Clay is a typical almost-teenaged boy who has led an anything but typical life. His psychologist parents were completely overbearing with his older brClay is a typical almost-teenaged boy who has led an anything but typical life. His psychologist parents were completely overbearing with his older brother Max-Ernest (they couldn’t agree on a name, so they gave him both). Twelve years down the road when Clay is born, regretful of their mistakes with Max-Ernest, Clay’s parents resort to hands-off parenting. This essentially means that Clay is raised first by Max-Ernest who teaches him magic, and later, after Max-Ernest disappears, by himself.
Clay is changed by Max-Ernest’s sudden vanishing act — he stops reading for pleasure and stops practicing magic. Two years later, his life revolves around skateboarding and graffiti art (though he’s never defaced any walls besides those in his bedroom). When Clay’s teacher asks the class to write an in-class essay on the role of magic in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Clay freezes up. Magic is altogether too real to him, and tortured by conflicted emotions surrounding his brother’s disappearance, he just can’t put pen to paper. His teacher gives him a journal used in their stage production of the play and promises Clay credit if he’ll just write in it — anything! Angry and hurt, Clay takes the journal home, scrawls “Magic Sucks!”. The next day at school, Clay’s graffiti-style drawing appears on the exterior wall of the classroom, tagged with his signature, just as it appeared in the journal. Never mind that he didn’t actually do it — Clay is busted!
The school and Clay’s parents insist on consequences. If Clay wants to return for seventh grade in the fall, he has no choice but to toe the line, which means attending a summer camp for juvenile delinquents. So Clay boards a beat-up old seaplane that takes him to Earth Ranch on Price Island. And that’s where the adventure begins!
Our narrator is one of those third person omniscient types. And just in case you forget, he’ll remind you how much he knows through funny editorializing and footnotes. These can be a touch intrusive at times, but if you stick with it, you’ll be rewarded with some trivia about bananas and such (Trust me on this one!). Since our story takes place on an island, the narrator makes reference to other island tales of television and literature like Gilligan’s Island, Fantasy Island, Robinson Crusoe, Treasure Island, and most notably, The Tempest. Kids need not have read Shakespeare or watched 70s TV to understand the references since the narrator will tell them all they need to know. But maybe they might want to read (or see) The Tempest.
Bad Magic isn’t a character study; it’s a bizarre, off-the-wall adventure story with bits of mystery and magic thrown in. From square one on the island, things are not what they appear, and what they appear to be is sometimes very surreal — Spanish-speaking llamas named Como Se Llama inhabit the island, along with some very intelligent guard bees. Kids will definitely remain engaged as there are many twists and turns that keep you guessing about what’s really at work behind Earth Ranch. And in case the mystery alone isn’t enough, there’s a pretty killer action sequence involving an active volcano! Stealthy author Pseudonymous Bosch himself proves to be a master magician, using enough sleight of hand and misdirection along the way that when he finally shows his cards for the big finish, it comes as a surprise. One welcome enough to motivate you to read the next in the series!
Verdict: 4 of 5 hearts. Bizarre Summer Camp Island Adventure. In Bad Magic, Pseudonymous Bosch has pulled an inventive tale of mystery and magic out of his hat. Kids should have no trouble following it through to its unexpected conclusion and getting on board with this new series.
*This review was originally published on my blog, ReadLove.
*Disclosure of Material Connection: I would like to thank Little, Brown Books for Young Readers and NetGalley for allowing me access to the title. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”...more
It’s tough being twelve. And when you add things like duty and legacies to the equation, it’s even tougherOriginally published on my blog, ReadLove.
It’s tough being twelve. And when you add things like duty and legacies to the equation, it’s even tougher.
Karn Korlundr’s father talks of nothing but responsibility. As firstborn son, Karn’s next in line to be hauld and inherit the family farm. Though this is a position of rank in Norrøngard, Karn sees no honor in it. He has different dreams — his sights are set on seeing the world. He’d much rather hone his skill at the traditional board game Thrones and Bones than study farming and trading.
Family heritage also casts an uncomfortable shadow for Thianna. Her father is a giant, but her mother was human, so at only seven feet, Thianna cuts a puny figure for a frost giant. And bully Thrudgelmir never lets her forget it. His incessant mocking leaves Thianna ashamed of her differences and convinced that she’ll never measure up.
An annual trade gathering brings Karn and Thianna together. And when individual dangers have them each on the run, they cross paths and unite in a struggle for survival.
Too frequently in a book, you grow weary of exposition as you wait for the adventure to begin. Not so with Frostborn. Anders quickly develops interest and sympathy for his players, and it’s enjoyable to simply watch them in their everyday lives. Readers will relish the chance to explore Anders’ compelling world alongside Karn and Thianna. As future installments promise to expand the territorial map, fans of series like Ranger’s Apprentice should be eager to follow this adventure and watch the world grow.
There are worthy villains here: a mysterious stranger, a treacherous uncle akin to The Lion King‘s Scar or Hamlet‘s Claudius, two-headed trolls, and ghostly warriors. If that’s not enticing enough, there are also dragons, or “wyverns”. The story benefits from perfect pacing. Anders handily manages alternating narrative viewpoints, jumping from one hero to the other in the same chapter before the two finally merge.
Have I mentioned how fond I am of these characters? It’s a pleasure to watch Karn and Thianna interact. I’ve not found a young heroine as endearing as Thianna in some time. Since when have we seen a girl beam with pride when someone remarks how large she is! Karn’s fittingly awkward around Thianna, and there’s a lot of banter and silliness derived from the size differential between the two. Though our protagonists begin the tale as lovable little misfits (well, maybe Thianna’s not so little), they find they are made of stronger stuff than they once believed.
Verdict 4.5 of 5 hearts. A Delightful Fantasy That Will Entertain and Inspire.
Frostborn lies in a literary sweet spot — the gap between middle grade and young adult. Within its pages, kids aged 10 to 14 will find a perfect introduction to the fantasy/adventure genre, one with just the right mix of humor, suspense, and adventure. Lou Anders’ Norse-influenced work couldn’t be released at a better time. The popularity of Disney’s Frozen should make picking up this book feel natural!
*Disclosure of Material Connection: I would like to thank Random House Children’s Books and NetGalley for allowing me access to the title. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”...more
Multi-platform series are a funny animal. They always look appealing with flashy covers that entice and prOriginally published on my blog, ReadLove.
Multi-platform series are a funny animal. They always look appealing with flashy covers that entice and premises that promise all kinds of fun. The hype is always there. This time, with big names in fantasy and Kids/YA fiction tag-teaming the writing on the titles, and Brandon Mull of Fablehaven fame kicking the series off, the build-up was REALLY big.
Is the premise well-executed? Does the series deliver? I don’t know. I do know that I was underwhelmed.
I’m not saying Wild Born is a bad book. I was able to enjoy the reading experience without a hitch. It just didn’t thrill me. Ultimately, the story is limited in part, by its common trope as well as its shorter length and the segmented series framework. But this first volume neither goes in unexpected places nor feels satisfying. You’ll finish wishing there had been more story. And since this kind of thing is a marketer’s dream, that’s sort of the point. Kids will be motivated to grab another volume or get online to play the game and continue their adventures in this magical realm. So, in case the story isn’t incentive enough, perhaps earning another game code with the purchase of another book may be.
Again, don’t let me deter you. I still harbor hope. Despite sufficient time to flesh out the characters, I appreciate the fact that seeds have been planted for some ambiguities and complexities. Though four kids are recruited by The Greencloaks, not all are immediately keen on joining the order or sold on their motives and mission. Although the characters are not yet explored with a great deal of depth, Meilin, Conor, Rollan, and Abeke are carefully delineated from one another with unique backgrounds, experiences, and personalities. With two heroes and two heroines, and a motley crew of spirit animal companions, boys and girls alike are sure to find someone — human or beast — with whom to align.
Since this is volume one, it’s to be expected that some set up has to take place before the action begins. So it does take a little time for the real action sequences and adventure to start. But when they arrive, resolutions comes a bit too quickly and easily. Still, I fault the format for these kinds of problems and have decided to withhold final judgment until I can read further volumes. Could be that Brandon Mull laid the groundwork for subsequent authors and stories to take flight.
Verdict 3.5 of 5 hearts. A Promising Premise As Yet Incomplete in Execution.
Though I ultimately found Wild Born disappointing, young readers are bound to enjoy this start to a tale which points to an impending grand-scale struggle, with far-reaching consequences, between good and evil. Who doesn’t want to save the world?...more
Bestselling author David Baldacci is the newest comer to the fiction for young folks party. Not having read hisOriginally posted on my blog, ReadLove
Bestselling author David Baldacci is the newest comer to the fiction for young folks party. Not having read his works for adults, I came to The Finisher without expectation, beyond the usual trepidation I reserve for popular writers venturing into the Kids/YA market.
My reading experience started with the thrill of having won a copy of the book from a This is Teen giveaway. With a beautiful new hardback in my hands, I was primed and ready for excitement.
Did Baldacci deliver? Yes, and no, and yes….
Let me explain. (The following contains slight spoilers. Be warned!)
First things first: The Finisher is not for reluctant readers. There are some issues with pacing and editing that require patience and persistence. While Baldacci grabbed my attention immediately by thrusting Vega Jane into mystery, danger, and suspense, I was initially frustrated by what I considered random digressions and distractions. The plot would move along, until suddenly, in what felt like detours, the author threw random beasts and creatures in Vega’s path. I grew restless and testy waiting for Vega to leave Wormwood and venture into the Quag. If you read this waiting for that to happen, you’ll be disappointed. Because that’s book two.
Back to book one….
Just past the midway point, I was bogged down in what was beginning to feel like a bloated novel of seemingly disparate elements, all popular trends for young audiences — magical objects, fantastical beasts, a manipulative governing body (Council), and tournament fighting (the Duelem). Things just weren’t meshing. I was afraid the book would end up less than the sum of its parts. One of my greatest quibbles surrounded the fantastic. When magic was introduced, it felt random and unexplained. Without grounding in logic or a set of rules and explanations, it was difficult for me to suspend disbelief and buy into this reality.
Having now finished the book, I can breathe a sigh of relief and say that part of the fault for the bumpy ride was mine. For once I threw all expectations and judgment out the window, and sat down to give the book a good chunk of my time, I began to finally take pleasure in the reading. While my questions still remain, they have quieted. For instance, after further thought, I have decided that it wouldn’t have made much sense for Vega to go into the Quag without first beginning to uncover the truth about Wormwood. We need a context for her to leave behind.
After my love/hate tug of war, I was happy to discover that I wanted to learn what would happen in the sequel. If the measure of a series’ success is in engaging and keeping readership, Baldacci has succeeded. He’s made me anxious to read the next installment. And, going into book two, equipped with all the knowledge and experience Vega has gained, readers will presumably have enough familiarity with Vega’s world that Baldacci should be able to hit the ground running and focus on the story without detours. This could make for a very good volume two.
In the end, Baldacci’s biggest win is his heroine, Vega Jane. Though the novel could have benefited from an editorial diet, the author manages to use the many pages, even the seemingly disjointed episodes, to affect character development and growth. He has crafted a brave, determined young woman for whom readers will develop a real affection. And with a movie deal in the works, who knows, Vega Jane, like Katniss Everdeen, could become a household name.
3.5 of 5 stars. The Finisher weaves together elements of adventure, fantasy, magic, and mystery. Not for reluctant readers, the novel will require patience and persistence. Though a bit uneven due to pacing and editing issues, readers who stick with it will not only be rewarded with a likeable, kick-butt heroine, they’ll await the next volume in hopeful anticipation.
*Disclosure of Material Connection: I would like to thank Scholastic’s This is Teen for their book giveaway contest in which I was awarded a copy of the book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”...more
The Quantum League: Spell Robbers is my first experience with Edgar Award-winning author Matthew J. Kirby, and I was not disappointed. While the plotThe Quantum League: Spell Robbers is my first experience with Edgar Award-winning author Matthew J. Kirby, and I was not disappointed. While the plot is not super unique at first glance, Kirby executes wonderfully. Readers’ imaginations will be sparked as they watch Ben learn how to “actuate,” or use his thoughts to create things like rain clouds and fireballs. And as Kirby tells the tale, he creates a nice comfortable routine for Ben before bringing a sudden surprise that will bring you to the edge of your seat, and he’ll keep your attention until the conclusion.
There are a couple of things I particularly enjoyed about the book. First, Ben’s character and several others’ are surprisingly well-drawn for a middle-grade action story. In this type of book, it’s common to let the plot do all the talking, but here the larger storyline is shaped by character development. The emotional impact lends more interest. Secondly, there is moral ambiguity. This is not your stock good guys vs. bad guys story. Ben wrestles with deciding whom to trust and it seems no one comes out entirely clean. Finally, Ben is motivated by his love for his mother and his desire to reunite with her, despite the “detachment” that the so-called good guys perform to wipe him from her memory. There is sadness and complexity in Ben’s story (and in the stories of others). And these somber notes inspire the reader to root for him; it’s not just bravery but heart that makes Ben heroic. Beyond caring about his mother, he’s also a compassionate friend.
Though the conclusion sets up the next installment, you won’t feel like you’re dangling from a cliff when you finish. But you will be excited about continuing the story to find out what happens next! I know I am!...more
Sally Green’s debut novel Half Bad seems poised to be one of the most talked about YA books of the year. Unbeknownst to me when I signed up with PenguSally Green’s debut novel Half Bad seems poised to be one of the most talked about YA books of the year. Unbeknownst to me when I signed up with Penguin’s First to Read program for early access to the book, Half Bad is its own media machine. Green, a latecomer to writing, is being compared to J.K. Rowling. The novel is slated for publication in myriad languages worldwide, and has been optioned for a film by Fox 2000, who won the rights in a heated bidding war. Karen Rosenfelt, producer of Twilight and The Book Thief, will take the helm.
For Half Bad, Ms. Green has created a remarkable opening sequence that pulls you inextricably into its clutches. The early part of the novel is suitably disorienting — you’ll be a little perplexed as to what exactly is happening and how the protagonist, Nathan, came to be in his situation. But you’ll find the tale positively riveting. This world of White and Black witches feels so much its own habitation, its own time and place, that when a reference to a pair of red Nikes was made, I was surprised to find it was actually a modern, contemporary setting.
The backdrop of conflict between the two factions of witches has interesting parallels (unintended according to the author) to historical race relations. The Whites are a powerful, “pure” ruling class whose Council sets ever-changing regulations and policies called “Notifications” that make it dangerous to be of anything but pure blood. It’s deadly to be a witch of mixed birth like Nathan, part white and part black, a “half-code”. The Council’s Notifications, at times eerily reminiscent of US Census classifications of race, lend a realism to this other-worldly realm where witches live among humans or “fains”.
The story moves along nicely with few hiccups. However, this is a debut novel, and there are times when that shows. But Green largely manages to avoid common pitfalls of new writers, like plot contrivances. There was one instance where I groaned aloud because I thought, “Oh, no, she’s done it. She’s made Nathan make a careless mistake just to get him in a bind.” He did get in a spot of trouble, but luckily it wasn’t a big deal in terms of having major consequences in shaping the overall plot. Late in the novel, there is an instance you could argue is a contrivance, but I feel there’s enough justification to make it a likely occurrence.
Nathan has just enough complexity to make you want to learn more about him. Happily, Nathan’s world isn’t a simplified setting like the old cinematic Westerns where the good guys wear white hats and the bad men wear black. Through its depictions of Nathan and several other major characters, Half Bad reminds us how much Hamlet’s words (which Ms. Green quotes before beginning the narrative) ring true: “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” The inherent goodness of a person should not be measured in absolutes, for things are not always black and white. Each of us has the potential to be good or bad. We are all blends of darkness and light.
4 of 5 hearts. A Strong Debut. A suspenseful coming-of-age fantasy with elements of a heroic quest. An interesting world rooted in enough realism to make it feel all the more plausible. Dark and, at times, unflinchingly violent, but never gratuitously so. Recommended for ages 13 and up.
If you enjoyed book 1, you’ll be pleased to know that book 2, Half Wild, is coming in 2015. ...more
Enjoyed it! Likeable cast of characters in this mysterious, creatively-plotted tale. I happily kept turning the pages, becoming increasingly immersedEnjoyed it! Likeable cast of characters in this mysterious, creatively-plotted tale. I happily kept turning the pages, becoming increasingly immersed in this fictional world. And that narrative tug never let go....more
Very enjoyable. I liked the way that Riordan illustrated the difference between the Greek Gods and the Roman Gods beyond just the name variations. TheVery enjoyable. I liked the way that Riordan illustrated the difference between the Greek Gods and the Roman Gods beyond just the name variations. The new characters are likeable, especially Hazel but I did like Frank, too. Should be exciting to watch things come together as the series continues....more
Will not continue the series. Never cared enough for the characters, felt enough emotional pull, danger, etc. Just because it's a kid's book, doesn'tWill not continue the series. Never cared enough for the characters, felt enough emotional pull, danger, etc. Just because it's a kid's book, doesn't mean you wipe it clean of all feeling. ...more
I have rarely taken as long to read a book as I did with this one. I never did find a connection. The book plodded along and then suddenly all this seI have rarely taken as long to read a book as I did with this one. I never did find a connection. The book plodded along and then suddenly all this seemingly ranfom stuff happens and pieces of mysteries are uncovered, but it doesn't really mesh, Good ideas. Poor execution. Will not continue the series. Ugh....more
2.5 stars, I think. Very disappointing as I had enjoyed the earlier books. Much of the charm of Molly Moon books is the relationship between Molly and2.5 stars, I think. Very disappointing as I had enjoyed the earlier books. Much of the charm of Molly Moon books is the relationship between Molly and Rocky. By the middle of this book, Rocky was absent from the story and the plot just plodded along and got way too ridiculous. Could have used serious editing. Perhaps a younger reader would enjoy some of the silly, over-the-top weirdness, but not sure a young attention span could have stayed with it long enough to do so. The book dragged on and on, and I found myself reading faster and faster, trying to quicken the ending and put myself out of my literary misery. When the resolution finally did come, it was all too clean, quick, and easy. Just not a well-executed story all-around....more