Bite Sized Reviews
Uncategorized / October 17, 2017

Not all the books I read go into reviews, for varying reasons. Because I didn’t finish them; because it would be too much work and I’m feeling lazy; because they’re just not worth it. More often than not, though, those reasons have to do with the Content Review portion, and not with my thoughts (unless it was just so bland I didn’t have any thoughts). So, I thought I’d try out a new feature: bite sized reviews. Titles that didn’t make it into normal full-info reviews, and my thoughts on them.  These Children Who Come At You With Knives, by Jim Knipfel. The best comparison that comes to mind is Douglas Adams gone wrong. If you’ve read the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – or any of his books, really – you’re familiar with the random chaotic humor and odd juxtapositions. I think these ‘fairytales’ were aiming for something of the sort, but it’s a much cruder humor, and not nearly as effective. In the end, though, the Hitchhiker’s Guide has bleak, cynical undertones, despite the humor. It says quietly there’s nobody Out There after all, and it doesn’t really matter what you do, because everything is chance and nothing…

Mr. Lemoncello’s Great Library Race
Middle Grade / Juvenile / October 14, 2017

Mr. Lemoncello’s Library #3. Author: Chris Grabenstein. Summary: Everyone’s favorite game maker, Mr. Lemoncello, is testing out his new FABULOUS FACT-FINDING FRENZY game! If Kyle can make it through the first round, he and the other lucky finalists will go on a great race–by bicycle, bookmobile, and even Mr. Lemoncello’s corporate banana jet!–to find fascinating facts about famous Americans. The first to bring their facts back to the library will win spectacular prizes! But when a few surprising “facts” surface about Mr. Lemoncello, it might be GO TO JAIL and LOSE A TURN all at once! Could Kyle’s hero be a fraud? It’s winner take all, so Kyle and the other kids will have to dig deep to find out the truth before the GAME is OVER for Mr. Lemoncello and his entire fantastic empire! (Published Summary) My Thoughts: I loved the first two books, enough that I almost feel bad saying this… but the Great Library Race is distinctly mediocre. It feels like Grabenstein had a good thing in the first book, so he just kept writing, but at this point he doesn’t have enough new material for the book to stand out. There was none of the fast…

Blackbringer
Middle Grade / Juvenile , Young Adult / October 13, 2017

Faeries of Dreamdark #1. Author: Laini Taylor. Summary: When the ancient evil of the Blackbringer rises to unmake the world, only one determined faerie stands in its way. However, Magpie Windwitch, granddaughter of the West Wind, is not like other faeries. While her kind live in seclusion deep in the forests of Dreamdark, she’s devoted her life to tracking down and recapturing devils escaped from their ancient bottles, just as her hero, the legendary Bellatrix, did 25,000 years ago. With her faithful gang of crows, she travels the world fighting where others would choose to flee. But when a devil escapes from a bottle sealed by the ancient Djinn King himself, the creator of the world, she may be in over her head. How can a single faerie, even with the help of her friends, hope to defeat the impenetrable darkness of the Blackbringer? (Published Summary) My Thoughts: I was afraid from the cover that this would be a YA version of the Pixie Hollow stories, but was pleasantly surprised. They are still the tiny, pixie-ish version of faeries, not my personal favorite. And I don’t think the writing here was quite as lovely as Laini Taylor’s more recent stuff,…

The Wednesday Wars
Young Adult / October 12, 2017

Author: Gary D. Schmidt. Summary: Meet Holling Hoodhood, a seventh-grader at Camillo Junior High, who must spend Wednesday afternoons with his teacher, Mrs. Baker, while the rest of the class has religious instruction. Mrs. Baker doesn’t like Holling—he’s sure of it. Why else would she make him read the plays of William Shakespeare outside class? But everyone has bigger things to worry about, like Vietnam. His father wants Holling and his sister to be on their best behavior: the success of his business depends on it. But how can Holling stay out of trouble when he has so much to contend with? A bully demanding cream puffs; angry rats; and a baseball hero signing autographs the very same night Holling has to appear in a play in yellow tights! As fate sneaks up on him again and again, Holling finds Motivation—the Big M—in the most unexpected places and musters up the courage to embrace his destiny, in spite of himself. (Published Summary) My Thoughts: Bernadette: Surprisingly good! The first-person narrator, a teenage boy, is very authentic, from his occasional cluelessness to his flashes of insight and wry understanding of the high-school ecology he lives in. The characters around him become…

The Serial Garden
Middle Grade / Juvenile / October 11, 2017

Author: Joan Aiken. Summary: The complete collection of twenty-four charming and magical Armitage family stories. Includes a prelude by the author and introductions from Garth Nix and Lizza Aiken. My Thoughts: The best kind of silly is delightful, clever, straight-faced silly. (Not the straight-faced silly where you realize suddenly “Oh, no, they mean it. How. What. Someone, help,” but the extravagant ever-growing tall tale carried off to such perfection that there’s someone credulous in the back trying to figure out if it’s real or not.) Joan Aiken creates a world of magic, whimsy, and ordinary tea-time. Some of the stories were funnier than others; in fact the first couple of tales tasted bland to me, but there were two or three truly delightful ones, and most of them were fun. Seems to me like it might make a good read aloud for kids. Content Review: Sexual Content: None. Language: None. Violence: Witch ties a child up and tries to cook him, but through a series of mishaps no harm is done and he ends up escaping. Boy accidentally shoots man in the foot with a dart. There are multiple magical duels, but no one ever seems hurt – the worst…

Something Wicked This Way Comes
Adult / October 2, 2017

Author: Ray Bradbury. Summary: A carnival rolls in sometime after the midnight hour on a chill Midwestern October eve, ushering in Halloween a week before its time. A calliope’s shrill siren song beckons to all with a seductive promise of dreams and youth regained. In this season of dying, Cooger & Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show has come to Green Town, Illinois, to destroy every life touched by its strange and sinister mystery. And two inquisitive boys standing precariously on the brink of adulthood will soon discover the secret of the satanic raree-show’s smoke, mazes, and mirrors, as they learn all too well the heavy cost of wishes — and the stuff of nightmare. (Published Summary) My Thoughts: Wow. The title is so familiar that I can’t believe I’ve never read this before, and I feel like it’s a classic, but the story was completely new to me. And I loved it. All of it: the prose, the atmosphere, the plot, the allegory. Throughout the terrifying romp that is Something Wicked This Way Comes Ray Bradbury writes with a swooping, racing style, a language that’s not interested in being analyzed or slowly savored, despite the constant unusual descriptions and metaphors. It…

The Geography of You and Me
Young Adult / October 1, 2017

Author: Jennifer E. Smith. Summary: Lucy and Owen meet somewhere between the tenth and eleventh floors of a New York City apartment building, on an elevator rendered useless by a citywide blackout. After they’re rescued, they spend a single night together, wandering the darkened streets and marveling at the rare appearance of stars above Manhattan. But once the power is restored, so is reality. Lucy soon moves to Edinburgh with her parents, while Owen heads out west with his father. Lucy and Owen’s relationship plays out across the globe as they stay in touch through postcards, occasional e-mails, and—finally—a reunion in the city where they first met. A carefully charted map of a long-distance relationship, Jennifer E. Smith’s new novel shows that the center of the world isn’t necessarily a place. It can be a person, too. (Published Summary) My thoughts: If it is an absolutely one-hundred-percent necessity to put romance in every single YA book out there (as it apparently is) I wish more of it was like this story! So Jennifer E. Smith is already my favorite author for cute fluff, ever since I found her, but The Geography of You and Me is my favorite yet. Lucy…