This book needed another edit to pick up the pacing and cut out the romantic natter. Not that I don't like a bit 'o romance here and there, but I pref...moreThis book needed another edit to pick up the pacing and cut out the romantic natter. Not that I don't like a bit 'o romance here and there, but I prefer more plot intrigue and character development than the petal peel plot of "He loves me. He loves me not. He loves me. He loves me not." The repetitious pattern of Hans wondering if Raisa had betrayed him and vice versa made the pace plod and felt like a dandelion gone to seed with predictable plot points and action thinly scattered throughout the pages. The "I love you" scene where Hans gives a couple of pages of reasons why he loves Raisa was over the top and didn't quite fit with the wishy-washy wondering of whether or not she betrayed his love as obstacles cropped up preventing them from moving forward in their interest for each other. While this is a popular novel with students, I didn't think it was well-written and was disappointed in it as a wrap-up of the fourth book in the series.
Raisa has been crowned queen of the Fells and the division between the Clan and wizards is threatening a coup within the government. Han in an effort to help her joins the Wizard Council only to find his life threatened at every turn. When an attack from the kingdoms from the south threatens everyone, people must decide to either work together or not. Han doesn't really care about the Fells. He wants to marry Raisa and sets a plan in motion against great odds.
The theme of prejudice toward others of different races and intermarriage never really achieves depth because the supporting characters don't really change and grow. The father and grandmother are bigoted and at the end seem so one-dimensional in their treatment of Raisa and Hans. More could have been done with this to elevate the tension and show tolerance and understanding. Micah has an interesting character arc along with Crow. They both make choices to not be cruel to others. Hans has to learn to trust people but I never really got into his development. I knew he would change so it didn't hold my interest.
In the end I got annoyed and bored with Hans constantly being blamed and everyone trying to convince Raisa he's guilty while she claims he's innocent. The only part that I found interesting was the flesh-eating birds and the twist at the end, but they were few and far between. This book is entertaining, but don't expect much plot or character depth.
Normally, I like Shannon Hale's characters and the development they go through. Miri does change in this novel but it seems superficial. Princess Acad...moreNormally, I like Shannon Hale's characters and the development they go through. Miri does change in this novel but it seems superficial. Princess Academy (book 1) has each girl character from the academy overcome some handicap, whether it is physical or emotional, but in this one they just exist as props for the most part. The villains are one dimensional and the characters lack the depth I normally see in Hale's books. That said, I know kids will enjoy the reading this sequel even if I found it disappointing.
Miri travels with the girls from the academy to help Princess Britta with her wedding. She goes to school and learns different subjects while becoming embroiled in a plot to overthrow the king. The people are being taxed too much and starving. When Britta becomes the target of an assassin, Miri realizes that she caused part of the problem and must help right a wrong.
This story has quite a bit of romance with Timon, a scholar in the court, who has a crush on Miri. He seeks her out along with a group of rebels interested in overthrowing the king. This part of the plot seemed rushed and the characters too googly-eyed over Miri, especially the lady. Later it becomes clear why but it rang false with me, but not with Miri. In hindsight, the author probably did this intentionally but it turned me off to the story. I needed more tension and suspicion from Miri or hints of duplicity from others. There wasn't enough intrigue that comes with political dissension. The resolution with Timon seemed rushed too. He was a major character and I expected more depth in his comments rather than less. Peder frustrated me too. He literally sits and whittles wood on the sidelines and is usually too tired to talk. He could have played a bigger part in the love triangle to create more tension.
Shannon Hale is a good writer and I have high expectations when I read her books. This just wasn't her best effort. (less)
This was hard to read after the fun I had reading The Vengekeep Prophecies and Deadweather and Sunrise. I needed another edit with more concentration...moreThis was hard to read after the fun I had reading The Vengekeep Prophecies and Deadweather and Sunrise. I needed another edit with more concentration on the plot and less meandering. I skipped along the surface like a rock on water. Of course I have a stack of 30 books to plow through right now, so I might be a wee distracted. Not to mention a humongous order, a two hour speech to prepare for, and lessons for next week. This book reminded me of Michael Scott's series that involve a brother and sister along with a prophecy and Harry Potter (I typed Happy Potter and Harpy Potter before I got to the goldarn wizard's correct name...) with the Screechers like Dementors and a book that has invisible ink and mucho power. This isn't just any book, it is The Book of Life, except the boy that wields it forgets about its powers to heal in the middle of a battle. Duh. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Actually I'm chasing my tail. Talk about needing an edit... I feel like Harpy Plotter. Okay... I'll quit. Promise.
Kate, Michael, and Emma are searching for their missing parents and trying to find three books that will help them save the world from the evil Dire Magnus. While Kate can control time travel, Michael has The Book of Life, that heals people. The three are hidden in an orphanage by the Wizard Pym where they are quickly found by the forces of evil. Kate gets sucked back to the 1900's by using the Atlas to save her brother and sister from Screechers. Her Dickens-type world is full of orphans, sickness, suffering, and magic. Yes, magical beings live with humans and it is the Night of Separation when they are being banished from living with humans. With the help of a boy and witch, Kate works to get back to the future. Michael, is on a separate quest trying to retrieve The Book of Life. He has to fight dragons, elves, guardians, and the evil Dire Magnus and his henchman.
Can you tell I don't really want to write about this story? There is plenty of action although the first chapter is just a boring retell of the last book. The author doesn't work it into the storyline while the action is happening. I did like some of the twists such as the Chronicle being able to see into a person's past. This allowed for the villain's to not be one-dimensional. Some of the plot is predictable and some wasn't. Fans of the first book probably won't be disappointed. It is really a story that is propelled by the action and not the characters or word-smithing. An entertaining read even if I had issues with the plot.
This nonstop fountain of funny lines, kooky characters, and over-the-top plot had me laughing so much people around me kept asking what was so funny....moreThis nonstop fountain of funny lines, kooky characters, and over-the-top plot had me laughing so much people around me kept asking what was so funny. Lenny Jr. goes to buy a special mustache his best friend Casper desperately wants; The Heidelberg Handlebar #7. When Casper dons the mustache he finds that he has specials powers and can talk anyone into whatever he wants. He quickly takes over the world and it is up to Lenny to stop him with the help of television star Jodie O'Rodeo. They race through this rip-roaring adventure using gadgets from a Willy Wonka-type factory that involves boogers, chicken-tasting erasers, and more. Take a chomp out of this one, but place your disbelief outside the door - its wacky humor is out there.
Red and Jodie have the best lines. Red has a string of implied non-shocking swear words that go something like this, "Are you boys selling candy bars for your gottdangled school? No more candy bars! Get the Helchfitz out of here!" He tells the boys his brother died over one hundred years, calls Lenny a "FarDobbled Candy-Bar-selling Punkler" when he looks at hats, and pets the money Casper gives him for the suit. I haven't met such a fun, crotchety character since Yosemite Sam - the cartoon king of irreverent comments.
If Red is Yosemite, then Jodie is Annie Oakley except she slings water pistols versus guns. Check out Jodies gun-slinging slang. I'm reading along from Lenny's point of view when "Kablammo!" I get Jodie's point of view. She's on a rescue mission and loves using variations of the word "ding-dang." We've got "Who the ding-dang-dong are you?" or references to her "...ding-dang TV show" or there's "Ding-dang dude, can't you be more careful?" She's a lovable ding-dong that's fer sure. Other fun words are "goshamighty, cockamamy, kablammo, (yes I borrowed that one), giddyup, woolbusters,whoop-de-doo, bojangles, heinies, and twinkle-toes (she didn't use that one but I think she should have or maybe it should be twinkie-toes in honor of Hostess treats). Jodie can toss a knife like a circus performer but she doesn't want to hurt anyone so she lets the handle hit the villain between the eyes. She's a keeper, this one.
A imaginative story that will lighten your day! Enjoy Reading Level 4.6(less)
Move over Lucy Van Pelt, there's a new kid on the block and she's just as selfish and bratty as you. Meet Lulu. Big head, big mouth, big ideas. She do...moreMove over Lucy Van Pelt, there's a new kid on the block and she's just as selfish and bratty as you. Meet Lulu. Big head, big mouth, big ideas. She doesn't run a psychiatry booth like Lucy of Peanuts fame, but she does run a dog walking business and I haven't loved a character this much since ...well, Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang. So many things reminded me of Peanuts from the pictures to the characters. The running gag on the poodle called, Pookie, doing "what she's supposed to do" to Lulu informing the reader she's going to call it "poop" reminded me of my younger sister who carried around a stuffed Snoopy dog that turned from pearly white to pukey gray and that she adoringly called, "Poopy." Lulu is spoiled, bossy, loud, in-your-face, irreverent; yet likable, because she says and does things that all of us have wanted to do at one time or another (okay, maybe you haven't but my nasty side has) and she is contrasted by the practically-perfect Fleischman who does everything right and everyone loves.
Lulu demands her parents to give her some unknown thing at the start of the story. She claims that she is growing up and won't throw temper tantrums anymore to get what she wants, instead she manipulates her parents by making them feel guilty and tries negotiating with them. The latter works and she says she will work to save money for the outrageous item that she wants (and no, I'm not going to natter what it is - that would be like pulling the football away before you kick it through the goal posts).
Lulu decides to walk 3 dogs for a fee. The bull dog, Brutus, is a hoot and the pictures Lane Smith draws are delicious with Brutus slobbing the face of a pinned-down Lulu, refusing to walk with its square bulk tanked to the ground, or Lulu being lassoed to a tree with Brutus giving her the who's-the-boss-now Miss Smarty-pants look, (there's more pics - look for yourself - lazy me doesn't want to name them all. Are you wondering why I keep inserting myself into this review? Well, I really don't feel like discussing it right now.) Smith's illustrations remind me of a cross between Charles Schultz and Salvador Dali. He has a surreal look and atmosphere that reminds me of a mix between cartoons and abstract art. Smith explains how Schultz influenced his artwork in Dily Evan's book called, "Show & Tell: Exploring the Fine Art of Children's Illustration," and it is evidenced in his simply drawn characters that show tremendous expression in a small shift of a line on the face. The cover shows Lulu looking at the viewer with no mouth or eyebrows; yet the shape of her head and pointed nose suggest pursed lips and a girl who is not happy as well as surprised that she's been outwitted by a dog (eh-hum... don't go by the blurry picture attached to this review - you have to see the actual book to truly see her eyeballing the reader).
Lulu has problems with the other two dogs as well and only Fleischman seems to have the knack for controlling them. Not that Lulu wants his help. Not that Lulu is even thankful for his help. Lulu doesn't like the practically-perfect Fleischman because she knows she doesn't want to be that way. How boring, she says with an exclamation mark! That's for sure. When she sings her money song throughout the story and has time-out sections I laughed every time (okay adult reader... I see you smiling - you have sung the money song too). But Lulu needs Fleischman's help and he is always there to unfuddle her muddles. At the end, Lulu does show Fleischman respect but they don't go so far as to become best friends. Lulu sarcastically tells the reader this isn't Cinderella with a happy ending. It's just sort of happy.
The author's asides are not intrusive to the plot; they are hysterical, sarcastic, and aid the reader by answering questions that occur while reading the story (errr... yes, I have been trying to imitate the author in this review. Did it work or did I annoy you? I think when author asides don't work they are annoying, don't you?) Depending on the age of the reader some of the humor might go over their heads, but there is still plenty to laugh at. The book is a fast read (took me longer to scratch out this review than read the book) and I am going to have to try it with different ages as a read aloud. Lulu is one character I can read overtime and over time. Hope there are more books to come.
Full of figures of speech - good for grades 3 and up. Also can be used to discuss worrying about going to or being at school. I'm going to have the co...moreFull of figures of speech - good for grades 3 and up. Also can be used to discuss worrying about going to or being at school. I'm going to have the counselor read it. (less)
I struggled with this National Book Award winner. Not because it lacks originality. The creepy steampunk setting with gear-transformed people, witches...moreI struggled with this National Book Award winner. Not because it lacks originality. The creepy steampunk setting with gear-transformed people, witches, and goblins was well done. Not because it lacked character development. The weird witch, river spirit, goblins, and orphans with a plucky protagonist were engaging enough. And not because of a plot that plods. The 200 page book is concise and clues are slowly revealed. It was unpredictable and imaginative. So why couldn't I immerse myself in the story?
It wasn't a complete loss - I loved the witch Graba, patterned after the fairy tale witch Baba Yaga in Russian folklore with her unpredictable temperament and dangerous ways. In this tale, it is not the house, but the witch herself who lunges around on giant chicken legs made of gears and metal using monstrous talons to grab wayward children. What a great twist on the original! Speaking of twists... Graba gives Rownie a home with food but he is mistreated like the other orphans she takes into her home that echos characteristics found in Oliver Twist's Fagin. Machinery has replaced human parts in the city of Zombay; the police have glass eyes with gears for irises and the animals have coal hearts. Graba has taken in Rownie and his brother, Rowan, but Rowan has disappeared. Rownie joins the goblin theater troupe because they are searching for Rowan. The goblins need Rowan to speak to the river and prevent the flood that threatens the city of Zombay; however, the goblins are not welcome in the city and it is illegal to put on their show which results in all sorts of trouble for the troupe. Rownie combines forces with them only to get caught up in a bigger struggle for power between the goblins, mayor, and witch Graba.
The story is filled with terrific themes from the magic or imagination that comes from within when assuming the identity of a mask to the magic or power that comes from without as symbolized in the witches, mayor, and river spirit; to the social commentary of the goblins being prejudiced by the townspeople; to the humans who can't wear masks to act in plays because it changes them, and more. While there are so many social commentaries, the storyline never stops long enough to explore them. I wanted more of an explanation about the goblin play where the witch uses her reflection to create a bunch of mini-me's who become her slaves; followed by her cooking the heart of one and causing a rebellion. Was this play a suggestion that the witch Graba and Semele were like the rebellious slaves? What is their background? And what about Rowan. Is he with his mother? Why can he wear a mask? How do humans change into goblins? In the end I felt dissatisfied with the overall book and the lack of answers.
The lack of exposition resulted in me going back and rereading passages often and being confused in spots. You really had to figure out the plot as you read along and be patient as the clues unfolded. I kept thinking I missed something but my question would be answered later. As mentioned earlier, not that all questions are answered; you have to come up with your own analysis. I sort of twitched and sputtered through the narrative which never came alive for me. Some spots were jarring or awkward, such as when the characters put on masks and adopted its qualities or when Rownie would think to himself. While not something I noticed all the time, I ended with a disjointed feeling like my gears were malfunctioning. This is a book that I should really reread. I read that the author has a sequel. Most likely some of my questions will be answered. An interesting read.
Pranksters at my high school made life exciting by doing stuff like plugging a stick up the ketchup dispenser so when the victim, such as myself, push...morePranksters at my high school made life exciting by doing stuff like plugging a stick up the ketchup dispenser so when the victim, such as myself, pushed down on the pump, the stick went sailing out like a blow dart spraying the victim with ketchup. First time it happened to me, I had to go home and change pants. When the ketchup dispenser was out for a lunch meal, I had to watch out for the blow dart prankster. When toilet paper draped the ten oak trees that sit in my parents' front yard, I thought it was pretty. My dad who is an architect was not happy, especially when an ice storm raged the next night freezing the toilet paper to the branches for 5 months as winter settled in the frigid northern city of Minneapolis. The flowing streamers from the first night looked like used toilet paper by then and it was definitely NOT pretty. But when does a prankster go too far? At our school it was when some students thought spraying the locker room with several fire extinguishers would be hilarious. Most pranks are funny and annoying but it seems that when damage is done to property or another person gets hurt by the caper the laughter stops.
This is just one of the many themes that Ben Diaz and his secret group of pranksters, The League of Pickle Makers, learn as they spice up school life with their shenanigans. On paper, the school club makes pickles which they plan to enter in the Pioneer Fair Days, but their true motive is to covertly pull pranks against everyone at school. The tomfoolery begins when Ben finds free goods online in the Classifieds. He can't resist filling his school classroom full of a bunch of stinky, used bouncy balls that the owner of the local Pizzeria wants to get rid of. Kids at school think this is so funny and exciting that Ben decides to form a club thats antics include dry ice in the bathrooms, Saran Wrap over the bathroom sinks, and more. The pickle club is having a hey-ho time until one of the members goes rogue causing damage to school property.
Students will love this book with its silly pranks, goofy characters, and friendship conflicts. Ben's best friend, Hector, just can't stand up to his grandma, the principal of their school. He's so afraid of her that when she accuses him of something he didn't do, he admits not only to the crime, but worse, he tells her Ben did it with him. When Hector wants to join the club, Ben questions his trustworthiness along with other members, and Hector is refused admittance, causing hurt in their friendship.
Ben's heritage is interweaved nicely throughout the story, particularly when the club looks into the diet of Mexican pioneers when they first came to their city. It is terrific fun seeing how the author creatively ties pickles into the plot with the students and adult characters. And I had to laugh at the reference to "The Joy of Pickling." My parents generation did a ton of canning, with pickles being one of the mainstays, and my mom loved her "Joy of Cooking" book. I even got two of those cookbooks as wedding presents it is so beloved by the older folks. Kids won't get that joke but who doesn't love a mixture of adult and kid humor in a book?
While the pacing clips along through the middle and end of the book, the start has too many subject pronouns that begin with "I" effecting sentence cadence. The last paragraph in the first chapter has nine sentences starting with "I." This is a little nitpicky on my part and most readers are not going to notice it enjoying a very likable main character whose pranks are fairly harmless. The goofy supporting characters held my interest and after a couple of chapters the sentences started to vary in rhythm and more themes were introduced adding nice tension to the development of the story.
The plot becomes more complex as the story progresses and Ben excludes his best friend, Hector, who wonders if he wants to remain friends with him. The students stand up for their First Amendment rights and the adults act authoritarian about the whole incident. I wanted this more hashed out but most readers are not going to care. The first person point of view can be tricky because it limits the view of the protagonist and sometimes I wanted more information from Ben about the supporting characters. Angry Sienna is struggling with her parents divorce and while I like that she fesses up and takes responsibility for her actions, the situation is not resolved. Also, I expected Hector to stand up to his grandma after he stood up for Ben. I wanted Hector to confront her about her bullishness and address her interference with his friendships and interrogating him to the point where he was confessing to crimes he didn't commit. But he doesn't. I thought the story would have been stronger if Hector's grandma showed some willingness to change in how she treated Hector and that she would try to be a better parent and administrator. In the end, she remains more one-dimensional and less interesting to me as the antagonist.
If you are like my dad who saw absolutely no humor in toilet paper hanging from the trees, then I recommend passing on this book. As a kid, I loved books where anarchy prevailed, the adults were idiots, the characters were funny, and exciting adventures oozed from the pages. This book delivers all that and more. I also loved to act out books with my best friend. Good thing this book wasn't around! We'd be dreaming up all sorts of mischief!