Archive | February 2016

Review: The Subtle Knife (His Dark Materials #2) by Philip Pullman

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I say again, “This is a children’s series?!?!?”

The Subtle Knife picks up soon after Northern Lights and introduces us to Will.  He is a young man that lives in a different world from Lyra yet their paths are destined to cross.  When they meet, fate drives them each towards a dangerous journey.

As I finished reading this morning, I immediately started thinking about how best to write a review.  And, you know what?  I’ve got nothing.  Spoilers would be too easy and my puny words wouldn’t be sufficient to describe the emotion that Pullman has elicited.

My rating may show as 4-stars but the truth is that this is a 5-star read.  I deducted one star simply because the middle bogged down a little and the pacing felt off.  But, the beginning was strong.  And, the ending.  The ending.

I flew through the final 25% like the witches fly through the clouds.  There were a few jaw-dropping moments that had me struggling to see through the tears.  I grew ever more attached to Lyra and came to love others as well.  When they were fighting, I was raising my sword with them.  When they were in pain, I cradled my hand in sympathy.  And, when they experienced loss, I screamed at the heavens with all my might.

How good is The Subtle Knife?  I am about to put it on my shelf, pull down The Amber Spyglass and read until I know the outcome.  Because I need to see this through.  For Lyra, Will and the rest of the world.

Mini-Review: Poirot Investigates (Hercule Poirot #3)

  
Not a bad book by any means but 3-stars because the short story form doesn’t give Christie the time she needs to build her kind of mystery. She excels when she can drop breadcrumbs of clues along the way that only the most discerning reader or Poirot himself can decipher using the little gray cells. 

Review – Bitter Bite (Elemental Assassin #14) by Jennifer Estep

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Book 14 and still going strong!

I’ve reviewed most of the titles in this series and if you haven’t already started reading it, then you are definitely missing out.  I could repeat what I’ve said before – likable MC, relatable issues and action-packed story.  Will that work to convince you to pick up Gin’s tale?  If not, what about this?  Family drama, icy-hot romance, friendship, crazy good fight scenes and more.

In Bitter Bite, the bond between Gin and her brother, Finn, is tested.  They’ve always been unshakable but blood can sometimes be thicker than water and the unexpected reappearance of Finn’s mother causes major friction.  We also learn some important truths about other secondary characters that may change the tone of the series going forward.

Estep has corrected a few of the writing tics that annoyed me in earlier installments and seems to have hit her stride.  4/5 stars.

Thank you to the publisher for providing an E-ARC through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review – Northern Lights (His Dark Materials #1) by Philip Pullman

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Hear ye, Hear ye…Henceforth, this book shall only be called Northern Lights and not by the Americanized title that makes this sound like a children’s book, The Golden Compass.

Because, are you listening, I believe this is a ‘children’s book’ only in that the main character is a child.

Lyra has been raised at a local college due to her parents’ death.  Her uncle comes occasionally to check on her but, for the most part, she is allowed to run freely.  When she witnesses an attempt on his life during one of his visits, it begins a journey that will take Lyra to the North where she is moving towards a destiny that everyone but her seems to know about.

First, let’s talk titles and covers for just a second.  I was never interested in reading this book when I saw it as The Golden Compass.  The cheesy cover of a girl riding a bear just didn’t appeal to me.  However, when I watched a Youtube video last year where a reader described this as her favorite series, I paid attention because I trusted her opinion.  And she held up a beautiful book named Northern Lights.  It was the 20th Anniversary Edition cover in the UK and showed a story full of fantasy and adventure.  So, what did I do?  I got right online and went to the Book Depository website to order all 3 books – UK covers and editions.  And, they are beautiful.  (Free worldwide shipping too if you didn’t know.  And, no, this isn’t a plug for them.  I just like to point out to readers that the UK covers are sometimes much more interesting, the prices are comparable to Amazon and free shipping.  What more could you want?)

Second, let’s address the category called ‘children’s books’.  If we consider that this description means that the content is suitable for most children then I can live with that.  However, too often, adult readers believe they have grown out of something that is also being read by children.  Why is that?  Many times we as adults have forgotten many of the important lessons we learned as children and if a book can remind us of a simple truth, we should embrace the opportunity.  As I mentioned, even if you want to categorize Northern Lights, it isn’t your typical middle grade or YA novel.  The story tackles abandonment, fear of those that are different than you, blind obsessions, kidnapping and mutilation, murder and other forms of death, and much, much more.  I’ve read reviews that say that this book is dangerous for children.  While I can see their viewpoint, I couldn’t disagree more.  As a parent, you need to know your child.  Depending on their age and maturity, trust that they can handle the subject matter.  But you should always read the book yourself so that you can be there for questions.  Because if you have a thoughtful child, there will be questions. I believe children who read books that push them outside of their boundaries grow into more well-rounded adults.

Lastly, Lyra.  Clever, brave, and loving Lyra.  At times it’s easy to forget that she is only 11 years old.  And, it is important to remember that fact.  Because although Northern Lights is written in 3rd person and the reader is privy to a few conversations and scenes that Lyra is not, it is still her story and she is an unreliable narrator.  Lyra, again an 11 year old girl, is not able to discern nuance in adult conversations and she certainly doesn’t know when she’s being lied to (and therefore we readers don’t either).  Children rush headlong into danger without realizing it.  They don’t yet have enough fear to protect themselves.  She trusts and makes friends easily like most children – and as an adult we know that can be dangerous.  Which means that we can foresee that she is going to get hurt (mentally or physically) but we are powerless to stop it or predict the angle of attack because, for the most part, we only know as much as Lyra. This is part of what makes this story brilliant.

Overall, I gave this 4/5 stars.  My only minor issue was that the world-building was a slow burn.  Not poorly done but probably could’ve been a little stronger in the first 50%.

Mini-Review: Elephants Can Remember (Hercule Poirot #37) by Agatha Christie

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By Book 37 a series is bound to lose steam.  While the Poirot installments in the late 60s and early 70s aren’t at the same level as the earlier books, they are still quite enjoyable.

There are a couple of timeline issues in Elephants Can Remember and, sadly, I figured out the twist pretty early on (which doesn’t happen often with Christie’s writing.)  But, I liked Ariadne Oliver as Poirot’s sidekick.  Has anyone else read this one?  Did Christie loosely base this character on herself – she is a writer, hates praise, doesn’t want to speak at public functions, etc.

Overall, fun and easy to read but not very memorable.  3.5/5 stars.

 

Happy Valentine’s Day

Romance is not my strong suit in real life or my reading preferences. But, I do have a favorite bookish romantic quote. Enjoy!

“When the day shall come that we do part,” he said softly, and turned to look at me, “if my last words are not ‘I love you’-ye’ll ken it was because I didna have time.” 

― Diana Gabaldon, The Fiery Cross

   

Mini-Review: Appointment with Death (Hercule Poirot #19) by Agatha Christie

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I’ve decided that it would be impossible for me to dislike an Agatha Christie mystery.  Her pacing and characterization is perfect for me as a reader.

Appointment with Murder is no exception.  It is easy to read, well-plotted and a lot of fun.    However, it’s not destined to become one of my favorites for a few reasons.  First, Poirot had no sidekick in this story and only makes minor appearances during the first 50% of the book.  His arrogance is more tolerable when he has a friend at his side pointing out his absurdity in attitude.

The murder itself took place at about the 50% mark which brings me to my second issue.  I prefer Christie’s mysteries (haha…that rhymed) to spend the majority of the pages investigating the crime with Poirot questioning suspects.  In this case, I felt that section was rushed.

Overall, still an enjoyable read.  Just not the best.  4/5 stars.