Saturday, 28 May 2011

Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith

Crown Duel

This one was an insistence from a friend. She loved it and wouldn't shut up about it kept telling me about it. Well, forcing me to get this book, and then reading (and now reviewing it). It was with some doubt that I approached it (my friend's review notwithstanding) - too many expectations can be bad.

This book is actually an omnibus of Crown Duel and Court Duel, plus an extra short story at the end, and so, I will divide the review in these 3 parts.

Crown Duel, the first part, presents us to Meliara, a countess from a troubled kingdom, where a tyrant king rules, and all the counties are heavily taxed to pay for his pleasures and his court. This kingdom is also inhabited by the Hill People, a kind of otherworld beings (a bit of a mix of elves and fairies), with whom everyone accepted a Covenant. Basically no wood is to be taken from trees, only the fallen branches can be collected. The Hill People gift families every year with Firesticks, that allow them to warm their houses and cook their food. And the tyranny of the king wouldn't be complete if he didn't mean to break this Covenant.

But back to Meliara, the heroine of our story. She is a countess but knows nothing of niceties and curtsies. She runs barefoot with all the other kids, mingles with servants and peasants, and, in fact, thinks nothing of difference of status. Nor does her brother.

When both of them find out that the king intends to break the Covenant they decide it's time for him to be gone, and they start to plan their revolt, trying to harness supporters among the other counties to go to war. Only, war comes to them and they are alone on this strife.

This was quite a nice start. Intrigue, plots for revolution and war, overthrowing tyrants, a hint of fantasy here and there. I liked to discover the customs of this new world, the dances and songs, the festivities, the fact that everyone worked for the same goal (at least at Meliara's house).

This is the story of Meliara, and as so, we follow all of her exploits. And also, keep her company for almost 500 pages. She is quite a spunky kid, not used to lying, actually, very bad at it, but that is no matter because she would much rather be honest. And blunt. But she was also rather oblivious and obstinate. Not a good combination, and as this book progressed (and well into the second part), I started to get the urge to slap some sense into this girl.

Storywise, it was a good first part. Not very surprising, beyond a few twists here and there, but nicely written. And most authors would have made of this first part a standalone book (save from a less open ending, and a few other minor changes).

Which brings us to the second part, Court Duel. This is what made the Crown Duel (as a whole) an amazing read. The first part was about war, and overthrowing a king. This second part, however, dealt with the court and all its intricacies.

I kept imagining the court of Remalna has something out of 18th century France, with parties and balls, and secret silent languages. Discovering all the intrigues, who's friend and who's foe, who to trust, that was all part of the fun. Meliara's ignorance (and also extreme dislike) of the Court life was the perfect excuse for me, the reader, to learn all about it, and I loved every part of it.

Of course the desire to slap Mel until she saw reason persisted, but at least in this part she was aware she needed some slapping.

Another thing that I liked, well, loved, were the letters. Secret admirers can be so fun in a book. There is something about it that takes you back to being 12, but there is also so much that can be done with it. People are more sincere with letters, especially if the other person doesn't know who are. And then there is the mystery of the entire thing. Of course I knew who the writer was, part because of comments from my friend, and part because it was rather obvious. But this is one of the cases that is not so much who the culprit is, but how you find out. Also, you are about 99% sure you have the right answer to the mystery, but just want to be proven right in the off 1% chance you are wrong.

This second part was what made me surrender to this book. If the first part was read languidly, alternating with other books, this second one was a rush to read more and more about the Court, wondering when Mel would see some sense, and see an ending to the kingdom's troubles.

The ending was quite good, I liked how it was done, and where the story stopped. And that leads to the final short story.

I understand that it was a gift for the fans of the book (and of Meliara's love story), but it was completely unnecessary. Especially because it was not as well written as the rest of the book. It was a bit of silliness I could have done without.

But, despite this short story, I liked this book. There a few things that surprised me, and that I loved, for example that there you were as likely to find women in the army as you were to find men. And that some of the ladies of court were very keen on competing in horse racing and on sword fighting. It was refreshing.

I'm glad that I paid some heed to my friend's constant nagging, because it was an excellent book.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Other Reviews: Cuidado com o Dalmata |

This Book on: LibraryThing | GoodReads | BookDepository UK | Book Depository US | Amazon UK| Amazon US|

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

El menor espectáculo del mundo by Félix J. Palma

El menor espectáculo del mundo [The smallest show in the world]
This book is only available in Spanish

This a collection of short stories, a bit like snapshots into everyday life, where the surreal, strange and fantastical seems to enter. A lot of the stories deal with problems of marriage, of disgruntled couples, and betrayals. Most are about problems of the heart, whether in married couples or not. A few give an outlook into the life of elders, and their solitude.

I liked a lot of this stories, some I even loved. The first one El País de las Muñecas [The Country of the Dolls] opens us to a world not of not exactly magic, but magical nonetheless, exploring the father-daughter relationship. It's ending surprised me for its brutality and, even if part of me thinks it's a bit out of place, I don't think I could have it any other way.

Margabarismos starts off with a brilliant description of Veronica, the neighbourhood bar, and it's toilet. It's a strange story at first, and I wasn't much impressed, but as surreal things started to happen, I became more and more invested on the story. In a way, I'll say it makes sense. As far as a story where a dead uncle communicates with his nephew through messages written on a bathroom door of a shabby bar can make sense.

Una palabra tuya [One word from you] is quite dramatic, but an excellent story. It draws on the idea that sometimes kids think their parents are superheroes and that parents will try to prove them that they can indeed be heroes. This is a story that gets better and better as you go along, each shenanigan making you more in love with the main character. The ending on this one was perfect.

Maullidos [Meows] is, in itself, a love story. Only you just discover it in the end. It could have been longer, I'm sure, maybe then it would be more memorable, but it was pretty good this way as well.

Un ascenso a los infiernos [An ascent to hell]. This is a sad story, but also one of extreme courage. We are faced with 3 elders, who like to spend their days sitting by the Ambulance's entrance of an hospital, taking bets on what ails the people who come in. Among this we learn that there is no age limitation on failing in love, that disillusion can be fatal, and that anyone can be a hero, if they so wish to.

El síndome de Karenina [Karenina's syndrome] is a great story. There is a certain mystery to it, and you can't help but have your head whirling, trying to find the solution. The answer to this mystery is not surprising, but not obvious either. But what makes this story even better is its conclusion, a way to show that not all love stories end like we think, without it being a bad thing. 

El valiente anestesista [The valiant anesthetist] shocked me profundly and I have to say I didn't like it. It was a bit confusing, but more than that I didn't like the idea of a mother telling her daughter what kind of bastard her father was, in the guise of a fairytale. I understand completely the way of this story, and I do agree that life is not a fairytale but, damn, I still want to be told it is.

Las siete vidas (o así) de Sebastián Mingorance [The seven lives (or so) of Sebastián Mingorance] adds quantum physics to fantasy, a combination that is always sure to please me. The idea of this story and, in part, its execution, was extremely good. The main character, however, I didn't quite like, none of his incarnations.

And the best way to end a book of short stories, is to end with the best one, and the most bittersweet one. At least it was in this book's case. Biblelot [Trinket] gives us a peek into the solitude of old age, and what people do, sometimes in the spur of the moment, to lighten that weight and give some joy where there seems to be none.

In general, I loved this book. But it was not so much for the stories (although there are some really good ones), but for the writing style. In The Map of Time I realized that Félix Palma has a gift with language, and this book was no different. It didn't matter what it was about, the way it was told made want to keep reading. I kept thinking, it's just words, the same words every other author uses, but Palma is like a magician and these same words are transformed into a text that you can't help but marvel at. Even if this text is describing a pretty gross bathroom.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

This Book on: LibraryThing | GoodReads | BookDepository UK | Book Depository US | Amazon UK| Amazon US

Monday, 23 May 2011

Varjak Paw by SF Said

Varjak Paw
Varjak is a Mesoptamian Blue, the most noble of cat races. But he is not a true one, as his brother likes to remind him. His eyes are the wrong colour, the colour of danger, instead of green like the rest of his family.

They all live in the countess house, but things have been different for a while, they never see the countess, she is always in her room. When a strange gentleman with 2 black cats appears only Varjak and his grandfather sense the danger. Varjak's grandfather gives him the mission of finding help. It means going outside the wall that surrounds the house, and finding a dog. Varjak has never left home, and the only help from his gradfather is the Way, and even that is an incomplete knowledge. Varjak has to face the city, while learning the Way by himself.

Varjak Paw is a kid's book - it is a good story, with nice messages, fun parts and a lot of action. Yet, it's a kid's book, so it's a simple story, a kind of Karate Kid, with cats. You read it fast, you are amused, but you are not amazed and it's easy to get on with your next read.

For the little ones, it's a very nice book. But it loses its charm with older people. But this is just the story.

Now let's talk illustrations. Because the illustrations alone are the reason I'll keep this book. Unsurprisingly, they are of cats. But they are really good, and give a new dimension to the story. Dave McKean is a great illustrator, I knew that from other books, and this one is no exception.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

This Book on: LibraryThing | GoodReads | BookDepository UK | Book Depository US | Amazon UK| Amazon US|

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Quigui Writes

This post was meant for last week, but blogger started to misbehave so I couldn't do it then. As this is about a new blog of mine, and after the meltdown it was sent to limbo, I decided to wait until blogger returned it to me.

Blogger didn't return it to me. (although it has finally returned my missing comment) After a week I decided to re-register the name (because it was as if the blog had never existed) and just hope that the Universe wouldn't implode as a result of that. But since it's rapture judgement day, I can blame it on that.

Anyway, Quigui Writes is my new baby blog. It will be a place for everything that I write. It will be mostly fantasy, and mostly works in progress that might never see an ending. Up until now much of what I wrote has only been read by me (and one other person who is to blame for inciting me to post), and the things posted there are totally unedited and unpolished. This means that a lot of the things I rant about in this blog, I will be guilty of in that one.

So far there is a short story there, and the explanation of a longer one that I'll be posting weekly. If you feel curious about it, you can check it at

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Top Ten Tuesday - Minor Characters

Look! An update! Since the craziness of Friday 13, with blogger crashing, and things suddenly missing, I was waiting for things to go back to normal. They haven’t (I’m still missing a comment and a blog. And wanted to do a post about that new blog, but since he doesn’t exist anymore. yet. whatever. it would be really silly do that post.).

Anyway, since misery likes company, Friday 13 wouldn’t have been complete without me managing to wreck the thumb drive that had the only copy of my next review. Just peachy.

So, since this week’s Top Ten Tuesday Theme actually interests me, I will join the meme again. Minor characters, be it sidekicks/supporting roles or just dead person #4. I always liked the underdog, the unappreciated, the one that stays in the shadow. So it should be easy to think of 10, right?

Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten Minor Characters
Top Ten Tuesday is a meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. Every week a theme for a list is suggested. This week's theme is Minor Characters.

Let’s start with Juliet Marillier’s characters, because she writes great characters, main or minor.

Faolan by MaevesChild
Faolan in Dark Mirror (The Chronicles of Bridei) – Faolan is made of awesome, pure awesome. He is so awesome that although he is a minor character in the first book of this series he manages to highjack it in such a way that the entire thing should be called The Chronicles of Faolan. Because by the third book you are almost asking “Bridei, who?”

Ciarán from the Sevenwaters Series – Ciarán is always in the background, but so far he is one of the few characters that managed to make an appearance in every. single. book. of the series. Sure, in Daughter of the Forest he is just mentioned, but he is there. He is a great character, and sometimes you are not sure in which side of the struggle he will be (but hope against hope that it will be with the good guys!). He is almost as awesome as Faolan!

Padriac from the Sevenwaters Series – Ahhh, Padriac! He is the Hippy brother. He is easy going, he loves animals, he helps everyone. He even manages to get sour faced Colum to smile. And then he turns sailor/pirate and has a parrot! A parrot! There is a short story where he is the hero and I’m sure it is full of more amazing things about Padriac. Unfortunately it was published in an anthology only available in Australia, and I haven’t read it. Yet.

And now, for the non-Juliet characters!

Raffin and Bann in Graceling by Kristin Cashore – Raffin is Katsa’s cousin, a prince, and the medieval equivalent of a Mad Scientist. He tests his own concoctions on himself (turning his hair blue in the process, a very princely colour), and is extremely funny. Bann is his sidekick, lab-minion and friend (and maybe companion, but that could be just me getting the vibes wrong).

Bale by bitayamoka
Bale from Chronicles of Ancient Darkness by Michelle Paver (first appears in Spirit Walker) – Bale is the cousin of Torak, and those two don’t get along at first, because Bale is older and thinks it entitles him to order Torak around. I hate that kind of character! But as I got to know Bale, I realised he was a very sensible boy, very loyal, and the one person I would want to have by my side if I needed help. He became one of my favourite characters in the entire series (he soooo deserved a better fate).

Which brings me to…

Dark from Ghost Hunter by Michelle Paver (Chronicles of Ancient Darkness) – I felt a bit cheated with Dark. Surely such a great character wouldn’t appear only on the final chapters of the last book? Surely? But that’s what happened. Dark is abandoned by all at a young based on his colouring, and that doesn’t bring him down. Sure, he might not be the sanest of persons, but he manages not only to survive but to help others as well.

Mel from Sunshine by Robin McKinley – Mel is Rae’s boyfriend, a biker-turned-chef. His inclusion in this list is more for his mystery than his awesomeness. Oh, don’t get me wrong, he is awesome, he is like a pillar that would survive the apocalypse, reliable, and above all, he doesn’t ask for anything. But I want to know more about him, about his past and about those tattoos of his. Because I just can’t resist a man with tattoos.

And speaking of tattoos…

Conory in The Mark of the Horse Lord – In a book where everyone had their skin decorated it was hard to pick just one character to like. By all rights it should be the main one, a red-headed gladiator, but Conory, the one person that could foil the plan of making said red-head king, took the first spot. Let’s see why. He shows his unyielding support to someone who a) has no right to be King and b) is actually taking a kingship that should be his. He is described as having a curious face and lopsided eyes and being beautiful. Extremely beautiful. If he can be beautiful with lopsided eyes he has to be the awesomest person alive, right? Wait, there is more, something that will top everything else. He has a wild cat as pet. Not a cat. A Wild Cat. And he regularly uses this cat as a scarf! You can’t get any better than this.

Cinna by Ravengirl5111
Cinna in The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – Cinna is one of those characters that you can not help but love. Or at least I can not help it. He is supporting, part father figure, part best friend. And he tries to fight the system within the system, in the most unusual way. He does it as what he does best, by fashion and by making people believe someone is something they are not, on looks alone. He knows the faults of Humanity, and exploits to their benefit.

Luis in Valiant by Holly Black – Luis has a personality that doesn’t make you want to be friends with him. He is rude and snaps back at you, and he doesn’t care what you think. He is also extremely loyal to family and those few (kind-of) friends that he manages not to drive away.

(I see I managed to make an all-male list. It wasn’t intentional, in fact there are 2 female characters in the runner-ups: Yolande from Sunshine, Daneca from White Cat)

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Why I like Fantasy, or, Location, Location, Location

...or why Urban Fantasy makes me cringe.

Looking at book blurbs made me realize something. When looking at fantasy (in broad sense) books, if I see the mention of a known city (and by known I mean our world) or nationality, I immediately skip that book. Unless I know and like the author. Or a lot of people keep telling me I should read it. Why does that happen?

I tend not to delve into the realms of urban fantasy. But there are lots of great books that are urban fantasy. I even love some of those. Part is because I like my dragons, and they don't go well with the huff-huff of city life. But part is that by being in a city, it tends to be a real city.

True, this mostly happens with young adult books. True, that sometimes is great to imagine something magical happening where you live. But here comes part of my pickle. It never happens where I live. I need to go into historical fiction to get that, and even there it is very rare.

Doesn't it seem like a good place for Fantasy?
Photo (c) Clara Vale

Furthermore, it seems to happen all on the other side of the ocean. And I've never been there. I know a fair bit of American geography because, well, if I want to understand the majority of geographical references in films and books, I need to know that, for instance, Washington in not in Washington (it took me awhile to get that). That there are 2 big rivers going from north to south. That it takes a freaking long time to drive from one place to another. But the layout of the cities? That I don't have to know.

I always get my kicks when the action takes place in a city I've been to. Because suddenly I can visualize what the author meant. But I think that even if I can do it, there is surely someone who can't, and isn't enjoying it as I am.

In (regular, high, epic) Fantasy, on the other hand everyone stands in the same foot - it's an unfamiliar place, and the author has to show us how it is. Not always done brilliantly, I admit, but at least there is a certain democracy to it. It could be just a map, it could be the slowly unravelling of details and places during the story. But every reader learns at the same time that there is a shop at the end of the street. There isn't an instance where some know, and some don't.

Also, I get a bit of the feeling that setting it in our world is the easy way out – the world is already built, no need to elaborate on that, no need to construct anything. Again, this certainly can be true in some books, where the author tells you is set in New York and assumes you know what the city is all about, but there are lots of others that take the time to characterize the place, so the reader at least has a feeling of what it is like to be there.

And I can use the books I've read to explain my point. In White Cat, it takes place in the States. There are a bunch of locations that are known to me and some that aren't. Are them north or south in relation to the ones I know? No idea. Is it near the ocean or the mountains? I don't know. I know their names and that the character goes there. And that's it.

As an example of urban fantasy in a complete new city I'm going to use China Mieville's Perdido Street Station. There is a map at the beginning, because this is a huge city. I had to refer to it quite a few times. But I started to get a sense of the city as I kept reading. Salacus Fields as the bohemian quarter. The scientific district of Brock Marsh. The places you ought to go, the ones you better stay away from.

And last we have Sunshine. Sunshine made it to this list because while being urban fantasy, and set in an alternate America, it takes place in a fantasy city - New Arcadia. Also because discovering the city and getting to know it is part of the narrative - we are discovering the city at the pace the character needs us to. How a place evolved to what it is. What lies beyond that park. Why people avoid the outskirts.

There are other books that are all about the cities, real or imaginary, or good specimens of fantasy set on cities. And although I’ve realized that I really avoid this kind of books, and it’s kind of hard to find other examples, here are a few (besides those 3 up there) that come to mind:
  • Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
  • The City & The City by China Mieville
  • Valiant by Holly Black
  • Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
  • Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente *new*
  • Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner *new*

Sunday, 8 May 2011

April Ins and Outs

April was such a good month. It always is (because of my birthday ^_^), but this time I managed to read A LOT! Mostly because of Operation Manga!, but still, a lot of reading.

Not many acquisitions this month :( but still a few :D


Winkie by Clifford Chase
I think this one is a sort-of dystopia, and with something dark concerning teddy bears.

Oranges are not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson
I first came across this book through Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, I think it was in Spaced or some commentary on the series. And I got curious about the book.

Rusalka by C.J. Cherryh
Historical fantasy, heavy with russian folklore. It has been so long on my wishlist that I managed to mooch it twice.

Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith
A friend recommended this. Actually she sung its praises lo and high, and told me to get it or else. So I bought it.

The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting
Jen7waters from Cuidado com o Dálmata had an extra copy of this book lying around and decided that I deserved to get it!

White Cat by Holly Black
Again from Jen7waters, but this time a gift for my Bday.

Thank you Carla!

A Mentira do Aquecimento Global: Mito ou Ciência? by Roy Spencer
(Climate Confusion: How Global Warming Hysteria Leads to Bad Science, Pandering Politicians and Misguided Policies that Hurt the Poor.)

A gift from my uncle - a bit of non-fiction in a subject we have in common. Although I'm not very keen on non-fiction, this one actually interests me.

Transformation by Carol Berg
I enjoyed this one; it pulled me in and enabled me to read more! Review is here.

The Cathedral of the Sea by Ildefonso Falcones
Finally, that’s what I can say about finishing this book! Also, the review is here.

Varjak Paw by S.F. Said
A sweet children’s story with cats, and cool illustrations. Really cool illustrations. Review to come.

Graceling by Kristin Cashore
I've been meaning to re-read Graceling for a while now (well, since I finished it the first time). Still love it! And now I feel like re-reading Fire.

The Call of Cthulhu by H.P. Lovecraft            Ebook
This is a classic, and while there is a lot of Cthulhu that is known, there were definitely some things that I didn’t know. So I decided to fix that.
This was just the short story, but it is quite good. I’m afraid that reading it in the dull moments at work was not the best choice, because there is a darkness to it that doesn’t go well with Spanish dance music, or jokes between co-workers. Still a very nice story. One of these days I’m going to get this on paper and enjoy it with more calm.

Sunshine by Robin McKingley
Ahhh, Sunshine! I really liked this one. And wasn’t exactly expecting it. But I trusted good recommendations from fellow bloggers, and it proved right. Here is my review.

Fullmetal Alchemist Volumes 1 to 6 by Hiromu Arakawa
The first volumes of Full Metal Alchemist are pretty much like the series. Which means it is good. There is action, there is a storyline, there is humour and there is drama. Also, the art is pretty neat.

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind Volumes 2 to 4 by Hayao Miyazaki
I love Nausicaä. Great anime, and the manga is proving to be really good as well. What I didn’t account for when I started the Operation Manga! was how complex this one is. The story, the art, everything – there is so much going on in here.

The Vision of Escaflowne Volume 1 by Katsu Aki
This is quite different from both the anime and the movie (and these were different from each other to start with). I’m not sure is better, but since so much is changed is a bit harder to compare. The target public is quite different and that shows. I might do a rant post about it later.

White Cat by Holly Black
(Actually, this is an IN and an OUT! :D)
Another one that was gripping, I liked it. Review is here.

TBR Variation: -9 (From 194 to 185) YEY!

Thursday, 5 May 2011

White Cat by Holly Black

White Cat
Meet Cassel. High School student in the prestigious Wallingford private school, with a lot of friends (or so he thinks), running his own betting scheme, and member of a criminal family. He tries to appear normal. In fact, everything he does is a façade, just pretend, a long con to get people to do what he wants and to like him.

Until he finds himself on the rooftop of the school. During the night. In his boxer shorts. With no way of getting out of there without help. Any semblance of normalcy is lost, and soon enough he is suspended from school because there is no way to know if he was only sleepwalking or had been cursed.

White Cat is clearly YA. That much was clear from the start. And I was kind of dreading that, but thought of the name on the cover and persevered. I mean, the other books by Holly Black I had read were also YA, and I liked them. And, well, I liked White Cat. But…

Let’s start with the good things. Holly Black writing has this strange power of sucking me in even if I’m set on not liking the story. There’s a mixture of good plot and mystery that makes me turn page after page to know what happens next. And in this case the plot was quite good, a bit of mob story meets magic meets YA.

The mystery however, while nice, was not exactly a mystery. Nothing really surprised me there. Not who dunnit, nor the stuff about the white cat, nor any of the other little mysteries. Predictable, and would have been really boring had the writing been worse.

I liked the characters, I really did. But I loved the minor ones: Sam, Cassel’s roommate and Daneca, his friend. And Grampa. Although they get enough screen time, I wish they had a bit more. I really liked the parts they were in and got a bit curious about them.

And now for the bad things. I say again, White Cat is clearly YA. Had it been longer and targeted to more adult audiences, I would have loved it to bits. There were things hinted at, that if they were to be expanded and explored would make this book awesome. The fact that everyone wears gloves and skin touch is something intimate and a bit perverse. That the History of this series is an alternate one to ours, only with curse workers, and that they are victims of discrimination and prejudice, but are also, on most of the cases, the worst criminals. There are undertones of dystopia that I would love to see developed.

So, White Cat is a nice book, entertaining and gripping. But there was a glimpse of something great that disappointed me more than it would had it just been missing. Let’s hope that Red Glove, the second on the series is better.

Rating: 4 out 5

Other Reviews: A Blog About Nothing | Book Lovers Inc. | Musings of a Reader Happy | Soul Sisters | What Book Is That?

This Book on: LibraryThing | GoodReads | BookDepository UK | Book Depository US | Amazon UK| Amazon US|

Other Stuff: This book was a Birthday gift to me by a friend. This review is a birthday gift for her. Happy Birthday Carlita!

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Top Ten Tuesday - Books I'm So Happy Were Recommended To Me

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. Every week a theme for a list is suggested. This week is Books I'm So Happy Were Recommended To Me

This is not exactly easy - I have to look through the books I've read and see what was actually recommend to me, and decide whether I would have picked them up on my own. And knowing myself, and my history with books and shiny things I probably would anyway, because it just like Pokemon - I gotta get 'em all! Also, I usually do all the recommending by shoving the books onto people's hands.

So, this list has books that I probably wouldn't ever dream of picking up, books I might think of reading and end up never doing it, and books that I was probably going to read eventually.

In no particular order because I can't be bothered to compare them. Well, the first ones are the recommendations from Jen because there are many of them.

Map of Time by Felix J. Palma
I loved this book. Was completely blown away by it. And I would never have read it if it wasn't for Jen and her review.
Goose Chase by Patrice Kindl
Another one by Jen, also from her review (she knows what words to write to convince me). Really funny and really silly, I quite enjoyed it.
Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder
This one I probably would have read it. Eventually. If I ever gotten round to buy it. But Jen kept singing its praises that eventually I borrowed it from her. And I liked it!
Sunshine by Robin McKinley
This is a recent one. Recommended by Ana Nunes and Jen, I really liked. And would probably not read it otherwise.
Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
A long time ago, before I was really into fantasy, a friend of mine kept saying that I should read these books, that they were really great, and that they were making a movie out of it. So I did. And thanks to these books Prague, Budapest and Bratislava are pretty much a blur in my head because I had it between 2 pages most of the time.
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
When it comes to science fiction and dystopias, a friend of mine always recommends Brave New World. And I have to concur. Great book. Also, there is this comic/comparison with 1984 thing that made curious.
Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier
Not a recommendation, but a gift, one that I'm really grateful for because I would have never picked up this book. Not in a million years. And I loved it to bits. So, Thanks Mum!
Story of a Seagull and the Cat Who Taught Her to Fly by Luis Sepúlveda
Not exactly a recommendation, and not only for me. My Portuguese teacher, on 7th grade (I think) brought this one to class, and we would read a chapter a day. Eventually this tradition died out before we could finish it, but the teacher lent it to me so I could finish it. Later on, I bought a copy for me. A really lovely book.
Lud-in-the-Mist by Hope Mirrlees
Another one that wasn't a recommendation to me, but a recommendation on a forum about obscure fantasy books. There is also a prologue by Neil Gaiman that convinced me as well.
Wolf Brother by Michelle Paver
This was a recommendation to me, but not by someone - it was by Amazon and its recommendations page. It kept appearing, and I got curious and bought it. And loved the entire series!

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Transformation by Carol Berg

Seyonne is a man waiting to die. He has been a slave for sixteen years, almost half his life, and has lost everything of meaning to him: his dignity, the people and homeland he loves, and the Warden's power he used to defend an unsuspecting world from the ravages of demons. Seyonne has made peace with his fate. With strict self-discipline he forces himself to exist only in the present moment and to avoid the pain of hope or caring about anyone. But from the moment he is sold to the arrogant, careless Prince Aleksander, the heir to the Derzhi Empire, Seyonne's uneasy peace begins to crumble. And when he discovers a demon lurking in the Derzhi court, he must find hope and strength in a most unlikely place...

The characters of Transformation sucked me in from the start: the calm but spunky slave, and the spoilt but (very secretly) honourable prince. Their interaction was great, the voice in which it was told even better.

This is a story told by Seyonne, a slave since the age of 16, but he doesn't give away his past easily, it slowly unravels, depending on the will of the character to revisit it. He is bought by Zander, the prince of the Derzhi empire, and it doesn't take long to get himself in trouble.

Even though this is fantasy, there aren't elves and dwarves (and hobbits) all around. Sure there are different "races", but they are mostly different tribes. Some are different in appearance, but mostly human. Some can do magic, some can't. I liked that these different races had personality and culture of their own; their differences not a result of different physique, but of having a different history.

The central point in this story are the demons, the way they possess people and how the main character gets rid of them. I actually liked this, despite being a bit afraid at first. It isn't The Exorcist, and even if there is a lot of religion in the story as part of the cultural background, it never becomes more than that.

But, because there is always a but, the ending didn't quite work out for me. It seemed pretty tame and easy compared to all the rest, and the tying of loose threads seemed unnecessarily long. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but I think it should have had a bit more of a bang to it. Despite that, it was still a pretty decent ending, just not to the level of the rest of the book

This book reads like a standalone, although it is the first in a series. I imagine that the other books take place in the same universe, but not with the same characters.

Still, it was a very enjoyable book and a keeper, even if the ending was a bit of a let down. I liked the writing a lot and will definitely check out other books by this author.

Rating: 4 out 5

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