Book Review – They All Saw a Cat

TITLE: They All Saw A Cat
AUTHOR: Brendan Wenzel
FORMAT: Hardcover
PUBLISHED: 2016

They All Saw A Cat is a children’s picture book that goes from the perspective of the black and white cat who walks through the book.

It starts with the cat seeing a boy – from about the knees down – and then the boy seeing the cat. The cat then goes through several animal friends in the same manner.

The best thing about the illustrations is seeing how other animals see.  For instance the bumblebee sees in colored dots.

SO I read this to my toddler, who is four.  I  thought the book might be cute, but I had no idea how much he’d like it. We had to read through it like six times… The cool part is that the words are pretty much what the toddler made up, so it did seem like he was reading to me.

Perhaps my favorite part, though, is the very end when the cat looks in a puddle and sees  himself.

I can see why this book is popular and its a great way to show perception.  It was all a cat, and it was all the same cat, but it was so very different to each creature that it met.

I give the illustrations definitely a 5/5.

The book was very simple, and it had to be, but had I read it before I showed it to the toddler, I would have never checked it out from the library.  Still, his enthusiasm counts at least as much as my lack of enthusiasm, so 4/5 for the story itself from me.

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Book Review – Soldier Boy

TITLE: Soldier Boy
AUTHOR: Brian Burks
FORMAT: Hardcover
PUBLISHED: 1997

So, remember I said I went down the whole library? Well, that includes everything but picture books. I pulled this little children’s chapter book off the shelf pretty close to last (by this time I had 18 or so in my pile), and I had hopes for it.
It starts with Johnny “The Kid” McBane, a nobody without a family fighter in Chicago. His manager wants him to throw a fight, and he doesn’t, abandoning all the money and possessions he has to run away, hop a train, and then enlist in the cavalry. He ends up out west somewhere, part of Custer’s army.

So, the author’s note at the beginning of the book (which is the only thing in the entire 150 pages that puts the book in context of a year aside from the vague Custer reference), talks about how very little was written about under aged soldiers and he really wanted to show how amazing all of this was, etc.
Except that he didn’t show how amazing anything was.
I think the book suffered badly. The things that could have had amazing details didn’t, and the things that had details didn’t often need explained. And some of them were either wrong or extraordinary claims. “Thousands of dollars were bet on this bout…” Really? Thousands of dollars in post-reconstruction America? On a nobody kid who not a lot of people knew? (At the time of this writing, $5000 in 1876 is about $106,332 in today’s money)

I missed the richness that this story desperately needed. Even as a kid, I would have found this book boring as hell. Actually, as a kid, I probably would have given up on it and not kept reading.
The author also did a stupid nod to several pet peeves of mine. So, there was zero point to any of the stuff that Johnny said to another soldier they called The Scholar. (Pet peeve #1- this goes with the old adage of “if you aren’t’ going to shoot it, don’t show the gun”) There was definitely no point in sitting around discussing “But aren’t we being mean to Indians” because that wasn’t exactly the prevailing thought of the day back then. That was seriously only put there because a modern audience would have thought that when reading (pet peeve #2- not paying attention to the society of the time in historical fiction).

In the end, this book was a flop, and I’m amazed that I managed to see it through to the end.
It’s short, even by genre standards, and I think that it seriously could have used about 20% more words (mostly as description), and a bit of deleting when it came to Johnny, who hadn’t much opinion of anything, suddenly being upset about Indians.
Also, the story pretty much is a prologue that ends when you get to the meat of the story, and for that it really sucked. That battle could have been a really amazing chapter.
I’ll give it 2 out of 5. Read it when you’re bored, but don’t go out of your way to find it.

Book Review – Batula by Steven T. Seagle

Title: Batula

Author:  Steven T. Seagle

Illustrator:  Marco Cinello

Format: Hardback

Published: 2012

 

Tomorrow is Halloween so I figure this is probably the most seasonably appropriate book I shall read. While it is seasonably appropriate it is not scary in the least.  It’s all about a fruit bat turned vampire.  Yes you read that correctly.  A fruit bat who has been bitten by a vampire.  Okay with that out in the air, I would like to back track into how I came to read this book.

 

It was a while back from now that I found myself perusing the comics at my local shop when I found the book.  It hat my attention at the title.  I mean really what is there not to love about bats?  Yes I am fond of the little winged rodents of the night.  Not my favorite critter in the world but a fascinating creature all the same.  Of course the title alone speaks of Dracula so I was intrigued further to the point of reading the back of the book.  It was at this point that I found myself having the need to possess this books at it makes many a promise that was just too good to pass up.  Generally speaking when we hit the three win mark I know it is a book I’m interested in.  This book promised me more than 3 win points, and I shall list out the win points this book has beyond the fact of being a children’t comic (which is a neutral point as this can be both a good and bad thing depending on the content).  Win 1 – The story is about bats,  Win 2 – The story is about Vampires  Win 2.5 – The story is  about a bat that is turned into a vampire (I mean really that has to count for something!  Win 3 – There is a ‘werewolf’ in the story (really for me this should count as a double win as I love werewolves even if this ‘werewolf’ is a werewolf spider named Wulf).  Win 4 – This book was published by Image Comics which is a publisher I generally trust as most everything I’ve read produced by them has been quite good.  Win 5 – The back cover is enticing in format Win 6 – The cover is really cute/good in my opinion.  (See image bellow.)

 

Needless to say 6 wins told me that this as a must own book! Of course, there is the adage of never judge a book by it’s cover and honest to goodness I didn’t judge on cover alone – I did use the blurb on the back as a guide as well.  Now I will say now that book isn’t bad but it doesn’t deliver on the promises it makes or at least the immense potential that this story could produce.

 

To be honest, the story was very direct and straight forward even for a children’s picture book.  It told a rather bland story about Livingston the fruit bat who was turned into a vampire bat met the spider Wulf and stopped an attack on his orchard all the while garnering attention and adoration from the other bats who didn’t notice him much because he learned to like himself.  Yet, while the story was lacking the pictures held up very well, a lot of the images were adorable and I loved looking at them, even as I write this post I’ve flipped through the book a few more times taking the time to examine the pictures and appreciate the art work for what it is.  In looking through the book a second time it has won and charmed me a bit more than the first time through.

 

Also, I feel it should be noted that while this book was done by Image Comics and was in the comic book store, it is not fashioned like a comic book, it is more fashioned like a children’s picture book.  In the end, the book wasn’t quite what I expected and didn’t live up the the win score it promised me from the start but it was still a decent read, I still love the art work and if there were to be another Batula adventure I would probably read it as this story was still something of an introduction to the character and there is a lot of potential when it comes to the character and the stories one can tell with him.  So because of the adorable artwork I think this book can come in at at 4 out of 5, particularly for a children’s book.  If you judge it on story content alone (which you can’t really and shouldn’t as the art tells a story too) or on a book among all books the story would be a 3 out of 5 for me.

Book Review – Superior Saturday by Garth Nix

Title: Superior Saturday

Author: Garth Nix

Format: Hardback

Published: 2008

 

I have to say that as I have found myself working my way through the Keys to the Kingdom books once and for all I feel in some ways that I have been on a whirlwind of a journey especially since the latter books, after the dreadfully dull Drowned Wednesday. Superior Saturday I think was a whirlwind in and of itself and is one of the shorter books in the series.  This story picks up pretty much right after Lady Friday.

 

Arthur sets foot on Earth seeing his last actions are completed to suddenly be told that his home and family are going to be blown up by the military and he has less than 10 minutes to get himself and his family into hopeful safety. As a desperate act Arthur uses his key to freeze time before jumping back into the house considering time runs differently there, not to mention issues from the house were quite present and he might be able to use the magic there to save his home.

 

Going back to the house via the fifth key Arthur finds himself in a whole lot of trouble as he is faced with an oncoming wave of nothing set to destroy him. He then used his key to save his life and stop the nothing but it caused him to physically change and become less human and more a denizen which is a result of using magic and having that infused into his body.   As a result Arthur throughout the book suffers from a conflict of character as he finds himself suddenly becoming self entitled to remind himself that he is human and shouldn’t be acting in such a way.

 

Arthur then sets out to find the sixth part of the will and the sixth key and it is one thing after another as he travels throughout the house to get there. It is an interesting story and a rather easy read and as I was reading I remembered something that I had thought of when I had first started to read the books, which is that each trustee that Arthur goes up against is a representation of one of the seven deadly sins. Monday is Sloth, Tuesday is either Greed or Pride, Wednesday is Gluttony, Thursday is Wrath, Friday is either Greed or Lust, Saturday is Envy, leaving Sunday to be either Geed lust or pride which I’m sure we’ll see soon enough and will help me better put a finger on what Tuesday and Friday are as well.

 

There are a few other things that happen in the book such as a side story with leaf and what is happening at Arthur’s home in the secondary realms but there are only a few chapters and not overly worth mentioning save for what happens at the end of the book. I of course won’t spoil the story but I can say that both Arthur in the house and Leaf on earth are left in a type of cliff hanger – something I have not seen any of the other books truly do, which to me adds to the whirlwind effect the book has had for me. Over all I think I would give the book another 3 out of 5 pages, as it was good and it held my attention, but there was nothing to rave about. I am curious as to what the seventh and last book will hold for me.

Book Review – Lady Friday by Garth Nix

Title: Lady Friday

Author: Garth Nix

Format: Hardback

Published: 2007

 

It is hard in some ways to fully give an opinion on this particular book in the Keys to the Kingdom Series. This book took me far longer to read than I wanted as there was a week in which I was unable to read due to time constraints. I know that there was also the problem that the book was a little slow to get into but once I was in, I enjoyed the book .

 

Lady Friday picks up right after the events in Sir Thursday and it continues forward as Arthur is tricked into being transported into the Middle House with a quest to take the 5th key that was left behind by Lady Friday who abdicated her position and challenged Arthur, the Piper and Superior Saturday to be the first to get the key.   Considering the challenges Arthur faced, he determined to get the Will first as it would help him against his other foes.

 

The store progresses forward and we learn about the middle house and the army that the Piper made out of nothing. The army is known as newniths and Arthur is met by one who is set to watch over Suzie and Fred both of whom escaped the piper to help Arthur in his new quest to get the will before he gets the key.

 

While Arthur is facing his own adventure Leaf his friend is wakes up in a sort of hospital room where sleep walking people are being taken to another realm by denizens of the house. Leaf is compelled to follow the denizens and the sleep walkers as her favorite aunt is part of the mix. She is discovered as being awake and works to try and let Arthur know what is going on and where she is as she tries to rescue her aunt.

 

The two stories intersect in the end and things do get concluded, if I say anything further I will be giving away the end of the book and the lead up to the next book which I’ll be interested to read as this book heavily led up to the next two books as have some of the other books such as Grim Tuesday – which had the denizen of Superior Saturday working against Arthur.

 

Over all, the story was pretty good though the parts with Leaf were quite boring to be honest, and I felt like the end of the story was a bit rushed to reach a conclusion, particularly when I compare the end to the pacing of the rest of the book. I still in enjoyed the book though so I think I would give it a 3 out of 5 page review.

Book Review – Titan’s Curse by Rick Rhiordan

Title: Titan’s Curse

Author: Rick Rhiordan

Format: Hardback

Published: 2007

 

After reading a whole slew of books from the Keys to the Kingdom series, my brain was set for one sort of adventure than the one that Titan’s Curse provided me. That isn’t to say that the story isn’t a good one, it just took me a while to get into it. Yet once I did get into the story I was pulled in. The action and adventure in the book was quite good and a decent story was crafted with some additional new and interesting characters.

 

Of the characters that we are introduced to I think oddly enough my favorite was Apollo. I loved how he was interpreted and he was a joy to read even though his part in the story was small. Still he was a lot of fun to me being kind of one of those cool uncle type characters that was all about having fun and having the cool car that drove the sun across the sky. Honestly and truly a lot of fun in my opinion.

 

Anyway this story is a bit different from the previous stories in which Percy goes on a quest with Annabeth to fight off the evil plots of Luke and Kronos. Instead within the first chapter (or by the second) Annabeth is pretty much taken out of the story and will not be the person Percy will travel with. He travels with a whole new cast of character that you get to know in this book the only familiar character in the man story aside from Percy if Grover.

 

Over all, I enjoyed the book but I do have one complaint it is an issue that I dismissed in other books thinking it was an idiosyncrasy on my part or a matter of fatigue and slight drifting attention (as the world outside of the book has a way of drawing our attention even from the best of books). Yet this book it was very clear that Rick has a way of jumping scenes without warning or preamble. There were points where I would be reading along and had to stop flip back a page and make sure that I didn’t miss something, the gears switched so fast and without warning that it put me off. I know that this book is designed for a middle grade reading level and so some descriptors and development moments will be skipped, glossed over or even summarized. This is fine for the level of reader that this book is but honestly I think Rick would not have been amiss with just a sentence or two of transition here and there instead of something along the lines of ‘the battle is won’ on this page and the next page everyone is chill and going ‘find your cots we are bunking for the night’ at a vastly different location than where the battle took place. It takes a few paragraphs to gather that the characters have continued their travels and nothing interesting happened till just then. This was frustrating and broke me out of the story a few times.

 

In the end, I think, despite the jumping scenes , that I would still give this book a 4 out of 5 pages as it was still an enjoyable read and I do have intents to read the next book in the series but not before I get through the pile of books that are sitting in my living room and riding in my bag.

Book Review – Sir Thursday by Garth Nix

Title: Sir Thursday

Author: Garth Nix

Format: Hardback

Published: 2007

After slugging through the previous book in the series Drowned Wednesday I admit I was a little exited to read this book. I knew the cover enticed me from the first time I saw it years ago but I had never managed to get through the book before it to get to this place, and really I’m glad I finally made it through the 3 out of 5 pages that is Drowned Wednesday to get to this book. It was incredible and it kept my attention and had me excited and constantly wondering while I wasn’t reading – what is going to happen to this character or that character? What will come next?

This book is broken up between Arthur who is stuck in the House as there is a doppelganger preventing his return and his mortal friend Leaf who knows about him and his role with the house who is sent to stop the doppelganger. There is a lot of danger and the doppelganger known as the skinless boy can take over Leaf’s mind. All the while Arthur is stuck in the house and is drafted into the house army of Sir Thursday.

The story keeps a good pace as Leaf is trapped and infected by the skinless boy making her plight rather perilous and Arthur is not only indirectly under the command of Sir Thursday but is threatened with getting his memory erased which really pulled me in and held my attention. Most books that are telling two stories at once I am finding myself bored with one half of the story and wanting to skip that person’s half to get to the half I am interested in but this was equally balanced. Instead of only being interested in Arthur or only interested in Leaf I was equally interested in both halves. So while I would flip to the next chapter eager to know what would happen next to Arthur only to discover it was Leaf I wasn’t really tempted to skip to the next Arthur chapter because I also desperately wanted to know what was happening to Leaf.

Over all, I would give this book a strong 4 out of 5 page review. This book was good and interesting and I know when it ended I was clamoring for the next book to be sadden by the fact that I don’t have it on me and need to read some of the other books found in my bag before I pick up the 5th book in the series, Lady Friday, but I’m sure it will promise to be entertaining.

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