Book Review: Horton Halfpott

TITLE: Horton Halfpott
-or- The Fiendish Mystery of Smudgwick Manor
-or- The loosening of M’lady Luggertuck’s Corset
AUTHOR/Illustrator: Tom Angleberger
FORMAT: Hardback

I first stumbled across Tom Angleburger as an author in person at the Southern Festival of Books. He was doing a presentation of another book (Origami Yoda) where he helped all the kids fold Emergency Yodas and called them all Larry. (He wouldn’t tell me why)
I was so taken by him that I bought a copy on the spot to have signed, and found out about this book in line. Too late to have him sign it if I ran and bought one for myself, so I told myself I’d read it later.

Later has clearly been a little late in coming.

The book starts with M’lady Luggertuck deciding to not lace her corset up quite so tight.
Apparently this is such an amazing thing that the shift ripples through the entire house and weird things start to happen as a result.
Horton Halfpott is the kitchen boy, assigned to perpetual dish duty (652 spoons one day alone!) in a house full of servants and opulence. He gets a pay of one penny a week, which is good for just about nothing, the least of which is helping his parents misfortune, so his family suffers away from him, dad needing medical care, and Horton hanging on because something is better than nothing, right?
This is a silly book – I’d put it in the same sort of type of writing as a Series of Unfortunate Events. In fact, one of my favorite paragraph-slash-ridiculous sentences:

Imagine how many plates, how many saucers, how many bowls, brandy snifters, butter trays, ice-cube mimbles, gin jiggers, melon ballers, salad tongs, salt cellars, teacups, teakettles, teapots, teaspoons, and tea strainers were used every day at the fancy Luggertuck table, where five-course meals were eaten three times a day, tea was served twice, and midnight snacks were offered at eleven, twelve, and one o’clock.

In the midst of M’Lady’s corset loosening, something strange starts to happen, and a detective is brought in who is pompous, arrogant, and totally useless. He does have some good lines in him, telling the stable boy once “Mr. Bump, you have about you the fragrance of equus poopus…” (horse manure) and offering him money to solve the case for him – discretely of course.

I’m not going to give it away, of course, but the case was solved, and this was the proper amount of silly for a reader of the target age of this (which is probably somewhere around ten). And the corset does, of course, get re-tightened.

I’m sorry I put it off for so long. This book deserves every bit of praise it gets. Angleberger once again proves that he’s awesome at his market. I hope he keeps writing for a lot of years.

Solidly, this book gets a 5 out of 5 pages.

Book Review- A Girl and Her Cat: Honey West and T.H.E. Cat by Win Scott Eckert and Matthew Baugh

Title: A Girl and Her Cat: Honey West and T.H.E. Cat

Authors: Win Scott Eckert and Matthew Baugh

Format: Hardcover edition, Moonstone Books

Published: 2013




As stated previously and likely to be stated many more times, I love mysteries.  And a special sort of mystery I love happens to be the tv tie-in.  When authors are able to take tv characters that I’ve liked or even loved and weave wonderful prose tales of them, I’m always happy.  Now, I’ve tripped over a few that were average or even awful as well, but still even those stay on my shelf just because it’s a tv tie-in.

“A Girl and Her Cat: Honey West and T.H.E. Cat” by Win Scott Eckert and Matthew Baugh qualifies not only as a tv tie-in novel, but it’s a simply told, well presented tale of intrigue and action that hits almost every note exactly right.

Now, before I continue, let me clarify. Moonstone published this novel and I do have a position with Moonstone.  I normally don’t review books from my own company, Pro Se Productions.  I also don’t normally review books from other companies that I had anything to do with, either as a writer, editor, or any other capacity. Yes, Moonstone published this. Yes, I work for Moonstone. No, I had nothing at all to do with this book and therefore feel okay giving my thoughts on it.

“A Girl and Her Cat” features two characters, each leads in their own 1960s television series- Honey West and Thomas Edward Hewitt Cat, better known as T.H.E. Cat.  As a matter of fact, prior to the series starring Anne Francis, Honey West, a female private eye following in the footsteps of her murdered father, actually debuted in a series of novels.  T.H.E. Cat, a master thief turned bodyguard for hire, first appeared on the scene in his series of the same name, played by Robbert Loggia.

In ‘A Girl and Her Cat’, Honey is hired by an Asian scientist to help recover a potentially deadly virus that has fallen into the hands of an evil terrorist type.  Almost immediately, Honey is attacked and the case turns on its ear, as a past lover of Honey’s who works for the CIA shows up.  It turns out that there’s more to the case, the Asian scientist, and even Johnny Doom, the well named lover, than Honey was led to believe, all of that carrying to a point where she is forced to actually attempt to steal the virus for a criminal organization. Enter another friend from Honey’s past, T.H.E. Cat, who teams up with the buxom PI to not only try to save the CIA agent being held captive, but also potentially the world from dying from a horrible plague.

This novel has everything a fan of these series or even just fans of 1960s type spy mysteries would look for.  Great leads, fantastically wild supporting characters, and a plot that involves world devastation or domination, depending on how one looks at it, and even teases its way into other fantastic things beyond that.  The authors didn’t go out of their way to make the story over complicated and that makes it that much better.  It’s an easy read and one that is paced exactly as it should be.  Also, the characterizations of Honey and Cat are dead on perfect, actually allowing me to hear Francis’ and Loggia’s voices as I read it.

There are other characters who make cameos and veiled appearances in ‘A Girl and Her Cat’, characters that are featured in other books, television series, even in films.  This is something I love in stories usually and enjoyed it immensely in this one, recognizing the nods to several other favorite characters of mine.  In this book, though, I felt a little overwhelmed by this in some way as well.  I don’t know if it was that there was more than one or two such appearances, or if when they were introduced in the story was just to close together, but something made that affectation seem a little too much for ‘A Girl and Her Cat.’  Not so much so that it made it a bad book, it’s quite a great book actually, but I did find myself more than once distracted from the story by wondering if a name was used because it was an Easter egg.  Again, this is something I do enjoy, it just felt a little… I don’t know, forced maybe this time around.

‘ A Girl and Her Cat’ rates four out of five pages. Aside from being a slightly overfilled easter basket, this book delivers a fast, action packed, and fun read all the way around.

Five out of six bullets goes to this one, using my personal scale. The authors capture Honey and Cat perfectly and the interactions between the two sing just like a groovy jazz tune.

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