Tag Archives: book review

Saxby Smart in the Treasure of Dead Man’s Lane and Other Case Files by Simon Cheshire and R.W. Alley

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“I’ve got some homemade spy gear with me.”

“Why do you have to keep bringing spies into everything?”

“Spies are cool.”

“So are fridges, so what? We are not spies. This is detective work.”

This is the second book in the Saxby Smart, Private Detective series. Like the first one, it follows Saxby Smart as he solves three cases.

The first case in this one is called The Tomb of Death. It’s about a missing comic. This was my least favorite for reasons that isn’t the book’s fault. Simply put, the person who had the book before me wrote in the early pages who did the crime. So it was hard to be into the mystery when I already knew what happened. 

The second case is called The Treasure of Dead Man’s Lane. It’s about finding a treasure in an old house. I thought this was a fun mystery. It’s different from the others, but I had a hard time with it. In it, it has an old letter where they find clues. It’s in a different font and everything. I had a really hard time reading it, so a lot of time I had no idea what Saxby was talking about. I couldn’t guess any of the answers so that takes some of the fun out of it.

The Fangs of the Dragon is the third and final case of this book. It’s a weird case that involves robbery’s that are not really robbery’s. This was my favorite case of this book. It was a little too lucky guesswork on Saxby’s part, but I really liked how the mystery unraveled. 

All in all I think this still a five star book. It’s such a fast and addicting read that I can’t wait to jump into the third one.

The Curse of the Ancient Mask and Other Case Files by Simon Cheshire and R.W. Alley

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My name is Saxby Smart, and I’m a private detective. I go to St. Egbert’s School, my office is in the toolshed, and these are my case files. Unlike some detectives, I don’t have a sidekick, so that part I’m leaving up to you-pay attention, I’ll ask questions.

Saxby Smart is the best detective in his elementary school. He has his own office set up in his shed where he has his thinking chair and his desk. He makes case files for each of the mysteries he solves. Three of which are in this book. 

The first one is call The Curse of the Ancient Mask. This was my favorite case out of this book. A classmate’s father thinks the mask he picked up in Japan is curse, and Saxby helps them out. I like the whole storyline of this one.

The second case is called The Mark of the Purple Homework. Student’s essays are getting destroyed, including Saxbys. I liked the mystery of this one, and how Saxby’s questions to the readers were set up. It’s different than the others, and it’s a lot of fun.

The third case is called The Clasp of Doom, and it’s my least favorite. While I still enjoyed myself, it was mainly because I like the writing style. The mystery was a little boring to me.

This is a children’s book aimed at grades 3-6 I would say. But I still had a blast reading it. It’s slightly unique I would say because the book invites the reader to participate. Saxby regularly pauses his story to ask the reader if they have figured out what he did. He also lists all the facts he has gained periodically through the stories. 

The stories themselves are fun, but not too complicated. That doesn’t mean they are that easy to figure out. While I did figure out two of the mysteries myself, and plenty of the clues, there was one case I couldn’t and other clues I had no idea what he was going on about. It was all completely logical though, and very easily to follow along.

I was surprised by the summary of this book on goodreads. It mentions this series was created to get boys interested in reading. I don’t understand the distinction. While reading, I was slightly impressed how Saxby’s best friend Izzy was super girly and super scientific and smart and helped so much with Saxboy’s case. And it was just a fact. There was no she wasn’t like other girls or anything like that. It was simply her room was pink and glittery and she had all the research Saxby needed, and that was that. I think this book could get a lot of kids reading, not simply boys since it’s a boy narrator. I know this is a minor thing, but it’s something I felt like pointing out.

This is a series of ten books. I currently have the first three checked out, and I look forward to reading the other two soon. It’s a fast, easy, fun read. I also really think that kids would enjoy this, and parents and guardians will love how this book encourages them to think.

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

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Nimona by Noelle Stevenson is a young adult, fantasy graphic novel. It follows Nimona, a shapeshifter, and Lord Ballister Blackheart, a hero turned villain,  as they team up to take down the corrupt Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics and their “front man” Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin who Blackheart has a lot of past with. The art style is bright and colorful, and characters are well developed and  funny. Here’s an example of the art and tone here:

I was very surprised when I read this. It wasn’t what I was expecting at all. Blackheart, while still a villain, never wanted to kill anyone. In a lot of ways this felt like more his story than Nimona’s even with her name being the title. But I loved their friendship. It was my favorite part of the comic. I also loved how scientific Blackheart was, and his motivations for being against the Institution. 

Blackheart doesn’t have an arm, and he was made that way by Goldenloin, his former lover at the hero academy. Though in the comic it is only heavily applied that they were lovers. I didn’t like that much though I have found out the author regrets not making it explicit. Their relationship was complex, and really added another layer to the story that it needed.

The ending surprised me a lot. I did not expect it at all, but after thinking about it for a couple hours, I think I like it. It’s not the typical happy ending, but it fits these characters and their story perfectly. 

I rate this comic five stars, and would recommend it to others. I enjoyed myself the whole time reading, and was disappointed and surprised when it ended.

Shelter the Sea (The Roosevelt) by Heidi Cullinan – Book Review

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“The problem is, a lot happens when people don’t regard you as a real person. They think they can ignore you, and worse, they think they can use you.”

When I read Carry the Ocean two years ago, I loved it from the bottom of my heart. The book and its characters lingered with me for a long time. It felt incredible seeing someone with anxiety facing daily challenges and coming out stronger. Every time I dealt with anxiety in my own life, I remembered Jeremey, and I felt comforted, knowing I was not alone. This is the kind of impact books can have on people. For that reason, and many others, I adore this series.

Shelter the Sea is the sequel following Emmet and Jeremey from the first book. It follows the events right after the ending, and it explores a more political struggle overall. Emmet has a great job and Jeremey is still David’s aide, and the two of them are still in a very loving, healthy relationship. But problems arise when the building they live in, The Roosevelt, faces financial difficulties. This is the story about how Emmet, Jeremey, David, and now Darren–their lovely new friend–work together to help the Roosevelt, and fight to stop a bill that would only harm people with special needs and mental health problems.

Getting back into this world after two years was a breeze. I instantly remembered every character and their unique personalities, along with most of the major events from the first book. This is unusual for me because I usually forget what I read, even if I love it more than anything. Reliving Emmet and Jeremey’s love was the sweetest thing ever. Even though I had already loved them before, I grew to love them even more in this book. Emmet became the face of their public fight, and he was a hero to many other people with autism. Regardless of the level of difficulties he faced, Emmet shone through until the very end. I was so proud of him. And of course, Jeremey was not left behind. His depression got really bad, and it was a fight that seemed impossible, until it wasn’t. I was relieved to know he was getting better.

There’s a lot of diversity in this book, which I really appreciated. I love the issues Cullinan discussed so bluntly, things that shouldn’t just be brushed over. The political issues resonated with me the most, especially because in our current political climate, people with mental health issues and disabilities rank lower than most people. The message spread in this book is one of inclusivity and hope for equality.

“To be honest the fact that we had to lip sync and dance and I had to keep giving speeches and put Darren’s and my autism and David’s quadriplegia and Jeremey’s social anxiety on display to get people’s attention made me realize how much people had been ignoring us all this time.”

The addition of Darren to the group made me so happy. I loved that Darren was given a voice even though he struggled with verbal speech. Rather than simply pushing him aside, he was given the spotlight a few times, and his intelligence was put to good use. I’m looking forward to rest of the books in the series, which will follow David and Darren closely. I really want a happy ending for all of my Roosevelt Blues Brothers. They’re some of my favorite characters of all time.

Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier

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Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier is a middle grade graphic novel that follows two sisters, Catrina and Maya, as they move to a new town. Maya has cystic fibrosis, and her parents think if they move close to the ocean it will help here. The town they move to is obsessed with ghosts, and Maya becomes determined to meet one so she will know what dying is like. They are half-Mexican, and they don’t really know much about Mexican traditions. Día De Los Muertos is a big deal in this new town, and most of the storyline involves them learning and then taking part of that celebration.

Only a little over two hundred pages, I read this easily in one sitting. The art was beautiful, detailed and richly colored. The sister’s relationship was a high point to me as well. I found the storyline logically told from a writing standpoint, but a bit boring. Overall, I thought it was nice read, but nothing special.

I do feel the need to note that after I finished reading I looked around for reviews commenting on the representation, and I found a couple concerning articles. I would recommend reading this article talking about how Día De Los Muertos is represented, and this article on the missions that the book mentions. I couldn’t find a specific article on the cystic fibrosis aspect, but I did find a couple comments talking about how the book shows the disease as a death sentence when it really isn’t.

So I wouldn’t recommend this book after all that. I think there are other books out there that get it right, and would be more entertaining as well. But if you do decide to read it anyway, at least read the articles I’ve linked and keep their comments in mind.

Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

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There is a point when a man may swim back to shore, but he was past it. There was nothing left but to be swallowed by the enormity of the sea.

Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia brings a new, refreshing twist to the old vampire story. Set in Mexico City, one of the only cities in Mexico that’s supposed to be without vampires, the book follows five different perspectives as the story unfolds. There’s Domingo, a regular human street kid, Atl, a vampire on the run, Nick, a vampire chasing Atl, Rodrigo, a human helping Nick, and Ana, the cop after the two vampires. Domingo and Atl have are the main main characters, and have the most chapters to themselves.

I’m pretty sure the book states there are around ten different kind of vampires though in the book we see three. How the vampires differ is very interesting as is the lore behind them all. Word building is definitely this book’s major strength, and one area that is spent the most time developed. Everything felt very real. I could really picture the world, and it all made sense.

 The characters were all developed. They all had their own histories, motivations, personalities. No one is pure and sweet. They were all twisted in some way. Domingo and Atl were my favorites which was nice since they were the main focus. The only drawback was I still wasn’t very connected to them. I was concerned and I wanted to know how everything would unfold, but I wasn’t that emotionally invested in them. I remember wondering if they would die, but I had no anxiety over it. I was very calm about it, and I wish I had been more tied to them.

Overall, Certain Dark Things is a solid four star book that I would recommend to others. The world is great. Characters were detailed. While I wish I had been more emotionally invested, I still had a good time, and it was an enjoyable read. 

Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan

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But one thing I’d learned from being a son of Frey- I couldn’t always fight my friends’ battles. The best I could do was be there to heal their injuries.

The Hammer of Thor is the second book of the trilogy The Gods of Asgard by Rick Riordan. I’ve briefly reviewed the first book here. It’s a series based on Norse mythology, and this book in particular follows Magnus and his friends trying to find Thor’s hammer while trying to stop another of Loki’s plans. 

I really liked how this book expanded on Sam being Muslim while interacting with Norse gods. It also detailed more about sign language when Hearthstone, who is deaf, signs which I also liked. This book also introduced Alex who is transgender and gender fluid, and she quickly became one of my favorite characters. I’ve looked through other people’s reviews, and as far as I’ve seen the only people with problems with the representation in this book disagree with Alex and think it’s inappropriate for children. So I think that’s a good sign.

It’s usually common for the second book in the series to have a dip in quality, but I found that I liked this one more than the first one. In the first book, I struggled with the mythology, and it slowed down reading. This time, I knew who was who already so that made reading a lot easier and more enjoyable. 

The characters continue to be the strong point of the series for me. I love all of them individually, and all their relationships with each other. They grow and change, and it’s simply a pleasure to read. Magnus is still a very strong protagonist to me. He’s soft, and the others allow him to be soft without ridicule. It’s very refreshing.

The plot is much the same as his other books. Fetch this, something goes wrong, fetch that, something goes wrong, get information here, something goes wrong, and so on and so forth. But it doesn’t bother me like it does other readers who have read his other two series with Percy Jackson. Maybe if I had read that it would, but to me it’s nice to know what will basically happen. I’m invested in the story, but even with all the action and plot twists I’m not on the edge of my seat with my heart racing. That can be a negative to some people, but it was a nice change of pace for me.

Reading The Hammer of Thor almost felt like coming home. I sank into this book, and I didn’t want it to end. It was comforting, funny, lighthearted, and everything that I needed at the moment. I look forward to the third book coming out in October.