Monday, August 26, 2019

Book Review: The Very Best of Caitlin R. Kiernan

The Very Best of Caitlin R. KiernanThe Very Best of Caitlin R. Kiernan by CaitlĂ­n R. Kiernan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Horror is certainly the right genre for many of these stories. Some really amazing ideas and writing within the 20 short stories compiled here. There is soo much lesbian representation in these stories; which isn't surprising if you know that Caitlin Kiernan is a transgender lesbian. My favourite part of most of the stories is that the f/f relationships are so well portrayed and have a beautiful depth to them.

A small note about each of the stories is below:
Story #1 - Andromeda Among the Stones
Well if this story is representative of the whole anthology then I’m guessing I’ll barely understand half of it... this was a very convoluted story. Thankfully that turned out to not be the case for all the stories
Story #2 - La Peau Verte
Translates to “Green Skin”. Ohh this one is both clever and horrifying. I’d love to read the whole story here as I think there’s a lot more to be said and done with the concept.
Story #3 - Houses Under the Sea
A very well revealed story told by a lesbian about her girlfriend who is obsessed with a deity at the bottom of the ocean.
Story #4 - Bradbury Weather
This felt like the longest short story ever. It went on and on describing and rambling from first person narrative. As I didn’t care about our leading lady, I also didn’t care about her ‘mission’.
Story #5 - A Child’s Guide to the Hollow Hills
Short, sweet and grotesque; but great.
Story #6 - The Ammonite Violin (Murder Ballad No. 4)
This story triggered by hydrophobia (that's how you know the writing is amazing!):
“...all the young women he has murdered by suffocation, always by suffocation, for that is how the sea would kill...”
What an amazing serial killer book this would make!! A girl on the hunt for her sisters killer, that killer targeting certain ways... great story but could be so much more if a full length novel."
Story #7 - A Season of a Broken Dolls
Either I’m too tired or you need a PhD in English literature to understand this jumble of a mess. I did like the La Llorona quotes however.
Story #8 - The View of Nothing
A story given to us out of order and from a narrator that doesn’t know herself what is happening or where she is. Love the cyborg to female relations. A bit graphic on the sex side of things but there is a point so I’m good with it. I’d have to read this story 3-4 more times to really nail it down I think; but that's not a bad thing.
Story #9 - The Ape's Wife
Best King Kong story ever! Maybe because it has Kong but yet is not about him at all. This is a weird mind bending story (as all these seem to be) but I really liked it. I was able to follow it and it had a great ending. One of the best stories yet (and I'm not a big fan of the King Kong lore).
Story #10 - The Steam Dancer (1896)
I adored this story!! I believe there are so many disabled folks out there that would really appreciate this one.
It reminded me of a time my cousin with Cerebral Palsy (who cannot walk) told me he loved video games because in them he was a “whole person who could kick-ass”. ❤️
Story #11 - Galapagos
Another story feels like you might need a fancy degree to really understand it. I know there’s a huge realm of discussion that can come from a story such as this one; however, the question for me is whether anyone actually cares... I think the answer is primarily no.
Story #12 - Fish Bride (1970)
This is like forbidden love; although perhaps closer to the idea of impossible love. A sad little story set on the coast where land and sea meet.
Story #13 - The Mermaid of the Concrete Ocean
Short and sweet. Not quite what I was expecting but still a lovely little bit of veiled writing.
Story #14 - Hydrarguros
I was really hoping this story was going somewhere and super curious what the silver stuff represented. Sadly it’s not all what I was hoping and instead is all metaphorical. 😕
Story #15 - The Maltese Unicorn
A fabulous story! Could easily be a full length novel as well; but had just enough content to be good as a short story, without having too much complexity. Lots of odd perversion and sex in this one. A line that really stuck out for me:
"And then she offered the unicorn one of her breasts, and I watched as it suckled."
Story #16 - Tidal Forces
An odd commentary on the size of the universe; or at least that’s what I think the point is. Best part, main characters are very much in love lesbians.
Story #17 - The Prayer of Ninety Cats
This is a story about a man watching a movie. We get his thoughts on the movie at the same time we get the main story of the film. It’s clever and I quite enjoyed it.
Story #18 - One Tree Hill
Not like the show. Lol.
I liked this one a lot. A man investigates an off “positive lightning” incident that hit a sole single tree isolated 25m all around from the rest of the trees on the hill. A very well written Goddess helps this story really sparkle.
Story #19 - 96.0% "Story #19 - Interstate Love Song (Murder Ballad No 8)
A gem of a story! Two ladies become the terror of the road; proving that these lesbians don’t need no men. They are scary enough on their own. I don’t want to say much about this for fear of spoiling it (as the surprises here are the best!). But I will say that it is not for the faint of heart. Lots of blood, gore, minder, sex and well more sex.
Story #20 - Fairy Tale Wood Street
A sweet little story. Given some of the horror, gore and sex in the other stories this one is tame and romantic. An interesting choice to end the collection on.

While a few stories were a bit blah or just not for more the large bulk of them were wonderful. I loved all the lesbian representation, the feminism (without being obnoxious) and the relationships (love, hate or otherwise) that are well portrayed. It's hard to do characters well in short stories (as they tend to focus on plot primarily) but Caitlin Kiernan hasn't left anything on the cutting room floor with page/word count here.
There are a few stories that would make amazing novels or movies if they were expanded; but that didn't detract from my love of them in the shorter form.
If you want horror, sex, lesbians and/or love, I believe, you'll find all of those here in abundance.

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

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Friday, August 23, 2019

Book Review: Captain Rosalie

Captain Rosalie by Timothée de Fombelle

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Children's books about war can be very challenging. How do you portray the frustration, anger, loss and hurt of war without over doing it (and terrifying) small children?
Captain Rosalie comes at a WWII story from the eyes of a little girl who is waiting for her father to return home from service. Without a doubt, the most endearing part, of Timothee de Fombelle's story is that the little girl loves to hear her mother read out her father's letters. But little Rosalie is no slouch and begins to suspect that maybe her mother is not reading the real words or telling the whole truth. So Rosalie takes initiative, all on her own, to learn to read! (adorable right!?)

Fombelle does a wonderful job of creating and displaying the confusion Rosalie has over how far away the war is and if it will come to them directly. And so her desire to learn more about the war, and not just her mother's flowery words, is very fitting. The muted illustrations fit beautifully in with the setting and somber war time frame.

All is well until we reach the tragic ending which I feel is not well explained for children. As adults it makes sense to us that Rosalie's mother wasn't telling her the real story in the letters from her father. But to a child I think this would be quite confused. I'm not sure if it's lost in the translation of languages here or just not handled quite very well. However, Captain Rosalie can start a conversation with any child about the nature of war and why 'we', as a society, should try to avoid it. I could also see this being a good book to relate a true historical past to children today who may have had trauma already in their young lives (lost parent, refugee children, domestic violence, etc.) as it does tell the true story of Rosalie's father by the end.

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

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Book Review: One Word Kill

One Word Kill (Impossible Times, #1)One Word Kill by Mark Lawrence

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fast-paced, engaging and well written story that combines Ready Player One, Stranger Things and Back to the Future into one intriguing story about four teens who play D&D together. Mark Lawrence proves that he is capable of dominating any genre (be it fantasy or science fiction) with his relatable characters and action packed plot.

Manly but Sweet
‘Of all the worlds, in all the universe, he walks into mine.’ Mia wrapped the Casablanca quote around Everett’s many worlds interpretation and gained another level in my esteem.'
Absolutely brilliant quote! A super sweet moment between our main guy and his possible love interest that shows the depth of Lawrence's story. He gives us well rounded out characters that have fears, loves and react in a way most humans (especially teenage boys) are likely to given the (extreme) situations portrayed in One Word Kill.

Dungeons & Dragons
It's far from new to integrate a D&D campaign into a story. Most of the first Dragonlance novel were based off actually played out D&D campaigns of Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman (near death rolls and all). It's nice to see the comeback that board gaming has made with shows like The Big Bang Theory and Stranger Things highlight the fun (low tech) activity it can be. One Word Kill is a great addition to this group of media. There's a camaraderie that anyone whose played a campaign of D&D with friends can appreciate and I think Lawrence captures this very accurately here.

Plot, Magic and Story
I don't want to say too much about any of these three elements as I would never be able to describe or give justice to the imagination and writing style of Mark Lawrence. I also don't want to give away any juicy surprises!
This is my first time reading a full novel of Lawrence's and there is no doubt that all his novels on my shelf have just vaulted up in reading priority. With an elegance and excitement that is hard to parallel, Lawrence draws us into his world and ensures we must play by the rules.

Few would dispute that Lawrence isn't one of today's top fantasy writers leading into the release of this series. I suspect many will now put him in the science fiction category as well. Overall I'd be surprised to learn that any fantasy/science fiction reader completely hated this book. Some may not be an enamored as others (there are a lot of geek references); but there is a lot to like here. This is a series worth getting into and a strong start in sci-fi for Lawrence.

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

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Thursday, August 22, 2019

Book Review: Miracle Creek

Miracle CreekMiracle Creek by Angie Kim

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

”Good things and bad—every friendship and romance formed, every accident, every illness—resulted from the conspiracy of hundreds of little things, in and of themselves inconsequential.”
Wow. An intricately put together story of a deadly event, those who may (or may not) be responsible and the enduring relationships people form. Written from a own voices perspective (Korean immigrant to America as a child) and with an in-depth understanding of the law; Miracle Creek is at once poignant, beautiful, horrifying and deadly. Let’s get into some of the details.

There is a large cast of characters in Angie Kim’s story. Each of them are distinct and easy to remember, which I appreciated. From the parents of the children to the children themselves and the other adults involved in the submarine therapy. Each of them has a small piece of the overall story and what happened on the fateful day when an explosion injured and killed people. Therefore, in their own way, each character is an unreliable narrator. It's not until every single perspective has been considered, heard from and pieced into the overall puzzle that the ending reveals the truth of the situation.

Disabled Children and their Parents
There is an excellent portrayal here of the exhaustion that happens to parents of kids whom are disabled, suffer from chronic illnesses, etc. Two mother's in particular are found to say things like "somedays I think my child would be better off dead" and similar phrases. This seems innocent enough right? Parenting is hard work and certainly anyone who has known someone caring for a child with special needs can understand the intent of the statement. Well that is until someone murders one of those children... Now that innocent statement becomes a whole new piece of 'evidence'. I really liked the way Kim played this out and showed reality. We all say things that could be construed incorrectly but aren't actually meant to be taken literally. It’s not until an extreme context is applied that those innocent words take on a more literal meaning.

Everyone's a Suspect
I don't read a lot of murder mysteries generally (maybe a couple a year?). I always like to read bestsellers and inevitably thrillers or murder mysteries hit the top of the charts so I read them. That, plus the disabled representation and discussion of unconventional medical treatments, drew me to pick-up Miracle Creek. Because I'm not a big murder mystery fan I'm not sure how common it is to have every single person (more or less) be a suspect in an incident. That is the case here. Each of our characters had a number of motives, opportunities, etc. to sabotage the compression chamber (submarine). And so because of this there is a lot of awful thoughts and theories to slog through. It makes the characters seem fairly 'icky' (if you will) at times. However, reflecting on the characters individually, I think each of them is actually very realistic. And let's face it, at our worst we all have undesirable traits; and the time for those undesirable traits to surface will always be when someone is digging for information, like during a murder investigation.

Courtroom Talk
If you're a fan of John Grisham (or the like) then the courtroom talk here will seem tame. Kim is a trial lawyer herself, yet I didn't find the court discussions or descriptions difficult to follow. That may be because we don't have an omniscient narrator here; but instead see the courtroom through the eyes of different participants at their understanding of educational level. Given that a lot of the story is told in the courtroom as flashbacks (which I usually dislike) there is still a good flow to the novel. I could still picture and feel the emotions as events were told to the court. I attribute this to excellent writing by Kim. This is especially impressive as this is Kim’s debut novel! I’m expecting her next to be that little bit better to get five stars! ;)

As with most books there is a lull in Miracle Creek. It's relatively short (not even 50 pages probably) and it's right smack dab in the middle of the novel. When you hit this point I recommend just pushing forward a little harder to get to the last half of the story as it is well, well worth the ending.

I wouldn’t say this book is amazing or at the top of its (very crowded) genre. However it is certainly worth reading if you like some court drama, murder mysteries or puzzling a situation out based on comments from different points of view. KIL has written Miracle Creek so well that I believe everyone can find something to like about it. A well written book, with solid characters and an organized plot, will always transcend genre boundaries.

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

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Thursday, August 15, 2019

Book Review: Middlegame

MiddlegameMiddlegame by Seanan McGuire

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm always nervous when one of my favourite authors comes out with a novel that seems to be very different from anything they've ever done before. In the case of Middlegame, Seanan McGuire has given us a book that is unlike most things I've read before. As usual she stands in a class all her own and screams "look at me"! And while I really enjoyed this unique science fiction, dystopian, magical realism (add other genres here) story; it wasn't up to the 'snuff' I expect from Seanan. It felt a little drawn out and perhaps needed one more round of solid editing to be more concise.

Date, Time & Place
As someone who reads a lot of historical and science fiction I'm familiar with the usual date, time, place information at the beginning of a chapter. Generally I find myself flipping back (or in the case of a book on my eReader cursing) to remember what the last date, time, place I was given was. McGuire solves this issue sooo elegantly. I want this to become a new standard for date, time, place monikers. We get in brackets, at the beginning of (most) chapters, notes about if it's: later the same day, a different day, a few hours later, a month later, years later, etc. Or in the case of some fun time warping a note about how skewed time has become. It may seem like a small this but this little detail was critical to my enjoyment of Middlegame as I wasn't constantly flipping back and forth to orient myself.

More like Mira Grant
For those not familiar with McGuire's work she also publishes horror books under a pseudonym Mira Grant. I wish this was a Seanan McGuire meets Mira Grant novel. There are moments during it when the depth, detail and goriness (to be frank) of Grant's books would have been better suited here. Now you may think to yourself; they are the same person! But I honestly believe that a good writer (and McGuire is amazing) puts on a different 'hat' to write in certain genres or under different names. What I wanted here was a little more Grant with my McGuire. While Middlegame feels more like a Blake Crouch book than anything else I can think of in recent years; it still has the strong relationships and magical allure of most of McGuire's writing.
Our Hand of Glory is described as a melting gruesome thing and so I have to say my second disappointment with the gore factor in Middlegame was the very underwhelming cover. Where's the melting? Where's the burning flesh? Where's the horror that the hand used to belong to a real person?

Mixing Religion, Magic, Science & Alchemy
A really good science fiction or fantasy book (in my mind) will take different aspects of real-life knowledge and blend them with ones you might not expect. While the study of alchemy has long been the disproved sibling of science; there is no doubt that they have roots that come from the same place. McGuire takes the alchemy concepts, today's science and mixes it all around. Adding a healthy dose of religion, superstition and magic into the pot. By the time you come out of Middlegame you won't be sure what might have been rooted in science or math and what wasn't. I liked this treatment of the technical aspects of this book as it left more up to the imagination and it didn't let doubts seep in the way a book that is very science based might have. A clever way to deal with a magical realism story that people can believe and connect with.

Lost in Time & Space
There are few writers that can twist a timeline around on a reader and keep their attention and the order of events in order. Some of those writers include Blake Crouch, Stephen King, Brandon Sanderson and (now) Seanan McGuire. The veteran writing style and touch of McGuire kept me not only entertained; but also oriented in the every fluctuating timeline of Middlegame. This is not a single timeline story and part of it's allure and magic is that time twists around in places and creates opportunities for things to happen in a magical way.

Why Four Stars?
By now you may be wondering why I only gave this four stars. There are points during the story where the plot is bogged down by mini-info dumps. The first time it happens I figured McGuire was just ensuring we caught some nuances. But by the last 100 pages there were STILL large amounts of text that just explained away happenings. Certainly for the average writer this would be expected; but McGuire is anything but an average novelist. So it was disappointing to see a poorly used tactic come out of the writing on more than one occasion. Additionally I found that at times the dialogue between characters was a bit stilted and ridiculous. As though it was only there to ensure the reader that our characters were still pinged into the intricacies of the story.

I think Middlegame might have benefited from more smooth proofing or an editor that would recommend cuts in some of the denser parts of the novel. If you have enjoyed Mira Grant before then definitely read this. If you're more into the Heart of the Doorway or the Incryptid series this may be a little too complex to your taste. Although, ironically, if all these books existed in one multiverse it could potentially explain a lot of things. And maybe they do all exist in the same place and time; without every encompassing the same time and place. Middlegame will keep your brain moving, engaged and a good dose of McGuire's imagination at it's best.

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

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Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Book Review: Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, #1)The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There are some books which need to be read at their publication time. Anything which is the first of its kind, relevant to current events, or just odd can sometimes only be truly appreciated at the moment in history with which it’s existence coincides. Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (thus referred to as Hitchhiker) may fall into all three of these categories; but it’s solidly in the last.

To say there is plot in this would be like saying there is substantial fruit juice in gummy candy. It’s such a small, minute amount that it’s barely worth categorizing or referencing. I couldn’t tell you what the plot is in Hitchhiker to save my life. All I know is there’s a book about the galaxy, Earth is blown up (in opening chapters) and we follow around this random human who has no real business being in space. None of these things are truly plot. In fact there is no real reason to tell this story that I could find; except to maybe write some ridiculous (and sometimes amusing) science fiction.

Historical Context
I was not born when this book was written by Douglas Adams. As a child of the early 80s and a teen of the 90s, there is something about the 70s decade that eludes me. I believe this is likely one of the main reasons I don’t “get” Hitchhiker. Sometimes you need to be in a moment, or understand how little of something existed in order to appreciate the mind boggling change when a new innovation, trend or piece of writing comes along that changed everything. Hitchhiker seems like a text that requires you to appreciate and know the exact state of the world at the moment it was published. I would never presume to say it isn’t an important book for its time period, as I wasn’t there to know and trust those who were that its publication was a significant turning point in literature.

I think everyone can agree there are a lot of philosophical inferences and statements to be taken from this novel. I have long loved the idea that the meaning of life is 43, for example. It’s a random, nonsensical thought; and yet isn’t it comforting to think 43 might truly be the answer to the universe and everything in it? The same as I love the idea of the world being transported on the back of a turtle through the galaxy (see Discworld). And so there is no way anyone could argue that Hitchhiker doesn’t have value in some way today given it has sooo much room for interpretation. However, at this moment I am (perhaps) just not intelligent enough (or I don’t care enough) to sit down and derive what many of the lines in Hitchhiker are truly about. Good news for readers; there are many books and papers written about it, all by people more talented in this area than I.

I feel very “meh” about the whole book; and am most thankful it’s a short read. Maybe it’s a lifetime of hype around Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy bringing my expectations too high? Maybe I’m just not in the right generation to truly appreciate what Adams had to say. Or perhaps it’s that Hitchhiker is special to a generation because it was released at the perfect moment. If this last is true, I absolutely respect the importance of any novel to a time period (even if I can’t experience that importance myself).
While I’m unlikely to read Hitchhiker again or carry on with the rest of the series (especially after reading that it’s not in sequential order and grossly contradicts itself throughout the remaining books) I do want to say that it’s a unique and clearly pervasive piece of literature that every bookworm and/or science fiction reader should delve into at least once. Even if it’s only so you understand pop culture references and have a moment to wonder what it might be like to be the last human in the galaxy.

Side note: I have to wonder if Adams had heard of the concept of the internet (as was being developed by the US military in 1970s; or if he thought up a device, that provided the user with all the galaxy’s data at their fingertips, on his own...)

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Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Book Review: The Binding

The BindingThe Binding by Bridget Collins

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

DNF @ 40%

A strange thing happens in The Binding. We are taken through Part I which is full of magical intrigue, book binding principles, books galore; and then it's all ripped away. Part II opens up and it's like nothing in Part I happened at all! Now we are just stuck on a farm with our (not so interesting) and seemingly non-magical teen boy. Whereas in Part I the same teen boy was just coming into his own personally and professionally (as a magical book binder) when we are pulled away from the story.

Good Stuff Too Early
In a world where it is increasingly difficult to capture the attention of any one person, never mind a large group of people, it's critical that you not give away too much of the good stuff too soon. If the beginning of a book, like The Binding, is infinitely more interesting than the rest then any author is going to have a hard time keeping their reader around for another 300+ pages.
As I didn't read the whole book (I gave up during Part II) I went and read some spoiler plot points and other reviews. These all confirmed exactly what I suspected, the good stuff was all over and the rest of The Binding might have been be a good story IF you didn't know what happened in Part I.
What Bridget Collins should have done with The Binding is flipped narratives around and started with a teaser of Part I and then stuck us into Part II right away. That way we haven't had our attention piqued and the interesting stuff ripped from our attention. Our world has a lot of competition for attention and ultimately enticing people to to read more must be a large priority. Sadly farms, even ones with cute m/m possible relationships, just aren't that interestin (or at least not near as interesting as books full of memories).

Books about Books
I've said it before, there is nothing quite as easy as marketing a book about books (or book related activities) to a bunch of bookworms. It should be a slam dunk. You might not get the mass appeal that Stephen King garners but you'll likely get a small, devoted following to your story. The Binding is one of these books that should have been an easy sell to someone like me. A book about binding books that have magical properties!? Sign me up now!
Now, maybe my excitement about the possibility of a fantasy and magical realism mixed in with the art of book binding (not with a machine but by hand) had my expectations too high? Or maybe I just wanted to have the whole story be about books (and Part II clearly wasn't)? Or perhaps it's a little of both; which seems the most likely. Either way the use of book binding should have made this a worthy read; too bad there isn't any book binding in Part II up to the point I read.

Writing, Setting, etc.
It's really too bad that the focus and plot of The Binding fly off the rails as the writing itself is really lovely. It's a romantic, sing-songy style that invoked an archaic, medieval feel for me. the descriptions and use of magic in Part I are just enough without being overwhelming; and our lead boys response to the magic and how it affects him is really well done. I especially appreciated that he was sick for a long time before he could do even small amounts of magic or binding. No easy road here for this hero. It felt realistic in a way that most magical fantasy stories aren't able to convey. It's so tragic that this writing, imagery and setting don't result in a plot and story that I cared about enough to finish the novel.

Collins has some definite talent for setting a scene and creating worlds that are well developed. Additionally Collins clearly knows how to write characters that readers can bond with almost immediately. Because of this obvious talent in writing I would try another Collins book again; even though I did not finish this one. The Binding should have been one of my top reads of the year; and if Part I had continued forward in the same style, setting, etc. it might have been. Unfortunately we end up on a farm bored out of our minds with the harvesting, horses and not enough to keep it all going. It's sad because I bet the m/m relationship that was developing between our two teen boys was adorable. However there is no amount of cuteness between two characters (even gay ones) that will have me put up with descriptions of grains and farm animals for dozens and dozens of pages.

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss. This is an honest and unbiased review.

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Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Book Review: The Remarkable Inventions of Walter Mortinson

The Remarkable Inventions of Walter Mortinson by Quinn Sosna-Spear

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A little disjointed at times, this strange and unique middle grade book has a lot to digest (even for an adult). I feel like it tries to do too much and that takes away from what the core story should be. While I felt like there was an attempt to have a fun and dream-like tone and story; Quinn Sosna-Spear misses the mark for me in some key areas including plot and use of flashbacks.

It's only at the 32% mark in which our two children actually take off on their journey together! Just a bit too much introduction and info dumping for my taste to start with. This is a classic quest set-up with our two main characters setting out into the big wide world. Nothing really different from other stories happens. There's a balloon incident (Wizard of Oz), giants (Jack and the Beanstalk), quirky inventors and some odd honeybees. All were unique in their own way as encounters but none of them stood out to me as especially unique or even all that exciting.

Odd Moments
There are a few noteworthy or odd things that happen or are said in this book that I highlighted while reading and I feel like they are worth coming back to. These descriptions begin to really give a sense of why I wasn't a huge fan of this book.
In the opening few pages we meet a teacher who is intentionally teaching children the wrong things! From spelling, math and geography; this teacher gives the kids the wrong answers to things; and she does it knowingly. I'm not sure what the point was of this teacher but it really bothered me that this character (already a brief presence) existed at all. Unless of course the reason was to give our children an "excuse" to run away from school? (ie: they weren't being taught properly anyways?)
One of the first towns we encounter sounds exactly like H.P. Lovecraft's Innsmouth. I'm going to assume this is not intentional (?) as this is a children's book and there wouldn't really be a reason to pay homage to a horror writer in a fantasy middle-age story. However; given the Lovecraft Innsmouth town use in the recent blockbuster DC comics hit 'Aquaman' and a bit of a resurgence of Lovecraft's settings and monsters being used by many adult fantasy/horror writers; I can't help but wonder if it was coincidence or not. There is nothing wrong with this homage or use of Innsmouth (as it's a clever way to explain evolution); it just struck me as a bit odd and made me wonder if Sosna-Spear wasn't creative enough to come up with her own quirky town.

Circling Dialogue
This reminds me a bit of Ronald Dahl in that there’s a lot of nonsense in it and dialogue that circles itself. Where each character says the same thing a different way and they are confirming their understanding of one another. It's really annoying as an adult to read this. And frankly, as a child I found Dahl to be a bit boring at times because it took him soooo long to describe one thing or have one quick conversation. Perhaps this is just me and it's helpful to children to read the same thing over again in a different way to help with comprehension. If that is the case I will conceded that it is clearly appropriate for this middle-age book.

My ongoing hatred of poorly used flashbacks continues. I don't understand why we get the POV of Walter's Mother closer to the end of the story in the current day; never mind her flashbacks. It feels like Sosna-Spear wasn't able to write the story in a clever enough way to have Walter unveil the secrets for the readers and instead Sosna-Spear gives us two sides of the same story so we can put it together (albeit slightly) sooner than our main children do. The purpose is still beyond me except to maybe ensure the reader knows what is/has happened.
The biggest pet peeve of this book I have is the use of flashbacks. If you want to change POVs without too much context I don't tend to mind. But switching what timeline is being described is a huge no-no to me. If I'm getting slightly lost trying to figure out of the Mother's POV was current day or past I don't even want to think about the struggle a 9-year-old child might have. It was just too much work near the end of the story (especially given the ease of reading the prior sections of the book) to keep things straight.
So I hold to my usual comment: if you don't know how to set-up and use flashbacks, then please don't use them at all. Tolkien uses flashbacks poorly and emulating his wizard battle flashback from Fellowship will always be a bad idea!

I nearly didn't finish reading The Remarkable Inventions of Walter Mortinson. Honestly, had it not been relatively short and easy to read I may have put it aside. 3 stars is probably a bit generous of a rating for me. And yet I will say there is some magic here and the children are fairly well put together characters. If a child was to read this as one of their first fantasy-style stories I could seem them being enamored as it's not 'bad' so much as it's just boring and very plain given the plethora of middle-age fantasy that is available to readers which has a much better plot and writing style.

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

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Book Review: Treasure

Treasure by Mireille Messier

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Beautiful artwork and lots of colour is found in Mireille Messier's children's book Treasure. A good length for a bedtime story and doesn't have any huge moments that might over excite children for a nap or sleep read.

Unfortunately I didn't love the content of this story. A little girl goes looking for treasure and asks her mother many times if something from nature is the 'treasure'. Things like a flower, rock, etc. Eventually the 'treasure' is a hidden, special waterfall. I didn't really like that the other items prior to that (which might be considered treasures to many) were dismissed as not treasure. I also didn't like that the waterfall, which is an intangible thing, was called treasure. I realize the point here is likely to teach children that physical objects or items aren't the only kind of treasure in the world; but it felt a bit forced to me. I would have preferred to have the mother say that while an item can be someone's treasure it's not HER treasure.

This change would allow for children to learn:
a) anything can be treasure, not just objects (especially nature items!),
b) treasure is special to each person,
c) treasure can be special in it's own way. For example: not all treasure is equal or even the same (ie: gold coin versus waterfall).
While I don't think there is any harm in the way this story is set-up for children; it's just not the way I would have done it.

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

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