A Tale For The Time Being / Ruth Ozeki

Title / A Tale For The Time Being
Author / Ruth Ozeki
Publication Date / 2013
Page no. / 422
Overall Star Rating / ★  

 

Goodreads synopsis: In Tokyo, sixteen-year-old Nao has decided there’s only one escape from her aching loneliness and her classmates’ bullying. But before she ends it all, Nao plans to document the life of her great-grandmother, a Buddhist nun who’s lived more than a century. A diary is Nao’s only solace—and will touch lives in a ways she can scarcely imagine. Across the Pacific, we meet Ruth, a novelist living on a remote island who discovers a collection of artifacts washed ashore in a Hello Kitty lunchbox—possibly debris from the devastating 2011 tsunami. As the mystery of its contents unfolds, Ruth is pulled into the past, into Nao’s drama and her unknown fate, and forward into her own future.
Full of Ozeki’s signature humour and deeply engaged with the relationship between writer and reader, past and present, fact and fiction, quantum physics, history, and myth, A Tale for the Time Being is a brilliantly inventive, beguiling story of our shared humanity and the search for home.

 

I have been meaning to read this book for quite some time now and so I finally picked it up this month. I am so glad I did as I thought this was a fantastic book. From the very beginning I could tell that I was going to enjoy this book, mainly due to the writing style. Personally I find I can take a little while to get into a book by a new author but I didn’t really have the issue with this book – I found it so easy to get into. I liked the inclusion of Japanese words, which are explained using footnotes. I find footnotes can become a bit of a chore in some books but I liked in this book that they were just dotted throughout and weren’t added too much. Some people may find it a little jarring though, so it may be something to be aware of going in. In many ways this book lacks a bit of plot. Don’t get me wrong you do have the basis of a plot but it’s not very plot driven book. It is about what is happening (or happened) to the two main characters, Nao and Ruth. It mainly follows Nao as she grows up in Tokyo and Ruth who finds and reads Nao’s diary – in that way it is a bit of a meandering plot which contains stories Nao chooses to tell us. I hope that makes sense. One small critique I have is that this could have been a little bit shorter, in my opinion. Having said that I never felt bored, or that it dragged.

 

I will say that this is quite a hard book in many ways. If you have or are struggling with suicide or bullying, then I would only recommend this to you if you feel you are in a strong place, as this may be quite triggering. Also a trigger warning for depression and rape. Although this does touch on these hard topics, I felt that it was done well and in a respectful way, if that makes sense. It is a little heartbreaking at times though.  I definitely found Nao’s quite a bit more compelling than Ruth’s but both perspectives are important and they are both well written. I loved the way Ozeki wrote Nao’s chapters, as if she was talking directly to us at times. In this way I think it’s almost natural that we are perhaps more attached to Nao (at least I was anyway), because her perspective is more personal. Ruth seems more distant and perhaps preoccupied. I just preferred Nao’s perspective – I also found Ruth a little frustrating at times, although this didn’t affect my overall reading enjoyment. I think the characters are so well written and complex. There are elements of both that I didn’t really get along with but that is true of real life and I think it shows Ozeki’s skill at creating fleshed out characters. It’s not black and white with them – they both have good and bad traits in them.

 

Favourite quote: “Sometimes when she told stories about the past her eyes would get teary from all the memories she had, but they weren’t tears. She wasn’t crying. They were just the memories, leaking out.”

 

Overall I thought this was a fantastic book and I can’t believe a left this long to read it :). I will definitely be checking out more of Ozeki’s books – I think she has two other books out so I will be checking those out. As you can probably tell I highly recommend checking this book out, especially if you are interested in Japanese culture. I know this wasn’t a very long review but hopefully that means I was concise and I just wanted to review this book anyway as it was really good. I definitely think this won’t be for everyone though, as I think some may find this too hard to read or perhaps a little boring. If you guys have read this book, what did you think? I hope you are all having a wonderful day and I will see you next time.

 

Pippa

 

 

Flame in the Mist / Renee Ahdieh

Title / Flame in the Mist
Author / Renee Ahdieh
Publication Date / 2017
Overall Star Rating / 

 

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Goodreads synopsis: The only daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has always known she’d been raised for one purpose and one purpose only: to marry. Never mind her cunning, which rivals that of her twin brother, Kenshin, or her skills as an accomplished alchemist. Since Mariko was not born a boy, her fate was sealed the moment she drew her first breath. So, at just seventeen years old, Mariko is sent to the imperial palace to meet her betrothed, a man she did not choose, for the very first time. But the journey is cut short when Mariko’s convoy is viciously attacked by the Black Clan, a dangerous group of bandits who’ve been hired to kill Mariko before she reaches the palace. The lone survivor, Mariko narrowly escapes to the woods, where she plots her revenge. Dressed as a peasant boy, she sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and hunt down those responsible for the target on her back. Once she’s within their ranks, though, Mariko finds for the first time she’s appreciated for her intellect and abilities. She even finds herself falling in love—a love that will force her to question everything she’s ever known about her family, her purpose, and her deepest desires.

 

When I heard this being pitched as a possible Mulan retelling I was immediately interested in it as Mulan has always been my favourite Disney film and the live action film (2009) is also really good.  I really wanted to love this but unfortunately it didn’t work me. First off I wouldn’t call this a Mulan retelling – for one thing it’s set in Japan, not China and for another the only similarity is that the main character pretends to be a boy. I found the writing to be quite overly dramatic at times, as well as being a little to descriptive. Other than that, I had no issues with the writing. The world building, on the other hand, could have been better. One of the main things that drew me to this book was the world as it is set in Feudal Japan and I was a little disappointed by it. It wasn’t awful by any means but I wanted some much more depth from it. I mainly wanted more of the politics of the world so I could have a better understanding of how this world works and the hierarchies. Unfortunately I didn’t feel like I got that.  Another aspect that I thought was lacking is the magic system. There is literally no real explanation as to what, how, why etc. I want a magic system that I can understand , at least a little of it and there is no information about it in this book – it’s just there and we’re supposed to accept it. Moving on to the plot. It’s super slow, kind of predictable and a bit boring at times. That may sound a little harsh but nothing about the plot had me hooked and it left me feeling wanting so much more. I think the plot idea had some potential but for me it just didn’t work. I think the pacing didn’t help it. Throughout this book the pacing is slow – it never really picks up. As I’ve said in previous reviews I don’t mind slower pacing as the world, plot or characters will pull you through those times, but in this book that wasn’t the case. Speaking of characters, I didn’t like any of them. I went into this expecting to love the main character, Mariko, but dear god is she frustrating and some of her decisions are absolutely ridiculous. I’m pretty sure I rolled my eyes at her a few times while reading it. I understand that she’s young and may make mistakes but Ahdieh continually tells us that Mariko is super smart and I just really didn’t see it. I felt in this case it was more telling than showing in terms of the writing.  All of the characters were flat and so lacked development, especially Mariko. To be honest I didn’t really care about any of the characters. I guess I should also mention the romance… oh why did there have to be a romance? I don’t understand why it seems in every fantasy YA book there has to be a romance. This one was entirely predictable and comes out of nowhere, in the sense that it happens very quickly. They literally know each other for maybe a few days and they’ve fallen for each other – commence eye rolling. I wouldn’t have minded it so much had they actually spent time getting to know each other and it had developed slowly. At least there’s no love triangle in this book. The final thing I’m going to mention is what I see as a lack of research in some places. Now I am by no mean an expert in Japanese culture and history, in fact I know very little but I felt that there were possibly a few things missing (e.g. names, manners, hierarchy etc.) and perhaps that this wasn’t particularly well researched. I may be wrong on that though – I don’t know the research she did.

 

Overall this definitely had potential to be a good book, but for me it really didn’t work. Don’t let me dissuade you too much though as I’ve seen a lot of great reviews over on goodreads. Maybe YA just isn’t working for me at the moment as I haven’t had much luck with it recently. I think I’ll stick to my adult fantasy for a while. Anyway have you guys read this book? What do you think? I hope you are all having a wonderful day and I will see you next time.

 

Pippa

 

 

5 reasons to read the Shardlake series

Hi guys, it’s time for another review – you guys know the routine by now :). So I thought I would do another review in the form of 5 reason to read type review. I find sometimes these types of review is a great way to organise my thoughts. Today I am going to be talking about the Shardlake series by C. J. Sansom. Granted I have only read the first two books (it’s a six book series), but I have enjoyed those books so much that I thought I’d do this anyway. Let’s get started.

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  1. There are so easy to get into. I was hooked from very early on with both of these books and I fully expect to the same with the next books.
  2. The characters are fantastic, especially Shardlake. He is such a brilliant main character and the others are just as good. Sansom does a great job at creating complex characters – I’ve really enjoyed his portrayal of Cromwell. Yes he is cunning and ruthless but he also has good qualities and it really shows that he is a product of his time. Basically he writes characters wonderfully.
  3. The plot and the mystery incorporated into it are (again) fantastic. The building of tension throughout the two that I have read really lends itself to the mystery/crime genre of this book. The plot will keep you on your toes and you’ll be constantly wondering who’s the culprit.
  4. If you are a big reader of historical fiction, then you need to check this series out. The two I have read are fantastic and crime elements are done so well.
  5. In my opinion the second book was even better than the first, and that bodes very well for the rest of the series. I am so excited to continue on with these books.

 

If you haven’t already guessed I am a big fan of this series, or at least the two books I’ve read of it so far. I will definitely be picking up the third book very soon as I want to see how things progress now that a certain character is gone (no spoilers). Have you guys read this series? Before I go I wanted to ask you guys if you have any review requests – do you guys mind that I review primarily fantasy? Or do you want more variety? I would love any feedback you guys have. Thanks in advance 🙂 I hope you are all having a wonderful day and I will see you next time.

 

Pippa

 

 

The Legion of Flame / Anthony Ryan

Title / The Legion of Flame
Author / Anthony Ryan
Publication Date / 2017
Overall Star Rating / ★ 

 

Goodreads synopsis: For centuries, the vast Ironship Trading Syndicate relied on drake blood—and the extraordinary powers it confers to those known as the Blood-blessed—to fuel and protect its empire. But now, a fearsome power has arisen—a drake so mighty that the world will tremble before it. Rogue Blood-blessed Claydon Torcreek, Syndicate agent Lizanne Lethridge, and ironship captain Corrick Hilemore embark upon perilous quests to chase down clues that offer faint hopes of salvation. As the world burns around them, and the fires of revolution are ignited, these few are the last hope for the empire and for all of civilisation.

 

This is the second book in the Draconis Memoria series (the first being The Waking Fire) and it was one of my most anticipated book release of 2017. I am pleased to report that this is just as good as the first, possibly even better. I have to admit I did take me a little while to get into the flow of things again, but I think I should have reread the first book to refresh my memory. Having said that it’s so easy to get into these books. This series is set in a world inhabited by humans, drakes (dragons) and Blood Blessed, who take power from the blood of the drakes. Each type of dragon (Red, Blue, Green and Black) gives the drinker different powers. The magic system is such an interesting and unique one. One of my favourite things about these books is the world. I have to admit that I felt there were a few things were missing from the world building in book 1 (specifically about the white drake) but I love how the world was expanded upon on this sequel – we get some more history about this world and so there is a better understanding of everything that’s going on. Speaking of everything that’s going on, the plot is fantastic. It picks up pretty much straight after the events of the first book and throws you straight back into the action packed story. I love where the plot goes in this book. There were multiple times where I stayed up quite late reading this because I just needed to know what was going to happen next. Ryan does a wonderful job of weaving together the plot and character arcs, and the pacing of it is also done so well. I think at times the first book felt very much like a set up book but with this book it has very much settled into the flow of the story and the characters.

 

The characters in this book are fantastic. For me characters and their development is such an important element of books and so I am glad to say that it is really well done so far in this series. We get to continue on with some familiar characters from the first book but we also get to meet new ones too. Although it does have multiple perspective we mainly follow three characters – Claydon Torcreek, Lizanne Lethridge and Captain Corrick Hilemore. Each has a distinctive voice, are well written and fantastic character arcs. I definitely found Corrick’s perspective a little less engaging but I did still really enjoy his chapters. These books seriously have an amazing cast of characters. The addition of the perspective close to the White drake added so much to the tension (and creepiness) of the book. It reminded us of the stakes the characters are going against.  I will say there are a couple of times where I felt it was a little drawn out. Personally I didn’t have an issue with this, but it is perhaps something to be aware of. Generally I found that even if it dragged a little the writing and the world building pulled it through. The writing itself is great and as mentioned so easy to get into. Basically if you can’t tell already I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I think it expanded on the first book so well and the ending makes me so excited for the next book. Before I finish this review, I wanted to mention the steampunk elements of this series. I haven’t read a lot of steampunk books but I really enjoy how it is incorporated in these books. If you are a fan of steampunk, then I would definitely check this one out.

 

Overall this is a fantastic sequel that really expands on the characters and world of the first book. As I mentioned it is perhaps a little drawn out at times, but I was hooked from very early on. I think this is going to be a trilogy, which means this series will be concluded in the next book, but I’m not completely sure that is the case. Either way I am very excited for the next book, although a little sad about the wait. I would highly recommend checking this series out, especially if you are a fan of fantasy and dragons/drakes. Quick side not before I go, I love the UK covers for this series! Have you guys read the first book? I hope you are all having a wonderful day and I will see you next time.

 

Pippa

 

 

2 Mini Series Review

Hi guys, how are you all? I hope you are have a nice weekend ahead of you. Anyway I have 2 mini series reviews to share today. I quite like doing these mini series reviews as it think it’s a great way to share my thoughts with you guys. To be honest I don’t really have much else to say so I’m just going to start with the reviews.

 

Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom  / Leigh Bardguo / ★★★.5
This is a YA fantasy duology following a group of criminals. I am sure you guys have at least heard of these books as they have been pretty popular in the bookish community – alot of people love this series. While I definitely enjoyed these books, I didn’t love them. I had been debating whether or not to read the first book for a while – I wasn’t a huge fan of the Grisha trilogy and there was quite a lot of hype around it. I was pleasantly surprised by this. The plot of the first book is not really a heist story – it’s more of a rescue story. The plot of both books were engaging, although I think overall the story could have been a bit shorter. It is quite slow at times and I did find it dragged a bit. To be honest they were also some plot holes throughout. One thing I will quickly say about the plot of the second (without spoiling anything) is that one major event is completely pointless, in my opinion. For those who’ve read it, you’ll know the event I’m talking about. It was so out of nowhere and out of place, I just don’t understand why it happened. The best thing about this duology is definitely the characters. I love the diverse cast and their relationships with each other – Inej is a new favourite of mine. I think they were all well written, although perhaps a little underdeveloped. I will say that the narration style did leave me feeling a bit disconnected from the characters though. I would say none of the characters act their age – Kaz is supposedly 16/17 and I just really don’t see it. They all seem like their in the 20s or 30s. Generally these are enjoyable reads and I am definitely in the minority here. A lot of people adore this series.  For me the first book was probably better than the second but they were both good.

 

Theft of SwordsRise of the Empire and Heir of Novron / Michael J Sullivan / ★★★★
This is a six book high fantasy series that has been published in three volumes. We follow Royce (a thief) and Hadrian (a mercenary) who end up running for their lives when they are framed for killing the king. I absolutely love this series – it is so fun, entertaining and enjoyable. The characters are fantastic and so well written. The relationship between Royce and Hadrian is one of my favourite things about this series. They have this amazing friendship which makes the books so fun to read. The world building is another good thing about these books. I will say it’s probably not the best in fantasy books that I’ve read but it is still well done. The writing is great, which makes it so easy to get into. I was hooked from very early and always wanted to continue reading once I’d picked it up, if that makes sense. The pacing is also done well. Sullivan is great at creating tension and keeping you guessing at the plot. It’s pretty traditional in terms of the fantasy genre, but it does it very well. Overall I think this is a fantastic series.  If you are a fan of high fantasy and are looking for a new series to start, than I highly recommend checking this series out. I think this is also a really good place to start with reading fantasy, as it is a pretty light fantasy series – it’s not dense like the Lord of the Rings trilogy for example. I also really enjoyed the prequel series, the Riyria Chronicles.

 

That is all I have for you guys today. I’m sure you’re not surprised that I’m talking about more fantasy books for these reviews :). If you’ve read these books, I’d love to know what you thought of them. I hope you are all having a wonderful day and I will see you next time.

 

Pippa

 

 

The Moon in the Palace / Weina dai Randal

Title / The Moon in the Palace 
Author / Weina dai Randal
Publication Date / 2016
Overall Star Rating / ★ 
Goodreads synopsis: A concubine at the palace learns quickly that there are many ways to capture the Emperor’s attention. Many paint their faces white and style their hair attractively, hoping to lure in the One Above All with their beauty. Some present him with fantastic gifts, such as jade pendants and scrolls of calligraphy, while others rely on their knowledge of seduction to draw his interest. But young Mei knows nothing of these womanly arts, yet she will give the Emperor a gift he can never forget. Mei’s intelligence and curiosity, the same traits that make her an outcast among the other concubines, impress the Emperor. But just as she is in a position to seduce the most powerful man in China, divided loyalties split the palace in two, culminating in a perilous battle that Mei can only hope to survive. The first volume of the Empress of Bright Moon duology paints a vibrant portrait of ancient China—where love, ambition, and loyalty can spell life or death—and the woman who came to rule it all.

 

When I saw this was set in ancient China I was immediately interested and it didn’t disappoint. This is probably the first historical fiction book I’ve read that is set in ancient China and I definitely want to read more. One of the main strengths of this book is the setting. I thought it was done really well and I found it so interesting. Having said that I don’t know a lot about Chinese history so I can’t say how accurate this may or may not be. This has definitely made me interested in learn more about Chinese history though. I will also say that I felt that it was perhaps a little romanticised. I never truly felt that the main character was in a lot of danger and she seemed to move from one way of thinking to another quite often – one minute she’s trying desperately to get the Emperor’s attention and the next she doesn’t seem that bothered by it. Her character seemed quite inconsistent at times. I think this is a result of the way it’s written. A lot of the time we get to see things through the logical side of her brain, so you never really know what she is feeling, if that makes sense. Other than that though, I thought the characters were generally well written and were all interesting. The political atmosphere within this book is great, although I wanted to see more of the hierarchy of the concubines and their relationships with each other. We do see some that was well done but I wanted more.  Having said that, you can really tell that the author has done a load to research to get to this detail of a ancient Chinese society. The descriptions of the palace, the royal attire and such were great and really added depth to the story.  I thought the writing was great and I was hooked from very early on. This book is definitely a page turner. The pacing is well done – it is a little slow at times but not in a bad way as I never found that it dragged. The last thing I’ll mention is the romance. I liked that it didn’t take centre stage and it was generally pretty well done.

 

Overall I thought this was a fantastic historical fiction and I will definitely be checking out the sequel – it’s a duology. It wasn’t perfect but it’s one of those books you love while being aware of it’s flaws. Having said that it’s still a really good book.I’m excited to see how things progress in the next book. I will definitely be getting my hands on it as soon as I can. I hope you are all having a wonderful day and I will see you next time.

 

Pippa

 

 

Son of the Shadows / Juliet Marillier

Title / Son of the Shadows 
Author / Juliet Marillier
Publication Date / 2000 (first published)
Overall Star Rating / ★ 
Goodreads synopsis: Second of the Sevenwaters trilogy of novels about the last days of heroic Ireland, Son of the Shadows takes up the story of the children of Sorcha, who saved her enchanted brothers, and Hugh, the Briton she married. Sorcha’s daughter Liadan is a gifted seer and healer who thinks, in spite of her visions, that she knows what the future has in store for her–caring for her dying mother and then an alliance marriage to Eamonn. A chance meeting on the road carries her off to care for a dying man–one of the mercenaries of the sinister Painted Man, Eamonn’s archenemy and a killer for hire. Liadan discovers that she cannot choose whom she loves and that she and the Painted Man are as bound up in destiny as her mother and father were before her.

 

This is the second book in the Sevenwaters trilogy, although it is now part of a bigger series. I think there are three more books after this original trilogy. The first book is The Daughter of the Forest. I am now going to start this review by saying that I loved this book. I had high hopes for it as the first book is fantastic and it didn’t disappoint. First of all, I think Marillier’s writing is fantastic. I find it so easy to become immersed in her worlds and characters, and it is just always a pleasure to read her books (I’ve actually only read two…). This one definitely has a different feel to the first book and I would say it is not a direct sequel as we follow the daughter of the main character in the first book. I quite liked that it was quite different. The story line is a lot looser, if that makes sense. In the first book the main character is given a task at the beginning and the whole book is her completely it, but with this you’re never totally sure where things will end up. The characters are very well written and you come to really care for them. I have to say it did take me some time to warm to the love interest, Bran. You just knew when they meet exactly what was going to happen and I felt the romance develops quite fast, but I ended up quite enjoying it. It wasn’t perfect but it was well done.  To be honest, most of the male characters in this book are frustrating at certain points. I did love that fact that we got to see characters from the first book though.  Generally I enjoyed the development of the characters, as well as the progression of the plot. The world is also expanded on in this sequel, which gives you more of an understanding of it. I was hooked from early on and couldn’t put it down a lot of the time because I wanted to what was going to happen next.

 

My one small complaint would be the ending. Without spoiling it for anyone, it just left me a little confused and was kind of anticlimactic. It’s hard to explain without giving things away but certain things didn’t make sense to me – mainly where Liadan ends up. I understand it but I don’t understand how it relates to her family. If you’ve read it you may understand what I’m talking about. Having said all that I was still mostly satisfied with the ending. Moving onto something completely different – I think the Celtic influences are so well done and unlike alot of other fantasy books I’ve read. It has quite a fairy tale feel and I love that about it. Fey do play a part in this book but not too heavily. The mystery behind them is really interesting. I am not a huge lover of fairies/fey – I’ve never really seen the appeal but I love that aspect of these books. I think the darker feel of the book works so well.

 

While I didn’t love this more than the first book, I definitely loved it as much. Overall I thought this was a fantastic continuation for this series and it has made me want to read more from Juliet Marillier. I will definitely be continuing on with this series, as well as checking out some of her other books. If you enjoy fantasy, and like fey or fairytales, then I highly recommend checking this series out. I can’t wait to read the next book. Just a quick note before I go to let you guys know I am going away tomorrow and so if I’m slow at responding or don’t respond at all that is why. I will get back to you as soon as I can. I hope you are all having a wonderful day and I will see you next time.

 

Pippa