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Book Review: The Secret Commonwealth (The Book of Dust, #2)

Book Review: The Secret Commonwealth (The Book of Dust, #2)


The Secret Commonwealth by Philip Pullman
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Pullman has created something so special with Lyra’s world and the mythos of other worlds he set up in the original His Dark Materials trilogy. La Belle Sauvage, the first installment of this spin-off trilogy, took us back to Lyra’s beginning, giving up the wild story of her infancy and the two children who rescued her. This second installment fast forwards to years after the events of the original trilogy, when Lyra is grown, having just tipped over the cusp of adulthood. The final events of that first trilogy haunt her still, but she is convincing herself more and more that those events aren’t quite true. As she falls into the trap of rationality Pantalaimon, her dæmon, rebels against her loss of imagination. From there, the plot goes wild.

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Book Review: Ninth House (Alex Stern, #1)

Book Review: Ninth House (Alex Stern, #1)


Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

First off, can I just say that Bardugo hit it out of the park with her first adult novel?

I have a weakness for school stories. And if the school happens to be magical in some way, so much the better. But very rarely have I come across a book that involves a school imbued with magic where only a select few students are aware of the supernatural element. I’ve read books were there were secretly vampires or werewolves on campus, not not sanctioned magical societies that had to fly under the collegiate radar. The fact that said magical society were on the campus of a real university, Yale, made things even more interesting. These slight variations made for a fresh take on a favorite trope.

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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: 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 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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Book Review: The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials, #1)

Book Review: The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials, #1)


The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve read this book before, but it was long ago. When I was in elementary school, I was just beginning to develop a lot for fantasy. Harry Potter was fairly new, with only the first couple of books having been released. I had consumed those, and A Wrinkle in Time, and the majority of the Redwall books that had been published. But my favorite series was The Chronicles of Narnia. I loved the Christian allegory, as I had come to my faith quite young. When I picked up The Golden Compass, I enjoyed it almost as much, even though I found the concept of dæmons both fascinating and disconcerting. However, a well-meaning teacher informed me that His Dark Materials was known as the anti-Narnia, and proceeded to spoil some plot points of the next book in order to discourage me from continuing the series. I was appalled at the thought of a series that was so vehemently opposed to my faith, so I steered clear of it and let myself forget about how enjoyable I found the first book.

“We are all subject to the fates. But we must act as if we are not, or die of despair.”

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UR by Stephen King

UR by Stephen King

UR by Stephen King
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

I don’t know that I’ve ever yearned from something as terrifying as Wesley’s pink Kindle.

“A crazy certainty had arisen in his mind: a hand – or perhaps a claw – was going to swim up from the grayness of the Kindle’s screen, grab him by the throat, and yank him in.”

Imagine a world ten years in the past. Electronic books and e-readers are just beginning to take the world by storm. Wesley Smith is a college English literature professor who, after a nasty breakup partially over his distaste for the new trend of reading on a device, has decided to bite the bullet and purchase his first ever Kindle from Amazon. It arrives sooner than it should, sans instructions and sporting an odd pink color instead of the white of all other Kindles. Also unusual is the fact that, under the ‘Experimental’ section is a handful of subsections called Urs. Ur is evidently representative of alternate realities in which authors lived longer or died younger, attached themselves to different genres or penned more and greater works than are present in our reality. If this doesn’t sound like an incredible and awe-inspiring addition to the Kindle store, you and I view the world very differently.

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The Passage (The Passage, #1)

The Passage (The Passage, #1)

The Passage by Justin Cronin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Passage has been on my TBR list for years, but for some reason has always been pushed to the side in favor of something newer and shinier. Which is strange, because it contains a lot of elements that I really enjoy, or at least enjoy reading about, like vampires and the world spiraling into a dystopian apocalypse. Better late than never, I suppose. Once I finally picked this up, I was engrossed.

Before she became the Girl from Nowhere—the One Who Walked In, the First and Last and Only, who lived a thousand years—she was just a little girl in Iowa, named Amy. Amy Harper Bellafonte.

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Relic (Pendergast, #1)

Relic (Pendergast, #1)

Relic by Douglas Preston
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

My introduction to Preston and Child was unfortunately lackluster. I found Relic to be solidly okay, the literary equivalent of tuning into a television show just to let it serve as background noise. While the premise was interesting and isn’t something I’ll be forgetting anytime soon, I just couldn’t make myself care. There were two main contributors to this lack of interest: poor characterization and an overabundance of science.

Let me start with the science first. This is very much a personal preference thing. Anytime a book begins getting very scientific in its content, I just start tuning out. It’s why I stay away from hard science fiction. I know that many people love when there is science present to back up a wild claim that is central to the plot, as it helps readers suspend their disbelief in the moment.

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