Lucky Linderman’s father patently refuses to acknowledge the problems in his life. It doesn’t matter whether the problem is growing up fatherless (his father was a POW/MIA soldier in Vietnam), his failing marriage, or his son’s troubles with a bully named Nader McMillan. He pretty much walks away and tunes out from life when things start to get uncomfortable — often retreating to his job at what Lucky refers to as “Le Fancy-Schmancy Cafe.” Lucky’s mom is just as bad. She, too, refuses to acknowledge that her marriage is falling apart and ignores the bullying situation. (She just doesn’t have as hefty an excuse as her husband.) Even after Nader takes things too far and hurts Lucky pretty badly, his parents still choose to avoid confrontation and merely plan for Lucky and his mom to go away for the summer. Staying with relatives in Arizona doesn’t do anything for fixing the marriage or bullying problems, but Lucky does end up making some friends while he’s there. He also starts working out, under the tutelage of his uncle, and gains a little confidence in the process. The only question is whether that will do him any good when he returns home.
Though most of this story is fairly standard for YA contemporary realistic fiction, there’s one thing that pushes this book pretty far into the realm of magical realism. Lucky visits his [POW/MIA] grandfather in his dreams. For real. As in, he comes out of his dreams with physical tokens of where he has been. (It actually reminds me a bit of The Dream Thieves, which is the second book of The Raven Cycle.) Though I am sure none of the teens who read this book are actually traveling to visit long-lost relatives in their dreams, I am sure a great many of them can relate to the generalized family issues and bullying Lucky experiences. I only hope that Lucky’s realizations and growth will inspire readers to be more proactive in response to their own problems.
I don’t usually do “guest posts” or participate in blog tours because I often find it difficult enough to find the time to keep up with my blog. When I was contacted by BooksEndependent, though, I decided to step outside my comfort zone and help out a small press — especially considering the fact that I was being asked to participate during Banned Books Week. I don’t have a problem with any of the large publishing houses, per se, and I don’t think of them as censors, but something about an independent/small press publishing house just brings to mind a sense of freedom. If you are interested, you can check out the BooksEndependent website or their Rafflecopter giveaway… But, first, you should check out the excerpt [below] from Under the Shadow!
My son and I both love fantasy fiction, and we’re both suckers for ARCs from beloved authors… So, when I heard that Holly Black and Cassandra Clare were writing a middle-grade fantasy series together, I just knew I had to get my hands on a copy of this ARC. (The good news for anyone reading this review is that the book came out September 9th and you can read it without scheming to find an ARC!)
And do you know what was even better than opening a random, unexpected package to find a copy of this ARC? When it arrived in the mail on the very day that we were ready to start a new book. Awesomesauce! I knew these authors were awesome and that a collaboration between them was likely to be epic, but I also kinda expected that this book would be somewhat formulaic and predictable, like many of the other middle-grade fantasies I’ve read. Thankfully, I was wrong. Although there were some parallels to other books we’ve read, the story was fresh and there were a couple of plot twists that blew our minds!
Callum’s father has always taught him that magic is bad and that the Magisterium, a school that teaches adolescents how to hone their magical abilities, is evil. So, when Callum had to go in to test his magical acuity at the Magisterium, he did his best to fail. For some reason, nevertheless, Master Rufus chose Callum to be one of his apprentices. Even though neither he nor his father wanted him to attend, being selected meant that Callum had to go to the Magisterium… As soon as he started to learn how to use his magic and began to make friends, though, Callum started to wonder if maybe his dad was wrong after all…
This book is kinda hard to categorize by my usual standards. First of all, it’s technically a book for adults, which I don’t usually read (let alone review on here). BUT, Rainbow Rowell is a popular YA author and I think some older teens might check this one out after finishing Fangirl or Eleanor and Park. I mean, if she got *me* to read a book for grown ups, anything is possible! ;-) But, I digress… The main reason this book is hard to categorize is because it’s mostly realistic/contemporary fiction, but there’s a small science fiction/fantasy element wherein Georgie (the main character) is able to use the landline at her mother’s house to call her husband, Neal, back when he was still in college and hadn’t yet proposed.
I think this book resonated so much with me because I have been having a crazy time trying to find a good work/family balance in my life and Georgie’s life is my worst nightmare. She’s in over her head with work, her kids don’t really seem to miss her when she’s not around, her husband is resentful that she often puts work first, and she isn’t even sure if it’s possible to turn things around enough to save her marriage. As I read this book, I kept thinking about my own recent choices in which I put work first and wondered whether I had started straining my own marriage. I must have asked my husband at least 15 times over the course of 4 days whether he was OK with how things are going, so I’m pretty sure he’s happy that I am done with this book and will stop projecting Georgie’s problems into my life! I think my inability to separate the story from real life, nevertheless, is simply proof that Rainbow Rowell is a great author who knows how to write relatable and believable characters. If I had had the energy to stay up all night reading, I definitely would have finished this book in one big gulp.
Sam was always a bit of a loner. He found it difficult to connect with other people and had only a few friends. One night, while Sam was working at his fast-food job, he had an unusual encounter with a customer who took one look at him and started asking strange questions about where he came from and whether he was granted permission to move to Seattle. But, Sam had always lived in Seattle. And why would he have needed permission to move there anyway? So weird! Then, at the end of their shift, Sam and his friends got attacked by a huge man with superhuman strength. Things went from weird to scary pretty fast. It turned out that Sam never knew it but that he was a necromancer. Suddenly, many of the quirky things about himself and his family had supernatural explanations and started to make more sense. Sadly, “making more sense” and “making sense” aren’t exactly the same.
Lots of action, a bit of mystery, and sarcastic/twisted humor made this book hard to put down. Readers who enjoy books like Killer Pizza and I Kissed a Zombie and I Liked It should definitely check this one out. I know I’m looking forward to reading the sequel (Necromancing the Stone) when my “to be read” pile gets a little shorter, though I’m a little afraid those chapter titles will also get a bunch of songs stuck in my head. ;-)
Toby really wants to become a chef and often fantasizes about becoming famous like the people he watches on the Food Network. He doesn’t exactly have any cooking experience, though, and recognizes that as a major barrier to his dream. So, he decides to apply for a summer job at a new restaurant called Killer Pizza. Working in the KP kitchen is fun and, in addition to making new friends (Annabel and Strobe), Toby gets major satisfaction out of knowing that he has some natural culinary skills. It seems that this is definitely the perfect job… until he is let in on a little secret; Killer Pizza is actually just a front for a monster hunting organization! There’s nothing quite like hearing that MONSTERS ARE REAL and that some of them have taken up residence in your town. And, as if learning about the monster infestation wasn’t scary enough, Toby, Annabel, and Strobe find out that they’re being recruited as MCOs (Monster Combat Officers) to help actually hunt down and kill the monsters.
This book was not quite as gruesome as The Monstrumologist, but I could see fans of that book choosing this for a light summer read. It’s probably somewhere between R.L Stine’s Goosebumps series and his and Fear Street series. I would definitely recommend this to fans of Cirque Du Freak because it’s a little funny, just a bit creepy, and even a little gross, but still tame enough that it didn’t give me nightmares (which is all too easy a feat). If you’d rather have a horror story that might give you nightmares, though, you should head on over to read Ashes by Ilsa Bick. [shudder]
Somehow, my son and I didn’t hear about The 13-Story Tree House until after we already had our hands on this book… So, we went ahead and started this one with hopes that we would not be too confused. The good news is that a lack of familiarity didn’t take away from our enjoyment of this story. The bad news is that we had too little self-control to make this book last! ;-) We read this book in only two sittings. Granted, there are a lot of interior illustrations; but, we also read for about twice as long as normal for each of those two sittings. It was just so funny that we didn’t want to stop reading! Although it’s much sillier and more fantastic than the Wimpy Kid books, I think fans of that series should definitely check this one out — and to stay tuned for news about when The 39-Story Tree House and The 59-Story Tree House will make it to the US. (The 59-Storey Treehouse will be released in Australia on August 26th.)