I've moved bookishwhimsy.com to tumblr! This blog is now an archive of my past posts.


Thursday, October 31, 2013

Review: Palace of Spies

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Palace of Spies (Palace of Spies #1)
by Sarah Zettel

Plot Summary:

A warning to all young ladies of delicate breeding who wish to embark upon lives of adventure: Don't.

Sixteen-year-old Peggy is a well-bred orphan who is coerced into posing as a lady in waiting at the palace of King George I. Life is grand, until Peggy starts to suspect that the girl she's impersonating might have been murdered. Unless Peggy can discover the truth, she might be doomed to the same terrible fate. But in a court of shadows and intrigue, anyone could be a spy—perhaps even the handsome young artist with whom Peggy is falling in love...

History and mystery spark in this effervescent series debut.

Review:

The voice of the main character, Peggy, is very candid and sincere and her open personality lifted this story from the myriad of deceptions and hidden motives that sometimes bogged the story down.  The first few chapters were excellent though in setting up Peggy's character and the situation that led to her needing to pretend to be someone else.  The author adds realism to her heroine's plight with all the little details of the dress and habits of 18th century lords and ladies and I think these points made it so easy to immerse myself into this story of adventure and intrigue.

The plot does get a little convoluted at times - with the many different scenarios that are presented as Peggy tries to uncover what happened to the real Lady Francesca.  And there were so many possibilities that when the conclusion is finally revealed, it all felt a bit overwhelming and it was difficult to concentrate on the action while trying to order all the events in my mind.  I think this is a minor quibble though because the mystery aspect of this story was very difficult to decipher and the fact that there were so many red herrings helped that.

The romance that develops in this story between Peggy and the handsome young artist is very incidental I felt to the whole narrative - it's nice for Peggy after a pretty horrid experience with a gentlemen earlier,  and the author weaves in Peggy's gradual trust for Matthew very well into the narrative.  Matthew was unfortunately not very clearly portrayed, and I had a difficult time connecting to him as a character.  But it was easy to like him because he was so kind and charming, and there's room for further development in this series.

The history of King George and the Jacobite rebellion supporting the Pretender James rounds out the "history and mystery" that makes this such an engaging read.  I loved getting such an interesting look at the court politics during this time through such an entertaining story, and the author really worked in all those details so well.  I would highly recommend this book to readers who want a light, entertaining read filled with intrigue and mystery and historical drama.

I received this book from the publisher or author for a fair and honest review. I was not compensated for this review. (I obtained this book through Around the World Arc Tours and later Netgalley as well)

This book releases November 5th.

Amazon

Goodreads
Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Awesome Adaptations (62) Psycho

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,
This meme celebrates an awesome adaptation related to a weekly category. Any format of adaptation (television series, film, web series, etc.) is acceptable as long as it is based in some form on a book. Awesome Adaptations was created by Alisa Selene at PictureMeReading.

An Awesomely Horrific Adaptation
Title: Psycho
Adapted from: Psycho by Robert Bloch

I haven't read the book that this Hitchcock film is based on, but from what I've heard it's pretty faithful to the book.  But there are some important changes made in this adaptation.  The book is inspired by a real-life serial killer and has more than one of the killer's murders detailed in the narrative but Hitchcock chose to focus on one, and use that to tell Norman Bates' story.  Norman Bates is also a lot more deceptive in the film because he looks so clean-cut and acts so mannerly.  Which of course makes the subsequent events all the more shocking and horrific.

I think the best part of this adaptation is in how Hitchcock deceives the viewers.  If you weren't familiar with the story and went into this film blind, it starts off so innocuously.  Marion has just stolen lots of money from her boss and is making a run for it.  She seems like a nice person generally, she just made a mistake, and while the film is very tense as she's trying elude the notice of policemen, there's really no hint about what is coming next.  It's a stellar twist to have your main character suddenly and unexpectedly killed within the first half of the movie.  And it's why this film can be so disturbing.  Now with the way films are made today, there would have been a lot more gore and horrible flashes of the murder to further shock the audience, but Alfred Hitchcock's elegant directing kept the full horror of the moment with sparing shots that lets the audience fill in the blanks.

Compared to horror films today, this film on the surface may seem rather tame, but it's deeply psychologically disturbing and an excellent tension filled mystery.  It's a classic movie for a reason and rightfully one of the top horror films ever made. 
Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Review: Nefarious Doings

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Nefarious Doings
by Ilsa Evans

Plot Summary:

Welcome to the sleepy town of Majic, where neighbourhood watch is a killer …

For Nell Forrest, life in the little town of Majic is not going smoothly. One of her five daughters has just swapped university for fruit-picking, another is about to hit puberty, while a third keeps leaving aggrieved messages on the answering machine. On top of all this, her mother is infuriating and it's only been a matter of months since Nell lost her husband of twenty-five years. It's no surprise, then, that she is even struggling to write her weekly column.

But the floodgates of inspiration are about to swing open, almost knocking her out in the process. Murder and mayhem, arson and adultery, dungeons, death threats and disappearances are just around the corner. Despite Nell's abysmal aptitude for investigative work, she manages to shine the light on the local Richard III Society and that's when things really start to heat up. Throw in some suspicious widows, nosy neighbours, a canine witness, plus a detective who is getting a little closer than he should, and it's clear that nefarious doings are well and truly afoot.

Review:

Nell's dysfunctional family is the highlight of this book for me.  Their shenanigans brings out so much humor and sometimes touching family interactions, that I somehow felt closer in empathy with the main character, Nell.  Nell is a wonderfully imperfect character that you want to see grow throughout this story.  She needs to deal with a lot and it's both fun and very relatable to read about her problems.

The mystery itself was also very well done.  There's a myriad of suspicious characters, and when they are all neighbors, of course they would be!  This story has a great mix of quirky and realistic characters which helps to keep the reader interested in all the little dramas that come out because of the murders.  And because there are so many different dramas it's difficult to decipher which one is important.  (Although the reveal of the murderer wasn't quite as surprising to me - there were a few narrative red herrings that really just pointed me towards the murderer.)

This promises to be the start of a fun mystery series, with a quirky, sarcastic lead in Nell Forrest, and I really enjoyed diving into the mystery.  It might not be wholly original, but it is still very entertaining and I'd recommend this book to all cozy mystery fans!

I received this book from the publisher or author for a fair and honest review.  I was not compensated for this review.


Amazon

Goodreads

Monday, October 28, 2013

Agatha Christie Poirot: The Big Four

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
When I was in high school I became majorly obsessed with Agatha Christie's mysteries - specifically the ones featuring Hercule Poirot.  And of all his mysteries The Big Four is my favorite.  It might be because I read it as a teenager because I know it is a bit cliched and over the top, but I still remember not being able to put it down because there was so much going on in it.  I even remember the class I was waiting for after lunch when I finally finished the book.  I think I found the format (a bunch of mysteries within a larger one) irresistible and the fact that Poirot and Captain Hastings are constantly in danger made this story so appealing to me.  So I was ecstatic when I heard they were finally filming this as a TV movie!

David Suchet has been playing Poirot since 1989.  And now they have finally gone through the Christie canon - with two more episodes airing after The Big Four to complete it.  Then David Suchet would have played Poirot in pretty much every single story.  It's an amazing achievement, and I'm so glad David Suchet will complete the oeuvre since he is the definitive Poirot.  Unfortunately not all the main characters from the books has appeared consistently in the adaptations.  Hastings was there in the beginning, but I suppose the actor moved on, and the role he plays in the mysteries has been mostly replaced by other characters in the subsequent adaptations.  And Hastings is one of my very favorite characters.  He's not the brightest, but his good old English bonhomie always won me over.  And he was a perfect foil to Poirot.  Their close friendship was also a lovely part of every mystery they investigated together.  But finally Hastings is in another Poirot adaptation with "The Big Four"!  So I was determined to watch this as soon as possible!!

So all the above was just prelude to my review of the show!  If you really don't want to know anything about how they adapted the story, you should probably stop here.  I don't get too spoilery but there are quite a few changes made in this adaptation and I do touch on that.

To create more of a dramatic opening the adaptation begins with Poirot's funeral and a reunion of his close friends.  Although it is odd that if this is really his funeral, wouldn't Ariadne Oliver have shown up?  But I didn't mind that they moved that part of the book to the beginning.  What I did mind was the lack of Captain Hastings.  It makes sense because he's been away for so long, but I really wanted to see him team up with Poirot in this!!  At least maybe, one little mystery?  But Japp did a good job as Poirot's right-hand man and of course the mysteries are just as intriguing.  There are some of the mysteries I missed, and the way things were moved around made this story more mystifying than I would have thought since I had read the book.  The real reason why it was so mystifying became clearer in the end, when it was revealed just how much was changed from the original novel.  The ending had a completely different spin and outcome to the book which so disappointed me!  I was hoping to see Achille and the face off in the mountains!  What I got was considerably different and not quite as believable to me.  It was a very elaborate scheme for a madman.  Oh well.

But I did enjoy the episode - the little puzzles of mysteries were great to see portrayed on screen at last.  And the final scene where Poirot and Hastings were reunited almost, almost made up for the fact that Hastings got such little screen time.  And also that scene that showed Hasting's drive to serve justice was so great to see.  I realize how much I miss mon ami Hastings.  I have to say too, that for such a different interpretation of the novel, this adaptation was really clever.  It can't have been easy to twist the events of the story to fit a new solution.  While this is not really the story I love, I appreciate it as an adaptation and I was glad to see so many wonderful characters come back.
Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Journey Home - Wrap-up post + Giveaway!

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
THE JOURNEY HOME WRAP-UP POST

Charlene: My fellow Lumaterans. We are finally here! We’ve gotten to the other side of this wonderful book called Finnikin of the Rock, and from the feedback of the participants I believe we’ve all been really happy with the journey. THANK Lagrami and Sagrami! And thank everyone for participating!!

Paola: It’s such a good feeling every time we recommend this book and series to someone and they end up loving it like we do! *sobs* Thank you for traveling with us over the past three weeks. For those of you who foresee further adventures in Lumatere, we do have a Goodreads group you can join -- the #PostFinnikinSupportGroup, handing out Trevanion bear hugs since… early 2013… (LOL)

Charlene: Yes! Please do join us! We will be there to support you if you have yet to read the next two books in the series (cause believe me you will need support!). For the last post of the event, we wanted to have a countdown of some of our favorite moments from the book.  And if you have some favorite moments to share yourself, please let us know in the comments!

Paola: Without further ado, here are our favorite moments from Finnikin of the Rock, complete with commentary from your favorite founding members of the Lumatere Tourism Board! (Hey, we’re legit, okay??)

SPOILERS IF YOU HAVEN'T READ THE BOOK!

SCROLL DOWN FOR THE GIVEAWAY AT THE END

O~O~O~O~O

#10: Evanjalin is welcomed in by the Monts

Well with all the mystery surrounding Evanjalin, to finally find out that she is not the bad guy and is in fact pretty much the hero (sorry Finn) (P: BAHAHA I love you Finn but this is true~) for bringing her people together - for Evanjalin to get a moment to be with family and the way she breaks down when she can let them take some of the burden is a beautiful moment. And it’s a beautiful moment for Yata to be reunited with a granddaughter she thought was dead.

#9: Trevanion is reunited with his Guard

It’s great to go from such a tense moment when Finn and Evanjalin might get attacked by this hulking monster of a man, to Finn mock fighting with him while Trevanion watches fondly. And the emotion of the Guard as they welcome back their leader was too perfect. I can’t believe how many wonderful and varied relationships Melina Marchetta has worked into this book!
(P: Indeed, the bro love in this book is just awesome. Well and in the whole series. *sniffle*)

#8: When Finn reaches the last ridge one mile from Lumatere after being gone for so long.

“He imagined what it would be like to see inside the kingdom, all the way to the rock of three wonders, where once he made a pledge with his two friends, believing in their omnipotence. That they could save their world.”
(C: An instant of perfect feels-inducing Nationalism that is so important to this story!) (P: And some more of those BFF feels from our Lumatere bros haha)

#7: Evanjalin dares to talk to Trevanion about Beatriss

(P: Um, of course she dares. It’s Evanjalin. Hahaha) Since everything about Trevanion and Beatriss is feels-inducing for me, I have to love the moment when Trevanion is forced to hear about Beatriss after so long believing her dead! And we also get a glimpse of Beatriss’ strength taking on the burden of helping and leading her people.

#6: We discover the fate of Balthazar.

Dude was a BADASS. The end. (C: I want Balthazar to be my brother too!! Just please don’t die!!)

#5: Finnikin won’t let his father divert the soldiers while he escapes from the mines

“Finn, listen!" Trevanion said, his voice raw."I prayed to see you one more time. It’s all I prayed for. Nothing more. And my prayers were answered. Go east, I’ll lend them west."

"We have a dilemma, then," Finnikin said fiercely. “Because I prayed that you would grow old and hold my children in your arms as you held me. My prayers have not been answered yet, Trevanion. So whose prayer is more worthy? Yours or mine?”

More chills! How could Trevanion think Finnikin would leave him when he’s just gotten his Father back!  And Trevanion just buckles down and makes their escape happen. #whatneedstobedone (P: ← THIS!!!!!!)

#4: Operation: Save Froi from the crazy Charynite soldiers

After we hear how Froi heroically saves Evanjalin from capture by drawing attention to himself - you know they need to bring him out of there. While Froi still has a long way to go to redeem himself in this series, this was one heck of an awesome first step! (P: Agreed!!! *hugs Froi*)

#3: Evanjalin tells Trevanion his son is in the Sorel mines

It was difficult to understand why Evanjalin turned Finnikin in to the guards, but when we find out how Trevanion has accepted his fate in the mines, it’s crystal clear. And the way Evanjalin threatens Trevanion if he doesn’t get his son out is classic, feels-inducing Evanjalin. (P: That’s my girl!!!) It’s sad to see a strong man broken, and to have this scene bring him to life was a major chills moment for me!

TIE!!

#1 The best proposal ever in any book, period. 

“This hand says you spend the rest of your life with me,” he said, holding out his left hand, “and this one says I spend the rest of my life with you. Choose.”

/Paola explodes into a burst of feels and hysterical sobbing (C: And happiness rainbows) (P: And lifetime supplies of cake because that’s like, baked happiness) (C: Good point!)

#1: Finn and Evanjalin standing at the gates of Lumatere at last. 

And the odds don’t look too good for survival, but they take a moment to talk about the might-have-been. (Sorry/not sorry guys, this ENTIRE quote is getting included because IT IS THE BEST.)

“Tell me about the farm,” she pleaded as drops of blood began to appear on her hands.

“The farm?”

“The farm that Finnikin the peasant would have lived on with his bride.”

“Evanjalin. That was her name. Did I mention that?”

She laughed through a sob. “No, you didn’t.”

“They would plant rows upon rows of wheat and barley, and each night they would sit under the stars to admire what they owned. Oh, and they would argue. She believes the money spent would be better spent on a horse, and he believes they need a new barn. But then later they would forget all their anger and he would hold her fiercely and never let her go.”

“And he’d place marigolds in her hair?” she asked.

He clasped her hands against his and watched her blood seep through the lines of his skin. “And he would love her until the day he died,” he said. He placed his other bloody hand against those imprinted for eternity on the kingdom walls.


/SPOILERS

O~O~O~O~O

Charlene: Please talk amongst yourselves as Paola and I try to get our feels back in order.

Paola: Yeah seriously, I could barely type out that quote, I was being facepunched by feels the entire time… I think I need to go curl up in a corner and cry for a while now.

Charlene: While we recover (these things take time) here’s a giveaway for the participants/incentive for people who have not read the books to get one of the books from the Lumatere Chronicles. It’s winner’s choice for whichever book they would like!

Paola: Whether you’ve been inspired to come to Lumatere or you’re ready to get back on board the feels train, we’ve got you covered! Good luck!!!


(Open Internationally!!)
Ends November 5th!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And here's a list of all the wonderful posts that were a part of this event!
WEEK 1
Introduction/Chat @ A Novel Idea
Relationship Post: Beatriss and Trevanion
Why I Moved to Lumatere @ A Novel Idea
First Week Discussion

WEEK 2
Review: Quintana of Charyn
Review: Finnikin of the Rock @ Rinn Reads
Review: Ferragost  (Lumatere Chronicles #2.5)
Finnikin and Evanjalin @ YA Asylum
Second Week Discussion @ A Novel Idea
Thoughts on the Book #2
Discussion Post @ YA Asylum

WEEK 3
My Unconditional Love for the Lumatere Chronicles @ Gypsy Reviews
Finnikin of the Rock: A Reaction @ Rally the Readers
Review: Finnikin of the Rock @ Celestial Carousel
Thoughts on Finnikin of the Rock @ The Sleeping Latte
Review: Finnikin of the Rock @ Doing Dewey
World Building in the Lumatere Chronicles @ Rinn Reads
Duchess Book Club - Quintana of Charyn Review @ A Novel Idea

(if I somehow missed someone's post, please let me know and I'll add it to the list!)

Suspense Sundays (68) A Man in the House

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,
Suspense was a radio series from 1942 to 1962.  I have a fondness for "Old Time Radio" as we call it now, and Suspense is my favorite show.  It sets up weird, dark, scary, or intriguing stories with a plot twist in the end, and all in half an hour.  For Suspense Sundays I'll give a short review of an episode.   {My archive list of episodes}


"A Man in the House"
Air date: August 2, 1945
Starring Joan Lorring and Joseph Kearns
>>Episodes here<<

Pretty young thing Emily realizes that she has become a spinsterish librarian at a young age.  Her father died unexpectedly and her mother didn't bear it well and became an invalid - querulous and difficult.  Emily cares for her, and the two lead a rather secluded life.  Emily's neighbors remark that what Emily and her mother need is "a man in the house."  Unfortunately, one evening, Emily comes home and finds one in their house.  With a gun, and preparing to stay for awhile because all he wants is food, shelter and a little hospitality.  He lets Emily go to work, with her mother as a hostage so Emily won't go to the police.  But Emily can't hold back and does tell a friend.  And they cook up a plan.

The mysterious intruder in a puzzle- they never really say why he needs to hide out, but he is awfully annoyed by Emily's mother and the way Emily puts her mother first.  I guess the real reason this scary man is there is to push Emily to become her own woman.  Which is kinda just my interpretation because the ending doesn't really bear that out.  Or rather it bears out that Emily should have asked some guy's help earlier on in this story.  This is a really suspenseful tale though, despite the lame "twist" in the end.

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Journey Home - The Duchesses review Quintana of Charyn

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,

Another post related to The Journey Home is going live on A Novel Idea today.  Finnikin of the Rock and book blogging brought me together with three great bloggers - Charlotte from Gypsy Reviews, Tory from The Sleeping Latte and of course my co-host Paola, and we all decided to style ourselves the Duchesses of Lumatere.  (That's something everybody should do!  Give yourself a title!)  Since we all loved the first two books in this series we decided to read the last book Quintana of Charyn together.  And it was a great idea to have a support group in place for when we all completely keeled over from the awesomeness of this book.  Please go over to Paola's blog to check out our thoughts on the story and the series in general.  And thank you so much to the Duchesses for being such a fab group of people!  I'm so happy to know you all!!  #TrevanionBearHug!!

Image credit to Charlotte from Gypsy Reviews

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Books to Music: The Scarlet Pimpernel

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
You can tremble, you can fear it
But keep your fighting spirit alive boys
Let the shiver of it sting you
Fling into battle, spring to your feet boys
Never hold back your step for a moment
Never doubt that your courage will grow
Hold your head even higher and into the fire we go

The Scarlet Pimpernel is one of my favorite stories ever and my love kinda started with this musical.  A friend recommended it to me but I couldn't really get into the soundtrack because I was unfamiliar with the book.  So I read the book, listened to the musical and completely fell in love.  It doesn't quite capture the book - I think the book is nearly impossible to adapt as it is because of various reasons (which I don't want to reveal in case you haven't read it) but I do think this musical captures the characters - and makes the character of the Pimpernel so engaging and believable.  The actor to play him in the musical - Douglas Sills - is amazing at all the facets he must portray of this character - a sensitive romantic, an adventurer, someone who is cunning and intelligent and deeply devoted to his cause, and someone who can pretend to be ridiculously inane and foppish.  The musical underwent some changes from the original broadway cast recording but the OBC is the only commercially available recording so I will be referring to it in this post.

The songs that capture the romance and despair that the Pimpernel feels are probably my favorite ones in this musical.  "Believe", "Prayer" and "She Was There" are moving ballads that show such deep emotions that they almost always make me want to tear up.  Even when it's happy, it is so beautifully touching to hear the deep emotions in these songs.  Marguerite's song "When I Look At You" is also a deeply moving song of regret and love and is another example of the brilliant way the songs in this musical captures the heightened emotions of the characters.  But again there's more to this story than all that heart-hurting romance because the Pimpernel embarks on many daring missions to save the innocent victims of the French Revolution.  And while the gravity of the situation is addressed in various scenes, there is a sense of boyish glee in how the rescues are portrayed on stage and in the music.  There are inspiring and fun songs to bring everything to life and probably one of the best parts of the show is the humor that comes from the Pimpernel's attempts to convince people that he could not possibly be the one causing such havoc in France.  "The Creation of Man" is a truly clever patter song with an argument to why men should be more concerned with keeping up their physical appearances and wearing pretty clothes than off being brave and fighting.  It's such a funny scene in the show.

I feel like I have to do justice to the villain of the show as well - Chauvelin - who has some great songs that bear out how much he believes in what he is doing; so much so that it is difficult to find fault with his actions when he thinks he is doing the right thing.  The mark of a great villain I think.  Unlike the book, the musical adds a seductive note to Chauvelin's character which makes him even more interesting to watch.

This musical is so close to me, that I wish everyone would give it a listen because it has all the things that make musicals a joy to me - humor, romance, and danger, and all set to catchy tunes, with wonderfully clever lyrics.  Everyone that I've introduced this musical to has loved it and I hope that if any readers here check it out, they will feel the same! But first read the book!

Song Spotlight: You Are My Home
If you click on the link above, you'll see a performance of this song on the Rosie O'Donnell Show by the original cast and you get a bit of back story to where the song functions in the show as well.  So highly recommend watching that.  But first, I'll say that this is not my favorite song in the show ("Believe" is) but I picked this song for the spotlight because it is an intensely gorgeous melody.  I remember when I first heard it, it literally raised the hair on my arms, because it's so beautiful.  It's a song sung between brother and sister when they believe they will die soon at the guillotine and that despair and deep love mingle very well to create such a breathtaking and moving song.  The original has better orchestration than that youtube link by the way, but I couldn't find the original on youtube.
Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Awesome Adaptations (61) Life of Brian

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,
This meme celebrates an awesome adaptation related to a weekly category. Any format of adaptation (television series, film, web series, etc.) is acceptable as long as it is based in some form on a book. Awesome Adaptations was created by Alisa Selene at PictureMeReading.

An Awesome 1970s Adaptation (in honor of Alisa's Birthday)
Title: Life of Brian
Loosely Adapted from: The Bible

Well, it's probably iffy to call this an adaptation, but there are a few elements from the Bible that make it into this film so... I'll allow it.  Although this film does not depict the life of Jesus, but of Brian, whose life parallels Jesus so he gets mistaken for the Messiah - because people get confused easily.  This film is much more of a subversion on aspects of the Bible, a commentary on religion, and as always with Python, an examination of human nature and fallibility.  And it's just silly!

I really think this film does a good job of understanding humanity's approach to religion.  There's so many different interpretations (and misinterpretations) of the Bible, that the confusion and frustration experienced by Brian in the film echoes what many people feel about organized religion.  And to make that frustration funny and entertaining is just part of the unique genius of the Pythons.  I just love how they can turn something quite dark and disturbing (crucifixions for instance) into the backdrop of a hilarious situation by focusing, not on the reality of the situation, but on ideals that seem unimportant in the scenario, but ultimately are very important.

I feel like this post is leaning towards the serious side even though Life of Brian is at it's heart a fantastic comedy.  There are so many funny moments, but I think my favorite is pretty much anything with Pontius Pilate's lisp.  This is my favorite Python film by the way.  Of course I love Holy Grail, but I think this one is more cohesive, more clever, and just generally flows better.  And it's thought provoking while also being so funny.  If you've seen Holy Grail, but never seen this film, you should definitely check it out!
Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Review: The False Prince

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , , ,
The False Prince (The Ascendance Trilogy #1)
by Jennifer A Nielsen

Plot Summary:

THE FALSE PRINCE is the thrilling first book in a brand-new trilogy filled with danger and deceit and hidden identities that will have readers rushing breathlessly to the end.

In a discontent kingdom, civil war is brewing. To unify the divided people, Conner, a nobleman of the court, devises a cunning plan to find an impersonator of the king's long-lost son and install him as a puppet prince. Four orphans are recruited to compete for the role, including a defiant boy named Sage. Sage knows that Conner's motives are more than questionable, yet his life balances on a sword's point -- he must be chosen to play the prince or he will certainly be killed. But Sage's rivals have their own agendas as well.

As Sage moves from a rundown orphanage to Conner's sumptuous palace, layer upon layer of treachery and deceit unfold, until finally, a truth is revealed that, in the end, may very well prove more dangerous than all of the lies taken together.

An extraordinary adventure filled with danger and action, lies and deadly truths that will have readers clinging to the edge of their seats.

Review:

It's easy to fall in love with a story when the main character is so deliciously complex and frustrating but admirable and I'm glad to say this book has that character.  Sage is often thought the best choice to impersonate the long lost prince because he's street-smart and able to think quickly and lie convincingly.  But he's also unpredictable and uncontrollable, and while he struggles to find a way to both defy Conner and also get chosen as the false prince, the reader sees more and more layers to his character gradually unfold.  When he seems most callous is when you find he has compassion and it's interesting that while so many deceptions are planned in this story, the reader is also getting duped because Sage keeps so many secrets himself.  He's just as unpredictable to the reader and I thought the journey we took to get to know him was alone completely worth reading this book.

But there's much to this story with the fantasy world building.  The politics of Carthya and the competition between the other potential princes made this an even more engaging read.  It was interesting to read how Sage's rivals developed - Roden and Tobias changed so much throughout this story that again I was impressed by the author's ability to reveal so many facets of character.  Even with Conner - the nobleman who insists he is trying to help his country by deceiving it - was a rather likable villain to me, and often it was difficult to decide if he was really a villain or just a man without scruples but devoted to his country.

There is a potential love triangle that is sweet, but had a lot of room to grow, as it doesn't get much of a focus in this book and I didn't feel particularly taken with that aspect of the story.  I think there is a clear choice of who Sage should end up with, but I'm glad that both female potentials are strong characters in their own way, which should make things very interesting in the next couple books.

The story has lots of twists and turns, and a particularly big plot twist towards the end which was amazing! Add to that an emotionally satisfying first book, with a great characters and a believable and fun main character and I really can't wait to read the next in the series!  I wish I had read this book sooner!


Amazon

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Monday, October 21, 2013

Review: Stormdancer

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
Stormdancer (The Lotus War #1)
by Jay Kristoff

Plot Summary:

A DYING LAND
The Shima Imperium verges on the brink of environmental collapse; an island nation once rich in tradition and myth, now decimated by clockwork industrialization and the machine-worshipers of the Lotus Guild. The skies are red as blood, the land is choked with toxic pollution, and the great spirit animals that once roamed its wilds have departed forever.

AN IMPOSSIBLE QUEST
The hunters of Shima’s imperial court are charged by their Shōgun to capture a thunder tiger – a legendary creature, half-eagle, half-tiger. But any fool knows the beasts have been extinct for more than a century, and the price of failing the Shōgun is death.

A HIDDEN GIFT
Yukiko is a child of the Fox clan, possessed of a talent that if discovered, would see her executed by the Lotus Guild. Accompanying her father on the Shōgun’s hunt, she finds herself stranded: a young woman alone in Shima’s last wilderness, with only a furious, crippled thunder tiger for company. Even though she can hear his thoughts, even though she saved his life, all she knows for certain is he’d rather see her dead than help her.

But together, the pair will form an indomitable friendship, and rise to challenge the might of an empire.

Review:

My first thought when starting this book was how completely depressing the bleakness of Shima was - so polluted and overrun by industrialization - that I found it difficult to get into such a dreary, filthy setting.  I am personally put off by books that indulge too much in descriptions of certain bodily functions - and I could have done with less phlegmy coughs, rising bile, and slick black blood.  But this is so not a cheery book and the picture the story paints of a world in need of change before it destroys itself is perfectly fitting for this vivid tale of greed, vengeance and survival.  But there is a bright point in the story - the friendship between Yukiko and the thunder tiger or arashitora.

Yukiko is an embittered and angry character, because of the choices her father has made, and her grief at things that happened in the past, and yet she has the moral strength to do what's right which makes her such an admirable character.  It also helps that she's a formidable fighter - and the many things that happen in this book that forces her to stand up and fight makes her very inspiring as well.  Yukiko's bond with the thunder tiger is just another facet of that because when they work together they are so much stronger.  The idea of a stormdancer is fantastic and I loved the fight scenes with Yukikko and the arashitora because there was so much power in them when they fought together.  The fight scenes in general though were outstanding.  Very gory of course, but that's in keeping with the style of this book.  The arashitora develops in personality as well - until I was always glad when he made an appearance in the story - from his deadpan sarcasm to his earnest and protective love of Yukikko, I thought he was a great balance to the darkness of some of the characters in the story.

The world building is incredibly detailed - there's fantasy, steampunk, and dystopian elements, as well as Japanese mythology and folklore.  The world of Shima is rich with history and I felt it was easy to fall into this world once I got used to the squalidness of it.  And more than halfway through the book I realized how much this story hurts.  The condition of the world, the tragedies, the strength and bravery of the characters and the sacrifices made, created a lot of heart hurting for me!  By the last few chapters I was completely gripped by the action and doing that thing where I try to take everything in too fast and had to back up to get the complete picture.  So frustrating when you can't absorb words directly and en masse!

This is a dark story, and while emotionally satisfying in some respects, it is overrun with moments when you want to ask the author what happened to him that he likes to hurt people.  I can't wait to find out what happens next though in this fantastically engaging story!


Amazon

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Sunday, October 20, 2013

Suspense Sundays (67) Goodnight Mrs. Russell

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,
Suspense was a radio series from 1942 to 1962.  I have a fondness for "Old Time Radio" as we call it now, and Suspense is my favorite show.  It sets up weird, dark, scary, or intriguing stories with a plot twist in the end, and all in half an hour.  For Suspense Sundays I'll give a short review of an episode.   {My archive list of episodes}


"Goodnight Mrs. Russell"
Air date: October 20, 1949
Starring Bette Davis
>>Episodes here<<

Nice Mrs. Russell visits the nearby diner nearly every day during lunch and strikes up an acquaintance with the cook, Henry.  When she visits for dinner after a late work day, she finds the diner empty and Henry just a little bit weird.  She stays away for awhile, but decides it was all in her head and goes back after another late work day.  This was a terrible mistake.

Two things.  First Henry has a complex because he wasn't accepted into the army and he feels like everyone thinks he's inferior.  This is similar to the crazy guy in an earlier episode of Suspense called "To Find Help".  So I guess this was a common fear around that time for young men who were left behind as it were.  Interesting.  Second, let's talk Mrs. Russell.  You did good getting away from Henry that first time.  Very smart.  Then you ran around the neighborhood and generally lost it.  WHY did you go back with Henry when he found you?? Freaking kick him where it hurts and get out of there!  He didn't even have a weapon!

But even though Mrs. Russell should have gotten a hold of herself, I really enjoyed this epsiode!  They may have been going with a sympathetic angle with Henry and the reason why he's crazy, but I think he was uber creepy and I wouldn't have wanted to play along with his delusions, but just shake him until he sees sense.  Which probably would have gotten me killed...
Friday, October 18, 2013

The Journey Home: Final Thoughts on Finnikin of the Rock

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,

Chapter 17 - The End 
General First Impressions of Finnikin of the Rock



Spoilers!!!

Beware!!


Okay, how many people got that Evanjalin was really Isaboe??  When I first read this book, I so didn't pick up on that, so the reveal was a punch to the gut!  And re-reading the story again, keeping in mind that she is the youngest princess, I still find it difficult to pick up on it.  I was surprised by that because  I thought it might be obvious, but the way Melina keeps working in mentions of Balthazar or the prophecy that seems to point to Finnikin being King, I really don't feel too bad not realizing the truth sooner.  I think Melina did a great job obfuscating the facts, because it was an incredible reveal for me.  And I loved how Evanjalin just became Isaboe when the time came - despite her fears and the darkness that came from walking the sleep, she does what needs to be done.  Always.

And while I at times still think of Isaboe as the main character of Finnikin of the Rock, I think I understand now why Melina made Finnikin the title character - because he grows the most in the story.  All of the books in this series are named after the character that has the most to learn I think, and in this Finnikin comes to understand many things he needed to by the time he comes to accept his true role.  So of course my co-host Paola is right in her comments from our intro post!

There's another thing I love in this story - those moments when the motivations or circumstances behind questionable actions are revealed and other characters are humbled by the reveal.  For instance when Evanjalin walks the sleep while she's not supposed to be bleeding, or when Trevanion finds out why Beatriss had another child.  It's incredibly moving to find out how strong these characters are, not from the character themselves (they either don't want to talk about it or explain themselves), but from a third person with a little more understanding.  It is indeed very humbling to read about what these characters have had to endure.

I hope everyone has finished the book by now!  I really look forward to reading your thoughts on it, and if you would like to comment with those thoughts, head over to A Novel Idea who is in charge of the discussions this week!  Bombard her with your feels! :D

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Review: Ferragost

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , , ,
Ferragost (Lumatere Chronicles #2.5)
by Melina Marchetta

Plot Summary:

A short story featured in Review of Australian Fiction.

Lady Celie of the Lumateran Flatlands is visiting the Belegonian spring castle on the isle of Ferragost. Cut off from the rest of Belegonia by poor weather, she is confined to the island with four others, including the mysterious castellan of the castle. When the body of one of the guests is discovered on the rocks outside the east tower, Celie is not only considered a suspect, but finds herself embroiled in events that are entwined with her own kingdom's cursed history, as well as the future of the entire land of Skuldenore.

Review:

This short story takes place between Froi of the Exiles and Quintana of Charyn, and gives a little backstory to what Lady Celie was doing by request of the Lumateran Queen.  In Froi and Quintana, there are hints that Lady Celie would not have been thought of as a good spy for Lumatere because she is so delicate, but in this story it's great to find out that she is anything but.  She does use that perception of herself to her advantage though, and I would love to read more of her spy adventures because she has a great sense of humor, and it's so fun seeing how easy it is for her to manipulate the people around her.

Of course this is Melina Marchetta we are talking about here, and all her characters have great depth.  But it's particularly noteworthy here how great her characterizations are because this is such a short story.  The reader gets a very complete picture of the personalities of all the characters by just a few words and how they interact with others - and this story is very tightly written and manages to convey so much plot and backstory.  It does help to know the world of the books, but I think this story does very well as a standalone too - there's enough information given about some of the key characters in the main series to give you an idea about Lady Celie's relationships to them.  And the mystery brewing is very intriguing with a solution that I didn't see coming at all!

The other element of this story that had me totally enthralled was the possible romance between Celie and Castellan Banyon.  Banyon, the character, is very reserved yet I felt like I knew him so well - and I would love to have seen more of him in this story - he's just the type of male romantic hero I like - brooding, conflicted, ruled by duty and with a sly sense of humor that only Lady Celie was able to bring out of him.  There's so much more that can be done with this pairing!  I hope someday Melina Marchetta writes more of their story!

This was a wonderful little mystery, romance and adventure story with wit and humor and some very emotional moments.  And it's a perfect complement to the Lumatere Chronicles!


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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Awesome Adaptations (60) Jabberwocky

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,
This meme celebrates an awesome adaptation related to a weekly category. Any format of adaptation (television series, film, web series, etc.) is acceptable as long as it is based in some form on a book. Awesome Adaptations was created by Alisa Selene at PictureMeReading.

An Awesome Adaptation Based on a Poem
Title: Jabberwocky
Adapted from: Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll

This is a strange film.  Which fits because the source is a strange poem as well.  It follows the adventures of Dennis Cooper (played by Michael Palin) who wants to make something of himself so he can marry the girl of his dreams.  Who really doesn't like him.  And though many odd twists of fate, he winds up killing the Jabberwocky who has been plaguing the city for a long time.  The film is a satire and has some very funny scenes some of which are rather morbid.  There's also quite a bit of raunchy humor.  What made this film feel so strange is that the story is pretty silly, yet the directing and some of the acting is so earnest and somber.  The directing in particular is fabulous - very atmospheric and it felt very authentic to the time period.  Terry Gilliam does not skimp on capturing the sordid squalor of living in that time period.  I was also really impressed by Michael Palin's earnest, dim-witted Dennis - who so desperately wanted to be approved by his Griselda.  He's so adorable in this, but then I tend to think Michael Palin is adorable in everything!

The story of the film takes the basic idea of a fearsome creature called the Jabberwocky and a quest to kill the creature and embroiders a tale of a reluctant, generally down on his luck hero who achieves great acclaim but never really gets what he wants.  It's also silly and irreverent and I think that captures the purpose of Lewis Carroll's poem perfectly.
Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Review: Quintana of Charyn

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , , , ,
Quintana of Charyn (The Lumatere Chronicles #3)
by Melina Marchetta

Plot Summary:

There's a babe in my belly that whispers the valley, Froi. I follow the whispers and come to the road . . .

Separated from the girl he loves and has sworn to protect, Froi must travel through Charyn to search for Quintana, the mother of Charyn's unborn king, and protect her against those who will do anything to gain power. But what happens when loyalty to family and country conflict? When the forces marshalled in Charyn's war gather and threaten to involve the whole of the land, including Lumatere, only Froi can set things right, with the help of those he loves.

Review:

The is the third and final book in the Lumatere Chronicles, and what an amazing ride this series has been.  From a first book that is full of beautiful moments with characters we are just getting to know and understand to this final installment where the full realization of who these varied and complex people truly are; I was completely blown away by the awesome scope of this trilogy.  With the first book centering on the tragedy of Lumatere at the hands of Charyn, and the second book examining the circumstances that led to the corrupt government of Charyn, the third book tells the story of how these two lands can start to heal.  There are so many plot threads from the beginning of this series that find a different meaning in the third book as the reader starts to see the complete picture.  It's perfect interweaving of plot threads and characters by an author who I'm fast believing has a completely unearthly writing ability.

This series is high fantasy, but often gets put into YA as a category and I think that fits because as so many people point out, YA has stories where characters feel very strongly and dramatically over every little thing, but with this series those emotional moments are rightfully dramatic and feel life and death.  Whether it's filial or romantic love, love for your land or your child, the stakes are so high in this story that its hard not to feel just as invested in every love story and every heartbreaking plot twist as these characters who must fight for justice and healing.  It's again incredible how Melina Marchetta writes such realistic characters with believable emotional development who are not always likable, but real and relatable.

Quintana as the title character of the book, doesn't have much more scenes than the other characters in this book in my opinion, but she does change the most throughout the story - especially in the final chapters - where you see how much she has learned from the people who took care of her during her pregnancy.  It was so touching to read how this group of women who almost hated each other for most of their forced time together, became so close at the end of it and Quintana was able to grow so much because of that.  It's also interesting to see the parallels in the fierceness of the two Queens in the story - Quintana and Isaboe and their interactions was a joy to read.

There's something that Melina does in this book that I like to think of as deferred pain - because there are so many moments that as a reader I was eagerly awaiting because I knew it would pack an emotional punch, but when it finally happens there is something else very important that needs to play out before that emotional punch can land, so that the emotional set-up of the moment is brought to fruition some pages later resulting in immediate tearfulness for me.  No set-up needed.  It was kinda fun actually being put through the emotional wringer with this book!

I can't recommend this series enough - the story never let me down, it's a moving and engaging portrait of strong, wonderful characters against a backdrop of broken lives, patriotic love, hope and friendship.


Amazon

Goodreads


Monday, October 14, 2013

Review: Doon

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , , ,
Doon (Doon #1)
by Carey Corp and Lorie Langdon

Plot Summary:

Veronica doesn't think she's going crazy. But why can't anyone else see the mysterious blond boy who keeps popping up wherever she goes? When her best friend, Mackenna, invites her to spend the summer in Scotland, Veronica jumps at the opportunity to leave her complicated life behind for a few months.

But the Scottish countryside holds other plans.

Not only has the imaginary kilted boy followed her to Alloway, she and Mackenna uncover a strange set of rings and a very unnerving letter from Mackenna's great aunt—and when the girls test the instructions Aunt Gracie left behind, they find themselves transported to a land that defies explanation. Doon seems like a real-life fairy tale, complete with one prince who has eyes for Mackenna and another who looks suspiciously like the boy from Veronica's daydreams. But Doon has a dark underbelly as well. The two girls could have everything they've longed for...or they could end up breaking an enchantment and find themselves trapped in a world that has become a nightmare.

DOON is loosely based on the premise of the musical Brigadoon, with permission from the Alan Jay Lerner Estate and the Frederick Loewe Foundation.

Review:

The cover and the idea of a magical Scottish village made this book an easy sell for me!  I've also seen and enjoyed the musical film version of Brigadoon so I was intrigued by a YA story that uses the premise of a village that only appears in our world every 100 years.  This was definitely a fun story with two lovely romances between two different but equally swoon-worthy Scottish Princes.

The story has two narrators - best friends Veronica and Mackenna - and both characters have distinct personalities and appearances, but I often felt that switching between their points of view (which was not consistently every other chapter) slowed me down reading-wise as even though I saw who was talking through the chapter title, I had to mentally take that in and sometimes I got a little mixed up.  Since this book is a series, I wish they had decided to make the first book the POV of one character and the second could be for the other.  I think Veronica is the main focus of this book so that might have worked well.  But reading the thoughts of both friends was very nice because they don't seem to see themselves very clearly (for instance both girls think they are unattractive and awkward when everyone in the world thinks otherwise) and it was good to get a better perspective on them.  Even if it was silly that they didn't realize how beautiful they are by looking in a mirror.

The boy leads - Jaime and Duncan - made two different romances - one romance where the two are plagued with doubts, and the other with understanding and friendly Duncan.  It was actually really nice to have Duncan and Mackenna's easier (not too easy though) friendship and attraction when faced with Jaime and Veronica's more tempestuous one which had secrets and suspicions, but also their magical connection that is supposed to make them soulmates.  There's not much development to the romance because of this - they feel very strongly for each other right away, but it didn't bother me much.  I was frustrated by how their relationship kept getting complicated though. In the middle of the book, the story really focuses on the romance, and when they kept not seeing what was obvious, I just wanted to slap them.  Why can't they see what's obvious!

This book was really fun though - it had a great resolution (with last minute cliffhanger!) and some great characters.  It did feel a little bloated with romantic tension and it might have been better if the story was a little shorter.  I also have to mention that there are numerous references to musicals and I absolutely loved that!

Amazon

Goodreads
Sunday, October 13, 2013

Suspense Sundays (66) Momentum

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,
Suspense was a radio series from 1942 to 1962.  I have a fondness for "Old Time Radio" as we call it now, and Suspense is my favorite show.  It sets up weird, dark, scary, or intriguing stories with a plot twist in the end, and all in half an hour.  For Suspense Sundays I'll give a short review of an episode.   {My archive list of episodes}


"Momentum"
Air date: October 27, 1949
Starring Victor Mature
>>Episodes here<<

The story begins very dramatically with Richard Paine waiting for a train - with a gunshot wound in his neck.  And as he reminisces the listener discovers that Richard is a little lazy.  His wife bugs him to go out and find a job because she's been supporting him, but Richard has a plan.  He helped invent a type of wrench at his old place of employment and he tries to go to his old boss and ask for some royalties.  But the discussion goes wrong and Richard ends up killing his old boss.  After that it only escalates to more and more murders.

This is such a strange story!  Richard is such a loser, and his self-delusion has got to be heard to believed.  That aspect of the story amused me greatly, because his reasoning progressively got more and more erratic and unfortunately he acted on his thoughts way too hastily.  The story doesn't have much in the way of suspense, because we know things are only going to get worse for Richard, and in the end there is a sad ironic twist that really just made me dislike Richard even more.  
Friday, October 11, 2013

The Journey Home - First Week Discussion

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,

Prologue - Chapter 16 
General First Impressions of Finnikin of the Rock


When I first read this book I remembered thinking what a lot of story threads from the past are sprinkled throughout - what happened when Finnikin watched them burn Seranonna, what happened to the Monts, to the novices, Trevanion and Beatriss, and to the Guard, etc.  The picture is never really clear until the end, of everything that happened in the past and the non-linear way in which this story is told can be a bit overwhelming.  Reading it a second time really helped me order the events in my mind (and it's especially interesting to compare it to what's to come in the next two books).  Of course I am yet again in awe of Melina Marchetta's storytelling because despite the clear, precise prose and the pretty straightforward way in which the characters express themselves, this is so not a simple story.  And there are so many characters who feel 3-dimensional in this world, that I just can't believe this book didn't take 50 years to write!  Really my second impressions of this book let me take in how Melina tells the story, and how fantastic she is at spinning so many plates at once.

Another thing that stands out for me is the realism of the details.  I'm just going to point out the scene where Finnikin (and Trevanion!) goes off with some prostitutes.  It's just sex, and so matter of factly stated.  Why was this included when Melina could have painted Finnikin in a more heroically romantic way?  Because this is realistic.  And those touches of realism adds so much to the portraits of these characters  - where Evanjalin is hurt by his decision to go with some girl he doesn't know, but she doesn't pout over it - just throws it at him in a heated moment, immediately changing the subject.  But you know it rankled.  As it should.  And Finnikin has to grapple with his feelings for Evanjalin that is more than just physical need.  There's also the moments in the Exile camps when you feel the pain of these displaced people and you wonder what is the best place for them.  The scenes are brief overall but it's chilling and inspiring at the same time.  Because they have survived and are going to find a way home.

If you do feel overwhelmed though with all these characters and their individual stories as a first-time reader, I'd just recommend to stick with the story as things become clearer later on and emotional arcs start to coalesce into face-punching feels.  Not that there aren't enough major Feels moments already in the first part of this book.  Trevanion and Finnikin's reunion is a major one to me.  Evanjalin and Finnikin's contentious romance (!!)  And the moment when Evanjalin tells Trevanion about Beatriss (Bevanion 4eva! Thanks Paola!)  Also there's the introduction of the best hashtag motivator in the world:  #whatneedstobedone

"What have you done?" he asked hoarsely.
The look she gave him was pure anguish.
"What needs to be done!" (p75)

Just put that phrase up over your home or work desk space and stare at it whenever you don't feel like writing that blog post, review, or story.  It needs to be done folks! :)

If you would like, please comment with any of your thoughts on the first half of this book!
What do you think of the world building?
Any characters stand out or resonate with you?
Has it lived up at all to the ridiculous expectations our enthusiasm for the books has created?  (Sorry about that)

And if you are posting your own discussions/reaction posts you can link up to it here for all the other participants to read!  For a breakdown of what's been happening this past week for this event check out the links below:


Week 1 Discussion: Link Submission

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Review: When the World Was Flat (And We Were in Love)

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
When the World Was Flat (And We Were in Love)
by Ingrid Jonach

Plot Summary:

When sixteen-year-old Lillie Hart meets the gorgeous and mysterious Tom Windsor-Smith for the first time, it’s like fireworks — for her, anyway. Tom looks as if he would be more interested in watching paint dry; as if he is bored by her and by her small Nebraskan town in general.

But as Lillie begins to break down the walls of his seemingly impenetrable exterior, she starts to suspect that he holds the answers to her reoccurring nightmares and to the impossible memories which keep bubbling to the surface of her mind — memories of the two of them, together and in love.

When she at last learns the truth about their connection, Lillie discovers that Tom has been hiding an earth-shattering secret; a secret that is bigger — and much more terrifying and beautiful — than the both of them. She also discovers that once you finally understand that the world is round, there is no way to make it flat again.

An epic and deeply original sci-fi romance, taking inspiration from Albert Einstein’s theories and the world-bending wonder of true love itself.

Review:

The highlight of this book was the atmospheric mystery of the romance.  Why Lillie is so drawn to Tom and what do the disturbing dreams and hallucinations mean.  I love writing that evokes a sense of fascination and fear and knowing that there is a connection between Lillie and Tom and waiting for the details of it to manifest made this an enticing read.  

Lillie's small town life - with her little group of friends, her eccentric mother, and the obligatory collection of mean girls (or one girl) added a nice touch of routine realism to the tale - it's not very inspired, but the snarkiness of Lillie and her friends made it entertaining enough for me.  There are enough little dramas to enhance the simple main plot of who Tom is and where did he come from.  There's not a whole lot of depth to the characterizations, but I was more focused on the central plot so I didn't mind it as much.

I think the reveal of the story was very intriguing, yet the details of it didn't make it believable enough for me.  I recently read a science fiction book that dealt with some of the science in this one, and I felt that the other was more informative and realistic than this one.  While this book does have a dollop of sci-fi, the romance is really the core as well as the atmospheric development of the main characters' relationship.

There are moments of wit and suspense, and I was very invested in finding out what happens next, and this is a simple and lovely tale with it's own charm.  I very much enjoyed it, but I would have appreciated more depth to the characterizations and perhaps more of a solid foundation to the romance. 

(I received this book from the publisher or author for a fair and honest review.  I was not compensated for this review.)

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Awesome Adaptations (59) True Blood

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,
This meme celebrates an awesome adaptation related to a weekly category. Any format of adaptation (television series, film, web series, etc.) is acceptable as long as it is based in some form on a book. Awesome Adaptations was created by Alisa Selene at PictureMeReading.

An Awesomely Bad Adaptation
Title: True Blood
Adapted from: The Sookie Stackhouse Series by Charlaine Harris

There are 13 Sookie books and True Blood just wrapped up it's Sixth season so there's still a lot of material for them to adapt into the show.  But after the first book/season, the show gradually deviated from the plot lines, character arcs, and character personalties of the book series until it became almost unrecognizable from the original as all the characters have undergone such drastic changes.  I love the wit and humor of Sookie's sometimes scary or romantic adventures as they are in the books, but watching True Blood is an entirely different experience.  That I'm strangely addicted to!

The show is rather violent, graphic and disturbing (you know fun!) but it is a distinctive take on the Southern Gothic atmosphere of the story, and many of the characters have transformed into layered, complex personalities.  Lafayette, Tara and Pam come to mind - they are secondary characters who have really become integral to the show.  Actually  Lafayette is a huge improvement in the show over his character in the book - he also happens to be one of my favorite show characters.   When it comes to the main three there are aspects of each that both are true to their original incarnation and very different.   I think Sookie is snarky and plucky in both versions (maybe a little snarkier in the books) and makes some of the same choices when it comes to all the guys who are interested in her.  Bill is getting to be pretty unrecognizable as the gentlemanly, earnest vampire of the books, but it is interesting to see him get a bit of power in the show.  I think the fan favorite, Eric, is awesome in both the books and the show - he still gets to be a rough around the edges vampire with redemptive qualities.  And while in the books I've always felt Eric always put himself above others, I'm inclined to think he's more of a softie in the show.

I feel like this series has become loosely based on the books and for that it's not even really an adaptation anymore - if you don't like the show, you might feel completely different about the story if you read the books.  The show is pretty dark but it embraces the insanity of Sookie's life and takes it to a completely different level.  Even though there's much that I wish True Blood would adapt from the books, I enjoy watching each episode and truly having no idea where the story is going to go.  I am glad the creators have added so much to Sookie's world, and I think the over-the-top drama and flair of the TV series makes it a pretty awesome take on the books.
Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Beatriss and Trevanion - Star-crossed love in Finnikin of the Rock

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,


This is what happens when I get a new
drawing app on my iPad mini
There are quite a few loving relationships in Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta - all of them with their own particular conflicts and hurdles - but when I first read this book, the relationship that appealed to me the most was the mature, heart-rending one between Beatriss and Trevanion.

Spoiler warning - if you haven't read this book, you probably shouldn't proceed further.


I think what touches me the most about their story is how much love they had for each other and how truly terrible circumstances come between them during the Five Days of the Unspeakable.  And because of that, finding their way back to each other is not easy.  It's something that can't even be resolved in this book.  But they are good people - who had to make huge sacrifices -and they definitely deserve to have a happy ending. 

The way they first met was anything but romantic, with Trevanion harshly scolding her about allowing the children she was taking care of to do something dangerous (he says to her "Be functional, woman. Are you nothing but a doll with a pretty face and a powerful father?" To which my reply would have been "You think I'm pretty?" LOL).  Unfortunately she is dismissed from her position because of this, but she gets to prove herself later, when Trevanion takes the royal kids with him to see her father.  The kids wander away and find themselves confronted by an angry bull.  And Beatriss diverts the bull's attention and gets knocked down because of it.  With a scathing comment to Trevanion ("was that functional enough for you Captain?") she grabs Trevanion's attention and it's a wonderful romance ever after.  Well until the Unspeakable.  But I love how they both have such strong personalities that are driven by duty (a trait common to all Lumaterans it seems) and even though they started off on the wrong foot, they realize each other's worth.  I would have loved to read more about their courtship and about their happier times - maybe a spin off novella if Melina would like to revisit Lumatere?? (Just thought I'd throw that out there.)

But love stories, for me, are far more interesting when obstacles are introduced that must separate the lovers, even though they still have strong feelings for each other.  And here there are many obstacles.  So many terrible things that happened with the tragedies in Lumatere and because the impostor King used their love to break them.  It's too much!  And something that I think echoes throughout this book - whether with all the pain everyone has gone through, is it worth it to fight?  Trevanion gave up after awhile until Evanjalin saw the way to make it worth it to him to fight.  And Beatriss does fight, but not for herself - for the people who are trapped in Lumatere with her and are unable to defend themselves.

I have to pull another quote from this book - one beautiful one that encompasses again why Beatriss and Trevanion are such a compelling couple:

"Most nights she is restless. There are too many people to worry about, and she wonders how she will be able to make things right. How can she be someone other than Beatriss the Beautiful or Beatriss the Beloved? But then, just when she’s about to lose hope, she remembers what you would whisper to her, Captain Trevanion. That she was Beatriss the Bold. Beatriss the Brave. To all others she was a fragile flower, but you would not let her be."

Gawd, the writing in this book is so beautiful!  Beatriss and Trevanion make each other better.  Trevanion's formidable nature is tempered by Beatriss's grace and Beatriss's strength is brought out by Trevanion's belief in her.  

But how much can two people go through because of each other before they think maybe they have changed too much to have what they once shared?  That's what we are left with by the end of the first book - a largely unsatisfying sense of sorrow at their pain and a hope that they will be able to find a way to make it work.  Usually when I read these kinds of dilemmas in stories, I'm pretty confident that everything will work out in the end.  But with Finnikin, I wasn't so sure.  The issues felt too real and potentially insurmountable.  I felt like maybe the past might be too painful and they wouldn't be able to put it behind them.  It's another reason I like this couple so much - because there is that poignant feeling that it might just end with them.  Even though I crave happy endings, happy endings seem so much more fulfilling when the characters are tested by fire as it were.  And they find they still need each other after.  Of course you have to read the rest of the series to find out how it all works out.

Thanks for reading!  And for more information on The Journey Home event - check out yesterday's chat introduction and schedule post on A Novel Idea!