Book Review: The Subtle Knife by Phillip Pullman

Title: The Subtle Knife
Author: Phillip Pullman
Rating: 5/5

Summary:  Lyra and Will, her newfound friend, tumble separately into the strange tropical otherworld of Cittàgazze, “the city of magpies,” where adults are curiously absent and children run wild. Here their lives become inextricably entwined when Lyra’s alethiometer gives her a simple command:  find Will’s father. Their search is plagued with obstacles–some familiar and some horribly new and unfathomable–but it eventually brings them closer to Will’s father and to the Subtle Knife, a deadly, magical, ancient tool that cuts windows between worlds. Through it all, Will and Lyra find themselves hurtling toward the center of a fierce battle against a force so awesome that leagues of mortals, witches, beasts, and spirits from every world are uniting in fear and anger against it.

Review:  I was not happy with the ending, but ultimately it was well written and did keep me on the edge of my seat throughout.  Pullman is a master of detail, character, setting, and I am in awe of his immense imagination.  His books can seem somewhat imposing and I can understand why some feel challenged by his books, especially this one.

There is a lot of church dichotomy in this book and it is presented in an “in your face” manner that leaves you little room to actually refute some of the rationale used.  Something that gets confusing throughout the story, and leaves me at a loss when it comes up is if the argument is against “God” or against the “Authority.”   I have friends who refuse to read any of the books in this series because of the constant indictment against God and that tends to offend or make people uncomfortable, and it is truthfully one of the things that most captivates me about the series.  I am spiritual, I would not necessarily say religious, but I do have my religion, but will I let it stop me from reading certain books, absolutely not.  I love the provocative edge that some authors put in their books, and this is one of those books.

I would not necessarily recommend this book for younger children, and I know that Scholastic has published it saying that it is acceptable for children in grades fifth through eighth, I do not think that some of the subject matter will make sense to someone in fifth grade.  True, they could read it for the first time, but for some of the meanings to sink in and allow further comprehension subsequent readings would be required.  I would put my recommendation at children at about a high school level.

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Book Review: The Magician by Michael Scott

Title: The Magician
Author: Michael Scott
Rating: 3/5

Summary:  After fleeing Ojai, Nicholas, Sophie, Josh, and Scatty emerge in Paris, the City of Lights. Home for Nicholas Flamel. Only this homecoming is anything but sweet. Perenell is still locked up back in Alcatraz and Paris is teeming with enemies. Nicolo Machiavelli, immortal author and celebrated art collector, is working for Dee. He’s after them, and time is running out for Nicholas and Perenell. For every day spent without the Book of Abraham the Mage, they age one year—their magic becoming weaker and their bodies more frail. For Flamel, the Prophesy is becoming more and more clear.
It’s time for Sophie to learn the second elemental magic: Fire Magic. And there’s only one man who can teach it to her: Flamel’s old student, the Comte de Saint-Germain—alchemist, magician, and rock star. Josh and Sophie Newman are the world’s only hope—if they don’t turn on each other first.

Review:  This book started out with so much promise, so many expectations, but ultimately it kinda fell short of what I was hoping for, to cause me again to drop my rating by a star in retrospect.  My favorite part of this particular book was the introduction of Machiavelli with the Kabuki masks.  After that, the book unfortunately began to become predictable in nature.  Sophie continues her training, learning magic this time from Saint Germaine, who had stolen it from Promethius and is married to Jean d’Arc (Joan of Arc), the last person, prior to Sophie, to have a silver aura.  Josh is still jealous, but ultimately gets his awakening by the God of War, Mars, before he is killed by Dee.  Dee, of course, kills everyone.  Flamel is continuing to age, Perenelle escapes Alcatraz, traps Morrigan in a deep, dark cave, with no exit.

This series didn’t need a second book, or at least needed more time between the first and the second because this sounded forced.  The Alchemyst was good, I liked that one.  This book droned on and on and had a predictable storyline.  After the introduction of Machiavelli, the only other part that actually held my interest and shocked me was when Scatty got dragged into the lake by Dagon.  The introduction of Jean d’Arc could have been a lot less awkward, and while I do love her she was not the best character addition to this story, and I do kind of find myself liking Machiavelli.

I am somewhat of a book snob in my addiction to books, but in this case I was feeling somewhat generous and give this book three stars, even though it is down from my initial four star rating.  I tend to use a policy that my teachers in the past have embraced, if there is effort there you at least get half a point even if the result isn’t exactly what it was supposed to be.  I do have to admit, I like the cover art of the book a bit more than I like the story on the pages.

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Book Review: Fire Study by Maria V. Snyder

Title: Fire Study
Author: Maria V. Snyder
Rating: 3/5

Summary:  Yelena is a Soulfinder, meaning she can capture and release souls, and she makes people nervous because well, the last Soulfinder wasn’t a very nice person at all.  However, Yelena is at the mercy of the Council.  Yet, when is Yelena’s life simple,  there is a plot rising against her homeland by a murderous sorcerer that Yelena has already defeated before.  Ultimately Yelena will have one chance to prove herself and save the land she holds dear.

Review:  The third and final book in the Study series (not counting the subsequent short stories).  This book, in retrospect, did not really satisfy my hopes for this series.  So, my initial rating of five stars has now been dropped to three.  The first book in the series was by far my favorite, Magic Study was another that was good, but this one was just lacking somewhere, and there were parts that I felt myself skimming through (which is something I very rarely do).

The direction wasn’t what I was expecting, not that it is overall a bad thing, it is just something different than the tone that had been set previously in the other two books.  It frustrates me as a reader, but I do understand that the Author has their own vision of how they wish things to be and I respect that, in this case it just left me lacking.

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Book Review: Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

This is the first book by Cassandra Clare that I have read, never mind that I have had City of Bones sitting on my bookshelf for nearly two months now, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  The reader selected for this particular audio book was decent enough, and at times I wanted to strangle her, but I still kept up with the story, kept up with what was going on and delighted in the interactions.  I like both Jem and Will for different reasons, despite the fact that Jem has the drug addiction, and that makes me sad.

Jessamine, I want to smack just as much as I like (well like perhaps may not be the right word, tolerate is perhaps better) because I cannot bring myself to hate her.  She was hilarious in the beginning of the book, and I also adored Henry and Charlotte, they are quite adorable.  I am looking forward to reading more about them hwen I start reading the second book.  Also, I’m not entirely certain on the fact that Tessa is a warlock, she is something different, something that has not yet been encountered before, and that is not a bad thing.

The ending…seriously, made me want to pull my hair out and throttle someone.  What in the hell was the problem that drove Will to ask Magnus about something…I want to find out, I need to find out darn it.  There were parts in the novel that were slow going for me and at certain points I had to go back and relisten to things because I didn’t entirely understand what was going on.  However, it was decidedly a good start to the series, and I am going to be starting book too fairly soon now that I have it from the library.

Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

This is the first book that I’ve read written by John Green and I do not think that it will be the last.  This book is absolutely amongst my favorites and it is by far a tear jerker, but it isn’t your average cancer book, because cancer books suck.

I love the story within a story, the friendship between Isaac, Hazel Grace and Augustus Waters.  All three have some various type of cancer: Isaac’s is in his eyes, Hazel Grace has stage IV thyroid cancer (with masses in her lungs), and Augustus Waters has Osteosarcoma and has already lost a leg.  They meet through a support group, and there is friendship and true love that is formed in this rag-tag trio of cancer survivors.

Isaac got a piece of my heart because his heart was broken, because no one wants to break up with someone when they become even more disabled than they already were to begin with – thanks to the cancer.

Augustus Waters, got a huge place in my heart for his razor sharp wit and his undeniable charm.  He is the guy you simply have to love because he just is. Romantic at heart, I love the fact that he uses his wish to benefit Hazel Grace, taking her to Amsterdam to meet the author of her favorite book An Imperial Affliction, which ends abruptly and she wants to know why, and know what happens to the characters within the book.

Hazel Grace, not your average cancer kid, she’s smart, honest, tough chick, and I adore her.  Her personality is absolutely catching (well, it is after she meets Augustus Waters and goes from being Hazel to Hazel Grace).  The way she interacts with the world, is not something you’d expect given her situation, constantly on oxygen, and her body essentially turning against her at every turn.

The ups and downs of life of children with cancer is given a unique view, because it is told from those children who are living it, surviving it, or ultimately succumbing to it.  To say that I made it through this book without crying would be a lie, I sobbed at several points through this book, I laughed at several points through this book, and truth be told, I cursed at the author of An Imperial Affliction (whose name escapes me at the moment), however, these are characters that will stick with me for quite some time.  Not your average young adult romance or your average cancer book, and these are not normal teenagers, not normal children at all.  They are a far cry from normal and their biggest worries are not which celebrities are getting together with who, or what outfit they will be wearing to school to attract the attention of the cute member of the opposite sex – instead they are worrying if they will live to see another birthday, if things will continue to go up hill, or if they will suddenly be tumbling headlong in to areas where medicines no longer work.

By far one of my favorite books of this year, and I will be reading more John Green in the future.