The House with a Clock in Its Walls by John Bellairs

The House with a Clock in Its Walls (Lewis Barnavelt, #1)Summary:

Orphaned Lewis Barnavelt comes to live with his Uncle Jonathan and quickly learns that both his uncle and his next-door neighbor are witches on a quest to discover the terrifying clock ticking within the walls of Jonathan’s house. Can the three of them save the world from certain destruction?
My take: 3 looks
With a motion picture coming out soon (and starring Jack Black, to boot!), I wanted to pick up this juvenile mystery before seeing it on the big screen. 
Keeping in mind that this is a children’s book, I am giving it three looks. For a 10-12 year old, this would be quite a scary story! The story mixes fun with Uncle Jonathan, seriousness with Miss Zimmerman (when she is not exchanging hilariously funny names with Jonathan), angst with Lewis trying to fit in at a new school, and scary with wizards, witches, and a long-dead sorceress. 
Very quick and easy to read, the book did what I wanted it to do: give me a foundation for comparison when I see the movie. However, there were some questions that I continued to have at the end, like exactly WHAT is happening to Jonathan and Miss Zimmerman when the clocks are striking, what is the significance of the color purple for Miss Zimmerman, and exactly what is the nature of the relationship between the wizard and witch who are now raising Lewis. 
There are 12 titles in the Lewis Barnavelt series, so at least some of these questions may very well be answered in future spooky tales. 
Recommended, especially before the movie!

BBW – Disturbing Trends

Trends & Facts

  • The ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom tracked 354 challenges to library, school and university materials and services (including books, DVDs, magazines, programs, databases, games, exhibits, displays) in 2017:
    • In those 354 challenges, 416 books were targeted.
    • In total, 491 library materials were challenged.
  • Books on the Top 10 list have a child, teen or young adult audience.
  • OIF is seeing an increase in “blanket bans”: removing collections of books that share commonalities. For example, removing all LGBT books, books by a certain author, or all R-rated DVDs.
  • OIF is noticing more censorship incidents where administrators remove books without following policy because they are trying to (unsuccessfully) avoid controversy.
  • Ten years after its publication, Thirteen Reasons Why resurged to the top of the list, largely because of the popularity (and criticism) of the Netflix series.

It’s BANNED BOOKS WEEK, Y’all!!

Top 10 Most Challenged Books of 2017

As the attacks on the right to read escalate, a celebration of reading is needed now more than ever. Banned Books Week Coalition is here to support the community of readers, including students, educators, libraries, and booksellers, in the United States and abroad. Please join us during Banned Books Week, September 23 – 29, 2018!

What are YOU reading this week?

Short Story Saturday: What it Means When a Man Falls From the Sky by Lesley NNeka Arimah

Man falls from skyWhen I read the first story of this collection, “The Future Looks Good”, I stopped, and reread it. I didn’t believe that I had correctly read the first time, or was sure that I had not properly understood. Yes, I had understood correctly. WOW.

“Light” is a lovely and touching story about how a father feels as his daughter grows, and one day, leaves the nest. “Who Will Meet You at Home” is just the opposite: a searing look at the lengths to which a woman will go in order to become a mother…to the point of death.

With stories as diverse as what I hope is Arimah’s readers, this is a volume worth your time. I suggest you read one story, then put the book down. Run an errand, complete a task, take a moment. Then read the next. You will want to give your mind time to process these stories, allowing them to fall into the proper folds, crevices, and bridges of your memory.

The Mystery of Julia Episcopa by John I. Rigoli and Diane Cummings

The Mystery of Julia Episcopa Summary:

In ancient Rome, a woman flees for her life. Her enemies are those she once called ‘brother’. Hidden beneath her blue cloak are secrets men will kill for – forgeries that prove the newly self-appointed bishops are not followers of the way, but pretenders who have seized power and will stop at nothing to shape this new religion to their own ends. Now, Julia – a woman who had once walked with Mary Magdalene and taught alongside Paul must preserve the legacy of the apostles in the face of terrifying danger.

My take: 3 looks

Initially, a tiny bit difficult to get into because of the rapid introduction of numerous characters. However, once the story was set in motion, and the characters and their relationships fell into place, it was easy reading. As a matter of fact, it was a riveting page-turner. Far from character-heavy, there were a handful of central characters, all with very different personalities and all nicely and richly drawn.

The writing takes the reader from past to present as the road to the climax is brilliantly planned. Interlaced with history, Biblical figures, and a notion that women meant much more to the early Christian church than any of the faith’s founding fathers care to admit, the premise is stunningly believable. Prepare to be a bit disillusioned as you read, but also invigorated at the drive of the characters, both ancient and contemporary.   

If you like this one, check out Donna Woolfolk Cross’s “Pope Joan”.  

Recommended.

Noir by Christopher Moore

NoirSummary:

It’s not every afternoon that an enigmatic, comely blonde named Stilton (like the cheese) walks into the scruffy gin joint where Sammy “Two Toes” Tiffin tends bar. It’s love at first sight, but before Sammy can make his move, an Air Force general named Remy arrives with some urgent business. ’Cause when you need something done, Sammy is the guy to go to; he’s got the connections on the street.

My take: Three looks

This is my third Moore book, and they are always very entertaining. I particularly loved the “wiseguy” feel of the dialogue, the choppiness of the conversations, and the straight-from-1940s-Hollywood imagery. Also, just returning from a trip to San Francisco, I was very familiar with the locales in the story.

The chapters are just enough to leave the reader wanting more, and add much motivation to the reading rhythm. The way it is written made it a page-turner for me. 

Moore always throws in a bit of the fantastic, though, and this novel was no exception. It wouldn’t be his writing if he didn’t demand the reader to suspend belief for at least part of the story. The fact that there was an alien who learned to drive, and a narrating snake named Petey should be enough for you to add this one to your TBR.

Recommended. 

Short Story Saturday: The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu

Multi-award winner “The Paper Menagerie” anchors this wonderful collection of short stories by Ken Liu. As a matter of fact, this title story is the only one to win the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards. I read this book in August of 2016. That is two years ago, and a few of the stories still crash into my mind occasionally. paper menagerie.jpg

For example, “State Change” is a story that I think of often. It was poignant, thought-provoking and a little crushing. It challenged the status quo, made me question things I had been told/taught my entire life, and had me reflect on my very essence. What is MY truth, versus the truth I have been led to believe?

“The Paper Menagerie” is a beautiful story about the complexities of heritage, race, and (what I clung to most savagely) the intricacies, both beautiful and ugly, of a mother-son relationship. Fraught with emotion, imbued with years and experience, and finally, seeking forgiveness and reconciliation, it doesn’t take hundreds of pages to touch a heart or strike a nerve.

Various lengths and many different premises make up this wonderful collection, many of which have won awards on their own. Do yourself a favor, and pick this one up. Or better yet, purchase it for your collection. You are going to want to read it several times.