I gave Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson to my son for Christmas and recently had the chance to read it myself. I’ve thoroughlyI gave Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson to my son for Christmas and recently had the chance to read it myself. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading Brandon’s adult fiction and was curious to see how he would adapt his style for children’s literature. The pacing and descriptions are appropriate for his 13-year-old narrator, but his hallmark originality is still intact! Alcatraz (the narrator) goes to great lengths to stress that he is not a nice person and proves it with some highly amusing asides about the cruelty of writers. “Cruel Writers Versus Evil Librarians” doesn’t have the same ring to it, but it does raise some intriguing conjectures! In addition to being named for a prison (I won’t give away the explanation given for that), Alcatraz is also unique in that he has the ability to spontaneously break things. When he turns 13 and events unfold rapidly, revealing his true identity, he learns that his ability is a highly regarded Talent, as are being late, tripping, and speaking gibberish, among others! Alcatraz also learns that an evil cult of Librarians has been hiding the truth about the world by controlling the knowledge disseminated about it. Their reach is so extensive they have even concealed continents! In order to stop them from gaining even more power Alcatraz must infiltrate their library headquarters to recover the inheritance that was stolen from him. Full of humor and innovation, this book really speaks to kids and adults who refuse to grow up alike!...more
Initially I added this to my list after reading “On Daemons & Dust”, an essay in Michael Chabon’s collection Maps and Legends. The appeal is undenInitially I added this to my list after reading “On Daemons & Dust”, an essay in Michael Chabon’s collection Maps and Legends. The appeal is undeniable: shape-shifting daemons which are oh so much more than mere animal familiars, and armored polar bears! As a former Bowdoin College football player I know a thing or two about the battles of armored Polar Bears, although we didn’t actually eat the hearts of our fallen opponents like the panserbjørne (Pullman pulls no punches in His Dark Materials, let young readers be forewarned). What really sealed it for me was finding out that all of the bears are left-handed blacksmiths – the great creatures of the north are all southpaws! ...more
The anti-heroic autobiographer Alcatraz Smedry returns with a new supporting cast in Alcatraz Versus the Scrivener’s Bones (ostensibly) by Brandon SanThe anti-heroic autobiographer Alcatraz Smedry returns with a new supporting cast in Alcatraz Versus the Scrivener’s Bones (ostensibly) by Brandon Sanderson! There are new Smedrys with new talents - meet Kazan, the uncle with the ability to get lost, and Australia, the cousin with the gift of waking up looking hideous! Alcatraz isn’t the only one with family members crawling out of the glasswork - Bastille’s mother Draulin is also along for the ride in the glass Dragonaut! This motley crew travels all the way to the Library of Alexandria to face new foes, the ghostly curators of Alexandria and the ghastly Scrivener’s Bones, and to find Alcatraz’s grandfather, Leavenworth Smedry, who is on the trail of his long lost son Attica, Alcatraz’s father! Can Leavenworth, whose talent is arriving late, catch up to Attica before he sells his soul to the curators in exchange for the stores of knowledge held in the Library of Alexandria? Can Alcatraz escape from the insidious clutches of the Scrivener’s Bones without sacrificing one of his friends? Can you wait for the third Alcatraz book to come out?...more
An entertaining and unconventional approach to the magician/apprentice/djinn trialectic. The djinn Bartimaeus is an amusing narrator who garnishes hisAn entertaining and unconventional approach to the magician/apprentice/djinn trialectic. The djinn Bartimaeus is an amusing narrator who garnishes his tale with sardonic footnotes (always appealing to this reviewer). Like U2's guitarist the Edge, Stroud finds a unique way to write powerful climaxes without resorting to a bombastic power chord. ...more
I got a signed copy of this book in an exchange with the author, Rebecca Shelley, at Mountain-Con '08. While it is part of a series written collectiveI got a signed copy of this book in an exchange with the author, Rebecca Shelley, at Mountain-Con '08. While it is part of a series written collectively under the pen name R.D. Henham, this is a stand alone book for 9 to 12 year old kids....more
The Comet’s Curse is the first book in the Galahad series by Denver DJ Dom Testa. The series has been acquired by Tor Books, which will release The CoThe Comet’s Curse is the first book in the Galahad series by Denver DJ Dom Testa. The series has been acquired by Tor Books, which will release The Comet’s Curse on January 20th. This is a science fiction series for young adults about 251 teenage colonists who depart Earth after particles from a passing comet pollute the atmosphere, poisoning all inhabitants over the age of 18. With the little time remaining to the human race, a scientist leads a mission to construct a spaceship, the Galahad, capable of sustaining life for a five year journey, and to select the 251 teenagers capable of manning the ship and continuing the species on a planet in another solar system. A global search for the best and the brightest is conducted, and a council is appointed to lead them. The council is representative of the diversity of the crew, and are the main characters of the book. If the ship’s five year mission and international crew remind readers of the original Star Trek series it’s probably not a coincidence! And like Captain Kirk, the ship’s leader is involved in some romantic entanglements, but that’s to be expected from a 16-year-old girl sealed inside a co-ed space cruiser! This is a book for teens who may or may not be fooled by the head fake Testa gives them during the first on-board crisis (I wasn’t). It’s also a great lead off for a promising series. The trip to their new home will take five years, but The Comet’s Curse covers only the launch and the first few months of the mission. Testa has a steady hand with pacing, moving the story along without rushing the action, including the inevitable romances that will ebb and flow like lunar orbits....more
Read this after seeing the movie. Not the movie based on this book, mind you; the other movie in theaters also (loosely) based on the mythological feaRead this after seeing the movie. Not the movie based on this book, mind you; the other movie in theaters also (loosely) based on the mythological feats of Perseus. This adaptation is both more creative and more true to the original than the remake of Clash of the Titans!...more
This may have been one too many thief books for me. This was the first Cornelia Funke book I have read and, coming on the heels of The Book Thief, I’mThis may have been one too many thief books for me. This was the first Cornelia Funke book I have read and, coming on the heels of The Book Thief, I’m not sure what all the hullaballoo is about. The prose struck me as oversimplified, as though Funke thinks middle readers are more adept at thievery than reading. Her characters are utterly conventional in a pleasantly unconventional story. Although it deals with young thieves, this book really doesn’t belong with City of Thieves or The Book Thief. It is not set during World War II, but in a timeless Venice. No one dies except for some parents, and that is dealt with before this story actually begins. The antagonists are harmless and benign if not outright helpful. The advertising copy would lead you to believe that this is a Dickensian story, but there is no Bill Sykes to be found here. The gang of kid thieves truss up a private detective who is seeking for two of their number and he becomes an honorary operative. They break into a woman’s home and she not only gives them what they came to steal, she assists them in the hand off and welcomes them into her home. This book is a fairy tale, complete with a happily-ever-after ending that is trite and inconsequential....more
Without the recognizable name of Jonathan Stroud one might overlook Heroes of the Valley. The title and the cover are not especially engaging, which bWithout the recognizable name of Jonathan Stroud one might overlook Heroes of the Valley. The title and the cover are not especially engaging, which belies the story within. This is The Sagas of Icelanders written for young readers looking to escape the confines of typical hero stories, much like the main character. Halli Sveinsson belongs to the House of Svein and believes all of the legends of that great hero, which makes his life as a second son all the more mundane. Halli yearns to be a hero like Svein but doesn’t know where to begin, as the peaceful rule of law in the valley has rendered swords obsolete. In true Norse fashion, Halli occupies his time with pranks instead. When one of his pranks goes terribly awry Halli gets the chance to learn the truth behind the legends and what it means to be a hero. The ho-hum title also takes on more meaning as Halli uncovers the history behind the legends. Readers familiar with Stroud know to expect the unexpected and will still be caught off guard by the hazard Halli braves and the revelation that results!...more
I was impressed by Gaiman's American Gods, so I was curious about how he would handle a more traditional approach to Norse mythology. Odd and the FrosI was impressed by Gaiman's American Gods, so I was curious about how he would handle a more traditional approach to Norse mythology. Odd and the Frost Giants bears little resemblance to American Gods beyond inspiration and authorship, but it was an entertaining afternoon read. After I read it I passed it on to a younger reader, and he also enjoyed it. Any tale that keeps the Northern Lights burning for future generations is admirable!...more
Alcatraz Versus His Own Reputation could be an alternate title for Alcatraz Versus the Knights of Crystallia, the third book in Brandon Sanderson’s maAlcatraz Versus His Own Reputation could be an alternate title for Alcatraz Versus the Knights of Crystallia, the third book in Brandon Sanderson’s madcap series for middle grade readers. Throughout the series Alcatraz has been trying to dissuade his readers from believing he is a hero, but it really hits home when Alcatraz makes his triumphal return to Nalhalla, the Free Land of his birth. When faced with his own celebrity he finds it is a handsome devil! As U2 put it in “Stand Up Comedy”: I gotta stand up to ego but my ego’s not really the enemy/It’s like a small child crossing an eight lane highway/On a voyage of discovery. Only in this case royalty like the Smedrys eschew the highway in favor of castle-crawling dragons and Transporter’s glass!
Sanderson is a proponent of conflict on every page, and this book has it in spades. Boy versus self, man versus nature, kids versus parents, grandpa versus granny, traitors versus their own kind, and anointed one versus vast conspiracy to control the world’s access to information, of course! Comedy can be found on every page as well, my favorite being the sidenote to a sidenote about a man-eating dinosaur called the Brontësister!
This is the third of five books in the series, so naturally the choose-your-own-author raises some fundamental questions altering the core beliefs of this alternate reality. Are all librarians evil? Could Alcatraz’s evil librarian mother actually care about him? And what is the connection between the magical Smedry talents and the technological properties of sand and glass? Book four, Alcatraz Versus the Shattered Lens, should be out in October!...more