Review: Wink Poppy Midnight

wink poppy midnightReview:

Wink Poppy Midnight

Author: April Genevieve Tucholke

Publisher: SPEAK, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, 2016

Source: Personal Purchase

Welcome October! It’s the month of ghosts and ghoulies and things that go bump in the night for us here at Two BookWorms Blog. I am starting off with a story that, although it is not a hack-and-chop or monster-type story, does have deliciously dark and disturbing paranormal undertones. I will let you know right off that I finished this book in a single day.

Midnight and his father have moved to a new home. His mother has taken his brother and moved to France and left him and his father behind. Midnight’s new home is next door to the Bell family, which includes Wink and several other siblings. It is two miles from his old house which he hopes will be a good thing because it means he is also two miles away from Poppy.

Midnight is in love with Poppy (well, he’s at least very attracted to her), but Poppy doesn’t care about Midnight at all. She’s cruel and heartless, just sneaking into Midnight’s bed each night mostly to defy her parent’s image as “their little angel.” But Poppy may not be as heartless as she seems, for she is in love with Leaf Bell, Wink’s older brother. Leaf has no use for Poppy and so she sleeps with Midnight and torments and bullies all those around her, in hopes that he will at least notice her.

Now that he lives next door to Wink, Midnight becomes her friend and seems to be replacing Poppy in his heart. However, Poppy is not so very far away and this situation leads us into the mystery of the story. Who is the good guy (hero) and who is the bad guy (villain)? Who is telling the truth and who is telling the lie? It’s a truly tangled web that keeps the readers ensnared right to the end.

Review: The Lottery (The Authorized Graphic Adaptation)

the-lottery.jpg

Review:

“The Lottery” The Authorized Graphic Adaptation

Original Story by Shirley Jackson

Graphic Version Author/Illustrator: Miles Hyman

Publisher: A Novel Graphic by Hill & Ward, a division of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2016

Source: Library

If you loved (or at least could never forget) Shirley Jackson’s classic short story “The Lottery,” check out this graphic novel adaptation. It was illustrated by Miles Hyman, who happens to be Jackson’s grandson, and although many adaptations fall short, this one does not.

As regular readers of this blog will be aware, I am not a big fan of graphic novels. There are always exceptions. This interpretation, with its mostly somber colors (with the notable exception of blood-red end pages) and moody scenes, uses pictures to slowly build the same feelings of foreboding that lead to the horrifying end. In this instance, the use of graphic illustrations only intensifies the feelings, making it truly unforgettable.

Check out more of Miles Hyman’s work at: https://www.mileshyman.com/youngreaders

 

 

 

 

Short Story Grab Bag

Since May is short story month, I’ve reviewed a short story collection earlier this month and tomorrow I have a special feature concerning a particular short story. Before making my selections, I did some research by searching for things like “best short stories for middle grade (or high school)” or “classic short stories.” The lists that popped up contained much of what I expected. Here are a few of the most recommended stories:

 

“To Build A Fire” – Jack London

“The Ransom of Red Chief” – O. Henry

“The Tell-Tale Heart” – Edgar Allan Poe

“The Lottery” – Shirley Jackson

“The Rocking-Horse Winner” – D. H. Lawrence

“A Sound of Thunder” – Ray Bradbury

 

Most of these writers had several stories on the list. I have read all of these choices and agree: they are fantastic stories. However, while these are the classics that show up repeatedly, I feel there are some missed opportunities here. There are many writers, perhaps more well-known for their novels, who have written some equally wonderful short stories. So here are a few suggestions that might give readers some food for thought.

 

“A Haunted House” – Virginia Woolf

“Rikki-Rikki Tavi” – Rudyard Kipling

“Skin” – Roald Dahl

“Back Windows” – Louisa May Alcott

“The Brother Who Failed” – L.M. Montgomery

“Mr. Edward” – Norah Lofts

Mother West Wind “Where” Stories – Thornton Burgess

“The Sphinx at Dawn” – Madeleine L’Engle

“The Prank” – Gregory Maguire

 

Once again, most of these writers have several – or many – great stories.

Check back tomorrow for an interested take on a well-known short story!

 

 

 

 

 

Review: Armageddon Summer

Armageddon SummerReview:

Armageddon Summer

Authors: Jane Yolen and Bruce Coville

Publisher: Scholastic Inc., 1998

Source: Public library

For my next Jane Yolen story, I chose a YA selection. Armageddon Summer tells the story of two teenagers, Marina and Jed. They meet when Marina’s mother and Jed’s father both become members in Reverend Beelson’s Church of the Believers. What do they believe? That on July 27, 2000 (which happens to be Marina’s birthday) the world is going to end. Only 144 people will be left after Armageddon and Reverend Beelson’s congregation is preparing to be the ones.

In preparation, the Believers go to a mountaintop camp where they are collecting provisions and making necessary arrangements. Once they reach their required number, no one else will be admitted. And for Jed and Marina, questions really arise when they realize that preparations include guns and an electrified fence. No one is going to come in – or go out.

To add to the tension, they realize that the outside world is aware that the Believers are at the camp due to a laptop that Jed had smuggled in with him. And when a man shows up at the gates claiming his daughter was abducted by the group, the situation is going to spiral out of control.

I loved this story. It’s got everything: adventure, drama, romance. It’s one of those books that I had to speedread my way through because I just had to know how it ended. It is so believable and the story brings up so many questions about faith and trust and beliefs and truth. These are big issues, and though the book provides no definitive answers, the reader – like Marina and Jed – can begin to sort out the complexities of life and find their own answers to life’s big questions.

Review: The Star-Touched Queen

Star Touched QueenReview:

The Star-Touched Queen

Author: Roshani Ghokshi

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, 2016

Source: Personal Purchase

Mayavati has grown up the knowledge that her horoscope is one of death and destruction. She is a daughter of the Raja, and living in the harem with his wives and other unmarried daughters, she is subjected to cruel gossip and treatment. She dislikes the stars that have imprisoned her to such a fate and in such a world; she dreams of escape to other worlds.

However, as the daughter of a Raja, she has an important role. Her marriage can help create an alliance with other nations. Her father decides that there will be a swayamvara, a practice where she will choose her husband from a lineup of suitors. However, the night before the ceremony, her father comes to her bearing a gift, “One to set you free from this marriage.” (pg. 49) It is poison.

Escape is out of reach – or is it? Just as she is about to take the poison, an expected suitor offers her a chance. Amar of Akaran carries her off to the world of the Night Bazaar and offers her his kingdom and his heart.

But is Maya ready for all that Amar has to offer? Who is he really? Is she prepared to be the Queen he claims she can be? And once she betrays him, can she find a way to save them both?

Fantastically magical, Choskshi has created worlds filled with treachery and adventure, romance and desire.

To learn more about Roshani Chokshi, go to http://www.roshanichokshi.com/books/. For those who fall in love with this book, you will be excited to learn of her work that tells the story of Maya’s sister, Gauri.

Review: Mosquitoland

MosquitolandReview:

Mosquitoland

Author: David Arnold

Publisher: SPEAK, an imprint of Penguin Random House, 2015

Source: Personal Purchase

Mary Iris Malone – or Mim, for short – has recently been moved from Ashland, Ohio to Jackson, Mississippi. Her parents divorced, her father remarried the waitress from the local Denny’s, and she has had to move with him all within a few short months. And suddenly even the letters from her mother have stopped.

Eavesdropping on a private conversation between her father and stepmother with her principal, Mim hears her stepmother say, “She’ll beat this disease. Eve’s a fighter.” So in an instant, Mim knows where she needs to be. Her mother’s last known address is in Cleveland, OH, and without another thought, Mim is on her way.

She stops at the house before heading to the bus terminal and finds some very incriminating letters that her stepmother has been hiding, along with a wad of cash that will get her to where she needs to be. And so begins a road trip full of twists and turns, surprises for both Mim and the reader, some pleasant, some not so much.

This debut novel has been called a “laugh-out-loud” story and “hilarious.” And Mim, in her sassy way, is indeed funny. But I will warn readers – and parents of those readers – that this story has a very dark side. Mim is doing the kind of things that gives most parents heart failure. I was strongly reminded of Going Bovine as I read this novel. Both books have important messages and while I enjoyed them very much and feel they were handled in a positive manner, I also feel the subject matter may not suit younger readers.

For more about David Arnold: http://davidarnoldbooks.com/

 

Review: Lost in a Book

BB Lost in a BookReview:

Disney Beauty and the Beast: Lost in a Book

Author: Jennifer Donnelly

Publisher: Disney Press, 2017

Source: Personal Purchase

We begin this version of Beauty and the Beast with a wager between two sisters, Love and Death. Death claims that the Beast has no heart, but Love claims that there is still hope for him. Belle, with her heart of gold, may be just the one to release him from the curse. But Death hates to lose and is not above stacking the deck in her favor. So she places a magical book in Beast’s library, one in which Belle can literally be lost.

Belle stumbles upon the magical book Nevermore one day after she, the Beast, and the other usual characters have been cleaning the library. The situation is hardly a way for Belle’s or the Beast’s dreams to come true. That’s why Nevermore is so tempting. The book grows large enough for Belle to enter and once inside she finds everything she ever imagined. She’s wearing elegant clothes and jewels, a handsome and charming young man escorts her to a grand party where she can dine on mouth-watering confections. Nevermore’s mistress, Madame Comtesse, offers Belle wonderful experiences, education, a chance to see her mother and father again. It’s too much for a young girl to resist. What’s the harm with a little break from her mundane and not terribly comfortable life with the Beast? Though Belle leaves Nevermore, it’s lure grows stronger with each visit she makes.  And little by little Belle (and the reader) learns exactly what the harm is because Madame Comtesse, aka Death, is playing the game to win.

Although the classic Beauty and the Beast story is central to this version, I have to say that it is overshadowed by the competition between Love and Death. The battle between the two sisters adds so much dramatic tension to the story that this version became my definite favorite. I was kept on the edge of my seat because who could possibly win against Death, especially when she is cheating? It certainly seems as though Death will win over Love. Of course, as we race to the conclusion we are given hope. As Death says to Belle when Belle fears all is lost, “Be glad you didn’t tangle with her (Love), my dear. She’s merciless. An utter savage… Love is so strong, so ferocious, that she frightens even me.” (pg. 250) A great line in a great book!

Review: As Old As Time

bb-as-old-as-timeReview:

As Old As Time: A Twisted Tale

Author: Liz Braswell

Publisher: Disney Press, 2016

Source: Personal Purchase

Today we’ll move on to a second adaptation of Beauty and the Beast, As Old as Time: A Twisted Tale. Initially this story sticks pretty close to the Disney animated version. Chapter titles even come from lines from the movie. However, the story takes us back in time to discover exactly why the Prince has been cursed to become a beast. It appears that Belle’s mother is the enchantress who curses the young Prince. Why would she do this? Well, it’s a long story.

It all begins with Rosalind and Maurice. You know, crazy old Maurice – except as a young man in love. They lived in a faraway kingdom where les charmantes lived peacefully alongside les naturels. Maurice and Rosalind meet, fall in love, marry, and have Belle.

But little by little by “ethnic cleansing” (a bit dark for a Disney tale, but I will warn you that this story is not as light and fluffy as the movie) is taking place. Les charmantes are disappearing and no one knows exactly what is happening to them. Fearing for his wife’s safety, Maurice decides the family must leave the kingdom where Rosalind is known as a powerful enchantress. Even in their new home, they are not entirely safe. For her family’s safety, Rosalind casts a spell of forgetfulness – and disappears.

What develops is that there is a mystery going on and to solve it, Belle and the Beast must work together. After all, the relationships of their parents were intertwined, and somehow the secret lies within their past. Yet the Beast’s parents are dead, Rosalind is missing, Maurice has forgotten, and Belle and the Beast are trapped in the enchanted castle. Working side by side on their problems, a nice little relationship develops between Belle and Beast. Since my biggest complaint about The Beast Within was that I felt very little happened to help grow a Beast to a Prince, this was exactly the type of alteration to the story that I was hoping to get.

And the real villain? Well, no spoilers but it is such a dark and dangerous character that Gaston seems almost nice.

 

 

Review: The Beast Within

bb-beast-withinReview:

The Beast Within: A Tale of Beauty’s Prince

Author:  Serena Valentino

Publisher: Disney Press, 2014

Source: Personal Purchase

The first new version of Beauty and the Beast that I will be reviewing is The Beast Within: A Tale of Beauty’s Prince. In this adaptation, the Beast – not Belle – is the main character. In it we learn that the Prince throws aside his beautiful and supposedly beloved fiancée because she is a pig farmer’s daughter. So she curses him (good for her) to become a beast until he finds true love, both given and received. He must do this before his twenty-first birthday or he is doomed to remain a beast for all time.

Now I have to stop here and ask: How old was the Prince to begin with? The old lines “ten years we’ve been rusting, needing so much more than dusting” certainly aren’t the case because at eleven he probably wasn’t dating seriously yet. The process of becoming a beast is not instantaneous, but the story as a whole is much quicker. The beastly transformation takes months, not years. Not much time for the Prince to learn to feel remorseful. But back to the story…

Best buddy Gaston (yeah – the guy who stabs him in the back), arranges for a party to meet girls. Enter Princess Tulip Morningstar. She loves him but she can’t seem to manage the trick of breaking the spell which is making him become more beast-like all the time (no fault of hers, mind you – he’s the one who is not really in love). So the Prince treats her as only a real jerk would and kicks her out of his castle. And in a short time, His Fickle Highness turns to Belle. Yes, he does save her from the wolves, but the change from a spoiled, selfish Beast takes place far too quickly to believe that there is any real, meaningful difference in him. It would have to be love at first sight and let’s face it, he’s not good-looking and not at all likeable. I can’t help thinking that Belle is not that much of a fool.

 

 

The Reveal: Blind Date with a Book #2 (2017)

morning-starReview:

Love by the Morning Star

Author: Laura L. Sullivan

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014

Source: Personal Purchase

Anna Morgan is the beautiful young daughter of a grocer. Though not of noble blood by birth, she is determined that she will use her natural advantages to marry nobility. Her father is a member of the National Fascist Front (NFF), and they want to use her to help their cause. Despite her upper class aspirations, she is being sent to the palatial home of Lord Liripip – as a kitchen maid! – where she, with the aid of a cook who is sympathetic to their cause, will attempt to assist the NFF in attaining its goals.

Hannah Morganstern performed in her father’s cabaret in Berlin until an uprising destroys all Jewish businesses. Fearing for their daughter’s safety, her parents decide to send her to stay with her mother’s brother-in-law, Lord Liripip. She is warned that although the family will allow her to come to them, they may not exactly welcome her – especially the current Lady Liripip.

Both girls arrive at Starkers on the same day. Anna meets Lord Liripip’s son, Teddy, at the gate and is driven to the house in his Bugatti and introduced to Lady Liripip. Hannah is escorted to the house by Hardy, the under-gardener, in a wheelbarrow to the kitchens and dumped on the cook.

What follows is a delightful mix-up of mistaken identities. Hannah becomes the maid while Anna becomes the somewhat privileged relative. Teddy believes he is in love with Anna, although it is really Hannah that he whispers words of love to in the dark. Despite Anna’s obvious angling for Teddy’s affections, in her secret soul it is a man who deals with flowers who truly tickles her fancy.

If those confusions are not enough, let’s add the fact that Anna’s supposed contact – the cook – has been taken ill and a new and unsuspecting cook has taken her place. Anna herself does not suspect what the NFF truly expects her duties to entail. Teddy is not the care-free Oxford student that one might suppose. And Lord Liripip does not realize that Hannah is a relation but thinks she is a highly desirable courtesan!

Enjoyable though this story is, I must add my mom-alert warning. Tangled, twisted and spicy, this is not the best choice of book for the younger (middle grade) set. It is filled with sexual innuendos and bawdy behavior not appropriate for all audiences.