Book Review: The Floating Island by Elizabeth Haydon

Title: The Floating Island
Author: Elizabeth Haydon
Series: The Lost Journals of Ven Polypheme, Book 1
Publisher: Starscape
Paperback: 368 pages
Source: Chicago Public Library
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

Long ago, in the Second Age of history, a young Nain explorer by the name of Ven Polypheme traveled much of the known and unknown world, recording his adventures. Recently discovered by archaeologists, a few fragments of his original journals are reproduced in this book. Great care has been taken to reconstruct the parts of the journal that did not survive, so that a whole story can be told…

Charles Magnus Ven Polypheme–known as Ven–is the youngest son of a long line of famous shipwrights. He dreams not of building ships, but of sailing them to far-off lands where magic thrives. Ven gets his chance when he is chosen to direct the Inspection of his family’s latest ship–and sets sail on the journey of a lifetime.

Attacked by fire pirates, lost at sea and near death, Ven is rescued by a passing ship on its way to the Island of Serendair. Thankful to be alive, little does Ven know that the pirate attack–and his subsequent rescue–may not have been an accident. Shadowy figures are hunting for the famed Floating Island, the only source of the mystical Water of Life. They think Ven can lead them to this treasure, and will stop at nothing to get it–even murder.

In a narrative that alternates entries from his journals and drawings from his sketchbooks, Ven begins the famous chronicles of his exciting and exotic adventures–adventures that would later earn him renown as the author of The Book of All Human Knowledge and All the World’s Magic.

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5

This book is just downright fun. I picked it up because Elizabeth Haydon writes an AMAZING adult fantasy series (Symphony of Ages, if you want to look into that), and I wanted to see how her middle grade stands up against that. The answer I found: The Lost Journals of Ven Polypheme might actually be better than Symphony of Ages.

The Floating Island centers around a 50-year-old “Nain” (literally french for dwarf — very cool wordplay there) named Ven, who is just reaching his majority by his race’s standards. He is the son of a shipmaker and when he goes to inspect his father’s newest ship, he embarks on what seems to be a never-ending adventure full of twists, surprises, and magic. This feels like an old-fashioned, true adventure story to me, and it’s something I would have DEVOURED when I was twelve — mermaids, dwarves, pirates, kings, intrigue, revenants, magic — this book has everything I love about fantasy, and more. Even as an adult, I enjoyed it immensely. It’s well done in that it’s framed as a “true” story and these journals of Ven were recently discovered and gathered and published by the author. The narrative itself is interesting in that it switches between straight-up journal entries told from Ven’s perspective and regular narration. This definitely allowed the story to strike a balance between being fast-paced while also remaining true to the journal idea. The illustrations by Brett Helquist are great and add a lot to the story in terms of being able to imagine everything and giving credence to the journal idea.

Read more

Book Review: My Bridges of Hope by Livia Bitton-Jackson

Title: My Bridges of Hope
Author: Livia Bitton-Jackson
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Paperback: 378 pages
Source: Chicago Public Library
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

In 1945, after surviving a harrowing year in Auschwitz, fourteen-year-old Elli returns, along with her mother and brother, to the family home, now part of Slovakia, where they try to find a way to rebuild their shattered lives.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

I went into this book not really knowing what to expect — I’m not sure how it ended up on my family’s shelves, but I noticed it one day and added it to my to-read list for the future. Now, I have no idea where my copy of this book is, but luckily, the library had a copy. This is a memoir about a teenage girl’s coming of age after she survives the Holocaust and struggles to make a life for herself and make sense of the world after what she suffered, and after the turmoil that her country is put in post-World War II. It’s written in a very easy-to-read manner, so I can see this being a great introduction to older children and middle-graders as to what different people had to deal with during this time. It’s also a pretty quick read and told in short segments, so it would be easy to include in a Holocaust curriculum, at least in part.

This is apparently book 2 in a series, and I love that it follows the aftermath of the Holocaust, which I don’t think is talked about quite as much — or at least, my teachers never focused on it as much as the Holocaust itself. I’ve never read much about what happened to Slovakia after the war, so I enjoyed this book for giving me that perspective and teaching me more about all the different countries and people who were affected by the Holocaust, and how the surrender of Germany didn’t lead to immediately fixing anti-Semitism. Livia tells her story with painstaking honesty, and it hurt to see how roughly Jewish people were treated even after the war, and how hard it was for them to reunite with family members who had already emigrated to the United States or other countries. For some, it was even impossible.

Overall, I recommend this for someone who’s looking to learn more about this time period and what people had to deal with. In a way, it was heartening to read, because the community came together for each other and all supported one other so that they could make a better life for themselves. It’s still horrifying that any people were ever treated the way Jewish people were treated during this time, but reading about someone overcoming that hate and being an integral part in building up her community was heartwarming.

Book Review: The Princess of Trelian by Michelle Knudsen

Follow my blog with Bloglovin
princess-of-trelianTitle: The Princess of Trelian
Author: Michelle Knudsen
Series: Trelian, Book 2
Publisher: Candlewick
Hardcover: 448 pages
Source: Chicago Public Library
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

The hundred-year war with Kragnir is over, and Meg will soon be named the princess-heir of Trelian. But her connection to her dragon, Jakl, is making her parents’ subjects uneasy. Will they ever accept this dragon princess as their future queen? It doesn’t help that Meg is suffering horrible nightmares and sudden, uncontrollable rages—and with the link joining them, Jakl is feeling the rages, too. Meg is desperate to talk to Calen, to see if he can help her figure out what is happening and how to stop it before she or her dragon does something terrible…

Meanwhile, Calen is having troubles of his own. He’s far away, gone off with Mage Serek to receive his first true mage’s mark. But his marking ceremony is disrupted by a mysterious magical attack, and ominous prophecies predict a terrifying new danger. The Magistratum’s greatest enemy may soon reappear—and the other mages believe that Calen himself may have a hand in his return!

Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5

The Princess of Trelian is the sequel to The Dragon of Trelian, which I read a while ago. It continues to follow Princess Meg and Calen, emphasizing Meg’s struggle to balance her new connection with her dragon, Jakl, and her responsibilities as the heir of Trelian. Calen, on the other hand, is struggling with his desire to learn and master more of his magic while being prevented from doing so by his master, because mages with a predilection for foretelling are convinced that he will be a danger to the Magistratum.

Overall, I think this was a solid sequel. The characters are definitely growing in complexity and the pacing was well done — there weren’t any times when I was bored or I thought things were being glossed over. It has the problem of second books in a trilogy, though, where it’s really just setting things up for the sequel, and it does end on a bit of a cliffhanger. However, it still manages to have plenty of action and adventure for all of that, and I enjoyed the fact that those action sequences didn’t seem so conveniently easy to get out of. One of my biggest pet peeves in fiction is when the heroes are unstoppable and there’s tons of buildup to something, and then they solve it in a few pages. That does not happen in this book — the characters are sufficiently challenged with what they have to accomplish, which makes for an entertaining read.

My one complaint is the relationship between Meg and her parents. All three characters are either far too understanding or far too harsh (whichever is more convenient to the plot) at different times, and there isn’t much in the way of consistency. I didn’t mind this so much from Meg’s character, because she is growing up and is just learning how to handle herself and anticipate the end-results from her actions and attitudes, but it wasn’t explained why fully grown adults (who are rulers, no less) were acting rashly,  and it bothered me a bit.

However, I thought this was enjoyable and would have LOVED it as a pre-teen, so I think it hits the right marks for its intended audience. I can’t yet recommend the series without having read the final book, but I will say that the first two books are a solid start to a decent fantasy series.

Book Review: Hunter by Mercedes Lackey

Title: Hunter
Author: Mercedes Lackey
Series: Hunter, Book 1
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Hardcover: 374 pages
Source: County of Los Angeles Public Library Overdrive
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

They came after the Diseray. Some were terrors ripped from our collective imaginations, remnants of every mythology across the world. And some were like nothing anyone had ever dreamed up, even in their worst nightmares.

Monsters.

Long ago, the barriers between our world and the Otherworld were ripped open, and it’s taken centuries to bring back civilization in the wake of the catastrophe. Now, the luckiest Cits live in enclosed communities, behind walls that keep them safe from the hideous creatures fighting to break through. Others are not so lucky.

To Joyeaux Charmand, who has been a Hunter in her tight-knit mountain community since she was a child, every Cit without magic deserves her protection from dangerous Othersiders. Then she is called to Apex City, where the best Hunters are kept to protect the most important people.

Joy soon realizes that the city’s powerful leaders care more about luring Cits into a false sense of security than protecting them. More and more monsters are getting through the barriers, and the close calls are becoming too frequent to ignore. Yet the Cits have no sense of how much danger they’re in—to them, Joy and her corps of fellow Hunters are just action stars they watch on TV.

When an act of sabotage against Joy takes an unbearable toll, she uncovers a terrifying conspiracy in the city. There is something much worse than the usual monsters infiltrating Apex. And it may be too late to stop them…

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

First of all, I cannot emphasize enough that I think this book is worth sticking through the first quarter or hundred pages.  I only feel the need to bring this up, because I was surprised by the amount of one-star ratings I saw for this book and realized the reason for them was overwhelmingly that people gave up on it about 20-25% in.  I’ll be honest, I don’t blame those people who did.  The first part of the book really seems like it is setting up to be another run-of-the-mill dystopian YA book like Hunger Games or Divergent.  However, while it does not go into a completely different direction I think that the latter part of the book is incredibly well done and more than makes up for the stale beginning.

There are several things that I really liked about the way this book handled itself after the initial set up.  The first was that I enjoyed the relationships between characters.  Most importantly, I liked the way the main character (Joy) was developed.  There was a lot of internal monologue by Joy, as often happens in these kinds of books, but also actually interacted with several other characters including her Otherworld hounds which greatly improved the monotony that occasionally occurs.  The friendships she developed were well written and nothing seemed overdramatic and were still quite compelling.  Most importantly to me, she was in no way spurred on purely through romantic interest of any kind.  This is a bit of a pet peeve of mine when it comes to strong female characters.  I think that she was a nice balance between still being the young girl she is and being incredibly strong and mature when the time called for it (as expected of a heroine).  The book is not devoid of romantic interest, which I think could also ring somewhat false or hollow, but it is very much a subplot that informs feelings and decisions but in no way could be considered a major part of the novel.

The other thing I thought was handled quite well that worried me at first were the Christians (referred to as Christers in the book).  I hate to admit I went from laughing about the fact that they were angry that this cataclysmic event was not the apocalypse to beginning to cringe about how they were being talked about for the most part (again in the first hundred pages or so).  Again though, I think that this was beautifully handled in the subsequent sections of the novel when Joy befriends a Christer hunter nicknamed “White Knight” and we get to see her much more nuanced and interesting relationship with them as a whole.

Also, the hounds are really cool and I want some.

Overall, I don’t think this book will blow your socks off and if you can’t deal with a slow start it is not for you, but if you can get past that and like this sort of novel I think you will be well rewarded with the rest of it.

ALYSSA *added 3/7/2017*

Maybe I was sufficiently warned from Andrew, or maybe I’m just used to Lackey’s style at this point, but I had no trouble getting into this book. The start was slow, but I genuinely enjoyed being slowly introduced to this weird science fiction/fantasy world. It’s incredibly complex, with its mythology and politics, and I love that Joy is at the center of it; she’s keeping the secrets of the place where she grew up while also playing the game and being a good Hunter for the higher-ups.

I agree with Andrew that the way relationships between the characters is developed is amazing. I felt like I had emotional connections with the characters almost instantly, and whether that’s because Joy is so well developed and I felt such a connection to her, or because all the characters are developed well, I don’t know. Probably a combination of the two. One of my pet peeves is also how romantic relationships are often developed in YA books, particularly. It all too frequently takes center-stage, even in a book like this one, where it seems like the pressing danger of the Othersiders should theoretically take precedence. Luckily, Lackey knows what she’s about and focuses on the story rather than the romance. There is just enough of the whole this-guy-is-cute-I-want-to-date-him thing.

My absolute favorite part, however, is how well the mythology/fantasy elements are tied together with the science fiction/post-apocalypse elements. I love how religion and fairy tales are almost given the same level of importance in this new world, where Othersiders seem very much to match a lot of the folk tales and legends found in old stories. And the ways they fight these supernatural creatures with a mixture of magic that the Hunters have within them and the tech developed by the military is also really cool; as I said, I was fascinated by this science fiction/fantasy fusion. I found it incredibly compelling.

Super excited to start the sequel!

Book Review: The Last Guardian by Eoin Colfer

The Last Guardian.jpgTitle: The Last Guardian
Author: Eoin Colfer
Series: Artemis Fowl, Book 8
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Hardcover: 328 pages
Source: Chicago Public Library
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

It’s Armageddon Time for Artemis Fowl

Opal Koboi, power-crazed pixie, is plotting to exterminate mankind and become fairy queen.

If she succeeds, the spirits of long-dead fairy warriors will rise from the earth, inhabit the nearest available bodies and wreak mass destruction. But what happens if those nearest bodies include crows, or deer, or badgers – or two curious little boys by the names of Myles and Beckett Fowl?

Yes, it’s true. Criminal mastermind Artemis Fowl’s four-year-old brothers could be involved in destroying the human race. Can Artemis and Captain Holly Short of the Lower Elements Police stop Opal and prevent the end of the world?

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

It finally happened — I have finally read the last book of the Artemis Fowl series. It was bittersweet in a way, because this is a series that my friend got me hooked on when I was about 13, so it’s been a rather continuous presence in my life. Every few years or so, I think, yeah, I’ll read the Artemis Fowl sequel, so it’s weird to think that in a few years, I won’t be reading another one. (Though I just might pick up another Colfer book, because let’s face it, all his stuff is great.)

I was surprised by how well these books hold up. I have to give Colfer credit, for something I read at 13, I still thoroughly enjoy these characters and their story. They’ve gotten a bit older and the stories have grown and become more complex, but let me tell you, there are quite a few novels “for grown-ups” that I read at 13 and don’t hold up nearly as well — Artemis Fowl books for sure do. This book continues the tradition of being about very serious, life-or-death issues while still retaining humor and lightness. There wasn’t one part of The Last Guardian that I felt was drawn out or melodramatic. It’s perfectly balanced in terms of tone, and like I said, retains some humor.

One of my favorite parts of this book is the fact that while there is a main villain (Opal, just go away and die, seriously!), there are also secondary villains who are complicated in terms of their motives, which I love in a story. I don’t want my villains to be unsympathetic psychos — I want to be able to see where they’re coming from and understand their story too. I was glad that I was able to do that when reading this story — I think it added quite a bit of realism and complexity to the story.

In terms of the ending, it was perfect. I get so nervous when a longer series ends, because who knows what’s going to happen? I’m not even sure what I want to happen. I love Artemis, but does he deserve a happily ever after? Is that even a thing that’s possible, given the circumstances of his life and the story this novel presents? What about the resolution itself? Do I want a tight resolution with a pretty bow on top, or do I want it more natural, just sort of let’s end things, but leave them open? I DON’T KNOW!!! Luckily, Colfer seems to know what I wanted, because the ending is perfect. It ties the story together nicely while still leaving a little bit of wiggle room for the reader to imagine what might happen next. Perfect, right?

If you’re an Artemis Fowl lover, don’t worry about this being the last one. It sucks a little that the series is ending, but I think it’s incredibly well done and a perfect last book if there ever was one. I thoroughly enjoyed it and couldn’t find anything disappointing about it, and trust me, I was terrified of being disappointed. If you’ve yet to read the Artemis Fowl books, get started! They’re so good and I think enjoyable for all ages, especially if you love reading about fairies.

Book Review: Summer of Lost and Found by Rebecca Behrens

 

Summer of Lost and Found.jpg
Buy from the Book Depository

Title: Summer of Lost and Found
Author: Rebecca Behrens
Publisher: Aladdin/Simon & Schuster
Hardcover: 288 pages
Source: NetGalley
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

Nell Dare expected to spend her summer vacation hanging out with her friends in New York City. That is, until her botanist mom dragged her all the way to Roanoke Island for a research trip. To make matters worse, her father suddenly and mysteriously leaves town, leaving no explanation or clues as to where he went—or why.

While Nell misses the city—and her dad—a ton, it doesn’t take long for her to become enthralled with the mysteries of Roanoke and its lost colony. And when Nell meets Ambrose—an equally curious historical reenactor—they start exploring for clues as to what really happened to the lost colonists. As Nell and Ambrose’s discoveries of tantalizing evidence mount, mysterious things begin to happen—like artifacts disappearing. And someone—or something—is keeping watch over their quest for answers.

It looks like Nell will get the adventurous summer she was hoping for, and she will discover secrets not only about Roanoke, but about herself.

*I was provided a free copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*

Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Historical fiction was one of my very favorite subjects when I was about 10 — around the age group this book is written for, actually. So, I occasionally like to break up my adult reading with some children’s/middle grade reading just to make things interesting. What really drew me to this book was the fact that it had something to do with Roanoke, which is a fascinating topic.

There isn’t much of a waiting period in terms of getting things set up and then getting into the story — instead, the story starts right away and the reader is left to figure things out as it goes along. I love this. It’s my favorite way of reading, because I tend to skim over all those setup paragraphs. Give me something to hold on to, then I’ll trudge through location, description, etc. Behrens does that, which I so much appreciate. More than that, she starts off with a real, gripping topic: Nell’s dad’s toothbrush isn’t in the bathroom and he’s gone. It becomes apparent fairly quickly that something is happening between Nell’s parents, but she’s too scared to ask questions, so she goes along with it and accompanies her mother to a trip to North Carolina, around where the Roanoke colony was established.

Overall, I thought this book was really cute. As a ten-year-old, it probably would have been one of my favorites. Ghost stories, mysteries, historical fiction? Heck yes! Sign me up. As an adult, it doesn’t quite hold up in terms of complexity and story telling. I thought that the friendship between Nell and the girl she meets during her summer vacation to be strange, and I don’t think that current slang/technology was used to its best advantage. I’ve never personally heard a kid tell me, “She’s not really my friend, she’s my frenemy,” straight up like that. I think it’s more of an understood thing than a thing that kids actually say, but that might just be me. Nell also describes a lot of what she does on her cell phone, which might have been better used just as straight dialogue or text instead of summarized within the narration. Again, kind of nitpicky things that I don’t think will necessarily bother the age group/reading level this is written for.

What is great about this book is that I had a ton of questions about the actual historical colony of Roanoke, and I wanted to get my hands on history books about it right after I finished reading Summer of Lost and Found. I can see a younger reader having the same reaction, which means this might be a great companion piece/gateway to learning about some colonial history for kids. I also really love that it deals with a hard, complicated topic: parents not getting along and not dealing with it very well. It’s a great way for kids to take a look at coping mechanisms and ways of resolving conflict.

Most importantly, it’s just plain fun. I loved following Nell in her adventure to find the lost colony of Roanoke, making my own theories and guesses as she discovered more and more about the colony and the area. It was a cute story and a quick read that I think a lot of younger (and older) readers will appreciate.

Book Review: The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron

Title: The Dark Unwinding
Author: Sharon Cameron
Series: The Dark Unwinding, Book 1
Publisher: Scholastic
Hardcover: 318 pages
Source: Chicago Public Library
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

When Katharine Tulman’s inheritance is called into question by the rumor that her eccentric uncle is squandering away the family fortune, she is sent to his estate to have him committed to an asylum. But instead of a lunatic, Katharine discovers a genius inventor with his own set of rules, who employs a village of nine hundred people rescued from the workhouses of London.

Katharine is now torn between protecting her own inheritance and preserving the peculiar community she grows to care for deeply. And her choices are made even more complicated by a handsome apprentice, a secretive student, and fears for her own sanity.

As the mysteries of the estate begin to unravel, it is clear that not only is her uncle’s world at stake, but also the state of England as Katharine knows it.

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5

I found out about this series when browsing through books from BEA 2013 — where the sequel was being offered as an ARC. For the most part, I just can’t read series out of order (knowingly, at least), so I left it alone and put this book on the to-read list. And yes, 3 years later, I’m just now reading it. Us bibliophiles have a problem with overly long to-read lists, yes?

I have to say that this one gets off to an incredibly slow start. It tries to be too creepy too fast, to the point where I really just didn’t understand what was going on in the first few chapters. Is it trying to be paranormal? Is it trying to be just average-run-of-the-mill creepy? No idea. I think that was the point, but I personally wasn’t into it. By the first 30 pages, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to get through it, but I powered on, and it turned out to get better. Yay! It also doesn’t help that there seems to be a wide variety of genres used for this book, but by my judgment, it’s more alternate history/gothic than anything. (Especially steampunk — um, what?!) There are so many creep factors to it that it just feels dark the way only gothic books do. Anyway, once the book figures out what its story is supposed to be, it gets pretty good.

Read more

Audiobook Review: Anne of Avonlea by LM Montgomery, narrated by Colleen Winton

anne-of-avonlea-post-hypnotic-press
Buy from the Publisher!

Title: Anne of Avonlea
Author: LM Montgomery
Series: Anne of Green Gables, Book 2
Narrator: Colleen Winton
Publisher: Post Hypnotic Press
Duration: 9 hours, 25 minutes
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

Following Anne of Green Gables (1908), the book covers the second chapter in the life of Anne Shirley. This book follows Anne from the age of 16 to 18, during the two years that she teaches at Avonlea school. It includes many of the characters from Anne of Green Gables, as well as new ones like Mr. Harrison, Miss Lavendar Lewis, Paul Irving, and the twins Dora and Davy. Narrated by Colleen Winton.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

*I was provided a free copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.*

In Anne of Avonlea, we get to see Anne dealing with more grown-up troubles, which prevents this book from being as humorous as the first, but it’s still entertaining. Also, Marilla and Anne adopt twins, so their antics add a bit of fun into the story.

This is a re-read for me, and as a kid, I didn’t think to appreciate how Montgomery develops Anne’s character, taking time to show her growth from a child to an adult. What I like most is how Anne is shown as being much more responsible and thoughtful while still being herself, which is a tricky balance. Overall, not much goes on in this book. It’s very much a set-up for Anne becoming an adult, and there aren’t any huge plot points that wow-ed me. An engagement or two and the adoption of Davy and Dora are pretty much the only things that I found important. But that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it. This series is more character-driven that plot-driven, and it’s always nice to revisit Anne and her world.

My favorite part about listening to a series in audiobook format is that, with a good narrator, the characters just feel more real to me. And Colleen Winton is a great narrator — she really brings the personalities of the characters to life. She is consistent with all the old characters’ idiosyncrasies from the first book and does a good job in portraying the new characters. For this book in particular, I liked being able to listen to it, because not much goes on in the way of plot or excitement, so it’s nice to be able to do something productive while re-reading an old favorite. If you are at all a fan of audiobooks, this is a nice series to try in audio.

*Listen to a sample!*

Book Review: “When Did you See Her Last?” by Lemony Snicket

Title: “When Did You See Her Last?”
Author: Lemony Snicket
Series: All The Wrong Questions, Book 2
Publisher: Little Brown
Hardcover: 279 pages
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

I should have asked the question “How could someone who was missing be in two places at once?” Instead, I asked the wrong question — four wrong questions, more or less. This is the account of the second.

In the fading town of Stain’d-by-the-Sea, young apprentice Lemony Snicket has a new case to solve when he and his chaperone are hired to find a missing girl. Is the girl a runaway? Or was she kidnapped? Was she seen last at the grocery store? Or could she have stopped at the diner? Is it really any of your business? These are All The Wrong Questions.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

*I received a free copy of this book from the publisher at BEA.*

I actually wasn’t a huge fan of A Series of Unfortunate Events (I tried, guys — I really, really tried!), so I was hesitant to pick this one up after a friend recommended the series. However, having read and loved Snicket’s short story in Half-Minute Horrors, I decided to give this one a try.

This is book 2 of Snicket’s new series: All the Wrong Questions. While I haven’t read book 1, I’ve never been a strict adherent of series order, so I read this one first anyway. Though I’m sure I missed some details, overall, I wasn’t confused by what was going on in the book, which I count as a positive.

Children’s books are my favorite for being able to teach kids to use their own imaginations and think for themselves. This one is no different in showing how ridiculous adults can sometimes be (guilty!), and how children sometimes see things clearer than we can ever hope to. As an adult, I love this sort of wake-up call, and I know that the children in my life love reading stories where they can see themselves as the independent, intelligent savers-of-the-day.

“When Did You See Her Last?” is a cute, funny children’s mystery with enough suspense and darkness to keep things interesting. The writing fun and playful — Snicket’s style in this book reminds me a lot of Roald Dahl, or a children’s version of Jasper Fforde. Like all the best children’s books, people of any age will be able to laugh at the humor in this. I certainly laughed aloud a few times, and my seven-year-old cousin was constantly giggling at the wordplay.

Honestly, it’s good enough that I’m considering re-reading the first few books of A Series of Unfortunate Events to see if my opinion has changed on them.

Countdown until book 3: a little less than 6 months. Can’t wait to see how this series develops!

 

Book Review: The Song of the Quarkbeast by Jasper Fforde

Buy from The Book Depository!

Title: The Song of the Quarkbeast
Author: Jasper Fforde
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Series: The Chronicles of Kazam, Book 2
Hardcover: 304 pages
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

Magic has been in a sad state in the Ununited Kingdom for years, but now it’s finally on the rise and boneheaded King Snodd IV knows it. If he succeeds at his plot, the very future of magic will be at risk! Sensible sixteen-year-old Jennifer Strange, acting manager of Kazam Mystical Arts Management and its hapless crew of sorcerers, has little chance against the king and his cronies—but there’s no way Kazam will let go of the noble powers of magic without a fight. A suspenseful, satirical story of Quarkbeasts, trolls, and wizidrical crackle!

 

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5

*I received a free copy of this book from the publisher at BookExpo America.*

I love Jasper Fforde’s style of writing, and even though I’ve only read YA and adult fiction from him up until now, this middle grade series did not disappoint. His humor, wordplay, and ability to create likeable characters and put them in ridiculously weird situations has made him one of my favorite authors.

The Song of the Quarkbeast is the second book of The Last Dragonslayer series. I haven’t read the first book, but I had no trouble following the action and the storyline. So, I don’t think it’s necessary to read this series in order, but I’m sure that reading the first book would make this one more enjoyable, since there are probably details and jokes carried over that I didn’t understand. The Song of the Quarkbeast follows Jennifer Strange, an indentured orphan who is acting manager of a magic company. She and her sorcerers have to go up against a rival magic company in a duel of wizarding skill in order to keep their rights to practice magic.

Like all of Fforde’s books, The Song of the Quarkbeast is just plain fun. It has adventure, mystery, suspense, action, and a bit of romance to top it all off. I love the strange-yet-vaguely-familiar world of the Ununited Kingdom, with its inept rulers and brutal laws. The characters are also fantastic. It’s told in first person perspective from Jennifer, who is mature and intelligent, which is unfortunately rare to see in a teenage character. And that’s great, because in addition to being great entertainment, this book teaches the importance of teamwork, and it shows how teenagers are capable of rising to a challenge and overcoming obstacles.

I recommend this book wholeheartedly. If you’ve at all enjoyed Fforde’s previous works, you’ll love this. And if you are a fantasy fan and have yet to delve into Fforde’s wondrously weird worlds, you need to give him a try. I have read quite a few books by him and have yet to be disappointed.