fiction · YA

Trollhunters by Guillermo del Toro and Daniel Kraus

Trollhunters is written by Guillermo del Toro and Daniel Kraus. Most people have heard of Guillermo del Toro either for Pan’s Labyrinth or the more recent Academy Award willing film, The Shape of Water. Less have heard of his co-author Daniel Kraus who, along with del Toro co-authored The Shape of Water. But, before The Shape of Water they wrote Trollhunters. Together, their blend of everyday life overlapped with the unusual and monsterous always capture my attention.

trollhunterTrollhunters begins during The Milk Carton Epidemic of 1969. Almost 200 children have gone missing without a trace all summer and brothers Jack and Jim Sturgess know they are supposed to be in before dark. But on September 21, 1969 it was Jack’s thirteenth birthday and they lost track of time. In a single moment, Jack was gone. Jim tried to find him but all he found was a monster.

45 years later Jim is all grown up with a son his own – James Sturgess Jr. Jim is fifteen, in love with Claire and desperately trying not to fail math. He has spent his life coming home before dark to a house with ten locks and security redundancies that would shame an embassy. But one night, in the safety of his own home, Jim is pulled under his bed by two massive furred paws.

Trollhunters is a fast paced novel that straddles the position somewhere between middle grade and YA. If you have seen Pan’s Labyrinth or The Shape of Water then you are familiar with del Toro and Kraus’ unique perspective on some darker themes. If not, I can safely tell you that there are numerous ways to describe the intestines and innards of trolls and the authors used them all.

In fact, the language in this book is flowery and has an almost tangible quality. Even when describing revolting scenes the word selection is elevated in a way that paints a vivid picture of the grotesque. These revolting creatures are described in such intimate details that you are left with a clear, albeit oozing, picture.

The only hiccup in this whole book for me was one of the main character’s name. ARRRGH!!! is a troll that is aiding humans. I’m not sure about your reading style but when things are in all caps I tend to shout them out in my head. So, I was lulled along by the gorgeous language superimposed on clashing action and then I kept shouting “ARRRGH!!!” like a small child. Perhaps this was a purposeful interruption by the authors but it broke the pace of the story for me in an awkward manner.

Still, this is a tiny issue with a completely enjoyable book. I was surprised to find Jim’s best friend Tub and his crush Claire to be well formed and delightful characters in their own way. I am always excited by the best-friend character. The trolls that come to human’s aid are more unique than expected in a genre that occasionally feels full.

trollhuntershowThere is also a Netflix show based on the book which I watched binge-style for the whole first season. There are some differences – aren’t there always? – but overall I enjoyed the show and the book for completely different reasons and recommend them for a fun early-high school and onward reader.

 

 

 

 


Tell me, please!

Have you read this book or others by these authors? What are your thoughts?


all ages · Fantasy · fiction

Bob by Rebecca Stead and Wendy Mass

One of my 2018 challenges was to not purchase any books until I had read my already owned whole shelf of books. I did really well in January and February and then fell off the wagon….hard. I wrote down my newly purchased books for some of March but then I just couldn’t even keep track. Now I am not even trying. Recently, I went into Barnes and Noble to wander around (the lie all book lovers tell themselves upon entering a book store). I stumbled across an a few must-purchase books and I could not resist the sweet premise of Bob by Rebecca Stead and Wendy Mass.

BobFive years ago Olivia (Livy to her friends) visited her Gran in Australia. Now that she is back she can’t help but feel that she is forgetting something. Something really, really important. Maybe it is the little green man dressed in a handmade chicken suit hiding in her closet. His name is Bob and he has been waiting for her all this time. She promised to help him and now its time to keep that promise.

This sweet little book left me sighing with pure happiness. Olivia and Bob’s friendship is pure and wrapped in the protective bubble of childhood that seems to disintegrate slightly during adolescents. The mystery of what Bob is and why Livvy struggles to remember him only adds to their bond.

This adorable book is well written and sweet. For adults, this is a one hour read. I can imagine this book would be a one week to ten day read aloud. Either way, it really make me think about memories, friendships, and how childhood adventures can sculpt our future lives.


Tell me, please!

Was there a childhood moment that defines magic to you?


Fantasy · fiction · YA

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

The Cruel Prince has been everywhere. I love Holly Black and I was thrilled that she had a new book. But, I made a New Year’s Resolution that I wouldn’t buy any new books. Sigh. I resigned myself to waiting until after the backlog of books was taken care of and then I would zoom out and purchase it right away.
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Then, I received an OwlCrate Subscription for Christmas. And in one of my delightful boxes…The Cruel Prince! I put it aside to read after my test and it was well worth the wait. Plus, just look at the gorgeous OwlCrate exclusive cover. So pretty.

I have loved Holly Black since The Spiderwick Chronicles and I will pick up anything with her name on it. She has a way with magical stories that never fails to engage and surprise me. Her tone varies depending on her target audience but her writing is always tight and masterful. There have been books of hers I have adored and there are others than I appreciated but did not fall in love with completely.

The Cruel Prince is difficult to discuss without spoilers and, truthfully, it has been so hyped that at this point I will be surprised if anyone doesn’t know the basic plot line. Still, for readers venturing outside of their preferred genre into YA – here goes.

It is safe to say that the main character, Jude Duarte, and her twin sister Taryn are human. Their older sister Vivi is half human, half fae and the three of them are taken from their human home and spirited away to live with the Fae by Vivi’s Fae Father. There Jude and Taryn are raised among the Fae with access to the Court but their humanity always sets them apart. They are humans under the protection of the same powerful man that stole them from their home. They are commoners being educated amounts royalty. They live in fear of their present safety and neither girl has any guarantee of a future at all.

Admittedly, for at least the first half of the book I was unengaged. Wait, that is not right. Rather, I felt removed from the action. I felt apart from the story and off-kilter. Approximately half way through the book the threads started to weave together and I realized that my off-kilter matched Jude’s inner turmoil. And when Jude found her purpose I was with her stride for stride.

In the end, I loved The Cruel Prince because it was so much more than a dark Fairy Tale.


Tell me, please!

If you read the book, which character was your favorite?


 

Classic · fiction

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

This book has been on my radar for years. I was never assigned it in high school or college but everyone I knew had read it and found it to be profound. I have picked up copies at library books sales through the years (two to be exact) but it took listening to the audiobook version to finally experience this amazing classic book.

fahrenheit451Guy Montag lives in a world ruled by screens. His wife, Mildred is happy to be entertained by her screen “family” who live on three of the four walls of her parlor room walls. And Guy has a prestigious job as a firefighter. Except the fireman of Bradbury’s world are not needed to put out fires. Rather, they are assigned to start them. Firemen are tasked with burning the most illegal of all substances – books.

I cannot stop thinking about the world Bradbury describes. Certainly, a world ruled by screens probably seemed like a futuristic nightmare when Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451 in the 1940s. But, as I sit here typing on a laptop while watching on-demand television and texting with friends, it is clear that in 2018 our reliance on screens is a reality few of us can deny.

Certainly all book lovers know people who scoff at our book collection. We have smart, kind, intelligent people who say with pride, “I never read.” Our hearts break. We are confused. How could a person not understand the importance of books?

In Montag’s world reading books is not just scoffed at, it is illegal. And as I finished the story I couldn’t help but wonder, how far is the distance between scoffing at books and burning them? Because, after all, “You can’t make someone change their mind.”


Tell me, please!

Have you read Fahrenheit 451? Are you intrigued? I want to hear your thoughts!


 

fiction · historical fiction

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley

Some books are so well written that I find myself transported to another place or another time. When I finish the story, I always close the book, hold it in both hands and look back to the cover. I smile because just a few days ago this book was a stranger to me and now it is a friend.

watchmakerThe Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley was a beautiful unknown stranger when I started reading it last week. I always say that a book should be given at least three chapters and by the end of chapter three this book had me mesmerized. I was transported to Victorian England and Japan through the eyes of Thaniel, Grace and Mori. Now that the story has ended I have been abruptly thrust back into the reality of today and find that these characters are not here. Thankfully, a good book is a friend that is always there for me so I can visit them again.

Thaniel, short for Nathaniel, is a clerk. One evening a bomb threat is telegraphed in to Home Office. That same evening he returns home to find a pocket watch in his solitary dwelling on his bed with no explanation. When the bomb eventually does go off, the watch saves his life. And so begins Thaniel’s investigation into the mysterious watch and its more deliciously curious maker, Kieta Mori. Grace Carrow is a reluctant socialite pulled into the story slowly at first until she is completely intertwined with Thaniel and the Watchmaker.

I loved this story. This book was like looking at a place on Google map. At first, everything was general and far away and I couldn’t quite make sense of it all. But, as I kept reading the picture zoomed in slowly until little details because so clear and inviting that I couldn’t stop and I wanted to live there forever. I want desperately to speak in more detail but I had the great joy of reading it without the damper of other’s opinions or any plot spoilers and I will not take this experience from anyone else.

I highly recommend The Watchmaker of Filigree Street. This novel’s complex, yet enjoyable characters and delightful story made for a thoroughly enjoyable adventure on this cold wet January week.


Tell me, please!

Have you read or are you interested in The Watchmaker?


fiction

Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo

I will be honest, as a kid I was never a fan of Wonder Woman. Before the fabulous Gal Gadot, the different variations of Diana Prince were underwhelming for me. She had so many things going for her but I was really stuck on the cleavage bearing outfit and the invisible plane. Both made me embarrassed on her behalf.

And then Gal Gadot made me believe.

So, when I heard there was a book written about Diana Prince’s early years and experiences (holy origin story, my favorite!) I had to check it out.

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Diana is growing up surrounding by battle tested Amazonian sisters. More than anything, she wishes to prove herself. When she saves a mortal she brings peril to her home, her sisters and perhaps the world because the mortal she has saved is Alia Keralis – a Warbringer. Now, Alia and Diana must work together to save both of their worlds.

I loved everything about this book. Clearly, I love a good origin story and Bardugo delivers in spades. Also, I am a fan of any book with a beautiful cast of characters. Alia’s best friend Nim has my heart forever and ever and I rooted for their friend Theo like he belonged to me. Bardugo also mentions a number of myths and stories that I enjoyed long ago and some that I was unfamiliar with but intrigued by all the same that gave the story an unexpected depth.

But the shifting perspectives of Alia and Diana were what made this story really come alive. The seamless flipping back and forth not only gave me insight into Diana’s thoughts and fears but being able to see her through Alia’s eyes made the character so real to me in a way that Wonder Woman never has been before. And, by weaving their narrative perspectives together Bardugo brought me right to the center of the action and I loved every minute of it.


Tell me, please!

Are you a Wonder Woman fan? Have you read Warbringer? I’d love to know!


fiction · Romantic · YA

Geekerella by Ashley Poston

This book made me happy cry…three times. Now, maybe it is because the book reached directly into my geeky little heart and plucked at my fan-fiction loving heartstrings. Or, perhaps this delightful little re-telling of Cinderella was just swoon worthy enough to push my frazzled emotions over the edge. Either way, I love this book!

geekerellaGeekerella by Ashley Poston is a modern re-telling of the classic Cinderella. Danielle is our princess, Darien the prince. Our Prince and Princess are trying to get to the Con – the ExcelsiCon that revolves around their favorite television show Starfield. Danielle’s Father created the wildly popular ExcelsiCon before he died and their shared love of Starfield is all that she has left of him that brings her comfort. Darien is a day time soap actor chosen to star as the lead in the movie re-make of Starfield. His love of Starfield is bringing him nothing but anxiety as he tries to simultaneously live his dream of inhabiting his favorite character and prove himself to the fans.

Geekerella has been well reviewed and many great points have been made about the deeply likable characters, the plot development and the lack of a truly horrible villain. But the unique aspect of this book that really spoke to me was the desire to belong. Cinderella has always been looking for family. The Prince has always been seeking a loving relationship. Danielle and Damien are trying to find these things in a modern world made more complicated by social media and technology.

Danielle has turned inward after the death of her Father. We saw that with Cinderella. But Cinderella had devoted servants (or vermin) to bring her comfort. Danielle has no one to rely on or even someone she feels she can ask for help. Watching her find the strength to put herself out into the real world was what brought me happy cry numero uno.

Darien is a teen heartthrob whose Dad would rather be his Agent and Manager than his Father. We see this everywhere in modern American – parents who want something other than to parent their children. That leaves Darien like our Prince – constantly on guard against user friends, crazy fans and people who want to profit from him. In the end, he is looking for someone who loves him. Just him.

This book really spoke to me about believing in yourself and finding the strength to fit into this chaotic world. There is a place we all belong if we are brave enough to try again and again to find it.


Tell me, please!

Have you read Geekerella? What are your thoughts?


 

fiction

Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech

I argue that since grownups were once children we have locked inside all of us the memories and feelings of being younger. Reading children’s literature takes you back and reminds you of things forgotten or pushed aside during day-to-day adulating. Beautifully written children’s books are for everyone.

But, I feel that a great deal of what we recommend to children is rife with peril and death and grown up concerns. Many times we forget that being a kid is hard. Even children in a stable childhood have everyday worries that weigh on them. There is no amount of money that you could pay me to be thirteen again! We make the mistake of recommending books to kids that we remember being required to read or worse, books we have heard are good for kids but haven’t read yet.

So, I actively seek out good children’s literature that is wholly enjoyable, well written and as free from unnecessary upset as possible to recommend blindly to children. When I am in a position where a parent asks me, “What should my kid read,” I have a bank of great stories and adventures to rattle off. I don’t usually recommend books to children that are anything but an escape because I want to encourage kids to love to read – to see it as the adventure it can be. And, I actively weed out books in which there is unnecessary sadness, loss or (what I think is) manipulative death. Beautifully written books about real feelings are important for everyone, including children, but I think it is a mistake to carelessly expose children to adult feelings and issues.

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Walk Two Moons is on my local school district’s summer reading list for kids third through fifth grade. I picked it up off the shelf out of sheer curiosity and I loved it. In this story we meet thirteen year old Salamanca Tree Hiddle. While traveling with her eccentric Grandparents from Ohio to Idaho, Sal entertains her Gramps and Gram with the story of her friend Phoebe, the disappearance of Pheobe’s mother and a lunatic. Meanwhile, Sal’s own story and her desires to be reunited with her mother unfolds.

 

 

 

In Walk Two Moons Sharon Creech weaves these two stories together so expertly that I could not sleep until I finished the book. Sal’s story, and the one she tells about Phoebe, will stay with me. I love this book even though it made me cry.

Throughout the book we see the quote, “Don’t judge a man until you’ve walked two moons in his moccasins.” This was the undercurrent of the story. The author was able to show with every single character that a person has layers, history and experiences that we don’t see on the surface. Everyone has stories, things the whole world doesn’t yet know, and we shouldn’t make assumptions about people.

I am sure that this message is, in part, why the publisher and our school district recommends this book to ages 8-12. But, I disagree. Sal is dealing with regular childhood problems and real world hard problems all at once.  There is no way to really explain without including spoilers but Sal’s world knowledge far exceeds the typical 8 year olds I know. And, while I wouldn’t question reading this in a third through fifth grade class, I don’t like that this is on the summer reading list where, presumably, kids are reading it independently.

I want to be clear. This book is fantastic. I am in awe of Sharon Creech’s ability to put all those feelings and wonderful characters into this beautiful story. When I see this book in a store or a library I will hug it. I can’t hug Sal so I will give the book a good squeeze and try not to cry in public. But, it will not be something I recommend blindly to elementary students to read on their own. Instead, I’ll recommend it to all of you and keep it in my back pocket to recommend to any specific child that needs to know Sal’s story.

Have you ever read a book like this? One that is for the child inside of us but not really a children’s book?

 

Fantasy · fiction

Throwback Thursday June 13, 2017

throwbackthursday

Throwback Thursday was started by Renee at ItsBookTalk.com to showcase books that were published over a year ago and have been languishing on your to be read shelf. I actually found her throwback because she did a lovely feature of Sophie Kinsella’s Twenties Girl for today’s post. We all know I am obsessed with Kinsella!

MY PICK: Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway.

AngelmakerThis book was first published in 2012 and I read it that year and again in 2015. This is the book I recommend to my friends with the caveat: give it timeAngelmaker is a delightfully weird book full of beautiful prose about Joe Spork. Joe is a clockwork repairman, just as his grandfather was. What he isn’t – and refuses to be – is like his father Matthew. Matthew was the head of organized crime named his son his successor. But, Joe has been avoiding this life and hiding from his criminal legacy in the quiet tidiness of clocks.

One day, he is asked to repair a mechanical book and sets into motion a terrible device that changes the course of his life. As he races to stop the machine he inadvertantly brought to life he must rely on friends, old and new, for help.

This book. Savor it. This is not a beach read, this is a world you visit slowly because you only get to live in it for a bit. It is full of wonderful characters and secrets. But, it does take time. I am reminded of a rollercoaster with books like this. It takes time to get in, safely strapped, and then there is that boring click, click, click while you climb the hill. But, just when you think you are going to get stuck this book, like a rollercoaster, takes you roaring through an adventure.

Fantasy · fiction

The Girl Who Could Fly by Victoria Forester

The Girl Wthegirlwhocouldflyho Could Fly is an absolutely charming book. It made me cheer and clap, smile with tears in my eyes and shush my family so I could please finish in peace.  This delightful book intended for children through 6th grade. Clearly, Scholastic is stating the age appropriateness of this book’s themes and not capping the readership at age 11. Victoria Forester’s first novel marches along classic story lines of good and evil, right and wrong, how to make friends and when to trust people. Add a dose of accepting people as they are and voila – you have this book. Those are lessons we just keep encountering regardless of our chronological age and as such the child in all of us will love this book.

Piper McCloud is born late to her Mother and Father and blessed with an innate sense of right and wrong that is truly enviable. She is also gifted with the ability to float which she cultivates into the ability to fly. Her parents seem to understand that the world will not accept her differences and so they try to keep her safe and secluded on their farm.  This doesn’t work – it never does – and after a while she is taken to a special school to be with kids like her.

I must admit, the special school bit almost kept me from reading this book. I am a little tired of the Hogwarts aspect of so many books that I have started turning my nose up when the jacket mentions such a place. Trust me – the institute they take Piper is no Hogwarts.

This book was published in 2008 but a second in the series The Boy Who Knew Everything  was published in late 2016. The only thing more important to me right now than getting my hands on a copy of the second book is talking to someone (anyone?!) about this book.

So, has anyone read it? Will you please? Or, have you ever had a book you needed to talk about and so you were begging people to hurry up and read it?