The Plastic Magician

The Plastic Magician is a novel based in the same world as Charlie N. Holmberg’s Paper Magician series.

Alvie Brechenmacher has completed her schooling and arrives in London to begin her apprenticeship in Polymaking, the magic of spelling plastic. It’s a new and exciting form of magic and Alvie is determined to make her name, so when she is assigned to a world renown Polymaker, she is thrilled and ready to get started.

From the start, Alvie and her mentor, Magician Praff, are inspired and together they come up with a new use for plastic that could change the medical world. As the work hard to prepare to present their discovery at an upcoming conference, a string of polymaker lab burglaries, has everyone on edge.

Alvie must use all of her skills to stay one step ahead of the thieves because it turns out that magic is a competitive business and people don’t always play fair.

I like this Victorian version of a world where magicians specialize in different materials. It’s fun and I like the magic and function of the manipulation of these materials. But just like the Paper Magician books, the book wasn’t to die for. I didn’t have to read them but I was entertained while I was doing so. I did really enjoy the nods to the previous books in this one and I bet I would have notice more if I hadn’t read the others so long ago.

I liked Alvie as a character a lot. She was smart and determined and yet insecure and quirky. But the story felt too easy for me. From the moment she met Bennet, there were no real trials in their way. She has a perfect mentor. A budding romance. An easy transition away from home to a beautiful mansion. And most things, societal things excluded, come easy to her.

The plot was also very clean and tidy. No real twists. You could tell, almost from the get-go who was behind the evil doings. There was no real surprise there. Holmberg probably intended the reader to suspect someone else but there really wasn’t enough intrigue to make it happen.

I was entertained even if this book didn’t wow me. So it gets 3 mediocre stars.

That’s all for now!

-M-

TombQuest: Book of the Dead

TombQuest: Book of the Dead is the first book in a juvenile fiction series by Michael Northrop.

Alex is living on borrowed time. He’s a sickly kid, always in and out of the hospital, and no one really knows what’s wrong with him or how long he’s got. When all hope seems lost, desperate, Alex’s mother–a famous Egyptologist–uses a magical medallion, along with the Lost Spells of The Book of the Dead, to restore Alex’s strength and bring him back to life.

But magic always come at a cost and ancient evils have been released into the world. When Alex’s mother goes missing, Alex must take up her medallion and set things back to right. Alive, but totally confused, it is up to Alex, his best friend and an old museum curator to track down evil and get Alex’s mother back. But will they be able to put the cat back in the bag? And if so, at what cost?

I’ve been doing a bunch of reading lately, trying to get some ideas for my STEM book club, which starts up again in the fall, and I thought this might be a neat one with the potential for code breaking or some Egyptology. And while it does have lots of action and is definitely Egypt centric, it doesn’t have enough of that STEM-y goodness for me to use it for my book club.

That being said, it was a fast paced fantasy, that probably pairs really well if you are going to play the accompanying online game. As a standalone, reading for the sake of reading… it was OK. The pace was a little too quick for me. It almost felt like someone was telling me a story over the phone.

I think there is a lot of potential for the book as a series because, theoretically, the reader will uncover what is going on as the main characters do. But a taste was enough for me.  This one gets an average 3 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

Damsel

Damsel by Elana K. Arnold is a young adult “fairy tale” with a dark edge.

Upon the death of the King, his son must face a dragon alone and bring back a damsel. On then can he become the next King of the realm. This is the way things have been done as far back as anyone can remember… Until now.

When Ama wakes in the arms of Prince Emory, she is unaware of the tradition. In fact, she is unaware of anything–who she was, where she came from. She has no recollection of her life prior to waking, naked, in the princes arms. Ama only knows what the prince has told her and when they return to his kingdom, she is celebrated as the damsel rescued from the terrible dragon.

As night falls in the kingdom, Ama has a feeling that not all is right. There is more to this story then she has been told. What is it that Ama doesn’t know and what cost will she pay to reveal it?

All I can really say about this one, was that it was not the book for me. I think it was meant to be this dark little tale about the subjection of women, with very overt metaphors about sexual dominance and abuse, but it just didn’t work for me.

I’ve never read anything by this author before, so maybe I am just not used to her writing style but I found the story awkward and at times forced. I was so surprised by this because I love a good twisty feminist tale and I thought this was going to be a good one, but, like I said, it was not the book for me.

When I started the book and was reading Emory’s narrative in the beginning, I just sat there wondering what on earth I was reading. Then Ama steps in as the protagonist and things did improve but not enough for me to really get into the story.

I feel like this is a love/hate sort of story. You are either going to love it or hate it and unfortunately, I lean toward the latter. This one gets a womp, womp 2 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

The House With Chicken Legs

The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson is a juvenile fiction book for 4-6th grade.

Twelve-year-old Marinka lives in a house with chicken legs and is destined to become a Yaga–someone who guides the dead into the afterlife. She has been in training since birth, guiding the dead alongside her grandmother every night. But the dead make terrible friends.

All Marinka wants is a normal life, with a friend who isn’t dead and who won’t disappear an hour after they meet. So when Marinka has a chance to make a real friend, she jumps at it without thinking about the consequences.

Will Marinka ever find a way to live the life she’s always dreamed of? Or will her actions but the whole world at risk?

I totally have a thing for the Yaga myth–really Russian folklore in general. I’ve read several teen and adult books about takes on Baba Yaga but never a children’s book, which is why I was so excited to pick this one up and it didn’t disappoint.

This book has a lot of heart. You can use it to discuss grief and death, the circle of life, but also responsibilities, being selfish vs. being yourself and even the idea of fate. It isn’t a difficult read, even with the theme of death floating around. There is some light humor and a satisfying conclusion.

I loved the personality of the house itself. For a house, she is very expressive. Marinka on the other hand, was a smidgen annoying in that she doesn’t think things through. But that also, isn’t entirely her fault since the truth had been hidden from her for so long. She did grow by the end, but she also got a pretty good deal if I do say so myself.

This would make a good read for 4-6th graders who like a little bit of magic. This one gets 4 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-

The Earth Keeper’s Gift

The Earth Keeper’s Gift by Tara Langella and Maria Langella Sorgie is a easy reader for 2nd-4th graders but would be a nice, quick read for just about anyone.

Nimue has a special gift; she can communicate with animals and the natural world around her. She feels most at home in the wild, especially with her horse, Cloud. As with most people who are different, Nimue is treated unkindly by her peers, even her parents scold her for “living in a fantasy world.”

When Nimue has an accident in the woods, she wakes up to find that the natural world she so loves is in danger and the only way to save it is to unlock The Earth Keeper’s gift. But unlocking the truth will require Nimue to find her own truth along the way. Can she do it? Or will fear cripple Nimue?

The Earth Keeper’s Gift is unlike any book I’ve ever read before. From the moment you start the first page, you are enmeshed in the story. Don’t expect to be eased in, be ready to jump in right from the get-go.

Above all, I think this book is about the journey toward finding the truth about oneself. With each spirit creature Nimue visits, she learns more about the world around her but more importantly more about herself. This book is setting Nimue up for more adventures. It almost feels like this book is setting the stage for more.

One of the interesting things about this book is how the authors allow us to glimpse Nimue’s “real world” life, without leaving the magic of the forest. We are told that she is crippled, made fun of, and is a strange and lonely child. The reader knows Nimue has a life outside of the forest, but for the purpose of the story, it is on the periphery.

I am intrigued to see where this one is going. A very high 4.5-5 stars from me.

That’s all for now!

-M-