Friday, June 24, 2011

Review--Blink and Caution

   My first impression upon cracking open Tim Wynne-Jones's book, Blink & Caution, was, "Whoa, THIS passes as young adult fiction? Maybe I'm just getting old." If you are looking for an innocent adventure story, this book is not for you. But, if you are a sophisticated reader, accepting of slightly deviant worlds, then dive right in, for Blink & Caution was an enjoyable ride, in the end.
    Within the first few chapters, topics such as drugs, abusive drug-dealer boyfriends, porn, prostitution, and murder had all been covered. Once those tidbits were out of the way, the story actually developed and found its voice, which, despite all the earlier mature bluster, ended up being a sweet romance between two misfit kids. But, don't let the word "romance" scare all you thrill seekers away; Blink & Caution also managed to be a fun story of suspense and intrigue with plenty of action.
    Not overly complex, this is the perfect book for light summer reading, once one gets past all the heavy stuff at the beginning. I found the writing engaging, and the two main characters were unique, both of them   shattered souls, but not beyond recovery. Overall, the message was positive. Thumbs up.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


      Remakes and "Reimaginings" of old tales are all the rage now, and I approached this one with caution, sure that it would disappoint. Remarkably, though, I was pleasantly surprised, even "sweetly" so.
      Jackson Pearce's Sweetly, due out in August, is a delightful second look at the "Hansel and Gretel" fairy tale. Dark and ominous, Sweetly puts a modern spin on an old favorite, but not in a groaningly predictable manner. At times channeling the delightful movie, Chocolat, the book pulls the reader into a world that is filled with mystery, secrets, sugary sweetness, and engaging characters. The expected romance is refreshing, and the heroine is pleasantly well-rounded.  
       With happenstance bringing them to an insular Southern town as they flee a neglectful stepmother and a nightmarish past, sister and brother, Gretchen and Ansel, are faced with a familiar darkness lurking in the forests that surround the stubborn and secretive locals, whose daughters and sisters have been disappearing for years.
       The mystical chocolatier, Sophia and the angsty rebel, Samuel add zest to a story that kept me licking my lips for more. Be ready to taste the sweet decadence in August.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Review--The Hole in the Wall

   Well, this book left me mystified, I must say. The Hole in the Wall, Lisa Rowe Fraustino's environmental commentary cloaked in a novel for the 9-12 year old set, reminded me a bit of another book with hole in the title... Holes, by Louis Sacher. Like that fine book, there was plenty of humor, charm, and goofiness surrounding the main character, 11 year-old Sebby, but the disjointed story-line and "out there" happenings just overwhelmed me, leaving me shaking my head, wondering just where Ms. Fraustino really intended to end up with this story. In contrast, Holes, though filled with plenty of unbelievable events, still managed to captivate and hold together. The Hole in the Wall was filled with... well... holes.
   The idea of a town threatened by some mysterious mining operation appealed to me, as this country is certainly covered with many such places, what with mountain-top removal, "fracking", etc. increasing at an alarming rate, so I was ready for a story that delved into the potential impact of such environmental alterations on a young boy's life. By the end of The Hole in the Wall, though, I was confused and shaking my head in disbelief. It had all just been a bit too much, too unbelievable. Overall, the book left me disappointed. Reread Holes instead.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Review--Those That Wake

   Jesse Karp's Inception-like novel, Those That Wake, was an interesting read, partly because I found it a different sort of world-gone-bad kind of novel, at least compared to other young adult books of that ilk. Rather sophisticated in its delivery, the book was at times dry and confusing, but there was also plenty of action and even a little obligatory romance.
   Conceptually, though, I found it fascinating. Considering that the target audience is teenagers, one can only hope that readers are left pondering the roles our cell phones and other digital media play in separating us from each other as dynamic and creative human beings, who are capable of unique ideas and independent thought, rather than robotic automatons who have lost all sense of self, taken in by whatever overpowering data corporations inundate us with on a daily basis.
   The novel was unconventional and I recommend it for anyone seeking something rather outside of the box.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Review--The Dead

   For those of you not yet sated by the zombie genre in modern literature, then the upcoming book, The Dead, by Charlie Higson is for you. The book hits shelves June 14th. If the author's name sounds familiar, it might be because he has delved into this world before, with the novel, The Enemy.  The Dead serves as a sort of prequel, and in it the world, or in this case, London, has completely fallen apart, with most people over the age of 16 having succumbed to a terrible disease, which turns them into hideous zombies.
   From the opening page onward, the author does not shy away from gore and graphic details. Also, just as one would expect from such a tale, the action is non-stop. In this new world, kids rule, managing to be authoritative, tender, petty, shallow, and child-like all in one.
   Admittedly, my favorite moment was the mention of Monty Python and the Holy Hand Grenade, which made me chuckle, but the rest, in spite of the overload of blood, guts, guns, and action, left me a tad bored. But, if you liked The Enemy, than I imagine you will find this one a fun romp through British zombie-land, too. Enjoy, mate!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Review: Bloody Jack

    Bloody Jack, by L.A. Meyer, is one of the best books I've read in a long time. It is written from the point of view of Mary "Jacky" Faber, a poor orphan living with a gang of children under Blackfriars Bridge, Cheapside, London. When the leader of the gang, Rooster Charlie is killed, Jacky leaves the gang and finds her way onto the HMS Dolphin, a ship in her majesty's royal navy. Hoping only for a chance for better grub, Jacky signs on as a ship's boy by disguising herself as a boy. Adventure and near misses ensue as Jacky struggles to maintain the "Deception". One of the best things about this book is Jacky herself. She is one of the most unconventional and lovable characters I've come across in a while. The  book is written in coarse, realistic dialect that only occasionally falters, and while this can be a little hard to get into, once you do it's fine. While Bloody Jack is largely an adventure story, it also is a good piece of historical fiction, and even has a little romance in it. I would not recommend Bloody Jack to the squeamish reader, but for anyone who loves adventure on the high sea, pirates, and sword fights, this book is a winner. Bloody Jack is also a series, and the next books are just as good (if even better) than the first. I'm already on the fourth book, and I am really enjoying this series. There are eight books so far, and I think Meyer's got at least one more book in him. In conclusion, read these books!


Friday, June 3, 2011

Review--Blood Magic

   If gothic tales of sorcery and creepy graveyards appeal to you, than this recent release, Blood Magic, by Tessa Gratton, is for you. Bloody rituals drip from many pages, but not to overflowing. Reminiscent of classic dark love stories, or favorite Alfred Hitchcock movies, Blood Magic kept me engaged without leaving me disgusted by unnecessary violence and gore. The darkness hung over the book like a fog, the icy tendrils of which seeped in with every word.
   Ancient gravestones, menacing black birds, magic books, and secrets from the past, were all woven together to make this book an enjoyable read. The token romance is not overpowering or sickly sweet, which was refreshing. All in all, Blood Magic was a captivating read.