Just keeping track of what I'm reading, starting this year

Turning the Storm - Naomi Kritzer Fires of the Faithful - Naomi Kritzer

When I started off these two books, what got me into giving them a try was the fact they were taking place in an alternate universe version of Italy, and the story centered around a conflict between two different religious cults. After going through them, I can say that I'm disappointed because of how much I liked them. Let me explain.


The worldbuilding is really great, and it kept me glued to the books to the last page. Even now that I've finished both of them about ten days ago, I still go through both volumes and read snippets regarding it, wishing the was more of it.


And that's my main problem: the story tries to be epic, and given the world and lore it could very well be, but events, characters, relationships and details aren't given enough room to develop. Which is a real pity, and in the end makes all the element that give depth to the story feel almost like a tease. It sort of feels like this saga was supposed to have other books told from the point of view of other characters, but eventually the project fell through.


Again, a real pity. There are so many elements that could have made this a minor classic, but it needed more room to breathe. I hope that the author will pick up this series again and expand on it in the future, there's a lot that still needs to be told and it would be a very really interesting read.

The woman who stole my life - Marian Keyes

This is the second book from Marian Keyes I've read, the first being "This charming man". "The woman who stole my life" is a much more lighthearted read, and a really enjoyable one albeit with a couple of reservations.


The plot is about how the main character, Stella Sweeny, after period in hospital due to a rare disease, gets relatively lucky after a book she accidentally authored gets in the hands of someone relatively important, and she and her family come to enjoy a year of relative success and luxury, and some actual huge changes in her life - all thanks to a man who spurred the very first of these changes.


Compared to "This charming man", this is definitely more of a chick-lit book, but written much better than average. A lot of interesting twists and turns make this a real page turner, never boring and, except for a couple of obvious tropes that can be seen coming from miles but that have to be there given the genre, never predictable.


That said, however, there are also a couple of moments where the main character doesn't seem to think things through - which, while understandable in a few occasions, given her situation, is also a bit irritating. Not that these don't have consequences, mind you.


But I really enjoyed my time with this book, despite a few moments. And it was refreshing to see a story with women in their forties that, while having their subplots end with them being in a relationship with a different man than the one they had at the start, aren't the typical soured and embittered middle-aged women that just need the right person to make them kind again.

City of Stars (Stravaganza, Book 2) - Mary Hoffman

I did enjoy "City of masks" a lot, and was very curious to see how the whole political plot would have evolved, so as soon as I had finished it I ordered a copy of this, and when it arrived I started reading it immediately.


I really liked this book, even more than the first one. The world building gets even more interesting and tight, and the plot gets much more complex, albeit in the subdued manner the first book carried out its plot. It's interesting to see more of the machinations and the way the Chimici clan works from the "inside" point of view of some of its members, and that alone is more than worth the price of admission. The descriptions of this book's version of Siena and its Palio are very well done, and paint an interesting and lively city, and I hope that one of the next books will take place in Remora again.


The main character of this story, Georgia, is quite interesting, and her personal backstory of bullying at the hands of her step-brother Russell is, in my opinion, very well and realistically done. I've personally gone through it during my adolescence, and seeing it described in such a manner was a bit upsetting at moment, but also refreshing in how realistically it was depicted: in the story, like it often happens in real life, bullying happens and goes on because of the neglect or lack of reaction from parents or other similar figures of authority. Russell's dialogue and actions and the reason why their parents don't trust Georgia's words or try to jump in are written realistically, which might make them feel banal to some readers, but that's how this kind of dynamic works most of the time, sadly. Kudos to the author for having decided to go with this kind of description, instead of using a more 'interesting' way of describing this situation.


The book was a page turner up until the very end, with a great prose (I found it vastly improved over the previous one) and a very interesting story keeping me glued to the book until the epilogue, where the cliffhanger scene that sets up the next book felt a bit forced just for the sake of creating that drama - and yes, it's believable that the characters themselves would act like that, but still. And in general, compared to the first book the author played a bit more safe with the character and what happens to them in the end, despite having one of the characters make a surprising and very risky choice. But given what happens in "City of masks" and how this is basically the middle act of the story, I can see why she would take a breather and make things a bit less dramatic.


Really liked this book, I expected to enjoy it and it blew me away.

City of Masks (Stravaganza, Book 1) - Mary Hoffman



I'm not much of a YA novels reader, but this book was suggested by a friend and deals with an alternate universe version of Italy, so I was curious to give it a check. Much to my surprise, I ended enjoying it quite a bit.


The world building is really interesting and well done, and quite interesting from my own point of view. As an Italian, it's curious to see the not-Medici (or Chimici, as they're called in this book) being the "villains" of the story: due to the history of the country and its fragmentation under different types of government, dynasties and forms of government that succedeed themselves through the centries, each ruler or dynasty of the past has a greatly different reputation depending on the zone of the country. At times this can manifest in the same region, if not the same city.


The Medici on the other hand seem to be the one family that's mostly immune to this, having a generally overall positive reputation throughout the country, mostly thanks to their role as patrons of arts and their contribution to the development of the Renaissance. So seeing them being treated as political actors in an intrigue, and not under a positive light, is a bit strange but also refreshing.


As for the story itself, I found it interesting, if a bit low key. At points it gives the impression it's going to get bigger and more action oriented, but never actually pays off on that front, and instead mostly focuses on the political stuff - and even on that front, it's more a matter of behind-the-scenes affairs. It's not a bad thing, I really liked it, but it felt a bit like a bait and switch. In general, the way the main story ended left me with the feeling this was written just as the first part of a trilogy, rather than a self-standing book. It might just be the knowledge there are other books after this coloring this impression of mine, I'll see.


Finally, I really liked how towards the end the author decided to take a risk and went for a bittersweet, more realistic ending to a character's story. Definitely something I wasn't expecting from a YA novel, I'm sincerely and positively surprised.


I'll definitely read the other two books in the series, to see if some of the issues I had with the first one are just due to it being the first "chapter" of this story, or if it's a deliberate choice from the author. I'll come back to this after I'll be done with the whole trilogy, but for the moment my opinion is: good book, with a few very interesting moments and some moments that sincerely defy expectations.

Currently reading

Io, robot by Isaac Asimov, Laura Serra
Progress: 147/291pages