The Amber Spyglass (His Dark Materials #3)

Title: The Amber Spyglass (His Dark Materials #3)

Author: Philip Pullman

Genres: Adventure | Fantasy

Length: 467 pages

Source: Purchased

Publisher: Laurel Leaf

Publishing Date: September 9th 2003

Rating: 4.5/5

Premise:

In the conclusion of this trilogy, Lyra will finally discover her destiny, together with allies she could not have dreamt of, and will have to make a very difficult choice.

Review:

Unlike the previous two books, this one begins quite gently. The author sets the scene in a more delicate manner, with great world building. And slowly we begin to wonder what is going to happen to Lyra.

This third book took me in directions I did not expect. I really enjoyed following certain characters, such as Mary Malone. Her discoveries were quite enthralling.

I would have liked to see certain subjects addressed especially in the first but also in the second book more thoroughly, though. The way the author blends myth, religion is science is simply unbelievable, and I would have like to see those subjects more developed.

However, the fact is this book/trilogy can be read both by children and adults, and maybe that would not have made it so attractive to children.
I really enjoyed all characters in all three books, ‘suffering’ with every loss throughout Lyra’s journey.
It is quite an adventure, and will not leave you indifferent.

Recommended.

Read from February 26th 2019 to March 9th 2020.
GR Review

The Subtle Knife (His Dark Materials #2)

Title: The Subtle Knife (His Dark Materials #2)

Author: Philip Pullman

Genres: Adventure | Fantasy

Length: 288 pages

Source: Purchased

Publisher: Laurel Leaf

Publishing Date: September 9th 2003

Rating: 4.5/5

Premise:

Lyra has travelled to a different world, a strange world with many things in common with her own but many different ones as well, and dangerous ones too. Her path will cross with Will’s, a mysterious slightly older child, and Lyra will come to know that her destiny and Will’s are intertwined. Once again going through perilous adventures, and never knowing who to trust, Lyra and Will fight their way through to the truth.

Review:

The second book of the trilogy starts with a different voice, as we accompany Will through his ordeals. As in the first book, we dive right into a situation that leaves the reader quite confused and where it is evident that danger is imminent. Then we rejoin Lyra and some of the characters from Book 1, each going through their own journey. At some point it is clear that they are all destined to meet but what does that mean?

Again the writing is enthralling. Where it could be easy to have Lyra just consult the alethiometer for every single decision, the author plunges the characters into the right amount of action and twists to prevent the narrative from going the easy way, while introducing new concepts and characters.

It is again amazing how he merges myth and science, from Lyra’s world and Will’s, giving an entire new sense to things we thought we knew.

As I flipped through the pages, I became aware that Will’s role in the story would be as important as Lyra’s and wanted to know what came next for them.

This is an action-packed sequel with no boring times, just many moments of unease. What exactly is going on in this new world? Who is friend and who is foe? What is Will’s role and what is Lyra supposed to do, pursue her own goals or help him?

I had a great time reading the book and raced through it. I do wish some concepts had been further developed, like how exactly Parry gained a daemon (wasn’t it supposed to be inside him?) or how he managed to become a shaman considering where he came from. The concept of spectres was also quite odd to me, as was the capability to control them.

Overall I found it an engaging read, not quite as good as the first book, but still a thrilling one, and quickly moved on to book 3.

Read from February 17th 2019 to February 25th 2020.
GR Review

The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials #1)

Title: The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials #1)

Author: Philip Pullman

Genres: Adventure | Fantasy

Length: 351 pages

Source: Purchased

Publisher: Laurel Leaf

Publishing Date: September 9th 2003

Rating: 4.9/5

Premise:

Lyra Belacqua is an orphan who lives in the grounds of Jordan College in Oxford University. Oxford is all she ever knew, and Lyra is very happy there, but her world is changing and Lyra will have an invaluable role in it, so that’s when her adventure begins.

Review:

I had this trilogy sitting on my shelf for quite some time, so when I heard this had been adapted to a TV series I figured, why not? I’ve always enjoyed reading the book(s) before watching an adaptation.

When I first started reading this book I was a bit taken aback because the author did not waste time setting the scene; the reader dives right into the midst of Lyra’s world. It is an extremely rich one, with many odd concepts to learn.

The avalanche of new terms, whose meaning was merely hinted at in the beginning, made me a bit impatient at first, as I had no idea what was going on. After a while though, I got used to the writing and Lyra’s character began to grown on me. I was enthralled. Soon I wanted to know where this little incredibly strong-willed, curious and resilient urchin would do or learn next.

I don’t want to give too much away because I believe the true pleasure when reading this comes from not knowing much about what you are going to find. I will say however that I thoroughly enjoyed meeting the characters through Lyra’s eyes, and watching her tackle each new adventure, growing with each obstacle. I further appreciated how some characters were not obviously good or bad.

But I especially enjoyed reading about the bond every human has with their dæmon. This concept is so subtle in the beginning but as the adventure unfolds the more you learn about it and you begin to comprehend the depth of it. And it is so amazing how beautifully it is woven into everything else. About 25 pages or so from the end I have to admit my jaw dropped.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The world building is so ingenious and clever, the characters so well built, the writing with the right balance between description and action… I cannot wait to read the following two books in the trilogy.

Highly recommended!

Read from February 13th 2019 to February 17th 2020.
GR Review

The Primrose Path

Title: The Primrose Path

Author: Rebecca Griffiths

Genres: Contemporary | Mystery

Length: 400 pages

Source: Purchased

Publisher: Sphere

Publishing Date: August 11th 2016

Rating: 2/5

Premise:

Rachel just moved to Wales following a traumatic event. However, she never feels quite safe and, as pretty blonde girls much like herself start getting killed near where she lives, all the trauma returns. Is she safe? Can she finally be happy?

Review:

I have to admit I don’t understand the hype around this book. With such an interesting premise, I was extremely excited to pick it up. The writing is good, it’s enthralling actually. The prelude in particular absolutely blew me away. It set my expectations much too high.

However, first of all, the pace is dreadful. I though the book dragged on to the point where I actually felt like dropping it. When things began to show a modicum of interest, it would immediately become intensively descriptive again and I would think, ok what am I reading here? Surely not a mystery/thriller as I had hoped. Some parts annoyed me in particular, like a character’s numerous mentions of a secret, and never developing beyond that. There was just that annoying, repetitive hint, and that was it.

So you have like 95% of the book dragging on, developing in a crazy amount of directions. On the last 5% or so, the writer attempts to solve all the mysteries she has been developing. At least I think she tried, I’m not entirely sure. The fact is it was a dreadful attempt. Not only did it feel rushed, but many things didn’t make sense, and so, so much was left unanswered. With what she achieved in the rest of the book, I find there was such potential for real character development here and it was ruined, in my opinion.

And finally, the blurb was so deceptive. To this point I have no idea what this refers to: Settling into the small community she is now part of, Sarah soon realises that someone is watching her. Someone who seems to know everything about her …

All in all, this isn’t a novel I would recommend. Maybe if you like nice prose, not as a mystery though.

Spoilers below if you don’t mind them:

1. The entire transition of Rachel’s character made no sense. The things she describes earlier in the book made no sense, even if she believed them then. It’s just not plausible, nor is thinking about herself as Rachel in earlier years instead of Sarah. 2. Who is the killer? What’s their story? What is the point of that character when nothing about them is explained? 3. Did Dai survive or not? 4. Is John Dai’s son or one of Beth’s brothers? 5. Who was watching Sarah in the car Tracy and Idris saw parked outside of her place? 6. What happened to Graham, or to Jennifer?

Read from November 5th 2019 to November 19th 2019.
GR Review

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August

Title: The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August

Author: Claire North

Genres: Science Fiction | Speculative Fiction

Length: 405 pages

Source: Book Depository

Format: Paperback

Rating: 3/5

Premise:

Harry is a kalachakra – he is reborn after he dies, over and over again.
While trying to figure out how to deal with this, he receives an unexpected visit towards the end of his 11th life that will change everything.

Review:

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August started well enough. I was intrigued by the concept and this character, born in 1919.

The book grasped my attention and held it but after a while the narrative grew tiresome. It jumped a lot between Harry’s different lives and I found myself often confused as to what belong in which life.

There were some twists and turns that perked my interest again but not enough to want to pick the book back up. Also, if the book’s concept involves both time travel and parallel realities, I could not see how it would be possible for the narrative to unfold the way it did. And finally, I cannot believe that Harry would be able to maintain such farce for so long without a single slip-up.

Once you have such issues with a book, it’s difficult for it to hold your attention and make you stick to it, so at times I found it quite difficult to pick it back up, as you can see by the time it took me to go through it. I do believe the book is unnecessarily long, particularly the middle, and could have had more impact if it had been more edited.

Still, it is enjoyable as a ‘what if’ work that makes you think and wonder about several issues.

Read from Oct 22nd to November 11th, 2017
GR Review

A Child Called “It” (Dave Pelzer #1)

Title: A Child Called “It” (Dave Pelzer #1)

Author: Dave Pelzer

Genres: Biography | Non-Fiction

Length: 184 pages

Source: Book Depository

Format: Paperback

Rating: 3/5

Premise:

This is the account of Dave Pelzer’s life growing up with his alcoholic mother’s constant abuse.

Review:

When I first got this I didn’t realize it was part of a trilogy. It is difficult to assess it as a solo book, because I am sure there is much more to Dave’s story and since it is less than 200 pages I am unsure why it wasn’t all put together.

It is a highly disturbing book and it is so hard to accept that this was part of the day-to-day life of this boy, as unfortunately so many others. This wasn’t just abuse and neglect, it was blatant torture.
For its message, because it is an account that needs to be told, it should be out there and people need to be sensitized to it.

However, I have to say that, as a story, I was disappointed because it felt disjointed. There were lots of gaps when something must have changed to make David’s parents change as well and we’re left in the dark to that, as well as the changes in David himself. I craved for an account of a moment when David realized he was changing, something to make it more real.

While I sympathize that young David must have known why things were happening either either, this is his account as an adult, and I believe it would have helped the reader immensely, not only to connect with him more but also to make us think that it could happen to anyone, and that maybe when we see something behaving a certain way or going through certain experiences we should pay closer attention.

So that is the issue I had with this, but as I said, it’s a book that needs to be read. There are certainly many children out there going through this, and they don’t understand what is happening to them, or really believe they are a bad child and deserve what is happening to them.

Read from Oct 9th to Oct 17th, 2017
GR Review

The Night Circus

Title: The Night Circus

Author: Erin Morgenstern

Genres: Fantasy | Magical Realism | Romance

Length: 490 pages

Source: Book Depository

Format: Paperback

Rating: 4.5/5

Premise:

The Circus arrives without warning. (…) It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.
The book tell us how did this wonder came to be.

Review:

The Night Circus takes magic to a whole new level. The book is entrancing, whimsical and it just whisked me away whether I wanted to or not.

It is quite an epic tale and did tire me after a while. I was unable to fully feel enraptured by all the beauty because I wanted something more to happen. But that is my own fault. I find myself seeking fantasy less and less and craving more complex characters in each book I read.

However, this was very well done indeed. Even the romance was expertly weaved into the masterful tale and that is usually the part that lets me down the most in a book that has such amazing world building.

I find the narrative quite well achieved. The different timelines and the short chapters using second person bring more dynamic to the book, which definitely helped, even though I was often confused at what happened when.

It is not a book that you can skim through. It is a full-out adventure that you need to completely immerse yourself in and have no room for anything else. However, it will be worth it.

Welcome the Le Cirque des Rêves. Step right in and be mesmerised.

Read from Jun 4th to Jun 11th, 2017
GR Review

Slade House

Title: Slade House

Author: David Mitchell

Genres: Fantasy | Horror | Paranormal

Length: 233 pages

Source: Purchased

Format: Paperback

Rating: 4.5/5

Premise:

In an alley, there is a tiny iron door that only shows itself on certain times and is only visible to certain people.
If you happen to be one of them, be careful. Slade House has two inhabitants who will want you to stay forever.

Review:

Ok this review is going to be different because I simply have to gush over this amazing cover:

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Not only is it absolutely gorgeous but it also conveys the feeling of the book splendidly.

And inside… Inside you are able to glimpse something that is one of the many secrets of the book in a chilling design:

sh2

Also gorgeous!

Alright, enough gushing, on to the proper review.

Slade House is a difficult one to review. There are some books where you just can’t say much without spoiling the experience because the unveiling of the mysteries at the pace that the author presents them is what gives it such power, and this is one of them.

What I can tell you however is that it is a deliciously magical novel. For me, it was absolutely riveting, fast-paced and most of the time I was completely enthralled by the narrative. And every time I thought I knew what was happening, doh! Nope, the author got me.

I had heard good things about David Mitchell and this was my first experience with him. I can definitely say I would love to read more by him.

There were a couple of things I did not understand and if you have read the book I would love for you to let me know:

If it is said that Gordon did not call the handyman then that means he never left the orison that first time, right? Not like anyone else did. So how did he write the report describing the little door then?

It is said that one of the twins creates the orison and we don’t see much of that one during the interaction with their guest. I got the feeling that that twin does all the work keeping it up and whatnot. However, in some cases both Norah and Jonah appear, especially in the first one with Nathan. So how exactly does it work?

I was confused as to why they had to wait 9 more years after Freya. Does the door only open on that specific day at the end of October?

Norah kept arguing with her brother but I never got what alternative she was proposing. If they left, their bodies would age and rot, so what could they do?

Also, I was not a fan of the open ending and it makes me wonder if there will be a sequel, though it doesn’t look that way.

Other than that, this was an amazing read, highly recommended if you are looking for a magical tale with a chilling touch.
A solid 9 out of 10.

Read from Mar 3rd to Mar 4th, 2017

GR Review

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Title: The Picture of Dorian Gray

Author: Oscar Wilde

Genres: Horror | Magical Realism

Length: 165 pages

Source: Purchased

Format: Paperback

Rating: 3.5/5

Premise:

After meeting Lord Henry Wooton, young Dorian Gray engages in a self-destructive lifestyle.
If only his picture, an unparalleled work of art, could take the consequences instead of his youthful body…

Review:

The Picture of Dorian Gray is quite a work of art. From that first chapter I was enraptured, and I found the way our main character and his picture were introduced quite ingenious.
The main characters were quite entrancing, particularly Sir Henry Wooton.

However, at times I found it too philosophic, particularly after halfway or so. Sir Henry’s lines that I had previously enjoyed became overbearing, and the long flowery descriptions about perfumes, jewels, music and christian artefacts caused my attention to wander, making the book’s meagre 165 pages stretch on and on.

Also, I found characters repeatedly telling Sir Henry that he did not really believe what he was saying annoying after a point, and I found myself thinking that there was much talk of sins being committed but not much was shown in that sense. Though I appreciate the level of subtlety throughout the story, I believe further descriptions along those lines would have helped me form a better image of the de-evolution of Dorian Gray.

There is so much more to The Picture of Dorian Gray than a magical painting. Even though the ending was predictable I still think it is worth reading and contemplating. And it is quite amazing how contemporary this theme is, in a society which obsesses over youth and beauty more and more.

Read from Feb 22nd to Feb 26th, 2016

GR Review

The Catcher in the Rye

Title: The Catcher in the Rye

Author: J.D. Salinger

Genres: Realistic Fiction

Length: 230 pages

Source: Purchased

Format: Paperback

Rating: 3.5/5

Premise:

Holden Caulfield takes us through what happens when he gets kicked out of his fourth school.

Review:

This is a difficult one for me to review. For one, I can definitely see why it is a classic. Holden stays with you, even if he gets on your nerves. He is most certainly the embodiment of teenage angst and there is just so much you can discuss reading this.
However, I did find the novel dull and the repetitive nature of the main character’s voice got to me.

This has got to be one of the best show-not-tell examples I have seen of a character. His anxious nature shone through every sentence and at times it was quite intense to see how the world around Holden affects him. He acts like he has all the answers but he really is a very confused and lost boy.

While we follow Holden trying to avoid facing his parents after the fourth expulsion the fact is nothing much happens; and if his very particular voice was a breath of fresh air in the beginning it didn’t take long for it to become overwhelming. I cannot say I looked forward to picking up the book when I was not reading it.

I did think it picked up towards the end and although the ending felt abrupt it was also kind of perfect and after an entire narrative where the main character keeps stating how depressing stuff is I needed it.

Overall I think The Catcher in the Rye is great food for thought but it is not for everyone and not for every mood.

Read from Dec 26th to Dec 29th, 2016

GR Review

The Game: The Valley (Das Tal, Season 1 #1)

Title: The Game: The Valley (Das Tal, Season 1 #1)

Author: Krystyna Kuhn

Genres: Contemporary | Mystery | Thriller

Length: 316 pages

Source: Purchased

Format: Paperback

Rating: 2/5

Premise:

Julia and her brother Robert are sent to an isolated college in Canada.
At first Julia believes the eerie feelings she gets will pass but soon she will understand far more sinister things are happening.

Review:

Well, this one was a major let down.
First of all, when I got this book I had no idea it was the first of a series. I really wanted to read a standalone.

Alas, when I first started reading The Game: The Valley I was faced with the same old YA formula: annoying teenage who throws tantrums and feels like the world is all about her and, well, boys – more specifically insta-love.
The one good thing was her brother Robert, whose rare perspectives I did enjoy reading but even that was an incredible disappointment as the author keeps hinting that there is something paranormal going on with him and then it doesn’t, he’s just really smart. I usually don’t mind the author leading me in a completely wrong direction if things are going to be wrapped up nicely but this was not the case. I finished the book wishing I had read a lot more about him, found out what exactly was going on in his preciously little head. That talk about the Valley being evil, for instance. What the heck was up with it? Was anything paranormal actually happening or is the guy just wacko?

I never got why Julia and Robert were so disconnected, not only because they were siblings and the only ones who knew each other at the college but also that they obviously shared some secret story together. To me, that means they should be extra close and protective of each other. Instead Julia struck me as such a bad sister and I was actually annoyed that I had to read about her so much. She always came across as so whiny, dramatic and selfish to me. Also, I could not see what the heck she was doing in a college for gifted teenagers, not to mention other characters.

Besides not being able to connect to the main character, another thing that irked me was that the narrative felt very disjointed. Although the writing was smart, in the way that chapters ending in cliffhangers makes the reader want to keep going, the events did not flow, I always felt like a connecting thread was missing. In the end when things came together it felt like info dumping.

Throughout the story there was this constant air of mystery about the college and the Valley where it is located, with hints to weird things that happened there, but nothing really leads anywhere and a lot of silly assumptions are made along the way.

Needless to say I will not be reading the sequels but I suppose fans of YA can enjoy this. I still do not recommend it, though.

Read from Sep 26th to Oct 1st, 2016

GR Review