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Posts Tagged ‘2005’

Old Man’s War

In Book Reviews on June 8, 2014 at 6:00 am
Tor 2005

Tor 2005

I did two things on my seventy-fifth birthday. I visited my wife’s grave. Then I joined the army.

I love John Scalzi. I really do. This is only the second book of his that I’ve read, but I’m now officially a fan girl. (Here’s a link to my post on Redshirts.)

Nutshell blurb: Mankind has expanded and colonised other planets in outer space. Once people on Earth turn 75, they have the option to join the military to fight aliens and to protect colonists.

It’s quite interesting that a military would want 75 year olds to join its ranks and I certainly won’t spoil anything for you by telling you why. What I will tell you is why I love Mr. Scalzi’s writing so much. He has the power to make me snicker (Out loud. On my morning commute.) and cringe at the same time. He has a brilliant sense of whimsy and he doesn’t mince around his story. He embraces the ridiculous and runs with it. And it works.

There are so many times when I read a sci-fi book and get lost in scientific detail. This certainly has a lot of detail in it, but it’s accessible to those of us who aren’t able to grasp some heavy scientific explanation.

I don’t really feel like I can say much more about it without spoiling it. I will say that I loved it, it was super fun and that I’ll be reading more of his work.

If you don’t already know, he has a blog which is great if you’re a fan of his writing.

Labyrinth

In Book Reviews on January 1, 2014 at 6:00 am
Orion 2005

Orion 2005

Happy New Year to you! the holidays are almost officially over and it’s back to work for me tomorrow. It’s been a nice, relaxing break and I’m ready for 2014. I’m also ready to get back to blogging regularly.

I thought I’d start the new year with a post about a book that totally blew my socks off.

Nutshell blurb: This is the story of two women who live in two different time periods. They are connected by three books and a mysterious symbol.

Frankly, I don’t want to talk too much about the story. There’s a mystery involved and I don’t want to spoil it for you. Instead, I’ll tell you how it made me feel.

I’ve picked up quite a few historical books lately and as I’ve been reading them (or putting them down, as the case may be) I’ve become aware of two distinct styles of writing in them. I haven’t read enough to make any kind of scientific observations so bear in mind that these are merely my own observations.

Labyrinth is the type that I love. Rich descriptions of lush settings. Every word serves to paint a gorgeous picture of the world and the characters within. The words are carefully chosen and it almost seems like an epic poem. It reminds me of how I felt when I read the Iliad or the Odyssey. I felt as though I was reading a grand and sweeping legend yet at the same time I felt really close to the characters.

It’s kind of funny because I almost put this book down after reading a few pages. The prologue is written in the present tense and I can’t emphasise how much that winds me up. However, something happened within that prologue that caught my attention and I was hooked. Thank goodness I persevered! I was pleased to find that the rest of the book (except for the epilogue) was written in the past-tense. It’s very rare that I’ll keep reading a book that’s in the present tense. It’s completely off-putting.

Just. No.

The other type of historical fiction that I’ve been reading (and putting down) is the ultra-realistic type. It’s an interesting discovery to make as it gives me a bit more scope for my own writing. It’s good to read other people’s writing and analyse all of the things that I like about it but equally, it’s helpful for me to realise what it is that I don’t like.

These other types of historical fiction are gritty and raw. They are very much concerned with realism and accuracy. It seems as though they are trying to paint the world as it really was. This isn’t a bad thing, but it’s definitely a matter of preference.

I’ve grown to realise that I don’t actually care about realism in fiction. If I want realism, I’ll read non-fiction. I actually prefer it when an author runs with his or her poetic licence.

I find that realistic historical fiction (and now the I’m thinking about it, any kind of fiction) is far more brutal than I care for. I don’t mean brutal in terms of violence. If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time you’ll know that I’m not at all squeamish. I mean brutal in the sense that everything is laid out dispassionately for the reader to absorb. Murder, rape, pillaging, slavery, torture. It’s all there and it’s told in such a way that it leaves very little to the imagination.

The latest book to hit my ‘did-not-finish’ shelf took place in Ancient Greece and there was a scene where some men and a boy were traveling in a boat. As some marauders approached in a different boat, the little boy kissed his dad and his uncles, smiled, jumped overboard and drowned. It was obviously a prearrangement that they had so that the boy wouldn’t be captured and have bad things happen to him. The boy is a throw-away character (he’s not even named) but he still haunts me even though I put the book down days ago. He’s just one of many throw-away characters that horrible things happen to and I only made it to page 42!

I think that the author was trying to show us what life was realistically like back in those days, but it didn’t work for me. The story lacked grace and poetry. Realism doesn’t really work for me. I want things to feel authentic but that doesn’t mean that they have to be authentic.

I’m not criticising these realistic types of books. They just aren’t for me. I’m not sure if that makes sense or not. It totally does in my head.

Ms. Mosse gave me a sense of authenticity in her story. She clearly did her research, but more importantly (to me, anyway) she made it feel epic and poetic. She didn’t shy away from violence or peril but it didn’t feel as though she was going for shock value. Everything had a place in the story.

I absolutely, unequivocably loved this book and am looking forward to reading more of her work.

Giants of the Frost

In Book Reviews on October 23, 2013 at 6:00 am
Giants of the Frost

Gollancz 2005

Memories streamed through him: blood and fire and the helpless shrieks of mortal suffering. “There is no love, Vidar,” his father had said. “There is only fate.” Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful book! So far, I’ve only read two books that are based on or have Norse mythology incorporated into them and I’ve adored them both. The thing that has always intrigued me about any type of mythology is that not everyone gets a happy ending. I’d like to take a moment to say that I’m not against happy endings because, let’s face it, sometimes we need them. Sometimes I like reading stories where everyone lives happily ever after except for the villain who has gotten his comeuppance in a very satisfying way. But most of the time I’m a sucker for a tragic character. And boy, there are some tragic characters in this book. Nutshell blurb: Vidar, the son of Odin, has been waiting a thousand years for the soul of his beloved to be reincarnated. Unfortunately, he has some daddy issues. Odin was the one who murdered her and would do so again if he found out that she had been reborn and that Vidar was anywhere near her. This is a love story or perhaps a story about how powerful love is. ‘Wait, Buffy,’ you might be saying. ‘I thought you didn’t like romantic stories.’ In which case I would have to clarify my definitions of love vs romance stories. In my mind (and it could be different for you) a romance story focuses on the two star-crossed characters. There’s a lot of will they, won’t they even though you totally know that they will. There’s also a lot of sexy-time and something like 50 different words for a man’s winkle. For me, a love story is part of a larger story and doesn’t hinge on whether the two people get together. There might be some out and out sexy-time or it might be implied but it’s part of a larger story. Perhaps that’s a bit simplistic, but that’s how it works in my brain. So, let’s start with Vidar. Could you imagine a man patient enough to wait 1000 years for you to be reincarnated? He’s angry and disillusioned by his family, particularly his father and just wants to spend a lifetime with the love of his life, which isn’t really a long time considering that he’s from Asgard and she’s a mortal from Midgard. So, what’s the problem, Odin? The problem is that his entire family think that he’s weak because he was an exceptional warrior who fell in love and decided not to kill people any more. They’re the worst type of meddling family members. Vidar decides to go off into the forest and live in a cabin away from all of them just to get some peace and quiet from them. The thing that’s so tragic about him is that he knows deep in his heart that even though she’s been reincarnated they can never be together yet they both try to escape their fate. Fan-girl interlude: I’d like to take this moment to say that if you love the Chris Hemsworth version of Thor from the movies (as I do because he’s super dreamy) you’ll have to try to not imagine him as the Thor in this book. Because this Thor is kind of a douchebag. And by ‘kind of’ I mean ‘seriously, really and a lot of’. Now, please keep in mind that I haven’t actually read any Norse mythology as of yet so I don’t know what Thor is actually meant to be like, so don’t you go ruining it for me. I try not to fan-girl too much so indulge me, k? Thanks.

Sweet god of thunder… You’ll always be the real Thor to me.

*Siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh* Ahem. Where was I? Oh yes, tragic characters. Next up we’ve got Victoria the reincarnated lover. She’s a meteorologist doing research on Othinsey aka Odin’s Island. She’s got a lot of first world problems. She views her mom as a bit of an nutcase who consults psychics and she frequently becomes frustrated with her because Victoria’s a scientist who doesn’t believe in superstition and other such things. She can’t hold down a decent relationship and has gone to this Norwegian island in an effort to avoid relationships, yet she finds that she’s the object of attraction/affection to a couple of people on the island. She just wants to be left alone. Then she meets Vidar and had to rethink everything that she believed. I think that my favourite tragic character is Aud. She’s a princess who is a bondmaid to the Aesir because she made a deal with the Norns who weave the fates of everyone. She must serve the Aesir for 1000 years. During her servitude, she falls in love with Vidar who obviously can’t love her because he’s in love with Victoria. I liked her the most because she wasn’t bitchy or spiteful about her situation even though she couldn’t have her way. She struggled through the entire book and it just seemed like she couldn’t catch a break. I really felt for her and felt like I could relate to her. She wasn’t perfect and she made some bad decisions but she accepted that she had to serve her 1000 years and just got on with it. My one criticism of this story is that I felt that the ending was rushed. Or maybe I was rushed when I read it. You see, I usually leave books at home when I have 100 pages or less to read because the last 100 pages or so is when it all hits the fan and I don’t want to be interrupted by things like getting off of trains and having to start work. I was so close to the end and I thought that I could finish it on the train. Unfortunately, I didn’t get much sleep the night before and I kept dozing off during my commute. I got off of the train with something like 15 pages left to read. I should have sat down on a bench at the station and finished it, but I didn’t. (Don’t worry, it wouldn’t have made me late for work. I got there pretty early.) I ended up finishing it during my lunch hour which meant that I picked it up in the middle of an action scene. First world problems, my friends. Anyway, this is a book I’ll reread one day and then I’ll get a better sense of whether or not the ending was rushed or if it was just me. I think that this book would have made me cry if I hadn’t been interrupted. It certainly took my breath away.

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