27 October 2009

Juliet Marillier

Near the end of last year, the indomitable and lovely Thea from The Book Smugglers reviewed Juliet Marillier's Heir to Sevenwaters.
The chieftains of Sevenwaters have long been custodians of a vast and mysterious forest. Human and Otherworld dwellers have existed there side by side, sharing a wary trust. Until the spring when Lady Aisling of Sevenwaters finds herself expecting another child—a new heir to Sevenwaters. Then the family’s joy turns to despair when the baby is taken from his room and something…unnatural is left in his place. To reclaim her newborn brother, Clodagh must enter the shadowy Otherworld and confront the powerful prince who rules there.
The summary and Thea's amazing review of Heir to Sevenwaters had me completely hooked, and the book was promptly added to my TBR list, where, I'm embarrassed to admit, it languished until Saturday...yes, the Saturday just been. The great thing about my TBR list (which to all intents and purposes is my library hold list) is that eventually each book on it arrives at the top (or else the hold expires [the down side]). So, I picked up the book on Saturday and started reading...and kept reading...and kept reading. This book has everything - ancient Irish history and mythology, adventure, emotional introspection and romance! I found the following statement on Juliet Marillier's writing on Wikipedia that struck a chord:
[Marillier] also says that she usually bases a story on two elements: what the main character learns about herself and her world that makes this adventure personally significant; and the bigger picture, showing this character's role in something outside herself, such as saving a community or forging a peace between two warring tribes. The first idea reinforces the second, making the writing both personal and realistic.
And even better, I discovered that Juliet Marillier was born and raised in New Zealand (although I believe she is currently living in Perth, Australia), so by reading her book I've done my good deed for New Zealand Book Month (because I can't really count Blaze of Memory as it isn't being released until next week *grin*).

So, have you read any of Julliet Marillier's books and, if so, which one of her books should I read next? I was thinking of reading the first book in the Sevenwaters series - Daughter of the Forest (I know, I'm evil for reading out of order - please don't shoot me :) but, luckily, there are so many books to gloom *happy dance* Now, back to the book *grin*

26 October 2009

Crying

One of the things I didn't mention in my previous post was that the ending of To Ride Hell's Chasm (Janny Wurts) always makes me cry. It just does. So does the ending of the audio version of Oscar Wilde's The Happy Prince. And most of Lisa Kleypas' Blue-Eyed Devil.

So I was wondering...what books have you read that have made you cry? (And I mean crying in either a happy or sad way.)

22 October 2009

Dichotomy

I had this post all written in advance and stupidly assumed that I had saved it somewhere...I had, but on my work computer, which I can't access until Tuesday. So even though you don't know what I originally wrote, I apologise in advance if this post...rambles...well, rambles more than normal *grin*

Reading Kerry's review of To Ride Hell's Chasm got me to thinking...have you ever raved about a book to a friend so much that he/she decides to read it...but their response to the book is the complete opposite of yours? I should be clear, it's not that I disagree with Kerry's review - I think she has raised some very valid issues ...issues that I actually agree with. The thing is, those issues don't in any way, shape or form, influence my opinion of the book. To Ride Hell's Chasm is still a keeper for me, and one of my favourite fantasy novels ever!

So, I'm curious - has a friend's response to a book, particularly a keeper, influenced how you feel about that book?

21 October 2009

To Ride Hell's Chasm (Janny Wurts): Guest Review

As I mentioned in Is The Grass Greener?, my lovely friend Kerry (from Saving My Sanity) decided to read To Ride Hell's Chasm (Janny Wurts), one of my favourite fantasy novels ever, as part of a GoodReads Book Club!

When Princess Anja fails to appear at her betrothal banquet, the tiny, peaceful kingdom of Sessalie is plunged into intrigue. Two warriors are charged with recovering with the distraught king's beloved daughter. Taskin, Commander of the Guard, whose icy competence and impressive term as the Crown's right-hand man command the kingdom's deep-seated respect; and Mykkael, the rough-hewn newcomer who has won the Captain of the Garrison - a scarred veteran with a deadly record of field warfare, whose 'interesting' background and foreign breeding are held in contempt by court society. As the princess' trail vanishes outside the citadel's gates, anxiety and tension escalate. Mykkael's explanations lead him to a radical explanation for the mystery, but he finds himself under suspicion from the Court factions. Will Commander Taskin's famous fair-mindedness be enough to unravel the truth behind the Garrison Captain's dramatic theory: that the resourceful, high-spirited princess was not taken by force, but fled the palace to escape a demonic evil?
I was reading To Ride Hell's Chasm concurrently with Kerry and yes, I did think of reviewing it. However, you would have been reading a review consisting of three words - I loved it - repeated endlessly *grin* So, with Kerry's kind permission, here are her final thoughts on To Ride Hell's Chasm:

I've finished. I'm afraid I didn't end up loving this book and I think I have at least something of a handle on why. It's like it was three different books - or perhaps rather types of books - in one binding and for me they didn't sit well together.The first half of the book drove me insane, for the reasons I outlined as I read it. But the reason it made me so nuts is because it was really well written. The characters all had strong solid personalities and back stories. And they acted according to what the author had given them even when it made me want to grit my teeth and scream. It was gritty and uncompromising (things I admit I usually avoid) and excellent, even if it was bad for my blood pressure.

Then we moved to the action-adventure story. And compared to the power of that first half, the realism seemed to suffer. We got Energizer Bunny Mykkael who should have keeled over ages ago but conveniently only does it when rescue has arrived - but then he's going to die, but wait, no, we can fix it because we are a wonderfully powerful convenient rescue.

And now we're into the third type of book - the fantasy with an absolutely perfectly tied off ending. There's that perfectly timed rescue I just mentioned. By people who we want to avoid because we've been told they'll want to kill Mykkael except that, hey, they don't. And then there's Anja who makes all the right decisions for a classic fantasy ending, and after that gritty and uncompromising first half (remember that?) suddenly it all seems to be driving towards an ideal ending. Yeah, she had to marry the prince, but she's a princess with an imperilled kingdom. That was always going to happen. But wait, the prince is young and beautiful and even a nice guy. How convenient for Anja. Too many things were tied up conveniently. Everything had a reasonable explanation sure, but it all turned up neatly at the end to get a happy ending. Oh, let's bring in the shamans, who happen to be powerful enough to not only save Mykkael and Anja, but also to find out the demon's name, save and cleanse Sessalie, save Prince Kailen (even if he's dead) [Anja's brother], give Anja suitable visions of the future to make the right choices, heal Mykkael's physical injuries, heal Mykkael's emotional and spiritual injuries (at a distance from all the people involved, many of whom were dead) and, whoo-hoo for an encore, heal Orannia [not me, Mykkael's beloved] as well (and also at a distance) and see a vision of Mykkael and Orannia living a long life together and having lots of babies together. Oh yeah, I forgot. We also had a revelation that Mykkael wasn't really an outcast at all and we'll welcome him to the clan while we're at it.It's all too pat. I think I would find it that way anyway, but after the uncompromising nature of the first half of the book, all these convenient happenings to tie off all these loose end with ribbons and bows feels rather like a betrayal of what the characters, especially Mykkael, suffered in that first half. And then there's all those characters in the first half who are suddenly abandoned by the narrative. We leave the action in Sessalie in the middle of a battle for goodness sake. And we never go back. Sure, we get told bits and pieces of what happened through moments of witch thought or the intervening little bits of narrative but it's not enough. After all those characters went through in the first half, they deserved a proper ending that was shown and not told.

Hmm, it's becoming clear to me that I actually had major issues with this book. I think at its simplest, for me, the perfect fantasy happy ending and the contrivances required for that betrayed the stark power of the first half. The first half felt painfully real, so to shift to a more standard, over the top kind of fantasy fare in the second half was a huge disappointment. Also, as much as I like a happy ending, the second half wasn't in tune with what the first half set up and promised the reader. This was a schizophrenic book for me. Or perhaps more a case of multiple personality disorder with two distinctly differently toned books inside the one binding (I'm lumping the adventure part and ending together here). I think I would have preferred either a second half that matched the first half (hard though that would have been to read) or a first half that matched the second half, rather than the mix that I actually got.

Rating: 6/10
Thank you Kerry! And you may have noticed the name of one of the characters - Orannia - in the review. This is the book from which I found my name *grin*

15 October 2009

First Impressions

Earlier this month the lovely KMont of Lurv A La Mode was focusing the spotlight on some upcoming releases (my apologies KMont - I can't remember the exact post)...and two words (in a back cover summary) in relation to the heroine caught my eye: beautiful and fearless! And those two simple words immediately put me off the book!!! Why? It's often said (I'm not sure by whom) that first impressions are important, that people judge us almost immediately by what they see. Remember the phrase 'Don't judge a book by its cover'? Well....I try not too, mostly because I've found that books are often nothing like their covers *grin* I judge by the summary...and the review - will this storyline, will these characters interest me?

Someone once said to me (I think - I'm paraphrasing wildly) that a perfect character permits no growth....they're beautiful, they're fearless/feisty and they are talented. Hmm...top of the food chain then. What do they have to aspire too...apart from staying at the top of the food chain? I don't like such characters...I want growth, I want development...I want to see the character become...more. Why? Because it gives me hope that I can do the same. And yes, it's just a character on a page and with a few strokes of a pen/clicks of a keyboard the character can grow. And yes, an author can make that happen that quickly. But..sometimes...you'll find an author that will let the development happen slowly...at a more realistic pace...and you realise you are biting your lip, mentally crossing your fingers for said character. You want him/her to succeed. But if the character is perfect...what room is there to grow? And yes, a good author will include flaws to allow for that growth. Unfortunately, beautiful, feisty and talented is everything I'm not...and if I find such a character all I end up doing is comparing myself...and I come up wanting. And yes, that is a reflection of me...I'm a perfectionist...

I know such heroines have their place, and that many readers love them, but...I need more.

So, do you like your characters with no flaws, or do you like them with flaws? And if the latter, do the flaws have to be internal - emotional or mental - rather than external (physical)?

FYI - Dear Author recently discussed The Case of the Unlikeable Heroine.

14 October 2009

Is The Grass Greener?

As I mentioned in an earlier post (A Rose By Any Other Name), I started to read Eon: Dragoneye Reborn (Alison Goodman) early last week. However, around the same time, my lovely friend Kerry from Saving My Sanity started to read To Ride Hell's Chasm (Janny Wurts) as part of a GoodReads Book Club. Now, I simply adore To Ride Hell's Chasm; I would start waxing lyrical about it but we would all be here for a very long time, and time is precious *grin*

Anyway, Kerry has been sharing her insights on the book with me as she reads...and the book was calling. Definitely calling. And I simply had to answer...it would have been rude not too, wouldn't it? *grin* So, Eon: Dragoneye Reborn was returned to the library and I was picked up (and was swallowed whole by) To Ride Hell's Chasm. I was rather nervous to begin with; To Ride Hell's Chasm is one of my favourite fantasy novels and I was worried it wouldn't live up to my memory of it. Plus, the writing style is...a little different...and I was concerned I wouldnt' be able to follow it as well as I once had.

And was the grass greener on the other side? Well, WRT To Ride Hell's Chasm, yes, yes it was. As I mentioned, it isn't the easiest book to read - the author has an unusual way of phrasing, but the insight and the imagery that phrasing reveals is well worth it. What's more, I haven't found it a slow read, and even 400 pages in I'm not bored by any stretch of the imagination. It's slow pace works (for me).

So, while reading one book do you ever get enticed by another? And if so, do you answer the call, assume the grass is greener on the other side (in other words, with the other book) and swap? It's just that I'm wondering if I'm the only one with no willpower...

And...a side note: have you ever been worried about re-reading a keeper? Worried that it will not live up to your expectations? (Apologies - I'm
full of questions today :)

10 October 2009

New Zealand Book Month

October is New Zealand Book Month. And because it is, I thought I would introduce some New Zealand authors to you:

* Nalini Singh. Need I say more? Who isn't hanging out to read Blaze of Memory? Well...apart from those of you who have already read an ARC *grin*

* Emily Gee. Author of The Thief With No Shadow and the more recent The Laurentine Spy (which is on my TBR list).

* Maurice Gee. Yes, he has the same last name as the previous author, and that is because he is her father! Maurice Gee has written a number of books, but the one I know the most well is Under the Mountain [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Under_The_Mountain_(2009_film)], which is to be released as a motion picture in December:
When teenage twins Rachel and Theo Matheson investigate the creepy old house next door, they discover the Wilberforces - shape-shifting creatures that lurk beneath Auckland's ring of extinct volcanoes. Guided by the mysterious Mr Jones and with the help of their older cousin Ricky, the twins must rekindle the unique powers they once shared if they are to destroy this ancient evil - before it destroys them.
And New Zealand Book Month wouldn't be complete without including my favourite book: My Cat Likes To Hide In Boxes! Yes, it's a children's book, but it is still brilliant.

Happy reading!

07 October 2009

A Rose By Any Other Name

Some of you may have noticed that I was reading Eon: DragonEye Reborn (Allison Goodman) earlier this week. (I'm not now, but the reason why is an entirely different post *grin*) Anyway, when I went to add the cover of the book to my Currently Reading gadget I realised that on the FantasticFiction site it is actually called The Two Pearls of Wisdom. Hmmm.

Then, because I was a little behind with my reading and the book was due back at the library on Saturday, I trundled over to my local library's online catalogue to check whether it would be possible to renew this book with two names (or if I would need to read like a demon this week *grin*). But then I realised that the book wasn't listed as I thought it was. So, I headed to Wikipedia, and that's when I realised this book has three, yes three names:

* Eon: Dragoneye Reborn (USA)
 
* Eon: Rise of the Dragoneye (UK)

* The Two Peals of Wisdom

And weirdly, my library has all three titles! My question is - why? Why do publishers feel the need to change the name of a book? Covers...nope! *shakes head* I'm not touching that one. Do publishers not realise that it confuses us poor readers, who excitedly think that there is another book out there? I know they sometimes 're-package' books - a two for one deal and all that (which occurred with two Mercedes Lackey books), but re-naming is just [insert suitable adjective here]!

So, what do you think about the re-naming of books depending on the geographic location of the book's release? And have you discovered any examples?

04 October 2009

Thoughts On Cast In Silence

I've just finished reading Cast in Silence (Michelle Sagara), the fifth book in the Chronicles of Elantra series. Where to start? Firstly, the humour that pervades this book had me grinning in more than a few places:
Kaylin's understanding of the Dragon term hoard wasn't exact, but time had made clear that it meant 'touch any of my stuff and die horribly'.
Kaylin wilted visibly. She'd long since realised that there were whole days that did not reward getting out of bed; she thought it a bit unfair that whole weeks could also be like that.And then there were the passages that reached out from the page and touched me:
The past never truly died. anyway; you just boxed it up and put it in storage, hoping it wouldn't come back to bite you later. But it did, and sometimes you bled. 
'Stop judging your life only by the failures,' he whispered. 
'What should I do?' she whispered. 'I'm always going to fail.' 
'We all do,' he said softly, his voice closer now. 'We all fail. But none of us fail all of the time.'
However (and this isn't a 'but' in the way that you're probably thinking), sometimes I honestly feel that Michelle Sagara gives me (as a reader) too much credit...because sometimes I feel like I have absolutely no idea what is going on with the plot and I'm just grasping at straws with what I think I know. The plot in this series is so intricate and everything has meaning...and I worry that I'm missing things...important things.

So, do you ever read a book and come to the realization that you are missing the bigger picture?
Note: For those of you familiar with the series, Lord Nightshade is still my favourite character, although I definitely have a soft spot for the Dragons *grin*

01 October 2009

Books 2009: September Update

Total to date: 58 books (5 books per month)

The 2009 Support Your Local Library Challenge total to date: 39 books (3 books per month)

A list of all the books I've read to date (from 01 January 2008) can be found at Library Thing.

Favourite books of the month?

* HaveMercy (Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennett)

* New Moon (Stephenie Meyer) [Shocking, huh?]

Books I 'did not finish'

* Graceling (Kristin Cashore) [I'm still not sure why this book didn't work for me.]

Current reading: Cast in Silence (Michelle Sagara)

And the book I'm most looking forward to reading next month?

* The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie (Jennifer Ashley)

What did you read last month?