Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Review: A Mad, Wicked Folly

A Mad, Wicked FollyTitle: A Mad, Wicked Folly
Author: Sharon Biggs Waller
Genre: Historical, Romance
Release Date: Jan. 23, 2014

A Quick Introduction: Victoria Darling wants to be an artist. This is easier said than done, as she's the daughter of a wealthy family in 1909. While at finishing school in France, she sneaks off to art classes, but, when she poses nude, she is found out and expelled, sent back to London, when she is back under her parent's watch as they try to repair her reputation. When these attempts to save her reputation involve confiscating her art supplies and getting her engaged to a man she's only met once, Victoria takes matters into her own hands, secretly applying to the Royal College of Art. As Victoria struggles to follow her dreams an a society that doesn't believe that women ought to dream of anything but marriage and motherhood, she encounters to suffragette movement in London and finds herself falling in love with a boy below her class while she's engaged to someone else.

Review at a Glance: A light, historical read about a girl trying to follow her dream.

Review: I found this an enjoyable read. While Victoria was a frustrating character at times, it didn't ruin my reading experience. In the end, I don't really have any complex feelings about this story.

As a character, Victoria was a little lost at the beginning- she knows that she wants to be an artist, and, while she takes steps toward that dream, she still isn't very sure of herself. She wants to feel like she's good enough, and that results in her reckless decision that is the inciting incident of the book. She's quite reckless throughout the book, and utterly committed to her art. She's willing to lie and to use people if it gets her her freedom. Her initial motivation in spending time around the suffragettes was to draw them, and to get a letter of reference for her application to art school, but the more time she spends with them, the more she finds herself swaying toward their cause as well. Victoria had her moments of being frustrating, but I didn't find myself hating her single-minded determination, even though I disagreed with some of her choices.

I only have an elementary knowledge of women's suffrage in in Britain, but the book provided a fairly good background for what was going on at the time. The fight for women's right to vote is really heating up- people are going to jail and going on hunger strikes. Women in Britain wouldn't gain the right to vote until 1918, almost ten years after this book is set. Victoria initially doesn't really work with the suffragettes out of a belief in their cause, but as the book progresses she begins to see that she might want the same thing- a right to be treated equally to a man, and to be able to pursue her goal without being held back by her gender. This, in her case, is her artwork. I took art in high school, so I have a background understanding of what she speaks of when she talks about her work, but it was never something that I thought to make a career out of (I was never much of an artist).

I didn't feel super interested in the love interest. He seemed like a decent person, but I didn't really develop any complex feelings about his character one way or the other. The relationship between Will and Victoria was a little bit stop-and-go, what with her being busy with art school applications, and, you know, engaged to someone else (not that she tells him that). As I mentioned, she was a little bit manipulative and deceptive when she was struggling to get what she wanted.

The plot mainly focuses around Victoria's determination to become an artist, in spite of the fact that her entire society opposes it, and her learning who she is, and what she is willing to do to chase her dreams. It interesting, but it wasn't something that I couldn't put down. That said, I still wanted to know how it ended- I just didn't want to know super badly.

The writing seemed fairly accurate to the time period, though I'm a little surprised Victoria found it as easy to sneak around like she did. I also sort of feel like London was too clean- I know that it improved  lot with the popularity of plumbing, but it seemed like it was pretty tidy (maybe we didn't see the grittier parts of London, but I kind of wondered none the less). The book has a bibliography in the back, and some historical notes on artists and the suffragette movement.

To conclude, this book was interesting, and I think something that I enjoyed most about it was reading about Victoria's art, and how much she loves it. She's certainly a determined character, and this works both in her favor and sometimes serves to make her a frustrating character. Overall, this was an light, enjoyable read.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Top Ten Books of 2013 (TTT Rewind)

Top Ten Tuesdays is a weekly feature created and hosted at The Broke and The Bookish

Because I ended up being too late to post this when it was done for TTT.

The Scorpio Races
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
I love the premise, plot, characters and writing style of this one. Overall, I think it was my favourite book of the year.  It just hit so many personal notes for me, and I adore it.
Nation by Terry Pratchett
I really enjoyed the writing and the world of this one.
Sorrow's Knot
Sorrow's Knot by Erin Bow
This one is a beautifully written, emotional fantasy with influences from Native American cultures.

The Raven Boys and The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater
I'm just rally, really enjoying this series. I love how Maggie Stiefvater writes.
The 100 (The Hundred, #1)
The 100 by Kass Morgan
This book was really difficult to put down- I ended up reading it in one go, though I had originally planned to only read a few pages. It also doesn't have black-and-white morality, and a lot of twists and turns.
Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst
Once again, a wonderfully crafted fantasy set in the desert. I really enjoyed reading this one.
Cinder (Lunar Chronicles, #1)
Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Such a wonderful concept, and a strong start to a series that I'm really enjoying.

Angelfall (Penryn & the End of Days, #1)
Angelfall by Susan Ee
Makes the list for being the only purely angel-themed book that I have read and enjoyed (or even finished).
Clockwork Princess (The Infernal Devices, #3)
Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare
One of those books that you don't even know why you like, you just sort of do... It's hard to explain what I mean here... there are so many aspects that shouldn't work for me, yet, somehow I still enjoyed reading it.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Top Ten Reasons I Love Being A Reader

Top Ten Tuesdays is a weekly feature created and hosted at The Broke and The Bookish

This is a strange one for me because... I don't know. It's kind of like asking me my favourite thing about breathing or something. Reading is such a natural part of my life now, that I don't even know my favourites. Anyway, in no particular order...

1. I love spending time in other worlds. I'm mainly fantasy, paranormal and science fiction, so spending time in some incredible worlds is a draw. I'm a bit of an escapist reader at heart.

2. I get to experience some beautiful writing.

3. You can learn a lot from books, even if they are considered fictional. There's always something to be gained from them. Even it if isn't information, you pick up new words from reading as well. (And ensure that you are forever explaining what "discombobulated" means to your classmates). Also psychologists have recently been studying something that readers have known all along: we take experiences from books and learn things without physically experiencing them ourselves.

4. I consider the fact that books can make me feel things- sad, happy, afraid- to be a big pro of reading books.

5. The fanart. My goodness the fanart. One day I'm going to make a post featuring all of my favourite fan artists and if will be long. There are some incredible artist out there. And famixes. Just fan-created things. (See 6).

6. The fans themselves. There are some wonderfully intelligent, passionate people- people willing to right long essays on books because they like them, not because an English teacher was making them, and I enjoy reading them. Books often have an incredibly driven, enthusiastic fanbase, and I think that's marvelous. There is an entire organisation of activist that rallies around Harry Potter (The Harry Potter Alliance). I love reading other peoples book blogs, and Booktube is fantastic.

7. Books are a tactile pleasure. I still almost always read hard copies. I haven't been able to convert. I love the feel of books, and the smell of them, and how they look...

8. Bookstores. I purchase a lot of my books online, but I still really like visiting book shops. The main chain where I live is Chapters, and it always smells of new books and coffee.

9. Rereading. I'm a rereader. If I love a book chances are I will read it multiple times. And then read it again. Often, when I finish something, I'm still not quite done with the world and characters.

10. Finding a book I love. I don't think this needs any other explanation.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Thoughts on Audiobooks

I've been listening to audiobooks recently. They take a lot longer for me than reading a book would for me,  but I do enjoy them. And since I haven't posted anything in a while (due to general busy-ness).

I've always enjoyed audiobooks. When I was growing up, the way my parents discovered to keep long car rides bearable for everyone was to let us listen to audiobooks. When I was little they were on cassette tape (memories...), and it was titles like Sherlock Holmes (my favourite was, and still is, The Speckled Band). I don't think that I can actually find the version I listened to anywhere, I don't think that it is available today, and the library has since rid itself of all of the cassettes in it's collection. (Wow, now I feel like saying "In my day we had cars with cassettes...")  

When we got a car with a CD player, we discovered the Harry Potter audiobooks. We were already reading the books, but we listened to them later. Jim Dale is brilliant. He won two Grammy Awards and has two Guinness World Records for his work on those books. I have listened to these books a rather alarming number of times. 

Recently, I've started to listen to them again. My library has MP3 audiobooks that you can borrow for a few weeks. I've recently finished listening to The Raven Boys, which I've actually already read (though I'm listening to part of it again, not only do I re-read, I also re-listen). 

Things that I find fantastic about audiobooks are:
 1. You can do other things while you listen. It's nice to be able to enjoy a book hands-free.
2. Sometimes you notice things that I didn't before when I listen to it (this also happens when I re-read books)
3. Accents. I don't usually read characters with an accent, and I find it really wonderful to hear it with the accents of all the characters. It's really great.

That about concludes my babbling about audiobooks. Let me know if you have any favourite ones in the comments. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Review: Cress

Cress (Lunar Chronicles, #3)Title: Cress
Author: Marissa Meyer
Series: The Lunar Chronicles
Volume: 3
Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Re-telling

A Quick Introduction: Cress has been trapped in a satellite for seven years, with only her netscreens for company and occasional visits from her captor to look forward to. Cress is a Lunar shell, and a gifted hacker whose abilities are being put to use by Queen Levana to hide Lunar ships from detection, and, now, to track down wanted fugitives Linh Cinder and Carswell Thorne. She's been hiding them, concealing them from Lunar trackers, helping them in the only way she knows how. And now they need her help again, but this time she has to leave her satellite. When the attempt to free her wrong, she and Thorne find themselves separated from the rest of the fractured group, and all the while the clock is counting down Queen Levana's wedding to Emperor Kai, when she will finally be able to extend her tyranny to Earth.

Review at a Glance: A fun, well paced space-fantasy in a marvelous series.

Review: This series is so much fun to read, and it still amazes me. Marissa Meyer does a wonderful job of juggling her by-now-huge cast of characters, and her pacing is wonderful. Cress is a retelling of Rapunzel (they're both leafy greens, which is very clever...), and introduces Cress's story while continuing both those of Cinder and Scarlet (and company).

I found some of the characters growing on me more in this book. I still like Cinder as much as ever (I think she's still my favourite), and I was a little surprised to find that Kai grew on me as a character as well. Scarlet and Wolf both get less screen time that in Scarlet (which was, admittedly, their book). Cress is introduced, she had a cameo in Cinder, but now she's a major character. She's been kept prisoner in a satellite orbiting Earth since her childhood, so she's awkward around other people. She's very imaginative- she often slips off into daydreams as a coping method for whatever she has to deal with, and she's pretty naive, on account of not having interacted with the world, including other people, for years. Thorne also gets upgraded to a major character in this book. In Scarlet, he's pretty opportunistic and self-serving, and in Cress he's thrust into a role where he's expected to be heroic. I think everyone had to grow a lot throughout this book.

Simply put, I enjoy all of the characters on the team (they need a team name) (I mean it, somebody give them one... Cinder and co.?). I really like their interactions with each other as well. They all play off each other so well. The romances are all at various stages in this book, and they are all very different because of the characters and circumstances, but, so far I've enjoyed them well enough... some of the dynamics still feel a little strange, though. Also, Iko was a ray of sunlight, as always.

The setting varies, depending on the story line. Much of the book takes place in the desert, which was interesting to read. One of the strong points of the series thus far is that it takes places in all sorts of locations across the globe (and orbiting around it). Young adult novels are often very North America-centric, so it is nice to visit somewhere else.

I've already mentioned how much I appreciated the pacing in this one.  There's always a lot going on what with the slightly enormous cast of characters that exists by this point, with all of their multiple story lines. There a great deal of action, and also a lot of character focused moments for all of the leads, both of which pulled the story along. The action scenes are paced in such a way that they were rapid, but could still be followed by the reader.Cress is written from multiple points of view (I believe we see from seven different points of view at least once in Cress) in third person limited, and that also really pulled the story along, with the suspense created between plot lines.

Overall, I really enjoyed this one. I'm already excited for Winter, although I have a whole year to wait. (A whole year... that's going to be fun.)