Sunday, October 27, 2013

"Who Could That Be At This Hour?" by Lemony Snicket

Cover image for Who could that be at this hour?
Lemony Snicket (aka Daniel Handler) was an over night sensation with his Series of Unfortunate Events. I have to admit, I couldn't get through the first book in that series, but there was a huge faithful following among children and adults alike at the library.  Now he has started a new series, "All the Wrong Questions" in which a 13-year-old Lemony Snicket is the main character.  The book begins with Lemony escaping his parents right after graduation from a "particular kind" of school to join a mentor as an apprentice detective in a secret spy organization. He and his mentor travel to strange town by a dried-up sea where they are hired to retrieve a stolen statue.  Snicket is much more clever than his mentor, and soon figures out that the statue in question was never stolen, but that evil forces are using him and his mentor as pawns to acquire the statue.  As he tries to discover who is trying to get the statue and why, he meets a strange cast of puzzling characters, many of them young independent teens or children like himself.  The setting and characters of the story are odd, even surreal.  The mood of the writing contributes to the preternatural feel of the book.  I think that kids that liked Series of Unfortunate Events will like this one.  I actually liked it much better than the little bit I read of the earlier series (as evidenced by the fact that I actually finished it and I might even be interested in reading the second book). Though Lemony's attempts at achieving his goal are often frustrated because he keeps asking "All the Wrong Questions"  the mood is not as gloomy as the Series of Unfortunate Events and it has a kind of clever whit to it that was rather fun. (258 p)

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A Long Way from Chicago by Richard Peck

Cover image for A long way from Chicago : a novel in storiesJoey and his sister Mary Alice are sent to their grandma Dowdel's house every August for a week.  The book starts in 1929 when Joey is 9 and Mary Alice is 7, and then each chapter after that is a story about a different summer. The stories are a mixture humor and heart. The first time I read chapter one, I laughed so hard I almost fell off my chair. At first the children are afraid of their gun-slinging, rough-around-the-edges, larger-than-life grandmother.  But as they get older, they begin to understand and enjoy their Grandma Dowdel's unique personality. I have read the book a couple of times.  This time I reread it because it is our Mother/Son book club book for November.  I hope, and think, both boys and parents will enjoy reading this one together. (148 p)

Monday, October 21, 2013

Runaway King by Jennifer Nielsen

Cover image for The runaway kingJaron has become king, but in name only.  He doesn't have the support of his advisers, his royal bride to be or his people. Because of his father's weak rule, Jaron's country is on the brink of war with neighboring country in confederate with the pirates. The ruling council wants Jaron to go into hiding so that they can place a regent on the thrown.  Jaron agrees to go, but not into hiding. Instead he assumes his Sage identity and goes to confront the pirates himself. This is the second in the Ascendency Series that began with The False Prince. As in that one, Jaron uses charm, skill and dumb luck to make it out of the most desperate situations, but not without plenty of bruises to show for his efforts. It is a good sequel with a lot of the action and suspense of the first. It successfully progresses Jaron's personality and his  relationships with both the women and men in his life.  It ended pretty well, and I don't know where Ms. Nielsen will go from here in the last book in the series, but I am eager to find out. (331 p)

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Fever Crumb: Scrivener's Moon by Philip Reeve.

Cover image for Scrivener's moon This is the third in the series begun with Fever Crumb.  The whole series are prequels to the Sci Fi classic, Mortal Engines.  In this adventure, Fever returns to London, only to be quickly bored by the social events and engagements arranged by her Scriven mother, Wavey Godshawk.  When her mother hears of a pyramid in the North Countries that might contain the answer to Scriven history and technology, Fever jumps at the chance to accompany her on an expedition to investigate.  On the way, the group is captured by forces that intend to attack the new mobile London being built by Fever's Dad.  Fever escapes her attackers and joins some Northern nomads to continue her quest for the pyramid.  Like the other Fever Crumb books, this one has a thickly layered and complicated plot line.  I there are a lot of characters, too, mostly fairly well developed so they each have personalities and back stories. It was an exciting end to the trilogy, and I think it would have been even more interesting if I had read the Mortal Engines first, so I could understand what was being foreshadowed.  Still I had a hard time getting through it.  Half way through, Fever falls in love with a northern girl and spends a lot of time struggling with her same gender attraction.  The book suggests that the attraction is partially due to Godshawk's memories that Fever carries in her head. Still, I really didn't want to read about how much Fever wanted to kiss Cluny, and admired how the sun caught her hair etc.  If it had been a heterosexual romance, I probably would have enjoyed the book much more.  I guess I am old fashion, but reading about a same gender romance still makes me feel uncomfortable.  (341 p)

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Moongobble and Me: The Evil Elves by Bruce Coville

Cover image for The evil elvesEdward is friends with an aspiring magician named Moongobble.  In order to obtain full status as a magician, Moongobble must complete three great tasks. This is the third book in the series, and recounts Moongobble's third task.  In this adventure, Edward and Moongobble are sent to retrieve a dark magic stone that has made an entire village of elves evil.  Their challenge is to retrieve it without coming under its wicked power.  It takes Moongobble's best magic, Edward's pure heart, and plenty of help from their old friends, Urk the toad, Fireball the little dragon and the Old Knight.

Bruce Coville has written so many charming magical adventures for children.  This one is an intermediate reader, written for kids in 2-3 grade.  The vocabulary and sentence structure are simple, but Coville still tells an engaging story with interesting characters. It is lighthearted, fun, and a little bit silly--well suited for the target age group. (71 p)