The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

Summary: Estha and Rahel are twins born eighteen minutes apart in India. When they are seven years old, their cousin Sophie Mol visits from England; a cataclysmic event happens which tears the family apart. Estha and Rahel are reunited again years later as adults, and must deal with the fact that when they were young, their lives were destroyed by the “Love Laws”, which lay down the rules of “who must be loved, and how, and how much”.

My Thoughts: No summary could do this book justice. Winner of the 1997 Man Booker prize, Roy’s novel completely blew me away. I was bored by the synopsis on the back cover, but thought I would give it a try anyway (not that I had much choice; I was in Guatemala with a very limited number of English books).

Roy creates a lush, enveloping, buzzing, and foreshadowed world in The God of Small Things. She tells the story out of chronological order, and continuously references the event known as The Loss of Sophie Mol, a mysterious happening that everyone tiptoes around. There are flashbacks and tangents all over the place. Webs of stories and snippets of life spread out everywhere. Even now, after finishing it, I’m not sure how she pulled it off. It was a delicate net that settled down over me. And it worked. Perfectly. Tragically.

I wouldn’t describe many books as A Work of Art, but The God of Small Things definitely was.

The God of Small Things is about love, and forbidden love, and class, and betrayal. There is also history and politics, smoothly woven into the background of India, where the story takes place.

Highly recommended. Strange and different from anything else I’ve ever read. Another best book read in 2011.

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Tongues of Serpents by Naomi Novik

Tongues of Serpents is the 6th book in the Temeraire series by author Naomi Novik

Summary from the book jacket:

Convicted of treason despite their heroic defense against Napoleon’s invasion of England, Temeraire and Laurence—stripped of rank and standing—have been transported to the prison colony at New South Wales in distant Australia, where, it is hoped, they cannot further corrupt the British Aerial Corps with their dangerous notions of liberty for dragons. Temeraire and Laurence carry with them three dragon eggs intended to help establish a covert in the colony and destined to be handed over to such second-rate, undesirable officers as have been willing to accept so remote an assignment—including one former acquaintance, Captain Rankin, whose cruelty once cost a dragon its life.

Nor is this the greatest difficulty that confronts the exiled dragon and rider: Instead of leaving behind all the political entanglements and corruptions of the war, Laurence and Temeraire have instead sailed into a hornet’s nest of fresh complications. For the colony at New South Wales has been thrown into turmoil after the overthrow of the military governor, one William Bligh—better known as Captain Bligh, late of HMS Bounty. Bligh wastes no time in attempting to enlist Temeraire and Laurence to restore him to office, while the upstart masters of the colony are equally determined that the new arrivals should not upset a balance of power precariously tipped in their favor.

Eager to escape this political quagmire, Laurence and Temeraire take on a mission to find a way through the forbidding Blue Mountains and into the interior of Australia. But when one of the dragon eggs is stolen from Temeraire, the surveying expedition becomes a desperate race to recover it in time—a race that leads to a shocking discovery and a dangerous new obstacle in the global war between Britain and Napoleon.

I was very excited to read the latest book in the Temeraire series, as I’m a big fan of Novik’s writing and the very fun alternate history world she has created. However each one of the books in the series has been unpredictable for me–I’ve really enjoyed some of them (especially the first, second, and fifth novels) but wasn’t as wowed by some of the other sequels.

Unfortunately Tongues of Serpents was one of those that didn’t amaze me. As always, I liked hearing about Temeraire and Laurence once again, as they’ve become some of my favorite fantasy characters. On the other hand, Novik’s plotting in Tongues was much too drawn out and kind of boring. At first I thought the “desperate race” to recover the stolen dragon egg was just a brief plot twist, since it definitely did not have enough substance to make it the entire plot of the book… which of course is what it became. Most of the novel details Temeraire, Laurence & Co.’s journey through the dangerous and inhospitable Australian outback. It ended up not being very interesting or very harrowing at all. Most of the time I was bored and wondering when the real action would start–flying through deserts, looking for water, searching for an egg, and some brief encounters with scary-ish native reptiles did not an adventure make, at least not in my opinion.

It really only got exciting in the last quarter, once our noble characters reached their destination. What kept me going through the first three quarters of the book was Novik’s style of writing, which I love. I also really enjoy her characters and the dialogue and the way she describes interactions between dragons and dragons, or humans and dragons, or even humans and humans. So descriptive with the perfect amount of words. Some might call it a “traditional” or maybe even “archaic” or “Victorian” style of writing–whatever it is, Novik does a great job and I like it. I’ll read anything she writes, even if it gets boring once in awhile.

I’m not clear whether this is the last in the Temeraire series. While it was a great story, it seems to have been overly drawn out, and I’m not sure what Novik plans on doing.

How did I get this novel? My local library
Author Website: http://temeraire.org
Read an Excerpt: Here!
Temeraire Series Reading Order:

  1. His Majesty’s Dragon
  2. Throne of Jade
  3. Black Powder War
  4. Empire of Ivory
  5. Victory of Eagles
  6. Tongues of Serpents

The China Garden by Liz Berry

After finishing her exams, there is nothing more Clare wants to do than have a relaxing, fun summer in London before beginning her studies at Sussex University in a few months. Then, out of the blue, her mother Frances, a nurse, declares that they are moving to the rural countryside estate of Ravensmere in order to care for the elderly and ailing Mr. Aylward. Once she arrives at Ravensmere, Clare slowly realizes that there is something achingly familiar about the grand old estate and the quaint little village that abuts it, even though she has never been to or even set eyes on the region before.

As she quickly gets to know the residents of the village at the staff at the estate, Clare is confused and a little disturbed by the fact that everyone seems to know who she is. She even begins to doubt her own sanity after experiencing odd visions and is unable to resist visiting the derelict, abandoned China Garden  during the night. When she meets the cocky and volatile Mark Winters (called Mark the Bastard by his biker friends), an intense attraction follows and Clare not only begins falling in love with Mark, but with Ravensmere itself. After her mother reveals the fact that their own past is tragically linked to the estate, Clare begins to unravel a great puzzle involving a maze, the China Garden, the noble families of Ravensmere, and a legend dating back to the stone age and beyond.

This was a re-read for me; I think I first read it in grade school, and I remembered enjoying it very much so I decided to pick it up again since I didn’t remember completely what it was about. It was just as good as the first time. I’m not usually into mysteries but Berry did a great job of weaving it together with a sort of dark, romantic, ghostly emotion. There’s a lot of foreshadowing and tragic hints thrown about in the beginning, and by the middle of the book you’ve basically got it figured out. However that didn’t detract from Berry’s haunting story and very delicious romance.

I thought the premise of The China Garden was actually very clever and just mysterious (and a tiny bit scary!) enough to really keep you interested. It’s also plotted quite well–the tension begins to pick up slowly, and then faster as Clare (and the reader) realizes that there is very little time left to crack the mystery and figure out how to save Ravensmere and the people whose lives are so inextricably tied to it. It’s very exciting and tense. I don’t want to give anything away but I thought the climax and the revelation was suitably epic and interesting; again, a very hm… intelligent and ancient idea?

And look at that cover! I think this is the Avon edition, and it perfectly evokes the mysterious and romantic tone. Yeesss.

I really enjoyed this one, and after a bit of searching on the internet it doesn’t seem to be extremely popular or well-known. Too bad, it was a great read. You can buy it on Amazon, and I also found it at my library.

Where did I get this book? I now own it!
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Mystery, Speculative Fiction, Fantasy, Romance
Author Website: http://lizberrybooks.com, where you can also read the first 3 chapters of The China Garden online.