?” Jamie asked, stopping near the church’s main door. There was a priest in the confessional; two or three people stood a discreet distance away from the carved wooden stall, out of earshot, waiting.

“It’ll bide,” Ian said, with a shrug. “If ye’re goin’ to hell, I might as well go, too. God knows, ye’ll never manage alone.”

Setting/Description:

As usual, Diana’s writing appears to be impeccably researched. I’m not a historian, but the amount of detail and care is obvious.

Rating/Notes:

Overall, I’m giving 4 stars. I do think part of my rating is due to HOW MUCH I love these characters. The writing itself doesn’t seem quite as polished as in the books, but it’s difficult to lay a finger on what gave me that impression. Especially in the beginning, some things felt just a little bit forced. Once everything got started it moved along smoothly, and as usual Gabaldon is a fabulous storyteller. I would recommend reading immediately after the original Outlander, but it would be perfect for Outlander fans at any point in the series!

four-stars

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Jan 03

Top Ten Tuesday #9: Most Anticipated YA Debuts of 2017

Books/Writing 13


I’m linking up with the wonderful peeps over at The Broke and the Bookish for this Top Ten Tuesday topic! Now, I feel like it’s a little early in the year to be discussing my complete list of most anticipated YA Debuts of 2017 (maybe we’ll revisit this topic mid-year!), not because the books aren’t already slotted for publishing but because there isn’t enough buzz yet about novels releasing later in the year. I checked my 2017 Debut Author Challenge list on GoodReads, and every single one of the 7 books I’ve voted for are releasing in the first 5 months of 2017. So, I anticipate that by May/June I will have added a lot of books to this list. Anyway, to get on with it! I’m organizing by month, not preference.

My Most Anticipated YA Debuts of 2017:

January: Caravel, by Stephanie Garber. I know, I know…EVERYONE is agog over this one. I’m excited for it but at the same time I’m nervous…so many hopes! Preordered. Also Frost Blood by Elly Blake. I’m…a little reticent about this one after my recent disastrous encounter with Red Queen, but I’m hoping it’s entirely different and much better.

 

February: Wintersong, by S. Jae-Jones. I love fairy tell retellings, and this one sounds like it might actually pull in some of the darker elements of the original tales. Ooooh. Yes, please.

March: Blood Rose Rebellion, by Rosalyn Eves. For some reason, the cover made me think this was a historical fiction based around the Wars of Roses. IT’S NOT!! Let me emphasize that so I don’t confuse anyone. It’s a fantasy, and one that reminds me slightly of Red Queen (again…I sense a theme here) but since the MC is the UNspecial snowflake I’m hoping for a different twist.

April: Toward a Secret Sky, by Heather MacLean. Despite the rather misleading blurb on the cover, this is MacLean’s fiction debut, YA or otherwise. Her other books are cookbooks. ANYWHO. Reasons for reading this book? Scotland and secret societies? I’m in. Please don’t let the hinted at love triangle be too bad…

May: Girl Out of Water, by Laura Silverman. This sounds like a fun summer read without being over-the-top fluffy. Summer seems to be the only time I like contemporary novels, haha. Also, AFTER I added it to my preorders, I scored an eARC! So I’m super excited to get to read it early (but I’m still keeping my preordered copy). When Dimple Met Rishi just sounds SO AWESOMELY FUNNY and amazing. I’ve never ever heard a take on arranged marriage like this one – do yourself a favor and go read the blurb. This one has also been preordered!

 

That’s it for now folks! I’m definitely taking recommendations, especially since I’m aiming for 12 debut reads this year. What are your most anticipated YA debuts of 2017?

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Jan 02

Down the TBR Hole #6

Books/Writing 8

Time to wield the axe again – I’m mercilessly culling my TBR list on GoodReads with the amazing Down the TBR Hole meme by Lia at Lost in a Story!

Most of you probably know this feeling. Your Goodreads TBR pile keeps growing and growing and it seems like there is no light at the end of the tunnel. You keep adding, but you add more than you actually read. And then when you’re scrolling through your list, you realize that you have no idea what half the books are about and why you added them. Well, that’s going to change!

It works like this:

  • Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf.
  • Order on ascending date added.
  • Take the first 5 (or 10 if you’re feeling adventurous) books. Of course if you do this weekly, you start where you left off the last time.
  • Read the synopses of the books.
  • Decide: keep it or should it go?

When I started this series of posts, I had 604 books on my TBR list. Since I am incapable of NOT CONTINUOUSLY ADDING books to the list, I am currently at 614 books. I seem to have made absolutely NO headway the last couple of weeks, even though I’ve been knocking 3-4 titles off I always have that many added back by the time the next week rolls around! This week up for inspection are books 27-31 of my original list. Covers link to GoodReads!

 

Title/Author: Death at Bishop’s Keep, by Robin Paige

Date Added: January 8, 2014

Thoughts: Yet another cozy mystery series starter I felt compelled to add.

Judgment: Go!

 

 

 

Title/Author: Murphy’s Law, by Rhys Bowen

Date Added: January 8, 2014

Thoughts: Yet ANOTHER cozy mystery series. This one won an Agatha Award though, and I do love Ireland. Rhys Bowen’s other series is okay, too.

Judgment: Keep…for a rainy day…maybe.

 

 

 

Title/Author: Fer-de-Lance, by Rex Stout

Date Added: January 8, 2014

Thoughts: OMG STOP. Was this really my taste in reading 3 years ago?

Judgment: Go, go, GO!

 

 

 

 

Title/Author: Pushing Up Daisies, by Rosemary Harris

Date Added: January 8, 2014

Thoughts: Why the hell did I think I wanted to read a book about a middle-aged wanna be sleuth?

Judgment: Go!

 

 

 

Title/Author: Becoming Josephine, by Heather Webb

Date Added: January 8, 2014

Thoughts: Historical fiction is still something I enjoy, but after reading this review in particular I think my time would be better spent elsewhere.

Judgment: Go.

 

Not bad this week, not bad at all! 4/5 off my TBR list. Phew! Considering how many have been being added TO it, what with all the new releases and debuts that have come to my attention this week…I need to knock off several more! Until next week’s Down the TBR Hole, may you not be crushed by your own TBR pile. 🙂

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