Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Virtual Advent Tour 2016: St. Mary

Again, it is time for Virtual Advent Tour, organised by Sprite at spritewrites.

In Catholic calendar, the 8th of December is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, one of the most important celebrations in this merry holiday month.

Immaculate Conception by Murrillo
(source)
Commonly, people think that Immaculate Conception refers to the conception of Jesus, but it is not so.
The Immaculate Conception, according to the teaching of the Catholic Church, was the conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the womb of her mother, Saint Anne, free from original sin by virtue of the foreseen merits of her son Jesus Christ. The Catholic Church teaches that Mary was conceived by normal biological means, but God acted upon her soul (keeping her “immaculate”) at the time of her conception. (source)

The Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary is a very special day to me because it was my late grandmother’s name day, and on this day, all the fond memories of her are especially present in my mind.

My grandma Mary was a warm, caring person, knowledgeable in the way countryside people are – for example, she knew natural remedies for all ills – and although I didn’t get to see her more than a few times a year, I felt very close to her, nevertheless.

Along St. Nicholas’ day (December 6th), the celebration of St. Mary’s Immaculate Conception is the day that signifies the beginning of Christmas time, my (everyone’s?) favourite time of the year. If only it didn’t go by so fast! Maybe we can slow it down with great virtual advent posts? ;) I’ll have another stop here for you on December 16th

Friday, December 02, 2016

Love and Intrigue by Friedrich Schiller

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17943672-love-and-intrigue
Love and Intrigue is a play from the German Classicism era, although its tone is more that of Romanticism. Ferdinand von Walter, a premier’s son, and Louisa, a music teacher’s daughter, fall in love; their love, however, stands little to no chance against their vastly different social statuses and political intrigues.

Therefore, Love and Intrigue is a tragedy, something akin Cinderella meets Romeo and Juliet. The young sweethearts are sacrificed at the expense of the premier’s past sins and their cover-ups which demand ever more convoluted intrigues for him and his accomplices to retain their positions, their hopes resting on Ferdinand doing his father’s bidding.

Thus, upon Ferdinand’s refusal to comply due to his affection for Louisa, a plan is set in motion to break them apart. Alas, the way Ferdinand handles the knot of intrigues he finds himself in left me with mixed feelings about him, mostly because of his blindness to the possibility of the said intrigue.

Unlike Ferdinand, the sixteen-year-old, innocent Louisa, is anything but ignorant and blind, and I loved her for how astutely she sees through people and their intentions and how she strives to do right by people she deems she must do right by, which is – as it was meant to – her very downfall.

Of the other characters, Lady Milford was intriguing and rather likeable, while the play also employed your typical assortment of villains and more or less stock supporting characters.

All in all, Love and Intrigue is a good enough read for a work that really should be seen in a theatre, and its themes give food for thought at the present time just as they did when it was written.


Monday, November 28, 2016

Green but for a Season (Captive Prince short stories #1) by C. S. Pacat

Green but for a Season is a Captive Prince short story about the relationship between Jord and Aimeric, set during the events of Prince’s Gambit. Or so the summary says, but it is actually mostly about Jord and less about Aimeric or their relationship, although that worked just as well for me.

Anyway, I had taken a glance at a few spoilers, so I thought I knew what to expect, but I wasn’t ready for this. So many Laurent feels!

Because, while Green but for a Season takes on Jord’s way into Prince’s Guard and his perception of the goings-on around him, we get to see the beginnings of Laurent’s struggle against the Regent. Through Jord’s eyes we witness the (re)formation of the Prince’s Guard and its struggles: Laurent gaining his men’s loyalty by first and foremost showing them his loyalty, the Regent’s attempts to sabotage him and nick his succession in the bud (and now we know why!), and Laurent’s perpetually astonishing foresight and character.

The red-line of the story, Jord’s and Aimeric’s relationship, falls from the forefront into the background while Jord reflects on the differences between aristocrats and commoners that make him wary of Aimeric interest. Thus, their relationship’s advancement is subtle, but fittingly so, and ends on a note where the reader can garner the rest from Prince’s Gambit, so Pacat does not need to repeat parts of the story, which is just another plus.

I feel like I shouldn’t write too long a review for such a short story, so I will stop here by saying that Green but for a Season is a delightful addition to the series and another gem in the already beloved world of the Captive Prince.


Sunday, November 20, 2016

Kings Rising (The Captive Prince #3) by C. S. Pacat

Note: The book reviewed contains themes only appropriate for those over the age of 18.

With Damen’s identity revealed, he and Laurent must now face their usurpers while their fragile alliance is put to test by themselves, their allies, and their enemies.

I was very happy to discover that I had been right about one thing. And very unhappy that I also called the second thing, which… makes the Regent an (even more than you thought) utterly despicable character. Poor Laurent.

There really is nothing more to say that I haven’t said in my reviews of the first two books. In Kings Rising, Pacat continues to beautifully develop the characters and their relationships amidst the turmoil of political plots.

I loved seeing how far Damen and Laurent have come from the beginning, becoming their better selves with each other’s help: Laurent opening up and learning to trust, and Damen learning to play dirty (so to speak) and cunningly; and still they both remain themselves, only stronger. But mostly, I loved how much they were willing to do for each other, including sacrificing their lives for the other.

Again, I loved how the other characters were incorporated in the story that took some unpredictable turns. The ending was perhaps a little rushed, but fitting and satisfying: as the fight against their usurpers got more and more personal, it felt right that the epic battles of the second book were replaced with (much) smaller-scaled ones, but with much bigger stakes for both protagonists.

Here, at the end of the series, I want to say a word about the writing, which does suffer from a few mishaps and one or two inconsistencies.

However, considering how fast I read the series (Kings Rising only took me a day and a half!), unable to put the books down once I started them, I can say those didn’t take anything away from the overall enjoyment of the story and its overwhelming emotional impact (I admit, I’ve slammed the five stars button on an emotional high), especially in lieu of the otherwise often exquisite style that only enhances the beauty of this story. And all that more than warrants not retracting a star from my rating.

Finally, I hear there will be short stories. Actually, one already exists and I bribed myself to write this review by promising myself Green But for a Season as a reward. Which I will get to, shortly. :)

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Prince’s Gambit (The Captive Prince #2) by C. S. Pacat

Note: The book reviewed contains themes only appropriate for those over the age of 18.

I only needed three days to read a book! Well, that says everything.

In Prince’s Gambit, Damen and Laurent travel to the border with Akielos to deal with the ever-lasting border disputes, facing adversaries and obstacles every step of the way.

The plot is full of surprises and suspense, brought on by ongoing political intrigues, and there is never a dull moment. Together with the setting, it makes up an incredibly rich story.

At the heart of the book are the characters, Damen and Laurent, getting to know and respect each other (and getting hot for each other.) All that while trying to stay alive, prevent a war, and unmask a conspiracy.

The characterisation is absolutely astonishing, the character development so well done for both characters, both starting from the opposite ends and revealing layers under layers… and it made me love both of them so, so much.

It is hard to say anything specific without spoilers, so I won’t. Except perhaps that I can’t with the brilliance of Laurent, who is clever and cunning and always not ten but twenty steps ahead of everyone else. Also, my heart breaks for him, because I think his Uncle/Regent might have at least tried something with him. Ouch.

Through the course of the book we can see how Laurent and Damen are not so different after all – above all, they are both honourable – and where they are, those differences are complementary.
They both come so far from the beginning, learning things about one another’s people and cultures, and changing in the process.

I liked that Damen is an imperfect hero, that he isn’t flawless, that he realises his own faulty preconceptions and youthful mistakes and learns better.

I see people asking where do other people (like me) see all of the above. I think it is because, simply reading doesn’t suffice: the series is not the kind of read you switch the brain off with and have a bit of a rest; on the contrary, you have to shift your brain into a higher gear and put in some effort.

However, C. S. Pacat’s writing reveals so much more than what is on the surface to someone who looks: the top layer is of course Damen’s limited, subjective POV, but underneath – between the lines, if you want – Pacat hides a veritable treasure of information.

One thing that shows that is, for example, the titles alone. Captive Prince and Prince’s Gambit superficially imply Damen as the prince in question, but I think the titles actually allude to both characters. For Laurent, too, is a captive to the Regent, and in the second book, there is not only Damen’s gambit for freedom, but also Laurent’s for his life and throne.

Like, I said, brilliant.

The last three chapters slayed me. I have nothing more to say. On to Kings Rising it is.


Monday, November 14, 2016

Jurassic World (2015)

DIRECTOR: Colin Trevorrow; CAST: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Ty Simpkins…

SUMMARY (from IMDB)A new theme park is built on the original site of Jurassic Park. Everything is going well until the park's newest attraction – a genetically modified giant stealth killing machine – escapes containment and goes on a killing spree.

MY THOUGHTS:

As usually, I am terribly behind film watching, but anyway, I finally got to this one.
First of all, the Hammond references and the old entrance and main area and the darn InGEN and stupid greedy scientists gave me so many nostalgic feels. Also, brand revivals like this are what makes me feel old all of a sudden, when it really registers with me that it has been more than 20 years since Jurrasic Park. Wow.

So, obviously they didn’t learn anything from the previous disasters. Why, yes, creating a giant part-raptor was such a brilliant idea, what could ever go wrong? Oops.

And they still haven’t learned, so I suspect there is always a chance for another film, where minimised super-intelligent Indominus Rexes threaten to take over the world. Well.

That said, despite the bigger, scarier, and toothier dinosaurs, Jurrasic World really wasn’t that scary? I mean, it was gross enough that I had to look away from the screen a few times, but not scary. And I can’t actually say that that is because being desensitized to it all, because whenever I come across a Jurrasic Park rerun and rewatch it, I still get scared, even after all these years and all the times I have seen it.

I guess size isn’t everything after all, ahem. BTW, the T-Rex looked more like a pet. But at least he got be the king of the world (well, the island) in the end (the sea monster is more like the emperor, okay?)

I still liked it, but mostly for, as I said, nostalgic reasons. It had all the ingredients of the trademark, though: unprepared bosses and unexpected heroes, clever kids, family bonding in dire circumstances, doomed folk in predictably dangerous situations, and so on.

I liked the main characters, too; Chris Pratt was awesome and I liked Bryce’s character as well (along with ridiculous running in heels through the jungle, lol.)

Finally, I never expected to feel anything but fear (and awe) in regard to velociraptors, much less sympathy, but the fact that only one survived in the end made me tear up. Poor Blue! (Obviously, I also felt sorry for all the murdered-for-sport brontosauruses.)


RECOMMENDATION: All in all, Jurassic World isn’t the spectacle that was promised, but it is entertaining enough. 



Friday, November 11, 2016

Captive Prince (The Captive Prince #1) by C. S. Pacat

Captive Prince Cover
Note: The book reviewed contains themes only appropriate for those over the age of 18.

Controversy, criticism, and calls for censorship (!) are a sure-fire way to make me read something so I can form my own opinion. I heard of Captive Prince a while back from a friend who thought it would be to my liking, but I forgot about it until I stumbled upon some heated debate over it on tumblr, and then I had to read it.

And am I glad I did!

So, Captive Prince tells a captivating (pun intended) story about Damen, the prince and heir to the throne of Akielos, whose bastard brother usurps his place, makes him a slave, and sends him as a gift to the prince of the enemy kingdom of Vere.

I loved the stunning setting of the story, something akin to Ancient Greece meets early Renaissance France (but with extra debauchery), both cultures thinking of the other as barbaric, and yet not so different at all, despite some striking contrasts.

Slavery is a quintessential part of the world in the story and the theme that provokes the most controversy. We can all agree that slavery is an abominable concept, and as such, C. S. Pacat does a great job to present it as it is, unglorified and cruel, in particularly in Vere.

In Vere, being a slave is shameful; a slave is an object for other’s enjoyment, subjected to all kinds of mistreatment, beatings, rape. Lack of communication or miscommunication as a plot device normally irks me, but I liked how Pacat brilliantly uses it to make a point: a slave’s word in Vere is less than nothing, not even worth asking for (for the most part.)

Meanwhile, in Akielos, slavery is basically a profession, one a person is trained for, and is ascribed different levels of honour, although Veretians frown upon the way Akielos slaves are stripped of their own will. However, in Akielos, slavery is a trade-off: slaves’ perfect obedience in exchange for masters’ perfect treatment. (It is still wrong, though.)

In addition to the above, the detailed world-building of both cultures is fascinating in many other aspects, but I will leave it at that as to not spoil everything and move on.

Next, the characters are incredibly fleshed out, especially the main protagonists, both of whom I came to love by the end of the book (yes, Laurent, too.) The set-up for their story includes all of my favourite tropes: enemies to lovers (well, not yet), opposites attract, the hero and the (not really) villain.

If you are looking for romance, you will find very little of it in Captive Prince, least of all between the main protagonists, because this story is really a build-up to it. Nevertheless, you won’t be bored at all, for there is enough political and social intrigue, power-plays, engrossing interactions, and more to keep you in thrall to the last page.

All in all, I liked Captive Prince very much and I think that is all I can say as I wrap this up. Now, excuse me, I am in a hurry to start the second book in the trilogy. 


Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Blood Rose Angel by Liza Perrat

Review:

Blood Rose Angel (The Bone Angel Series Book 3) - Liza PerratBlood Rose Angel is the third in the L’Auberge des Anges trilogy, but it can be read as a stand-alone, just like the other two books.

Set in the already familiar Lucie-sur-Vionne, Blood Rose Angel takes us back to the mid-14th century, when the Black Death first appeared in Europe, and this terrible pestilence is what midwife Héloise, the ancestor mentioned in the previous two books, has to face.

I loved reading about this specific time period from the viewpoint of common people, moreover, from the viewpoint of a heroine who is underprivileged even in commoners' terms, a woman frowned upon for her birth, often disregarded because of gender, and both valued and despised for her profession of a midwife and a healer.

Héloise is a brave, sometimes too reckless a woman in her beliefs and desire to help people, struggling between the profession she has pledged herself to and the dangers it brings for her and her family. Despite the troubles she finds herself in and that make her despair at times, she never gives up her call that drives her and ever revives her optimism, enabling her to take something good from the worst situations and despite everyone else. And so, her 'inferior' knowledge and methods, promoting such 'innovative' concepts as cleanliness and isolation of the sick, bring results and change her life and the lives of others forever.

Through rich, well-nuanced language, Liza Perrat vividly brings to life the era full of superstition and prejudice, where the governing Church and nobility had all the power and common people had none. However, while she doesn't shy away from gritty details, she balances the toils and troubles of medieval common folk with just as lively images of joy and happiness.

The end result is an intriguing, suspenseful story, full of life-like characters and issues even a modern person can relate to. Hence, I very much recommend Blood Rose Angel to lovers of historical fiction.

Disclaimer: The author has kindly sent me a copy of Blood Rose Angel in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Originally posted on my Booklikes blog