Friday, May 8, 2015

Catching Up With What I'm Reading

Back on April 20th, I posted a list of books I had just started/planned on reading. It finally occurred to me to write an update. Sadly, I only really liked one out of three. Here is a short rundown (if I feel mean I might write complete reviews, who knows):

HERE BE SPOILERS. You have been warned.

1. Uprooted by Naomi Novik

I wanted to love this book, and up until about 3/4's through, I did. I had two complaints, and while one of them was major, the other was personal. Novik's prose is elegant and her worldbuilding is (as always) very good. I loved the Polish fairytale bent, and the nod to Baba Yaga, and I really liked the heroine, Agnieszka (easier to say than spell). The idea was great, and I didn't mind the romance until later. So what was my problem? Two things:

I. The scene with the Dragon, toward the end. I'm trying to avoid spoilers, but their whole relationship was pretty carefully balanced (with her being so much younger and inexperienced), and this bit kind of destroyed the whole balance, to be honest (and it was unnecessary [read more like fanfiction] really). I've already said I have a weak stomach for romance, but this was a skip-the-page moment for me. I like my fantasies to stay epic, thank you.

Image Credit
II. My major complaint is super spoilery, so read no further if you HAVE to read this book: The book's climax fell COMPLETELY flat for me. Everyone (basically) turns on each other and dies, corrupted by the darkness in the wood. And then, we find out that the wood's darkness is not only understandable, it's the sad moaning of a betrayed and mistreated forest queen, and takes away any of her power to threat or frighten. It basically reduces the fantasy "big bad" to a sort of eco-virus, that you can't blame or hate because it was a natural sort of purging.

I basically put down the book thinking, "Oh, so in the end these people were all just as infected by the wood, they all kill each other and the wood is healed, and then the 5 or so survivors put up "Don't hurt the trees," signs, and we're all okay now?" Where is the threat, the danger, the peril that I was feeling up until then? Who could be mad at a bunch of sick trees?

Sorry, I'll quit ranting. But I couldn't be sad, mad, or even satisfied with that resolution. I just stopped caring altogether (and don't get me wrong, I love trees).

OVERALL: 3 out of 5 stars

The second misfire was the gorgeous Bitter Greens, by Kate Forsyth, which was far more like its title than its cover.

I'm actually surprised I finished it. It was basically a story about a mistreated author who is "empowered" by making seriously idiotic romantic decisions (especially for her time period), who then throws a hissy fit, gets mad at God and the king, and then gets thrown in a nunnery (that was like something out of Oliver Twist). She spends most of the time in the nunnery daydreaming about her former paramours and fancy clothes, until a strange old nun tells her a story. That story was the only redeeming factor (and probably why I finished the book). Since I basically despised everything about the book, I will spare you the rant and give you the only two good things I could find:

I. The descriptions of Venice, and the entire setting of 16-17th century mainland Europe was lush and well researched. You really felt like you were there (except for the one time when children were referred to as "kids," which jarred me a bit). Everything from the masks to the boats was rendered in vivid detail. The plight of women, as well, without personal freedom, and very little say in their lives, was explored in a historically accurate manner.

II. Margherita (the actual Rapunzel of the story) was sweet, charming, and I actually cared about her and her story. I found it compelling enough to slog/skim through the rest.

One final ranty bit:
I am tired of "people of faith (any faith, mind you)" being reduced to "I'm a ________, but I don't actually follow my beliefs, oh look, God didn't do what I wanted like a private magician, *faith lost* but I'm still loyal to my faith." This is not authentic, and it isn't character development. In Bitter Greens, the people in question were the Huguenots, a brave group of Reformers who died for what they believed in and lived out. In my opinion, Bitter Greens cheapened that, by styling the main character as one of them, and then having her not follow a single aspect of their faith, then renounce that faith, and then have the gall to think how she was still loyal in her heart, though her Huguenot faith had "done nothing for her." At least have her call a spade a spade and claim she never believed nor cared to.

THERE! That felt good. If you are still with me, you can see what I thought of Ross Poldark (below) and what I am currently reading.

The last book, Ross Poldark, was pretty enjoyable. It made me want to go to Cornwall more than I already did, and if this book didn't do that to you, look at this:
DailyMail UK
Poldark was basically a historical family drama/romance involving quite a few characters. Like Downton Abbey with a lot more dirt and mining, and poverty. It was hard to get into at first, but once I got caught up in the story, I liked it a lot. Still, I don't feel the need to read the (11!) sequels.

I am fatigued by the ranting, so here are the books I am currently reading:

Thorn by Intisar Khanani

The Last Bookaneer by Matthew Pearl

A Grave Talent by Laurie R. King

Does This Beach Make Me Look Fat? by Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella

Chances are, there won't be a lot of ranting this time, as I'm far enough into all of them to think I'm going to like them all okay (at the very least).

So now I am tired, and I am going to go watch White Collar. Did you read anything good (or bad) this week? Have you discovered any new reads that look exciting?