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
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
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.
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?