BOOK REVIEW: A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L’Engle

77276Title: A Swiftly Tilting Planet

Author: Madeleine L’Engle

Book Length (Audiobook): 7 hours 24 mins

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult, Classics, Science Fiction, Children’s Fiction

Read Start Date: July 24, 2019

Read Finish Date: July 31, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: When fifteen-year-old Charles Wallace Murry shouts out an ancient rune meant to ward off the dark in desperation, a radiant creature appears. It is Gaudior, unicorn and time traveler. Charles Wallace and Gaudior must travel into the past on the winds of time to try to find a Might-Have-Been – a moment in the past when the entire course of events leading to the present can be changed, and the future of Earth – this small, swiftly tilting planet – saved.

This is the third book in the Time Quintet series.

My Past Reviews:

See my review of A Wrinkle in Time: Time Quintet Book 1 here.

See my review of A Wind in the Door: Time Quintet Book 2 here.

My Review: 9 years has passed since the last book. Meg and Calvin are married and expecting their first child. Charles Wallace is now 15, and Mr. Murry still gets calls from the President. On this particular evening, the call he received warns of an imminent nuclear war started by Madog Branzillo. In order to save the world, a time traveling unicorn and Charles Wallace (aided by Meg through Kything) must go into the bodies of the ancestors of Branzillo to change the course of history.

I found this book to be really interesting, as it chronicles the history of a family through several hundred years. I do not want to give too much away, but it starts out with a man and his brother (Maddoc and Gwydyr) coming from Wales to America before even Christopher Columbus. There is a struggle between brothers, which Maddoc wins, and thereafter marries into an indian tribe, and that is where the history begins. Both lines flow with magic, but only Maddoc’s line are “good”, whereas the line of Gwydyr is portrayed as “evil”. The legends of the Indians and the magical myths of the Welsh are passed down through the generations — with each generation using a magical incantation to help them (which is in truth the Rune of St. Patrick).

The Offbeat Unicorn wrote a really good review / summary of the book and its themes. You can read the blog entry here. Frankly, this blogger wrote a better review of A Swiftly Tilting Planet than I ever could, so I urge you to click on the link.

In closing, I liked the book, and I hope that you will too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L’Engle

18130Title: A Wind in the Door

Author: Madeleine L’Engle

Book Length (Audiobook): 5 hours 27 mins

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult, Classics, Science Fiction, Children’s Fiction

Read Start Date: July 21, 2019

Read Finish Date: July 24, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Just before Meg Murry’s little brother, Charles Wallace, falls deathly ill, he sees dragons in the vegetable garden. The dragons turn out to be Proginoskes, a cherubim composed out wings and eyes, wind and flame. It is up to Meg and Proginoskes, along with Meg’s friend Calvin, to save Charles Wallace’s life. To do so, they must travel deep within Charles Wallace to attempt to defeat the Echthroi—those who hate—and restore brilliant harmony and joy to the rhythm of creation, the song of the universe.

This is the second book in the Time Quintet series.

My Past Review:

See my review of A Wrinkle in Time: Time Quintet Book 1 here.

My Review: I had never even heard of this book as a kid, and I had never read it before this month, so I was going head first into a dark tunnel without a flashlight.

I liked this book a little less than A Wrinkle in Time. This book was a little hard to follow, and I wasn’t really sure what the point of the story was. Essentially, only a small amount of time has passed between the event of the two books (even though the events of Wrinkle don’t even get an honorable mention), and Charles Wallace is deathly ill because of his mitochondria. While reading the book, I was like huh? How can someone get sick because of mitochondria? Isn’t that the DNA that you inherit from your mom?

Well, after finishing the book. I did a little research on the internet, and it turns out that mitochondria are basically the energy producers in the body’s cells — the batteries if you will. If they are not functioning properly, then the person can get really sick, and it is thought that certain diseases such as autism, Parkinson’s, bipolar disorder, etc. are all caused by mitochondrial dysfunction. Interesting, I guess, but kind of a weird (and complicated) subject for a children’s book. I don’t really remember knowing what DNA was when I was 8-12 years old –but maybe that is good — maybe it teaches children something about science in a fun way?

Anyway, Meg Murry, Calvin O’Keefe and their new friend Proginoskes must go within the body of Charles Wallace in order to save him from the Echthroi (who are basically evil beings), and to restore balance to the “universe” of Charles’ body.

I read some reviews that called this a “christian book”, but I honestly didn’t notice — which is good, because I really dislike being hit over the head with religious themes. So don’t let that description stop you if religious books also bother you.

In general this book has mixed reviews, which is kinda how I feel about it — but I made a promise to myself to finish all the books of this series, so upward and onward!

 

 

 

 

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

33574273._SX318_Title: A Wrinkle in Time

Author: Madeleine L’Engle

Book Length (Audiobook): 6 hours 27 mins

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult, Classics, Science Fiction, Children’s Fiction

Read Start Date: July 19, 2019

Read Finish Date: July 21, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Out of this wild night, a strange visitor comes to the Murry house and beckons Meg, her brother Charles Wallace, and their friend Calvin O’Keefe on a most dangerous and extraordinary adventure – one that will threaten their lives and our universe.

My Review: Although L’Engle wrote it back in the 1960’s, it wasn’t until October, 2017 (when I was in my 30’s), that I read the book for the first time. I never realized that this book had been written so long ago. There is also a movie adaptation of the book (it came out in 2018), but I have never seen it.

Before reading this book for the second time, I also never realized that there are 8 books in total in the series, plus some other books in a different series that ties into the Time Quintet series somehow. This book was originally written for children, but it also has some intriguing aspects for adults, and some interesting themes, especially given when it was written — for example:

  1. Women (and young girls) are given strong roles. The mother is a scientist, and Meg the main character is good at math and science. I wonder how well this was received in the 1960’s. I think that even in 2019, though, it is good to give little girls good role models.
  2. Meg exclaims at one part of the book: “Like and equal are not the same thing!” I thought about this concept for a few days afterward. I wasn’t sure if the author was making a commentary on civil rights or communism (or both).

I read some reviews that said that the book was a Christian book, which confuses me a little bit since there seems to be a lot of science fiction, fantasy and time travel for a religious novel. Maybe it was because L’Engle mentioned Jesus, like once (in context to fighting the evil entity IT?)

Although I probably did not enjoy this book as much as I would have if I were a child, it was still a fun (and quick) story to read and I would definitely recommend it as a weekend read.

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

17378527Title: The Raven King

Author: Maggie Stiefvater

Book Length (Audiobook): 11 hours 34 mins

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult

Read Start Date: June 4, 2019

Read Finish Date: June 16, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads:
All her life, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love’s death. She doesn’t believe in true love and never thought this would be a problem, but as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

My Review: This is the fourth and last book in The Raven Cycle series. My review of the first book, The Raven Boys is here, my review of the second book, The Dream Thieves, is here and my review of the third book, Blue Lily, Lily Blue is here.

Once again, I am giving a rating of 3 out of 5 stars. Am I the only person on the planet who is not in love with this series? I mean, my overall opinion is WTF did I just read? There were things in this book that hit me like a mac truck, and that I did not understand, because there was NOTHING in the previous books to indicate that this would happen.

On the other hand, all the magic and stuff is fun (which is why I gave 3 instead of 2 stars), but at the end of the day, it just does not save the series.

And the dialogue. Don’t get me started. I am sure the author meant it to be “funny”, but sometimes I had to turn the audiobook off because the dialogue got so dumb, that I could not stand it anymore and needed a break. Especially Gwenllian — the author tries to portray her as “crazy” I guess, but her rants are just SO STUPID and annoying. She is my least favorite character.

And the ending, ugh the ending. I am left wondering, what was the point of this series? We spend FOUR books on a search for Glendower and then…pointless!! I won’t give anything away here other than that.

Maybe I am the only person in life who is not crying over the last page, but I am not ashamed to say that I am just glad this ride is over.

 

 

 

 

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater

17378508Title: Blue Lily, Lily Blue

Author: Maggie Stiefvater

Book Length (Audiobook): 10 hours 3 mins

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult

Read Start Date: May 27, 2019

Read Finish Date: June 4, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads:
Blue Sargent has found things. For the first time in her life, she has friends she can trust, a group to which she can belong. The Raven Boys have taken her in as one of their own. Their problems have become hers, and her problems have become theirs. The trick with found things, though, is how easily they can be lost. Friends can betray. Mothers can disappear. Visions can mislead. Certainties can unravel.

My Review: This is the third book in The Raven Cycle series. My review of the first book, The Raven Boys is here, and my review of the second book, The Dream Thieves, is here. I am giving it a rating of 3 out of 5 stars. Although this book was certainly better than the second book, I still overall find this series lacking as a whole. I like that the story gets back on track, and the pace is a bit faster — but at times the plot really drags on. Sometimes I wonder whether 4 books were really necessary.

It is really hard to write a review of this story because there are so many twists and turns to the plot, that sometimes I get a little lost. I wonder whether all of this detail is really necessary? What is this series actually about? Sometimes it all just seems so pointless.

Sure a few themes run through out, the search for Glendower, and that Blue will kill her true love with a kiss — but that is where it ends. Each book seems to be its own creature, and with only thin strings attaching each to the other. And some of the characters are just plain annoying, don’t add anything to the story, and the dialogue in places surrounding these characters are just plain stupid. I can’t really say much more without giving away the plot, so I won’t.

I am curious how this series will wrap up.

 

 

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

17347389Title: The Dream Thieves

Author: Maggie Stiefvater

Book Length (Audiobook): 12 hours 45 mins

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult

Read Start Date: May 19, 2019

Read Finish Date: May 27, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: Now that the ley lines around Cabeswater have been woken, nothing for Ronan, Gansey, Blue, and Adam will be the same. Ronan, for one, is falling more and more deeply into his dreams, and his dreams are intruding more and more into waking life. Meanwhile, some very sinister people are looking for some of the same pieces of the Cabeswater puzzle that Gansey is after…

My Review: This book has been on my TBR list since 2012. It is the 2nd book in the Raven Cycle Series. You can find the review of the 1st book here. I am not sure whether I really liked this book or not; what is for sure, is that I liked it less than the first book. I read a lot of review of people who L.O.V.E.D. this book, and I am personally scratching my head and wondering why. Did I miss something here? Why am I not getting that this book is like the best thing since sliced bread? I even read one review who basically said she liked how the author dumbed down the conversations between the characters so that it would resemble what a teenager would say. The review didn’t say it in those precise words, but that was the jist.

Here’s why this book, for me, was only “meh”:

A lot happens in the book, but nothing happens at the same time. It’s like being busy all day at work, but feeling at the end of the day that you have accomplished actually nothing. The Goodreads summary of the plot is a bit vague, but essentially this book is all about Ronan, and his ability to pull things from his dreams.

Apparently, there is another boy in town who can do the same thing, and there are long and boring sequences of the book where Ronan and this boy have what can only be described as pissing contests to see who can pull things out of the dream better. There is also some weird platonic love triangle going on between Blue, Gansey, and Adam. A character is introduced, the Gray man, who goes around town telling people he is a “hit man”. And everyone goes, oh, okay, like that’s normal or something. I mean, huh? No one recoils in fear, no one calls the cops, and Blue’s Mom even starts dating him…

After nearly 13 hours of listening, only the last few minutes actually progresses the story, which I can’t tell you about because it will ruin the story. Sigh.

Lastly, I really hated the audiobook narration. Most of the book it was okay, but the narrator’s impression of a character who was supposed to be Eastern European sounded like he was some Italian thug straight outta the Sopranos. It’s like, if you take the time to change your accent for ONLY ONE character in the WHOLE book, make sure you do it correctly!

What I did like:

Okay, so maybe there was some character development happening (but did we need 13 hours of it?). I will wait and see how this development brings the plot forward in the 3rd book, which I am reading now.

Stay tuned for my next review of this series!

 

 

 

BOOK REVIEW: The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

30288282Title: The Immortalists

Author: Chloe Benjamin

Book Length (Audiobook): 11 hours 30 mins

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy

Read Start Date: May 10, 2019

Read Finish Date: May 19, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: If you knew the date of your death, how would you live your life?

It’s 1969 in New York City’s Lower East Side, and word has spread of the arrival of a mystical woman, a traveling psychic who claims to be able to tell anyone the day they will die. The Gold children—four adolescents on the cusp of self-awareness—sneak out to hear their fortunes.

The prophecies inform their next five decades. Golden-boy Simon escapes to the West Coast, searching for love in ’80s San Francisco; dreamy Klara becomes a Las Vegas magician, obsessed with blurring reality and fantasy; eldest son Daniel seeks security as an army doctor post-9/11; and bookish Varya throws herself into longevity research, where she tests the boundary between science and immortality.

A sweeping novel of remarkable ambition and depth, The Immortalists probes the line between destiny and choice, reality and illusion, this world and the next. It is a deeply moving testament to the power of story, the nature of belief, and the unrelenting pull of familial bonds.

My Review: Each of the Gold children is given their date of death from the psychic woman. This knowledge changes each of them in turn, and each struggles to live their life in the wake of such an enormous burden. Although everyone has the fundamental knowledge that someday death will come calling, having the foreknowledge of the exact date could potentially catastrophically alter the course of one’s life. This is the reality facing the Gold children.

Each part of the book tells the story of one of the children, going in order from the first to last to die. Through each chapter, we learn not only how each of the children lives with the knowledge of their death date, but how their life has been affected by it. If you knew when you would die, how would this affect your life? Would you still make the same choices if you knew you would die at 30? at 21? at 88?

I liked this book, although the plot was a bit dull at times. Some of the stories moved along very slowly, while others were very interesting. The book was well written, and the characters very well developed. The lives of the first children to die were a bit more interesting, and in the last part, I just felt overwhelmingly sad. I wondered whether people actually chose to live this way? It is hard to really write much of a review without giving away too many of the details that should remain unknown before reading the book.

So, I will conclude by saying, that if you do not mind a heavy subject, this would make a good read.

 

BOOK REVIEW: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander (aka J.K. Rowling)

41899Title: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Author: Newt Scamander (J.K. Rowling) 

Book Length (Audiobook): 1 hour 54 mins

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult

Read Start Date: April 17, 2019

Read Finish Date: April 18, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: An approved textbook at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry since publication, Newt Scamander’s masterpiece has entertained wizarding families through the generations. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is an indispensable introduction to the magical beasts of the Wizarding World. Scamander’s years of travel and research have created a tome of unparalleled importance. Some of the beasts will be familiar to readers of the Harry Potter books – the Hippogriff, the Basilisk, the Hungarian Horntail … Others will surprise even the most ardent amateur Magizoologist. This is an essential companion to the Harry Potter stories, and includes a new foreword from J.K. Rowling (writing as Newt Scamander) and six new beasts!

My Review: This book is short and fun! If you have ever seen the movie of the same title, you know that Newt Scamander is a wizard who works for the Ministry of Magic in the Beast Division. During the movie, he was writing the above mentioned book. J.K. Rowling writes as Newt Scamander, and the book lists in detail the magical beasts, their attributes, personalities, etc.

If you liked the Harry Potter series, this is a must read!

The Audiobook Recording: The audiobook recording was really funny. It had the sounds of the animals as Newt described them.

 

BOOK REVIEW: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

17675462Title: The Raven Boys

Author: Maggie Stiefvater

Book Length (Audiobook): 11 hours 8 mins

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult

Read Start Date: April 11, 2019

Read Finish Date: April 18, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive. Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her. His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

My Review: I first read this book back in 2012, when the other books in the series had not yet been published (there are 4 all together). I had put the second book on my TBR list on Goodreads, and there is where it languished for 7 years. In an effort to clean up my TBR list, I wanted to finally read the second book, but since I hadn’t read the first book in a while, I read it again.

Since I didn’t really remember the book from my 2012 reading, it was like reading the book again for the first time. My overall impression of the book was very positive, and I would recommend the book for the following reasons:

Interesting and Addictive Plot. Even though this is a Young Adult novel, as an adult I enjoyed it immensely. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, so I will just say that the plot was rich with Welsh mythology, history, ghosts, ley lines, psychics and just every amount of weird and crazy that you can think of. It really kept me engaged in the story, and I wanted to keep reading to find out what happened next. At times though, the plot was a bit difficult to follow, as there were always several moving pieces–but it all came together in the end and there were several plot twists which I was not expecting, which made the plot even more interesting.

My only criticism is that after the “big finale” (you will just have to read the book to find out what I mean), the book has a sort of “Epilogue” (although it is just another chapter). There is a gap in time between the “big finale” and when the book ends, which isn’t explained very well. The book was so well paced throughout, and then all of a sudden BAM! a very fast ending, as though the author didn’t want to take the time to really explain what had happened. Maybe it will be fleshed out in the next book?

Overall, I cannot wait to see what happens in the 2nd book!

Well Developed and Likeable Characters. The characters are very well-developed, and the characteristics of each really support the story line. For example, Blue’s mother, and her mother’s friends are all psychic or mystical in some way, and each of their powers, including Blue’s, is important to the plot. The characters are simple on the surface, but somehow complicated underneath the surface–the author reveals these depths through out the story, and with each new reveal you become more invested in the story.

If you like paranormal / fantasy books, this book is definitely for you, and I would highly recommend it!

 

BOOK REVIEW: The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd

12291438Title: The Madman’s Daughter

Author: Megan Shepherd

Book Length (Audiobook): 12 hours 50 mins

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Historical Fiction, Fiction, Horror, Fantasy, Mystery, Young Adult

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads : Sixteen-year-old Juliet Moreau has built a life for herself in London—working as a maid, attending church on Sundays, and trying not to think about the scandal that ruined her life. After all, no one ever proved the rumors about her father’s gruesome experiments. But when she learns he is alive and continuing his work on a remote tropical island, she is determined to find out if the accusations are true.

Accompanied by her father’s handsome young assistant, Montgomery, and an enigmatic castaway, Edward—both of whom she is deeply drawn to—Juliet travels to the island, only to discover the depths of her father’s madness: He has experimented on animals so that they resemble, speak, and behave as humans. And worse, one of the creatures has turned violent and is killing the island’s inhabitants. Torn between horror and scientific curiosity, Juliet knows she must end her father’s dangerous experiments and escape her jungle prison before it’s too late. Yet as the island falls into chaos, she discovers the extent of her father’s genius—and madness—in her own blood.

Inspired by H. G. Wells’s classic The Island of Dr. MoreauThe Madman’s Daughter is a dark and breathless Gothic thriller about the secrets we’ll do anything to know and the truths we’ll go to any lengths to protect.

My Review: After a horrifying scene in London, where Juliet walks in on some medical students performing vivisection of a live white rabbit, Juliet discovers that her father was in fact alive (although presumed dead for many years). The author describes the scene with the rabbit so vividly that it left me queasy for days. I still shudder when I think of the rabbit’s screaming. I know it is imaginary, but things like that really hit me hard. I cannot stand to think of animals suffering, even fake ones.

Similarly, that Dr. Moreau performed his operations on his creatures without any pain killers or anesthesia is just terrible, unthinkable even. I wanted to cry just thinking of the pain inflicted on these poor animals. What a sick and twisted character. What makes me more upset is thinking that maybe in real life back in those days scientists really did perform these types of “surgeries” on animals. Animal cruelty is just so not okay. I was bothered that no one tried to stop Dr. Moreau. Why didn’t Juliet or Montgomery just kill him? I felt like maybe they were a little brainwashed, or maybe this was supposed to be an indication that they had “morals”? That they were not killers like the mad doctor. I don’t think that I could have stood by and let that go on.

I read some reviews which pooh-poohed the love triangle between Juliet, Montgomery, and Edward, but I didn’t feel the same. I didn’t find it sappy, or unbelievable. Montgomery was Juliet’s childhood friend (even though he was their servant’s son), and as an adult her childhood affections had turned romantic. She had conflicting emotions, however, because he was helping Dr. Moreau torture animals to make his “creations”. With respect to Edward, there was something in him that Juliet was physically drawn to despite her mental reservations about it, although we don’t really find out what that physical draw was until the surprise ending.

The writing was very good, and the story was suspenseful. Although I liked this book, it left me unsettled — the same feeling I came away with after reading H. G. Wells’s The Island of Dr. Moreau. I cannot fathom why this book would be classified as “young adult”. I wouldn’t say this book was “scary”, but it certainly was very disturbing, and I think that the story will stay with me for a while.