“Far from the Madding Crowd” by Thomas Hardy

Far from the Madding Crowd(Author: Thomas Hardy) + (Year: 1874) + (Goodreads)


Review:

I borrowed this book from a friend who is a great admirer of Victorian literature. As we shared a liking for similar books from the period, I assumed that I will also like Far From the Madding Crowd.

Unlike the books from the Victorian era that I do like, however, Far From the Madding Crowd sorely lacked in the field of characters. Generally, for me, at least, in this particular time period, books rely most of all on their characters. The stories are rather similar, with poor and rich falling in and out of love with each other and fighting against their judgmental society for their love, gullible girls getting tricked by wicked men, stubborn, beautiful women refusing to obey to the rules that their family and society enforce on them, young, brave heroes fighting for the love of fair maidens, etc. etc. So, in short, it’s all about love and romance and the tragedy of forbidden or unrequited love.

Right! Therefore, what would differentiate a good book from a bad one? Why, the characters, of course. Everyone has rooted for Lizzie and Mr. Darcy or felt conflicted about Cathy and Heathcliff. And then there were Bathsheba, Gabriel, Mr. Boldwood and Sgt. Troy. Count those again if you want.

To say that I disliked Bathsheba would be a great understatement. I felt that she was quite probably the most overrated female character in Victorian literature ever. She was described as unbelievably beautiful, but also very smart, stubborn, brave and strong. Out of those last four adjectives, only stubborn would apply to her, and I would use it in a negative, rather than positive way (as it is in the book). Bathsheba has next to no reason to do almost anything she does. Every single time she does something and the author offers us a glimpse into her thought-process, she just sits around wondering how to make people like her more, deciding not to be a bitch and then being one anyway. And I would also remark that her mood swings, which Hardy thinks are a way to show us her personality, are really not that. She is extremely inconsistent, selfish and at times, for the lack of a more gentle way to put it, plain dumb. There are about 20 moments that I can think of on the top of my mind in which she makes the most stupid decisions and Hardy somehow makes it seem to the reader and all of the other characters like her decision is actually reasonable. For example: Bathsheba rejects every man who proposes to her and is a normal guy, because… uh, one of them is poor, and the other one is rich, and something something… And then comes along a handsome jerk that everyone tells her to stay away from and boom, she’s ready. In all honesty, it is a thing which happens in real life, however usually the bad guy is really not that open about his promiscuity or his wickedness. Then she decides to break up with him, makes a rash decision to go in the middle of the night to another city altogether, as she is in a hurry to break things off, and comes back married to him. It might seem like there would be a reason for that marriage which would later be revealed, right? Well, there is – because she is a silly little girl and he tells her he already likes other women, so she decides that that is not a reason to dump him, but rather, one to marry him.

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Many make it seem like Bathsheba is a victim in everything that follows in the book, but I would strongly disagree. Her choices put her in a horrible situation and there’s literally no one else to blame, because in this particular case the actions of everyone around her which cause her pain could have been prevented by her.

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Both Sgt. Troy and Mr. Boldwood were terrible people, as well. Troy was vile and greedy and Boldwood was quite possibly a rapist-to-be. In one particular scene at the end of the book I personally felt suffocated by the forcefulness of his desire for Bathsheba.

Gabriel Oak was the one character that I did felt sympathy for, as he was the only person in the entire book who actually possessed common sense. His loyalty, however, was greatly misplaced in the hands of Bathsheba and for that I felt a tad annoyed as well.

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“Throne of Glass” by Sarah J. Maas

Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass, #1)(Author: Sarah J. Maas) + (Year: 2012) + (Goodreads)


Review:

If you have been following my blog for some time, you would know that I have a special place in my heart for YA novels. If you haven’t, there it is. If I have a reader’s block, or I just want to read something that I expect to like, I will choose YA.

After I got fed up with Atlas Shrugged, I decided to take a break and read something light and nice. Even more so, I chose a series that has received a lot of positive reviews in the last few years.

I would say that Throne of Glass is largely overhyped. I would not put it at the bottom of the YA books I’ve read, but it’s definitely not good enough, in my opinion, to be placed so high up, either. With 378 339 ratings and an average of 4.23, it stands as overhyped through and through.

My biggest issue with this book was the main character. Celaena is the single most self-involved character that I’ve read about. What is worse is that unlike other similar characters, in which that is a bad quality and is supposed to be noticed and disliked, I don’t have a drop of doubt that Sarah J. Maas thinks that Celaena is perfect as she is. Well… don’t be fooled.

The first 30% of Throne of Glass are Celaena talking about herself and bragging to no one in particular. She is beautiful, she’s strong, she’s the best, she’s the fastest, the deadliest, the smartest, the most clever, etc. etc. etc. Celaena literally takes everything every other character says and in her head argues that she’s better in it. “Oh, that lady is beautiful!” – “No, I’m more beautiful”. “You are beautiful.” – “Not only that, but I’m also the deadliest assassin, beat that!”. “You are the deadliest assassin!” – “And I’m also super beautiful, you loser.” She was really hard to stand, honestly.

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And coming back to the fact that she’s the deadliest assassin in the world yadda-yadda, she talks a lot, but she kills just once in the entire book and the rest is just bragging. Every character in the book has heard of her and she is super scary, yet she has the chance to kill an evil monster and she doesn’t.

While we are at it, Celaena also happens to spend her days reading, play the piano masterfully and be just 18 years old! Because you can learn how to kill a person in 12804 different ways, while also reading and playing the piano.

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The other characters that are more prominent in the book are prince Dorian and Chaol, the chief of the royal guard. One is pretty and likes Celaena and the other one is strong and likes Celaena. You get where I’m going? Both of them severely lack personality, so that’s about what we know about the two of them. There are very minor details revealed, because, after all, who cares what kind of people they really are, Celaena is beautiful and deadly, right?!?

The things that I did like about the book were the general setting and the magical elements. If the author starts paying more attention to those, I can see a pretty interesting story forming. The Wyrdmarks plot was by far the best story of in the book and I was actually interested to read more about it.

“Impossible Views of the World” by Lucy Ives

Impossible Views of the World(Author: Lucy Ives) + (Year: 2017) + (Goodreads)


Review:

This was the first book I received from Penguin Books on NetGalley and I was very happy about it. Add to that the interesting premise of a museum and a mysterious map of a magical settlement, as well as the beautiful cover, which reminded me of The Grand Budapest Hotel movie cover, and I was hooked.

Unfortunately, the book is anything but exciting. For starters, the main character was a strange, self-contradictory woman, who was as hard to like for me, as she was for all the rest of the characters. She seemed to possess mainly negative qualities, and most of all, she was rude and judgmental to the other characters, yet extremely gullible when it came to the museum heartthrob who managed to get her interest, despite being a very obvious sleazebag.

Also, story-wise, there were two separate stories which had nothing to do with each other, aside from being connected to the main character, Stella, and they kept pulling the main story in different directions, making it scattered and unbalanced.

The map story was very naive, childish and not really interesting to follow, and the story of Stella’s private life was just so out of place in terms of the book, that while finding it somewhat more interesting, I felt awkward reading about it, because it so obviously did not belong in the book, at all.

The writing itself was not to my liking either. To some it might have been clever, but to me it seemed very pretentious. There’s nothing bad about using a rich vocabulary, but it just seemed very forced and ostentatious, like a teenager trying to sound smart at a college party.

“Mythic, Vol. 1” by Phil Hester

Mythic, Volume 1(Author: Phil Hester) + (Year: 2016) + (Goodreads)


Review:

Unfortunately, this year’s Image comics Humble Bundle was a bit of a let down. I mean… if you haven’t read most of these, the prize is definitely worth it. However, they have been including the same volumes for the last two years, so there was almost nothing for me there.

Aaand this is where Mythic comes in. This was the only volume from the bundle that actually interested me, so I read it separately hoping for something fresh and groovy.

It didn’t live up to the expectations.

A group of mythical heroes, deities and gods gets together as a supernatural SWAT team. What could go wrong? A lot, apparently. The characters were rather flat and way too many. There wasn’t really much space for us to get to know them. Some of the characters got barely any introduction and the ones that did have a more detailed back story were just a few. At the end of issue #7, for example, it was mentioned that we will learn more about Asha. What we actually got in issue #8 were a few self-introductory sentences of the type of “I am powerful! I am life! You can’t kill me.” Dr. Baranski was an equally as underdeveloped character. It was entirely too convenient how she was and how her story went. And her entire personality was so over-exaggerated, that I couldn’t buy her motives at all.

The art was okay, nothing too spectacular or out of the box, but still pretty and detailed. The characters looked kind of old-school, but it was tolerable for the most part. I didn’t particularly like the depictions of human faces, because a lot of the time it was hard to distinguish certain characters.

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On the other hand, the logo on the cover is really cool!

 

“Wonder Woman: Warbringer” by Leigh Bardugo

Wonder Woman: Warbringer (DC Icons, #1)(Author: Leigh Bardugo) + (Year: 2017) + (Goodreads)


Review:

Let’s start off with me admitting that I was prejudiced about this book. After so much Wonder Woman over-saturation, I expected to be bored by Warbringer. Also, as I didn’t really read the summary, I thought this will be a usual take on the story which is already familiar to us thanks to the movie.

Color me surprised!

Wonder Woman: Warbringer does start with Diana on Themyscira, but she is not lured away from the island by the prospect of saving Steve and the world, but by the idea of her first-ever quest, which involves a young girl – the descendant of Helen of Troy, the original Warbringer, and the possible end of the world by the hands of the vengeful war gods and the humans.

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At first I was not sure where the entire Alia story was going, but it turned out to be a very charming twist of traditional mythology. I quite enjoyed the fact that Bardugo took the Greek myths so seriously and embedded them in the story far beyond the mere origin of the Amazons. In fact, this book reminded me more of the Percy Jackson books than it did of the traditional Wonder Woman lore and I say that with all of my affection. I felt a pang of nostalgia remembering the feeling of being excited by the ancient gods and myths and monsters – something I haven’t felt for a really long time.

The part of the story I didn’t enjoy as much was the plot twist itself. While I expected something similar, because it was obviously bound to happen from the start, I didn’t see that particular ending happening. It was logical, about that I have nothing contrary to say, however, it just seemed a bit… unnecessarily naive. The character who turned out to be the villain seemed to stand no real chance to win and so the stakes seemed so low that I didn’t even break a sweat worrying about the well-being of the heroes. Yeah, certain bad things that I cannot mention because of spoilers did happen, but nothing less than the ending was expected.

This kind of also made me consider how much more interesting it would be if we had a darker, more somber version of Wonder Woman out there. I did enjoy this book, as mentioned above, but isn’t it true that The Dark Knight, a much broodier and scary version of the previous Batman movies, is also the best one?

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Bonus round: Diana speaks so much in Bulgarian. I couldn’t not be amused. But even more so by the fact that the Bulgarian guy she speaks to doesn’t really react much, he’s just “Eh”. A real Bulgarian would set up a table, bring rakia, make a salad and call all of the other Bulgarians in the region to meet the new person.