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Every Heart a Doorway (Wayward Children #1) by Seanan McGuire

I’m playing around with this format to see is this might be a way to quickly and easily post short reviews of book that I have read but don’t plan on offering an in-depth review.

I saw Every Heart a Doorway at a local bookstore and added it to my TBR list. Finally borrowed it for Kindle from Libby app and read it. I figured this would be something I enjoy. “Creative spin on classic fairy tale/mythology/speculative fiction trope.”

It was interesting… but unsatisfying somehow.

As is often the case with first books in a series, it felt like a setup that didn’t quite payoff. This is a novella so it really does read like an introduction. It is also like one part speculative fiction, with a heavy dose of paint by numbers “diversity,” and one part murder mystery. I don’t think the two blended very well. My sense is the first aspect is more interesting than the second and thus was undercut by the latter; particularly in the second half of the book.

A Creepy, Atmospheric Young Adult Story From Kevin Wignall

An interesting exploration of teenage relationships within a creepy ghost story.

Speaking of books by longtime friends. OK, maybe that is a slight exaggeration. I have never met Kevin Wignall, unlike Jim Geraghty, but I have been reading his books since 2004 and interacting with him via email and blogs nearly ever since. We are “friends” on Facebook so perhaps that counts nowadays.

Anywhoo… Mr. Wignall recently released a short horror story for young adults, This Place of Evil (he also has another book coming out soon, Those Who Disappeared, but more about that closer to publication).



It was an enjoyable and quick read but definitely not something I would have picked up or read if not for it being written by Kevin. It’s basically an exploration of teenage relationships set against the backdrop of a ghost story in an abandoned school (jock. popular kid, underachiever, girls, etc.).

The backstory, in the form of journal entries from their teacher when he was at the school, continues to provide more context/history interspersed with current events, but the creepiness is really just the perception of what it would be like to be trapped in an old, abandoned building with no way to reach anyone after your teacher just disappeared.

2019 Books in Review: The Neddiad

In an attempt to get back in the rhythm of blogging/reviewing I am recapping some of my favorite books read in 2019.

Book: The Neddiad: How Neddie Took the Train, Went to Hollywood, and Saved Civilization by Daniel Pinkwater

Format: Hardcover

Owned or Borrowed: Owned

Publisher’s Description:

The Neddiad book coverThe old powers try to come back, and the planet is plunged into chaos, and civilization is destroyed, and it gets all violent and evil…the old legends tell that a hero…with the sacred turtle, always…

Los Angeles, California.
Neddie Wentworthstein is the guy with the turtle.
Sandor Eucalyptus is the guy with the jellybean.
Sholmos Bunyip wants the turtle…and he’ll stop at nothing to get it.

This is the story of how Neddie, three good friends, a shaman, a ghost, and a little maneuver known as the French substitution determine the fate of the world.

Why I Read It…

Another habit I have is pursuing library sales looking for books in good condition, books on my TBR list, etc.  Trying to cut back on the ever growing stacks of books I have yet to read I started collecting books for my kids (always hoping we might read books together as a family too).  This was one of those books. Picked it up at a library sale and read it immediately. Good clean fun adventure with interesting characters and a sense of humor. Just what I needed for some stress release reading. Not only did I read it, but both my kids read it and we all really enjoyed it.

The Lost Causes of Bleak Creek by Rhett McLaughlin & Link Neal

My wife, and kids, are big fans of Good Mythical morning, the comedy/entertainment YouTube channel. My wife has been watching it for many, many years and she got the kids into it. I enjoy the show but not with quite the enthusiasm of the rest of the family. But when Rhett and Link have a book out I usually order it for my wife.

Such was the case with The Lost Causes of Bleak Creek, the first novel by the founders of the internet sensation that is all things Mythical. After my wife and daughter read it, I figured I would give it a try.

It’s 1992 in Bleak Creek, North Carolina—a sleepy little place with all the trappings of an ordinary Southern town: two Baptist churches, friendly smiles coupled with silent judgments, and an unquenchable appetite for pork products. Beneath the town’s cheerful façade, however, Bleak Creek teens live in constant fear of being sent to the Whitewood School, a local reformatory with a history of putting unruly youths back on the straight and narrow—a record so impeccable that almost everyone is willing to ignore the suspicious deaths that have occurred there over the past decade.

At first, high school freshmen Rex McClendon and Leif Nelson believe what they’ve been told: that the students’ strange demises were all just tragic accidents, the unfortunate consequence of succumbing to vices like Marlboro Lights and Nirvana. But when the shoot for their low-budget horror masterpiece, PolterDog, goes horribly awry—and their best friend, Alicia Boykins, is sent to Whitewood as punishment—Rex and Leif are forced to question everything they know about their unassuming hometown and its cherished school for delinquents. 

Eager to rescue their friend, Rex and Leif pair up with recent NYU film school graduate Janine Blitstein to begin piecing together the unsettling truth of the school and its mysterious founder, Wayne Whitewood. What they find will leave them battling an evil beyond their wildest imaginations—one that will shake Bleak Creek to its core.

Perhaps not surprisingly for a first novel, it was a little choppy and started slow; a little rough around the edges you might say. It seemed like they were trying to force a little too much of their personality quirks and descriptions into the story and dialogue. Too much tell and not enough show, as they say. But part of that is trying to imagine Rhett and Link as the characters in the story (their names are Rex and Leif).

But once it gets going in has a pretty good pace and there is a flurry of activity and resolution at the end. It does seem to set up a sequel in the Epilogue.

One weird element is that I was unsure who the audience was for this book. Is this Middle Grade, Young Adult, or all ages? Is high school the middle school/starting high school the target since that is the age of the characters? It wasn’t clear reading it. I didn’t find it scary in the least so the horror aspect just felt off. But to be fair, unlike large swaths of the world, I am not a big Stranger Things fan so perhaps that was a missed connection. 1990’s nostalgia and pop cultural references play a big role.

In the end this was an interesting if not particularly gripping story to me. I’m guessing that fans of Rhett and Link have already devoured it and are impatiently waiting for the next book. If you are not a fan of the duo or of Stranger Things type stories not sure how much this will grab you.

Stranger Things carries a lot of cultural weight by itself these days—the legacy of Steven Spielberg, Stephen King, and the many weird movies and books that don’t get the credit they deserve—but these comedy writers have hit that vein hard with this VHS-era kicker that references the Jean-Claude Van Damme movie Kickboxer on the very first page…

Sure, it’s kind of a rip-off, but it’s scary, it’s fun, and it’s one hell of a carnival ride. 

Kirkus

Monsters of Men (Chaos Walking #3) by Patrick Ness

I figured I would continue to slog through my by now substantial backlog of book I have read but not reviewed. And what better place to start then the last book in a series … (book 1 review, book two review)

I enjoyed finishing up this series via audio book. I thought Ness really wrestled with some interesting aspects in Monsters of Men. The story explores ideas like the tension between the quest for peace and the requirements of leadership and self-defense; and issues of trust and betrayal (and the related issue of whether people can truly change).

There was also a nice mix of action and character building and interaction; something that can be a challenge in a series like this.  You could see where things were headed at times but Ness also pulled off some nice unexpected twists.  I thought Mayor/President Prentiss was a particularly engaging and fascinating character right up until the end.

 [WARNING: spoilers below]

I have to say, however, that I was disappointed with the ending. I really think it would have been a powerful conclusion if the story ends on the beach with the Return pondering his actions and the repercussions. The way the book actually ends diluted the power of those events somehow in some sort of attempt to add a happy ending of the possibility of one I guess. Didn’t work for me.

All in all, however, it was a really creative and engaging series with imaginative world building and some powerful characters.  Whether in audio, Kindle or old-fashioned book version,  I recommend the series.

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