[Books] January Reviews

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So that this blog doesn’t end up being one book review with not much else in it, I have decided to talk about my read books in a monthly summary post. Hope that works out!

I didn’t meet my Goodreads goal of 40 books last year so I went with 35 this year. I am however quite convinced that I might make it 40 this year, if January is any indicator. I managed to read four books in January, though some of them were favorably short.

Feed by Mira GrantI started off with Feed by Mira Grant. Highly recommended by many of my friends, I had been looking forward to it for quite a while. I loved the play on RSS Feeds on the cover. I had incredibly high expectations, and I have to say they weren’t really met at all, sadly. The setting is in 2040, many years post Zombie apocalypse, which seems to be its own genre now. The three main characters are Georgia Mason, her brother Shaun and Buffy Meissonier. They are a team of high profile bloggers in a world where blogging is the prime source of reliable news, their site called After The End Times. Georgia is a newsie, a news blogger, her brother is a so-called Irwin, poking zombies with sticks, and Buffy is a fictional, releasing poems and other fiction. The team gets the opportunity to join the up-and-coming Senator Peter Ryman during his presidential campaign, as exclusive bloggers. Though the campaign is very successful, it is overshadowed by incidents involving zombies, like a huge-scale attack in one of the towns the campaign stops at. The bloggers keep digging up dirt, and are soon deep in the middle of a conspiracy in regards to the origins of the zombie apocalypse. It sounds more exciting than I actually found it. The story is mostly told from the first person perspective of Georgia. As newsie, I kinda found the story through her light-sensitive eyes very dry to the point of boring. The whole presidential campaign read more like a political thriller a la The Pelican Brief or any other Grisham, and not like the exciting horror story that I had expected. Maybe I am raw from the Obama campaign in 2012, and it’s more enticing to read as American, but I for one kinda don’t care about American elections that much, at least in not so much dry detail. In the latter parts of the book, things finally start to happen, and that’s where the book hugely improved for me. I originally gave it 3.5 stars, but in retrospect, thinking back, I really didn’t like the whole package that I got, making Feed an average 3 stars to me.

Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel KayNext up, we have Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay. I actively avoided Kay since hating on his Fionavar Tapestry books that I read in the 90s. Just not my style of fantasy. In the meantime he seems to have changed his focus to historical fantasy, the fictional retelling of history in fantastic worlds. Under Heaven is one such book. It roughly follows the events of the An-Lushan rebellion in the late Tang dynasty in feudal China. Our protagonist is Shen-Tai, younger son of the famous General Tai who had won a great victory for his people, the Kitai, but regretted the price of lives that the biggest battle took. When the General died, Shen-Tai went off to officially mourn him, by burying the Kitai and Taguran dead at the site of the battle, away from civilization, for two years, bringing peace to the ghosts there. As reward, the Tagurans award Shen-Tai a present of 250 so-called Heavenly Horses. Horses are prized greatly in the Kitai Empire, and none more than the Heavenly Horses. In one instant, Shen-Tai is transformed from humble young man to important member of the Empire, in danger of assassination and of being used in political plots to gain access to those horses. Political intrigues eventually lead to the downfall of current Emperor, and Shen-Tai is at the heart of it all as it happens around him. I really enjoyed this book even though it didn’t quite match the Asian mythology profile that I had been aiming for. Characters were interesting, and I enjoyed Shen-Tai and his younger sister. Villains fell a bit flat, Wen Zhou being a somewhat boring character. Still, I enjoyed it, and I am mildly excited that Kay is going back to this setting sometime later this year. 4 Stars

Gone Girl by Gillian FlynnMy personal highlight in January was Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. I don’t think it’s for everyone, but I loved it. It’s the story of pretty much the worst marriage one could imagine. The first part of the book is told from the view of Nick, smalltown Missouri boy who moved to New York, was a magazine writer, and found the perfect wife, Amy. They fell on hard times, both losing their job, and then Nick’s mother fell sick, so they moved to his hometown in Missouri where he opened a bar with his twin sister. When the book starts, it’s their 5th wedding anniversary, and things don’t seem so well for them. When Nick gets to work, he gets the news that Amy has gone missing. When police looks into her disappearance all signs point at Nick being involved in her disappearance, possibly murder. Did he kill her or not? It’s hard to tell for the reader. It’s certainly obvious he bore her no love. So what happened here? I loved this book, despite its utter absence of characters being remotely likeable. Nick is quite douchey, for sure. It’s a book with a seedy, gritty underside, full of mature themes and words. As a psychological thriller I enjoyed it greatly. Hard to put down! I think it deserved it’s Goodreads award 2012 for best thriller. 5 stars for me.

Elantris by Brandon SandersonLast but not least, I read Brandon Sanderson’s Elantris. It’s his first novel from 2005, and has all the trademarks of a Sanderson novel: unique, interesting magic system, and skillful world building. As it is his first work, his flaws stand out more than they did in later books. Elantris is the name of a city that used to house divine beings. Normal people were transformed through an event called the Shaod, granting them magical powers that allowed them to turn dirt into food and heal the gravest of wounds and sicknesses. People worshipped them, until a catastrophe happened that took the magic away and turned all Elantrians in nothing better than lifeless zombies. The main character of the story is crownprince Raoden, Prince of Arelon, the country that contains the city of Elantris. He is taken by the Shaod, which means he gets locked into Elantris. He meets others inside the city, and begins with trying to improve the situation inside the city instead of turning into savages suffering inside. He begins to look into what could possibly have caused the loss of magic. On the outside, Sarene has arrived, Raoden’s fiance and now contractually bound widow. She discovers that the Fjordell Empire is trying to take over the country of Arelon by forcing it to convert to its state religion, Shu-Dereth, through machinations of the priest Hrathen. The different viewpoints ultimately mingle and end up in an exciting, action-packed climax. What is it with books like Feed and Elantris that start slow and then go all out? Characters are the big weakness of the story. Neither Raoden nor Sarene nor Hrathen are particularly memorable and unique, unlike the setting. It does make me nod with appreciation when comparing The Way of Kings with Elantris to see how far Sanderson has come. He will return to the Elantris setting, and I can’t wait what a more mature Sanderson will do with the world now. Though, really, instead of going to Elantris again, I really want the next Stormlight Archive book. Is that too much to ask? Elantris gets 3.5 stars from me, which rounds up to 4 stars.

And that’s it for January. February will probably be a slower month, as I am slogging through a very slow historical novel right now.

One Comment

  1. I’m a big fan of Guy Gavriel Kaye, he actually switched styles immediately after the Fionavar Trilogy (so there’s a chance you might like a lot of his other books if those were the only ones that turned you off). I recommend “The Lions of Al-Rassan”, it’s set during a sort of fantasy version of the Spanish Reconquista and is probably my fave of the bunch.

    Am also looking forwards to his next chinese book.

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