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review 2018-01-24 12:55
Historical fiction with a difference. One story, two narrators, two styles, and many questions.
Tearagh't - Craig Newnes

This is a puzzling book. On the one hand, there is the story it tells, that is fascinating but not complex to explain and summarise. The book is divided into three parts, and tells the story of two lovers, living in XVI century Spain, both conversos (Jews who converted to Catholicism, although, at least in their case and that of their families, they remain Jews, only they practice their religion in secret, to avoid the Inquisition and the risk of being expelled from the country). The man, Isidore, enlisted in the Spanish Armada, to see the world, although he was never convinced of the logic of that war. The first part consists of a partial diary of his adventures, both at sea and later in Tearaght (an Irish island, the westernmost of the Blasket Islands), that was recovered by a sailor and translated into English, a peculiar English (that I understand the author acknowledges is his own creation and a reimagining of how the Old English mixed with the original Spanish might have sounded like). The second part is the story of his lover, Beatriz, pregnant when he leaves, and her life back in Spain, constantly wondering where he might be and waiting for his news. In contrast, her story is told in modern English, and is very modern indeed, with plenty of detail of what her life is like, her lifestyle (including going out with female friends, drinking, talking about sex a lot, and thinking about it, later having a baby boy, and being pressurised into a possibly advantageous marriage), and a third part, much shorter, again written by the woman, who must make a decision when she discovers her lover’s diary. Will she go after him and try to find him? Or will she marry a rich man to make sure their son is safe and has the best possible start in life? This brief part is written in a similar style to the first.

Isidore’s story is heart-wrenching. It is a story of adventures, male friendship (international, as there are men from everywhere aboard the ships, and they even meet friendly English men later, and also men from all walks of life such as sailors, soldiers, writers (Lope de Vega makes an appearance, Cervantes is mentioned more than once, and later on Kid and, of course, Shakespeare). Rather than a factual and aggrandising story (HIStory), there is much discussion about emotions, confidences, feelings, and much self-doubt. Although there are funny moments interspersed in the narrative (mostly because it does not follow a chronological order), there are, mostly, terrible times. Death, disaster, and sadness abound, and it seems that all that keeps him alive is his hope to see his beloved again. There are incredibly sad and touching moments in this part of the book, and although, as I said, the language is mock-Ole-English, once we get used to it (saying it out loud in your head helps), it is easy to follow, even taking into account that it is not in the right order and we jump backwards and forward in time. And, although he does refer to his lover often, the style and the discourse seems to be in keeping with what readers would expect of a well-researched historical novel set at that time. However, the style is more intimate and personal, and more emotional, than what we would expect in a male narrative of the period.

I think most readers will wonder why the woman’s story is written in such a different way, as the change feels like a jolt, and at first I wondered if it was set in a different historical period, but as we read on it is evident it is the account of Isidore’s lover, Beatriz.  A common thread of both stories is the need of the protagonists to write. While for the man, although he questions his merits, it is more acceptable (and they even call him a writer), the woman describes how, sometimes, her need to write makes her stop what she is doing, her chores, to write, even if it is only about her chores. She does not have great adventures to write about, indeed. Does that mean she should not write? Both stories also talk about camaraderie, in the case of the men between those defending a mission and a vision, even if they don’t believe in it. The women talk about women’s things. Men, childbirth, marriage, romance, sex… A women’s sphere, especially at the time, was more personal and intimate (although, of course, Elizabeth I was the Queen of England, so there were some, very few, women in high places). The modern style Beatriz’s story is written in and the fact that it contains topics we find difficult to imagine writing about at the time, especially when the writer is a woman, seem designed to challenge our prejudices. Are old-style writing (more in keeping with what we imagine a historically accurate discourse would be like, even when we know it is, at least in part, invented) and a male protagonist immediately given more authority than a narrative of the period written in a modern style by a female protagonist? (The subjects discussed and the openness of the talk about sex between the women gave me pause. I am aware that personal letters, and in this case, a diary written for her lover, can be much more open and direct than we would expect of the period, although I wondered more about some of the other topics, like the fact that single mothers seem fully accepted and she is not short on offers of marriage, even after having had a child out of wedlock). She describes her process of analysis, the way she decides to study her thoughts and feelings, and indeed her lovers, and also mentions that other women do the same, therefore challenging gender expectations (women are supposed to be romantic and not be open or matter-of-fact about love or sex). We also have the writer becoming the reader later on when she gets hold of her lover’s diary. The third part, although penned by Beatriz, is written in the same language as the first. Is this a way of connecting with him, of communicating her official decision, of gaining authority? Knowing the field of study and work of the author (Critical Psychology) one can’t help but wonder. (And, perhaps overanalysing things, as I am Spanish I could not help but think that some of the expressions she uses and discusses in detail, like “falling in love”, that she feels is very apt, would not work in Spanish. Could that mean she is writing it in English, or rewriting it later? Does she indeed go looking for him, even after the ending? Or is it another way the author uses to remind us it is a story and to make us pay attention to the process of reading?)

A book that contains a fascinating story (with a fascinating historical background and some fabulous characters, both real and imagined) written in and an even more fascinating narrating style(s). Although the first part, once one gets used to the language, will grip most readers, quite a few might struggle to see how the two parts fit together (even if the characters do). A novel for those who want to try new reading experiences and check non-conventional types of writing. A word of warning, there is plenty of explicit violence, swear words, and discussions of sexual matters. An author a publisher well-worth keeping an eye on.

Thanks to the publisher and to Rosie’s Book Review Team for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I gladly chose to review. (Authors, if you are interested in getting your books reviewed, check here).

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review 2017-05-17 00:00
The Elements of Academic Style: Writing for the Humanities
The Elements of Academic Style: Writing for the Humanities - Eric Hayot It has some useful advice on (academic) writing but it's the kind of book you could easily avoid while writing a book be it academic or otherwise. Hayot's writing seemed dry at times.
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review 2015-09-13 03:58
Dystopian Bodice-ripper
Strongheart's Woman: A Romance set in the Daniel's Fork Universe (Before Daniel's Fork Book 1) - Zeecé Lugo

Description from the back of the book, it differs from what is offered online:

It is the middle of the 22nd century, and North America is once again a verdant paradise where giant herds of bison roam freely, and wild mustangs run wild in the plains. The once powerful megacities lie crumbling under their own weight, stark ruins slowly being swallowed by the encroaching vegetation.

In this world, the survivors of the pandemic that swept over the planet decades earlier are flourishing. Man has embraced an almost feudal way of life. Children swim in the rivers, lovers watch the stars, people till the fields, and lords rule the lands.

Lord Victor Strongheart to Choctaw land to meet the young lady who, by written accord, is destined to be his bride. Annasai, the chief's daughter, is everything a man could want, and Strongheart couldn't be happier. Her cousin, Setiyah, is all nettles and strings; the lord is glad not to be marrying her. But when Setiyah dances in the moonlight, Lord Strongheart, his beautiful bride at his side, watches as one bewitched. He knows the heart is a treacherous thing, and his has just betrayed him!

My Thoughts:

Wow! Zeecé Lugo can make a story come alive. I have never encountered a author more talented at making her words seem like lyrics from a beautiful song. I am amazed at how well this book turned out to be.

This is set in the future where the world has drastically changed from what we know it to be today. It seems more like the past, and this story reminded me of a historical bodice ripper, and boy did I want to be right in the story and have my bodice ripped. I really did not think this story was going to be able to work, but amazingly it did.

This is meant for adults. The sex is steamy, no, let me correct that, wholly shit this had some scorching, TAKE ME NOW sex!

The characters are great and I fell in love with each and every one of them, especially Setiyah. She is very independent and headstrong, and has no intentions of ever saying a nice word in Lord Stongheart's favor. Boy do her feelings change.

I am very curious to see how the rest of the books about Daniel's Fork stand in comparison to this one.

I recommend this to fans of romance with adult situations and descriptive sexual relations.

Excerpt I enjoyed:

The dancer stood near the fire, hands held gracefully to her heart, head slightly inclined to the side, a shimmering gossamer-thin mantle covering her from head to foot. The beat of the hand-driven percussion rhythm began, and the male dancer emerged from the shadows. He began, and a male dancer emerged from the shadows. He began a measured, rhythmic stepping dance around the shrouded female, each turn bringing him closer to her until their bodies stood barely an inch apart. He began unwrapping the gossamer film from her, inch by inch, revealing the woman beneath the veil.

Mysterious and exotic, she joined her lover in a series of swirling turns that carried them into a passionate embrace. Her flowing crimson skirt moved around her as he turned under his arm...

 

I won this book on Goodreads.

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review 2015-08-14 02:18
I want to blame a bad translation . . . ?
Pyromancist (Seven Forbidden Arts, #1) - Charmaine Pauls

Pyromancist by Charmaine Pauls is one of those odd-birds that I find it very difficult to review. While there are many 5-star reviews out there for the book, I find it difficult to agree. Ms. Pauls is an interesting woman, without a doubt, who has enjoyed wide-ranging travels and homes, from her birthplace in Bloemfontein, South Africa to university in Potchestroom, then life in France. Today, she lives and writes in Chile. As her author description says, “Their household is a linguistic mélange of Afrikaans, English, French and Spanish.” And here, I believe, is where my difficulty with the book lies. Others may not agree, but I found the language very stilted and over-descriptive. In my experience, this is common in books that were written in one language and translated to another – especially when books are written in a Germanic based language and translated to a Romantic Language, or vice versa. It requires a deft hand to translate the text in such a ways as to assure smooth flow. I found the staccato delivery distracting, and often found myself “skimming” the text, moving through the book and catching sentences here and there. I couldn’t really ‘lock-in’ to the storyline.

Then, there are the names. I actually thought, when I picked up the book, that this was a lesbian-oriented book. “Josselin” is a very odd, very rare name (ranked on the 38,782nd position of the most used names) and is, according to my research, given almost solely to female children. Clelia, from the Greek Kleio, is nearly as rare, and I have no idea how it is pronounced (Klee-leeah?). These issues were very distracting as was the consistent use of French.

Now that I cleared that up, what I gathered from the story was hit-and-miss for me. The main characters seemed very childish – especially when Clelia kept calling Josselin by a ‘pet name’ he found absolutely irritating. The story itself, as a paranormal romance, was fairly standard. Boy and girl grow up together, boy leaves, boy comes home, girl discovers powers, etc. The characters had rather unique abilities, and Clelia did grow as a character, which is something many female characters in paranormal romance often don’t do. I hate weak, whiny females in my reading, and though Clelia starts out weak, she does show growth.

Overall? Three stars.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a realistic review back in April. I kept picking it up, reading a few pages, and putting it back down again, so it didn’t get finished until today, when I made myself pick it up and read all the way through. The book is too ‘hot’ for a young audience, but the writing was young, so I wasn’t really sure what market the writer was going for. You may love it – if so, good for you! I do feel like many of the five-star reviews are because the book came from Reading Alley, and they are running a contest. One or two line "Reviews" are quite useless, but that is my opinion, and opinions are like backbones - everyone has one!

Source: soireadthisbooktoday.com
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review 2015-01-05 09:10
Carve Your Kisses in My Skin
Carve Your Kisses in My Skin - jmcats

3.25 stars

Not quite what I was hoping for, but all around still a good fic.

Often the prose flows rather beautifully (from what little I've read of the fanfiction for this fandom that seems to be a constant) but there are quite a few times where little errors will pop up that disrupt the flow. It happens often enough in this one that it's rather distracting and makes this a bit of an awkward read in parts. Although you could argue that the stop and go moments, especially if it makes you fumble or double back, only adds to the atmosphere of the character's youth and teenage moments of awkwardness. From that perspective, the prose is probably pretty flawless. Still, I found myself nitpicking this just a bit, which made it difficult to get lost in the story as I was hoping to do, as had happened with the previous two 1D fics I've had the pleasure of reading.

Overall this was still enjoyable.

Note: for anyone who cares, Zayn uses the word "babe" a total of 16 times throughout this fic. Does anyone know if Zayn actually says babe that often irl? It's cute and sweet, but close to too much for me.

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