My thoughts on The Name of The Wind… all 672 pages of it

I got this as a gift from my husband for my birthday last year.  He was so proud that he actually went to the bookstore and got a recommendation for me based on books he knows I like.  Problem was, I started reading it and my attention wandered so I put it down.  I came back to it a month later and read the first chapter and found it mildly interesting, but got distracted by another book and put it down again.  After listening to my husband tease me for 6 months about how I must hate it because he gave it to me, I finally picked it back up again last month and I am so freaking glad that I did.

A brief synopsis:

The book is an epic fantasy that follows Kvothe as he recounts the story of his early life and the tragic events that led up to (and including) his years at the prestigous magical school.

That synopsis is short as hell for a book as big as this one.

So I think what initially caused me to put the book down was the fact that in the very beginning we meet three very unexciting characters who don’t really pull you in.  But once you discover that none of them is the main character and they are merely sitting in the same room as him, the pages fly.

It is difficult to describe what I feel about Kvothe.  Over the course of 600+ pages we get to know him very well and he really is very kind and very loyal, but it can get a bit tedious reading how he is basically the best there is at anything.  Oh? You have a Masters Degree in underwater basket weaving?  Give Kvothe 5 minutes to read a chapter or two about the subject and he will be ready for his Doctorate in underwater basket weaving.

That being said, once I got into the actual narrative I constantly wanted to know what happened next. There are some nicely fleshed out characters and a nice balance between world building and plot. I think it’s hard to find the right balance in a book as large as this one and the fact that it was so well done in this book makes me think it would appeal to any fan of fantasy whether you prefer plot driven or character driven stories. As far as the world building is concerned, I don’t think I have been as enthralled by a fictional world since I read The Lord of the Rings. (And no I am in no way comparing this to the LOTR, I just really fell in love with Tolkien’s world)

My biggest gripe with this book is that after getting sucked in and purchasing the next one, I realized that it’s the first in a trilogy and the final book has yet to be published and there is no (to my knowledge) publish date as of yet. I despise starting series when there is no conclusion so this was rather annoying for me. All the same I loved this book and I’m holding off reading the next (or trying to at least) until I have an idea when to expect the last one.

So in short, I’d say that this is the most quality fantasy that I’ve read in years. And while LOTR will probably forever remain on top for me, I’d say this book earned a place on the same shelf.

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Utopia: My thoughts

Hello again 🙂 Being a fan of cartography and travel memoirs, an amateur history buff, and an almost graduated history major who has a special fondness for Tudor history, I have long been fascinated by Sir Thomas More. So naturally Utopia is a work I have wanted to read for ages. I had been intimidated in the past and until recently only had an ebook version. When I finally discovered the benefits and pleasure of annotating books (my own copies of course) I finally realized I was capable of tackling books that had intimidated me in the past. Fortunately I found this very inexpensive copy on book depository for around 5$ last month and was very excited to dive in- which I did over the last four days. For such a famous work, I am surprised that I had no idea how short it was (my copy was only 85 pages long) but nevertheless I took my time with it and took about 4 days reading, annotating, reflecting, and taking notes.

A brief synopsis:

This book, written by Sir Thomas More in the early 16th century, describes a fictional Kingdom. A perfect society where everyone works and has useful occupation, and in which nobody goes without the basic necessities.

My thoughts:

This book was pretty darn fascinating.  One of the things that drew me in from the first was the fact that most of the main characters were real historical figures.  Thomas More himself is in the book and narrates the entire thing. And from the very first sentence, in which More mentions Henry VIII in very flowery and flattering terms I was fascinated.  It could also be owing to the fact that I know that More would be executed by Henry VIII years later, while he doesn’t.  And while I do not know if it was his intention, I think that by using real people as characters, he turned it from something that was purely fictional into something that could be related to. The book is essentially just a long discussion between these men.  Given the topic and the book’s criticism of contemporary societies, I think this was an incredibly daring thing to do.  But by his choice of companions (all reputed to be good, learned men) and by setting himself up to criticize and be skeptical of all that is told to him by his friend Ralph, he manages to bring these ideas to his intended audience without seeming like the bad guy who’s got a grudge against society.  It also did not escape me that Ralph, who is the one describing all of these radical ideas, is a fictional character while More and the others are not.

Another thing that struck me early in the book was something that is actually very trivial, though to me as lover of history and cartography it was very interesting. This was a mention of visiting countries below the equator. Now I know that many of the ancients were aware that the earth was round and that in the Tudor period they were aware of this as well, but the idea of the equator just seemed like such a new concept to me that I got on a tangent looking into some medieval maps and reading up on the equator itself. I found some very interesting things. For one, I had no idea that in the early medieval period, the belief that people could live beyond the equator was considered a heretical belief by the Catholic Church. In fact many maps of the time depict the equator as a ring of fire. This idea was still prevalent when Columbus set sail. And that was not so long before this book was published. And while this may not have any bearing on the book itself, I found it fascinating and decided to share it here because nobody in my house was excited to hear my ramblings 🙂

To say that this book is important would be a gross understatement. It has influenced many writers and thinkers for the past 500 years. The ideas presented in this book were radical to say the least and this book had my rapt attention throughout (if you don’t count the times I got sidetracked looking things up)

I’d gladly give it 5/5 stars and I highly recommend picking up this interesting piece of history.

Thanks for joining me while I rambled on about this.

Eternal Life by Dara Horn: my thoughts

Hello again 🙂 I am back with some thoughts on another book I just finished. I heard about this book while listening to one of my favorite podcasts not long ago. The premise sounded fascinating so I went and bought it immediately.

A brief synopsis:

Rachel is a young 2000 year old woman (seriously) who cannot die. As a young mother living in Jerusalem, she had made a pact with God to spare the life of her son. The book follows Rachel mainly throughout her modern life with several flashbacks into former years of her life. Having raised many different families over 2000 years (because yea she can still have kids) she struggles in the modern era with a granddaughter who is a renowned scientist specializing in genetics. Will she find out Rachel’s secret and expose her? And what would be the consequences if she does?

My thoughts:

I really loved the idea of this book. I always love books that take place over multiple generations or that tie together events from different millennia. There was some beautiful writing in the book during particular scenes and the flashbacks to earlier times in her life were particularly well written. Dara Horn seems to be familiar with and done a decent amount of research into daily life in ancient Jerusalem. But despite all this, I found there to be something lacking- especially in regards to the ending. I disliked most of the characters and I really didn’t care for any of the relationships between characters, whether between parents and children or between lovers. The one character I was rather fond of was the one that Rachel kept at arms length for the whole book and it frustrated me quite a bit. So the bottom line is, yes I enjoyed the book but no I did not love it. I give it 3.5/5 stars. This is a book I would recommend when it comes out in paperback and not a shiny new hardback.

The Little Prince: my thoughts

If you have a Netflix account, you’ve probably seen the trailer for The Little Prince recently. It looked so adorable that I wanted to watch it and since one does not simply watch the movie first… I had to read it of course.

A brief synopsis:

A pilot who unfortunately has grown up crash lands in the middle of the desert. There he meets a little boy from another planet. The boy tells the story of how he fled his planet because of his love for a rose. In telling his story, the little boy reminds the pilot of the magic of seeing the world through a child’s eyes and the dangers of losing that magic when you grow up.

My thoughts:

So I really loved this book.  The entire book was just whimsical and magical.  I love how even though the pilot is a grown up, he remembers the feeling of drawing a picture that the adults just didn’t understand and the feeling has stayed with him.  When he meets the little prince, he meets a child who understands perfectly.  The pilot is an adult who hasn’t fallen into one of the typical categories that other adults in the story have.  The little prince is just charming and I fell in love with him as a character.  He lives alone on his planet and his only friend on his planet is a single rose.  After having a disagreement with his rose, he leaves his planet and passes through many other planets.

On each planet is a single adult and I loved how each of them embodied a different adult characteristic that children just don’t understand.  For instance, he meets one man on a planet who spends all day and all night counting the stars because he “owns them”. When the little prince asks why he needs to count them, the man informs him that it is very important to calculate numbers so he can own more.  Another man on another planet spends all his time preening and looking for someone to admire his clothes.

It is a little difficult to put into words all the things I loved about this book, but I loved both the pilot and the little prince.  The love the prince had for his rose was very sweet.  I would definitely recommend this book to children and adults.  This was one of the few books in recent months that I’ve given 5 stars.

Thank you for joining me once again and if you have read this or plan to read this, please let me know what you thought or think…

Until next time, happy reading!

The Luminaries: my thoughts

Having heard so many things about this novel, I have been wanting to read it for over a year. So I borrowed it from the library and attempted to dive in. I quickly realized that this was a book I wanted to take my sweet time with and so I returned it and bought my own copy.

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

A brief synopsis:

Walter Moody, a young Scottish lawyer, arrives in a gold mining town in 1866 New Zealand on a stormy night. He walks into a lounge at his hotel and disturbs… something. Inside the room are 12 men of different races and different walks of life discussing a series of mysterious events that occurred on the same day two weeks prior. A man is found dead, a prostitute is found collapsed in the street and a rich man goes missing.  When it is discovered that Moody has a slight connection to the events in question, they take him into their confidence and attempt to figure out what happened.

My thoughts:

Where to even begin?  The book was written in the style of a Victorian novel which I really really enjoyed.  It was done so well that I could really have believed it was a Victorian novel.  The structure of the novel was great.  Basically the first 300 something pages were dedicated to that night in the hotel lounge learning of the mysterious events that had taken place two weeks prior.  The whole rest of the novel takes place afterwards.  The book is divided into 12 parts and sections with a different character the focus of each.  At the beginning of each “part” there is a kind of zodiac chart that I’m afraid was lost on me but I did not find it necessary to the story. Though I did notice that the parts of the story “waned” like the moon. (Though I mean to look into it in further depth and maybe come back and amend this review) As we see a little bit more into each character’s life, a little bit of the truth is revealed, piece by piece.  It was wonderfully done in my opinion.  For a book this large – all 832 pages of it- it never dragged.  Every page was necessary to the story.

Catton’s choice of setting was spot on and she managed to bring an 1860’s goldmining town to life. She also focuses attention on the opium trade and the life of Chinese workers in a mining encampment.

I should also point out that I have never read a book with such a well crafted cast of characters.  Before this, I had considered Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express unique for its large cast of interesting characters.  Until now. There were TWENTY main characters in this book. TWENTY. I have read books with only a handful of characters that the author still manages to make flat.  I guess with an 800 page book, it’s kind of hard not to get to know the characters but Eleanor Catton managed to create 20 well rounded characters and every single one of them was integral to the story.

I guess to sum it up I’d say that there is a reason why this book won the Man Booker Prize.  I thought it was a really remarkable book.  I loved the writing, the structure, the characters, and the plot.  I highly recommend this book and I hope people are not turned off by the size.  I don’t often give 5 stars but this book I gave 5 stars, hearts, or whatever unit of measurement we are using these days.

If you have read this book, please tell me your thoughts.  I’m dying to discuss this one with someone!

My Cousin Rachel: my thoughts

I bought this book a few months ago while  I was in a gothic fiction phase. This is not unusual for me because gothic fiction and romance is one of my favorite types of books to read (there’s something about sinister characters and spooky manor houses that I can’t get enough of) but sometimes I go through these little phases where I’ll read several in succession. Well I happened to be at Target and saw the movie cover version on sale and I bought it. (Though I typically hate movie covers this one wasn’t terrible and it was on sale… OK OK I JUST WANTED TO READ IT GEEZ)

Brief synopsis:

Philip Ashley, the cousin and adopted son and heir of Ambrose Ashley is devastated by the marriage and shortly after, death of Ambrose while on a long trip to Italy for his health. Ambrose, a confirmed lifelong bachelor travels to the continent each year for his health, leaving Philip to run the estate in his absence. On his final trip, he meets and falls in love with a distant family connection and then marries her. He writes home to Philip delighted with his new wife but after several weeks he sends Philip paranoid letters home asking for help claiming his wife is spying on him and keeping him under lock and key. His health declines further and he dies before Philip can make it to him. Grief stricken, Philip suspects the wife of foul play and makes up his mind to hate her while everyone else puts Ambrose’s death and strange behavior down to a brain tumor which is how his own father had died (also having behaved strangely before his death). When Rachel comes to visit the estate, Philip is convinced of her guilt… until he meets her. She is graceful and attractive and devastated over the loss of her husband. Surely she can’t be guilty? Or is she?

My thoughts:

The tension in this book is wonderful. I think this is something that Daphne Du Maurier excels at in all the books I’ve read of hers.  The whole first section of the book we can understand Philip’s thoughts and we are dying to meet Rachel.  When Rachel finally appears, we are constantly left wondering if she did it.  We become convinced of her innocence and her guilt in turns. Certain incidents appear to repeat themselves and we are unsure whether it is coincidence or whether Rachel has a hand in it. The atmosphere alone makes this book what it is.

There are several key characters in this book and often it is difficult to see what their motivations are. Rachel is both fascinating and complex. Philip is naive and probably the most annoying character I have ever encountered in fiction. There were many times that I wanted to reach through the pages and smack some common sense into him or just smack him in general. If you prefer character based stories, Philip may turn you off the entire book but I am a plot reader so I kept it up.  Meanwhile, characters like Rachel’s lawyer (whose name escapes me at the moment) seem very sinister while Philip’s friend Louise seems like the only normal character in the book.

The book was a page turner for me but it is seldom that a character annoys me the way Philip did.  I enjoyed the read, but I thought the ending just a little flat. Though some might argue that the ending is what makes this book so great. To sum it up, I guess I’d say that the story was great, there were some good characters (and one really annoying one), but that personally I found the ending just a bit unsatisfying.  I gave it 4 out of 5 stars on goodreads.

Thanks for joining me and happy reading 🙂

Project Poirot

Some time around September I was binge watching booktube and came across a new book tuber who had just started what she called Project Poirot. Even if you are not an avid Agatha Christie fan, you will probably have heard of her most famous detective- Hercule Poirot.  Now I happen to be one of those who love Agatha Christie and in the last 20 or so years since I discovered Agatha Christie (holy shit I’m getting old) I have read all of her Hercule Poirot books and most of the short stories at some point.  When I am in a reading slump I often pick up one of my favorite of these and it gets me right back in the reading mood.

What intrigued me about Project Poirot is that we are reading all 40 ish (there’s 40ish depending on whether you consider the play adaptations novels or not) IN ORDER over the course of a year.  Not only does this play into my borderline obsession with Hercule Poirot, it is also fascinating to see how her writing evolved over the course of her career and how Poirot himself evolved as a character.  Taking it a step further, one of the things I also find fascinating was to see how the quality of her writing changed before and after (what is largely considered to be her masterpiece) The Murder on the Orient Express.

The list of books that I’m going through is:

  1. The Mysterious Affair at Styles
  2. Murder on the Links
  3. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (considered by some to be her masterpiece)
  4. The Big Four
  5. The Mystery of the Blue Train
  6. Peril at End House
  7. Lord Edgware Dies
  8. Murder in Mesopotamia
  9. Murder on the Orient Express
  10. Three Act Tragedy
  11. Death in the Clouds
  12. The ABC Murders
  13. Dumb Witness
  14. Cards on the Table
  15. Death on the Nile
  16. Appointment with Death
  17. Hercule Poirot’s Christmas
  18. One Two Buckle My Shoe
  19. Sad Cypress
  20. Evil Under the Sun
  21. Five Little Pigs
  22. The Hollow
  23. Taken at the Flood
  24. Mrs Mcginty’s Dead
  25. After the Funeral
  26. Hickory Dickory Dock
  27. Dead Man’s Folly
  28. Cat Among the Pigeons
  29. The Clocks
  30. Third Girl
  31. Halloween Party
  32. Elephants Can Remember
  33. Curtain

I joined this challenge a little late and was a couple books behind and then I caught up but I am now behind again as I am missing the next book in succession and haven’t been able to find it at the libraries near me.  So I will be purchasing that book along with a couple of others.  This has been a really enjoyable challenge and I enjoy how Mara creates a video for each book she completes.

If there are any fellow Christie fans out there reading this, what do you think about this challenge?