Book it Chewie

I read, sometimes, then like to blab about what happened.

Reading progress update: I've read 174 out of 800 pages.

The Eye of the World  - Robert Jordan

I'm already seeing why this series made classic status, though I'm curious to see how it holds up over all of the remaining books.

 

Just goes to show, though - burned though nearly 200 pages effortlessly, compared to the >100 pages left in Mostly Harmless that I just...can't manage. Maybe later.

Reading progress update: I've read 623 out of 784 pages.

The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy: A Trilogy in Five Parts - Douglas Adams

I'm so close to finally being done, and yet...having such a hard time finishing this. I have no idea why. I've just lost all interest in the final book.

 

Wish me luck. </3

The Colour of Magic  - Terry Pratchett

What can I say about the beginning of the famous Discworld series, really? Not much that hasn't already been said multiple times.

 

These are old-school, classic, wizards-and-magic fantasy novels. They're terribly clever and sharp, but an interesting thing to note is that the first 'two' novels - Colour of Magic and Light Fantastic - actually don't show off the massive and very interesting Discworld as well as the later books do. Which, I suppose, should be an obvious fact, but it's interesting nonetheless.They're fun reads, but don't feel as Pratchett-esque as the later books do.

 

Nonetheless, this is a good book to power through on a rainy afternoon. Terry Pratchett has a gift for words and even in this earlier book, it shows. He does not tend to go too overboard with exposition - quite the opposite in fact, writing with short paragraphs and sentences that still somehow don't manage to feel clipped. He's great at being very descriptive with very few words, which is something I've always enjoyed about his work.

 

The world-building does seem a little vague at times, but I can accept that considering it's Discworld and I'm not new to the series. (Haven't read any of the older books in at least a decade, but if you enjoy these they really stick to you).

 

A lot of the humour in Discworld stems from witty writing, things that make you smack your forehead while laughing and curse over how obvious something was and why didn't you think of that yourself? I've had to put these books down on a massive number of occasions just to bask in the brilliance of one word-play or another. Despite that, they're easy to follow and easy to get into. They're fantastic also in that most of the books can be read as stand-alone novels, though personally I would recommend reading them chronologically, if only to see the world-building and be introduced to various core characters who show up over the course of the series. Thankfully though, it's really not entirely necessary.

 

While I don't power-read these books as much as I blast through, say, Hobb's Realm of the Elderlings, all of the Discworld books hold a very special place in my heart.

The Here and Now - Ann Brashares

I received the ARC for this from NetGalley, but unfortunately did not get the chance to read it. I'm quite sad to say I can't give an opinion on it one way or another. Perhaps in the future.

Hoping to catch up on my reading within the next few days, and get started on books for reviewing! I've mostly been reading things I've gotten through before, so jumping into something new will be a great change of pace.

 

Also hoping to catch up on Game of Thrones, finally. I've put it off for way too long.

The Fifth Vertex (The Sigilord Chronicles) (Volume 1)

The Fifth Vertex (The Sigilord Chronicles) (Volume 1) - Kevin Hoffman Received from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

This review contains spoilers.

I was excited to get into the Fifth Vertex. It's not really a secret that SFF tends to be quite the offender when it comes to lack of diversity with characters, and I leapt at the chance to read a story from the point of view of our hero, Urus, who is deaf. I can't recall the last time I saw a deaf character in any type of book, never mind fantasy.
First thing's first - I feel that this story moves far too quickly, and is quite bloated. We're being introduced to a lot of things, and quickly, and aren't given much time to sit down and absorb them, preferably alongside the characters that all of these new things are happening to. They seemed to simply ask a token 'What's going on here?' before apparently shrugging it off and getting on with it. I might have expected something like that from Goodwyn (who, if I'm reading correctly, seems to have had access to his magic since his birth, at least, though that was not made clear), but not Urus, who seemed to have come to his magic later in life. Too many things happened that didn't make sense and had relatively no explanation that I could recall (Urus somehow entering Murin's mind, Murin somehow becoming Urus' familiar, etc). The entire story felt as if it were a duffel bag being packed for a camping trip - instead of careful planning of what was needed and neat and efficient packing, the book felt more like things that happened to be nearby and looked interesting or useful were shoved in the bag until it was bursting at the seams. It'll probably get you through the weekend, yes, but not nearly as neatly and easily as it could've gone. Normally exposition is something that has to be handled carefully, but in this case, I really think that the story could've benefited from more of it.
I'm not sure how to explain this next part, but a lot of the time it seemed as if I could 'feel' the scaffolding of the story, the research and ideas that built it up and into what it was. It felt very much as if the author had been reading about issues with diversity in fantasy literature and decided to address it head-on with The Fifth Vertex - we have a deaf character, main characters who are not white, a gay character, and a female main character. This, in itself, isn't a bad thing. However, it made the entire story stick out like a sore thumb. I think that this ties in with both my previous point (the story moves too quickly), and my next point:
I could not connect emotionally with the characters. Oh, I wanted to. The characters were exactly the sort of thing I love to see in fantasy. The problem for me was that I never had time to sit back and get to know them. The story moved from one action sequence to the next, all fast-paced peaks and no development valleys to cool off with after them. I couldn't suspend disbelief that these people were being thrown into violent and life-changing situations with so little feeling towards it. They just seemed to quirk a brow at it, accept, and then move on. I was expecting doubt, and giddiness, and misunderstanding, and mistakes being made, and then learning from said mistakes, or not learning at all. I was expecting these characters to react in a much more realistic way to everything happening to them. By the end of the book I felt very much as if I was emerging from a retelling of a fever dream that someone had. I skimmed along the surface of the characters, never really latching on to any of them, no matter how much I wanted to. These characters felt like just that: characters. They didn't feel like real people to me. They didn't react in ways I was expecting them to, but not with pleasant surprise at the unpredictable nature of, well, human nature. Urus arguably had the most development, seeing as we learn not only parts of his back-story, but also how dealing with deafness in his culture has been a struggle for him, and his eventual realization that he was simply not cut out for being a warrior like he thought he had always dreamed of. Apart from that, little changes. Many of the large decisions involving him were made for him, rather than by him. It's a bit strange to think that he did not go through enough internal struggle in my opinion, considering that he went through plenty...but it didn't feel like the right sort of struggle at times. A lot of it was personal, and that's good. That helps trigger development. But I feel that not enough of it stemmed from moral dilemmas presented. He never really sat down and thought about the things he was going through. Neither did Goodwyn, nor Cailix. The end result was that I was simply unable to learn and grow with these characters, despite my attempts to do so. Too many times, something would happen that nobody would really react to - the very sudden death of the duke being the worst case, in my opinion. Whether they come from a warrior nation or not, Urus and Goodwyn saw a man very suddenly and violently betrayed and bled to death in front of them. Even Corliss seemed very blase about the whole thing. There was no surprise whatsoever, no shock, and I had to backtrack to make sure I was reading the scene correctly, that I hadn't missed a paragraph somewhere. There was a huge lack of characters showing their emotions. How many times have you seen a person you know very well walking? How many times could you tell how they were feeling simply from that one action alone? Walking slowly with thoughtful movements - calmness. Quick strides, furrowed brow, clutching some item close to them - stress, the need to hurry, anxiety. Back straight, shoulders back, jaw stiff - anger, irritation. Shoulders slumped, eyes downcast, steady yet robotic steps - unhappiness, distress, bleakness. So much can be said about a person without words, and there was so little of that in The Fifth Vertex. Seeing the characters actually showing their emotions, and more than just smiling, would've done a lot of good for the book.
The magic systems themselves were interesting, but again, so many of them were thrown at the reader that it was hard to follow them. Most of them weren't complicated to follow, but some of the things that Murin spoke of were a complete 180 to this, mostly soaring straight over my head. It left me incredibly confused most of the time, until even the most understandable of the magics left me completely bewildered. Again, I strongly feel that this is because simply not enough time was devoted strictly to a little bit of explaining here and there. Murin states that Goodwyn and Urus are both a quiver and sigilord respectively - we get a little more insight on what a sigilord is, but absolutely nothing on what a quiver is, or why they can see ahead the way they do, or why they seemed to be either extremely rare or wiped out like the sigilords were. Not to mention, it's awfully convenient that Urus, the apparent last true sigilord, just so happens to be best friends with Goodwyn, a quiver...whatever that is, apart from rare. Murin becomes Urus' familiar - okay, but how? Why? A bond that formed between them when Urus entered Murin's mind was mentioned, but again, how and why? In this story, what is a familiar? I know that they're usually presented in the forms of animals, often intelligent and able to converse in some manner with their 'master', and they tend to accompany magical beings. But what are they in The Fifth Vertex? We get no explanation whatsoever, except that Murin's former student finds it very funny, for reasons we don't actually understand, making it neither informative nor amusing. I'm assuming that whatever blood mages and arbiters are get explained in the next book, but considering that Murin was apparently an arbiter and knowledgeable on blood mages, I would've thought that he would've taken even a few minutes to delve into what they are a little more than what he did say, which admittedly wasn't much, and confusing to boot. Far too many things are shoved at us and we're expected to either retain it for the next book or just 'get it' and keep going. I know that if I were one of the main characters in that sort of situation, I'd get incredibly frustrated and aggravated waiting for some insight as to what the hell was actually going on.
To end it off, I'd like to say a few things about the technical side of the writing. The first half of the book was quite impressive, and I found very few spelling/grammatical errors. In fact, I don't recall seeing a single one. In the second half, however, they cropped up quite frequently. While the first half of the book feels much more polished and ready-to-read, the second really fell behind and seemed as if it had only been skimmed rather than scrutinized.
In short, I liked the idea of this book. I could see what the author was going for, and I enjoyed that quite a bit. I personally felt that the execution fell quite flat, though. My final thought on The Fifth Vertex? Those seven weeks that were skipped when Urus, Goodwyn, and Murin magically left Kest and found themselves on that road? That time, injected back into the story, strictly with character development and rounding out the edges of the world-building in mind, would've solved a lot of the issues I personally had with the story.

To sum it up -

Pros:
- A diverse cast of characters
- Interesting premise and magic
- Very unusual, bold overall setting
- Nice mixture of magic with a lot steampunk/dieselpunk-esque elements
- Fast-paced. This is not strictly a pro with me, but I know that many people prefer a much quicker story. I do not.
- The author is a good writer, despite the more frequent errors in the second half of the book

Cons:
- Fast-paced. Way, way too fast. Again, I realize that some people would flat out disagree with me, but I wanted this book to be one I could really sink my teeth into.
- Not nearly enough time was devoted strictly to exposition and development, character-wise and world-wise. I know normally too much exposition can and will ruin a story, but quite the opposite in this case.
- Sadly, characters felt flat and disconnected. Lack of introspection, lack of showing emotion, lack of reacting in ways that would've made them feel much more real
- Story is bloated with too much magic 'stuff' being introduced, and then absolutely nothing being done about it - no explanation, no time to understand it a little better, no follow-up on certain things that made absolutely no sense
- The ending cut off so abruptly that I thought I'd broken my ereader somehow when it didn't turn to the next page. I literally had no forewarning that it was coming to a close, and in this case, I'm not sure that the cliffhanger ending added to the book. It left me feeling dazed, annoyed, and unable to process the story for some time afterwards.
- Run-of-the-mill errors that were missed in the proofreading stage, particularly in the last third of the story - not groundbreaking, but obvious
- Cailix. I know that she was supposed to be a good, interesting female character, but to me, she felt far more like a token. 'Strong' does not equate to 'hungry for power', though it can be part of true character strength. Despite her power, she spent half of her scenes captured and looking for ways to escape. Strong, yes, perhaps, but she doesn't seem to have obvious motivation/goals apart from killing Anderis

General Review

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Stieg Larsson

Did I enjoy this book? I'm considering going out and getting the sequels tomorrow. I suppose that's a yes. Did I think it was as good as the hype made it out to be? I'm idling over getting the next book from the library rather than new. No, I do not think it deserved the hype and praise.

 

My #1 issue is simply unavoidable. I have to bow my head a little and admit that it's possibly something to do with the translation to English, but reading the prose was like chewing over a dry, flavourless steak. There was so little oomph to it that it was like reading tax forms at times. It was bland, beige to an extreme. It had periods from time to time that felt more natural and less like someone typing out notes, but for the most part...no. I've never found myself sighing and actually wishing for writing to be more purple.

 

Some very sensitive topics are brought up in this book, most of which I'm not even remotely qualified to discuss in any manner. I was extremely wary of how often rape and other atrocities regularly committed against women cropped up; on one hand, I feel it's important for sensitive subject matters to be included in books, but on the huge condition that it's handled correctly. Not used for a fridge encounter, not being made light of, and having it pointed out as being wrong by other characters in the book so that there's really no way it can be interpreted differently. Rape and human eugenics definitely fall into that category, even if the latter didn't really play a major part in the book. It's not enough for the author themself to thing that something is wrong - it needs to be made crystal clear in the book as well. Again, this is something way out of my league, but I hesitantly say that he made the fact that violence against women is simply wrong pretty clear, if the original Swedish title (Men Who Hate Women) and Lisbeth are anything to go by. Trying to figure out how to address this appropriately was, frankly, exhausting and I'm not sure I could do it proper justice.

 

I had problems with the sex in the book. I realise that saying that makes me sound an awful prude. Honestly though, I just didn't see the point of it. Why bring in the relationship with Cecilia? Perhaps to make her seem more viable as a suspect when she decided to split after calling it off? I don't know. It seemed pointless and extremely irrelevant to me. I liked the dynamic of Blomkvist's relationship with Berger, though. It's not often that you see a character written with more than one partner (all parties involved aware), and the situation actually being okay, and healthy. Didn't like how the relationship with Lisbeth ended up turning. I would just like to see one male + female crime-busting duo that doesn't end up turning into bed wrestling. It's old and really needs to die. It's fine when it works, when it actually adds something to the story, but I'm really not all that sure what it brought to the story here. I really hope it doesn't continue into the following books, and their relationship remains on good terms, but not sexual ones.

 

Speaking of which - certain events, as well as the PoV swaps, didn't make much sense and didn't seem to need to be in the story. I can understand why the PoV swapped from Blomkvist to Lisbeth, and enjoyed that, but sometimes they swapped way too often - if it's more than once per page, you need to calm down author - and I honestly couldn't see the connection. I thought perhaps they swapped because events in one PoV correlated with events in the other, either adding some contrast or to give a bit of perspective to the other, but it...didn't make sense to me. I tried to ferret out what the connections were, and couldn't. It's something I would've preferred less of, to be honest.

 

Mikael Blomkvist was boring. I'm gonna just say it. Not once could I picture him in my head while reading. I'm sure he was described at the beginning of the story, when he was introduced (skimmed the first few pages of his intro, apparently not) and while I'm of the firm belief that a physical description isn't always necessary for character development, in this case, I think having him be more there would've helped a lot. He didn't seem to have much going for him, outside of work-related interests. He liked boating, I think? He has a weirdly precise - and awfully convenient - knowledge of cameras? He read sometimes? I just don't know. He didn't seem to have any obvious hobbies. Lisbeth was much richer and more interesting since we were afforded some glimpses of her personal life. Odd, considering how much of a private person she is and how unwilling she is to share personal details with outsiders. And yet Blomkvist, open and outgoing, we get to know extremely little about. He was too much of a blank template to really feel for, and I really had no interest in Mikael himself, only the case he was working on.

 

As for the main case involving Harriet Vanger, it was interesting. Locked room mysteries are always a blast when done well. While I don't think this one was perfect at all - it was a little stale and honestly not much seems to happen for the first 250+ pages - it was still intriguing and addictive following it, wondering how exactly breakthroughs would be made after the crime and case had been put to rest so many years before and after Henrik had seemingly scrutinised every last detail available, to no avail. I accidentally predicted who the bad guy actually was a few times, but brushed it off as too unlikely.

 

I'm not entirely sure what else to mention. The book was a good read, but I don't think it deserved the hype it garnered. Lisbeth was an interesting character, but again, I don't think she necessarily deserved the attention she got (she was without a doubt my favourite character though, even if I didn't agree with some of the things she did/said). Mikael Blomkvist was unexceptional, exceedingly boring and really only there as a portal into the investigation. I had a hard time believing some of the twists, sometimes they seemed just too out there or too unlikely to work over such a long period of time. Blomkvist's unerring ability to just so happen to be well educated in particular subjects just as it was needed in the investigation set my eyes rolling more than once.

 

I'll be checking out the sequels from the library rather than buying them this time.

Reading progress update: I've read 172 out of 542 pages.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Stieg Larsson

Some issues with the format so far, but otherwise intriguing. Was a little difficult to get into thanks to the financial jargon; took some time and focus to get the gist of what was going on.

On Writing

Reblogged from Derrolyn Anderson:

General Review

The Cuckoo's Calling - Robert Galbraith

I enjoyed this book. Crime novels, mysteries or thrillers of any sort don't tend to stay with me long after I've put the book down, and I feel Cuckoo's Calling will be no exception.

 

The characters were all relatively interesting. Cormoran and Robin were both endearing and easy to read and attach to, though I personally wanted to see a little more of Robin. It was clear she had more to her than just 'secretary who was keen on detective work', and while we definitely saw some major hints of who she was, she clearly wasn't meant to take the limelight despite her competence and ability to surprise Strike at what she could do. Strike himself was interesting - not your typical white, brown-haired, blue-eyed, slightly cocky average height & trim man, but a very imposing, slightly fat, squashed face man with half a leg missing. Intelligent, yet built like a boxer. It was a nice change of pace. He wasn't entirely without fault (sexist at times, disconnected at others), and that made him more irritable and enjoyable. The only perfect character is one that isn't close to perfect, after all...not saying he was perfect, though.

 

The plot wasn't anything entirely new or unusual, exactly the sort of story I'd expect from someone writing crime for the first time. I didn't predict the ending, but wasn't entirely surprised when it was revealed - nothing more than an 'Oh. Huh.' before carrying on. There were a few red herrings - I honestly thought Deeby Macc would have a larger part to play in the story, that he was involved somehow. Though, again, the reveal didn't feel explosive or shocking to me. Simply like it's what I should've expected, and with the information presented, I should've seen that it was the logical thing to expect beforehand.

 

While she's a decent writer, I felt there was a little too much information at times. Nothing so bad that it clogged the story or impeded the flow of it, but just enough to question why it was included in the first place. Lots of little bits of info - that Strike's phone was charging on the floor next to his camp bed, some excessive detail about ultimately unimportant things like clothing, or details on the clothing, etc. Honestly, I've seen much worse info-dumps, and it wasn't terrible in Cuckoo's Calling, but I do feel that it could've been streamlined better than it was.

 

The pace of the story seemed pretty good for the duration of the read, though I personally would've liked to see more of the information we were presented with at the reveal to be sprinkled throughout the book, for people to either pick up on or call back and have an 'ohhhhhh, I get it now' moment. Personally, I'm terrible at picking up information like that but would've loved to see more of it, rather than a rather large exposition section at the end. I feel it should've been more of a connect-the-dots experience, rather than having the protagonist piece everything together behind our backs, while we only really saw the grunt work put into getting the answers.

 

So, 3.5/5. It was good, it was fun, it wasn't fantastic or overly exceptional. I'm looking forward to reading The Silkworm when I get the chance to do so, but won't go out of my way to rush getting a copy. A good book for grabbing a few pages with a cuppa during breaks or while on the bus, but perhaps not the sort of book you curl up with in the evening for a few hours.

Fool's Assassin

Fool's Assassin - Robin Hobb Full review to come upon release. ♥

Robbing the Bees: A Biography of Honey--The Sweet Liquid Gold that Seduced the World

Robbing the Bees: A Biography of Honey--The Sweet Liquid Gold that Seduced the World - Holley Bishop Interesting, fact-filled book. Please note, this is not a guide to bee-keeping, simply a book sharing the history of bees and their important contribution to humanity. It reminded me quite a bit of The Secret Life of Trees, only in an easier to digest format.

Throne of Glass

Throne of Glass - Sarah J. Maas 3.5/5

Throne of glass is one of those curious books where I was looking forward to reading it, but again, was hesitant because of the generally high rating. The Da Vinci Code, Twilight and Hunger Games have all made me lose any faith in high-rating books, and I don't even bother with the reviews until after I've read them.

So yes. I thought I'd give Throne of Glass a go. I love reading new books from authors I haven't delved into yet, and this seemed pretty short, so no harm.

AKA the review that pretty much says nothing except 'Dorian is a jackass and I hope he dies horribly'.

Let me get the initials out of the way first. Celaena annoyed me, but not so much that I still couldn't enjoy her. Dorian made me want to punch him into the stomach until he was painting the walls with his damn lunch. Chaol was pretty neat. Nehemia was awesome.

Let me start going into a little more detail now...
This book didn't stand out enormously to me. I liked it, but didn't love it. I found it okay, but not fantastic. The characters were good, but not rich in my opinion. It was a good read, but nothing spectacular.

I found little to complain about with the writing. I don't recall seeing a single obvious error the editor should've caught (I have the ebook, rather than a physical copy), and the quality of the writing itself was, again, good but not great. It flowed very well and I didn't find myself getting stuck on it (though I was still getting snagged, more on that after) at all. On occasion the story seemed...odd. The tone of the writing felt like it changed from something clearly modern, to something that felt like it was going a little more prose-y. That wasn't working for me. It didn't seem to fit the story to me, but again, I didn't find myself getting too snagged on it, and that's really the most important technical aspect for me.

I did, however, found myself getting snagged on the chapters. They were just too short for my tastes, flew by too quickly for me to really sink into the book. There were entirely new chapters for something a mere scene break could've accomplished just fine, which was a little frustrating for me.

I was pretty happy with the frequency of PoV swaps though, they weren't too often, but just enough to help us get a little insight into each character involved. Though I still wanted to throw my poor Kobo across the room every time I had to read Dorian. Though, I will say I was a little surprised we didn't get one last Dorian PoV before the end of the book, after Celaena officially calls things off between them. He made such a song and dance about never letting anyone take her away from him (possessive asshole, jeez) and then she just easily says how she doesn't want things to continue between him. I would've liked to see a little of what he was thinking about that, but nope. Here's to hoping he doesn't show up in the next book at all. x_x

I should probably go into a little more detail on why I really disliked Dorian Havilliard so much (is that how you spell the surname...?). On how many occasions does Celaena refer to him as kind? And yet, on how many occasions does he show us that he's not – that he's a selfish, self-centred and slightly egotistical person without much compassion? Even Fleetfoot, the puppy whelped by one of his own dogs, doesn't bloody want to go near him. He couldn't care enough for a dog (“What's the death of a dog to me?”) to find the mutts his hound gave birth to new homes, even though after some pressure from Celaena he does reveal that it really wouldn't be that much trouble rehoming them. He pushes Celaena into talking about things that she really doesn't want to talk about, all to satisfy his own greed for knowledge about her even at the cost of forcing her to dredge up things she either isn't ready to deal with, or has put behind her. He's possessive of her, as I stated before; I'm not all that sure that what he claims to feel for her is love, when everything just points to obsession instead. He's used to getting his way with women, and for a little while he believes that Celaena is no exception, even though his feelings for her are definitely different from the 'feelings' he has towards the other women he'd been with. Overall, Dorian is a gigantic ass. I am pretty happy that Celaena never seemed to love him, despite enjoying his attentions. She had her fun with him, realised that what was between them could never work, and called it off before it became anything more. It was the right decision, and it showed that Celaena definitely has some self-control and self-respect.

Chaol, though. He was just an all-around decent guy, I thought. He never forgot that Celaena could kill him or any of the guards around them with little trouble, if she felt so inclined, but couldn't prevent himself from developing feelings for her. He knew her far better than Dorian ever did, training with her for the Tests and actually seeing the sort of nasty attitudes that she had to put up with from most of the other champions. He saw her always restraining herself when she didn't entirely need to, listening to him because she respected him (even when she still didn't like him), and always trying to better herself by the standard he was setting. He pushed at her, and made fun of her, and scolded her and didn't joke around as much as Dorian might have, but he actually paid attention to her. Chaol Westfall was a solid character, a good man and a person devoted to Celaena whether she knows it or not. He doesn't push his presence onto Celaena like Dorian had a fucking awful habit of doing, and respected both her and her space. I liked him, and really look forward to reading him in the next book.

Celaena...annoyed me. Not all the time, though. I neither loved nor hated her. To me, she was just a character for the story to ride along with, which isn't good. I enjoyed how snarky and outgoing she was, but did not enjoy how shallow she seemed to be at times, when it felt like the story was trying to make her into a deep and rich character. I wasn't getting that impression at all. On the other side of that coin, it made sense for her to be like that – she was an assassin, she had been trained from childhood to kill people for a living, and she was essentially a glorified criminal. It wasn't out of my expectations that she usually put herself first – like with her indecision about remaining in the castle to finish the challenge after she'd found the secret passage in her rooms. She could be free in the sense that she would no longer be competing to be the King's lapdog, that she would no longer be in the castle, but she would not be truly free, able to live where she pleased and say her name without fear of consequence or being recognised and put to death/going back to Endovier. She was different from a lot of characters in that sense for me, and she didn't have a lot of baseless nobility or heroic intent, if that makes sense. She felt like a person making decisions, not all of them being brave or self-sacrificing. That helped make her feel more real to me. I did have a problem with the fact that I couldn't see her showing a lot of faults. Celaena has a bit of a temper, patience issues sometimes, self-confidence to the point of arrogance, but I can't recall seeing much more than that. I don't count her enjoying 'vain' things like clothing and the attentions of men as faults at all – they're simply a part of who she is. She takes pride and joy in being attractive, and is outgoing enough to feel comfortable flaunting it when she feels like it.

I won't lie, I still don't quite understand the entire reasoning behind the challenge and why the King needed a Champion, even though throughout the book it became more clear that it was something that was being introduced in Throne of Glass, but not entirely settled until a later book. At first it just felt like a Hunger Games clone, except Victorian age, or something. The overall plot involving the Wyrdmarks and the deaths of the champions made it a lot more interesting to me, made me want to learn more about the world and the characters involved. It also made the book seem more layered, like there was more going on that we weren't seeing, and that was very pleasant. Some of the outcomes weren't entirely unpredictable, but I don't even try to predict things that happen anyway so it didn't bug me too much. At the end of the book, I'm still a little bit shaky on the entire Challenge plot, and why it needed to be there. I'm assuming the next book will clear up a lot of questions for me, though.

I will be getting the sequel when I can, and I'm going to enjoy reading it. I want to see where the plot ends up going, and where the characters end up going. Especially Nehemia.

...and, come on, but this needs to be said – if you're the world's greatest assassin and everyone knows who you are, how bloody good are you, really?

Days of Blood & Starlight

Days of Blood & Starlight - Laini Taylor Spoilery review *flailing squid arms*

Hoo boy. Where do I even start with this book? I'd read Daughter of Smoke and Bone some time before (about eight months ago, perhaps) and while I enjoyed it, some aspects of the book just really rubbed me the wrong way. Mainly, the romance, and how flat I found Akiva.

My general thoughts after reading this book: I cried a bit (very few books/shows/anything can claim that for me), I laughed out loud instead of just having an MSN-esque 'lol' show up in my head, my heart was set racing at certain points because that-can't-be-happening-it's-not-fair, omg-no-way-is-it-really-them, no-no-please-no-I-like-that-guy-please-nooo.

In my opinion, Days of Blood and Starlight is a huge improvement to the first book. It takes those characters and that wonderful, wonderful world that we were set up with in the first book, and moulds them like Play-Doh into something even better than I could've hoped.

I'm gonna start with Akiva, but he was one of my major grievances (and half of the other one, technically) in the first book. He improves in this one. I can't unfortunately say much more than that. I still find him pretty bland – he doesn't really seem to have all that richness to him, not that much to relate to or be interested in. He does an enormous amount of soul-searching and that made him a hell of a lot more interesting for me to read, though. His more introspective nature in this book helped me learn a lot about him as a person – even if I still couldn't relate to him, he was like trying to climb a glass wall while covered in grease – and helped me to understand him a lot better. He's devastated over what he did to the chimaera, and to Karou. He's not naive enough to think that maybe, somewhere deep within her heart, she'll find a kernel of forgiveness and they could still have their Happily Ever After. He isn't that stupid. Instead, he turns his attentions to trying to help the chimaera, the only thing he can do to atone for what he's set in motion. Akiva does what he can, pushing himself while still trying to remain hidden from his own people, despite his hopelessness that no matter what he can do, it'll never be enough. The only thing keeping him at it as that maybe, just maybe, his efforts will mean life instead of death or slavery for some people.

What was more interesting to me was how Hazael and Liraz slowly yet surely turned to his way of thinking. I loved that Liraz had her own POV every now and then, since of the three of them (and possibly of the entire series so far) she's the most closed-off and fierce character. Those little snippits behind her eyes tell us so much about her, her fears and desires that she tries to keep so intensely under wraps. We don't see from Hazael's eyes, which should've set off warning bells, but I think we already saw how much of who he was from everyone else's eyes that we already got a good bead on the kind of person he was. If that makes sense.

Speaking of POVs – were there this many in the first book? I don't remember. It was a little disconcerting at first, but not once did I feel confused about where I was standing. Each POV had a reason to be there and was addressing an issue or a subject that turned out to give us subtle exposition without needing to tell us too much. We simply see the problem or subject, we see how the character in question faces it regardless of whether they show up again or not, and we know a little bit more about the overall story because of it. It was a nice, non-Yoda-ish way to give us information sneakily, although the perspective changes might've been a little confusing or off-putting for some.

I loved Thiago. I am hopelessly defending myself from the waves of rotten fruit that will surely be descending on me any moment now, but hear me out. I fucking hated him – he was emotionally abusive, physically abusive, spiteful, arrogant, false...everything that could be bad about a person, and really driving home the fact that beauty has nothing to do with the skin you're wearing. He was one nasty piece of work, and the fact that he was now the Warlord in the losing side of the war did not sweeten him one little jot. It made him more conniving, more cunning, more sharp-edged. In the end, he really didn't care about the future about the chimaera – he had already given up his own people as a lost cause, and only cared about the wicked, bittersweet self-satisfaction of revenge and causing the enemy pain. Nothing else. I found myself shouting (mentally, of course) along with Karou that none of the fighting, none of the killing would stop until someone stopped first. Thiago, if he had cared anything at all about his own people and not himself, could've been the White Wolf with all of the positive implications that would bring, instead of the White Wolf, and all of those negative idiosyncracies he had brought upon himself in the name of glory. And I loved him for that. No matter how he cared for his people before – if he had at all, and I hazard a guess that he did – he's simply given up on all hope for the future. He cannot see anyway out except death, permanent death. So, why not take out as many angels as possible before then? Why not bite as hard as he could, sinking his teeth into their arms before being taken out back and shot? There was absolutely no way he could ever have brought the battle around in his favour, and yet he kept on biting. There was no way he hadn't known what that would've meant for him and his little band of rebels, but that didn't matter, because they were all dead anyway.

Even though they weren't. With Akiva and his siblings, as well as the Misbegotten in the end, working on the Eretz side of the portal, and Karou slowly turning a scraping handful of the rebels around to her way of thinking, surely they could have accomplished something, together. Akiva himself had already done what others had simply not been able to dream of – killing the emporer, his father. Of course, it opened the way for another, more cunning tyrant to take his place, but that is literally another story. (Come onnnn April)

I noticed something when I was reading DoBaS. Something, at the time, I thought might be important. I was picking up little foreshadowing clues being sprinkled throughout the story, and found my mind leaping forward. “I bet that thing's going to happen, there's a clue there, the most obvious reason is that that thing will happen,” I'd think to myself. The first one was the 'Karou' thurible found in the Kirin caves. Of course, Akiva finds it and nearly has a breakdown thinking that Karou is dead, but clearly she can't be. She's the main protag, she can't just die like that, especially off-screen. That's just unthinkable. So, obviously it was a thurible meant for her to find – and who more likely than Brimstone? We know he died, but we also know that death isn't such a simple matter for the chimaera, and that Brim is both a smart badass and literally the most knowledgable on the subject of resurrection. What if he'd somehow managed to set up thuribles before his shop was burned to the ground? What if her family was safe, trapped in stasis somewhere, but undeniably safe?

There were a couple of other examples of this, but I can't remember what they were. All I remember is being so delightfully surprised when all those little clues leading me to believe one thing turned out to be red herrings. Sort of. Every one of them took what I had thought would happen and twist it just a little, enough to make me see yes, that's entirely possible, that could happen, I expect this, but in reality, it was something only similar to that. Issa being in the thurible, and not Brimstone. Those other ones that I can't remember. It was brilliant. I'm not good at picking up on foreshadowing and even less good at predicting what will happen later in the book (I'll find out sooner or later, I'm reading the damn thing so I don't see the point, and rarely try) but I just couldn't resist nibbling at that bait, and turning out to be wrong – in a twisted, 180 degree axis, spinning-on-your-heel way – in the end. I loved it.

The characters were more rich. They went through a lot of really harsh issues that helped form them into the people we've come to love. Karou herself – always such a strong girl – is beaten and broken enough to relinquish some of that strength, and be disgusted with herself when she realises what's happening. Akiva is basically done with the seraphim's shit and decides to single-handedly try to make the world a better place, no matter how impossible that seems. Ziri was sort of a retcon (was he in the first one? I don't remember), but he was a sweetheart and his reasons for being there made sense. (I bet him and Liraz hook up in the next book. Money's on the table.) Zuzana shows that she's pretty much the best, most awesome goddamn friend ever. Even Mik was pretty cool, in the end. (A male love interest in a YA fantasy story that actually doesn't treat his girlfriend like shit and who sincerely loves – real love, not Twilight love – her to bits? What is this sorcery?!)

I really liked this book. I liked it a lot more than the first one, and I think it's better by leaps and bounds. Daughter of Smoke and Bone might have introduced me to the series, but I'm sticking around thanks to Days of Blood and Starlight.

Anyone else get tired of writing out those crazy long titles?

...also, that basket of fucking fruit. I don't remember the last time something made me laugh so hard I started crying.

Dragonsong

Dragonsong - Anne McCaffrey Classic fantasy by the Queen of Dragons herself. I read a number of these books when I was younger and unfortunately had to leave them all behind after moving to a different country, but somewhat thankfully I could remember absolutely nothing of what went on in them. Except that there were dragons, and I wanted to read them again in my adulthood.

The edition I read had quite a few errors, grammatical and spelling-wise, that got me stuck on the words a fair bit. Not to mention the dialogue can be a little confusing at times - you don't always know which character is speaking, or why they're saying what they're saying in response...it just doesn't seem to fit with the flow, as if a sentence or two was missing.

Thankfully, though, the book is pretty damn easy to follow, so in the end those ended up being minor - if annoying - issues. Definitely knocked it down from 4 to 3 stars, though.

Surprisingly little happens in Dragonsong. Menolly runs away from her Hold as she no longer feels welcome there, thanks to her family being deeply ashamed of her love for music - a boy's ability, in their traditions, and never a girl's. She sets her course for the area that she had previously seen a number of fire lizards (thought to be more myth than reality) and where she had sheltered in a small cave during a Threadfall. She does quite well on her own, and even Impresses on nine of the fire lizards upon their hatching. Eventually, she's found by a dragonrider as she's fleeing from another Threadfall which caught her off-guard, and she's taken to his Weyr. While she's there, giving her feet time to heal (after running them raw in an attempt to escape the Thread), she slowly begins coming out of her shell and allowing her incredibly musical nature to seep through. The restraints and even fear of beatings that had been put into place in her mind eventually lift when the Masterharper, attending the hatching of the queen dragon Ramoth's clutch, figures out that the harper from Menolly's original Hold had recommended her (without, of course, mentioning who she was or that she was female, as that would be improper in their Hold), and she
is swept off her feet to the Harperhall with her singing fire lizards in tow, destined to harp.

Thankfully the book is quite short. If it were any longer, the general lack of story content would be a little tedious. We do, however, get a good look at Menolly and who she is as a person. We feel her injustices along with her, feel her loss when her music is taken away from her, and her joy when she finally has a chance to take it back again, in a way she never dreamed possible. Menolly feels very much like the 15-year-old she is in the book, struggling with trying to fit in and to fulfil the roles that she thinks are expected of her. She's a likeable character, if a bit bland sometimes.

A hesitation I have with the story is the amount of people that were introduced. I will chuck out a disclaimer now saying that if they ever show up again in the later books then it would make perfect sense and wouldn't be a waste. If they don't, though, then a lot of the extra characters introduced felt like they weighed the story down. Most of them felt like they didn't need to be there at all, and the ones that should have been more prominent felt quite weak and almost separated from both the main character and the story.

Also, I'm not gonna lie, the thing with the fire lizards made me reeeally uncomfortable. I know it was explained a couple of times WHY they were useful to the people who wished to Impress upon them, but - and maybe it's just the animal nerd in me talking here - it felt kind of really wrong that they were just picking up clutches of wild eggs and plonking them into their Weyrs and Holds. I wasn't ever really sure what exact use they had, except to be cool and trendy pets. That...kind
of seemed to be it. I do know that it was apparently an extremely recent development, literally happening during the story itself, so I guess it would make sense to adopt clutches, and then to simply use captive-bred (is captive even the right word?) fire lizards later on for...whatever they're going to be using them for. I don't bloody know.

All in all, it's a good book. It's not incredibly fantastic, but I do have high hopes in the following books improving both technical-wise, and content-wise.

The Hobbit

The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien Definitely a classic. Still reads well despite its age as well, which is a major plus. The Hobbit is the kind of book you sit down to read when you want something easy to digest and yet satisfying. Granted, it took me ages to get through it, but well, I'm a very lazy reader.

I had read this when I was younger, and while I really enjoyed it, it didn't really stick with me as well as Harry Potter or A Series of Unfortunate Events did. Same with the Lord of the Rings. However, reading them as an adult, I felt like I appreciated and even enjoyed them a lot more than I did back then. I'm really looking forward to getting into LotR when my time permits and experiencing that again - I remember it being a whole different kettle of fish from the Hobbit.

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