Middle Grade fantasy is absolutely fantastic. It makes me feel nostalgic for the books I read whe...moreThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
Middle Grade fantasy is absolutely fantastic. It makes me feel nostalgic for the books I read when I was younger. And honestly who doesn’t love getting lost in a fairy tale? The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom is no exception. It made me feel like a kid again, it was laugh out loud funny and it reminded me a lot of classic Disney movies like Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White but with a great twist.
The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom is really the story of four Prince Charmings (You didn’t think there was just one guy doing all the rescuing did you?) There’s Frederic – Cinderella’s prince – who is scared of everything (but an excellent negotiator!). Duncan, who broke Snow White’s sleeping spell. He’s a little dopey, but absolutely loyal and just wants to make friends with everyone and everything. Gustav, who rescued Rapunzel without realizing what he was getting into – which is the story of his life! And Liam. The only real “hero” of the bunch, who is unfortunately expected to marry the absolutely nasty Briar Rose. Seriously, move over Regina George. You have been de-throned.
I loved this book because all four of them – except maybe Liam – weren’t quite the Prince Charmings you generally think of. Fairy Tales are often all about the girls, and even most retellings focus on the female characters as well. The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom was a nice twist because it let the men develop more as characters. No longer cursed to simply swoop in at the end, looking handsome and expected to solve all the problems with a dashing smile and love’s first kiss. And this is all accomplished without sacrificing the strength of the female characters. It’s win-win!
I also loved that, contray to a lot of fairy tales, The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom was not about the romance! Yes Snow White and Duncan have a lovely relationship but the rest not so much. Each one is their own person and chasing their own dream. Cinderella wants adventure, Rapunzel wants to help people, Frederic wants to face his fears etc etc. Their destiny’s aren’t wrapped up in simply being with another person and I thought that was a more realistic portrayal.
Recommendation: The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom is a delightful return to the fairy tales I grew up with but it makes this return without sacrificing strong characters or realistic goals. Basically it’s the whole package. Recommended for middle grade readers and those who grew up watching their Disney VHS’s over and over.(less)
Small Medium At Large is the story of a spunky young girl named, Lilah Bloom. One day, the day of her mother's w...moreOriginally reviewed at Hooked on Books
Small Medium At Large is the story of a spunky young girl named, Lilah Bloom. One day, the day of her mother's wedding to be exact, she gets struck my lightning. Nothing quite gets your attention like someone getting struck by lightining. That is, unless that person can then hear the voice of her dead grandmother, who wants her to help her dad start dating again.
If I were to use a single word to describe Small Medium at Large it would have to be hilarious. From the first conversation between Lilah and her best friend, to the final piece of wisdom from her dead grandmother (Bubby Dora), this book was constantly making me laugh out loud - often in public! There were even a few times my dog came over to check on me, I was making so much noise.
Joanne Levy nails the voice of twelve year old, Lilah. She sounds exactly the way I would expect to her too. Never too old or too young. Intelligent and a quick thinker, you can't help but like her. Motivated by nothing but good intentions, she's a character to be admired. And she's Jewish, adding some much needed diversity to the middle grade character pool.
I have some friends that think I'm strange for reading middle grade titles (or "kid's books"). But when I read a book like Small Medium at Large that makes me laugh so hard I almost spit tea across the room, I reminded of all the reasons I love 'kid's books' and I'm sorry that there are people who will miss out on this wonderful story because they can't look past the age range on the bookstore shelf.
Final recommedation: A must for all the middle grade people in your life. Whether actual 9-12 year olds, or just those of us that are young at heart, Small Medium at Large is a refreshing and funny read you're sure to enjoy.(less)
Despite the fact that I am in my 20s and have no children (aged 9-12 or otherwise) I still enjoy a good middle grade title. A well written middle grade title is fun, it's refreshing, it's the stuff fairy tales are made of. I don't mean that poetically, I find that fantasy style middle grade styles help relive that time in my life where I watched Disney movies on repeat and read Doctor Seuss and Robert Munsch books.
So when I read the description of Scary School, I was really excited to read it for the all the reasons listed above and when all is said and done I found it a very cute and funny read. This is a great middle grade title, it's inventive and has an interesting story that will keep kids interested. It's smart (it does after all take place in a school) but it still easy to read and understand. I know since finishing I have passed along my copy to a seven year old (almost eight!) member of my family and he is currently devouring the story with minimal help.
The great thing about this book is the jokes. The book is full of them and you are guaranteed a giggle or two. I'm a little worried that a few of them may go over kid's heads. For example there's a reference to Minotaurs being aMAZEing. I'm not sure how many kids I know would get that joke, but it's totally possible I know the wrong kids!
There's also a really stellar cast of characters! Each chapter deals with new characters, adding to different branches to the storyline. I particularly loved Dr. Dragonbreath and his set of 5 classroom rules. If you break them you don't just get detention - you get eaten! I would've like to learn more about Derek the Ghost (since he's the narrator and all). Despite the fact that he's doing all the talking we know very little about him. I think he should've had his own chapter.
If you have (or know) kids in the ages 8-12 range this would be a great book for them. In addition, however, it's also a fun read for teens or adults who are just looking for something light and enjoyable. (less)
Hilarious with a capital H. I have never laughed so hard about Canadian history, Jane Austen and Shakespeare. Kate Beaton is intelligent and clever....more
Hilarious with a capital H. I have never laughed so hard about Canadian history, Jane Austen and Shakespeare. Kate Beaton is intelligent and clever. Absolute must read for all of us that suffered through high school Canadian history. That knowledge can now be put to good use!(less)
Who would have thought a novel about Grim Reapers could be so delightful?
Gina Damico has created the fabulous town of Croak, a mostly isolated community where one third of America's Grim Reapers, live, sleep and work. I loved how creative this setting was. Everything about it was unqiue and catchy and the way everything, from the store to the local bar was named after death - yes some of the names were pretty cheesy but that was part of the fun! They even have there very own drink, which is said to taste like drinking desert. Sign me up for some of that!
Setting aside, what really made me fall head over heels for this book was Lex. She has some absolutely hilarious moments. Shes angry, she's stubborn and she isn't afraid to speak her mind (even if what she has to say is kind of rude). And she was perfectly paired with Driggs, her partner in death. Their personalities seem to clash yet perfectly compliment each other at the same time. I thought the dialogue of their many arguments was spot on.
One of the major sore spots for Lex, in her new found calling, is that often times when someone is murdered they (the Reapers) are able to see exactly who committed the crime but they are forbidden from interfering. Lex feels pretty strongly that they can (and should) do something about all these horrible people in the world. I thought this led to an interesting and thought provoking plot. Amongst the humour, this book was also able to raise some important questions about who should choose punishments, who gets to “play God”, and what exactly justice is. Very clever the way Gina slipped that in.
For those looking for something a little more light hearted, you're going to find plenty to enjoy within these pages. But for those who like their stories a little more complex I think there's plenty here for you as well. I think this book has a unique ability to adapt - depending on you want to get out of it. I can't wait for the sequel so I can read more about the people of Croak and see how Gina Diamaco expands on many of the obstacles Lex is faced with.(less)
The premise of this book is solid. Your traditional coming of age story, a boy torn between his parents, his friends and his struggling with his own e...moreThe premise of this book is solid. Your traditional coming of age story, a boy torn between his parents, his friends and his struggling with his own emotions and opinions. What makes this story unique is that it's sets against some strong themes of environmentalism. Sam (the main character of the story) is surrounded by some excellent and hilarious characters who both aid and impede his development. The main conflict is what to do over the ever growing deer population. The deer are reproducing at an uncontrollable rate and the town is divided between a scheduled hunt to thin the herd and those who want to protect the deer at all costs. Sam isn't just divided because the community disagrees but because his parents do as well. Having the rallying point be the deer herd seemed a little odd at first, but it worked. Who doesn't love Bambi right? Many of the characters in this book are hilarious. Situations often reach ridiculous proportions that you just can't help but laugh at. In particular I loved Sam's mother, a die hard, middle aged hippie, his high school girlfriend Megan, a know it all with rich parents and delusions of grandeur and his friend Ryan, an amateur activist with a flair for the dramatic. Many other characters, however, fall flat. Most are based on common archetypal characters and their development doesn't go far beyond these basic traits. They fit into their roles exactly, usually at the expense of their personality and originality. Overall this book is a easy going, fun read. Sam may not be Holden Caufield, but he is your average teenager, trying to find his place in the world. The characters are basic, the plot is simple but it makes you laugh and it gets the point across.
I picked this book up at a used book store, drawn in by it's unique title and remembering that it had made it on to one of the editions of 1001 Books...moreI picked this book up at a used book store, drawn in by it's unique title and remembering that it had made it on to one of the editions of 1001 Books To Read Before You Die. I found it incredibly funny, somewhat informative and at times a little tragic. Way more than I was expecting for a $4 paperback. The story follows a British-Ukrainian family during a time of family crisis. The crisis being that the father has decided to marry a much younger Ukrainian woman, who is clearly using him for money and a passport. His two daughters than join forces to save him from his unhappy fate. What made this book for me was the father, and his interactions with his youngest daughter Nadezhda. The father is quirky, old fashioned and conflicted. I can picture him perfectly in my mind. I can even hear his Ukrainian accent when I'm reading his dialogue. His antics are funny all of their own, but are made even funnier by his daughter's attempts to help a very stubborn old man. You can't help but love the father, he's the product of his history, his age and his daughters and he fulfils his role perfectly. In case you were thinking this book was a little too light hearted and fluffy, it is interspersed with memories of the families time living in the Soviet Union. Before moving to Britain the family did not have it easy, facing famine, work camps and the wrath of communism. These are serious undertones to a very funny book. I found them particularly interesting, as Ukrainian history is not one you generally hear about. Overall a nice book. It's funny, not too long and you learn a bit about the Ukraine at the same time. (less)
Charles Yu (the character) is stuck in a time loop. His future self and his present self have interacted and well...the results aren't good. Thankfull...moreCharles Yu (the character) is stuck in a time loop. His future self and his present self have interacted and well...the results aren't good. Thankfully future Charles left present Charles some help, a book. This book to be exact. How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe is an explanation of the world of the future with handy tips, including details on the capital city, the socioeconomic strata and most importantly what to do in the event you're trapped in a time loop. With the help of this book, Ed and TAMMY (my personal favourite) Charles not only looks for a way out of the time loop but learns something about his life as well.
I love the premise of this book. Time travel is often confusing and filled with techno babble that (to me) doesn't make a lot of sense. Charles Yu, however, uses just the right amount of cyber jargon and uses it in a way that just makes you laugh at loud at the absurdity of it all. Don't expect this book to follow a normal course of events, it breaks rules of space and physics so it's a safe bet it's going to break narrative convention as well. Try not to think about how impossible it all is and just enjoy the ride.
When I first heard about this book I was excited. It's been awhile since I've read a recently released science fiction title that I actually liked and this one sounded right up my alley. That's a lot of pressure for a book, but thankfully it delivered. It is a hilarious read and you won't want to put it down. It is very much in the spirit of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and it isn't often you come across someone who can pull off good science fiction and good comedy in one go. If you like science fiction and/or are looking for something out of left field check this book out and enjoy!(less)
Like Water for Chocolate, is the story of a Mexican girl named Tita. She is desperately in love with Pedro but life, and her mother, have conspired to keep them apart. Instead of being together Tita has to watch as Pedro marries her sister and she is forced to live a life of servitude under her domineering mother. Told in monthly instalments this novel tracks the relationship (or lack thereof) of Tita and Pedro and how their love affects the people around them.
I thought this book was really clever. Not only was each chapter a month of the year, each was accompanied by a recipe. The chapter would open with an ingredient list and instructions on how to cook the dish. These instructions, however, would always segue in the central themes and conflicts of that chapter. I was amazed by how seamless some of these transitions were. It is a real testament to Esquivel`s writing that she could preform this feat twelve times over and still keep me interested in the story.
This book has been frequently described as a love story and while that's part of it, I think that is too simple of a description. Instead I would like to describe this book as a full out soap opera! Tita's in love with Pedro, Pedro is married to Rosaura, the other sister is running around naked, brides are throwing up on their wedding gowns and the mother is obsessed with making everyone unhappy. And to top it all off they're all living under the same roof. It's like Days of Our Lives meets The Bachelor Pad! Sometimes the absurdity of the situation just made me outright giggle. You'll find yourself reading on just to see what these crazy characters will get up to next.
Like Water for Chocolate, is a fun and charming novel. There are some really ridiculous – and at times down right weird – moments but there are also some really sweet ones. Esquivel uses some interesting and very unique methods to help the reader look into the life of one crazy family and I think her techniques are something to be appreciated. Definitely one to stick one the shelf and have on hand whenever you need a reminder there are families crazier than your own. (less)