Friday, April 21, 2017

The Shadow Land

I loved The Shadow Land. I think it might be one of my favourite books this year. I won an ARC of Elizabeth Kostova's latest novel from Goodreads, and I am so glad I did. Everything about the story drew me in. The misplaced ashes, of course, were a unique way to begin the story. Alexandra's determination was special. She was an amazing person. She was emotional, and had purpose. I loved how she felt about Bobby, about Neven, Stoyan, Jack, her parents. The trauma and guilt of Alexandra's childhood shaped her life, her goals, and led her to this place. Bulgaria. A country I do not know much about, but now I'd like to learn more. The Bulgarian perspective is not one I've read when it comes to World War II and what happened after the war. It was hard, scary and sad. People blaming other people, being punished for not doing anything wrong, or not agreeing with the new government. It seems like it was difficult to just live life. Alexandra learns about this country, about where she has decided to live for no greater reason than the memory of her brother.

As beautiful as the writing is and as interesting as the country is, it's the plot that moves the story forward. The urn and the mystery that unravels is unique and unexpected. Alexandra is just trying to return someone's precious property and she gets sucked into this incredible tale, along with an unsuspecting taxi driver, who has secrets of his own. I really enjoyed the duality of the plot, Alexandra's story, moving along with Stoyan's. Stoyan's story was simple, but extremely emotional, Alexandra's story was also emotional, but more complex. 

I love a good ending and the end of The Shadow Land was wonderful. I loved how the stories met, how they came full circle. I loved the discoveries, the drama, the unexpected. The tension was fantastic, I was scared for Irina and Lenka. I really enjoyed the quieter chapters after the climax. I like that we got a hint as to what the future might hold for the main characters. I loved the friendships that developed through this story, across generations.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Shadow Land, loving it more than I thought I would. It was brilliant and beautiful. It captured the imagination. It didn't let me go until the end.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast was magical. I didn't see it opening weekend, like I (and my husband) wanted to. Instead, my sisters-in-law wanted to have a girls weekend, us and our daughters. They loved it. We all thought it was wonderful. But I can't talk about it because my Hubby wants to see it too. I'd go again. It might be a bit too scary for our son though. There are some intense scenes. My daughter did get upset at a couple parts, if you've seen the cartoon, you know which parts I'm talking about. It was still good though, she said the movie was amazing and it was okay that she got upset because she was worried or sad for the characters.  My one sister-in-law admitted to tearing up at the end too.

Everything is taken a step further. A step more danger, a tick more excitement, a little more depth and story. We learn about Belle's mom, we find out more about the Enchantress, and how it is important to treat everyone with kindness and compassion. Every character was a bit more than before. I want to watch it again. I enjoyed the actors, the sets, the costumes, the songs. I thought everything was seamless. More than my enjoyment, for this movie, my daughter loved it and that's what I was really looked for when we went to see it. I'm so happy that she did and I look forward to more of these live-action adaptations.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Bloodsucking Fiends

The end of Bloodsucking Fiends was everything, was the best part of the whole story for me. I kept waiting for more action and more tension, but there were so many lies and so many people blind to what was really going on, that I don't know if the tension fully coalesced the way I thought it would. Everything finally built up at the end though. It was a good end. Christopher Moore crafted a great conclusion, but there are questions, there is more to learn about Jody, Tommy and the ancient vampire who started it all.

I'll try to keep the spoilers vague.... How is Tommy going to feel? Tommy was always a laid back kind of guy, but things did not go the way he wanted. I feel like at the beginning of the next book, Tommy will be feeling a surge of emotion. At least I hope it's like that. I am really looking forward to Tommy's reaction. The ancient vampire has left me really curious. Why? When? How? I'm hoping for answers there too. Jody was certainly an interesting vampire protagonist. Why was she so strong? She seemed like she stayed very much herself, just more. It will be interesting to see how she develops through the series. I'm also really interested in revisiting the Emperor and the Animals.

One thing that struck me as I started reading Bloodsucking Fiends was that it was published in 1995! I had forgotten how old this book was until I was with Jody, looking for a payphone. She couldn't remember her "calling card number". Do you remember having those? Cards that you kept for pay phones or long distance calls? My parents made sure I had one so I could call home and couldn't use the excuse of not having any change. I wonder how this will affect the sequels, as You Suck was published in 2007 and Bite Me in 2010. I remember having a similar feeling reading Generation X, a book published in my youth, but not really contemporary anymore. Also, I found several book covers from over the last 22 years. Art styles have definitely changed. I've included just four in this post. Favourites? I know which one I like best, but it's not the one I own. Oh well!

Since it was published in 1995, it was before the latest vampire/supernatural madness began, but one of the reasons it might have taken me a while to read it, is because of the latest vampire madness. Bloodsucking Fiends is different though, a little more Buffy than Twilight. There's a lot less brooding. It's basically a romantic comedy. The turtle thing is tragic, but also tragically funny. Tommy  is quirky, Jody is kind of random. I am interested in seeing how they characters develop and what the do in the future.

*Side note: Moore has a Bloodsucking Fiends reading guide. So, book clubs? It would be an unusual read.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Dreams of Gods and Monsters

That can't be the end! Dreams of Gods and Monsters was full of interesting twists and surprises. The end though... There was an end, and then there were so many more chapters to go. Not an epilogue, but chapters of story still to happen. I loved the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series and Dreams of Gods and Monsters was a good conclusion. I loved Karou, I loved Akiva. There will be vague spoilers ahead.

The ending was not the ending. There was so much build up to fighting Jael and the Dominion at the Vatican, that I thought there would be more. More blood, more loss. The twist was good though. Clever. I would have liked a little more time with Haxaya. I can only imagine what they said to her off the page. I would have like to see what the ramifications on Earth were. When Jael comes back through the portal though, when he sees Liraz and the Shadows That Live, that was pretty wicked. I would have liked to dive deeper into what happened to him after, and what happened at the capital. It was a conclusion that didn't feel conclusive enough. But we leave the conflict with the Seraphim and Chimera behind.

Instead, the real conclusion is with the Stelians. I wish there could have been more Eliza and Scarab. That's where the real power is. Karou says as much. The Stelians can't be bothered with the Seraphim and Chimera, and finding out about the Seraphim's history, wow. The Stelians are the ones who hold it all, Akiva's life, his future. I loved all of that, but wish there was more. I wanted more with Eliza and the people she knew from Earth. I wanted more with fake grandma. I was so happy with what happened with Liraz and Ziri. I was scared for a while, but then, by the end. I'm okay with not knowing exactly what happens with them, because it was implied and the implications were fantastic. The growth and change in their characters, they were the only ones where I was okay with the conclusion. For a book that was over 600 pages, I wouldn't have minded if it was longer.

That final sequence though, that final time we see Karou and Akiva, that was beautiful. I loved how their lives came full circle. It wasn't all perfectly tied up in a bow though. Even after Jael lost, they still had things to do, things that kept them apart. That was almost realistic. Happy endings aren't neat, war isn't neat. The ends don't always mean that people are reunited immediately. There's still work to do, rebuilding. In that way, I really liked the ending.

I thought that there should have been more. There's still a threat to Eretz, a subsequent threat to Earth. There are people whose stories don't feel done. I hope that Laini Taylor continues their story. Another book would pull everything together, tie up all the threads. It doesn't and probably shouldn't centre of Karou and Akiva. They would still be important characters, but it should be a story about Eliza, Scarab and the Stelians. I think there's still a story to be told there, more of Laini Taylor's world to be explored. Maybe she plans to write another book, maybe not. I can certainly wish for one though. Dreams of Gods and Monsters was exciting and hard to put down. I'm glad I finally read the final book in this fantastic series.