Recountings

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, Recountings

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.

Recountings

EMMA.

A new adaption of Jane Austen’s Emma has come out. Last weekend, I saw it with my sister and eldest niece. (What a blast we had!) Yesterday evening, my best friend came with me to watch it. (Sitting in the comfiest chairs with white chocolate, drinks and warm popcorn … it was THERAPY.) I am fighting the impulse to see it a third time.

Let me tell you why. And – as a fair warning – this post will be written in the style of what I like to call ‘INCOHERENT RAMBLINGS OF A STARRY-EYED NESS’. You have been warned.

THE VISUALS

Everything is so pretty and also so very tongue-in-cheek. The font at the beginning of the film – even the font is pretty – and the PASTELS! EVERYTHING IS IN PASTELS!!

Emma’s outfits … they are divine (except for the ones with that random frill/collar around her neck. Like, did she forgot to put the other part of the dress on?)

Though, Mr. Knightley and Mr. Churchill and Emma wear yellow coats at one point or other in the film and I haven’t worked out if this is some sort of subliminal messaging trying to get me to like the colour of gone-off sunshine, but kudos for trying.

I’m not sure how period-correct the costumes were, but my gosh, it felt as if they were; I could easily imagine a Heyer heroine wearing some of them

THE MUSIC

I’ve listened to the entire soundtrack three or four times through in the past two days. Yes, this may be the reflection on the shortness of the soundtrack or it’s a reflection on how perfect it is. It’s so frothy and delightful and is sparkling lemonade in your ear. And then BLAM! a folk song hits or an old hymn is sung with gusto by a hundred throats (my mind filled in ‘throats’ with ‘goats’ and … yes. You’re welcome for that visual.)

Clearly it’s doing something to me; I’ve cleaned, am wearing a skirt, have folded the contents of two drawers (not brilliantly but still), and delicately nibbled on oat biscuits and sipped herbal tea.

I’m not sure what this means.

THE CHARACTERS

Facial expressions – they are done so well. Mr. Elton can reduce you to hysterics – HYS-TER-ICS. The glances are a second script in themselves.

Anya Taylor-Joy does a fantastic job as Emma; you can see her character growth and the realization about Mr. Knightley through her eyes. Harriet Smith is a BLAST. Mr. Knightley … *le sigh* I thought he was brilliant. Also, there’s this scene between him and Frank Churchill that is played so awkwardly. It was perfection. Miss Bates is BRILLIANT and whoever thought of casting Miranda as in that needs a medal. NO. THREE MEDALS. I could watch an entire film of Miss Bates describing Jane’s adventures to Emma.

Mr. Wodehouse kills me. (I am Being Dramatic, I know.) He steals every scene. Every. Scene. If there was a T.V show with just he and Miss. Bates, I’d watch it. I’d watch it all.

I adore the casting – everyone looked interesting and not as if they’d just come off a run way.

Also, Mr. Knightley’s walk in the very beginning reminded me of the Beast’s when he’s coming down the staircase in the live adaption of Beauty and the Beast.

Robert Martin made me want to giggle in every scene he was in; I’m not entirely sure why but I thought he was hilarious.

THE ROMANCE & SUNDRY

THE ROMANCE WAS BEAUTIFUL! And the grand confession scene? I shan’t spoil it for you but it is quite something. It reminds you of the ending bit of The Grand Sophy with the ducklings.

[Side note – THE POINTED COLLARS!!! I get why some Heyer characters can barely turn their head because their collars are so stiffly starched! Poor men. How they must have suffered.]

EMMA. is almost farcical, definitely beautifully shot, scripted and scored, and on the whole a sheer delight to indulge in. I foresee many a rewatch.

Let’s recap:

  1. I adored this film (you may have guessed) and while it may not be everyone’s cup of tea – it’s certainly mine. If there are flaws, I am currently blind to them.
  2. There is a possibility that I have may overworn such adjectives as ‘perfect’ and ‘brilliant’ in this post. I make no apologies.
  3. Autumn de Wilde needs to adapt a few Georgette Heyer novels – it would be magic, I swear!
Recountings

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.

311163

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, Recountings

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