First, the cover is false! The dog seen in the book is 3 headed. Do the cover artists read the books??
Second, the idea behind this is very interestingFirst, the cover is false! The dog seen in the book is 3 headed. Do the cover artists read the books??
Second, the idea behind this is very interesting (guy loses three friends in drunk driving accident and then struggles to come to grips with his own survival and whether he played a role in their death/could have prevented it). Ultimately, the book is very life-affirming, and that's a plus.
BUT.... (third) the text is a bit choppy in parts and sometimes it's enough to jerk the reader out of the experience. I appreciate books that don't spell everything out, but sometimes this one errs on the side of too little connective tissue.
All in all, an interesting read, a very classical look at death (including paying the ferryman...), and a book that, while dark and morbid in parts, ends up celebrating a life well lived. Too much a cautionary tale? Perhaps, but I don't think that's what will turn readers away if they don't enjoy the book. ...more
A weak 4 stars I confess--5 stars for the first 2/3 of the book; 3 for the last 1/3.
How do you classify a book like this? Historical fiction? Myth? FaA weak 4 stars I confess--5 stars for the first 2/3 of the book; 3 for the last 1/3.
How do you classify a book like this? Historical fiction? Myth? Fairy tale? Adventure? Magical realism? A little of everything?
I loved the first 2/3 of this book. The last 1/3, I was just sort of "meh" about. I've been mulling over the shift, and I've decided it's because the line between myth and historical fiction gets blurred. Astri tells herself the stories of her Norwegian culture in an attempt to process what's happening to her. This is quite well done, and her life does indeed mirror certain elements of the stories. She's very clear about what's different, though, and her character felt very realistic. Don't so many of us story-lovers do the same thing? Out of hope, especially, we remind ourselves of our stories--perhaps the current situation will turn out like one of those old wonderful stories we cling to. And Astri's life is hard, so hard. It's no wonder she escapes into the land of myth.
But when she and Greta get on the boat--actually, once the horse enters the picture--the line gets fuzzier and fuzzier until the ending is magical realism all over the place. I'm not sure how I wanted the book to end, but it wasn't satisfying as written.
Note for concerned parents: there's one scene about 1/3 the way through the book where the goatherd that Astri has been sold to comes into her bed somewhat aggressively, and Astri uses a knife to defend herself. This may trouble younger, precocious readers. The remaining sinister elements feel very much in keeping with fairy tales and fantasy that many younger readers enjoy....more
We listened to this on a recent family trip. Narrator was Eric Idle. EXCELLENT narration!!
This book is so much fun and the kids enjoyed it immensely.We listened to this on a recent family trip. Narrator was Eric Idle. EXCELLENT narration!!
This book is so much fun and the kids enjoyed it immensely. Dahl has that wonderful ability that so many (British) authors have: making things just dark enough/bad enough to hook kids (i.e. the "bad" kids getting their just rewards and the extent of the Buckets' poverty) but balances it out with quirky--yet believable!--humor and fun. I kept thinking that Dahl is a fabulous combination of Lewis Carroll and Dr Seuss in this book….
One final note: I'd forgotten that Charlie is with his grandfather throughout most of the book--a great grandparent connection!...more
I really enjoyed this sweet story about a girl from 1987 who travels back in time unexpectedly to 1937 and gets to know her grandmother. It's surprisiI really enjoyed this sweet story about a girl from 1987 who travels back in time unexpectedly to 1937 and gets to know her grandmother. It's surprisingly thought-provoking towards the end, bringing up questions about being able to change destiny as well as the impact we can have on our friends, family, and those around us. It feels more like historical fiction than a fantasy time travel novel and will appeal to those who like good, heart-warming stories. It's a middle grade novel that could easily be read by intermediate readers.
*note: some very mild, very seldom occurrences of language may make some of my more conservative friends squirm a bit ("sucks," "god," etc)....more
Oh, this was very fun to read (and hard to put down!). Anderson does such an interesting treatment of faeries in this book--so different from the usuaOh, this was very fun to read (and hard to put down!). Anderson does such an interesting treatment of faeries in this book--so different from the usual. In the process, she brings up issues of what makes up a family, what kinds of sacrifices people make for those they love, and how to balance the needs of the community with one's own needs.
The book was a touch slow at the beginning, but when it picked up speed a couple of chapters in, I could not put it down! ...more
The sequel to Jinx, Jinx’s Magic is definitely a “second” book. Picking up immediately where Jinx left off, the book races to a cliffhanger end! Blackwood’s world building, character development, and plotting are very well done. Jinx is revealed to be the Listener: he can hear the trees talk, see people’s thoughts, and can summon power from the trees of his home country (the Urwald) as well as through others’ knowledge. What this means for the future is unclear, but Jinx is a true hero, sacrificing himself for the good of his adopted father, Simon, and the Urwald. Jinx’s magic turns out to be unique to him, related closely to his identity as the Listener. Jinx is also growing up, and the tension between him and Simon adds emotional heft to the story even while the fantasy elements capture our imagination.
Another tension is at work, too, that is harder to nail down. Essentially, there are those who seek to use people (and trees) to further their own power, showing complete disregard for life. Simon and Jinx are trying to thwart them, and both value life. As is often the case in high fantasy, even the trees and other inhuman characters possess power and lives worth saving. In this complex world, Jinx is only just beginning to figure out how he can do magic and at what level. As the Listener, Jinx is supposedly going to be bring balance—between fire and ice. Between good and evil? I’m not sure. Jinx is poised to unite the Urwald, defeat the sinister Bonemaster, and restore Simon. But at what cost? Series can be hard to predict; how will the ideas of “lifeforce,” power from the trees, and Knowledge is Power (KnIP) mature in the next book?
I wanted a bit more closure at the end. I liked the open ending of the first, but this second feels too much like an in-between book (frustration!). Still, I think the writing is stronger than in the first and I couldn't put it down. ...more
TenNapel says to think of this as an Easter story, a Resurrection story--and when you have that framework going in, the story takes on a whole new meaTenNapel says to think of this as an Easter story, a Resurrection story--and when you have that framework going in, the story takes on a whole new meaning! On the surface, a story of a kid who loses his dog, goes to live with Grandpa for the summer, and meets up with some bullies. Then… he discovers a T-Rex. The T-Rex becomes his new pet with mixed results initially (after all T-Rexes can be awfully destructive, even if accidentally). The ending shows some subtle clues to the Resurrection/Easter them--at the beginning of the story, Ely asks what eggs have to do with Easter. At the end of the story, Ely and Randy are shown frolicking with the baby dinosaurs that have hatched out of the eggs left behind…. There are lots more details, events, and emotions. This is a great story, one that kids will enjoy (esp the dinosaur's bodily functions!) and with more depth than first meets the eye.
My one complaint is that the sequence showing Ely and the T-Rex first getting acquainted felt choppy to me. There's no evidence of Ely even remotely thinking he should be careful/afraid/cautious or even that he's surprised to see a giant T-rex…. I know it's a graphic novel and all, but I needed a touch more realism for that part I guess....more
The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing continues the story of plucky (and hilarious) Mo LeBeau. The writing is even sReview originally posted on Redeemed Reader
The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing continues the story of plucky (and hilarious) Mo LeBeau. The writing is even stronger in this second story of small Tupelo Landing and its quirky characters. Mo and her best friend, Dale, are still running the Desperadoes Detective Agency, and she is still infatuated with his older brother, Lavender. Sixth grade starts up one day after the opening of the story, and Mo’s favorite teacher is back. For fans of the first book, this second book will deliver even more charm and more quirky characters. For those who are new to Tupelo Landing, this book will easily work on its own.
The mystery this time involves the identity (and reality) of the ghost of the old inn that Miss Lana and Grandmother Miss Lacy Thornton bought out of spite. The ghost is even in the disclosure statement in the contract! No one believes she is real except Mo and Dale who decide to interview her for their history project. They succeed–this ghost is real–and solve a decades old mystery in the process. The theme in Ghosts of Tupelo Landing is putting ghosts to rest: old relationship issues, old mysteries, old arguments, and the real ghost of Nellie Blake. In the end, much has been resolved (except the identity of Mo’s “Upstream Mother”), and the town has rallied together. Putting so much to rights has been the work of many people together, not just one person.
**Really, this is a 4.5 for me. There's one main thing that knocked it down--kind of dumb, but I couldn't get past it (this will alert people to my total nerd-hood): at one point, when Mo is explaining Buddha's name, she says his name was supposed to be Bubba, but his mom (or whoever) was dyslexic, so it became Buddha. But Buddha has an "h"!! AAGGHH…. Does this bother anyone else? (like I said--I'm a nerd)...more
The magical car seems to be flying for the last time in this latest installment of her time-traveling adventReview originally posted at RedeemedReader
The magical car seems to be flying for the last time in this latest installment of her time-traveling adventures (following Chitty Bang Bang and the Race against Time, which takes her and the Tooting family back to the prehistoric era). Not only does Chitty fly to the moon and back, but this time, the Tooting family actually meets the original Potts family. There are also instances in which the modern Chitty is in the same time and place with a Chitty from another time and place. The Tootings and Pottses try valiantly to keep the two Chittys from actually seeing each other because they rightly fear an interruption in the space-time continuum. Tiny Jack is his same nefarious self, and everyone gets a glimpse of what the future would be if we went back and tinkered with the past.
Sometimes, hard decisions must be made, and the Tootings and Pottses are faced with a doozie: do they do the right thing, take Chitty back into the past, and undo a wrong? By undoing it, they will also undo the Tootings’ own experiences with Chitty—without even a memory left. This sacrifice on the Tootings’ part would be immense. But, doing the right thing often does call for sacrifice. And community often helps us survive those sacrifices. A terrifically fun read, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Over the Moon is light sci-fi, full of quirky characters, nicely diverse, and very British. ...more
Disney’s popular Frozen is a tale inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen.” Ophelia and the MarvReview originally seen on RedeemedReader
Disney’s popular Frozen is a tale inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen.” Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy is also a retelling of “The Snow Queen.” No romance here as in Frozen, and the Snow Queen is back to her frosty, unyielding self. But Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy is more than simply a Snow Queen story for middle grade readers; it is broader and more complex than Frozen.
Ophelia herself is a child of today, but the Marvelous Boy she discovers has been hidden away for roughly 300 years by the Snow Queen. Ophelia’s father, newly widowed and an international sword expert, has been summoned by an imperious woman to help with her upcoming sword exhibit which will take place in her old museum. Ophelia and her sister accompany their father in order to spend Christmas in the snowy North with him.
As Ophelia explores the museum, she discovers the Marvelous Boy and her own adventure begins in earnest. Telling too much more will unveil the plot, and that is part of the charm of this book. Foxlee plots the book tightly and, even when readers begin to recognize the ending that’s coming, the journey is still a great trip.
For those who enjoy fantasy that is more like an Arthurian tale with a famous sword, a magical person or two, but no dragons/witches/castles, this will be a great read. Ophelia is a refreshingly honest character; she is quite ordinary, quite stubborn, and immensely curious. Her reticence to even be a heroine is endearing. Good triumphs resoundingly over evil, and all is well just in the nick of time. While the Snow Queen remains a villain, the Marvelous Boy points to the same self-sacrifice we saw in Frozen; this time, the self-sacrifice doesn’t thaw a frosty heart, it saves the world. Both Frozen and Ophelia are great reminders of The Story in which Christ’s self-sacrifice thaws frosty hearts and saves the world....more
Well illustrated, quirky story of a monster who loses his hand (b/c the hand decides to go the big city). Nicely wrapped up in the end and kids enjoyWell illustrated, quirky story of a monster who loses his hand (b/c the hand decides to go the big city). Nicely wrapped up in the end and kids enjoy this one. ...more
This was great in audio format: Russ Bain (I think that's the name!) did an outstanding job narrating and using voices and the like. Very British. MyThis was great in audio format: Russ Bain (I think that's the name!) did an outstanding job narrating and using voices and the like. Very British. My kids (two first graders and a second) enjoyed it a lot, but I found the story a bit "done." That being said, while there's nothing new under the sun, Peck does an admirable job of working satire on the "way it's done" in the royal hierarchy into the narrative. he also has fun with mouse-isms (i.e. "squeak up!") and alliteration (especially with the bats). It's a very fun read if you have already read enough British literature to appreciate that, but kids still enjoy it even if they haven't had that background. ...more
I wanted to like this more than I did. The concept has great potential, but the dialogue felt flat--particularly towards the end where the plot was geI wanted to like this more than I did. The concept has great potential, but the dialogue felt flat--particularly towards the end where the plot was getting rather intense. And, while I love some good bizarre elements, the random characters were almost too bizarre. The plot certainly had its outlandish moments as well. It's good creepy fun, and will find a solid middle grades audience, I have no doubt. I'm sure the author's next book will be a bit more polished, and then he'll be a force to reckon with. ...more
This is a hard book for me to rate/review. On the one hand, it's a quick read (despite its length)--adventure, action, a society that eliminates UnwanThis is a hard book for me to rate/review. On the one hand, it's a quick read (despite its length)--adventure, action, a society that eliminates Unwanteds--all in the first chapter. The action keeps up at a good pace. I enjoyed some of the characters a lot. Alex was well developed and the relationship with his twin was well done.
On the other hand, some of the other "main" characters were not as effective. For instance, Will Blair and Samheed--they're sort of in and out until they're needed to BE main characters. Megan and Sean--on the fringe and convenient. Mr. Today (well, his name irritates me) was like so many other super-wise, super-powerful, super-benevolent magic types. I was bothered by the inconsistent names for the grown-ups, particularly Claire/Ms. Morning. From which perspective are we hearing the story? The kids' or the grown-ups'? I needed it to be consistent. The basic concept was intriguing--that creativity and art were the the banned behaviors/types and that creativity was the source (along with magic) for real strength. But Alex's twin is quite creative in his economic/science projects (we learn that Aaron is artistically creative, too, but no one really points that that's precisely WHY he's managed to rise to the top in the autocratic society of Quill).
World-building was pretty good, but there were some holes (not least of which was the actual hole when the gate between the two worlds was destroyed).
All in all, most middle grade readers who enjoy fantasy/dystopian fiction will find this a fun read. The more critical readers will notice the inconsistencies/weaknesses, but they will still enjoy it. It's a hard book to put down despite the things that bugged me!...more
A weak 4 stars, I confess. I liked this book, and simultaneously I was frustrated by it. The concept is great, but I think perhaps there are too manyA weak 4 stars, I confess. I liked this book, and simultaneously I was frustrated by it. The concept is great, but I think perhaps there are too many characters in the mix. It's hard to really click with any one character because there are so many--Cady is clearly the central character, but we lose some of her story in the myriad other stories going on. Maybe lose one of the other kids? Mr. Asher was sort of a non-event as well, although his presence is needed by his own family. Not sure who to drop. The idea of Talented was an intriguing one. In short, good idea, good execution overall, just a little too complex/too many characters. The mystery angle is fun, and I have no doubt that many kids will enjoy this one. ...more
A very fun read, this. Witty, clever, detailed, imaginative--all the right elements for a good read are present. I thought the whole concept of an "acA very fun read, this. Witty, clever, detailed, imaginative--all the right elements for a good read are present. I thought the whole concept of an "accidental" prophecy was both unexpected and hilarious. There are some predictable moments here and there, but on the whole, I enjoyed the journey very much. I don't think kids will find it predictable in the least, and, indeed, the details themselves are (sometimes wildly) original. This is a great choice for both precocious readers who are a little younger than traditional middle grade readers as well as reluctant readers on the older side of the middle grade spectrum who need an action-packed adventure. It's definitely fantasy, but not so much that that non-fantasy-lovers won't enjoy it. Magic appears, but, ironically enough, can be defeated with the right combinations of non-magical plants. Nice touch, that. ...more
Hot off the press, this debut novel plunges us into a technology-challenged post-WWIII landscape which includes theReview first posted on LiterariTea:
Hot off the press, this debut novel plunges us into a technology-challenged post-WWIII landscape which includes the deadly "Bomb's Breath," a ring of pressurized air that will kill anything that breathes it in.
Hope, her friends Brock and Aaren, and Aaren's little sister Brenna are part of a fairly isolated community known as White Rock. White Rock is located in a crater that was formed by one of the deadly bombs of WWIII. Hope, Aaren, and Brock have figured out how to "sky jump" off a cliff through the Bomb's Breath (holding their breath) and land on the ground below the toxic air. While this would truly horrify their parents (all of whom have known people who died in the Bomb's Breath), it becomes the way these children will save their community with danger strikes.
Every year, White Rock sends a troop of volunteer guards down the road to the next settlement (Browning) because it's fairly protected by the snow and Bomb's Breath during winter. Bandits roam freely and often attack these small communities, and sometimes the volunteer guards don't return. This year, however, bandits figure out how to enter White Rock in the winter. They attack, hold the entire town hostage, and are demanding the town's full supply of their only antibiotic. Hope, Aaren, Brock, and little Brenna manage to escape the large community center and flee to Browning. They must jump through the Bomb's Breath and struggle against deadly cold, but they do make it. Are they in time to rouse the guards at Browning? The guards can't go back through the Bomb's Breath, so how will they rescue White Rock's citizens? Will Hope's father, whom the bandits shot, die before she returns?
This is a fun debut and is satisfyingly one novel rather than a giant series. Perhaps there will be more, but it doesn't need a sequel. Lots of action and bravery will hook young readers. Hope, Brock, Aaren, and Brenna are fairly stock character types for middle grade fiction, but they are unique in their sky jumping. The plot wraps up pretty neatly in the end, but the escaped bandit makes for a nice unresolved element. Tiny sparks of romance will please some middle grade readers, but there is not enough to turn away those who don't want romance. All in all, Sky Jumpers is a fun read and one I recommend! ...more
Wilson writes tight, robust fiction. Full of action and depth, there is nary a stray word–despite that page countReview first posted on RedeemedReader
Wilson writes tight, robust fiction. Full of action and depth, there is nary a stray word–despite that page count! Everything has meaning. The transmortals (mythological characters such as Gilgamesh) are back. The Smith family along with their allies are also back. The Phoenix is back. Skelton’s inheritance begins to make more sense. Cyrus, in particular, is coming of age; Wilson handles this expertly. The supporting cast of characters revolve around his maturation, and the stage is set for Cyrus to step into a position of leadership. And it all comes down to a massive, epic battle of good v. evil.
When you read Scripture, particularly the prophetic passages in books such as Daniel or Revelation, do you allow yourself to imagine the awe and terror of some of those scenes? Whether or not you read these books as completely literal is beside the point. We too often tame strong Biblical passages down and make the Christian walk in general one of peace and goodwill with no offense given, none taken. Wilson does not. He weaves Biblical imagery and language in and through this book, especially in the final one third-one fourth. And the stakes are high. There are no wimps here, no “nice” good guys, no bad guys who just “made a wrong choice.”
In Empire of Bones, we see truly evil characters in transmortal Radu Bey and the woman he wants to raise up from burial (Babd Catha–who demands child sacrifice). These characters feed on pain and will bring nothing but terrible destruction. Rupert, Cyrus, Antigone, and their allies are desperate to stop this coming destruction, but the price is great. Justice and Wrath will have to be awoken from burial, but these two characters will mete out justice and wrath to all. And all are guilty at some level, even the “good guys.” (Note: Justice and Wrath are the stone characters pictured on the cover.)
Monks, transmortals, a prophetess, ancient mythologies weave in and out in this hold-your-breath wild ride. Those who enjoy action-packed fantastic adventure will enjoy this series as will those who like to read between the lines and beneath the surface for deeper truth. This series is a violent one, and evil is truly evil. But Wilson makes the counterpoint startling clear in this book. I love that the “good guys” are still guilty before Justice and Wrath and without hope save in the covering of blood, that the way to fight the evil is to take the path of the fool and to celebrate love and joy, and that sacrifice is both necessary and heart-breaking. This book will enrich your understanding of the “feel” of Biblical books like Daniel and Revelation as well as the sacrificial tapestry of Scripture as a whole while simultaneously providing a good read. And it will remind you that evil really is evil…sin isn’t just a “mistake.”...more
For its audience (which I'd peg at 3rd-5th grade) this is a terrific book. Not as complex as some fairy-tales-turned-novels, this is a fun read that tFor its audience (which I'd peg at 3rd-5th grade) this is a terrific book. Not as complex as some fairy-tales-turned-novels, this is a fun read that twists up the princess and frog tale. Yes, the princess gets turned into a frog, but that's only the beginning. In Velde's version, the princess must stay a frog until she finds someone else to kiss...which will then turn THEM into a frog and so on. She's much to classy a princess to do that to someone else, no matter how despicable. So she winds up on a crazy journey with a gullible, but likable young girl, a wannabe actor who's not the most trustworthy type, and a traveling acting troupe putting on all manner of dramas along the way. I liked the way Velde resolved the princess's dilemma and, even though I usually roll my eyes at endings that are tied up neatly with a bow, it works in this slapstick romp....more
I liked this book, but it took a wee bit to get into, and it needs to be shorter! It's a good fit for Intermediate grades (3rd-5th) thematica3.5 stars
I liked this book, but it took a wee bit to get into, and it needs to be shorter! It's a good fit for Intermediate grades (3rd-5th) thematically and plot-wise; it's not as "mature" as many middle grades titles. But it's so LONG.
And, while it's a cute story, it's going to feel very outdated soon. The book hinges on the this mouse-sized laptop (the Thumbtop), and specific technology always dates a book soon. In fact, even a Blackberry is mentioned in one part. It will hold up for a few more years probably, but it's going to feel dated sooner than a similar story might if it depended on a generic phone or computer rather than a specific electronic device....more
Maybe if I'd made it all the way through this book, I'd have bumped it to 3 stars. I must have checked this out from the library 6 times this school yMaybe if I'd made it all the way through this book, I'd have bumped it to 3 stars. I must have checked this out from the library 6 times this school year, but I finally gave up. Cute idea, less than stellar execution: way too long, lots of cliched phrasing, lots of telling not showing, predictable characters, ….. Probably kids who are into fairy tales won't mind these things as much as I did because they won't have read as many similar books as I have. But I just couldn't make it through the book. ...more
Pros: Lots of fun to read, this book jumps right into the story on the morning of Testing Day when all 12-year-olds fiI'll say this is basically a 3.5
Pros: Lots of fun to read, this book jumps right into the story on the morning of Testing Day when all 12-year-olds find out their rank (3's and up are good to go; below that and you're a nobody; 1's aren't even allowed to marry/have children and no one's ever heard of a zero).
You guessed it: our hero is a zero. Of course, the plot doesn't end there but races along to an ending that would be pretty impressive on the big screen. There is lots more going on than Al first understands when he receives his zero rank mark. Like all good fantasy heroes, he learns as he goes, meets unusual fellow outcasts, reunites with his old friends, hides from those out to kill him, and eventually performs nearly superhuman feats to save the day--all because he is being sacrificial and thinking of others.
Cons: this book would have benefited from a touch more originality (cities named Brighton and Dockside, for one). The supporting characters, especially Al's friends, were a bit unremarkable and stock.
All that to say, this is a fun read and kids will no doubt enjoy it--especially if they're not as jaded as this grown-up who's read a fair number of "testing day" type scenarios in recent years and which all feature the main character NOT landing the mark/rank/station/skill they expect. ...more