Friday, November 30, 2012

Team Human by Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan

I thought Team Human by Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan might be just a spoof of Twilight and other swoony vampire books -- but I was impressed to find that it is more than that.

Mel is firmly on Team Human. Sure, she lives in New Whitby, a town renowned for being vampire-friendly, but Mel has no desire to meet vampires, hang out with vampires, or (especially) become a vampire. She'd rather die. On the other hand, her best friend Cathy has always been fascinated by vampires. When a hot vampire guy enrolls in Mel and Cathy's high school, Mel fears the worst. Cathy is smitten with the newcomer, and he seems to return her interest. Mel is determined to save Cathy from a fate worse than death, whether Cathy wants to be saved or not. Mel is also investigating the mysterious disappearance of another friend's father, so she has a lot on her plate. Life gets even more complicated when she meets Kit, a human raised by vampires. Between Kit and Cathy, Mel is starting to rethink her position on vampires -- perhaps they're not all completely evil -- but she's still not about to let her best friend make the worst mistake a human can possibly make!

First of all, this book does bring the funny. There's the obvious question of why a centuries-old vampire would want to attend high school, and plenty of humor surrounding Kit's quirky adopted family. What really impressed me, though, was Mel's character development, and the way she comes to grip, over the course of the novel, with her own prejudices. It's handled lightly, of course, and that's all for the best -- the book would have been ruined if it came over all message-y. So, kudos to the authors for both writing something that gently mocks vampire romance, but is also worth reading in its own right.

(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis

The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis is not my very favorite of the Narnia books, but it always ranks in the top three. Unlike other Narnia books, this book does not feature characters traveling from our world to Narnia, but is set in Narnia throughout. Shasta, a young slave boy in a seaside town in Calormen, escapes being sold to a cruel master by running away with that very man's prize warhorse -- a Narnian Talking Horse, though the cruel master didn't know it. On their way, Shasta and the horse Bree meet up with Aravis, a high-born Calormene girl, and her own talking horse Hwin. Together, the four companions face the dangers of the city and the rigors of the desert, foil a secret plan for a Calormene invasion of Narnia, and discover the secret of Shasta's heritage.

If you've never read the Chronicles of Narnia, this is not the obvious place to start. (I always recommend starting with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.) This book actually takes place during the period of time covered in the last chapter or so of LWW, in the geographical region south of Narnia. It has plenty of adventure and humor (Bree, the proud warhorse, is often unintentionally funny), really good characters (if you're looking for a strong female lead, Aravis is probably the best the series has to offer), and a great scene between Shasta and Aslan near the end.

I've been reading the Chronicles of Narnia with my young cousin for the past two years. I hold to the original publication order, so we have finished five books now, with two still to go. We read them sporadically, whenever I come for a visit, so there are sometimes gaps of a couple months in between chapters (I try to find good stopping places, and have gotten pretty good at summarizing and recapping before starting up again). I remember listening to my dad reading the books to me when I was about my cousin's age, and I want to pass that experience along.

(Reviewed from my personally purchased copy.)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama

Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama is a story about mermaids, but probably not like what you're thinking. In this book, the mermaids are generally dark and vicious, even when they don't mean to be. Also, there are vengeful ghosts.

I keep trying to find a good angle from which to summarize the plot of this book, and I can't seem to do it. There are two interwoven stories, one in the present and one in the past, and of course the events in the past have a great deal of impact on the events in the present. The intricacy of the plot is a testament to the quality of the writing -- I didn't get lost or bogged down in reading it. There were a few things that were a little difficult to buy (the romance, for one -- I'm getting awfully picky about the romantic plots in books, aren't I?), and I think most readers will see certain twists coming before the main character does, but that's all part of the fun.

I realize this is a pretty vague review, but if you think complicated plots involving vicious mermaids and unquiet spirits might be your thing, this book is for you.

(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)

Wise Child by Monica Furlong

Wise Child by Monica Furlong is one of those books that I am amazed not to have discovered earlier. It is the sort of book that I would have relished as a teen -- I relished it now.

Wise Child finds herself on her own after the death of her grandmother. Her mother has long since left the village, and her seafaring father cannot be depended upon to provide for her well-being. The village priest asks the parishioners to take Wise Child in as an act of charity, but the whole village is surprised when Juniper, the village witch, offers to take the child in. Under Juniper's care, Wise Child learns about herb lore and healing, and real magic as well. Wise Child learns to love her unusual guardian. But when the tide of sentiment in the village turns against Juniper, will Wise Child and Juniper be able to avoid a terrible fate?

There's wonderful character development here, as well as some very nice worldbuilding. I would like to have a while to explore Juniper's house, which strikes me as a very comfortable and satisfying dwelling. Wise Child comes across as a little bit spoiled at the beginning of the book, but even so I found her sympathetic and interesting. Definitely recommended.

(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Starry River of the Sky by Grace Lin

Starry River of the Sky by Grace Lin is a lovely little book which incorporates Japanese folklore and mythology with a young hero's quest.

Rendi is running away from home, but when the merchant whose cart he was hiding in discovers his presence, Rendi is stranded in the tiny village of Clear Sky. Worse, every night his sleep is disturbed by a pitiful moaning sound: the sky mourning because the moon is missing. Rendi may be the only one who has noticed that the moon is gone. Is it because he, like the moon, is not in his proper place? Through the stories shared by the villagers and visitors to Clear Sky, Rendi will go on an introspective journey that will lead him to the point where he is able to share his own story -- and, yes, to find the missing moon in an unexpected place.

This book is a companion to the Newbery Honor-winning Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, and I found it just as charming. The two books feature different protagonists, and stand alone perfectly, but they also work beautifully together.

(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)

Throne of Glass by Sarah Maas

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas has lots of great elements, including a female assassin. I really wanted to like it, but in the end, it pales in comparison with similar stories.

Celaena Sardothien was the most deadly assassin in Adarlan -- before she was captured and sent to the mines. For the past several months, simply surviving one more day has taken all of her strength. When Prince Dorian comes to her with a proposition that would take her out of the mines and allow her to eventually regain her freedom, she accepts his terms: she will compete against twenty-three other fighters to earn the position of King's Assassin. Celaena is taken back to the city, heavily guarded, and trained to compete in the challenges. Once in the city, however, Celaena finds that she faces more dangers than the ones posed by her competitors. Someone, or something, is killing fighters in gruesome ways, and Celaena's guard detail may not be enough to protect her from this mysterious threat. Moreover, both the prince and his Captain of the Guard pose another kind of danger . . . to Celaena's heart.

There's a lot of action in this book, even though the competition for the King's Assassin position gets sidelined in favor of the other storylines. The worldbuilding is also strong. On the other hand, the language is stilted at times, and the romance never hooked me. I also couldn't buy Celaena as the most famous assassin in the world; she took too many foolish risks and was bad about not watching her back. Inconsistencies in the writing compounded this problem -- for instance, Celaena makes sure that her door hinges squeal so that nobody can sneak up on her, but a few pages later, one of the Love Interests enters her suite without waking her from sleep.

Even with these issues, I might have enjoyed the story if it hadn't reminded me so strongly of another book with many similar elements, but also better writing and character development. If the description of Throne of Glass intrigues you, I'd actually recommend that you read Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder.

(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)

Monday, November 26, 2012

Drama by Raina Telgemeier

Drama by Raina Telgemeier is a cute and fluffy graphic novel about the drama that goes on both onstage and off in a middle-school theatre department.

Callie loves the theatre -- she's an aspiring set designer who loves all things Broadway. Though working with a middle-school budget and limited technical capabilities, she's determined to create a top-quality set for the upcoming school musical. When she meets two talented brothers who are also theatre fanatics, it starts to look like romantic sparks will fly for Callie backstage, but what will her other friends think of Callie's new relationships?

This was a quick read (as one would expect from a graphic novel) and lots of fun. It made me nostalgic for my own days of backstage drama. My only critique was that I thought Callie and her friends had more technical skill (and more freedom with the equipment) than most middle-school theatre students would have. I could be completely wrong about that, though. I'll definitely recommend this to graphic novel fans who are growing out of the Babymouse series and looking for something else just as enjoyable.

(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

Evaluating The Casual Vacancy by J.K Rowling on its own merits, without mentioning certain other works by that author, is a nearly impossible task -- but I am going to attempt it.

In the village of Pagford, the town council is split into two warring factions. When council member Barry Fairbrother dies, various members of the community immediately begin scheming about who will fill his vacant seat. In the ensuing chaos, secrets are exposed, careers are launched and ruined, and relationships are forged and broken.

If I had to pick just one word to describe this story, it would be "bleak." It's a very dark book, and there's no light at the end of the tunnel. I felt like I spent the whole book mucking around in the seedy underbelly of human nature.

The characters were, I think, the real strong point of the book. They were all thrown at the reader at once, which made it a little hard to distinguish them from each other at first, but I thought it was interesting how my perception of some of them changed over the course of the story. The main instance of this was Barry Fairbrother. He's not very sympathetic there at the very beginning, but as you learn more about him, he becomes more likable. Then again, perhaps that comes of being dead -- maybe we get the idealized version of Barry from his friends' memories.

I found that I liked the storylines featuring the teens better than the ones with the adults -- perhaps because I read too much YA literature? Sukhvinder was probably my favorite character in this book.

On a purely technical level, I found that the perspective shifted around abruptly without any clear indicators, sometimes in mid-paragraph. I'd be reading about Miles and Samantha, and suddenly I'd be reading about what Howard was thinking or doing, and I'd have to backtrack to see if Howard was there with Miles and Samantha, or whether the narration had just wandered over to him (and it was usually the latter). I never had this problem with (ahem) other books by this author, so I'm not sure why it was such an issue in this one.

I also thought that the storylines all intersected too neatly. All of the teens had parents who were major players in the plot, and there weren't many tertiary characters -- no casual friends on the outside edges of the story, etc. Even the other council members were barely even mentioned. It was just all so tidy, at least in terms of plot. There was only one small child in the entire book and he was just there for a big dramatic episode at the end of the story.

To add to that, I felt that Rowling tackled too many Issues. Drugs? Check. Rape? Check. Child abuse? Check. Political corruption? Check. Bullying? Check. Suicide? Check. Unhappy marriages? Check. Obesity? Check. Mental illness? Check. Teen sex? Check. Cutting? Check. Welfare reform? Check. Shall I continue? Every character was loaded up with secrets and problems, and it just seemed like too much. I think this could have been a shorter, simpler book with just as much, or perhaps more, of an emotional punch.

All in all, I don't feel that reading this was a waste of time, but I'm not entirely sure that I would read more adult novels by Rowling.

(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Ironskin by Tina Connolly

Ironskin by Tina Connolly is a fantasy retelling of Jane Eyre with a slight post-apocalyptic vibe to it. Sound interesting? It is.

Jane is ironskin -- one of the scarred survivors of the Great War. She was hit in the face by a blast of fey magic, and without the iron mask that she wears, everyone around her would be affected by rage seeping from her wound. When Jane sees an advertisement for a governess position to Dorie, a little girl born during the Great War, worded in a way that makes it clear that the child is somehow different, Jane thinks she knows what to expect. When she arrives at the half-ruined manor house on the moor, however, both Dorie and her father are much more enigmatic than Jane could ever have expected. Her life there will prove challenging, but ultimately, it might just set her free.

For someone who is not really much of a Jane Eyre fan, I sure do seem to read a lot of retellings of that story lately -- this makes the third in the past few years. (The other two, if you're curious, are Jane by April Lindner and The Magicians and Mrs. Quent by Galen Beckett, which is not a straight-up retelling, but certainly incorporates large chunks of the plot. And I also read Jenna Starborn by Sharon Shinn some years ago, so that would make four.) I like the original well enough, but I never loved it the way some people do. On the other hand, that might enable me to appreciate retellings without constantly comparing them to the original. Then again, that's exactly what I'm about to do, at least a little bit.

First of all, this isn't a straight-up retelling, so don't expect it to match up on every point. In some ways, this is a good thing. For instance, this is the first Jane Eyre retelling that I've read that actually makes the child into a fully-fledged character, rather than a vehicle to get Jane and Rochester in the same general area. I thought Dorie was interesting and realistic, and I was truly interested to see if Jane would be able to help Dorie control her unique abilities. In other cases, however, it is not such a good thing. For instance, in this story Jane has a flighty sister named Helen, who bears absolutely no resemblance to Helen in the original. This took me out of the story more than once as I tried to find some connection between the two Helens.

As for the story itself, I thought it started out with a nice blend of action and exposition, though it dragged a bit in the last half of the book. And I had a little trouble buying the romance -- it suffered at the expense of Jane's character development, which is not necessarily something to complain about. It appears that there will be a sequel to this story, and while I'm not sure if I will pursue it or not, I thought the author did a good job of tying up enough loose ends to make a satisfying conclusion, while still leaving open possibilities for future plot developments.

(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

What Came from the Stars by Gary D. Schmidt

For fans of Gary Schmidt's writing, What Came from the Stars seems like a bit of a departure from form. For one thing, it's science fiction.

On a faraway planet, the last brave heroes of a doomed race are besieged. While the Valorim warriors hold the door against the O'Mondim invaders, Young Waeglim forges the Art of the Valorim into a chain and, with the last of his strength, sends it out among the stars, far away from the scene of the battle, to a little blue planet in a distant galaxy. The chain falls from the stars into the atmosphere, and from there into the Ace Robotroid lunchbox of twelve-year-old Tommy Pepper. When Tommy Pepper picks the chain up and puts it on, he develops certain unexpected artistic skills. Also, it transforms the supremely embarrassing Ace Robotroid lunchbox into something cool and spacey-looking. Tommy has worse problems than an embarrassing lunchbox, though: his mother has recently died, his younger sister is not talking to anyone any more, and his father is locked in a battle with developers who want the seaside land where the Pepper family's house sits. Their troubles increase when strange, unseasonable storms start ravaging the area, and houses in the town are vandalized in strange and disturbing ways. Tommy alone seems to realize that the storms and vandalism are because of the O'Mondim, who have come to Earth to reclaim the Art of the Valorim. Can Tommy stand firm against the invaders and do what is best for both his planet, and the other planet so far away whose fate is now inextricably linked with his own?

The main problem with this book is the first six pages. Schmidt opens the story with a detailed description of that last desperate siege. In a visual medium, it would be gripping. Unfortunately, in text, it is pretty much incomprehensible. Appropriately, Schmidt has created an entirely new language for the alien race -- but when you are reading a block of text that is rendered in an epic style, with every third or fourth word a made-up one, it is pretty tough going. Once the story shifts to Earth, it's a lot more engaging. I'm just concerned that the average kid, upon picking up this book and looking at that impenetrable block of text, will put the book down and move on to something more accessible. I know I nearly did!

Once you get past that first chapter, the going gets easier. Tommy and his father are engaging characters, and though Tommy's school friends are sometimes difficult to distinguish from one another, his teacher is brilliant and fun. Making Tommy's sister silent due to grief is an interesting decision, but one that I know I've seen in other books, which lessens the impact. The story moves along, trying to tie in the Cardiff Giant hoax with the alien races, which didn't quite work for me. So, while I liked the book, I wouldn't say that it's one of Schmidt's stronger works.

(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)

Friday, November 16, 2012

Floors by Patrick Carman

Floors by Patrick Carman is a juvenile puzzle novel. Next to the young adult dystopia, the juvenile puzzle novel is probably the genre where I most easily get "genre fatigue." This one was not good enough to raise it above its peers.

Leo is the son of the handyman at the Whippet Hotel, the quirkiest hotel in New York City. Merganzer Whippet, the hotel's enigmatic founder, filled the hotel with theme rooms, wacky inventions, and a rooftop duck pond. Then he disappeared. Leo and his dad are doing the best they can to keep the hotel in working order, but it's difficult . . . especially when somebody seems to be sabotaging the hotel's delicate operational balance. Is it the surly front desk clerk? One of the guests? The shady developers who want to buy the Whippet and tear it down so they can build a "real" hotel on the prime real estate that the Whippet occupies? In the midst of the turmoil, Leo, his new friend Remi, and a few highly intelligent ducks discover a quest left behind by Merganzer Whippet himself. Will solving the mystery help them save the hotel?

There's something appealing for young readers about books with this sort of fantastical setting. The Whippet seems like a cross between a hotel and an amusement park, and I can see kids really getting into the descriptions of Leo's adventures in the room that's built like a giant pinball machine, or on the double helix high-speed elevator. This adult reader was less amused. The quest didn't really engage me -- I found myself really disliking the absent Merganzer, and the conclusion of the story solidified that opinion. The characters were all fairly flat, as well. I might recommend this book to young readers who can't get enough of books like The Mysterious Benedict Society and The Westing Game, but those books are definitely superior to this one.

(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)

The Opposite of Hallelujah by Anna Jarzab

The Opposite of Hallelujah by Anna Jarzab is realistic YA fiction. I'm a little more picky about what I read in that genre, since much of it is so bleak. However, I thought this book was quite well done.

Caro feels like she hardly knows her sister Hannah. For more than half of Caro's life, Hannah has been part of an order of contemplative nuns. How do you explain to your peers that your beautiful older sister is sequestered in a strict convent, that you only see her for a short time once a year? Hannah might as well be dead, Caro reasoned when she was younger (though she got in a lot of trouble at home for telling her school friends that story). Then, one day, Hannah comes home. And if Caro thought that explaining her sister's life at the convent was difficult, she finds it even more difficult to explain Hannah's sudden, unexpected return. As Caro tries to understand her sister -- who is still emotionally distant and obviously unhappy -- she uncovers a secret from the past that might explain both why Hannah left, and why she came back. But will Caro do her sister more harm than good in her attempts to help Hannah deal with the ghosts of the past?

There's more to the story, of course: a helping of boyfriend drama, a scientist priest who helps Caro with her own questions about God and the universe, and an ambitious science fair project all play into the plot of this book. I was drawn to the story because I wanted to see how religion was handled, and I am impressed at what I found. While Caro is not particularly religious herself, and has some hostility toward the church, there's an underlying respect for religion infused into the bones of the story. Despite Hannah's situation, Christianity is not the bad guy of the piece, and Caro's questions feel as genuine as her animosity. I'm glad I came across this book, and would recommend it to readers who are intrigued, as I was, by its premise.

(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde

The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde is an interesting book -- and, like most of Fforde's books, problematic to categorize. Though definitely written for a younger audience than his Thursday Next books, it's hard to say exactly who the ideal reader of this book might be.

Teenager Jennifer Strange is not a magic user herself, but she is the acting manager of a magical agency. In a Britain where magic is slowly waning and being replaced by technology, the magicians are reduced to taking on tasks like plumbing repair and pizza delivery. Then their most reliable psychic predicts the death of the last dragon in the world -- an event that will almost certainly have a powerful effect on the flow of magic in the world, as well as freeing up an extremely valuable parcel of land. Through a series of events, Jennifer gets caught up in the drama of the dragon's impending death, and finds that she does not want the dragon to die, after all . . . which is problematic, because she's just inherited the title of the Last Dragonslayer.

Like all of Fforde's books, there's a lot of fun humor and wacky chains of circumstance and coincidence that all come together to form the plot. If anything, this book is slightly more straightforward than Fforde's other works, but it's still weird and wacky and magical. I enjoyed it, though frankly I'd rather have had the sequel to Shades of Grey: The Road to High Saffron instead. Jennifer reminded me, perhaps a little too strongly, of a young Thursday Next, and though the characters were all interesting and distinct, I didn't form much of an attachment to any of them (though the Quarkbeast was rather endearing in its own deadly way). I might read on in the series, or I might not -- the book was fun, but not Fforde at his best.

(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The 100-Year-Old Secret by Tracy Barrett

On that same long car trip mentioned below, I listened to The 100-Year-Old Secret by Tracy Barrett. When Xander and Xena's family relocates to London, these siblings discover that they are direct descendents of Sherlock Holmes. They are inducted into a secret society and entrusted with a notebook containing Holmes' unsolved cases . . . some of which have tantalizing clues that might lead to solutions, even after so many years!

Sherlock Holmes, always relatively popular, has seen a resurgence in popularity over the past few years, what with the movies and the TV series and all. I can think of at least three children's mystery book series that are in some way related to Holmes. I have to admit that, while I have enjoyed some of the original Holmes stories and some of the recent adaptations, I'm not an expert on Holmes trivia, so I won't comment too much on that aspect of this story. The Holmes angle in this book mostly serves to tie together a possible series, rather than playing directly into the details of this particular story.

In general, the writing in this story was good. The plot was strong, with enough clues and red herrings to make things interesting. Xena and Xander are not particularly memorable characters, but they are fine for a plot-driven mystery. The things that the siblings encounter, and the actions that they take to uncover clues, are believable -- they are things that kids could conceivably accomplish. I don't feel any compulsion to read more books in this series. However, I will certainly keep this book in mind for when kids come into the library looking for mysteries.

(Reviewed from an audiobook borrowed through my library system.)

Wonderland Creek by Lynn Austin

I listened to the audiobook of Wonderland Creek by Lynn Austin on a long car trip. In the past, I have very much enjoyed Austin's inspirational romances, and this one, set in Eastern Kentucky and featuring the packhorse librarians of the WPA era, had great promise. However, I found that a few glaring flaws made the story less than enjoyable for me.

The story is told from the point of view of Allie, a sheltered young woman who lives with her parents in the suburbs of Chicago. She loves books, and her job at the public library is a perfect fit . . . until the library's budget is cut due to the Great Depression, and Allie finds herself at loose ends. Prior to losing her job, Allie had been collecting books and magazines for libraries in Appalachia. When Allie's aunt and uncle announce that they are heading in that direction for a vacation, Allie rides along, planning to deliver the books to the library in Acorn, Kentucky, and to stay for a week or two and help catalog the books. When she arrives in the tiny backwoods town, she is shocked to learn that the librarian she has been corresponding with is a man, there is nowhere in Acorn for her to stay but at the library (which also happens to be the male librarian's home), and that living conditions in the little town do not include such amenities as electricity or indoor plumbing. Worse, the day after her arrival, the town's librarian is shot, and Allie finds herself caught in the middle of a web of deceit and intrigue.

My main problem with this book is that I did not find any of the main characters sympathetic or likable. Allie spends most of the story being Too Stupid To Live, complaining about her situation, being afraid of things, and reading solely as an escape. She grows incrementally stronger over the course of the book, but it was not enough to redeem her in my eyes. I also had some big problems with the plot, and the way other characters trapped and manipulated Allie into staying in Acorn against her will. It made it hard for me to like those characters, or to root for the success of the book's romantic subplot. The dialogue felt stiff and contrived in spots, too. To top it off, the plot meandered along at a leisurely pace, leaving me plenty of time to stew over my dislike of the characters. (In all fairness, this might have been because I was listening, rather than reading -- that can distort my perception of a book's pacing.)

I wish I could recommend this book -- I thought the premise was fascinating, and I am usually a fan of this author. Maybe next time I read one of her books, it will be a more enjoyable experience all around.

(Reviewed from an electronic audiobook borrowed through my library system.)

Monday, November 12, 2012

Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, books 1-6 by Jeff Kinney

I read books 1-6 in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney in preparation for a program that I am doing at my library soon. Let me just say that I am not the intended audience for this series. On the other hand, if you know a boy in grades 4-8, he's probably read at least one of these books. They're massively popular with kids, but don't have the crossover appeal of other kids/teen series that have made it big with adults in the past few years.

The eponymous Wimpy Kid is Greg Heffley, a fairly average middle-schooler. His stunts and foibles are chronicled in journal format, with accompanying sketches. Kids love the humor in the series -- Greg is something of an Everykid, who fights with his brothers, does a halfhearted job at his schoolwork, dreams up get-rich-quick schemes that never pan out, and plays a lot of video games. Girls are still a fairly abstract concept to Greg, though with the release of the seventh book, that may start to change.

I read all six books over the course of two or three days -- they're quick reads, which further endears them to kids who are reluctant to tackle heavier tomes. I get a little annoyed with Greg's attitude at times, which probably displays the accurate characterization in the books! I wouldn't necessarily recommend this series to adults, unless you are trying to keep up with what's hot in the middle-grade age bracket. I might recommend them to kids . . . but most kids have already read them!

Since I assume some of you readers will have stumbled across this post doing what I did recently -- searching for Wimpy Kid library programs -- I thought I'd mention that for the program at my library, we'll be using some of the ideas from the Event Kit which can be downloaded from the publisher's website.  We'll play the Cheese Touch game (a modified version of Wink 'Em), have a trivia contest, and have the word searches and similar paper games on hand for them to take home.  We're also going to be making Wimpy Kid masks -- a very simple craft; I'll print out the outline of Greg's face and they will get to select which shape the mouth will be and stick it on -- and probably decorate sugar cookies with white icing and chocolate sprinkles to make a similar face (or, really, whatever they want).

(Reviewed from copies borrowed through my library system.)

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Mini-reviews: Unspoken and Mystic City

Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan -- a fun paranormal mystery with a little bit of romance. Reminded me a bit of Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater, not in plot (other than both being paranormal-ish) but in tone. I enjoyed it, but can't find a lot to say about it. I'd recommend it to people looking for more YA paranormal stories.
(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)

Mystic City by Theo Lawrence -- in a future New York City, Aria wakes up missing some key memories, and must travel through parts of the city that her privileged upbringing has never exposed her to in order to discover what's being hidden from her. Another decent YA dystopia.
(Reviewed from an advance copy, courtesy of the publisher.)