Friday, February 28, 2014

New writing project: Tales From The Inn

I want to talk to you about a project that has been in my head at least since September, and which I've finally started. It's a blog that details the experiences of a fictional character I created, a young woman called Samantha "Sam" Barrow, who runs "The Inn", home to ghosts, deities and folklore figures. 
If you're interested, you can find this blog through my homepage or by clicking this link: Tales From The Inn.
Thank you! 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Review: The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

I have mixed feelings about this book. A part of me really liked it, another part of me is kind of disappointed. But let's keep things orderly. 
The main characters are Chava, a golem, and Ahamd, a Jinni. 
Chava is probably the first golem ever to have been created to be a wife. She was commissioned by a man who didn't have much luck with the flesh-and-blood ladies, and so thought that a bride made of clay, whose willpower is bound to his (in other words, she'll gladly do everything he wants) would be a suitable second best option. Yeah, he's a huge creep, but fortunately he dies mere hours after waking his golem, leaving her masterless in a boat bound for New York City.
Being masterless means Chava is almost overcome with the desires of everybody around her, which would be bad enough even if she wasn't in a huge metropolis. She's lucky, though, because she's found by a kind, elderly rabbi who takes her under his wing and teaches her how to pass off as human.
Chava is basically a ticking time bomb, because golems are prone to thoughtless violence, and when they've had a taste of it they'll go on spreading death until they are destroyed. 
Ahmad, on the other hand, is a centuries-old jinni, who used to live in a glass palace in the desert and was fascinated by humans, until he was captured by a sorcerer and put into a flask. He slept for a thousand years, until he was accidentally awoken by a tinsmith in a small shop in Little Syria. 
Like Chava, he passes himself off as human. Unlike Chava, his nature isn't that dangerous, and he believes firmly in following his urges and pursuing his pleasure, even in spite of caution. 
Chava and Ahmad are both complicated and well-developped characters. It was very easy to see why they acted the way they did and I really liked their love story. It was slow build, and most of their relationship was spent trying to find a middle ground between their very different approaches at life, while developing a tentative friendship.
I liked Chava more than I did Ahmad. He's not less interesting that she is, but while her fault is that she's too careful, he's very, very careless and through his actions he endangers not only himself, but also other people.  
For example, he takes up with Sophia Winston, a rich heiress. Arbeerly, the tinsmith, who under no obligation has hid the jinni and given him a job, begs Ahmad to leave her alone, because if her parents find out, the whole of Little Syria might get some serious trouble. Of course the jinni doesn't listen to him and keeps seeing her. 
Not that Chava doesn't hurt people, in particular she does one incredibly shitty thing to a pretty decent guy, but her motivations for doing it are a lot less flimsy than Ahmad's "My own pleasure is the only thing that matters and I don't care how many people I hurt because of my inability to keep it in my pants". 
The side characters are well fleshed-out as well. I have a soft spot for Ice-cream Saleh in particular, he was a really interesting character and I wish he had had more page time and a bigger story arc. He does have an important part to play, but I would have liked for him and the jinni to become friends, for reasons I won't disclose because they would be spoilery.  
One of the main problems I had with "The golem and the jinni"is the way everybody gets a backstory, explained through a long flashback, which is introduced into the story with no finesse whatsoever. The worst one was the jinni's, which is told in several parts. Since Ahmad doesn't remember anything from the last few months before being imprisoned, I thought that it was him remembering what had happened in chunks, but then we got the POV of a beduin girl from the caravan he had been following and in the end it turned out that it wasn't the jinni's memories we were reading. And Wecker didn't use a an omniscient narrator, either. The novel was told through multiple POVs, and the other characters' flashbacks were all told through their POV, so I really can't make sense of the way the jinni's backstory was delivered. 
The other problem I had with the novel was that I couldn't really see what themes the author was going for: It felt like various ideas were picked up then discarded, without being followed through (for example, the discussion on the subject of religion). The one point the author did make was tied to the use of magic, but it felt kind of rushed and really only took up about a paragraph near the end of the novel, with nothing leading up to it, so I wouldn't say it's a theme. 
All in all, I did enjoy reading this book and it kept me engrossed, but I can't help but feel as though this novel could have been so much more, if only it had been edited for a little while longer and the rough edges had been smoothed out. 
For what this novel is, it's good, but it's not excellent and it could have been excellent and it drives me mad that it wasn't. The potential was there, it just wasn't exploited fully. 
I do think it's worth a read, though, so if you're in the mood for some historical magical realism fiction that isn't set in the victorian era, I'd give it a try. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

W… W… W… Wednesday

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Should Be Reading
where you answer the following questions:
What are you currently reading?
What did you recently read?
What will you be reading next?

What are you currently reading? Actually I'm not reading anything right now.

What did you recently read? "Coraline" by Neil Gaiman and "The Golem and the Jinni" by Helene Wecker 

What will you be reading next? I'm not sure. Have you got any suggestions? 

So, what's your WWW for this week? Let me know in the comments!

Waiting on Wednesday 26/02/2014

“Waiting On Wednesday" is a weekly meme hosted at Breaking the Spine that spotlights eagerly anticipated upcoming releases.

A Southern girl. A wounded soldier. A chilling force deep in the forest.
All collide at night’s darkest hour.

Seventeen-year-old Violet Dancey has been left at home in Mississippi with a laudanum-addicted stepmother and love-crazed stepsister while her father fights in the war—a war that has already claimed her twin brother.
When she comes across a severely injured Union soldier lying in an abandoned lodge deep in the woods, things begin to change. Thomas is the enemy—one of the men who might have killed her own brother—and yet she's drawn to him. But Violet isn't Thomas's only visitor; someone has been tending to his wounds—keeping him alive—and it becomes chillingly clear that this care hasn't been out of compassion.
Against the dangers of war and ominous powers of voodoo, Violet must fight to protect her home and the people she loves.
From the author of Strands of Bronze and Gold comes a haunting love story and suspenseful thriller based on the ancient fairy tale of "Tam Lin."
Expected publication: 11/04/2014
Source: Goodreads 

I really like Tam Lin (basically it's about a badass girl who defeats the fairy queen to get her lover back) and the historical backdrop of this retelling looks really interesting. I really hope "The Mirk and Midnight Hour" will live up to the original version.

What are you waiting for this week? Let me know in the comments!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Quote-Tastic 24/02/2014

"Quote-Tastic" is a meme hosted every Monday on Herding Cats & Burning Soup . To participate you have to post a favorite quote from a current or past read.
This week's quote is from a current read, "A Kiss in Time" by Alex Flinn
“Listen.” The voice is extremely loud, and I am forced to hold the telephone away from my ear.
“I don’t know who you are, or why you have Jack’s phone, but he is my boyfriend, and—”
Boyfriend? What is a boyfriend? Perhaps it is something like a beau.
“Is he engaged to you, then?” I hope not.
“What? No. Of course not.”
“Oh, what a relief. He is my true love, and you do not sound very nice.”
“What? Listen, you . . .”
And then, strangely enough, she calls me a female dog.
So, what's your favorite quote this week? Let me know in the comments!  

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Review: The Chaos of Stars by Kiersten White

Oh, "Chaos of Stars" I wanted to love you so badly. You promised humor! And adventure! And Egyptian mythology! All the fun stuff!
What I got was instead an insufferable main character, a doormat of a love interest and a hole-filled plot that didn't rear its ugly head until the last 20% of the novel. 
Isadora, the female lead, is the human daughter of egyptian deities Isis and Osiris. She spends a blissful childhood, decorating, amongst other things, a special room her parents selected for her. This until she finds out that she is mortal and that the room she has been lovingly decorating is, in fact, her future tomb.
Osiris and and Isis have a human child every twenty years because the gods need worshippers in order to remain in physical form. When Isadora finds out about this, she thinks her parents see her only as a mean to an end and becomes determined to leave Egypt for good as soon as she can.
At sixteen, Isadora is bitter and frustrated, and the presence of her older, immortal brother Horus and his wife, Hathor, both of whom often call her by the wrong name doesn't help matters. 
So when Isis feels chaos rising and decides to get pregnant early, Isadora sizes the opportunity to convince her parents to let her stay for a couple of months with her older brother Sirus, in America.
From that moment on until the last 20%, the novel consists of Isadora sulking, eating, proving that she is better than anyone else, eating, being an ass, eating, somehow managing to make friends. Not to mention lots and lots of sexual tension with doormat boy. Yay!
I found Isadora to be sympathetic at first, because the situation she was in was truly awful. It didn't last long. She is an immature, selfish Mary Sue. She has a sense of humor only eight graders should be justified to get away with. She calls Horus "Whore-us" for the entire novel. Yep. That's her idea of a sophisticated joke, guys.
Her first reaction upon finding out that her brother is married and that he and his wife, Deena, are expecting a child is feeling betrayed. Understandable enough, right? Her brother kept an important part of his life from her, after all. But nope, the not telling her part comes as an afterthought. What makes her angry is the simple fact that he got married. How dare her brother try and be as happy as he can?
But see, Isadora heartily disapproves of romantic relationships. Why? Because there's no point, because they either end or one of the lovers die. She's the life of the party, this one. 
Oddly enough, she doesn't have the same problems with friendships, even though those have to end too, and friends have the potential to hurt you just as much as lovers can.
But I think we all know why Isadora is ok with friendship but not ok with romance: the author needed an excuse for Isadora to rebuff doormat boy (ok, his name is Ry, short for Orion. Guess who is obsessed with stars and has elected Orion as her favorite constellation? This book couldn't get cheesier if it tried), but still remain in contact with him throughout the novel, so as to give the reader the right amount of breathtaking (ha!) sexual tension.
Isadora and Ry are clearly meant for each other. Why? Because they are so breathtakingly gorgeous that they cannot go anywhere without being hit on!
Also, Isadora is talented! And artistic! She is an interior designer (mind you, do not call her an interior decorator, or she'll get testy) and an incredibly good one. So good that she gets to redesign a whole room in the museum she volunteers in all on her own. So good that Ry's mother immediately refurnishes one of the rooms of her house according to her instruction. 
Isadora is gifted not only with a beautiful face and statuesque figure, but also with the knowledge of every language ever spoken. 
Isadora is a dick. When she meets Ry, he talks to her in Arabic, to make her feel at home. Does Isadora appreciate the gesture? Nope! She gets offended because she assumes he thinks she doesn't speak English well. 
At one point, Ry takes her hand, even though she had made it clear she didn't want a relationship. She has a right to get upset. But there's understandably upset and then there's hyper-reacting. And then there's Isadora. She fucking bolts out of the door as she, Ry and their two friends are watching a movie and freaking turns her phone off because she doesn't want to give Ry the possibility to explain.
"I'm so tired of all these girls throwing themselves at me, I just want to sit in a corner and write epic poetry in peace." said (and meant) no teenage boy ever Ry (he didn't quite put it like that, but that was the gist of it). 
The romance is boring and unbelievable. Ry's reasons for loving Isadora are flimsy at best and downright unbelievable at worst, and Isadora might be in lust with him, but she is far to ready to put him in the line of danger for me to buy her supposed love for him. 
Tyler and Scott, Isadora's friends, are far more likable and interesting than the main couple. I can't help but wish that the book had been about them, even though there isn't a drop of godly blood in either of them. 
So yeah, this book was a huge disappointment. My advice for you is to spend you time and money on some worthier novel.  

Friday, February 21, 2014

Review: The Opposite of Magic by Colleen Cowley

*I received a free e-copy of this book from the author in exchange of an unbiased review*
Emily Dagget has grown up reading fantasy novels, and since she can't live in one, she has decided to do the next best thing and pursue a degree in the history of magic in literature and folklore. After finishing her studies, Emily found a job in a small university and settled down as best as she could. 
Cue her finding out that not only magic exists, but that there is a real life wizard in her university. Too bad he's bad-tempered and not at all interested in teaching her how to use it. 
Emily is special, though (of course!). She has a power no one else has. This usually pisses me off, but it didn't bother me at all it this book, because her power has as many (potentially life-threateing) drawbacks as it has advantages.  
In general, Emily is a very likable character: she's enthusiastic, she's kind and she won't let her guy walk all over her. She's brave, but she isn't reckless. She risks her life because it might save other people, she's not in it for the thrill, and neither does she get involved by accident, which are the two most common cases in this kind of books.
I also really liked the fact that she likes to read fantasy books and is delighted upon finding out that magic exists, which is a reaction I haven't seen often. Usually urban fantasy heroines are really angsty and moody. Still, she isn't obnoxious or immature: even though she has always dreamed of living an adventure, she isn't happy when she really gets to battle an evil wizard, because people are getting hurt or killed.
Emily's love interest, the side characters and the villains are all very interesting, well-develloped and enjoyable characters, too. 
The world-building is another thing I really liked about "The Opposite of Magic". The way magic is handled is very clever and it's also not something I have seen before. I'm not going to give away what it is, but it's something that gives a lot of possibilities, and Cowley exploited them throughly. 
The romance I think is one of the weakest aspects of the novel. Don't get me wrong, they do have chemistry, but the author uses a trope I can't stand. You know how everybody despises love triangles, but I don't find them all that bad? Well this trope is my version of a love triangle. It's the "I'm breaking her heart and making her despise me because I love her and I'm dangerous to be around" trope. She's  not a child and it's her call to decide wether or not she thinks he's worth the risk. 
Also, he lies and manipulates Emily throughout the whole novel. She calls him out on it, sure, but it still pisses me off. 
Another thing that I didn't like about the novel was the fact that the story kept going and a lot of important stuff happened after the defeat of the villain, which puzzled me, because I kept expecting the book to end, but it never did. It would have been better to have those things happen before the final battle. 
All in all, I'm very glad I read it, and I definitely recommend it if you want to read a magical realism book that doesn't fall into the same old, clich├ęd tropes (at least for the most part). 


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday / WWW Wednesday 05/02/2014

“Waiting On Wednesday" is a weekly meme hosted at Breaking the Spine that spotlights eagerly anticipated upcoming releases.

In Chaucer’s London, betrayal, murder and intrigue swirl around the existence of a prophetic book that foretells the deaths of England’s kings. A Burnable Book is an irresistible thriller, reminiscent of classics like An Instance of the Fingerpost, The Name of the Rose and The Crimson Petal and the White.

London, 1385. Surrounded by ruthless courtiers—including his powerful uncle, John of Gaunt, and Gaunt’s flamboyant mistress, Katherine Swynford—England’s young, still untested king, Richard II, is in mortal peril, and the danger is only beginning. Songs are heard across London—catchy verses said to originate from an
ancient book that prophesies the end of England’s kings—and among the book’s predictions is Richard’s assassination. Only a few powerful men know that the cryptic lines derive from a “burnable book,” a seditious work that threatens the stability of the realm. To find the manuscript, wily bureaucrat Geoffrey Chaucer turns to fellow poet John Gower, a professional trader in information with connections high and low.

Gower discovers that the book and incriminating evidence about its author have fallen into the unwitting hands of innocents, who will be drawn into a labyrinthine conspiracy that reaches from the king’s court to London’s slums and stews--and potentially implicates his own son. As the intrigue deepens, it becomes clear that Gower, a man with secrets of his own, may be the last hope to save a king from a terrible fate.

Medieval scholar Bruce Holsinger draws on his vast knowledge of the period to add colorful, authentic detail—on everything from poetry and bookbinding to court intrigues and brothels—to this highly entertaining and brilliantly constructed epic literary mystery that brings medieval England gloriously to life.
Source: Goodreads

A good historical novel set in the Middle Ages and that promises intrigue and suspense? Color me hyped! 
What are you waiting for this week? Let me know in the comments!

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Should Be Reading
where you answer the following questions:
What are you currently reading?
What did you recently read?
What will you be reading next?

What are you currently reading? Actually, I'm not reading anything right now.

What did you recently read? I just finished reading "The Chaos of Stars" by Kiersten White and "The Opposite of Magic"by Colleen Cowley. One of them was really good, the other was really bad. You'll find out which is which soon enough.
What will you be reading next? I am not sure. I want to read "The Golem and the Jinni" by Helene Wecker, but I'm considering reading something a bit lighter first. If you've got suggestions, I would love to hear them!

What is your WWW this week? Let me know in the comments!