Monday, January 14, 2013

cry

These tears are not a show of weakness. They are a show of defiance. They are angry, welling out uncontrollably like the sharp words that accompany it, the glare that tells you I am anything but cowed. I am angry, and by my show of anger I am being subversive. These tears are my sign of strength  that I will not take this lying down, and I will not let the world take it away from me by telling me I am emotional, as if emotion has never been a driver for the bravest of acts. As if apathy ever made a difference.

I will not be ashamed of crying like a girl.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

daughter of smoke and bone

Book: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor


I've tried to leave the review spoiler-free as best I can, but most will probably see through it anyway, so be warned. Blurb copied because I'm too lazy to recap:


Around the world, black hand prints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.
In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human teeth grows dangerously low.
And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.
Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she's prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands"; she speaks many languages—not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out.


I wish I liked this book better. I'd previously read the author's anthology Lips Touch: Three Times, and fell in love with her prose there. When I read the blurb for this one, I was immediately hooked. The author's ideas and premises were intriguing and original in Lips Touch, and Daughter of Smoke and Bone promised just the same. Spurred on by all the positive reviews, I went into this expecting a 4 or 5-star read. And in some ways, it delivered - lovely turns of phrases, fascinating world. Unfortunately, the bland characterizations, lackluster romance, and plodding second half diminished my enjoyment so much I found it a chore to finish the book - and no read like that can ever be a good one. 

Now where do I start? Likely the biggest problem for me was the romance. I am first and foremost a reader of romance novels, so I believe my threshold for cheese is quite high - which is why I think it's saying something that the romance here was just too cheesy for me. Furthermore, from the point where Karou and Akiva stopped being hostile to each other, each scene they had together was ridiculously awkward.

Not sexy, not touching, not sweet, just awkward. Combine that awkwardness together with the cheese factor, and they just don't jive. I wished Karou had stayed hostile to him; that might have been fodder for more interesting dialogue. Given that almost the entire second half of the book relives their past romance, reading it was almost excruciating.

What else went wrong for me? Just about the entire second half of the book. Maybe the author's decision to reenact their past would've worked much better had I actually enjoyed reading about them together. Or maybe even if there had been some suspense element to it. Suspense was why the first half worked so well, because I was just so curious, as curious as Karou was about what exactly the hell was going on. But by the time Akiva had stuck around for a while it was pretty damned obvious what exactly had happened.

Which meant I was reading about something that could not hold my interest in any way, not about how they got together, not about what happened, which anyone with half a brain could guess. The only real twist was at the very end after the crazy long flashback, and it didn't quite make up for the drivel I had to endure to get to it.

This brings me to the characterizations. Another thing that might have saved my reading experience with the second half was the character of Madrigal, since she represented a change of narrator. Unfortunately, Madrigal is one of the most boring characters I have ever read about, with little nuance and complexity to her. She is practically a Julie Garwood heroine, without the happy ending. (Disclaimer: I loved Julie Garwood in my younger teens, but can't stand reading her now). In fact, most of the characters in this book are stock, as if they only serve to people the world, the author being more interested in the latter.

Karou's family, the people closest to her in her entire life, have little to distinguish them from each other other than the archetypal motherly/strong, silent type descriptions. The villains are just portrayed as weak from envy and shallowness, never mind that Madrigal has been beautiful all her life and thus free from the temptation of these lesser emotions. On the plus side, I liked how the women in the book are allowed to have sexual desires, and not just for the hero.

In Lips Touch, the stories were short, and some almost fairy-tale-like, which probably explains how the world and ideas alone could make up for the forgettable characterizations. Such a lack will not go unnoticed in a full-length-novel-going-on-trilogy, especially if such a big part of the book revolves around the lovers' relationship and interactions.

3/5 on goodreads. This might seem like an overwhelmingly negative review for a book that I technically rated positively, but it was because I really did find the negatives to outweigh the positive, and me giving it the extra stars is really just frivolous inclinations on my part. (Like liking the heroine having blue hair and tattoos and living in Prague and being all badass in her quest for flight - for her, I might give the subsequent books in the trilogy a try).

In any event, I'm clearly in the minority about this book. Loads of people have loved it, including review blogs that I follow and whose opinions I respect, so odds are you're more likely to love it than hate it. The second in the trilogy was recently released as well, can have a look at it here: Days of Blood and Starlight 

Thursday, January 05, 2012

the sanctity of books

This is really just a recap of my tweets.

I don't get why some people are so against book art, sculptures, carvings, etc. The value of the book is in its contents, not the paper it's printed on.

I do recognize the origins of the sentiment, from how we are taught to hold the book sacred as a vector of knowledge, and not disrespect it. And indeed, when books are willfully destroyed for its contents (e.g. book burnings), we should be outraged, but that is because the physical act of destruction symbolizes the destruction of the ideas within, and that is what we really should be against. Conversely, book-banning offends us for those very reasons, yet there's no physical destruction there.

Book art on the other hand - the creation of something new from the books, is paying a homage to them. One would have to be purposefully blind to not see that. Yes, books are to be respected, but there is no need to be so mindless in our regard for them that we refuse to consider looking at them in new and different ways. Words don't have to be art only in a linear form, and book art recognizes that.

Have a look at the Edinburgh mystery book sculptures. How could anyone possibly come to the conclusion that the creator of these works of art is not a booklover? I see the love in every attention to detail, even without the unabashed declaration from the artist itself.




The ones below are my favourite.


Monday, December 26, 2011

whore

The concept that a woman's sexuality isn't her own to do with as she wishes:
A man who uses sex to get what he wants may be an asshole, but he doesn't lose anything of himself in the process. (Hello, James Bond)
A woman who uses sex as a means to an end whores herself out; it diminishes her value as a person, because as a woman her sexuality is apparently tied with her worth to herself and to others (especially herself, if she has any notions of decency! slutshameslutshame).

So bloody sickening.

Romance novels are usually chock full of female-sex-positivity and I love them for that, but sometimes the lingering negative aspects of the genre like the double standard mentioned above makes me want to tear my hair out and make a bonfire of every book that was particularly obvious in its transgression.

Palate cleanser time! Recs: Your Scandalous Ways by Loretta Chase deals with this double standard beautifully. Linked to my review, but it's more of a gushing declaration of love for the author than anything.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

tethered

I'm sitting in my room in Perth, and looking at all the things I have hoarded. Letters, notebooks, old magazines, silly hats, keepsakes. And it makes me think back to three years ago when I first came, how eager and excited I was. How I packed up anything that meant something to me, as if they were pieces of me, pieces of home, of safety and certainty–all the things I naively thought I would just cart up and carry wherever life took me.

So, so mistaken.

Monday, November 07, 2011

childlike faith

I thought of all those biblical anecdotes of people believing in Christ's ability to heal/resurrect/etc. and how the moral of the story is always: have faith and you will be rewarded for it. Who believes like that these days? When something doesn't go as you hoped (and prayed for), it's probably not God's will and who are we to presume to tell him what to do? That or, you didn't have enough faith. But that sort of faith also requires faith in your own judgment of how things should be, and most people don't have that, rightly so.

Maybe impure motives get in the way. What's a pure motive then? When does something you hope for not benefit you, and how can you ever be unbiased under those circumstances? I suppose it's all smoothed over if you stick to a vague sort of faith that he'll make sure everything turns out for the best after all (even if you don't agree), but it seems like such a far cry from the days of the woman who touched Jesus's garments wholly believing it would heal her, and it did.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

green bookcoverporn

I've always loved the colour green, so it's no surprise that my eyes are naturally drawn to green book cover art. Specifically, the ones in my favourite shades (emerald, persian, teal). Since I was bored, I decided to compile a bunch of such covers yay! :D

The following collage is limited, obviously, to books I know or have stumbled across. Also because they have to meet the very subjective criterion of having caught my eye, I'm not going to include every single green cover I've seen -- only the ones I like. On the flipside, some of the covers are there just because they appeal to me/I am nostalgic about the book for whatever reason, and not necessarily because the green caught my eye (though of course it still has to have some green).

I will add to it from time to time as I come across more books. Click ahead for the coverporn!