ness talks books

books that were not my cup of tea

As every bookworm knows … there comes a time when one must consciously uncouple from a book and promptly yeet it out of the window. Metaphorically speaking.

A CURSE SO DARK AND LONELY

YA books and I don’t have the best relationship. It’s not them, it’s me. I experienced a lot of dissonance with the characters, the plots, and the writing. (The binding, the front cover designs, the blurbs and the fonts are usually on point though.)

I DNF-d A Curse So Dark And Lonely because frankly I was bored. (I usually am loathe to admit boredom. ‘Only boring people get bored’ I used to tell myself smugly. Oh how the turntables have …) I didn’t care about the characters. The plot felt like porridge with no honey. Bread with no butter! English breakfast tea with no milk! I didn’t connect with the novel, and so therefore, reading it was a struggle.

It seems to have been a well-received book, but unfortunately, I couldn’t quite get it. And that’s okay! Different readers have different tastes, and perhaps if I tried again, I might like it.

MERCY & EAGLEFLIGHT

Christian fiction … ah, yes. Christian fiction. When done well, it is wonderful and brilliant (hello there! C.S Lewis!) when it is done badly … I refuse to accept that Christian fiction should be given a pass just because someone has slapped a label on it and marked it as ‘Christian’.

(If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and swims like a duck IT WILL NOT SUDDENLY TURN INTO A CAMEL OF BRILLIANCE IF YOU JUST PLONK A ‘CHRISTIAN’ LABEL ON IT.)

(That was a metaphor. The duck was bad fiction. The camel of brilliance was a good fiction. Just so you know. Like the book, I am subtle.)

  1. So much telling – we were told everything. There was no subtlety. No nuance. No trusting of the readers to actually grasp the emotional journey that the characters were going through. We must be led through it, holding the author’s hand.
  2. I approach fiction wanting a story not a sermon so perhaps … the fault lies with me, not managing my expectations. BUT STILL !!! I protest. I PROTEST STRONGLY.
  3. The main characters felt very clean and cookie-cutter. Too clean and cookie-cutter. Too 2D..
  4. There were entire chapters of dialogue. This isn’t always a bad thing. But … but I would propose that perhaps the message of the book could have been gotten across with perhaps, say, an article in a magazine, not in a work of fiction.
  5. There is an absolutely foul section where we are given horribly racist character just to show us how bad he is and then we never see him again. It was degrading and it had no place in the book. It felt like a cheap way of making us hate a character. It was an ugly line of dialogue that did not need to be included for us to get the idea that this guy? = bad. There are no excuses.
  6. There’s a point where a female character is sharing the gospel with another male character … and she sends him to go speak to another man because ‘men think differently.’
  7. I’m sorry. I didn’t know that there was a female and male way of talking about faith? Clearly, I must have missed a Bible verse or two.
  8. Ah yes, the inevitable assault on the female character by a villain. A villain who only exists to Be Evil, by the way. Some people are destined to have nuance and character, some others … are not.

… I should stop here, shouldn’t I? I got through it. Sometimes, whilst I read this, my arms flailed, and my entire body cringed and shrivelled up like a raisin.

Is this the book, I cried, that repelled a thousand ships?!

This book was published in 1996 – perhaps Christian fiction has improved since then? I certainly hope so.

JUST ONE DAMNED THING AFTER ANOTHER

The best thing about this book was that it had dinosaurs (!!!!) and the Library of Alexandra. Also: time-travel.

Unfortunately, the story was … MC joins time-traveling organization. Shenanigans and hi-jinks ensue. One thing happens after another, and the plot feels very squint-and-you’ll-miss-it. A character – who has hitherto displayed no rage – lashes out in anger. I felt startled because I’d imagined that he was calm and sedate and then BLAM! INSTANT GREMLIN!

Also – I thought that this was a YA book. And then there was a particular scene that made me place the book down on the bed and stare into the abyss of air. It was not a YA book. A surprising twist.

This is a first book in a series, and of course, sometimes a series takes a book to hit its stride. This may well be the case. Perhaps I’m being too harsh? However, though I felt the concept was TRULY interesting (DID YOU HEAR THE BIT ABOUT HOW THIS HAS DINOSAURS?!!!!) the characters weren’t on the dinosaurs’ level.

But then, I must ask … what is?

books, ness talks books

yes, i am judging these books by their covers

I’ve owned most of The Pit Dragon Chronicles by Jane Yolen for at least three years. I’ve read the first one, it wasn’t EXACTLY my cup of tea, and I wasn’t keen on reading the rest.

So I decided to pretend that I have – and to recount them to you. Guessing the plot from their front covers. You’re welcome. It is chaotic. There are plot holes probably. You have been warned.

*** My apologies to the author and any fans of these books ***

Dragon’s Blood

AKA THE ONE I DID READ

This is a book about a dragon fight club in a world not unlike Jakku and I’m not here for that. A dragon fight club is simply depressing. Dragons? In a fight club? Controlled by humans? I cannot allow it. How awful. How tragic for these mighty beasts!

I read this book and was very frustrated with Akki, the female character. She was too … she was too much. That’s what she was. Sometimes reading about girls who are stubborn and mysterious ALL THE TIME etc etc tire me out. It wearies the brain. Strains the nerves. Beats me why, but there we are.

I think the hero, Jakkin, is going to be a misogynist, but the girl will Teach Him Not To Be. Also, there is a dragon that he’s bonded to. Yes, I know. Very shocking. Totally unexpected. Also, I hate the front cover because the dragon looks like the kind of dragon who tells dodgy jokes and expects you to laugh at them and is probably a relative of Jar Jar Binks but worse.

It’s not a bad story. In fact, it might be someone’s favourite book. If it is – forgive me … and maybe don’t read the rest of this post?

Heart’s Blood

AKA THE ONE I HAVEN’T READ.

So, at the end of the last book, Akki had left, leaving Jakkin with his bonded dragon, Heart’s Blood. However, Jakkin’s having difficulty sleeping. Because he misses Akki, and he’s allergic to beans. (However, he bought far too many beans from a trader and they’re all he has to eat. So. Fun times.) To stop the insomnia, Jakkin reads books to his dragon. They’re all romances.

(His local library is very limited and all the trainers of the pit dragons adore romance novels.)

Heart’s Blood is a bright dragon. She figures out that maybe if she gets Akki back to Jakkin then maybe Jakkin won’t use her to viciously fight her own kind. Because of the power of love.

(Heart’s Blood is a pacifist and hates fighting her kind in the ring. Night after night she slays them. It’s getting to her. She’s Too Old For This.)

Anyway, Heart’s Blood decides to heck with this and sends a Dragon Letter to Akki. Akki doesn’t get it, mainly because a) Heart’s Blood can’t write and b) dragons don’t have a postal system.

So. That plan fails.

Until one fateful day when Akki turns up. She needs Jakkin, it’s all very mysterious and she says that TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE and suddenly they are being chased in the dark. They crash into something and BOOM! PLOT TWIST! IT’S HEART’S BLOOD!! Dragons don’t have mail but they have devious plans and dragon-speak telepathy! (Heart’s Blood forgot about that when she tried to write a letter.)

(Heart’s Blood could never be accused of being particularly bright.)

Heart’s Blood captures them in her wings and cackles evilly. (Though Heart’s Blood has taken a dragon vow of silence so she could be choking silently. That’s a possibility too). Jakkin and Akki don’t know Heart’s Blood is evil though – they think they are safe – but then they turn around and see what is chasing them AND IT’S …

We end the book on a cliff hanger. I have several crucial questions:

  • why has Heart’s Blood turned evil? Has the blood shedding gotten to her? Has she snapped? WILL THERE BE REDEMPTION?
  • who is chasing them?!!
  • why does Akki need Jakkin?
  • why is the climactic scene on the front cover of the book? Geez! No one thought that through.

A SENDING OF DRAGONS

AKA I HAVEN’T READ THIS ONE EITHER

First of all, none of the questions I asked were answered. A METAPHOR???

Okay. I know what we’re all thinking: Heart’s Blood keeps Akki and Jakkin as slaves to feed its offspring.

It is another SURPRISE! METAPHOR! Something about dragons taking princess only Akki and Jakkin aren’t royalty but shush, don’t tell Heart’s Blood that. (She isn’t aware of the precise nuances of the feudal system. She also doesn’t know it exists.)

The entire book is a deep Dragon Discourse as Heart’s Blood Tells All to Jakkin about the history of dragons. It’s a Moby Dick length book. With entire chapters on scale care. The only shame is … Jakkin doesn’t understand Heart’s Blood because of the vow of silence thing, and Heart’s Blood doesn’t know sign language.

It’s a frustrating book, but also very deep.

We conclude the series with the protagonists sitting around the fire, Heart’s Blood falls asleep after her discourse is finished. When she wakes up – it was All A Dream. More specifically, Jakkin’s dream that Heart’s Blood was stuck in because of the whole mind bond thing.

With a roar of rage Heart’s Blood eats Jakkin.

As if she would take a vow of silence!


If you have read this series – drop a comment down below and tell me how VERY CLOSE I WAS TO THE ACTUAL PLOT. I think I must have hit the nail on the head.

Yup.

For sure.

ness talks books

hooray for Deb Grantham!

***mild spoilers ahead***

I’ve ranted and raved about the Heyer in which the heroine shoots the hero. How about the Heyer in which the heroine kidnaps the hero? Guys. I am ALL over that.

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Faro’s Daughter

by YOU’LL NEVER GUESS WHO

So let me set this raving and rambling post up: Miss Deborah Grantham has ended up – through no fault of her own – assisting her aunt in running a gambling establishment. There’s a young lord – Adrian – who has fallen in love with her and the young lord’s cousin – Mr. Max Ravenscar – who is determined to stop him from marrying Deb.

He meets with Deb Grantham. And in the process of doing this, He With The Suitably Wonderous Name (Ravenscar, people. RAVENSCAR) manages to thoroughly and completely offend her.

Deb Grantham  – who was never even considering marrying Adrian – vows to make Ravenscar pay, by pretending to do the very thing. Because obviously that is the only option – nay! the only reasonable course of action.

She doesn’t like Ravenscar. She detests him. If he were a slug, she’d dump a whole bag of salt on him.

“Oh, if I were a man, to be able to call him out, and run him through, and through, and through!”

Lady Bellingham [Deb’s Aunt], who appeared quite shattered, said feebly that you could not run a man through three times.

“At least, I don’t think so,” she added. “Of course, I never was present at a duel, but there are always seconds, you know, and they would be bound to stop you.”

“Nobody would stop me!” declared Miss Grantham blood-thirstily. “I would like to carve him into mincemeat!”

Miss Grantham, by the way, is quintessentially awesome. (Also, she is sort of falling in love with Ravenscar, but don’t tell her that.)

Ravenscar has an incredibly low opinion of her – and makes it known. So Miss Grantham has …

A strong inclination to burst into tears accompanied these more violent ambitions, and was followed almost immediately by a resolve to punish Mr Ravenscar in the most vindictive way open to her, and a perfectly irrational determination to show him that she was every bit as bad as he imagined her to be, if not worse.

I am rubbing my hands together gleefully, folks. GLEE. FULL. Y.

WITH MANY OTHER THINGS HAPPENING TOO – a bet, a runaway etc etc … Ravenscar attempts to pay Miss Grantham off.

As you can imagine, it does not go down well.

Miss Grantham’s scheme grows more and more outrageous – and hilarious. And it all culminates in one perfectly delicious series of events. (A KIDNAPPING!! A HILARIOUS KIDNAPPING IN A MANNER THAT ONLY HEYER COULD PULL OFF! I will leave you the following quote to whet your appetite:

‘Will you have some more wine, sir?’ asked Deborah, apparently conscious of her duties as his hostess.

‘No,’ said Ravenscar baldly.

‘You are not very polite!’ she said.

‘I do not feel very polite. If you care to untie my ankles, however, I will engage to offer you my chair.’

My dudes, read this one. It’s hysterical. It’s witty. It’s a romantic comedy with the best of them. An entire blacksmith’s forge worth of sparks fly between the main characters. I love it – and you will too.

(ALSO THE HEROINE KIDNAPS THE HERO. DID I MENTION THAT?)

books, ness talks books

that one georgette heyer short story that boggles me. BOGGLES. ME.

Picture this …

It’s the Regency Era – an Era which, by the way, should Romance Novels be believed, stretches on for a few hundred years and has possibly continued even until this day. It is entirely populated by eligible aristocracy. Dukes and Marquis and Lords and Earls. All handsome, unmarried, and broken in a way that only can be fixed by the love of a good woman.

And there are the maidens. And disgraced daughters of Earls or vicars etc. And fiery spitfires (all with red hair. You can’t have a temper unless you have red hair. Also: they are all beautiful when they are angry). And wallflowers. And bluestockings. And just, lots of nouns that denote ‘this here woman is about to get HITCHEEDDD!!’

Oh. And widows.

You are a widow. You have a beautiful daughter. You want her to marry well. You are being favoured by the attentions of a Marquis hitherto elusive when it comes to showing intentions of marriage. You are CONVINCED that he is showing interest in your daughter. You are CONVINCED that an offer of marriage is to come. Also, you are mildly jealous. (You are thirty-seven, by the way. About to retire into a nursing home.) (He is forty. HE COULDN’T BE POSSIBLY INTERESTED IN YOU. OH NOOO.)

BUT THEN … your daughter WANTS TO MARRY SOMEONE ELSE.

(I KNOW. YOU – THE WIDOW – ARE QUAKING IN YOUR CUSTOM LEATHER BOOTS. YOU CANNOT BELIEVE IT TO BE SO.)

Your Marquis comes in. He declares his intentions. You feel TERRIBLE because you must turn him away. Your daughter is to be married … TO ANOTHER.

And then he says, before he leaves, that he must put in a good word for your daughter; that she is in love and ought to marry the man of her dreams.

*RECORD SCRATCH*

(This device won’t be invented for a good few years – but you are a very forward thinking widow.)

Get this: The Marquis doesn’t want to be your daughter’s HUSBAND. He wants to be her FATHER.

(A line that, really, I never thought I’d have to type.)

I feel as though I could facepalm. My neighbours could facepalm. England – nay, EUROPE – could facepalm. The entire world hears your thoughts and collectively slaps their hands to their foreheads and groans.

Clearly there are two offenders here:

  • The Widow … I’m not sure HOW you managed to miss the fact that the man is falling in love with you, but by George you’ve not got it. I’m sure that this obliviousness is Not Unknown in the world so I shall forgive you for it.
  • The Marquis … mainly the Marquis … because if the WOMAN THAT YOU ARE COURTING BELIEVES THAT YOU ARE COURTING HER DAUGHTER THEN YOU ARE DOING SOMETHING VERY WRONG.

I foresee a VERY interesting and entertaining future for this couple. Full of charming misunderstandings:

“You mean the man who stopped our carriage in the middle of the night with a GUN wanted to ROB us??!!!?”

Or:

“Darling! Of COURSE I think you should buy those gloves – didn’t you realise that when I moved your cup three-quarters of an inch to the left on a full moon on the sixth day of the week last month when the dog barked twice and the footman coughed once? Why! I thought it was as clear as crystal!”

A Husband for Fanny can be found in Snowdrift and Other Stories by Georgette Heyer

books, ness talks books

why i love ‘frederica’ by georgette heyer (and you totally should too)

No one quite does it like Georgette Heyer. When I pick up one of her books and dive in, that’s it – I’ll disappear for a wee while, completely buried. Perhaps I’ll come up for air, but more often than not, it’s to grab another one of her works.

And here’s one of her books that’s a favourite of mine. (Most of them are favourites. Picking an absolute favourite is nigh on impossible. I do have least favourites *quelle horreur!!!* but that’s for another time.)

THE PLOT DOESN’T STOP FOR A MOMENT AND IS SPARKLING AND WITTY AND HYSTERICAL

So we have this rich bloke – a Marquis – in his ivory palace who gets everything he wants and is terribly bored with it. (I’m sure EVERYONE relates to this. *cough*) His relatives want him to introduce their daughters into society with lavish balls – at his expense, of course – but he’s all ‘lemme think about … ha! ha! No’ (but in FAR more distinguished and witty tones).

“Wretch! I shan’t allow you to take a rise out of me! I want to talk to you about Jane!”
“Who the devil is—Oh, yes, I know! One of your girls!”
“My eldest daughter, and, let me remind you, your niece, Alverstoke!”
“Unjust, Louisa, I needed no reminder!”
“I am bringing the dear child out this season,”[…]
“You’ll have to do something about her freckles—if she’s the one I think she is,” he interrupted. “Have you tried citron-water?”
“I didn’t invite you to come here to discuss Jane’s appearance!” she snapped.
“Well, why did you invite me?”
“To ask you to hold a ball in her honour—at Alverstoke House!” she disclosed, rushing her fence.
“To do what?” 

Enter Frederica Merriville who wants just a tiny favour from him. He is Not Bored By This. And offers to help her and her family (she has a Beautiful Sister and Frederica is determined that such Beauty is Not To Be Wasted) enter into society. And then suddenly – in almost a blink of his languid eye – the Merriville family is plunging him into one scrape after the other, and he’s got people banging on his door about a dog disturbing some Picturesque Milking Cows in central London, there’s the Merriville brother who is Convinced that the Marquis is VERY MUCH INTERESTED in the latest technology (he’s not), and a Fateful Hot Air Balloon ride.

And then, indignity upon indignity, his esteemed personage has to look after someone. On a sickbed.

Oh how will he cope?!

HOW WILL HE SURVIVE????

THE HEROINE IS PRETTY DOPE

There are several different types of Heyer Heroines, and Frederica falls amongst the ranks of Pheobe Marlowe (Sylvester) and Venetia (Venetia). She’s sensible, but she’s plucky and she has a sense of humour. She’s not as staid as some heroines, nor as silly as others.

I approve.

THE MARQUIS OF ALVERSTOKE IS ALMOST AS COOL AS THE COOLEST DUDE TO EVER DUDE

My all-time FAVOURITE of Heyer’s characters is one that barely appears in his book. (BUT WHAT AN IMPRESSION HE LEAVES!!) Imagine my joy and surprise when I realised that there was another character almost as wonderful as he!

“Perhaps,” murmured his lordship, “I yielded to a compassionate impulse.”
“A what?” gasped his best friend. 
“Oh, did you think I never did so?” said his lordship, the satirical glint in his eyes extremely pronounced. “You wrong me! I do, sometimes—not frequently, of course, but every now and then!” 

My brain sort of fuzzed over when I Saw The Truth in a reread.

‘HE IS LIKE HIM!!!!!!!’ I thought calmly. “THIS IS AMAZING!!”

FREDERICA’S YOUNGEST BROTHERS ARE THE BEST THING EVER

I have a soft spot for siblings in novels. Particularly when they are so SINCERE and OBLIVIOUS to everything else.

And her youngest brother, Felix – he’s da actual bomb (not in a Lord Legerwood way but in his own irrepressible ‘let me join this Hot Balloon adventure whatdoyoumeanIcan’tgoupwiththem??!’ way.) He *somehow* gets Alverstoke to do things that Alverstoke really doesn’t have the slightest inclination of doing. Like, going around a foundry. Alverstoke has never even thought of it. He’d probably rather recite the dictionary backwards whilst dining with ALL of his beloved relatives than- No. He’d probably hate both of them equally.

In a lazy kind of way.

ALSO, THE DOG

There’s this scene – hySTERICALLY FUNNY OF COURSE – where some of the Merrivilles are attempting to get out of a scrape by the actions of their dog.

All the outraged tradesmen are like: this dog is a coMMEN MUTT AND PROBABLY TERRIBLE AND SHOULD BE DESTROYED becauSE IT ALARMED OUR COWS AND PUT THEM OFF PRODUCING MILK!!

And the Marquis and his DOPE secretary are like: mmmMM THIS DOG? This dog that is a priCLESS BREED?? This dog from a FOREIGN COUNTRY?? o.0 YOU WANT TO DESTROY THIS DOG?

“I didn’t smuggle the dog into the country; I merely caused him to be smuggled out of Baluchistan.” 

ALSO, THE OTHER CHARACTERS. ALL OF THEM

The whole cast. Are. The. Best. Even the two characters that are just MY GOSH UGH THIS IS FUNNY BUT I WOULDN’T WANT TO STAY IN THE SAME ROOM WITH YOU.

Even if it was an internet chatroom. ARE THOSE STILL GOING BY THE WAY???

This novel is a sheer, rippling delight from page one. It’s charming. It’s nigh on perfect. I love it. Read it. You just might love it too.

goodreads // open library