Friday, November 19, 2010

Working down the TBR pile

Noyce, Pendred. Lost in Lexicon.
Nominated for the Cybils by Rebecca Raibley

Cousins Ivan and Daphne are bored at their Great Aunt Adelaide's house, so she sends them on an adventure into the land of Lexicon, where they must find the missing children of the town after saving the inhabitants from a plague of punctuation. In order to do this, they must solve many word and number puzzles and rely on their intelligence and ingenuity instead of rotting their brains away with screen time.

Strengths: This was well-written and intelligent, and the characters, while a bit whiny in some points, likeable.
Weaknesses: Couldn't help but think that this was a Phantom Tollbooth imitation. While I agree with the premise that children have too much screen time, it was not that intriguing a book.

Dyer, K.C. Facing Fire.
Nominated for the Cybils by James McCann

After accidentally setting fire to her school, Darby gets an opportunity to spend time with family friend Fiona in a coastal town. She has plenty of time to explore, and after visiting a lighthouse finds that she can travel through time by stepping through windows. She once again visits the past, as she did when she she traveled back in time in A Walk Through a Window. Things are complicated when she and Zander, a new boy, travel back and get involved in helping former slaves from getting sent back to the US.

Strengths: Always love time travel, and this is convincingly done. Well-written and atmospheric. Nice to see something from a Canadian author!

Weaknesses: It would have been helpful to read the first book, and this was still a bit slow. It read very much like the books that I read back in the 1970s; if the cover hadn't been so great, I would have thought I had picked up an older book.

Lyga, Barry. Archvillian
Nominated for the Cybils by Kirby Rundell
After getting caught in a meteor shower in a field, prankster extraordinaire Kyle is out of commission with some horrible flu-like symptoms, but soon discovers that whatever occurred left him with super powers. Of course, the powers aren't as great as Mike's, a boy who was found in the field afterward and is now going to Kyle's school and getting national acclaim for using his powers to save people. Kyle detests Mike, especially when Mike starts monopolizing Kyle's friend Mairi. Kyle tries to sabotage a day honoring Mike, but his pants laser malfunctions and his Azure Avenger is accused of being a Blue Freak. Undaunted, Kyle keeps trying to undo Mike, whom he believes to be an alien with evil plans.
Strengths: Interesting science fiction twist, with funny scenes and a nice love interest.
Weaknesses: Kyle is a supercilious, obnoxious character, and I didn't feel any sympathy for his plight or his quest. Also, the book did not reach any conclusions. It's one thing to hint at a sequel and another to leave the book in such a state that one is required to finish the story.
The books above were all review copies provided by the publishers.

Haddon, Mark. Boom.
Nominated for the Cybils by Kara Dean
Jim and his friend Charlie have a fairly normal life, hanging around Jim's housing estate watching his unemployed father work with model airplanes, or around Charlie's posh place because he's been grounded. When they sneak a walkie talkie into the teachers' lounge to find out whether or not Jim is going to get kicked out of school, they hear a couple of teachers talking in a strange language and determine that they are space aliens. When men in suits start warning the boys off, Charlie investigates further and gets kidnapped. Jim and his sister take off to Scotland to find him, and Jim gets taken by the aliens, who are trying to repopulate their world by stealing science fiction fans. Not wanting to be away from their planet, the boys manage to escape and save the world from destruction.
Strengths: This was funny and very British. A nice short read with amusing characters and a fast-paced alien invastion plot, this will be perfect for my 8th grade students who need a science fiction book. The cover is very appealing.
Weaknesses: I didn't want to like this one, but I did. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is by this author, and is very high on my list of overrated books that everyone wanted to read that I thought were really, really awful. This one was good. A little like Cosmic but without the huge sagging bit in the middle.


  1. I never read Curious Incident, but Boom! was just...perfect. I even listened to it again on audio, just for fun. Love it!

  2. I just reviewed this too! Funny, I love Curious Incident, but thought that Boom! was not that great.

    I'm excited to find a blog with many books for middle school boys!