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review 2017-06-19 19:46
Book 33/100: The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud
The Amulet of Samarkand - Jonathan Stroud

I just wasn't as enamored of this book as a lot of other people seem to be.

While I found Bartimaeus' narration more compelling than Nathan's chapters, I didn't really find myself "getting behind" either character. I don't really need characters to be "likeable" in the books I read, but I kept wondering exactly who or what I should be rooting for in this book, what should keep me reading. Was I supposed to want Nathan to succeed in his endeavors, even though he was kind of a jerk to Bartimaeus? I kept thinking the book was probably trying to be something of a "buddy comedy" where Bartimaeus and Nathan were supposed to start out loathing each other but would eventually come to be reluctant comrades, and that perhaps THAT was the outcome we were supposed to be pulling for. But that aspect of the story never really seemed to materialize, either.

So I'm sorry to say that my mind wandered a fair amount during this book. It took me a long time to figure out the era it was taking place in, and I eventually determined it's in a sort of alternate present-day since a laptop was mentioned at some point. And although the magic system and political set-up and hints of a coming revolution were all interesting, it also felt somewhat muddled to me. It did remind me of a children's version of "Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell," and it was well written, but I probably won't be reading further into the series.

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review 2017-05-01 23:13
Book 24/100: The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury
The Forbidden Wish - Jessica Khoury

3.5

There are so few "Aladdin" retellings out there, and so this wasn't quite the retelling I wanted it to be.

What I would like is a retelling that really delves into the potential historical and cultural setting of the original tale, sticking fairly close to the bones of the story because that hasn't really been done yet. I feel like after a few rich, close-to-original retellings have been published, that's when you can start doing funky things with a story, and "Aladdin" just isn't at that point yet. So, after getting over my disappointment that this retelling was not particularly true to the original, I tried to enjoy it on its own merits.

But my enjoyment ended up being somewhat uneven. It takes place in a vaguely Middle-Eastern fantasy world that borrows more from current YA tropes than from the original tale or the historical or cultural context in which it is based. There is a love triangle, of course, mostly focused on Aladdin and the genie, who is female. The love story didn't particularly grab me, which is the driving force in the book -- I was more interested in the princess and her struggles to come into her own amidst political turmoil and being constantly undermined by her power-hungry uncle and hounded by her cousin, who was also her betrothed. The tale also seemed to owe just as much to Disney's rendition of "Aladdin" as to the original tale, both in its description of Aladdin's appearance and personality and in its emphasis on the importance of freedom to a genie and the role a master's wish can play in granting that desire.

So while I know I shouldn't hold too much against this book for not being the "Aladdin" story I wanted it to be, I also feel like it probably wouldn't have particularly interested me if it were not billed as an "Aladdin" retelling -- and its relationship to the original tale was thin enough that it could have just been a story about a genie who falls for her human master.

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text 2017-01-19 02:08
7 To-Reads That Make Me Very, Very Nervous
Titus Groan - Mervyn Peake
Don Quixote - Roberto González Echevarría,John Rutherford,Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
The Fireman: A Novel - Joe Hill
11/22/63 - Stephen King
Peace - Gene Wolfe
The Arabian Nights: Tales of 1,001 Nights Volume 1 - Malcolm C. Lyons,Ursula Lyons
The Divine Comedy by Dante, Illustrated, Hell, Volume 05 - Dante Alighieri,Gustave Doré,Henry Francis Cary

Like a lot of people, I have a few books that, for various reasons, I haven't gotten to yet. These are ones that just flat scare me.

 

1. Titus Groan - Mervyn Peake  Titus Groan - Mervyn Peake  

 

    The first of the Gormenghast novels, I very much want to read this because it is a genre classic, heavy on character, rich in language, and deeply weird. I've dipped in a couple times and, frankly, ,the dense prose and deeply strange people  scare me a bit. Still, on the bucket list.

 

2. Don Quixote - Roberto González Echevarría,John Rutherford,Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra  Don Quixote - Roberto González Echevarría,John Rutherford,Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra  

 

    Obviously, it's a stone classic. Also, it is a satire of the chivalric romances that has come to epitomize them. Irony! It scares me because nobody makes it past the windmills.

 

3. The Fireman: A Novel - Joe Hill  The Fireman: A Novel - Joe Hill  

 

    I loved Twentieth Century Ghosts and Heart--Shaped Box, liked Horns, and never finished NOS4A2. Those conflicted feelings, plus my general dislike for post-apocalyptia, equals a long stay on the TBR shelf.

 

4. 11/22/63 - Stephen King  11/22/63 - Stephen King  

 

     So much frigging book. I started this around the time it came out and got something like 250 pages in. Solid, but slow, and some of the timey-wimey stuff was a bit off to me. Plus, bigger King is not always better King.

 

5. Peace - Gene Wolfe  Peace - Gene Wolfe  

 

    Combine dense language with mind-fuckery and I worry. Also, a lot of people say multiple readings are necessary to truly appreciate it. I'm sure it's excellent, but it seems like a lot of work.

 

6. The Arabian Nights: Tales of 1,001 Nights Volume 1 - Malcolm C. Lyons,Ursula Lyons  The Arabian Nights: Tales of 1,001 Nights Volume 1 - Malcolm C. Lyons,Ursula Lyons  

 

    I own all three volumes of this translation of the Calcutta 2. This is a hard one for me, because The Arabian Nights is a huge part of me as a reader (Hell, I've even read whole books on it's provenance and influence, namely Irwin's Arabian Nights Companion), influencing my love of nesting stories, but there are many nasty undertones. On top of that, we're talking about 2,400 pages. Yes, this is a more modern-reading translation than the classic Burton, but still...

 

7. The Divine Comedy by Dante, Illustrated, Hell, Volume 05 - Dante Alighieri,Gustave Doré,Henry Francis Cary  The Divine Comedy by Dante, Illustrated, Hell, Volume 05 - Dante Alighieri,Gustave Doré,Henry Francis Cary  

 

    I have a coffee-table edition of the entire Divine Comedy, illustrated by Dore. It's huge, it's gorgeous... It's epic poetry.

 

I will read all of these, but no promises as to when, as I am a coward.

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review 2016-09-26 03:29
Book 72/100: The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Adieh
The Wrath and the Dawn - Renee Ahdieh

Book Riot Read Harder Challenge Item: A book set in the Middle East

 

This is a first novel, and it feels like one. The prose is overwritten and tends toward the purple, and it resorts to using the same descriptions far too often. Like, we don't need to know that Jalid has "tiger eyes" each time he looks at Sherzhad, do we? Or that Sherzhad has luscious, waist-length hair? There also seemed to be something weird going on with transitions, because I often had to backtrack to figure out how we got from one scene to another, or from one point of view to another, etc.

 

It's hard to redeem the caliph who murders a new bride every night, and this book puts forth a valiant effort. But in doing so, it sort of lets him off the hook for his crimes, which is a little off-putting. The tumultuous love story between Jalid and Sherzhad probably would have captured my interest if I read this as a teenager, but as an adult it felt a bit on the melodramatic side. Plus, whenever I started to get into it, there was, "Oh yeah, but this guy has killed a bunch of women," and that sort of killed the mood for me.

 

The world-building is pretty shaky and doesn't seem to be firmly rooted in Middle Eastern history or in a new, magical world. It ends up being a sort of mashup of the two, but the magic plays such a tangential part in the story that it feels a little out of place. There are curses and random powers inserted mostly for the sake of convenience and without feeling as though they are truly woven into the fabric of this time and place. And, like, why was there a magic carpet that never even did anything? I could have done without the half-baked love triangle, too.

 

I gave the book three stars, so obviously it wasn't all bad. It held my interest well enough even if it annoyed me at times, and there are far too few retellings of fairy tales outside the European canon. It ends on a little bit of ambiguity/cliffhanger which seems to set it up for a sequel, in which the love triangle is destined to take center stage. I don't think I will be reading it.

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review 2016-08-17 12:30
Fourth Embrace (Emma's Arabian Nights #4)
Fourth Embrace (Emma's Arabian Nights, #4) - Ann Mayburn

This was extremely short for what it was, which was basically the neutralization of Emma's stalker.  There wasn't a lot of ramp up towards the final confrontation, and the confrontation itself was anti-climactic.  These last two books have really soured me on the author's works, so I won't be looking to read the spin-off series.

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