The Golden Yarn
A Mirror World Novel
Breathing Books, 2015
This is the third book in the Jacob Reckless, Mirror World Series. Reckless is basically a treasure hunter from our world who passes through a mirror into an alternate world where the humans coexist with otherworldly/magical creatures such Goyl (a race of people with stone skin), fairies, thumblings (teeny people), shape shifters and all sorts of other magical stuff. Through the series of three books the reader follows Jacob as he goes back and forth between worlds.
I read the first two books several years ago (Reckless
) and from what I can remember enjoyed them a lot. But this third book I have struggled through – if I had read the first two books again and then read The Golden Yarn
, my opinion on the book might be different, but that’s not what I did, so I can only review what I did read. This book cannot stand alone – it is intricately tied in with the second of the three books – the main characters of both Jacob and Fox (a shape shifting human woman who changes into a fox) have deep issues with the events of the 2nd
book and this book doesn’t explain what happened to them. Nor does it explain what happened to Will, Jacob’s brother, in that book, only that he has issues recovering from those events as well.
This is another one of those books that I really hoped it would be a wonderful fantasy, one to lose myself in and get swept up in the magic. But considering I put the book down for 5 days and didn’t even think about reading it – well, that tells me a lot doesn’t it? As I was reading it today (I’m 3/4s of the way through) – I asked myself “why am I reading this?” I was lost, having forgotten what had happened. Anyway, you don’t need to know all of that.
Suffice it to say, I didn’t finish it. I’m not saying it’s good or bad – just uninteresting. Which means its a no daisy rating.
Reserved for the Cat
An Elemental Masters Novel
Daw Books, 2007
Ninette, a young dancer with the Paris Opera Ballet is let go for being too good and upstaging the company’s star dancer. Destitute in turn-of-the-20th-century Paris could only mean prostitution for unless she can go to work for another dance company. Unfortunately she is unable to find work, so having nothing else to lose, she follows the instructions of the tabby cat she has been looking after. The cat, Thomas, is able to communicate with her through thoughts and guides her to Blackpool, England where, through a series of magical events, hard work and a bit of lying, she becomes known as the Russian prima ballerina, Nina Tchereslavsky. Unluckily for her and the magicians (aka Elemental Masters) she attracts the attention of the real Nina Tchereslavsky, who comes after Ninette with a pure evil vengeance.
This book has a lot going for it – sympathetic protagonist, talkative cat, handsome magicians all around and a thoroughly evil enemy. So I thought I would love it – but I didn’t. It feels as if the book—the story–,wants to be special, wants to be amazing and wants to be outstanding but doesn’t quite meet the mark. I’m not quite sure why – maybe it’s all the extraneous detail of some characters and virtually no detail in others. Maybe because the villain tries too hard to be evil. Maybe it’s the magicians, supposedly masters of their craft, are duped by the evil all the way through the book and spend most of the time talking about how they’re going to get the villain without ever having actually doing it. Maybe when the magicians perform their magic, the reader is in another room with Ninette for her own safety. And maybe it’s when Ninette actually defeats the evil – with virtually no help from the magicians, she gives all the credit to Thomas the Cat, because, “What knight in shining armor likes to turn up to discover the princess has rescued herself and slain the dragon?” That really bugs me. I could understand that statement if the book was published in 1957 but it was published in 2007, for goodness sake!!
Anyway, I really want to give the book a rating of 2 out of 5 daisies, but it wasn’t that bad. The story was a good one, and the author did try. Instead, I’m giving it a rating of 3 out of 5 daisies. Middle-of-the-road score for a middle-of-the-road book.
(written and illustrated by) William Joyce
MoonBot Book, A Caitlyn Dlouhy Book, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2016
From the book jacket: “In the secret realm of toys there are many mysteries. There is the Code of the Toys, which is as ancient as childhood. There’s also the magic of becoming a child’s favorite, the highest honor in the Toy World. Billy’s mother made Ollie by hand. He was a toy who would matter. He becomes Billy’s best friend, confidant, pal, and yes, Billy’s “favorite.” But there are villains in the Toy World, and Zozo, the clown king, is the most feared. He and his toy henchmen (the Creeps) have sworn to steal and imprison favorite toys until they forget their children and become forever lost. When Ollie is toynapped, Billy must rescue his beloved favorite from Zozo’s subterranean lair in the Dark Carnival Place, past the park, through the woods, and into the night. Never has a journey of ten blocks been more epic.”
Sounds awesome, right? Well, it was! I wasn’t sure at first because the story is told mainly through Ollie’s point of view and I will admit, even with my vivid imagination it was a little hard to get it into my head that toys think, talk, and move on their own. But after the first couple of chapters I could hardly put it down. Billy, who is around 6 years old, is very brave (and very naughty) for going out on his own in the middle of the night to find his lost Ollie. All the while, Ollie is desperately trying to get back to him and rescue all the other lost toys.
Written for the early reader set, this 295-page book will take them a while to get through but it is well worth it. It would also make for good reading to children at bedtime, a one or two chapters a night to savor the “A-venture” Ollie goes on. There is sadness along the way and Zozois mean and does mean things to other toys (but not too mean). There is also love, hope and friendship as well. The illustrations are both poignant and sweet. We recommend this book for any kitten (or grown-up) who has a favorite toy and will cherish it forever. (Mom still has her favorite teddy bear from when she was a child- see it below.)
My well-loved teddy bear – Favorite Toy
Egg & Spoon
Candlewick Press, 2014
Do you remember reading Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper? Well this fantasy novel is a take on that theme – a poor Russian peasant girl trades places with a girl of privilege on her way to be introduced to the Tsar.
Elena Rudina lives in a dying town where her father lies in an unmarked grave, her mother lies dying of illness and starvation and her brothers taken, one by a rich landlord and the other by the Russian Army. She and the town are starving slowly because there is no food and no one to harvest it if it were growing. Into this impoverished life comes Ekaterina “Cat” de Robichaux, who knows nothing of the constant pang of hunger or of a life without possibility. Through a series of accidents they end up switching places – but not by choice. Elena goes on to meet the Tsar and Cat meets the Russian witch, Baba Yaga and her Dumb Doma, or her house perched on chicken legs. In St Petersburg the two girls are reunited and join Baba Yaga on a journey to find out why the magic has gone out of the world. Through this journey both girls learn life lessons about generosity of spirit, the dangers of neediness and selfishness, and the joy of giving.
I did enjoy this book way more than the previous Maguire book I read (After Alice). It was still kind of fantastical and crazy but toned down for the youth audience it was written for. The author shows his skills here – I could feel the haunting cold and hopelessness Elena felt and was angered along with her when Cat ate only half an apple and threw the rest away and bragged about leaving almost all her food on her plate. What cruel things to say to a starving person standing not 3 feet from you! It was harder to identify with Cat, or feel for her because she was so arrogant and snooty; but the mighty do fall and fall she did. But, as it is a youth book, the fall was only so far!
By combining the rich man/poor man switcharoo scheme with the Baba Yaga folklore, Maguire has written a book that is fun to read and like life, just a little crazy!
This review also published on Library of Cats under the non de plume, ‘BobbieSue’.