Top Ten Tuesday: Books From Old TBRs That I’ve Actually Read

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

The prompt this week was:

December 15: Books On My Winter 2020-2021 TBR (or summer if you live in the southern hemisphere)

But I thought that since I’ve done so many TBRs, I’d go through them and comment on what I’ve actually read.

  1. Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey– This is one I readalong and I’m glad I did read it that way, because I don’t know if I’d have made it through if I didn’t have that holding me accountable! I was very unsure of how to rate this (I eventually gave it 3/5 stars on goodreads) because, while I can see what others enjoy it and it had qualities I enjoyed, I don’t think it’s for me. (Mentioned in: TBR Procrastination)

2. The Chelsea Girls by Fiona Davis– This was another 3 star read, but that was more or less in line with my expectations. I love historical fiction set in NYC, and the period stuff was great, but I found it lacking in terms of plot and character. (From: Upcoming releases for the 2nd half of 2019)

3. The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware– I gave this one 4 stars. It wasn’t great literature and it didn’t try to be. It embraced what it was: a twisty thriller. (From: Upcoming releases for the 2nd half of 2019)

4. The Starless Sea by Erin Morganstern– I loved The Night Circus, so my expectations for the follow up were high, but this lived up to most of them! I think it’s a tough book to describe, it’s more like an experience. I’d like to give it a reread at some point because I’m sure I’ll notice new things. (From: Upcoming releases for the 2nd half of 2019)

5. Autumn by Ali Smith- It’s hard to explain precisely why someone should read Ali Smith’s Seasonal Quartet, but they should! Each book is a stand alone but connections emerge if you read them all . It’s very alert to where the world is right now. (From: Fall TBR 2017)

6. The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell– This is definitely a good Halloween read. Not everyone in my book club enjoyed it as much as I did though. So take my recommendation with a grain of salt, I suppose! (From: Fall TBR 2017)

7. The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman– I’d say that this prequel to Practical Magic lived up to the original. There’s another new prequel to them both out now. I haven’t read it yet though! (From: Fall TBR 2017)

8. The Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdich– This was a disappointment. I think I gave it two stars. The quality of the writing was very good, but it didn’t explore the premise enough. (From Fall TBR 2017)

9. Idaho by Emily Ruskovitch– I remember that I loved this book but on amazon and goodreads there was a very so-so reaction amongst other readers. It was ambiguous, which I liked, but I guess not everyone did. (From: Winter TBR: 2017)

10. The Bear and the Nightengale by Katherine Arden– This is one of the rare cases where I liked a books sequels better than the book itself. Not that it was a bad book by any means! It was very good! I just felt like the story opened up a little more in the second and third novels. (From: Winter TBR 2017)

Top Ten Tuesday: The Last Books I Read Based on Recommendations

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday

October 20: Books I Read Because Someone Recommended Them to Me (tell us who recommended them, if you want!)

For this one, I decided to make it the last ten I read based on a recommendation.

1. Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey– People have recommended this book to me for years. I put it off for a long time due to the size, but I finally read it this fall. I gave it 3/5 stars on goodreads. There was a lot to like about it, but I had a lot of issues with it too. Will I finish the series? At some point, perhaps.

2. Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire– This series has been recommended by many people over the years, and I’m glad I finally got to start it! I look forward to spending more time with October Daye in the future.

3. You Should Have Left by Daniel Kehlmann– This was recommended by someone in my book club. Actually, if you’re looking for a good haunted house story for Halloween, you might check out this novella. It’s very quick and easy to get through. It was recently given a film adaptation, but I haven’t seen that yet. It doesn’t seem like something that would lend itself well to film though.

4. The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware- Another book club recommendation. But I would have read this one anyway, because I like the author.

5. The Dutch House by Ann Patchett– I saw this recommended all over the place last winter. I probably would have gotten to it eventually anyway, because I like Ann Patchett, but it got bumped up my TBR because I heard there were some fairy tale themes here (there are, and it was a good read).

6. Three Women by Lisa Taddeo– I consider this a cautionary tale. Around February, everyone was talking about this. I saw it on numerous blogs, and people whose taste I tend to trust gave it five stars on good reads. I didn’t like it. I don’t think it did what it set out to do, and I have some issues with what it did instead.

7. Final Girls by Riley Sager- This was another book club recommendation. I’m noticing that a lot of them tend to be murder mysteries, thriller and horror. Hmmm…

8. The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman– The person who recommended this said that it was about someone like me. I think they just meant someone who reads a lot, though, since in non bookish ways my life is quite different from Nina Hill’s.

I’ve Been (2020 Hellscape Edition)

  • Loving Book Riot’s gothic horror cheat sheet. It’s wonderfully seasonal. Though I would argue that the difference between the Gothic horror and Gothic romance categories is largely artificial. Yes, there are romantic relationships in the books they classify as romance, but the relationship is not all that is in peril. Often it’s the sanity and/or life of a character. Jane Eyre focuses on personal demons just as much Frankenstein. In Rebecca, our unnamed narrator is taunted by both internal demons that threaten her sanity, and external threats to her home, her marriage and her life. The presence of a romantic relationship in the plot doesn’t keep it from being horror. This video about Netflix’s Haunting anthology series discusses the Gothic romance genre and makes an interesting point about the connections between love stories and ghost stories.
The Haunting of Bly Manor from tvweb.com
  • Writing letters to voters in swing states to get them to vote in the upcoming election. It’s an easy way to help, from home on your own time. I’m sooo nervous about this election, but I want to do what I can to help! I encourage anyone who can to join in. If writing letters isn’t your jam, and you’re more of a phone person, go here. If you prefer to do something to make sure that voters are able to vote, check this out. This year’s election is too important for anyone to sit out!
  • My book club has been meeting weekly via zoom, and it’s wonderful. We each read a book based on a theme and go around and share what we read, and what we thought about it. It’s a way to be social but still COVID safe.
  • Loving this guest post from Gypsy Thornton at Carterhaugh School on how fairy tales can help us through this crazy time. Fairy tales offer us strategies for harnessing our strength and fighting the odds. Often characters in fairy tales are abused, voiceless, powerless, or disenfranchised in some way. But they don’t stay that way. From Cinderella, to Red Riding Hood, to Snow White and Rose Red, to the Goose Girl, fairy tales teach us to be brave. They teach us that no act of kindness, however small, is wasted. They teach us to fight back.
  • Watching waaay too much TV since March. I think it’s partially just that there’s less to do that’s COVID safe outside the house, but it’s also due to the fact that it’s an escape from some of the terrible stuff that’s been going on in the real word. I feel guilty taking that escape sometimes, but my sanity might not survive if I didn’t. Here’s a rundown of what I’ve watched.
    • Cursed- I would say that this is a very imperfect show that’s worth watching in spite of its faults. It’s based on the graphic novel of the name (which I haven’t read) by Frank Miller and Tom Wheeler. It actually recalls those roots with animation in the opening and some transitions between scenes. I thought that was a nice touch, but I wished they’d done more with it from a storytelling perspective. The storytelling is messy. The show can’t quite decide whether it wants to be a Game of Thrones style political fantasy, or a feminist coming of age tale, or a teen romantic fantasy, so it bounces back and forth among the options without fully committing to any one. But it’s worth watching in spite of it’s faults.
    • Ratched– I first took note of this show because I always had a bit of sympathy for Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. Yes, I was aware that she was supposed to represent all that is impersonal and dehumanizing in the medical and psychiatric establishments. But she was also a woman who was responsible for a ward full of psychologically vulnerable men who need order and constancy. Having someone in that ward, constantly upsetting that, creates instability for the very people she’s responsible for protecting. So I wasn’t happy that the first trailer portrayed her a villain. But the show doesn’t make a villain exactly- not that she’s a hero either. Actually it has little to do with Cuckoo’s Nest at all. It tells a story that’s independent of that, and really just uses the character name and a timeframe that would make it a prequel (so far at least). There’s some interesting, dramatically compelling stuff in there. Unfortunately there are also entire characters and subplots that just felt thrown in for the sake of being shocking and unpleasant. So while there was a lot to like about this (great performances, stunning visuals, compelling character) there’s also a lot that would keep me from recommending it wholeheartedly.
    • Lucifer– I’m currently watching this in between other things. I’ve about 1/4 of the way through the third season, so no spoilers please! I’m enjoying the characters and the dynamics. In small doses it’s smart, fun and engaging. In larger doses it starts to feel a bit repetitive, but that’s why I’m spreading it out as I watch other things.
    • Emily in Paris– I wanted to like this. I wanted this to be a fun, escapist, fantasy. But it didn’t land. I found it vapid and insipid. The main character wandered around Paris (speaking no French), and imposing her point of view on everyone she met. I finished it for the sake of completion, but I didn’t really like it.
    • Enola Holmes– This is actually a film, not a series, but I’m including it because I really enjoyed it. Plus, I could see it becoming a series of films based on the novels of Nancy Springer. It’s really no surprise that I enjoyed this, because it’s right up my ally. A feminist, YA adaptation based on Sherlock Holmes stories, set in Victoria, England. It pretty much ticks all my boxes! It’s not perfect by any means, but it doesn’t really try to be. It’s fun. It’s a historical mystery adventure with a bit of humor thrown in. My one question when watching it, was “why is absolutely everyone in this film ridiculously good looking?” Yes, I know it’s a film and they tend to cast attractive people. But even side characters who could have been average/normal looking were absurdly attractive here. It was almost like it was an AU Victorian England in which only beautiful people were allowed.
    • The Babysitter’s Club– I posted an rather in depth review here. Basically it was way better than I expected. I want more!

Read As Thou Wilt: Kushiel’s Dart Read Along (Pt. 6)

Imyril @ There’s Always Room For One More is hosting a read along of Jacqueline Carey’s epic fantasy Kushiel’s Dart. This has been on my TBR for ages. I’ve had a copy sitting on my shelf staring at me for about 5 years. But I haven’t wanted to dive into a new fantasy series without finishing some of the ones I have in progress. Also, the size of the book is a bit intimidating. It’s a doorstop. So I’ve put it off. But when I heard about the read along, I decided to go for it.

Posts for parts  onetwo three , four, and five can be found at the links. I’m glad that I had the read along spurring me to finish, because I might not have made it through otherwise, and I’m glad I did. I had some criticisms of the book. It was definitely overlong, and I had some issues connecting to Phedre as a heroine. But I did enjoy the story and the experience of discussing it with other readers. So without further ado, here is my final set of questions:

Phèdre risks everything yet again on a chance to finish what she started, and keep her word to Ysandre. Joscelin does the same trying to thwart Selig, if not stop him. What were your thoughts about their last confrontation with the Skaldi warlord, and what it means for their relationship?

I was actually a bit underwhelmed by that whole scene. When Phedre and Joscelin confronted Selig again, I expected something dramatic. Instead we get a bit of Selig torturing Phedre, Joscelin doing Casseline stuff, and then a quick rescue. The scene didn’t seem to bring the resolution I wanted with Selig as a villain, and it also didn’t seem that important to Phedre’s relationship with Joscelin. Maybe I missed something, but after Phedre’s decision to go, and all the fuss of sneaking into the Skadi camp, I expected more from the confrontation itself.

Isidore d’Aiglemort turns out to be the hero that Terre D’Ange needs, if not the one they want. Do you think Phèdre made the right call, making him that offer? What do you think of his final act, and the reasons that drive him to it? Is he a hero, or was he ultimately still only a tool in the hands of others?

I do think that she made the right call. She needed his help and was able to offer him something he valued. I think in choosing to help Terre d’Ange, he stops being a tool for others (Selig, Melissande, etc), but I suppose you might argue that he starts being a D’Angeline tool. I wouldn’t call him a hero by any means, but he’s not quite a villain at the end either. I suppose he’s a good example of why we can’t easily classify all these characters easily in to “heroes and villains.”

Melisande faces the consequences of her actions, though it seems her ‘deep game’ is not over. Do you think she was prepared for her plan to fail, or was she seizing any opportunity to save herself with that escape? What are your thoughts on her after her last conversation with Phèdre?

I don’t know if she had a specific plan in place for just this event, but I also think that she probably did have someone loyal to her in place to help her escape, should she need ever need to. She strikes me as someone who has numerous contingencies. I think in her final conversation with Phedre was about laying the groundwork for her. She was attempting to get under Phedre’s skin, so that she could draw her back into the game (whatever if may be) at a later point. I was a little disappointed in Phedre for falling for it (but I also suspect that we wouldn’t have a sequel if Phedre didn’t!)

Finally, everyone gets a chance to rest and recover, and Phèdre is richly rewarded for her deeds – in a few senses. How do you feel about her (double-edged) Happily Ever After with Joscelin? And do you think she’s doing the right thing, choosing to find the traitor who freed Melisande in her own way?

As I said, I think that by trying to find the traitor, Phadre is playing right into Melissande’s hands, so I was a little disappointed in her for that. I think the “right” thing to do, would be to let it go and move on. By engaging in this way, she’s giving Melissande an opening for the future. Which I suspect is exactly what Melissande wants. It may also be exactly what Phedre wants on some level.

I was confused by the logic that Phedre and Joscelin had for not getting married. I mean, I’m OK with it. If they don’t want to get married then don’t! But Phedre says that Joscelin is betraying his vow every day that he’s with her, and they’re OK with that. So why would marriage be different?

I do kind of want to know the parameters of their future relationship. Will Joscelin be OK with Phedre indulging her anguisette needs elsewhere? How will he respond to her upcoming plans to uncover the traitor?

Thanks to Imyril @ There’s Always Room For One More  for hosting this read along and finally getting me to read this book. In spite of some of my complaints about the book, I did enjoy discussing it and reading everyone’s responses each week. Having this weekly post also kept me accountable for getting through the book, and reading attentively. Thanks to everyone who participated!

Read As Thou Wilt: Kushiel’s Dart Read Along (Pt. 5)

Imyril @ There’s Always Room For One More is hosting a read along of Jacqueline Carey’s epic fantasy Kushiel’s Dart. This has been on my TBR for ages. I’ve had a copy sitting on my shelf staring at me for about 5 years. But I haven’t wanted to dive into a new fantasy series without finishing some of the ones I have in progress. Also, the size of the book is a bit intimidating. It’s a doorstop. So I’ve put it off. But when I heard about the read along, I decided to go for it.

Posts for parts  onetwo , three and four, can be found at the links. At this point, it feels like we’re drawing to a close. I’m enjoying the read along, and the book, but I don’t think I love it the way that some do. Something about Phedre as a character keeps me at a distance. Without investing in her, it’s hard for me to be too invested in any of the other characters. Here are my responses to the questions for part five.

We’re back on the road again with Phèdre and Joscelin, and this time they’re with Hyacinthe as he finally comes face to face with his heritage. What were your first impressions of the Tsingani? What did you make of Hyacinthe’s reaction to his reception, and Phèdre’s reaction to to that reaction? How did you feel finding out about Anasztaizia’s past? Finally – Hyacinthe’s choice. Could you have done what he did there? Give up finding you family just after finding them for your friend?

I don’t think that what Hyacinthe did was entirely for Phedre. Keep in mind, what the Tsingani did to his mother was fairly heartless. She was raped and then her family and her people turned their backs on her. I think Hyacinthe made the choice that he did as a way of turning his back on them. I don’t think it was easy. I think the sense of acceptance that he found among the Tsingani made the prospect of staying with them very accepting. But ultimately, I think he chose his mother.

Phèdre being Phèdre, she jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire – a handsome, sadistic fire. Does Phèdre’s pleasure at being able to resume her craft, even in these circumstances, and the description of that sense of release make sense to you? Did the Duc de Morbhan’s gift surprise you?

I suppose I was a bit surprised, since it seemed like Phedre had moved on from being a courtesan and was now pretty into being a spy/messenger/whatever. But it does make sense that she’d take a sense of joy in a return to something familiar. It was something that she always enjoyed and felt successful at. So it makes sense that she’d take a sense of pleasure in resuming it, especially under unfamiliar, frightening circumstances.

We’ve seen blood and death before in this book, but this is the first mass bloodletting. What was your reaction? Will any moments stick with you? Were you surprised by Phèdre and Hyacinthe’s moment together?

I was a bit disappointed that they slept together to be honest. I liked that Hyachinthe was the only person in Phedre’s life who she had a nonsexual relationship with. It made what they had a bit different and special, and I felt like they ruined that here.

Were you expecting Elder Brother to take a hand again after everything – and if so, were you expecting to be this? What did you make of his history and Hyacinthe’s choice?

I think from a literary perspective Hyacinthe’s choice makes sense. On of them was going to have to stay, and if it were Phedre the book would end right there, with no resolution of the other plot lines! So in that sense I wasn’t surprised. While Hyacinthe is an important character, he’s one who can be lifted out of things without changing the dynamics.

It’s been a hell of a ride and as we near the end, what with Hyacinthe and Phèdre saying goodbye and Hyacinthe telling her that Joscelin has feelings for her, it seems a good time to ask how you feel about Phèdre, Joscelin and Hyacinthe – have they grown in your eyes? Has your opinion changed of any of them?

I’m surprised that Phedre was surprised that Joscelin has feeling for her. I thought it was pretty obvious based on his continued refusal to leave her side and his dislike of her sleeping with other people. But then people do have a tendency to be blind to things in their lives that are obvious to others. Especially when those things threaten something that’s comfortable. Phedre and Joscelin have, rather unexpectedly, formed a comfortable relationship. Joscelin’s feelings for Phedre put that in jeopardy: should she pursue something with him? How would that even work? Would she retire as a courtesan and be faithful to him?

Information for anyone who wants to join in:

THE SCHEDULE

Discussions will begin from Thursday 3rd September

  • Week One | Beginning through end Chapter Sixteen hosted at There’s Always Room For One More
  • Week Two | Chapter Seventeen – Thirty-one hosted by Susan at Dab of Darkness
  • Week Three | Chapter Thirty-two – Forty-seven hosted by Zezee with Books
  • Week Four | Chapter Forty-eight – Sixty-one hosted by Mayri at Book Forager
  • Week Five | Chapter Sixty-two – Seventy-nine hosted by Peat Long
  • Week Six |Chapter Eighty through the end hosted by Lisa at Dear Geek Place

If you feel like joining in, you can comment/discuss along with us via each host’s blog post; in the Goodreads group with a link to your own post; or on Twitter, tagging @wyrdandwonder and using the hashtag #ReadAsThouWilt.

You can read at your own pace, but please bear in mind that some participants are first-time readers, and be mindful of any spoilers beyond each week’s chapters. Likewise, if you don’t keep up with the schedule but still want to read and discuss, we’ll be ready when you are! More guidelines than rules, as the piratical saying goes…

Read As Thou Wilt: Kushiel’s Dart Read Along (Pt. 4)

Imyril @ There’s Always Room For One More is hosting a read along of Jacqueline Carey’s epic fantasy Kushiel’s Dart. This has been on my TBR for ages. I’ve had a copy sitting on my shelf staring at me for about 5 years. But I haven’t wanted to dive into a new fantasy series without finishing some of the ones I have in progress. Also, the size of the book is a bit intimidating. It’s a doorstop. So I’ve put it off. But when I heard about the read along, I decided to go for it.

You can check out my thoughts on parts one, two and three at the links. I’m still interested and engaged in the book. I’m enjoying it, but I don’t find it to be something I can’t put down for a while. Here are my answers to the discussion questions to part 4:

Waldemar’s old teacher Lodur calls Phedre “a weapon thrown by a D’Angeline god” and this changes how Phedre sees herself to some extent. How does this change the way you’ve thought about Phedre so far?

I never thought that Phedre was cursed. I always thought that her being an anguisette, believed to have been marked by a god, made her more powerful than she realized. I was glad to see her come to recognize some of that. If nothing else, what she is gave her a career she enjoyed, doing something her society values highly. That’s something pretty significant.

Joscelin has broken all but one of his vows during the time he and Phedre have been in Skaldia. How do you feel about everything he has gone through? Everything Phedre has gone through? And the Prefect of the Cassiline Brotherhood’s opinion on these matters?

For the most part, I have a lot of sympathy for both of them. Joscelin is a trained fighter, but I don’t get the sense that he’s a violent, bloodthirsty character by nature. Yet he’s had to kill a lot more people than I think he ever expected or intended. Phedre, is by career and nature, a lover, not a fighter. But she’s also had to use violence. But I think in almost all cases it was out of necessity. Even the guard that they kill to escape the Skaldi, can sort of be considered self defense.

I don’t quite understand the reasoning behind the Cassiline Brotherhood’s celibacy, so I think I might have missed some of the significance of Joscelin breaking that particular vow.

Regardless, I don’t think much of the Prefect’s ruling of this. Obviously Joscelin was in extreme circumstances, and to judge him by ordinary standards seems rather shortsighted.

A whimsical question: Phedre doesn’t seem to be able to lose or give away Melisande’s diamond. What do you think this stone’s eventual fate might be?

I have no idea. Maybe it’ll make it’s way back to Melisande? Sort of bringing it full circle? I really don’t know!

And a follow-on to that: all gifts in this story, god-given or otherwise, are double-edged swords. Discuss. 😊

Well Melisande’s gift, obviously was a precursor to Phedre’s loss of Delaunay, Alcuin, and her whole world with them.

Melisande also bought a night with Phadre, as a sort of goodbye gift to Baudoin.

I think Phedre’s marking has shaped her life in many ways, good and bad. And by it’s nature it ties thought two opposites (good/bad, pleasure/pain) together.

What do you make of Ysandre de la Courcel now that we’ve finally met her? And what of her intention to honour her betrothal to Drustan mab Necthana?

I think that she’s a better leader than I initially gave her credit for. I didn’t really give her much thought before though. I was surprised that she was relatively quick to believe Phedre and Joscelin, but also glad that they didn’t have to go through a long, drawn out process of convincing her. She seems to act decisively, and I take her intention to honor her betrothal as an example of that.

Now that we know the whole of Delaunay’s story, has your opinion of him changed at all?

Not really. I was sort of surprised that that was all there was to his story. I mean, why the need for such secrecy?

Finally, Phedre’s marque is finally complete. Do you think she is free?

Free of what? I’m honestly asking. She seems to have different levels of freedom at different points. But she’s able to make choices for herself prior to the finishing of the marque. Will it free her of her nature? Probably not. So I guess, my answer Is, I don’t know!

Information for anyone who wants to join in:

THE SCHEDULE

Discussions will begin from Thursday 3rd September

  • Week One | Beginning through end Chapter Sixteen hosted at There’s Always Room For One More
  • Week Two | Chapter Seventeen – Thirty-one hosted by Susan at Dab of Darkness
  • Week Three | Chapter Thirty-two – Forty-seven hosted by Zezee with Books
  • Week Four | Chapter Forty-eight – Sixty-one hosted by Mayri at Book Forager
  • Week Five | Chapter Sixty-two – Seventy-nine hosted by Peat Long
  • Week Six |Chapter Eighty through the end hosted by Lisa at Dear Geek Place

If you feel like joining in, you can comment/discuss along with us via each host’s blog post; in the Goodreads group with a link to your own post; or on Twitter, tagging @wyrdandwonder and using the hashtag #ReadAsThouWilt.

You can read at your own pace, but please bear in mind that some participants are first-time readers, and be mindful of any spoilers beyond each week’s chapters. Likewise, if you don’t keep up with the schedule but still want to read and discuss, we’ll be ready when you are! More guidelines than rules, as the piratical saying goes…

Read As Thou Wilt: Kushiel’s Dart Read Along (Pt. 3)

Imyril @ There’s Always Room For One More is hosting a read along of Jacqueline Carey’s epic fantasy Kushiel’s Dart. This has been on my TBR for ages. I’ve had a copy sitting on my shelf staring at me for about 5 years. But I haven’t wanted to dive into a new fantasy series without finishing some of the ones I have in progress. Also, the size of the book is a bit intimidating. It’s a doorstop. So I’ve put it off. But when I heard about the read along, I decided to go for it.

Those interested in my thoughts on part one and part two can read those posts at the links. A lot happened in this week’s reading (spoiler warning!) and I feel like I finally got interested! Here are my answers to the questions for part three. Just FYI, there are a lot of questions, so this may be a long post!

Phédre slipped during her assignment with Melisande and mentioned that Delaunay is “waiting for word from Quintilius Rousse.” She believed this slip contributed to Delaunay’s murder, but Melisande assured Phédre that she’d already known that information.
• Do you think Delaunay was right to keep Phédre unaware of his identity, motivations, and true intentions to prevent such slips on her assignments?

No, I think that Delaunay was wrong to to keep Phedre unaware of his intentions for many reasons. One is to prevent such slips, yes. But another is that Phedre is thrust into a dangerous world, working for Delaunay. She can’t make an informed decision about whether or not she wants to take that risk, without knowing why. I think that’s my biggest issue with his secrecy. Ultimately it doesn’t protect anyone, it puts Phedre at risk of these kinds of slips, and it robs her of agency.

Delaunay, Alcuin, and the entire household are murdered.
• What are your thoughts on the manner in which this happens (Melisande using Phédre; it occurring shortly after Phédre’s assignment with Melisande; unidentified soldiers committing this crime; entire household killed)? Do you think Phédre and Joscelin were lucky to escape, or is Phédre as unlucky as she believes her name to be?

I don’t think Phedre is nearly as unlucky as she believes herself to be. She was born into a world and a society where a high value is set by her gifts. That gives her a kind of power. She’s also able to take personal enjoyment in the work and the role that society put her in. That is lucky. And yes, Phedre and Joscelin were lucky that they weren’t at the house when the murder took place. Would Joscelin have been about to prevent it if he’d been there? It’s hard to say. It depends on how it was carried out, and how many people were involved in the attack.

I don’t know what I think about Melisande’s role in the murder yet. But I think that Phedre was very naive to go with her and trust her after it happened. Ditto for Joscelin. As a bodyguard, who also distrusts Melisande, it seems like he should have known better than to go along with her and eat/drink anything she gave him!

• Do you think it’s significant that this murder takes place when Phédre has gained enough to complete her marque — that her guardian dies at the moment when she’s able to gain freedom from Naamah’s service, if she wants it?

From a literary point of view, I suppose this means that she’s come into her own. It’s a sort of personal milestone. Now she has a fresh start in a sense: a new location, with new characters (and one familiar face with Joscelin)

But I don’t know if it was intentional on the part of the murderer!

• Do you think Phédre will be able to have her marque completed? Do you have any predictions of how her unfinished marque might affect her in the future?

No, to be honest, I didn’t really think of the marque being unfinished very much. At one point Phedre mentions that if she’s ever able to return home, the marquest will complete it for her. As far as I understand, the completion of the actual marque is symbolic more than anything else.

• Is it just me, or are you also curious about this strong, compulsive attraction Phédre has to Melisande to the point where she can’t even think straight sometimes? What are your thoughts on this? Do you think Melisande is as drawn to Phédre, or is she simply fascinated by Phédre being an anguissette and what Phédre’s limits are?

That’s a good question. It’s interesting that I never really though about whether or not it was mutual. I think that Melisande strikes me as so icy and manipulative, that I simply assumed that she was fascinated by Phedre’s limits!

We get to meet the Skaldi!

What were your initial thoughts when Phédre and Joscelin were handed over to them? Were you disappointed that Phédre did not try to fight like Joscelin did or aid him? Were you frustrated by her seeming to surrender or impressed by her quick assessment of the situation or didn’t care and wanted to the story to take a different route?

I was actually a bit disappointed in Joscelin’s attempts to fight. It obviously wasn’t a fight that he was going to win. Phedre’s move seemed much smarter. I think we see Delaunay’s influence in her quick assessment of the situation and her seeming surrender. Phedre seems impulsive by nature, but I think this is an example of her keeping a clear head despite what might be a natural impulse (to fight) in a situation this. She remains cool and calm. She speaks to the the Skaldi in their own language, and puts them at ease.

What do you think of the Skaldi (lifestyle, culture, government, thinking the d’Angelines are barbarians, etc.) and how Gunter’s people treat Phédre and Joscelin?

I think it’s interesting that the Skaldi think that the d’Angelines are barbarians, and that the d’Angeline’s tend to regard the Skaldi in much the same way. In reality, I think that both have barbaric traits, but also very benevolent, civilized traits. Overall, I think that the Skaldi treat Phedre fairly well (with the exception of Gunter, who we can argue, rapes Phedre) and Joscelin poorly at least initially. But then Joscelin’s behavior toward them was violent, so I can see why they responded the way that they did.

Phédre and Joscelin’s relationship is slowly changing. This began before Delaunay’s death when Joscelin shared a bit about his background with Phédre and Alcuin, but the change grew by leaps when Phédre and Joscelin become slaves to the Skaldi.
• Do you have any predictions about where/what these changes will lead to?

At a few points I got a sense of sexual/romantic tension between them. I don’t know what (if anything) will become of it, but it would definitely be a challenge to manage. Joscelin is supposed to be celibate, and Phedre is extremely sexual, so I don’t know how that could ever happen in a way that would be satisfying to both. I’m interested to see where it leads though.

I would like some scenes where Joscelin and Phedre just talk and get to know each other better though. I think those scenes are skipped over in a lot of Phedre’s relationships, and as a result the relationships don’t always feel as deep to me as they’re meant to.


• As their enslavement under the Skaldi persists, both Phédre and Joscelin seem to gain a greater understanding of the sacrifices their representative angels made. What do you think about the roles Phédre and Joscelin have to play in comparison to the acts of the angels they worship? (Phédre serves Naamah, who laid with strangers to protect and aid someone she loves; Joscelin serves Cassiel, who remained Elua’s companion despite having to turn on the One God to do so.)

I suppose that Phedre sleeping with Gunter can be seen as similar to Naamah, but she does that because she doesn’t really have a choice. It’s not really to help someone she loves. I suppose things go more easily for her because she did it willingly though. And come to think of it, she’s able to help Joscelin because she’s on good terms with Gunter…

As for Joscelin, he remains with Phedre (rather than try to escape back to Terre d’Ange) because of his vows to her.


• We’ve now gotten a couple scenes that show Joscelin’s badassery as a sword-dagger-wielding Casseline brother dude. Are you convinced of his abilities as a fighter? He’s also had to loosen his hold on some of his oaths to remain by Phédre’s side. How do you think that will affect him?

I’m pretty convinced at his abilities as a fighter. The only thing that struck me as a bit unrealistic was his ability to fight so well, after not being able to practice for so long. It’s hard to stay in shape like that! But it’s fiction after all. These people are also all bizarrely attractive. Maybe it’s the same kind of thing!

I think that the fact that he’s able to loosen some of those oaths may indicate that in the future, under the right circumstances, he might feel OK about loosening some of his other vows.

We meet Waldemar Selig, the Skaldi who aims to unite all Skaldis and conquer Terre d’Ange.
What do you think of Selig? Were you impressed?

I think he’s certainly an intelligent, charismatic leader.


How did the way he was introduced in the story affect your impression of him when he does show up (first rumors mentioned every now and then of Skaldi joining forces under one dude; rumors of Skaldi movements indicating they have a leader; Phédre hearing stories of mythical proportions about the Skaldi leader; Phédre hearing his voice and peeking at him between tall Skaldi men; and finally seeing the dude and realizing he’s a tricksy one)? Did it increase your anticipation and curiosity about him?

Not really, because I wasn’t that interested in the early rumors of the Skaldi movements (it didn’t mean much to me at that point.) The stories Phedre initially heard, seemed more like they were about a myth than a real person. I think he only seemed real to me once Phedre heard his voice!

Information for anyone who wants to join in:

THE SCHEDULE

Discussions will begin from Thursday 3rd September

  • Week One | Beginning through end Chapter Sixteen hosted at There’s Always Room For One More
  • Week Two | Chapter Seventeen – Thirty-one hosted by Susan at Dab of Darkness
  • Week Three | Chapter Thirty-two – Forty-seven hosted by Zezee with Books
  • Week Four | Chapter Forty-eight – Sixty-one hosted by Mayri at Book Forager
  • Week Five | Chapter Sixty-two – Seventy-nine hosted by Peat Long
  • Week Six |Chapter Eighty through the end hosted by Lisa at Dear Geek Place

If you feel like joining in, you can comment/discuss along with us via each host’s blog post; in the Goodreads group with a link to your own post; or on Twitter, tagging @wyrdandwonder and using the hashtag #ReadAsThouWilt.

You can read at your own pace, but please bear in mind that some participants are first-time readers, and be mindful of any spoilers beyond each week’s chapters. Likewise, if you don’t keep up with the schedule but still want to read and discuss, we’ll be ready when you are! More guidelines than rules, as the piratical saying goes…

Read As Thou Wilt: Kushiel’s Dart Read Along (Pt. 2)

Imyril @ There’s Always Room For One More is hosting a read along of Jacqueline Carey’s epic fantasy Kushiel’s Dart. This has been on my TBR for ages. I’ve had a copy sitting on my shelf staring at me for about 5 years. But I haven’t wanted to dive into a new fantasy series without finishing some of the ones I have in progress. Also, the size of the book is a bit intimidating. It’s a doorstop. So I’ve put it off. But when I heard about the read along, I decided to go for it.

If you’re interested in my thoughts on the first part of the book, check out my post here. I’ve now read through Chapter 32 of the book, and I’m starting to get more interested in Phedre’s life with Delaunay and Alcuin. I was invested in Alcuin’s completion of his marque and the complication with poor Guy. But so much of the politics is still over my head. With so much time and space being give to that, I feel that I’m missing out on a lot. I try to follow it, but the weird names all blend together, and I’ll be like “who is that?” and of course they all have complicated backstories… So I haven’t formed an opinion of the book overall just yet. I’m definitely intrigued, but I’m not hooked. Here are my answers for the questions about part 2.

We get a few more hints of magic or the supernatural in this section. Phedre sees Kushiel’s visage after Alcuin is injured; Hyacinthe’s mom & he himself both have things revealed via the dromonde; that moment of deep peace at Elua’s statue. What do you think of magic in this world?

I actually didn’t regard this as magic/supernatural per se. Rather, I see it as the characters and their religion. Often people will speak of a feeling of deep peace at prayer. People can sometimes think they see religious figures in times of high stress and trauma. We don’t usually think of that as magic really. As for the dromonde, I see it as the a psychic kind of thing. When people go to see psychics we don’t think of it as doing magic. Again its about the power of belief.

I suppose you can argue that faith and magic are the same thing ultimately. But I don’t think that the characters would regard these things as a belief in magic/supernatural.

Q2) More politics! For those new to the series, what do you make of Baudoin and his mother, the Lioness of Azzalle? For those rereading, are you noticing details you missed before?

I think that I followed the broad outlines of this case, but I probably missed a lot of subtleties. I don’t know what I think of the Lioness of Azzalle. But I definitely wasn’t sorry to see Baudoin go. He always struck me as a spoiled brat!

Q3) What do you think of Alciun’s final assignation? Guy’s death? Would Alcuin have been happier, but perhaps less useful, as something other than Naamah’s servant?

I think this was the storyline I was the most invested in, because it was exactly the kind of situation I thought had the potential to emerge from the system of indentured servitude that exists in this world. Yes, Alcuin was asked if he wanted to become a servant of Naamah, but it’s not like he was ever given an alternative. He was in a position where he owed a debt to Delaunay, and this was the only way people seem to have of repaying that debt. I don’t blame him for taking the only way out that he saw. It was unfortunate that it ended in tragedy for Guy.

Q4) Phedre has a new bodyguard – a Casseline Brother, Joscelin Verreuil. What do you think his life was like before this posting? Are you surprised that Anafiel didn’t dismiss him after the confrontation with Childric d’Essoms?

I really wanted to know more about Casseline Brothers and what all that’s about. All Phedre really gives us is a brief aside, that tells us that they have contempt for her profession. Most of the other things we learn about them have been little bits and pieces from Joscelin. I do hope we learn more because I think this has potential for interesting conflict.

Q5) We finally meet Barquiel L’Envers. How dangerous do you think this man is? What do you make of his history with Anafiel?

Again this was a situation that confused me, because I don’t understand the background. I’m hoping that a lot of this will be clarified as I continue reading. Actually I feel like a great deal of my confusion is due to the fact that I don’t understand what Delaunay’s goal ultimately is. I don’t understand where he’s coming from or what he wants.

Q6) How did you feel about Phedre granting Childric another assignation? Was she right that she owed him a debt?

I think a lot of the time, I don’t follow Phedre’s logic. This is one example. I understand that from a religious perspective, Phedre is betraying her service to Namaah by going into the assignation with an ulterior motive. But isn’t that true of all of her assignations? I don’t understand why she felt the need to repay Childric rather than any of her other patrons.

Q7) Alcuin has completed his marque and displays it to Anafiel. How do you feel about the shift in their relationship? Phedre’s response to it?

I was little surprised by the shift in their relationship because I saw Delaunay as a father figure. It was surprising to see it shift to romantic/sexual with Alcuin. I’m also uncomfortable with the fact that Delaunay also in a position power over Alcuin. You can argue that’s no longer the case, now that Alcuin has made he marque, but he grew up with Delaunay having significant power over his life. That doesn’t just go away overnight.

I was also a bit puzzled by Phedre’s reaction. She doesn’t seem to have any kind of romantic/sexual attraction to either Alcuin (who seems more like a brother) or Delaunay (who seems more like a father). So why would it bother her if they’re together? Is it just the fact that there’s something between them that doesn’t include her? She’s often jealous of the attention that Alcuin gets….

Information for anyone who wants to join in:

THE SCHEDULE

Discussions will begin from Thursday 3rd September

  • Week One | Beginning through end Chapter Sixteen hosted at There’s Always Room For One More
  • Week Two | Chapter Seventeen – Thirty-one hosted by Susan at Dab of Darkness
  • Week Three | Chapter Thirty-two – Forty-seven hosted by Zezee with Books
  • Week Four | Chapter Forty-eight – Sixty-one hosted by Mayri at Book Forager
  • Week Five | Chapter Sixty-two – Seventy-nine hosted by Peat Long
  • Week Six |Chapter Eighty through the end hosted by Lisa at Dear Geek Place

If you feel like joining in, you can comment/discuss along with us via each host’s blog post; in the Goodreads group with a link to your own post; or on Twitter, tagging @wyrdandwonder and using the hashtag #ReadAsThouWilt.

You can read at your own pace, but please bear in mind that some participants are first-time readers, and be mindful of any spoilers beyond each week’s chapters. Likewise, if you don’t keep up with the schedule but still want to read and discuss, we’ll be ready when you are! More guidelines than rules, as the piratical saying goes…

Read As Thou Wilt: Kushiel’s Dart Read Along (Pt. 1)

Imyril @ There’s Always Room For One More is hosting a read along of Jacqueline Carey’s epic fantasy Kushiel’s Dart. This has been on my TBR for ages. I’ve had a copy sitting on my shelf staring at me for about 5 years. But I haven’t wanted to dive into a new fantasy series without finishing some of the ones I have in progress. Also, the size of the book is a bit intimidating. It’s a doorstop. So I’ve put it off. But when I heard about the read along, I decided to go for it.

I’ve abut twenty chapters into the book right now (but this post will only discuss the first sixteen) and I’ll say that the jury’s out on my opinion. It wasn’t a book that grabbed me initially, and it might have been a DNF if I hadn’t had the read along giving me additional motivation (and the knowledge that it has a very devoted fan base that I’ve heard rave about it) However, I did find the opening to be rather off putting in several ways.

Here’s my response to some of the questions.

You know it’s an epic fantasy when it starts with not only a map but a list of Dramatis Personae. How do you feel about this approach to beginning a new story? Do you read the character list or use it for reference along the way?

I often find this a bit intimidating to be honest. It’s like the author is saying: “This is going to be tough going, so here are some study aids. You’ll have your first quiz on Thursday.” I often skip right past it. I mean, before I’ve started reading, the names of characters and places aren’t going to mean much to me. As I start they (hopefully!) gain more relevance to me. But hopefully, at that point, I’m too caught up in the world of the book to remember that stuff in the beginning. I’ve learned not to let the maps and character lists put me off too much, since it’s pretty common in fantasy. But it’s not my favorite approach for beginning a story.

What are your first impressions of Elua and his Companions, and of D’Angeline culture? Are you comfortable with the way in which Jacqueline Carey has reimagined the world?

I’m certainly alright with the way that Jacqueline Carey built her world, but I’m not a fan of how she related it to the readers, via info dump. I think an easy way to get the information across to readers might have been to have us learn about it alongside Pherdre in her childhood lessons. I wasn’t a fan of having Phedre lecture the readers on all of this in an early chapter. It’s a lot of information to take in early on, and it’s not given in a “friendly” way.

Phèdre’s story begins in the Court of Night-Blooming Flowers. What are your thoughts on the Court, its adepts, the service of Naamah and the earning of marques? What House would you patronise – or belong to?

For me, some of this is still a little fuzzy.

I think the acceptance of sex work (for lack of a better term) as a respectable career path, and an art in and of itself, is interesting. But the indentured servitude system doesn’t sit comfortably with me. How a marque is earned also isn’t clear to me just yet. It seems to be based on tips, which means that someone who isn’t lucky in terms of patrons could be indentured for a long period of time or potentially forever. Also, while the adepts do enter into the profession willingly, but it seems as if they are groomed of it from childhood, and not really presented with alternatives. Therefore, it’s a choice, but it’s one they’re groomed, pressured, and guided to make.

I understand that different courts cater to different tastes/predilections, but they don’t take on their own identities (at least thus far) for me either.

Guy, Alcuin and Phèdre are all devoted to the mysterious Anafiel Delaunay. Do you think he deserves their love? For first time readers, what are your theories about his past – and what do you think he is trying to achieve?

I’d say that the jury is still out on Anafiel Delaunay. I don’t have any theories about his past or his ultimate goal, and that’s my problem with him so far. He has three characters (that we know of) devoted to his service to the point where they’re going into potentially dangerous situations for him. Yet they don’t know why, because he doesn’t tell them what he’s trying to achieve! They all seem to think “Delaunay wants it, so it must be right.”

My other issues with that thread of the story, is that all of the politics are largely going over my head at this point. Delaunay has all these allies and enemies and they all have their own agendas, and weird, names and it’s hard for me to keep them straight! I’m hoping that some of that becomes more clear as time goes on.

What do you make of Phèdre’s choice of signale?

It makes sense that Phedre would use the name of the person that she considers her only friend as her “safe word.” But (much like with Delaunay) I don’t really have a sense of what Hyacinthe has done to earn her devotion. He’s been someone she visits over the years. He’s been someone she enjoys spending time with, but I don’t have a sense of a deeper emotional connection. That’s a problem, becaus I definitely feel like I should.

Last but not least, the big week one check-in: are you still in?

Absolutely!

Information for anyone who wants to join in:

The Schedule

Discussions will begin from today (Thursday 3rd September):

  • Week One | Beginning through end Chapter Sixteen hosted at There’s Always Room For One More
  • Week Two | Chapter Seventeen – Thirty-one hosted by Susan at Dab of Darkness
  • Week Three | Chapter Thirty-two – Forty-seven hosted by Zezee with Books
  • Week Four | Chapter Forty-eight – Sixty-one hosted by Mayri at Book Forager
  • Week Five | Chapter Sixty-two – Seventy-nine hosted by Peat Long
  • Week Six |Chapter Eighty through the end hosted by Lisa at Dear Geek Place

If you feel like joining in, you can comment/discuss along with us via each host’s blog post; in the Goodreads group with a link to your own post; or on Twitter, tagging @wyrdandwonder and using the hashtag #ReadAsThouWilt.

You can read at your own pace, but please bear in mind that some participants are first-time readers, and be mindful of any spoilers beyond each week’s chapters. Likewise, if you don’t keep up with the schedule but still want to read and discuss, we’ll be ready when you are! More guidelines than rules, as the piratical saying goes…

Top Ten Tuesday: TBR Procrastination

For That Artsy Reader Girl’s Top Ten Tuesday:

ttt-new

September 10: Books On My TBR I’m Avoiding Reading and Why (maybe you’re scared of it, worried it won’t live up to the hype, etc.) (submitted by Caitlin @ Caitlin Althea)

Books that are intimidating because they’re really long

51saga5aeml-_ac_us218_1. Nor Gold by Kerry Lynne– Second in The Pirate Captain series 753 pages.  I’ve also heard it ends with a cliffhanger, so I’m not sure I want to start it until I have the next book nearby.

 

 

41oulsn7jul-_ac_us218_2. Five Smooth Stones by Ann Fairbairn– Got really great reviews but between the heavy subject matter and the fact that it’s 768 pages I keep putting it off.

 

 

51qkdj8lpel-_ac_us218_3. The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss– Second in the Kingkilller Chronicles. I loved the first, but this is 1120 pages. Also, number three hasn’t been published yet so maybe I’ll wait until then and finish the series when it’s complete.

 

51dyrlatcxl-_ac_us218_4. Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey– First in the Kushiel’s Legacy series. It’s been recommended many times, it’s sitting on my shelf, but the premise doesn’t really grab me and it’s 912 pages.  I’ll get to  it at some point.

 

51q4v7d1rl-_ac_us218_5. Trinity by Leon Uris– This was recommended by several people but it’s a heavy subject matter and it’s 894 pages.

 

 

 

51bzo0tnhl-_ac_us218_6. Kristin Lavranstradder by Sigrid Undset– This is technically a trilogy of three normal sized books but apparently the translation matters, and I have the first book in the wrong translation. At some point I’ll try to read it and if it’s no good I’ll go for this edition which is supposed to be the “good” translation, but it’s all 3 books together making it a cumbersome 1168 pages.

61jrknqrsel-_ac_us218_7. A Column of Fire by Ken Follett– Third in Follett’s Kingsbridge trilogy. I liked the first two but at 923 pages it’s hard to dive into.

 

 

 

51wxqincjul-_ac_us218_8. The Revolution of Marina M. by Janet Fitch– I loved Fitch’s White Oleander and I’m  interested in this genre change (literary fiction to historical fiction) but the fact that it’s 812 pages makes it intimidating to get started on.

 

Books I’m hesitant to start because of content

51mmdwir-zl-_ac_us218_9. The Disorderly Knights by Dorothy Dunnett– This is third in Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles series. I liked the first two but they’re filled with obscure references and we rarely get into the main character’s head so it takes a lot of focus to read.

 

a1yvcyz-l._ac_uy218_ml3_10. An Incomplete Revenge by Jacqueline Winspear- This is the fifth in the Maisie Dobbs series. I’ve been enjoying it but after a while the terrible things that these characters go through (so far it’s not limited to war, PTSD, drug addiction, illness, and death) make it a fairly depressing experience.