Monthly Archives: December 2015

Book Reviews: Guardian of the Gold Breathers by Elise Stephens


I received this book free for review from the author or publisher in exchange for an honest review. Despite the privilege of receiving a free book, I’m absolutely candid about it below because I believe authors and readers will benefit most from honest reviews rather than vacuous 5-star reviews.

The nutshell on this book is that it’s a fairly standard one of the genre in which a young person finds that they are somehow special or exceptional and must overcome some set of trials in order to achieve an elevated status in the world. Just think Harry Potter and the like.

This is a YA novel so I consider three simple questions when evaluating it. The first is to ask if I there’s any reason I wouldn’t want my kids to read it. I have a zero-tolerance attitude when it comes to sex and drugs and this one is clean as a whistle in that respect. Kids won’t pick up any negative lessons and they certainly won’t learn any “new” words. For those that are of a deeply religious bent, do know there is magic and the like.

One small word of caution, however, that requires a non-specific spoiler. Our hero goes about his journey and comes to a conclusion that from the perspective of those not in the know, looks exactly like getting burned alive. I would not want readers to somehow get the impression that the best way to escape a troubling family situation has any resemblance whatsoever to actual death. I think the risk is fairly small but it is something to note.

The second question is to ask if there’s any reason I would want my kids to read it. I love when a book teaches a lesson and this one does a fair job of demonstrating the virtues of loyalty and dedication to a goal. While I don’t think these themes are necessarily front and center to the narrative they are present and certainly not overly intrusive to the story.

The last question is to ponder whether kids will actually want to read it. In this case, I think the story is a rich one and it gives the reader plenty to enjoy and look forward to on each succeeding page. My only reservation is that kids might get a tad confused because the book seems to lack continuity in places. I won’t go into specifics but it feels like the book has been cut down from a longer version and sometimes references to previous events creep in that were edited out. I can’t validate this, of course, but a few times I asked myself, “When did THAT happen?”

In summary, reading this as an adult I found it pretty entertaining and it is a solid entrant in the YA market. The aspect that stands out for me most is the ending. The author closed this story in a way that balanced closure and uncertainty brilliantly. I’d be intensely interested in reading a sequel; this could bloom into a wonderful series of books akin to Pern.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Book Reviews: After Alice by Gregory Maguire

24331115I picked this book up at a local big-box retailer on sale for 50% off. More interestingly it was a limited signed edition on sale for 50% off so that should have been a clue.

The nutshell on this book is that it follows Ada down the rabbit hole in a parallel with the old Alice affair of which we’ve all read. Alternating chapters detail the goings on above ground as Lydia and family go in search of both the girls.

To the positive side, the book does have a lot of the flavor of the original. It’s not afraid to throw around heaps of erudite vocabulary and will send even the most solid vocabularist to their dictionary at least a couple of times. We’re also treated along the way to visits from most of our favorite characters from the original though their appearances in the story are almost absurdly brief.

To the negative, After Alice seems to have a lot to say that it takes a VERY long time to start to care about. The above-ground chapters of the story are, for half the book, rather pestilential. It feels like an unwanted interruption and unnecessary padding. About page 120 it becomes possible to care about Lydia and her house guests but until that point I found it difficult to resist the temptation to skip every alternating chapter.

In summary, for the die-hard fan, this offers a very small addition to the milieu of Alice but it comes at a high cost. On some level I feel that there’s more there if you just inspect it closely enough so I’ll be tucking this away on the shelf for a later and closer read but to the more casual consumer of books this one is one to be avoided at most costs.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized