Retro Reread #6: First King of Shannara by Terry Brooks

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This is my first Retro Reread pick that I didn’t like rereading as much as I liked reading it the first time. It has been about ten plus years since I read it. This was one of my dad’s favorite fantasy series so I was determined to read it too and I started with this prequel and had no idea what the rest of the series would be like. It was dark and sometimes quite hopeless but I had no idea how it was going to end. Knowing how everything was going to go down already made this hard to reread this month.

The Druid Bremen has confirmed that the renegade Druid Brona is still alive and gearing up to take over the world. Bremen and his friends are determined to stop him from succeeding.

What got me through were the characters Bremen and Mareth. They were both fascinating to me the first time but I was able to understand them better the second time around.

Kokoro by Natsume Soseki

Book Review Red and Black

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I finished this one in the middle of the night last night because it was due today and I was determined to finish.

Honestly, I’m still processing.

At the center of the book is a student and the man he calls Sensei. This book is also about family and friendship plus it is about the transition from the Japan of Sensei’s youth to modern Japan.

This is a character driven story. At first the student is the narrator so we get what he’s thinking and feeling and how he perceives others. Then Sensei is the narrator and his section mostly focuses on his past because he is attempting to explain why he is the way he is.

After I finished I realized that Sensei has depression but it wasn’t until I got his perspective that I understood.

That’s also why I cautiously give a trigger warning. The word “depression” may not be used but Sensei feels the symptoms. Suicide is also a prominent part of this book.

Overall, I found this book compelling. As soon as I met the characters in the first chapter I wanted to know more about them and what their lives were like during the late 1800’s through early 1900’s in Japan.

Chemistry: a novel by Weike Wang

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The main character’s life is falling apart. Getting her PhD is looking less likely by the day, especially after she breaks all the beakers in the lab. Also, her relationship with her boyfriend is imploding, just like their ceiling. And yet with all that there is still hope.

The prose is stream of consciousness but it isn’t incomprehensible. In this case this style makes it a relatively fast read. The main character is weird and random but I can’t help but relate because we also get snippets of her past with dysfunctional parents. All three of them are immigrants to the US and we see how that impacts them. There was a lot of depth and humanity plus chemistry. I found myself highlighting multiple passages.

I highly recommend for literary fiction fans.

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

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I first found out about this one because it was a pick for Book of the Month Club in March and I have seen it blow up since.

I didn’t pick this one in March but it sounded really interesting to me and when one of my library systems ordered it I put myself on hold. And I got it and I read it. Here are my thoughts.

This is about a couple who leaves Syria through a magical door when the fighting begins. They travel to different places trying to make a life. But as they live in different places they grow further and further apart.

The style of writing is like a fairy tale. The reader is told the story rather than shown the story.  I didn’t really mind it. I like fairy tales and other stories told to me. For some reason, I also didn’t need a firm connection with these characters. I thought it was easier to read about them with a slight barrier between us.

I also felt that this was an important book about being a refugee. There are elements of the fantastical (the magical doors, for instance) but there are big doses of reality about trying to find places to live and work because they don’t want to go back to Syria until it is safe to do so.

Overall, I really liked it and thought it was powerful though ultimately a bit sad. I recommend this to those who want to read more diverse literature and don’t mind being told the story rather than being shown the story. If you aren’t into the first chapter I give you permission to put this one down.

Thanks for reading! *waves*

 

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

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Lazlo Strange is an orphan who doesn’t know anything about his parents or where he came from. But he’s been obsessed with a city called Weep since he was five years old. Fifteen years later he is presented with an opportunity to go to Weep but he has to help the Godslayer solve a very big problem that he isn’t telling anyone about until they actually get to Weep. And holy moly is that problem big and complex.

I loved this book.

First, I loved Lazlo right away. He’s a reader and he’s a dreamer. Weep fascinates him and nobody else cares. Then he’s able to fulfill his dream of going to Weep (granted it isn’t as he imagined it but that doesn’t really stop him). I had no trouble rooting for this character.

Second, the problems that affect Weep are really complex and not easily fixed. I felt this gave the novel a lot of power because we see multiple perspectives and reasons for those perspectives. The plot became less simple and less predictable.

Third, that ending scared me but I still want more.

 

Nine Susanna Kearsley Books Ranked

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I’ve read most of the books Susanna Kearsley has written because the first one I read was not enjoyable and a bunch of people said that one wasn’t as good and I should try something else by her and so I did and really liked the second book I tried. Then I treated this as an unofficial challenge. I needed to read most of her books and gain a better perspective on this writer’s work. So here I am ranking what I read.

Best: firebird sk The Firebird

This is one of the dual narrative books. We get the present day narrative with two people who have paranormal abilities. She can see the past of an object by holding it. After holding a firebird statue she goes on a quest to find out the whole story. I loved both the past and present narratives. They were both strong stories and worked really well in tandem. The only downside to this book is: you have to read The Winter Sea first because the past narrative of that one is continued in this one. Luckily for me I accidentally read The Winter Sea before The Firebird. 

51gMZ3KRoML._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_ The Winter Sea

This was the second book I read by her and I loved it. I was motivated to read the other books she wrote after I read this one. This is also a dual narrative book and I did slightly prefer the past narrative but I did still strongly relate to the writer in the present narrative who was inspired by the ruins of a castle. This is also my most recommended book because people tend to grab The Firebird off the shelf and I feel compelled to tell them that they should read this one first or they won’t get the full emotional impact (or they’ll just be confused).

a-desperate-fortune-9781451673838_hr A Desperate Fortune

This is also a dual narrative. There were aspects of the past and present that I liked but other elements that weren’t quite working for me; however, they were not enough to upset me. I was a big fan of the fairy tales in the past narrative and I also really liked the two romantic leads in both narratives. And we get a glimpse of the past leads in The Firebird in this past narrative and it made me happy.

wp85b8fcca_05_06 The Rose Garden

This is the only book I’ve read by her where the main character physically time travels rather than reading a journal (A Desperate Fortune), reliving an ancestor’s memories (The Winter Sea), or sensing the past via paranormal ability (The Firebird). The leading man in the past was a pretty fabulous romantic lead. His conversations with the leading time travelling lady were my favorite bits. I also liked a modern woman learning how to do basic things in the past. I appreciated that detail. But this plot dragged. It wasn’t compelling until the very end. I could put this down for weeks and not pick it up. It wasn’t a chore to read but it still took me forever to get through it.

shadowyhorsessk The Shadowy Horses

The leading man in the present narrative of The Firebird is in this one but he’s a kid. You don’t have to read this one before The Firebird but the events in this one do come first. The Shadowy Horses doesn’t have a dual past and present narrative. We have the kid seeing a Roman sentinel and an old rich man convinced that this ghost is guarding a huge potential archaeological breakthrough. So he hires a team. There is a slow burn romance in this one that I really enjoyed. But there was a lot here that felt a little anticlimactic.

5166LIpxLmL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ The Splendour Falls

This one is also not a dual narrative. It is more of a murder mystery with historical elements and a little bit of romance. I really liked the setting and the characters and I liked the plot more than a lot of other reviewers but it isn’t as strong as the previous books on this list.

51yWoCsMDiL Season of Storms

This is mostly about a production of a play that has never been performed before. The romance was a little lackluster and the ending was a little awkward but the familial relationships were compelling and I really liked the leading lady. This one is also not really a dual narrative but there are a couple snippets of what the playwright was thinking while he wrote this play for Celia, the woman he loved who mysteriously disappears before the play could be performed.

mariana Mariana

I liked most of this. I massively disliked the ending. There were two big things, one in the past narrative and the other in the present, that I had big issues with but they are massive spoilers so I will leave it at that.

Worst: 51m+UrMokQL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_ Named of the Dragon

This was the first book by Susanna Kearsley that I read and my list of issues with it is rather long and does include spoilers. This book angered me on multiple occasions. Highlights: it all felt massively melodramatic and the main romances didn’t feel right.

A Breath of Life by Clarice Lispector

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This was my pick for the Read Harder task “set in Central or South America, written by a Central or South American author.” I chose Lispector because I’d never heard of her, wanted to know more, and to my knowledge I haven’t read a book set in Brazil or by a Brazilian author.

It is hard to explain my reaction to this book. It is about an author who creates a character and then watches this character live and die. I found it moving and disturbing.

It also reminded me of Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami in style (clipped yet profound) as well as subject matter (different types of writers) but A Breath of Life does not go further than the relationship between this author and his creation, Angela. Yet it is all so complex and strange.

Put simply, I adored it but it isn’t for everyone.

Dead Letters by Caite Dolan-Leach

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Ava tried to escape her family in Paris but her twin sister Zelda’s death brings her back to her childhood home and memories. Zelda has left behind a complicated game for Ava to play and it is entirely possible that Zelda is not really dead.

I was surprised that I liked this but I did. All the characters are dysfunctional and alcoholics. No one is innocent here. And yet there are pieces of Zelda and Ava that I still managed to sympathize with. I also couldn’t look away from all the drama unfolding.

So I recommend this to those who like character driven stories where the characters are not very likable.

Retro Reread #2: Dragon Prince by Melanie Rawn

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The concept of Retro Rereads was created by a writer at Book Riot and the idea is to pick books that you haven’t read or reread in a while and read them again to see if they are still your favorites. (I read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe for January. Still one of my favorites.)

This one is also a fantasy novel that could be read on its own or part of a six book series. I read the whole series when I was twelve-ish and I was bawling uncontrollably for about an hour when I finished. So… I’ve only read the whole series once but I’ve read this first book multiple times. My copy has a cracked spine and pages falling out of it now. But I hadn’t reread it in years so I wanted to see how I felt about it (especially after reading her new Touchstone series that I didn’t like at all).

I have to admit that from the first page I felt the magic. We start out with Prince Zehava hunting a dragon with his son-in-law Chay. Very Beowulf. I had a hard time putting this book down to read my library books.

Rohan is his son. There is also Sioned, the Sunrunner. Their marriage is arranged a little by Andrade and also by fate. (“Even if it was written in stone you could still break it.”)

So there is a bit of insta-love but I love the characters so I wasn’t really bothered but I know this situation can bother other people.

Not only are the main characters strong but also the supporting cast. They feel real and human. I love reading about them even when they make some really ugly decisions. They take responsibility for them and have friends around them to knock them back on the right path again. This book celebrates the good in humanity but doesn’t ignore the bad.

Men and women fight together. Back in the day this was not a given in fantasy.

I also love this magic system that has the light of sun and moons at the center.

So I can firmly say that this is still one of my favorite books.

Warning: There is one rape depicted and multiple rapes of another character that are mentioned, not shown. The first time I read this book I had to put the book down for a day before I could continue.

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