So I find that I not-infrequently read books that I just feel rather “meh” about and they don’t seem worth writing an entire post about. However, since I also use this blog as a sort of book-review diary, I like to at least say something. So, inspired by the way that Stephanie reviews the unreviewed every month, I think that some months (or maybe all of them!) will get a post with minireviews of all those books that just didn’t get more than a few paragraphs of feelings from me.
Endless Night by Agatha Christie
A while back, as a part of my goal to read all of Agatha Christie’s books, I read a couple of the novels she wrote under the name of Mary Westmacott. I only reviewed Giant’s Bread, but I did skim through two of her other Westmacott novels. All of them, although well-written, were rather depressing. On the whole, I read for pleasure, and I don’t find pleasure in being depressed so I gave her other Westmacott novels a miss.
All this to say, much of Endless Night reads as a novel rather than a mystery. The actual death doesn’t occur until about 3/4 of the way through the book. The rest is all about the feelings and actions of our narrator, Michael Rogers. While there is a story throughout, much of the narration is verging on stream-of-consciousness, as Rogers meanders through various tales of his life, usually weaving his way back to the main thrust of the story. From the beginning, Rogers hints at a disaster involving his wife. These insinuations lend to the overall feeling of unease throughout the book.
Honestly, for most of the book I felt like it was a 2/5 read for me as it was just a downer and not much was happening, plus I just wasn’t a fan of Rogers, who was a bit of a whiner (also melodramatic; I was really over his sentences like, “Ellie! Oh Ellie! If only I had known!” Pull yourself together, man, geez). However, that last 25% of the story brought it up to a 3/5 and an overall recommendation, because when Christie decides to actually pull back the curtain and show the reality of what is happening, everything falls into place like magic, and it made me want to reread the whole book and see if I could see where she was going now that I knew the destination.
Dragon on Trial by Tui T. Sutherland and Kari Sutherland (Menagerie #2)
The sequel to The Menagerie picks up virtually immediately after the conclusion of the first book (as in, like within half an hour). Like the first book, I thought this was a great middle-school read. There is lots of action, and the characters are really fun. This time, Logan, Zoe, and Blue find themselves working with Marco (a were-rooster, so great), who I thought was a hilarious addition to the team. With griffins, unicorns, mer-people, and more, these books are just great all-around fun.
All in all, this book did a really good job of forwarding the overall plot of the trilogy while still having its own contained story as well. So while the main thrust of the story (who murdered the goose who lays the golden eggs??) was concluded, the overall theme of someone is sabotaging the Menagerie is still waiting to be tied together in Book 3.
4/5 and recommended.
The Game by Diana Wynne Jones
This short story was engaging but a bit confusing. In the end, it turns out that Jones was basically writing about stars/planets/gods as though they were people, which I started to cotton onto about halfway through the tale, but in some ways it felt like the story would have made better sense if Jones’s afterword had been a foreword instead.
The whole concept was great fun. It’s a short story, so the characters are terribly well developed, but that didn’t make them less likable. While this was a fun little romp, I actually think that I would find it more interesting to read now that I know from the beginning what characters I am watching for. 3/5 and kind of neutral as far as recommendation or not.
Krakens and Lies by Tui T. Sutherland and Kari Sutherland (Menagerie #3)
I am actually really sad that it appears like this series is only going to be a trilogy. It was a lot of fun, and really like the characters and the setting that the Sutherlands have created.
In this book, we finally find out who is sabotaging the Menagerie and why, and also what happened to Logan’s mom. While I felt like some of the conclusions were a little bit of a stretch, it was all in good fun. Overall, I felt like this was a really great children’s/middle school series that I would definitely recommend, especially for kids who love animals. Even though my youngest sister is a bit older than the target age group, I’m still going to give her the first book to read, as I think they’ll appeal to a wide range of ages.
I have to say that one thing that I really liked was that I felt like the characters acted their age. They are all around 12-13 years old, and it seemed like there was a great balance between them being independent and them needing adult help/supervision. I loved the way that Logan had a great relationship with his dad, and how Zoe’s family really gets along, even when they have their differences. Honestly, all the families that we met in this book were loving and supportive of one another, and that was just a delight, especially when so many children’s/YA books act like it’s impossible for young people and their parents to ever relate to one another. The Sutherlands presented different family shapes, but all with parents/adults who, even if they didn’t completely understand their children, still loved them and had their best interests at the forefront.
All in all, this book – and the series as a whole – is a sturdy 4/5 and definitely recommended for its anticipated age group, as well as anyone who as ever secretly hoped that unicorns and dragons were real.