Warlight

Warlight by Michael Ondaatje is an adult historical fiction novel.

It is 1945 and London and the rest of Europe are still reeling from the war. In it’s aftermath, two children and all but abandoned by their parents and left in the care of a strange man, whom the suspect to be a criminal. 14-year-old Nathaniel and his older sister, Rachel, thought their parents were going overseas for work, but when they find their mother’s steamer trunk hidden away, they come to understand that much of what they know is a lie.

As Nathaniel and Rachel come to know their enigmatic caretaker and his crew of shadowy compatriots, they become less concerned with their circumstances and embrace the intrigue and the cards they have been dealt.

Thirteen years later, Nathaniel tries to reconcile that mysterious time in his life. He longs to know the truth about his secretive mother and why she abandoned them all those years ago. He wants to know what happened to the crew of misfits who molded him into the man he is today. But more than anything he wants to shine a light on the shadows that still haunt his memory.

Hmmm this one is a hard to review. Mostly because I lost interest about halfway through. I really enjoyed the first half of the book, when Nathaniel was a boy and getting into trouble. I loved his time with the Data and Agnes and his interactions with the other adults constantly coming in and out of his life. But once we jump to his adult life, it wasn’t as interesting to me. It should have been because, like Nathaniel, I wanted to know what was really happened and yet it wasn’t. And because of this, I sort of stopped paying close attention to the story, which could be why the second half got a little confusing for me.

I realize that, as an adult, Nathaniel was searching for facts about his mother’s life. But from what I read, it sounded like he wasn’t getting very far and yet there are these long excerpts from her life. Is Nathaniel making these up to create his own narrative based on what he finds? Did these snip-its of the past really happen and they are only for the readers benefit? I’m leaning toward the former based on his internalizations toward the end, but who knows. And that bugs me.

Yes, there may be more to this story. Could it be a commentary on the secretive nature of this second world war? Maybe. Is it a coming of age story? Somewhat. What is the actual point of the story? I’m not sure. And that is why this story only gets a grudging three stars from me. While parts of it were good, I just didn’t get it. It’s a shame because I loved the narrator of the audio book too.

That’s all for now!

-M-

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Exit West

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid is an adult fiction book that follows two characters as they are forced to migrate from their homeland.

In a country on the cusp of civil war a man and a woman meet. Independent Nadia and reserved Saeed form a bond amidst the coming chaos that is both intimate and escalates quickly. Soon the two must band together to survive the unrest roiling through their city.

As conditions in their home worsen, Saeed and Nadia hear whispers of doors, doorways that can take you far away… for a price. With no good choices available to then, Nadia and Saeed take one of these doors, leaving their old lives, their old selves, behind. What the future holds, no one knows.

One of the things I loved about this book was the narrative. We have this almost, observational narrator, who is telling the story as if watching it unfold. I think this is great because you get this feeling of being on the outside looking in and not being a migrant myself, this is what I feel like I should be feeling. Definitely helps to reinforce the narrative.

The story itself is more metaphorical than magical. You have these dark doorways that transport you somewhere else, be it good or bad, but these doors aren’t magical, they are metaphors for the migrant experience. Nadia describes being changed as one pushes through the door, being both exhausted and elated, regretful and relieved. Nadia and Saeed enter these doorways looking for a better life but never sure of if what they find will be better or worse than where they are coming from.

I thought the transition Saeed and Nadia went through in this story both heartbreaking but also a bit beautiful. They were able to stay together through the hardships and yet they were able to realize how they have changed and what it meant for them as a couple. There was no bitterness, no hatred or betrayal.

This one gets 4 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

The Lost Letter

The Lost Letter by Jillian Cantor is an adult historical fiction novel, with an alternating narrative, set in the late 1980’s and the start of WWII.

In Los Angeles 1989, Katie Nelson is going through a rough patch. She is in the midst of a divorce she didn’t see coming and helping her father, who was recently put in a home because of his increasingly losing battle with Alzheimer. Not knowing what else to do with her father’s massive stamp collection, she takes it to a deal who finds an unopened love letter, with an interesting stamp.

Decades earlier in Austria, 1938, Kristoff is a young apprentice to Frederic, a master stamp engraver, who quickly comes to love the engraver and his Jewish family. When Frederic disappears on Kristallnacht, Kristoff is forced to engrave stamps for the German. But secretly, alongside Elena, Frederic’s daughter, and the Austrian resistance, Kristoff will enter a dangerous world, he may not be ready for.

Together these two stories will intertwine to reveal the past and enlighten the future.

This was a recommendation from a friend when I was in an audio book lull. And it was a pretty good one to pass the time with. I wasn’t overly wow’ed, but I was never bored and it definitely passed the time.

I actually like Katie’s journey more than Kristoff’s. I really enjoyed her hunt for the past and having it set in a time where those databases and resources were only just being created, made the hunt more interesting for me.

Don’t you just love reading books about hobbies. I swear, every time I read something about someone who collects something or trains for a marathon, or whatever, I totally envision myself going out there and doing the same thing. And after this one, a small part of me was like, “go ahead, become a philatelist.” Then you finish the book and are like no, no. It’s fun to get inside the character’s heads.

This one gets a solid 3.5 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

The Priory of the Orange Tree

The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon is a standalone adult fantasy novel.

A world divided by politics and beliefs. An old foe threatens to rise again. And chaos on the horizon. Three women from opposite sides of this battle must overcome their difference and unite, or all is lost.

Annnnd that is the only synopsis I can write without going into the many, many details included in this tome. This is a large book. A very large book. So large that I checked out the paper copy and “noped” real hard. So I was very happy to find out that there was an audio book version because I have really enjoyed Shannon’s The Bone Season series. And ultimately, I did enjoy this beast of a book.

I tend to enjoy books with a lot going on; I like a lot of description and background in my books. I like to take a deep dive into the world and see all the world building the author has put into the story. Shannon definitely does this in Priory. She builds up the politics, the backstories, the little details that others might leave out. But even for me, there was a lot to take in, in one single book.

I remember getting a little more than halfway done and thinking to myself, “this would be a perfect stopping point.” I respect Shannon for staying true to her story and keeping this as one book, BUT I do think the story would have done really well as a duology. Although, I am glad I don’t have to wait a year to finish!

For me, Ead has the most interesting storyline for me. I liked how she was fighting against her duty, her heart and what she actually believed to be right or wrong. Ead, like all the women in this book, be they side characters or main character, are strong, capable women. This is probably going to be a major appeal for a lot of people. Also there are dragons. So yea, dragons.

I enjoyed this book but I wasn’t wowed by it. Some things felt familiar to me. This one gets a solid 3 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

Bloodwitch

Bloodwitch by Susan Dennard is the third book in The Witchlands series.

The twenty year truce has ended and war is inevitable. Safiya and Iseult have gone their separate ways, both willingly and not, and the Witchlands is on the brink of chaos. As nations collapse and evil rises, how ever will a world divided, right itself?

Annnnnd I cannot do a better summary than that. But don’t let that hinder your interest in this series! There is just so much going on and so many story-lines that there isn’t one overarching plot to summarize. One minute, I’ll be reading Safiya’s narrative and be sucked in and then next minute Iseult and Aeduan will take over and I will be equally enthralled.

This is an interesting world that Dennard has built and it is only getting more complex as the story progresses. Right now that isn’t a problem, but I am interested in seeing how everything ties together. I don’t mind diverging narratives as long they converge at some point.

I love Aeduan and Iseult’s story-line and the fact that this book was, in large part, his story was great! I swear I continued this series primarily for Iseult but the rest of the story-lines are starting to get good too. Safiya’s story is probably my least favorite and there were other’s like Styx’s, where I wanted to know more.

There’s just… a lot going on. I can see some people, especially those who don’t read fantasy a lot, getting lost. There were a few moments for me even, where I must have lost focus and needed to backtrack. But ultimately, I am really enjoying this series and I really want to see where it is going.

This one gets 4 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

The Thirteenth Tale

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield is an adult fiction novel.

Vida Winter’s is one of the most popular writers in the world, but her life is a mystery. Many have sought to interview her and the stories they have left with have been just as varied as her books. Now Vida Winter’s is sick and old and, in her way, she is ready to unburden herself.

In steps Margaret Lea, a young woman stuck in the pain of her own past, who is all but summoned to Winter’s estate in order to hear her story. Margaret is hesitant to take on this task, what with Winter’s propensity for fiction, but ultimately is intrigued by the story.

As Winters begins to reveal the secrets of her past, Margaret becomes entranced in the story and through her interviews and research she will uncover the truth… the truth about the reclusive Vida Winters and the truth within herself. Together, Vida Winters and Margaret will overcome the ghosts of their past.

This was such a wonderful read. It really pulls you in and is almost impossible to put down. I read Setterfield’s Once Upon a River, which I loved and decided to give this one a try. I can’t decide which is my favorite; my answer would probably change day-by-day.

What I loved about this book was that you really wanted to know the truth right alongside Margaret. You wanted to uncover how the various strings tied together. You wanted to finish the tale. And when you finally find get the full story, it is just so satisfying. And for those of you who like clean endings, where every little details is wrapped up, you get it. This is probably why this one loses half a star from me because there was a moment that would have been such a perfect ending, that I sort of got annoyed when the book continued.

Setterfield shows her love for books and writing in every page of this novel. The story flows so well and the writing is amazing. This one gets a high 4.5 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

Kingdom of Copper

Kingdom of Copper is the second book in The Daevabad Trilogy.

Nahri’s life changed forever when she summoned Dara, a warrior and djinn with a mysterious past. Her return to Daevabad as the last Nahid healer, signaled a period of change for hidden world of djinn, marid’s and magic.

But when Dara is slain by Prince Ali, the city is thrown into turmoil. All Nahir’s knows is that she must protect her people and the home she never knew she had. But her efforts are constantly thwarted by a the violent king of Daevabad and it might just take all of Nahir’s willpower just to keep herself alive.

Meanwhile, Prince Ali has been exiled for defying his king and father. He is thrown out of Daevabad and is forced to deal with the repercussions of his battle with Dara on his own.

Five years later, at the turn of the century, unrest is brewing and the fate of Daevabad sways in the balance.

Phew! This was a monster of a series to get back into after a year. I vaguely remembered what happened and that I really enjoyed the story but there was so much I forgot, which made it really hard to get through the first few chapters. There is quite a lot going on and the politics of the crown and the city could be hard to get straight at first.

One thing I really like about this book though, is that you just don’t know who to root for. Nahri seems like the best choice because she is well meaning but she is also naive in ways. Dara is such a tortured soul but also blinded by loyalty and his feelings. Ali, you want to like but his “blind fanaticism,” in the words of his father, causes him to rush into things. I even rooted for Nahri’s husband/Ali’s father (name?) by the end. All of this really makes me wonder just how this series is going to turn out.

I’m going to give this one a high 3.5 stars. And I almost recommend waiting to read the whole series until all three are out, unless you are a fantastic re-reader–which I am not.

That’s all for now!

-M-