Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Patricia Briggs - Fair Game

It is said that opposites attract. And in the case of werewolves Anna Latham and Charles Cornick, they mate. The son—and enforcer—of the leader of the North American werewolves, Charles is a dominant Alpha. While Anna, an Omega, has the rare ability to calm others of her kind.
When the FBI requests the pack’s help on a local serial-killer case, Charles and Anna are sent to Boston to join the investigation. It soon becomes clear that someone is targeting the preternatural. And now Anna and Charles have put themselves right in the killer’s sights…

Comment: This is another series I'm trying to catch up. Next month I'll read the latest installment but this time I dived into Fair Game which is said to be one of the fan's favorites and I was curious to see if I'd feel different (for better) reading it too.

In this third full length installment of the Alpha and Omega series by ms Briggs, we find a tired and guilty Charles who has a lot to deal with, both physically and mentally. He's trying to protect Anna but of course, she only feels he's not trusting her.
Nothing like a good distraction to keep one's head busy and attentive to other things, so Charles and Anna are sent to investigate a murder case where some victims were werewolves.
In there will Charles be able to help or his problems will get in the way?

Apparently this story is where we see Charles in all his glory, but honestly I don't think it was that much better than in the other books. Sure, I like him and his personality, his quiet take on things, his love for Anna, the wisdom of his link to his Wolf - which isn't easy for other werewolves to have - due to his birth circumstances, his need to peace after any job because of the nature of it. 
Yes, Charles is a great character and he has that mix of vulnerability in terms of relationship dealings, of balancing what he wants to what he thinks he should do and the identity he has as the "hit man" for his father.
But is he acting so much different, so much better in this book that he was in others? I really don't see that, unless people are focusing on the fact he admits guilt and how that is natural but unnecessary faced with the dark task he performs.

Anyway, the characters do have a very detailed personality and I think this is one of the author's best features, how she imprints truth and a perfect structure to her characters and the connections between them. I really can't fault any "world" where the author manages this so well.

As for the plot, again, it was well thought. At some point I started to have my idea about who the bad guy was but there are always elements that I can't put a finger on and that's great, if we could guess everything all the time what fun could it be? The imagination to create the villains and all the little details about murders and killings is something that keeps surprising me in thriller authors but so many paranormal/urban fantasy/ fantasy authors do it so well... how interesting to think a simple suspense story in the hands of ms Briggs.

As usual though, my favorite thing is the images we get of how this world works, how society is build and the connections between characters. This author - along a few others - is perfect in this aspect, like here's some sort of better skill or something I can't explain about them that allows them to write these parts better, that lets them put things on the page in a better style.
I like these things, like the slow developing relationship between Charles and Anna and why it is so, or the influence Bran has and why, I mean, things aren't on ms Briggs novels just because, I like she takes time to explain, to explore, to develop personal relationships so I can hope for more and be happy about it.
Of course, being a primarily romance reader I wish I could see more romance developing but who knows, sometimes the best scenes are the ones we don't seem to give much importance to, right?

All in all, this is a good book. It has a superb structure, a well shaped story from previous installments, has a good separation between the characters we love and the main story we're reading about but it all meshes together. Sure, I can see where I'd change a small detail here and there and despite my enjoyment I still think there's room to improve or things that being there would strengthen my taste based on what I prefer to see in books, but all things considered, this is a solid read and another good example of the author's talent.
Next month will be more.
Grade: 8/10

Monday, April 27, 2015

Pamela Morsi - Marrying Stone

Meggie was a dreamer who'd spent her entire life in the tiny town of Marrying Stone. But though her life was simple, she was always sure that someday her prince would come. J. Monroe Farley arrived with his Edison listening box to record the traditional music of the Ozarks, determined to focus all his attention on his studies. But there, in this remote mountain hamlet, he found something he never expected--the princess of his dreams...

Comment: I've had this book since last year and since I enjoyed my previous reads by this author, I was quite curious about this one.
This is the first of a trilogy. The first two are historicals and the third is contemporary. I have the first two and planned on reading them in following months.

This is the story of J. Monroe Farley, an educated man from Boston, who is traveling the Ozarks to find evidence of popular songs and traditional music. While on Marrying Stone he gets to spend time with Best family, a father and his two children, and he learns a lot about friendship, hard work, loyalty and love. Although Meggie Best seemed weird at first, it's true she is special and she becomes more important to Roe as each days passes...
Meggie knows she can't leave the mountains because her father is getting to old and her brother can't be left alone. So Meggie dreams a lot and when Roe shows up she is caught ij her dreamland and thinks he might be her prince. After a misunderstanding is solved, can Meggie still keep her dreams while falling in love?

I had a good time reading this book. Still, it wasn't as marvelous as some reads from the same style/time period.
I think most historical books as timeless because the romances are amazing and the setting is a reflection of those times not only in setting but in descriptions. What we can see as not timeless is how the books are written.
I don't know why but books written in late 80s and throughout the 90s have a special flavor even today, more than 20 years after, than some recent books don't. I wonder why this happens, but I remember reading books written/published on those years as memorable, poignant and intense and nowadays the trends are different and many books, even goos ones, don't stay as long as those... something to think about.

Like I said, this wasn't the best example of a perfect 90s book but it's true one can recognize the talent of the author and the "shape" of this book as belonging to those times.
The romance develops a lot like any of those well liked books are and there's something about the setting, the small community that speaks to a romance lover.
I liked the plot. The idea of someone going to find traditional musics to add to a collection for study or recordings in a college is an idea different enough to be special. I liked how the author inserted this into the story and how believable it looked.

The romance is the focus of this book though.
I liked Roe and Meggie but I'll be honest, I don't think their romance was the most romantic one. Cute and different yes, but there are other couples out there that marked me more. Meggie is acute heroine but I never felt very connected to her, she admitted her dreamy side which is great but that same aspect put me off her personality for I think she was a bit too dreamy when she first met Re to be acceptable. The fact she understands her reality and how her life should be considering the men she must take care of in her life didn't really erase my first impression of her, even more so when she picks a harsh decision about her future.

Roe is a good hero, he made mistakes but throughout the story but redeemed himself because he apologized and recognized his errors. I liked him, especially because he was such a good friend to Jesse, Meggie's brother. In the end, his was one of may favorite characters and part of me doesn't think he and Meggie are that suitable, but it's the way the HEA happens.

The secondary characters are an important part of this story and I enjoyed knowing them. Jesse is very special and I'm very eager to read his story next month.
Other characters aren't as prominent but offer the help needed to carry the story forward.

In the end, it was a good story but not completely perfect for me. The heroine isn't one of my favorites and the overall "feel" of the story wasn't as addictive as I thought it would.
Still, a good historical, and a good example of what the 90s best had to offer.
Grade: 7/10

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Andy Weir - The Martian

I’m stranded on Mars.
I have no way to communicate with Earth.
I’m in a Habitat designed to last 31 days.
If the Oxygenator breaks down, I’ll suffocate. If the Water Reclaimer breaks down, I’ll die of thirst. If the Hab breaches, I’ll just kind of explode. If none of those things happen, I’ll eventually run out of food and starve to death.
So yeah. I’m screwed.

Comment: I got this book mainly because of the amount of positive reviews that are out there. I haven't read any with reading eyes, I just skimmed one or two and I got the vibe this book would make the reader feel happy and positive. I got curious considering the positive feedback it got and the prizes it won (although I don't pay much attention to this usually). So I've talked to a friend and we've agreed on buddy reading it. I'm so glad I wanted to try this one!

This is the story of Mark Watney, an astronaut in a mission to Mars, who suffered an accident there and got apart from his crew members. They went on to safety aboard a ship on Mars orbit and Mark was left behind because he was presumed dead.
But Mark has skills and after figuring out how much time he has before death is imminent, he sets himself to try his best to endure Mars while hoping for a miracle. His journey is one of bravery, intelligence, humor and hope, all things any human being needs to face adversity.

I absolutely loved this book!
No matter what happens from this day on, no matter how many books I'll read, I'm sure this one will remain one of my favorites of my 2015 reads.
This was refreshing, addictive, funny, teaching and I had a hard time putting it down. I was invested like crazy on Mark's journey and his fight against time and a planet to survive!

Just two notes to clarify any unsuspected reader that might be debating on whether to try this book: Well, rest assured this isn't one of those "doom days" books where Mark will faces aliens or meteors that might be his premature death. This is mostly a sci-fi story but more focused on Mark's actions to survive and how he keeps his sanity intact.
Also, this book has humor. Many readers might find this unlikely considering any psychological factors that could affect someone lost alone on Mars, but the thing is, for me, this works and I'll explain why.

The humor is the biggest weapon the author uses to turn this into an amazing story instead of just another sci-fi story full of technical - and boring - information/settings.
Poor Mark is apparently lost to humanity yes, but he manages to keep his bearings by writing down on his digital notebook and that is how we know what happens. We learn he is smart, funny and able to endure the fact he's alone, he might die and that he won't see anyone ever again. His biggest plans set on trying to grow some potatoes so he can have food for longer and after some pages where we know he is aware of his surroundings and his possibilities, he starts to clear his mind to think and he knows his best attempt on having any sort of controlled end doesn't rely only on the morphine he has to end things if it comes to a unbearable point, he wants to communicate, to let others know he's alive.

You see, people need others. We need to know others are out there. We watch tv to complement the fact we aren't surrounding by others all day or that we don't want to physically be in the presence of others. Mark is alone, the world thinks he's dead but he doesn't want to die without trying to communicate one last time, so he thinks of a way to send a message to his family, to Earth.
From this on, we see Mark learning things and facing the fact he might survive. After all, a new mission to Mars will arrive in a certain date. He just needs to survive until then.

I think this book really works well because Mark is shown as one of those people who can make a joke out of everything, he's a positive person, he doesn't let depression get the best of him and that's key to his survival. But he also manages this because he's had training, he may be only human but he's worked and trained and was chosen to be an astronaut for his skills and personality as much as his knowledge. I know I'm oversimplifying things, but Mark endures because he is like that.
His constant funny entries let us know what he is doing, what he wants, what he needs and how's he is. The humor sold me over, but without it the book would still be special.
My favorite funny part was when he realized he colonized Mars and his thoughts are:
"In your face, Neil Armstrong!"
 All in all, most of the book is meant to be focused on Mark but I think we, the reader, also learn a lot and here's a proof math might be as important in our life as said by math teachers. Mark is clever, witty and shows that in the face of the biggest adversity and improbable outcome, if we try, if we manage to clear our head and think, it's more likely we'll be successful. I think it's a good message to impart.

The book also shows how the NASA people here o Earth deal with things, how Mark's crew member and friends react and this all serves to give us an idea of how important Mark is. I can't know how correct some steps are if this was ever to happen, but the technical side of things, both from Earth, both from Mark's entries, give the book a feel of realism and truth that makes the story seem more believable.

Of course this is sci-fi speculation, imagination. No one is ready to actually walk on Mars, but considering all the impossibilities of nowadays makes this story even more amazing for its funny and technical sides.
I really liked it, I was eager to get to each new log, to each new chapter. I got the feeling I knew Mark, I knew others based on things he wrote for them, therefore this felt like a real and complete novel for me.
Some readers complain of the lack of depth and emotional feelings from Mark, that he is too aloof in that unbearable situation. I think his personality, his skills as an astronaut and a little of suspended belief should be enough to make this a winner book. And many people thought so, thus the prizes it got.
Personally, I've loved it to pieces but yes, a bit more feeling on Mark's side would give it a extra layer of interest.

All in all, I've had a great time, I loved the story and several passages I still fondly remember. There are countless aspects readers can focus on, but everything aside, this is purely entertainment. I really loved it and recommend it to all readers!
Grade: 9/10

Saturday, April 25, 2015

KJ Charles - A Case of Possession

Lord Crane has never had a lover quite as elusive as Stephen Day. True, Stephen’s job as justiciar requires secrecy, but the magician’s disappearing act bothers Crane more than it should. When a blackmailer threatens to expose their illicit relationship, Crane knows a smart man would hop the first ship bound for China. But something unexpectedly stops him. His heart.
Stephen has problems of his own. As he investigates a plague of giant rats sweeping London, his sudden increase in power, boosted by his blood-and-sex bond with Crane, is rousing suspicion that he’s turned warlock. With all eyes watching him, the threat of exposure grows. Stephen could lose his friends, his job and his liberty over his relationship with Crane. He’s not sure if he can take that risk much longer. And Crane isn’t sure if he can ask him to.
The rats are closing in, and something has to give…

Comment: This is the second installment of the Magpie Lord series by author KJ Charles. I liked the first book so of course I had to keep reading. This month I grabbed the second full length story. There are novellas but I won't be reading those so soon. Maybe one day.

In this new story, lord Crane is still dealing with the fact he is in a relationship. But his partner seems to disappear for long periods of time which he can't point out exactly why it bothers him.
Crane has the possibility to leave England anytime he wants but now he has reasons to stay even if the dangers of blackmail exist.
Stephen doesn't have as much money or influence as Crane and he fears what might happen if people find out about them. But while fighting enemies, Stephen can't really not help Crane or someone he considers a friend. 
So where do those two stand while dangers arise everywhere to distract them?

I really liked this story, I think it's one if the best I've read because the romance travels at the perfect pace and it's not over the top or too subtle one can't appreciate it. It's special indeed to see how the author writes stories not very big, but with all the necessary elements connected in the perfect way to make them important and precise.

There are two main issues to entertain the reader.
There's the blackmail situation with Crane and a friend of his and there's the romantic relationship between Crane and Stephen.
The blackmail appears simple but as the pages unfold, we see more than one issue is connected to that. I really liked to see how things seemed to have layers, we discover something and from then something else comes up, then another and so on.
It's interesting how the author researches weird and unknown things and uses them here. I liked the twists and turns that happened to carry the suspense side and how things were solved in the end.
It's not the most ingenious plot ever, but the author treated with the right amount of care and seriousness one could expect, I think.

However, most readers certainly prefer to focus on the emotional part of the books and, personally, my favorite subject is the romance between Crane and Stephen and how that affects their choices and how others see them too.
Crane is confident in his position, his means and the fact he controls many things so he can go when he wants if he needs to. But now he has Stephen and his feelings for him are a lot more than just those caused by the magpie connection they share since the happenings in the first book.
Stephen is more intriguing. He's poor and he has a very strict life because of his job, we can say he's in the public eye and his behavior has impact on how he is received to work. He can't leave his job because he doesn't have other plans but his relationship with Crane is much more serious than anyone anticipated.
The author respects the fact the action is set during a time where two men couldn't acknowledge the sort of feelings Crane and Stephen have and I liked how that didn't ruin their love while they still respected the rules and how things were done in those times.
So, there's fiction and there's a semblance of what reality must have been like.
Nevertheless I also liked how vanguard some characters were because they still welcomed the pair and what they represent.
There are romantic scenes in this book and wonderful speeches that helped me fall into love with this installment. I really liked seeing them talk and accept they were in love and being together was more important than anything else.

This story really worked for me. I liked the pace, I liked all the elements had a meaning and a time and there wasn't any exaggeration in anything.
The romance compelled me and I can't wait to see them again. Really great!
Grade: 9/10

Thursday, April 23, 2015

World Book Day 2015

As stated by the UN, today is the world book and copyright day.

I wish all fellow readers and book lovers 
a great reading day!!
Happy reading!

Katherine Allred - Second Time Around

Five years ago Quinn McAllister's life was almost destroyed. While he lay in a coma from injuries sustained during an auto accident, the woman he loved divorced him. Or so his father told him. Now he's discovered that his divorce was bogus, and his whole world is spinning out of control. He's tempted to give his wife the quick divorce she wants until he finds out about the son he didn't know existed. Now he's going back to Wyoming to claim what's his, and nothing can stop him...not his father, and certainly not his wife's fiance. 
It's taken Lanie McAllister five years to get over losing the man she loved with every fiber of her being. Now she's ready to move on with her life, and has even agreed to marry the local veterinarian until Quinn gives her an ultimatum. Give them three months to try to mend the marriage his father tore apart, or he'll fight her tooth and nail for custody of their son. Torn between the man her heart has never quite forgotten and the man she's engaged to, Lanie can only pray that love will truly be better the second time around.

Comment: This is the last of the books by Katherine Allred I had to read. I know she has two sci-fic romance books but I haven't got those...maybe one day.
I left this book for last because of the title, to be honest. I just knew it would be about a couple reuniting and I do not enjoy the lovers reunited trope much. But, it's one book, not very long, so I kind of wanted to get it over with, one less installment in my TBR.

This is the story of Quinn McCallister, he's had a car accident, a long recovery time and his wife divorced him.
But now not only does he find out his divorce didn't happen, he is even a father! Discovering it was his father's doing, Quinn only wants to get his wife back, get to know his son and live the life he and Lanie wanted when they fell in love.
But after so much time, Lanie, also deceived by Quinn's father, is engaged and thought Quinn abandoned her. Could they work things out despite everything?

Like I predicted, this romance didn't wow me. I was surprised, however, by how little remembrance scenes there were. In these types of books, usually there are scenes showing of or telling us about how things used to be between the main couple, not only as a basis of comparison to what they are on the present, but also to create atmosphere. I really hate those parts because my biggest fascination with any romance is to see the path the couple takes to happiness. I don't want to know about it, I want to see it and it's just not the same thing reading about what used to be or seeing a memory lane flashback to reading it as it goes right now.

Therefore, this book was a nice surprise because those "before" scenes were really small and quick, more like a photograph than a long video, so I could enjoy the book. I tried to think of it as a new chance of seeing them fall in love, which I'm sure it's the aim of these romances, but I just couldn't pretend I didn't know they used to be a couple before.
It was hard to achieve a balance between what I wished and what I get and I can say it wasn't that bad, but it's hard not to fall back on established opinions.

I also think the author tried really hard to add up some drama by making Quinn a man recovering from almost never walking again to someone needing help and physical therapy. I understand this is difficult, time consuming, emotional and it takes a lot of time and effort. We only see the end of it, and it was the excuse for the main couple not being in contact for so long (thus being in a position to solve every misunderstanding and the story not existing) but I think the focus on this wasn't used in the best way, Quinn didn't want pity which is understandable, but the way the story is written it feels like that's the element for the reader to focus on. Not as smoothly done as one would hope for in my opinion.
Things happen, I know, but the way things were written, it felt like this was a task needed to happen and the story didn't flow that easily. I couldn't put aside the details to just enjoy the story.

I liked the horses, the fact Laine had a steady life but she has a fiancé and they've been together for years. They never slept together because deep down Laine is still in love with Quinn. This is very romantic but not very realistic. I think the author should have done this more accurately to what expected behavior would be in a contemporary setting.
The solution to this "dilemma" is handy but I think the author didn't use this approach to its best potential. I don't mean to sat she should be overly dramatic, exploring a love triangle (shudders!) or anything, but a different way to solve things would make the story more polished, mature...I don't know, I just think it was a badly utilized feature.

In the end, the story had too many flaws for my taste, but I have to admit it was easily read despite not being a fluid narrative for me.
I think the ideas are worthy, interesting, but the execution isn't always the best with such good elements to work for.
Grade: 5/10

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Jenny Offill - Dept. of Speculation

Dept. of Speculation is a portrait of a marriage. It is also a beguiling rumination on the mysteries of
intimacy, trust, faith, knowledge, and the condition of universal shipwreck that unites us all.
Jenny Offill’s heroine, referred to in these pages as simply “the wife,” once exchanged love letters with her husband postmarked Dept. of Speculation, their code name for all the uncertainty that inheres in life and in the strangely fluid confines of a long relationship. As they confront an array of common catastrophes—a colicky baby, a faltering marriage, stalled ambitions—the wife analyzes her predicament, invoking everything from Keats and Kafka to the thought experiments of the Stoics to the lessons of doomed Russian cosmonauts. She muses on the consuming, capacious experience of maternal love, and the near total destruction of the self that ensues from it as she confronts the friction between domestic life and the seductions and demands of art.
With cool precision, in language that shimmers with rage and wit and fierce longing, Jenny Offill has crafted an exquisitely suspenseful love story that has the velocity of a train hurtling through the night at top speed. 

Exceptionally lean and compact, Dept. of Speculation is a novel to be devoured in a single sitting, though its bracing emotional insights and piercing meditations on despair and love will linger long after the last page.

Comment: This is another of the books picked by one of my book clubs. The blurb didn't seem to intrigue much but the reference to the exchange of letters and the fact I was given the book led me to try it out. However, it turned out not to be what I expected after all.

This is a sort of monologue told by a woman whose name we don't get, we only know her as "the wife" and her tale is one of stress, heartbreak and all the possible things that go around one's head while we simply let the mind wander and think and deal with things. 
 It's a quick story of how things are ok, then change and there's a lot to think about.

So besides the motivation of reading this along with other people whose opinion I trust after months of collective reads, I was also eager to read another story with an epistolary style, which was what I inferred when the blurb mentions "once exchanged love letters with her husband postmarked Dept. of Speculation". I thought we'd see the letters or part of them. I like the epistolary style not because it's different but because it allows the plot to move along without direct actions from the characters and that isn't easy.
Unfortunately, there are no letters shown and there's a very quick and small reference to this fact in the whole story. I thought this wasn't such a key idea as it looks like from the blurb and I feel a bit misguided.
All things considered, the title is more suggestive and interesting than the story itself.

The story is told in very small chapters. There are 46 total within 118 pages more or less. It's meant to tell and make us wonder and that's it. Each chapter can be read almost like an entry in a diary and it's filled with countless references to many subjects, all to illustrate what the wife is going through and what she thinks. 
I admit I liked this writing style. It's different enough to make an impression. However, at the same time, it doesn't allow the reader to feel much empathy towards the characters, at least I, personally, didn't. The things we'd learn in each chapter about the wife's life and problems were so disguised between references and the mix of crazy/ clever thoughts I often felt dislocated from it all and had trouble focusing on what she really meant to say.
Summarizing, I liked the idea more than the actual style.

The writing shows a lot of thinking from the author. She had to plan exactly what she wanted to say and how and that is certainly refreshing and specially talented of her. Many things included were extremely precise and thought provoking and I liked that too. This is a good example of literary fiction I think.

Despite some of the positive aspects I liked, I still think a book is worth as a whole, therefore we have to consider all things, not just if it's well written. My reading experience with this story wasn't positive despite the good things and that's why I ended up not enjoying it as much.
The main reason behind the story, the why of everything is also a difficult subject and while I understood the why of this subject working out being told like this, I still think a slightly more objective style wouldn't be bad, especially if only here and there.

I felt lost in some parts and while it didn't take me  long to finish, I had the feeling I wasn't rally processing everything. I think there were too many random idea in the middle of all the more objective thoughts.

In the end, despite the promise of new beginnings and new attempts on happiness, I can't help thinking nothing will ever be the same. How could it be after such damaging elements in the wife's relationship towards all the aspects of her life? Can someone try again with the same things already knowing it went wrong once?
My grade reflects my overall enjoyment and the fact hope is there but not the trust of before.
Grade: 4/10

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Ildefonso Falcones - The Hand of Fatima

Snared between two cultures and two loves, one man is forced to choose...
1564, the Kingdom of Granada. After years of Christian oppression, the Moors take arms and daub the white houses of Sierra Nevada with the blood of their victims.
Amidst the conflict is young Hernando , the son of an Arab woman and the Christian priest who raped her. He is despised and regularly beaten by his own step-father for his 'tainted' heritage.
Fuelled with the love of the beautiful Fatima, Hernando hatches a plan to unite the two warring faiths - and the two halves of his identity...

Comment: This is another book I borrowed from a friend who likes historical fiction a lot. She knows I like many genres so she suggested this title which presents the Muslim/Christan fights and persecutions in Spain, in the 16th and 17th centuries.

This is the story of Hernando, he's a Muslim whose father was a Christian priest who raped his mother. The setting is Spain, late 16th century and around the time the king gave the order to expel all Muslims from the country. Hernando is a young boy when the book starts and we follow his life and all the challenges that he must overcome just by being in the middle of two religions. Hernando has many good moments, but also tremendous bad times that affect himself and those he swears to protect.
Always with the utopic goal of uniting two religious under the same God, Hernando lives the live of a Muslim, tries to honor the Christian ruling of the time and is living a hard life but always keeping the faith of his ancestors.

I liked this story. The book is huge, more than 900 pages which means a lot of detail.
The most obvious thing that pops up is the amount of detail the author inserted in this story. His research was deep and exhaustive and shows the amount of time he certainly dedicated to setting up the writing of this book, plus the time to actually write it.
This effort alone should be recognized, but the truth is, his work is well structured as well.

This book is a work of fiction for the most part. But there are countless historical facts as the basis for this novel and the characters show how it was to live in those times and even more, how apart the faith was for the different religions.
Something that nowadays still happens, which only shows to prove that no matter how long time passes by, things et in stone take a long time to change, to improve, to be understood.

The fictional part of the story is divided into four parts, focusing on how Hernando lives his live honoring his Muslim faith, how he falls in love and tries to live respecting that, how he wants to honor his faith and those of his peers and finally the wishes of God, which he believes everyone should know it's the same for Muslims and Christians.
Hernando is the key character in this book and his actions, his faith, his behavior and attempt of honoring those he respects and cares about shape this book and start off many of the decisive action scenes which will be the starting point of many things.

Many scenes are hard to accept. There wasn't the acceptance of nowadays - which is still so low and xenophobic - and the killing of people based on faith alone is a hard hit against humanity. But in the end people make choices and in a time where here wasn't no newspapers spreading the word, where there wasn't no Internet showing things second by second, fear and prejudice and power plays were easier to hide and to execute. Although part of History, some things, killing children, condemning people to death, making people do despicable things, are hard to swallow. This book doesn't hide from that and I confess some parts were hard to read about. Still, I don't think it was the most graphic book I've read pertaining historical fiction.

The fictional parts about Hernando also have happy times. In the end, all people everywhere want the same things, happiness, a good life for their children, the chance to live a live they can be proud of...Hernando has all this, as he has awful experiences to deal with, to live through. His character is who gets us, the reader, closer to what reality must have been for so many nameless people from so long ago. But that reality is here shown in all its harsh details.
Hernando ends up with a HEA but in these types of books HEAs aren't sugary and pink like in other books. His path to a quieter life had its highs and it's lows and some of the bad things made me sad and shed a tear here and there. I think this is a book to read with a heavy heart.

The writing is easy, the story flows despite its length but I admit there are many pages with descriptions and political settings that I didn't care much about and I didn't pay the attention is should. But 900 pages is a lot so despite most of the information  remains, there's a lot of it that just doesn't grab you the same way. Some parts felt boring, yes.

Still, despite the flaws and the boring parts, I wished Hernando's HEA were better. There's one thing he wants throughout the whole book and when he has finally the time to live it, life isn't as easy as that. It felt almost bittersweet. There are also some misunderstandings that affect some happenings which I get from plot needs, but it's annoying to see it. In real life this happens too, and it certainly happening int he 16th century as well, but in fiction we also want things to happen better.

This historical fiction story is rich in details, scenes and History. It's a lesson so obvious, why don't we learn from the mistakes of yesterday, but here it it, human flaws and behavior. Even seeing how wrong we can be, we still don't respect others. We all want to be the ones who know best, who should be entitled to know more, to have more power over others. How sad, how contemporary still.
Grade: 7/10