Tag: Historical

BOOK REVIEW – The Game of King (The Lymond Chronicles #1) by Dorothy Dunnett

BOOK REVIEW – The Game of King (The Lymond Chronicles #1) by Dorothy DunnettThe Game of Kings (The Lymond Chronicles)
by Dorothy Dunnett
Purchase on: Amazon
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Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

The first book in the legendary Lymond Chronicles, Game of Kings takes place in 1547. Scotland has been humiliated by an English invasion and is threatened by machinations elsewhere beyond its borders, but it is still free. Paradoxically, her freedom may depend on a man who stands accused of treason: Francis Crawford of Lymond.

In order to clarify the situation with regard to said novel, let me first rehash what the two sides of the discussion have been saying :

Side ‘What the fuck is this’ : It’s obscure. Every time Lymond opens his mouth, I want to smack his face and make him eat his weird ancient references.

Side ‘This book is brilliant’ : Well if you were less lazy, now. That’s classics for you, lads. You have to work a little to discover the gem.

Me : *chokes*

Now let’s deconstruct something together, okay? No ‘classic’ needs to be obscure. Many aren’t.

That was fast, wasn’t it? What, not convinced? Alright.

What is the similarity between say, The Red and the Black, The Three Musketeers (by the way, I saw readers comparing The Game of Kings with this one and please, don’t even), Anna Karenina, Stello and Les Misérables?

They’re classics, but they’re utterly readable. One does not need a textbook to understand every fucking page, and you know what? It doesn’t mean they’re average because the ‘masses’ can understand them (I genuinely saw people referring to the ‘masses’ in reviews today : are you guys for real?), no. It means that their authors are master of storytelling, and do not feel the need to drown their readers in ludicrous and useless literary references to get their point across. Is it possible to go beyond their first-glance easiness and extract well-hidden references with the help of some sharp expertise? Hell yes, or my five years in Uni would have been useless, and I can’t have that. Yet first and foremost, they are stories, and the weight of references never becomes a burden the reader has to bear in order to unravel the layers and get to the fucking story.

Hence why I whole-heartedly disagree with any reader who would stamp his contempt upon me and from the great height of his pretension, dismiss me the right to call myself an intelligent reader because no, I have no intention to waste my time on Google when I should be reading, thank you very much. I realized I should stop trying when the ‘French jokes’ made me readjust what exactly people referred as ‘jokes’. Look, I am French. I understand French. I am not quite bad at Latin, and I can decipher Spanish sentences if they are written and aren’t too many. At no moment did it change a thing. It’s not the language I don’t understand, it’s the purpose I abhor. I do not care about so-called winks and I do not believe that needing a textbook to be understood reflects some kind of superiority. The Game of Kings reeks of pretension and everything I despise in Literary circles.

Even if I could ignore my annoyance and follow the story – which I could, it didn’t bode well for my love for the main character, Lymond. I am sorry. Any man who declaims obscure French quotes while fighting annihilates any interest I could have felt for him.The guy’s a Gary Stu of epic proportions – there’s literally nothing he cannot do – who loves nothing more than hearing himself talk, and I’m supposed to swoon? Ugh, nope. And given that he is the heart of the story, excuse me if I’m slowly disengaging from this mess.

Therefore, I shall leave you all on this : by all means, entertain yourselves, but do not come at me and at other readers for being ‘too lazy’ and ‘not clever enough’. Fuck this rhetoric, and ô please give this French proverb a thought : Un point fait à temps en épargne cent.

Dorothy Dunnett, for all her outstanding education, forgot that. I’m sure there is a splendid story hidden somewhere in the clusterfuck that is this book ; however, I do not think it’s worth wasting my time.

And for all the literary warriors out there : Ab imo pectore, fuck off.

BOOK REVIEW – Midnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn Anderson

BOOK REVIEW – Midnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn AndersonMidnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn Anderson
Purchase on: Amazon
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Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

Divided by time. Ignited by a spark.

Kansas, 2065. Adri has secured a slot as a Colonist—one of the lucky few handpicked to live on Mars. But weeks before launch, she discovers the journal of a girl who lived in her house over a hundred years ago, and is immediately drawn into the mystery surrounding her fate. While Adri knows she must focus on the mission ahead, she becomes captivated by a life that’s been lost in time…and how it might be inextricably tied to her own.

Oklahoma, 1934. Amidst the fear and uncertainty of the Dust Bowl, Catherine fantasizes about her family’s farmhand, and longs for the immortality promised by a professor at a traveling show called the Electric. But as her family’s situation becomes more dire—and the suffocating dust threatens her sister’s life—Catherine must find the courage to sacrifice everything she loves in order to save the one person she loves most.

England, 1919. In the recovery following the First World War, Lenore struggles with her grief for her brother, a fallen British soldier, and plans to sail to America in pursuit of a childhood friend. But even if she makes it that far, will her friend be the person she remembers, and the one who can bring her back to herself?

While their stories spans thousands of miles and multiple generations, Lenore, Catherine, and Adri’s fates are entwined.

4.5 stars rounded up, because genuine tears and laughs are the most precious things, aren’t they? Midnight at the Electric relates several stories entwined, stories about loss and courage and hope and choices. You jump straight into new characters’ lives and you just care instantly and isn’t it baffling? When I see that I can read an entire book without giving a damn whatsoever and that Jodi Lynn Anderson manages to create a connection between her characters and I in the span of 2 pages, I feel awed.


“The longer I live, ” she looked up at the ceiling, “the more I think our big mistakes are not about having bad intentions, but just not paying attention. Just bumbling along, a little self-absorbed.”

I want to label this book as slow and then I don’t, because I’ve noticed that people associate slow and quiet to long and boring and that just won’t do. At no moment did I feel anything but enthralled, yet that’s true that’s Midnight at the Electric isn’t an action-packed novel.

Action-packed, again an adjective that annoys me, because there’s nothing that frustrates me more than trying to explain how futile actions are when it comes to pacing. A novel can be filled with events and a chore to get through all the same. Another – and yes yes yes I’m talking about this beauty – can be one million times more compelling even if it mostly deals with relationships and all that we humans ever feel and dream or fear.

“Lily shrugged. “I think that’s what you say when you can’t have something you want, isn’t it? You say you don’t want it in the first place.”

Above everything, Midnight at the Electric explores the strings that hold ourselves back. Does leaving is breaking them or is that another thing entirely? This question has been at the heart of my early years as an adult, and at 32 now, the only thing I can say is that I’ve found my answer, but that I genuinely believe that there’s no such thing as an universal one. Go and find yours.

Jodi Lynn Anderson‘s writing is stunning in all the ways that count for me, emotional without forcing and filled with these thoughtful moments that ring so true, as Leonore’s definition of grief :

“Sadness is only something that’s part of you. Grief becomes you; it wraps you up and changes you and makes everything – every little thing – different than it was before.”

The quote above is why I’ll always come back to her books, even if the subjects don’t appeal to me at first glance : because I know that in the end, her stories are so full of life that they’ll always contain little parts of me, they’ll always perfectly capture that feeling of possibility, and isn’t that the most magical side of life? I guess they just inspire me, and I can’t say that’s true for many books. I can’t recommend them enough.

BOOK REVIEW – The Shadow of the Wind (The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, #1) by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

BOOK REVIEW – The Shadow of the Wind (The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, #1) by Carlos Ruiz ZafónThe Shadow of the Wind (The Cemetery of Forgotten Books #1)
by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
Book Depository
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

Barcelona, 1945: A city slowly heals in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, and Daniel, an antiquarian book dealer’s son who mourns the loss of his mother, finds solace in a mysterious book entitled The Shadow of the Wind, by one Julián Carax. But when he sets out to find the author’s other works, he makes a shocking discovery: someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book Carax has written. In fact, Daniel may have the last of Carax’s books in existence. Soon Daniel’s seemingly innocent quest opens a door into one of Barcelona’s darkest secrets--an epic story of murder, madness, and doomed love.

2/2.5 stars. Look, it’s not my thing to mince my words, so I’ll give you my opinion and ultimately, you’ll decide what to make of it anyway : as far as I’m concerned, The Shadow of the Wind is overrated and, to say the truth, a bit of a smokescreen. Despite its obvious qualities, I have to admit that I’m a little baffled of its status given that all the flaws, if found in some random YA book, would be called out without any doubt.

Caricatures as characters, from Daniel the Romantic whose constant whining reminded me of some 18th Century hero (someone saves me from François-René de Chateaubriand, please), to the twisting-moustache villain whose mother, you guessed right, was a crazy bitch (mwahahahaha). As for the women (OMG, the WOMEN), they’re either sexual creatures (often vile and manipulative, because of course *roll eyes*) or solely conceived for the Great Goal of Bearing children (or assuming their care). It’s pretty simple, actually : the good girls are those who get pregnant or are desperate for it, and all women are portrayed through their looks. All of these characters were flat and forgettable in my book.

Blatant sexism pouring through every page, and before you mention it, I KNOW, the society in 1945/1950 wasn’t kind on women. I do know that, yet I don’t believe that the portrayal of sexist behavior had to be so IN YOUR FACE. In the past I’ve read historical novels that let me furious about the way women were treated and categorized into little boxes (mother, virgin, whore, if you’re asking) but in The Shadow of the Wind I never felt that the issue was handled or acknowledged, or barely. It was just THERE. All the time, and I’m not sure how I’m supposed to care about characters – Fermin and Daniel, for example – who constantly objectify women, when they’re not busy expressing stereotypes like, “women can’t do Maths”, or, “women who let you touch them the first time are whores”, etc, etc. I read the French translation, so I’m not going to write down the quotes, but they are EVERYWHERE. I felt like drowning.

The instalove, anyone? Far from me the intent of spoiling the story to you, so I’ll just say this : there are three couples in this story, and the THREE OF THEM suffer from major instalove (the kind where people see each other once, talk twice, and share iloveyous). What the hell?! Again, if this book was called The Storm and The Thorns, and some generic YA bullshit, it would have annoyed me, because I cannot feel invested in a romance if there’s neither growth nor depth. Why in the world should I feel differently this time? I do not. Honestly? I couldn’t care less.

The resolution of the intrigue did not satisfy me, because I found the way it was revealed rather lazy. Sure, I did not expect it, but after having remained in the dark during 80% of the book, I was a little disappointed by the avalanche of information that was thrown in my face, in a info-dumping fashion. Even with the interesting (view spoiler), it felt like such a cop-out.

The atmosphere is darkly enticing, captivating, even, and for me the real MC is Barcelona. Indeed I couldn’t look away from the fascinating picture Carlos Ruiz Zafón created, from the vivid slices of life put into black and white letters. I wish the descriptions of Paris would have reached this level of brilliance, but I didn’t really mind. Albeit the difficult times described, reading The Shadow of the Wind made me want to come back there, and I probably will very soon.

The writing, if not free of some cheesy figures of speech – but it could be the translation – is addictive and compelling. From the first page I was hooked, and my interest didn’t falter before reaching the second half (but I already explained why).

► All in all, The Shadow of the Wind was a disappointment for me. Perhaps my expectations were too high, but in the end, the story didn’t convince me, and even the message – no matter how great it was, or wanted to be – felt a bit superficial because spoiled by the lack of depth of the characters.

*shrugs*

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