Montreal | Member Since 2012
I particularly enjoyed Nathaniel Parker's interpretation of this book. The regional accents were especially well done and fun.
In short, this is the most brilliant piece of writing I have read in a long time. I am a big fan of the original trilogy Star Wars movies and it’s just incredible how well they work in Shakespearean language. Doescher studied Shakespeare and is also a big sci-fi geek and his understanding of both media comes across very well. The dichotomy of the sci-fi content in old fashioned language adds a real interest to the writing. It’s also a heck of a lot of fun to play “spot the (adapted) Shakespeare quotation.” For example, we have “Alas, poor stormtrooper, I knew ye not” referencing Hamlet’s thoughts on Yorrick.
I have both the audiobook (narrated by a troupe of Shakespearean actors including the author himself) and I strongly recommend experiencing William Shakespeare’s Star Wars in audiobook format rather than the written word. The cast really brings it to life.
The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker is the story of, well, a golem and a jinni who find themselves in turn of the century New York. Recently awoken/liberated respectively they must find their feet in and adapt to the New World while avoiding threats which could destroy them.
First of all, I would like to say just how much I loved this story. I loved the characters, the narrative, the setting. What I found rather interesting was the fact that, had the golem and the jinni been just ordinary immigrants instead of supernatural creatures, 80% of the story could have remained unchanged. It is much more a story of new immigrants to the States adapting to their new lives and country and friendships formed than a fantastical tale of the supernatural. That is not to say that the element of the fantastical did not add an extra layer of depth to the tale, but it is well grounded in reality.
What I liked
The characters. All the characters were beautifully written, from our two protagonists down to “Ice Cream Salah.” Due to circumstances beyond their control, the golem and the jinni find themselves alone in turn of the century New York and have to fit in with the local community to survive. Their personalities match what you might expect from immigrants from Poland and Syria. Our golem is obedient, modest, faithful and curious. This is presumably what is considered culturally normal for a young Polish woman of the time, based on the desires of her first master.
The jinn on the other hand comes across as a rather chauvinistic, arrogant man who is used to a far higher status that that which he finds as a lowly Syrian immigrant in New York.
This characterisation colours their actions and their thoughts, which is why the novel could easily work as the tale of two immigrants. They even have the golem go through Ellis Island to cement further the immigrant theme.
I also enjoyed the developing relationship between the golem and jinni and the way that all the characters are interconnected.
The narrative. The narrative is rather slow paced, concentrating on character and setting development. Although this is primarily an immigrant story, that’s not to say I didn’t really enjoy the fantasy element. Even Sophia’s arc, while it contains an element of the supernatural, can be likened a similar, more realistic situation, and her reactions are very believable.
The setting. Wecker describes turn of the century New York and the various subcultures (Syrian, Yiddish) living there wonderfully. I felt as if I were walking the streets with the golem and the jinni.
The foreshadowing. This is most notable in the case of the golem. Right from the beginning of the book the reader is made aware of the threats of and to our golem. The fact that the instrument of the golem’s destruction is out there in the world adds a nice layer of narrative tension to the novel. The idea of the golem herself’s being dangerous is nicely handled. When it is first brought up, it creates a very interesting dichotomy. From what we know of the golem at that time, she seems the very opposite of dangerous. She is shy, obedient and desperate to please – the very essence of non-threatening. It does lead the reader to question why her creator believes her to be so dangerous.
The narration. The narration is handled by George Guidall and it was very enjoyable. His slow, easy way of talking made me feel as if he were reading me a bedtime story.
What I didn’t like
There was nothing I didn’t enjoy about The Golem and the Jinni. It’s definitely worth picking up.
I gave The Golem and the Jinni five stars out of five
Cold Magic by Kate Elliott is the first in the Spiritwalker trilogy and tells the story of Cat Hassi Barahal as she comes to terms with the strange new path her life is taking her and the new powers she acquires. Cold Magic has been on my TBR list for some time. I’d picked it up several months back when it was on special offer on Kindle for $1.99, but never got round to reading it. It moved up the list a few weeks ago when I read an intriguing article on the magic system, yet it never quite made it to the top. Finally a couple of weeks ago, Audible released it as an audiobook. This is the first of the books to be released on Audible, so I picked it up to listen to during my nightshifts and it finally made it to the top of the list. I’m very glad it did!
What I liked
Interesting themes. Elliott explores some interesting themes in this novel. One of the major ones is magic vs technology. The society in which Cat lives is beginning to make progress with industrialisation and this engenders conflict with the powerful Mage Houses, the magic wielders. It is notable that the brunt of the Cold Mages’ destructive power is directed at symbols of industry and innovation – an airship and a factory. I look forward to seeing where this goes in the subsequent books
Another interesting theme is that of family and betrayal. Cat feels deeply betrayed by the actions of her uncle and aunt as does Andevai’s family to some extent by his changed attitude since his becoming a Cold Mage.
Identity is another interesting theme explored in the series. Cat strongly identifies with the Hassi Barahals who raised her, but after what she perceives as their betrayal she is no longer certain about who she is, especially given the new powers she discovers. When she meets her half brother Rory, her identity is thrown into even more confusion. This theme is even more apparent in the character of Andevai who is torn between his identity as a member of a poor but loving family and his status as a Cold Mage. It appears he is struggling to fit in with either community.
The worldbuilding. Ms Elliott’s blog is entitled “I make up worlds” and it’s clear this is something she very much enjoys. The worldbuilding in Cold Magic is excellent. I enjoyed the alternative history variation of our world that she has created. I especially enjoyed the intelligent trolls – one of whom is a solicitor!
I understand one of the lynchpins of the series is intended to be the relationship between Cat and her cousin Bee, whom she loves like a sister. It’s clear that they are very close, and protecting each other is a major motivation for the two. However, the cousins don’t spend much time together in this book so it doesn’t come across as strongly as it might. I suspect this may be more prominent in the next two books.
The narration. I listened to the audiobook narrated by Charlotte Parry. A poor or mediocre narrator adds little to a book other than saving you the trouble of reading it for yourself, offering little more than the Kindle’s robotic text to speech. A great narrator, on the other hand, really brings the characters to life. Ms Parry is of the second variety. It was easy to tell which character was speaking by the voice she used, and she picked up the stage directions perfectly (he said coldly, for example).
What I didn’t like
The overall story arc. At this point, I’m not entirely certain what our protagonist’s goals are other than self preservation and what the consequences might be if she fails to achieve them. I hope this is clarified in the subsequent books.
All in all, I very much enjoyed Cold Magic and gave it four stars out of five
Clockwork Princess is the third and final book in Cassandra Clare’s Infernal Devices trilogy, following on from Clockwork Angel and Clockwork Prince. My view of the series was merely consolidated rather than changed by my reading of the finale – Cassandra Clare is excellent and writing characters and worldbuilding, not so great at pacing.
What I liked
The characters. I adore Tess, Will and Jem and I felt the way their story was developed in this final volume was very well written and very touching. I really felt for all the protagonists in the book. We also get to see the development of Will’s relationship with Jem from their initial meeting through flashbacks. I know some people disliked the epilogue, but personally I loved hearing about what happened to the characters after the ending of the story. I also loved all the secondary characters – Charlotte, Henry, Cecily, the Lightwoods. Writing characters and their interactions is clearly Clare’s real strong point. I enjoyed the fact that certain characters were not necessarily evil, believed they were doing the right thing, but were still major hurdles for our protagonists.
The narration. Yet again the trilogy switched narrator. All four narrators did a wonderful job, but I do much prefer it when the narrator is consistent across a series. Daniel Sharman took the reins for this final book and did an excellent job. One thing that did bug me, however; Will suddenly develops a Welsh accent! Admittedly, there is ample justification in the story given what we learn about Will’s background. I would have preferred it to have remained consistent with the neutral British accent he is given in the previous two books. It’s hard enough adjusting to a new narrator without a main character’s accent changing. It’s also interesting when the narration gives away a plot point. At one point, a character enters a place and says a few words. His identity is not revealed at that point in the book, but due to Sharman’s excellent voice work he was immediately identifiable to the listener.
The letters. The plot was developed through the use of letters. I thought this was a particularly efficient way of moving the plot forward without having to develop more secondary characters.
The action scenes. There are definitely a lot more action in this book before and during the confrontation with Mortmain. The London Institute Shadowhunters’ attacking Cadair Idris reminded me of Aragorn’s attacking the Black Gate in Return of the King or Lan’s defending the pass in Memory of Light. I would have LOVED to have seen Henry’s face when that first automaton came to life “oh… crap!”
What I didn’t like
There was nothing I specifically disliked about the book. It did enjoy it and was touched by Will, Tessa and Jem’s story. However, for me it didn’t quite pack the emotional punch of A Memory of Light or Emperor of Thorns. I suspect that was because I had been spoiled so certain fakeouts lost their impact when I knew they were going to be reversed later on.
All in all, I gave Clockwork Angel four stars out of five.
Some months ago a friend recommended Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series to me. I picked up City of Bones, the first book, from Audible, and found it hard to get past the first few chapters. In all fairness, that might have been due to the fact that it was the book I selected to listen to at the gym, and for various reasons (my lack of willpower mainly) I didn’t go as often as I should have. It’s also true that City of Bones didn’t grab my attention immediately. I will probably try again before the movie comes out. Clockwork Angel is the first in Clare’s Infernal Devices series, which is a prequel to the Mortal Instruments set many years earlier in Victorian London.
Unlike Mortal Instruments, Clockwork Angel hooked me immediately from the Audible preview, so much so that I immediately invested in the entire trilogy in Kindle and Audible formats – Whispersync for Voice is available on these titles. This is partly due to Jennifer Ehle’s excellent narration, and also that I found it easier to connect with Tessa than Mortal Instruments’ Clary.
What I liked
The setting/worldbuilding. Clare evokes Victorian London with a twist beautifully. I also really loved the worldbuilding – the history of the Shadowhunters, Downworlders and mundanes was very well done. I look forward to reading more of the world in both Mortal Instruments and Infernal Devices.
The characters. I connected more easily with the Tessa of Infernal Devices than Clary of Mortal Instruments. Although they are around the same age I believe, as an adult reader I found Tessa, concerned about starting a new life in a new country, more like me than Clary who in the chapters I read was more concerned about boys and dance clubs. I freely admit that it is unfair of me to judge the characters when I’ve only read a few chapters on Clary, and I suspect my opinion may change as I get to know her better. I will, of course, update you when I’ve read City of Bones.
The narration. It was partly Jennifer Ehle’s wonderful narration which drew me into this book, and I’m truly sorry she does not continue on for the next two books in the series. She easily distinguishes between the characters, some with an American accent true to the book and others with a British one. The emotions of the characters comes through clearly as she narrates. I certainly found it a lot more interesting that Ari Graynor’s narration of the chapters I listened to of City of Bones. Again, it’s very unfair of me to judge just on the chapters I heard of City of Bones, and I will let you know if I revise my opinion.
The writing. There was a lot of information about the world to get across to the reader and I thought Clare did this quite well – she managed to avoid massive info dumps and yet put across an understanding of the new world in which Tessa finds herself.
What I didn’t like
The pacing. The book started off excellently, and I was quickly drawn into Tessa’s predicament. I loved learning with her about the Shadowhunters, The Institute and about this whole hidden world. However, after that, though, I found the action dragged until the last couple of chapters. Personally, this drop in narrative tension rather spoiled the book for me.
All in all I liked the book, but I would have enjoyed it better had the pacing been more consistent. I gave Clockwork Angel three and a half stars out of five.
James Marsters' narration of this series is pitch perfect, and this sample is an excellent demonstration of the talents of both writer and narrator. It rained toads. Let me say that again. It rained TOADS, great big slimy TOADS! And, of course, things don't get any better or easier for poor Harry. If you have not yet started this series about Harry Dresden, Chicago's only consulting wizard/private eye I can strongly recommend it. It's also an excellent one to start on audiobooks thanks to Marsters' wonderful work.
I would not recommend listening to this book on Audible. This is nothing to do with Michael Kramer's narration; as usual he is very good. Rather, the novel depends on "rithmatic diagrams" which are illustrated in the book. Although Kramer does describe them, if you only listen you will miss a lot, perhaps key story points.
This isn't one of Sanderson's best works. The magic system, usually one of Sanderson's key strengths, didn't grab me the way some of his others have. I also didn't feel very engaged with the main characters who are after all only sixteen. If you're new to Sanderson I'd recommend starting with Mistborn or Elantris rather than this.
I read this on recommendation by Rick Riordan, one of my favourite young adult writers. I listened to it partly in audiobook and then gave up and read it on Kindle. I don’t believe it was a fault of the narrator; he did a good job, but I just couldn’t get into it very easily. On the positive side, I see that Amazon has enabled Whispersync for Voice for purchases on the Canadian store. It worked perfectly on this book. However, they do not yet offer the price reduction for both items, but maybe that will come.
The Blade Itself is very similar to George R.R, Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire in that character development is more important than plot progression. That is all very well, but Ambercrombie can’t compare to the depth of characterization that Martin has reached. None of the characters grabbed me in the manner of Tyrion, Jaime or Arya. In all fairness, Martin has had five books to develop his characters, while I have only read the first one of The First Law series. What I have read though doesn’t encourage me to read the next two in the series.
I did enjoy Ambercrombie’s writing style though. I found it entertaining, amusing and very immediate. The narration in the audiobook certainly helped with that. There were some excellent points where the reader wonders how the characters are going to get out of that particular situation. The world building too, was excellent.
At other points I felt Ambercrombie created some excellent dramatic tension – then allowed it to go nowhere. An example of this is the brilliantly executed confrontation in council. The clash was beautifully set up – the betrayal was foreshadowed and the characterization of the Council made it understandable why they were totally oblivious to the danger right up to the last moment. However, this storyline never went anywhere. The characters all seemed to continue doing what they were doing before.
I gave The Blade Itself three and a half stars out of five
bout two thirds of the way through the book:
Arlen’s fingers tightened on the metal spear as he stepped from the circle.
Cue cliffhanger chapter break. For me, this was a real “oh, crap” moment, on a par with seeing Aragorn’s forces surrounded by the Mordor hordes in the Return of the King movie, and perfectly encapsulates Peter V. Brett’s mastery of his craft.
This is just one of many excellently written scenes. This one in particular works for me for several reasons; first, the author has done his world building well. At this point in the story the reader is well aware of the likely consequences of Arlen’s stepping outside of the circle and has good reason to fear for Arlen’s safety.
Of course, none of that matters if the reader is not emotionally invested in Arlen. Brett has developed his character well. Arlen is not always likeable, but he is relatable. His decision to leave the circle, while terrifying, is logical and easily understandable based on Brett’s characterisation. The reader cares about what happens to Arlen and the consequences of his action. This can be contrasted with the other main characters, Leesha and Rojer, for whom such a move would have been totally out of character, certainly at this stage in their arcs. All of the main characters are equally well developed and engaging.
Finally, there is the setup for the future. Arlen has some speculation about the spear but no proof. It is possibly a game changer in the war against the demons. Part of the tension of this scene is what it might mean for humanity going forward. The stakes here are not just Arlen’s life, but humanity’s survival.
This scene is just one reason why I thoroughly recommend The Warded Man and its sequel, The Desert Spear. I anxiously await tomorrow’s release of the next chapter, The Daylight War.
I give The Warded Man five out of five stars.
I would love to say I loved this book, and indeed there was much I did enjoy about it. I found the main characters to be engaging and well written. The world building I thought was excellent. I enjoyed reading it and will certainly read the sequel, Bitterblue.
What really let the novel down in my opinion was the poor pacing. I felt too much time was spent on the wrong things. For example we seem to spend several chapters wandering around in the snow with Katsa and Bitterblue and yet the final confrontation with Leck, to which the entire book has been leading, is over within half a page or so. This left me feeling somewhat cheated. In addition, this confrontation occurs still some way from the end of the novel; I kept expecting another twist, not setup for the next novel.
I also felt the author missed some golden opportunities to explore some interesting themes, such as how do those who have grown used to power cope when they are powerless? It is touched upon briefly, but I would have welcomed a deeper exploration of these.
Having said that, I think these are things the novelist will become more adept at handling (this is her debut novel, after all) and I imagine a bright future for her.
This was marked as a full cast production. I have to say it really irritated me. Clearly the cast wasn’t in the room at the same time, so there was a pause waiting on the next person speaking. That really threw me out of the story.
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