Book Review: Bitten (Women of the Otherworld 1) by Kelley Armstrong

Hi

Goodreads Synopsis:

Elena Michaels seems like the typically strong and sexy modern woman, She lives with her architect boyfriend, writes for a popular newspaper, and works out at the gym. She’s also a werewolf.
Elena has done all she can to assimilate to the human world, but the man whose bite changed her existence forever, and his legacy, continue to haunt her. Thrown into a desperate war for survival that tests her allegiance to a secret clan of werewolves, Elena must recon with who, and what, she is in this passionate, page-turning novel.

I bought ‘Bitten’ on the spur-of-the-moment for my kindle (hence the Goodreads synopsis).  I liked the overall idea behind the book and just wanted to give it a shoot. I actually found out about this series from a book-tuber who reviewed ‘Dime Store Magic’ the fourth book in the series, and I wanted to read that one, but I wanted to read the series in order.

‘Bitten’ came a pleasant surprise to me.  The plot was really good and it felt like the world in the story had been fully thought out and realised and the reader was only getting a glimpse of it.  Elena has been a werewolf for ten years by the time the book starts.   This isn’t a book where the character is finding out about their powers and meeting everyone for the first time – because it has already happened. Which I thought was cool.  It made it different from a lot of books that I have read.  At times it was confusing though, especially at first when Elena would have flash-backs in the middle of meetings, but overall I think it made the plot and the book more interesting.

I found the book to be more gory then I expected but it added to the overall conflict and the sense of danger in the novel.  I also liked Elena’s personal conflict – she didn’t know which life she really wanted.  I liked how certain elements of her conflict ( spoiler cough Clay versus Phillip cough) were dealt with.  Armstrong didn’t rely on the ‘bad boyfriend’ tactic and I appreciated that.  I’m not going to spoil it any further.  I promise 🙂  It also makes some interesting comments on human nature and my favourite quote was when Elena thought this:

This guy had broken into the apartment of a total stranger, tied the man up and shot him because he – quote – wanted to know what it felt like.  The show’s writers had peppered the piece with words like ‘savage’, ‘wild’, and ‘animalistic’.  What bullshit.  Show me the animal that kills for the thrill of watching something die.  Why does the stereotype of the animalistic killer persist? Because humans like it.  It neatly explains things for them, moving humans to the top of the evolutionary ladder and putting killers down among mythological man-beast monsters like werewolves.  The truth is, if a werewolf behaved like this psychopath it wouldn’t be because he was part animal, but because he was still too human.  Only humans kill for sport.

I loved how the book pointed that out, and I also know that this is how (for the most part) animal rights supporters see it too.  Also the quote is a great example of how Elena speaks and thinks throughout the book.  Can I just mention that she was a really great heroine to read – very refreshing and un-waif-like.   The humour in the book was very well-balanced too and made it fun to read.

The ending was good.  It opened it up for the next book, while wrapping up enough loose ends.  I think Elena made the right decision and the ‘final showdown’ was both scary (at the time) and funny (after it happened).  Again I am trying not to spoil. It was a good little twist though.  Overall I would recommend the book – it is refreshing and riveting to read.

Self-Help Wednesday for the creative mind with a little help from Ray Bradbury

Hi

I think I forgot to post this up last week.  I was having one of those moments where I was mentally allergic to doing anything.  Hopefully I’m over that now 🙂

Looking back over the journal/book that I wrote when I was fifteen it is evident that I really loved drawing and art and that sort of thing.  I wrote down a lot of quotes about that subject.  I think the person I most quoted was Ray Bradbury, because he had a lot of good things to say on the topic.  It was sad to read about his death, which happened recently.  He seemed like a wise man, and of course he gave the world ‘The Halloween Tree’ which is one of the most informative and creepy children’s spooky stories around.

The first quote is applicable to all areas of life:

‘Jump and you will find out how to unfold your winds as you fall’

The second is about passion:

‘Love.  Fall in love and stay in love.  Write only what you love, and love what you write.  The key word is love.  You have to get up in the morning and write something you love, something to live for’

I think that that can be applied to any area of creativity, or job or whatever you are doing with your life in general.

The final quote of the day is again about writing, but again I think that you can take in any context:

You only fail if you stop writing’

All quotes are of course from Ray Bradbury.

Musing Mondays (June 25)

Hi

I haven’t done this for a couple of weeks – mainly because when the mood takes me I don’t go on the computer for a few days.

Musing Mondays is a weekly event held by Should Be Reading where bloggers are asked to answer a question about books. This weeks musing is:

Do you set goals for yourself, while reading? For example, “I want to get this book finished this weekend“, or “I will read __ pages today“, etc. Why, or why not?

I do set unofficial mini-goals that I rarely seem to meet.  I think it depends on what I’m attempting to read at the time.  If it is a book I’m in love with then the mini-goal usually will be completed and then some.  If it is a book that I only sort of like then it can be a struggle.  Or if it is a book that is say, a classic and it is difficult to read then I might stick to my goal or have to make the mini-goals smaller.  For example, years ago when I read The Lord of the Rings I read it ever day, and it took me I think a couple of months.  I read very little of it each day, but it is embarrassing.  My nerd-cred just took a nose dive with that confession.  I don’t know why it took so long because I loved reading it but I think I found some of the language difficult.  Ironically, I read Wuthering Heights in about three days the first time and Jane Eyre in a couple of weeks and I was younger when I read those two.  Anyways I’m rambling… 🙂

I guess overall I’m not a goal person.  I might say that I’d like to do a certain amount, but I rarely take it seriously.  Reading wouldn’t be much fun if I made it into a chore.

Book Reaction: Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay

Hi

Yesterday I did a review on this book, so I’m not going to go into any explanation of the premise or the synopsis here.  Furthermore, if the title isn’t obvious enough, this is a spoiler review.  So you have been warned.

I picked up ‘Tigana’ because as a history student I liked how it was based on themes from real history.  The concept of a nation being not only conquered, but also made to feel ashamed of itself and forgotten intrigued me.  I think the afterword at the end of the book was a great add-on because a lot of the influences that Guy Gavriel Kay mentions are interesting.  In my opinion the book does examine the consequences of Brandin of Ygarth’s rule really well.  Many of the people who remembered Tigana wanted to forget it because they felt that it was wrong that they were still alive while so many others weren’t.  Baerd’s and Catriana’s storylines were the biggest ones that stand out in respect to this.  I thought that was interesting because it was something that I didn’t expect to feature in a story like this – the guilt that they felt for being too young, or for the actions of their fathers.  They weren’t just angry at Brandin, but at themselves and at their country fellows.

In my review I mentioned a couple of problems that I had with the book.  The one that I want to talk about here is the romance.  I hated how Catriana was relegated to Allesan’s love interest in the last hundred or so pages in the book.  Before that I’d liked her, because she was willing to do anything for her country, like all the others.  Then all of a sudden we have this ‘love confession’ where both characters realise their undying love for each other (in the space of a chapter) and she realises she has done everything for Allesan.

‘We do with our hands, our eyes, what we are afraid to say’.  She surprised herself; she hadn’t known she knew any such thing. (P 719)

I think the scene was over the top and cheapened everything that she had done.  And his lines were so cheesy… I’m shuddering just remembering them.  Devin’s love story bored me.  Baerd’s happened really quick, but it was bearable.  The exception was of course Dianora and Bradin – I hated him, but I could feel the love between them.  She gave up her foretold destiny because she couldn’t bear to leave him.

This leads me to the part of the book that to me was the best.  The ending was great.  I thought it was heartbreaking that Prince Valentin was Brandin’s Fool.  It was like the ultimate torture – Brandin not only took away the Prince’s family and his country, but he also faked his death after a year of torturing him and mutilated him so much that his own son didn’t recognise him.  Surprisingly, I didn’t hate Brandin by the end of the book – his intense love for his loved ones compared to Alberico didn’t make him the most evil man in the world.  He was bad but he wasn’t a traditional 2-D bad guy.  I could on some level feel for him.  When Valentin was revealed I was shocked, but I think the saddest part of that scene was that he didn’t hate Dianora.  Despite it all, and despite Dianora’s deep-seated fear that if anyone who knew her knew what she had become they would reject her, Valentin didn’t look down on her.

The Prince of Tigana, on the ground beside them, was looking at her with so much compassion in his newly clear eyes.  Which was a thing she could not possibly endure.  Not from him: not with what he had suffered and what she was, what she herself had done.  (P 771)

I thought that was touching.  I think that it was a very clever way to end the book, because it made sense that Valentin would kill Bradin, but it also wasn’t something that a reader could predict.  I expected Allesan to do it.   I wasn’t surprised when Dianora killed herself.  Before the big reveal I had wondered how she was going to go on or would she be allowed a normal life or would she escape.  I think it was a satisfying ending because like Valentin, it made sense.  Dianora wouldn’t have be able to live without Brandin, and she didn’t want to.

The other ending of the book was… different.  At first I thought it was going to be too happy ever after, and after poor Dianora’s end I wasn’t really in the mood for that.  I loved that the ending showed that the time ‘Tigana’ covered was not the entirety of the characters lives.  The riselka was a fantastic twist, because we know that Devin, Baerd and Sandre are not going to take the significance of the matter lightly.  One of them will have a change of path, the other will die and the third will be blessed.  Personally I think it should go like this:  Baerd has a change of path, Devin will die and Sandre will be blessed.  I think that is the most interesting outcome, because if Devin had the change of path, Sandre died and Baerd was blessed it would be way too predictable – I mean Sandre is old, Devin doesn’t want to settle down and Baerd being blessed already happened.  Baerd dying, Sandre changing and Devin being blessed would be interesting too.

The combination is completely up to the reader though because there will be no sequel.  I find that refreshing, because it is a very rare thing with a successful book, especially in fantasy.  I will be reading more Guy Gavriel Kay in the future.

Book Review: Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay

Synopsis:

Tigana is the internationally celebrated epic of a beleaguered country struggling to be free.  It is the tale of a people so cursed by the dark sorceries of the tyrant kind Brandin that even the very name of their once beautiful home cannot be spoken or remembered.  But, years after their homeland’s devastation, a handful of men and women set in motion a dangerous crusade – to overthrow their conquerors and bring back to the world the lost brightness of an obliterated name: Tigana. 

Against the magnificently realised backdrop of a world both sensuous and brutal, this masterful novel of a passionate people pursuing their dream is breathtaking in its vision, and changes forever the boundaries of fantasy fiction. 

Hi

If you have any experience of the fantasy reader community online you have read about ‘Tigana’.  It is one of those books that people see as revolutionary and a highlight of the genre.  It is up there with ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ by George R. R. Martin and Steven Erikson’s ‘Malazan Book of the Fallen’ series in terms of critical reception.  I think the synopsis provides a decent summary of the story-arch of the novel.  The premise is rather genius but very simple to understand – Tigana has been forgotten by all but those who were born there before the change occurred.    The book itself tells the story of two sets of characters – Alessan and his band of revolutionary heroes and Dianora, a woman who is one of the top two in Brandin of Ygarth’s harem.

My reading experience of the book was a mix.  I didn’t like the first part at all – it was really slow and confusing.  By confusing I mean that certain things happened that made it harder for me to get into the book – for instance there is a prologue told through a one-off perspective (which is okay in itself) and then the first chapter is from the perspective of a man who has no relevance to the plot and we never see him again.  Together they were quite long and the first proper chapter with Devin (the main narrator alongside Dianora) doesn’t happen until forty or fifty pages into the book.  By the time that happened I thought he wasn’t going to stick either.  Also I found the first part a bit too predictable for my liking – it is obvious from the start who Alessan is and his level of importance in the story but there are continuous hints that become boring after a while.  However once Dianora is introduced the book gets exciting.  I’m going to post a reaction//spoiler review tomorrow, so I won’t go into details here, but let me just say that she makes the book.  Her story is complex and beautifully flawed.  I would have preferred it if it had been Dianora’s story all the way, because by comparison the ‘heroes’ were just boring.  Devin is an irritating narrator, and the romance that awful.  I’m mentioning this because ‘Tigana’ wants to be an epic tale with a lot of romance put in, and there is only one that works in the entire book.  The rest is just rushed together or cringe inducing (or both).

But, and it is a big but, I loved the book.  I’m not going to say that I couldn’t put it down.  At times I did out of frustration. ‘Tigana’ is a great story underneath it all.  It is thought-provoking and most importantly it is entertaining.  It is action-packed and has perhaps the most perfect ending in a book that I have ever read.  It was equal parts bittersweet and satisfying.  The twist in Dianora’s storyline is just so brilliant that it makes up for the flaws of the book that seem minor after you have read it.  It is similar to the show ‘Dr Who’ in that it is so clever you feel like you should have seen it all along, but you didn’t and you are happy you didn’t and you want to re-read it the minute you finish it to see how the author pulled it off so seamlessly.   It just makes sense.  The ending of the book for Devin and the ‘heroes’ is good too, because you don’t expect it.

I recommend this to fans of books that are more than just cliché, people who know a bit about history, and fans of Dr. Who and Sherlock who like seeing clever tricks being pulled off before their eyes.

Musical Gems of Late: Florence and the Machine, Stabilo

Hi

It’s been a while since I last did one of these.  I’m finding a lot more music lately so it is great fun to share that here.

The first song is a bit different to the norm when it comes to music.  Most songs are about love, or personal growth.  This one isn’t.  The lyrics are about being a compulsive liar.  It stands out from the crowd and has a folksy rocky feel to it.  It is ‘Flawed Design’ by Stabilo.

The second song is by Florence and the Machine and is the first track on ‘Ceremonials’ their second album.  It’s called ‘Only if For a Night’ and sounds really epic.  In my opinion it is the best track on the album.  I love the choir sounds on this album, but especially this song.  It’s a beautifully emotional song.

30 Day Book Challenge: Day Thirty – Favourite Coffee Table Book

Hi

I can’t believe that this is the final post in this challenge!  I’m going to assume that a ‘coffee table book’ is a book that you would leave out and hope that someone who was visiting would want to talk about.  This is a difficult question for me, because I don’t do that.

If I did do it I’d probably put something like ‘A Game of Thrones’ by George R. R. Martin on the table, or any other book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series.  Why?  Firstly, because the books are now huge due to the success of the show.  Chances are that a guest would have at least heard of the TV series and it wouldn’t be a complete blank slate.  Secondly, the books are though provoking – I have lots of conversations about them.  George R. R. Martin incorporates a lot of realistic things into his books – and you can compare some events to real history, so it makes for a good conversation.  Finally, I think it would be a bit too personal to put a political or controversal book out to talk to guests about – you don’t want the conversation to become too deep and heavy, or end in a fight.

Maybe I’ve misinterpreted the question and a ‘coffee table book’ is a book with a pretty cover that makes your table look better.  I don’t really admire book covers though – I like some of them, but as long as the book is good I’m usually okay with a less than beautiful cover.  But I think that the ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ books have lovely covers anyways, so they kind of double.

30 Day Book Challenge: Day Twenty Nine – Currently Reading

 

Hi

This is a pretty straight-forward question, so here’s my straight-forward answer.    I’m reading ‘Bitten’ by Kelley Armstrong, the first book in the Women of the Otherworld series.  It is a good book and I hope to do of a review on it soon.  It follows the story of a pack of civilised werewolves that come under attack by a group of serial killer rouges or ‘mutts’ and how they deal with it.  It is told through it eyes of the only female werewolf in the world, Elena which is interesting, because most of the time in novels like these the main werewolf is a man.

So as you can tell, I’m enjoying the book 🙂

30 Day Book Challenge: Day Twenty Eight – Last Book You Read.

Hi

The last book I read was ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ by E.L. James.  I have considered putting a review of it up here, but I’m still not sure.  It is huge at the moment, and that is what led me to read it – I wanted to know why it was big.  I really enjoyed the book, but also came away from it feeling a bit confused as to why I liked it.

I don’t think that there is a point in providing a synopsis of it here.  It’s so big that you would have to be living under a rock to not know the basic premise of the story.  I will say that it was not what I expected, based on what I’d read online.  I can kind of see both sides to the argument – both for and against the book.  I went into it with an open mind and with a firm resolution to see it only as a fictional work and I think that was why I liked it.  But like I said, I’m still a bit confused.  It was fun and didn’t take a lot of brainwork to follow the plot.  At times I felt a bit bored, at others I laughed and I will admit that when Ana was presented with the contract I wanted to her to morph into Sookie Stackhouse and start laughing at it.  I don’t really see the harm in it, but I can see where some critics are coming from.

I also didn’t fall madly in love with Christian, unlike a lot of readers.  He is kind of creepy and over the top, but I thought the romance was okay.

30 Day Book Challenge: Day Twenty Seven – Favourite Fiction Book

Hi

Like I said in my last post, I’m going to pick something for this post that was not mentioned in my favourite books post.  I’ve done a bit of thinking and have decided that I’m going to pick a book that could be considered part of the ‘fiction’ genre – not a fantasy, or a historical romance, chick lit etc, but a work of fiction that is classed that way.  I’ve decided to pick a book that would be part of the genre that books that get a lot of awards – mainstream, modern books that discuss an important topic.

I’ve decided to go with ‘The Help’ by Kathryn Stockett because it is a book that I would consider to fit the above qualities.  I picked up this book on a whim, not knowing much about and not having seen the film beforehand.  I didn’t think that it’d be to my liking, but I was pleasantly surprised. I really loved it, and even did a review on it.  It was definitely one of my reading highlights of 2011 and I’m glad that I read it.

I’m not going to go into detail, because I’ve already reviewed it, but I will say that since I wrote that review, I have watched the film.  If you’ve both read and watched ‘The Help’ you will know that there is one huge change in the film, and it really takes away from the book.  I’m referring of course to the change in the colour of Constantine’s daughter.  I felt really let down by that, because in the book it was a huge deal and made sense, whereas in the film it felt badly put together.