Book Review – Flame in the Mist

Title:  Flame in the Mist23308087.jpg

Author: Renee Ahdieh

Genre: Fantasy, YA, romance, historical, retelling, fiction

Pages: 393

First Published: May 2017

Series: Flame in the Mist #1

Rating: star_rating_4_of_5

line_break.pngThe only daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has always known she’d been raised for one purpose and one purpose only: to marry. Never mind her cunning, which rivals that of her twin brother, Kenshin, or her skills as an accomplished alchemist. Since Mariko was not born a boy, her fate was sealed the moment she drew her first breath.

So, at just seventeen years old, Mariko is sent to the imperial palace to meet her betrothed, a man she did not choose, for the very first time. But the journey is cut short when Mariko’s convoy is viciously attacked by the Black Clan, a dangerous group of bandits who’ve been hired to kill Mariko before she reaches the palace.

The lone survivor, Mariko narrowly escapes to the woods, where she plots her revenge. Dressed as a peasant boy, she sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and hunt down those responsible for the target on her back. Once she’s within their ranks, though, Mariko finds for the first time she’s appreciated for her intellect and abilities. She even finds herself falling in love—a love that will force her to question everything she’s ever known about her family, her purpose, and her deepest desires.

line_break

My Review:

I was pleasantly surprised. It wasn’t no Strange the Dreamer or The Book Thief  but, it was good. Very good. I enjoyed reading it immensely, and think most people would as well.

For me, I wasn’t into it in the beginning. I was actually almost about to put it down and just give up, when something finally happened, and I was drawn back in. So, after my initial doubts, I kept getting surprised, and found myself running back to it, and staying up to finish ‘one more chapter’. These are usually the signs of a good book for me, and so while I wasn’t sure at first, I think I’ve got to give it 4 stars.

Somehow, after reading reviews and the blurb, I still didn’t realise it was a Mulan retelling, set in the wonderful world of feudal Japan. (In case you didn’t know either, there you go 🙂 ) And it was wonderful. I didn’t realise how much I enjoy books set in foreign countries. Usually its the US, England, or home-sweet-home Australia, and I really liked the change of scenery. It was just different. So many little references that add to the story-building, and atmosphere, that I usually miss because they’re common place in English-speaking countries. So that was one reason.

Also because it’s got action, fighting, magic, badass females, multiple storylines and a 3D plot. You know, all of those reasons. It just had everything. (Well. Mostly. I’ll talk about that later) What lifted it up from average to better, is definitely its many parts. If it was contained to just the one plot line, with the one main group of characters, then I really could only have given it 3 stars. But, it featured the main group, it had two families connected to that, the royals, and then people related to the Royals, and they all interrelated! That is what made it so much better. There were so many little links and possibilities spiralling off in my head while I was reading, and at the end, most of them came together, leaving me wanting the next book immediately. It was written really well.

Saying all this, you might be wondering how it’s not 5 stars. It’s actually kind of confusing me as well. But most of this review applies only for most of the book. The first couple of chapters, where I was a bit iffy, was not written well. It annoyed me, almost to the point of putting down the book, (lucky I kept going, because it got a lot better), because there was nothing interesting happening. Yes, there was an execution. Who was everyone? I had no connection with any of the characters, so it didn’t do anything for me. Next thing: change in character. She gets ambushed and is the only survivor, what a surprise. (don’t worry it’s not a spoiler, I wouldn’t do that to you. It says it on the blurb) She continues into a dark, mysterious forest, and thinks someone’s following her. It’s just all so ordinary. Only when she meets the next group of characters, there’s a spark, and it gets better from there.

So, aside from boring, heard-it-all-before beginning, great book! Would definitely recommend, and my advice: Don’t give up on it!!

Happy Reading!

Advertisements

The Da Vinci Code

Author: Dan Brown DaVinciCode

Pages: 481

Genre: fiction, mystery, thriller, historical

An ingenious code hidden in the works of Leonardo da Vinci. A desperate race through the cathedrals and castles of Europe. An astonishing truth concealed for centuries . . . unveiled at last.

While in Paris, Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon is awakened by a phone call in the dead of the night. The elderly curator of the Louvre has been murdered inside the museum, his body covered in baffling symbols. As Langdon and gifted French cryptologist Sophie Neveu sort through the bizarre riddles, they are stunned to discover a trail of clues hidden in the works of Leonardo da Vinci—clues visible for all to see and yet ingeniously disguised by the painter.


Thoughts: Finally read another of the Robert Langdon series, which I’ve been meaning to for a while now. I enjoy these books, contrary to a lot of other beliefs, mostly because of the frequent references to symbols and mythology. (Surprise, surprise) I definitely wouldn’t say they were my favourite, (although Da Vinci Code was better than Inferno, in my opinion), but they’re good enough for a quick weekend, or holiday read.

“Everyone loves a conspiracy.”
― Dan BrownThe Da Vinci Code

Dan Brown’s books are known for their ability to hook readers in, and both books of his that I’ve read, definitely lived up to that. In Inferno, it felt a bit forced, while Da Vinci Code seemed more natural in its cliff-hangers which is good. It wasn’t as if each chapter ended in the middle of a sentence, but like it was actually as perplexing as he made it seem. Sure, it made me want to keep reading, but the complications and cliffhangers were a lot more reasonable and believable. (most of the time)

“Telling someone about what a symbol means is like telling someone how music should make them feel.”
― Dan BrownThe Da Vinci Code

So this book is mostly set in Paris, with a little in England, and Landon rushes around to a lot of the museums and statues. Having been to Paris and England myself, and loved all of the artworks displayed in the Louvre, I really enjoyed all the references. I’m sure a few of you know I’m a bit of a mythology and history fanatic (My name’s Isis, the blog’s name is Book Goddess), and it was good to be able to know what all the characters were talking about. I even deciphered one of the codes before Langdon did!!!

“History is always written by the winners. When two cultures clash, the loser is obliterated, and the winner writes the history books-books which glorify their own cause and disparage the conquered foe. As Napoleon once said, ‘What is history, but a fable agreed upon?”
― Dan BrownThe Da Vinci Code

Again, as I’ve said before, Dan Brown’s writing style isn’t the greatest. I found this book was pretty good with its language uses, (better than Inferno, once again), it wasn’t too painful for most of the book. At times, it had some pretty complex descriptions of things. But, at other times, it did sound downright average. (e.g. quote below) Again, it’s not like it was impossible to read, and it doesn’t impact my view of the book very much, but the writing could be improved greatly. I will also say that the ending seemed a little weak for me. It was great most of the time, with multiple twists and turns, but then after the climax, it had a really boring finish.

“Her eyes were olive green―incisive and clear.”
― Dan BrownThe Da Vinci Code

This review’s pretty short compared to most of my others. I guess there isn’t much to say about it really. I’d say it would be a good read for most people, because it moves quickly and almost includes the reader on the adventure. Because it explains so many of the ideas and theories, you feel like you’re on the run with the characters, figuring out codes and following clues along the way. A good book for when you’re on a plane actually. It didn’t leave a large impact on me, like other literary masterpieces do, but it was fun while I was reading it. If I had the book open, it was fine, and I was hooked most of the time, so it was hard to put it down. And then when I did manage to put it down, I didn’t really feel the urge to pick it back up, just because it didn’t seem that important.

Rating: star_rating_3_of_5

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies – Jane Austen & Seth Graeme Smith

Author: Jane Austen & Seth Graeme-Smith

prideandprejudiceandzombiescoverGenre: classic, dystopian, Horror/zombies, Humour

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.”

So begins Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, an expanded edition of the beloved Jane Austen novel featuring all-new scenes of bone-crunching zombie mayhem. As our story opens, a mysterious plague has fallen upon the quiet English village of Meryton—and the dead are returning to life! Feisty heroine Elizabeth Bennet is determined to wipe out the zombie menace, but she’s soon distracted by the arrival of the haughty and arrogant Mr. Darcy. What ensues is a delightful comedy of manners with plenty of civilized sparring between the two young lovers—and even more violent sparring on the blood-soaked battlefield. Can Elizabeth vanquish the spawn of Satan? And overcome the social prejudices of the class-conscious landed gentry? Complete with romance, heartbreak, swordfights, cannibalism, and thousands of rotting corpses, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies transforms a masterpiece of world literature into something you’d actually want to read.

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/5899779-pride-and-prejudice-and-zombies


Thoughts:

I’m going to start off with a statement that might be quite shocking to some readers: I’ve never read Pride and Prejudice or any other Jane Austen books. I know, I know, how can I call myself a bookworm, when I haven’t read the classics, but I’d just never gotten the chance. So when I spied Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, I thought I might give it a try…

Because I only had a vague idea of who the characters were, and what was going to happen, most of the events were new and exciting. Especially the new zombie scenes, that were dotted all over the place, filling the classic novel with horrifying ‘unmentionables’ or ‘dreadfuls’, as they were called in the book.

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.”
― Seth Grahame-SmithPride and Prejudice and Zombies

I think that the zombie aspect was a very interesting idea, (that Jane Austen would never have seen coming), and in the very few, short scenes where they featured, it was a fun, yet horrifying read. But they did only feature in a few very short scenes. If you are going to introduce a whole new aspect to a classic novel, especially one as big as a zombie apocalypse threatening England, then it needs to actually play a big part in the story. The changed characters were perfect for it, but the scenes where they had to showcase their skills just weren’t there. Instead, the book kind of seemed like a spin-off Pride and Prejudice, with a few random scenes where they killed some zombies… then back to normal Pride and Prejudice again.

“Elizabeth lifted her skirt, disregarding modesty, and delivered a swift kick to the creature’s head.”
― Seth Grahame-SmithPride and Prejudice and Zombies

In saying this, they did begin to feature more toward the end, which made it a little better. I think that incorporating a topic so different from the original story might have proved a little difficult to Seth Graeme-Smith, and it seemed unnecessary or not important.

“The business of Mr. Bennett’s life was to keep his daughters alive. The business of Mrs. Bennett’s was to get them married.”
― Seth Grahame-SmithPride and Prejudice and Zombies

The language used for the book and characters was still the original formal polite speech, but this time mixed in with some funny sarcastic humour, spoken both by characters, and the author of the book as well. This made it quite entertaining, and had me snorting sometimes.

Why should you read it: I don’t know whether to recommend it to Jane Austen readers or not. You could find it quite hilarious, and enjoy the spin-off, but then you could also feel like it was a silly, unnecessary book. It’s not a bad book, and I enjoyed reading it, and getting an understanding of the story-line, but I also wouldn’t read it again.

Rating:star_rating_3-5_of_5

 

 

Inferno – Dan Brown

Author: Dan Brown

Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Historical fiction, Thrillerinferno.jpg

Thoughts: This is actually my first Dan Brown book, and while I enjoyed reading it, it did have some faults. I’ve been told that all Dan Brown books are like this – leave lots of cliff-hangers, make you want to keep reading it, but the writing isn’t actually that great. Basically, Brown’s main character for four of his books is Harvard symbologist Professor, Robert Langdon. The start of Inferno begins with the Professor wakes up in a hospital, without any memory… Pretty average story starter, if you ask me, but it did follow on with good bits. Some exciting stuff happens, and by the 4th chapter, we have identified the bad guys and the good guys. He then embarks on an adventure around Florence and Venice with new-found friend Sienna Brooks.

“Only one form of contagion travels faster than a virus. And that’s fear.”
― Dan BrownInferno

So, on to the review – it was full of exciting stuff. So many things happened, and basically every chapter ended with some new part of information that did not make sense, making you want to read on – basically a cliff-hanger every chapter. So definitely exciting. I had to force myself to put it down so I could actually get some sleep on some nights. The story line was also quite enjoyable, for me at least. I have recently travelled around Italy myself, spending some time in Florence and Venice, so it was very nice to be able to recognise what Brown was explaining and describing. I also enjoy learning about mythology and ancient history, including the Italian Renaissance, so for me, I loved that this whole book was based on it. Saying that, I can still understand that some people would find it a little boring and overfull of information. Dan Brown did put quite large chunks of information about the history of some certain artefact, and while it was interesting, I kind of just wanted to get back to the story.

Professor Robert Langdon is a cool character I think, and Sienna is also a nice addition as a strong female lead. Over the course of the story, there isn’t too much development between the two, or with any characters as a matter of fact, which was a let down, but I had to keep reminding myself that the entire plot only happens over the course of one day. So really, not too much character development could happen. There was a bit in the last few chapters, and I have to say they would have to be my favourite part of the book. I think. I enjoyed the story overall, it was just some little nit-picks that brought it down.

For example, the writing style. While it was very effective in keeping readers interested (including me), it was also pretty average writing. The sentences were short, and descriptions ordinary. I found that Brown was telling us, not showing us, instead of the other way round. But that is the way Dan Brown writes so, I’m just going to have to deal with that, because I did like the other parts of the book. The characters were pretty likeable, and had some faults, which made them more relatable. For example, Landon’s claustrophobia. I actually loved this aspect, and the parts where he mentioned and was suffering from it were some of my favourite parts of the novel. I don’t know if anyone else found this, but I just really loved that aspect. Another part that I really liked (that isn’t actually that important) was Landon’s Mickey Mouse watch. It was gift from his parents when he was little, and has worn it ever since, and gets quite upset when something happens to it. To all the other characters, it would have seemed a little weird that the well-renowned Professor Langdon was upset over losing a silly little watch, but it was another really nice aspect.

One of my favourite things about this novel, was that it made you think. Really hard. It had a very deep message underneath everything else, and I actually found myself questioning some of the things both the good guys and bad guys were doing. Our planet is facing overpopulation, and the main message of this book is What are we going to do about it?? And it is quite an impossible question to answer. I’ll let you make up your minds about that one…

“..”consider this. It took the earth’s population thousand of years-from the early dawn of man all the way to the early 1800s-to reach one billion people. Then astoundingly, it took only about a hundred years to double the population to two billion in the 1920s. After that, it took a mere fifty years for the population to double again to four billion in the 1970s. As you can imagine, we’re well on track to reach eight billion very soon. Just today, the human race added another quarter-billion people to planet Earth. A quarter million. And this happens ever day-rain or shine. Currently every year er ‘re adding the equivalent of the entire country of Germany.”
― Dan BrownInferno

Overall, a good storyline, just the writing let it down. I’m hoping to go see the movie that will be released soon, and am actually starting to think that the movie could be better. The interesting plot line is there, and I think it will be better represented on the big screen.

Why you should read it: If you’re a Dan Brown reader, you’ve probably already read it, but if you haven’t, you still could. It’s definitely not a favourite of mine, but I do like the history, and renaissance side of it, and found it to be an enjoyable read.

Rating:   star_rating_3-5_of_5