Book Review: The Mysterious Affair at Styles

The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Road trips are great for audiobooks and I was able to listen to this one in the span of a single day. I discovered Hercule Poirot about a year ago while reading Murder on the Orient Express. I was completely in love with that book and I am obviously a fan of the old detective novels like this and Sherlock Holmes.

This is a solid entry in the series and is the first Poirot adventure. The story follows the similar formula, or perhaps establishes the formula for the Poirot series. Half the fun of these novel in my opinion is to try and catch the clues throughout the book to try and identify the murderer using the same methodology as the detective. There is a bit of narrative stretch that occurs sometimes. They seemingly pull out pieces of information from the world that you are not privy too, but overall Christie does put the pieces there for you as a ready to draw upon.

I wasn't as enraptured as I was with Orient Express, but this was a solid and fun book in the series.

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Book Review: Sabriel


Sabriel by Garth Nix
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow. This books certainly came out of nowhere and surprised me. I started listening to this book a few weeks ago and it didn't catch me at first. I left the library rental expire and then I decided to give it another go a few weeks ago. Once the story got going, it absolutely pulled me in.

This is labeled as a "Young Adult" book, but it is probably the most "adult" YA book I have read. The story is well put together. While it does cover many of the standard fantasy tropes, the world that Garth Nix has put together is incredibly well thought out. The magic system and world history is interesting. There are elements here the harken back to the John Carter or Narnia series in the way the world is constructed. It is tight and focused, keeping the world building isolated to the immediate land that the story is taking place in. We don't learn about the "whole planet", but that doesn't matter in the story telling.

I really liked the story arch that our main character, Sabriel went through. She was portrayed as a strong female lead character. She was capable where she needed to be, but knew that she was inexperienced. That inexperience was a primary plot device as it related to the Old Kingdom, but it was never used to victimize Sabriel. She also didn't fall into the traps that are so commonly used with YA or genre fiction where her decisions were driven by teenage emotions. Sure, she is a young adult in this book, but her character show the right amount of composure and emotion to make her believable. I really love that the other characters in the world held respect for her, for the Abhorsen, despite her age. It really showed a lot about the world.

Narratively I felt like this book was written as a result of Garth Nix playing D&D. Several of the plot points played out like D&D encounters in my opinion. They were satisfying though, nonetheless.

Overall, I loved the book. Any let me just put a final note in for that cover art. I absolutely love that artistic choice.



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Book Review: The Fifth Season

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wow!!!! How do I describe this book? This was simply fantastic and ranks up there with one of the best books I have ever read.

The world building here is superbly done, bringing in just enough that is familiar to us, while also being strange and fantastic at the same time. Jemisin brings a lot to this book to discuss race, racism, social caste systems and more. It is all done in such a way that makes you repulsed by it, but at the same time understanding of it, at least in the context of this world. It is complex and multifaceted. Her writing style is extremely eloquent as well. While my previous read (Norse Mythology - Neil Gaiman) talked about how he is the quintessential "storyteller" by the way he writes and talks. Jemisin immediately comes across in an almost scholarly fashion in her style.

The topics of love, acceptance and family are also explored in a deep and unconventional way here. Watching our main character, Essun, rise and fall in her emotional relationships was exhilarating and devastating at the same time. The moments near the last third of the book with Innon, and her family are something that was truly touching, even if they don't fall into what our traditional social context of a family may be.

The characters are also truly engaging. Alabaster, Hoa, Innon, Tonkee. All were deep and diverse in their own respective ways. They were dimensional, having motivations that were both internal and external to their character arcs. They were interesting, each with their own goals in life.

My only really gripe about the whole book, and the only reason it doesn't get a full five stars from me, is one of Essun's character traits. Throughout the book she is persistently negative about every situation presented to her. I understand that of her character profile, but her negatively is so aggressive and outwardly projected that I lost that "suspension of disbelief" with her character at times. Even when circumstances in her life changed, even for the good, she is shown as chronically negative about every situation and environment around her. At times it is used as a motivating factor for her character. Her, "It's not right", stance makes sense, but other times she seemed to resist and challenge the other characters in a scene for no apparent gain, only to give in for what was obviously the only course of action.

Despite all of that though, this book was riveting from beginning to end and I immediately want to read the sequel.

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