Friday, May 25, 2018

Review - Asenath

Original Title: Asenath
Series: -
Author: Anna Patricio
Published: September 24th, 2011

Publisher: Imajin Books
*THE FOLLOWING REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS*

What in Seth's damnable balls was he thinking?"

Well, that does it for me.
I warn you, there’s a rant review coming next. 

I shelved this book a long time ago, and only now I got to it. I think I only read it because it screamed stand alone, and I really didn’t feel like starting a new series, nor continuing with the ones I have in suspense. God, what a mistake! 

First of all, I have to admit the idea was good. The whole concept is original, and goes where no other writers have gone, that I know of, simply because there’s not a solid historical foundation around Joseph’s Egyptian wife, nor the Bible itself says much about her. I think we can all agree that it is a golden opportunity with a lot of potential, that gives an unusual amount of freedom in historical fiction. But it was wasted. It was very poorly executed, and you’ll see why.

It had a promising beginning, showing us Asenath –born as Kiya– in her home village, surrounded by her family and friends, performing rituals and playing with the other kids, right before being kidnapped. I feel like this happened for the sole purpose of killing her parents, and hence, giving her a reason to go from the village to Heliopolis, because the tribe that kidnapped her was never mentioned before, and it never gets mentioned again. There’s no explanation at all about who they are, where they came from… They only say they have a grudge against the Pharaoh, and their leader is getting his revenge by destroying Egypt one tiny bit at a time, kidnapping children and raping women. And that’s it. There’s nothing else about them.

Something that bothered me a little were the time jumps. Asenath tells the story in first person, and from the end of some chapters to the beginning of the next, years have passed. I personally don’t like when this happens, because I feel as if the author were in a hurry. But as the book went on, I couldn’t but be grateful of things moving faster, otherwise the whole thing could have been more boring than it actually was. 

I really wanted to like Asenath, but I just couldn’t. I mean, I get that she had a difficult life, but she is such a drama queen! And it doesn’t help to soften that image the fact that she falls in love with Joseph the moment she sees him. The insta-love is all over the place, and takes the center of her life, to the point that it gets truly annoying. She starts comparing every single man to Joseph, and none of them is that beautiful, or that smart, or that perfect… *eye roll*. She praises him over and over again, until I ended up yelling at my book “I get it, he’s beautiful! Please, girl, focus!”. This are just a few examples: 

– “His magical eyes held me. His beauty had the depths of evening skies. He was a song that melted hearts, brought the world to a halt and moved a rock to tears.” (Chapter 16)

– “He was like a window into another world –a world of enchantment and beauty. He was a magical hypnotic spell.” (Chapter 17)

– “I was amazed how one being could contain such a vast, nearly impossible amount of beauty.” (Chapter 18)

– “His beauty was nearly too much to bear.” (Chapter 18)

Oh my God, CALM DOWN!!!

*deep breath*

Anyway, let’s move on. After Asenath and Joseph meet in Lord Potiphar’s home, they start exchanging letters, and that’s when their bond grows. But, as I said before, Anna Patricio had all this freedom to create a whole original story, and didn’t use it. It added nothing to what’s already in the Bible. Why? Because although there’s communication between Joseph and Asenath, we don’t see it. We never get to know what is in those letters that makes Asenath fall head over heels for him (besides his physical perfection). But apparently, what they share is so deep, that the next time they see each other –in prison–, he already calls her “my love”. And how…?? *face palmage*. The letters they exchanged may be enough for them, but not for me. I won’t believe their love if you don’t at least show me the growing of a relationship between them. I get that the author tried to show us how they are soulmates because of the similarity in their stories, both losing their families at a young age, and everything… But I didn’t like how she did it. At one point, Asenath says she wants Joseph because “He… completes me”, when she never spoke of a missing piece the first place. She claims to have these deep feelings for someone she has spoken to twice, and with that, Anna Patricio created a relationship she didn’t even let me see where it came from in the first place. 

This, especially, puzzled me: “I dreamed of Lady Zalikha brandishing a sword and hacking to death everyone I loved –Joseph, Menah, the twins, my first parents, my second parents and the village mother Mekten.”

This screams insta-love. Joseph is the first one in her list. How? 

Ok. Moving on. Most of the characters that are not Asenath herself, or Joseph, feel like background noise. At one point, when the twins Nyla and Lyla die as a consequence of food poisoning, I was puzzled with Asenath’s grief. I get that they knew each other from their days in the fishing village, but I didn’t know they meant so much to her, especially because those girls didn’t have a single line of dialogue in the entire book. As for the other characters, the big main villain is Lady Zalikha, Lord Potiphar’s beautiful but resentful wife, the one who separates them when she accuses Joseph of trying to rape her. This actually happened, it is in the Bible. But in this book, it was funny how everyone knew that she was lying, because of all her resentment towards her husband –and the entire world, apparently. That’s her essence. Being resentful, and jealous of Asenath, because she’s young and beautiful, and has Joseph’s preference. Does it ring a bell? Of course it does. She’s the witch in every fairytale, and has zero redeeming qualities. And again, the freedom of creation went down the drain.

There’s a couple of scenes that really bothered me, like the one when Khasekh kisses Asenath in front of Joseph for him to reject her, and finally get to marry her. After that, there’s a scene in which she looks at Khasekh, and says: “He looked like he wanted to murder me. It really would have been better if he had. There was nothing to live for anymore.” UGH. Such a drama queen! And what a lack of trust from Joseph’s side, if he claims to love, and hence, trust Asenath! *deep breath* It’s frustrating. The whole scene is completely unnecessary, because nothing relevant comes from it.

And finally, we get to the part that I HATED the most. The anachronisms, and the writing itself. Both the prose and the dialogue are way too modern for Ancient Egypt, and that is something that can be seen all over the novel, from start to finish. It simply didn’t fit the time period. And also, there a TON of words I had to write down as I found them, that couldn’t possibly be used in Ancient Egypt (or biblical times for that matter), and made the novel lose all seriousness for me. They simply felt out of place.

Look:

– “He donned an elegant pleated kilt.” – The term “kilt” belongs to the end of the 16th century, in Scotland and England. It shouldn’t be in biblical Egypt.

– “Though I was dressed very simply, I thought I looked glamorous.” – How can a peasant girl know this word when she can’t even read or write? Plus, the term belongs around the years 1935-40.

– “I fled and found myself back in the loggia.” – Maybe the Egyptians had a similar building structure, but the term is undoubtedly Italian. Besides, the Romans built the first loggias around the year 1735. What are they doing in Heliopolis?

– “Zalikha could be a fine actress when she wanted to be.” – While there was actually theatre in Ancient Egypt, the term actress was first recorded in the year 1580. Asenath couldn’t know it. 

– “The whole thing had been so weird I did not know what to make of it.” – Asenath could not possibly use a word of Germanic origin. Couldn’t she just say “strange”?

And this one was the one that definitely, made me hate the writing style, and I just can’t get over it. 

– “There, a poker-faced man sat at a desk.” – How can this term even be in Ancient Egypt?? Biblical times, people!! How can they possibly know what this means if the term is an Americanism dating back to 1880, and refers to a card game invented in the USA, during the 19th century? 

I lost all respect for the book after this. Sorry. No. This can’t happen.

I couldn’t overlook any of these things. It simply wasn’t possible. Maybe I am very nitpicky, but when these things started appearing, they felt so out of place, I just couldn’t ignore them. It was as if they were underlined in red, I was forced to detect them.

*sigh*

I’m having bad luck lately. It is one bad book after another. I just hope my next one will be good, and I won’t have to write my fifth rant review this year. So, in short, the whole concept of this book is a good idea, but it is poorly executed. A little more research wouldn’t hurt anyone, if not on Asenath herself (because there’s nothing about her), at least on Ancient Egypt, in the manners of royalty, and all those aspects that fell flat, and made this book so bad. 

I have some other books in my to-read list about Ancient Egypt, and I honestly hope they are better than this one. Fingers crossed!



Wednesday, May 9, 2018

The First Date tag

Hi there,
How’s it going? 
First of all, thank you so much to all of you who have been visiting me throughout this last two weeks, the stats are like crazy since I posted my ARC review, so, an immense hug to each and every single one of you who commented, read, or even just clicked them. It means the world to me, that someone takes time out of their day to read something that I wrote.

Today I’d like to share a book tag, that was popular on Youtube, among booktubers: The First Date Book tag.
I know it is old, it’s a 2017 tag, it was done long before I discovered booktubing, but as I have an answer for every part of it, I’d thought it would be fun to try. I was inspired by LilyCReads, who did the tag here, and also by Katesbookdate, the creator of the tag herself, here. Make sure you visit both of them, their channels are just AMAZING.

I have reviews for the books I will mention, where I explain myself better, so if you want to take a look, check the right column, in the Blog Archive and Popular Posts, ok?

Let’s go:

1. The awkward first date, a book where something felt off, it wasn’t necessarily a bad book but it lacked that spark for you.

This is definitely The Dancing Master, by Julie Klassen.
 
The whole theme of this book sounded wonderful, and beautiful, as there was dancing involved, and it is one of the things I love the most in historical fiction and romance, but it felt flat, there was some really lacking elements to the plot that I just couldn’t swallow. Although Julie Klassen is still one of my favourite authors, and all of her books are great. Read her books, now!









2. The cheap first date, a book that turned out to be less than you expected.

I’m going with Arabella, by Georgette Heyer. 
I had seen so much praise around the author, calling her the Queen of Regency romance, and when I read this one… No. Not great, but not good either. The characters are little two-dimensional, they don’t have so much interaction for me to believe their love… No, it just didn’t do it for me.










3. The well prepared first date, a book that turned out to be better than expected.
With is one, I’m gonna pick not one, but two books. 

The first one, Divergent, by Veronica Roth. 

This is one of those books that, apparently, you either love it, or hate it. I can’t say that I loved it, but it did surprise me, on the whole Dystopian worldbuilding –the society that is dominated, but considers it the right thing–, and a heroine that is the furthest from the damsel in distress, who knows how to punch back and fight like hell, and doesn’t let the love interest to rule her life or her decisions. Definitely good. Not perfect, but a must-read for Dystopia lovers.







And the other would be Threats of Sky and Sea, by Jennifer Ellision. 

It wasn’t perfect, but it was definitely better than I was expecting, with a both strong and funny heroine, a wonderful setting, and a simply great cast of characters. If you love fantasy, you should definitely read this one.












4. The hot but dumb first date, the book that was pretty but not to so hot on the inside.
I know this immediately.
Damn you, beautiful cover I grabbed it because of the promise of a fantasy world based on India, a good, refreshing change of the usual Europe-inspired fantasy setting. But the abundance of clich├ęs, the dumb heroine, the stupid insta-love, and the poor worldbuilding just didn’t do it for me. Sorry.











5. The blind date, a book you picked up not knowing anything about it.

I rarely know nothing about my next read. But I have one.

This is the second book in the Earthsea Cycle. I had a very vague idea about the first one, but I knew absolutely nothing about the rest, and it was one of the best surprises I’ve ever encountered in the literary world. Every fantasy lover out there simply HAS to read the Earthsea Cycle. Go. Now. *snapping fingers in your face*







6. Speed dating, a book that you read super fast.

This is easy. 
Jane Austen one of my favourite authors. It is a really short epistolary novel, the first Jane Austen ever wrote, when she was very young, and you already could tell she would be a genius. It’s a glimpse of the amazing, smart, observing woman that would be known as one of the best authors the world has ever seen. A must read.










7. The rebound, a book you’ve read too soon after a book hangover.
Even though I don’t relate with the book hangover term, I have an answer.


I read it because I just wanted more of this world. I didn’t want to say goodbye to Percy and Annabeth, and I didn’t want to leave Camp-Half Blood and abandon the quests to save the world. And it was great, just… not as good as the previous saga. A four GoodReads stars for me. The Mark of Athena and The House of Hades are both perfect, though. A must-read.






8. The overly enthusiastic date, the book that was trying to hard.
Oh, my God.
This book is great in terms of worldbuilding, and I was loving every minute of it, but in one, single sentence (literally), the whole thing fell down like a dynamited building. Relationships between the characters that came out of nowhere, a constantly whining heroine, contradictory attitudes in the main characters, and an ending that made me want to flush the book down the toilet. One of the worst fantasy books I’ve ever read. Just, no.








9. The perfect first date, a book that did everything right for you.
Let’s go with an obvious one.


Harry Potter, by J. K. Rowling, the true Queen of Magic. This is perfection, and it doesn't need further explaining.







But also this one: Percy Jackson and the Olympians, by Rick Riordan.


Oh, it was so addictive, and wonderful!! The characters are just lovable, and the villains, astounding. I read the whole saga in like a month, I devoured it, and loved every single book. All of them, perfect. A must-read, I don’t care this is a Middle Grade, just read it. Read it. Now.

I love all of them, but if I have to pick one, that would be The Battle of the Labyrinth. It was EPIC.




10. The embarrassing first date, a book that you are embarrassed to admit that you’ve liked, or a book that you are embarrassed to be reading in public

I’m gonna pick the reading in public part. And you all know the answer to this one.


Do I need to explain myself? Of course not. I would never want to be seen reading this in public.











Hope you enjoyed that, I’m not going to tag anyone because this is really old, and I don’t know if it is a thing anymore (probably not), and if you want to do the tag, go ahead! Just let me know, so I can see it!

Thanks for reading!
‘til next time!

Monday, May 7, 2018

Review - Beyond All Dreams

Original Title: Beyond All Dreams
Series: -
Author: Elizabeth Camden
Published: December 15th, 2014

Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
*THE FOLLOWING REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS*

This is one of those books I don’t know very well why I decided to read. For some reason the cover was stuck in my head, so I had to go for it. It is my first book by Elizabeth Camden, and I have to say, it wasn’t so good. Don’t get me wrong, though, I will give the author another try, I’ve heard wonders about her other books, and the covers are pretty much some of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. But this one, in particular… No. I’m not going to destroy it with my review, I promise, but neither I will be overly generous. I can’t say that I liked it.

First of all, an obvious point. As the setting of the novel suggests, this story is going to mean so much more to you if you are American, which is not my case. However, I looked up some pictures of the modern Library of Congress in Washington, and it is a fascinating place, from every possible point of view. I admit that at one point I felt a little jealous of Anna for working in such a beautiful place, a true palace, every single day of her life. No wonder she loved her job.

The first thing I noticed as I read this book was the narration. It feels kind of one dimensional, very simple and straightforward. As for the characters, I liked them, but I can’t say I loved them. Their backstories are told as soon as they are introduced, like Anna’s, or her friend’s, Neville Bernhard. And I’m not a fan of knowing every detail right from the get-go, because as the story progresses, I’m surely going to forget things. I’d rather discover things along the way. Plus, for example, after reading about Luke’s past, I felt like all the suffering he went through didn’t seem to belong to the same man whose story I was reading, so brutally honest and frank as he was. Both he and Anna have deep backstories, difficult pasts, but I liked to see them power through them, their main motivation being to prevent it from repeating itself, clearing mistakes, and trying to make peace with all the wrongdoings they suffered.

I liked Anna O’Brien. She’s passionate about her job, she loves books and knowledge, and truly devotes herself to both of them. We could have been friends. She’s also very determined, and ready to make her life count, even with all the the difficult situations she lived as a kid, without her parents, and suffering her aunt and uncle’s abuse. I liked that she didn’t give up on the ship’s true story, until she found out the truth, even with the threats from the Navy over her. She didn’t let her past define her, and I liked that. But I wish she had shown that very same passion and determination in her relationship with Luke, and also, I would have loved to see her finally writing her so desired biography about her father’s cartographic contributions, instead of leaving the idea out of the ending’s wrap up. As Luke encouraged her so much to do it, and had so much influence on her, it would have been nice to see her working on it.

Right from the first chapter you know which the main plot will be: the Culpeper’s disappearance, and Anna’s obsession to correct the final report that says that the ship sank during a hurricane in the Caribbean, based on some letters she has from her father, who supposedly died in that shipwreck. That whole plot is ok, but it is introduced so fast that feels like a slap in the face. After that, the novel drags at times, it gets slow, and at one point I was just begging for something to happen instead of so much speculation and theories around the ship. Sometimes, so much past prevents the present from unfolding. These characters are stuck in the past. 

Talking about the past, I have to mention Luke Callahan. I liked him, but to a certain extent. He has this strong personality and temper, and has lived a difficult life. But the problems that have plagued his family since forever, like drinking and violence, take so much time and space! He constantly worries about them, and is scared his nephew could go down the same path his father, brother and sister went… It’s fine, it makes him very human, but at some point it needs to stop. The whole thing is all over the place, and at one point I found myself thinking “Ok, I get it, your family has a drinking problem. Let’s move on.” I couldn’t care in the least about his rivalry with Speaker Jones, that part simply did not hold my interest at all. Plus, there’s some things about him that make me wonder why Anna likes him in the first place. He has a temper, he’s is quick for anger, and is very intense and passionate. But he’s also very controlling, and invasive; he helps Anna to figure out what happened to the ship, until he finds out a truth he can’t possibly reveal and deliberately breaks into her room, and steals her father’s letters, when he had previously said he loved her and wanted her to fall in love with him. And, if I were Anna, that wouldn’t help at all to that purpose. It doesn’t sound like someone who claims to love you, and wants to marry you, would do.

And so we get to the love story. Honestly, I didn’t like it. It had potential, but when the insta-love showed up, I just couldn’t deal with it. He literally likes her from the first moment he sees her, when he addresses her disrespectfully, and Anna responds him curtly, but smartly. And she obviously starts liking him back, if not right there, shortly after their first encounter, as he starts frequenting the library, and working with her in the map room. I couldn’t understand how Anna, after being abused by a violent man as a child (her uncle), fell for a man who’s often verbally violent, a control-freak, and is not beyond using methods like breaking in into her bedroom to steal from her, or grabbing her and pulling her with him every time he’s being passionate or angry about something. 

On the other hand, I believe the author relies too much in telling, where she shouldn’t. Look at this:

Luke has a past love, her name was Violet Desjardins, and by the time he falls for Anna, at one point it says: “He didn’t want to think about Violet. He wanted Anna”.

Two pages earlier, this happens: “The attraction she felt for him was growing, like a sponge expanding in water, and this sort of fascination was dangerous”. This is Anna, and obviously, she stops herself immediately when she thinks of him.

*sigh*

This frustrated me. All I could think was “No. You DON’T say they feel attracted to each other. You just don’t”. I shouldn’t need to be told this. I should be able to see it, through their dialogue and actions, I should see their growing feelings and their chemistry, instead of being told about their attraction, because it will do nothing more than making their love less believable. It feels like they will fall in love just because the author said so. I personally think that this book could have been so much better if the author had decided to show their love instead of telling about it, so we can actually feel those intense emotions she claims Anna and Luke are experiencing.

Luke’s declaration to Anna happens way too soon, and their first kiss is probably one of the least romantic first kisses I’ve ever read, because he just does it, without even being gentle with the woman he wants to make fall in love with him. He proves himself sweet and in love later, but until then I just couldn’t really like him. But what happened at the end had me rolling my eyes. After the story about the Culpeper appears on the newspapers, Luke storms into the boardinghouse where Anna lives, as she and the other women are dining, and yells at her in front of everyone, red with anger, accusing her of selling the story he had made her swear she would never reveal. He had no proof she had done it. None at all. But I think that if you supposedly love a person, as he claims to love Anna, you wouldn’t do this. You wouldn’t humiliate her in front of everyone, and even less without any solid proof that she’s actually guilty. And what bothers me the most is that, one or two pages later, when they talk and she tells him she didn’t do it, it says:

Maybe Luke couldn’t solve peace between the nations, but he had tamed the wildness inside him. Trying to pretend his stormy passion did not exist would be hopeless and a waste of one of his greatest strengths. But he could tame it and turn it toward worthy goals.

Seriously? Are you kidding me? Literally, two seconds earlier he came and made a scene in front of everyone, without even knowing the whole story –just because he thought–, and not even doing the basic thing a gentleman would do before snapping like that, like, I don’t know, discretely taking her outside for a private conversation, perhaps? And that, my friends, is how he trusts the woman he claims to love. Don’t try to tell me he dominated his temper, because he clearly didn't. 

Apart from Luke and Anna, the rest of characters feel like background noise. Luke’s sister and nephew do give him a motivation, something to live for, but the rest…? I mean, look at Neville Bernhard. He’s Anna’s lifelong best friend, and everyone thinks they will eventually get married. But after some strange behavior, he reveals that he’s in love, and will marry his landlady, a Mrs. Norquist. And I think, what kind of surprise can it be if he, one of the main characters, ends up marrying a woman who never appears in the whole story? What it is supposed to make me feel or say? Who is this woman? We don’t know her, she’s just there, and her only contribution to the story is being Neville’s mysterious ladylove, and being jealous of Anna (she doesn’t stop frowning up at her until she marries Luke). This whole subplot could have been better, because, I mean, it’s Neville, right? Anna’s best friend! He should have had a decent ending.

And finally, there’s this woman, Eliza Sharpe, translated as one of the most useless characters I’ve ever read. The moment she’s introduced, we are told the entire backstory that explains her relationship with both Anna and Neville, but this character leads, literally, nowhere. I don’t understand why we needed to read about her and get so much detail about their time in school together, for her to finally be a character who does nothing, or adds anything relevant to the story. I think about her and I can’t possibly understand why Elizabeth Camden wrote her in the first place.

So, finally, I don’t understand the glowing five stars reviews about this book. It’s not that big of a deal. Or at least, for me. The location is beautiful, and the character are deep, I can affirm that, without a doubt. But I just couldn’t care for the whole plot as I was expecting too. I will, however, read more by Elizabeth Camden, and I hope it gets better.