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Category: Celeste’s Reviews

Book Review: The Institute by Stephen King

Book Review: The Institute by Stephen King


The Institute by Stephen King
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

“Great events turn on small hinges.”

I love Stephen King. This has not been a lifelong truth, and my infatuation began a mere 5 or so years ago. Since then, I’ve read a third of his body of work, and I’ve been largely impressed. While I do believe that King would benefit from a harsher editor, and that he often fails to stick that landing with his endings, Stephen King has an incredible mind. The plots he dreams up, and the characters he creates to populate those stories, are pretty spectacular and always feel original. While I’ve enjoyed everything of his I’ve read at least in part, some of his books are more successful than others. The Institute is just such a book. The plot was disturbing and vaguely supernatural without seeming implausible. The cast of characters was beautifully fleshed out and varied. And the ending didn’t suck!

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Forward: Amazon Original Stories

Forward: Amazon Original Stories


I love how short stories are making such strides in popular fiction, as is speculative fiction. The Forward Collection is a great demonstration of this, and brings together vastly different authors to theorize on what the future might look like. What binds these stories together is their exploration of possible technological advancements in the not too distant future, without ever really giving away if the changes such advancements would bring would be for our collective good or ill. In most of these stories, technology is both our destroyer and our savior. Below you’ll find micro-reviews of each story, progressing from those I enjoyed the least to those that resonated the deepest. As I listened to the audio version of each story, readers are mentioned with the authors.

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Book Review: A Curious Beginning (Veronica Speedwell, #1)

Book Review: A Curious Beginning (Veronica Speedwell, #1)


A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ah, Veronica. You’re the sassiest, most self-confident female protagonist I’ve ever come across in a Victorian setting, and I loved every minute of your snark. This was indeed A Curious Beginning to your story. I’m already excited to visit with you again in the future, and to see what further adventures you stumble your way into further along in the series.

“I abhorred weakness of any kind but most particularly in my tea.”

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Book Review: La Belle Sauvage (The Book of Dust, #1)

Book Review: La Belle Sauvage (The Book of Dust, #1)


La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

La Belle Sauvage is an interesting revisiting of Lyra’s world as developed in Pullman’s original series, His Dark Materials. Instead of continuing the story from where it left off at the end of The Amber Spyglass, we go back to the very beginning. Lyra’s beginning. We see that the wild adventure of her life didn’t start in The Golden Compass, but mere months into her life. The events that befell her before she had even spoken her first words are enough to put most adults in therapy.

“Words belong in contexts, not pegged out like biological specimens.”

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Book Review: Vendetta in Death (In Death, #49)

Book Review: Vendetta in Death (In Death, #49)


Vendetta in Death by J.D. Robb
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

After reading four dozen books with the same characters, you’d think I’d be tired of them. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Vendetta in Death is the 49th(!) book following Eve Dallas, a Homicide detective in New York City in the near future. By this point, Eve and Roarke and every person in their lives feel tangibly real to me, and every new installment in this series feels like a chance to catch up with friends I haven’t seen in a while.

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Book Review: The Calculating Stars (Lady Astronaut, #1)

Book Review: The Calculating Stars (Lady Astronaut, #1)


The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Calculating Stars was such a fun, compelling story. But though it was compelling from page 1, it didn’t start out fun. Having an apocalyptic event occur that wipes out your family and the city you call home, and having to come to terms with the fact that your entire planet will become uninhabitable within a matter of decades is understandably a difficult situation for our perspective character, Elma York. She is a mathematics savant and a killer pilot, and is married to a legit rocket scientist. The couple find themselves at the core of the International Aerospace Coalition, earth’s response to the disaster that struck in the book’s early pages. If the planet will soon be inhospitable, then the only option is to find a way to get mankind into space and colonize other heavenly bodies. Elma and her husband, Nathan, are working night and day to make that plan become reality. But Elma wants to do more than compute equations; she wants to become the first female astronaut.

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Book Review: The Harp of Kings (Warrior Bards, #1)

Book Review: The Harp of Kings (Warrior Bards, #1)


The Harp of Kings by Juliet Marillier
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book from the publisher (Ace) in exchange for an honest review.

“A person can never hear too many tales. Tales are like honey cakes. Once you have tasted one, you want another, and another, and always more.”

This was my first encounter with Juliet Marillier, but it certainly won’t be the last. I can see her becoming one of those authors I turn to when I’ve just had enough of the darkness, and need something bright and pretty in my life. The Harp of Kings is lovely and lush and bright, a wonderful change from the grimdark that populates the fantasy genre. And from what I gather, that’s par for the course with Marillier’s work. While there are stakes here, it’s still a quiet story, inviting and soothing and somehow peaceful even when the events of the story are not. I found it to be a story that calls one to meander along instead of racing ahead. This book is the first in a new series of standalones, set in a world that will already be familiar to Marillier’s fans. But even if you’ve never read any of her work before (like me), this is a great starting point. I never felt lost in the least, though I am now definitely more curious about her various other series. Also, even thought this book is the first in a new series, it stands on its own perfectly well, with a plot that feels self contained and completely finished.

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Book Review: Magic for Liars

Book Review: Magic for Liars


Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The cover and synopsis and title of the novel were all immediately intriguing to me. Magic for Liars is a murder mystery on a magical high school campus, told from the perspective of the nonmagical private eye who finds herself on the case. You can see why I was intrigued, right? Noir novels can be very hit or miss, but this one was definitely a hit. It was everything I was hoping for, and more than I was expecting.

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Book Review: The Amber Spyglass (His Dark Materials, #3)

Book Review: The Amber Spyglass (His Dark Materials, #3)


The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m honestly pretty blown away, and I can’t believe I waiting this long to read His Dark Materials. It was wonderful, balancing thought-provoking philosophy with nearly breakneck-speed action in this final installment. Pullman crafted a world, or should I say worlds, that I found captivating, and characters whom I grew to care about deeply. Many of these characters, especially Lyra and Will, have taken a little piece of my heart, and I believe they’ll reside there from now on. What a marvelous adventure.

“I have stolen ideas from every book I have ever read.”

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Book Review: The Subtle Knife (His Dark Materials, #2)

Book Review: The Subtle Knife (His Dark Materials, #2)


The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Subtle Knife picks up almost where The Golden Compass ended, except that this second installment took a slight detour in order to introduce us to a second main protagonist in the form of Will Parry. I quite enjoy Will, and found him a great counterpart for Lyra. Their personalities are very different, but they are both defined most by the protectiveness that fuels them and the fierceness that courses through them. Will is both more civilized and more violent than Lyra, which shines a softer light on our original protagonist than we saw in her first book. The two children on the cusp of their adolescence are quite obviously being set up as either the salvation or damnation of the countless worlds they now know exist.

“It’s like having to make a choice: a blessing or a curse. The one thing you can’t do is choose neither.”

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