Recent Reads: November 2015

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Recent Reads is a monthly reading wrap-up, with mini-reviews of all the books I finished in the past month. I’ll also share what I’m currently reading and any other books that are in the pipeline. Want to share your bookish happenings, too? Feel free to do so in the Comments section at the end!

Ohhhhhhhh, I came SO close to reading more books this month than I thought I would! But when you’re a night reader like I am, and life suddenly gets so crazy that both braind and body crave more meditation and sleep, you just don’t have the energy to stay up late to finish another chapter. So, I’m content with November being a three-book month, and especially happy that I finally made time for the story that I picked as my Read of the Month. Speaking of which…

Read of the Month: The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Name of the Wind coverThe Name of the Wind (Kingkiller Chronicles, Book #1) / Patrick Rothfuss
Fantasy / 722 pages
Rating: 
 4.5 out of 5 (Goodreads / Amazon)

Let me tell you a story about a remarkable wizard who was once a boy. A boy who traveled with his family’s troupe of entertainers. A son who lost his parents in an horrific tragedy. An orphan who survived on the city streets and sold the one thing he cherished most to achieve his dream. A University student whose cleverness both helped him and got him into trouble. A gifted musician, a hopeless romantic, a “dragon-slayer,” a mage-in-the-making – yes, he was all of these, and more. But maybe I shouldn’t be the one to tell his story. Yes. I’ll let him tell it, in his own words.

What a premise. And that’s exactly what we have with Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind. It’s a story framed within a story, as the former wizard Kvothe is tracked down by a scribe who wishes to record Kvothe’s life story. From there, Kvothe relates his memories and discoveries, his joys and sorrows, his ambitions despite poverty and loss. What he recalls teems with nostalgia and stunningly vivid detail. Sometimes the sheer amount of description and facts slows down the story’s pace. However, Rothfuss’s immersive world-building, poetic yet simplistic writing, and unexpected humor kept me engaged and enthralled. This is the closest I’ve seen another writer come to Ursula K. Le Guin’s caliber – and considering she’s my all-time favorite writer, that’s really saying something.

If The Name of the Wind is on your wishlist, do yourself a favor and read it as soon as you can. And when you do, savor it. Be patient, and lose yourself in Kvothe’s life and world. You’ll be grateful you did.

Other Books I Read in November

Blue Voyage coverBlue Voyage / Diana Renn
YA Mystery / 449 pages
Rating:
3.5 out of 5 (Amazon / Goodreads)

After hearing Diana Renn talk about Blue Voyage at this year’s Boston Teen Author Festival, I was excited by the idea of a “YA travel mystery involving stolen treasure.” Now I’m glad I gave this book a chance!

Set in modern-day Turkey, Blue Voyage follows 16-year-old Alexandra (a.k.a. Zan) as she reluctantly joins her mother for a cruise along the Turkish Riviera and to visit her recently widowed aunt. It’s meant to a bonding experience, and a chance for Zan (a politician’s daughter) to escape the hometown spotlight after being caught shoplifting. However, she’s soon drawn to the mystery behind her uncle’s suspicious death and begins investigating it on her own. Could a treasure-smuggling operation be behind it all? More importantly, who can Zan trust in a foreign country where everyone – even apparent tourists – might be working for the smugglers?

Thrilling and adventurous, Blue Voyage excels at steeping readers in the beauties and dangers of the Middle East. Renn takes us to the pristine Mediterranean coasts, the bustling capital of Istanbul, and the ancient ruins of Cappadocia, all while bringing in bits of Turkish culture and Islam and addressing the region’s issues with archaeology smuggling. There are also plenty of adult characters in this YA story, and an emphasis on dysfunctional families learning to heal. My feelings about Zan went back and forth, though. Her hobbies (rock climbing), detective skills, and compelling backstory (especially her insecurity due to vitiligo) made her a unique protagonist, but her attitude irritated me at times. Some of the older characters came across as immature as well. Otherwise, Blue Voyage was a refreshing change of pace for this fantasy reader, and a thoroughly researched caper that kept me guessing until the end.

Night Circus coverThe Night Circus / Erin Morgenstern
Historical Fantasy / 512 pages
Rating:
4 out of 5 (Amazon / Goodreads)

Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus isn’t a perfect novel, but it was one that drew me so deep into its dreamworld that I didn’t want to leave. Set at the turn of the 20th century, it invites readers to Le Cirque de Rêves, a black-and-white fairground of acrobats, fortune tellers, a massive clock centerpiece, and exhibit tents that defy imagination. The circus is also the playing field for Celia Bowen and Marco Alisdair, two illusionists with distinct strengths and who eventually fall in love. They don’t know that only one magician can be left standing at the end. And as time passes and the stakes mount, their competition puts the lives of their fellow performers and the patrons at risk – and threatens the circus’s entire existence.

The Night Circus blends vividly rendered imagery with a graceful, charming writing style and a effortless weaving of intersecting storylines. This is very much a literary fantasy, and one that requires your full attention. At times the writing relied too much on narrative for my tastes. Yet at others, the illusions and magic-enhanced exhibitions seemed so lifelike that I lost touch with my inner critic and kept reading so I wouldn’t have to leave Morgenstern’s playground. Unfortunately Celia and Marco’s romance doesn’t benefit from the non-linear format. It doesn’t happen as soon as the blurb implies; and once it does, it develops too quickly to win me over. Nevertheless, The Night Circus is a true work of fantasia, and a compulsive page-turner with a setting I so badly wish I could visit in real life. If you enjoy the surrealism of Neil Gaiman or the gorgeous prose of Laini Taylor, you’ll be enchanted by this book as well.

What I’m Reading Next

December is going to be crazy, thanks to Christmas shopping and general holiday preparations. However, I’m hoping to squeeze in a few more 2015 books, including Anna-Marie McLemore’s The Weight of Feathers (which I should finish by the time this posts), Rachel Caine’s Ink and Bone, and Karina Sumner-Smith’s Towers Fall. Then I need to start thinking about my year-end list of favorite reads. Yikes! Coming up with this year’s list will be so much tougher than it was last year!

What books did you recently read? Have you read any of the titles mentioned above?

28 thoughts on “Recent Reads: November 2015

  1. Wow, what an awesome month! I’m a huge Rothfuss fan, and I’m eagerly awaiting the final book in his series… I also loved The Night Circus, maybe a bit more than you. I’m curious to see how you liked The Weight of Feathers, which I also loved. And finally, INK AND BONE!! Oh you really need to read that STAT. Probably near the top of my best of the year list:-)

    Liked by 1 person

      • I’m reading Ink and Bone now! I’m only 100 pages in so far, but it’s pretty good. 😉

        I should have a review of The Weight of Feathers up this week on Goodreads (and then reposted here in January). It was very good, and reminded me more of Romeo & Juliet than The Night Circus (though I can see where the comparisons are coming from).

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    • I’m reading Ink and Bone right now – so that’s taken care of! 😉 And I liked The Weight of Feathers quite a bit. Hoping to get a review of it up on Goodreads this week (it will post here on the blog in January).

      And, um, The Wise Man’s Fear. I’m totally reading that in 2016. As soon as I get it, it’s not going to wait. 😀 😀 😀

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  2. Can I gush for a second about Name of the Wind? I picked it up after hearing Neil Gaiman mention it a couple of years ago… and I seriously fell hard for Rothfuss and his world-building and character development. I mean, I am in love. Book Two was JUST as amazing as Book One, FYI… and I’m seriously ready to stalk Rothfuss, become his friend, and con him into telling me everything about Book Three because I canNOT wait until it comes out.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You may gush all you’d like about The Name of the Wind! 😀 I happily welcome it!

      That’s awesome about The Wise Man’s Fear. I’m planning to make it one of my priority reads for 2016 – of course, I have to get a copy of it first!

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  3. Name of the Wind sounds amazing. I will be keeping an eye out for that one! I’ve heard Rothfuss’ name before, but not read any of his books. I really need to read more…. Like you, I a a nighttime reader, and quite often staying awake to read is hard. By the time I’ve read 20 or 30 pages I’m done. I need to fit some reading in somewhere else, I think. 🙂

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  4. Glad you loved “The Name of the Wind!” I did too (as you already know), and I know what you mean about the le Guin comparison. It’s high praise, but Rothfuss deserved it. I have the second book sitting under my bed on my literal TBR pile, and your review made me want to dig it out at once 🙂

    I think I also felt similarly about “The Night Circus.” That was a book that I felt I liked more than it was actually good, if that makes sense? The atmosphere was incredible, but it felt a little empty to me.

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    • Yay! I can’t wait to read The Wise Man’s Fear, either. Of course, I need to buy a copy of it first. 😉 But I’m going to make it a 2016 priority so I’m all caught up before the final book comes out.

      I think what you said makes sense. My trouble with more literary novels is that they focus more on language and imagery, and don’t always allow for close-enough connections with characters. Of course, it depends on the book (LOVED Anthony Doerr’s All The Light We Cannot See, and that was more literary in nature), but it’s a big reason why I liked The Night Circus but didn’t quite love it.

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    • Nice! I’d like to know what you think of both books once you read them, especially The Name of the Wind. 🙂

      I’ll try to get to Snow Like Ashes next year. It’s not a huge priority at the moment (I’m trying to finish up my 2015 books this month), but I don’t want to put it off for too long.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Will do! I think I’ll start posting more reviews on goodreads, while only posting selected books on my blog. I’ll let you know where/when I read and post those ones. 🙂
        Oh I understand! I haven’t finished up my 2015 books yet either, eep! And I know more books are coming soon (Christmas, heehee!) so yeah. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Cool. 🙂

        I’m forcing myself to hold off on reading any Christmas-gift books until 2016. Which is itchingly painful because I already received two that I’m absolutely DYING to read!! So I sort of feel like Gollum / Smealgol right now (“You can be patient. You can wait.” “Oh no we musn’t! We must reads the PRECIOUSSSSSSSS.”)

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      • LOLOL! Gollum vs Smeagol moments do happen in our lives, don’t they? That made me laugh so much! “You can be patient, yesss, patient.” “Nooo, we can’ts! We must read preciousss now!” 😄 I’m going to be Gollum and dive right in to new books; I just can’t wait! I admire you for your patience, Sara. Stay strong!

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  6. Ah… I’d MISSED this. For some inexplicable reason, I no longer get email notifications of your blog posts – so I’m going to see if I can Refresh or something, so that I do so again… I’m DELIGHTED you are now officially a Rothfuss fan. He is a wonderful writer, isn’t he? Although I shall be very intrigued to know what you think of The Slow Regard of Silent Things when you get to it. VERY impressed with your self control regarding 2015 books over 2016 ones – I’ve all the restraint of a suger-hyped toddler when it comes to books.

    Liked by 1 person

    • 😮 That’s not the first time it’s happened either, right? (*scratches her head*) I really don’t know why that would happen. If I hear anyone else is having the same problem, I’ll make sure to look into it.

      Ohhhhhhhhhhhhh yes, I’m SO glad I finally read Patrick Rothfuss. 😀 The next time I go to Barnes & Noble, I’m going to get both The Wise Man’s Fear and The Slow Regard of Silent Things. They’re two of my reading priorities for 2016. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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