An excellent book on discovering yourself and dealing with being different, as old by the supernatural replacement of a baby who was stolen away. I lo...moreAn excellent book on discovering yourself and dealing with being different, as old by the supernatural replacement of a baby who was stolen away. I loved seeing the old fairy tale from the replacement's point of view, particularly his relationship with his adoptive family. The fantasy world is intriguing and the characters, both human and not, are likable (some in a more complicated way than others) and interesting. (less)
A really fun fantasy book--how much you laugh at the title pretty much predicts how much you'll like this book. The humor is great, and it's combined...moreA really fun fantasy book--how much you laugh at the title pretty much predicts how much you'll like this book. The humor is great, and it's combined with some genuine horror and an action-filled plot. A great debut novel--I'll definitely be looking for sequels or other books by McBride!(less)
The premise of this book is exactly the kind of thing I adore--and the presence of Captain Nemo made it even more appealing. Unfortunately, the medioc...moreThe premise of this book is exactly the kind of thing I adore--and the presence of Captain Nemo made it even more appealing. Unfortunately, the mediocre prose, plot, and characters lost my interest by midway through the book. There is a lot that's fun about the book, with its scholar heroes, witty dialogue, and entertaining use of myth and literature. Instead of adding familiar characters and classic stories to a creative plot that that says something new about them (such as Alan Moore and Jasper Fforde have done brilliantly), Owen simply heaps on cliches and accepts the morals of the old stories unquestionably. A scene where the villain explains their evil plot to the captured heroes turns a plot twist that might have worked well into a speech so cliched I lost all remaining interest in the plot. Writing fiction for children or young adults is no excuse for mediocre writing. As for the morals, it was disturbing to see that other races' frankly justified anger at only humans from a single bloodline being fit to rule their kingdom presented as sinister. While the 19th-century English main characters might see no problems with a monarchy designed to privilege one race, I expect authors in this day and age to acknowledge the problems. I'm not saying this was deliberate, nor that it obviously stands in for real-world problems--but it made me far less invested in the triumph of the main characters.
Continuing with real-world problems, I was disturbed to see that the main villain was one of only two characters of color--(view spoiler)[particularly since he turns out to be a white literary character (hide spoiler)]. It makes sense that the main characters would all be white, due to the premise, but throwing in an evil Asian seemingly only to make the villain more exotic and menacing is extremely disappointing. It's something that would occur in the literature Owen is drawing from--but using racist tropes without commenting on them in any way, just because they're classic, does not excuse them from being racist. Once again, I'm not suggesting Owen did this on purpose, or that he's racist, but these tropes simply made me uncomfortable. I do, however, have to commend him for actually making Captain Nemo Indian--it's rare to see the character show up without being turned white. (Sadly, this Nemo doesn't have the original's multifaceted, ambiguous character. He's awfully chummy with a bunch of Britons, for one.) Along these lines, the sole main female character disappointed me greatly. After being introduced as a capable captain and warrior, practically every scene she has involves her being shown up by a more capable man (or acting as a potential love interest). It would have been very nice to see the 19th-century men reacting to a woman who's allowed to do so much more than women can where they come from, but that would've put the focus on her instead of the men.
On a more positive note, Owen's illustrations are absolutely gorgeous and really enhance the story. I'm tempted to check out his graphic novels despite my issues with this book. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
An odd but intriguing book. The style is very blunt and deliberately hyper-realistic; everything from bodily functions to sex is dealt with plainly, s...moreAn odd but intriguing book. The style is very blunt and deliberately hyper-realistic; everything from bodily functions to sex is dealt with plainly, sometimes in off-putting detail. It's not my style, but it suits the protagonist. I didn't love the book, but the rest of the series seems a lot more to my liking--and even King himself said the first book is much different than (and inferior to) the rest of the series. I'm interested enough to keep on reading, especially with that knowledge.(less)
Not sure whether this should count for the 2011 YA Challenge, but it got on the ALA's Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults list. Good enough for me!
Sku...moreNot sure whether this should count for the 2011 YA Challenge, but it got on the ALA's Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults list. Good enough for me!
Skulduggery Pleasant follows the sarcastic, slightly odd twelve-year-old Stephanie after she inherits her favorite uncle’s house upon his death. After getting attacked by a magic-using man looking for something secret of her uncle’s, Stephanie is saved by her uncle’s old friend Skulduggery Pleasant. Who just happens to be an magically-animated skeleton sorcerer, egotistical (deservedly so) and eventually willing to take her on adventures (but not without endless bickering). Skulduggery knows just what Stephanie’s attacker wanted, who he was working for, and how he’s going to destroy the world—but nobody believes him except Stephanie. With a little help from their friends, Stephanie and Skulduggery have to save the world (and maybe learn a little magic in the process).
I adored this book! The best thing about it is how hilarious it is. The dialogue is filled with dry humor, from Stephanie’s horror at Skulduggery’s hideous car to (view spoiler)[Skulduggery’s resigned reaction to getting tortured (hide spoiler)]. Stephanie and Skulduggery’s relationship is wonderful; he mentors her without underestimating her, and she leaps at the opportunity to learn magic and discover the world her uncle inhabited.
Would teenagers enjoy this book? I certainly think so. Stephanie may be too young to go through teenage angst, romantic feelings, etc., but her outsider status and hunger for adventure is certainly relatable. The book is also the first in a series, so the series might follow the same trajectory as the Harry Potter books with more complex stories and feelings as the protagonist grows older. While some teens might not want to read about a younger protagonist, I don’t think teens interested in fantasy will care overly much. The humor and exciting plot are definitely a draw, as are the entertaining characters. I’ll definitely be reading the rest of the series. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
A fairly fun read, but really full of cliches and lazy characterization. I'm a sucker for reinterpretations of classic literature/fairy tales, though,...moreA fairly fun read, but really full of cliches and lazy characterization. I'm a sucker for reinterpretations of classic literature/fairy tales, though, so I'll be reading the sequels.(less)
The three short stories in this book are all unsettling, thought-provoking stories where fantasy meets reality. It was odd reading this right after Pr...moreThe three short stories in this book are all unsettling, thought-provoking stories where fantasy meets reality. It was odd reading this right after Prime Baby, as I was expecting humor--I think that made it more disturbing. The last story is my favorite; it's sweet and sad and ultimately uplifting.(less)