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review 2017-11-23 20:20
A great debut novel for those looking for a bit of magic and hope.
Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance - Ruth Emmie Lang

Thanks to NetGalley and to St. Martin’s Press for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

This book is a joy. Readers need to be prepared to suspend disbelief more than usual, perhaps, but from the very beginning, you realise you are in for a ride where everything will be extraordinary. Weylyn, the protagonist, is born in circumstances that his doctor never forgets, and he grows up to be more than a bit special.

I will not repeat the description of the book, which summarises quite well the main aspects of the novel. Weylyn’s story is told, mostly, from the point of view of the characters he meets along the way, and who, somehow, are changed by his presence in their lives. The story is set in the present, with interludes where a boy who literally falls on Weylyn (who lives like a hermit in the forest, with a wolf as his only company) keeps pestering him to tell him his story, and then goes back to the past, and the story is told, always in the first person, by a number of characters. As all readers know, narrators have a way of revealing a lot about themselves when they tell somebody else’s story, and this is true here. None of the narrators are unreliable, but they tell us more of their own stories through their memories of Weylyn than they do about Weylyn himself. We get to know him by the effect he has on those around him (children, adults, some of the characters —those he is closest to— her revisits over the years) and he remains a bit of a cipher, perhaps because he does not know himself or can explain himself fully either. We hear from him towards the end of the book, also in the first person, but he is not a character who defines himself by his “powers” (if that is what they are), and he never gives his talents a name, although he allows people to think whatever they like (He even tries to hide his prowess behind a pig, Merlin, insisting that the horned pig is the one who controls the weather). Despite all these points of view, the book is easy to read as each point of view is clearly delineated and their stories and narrative styles are distinct and appropriate to the characters. The writing flows well and there is enough description to spur readers’ imagination without going overboard.

In a world where children and parents have difficulty communicating, where fitting in and appearances are more important than true generosity, where politicians are self-serving and corrupt, where people stay in relationships because they don’t know how to end them, and where the interest of big corporations always trumps the needs of the common man, Weylyn is like the energy and light he manages to harvest, a ray of hope and a breath of fresh air.

Weylyn is a great character, but so are most of the other characters in the book. Some are more memorable than others, but they are all likeable and changed for the better by their interaction with Weylyn.

Although there are magical and fantastic elements in the novel, in my opinion, it fits into the category of magic realism (as the world the characters live in is our world and that is precisely why people are touched and surprised by his skills, his “specialness”). It would also fall under literary fiction, although it is a much easier read than many books classed under that label (and I feel this is a book not exclusively for adults either. There is minimal violence, clean romance, and many young characters, all distinct and likeable in their own ways).

A story for readers who love great characters and like to let their imaginations fly, not always feeling the need to remain anchored to reality. This is one of those books that we feel sorry to reach the end of and are thankful because we know their memory will remain with us. A great debut novel.

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review 2017-11-12 01:42
Impatient to read the next one
Hilo Book 1: The Boy Who Crashed to Earth - Judd Winick
Hilo Book 2: Saving the Whole Wide World - Judd Winick
Hilo Book 3: The Great Big Boom - Judd Winick

In an effort to expand my repertoire of graphic novels and maybe be more helpful when recommending books to my library patrons I took a trip to the shelves. I came upon a set of 3 books in a series written by Judd Winick and their covers were so eye-catching that I decided to grab all of them to binge. I'm grateful that I did because I breezed right through them and it's left me impatient for book 4 which comes out at the beginning of next year. The series centers around a character called HiLo (arguments could be made that it's written Hilo or HILO) who crash lands onto earth (and into our hearts) with The Boy Who Crashed to Earth. The title pretty much says it, right? HiLo looks like your typical kid except that he's super strong and extremely weird. He doesn't get why clothes are mandatory or that not everyone has superpowers like he does. Luckily, he makes friends with D.J. who is more than happy to show him the ropes and to absolutely have his back...even if that means fighting robots from another dimension. By the second book, Saving the Whole Wide World, their duo has expanded to include Gina who used to be D.J.'s best friend before she moved away. She's struggling with her own identity so it's challenging to try and sort out just what kind of a creature HiLo actually is...and if he's a hero or a villain. The stakes are higher and the danger is 100% real but it doesn't seem like there's anything that HiLo can't defeat...which brings us to the third book titled The Great Big Boom. There are magical warrior cats in this book. I don't think I need to say anything else because MAGICAL WARRIOR CATS. HiLo and his friends are going up against the ultimate baddie and it's only going to get worse which is why I'm practically vibrating with excitement over Waking the Monsters which is set for release on 1/16/18.

 

These books are full of heart and what it means to be a loyal friend no matter what (even if there are killer robots). The illustrations are 99% of the reason why I love these books. The colors, characters, and layouts are perfectly married to the hilarious, heartwarming prose. This is a solid 10/10 for me and I have been recommending it so much that now we only have book 2 sitting lonely on our shelves (they're going like hotcakes is what I'm saying). So catch up so that like me you can sit in anticipation for the 4th book to hit the shelves!

 

What's Up Next: Matt Phelan Masterpost

 

What I'm Currently Reading: Soonish: Ten Emerging Technologies That'll Improve and/or Ruin Everything by Kelly & Zach Weinersmith & I'm rereading Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie because I just saw the film :-D

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2017-11-08 00:39
An elephant trap! Sneaky elephant! Tembo Makaburi by John Isaac Jones
Tembo Makaburi - John Isaac Jones

This novella is set in the days before the ban on ivory. Walter Cravens is out to get his fortune by hunting elephants and taking their tusks. Abasi is a servant, guide, and translator to Cravens who is set on bringing ‘progress’ to Africa. An old woman tries to give him some advice, warns about the elephant graveyard. Of course, Cravens won’t be warned off.

I liked the mouse and cat game that Cravens plays with an old bull elephant as they go ever deeper into the wilds. Cravens comes off a little strong in his pompous attitude but it serves the plot well. He’s dead sure that no animal could outsmart him and he’s got the imperious attitude to prove it – ha!

Meanwhile, Abasi and the porters do all the work. In some ways Abasi is the true center of this story. He gathers all the intel (chatting up locals, doing the tracking) and lays it at the feet of the great White hunter Cravens. I liked that Abasi makes mistakes too and isn’t really averse to killing elephants even if he gets a bit spooked later on in the story. He’s not perfect but he’s not the hero of the tale either.

As the story progresses, the tension builds. Something a little supernatural is going on here, right? Or is it just that Cravens and Abasi are making idiot choices and Nature eventually wins out? It’s left up to the reader to decide and I really enjoyed this slant to the story. 5/5 stars.

I received a free copy of this book.

The Narration: JD Kelly has one of those rich voices that makes you want to listen to darn near anything that he reads. I loved his voice for Cravens and he also had a distinct voice for Abasi with a believable Swahili accent. Abasi’s fear and skepticism and placating charm all came through loud and clear even as Kelly made Cravens sound like a pompous jerk as he’s meant to be. 5/5 stars.

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review 2017-11-08 00:16
Cute, cuddly, & educational - The Case of the Cursed Dodo by Jake G. Panda
The Case of the Cursed Dodo (The Endangered Files) (Volume 1) - Jake G. Panda

This was so cute! It’s got some detective noir feel to it with the period phrases but none of the real violence since this is for kids. There’s humor all over the place; you can’t help tripping over it. As a biologist, I loved seeing all the endangered animals, like the macaroni penguin, tucked into the story.

Jake Panda was a fun detective, trying to be all tough and grumpy and yet sweet talking his bamboo plant. I kept picturing him in a hat and trench coat even though he doesn’t wear a hat. While working at the Last Resort hotel as the house detective, he gets a postcard from his friend The Professor, a hare (not a rabbit!), seeking his aid. He runs off to do so and gets tangled up in this nefarious underground animal ring. Jake Panda won’t stand for that! Yay! Even though this is for kids, the mystery was still fun to watch unravel.

The story sometimes included stuff like ‘and we fade in to whoever doing whatever’, etc. This seemed a little odd at first but I soon got used to the stage directions being there. I really liked that the tale took place in more than one place around the world and yet more places were mentioned. In fact, this whole story is full of little learning moments – the various types of animals, locations around the world, small interesting bits about the animals themselves. I think this is great for kids interested in biology or science in general.

There’s really only 1 main female character, Daisy Condor, and she comes into the tale half way through. She’s a romantic interest and while she gets to take part in the grand finale, I felt that this story needed some gender balancing. There were a handful of ladies briefly mentioned but all with small tiny roles. Meanwhile, we have The Professor, the Dodo, the guy who double crosses Jake, etc. How are all these endangered animals going to reproduce if there’s no ladies?

All told, it was a delightful tale and fit fora family road trip with young kids. 4/5 stars.

I received a free copy of this book.

The Narration: So many awesome narrators came together to make this story alive! All the character voices were distinct and I loved that the voice actors made each voice sound a little like the animal they are portraying. There was a snorting hog, a laughing hyena, and Jake Panda often had a little growl to his voice. There were plenty of sound effects and they added to the story, though there was once or twice when the sounds over-shadowed the voices for a moment or three. 4.5/5 stars.

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