Sunday, February 20, 2022

Review - The Lighthouse Witches (DNF)

The Lighthouse Witches

by C. J. Cooke
Date: 2021
Publisher: HarperCollins
Reading level: A
Book type: prose novel
Pages: 357
Format: e-book
Source: Kobo

Upon the cliffs of a remote Scottish island, Lòn Haven, stands a lighthouse.

A lighthouse that weathered more than storms.

Mysterious and terrible events have happened on this island. It started with a witch hunt. Now, centuries later, islanders are vanishing without explanation.

Coincidence? Or curse?

Liv Stay flees to the island with her three daughters, in search of a home. She doesn’t believe in witches, or dark omens, or hauntings. But within months, her daughter Luna will be the only one of them left.

Twenty years later, Luna is drawn back to the place her family vanished. As the last sister left, it’s up to her to find out the truth . . .

But what really happened at the lighthouse all those years ago?

(synopsis from Goodreads)

DNF @ 27%

Nope. I just can't do this to myself anymore. Even if it is set in Scotland. Even if is about witches and paranormal occurrences. Every time I think about picking this book back up, I immediately think of something else I'd rather be doing. Vacuuming. Taxes. Waxing my legs in slow motion.

This book suffers from some of the worst editing/proofreading I've seen in a traditionally published title in a while. The continuity is awful. Characters sit down when they're already sitting. They help each other up when they're not even down. Events are changed, and then not all instances are caught. (At one point, the mother slaps her daughter across the face. The girl runs away, clutching the back of her head as if she's banged it, and the mother says the kid is injured. Later, a reference is made to when the mother "pushed" her daughter. I'm guessing the shove was changed to a slap, but not every reference was caught.) When the teenage daughter runs away, the middle sister tells her that their mother hasn't noticed yet... and then, a few paragraphs later, says their mother is freaking out over the disappearance.

Even if I wanted to subject myself to a few hundred more pages of that kind of thing, I'd still hate the characters. The mother is some sort of underdeveloped artiste type who says she loves her daughters more than she shows it. (She seems rather indifferent, honestly.) And the girls... They're 15, 9, and 7, but they all come across as about 4 years younger than their actual ages. The teenager pouts and runs away from home when she's upset, says her mother probably won't even care, and then writes a letter to her boyfriend, telling him that she's probably going to get murdered by a serial killer, so he can have her CD collection (at which point she says something about how her boyfriend was probably going to murder her for it anyway). The 9-year-old has no character development, either as a child or as an adult (parts of the narrative take place when she's all grown up). The 7-year-old acts like a toddler, clutching her stuffed giraffe and being carried around. (She's actually 7½. Why can't she walk?)

But the biggest thing that got my goat was the ridiculous plot point of the family's disappearance. I can't really say much more without major spoilers, but suffice it to say that there's a pretty big plot hole there. Either that, or the police in Scotland don't keep very good records.

I kind of want to know what happens, but I just can't take the stupid characters, continuity problems, and implausible plot points anymore. If someone makes a movie out of this one day, I'll watch it. But as a book... nope. I'm done.

Friday, February 18, 2022

Review - Once Upon a Forest

Once Upon a Forest

by Pam Fong
Date: 2022
Publisher: Random House Studio
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 40
Format: e-book
Source: library

This gorgeous picture book follows a helpful marmot working to save a forest recovering after a wildfire. Perfect for teaching children to practice kindness while developing an appreciation for animals and the earth.

After a fire leaves the forest smoldering, a determined marmot and her resourceful bird friend set off on a rescue mission in this beautifully illustrated, wordless story.

They clear away fallen branches and scorched bushes. They rake and dig and plant new seedlings in the earth. With determination and ingenuity, as the seasons pass, they care for the little trees by making sure they have enough water, protect their branches from the wind and snow, and keep away hungry creatures, until the trees can thrive on their own.

With a little time, care, and hope we all can help the earth.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

Sometimes a wordless picture book is a nice change of pace. Just relax and let the pictures tell the story. Once Upon a Forest is the tale of a marmot who lives in a cute little log cabin (with her bird friend living in their own house just outside the front door). One day, they see smoke and witness a wildfire in the distance. So they pack up some seedling, tools, and supplies and head down there, only to discover the charred remains of a patch of forest. They plant the seedlings, then keep them safe through the seasons until they're strong enough to stand on their own. Finally they head home, having helped one little patch of the world heal.

The illustrations are cute but simple, done in black and white with only a few touches of colour (mostly green). The story is clearly conveyed, even without words.

Overall, this is a cute little book with sweet characters and a nice message. I'd recommend it to fans of wordless picture books, as well as to those looking for books with themes about conservation and the environment.

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

Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall: 3.8 out of 5

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Review - Once Upon a Unicorn

Once Upon a Unicorn

by Isla Wynter
illustrated by Anju Chaudhary
Date: 2021
Publisher: Peryton Press
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: Kobo

Blaze the unicorn is born without a horn - will he be able to get it back?

Or is he maybe not a unicorn at all?

Join Blaze on his adventures as he searches for his horn, meets new friends and encounters an unexpected foe.

This illustrated children's book tells a magical story of friendship, helping others and forgiveness.

Revised edition with beautiful new illustrations.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

The pictures here are cute, but this book suffers from a major problem: The creatures depicted aren't actually unicorns. They're winged horses.

The story is fairly predictable. A "unicorn" named Blaze is born without a horn. But it turns out that an evil camel has stolen all the horns. So Blaze steals one back, the camel apologizes, and... I guess there's some sort of lesson here.

Huge chunks of the text were missing. At least, I'm assuming that's the case. There were some blank pages, and it seemed like parts were missing from the narrative because they were referred to later. I guess it's a formatting issue, but it needs to be corrected. I think a good portion of the showdown with the camel was missing, which is unfortunate.

Overall, I'm not impressed. The plot is silly, the "unicorns" aren't actually unicorns, and the formatting issues mean the reader doesn't get the full story. The illustrations are somewhat appealing, but even they can't save this one for me.

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

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 2.33 out of 5

Monday, February 7, 2022

Review - My Butt Is SO SILLY!

My Butt Is SO SILLY!

by Dawn McMillan
illustrated by Ross Kinnaird
Date: 2022
Publisher: Dover Publications
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

Everyone's favorite character from I Need a New Butt!, I Broke My Butt!, and My Butt is So Noisy! is back in a hilarious new story about a silly butt that won't stop moving! The talented duo of children's author Dawn McMillan and illustrator Ross Kinnaird have created another delightful, laugh-out-loud tale of a bothersome backside that leads to all kinds of amusing adventures. The fun never stops, from the first page to the last of this newest book in the best-selling series.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I think there's only so far you can take a joke. That distance might be a little greater if you're a kid that likes talking about butts.

I read I Broke My Butt! a couple of years ago, and while I didn't love it, I thought it was pretty silly and kids would likely enjoy it. My Butt Is SO SILLY! has the same problem as I Broke My Butt! (namely, the horribly executed metre of the rhyming text), and also introduces a level of absurdity that doesn't even make sense. How did the kid's butt end up square?!

As far as I can tell, this butt has a mind of its own. It never stops moving. At times, it made me uncomfortable, because it almost seemed like the kid had a disorder like dystonia, and making fun of medical conditions isn't funny.

Fans of the other books will probably like this one, too. But, as an adult reader, I wasn't that impressed. I liked I Broke My Butt! a lot more.

Thank you to NetGalley and Dover Publications for providing a digital ARC.

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

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 2.29 out of 5