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.

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Book Review – Codecrafter by Erica Sandbothe

Title: Codecrafter

Author: Erica Sandbothe

Format: Paperback

Written/Published: 2013

As many of you readers know we here at Book in the Bag do get requests from authors to read and review their books.  If you are familiar with how we operate we do not promise to give good reviews only honest ones, thus I will dictate that I have received nothing more than a few e-mails and a copy of her first book Codecrafter from Erica.

To start off, the book is about a young girl named Tagglinde (Tagg for short) who is going to a school to learn how to be a sorceress.  He spell work however is not your typical mystical fare but rather based in code and programming.  She receives a magical stick that has a memory drive that she has to remember to defrag and her spells have to be written in proper code for them to come out and be usable.  If you are familiar with any sort of coding you can see a lot of the connections between what she does in the book to actual coding, if not in a lot of ways everything is still very odd and mystical. I am not overly familiar with coding but I do know enough to be familiar with what was being talked about on some levels (most of what I have done has been BBC coding and very basic code to set up a web page back in the day).

Still, if you know about coding or you don’t the story is still and enjoyable read and is very well fitted for middle grade ages as Erica claims the book to be.  The story was interesting and I wasn’t sitting there wondering when will this book end or regretting to volunteer to read the book.  I only have one major complaint about the book which sometimes can be a good complaint and that is that the book wasn’t long enough.  There were times where I would have loved a bit more pacing and a deeper exploration of certain things but all the same I enjoyed the read.

Aside from the book being a quick read of only 135 pages (perfect for the age range she is aiming for), my only remaining recommendation for future copies of the book if possible is to have a map or two in the front of the book showing the lands of the world of Codecrafter and maybe even a map of the school grounds where the gardens and school building are in Tilde.  Of course, these things aren’t necessary but I know I probably would have flipped to the map if there was one at some point just to get a feel for where Tagg was when she was traveling about.

Overall, the book was a good read and not only that it taught some great mathematical concepts as well because computer science is related to that ever dreaded subject for many- math.  Odds and probability are something that tends to go over people’s heads.  I had fun with it, because I’m your all around geek not only enjoying a good read but also loving a good mathematical problem as well.  There was actually a point where I stopped reading the book to figure out the answer to the question before I read the answer (please note I was just waking up from sleep at that point).

In the end I would give this book a 4 page rating saying that it is a good read and age appropriate for middle grades.  I know I’m looking forward to the next book in the series which I’m told Erica is currently working on!  Additionally I am looking forward to the growth and expansion of her website to include the yet to come teaching materials because I can see the educational value of the book as well having formally been in the field of education myself!

Book Review – Meet Molly by Valerie Tripp

Title: Meet Molly

Author: Valerie Tripp

Format: Paperback – First Edition

Written/Published: 1995

 

It was not too long ago that I came upon some very sad news, American Girl Dolls get retired.  I was shocked and saddened by this when I learned that great characters such as Felicity, Kirsten and Samantha have all been retired.  Yet, saddest news of all is next up to be retired is Molly McIntire!  Why is this the saddest news of all?  Molly is my favorite American Girl from the entire collection!  In a lot of ways I felt like I was Molly because she was the girl with stick straight brown hair that she hated because it was so flat and boring and the girl with glasses.  Molly was a girl who was imaginative and had two best friends that she did almost everything with – just like me.  Only difference in my mind was that she had grey eyes while I didn’t, lived in World War II and had siblings to wrestle with as well.  Yes in some ways major differences, but still Molly was the girl I identified with the most, living during a period of history that fascinated me the most.

 

It is because of my love for this character growing up and even to this day that I decided to read back through some of her books to give Molly a fitting farewell.  He books will always live on according to the American Girl website but still it is not the same because when another little girl falls in love with Molly and wants to be just like her and have the doll just like her it won’t be available.  (Needless to say I own a Molly doll – and getting her was a huge deal for me!)

 

Picking up the first book in the series I was hit with a flood of memories having forgotten much of the story.  I forgot how she had siblings to wrestle with; I forgot that her first story was set in Halloween and how she wanted to be my favorite fairy tale princess Cinderella.  So it was nice to re-explore the story and drudge up the old feelings such as her hatred for turnips which I did happen to recall of all things.  It was a simple and happy read as Molly was very much a classic nine year old girl dealing with a pain in the butt older brother.  In a way as I read I was transported back to being that nine year old girl who first started reading the book on the floor of her teacher’s class room thinking , this girl is exactly like me she looks like me and reacts the same way I would to this situation!

 

My only complain about the book was the ending and not because it ended but because it was a quick and convenient wrap up.  It is something that does happen in a lot of books that are trying to teach a quick little lesson.  After reading an entire story about Molly and her brother fighting and getting back at each other to finally make up the moment after mom gives them a lecture about getting along and setting them to chores as punishment for their misbehavior.  I don’t have any siblings but from what I know of sibling rivalry this isn’t a very accurate portrayal.  The one saving grace that did keep things from being too over the top was the fact that Molly and her brother Ricky did find a bit of common ground before agreeing to not fight any more, so the ‘hug and make up’ scene wasn’t too over the top and random.

 

Overall, I would give this book a 4 out of 5 pages and strongly recommend this book to any brown haired girl, or really any young girl because the American Girl book to me always seem to be rather relate-able and fun to read while teaching about interesting times in American History.  (I particularly love that not only do you get a mostly realistic story that shows off the way life was during that time period there is an entire section at the end all about  life during that time with images of thing and people during that time period).

Book Review – Keys to the Kingdom: Mister Monday by Garth Nix

Title: Keys to the Kingdom: Mister Monday

Author:  Garth Nix

Format: Paperback

Published/Written: 2003

As a reviewer I have jumped into several series mid stride and I concluded that I should start more series from the actual beginning and I thought the Keys to the Kingdom would be a good one to do this with, considering I only read the first two books and a portion of the third.  I remember liking what I read but the details were fuzzy for me.  They were certainly fuzzier that they were for other series that I hadn’t read in a long while.  This fact alone should be something for you to consider if you wish to pick up this series, that it is good but not overtly memorable.

As I began to read I found myself reminded of characters and plot lines but not remembering everything.  My biggest frustration as I read was spending most of the read trying to regal if event x happened in the book I was reading or in the next one.  In some ways this game put a damper on the read for me, and I found myself less enthused about this series now than I was when I first picked it up.  My hope is when I get into newer content things will pick up and my interest will be renewed.  Until that time I have two and a half books to get through before that happens.

So, I will continue to see how the reluctant hero Arthur Penhaligon deals with being chosen by a sentient piece of a Will as the heir to the Keys of the Kingdom.  It was a simple matter of being at the right place at the right time, or in Arthur’s opinion the wrong place at the wrong time that gets him in trouble with the Morrow Days who do not wish to give up their position of power.  If he could Arthur just might let them have their way but instead of just dealing with him they also mess with his family and friends and that is something he can’t allow to happen, because as much as our main character wishes to be a normal boy the other world known as the House in which the Morrow Days and the Will reside will not allow it.

Overall, I would give the book a solid three and say it is worth a read if you are looking for something in general to read that has a unique plot and a fantasy element.  Additionally this is a book that I think many young readers aged late elementary to early middle school would enjoy to read these books.

Book Review- Me and My Dragon

Book: Me and My Dragon

Author/Illustrator: David Biedrzycki

Format: Hardback

Published: 2011

So after a long sabbatical, I am back to Thursday posts! In light of the rather, ahem, painful review of Enclave (also known as “The Book That Shall Not Be Named”), I bring to you a joyous, if not short review. The book Me and My Dragon is an adorable children’s story about… you guessed it, a boy and his dragon! Actually, it is more of a boy dreaming of having a dragon and all the things they would do together, like camping (fire roasted marshmallows anyone?), reading comics, and having the most epically awesome bring your pet to school day ever!

Having a bit of a love affair with dragons, I knew I had to read this book the moment I saw it at the library. As mentioned before, it is cute, fun, and honestly, inspiring a few dragon populated dreams of my own. Don’t let the fact that it’s a children’s book fool you, it’s great for kids and adults (especially those of us who both love fantasy and have the attention span of a caffeinated flying dragon). In a way it almost had a very Calvin and Hobbes like quality to it (if you haven’t read that comic series, you need to. It is one of my favorites!). Overall, I give this a 5 page review.

Book Review – Skippyjon Jones Cirque de Ole by Judy Schachner

Title: Skippyjon Jones Cirque de Ole

Author/Illustrator: Judy Schachner

Format: Hardback

Written/Published: 2012

 

Despite being disappointed my third Skippyjon Jones book I still had a fourth one from the library and I’m glad I didn’t decide to just return it without reading it because it was adorable.  This book held the same charm and fun of the first book.  I was actually caught reading it aloud to myself it was so much fun!  The pictures were still a bit different from the first book and much like what I found in Skippyjon Jones and the Big Bones but it didn’t matter as much considering the story was much better and had a lot of what makes the books such a wonderful experience.  This is another book that I would absolutely love to read, but not until I had a practice run or two with it considering there are several words I am not used to speaking often.

 

One of the things I also loved about this book is not only did it capture the fun and vivid imagination of the kitty boy Skippyjon Jones who thinks himself a Chihuahua but it is chock full of Spanish words that are great for teaching young children as they are explained in the next sentence or the pictures in the book are used to help a reader figure out what words like leons (lions), tigres (tigers) and osos (bears) are. Oh my! In addition to the classic formula of the book and the great adventure at the circus that Skippyjon has, his sisters were hilarious with some of the conversations they had with their mother and at times you even felt bad for Mama Junebug Jones as she was trying to wrangle a rambunctious boy and three kitty girls. 

 

Overall, I would say that this book was another rare treat and a fun one to share with others if you can!  I would recommend this book as a supplement to the first Skippyjon Jones books over the others I have read thus far and will give a 4 page rating over all.

Book Review – Skippyjon Jones and the Big Bones by Judy Schachner

Title: Skippyjon Jones and the Big Bones

Author/Illustrator: Judy Schachner

Format: Hardback

Written/Published: 2007

 

When approaching another Skippyjon Jones I knew I was in for a treat, after two fabulous books that made me giggle aloud to the point that my roommate is demanding to know what I’m on about the third had to be fantastic!  Yet, I was wrong; somehow authors tend to disappoint me after I’ve fallen in love with them. The only author who hasn’t done this so far is DJ MacHale.  Yet here I am feeling disappointed by the latest Skippy adventure.

 

When I picked up the book it was after I had a very long exhausting day and was feeling a bit grumpy and I figured this will help pick me up because it makes me giggle.  The first thing to set things off on the wrong foot was for me to discover the book is falling apart.  This is something I don’t hold against the book itself as that is what you can get when borrowing from the library but still it put a small damper on things.  Then I open the book and though I anticipated the same formula of the last two books it wasn’t as good, it seemed forced and stretched and was just worded oddly beyond that of the previous two books.  It jumped around where I began to wonder if I was missing pages (which I wasn’t).  Also as I looked at the pictures the images were different.  It was Skippyjon Jones on my pages but he didn’t look quite the same as I was used too. I even began to question if there was a new illustrator or Judy took over the drawing in place of a former illustrator but that wasn’t the case.  Author and illustrator is both the same person who created the other two Skippy books I read but it was different and I didn’t like it.

 

Over all the story was disjointed, and the story had very little adventure or humor to it.  It might be a good book for kids but at the same time I’m not sure on that because I have always felt that a good children’s book is one that can hold the attention of not only kids but kids at heart.  Yet it didn’t hold my attention at all.  The only explanation for the worn state of the book is that it has to do with dinosaurs which is a very popular subject among young children, but aside from that feature it had very little value and doesn’t’ even teach anything.  I could accept losing some of the amusement factor for a lesson but there wasn’t one.  Over all I give the book a 2 and recommend you skip right over it when looking for children’s books.

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