Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Review: Happyland: A Fairy Tale in Two Parts

About the Book

Happyland: A Fairy Tale in Two Parts by Tes Mekonnen illustrated by Anthony Resto

GoodReads Description

Would you like to court me to Happyland?" Prince Gobbledygook asks Lily Marshmallow and himself. Therein the journey begins to find Happyland. Follow him as he tries to define happiness with a little help from his friends, Big Wig Sophisticated Pig, Brutus Beaujolais and Cornelius Wordbook, an English gentleman with a book-for-a-head. Prince Gobbledygook duels, loses his ladylove, regains his original name and gains a friendship that will last for fourforevers. Will they make it to Happyland?

My Thoughts

Before I really get into the meaty part of this review, can we please just stare in awe at that cover?!?!?  I am absolutely in love with it and with all of the art in this book!  Resto can start designing tattoos for me whenever he wants! It's gorgeous!

Although the illustrations could tell the story by themselves, Mekonnen did a wonderful job writing a story to give Resto something to draw.  The diction put me off from the story at the very beginning, but the more that I read, the more I understood. I felt like I was reading a different version of Slaughterhouse Five because of the way the word choice affected my understanding.  It definitely takes some willingness to be imaginative and childlike to read this book.

The novel is filled with a plethora of witty word plays.  These kept me giggling the entire way through.  I won't spoil any of them now, but I do want to congratulate Mekonnen on the ability to be so funny in such an already goofy tale.  If Mekonnen is nervous about adding flair to his writing, he did not show it in this piece!

My favorite part of this novel, and the reason this book will most likely find its way into my classroom library, is because of the wonderful morals that are presented at the end of every chapter.  Mekonnen takes the time to give not only an example, he spells out the moral for the audience.  I admire his ability to find the moral in the fun.

By far, my favorite character was Prince Gobbledygook!  He was an absolute gentleman who wanted nothing more than happiness for himself and his love.  Such a sweet guy!  Despite his positive qualities, he had a few obvious flaws.  These definitely brought his character from the page to real life.

With every favorite character comes a least favorite-Prince Hobo.  Jiminy Christmas!  What an annoying pain in the neck!  I spent a lot of time hoping that he would just shut his trap and go away.  Although that happens, it's a bit too close to the last page of the novel for my taste.

Mekonnen did a wonderful job spelling out most of the lessons he hopes to teach by this novel but there is one thing that I cannot figure out.  Throughout the novel, Lily is the only female present.  She is portrayed as a weak, aloof, and unintelligent woman who needs a man to be happy.  She is not seen as a person by the two princes, but rather as an item or a piece of property to be won.  I am not sure what Mekonnen was trying to do here.  Is this Mekonnen's way of stating that is his belief of women?  Is it simply an artistic choice to make Lily seem like the protagonist when all along Prince Gobbledygook is the important one?  Is Lily simply there to illustrate the growth that Prince Gobbledygook goes through as he seeks happiness?  I like to think that it's the latter.

Overall, I enjoyed this book!  I definitely recommend it to fans of Kurt Vonnegut Jr. and Lewis Carroll.

My Rating

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Review: The Merciless

About the Book

Published by Razorbill on June 9, 2015

GoodReads Description

Brooklyn Stevens sits in a pool of her own blood, tied up and gagged. No one outside of these dank basement walls knows she’s here. No one can hear her scream.

Sofia Flores knows she shouldn’t have gotten involved. When she befriended Riley, Grace, and Alexis on her first day at school, she admired them, with their perfect hair and their good-girl ways. They said they wanted to save Brooklyn. They wanted to help her. Sofia didn’t realize they believed Brooklyn was possessed.

Now, Riley and the girls are performing an exorcism on Brooklyn—but their idea of an exorcism is closer to torture than salvation. All Sofia wants is to get out of this house. But there is no way out. Sofia can’t go against the other girls...unless she wants to be next.

By the shockingly twisted end, readers will be faced with the most haunting question of all: Is there evil in all of us?

My Thoughts

The Merciless is definitely a difficult book to review.  After all, it was everything I expected it to be. Each of the reviews that I read likened it to Mean Girls and those reviewers were most definitely not exaggerating.

Let's start with the positives.  Vega definitely pays attention to detail!  She wants her audience to feel the mental pain and physical anguish the characters go through, and she does not spare any effort, verb, or adjective in this endeavor.  I was truly impressed with her writing style in this area.

However, I did not enjoy this book very much overall.  Many of the characters felt rushed and underdeveloped and even though I just finished this book a week ago, I remember very little of the plot.  I remember enough to know that I would not purchase this series for my classroom library as many of the parents would be upset by the graphic violence and religious themes.

Many of the reviewers who spoke about this book mentioned the surprise ending.  I'd like to take a moment to do exactly that.  The ending is the part of this book that I remember the best.  The insane character development and added suspense delighted me.  Despite these positive portions, I cannot ignore the fact that the ending seemed too drawn out and felt too easily pulled together.  It was as if Vega was so exhausted by her efforts to create imagery that she was unable to create a terrific denouement.

In fact, the ending of this book encouraged me to give the second book in the series a chance.  I made it through 109 pages before I chose to DNF.  This was largely because I felt that, again, the characters and plot were underdeveloped and flat.

I would recommend this book to fans of Mean Girls and to individuals who are seeking short term, thoughtless entertainment.  

My Rating

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Review: Alex Approximately

About the Book

Published by Simon Pulse on April 4, 2017

GoodReads Description

The one guy Bailey Rydell can’t stand is actually the boy of her dreams—she just doesn’t know it yet.

Classic movie fan Bailey “Mink” Rydell has spent months crushing on a witty film geek she only knows online as Alex. Two coasts separate the teens until Bailey moves in with her dad, who lives in the same California surfing town as her online crush.

Faced with doubts (what if he’s a creep in real life—or worse?), Bailey doesn’t tell Alex she’s moved to his hometown. Or that she’s landed a job at the local tourist-trap museum. Or that she’s being heckled daily by the irritatingly hot museum security guard, Porter Roth—a.k.a. her new archnemesis. But life is a whole lot messier than the movies, especially when Bailey discovers that tricky fine line between hate, love, and whatever it is she’s starting to feel for Porter.

And as the summer months go by, Bailey must choose whether to cling to a dreamy online fantasy in Alex or take a risk on an imperfect reality with Porter. The choice is both simpler and more complicated than she realizes, because Porter Roth is hiding a secret of his own: Porter is Alex…Approximately.

My Thoughts

Alex, Approximately is another one of those student suggested books.  Again, by a tenth grader (I'm glad they're reading, but I wish my other classes would suggest books!)  This time, though, I told the girl she was nuts.  There was no way I would like this book.  Nevertheless, she persisted.

So, I took it home.  I cuddled up under the heaviest blankets I could find in my apartment and read the first two chapters.  I fell asleep before the second one was done.  The next day, I brought the book back to school and promptly handed it back to my student.  Again, I insisted that she was wrong and that this just wasn't the right type of book for me. Again, she persisted.  "No, Ms. J! Seriously!  You have to give it like six more chapters!  You have to try more.  It was so bad in the beginning for me too but it gets soooooooooooooo much better!"

How the heck do you say no to a high school student with bright eyes begging you to finish a book, no matter how much you hated the first two chapters.  Well, I couldn't.  Maybe there's just a better person for the job?

Anyway, the moral of this story is to listen to your students.  Apparently, mine know me better than I think they do.

Despite its slow beginning, Alex, Approximately was a rather delightful read.  Once the story really gets rolling, it's difficult to put it down for even a moment!  Bennett makes her audience want to read and read and read and read some more!

Bennett introduces her audience to a remarkably dull world in which a plethora of exciting things happen.  I love that she chooses to include a variety of museums in her writing!  Not only does this idea bring a new perspective to "dry" and "boring" museums, it introduces the kids to some other places that they may like to explore! I love that Bennett is able to confront kids with this new idea in such a fun book!

Bennett also has a remarkable talent for truly bringing her characters to life.  She is unafraid of showing both men and women at their best and worst.  She shows them when they're terrified, when they're in love, and when they are laughing and happy with friends.  My favorite character was definitely Porter.  He was such a gentleman and the way that he cares so much about Bailey really touched my heart.

However, the end of this novel was rather hastily wrapped up.  I believe that Bennett had the opportunity to do so much more with this book and she let it fall to the wayside. 

Overall, this was a very cute book.  I definitely recommend it to fans of Stephanie Meyer or Gayle Forman.

My Rating