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Search tags: middle-grade-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 2016-07-28 03:43
JOE DEVLIN AND THE NEW STAR FIGHTER (JOE DEVLIN #1) by James R. Thomas
Joe Devlin And The New Star Fighter - James R. Thomas

JOE DEVLIN AND THE NEW STAR FIGHTER (JOE DEVLIN #1)

James R. Thomas

Paperback, 1, 96 pages
Published September 30th 2012 by Createspace Independent Publishing Platform
ISBN: 
1470101688 (ISBN13: 9781470101688)
 

This is the first of the Joe Devlin series. I thought it was a good read, especially for someone who may be interested in military and/or sci-fi. I liked the main character, Joe, but felt some of the minor characters were not so well developed. This may be because it is the first in the series. I would definitely recommend this to kids my nephews age (10/11 years old).


****I received this book in exchange for a fair review in a Booklikes giveaway held by the author, James R. Thomas. ****

 

 

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review 2016-06-11 04:05
THE GOBLIN SQUAD BY JEREMY HAYES
The Goblin Squad - Jeremy Hayes

THE GOBLIN SQUAD

Jeremy Hayes

Paperback, 148 pages
Published November 4th 2015 by Northlord Publishing
ISBN:  099186428X (ISBN13: 9780991864287) 
 
This fantasy/magic book by Jeremy Hayes is action packed and enjoyable. Hayes included a strong female character as one of the members of the new Goblin Squad, which is nice to see. Each 10 year old character has his or her own personality, and developed well. There is a lot of action, and well written dialogue which helped keep the story moving. I would definitely recommend this to a middle grade reader who likes fantasy.


****I received this book from the author, Jeremy Hayes, in exchange for a fair review."

 

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