Sunday, April 22, 2018

Review: Royal Airs

Royal Airs by Sharon Shinn
Pub Date: November 2013
Josetta is a princess of one of the Five Families. But she is far from the throne, so she is free to spend her days working in the poorest sections of the city. 

Rafe Adova, an outcast since he was born, lives the life of a career gambler in those slums. He has no ambition other than cheating at the card tables—until the night he decides to help a girl named Corene, who looks like she's stumbled into the wrong bar. She, too, is a princess—sister to Josetta, who finds her with Rafe. He fascinates her. 

Josetta has never encountered anyone like him—someone seemingly devoid of elemental blessings. He is drawn to her, though he thinks they are unlikely to ever meet again—but their connection grows strong when she nurses him back to health after he is assaulted by foreign mercenaries. 

And when they learn the reason he's being hunted, they know that the truth about his history could endanger not only their love but also their very lives...

Royal Airs was a royal let-down. I am sad to say it, but it's true. This was by no means terrible! In fact, I still enjoyed it and rated it 3 stars. Put simply, this book was such a disappointment only because I loved Troubled Waters so much. 

Josetta and Rafe simply paled in comparison to Zoe and Darien. They seemed like nice people but they were bland and boring. Rafe was supposed to be exciting (he's a gambler and a pilot!) but he still lacked a personality. And the so-called plot twist about why he was so special seemed trite, unlikely, and unoriginal. It felt like Shin kept trying to yell at us "RAFE IS SO SPESHUL" to make up for his aforementioned lack of personality. 

Josetta was also nice; I liked that she ran a shelter in the slums. She was pretty low-key. She almost seemed too perfect; and perfect is boring. (The most interesting part about her was her past.) And the characters together made a "blah" couple. There was no build-up, no fire, and I was actually rooting for them to NOT end up together. And the plot was boring as well. Phooey. 

However, now that we're done with the bad, let's go over the good things:

1) The Setting: I established in my review of Troubled Waters that I LOVE Welce and all the Elemental Blessings. The world simply comes alive when you read.  

2) Side Characters: I loved seeing Zoe and Darien again. And all the primes and Corene. AND there are cool NEW side characters like Steff.

3) The sub-plots: I liked the sub-plots involving the royal succession, Alis, Corene, and other beloved characters. I liked learning about the other countries beside Welce like Malinqua. Basically I liked all the plots not heavily involving the main couple. 

4) The ending: The end leaves off with Corene, my favorite character, doing something drastic. Corene is so much more spunky and interesting than Josetta. And she's the protagonist of the next book. I have a feeling Jeweled Fire will be amazing. I can't wait!

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Review: Troubled Waters

Troubled Waters by Sharon Shinn
Published: May 10, 2010

Zoe Ardelay receives astonishing and unwelcome news: she has been chosen to become the king’s fifth wife. Forced to go to the royal city, she manages to slip away and hide on the shores of the mighty river.

It’s there that Zoe realizes she is a coru prime ruled by the elemental sign of water. She must return to the palace, not as an unwilling bride for the king, but a woman with power in her own right. But as Zoe unlocks more of the mysteries of her blood — and the secrets of the royal family — she must decide how to use her great power to rise above the deceptions and intrigue of the royal court. 

After I read the stunning, spectacular Summers at Castle Auburn I knew I needed to pick up another Sharon Shinn book. I decided to start with the Elemental Blessings series. I actually bought the whole series without reading a single book. It was pretty risky. I know. I'm living on the edge. 

Thankfully, Sharon Shinn did not disappoint. At all. The whole time I was entranced by the intricate world of elemental blessings and the slow-burn romance. I didn't want the book to end! It has everything: court intrigue, magic, romance, mystery, a wonderful cast of characters... 

So the first amazing thing about Troubled Waters is the heroine Zoe Ardelay. Her story is set into motion by a visit from the infuriating Darien Serlast. Her journey and character is ever-changing and evolving (part of her coru blood). However, she is also powerful and smart. She has morals and values that set her apart from a lot of the schemers at court. Her three blessings are beauty, power, and love. 

Speaking of blessings, the world of Welce was so creative. The people of Welce have a system of blessings; three are given at birth and random ones can be drawn anytime. The people also believe in the power of numbers and balance. Every part of the world was thought out. There are even car-like vehicles called elay-motives. Also, there are five primes for each element. Zoe is the coru prime and has tremendous control over water and blood. 

The first part of the book is pretty slow but I loved falling into Zoe's life. I loved reading about her time living by the river in the city, Chialto, fending for herself and making invaluable friends. I really got to know the world and the people. The second part of the book is at court. The intrigue at court and the plot twists were all very entertaining. Let's just say Zoe's ability to read blood lines uncovers a lot of scandals. And I have a feeling Queen Alys is going to cause more problems in future books. 

The ending was satisfying and left our main characters in a happy place. However, there are a lot of loose ends for the realm of Welce and I can't wait to read Josetta's story. You can bet I immediately picked up Royal Airs after this. I have a feeling this series will be a new favorite.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

My Experiences with Literary Classics: Part One

Daisy Miller by Henry James 

So, let's talk about assigned reading. It's a touchy subject. It's a good way to get kids to read but what about just letting them read what they want? How are literary classics any better than Harry Potter?

Well, I see the merits to both arguments. But, personally, I have had some interesting experiences with classics that have led me to value them. They've broadened my world view. I've loved a few of them. Others I've hated. And some I'm not sure.

Today let's discuss Daisy Miller by Henry James

I read Daisy Miller for a essay I was assigned to write in my sophomore year. I thought I hated it. Reading it was torturous. I kept wondering how such a short book (a novella really) could take so long to read. I called it dry and dull.

Then I wrote my essay. I did research on the book and author. I scrutinized the dialogue. And all of the sudden I started appreciating it. I could find some feminist themes. I started being intrigued by expatriates. I analyzed the main character and all of the sudden had this deeper understanding. The tragic story became more fascinating.

And I ended up having some fond memories of Daisy Miller. I display my copy proudly on my vanity- although that may be in part due to the books prettiness and quality of elegance.

However, I still struggle with my perception of the book. Did I like it? Did I not?

I mean, I haven't had the desire to reread it. I remember the painful hours it took for me to get through it. However, I still think about the characters. The characters and storylines in Daisy Miller haven't left my brain since that essay. And I definitely have that essay and my sophomore English class to thank for that.

However, other classics, like Great Expectations, I still hate even after writing about it quite extensively. And some, like A Separate Peace, I've loved since I read the first sentence.

So is Daisy Miller a good novella?

Your guess is as good as mine.