The Reptile Room (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 2)

4/5 (If you’re a kid)

Same review as the first, but with a much sunnier feel due to the location change.  I’m glad not all of them are as dismal as the first, since I don’t think I could have taken much more dark/grimy/dirty/sloven/etc. -ness.

-TC

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Published in: on July 28, 2008 at 7:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 1)

4/5 (If you’re a kid)

Completely mindless, but fun.  I don’t really see the draw of these books, but they’re harmless and quickly over.  I finished 2 full books in this series while waiting in a waiting room (though admitedly I was there for like 4 hours).

This is the first book in the series, and tells how three main characters become orphans.  But really that’s over with on the third page or so.  After that, there are frequent references to how lonely and sad the children are, but not much more about the circumstances.  The book was clearly written for children, so there are a lot of: “I feel disappointed.  That means I am not happy with how things turned out.”  “We know what disappointed means!  Get to the real point of why you’re disappointed!”  But you read that and thought that was just me complaining about the book not getting to the point, didn’t you?  Nope, I mean that to be a paraphrase of what the characters actually say to each other.  About 20 times in the 30 page book.  Though I didn’t really count.  But the definitions they use aren’t bad, and in some cases I was struck by how applicable the definition given was to the book’s use of it.

Anyway, I wouldn’t recommend it exactly, but I did enjoy it enough to read the second one I’d already bought.  Probably not enough to buy anymore though.

-TC

Published in: on July 28, 2008 at 6:59 pm  Comments (1)  

The Fourth Bear

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5/5

Very clever, and especially fun if you know a lot about nursery rhymes.  This is the crime story version of what really happened to Goldilocks.

There is a town where nursery rhyme characters live and interactive with normal people.  Given the unique problems and issues this segment of the population deals with, a division of the police force is put in charge of solving crimes relating to this minority group.  Some of the police in this division are nursery rhyme characters themselves, allowing them to really understand the culture.

In this story you get to know Goldilocks, the Gingerbread Man, and a host of other minor nursery rhyme characters.  Detective Jack Spratt, mired in bureaucracy, takes a missing persons case and attempts to find Goldilocks while dodging murder attempts from the Gingerbread Man, someone Spratt had previously put away.  In addition, he tries to figure out the mystery behind the story Goldilocks was working on when she disappeared.  It is about the world of giant pickle growing, which I bet you didn’t know was a competitive sport!

This book would be suitable for any child old enough to understand the language its written in.  It is written as a true crime story, but with a tongue-in-cheek feel to it that will keep you amused.  It is a sequel to The Big Over Easy, which I also recommend.

-TC

Published in: on August 13, 2007 at 4:37 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Big Over Easy

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5/5

Very clever, and especially fun if you know a lot about nursery rhymes. This is the crime story version of what really happened to Humpty Dumpty when he sat on the wall.

There is a town where nursery rhyme characters live and interactive with normal people. Given the unique problems and issues this segment of the population deals with, a division of the police force is put in charge of solving crimes relating to this minority group. Some of the police in this division are nursery rhyme characters themselves, allowing them to really understand the culture.

In this story you get to know Humpty Dumpty, who it turns out is a womanizer who was really more clever with money that you’d probably have given him credit for. When he turns up in pieces at the bottom of his sitting wall, the Nursery Crime division is called in. Detective Jack Spratt takes the case, and even though sometimes he seems to bumble his way through it like Inspector Gadget would, he is very tenacious about getting the bad guy(s). There are plenty of great laughs along the way, and this book would be suitable for any child old enough to understand the language its written in.

It is written as a true crime story, but with a tongue-in-cheek feel to it that will keep you amused. There is also a sequel, called The Fourth Bear, that I recommend.

-TC

See Adrienne’s review of this book!

Published in: on August 13, 2007 at 4:26 pm  Comments (1)  

The Nanny Diaries

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3/5

The first-person-ness of this book was a bit distracting, but was probably the best way to tell this story because it makes you feel like it could be a friend venting to you, which is much of what this book is.

The premise: a young woman is trying to graduate from NYU with a child development degree, and so to make a living she takes jobs being a part-time nanny for rich families. This book follows her from the start to the end of a single gig doing this. The story mostly makes rich people look ridiculous. They apparently have no parenting skills, (or any desire to gain any), and they leave much of their lives up to consultants who tell them what to do. Also, the poor children are over-scheduled to an extreme degree, leaving them with little time to be children. Not a feel-good kind of story, but it will make you laugh at times and it is well-written if a bit disjointed timeline-wise.

Also, if you’re clever, you’ll make many parallels between how the wife treats her help with how the husband treats his wives. Of coure I just mean in the book, not that every rich person acts like that. This book is like a literal stereotype, and since I don’t know many rich people I really can’t speak to the reality behind that stereotype. Also, if you’re rich, you could very well find this book too offensive to read. You’ve been warned.

-TC

Published in: on August 13, 2007 at 1:07 pm  Leave a Comment  

Son of a Witch

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5/5

I liked this book even better than its prequel, Wicked.  It continues the story from the point of view of someone who was a child in the first book.  It switches back and forth from the past to the present for the first half or so of the book, and does so very cleverly.  When the present is being narrated you are wondering how the characters got to this point, and when the past is being narrated you are wondering how that past led to the present you’ve read about.  Its all very interesting and keeps you into the story.

This book is even more adult than the last, including more than hints of the adult themes that were hinted at in the first book.  There is less political intrigue, which made the second story make more sense to me but makes it feel a little like the author abandoned a piece of the first story without explanation.

The ending is clearly a segue to another sequel, and I would love to read it if there ever is one.  I had a lot of fun with this book, and even think I caught some subtle references to some of the “Wizard of Oz” sequels, including how Ozma was kept hidden.

-TC

Published in: on August 8, 2007 at 11:16 am  Leave a Comment  

Wicked

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5/5

I really liked this book. I think it was clever, engaging, and I liked that it was an unfamiliar take on a familiar story.

Full disclosure: I am a rabid Wizard of Oz fan. I have read all of the original 12 and some of the ones after, and I own most of them. I even have a tattoo that includes Oz references. So it was natural for me to check out this new form of a story I love so much. But when you really know a story, it can be hard to hear a distorted version of it.

This book does not have that problem. There are enough neat references that a fan of Oz would understand and appreciate, but the story stands on its own and isn’t even really about the events of the movie or original books. This story mostly takes place before those events, and shows us “the real story” behind the Wicked Witches, the Wizard, and other characters we know from the original stories. This keeps it from feeling like a “wrong” version of the story, though it does take great liberties with the world you’re used to from the movie.

There are adult themes, and the feel of the book is nothing like “The Wizard of Oz”. I wouldn’t recommend this book to children younger than high school, probably. Its an easy enough read for adults, but includes political and adult themes that make it not a super-fast book.

-TC

Published in: on August 8, 2007 at 10:56 am  Leave a Comment  

Doll People

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4/5 (If you’re a kid)

This is a children’s book, so I am reviewing it as if I were a kid. Adults will find this book charming, but aren’t likely to want to read it to themselves. It would probably rate a 2/5 for an adult.

If I had to guess (though I have no expertise in this area) this book would appeal to any grammar school aged kid. The younger kids would likely need help reading it, and the older kids will race through it, but it should be entertaining for most.

The book is about a family of porcelain dolls who have lived in the same house for 3 human generations. The dolls don’t age, and if they’re caught acting alive (for example moving around or found in a place they weren’t left) they cease to be alive (temporarily if the infraction isn’t major). The story involves a minor mystery, and the premise is fun. Who hasn’t enjoyed a story about live toys? I actually enjoyed it myself, though I wouldn’t think many other adults would. Its a bit younger than the Velveteen Rabbit, I think, and it feels much less sad since the dolls accept each new owner without feeling the loss of love of the old owner. Its a very simple story, without the more adult themes of loss and love that the Velveteen Rabbit has.

-TC

Published in: on August 7, 2007 at 4:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

House of Sand and Fog

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3/5 (The book rates a higher score, but the depression wouldn’t allow me to give it)

This is a truly depressing story, but if you’re one of those people who hear “depressing” and it magically changes to “powerful” in your head, this will hook you.

Basically, this book is a detailed account of how a (fictional) tragedy in the news came about. You know, one of those news stories about a tragedy (such as a murder-suicide or a drive-by shooting) that makes you wish you knew the reasons behind the violence. You get to know the point-of-view of each of the main contributory characters as they “eye-for-an-eye” each other to misery. You’ll probably spend the whole book wanting to explain the other characters’ POVs to whoever you’re reading about now, but since its a book, you won’t be able to. Trust me, I tried.

In the end, hopefully you’ve learned how important it can be to step into another’s shoes. If you can’t learn this lesson, skip the book, as its the only reason to read it. However, if you’re open to learning lessons, then this book is hard to put down and it really sucks you in.

Warnings: Much of the book is in 1st person, which can annoy some people. It didn’t bother me, though. Also, there’s adult topics (a bit of graphic sex, drugs, alcohol abuse).

-TC

Published in: on August 7, 2007 at 3:01 pm  Leave a Comment