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Search tags: juvenile-fiction
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review 2017-01-29 05:18
A Gothic Tour
The Poe Estate - Polly Shulman

This is an homage to Gothic fiction lovers aimed at younger readers. I loved that about this book. It's metafiction that takes it even deeper. There is story within a story within a story. I read The Wells Bequest first, which is the science fiction volume of this series. I liked it, but I liked this more because I love Gothic/Classic horror. It's apparent that Shulman does as well. I made a note of all the books she alluded to. Many I had read, but I got ideas for others to look up and read.

The overall concept was well done, and some elements were quite serious for a MG level book. This book deals with death in a very matter-of-fact way. Suki's sister died and her ghost is her protector. Except Kitty is getting to be problematic in her protectiveness, leading to Suki's reputation as being weird, and Suki needs to let her go. Her parents have to move in with a great, great-aunt into a house that is part of her family's strange and tragic history. As Suki gets drawn into an adventure related to her ancestor's tie to the house and interacts with employees from the New York Circulating Repository, she learns that it's important to accept her sister's death and try to move on.

I couldn't give this book higher than 3.5 stars because it is written in too lightweight a fashion. Some serious topics are put out there and there are deeper levels that don't get delved into with this book. I feel that there was a longer book inside of this one that didn't get written. I understand that some things had to be pared down due to format, but I would have liked to see that other book that this book shows potential for turned out. On the good side, I love how multicultural it is, and the fact that all families aren't the same, and that hardworking people experience financial difficulties and lose their homes and jobs. Not because they are lazy, but because of things outside their control. Suki is a strong young girl to go through all of this and keep on going. I had mad respect for her and her family. I cried about her sister and some of the tragic events from her family's past.

I love the metafiction concept. I could read about that for days. I could have spent hours more delving into this interest world that Shulman created. I wish I had 100 more pages of this gem. I will always be a cheerleader for middle grade fiction. While I was somewhat disappointed with this book, I would still recommend it to readers who love classic and Gothic horror.

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review 2016-08-25 22:17
A Girl, a Cat, and a Library
The Forbidden Library - Django Wexler

I love the idea of this book, about people whose magical ability is to read themselves into books. Appropriately enough, they are called "Readers". Alice is a recently orphaned girl who is taken in by a supposed great-uncle to stay at his estate, which he calls the Library.

It turns out that there is a library, a place full of danger, with possible answers on her father's death. Alice learns that all is not at all as it seems. The Library is sinister and has a life of its own, a doorway that leads to worlds even more dangerous.

I liked what was there, but there are big gaps in the story. I read a fair amount of books for middle grade readers, and this one feels like it's paced and laid out for a younger audience than necessary for the greater maturity of the storyline.

This is an interesting idea, but seems short and simplistic in execution. There are a few active scenes loosely connected by an underlying, although thin narrative. The story gets to a certain level, but doesn't go past that. By and large, the characters feel underdeveloped, save Alice, and possibly Isaac. The ending is not satisfying. Not a cliffhanger, but near enough. The reader deliberately left with questions. I find that a bit manipulative. Not so much a natural close to the first story, but one in which the reader is left hanging.

I liked the lead character, young Alice, a girl left parentless, and seeking answers. She goes from being timid to gaining empowerment in her new identity. I loved her new companion, Ashes, a talking cat. It appears the writer spends quite a bit of time around cats. He has their mannerisms down pat. Isaac's relationship with Alice is intriguing, but his characterization barely scratches the surface. The villains are shadowy figures that never coalesce in this book.

There's enough here in this story to make for a series that would be worth pursuing, although there were some disappointing aspects. It will be interesting to see where the story goes next, but I hope the next book is better developed.

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review 2016-08-25 18:32
One Evil Pixie
The Opal Deception - Eoin Colfer

I thought this was a great comeback from the third book, which wasn't my favorite. The action level was high, and the villain was more than a worthy match for Artemis, Butler and Holly Short. There is a very intense and tragic moment that is the catalyst for what follows in this book. Holly thought she'd seen the last of Artemis, but when the chips fall down, she's rushing to save him and Butler and knows that he's the only one who can deal with the villain, the nefarious Opal Koboi.

The characteristic wry humor is here, but Colfer takes things seriously in many ways (no patronizing tone). Artemis might be fourteen, but he is a mature fourteen who doesn't view the world from the vantage point of a child. I was happy to see Butler in the action as much as Artemis, and their back and forth, and that of Artemis with Holly, is what makes these books so enjoyable.

Opal is a very evil villain, not troubled by any morals that would preclude murder or even feeding a boy to bloodthirsty trolls. What makes it even worse is she looks like a cute little girl. I was very happy to see her dealt with in a fitting manner by Artemis and Co.

This is a clever and enjoyable series that many younger readers and some older ones will enjoy.

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review 2016-05-17 18:38
Industrial Espionage
The Eternity Code - Eoin Colfer

I loved The Arctic Incident so much that this was a bit of a letdown as the follow-up. Having said that, it was a very entertaining book. Even though I have a paper copy, I picked up the audiobook narrated by a favorite British actor of mine, Nathaniel Parker. He narrated the heck out of it. I loved his various accents, everything from Irish to New Yorker.

Artemis is still being a criminal genius, but his conscience is being impacted by his father's return and new lease on life, and his association with the Faery people. When his latest scheme results in a tragic outcome to one of his beloved companions and powerful fae technology falling into the hands of a megalomanic, immoral tech billionaire, he has his work cut out for him getting it back.

I still love the concept of a teenage super-genius would-be villain. I like that Artemis is still antiheroic without being sociopathic or downright evil. His character has grown and it makes him more interesting. I love his bodyguard, Domovoi Butler, so some things that happened to him weren't my favorite. His sister, Juliet has a much larger role. She's a fun character. Very much a late-teenaged girl, but also with a genetic and upbringing that makes her a lethal and capable bodyguard.

I'm a sucker for anything Faerie, so those part definitely appealed. I didn't think Holly's role was as impactful, but Mulch Diggums is always a hilarious character. He's a bit disgusting, if I'm honest, but still lots of fun.

I will say this, Colfer knows how to create some reprehensible villains. He always makes me laugh, but at the same time, there is a chilling undercurrent when you consider that these people are wanting to do terrible things to a teenaged boy (even one as annoying as Artemis Fowl). Arno Blunt is rather like the evil version of Butler, but much less awesome or cool. In other words, he's no match!

This book has some enjoyable spy action scenes and faerie happenings, which I appreciated. I think I was just so impressed with the last book, that it seemed to fall short for me. I can't say too strongly how much I will miss Butler taking more of a physical role in the books, if what has happened in this one affects future books like it seems it will.

You know I will keep reading this series.

Overall rating: 3.5/5.0 stars.

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review 2016-02-22 17:53
"The Boy in the Black Suit" by Jason Reynolds
The Boy in the Black Suit - Jason Reynolds

My wife, a middle school special education teacher, recommended this book to me. She really liked it because there is such a dearth of books about young black men who are not addicts or gang members or tragically abused or otherwise completely dysfunctional. Matt, the teenage narrator of this story, is a normal kid: he goes to school, he goes to work, he crushes on girls, he hangs out with his best friend. The conflict in his life (and in the story) is external to him. His mother has died of cancer, and his father has turned to booze for solace, leaving Matt to fend for himself in a rough neighborhood. He finds a mentor and a job with Mr. Ray, the director of the local funeral home. To his surprise, Matt finds a great deal of comfort attending funerals at work: seeing other people deal with their grief helps him to process his own.

 

Matt's emotional journey through grief was subtle and, at times, very beautiful, but on the whole I found this book a little slow. I think it could be a very, very meaningful story for someone going through (or who has gone through) a similar loss, but it didn't register with me on an emotional level (likely because my life experience is very, very different from Matt's), and so while I could appreciate and enjoy the story, it never fully engaged me.

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