Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Fatherland - Robert Harris

When I finished my last book I had no idea what to read next, so I asked my husband to pick something for me from his collection.  I'd noticed a string of Robert Harris books before, so when he suggested one I took him up on it.  It seemed logical to start with the first one written, and so Fatherland it was.

Fatherland is based in Berlin in 1964, but not the Berlin you would read about in history books or might have experienced.  This is Germany with history re-written - how it might have looked if the Germans had won World War II.  The story is based around a police investigator and a murder that he finds himself investigating, and the consequences of the investigation push him further and further in over his head.

The first thing to say is that I found the concept fascinating.  I don't know much about Nazi Germany and this has left me wanting to find out more.  I also loved the idea of changing a few events in history and looking at the difference that would have made to the world.  As far as can be done, any references are based on fact (although clearly some changes had to be made).

I never really felt like I 'got into' the book.  I read it every day, including a bit at lunchtime when I was near the end, it just didn't grab me as much as other books have done.  Part of that was struggling to identify with the characters, one of my key draws in a book.  For some of the book I was definitely reading just to find out how it ended.

That doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it though.  As I said, the concept really interested me and it is what made it different to all the other books I've read recently.  I also have to remember that I tend to read quite a limited range of books, so stepping outside my comfort zone will always be strange at first.  The real testament I suppose is that I will be trying some more of his books as the writing style was easy going and he clearly thinks about the setup of the books.

As to whether I'd recommend it to a friend, well it would depend on the friend.  I'd definitely suggest that they read it, I just might not commit to an opinion of my own.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

The Well of Ascension - Brandon Sanderson

This morning I finally finished reading The Well of Ascension.  I say finally because I started reading it near the start of December, and even for 753 pages that is a long time.  But that doesn't mean I didn't enjoy the book or find myself getting lost in its world.

The Well of Ascension is the second book in Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn trilogy.  The fantasy world is based around the Final Empire, where evil has already won and where metals provide a source of magic for the privileged few.  The book starts a few months after the first one left off and quickly brings you up to speed on what has happened in between.  For those who can't remember what happened, there is a helpful summary of the first book at the back, as well as a glossary of the common terms used.

So why did it take me so long to read it?  Well to start with I got out of my reading habit in December.  With so much going on it seemed easier to just pick up a magazine than get lost in a different world.  But mostly I never gave it time to get going.  It took me a month to read part 1 of the book, and in the last week I've read the other 4.  Once you get drawn into the world you can't leave.

Part of the draw is the realism of the characters.  They may be heroes but they are people too, each with their own strengths and weaknesses.  Anyone reading the book would find themselves drawn to different characters and different traits.  Although the story is based around Vin, there are many more people that play valuable parts and can be seen to develop as they face different situations.  One of my personal favourites is Breeze for the way that he works at soothing emotions far more than the rest of the crew give him credit.

Would I recommend this book?  Yes definitely.  Of course I would recommend reading The Final Empire first (unless you enjoy getting horribly confused!)  And yes I am looking forward to reading The Hero of Ages.  But I think I'll read another book first, so that when I take the time to re-enter the world of the Final Empire I can enjoy being drawn in all over again.