Review: Eyes of Silver, Eyes of Gold

Eyes of Silver, Eyes of Gold (Eyes of Silver, Eyes of Gold, #1)Eyes of Silver, Eyes of Gold by Ellen O’Connell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Cord and Anne are my favourite fictional couple. Their relationship is serious #lifegoals for me. I’ve searched high and low for a book that is as gripping, as warm, as pulsing with life as this one, but Eyes of Silver, Eyes of Gold remains my only find in this genre that I can read a hundred times and still feel the tug of a dozen emotions as if I’m reading every scene for the first time. What I love about Ellen O’Connell’s writing is how she humanizes her heroes and heroines without ever resorting to genre tropes. Yes they may have tragic backstories that fuel their present, but in O’Connell’s hands those stories aren’t individual incidences of injustice or an accident to drive character growth. Back stories are woven carefully into the tapestry of the past to show their subtle effects on the present. All their character growth happens on page, right in front of us. As Cord and Anne learn to know and understand each other, we see them shift and change and adjust and heal. Their love for each other is a slow growing thing, and trust comes in careful steps, but before all else they become friends and partners. I’ve read so few books where the lead pair’s partnership is actually that of equals. Cord is not just different for his time, but for ours too in that he doesn’t dismiss Anne’s willingness to help with hard labour, to truly share his burden and ease his workload as partners do. Their growth in the hard life they live together, never resenting the difficulties because they have each other, is beautiful. And of course when they defeat social/financial obstacles together it’s something worth cheering for.
I particularly love the way O’Connell threaded in the subconscious racism that existed in those times. Not just in the “haters” as Cord’s white family calls them but in the members of his own family who have known Cord all his life, who love him and protect him, yet often fail to trust the man because of prejudices they are barely aware of. I love how it’s not a matter of a single incidence that affects their relationship or heals what is broken. Realization comes in tiny moments of self-awareness in these people who never really meant to let the words of others affect how they saw Cord, but it happened anyway. I like that Ellen underlines that these are good people. That they don’t hate on a person because of their ethnicity. That they try their best to be objective. Yet racism is often woven into culture so deep that a perspective becomes skewed if you see anything slightly alien in the one you’re trying not to be racist against. Then every difference suddenly seems to spring from that something alien. It was really well done. Especially the fact that despite the wrongs done to both Cord and Anne by family and friends, community still played a part in bringing about their happily ever after. This is a gem. No pair has ever been this badass just by standing together and going about their ordinary live, defending and supporting each other when no one else would. I’ve found my OTP.

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My car had a stand off

So this morning I was driving back home from dropping off a puppy to a friend’s and just as I was turning into my lane a rigged out suv skid out of it and came to a stop, blocking my way. Now there was a car behind me so I couldn’t reverse, but the suv had no such problems. The driver however (dark shades and loud music on) seemed to be expecting me to magically clear out of his path. Weirdly a few bystanders who could see what the problem was started heckling me to move. At this point I lost my temper, shut the engine and crossed my arms to glare at the idiot in the suv. After a few minutes he finally seemed to get the point and giving me a disappointed head shake (like I was a sulky child) he reversed, so I could leave first. I may have mentally high-fived myself. =D
A few minutes back I was energetically describing this scene to my dad, who’s one of the most badass (yet law abiding) drivers I know. Then just before I got to the climax, he said, “You should have shut your engine and waited him out. Always be calm and patient in these situations.”
At which point I may have screamed a little inside. Calm and patient. Bah. Ruined my epic story.
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Isla and the Happily Ever After

Isla and the Happily Ever After (Anna and the French Kiss, #3)Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Isla had a crush on Josh since her freshman year. She pined for him for three years and accepted that her cause was hopeless. She miserably watched him date a much cooler, older girl and knew he would never look at her. Then all his friends graduated and he was left alone. Josh had never been very academically motivated, but now he seemed to have lost all reason to attend classes. A fateful meeting before school reopened, caused Josh to seek Isla out and slowly they became friends and then more. Isla was happy with this turn of events but not confident in their relationship. She subconsciously believed that he only started dating her because he was lonely and needed a friend. So when Josh convinced her to leave the city for an overnight trip and they got caught by the school, things started to unravel quickly for them. Josh was expelled and flown home by his parents. They spent the rest of the semester separated, but connected by phone calls and texts. When they met again, small gestures and words caused misunderstandings and suddenly Isla felt convinced that they should not be together. She broke up with him so he wouldn’t break up with her. They spent the next few months heartbroken and unhappy. Eventually Isla realized her mistake and when Josh stopped being angry at her, he visited school and they made up. The End.

Oh no wait. There was also a cameo by Anna, St Clair, Cricket and Lola. Okay, now, the End.

I wish I could say the story was made more than the summary by its treatment but there really wasn’t much in the main story arc for the book to explore. At the end of the story I could see that Isla may have grown as a character but I could see absolutely no growth in Josh. When the story began, Isla was dependent on her best friend, Kurt, a boy with high functioning autism, insecure about herself and unsure about what she wanted to do in life. Her one love were adventure books. Then she got a boyfriend and her life revolved around him. And while she was living the high drama of high school romance, Kurt found his own friends. Then suddenly Isla was left to figure out who she was and what she wanted without the crutch of a best friend or a boy friend. Even so, by the end of the book it seemed that she had grown somewhat. She was more confident and at peace with her unambitious self.

Josh began the book as a gifted artist who knew where he was going and didn’t care about much else. When the story ended, he’d acquired a girlfriend and learnt to take editorial criticism for his work – which one supposes he would have had to learn at some point in his life anyway. His biggest struggle in the frame of the story was that he hated his school but couldn’t admit it to his parents because he chose it for himself. His greatest misery was because he missed his friends. Neither of these threads went anywhere. He never made any new friends and he got expelled halfway through the year. He got a GED and went to the college he had wanted to attend all along.

The best parts of the book was in the first half when they were just starting to date. Perkins has a deft hand with the ebb and pull of budding romance and it’s always charming to read it on the page. But then in the second half, in the absence of any real conflict in the story, the author broke them up for unconvincing reasons and assured us that this resulted in character growth.

There’s a scene where the Principal advises Isla to focus on her studies again since there will always be other boys. Isla feels indignant that the woman was dismissing her relationship with Josh. Later this feeling changed to fear that everyone could see that Isla and Josh would never work out. In her head this was because she didn’t deserve him. But reading the story, I saw Isla much as the Principal probably saw her. A kid in the throes of her first infatuation, feeling like the world would end if the relationship did. I agreed with the lady. There would be other boys. Josh and Isla’s frantic, consuming feelings for each other were sudden and a little out of nowhere. And because they didn’t seem to be based on a foundation of any sort, they seemed like something that would burn out quickly.

There was a certain something – a solidity, a patient resolve – that made readers believe that Anna and St Clair (from Anna and the French Kiss) would stay together forever. Lola and Cricket (from Lola and the Boy Next Door) were so uniquely well matched that you could see how as the years passed they would only need each other more. With Isla and Josh, I feel reasonably certain they would either drift apart in college or stay together till Isla grows tired of being a planet orbiting Joshua’s sun.

Final Word: I really hope Isla finds the courage to set off on her own adventure.

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Kate and Curran Fanart

In Magic Strikes, there was a scene in Chapter 27 where Kate and Curran had an argument after a fight in an underground gladiatorial ring. Curran had silver embedded all over his chest and as we know, silver is poisonous to shapeshifters.

“He was silver!” I snarled in his face. “I had it under control. What was going through your head? Here’s a toxic silver golem; I think I’ll jump on his back! That’s a damn good idea!”
He scooped me up and suddenly I was pressed against his chest. “Were you worried about me?”
“No, I’m ranting for fun, because I’m a disagreeable bitch!”
He smiled.
“You’re a moron!” I told him.
He just looked at me. Happy golden lights danced in his eyes. I’d learned exactly what those sparks meant. Fury fled, replaced by alarm.
“Kiss me and I’ll kill you,” I warned.
“It might be worth it,” he aid softly.
If he held me a moment longer, I’d lose it and kiss him first. I was so damn happy he was alive.

(The above passage and the characters belong to Ilona Andrews. Artwork is mine.)

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Anna Dressed in Blood (review)

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I love Cas with his determination to get to the bottom of things and his insecurity about his own worth without his athame and the secret warmth he feels at having made friends when he never allowed himself to make any before and most of all for his protectiveness towards Anna. I love his charm brewing, patient mother, I love trips-over-his-own-foot Thomas and I love curious and meddling Carmel. I even liked the mean boys from school because they were so well placed. The parents weren’t MIA in this book even though it’s about a seventeen year old boy who goes all around the world killing ghosts.
There were places towards the end of the book where I felt like I was the only one aware that Anna was a ghost and not another human being, whereas the rest of the ‘circle’ was oddly blasé about it. That’s possibly something that was peculiar to their situation. They had bigger, badder things to worry about than one bloody ghost.
I had read in some reviews that the book is creepy. It didn’t read creepy to me. There was plenty of gore, but if you read a lot of urban fantasy novels or crime fiction I suppose you get inured to it.
The book wasn’t scary. It was…fast-paced, interesting, gripping, (sweet) and what seemed to be the perfect series starter.
I can’t wait for book two!!

ratings — 8/10

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Radiance (by Grace Draven): Falling in love slowly

Radiance (Wraith Kings, #1)Radiance by Grace Draven

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Brishen is a Kai prince of no significance to the line of succession and Ildiko is a Gauri noblewoman of little importance in her uncle’s court. They are both beautiful among their own kind but to each other they are ugly and repulsive. The Gauri are humans who live under the sunlight, the Kai are an elder race who thrive at night. Their new alliance is tentative and full of distrust and the marriage of these two otherwise insignificant pawns is a show of good faith between the races. When Brishen and Ildiko first meet they find each other unattractive but interesting. They begin with honesty and over weeks and months this builds to friendship. Eventually neither Brishen nor Ildiko can remember why they found the other disgusting. They fall deeply in love and form an unbreakable bond that no one in either kingdom expected.

I love all marriage of convenience stories where the pair discover the worth of the other and fall in love quietly, through every day gestures and conversations. It’s a difficult trope to build into a narrative without slowing down the pace too much, but thankfully, once in a while, authors like Draven manage to execute it perfectly.

I’ve always held that we fall in love with people, not faces. If there’s something worth falling in love with, you find it after you stop looking at the facade. (Of course I also extend this theory to gender/sexuality, but that’s another discussion). And both Brishan and Ildiko, affectionate and honest individuals with great capacity for love, tread this path together and find all they wanted in a partner in each other. It’s a great read.

I tend to extend the bechdel test to all pieces of fiction I come across. This books passes easily. There are several named female characters, one of whom has several exchanges with Ildiko about something other than a man. So that’s great. But I got the feeling that Draven created Anhuset simply to provide one other strong female in the narrative. I couldn’t really parse out whether Anhuset was the only warrior female among the Kai or if her calling was a normal one for women of her kingdom. I choose to believe the latter.

I had one complaint though. Ildiko tells Brishen that she’s not a maiden, that she’s had a lover before. As befits a well written male character, Brishen doesn’t care but he teases her about her carnal knowledge. To this Ildiko explains that her lover had been a clumsy young man and she didn’t much care for the experience. So she never took another lover.

This. This felt like a cop-out. So the author goes as far as to make her heroine a sexually experienced woman, giving the hero the best reaction to this news – which is indifference and maybe some curiosity – and then promptly diminishes the value of said experience by making Brishen the only lover to have brought her to orgasm. Oh come on. Seriously, now. COME ON. We’re surely beyond this kind of tokenism.

And now we wait for the sequel. =)

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Fortune’s Pawn (by Rachel Bach): Magic in space! Woot!

Fortune's Pawn (Paradox, #1)Fortune’s Pawn by Rachel Bach

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved it. This was one of the books Ilona Andrews recommended on her blog and it had been sitting in my kindle since that day. I’ve found she rarely goes wrong with her recommendations.
Deviana Morris is a mercenary with impressively high ambitions. She’s had a very successful career and just recently left an impressive post because they would have sat her behind a desk next. Deviana wants to be a Destroyer. The elite of the elite, and answerable to the King alone. She wants power and action and doesn’t want to wait two more decades to gather enough experience so the Destroyers finally come calling. Instead she takes up a post as security for an intergalactic trading ship with a reputation for getting into bad trouble, because each year on the Glorious Fool counts as five for those in the know.
Out to impress, Devi takes the guard’s job, something she’d avoiding for years for the sheer dreariness, and expects to be bored out of her mind.
Instead she faces inexplicable monsters, frustrating secrets and deadly knowledge that even the good guys can’t let her know and live.
She also meets Rupert Charkhov, the ship’s cook with a military bearing and an affable charm that she finds irresistible. But Rupert is far from the uncomplicated lovers Devi has always preferred and soon his are the secrets that she becomes most interested in uncovering. (Innuendo. Har har.)
I like Devi a lot. She’s slightly cocky but genuinely good at what she does. She’s a hero through and through but not infallible. She admits her mistakes and learns from them, but her stubbornness could rival mountains. She adores her battlesuit and her weapons, and cares for them almost as much as for her own life. She’s also cynical in the way she looks at her fellow beings, but her prejudices are not so deep that she can’t see past them. One of the ways the author chooses to show the dichotomy of human beliefs here is the way Devi, along with all Paradoxians, have an almost naive belief in the miracles of the godking who rules them, but view all other mentions and evidence of magic or ‘plasmex’ with suspicion.
The world building has a peculiar inconsistency in that there are advancements like travelling through Hyperspace and healing broken bones in hours, but ice packs are still ice in a plastic tied to the limb with gauge. The fact that there is still plastic confuses the hell out of me. Thousands of years from now, if nothing else changes that one thing definitely will. Also the existence of blatant sexism was odd. Perhaps a case can be made that any new civilization would go through many of the same social changes that ours did, but somehow in an age of battlesuits where gender is no bar to fighting against bigger and badder opponents, the idea that gladiatorial fights had female fighters in mandatory bikinis was a little odd. Okay, very odd. Also the slutshaming. Really? Deviana has spent years as a mercenary, and as a culture they celebrate life through sex and war. Her honour is in her work. How often and who she has sex with shouldn’t even have been an issue in this world. But even so a macho skullhead calls her a slut and Devi thinks in her head that that’s not an insult she’s heard for the first time.
The society is rather feudal too. They have nobility and peasantry and deep rooted classism. In a way Paradox is no better than present day earth and maybe in a lot of ways much worse. It’s not what I think of when I imagine an advanced society.
But Bach has done a pretty good job of melding sci fi with elements of fantasy. The science is never distractingly wrong and the fantasy never jars you out of the unfolding space opera. I liked the first book and am off to get the second. It’s action packed and the pace never lags. I wish Rupert was slightly less tortured but then the poor guy has a lot to lose. Now all I want is to see Devi get back at everyone who thought they could control her. This’ll be fun.

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The ubiquitous myth of the Tooth Mouse

So some weeks ago I was putting into writing all the mouse/rat related folklore of my country that I knew about. Continue reading

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Jaya by Devdutt Pattanaik (review)

Jaya: An Illustrated Retelling of the Mahabharata by Devdutt Pattanaik

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The trouble with this book is that it reads like a school text book. A textbook that has abridged an epic to the point of turning it into a series of interconnected fables. The kind with morals. Minus the animals. Mostly.

Maybe this only bothers people like me who’ve read so many masterful translations of Mahabharat before this. I really only bought this book because the cover intrigued me. And also because Pattanaik called his book ‘Jaya’ which was the original title of the epic. It was clever and caught my attention. Continue reading

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More frequent posts?

Hopefully, yes. I read a lot of books and think up reviews and criticisms in my head, but most never get posted here. Just in goodreads where a rushed job doesn’t hurt my blogger pride.

But recently I’ve been getting a lot of books (okay, three) from authors and agents to review. One actually arrived yesterday addressed to my goodreads username Honour and I swear I was about to send it over to the next street where a judge lives before remembering that it could very well be me.

I know it’s unsolicited book sending and I should have higher standards as a book reviewer but meh…free books!!

And since my parents taught me never to take freebies, the least I can do is write up a few honest reviews eh?

We’ll see.

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