If you told me that I could potentially love a book that featured vampires, werewolves, and other paranormal characters, I would have smiled politelyIf you told me that I could potentially love a book that featured vampires, werewolves, and other paranormal characters, I would have smiled politely and promptly forgotten the book you were trying to recommend. (I do love Bram Stoker's Dracula though - one of the most original books I've ever read.) If I had spent any amount of time on Sunbolt's Goodreads page and saw that it was categorized under Paranormal Fantasy, I would probably not have given it even a few pages. But Jenny's review couple of months ago and my general lack of awareness regarding what the book was about worked in Sunbolt's favor. And boy, am I glad I read it!
Before you turn away, let me emphasize that although I did mention vampires and werewolves in the above paragraph, Sunbolt is less about them than it is about this magical world where many of these kinds of charactes co-exist. (Plus, no one is dating a vampire or proclaiming the many eye candy benefits of being with one.) Intisar Khanani is now on my list of of authors to watch out her. She writes a beautiful hand and a compelling tale.
Hitomi is a Promise, an untrained magician who is generally viewed with suspicion by most of the people of Karolene, where Hitomi lives. Not being native to Karolene, she tends to get picked on by people trying to cause trouble. Hitomi is also a part of the Shadow League, an underground movement whose main goal is to overthrow the corrupt and villainish Arch Mage Wilhelm Blackflame. When they get wind of a ploy by Blackflame to assassinate a leading politician, they try to save the latter and his family. But a lot of things go wrong and Hitomi finds herself captured with no chance of escape.
That, in a nutshell, is what Sunbolt is about. When I started reading the book, I found the writing very easy to get lost in and the book an addicting one to come back to every time. I wasn't quite sold on the plot initially but when I finished it, I couldn't quite stop believing that I loved it. That's a strange way to feel about a plot-oriented book that's more a novella than a full-length novel.
In Sunbolt, Khanani creates a world that feels very natural. She doesn't waste her time in world-building or introducing complex characters. She lets the plot do that at its own pace without making the reader feel lost. To me, that was one of the selling points of this book because the author takes you right into the heart of the book without running the risk of starting the book with a slow introduction.
Yes, there are supernatural characters and if you are like me, maybe you will prefer not having them in your books. To me though, these characters felt more substantial and relatable than the ones in a typical paranormal fantasy book. (Not that I have a problem with those characters - I do love the Vampire Diaries TV show, but this book is as far away from that brand of paranormalcy (paranormalism? paranormality? paranormaltion?) as possible.
Sunbolt is also super-diverse. It had a feel of being set in the Middle East and the character map could have easily spanned across the spectrum. It felt super good to read a fantasy set in a non-European, non-American locale. I'll be watching out for the next book in this series (trilogy?)....more
I loved Frangipani. It took me weeks to finish it because I haven't exactly been in a reading mood. But books I read during such phases usually end upI loved Frangipani. It took me weeks to finish it because I haven't exactly been in a reading mood. But books I read during such phases usually end up getting tossed because they don't hold my attention long enough. But Frangipani was always a delight to come back to. It felt very authentic and Tahitian, with adorable characters, and a very easy-going narrative style.
Frangipani is mostly told from Materena Mahi's perspective. When the book begins, Materena is moaning her partner, Pito's, negligence with money. They already have a little baby boy and Materena just found out that she was pregnant with a second baby. She wants Pito to let her collect his pay but that is out of the question because then he will be made the laughing stock by his friends. He will not see the end of questions like "Who's the man and who's the woman between you and your woman? Who's the noodle? Who wears the pants? Who wears the dress?" if he lets Materena collect his pay. But she does anyway and then doesn't see him at all for a long time, he having decided to leave her.
They reunite weeks later under very humorous circumstances but Materena goes on to take a job as a professional cleaner (very different from just a cleaner, as she reminds us often) to get some extra money. However, her hands are soon going to be tied down once her daughter, Leilani, is born. (She knew it was a girl because she did the needle trick). Much of Frangipani focuses on this mother-daughter relationship and I like to say that the author, Célestine Vaite, got it right. As a child, Leilani worships her mother, but as she steps into her teen years, there is much animosity directed at her mother. Through the years, their relationship evolves, but the sentiments expressed may as well be universal.
There is a lot of Tahitian delight sprinkled through the book. Did you know that Tahiti is not a country but one among many islands part of French Polynesia, and part of France? The people there speak French and Tahitian. Materena says that a woman and a man should not marry until they have been together for a long long time and have had kids together. She also happens to have a very large family, including immediate family and all the many cousins she has. They all live very close to each other so any time she has to go to the Chinese store to buy something, she is sure to meet quite a few of her relatives on the way. As you read the book, you get the feeling that you are meeting almost everyone in Tahiti and they all know each other. It takes only about 2 hours to drive around the island; of course, with traffic that can be more. The "public bus" in Tahiti is called a truck and that's what most of the people there use for transport.
Frangipani is actually book one in a three-book series, all focusing on Materena. I cannot wait to read books two and three now. The narrative style of Frangipani is a little unique - it read more like a chronological series of essays than a continuous narration of a story. It worked well for this book because of its very quirky narration and humorous tone. The author has definitely drawn the picture of her hometown very well - it is hard not to picture the characters or their circumstances in your head. It has scored all the points in my book - storytelling, story, characters, voice, and culture authenticity....more
Holy crap! What took me so long to read a Nesbø book? Oh yeah, I thought the suspense was going to be the everyday run-of-the-mill type which ends upHoly crap! What took me so long to read a Nesbø book? Oh yeah, I thought the suspense was going to be the everyday run-of-the-mill type which ends up either being so far-fetched that the mystery focuses on Alan, Becky, and Charlie, and then ends saying that Zooey, the cleaner in Chapter 1 was the murderer. Or, it would be so obvious from page 1 who the bad guy was. Or, it would be the mix of both - the author would play hard at making it look like Alan was the bad guy, so hard that it would be obvious Alan was not the bad guy.
So although I have been hearing plenty of praise about Jo Nesbø's books, I didn't really TBR any of them until I had to pick an audiobook for a road trip. Into my car stereo, I popped The Snowman and waited until the moment I was going to feel justified. Nada. Never happened. Nesbø had me right from the page one. It was really hard to stop the audio each time I reached my destination.
The Snowman starts off with a suspenseful premise. A boy and his mother stop at a house on their way back to home. The first snow of the season has fallen. The woman tells her son to wait in the car for a few minutes. The few minutes turn into more than an hour as the woman is actually meeting her secret lover. At one point, she and her lover see a snowman glaring into their bedroom. When she finally gets back to the car, clandestine actions over, she finds that her son has been sitting in a freezing car. They drive off, but her son is suddenly very worried. He thinks that they are going to die.
I have read that Nesbø's books usually start with a prologue that he eventually ties in with the plot, towards the ending. So I was curious to see what role this incident had to play. When it finally came, it was just jaw-dropping. How the same scene can be played from multiple perspectives! I'm a big fan of writers who can play that trick well - everyone doesn't see the same thing when they look at a picture. It is amazing to see how different people can project their bias and baggage onto a picture and form opposite conclusions.
In The Snowman, women have been getting murdered or going missing and a snowman seems to always be at the scene. The killer thus gets the moniker of The Snowman. To the reader, there is a hint of a connection between these women, but to Harry Hole, the detective, there is none. The eventual conclusion isn't arrived at easily. There are a lot of things to figure out before getting there, and Nesbø takes his time, planting clues, snatching them away, and turning the picture around. By the end of the second disc, I thought I had the scenario fully figured out, but that scenario morphed a lot before the killer was revealed (who wasn't anyone I guessed but not so much of a non-entity that it was improbable).
The detective, Harry Hole, is clearly brilliant. But he is missing his ex-girlfriend, Rakel, who had just started seeing a doctor, and her son, with whom he shares an excellent relationship. That doesn't stop them from having an affair, though. The murdered victims described in the book have obviously been through a very torturous experience, but what is a crime thriller without some gory scenes. Harry Hole works on the murder cases with another inspector, Katrine Bratt, who seems to be a mystery - her actions and her private life do not seem to go in sync, but it takes a while before any of it comes to light. There are several other minor characters in the book whose presence I enjoyed and a few that gave me the creeps.
This is apparently the seventh book in the Harry Hole series, but I had no trouble reading it nor did I feel as if I missed any references. Knowing that there are 10 books in this series so far thrills me to bits, more so because I don't really like reading thriller novels and when I find one that I enjoyed, it's great to anticipate more such books. I listened to this audiobook and the narrator, Robin Sachs, does a fabulous job of narrating the story. He places all the right pauses, inflections, and stresses that it sounded very genuine to me....more