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The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini

My second book by Mr. Hosseini and I liked it as much I liked the first one i.e. A Thousand Splendid Suns. If A Thousand Splendid Suns was a story of two women, this was the story of two men.

This book tells us the story of Amir and Hassan, two boys living in 80s Afghanistan. They’re kids at that time. Amir, son of a well-known rich Afghani , is a motherless boy. Hassan is Amir’s servant Ali’s child. They both are very good friends. Amir is a coward and is often subjected to bullying by some older kids. It is Hassan who always came to his rescue. After a horrible incident, Amir distanced himself from Hassan and when Hassan tries to confront, but Amir asked him to go away. Soon Amir with his father emigrate to America. A decade or so after, Amir receives a call from Rahim Khan, his father’s business partner in Afghanistan, who asks him to come see him in his last days in Pakistan. Once there Amir get to know some best kept secrets about his father and he decides to go to Afghanistan to bring back Hassan’s child.

I love how Hosseini describes the war and its effects on people. They’re sad and painful yet something that innocent people has to suffer because of few people’s stupidity or hunger for power. His writing is mesmerizing. The way he explores the father-son relationship is beautiful. He did a wonderful job in describing human emotion like madness, faith, love, hate, cowardice, betrayal and many more.

In the ends it’s a really good story about how one must overcome the mistakes of past to be able to live a peaceful future.

The Emperor's Blades

The Emperor's Blades - Brian Staveley

The circle is closing. The stakes are high. And old truths will live again . . .

The Emperor has been murdered, leaving the Annurian Empire in turmoil. Now his progeny must bury their grief and prepare to unmask a conspiracy.

His son Valyn, training for the empire’s deadliest fighting force, hears the news an ocean away. He expected a challenge, but after several ‘accidents’ and a dying soldier’s warning, he realizes his life is also in danger. Yet before Valyn can take action, he must survive the mercenaries’ brutal final initiation.

Meanwhile, the Emperor’s daughter, Minister Adare, hunts her father’s murderer in the capital itself. Court politics can be fatal, but she needs justice. And Kaden, heir to an empire, studies in a remote monastery. Here, the Blank God’s disciples teach their harsh ways – which Kaden must master to unlock their ancient powers. When an imperial delegation arrives, he’s learnt enough to perceive evil intent. But will this keep him alive, as long-hidden powers make their move?

Isn’t that blurb sound epic? And that cover art is just awesome. I read that blurb last August and this book became one of my most awaited book for this year. Now that I’ve read it, that blurb feel somehow hollow. 

As the blurb said it is the story of three siblings Adare, Kaden and Valyn. And I’ll tell you how I felt about these three.

Adare: Her character don’t go with the blurb. I don’t know why she has been given so much space up there in the blurb. She has merely 4 or 5 chapters to herself where I felt she was trying desperately to punish the murderer of her father as well as trying to prove herself to other courtiers that she was the right candidate for the seat of “Minister of Finance.”

Valyn: First of all this name “Valyn” reminds me of Vaelin Al-Sorna from Blood Song. Alongwith the name story of this Valyn is very similar to that Vaelin. Kind of coming of age. But the similarity ends there. Valyn who was training to be an elite soldier got the most attention from the author. Most of the book was dedicated to his training enroute to his final test. During the last phase of his training mysterious events starts happening around him which he somehow rightfully connects to his father’s murder. Now it was upto him to solve these mysteries and save his brother Kaden from assassination. 

Kaden: The new emperor Kaden was sent to a far monastery at the age of ten where spend next eight years of his learning the disciplines of monks. And for most part of the book that was my biggest confusion that why the heir to the throne was not learning art of sword, fighting, or politics and spending his days at an isolated monastery. But the author took mercy on me and explained that. Whereas Valyn story was action right from the start, Kaden’s was slow and dull. But it really picks up after the first half of the book.

The world building was good in the book. There was not whole lot of magic and whatever was there was not explained well. Author could’ve tell us about "Leaches" and "mysterious creatures" in detail. Like what they’re or what they can do or where they come from. May be I’ll get to know about them in next book. 

And last point author was so much secretive about the villain. He did not tell us who he is or what he can do or why he did what he did. 

Well there are three things that I want to know more about in second book:
1) Magic System
2) Information about this bad man
3) I want more of Kaden

Regardless of my complaints I enjoyed it. With all the suspense and fun at some places it was a good read if not amazing.

White Night

White Night  - Jim Butcher

Before starting the review of White Night, I would like to tell you how I met Harry. After devouring the Fever series by Karen Marie Moning in 2012, I wanted to read another amazing Urban Fantasy so I requested for some UF recommendations. And first time I met Harry there when I was recommended Dresden Files in response to my request. I read the blurb; saw the cover, length of the series, a male protagonist and instantly dismissed it. It was start of 2013 and had just started reading fantasy books at that time, so I searched Google for most awaited fantasy books of 2012. I opened the very first link and checked the list. Cold Days was sitting prettily at number four with this description:

“For those who have never heard of Harry Dresden, where have you been!? Harry Dresden is a private investigator who also has the added advantages (and disadvantages at times) of being a wizard. They are written in the sarcastic first person voice of Harry who tends to get hired in order to uncover the facts behind some kind of supernatural murder or crime.

The first couple of books were okay, nothing really breathtakingly brilliant about them, but from there they picked up and have quickly become fan favorites. Each novel is relatively short, but they certainly back a lot of great content in-between those covers.”

& I finally decided to read Dresden Files but still it took me almost seven months to start this. I didn’t liked it much and my friend who’d recommended it to me in first place told me to have some patience. So I kept reading Mr Dresden’s story, and after finishing ninth book (& I’m almost 80% done with tenth right now) I’m glad I did not abandoned it after reading first book. 

One of the best thing about this series is that the quality of books gets better with every new addition to the series and that says a lot as book #15 is coming out this June (& according to Wikipedia Mr Butcher is going to add another five books to this series and there will be a trilogy too after that). Mr Butcher’s writing skill has improved a lot since the first book. Maintaining this level of quality with one book per year on average is amazing. Now he don’t go in details to tell about a person from previous books. Readers have to rake their own brains for recognition. 

So now back to White Night, this book starts with Harry being called by Murphy to a murder scene. Murder looked like a plain suicide, but a clue left at the crime scene told Harry that the victim was a magic practitioner. Murphy told Harry that there were more murders like this. One clue led to the other and they all points to Thomas Raith (a person very dear to Harry) and made him a prime suspect. Now it was up to Harry to clear Thomas’s name. 

White Night is a fast paced story that keeps you to the edge till you finish it. You don’t know what is going to happen on the next page. Mr Butcher has blended mystery and action so well here. The climax action scene is my second favorite in this series (of course first place go to the dinosaur scene from Dead Beat). 

This is a highly entertaining and excellent read.

Small Favor

Small Favor (The Dresden Files, #10) - Jim Butcher

this book was absolute madness from start to the very end.

Action start right from page one when Harry was attacked in the backyard of Carpenters while he was playing with Carpenter family. He was attacked by summer faeries. After that Harry got called by Murphy on a crime scene where Johnny Marcone was kidnapped with use of some heavy duty magic. & everybody knows that when Johnny Marcone is involved in anything, things gets nastier. If that is not enough Winter Queen Mab wants Harry to rescue Marcone & you never say no to Mab especially when you owe her.But thats only the start of this amazing story. 

With every passing year Harry is getting more powerful. But with great power comes great darkness and Harry doesn’t want to give in. And that is also his biggest fear. It is one of the reason that he never back down when it comes to help people with his magic. & thats what he teaches his apprentice. Never succumb to darkness. 

During the course of his life if Harry has earned some dangerous enemies who would love to see him dead, he has also got true friends in Murphy, Michael and Thomas who would do anything to keep him alive. This true friendship is one of the biggest strength of these books. 

This is an amazing read.

Deadhouse Gates

Deadhouse Gates - Steven Erikson

The “Malazan Book of the Fallen” is considered as the most dark fantasy by many, thats the one reason that I didn’t dumped it after reading Gardens of the Moon. I really want to know and explore the complex world that Erikson has created in this epic series or atleast get to know why it is tagged as the most dark fantasy. Even the most ardent fans of the series says that first book is the weakest and series really picks up after third book. So I’ve decided that I’m not dumping this series before readingMemories of Ice.

I must say Deadhouse Gates is much better than the Gardens of the Moon. This book has all the basic fantasy ingredients i.e. an epic journey, a dangerous rescue mission, an ongoing war, some prophecies and great action. This story has a whole new set of characters, only Crokus, Fiddler, Apasalar and Kalam are here from the first book. At the start I felt very frustrated with the introduction of this whole new cast which bears almost no connection to the previous book or its events. But slowly I got used to this new cast. 

Story and writing is better than the first book. Dialogues are better. But at places I still struggled to get what is going on in characters head or what they’re planning. Thats one of the problem with huge casts and multiple POVs that they demand explanation and Mr Erikson is very stingy when it comes to explaining events or why his characters are like the way they are. 

Second thing that I hated about this book is Mr Erikson uses magic so heavily and he never cares to explain the magic system. There are different kind of warrens (magic system), but I never get what are the function of these warrens or which one is the strongest or weakest. How can anyone use magic anywhere? 

Third thing that annoyed me was the length of the book. it could have been some 200 pages shorter. Literally there were places where I so wanted to jump to last two chapters and get over with it. I don’t hate big books but reading some 800+ pages with so much confusion and without any explanation takes it toll. 

I’m still determined to read third but may be a month later. I really want some good books to read before I think I’ll be ready to read next book in this series.

The Lions of Al-Rassan

The Lions of al-Rassan - Guy Gavriel Kay

Story revolve around people of three religion and their struggle to prevail over each other. These three religions are Ashar (worshipers of Stars), Jad(worshipers of Sun) and Kindath (worshipers of Moons). On a day that was known as “day of moat”, physician Jehane bet Ishak, a Kindath, met Ammar ibn Khairan, most famous Ashar warrior, and Ser Rodrigo Belmonte, a fierce Jad captain. This is the story of how these three become friends and what they choose when it come to make a decision between friendship, religion and love. 

Story is set in the medieval Spain and GGk has created an extremely beautiful world. As always his writing is impeccable and lyrical. I loved this verse:

Who knows love?
Who says he knows love?
What is love, tell me.
"I know love,"
Says the littlest one.
"Love is like a tall oak tree."
"Why is love a tall oak tree? Little one tell me."
"Love is a tree
For the shelter it gives
In sunshine or in storm."
Who knows love?
Who says he knows love?
What is love, tell me.
"I know love," Says the littlest one. "Love is like a flower."
"Why is love a flower? Little one tell me."
"Love is a flower
For the sweetness it gives
Before it dies away."

He has created three exceptional characters in Jehane, Ammar and Rodrigo. Their journey till the end of the book is breathtakingly beautiful. Even the supporting characters were amazing. 

And the theme of the book, war over religion evokes so many emotions. After finishing the book I was questioning myself did God really wants His children to slaughter each other over His name? Or why we can’t accept each other as Husari (Ashar) and Alvar (Jad) did in the book and how beautifully Husari described this union:

“I think,” Husari murmured, “such a person - if we could find one in Ragosa this week - might say we two represent the best the peninsula has to offer. Brave Alvar and my poor self, as we stand humbly before you, are proof that men of different worlds can blend and mingle those worlds. That we can take the very finest things from each, to make a new whole, shining and imperishable.” 

The end of the book was bittersweet. Even if had ended the other way around I would have been equally sad as I’m now. 

So if you like reading, read this beautiful tale of love, passion, betrayal, hatred, survival and hope.

Last Argument of Kings

Last Argument of Kings  - Joe Abercrombie

What way to end the series. 

First book gives us a great foundation of plot and characters, second was more about the knowing these characters and executions of the plan and third was the end. End of all the plots and sub-plots. Happy endings for some while bitter sweet for most. 

Where the second book left us, it was pretty much clear that book three would be full of barbaric action. War on every front. It was inside as well as outside of characters head. Mr. Abercrombie has described their struggle for finding the truth or doing the right thing or their selfishness very beautifully. And every struggle was not fruitful, not every doing “right thing” act ended in a good way. 

It is written pretty well and very unpredictable story. There were some funny moments but most of the time story has dark undercurrents to it. 

Glokta and Logen Ninefinger are my favorite characters in this series. Didn’t liked Glokta in first but slowly he outran everybody else and won the title of the most favorite character. His internal dialogues were awesome. These both are kind of anti-heroes and kudos to Mr Abercrombie for writing them so amazingly that I savor these two till the very end. 

But I still hated how the story ended, especially the feud between two Magus. I never get to know how Khalul was like. What his side of story was. What I know about him was based on Bayaz, Mammun or his eaters views. All I get to know that how the First of the Magi was selfish. I also hated how the Ferro’s story ended, it felt totally incomplete. 

But still it is great and highly enjoyable series.

Gardens of the Moon

Gardens of the Moon  - Steven Erikson

A huge series and this is the first book in this. After reading this I feel very irritated. 

Mr Erickson tried his very best to make it a memorable book but he failed badly in doing so. It is not the foundation that I want from first book in an “Epic” series. It was worse than The Black Prism. Atleast magic system, characters and world creation in that book are well explained. 

He has created a very enthralling world full of magic, assassins and supernatural creatures but described it in equally flat way. As it is an epic fantasy I've expected a very concrete magic system but the magic system here is mentioned without any explanation as if it is a very common thing for all the people who are reading to understand it. 

So many characters popped out of nowhere that sometimes it is so difficult to keep account of everyone. And their relation to each other is very incoherent. Erickson even did not care to tell us something about their past. there is no depth to them. There are some characters to whom he has given huge importance without telling us a single thing about them. Then there are Gods who are scared of humans. Even their function is not well explained. 

Ecrikson’s writing is so very confusing and transition of POV from one character to the other is miserable. A total confusion!!!

All I can say is that a good plot is executed in worst possible way

Before They Are Hanged

Before They Are Hanged  - Joe Abercrombie

I must say I enjoyed it much more than the first one. 

In this edition we see what happens to Bayaz and his crew when they travelled to retrieve “seed” to the far places. And what happens when Glokta tries to hold a city against a Grukish invasion. And what is the result of battle between Northern King Bethod and Union soldiers and the consequences.

The characters in this book are pretty amazing. they are deeply flawed and complex, on a journey of their own. everyone’s POV is quite unique. their growth during the course of the book is also remarkable. 

It was interesting to see Glokta, I so thought him to be a merciless man, do an act of kindness which he knows was going to be dangerous for him if inquisition ever found about it. And Captain West, who was such a dutiful soldier, killing his own prince when the prince was trying to rape a girl. These two acts were absolutely astounding. 

Two things that I loved about this book are that story was never predictable and Mr. Abercrombie’s way of switching from one character’s mind to the other. it was never confusing. 

Mr Abercrombie really know how to tell a great story full of war, betrayal, characters own internal battles, love and remorse. 

They way this book ended, I’m curious to know how this amazing trilogy ends

Proven Guilty

Proven Guilty - Jim Butcher

this book starts with Harry witnessing an execution of a black magic practitioner. Then he gets a warning about something dangerous is about to happen in Chicago. Harry has to find what is about to happen and stop it. if all that is not enough Molly Carpenter, his friend Michael’s daughter, ask him to come and bail out her friend. And thats where Harry finds himself in knee deep shit. 

Now these books in the series are at a point where I can not discuss the story without giving spoilers about previous books. We find some more news about the on going war between Wizard’s Council and Red Court of Vampires. But the events in this book has more to do with the faerie land. 

As always I love Harry, Thomas, Bob, Murphy and Mouse but Charity, Michael’s wife, steals the limelight here. A fierce mother who went to fight the monsters to save her daughter. 

this book is also about reconciliations. Charity who is not a big fan of Harry actually learns to trust Harry with her daughter’s life. the troublesome relationship between Charity and Molly is also described beautifully where mother wants to save her life from every danger while daughter thinks her mother don’t understand her. 

This book is good but I didn’t find it as good as Dead Beat. Though the events in the book points out that next book is going to be one hell of a ride

Blood Rites

Blood Rites  - Jim Butcher

its the sixth book in the series and I’m seriously hooked with Harry Dresden. This book is fast paced, funny, lighter in plot but still full of action. 

In this edition Harry find himself solving a case for an adult film maker who is facing a strong entropy curse and his female associates are getting murdered one by one. Harry also fights Black Court’s nest with the help of Murphy and Kincaid (a hired assassin). If all this is not enough, Harry also finds himself in the middle of White Court’s power struggle. 

This book also focus more on emotional quotient. Be it Murphy’s relation with her mother and her sister or shocking revelation about Harry’s sibling. Even the emotional bond between Thomas and his sisters is also beautifully described. 

Jim Butcher’s writing and the way he tells us the story is amazing. The time he takes in plot development never felt too much. Everything simply is perfect. Placing small jokes here and there making me laugh and then some serious talk. Twist and turns of the book simply put me on the edge throughout the reading. 

I absolutely love "Mouse", his new pet. 

& I’m glad that I didn’t stopped reading this series after third or fourth book

The Perfect Game

The Perfect Game  - J. Sterling

It remind me of Crash by Nicole Williams.

Spoilers ahead!!!!

Jack is a wannabe baseball player who everyone think was going to be the next big thing in the sport. He never slept with a girl twice and never remember their names. He met Cassie and everything changed for him. One away game and after some misunderstanding Jack and Cassie had their first fight after which Cassie felt stupid for not trusting Jack. 

Jack was selected by a big team and had to move to a different state. Cassie had her own fears about the long distance relationship but as she now fully trusts Jack, they went ahead with it. For sometime Jack totally fulfilled the role of a dedicated boyfriend but one game in which he played very well, he got drunk and cheated on Cassie.

Now the other girl was pregnant and dear Jack had decided to marry her. He didn’t even go for a pregnancy or DNA test. After marriage Jack found about the pregnancy trap and leaves the girl.

&&&&&& Cassie not only takes him back but apologize to him too like she is the one who cheated on him.

End of story if you can call it that............

Needless to say that Jack and Cassie both are jerks. Jack for cheating and hurting Cassie again and again. Cassie for forgiving Jack everytime.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms - N.K. Jemisin

I picked it up as it was the BOTM for a group and so are the next two. 

Story revolves around Yeine, leader of a barbarian tribe. Her life changes when her grandfather (her mother’s father) invites her to be one of the three potential heir to the world’s most powerful kingdom. She finds herself tangled in between her rivals and a greater plot of Gods to free themselves. There is also a mystery around the death of her mother which she solves during the course of the story. 

Story is told from the POV of Yeine. Yeine is funny, little ignorant in the start but she is extremely bold and courageous when the situation calls for. But I think she just keeps wandering in the whole book sometimes with Sieh or Naha. I felt bad for her whenever someone compared her to her mother and remind her that she was inferior to her. 

The very idea of Gods being enslaved by humans is very new. But I think thats what makes it different from other fantasy stories. I loved Sieh but I can’t say that for others.

Kinneth (Yeine’s mother) is the third most important person in the book. Although she is dead but so much is said about her that she sometimes steals the limelight from Yeine. Of course, everyone thinks that she was better in every way than her daughter. 

This book raises so many questions right from the start but not many are answered by the end of the book (hopefully I get them in the sequel). 

Overall not a very strong first book. Hope second is better than this. 

So 2.5

Under Heaven

Under Heaven - Guy Gavriel Kay

I wanted to read this for a long time. 

Story starts with Shen Tai being gifted 250 Sardian horses (a very valuable breed) by a Tagur (a rival kingdom) princess for his work of burying the dead of a great battle between the kingdoms of Kitai and Tagur. Shen Tai had been doing this in memory of his father. On his last day (after two years of burying the dead), Shen Tai faces an assassination attempt by a Kanlin Warrior (trained and most feared warriors). Somehow Shen Tai survives this attempt. Bytsan sri Nespo, a soldier of the rival army who bring him the news of 250 sardian horses gift, makes a plan that only Shen Tai can retrieve the horses from the Tagur border. Shen Tai begins his journey to his Kitai emperor to let him know about the gift. After reaching the capital Shen Tai finds himself right in the middle of a power struggle, a battle of jealousy between two most powerful man in the empire and the impending danger of a rebellion.

“The world could bring you poison in a jewelled cup, or surprising gifts. Sometimes you didn't know which of them it was.” 

More than fantasy it is a historical fiction. GGK is a master of storytelling. The way he explains events is simply beautiful. He takes his time telling about the background of the events and what led to these events. His graceful writing and lyrical prose is very engrossing till the very end. 

GGK’s stories are so different from other fantasies that I’ve read. Characters full of bravery, love, deception and compassion. His characters are very simple and the words he choose to describe them are exceptional. 

Other strong point of this story is its world building. GGK definitely does a thorough research about the world he is about to create in his books. 

It is not Tigana but still it is a very gorgeous work.

Dead Beat

Dead Beat - Jim Butcher


Its the best book in the series so far (and that extra half star is for Butters and Sue)!!

With Halloween just days away, Harry finds himself blackmailed by Marva into finding “Word of Kemmler”. But Harry even doesn’t know what “Word of Kemmler” is and what it can do or where to find it. If thats not enough three more wizards/necromancers who are powerful than Harry wants “Word of Kemmler” for themselves. And what follows next is endless action and fun.

This book was one hell of a ride right from the start to the very end. We’ve seen Harry tackling wizards, werewolves, ghosts, vampires and fallen angels; now we see him fighting zombies. 

With every book each Harry is growing more mature and powerful. But its his enemies who attacks him through his loved ones and Harry is a good man. He can’t see people hurting on his behalf. While in the previous book he fought for his brother, in this he fights to save Karrin Murphy, his best friend. 

And we also get to know about the ongoing war between the White Council of Wizards and Red Court which gives us some surprises toward the end of the book.

This series is getting just bigger, darker and more mysterious.

The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard Book - Neil Gaiman

The only reason that I picked up this book was its short length. I wasn’t very excited for Mr. Gaiman’s work after reading “the ocean at the end of the lane”. And this book like his latest one also revolves around a small boy but this book proves me wrong. And I'll be reading more of his work in near future.

After his family’s murder, young Nobody Owen is adopted by an old graveyard couple. They raise Bod (short for Nobody) as their own son. Silas, another inhabitant of the graveyard, agrees to be Bod’s guardian. He take care of food, clothes and studies for Bod. As Bod grows up he comes to know that Jack, the murderer of his family, is still on his trail and wants him dead.

Every chapter of this book is an adventure and a lesson well learned for Bod. In fact each chapter is a short story in itself. The world created in the book is wonderful. it is scary yet full of surprises. Residents of graveyard are even more amazing and so protective of Bod. 

It is a well written story. it is dark at places but also humorous. It made me smile, laugh and sad. 

Its a beautiful story and a must read for anyone who loves to read.