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review 2020-06-24 22:23
Naomi Novik - His Majesty's Dragon
His Majesty's Dragon - Naomi Novik

An enjoyable first part of a fantasy series - not so much as a single book, though.

 

When I picked up the book, I was intrigued by the premise: an alternate universe where almost everything is (mostly) similar to ours in the 19th century, except dragons exist, they're sentient and are used for war, and because of this they and their riders very sought after by the armies of most countries and empires.

 

From the premise, I guessed it would have either been a silly fun romp, but the world building did turn out to be much more deep and well crafted than I would have imagined. The author could have gone with a full blown high fantasy world, but instead she decided to stick to the real world of the time, and she definitely did her research. If the next books will focus a bit more on the other countries and how they fit into this world, or at least on other foreign characters, I will be definitely read more of this series.

 

However, a few things didn't completely grab me: the main characters, both Temeraire, the dragon, and Laurence, his human rider, aren't really that compelling, at least so far. There are a few elements in the story that I hope will be explored in future books, but for the moment there isn't much of note to them - aside form the fact that they both speak like dapper gentlemen, especially Temeraire. If I had a shot everytime either of them says "pray" instead of "please", I'd need a new liver.

 

The story itself is a pretty standard "boy and his dragon" kind of plot, not done badly and with some nice twists due to the realpolitiks of this world, but still a bit predictable in some parts. At points the book feels a bit more like a set up for the rest of the series than an enjoyable story of its own. I have a few more thoughts, but I'll hold them back until after I've finished the second book in the series.

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review 2020-05-27 16:42
Wuthering Heights
Wuthering Heights - Emily Brontë

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The last time I recall someone telling me that a book was the greatest romance they ever read, they were speaking about "Fifty Shades of Grey." I was reluctant to even read this one because I knew that I probably wasn't going to like it. I started to read it and went, yep do not like. I gave this two stars honestly because it's engrossing to read even though I didn't like one character save the two servants (Nelly and Joseph). And I was pretty much luke-warm on Nelly for most of the book. I don't know, maybe this would have worked better if the story was told from Catherine or Heathcliff's point of view. Most of the story follows Nelly's POV and a man named Mr. Lockwood. 

 

"Wuthering Heights" begins in 1801 when a man named Lockwood begins the tale. Lockwood is a new tenant at Thrushcross Grange and he goes to pay a visit to his landlord a Mr. Heathcliff. Mr. Heathcliff lives in his home called Wuthering Heights. Lockwood is repelled by most of the household (same boy, same) and wonders at the young woman named Cathy that lives there and a young man that Cathy seems to despise named Hareton. When Lockwood stays overnight in Wuthering Heights, he finds the diary of a woman named Catherine Earnshaw and starts to wonder about the people who lived there. He eventually gets his housekeeper, Nelly to tell him about what went on at Wuthering Heights. Bronte then proceeds to take up the rest of the tale explaining about Catherine, her brother Hindley, Heathcliff and the Linton family. 

 

So, there's so much going on that the narrative told by Nelly doesn't help. Nelly is like the priest in Romeo and Juliet to me. Knows a lot about what is going on, but does nothing to help. 

 

I honestly don't get why women were swooning over Heathcliff. He's a bully and as much of a mess as Catherine. I do feel badly for how he was treated by Hindley, but he purposely went about trying to ruin people and play God with other characters.


Catherine seemed ridiculous to the extreme to me. I just imagine that the men fought over her because no one else was in the vicinity besides Isabella. 

 

Hindley I found to be terrible and I honestly pitied Edgar and Isabella. The last two are just used as chess pieces and don't seem to be viewed as people with real hope for love and a happy marriage. 


The writing was a bit tough to get through. It just didn't work for me at all as a Gothic romance. I really loved Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte so just figured this would work for me too. I think if the book had switched things up so that we stayed with one narrator this would have made things stronger. 

 

The flow was off. I think switching from narrator to another narrator and I think some other narrators (my brain shut off) it just made the story too unwieldy to follow after a while. 

 

The setting of Wuthering Heights sounds desolate and unforgiving though.


The ending just leaves you with a shake of your head. You are left thinking that maybe a cycle has been broken, but you wonder since once again, the families in this story are a hot mess.  

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review 2020-05-14 21:29
A Touch of Gold
A Touch of Gold - Annie Sullivan

I waffled on 2 or 3 stars, but honestly I was bored out of my mind for the most part while reading this, so 2 stars it is. I liked the idea of a story focusing on King Midas's daughter, but everything with the pirates, the power of her touch, etc. just dragged. I think the world building could have been better (we hear about Dionysus, but what about the other gods) and also Kora's supposed power. The romances felt pretty weak too. 

 

"A Touch of Gold" tells the story of what happened to King Midas after he got the power to turn things to gold. Hugging his daughter he turns her to gold. When he begs Dionysus for help, he is told to wash everything into the ocean/sea (I can't remember) and do it for everything that he turned to gold. King Midas does, and he restores his daughter Kora back to living flesh. However, he forgets a few items and is cursed forever, she is too, she is a golden maiden brought to life. Ten years later we follow Kora as she has another potential groom paraded in front of her. When she finally thinks she has met someone who can stand to be around her, her father's gold is stolen which leaves him incapacitated. Kora and her cousin Hettie go on a wild adventure to save Kora's father and the kingdom.

 

I did like Kora, I just wish we had spent more time with her before we find her as a young adult and then dealing with her mooning a bit over the first of the two romantic potentials in this book. She did get more interesting as a character towards the end though. Her cousin Hettie was a delight and I think this would have been a 5 star book if it focused on her. 

 

The two romantic heroes were blah. Sorry, I didn't like either of them though the twist with one of them I did not see coming. 


The writing was a bit off for me since the dialogue was dry. I just needed something more going on there. I just needed more thing to be happening besides Kora reading a diary, feeling romantic, and eavesdropping. 

 

 

The setting of the book really didn't feel like it took place in one of the Greek myths I read as a kid. It's weird that at times the book read as modern or in another part of the world other than where King Midas's story was drawn from which I think is considered modern day Asia Turkey. 

 

The ending leaves a potential wrinkle in Kora's future which is why I assume there is a second book in this series. 

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review 2020-05-07 02:09
Dream logic and existentialism
The Lathe of Heaven - Ursula K. Le Guin

This certainly made up for "City of Illusions". I admit that the end lost me, but then again, dreams are not supposed to make sense all the way.

 

There is a persistent feeling of urgency about this story. Haber's conceit and grandiosity is apparent soon enough, and the more the book advances, the more anxiety how beholden to Haber Orr is it caused me. It almost tips into impatience about how passive Orr is.

 

And that might be part of how genius the book is. Because for all intents and purposes, Orr is a god. THE god and creator of the world inside those pages. And the story itself shows us what Orr himself puts in words: that an unbalanced god that is not part of his own world and tries to meddle with prejudice ultimately destroys everything.

 

There is much more. A recursiveness that gets reeeeally tangled and confusing at the end. Either a god that dreams himself and more gods into existence (a little help from my friends), or maybe that other dreamers already existed, and even, maybe, that the dreamer was not the one we thought (specially from halfway in). The way we keep coming back to the importance of human connection (the one thing Haber maybe had right, even if he denied it in his own dealings), the fact that "the end justifies the means" implies that there is and end, as if history, or mankind, or the world wouldn't then march on, and as that is not truth, then there are only means.

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review 2020-05-01 22:53
Hives, colonization, and what makes one rebel
Ancillary Justice - Ann Leckie

This was a ride and a half and I did not expect it to be this good or turn out this serious.

 

You know everything HAD to have gone to pot for the ship to end in one body, sure. I was ready for an action/adventure sci-fi romp, and in a way, it is that. What surprised me was how hard it goes into the social issues inherent in colonization, how it explores the notion of identity and how it can be more than one thing, going double for entities that work more like a hive. "I'm at war with myself" is a very psychological statement that seems to be a theme for many characters, and ultimately gets very literal in this sci-fi set up.

 

There is also the constant coming back to the duality system of belief, the idea that fate is as it's tossed, and so you might as well choose your step, one after the other (sounds a lot like Taoist beliefs to me, plus the idea of hitzusen). What I found interesting is how it delves into thoughts and intentions vs actions, and obliquely (or at least, what I took from the whole sample of characters) how in the moment of truth you don't know who will be that will make the selfless choice (because when it comes right down to it, sometimes people don't even realize it was the moment of truth till it passed), but also, that past choices define next ones, but not in the way one would suspect (because sometimes, the feel that you chose wrong might make you very, very set and vigilant to choose differently afterwards)...

 

Aaaand, yeah, I got right down philosophical. I think it was all that loooong interrupted chat between Toren and Anaander Mianaai. It made me go "oh, shit" in so may directions. Very interesting.

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