Monthly Archives: December 2018

Series Review: The Inheritance Cycle

I remember when I first read Eragon, I immediately loved it. I devoured the series as it came out, but somehow I never read the final book.

When I learned a few months ago that Christopher Paolini was returning to the world of Alagaësia with a new book, it seemed like the perfect time to reread the books and finally finish the series.

The Inheritance Cycle follows the life of Eragon, a young boy growing up in a rural farm who suddenly finds himself in possession of a beautiful blue gemstone. The stone turns out to be a dragon egg, and Eragon is suddenly thrust into the world of his namesake, a dragon rider who helped keep the peace long ago. Now, with the help of the village bard, Eragon must avoid being captured by his enemies at the same time learning how to control his new abilities.

In the second and third books, Eragon has allied with the various races to fight against.m the evil king, once a dragon rider who went mad when his dragon was killed. Eragon and his dragon Saphira have found teachers hidden among the elves, but with his allies ready to invade the empire, Eragon must rush to join them, or concede defeat before they’ve even fought.

In the final book, with invasion under way, Eragon and his allies still have no plan on how to defeat the ever-stronger king. The invading army can’t delay facing the king forever, and Eragon has to give everything he has to defeating the king, even if it turns out not to be enough.

I’d heard people say that it was clear in the last book that Paolini was ready to be done with the series, which was originally supposed to be a trilogy instead of a quartet. What I noticed, finally reading it an eternity later, was that in some places it felt drawn out, as though he felt pressured to reach a certain length. And the ending in particular felt not quite cobbled together, but rushed. While I liked that he wanted to have a better ending than simply the final battle, it felt like a quick recap of the next several months, instead of doing like a six months later epilogue.

All in all, I still love the series. And while I can spot the similarities to Lord of the Rings and even some to Harry Potter, I think it still holds its own as a series. It’s a fun series full of action and character growth, but one that you can get through a little easier, in case the classics are a little daunting.

I also enjoy seeing the growth of Paolini as an author. The difference between the first book and the fourth is not big in terms of style or voice, but the writing is smoother, with a more natural flow that comes I think with practice and experience.

I’m not quite sure what this new book will be. I’d first thought it was going to be life and history, but upon further research, it looks like it may be a continuation, to a degree, along with some side stories. And, as it always is with series, it could either be really great, or really bad. Either way, I’m excited to read it. Sometimes it’s nice to return to your childhood, even if it’s only for a few hundred pages.

The Nutcracker

A lot of retail workers avoid everything Christmas related, simply because we’re inundated for a month between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. And while sometimes I do get fed up with the chaos of the season, I do enjoy Christmas when I’m not at work. And that means squeezing in one or two holiday books toward the end of the year.

I’ve seen the Nutcracker play once or twice, but I never really knew its origins until I snagged a copy to read.

The story was first written by Ernst Hoffman, but it didn’t gain a lot of traction until Alexandre Dumas adapted the story to appeal more to children. It later attracted the attention of the Russian theater and became the story we all know and, mostly, love.

In the book, Mary and Fritz are eagerly anticipating Christmas and their new, elaborate gifts from Godfather Drosselmayer. One gift, given them to share, is an ugly Nutcracker, which Mary takes an unusual liking to. She stays up late tucking her dolls and the Nutcracker in for the night, and finds herself suddenly in the middle of battle between the toys and the rats. From there, Mary starts to learn the history of her Nutcracker, and the war. Mary is the key to winning and breaking the curse put on the Nutcracker.

All in all, the story captured by the ballet is the full story, though it maybe a little more fleshed out in the book (and I’m not sure why the girl’s name is changed to Clara, because Clara is just a snooty doll…). But it’s a fun, quick little read to get you into the holiday spirit. And even though it will probably never be relevant to life, I’m glad to know the origins of the story and ballet.

Then She Was Gone

I’d been trying to work my way through a sci-go book and finally gave up and decided to start Watching You by Lisa Jewell. Literally within 24 hours of that decision, my mother-in-law has sent Then She Was Gone home with my husband for me. So, it seemed a sign that it was time to get in to Lisa Jewell’s books.

Then She Was Gone is the story of Laurel Mack, mother of three who is still coping with the aftermath of her 15-year-old daughter’s disappearance 10 years ago. People don’t just vanish into thin air, but Ellie did, and Laurel’s life fell apart.

Now she’s finally getting a degree of closure, or was, until she meets her new boyfriend’s daughter, who looks remarkably like Ellie. As little clues start revealing themselves, Laurel begins to see a whole new story surrounding Ellie’s disappearance, one that affirms her disbelief in the police’s runaway narrative. But in the end, will the truth be the closure she seeks, or will it wreck her life anew?

Right off, I liked this book better than Watching You. I liked the storyline better, and I liked that we didn’t have a main character claiming they were genetically hardwired to make bad decisions, essentially.

In what I’ve come to recognize as her style, Jewell drops enough hints to lead you to her conclusion, but keeps enough hidden so that the story could go several ways. She keeps you uncertain, reevaluating your assumptions with each new revelation, and I like that. Her short chapters make the book seem to go by that much quicker, and make it perfect for fitting one or two in during a 15-minute break at work.

Overall, I’ve enjoyed my experience with Lisa Jewell, and she’ll definitely be an author I both recommend, and keep an eye out for when the opportunity comes to get new books.

An Anonymous Girl

How far can you go before discovering the truth becomes unethical?

This seems to be a question Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen touch on in their latest book, An Anonymous Girl.

A spur of the moment decision leads Jessica down an unexpected path. She lies to participate in a study on ethics and morality because she needs the money they are offering. Her honesty intrigues the psychologist, and suddenly Jessica is the teacher’s pet, and the project morphs into something more.

But Jessica slowly begins to realize that Dr. Lydia Shields hasn’t been completely honest about the purpose of her study, and it’s becoming more and more dangerous for Jessica to see a way out. Shields is obsessed with discovering some truth, but Jessica isn’t sure she likes being the instrument of temptation. As she begins to learn the truth of her own situation, Jessica scrambles to find a way to escape the web with her life still intact.

Hendricks and Pekkanen are another author (set, really) that I’ve heard a lot of but never read (I know, I know, you readers probably get tired of hearing this time and time again), but I wasn’t disappointed. An Anonymous Girl did an excellent job of leading you in one direction and dropping clues that hint toward something different.

It’s a quick read that bounces between points of view in short, snappy chapters. I also liked that the authors had a couple layers within the story, but not so many as to be distracting, and all the layers neatly lined up in the end, good for people who like neat and tidy endings.

After reading this, and knowing how many people came in to Barnes and Noble for their first book, I’ll definitely be recommending An Anonymous Girl when it hits shelves in January. And until then, I’ll fill my time with checking out The Wife Between Us.