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review 2018-01-20 19:35
The Kneebone Boy by Ellen Potter
The Kneebone Boy - Ellen Potter

The three Hardscrabble children, Otto, Lucia, and Max, live in the town of Little Trunks. For most of their lives they've been the "weird" children that everyone whispers about and no one wants to be friends with. Otto, the eldest Hardscrabble kid, began wearing a scarf on a daily basis after their mother disappeared. He also hasn't spoken a word aloud since then - instead, he invented a personal sign language that only Lucia knows fluently, Max can puzzle out, and their father can't hardly understand.

Lucia, the middle child, acts confident but is actually very lonely. Otto is her best and closest friend. Max, the youngest, is the most outgoing of the Hardscrabble children, but even his best efforts aren't enough to overcome the family's reputation and earn him a non-Hardscrabble friend. He's the most observant of the children, always carefully noting everything going on around him and thinking through what it all means.

The kids' father, Casper, paints deposed royalty. When he's suddenly called out to paint another portrait, he sends the children to stay with his cousin Angela in London. Unfortunately, Angela turns out to actually be on vacation elsewhere. The children really don't want to go back to Little Trunks, so they decide to go visit their Great-Aunt Haddie, who they've never met before. And so begins their adventure.

I had been wanting to read this for ages, almost entirely because I loved the cover artwork. I'm easily drawn in by illustrated covers. I knew very little about the story but assumed that it would have at least a few fantasy elements. This assumption was supported by the Goodreads users who tagged it as "Fantasy" and Potter's own writing, which kept hinting that fantastical things would happen. At the very least, there was supposed to be a ghost.

I'll just get this out of the way right now: I don't consider this to be a fantasy novel, and my expectation that it was probably hurt my opinion of the overall story. It's really more of a mixture of mystery and adventure.

The kids' desire to avoid going back to Little Trunks resulted in them accidentally investigating the mystery of their mother's disappearance. The way Potter wrote about Otto's quirks as being defense mechanisms was very intriguing and part of what kept me reading, even though the book's pacing and efforts at foreshadowing annoyed me. I also felt for Lucia, who both protected and depended upon Otto, and was grateful for Max, whose observations and deductions kept the story from lurching to a standstill.

The pacing, as I said, really didn't work for me. I was also a bit impatient with Potter's choice of narrator. The book was written as though it was a story being told by one of the Hardscrabble kids. The narrator never revealed their name, but various clues made it clear who it was. It was never clear to me why the author did things this way, and there were a few moments when I was distracted by thoughts of how surprisingly good this child seemed to be at guessing adults' ages. I don't know about you, but when I was as young as the Hardscrabble kids, my knowledge of adult ages was limited to "as old as my parents," "probably younger than my parents," and various levels of "pretty old."

It didn't take me too long to decide that I wasn't going to love this book, but, as the pieces of the Hardscrabble children's past started to come together, I did at least want to know how things would turn out. My first impression of the ending was that it was okay, but a bit dissatisfying. As I thought about it some more, however, I began to get angry.

First, what is up with stories in which parents

lie to and essentially betray their children for years and who are then forgiven by their children after a few minutes of explanations and apologies? Casper let his kids think that their mother had abandoned them, or had maybe even been killed. Heck, what about the rumors that Otto had killed his own mother? By not telling the truth, Casper let those flourish. I wouldn't have blamed a single one of the Hardscrabble kids for crying and screaming at him, or refusing to talk to him ever again.

Second, the way Potter wrote about mental illness was crap. Casper told his children that he'd taken their mother to multiple places to try to get her some help "but she was miserable at all of them. They pumped her body full of medication." (272) So she was miserable at all these places, but supposedly not miserable while held captive in a castle-turned-mental-hospital, kept from her children, who even Casper admitted she probably still loved even if she didn't know who they were? And then there was Potter's way of writing about medication. There was no mention of side-effects or issues with finding the correct dosage. Instead, Potter made it seem like it was the very act of trying to medicate Tessa that was bad. So what did Casper do instead? He took her to a place where no apparent effort was made to treat Tessa at all.

(spoiler show)


The Kneebone Boy had some good points. I liked the Hardscrabble children, and I thought the castle Haddie was staying at was pretty cool, even though the people who built it were awful. However, it took way too long for the book's focus to become apparent, and the more I think about the ending the more awful it feels.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2018-01-19 17:46
MOONRISE by Erin Hunter
Moonrise - Erin Hunter
  The cats now have to return home to tell the message they must bring to the Clans. As they journey home, they meet a Tribe where they learn more hunting techniques and the importance of working together. Meanwhile, the Clans have to deal with the Twolegs destroying more of their territories.

I enjoyed this book. I liked the interactions between the travelers and the Tribe and how they learned new things and realized that there is more than just them in the world. There was the edge of the seat thrills and action. I still have questions about a whole lot of things especially Leafpaw and her promise. I look forward to reading the next book.
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review 2018-01-17 06:35
Creeping Fear
Lockwood & Co.: The Creeping Shadow - Jonathan Stroud

I adore this series. I always look forward to the newest book. And I have to get these on audiobook because the narration is always excellent. I was not disappointed. At the end of "The Hollow Boy", Lucy leaves Lockwood and Co for what seems like good reasons at the time. She becomes an independent contractor ghost hunter and she's good at her job. But she's not happy, even with her glass jar skull for company. She misses the camaraderie of Lockwood and Co.: George, even Holly, and of course, Lockwood. But she left to keep them safe because her newer abilities to communicate with ghosts might cause her to make a mistake and get one of her friends hurt.

Lockwood shows up at her new digs and asks for her help with a case, and she agrees to help them out. It's one of their tougher cases, and Lucy finds her life in jeopardy shortly after, and realizing that she's more safe sticking with Lockwood and Co. until they fi

gure out who's trying to kill her. That's when their biggest case comes their way, a whole haunted village. They end up in a small town with serious ghost problems a conspiracy that will shake the foundations of the ghost hunting community.

I love how Stroud steadily builds on the foundation of the last book and the previous ones. The story just expands beautifully and he doesn't leave any plot elements dangling. While he turns a few things on their heads, it's organic as the reader realizes that things weren't as the characters thought or believed. The characters are very well developed and layered. While the main characters are all teens, they have a maturity that is realistic considering the world they live in and the dangers they face every day. Let's face it. The children are the ones on the frontline, confronting and dealing with the ghost Problem.

These books are delightfully eerie and downright chilling at times. Also, there's plenty of human menace. I mean, grownups trying to kill kids. How sick is that? While the paranormal elements are integral to the story, the heart of it is the characters. Everything is told from Lucy's point of view (it's 1st person), but the characters don't suffer from being seen through the typically narrow 1st person vantage point. Instead, they are richly described, with dialogue and action that shows you everything you need to know about them. Lucy also grows as a character as she faces significant challenges and comes to realizations about what she is and how to deal with the troubles she and her friends face. And that they are stronger together.

As with the last book, this has a nice conclusion but it also leaves the door open for the next book. Things are about to get even more intense, and I'm here for it.

Another book I'd love to see made into movies. And I just checked and it's going to be optioned for a tv series in the UK. This pleases me. Sadly, the next book is the last book. But all good things come to an end.

Highly recommend!
 
 
 
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review 2018-01-08 06:26
The Path to Dawn (Opal Charm #1) - DNF @ 4%
The Path to Dawn (Opal Charm, #1) - Miri Castor

The writing is choppy and amateurish, and the MC thinks everyone is stupid. Character is definitely way too young for me to relate to. 

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review 2018-01-06 04:07
How to (Almost) Ruin Your Summer
How to (Almost) Ruin Your Summer - Taryn Souders

 

 

Someone once told me that money can't buy happiness. They obviously never had to ride a baby bike to the first day of middle school.

-opening lines

 

Chloe is determined to earn money this summer (maybe by babysitting). What she didn't plan for is her parents deciding to send her to career camp. There she will have the opportunity to see what it's like to be a cake decorator, athlete, scientist, or veterinarian. Well, Chloe knows for sure she doesn't get along with animals, by maybe she could work with the cake decorating thing. But, life has other plans... Between spiders, a goat named King Arthur, a rude girl named Victoria, and Director Mudwimple, Chloe's summer is looking ruined. But luckily Chloe meets a friend, a bouncy girl named Paulie (who Chloe nicknames Pogo), and finds out two of her friends from home are also there, Nathan (her secret crush) and Sebastian.

 

The story is told through Chloe's experiences and nightly journal entries. Chloe is relatable and the drama seems pretty accurate for a bunch of middle school aged girls living in a cabin together. Chloe's friendship with Pogo and the difficulties with the bully Victoria seem to be accurate portrayals of middle school relationships. Chloe doesn't always make the right choice, but in the end, she does the right thing. I read this quickly in one sitting and I think 4th through 8th graders will enjoy it.

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