I was pleased that Holly Black decided to maintain the mystery and the suspense over the paranormal scenario of the story all the way to the very very...moreI was pleased that Holly Black decided to maintain the mystery and the suspense over the paranormal scenario of the story all the way to the very very end. To me, that’s the best part of the whole book. Some other aspects, however, did not speak to me that much. I was told the three main characters’ personalities, a bit of their back stories, and about the fact that they had been best friends with such amazing bonds as telling those fantastical stories…. but, as a reader, I never quite “felt” any of these facts. Partly because on their “quest,” most I saw was their bickering and distrust of each other.
For example, when Zach worried about the two girls’ talking about him behind his back, his thoughts are whether they talked about he smelled bad or that he’s stupid. I would hope, that after being close friends with each other for years, there might have been some darker, deeper secrets or concerns that made Zach squirm.
There are also just so many details that do not advance the plot or our understanding of the characters. A list of 27 flavors of donuts that do not carry overt or hidden meanings baffled me.
I was also puzzled by each character’s ability to succinctly explain why have been acting in such a way toward their friends, sounding like what a therapist might present, after listening to 12/13 year olds relating the events and their feelings. Alice revealed that the reason why she couldn’t believe in Eleanor’s ghost was that “There can’t be a ghost, a real ghost. Because if there is, then some random dead girl wants to haunt Poppy, but my own dead parents can’t be bothered to come back and haunt me.” And Poppy’s confession, “I thought that we could do this thing, and when it was over we’d have something that no one else had — an experience that would keep us together.” Even Zach’s father confessed, “But I’ve been thinking that protecting somebody by hurting them before someone else gets the chance isn’t the kind of protecting that anyone wants.”
Don’t get me wrong — I believe in the validity of all of these statements and those are at the heart of this story — that we act certain ways because there are some additional, underlying emotional reasons which are seldom on the surface for others to interpret quickly or easily. I just have a bit of trouble with how all of these ideas are delivered as “statements” by these characters. I wish that readers had chances to perhaps sort some of these out by ourselves. For example, perhaps in one of the shouting matches, Alice could have said something like, “There are NO GHOSTS! If there are, WHY WOULDN’T MY PARENTS TALK O ME???!!!” (haha.. much exaggerated)
I also was not creeped out enough by the book — and I wish I had been — the cover gave me so much hope!(less)
I usually approach books written by celebrities with a bit of trepidation. More often than not, I don’t even bother reading them — just waiting for ot...moreI usually approach books written by celebrities with a bit of trepidation. More often than not, I don’t even bother reading them — just waiting for others’ reactions. But for some reason, I got a positive vibe from the galley. Perhaps because its multi-ethnicity cast portrayed and neatly presented on the cover? My gut feelings proved to be not that wrong. Much like what Spencer enjoyed reading as a child (Nancy Drew and Encyclopedia Brown,) the story is just complex enough to keep the readers’ interest without too many confusing layers and the solutions are somewhat on the easy and happy side — which are thoroughly appropriate for its intended middle grade readership: both entertaining and comforting.
Do I sense that Spencer tried too hard to “balance” the cast with the inclusion of a hearing-impaired Hispanic kid, a black kid, and a Chinese house-keeper/friend? Yup. I sense that. But I’m ok with it because she actually created solid characters whose identities and friendships ring true and whose ethnicities are not the focal point or the plot driving elements. For the most part, the ethnical references are cringe-free. (Except for when Mei-Ling says, “Ni Hao” for a quick morning greeting to those she knows well… instead of the more appropriate “Zao” – for early/morning.) I will have no problem recommending this book to my students and hopefully they will enjoy this mystery with its positive message of community building.(less)
I’ve been catching up with titles and series that I know my middle school readers have enjoyed one at a time. That’s the main reason that I picked thi...moreI’ve been catching up with titles and series that I know my middle school readers have enjoyed one at a time. That’s the main reason that I picked this title up. For the most part, I enjoyed it. I can see recommending this one to Percy Jackson lovers because it has some similar situations: a presumed “normal teenager” discovering his talents as both a wizard and a warrior; the training that one receives to better the skill set; the help from mentors; the resolving of conflicts via unconventional means; and a bit of romance. I only wish that the prose has been a little less bland — either darker, more atmospheric, more descriptive, more dangerous, or more humorous — instead of just “talk talk talk talk talk.” That’s how I felt as I read — being “talked to” not “story told to.” And of course, I wish that I were a faster reader so I didn’t have to spend as much time on the pedestrian prose to get to the story line (which is fairly solid and quite inventive….)
I do appreciate that the main characters are from American midwest, and some Americana flavor was introduced — although the Wizarding world is still modeling after medieval European traditions.
Will I read the rest of the series? According to my (now high school) students, this is the best of the entire series… so I don’t think I will be able to spare time when I really need to catch up with some other titles.(less)
I am not an aficionado of zombie stories. Yes, I’ve had a few books and movies under my belt: thoroughly enjoyed World War Z and Zombieland. But I am...moreI am not an aficionado of zombie stories. Yes, I’ve had a few books and movies under my belt: thoroughly enjoyed World War Z and Zombieland. But I am in no urgent need for yellow pus, green liquidy drippings, splattered red blood, or all sorts of creatively severed body parts — any time, anywhere. I did greatly appreciate the first book in Higson’s zombie series, The Enemy. And finally got around to read the second installment, a prequel, a “history,” of The Enemy.
I cannot be more pleased by The Dead. There is everything I love: exploration of loyalty, what makes someone a leader or a follower, what gives people courage, survival strategies — all told in a highly realized, logically plausible setting and string of events. Tension and surprises keep the reader incredibly involved and the passages describing the mind deterioration of some characters are simply brilliant.
In a few weeks, I know I’ll be ready for book 3 - The Fear. (less)
Still enjoyed it very much! The plotting is as adventuresome and surprising as the previous two installments and the tone is as sassy. It's also delig...moreStill enjoyed it very much! The plotting is as adventuresome and surprising as the previous two installments and the tone is as sassy. It's also delightful to read Ananka's TIPS for girls that encourage courage and kindness throughout the story. (less)
I always wanted to read this book — and more than one teachers at school urged me to read it. Since I can’t really read it this year – I downloaded th...moreI always wanted to read this book — and more than one teachers at school urged me to read it. Since I can’t really read it this year – I downloaded the audio book read skillfully by Marc Thompson. Thompson definitely did the story justice with expertly designed and executed voices for the many characters in the tale. The story itself satisfied: a wonderful blend of life-or-death/survival scenarios and the warmth of friendship and inter-generational support. Although there are some really despicable adults in the tale, there are also so many caring ones that eventually made the three children’s lives better.
I anticipated a lot more “magic” due to the title and the cover design and felt slightly disappointed when I realized that it’s mostly a tale of young immigrants and their struggles finding their places in the world and supporting their families. All three protagonists’ stories are definitely compelling. Kirby then introduced some magical elements in the form of the golems and the golem’s “heart” for the clockwork man. Being a picky and sometimes narrow-minded genre-purist, I found this mixture a bit disconcerting — although it was quite satisfying to read those fantasy bits. I don’t think any child reader will be bothered by this mixture of historical/realistic story telling and elements of magic.(less)