Life's hard.

It's even harder when you're stupid.

John Wayne

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Song of the Quarkbeast by Jasper Fforde ★★★★☆

The Song of the Quarkbeast (The Last Dragonslayer, #2)Another master piece.
Fiction – YA – Urban Fantasy
289 pages
Age Level: 10 - 14 | Grade Level: 5 - 9
Publication Date: 2013 (in the US)
The Last Dragonslayer #2

Two months after the initial magic power surge magic is slowly rising and Jennifer Strange is trying stave off a takeover of Kazam Mystical Arts Management from a rival magic company.  A contest between the two rivals is set to take place, but with the other side cheating and backed by King Snodd IV the chances of Kazam winning is looking iffy at best.

This story is a quick, nontaxing read with a high level of silliness.  Again Mr. Fforde proves himself a master wordsmith with colorful writing and an imagination that knows no bounds.  He weaves his stories together so they are never straight forward or entirely predictable, keeping the attention of his readers.  I particularly liked his bit about some wizards having the ability to make remote suggestion or sending ideas and that it was banned once it was found out they used it to promote talentless boy bands.  As usual, his characters are well rounded, the world is fleshed out and quirky and everything is up to the high level I have come to expect from Mr. Fforde.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Fablehaven by Brandon Mull ★★★☆☆

A refreshing take on fantasy.
Fiction – Juvenile/YA – Urban Fantasy
351 pages
Age Level: 9 and up | Grade Level: 4 and up
Publication Date:  2006 
Fablehaven #1

During a rare visit to their grandparents Kendra and Seth learn that the strange estate, Fablehaven, their grandparents’ manage is more than an old house and carefully tended grounds.  Fablehaven is actually one of the last refuges for magical creatures in the world.  When the carefully laid out laws of Fablehaven are broken and an old evil is released only Kendra can save the day if she has courage.
Fablehaven (Fablehaven, #1) 
The beginning kind of threw me and I would have to say the grittiness of the story does make me question whether the intended reading ages were appropriate.  So as a parent think on your child’s maturity before letting them read it. Though, I really appreciate the loving care Mr. Mull put into creating this book world.  He used beautiful imagery and such a variety of creatures and mythology that it seems like it could really exist. The pacing was great and I just loved watching Kendra and Seth discover the keys and solve the mystery of Fablehaven (definitely a Secret Garden kind of thrill).  I would say this is a fairly gender neutral book, great for anyone interested in fantasy and adventure.  As an adult I liked the newness of the world and Mr. Mull’s fresh take, it never felt stale or over used.  While I wasn’t exactly blown away by the writing or the book as a whole, I liked it enough that I read the rest of the series in quick succession and am considering adding it to my Chosen Ones List.  Also as a side note a teacher friend of mine says it was great to read out loud to her class.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Rowan and the Travelers by Emily Rodda ★★★★☆

Rowan and the Travelers (Rowan of Rin, #2)Lessons Learned
Fiction – Juvenile – High Fantasy
192 pages
Age Range: 8 - 12 years
Grade Level: 3 and up
Publication Date:  1994
Rowan of Rin #2

In book two of the series Rowan, must face unknown dangers and save his people from a strange sleeping sickness overcoming the village.  His only help comes from the roaming Travelers, but they may be the very enemy Rowan is looking to defeat.  With time running out and lives in the balance can Rowan unmask the true enemy and save his people before it is too late?

With the same high caliber writing I expected after reading book one, Ms. Rodda effortlessly weaves together a mystery I was eager to see Rowan solve.  To save his family and the other people of Rin from the sleeping sickness Rowan must use the lessons he learned from the journey up the mountain and overcome his own prejudices to overcome the enemy.  And while there is always plenty of action like the first one, Ms. Rodda’s stories are still really about the characters.  Rowan learns and adapts, but still manages to stay true to his real strengths an open loving heart.  While the people of Rin are reminded that even the Travelers live differently than them they are still their allies and each group can learn a lot from the other.