Books: Batch of Mini-Reviews

Posted 1 June, 2016 by Lianne in Books / 6 Comments

Not bad, it’s been about two months since my last batch of mini-book reviews, lol 😛 As always, this batch features books I’ve read that, while I had a few thoughts on it, they didn’t warrant review posts of their own. Included in this batch of reviews are mostly classics and one fantasy novella 😉

The Canterbury Tales
By: Geoffrey Chaucer
Format/Source: Mass market paperback; my purchase

Lively, absorbing, often outrageously funny, Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales is a work of genius, an undisputed classic that has held a special appeal for each generation of readers. The Tales gathers twenty-nine of literature’s most enduring (and endearing) characters in a vivid group portrait that captures the full spectrum of medieval society, from the exalted Knight to the humble Plowman.

Gah, I finally got around to reading this! It’s been on my wishlist for quite a long time and I actually started listening to bits of it last year via LibriVox when I was sick but I got impatient in the end and picked up a copy of the book. Well, I appreciate how expansive this classic is, featuring people from all walks of life in Medieval England and taking part in this tale. The stories range from chivalrous and thematic to bawdy and hilarious and some where more interesting that others but yeah, it’s one of those classics you can’t just pick up on a whim. In restrospect, I think perhaps I should’ve have chosen this book as my travelling read whenever I was outside (not to mention it made for a hefty carry in my purse) but some of them were so long that they just didn’t hold my interest like others. So yeah, it was an okay reading experience for me overall but I’m glad I took a crack at it 😛

Rating: ★★½☆☆


The Changeling
By: Thomas Middleton & William Rowley
Format/Source: Audiobook via LibriVox

The drama tells of the destructive powers of vice and lust. Beatrice-Joanna is a young woman betrothed to Alonzo de Piracquo, yet Beatrice-Joanna is truly in love with another-the nobleman Alsemero. Beatrice-Joanna uses manipulative and violent means to rid herself of her suitor Alsemero. The ensuing drama results in a catastrophic tragedy, leaving only a few to contemplate justice and passion. The characters, style, and action of The Changeling effortlessly come together, making it one of the greatest tragedies of its time.

This play has been on my want-to-read since last year. I first found out about it when The Globe staged it…was it last winter (2014/2015) starring Hattie Morahan. I wish I had kept proper notes of this play as I was listening to it but I thought it was interesting; maybe it was the person voicing Beatrice-Joanna but she didn’t quite strike me as manipulative, at least not at first, but she was in quite a pickle and chose a radical course of action. But like any crime, its consequences haunted the players involved afterwards, leading to a relatively bloody finale (though perhaps not as bloody as other Jacobean plays I’ve read or listened to to date).

I will say that there was one scene somewhere midway that was actually really funny, which was not what I expected at all from this. The reason I didn’t rate it a bit higher was because the story did feel like it was starting to get a bit ridiculous and the plot on the verge of getting rather messy towards the end of Act IV and the beginning of Act V before the final confrontation. It might have felt that way because there were just so many characters at that point being manipulated and yanked around that it felt like it was losing focus. Maybe it’d be different if I was watching this instead of listening to it.

Anyway, I’m glad I finally got around to listening to this play! Definitely a Jacobean tragedy but it has interesting themes of virginity and the lengths you’d go for someone (and…other themes…that I don’t remember anymore :3 *got around to writing this brief review way too late*)

Rating: ★★★½☆


The Winter’s Tale
By: William Shakespeare
Format/Source: eBook
My first review of the play

The jealous King of Sicily becomes convinced that his wife is carrying the child of his best friend. Imprisoned and put on trial, the Queen collapses when the King refuses to accept the divine confirmation of her innocence. The child is abandoned to die on the coast of Bohemia. But when she is found and raised by a shepherd, it seems redemption may be possible.

As you can see from my first review, I didn’t quite enjoy this play, I thought it was bizarre and the king was quite the jealous fool. Leontes is still a jealous fool, but I tried to read it as one actor put it, that he was going through a middle life crisis that just fed into his jealousies and suspicions. The people around him tries to reason with him but in the end get sucked into his ridiculousness one way or the other and ends up either in exile or worse.

I think what was jarring about reading this play the first time around was the time jumps. I think I still missed it a bit as I was re-reading this play but a lot of time passed by between scenes and acts; suddenly it’s been years since Hermione’s child was taken away and raised by the shepherd and Leontes has been grieving for his dead wife since. The text could’ve used a cold line somewhere indicating the passage of time 😛 (then again Time itself shows up for a bit, so why not haha)

Perhaps I’m now much comfortable reading Shakespeare’s writing but I found some of the dialogue here incredibly lovely (even as it’s people questioning Leontes’ sanity). Antigonus being pursued by a bear at the end after dropping off the baby was morbidly hilarious for some reason–where the hell did the bear come from? Sucks that he never survived, Paulina deserved to reunite with her husband and have a happy ending after having to put up with Leontes’ crap for so long 😛 And all Leontes could say to ease her sorrow is that she could marry again. Me:

Not my gif, but reaction gif is apt

Anyway I’m glad I revisited this play, I think I have a better understanding and appreciation of the story. It’s more fantastical than his earlier works, but whatever.

Rating: ★★★☆☆


The Emperor’s Soul
By: Brandon Sanderson
Format/Source: Paperback
My first review of the novella

A heretic thief is the empire’s only hope in this fascinating tale that inhabits the same world as the popular novel, Elantris.

Shai is a Forger, a foreigner who can flawlessly copy and re-create any item by rewriting its history with skillful magic. Condemned to death after trying to steal the emperor’s scepter, she is given one opportunity to save herself. Though her skill as a Forger is considered an abomination by her captors, Shai will attempt to create a new soul for the emperor, who is almost dead.

Probing deeply into his life, she discovers Emperor Ashravan’s truest nature—and the opportunity to exploit it. Her only possible ally is one who is truly loyal to the emperor, but councilor Gaotona must overcome his prejudices to understand that Shai’s forgery is as much artistry as it is deception.

Brimming with magic and political intrigue, this deftly woven fantasy delves into the essence of a living spirit.

I decided to revisit this novella after re-reading Elantris (review) as they are set in the same world, only in a different region. The magic system is faintly familiar to the system at Elantris and Kae, but here it’s used in a different way, with Shai’s ability to tap into the essense of an item and change the way it is; she can make adjustments, create traps and new aspects to the physical plane around her. She is a Forger, and after getting caught in a heist, she is offered her freedom in exchange for the biggest forgery of all: to forge a new soul to the current Emperor who lies in a coma. It’s interesting to follow as Shai works on the task whilst also plotting her escape, assessing who could be of use to her and who she has to outsmart. It was also interesting how she talks about her work and the overarching themes of art and forgery, creation and imitation as the characters debate and discuss these matters.

You don’t have to read Elantris first to read this novella as it works quite well as a standalone, the novella doesn’t really make any references to what’s going on at Elantris and Kae and the wars between regions so much. But the concepts and the pacing of the story and the characters is just fantastic and well-worth checking out, whether you’re a Brandon Sanderson fan or a reader of fantasy stories.

Rating: ★★★★★


A Duchess in Name (The Grantham Girls #1)
By: Amanda Weaver
Format/Source: eBook courtesy of Carina Press promo

Victoria Carson never expected love. An American heiress and graduate of Lady Grantham’s finishing school, she’s been groomed since birth to marry an English title—the grander the better. So when the man chosen for her, the forbidding Earl of Dunnley, seems to hate her on sight, she understands that it can’t matter. Love can have no place in this arrangement.

Andrew Hargrave has little use for his title and even less for his cold, disinterested parents. Determined to make his own way, he’s devoted to his life in Italy working as an archaeologist. Until the collapse of his family’s fortune drags him back to England to a marriage he never wanted and a woman he doesn’t care to know.

Wild attraction is an unwanted complication for them both, though it forms the most fragile of bonds. Their marriage of convenience isn’t so intolerable after all—but it may not be enough when the deception that bound them is finally revealed.

Familiar trope of a marriage of convenience, interesting character backgrounds, an accidental heir; what’s not to love? Unfortuantely, this book just did not do it for me, which was rather sad as I was rather looking forward to reading this book. It definitely lies on the more serious side of historical romance, which I didn’t mind, but omg, it was so frustrating to read, and it namely lay with the characters. Andrew went hot-and-cold at the start, even more sudden than Turner in Julia Quinn’s The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever (review) that left young and impressionable Victoria confused, all alone, and eventually quite hardened towards him. Like, I get why he was confused and upset–both of them were pretty much used by their respective parents in arranging this marriage–but omg it was just too frustrating to read. Regardless of Andrew’s feeings and perspective on the matter, he made some lousy choices. And I get why Victoria was as distant as she was when circumstances brought them together again, but by then I honestly don’t know why I stuck towards the end. I’m sure some of these feelings really did happen in real life–the confusion, the marriage merely as a contract for means of a title or the money, the distnace–but this was not at the least bit entertaining as a fiction. It was just frustrating. I’m sure there will be readers who will enjoy the journey that these characters make towards each other, but it wasn’t for me.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆


And those are the mini book reviews! Have you read any of these titles? Would you read any of them at some point in the future?

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6 Responses to “Books: Batch of Mini-Reviews”

  1. Both Winter’s list and Canterbury tales are on my list. I see you havent enjoyed both much, I would defintely give Canterbury tales a try. Winter’s Tale I might pass.

    • I would say The Winter’s Tale is worth checking out, but maybe not right away, I would recommend reading other Shakespeare plays first 🙂

    • Thanks! Whilst The Emperor’s Soul works well as a standalone, yeah, I’d recommend reading Elantris first as well as some of the abilities and how they come about are relatively similar. Happy reading! 😀

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