Tag Archives: book review

Review: Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice

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Interview with the Vampire follows the story of Louis, a vampire made in the nineteenth century by the vampire Lestat in New Orleans.   It begins the series known as the Vampire Chronicles. Interview with the Vampire is a very enchanting book.  You get sucked in (no pun intended) from the very start by Rice’s fantastic prose and world building.

One of the things that I love about this book is the atmosphere.  It is dark as expected (it is about vampires) but it also seems to capture the essence of America and New Orleans.  If you read this book you will probably want to visit the place because the book really just makes you want to.

An interesting twist in this book from the normal vampire spiel, is the story of Claudia, a vampire made when she was five years old.  She is Louis daughter/best friend and as she gets older as a reader you really feel her pain, of being an adult trapped inside a child’s body for eternity.

The ending is fabulous.  I don’t want to spoil it, so I won’t say much, but it does leave you feeling for Louis.  The characters introduced in this book are so charismatic that you want to find out more about them, but at the same time that doesn’t make them all good guys.  I really liked that.

Overall I would give this book and eight out of ten because it is really good and this was my second time reading it and I loved it even more than the first time.

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Review: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

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 DSC00182This is the story of Santiago, and Andalusian shepherd boy who dreams of travelling the world in search of a treasure as extravagant as any ever found.  From his home in Spain he journeys to the exotic markets of Tangiers and then into the Egyptian desert, where a fateful encounter with the alchemist awaits him.

The Alchemist is a transforming novel about the essential wisdom of listening to our hearts, learning to read the omens strewn along life’s path and above all following our dreams.

The Alchemist follows the story of a boy named Santaigo as he goes about fulfilling his destiny; finding buried treasure.  I thought that this was a very inspirational book.  There are ups and downs on Santaigo’s path, but he remembers to never give up.  The cost of never trying to find the treasure is higher to him (and everyone) than failure.  This is a very well written book, and I read it pretty fast.  It is under two hundred pages in length.  I enjoyed it and from time to time I felt like it was on the verge of being mind-blowing.  I liked the spiritualism of the book and how it was about never giving up.

Overall I would give this a six out of ten.  I liked it a lot, but for me there was just something missing.

Book Review: The High Lord by Trudi Canavan

 

Synopsis:  

In the city of Imardin, where those who wield magic wield power, a young street-girl, adopted by the Magicians’ Guild, finds herself at the centre of a terrible plot that may destroy the entire world…

Sonea has learned much at the Magicians’ Guild and the other novices now treat her with a grudging respect.  But she cannot forget what she witnessed in the High Lord’s underground room – or his warning that the realm’s ancient enemy is growing in power once again.  As Sonea learns more, she begins to doubt her guildmaster’s word.  Could the truth really be as terrifying as Akkarin claims, or is he trying to trick her into assisting in some unspeakable dark scheme?  

Hi

When you pick up ‘The High Lord’ after reading the first two instalments, there is only one real question that you want the answer to – can Akkarin be trusted or is he lying about Sachaka?  This book answers that question early on, and then proceeds to bring about the final battle.  I can’t really say much more than what is in the synopsis because ‘The High Lord’ explains so much about what has been going on pre and during the series.

I will say that this was the first book I cried at in a long time (I read it before Me Before You by Jojo Moyes).   The Black Magician Trilogy is really character driven, and this is prominent in ‘The High Lord’.  The overall theme is about choices – those we make ourselves and those that are made for us by others, or by events outside of ourselves.  The choices in ‘The High Lord’ are sometimes stupid, sad or brave and they lead to real consequences.  The ending is unbelievingly bittersweet.  I think it is one of those endings that are hard to forget, because it isn’t quite the happy ending you want for these characters, especially after all the characters have been through.  It just seems so unfair!

This is the hardest review I written to date I think.  I love the book so much I just don’t know what to say about it without spoiling it for someone else.  I think that you’d have to just go read it to understand!    I will say that I knew most of the ending, but it still broke my heart.

Book Review: The Novice by Trudi Canavan

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Synopsis:

Imardin is a city of dark intrigues and deadly politics, where those who wield magic wield power.  Into this established order has blundered a young street-girl with extraordinary magical gifts.  Adopted by the Magician’s Guild, her life is changed forever – but for better or for worse?

Sonea knew that she’d face a tough time training within the Magician’s Guild but she little realised the level of animosity she would face from her fellow novices.  The sons and daughters of the most powerful families in the realm, her classmates seem determined to see her fail – at whatever cost.  But in accepting the protection of the Guild’s High Lord, Sonea may have embraced a far bleaker fate.  For High Lord Akkarin harbours a secret that is far darker than his magician’s robes.  

If you have ever been bullied, and want to read a good fantasy novel that deals with it in a shockingly realistic way, ‘The Novice’ is the book for you.  This is the second instalment in the Black Magician Trilogy, and follows on from ‘The Magician’s Guild’.  ‘The Novice’ follows Sonea as she enters into her studies and has to deal with a lot of nasty, stomach churning bullying.  After each attack I could nearly feel how worn-out she was from the bullies.  It also follows Lord Dannyl after he is appointed Second Ambassador to Elyne and his travels around the Allied lands investigating ancient magic with the scholar Tayend.   The impact of bullying on both Sonea in the present, and Dannyl in the past is a major theme, as is acceptance.  As you read certain revelations are made, which I won’t spoil here.  However, I will say that most fantasy books that I have read tend to brush over homo-sexuality so it was refreshing to read about it here, in-depth and involving main characters.

At the end of ‘The Magician’s Guild’ it was revealed that High Lord Akkarin practices forbidden Black Magic, and that really no-one who is in on the secret knows how to deal with it.  This is the story-arch of the series, and of course it is the main conflict of the book.  Between the bullying at school, and dealing with the High Lord, Sonea is in hell.  I really felt for her, because it was just so cruel.  I really hated Akkarin for some of the stunts he pulled.  The situation just kept getting worse and worse, until the end, but I’m not going to spoil that either.

‘The Novice’ was an exciting book to read.  I engaged with what was going on, and like I said earlier I just really emphasised with the characters, especially Sonea. It was a real step up from ‘The Magician’s Guild’ and I appreciated that.  I loved this book.  I can’t really say anything bad about it, other than that the first hundred pages are a bit too much of a summary of the first book for my liking.  The end is a total cliff-hanger, and I picked up the next book – ‘The High Lord’- very soon after putting this one down.

Book Review – The Magicians’ Guild by Trudi Canavan

Synopsis: Each year the magicians of Imardin gather to purge the city streets of vagrants, urchins and miscreants.  Masters of the disciplines of magic, they know that no one can oppose them.  But their protective shield is not as impenetrable as they believe.  

As the mob is herded from the city, a young street girl, furious at the authorities’ treatment of her family and friends, hurls a stone at the shield, putting all her rage behind it.  To the amazement of all who bear witness, the stone passes unhindered through the barrier and renders a magician unconscious. 

It is an inconceivable act, and the guild’s worst fear has been realised – an untrained magician is loose on the streets.  She must be found, and quickly, before her uncontrolled powers unleash forces that will destroy both her, and the city that is her home. 

Hi

Have you ever picked up a book and decided to judge it, not on its actual merits, but on your ideas of a genre you know nothing about?  I have, with this very book.  I regretted it big time, when a few years later my brother read it and said I should give it a try, and I ended up loving it.  I pretty much kicked myself over it, until I reasoned that I hadn’t really explored the fantasy genre the first time, whereas when I read ‘The Magicians’ Guild’ earlier this year I had developed a love for fantasy.

I wasn’t necessarily wrong the first time though.  Close-minded but not wrong.  ‘The Magicians’ Guild’ is a good book.  I really liked it, and I loved the Black Magician Trilogy overall, but… it is not a great advertisement for the rest of the series.  It has a lot of flaws.  It drags a lot at the beginning.  The book itself works more as a set up to the rest of the trilogy, then as part of the overall story.

It is a nice read.  Easy to get into and, once the first part is over you really start to fall in love with the characters.  I was going through a major reading slump (over a years worth of slumpiness) when I decided to give this book a try, and it got me out of it.  I found myself suddenly reading a hundred pages in a sitting! Once Sonea is captured by the guild, and Rothen and Dannyl try to get her to trust them it really picks up.  As a reader, it  became clear these characters were becoming a family.  That pays off in the later books.

I liked that the book dealt with larger themes, such as class and poverty.  It was interesting, because unlike many books that I have read, Sonea never gives up on her ideas on those two subjects.  Where she comes from is a part of her, and just because she is living a new, richer life doesn’t mean that the slums don’t exist anymore.  Magic is not a heal-all here, and I admire that.

‘The Magicians’ Guild’ is one of those books that hints at the great things that are to come, but shows very little of them.  I would recommend this to anyone who wants to get into a new fantasy trilogy.  Emphasis on the trilogy part there.  I think as a standalone this novel is okay, but if you see it as the opener, and then continue to ‘The Novice’ then you will probably enjoy it more.

Overall, I gave it four stars on Goodreads, because it was a throughly enjoyable read, that I compared to eating chocolate because once I got into it, I couldn’t put it down.  Just writing this review has me wanting to go re-read the series again, and I’m not a big re-reader!

Reaction: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

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On Friday I reviewed ‘Me Before You’ by Jojo Moyes, but on further reflection I’ve decided to express my reaction to the book as well.  In a way this is a spoiler review, so if you don’t want to ruin the book for yourself before you read it, don’t read the rest of this post.

I loved this book.  I really did. But when I finished reading I really didn’t know what to think.  I was so upset.  I googled it and read as many reviews as possible, because I just couldn’t get it out of my head.  I just wanted to talk about it with somebody, you know?  So I ended up annoying both my mother and brother (who haven’t read the book) by telling them the story.  My mother said it was too sad for her to read, now that she knew the ending.

I was in tears for a large section of the novel.   I think that Jojo Moyes did a great job in giving the reader hope that Will would choose to live.  I know that I couldn’t believe he’d done it until about halfway through Chapter 27: Crown Prosecution Service Advisory letter thingy.  I started crying way before that though, around 85% on the Kindle.  The bit where Lou confesses her love for Will, but he says it’s not enough was hard to read.  It was always just so believable, which is something that might not have been if Moyes hadn’t done such a great job.  I also found it interesting (after a couple of days) how it could easily have gone either way – in terms of the story it would have worked for him to live or die.  I thought that was very life-like, because Will had options, even if he didn’t see them.  It was always about choice, as pointed out by the people Lou speaks to online.

‘Do you know what, Louisa?  It would be nice – just for once – if someone paid attention to what I wanted.’

Will Chapter 4

I also liked how Will was always more than his disability.  His final decision was his own to make as a person, and as a reader I didn’t hate him for it or felt cheated in any way.  Moyes based the book on a real life issue, and it is clear that she wanted to portray it as realistically as possible.  Camilla Traynor is another example of this.  Her chapter was actually one of my favourites.  She was the parent with everything to lose, and she was the one that everyone, including Lou’s mother, blamed.  Mr. Traynor didn’t get the same criticism, which is an entire debate on its own really.

After the last scene with Will (Chapter 26) I have to say I felt a little disassociated with the book.  I think that the epilogue was okay, but it also fell kind of short.  The way Will’s death is conveyed to the reader is impersonal as well.  I felt like the book had already ended.  Saying that I think a lot of books that end with a main character dying end this way, because it is such an emotional event.

The humour in the book was excellent too.  It was very British.  I was either laughing or crying with ‘Me Before You’ really.

If anyone reads this – what did you think of ‘Me Before You’?

Book Review: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick.
What Lou doesn’t know is she’s about to lose her job or that knowing what’s coming is what keeps her sane.
Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he’s going to put a stop to that.
What Will doesn’t know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they’re going to change the other for all time.

I purchased this book because I assumed, from the cover, that it would be a very uplifting story.  In many ways it was but it was also an emotional rollercoaster for me.  It is hard to really discuss the book without spoiling it for others (and trust me this is the kind of book that you don’t want spoiled, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to re-read it).

It is and it isn’t a ‘romance’.  The two main characters fall in love.  Lou and Will have amazing chemistry and I spent most the book waiting for them to kiss.  However, this book is much more than a cheesy romance.  It makes you think about things, sometimes uncomfortable ones.  Will, despite all his wealth, is not living the life he wants.  Neither is Lou, but she doesn’t realise it until well into the book.  The premise of the book is that Will wants to commit suicide.  Lou doesn’t want him to.  Therein lies the conflict to the story.

I loved this book.  I actually couldn’t put it down, because I just wanted to know how it all worked out.  The characters are complex and the humour in the book really keeps you going.  This is a book that I think everyone should read, because it tells an important story – one that is current and controversal.  It makes you think about the day-to-day realities of news stories and really see it from another point of view, without being preachy.

Review: Queen of the Darkness by Anne Bishop

Following on from my review of ‘Heir to the Shadows’ I will go ahead and review ‘Queen of the Darkness’ as if the reader has read the first two novels in the series. 
Character growth is probably my favourite thing about ‘Queen of the Darkness’.  This is the book where all the characters come together and start to form a real family.  It is a joy to read about how the three main narrators – Saetan, Daemon and Lucivar – have changed from the first instalment ‘Daughter of the Blood’.  Lucivar especially has grown into a man in a way that he wasn’t before (spoiler) he is now married, has a son and has his own ruling responsibilities as well (end spoiler).  Jaenelle and Daemon also reunite (I don’t think that really needs to be forewarned as a spoiler) and it is really fun to read about their awkward yet cute early beginnings in their relationship.  The most touching and laugh-out-loud relationship in this book for me is Saetan and Daemon – they both begin to understand what being each others mirror truly means.  They are both supportive and wary of each other. 
It isn’t surprising that with all this character growth and family bonding that ‘Queen of the Darkness’ also contains a lot more risk factor.  The characters have a lot more to lose when the baddies start making some moves as they now not only have Jaenelle to protect they also have their new family.  I think that the level of sacrifice is high but it also makes the story swerve away from the cheesiness that sometimes it goes into.  Everything has a price after all, and that price is pretty extreme.  Daemon and Saetan are probably the ones who make the most personal sacrifices, but also do a whole lot of other characters, many of which are characters that have played a relevant role in the earlier books. 
 The baddies – Hekatah and Dorothea – are still pretty bad.  We don’t see the same shocking displays of evil that characterised ‘Daughter of the Blood’ but there are still hints of who they really are.  I’m pretty hard to please when it comes to villains though – the only series that really satisfies me in these terms is ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’.  Overall though, I think ‘Queen of the Darkness’ has its share of dark and disturbing moments – what certain characters have to do to play the nasty game highlights the standard of evil in the series, and as always some of the things included are pretty graphic. 
The climax of the trilogy  for me was okay.  I wasn’t overly sold on it despite the fact that ‘Queen of the Darkness’ is a strong book.  I think that the way the conflict was resolved was a little out of nowhere – obviously the reader wasn’t supposed to know what is about to happen, but even the way the main characters (the ones who set it up) come up with it is a bit off in my opinion.  I still think that it was a decent, and logical solution, I just also thought that it smacked of a cop-out.  Just a little bit.  Also, it basically advertises ‘The Invisible Ring’ as an explanation of what the characters here do.  I know ‘The Invisible Ring’ came out after the trilogy, but still it feels a bit like a way of getting out of really fleshing out why Jaenelle does what she does – she just simply gets inspired by characters that haven’t made an appearance in the story thus far. 
 After the climax the story is still good.  We see the rebuilding of many things, and also see that the emotional toil of what went down is something that the characters will live with for the foreseeable future.  There are some heartbreaking moments, but also a couple of happy ones that many readers have been waiting for.  
‘Queen of the Darkness’ is a heartbreaking read in some respects but it is also heartwarming in others.  The entire trilogy, which can be bought in an omnibus version, is something that to me is special.  I bought the book on a whim, and I believe that I would have never have read it at all only I was doing the fifty book challenge that year.  I was very unsure of it, because it is the type of series that is both very unique but also very hard to get an impression of based on reviews or summaries.  I know that I found the book an easy read but also one with a very rich world and fascinating characters that I couldn’t help but root for.   I think that the best way to recommend the trilogy, or the rest of the series for that matter, is to say that the books are cult.  They do have bits that are a bit out there, but the characters and the world are always believable at their core, and the people who like these books tend to really like them perhaps because of this. 

Review: I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett

Hey
A MAN WITH NO EYES.  NO EYES AT ALL.  TWO TUNNES IN HIS HEAD…
Somewhere – some time – there’s a tangled ball of evil and spite, of hatred and malice, that has woken up. 
And it’s waking up all the old stories too – stories about evil old withces….
‘I Shall Wear Midnight’ is the thirty eight novel in the Discworld series.  It is set on the Discworld, which is basically a disc supported by a bunch of elephants, on the back of a giant turtle.  It is clearly a fantasy series, and a very funny one at that.  In many ways in is a satire of the fantasy genre, especailly in the early books.  ‘I Shall Wear Midnight’ is one of the Discworld novels that are for a younger audience, but many fully grown fans think the books for younger readers are just as good as the normal ones.  This novel follows the character of Tiffany Aching, a sixteen year old witch who has featured in three prior novels. Even though this book, like the rest of the Discworld series can be read out of order or on its own, it helps to have read the earlier instalments pertaining to her. 
I am lost for words at what to say about ‘I Shall Wear Midnight’.  I love the Discworld novels, they are always funny but also make me think about how I see things around me.  Sir Terry Pratchett has this amazing ability to make people happy through his books, while also telling more truth in his works than most authors can get away with.  ‘I Shall Wear Midnight’ is one of those novels that does an especially good job at it.  It is sad and at times frightening, but not in a gory, cheap way.  This novel begins with the deaths of two people – an old man and a newborn baby.  The first from old age, the other because a young woman’s father beats her half to death causing her to lose her baby.  Tiffany has to deal with both, in her line of work as a witch.  She also has to deal with prejudice, and the impact it can have on people’s lives.  She reflects over the human cost of hate – an old woman was killed years ago for looking like a witch.   The enemy Tiffany faces this time is not one that she can destroy – instead she can only get rid of the Cunning Man for a short period of time.  He basically is hate. 
Despite all the above, ‘I Shall Wear Midnight’ is also a very sweet and fun book.  One of the themes of the novel is that of self-fulfillment ‘Ye know full well that the meaning of life is to find your gift.  To find your gift is happiness.  Never tae find it is a misery.’  Jeannie.  Happiness is a subject that is explored, and not to spoil too much for anyone, but Tiffany learns that she has to know herself and trust herself in order to succeed.  Additionally, the Nac Mac Feegles are back, and as always they are hilarious.  But, like the rest of the novel, the reader gets to see a little bit under their skin which in a sense makes them more real, and funnier.  The prose is very electric, and at times very touching.  To quote the  Daily Telegraph at the back of the book ‘A passion for language, wordplay, and puns bursts from the pages’
‘I Shall Wear Midnight’ was a novel that I had wanted to read for a while, and in a way dreaded reading.  I love all the ‘witches’ books that I have read in the Discworld series, and am not ashamed to say that I am attached to the characters.  I knew that this was potentially the last book that features these characters and I think the ending made it clear that Tiffany Aching will not feature in a Discworld novel again.  I found it an emotional book, but also a very wise and honest one.  I would recommend this to anyone, because it is just brilliant.  Dare I say a masterpiece? 

 

Review: A Dance with Dragons

Hello World!

The fifth volume in the greatest epic work of the modern age. 

The future of the Seven Kingdoms hangs in the balance.

In the east, Daenerys, last scion of House Targaryen, her dragons grown to terrifying maturity, rules as queen of a city built on dust and death, beset by enemies.

Now that her whereabouts are known many are seeking Daenerys and her dragons.  Among them the dwarf, Tyrion Lannister, who has escaped King’s Landing with a price on his head, wrongfully condemned to death for the murder of his nephew, King Joffery.  But not before killing his hated father, Lord Tywin.

To the north lies the great Wall of ice and stone – a structure only as strong as those guarding it.  Eddard Stark’s bastard son Jon Snow has been elected the 998th Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, but he has enemies both in the Watch and beyond the Wall, where the wildling armies are massing for an assault.

On all sides bitter conflicts are reigniting, played out by a grand cast of outlaws and priests, soldiers and skinchangers, nobles and slaves.  The tides of destiny will inevitably lead to the greatest dance of all… “

Review: A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin

I don’t really know what to say about ‘A Dance with Dragons’ other than that it was an amazing read.  As a newish fan, I had only been anticipating the book for a year, but still the wait was worth it.  For those that don’t know ‘A Dance with Dragons’ is the fifth book in the fantasy series ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’.  It centres around a lot of characters, spread out across the fictional world of the books, but focused mainly on a place called Westeros.  The fifth book continues the stories of the characters of the north – such as Jon Snow as he comes to terms with leading the Night’s Watch – and across the sea – such as Daenerys as she debates her honor as the Queen of Meereen.   It also follows the larger story of Westeros – the continuing war for power that involves almost everybody on some level.

 Oh, and ‘Winter is Coming’ has taken on a literal meaning, which leads to some of the most beautiful and engrossing description I have read in fantasy.   For instance ‘Under the snow lay grey ash and cinders, and here and there a blackened beam or a pile of bones adorned with scraps of skin and hair.  Icicles long as lances hung from the battlements and fringed the towers like an old man’s stiff white whiskers.  But inside the godswood, the ground remained unfrozen, and steam rose off the hot pools, as warm as baby’s breath’. (The Prince of Winterfell, p 486) Another line I loved, and noticed throughout the book was ‘The Night is dark and full of terrors’.   For me the book was very easy to read and really pulled me in from the beginning.   The quailty of the writing and development of the characters was something that I expected from the previous books, but I think it is fair to say that ‘A Dance with Dragons’ raised the standard yet again. Additionally, I enjoyed how the book changed my perception of certain characters such as Reek/Theon. I hated him before this book, but found myself skiping forward to read his chapters, and hoping against hope that somehow he would escape and survive.

In conclusion, I would say that anyone who is interested in fantasy should defo read ‘A Song of Ice of Fire’.  ‘A Dance with Dragons’ is a great read, though very long – it is 959 pages in hardback.  The only criticism that I can make is that certain POVs popped up too much with very little action happening to justify them.  However, I can see why in cases such as Daenerys, that this was neccessory for her development.   It is certainly worth the price of hardback books as it is extremely enjoyable – and as a fan of the series it offers some really big reveals that I don’t think should be missed.  Also, it sheds more light on past events, while creating more mysteries and and questions for the reader.