Beyond Strange New Words

“Words – so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them.” – Nathaniel Hawthorne

Reflected in You

Reflected in You  - Sylvia Day I certainly didn't see those two twists coming (I thought it would be something else), but they were well set up, in hindsight. I was a little annoyed of the back-and-forth and glitches in communication at about 3/4 in, but it made sense for the characterisation, and especially in the light of what turned out to have happened. And the ending was more that enough for this series to hold my attention for another instalment.

Bared to You

Bared to You  - Sylvia Day Very good. I loved how quickly all the miscommunication issues got dealt with, hooray for communication.

I also loved that Eva knows how to stand her ground, good for her.

Gideon remains a bit of a mystery - well, they both do and there are still plenty of things to tell in their story, but that's why we have four more instalments and I am looking forward to reading the rest of this series.

Animal Farm

Animal Farm - George Orwell As I understand it, the entire story of Animal Farm is one giant cynical metaphor for a failed communist utopia (because a communist utopia is a fail all of itself). It includes all the most representative tropes from mindless masses (animals) and propaganda (Squealer) to class enemies (upper class/management/capital owners), both outside (humans) and inside (Snowball and other ‘traitors’) ones, and everything in between.

In addition, its allusions to the strife between the West and the East, reminiscent of the Cold War that was yet to begin at the time of writing and publishing the book as well as the story’s cycle from capitalism to communism and back (as it happened in the 1990s) are also quite visionary.

As such, Animal Farm is a very clever work of fiction.

However, coming from one of those ex-communist countries, I also feel more than a little offended by its cynical satire that mocks the silly, blind working-class people, comparing them to animals.

The insult is somewhat softened only by the fact that the story also shows that neither the capitalist masters nor the new ‘people’s’ leaders have actual working people’s best interest in mind but only their own and would therefore ally themselves with each other despite whatever contrary principles (that can always be twisted to suit them) they otherwise preach to the people ‘below’ them.

Next, the final outcome of the story implies that the working masses are incapable (too stupid and meek) of the self-managing they long for; since they are only capable of (blind) loyalty and obedience, they should clearly submit to the will of their betters (of which the better ones are the capitalists, of course).

In that point, Animal Farm also serves as a warning/anti-communist propaganda, which makes sense, given the time of its conception: there is no hope in defeating capitalism, no recourse for lower and working classes to free themselves of governance and better their positions/lives; quite the contrary, they should be grateful for their lot in the capitalist world.

Personally, I think both capitalism and communism are failed systems and we need to find an alternate viable option that would allow people both individual expressions of their aspirations as well as offer protections to the underprivileged and limit their exploitation by the privileged (what social state is supposed to be if it wasn’t all too often hijacked/strong-armed by capitalism.)

But, I strongly resent the Western media’s portrayal of people from (ex)communist countries that reduces them to half-starved idiots decades and more behind times, which isn’t true and has, majorly, never been, not to mention that the so-called ‘Eastern Bloc’ has never been a uniform, one-dimensional entity and there have been vast differences between, for example, USSR and Yugoslavia.

Hence, I have mixed feelings about Animal Farm; I could give it either 4-5 or 1 stars, so I’m giving it sort of median 3. Still, it is a highly thought-provoking story that is quick and easy to read (and also fun at times if it doesn’t make you mad) and as such I’d recommend it as well-worth to read.

Fugitive Pieces

Fugitive Pieces - Anne Michaels A haunting, poignant tale of the Holocaust and its aftermath in the lives of generations as perceived by survivors and their descendants as well as the people around them.

The topic itself and the way Michaels handles it deserve five stars. However, the entanglement of people's life stories, intertwined with philosophical and academic musings and wrapped in 'artistic' language, demands at least another reading to properly grasp all the nuances.

Despite the author being a woman, another aspect that requires a reread is the treatment of women in the book: worshipped, almost sanctified, they are also slighted and cheated on, and the male narrators feel to me mostly disconnected from them, thus making women sort of a shadowy presence. Or maybe that is just how it felt to me.

All in all, Fugitive Pieces is a fascinating, complex read that has to be taken in small doses that provide plenty food for thought, most likely through multiple rereads.

YIELD: Emily & Damon

YIELD: Emily & Damon - Lilia Moon Short, sweet, and hot. And despite the shortness, I was pleasantly surprised with well-developed romance, that didn't feel rushed at all.

The Virgin

The Virgin - Tiffany Reisz Seeing that hardest year of Nora's life was as much as necessary for the readers to fully understand the story of these characters as it was for Nora, Soren, and Kingsley needed to finally talk about it. And once again, it warmed my heart to see, how far they've come through all the pain and heartbreak, making something absolutely wonderful out of it - and how everything was necessary to lead them to where they are at the present - and from the present events to Kingsley meeting Juliette and Nora discovering the missing pieces of herself, it was another great instalment!

The King

The King - Tiffany Reisz 4.5? I mean, if it wasn't for that let's-pick-a-random-middle/eastern-European-where-bad-things-happen-to-good-western-people thing (seriously, this part of the world is not just one giant lawless mob nest!)

However, by the end of the book I almost forgot about that fail, because it was so good otherwise. We got to learn more of Kinglsey's and Soren's story after they reconnected (Gosh, these two!) and the beginning of Kingley's empire as well as found out more about Sam and Kingsley's friendship with her, all of which was so good and finally cemented my liking of Kingsely (it was a bit of a long, winding road, but I love him now.)

I loved this concept of storytelling as the major part of the novel is a story Kingsley tells Grace - and that's yet another dynamic/friendship I got to love in this story. And seeing everyone so happy and accepting of each other and the 'situation' always makes me so happy.

And then, of course, to no surprise at all, Kingsley (whose destination I guessed) knows about 'that thing' and seems quite all right with it. What an ending! So, on to the next book it is!

The Saint (The Original Sinners: White Years #1)

The Saint (The Original Sinners: White Years #1) - Tiffany Reisz Admittedly, I 'spoiled' myself by looking at the questions and then I had to skip to the ending to check that the said 'spoiler' wasn't true (although I can see how Reisz was being evil (kidding :P) and wrote it so that we would've thought it was so to the very end), because that would be just too sad for me to read, at least at this time, but all was good and more than that - great.

So I guess this instalment at last deserves full 5 (or mayve 4.5?), because it definitely surpassed the first part of the series, despite depicting the past events, most of which if not all have been previously mentioned.

I love the style of this series and how Reisz keeps adding layers upon layers to the existing picture that still never gets boring or repetitive; on the contrary, it always feels fresh and new, as she brings the (albeit previously mentioned) details to the forefront or clarifies them from different viewpoints.

Thus, we had already got to know all the major points of this story before, but if what we had seen before had been a pencil drawing, this was a watercolour painting in vivid, astounding details and if I hadn't loved Nora and Soren before, I certainly would now - and so I do now even more.

I especially loved the confirmation that what happened towards the end of Book 4 was indeed a blessing for everyone involved and made them all happy. I just love how despite a 'controversial' main pair and the (sub)genre, this series is most of all about so much love all around and everyone looking after each other and each other's happiness while letting each other stay true to themselves.

As a newly introduced character, Nico seems an interesting character, too, and I'm looking forward to seeing more of him, as well as more of Nora and others' past and present in the following instalments. What have I gotten myself into starting this series? But I'm not complaining and definitely not regretting it.

An Ideal Husband

An Ideal Husband - Oscar Wilde An excellent socially critical satire, although a little silly at times. It falls flat in the end, however, due to the requirements of the genre and the time in which it was written. (Of course, it all ends well and comes full circle back to the initial status as if none of the drama in between happened - in particularly Lady Chiltern's discovery of her husband's past that makes her feel like she has never know him, but in the end she simply forgets about it and everything is fine. Meh.)

On the other hand, men's flaws of character still tend to be dismissed as simple youthful mistakes and bear little to no consequences nowadays - and that is only beginning to change - while they are being lauded and rewarded for their 'achievements', which makes An Ideal Husband pretty current.

Add a pinch of pure good old fashioned sexism and misogyny that doesn't even sound satirical (although it might be satirical just because it doesn't? I am not sure; I might have to reread it some day) towards the end.

Yes, An Indeal Husband truly managed to remind me of my disillusionment with the world, despite the fact that the ending was, I believe, supposed to leave the viewer/reader content.

The Mistress

The Mistress  - Tiffany Reisz Definitely the most intense part of the series! Firstly, for Nora's predicament with actually life-threatening implications. And, consequently, for all the people it brought together to mount her rescue and all the different dynamics we got to see between them.

I loved seeing all these different people playing off one another, even the villains, but my favourite were Wesley (I finally warmed up to him!) and Laila and Soren and Grace.

I kind of suspected that what we learned at the end might/could happen, so it was more a pleasant confirmation than a surprise to me. As this is an unusual story about unusual loves (yes, in plural), I found myself being perfectly okay with it - more than that, it made me so happy for everyone, because I think it will make all the involved characters happy as well.

Talking about the unusual, the writing of this series is very unique, intertwining varied amounts of present and past and different characters' POVs, but it certainly fits the story.

All in all, I came to this series for erotica but it has surprised me by turning out so much more than that and quite different from what I had expected. Ultimately, it is a story about love, albeit one far from conventional, but absolutely beautiful, and it's leaving me with warm and fuzzy feelings. I'll definitely continue to the pre/sequels, probably sooner rather than later.

The Siren

The Siren  - Tiffany Reisz I think I may have found another favourite series? And I have a feeling I need to save 5 stars for an instalment down the line, so 4 for this one.

This is certainly not your ordinary romance - or romance at all - nor typical erotica, as Reisz faithfully follows her own editor character's advice on using sex scenes sparsely while having them advance both the plot and character development, but still adding just the right amount of spice to the mix.

I wouldn't even call The Siren a love story; I think it's best described as the beginning (and the middle, and perhaps even the end) of several love stories, setting off what I think will be a turbulent, character-driven (just as I like) series, if judging by the beginning. And I am looking forward to all of it.

Now, of course, the Catholic part of me is ever-so-slightly cringing, but I figure if I'm going to hell for my choice of fiction/reading material, that train left the station long ago (The Thorn Birds, anyone? Among other things, I mean.), so I may just as well carry on.

All in all, The Siren was a suspenseful series beginning that definitely hooked me, but one of my favourite things about it was that it made me want to write and that is what may be best I do next (and then proceed onto the next instalment.)

Angels' Flight (Guild Hunter, #0.4, 0.5, 0.6, 3.5)

Angels' Flight (Guild Hunter, #0.4, 0.5, 0.6, 3.5) - Nalini Singh 3.5 stars for Angel's Pawn aka Ashiwini and Janvier's 'adventure' in Atlanta, with a ‘bit’ of flirting. ;) Loved it.

Also 3.5 for Angels’ Judgement, which I think would have been more enjoyable had I read it before the novels, but it was still interesting to see how Sara became the Guild Director and how Deacon and she got together since mentions of them are all over the series.

Solid 4 stars for Angel’s Wolf. I was really looking forward to Noel’s story and it didn’t disappoint. Also, many thanks to Nalini Singh for making me cry for a totally unexpected reason. Yep, I can read people being slaughtered and not bat an eye but have a kitty die and I cry a river.

And finally 4-4.5 stars for Angel’s Dance, which I didn’t expect to like so much and I’m not sure if I’d like it as much had I read it as the first in the series as intended. Jessamy and Galen’s story was amazing. I loved learning both more about them, together and individually. In particularly Galen, since he is such an integral part of Raphael’s people. And then, of course, it was great seeing the early era of Raphael consolidating his archangelic status and territory with all the other ‘little’ matters like Alexander’s Sleep and Illium’s affair, not to mention young Aodhan.

All in all, these four novellas fabulously complemented the novels.

The V Girl

The V Girl - Mya Robarts Maybe 3.5? The book is what it says: a coming-of-age story and as such it is perfectly fine. I missed a bit more background and historical world-building information and a certain issue was a little too conveniently hand-waved in favour of a nice ending.

Also, I couldn't quite take Aleksey completely seriously, since the way he was described made me imagine him as, um:



As for Lila, she was a great teen heroine who's maturing and learning about herself. The issues she faced were dealt with both authentically and realistically, considering her point of view. However, I would also want to see other people's take, because I find it hard to believe that everyone else was either resigned to how things were, or sticking their heads in the sand, or simply evil.

All in all, as the story of Lila's fight for body integrity and her growing-up and finding love, The V Girl is not only solid, but compelling, but I would have liked to learn more about the world of the story and its people. Hence, I would definitely return to anything more set in this sort of world by this author.

Debt Inheritance

Debt Inheritance - Pepper Winters Okay, the concept took a bit of a twist or two at the end that made it make more sense, but I maintain that the protagonist's predicament could have been avoided had people been less selfish (i.e. informing the next generation so they could prevent another generation from happening: ending the lineage by having no more children = no more women left to pay off the debt/end of story and suffering. FFS.)

See, that's why I find it so hard to find a good story of the type, because I think too hard for something that's meant to be a mindless read. Except that for a mindless read there is a considerable (i.e. total) lack of sex, so it doesn't even have that to make up for the lack of a tight plot/concept.

Nevertheless, it's still better than whatever I'd tried of the sub-genre before, and the characterisation and the dynamics between Jethro an Nila are starting to show some promise, so I'm giving the series further chance to convince me (as I'm writing this three chapters into the second instalment.)

An Introduction to Pleasure

An Introduction to Pleasure - Jess Michaels Good ol' historical romance at its best with only the bearable cliches. ;) Also, I liked that the genre-typical differences and misunderstandings didn't drag through the book but got resolved pretty fast, hence, bearable cliches.

Call Me by Your Name

Call Me by Your Name - André Aciman This was such a beautiful, bitter-sweet love story, delightfully poignant in places. Exquisitely written while both playing into and sometimes subverting some Italian stereotypes. Definitely a re-reading kind of material.

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