The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman (Book 2 of His Dark Materials)

4 Stars

What’s the point? What’s the point of anything? Mainly – this review? First and foremost, you’re not going to have read this book if you haven’t read the first one. And you’re not going to read this one and not read the last one. So why even review a book that broke me? What can i say? The first book was fantastic – you can check out my review. And this book broadened the scope. It went from a little story about Lyra and her adventure to a something bigger. By including Will (from “our world”) the story broadened and intensified.
I felt like this book lacked a lot of the magic of the first. It was darker. Less light and fluffy. And there was no Iorek – he was a lot of the sparkle in the first book. Instead we get Will – who seems to have a depth that all of the other characters lack. He brings an intensity to the story.
80% of this book felt like slow story building. Things that we needed to know to link the first book to the third. It wasn’t boring, but it wasn’t the adventure from book 1. The last 20% was pure heartbreak. And to say that everything falls apart is an understatement. I was in tears of anger and sadness when i closed the book. Cliffy from Hell.
Oh well. Onward and upward. I have hope that book 3 will revise my feelings about book 2. Fingers crossed.

My Favorite Books of 2015 or a 3-For-1

The Man I Love

Ok. First of all – the writing. Let’s just take a moment to appreciate how well this was written. Beautiful. Moving. Thoughtful. The pacing was gorgeous. The beginning was detailed but that was important to the book. It set the stage for everything that was to come.
And Erik was a fantastic protagonist. He had layers but he was real. He was kind and selfish and loving and vindictive. His reactions were those of a real person facing terrible things.
Daisy. Will. Lucky. Kees. Opie. Even David. The stage. The theatre. An entire world was created for the reader – with meaningful characters. A world that pulled you in – and you wanted to be there.
Yes, some parts of this book hurt. I did my fair share of crying. But it wasn’t manipulative. It wasn’t unnecessary. It was hard – but it meant something. And I was better off for coming through it.
Books like this are why I read. Stumbling across something that makes me feel and think and smile and pace around. A book that make me care about characters that feel real. Written about in careful and lovely and purposeful words. This book was the complete package.

Give Me Your Answer True

There’s no way to do this right. So I’ll go in telling you that as a reviewer I’ve failed you. I will try though.
I’ll start by saying this is my first “6 star review” meaning I find this to be truly above and beyond even my favorites. The irony is I didn’t want to read this shit. In TMIL I fell deeply in love with Erik. And I’m protective. I hold a grudge. I respected his love for her, but I never forgave her. Never thought she deserved his love again.
I went into GMYAT with this attitude. I intended to try it and prove myself right. No way was this going to be as good as TMIL – and now I’d have proof. Fuck I was wrong.
The book literally starts at the perfect moment. This place that brings you back to open vulnerability and hurt and anger. And then you’re falling in love with Daisy bc she’s falling in love with Erik. Her love for Erik soothes your hurts – your grudge fades. She’s honest and good and sweet and strong. She deserves him.
And when the bad times came it hurt. I hopped up. I sat down. I tossed my kindle around. I shifted and wiggled and tried to avoid. And I came out the other side more in love with Daisy than I imagined possible. My love for her and this book grew and grew from 50% on. It literally steadily got better. This book did the impossible.
And I cried. Nothing crazy at first. At 76/77% I cried for a while. But that shit felt so good. All of these pieces sliding into place.
I wouldn’t ever tell you that something was missing from TMIL. I think it’s the perfect book. But this addition to it is out of this world. It brings a kind of satisfaction that soothed my soul. I cannot believe I ever doubted.

Here To Stay

Perfection. In TMIL I fell in love with a boy. Sweet. Compassionate. Imperfect. Endlessly lovable. And loving him took me on a big ride. Made me cry. A lot. Made me really angry. Filled me with some righteous indignation. That book was one of my favorites of all time. Flawless.
GMYAT gave me something I didn’t know I needed. Forgiveness. Another side of the story. A view of my sweet sweet boy as an asshole. A dick. Selfish. Taking and hurting. And it let me fall a little in love with the girl who loved my boy. I saw him through her eyes – and that filled my heart. I felt her pain, and i was proud when she got better. Got stronger. And maybe my wonderful boy wasn’t the darling id once thought. Maybe he made some mistakes. GMYAT filled in blanks that I didn’t know existed. Gave more depth to my boy’s story.
And then Here To Stay….where I fell in love with a man. A man with my boy’s sweetness and light but a new strength. He stayed. And he stayed. And he stayed. All of that good that drew me to him was magnified in this creature honed in fire. Tested and proven. HTS is a book of adults. Family. Tribe. Needing and giving. Erik as a man is spectacular. Beyond any dreams I had for that boy. A creature open and hurting and growing and giving. Someone who made this enchanting world for himself and Daisy. I cried. A lot. Through most of the book. And I loved it. It was the best crying. The writing was heaven – strong and sure and so generous to its reader. An author who respects her audience – never writing down to us. This book was above and beyond anything I expected. I am so grateful for the journey these books took me on – and for the ending that everyone deserved.

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

There are 2 reasons that YA Fantasy is my favorite genre, and this book is a shining example of them both. Adventure and simple effective writing.
I’m a nerd through and through. From Marvel movies to LOTR to GoT – I love an action story that has some magic. Good versus evil. Epic battles. The little guy outdoing the evil monster. Battles. Heroes. Perils and frights and the unknown. Here we had these – in spades. The beginning of the book is a little weird, and there’s a lot of technical jargon to puzzle out. But keep going! It all becomes crystal clear and smooth sailing in a matter of pages.
Which brings me to my second point – simple effective writing. I’m not sure why so many authors who write for adults think they’re getting paid by the word. Or, even worse, the adjective. They write with such a heavy hand that the story is lost beneath characters who are unrealistic or overbearing and imagery that stifles rather than fuels the imagination.
But this book was all show and very little tell. Pullman created all these gorgeous characters and huge adventures – and I learned about them as they naturally unfolded. Hair color? Height? Good looking or ugly? Who cares? I can tell you that in one early sentence Lyra is described as a half-wild cat. Three little words where a hack author would have spent 3 pages cramming useless adjectives down my throat.
This story is huge. Magic. Dust. Daemons. Church. Science. The frozen north. Kidnapping. Witches. Gypsies. And a manbear who stole my heart and made me cry. But each of these huge things was offered in its simplest form. I adore an author with the confidence to trust his or her story and characters this much. The result is a story that reads effortlessly. A mind-blowing adventure that reads like a bed time story.
In parting I will say shout out to Lyra – a little girl MC is the shit. Feisty. Quick-thinking. Wild as the wind. A character I will be honored to read to my son. And a moment of respect to the plot device of the fucking monkey. So creepy. So effective. So masterful. The monkey represents everything wonderful in this book. So understated – and still you’re freaked out as hell. Genius.
Ps – Iorek – you made this book. You gave it that little undefinable something. You are one of my favorite characters ever.

The Witch With No Name by Kim Harrison

DNF at 25%. Such a bummer. I loved this series when I binge-read most of it. Rachel is a sassy and adorable heroine who half stumbles, half triumphs in a series of misadventures. She has a strong supporting cast. The book is well-written. But at this point it’s been so long since I read the other books that I can’t figure out what’s going on. Past characters and adventures are referenced – and I can’t remember them. I’m spending so much time going back to try to figure out what’s going on that it was taking me forever to read. So we’re gonna say this wasn’t the books fault. This one is all me.
Ps – I still don’t like Trent.

RoomHate by Penelope Ward (affectionately known as The Dumpster Fire)

DNF at 25%. Oh Gentle Reader! Gentle Reader! As you know, i wasn’t gifted the Angry Reader moniker – i earned it. On a popular sports romance book that sent me into a tizzy the likes these hallowed halls have rarely seen. Something about a threesome and then his dick only wanting her. Bc it’s rational when our sex organs make our decisions. But i digress. I’d been so happy lately – reading the recommendations of the Book SoulMate. Avoiding romance books at all costs. But this one had so many good reviews. So many stars. I was lulled into a sense of complacency.
Gentle Reader, that aforementioned steaming pile of crap was sweet lyric to mine ears compared to the dumpster fire full of filthy diapers and old tires that made up this tome. Holy shit.
The plot – as i understand it. And please forgive me if i seem confused. At points i had no actual idea what was happening. Amelia inherits half of a house from her dead Gma. Her childhood BFF inherits the other. They haven’t spoken in 10 years bc of deep dark angsty secret. Rightio. They end up in the house together for the summer with his GF – who is so so nice to our heroine. Like seriously – she’s creepy. Upon first encountering our heroine our hero leaps on her like some kind of 8th grade girl in a middle school cat fight. All while loudly protesting that he’s SO OVER IT. HE DOESN’T CARE ABOUT HER. HE DOESN’T WANNA TALK ABOUT IT. His GF spends a lot of time looking around apologetically. I pictured her as a robot. Or a blow up doll.
In the first 6% Justin insulted Amelia (in a manner that would have gotten him tased in this house). Ignored her while they had dinner. Had bizarre loud sex with his GF so Amelia could hear. And smirked – a lot. How can a man holding a grudge from 10th grade be a romantic hero? That’s not love – that’s diagnosable.
At 25% you find out why they don’t speak anymore. It’s awesomely bad. 1980s Lionel Richie with a mullet in a members only jacket kinda bad. And then i gave up. At this point there were 2 options to save this book – a dragon flies down and eats everyone or Keanu Reeves wakes up and realizes it was all a dream. Judging from the loud “SQUEEEEEEES” echoing down my GR newsfeed i don’t think either of these things happen. Thus i’m left with a story where these two emotionally stunted morons form some sort of relationship. And i cannot live in world where that’s considered any sort of happy ending.
PS – i’m not even going to get into the writing here. It had all the subtlety of a speeding locomotive. And clearly the author thinks that only morons would read her stuff – she needs so badly to tell the reader things that she repeats them – in the same sentence. Along the lines of “she liked gummy bears and she loved them and she wanted them and needed them so so much.” Right. Blunt force trauma to the head – bc no one reading this could appreciate nuance or allusion.
AR is dragging her corpse out of the romance genre for a while – back to the recommendations of the BSM.

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

There are two images that come to mind when i think of this book. Diamonds and champagne. Like diamonds this book shines – nearly flawless, hard and sparkly. And like good champagne the book effervesces – bubbly and sweet with an edge. To me it felt like a version of The Great Gatsby that wasn’t completely academic and off-putting.
It’s the last day of 1937. Katey, who grew up in the less-affluent part of New York, goes out for a drink with her friend Eve. A chance meeting that night changes Katey’s life. We spend 1938 with her watching those changes unfold.
It’s drinking and smoking – carousing 1930s style. A book with constant action. It’s an author who trusts his reader enough to write characters with enormous depth and leaves the reader to discover the depths slowly. Deliciously.
There were a few surprises in the last third of the book. Things i hadn’t seen coming that made me sit up, and refit the puzzle together in my head with this new information. Twice i bolted up with an “OH!” And twice i cried – not sobs – just a little overflow of emotion.
While i wouldn’t characterize the book as a romance i did fall madly in love with one of the characters. And when i reread it it will be with an eye towards him – this time with the foresight to savor him and what he brought to the book.
And i think that last sentence says it all – “when i reread.” i’m not one to read a book twice – i get bored and resentful when i know what’s coming. But i have no doubt i’ll reread Rules. It’s too beautiful. Too easy. And way too much fun for me to place it in the Read pile and leave it there for good.