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

""Teenage girls want guys to be attracted to them, but no one's taught them how to deal with the emotions that come with that stuff.""
The Tenth Circle - Jodi Picoult

- Jodi Picoult, The Tenth Circle, p. 111

The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult

The Tenth Circle - Jodi Picoult

In The Tenth Circle, Jodi Picoult deals with another universally topical issue - rape, focusing the story around 14-year-old Trixie Stone, whom her ex-boyfriend rapes at a party, and the Stones' struggle with the aftermath of it. 

 

Now, the book starts a little on the slow side, which prompted me to do what I do very rarely: I skipped a few chapters and read a little ahead, and what I read made me so angry I almost didn't finish the book. SPOILER ahead. 

 

At some point it seems as if Trixie lied about being raped and it made me furious that Picoult would perpetuate such an awful stereotype: that women lie about it out of spite or vengeance of shame of whatever, because this is the very thing why rape survivors are afraid of coming forward and reporting it and why, even when they do, so few rapist are actually convicted and/or spend time in jail.

(show spoiler)

END of SPOILER.

 

However, I refused to believe Picoult would go for such a low move, so I went back and read the whole thing and I am glad I did, for The Tenth Circle offers a great insight into working of rape culture we live with, where rape survivors' every word and action get questioned while the perpetrators are protected by the innocent-until-proved-guilty principle. 

 

In Trixie's case, the matter of consent is especially glaring, since she was raped while intoxicated and drugged, and it speaks volumes about male entitlement that her rapist and the majority of people who witnessed her behaviour prior to rape, never realise that impaired judgement means inability to give consent. Disgustingly, they argue just the opposite: that due to her impaired judgement she was unable to refuse consent. And that sort of attitude is very much prevalent in the world, which is truly horrifying.

 

Along Trixie's struggle with what happened, we also follow her father, a comic book artist, who is making every effort to help and protect her, while plagued by the memories of his origins, both beautifully interwoven with the making of his newest project, and her mother, a university professor, facing the repercussions of her infidelity and revealing the caused that led to it, mixed with her reflections upon Dante's Inferno.

 

Thus, The Tenth Circle tells a compelling and emotional story that gives the reader plenty of food for thought.

The Battle of the Queens (Plantagenet Saga, #5) by Jean Plaidy

The Battle of the Queens - Jean Plaidy

In The Battle of the Queens Plaidy offers yet another great insight into the turning of the wheels of that era, the eternal struggle between England and France, with the Church as an ever-present puppet master.

 

The two protagonists in the title, whom the book centres on, are Isabella, mother of Henry III of England, and Blanche, mother of Luis IX of France. The two women who despised each other, couldn't be more different: Isabella hot-tempered, promiscuous, self-centred and Blanche pious, level-headed, thoughtful of others. 

 

Alongside the lives of the great historical personages, Plaidy includes those of seemingly lesser importance, who had nonetheless a great impact on history, or even those who had none, but give her story colour and beat, from the siblings of Henry III to nursemaids. And at that she doesn't forget Eleanor of Aquitaine in the last years of her life, who remained a powerful historical player till her very end.

 

Thus, the one thing that always frustrates me in historical fiction, women being looked upon as nothing more than political bargaining chips, is upturned on its head in Plaidy's books. For, despite being reduced to objects for political games of men, women were most often the ones who actively decided the fate of nations and affected the world history at large. 

 

Isabella and Blanche were definitely one of those proverbial women behind successful men, the women who made their names, or – in Isabella's case – sometimes ruined them.

 

Eternally Dark by John Amory, Jenna Jones, TA Moore, BA Tortuga

Eternally Dark - B.A. Tortuga, Jenna  Jones, John Amory, TA Moore

Blind Eye of the Sun’ by TA Moore  

 

With well-built and intriguing characters, ‘Blind Eye of The Sun’ was my favourite of the four short stories in the anthology.

 

In few words, TA Moore manages to build a rich, albeit gritty world, depicting technological and medical advancements as well as setbacks, such as artificially grown food, and many more interesting details.

 

The characters, even minor ones, are fleshed out with unique traits and hints of backstories. I loved the protagonists – Shea, a hardened soldier, a resourceful, smart man, with an ability to bring people together, and Anatoly, the blind vampire, a noble monster with a code of honour – and the way they function together.

 

The semi-open ending fits the overall feel of the story and brings some sort of a closure while leaving the future unknown, but with a hopeful undertone.

 

Finally, the only shortcoming – which isn’t a shortcoming at all – I found was that I could read a lot more of this story, its world, and characters.

 

‘Aubade’ by Jenna Jones and ‘Spearmint Warning’ by John Amory 

 

Since the two short stories are pretty similar, I decided to combine the reviews into one.

Firstly, both so-called relationships are rushed (so-called because what they are really just hook-ups, although the authors call it ‘love’).

 

And secondly, the human characters are somewhat bland, since we don’t learn much about them. In addition, despite being given the vampires’ backstories, those are pretty much clichéd (for one thing, both vampires have possessive jealous makers) and didn’t make me invested in the characters, either.

 

All in all, ‘Aubade’ and ‘Spearmint Warning’ are readable stories to pass the time, but nothing more.

 

‘Those Who Cannot See’ by BA Tortuga

 

The last short story of the four is perhaps the most sensual one. A telepathic connection between the main protagonists makes the sensuality and the strong emotional bond that forms between them rather quickly actually plausible.

 

I liked the well-established western setting. The plot is well-rounded and the characters outlined well enough to provoke a reaction, whether positive or negative. Thus, the main protagonists, Edmund and Blaze are quite likeable, as well as two minor characters: Running Water, a Native American tracker, and Lwazi, Edmund’s African American butler.

 

Overall, ‘Those Who Cannot See’ makes up a good short story.

 

RECOMMENDATION: Whereas the last three short stories are good enough, Eternally Darkanthology is worth picking up for ‘Blind Eye of the Sun’ alone as it is an exceptionally well-written and fascinating short story.

Vanishing Acts by Jodi Picoult

Vanishing Acts - Jodi Picoult

As always, it is hardest to review the books one likes, and since it has been a while since I read this, I will do this the short way.

 

Things I liked about Vanishing Acts:

  • all five POVs – the combination worked perfectly together and made an amazing story;
  • the insight into prison system/life, however harsh it was – it felt much more realistic than in most books;
  • the parallels between Delia and her daughter Sophie and between Delia’s family and Sophie’s;
  • the subplots fit in very well;
  • and, finally, this is how you do love ‘triangles’, subtly in the background.
  • I cannot think of anything I didn’t like about this book.

 

All in all, Vanishing Acts was an absolutely heartfelt story not only about the kidnapping as its main focus, but also many other present everyday issues everyone could or might be facing already.

 

RECOMMENDATION: Jodi Picoult’s books are excellent for those interested in a thought-provoking material about contemporary issues and Vanishing Acts is no exception.

 

This review was originally published on my book blog.

Reblogged from Parajunkee:
Book Blogging Checklist InfoGraphic
Book Blogging Checklist InfoGraphic

Infographic by parajunkee.com

Grave Surprise, An Ice Cold Grave, and Grave Secret (Harper Connelly #2–4) by Charlaine Harris

Grave Surprise  - Charlaine Harris An Ice Cold Grave - Charlaine Harris Grave Secret  - Charlaine Harris

It has been a long time since I finished the series, and I forgot many details, so I decided to simply review the final three books together. Besides, I would be only repeating the same things if I reviewed each book on its own.

 

What I enjoyed the most about this series were definitely Harper’s cases. From the strangely reappeared body of Tabitha Morgenstern in Grave Surprise, the serial killer in An Ice Cold Grave(which was both the creepiest and the one that made me empathise with Harper’s predicaments the most), and finally to the mystery surrounding the disappearance of Harper’s sister Cameron in Grave Secret, they were full of suspense and their outcomes were unpredictable to the very end.

 

I liked Harper well enough throughout the series. However, I didn’t much care about Tolliver, who always seemed just as her extension. Even the language used suggests that, since Harper, the first person POV narrator, uses a lot of plural, not only with regard to actions (which makes sense, as they do most things together) but also when describing their emotions and even thoughts, thus “they” like this or that, “they” feel, etc.

 

Their relationship taking a not really unexpected turn does not do any favours to Tolliver’s character, as he remains uninteresting and personality lacking. If anything, he becomes annoying as he pouts because people only see him as Harper’s sidekick, which hurts his manly feelings.

 

Nevertheless, I liked the entire series. The books were fast and entertaining reads, and the stories were captivating so much so that I often couldn’t put the book down because I had to know what happened next.

 

RECOMMENDATION: If you like crime and mystery with a bit of a supernatural element, this series might be great for you.

 

This review was originally published on my book blog.

"I like the word 'evil'. Scramble it a little and you will get 'vile' and 'live'. 'Good', on the other hand, is just a command to 'go do'. "
The Tenth Circle - Jodi Picoult

Laura, The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult, p 23

Hey guys, do you know what kind of reader are you?

Reblogged from BookLikes:

Book lovers have different personalities just like ordinary people. We find it hard to choose only one as it also depends on the book(s) we're reading. For the most of the time we'll go for a mix of Polygamist+Extrovert+Altruist. Some books, however, make us monogamist introverts. And a very very tiny percentage of titles change us into neurotic readers. 

 

How about you? Share your personalities in the comment section below. 

How about I'm a mix of all of them, except the neurotic reader. ;)

Reblogged from Angels With Attitude Book Reviews:

The Prince of Darkness (Plantagenet Saga #4) by Jean Plaidy

Prince of Darkness (Plantagenet Saga) - Jean Plaidy

I assume everyone has in one way or another heard about King John of England, whose life this book focuses on. His story is what one would expect: full of debauchery, murder, and tyranny… So, one can’t actually like him, I think, though he is an intriguing character.

 

However, I liked Isabella. Though she is self-centred and likes to enjoy things life has to offer, she doesn’t want people to suffer (that is, if their comfort doesn’t cause her discomfort) and, even more, she empathises with their suffering. She is clever and thinks for herself and even manages to trick John into doing things her way a few times.

 

The writing is as usually unsophisticated and at times a bit dry, simply recounting historical events, especially when dealing with with the eternal struggles between the State and the Church and England and France.

 

Nevertheless, The Prince of Darkness, a story of one of the most notorious kings of England, gives us a glimpse into the mentality behind his atrocious behaviour and at the larger context of his era and is as such an interesting read.

 

RECOMMENDATION: The Prince of Darkness is an easy and fast read, fictionalised just enough as to not be tedious, but still largely true to historical facts, and I would definitely recommend it to history lovers.

 

This review was originally published on my book blog.

"We wander, lost, and you cannot even see the silver on our chests anymore, because all the human world is the Country of Death, and in thrall, and finally, after all this time, we are just like everyone else. We are all dead. All equal. Broken and aimless and believing we are alive. This is Russia and it is 1952. What else would you call hell?"
Deathless - Catherynne M. Valente

Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente, p. 343

"And morality is more dependent on the state of one's stomach than on one's nation. "
Deathless - Catherynne M. Valente

Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente, p. 65

"I have to know, I have to or else you will just rule me until the end of everything because you know and I do not. "
Deathless - Catherynne M. Valente

Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente, p. 63

Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente

Deathless - Catherynne M. Valente

Deathless is quite a depressing book, in a way, but nonetheless a fantastic read.

 

The story is mainly set in St. Petersburg, the city with ever-changing name, in one of the darkest (if not the darkest) periods of Russian history, spanning the time from the pre-Revolutionary era to the aftermath of the Second World War. That said, the plot takes the reader across Russia, to its farthest hidden corners, both the tangible and the intangible, in space and in time.

 

Catherynne M. Valente perfectly captures the Slavic soul – which may feel exotic to some people, but is so much a part of me – with its pessimistic worldview with and a penchant for tragedy, finding beauty in dark things and sadness, interspersed with tiny bits of humour, or rather, typical sarcasm, even cynicism.

 

Valente combines myth and folklore with historical allusions, which stay almost unobtrusively in the background of the story. Between the lines one can discern insightful yet subtle social commentary/criticism, applicable both to historical and contemporary circumstances.

 

Everything is wrapped in a beautiful, highly metaphorical, yet easily readable language. The magic, myth and folklore at the forefront are, for one who wants to see beyond them, filled with an overwhelming symbolism, a study of humanity on the level of an individual and the society in general.

 

All that said, I have no idea why I had had the impression Deathless would be a YA book prior to reading it, for it is certainly not, at least in my opinion. It is, however, an amazing read, though dark, and I enjoyed it very much.

 

RECOMMENDATION: If you love the darker side of myth, folklore and humanity, Deathless could be excellent read for you.

 

This review was originally published on my book blog.

Loki by Mike Vasich

Loki - Mike Vasich

I enjoyed Vasich’s retelling of Norse myths with their entangled web of inevitability, for even though Odin, all-knowing as he is, can foresee the future events, he does nothing to stop them. On the contrary, he makes sure they come to pass.

 

While such behaviour is contradictory to every living creature’s inherent drive for self-preservation, this willing surrender to fate is, paradoxically, while a total renouncement of free will at the same time its ultimate embodiment and thus exactly what keeps the Norse gods alive, if only in myth.

 

Loki ends with a powerful message: that even in a total destruction, something may survive. Even more: that the destruction of old is necessary for something new, something better to be born. Hence, as the world of gods falls to ruin, a new world arises, a world of Men, in which, however, the old world is not forgotten, but lives on in the form of a myth.

 

Nevertheless, while all of the above is highly interesting and worth exploring, the writing in Lokiwas basically dry. Vasich writes from multiple characters’ POVs. However, he only seems to have a good grasp on one character, Loki, who truly comes alive trough his words, while the others appear rather mechanical, unable to provoke emotion in a reader.

 

Therefore, I must admit that after the first 40 pages and a few other sections further along the story, I more or less skimmed most of the book.

All in all, Loki does have some intriguing aspects, but the writing just wasn’t my cup of tea. Perhaps I should find another author for fictionalised Norse mythology.

 

RECOMMENDATION: Loki is not actually a book about Loki, at least not for the most part. What it is is a basic retelling of Norse myths, and a rather dryly written at that.

 

This review was originally published on my book blog.

Currently reading

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien
J.R.R. Tolkien, Humphrey Carpenter, J.R.R. Tolkien
Progress: 81/480 pages
The Complete Chronicles of Narnia (The Chronicles of Narnia)
C.S. Lewis, Pauline Baynes
Progress: 75/528 pages