Thursday, September 14, 2023

Nimbus and Extinction (Whispering Pines #4)

Eldredge, Jan. Nimbus. 
September 5, 2023 by Balzer & Bray
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Fletcher, who is very interested in found objects and making arrows, lives with his weather man father, who also hosts horror movies on the weekends. When his father has to go to a convention, his Aunt Caroline stays with him. Fletcher would rather stay in his room and talk to his cat, Nimbus, whom he rescued as a tiny kitten, but Aunt Caroline thinks he should go outside and meet kids his own age. When an old clay jar that was given to Fletcher opens, a horrible force of evil is unleashed. It takes the form of a hairy goblin and attacks Fletcher, but Nimbus manages to dispatch it, being wounded in the process. Aunt Caroline thinks that Nimbus has hurt her nephew, so puts Nimbus in a box and dumps her quite a ways from their home. There, Nimbus meets Rhett, a rat who isn't afraid of cats. Seeing how badly injured Nimbus is, Rhett suggests that she stay with an old woman near the dump who takes in strays. This seems like a bad idea, especially when Agatha, who is a green witch, doses Nimbus with herbs that make him sleepy after sewing up his wound. The other strays suspect that Nimbus might be the reincarnation of Agatha's familiar, Grimalkin, especially since Nimbus can visit other people's dreams. All the loyal cat wants to do is to return to Fletcher, but there are a lot of supernatural things going on, and Nimbus stays at Agatha's to try to figure some things out. Along with Rhett, she eventually takes off to find Fletcher, but must deal with the rats, who think that she has stolen their Dragon's Eye and means them harm. The Ways of Magic are very strange; will Nimbus be able to figure them out?
Strengths: Hunter's Warrior Cats books are continually popular in my library, and I can see Nimbus being popular with readers who are very into this series as well as their own cats, but want a little more magic. When I was in middle school, I checked out a book of magic spells from the public library, and still sort of believed that if I did them correctly they would work, so readers who still think magic is possible will love this one. Nimbus is an endearing character, and even his rat sidekick is likeable. This would make an adorable animated feature. Agatha is a realistic witch, and I would have loved to know more about her gardens and herbal magic. The end has Agatha setting up a magical school, and I could see another book based on this, although it would be very different from this one. 
Weaknesses: I thought there would be more fighting with the ancient demon, but this concentrated more on the dream walking and Nimbus' magic abilities. Not really a weakness, just not what I was expecting after the beginning of the book. 
What I really think: This is a good choice for readers who like books involving dreams, like Durst's The Girl Who Could Not Dream or White's Gravebooks, or those who enjoy a good animal adventure story, like Fiedler's Mouseheart trilogy or Moon's Delphine and the Silver Needle

Bradshaw, John and Elsom, Clare (illus.)
A First Guide to Cats: Understanding Your Whiskered Friend
26 September 2023, Penguin Workshop
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Like Bradshaw's Dogs: Understanding Your Very Best Friend, this short paperback follows the day in the life of one British cat, Libby, who lives with a teacher and her adopted daughter. Libby is able to spend the night outside prowling around, but heads home when the milkman starts making his rounds. The various qualities a cat has are showcased against her daily activities, so the reader gets insight into how cats clean themselves, why they wander about, and what makes them comfortable. The length and amount of illustrations makes this perfect for strong emerging readers, perhaps in second grade and up. The story format is great for readers who would like to understand more about cats before possibly adopting one. I was looking for more of a how-to guide like National Geographic Pounce! and Fetch! or Miles' excellent Puppy Place Guide to Puppies and Guide to Kittens. The Miles books came out ten years ago and were the perfect short introduction, but are now out of print. I read the Bradshaw book hoping to get some insight into why my daughter's cat wanted to plaster herself all over my face! (Still not sure about this; Pongo is happy to curl up beside me!)

Lang, Heidi and Bartkowski, Kati. Extinction (Whispering Pines #4)
September 12, 2023 by Margaret K. McElderry Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Blake finds himself caught in the Green On! offices when things go badly wrong. Vivi's mom saves him, but it's unclear whether she will make it out of the facility in time. Rae and Ava are still trying to find their father, who is caught up in the whole alien invasion problem they've uncovered. Not only that, but Caden is still struggling with The Other Place, and his role in dealing with that, since his older brother Aiden is problematic. Sure, Aiden's always been the favored one to take over his mother's Paranormal Price business, but he's recently absorbed a demon which has given him powers. There are a number of other characters as well; Becka's mother is dead, Nate was sent to a hellish dimension, Alyssa's mother is the vice principal, Vivi's mother is a scientist at Green On! and Vivi herself is no longer a safe character to be around. With the Green On! collapse, Aiden says that Caden must destroy the town. Is this a good idea? When a big storm hits while school is in session, Vivi says that alien invasion is starting. The school doesn't know what to do, but of course wants to corrall all of the students to keep them safe. Of course, the students run off. Nate and Caden go looking for Vivi but meet Aiden, and get caught in the woods where there are creatures from The Other Place AND space aliens. In an alternate time line, Blake fights monsters and goes to hide in the Watchful Woods. He meets a lot of people who have run away from Green On! who have information about Rae and Ava's father Chris, but they are infected, and it doesn't end well, especially since there's a Devourer in the woods. Eventually, main characters all meet up, except that Rae is missing underground, and there's the alien spaceship under the Green On! complex. Will the kids, with their varying knowledge and abilities, be able SAVE THE WORLD? (It's the last book in the series, so draw your own conclusions!)

Note: I read the book, but struggled with my persistent fantasy amnesia. But I took notes!

Strengths: I have two copies of the first book, Whispering Pines, and the creepy cover keeps it in constant circulation. While I'm not personally a fan of blood and gore, my students are, and there's plenty of bug guts, alien snot, and generally zombie body counts to delight the most ick-enthused tween. There is constant action, interpersonal problems, and threats from every side, just to keep things interesting. I liked the way the adults figured in the book; some were helpful, some weren't, but there really wasn't anyone completely incompetent and evil in a Scooby-Doo sort of way. The mix of different fantasy elements will appeal to omniverous fantasy readers who will pick up magical academy books, sci fi vampire tales, or evil unicorn exposés with equal enthusiasm. 
Weaknesses: There were a lot of characters as well as competing fantasy worlds to keep track of. 
What I really think: Definitely purchasing for fans of the series, as well as books like Condie's The Darkdeep and MacHale's Sylo

Ms. Yingling

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