Tuesday, May 19, 2020

The Egyptian Mirror and Minecraft: The Voyage

Bedard, Michael. The Egyptian Mirror
May 20th 2020 by Pajama Press
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Simon's neighbor, Mr. Hawkins, has broken his leg. Since he is all alone in a large house, Simon and his mother are taking meals over and checking on the gentleman. Mr. Hawkins had been an archaeologist, and collected a vast number of historic mirrors, and turns out to be rather fascinating. Simon enjoys visiting with him, reading his books, and learning a bit of history. There is one mirror with quite a back story, and when Mr. Hawkin's passes away, it seems integral to the mystery that develops. Simon and his friend Abbey find the mirror and bring it into the house, and Lucy, a niece of Mr. Hawkin's wife's, appears as the heir to the estate. She is a bit creepy, and has an unhealthy hold over the neighborhood. Simon's health takes a serious downtown; he is fatigued and feverish, and has bouts of vertigo so severe that he misses most of the school year. He and Abbey try to solve the mystery of why Lucy wants the mirror, and find out some magical but evil things about her and her connection to the mirror.
Strengths: This was a shivery sort of mystery; not a lot happened, but it was all very intriguing and sucked me right in. Simon and Abbey were both great characters, and I especially love their interactions with their younger siblings. The mirror collection, and Mr. Hawkin's house, will appeal to readers who like classic fantasy mysteries with old English manor houses. I love anything with an Egyptian component; Curry's The Egyptian Box (2002), LaFever's Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos (2007) and Hoover's Tut (2014), Northrop's Tombquest series (2015), and Egypt is still part of our 6th grade social studies curriculum.
Weaknesses: The cover could have been better, and Simon does spend a lot of time under the weather.
What I really think: I may buy this because I enjoyed it so much, but fear it will not circulate well. It's a bit reminiscent of The Alarming Career of Sir Richard Blackstone, which has not gone out very much.
Fry, Jason. Minecraft: The Voyage (Minecraft #5)
May 5th 2020 by Del Rey Books
E ARC provided by Netgalley

Stax Stonecutter lives a quiet and uneventful life in his family's home (in the world of Minecraft), and runs the stone mining business that his grandmother started. When he is visited by the rude Fougue Tempro, he is persuaded to give the man a tour, but is rather shocked when the man shows up the following week with raiders who not only strip the mine and house, but take Stax hostage and sail off with him. Tempro's ship has some difficulties, including zombies (creepers) in the waters, and Stax manages to escape and lands on an island with a tower, which he repairs. He eventually decides to leave, and sails off, lands, and decides to build a cabin and eat kelp. He meets several people, including Ramoa, who shows up several other times during the book, and Hejira Tenbooks, who encourages him to hunt down the Champion to help him find Tempro and bring him to justice. The Champion, however, decides not to help. Stax continues on his journey, which includes time spent in another mine and some riding with Ramoa's caravan. Eventually, he comes across Tempro, manages to subdue him and put him in a prison that is built just for him. Stax then goes home, thanks the people who helped to run the family business in his absence, and opens up his home for people to visit, after he renovates the property.
Strengths: I admire Dey Rey Books for capitalizing on a science fiction/fantasy gaming trend and assembling a very impressive array of middle grade authors to put their own spins on books to appeal to players of Minecraft. Mr. Fry is clearly very invested in this game, and his attention to details will be appreciated by those who play it. The story has a plot, character development, and a variety of different well-described settings, as well as decent supporting characters, making it a huge improvement on books (from a literary perspective) like Wimpy Kid.
Weaknesses: For someone whose only experience with Minecraft is starting a game and being unable to move the swimming pigs out of the quarry-style pool, this was a tough, tough go. The play-by-play style that must follow a video game is weird and unsettling. A lot of eating kelp and building things. And getting a lot of gold and jewels? Just not my thing.
What I really think: I will probably purchase it, and it's good to have read these so that I can recommend the different books in the series, which are not alike at all. The whole time I was reading this, however, I felt like I was missing a huge back story.
Ms. Yingling

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