The Invisible Library (The Invisible Library #1) by Genevieve Cogman

21416690Summary (from http://www.goodreads.com):
The first installment of an adventure featuring stolen books, secret agents and forbidden societies – think Doctor Who with librarian spies!

Irene must be at the top of her game or she’ll be off the case – permanently…

Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, which harvests fiction from different realities. And along with her enigmatic assistant Kai, she’s posted to an alternative London. Their mission – to retrieve a dangerous book. But when they arrive, it’s already been stolen. London’s underground factions seem prepared to fight to the very death to find her book.

Adding to the jeopardy, this world is chaos-infested – the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic. Irene’s new assistant is also hiding secrets of his own.

Soon, she’s up to her eyebrows in a heady mix of danger, clues and secret societies. Yet failure is not an option – the nature of reality itself is at stake.

Review:

Oh my goodness! How wonderfully fun was this book?! Another recommendation from a fellow bibliophile, this was an addictive read.

Irene is a spunky, resourceful, professional spy who collects books for the mysterious Library. I enjoyed Irene’s asides (written in parenthesis) and the humour with which Cogman voices her. Kai, Irene’s apprentice, is powerful and enchanting and a trusted colleague. The interaction between Kai and Irene is, for a lack of a better word, fun to read.

I can’t say enough about how much I enjoyed this book. The mix of magic and mystery and adventure and a strong female lead has made this one of my favorite reads of this year (well, in the last two weeks!). I’m already on to the second book, The Masked Library (The Invisible Library #2)!

Review: A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin

A Storm of SwordsSummary (Goodreads):

Here is the third volume in George R.R. Martin’s magnificent cycle of novels that includes A Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings. Together, this series comprises a genuine masterpiece of modern fantasy, destined to stand as one of the great achievements of imaginative fiction.

Of the five contenders for power, one is dead, another in disfavor, and still the wars rage as alliances are made and broken. Joffrey sits on the Iron Throne, the uneasy ruler of of the Seven Kingdoms. His most bitter rival, Lord Stannis, stands defeated and disgraced, victim of the sorceress who holds him in her thrall. Young Robb still rules the North from the fortress of Riverrun. Meanwhile, making her way across a blood-drenched continent is the exiled queen, Daenerys, mistress of the only three dragons still left in the world. And as opposing forces maneuver for the final showdown, an army of barbaric wildlings arrives from the outermost limits of civilization, accompanied by a horde of mythical Others—a supernatural army of the living dead whose animated corpses are unstoppable. As the future of the land hangs in the balance, no one will rest until the Seven Kingdoms have exploded in a veritable storm of swords.

Review:

This instalment of A Song of Fire and Ice took much longer to read than initially anticipated. For the most part it had nothing to with the novel itself – I was distracted by work and other novels –  and could not give this the time and concentration it deserved. However, I have finally completed it and … wow!

While the first few sections (about four of them) were a little slow going, the action picks up right afterwards. So much happens to all the characters in this instalment, it took a couple of days afterwards for me to come to terms with what I had just read. The action, needless to say, is intense, gruesome and bloody (as wars are), but the outcomes are astonishing! Characters I adored (and some that I despised) either died (should have learned my lesson from book 1!) or made decisions that took my breath away, while one character that I had long despised (I get way too emotionally involved) gave me pause, and made me reconsider his behaviour and my feelings towards them (I still don’t particularly care for them, but the feeling is not an intense loathing, either). And then there were those characters that got their just rewards – both good and bad (will not say more or will give too much away). Every character undergoes a change due to their own actions or because of the actions of others, which is one of the reasons I find this series so addictive. The setting, Westeros, and the cities beyond it are astonishing in scale and detail, while the plot (at some points meandering and tiresome), for the most part is exciting and full of suspense.

Much is revealed, but even more questions are raised about the conspiracies and political intrigues that lead to the battles, in all its forms, in Westeros.

I very much enjoyed this one and and am looking forward to season three of the HBO series, as well. Recommended. On to book four – A Feast for Crows!

Review: Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

Wolf Hall Summary (Goodreads):

Tudor England. Henry VIII is on the throne, but has no heir. Cardinal Wolsey is charged with securing his divorce. Into this atmosphere of distrust comes Thomas Cromwell – a man as ruthlessly ambitious in his wider politics as he is for himself. His reforming agenda is carried out in the grip of a self-interested parliament and a king who fluctuates between romantic passions and murderous rages.

 

Review:

When I first began reading this novel, I gave up after two pages because I just could not follow what was happening and who was speaking.

Luckily, my new book club had chosen this novel as their book for February, which meant that I had to read it. The second time around it was no different – I had no idea who the narrator was or what was happening – but this time I kept reading, and after page fifty or so, it all clicked and fell into place – narrator, characters, setting and plot (intrigue, politics, back-stabbings, beatings, murders!).

Mantel’s account of Henry VIII’s relationship with Anne Boleyn told through Thomas Cromwell’s perspective was engrossing and action-packed – no dull moments. My knowledge of Thomas Cromwell (the very little I knew about him as being ruthless and manipulative, and possibly murdering) was pleasantly changed. Mantel presented him as a sympathetic character – generous (to a fault), intelligent,  hard-working, loyal and, most of all, caring. Seeing this side of Cromwell (whether historically accurate or otherwise) made reading the 650 page tome enjoyable.

I enjoyed it and am in the middle of the sequel, Bring Up the Bodies. This novel is very much worth reading, even if the beginning is a bit of a struggle. Recommended.

 

Review: The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco

The Prague CemeterySummary (Goodreads):

Nineteenth-century Europe—from Turin to Palermo, to Prague, to Paris—abounds with the ghastly and the mysterious—The Jesuits who plot against the Freemasons, Freemasons, Carbonari and Mazzinians who strangle priests with their own intestines, a bow-legged arthritic Garibaldi, the Dreyfus affair, the makings of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the notorious forgery, that was to inspire Hitler in his creation of concentration camps, machinations by secret services in Piedmont, France, Russia, and Prussia, massacres during the Commune in Paris, where people eat mice, stabbings, befouled haunts for criminals who, among the fumes of absinthe, plan bombings and rebellions in the streets, false beards, false lawyers, false wills, an abbé who dies twice, a hysterical female Satanist, celebrants of black masses—gore enough to satisfy the worst in readers.

Except for one detail. Apart from the protagonist, all of the characters in this novel existed and did what they did. The protagonist also does things that actually happened, except that many of these things were likely done by different people. But who knows—when you are dealing with secret services, double agents, traitorous officials and sinning priests, anything can happen. And does.

Review:

This one was tough going at the start. The first twenty pages were so confusing I almost gave up – I had no idea who the narrator was, the context, or the historical events referenced! But, if you can make it past these initial pages (which I recommend), the novel is much easier to read, even if the content is difficult to digest.

The conspiracies, double dealings, back stabbings, and murders that appear to be the norm of the times is both breathtakingly shocking, as well as fascinating. The most intriguing aspect of the novel is how one man’s hateful actions lead to turmoil in the world of the mid to late eighteen hundreds, but also continues to have lasting repercussions in the twenty first century.

I recommend this one, but be warned … it is not an easy (mental/emotional) read.