Archive for the ‘Book Review’ Category

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In a land governed by the cruel Frostblood ruling class, seventeen-year-old Ruby is a Fireblood who has spent most of her life hiding her ability to manipulate heat and light – until the day the soldiers come to raid her village and kill her mother. Ruby vows revenge on the tyrannous Frost King responsible for the massacre of her people.

But Ruby’s powers are unpredictable…and so are the feelings she has for Arcus, the scarred, mysterious Frostblood warrior who shares her goal to kill the Frost King, albeit for his own reasons. When Ruby is captured by the Frost King’s men, she’s taken right into the heart of the enemy. Now she only has one chance to destroy the maniacal ruler who took everything from her – and in doing so, she must unleash the powers she’s spent her whole life withholding.

Frostblood is set in world where flame and ice are mortal enemies – but together create a power that could change everything.

I actually liked Frostblood by Elly Blake quite a bit.

It is a fast read. The writing style is clean and the story flows very smoothly. There are many of the tropes generally associated with fantasy YA – magically powerful but untrained female protagonist, brooding male lead, end of the world prophecy and of course, an evil king. But it retains a freshness, mainly due to the author’s writing style and because the book is not gritty but rather has a fairytale-esque quality to it – which makes it charming rather than typical.

I had guessed the main twist quite early on in the book, but still the start of the second part brought some surprises. The book also has a feel good factor – most people, when given a choice – choose to be good. I think that makes the book feel lighter than it actually is. There is decent character development of the protagonist, and some nice touches in regards to the other characters as well. I would have preferred them to be more fleshed out, but they are more than caricatures – and the second book might have quite a few things in store. Plus, the book has a somewhat definitive, happy ending. That was so good to have.

It will be a definite favorite with people who have just gotten into this genre (or want to check it out) and also good for people who are a bit tired of all the brutality/murder/grit (you get the idea).

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The Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series has been one of my favorite paranormal series’. When I started reading, there were probably 16 books out and I binge read them all. Ever since then, I expectantly waited for each new book. I never had an issue with the twists LKH brought in, the number of men in Anita’s life, the elaborate and really long sex scenes or basically anything that happened – coz most things took the plot or the characters forward.

I know I read the last book, but I do not remember it now. I read Narcissus in Chains almost a decade ago and can narrate the entire story. The last book was forgettable. But I think there was a plot and there was character growth. Because I did not feel the disappointment that I feel now.

I usually do not write bad reviews. I give bad ratings on GoodReads, but if I already feel my time was not well utilized on the book – I am not interested in spending more time cribbing about it. This time, however, I feel I need to do it, hoping that LKH might see this, or at least her editors do.

There are spoilers ahead.

Crimson Death starts off with Damien. He is having trouble and Anita goes to talk to him. Made sense. Cardinale had an issue with everything because she is a paranoid and super jealous girlfriend. Made sense. The utter frustration felt in the situation made sense. This was LKH’s job. She did just fine. But it was the job of her editors to shorten it – make the whole thing crisp. To take the frustration and instead of letting it spill over so many pages, sharpen it to knife’s edge – make it cut, and then move on. I ended up feeling just as frustrated as Damien.

I like the details that LKH puts in. I like how she gives us names of the guards. I like how Anita thinks that she should know the names of the people who might give up their life for her. I don’t get why we still see the dumb guards who are too sexist for their own good. And even if they are, they lack the professionalism to keep it under wraps especially when in front of their boss. And if they are so unprofessional – they should not be doing security at a place like Danse Macabre. What if they are unprofessional to a customer? What then? After 25 books Anita has to deal with people like Ricky. Why? Cut them out. We have seen a thousand versions of the same scene – we do not need another one. If it needs to be mentioned – then he leered and Echo met Anita’s gaze and Anita understood Echo would take care of it. See? Done.

Anita is supposed to be having a serious date. She goes, has her date, comes back and the plan is to sleep with Damien. Just sleep. The situation is awkward. But it does not need to become a therapy session. I am glad everyone is going to therapy. God knows they need it. But these things cannot take so long. This is not real life where everything does take forever and still never gets truly sorted. This is a book and these people only have a limited number of pages to get their story across.

This is just the very beginning of the book.

Every single person has been described in painstaking detail in the book. Their looks, their backstory, their fears, desires, preferences and their relationship with Anita. All of that is needed – but to a much shorter extent. Yes, I do want to know where Dev and Anita stand in their relationship at the moment. But, I do not want to know what he looks like anymore. I know already. If I did not even know what the main characters looked like, I would not pick up the 25th book in the series. It is LKH’s job to put in this information – to make sure she links everything together. It is the job of her editors to tell her that this is verbatim what she has in the previous books and to cut it out. To tell her that we all know Nicky is blonde, tall built and with one eye missing. Reading about his mannerisms was interesting initially, now we know exactly what they are and can picture them better when not weighed down by a 1000 words on the issue.

Nicky, Jean-Claude, Asher, Nathaniel – all are described way too much. The stillness of the vamps – we have been doing that since book 1. Don’t explain. Asher’s scars – no I do not again need to know about the Inquisition. I know. Tell me about him and Kane. Not about the scars. I know Jean Claude has black hair. I know Anita has curls. I know their hair is really long. I did not know Micah needed prescription glasses – that was interesting. But I did not need to be told again that a ‘really bad man’ had made him stay in animal form too long. I know about Chimera. I read Narcissus in Chains. And even if I had not, it has been mentioned more than enough times since then. These people do not need to be introduced, not in any way.

I know otherwise I have no business picking up the 25th Anita Blake book. So why did not her editors know all this and cut it? If they could not cut it, why did they not tell LKH at least?

Then there are the conversations. Almost everyone is going for therapy. I am actually really curious about this therapist (or if it is more than one?) because you have to be AMAZING to deal with people with such issues. Plus there is the problem of how strong most of them are. What if they lost control and hurt the therapist? How does the therapist know he/she is safe? How do you do your job when faced by powerful vamps who might roll you? Or shifters who might break you?

So, that kind of stuff would be cool. The challenges faced by a therapist of the supernatural? Imagine being a therapist for the Harlequin. How do you handle that? And how does the therapist keep all the secrets? Has anyone ever tried to break in and learn abt the personal lives of these famous people?

Instead of anything interesting coming in – we have every conversation being dragged to its death, and then its body being dragged some more. I know these people are all going for therapy and they have worked very hard to be this open and this accepting of themselves and others. But, there are times for such conversations and not all conversations can be like this.

The time in the plane – while traveling to Ireland – best place for these conversations because there is nothing else to do.

While in the van with Nolan present – No. And Nolan sharing with these guys so much – NO. We have just met this guy. He’s a badass – think Edward at the start. He should act like Edward then. Not to mention, Edward should act like Edward. Him being treated like a ‘normal man’ in this book is so disconcerting. He is Edward.

And then there are so many things that never get explained, sorted or solved. What did Edward do in all his time in Ireland? Did he catch He caught no one? He found no vamps? This is Edward. And I never even saw why he needed Anita to come by. It’s a vamp plague – sure. But nothing beyond that. Why would he need her? I never learned how the Irish cops had pissed him off that the Ted mask kept slipping. The Irish are so nice it is annoying – so then how did he get so angry at them? Them calling for Anita I can understand. Him being desperate to include her? No way.

Every place has fools but why is every fool Anita meets a misogynist? Her reputation precedes her. Then do they simply ignore the kill count and focus on her wedding? How do the Irish even know the rumors? The Americans do, but then they are all part of the same law enforcement. Are the rumors about her sex life on the internet? I thought that would not happen considering she is marrying only Jean-Claude and that is all that the press would know.

Then come the later bits. The fey could have been so much more – but they become a footnote. And then we have Nathaniel – finally growing into a man – who has to sightsee and take bodyguards away from Anita. He’s smarter than that. Yet, it was good to see a facet of him that suited his age.

Of course, Jean Claude was too weak to be left alone with Asher. This is Jean Claude. He has fought and clawed his way to where he is. He is not weak. Anything but weak. Why the sudden twist in personality?

Then we have the ending. It is chapter 73 by the time the real plot starts. Sure, the stuff before was the precursor – but then they do not actually try to solve anything. Looking at crime scene photos and then saying what you see is fine. But nothing else happens. No actual crime solving. Are the entirety of Irish police so incompetent or so against violence that they cannot do their jobs? They may not kill vamps – but they have not used any info Edward gave them to do anything else?

Anita is kidnapped. Again. Cannot contact anyone Metaphysically, again. Rolls someone who gets her out. Again. What is the new bit?

The vamp whose very name other vamps do not say, dies without a whimper. Where was the fight for survival? Sure Anita is weak – but hunger has left her just as weak throughout half the book. Where was the crime solving, the hunting bad guys part? Where did we get any actual info on Nolan’s team except their names? SWAT has always been given more respect. These guys were amateurs – especially Brennan – who was not even pulled off duty and sent back to guard Anita and her lot. Socrates stayed at the compound – so she wasted one of her best guards for no reason but to train people? Training could have happened later – how was guarding his queen taking a backseat?

And then there is an ending. One large vamp shows up, Damien says he has always been more of a beast, and voila one major issue solved. It was never shifters but this vamp who was killing off people that brutally. Okay. But if he was also making new vamps, then how was it? Coz we are told Moroven had trouble with it too. So how did a minion do it so well? Why was magic dying in Dublin? That is never explained and without that, the vamps rising would have been impossible. So, a major plot point is completely ignored, not just left unresolved.

The ‘fixing’ of the marrying a tiger situation is solved so easily. I was not even sure the tiger in question was dead until much later. What happened to explaining what was going on? The position of everyone on the bed, their hands, their clothes, their preferences and even their positions are always described in excruciating detail (every time, mind you) – and yet something that important is just treated as an after thought.

The end is too blah, for lack of a better word. It’s liek someone describing a movie they watched with amazing graphics, that are just not translating into words. Except I know LKH can do it. She has done it before, many many times.

I think the end of it is, I am severely disappointed. Will I read the next book in the series? Probably. Will I expect better? Yes.

I know LKH is an amazing storyteller. I have read a lot of books which are proof of this. But the bare bones of a plot filled out into a flat summation type description along with wordy conversations and other descriptions do not a novel make.

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‘Death is certain for all who are born…or is it?’

Professor Bharadvaj is more than just another whisky-loving, gun-toting historian-for-hire. Behind the assumed identity of the cynical academic is a man who has walked the earth for scores of years. He is Asvatthama – the cursed immortal, the man who cannot die.
When Professor Bharadvaj is approached by the enigmatic Maya Jervois to search for a historical artefact unlike any other, he is reluctant to pursue it. The object in question, the Vajra, is rumoured to possess incredible alchemical powers, but the Professor does not believe it exists. After all, he has spent many lifetimes – and identities – searching for it, in a bid to unearth the secret to his unending life.

Yet, as the evidence of its existence becomes increasingly compelling, the Professor is plunged into an adrenaline-fuelled adventure that takes him from the labyrinthine passages beneath the Somnath temple to the legendary home of the siddhas in the Nilgiris, and finally into the deserts of Pakistan to solve a confounding puzzle left behind by the ancients.

But who is behind the dangerous mercenaries trying to thwart his discoveries at every step? And is the Professor – a legendary warrior in a long-ago life – cursed to walk the path of death and bloodshed forever?

I am not really a reader of Indian urban fantasy. Or even Indian fantasy, in general. Call me a snob, I don’t mind. It is definitely true when it comes to picking what books to read. This book has converted me if the rest in the genre are just as good.

Immortal by Krishna Udaysankar is the story of Asvatthama. Yes, that Asvatthama – the one who was a part of the Mahabharata. The son of Dronacharya. Duryodhana’s friend. Disgraced at the end of the Great War and cursed with eternal life.

Of course, I am sure I will learn a lot more about him when I get to The Aryavarta Chronicles – Govinda, KauravaKurukshetra – by the same author.

That being said, let’s talk about this book. Asvatthama is alive and well and has now been ‘roped’ into a search for the Vajra. Something we think is a mythical weapon. Or is it? It is definitely mythical, even to Asvatthama – who is extremely skeptical. After all, if he could not find it in centuries – it must not exist, right?

We move with this man, this undying man, as he follows the trail from the temples in Dwaraka to the deserts of Balochistan. What he is doing is truly interesting, but who he is now, that is even more interesting. Here is the man who was there with Genghis Khan, with Subhas Chandra Bose – who fought in battles all over the world – who, in his own words, is now that rare breed – ‘a soldier by profession’. It is him as a person who truly intrigued me – his fear of his body rotting – of losing his mind due to this horror – but not being able to die, his terror at the thought of forever drowning – and the fact that he overcomes all this to do what needs to be done. I liked the other characters too. There are no caricatures – but real people. All with their own machinations, desires and failings.

An extremely interesting read, the book is filled with well-researched references, characters that feel real in spite of their ‘magical’ realities, and a story that keeps you hooked and guessing till the end. I personally really enjoyed all the name dropping Asvatthama does.

Definitely, a read I’d recommend.

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Feyre survived Amarantha’s clutches to return to the Spring Court—but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can’t forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin’s people.

Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court. As Feyre navigates its dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms—and she might be key to stopping it. But only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future—and the future of a world cleaved in two.

With more than a million copies sold of her beloved Throne of Glass series, Sarah J. Maas’s masterful storytelling brings this second book in her seductive and action-packed series to new heights.

A Court of Mist and Fury is the second book in the series A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas. The first book in the series, A Court of Thorns and Roses, had a touch of inspiration from Beauty and the Beast, a fairy tale many of us are familiar with – at least the Disney version. It rises and builds up like a crescendo. Alluring, beautiful, intricate, stunning and filled with the shadows that have no place in Disney. At the end of it, Feyre saved her Prince Charming (or Beast if you want to stick with Beauty and the Beast reference) and was changed irrevocably in doing so. She is now a mortal soul in an immortal body. Her lover is an immortal High Lord of Faerie and she has saved him, and all of Faerie, from the clutches of evil. 

But now the first book is done and Feyre technically has achieved her Happily-Ever-After. Yet, everything is wrong. Because she is not who she was. She no longer needs someone to save her, instead she has already done the saving. She needs a partner, not a protector. Tamlin is wrong for her, and it is so so hard for her to see that, admit that, after going through so much due to her love for him. And Tamlin, he seems to love her, yet he cannot see he’s suffocating her, drowning her in his ‘protection’. Consumed by his own demons, he is letting what he needs take precedence over what can help her.

And then there is Rhysand: the High Lord of the Court of Night. He should be evil. He should be hated. He should be wrong. But he is the only one who seems to understand Feyre. Who is trying to help her be herself, to help her get out of the trauma of Under The Mountain. Who is saving her from herself and from Tamiln.

This book starts on a low note – building from where the first book left – but then it does start building and it is so much more complex, so much more layered than the the first one. Maybe because we know more about the world now and maybe because that is the difference between Rhysand and Tamlin. Where Tamlin is cagey, secretive and treats Feyre as less; Rhysand treats her as an equal, is honest and believes in her being her own person.

It is the difference between an abusive relationship and a real one. The other characters all have depth, have real pain, sorrow and the strength to rise beyond that. They do not overshadow each other but rather exist in a harmony.

Yes, the book is a fairytale. Because after Tamlin, there is a Rhysand. It gives hope that after an abusive relationship which you gave everything, which nearly killed you, there is a chance that you might find the person who is actually the other half of your soul. A person who makes you see not just the good in the world, but in yourself.

And maybe this is what all fairy tales should be: real, bitter, cruel but always with an edge of hope.

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Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. Despite their difference, Achilles befriends the shamed prince, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something deeper – despite the displeasure of Achilles’ mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess.

But when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, Achilles must go to war in distant Troy and fulfill his destiny. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus goes with him, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.

 

The Song of Achilles is not a history though it is historical – per maybe mythological is a better word. It is a lyrical (I have no other word for the melody that seems to run through its narrative) novel, based on the events described in the Iliad and told from the point of view of Patroclus. It is poetry in the form of prose.

As clear from the title, it is the story of Achilles. Not just of the Trojan War but a sketch of the life and death of the greatest hero of his time. Patroclus, named his cousin in the movie Troy, was Achilles’ most beloved companion. They had been together for most of their lives, and this novel describes them as beloved to each other. So deeply in love, that life without the other appeals to neither.

Borrowing heavily from ancient Greek sources, the book manages to be elegant while narrating a story of blood and battle. Because this is truly a song – and it is not about how Achilles died and who he killed, but rather it is about how he lived and loved.

It is a book that needs to be read because it is an experience in and of itself. It is not the story only that makes it what it is, but Madeline Miller has managed to add something to beauty of this tale by her words. Even nearly three millenia after the sack of Troy – Achilles lives on.

It is a narrative of brutality tempered by kindness. A story of the ages. Of a hero who chose fame over longevity, and whose name is resplendent even after the gods of his time have tarnished.

 

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Dynasty continues Rubicon‘s story, opening where that book ended: with the murder of Julius Caesar. This is the period of the first and perhaps greatest Roman Emperors and it’s a colorful story of rule and ruination, running from the rise of Augustus through to the death of Nero. Holland’s expansive history also has distinct shades of I Claudius, with five wonderfully vivid (and in three cases, thoroughly depraved) Emperors—Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero—featured, along with numerous fascinating secondary characters. Intrigue, murder, naked ambition and treachery, greed, gluttony, lust, incest, pageantry, decadence—the tale of these five Caesars continues to cast a mesmerizing spell across the millennia.

Dynasty starts with a bit of information on the rise and fall of Julius Caesar (which was needed for me, since I have not read Rubicon yet.). It then takes us on a tour with Octavius as he first avenges Caesar, and then goes on to become the Princeps of Rome. He then consolidated the Roman Empire as well as his own dynasty. Four emperors followed him from the August family: Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius and Nero. This book is a history of their lives, and that of Rome.

I have seen the show Rome and I truly loved it. Dynasty has a touch of that since it allows for the minute details to bring that time to life in front of me. Also, Rome only covers Augustus’ rise to power, not anything thereafter. His very name, Augustus, was given to him as a title by the Romans, as a sign of their acceptance and appreciation of his near divinity and greatness. But he is only the first of five to be covered in this book.

As a history, this book is great. I stayed hooked to the very end. There are a lot of details, and simply put, it feels, as if the Rome of that time has been brought to life. That being said, I truly hated some parts of this history. It was my disgust at some of the actions of those in power 2000 years ago, that made me think even the most violent of stories today, are far less cruel. Absolute power does corrupt absolutely and I think the biggest example is Caligula. Not that the others were any better, but he truly enjoyed cruelty and used it with a precision that even now to me is scary in its intensity. The rest were no better, and murder by itself was just not an effective enough punishment. It was the way that death came about that truly showed the depth of their (take your pick – all five were brutal to their enemies – who may include family members) creativity in exacting punishment.

When I had heard a lecture on The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined by Steven Pinker, I had wondered if it could really be true. Had we evolved enough to leave behind even a smidgen of our bloodlust. Dynasty has confirmed this notion for me. Never had I read of such brutality being enacted in real life. And yet, it was celebrated, for after all, to not celebrate anything done by an Emperor of Rome, might just mark one for death.

There is more to this book, of course, but somehow political maneuvering, even as intricate as that of the Julio-Claudians, loses its charm with the multiple murder plots and intermarriages. This is a good book to read, especially to learn that maybe, while we are still flawed, we have also come very very far from what we used to be.

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In 480 B.C., Xerxes, the King of Persia, led an invasion of mainland Greece. Its success should have been a formality. For seventy years, victory—rapid, spectacular victory—had seemed the birthright of the Persian Empire. In the space of a single generation, they had swept across the Near East, shattering ancient kingdoms, storming famous cities, putting together an empire which stretched from India to the shores of the Aegean. As a result of those conquests, Xerxes ruled as the most powerful man on the planet. Yet somehow, astonishingly, against the largest expeditionary force ever assembled, the Greeks of the mainland managed to hold out. The Persians were turned back. Greece remained free. Had the Greeks been defeated in the epochal naval battle at Salamis, not only would the West have lost its first struggle for independence and survival, but it is unlikely that there would ever have been such an entity as the West at all.

Tom Holland’s brilliant new book describes the very first “clash of Empires” between East and West. As he did in the critically praised Rubicon, he has found extraordinary parallels between the ancient world and our own. There is no other popular history that takes in the entire sweep of the Persian Wars, and no other classical historian, academic or popular, who combines scholarly rigor with novelistic depth with a worldly irony in quite the fashion that Tom Holland does.

 

Persian Fire – in extremely approachable language – tells the history of the Persian wars, between the East and the West. The start of one of those wars is what the movie 300 is based on. But the battle of Therompylae is not the only or even the first war between the Persian empire and the Greek city states.

This book is not just that of the wars though, but rather gives a detailed history of each nation – Persia, Sparta and Athens – along with a good general, if not as detailed, description of all of the other players involved – Ionia, Medes, Corinth, Thebes, Babylonia just to name a few.

It is not an East vs West book, nor does it try to portray any one side as better than the other. In pure reading, what it does the most, is give the reader information to form his or her own opinion. No one person is seen as good and no one else is purely bad. In the fashion of reality, every facet possible of every person involved is shown, clearly depicting the many facets of humanity.

Oppressive regime led to the rise of Persia under Cyrus. A great king and yet his sons found death and the rule of Persia went to Darius, who in turn raised to the throne his son, and Cyrus’s grandson, Xerxes. Sparta became a military state to survive class differences and the breakdown of their society. Leonidas became king of Sparta after the death of his older half-brother, a king, whose death could have been suicide, or it could have been murder. Athens became a democracy to survive similar problems as those faced by Sparta, to somehow forge itself into a nation that would live on, in spite of its aristocracy and their petty fighting. And yet, Themistoceles, one of the foremost Athenian leaders during the Persian wars, ended his days as a prized Persian vassal.

These things all seem so dissonant with each other, yet, they have webs of interconnections that one can see only after reading this book. The rise of Cyrus and then Darius in the East were not affected by Greece, yet they did impact Greek cities in multiple ways. Cyrus’s mocking words, “Who are the Spartans?” might have had a huge impact on a city that saw itself as a power to be reckoned with. Perhaps such words impacted Leonidas when he stood against Cyrus’s grandson. Perhaps not. But this book gives us the information needed to speculate.

Athens, where for the first time, power was vested in the people. It became a demokratia (Demos – people and kratis – power) in a manner where the founder of democracy chose to be forgotten so that his city might consider democracy old. A notion that would give this revolution an antiquity which would then turn to legitimacy.

Yet all of these things did not happen during the Persian wars, but definitely had a hand in them. For it was the belief that they fought for themselves, their soil, and their freedom, that gave the Athenians courage to fight at Marathon. Their victory was the first time someone had defeated Persian forces.

This books flows from one city to another, one nation to the next, time and history being narrated in a fashion not only clear, but with a touch of wry storytelling. The history of the states as well the people involved, guesses of their thoughts, everything came together to make the book as vivid for me as the movie 300 was, perhaps a touch more. The scope is so broad, yet this book does it justice.