This was a really cool story idea and a fun read. I'm a huge fan of classic horror, particularly really creepy ghost stories. While this is a...moreOverview
This was a really cool story idea and a fun read. I'm a huge fan of classic horror, particularly really creepy ghost stories. While this is a modern published book, it has a favorably classic vibe. The ghosts in this book are portrayed in the most harmful of ways. They aren't just shades who have forgotten they are dead and harmlessly roam the world of the living. Instead, they have great potential for injuring and even killing humans. As a result of the "Problem", a huge rash of ghost hauntings that no one can explain, a group of organizations have been created to confront this issue. Because children have heightened senses and abilities to perceive the ghosts, they are used to do most of this dangerous work, under the supervision of adults.
Antony Lockwood has decided to cut out the middleman. He started an agency of his own, with no adult supervision. His one partner is George, but he interviews and takes on Lucy as an assistant. Lucy has a troubled past work experience in the north, where most of her crew were killed in a haunting that turned out to be worse than it seems. She decided to take off on her own and ends up in London to find a place with the big ghost-hunting agencies. She has gone from agency to agency, rejected as an employee, but finds a home with Lockwood and Co.
Each child has distinctive abilities. Lucy is able to hear the dead, and she also can touch things and feel the emotions of the person who owned the object. Lockwood can see death glows (where people were violently killed) and has very keen eyesight for spectral information. George is a superb researcher. Together, they make quite a team. However, the government agency who oversees hauntings has it in for them, because they don't like the idea of children going off on their own dealing with ghosts.
Lucy forms a strange connection to the spirit of a murdered girl (a fifty-year-old unsolved murder case) in a local house. They barely escape her vengeful ghost alive, but the house is burned as a result. The resulting fine and bill from the owners could put them out of business. When a wealthy industrialist hires them to investigate his very dangerous haunted mansion, they can't say no. Even if the whole situation seems mighty fishy.
I listened to the audiobook, narrated by British actress Miranda Raison (she was on MI-5), and her voice was excellent. She has good pitch, and is talented at modifying her voice for both male and female voices. Also, able to convey anger, menace, age, pomposity, and humor by varying her voice. Each character sounds different. I would recommend listening to this, because it feels even more eerie in the audio form.
The writing is very good. I am a big fan of juvenile/middle grade stories because they are imaginative and are designed to keep a readers interest (young readers tend to have a shorter attention span). I especially like the ones that demand the attention of the reader, and stimulate their curiosity and intellect. Such is the case with this book. Stroud had taken the tried and true subject of ghosts, and given it a unique spin. I love the fact that he has created plenty of fictional references from the leading ghost hunters of the original time of the inception of Ghost Hunting. The kids consult these books and apply the crucial knowledge gained to do their work and keep themselves alive. Not only does Stroud add layers to the concept of hauntings, he gives it his own spin, with the idea of things like 'ghost-touched' and "death-glow". I also like how he elaborates on the various accoutrements of ghost-hunting and protection against ghosts.
The tension is very well done. The encounters with ghosts build in such a way to keep the reader on the edge of her seat. Each encounter is progressively more scary, and the trio's experiences in the haunted manor is not something you'd want to read before bedtime. It's kind of freaky and disturbing to think that children are put in these dangerous situations, while adults sit by on the sidelines and stay safe! But the kids are best equipped to see the ghosts, so they can act quicker and more decisively in hauntings.
I definitely recommend "The Screaming Staircase" to fans of ghosts literature of all ages. I think this book is intelligent enough to satisfy both an older and younger reader, and as I said earlier, it has a nice old school ghost story vibe that would make the Patriarch of the genre, MR James proud.
I picked this up because it was recommended to readers who enjoyed A Tale Dark & Grimm on Amazon. I loved the humor and the quirky twist on the fa...moreI picked this up because it was recommended to readers who enjoyed A Tale Dark & Grimm on Amazon. I loved the humor and the quirky twist on the fairy tale of Hansel and Gretel in A Tale Dark and Grimm, and I just plain love fairy tales, so I am looking for innovative, interesting retellings of these classic stories. I'm glad my library had this on audio. It was a fun and quick read, about 3 hours (It took me longer because I listened in spurts).
Initially, I was very drawn in. The characters of Sol and Connie are captivating, their story was somewhat poignant. I definitely felt for these kids. If you're familiar with Hansel and Gretel, you can get a head start on the storyline, although McGowan throws in some novel touches that were fun. I won't say which, because that's the fun of reading it. Sol is a young genius and inventor who gets a huge blow to his confidence that he has to work through. His mischievous, free-sprited, and intuitive sister Connie carries a burden of guilt related to Sol's greatest failure. This is a pivotal element of this story, and the author does carry it through successfully to the end. The story shows what the child-eating witch is up to in the modern age, and she's definitely streamlined her operation.
The child-eating witch is truly heinous. What makes it even more harrowing is that people actually volunteer their kids to be eaten because of the manifold failings of those kids! Definitely folks who shouldn't have reproduced! It's humorous, but on one level it's really kind of disturbing that parents would set their children up to be eaten by a witch just because they misbehave or fail to live up to certain standards. I think that they are even worse than the witch, honestly.
This is one of those books that won't appeal if you don't like a dark and kind of twisted sense of humor. Let me just say that here and now. But I think readers who like the Hansel and Gretel story won't find anything here that countermands the original story. Instead, this is just a modern update with more humor.
If there was anything I was underwhelmed with, it was the use of the secondary character who happened to be a witch as well, but she's a good witch. I understand why she couldn't help the kids very much, but I still feel she was underutilized in the story. I also wished there was some sort of confrontation between her and the evil witch. Also, I feel the ending was too abrupt. I know this is supposed to be a short book, but I wasn't fully satisfied with the ending. I definitely wanted more story and more closure.
Overall, this was pretty good. It's hard to rate it higher or to perform a very intensive analysis, because it's very short. I am glad this was recommended to me because I liked A Tale Dark and Grimm. However, it doesn't live up to the excellence of that book, and that's one caveat I would give any reader who is investigating humorous, middle grade/juvenile fairy tale retellings.
As far as suitability for young readers, I think it's fine for kids who are 8-12 (or older readers who like J/MG fiction). However, this would be too scary for a younger reader. Not that much is described, but the idea of a witch eating bad kids or even worse, their parents giving them away to the witch, is pretty disturbing, even for a much older reader like myself.
If you are able to get this on audiobook, I recommend it. I liked the narrator.
This isn't horror, but has a sort of a Victorian Gothic feel. For a middle grade novel, it has kind of a dark, almost pessimistic tone. That is not to...moreThis isn't horror, but has a sort of a Victorian Gothic feel. For a middle grade novel, it has kind of a dark, almost pessimistic tone. That is not to say that good has no chance of winning out in this book, but it has some unfortunately true insights on human nature that are far from uplifting. But what I did like about it was that the ability to choose for yourself the decisions you make, even though people like the main villain thrive on manipulating peoples' weaknesses. In the end, we can make the decision not to do wrong, even if it's harder on us in the end. At the same time, we see the effects of growing up in harsh circumstances, with parents who are cruel and amoral. How can you get an idea of right and wrong under those circumstances? Some might argue that you don't, but as Ludlow shows, most of us, except for true sociopaths, are born with a conscience, or what CS Lewis call natural law. Even if it was easier to do the wrong thing, Ludlow was troubled by his actions, as many are in the small township of Pagus Parvus, which makes Joe Zabbidou's work as the Secret Pawnbroker so much more important.
Atmosphere is crucial, and the author sets it very well in this novel. Although I initially wondered where the sinister and horrific elements would be revisited after the very chilling beginning, when I realized it wasn't that kind of book, I settled in and enjoyed it for what it was. A story about human nature and the good and the bad inherent in our humanity. Even with a lousy human being like Jeremiah Ratchet, it's clear that he still has the same basic needs, although his soul seems corrupted by avarice and selfishness. But does that mean someone should take away his ability to make the choice to do right? Ludlow watches this dilemma take place as the townspeople in Pagus Parvus look to Joe as the divine avenger when that is not his role at all. Instead he urges them to be patient and let justice do its work in the end. Anyone will agree that is not a comfortable process, as justice sometimes seems very slow to come in many circumstances.
This is an interesting book. A quick read that keeps you thinking. I wonder how a younger reader would see it, and if the lessons inherent in this book will have the same exact impact on that reader as it has on a reader of my age, who has seen a lot more of humanity in its varied humanness. In the end, The Black Book of Secrets is a thoughtful read for younger readers, that will make an older reader have something to ponder as well.
I first became acquainted with Sarwat Chadda when I read Devil's Kiss, and I knew he was an author I wanted to follow. Chadda has switched gears sligh...moreI first became acquainted with Sarwat Chadda when I read Devil's Kiss, and I knew he was an author I wanted to follow. Chadda has switched gears slightly, writing for the MG/Juvenile group with this series, and with a male lead. He has also set his book in India, I believe that he was drawing in some degree from his own heritage. With The Savage Fortress, Mr. Chadda has written an involving read quite full of darkness and danger, and incredible heroism at its center.
Ash Mistry is an English boy of Indian descent. He gains the opportunity to explore the land of his parents' birth when he goes to stay with his aunt and uncle in India. Ash doesn't care much for India, despite his romantic hopes. It's hot, dirty, and basic in amenities. He'd rather be at home in England, with his videogames and his friends. I could identify with Ash in that I hate being hot and dirty, and the descriptions of India in that sense make me question whether I would enjoy my first experience with it any better than Ash does. However, Ash finds his destiny and comes to life in a way that staying in England never would have provided.
When his uncle gets the opportunity to translate a scroll for the very rich Englishman, Lord Alexander Savage, Ash encounters evils right out of Indian legend and folklore. For Lord Savage is a wicked magician cursed with immortality in a decaying body, and surrounded by blood-thirsty rakshasa creatures (rakshasa is a general term for demons who can have a variety of animal/human forms). Ash begs his uncle to have nothing to do with the man and his dark enterprises, but his uncle doesn't believe him. Ash falls in a deep hole at an archeology site funded by Lord Savage, and pricks his finger on an ancient arrow that connects him to the power of an ancient god, whose power belongs to the wielder of the arrow, which is called an astra.
Things go downhill from here and tragedy results in Ash and his young sister Lucky being on the run for their lives. An ancient holy man and his strange companion intervene, and guide Ash closer to his destiny as the wielder of the astra, and the only person who can stand in the way of Lord Savage's wicked intentions.
Mr. Chadda is definitely in touch with the child part of himself. He understands that kids want adventure and wonder, but don't always have awareness of what comes along with that fun parts. Ash is like a stand-in for the thirteen-year-old self of older readers, or the young readers who read this book. It's a case of "Be careful what you wish for." We can't even know how dark our world is until we face it head on. Ash encounters things that made my hair stand on end. And the author is almost gleeful in describing the gore and violence. Not too much for a MG book, although I think the age restriction should be 13 or older, honestly. I could see this book causing nightmares to a younger reader. I was hesitant to read it late at night, just in case.
There is no lack of adventure and danger, and Ash's character undergoes desired and necessary growth in character. At the end of his harrowing experience, he is not unchanged. He realizes that we are accountable for our actions and we do have responsibilities in our lives to do what's right even if it's hard. While some readers might not be as accepting of the polytheistic elements of this story, I think this content can still be enjoyed as a fiction work, and I would recommend that parents investigate this book before letting their younger children read it. Even though I don't subscribe to the Hindu beliefs, I do think there are some good lessons to be learned about accountability and personal ethics. As a lover of folklore and mythology, I thought the world-building was fascinating, and Chadda describes India vividly. I felt as though I was there. He shows a lot of textures in the different peoples in this book, and I think it's good for readers to be exposed to multicultural characters and the diversity of our big, wide world.
Bruce Mann is an excellent narrator. He utilizes a variety of tones and accents that fit this book very well. I especially liked how he speaks Ash's part. Ash has a very distinctive way of speaking and he comes to life for me. I liked the kid a lot. I'm glad my library had this in audio, even if took me ages to finish listening to it (not out of boredom, just time issues).
I'd recommend The Savage Fortress to 13 or older children (with parental approval) and older readers who enjoy MG/Juvenile fiction with folklore. I'm looking forward to more of Ash's adventures.(less)
Reading Catherynne M. Valente is a unique experience. Her writing is full of magic and imagination. It doesn't always make 'sense', but it feels right...moreReading Catherynne M. Valente is a unique experience. Her writing is full of magic and imagination. It doesn't always make 'sense', but it feels right. The child in me who never grew up, who loves fairy tales, lands of magic, mythical creatures, and folklore, ate up this story like the most scrumptious dessert. I listened to this on audio, and at first, I wasn't sure how well it would work. There are a lot of concepts, and they don't tie together in a straightforward fashion at first glance. If other readers are like me, I'd encourage you not to give up on it if it doesn't catch you right away on first listen. Initially, I felt that Ms. Valente didn't quite feel comfortable reading her story. However, that changed, and she seemed to get into the flow of it, using different voices, timbres, and cadences for the various characters. I could feel how much she loved this story she had written, and the characters within.
This novel is one that both kids and grown-ups with a love of fantasy and make-believe tales would love. It's a story of a young girl who is very, very brave, strong-minded, determined, but with a very big heart for a kid (who are considered to be mostly heartless, according to the narrator). She goes to Fairyland on a romp, to escape the reality of a mother who works all the time and a father who was shipped off to war. Feeling alone and too different from the other kids she went to school with, she longs for adventure and a place where normal isn't the ideal. That's when she gets swept off to Fairyland and becomes a champion for this place of magic. And we are along for the journey.
At times, I got a bit confused with the narrative, because it's not exactly a linear story. Fairyland isn't a place that always makes sense, and that could make for strange listening when I was focused on driving or getting where I was going. If the reader embraces that this isn't that kind of novel, it makes for a very satisfying reading experience. Just immersing oneself in this marvelous world where anything is possible is gratifying.
This book is suitable for a young audience, but there are elements that feel pretty sophisticated, if one is older and catches the subtext. Some younger readers might not get all those references, but that's okay. I think it's fine for them to grasp an understanding of the story at their own level. There is some violence and dark subject matter, but the message of self-sacrifice, determination, friendship, and love are very good elements for kids to experience.
At one point, I thought I'd have to take off half a star because of getting lost and things slowing down a bit, but the overall beauty and power of this story requires a five star rating for me. I definitely recommend this book to readers who enjoy mythopoeic/folklore-rich fantasy novels, young and older.(less)
I loved this book. It was so rich and intricate, a whole new world. I adore Rossamund. I just wanted to hug him the whole book. I loved his relationsh...moreI loved this book. It was so rich and intricate, a whole new world. I adore Rossamund. I just wanted to hug him the whole book. I loved his relationship with Europe, how she called him "little man", and was tough on him at times, but you could tell how much she loved him. I loved the deft manner in which Cornish examines the ethics of the man versus monster conflict, which intimately involves both Rossamund and Europe.
This is a book not to be missed by fantasy lovers. Highly recommended, but start with Foundling.
I have to be honest. At first I was having a serious 'really?' moment as I started listening. The 'really?' was because this is a three-time Newberry...moreI have to be honest. At first I was having a serious 'really?' moment as I started listening. The 'really?' was because this is a three-time Newberry Award winner, and I thought the prose was way too repetitive. The same word would be repeated three times. The same sentences twice. I was steeling myself to keep listening and hope it got better. It did. By the end of this novel, I totally realized why it is a Newberry Award winner.
Hatchet is a story of survival. The protagonist is a thirteen-year-old city boy who ends up stranded in the Canadian wilderness when the pilot of the small plane he's flying in has a heart attack and dies. I have to tell you, I am very impressed with this kid. I think I would have freaked like nobody's business. He does freak out at first (and I don't blame him), but ultimately shows a fortitude that inspires awe in this reader. He goes from a scared, helpless boy to a survivor. The Brian that was has to be broken down and reassembled into a Brian that can survive his new reality. He learns how to meet his needs in the harsh wilderness, and he comes out of it forever changed.
I love reading books/watching tv shows and movies about surviving. I don't know why, really. I don't even go camping or hiking, although I love the outdoors. I think it's because I love the idea of a person being resourceful and pitting their skills and mentality against the unprejudiced, often unsympathetic wild. Not conquering it, but learning to live in harmony, becoming a part of a vast ecosystem in a way that we can't do stuck in our comfortable city and surburban environs, another entity in the web of life. I would definitely recommend this book if you are of a similar mind.
I liked that Brian doesn't get it too easy. Not at all. He has to learn from his mistakes, and take the advantages that providence sends his way. He learns to keep food in his belly, to make a secure shelter, and to appreciate and anticipate the dangers of his environment. And in the process, he finds peace. He looks inside and finds his true self. That's what solitude and a oneness with nature will bring. I have always felt my most at peace in two places: in a spirit-filled church or by myself and with my heart open in prayer; and outside, surrounded by nature. So I really appreciated this aspect of the book. Brian starts out a boy who is emotionally lost at sea when his father and mother divorce, weighted down with the knowledge of his mother's infidelity; and finds that what seemed like tragedy and the end of his world will not conquer him. If he can survive the harsh elements of nature, all by himself, he can live with his family's fragmentation, and live to see the next day and the days after that.
I think this book is a metaphor for life. Life is harsh and we have to grow and change to survive it. We can't give up, descend into pity, and expect to be saved. We have to be strong and fight to save ourselves, whether it's physically, mentally, or emotionally.
Although this book had a very shaky start, I do have to agree that this is a winner. And I tell you what, this young man had a lot of lessons to teach me, lessons he learns the hard way. That's the power of a good fiction novel for me.(less)
I wanted to like this more than I did for a few reasons. I loved the author's Chronus Chronicles series, and I am absolutely crazy about the fairy tal...moreI wanted to like this more than I did for a few reasons. I loved the author's Chronus Chronicles series, and I am absolutely crazy about the fairy tale, "The Snow Queen." Another wonderful aspect of this novel is that the main character, Hazel, is a young girl who is Indian in ethnicity (from the country), although adopted by a white, American couple. I think that Ursu has something powerful to say about being 'other' in a society that is primarily of a certain race/culture. How that can impact a young person, and the wounds it causes that person as they walk through a world where they feel alien.
I also enjoyed the deep friendship that Hazel has with Jack. However, I felt that this aspect of the novel, which is probably the crucial element, fell short. Hazel is almost obsessed with Jack. He's like an anchor to her in a stormy sea that her world has become since her parents' divorce. While I don't mind that she is bonded to Jack, I never felt that Jack was as bonded to Hazel as she was to him, which bothered me. Understanding the fairy tale source helps to appreciate the rift that forms between them, but as it was written, it's not enough. We are given breadcrumbs (if you'll forgive the unintentional pun) to suggest that Jack's issues are also about his mother's bout with depression, but while I can see that Hazel and Jack spend so much time together, I could have used more of his viewpoint on how important his relationship to Hazel was to him. Clearly she was the right person to save him, but more depth on his point of view would have been great.
Ursu made the choice of ending this novel with some questions left in the air. I can't fault her on that, but it did leave me dissatisfied about some situations that weren't addressed, both in the winter woodland and in the lives of both Hazel and Jack. Despite that, I do have the conviction that things will work out for Hazel and Jack. Even though the problems in their families might not be resolved, we know they have each other to get through those times. Also, knowing that Hazel has found more connections in her life other than her mother (and absentee father) and Jack. She needs those. She also needs to know she is fine as she is. She needed that validation, especially with they way her father failed her. One scene I was so glad that Ursu included, her mother telling her that she was perfect and didn't need to change was very important. Kids need to hear from their parents that they are approved of and loved despite any perceived short-comings.
As far as "The Snow Queen" retelling, it was well-done, and I liked the manner in which Ursu personalized it to Hazel and Jack's story. I felt that the White Queen's menace and authority was slightly undermined by the resolution. I would have loved more descriptive imagery of her Ice Palace. I liked how Ursu creates a world of magic that intersects with the 'real world' in that children travel to this other place to escape from their disappointing lives on the real side of the woods. I hurt for the children who suffer from the cruel effects of selfish magic that the woods bring out in adults and the creatures who live in the woods.
Ursu's writing is good. She drew me into Hazel's story and I felt for this wonderful little girl. It broke my heart to see her feeling so disconnected and flawed. No child should feel that way. I am all for color-blind adoptions, but I feel that her parents should have worked harder to make sure Hazel wasn't alienated by the fact that her ethnicity was distinctive from her parents and many of her peers. I loved the fact that Ursu does address this so poignantly, but she doesn't offer a lot of solutions for the issues Hazel felt.
Overall, I think my biggest issues with this novel were the lack of resolution on those crucial issues and the fact that I think some really important aspects of the story (outside of Hazel and Jack's bond) weren't dealt with in the depth I wanted. I know this is a book for younger readers, but the maturity of the writing makes me want more from the author as far as an emotional resonance and completion about the familial issues faced by Hazel and Jack.
I would be curious to see what a younger reader thinks of this book. If they grasp the deeper, melancholy aspects of this novel. I feel that its melancholy and darker elements hit the right note for a mature reader, but might be lost on a younger reader. Although the ending is hopeful, I can't help feeling a lingering sadness now that I have finished it.
What if the only way to save your planet from certain annihilation is to ruthlessly manipulate a young...more**spoiler alert** Do the ends justify the means?
What if the only way to save your planet from certain annihilation is to ruthlessly manipulate a young child into becoming a solder who is skilled enough to destroy billions of your enemy, to make him into a killer?
With Ender's Game, the reader gets to ponder this question. I had many thoughts as I read this story. I didn't always understand what was going on. Like Ender, I questioned where the game ended and reality began. Children in the environment of this book don't get to be kids for long at all, especially when they are genius children. Instead, they become soldiers, training day in and day out to be the best, to win, to conquer their enemies. All for the purpose of defeating the alien race that Earth views as a deadly enemy (called Buggers) in the coming war. I questioned how a six-year-old kid could even grasp this. Even a genius child. As I read, I questioned the ruthlessness of adults who would put a child through these experiences. It takes a certain personality, a particular mindset to able to justify one's actions. It's hard not to judge, but then, I'm not in the same situation. And I was grateful for that.
I just wanted Ender to have some peace and be able to just be a child. I cheered for him to find his way past the many mazes he was manipulated through. I didn't ever lose faith in him, because he had proven himself worthy of my faith. Even though I wondered what was the whole point of everything, I didn't stop believing in Ender. I was glad that Ender managed to find that light that kept him moving forward. Sometimes it was in the form of his beloved sister, Valentine, and other times, it was his fellow students, and sometimes it was the determination not to let them see him sweat. Whatever it was, this kid didn't break. I liked that about the book.
Some things didn't sit well with me as I read. I couldn't always visualize the game setup at Battle School as clearly as I would have liked. Instead of letting this throw me out of the read, I just managed to fill in the blanks around my lack of understanding and keep reading. Maybe Card meant it that way, but it was interesting how warfare became an experience that felt more like playing a video game than a face to face meeting of enemies. I wondered where that was going, but I soon found out, and I was like, "Are you serious?" I don't care much for mind games and boy was there some serious mind-screwing going on in this book. Perhaps his point was that as technology advances, warfare becomes more and more dehumanized, and it takes away the immediacy of the moral questions of taking a life, and using soldiers like pawns on a board to do so. As above expressed, the ruthless treatment of children and its effects hit me hard. They did not make for easy reading for me. On one level, I understand that a lot of psychology goes into training soldiers, and I know that some of it is necessary. I just wonder where the line gets drawn. The aspects of Peter and Valentine's political experiment left me a bit cold. I wasn't sure what Card was trying to get across here. Is the political arena just a big elaborate game in and of itself, a game that has the potential to have very disastrous and wide-reaching effects? Or was he trying to say that age is just a number? Kids aren't really kids, depending on the society and the situation that the child inhabits. Still not sure about either of those conclusions I drew. As close as I can get, anyway. Lastly, the ending got a bit strange. While I appreciated the aspects about Ender gaining an appreciation for the mind (the human-like aspects) of the Bugger civilizations, things got a bit weird and abstract when Ender's empathy with the Buggers became a philosophy that turned into a religion. It felt disconnected from the story to me, and added to a certain lack of satisfaction I felt overall. I appreciate the fact that he examined how war, differing philosophies, external differences, what have you, can separate entities in a way that if we strip down all the differences, there is a lot more alike than we think.
Ender's Game is a well-written work of science fiction that has a lot to say about subjects that can make for hairy discussion. Subjects that I tend to avoid discussing with a ten-foot pole. War is as old as mankind. Literature is a good sounding board to explore those questions of war and humanity. Overall, I think that this novel does a good job of staying in the story and not just acting as a soundboard for the author's opinion. I am sure that others may disagree. For myself, I didn't necessarily feel that it was a preachy work. If it was, I think both sides of the questions were adequately presented in such a manner as for me to feel that this was a book with a story that had some themes that could get a reader thinking. Not mere propaganda for espousing one person's beliefs.
I liked this book a lot, but I felt the ending took it down from a five star rating for me. Also, my sense of disconnection at not quite getting some of the gaming aspects. I'm sure that others better versed in gaming or military strategy, or better read in science fiction might have visualized and understood those elements better than this reader. For what it was, this was a good book, and I can say that I gained a lot from reading it. I still have some philosophical questions running through my head now, and I feel that I have yet to make up my mind about those things, as there are always two sides to every story. So for me, that's a good experience, getting a good story and something to think about in the end.(less)
I loved, loved, loved this book! This is the kind of book that I wish I could find more of. I think it was a wonderful fix of humor, horror, suspense,...moreI loved, loved, loved this book! This is the kind of book that I wish I could find more of. I think it was a wonderful fix of humor, horror, suspense, angst, and a great coming of age story. I didn't think that I would appreciate a story with Hansel and Gretel thrown into other fairy tales, nor could their story sustain a full-length novel. I was wrong on both counts. Hansel and Gretel became very dear to my hearts. They started out as little children who were doing what little children did. Living their lives, having fun, basking in the love of their parents and caregivers. Until circumstances cause them to embark out into the cold, cruel, scary world.
Adam Gidwitz doesn't go easy on Hansel and Gretel, nor does he go easy on the reader. There are some very violent, disturbing aspects in this story. For that reason, I disagree with the 9 and older rating. I would say it should be 11 and older. I realize that he is true to the original Grimm's fairy tales, and I know I did read fairy tales at a younger age. So maybe some kids would be fine with it. As a grown up, I winced on some parts myself.
I loved the aspect of the narrator breaching the third wall and talking to the audience as he read. He would warn us to send the little kids to bed or to get the babysitter. He would warn the reader that some very bloody parts were coming, and good thing he did. He would encourage the reader through the very sad parts (and they were very sad). He would make hilarious asides that had me braying with laughter in my car as I listened. My sister told me I was silly when I laughed at some parts yesterday. But it was so funny! This is a truly fun book, guys! And Johnny Heller, the narrator, did such a great job of creating a lively atmosphere for this story. Kudos to him!
A Tale Dark and Grimm is a story of courage. It's a novel that shows that children have depths of endurance, ingenuity and strength that adults often dismiss. I'm not saying that every child could survive what Hansel and Gretel endure, but I think about what kids go through every day, and this message resonated with me. It's also a cautionary tale to parents. Parents need to consider carefully what it means to be a parent, and how much they cherish their children. Are children a means to an end, a possession, or are they worth their weight in gold? I'll leave that to people with kids to decide, although I have my own opinions on that.
My verdict on this book is as follows: Read it! If you like fairy tales, you definitely need to read it. If you see this on audio at your library, pick it up, just for fun. Although some parts are pretty tough, this was a very entertaining and often moving story. I borrowed this from my library, but I definitely want to get my own copy to add to my keeper shelf, preferably with my fairy tale collection.
A World Without Heroes is a 'grew on me' book. Initially, I was not sure I liked the tone at all. At first, I thought it would read more like a Disney...moreA World Without Heroes is a 'grew on me' book. Initially, I was not sure I liked the tone at all. At first, I thought it would read more like a Disney film than a weighty young adult fantasy novel with potential. As I listened, my feelings started to change. The idea is not new, but the in- between steps of the journey proved interesting. While I am not extensively well read, not in the least, in epic fantasy, I appreciate the quest as a foundation for a story. Fairy tales (which I am very well-read in) have a long, extensive history of putting your average, everyday (even if they are just a down on their luck prince or princess) hero in a situation where they have to survive by their wits and a little help, and achieve a certain objective. Quest stories usually make for good reading.
That's what Jason faces. He ends up entering a magical world in the strangest of ways, and I won't say how. Believe me, it's very strange. Initially, he just wants to get home, and he struggles to make sense of this bizarre land he's entered. The thing about this book that makes it worthwhile is the characterization. Without having a main character that drew interest and loyalty, this book wouldn't have worked for me. It might have come off as trite. Although I have to say that Mr. Mull is an inventive fellow, the major pull of this story was hearing about Jason's reactions to the many misfortunes and difficult situations he faces in this novel. I like that Jason is a normal kid. He's not overly brilliant (although he is quite intelligent), athletic (although he does play baseball), perceptive, or magical in the least. But he is determined and brave, and resourceful. And his sense of humor, often verging on ironic and sarcastic, really appealed. More than anything, Jason made this book appealing to me.
The secondary characters are good too. You see a mix of folks. Some of them have very weird characteristics, such as the ability to detach their body parts at will. Others have the gift of immortality due to a cyst-like seed on the back of their necks that can be planted in soil in the event of their demise to allow them to be reborn as adults. Of course, there are plain old humans, all with distinct quirks. There is a tortured, deposed King who reminded me very strongly of King Arthur (post-Camlan). I liked him a lot. There is also an evil wizard to beat the band, truly not a nice man at all. And there is also a fellow Beyonder (from Earth). A young girl--Rachel--who also entered this strange world, and who makes a very helpful companion to Jason. She has her own list of skills and a different personality than Jason that complements him as a character. Admittedly, some of these characters show more depth than others, as most of this book is spent passing through various places and on to the next adventure. Some act as allies and friends to the two Beyonders, and some as formidable foes that the two kids must outwit to achieve their goals.
Earlier I mentioned the strange tone. This book is full of weirdness. To me that's not a bad thing. It elevated this book from being okay to being interesting and one I wanted to keep listening to. The narrator's choice of different vocal stylings for various characters added to the strange flavor in a good way.
I've had the discussion with others about how contentious some readers can be towards young adult/juvenile fiction and downright dismissive of its writers. In my opinion, it takes a lot of work to craft a book for younger readers. It takes some restraint and creativity to write a story that will attract their attention without going over the line into unsuitability. I can see that Mr. Mull faced that challenge here. I'm uncertain as to where I would place this book as far as rating it for young readers. The tone seems a bit adult, with some subject matter that is quite violent and intense in parts. On the other hand, some elements are approached on the surface level so as to appeal to a younger reader; this might turn off an older, more exacting reader. This story deals with the themes of tyranny, corrupt leadership and governmental organization. The people of this magical land face an emperor who is wholly evil, one whose evil has tainted the whole land, having destroyed, seduced, or attenuated all of his enemies. Like any country with corrupt leadership, the whole society seems on the brink of ruin in many ways, with injustice fairly rampant. Mr. Mull touches on these aspects in a way that I feel is accessible to a younger reader. An older reader who appreciates young adult/children's literature will likely see this story in a slightly deeper way and still find some resonance. Mull has a character make a statement that a man comes of age at twelve in this world, and I kept reminding myself of that fact as Jason seems to be put into situations that seemed much too mature, and he is expected for the most part to comport himself as a man. And I can say that as a young adventure-loving girl many years ago, I had that wish that I would be called upon to embark on a great quest and find myself in situations that demanded great heroism and fortitude from me (as an adult I now wish I was still a carefree kid with that life that seemed too normal and boring somedays). So I imagine this book would resonate with a pre-teen or a young teen who has those sort of ideals.
As an adult, I found the use of vocabulary impressive. I think this one is good for kids in the sense that it would encourage them to look up a lot of words. I think kids would also like the creepy, crawly, icky parts, and the adventure aspects. Kids will also appreciate the humor and the snark of Jason and Rachel and some of the other characters as they interact with them, particularly the quirky ones; and how they see the world as regular kids from our own world. Kids should be able to easily put themselves in both Jason and Rachel's shoes, and appreciate this story from the standpoint of all the strange situations, often uncomfortable and frightening, that these two Beyonders face. It probably would make for an exciting read for them. Some adult readers, especially those who don't care for literature for younger readers, probably won't find much of interest here. Especially if they consider themselves exacting when it comes to fantasy literature. For myself, I try to take each book as its own entity and appreciate the unique elements therein. In this case, I did like this book, and I found it worthwhile reading, although not spectacular. It has some interesting, funny, and strange bits that worked for me.
This is the first book in a series, and I will need to seek out the next story. I want to see what Jason and Rachel will face in the next installment. And what Mull can come up with to further this story.
Courtney Crumrin has a very informative preface by Kelly Crumrin, addressing the inherent scariness of childhood. It gave me something to think about....moreCourtney Crumrin has a very informative preface by Kelly Crumrin, addressing the inherent scariness of childhood. It gave me something to think about. I know I was a kid that loved reading scary books, although I admit I did get a bit too scared a time or two. One part of his commentary that hit me hard was that he felt the collective conscious of children picked up on the real monsters that prey on children in the world. I didn't like to think about that, because I hate the idea of children being harmed or suffering. However, I can see some logic to his comment that childhood nebulous fears might be a manifestation of a subconscious awareness of what real children face.
With that thought-provoking beginning to this graphic novel collection, I had some higher expectations but also that this volume would 'go there.' It did. I'm not sure how I feel about some of the plot elements. I stand strongly against children being harmed or killed, and there is one aspect that felt so wrong to me in this book. I kept wondering why Courtney didn't use the power she gained over the goblin for a different result. I do feel that there was a bit of nihilism to this graphic novel, and that's something I just can't go for. Courtney has had a tough life, and her parents are beneath contempt. I can see things from her viewpoint and accept that she didn't get a very good moral foundation for her life, and that certainly affects her choices. I did cheer for her that she pursued her baby sitting charge into the Goblin Market, even though she did it for selfish reasons. The result of that didn't hit me with the right note, although the faerie enthusiast in me loved a look at the inhabitants of the Market, not to mention the changeling folklore and a talking cat (not sure I want my own cats to be able to talk, since they'd probably cuss me out). One thing I did like about this novel is how it addresses the situations that kids face everyday: bullying, isolation and ostracism, and parents who aren't sufficiently involved in their day to day sufferings (for whatever reasons). Of course I hope most parents are better at parenting than Courtney's but I acknowledge that good parents can have so much going on that they don't have the energy to address issues that seem so trivial like being mildly bullied or feeling like a social outcast. I was bullied and I know how that felt. I know my mother cared, but how much could she do, day to day? And children are very creative in their cruelty. Sometimes you just have to grit your teeth and get through it. In a lot of instances, parental interference can make it worse, although there are certainly times when a parent definitely needs to step in.
I didn't like Courtney's dabbling in witchcraft at all. I have an aversion to witchcraft, so that's part of it. I don't have an issue with magic in the abstract sense, but I really dislike the use of spells to control people (which is the crux of my dislike of witchcraft), which is what Courtney was doing. At least, the author shows the negative results of this, and has Courtney's Great-Great Grand-Uncle step in.
One of the things I wasn't keen on with this book was the ambiguous and somewhat unresolved and rather dark endings. Yeah, yeah, that's the whole theme of this book, I know. Maybe this is going back to the overall theme of the inherent darkness of childhood. I am more of an upbeat ending girl, even as a fan of horror. I think you can have horror and still get a sense of hope, and in the case of Courtney's situations, I don't feel that much hope, even when the original crisis is somewhat resolved.
Will I continue to read this series? Probably, but not back to back. It's a bit to dark to pile these on one after another. I wish this was in color, but I did like the drawings and the manner in which the character personality is conveyed. And I loved Courtney's hair so much!
Overall, this was pretty good, but I didn't love it, for the reasons above. It's definitely an appropriate choice to read in the month of October for an atmospheric and horror-esque book. Or just anytime if you like books that are dark in theme with younger characters.
I think that this book is for readers over 11, more or less okay for the middle grade/juvenile age group.(less)
Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror turned out to be a good choice to read for my 2nd Annual October Scare Fest. It's a creepy and unsettling book that f...moreUncle Montague's Tales of Terror turned out to be a good choice to read for my 2nd Annual October Scare Fest. It's a creepy and unsettling book that features a story within a story narrative.
Uncle Montague tells his young nephew (more like great, great nephew) chilling tales based on knick-knacks and artwork the old gentleman has in his creepy house. These stories are short and edgy, with endings that are quite disturbing (for a children's book). In short, horrible things happen to some of these kids in these stories, or they do horrible things. For that reason, I wouldn't suggest this for a child under ten (hopefully a mature ten). These stories that Uncle Montague tells are very much morality tales, in which bad children get punished and people pay for their sins. A couple don't fall into this framework, but all have pretty unsettling endings. There is one story that I found very dark indeed, and I don't think I read anything that dark when I was a kid. I don't want to spoil anyone, but let's just say that paying attention to these stories is important, because it ties into the main frame story with Uncle Montague and his young nephew.
I thought Mr. Priestley did a very good job with his descriptions of the settings in which this story takes place. They add to the eerie feel of the narrative.
Enthusiasts of Victorian/Edwardian periods will enjoy this book, because it definitely has that gothic, 19th to early 20th century appeal. The supernatural elements are prominent in these stories, making it an ideal read for this time of year, and for fans of supernatural fiction who want a shorter book to enjoy.
One detracting element for me was how abrupt most of the stories ended. Perhaps this was the writer's way of lessening the brutality and disturbing aspects of the story. However, I wish that there were smoother transitions at the ends of each story.
Because this story succeeded in providing a few hours of chills and thrills, and had very good ambience, with lots of creepy moments, shadows, and menacing elements make this a successfully atmospheric read, I give it four stars. I should warn an older reader who is very seasoned in horror that he or she might not find these stories very scary. They would classify more as a lighter read for a person who has cut his/her teeth on dark fare. However, this book strikes me as a very effective scary book for younger or light horror readers. This might even be a good book for a Halloween party for older kids, reading by flashlight, candlelight, or the fireside. And the boys and girls with a tendency to be 'bad' should pay very close attention to avoid the mistakes of the unfortunate children in these stories!(less)
This was a great ending to this trilogy, providing lots of thrills, laughs, and plain good old storytelling. Ms. Ursu employs wit and charm mixed with...moreThis was a great ending to this trilogy, providing lots of thrills, laughs, and plain good old storytelling. Ms. Ursu employs wit and charm mixed with very visual imagery that gives the reader quite an adventure. Charlotte and Zee are really brave, tough kids. I shudder to think about real kids going through what they experience. I winced at how many times poor Charlotte got wounded, and there were a few moments that just about broke my heart. This book is very true to the original myths in how petty and unflatteringly the Greek gods are portrayed. I would never substitute a modern story for the original tales, but I like how fun and accessible Ms. Ursu makes the Greek myths. I liked that the author stayed pretty true to the myths, but also made a fun, original story of her own.
I'm glad the kids get a rest from saving the world and facing mortal danger with gods and vicious creatures of myths and legends, but I will miss Charlotte and Zee very much.
I think young readers and older readers will get their time and money's worth with this book. The writing is clever and sly, with some jokes for the younger reader, and some that a mature reader will appreciate in an entirely different way. Definitely recommend the Cronus Chronicles series to fans of Greek mythology and stories that spotlight the Greek myths.
Found this one at the library and picked it up for a listen. I found it quite good. The worldbuilding was thorough, including a lexicon of terms espec...moreFound this one at the library and picked it up for a listen. I found it quite good. The worldbuilding was thorough, including a lexicon of terms especially adapted to the storyline. It's not quite steampunk (no steam tech), but that's probably as close a designation as I can use. There is some advanced tech, including enhanced humans, and primitive gadgetry, and some mad science type elements that bring to mind the steampunk aesthetic, so there you have it. Rossamund was a really great kid--quite tough for all that he goes through in this book. He had a good heart and an unshakeable sense of conscience that guides him through the murky waters of his journey from being a foundling at a home for orphans to his profession as a Lamplighter in service of the Emperor.
I liked Europe. She was a bit fussy and stuck up at times, but I think that's just her way of dealing with emotional situations that she's not comfortable with. You could tell she grew quite fond of Rossamund, and who could blame her.
Kids being abused and taken advantage of is a huge issue for me, so that horrible Captain Poundage's treatment of poor Rossamund really got my goat. I found this part so hard to deal with, knowing he was taking advantage of a child before Rossamund figures that out. I wanted to jump inside the story and beat the crap out of the guy. He truly deserved a medieval-style beatdown. (view spoiler)[ I cheered loudly as Europe gave it to him later in the story. (hide spoiler)] It was rough seeing this kid go through the hardships he faced, period, so I was glad that he had some people there to help him when he couldn't help himself, and he turns out to be very good at doing that, for the most part.
The concept of what a monster is leads to some interesting thoughts about right and wrong. Is a monster merely a non-human creature, or can a human be worse of a monster than a non-human creature? I think that this story proves the latter, most definitely. The worst monster of all in this book is a human man--Captain Poundage. And Rossamund is bright enough to see that from early on. He helps Europe to open her mind to see the same. Not that her profession is 100% wrong, but maybe she should think more about who/what she feels is deserving of destruction.
I liked this book a lot. I found Rossamund utterly endearing, and the adventures on which he embarked kept me listening intently, and on the edge of my seat. This is a good story for younger readers and slightly older ones (like me).
Gemma Arterton as Europe
Kodi Smit-McPhee as Rossamund ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
The Fairy-Tale Detectives is a pleasant audiobook read that fans of fairy tales (young and those who are young at heart) will probably enjoy. I liked...moreThe Fairy-Tale Detectives is a pleasant audiobook read that fans of fairy tales (young and those who are young at heart) will probably enjoy. I liked the idea that the Grimms were actually a real family of chroniclers whose legacy continues into the present. Sisters Sabrina and Daphne make for likeable, fun protagonists. I felt for them in that they had lost their parents and were adrift and lacking family and a home. Their grandmother is the kind of gramps you dream of. Although Sabrina was very argumentative and hard to deal with at first, it's understandable why. She's acting out because of what she's dealing with. She feels betrayed at her parents' disappearance, and a series of bad foster homes, not to mention the burden of having to protect her younger sister. Daphne was far more likable, but then, she is still in that stage where she's more resilient against the cold, cruel world. I liked Granny Relda and Mr. Canis and of course, their dog Elvis.
I liked the inside jokes of the fairy tale characters that are very familiar to those who enjoy the subject. Puck was a lot of fun, and so were the three piggies who are now the law enforcement in town. The author surprised me at the twist on the storyline. I did not expect the direction the story went. It's interesting that I had also read the first graphic novel in the Fables series: Fables, Vol. 1: Legends in Exile, so I saw some of the same characters with storylines that overlapped in interesting ways. While this is a kids series, I think it has enough nuances that an older reader can enjoy it.
Why didn't I rate it higher? I think the narrator and I didn't click very well. I also felt like the story took a while to develop and get interesting, and it never got to that "I have to hear what happens next" phase. Now that doesn't mean I won't continue this series. I'm definitely interested enough to keep going, but this isn't a series I have to read back to back. I'm happy to fill it in amongst other reading adventures. But still, The Fairy Tale Detectives has an interesting concept and appealing characters that do make me want to come back to revisit them in the future.