Monthly Archives: August 2012

Book Review: Intelligent Life by Neil Arksey

Intelligent Life
Intelligent Life by Neil Arksey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When you are the “victim” of circumstances where favor is constantly nipping at your heels, you’d assume you’re the lucky one, right?

Not exactly.

Jonathan Higgs Boson is not your typical kid living a typical teenager life. Sure, he’s got the divorced parents – Mom’s overprotective and Dad’s a recovering-sober journalist. He’s got a twin brother who’s the exact opposite of everything Jonathan’s ever been. He goes to school. He has friends. He plays chess. He eats peanuts.

It all started with the darn peanut that was actually a cashew. It almost all ends with the darn peanut that was actually a cashew.

The world of Neil Arksey reminds me so much of Douglas Adams. I tried to resist making this connection as early on in the reading as I did because, c’mon, Douglas Adams! But it persists and it develops and it grows and I feel as gloriously disoriented reading about the evil mastermind Balustrade as I do Zaphod Beeblebrox! In fact, I think they may be cousins.

This book takes you through the fast-paced world of intergalactic shenanigans, inviting you to meet and learn about various fun and lovable characters who are here to get in, get the job done, and get the heck out. Jonathan, a victim of randomness whose odds are ever in his favor, cannot help but save the world, his father, his mother, and his friends.

This book is fun and interesting. I felt a little overwhelmed sometimes with the names and descriptions of characters – I couldn’t keep them straight – but given a few minutes of going back and sorting it out, I kept on track and engrossed in the fun and games of aliens in London.

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Review: Much Ado About Magic by Shanna Swendson

Much Ado About Magic
Much Ado About Magic by Shanna Swendson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Much Ado About Magic, by Shanna Swendson, is the fifth installment of the Enchanted, Inc. series. It’s a delightfully easy read, a perfect book for summer, as long as you are truly not expecting much ado about magic.  In fact, there is very little magic about the story.  The world within the plot is a world of magicians, normals who are susceptible to magic, and individuals, such as the protagonist Katie Chandler, who are magic-immune.  Katie can’t feel magic, can’t see the effects of magic, and – what makes this book so easily written, and probably readable for those who are not into paranormal or fantasy fiction – doesn’t understand what actually happens whenever anyone has anything to do with magic.  She and her ultra attractive, ultra powerful wizard boyfriend, Owen Palmer, try to save the world from corporate espionage and struggles for power.

In more detail, the magic world of this series appears to be run by a shadowy government and by a corporation, Magic, Spells, and Illusions, Inc. (referred to in the book as MSI).  MSI is firmly on the side of good.  However, a second corporation involved in magic, driven by an individual who seeks to take over the world, wishes to gain power.  Meanwhile, Owen, as handsome, adorable, and perfect as he is, has to face his childhood demons. Who will win? And how? I read the book, and thoroughly enjoyed it, but I can’t really answer the second question.  The reader is never sure how magic works, although some spells are described (for example, the author goes into great detail in how wizards move apartments and make coffee; packing and brewing are not required).  In all other respects, the wizards are always saying something, waving their arms around, using spices, but other than that, magic is a mystery.  The author includes just the right amount of detail to make the universe where magic is practiced and exists believable, but not enough to truly elevate this book into fantasy fiction.

Aside from attention to detail, the book is a great read to bring along on vacation. It’s cute and relatively well-written. There is a little bit of romance, a little bit of suspense, a little bit of heartbreak – nothing too taxing on the reader, however.  Serious readers of fantasy genre (for example,  the Wheel of Times series or the Games of Thrones) will hate it.  Casual, weekend-readers who are not turned off by the title, will pick it up and probably enjoy it.

Much Ado About Magic is available in a variety of formats:

Barnes and Noble: Nook or Paperback Kindle


Kids Book Review: Super Surprise by Patricia Reilly Griff

Super Surprise Book CoverDestiny overheard something she wasn’t supposed to. Jake the Sweeper said that Ms Katz, a favorite and most beloved teacher of the children at ZigZag School, had to go (as in, leave the school for good) because she made too much of a mess. Desperate to save Ms Katz, Destiny gathers a diverse crew of friends — all who love Ms Katz fiercely — in an effort to save her job! Working hard and thinking creatively, the children of ZigZag School, together, find a way to showcase Ms. Katz and show how important she is to the children. But — can they save her job??

Super Surprise by Patricia Reilly Griff is a fun children’s book with age-appropriate intrigue, mystery, and problem-solving. Lively dialogue and illustrations pull the young reader deeply into the story. The clarity and detail of the pictures help the kids enjoy the chance to see new friends they’ve made and clearly imagine the events at the ZigZag Afternoon Center.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

PATRICIA REILLY GIFF is the author of many beloved books for children, including the Kids of the Polk Street School books. Her novels for older readers include the Newbery Honor books Lily’s Crossing and Pictures of Hollis Woods, and Willow Run, a companion to Lily’s Crossing. Her most recent books are the novels Storyteller and Wild Girl, and the Zigzag Kids titles, Number One Kid, Big Whopper, Flying Feet, and Star Time.

ALASDAIR BRIGHT has illustrated numerous books and advertising projects. He loves drawing and is never without his sketchbook.

Title: Super Surprise
Publisher: Random House Children’s Books
Imprint: Wendy Lamb Books
Pub Date: August 14, 2012
ISBN: 9780385738903