The Ninth Rain – Jen Williams

The Ninth RainThe story: The once feared and revered Eborans have fallen into ruin. Once they were seen as the defenders of the human race, saving mankind from threat of invasion from the Jure’lia – an ancient enemy believed gone for good. Now they’re dying off, and their city is crumbling around them.

Elsewhere, Lady Vincenza ‘Vintage’ de Grazon is determined to learn more about the Jure’lia, and hires Tormalin, one of the few remaining healthy Eboran’s, to assist her. Setting out to understand the truth of what happened after the last Jure’lian invasion, they’re joined by Noon, a fell-witch escaped from a prison-like institution known as the Winnowery. Soon they learn that the Jure’lia may pose a new threat – one more deadly than ever before.  text dividerMy thoughts: It’s been a long time since I read a fantasy novel that I enjoyed as much as this one. A unique blend of fantasy and science fiction, it’s the first in an epic new series that draws on elements of many different tried and tested themes – but it manages to take these to a whole new level through excellent writing, fantastic world building and wonderful, well-constructed main characters.

I loved that the main characters didn’t fall into the usual tropes. As an example, Vintage is noticeably older than the average female lead in fantasy fiction. As an independent woman in her forties, she knows who she is and what she wants. She’s intelligent, witty and commanding and really came alive to me. In the same vein, Tormalin, the main male character, is a different kind of hero. He’s vain, proud and a little selfish, but at the same time charming and fiercely loyal. Lastly, Noon has been treated horribly by everyone around her and is terrified to use her powers. She’s slow to trust, and at first, a bit of a liability.

The book is told from the various different viewpoints of the central characters, combined with extracts from letters and various papers, and this really helped to build up a vivid and convincing picture of the world that Jen Williams has created.

Like every great fantasy, there’s plenty of action and some excellent twists that I didn’t see coming, but it’s also well balanced with plenty of humour and emotion. It ends on a massive cliff-hanger, and I’ve been eagerly awaiting the release of the second book in the series – which I’ve finally managed to get my hands on this month!

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Has anyone read this book or its sequel? Let me know what you thought!

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The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, Arundhati Roy

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness

I’ve been putting off reviewing The Ministry of Utmost Happiness for ages – as despite my very best efforts to like this book, it just wasn’t for me!

Arundhati Roy is known for her political activism, and her views and opinions are made abundantly clear in her writing. Through the eyes of her characters, she paints a stark and vivid picture of India after the partition, the conflict in Kashmir and the rigid caste system against a backdrop of politics and religion.

Having a better  knowledge of key events in India’s history as well as important recent political figures would have been so helpful here, as I spent a LOT of the time looking references and background up on the internet.

This was the side of things I did somewhat enjoy, as I like  learning more about different cultures and histories. However, without some existing knowledge (internet based or otherwise!) of recent Indian politics, history and the key players, this book would have been impossible to make sense of.

The parts of this book that have stuck with me are the stories about the ordinary people, caught up in the atrocities and injustices that surround them with no hope of breaking free. From the villagers in the Kashmir to the people living on the street in Delhi, this is a recurring theme. There is a stark contrast between the haves and the have-nots. On the one hand, people are moving forward into the future, with technology and tourism and everything that goes with it, while for others this is hopelessly out of reach.

However, the book is long and meandering. It skips from place to place and time to time, sometimes narrating events from a distance and sometimes homing right in on the details of a particular character. Often the story veers off into a long and extended anecdote or political discussion. I personally found that it really difficult to follow the main thread of the story.

I also found it hard to relate to the characters. We’re told details about their lives but they didn’t come alive to me and it all felt quite detached. There are also so many characters, some of which seem to have nothing to do with the main story. I understand that all of this is intended to build a rich picture of India and the different people that live there, but I would have preferred to have more of a personal connection to the people around who the plot revolves.

Clearly Roy was trying to raise awareness of some really important issues, but for me the writing style felt heavy and dense. It felt like this was a book that was written to make a point, rather than to be enjoyable for readers. Each page felt like a bit of a slog to read and I had to force myself to keep picking it back up. I finished it with a sense of achievement and relief, but I couldn’t say that I enjoyed it.

Mini reviews: Unpopular opinions

So far this year I’ve read 70 books – and written reviews for only a fraction of these. The chances are that I’m never going to get around to writing full reviews for every book I’ve ever read, so I thought I’d group together a few recent reads from the YA fantasy genre and do a post of mini-reviews!

The reason why these ones haven’t yet made it into full reviews is that I didn’t enjoy them enough to recommend them, and I generally don’t like writing full length negative reviews unless I feel really strongly about them.

Judging from reviews of these books I’ve seen on the blogosphere, I get the feeling that my opinions on most of these are going to be unpopular. I know others loved them, but for the most part, these ones just weren’t for me.

I know that some people might ask why I’m writing reviews that are mainly negative. Well, the reviews and the opinions of other bloggers have a big impact on the books I pick up, and there are plenty of books in this genre that I’ve really enjoyed recently because of blogger recommendations.

But I think it’s really helpful to read a range of reviews with different opinions. I mainly saw positive reviews of these books on the blogosphere, but I think if I’d read reviews that were more varied I could have been a bit pickier and chosen books that I personally would have enjoyed more.

Let me know what you think! Did you enjoy/not enjoy any of the books below?
Do you write reviews for every books you read even if you weren’t a fan?How do you feel about writing negative reviews?  Continue reading

Three Days and a Life – Pierre Lemaitre

Three Days and a LifeThe story: Aged just twelve, Antoine acts out of in a fit of anger, with horrific consequences. From that day, he lives his life in the constant shadow of shame and doubt, driven by an overwhelming desire to escape from the consequences of his actions. As an adult, he’s determined to get away from the small town where he grew up and make a different life for himself. But when unforeseen circumstances draw him back home and into the orbit of old friends and acquaintances, events transpire to bring old truths to the surface, no matter how hard Antoine tries to keep them buried forever.

 

My thoughts: Pierre Lemaitre is a French crime writer that I’ve been following for a while, and I think I’ve read all of the books he’s written that have been translated into English. His previous novels have been much more intense and focus on a series of grisly murders and psychological abuse. In contrast, Three Days and a Life was a bit of a departure from what I was used to reading from this author.

  Continue reading

American War – Omar El Akkad

The story…

Set in the near future, America as we know it has been irrevocably changed by war, natural disasters and a devastating man-made virus. Old tensions between the north and the south, reignited over the issue of fossil fuels, lead to a war that spans decades. Sarat Chesnut is just six years old when the Second American War breaks out, but she and her family are changed forever by the horrors that it unleashes. As she grows up, Sarat is drawn deeper and deeper into the shadowy world of the militant resistance and splinter groups that are determined to do whatever is required to achieve their goals.

My thoughts…

Omar El Akkad describes an America that has been torn apart by civil war. In the south, refugee camps become permanent homes for those displaced by bombs, violence and the changing, inhospitable landscape. Efforts on both sides to reduce tension generally end in failure. Young people grow up and are recruited into increasingly radical militant groups, determined to defend their home against all the odds.

Sarat is one of those young people. Faced with poverty, displacement and loss from an early age, she is drawn into playing an important role in the resistance. As readers, we’re powerless to do anything but watch as she is shaped by the world around her into an instrument of war. As she becomes more and more immersed in this world, the consequences have a huge impact on her personally. Continue reading

August wrap up

Books read: 5
This month I read fewer books than usual, but those that I did read were longer and quite intense (4 3 2 1 was just under 900 pages while The Ministry of Utmost Happiness tackled some really complex social and political issues and was definitely not a quick book to read). I really enjoyed The Word is Murder – which was a really unique take on the classic detective novel.

  • The Good Daughter, Karin Slaughter
  • The Word is Murder, Anthony Horowitz
  • The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, Arundhati Roy
  • The Readymade Thief, Augustus Rose
  • 4 3 2 1, Paul Auster


Books acquired: 7
I was much more reserved this month than I was last month – acquiring just 7 books compared to last month’s 24. I’m really looking forward to reading City of Circles and American War, both of which have been on my wishlist for a while. Continue reading

The Word is Murder – Anthony Horowitz

The Word is MurderThe story…

Renowned fiction author Anthony Horowitz is approached by an old acquaintance, a jaded and disagreeable investigator, with an idea of a new, true crime novel. A particularly perplexing murder has just been committed, and Hawthorne is convinced the story could be a big hit, providing they can solve the case.

My thoughts…

This book has one of the most unique concepts of all the books I’ve ever read. Even now I’m still slightly baffled by it. Leaving aside the story for the moment, the idea of having Horowitz write himself as a character in his own novel is very odd. There are so many personal details in the book that must be autobiographical – for example, detailed descriptions about his own past as a scriptwriter for TV programme Foyles War. In addition to this, the fictional murder storyline is entwined into these real life details. At least, I assume that this storyline is fictional – even now I’m not quite sure. Continue reading