Archive | April 2016

Mini-Review: The Mysterious Affair at Styles (Hercule Poirot #1) by Agatha Christie

7058850

The book that introduced the world to Hercule Poirot.

Published in 1920, The Mysterious Affair at Styles is a classic.  When Christie wrote the first instances of “little gray cells” or Poirot twisting his mustache, I wonder if she knew that she was creating one of the most iconic characters in modern fiction?  This book also featured Hastings, Poirot’s friend and sometimes investigative sidekick.  It was interesting to see that Hastings had the occasional dismissive attitude towards Poirot even in this first installment.

The story and crime mystery are solid and, while this isn’t the best of the Poirot’s, it is certainly one of the must reads of Christie’s library.

4/5 stars.

Review – Shadows of Self (Mistborn #5) by Brandon Sanderson

22887640

Shadows of Self is the 5th Mistborn book and the 2nd in this sub-series featuring Wax and Wayne, former Roughs lawmen.  While this still isn’t quite at the level of the original trilogy, I did find it to be a wonderful read.

Sanderson is building the characters of Wax, Wayne, Marisi and Steris (who is the epitome of ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’).  There is a slower burn to the story and it’s taking some time to really get to the heart of it.  SOS does give us a few major revelations that were shocking and will continue to impact the characters going forward.  Plus, Wax’s lineage was defined (I probably should have realized his ancestry before but it didn’t occur to me.)

For me, the best thing about SOS, and much of Sanderson’s writing, is the undercurrent of religion and faith that is weaved throughout the story.  For those that are thinking “oh no, I don’t want to be preached to”, it isn’t like that at all.  Sanderson uses it subtly to allow the reader to draw their own conclusions.  He doesn’t push a specific belief on the reader but instead challenges us to think about things.

I still had a few confusing moments when prior characters were referenced.  When someone refers to the Ascendant Warrior, I have to remind myself that it is Vin.  Sazed as Harmony is a much more prominent character in this story.  While I’m not a fan of large appendixes, it might be helpful to have a page devoted to these ‘religious’ names referencing prior characters.

4.5 / 5 stars and highly recommended.  Excited to read The Bands of Mourning but then what will I do with my life?  The next book doesn’t come out until 2018.

Mini-Review – A Trick of the Light (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #7) by Louise Penny

10680329

Another fantastic installment in the Armand Gamache series.  With each book, Penny continues to build upon these complicated characters from Three Pines.  Clara, the scattered artist who is beginning to doubt her husband of over 20 years.  Peter, the husband who can’t be happy for his more successful wife.  Ruth, the poet who curses and drinks her way through the day but still waits on a bench for her pet duck to come home for spring.  Olivier and Gabri, the couple trying to get back to normal after the turmoils of the last two books.  Myrna, the best friend everyone wants (she really does need to be a main character in a future installment.)

Plus the Surete officers.  Jean Guy, who faces some hard facts about his life now that he is recovering from his injuries.  Lacoste, finally taking on more responsibilities in the department.  And, of course, Gamache, their fearless leader.  Well, fearless other than heights.

5/5 stars.

Review: The Alloy of Law (Mistborn #4) by Brandon Sanderson

10803710

My love affair continues with the Mistborn series and this installment, The Alloy of Law.  Although, admittedly, we have reached the 7-year itch phase.

The original Mistborn trilogy is at the top of the fantasy heap for me.  It was a masterpiece of world-building, character development and well plotted storylines.

The Alloy of Law is the start of a second trilogy set in this world many years after the events featuring Vin, Elend, Sazed and the others.  According to Sanderson’s acknowledgements, he planned for two trilogies after the original.  One epic set in an urban area and another in a futuristic area.  This book isn’t the beginning of either of those trilogies.  I think I understand that this started as a short story that grew into a full novel (not surprising given the volume of content that Sanderson seems to create with a blink of an eye.)

No spoilers so I’ll just give you the highlights.  The structure of TAOL is very different.  It’s significantly shorter and, if read as a stand alone, the world building would just be average.  If you’ve read the original series, you know all the nuts and bolts of this world.  But, if you haven’t, you will have some “huh” moments.  It is definitely a fantasy novel but has elements of a western, steampunk and mystery.

Did I like it?  Yes, that’s why I’ve rated it 4-stars.  But…**deep breath**…I came pretty close to giving it 3-stars.  It just isn’t at the same level as the other Sanderson works that I’ve read.  Maybe it isn’t fair to judge him against himself but once you know the heights of awesomeness he can reach, it feels like a disappointment not to get there.  Having said that, I don’t think he intended for this to be as epic as the original series.  I believe he just wanted to entertain us.  And, that he did.

My only other squabble would be too spoiler-ish.  However, though it bothered me throughout the majority of the story, I think Sanderson took this plot point in the right direction at the end and it won’t lead me to anger with book two.  Vague enough for you?

 

P.S.  You can’t go wrong with Sanderson so even though this isn’t a glowing review, The Alloy of Law really is a must read.

Mini-Review: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (Hercule Poirot #4) by Agatha Christie

16328

I’ve read that this is “the” Agatha Christie book. What did I think? 4.5/5 stars and a fantastic read but not my favorite. That honor is reserved for And Then There Were None.

The pacing, characterization and plot line are superb. I have few squabbles with this book. While I did guess the twist, it wasn’t a disappointment. Because I’ve now read several Christie’s I’ve come to expect the unexpected and that knowledge is the ONLY reason I was able to figure it out. And, even then I wasn’t sure until I saw it on the written page.

A must read for mystery lovers.

Review: A Feast for Crows (A Song of Ice and Fire #4) by George RR Martin

1187138

I am about to commit blasphemy against the church of GRRM and ASOIAF.  A Feast For Crows was my least favorite of the series thus far and there were times I almost moved it to my “On Hold” shelf.  There.  I said it.

Now, you may see that my rating is 4-stars.  Yes, that is correct.  Martin’s intricately detailed writing, character development and world building deserve no less.  And, there were times that I really enjoyed reading AFFC.  But…

It is bloated.  While writing this installment, Martin found that he had too much material for one book so he split it into two – this and A Dance with Dragons.  Rather than telling the story in a straight line, he basically gives us POVs from 1/2 the characters in AFFC and we will learn the other characters’ fates in ADWD.  Sounds like he did a good job editing himself right?  Wrong…

I love big books.  I love detailed writing.  But, this was overdone.  There were so many passages where I wanted to just skim to get to the next important plot update.  Character after character is added.  When you need 62 pages in the appendix to list the characters and their place in the story, you may have gone a little too far.  I found myself pulling out my phone to google character names to try to remember who they were and their role in the overall storyline.  This became tiresome.  And, in my opinion, unnecessary.

Because there are now so many details, I worry that Martin is writing himself into a corner and he won’t be able to wrap this up to his or the reader’s satisfaction.  I hope I’m wrong but the delay in book 6 doesn’t give me warm and fuzzy feelings.

We’ll see.  This is a superb fantasy series and I’d hate to see it tarnished.

Mini-Review: Waylaid (The Hollows/Peri Reed) by Kim Harrison

29087051

I’ve always enjoyed Kim Harrison’s writing and The Hollows series featuring Rachel Morgan was fun, sexy and exciting.  The Drafter, first in the new Peri Reed series, was a good book but I think some fans were disappointed because they went in expecting Hollows 2.0.  When I saw that Harrison was publishing a Kindle Single featuring both characters I was excited yet a little wary.  The worlds are so different; how could she make it work?

Oh ye of little faith.  Harrison came up with a creative plot that showcases both characters.  It was nice to see Rachel again and her interactions with Peri made this story shine.  They are so different yet both strong women.  I can’t wait to read more of Peri’s story in the next installment of her series and I have a strong suspicion that we haven’t seen the last of Rachel even though The Hollows has technically wrapped.

4/5 stars.