The Wise Man’s Fear – Patrick Rothfuss

The Wise Man’s Fear is the second novel in the Kingkiller Chronicles following the much acclaimed The Name of the Wind. I recently reread it as I FINALLY purchased my own copy of the book (rather than continuing to steal my mothers). I’ll keep my review general to the series, no spoilers I promise! This story follows Kvothe, a man of legends.

“I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep. You may have heard of me.”

Both books are told in two parts, the present where Kvothe is now simply Kote, innkeeper in hiding from his true identity and the past that Kvothe is narrating. Telling his story from the beginning, the whole truth and nothing but. The books constantly switch from past to present, slowly telling his impressive story.

 

These books, in my opinion, are exemplary works of fantasy fiction. Rothfuss has created a rich and enchanting world that Kvothe has lived in with both books travelling far and wide stretching your imagination. The language is poetic and draws you in. I had forgotten just how beautiful the prose is and was happily reminded its my reread. The books contain many unsolved mysteries.Why was Kvothe expelled from the University? Does he ever avenge his family? What of his and Denna’s friendship? How does he ever end up hiding in a small town, so diminished and broken? The first novel introduces them, while the second builds upon them leading to the third and final book that apparently tells all. I can’t begin to imagine how all will fit in to the last novel but I do know that I can’t wait to find out!

 

Kvothe is a great character and the reader will thoroughly enjoy the contradictions of the vivacity and audacity of his younger self to the self-doubting innkeeper you witness in the present. You can’t help but feel drawn to finding out what happens in between and hoping that his spark returns. Kvothe is joined by a host of other memorable and loveable characters as well as the usual host of villains and bad guys. Each of the characters are unique and well constructed. The villains are either terrifying or downright hateful. The quirky characters are certainly that, leaving you scratching your head. The loveable ones you find yourself caring for just as much as Kvothe does.

 

I would highly urge anyone who enjoys this genre to give this series a go (if you haven’t already). These are up there with my favourite fantasy series and the third book is my most anticipated future release. The only downside is that upon finishing the first two books you are left in a state of limbo as Rothfuss has not yet set a publishing date and seems adamant not to rush it. As much as my mind screams for completion of the series, i can’t help but feel a great sense of respect for Rothfuss, refusing to push forward publication just to pump out a novel for the gratification of others. I have every expectation that when Doors of Stone is released it will be everything I have dreamed of and more because he will have waited until the novel is worthy. Until then there is also a novella and a short story that tell the side stories of a couple of the characters to keep you entertained. I give both The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear five lutes, so important to Kvothe.

 

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The Goldfinch – Donna Tartt

The Goldfinch. Much acclaimed. Varying opinions. Finally my opportunity to read it myself and after loving The Secret History I was ready to delve into Tartt’s writing once again.  The Goldfinch tells the story of Theo,  who when caught up in a terrorist attack at a museum, dazed and confused, takes the titular famous painting and the ring of a dying man along with some strange instructions. What follows is his story and the ramifications of his actions that day. Falling from his life immediately after the tragedy up until years in the future. This is another intricate, layered story by Tartt that draws you in rather quickly and captivates you.

I flew through the first half of this book. I wasn’t prepared for the book to go off with such a bang (literally) and was scrambling to find out what happened, how Theo was going to deal with such a harrowing situation at the tender age of thirteen. I loved reading from his perspective as he grows and develops over the years, trying to keep his head above water. Then the book jumps forward. Theo is all grown up, an adult (responsible, that is debatable) and this is where my feelings for the book complicate. I don’t like Theo anymore. I don’t agree with his decisions, I can’t respect where he has found himself. Most frustrating of all for me is that he ends up being one of hose people who float through their life without making they own decisions, letting others do it for him and inevitably get him in to trouble.

 

A redeeming feature for me was the host of supporting characters. I loved Hobie and Pippa. Boris and Mrs Barbour were intriguing characters. They each lifted the story and kept Theo’s life interesting, even if it was at his expense at times. Each vivid in their own right ranging from downright likeable to the kind of person you don’t want in your life purely because of their destructiveness. The last part of the book picks up the pace immeasurably with the whole story coming together to an intense climax that is alluded to  in the first chapter. Finally it all becomes clear and I found myself thrilled and wanting to know ultimately how it all ends.

 

Tarot’s prose is a highlight as always. I love the way she writes, gripping and pulling you in. Writing with such brutal honestly, no false happy endings here. You must all pay your price for your actions and live with the consequences. Parts of me were screaming for a sliver of a happy ending, however, Tartt keeps the conclusion honest. I found I didn’t quite connect with it in the same way as I did with The Secret History but it was still a memorable read and left me with a desire to complete the trilogy, to read her third book The Little Friend (this will happen, soon). I give The Goldfinch three pieces of artwork, the centre of this book.

 

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The Bronze Horseman – Paullina Simons

This is a book that has been suggested to me multiple times since I joined bookstagram. How could I not (finally) get on board? I do have a weakness for WWII historical fictions as you may have picked up by now. This story follows Tatiana and Alexander, who meet on the day war is declared in Russia. Alexander is an officer in the Russian Army with a deadly secret. Tatiana is an inexperienced seventeen year old about to embark on her first job. Their lives are change forever by the war as they fight for their relationship, which has several, rather large, hurdles. The war may be the least of their concerns.

 

This book got off to a slightly bumpy start for me. Tatiana frustrated me early on with some very poor decisions that seemed a little much even for a girl of seventeen. Thankfully, she redeems herself with a lot of character growth and self-awareness as the war and her relationship with Alexander progresses. I instantly fell for the two lovers. Their instant connection and devotion to each other is beautiful and you find yourself investing in their future and cursing all their hurdles. I was caught out reading way past my bedtime the first night I started it and the few that followed.

 

There are definite flaws in the novel, reviews on this book are very mixed. I can appreciate why people may not have fallen in love with it. There appears to be some inconsistencies in Tatiana and Alexanders relationship at times in the early stages. Their feelings towards each other switch back and forth a little too much. Not to mention by the ned of the book I was sick of reading their same argument over and over again (was the book just highlighting how realistic the feeling is?) but I found myself skimming their last few arguments. I also would have liked to see a little more depth to Tatiana’s family members. They are portrayed very superficially and quite negatively as the chapter progress, I’m assuming to increase sympathy for the young lovers. However,  I would have preferred a few more shades of grey in their personalities. Rather than her mother and fathering cruel or her sister being stupid I would have liked to see more to these characters, more reason behind their actions. These flaws are reduced to fleeting thoughts due to irresistible lure of young love and devotions amidst war-torn Russia and ultimately did not stop me from becoming entranced with the story. Simons is skilled at developing a complex, layered relationship that has you emotionally invested from the beginning.

 

I also enjoyed learning about communist Russia. How people lived, the communal living in particular. The danger of the NKVD, the secret police, there to search out anyone not 100% loyal to Mother Russia. It is a fascinating setting and I would love to read more about their way of life back then. I have to admit I found the book quite long in the second half, wondering when it would finish. As much as i did enjoy this book I would almost be reluctant to pick up the following books. Tatiana and Alexander have had enough heartache for one life time and I can only imagine it will continue from there.

 

Overall this was a very enjoyable book. Pick it up if you enjoy a beautiful blossoming romance despite all odds with a touch of erotic action. The blissful ignorance in the early stages of their friendship before the war really took hold was intoxicating to read. I also think Dimitri has a special place in hell with Dolores Umbridge for my most hated villains. Nothing like a good bad guy to spice things up. It was definitely a conflicting book in my eyes but a great read nonetheless. I give The Bronze Horseman three of the ever ominous bombs raining down from the war.

 

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Old books.

There is nothing like reading an old book, it’s pages yellowed with age. Spine cracked from hours of pages perused. Don’t get me wrong I love the feel of a pristine book all shiny and new and full of promise. But there is something about old books that makes my soul happy.

 

Wandering the disorganised rows of piled up books, formerly loved in second hand bookshops is an exciting prospect. Never knowing what you will turn up. Obscure books, old editions, hundreds of titles you have never seen before. It’s a magical place akin to setting foot in Narnia.

 

Buying an old book from a second hand bookstore begs many questions. How old is this book? (I know, you can open the cover to solve this mystery) Where has it been? One owner? Many? How many times have these pages been read? Did those doing the reading it love it? Or dislike it, hence, why it is here? Are there inscriptions inside the book? Little scraps of paper used as bookmarks?

 

Each book is a mystery, with a secret story to tell. One that will remain untold, only allowing for you to imagine. Imagine the history of this book and all the places it has been. Each time I read a book that I picked up from a secondhand shop I am reminded of a quote. A quote from a favourite book of mine, The Shadow of The Wind. A quote I will leave you with.

 

Every book, every volume you see here, has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived and dreamed it. Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grow and strengthens. – Carlos Ruiz Zafon 

 

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Me Before You: Book & Movie Review

Considering I watched the movie and read the book within a 48 hour period I thought I would review them both together. For those of you living under a rock that haven’t either read, watched or at least heard of Me Before You it follows the heartbreaking yet incredibly beautiful story of Lou and Will. Lou is a quirky, chatty ball of awkwardness who finds herself desperately out of a job. Will is quadriplegic man struggling to come to terms with the limitations of his new life. His mother employs Lou as a companionship carer for six months. What follows is their equally hilarious and heartbreaking story that drags you right in and hits you in the feels. Both mediums will require tissues.

 

I have been holding off reading this book for months and months and months. My past is littered with movies that just did not live up to my expectations set by the book and I was determined to not make that mistake here. Little did I know that this would join the (tiny) ranks of books and movies that I love equally along with The Dressmaker and The Notebook. This in my opinion is all thanks to the fact that it was Jojo Moyes adapting her novel to the screenplay. Many of the lines from the movie were taken straight from the book. While there were numerous changes, I felt that they were all necessary to keep the focus on the main storyline. In fact I found it interesting to find out that several of the sub-plots that were removed from the movie were filmed and planned to be in there but they were just not able to make the scenes work. Me Before You was one of the best movies I have watched this year. I have not found myself so immersed in a movie to that extent in a long time. The actors were perfect for their roles. My notable mentions go out to Emilia Clarke (Lou) – seriously is there anyone more adorable?, Sam Claflin (Will), Janet McTeer (Camilla) and Matthew Lewis (Patrick) as the best comedic relief ever. They brought their characters to life with such perfection. In fact, can I go see it again?

 

I sat down to read the book today knowing I had the whole day ahead of me to dedicate to it and unsurprisingly finished it. I enjoyed discovering the back stories and changes that were made for the film adaptation. They give you a deeper understanding of the characters, Louisa in particularly, and added a lot more depth to the plot. It was interesting to read her thoughts and her friendship with Will grows watching her slowly come to the realisation that she was falling in love with him. The scene where she shaves Will for the first time in particular stuck with me. It was a beautiful scene in the movie, however, the way it is written makes you truly understand how intimate an act it was and how it was real turning point in their relationship. That passage is potentially one for my favourites. The only thing I didn’t like was how the book made you realise how unfair Lou’s family could be, how harmful some of their actions were to her self-esteem. Overall though, I felt the book was well written, easy to read and full of real characters. The odd change in perspectives also added a different dimension to the book, changing things up every now and then.

 

Both the book and movie lived up to the immense hype for me. I felt they complimented each other well and you can enjoy both or each separately. The characters were memorable and loveable. While the plot is somewhat predictable (you KNOW they will fall in love, you KNOW it won’t end well) yet you are still kept on you toes with the finer details and nuances. I would highly recommend getting on the band wagon! I give Me before You, both the book and movie, four bumble bees for Louisa.

 

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Ghostwritten – David Mitchell

Ghostwritten is David Mitchell’s first novel, paving the way for his future stories. Several of which I am already familiar with, the rest of which are on my TBR list at some point. I fell in love with his writing style in Cloud Atlas and this book follows in a similar format. How is a youth with a passion for jazz music living in Tokyo linked to an Englishman slaving away for the man in Hong Kong? What ties a femme fatale museum worker in Petersburg involved in art theft to a promiscuous ghostwriter by day/musician by night? Mitchell weaves his story across the world in his unique and mysterious way, never fully revealing anything. Leaving the reader to use their imagination. The book is told in ten parts, one for each of the interwoven characters. Each telling their part of the story.

 

I really enjoyed the format that Mitchell also used in Cloud Atlas, reading about these very distinct lives of each character. Some you loved, some you pitied and some you just could not understand. A unique perspective I enjoyed possibly most of all was the beginning chapter. A young Japanese man who has just carried out a terrorist attack as part of a cult. reading his perspective and the way his brain justified his attack on the “unclean” was so different to anything I had read before. I found it fascinating, even more so after reading that this was based on an actual terrorist attack in Tokyo back in 1995. Satire, the young Japanese jazz enthusiast, Margarita Latunsky the Russian museum worker and the stretch of time in Mongolia were all favourites of mine, although each character had their own charms.

 

As in the David Mitchell way we see crossover from characters in his other novels. Timothy Cavendish, book publisher in London with a penchant for getting himself into trouble, pops up in one chapter. He was a cheeky favourite of mine in Cloud Atlas so I enjoyed meeting his again, albeit briefly. You can tell his is one of his earlier works but Ghostwritten still has his unique charm that sucks me in to his worlds. All I want to do now is go and reacquaint myself with Cloud Atlas whilst simultaneously reading all his other pieces of work (all of which I do plan to acquire and read at some point). I love the way his stories leave me pondering his words long after I have finished them. The last chapter of Ghostwritten is the clincher with questions and situations posed that will get you thinking and I found myself racing to finish the story.

 

Overall, this is another classic by David Mitchell that I loved. While not my absolute favourite I loved seeing where it all began. I’m already looking forward to moving on to the next one. I do recommend if you enjoy a different book that gets you thinking, while transporting you to a world of different places with an interesting mix of characters. I give Ghostwritten three radios broadcasting from Night Train FM, get on board.

 

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A Gathering Of Shadows – V. E. Schwab

After recently reading A Darker Shade of Magic me and my reading buddy, Lauren, were so impressed we had to get the next in the series. I am so glad to say it not only lived up to expectations, it surpassed them. A Gathering of Shadows picks up four months on from the conclusion of ADSoM, with Lila having found her way on to a ship and revelling in her freedom out at sea. Kell meanwhile is struggling with feeling trapped in his life in the palace until Rhy comes up with a daring plan to inject a little excitement into his life.

 

I’m not quite sure how she did it but Schwab manages to outdo herself in the second part of her Shades of Magic trilogy. Character development is definitely a factor. The returning characters, Kell, Lila and Rhy are just so likeable and this novel really builds on their development with you getting to know them, in particular Rhy, better. The tense yet always affectionate relationship between Rhy and Kell was a highlight. As much as these brothers love each other to death and beyond, they are also polar opposites: Rhy likes to socialise and schmooze whereas Kell prefers keeping to himself on the outer. Watching them bicker and drive each other up the wall is incredibly endearing, especially to someone with siblings over their own. Lila is as smooth and self-assured as usual and you look forward to the contrast between her fast-talking charm and Kell’s consternation. Although while the reader counts down the pages until these two opposites are back in each other’s company you are suitably entertained by new character Alucard Emery. He is just as suave and switched on as Lila and it is a refreshing change of pace watching someone who can keep up with Lila. I absolutely fell in love with this character, who is definitely more than meets the eye, as you come to expect, just not in a way you imagine.

 

Schwab keeps our two favourite characters apart for a lot longer than I ever anticipated. She builds an almost overpowering feeling of suspense throughout the novel balancing the stories of each of the characters skilfully. The way she intertwines the character’s perspectives you are aware that certain plot points will occur, yet how and when you cannot predict. The pace of the story really quickens in the last third of the book and I found myself exclaiming aloud to myself  more than a few times. I found myself much moe invested in the story than I pictured. This book had me grinning like the Cheshire Cat the way it sucked me in to the storyline. Schwab really has a way with words building the characters and the plot line at a pace that is quick and keeps you on your toes, yet doesn’t rush or try too hard. I note that there are certain aspects of the plot that she held back form in the first novel, which I really appreciated. Rather than trying too hard to build the characters and their relationships too quickly in the first book to ensnare returning readers, a lot of the development occurs within the second book.

 

Then there is that ending. A cliffhanger for sure, I’m not quite sure how I’m going to last until February next year. There are so many questions unanswered and loose ends to be tied off that the last instalment promises to be action packed. Exciting events are in motion promising to draw you back into the Londons the moment you pick up book three. In fact I have already sought out the excerpt from A Conjuring of Light and it certainly jumps right in. Of all the fantasy series I have read this year that are waiting on the next instalment, this will certainly be my most anticipated.

 

If you haven’t gotten into this series and you are at all a fantasy fan, I recommend picking them both up immediately. A Gathering of Shadows enchanted me from the first few pages up until the dying words. Rich characters, a unique plot and exemplary use of suspense to keep the plot moving makes this another favourite read of the year. I give A gather of Shadows five of Kell’s Essen Tasch masks.

 

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