Tag Archives: Book Review

Book Review: The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge

13 Feb

the lie treeI first read Frances Hardinge years ago when I received a free ARC of Fly by Night. I remembered her name because Fly by Night was very well written and original, and so when I saw The Lie Tree in the store a few weeks ago I didn’t hesitate to buy it — authors who write original stories well are bound to do more of the same, right?

Let’s just say that The Lie Tree makes me want to go out and buy ALL of her books.

Faith Sunderly and her family have been chased from England by scandal rocking her naturalist father’s reputation. They arrive on the island of Vane laden with boxes of his papers and specimens. Erasmus Sunderly’s foul mood and secretive nature don’t make his family many friends on Vane, and when his body is found hanging in a tree Faith is determined to discover who his murderer is. Her investigations turn up more secrets than she bargained for, however, and soon it becomes clear that her father had a lot more secrets than he was letting on — secrets that could threaten Faith’s life, too. And it all started with one little lie.

First off, plot? Awesome. A tree that lives on lies, bears fruit that gives the consumer visions of truth related to the lie told. A murder mystery, fantasy, and bit of history wrapped up in one. I don’t think I’ve read anything quite like this before. Very original, fast-paced, interesting, and more to the point — well written! I was drooling over the words, the sentences, the similes and metaphors. Granted, a younger reader with less interest in the way things are written might not appreciate it as much, but I want to reread just to study the way words are put together again.

Faith is a great narrator. A bit irritating sometimes, but only because she’s real. She was determined to remain committed to the memory of her father — even though we saw that her father was a bit of a terrible person who had no time for his daughter, and even kicked her out of a carriage to make room for his precious plant. As a reader, I was rooting for her to forget him. But that isn’t very realistic. Most children want their parents’ approval, no matter how unlikely it is that they’ll get it. Aside from that though, Faith is smart, curious, and brave, all things that make her likable and easy to relate to.

This was an excellent, page-turning book. Highly recommended!

Book Review: Black Powder War (Temeraire #3) by Naomi Novik

5 Apr

BlackPowderWarBlack Powder War picks up where Throne of Jade left off–in China, in the aftermath of the death of Prince Yongxing. As Temeraire and his crew are waiting for favorable winds to carry them home, orders arrive by a curious source to head at once to Istanbul where they are to pick up three valuable dragon eggs purchased by England. After a hasty and dangerous adventure across continents, they arrive in Istanbul to find the British Ambassador is dead and the authorities are none too eager to hand over what is rightfully the property of the British. To top it all, one of the eggs is close to hatching, and the crew must act before it is too late.

I took a bit of a break from Temeraire because to be honest, I wasn’t hugely impressed with the second book. My husband insisted it gets better, though, so for lack of other reading material, I picked up book three and I’m so glad I did! I liked this one even more than the first — same brilliant writing style, same wonderfully drawn characters (plus some new faces), and an even more interesting plot is a recipe for a book that will be thoroughly devoured by anyone who loves dragons as much as I do.

What entertains me most about these books is the diverse personalities of the dragons, of course, which I think is what got me down about Throne of Jade — for most of the book we only see Temeraire, and then some stuffy Chinese dragons who aren’t nearly as interesting as their British counterparts. In Black Powder War, we get to meet some ferals for the first time, plus the introduction of a certain fiery dragon who I cannot WAIT to read more about.

Plus, this story was a lot more fast-paced. The journey from China to Istanbul is much quicker and more full of adventure than the ship journey to China from England. And once they get there, there’s all sorts of covert operations they have to get up to–sneaking into harems and all that–and then that’s not the end of it; stealing across the border, they are further delayed, and you can sense the urgency of getting these eggs home in time.

I can’t wait to delve into the next installment. If you haven’t already checked Temeraire out, I suggest you do so!

Book Review: The Arthur Trilogy #2 and #3 by Kevin Crossley-Holland

4 Apr

I hate to have to say that I’ve been slacking again–this time worse than usual! No posts in March! How can that be?

I feel like I’ve been incredibly busy with a variety of things, and none of them included blogging, but I will shortly try to catch up on what’s r215513_SCH_CrossingPlaceJKT_0.tifelevant. Like these much over-due book reviews. Because it’s been several weeks since I read them, I will merge these two into one.

At the Crossing Places is the second book in Kevin Crossley-Holland’s Arthur trilogy, a sort of retelling of Arthurian legend from the eyes of aboy named Arthur living separate from King Arthur, but nonetheless the adventures of the knights of the Round Table seem to have parallels to his own.

In this book, Arthur de Caldicot (or is it Gortanore?) begins his life as a squire to Lord Stephen and the household prepares from them to go to war. We meet an array of interesting characters, including Winnie, to whom Arthur hopes to be betrothed. To be honest, the plot of this one was a bit more plodding than the first. I mentioned in Book 1’s review that it is very much a character-driven rather than plot-driven series, which I enjoy, but very little seemed to be happening at all in Book 2 and I wasn’t as engrossed as I was in Book 1. I tend to find that’s the way of trilogies, though–the second book is almost never as good as the first or third. Nevertheless, I wasn’t so put off that I didn’t want to continue on, and I found Book 3 a lot more interesting.KingoftheMiddleMarch

King of the Middle-March is the third book in the series, and picks up two years after the end of the second. Arthur and the other crusaders are still in limbo, trying to get ships to take them to Jerusalem. Problem after problem ensues — the crusaders are short on money, Arthur’s birth father and foster brother turn up at an inopportune time, and suddenly they’re not fighting heathens but their fellow Christians as a way of paying for the Venetian ships. Arthur witnesses battles, and they’re not at all as heroic as he thought they would be. To top it all, Lord Stephen is injured, precipitating a quick departure back to England.

All in all, Book 3 was probably the most action-packed, but Arthur still grew a lot as a person. The biggest complaint I’ve seen is that there isn’t a strong connection between Arthur and Arthur-in-the-stone. I disagree; while a clear link isn’t explicitly stated, you can easily see the similarities and Arthur clearly takes the lessons learned in the stone and applies them to his life.

Anyway, a thoroughly enjoyable series that I recommend to just about anyone–wonderfully written!

Book Review: The Seeing Stone (Arthur Trilogy #1) by Kevin Crossley-Holland

23 Feb

Arthur and the Seeing StoneArthur de Caldicott lives in a time of change: Richard the Lion-Heart has just died, replaced by the cruel King John, and it will be the year 1200 soon–a time of new beginnings. And Merlin has just given him a seeing-stone that shows him the story of King Uther and another Arthur who is himself, but who isn’t. If only Arthur could figure out what it all means…

Not the best of summaries, admittedly, and I don’t think it conveys how much I LOVED this book. I almost didn’t read it, to be honest. Almost. It started with present tense, which all regular viewers know I HATE, and present tense popped up throughout the book as well, but it was done sensibly as a way to distinguish between the stone and real life, and as such I didn’t mind it so much.

This book is written as the diary of 13-year-old Arthur, and what I loved most was that it detailed the way of life for the people of 1199. The division between rich and poor, the cold and hunger, the way 60 people gathered in one place was an awful lot, the hard work people had to go through just to survive, the unfaltering belief in religion, the strange medical remedies, the struggle of babies to reach their first birthdays. All this from the hand of a 13-year-old struggling to come to terms with the unfairness of the world, all the while mesmerizing us with the magic of the stone and the parallels between the Arthur we know from other stories and the unique life of this Arthur.

Honestly, it’s probably my favorite book I’ve read so far this year, though I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. It’s a plodding sort of plot without many action scenes (though I suspect the sequel will have more). I was just loving soaking up life in 1199!

The cast of characters was hugely entertaining too. Arthur himself is curious and quick, and grows a lot over the course of the book. Gatty is so resilient and wise beyond her years. Nain is funny; Sian is cute; Merlin is quirky. Even the animals seem to jump from the page.

As a retelling of Arthurian Legends, I can’t say I’ve read enough in that area to make a comment. I can say I enjoyed it immensely as a historical fantasy, and that I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys that genre. I was so disappointed when I finished this book and couldn’t get straight into the next because I realized I bought Book 3 rather than Book 2!

Book Review: I, Coriander by Sally Gardner

22 Feb

I CorianderCoriander Hobie is the daughter of a wealthy London merchant and a beautiful woman respected for her potions that make people feel well. But from the time Coriander receives a mysterious pair of silver shoes, everything starts going wrong. Her mother dies; her father marries a horrid woman who brings in an even more terrible holy man who calls her “Ann” and beats her; her beloved Danes is sent away, and Coriander is locked in a chest. That’s when something strange happens: Coriander is taken to another world, and it’s there that she learns secrets that could change her life.

Okay, okay, so there are a lot of your typical fairy tale elements here. The evil stepmother, love at first sight, a helpful fairy guiding the MC along… but it was enjoyable all the same and I think younger readers would get a kick out of it. Beautifully written as all of Sally Gardner’s books are, with those details that take you back in time and put you right in the story.

I will say, the plot got a bit weird for me after Coriander was locked in the chest. The little love story weirded me out, particularly when Coriander went back as a 15-year-old or whatever who should still have had the mind of a 12-year-old because of the weird aging thing (in my opinion!). The plot got a little twisty and I felt like some of the various strands could have been cut out and more details added to the more important ones… but again, a younger reader going into this book with a less analytical eye will have no trouble suspending their disbelief and enjoying the story as-is.

Loved Coriander’s character and the way she ended up talking back to the crooked man. Do NOT call her Ann. 😉

Would recommend to anyone with a love of fairy tales!

Book Review: The Pindar Diamond (Aviary Gate #2) by Katie Hickman

21 Feb

ThePindarDiamondBefore I start with my usual summary, I feel I should mention the grand mix-up that led to this book. It’s a Bookfest acquisition and was on the Children’s Books table. The cover does look like YA, doesn’t it? Upon reading it I can tell you I wouldn’t be giving it to a young teen, at any rate, due to content. But it was still enjoyable, even if I haven’t read Book 1! There’s no number anywhere on it, either, so I didn’t know it was a Book 2 (though to be honest, I wasn’t confused for the most part and it can read like a standalone novel). So know that when reading this review, I’m reviewing it as standalone. I DO want to read Book 1 though!

Right– so the book follows the lives of several different people whose lives are all intertwined, even if they don’t yet know it. Largely taking place in Venice in the time of gambling houses and courtesans and the plague, it’s a dark, twisting tale of love, heartbreak, and greed.

This was a beautifully written novel with a strong sense of character and setting. All of the characters were intriguing in their own way, but truthfully I was more caught up with the nun’s story than anyone else’s (which bodes well for me–it sounds as though she may feature in Book One and if there is a Book Three, my guess is a part of the story might be hers as well… maybe!).

Venice of old is a dangerous place and I feel as though the author captured all the nitty-gritty details of life there–from the convent to the courtesans and gamblers.

I feel as though I can’t comment much on the plot, other than that all the different threads came together quite well (though I could certainly see where the story was going long before the reveal, which might have helped in a way because I kept yelling at the characters when they missed chances to meet!). As a sequel, I’m not sure how good it is, but I have been convinced to read the first book so that’s something, right?

Sorry this review feels scattered — this is why I should review books after I read them, not three books later! 😉 This is recommended, though perhaps start with book one first!

Book Review: Throne of Jade (Temeraire #2) by Naomi Novik

25 Jan

Throne of JadeWhen Temeraire is summoned to China to help with trade negotiations there, Captain Laurence naturally goes with him. But as the long journey ensues, it becomes clear that Laurence is not the first choice of the Chinese. Threats and assassination attempts, hidden behind a veil of polite ceremony, make Laurence all the more convinced that he and Temeraire need to return home. However, dragons are treated much differently in China than they are in England, and Temeraire might want to stay…

I’ll be honest, I didn’t like this book nearly as much as the first. The writing was as perfectly wonderful as it was before, and I loved the interaction between Temeraire and Laurence and watching their relationship unfold, and I felt immersed in the Napoleonic era, but the plot just didn’t do it for me.

The beginning felt promising: we’re going to China! Except it takes practically a year to get to China, and boy does the book let you know it. China didn’t actually show up until the last third of the book, and so the time spent there was rushed. I would have much rather skipped a lot of time at sea, which bored me a bit anyway, and spent more time discovering things in China. It was so interesting, the differences in the treatment of dragons, and I would have loved to explore those differences more in-depth, with more interactions with these other dragons.

That said, it’s not a bad read and I’m told the remaining books are just as brilliant as the first, so I’ll be continuing the series at some point soon!

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