Category Archives: Annie’s Reviews
Bleak Harbor is a fast paced who-done-it with a twist as the kidnapped child in question is on the autism spectrum.
Publisher’s Description: Their son is gone. Deep down, they think they’re to blame.
Summertime in Bleak Harbor means tourists, overpriced restaurants, and the Dragonfly Festival. One day before the much-awaited and equally chaotic celebration, Danny Peters, the youngest member of the family that founded the town five generations ago, disappears.
When Danny’s mother, Carey, and stepfather, Pete, receive a photo of their brilliant, autistic, and socially withdrawn son tied to a chair, they fear the worst. But there’s also more to the story. Someone is sending them ominous texts and emails filled with information no one else should have. Could the secrets they’ve kept hidden—even from one another—have led to Danny’s abduction?
As pressure from the kidnapper mounts, Carey and Pete must face their own ugly mistakes to find their son before he’s taken from them forever.
Agent Annie says…
Bleak Harbor is a fast paced who-done-it with a twist as the kidnapped child in question is on the autism spectrum. I enjoyed the family dynamics of a mother, son and step father and all the various entanglements they each are caught up in. I was definitely kept guessing as to who did the kidnapping. Unfortunately, I thought the last quarter of the book introduced too many possibilities and added more characters than I could keep track of. Many of whom seemed just a distraction to the main story. I also thought the final reveal and the manner in which the kidnapping was pulled off was too complicated and I found myself doubting that the character was given enough backstory to make it believable. I also felt a connection to the small town on the shore of Great Lake Michigan since I am familiar with actual towns that are in the same locale. The history of the town and the matriarch’s interaction with the townspeople was well done and I appreciated the “justice” that was meted out at the end. I would give this book 3.5.
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Before Lyra started her adventures, her coming was foretold. See how it really started in La Belle Sauvage by Phillip Pullman, a new book in the same world as His Dark Materials.
Title: The Book of Dust Volume 1: La Belle Sauvage
Author: Phillip Pullman
Series: The Book of Dust 01
Publish Date: October 19, 2017 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Genre: YA Fantasy
Source: Digital library book
Publisher’s Description: Malcolm Polstead is the kind of boy who notices everything but is not much noticed himself. And so perhaps it was inevitable that he would become a spy…
Malcolm’s parents run an inn called the Trout, on the banks of the river Thames, and all of Oxford passes through its doors. Malcolm and his daemon, Asta, routinely overhear news and gossip, and the occasional scandal, but during a winter of unceasing rain, Malcolm catches wind of something new: intrigue.
He finds a secret message inquiring about a dangerous substance called Dust—and the spy it was intended for finds him.
When she asks Malcolm to keep his eyes open, he sees suspicious characters everywhere: the explorer Lord Asriel, clearly on the run; enforcement agents from the Magisterium; a gyptian named Coram with warnings just for Malcolm; and a beautiful woman with an evil monkey for a daemon. All are asking about the same thing: a girl—just a baby—named Lyra.
Lyra is the kind of person who draws people in like magnets. And Malcolm will brave any danger, and make shocking sacrifices, to bring her safely through the storm.
Possible spoilers beyond this point.
Agent Annie says…
5 stars isn’t enough praise for this book. Having loved the original trilogy, His Dark Materials, I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Lyra’s early life. So much so, that I went from this book right back to the original trilogy. Pullman did a fantastic job of creating a much larger role for very minor characters in the original. This also felt much more like a straight adventure tale rather than a moral tale with an adventure.
The flight from the nunnery that Malcolm and “the kitchen girl” make is absolutely heart pounding. I literally was up until the wee hours reading to make sure they were OK. However, the tension lasts until practically the last page, so it was hard to know when to put it down and take a breath. The evil character and his daemon, the disabled hyena, that pursues the young people and baby Lyra are villains straight from your worst nightmares. The one thing that kept me from despair was knowing that Lyra makes it to Oxford and is taken in.
I highly recommend the whole body of work from Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials!
Cinelle Barnes is a creative non-fiction writer and educator from Manila, Philippines. She writes memoirs and personal essays on trauma, growing up in Southeast Asia, and on being a mother and immigrant in America.
Publisher’s Description: Told with a lyrical, almost-dreamlike voice as intoxicating as the moonflowers and orchids that inhabit this world, Monsoon Mansion is a harrowing yet triumphant coming-of-age memoir exploring the dark, troubled waters of a family’s rise and fall from grace in the Philippines. It would take a young warrior to survive it.
Cinelle Barnes was barely three years old when her family moved into Mansion Royale, a stately ten-bedroom home in the Philippines. Filled with her mother’s opulent social aspirations and the gloriously excessive evidence of her father’s self-made success, it was a girl’s storybook playland. But when a monsoon hits, her father leaves, and her mother’s terrible lover takes the reins, Cinelle’s fantastical childhood turns toward tyranny she could never have imagined. Formerly a home worthy of magazines and lavish parties, Mansion Royale becomes a dangerous shell of the splendid palace it had once been.
In this remarkable ode to survival, Cinelle creates something magical out of her truth—underscored by her complicated relationship with her mother. Through a tangle of tragedy and betrayal emerges a revelatory journey of perseverance and strength, of grit and beauty, and of coming to terms with the price of family—and what it takes to grow up.
Possible spoilers beyond this point.
Agent Annie says…
My April “Kindle First” book choice was fantastic. Monsoon Mansion is a memoir that immerses you in the life of the author as a child.
I hardly knew anything about the Philippines before reading the book other than the name of Imelda Marcos and her huge shoe collection. I shouldn’t have been surprised by the disparity between the wealthy and the impoverished in yet another “third” world country, but the author vividly describes the differences between her own family’s life and privileges and the abject poverty of the servants’ village life and the misery in Manila outside her gates.
I still marvel at the author’s ability to put perspective on her mother’s behavior. Barnes describes the relationship in a poignant scene in the final chapter as she answers her own daughter’s questions.
…Then she asks, “Mama, do you miss your mama?”
“I do, but it’s better to miss her than to be around her.”
“Because she does things that hurt people?”
That’s how I’ve explained it to her: that my mother cannot come near us because she does regrettable things.
Barnes’ mother was a true nightmare, but her father, whose choice to abandon the family brings about the depraved situation the author grows up in, is portrayed so richly that the reader fully understands the complexity of his thought process and the details of his personality, and it’s easy to understand why he made the choices he did and that he was truly trying to do what was best in the scope of his own human weakness.
Barnes writes in such a way that the mansion itself and the weather are also characters that play a role in her childhood. The deteriorating mansion is a symbol of her mother’s decay, but it has its own characteristics and can haunt or protect the children. It’s described in such rich detail that I feel if I walked in the front door, I would recognize it immediately. The monsoon that is the catalyst to her father leaving, also provides the author with a glimpse of the freedom brought by big water. It’s such an interesting parallel to explore the flood waters and forever after be drawn to the ocean.
This book is definitely a 5 and I look forward to reading more of Cinelle Barnes’ work.