Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Phantom Tollbooth

Argh!  Happy late Talk Like a Pirate Day!

Heavy seas ahead.

The story: The Phantom Tollbooth is the story of a young boy, his toy car and his watchdog as they travel through interesting new lands and help save a kingdom.

The Good: I have heard from many people that they love this book.  It has a quirky, wry sense of humor, a TON of wordplay and an imaginative set of interconnected worlds.

The Bad: This is a Message Book.  This Book is about the Danger of Boredom and the Necessity for Education and Rhyme and Reason.  Seriously, though, if heavy-handed metaphors are your thing, you will adore this book.  They are simply Not My Thing.

The Thoughts: It might be a fun read for a youngster learning new phrases and concepts of which the book is rife.  Or it might be mightily confusing, which can also be fun.  I had trouble forming a mental picture of most of the book, to be honest, and there are certain inconsistencies that buzzed around my head like flies.  The toy car, the instrument of the boy's salvation, is sometimes there and sometimes not.  It tends to pop up when needed and disappear the same way.  It's not a bad book by any stretch, especially for those who espouse a Carollian sense of whimsy.  However, if you like characterization and consistency, this might not be the book for you.

Favorite quote: "As long as the answer is right, who cares if the question is wrong? If you want sense, you'll have to make it yourself." (p. 175)  <- the book summed up in its own quote.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Update: How This Works

Upon further reading and consideration, I am amending part of How This Works.

From now on:

The Good: the first things that occur to me that were particularly enjoyable or edifying. 

Will also include how I think the book ranks in terms of Artistotle's guide for good story telling.

To boil down his arguments in Poetics: Plot + Character + Probability =  Good Story

In other words, the plot has to flow from the characters in their believability and all the events must be probably according to knowledge of how people and things work.

That is all for now, folks.


Thursday, September 15, 2016

Zita the Spacegirl

Book Review: Zita the Spacegirl by  Ben Hatke

The story: When a mysterious meteor crashes to earth, Zita and her friend Joseph find a device inside.  Headstrong Zita immediately activates the device, kickstarting an adventure that carries them to a far off planet that's about to be destroyed by a meteor.

The Good: Rollicking fun adventure and gorgeous illustrations. 

The Bad: The graphic novel includes mild peril.  That's it.  And even that is balanced out with pervasive humor.

The Thoughts: The book is visually like watching a Star Wars directed by Jim Henson and illustrated by Bill Watterson, in the best way.  The action never stops.  The protagonist is a plucky young girl whose impulsiveness first led to chaos, but whose big heart, courage, and unwavering loyalty more than atoned for.  The story is a maze of unexpected twists and turns, while avoiding predictable tropes.  The ending sets the stage for more galactic adventures for the heroine and her friends, which I will be acquiring as fast as possible (we have the three currently available, and, given the enthusiasm for them by all my readers and non-readers, everything else released by the talented Ben Hatke).  The story can be gleaned by children who are not yet reading fluently, but is by no means a "baby" book.  

Favorite nickname: Strong-strong calls Zita "lost girl" throughout.  <3

Five stars.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

How This Works

Here is the new "Key" to the blog reviews I'm posting now:

Title and author (obvious)

The story: I'll give a quick summary here.  I'll try to avoid spoilers, to the best of my ability.

The Good: the first things that occur to me that were particularly enjoyable or edifying. 

The Bad: This does not mean I think the book is bad.  This is just here for warnings about things that might be upsetting to some.  Think of it as where I post "trigger warnings."  

The Thoughts: Think: food for thought.  This is where I brain-dump the things that most stood out to me in the book.

Favorite stuff: if there is a fun new word or a great quote or something, I will put it here. 

Amazon affiliate link: if you want to check the book out for yourself, I make it easy!  Also, if you use my links, I get a tiny kick back with no cost to you!  Win-win, amiright?


Book Review: Dodger

Book Review: Dodger by Terry Pratchett

The Story: Dodger is a street youth whose simple life is turned upside down when he saves a young woman from being brutally beaten as she tries to escape her captors.  This kicks off a series of events in which Dodger finds himself embroiled with the likes of Henry Mayhew, Charles Dickens, Sweeney Todd, and the other denizens of historical London.  

The Good: Beautifully written from the perspective of Dodger himself with brilliant characterizations and painstakingly rendered historical details, ranging from the grinding poverty of the lower classes to the palaces and embassies of royalty.  

The Bad: While this is clearly a young adult book, it is not for the faint of heart.  In the opening scene, a teen girl is beaten so badly she miscarries her pregnancy and almost dies.  Pratchett pulls no punches when it comes to the plight of the lower classes of London, including the most vulnerable, children and the elderly.  

The Thoughts: The late great Sir Terry Pratchett has written what he terms "historical fantasy" and is entertaining and informative.  While Dickens, who appears as a character in the book, also portrayed poverty, I think Pratchett does it better. Pratchett, as always, excels in showing the humanity of his characters.  Even the poorest of the poor have a dogged loyalty to each other and a genuine generosity.  Pratchett upends a number of popular tropes with panache: put not your trust in princes, he assures us, for it is not among the poor where the real monsters are.  Through the eyes of Dodger we find pity for the desperate drunks and trauma-ridden veterans.  With Dodger we lash out at the powerful predators, though, curiously, Dodger has a reputation as a berserker, but carries out his revenges with thought and restraint.  The story's female characters (of which there are many and various) are written with depth and insight while maintaining the accuracy of their lesser societal roles. The book itself touches on both historical and current social issues with great-hearted empathy and perspective.

While my description may make the book sound like a moralistic historical treatise, the story itself is vibrant and fast moving, as is Dodger.

Favorite new word: "firkytoodle" p. 209

Favorite quote: "Everybody has got to believe in something; that's all it takes." p. 252

Five stars.

Friday, September 9, 2016


Things, they are a-changing round these parts.

Seriously, though. I am keeping my archived entries, because it's important to remember your roots, but I'm going to be seriously changing the formatting.

Look for straight up reviews from the perspective of a writer and a mom.  That's it.


Monday, September 5, 2016

Let's jump back in, shall we?

So, recently a wise friend told me that I can't create if I don't fill my tank.

 So, let's get back to this, shall we?

 I'm going to update all the things and we'll go from there.

I also ordered a new book, so look for a review of Dodger, by Terry Pratchett, shortly.