Tag: Rating: 5 stars

Review: The Name of the Wind

Posted 3 August, 2008 by Li in Books / 0 Comments

The Name of the Wind
By: Patrick Rothfuss

I picked up this book after hearing many positive reviews from the Terry Brooks forums. This novel is about a character named Kvothe who dictates his life story of how he rose and became a legend to the Chronicler. This first novel follows Kvothe’s early years and how he came to be enrolled to the University and all the adventures and struggles that came with his years there. Rothfuss had also essentially set up what appears to be the greater struggle that will most likely show up in the remaining books in this trilogy (I believe it’s a trilogy, unless it’s stated otherwise). What keeps this novel interesting is that the story goes back and forth between Kvothe’s narrative and the happenings going on in the present time (which, by the end of the novel you realize is shaping up to be something as well). Rothfuss has certainly set an interesting premise for his story, with intriguing and colourful characters with equally interesting traits and backgrounds and trades. You get a sense that these characters really do toil and go through the mundane stuff as well as the more intriguing stuff. The University system is equally intriguing, which I hope will be expanded in the next novel. I can’t remember a fantasy novel that delves this far back to the makings of a legend. Overall, reading this book was very enjoyable and am looking forward to the next novel in this trilogy.

Rating: ★★★★★

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Review: Atonement

Posted 13 June, 2008 by Li in Books / 1 Comment

I’ve been meaning to do this entry for a very long time now but I wanted everything out of the way in order to do it because I’ve had a lot of thought about it and there’s just so much to say about the book. I’ve just finished re-reading the book so a lot of what I have to say about this novel is also relatively fresh in my mind. I originally thought I could merge the book and movie reviews here but it appears that my book review/analysis/discussion is on the long side so it’ll be split. So, this should be fun, lol. Massive spoilers ahead if you haven’t read the book!

By: Ian McEwan

What can be said about Atonement? Well, just a brief rundown on the premise: the book spans from three different time periods starting from 1935. On one hot summer day, the lives of three different individuals will drastically change thanks to (ultimately) the power of perspective and the action of one child. That last sentence sounds very vague, but the plot is a fairly complicated once you start getting your head wrapped around it but essentially the course of the book fundamentally follows the course of their lives as a result of one action, one lie, and the struggle to deal with the reprecussions of that event.

This is the first book I’ve ever read by Ian McEwan and I have to say, I was very impressed. What drew me in to the book right away was his prose; I know some people find his prose very boring, but I found it to be quite refreshing. The first time around, I was just drawn in by the way he described the events, the thoughts and actions of these characters, the words he used to describe these aspects of the story. The way he phrased things and the way his sentences were structured came to be as very different, as though it was written by someone in the early 20th century, maybe even earlier, like it was written in a way that you don’t see books written now. Reading it a second time around, I appreciated how he always seemed to find the right word to describe a particular event or a particular scene. It worked for the novel, and I think it really added to the story.

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Review: Fathers and Sons

Posted 1 February, 2008 by Li in Books / 0 Comments

Fathers and Sons
By: Ivan Turgenev

Despite of the fact that I am specializing in Russian history, I have not read a lot of Russian literature to date. So the fact that my 19c Imperial Russia professor assigned Fathers and Sons was welcoming in that sense. Of course, whenever a professor or teacher assigns a books, one gets a little wary of the book itself—after all, you have the deadline when the book has to be read by, the comments you have to make of them, the sorts of things you should be picking up as you read the book, etc, etc. Suddenly the book’s not fun anymore and you don’t get to appreciate the book as much. But Fathers and Sons falls under one of those exceptions where you find yourself completely immersed in the story and the setting and the characters. Each character in this novel represents a strand present in Russian society and yet they all have their own individual voices, they all have their own personalities that marks them as unique, as human. The story itself follows a young son, Arkady Petrovitch, who comes home from university with his nihilist mentor/friend named Bazarov, and finds himself in a totally different mindset and perspective from his father and uncle. It’s really a novel of perspectives, of how they view everyday life and how they come to terms with these realities. But the personal dynamics nad interactions were really what drew me in to the storyline. Unlike many readers who had read this book, I found myself more inclined to Arkady, his father and his family’s position and opinions moreso than Bazarov’s, who I found rather irritating with his blunt assessment of the world; he seemed to me a person without any sort of passion, who is incapable to ever reconciling with the fact that as humans we have passions and we do have emotions and that we bring meaning to the things we have. Like the movement he represents, he breaks things down, he questions everything and nothing is spared from his criticism and yet he is incapable of presenting a viable alternative to the things he just broke down. The reflections and dynamics that are represented in this novel are quite addicting to say the least; I personally couldn’t put the book down until I finished it. Easily one of my favourite Russian novels, a must-read.

Rating: ★★★★★

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Review: The Pursuit of Victory

Posted 3 September, 2007 by Li in Books / 0 Comments

The Pursuit of Victory: The Life and Achievements of Horatio Nelson
By: Roger Knight

Let me start by saying that there are a lot of Horatio Nelson biographies out there. Like, a whole slew of them. But I have to agree with a lot of the reviewers out there who mentioned that this was the book if you want to read about Horatio Nelson. Roger Knight is clearly an authority when it comes to discussing the life and achievements of Horatio Nelson. It’s very detailed and you can tell that he has poured over different types of source material to gain as clear of an image as possible of Nelson’s life, his thoughts, his situation, his motives, etc. The picture he paints of Nelson is surprisingly human, someone you can relate to, someone who has experienced not only victorious moments of character and capability but also moments of trial and hardship. We all know Nelson to be a renown admiral, a risk-taker, a capable seaman. But he also had his fair share of foul-ups, which was surprising as I hardly knew much of his life before the infamous Trafalgar. You have a glimpse, through this book, of Nelson’s path towards fame and renown, of what he learned along the way and the people who came in and out of his life. And not only does Prof. Roger put forth Nelson’s life in this book, but also the situation of Britain and the Navy during the period in which he lived, the politics surrounding the activities of the Navy and the threat from a volatile France and how it ultimately affected Nelson and his career. The book is neatly divided into periods of his life, concluding with how Nelson’s life had impacted the Navy, how it was portrayed by people in subsequent generations and what appears to be a mild form of historiography. Overall, Roger did an impeccable job at not only making it readable but also of bringing Nelson back to life so to speak. I cannot recommend this book enough; it’s a great read and also extremely informative and revealing of Nelson’s character.

Rating: ★★★★★

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Review: The Command of the Ocean

Posted 26 July, 2007 by Li in Books / 0 Comments

The Command of the Ocean: A Naval History of Britain 1649 – 1815
By: R.A.M. Rodger

First of all, if you see this book in the bookshelves of the British History section, do not be alarmed. It’s a thick book, granted, but a lot of that stuff is actually maps, portraits, appendicies filled with rates and statistics and so forth. I saw this book for the first time a few months ago and I was immediately enthralled; it certainly looked like a comprehensive book about the British Navy, even though it only covered around two centuries (this is the second book in his series; the first book is entitled Safeguard of the Sea, which I have yet to get). And after slowly getting through my reading list and finally getting around to it, it is definitely a comprehensive history of the British Navy. Each chapter focuses on a particular aspect of the Navy: Operations (the hardcore, traditional bit that talks about what the navy did when, the battles it faced, etc.), Administration (the organizational aspects of it, often linked with what was going on politically in Britain), Social History (later subdivided to the seamen and the officers; discusses where these navy officers were coming from, their lives aboard these shipsm etc.) and Ships (the actual ships themselves, the design and engineering of them). It reads like a textbook essentially but it’s not boring to go through. Rodger has really done an amazing job in researching and bringing together all these strands to present a clear and concise history of the navy and its impact on British History and its success in the world. He is correct to say that you can’t study British History without understanding the navy’s role in contributing to this rich history, just as you can’t study navy history by itself; both are intwined in this case and the stories and the events he brings forward in this book prove that this premise is certainly the case. What is also amazing about this book is that he not only discusses British History but he also brings in Russian, French, Dutch and other histories into the book, comparing Navy Admiralty systems and ship designs, which is certainly useful to draw an idea of how the British Navy was in the late 17th century and into the beginning of the 19th century. If you’re interested in the British Navy (as I am), then this book is an essential read.

Rating: ★★★★★

Visit Professor Rodger’s page at the Department of History in the University of Exeter || Order this book from the Book Depository