Penelope Grey leads a pretty regulated life at her family's mansion in the city, with a private tutor, maid and chef to take care of her every need. BPenelope Grey leads a pretty regulated life at her family's mansion in the city, with a private tutor, maid and chef to take care of her every need. Bored, she decides to make a wish in an old well, for an everything change - a total life transformation. Shortly thereafter, her father quits his steady job in order to become a writer, something that leads to the financial ruin of the family, and an eventual move to an old great-aunt's house in the country which they've inherited in the small town of Thrush Junction.
Snyder really has a way of getting inside a kid's head, and understanding how they think, revealed in little details. For example, when Penny meets one of her new neighbors, a boy next door, she notes that he is wearing a striped shirt. She follows that observation by wondering why it is, exactly, that boys seem to wear stripes so often. Great question! This book reminded me of The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron; Penny even ends up trapped in a hole, briefly, relying on her friends to get her out of the jam, much the way Lucky does, except Penny Dreadful is much lighter and funnier in tone. No scrotums or dead parents in this novel. Penny's parents do seem pretty whimsical, almost to the point of absurdity, but the story has a certain quirky internal logic that never wavers.
Penny often falls prey to magical thinking, and the reader never really knows for sure... was the well she makes a wish on magical or not? Her reasoning is that her father quitting his job may have been her fault. So, she makes a second wish to "fix everything" deciding that if it works, the well is magical, and she's done her best, if it doesn't work, then the first wish coming true was only a coincidence and therefore not her fault. Like most readers, I'm betting on the well not being magical, but I love the fact that it's so open-ended.
Penny, an avid reader herself, is always hoping for an adventure, much like the things she reads about. I was tickled to see an homage to so many children's books in Penny Dreadful. Penny's mention of a book of "unfortunate events" that she's reading, where "a baby was about to bite someone," made me laugh out loud. She also mentions children's lit favorites such as The Penderwicks, The Secret Garden, Ramona, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, and Ballet Shoes. Heartwarmingly, Penny wonders if another of her new neighbors, a girl about her age, Luella, will be the Betsy to her Tacy. This collection of classics is fine company to keep, and the sweetness of the story makes this book suitable for third through fifth grade readers....more
Fortunately, the Milk is a fast-paced, silly tale of a father determined to bring milk home to his family - despite alien attacks, time travel, superFortunately, the Milk is a fast-paced, silly tale of a father determined to bring milk home to his family - despite alien attacks, time travel, super cute ponies, inept pirates, bloodthirsty piranhas and more. One random, unbelievable thing after another keeps happening, turning Dad's quick jaunt to the corner store for a bit of milk into a major ordeal.
Gaiman deftly keeps the the story moving at a zany pace while managing to shoehorn in many highly wacky non-sequiturs, making each surprising new twist in the story look effortless. As the beleaguered father's story grows more and more unbelievable, his son and daughter begin to grow quite skeptical of his grandiose claims. Kudos to illustrator Skottie Young for subtly including all the (possibly inspirational?) elements from their father's crazy story into the family's typically British home. I'll recommend this to kids who want a fast, fun read....more
DiTerlizzi continues his sci-fi saga of Eva Nine in this gorgeously illustrated sequel to The Search for WondLA. There are several internet extras embDiTerlizzi continues his sci-fi saga of Eva Nine in this gorgeously illustrated sequel to The Search for WondLA. There are several internet extras embedded in the illustrations, but readers don't need computer access to enjoy the story. DiTerlizzi's two-tone blue and black illustrations are reminiscent of W.W. Denslow's original illustrations for The Wizard of Oz.
Eva Nine has long believed herself to be the last surviving human on Orbana but now she joins a human colony for the first time, and after a lifetime of limited contact with other sentient beings, naturally she finds everything very overwhelming. Human pilot Hailey and Nine's older "sister" Eva Eight each have their own agendas and Eva Nine learns a lot about loyalty, friendship and xenophobia. I liked how Eva matures so much in this book. Eva is temporarily blinded by the comforts of her new home in New Attica amongst the human colonists, but after she realizes that she misses her alien friend Rovender, who has been barred from entering the human city, she leaves to continue her search for answers about how their world came to be in ruins.
With fantastic world-building, airships, chases, intrigue and mystery, this is a series that has a lot of appeal for older middle grade readers and young YA readers. I'm definitely looking forward to more in this complex and fascinating series....more
Deliciously spooky, this adds a modern touch to the stories that the Greeks told about the Underworld. Riveting! After an informative introduction toDeliciously spooky, this adds a modern touch to the stories that the Greeks told about the Underworld. Riveting! After an informative introduction to the territories of the underworld including the River Styx, Erebus (kind of like Hell's waiting room), and Tartaros (where the evil are punished) the story jumps right to the Persephone myth, also known as Kore. I loved her transformation into a Goth princess when she begins to warm up to the idea of ruling the underworld.
When angry Demeter has finally sussed out who is ultimately responsible for the disappearance of her daughter, the looks on the faces of Zeus' entourage are priceless, "Oh Zeus... what did you do now?" a mildly annoyed Hera says. Flirty Hermes is also a hoot, when he questions Hekate, Demeter's sidekick, who intones her story to him, he replies, "I like you, you're nutty." One vital change from the original story was the use of Persephone's pomegranate seeds. While there are always several versions to most of the Greek myths - usually that Persephone is tricked into eating the seeds trapping her in the Underworld for part of the year, or famished, she finally gives in and eats just a bit before she is rescued, in this version, Persophone does NOT actually eat any of the seeds - but she tells her mother that she did so that she can return to the god Hades, whom she has grown to care for.
The book is appended with an author's note, footnotes on several historical details included in the artwork, a call sheet for several of the gods featured in the story and a bibliography featuring recent and/or notable sources for additional information on mythology. This is a great series. Percy Jackson fans will eagerly devour these appealing graphic novels inspired by the Greek gods....more
Lush, detailed illustrations and lyrical fairytale-style writing about a small village faced by an ancient enemy dragon make this a not-to-be-missed gLush, detailed illustrations and lyrical fairytale-style writing about a small village faced by an ancient enemy dragon make this a not-to-be-missed graphic novel. As a stand-alone this would be a perfect introduction for readers new to graphic novels. I had expected the story to lean on the standard trope of the world's last known dragon being a misunderstood, lonely creature, who depends on the hero to keep magic alive in the world but instead I was pleasantly surprised to find that in this world, dragons are nothing more than overgrown, dangerous fire-breathing lizards which the human community is more than happy to wipe out.
The village healer's daughter Tansy is a bit of an outsider in the community and even her sisters, practical Rosemary and flibbertigibbet Sage, fail to understand her. She alone is underwhelmed when a blowhard (but gorgeous) youthful hero, Lancot, sweeps into town, bragging of his battle prowess. After the town begins to suspect that their missing sheep (and missing children!) are due to a young hungry dragon, naturally they call on the tow-headed stranger to solve their problem. In a panic, he realizes that his plan of boasting and bluffing his way through this hick town have backfired on him, and his thought bubbles and facial expressions in the next several panels are humorous indeed. Tansy comes to the rescue with a clever plan to outwit the dragon, using Lancot's true skill: kitemaking. It's a bit of a stretch to believe that battling a blast of dragon fire would reduce Lancot's Fabio-like locks to a manly, yet still handsome crewcut, but I was willing to roll with it. This is a very approachable graphic novel sure to appeal to both boys and girls, with gorgeous sepia-toned full-color illustrations and rich language. I highly recommend it!...more
As promised, this book reigns things in a bit, returning with a pared-down cast of characters: Greg Heffley and his family members, with a few mentionAs promised, this book reigns things in a bit, returning with a pared-down cast of characters: Greg Heffley and his family members, with a few mentions of his best friend Rowley. Like the earlier books in the series, this is a series of loosely-connected vignettes featuring Greg's family and friends. Middle-child Greg is just as self-centered as always and the family dynamics are very believable. Be careful what you wish for: in the last book, The Ugly Truth, I was a bit disappointed that Greg seemed to be growing up too fast. In this volume, Greg actually seems younger than he did in previous books. It's winter time, Christmas is around the corner, and Greg is more than a little creeped out by the idea that Santa is watching his every move! I did find it a bit of a stretch that Greg, who should be in 8th grade by now, would still actually believe in Santa Claus, but this was the crux of so many great jokes, that I didn't care. Just go with it!
More than ever, readers will see that Greg is a bright troublemaker, who means well, but can't seem to do anything right. When he puts up posters at school which are rained on, it leaves a mess, and he's terrified that the police will arrest him for vandalism. I think my favorite parts of the book are the flashbacks when we see a slightly younger Greg - for example, when Greg's younger brother Manny is a newborn, his mom buys Greg a baby doll to get him used to the idea of being a big brother. Young Greg loves that doll! Greg is adorable as he dotes over it, and readers are treated to a great picture of him caring for the doll as his mother sizes him up approvingly and his father looks on in mild alarm. Greg's always felt guilty for losing track of the doll - but it turns up after the basement is flooded. After years of neglect the doll is missing a leg and covered with muck so that it looks like something from a horror show - which in Greg's eyes only makes it cooler.
When a blizzard hits, Greg's dad is forced to hole up in a hotel and spends the holidays in peace and quiet in the warm comfort of his room. I was reminded strongly of the father from Calvin and Hobbes. Greg's older brother Roderick has been the baddie in previous books, but in this volume Manny is the villain. When the family is snowed in, and the house loses power, fussy toddler Manny craftily hoards all the best resources for himself. It's another bit of a stretch to think that little Manny could successfully adjust the house fuse boxes himself, but the story moves so quickly, I didn't mind it. And we have to give Manny credit - he's probably learned a lot by watching Greg in action. Who was once the student is now the master!
This book is hilarious - I found myself laughing out loud, making embarrassing snorting noises, and demanding to read-aloud random portions to anyone who would listen. It's bust-a-gut funny and everything you hope for in a humor novel. I highly recommend it....more
This is a pretty large ensemble cast - 8 girls, plus their friends and family. Each girl is so unique, with her own reactions to being forced into theThis is a pretty large ensemble cast - 8 girls, plus their friends and family. Each girl is so unique, with her own reactions to being forced into the spotlight.
Abby is delighted to be named prettiest freshman. Her older sister Fern, is a science nerd whose devotion to "The Blix Effect" fantasy novels knows no bounds. I loved these sisters so much. I loved how the girls speak two completely different languages - Abby is fluent in fashion and personal grooming but struggles with classwork. Fern is a serious student, and was formerly on "the list" as an ugly girl. My favorite quote from Abby was regarding the Blix Effect style hair that Fern wants help with. "Fern only ever wants Abby to give her two French braids, even though Abby can do a knot or an up-twist - hairstyles Abby feels are better, more sophisticated choices for her sixteen-year-old sister. But Abby never says no to Fern's requests, even though she finds it weird that Fern wants to dress in what is essentially a costume, because the braids do make Fern look better, or at least like she cares a little bit about how she looks."
Danielle, aka Dan, is a lady athlete. She's a powerful swimmer, and knows her way around a weight room, too. Her boyfriend Andrew is always worried about what other guys will think. The news that Danielle has been voted ugliest freshman is nearly enough to drive him away. As much as Danielle is embarrassed to be nicknamed "Dan the Man," in her own words, "She knows she is not a boy. But sometimes her boyfriend needs to be reminded." I felt like Dan was a teenage version of Glee's Coach Beiste.
Lauren is the unexpected pick for prettiest sophomore. Her family dynamic is cray-zee! She's been homeschooled her whole life, and while she's intimidated and overwhelmed to be attending high school, on the other hand, she is starting to enjoy herself and make friends. Her domineering mother needs to cut the cord!
Candace takes a lot of pride in her personal appearance and is shocked to make the ugly list. She's a queen bee, a mean girl, and her idea of having friends is so that when you say, "Jump!" they will all ask, "How high?" It would be satisfying to see her finally getting her comeuppance now, if she wasn't so heartrendingly pathetic. She really doesn't understand what she's done to drive people away.
I felt so bad for poor crazy Bridget. The other kids at school don't know that her new trimmed down look is only due to a summer spent battling anorexia. When she's named prettiest junior, it sends her into a tailspin. She decides to starve herself again, but the scenes where she sees her little sister who idolizes her start to copy her behavior broke my heart.
The scenes with Sarah, a punk-rock girl who is voted ugliest junior probably made the least sense to me. She's kind of unhinged after discovering a secret from her boyfriend Milo. She's embarrassed and regrets losing her virginity to him. I couldn't figure out what the secret was though! My mind wandered to the worst possible scenarios. I didn't feel like the secret was ever satisfactorily revealed. Was it just that he had an attractive ex-girlfriend? I didn't get it. The other part about Sarah's story that didn't totally make sense was her decision to stop bathing. She decides to punish the students at school by becoming as odoriferous as possible. The events of the book mostly happen over a four-day span though. I probably spend too much time with people who do not bathe, but I don't think only four days would be enough time for her to really work up the kind of horrific body stench that she describes.
Margo is delighted to be named prettiest senior, but horrified when her former best friend Jennifer is named the ugliest girl... for the fourth year in a row. Margo and her older sister, (also a former prettiest girl) who is now in college have a really interesting dynamic. Interestingly, Margo is mostly horrified that her carefully cultivated friend circle of popular girls take pity on Jennifer and start to include her. Which is not what Margo had envisioned at all.
And Jennifer! Where do I start? This girl is maybe the craziest of them all. She kind of seemed Single White Female - a little too stalker-y towards Margo.
I thought the mechanics of how the list is sealed with a stolen school stamp (to prevent impostor lists from cropping up) seemed a little overdone. But, I loved the way that Vivian skillfully interwove so many interconnecting threads. There is a great twist at the end. I kind of suspected it, maybe a little, but getting at all the details was fascinating....more
17 year-old Natalie Stewart lives a privileged life amongst the New York art scene elite in the 1880's, thanks to her father's connections in the Metr17 year-old Natalie Stewart lives a privileged life amongst the New York art scene elite in the 1880's, thanks to her father's connections in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Because of the tragic loss of her mother at a young age, Natalie has not spoken in years.
Natalie becomes transfixed by a new painting of Lord Denbury, rumored to be haunted. With the help of wealthy, older patroness of the arts, Mrs. Northe, she and her father purchase the painting for the museum. Natalie is stunned to discover that she actually has the ability to cross over into the painting, where she learns that Denbury is trapped in the painting, while a demon wearing his form is terrorizing lower Manhattan, brutally killing young women.
The book has been pitched as "The Picture of Dorian Gray meets Pride and Prejudice, with a dash of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," and I honestly can't think of a better description. The tone of the book is unmistakably Gothic, through and through. The pacing is slow and mysterious. The romance between Denbury and Natalie is quite restrained. Much like Bram Stoker's Dracula, the story mainly consists of diary entries, mixed with a few letters and official police reports.
Natalie is taken under Mrs. Northe's wing as she struggles to regain her powers of speech. Mrs. Northe, who is a bit of a spiritualist with psychic powers, mentors Natalie as she begins to gain her own mentalist abilities. When Natalie theorizes that she and Denbury may be soulmates, which would explain their deep and immediate connection, Mrs. Northe delivers one of the best monologues on love I've heard in a long time:
"Don't put stock in past lives. It's this life that makes the difference. And in this life there may be certain destinies, people you're meant to meet... But there is no sole person for another's heart. Souls cannot be broken and then completed by another. That's not healthy, nor wise. There are infinite possiblilites as there are infinite people and some matches better made than others... Just don't say that you'll die without the other one or that you'll never love again or that you're not whole - That's the stuff of Romeo and Juliet, hasty nonsense, and you know how well that turned out. There's magic about the two of you, yes. Just don't be desperate about it. That's where souls go wrong."
The ending of the book kind of dragged for me. Everything comes to a fairly satisfying conclusion, but I felt that the follow-up with constable, who reads Natalie's diary, but finds he can't believe the tale within was unnecessary and a bit belabored. The book ends with a definite lead-in to a sequel, with Natalie and Denbury on the run together to Chicago. Fans of the Brontë sisters, or du Maurier's Rebecca will find a lot to like in this debut offering....more
This book had so many things that I liked about it. It takes place in a generation starship, designed for over a century long journey to a new world.This book had so many things that I liked about it. It takes place in a generation starship, designed for over a century long journey to a new world. Just after this first line, setting up what an amazing world readers find themselves in - stars! spaceships! nebula! -- the female protagonist, 15 year old Waverly Marshall, says, "Our ships are so ugly." Ah, I love it! It's just another boring old day on the starship for them.
Waverly and her friend Kieran are the first generation to be born aboard the Empyrean, a secular farming ship. Everyone is curious and concerned to meet up with another starship, the New Horizon which should be light years ahead of them.
There are a lot of interesting controversial topics tackled in this book: religion, infertility, and gender roles. Waverly finds the society on her spaceship vaguely misogynistic... pushy Kieran appears to be a shoe-in for taking over as Captain of the ship one day, and he's eager to marry Waverly and start a family. Waverly, on the other hand, just doesn't feel ready to settle down... and she's also kind of intrigued by Seth, a moody loner.
I thought this might be a simple love-triangle is space story until the real twist in the plot happened - the New Horizon forcibly boards the Empyrean and kidnaps young girls, Waverly among them, hoping to solve their fertility problem. As disgusting as this is, I kind of felt sympathy for the crew members of the New Horizon. They are portrayed as genuinely nice people in a very tough situation. And, [spoiler alert!!!] I was relieved that they don't want to force the girls to become pregnant... rather, they just want to harvest their eggs. Waverly does a great job of organizing the girls once they find themselves on the ultra-religious sister starship and fighting to get their way back to the Empyrean.
As much as I could compare this to various books, I actually was reminded of pretty much every episode of the reimagined Battlestar Galactica, where questions of the survival of the human race and the place of religion in their society ranked very highly. Glow also brought to mind two episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation that dealt with this kind of problem. In When the Bough Breaks - a group of infertile colonists kidnap children from the Enterprise and in Up the Long Ladder, a group of infertile colonists steal DNA from the Enterprise to hopefully clone new crew members with.
With plenty of action and sudden surprises, Glow ends on a bit of a cliffhanger. I can't wait to lay my hands on the sequel, Spark. ...more
13 year-old Sacha Kessler is a nice Jewish boy growing up in a Jewish slum of Lower East Side New York in the 1800's. Old World magic clashes with Ame13 year-old Sacha Kessler is a nice Jewish boy growing up in a Jewish slum of Lower East Side New York in the 1800's. Old World magic clashes with American technology and is "technically" outlawed, although most housewives are all too happy to turn a blind eye to the occasional spell that might make their household chores a little easier. Sacha has a super-rare ability to see magic (it is invisible to most) and as such, gains a high-prestige job with the Inquisitors, New York's anti-magic squad run by brilliant, laconic detective Maximilian Wolf.
This is clearly a parallel world to our own, with the wealthy Astor family renamed "Astral", "Morgaunt" instead of J.P. Morgan, "Pentacle Shirtwaist Factory," instead of Triangle Shirtwaist Factory and so on. I loved the "lie detector test" - conducted by bored clerical assistants who perfunctorily use their magic ability to determine the truthfulness of statements from petty criminals in downtown lock-up. The whole world seems well thought out, with robber barons hoping to stamp magic out for their own gain. Sacha's large, poor, but loving family who live crammed in a tiny tenement apartment seem especially well fleshed out. The book felt like Sydney Taylor's All-of-a-Kind-Family meets Sam Spade with a dash of magic thrown in.
Plenty of real historical figures including Thomas Edison and Houdini make important cameos in this book. Sacha is embarrassed by his family's low means, and is caught in a web of lies - it takes pushy fellow apprentice Lily Astral and Wolf's patience to finally bring Sacha out of his shell. What he hasn't been able to admit to them is that he is being stalked by a dybbuk - a malevolent spirit who appears as his doppelganger and hopes to slowly rob his life from him.
Readers who enjoy historical fantasy, especially books like Patricia Wrede's Frontier Magic series will enjoy this fast-paced, magical detective story. There are enough loose ends to leave plenty of room for a sequel, or even a series....more
The saddest part about this book was that it ended. Noooooo.... I need more! Sanderson, you clever devil. He manages to wrap up the main mystery, butThe saddest part about this book was that it ended. Noooooo.... I need more! Sanderson, you clever devil. He manages to wrap up the main mystery, but leaves so many loose ends. Please tell me this isn't the end of the Mistborne series....more
Selznick returns to the style that he pioneered in The Invention of Hugo Cabret in this sweeping tale that spans two generations, alternating betweenSelznick returns to the style that he pioneered in The Invention of Hugo Cabret in this sweeping tale that spans two generations, alternating between the late 1920's and 1970's. Rose's story, in 1927 is told through pictures. Ben's story, set in 1977 is told (mostly) in words. Selznick draws together several disparate elements here - things you wouldn't normally think about in one sitting: the beginnings of modern cinema, Deaf culture, spending overnight in the American Museum of Natural History, wolf conservation. It's a lot to shoehorn into one book and it feels like an interesting peek inside Selznick's brain to see how he carefully hinges all these things together.
This book will probably be compared (unfairly) with The Invention of Hugo Cabret, if only because there is absolutely nothing else quite like it. The appealing black and white sketches and easy flow of the text make this a lightning fast read, despite being a heavy doorstop of a book. A few of the coincidences in the book seemed a little too much to be believed, but the way everything works like clockwork makes for a very satisfying piece of fiction. Ultimately, everything is revealed to the reader as decades-long family secrets finally come out and Rose (now an old woman) and Ben are finally re-united....more