Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Fantasy Tuesday

Wow, was it nice to have an extra day in the weekend. Not to mention the fact that even though we are three weeks into the school year, school does not REALLY start until after Labor Day! At least the schedule has shaken out a little bit, and while I still have an enormous study hall, I think every student in the building has a book checked out. Granted, the vast majority of them are also overdue, but my biggest concern is always making sure kids have something to read.

Of course, I'm not going to read anymore, since I just made my goal of 600 books for 2012.

Riiiiiight. Especially with the 2012 Cybils coming up, you know I'll still be reading!

Plum, Amy. Until I Die
8 May 2012, HarperCollins
Also reviewed at Young Adult Books Central (ARC from there.)

This sequel to Die for Me finds Kate and Vincent dealing with the departure of  friends Charlotte and Charles, and the addition of the very old Violette and Arthur to their group. Since Violette had been romantically interested in Vincent at one point, Kate is concerned. Also of concern is Vincent's general health. He is forgoing dying to save people because Kate can't handle it. She feels bad about this, but he points out that the rest of her life (sixty or so years) is a very short time for him, and he is working on a plan to improve his health. So is Kate, In between hanging out with her sister and going to the movies with Violette, she is investigating an ancient text she has found in her grandfather's Parisian gallery and trying to find a type of ancient healer who can somehow "cure" Vincent. There are also a lot of good fights that alleviate some of the somewhat cloying romance.
Strengths: Really like this series and can't wait for the third book, If I Should Die, which comes out in May. I liked the first book better, when Kate and Vincent weren't yet an item, but the two have a fairly realistic view of their problems and try to work them out. I just wish there was more adventure and less romance, because Plum writes action and suspense really well.
Weaknesses: Again, the romance. However, that is what will draw most of the readers to these books.

Carman, Patrick. 3 Below
1 September 2012, Scholastic
Also reviewed at Young Adult Books Central (ARC from there.)

Remi and Leo's parents get married on the roof of the Whippet Hotel, and Merganzer Whippet show up to send them off on a honeymoon, conveniently leaving the boys alone to solve the current problem-- the hotel owes $700,000 in back taxes. Not a problem, as long as the boys are willing to undertake a dangerous journey to the sub floors of the hotel to retrieve four floogers, a zip rope, and the iron box. Since Ms. Sparks has returned with the grungy Mr. Carp and demanded the payment lest she herself buy the hotel, the boys venture with Betty the duck into a dangerous elevator that takes them into even weirder worlds below the hotel. With the help of burping monkeys, Dr. Flart and his delicious Flart's Fizz, a host of Mr. Whippet's helpers and even Mr. Carp, can the boys come up with the money and save the most sought after piece of real estate in New York from falling into the wrong hands?
Strengths: This has a lot of fun things that younger readers will enjoy-- atomic burps, rooms full of cake, talking robots, and kids saving the day. Blurb after blurb compares this to Ellen Raskin or Roald Dahl, which is a fair comparison. I did like this better than the first book,  Floors.
Weaknesses: Older middle school students will find this to be too goofy-- eight year olds will think it's hysterical, but I can see thirteen year olds losing patience with it.

The Last Dragonslayer
Fforde, Jasper. The Last Dragonslayer.
4 September 2012, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. (ARC from Baker and Taylor)

Jessica Strange is very busy running Kazam, an agency that uses magicians to do all sorts of odd jobs in the Kingdom of Hereford. Magic is dwindling, and since the disappearance of Mr. Zambini, who ran the agency, Jessica has been running it herself. Luckily, she has a lot of maturity and skill as an indentured orphan, and she wants to keep the agency running. She gets a new apprentice, Tiger Prawns, at about the time she is given a very lucrative opportunity-- if she will predict the date that the Last Dragonslayer will kill Maltcassion, the last dragon, she will get a lot of money because everyone from the king to land developers wants access to the Dragonlands. Only problem-- the dragon really hasn't violated the dragon pact. When it turns out that Jessica herself is that dragonslayer, things become even more complicated. She gets an apprentice slayer, Gordon, access to the Slayermobile and a sword. Now all she has to do is to figure out what the prophecies of Shandar really mean and what is in the best interest of Big Magic-- should she or should she not kill Maltcassion? Song of the Quarkbeast, book two, came out 30 August, which is weird, since Amazon gives the publication date of 2 October for this book one.
Strengths: I liked Jessica a lot, and her struggle to do the right thing was interesting. Fforde unapologetically creates a very vibrant fantasy world.
Weaknesses: This book made a lot more sense once I realized that Mr. Fforde has done more adult fiction. The plot is slowed considerably by a proliferation of odd characters who add color rather than moving the action forward, and names like Gordon van Gordon Gordonson ap Gordon-Gordon of Gordon place this book very close to the edge of twee for me. Can't say I've read a lot of Welsh books, so maybe I just don't understand.


  1. Glad you bumped your reading goal up another 100. Come Cybils season, you may have to bump it up again!

  2. My fundamental problem with the Jasper Fforde book is that I just don't think 12 year olds (at least AMERICAN 12 year olds) will get past his quirky humor to the story. Which isn't much. It's more a book for Jasper Fforde fans to say, "Hey, Jasper Fforde wrote a kids book. Cool."