Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Persuasion by Jane Austen

Part of the Austen in August event hosted by (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 a reward for having read everything above!!!: