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review 2018-02-28 00:00
A Properly Unhaunted Place
A Properly Unhaunted Place - William Alexander,Kelly Murphy A Properly Unhaunted Place was a properly beautiful read. Its cheesy, but true. William Alexander seems to have this magical ability to suck a reader straight into a story. From the first couple of pages you’re there, seeing it, hearing it, and cheering for the main characters. The main characters which are, by the way, not white! Rosa Ramona Diaz is Hispanic, and her somewhat reluctant sidekick Jasper is half African American. She is knowledgeable, forced to grow up a bit ahead of time, and missing the father she just lost. He’s uncomfortable in his own skin and the reflected attention from his father’s charisma, but finds himself a bit during the course of the book. There are some of the expected tropes, such as parents not playing a huge role in the book, but it’s written so well that you don’t even think about it during the read.

I loved A Properly Unhaunted Place. Like... I can’t even properly express how much I loved this book. Its just a tiny thing, sized for the attention span of the kids that are the expected readers, but every page of it feels like your favorite fairy tale wending its way into your dreams. The pacing is exquisite. The dialogue is perfectly believable. The story strikes this perfect balance between being a paranormal fantasy tale for kids and being legitimately creepy when need be. The atmosphere is wonderful. You’re curious right from the beginning. Not only about Ingot, but about the world that Alexander references outside of Ingot. Where ghosts are the norm, everything is haunted, and that’s just the way life is. I need to know more!

I highly recommend this book. If you are an adult who can appreciate the magic that can be found in kids books, you need to read this book. I was enchanted. If you’ve got a kid interested in the paranormal fantasy genre, it’s basically a must-buy. If you’re a librarian, please get this on your shelves. Books like A Properly Unhaunted Place with gorgeous story-telling, a wonderfully interesting story, and characters that are diverse come along far too rarely. Please give this one the attention it deserves.
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review 2016-12-14 19:09
Nomad - William Alexander

Sequel to Ambassador, which I also loved. I read this one just after the election, and a story about a Latino kid saving the world through diplomacy while facing his father’s deportation was both heartbreaking and really affirming. Alexander is great at quiet, kid-centered SFF, which engages thoughtfully with political issues and tells really valuable and beautiful stories.

Source: bysinginglight.wordpress.com/2016/12/14/november-2016
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review 2014-11-30 22:10
Flirting with French-I think this was written for me
Flirting with French: How a Language Charmed Me, Seduced Me, and Nearly Broke My Heart - William Alexander

I think this book was written for me.  I decided in 2006 to learn French and I've been messing around with it ever since but William Alexander has really inspired me to pick it up again.

Mr. Alexander takes us through about a year where he is really determined to learn French. He talks about the various programs he uses and the classes he attends.  That could sound very dry but this book, as the title might imply, is anything but dry.  He makes his attempt at learning French amusing and so very relateable. I was feeling every struggle he had.  As he goes through his year of learning French he is also going through a lot of health issues and he's very open about how those affected his progress. I loved his description of his total immersion experience in France because I've always wondered if that would be something I would like.  

Mr. Alexander covers some of the research on second language acquisition at older ages and he does it in a very understandable way.  He meets some really interesting characters in this journey to learn French. He gives some great information on the problems of computers translating languages.  It is definitely an informative book as well as a fun one.

I found myself rooting for him every step along the way. Learning a new language at any age is difficult and he was starting at 57.  I'm not far behind him in age so this was a thoroughly enjoyable read for me.

I received this book from Netgalley and have given it an honest review.

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review 2014-10-29 00:00
Ambassador - William Alexander Modern day Minneapolis finds Gabe Fuentes babysitting his two younger siblings at the playground and surreptitiously chatting with his best friend. They aren’t suppose to be chatting. After all, their last get together involved a home made rocket and a small fire. Essentially, they have been grounded from each other for at least the summer. With a heavy heart, Gabe heads home with the twins in tow to his parents and his older sister. His parents are Mexicans that met in India and their homecooking is a fusion of the two cultures. Yum!

But I digress. You want to hear about the aliens. OK, so Gabe has an assortment of small unwanted pets he took in – a little fox, a bird, a lizard. And one night this sock puppet being pops into his room for a chat. He is Envoy and he is looking for a likely candidate from Earth to act as an Ambassador for the entire planet at the galactic assembly. Gabe is naturally intimidated by the offer but decides to give it a go anyways. Envoy proceeds to the basement where he uses odd bits and the clothes dryer to create an entagler to send the entangled Gabe to the galactic assembly. There Gabe becomes a target for at least one assassin and has a mystery to figure out. Meanwhile, back home his parents are facing deportation (since they are in the country illegally).

I loved this book. I really enjoyed William Alexander’s Goblin Secrets and Ghoulish Song but this is a new level of excellence from him. While suitable for all ages, it had a certain refined intensity that makes this my favorite Alexander book to date. I loved the multicultural aspect as so many SFF novels have Caucasians as the focus of the story. The Mexican-Indian cultural fusion of the Fuentes household, set in Minneapolis, reflects the real life I know and enjoy. Plus, I now want tasty curry tamales. Gabe’s awareness of this cultural diversity(with both the pros and cons of it) give him special insight for his new role as Earth’s Ambassador.

In the Galactic Assembly, the Ambassadors get to know each other through play. I thought this was a great point as well as allowing for fun and awkward moments. The author did a great job of capturing different approaches to communication from the various alien envoys, and also Gabe having to puzzle out the least familiar attempts at communication. Plus there is this nomadic warrior race that travels the galaxy dominating or annihilating any other alien race they come upon. They too have an Ambassador at the Galactic Assembly.

Pretty soon Gabe has lots of concerns. Someone is trying to kill him and he thinks it is another Ambassador. Plus his parents are facing deportation for being in the country illegally. I found these scenes particularly poignant as Gabe is trying to save himself, potentially the world, and now his family in particular. So much on one young man!

The ending was satisfying. It tied up the overall plot arc but left some questions open for a sequel (and I really do hope there is a sequel).

The Narration: William Alexander narrated his own story, as he has done with his other works. Once again, he was amazing. I have lived in New Mexico for over 2 decades and Alexander’s Hispanic accent for Gabe and his family was very believable; he didn’t over do it as so many non-Spanish speakers will at times. I also loved his various alien noises he had to come up with from time to time. He has clear distinct voices for both the male and female characters. In short, he is a joy to listen to.
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text 2013-11-24 20:23
Goblin Secrets
Goblin Secrets - William Alexander

Plot Summary: 

Rownie is a young boy who lives in Zombay. He's been taken into the household of Graba, a witch whose legs resemble those of a chicken but are made of clockwork and who moves her house around on a regular basis. Rownie's sole relative is his older brother Rowan, but Rowan's an actor, and acting is outlawed in Zombay, so now Rowan has disappeared. Rownie desperately wishes to find Rowan, so he joins an acting troupe himself, one consisting of goblins, who are allowed to act since they're not technically citizens of Zombay. Little does Rownie know that the stories that the goblins tell and the masks that they use are more significant than he could have imagined, and he's about to be sucked into the adventure of a lifetime. 


Read an interview with William Alexander here.




While I really like the premise of this book, I just couldn't really get into it. The biggest problem that I have with it is that very little is explained. Alexander has created a world that is very different from our own, though it does seem to share some aspects, and I found it very difficult to follow the storyline because there was so much that I just didn't understand. At certain points, the story was very confusing. I feel that Alexander was in such a rush to tell the story that he didn't begin at the beginning and he never really made up for that. 


One thing that I did like about the book was that it drew from the Baba Yaga fairy tales. I love fairy tales and I thought it was awesome that Alexander drew from them. I also liked that even though he was clearly influenced by Baba Yaga, he also made the character of Graba his own. 


As difficult as it was for me to start this book, by the end I really was interested and I think that this series has potential to get really good - if Alexander explains more about the background of Zombay. If I run across the rest of the series, I would probably be interested in reading it. But I doubt that I'll actively seek it out. 


Recommended to: 


This book is most definitely a mid-level book. It's perfect for pre-teens - the language isn't terribly advanced and the chapters are relatively short, the story moves pretty quickly, and Rownie is close to the age of the intended audience. I think that perhaps this is why the book didn't resonate with me - maybe I'm just too old to be as entertained by it as a 12 year old would be. So I would definitely recommend this book to pre-teens, especially if they're interested in fantasy or have an interest in theater. 


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