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Reading List and Book Reviews

Turn CoatJim ButcherDresden Files #11Apr 7, 2009
The Tales of Beedle the BardJ. K. RowlingHarry PotterDec 4, 2008
InkheartCornelia FunkeInkworld #1Sep 23, 2003
The Westing GameEllen Raskin1978
Tale of DespereauxKate DiCamilloAug 25, 2003
Living on an AcreUSDADec 1, 2003
The Self-Sufficient LifeJohn SeymourMar 17, 2003
House of Many WaysDiana Wynne JonesHowl #3Jun 10, 2008

Book Review: Once Upon a Time in the North (Monday, October 20, 2008)

Title: Once Upon a Time in the North
by Philip Pullman
Release Date: April 8, 2008
When read: October 12, 2008
Review: 4/5 Stars

After reading Lyra's Oxford, I wasn't expecting much from Once Upon a Time in the North, which has a release coinciding with the new "Golden Compass" film. The book, while short, is twice as long as Lyra's Oxford, and tells the story of how the aeronaut, Lee Scoresby, comes to be friends with the Armored Bear, Iorek Byrnison. And despite its diminutive length, the story is truly epic. In order to fully appreciate the heroic nature of the story, it is totally necessary to have read the full His Dark Materials trilogy. Where the trilogy tells the ending of a long story, this book tells its beginning. While the story takes place years before Lyra is born, the last few pages contain a footnote concerning her thesis at university, and those few pages contain more warmth and personality than in all of Lyra's Oxford. But that is just a bonus after a really great story of a flying Texan, making his way in the frozen North.

—Brian (10/20/2008 1:45 PM)
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Book Review: Lyra's Oxford (Monday, October 20, 2008)

Title: Lyra's Oxford
by Philip Pullman
Release Date: October 28, 2003
When read: October 11, 2008
Review: 2/5 Stars

There's really no other way to explain it. With Lyra's Oxford, Pullman caches in on his success with His Dark Materials, and releases a 50-page short story that could never have stood on its own. Perhaps I'm being harsh. For such a short story, it is just loaded with symbolism and moral platitudes that young children will miss, and that will nauseate adults. The story takes place a short time after the end of the famous trilogy, and stars Lyra and Pan in an epic adventure that crosses streets and hours. That doesn't sound nearly as exciting as the trilogy, which spanned space and time, and crossed the borders of death and back. I guess with the bar set so high, this story is just totally anti-climactic. Especially when you consider that the resolution was not Lyra's cleverness or will (or Will, even), but rather deus ex machina — a rescuer from the heavens, that reaches down and saves the day. It's a very quick read, so you shouldn't lose more than an hour to it, and the book does include lots of "extras" (a.k.a. junk) that people obsessed with the trilogy may find interesting. For the rest of us, there's just not much there.

—Brian (10/20/2008 1:34 PM)
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Book Review: The Diamond of Darkhold (Monday, September 15, 2008)

Title: The Diamond of Darkhold
by Jeanne DuPrau
Release Date: August 26, 2008
When Read: September 15, 2008
Review: 3/5 Stars

The Diamond of Darkhold is the fourth novel in Jeanne DuPrau's Books of Ember series. Despite starring two clever and mature teenagers, and a heavy post-apocalyptic setting, and potentially disturbing plot elements, the writing sadly only rises to the level of perhaps a bright nine year old. DuPrau has the unfortunate task of writing novels for children in a post-Rowling world, where we've come to expect each book to become more complex and more mature than the one before — one where we expect the reader to grow as the characters grow. One would particularly expect it from these novels, considering the totally un-subtle morals of the story — be curious, be kind, and read as much as you can, because books and learning will save the world!

—Brian (9/15/2008 9:10 PM)
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