Friday, August 31, 2018

Review - After the Fall: How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again

After the Fall: How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again
by Dan Santat
Date: 2017
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 40
Format: e-book
Source: library

Everyone knows that when Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. But what happened after?

Follow Humpty Dumpty, an avid bird watcher whose favorite place to be is high up on the city wall―that is, until after his famous fall. Now terrified of heights, Humpty can longer do many of the things he loves most.

Will he summon the courage to face his fear?

(synopsis from Goodreads)

Who knew Humpty Dumpty had PTSD?

This was a really cute book that takes place after the rhyme. What happened to Humpty Dumpty after that fall? Well, apparently, he developed a severe phobia that prevented him from enjoying his life the way he had before.

The message about facing your fears, one step at a time, is a nice one, complemented by some beautiful illustrations. At first, I wasn't really sure about the ending, but yeah, I guess it makes a sort of sense (you'll see when you read it).

All in all, this was a pretty good story about overcoming fears to live the life you want.

Premise: 4/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 4/5
Illustrations: 4/5
Originality: 4/5

Enjoyment: 3/5

Overall: 3.67 out of 5


Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Review - Silent Days, Silent Dreams

Silent Days, Silent Dreams
by Allen Say
Date: 2017
Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 64
Format: e-book
Source: library

James Castle was born two months premature on September 25, 1899, on a farm in Garden Valley, Idaho. He was deaf, mute, autistic and probably dyslexic. He didn't walk until he was four; he would never learn to speak, write, read or use sign language.

Yet, today Castle's artwork hangs in major museums throughout the world. The Philadelphia Museum of Art opened "James Castle: A Retrospective in 2008." The 2013 Venice Biennale included eleven works by Castle in the feature exhibition "The Encyclopedic Palace." And his reputation continues to grow.

Caldecott Medal winner Allen Say, author of the acclaimed memoir Drawing from Memory, takes readers through an imagined look at Castle's childhood, allows them to experience his emergence as an artist despite the overwhelming difficulties he faced, and ultimately reveals the triumphs that he would go on to achieve.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

Um... no. Aside from being full of conjecture, this "biography" about an artist doesn't even feature any pictures of the artist's work! Allen Say instead did all the drawings, imitating Castle's style. I don't think I've ever come across anything as blatantly self-serving. It would be like writing a biography of Picasso, recreating all his pieces yourself, and expecting accolades.

In addition, the book is told from the point of view of a nephew, who is apparently real, but definitely isn't Allen Say. It even says on the copyright page that this is a work of fiction and doesn't claim to be historically accurate.

I'm sorry, but I really don't understand the point of this.

Premise: 1/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 1/5
Illustrations: 1/5
Originality: 1/5

Enjoyment: 1/5

Overall: 1 out of 5


Review - Roof Octopus

Roof Octopus
by Lucy Branam
illustrated by Rogério Coelho
Date: 2018
Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: library

When Nora hears a soft "tap, tap, tap" at her bedroom window she never expects it to be the tentacle of a very large octopus, but that's exactly what it is--an octopus on her apartment building. The octopus turns out to be a very neighborly sort of octopus, helping the residents to wash their cars or weed the window boxes, and Nora makes fast friends with him. But one morning, the octopus is nowhere in sight. Has he moved on already? And just when Nora wanted to bring him for Show and Tell!

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This is one of those books that's a bit short on story, but long on aesthetic appeal. I loved the illustrations in this one. They're whimsical, colourful, and very fun.

It's a short book, so I don't really know what else to say. If you're looking for a kids' book with unique illustrations and a cute little story to match, give this one a try.

Premise: 4/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 3/5
Illustrations: 5/5
Originality: 4/5

Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall: 4 out of 5


Review - Pandora

Pandora
by Victoria Turnbull
Date: 2017
Publisher: Clarion Books
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: library

Pandora lives alone, in a world of broken things. She makes herself a handsome home, but no one ever comes to visit. Then one day something falls from the sky... a bird with a broken wing.

Little by little, Pandora helps the bird grow stronger. Little by little, the bird helps Pandora feel less lonely. The bird begins to fly again, and always comes back—bringing seeds and flowers and other small gifts. But then one day, it flies away and doesn't return. Pandora is heartbroken.

Until things begin to grow...

Here is a stunningly illustrated celebration of connection and renewal.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

The pictures are cute, and the beginning of the story is sweet as Pandora rescues a little bird and nurses it back to health. But I was pretty underwhelmed by the ending. What? Why? How? I don't get it. If you're okay with just accepting things as they're presented, you might feel differently than I did. But the weak ending kind of makes me think that the whole story was just a vehicle for the illustrations (which, don't get me wrong, are lovely).

With a stronger story and a little more explanation, I think I would've liked this one more than I ultimately did.

Premise: 2/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 3/5
Illustrations: 4/5
Originality: 4/5

Enjoyment: 3/5

Overall: 3.17 out of 5


Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Review - Nothing Rhymes with Orange

Nothing Rhymes with Orange
by Adam Rex
Date: 2017
Publisher: Chronicle Books LLC
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 48
Format: e-book
Source: library

We all know nothing rhymes with orange. But how does that make Orange feel? Well, left out! When a parade of fruit gets together to sing a song about how wonderful they are—and the song happens to rhyme—Orange can't help but feel like it's impossible for him to ever fit in. But when one particularly intuitive Apple notices how Orange is feeling, the entire English language begins to become a bit more inclusive. Beloved author-illustrator Adam Rex has created a hilarious yet poignant parable about feeling left out, celebrating difference, and the irrefutable fact that nothing rhymes with orange.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

There really is no word that rhymes with orange...

This is completely silly. At first glance, it seems overly simple. After all, it's just a bunch of photographs of fruit with faces drawn on. But the expressions are pretty funny, and as the book goes on, those characters really become characters. Then things get really strange when Nietzsche shows up. (No, I'm not kidding.)

All in all, this was ridiculous. But I'm still smiling about it, so I guess it wasn't that bad!

Premise: 4/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 3/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Originality: 3/5

Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall: 3.5 out of 5


Sunday, August 19, 2018

Review - Out of Body: A Disturbing Short Story

Out of Body: A Disturbing Short Story
by C. A. Hewitson
Date: 2016
Publisher: C. A. Hewitson
Reading level: A
Book type: short story
Pages: 7
Format: e-book
Source: Kobo

When Hutch dies from a heart attack and has an out-of-body experience, he gets a deathbed surprise like he never imagined.

(synopsis from Goodreads)



I'm glad this wasn't any longer than it was (which was only a few pages; Goodreads doesn't even list a length). The full title according to my Kobo app is "Out of Body: A Disturbing Short Story", but the only thing I found remotely disturbing was the last line, because it showed a complete lack of learning on the part of the main character.

The writing is kind of disturbing, too, with lousy punctuation, stereotyped characters (the nurse is "a big, black woman by the name of Oprah with a wicked humor and heart of gold"... of course she is), and even a character smiling their speech (argh!), but what do you expect from a freebie that you can read in under five minutes?

I'm afraid this wouldn't entice me to read any of the author's other works. In fact, it'll probably cause me to avoid them.

Plot: 1/5
Characters: 1/5
Pace: 3/5
Writing & Editing: 2/5
Originality: 1/5

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall Rating: 1.71 out of 5 ladybugs


Saturday, August 18, 2018

Review - M Is for Maple: A Canadian Alphabet

M Is for Maple: A Canadian Alphabet
by Michael Ulmer
illustrated by Melanie Rose
Date: 2004
Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book non-fiction
Pages: 40
Format: e-book
Source: library

Whether sharing the stories of Anne of Green Gables and Terry Fox, or revealing Canada's importance in growing grain that feeds the world, "M is for Maple" is a shining tribute to Canada. From British Columbia to Newfoundland, this Canadian alphabet book shares our nation's symbols, history, people and culture. In clever rhymes and informative text, author Mike Ulmer shares the unique details of Canada. Illustrator Melanie Rose has captured the beauty and splendor of Canada, from the Northern Lights to brave Mounties and the beautiful cities of Toronto, Victoria, and Quebec. Destined to become a national classic, "M is for Maple" is a treasure for Canadians young and old.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

The fact that this book is so old (and therefore a bit outdated) is probably part of the reason I didn't like it as much as I thought I would. Another reason is the errors in the text. Some of the poems are a bit clunky and wouldn't really roll off the tongue if you were reading the book out loud. And, finally, this is a pretty European-centred alphabet; lip service is paid to the Indigenous peoples of Canada, but they make up a very small portion of this book. Black culture has almost as much representation, with less history (proportionally speaking). While I'm not expecting to see "R is for Residential Schools" in a children's book, I do think the topic of the role of Indigenous peoples in Canada could've been more than a series of footnotes.

The outdated portions are a result of talking about current events or statistics (at least, they were current when the book was written). This could've been avoided by adding some dates, because as it stands, some of the statistics look like they refer to today.

There are a few errors, such as referring to the Salt Spring Islands (Salt Spring is one island, and is never referred to in the plural) and the bit about the inventor of the zipper. The book claims Gideon Sundback was Canadian. He wasn't; he was Swedish, and later had American citizenship. He was the president of a zipper company whose factory was located in Canada. Calling him a Canadian is a stretch at best, and outright inaccurate at worst.

For these reasons, I can't wholeheartedly recommend this book, which is a shame because there are some letters of the alphabet that have some really interesting factoids to go along with them. After reading the book and finding a few errors, though, I'm not sure if there are more inaccuracies hidden throughout the text. It makes me leery about giving the book to a child who might take everything in here as truth.

Quotable moment:

A is for Anne--that's Anne with an E--
a red-headed orphan who loved Avonlea.
The Cuthberts had thought they were adopting a boy,
but that red-headed girl would be their pride and their joy.

Premise: 4/5
Meter: 3/5
Writing: 2/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Originality: 3/5

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 2.71 out of 5


Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Review - Brain Freeze

Brain Freeze
by Tom Fletcher
illustrated by Shane Devries
Date: 2018
Publisher: Puffin
Reading level: MG
Book type: illustrated prose novella
Pages: 112
Format: e-book
Source: library

A little girl discovers that eating ice cream from her grandfather's old ice-cream truck gives her the power to travel through time, in this brilliant, funny and heartwarming story from bestselling author Tom Fletcher.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This is an adorable novella about a 10-year-old girl who discovers that brain freeze from eating her ice cream enables her to travel through time in her grandfather's magical ice-cream van.

The subject matter seems young, although the length and the language used probably puts it more on the lower end of middle grade; younger kids would probably enjoy having it read to them, though. While parts of the story are a bit silly, the whole thing is entertaining, and Izzy's relationship with her grandfather is just plain sweet (pun intended).

The writing was just okay for me, and at times it is very British (in spelling, punctuation, and expressions), but it's not so much that it couldn't be understood by North American readers. I just love the illustrations, though; they add some more sweetness into what is already one of the cutest books I've read in a while.

Quotable moment:

'ISABELLE! Do NOT lick the floor!' Mum shouted as I began slurping up as much melted ice cream as I could before Dad hoisted me in the air.


Premise: 4/5
Plot: 4/5
Characters: 4/5
Pace: 5/5
Writing: 3/5
Editing: 3/5
Originality: 5/5
Enjoyment: 5/5

Overall Rating: 4.13 out of 5 ladybugs


Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Review - Dreamfall

Dreamfall (Dreamfall #1)
by Amy Plum
Date: 2017
Publisher: HarperTeen
Reading level: YA
Book type: prose novel
Pages: 293
Format: e-book
Source: Amazon.ca

Cata Cordova suffers from such debilitating insomnia that she agreed to take part in an experimental new procedure. She thought things couldn’t get any worse...but she was terribly wrong.

Soon after the experiment begins, there’s a malfunction with the lab equipment, and Cata and six other teen patients are plunged into a shared dreamworld with no memory of how they got there. Even worse, they come to the chilling realization that they are trapped in a place where their worst nightmares have come to life. Hunted by creatures from their darkest imaginations and tormented by secrets they’d rather keep buried, Cata and the others will be forced to band together to face their biggest fears. And if they can’t find a way to defeat their dreams, they will never wake up.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

WARNING: Major Spoilers! You've been warned.

This is, without a doubt, the worst book I've read so far this year. It may also be one of the worst books I've ever read, but surprisingly, it's not for the reasons that usually make me hate books. This is going to be a long review, so buckle up, grab your marshmallow on a stick, and get ready for a roast.

While the premise of Dreamfall appears to be okay on the surface, it runs into problems almost right away, starting with the study/experiment. I understand that this is fiction, but when you're writing about medical matters, you need to somewhat stick to reality. And in the real world, you wouldn't do a study on one particular therapy for insomnia (in this case, a variation of electroconvulsive therapy) on a group of minors whose insomnia results from different causes. There's no way to account for variability in such a group. The kids in the study have conditions ranging from PTSD and narcolepsy with cataplexy to FFI (Fatal Familial Insomnia); so, before we even get going, the study is already comparing the outcome of a treatment on patients whose condition is caused by psychological factors to patients whose condition is caused by genetic ones.

So, with that shaky foundation, we're launched into one of the dumbest stories I've ever read. The problem with writing about nightmares is that they're totally subjective. What's scary for one person might not be scary for another, and since this is supposed to be horror, you need something that's fairly universal. Walking statues are not. Lakes of mucus are not. Clowns are definitely not. Heck, I've had nightmares about kittens. But if I tried to write that into a book, most people wouldn't be able to relate to my fear.

I think the best way to work through some of the problematic elements of this book is to discuss the characters. There will be major spoilers here, so you've been warned.

Cata

She's one of our point-of-view characters, a bland and generic heroine with such an indistinct voice that I kept forgetting when I was in her head. (She and Fergus, one of the other point-of-view characters, sounded exactly alike.) The only thing that reminded me that she was narrating were the unpleasant little comments that she'd make from time to time.

I’m disgusted with Remi’s defeatism when we’ve barely even tried.

She's got some sort of barely disguised racism going on, because the way she talks to Remi is pretty rude. And there's really no reason for it that I can see. What she calls defeatism, I call common sense. She makes up her mind early on that he's a bad person, and then speaks to him accordingly.

“For God’s sake, Remi, just shut up and push.” I place my hands back on the lid. “And really try this time instead of giving up before you’ve even given it any effort.”

Cata's backstory is stereotypical (complete with her father beating her with a strop; who even owns a strop these days?), and we never do find out what happened to her mother. Did her father kill her? You'd think that, if a woman mysteriously died and one of the kids came forward to say their father was horribly abusive, there'd be an investigation, whether the other kids denied the abuse or not. Anyway, Cata has insomnia because of PTSD, and she also dissociates from time to time (sometimes conveniently for the sake of plot complications).

Fergus

He's our second point of view character, and is also one of the insomnia sufferers participating in the study. If I can point to a favourite character in the book, it's probably him, but only because he didn't annoy me all to hell. He's probably the smartest one in the group (IQ notwithstanding... I'll get to that in a moment).

With a Scottish-Indian background, he almost feels like part of a diversity quota. His ethnicity isn't really relevant, especially since he doesn't know much about his background. (He made some comment about how destroying a Christian cross in a dream would cause karma or something. I'm pretty sure that's not how it works, and if he really did have a Hindu mother, he would've had a better understanding of the belief.)

Fergus has insomnia as well as narcolepsy and cataplexy. The narcolepsy isn't really touched on much, although the cataplexy is brought up. For whatever reason, he lies about it at the beginning and blames his passing out on blood sugar (as if cataplexy is somehow a worse thing to admit to than hypoglycemia). As far as I can recall, though, he only did this once. Mostly, when strong emotions seemed to be about to trigger an attack, he'd rub his tattoo and magically stave it off. (From what I know about this condition, I don't think he'd have it so easy. Even laughing can cause sufferers to keel over. Just imagine that. If you've ever tried to not laugh at something hilarious, you'll know it's next to impossible.)

BethAnn

We don't really get to know much about poor BethAnn before she's taken out in a hail of dream bullets. Because she's got anorexia, her heart supposedly couldn't take the stress of dying in the dream.

BethAnn's backstory highlights another problem in this book, which I'll talk more about later. Basically, she feels guilty because her younger sister drowned while she was babysitting her. Her arc is short, and ends when she steps in front of a bunch of bullets to try to save the others (the scene is so badly written, however, that it doesn't appear that they really needed saving--or that taking those bullets would've helped... so her sacrifice comes off as completely pointless).

Sinclair

Here's another stereotype: the rich, handsome bad-boy. Except Sinclair is, apparently, very bad. A psychopath, in fact. There are very few clues, other than when he kills a tiger that was trying to eat them and Cata makes a big deal about how it wasn't necessary. (It wasn't necessary because their escape was too easy and convenient, but I digress). Aside from flirting and making jokes, Sinclair doesn't really exhibit any inappropriate behaviour. One thing that the author could have done, if she indeed wanted to cast him as a realistic psychopath, was to have his heart rate different from all the other kids. Psychopaths have a lower resting heart rate, and often don't have their hearts speed up in stressful situations the way other people's do. In the study, though, the heart rate acceleration was consistent across all the subjects, which was a missed opportunity to give this character a little more realism.

His backstory is that he probably killed some kids, but his parents covered it up. I don't know why he has insomnia. A psychopath wouldn't lose sleep over killing people.

Remi

Oh, Remi. Poor Remi, the token black kid from "Africa" who speaks with an "African" accent... but with perfect English syntax (even though, as we find out later, he's from a former French colony). I was kind of offended by this character. He's written as if we're supposed to dislike him. He's intolerant of Ant, to the point where it isn't even realistic (yelling at the top of his lungs--in all caps--at the latter's counting rituals and taking it completely personally for some reason).

His backstory is that he's a genocide survivor. Why the author didn't just pick one of many real genocides is beyond me. Instead, she makes up a place called Matangwe, which we find out at the 65% mark is supposedly a former colony. I assumed it was a village, since, when I Googled it, I came up with a village in Kenya. So when he says he's from Matangwe in Africa, it just sounds like the author doesn't realize that Africa is a continent. Still, by making up a fictional place, it looks lazy, as if the author didn't want to do any research. When I looked it up, I found an article about five genocides that were still going on at the time this book was written. Three were in Africa. There was no need to make anything up, especially since the extent of Remi's "African-ness" was the colour of his skin (there are very few details given, and even the nightmare based on his experiences is so generic that it could've taken place almost anywhere in sub-Saharan Africa).

Ant/George

Yes, that's a spoiler. George doesn't even exist. I figured it out long before the characters did. George is basically just a figment of Ant's imagination, somehow manifesting as a real person that the other study subjects can see. This may be because Ant is a Mary Sue. Yes, a Mary Sue, not a Gary Stu. We find out almost at the end that Ant is actually a girl, not a boy as everyone had assumed. And she's not just a Mary Sue: she's an autistic savant Mary Sue.

We don't really know her backstory, other than the fact that she's got an IQ of 160, is autistic and has OCD, but eschews any sort of labels. (This character is probably going to be offensive to multiple groups, but I'll discuss that more later.) She's like a Swiss army knife, always there providing answers (or even weapons conjured out of thin air) whenever they're needed. I'm still not sure why she has insomnia. Maybe it's just due to anxiety.

In any case, her character is kind of inconsistent. At times, she's written as autistic... but only so that people can comment on it. Many of those traits sort of fall by the wayside later, and instead of coming across as autistic, she just seems... young. (She is, at thirteen, the youngest in the group.)

Jaime

He's the third point-of-view character, but he's on the outside. Jaime is a pre-med student, in the room where the experiment is taking place and watching everything that goes on. I do not like Jaime. He keeps doubting himself, deferring to the doctors who are running the study, viewing them like gods.

If this famous scientist hasn’t yet seen a pattern, who am I to point it out to him?

The thing is, the two doctors running the study are a couple of the dumbest doctors I've ever seen. If Jaime thinks he's not as smart as they are, then he's got a problem.

Anyway, Jaime's just there to observe, and yet the "genius" doctors do things like leave him in a room full of medically unstable teenagers while they go off to do a Skype call (I still don't understand why they had to leave a room full of computers to do that) and then yell at him when he has to defibrillate one of the kids to keep them from dying.

Which is why I am able to follow through, even when my peripheral vision catches Zhu rushing through the door, and I hear her scream, “Jaime! What the hell are you doing? Stop right now!”

Of course, he succeeds.

“Jaime,” Zhu says, her face drawn in wonder, “you just saved that boy’s life.”

She seems awfully surprised, doesn't she?

Jaime may be studying to be a doctor, but I sure wouldn't want him treating me. Before the previously mentioned incident, here's a little sample of his thought process:

What am I doing? I’m a premed student, not a doctor.

This boy is dying, a voice says from inside me.

If this doesn’t work and he dies, it could be blamed on me. If I do nothing, I’m blameless.

A life is in the balance.

This could cost me my degree . . . my entry to med school . . . my career.

If you stand by and let him die, you will never forgive yourself.

This could mean ending up back in Detroit.

Better to be safe than sorry.

And then the voice inside me becomes that of my dad’s. My dad, who was always proud of me, no matter what. I hear pride and amusement blend in his low baritone voice. When have you ever taken the safe way?

That is the push I need.

So, in other words, he'd been about to let the kid die to save his potential career. That's not exactly the sort of person I'd trust with my life.

There's also something that happens near the end of the book that just made me roll my eyes. Through a hacker friend of his, he finds out what's really in Sinclair's sealed files, and realizes he's a psychopath. When Fergus emerges briefly from the dream state, Jaime tells him about how the experiment went wrong and that the doctors are trying to find a way to bring them all out safely. And then he figures Fergus should know that they might all be in danger. Does he tell him Sinclair's a psychopath? Oh, no. That would make far too much sense. Instead:

I pray with all my heart he heard my last words: One of you is a psychopath.

Seriously, Jaime?! I almost suspect that he's a psychopath himself, after a stunt like that. It's like he wants to see what they'll do with that information, if they'll tear each other apart. Don't psychopaths love to create chaos?

Dr. Zhu and Dr. Vesper

These two... What do I say about these bumbling fools? They're like the medical equivalent of the Keystone Cops. Aside from the fact that their initial study premise is riddled with holes, they don't seem to know much about medicine in general. And they're so over-the-top dramatic that it made me roll my eyes (see quote above about Zhu's "wonder").

Vesper is staring at her like he’s challenging her to do something impossible. “Call it,” he urges.

She sighs and says, “As of seven fifty-five a.m., I declare all seven subjects comatose.”

When BethAnn goes into cardiac arrest, they do call the EMTs, but like every other medical personnel in the building, they're not much better.

The EMTs are there within seconds. I stand to the side, watching in horror as they take Vesper’s place, charge the paddles, and begin delivering shocks to the girl’s chest. After three attempts, they stop.

“No response,” one says.

“Try again,” Vesper urges.

They shake their heads. “It’s no good. She’s gone. She was past saving by the time we got here.”

You want to talk about defeatism? Those EMTs were called almost immediately when BethAnn went into cardiac arrest. They were there within seconds. But she was "past saving" by the time they got there? Remind me never to go to this hospital for anything; they sure don't try very hard.

There are so many medical things in this book that just don't ring true. Like people under general anesthesia being in REM sleep. Or Zhu having ventilators brought in just in case "care becomes extended". Ventilators are used when people have trouble breathing... not just because they're unconscious for a long time.


Okay... and now we get to the problematic aspects of this book. Aside from the Africa thing and the subtle racism, there's the undercurrent of judgment that runs through the text. One thing I found pretty offensive was equating the homeless with being dirty, shabby, and crazy.

His eyes look as mad as the homeless guy that sits outside the art supply store Mom goes to in Manhattan.

Considering that most of these kids have conditions that are described in the DSM... well, glass houses and all. And that brings me to my next point. This is a book that's probably going to offend those in the neurodiversity movement, as well as those who are often antagonized by those in the neurodiversity movement (the parents of kids on the low-functioning end of the autism spectrum).

“Like I said before, I’m not autistic,” Ant says, straightening his back and speaking forcefully for the first time. He looks Remi straight in the eyes. “I’m not autistic. I don’t have Asperger’s. I’m not obsessive-compulsive. I’m just . . . me.”

Remi looks at his feet, taken aback by Ant’s defense.

“Haven’t you ever heard of spectrums?” George continues, visibly controlling her rage. “Anyone with half a brain nowadays knows that everything falls on a spectrum. Sexual preference. Neurological normality. Who doesn’t have a bit of ADD or dyslexia or addictive personality? And if you don’t, I’ll bet you’ve got something else going on.”

When you do this, you basically deny the experience of anyone who doesn't share yours (which is something that a lot of people with high-functioning autism tend to do, which makes Ant/George's defense even more insufferable). Despite what Ant/George says, there is such a thing as neurological normality. But if you put everyone on a spectrum, you start to normalize whatever the problem is. Where do you draw the line for who needs help? You can't. As a result, some people won't get it.

This theme is continued with BethAnn, as well. Her sister was thirteen, "developmentally disabled", and drowned in the family's pool... which points to severe autism (drowning is one of the leading causes of death for people with autism). And yet, that diagnosis wasn't mentioned. Again, the lower end of the spectrum gets glossed over in favour of a glowing example of the extreme upper end (Ant/George, in this case), which is far rarer and wasn't even consistently written in this book.

Which brings me to the writing. Oh, my god. I have no idea how this got past any editors. The writing was stilted, juvenile, and downright annoying. If we're not being told what's supposed to be funny--

“My Little Pony . . . the stuff of nightmares,” Sinclair says, with more gallows humor.

--we're being treated to endless "said bookisms":

“I’m scared of heights,” Remi admits.

“Then don’t look down,” George instructs.

“Famous last words,” Sinclair mutters and continues shuffling forward at a snail’s pace.

“You have to go faster,” Fergus urges, peering nervously behind us as the humming nears.

(That's not a compilation, either. That's verbatim how it was written, with one said bookism after another.) It's almost as if this was an elementary-school writing assignment where the teacher asked the students to come up with as many synonyms for "said" as possible. This continually pulled me out of the flow, and made reading this book take way longer than it should have. Added to that was the author's insistence on preceding the dialog tag "yell" with a comma rather than an exclamation point. It made it really hard to get a sense of tone or urgency:

“Hold him still,” I yell...

Plum also has this weird relationship with contractions. They're just not there where they would seem natural, leading to a rather robotic feel in the narration at times:

This definitely isn’t the Void—it is too cold here.

The editing was crap. Sorry, but there's no other way to say it. When you have characters quoting conversations they weren't present for, actions that aren't consistent (like when the "slow-moving" zombie monks suddenly "raced" forward), and glaring repetition, it makes me wonder if anyone besides the author even read the book before publication.

“I know everyone wants to relax,” I say finally. “But we’ve lost two people. We really need to figure out what we’re doing here,” I say finally.

The tone is also really cheesy in spots. Cata's narration comes to a close with the following:

How long will our dwindling group survive? Can we hold out long enough for those outside the Dreamfall to rescue us? Or by the time they figure it out, will we all be dead?

In my head, this was followed by: Tune in next week to find out in--dun, dun, dun!--the Dumbest Series I've Ever Read! Yeah... that's not going to happen.

For a horror novel, this was not scary at all. In fact, the only thing that's probably going to give me nightmares is the acknowledgments page, where the author thanks her editors, beta readers, and even medical experts for helping her write this. I don't even know what to make of that. After reading this book, I'm tempted to think that all of those people must exist only in her own dreams. If not, I feel very sorry for the embarrassment they must be feeling to be connected to such a terrible example of YA literature.

Premise: 1/5
Plot: 1/5
Characters: 1/5
Pace: 0/5
Writing: 0/5
Editing: 0/5
Originality: 0/5
Enjoyment: 0/5

Overall Rating: 0.38 out of 5 ladybugs


Monday, August 13, 2018

Review - Fruits in Suits

Fruits in Suits
by Jared Chapman
Date: 2017
Publisher: Abrams Appleseed
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 40
Format: e-book
Source: library

Have you ever seen a banana in a bikini? Or a tangerine in trunks? What about grapes in goggles? In this uproarious follow-up to Vegetables in Underwear, kids will learn that there are many kinds of suits—including suits for swimming, surfing, sunbathing, and scuba diving. But can you wear a business suit to the beach? Fruits in Suits has the same irreverent silliness as Vegetables in Underwear and shows just how much fun swimsuits can be—and how important it is to hold on to them when you jump into the water!

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I've already read Vegetables in Underwear, so when I saw the sequel at the library, I had to check it out. Fruits in Suits is just as silly as the other book, although I did enjoy this one a little bit more. The idea of fruits needing bathing suits is pretty amusing. I especially liked the grapefruit, who was wearing an entirely different type of "suit".

This is a nice companion to Vegetables in Underwear. If you liked the silliness of that one, you'll probably enjoy this one, too.

Premise: 4/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 4/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Originality: 3/5

Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall: 3.67 out of 5

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Review - World Without Darkness

World Without Darkness (Dam Keeper #2)
by Robert Kondo & Dice Tsutsumi
Date: 2018
Publisher: First Second
Reading level: MG
Book type: graphic novel
Pages: 160
Format: e-book
Source: library

Beyond the dam lies certain death—this is something every citizen of Sunrise Valley knows well. Yet, when a poisonous black tidal wave carries Pig, Fox, and Hippo over the dam and into the wastelands, they don’t find death. Instead they find bustling cities, each with their own dams. Pig can't help but wonder, who is the mysterious dam keeper behind it all?

But he doesn't have time to unravel this mystery. The wave of deadly black fog will return to Sunrise Valley in four days, and its dam can't withstand another assault. In a stolen truck and with a deranged lizard leading the way, Pig and his friends are in a race against the clock. but can they reach home in time?

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I didn't enjoy this one quite as much as the first installment. It's still a beautiful-looking graphic novel with a unique style, dreamy and colourful. But this one felt a little more aimless. I couldn't remember what the three friends were supposed to be doing, and the story didn't really remind us. They're trying to get back home, yes... but I can't really remember why they left in the first place. This book ends with a tantalizing hint of what's to come, but getting to that point felt like slogging through a whole lot of nothing. The mole princess (who's a rhino... I don't get it) and her weird little cult felt juvenile; that whole sequence was just a setup for the next installment in the series, and I could've done without it. Van the lizard is probably my favourite character, but he wasn't used as much as he could've been.

Overall, I was a bit disappointed. I've just come off of reading the first two books in the 5 Worlds series, and their complexity makes this one look weak in comparison. It's a pretty book to look at, and I'm sure when the series is complete it'll fit in nicely with the rest... but, on its own, it just doesn't seem like quite enough.

Plot: 2/5
Characters: 3/5
Pace: 2/5
Writing & Editing: 3/5
Illustration: 3/5
Originality: 4/5

Enjoyment: 3/5

Overall Rating: 2.88 out of 5 ladybugs

Friday, August 10, 2018

Review - The Cobalt Prince

The Cobalt Prince (5 Worlds #2)
by Mark Siegel & Alexis Siegel
illustrated by Xanthe Bouma, Matt Rockefeller & Boya Sun
Date: 2018
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Reading level: MG
Book type: graphic novel
Pages: 240
Format: e-book
Source: library

5 Worlds. 3 Unlikely Heroes. 1 Epic Battle for the Galaxy!

Oona Lee surprised everyone--including herself--when she lit the first beacon to save the Five Worlds from extinction. Can she light the other four beacons in time? Next stop, Toki!

On the blue planet, Oona must face the sister who left her, and bring to light the Cobalt Prince's dark secrets. Meanwhile, An Tzu is fading away as his mysterious illness gets worse. Will it stop him from joining the fight? Or will his unique magic be just what the team needs?

Jax Amboy is a hero on the starball field. But in a moment of real danger, will he risk everything to save his friends?

Oona must rely on some surprising new allies in order to stop a terrible plot from unfolding and continue her quest across the 5 WORLDS!

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I'm really enjoying the 5 Worlds series. Having read the first two books in the Amulet series as well, I can honestly say that this is the stronger of the two when it comes to middle grade, graphic novel fantasy.

The artwork is just as charming and immersive as in the first book. But the story is what really shines here. There are multiple complex threads woven throughout the plot, along with a creative cast of characters... including a formidable villain. While middle graders will probably enjoy this, I can see it having appeal for older readers as well.

I can't wait to get my hands on the next installment in this fun series!

Plot: 4/5
Characters: 4/5
Pace: 4/5
Writing & Editing: 4/5
Illustration: 5/5
Originality: 5/5

Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall Rating: 4.25 out of 5 ladybugs

Review - Rogue Protocol

Rogue Protocol (The Murderbot Diaries #3)
by Martha Wells
Date: 2018
Publisher: Tor.com
Reading level: A
Book type: prose novella
Pages: 160
Format: e-book
Source: library

Who knew being a heartless killing machine would present so many moral dilemmas?

Sci-fi's favorite antisocial A.I. is back on a mission. The case against the too-big-to-fail GrayCris Corporation is floundering, and more importantly, authorities are beginning to ask more questions about where Dr. Mensah's SecUnit is.

And Murderbot would rather those questions went away. For good.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

As much as I hate to say it, this third novella in the Murderbot series is a disappointment. I'm not giving up on the series, but I'm kind of sad that the second and third books have failed to capture the same magic as the first one.

To begin with, the writing in this one is a lot weaker. There are run-on sentences all over the place, comma splices galore that I don't remember being as much of an issue in the first two books. I noticed a few grammar issues, too. Added to that is the subtle change in Murderbot's personality. Yes, it's still snarky and has some good one-liners, but I found it to be way more misanthropic in this installment (at least, on the surface; it may say it doesn't care about humans, but it's not fooling anybody). It almost felt like someone else had written this one, although it may just not have been as tightly edited as the others.

The biggest disappointment, though, was the lack of action. The first third of the book was dry as dust, all setup and observation. And when there was action, everything was resolved way too easily. I didn't really fear for anyone's life. In the first book, there was so much action that Murderbot and its humans nearly bit the dust on multiple occasions. Here, we get flesh wounds and quick recoveries and no real stakes that force us to care. In fact, I kept forgetting exactly why Murderbot was where it was and what it was doing. Since the end of the first book, its plot arc has seemed a bit aimless. Yes, I understand it was trying to find out about its past in the second book, but after that...

I don't know. I don't know why this series seems to be going downhill. The characters are good (especially the robot characters). I really liked Miki and Murderbot's reactions to it. The human characters in the second and third books have been pretty bland for me, though. There are always hints that Murderbot might allow itself to let its guard down and get a little closer, but before any sort of friendship or camaraderie can develop, it always runs away. Yes, it's a pattern for the character, but it's starting to get old. We know by now that Murderbot isn't as emotionless as it says it is, and it's obviously lonely on some level (as much as it would try to deny that). It could be a fascinating psychological study if the author allowed the character to start letting humans into its emotional life. I really hope we'll get some of that in the fourth book, along with a lot more action. It doesn't seem fair to tease the reader with all the adventure and action of the first book, and then expect them to sit through multiple installments of Murderbot walking around, eavesdropping, info-dumping, and being generally boring.

Quotable moment:

I signaled Miki I would be withdrawing for one minute. I needed to have an emotion in private.

Premise: 3/5
Plot: 2/5
Characters: 2/5
Pace: 1/5
Writing: 3/5
Editing: 2/5
Originality: 4/5
Enjoyment: 3/5

Overall Rating: 2.5 out of 5 ladybugs


Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Review - The Sand Warrior

The Sand Warrior (5 Worlds #1)
by Mark Siegel & Alexis Siegel
illustrated by Xanthe Bouma, Matt Rockefeller & Boya Sun
Date: 2017
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Reading level: MG
Book type: graphic novel
Pages: 256
Format: e-book
Source: library

The Five Worlds are on the brink of extinction unless five ancient and mysterious beacons are lit. When war erupts, three unlikely heroes will discover there's more to themselves and more to their worlds than meets the eye....

The clumsiest student at the Sand Dancer Academy, Oona Lee is a fighter with a destiny bigger than she could ever imagine.

A boy from the poorest slums, An Tzu has a surprising gift and a knack for getting out of sticky situations.

Star athlete Jax Amboy is beloved by an entire galaxy, but what good is that when he has no real friends?

When these three kids are forced to team up on an epic quest, it will take not one, not two, but 5 WORLDS to contain all the magic and adventure!

(synopsis from Goodreads)

It looks like I may have found a new graphic novel series to binge on. The Sand Warrior opens up a great big complex world of storytelling possibilities. The worldbuilding and artwork are so well done that I felt completely immersed in the story.

For a middle-grade title, the plot is fairly complex. Oona is a sand dancer, which, as far as I can tell, is some sort of magician who can create and command forms out of sand. She's not a great sand dancer, though, so when it falls to her to help save the world (well, five worlds, actually, but who's counting?) she needs a bit of help. That comes in the form of An Tzu, a chubby little kid with a secret, and Jax Amboy, a celebrity starball player with secrets of his own.

There's a whole mythology built around the worlds, and it's woven seamlessly into the story. Long ago, some creature called the Mimic (who seems analogous to Satan) threatened the worlds. But it was stopped by the Felid gods (who are catlike in appearance... except for the fact that they have six arms). There's this whole plot about the planets dying because there are these beacons that need to be lit by a chosen one; the attitudes around that are reminiscent of the whole climate change argument, with people fighting each other over their beliefs rather than trying to tackle the problem that's staring them right in the face. It's a bit political for a middle-grade book, though it's subtle and I don't know if younger readers will see the parallels or not.

Oona was a good character, even if she was a little bit of a special snowflake. I liked that there was diversity in the way the characters were drawn. There are different types of people populating these worlds, from robots to plant people to humans, but there's variation even among those groups. Oona is drawn as quite curvy (which you notice when she's standing next to some of the other characters); it's nice to have a little more representation of different body shapes, especially in a book for younger readers. Jax Amboy confused me at first, but not for very long; his twist is kind of obvious. An Tzu was one character I found a bit annoying, mainly because of the way he treated Jax. But he has an interesting story of his own, and I kind of want to see how it gets resolved.

The main twist I saw coming from miles away, but that didn't dampen my enjoyment of the story because there were so many other things to wonder about. This is just the first installment of what I assume will probably be five books (that would make sense, anyway), so we're just getting going with the story. I can't wait to find out what happens next to Oona and her friends!

Plot: 4/5
Characters: 4/5
Pace: 4/5
Writing & Editing: 4/5
Illustration: 5/5
Originality: 5/5

Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall Rating: 4.25 out of 5 ladybugs

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Review - Starflight

Starflight (Starflight #1)
by Melissa Landers
Date: 2016
Publisher: Hyperion
Reading level: YA
Book type: prose novel
Pages: 369
Format: e-book
Source: library

Solara Brooks needs a fresh start, someplace where nobody cares about the engine grease beneath her fingernails or the felony tattoos across her knuckles. The outer realm may be lawless, but it's not like the law has ever been on her side.

Still, off-world travel doesn't come cheap; Solara is left with no choice but to indenture herself in exchange for passage to the outer realm. She just wishes it could have been to anyone besides Doran Spaulding, the rich, pretty-boy quarterback who made her life miserable in school.

The tables suddenly turn when Doran is framed for conspiracy on Earth, and Solara cons him into playing the role of her servant on board the Banshee, a ship manned by an eccentric crew with their own secrets. Given the price on both Doran and Solara's heads, it may just be the safest place in the universe.

It's been a long time since Solara has believed in anyone, and Doran is the last person she expected to trust. But when the Banshee's dangerous enemies catch up with them, Solara and Doran must come together to protect the ship that has become their home-and the eccentric crew that feels like family.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

After reading a bunch of picture books and a few graphic novels and short stories, I thought I'd delve back into the world of YA with Starflight, hoping I'd get a fun sci-fi story. Maybe I'm just getting too old for YA, or maybe YA is just getting old. But this wasn't really what I hoped for, and though I enjoyed it enough to finish it, there were so many problems that I couldn't really get excited about the story or feel engaged enough to want to try the sequel.

The problem here is that this is YA romance masquerading as sci-fi. It's sci-fi for people who don't read sci-fi. There were so many problems, ranging from actions that defied the laws of physics to issues with worldbuilding. I'm only going to mention a few of them, because I documented so many more in my Goodreads status updates as I was reading; if you want to know more, check those out.

One of the biggest problems that affects the worldbuilding is that the book is so very Americocentric. We're presumably hundreds of years in the future, and yet our main characters sound and act like 21st-century teenagers. Every planet they visit appears to be a repository of American culture, to the point that I started to wonder what had happened on Earth that there were zero other cultural influences in the whole galaxy.

Oh, and let's talk about that for a moment. I'm not sure if Landers realizes how big the galaxy is. Humans have supposedly terraformed and colonized their way across it, never discovering alien life of any kind (which flies in the face of the assertion that a planet's existing ecosystem needs to be completely wiped before it can be successfully terraformed; what ecosystem is being wiped if there's no alien life?). So all the planets are presumably inhabited by humans. Scientists, you'd think, but no... All of these planets are populated by backward Americans who've devolved into things like monarchy, arranged marriage, and even slavery. Humanity has definitely gone backwards, and there's no explanation for why.

Then there was the science--or lack thereof. I should've realized that this wouldn't be a very science-y book when someone talked about going "west" in space (um... what axis would that be along again?), but I tried to give the author the benefit of the doubt. But things just got sillier from there. Inertia worked at right angles. The artificial gravity depended upon the ship being right side up (okay... how do you determine that in space?), so every time the ship would bank or roll, everything not bolted down would go flying. Wouldn't the artificial gravity be relative to the ship, keeping everything securely on the floor no matter which way the ship turned? At one point, Solara struggled to put on pants in zero gravity because she didn't have any weight to use as leverage to push her legs in (forgetting that she had muscles, I guess). I don't know how this girl puts on pants, but it would actually be easier to get them on without anything weighing your body down.

But the worst science failures came about when ships got near planets. More than once, a ship would be outside the planet's gravitational pull, and strange things would happen. Like the ship being able to block out the sun for those standing on the ground. Do you know how small a ship (even a huge ship like the pirates') would look from the ground if it were high enough to be outside the planet's gravitational pull? At one point, one of the characters could see the hatch on said ship! That's just silly.

Oh, and let's not forget the time one of the characters basically skydived from space in nothing but a spacesuit, somehow (magically?) didn't burn up on re-entry, came out of terminal velocity by grabbing a cable and swinging over the planet's surface, and ended up with nothing but a broken wrist. O physics, where art thou?

I wasn't enamoured with any of the characters, either. Solara is pretty much a generic YA heroine, and aside from not being cyborg, kind of reminded me of Cinder from Marissa Meyer's Lunar Chronicles series. Doran (I kept reading it as Dorian; how about we stay away from names that are one letter off of overused ones?) is a typical YA pretty boy who's mean to our heroine. I think you can guess where that's going. The motley crew of the Banshee is pretty much what you'd expect, with their backstories and twists (that didn't surprise me). Some fairly major minor characters just sort of disappeared without further mention, leading me to believe that we haven't seen the last of them. I'm not quite sure who the villains are supposed to be, which makes the ending feel more unsettled, like I didn't finish the whole book. Was it Demarkus and the pirates? Was it the Daeva (a rip-off of the Reavers from Firefly who, for some reason, have implants in their brains to take away their empathy so they can be better killers... which seems unnecessary to me, because anyone who wants to kill people wouldn't need such an implant in the first place)? Was it one of Doran's parents? Who knows?

For some weird reason, I kept reading and I did sort of enjoy the story, despite its weaknesses. That's unusual for me, especially when I spot as many problems as I did here. I guess if you view this as a fluffy YA romance, it's not so bad. But if you go into it expecting science fiction that makes actual sense, you're probably going to be disappointed.

Quotable moment:

She didn't know why, only that there seemed to be a disconnect between her heart and her voice. Maybe she loved him more than words.

Premise: 2/5
Plot: 1/5
Characters: 3/5
Pace: 3/5
Writing: 3/5
Editing: 2/5
Originality: 2/5
Enjoyment: 3/5

Overall Rating: 2.38 out of 5 ladybugs


Thursday, August 2, 2018

Review - Clockwork Fairies

Clockwork Fairies
by Cat Rambo
Date: 2011
Publisher: Tor.com
Reading level: A
Book type: short story
Pages: 24
Format: e-book
Source: Tor.com

Desiree feels the most at home with her clockwork creations, but Claude worries about all this science and Darwinist nonsense—after all, where do clockwork fairies fall in the Great Chain of Being?

(synopsis from Goodreads)

WARNING: Major Spoilers! To read this review with the spoilers hidden, check it out on Goodreads.

This could've been better. Unfortunately, the narrator, a "blasted pedantic popinjay" (according to his fiancee's father), was insufferable. He was sexist, racist, possessive, and greedy. Which all would've been fine if he'd been dealt a satisfactory ending. With all of Desiree's mechanical creations--such as winged fairies and cats--I was expecting some sort of revenge by automaton. While Claude did get screwed in the end, it wasn't as satisfying as I'd hoped. He'd learned nothing, and we were left watching him cry self-pitying tears. I didn't care. I would've rather seen his face scratched off by the mechanical cat.

The story had an interesting setting, and it was fairly well written, but the choice of narrator and his character arc left a lot to be desired. I wasn't that impressed with this one.

Quotable moment:

Sitting in my refuge, I was about to put it down when I came to a sentence that made me realize that even the falsest text might hold some grain of truth. The sentence read, "To understand one woman is not necessarily to understand any other woman."

I put the book aside but took that sentence with me, considering whether or not it was true. Certainly, every woman's personality was different, but there were commonalities at the heart of them all: a love of gossip, for instance. Concern with trivialities. An attraction to beauty.

Plot: 2/5
Characters: 2/5
Pace: 3/5
Writing & Editing: 4/5
Originality: 3/5

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall Rating: 2.57 out of 5 ladybugs


Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Review - My Friend Dahmer

My Friend Dahmer
by Derf Backderf
Date: 2012
Publisher: Abrams ComicArts
Reading level: A
Book type: graphic novel memoir
Pages: 224
Format: e-book
Source: library

You only think you know this story. In 1991, Jeffrey Dahmer—the most notorious serial killer since Jack the Ripper—seared himself into the American consciousness. To the public, Dahmer was a monster who committed unthinkable atrocities. To Derf Backderf, “Jeff” was a much more complex figure: a high school friend with whom he had shared classrooms, hallways, and car rides. In My Friend Dahmer, a haunting and original graphic novel, writer-artist Backderf creates a surprisingly sympathetic portrait of a disturbed young man struggling against the morbid urges emanating from the deep recesses of his psyche—a shy kid, a teenage alcoholic, and a goofball who never quite fit in with his classmates. With profound insight, what emerges is a Jeffrey Dahmer that few ever really knew, and one readers will never forget.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I'm not quite sure how to review this one. As a graphic novel, it did what it set out to do: tell the story of some of Jeffrey Dahmer's formative years, exploring how he might have come to be a serial killer. In that respect, it succeeded. In fact, despite knowing on a visceral level how very wrong Dahmer's crimes were, this book makes you feel somewhat sympathetic toward a young kid who was pretty much screwed from the beginning. The people who could've changed the course of his life did nothing. The people who were supposed to be there for him weren't. As the author says, it's a tragic story.

My problems with this book are mainly technical ones. The artwork is visually arresting, but not really to my taste (although other readers might love the style). I'm also not a fan of all the extra crap shoved into the back of the book, which accounted for 1/4 of the page count (in very small print). Just when I thought I'd gotten to the end, I was faced with pages and pages of endnotes and deleted scenes. Some of the endnotes were interesting, but much of that information could've been gleaned from other sources.

There's also a rather large generational divide that some readers might be uncomfortable with, as evidenced by the casual ableism shown throughout the book. I'm not even entirely sure the author is aware that times have changed, because he referred to "spazzes" outside the context of actual dialogue from the time period. Younger readers might find these 1970s attitudes to be eye-opening and distasteful.

This is a decent graphic novel memoir about a fascinating subject, but it's not quite strong enough for me to really like it. Readers who enjoy true-life crime stories will probably have a more favourable opinion on this one than I did (especially if reading lots of fact-laden endnotes is your cup of tea).

Plot: 2/5
Characters: 3/5
Pace: 2/5
Writing & Editing: 2/5
Illustration: 3/5
Originality: 3/5

Enjoyment: 3/5

Overall Rating: 2.63 out of 5 ladybugs