Other than the fact that I had to listen to some of the dialogue bits twice to understand what the Wee Free Men were saying in the audiobook (because they speak with a very thick Scottish brogue), I loved this book! Tiffany Aching is a young witch who has to rescue her young brother, Wentworth, from the clutches of the evil Queen of Fairyland. Though Tiffany doesn’t actually know any magic, her teacher/mentor, a witch named Miss Tick, reassures her that having a keen eye and an attention to detail is often more practical than magic. After witnessing her attack on a monster, using only a frying pan, the Wee Free Men [aka the Nac Mac Feegle] decide they would like to help Tiffany on her quest. And, while it sounds awesome for Tiffany to have a band of men to help her out, you have to consider that these particular “men” are six inches tall and best known for their sheep-stealing, drinking, and fighting. If you enjoy fantasies and/or stories that make you laugh out loud, you should definitely check this one out.
River was orphaned when his parents died in a car crash, and he’s also shorter than he should be because his legs’ growth plates were fractured in the crash. He now lives with his aunt and pretty much only has two friends — Freak and Fiona. Freak has plenty of problems of his own, thanks to his alcoholic father. And Fiona is popular enough that she pretends not to know River and Freak when other people are around. To make matters worse, they live next to a place the local newspaper calls “Hellsboro” — the area surrounding the old Rodmore Chemical plant where an underground coal-seam fire makes the land inhabitable.
After all of that, I can understand if you’re hesitant to believe that this is a great/often-funny middle grade book, but it really is! My son and I actually laughed out loud fairly often as we read this story. How is that possible? Because it doesn’t focus so much on the depressing stuff; that’s all more of a footnote, really. The story centers around all the craziness that happened after they found a rare crayon in a sofa by the curb in front of the Underhill Mansion. If you want a funny story about cell phones, genetically modified foods, flash mobs, and brain control (presented as a nice blend of realistic and science fiction), I suggest you check this one out.
Tom always wished that he was special enough to be a Chosen One who would get whisked off to an alternate reality in which he was the only one who could save the day. The way he saw it, though, he just wasn’t “unspecial” enough… Until the night someone named Gark showed up and told him he WAS foretold in a prophecy and that he needed to enter a portal to another world to help save a kingdom! Although it initially seemed like a dream come true, it soon became apparent that the unnamed kingdom [which Tom dubbed "Crap Kingdom"] was full of pessimistic people who couldn’t really care less about whether or not Tom saved them. And Gark, who was the only one actually excited about Tom’s arrival, kept calling him “Tim.” Yeah. Being the chosen one wasn’t necessarily so great after all.
Despite the fact that this is a fantasy book, a great deal of it takes place on Earth and could easily be mistaken for contemporary fiction. Original, funny, and well-written. What’s not to like?!? I would highly recommend this book to fantasy readers who want a break from books that require a glossary and pronunciation guide and/or fans of humorous books who wouldn’t mind a little reality bending. People who enjoyed The True Meaning of Smekday should probably pick this one up.
Jordan Klein loved living in New York City and was less than pleased when she found out that her family had to move to Texas for the entire summer. Why? Her Uncle Jacob got caught trying to smuggle “contraband” [bibles] into China and was advised not to leave the country until charges were officially dropped. Since Jordan’s father, Eli, was a professor of religious studies, he was asked to be the substitute pastor for his brother’s small-town church in Texas. Jordan and her mom were both upset about leaving NYC for three months but figured Eli would probably realize he made a mistake and head home after only a couple of weeks. Upon arrival, Jordan didn’t think she would ever get used to her temporary home… but she soon made some friends and found herself less anxious to leave town. As readers might expect, the summer was life-changing. Jordan learned a lot about herself that she may not have discovered if not for this move. What I didn’t expect, nevertheless, was the crazy twist at the end or just how funny most of this book would be. (I’m talking, laughing out loud so often that I had my coworkers staring at me during lunch funny!) If you’re looking for a story that asks big questions without weighing you down, you should definitely check this one out.
The number one complaint I had about this audiobook was PRONUNCIATION! It always bothers me when the reader gets a word wrong and everyone else involved in the production of that audiobook misses it. (One of my *favorites* was when the narrator for Twilight book said soul-der for the word “solder” — which is actually pronounced sod-der.) Now, I studied Greek Mythology in elementary school, high school, and college, and all of those teachers managed to use the same pronunciations. So, when I was listening to this book, I was jolted out of the story every single time the narrator pronounced “Hera” as hee-rah [instead of hair-uh] and “Gaia” as gee-uh [instead of guy-uh]… I know that the pronunciations of Greek Gods’ names can vary, but it didn’t exactly set my expectations very high for correct pronunciations when he said brassiere for “brazier” in the beginning of the book. [OK. My pronunciation rant is over!]
Believe it or not, though, despite the first paragraph of my review, I really loved this story! I thought it was a great creative twist on the whole Percy Jackson and the Olympians series and an awesome way to get kids to compare and contrast the Greek and Roman gods. People who haven’t read the other series, which began with The Lightning Thief, can probably even just start with this spin-off series because Riordan did a great job including snippets of back-story about important people and events to catch people up (or to refresh the memories of people who did read them).
In this story, Jason wakes up on a school bus with no memory of his past or knowledge of the people he’s with. The girl who’s holding his hand? She says she’s his girlfriend, but he doesn’t remember anything about her. He is also purportedly best friends with a guy named Leo but doesn’t remember him either. Jason has no idea where they are or where they are going. All he knows is that his name is Jason, he is apparently a student at Wilderness School (a school for juvenile delinquents), and something is not quite right about the teacher who is supervising their field trip. As readers quickly surmise, Jason is a half-blood like Percy Jackson. But, unlike Percy Jackson, Jason has a natural tendency to refer to the gods by their Roman names…
If you’re looking for a fun and easy read that will have you LOLing all over the place, I highly recommend this book! My husband has been a fan of The Oatmeal for quite some time and always sends me funny comics, so picking up this book was a no-brainer. Need a teaser to whet your appetite? Here you go:
This has got to be one of the funniest audiobooks I have ever listened to. Seriously! Adam Rex wrote a hilarious story and Bahni Turpin’s narration was absolutely fantastic. It’s no wonder this book received the Odyssey Award! My son and I listened to it together, and we loved it so much that we harassed my husband until he agreed to listen to it too. Even though it’s been more than a month since we all finished listening, we keep talking to each other like the Boov (alien) named J. Lo — and it’s gone on long enough that even my 3-year-old has started to talk like a Boov! I’m pretty sure it won’t matter how many times I hear it; I will always laugh when I hear my son shout, “SHOOT FORTH THE LASERS … FROM MY EYEBALLS!” Priceless family bonding.
You may be wondering, “What’s this story about?” Well… When an alien race [the Boov] took over Earth and claimed it as their own planet, they renamed Christmas as Smekday and forced all the humans in North America to relocate to Florida. Later, after the Boov were vanquished, students across the US were given the chance to explain the true meaning of Smekday in an essay. This story is Gratuity “Tip” Tucci’s story/essay.
P.S. Random House has an excerpt on their website if you want to check it out for yourself — http://www.randomhouse.com/book/202129/the-true-meaning-of-smekday-by-adam-rex
First of all, I just have to say that I read this book a few years ago and only now realized that I never reviewed it… Shame on me! Second, I feel compelled to tell you all how much I love the complete/crazy-long title of this book — Princess Ben: Being a Wholly Truthful Account of Her Various Discoveries and Misadventures, Recounted to the Best of Her Recollection, in Four Parts — which is a lot! It has such a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? Seriously, though, I think it helps to set the tone for the book. Because this is not your typical princess story!
It is true that Princess Ben (short for Benevolence) has been hidden away in a tower by her overbearing aunt, Queen Sophia, since her parents and her uncle (the king) were assassinated. Queen Sophia has plans to marry Ben off to the first mildly suitable man to present himself, but Ben is not the kind of princess who would be content to wait for a prince to come to her rescue. Thanks to her inquisitive/mischievous nature, she manages to find an enchanted room in the tower and begins to teach herself some magic with the books therein. Not only does this magic give her something to do with all of her “free” time, but it also buys her some freedom and increases the odds that she will be able to save both herself and the kingdom from Queen Sophia.
P.S. If you like this story, I also recommend the sequel — Wisdom’s Kiss: A Thrilling and Romantic Adventure Incorporating Magic, Villainy, and a Cat.
Although I don’t generally “do” the whole Twitter thing, I technically have an account through which I [supposedly] follow a few people. One of those people is the amazing John Green and, because I actually read one of my Twitter digests last month, I read this Tweet. Though I hadn’t previously heard about this book, I trusted John Green to know what he was talking about and requested a copy from another library in my system. I absolutely loved it, so I made sure to order a copy for my library AND bumped this book to the top of my “to review” list. FYI, in case you were not aware, I am way better at reading books than following through with reviews, so my “to review” list contains no fewer than 5 books at any given time and often has books that I finished months ago!
You may be wondering, “What was so great about Poison?” How about the fact that it had action, adventure, humor, magic, romance, AND strong female characters all rolled up into a unique fantasy story? Kyra, a potions master, used to be best friends with the princess. Until, that is, she tried to kill her. Since no one seemed to understand that trying to kill the princess was a good thing, she had to run away to avoid being jailed/hanged for the attempted assassination. And, while being the infamous “Princess Killer” made it rather difficult for Kyra to travel through the kingdom unnoticed, her bag of potions and the help of a cute little enchanted pig was enough to give her hope that she could find the princess and finish the job before it was too late…
The only thing I didn’t like about this story, to be honest, was learning that there won’t be a prequel or a sequel [since the author passed away before this book was even published]. I wish I could learn more about Kyra, but I guess it’s better to have loved and lost [a character] than never to have loved at all.
Guy Langman wasn’t really good at anything — quite the opposite of his dad who seemed to be amazing at everything without even trying. Guy was rather thrown when his dad died, even though his dad was technically old enough to be his grandfather, and became suddenly intrigued by all things having to do with death. So, it wasn’t exactly a stretch for him to accept an invitation from his best friend, Anoop, to join Mr. Zant’s Forensics Club. (Especially since it provided a chance to impress some cute girls!) For once in his life, Guy really cared about something and was actually good at it. Which worked out rather nicely as some mysteries popped up in his own life…