Tag: novels

Cruel Beauty

Cruel Beauty

best book EVAH

Well, I didn’t end up reviewing Deathless, mainly because it was so beautifully flawed that it defied description (I feel like people wouldn’t have had much time for BDSM and two-timing during the Siege of St. Petersburg. Too cold. Too hungry. But I wasn’t there, so what do I know?). Also, college fried my brain, so yeah. There never was a promise I could keep.

However, post-finals, I was looking for subpar brain candy to destress, and I found it in Cruel Beauty, courtesy of Rosamund Hodge–except it wasn’t subpar! Who says brain candy can’t also be art?

Lots of kitties
WHAT THIS BOOK DID TO ME

First of all, the setting is gorgeous. I adore gorgeous settings, probably because I can’t write them at all. Nyx Triskelion (cool name) lives in Arcadia, which is…a dome? made of parchment? I was never really clear on how to picture it (notoriously bad at following descriptive details, sorry), but it sounded cool.

The wavy, golden rays of the sun looked like a gilt illumination in one of Father’s old manuscripts; they glinted, but their light was less painful than a candle. Once the main body of the sun was risen over the hillside, it would be uncomfortable to look upon, but no more so than the frosted glass of a Hermetic lamp. For most of the light came from the sky itself, a dome of cream veined with darker cream, like parchment, through which light shone as if from a distant fire. Dawn was no more than the brighter zone of the sky rising above the hills, the light colder than at noon but otherwise the same.

Arcadia (land Nyx lives in) has been closed off from the world, seemingly forever, with only a Gentle Lord in a ruined castle to rule it. Many have theories as to why. Unfortunately, the Gentle Lord is excellent at making bargains, but they don’t always work out so well for the bargainers. There’s always a misinterpreted clause, like the one Nyx’s father falls prey to. Wife will give birth to two healthy daughters? Excellent. Wife will die in the process? Oh.

So Arcadians hate the Gentle Lord because he’s a ruthless haggler who tells tons of lies by omission. Also Nyx’s dad promised him one of his daughters. OH. Instead of beating himself up over not totally owning his Dad of the Year award, like maybe he should, he spends Nyx’s entire childhood training her as a magical weapon so that she can take her future husband down. No, really. DAD OF THE YEEEEEAAARRR.

why junshan why
Me whenever Nyx’s daddy was remotely mentioned in any way.

To make matters worse, the Gentle Lord’s hotness is in dispute.

I knew that the Gentle Lord was different enough from other demons that people could look on him and not go mad. But some said he had the mouth of a snake, the eyes of a goat, and the tusks of a boar, so that even the bravest could not refuse his bargains. Others said he was inhumanly beautiful, so that even the wisest were beguiled by him. Either way, I couldn’t imagine letting him touch me.

*checks genre* Yeah, let’s go with inhumanly beautiful. I know that it can be hard to marry an evil demon Prince, but I think I’ve read so much of this genre that I’ve gotten a bit jaded. Honestly, I was just waiting for Nyx to fall in love with him so that we could all go home already. However. Elements kept surprising me.

For one thing, Ignifex, the demon prince in question, was more of an asshole than I expected. Also, almost zero angst over what a douchecanoe he was being, which I personally found refreshing. Maybe I’m tired of cheap angst, which is something I never thought I’d say. I don’t like cheap assholery either, but Ignifex’s reasons for acting out, if not exactly laudable, are at least understandable…ish? No spoilers, though. Also, he gets better. 🙂

Maybe what surprised me most, though, was Nyx herself. I’m sad to say that in YA, I sometimes end up reading for the hot dude of the week because heroines can be a little subpar, and I hate doing it. On the other hand, I also hate reading solely for the heroine because the hero’s terrible. Not the case here! I was able to read for both. Nyx is a QUEEN, and I cannot emphasize this enough. She doesn’t take the fate handed to her lying down, but she also doesn’t waste time on pointless rebellion or wilting sacrifice. Instead, she is quietly and murderously furious, clever enough to realize that something is horribly wrong with her family, but socially conditioned too well to reject the future planned for her. She is her people’s only hope of breaking the curse, so she meets her fate gracefully.

Fortunately, her new husband is way more interested in building card towers and eating bon-bons than being, you know, absolutely terrible. In fact, he offers something that no one else in Arcadia can give her: unconditional acceptance and love. Awww. See, not that much of an asshole. More and more, Nyx starts to doubt her mission and whether her father really knows what he’s doing (obviously not). Before this book, I never wondered what would happen if the protagonist got sick of the hero gig and kicked back with the villain for some nice bonding time and snacks, but now I guess I know.

buffing-nails.gif
Actual footage of Nyx and Ignifex.

Actually, if I have one criticism of this book, it’s that it briefly flirted with the abandonment of the heroic role, only to veer back in a more traditional direction. Not that the ending I got wasn’t satisfying–honestly, I probably cried a little (POST FINALS-EMOTIONS, THAT’S ALL), but I would have loved to see a world where curses aren’t broken, villains aren’t defeated, and heroines aren’t sacrificed. Oh, well. Maybe I’ll have to write one.

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Reviews, now in vintage, or, a review of the Vampyre

Reviews, now in vintage, or, a review of the Vampyre

the vampyre

The place where vampires all began, and it’s even really short! Some people moan that Twilight ruined vampires, that vampires used to be scary and now they’re too sexy to be scary, that the vampire genre is dead (but why is dead a bad thing?), etc. I’m here to tell you that they are all WRONG. Nothing has changed in the last 200 years. Sociopathic undead hotties have always preyed on susceptible teenage girls with a bit more charm than is good for anyone. And, yes, they have always been sexy.

image
And diabolical.

It’s true that our Lord Ruthven isn’t quite so conflicted as today’s Stephan Salvatores and Edward Cullens, but then, you don’t have to go way past 1819 to get your antiheroic vampy fix–Varney the Vampire was published in 1847, and is, I am informed, full of enough bloodsucking angst to make Bella Swan swoon (reading it right now, actually!).

With that said, the vampires of yore do represent something that would have held a bit more gravity to audiences back then. I don’t mean to be elitist–I firmly believe that ANY piece of art can tell you a great deal about a current culture’s hopes and fears, and Twilight and Vampire Diaries are no different–but we simply don’t have the same understanding of society now that people in, say, Regency England would have had. Nowadays, a person can watch Twilight and maybe see a metaphor for a certain type of real life person (what kind of metaphor heavily hinges, I suspect, on how much that person likes Twilight), but Lord Ruthven pretty obviously symbolizes a society-wide problem of vice.

He consumes supple young maidens to stay alive, sure (the hero’s fair sister among them), but he also seems to ruin lives just for the hell of it, entices people in gambling, and only gives charity to the undeserving. And everyone who accepts his help seems to end up cursed in some way. In other words, he’s the sort of idle, rich parasite preachers would have warned against on the pulpit. So Lord Ruthven represents sex, yes (why else the addiction to teenage girls?), but only in part. Lord Ruthven is the personification of sin, and he collects victims in a never-ending cycle. Today, we would know someone like this as a sociopath, but back then audiences would have believed him to be simply Very Bad, in an almost unknowable way.

But I still think the hero’s sister faked her death and ran off with the vampire. It’s been known to happen, you know.

Are books REALLY better than movies?

Are books REALLY better than movies?

Explosions

I had an interesting thought the other day, which doesn’t happen often, so I made note of this one. Are movies and TV really a lower art form than novels? I’m not sure about whoever may be reading this, but I grew up hearing that books benefited the consumer in a way that movies did not. Books made you think harder because you had to imagine what was happening, as opposed to having images spoonfed to you. Now that I’ve grown a little since then (and have started reading less), I wonder if this assessment is correct. It’s true that movies can be made lazily, just as they can be watched lazily. But can’t the same be said for books? We’ve all read stories that look like they’ve been assembled by a robot in marketing, and we’ve all read books with our eyes half-open.

teh most boring book EVEEEERRRR
I don’t remember much of this book.

Yes, it’s probably not a good idea to grow up on nothing but summer action flicks, but it’s probably not a good idea to grow up on nothing but Nancy Drew (or at least the Nancy Drew I remember reading. Blech), either. Sure, I used to be an elitist snob and believe that cinema was SO LOWBROW ZOMG (and that attitude was heavily reinforced; see above), but lately I’ve become fascinated by movies and TV and how they convey story and emotion. They also interest me because they require the collaboration and expertise of a huge group of people. And if one of them screws up so much as a single stitch on a character’s clothes, someone is bound to notice it and complain on an obscure IMDB board.

The writer works alone. Or rather, the writer collaborates with the entire world, but without the world’s knowledge–there’s not a single book that came into being without the influence of others.

Is one method of creating art inherently more valuable than the other? Even now, I’m not so sure. Maybe we need both equally. Movies to prove that there’s more to life than words and books to prove that there’s more to life than images.

What’s in a URL? Or, the story of how this blog got its name

Pup all prettied up
Pup, looking thoughtful on a sunny day.

I am incredibly lazy. Instead of actually writing this story, I’m going to reuse an old narrative essay about this topic. It’s a bit stilted, since I was (or am?) still figuring out how to merge personality with academic writing. With that in mind, I tried to make it more bloggable. Is that a word? No? Well, now it is.

***

       My first story was terrible. Using increasingly elaborate notebooks covered with lighthouses and bees, I carefully composed a narrative involving princesses, stilted vocabulary, and talking horses. After roughly five years of this silliness, my original story had fallen into a sad state of neglect. Seeking distractions, I was lurking on the Amazon Romance Forum, as I often did, when a poster asked what sort of romance heroes and heroines our pets would make. I considered this question deeply. I considered it so deeply, in fact, that I wrote a novel about it. Pup, my little pit bull heeler mix, I made my heroine, and Midnight, my black cat with an ego the size of Alaska, was the hero. With those characters, I wrote over a thousand pages of drafts and tidbits. I learned something about composition from my original story, but my pets were the ones who really inspired my writing. Continue reading “What’s in a URL? Or, the story of how this blog got its name”