Monday, 5 October 2015

The Monthly Book Wrangle - September 2015

Kia Ora!

It's time for another round-up of what I've been reading this month. I've been trying to be quite diverse in my book choices, although the majority of September was fantasy (my favourite genre). I've also been starting to use the public library more (it's a 5 minute walk from my work), which has been great. I have 3 books on the hold shelf there right now, so expect a bigger round-up in October!

Onwards, to the books!

The Pyre - David Hair*

This book is written by a Kiwi (New Zealander for my international readers) who lived in India for 3 years, and has written a fantasy quartet that explores Indian mythology and religious traditions in a modern context. The Pyre (a re-released version of Pyre of Queens), is the first book, and a wonderful introduction to Indian religion, cultural beliefs, and the modern impact of these. I knew next to nothing about Indian religion - apart from the references to it in A Little Princess - and loved finding out more.

I won't say too much, but the basic plot involves a sorcerer-king/demon-lord from the 700s, who is reborn in modern-day India along with a cast of teenage characters who oppose his evil plans. The book explores complex mythologies, the Ramayana, various implications about the interactions of different religious beliefs, and, of course, love. It's action-packed, switches between modern-day and various historical periods, and so gripping I couldn't put it down (and read all the sequels very quickly as they were fantastic too). This is the second time I've read this book this year, and highly-recommend this series!

The Paper Magician - Charlie N. Holmberg

I came across this in a list of 'Must-Read YA Fantasy' or something similar, and promptly requested it from the library. It's a small book, which makes it easy to read - something that appeals to most people these days. Ceony Twill is sent as an apprentice to learn the magic of Folding (Paper) from Magician Emery Thane, despite her desire to become a smelting magician. Of course it's not all smooth sailing when villains invade Thane's home and Ceony is forced to use her meagre training to save the day. Honestly, this book was good, but not great. I ended up skipping parts of it because I thought some of the text was unnecessary.

*Spoiler alert* One of the things that was most annoying to me was that she fell in love with him after only a few days, although I did like that he didn't make any real commitments to her at the end - gotta have something for the sequels. What was good was the storytelling that was used to discover more about Emery Thane's past, which I quite liked, and the way his past was explored was quite well done. I'm planning on reading the sequels, more to see what happens than out of a real desire to further immerse myself in these books though. Overall rating of 'meh', but with gems of promise.

Looking for Alaska - John Green

This one was a book-club read for the month, and something I 'borrowed' off my sister-in-law about this time last year. Whoops! At least she can have it back now. I had read a little by John Green before, and cried just about the whole way through so I knew this book would be an emotional ride. It was an easy to read book, but dealt with some deep topics in a realistic and caring way. It is set at a boarding school, where the main character Miles deals with friendships, rivalries, and first love. The characters are rather gritty, with all kinds of problems, and this is a coming-of-age type story where the characters realise that life isn't always easy, and consequences to decisions are not always easy to accept. I really enjoyed this  book, despite it not being the happiest. John Green has a real knack for making relatable characters, whose plight will pull at your heart-strings, and kick-start your tear ducts.

The Hiding Places - Catherine Robertson

The token 'literary' novel in this months wrangle, and a very enjoyable one. It's a romance/mystery that involves historical events, a mysterious old house, repercussions of the death of a loved one, and explores the way that lives are shaped over decades. A New Zealander inherits an old house (think Downton Abbey size) in the UK, and reluctantly moves over to restore and sell it. This novel explores relationships (romantic, friendships, acquaintances), discusses punishment/blame for past actions (often ones that were out of individual control), moving forward in life despite it not going as planned, and draws the reader into the story. It's not the easiest book to read, and everything appears to have multiple meanings, but it is a very enjoyable story. It's thought-provoking and explores themes of love, death, adoption, and family roots.

Aurora - Kim Stanley Robinson*

I'm honestly not sure what to say about this book. I haven't finished it, and I don't think I am interested in finishing it. I've been trying for the last month, but it is very hard going. It's set on a spaceship (which includes flora, fauna, and climates from the four corners of Earth) and they are travelling to find a new planet to live on. There have been several generations since leaving Earth, and their destination is fast approaching. There is a creation of an unusual culture within the ship which is interesting to explore and understand, and the characters and their relationships with each other are well written. My issue is that the science dominates everything else. I know this is hard science fiction, but I couldn't make it through all the intricate science - partially because I don't want to, partially because you need a PhD in astrophysics to understand some of the terminology. I'm not going to say it was awful, because the parts that weren't science-based I really enjoyed, but be aware that this book requires more concentration (and possibly some research) to get through it.

*PR samples and affiliate links. 

Has anyone else read any of these books? What did you think? 

Until next time ...

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