Rosie Reviews: Darien by C.F. Iggulden

Darien

Title: Darien

Author: C. F. Iggulden

Publisher: Michael Joseph

Genre: Fantasy

Source: NetGalley

Review

Summary

C.F. Iggulden is a well-known historical fiction author; Darien is his first foray into fantasy. It revolves around the city of Darien, where powerful magic is a thing of the past but remnants remain in objects and as knacks in a few select people. The novel follows a number of these gifted people as they all converge on the city for Reaper’s Eve. By morning, everything has changed.

Plot

The novel follows multiple point of view characters, and so covers a wide range of plots and sub-plots. Ultimately, however, all the threads come together to shake the foundations of Darien’s ruling class. It is a novel in two parts and, ultimately, I much preferred the first part of the novel and felt it could have ended when part one ended. The first part is, admittedly, slow in places, but it does a brilliant job of capturing the magic of the world and introducing the characters, all the while building to the climactic scene where all the threads come together. The second part, unfortunately, just did not work for me – by the time I got to it, it felt like the novel was nearly over. Instead, I was  to embark into another extended climactic scene. It almost felt like it could have been a sequel if expanded slightly.

Characters

As I’ve mentioned, the first part of the novel does a brilliant job of introducing the characters. Of them all, Elias and Nancy stood out to me as the most interesting, two sides of a coin. One only wanted to save his family while the other was purely motivated by revenge. Unfortunately, once the novel hit the half-way mark, I felt like the characters lost a little bit of what made them special in order to allow the more battle-filled scenes to occur. The two female characters, while brilliantly crafted, were also subjected to romances which felt both forced and sprung out of nowhere.

World/Setting

That being said, Iggulden’s experience with historical fiction has led to creation of a world which feels deep-rooted in the novel as well as our own world. I felt I was present in the novel from the beginning, experiencing everything alongside the characters. The set-up of the city felt like you could walk the streets. The only trouble I could find with this was that Darien is supposedly the heart of an empire, yet it felt more like an individual, solitary city than an empire. Even so, it was a city which jumped off the page and I have a feeling that we will see more of the empire in future books.

Final Thoughts

While it is not going to a be a favourite book of mine, I did enjoy Darien. It captured a world built on magic, but where only remnants survive. It introduced me to a number of intriguing characters. It’s also a novel with spectacular writing style – Iggulden can write incredibly well. The novel wasn’t perfect and I was not particularly hooked throughout but I think there is enough in it to make me curious to read the next book in the series.

Darien is out now.

Rating: 3.5/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33245839-darien

The Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/Darien-C-F-Iggulden/9780718186463?a_aid=rosienreads

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Writing Wednesday: Writing Supplies

Last week, I talked about my plan to gradually get back into writing, to get back into the various projects I have started, as well as begin new ones which spark in my brain. Creativity feeds creativity, so the small steps I am making now should hopefully transform into giant leaps in the future.

However, as many a writer knows, part of being a writer is having great supplies (maybe that should be as every stationary lover knows instead…). In this blog post, I’m going to talk about the various supplies I use for writing purposes.

The first, and main, piece of equipment, is my laptop. This is where I write, where I edit and where I store information. It really helps having things in one place where I can just search for what I need and it is a lot easier to edit on a laptop than on paper. The words are clearer to read and, if I make a change later on, it is so much easier to go back and edit it elsewhere in the novel. Once I’ve started planning a novel, I start moving it onto the laptop so I can work on it in a more structured, clean format.

Brainstorming, however, is more easily done by hand. There is something freeing about writing by hand; I think the act of forming the words yourself, in any shape, size or position, rather than relying on the limited array of typefaces available on a laptop, really helps unleash creative thought. I own a number of notebooks as a result, trying to keep to one per project (although generally spreading over to countless other notebooks). In these, I scribble down any random thoughts I have, an inspiration, and lines, scenes or dialogue which strikes my fancy. While I do try and keep a structure in notebooks where the brainstorming has progresses into a fully-fledged story, that can feel quite limiting at times, so I’m still working out what works best for me. Regardless, notebooks are an integral part of my writing process.  

As well as notebooks, I also tend to use sketchbooks. I am quite a visual person so it often helps to try and draw out the image I have in my head before translating it into words. This is particularly true for characters. I find it so helpful to draw out characters in my stories; it lets me explore their personalities as well as setting their features in stone for future reference.

Finally, of course, you can’t have a notebook or sketchbook without pens or pencils. While it is very easy to work with just one and never have to change it, I do tend to vary it. I have different pencils for different things (writing, drawing, colouring) and I also like to work in one coloured ink for a section of writing, and then switching to another one if I swap to work on something different. Of course, it does get to the point sometimes where I have so many pens scattered everywhere, that I just have to grab the nearest one.

So, there we have it, those are the main supplies I use when writing (mainly it’s just a lot of stationary – any excuse to buy some). Let me know what supplies you use!

Rosie Reviews: The Fire Sermon series (Books 1 and 2) by Francesca Haig

It is a rare thing for me to read a sequel immediately after finishing a book; normally, I like a break, a chance to take a breath, before continuing on with the adventure. For this series, however, the second book was in my hands within seconds of the final page of the first being turned. That series is The Fire Sermon series by Francesca Haig.

I actually first got my hands on the series about a year ago; I bought the first one and received an arc of the sequel for free at YALC last year. That being said, it’s taken me a year to read them and, with the finale out now, it seemed like the perfect opportunity.

The Fire Sermon is set in a world obliterated by fire, implied to be nuclear warfare. Technology is a thing of the past and only twins are born. Of these twins, the Alpha twin is perfect yet the other, the Omega, receives the brunt of radiation damage, being born with anything from an extra arm to missing limbs. Alphas rule while Omega’s live in abject poverty. Despite this, their lives are intrinsically connected – when one dies, so does the other.

Cass, the series’ main character, is born an Omega. Yet, her imperfection is mental rather than physical – Cass is plagued by visions of the blast that destroyed the world, but within that are also visions of the future. These visions guide her as she embarks on a journey to find her own freedom, but ultimately being caught up in something which could see the past repeat itself.

Everything about this series has worked for me so far. Even from the very first pages I was captivated, thinking about the story and everything it entails even when I was not reading. What I particularly enjoyed about the book is that, while it explores so many themes that are so applicable to today’s society, it does so in a way that you don’t realise that’s what it is doing – the themes are perfectly woven into the story.

Haig’s writing melds the story, the characters and the ideas together beautifully, creating a story that requires no thought to get into but will keep your mind active from the moment you’re sucked in. The balance between action and breathers allows you to read without being overwhelmed by all that is going on and the characters are really enjoyable to read (even those which aren’t particularly pleasant).

There is also a fair amount of diversity, particularly with regards to physical disabilities, and, as far as I can tell, these are handled well. The Omegas are shown to be able to function just as well as the Alphas (if not better in some cases), and their disabilities are just facets of who they are rather than a defining characteristic. The book does fall down with regards to mental disabilities; the only one we see is Cass’ ability to see the future, which is not something we see in the real world. That being said, there is an interesting dialogue with regards to Cass’ struggles with fitting in due to her ‘defect’ being invisible rather than physical. The novel also includes prominent PoC characters, and a lesbian character (although, be warned, The Map of Bones does suffer from the dead lesbian trope, albeit this part of the story line is paralleled with a straight character).

On the whole, the first two novels in the series were just what I needed to read when I read them. They got me thinking while also bringing me into a story and world I was properly invested in. I fell in love with the characters, and the book just made me desperate to find out what happened to them. Unfortunately, I have yet to read the first – while the hardback of the third book, The Forever Ship, is available, I am currently on a book-buying ban and I would rather get the book in paperback to match the first two (that being said, the paperback comes out in January 2018 – I’m not sure I can wait that long!).

I definitely recommend this series to anyone who enjoys a good dystopian, realistic characters and a thought-provoking read.

The entire trilogy is out now!

The Fire Sermon rating (4.5/5): https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18109771-the-fire-sermon

The Map of Bones (5/5): https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26174866-the-map-of-bones

The Forever Ship: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35519886-the-forever-ship

 

 

 

Writing Update

 

I have been fairly quiet on writing updates lately and there is a simple reason for that: there haven’t been any. Life has been pretty busy lately and I have neither the time nor the energy to actually focus on writing. That is going to change.

Over the course of the next few months I’m going to gradually try and make writing more of a habit than a hobby. I have so many story ideas whirling around in my head, ones which I want to write and read for myself; yet, the way things currently are, they simply aren’t being written.

I have already taken the first steps on this process: I have a writing nook under my stairs (complete with desk, stationary and a biscuit barrel) and I have already started on the goal of trying to write a little bit each day. Essentially, rather than going all out from the get-go, I’m going to take a more gradual and fairly broad approach. Writing will cover anything relating to ‘author-dom’, so it will include all stages of the process to planning to pitching as well as these blog posts, and I won’t be aiming to write 2000 words a day either. I will have a weekly goal and that can be met by any kind of writing which I do.

At the moment, my main project will be finishing the editing of my current novel, as well as sending that out. Admittedly, this has been my main goal for a while, but I am now close to the finish – nearly two thirds of the way through edits and already starting to plan querying. You will also, hopefully, see more blog posts from me, about both books and writing. Reviews may be less frequent as a result, but it will mean this blog will be a bit more varied.

That’s the rough outline of the plan, it’s still an evolving process but, whatever form it ends up in, I’m hoping it will be a success. Let me know if there are any writing-themed posts you would be interested in seeing and on with the writing!

The Books I Read in June 2017

June was a much better reading month than May and I ended up surprising myself with the books I read. While there was a lot of fantasy, it varied from high fantasy to more dystopian novels with non-fiction interspersed throughout. The books I read are all listed below.

For reference, the way I rate is as follows:

1-Unable to Finish ; 2-Did not enjoy ; 3-Liked ; 4-Really Liked ; 5-Loved

Paperback

A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab – 4/5

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman- 3.5/5

A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin – 3.5/5

Jack the Ripper, the Works of Francis Thompson by Richard Patterson – 3/5 (review)

The Fire Sermon by Francesca Haig – 4.5/5

Kindle

Godlind by Anna Stephens – 4.5/5 (Review)

Audiobook

Work in Progress by Michael Eisner and Tony Schwartz – 3/5

It was also a very paperback-heavy month as I tried to focus on reading the books on my to-read bookcase. From some vantage, I was successful but from others, well, I’ve now had to make that bookcase double-backed. I also would have read more had I not had trouble with audible cloud player – for a long time the player could not get past the buffering point; this issue now appears to have been resolved so, hopefully, I’ll get a chance to listen to some more audiobooks in future.

As it is, I have gone into July with two books on the go: The Map of Bones by Francesca Haig (sequel to The Fire Sermon) and Just Kids, written and read by Patti Smith.

Why Re-read Books?

I love re-reading books, yet there are people out there who look at me with confusion and the simple question of ‘why?’ across their faces whenever I say as much.

Here are a few of my answers:

You get something new with every re-read

One of the main arguments I hear against re-reading books is “you’ve already read it; you know the story.” While that is true for the most part, multiple reads of a book can reveal new things which you didn’t notice before. Often, I find, when first reading a book, you’re so focused on the story and finding out what happens at the end, that little attention is paid on the nuances of the book. Re-reading when you already know the story, particularly with series, can reveal hints that you had not noticed before or allow you to fully appreciate the characters and the writing of the book itself. You could even find that you’ve mis-remembered or forgotten parts of the story so end up discovering them again. I believe that, if a book is written well, there is always something to gain from a second, third or even fourth read.

They are great comfort reads

Sometimes, you may not be feeling up to reading a brand-new book. You’re ill, your brain hurts and the thought of trying to utilise your mind to imagine brand new worlds is just exhausting. This is where re-reading steps in. By picking up a book where you know the story, where you know the world and the characters within, the amount of effort that comes with reading is reduced – you simple have to pick up the book and let yourself be transported back into it. This is particularly true for childhood favourites, such as Harry Potter or, for those Percy Jackson fans, the Heroes of Olympus series. These are pure comfort reads and, sometimes, are just what you need when you’re feeling rough.

They make a nice break from all those other books you’ve got on your list

This is somewhat similar to the previous point but re-reading a book can make for a nice break between reading all those new books you’ve got on your list. It can be tiring reading new stories, going on new adventures and meeting new people every time you open up a book. Having that break where you can read a book that you’ve already discovered can refresh your mind and prepare you for all the brand new stories that are coming your way.

They can help you overcome reading slumps

We all encounter those times where we simply cannot bring ourselves to read. Whether this has been brought on by a completely marvellous or utterly dreadful book, or something else entirely, sometimes what you need to get back into reading is to go back and pick out a book you already know you enjoy and one that suits your mood at the time. If you know a story, it’s a lot easier to know if it is what you need to read at that point in time than one you have barely touched yet.

A re-read can give you a brand new perspective of a book

A lot of readers are mood readers – not only do we read based on mood but being in the wrong mood for a book can seriously affect how we read it. So say, for example, you pick out a book and start off really enjoying it but something happens and you come back to it at a later point but, this time, you aren’t really in the mood. You still read it, but it’s not quite as good as you remember. This disappointment might stop you from wanting to re-read a book but, you might find, that by picking it up again a month or even a year later you end up loving it as much as you thought you would at the start. Of course, if you absolutely hated a book then picking it up again might not be the best idea. As well as reading with a different mood, re-reading a book after a long period of time, might cause you to view the book in a different light. As we grow up, we have different experiences and become aware of new things. These will be reflected in how we read books. Our life, as we’ve lived it at the time, will affect how we experience a story – what stands out to us and who we relate to. So, re-reading a book, particularly after a long period of time may give us an entirely new perspective of the story itself.

Those are just a few of the reasons why I re-read books. There is just so much to gain from reading a book again and again and, if you own the book, there is really nothing to stop you; except maybe time. If I had time to read all the books on my to-read list as well as being able to re-read all the book I’ve already read, I definitely would.

Let me know in the comments what your thoughts are on re-reading books.

 

 

Rosie Reviews: Jack the Ripper, The Works of Francis Thompson by Richard Patterson

Jack the Ripper

Title: Jack the Ripper, The Works of Francis Thompson

Author: Richard Patterson

Publisher: Austin Macauley Publishers Ltd.

Genre: Non-Fiction

Source: Goodreads First Reads

Review

Most of us have heard of Jack the Ripper – the almost demonic presence which haunted London in 1888. Jack the Ripper was someone who was never caught, but speculation over their identity remains to this day, capturing the attention of countless, some even devoting their lives to the mystery. In this book, Richard Patterson introduces a new suspect into the fold, building on an article published by Dr. Rupp who first suggested this person in an article on the centenary of the murders in 1988.

Francis Thompson was born into a Catholic family, the son of a doctor, who failed to get into priesthood and went through Medical school 3 times, but failed to be become a doctor himself. Before long, he was addicted to laudanum and living on the streets of London. He was destitute, living with a prostitute. That is, until he came to the attention of the Meynells, publishers to whom he had submitted some essays and poetry. Mid-1888, on discovering Francis’ work published by them, the prostitute ended their relationship and disappeared. In the period of the Jack the Ripper murders, Francis is living in Whitechapel, searching for this prostitute. A few days after the final murder, he is admitted to hospital before being sent to an all-male hospice.

In Jack the Ripper, The Works of Francis Thompson, the author examines each piece of evidence, from aspects of Francis Thompson’s life to the words in his poetry. The case he presents is commendable and compelling, although relies heavily on circumstantial evidence. While the who and the opportunity is heavily explored and fairly convincing, where the book falls flat is the motive. Patterson does try to explore why Thompson might have become the Ripper, but none of the possible motives felt particularly convincing to me.

That being said, the book is thorough in what it contains, examining different facets of the theory and backing up hypotheses with evidence, albeit that evidence mostly coming in the form of poetry. Regular summaries are provided, so you gradually get a build-up of the various layers in the tale that Patterson is trying to get across. It is an interesting read and, while I was note entirely convinced, it is certainly a book for anyone interested in the mystery that is Jack the Ripper.

Rating: 3.5/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34385855-jack-the-ripper-the-works-of-francis-thompson

The Book Depository (I receive a small commission when this link is used): https://www.bookdepository.com/Jack-the-Ripper-the-Works-of-Francis-Thompson-Richard–Patterson/9781786934499?a_aid=rosienreads