I initially read this story in its original form, when it existed as fanfiction.
Will and Claire are completely different characters compared to the source material. As such, it is not difficult for me to read this as a work of original fiction.
On the strength of this story, I have always liked the fake marriage trope. Lady Isadora gets some humourous lines; displayed some kickass gun shooting skills, and totally deserves a novel of her own.
The story flow is good, it is easy light reading, and the cover picture is very pretty. In essence, it's about two (slightly) broken dented characters helping each other heal, letting go of their respective sad pasts to find happiness together. And that is always the sort of story worth reading.
In short, I think this series has potential, and I definitely have The Meddling Madame on my waiting list for when it comes out next year.
- - - - - - -
Now, I am going to nitpick on the historical inaccuracies that bother me. Please feel free to stop reading at this point because whenever I do this to my friends, their eyes glaze over.
Disclaimer: I never criticise fanfiction because most fanfic writers devote their free time writing out of love for a fandom, and they tend to find it demotivating to receive (unsolicited) criticisms. That said, published novels are an entirely different game, and I definitely criticise novels when I review them.
Firstly, baron is a rank, not an appellation. In the novel, Will and Claire addressed each other as Mr. & Mrs Knightley. Given that they hold the ranks of baron & baroness, they should be Lord & Lady Knightley. In society, he would have been presented as Lord William Knightley, Baron of _____ . Not Baron William Knightley.
There were hardly any mentions of servants. The lady's maid performs the duties of a butler in addition to her own, Claire doesn't wear mourning colours, she gallivants around London unaccompanied by a maid or footman, there are no footmen in Claire's house, (footmen were supposed to be everywhere!), Baron Knightly has no valet, and they are completely unchaperoned (Lady Isadora, being unmarried herself, cannot be considered a chaperone, even if she is middle-aged, which she is not). They even live in the same house as an unmarried couple. This is the stuff of scandal in those days.
Third, no patroness launched Claire into society, no presentation to the royal court at the beginning of the season. Underaged, but no appointed guardian (a legal requirement). No mention of fortune hunters. And yes, I know I am getting ridiculous at this point, but we're talking about a time era so ritualistic in nature that non-adherence to the rigid customs caused scandals and led to ostracisation from society, so it stretches my suspension of disbelief just a little too much.
And about the 'restoration' of the barony ... I don't think that's how it works, but I don't even want to get into that topic lol. This post is already long enough as it is.
- - - - -
All these, however, do not detract from my enjoyment of the novel (much) and I look forward to future books by this author. :)
These days, I spend most of my free time reading Doctor Who fanfiction on a nearly daily basis. However, there are still published authors that I am following - one of them being Rick Riordan, who churns out 2 books a year in an irritatingly reliable fashion. Like clockwork. How he does it, I have no idea. I sometimes have trouble writing a mere 1,000 words a day.
The Hidden Oracle is the first book of the new Trials of Apollo series, which takes place in the same universe as the Percy Jackson and Heroes of Olympus series. I once pointed out that Rick Riordan appears to have trouble letting go entirely of his beloved Percy Jackson character - and I still stand by it. Even though Percy is no longer the main character of Riordan's books, he appears frequently enough that one stands in no danger of forgetting his name.
The absolute best thing of Riordan's books - and the reason why I'm still keeping on track with his published works - is his sense of humour, as I will prove to you below.
The Hidden Oracle features the god Apollo made mortal as punishment for his role in aiding the bad guys in the previous series, and exiled to earth.
Thus you get golden lines such as these:
Is anything sadder than the sound of a god hitting a pile of garbage bags?
The only thing I knew for certain: my punishment was unfair. Zeus needed someone to blame, so of course he'd picked the handsomest, most talented, most popular god in the pantheon: me.
Riordan pokes fun at main character's arrogance and conceit while showing us the entitled moron that Apollo is, but at the same time, there is character development. Apollo went from this at the beginning of the book:
“It always disappointed me when mortals put themselves first and failed to see the big picture—the importance of putting me first”
To this at the end:
"[...] it feels wrong for me to ask you to risk your lives. You have been through so much just to get here."
I dig it when authors bother to develop their characters. I get that it is the premise of this story, that Apollo should learn the wrong of his ways in order the regain his godly powers; but character development is sadly missing in many of the novels published these days (one reason why I went into fanfiction)
Dual-wielding daughter of Demeter, Meg, who snarks at Apollo at every opportunity.
"Well, according to my extensive research-"
"Some books he flipped through last night," Meg clarified.
And her peach karpoi that only ever says one word (peaches!) that Riordan apparently stole from Groot (Guardians of the Galaxy). Riordan incorporates a lot of ideas from mainstream into his novels; which will either annoy you or make you go, "Hah! I know where this is from."
The best thing, I think, is the return of Leo Valdez and Calpso to join Apollo's team in the sequel The Dark Prophecy (published earlier this year, which I've also already read)
Leo was one of my favourite characters, and the reunion scene between him and Calypso in one of the previous books was a personal favourite of mine.
Of course, a race against time to prevent world annihilation. The usual.
The best thing about this book is its cover. I am completely in love with it. The story itself, however, does not live up to the beauty of its packaging, which just brings to mind the old worn phrase of never judging a book by its cover.
I read through the first 10% in a state of boredom. Very little happened. An 18 year old girl's marriage to a merchant 20 years her senior was arranged. She arrived at her new home. That's all that happened in the first 30 pages or so. When the miniature dollhouse arrived, that's when I began to feel interested, paid more attention to the characters - they have their own secrets, all of them, except perhaps the maid girl, a not-very-bright girl listening to snatches of conversations at keyholes and filling in the blanks with her own imagination. Typical behaviour of house servants.
There were secrets and mysteries, some of which I felt was not resolved very well - for instance, how did the miniaturist knew what she knew - she just knew. Right. Well, a bit disappointing, that.
I'm not expecting a well-tied up ending with no loose ends, but the ending to this one just felt so unfinished.
It’s been a while since Tor posted a short story that I definitely want on my Kindle, and this is one of those. Here you have a twist of the Greek tale of Penelope and Odysseus – she who weaved by the day only to undo her weaving by night, every night, to keep her suitors at bay as she awaited her husband’s return.
The twist here is that things were not that simple. Here you get a female character that was not passively waiting decades for her absent husband to return; you get a character with a trace of divine power running through her veins, fighting for her own fate. Penelope had the power to create a future of her own weaving – but not enough to reorder time completely to her own liking. Every choice ultimately leads to an outcome as undesirable as the one before, and thus she unpicks her weaving night after night, in this quest to find a future in which all will be well.
In some cultures they believe that every photo takes away a little bit of your soul.
This is one such story.
I did not find Anna Karenina easy to read. The novel spanned over 1000 pages (read: far too long), and covered such a wide variety of topics – eg. politics and rural farming – that, at times, I was heartily bored, and at other times I wondered why I was reading a story that I knew was going to end with a train wreck.
But it did not, not really. Despite its title, this story was not entirely Anna Karenina’s story. Neither was it a love story. It was a story of fate and circumstances – a story of two couples told parallel to each other; one that ended rather badly, and the other that ended well – and neither really deserved or earned their respective fates. This story was more about circumstances that resulted in the characters’ choices, than the choices themselves. There was so, so much realism in it – love alone wasn’t enough to make one happy. Anna found her love, but she also found the price that came with it far higher than she could pay.
Some people said that the romance between Anna Karenina and Count Vronsky was a timeless tale of love, because their story could happen today and still end the same way. I suppose it’s quite possible, despite the different morality of today’s society, because it was fate and circumstances that played a bigger part than characterization in driving Anna’s downwards spiral towards her untimely end. Circumstances that could quite likely exist just as well in today’s world – two high profile figures being shunned by the public for committing scandalous adultery, insecurity of the fidelity of one’s lover, etc.
Levin & Kitty’s story served as a contrast. Theirs was also a love born of chance and circumstances, because if the circumstances had been different Levin could have married any of the 3 sisters – Dolly, Anna or Kitty – if he had met a different sister first, or if it had been another sister who remained unwed, etc. His was a character who just went along with the flow, so to speak, and he married Kitty in the end because circumstances gave him the opportunity to propose to her again (she rejected him the first time he proposed. For Vronsky, before he met Anna and promptly fell in love with her and forgot all about Kitty. Classic Romeo guy.)
I can now say I’ve read this book in its entirety and am not in love with it. Perhaps because of my predilection for stories in which one’s choices made all the difference, rather than circumstances - I prefer my characters to fight for each other (and win).
I took a rather long break from reading published works because of one word: FANFICTION. Enough said, yeah? :D
Then last week I passed a bookstore and saw this on the display and was like, ANOTHER Percy Jackson book? Yay! And while I’d say that this was an entertaining read, it was most definitely one of those companion books written more for $$$ than anything else, so in my opinion your money would be better spent elsewhere. But that is my opinion of most books anyway …
Percy Jackson and The Greek Gods are, basically, the greek mythology retold from the Percy Jackson ‘verse, by Percy himself. If you love Percy as a narrator, you will love this – it is choke full of Percy’s own brand of humour, which is sometimes very funny and sometimes rather lame. Like this:
First I’ll tell you how the world got made. Then I’ll run down a list of gods and give you my two cents about each of them. I just hope I don’t make them so mad they incinerate me before I—
Just kidding. Still here.
Yes. Very funny, Percy.
Well, that’s what you get :
1) The Greek myth of creation.
2) The 12 Olympians & assorted stories of mortals/immortals’ fortunate (but mostly unfortunate) encounters with these Greek gods. I think Riordan romanticized the Hades & Persephone story too much, and Percy went a bit overboard with his fanboying over his father Poseidon.
3) Very pretty illustrations by John Rocco.
That’s all there is to it, in a nutshell. I’m off to continue reading Anna Karenina now :D
There is a big difference between
- A romance written in a fantasy setting; and
- A fantasy novel with romance in it.
Most authors do not write a well-balanced story with both elements – to use a famous example, Harry Potter is heavy on the fantasy and very light on the romance. (Unless, of course, if you’re reading fanfiction.)
Dragon’s Bait is neither. It is a story of a girl and a dragon, and as a fantasy novel it is a total fail, because the world-building was not well thought out at all.
- You get a vaguely Middle Age setting, during the time of wide-scale witch hunts. Because for some reason the best way to introduce your main characters to each other was to sacrifice the damsel in distress to the dragon.
- You get a total of ONE dragon, who is a special snowflake of a character. He has special shape-shifting powers.
"Can all dragons change to human shape?" He paused, as though considering how much to tell her. "No," he said, "Only gold-colored dragons have magic."
Which is just strange. You could’ve said that
- Dragons have been blending in amongst humans, pretending to be the same
- dragons could turn into human and have been keeping this ability a secret. Use your imagination. I could think of at least 5 reasons why.
Instead, no, only Selendrile has the ability because he is blonde. Great.
And also, you get inexplicable dragon biology.
I have to be a dragon come dawn or I'll die."
"Why?" He sighed, sounding more tired than exasperated. "Why can't you soar on the wind? Why can't you breathe underwater? Why can't you she'd your skin and turn into a butterfly?"
She didn't understand.
Because Alys is a foolish girl, and Selendrile is one irritating bastard who is always undressing himself in front of her for laughs.
By the light of the torches she saw that his hair was the color the mane had been, palest gold, and it hung almost to his waist. Alys jerked her gaze back up to the face, for she had suddenly—finally—noticed that he wore no clothes. For the first time, the purple eyes flickered with emotion: amusement.
He is always finding amusement at Alys’s expense. And if she was as feisty as the author would’ve liked us to believe, he would not have gotten away with this behaviour half so many times.
"She was flirting with you," Alys explained, lest he think she was laughing at him. "She liked you."
For some reason Alys thinks that a dragon who is
- over 300 years old
- could shapeshift into human form at whim
does not understand the concept of lust/romantic attraction. Right.
The one good thing I could say about the romance it that it is not instalove. The love is implied rather than expressed. But I do not like the characters and I don’t see their attraction to each other being anything deeper than a superficial level.
"Of course I saw you. I wasn't interested until you began to act out of the ordinary."
Speaking of which, “acting out of ordinary” in this case consisted of Alys throwing rocks at a flying dragon when she was supposedly tied to a stake.
Apparently the villagers forgot to tie her hands.
Sometimes a story has such an unsatisfying ending that I would rather have not read it at all.
Of course, there were times when the journey was worth it (eg. abandoned fanfic WIPs), but the denouement of Balzac and The Little Chinese Seamstress left me highly annoyed. I have questions that will never be answered, mainly on what will happen to the main characters – the two boys Ma and Lou, and their seamstress friend.
But now that I have given it some thought, this story was never about the two boys in the first place. It was about books and the seamstress girl - and when that story ended, so did the book. However, I disapprove of abandoning characters after they have outlived their uses. It’s so lazy.
During the Cultural Revolution in China, when Mao Zedong was at the pinnacle of his glory, he launched a campaign that would leave the country profoundly altered. The universities were closed and all the ‘young intellectuals’, meaning boys and girls who had graduated from high school, were sent to the countryside to be ‘reeducated by the poor peasants’.
Thus you have Ma and Lou, two of many boys sent to rural provinces for the benefit of this “re-education.” It was a time when books were forbidden, except those written by the Great Leader Mao himself or his cronies, and of course our main characters stumbled upon a stash of hidden, forbidden books, some of whom were written by the French author Balzac.
The time setting and cultural environment was fascinating, so alien by today’s standards in the civilised parts of the world.
We were surprised to see how the alarm clock seized the imagination of the peasants. It became an object of veneration, almost. Everyone came to consult the clock, as though our house on stilts were a temple.
Some decisions made by Dai Sijie in the writing of this book was rather strange, imo. Near the end there was a sudden shift of perspectives – most of the tale had narrated by Ma, but suddenly there was a section by Lou, the seamstress, and a random village person, for no discernable reason. He has also created Ma and Lou as the means for books to reach the seamstress, and having done so, cared for them no longer, and if the reader has gotten invested, too bad. As for how the books affected the seamstress – is a different story entirely, but it would’ve been nice to know.
This review may contain spoilers for the first 100 pages of the book. As it is nearly 400 pages in total, and the ending twist was rather predictable, I don’t think there’s much to spoil any potential reader of. Consider yourself warned.
In this story, zombies are called “hungries”. It’s kind of cute but also vaguely creepy, like the book itself. At times ridiculous, and at others revolting.
It is also a very isolated sort of story, focusing on a small group of characters each playing their own roles, and somewhat lacking in world-building. What there is of it was fascinating – have you ever thought of humans turning into trees? Here, the zombie condition is the intermediate stage that lies between life and death, caused by a fungal infection that takes over the human body and turns it into a bag of fertilizer. But there’s a lot that isn’t there – how widespread is the infection, globally? What is the rest of the world doing? Are the humans in the story the only ones left? Why are they so technologically backwards? How could a mad scientist spend years researching and then lose everything overnight? Is the concept of a backup system too complicated for them to implement? Really?
The information that we’re hoping to gain justifies that risk. It justifies anything.
And this is how the story begins – it is a fairytale, I think, and as such it follows the fairytale rule of three - a mad villain of a scientist, Dr Caldwell, willing to go to great lengths in the name of science; her precious Subject Test #1 a.k.a. Melanie; and the benevolent, morally conscientious teacher Miss Justineau, a knight in disguise. There is also a Sergeant, but he’s not important. Melanie is , by all counts, a child – but an intelligent one, and strong-willed. She resisted the lure of fresh meat in a way reminiscent of a vampire denying itself blood.
“You’re my bread,” she says at last. “When I’m hungry. I don’t mean that I want to eat you, Miss Justineau! I really don’t! I’d rather die than do that. I just mean … you fill me up the way the bread does to the man in the song. You make me feel like I don’t need anything else.”
Miss Justineau worked around children like Melanie – or, perhaps, as described by the book - the subject presents as a child but is actually a fungal colony animating a child’s body – and she educates them and tells them stories while observing them to write reports on their capacity for normal effect. Some of my favourite quotes in the book came from Justineau, like this one:
Some things become true simply by being spoken. When she said to the little girl “I’m here for you”, the architecture of her mind, her definition of herself, shifted and reconfigured around that statement. She became committed, or maybe just acknowledged a commitment.
Acceptance is a main theme in this story. The characters accept all the shit that happens. I’m not sure if it’s been confused with resignation, because in most cases they don’t have much choice but to accept their respective fates – Caldwell accepts that her work of years has been lost, Melanie sees her future – the only way it could go - and accepts it, Justineau accepts that she has delved too deep emotionally to leave unaffected, and acceptance plays a big part in the ending twist of the story – and it’s a very good ending, in my opinion –
In 2040, you can smoke all you like, because nobody gets cancer anymore. The downside is that the zombies have taken over the world faster and more effectively than cats have ever managed – and they’re absolutely fixated – not on brains, but on human flesh.
There was no warning before the outbreaks began. One day, things were normal; the next, people who were supposedly dead were getting up and attacking anything that came into range. This was upsetting for everyone involved, except for the infected, who were past being upset about that sort of thing.
Told from the point of view of two journalist bloggers - Georgia and her brother Shaun – one dedicated to telling the truth, and the other devoted to finding danger and living on adrenaline high. Only such people, in a post-apocalyptic zombie infested world, would decide that it would be a good idea to go out and poke a zombie with a stick to see what happens. Blogging has, understandably, become a more appealing form of entertainment and thus a feasible way to earn a living, and I like the title Feed being a pun on the zombies and blog RSS. The blogging plays a big part in the telling of the tale.
“Kellis-Amberlee is a fact of existence. You live, you die, and then you come back to life, get up, and shamble around trying to eat your former friends and loved ones. That’s the way it is for everyone.”
It’s scary how easy it was to get infected by the Kellis-Amberlee virus - the moment it gets into your veins, you’re dead. It is the humans, however, who are more terrifying than the undead. You’ll see why, but it’ll take about 500 pages – the last 100 pages were by far the most enjoyable to me. A lot of it has to do with American politics in this alternate world, and how a cruel mastermind plot is by far more spine-chilling than the mindless droning of the undead.
Deadline next :D
This is one of the best short science fiction stories I’ve read in a long time; the consequences of an alien invasion on an alternate earth with its own alternate history. The humans were given a choice: be destroyed utterly, or to allow infant aliens to merge with the children. They don’t really have much of a choice – the theme here is survival; the aliens are obviously doing this to survive, because for some reason they cannot raise their next generation without outside help anymore. This arrangement, they said, is only temporary - until both the aliens and human are grown up; after which they would presumably part ways.
I also found it interesting that the humans aren’t hosting the aliens – they become two entities in one body. Therefore, when the alien and the human have differences in taste – like any two different people often do - one loves coffee, for instance, and the other abhors it – they drink it, to the relish of one and the antipathy of the other. Henceforth, if I find any good full-length novels with a similar concept of duality, it’s going into my to-read list :D
You’re still here because in life you were responsible for a great wrong.
Set amidst the political turmoil and upheaval of China in the 1930s, with Chiang Kai-Shek and his Nationalist party on one side and the Communist Party of China on the other; with Westerners holding China ransom over opium and the impending arrival of the Japanese and their bombs – you get this story, of Song Leiyin, third daughter of a prominent family, who grew up in the seclusion of the Song family home. For some mysterious reason she is now dead, but her soul remained on earth because, as she was told:
You must understand the damage you did. Then you must make amends to balance the ledger. Only then can we ascend together to the true afterlife.
Leiyin was an adaptable character, but she adapted because she had little choice. She was also very selfish, but we could be selfish when we’re in love. And Leiyin was in love; she loved someone she could never marry, because her family supported the Nationalists. The handsome Hanchin, on the other hand, was a leftwing poet and translator, supporter of communism ideologies. But Leiyin was no Anna Karenina, and Three Souls is no passionate love story – she had the option, to run away and live the hard life, or to marry the man her father chose for her.
I nearly DNF-ed at this point because I’m used to characters that would choose the former option, and it just didn’t feel right in this case – it did not fit her characterisation. I didn’t think Leiyin had it in her – spoilt youngest daughter of a rich family, and while character development was possible (and did happen, to another character), I was glad for her sake that she took the other option. And I notice she did not wonder – much - about the road not taken.
Two stars, because the story was just alright. Readable, but not especially entertaining … a bit dull, like Pinghu, the town her father sent her to. The rural hometown of the family he arranged her marriage with. An oasis in the middle of war.
All at once it came to me that Pinghu had given me the serenity of ordinary days, a quiet pond set in the chaotic landscape that was China. For as long as it could hold back the inevitable intrusion of war, I would cherish its simple pleasures.
I’m the sort who prefers to read about characters in the thick of the action; through dangers untold, and hardships unnumbered (quoting The Labyrinth 1986 film); which in this case would follow Leiyin’s friend Nanmei, whom she fell out with when the latter went to college and Leiyin was married off instead.
How wonderful, my yin soul says. To be in love with your husband before the wedding.
Reading about arranged marriages made me sad. It was the norm in those days, when people marry for wealth and political reasons, for connections than for love. Both Leiyin’s sisters suffered this fate, and one of them found happiness while the other did not – reflecting two common outcomes of such unions.
This town, this marriage, they were not what I had imagined for myself, I tell them. But I had a husband who loved me with great devotion and a daughter we both adored. It was enough. I was content.
And of course, this lovely moment was the calm before the storm. Leiyin, as you would recall, is dead of mysterious reasons, and she would have to review her life (70% of the book) and then figure out how to fix this "great wrong" (the remaining 30%) and my pet peeve was the way the epilogue ended.
Yeah, I prefer book endings all wrapped up nicely in a bow. There’s no accounting for tastes, after all.
The 5th Wave is an alien invasion story, in which the aliens look like us; they look humans, and it is this aspect that I think the book could have played up to a greater degree – the creepy factor when you cannot tell who is human and who is not. But what there is of it is pretty good.
USA Today apparently said that “it should do for aliens what Twilight did for vampires”, which is not much of a compliment, if you ask me. I’d like to think the 5th Wave is better than that, considering what Twilight did to vampires (made them *sparkle*). But to be fair, the 5th Wave hasn’t really revealed much about the aliens yet, except to show us that they are intelligent - or at least knowledgeable, from observing us for thousands of earth years, apparently, learning the way we think - and thus they came prepared (did they really need that long, though?). It is a “survival of the fittest” thing, by sending out wave after wave of attacks to eradicate humans, each wave more devastating that the last.
SOMETIMES I THINK I might be the last human on Earth. Which means I’m the last human in the universe. I know that’s dumb. They can’t have killed everyone…yet. I see how it could happen, though, eventually. And then I think that’s exactly what the Others want me to see. Remember the dinosaurs? Well.
Cassie is the main narrator of the multi-POV story, and she is my favourite – mainly because I like her sense of humour.
“It’s not my fault,” I told Bear. “I don’t make the weather. You got a beef, take it up with God.”
That’s what I’ve been doing a lot lately: taking it up with God.
Like: God, WTF?
The romance was icky, really. I’m docking off one star because of the ickiness. Like: “Rick Yancey, WTF?” kind of bad, and you pretty much knew the direction it was heading when you reach 33% of the book and find yourself reading this:
…each night, creeping a little closer to the tent, inching his way over the woodland blanket of decaying leaves and moist loamy soil until his shadow rose in the narrow opening of the tent and fell over her, and the tent was filled with her smell, and there would be the sleeping girl clutching the teddy bear and the hunter holding his gun, one dreaming of the life that was taken from her, the other thinking of the life he’d take. The girl sleeping and the finisher, willing himself to finish her. Why didn’t he finish her? Why couldn’t he finish her? He told himself it was unwise. She couldn’t stay in these woods indefinitely.
And you know what happened next? He shot her and took her to his house. Gross. He’s a creepy stalker, and she falls for him, and … you know what? It’s the romance that should be compared to Twilight, not the other stuff. It hasn’t gotten to promises of forever yet, and there might be a love triangle in the next book or two… don’t read this for its romance. Unless if this sort of thing is your cup of tea.
Okay. This was a little odd. Just a rehash, actually, of things we already knew about the DA members post book #7, written by "Rita Skeeter", whose words one should remember never to take without a pinch of salt... Remember those malicious articles she used to write about them? Seems she couldn't throw off the habit entirely, after all; even though she's much improved, one could say. Therefore I wouldn't take those veiled implications seriously, haha.