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Tag: adventure

Benice: An Adventure of Love and Friendship by Metin Karayaka

I’m trying to make sense of my reaction to Benice: An Adventure of Love and Friendship by Metin Karayaka. This is normally something I would love: middle grade adventure story with classic fairy tale style and illustrations; and a positive message as a bonus. Which is why I grabbed it from NetGalley.

But while I enjoyed it (3 stars), I wasn’t wowed like so many NetGalley and Goodreads reviewers. But first, plot teaser:

Levend is just twelve when he meets Mr. Ben Ice, a gruff fisherman whose peg leg, eyepatch and hook hand all but prove a lifetime of piracy. But life in Yalova is hard, and if this intimidating figure can help Levend support his family, then he’ll gladly accompany him on the fishing trip of a lifetime – even if it’s packed with more danger, adventure and friendship than either of them could ever have expected.

As Levend discovers more and more about his would-be captain, he becomes embroiled in a dangerous pirate feud, a hunt for sunken treasure, and the chance to forge friendships that will last a lifetime – even if that only means the next few minutes. Confronted by timeless love and shocking betrayal, Levend must decide who he can trust and who’ll make him walk the plank.

The first caveat I should make is that it is middle grade fiction and it might be the case that I am not that good a judge of books in this genre. I really should read it to my kids or have them read it and give me feedback …

But there was something about it that just didn’t connect with me. I found the flashback storytelling and the multiple perspectives confusing at times and many of the characters were thin and undeveloped. I didn’t feel like everything fit together and the world made sense. It was like you were dropped into this world from another culture and the backstory and history was left out. Again, this could be part of the middle grade audience.

I think the key to enjoying a book like this is to suspend disbelief and dive in, reading it in large chunks. I read it at night before falling asleep and it could be that this made it more disjointed. Who knows? Kirkus called it a “A Treasure Island for the modern era, recommended for middle-grade readers and fans of pirate-adventure tales.” But then again, my daughter did not care for Treasure Island …

I will leave it to you dear readers to decide if this is the type of book for you and your family:

A middle-grade bedtime storybook written and illustrated in the tradition of classics. While adventures teach boys and girls importance of family and friendship in their lives, adults will love the good lessons about not making the wrong decisions when life offers challenges.

If you are a Kindle user, it is currently $2.99 so low risk …

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

On one of our many trips the local library I found myself in the kids/young adult section hanging out while my kids used the computers or browsed for new books.  I stumbled on the audio book section and figured this was a good time to pick out a book to listen to in the car. I had tried some more serious non-fiction of late, to mixed results, and figured some creative YA might be just the thing to make the commute more enjoyable.

As luck would have it, my inspiration paid off. I had been wanting to read the Fairyland series by Catherynne M. Valente for some time and figured listening to the audio version would  be the next best thing. So I grabbed The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making and added it to our pile. When the work week started I popped it in and began my adventure.

If you are unfamiliar with the story here is the publisher’s blurb:

Twelve-year-old September lives in Omaha, and used to have an ordinary life, until her father went to war and her mother went to work. One day, September is met at her kitchen window by a Green Wind (taking the form of a gentleman in a green jacket), who invites her on an adventure, implying that her help is needed in Fairyland. The new Marquess is unpredictable and fickle, and also not much older than September. Only September can retrieve a talisman the Marquess wants from the enchanted woods, and if she doesn’t . . . then the Marquess will make life impossible for the inhabitants of Fairyland. September is already making new friends, including a book-loving Wyvern and a mysterious boy named Saturday.

I have to say I enjoyed this book immensely from start to finish and gave it the rare Five Stars on Goodreads. (In fact, when it was over I panicked a little and rushed to the library to grab what I thought was the next book in the series so there wouldn’t be any gap in my listening pleasure. But I accidentally picked up the third not second book.

Bluntly, I loved everything about this audio book. The story is a wonderful blend of fairytale, epic quest, and fantasy adventure. It is full of gorgeous language, imaginative characters and world building and a unique combination of hilarity and human wisdom and compassion. Everything is just right: the blend of action and character, the balance between world building and language, and the mix of friendship, adventure and tragedy gives it a depth and beauty that is rare these days.

To top it all off, the author herself reads it in just the most perfect voice (or voices) I could imagine. [I will admit I developed something of a crush on her during the process of listening to this book in the car.]

It was just an amazing experience to dive into this world and the characters Valente has created. I never wanted to get out of the car but wished instead I could embark on a long journey so as to continue listening to the story and the voice spinning the tale.

This has immediately jumped to the top of my list of young adult fantasy books. Which is interesting because I wasn’t exactly blown away by Six Gun Snow White.  As soon as my daughter is a little older I will be reading it again with her. It has the sound and feel of a classic to be read and enjoyed for years and years. Not sure why it took me so long to start the series but I am glad I finally did.

So if you have not yet experienced this amazing series, what are you waiting for?

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

On one of our many trips the local library I found myself in the kids/young adult section hanging out while my kids used the computers or browsed for new books.  I stumbled on the audio book section and figured this was a good time to pick out a book to listen to in the car. I had tried some more serious non-fiction of late, to mixed results, and figured some creative YA might be just the thing to make the commute more enjoyable.

As luck would have it, my inspiration paid off. I had been wanting to read the Fairyland series by Catherynne M. Valente for some time and figured listening to the audio version would  be the next best thing. So I grabbed The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making and added it to our pile. When the work week started I popped it in and began my adventure.

If you are unfamiliar with the story here is the publisher’s blurb:

Twelve-year-old September lives in Omaha, and used to have an ordinary life, until her father went to war and her mother went to work. One day, September is met at her kitchen window by a Green Wind (taking the form of a gentleman in a green jacket), who invites her on an adventure, implying that her help is needed in Fairyland. The new Marquess is unpredictable and fickle, and also not much older than September. Only September can retrieve a talisman the Marquess wants from the enchanted woods, and if she doesn’t . . . then the Marquess will make life impossible for the inhabitants of Fairyland. September is already making new friends, including a book-loving Wyvern and a mysterious boy named Saturday.

I have to say I enjoyed this book immensely from start to finish and gave it the rare Five Stars on Goodreads. (In fact, when it was over I panicked a little and rushed to the library to grab what I thought was the next book in the series so there wouldn’t be any gap in my listening pleasure. But I accidentally picked up the third not second book.

Bluntly, I loved everything about this audio book. The story is a wonderful blend of fairytale, epic quest, and fantasy adventure. It is full of gorgeous language, imaginative characters and world building and a unique combination of hilarity and human wisdom and compassion. Everything is just right: the blend of action and character, the balance between world building and language, and the mix of friendship, adventure and tragedy gives it a depth and beauty that is rare these days.

To top it all off, the author herself reads it in just the most perfect voice (or voices) I could imagine. [I will admit I developed something of a crush on her during the process of listening to this book in the car.]

It was just an amazing experience to dive into this world and the characters Valente has created. I never wanted to get out of the car but wished instead I could embark on a long journey so as to continue listening to the story and the voice spinning the tale.

This has immediately jumped to the top of my list of young adult fantasy books. Which is interesting because I wasn’t exactly blown away by Six Gun Snow White.  As soon as my daughter is a little older I will be reading it again with her. It has the sound and feel of a classic to be read and enjoyed for years and years. Not sure why it took me so long to start the series but I am glad I finally did.

So if you have not yet experienced this amazing series, what are you waiting for?

Empire of Bones (Ashtown Burials #3) by N.D. Wilson

Trying to keep up with N.D. Wilson is not easy. I am working my way through Death by Living but decided I couldn’t wait any longer for the latest in the Ashtown Burials series so grabbed Empire of Bones on the Kindle. In the meantime, he has come out with Boys of Blur.  As I said, I am behind.

Anywho, Empire of Bones:

Cyrus and Antigone Smith have thwarted Dr. Phoenix’s plans—for the moment. They’ve uncovered a new threat from the transmortals and managed to escape with their lives. Their next adventure will take them deep into the caves below Ashtown, where they will look for help from those imprisoned in one of Ashtown’s oldest tombs.

I had a weird sense of deja vu as I finished up this book. So I went back and read my review of the second book in the series, The Drowned Vault:

I am a bit torn on this book.  On the one hand, if you read the first book in the series this one further develops the characters and adds in a lot of action.  You get a deeper sense of the conflict and history involved and the mythology of the series.

On the other hand, in classic Wilson style the writing is great but the story is often complex, messy and so layered as to risk confusion.  And at times the action seems at the expense of clarity.

Yep, remarkably similar reaction to the third book.  And like the last book, Kirkus had a critical review:

The book is practically one long battle as the Smiths and their companions use fantastical weapons and powers to save Ashtown and thus the world. Despite attempts at gender equity, Cyrus’ story takes precedence. One newcomer, an Irish monk nicknamed Niffy (his real name is Boniface), is developed enough to become interesting, but few are on stage long enough for readers to get attached, and many characters from previous books are killed. Though not particularly gory, this is full of disturbing images, and the humor that marked the first book is almost completely absent. This middle volume of a planned five is for fans only.

I suppose that last sentence may very well be true, but as Wilson has a great many fans that is not as big of a criticism as it may seem.

And also as with the second book, I think this is a tad harsh.  I think Alissa J. Bach, in School Library Journal gets at why:

 “Ashtown Burials,” with its unique patchwork of history and mythology, effortlessly holds its own among works by such modern fantasy greats as Rick Riordan and J.K. Rowling. Character building is exceptional, and the fast-paced plot will keep readers glued to the pages. A must-have.

First, there is lots of action and a great mix of mythology and fantasy – “unique patchwork of history and mythology” is key here. And many sill find that enjoyable.

Second, Wilson writes dense and lively prose always barreling forward mixing in character development when he can and plot and backstory on occasion. For that reason it can be something of an acquired taste. It is complex, multi-layered, and hyperactive. Those looking for straightforward plot and character development might be frustrated.

But I love Wilson’s imagination and his ability to mix classical myth and archetype, biblical language and symbolism, and his own creative ideas. This makes up for the lack of plot at times and characters without of a lot of depth.  And I do think you have to figure in the young adult genre here as well.

So the style might not be for everyone, and this certainly is not a book you can read without having read the first two, but there is a great deal of imagination, action and stirring writing packed in.  That made it enjoyable for me. Your mileage may vary.

Timothy and the Dragon's Gate by Adrienne Kress

Timothy and the Dragon's GateTimothy and the Dragon’s Gate is an interesting take on a sequel.  One that I confess I can’t recall reading before.  It isn’t until nearly half-way into the book that the central character from Alex and the Ironic Gentleman enters the story.

Instead the first half, as you might expect, focuses on the titular Timothy.  From the publisher’s blurb:

Timothy Freshwater’s father can’t control him, his mother is always out of town, and now the boy too smart for his own good has been expelled from the last school in the city. After he meets Mr. Shen, a mysterious Chinese mailroom clerk at his father’s office, Timothy winds up in more trouble than he has ever gotten himself into.

It turns out the diminutive Mr. Shen is a dragon. Forced to take human shape for a thousand years, Mr. Shen cannot resume his true form until he scales an ancient Dragon’s Gate during a festival for the 125th year of the dragon. Now Timothy finds himself Mr. Shen’s latest keeper: stalked by a ninja, and chased by a menacing trio of black taxicabs.

And therin lies the rub, as they say (do they really say that?).  Allow me to cowardly pass of my own critism on to someone else by quoting Kirkus:

Sporting a chip on his shoulder the size of a sequoia while being prone to both snotty behavior and fits of rage, Timothy makes an annoying protagonist.

Yes, I too found Timothy to be an annoying protagonist but Kirkus said it better in one sentence.

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