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

Assassin’s Creed

Assassin’s Creed

Rating: 1.5/5

Premise:

From IMDB:
When Callum Lynch explores the memories of his ancestor Aguilar and gains the skills of a Master Assassin, he discovers he is a descendant of the secret Assassins society.

Review:

Going in I didn’t have very high expectations; I knew this movie was based in a popular game, so it would be mostly graphic-oriented.
I didn’t expect such a weak plot, though.

The fight scenes were okay. On quite a few occasions I could not tell what exactly hit the bad guys and there were a few acrobatics that seemed so fake, like running on clotheslines – it was so obvious the actors were being held by wires.

But even so, cool fighting scenes are just not enough.
The storyline is not linear and I felt there were no proper explanations to what was happening. It actually seemed that a huge chunk of the movie was edited out.
The characters were flat, I still don’t get how the artefact everyone is looking for is supposed to work, the side characters don’t add anything to the story and I am just at an utter loss as to how this got put together.

Michael Fassbender and Jeremy Irons are pretty much the only upside to the movie, even though they were so grossly underused.
So yes, you could say I am disappointed at it and I cannot recommend that you spend money on this.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Rating: 2.5/5

Premise:

From IMDB:
The adventures of writer Newt Scamander in New York’s secret community of witches and wizards seventy years before Harry Potter reads his book in school.

Review:

I wonder if I am getting to old for this but the fact is I found this movie only so-so.

Eddie Redmayne was as good as he could be, considering what he was given. I could not relate to any of the characters.
Dan Fogler provided several humorous moments, although that seemed to be the single reason for him to be dragged along throughout the movie.

The special effects were terrific – I especially loved the scenes where we were first introduced to Newt’s creatures. Each was very different and that entire scene was very magical. However, it was just pretty stuff being dumped for the sake of dazzling the viewer.

There just did not seem to be much story to it, or what is there is underdeveloped and confusing.
Newt has these creatures and some have escaped so he needs to find them. Also, there is a bad guy wreaking havoc throughout Europe (no background whatsoever on the guy). And then there’s this weird disturbance distributing mayhem throughout New York.

The way these facts came together did not feel tremendously well done and there was just too much going on, with no clear thread uniting it. I feel like this movie can only be truly appreciated by people who read the book because I for one was very confused.

Unfortunately the movie did not interest me enough to want to watch the sequels and I cannot say I recommend it.

The Summer Goddess

Title: The Summer Goddess

Author: Joanne Hall

Genres: Adventure | Fantasy

Length: 464 pages | 5829 Locations

Source: Netgalley

Format: Mobi

Rating: 3/5

Premise:

Invaders from overseas turn Asta’s life upside down, along with her entire tribe.
As their leader, Asta will do anything in their power to rescue them, in a travel throughout the seas.

Review:

Summer Goddess is quite an adventure. We follow our main character throughout sea and land, with lots of secondary characters in between, and thorough descriptions.

For me personally it was not an easy book; since it was extremely descriptive, I felt my attention wandering much too often, and I prefer concepts to be more thoroughly explained than just be moved from one place to the next frequently. However, if you are a fan of this style and are able to fully dedicate yourself to the book, I believe you will be able to enjoy the experience, certainly much more than I did.

There were other things that threw me off. For one, I never really took to the main character. I felt she never questioned much and was just pushed from place to place. She is presented to us as a warrior and I never really saw that in her until towards the end. I saw intent, sure, but it felt like all bark and no bite. Whatever situations occurred where she could have proven herself, I felt she succeeded more out of luck than skill. That goes for everything, really. In a world full of so many dangers and ruthless people she always found someone to help her and it all just felt too lucky.

But what really bothered me was that she kept putting herself in danger despite her condition. Other practical matters nagged at me, like the fact she barely ate. The book does explain all that, especially towards the end, but it felt like an easy escape to the situation.

There was sex, violence and swearing, but for some reason I was never really shocked. Things did get especially exciting particularly towards the last 15% or so of the book and the ending was expected but I felt content.

Bottom line is I felt there was a lot going on, every place was described in detail, and I never really got a sense of the big picture or the interesting concepts the story did contain were not explored to my satisfaction.

Again, I am sure other people will love it, especially based on other reviews. If you want to get fully lost in an adventure full of beautiful descriptions, I do recommend this.

Disclaimer: I would like to thank the publisher and Netgalley for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Read from Oct 26th to Nov 4th, 2016

GR Review

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Rating: 3.75/5

Premise:

From IMDB:
When Jacob discovers clues to a mystery that stretches across time, he finds Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. But the danger deepens after he gets to know the residents and learns about their special powers.

Review:

I read the book several months ago and there is a lot I no longer remember. However, I do recall a feeling that the movie did not transmit. Of course, a lot changed from the book, from Emma’s powers to Miss Peregrine being so young and chirpy to several other details, not to mention things that just sounded silly and without any purpose other than get the characters to do something or get the story to proceed in a certain manner. But mainly many things felt rushed. Some things were just plain dumped which could have worked well and in some instances did, in others it didn’t. Also, if there is one thing that makes me cringe it is insta-love.

Tim Burton created a new character only because he wanted to work with Samuel L. Jackson. This could have been a really good thing, if played right. However, the bad guys in the book were so much scarier. This dude had the potential to be terrifying and he only managed to do so in the first scenes when he didn’t spoke. Then he just came across as silly, at least to me.

Hey, it’s still a Tim Burton movie. Awesome CGI, sound effects, etc, etc. Lots of clichés as well. As usual, if you have not read the book you will enjoy it a lot more.

It was pretty good, not awesome. And I have the feeling the ending is going to ruin the next two books of the series for me which remain unread.

Bottom line, please read the book.

Our Future Good

Title: Our Future Good

Author: T.J. Kirby

Narrator: Simon Vance

Genres: Adventure | Science Fiction

Format: Audiobook

Length: 2 hrs and 47 mins

Source: Audible | Giveaway

Rating: 2/5

Premise:

Joe and Mary just turned 18 and they have to choose what their project will be.
Mary wants to work on NutriSuits but Joe wants to pursue a dangerous journalist career. Mary and Joe want to be together so whose drive will prevail? And what will that decision entail?

Review:

I have to admit right off the bat that I was not a fan of the narration at first, as there were some words I simply could not understand, no matter how many times I re-winded – starting with the first couple ones. Even one of the main characters’ name sometimes sounded as Joe, others Joel and others still Jay. So the enunciation was definitely not the best. I can only imagine the narrator’s age must be quite advanced, I don’t know.
However, Vance did the voices fairly well and the cadence he payed to the narrative maintained me interested, much more so than the story.

You see, I felt the entire thing was an excuse to dump a lot of interesting sci-fi concepts that the author had. They were interspersed with political agendas that for the longest time were muted, as well as a pretty immature romance. Not the relationship itself per se, but the way it was portrayed. Much as everything else, it was perfect. She is the perfect girlfriend, he is the perfect, motivated, passionate driven boyfriend. Also, even though they are only 18 they act as a married couple in many ways and I never heard an explanation for that.
Even the temperature was perfect during the entire time. And then they move to another place and everything is perfect and the people are perfectly happy and giggling and argh. It was just frustrating.
And then there is all this talk about how items and humans evolved but, again, it felt dumped without purpose.

So in a nutshell, even though there were thought-provoking issues being raised in the story, they were rushed and almost passed unnoticed and I felt they were definitely not the focal point. There really wasn’t really much to go on, certainly not enough tension to keep me interested. Even the only plot twist, I saw it coming miles away. And while the sci-fi was interesting it ended up becoming quite boring as it all felt pointless.

Disclaimer: I won this audiobook in a Rafflecopter giveaway.

Listened to from Aug 22 to Aug 23, 2016
GR Review

Nerve

Nerve

Rating: 3.5/5

Premise:

From IMDB:
A high school senior finds herself immersed in an online game of truth or dare, where her every move starts to become manipulated by an anonymous community of “watchers.”

Review:

Nerve was an entertaining movie but it asked for a lot of suspension of disbelief.

The strength of the film is the possibility that all of this could happen, born out of the feeling of anonymity that virtual lives allow. It explores that power to the limit.

In this game called Nerve, there are players and there are watchers. Players have to accept challenges, or dares, which get progressively more difficult to fulfil, even life-threatening, but the reward is exponentially higher as well.
Winning the challenge is part of the game, the other is getting more followers. So all these people gather around following their favourite players both online and in real life, rooting for them.

There was so much I didn’t get about this game and how the movie progressed.

How are the dares chosen? Only towards the end do we get an inkling of an explanation – that they are voted by the majority. Ok but who creates them in the first place and out of so many thousands of people how many are necessary to get a dare through? Do they all vote? It seems like a somewhat long process given the speed at which they came up.

Who created the game? Who wires the money and how? Who decides if the challenge is passed or failed, since it is not always that obvious?

One of the challenges was for Ian to take Vee to the city. What if she had said no? Would he have lost? Was he supposed to take her by force?

Also one of the rules is that for the dare to count it must be filmed by the player’s phone. I got so confused because the scenes would be filmed as if the player was holding the camera when they were obviously not… The motorcycle challenge was the one where this showed most blatantly. There is no way either of them could have filmed that, or even a watcher, not from that angle.

The movie is so fast paced that probably folks won’t be thinking about most of these things but I couldn’t get them off my mind. It just did not seem plausible for such a concept to exist in this fashion. It needed to be much more polished.

Also, the ending was totally anticlimatic since those issues were never explained, particularly about who created the game and how it worked. And having kid hackers admonish the watchers and that’s it, game over, slap on the wrist and people simultaneously gain a conscience and the game is destroyed was beyond ridiculous for a resolution of such a story.

The main character’s evolution was a bit too dramatic. She is portrayed as a bookworm with little to no self-esteem, cannot even speak to a guy she likes, and we are presented with a knockout of an actress who I can never believe is any of those things. She shines so much more than her so called star friend.
Anyway, assuming she was all that, I get that Vee gets carried away by the entire thing and it is a journey of discovering herself but some things were really extreme and it just struck me as not believable. Then there were all the clichés about the friend who obviously likes her more than she does, the jealous friend, and so on.

With all these things that ticked me off, Nerve is still a fast-paced movie which makes you wonder about possibilities in today’s world and how things can so easily change in the blink of an eye and how everything we take for granted may vanish and especially that just because we are anonymous online it does not mean our words and actions do not count or have no power.

I had fun. I wish the concept had been developed better but I had fun.

Alice Through the Looking Glass

Alice Through the Looking Glass

Rating: 3.75/5

Premise:

From IMDB:
Alice returns to the whimsical world of Wonderland and travels back in time to help the Mad Hatter.

Review:

This is not really related to the book the movie borrows its title from, but it was a fast-paced, entertaining adventure and I got a couple of good laughs through it.

It is very interesting to see the past of Alice in Wonderland’s characters..

Though some things didn’t make much sense (like how Alice changed to her last outfit and the ending – where did they get the funding to do that if they seem to be broke?), I have to say I mostly enjoyed it.

I would say the weak spot is the plot and all the running around felt pretty pointless at times and even bored me.
However, it is such a fast-paced and colourful that you don’t stop to think about it much.

The visual effects are stunning as usual and I felt taken a way but I do feel the characters had shone more and the plot had had a bit more depth and oomph.

Different Seasons

Title: Different Seasons

Author: Stephen King

Genres: Adventure | Fantasy | Horror | Mystery | Thriller

Length: 508 pages

Source: Purchased

Format: Paperback

Rating: 4.5/5

Premise:

Four novellas by Stephen King which have his touch everywhere but cannot be classified as horror, per se.

Review:

Who knew a trip to the 60s and 70s could be so much fun?

The first story, Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, was a reread for me and I had watched the movie a few times as well.
Even though I knew what was going to happen, King’s prose is so engaging I was immediately enthralled.
Putting Red as the narrator, making Dufresne almost a legend as he put it, was just brilliant. In the middle of describing how life in prison works and what it does to a man, we hear about how one man’s unwavering hope leads to a jaw-dropping ending and inspires everyone around him. This sort of narrative usually bores me to no end but this story reminds me why I love King’s work so much. I just could not look away and was interested in everything that happened.
All the characters had their own voice and there were hints here and there of what would happen and the way the story was wrapped up was beautiful.

I had not read the other three stories, nor watched the movies they were based on.

Apt Pupil caught me completely by surprise. The second I read about the main character, this apparently innocent, all-american 13-year-old boy who will not stop smiling, I was freaked out. Once I found out his macabre fascination, that feeling intensified. As the narrative advances and we watch him grow up, his life intertwined with the one of the man who calls himself Arthur Denke, I was the one who was fascinated and could not stop reading. The way the relationship between those two developed and the devolving of each of the characters reached a conclusion that left me wanting but was nonetheless fitting. It was a deeply disturbing, entertaining tale.

The Body is a coming of age story about 4 thirteen going on fourteen-year-old boys who discover the location of a dead body and journey on their way to find it. This adventure will make them grow in all sorts of ways.
I wasn’t as committed to this story as the others, probably because I was impatient, as there was this premise of kids finding a dead body of a boy their own age and they never seem to get to it already!
Also, I felt it rambled a bit, particularly when it concerned the narrator being an author. It’s not the first time King does this – inserting himself into the story somewhat – and it irked me that the guy kept mentioning that he was a big shot writer who made a lot of money, even addressing the person reading the story as gentle reader.
I enjoyed the story quite a lot, but there didn’t seem to be much ‘juice’ to it. It is an introspective story that makes you wonder about all sorts of things, although it did not make me feel as King’s fiction usually does. Obviously that is the point of these stories, they are different, and this one was very touching but those two things did hinder my enjoyment.

The Breathing Method comes the closest to typical King and it reminded me of a novel, I think by Peter Straub, which is probably why the story was dedicated to him.
The protagonist is in his 70s and is a very real character. There were little hints here and there about this mysterious club but I did not see the ending coming and I did not mind it one bit that it was left open to one’s imagination.
There is much more in between and even if I felt the prose was bit heavy at times the fact is the story was daunting, gruesome and even a bit beautiful.

In all four stories, we get references to other King’s work, some a bit of these stories themselves, which is something I always found intriguing and enthralling, as it is like it is all part of one big world. I highly recommend this collection, especially if you want to read something by Stephen King that is not the genre he was typed as.

Read from June 11th to June 15th, 2016

GR Review