Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss – Poetry, Fantasy and World-Building at its best

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Early this week, I borrowed the first of Patrick Rothfuss’s books (The Name of the Wind) from my library. I devoured it in less than a day and waited eagerly for the next (Wise Man’s Fear) which I finished reading at 2:00 AM this morning. My brain swirled with Kvothe, Felurian, Auri, Denna, Bast and The Chronicler. The names and places filled my head and my tongue. My imagination is rife with what the next installment of the trilogy will bring.

The Kingkiller Chronicles is referred to as Harry Potter for adults and I can see where that comes from, but it is more. It is about magic but more than that it is about the people, the world they inhabit, the growth of a trouper boy into a legend. It is about fear, bravery and Lethani. It is the finest example of world building I have seen in a long, long while. The language is rich, beautiful and lyrical in parts. It is a song, a paean to the magic that lies in our sleeping minds.

I loved the series and you will too if you enjoy magical prose, dipping into fantasy and exploring worlds that can spark your imagination and drag you headfirst into alien tongues and power beyond what you can comprehend.

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The Association Of Small Bombs – Rich, Evocative, Compelling

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I stumbled on to this book on a friend’s timeline and put it on hold at my local library. As someone working on a book of her own, I am forever on the lookout for books by Indian authors. So, this seemed a promising read.

The book starts with a bomb going off in a crowded marketplace. Two boys lose their life and the third runs away. What follows is almost a kaleidoscopic view of the implosion following the bomb attack. The survivors, the victims, the terrorists and the lives they touch. The book zooms in and out of the various scenes effortlessly, switching POVs and zooming out to paint a general picture. The language is rich and evocative bringing to life the Delhi of the solid middle class and the crowds jostling in Lajpat Nagar. You can feel the heat, smell the dust and are blinded by the vibrancy of details.

As someone who has grown up in Madras of yore, I could picture this happening in any big city in India or elsewhere. For me, this book was a visceral experience. As someone learning the craft of writing, I found Mahajan’s approach to putting the story first and the audience later work very well. The book does not compromise or cater to a specific audience and the story is the real winner here. Diversity and Own Voices is a trend in publishing and books like these need to be heard and seen.

Towards the end of the book, I felt myself zoning out unable to connect with Ayub’s POV or compulsion to turn terrorist but that did not stop me from finishing the book or savoring the incredible writing.

It is not a book for everyone. If you like literary books that take a hard hitting view and does not flinch from the hard stuff, this book is for you. Definitely a book worth another read for me.

Without Benefits by Nicole Tone – Beach Read With Soul

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Nicole is someone I got to know on Twitter when looking for critique partners. As we swapped first chapters, I soon realized her writing was exemplary and she had much to offer in terms of feedback and the craft of writing, something I could only aspire too. So, when I knew her first book was coming out this year, I signed up for an ARC.

I received my copy over the long weekend and I settled in after an exhausting couple of days with my Kindle in hand.

Emma. Connor. Owen.

Two men. One woman. Emma flees NYC after the September 11 attacks, leaving behind a city that she called home. Reinventing herself in Seattle, she is engaged to Connor when Owen from her past surfaces.

The story moves predictably and slowly. Tone takes her time weaving Emma’s college years with her current life (in her 30’s) alternatively. Just when we are about to get frustrated as to why it takes her so long to see what everyone else in her life seems to know, we get a peak into the kind of person Emma has evolved into based on what happened in her past.

Tone works on revealing each character, their motivations and their place in Emma’s life leisurely. Seattle and New York City come to life in this debut. The prose sparkles with understated emotions and beautiful imagery. She delves into relationships with a beautiful sensitivity. I loved the way Emma related to her sister Leah and their mom. There are moments in the book almost every woman will relate to.

Having said that, I would have found the book compelling with a stronger conflict. I kept waiting for a story to unfold until the very end only to realize that was all to the story.

Pick it up if you are in the mood for a beach read with soul.

The House We Grew Up In – Dysfunctional Much?

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I picked up The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell based on a recommendation on Twitter. The story starts promisingly enough with the eldest daughter of the Bird family arriving at the family house after her mom dies. Weaving back and forth over a period of 20 – 30 years, the story traces the Bird family as it disintegrates following the suicide of the youngest child on Easter Sunday.

I love books that takes a hard, gritty look at issues beneath the polished veneer. Most of these books also end with hope or redemption. However, Jewell puts together every conceivable dysfunction possible in a family and then ends the book on an all too predictable note. I do not ever recall feeling angry at a protagonist as I did with this book. At over 400 pages, the book could have cut 100 pages and would have been tauter for that.

Not my kind of book. Pick it up if you are in the mood for something that will make your life seem beautiful by comparison.

The Nightingale – A Riveting Read

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I bought this book after it was our book club pick for this month. It sat on my Kindle for over three weeks before I even looked it up. I had no idea what to expect as I skipped reading the synopsis or the reviews before buying the book.

I finished the book a day after I started reading with tears streaming down my eyes. Tears not because of the way it ends but for the powerful storytelling and a story that will stay in my head for years.

Hannah’s language is lyrical and evocative. The story starts in current day and slips effortlessly into the 1930s and 1940s. This is a tale of two sisters set in the middle of WWII. What makes this book unputdownable at 440 pages long is that the story hums along refusing to get bogged down by details. Yes, it about the war but it isn’t about bombs and being out in the trenches. It about the women left behind. The ones who trudge on through the days, weeks and years, carrying on running their homes, raising their children  despite the unspeakable horrors they witness. It is the story of courage – of mothers, of sisters, of friends and of neighbors. It is about what is worth fighting for when you have lost everything. Well, almost.

The magic of the story that Hannah spins is such that you are transported into the freezing winters of France, on to the sidewalks of Paris in its heydays and in the middle of rebels plotting to fight to the death. You are there, with Vianne, with Isabelle as they grapple with the questions of what is right and what they can do.

An absolutely lovely and thought provoking read. A book I know I will re-read in the years to come. A definite buy!

Before We Visit The Goddess – A Nuanced Read That Will Linger

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Before We Visit The Goddess by Chitra Divakaruni is a book I have been looking forward to since I saw the pre-release publicity on Twitter. I got it over the weekend from the library and savored it over the course of this afternoon.

The book opens ominously to jackals howling in the night and dives right into the life of Sabitri now penning a letter to her granddaughter Tara. As she mulls the kind of wisdom a grandmother can convey across generations and oceans, we are teased into her life and the life of her daughter Bela. Three women. Three generations. Three lives. The books jumps across time and continents and threads them together in piece that is compelling.

The language is evocative, the book plays like a series of montages spotlighting mom, daughter and grandmother. The other characters appear in and out, pay their role and bow out. You watch from the sidelines and ache for each of these women. The tropes are plentiful and before you worry that it might head to its cliched end, they morph and deliver something of value. You have the aging senior who needs a sitter, you have the visiting professor, you have the masseur boyfriend, you have the gay friend. Each of these characters are delightful making you wish they would linger on, yet the story teases you and playfully jumps on to the next scene.

At a time when novels tell you more than you want to know and spend agonizing hours on showing what the characters feel and do, Before We Visit The Goddess is crisp, leaping between plot points making you pay attention. A lot is left unsaid letting you the reader pontificate. It leaves glimpses of things that happened, the future that could be and lets you fill in the details.

This is a book that I may be tempted to read again or suggest as a book club selection. Definitely a keeper!

Jerkbait by Mia Seigert

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I met Mia Seigert on Twitter in the process of growing my writing community and was blown away by how easy she was to talk to and how much she gave without reserve in terms of experience and tips to a newbie like me. I was planning to buy her book when it comes out later this year as a show of support to a fellow writer but was surprised and happy to receive an ARC.

Young Adult as a genre is something I am new to so I have been trying to read different titles over the past few months. I started Jerkbait late last night and was hoping I would finish it in a day. Instead I lay in bed reading way past midnight. When the book was done and I closed my eyes, I had the feeling that I had finished watching a movie.

The book features twins Robbie and Tristan who are seniors in High School. Robbie lives and breathes hockey while the arts call to Tristan. On the surface it seems to be a book about gay athletes and the immense pressure and bullying they are subject to but dig a little deeper and it is a story that any high schooler can relate to. Parental pressure, bullying, the struggle to balance career aspirations with following the heart and of course love. At the base of this complex story is one of sibling relationship.

Given the multiple threads the story handles, I half expected gaps in the story and plot holes but happily surprised to see it all tied up well.

If you love young adult fiction or if you have a high schooler at home or know of someone who can relate to this, pick up a copy. A fast, thrilling read.