I was approached recently to be a part of Emily Raabe's blog tour for her debut middle grade fantasy novel, Lost Children of the Far Islands, I though...moreI was approached recently to be a part of Emily Raabe's blog tour for her debut middle grade fantasy novel, Lost Children of the Far Islands, I thought I'd like to be a part of the tour, especially after learning what Emily and her husband are doing. From Boulder, CO to Burlington, VT, they are going on a road trip to visit local, independent bookstores and blogging about their adventures. Isn't that a cool idea? I hadn't heard of her book before, so I'm also always looking for new authors to discover as well, so for me, this was a win-win situation; I get to read a new author, and support her in an amazing adventure!
It turns out that Lost Children of the Far Islands is actually a charming book! It follows the adventures of twins Gus & Leo and their younger sister, Ila, who are whisked off to a remote island off the coast of Maine when their mother falls mysteriously ill. On the island, under the guidance of their grandmother, the Morai, the discover that they are actually descendents of the Folk, magical creatures who can change from human form to that of an animal. It also comes to light that their mother is ill because she's been trying to protect them from the Dobhar-chu, the King of the Black Lakes, who will do anything to break free of his prison (where the Morai has been keeping him in check), and return to power.
Steeped in actual mythological lore, Raabe's book is plenty full of magic and adventure, but it's also full of well-polished characters. We get to see the first hand impressions of the children as they begin to become acquainted with their animal forms, and it's clear that Raabe put a lot of research into the marine life that she presents in her story. The kids themselves also act their various ages, and I liked the quirky tightness of their family. Personally, I think this is a great book for kids and highly recommend it for young readers!(less)
I tried very, very hard to like this book. Really, I did. It seemed like it should be something that I would like, but the more I read, the less I li...more I tried very, very hard to like this book. Really, I did. It seemed like it should be something that I would like, but the more I read, the less I liked the book. Maybe the prose was just a little too purple for my liking? Maybe the book was just a little too "new adult" for my liking? To be honest, I haven't read much in the "new adult" genre (or however it's called - personally, I'm not even entirely sold on idea of "new adult" being a thing), but I have to think that possibly this is a publishing trend that I'm going to be able to skip.
The story revolves around Finn, who with her father has moved to a small town in upstate New York to attend an art school after her sister's suicide. As she beings to settle in and find her place amongst the eccentrics of the town, Finn finds herself a small group of friends, and finds herself attracted to the mysterious Jack Fata, a member of the richest family in the small town. It would seem that Jack and his family have some ties to the Fae, and that Jack has an infatuation for Finn, but somewhere along this plot thread, I totally lost any momentum in the story. Everything was becoming too muddled in atmospheric situations and random encounters.
I have no doubt that the book will end up doing well. I can tell that for the right crowd, this book is going to be very popular, but it just wasn't working for me. I wouldn't even go so far as to not recommend it to people. The writing is solid, and Harbour clearly has an idea where her story is going. For the right reader, this book will be fantastic.(less)
A "self-help" book of sorts, Hoots and Toots and Hairy Brutes is the story of Squib, a small owl who is unable to hoot, only toot. The story is fairly...moreA "self-help" book of sorts, Hoots and Toots and Hairy Brutes is the story of Squib, a small owl who is unable to hoot, only toot. The story is fairly straightforward, how Squib is looked down on as inferior because of his inability to hoot, but in the end, he proves that even his shortcoming can prove to be useful. This book was part of my grandmother's library, and while I don't know for sure, I would assume that this was a gift to her from a friend since my grandmother loved all things owl. It was recently passed on to my sister, and I found it on her bookshelf when I went out to visit her. A very quick read, and honestly nothing all that special in the story, but the illustrations are rather good.
A nice, little retelling of Robin Hood that is told in de Lint's plain, straight forward writing, Jack in the Green finds Robin Hood brought to the mo...moreA nice, little retelling of Robin Hood that is told in de Lint's plain, straight forward writing, Jack in the Green finds Robin Hood brought to the modern day Southwest barrio. I've still not read that much de Lint, but I do like how he handles magic in his stories: that there really isn't an explanation for how it works, you just accept it how it is. However, I found the socio political context of the story a little heavy handed; given that it's a Robin Hood retelling, we already know it's about how the rich are oppressing the poor (this time seen from the point of view of the recent recession), but to have it made such a large point in the story, so many times, felt too much like de Lint was simply writing this to express his views and was trying to poorly hide it in this novella. I'm not sorry I read it, I'm just not sure this will ever rank up there as a favorite for me.
I want to mention a little on the physical book itself. It's beautiful. Charles Vess' cover illustration is fantastic, and fits the tone of the story quite well, as do his interior illustrations. Subterranean Press did an excellent job with the production of the book. The green, leaf embossed endpapers are gorgeous and the graphic design of the book is really top notch. This book is another of the reasons I think Sub Press is one of the finest small print press runs in the country.(less)
This is a damned clever book. Taking place in an Ikea knockoff store called Orsk, Horrorstör is presented in a format that resembles a catalog that so...moreThis is a damned clever book. Taking place in an Ikea knockoff store called Orsk, Horrorstör is presented in a format that resembles a catalog that someone would get in the mail from one of these flat-box furniture stores, complete with order forms, product descriptions and drawings of furniture sold in the store (that slowly morph in appearance and description into products that have a more sinister feel to them). Everything about the actual look and feel on the book is spot on in creating the feel of one of these catalogs. Kudos to the design team at Quirk!
The story opens like any other day at a retail location, with employees plodding along to their job. Amy is a disillusioned Orsk employee, and she's trying to stay out of her manager, Basil's, way, as she's sure he is out to get her and she's trying to keep from being fired before her transfer to another location comes in. Hendrix really gets the feel of the various retail employees. Amy, the disillusioned clerk who feels she's suited for better; Ruth Anne, the overly energetic and bubbly employee that everybody likes; Basil, the over optimistic manager who tries to turn everything into a learning opportunity for his employees; and so forth. On this particular day at Orsk, tho, something has happened that has Basil worried. Someone has vandalized a couch on the sales floor overnight.
The story falls back on several familiar horror tropes, yet doesn't feel familiar when you read it. The Orsk store is built on top of an old prison (the Beehive) that was demolished over a century ago, and since it's construction, there has been more and more unusual activity happening in the store. Thinking it's no more than vandals that sneak into the store at night, Basil decides to bring in two employees to stay overnight (Amy and Ruth Anne), to try to catch the culprits before Orsk corporate managers arrive at the store in the morning to evaluate what exactly is going on. What follows is a slow decent into madness for the Orsk employees as their world and that of the Beehive begin to blur and collide inside Orsk.
Really, this is one of the most unique horror novels, in both presentation and story, that I've read in a while. I'm hoping that there will be more to this story, as the ending leaves a little, tiny gap for more to happen. Recommended!(less)