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Search tags: juvenile-middle-grade
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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 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 2016-05-20 22:25
There's Weird, and There's Really Weird

Playing with Fire (Skulduggery Pleasant, #2)Playing with Fire by Derek Landy

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This is a crazy book series, but I like that about it. A lead character who is a sorcerer whose body is skeletal. A thirteen-year-old girl who stays out all night fighting evil creatures and sends her reflection to school as a stand in. Heinous, and I do mean heinous villains who don't mind exploding people, along with psychopathic assassins with Southern accents who can dig through the ground and who have a favorite straight razor. Yup. That's what this book is about.

I think that this one is a lot more dark, violent and disturbing than the first book, so I'd definitely warn a parent to read it first before letting a kid younger than twelve read this. The narrator was great. I loved his accents and how he makes these very strange characters stand out. I like his intonation for Skulduggery, rather sarcastic and one of those people who really don't panic. If he does, then you're in trouble. I enjoy his relationship with Valkyrie/Stephanie. She talks to him kind of disrespectfully, but it doesn't bother him. He treats her as an equal.

There were loose ends tied up from the first book that really needed tying. Even a cameo of sorts from Valkyrie's deceased uncle who left her his house and fortune. The sorcerer world grows bigger and more complicated in this book, and Valkyrie has cause to think about the life she's chosen as the descendant of Ancients who has decided to fight the good fight. She realizes how much time she's missing out with her family.

This book is just plain weird. If you don't like weird, pass it by. If you have strong opinions on what young people should read and that list includes violent books with sorcery, monsters and psychopathic characters who have no qualms about harming a 13-year-old girl, then you won't care for this. But if you like fun, weirdly humorous, quirky, sometimes scary, and sometimes creepy crawly books with not a small degree of wish fulfillment for tweens (and messages about empowerment for young girls), then you might like this.





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