Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Pretty Fantasy Books

When the Butterflies Came Little, Kimberly Griffiths. When the Butterflies Came
1 April 2013, Scholastic Press
Copy received from Young Adult Books Central and reviewed there.

When Tara's beloved grandmother Claire dies suddenly in a car accident, she is devastated.  Her mother becomes depressed and uncommunicative, and her wild sister Riley wants to run off to California to live with their father. Luckily, her grandmother has made provisions in her will for the family to be taken care of, and a family retainer, Butler Reginald, comes to help Tara follow the clues and keys that her grandmother has left her. She goes from her decrepit Southern mansion home to her grandmother's equally decrepit house, and from there to her grandmother's research facility on the island of Chuuk in Micronesia. Everywhere she goes, gorgeous butterflies follow her. With the help of one of her grandmother's assistants, Eloni, she uncovers a huge secret related to the butterflies, as well as an evil plot that she must foil in order to keep her grandmother's butterflies safe.
Strengths: Tara is a sympathetic character, and her grief for her grandmother is tempered by her worry and disgust at her mother's failure as a parent. There are lots of clues and puzzles that Tara needs to figure out that lead her to find out more about her grandmother's work with the butterflies. It's fun that she gets to travel around, with the bare minimum of adult supervision. There's also a lot of twists at the very end of the book that I don't want to give away.
Weaknesses: Like Circle of Secrets, this had enough quirky/Southern components that I didn't care for it personally. (Dialect and bad grammar-- ugh!) I'm also not a fan of clue oriented mysteries, and thought that it took too long to unravel and wasn't that compelling. My readers who like magical realism will like it, however, and the cover is very pretty. For the record: in case this is nominated for the Cybils' awards, this is definitely fantasy, since the butterflies have powers that are not realistic.

Emily Windsnap and the Land of the Midnight SunKessler, Liz. Emily Windsnap and the Land of the Midnight Sun
12 February 2013, Candlewick Press
Copy received from Young Adult Books Central and reviewed there.

Emily is back in this fifth installment, which jumps right into the story-- there are horrible storms arising, and they are caused by Neptune's nightmares. Emily and her friend Aaron (who are both semi-Mer, which means that they can exist both above and below water) head up to Alaska to try to find out what is going on. It turns out that Neptune has a twin brother, Njord, with whom he fought. Njord has been frozen and immobile for years, but once he is unfrozen, things start to heat up. Njord is angry at Neptune, and wants to get back at him. When Neptune once again fools around with memories, letting the narwhal take those from many of the main characters, Njord sees this as an opportunity to strike. Will Njord be able to take over Neptune's kingdom?
Strengths: I liked how this book picked right up and didn't spend a lot of time rehashing previous books, but would mention any information that might need to be refreshed as the book was progressing. This made the adventure continue unimpeded, and made the book a real page turner. There were a lot of good magical details (I like the memory bubbles especially), and some middle grade friend drama with Emily's friend Shona. This was a fun, quick read, and will be a pleasant surprise for fans of the series.
Weaknesses: The other covers in this series are all in shades of blue and green, so the pinkish orange used when they go to Alaska seems a bit odd. Interior illustrations are not by the cover illustrator, and look slightly cartoonish. The hectic pace of this confused me a little, but then I frequently suffer from "fantasy amnesia".


  1. When the Butterflies Came is my first book by Kimberley and I really enjoyed it.

  2. Anonymous5:52 PM EDT

    I have not read either of these yet, but have them in my sight.

  3. Anonymous4:37 PM EDT

    I believe the magical realism thing with butterflies has already been done, no? Once was enough, in my opinion. Just kidding, thanks for reviewing these books.

  4. Wow, those covers are lovely together!

    Thanks for clarifying that Butterflies is fantasy--I'd wondered.

  5. Anonymous11:58 AM EDT

    Another Emily Windsnap for my collection. I can't wait to buy my own copy. :)