Showing posts with label Adam Maxwell. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Adam Maxwell. Show all posts

Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Way to Bea by Kat Yeh

Rating: WORTHY!

Being a big fan of well-done plays on words, I loved the title of this book and I also loved the book itself. It was a smart, well-written and beautifully-plotted work, and the main character was a strong female who is a good role model. She's is very withdrawn when the novel starts, but comes out of her shell naturally and admirably as the story grows.

Bea (Beatrix) is a schoolgirl poet of Taiwanese extraction, but she is painfully shy, and sensitive to people noticing her. She tries to be invisible but she also wants to be involved with the school paper for the experience, yet she doesn't want her poetry to appear in it! In short, she is trapped in a strange maze of her own making, and she needs to find her way out. It's fortuitous then, that she starts forming a friendship with an autistic boy (maybe Asperger's) who also works at the paper and whose ambition she learns, is to navigate a private labyrinth.

He likes to keep files to help him categorize things, and he's very precise in all his thoughts and behaviors, so he lectures Bea on the difference between a maze and a labyrinth. Since the labyrinth is private and no one is allowed in there except the family which owns it, he is a bit at a loss as to how to go about it, although very exacting in his plans where he can make them. Bea discovers a secret that will give them an 'in' to the labyrinth, and this is where things begin to unravel and Bea really needs to step-up to save the day. She does not fail.

I love the way Bea is very physical about her poems - mostly haiku which were fun - writing the words in the air before her as the poem materializes, working through the beats and the rhythm. Unfortunately, this gets her noticed, so she starts writing them in invisible ink and posting them in a hole in a wall in the woods near the school. It's only when someone starts writing back that she is jolted out of her private world. So she is dealing with her shyness, her loss of a dear friend who now seems to be hanging out with a new crowd, and the arrival of new people in her life with whom she does not know how to interact.

I loved the characters in the newspaper office, and how they were very individual and slightly quirky and how they all interfaced with one another. I am glad the book did not say 'quirky' in the blurb because I immediately walk away from books that do and tell them to go jump into Lake Woebegone as I leave, but this was just the right amount of quirk to appeal to me without being idiotic or painful in how hard it was trying. The story was wonderfully-written and well-worth reading.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Wraithborn Redux by Marcia Chen, Joe Benitez, Joe Weems, Victor Llamas, Studio F, Mike Garcia

Rating: WARTY!

Note that this is from an advance review copy for which I thank the publisher.

I should have paid more attention to the 'redux' portion of this title! It makes me wonder what went wrong with the first one that necessitated this one. For me, this one failed also, and there were multiple reasons for it. One was that it offered nothing new, and brought nothing original to this genre's table. Worse than this, we have a supposedly heroic female main character who is always in need of rescue. It was pretty sad.

Add to that the absurd over-sexualization of every single female character who appeared in this story - except of course the designated "Fat One" who actually only looked 'fat' because all other females in the story were anorexic everywhere except for their breasts. There was school-bullying running rife with no teachers in sight. There were trope cliques and not a single thing that was fresh or refreshing to read. Overall, it was a decidedly pathetic effort at redux-ing trope and cliché. And that was just the school. The demons and those which controlled them were no better and no more inventive.

Just how many warmed-over tropes were there here? Almost too many to count. We have the designated hero raised and trained by eastern monks. There was a twist to this: that the untrained unsuspecting girl gets the power he was trained for, and this is what attracted me to this story, but even that twist was a fail in the final analysis because this girl was so clueless and so helpless. Even when she began to warm up to her role, she was still completely lackluster and unappealing.

In her we had the semi-orphaned nondescript girl who's a nervous wreck, and who's bullied by cheerleaders! Seriously? Who can't kick a cheerleader's ass?! This girl, Melanie, has your standard quirky, supportive friend. There's a red under the bed (literally red-haired here), and demon dogs which came straight out of the Alien movie series. They were not the only movie rip-off. Kalin, the guy who was supposed to be the wraithborn dude, is a rip-off of Kylo Ren, right down to the first initial, the sword, the black robes, and the ridiculous and totally unnecessary face mask. Seriously?

These morons fight with swords when a machine gun would have done a better job on the Alien dogs in a tenth of the time. What the hell is wrong with these writers and artists? Sword-fighting dudes and pneumatic females? Please! Get a life! Get a clue. Come up with something truly original. Then you won't have to wonder why your comic isn't selling. This one was crap and I certainly do not recommend it. In fact it's comic books like this that make me think it's worth petitioning not for a maturity rating aimed at those who read the comic, but a maturity rating for those who write and illustrate the thing so I get some advance warning of what I'm getting into.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Witch With The Glitch by Adam Maxwell

Rating: WORTHY!

Note, this is not to be confused with Glitch of a Witch by Pat Hatt, or The Witch Hits a Glitch by Elizabeth Schram, or Witch Glitch by Robyn Peterman, or Witch Glitch by Leslie Goldman! Yes, the title is way overused already.

Illustrated here and there by Dale Maloney, this novel aimed at middle-graders is highly amusing and very entertaining. It's decidedly British, so there may be a reference here and there that you won't get unless you're familiar with Brit slang, but for the most part it's very accessible no matter where you're from, as long as you're an English speaker, of course!

This story is part of the "Lost Bookshop Adventure" series. I read the first one (The Search for the Sheriff's Star) back in September last year and reviewed it favorably. In this adventure, the two girls and the boy travel through the dusty closet into fairy tale land, inhabited by a green witch. Abraham van Helsing is there too, but the problem is that each of our adventurers is adversely affected by an errant spell tossed out by the irritated witch.

One of them ends up as a ghost, another as a vampire, and the poor boy as a werewolf. They have only until midnight to resolve the witches problem and become transformed back to their usual selves, or stay that way forever! I loved the unruly but clueless mob who set out carry not pitchforks, but cushions and so on! Did you know, also, that owls and bats do not really get along? I was very entertained by the continually changing story and the predicaments these three kids got themselves into - but they never gave up. I recommend this one.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Search for the Sheriff's Star a Lost Bookshop Adventure by Adam Maxwell

Rating: WORTHY!

I wanted to read this because it was about time travel - my favorite sci-fi subject. That was a mistake. Not reading it, but thinking of it as sci-fi. It's better to think of this not as science fiction, but as fairy-tale fantasy, so when these three children time-travel back to the Old West, it's actually better to think of them visiting 'cowboyland', wherein exists talking horses and goofy villains (including some genuine Old West lily-livered varmints!). Viewed in that light, and one major issue aside, I considered this a worthy read for the age range at which it's aimed, which is young children.

This is volume two in a series, but you don't have to have read volume one to enjoy this, although it would help to fill in some background. Nina, Ivy, and Oswald are friends who help out in an old bookstore called "Lost Books". It's a dusty, rambling old place, with twisty passages and multiple small rooms. I actually knew a bookstore like this one once, but in the place I knew, there was no miraculous key to a secretive door wherein lay magic books which could transport you to wonderful places, I'm sorry to report. At least not one that I was aware of....

In this adventure, the three kids go to Dakota's Bluff, but there's no indication as to where exactly it's supposed to be. We're told that it's hot, but the Dakotas (North and South) do not get particularly hot, even in July. However, the mid-eighties would feel hot to a British visitor. Maybe Dakota's Bluff was in another state, but Wachiwi, the name of an important character, native American girl, in this story, is a Sioux name, and the Dakota/Lakota Sioux were resident in this region. The girl's name means 'dancer', so maybe her full name was Wachiwi with Wolves? LOL!

The problem in this town is Rude Robbie and his gang, who want to raze the town to build a gun factory. Rude Robbie's idea of a gun is a more like a Nerf gun - but which spits out gooey custard-like "bullets". Nina becomes the new sheriff, and her two pals become deputies. Also deputized is Wachiwi . The four to them plan to track down the jewel-encrusted gold sheriff's star, which is of such value that the town people would be able to buy the entire town outright and scotch Robbie's villainous scheme. In order to do this, they must follow a map, overcome snake-oil salesmen, bandits, and traps, and deliver the star back to the mayor of the town.

I had a few issues, but overall I liked the story. I liked that Wachiwi educated the trio that not all native Americans lived in tipis (although actually, the Sioux did! They were the earliest example of mobile homes in the USA!). The explanation here was much simplified, but depending on the tribe, they also lived in houses - although the houses were not quite like those you might imagine from the towns depicted in your standard western movie; they were longhouses and wigwams, and so on, of many designs and construction materials.

Here's an interesting writing issue. When you make up a word, do you feel a need to follow established rules or do you simply make up what you want and damn the torpedoes? I bring this up because there's a non-word used in this story: correctamundo. Since it isn't really a word, although it's often used, does the spelling matter? Should it be 'correctimundo' or 'correctamondo'? I think If I'd written it, the way I would have done it would be to use the same spelling as the one in the book, but substitute an 'i' for the 'a' in the middle there. I have no valid reason for spelling it that way. I think maybe I'm thinking of Connecticut, and using the 'i' because of that, which is a nonsensical reason for it, but it just seems to fit better to me. In the end, does it matter? I think it's worth thinking about. For an odd word here and there, I don't think it does matter, but if you're making up some sort of foreign language for use in your story, then it really ought to matter about spelling and verbs, and rules for forming words. Just a thought from the writing perspective!

My biggest beef was that native Americans were not treated well during this era, and any young "Indian" girl running into a store would be unlikely to be shielded from a white man chasing her. She'd likely be denounced as a potential thief. Any native American taking horses would likely be summarily shot, yet Wachiwi takes four and no one says a word. Maybe these horses belonged to her tribe, but no mention is made of this. It would have been nice to have had some word in this story about how poorly these people (along with Asians and African Americans) were treated, but there is none here. Everyone is friends and buddies. That's not to say there were not such relationships, but those were not the norm, and I felt it was glossed over here too easily.

That aside the story was written well for its intended age group, the only error I recall seeing was one in which 'where' was misused in place of 'were' as in "What where they up to?" No spell-checker is going to catch that one! I'm recommending this though, as a worthy read with the above caveats and the hope that future stories will educate as well as entertain.