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review 2018-11-14 03:02
Crush, Berrybrook #3 by Svetlana Chmakova
Crush - Svetlana Chmakova

Jorge Ruiz is bigger than most of his classmates, but he uses his powers for good and helps keep the peace in the halls of Berrybrook Middle School, which, despite its utopian-esque levels of diversity and vibrant club-driven atmosphere, still has a bullying problem. Of course it does, because middle school. Anyway, Jorge is a decent guy and loves hanging out with his two best friends, but one day as he's musing about how complicated life is getting with everyone else pairing off and breaking up, he can't get his mind off of Jazmin.

 

This is a deceptively simple story about crushing, love, and friendship. I have zero criticism. Chmakova has a way of balancing her characters and making a tight story out of the swirling, hormonal chaos that is middle school. She focuses  on a few characters and realistic problems and captures something special. I mean, I hated middle school and yet this made me remember some of those fleeting moments of dizzy happiness. 'Crush' is sweet. I also appreciated how the crisis aspects of the storyline were resolved this time around. In 'Brave' Jensen's problems were solved, but in a way that left a bad taste in my mouth. This felt like a more responsible and realistic way to deal with behavior problems.

 

Berrybrook Middle School

 

Next: '?'

 

Previous: 'Brave'

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review 2018-11-12 15:17
A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Time Quintet #3 by Madeleine L'Engle
A Swiftly Tilting Planet - Madeleine L'Engle

Years have passed since 'A Wind in the Door'. Charles Wallace is a teenager and Meg Murry is the pregnant wife of Calvin O'Keefe. Dramatic changes in her protagonists seems to be one of L'Engle's hallmarks, and with a little research, I see she can go back and forth on a character's age. Much like Gaudior, L'Engle sometimes finds moving through time easier than space.

 

It is Thanksgiving and the family is gathered together, except for Calvin who is away on business. Calvin' mother, Mrs. O'Keefe, however, is at dinner and a little out of place. During dinner Meg's father receives a phone call from the President saying that nuclear war is imminent based on the threats of a South American dictator. Mrs. O'Keefe responds to this news with a "rune" calling upon heaven's aid to help them in this dark time. Charles Wallace feels the importance of this, and resolves to use the rune to prevent the war.

 

I may be pushing against the tide here, but this was the most enjoyable one yet. I really struggled with the flatness of 'A Wrinkle in Time'. This novel has some problematic elements, especially with its romancing of Native American culture and its lack of dynamic female characters. For the first charge there is only the defense that L'Engle's People of the Winds were one tribe only, she doesn't say that all Native Americans were "pre-fall" innocents. In the universe of these books, she would have represented all humans, Native American or not, as being that innocent before the Echthroi's corrupting influence touched them. Not the most satisfactory defense, but it works for me.

 

The second charge against female characters I can say much less about. In this book they are all tools for breeding and marrying except Mrs. O'Keefe providing some critical plot assistance before shuffling off, and Meg Murry providing some kythe-aid while pregnant and in bed. There's not much defensible in that, but I feel Meg has deserved some time with her feet up so it didn't bother my reading.

 

Anyway, this was entertaining from start to finish, something I couldn't say about the previous two.

 

Time Quintet

 

Next: 'Many Waters'

 

Previous: 'A Wind in the Door'

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review 2018-11-07 04:20
The Missing Chums, Hardy Boys #4
The Missing Chums (Hardy Boys, #4) - Walter S. Rogers,Franklin W. Dixon

'The Missing Chums' is the fourth book of the Hardy Boys mysteries and the first released after the simultaneous launch of the first three in 1927. This is a marketing move still used by publishers for some juvenile series. I've also always loved how incredibly outdated the title of this one is, revise THAT Harriet Strathmeyer. Ha.

 

I never read the revised version of this, likely because of that silly title, but I can imagine this would have been drastically altered after seeing how our boys behave in this round. They put themselves in a great deal of danger, blithely discount the proper authorities until the case is wrapped up in a neat bow, and show a lack of respect to their long-suffering Aunt Gertrude.

 

I forgot to mention that this title is also the introduction of good ol' Aunt Gertrude, an often tiresome relation, but one who offers a great deal of color to the series and a much needed tonic to the blissful perfection of the rest of the Hardy family.

 

The mystery here is that shortly after a strange encounter on the waters while testing out Biff Hooper new speedboat (every teen boy in Bayport gets a motorcycle and a speedboat it seems), Chet Morton and Biff go missing! Could they have been lost in that sudden storm, or is it something else? As most of Bayport assumes our two supporting characters are dead, the Hardy Boys refuse to give up, especially when they connect the boys' disappearance with a high profile case Fenton Hardy is working on.

 

A trip to a snake infested island caps off a so-so mystery, but a good adventure story. Much like in 'The Secret of the Old Mill' I couldn't find anything objectionable enough to merit revision.

 

Hardy Boys

 

Next: 'Hunting for Hidden Gold'

 

Previous: 'The Secret of the Old Mill'

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review 2018-11-07 03:34
The Secret of the Old Mill, Hardy Boys #3
The Secret of the Old Mill (Hardy Boys, #3) - Franklin W. Dixon,William G. Tapply

The third Hardy Boys mystery begins with the boys being duped by a stranger at the rail station. They change a large bill for him, which turns out to be counterfeit. In the revised edition the brothers would never be so daft, so it was their chubby chum Chet who takes the fall.

 

Counterfeiting, the boys are informed by their father, is becoming a serious issue in Bayport, and up and down the Eastern seacoast. Mr. Hardy suspects that production may be centered near their own city! Meanwhile, the boys went on a fishing trip and discovered a disused mill is being repaired and put back into business. However, they aren't interested in Chet's father's business as their rates for milling are outrageous. A theory is floated about that they're developing a new breakfast cereal and are understandably hush-hush about it. Meanwhile they befriend the lonely young boy (after saving his life, natch) who lives tat the mill, and try to pump him for information. The biggest development is the boys finally getting a sweet motorboat for their very own, and naming it the 'Sleuth'.

 

There are some interesting chase scenes and additional character studies, but while the original 'Secret of the Old Mill' is superior writing, the mystery was too thin to recommend it very much. The revised book tried jazzing up the story with cleverly delivered threatening notes to the Hardy's, but also fails to gel. The original gets three and a half stars for fun slang and period details circa 1927.

 

Hardy Boys

 

Next: 'The Missing Chums'

 

Previous: 'The House on the Cliff'

 

 

 

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review 2018-11-07 03:03
The House on the Cliff, Hardy Boys #2
The House on the Cliff (Hardy Boys, #2) - Franklin W. Dixon,Leslie McFarlane

At last! I've been collecting the vintage, unrevised Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew novels and after a few bites decided to wait and read them in order, but it took me forever to find the second book for either series. After a lucky visit to Providence R.I.'s Cellar Stories bookstore I found 'The House on the Cliff' and I'm back in business.

 

I read the later, revised edition years and years ago, but didn't feel a need to read it again. Reading the original brought back to me enough of the more ridiculous elements that were added to soften the objectionable edges of the original.

 

In this story, the brothers and a few of their best chums are out for an extended ride on their motorcycles. For a lark they decide to check out the gloomy, abandoned house on the cliff and see if the rumors of hauntings are true. There's a bit of a frightful episode and the boys flee the house. Later, the boys witness two speeding motor boats, one is blown up and a man left for dead. The boys make a daring rescue.

 

This triggers an interesting investigation into jewel smuggling (drugs in the later book), disappearing fathers, and lots and lots of bullets. Problematic elements included those bullets and the boys cheerfully loading their firearms, unrepentant thugs, and bumbling and lazy policemen. Actual horribleness is Frank using a colloquial racist expression (top of page 77 if you're curious) and, of course, a sinister Chinese man named Li Chang who sure would like 3 white men in his power. Joe's response is merely that he "doesn't want to go to China." Haha.

 

The racist elements needed to go, but the revised edition takes away over 20 pages. Descriptions are changed, authority figures become above reproach, and the Hardy Boys have a minimum involvement with undesirables. The main villain, a hardened, if naive, criminal whose only fault was lusting after Fenton Hardy's pledge to leave him alone is revised into a sad sack who is just misunderstood and wants to reform himself and turn the House on the Cliff into a home for kids who ain't learned so good.

 

The mystery itself wasn't as solid as 'The Tower Treasure', that and the old timey racism knocks the stars down to three and a half.

 

The Hardy Boys

 

Next: 'The Secret of the Old Mill'

 

Previous: 'The Tower Treasure'

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