A Sliver of Stardust

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A Sliver of Stardust

Marissa Burt
Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2015

From the dust jacket: “I am a gold lock./ I am a gold key./ However high and low you hunt,/ You’ll never find me.
“Wren Matthews outgrew nursery rhymes a long time ago. Little did she know that songs of twinkling little stars and four-and-twenty blackbirds are the key to the ancient magic of stardust—a magic that only a few people can see and use. And Wren is one of them.
“Wren has always preferred to stick to herself. But when she is invited to the faraway mountain fortress where an ancient order has long studied and guarded stardust, she doesn’t hesitate to accept.
“Soon Wren is swept up in strange dreams, buried secrets, and rumors that an old enemy is plotting his return. As she tries to master her new abilities, Wren knows only one thing for sure. There’s magic in the world—and it’s waiting for her.”

 

This book for youth is another one of many Harry Potter knock-offs. (Where would the world of youth fiction be without the brilliance and originality of J. K. Rowling?) The author does take a different viewpoint but the overall theme is the same – young person, aged 11-13, a bit disenfranchised from kids his/her own age, discovers they’ve been chosen to learn to use magic, off they go to a place away from parents to learn their new magic skills only to find out that some evil magic-user who everyone thought had gone away for good comes back with more evil stuff to do. And in the case of this book, Wren, like Harry, finds she has a connection with the bad guy and he attempts to use her. Hmmm. Maybe I should have said spoiler alert!!! I’m really not giving anything away – the first time the evil dude makes contact with Wren you know it’s the evil dude.

All of that similarity doesn’t mean the book is a bad book. (Are there any bad books?) It just means I’m tired of reading the same basic storyline and will have to look harder for more original books to enjoy. That said, the book ended so abruptly with a cliffhanger, I will be reading the sequel; hopefully this series will be just the two books.

So, do I recommend it? Of course – it’s a story of magic, good versus evil with a different twist involving nursery rhymes and it has a strong female main character. But beware: there is a scene toward the end of the book that was hard for me to read – it involved killing animals. The action doesn’t focus on the gory scene too long – it’s more of a byline, which makes me feel it was a bit gratuitous and unnecessary. I still think most kids will enjoy it; I, however, mostly tolerated it.

3 daises

Rating: 3 out of 5 daisies because while it is a fairly good H.P. knock-off, I was able to stop reading it for 2 days before finally finishing it.

Reviewer:Debby 2 Debby

Shades of Grey: The Road to High Saffron

shades-of-greyShades of Grey: the Road to High Saffron

Jasper Fforde
Viking Penguin, 2009

Excerpt from the dust jacket: “It’s summer, it’s hot, it’s our world, but not as we know it. Entire cities lie buried beneath overgrown fields and forests. Technology from another time litters the landscape, and there is evidence of great upheaval. Welcome to Chromatacia, where for as long as anyone can remember society has been ruled by a Colortocracy. From the underground feedpipes that keep the municipal park green, to the healing hues viewed to cure illness, to a social hierarchy based upon one’s limited color perception, society is dominated by color. In this world, you are what you can see. … In a world of enforced simplification, answers are in short supply, and every question begets another: What was the “Something That Happened”? Why does no one ever return from the long-abandoned village of High Saffron? Where did all the spoons go? Is there more to color than just color? … Utterly original, bizarre, entertaining and thought-provoking, the world and characters in this new work confirm Fforde’s place as one of the most brazen and original literary fantasists of our time.”

So, tell me, did you even understand any of the above? This reading has been the 3rd time I’ve read this book (my first review of it, however) and I still have questions. There are also subtleties I picked up on for the first time during this reading. Maybe to make it easier, let me explain: society is divided by the color you can perceive. Everybody sees in shades of grey with the exception of one color, either primary (red, blue, yellow) or complementary (green, purple, orange). For those unlucky enough to not see any color at all (or minimal color), those folks are the worker-drones of society and are called Greys. The more of your familial color you can see the higher up in society you are – meaning more powerful, more money, more of everything. Marriages are not based on love but on enriching the family hue (the ability to see color fades with each generation unless one of the partners can see a lot of color).

But all is not well in this post-apocalyptic utopia (as few utopias actually are) and the main character, Eddie Russet (a Red) is turning 20 and about to have his whole life planned for him – marriage, career, residence, etc. until he meets a Grey named Jane and she alters his whole life and his perception of society in four short days.

I love this book – as I love all Jasper Fforde’s books. He has a brilliant imagination and he’s the kind of writer that if you like your fiction firmly rooted in reality, you might as well skip him. I finished the book the other afternoon and am still pondering it days later. If you liked Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake series and The Handmaid’s Tale, you’ll probably like this book. My only disappointment is that there are two follow-up books planned but they haven’t been published yet. It’s been a long wait since 2009. But don’t let that stop you from checking out this book. It can stand just fine on its own.

5 daisies a definite 5-daisy rating!!

Debby 2 Debby

Boo-La-La Witch Spa

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Boo-La-La Witch Spa

 

Samantha Berger
Illustrated by Isabel Roxas
Dial Books for Young Readers

 

From the book jacket: “All tuckered out from trick-or-treating? Feeling drained after a seriously strong spell? Come on in to our Fab-BOO Witch Spa! We’ll get the SPOOK back in your step in no time. Relax with a cup of bat-whisker tea and some Candy Corn Flan, and then try our Broom Bristle Facial or a Scalp Rub done by spiders. Our spa treatments are sure to make any young spell-caster feel refreshed, rejuvenated, an positively revolting. Stop in today!”

 

This picture book shows how witches relax after a hard day of witching! A tired young witch and her equally tired black cat arrive at a spa for a little pampering. They are greeted by a gnome and then chooses which treatment to enjoy. They chose such luxuries as a Scarab Skin Scrub, and Eye of Newt Wrap and a nap in a pool of snail drool (yuk!). How about a sauna of hot dragon break and a steam in a sea monster’s lair! The witch and cat have lots of treatments that are wonderful to them but gross to an average human or cat! A the end of the day, the witch has her hair and nails done, picks up a few things in the gift shop and heads home ready for more witchery!

 

Love the illustrations – each two-page spread are richly detailed and on many you have to look close in order not to miss anything. The story is written in clever rhymes with medium-large print. It’s a cute and fun book for early readers to read on their own or to read to the younger ones.

 

Rating: 3 daises

 

Reviewer: Debby Debby 2

 

agnes-vote

Speaking From Among the Bones

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Speaking From Among the Bones
A Flavia De Luce Novel

 

Alan Bradley
Delacorte Press, 2013

 

From the back of the book: “Eleven-year-old amateur detective and ardent chemist Flavia de Luce is used to digging up clues, whether they’re found among the potions in her laboratory or between the pages of her insufferable sister’s diaries. What she is not accustomed to is digging up bodies. Upon the five-hundredth anniversary of Saint Tancred’s death, the English hamlet of Bishop’s Lacey is busily preparing to open its patron saint’s tomb. Nobody is more excited to peek inside the crypt than Flavia, yet what she finds will halt the proceedings dead in their tracks: the body of Mr. Collicutt, the church organist, his face grotesquely and inexplicably masked. Who held a vendetta against Mr. Collicutt, and why would they hide him in such a sacred resting place? The irrepressible Flavia decides to find out. And what she unearths will prove there’s no such thing as an open-and-shut case.”

 

You’ve probably guessed by now that I am a fan of Flavia de Luce. She is funny, brilliant, bold and a real smart-a**. But she is also vulnerable to her sister’s vicious and hurtful attacks – so much so that she alternates between wanting to poison them and wanting to love them. She never really goes through with any of her diabolical plans, but it’s fun to read her plans for them. Her true love are poisons and she thinks about them all the time. I have to share this quote with you, it’s so “Flavia”: “Whenever I’m a little blue I think about cyanide, whose color so perfectly reflects my mood. It is pleasant to think that the manioc plant, which grows in Brazil, contains enormous quantities of the stuff in its thirty pound roots, all of which, unfortunately, is washed away before the residue is used to make our daily tapioca.”

 

In this book, Flavia cycles her way through the English countryside, crawls through an open grave into a tunnel that goes under the graveyard to the church and, of course, is almost killed (she rescues herself!). Through it all she keeps herself motivated even when the police tell her to stay away, when her sisters bring her to tears and her father forbids her to leave the house. The murder itself happens before the book opens, there are a couple acts of mild violence and some shocking news at the very end of the book (no spoilers!). As always, this book is for middle-grade readers of all ages, especially those who like strong female characters and cozy mysteries.

 

Rating: 4-daisy-rating

 

Reviewer: DebbyDebby 2

Castaway Cats

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Castaway Cats

story by Lisa Wheeler and art by Ponder Goembel

A Richard Jackson Book, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2006

 

I have an adorable picture book for you! This is how it starts out – “On an island/in the ocean,/ near the land of Singapore,/midst a storm of great proportion,/ fifteen cats were washed ashore.” There were 7 kittens and 8 adults – a calico tom named Mittens (who has muscles and an anchor tattoo), a Persian Blue, an angora, a bobtail, a beat-up tabby, a pair of Siamese cats, and an orange marmalade. They all must band together if they are to survive on a tiny island in the ocean. At first they look for help to rescue them and then decide they’re on their own. Will they be able to survive?  Will they even be able to get along with each other?

The illustrations are absolutely adorable and the story is told via rhyming poetry.  The print is large enough for early readers to enjoy; there are so larger words that may be difficult at first but every reader needs their vocabulary expanded!

I loved this book – it’s got everything you could want – cats, cats and more cats – plus kittens!; an adventure at sea; a lesson on how to get along with the ones around you and that family doesn’t always mean the folks you were born to!

 

Rating: 4 daisy rating

Reviewer: Debby Debby 2

 

I pulled these images off the internet – they aren’t very good quality – but let that encourage you to check the book out at your library!!