Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Oblivion by Anthony Horowitz


(Read October)

I’ve been waiting for this book so long that the day it arrived I couldn’t bear to do anything else. Anyone who has read these books (or frankly, ANY of his books) can attest to the fact of how long he takes to publish them. This is the last in a 5 book series, with the fourth book having been published in 2008…that’s four years of waiting for one book. I hoped it was worth it.

In general, I’m going to have to say it was. The book was true to form in terms of quality of writing and imagery, and it managed to bring you back up to speed without the necessity of reading all the books again, which I definitely appreciated. It also began with a really nice twist that prevented him from copping out on something he was in his rights to do. Yet this ‘twist’ also meant he could revamp the story- give it a different setting, a different feel, and also a much greater urgency and challenge. I don’t want to say what it was, since I really liked the feeling when I found out, but I’ll just say that in no way could on predict it.

Getting to the story itself…uh. Mr. Horowitz really knows how to keep me on edge. Anyone who has read some of my other reviews can attest to how much I love (adore, desire, need) the fantasy “power” element in these kinds of books. They will either make or break the book for me, because they need to be grand, majestic and powerful without being showy and over-the-top. What can I say, I’m a hard man to please. But I meet my match in this man. Whenever he does the scenes with the powers, I can hardly contain my delight and my squeals of glee, but, knowing this, he very rarely let’s me have this feeling but because I love it that much, I would read on longer (lacking any part with powers) to ultimately reach that moment when I manage to squeeze some more of the unearthly delight out of him. It’s exhausting and wonderful all at the same time.

What’s a really well-done part in this book is the dystopian side of things too. The Old Ones have really gone to town on the world and it’s nice to see supernatural abilities in a decrepit, dystopian settings [1]. I’ve come to love survival type shows and scenarios during my hiatus, and dystopia offers a really nice outlet for this.

My opinion of the characters hasn’t changed. I still like Scarlet, Jaime and Richard but I find Matt increasingly frustrating. I do still lack him but, gah! That boy needs a slap across the face sometimes. My recollection of this book was also that not much time was spent exploring the characters. They had their moments and their conversations, and every few chapters we change perspectives so we can always see what they’re thinking, but I didn’t learn much else about them and it was relatively minor as a part of the book.

As with the Rise of Nine, the ending was disappointing for me. It was tremendously well-written. I’ve never been so sickened and heart-broken and moved by a YA-style book. I also kind of think this relatively traumatic ending coloured the rest of the ending for me- I wasn’t over it by the time the book ended. But in other ways, it was a little rushed and predictable. It seems that something that had happened previously was rendered obsolete for the sake of plot. But like I said, I’m a bit biased.

I loved these books: I love this book. I’d recommend anyone to read them, and I’d physically drag them around the store until they stepped out, the series in hand. But at the same time, I’m going to warn you. You get attached to the characters, even if sometimes you find them annoying or too quiet: maybe because of everything they have to go through. And then this book goes and snaps your heart in too, a malicious gleam in its eye, and blood dripping from it’s monster of a mouth. And crazily, you’ll love it while you’re hating it.

[1] If I was to ever write a book or a story, this is exactly the kind of thing I would write. I’ve known this for nigh on 4 years now. Funny, huh? J

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Rise of Nine by Pittacus Lore


(Read September)

(Avoiding my usual pre-empt to these books…)this is the continuation of much loved (by me) series that follows aliens-that-look-like-humans-but-with-superpowers as they start on the next stage in their journey and find the next teenager in their entourage. These are never going to be the most well-written or deep of books, but it grabs that 5 rating through sheer thrill factor.

The story, as a quick reminder, follows John Smith who set out from Paradise, Ohio, to save earth and his own planet, Lorien. It turns out that he’s an alien, and to boot he has supernatural abilities. And the antagonist- Mogadorians! Aliens hell-bent on destruction and razing planets. Though I could bore you with details of their exploits up to now, the most important thing to know is that it’s basically like a Sci-Fi action movie. The main characters move from spot to spot and in between the kind of battles that makes an nerd (or person who’s ever dreamed of having special powers) drool in contentment, they manage to squeeze on romance, vulnerability and deep-set personal issues.

Don’t take my sarcasm to heart, because I genuinely like these books. I can’t really equate them to anything else (except perhaps the original animated Avatar with Aang), but they manage to tell what is an Sci-Fi action driven story without it becoming too much. Yeah, the romance is a bit rushed and silly, and okay, the personal issues tend to be your run-of-the-mill teenage angst, but if you like these books and you read them, you’re doing it because it lets you inhabit this world where such things are possible.

In terms of the story itself, without giving anything away, I’d say this does better in that regard than the other books. There’s a clearer goal (SPOILER FOR BOOK 2 ALERT!) in how they want to rescue Sam, they want to find the others, and want to figure out a way to actually prevail over the Mogadorians. There’s also some foreshadowing which, though overplayed, made me squirm with pleasure with the thought of what it meant in a future instalment.

The only part I had somewhat of a problem with was the ending. It seemed a bit overly rushed and unexplained. You might say to me “It’s a cliff-hanger, Alex!” but there’s a difference between leaving some things unsaid and telling me absolutely nothing about what has just happened. I'm being a bit judgemental, but given how much I enjoyed the rest of the book, I think that balances it out.

I’ll say thank you to Karen of For What It’s Worth here too! This was the final instalment of a prize I won almost a year ago! She knows how much I appreciated it, but thank you again!

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Persuasion by Jane Austen

Part of the Austen in August event hosted by Roofbeamreader.net. (Master post link.)

Persuasion follows Anne Elliot, the second daughter of conceited baron, and the less beautiful daughter. It follows her life in the usual Austen style of dealing with her family as a socially over-concious body and her own personal life, with the usual period emphasis on her getting married or at least finding potential suitors.

Despite that rather vague and perhaps dull little analogy, I adored this book. For me, it was so very much like Pride and Prejudice in terms of Anne and Elizabeth being similar and the story itself even sharing some similarities. Now these comparisons are very general and it is definitely not the same story, but as a general feeling for the book, it is so much like Austen's most famous novel that I think any fans of that book could feel safe to pick up this one and enjoy it.

In contrast to Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion is probably darker. It isn't really a dark book, but some parts suggest a more cultured character who sees the poverty and suffering around her- at least more than I remember Elizabeth doing- and someone who is more directly affected by evil times and nefarious people.

It's a little predictable at times. Perhaps it's a familiarity with Austen's novels, or perhaps it was me comparing it to Pride and Prejudice, but whatever it happened to be, it made the book less of a surprise but nonetheless enjoyable. Frankly, I read Austen's books because I love how she writes and how she can so aptly draw me into a story which on the outside would, to me, perhaps seem superficial and not work minutes, let alone hours, of my time. But Austen succeeds in crafting masterpieces that I love reading.

And more so than the other books I've read, I think one can see the influence and reason for the title of this book. Persuasion is a central feature in this book from early on and it is through persuasion, coercion, subtlety and even deception that the main characters work and the consequence of these actions have a number of reprecussions throughout the entire book.

Another interesting theme in the book is that of the Navy. They feature as the primary source of love interests for the characters, and the scorn of those characters Austen designates as distasteful, but not antagonists. Reading up on it, it transpires that Austen's brothers were of the Navy themselves and so it for that reason that she included and made such an exploration of them here.

Despite my perhaps rambly yet short review, I do believe that this is a quite excellent Austen novel and is one that anyone who start with Pride and Prejudice should definitely check out! (At least for the sake of discussing with me, since I could be under a self-imposed illusion!)

Monday, 13 August 2012

Book Tour- The Waking Dream by Jennifer Ford Review

 Check out a giveaway of this book: link!!!
This is my completely honest review; though I seek not to offend, I swear every word is the fruit of my brain and my feelings- no other.

This is a fantasy novel which jumps between the perspectives of two men: Commander Dante and his Captain of the Guard, womaniser Kerran. A new threat to their crime free city comes in the form of the mysterious being Rasheim, and that isn't the only problem. It's been five years since the last contact with the world beyond the desert. For Dante, it couldn't get worse... could it?

Starting this book, the fact that the name of out main character was named Dante definitely caught my attention. It's a powerful name given its (assumed) namesake and I was interested to see why this name exactly. But as I got to reading, I found I didn't care about that as much and altogether forget that line of inquiry.

I found that Dante was definitely an interesting character, simply because he was so straightforwardly normal, but I slightly disliked the constant allusion to his logical thinking. But it didn't bother me so much as he actually thought logically after that. It was almost as though Jennifer was jumping down to whisper in my ear and reminding me he was logical. Sometimes it was useful reminder, other times annoying. I got the feeling that Dante was a very much a peacetime leader. (This could just be the fact we've been doing German history in school though, so I'm being over interpretative.) This is kind of reinforced later when Kerran steps up to take the mantle and leads more.

Kerran’s introduced as a very typical kind of misogynistic womaniser, but the moment he started to actually take a place on the stage of the book, he wasn't. I'm pleased by this, since I would otherwise have been perpetually annoyed by him. But despite some sexism in his belief of Gender roles (which he does overcome) he's fairly likeable.

For the first few chapters, I felt the book was fairly predictable. It followed your basic perfect city with a forgotten past and new threat they don't understand. But then the Messenger entered the picture. Simply put, I loved her character. I loved the mystery surrounding her and though you can guess at the truth to her (and I wasn't too far off the mark) she's still a very interesting person to see develop...or rather, come to understand. You go from mystified, to one understanding, to another, to a re-interpretation of a synthesis of the latter two. Maybe others would find it disjointed or even inconsistent, but it all makes sense in the context of the book, and towards the end you probably get the single nugget of pure truth behind her. Even when you learn who she is, you still see her as the mysterious messenger, which I think is hard thing to do; to so firmly establish who she is in a short time and no matter what else she does, that first impression is over powering.

It wasn't until around Chapter 5 that I was really hooked with the book though, since it was then that the magic actually started to come in. Anyone who has read enough of my fantasy reviews knows that this is always my favourite feature of a book and though it isn’t highly explored, I thought it was great. It’s not a topic I can dwell on though without giving up important details.

The dreams are probably the last most important feature of the book I can talk about safely. They are used as a kind of dramatic device earlier on to learn what we need to know, but they become much more important as the book progresses. They also underline the prominent differences between Kerran, the fighter, and Dante, the more logical and level headed. They also add this interesting dynamic of (at least early on) trying to guess when the events are real or dreamlike. They also mean that the more fantastical things leave a faint voice saying to you “This could just be a dream.” But then they take on a different level of importance later on when they go from being dreams to something much more dangerous, much more volatile, and much more significant.

Ultimately, this is really a riveting book (which might not have shown in this review). It seems to start slow but when events start to unfold it becomes a truly excellent fantasy book and when I finished I actually looked online to check I wasn’t missing pages. It came as such a surprise, and I wanted more in that instant. I’m interested to see where the book would go from here, but I’ll be there to find out…I hope!

Why did you decide to write it?
I am very interested in ancient history, and I spend a lot of time reading about ancient times and lost civilizations, and how climates in regions have altered over time. I have also always been a huge fan of fantasy and Sci-Fi. I started mixing elements of the two things together, and I was immediately struck with the idea of the lost civilization still being alive, just forgotten. The imagery that came to mind was so powerful, I just had to write it down. As I went further into it and discovered all the characters, it became a real world for me. And I think Dante and Kerran have a valid voice that resonates with a lot of people today.

Can I ask what that idea was that was so powerful? Is it a scene in the book- and if so which one? (If that isn’t giving too much away!)
It was the idea where I originally planned to start the book, but after I got into the story a bit I decided to change how it all started and began again from scratch – although the idea is still a powerful moment in the book. I can’t say too much about it because it is going to be a pivotal moment in the sequel.

The Messenger, in my opinion, is a fairly unusual character. But then she seems to stand against misogyny and act as Kerran’s exact opposite idea of a woman. And she is just so mysterious!!! What was the inspiration behind her?   
She was one of the first characters that I knew inside and out. I needed to have a strong woman, for obvious reasons. But I did not want her to have any of the typical sterotypes of strong women; I didn’t want it to be easy to categorize her. I toyed with telling parts of the book from her point of view, but found having her silent was far more interesting. I took my favorite characteristics from my favorite women, wrapped them together, and came up with the Messenger.

Kerran and Dante are opposites, yes? Did you set out to do this, or did they develop in this way? You say that the character came to you, so did they come in a pair or differently? And while we're on them, why did you choose the name Dante? 
In many ways, Dante and Kerran are opposites. That was not planned, it just happened that way. Dante’s character came first, and he was pretty well established as to how he acted and thought. Kerran evolved to fit the need of that secondary character; still strong, but very different from Dante. I chose the name Dante because it is a strong name; it means “lasting, enduring,” and it just fit perfectly to the character in my mind’s eye.

Why dreams? You could have had mysterious letters or a journal, I just wonder why did you decide on dreams?  
Why not dreams? Dreams are a gateway for our unconscious mind, which is really the powerhouse of our brain. So many things go on in dreams, and anything is possible in a dream. There is no such thing as the word “impossible” when you are dreaming. The idea was presented before in the movie “The Forbidden Planet’ but this is a different twist. It is a dream-world, where anything is possible, so long as you have the power to do it. As with all forms of magic, there are still rules, but there is unlimited potential (for both good and evil) in the dream world.

Finally, when do you think the sequel will be out? It says in the sample the end of 2012? Can we be so lucky?!  
Right now I am planning for November 2012. If I stay on track, then the sequel will be out around Thanksgiving.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Friday Memes

Q: What would you do over if you were to start your blog again from scratch?

I'd probably plan it a bit more! Haha! I think I jumped in a bit eager and didn't really think of how available I'd be in coming months. I jumped into whatever I could- review and memes. But I couldn't keep it up as exams came, so I wish I'd had the foresight to realise that an plan accordingly. Instead I found myself stressed and annoyed because I had to drop them.

Funnily enough though, if I did start from scratch my biggest regret with probably then be ever stopping since I've a lot a year (almost) of blogging!

Unexpected Books: Which books did you have reservations about reading, but ended up loving once you did?

Despite being a lover of her now (that sounds so wrong), I was nervous about Pride and Prejudice: just Jane Austen in general. I thought that I'd just hate her romances and hate the books. Instead I love them and have read most of them- I finished Persuasion last week! She's become probably my favourite classical author and I'm now afraid to finish all her books.

I felt similar about Dickens to. The first book I picked up of his (Great Expectations) was huge and I was worried it would be too long entirely! Again it wasn't the case, and he takes the proud spot of my second favourite classic author!

Probably every sequel/sub-story I've ever read too- I mean, what if they don't live up to my precious book?

Also, check out my giveaway her for a fantasy book by Jennifer Ford, The Waking Dream! LINK!

Giveaway for The Waking Dream by Jennifer Ford

Today, I'm lucky enough to be hosting a giveaway from Jennifer Ford, author of The Waking Dream. She has offered to e-mail this book anywhere in the world, so anyone can join in! Read the information underneath to find out if this book for you, and be sure to come back on Monday for the Blog Tour stop and my review of the book!!!!

Two cities. A forgotten past. Destiny comes to call.

Cut off from the outside world by a hostile desert full of savage secrets, the city of Illamar must fend for itself. Late one night, Dante Montero, Commander and Ruler of Illamar, is confronted on his own streets by a mysterious woman bearing an ominous message from a dangerous man known only as Rasheim. Dante and his close friend Kerran, Captain of the Guard, rush to discover the identity of Rasheim and the nature of the threat posed against their city. The closer they get to the truth, the more their worlds begin to fall apart. Both men will have to rely heavily on their friendship as they struggle to comprehend the events happening around them, their past, and even the truth about themselves. They must move quickly and choose wisely, for time is running out as Dante and Kerran discover a secret plot is already underway to destroy their city and kill every last person alive. It seems the answers they so desperately need can only be found in a sequence of dreams, but in a world where nothing is as it seems, even their dreams could turn out to be deadly.

·        What types of readers will be interested in your book?
Obviously, anyone who enjoys the Fantasy/Science Fiction genre would enjoy it; but beyond that, anyone who enjoys a well-crafted story. My book does have a strong, heroic woman as one of the main characters. It is a fast moving story that quickly takes you to the heart of the action and dilemma faced by the two stars of the book- Dante Monterro and Kerran Gurtene. It has already been enjoyed by people of all ages; from young adult to mature adult.  If you are a person that enjoys to read, then you will definitely enjoy my book. It follows a non-conventional path that should intrigue even the most experienced fantasy, Sci-Fi, mystery, or fiction reader.

·        What is special about your book?  What differentiates it from other books in the same category? 
I take what I consider to be a more classical approach to storytelling. I leave a lot of the baser descriptions to the reader’s imaginings so I can focus more directly on moving the story along. This makes it appealing to more than just fantasy fans. I have had people read my book that actually do not like the fantasy genre at all, but they really enjoyed The Waking Dream. It carries a lot of focus on the characters, and how these two men discover hidden value in unexpected characters they encounter. This makes my story non-predictable yet identifiable to the reader.
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Monday, 6 August 2012

Blog Tour- The Stone of Darkness by Resa Nelson

Today I am the stop for Resa Nelson's tour for Stone of Darkness. I'm going to be reviewing the book, then there is (not-so) mini-interview with Resa to follow! To see all stops so far, click here.

This may contain some very mild spoilers from Book 1, but mostly remains without spoilers pertaining either to this one or preceding books.

In Stone of Darkness we return to Astrid and follow her as she tries to discover exactly what the Stone of Darkness is, and in process finds herself embroiled in the conflict with the Krystr- something she has never avoided, but never found herself heavily involved in. She has accepted her role as a Dragonslayer, but she still doesn’t know truly who she is, or her own heritage.

It was like a breath of fresh air to return to Astrid after almost 6 months, and I’m glad to say she’s still as fantastically riveting and interesting as ever. I struggled in places to remember people since I only remembered some of the main side characters, such as Lenore, Randim, Drageen, The Alchemist, Norah, DiStephan, Vinchi and Margreet. Other ones I didn’t remember I often did in time, but the first 40 or 50 pages or so were a bit confusing due to my incomprehension, but I managed to keep going and figure out who everyone was without going back to the first few books. But admittedly, I would advise anyone has read the others to perhaps read them again prior to this, just so it’s all fresh in your mind!

The story itself followed the similar track of the last two books of travelling between settlements and reading accounts of the events and conversations that take place. It means that Resa strikes a great balance between detailed, traditional fantasy and the faster more action-orientated modern fiction. It stops you from being other bored or overwhelmed, which once again makes this book a joy to read.

I was perhaps a little disappointed that the blacksmithing didn’t come into the story as much. I accept that the other side-stories perhaps are more important and indeed we could say her pre-occupation of being away from home precedes the necessity of not allowing for a great deal of blacksmithing- since she would need her own tools and smithy. Yet still I missed what was almost a learning experience when it came to the blacksmithing.

The world created by Resa is one of a complex heritage, and through Astrid we really get an idea of just how large this world is- very much beyond the village of Guell. Astrid feels the same way some people do when they travel for the first time to a foreign country- not being able to speak the native language and not knowing exactly where you might be brings home the fact that were you come from is small in comparison to the world. But it also highlights how foreigners aren’t aliens or all bad. This was part of book two, and perhaps book three merely enlarges the scale of this realisation.

Mystery is a theme in the book from the start, and as it continues new problems or questions arise- only some of which are answered and even then only partially. Originally a Blacksmith, Astrid’s problem lies in the fact that blacksmithing (I think) is a straightforward art. Doing one thing will lead to an (expected) consequence. But the chaos that grips Astrid’s world- both in a large scale and a small scale- makes it difficult for Astrid to know what to do. And we must also remember she is still relatively new to Dragonslaying too.

But Astrid is as commendable here as with most of her qualities. She’s not perfect (boy, is she not) but she feels a great deal of loyalty and responsibility to the world and the people around her. She comments in the first book (I think) that a blacksmith is responsible for everyone in a village because they make the tools used in other trades and the weapons used for defence. This duty transfers itself to the whole world and Astrid, in everything, is assured of this. She is very much a heroine in her ideas of the world and what is right, but she still remains damnably human and makes mistakes fairly often.

So, in conclusion, it was a great sequel to books two and one. I don’t think someone could just pick up this book and manage; you’d need to read the others. It wouldn’t be impossible, but I think it would overcome your inevitable confusion. But the merit of these books lies in the fact that they manage to give you a brilliant read in less than 300 pages and even manage to combat question on free-will and feminism which all appeal greatly to me as a reader. Intelligent, concise and entertaining. What more do you want from a book?

Click to find out more about Resa!

·         Where did the idea for the Iron Maidens come from? I felt, personally, that they did make sense ideologically, but did you set out early on to do them or decide whilst writing?

The Iron Maidens showed up out of the blue.  When I was writing The Stone of Darkness, my main character Astrid ended up in a real bind.  Even though I write fantasy, I want to make the action and the world as realistic as possible.  Astrid was in such a tight spot that I couldn’t see a believable way for her to get out of it by herself.  Normally, I like Astrid to solve her own problems, but everyone needs help once in a while.  So I started thinking about who might be travelling in the region where she was located that could help her, but I couldn’t think of any good solutions.  All of a sudden, the Iron Maidens popped into my head.  I immediately knew who they were and why they were there and how they came into being.  That’s one of the things I really love about writing.  Sometimes magic happens.

·         How do you feel writing from the point of view of the Krystr? These hateful misogynists make my blood boil just reading them, and I wonder how you feel writing them. Angry? Sad? Accepting?

Click for my review
Alex, thank you so much for asking me this question.  I’ve been hoping someone would for the longest time!  I believe that villainous people in real life (for example, Hitler) typically thought (or think) they’re 100% in the right and that they’re doing the world a favor.  I wanted to show how every man who’s a Krystr has a background and experiences that shaped who he is and what his opinions are.  I wanted to get into their heads and understand their point of view.  They feel justified.  They believe they’re doing the right thing.  They see themselves as heroes.  And when I researched the Middle Ages, I learned that women were considered to have less value than some animals!  That tells me that men must have felt that women were on the same level as animals, not human beings.  So the Krystrs are based on how many real men thought and acted in medieval times.  While I was writing, I started thinking about how we often learn our first opinions and beliefs from our families, and how some people never really change those first opinions and beliefs.  I know there have been some ancient cultures (such as the ancient Egyptians and the Vikings) that treated women well, but as far as I can tell, most didn’t.  I thought about how for thousands of years people have considered women as “less than” men and how these beliefs go back to times when women were considered to be on the same level as animals.  All of a sudden, I thought about how difficult it is to change beliefs that have lasted in families for hundreds and thousands of years.  It takes strength and courage and a strong sense of self to form your own opinions and to break hundreds or thousands of years of traditional thought.  All of a sudden, I felt deeply sorry for my Krystr characters because they don’t have that kind of strength or courage or sense of self.  They’re just doing what other men before them have done without question.  I think the most tragic figure in the series is Gershon because he comes so close to doing the right thing only to cave into peer pressure by Krystrs who are simply manipulating him for their own purpose.  He almost does the right thing, but he fails.  I think he’s keenly aware of what he’s done, and it will haunt him forever.  He never forgives himself.  Ironically, writing the Krystr characters has taught me to have compassion for men who act like them in our world.  I feel sorry for them in the same way I feel sorry for Gershon and the Krystrs.  So writing these characters actually changed part of who I am.

·         Can I ask about the dragons? As you said in the first interview of the tour (which everyone can see here) you’ve playing it close to the chest so far. I was wondering more about where they came from? They seem omniscient and in many ways omnipotent. Are they meant to be so superior?

About all I can say without ruining Book 4 is that there are serious reasons for the dragons to be the way they are.  Once you learn that reason, I think everything will fall into place and make sense.  I know I’m not really answering your question, but I can’t figure out how to talk about them without ruining the last book in the series.  I will say that there are a lot of answers in Book 4.  And some surprises that I didn’t see coming until they happened!

Click for my review
·         Less to do with the story, but…
When you write, do you set out to right books at the length you do? I assume you’d write what needs to be written and not worry about the numbers, but I’ve always been amazed at how you do so much in such a short book- and it’s especially odd for me since I’m so used to long fantasy novels. I just wonder about your writing process and whether you feel it has an impact on the book length?

I think my writing reflects my personal impatience with reading.  I love mysteries and thrillers.  My favorite modern-day author is Harlan Coben, who makes me want to turn every page.  When a new Harlan Coben book comes out, I set aside a weekend to do nothing but read, because I know I HAVE to read his book without interruption (except for sleeping) until I finish it.  I like books that move at a good clip.  I get bored easily.  I need a book to capture my attention and keep it.  I feel the same way when I’m writing.  The last thing I want to do is bore anyone who reads my work – and I can’t stand to be bored while I’m writing it!  When it comes to my process, I begin by daydreaming about what the book might be like.  Then I nail down some specific things:  what I want to do thematically, the beginning, a few important things in the middle, and the end.  I also need to understand the overall journey of the main character and sometimes other characters – what they learn, how they grow and change because of what happens in the book.  But when I sit down to write each chapter, I feel like I’m in a movie and I’m just frantically writing down everything I see that’s happening all around me.  So I don’t really aim for a specific number of overall pages in the book.  I just want to make it long enough to feel like a novel and short enough so hopefully no one gets bored!


Some extra little links...as a reward for having read everything above!!!:

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

This story recounts a small section in the life of one Liesel Meminger, a nine-year-old foster child, as she lives in Munich during World War II and the people she comes into contact with during this small period. And the narrator of this story? Death himself.

Reading that little summary, I myself would have doubted how good this book could be and would have thought it liable to be extremelye preachy and generally dislikable. This was not the case, and even early on in the book, I feel this is made clear. Death, the character, isn't some figure of malevolence; he is funny, insightful and (despite the irony) remarkably human. It is only towards the end that it made clear that he is not human- he is something more. But the book does not dwell on such things. This is the story of Liesel, not death's job during World War II. Personally, I felt in some ways death was used as the narrator because in our minds he is as unsympathetic and as cruel a thing we can think of, especially in a War environment. Many would see him as snatching away their children- why not let them survive? But he makes it clear that it is his job to collect the souls and allow them to move on. He takes no life prematurely- he has no choice in the matter of taking them.

The story is ultimately about the power of words. It begins as reading and how that helps Liesel escape and then it begins to transform. Seeds of ideas are planted in her, and they grow and take on new life to her. She begins illiterate and yet she becomes a force to be reckoned with- this small German girl. There is the wonderful passage when she is angry and it says how the words which until then had merely moved beneath the surface suddenly break through. Then she knows what to say, how to say and, most importantly, why it needs to be said.

The setting of World War II is fantastic for showing this because Hitler himself is well-known as being a great orator. He managed- with words and manipulation- to unite a struggling country and keep them united despite almost all hardship. I do not deny ths importance of Nazi military might or any of the more heinous things he did, but he began as man who spoke with zeal and could inspire those around him. (Maybe I'm baffling a bit; half of my A-Level- a pre-University qualification- is based on Germany in the 1900s.)

When it comes to characters, I thought they were all brilliant. I loved Rudy, Hans, Rosa and Max because Zusak wrote such believable and wonderful characters. They didn't fall easily into the stereotypes we have of people living in that era (within reason). Part of the way he did that was by not letting the era define them. War doesn't touch Munich very much until well into the book and even then it is mostly sporadic. This distance from War both allows for comparison and stops this book becoming preachy.

But my favourite character was Death himself. Liesel was smart, hopeful and reaslistic girl but at the same time she was the hero and, frankly, I find her less interesting in comparison to Death. Part of the reason she is important and notable is because Death sees her as such. But Death has a personality and a colourful (no pun intended) one at that. Though it isn't expressly said, I feel as though he dislikes death. He talks about the colours of the sky when he collects a soul, since he doesn't want to look into another dead face, another pair of empty eyes. His eternal existence has also left him cynical and often poetic. Perhaps it is ironic that Death enjoys quite simple pleasures as an interesting phrase (but then, that is what I saw the theme as).

I think that this is too long a book to sum up, and the ideas it explores render near impossible to sit down and narrow my thoughts of this book down concisely and precisely. The only other thing I much mention (without giving away anything) is the end. Simply put, it was the kind of ending you accept as inevitable but dislike all the same.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

(You have probably heard what the story is since this novel did its rounds on blogs ages ago, but in case you didn't...) This book follows Cas Lowood who, like his father before him, is a killer of the dead- ghost or otherwise. In addition to this he has to contend with being a teenager and trying to make a somewhat normal life for himself. When he and his mother come to the town of Thunder Bay, his usual method of killing the dead is disrupted by something he never expected.

I have to say I was highly wary about approaching this book. By the time it had my interest, the hype had been so built up and so great that I doubted it would live up to my expectations. I spent some time convincing myself that it wouldn't reach this hype because (a) it's not what I would consider my kind of book and (b) the hype was way, way too high.

Yet I do think this is a fantastic book and is truly gripping. Some of the elements of horror didn't really feel scary for me (and I'm really jumpy) so this may bug some people, but I don't think it is meant as a scary book. And anyway, it wasn't important. And the single thing that made this book so awe-inspiringly awesome was Anna herself. I think she is probably one of my favourite characters ever.

On one hand, she appeals to my urban fantasy side. I don't think I'm giving anything away by saying she is an insanely powerful individual, which I just loved when reading about it. So many romances seem to like making romance interesting or edgy by giving one of the participants a dark mysterious past, or by simply telling us how the protagonist feels threatened. Now, Blake does all this BUT she before doing us she shows us without a shadow of a doubt why exactly you don't mess with Anna and how she is the genuine article of bad-assery.

And then on the other hand, she's simply a great character. Her back-story is so, so sad and soul destroying that despite the horror surrounding her, you can sort of understand her. And then when the whole "Goddess of Death" thing starts to come into perspective, you can begin to understand her as the shy, adorable individual she is.

Don't get me wrong, Cas is great and the story about the Dad and how everything ties in is gripping and makes for great reading, but I doubt I would have loved this book as much if not for Anna. I actually thought the story itself was predictable and I guessed what would happen when the cat growls near the start.

One thing I thought might have perhaps been better if it had been looked at a bit more was the whole disjointedness of the romance. It was never going to be like Lia Habel's Dearly, Departed; but I do believe more should have been made of it. The limit of consideration was "This is weird, but it doesn't matter because love surpasses all."

So overall fantastic. You should read this just to see Anna in action.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

The Magician King by Lev Grossman

Following the events of the magicians, Quentin Coldwater is now one of the Kings of Fillory. It’s something he never dared to dream he’d have…but he’s still not happy. He’s restless. In trying to find occupation in adventure, Quentin stumbles upon something much more cosmically important leading to revelations and undesirable outcomes.

Though this is a sequel to The Magicians, this book doesn’t really feel that way to me. There are some references to Alice and Brakebills (the magic school) days, but they are almost pointless in the grand scheme of things. If you haven’t read the Magicians, it won’t be a problem in terms of understanding the story. I mean, if the names had been changed this could have easily been a separate stand-alone novel. For me, this wasn’t the best choice since what I like about sequels is those nods to the first book or when something in book one directly affects book two. For me these weren’t really there, and though I can appreciate the book it doesn’t feel like too much of a sequel to me personally.

The magic aspect was also elusive. The world was fantastical and there were other times when the magic of landscape was obvious, but other times it felt like the book had forgotten it was a fantasy book and things like magic were forgotten. Book one was a bit like this, but not to the extreme of the Magician King. There is only really one bit that this seems to go away, when Quentin is blasting magic left, right and centre.

But this highlights the crafting that has gone into the book. One thing Quentin says is that he doesn’t feel like a king, let alone a magician, most of the time. By the lack of magic and these things, we really feel this too. And it annoyed me, even enraged me, which only meant I could understand Quentin better.

This was the same for the general idea of Fillory and “real-life magic”. Quentin reminds us every few chapters that magic in books is often good and there is always a happy ending. Even the sadder endings are not so harsh on the characters. This book is not like that though. Even though book one improved at it’s very, very end, the whole final sequence was heart-wrenching and one of the most depressing endings I’ve ever read. In the Magician King, I’m reminded of this again. I don’t want to give anything away, but Quentin’s fate is almost unforgiveable. That one line that Elaine gives just made my heart sink, since I knew it wouldn’t end well after that.

There are also other dark elements involved, especially in Julia’s story. She was never accepted to magic school so she pursued magic however she could and sacrificed almost everything dear to her to get it. And how did that end up? For a long time it was horrifying for her. There’s this one scene which I shan’t repeat and which I don’t even like to think about which disgusted and depressed me so much. But at the same time I couldn’t stop reading. It’s was gripping and, though it pains me to say, realistic.

On a personal level, I struggle to read Grossman’s book. I get headaches from trying to process so much and some of the events genuinely affect me and my view of life for a short. I’ll be depressed, or feel lost, if only for a few hours. That could just be me (!!!) but I credit some of it to these books and these stories that seem to affect me so much. Sometimes I was just reading in a daze.

This book is something else, in a good and bad way. It’s bad in that I sometimes just want to walk away from this book and turn my back on some detestable truths, but then it is just so good at the same time that I can’t even begin to explain. This whole review is my trying to just give you a glimpse of how I feel about these books because in all honesty it’s so mixed up and indecipherable even for me. So read these if you want something magnificently compelling, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Tris is back after the trauma she faced in Divergent. Since her youth in Abnegation, her life has turned upside down and the world seems to be following the same track. Yet it isn’t over, and as Tris comes to terms with her own demons, she has to deal with the next stage in the plot, leading to the unexpected.

I’m having the same problem many reviewers have with book. I want to sit here and talk your ear off about almost everything that happened in the novel, but in doing so I’d ruin the entire thing for you and anyone else. And then the double-sided blade scenario comes into play because I don’t want to spoil Divergent for you either: it is just as gripping and awesome.

So the best I can do is a bit of relativity of Insurgent in comparison to Divergent.

There was huge anticipation for this book and sometimes all that hype can ruin a book. It was somewhat similar with Divergent. Last time, for Divergent, I really got caught up in all that and frankly it lived up to that gargantuan expectation. The thing was, I tried to not get mixed up with the stuff prior to Insurgent for two reasons. One was purely personal, and if you follow me on twitter you probably have a general idea of that. The other was that I’ve been disappointed about hype a few times since I started blogging and the method I’m slowly developing is to not get involved in it and so I can’t be disappointed. The only reason I say all this is that I genuinely think this book deserved what hype I was exposed to and I genuinely think it was a great book.

I think this book was about as action-packed as Divergent- they are dauntless after all! In some ways this was something I was expecting, since I rarely find myself so involved in fighting sequences in books. But these tended to draw me in, though they lacked some of the lustre of Divergent- but I think that was Tris’ influence. She loves her faction, but she’s still recovering psychologically and the almost manic loss-of-self in the action is less pronounced.

Four/Tobias was really great. In Divergent, my memory was that he went from International Man of Mystery to…well, Tobias. Without getting into it too much, it’s almost as though Four and Tobias are actually different people, which then links back to the Divergent things. Holy… I think pontificating actually rendered something vaguely sensible.
Tris got on my wick a little bit though. I don’t begrudge her being depressed, nor do I dislike the occasionally spontaneity of her, but I find part of me just wants to grab her and shake her. As Tobias puts it, she’s so frustrating. Not wrong, not hateable, she just makes me grind my teeth sometimes. I think the problem is that I can see, understand and even emphasise a bit with her, but I think she seems narrow-minded sometimes or inconsiderate of other things. It’s more of a niggle but meh.

I thought the plot was like a train journey before a huge crash. Strangely, this is a good thing. It started off fairly slowly, which made sense, and then when it got into the actually meat of the story it stayed fairly interesting. I think Divergent was more involving as a story for the middle section and I would stand by the belief that though the plot was good, it wasn’t perfect. It seemed sometimes too straight-forward or bit repetitive, but like an action movie. You sort of know what will happen, but you can still enjoy it. For me, the whole ending sequence was just brilliant. This is why I use the train crash analogy: you’d notice when you start to move, and you’d notice when you were on the main section of the journey, but you simply can’t ignore it when you crash. I don’t want to give away a thing about the ending though- I just want to say I thought it was utterly brilliant.

Conclusion (!)
A great book, and definitely a commendable sequel. It might not have been special in a particular way, but that might only be because it followed Divergent which was so fantastic. It’s a solid 5 for what it is and I’m oh-so-grateful to Karen for getting this for me! If anyone liked Divergent, they should definitely look into this.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

It's been a while...

So I haven't posted in a while, the last time was over a month ago. I'm just going to say my piece then get out of your hair.

This was kind of unexpected stop. I'd been trying to stick to my reading so that I could post things, but then exams started bearing down on me and they basically dominated my time in terms of revision and extra lessons and then just moments of sheer overload where I had to just sit there and try yo quell the storm in my mind. I couldn't do anything in those moments and it was exhausting to have them.

And then there was the whole psychological side of it. I try to keep actual personal blogging to a minimum here, but it slipped in occasionally. Basically I had a really bad few weeks in February which I dropped off the radar for a while. I sort of moved past that for a while, but then it hit me again around mid-March, I think. I still kept up the blogging but it was just so forced. I felt in some ways I had to and in other ways that by doing it I would be able to move past my issue and just get back to being normal, happy, readersome me. It didn't actually happen, but I forced myself through most of George R. R. Martin's books before I hit a immovable wall- and, frankly, I was too exhausted to bull my way through it. I'm not completely past it, but at least it quiet for the moment. To be honest with y'all, I imagine that in the next few weeks it will resurface and I might go dark again. I didn't let myself get distracted by my brooding or depressive outlook since I had exams but since they're more or less out of the way, I don't know how long I can keep this up.

So that's it. That's why I was gone. And this isn't an "I'M BACK!!!" it's more of a "Hey, I was just thinking about you" that may lead to "I'm still thinking about you" in the acceptable total normal way.

I've read two books in the past few weeks whose reviews I'll post in the next week or so and, unless I genuinely feel interested, I'm going to stop myself making myself do memes. I love them, I do, but I need to just need to do what I want when I want until I get out my funk. And I've got make some decisions about University and Degrees and all sorts which is going to take forever to decide.

The only final thing is that I wonder if anyone would like to do an actual bloggy blog? Not a review one, just one where you log on and talk for however long about whatever happens to be on your mind. Then you incline your head and get on with your day. I'm not making this too committal, I'm just thinking I'd like to do one but in know way could I bear the burden of a second blog. I think I'd just blink out of existence.

Thanks for your time!

Sunday, 22 April 2012

A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin

Part 2
The continuation of the Song of Fire and Ice reaches a kind of close. This is the end of the first half of the story, and as such shows a lot more finality than previous parts and, in general, feels like a more typical fantasy book for this conclusiveness.

I've decided that I might do this review a little differently. I've reviewed the first two books here and here (plus an intermittent half-way in this book here) and in general I feel much the same about most of what is happening. So I thought it might be more apt and easier if I list my likes and dislikes of this series, and end with a comment on anything new in this book. It saves me trying to make the same point a third time, but trying to put a different spin on it.

  • Plot- Say what you will about Martin, he weaves a fantastic story. He doesn't really have any sympathy for his characters and verges on cold about he is more than willing to put them in dire straits and make the outcome unlikely every single time. I've mentioned a few times how one does not simply 'expect' with George R. R. Martin (that's an accidental meme/LOTR reference) and it makes for much more gripping story and also a much more difficult one as a reader. You are telepathically begging him to spare your favourite characters. The nicest you can expect it some kind of hideous wound or thrown into an inescapable circumstance, and you'll take that in your despair.
  • Characters- Another typical story trope, but again excellently done. He crafts really well rounded characters, though in general I feel the Starks are all a bit too heroic sometimes, and Brienne too idealistic. But people like Jaime, Tyrion and Daenerys are effectively evil- or at least associated intimately with an evil faction- yet we learn about them as individuals and grow to like them. Those three are probably some of my favourites. Take Jaime: he's an oath-breaker and unbearably arrogant and rude, but he's more loyal than most and has a powerful sense of gratitude, familial love and duty.
  • Magic- His attitude to magic is refreshing in a fantasy book, and that's a lot coming from me. I usually like magic and lots of it, but here I enjoy how fleeting and mysterious it is rather than something which makes the users superior to their peers.
Part 1
  • Misogyny- Though I think Martin isn't a misogynist, the world he sets his books in is medieval. As such, women were expected to look pretty, get married then make babies until they died. They are completely and unrelentingly objectified by the men in the books. In general, the female POVs in the books are shown to be neither powerless nor accepting of this so it isn't all encompassing, but the nature of some of what happens is sickening.
  • Cursing- I'm not the kind of person who uses profanities or approves of them if used in excess, but, for whatever reason, the characters insist on using words I refuse to utter even in my own company. As such, Martin tests my patience sometimes with the male characters in the story who use two four letter words beginning with 'C' as often as they breathe and use others with other select changes in the weather.
  • Wanton Brutality- That's a phrase I used in another review which sums it up nicely. Be it violence, torture, rape or worse, GRRM does not pull punches. In fact, he packs them with iron and heats them such that they brand, even scar you. Seriously, sometimes I've felt physically sick reading some descriptions in these books.
  • Death- As I mentioned above, no one escapes the bloody pen of GRRM and he will happily kill, maim or otherwise make characters lives a misery in the course of his books. This is something I also appreciate since it makes the stories gripping, and better than some other novels I've read; but at the same time I wish it was a bit less desolate and hopeless sometimes.
In this book, there are two new things: Finality and Viewpoints. We're given some new people to see through the eyes of- purely because the little conflict in book one has escalated to a national schism and there are all sorts of inner problems of each of the factions. It's like that St. Ives riddle where the numbers just keep growing as algebraic powers until the number is larger that we imagine. I digress, because it is not that bad, the point I was making is that we get a viewpoint in basically every story there is to tell.

The finality, which I mentioned at the beginning, is also bizarre. GRRM tends to leave people mid-story and move on and its disconcerting to leave these books for too long. So much is going on all the time, and keeping it straight require you to be reading the novels in succession. The ending of this book felt more conclusive, because A Feast For Crows is a catalyst novel connecting this book to A Dance With Dragons. The idea was to give characters time to grow up so that the story could move on to where he wants it to be. I'll say this though: I have no idea where that is.

The novel is the usual stock for Martin, in my opinion, so take that as you will.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

A Storm of Swords Part 1 by George R. R. Martin


The next book in the song of Ice and Fire is only half of this supposed section of the series. So I won't take too much of your time; I'll do that once I've finished the second part. (EDIT: Apparently this is a UK exclusive choice, while France split it into four)

I think you should definitely have the other half of this book handy when you finish because, in my opinion, the ending comes very suddenly. And, even though I hardly thing of Martin as someone who ties of all stories by the end, there is much stronger feeling of this volume being unfinished and the stories indiscernible. Writing this a few days after finishing it, I can entirely remember what happened since everything felt unfinished. I guess in some ways I don't understand why they felt the need to split this book in two- besides its ungodly length.

One of the more interesting things, for me, is Brienne and Jamie. I think they are both different one another: the only similarity being that they have this intense idea of loyalty, though the loyalties themselves are very much different. I have the sneaking suspicion that these two will have some sort of romance- even if its just a singular, unrequited one. And I'm not saying it would just be on Brienne's part, which is the conclusion I imagine people would jump to. I think it is just as likely that Jaime would like her and be not liked back. Okay, the former is more likely, but I'm learning never to expect things with Martin: it only leads to disappointment.

The only other thing I noticed (and the biggest giveaway this is part one of two) is that there isn't a great deal of death! If you've read Martin or are aware of the story, you'll know what I mean by that. He's almost blood-thirsty the way he will kill some characters who we've come to love so much. He says its purposeful: that by caring about a character we'll care about their death and it should bring home the horror of war. But to read like that- knowing that he could kill anyone at any time- can be soul-destroying at sometimes.

I'm at the point now where I know not to expect a happy ending to this entire story and I honestly expect most of the point-of-view characters to be dead by the very end, though it seems unlikely. The first part of this isn't happy by any stretch of imagination and if there haven't been any notable deaths, I expect part two to be quite a blood bath.

Monday, 9 April 2012

A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin

Possible spoilers for book one but not this book, but they will be highlighted such that one can avoid them!

This book two in Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series and is an extremely long read (though I hear A Dance With Dragons is longer still). It is continuation of every and all events from book one and is just as hard-hitting and, in some ways, wonderfully deplorable. In my opinion, it is the better of the two since I was much more interested in events than in book one.

The plot in this series, for anyone who hasn't read the books, is a sprawling mess of utter chaos. The best analogy is to imagine a plate of spaghetti, and each string of spaghetti is a plot line and reading it is like trying to find the other end of the spaghetti WITHOUT yanking it out. It is utter madness sometimes. You seem to have your main plot and about 4 other sub-plots, per viewpoint. And then there are around 6 view points. So you have a grand total of around 30 plots which you have to try, in vain to keep straight. Early on in the book, it's even worse. I commend Martin for not just tying off the old plots and moving on, but the start of the book holds onto about half of the plots for about a third of the book, but still insists on bringing in more. What I'm saying is that these are highly confusing books a lot of the time, and sometimes you'd be reading something and only realise about 3 pages in which plot it pertains to.

This same issue is with the characters, though it is less pronounced. The back of the book lists every major and minor character of the major factions on the book, and I seriously believe that every one of them is important in some way. Finishing the book, I astounded myself with how many characters I managed to keep straight in my head. Admittedly, I just had to keep reading blind sometimes and hope this character wasn't too important.

It's a credit to Martin, I have to say, that despite being occasionally muddled I managed to know what was going on. How I think he does it is by defining everything with certain events of names. Practically all the characters have a defining a feature- some are "the Knight of X", they may be named "The [noun]" or they were involved in some conquest- and they will be the only ones associated with this. It's fantastically done when I think about it.

Anyway, down to specifics.

Once again, one of the things is disliked was the wanton brutality of the books, and the banalisation of rape and prostitution. I read some response Martin gave on these fronts (I'm not the only one who is disturbed by it) and he defends it by saying that it is historical and medieval England was like this. He doesn't like it any more than we do, but he has to right a realistic, truthful story. If that means it must be gritty and disturbing, so be it. I can accept that since he's right to be honest in his story, but I'm retaining the right to dislike it. It is too often brought up, in my opinion, and hate that the men are often so flippant about it. It doesn't usually detract from the story, but I think that if anyone has particular sensibilities or particular revulsion to these things, stop while you're ahead; since I expect it to get worse as the book continues and fighting grows. I wonder if I would have ever opted to read these books had I known they were so....so like this.


I actually got more invested in various stories this time around. Last time, stories such as Jon Snow's, Sansa's or Arya's were just not at all interesting. However, at the end of book one, Arya has fled the castle, Sansa dislikes Joffrey (and, forgive me, has finally gotten some sense) while Jon has learnt that the Night's Watch are to go beyond the wall. In book one, I could read Jon's chapters easily enough for the same reasons I could read Catelyn's and Bran's: because despite not being terribly interesting, they were written and I liked the voice's. Also, they both had points were they were actually interesting. With Jon, I felt his story had so much potential to be interesting, but it just wasn't. I understand they had to train, set up loyalties and what not but there was wasted opportunity, in my opinion. There was always the feeling of a growing threat and it infuriated me that it was never realised story-wise.

Tyrion and Daenerys are both just as good though, if not better. Tyrion is whimsical and despite being a Lannister, I'm actually going to accuse him of having a great deal of sense and even a few morals. In some ways, he often strikes me as the most human of the characters and even though he has his weaknesses and short-comings (no pun intended), he is probably the only Lannister I would want to be King. I think he has the good sense to look past his own life and desires and do what is right for the kingdom as a whole.

Daenerys disappointed me a little since very little happened in her story besides a lot of wandering around, hopeless, and sitting about dreaming about her future. I think she had fewer chapters than last time as well so we didn't see her as much. But the dragons....man, do I love them! I squirm with happiness whenever they do anything and, at one point, it says how she was reclining in cushions with her dragons around her. Bliss, utter bliss.

There are two new views as well: Ser Davos, a Knight of Stannis, and Theon Greyjoy. Davos had a nice voice, and I did like him, but I was more interested in him because Melisandre and the magic (?) she suggested she had.  Theon is more interesting, but only because I hate him from the bottom of my heart. I feel sorry for him since he feels abandoned by his own family, but does he need to be such a debased and detestable individual? He has no value for women or anyone less than himself. In so many ways, he is just like a Lannister in his overwhelming idea of self worth and importance. And the things he does- the way he is- just disgusts me. The bit with Bran and Rickon...I just had to stop reading for a short while. I felt my heart stop; I stopped breathing in shock. I was just blown away at how much I could hate a character.


Overall, I was impressed with this book. If you read book one and were a bit dubious, I think this book will set your mind at ease that this is likely to be an enjoyable series and that you should definitely keep reading. I only warn you to expect to be reading this for a while; my copy was around 900 pages.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

I read this as part of a read-along with Julie from My 5 Monkeys and Karen at For What It's Worth and those both link to their great reviews. The ideas here are my own, but they are wonderfully tempered (or emphasised!) by the fact we did weekly discussions of the book, at 10 chapter intervals. This was also done in March. 

I'm also the last to post the review...Oh well.

Jane Eyre is the story of (you guessed it) Jane Eyre, an orphan born low and seemingly destined to be treated as such for the entirety of her life. Like any good classic, the opportunity to discuss social differences and prejudices is by no means avoided and even when the story could be considered dated or bizarre, it all comes together at the end.

In terms of the beginning, there isn't a great deal of import, in many ways. Sure it sets up character, background and all that, but  failing (I think) in many classics is that they often feel the need to tell you everything about a person growing up rather than significant events. Maybe it's a period thing; in that people in the past preferred seeing events for themselves and making their own conclusions. Things get better (and more interesting) just before she leaves Gateshead. In some ways, it gets better when she's 18 and her voice starts to sound like her own and the story starts being believable in terms of her being reliable as a narrator.

Something that becomes clear at Gateshead is an idea of feminism. The feeling I got from the institution was that it was set up to make women and girls perfect wives: meek and quiet but educated. They should be practically subservient: inferior, on might say. It drove me insane and, thankfully, annoyed Jane too! One thing mentioned in the discussion was that even the self-assured women in classics want to be seen as conforming to what society expects of them. Jane, on two notable occasions I can think of, demonstrates this anger and fierce pride she has of being herself and being a women. There's this line in A Doll's House by Henrik Ibsen where Christine says that she has important duties, not only to family and marriage, but to herself. For me, it was the same idea. She may be a servant/governess, and she may be socially inferior; but she is still a human- with feelings, hopes and ambitions- and should be treated as such, even by herself. On the occasions I'm thinking of: one concerning Mrs. Reed, the other with Rochester, she asserts such. She transforms from an inferior to position to one of being an equal- which is practically scandalous. Aristocracy, for Victorians, was the idea that the uppers classes were born to rule; and as such should be treated with great respect. In standing for herself, Jane goes against this. However, there is a voice telling me that this is not completely the case since her mother was, formerly, an aristocrat so she has some of  that "right".

The romance is key to this book, since her relationship with Rochester (referred to as R. from now on) underlines the most important elements of the story and cause the main conflicts; asks the most important questions. I was of two minds about R. since he seemed like a great guy half the time, and other times he seemed like a completely different person. Ultimately, the impression I got was that I he couldn't trusted until his physical condition made it necessary for him to rely on people such that he needed their trust in its entirety.

The romance itself was nice though. It wasn't blindly amorous and Jane and R. were fairly vocal about one another with their faults. But the fact they couldn't get together straight away underlines the huge problem in the relationship (in my opinion) that Brontë gave us: R. did not need Jane. That sounds particularly harsh on him, but it's true. He didn't love her any less, not do I think he devalued her, but I think that he would have stifled her with how independent he was and how, in some ways, he was quite selfish. As he says himself, he tries hard to do the good thing, but I think it is in his nature to be somewhat self-centred- which is how Jane was (arguably) until she embraced religion.

Religion, I should say, is also important. There's a use of contrast in this sense since Jane has a very moderate, stereotypically liberal protestant kind of faith. She believes in the grace of God and such things, but she still believes that life is not merely spiritual and know that she can't live her life for a reward at the end of it. To use a recent internet meme, by whose use I feel I'm sullying everything I stand for, YOLO (You Only Live Once). She wants to enjoy her life and live it according to how she wants to live it. If that coincides with a very religious life, so be it. If not, she won't sacrifice herself and what she believes; she truly believes that who she is as a person is the most powerful and important thing about life. At least, that's the feeling I get.

Skipping a whole bunch, I'll give my opinion on the ending. You can basically sum up chapters 20-30 with what the hell just happened? and Who are and what have you done with and to my protagonists? It's weird, though the ending balances it somewhat.

The ending was great, in general. I had a few niggly nuances with the haste of it all, and it was a tad predictable but only in the sense that it is a classic with a happy ending, and Victorian novelists had a very specific idea of what defined happiness. I think what won the ending for me was that Jane seemed to truly be herself. Her life of being a servant in one way or another always seemed to hinder her somewhat. Her position was precarious enough that she had to maintain her manners and be a certain way since society demanded it, lest she be outcast to die. But in her situation at the end, she doesn't have these restraints. She's still polite and humble as a person, but she is free. If she is silent now, it is because she chooses to be, not because she must. She grew up and though she isn't blindly innocent, she is optimistic.

So it's a great book, and- since it need be said- Karen read it as her first (optional) classic so it might be a gateway classic for others who want to read it! Just make sure you read past the first ten chapters!