Author: thatmidwesternlibrarytype

The Isobel Journal by Isobel Harrop

18518711208 pages
Published August 1, 2014 by Switch Press
Source: Netgalley

Synopsis: This quirky, narrative scrapbook gives readers a witty, honest look at what it means to be a teenager.Using mini-graphic novels, photos, sketches, and captions, The Isobel Journal offers a unique glimpse into the creative life of eighteen-year-old Isobel, just a northern girl from where nothing really happens.”

Review: I don’t have a lot to say about this book. I read another review that described it as “random” and I would have to agree. Yes, Isobel’s scrapbook is divided into three sections, but it is full of random drawings, photos and musings about her life. It was a quick read and was fine, but there wasn’t much of a plot, though I was able to piece together what Isobel’s life must be like based on the things she drew and wrote. The drawings were unique and quirky, definitely not what I would call beautiful drawings, but I still liked them.

I also liked Isobel’s musings about her identity and boys. I felt this is the part of the book that teenagers reading this book would most identify with and they were the most poignant, because I know I’ve had all those feelings at one point or another. The voice and drawings definitely seem to come from a teenage girl. I just quickly looked up the author and she is definitely a teenage girl! That explains the authenticity and while it wasn’t really a book for me, I do appreciate her honesty and I think a lot of teens will relate to her journal.

I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga

7766027359 pages
Published April 3, 2012
Source: Netgalley

Synopsis: What if the world’s worst serial killer…was your dad?

Jasper “Jazz” Dent is a likable teenager. A charmer, one might say.

But he’s also the son of the world’s most infamous serial killer, and for Dear Old Dad, Take Your Son to Work Day was year-round. Jazz has witnessed crime scenes the way cops wish they could—from the criminal’s point of view.

And now bodies are piling up in Lobo’s Nod.

In an effort to clear his name, Jazz joins the police in a hunt for a new serial killer. But Jazz has a secret—could he be more like his father than anyone knows?

Review: I’ve had this book on my to-read list for a while now, but have never gotten around to reading it. Until I got an email from Netgalley that they had a copy available, even though the book came out over two years ago.

I actually could not put this book down and read it in one day. I was so intrigued by the mystery and the characters and needed some sort of resolution, so I stayed up late to finish it. I have always been into true crime and the working of the criminal mind, so I liked reading the perspective of Jazz, who has a serial killer for a father. This creates a conflict for Jazz, with him thinking he could be a serial killer just like his father, as his father bred him to be a serial killer. But Jazz also fights against this legacy and tries to be a normal teenage boy, while wrestling with his horrible memories and his own personal demons. His personal demons play out well in regards to the other characters, especially in Jazz’s relationships with them. He sometimes imagines killing or hurting people he cares about, but then at the same time, he wants to take care of them and protect them. The argument of nature versus nurture in regards to serial killers is a fascinating one and I think Jazz is a good embodiment of this argument. How can someone be a normal person when they were raised by a sadistic serial killer? I think the book did a good job of raising these questions, especially for readers that are into true crime.

The book was a little more violent than I was expecting, but I guess if you look at the subject matter, it’s not that surprising, but it caught me off guard, as I’m not used to many young adult books being so gritty and full of blood. It was not a bad thing, of course! The murders and the crime scenes described in the book are exactly what fuels the fascination with true crime and serial killers. Some of the scenes were so ghoulish, but I couldn’t look away or stop reading. Also, Jazz’s father and the relationship that Jazz has with him was so disturbing, that my skin was crawling a bit when Jazz went to visit his father in prison.

The mystery kept me on the edge of my seat and while I read another review where the reader figured it out pretty quickly, I kept changing my mind about who the culprit could be. And while the book didn’t quite end on a cliffhanger, I was both a little shocked and somehow expecting how it would end. Definitely want to get my hands on the next two books!

File Under: 13 Suspicious Incidents by Lemony Snicket

18295854259 pages
Published April 1, 2014
Source: Borrowed from Library

Synopsis: Match wits with Lemony Snicket to solve thirteen mini-mysteries.
Paintings have been falling off of walls, a loud and loyal dog has gone missing, a specter has been seen walking the pier at midnight — strange things are happening all over the town of Stain’d-By-The-Sea. Called upon to investigate thirteen suspicious incidents, young Lemony Snicket collects clues, questions witnesses, and cracks every case. Join the investigation and tackle the mysteries alongside Snicket, then turn to the back of the book to see the solution revealed.

A delicious read that welcomes readers into Lemony Snicket’s world of deep mystery, mysterious depth, deductive reasoning, and reasonable deductions.

Review: A few years ago, I tried to read the first book of the series, A Series of Unfortunate Events. I was in somewhat of a bad place at that time in my life, and I found the book really depressing and gave up after a few hours. I don’t know what it was about the book, but I could see that something bad was happening to the children, but they couldn’t see it and I couldn’t stomach it for whatever reason. Anyway, I was looking up books recently and came across this new series by Lemony Snicket and this book in particular intrigued me. I remember reading similar books as a child (meant for adults, though) with short mysteries with the solution at the end. I liked the idea of this being updated and for children, so I thought I would give Lemony Snicket another chance.

I was pretty disappointed, though. I think the book, though a children’s book, is written in such a way that I don’t think children would be interested in it. It seems like a book an adult would write who doesn’t really understand what interests children and it seems more like a book an adult nostalgic for childhood would want to read. It uses very flowery language, plus many words that might be above children and then has the gall to explain what they mean. While I think adding some unfamiliar words that help children t0 improve their vocabulary, the way this book goes about it feels really condescending. There are also lots of cutesy, twee names that annoyed me. I can’t think of any examples, but I was frustrated by the writing. Which I felt was trying to hard to be funny and clever.

As for the mysteries, maybe I am just an idiot, but I didn’t understand some of the solutions. About half of the mysteries didn’t make sense to me. I’m not sure if this was just me, though! Some of them, I did have to go back and quickly scan the story again to try to see where the clues were. But some of them I just flat out didn’t understand.

Finally, the one good thing that I liked about the book were the illustrations. I wish more had been included, because I thought they were very well done and went with the overall mood of the book. Overall, I was generally disappointed by this book and will be steering clear of Lemony Snicket from now on.

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

Phantomtollbooth256 pages
First Published in 1961
Source: Borrowed from Library

Synopsis: Milo mopes in black ink sketches, until he assembles a tollbooth and drives through. He jumps to the island of Conclusions. But brothers King Azaz of Dictionopolis and the Mathemagician of Digitopolis war over words and numbers. Joined by ticking watchdog Tock and adult-size Humbug, Milo rescues the Princesses of Rhyme and Reason, and learns to enjoy life.

Review: Full disclosure: I never read this book when I was a child. I remember buying it when I was maybe 11 or 12, but never got around to reading it, because I found it dull at the time. I’m glad I did finally get around to reading the book, however.

The wordplay and puns in this book are fantastic. I like the idea of taking common idioms and expression and turning them on their heads and making a crazy and nonsensical world out of them. I am also curious as to how this book was translated into other languages. It makes me want to find the German version to see how the idioms compare, because English is a very punny language, in comparison to a language like German. I also liked many of the characters in the book, especially the dog. Based on the cover, I would have thought that Tock, the dog, would have been an enemy rather than an ally, but I liked him as an animal companion. I also liked the symphony of colors and the idea that sounds, words and numbers can be collected, hoarded and given away.

However, I felt that the story was rushed and I wish the world could have been filled out and illustrated a little better. I felt like Milo and his companions just raced from place to place and there was a moral in each place, but I felt it needed some fleshing out. That was my biggest complaint about the book. Great idea with an interesting world, but everything felt a little rushed. Also, I borrowed this as an e-book from the library and the map was not included! Not the fault of the author, but I had to go online to look at the map. I also thought the illustrations perfectly fit the story. They are rough pencil drawings, but they perfectly fit the world that Juster has imagined.

Overall, I did enjoy the book, but I think because I never read it as a child, I don’t love it in the same way that someone who read it as a child would.

The Diviners by Libba Bray

7728889578 pages
Published September 18th 2012 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Source: Purchased

Synopsis: Evie O’Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City—and she is pos-i-tute-ly ecstatic. It’s 1926, and New York is filled with speakeasies, Ziegfeld girls, and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is that she has to live with her uncle Will and his unhealthy obsession with the occult.

Evie worries he’ll discover her darkest secret: a supernatural power that has only brought her trouble so far. But when the police find a murdered girl branded with a cryptic symbol and Will is called to the scene, Evie realizes her gift could help catch a serial killer.

As Evie jumps headlong into a dance with a murderer, other stories unfold in the city that never sleeps. A young man named Memphis is caught between two worlds. A chorus girl named Theta is running from her past. A student named Jericho hides a shocking secret. And unknown to all, something dark and evil has awakened.

Review: I bought this as an e-book a long time ago, but just got around to reading it recently. I don’t know what took me so long, because it has everything I love in a book: the 1920s, history, flappers, a murder mystery, the supernatural and the occult. I am kicking myself for not picking it up sooner, because I LOVED it!

I really can’t think of anything I didn’t like about the book. I liked the characters, especially with the mysterious backgrounds of several of them. Evie is a fun character and while she is the heart of the book, I also enjoyed getting to know Theta and Memphis and other minor characters. I also loved the setting. I felt like I was right in New York City and I especially liked the settings that Memphis and Theta wandered through. I also liked their relationship, which was definitely verboten at the time. I also liked the relationships between all the other characters. I don’t think there was a character that I didn’t like. I loved the villain. He was terrifying and when I am reading a book and I’m afraid the villain will break into my room, then I think the author has done a good job. I also loved the treatment of the occult and the fact that there is a museum for it in the book. I liked the mix of the supernatural with the occult and also with the “modern” world. I really loved most of the book and just couldn’t put it down. There are so many elements to the story, that I was worried that it could be a mess, but I was pleasantly surprised. And Bray definitely did her research in regards to the setting and time. It never felt heavy handed or trying to browbeat history into the reader, but also providing a history of the time. It’s a really unique and magical book. I definitely can not wait for the next one.

The only thing that I found mildly annoying about the book is the language used. I know the author was going for an authentic feel with the 1920s slang, but I found it jarring and while it may have been accurate, it interrupted the flow of the story for me. It almost felt a little heavy handed at times. I’m sure teenager girls of the time peppered their speech with slang, but I doubt it was that much.

Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison

402013247 pages
Published May 31 2000 by Harper Teen
Source: Purchased

Synopsis: There are six things very wrong with my life:

1. I have one of those under-the-skin spots that will never come to a head but lurk in a red way for the next two years.

2. It is on my nose

3. I have a three-year-old sister who may have peed somewhere in my room.

4. In fourteen days the summer hols will be over and then it will be back to Stalag 14 and Oberfuhrer Frau Simpson and her bunch of sadistic teachers.

5. I am very ugly and need to go into an ugly home.

6. I went to a party dressed as a stuffed olive.
In this wildly funny journal of a year in the life of Georgia Nicolson, British author Louise Rennison has perfectly captured the soaring joys and bottomless angst of being a teenager. In the spirit of Bridget Jones’s Diary, this fresh, irreverent, and simply hilarious book will leave you laughing out loud. As Georgia would say, it’s “Fabbity fab fab!”

Review: I’ve had this book on my to-read list for a long time, based on strong reviews from many book bloggers. I don’t know what took me so long to read it, but it was really cheap as an e-book and I thought I would take the plunge. I’m so glad I did, because I actually did snort/laugh out loud a few times at this book and I don’t normally laugh out loud while reading. Georgia is one of the great teenage protagonists. She is funny, sharp, snarky and though she isn’t a perfect character, I can imagine that she is a riot to be around. Her voice is also compelling. She makes the mundane and the boring sound really interesting, and she also sounds like a teenager, albeit, an English teenager, as she points out in the beginning of the book. I loved her descriptions of her cat, Angus, the half Scottish wildcat and also the descriptions of her family. She both loves and is horrified by her family at the same time and I remember those feelings all too well. I finished the book quickly, but I loved being in her world with all her colorful descriptions.

I did enjoy the book, but don’t have a lot to say about it, as while it was a fun read, it was also fluffy. Hopefully I can continue reading the rest of the books to see what kind of hijinks Georgia finds herself in.

A Tale Dark & Grimm series by Adam Gidwitz

7825557 I read the book A Tale Dark & Grimm many years ago and loved it. Again, I love anything to do with fairy tales. I recently found out that the book was not stand-alone, but actually the first in a trilogy. Of course I had to quickly reread the first one and then I zoomed through the last two.

The first book, A Tale Dark & Grimm follows Hansel and Gretel as they walk through many other fairy tales from the Grimm Brothers. The second, In a Glass Grimmly, follows Jack and Jill as they again wander through the vast world of fairy tales. In the final book, A Grimm Conclusion, Jorinda and Joringel again wander from fairy tale to fairy tale.

I loved all three books. What I appreciated most about each book was the way the narrator interacts with the reader, as if he is right there telling the story. I think this gets at the importance of fairy tales, that they are stories to be told and shared and oh, yes, as the narrator constantly reminds us, they are gruesome too. I also like the way the author takes inspiration from fairy tales and other legends and creates a new story. And makes connections between the books, such as with the crows and the interactions with hell and the dvil. I think this is in line with fairy tales coming from an oral tradition and by creating these new stories, the author is definitely in line with the oral tradition. I also like his addition at the end where he writes about sharing these stories with his classes.

I like so much about these books, but the last thing I want do add is the message in each book that the children learn. I won’t reveal too much, but many of the messages boil down to family and love and being honorable and doing the right thing.

These are perfect books to see fairy tales in a new light and I’m just sad there are only three books.