Saturday, January 31, 2015

The Witches - What You Need to Know About Formula 86 Delayed Action Mouse-Maker

Pros: Crazy take on witches; great story; mice are awesome!
Cons: Never.

The Bottom Line: Need to know the real story about creatures that are called witches? Then this is the story for you!

I’ve had this book…oh, forever. Actually the one I have now used to be my sister’s. Of course, if you look at the picture above, that’s what is coming out now (and the one I’m sending to a child in need of a good book – not my 20-year old copy). I’ve always loved the story (and honestly, the movie adaptation is pretty good too) and I figured it could be something a kid would enjoy as much as I did.

Witches do not ride around on brooms. They don’t wear black cloaks and wear pointy hats. REAL witches look like ordinary women, out and about just like anyone else. There are a few things you can look for, and if you notice them, be sure to steer clear – especially if you’re a child! One little boy knows all about these things through his grandmother. When the two take a trip and stay in a luxurious hotel, he notices a few things about the group of ladies staying there. They seem to all be witches! But what can one boy do against so many witches, especially once he gets caught! You’ll have to read to find out.

I loved Roald Dahl’s wacky, completely different take on witches. Instead of the typical Wizard of Oz, Halloween style witch we have all come to known, Dahl’s witches are ghastly creatures that seek only to rid the earth of children. Ambitious yes, but they have a lot of scary and strange methods of doing it. The stories the grandmother tells the boy are very imaginative, as is the rest of the story. It’s so much fun and it leaves you on the edge of your seat until the very end. Read this to your kids and just watch their little eyes go wide as they hang on the words. His description is great; everything is so vivid, some of it might make you all cringy and other times you'll smile and giggle. It's written in first person, so you get the whole story from the boy who lived it, which makes for a neat take - especially when you find out what happened to him!

I particularly loved the ingredients that go into Formula 86 Delayed Action Mouse-Maker (loved the name of the potion as well). I thought it was all very ingenious, really. The end of a telescope to make the child grow smaller? An alarm clock set to a specific time to make sure the change happens right as scheduled? I want to also mention the dialect put on the Grand High Witch’s dialogue. I always thought it was great and I never had a problem reading it. Her whole manner is perfect for the character. She’s mean – even to her own fellow witches, the way a really nasty character should be.

You get illustrations by Quentin Blake as well. He’s got a weird little style to his drawings, but it gives them character. They’re a bit Shel Silverstein-ish if you’ve ever seen his work. If you find a book that doesn’t have these illustrations, I suggest looking for a book that does because they’re a lot of fun. ….And his mice are so cute.

As a child, this was a great book. As an adult, this is a great book. I recommend it to anyone of any age. It could give your kids a bit of a thrill, but if they can handle Harry Potter then heck, this is just kid’s play.



This review was a part of the September 2007 Fight Illiteracy Write-Off hosted by hadassahchana of Epinions. This book was sent to a child in need of a bit of literary magic.

Originally published on

Saturday, January 24, 2015

1984 - It's Sex Gone Sour

Pros: Makes you think, for sure.
Cons: Slow pace; an obvious outlet for exposition by Orwell; discouraging ending.

The Bottom Line: If society ever bans or rations chocolate, I'm going to riot. Who's with me?

I’d first heard about Nineteen Eighty-Four in college. People commented on how good it was, how close our society was coming to the one in the book, how impressive it was for Orwell to create something that resonates so soundly, even today.

When I had to choose five novels to read for my graduate term, I made a point to put this one on the list. I wanted to see what was so great about it. In fact, I was excited to finally read it. I was expecting something along the lines of Fahrenheit 451 or even The Giver. Not quite.

The year is 1984. Or at least, that’s what the Party says it is. Winston lives in a world where Big Brother is always watching you; telescreens put up in rooms can observe and listen to just about everything that goes on in your home. Winston’s job is to falsify information of the past, so that the Party is always right. Sex should be joyless. War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength. But Winston doesn’t believe in these things. He’s staring to think down with Big Brother, and when a girl hands him a piece of paper that says “I love you” he finally makes some decisions he knows will ultimately lead to his death.

You’ve been plopped into a futuristic setting almost similar to that of V for Vendetta (if you’ve seen that movie). Nothing is truly illegal, but if you do something the Party doesn’t like, you’re vaporized. You never existed. I went into this book thinking something was going to change, even on a small scale. I was disappointed. No, I’m not saying Winston was killed or something, but while in other dystopian novels I’ve read at least the hero has some semblance of a decent ending to his story, there is none here.

As you read, you may find yourself bored at times. Much of this novel is Winston thinking, considering, and going over memories that in some ways have nothing to do with everything else that is going on (at least not that I could see – if someone wants to enlighten me, please do). The rest of the action is Winston at work, moving from place A to place B, and hanging out with the girl, Julia. At one point you even end up reading a part of a book that Winston is reading, which is nothing more than expository writing that, while it does have some interesting information, can begin to drag. Even when something finally does happen near the end, you get a lot of dialogue that is essentially rhetoric.

Now I know what Orwell was trying to do when he wrote this. I’m sure pretty much everyone does. He was already ticked at his present with the class divisions and control certain levels had over others. This book amplifies that to a frightening degree, and the scary part is that some countries freaked out and banned this book because of its political implications, among other reasons. Well, I got mine at a library not too long ago so I think the U.S. is still okay.

Despite the way the book is constructed, as well as the fact that the ending is a huge letdown and quite depressing (though you can look at what some critics have said about the appendix that deals with a language called Newspeak in the book, and get some lighter feelings about things that way), it is good ad evokes plenty of emotions in you. You automatically rebel against the things presented, such as constant monitoring, the robotic manner in which people live, the suppression of sex and the use of all that pent up frustration to be transformed into hatred (and holy crap does that remind me of Jim Breuer and his reason why terrorists are so angry! Haha!), and so forth.

This is a book I think you should read on your own time as opposed to being assigned to, mostly in cases like kids in high school. It’s not for everyone and I can easily see high school kids throwing their books and yelling “Down with Big Brother!” I mean, it would be rather ironic for this book to become canon, you know? Either way, it’s bound to get your juices flowing and you’ll want to start up a conversation with a friend about government/class control. And that’s a good thing.


Originally published on

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Metro Girl - It Ain't Stephanie Plum

Pros: A fun read on a nice day, interesting plot
Cons: You can easily see the Stephanie Plum in it.

The Bottom Line: I still maintain that Josh Holloway would be the best candidate for the part of Sam Hooker.

At the time, I was still waiting on Plum Lovin’, the midway novel between books #12 and #13 in Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series. I spotted Metro Girl, which is outside of the series, and stood there for a moment before having one of those “Eh, why not?” moments and plucking it off the shelf.

Ok, it’s not Stephanie Plum…but it is. Here’s the rundown.

Alexandra “Barney” Barnaby is a regular gal. Average, works for an insurance company, lives in Baltimore, has a rather unexciting life just like most people. Then her brother Bill calls from Miami around 2am one night, not making much sense, then there’s a scream and he disconnects. Not exactly something a sister ever wants to hear from a sibling. She flies down only to find Bill is missing and he’s “borrowed” popular NASCAR driver Sam Hooker’s boat. Hooker figures his best chance at finding Bill and his boat is to stick with Alex – but that might be a bad choice considering now there are many unsavory characters after them because of what Bill has done. Everyone is getting a bit more than they bargained for when it comes to Bill’s actions, leading to something about Cuban gold and an extremely dangerous item that cannot fall into the wrong hands.

Let’s say for a moment you’ve never read any of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum books. In that case, you’re pretty well off. Sure, the characters don’t have too much depth, surprisingly especially Alexandra even though she’s narrating the story in first person. We only get the surface info on everyone, even though Alex throws out tidbits of her life here and there, we just never seem to truly get into anyone. And, by the way, it is way too easy for some things to happen; Alex has never been to Miami before and yet it’s like she has connections everywhere. She meets two women for maybe 10 minutes and already they’re digging up information for her like they work for the CIA. Yeah, you can find anything on a computer these days, but it still bugged me a little. And then Hooker had some ridiculously impressive connections as well. Sorry, it’s just a little too easy. Not sure how you would do it otherwise, but still.

Along those same lines, some people react in ways you’ll probably think, “No one would do that.” Or if they did, it wouldn’t be in the same manner. For example, the two get threatened that if they don’t stop looking for Bill, they’ll be killed, and yet they continue like it’s no big deal. Maybe you would continue, but you’d be a whole hell of a lot more careful and paranoid, at least I’d think so. In the end it’s all about the fun of the plot and multiple characters. They’re fun as well, don’t get me wrong, the whole book is amusing to read and will entertain you until you finish it. I do like the plot though, it’s nice and different. And as usual Evanovich has the sort of dialogue that will make you chuckle out loud.

Now say you’ve read the Stephanie Plum series. You can easily see a lot of the characters translated over to this book. They’re not exactly the same, but you can see elements of them, as well as some of the similarities in the way people act and things they say. Alex sort of bumbles around like Stephanie, she hates guns like her, and uses some of the same vocab. Hooker is his own man, though he has plenty of Morelli-like elements. Rosa is Lula, Maria is Connie, Judey is Sally Sweet, and you have a semi-psychotic bad guy who does the whole reveal-my-entire-plan thing, and two guys that Alex and Hooker keep bumping into and manage to escape each time. It’s different enough that you can enjoy it for what it is, but I’m sure Stephanie Plum elements are going to pop into your brain now and then as you read along.

Despite all that, it was a pretty decent book. It isn’t going to win any awards and it’s not going to become a classic, but if you’re impatient for some Stephanie Plum-like stuff or just want something fun to read, this is your book.


Originally posted on

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

I'm Back....Again.

Apologies to those out there who may read this blog. I went on a bit of a hiatus again, didn't I? Sorry. Life is hectic and I am often forgetful and - I won't lie - lazy. Though to be fair (to myself), I've barely been reading these days. Combined with the fact that I thought I'd had more than just November's book posts ready to go. It wasn't until not too long ago that I realized that they'd stopped on the 22nd.

I suppose perhaps I'll update you a little bit on what I have happening in my life. I work 40 hours at a bookstore. I work uneven additional hours freelance writing at other times. I've continued to write, and as it happens have published a second Figments Fable for those of you who may have enjoyed the first, or for anyone who likes fractured fairytales. There aren't any werewolves or (typical) supernatural creatures in the new one, but it's a take on one of my favorite Grimm's tales that I think doesn't get a much love as so many others. Likewise, it's also available in paperback this time around, if you fancy yourself an actual book rather than the electronic version.

I've also started another blog. Yes. I know. Kind of stupid of me to begin another when half the time I can't even maintain this one. But ever since shut down I've had nowhere to post my reviews. While that's fine for books since I can do that here, it pains me that I no longer have any reason to review soundtracks, which is something I really enjoyed doing. So now I have this - The Soundtrack Junkie blog, where I'll be reviewing all my soundtracks. To be honest, 90% of those reviews were previously on, but as I buy new ones on a fairly regular basis, and there are several I own but never got the chance to review, there will be some newly written material posted. Maintaining it won't be a problem since I have so many pre-written reviews, I already have the entire year planned out to where each month will be themed in some fashion and will typically feature 6 reviews per month.

Having done that, I'm also no longer going to post little musical suggestions at the bottom of my book reviews. Much of the time those are soundtracks anyway, and often the tracks I point out in my reviews. (Unless, gentle readers, you guys really liked that tidbit in which case I'll keep it, but I doubt anyone cared either way).

So now I'm going to try and get back into the swing of things, so expect a review tomorrow and then I'll get everything back on the regularly scheduled time of every Saturday per month.

We green?

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Whoops! I completely forgot to mention this. Last month I reviewed Stephanie Garber's amazing book Caraval for the web blog I curre...