Nearly-sixteen-year-old Jessica Strange manages Kazam Mystical Arts, a temp agency for sorcerers. The days when wizards commanded respect are long gone, and now jobs clearing drains or delivering pizza via flying carpet are about as good as any magic caster can expect, until…(insert dramatic music here)…the prophecy.
When pre-cogs everywhere begin to predict the death of the last dragon and a major shift in the balance of wizidrical power, things kick into high gear for Jessica, her sorcerers and her adorable, metal-crunching quark beast.
Fans of the Thursday Next and Nursery Crime series will be relieved to find Fforde’s first YA outing chalk full of wacky world-building, general absurdity, deft manipulation of fantasy tropes and, of course, a generous sprinkling of satire.
A.L. Meter: 4/5
Posted in Book Reviews, Fantasy & SciFi, Teens
Tagged Book Reviews, books, fantasy, humor, jasper fforde, jessica strange, last dragonslayer, teen, young adult fiction
What’s the best way to beat up a big bad wolf??? Martial arts, of course! Three little pigs with big dreams want to show one mean wolf what’s up. The first takes lessons in aikido…until it gets boring. The second sets out to learn jujitsu, but he refuses to study. The third works hard to hone the art of karate. She practices every day, until she can perform the perfect pork chop! When the big bad wolf comes to visit, the pigs learn that sometimes discipline and hard work pay off.
This fractured fairytale features emotive graphics, high action, a useful message and hilarious, butt-kicking quips. K-2.
A.L. Meter: 4/5
When 16-year-old Sarah’s grandmother dies, she returns to the family estate, Amber House, while her mother puts their affairs in order. Sarah has always had a special ability to find and care for her autistic little brother, Sam, but soon after entering the old mansion, she discovers that she possesses a much more unsettling talent. With the help of Jackson, a mysterious neighbor, she uses her gift to unravel the secrets of her family’s history. Her mother wants no part of Amber House, and is focused instead on throwing Sarah an elaborate birthday ball (which she doesn’t want) to help find a buyer for the estate. Through her mother’s efforts, she meets Richard, the handsome son of a senator, and a complicated romance ensues.
Torn between her visions of the past and the demands of the present, and between two guys intent on winning her affections, Sarah must make a decision that will affect her life for years to come. Past, present and future intertwine in this first in a trilogy. Readers will be drawn in by the atmospheric description, strong heroine and fast-paced plotting. Readers will have no trouble identifying with Sarah and stepping along with her into the dusty corridors of Amber House. Fans of paranormal romance, ghost stories and modal realism should definitely give this one a try.
A.L. Meter: 3/5
When Cupcake learns that his best friend (and bandmate) Eggplant knows the famous chef, Turkish Delight, he hatches a plan to meet his idol and reinvigorate his baking skills. He quits the band and spends every free minute selling sweets to save enough money for the plane ticket to Turkey. Will he achieve his dreams and overcome his baker’s block, or will he fall into a downward spiral of sugar-induced sadness?
Fans of Varon’s Robot Dreams (of all ages) will love the creepy-cute humor, weird world-building and hilarious cannibalism. Readers who want to extend the experience can hone their culinary expertise with the recipes and step-by-step instructions provided at the back of the book (and throughout).
Cannibalism at its most adorable.
A.L. Meter: 4/5
Posted in Book Reviews, Fantasy & SciFi, Graphic Novels, Teens
Tagged bake sale, cannibalism, cupcakes, fiction, humor, sara varon, Teens, YA
It was supposed to be a fun romp through the woods, until 9-year-old Trisha McFarland gets sick of her Mom and brother bickering and decides to let them go on ahead. No one notices when she takes a bathroom break and ends up getting turned around in the woods. Her efforts to regain the trail only end up getting her more and more lost, until she ends up miles from civilization with nothing to her name but some snacks, a Game Boy, a poncho and a Walkman featuring radio coverage of her favorite baseball star/crush, Tom Gordon.
Fans of survival fic (think Hatchet, The Trap, Life As We Knew It) will relish the mounting tension, as Trisha’s resourcefulness slowly gives way to panic, self-doubt and hallucinations. As the days pass, plagued by inner doubt, hunger and illness, she finds her only solace in the broadcasts of her favorite Red Sox player. She begins to confide in Tom Gordon, and to see visions of him in the forest, but, unfortunately, that’s not all she sees. There is also something sinister watching her, something that doesn’t want her to find the way out, something even worse than a monster.
This novel represents somewhat of a departure from King’s most famous novels (i.e. The Stand, Salem’s Lot, The Shining, etc.), but what it lacks in the supernatural it more than makes up for with its taut pace, its realistic voice and (as usual) its portrayal of the resilience of the human spirit.
A.L. Meter: 4/5
What do a murderous lunatic from down south and a moderately-successful author from Maine have in common? If you’re Stephen King, they might just be one in the same. In The Dark Half, King proves once again his uncanny ability to take a ridiculous premise and make it believable (and completely creepified).
Thad Beaumont is an unknown writer of high-brow fiction, until one day he trades in his typewriter for a Berol Black Beauty pencil and his alter-ego, George Stark, is born. Under his new pseudonym, he gains instant success writing gritty (and often greusome) thrillers. When a reporter finds out that Beaumont and Stark are the same person and threatens to leak the secret to the world, Thad decides to break the news himself through a People magazine photoshoot. The picture features Thad and his wife posing over a fake gravestone of the deceased George Stark (as part of breaking the news, Thad decides to retire his gory pseudonymous other half).
When the people who arranged the shoot start to turn up dead, and a groundskeeper discovers the dirt under the fake stone disturbed, the horror begins. King deftly builds the suspense up to the nail-biting (and satisfying) conclusion. Throw in a truly menacing bad guy and relatable heroes, and you have a well-drawn story sure to thrill fans of King, gut-ripping action and paranormal suspense.