T5W – I Don’t Like You, But I Love You

Howdy-Ho! Today’s Top 5 Wednesday Topic is: Favorite “Unlikable” Protagonists!

I’ve actually read surprisingly few books where the main character is the bad guy (I’m not sure why; I’ve always loved a good villain), so I’m actually going to have to throw a few antagonists into the mix on this one.

Artemis FowlArtemis Fowl (Eoin Colfer)
Protagonist

249747At the start of this series, 12 year old Artemis Fowl is a millionaire, a genius, and criminal mastermind. He kidnaps a faerie so he can study magic and wackiness ensues. To be a bit fair, Artemis DOES do some good along the way, but my favorite bits are when he’s being a bad guy. He’s like a tech-savvy Moriarty, only without all the murder. This is a fun series, even for adults. I highly recommend it!

The MasterDoctor Who (Multiple Authors)
Antagonist

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I adore The Master, in all his incarnations. He’s dastardly, clever, witty, and completely unpredictable…everything a good villain should be. And he’s the only antagonist who seems to truly be the Doctor’s equal. His newest regeneration, Missy, is fabulous. She’s every bit the character I remember from previous incarnations and I love her to bits.

Captain HookPeter Pan (J.M. Barrie & Others)
Pro/Antagonist

34262I know, I know, odd choice, right? I’ve just always loved Captain Hook (I blame Dustin Hoffman 😉 ). I am ecstatic that, now that the book is partially under public domain, other authors have started to explore this character more in-depth. There are a TON of good pre-Peter Pan novels out now, including several about how Capt Hook became Capt Hook. I’ve you’re looking for a good one, I’d definitely recommend Peter and the Star Catchers by Dave Barry & Ridley Pearson.

QStar Trek: The Next Generation (Multiple Authors)
Pro/Antagonist

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Ah, Q. How can anyone not love Q? He’s such a pest! 😉 An all-powerful being from an alternate dimension, the writers of Next Gen brought Q in as an antagonist for the pilot, where he tests the crew’s resolve and worth. He became such a fan favorite that he came back not only for several more episodes, but also appeared on several of the other shows, in books, comics…he even took on Spock himself in an audio drama called Spock vs. Q. Heck, John de Lancie is so well-loved as that character, that they spoofed him on My Little Pony…AND GOT HIM TO DO THE VOICE! Seriously, he’s totally awesome.

The JokerBatman (Multiple Authors)
Antagonist

A vicious (though funny) psychopath hell-bent on destroying Batman, he’s done everything from personally beating one of the Robins to death to letting someone CUT OFF HIS FACE. He’s completely unpredictable because he honestly doesn’t care what happens. And that’s the mark of a really good villain, isn’t it? The Joker is the epitome of chaos; with him in the story…anything can happen.

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Who are YOUR favorite unlikable protagonists (or antagonists, same diff 😉 )?

 

Book Review – The Shack

Book: The Shack – Author: William Paul Young

Genre: Christian Fiction, Spirituality

Description from Goodreads:

Mackenzie Allen Philips’ youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation, and evidence that she may have been brutally murdered is found in an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness. Four years later in the midst of his “Great Sadness,” Mack receives a suspicious note, apparently from God, inviting him back to that shack for a weekend. Against his better judgment he arrives at the shack on a wintry afternoon and walks back into his darkest nightmare. What he finds there will change Mack’s world forever.

My Review:

I’ll be completely honest, even as a Catholic, I’m not usually comfortable reading Christian books. Most of them come across as ‘holier-than-thou’ and really pushy; like, “I’m right, you’re wrong, and if you would only let God into your life, maybe you wouldn’t be such a horrible person”. Yeah, there’s a reason there’s such a stigma about Christians these days. :/

This book is not one of those books. Yes, it’s super religious. I mean God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are actually main characters and the entire book is about Mack learning to love and believe in his faith again. But it really comes across more as a family conversation rather than a push to get people to believe in Christianity. It’s very much a “we’re here for you and we love you, please don’t push us away” kind of novel. It was touching and honestly something I needed to hear in my life right now.

For those of you nervous about the kidnapped daughter plot…yes, it is very sad. But they don’t really dwell on the details of what happened to her. They do discuss her being taken and then give closure to that part of the story, but it’s not the focus of the book. This is a story about Mack, not his daughter.

On the technical side, I thought the writing was really good. The descriptions of everything happening at the shack were beautifully done and the dialogue was very believable. Dialogue can be tricky even in the simplest of books…and this was NOT a simple book. There were some very deep questions being raised and the author answered them as thoroughly and understandably as he could, considering he is not actually God.

And yes, I understand that these answers are just his opinion. Everyone has their own and that is completely fine. I felt that a lot of what he said aligned with my personal beliefs and that’s why the book really felt true and comforting to me. I would recommend this book for people who are either of the Christian faith or want to learn about our beliefs. And if you end up thinking it’s all a load of crap, that’s totally ok too. 😉

Similar Books:

Not necessarily religious books, but books that make you explore what it means to be you.

Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit – Daniel Quinn

Life of Pi – Yann Martel

The Five People You Meet in Heaven – Mitch Albom

Book Review – Jackaby (aka SuperWhoLock)

Book: Jackaby – Author: William Ritter

Genre: Mystery, Supernatural, Young Adult

Description from Goodreads:

Newly arrived in New Fiddleham, New England, 1892, and in need of a job, Abigail Rook meets R. F. Jackaby, an investigator of the unexplained with a keen eye for the extraordinary–including the ability to see supernatural beings. Abigail has a gift for noticing ordinary but important details, which makes her perfect for the position of Jackaby’s assistant. On her first day, Abigail finds herself in the midst of a thrilling case: A serial killer is on the loose. The police are convinced it’s an ordinary villain, but Jackaby is certain it’s a nonhuman creature, whose existence the police–with the exception of a handsome young detective named Charlie Cane–deny.

My Review:

I really enjoyed this one. The description on Goodreads actually goes on to call it “Doctor Who meets Sherlock” and I can see their point. Jackaby reminds me so much of the 11th Doctor, that I actually kept picturing him as Matt Smith while I was reading. I mean…

“The most recent gentleman has proven to be far more resilient and a great deal more helpful. He remains with me in a . . . different capacity.”

“What capacity?”

Jackaby’s step faltered, and he turned his head away slightly. His mumbled reply was nearly lost to the wind. “He is temporarily waterfowl.”

Yeah, totally the 11th Doctor. 😉

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But the main character in this book isn’t the adorably quirky Jackaby, it is his new assistant, Abigail. Like the illustrious Dr. Watson, Abigail finds herself caught up in the whirlwind that is Jackaby, but isn’t so taken aback that she can’t hold her own. She’s feisty and capable and won’t back down in a fight, but she’s also smart and uses her position in society (a young lady in the late 1800s) to her advantage.

Speaking of characters, can a house be a character? Jackaby’s house reminded me of a mixture of Sherlock’s flat and Newt Scamander’s briefcase, with a few ghosts thrown in for good measure. I would LOVE a whole book of short stories based on the artifacts in that house!

The mystery itself was really interesting too. It was obvious from the get-go that we weren’t dealing with a normal murderer, but it took a long time to piece together what type of creature was lurking. See, Jackaby & Abagail don’t just investigate regular crimes. Like Sherlock, Jackaby is only called in when the crime is so strange the police can’t figure out what’s going on, but in Jackaby’s case, this usually leads down a more mystical path (though he would insist that everything can be explained by science). There were a lot of twists and turns, good monsters and bad monsters, and we were learning about which to trust and which to run from right alongside Abigail.

Now, there WAS a bit of romance, but it wasn’t really in your face and (spoilers?) it wasn’t between Abigail & Jackaby, which was a relief. I know I’m in the minority, especially among female young adult readers, but I always think that sort of thing detracts from the story rather than adds to it.

Actually, doing this review reminded me why I liked this book; so much so that I paused while writing it to pop down the street to the library and pick up the next two in the series. 😉 Let’s see if they are as good, shall we?

Similar Books:

Death Cloud (Andrew Lane) Series: Young Sherlock Holmes

The Screaming Staircase (Jonathon Stroud) Series: Lockwood & Co

Obscure Kid Lit

Hey guys! Atlas Obscura has declared this week to be Children’s Literature Week! They are celebrating by asking everyone to send in submissions answering the question “What are the books you remember reading as a kid that have stuck with you, but that hardly anyone else seems to remember?” (go to their article here)

Sounds like fun, right? Well, I’ve been a bibliophile for a LONG time and have WAY too many books to submit, so I’ve decided to share them with you instead! 😀

Note: Descriptions in italics are all from Goodreads or Amazon.

One Shots

Fatso Jean the Ice Cream Queen (Maryann MacDonald)

6-12-2017 1-27-43 PMChubby nine-year-old Jean lives in a neighborhood where the children thrive on doing wheelies on their bicycles, performing backdives from the diving board, and deciding who belongs to the Hot Shots, the Normals, and the Nerds. Jeans considers herself a Nerd, since the only thing she does well is eat ice cream. Even though the other children call her Fatso Jean, the Ice-Cream Queen, she can’t give it up. She does, however, turn the craving into a way to earn money to go to Fat Camp. In the process, she loses weight, makes friends, and gives her money to Jimmy, a young diver headed for the Special Olympics. — This was probably the first book that really impacted me. Being a chunky/nerdy gal myself, it was nice to have someone to identify with and inspiring to see her pull herself up and out of victimhood.

The House on Parchment Street (Patricia McKillip)

267715While staying with her cousin in England, a young girl helps him find a way of helping the troubled ghosts inhabiting the cellar of the house. — I LOVED this novel when I was a kid! A spooky mystery set in England with a girl protagonist who is spunky and doesn’t back down from a challenge? Yes please! The mystery in this one was pretty decent for a middle grade book. I pick it up from time to time (yes, I still have it) and always find it a pleasurable read.

Space Station ICE-3 (Bruce Coville)

890838Rusty McPhee has discovered a dead body being dissolved in the Waste Converter Tanks of Space Station ICE-3. But the body is fully converted before he can show it to anyone, and no one will believe his story–because all 25,000 people on board the orbiting colony are accounted for and safe. Rusty isn’t willing to let the mystery go without answers. — This was probably the very first murder mystery that I ever read. Unfortunately I got rid of my copy ages ago, so I can’t recall all the details, but I DO remember that it was very exciting. Mysteries are still my favorite genre today, so thanks for the intro, Mr. Coville! 🙂

Series

Wayside School (Louis Sachar)

563859(Description from the 1st novel) There’d been a terrible mistake. Wayside School was supposed to be built with thirty classrooms all next to each other in a row. Instead, they built the classrooms one on top of the other … thirty stories tal! (The builder said he was very sorry.) That may be why all kinds of funny things happen at Wayside School … especially on the thirtieth floor. You’ll meet Mrs. Gorf, the meanest teacher of all, terrible Todd, who always getss sent home early, and John who can read only upside down – along with all the other kids in the crazy mixed-up school that came out sideways. But you’ll never guess the truth about Sammy, the new kid … or what’s inside for Wayside School on Halloween! — This series was hilarious to me as a child; so much so, that I recently bought it for my niece. (Yes! They still sell it!) This is a fun little series and I highly recommend it for elementary kids.

My Teacher is an Alien (Bruce Coville)

823706(Description from the 1st novel) Sixth grade is just out of this world… Susan Simmons can tell that her new substitute teacher is really weird. But she doesn’t know how weird until she catches him peeling off his face– and she realizes that “Mr. Smith” is really an alien! At first no one will believe her– except Peter Thompson, the class brain. When Peter and Susan discover Mr. Smith’s horrible plans for their classmates, they know they have to act fast. Only they can get rid of their extra-terrestrial visitor– and save the rest of the sixth grade class from a fate worse than math tests! — This one was actually decently popular with my age group, so some of you might remember it too. 🙂 I started this series on the second novel by mistake (My Teacher Fried My Brains), so I read the entire thing out of order. It was still awesome. If your kid has an interest in aliens and you don’t want to chance giving them something iffy, this is a good series to start them on.

AI Gang (Bruce Coville)

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(Description from the 1st novel) When their scientist parents are assigned to a top secret project on a small, remote island, the five members of the A.1. Gang have to come along, and find themselves trying to stop a spy from destroying the project. — Can you tell yet that I really liked Bruce Coville? 😉 This was a really great series; in fact I loved it so much that I still have my original copies! A good mixture of action and realistic sci-fi, though maybe a touch out of date for new readers considering they were written in the 80s. 😉

Flying Dutchman (Brian Jacques)

7997(Description from the 1st novel) A boy and dog trapped aboard the legendary ship, the Flying Dutchman, are sent off on an eternal journey by an avenging angel, roaming the earth throughout the centuries in search of those in need.  Their travels lead them to Chapelvale, a sleepy nineteenth century village whose very existence is at stake.  Only by discovering the buried secrets and solving the dust-laden riddles of the ancient village can it be saved.  This will take the will and wile of all the people-and a very special boy and dog! — I will admit, I probably first picked up this book because of the hunky boy on the cover, but boy am I glad I did! This is one of my all-time favorite series from when I was a child. All of the books are very thoughtful, with interesting plots and nice characters. But what else would you expect from Brian Jacques, right? 😉

Circle of Magic (Tamora Pierce)

circle

(Description from the 1st novel) With her gift of weaving silk thread and creating light, Sandry is brought to the Winding Circle community. There she meets Briar, a former thief who has a way with plants; Daja, an outcast gifted at metalcraft; and Tris, whose connection with the weather unsettles everyone, including herself. At Winding Circle, the four misfits are taught how to use their magic – and to trust one another. But then disaster strikes their new home. Can Sandry weave together four kinds of magical power and save herself, her friends, and the one place where they’ve ever been accepted? — This series is actually really well known, so I don’t know if it counts, but it was one of my favorites (and still is), so I’m adding it anyway. 😉 I really enjoyed reading about these kids and watching them grow into their powers. Plenty of action, but a lot of heart too. A great introduction into the fantasy genre!


How about you? What are some of your old school favorites?

 

Mini Reviews – Cozy Mysteries & Spies

Well, I’ve been on a cozy mysteries kick again. They seem to be my go-to for when I’m not feeling my greatest; kind of like a comfort novel. 🙂

Crewel World (Monica Ferris)
Series: A Needlepoint Mystery #1

Description from Goodreads: When Betsy’s sister is murdered in her own needlecraft store, Betsy takes over the shop and the investigation. But to find the murderer, she’ll have to put together a list of motives and suspects to figure out this killer’s pattern of crime…

367063Review: Being a fan of cozy mysteries, but not a fan of romance, I decided to appeal to my Cozy Mysteries group on Goodreads and see if they had any suggestions. This was one of the series they came up with.

What a perfect recommendation for a crafter-at-heart! As you can see in the description above, most of the story takes place in a needlecraft store. As a crocheter & sometimes cross-stitcher, the craft store is one of my favorite places, so that really appealed to me. They even include a cross-stitch pattern in the back of the book! 🙂

The characters in this series (or at least this first book) are all fairly likable. There’s only one person who is kind of rude, but even she doesn’t seem to be that way on purpose. The mystery was decent too, though I admit to figuring out the bad guy pretty quickly. But even then the story didn’t seem to drag at all. I’m curious to see how this series goes, so I’m definitely going to try the next one.

Dead Cold (Louise Penny) — Alternate Title: A Fatal Grace
Series: Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #2

Description from Goodreads: No one liked CC de Poitiers. Not her quiet husband, not her spineless lover, not her pathetic daughter—and certainly none of the residents of Three Pines. CC de Poitiers managed to alienate everyone, right up until the moment of her death. When Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, of the Sûreté du Québec, is called to investigate, he quickly realizes he’s dealing with someone quite extraordinary. CC de Poitiers was electrocuted in the middle of a frozen lake, in front of the entire village, as she watched the annual curling tournament. And yet no one saw anything. With his trademark compassion and courage, Gamache digs beneath the idyllic surface of village life to find the dangerous secrets long buried there. For a Quebec winter is not only staggeringly beautiful but deadly, and the people of Three Pines know better than to reveal too much of themselves. 

10783250Review: I fell in love with this series during the first novel and this second one didn’t let me down. CI Gamache is the type of detective I would want solving my murder–calm, collected, clever, and not inclined to push people around to get what he needs. (I mean, yes, solve my murder, but don’t torture my Mom and friends to find out who did it.) He seems like the type of person I’d like to know in real life, which makes everything that happens in a book take on a much more personal meaning.

The mystery in this novel was pretty good. I did figure out who the killer was, but that’s mostly because I like taking wild guesses really early on that sometimes end up being correct. 😉 They mystery of HOW the person murdered CC, though, that was a toughy. I really enjoyed putting all the clues together along with the police.

I also loved the interactions between all the characters. Three Pines feels like a real town with real people. It’s just the sort of place I would love to live in…if only people would stop being murdered there. 😉

The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax (Dorothy Gillman)
Series: Mrs. Pollifax #1

Description from Goodreads: Mrs. Virgil (Emily) Pollifax of New Brunswick, New Jersey, was a widow with grown children. She was tired of attending her Garden Club meetings. She wanted to do something good for her country. So, naturally, she became a CIA agent. This time, the assignment sounds as tasty as a taco. A quick trip to Mexico City is on her agenda. Unfortunately, something goes wrong, and our dear Mrs. Pollifax finds herself embroiled in quite a hot Cold War—and her country’s enemies find themselves entangled with one unbelievably feisty lady.

149340Review: Is there such a thing as a ‘cozy spy novel’ or have I just made that up? Well, if there is, this book fits the bill. Mrs. Pollifax, a sixty-something grandmother, randomly decides one day that she is sick of this ‘retirement’ gig and wants to fulfill her childhood dream of becoming a spy…so she pops down to the CIA offices and volunteers. Imagine “Murder She Wrote” as an espionage thriller and you’ll be kind of close. 😉

This book was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed the character of Mrs. Pollifax. She was fiesty, witty, and never gave up. The side characters were also great, matching her wit-for-wit and showing that, even in the darkest places, you can meet great people.

I highly recommend this series for someone looking for a light-hearted spy novel (they can be so hard to find!) or anyone just looking for a fun read.


What’s your go-to genre for when you aren’t at your greatest?

T5W – There’s No Such Thing as a Small Part

It’s time for another Top 5 Wednesday! This week’s topic: Favorite Minor Characters.

I’ve been having so much trouble with this one, you guys! I will be the first to admit that my memory isn’t the best, so trying to think of my favorite minor characters (that weren’t all just from Harry Potter) was SUPER difficult for me.

Here’s what I came up with…

Smokey Lonesome (Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe – Fannie Flagg)

8b67d259aee82e2eee1f97b3b3634fedSomething about this character pulled me in; I just felt so much compassion for him. I also loved that he was willing to stand up for his friends, even against someone who could easily have taken him down.

Calixte (Strange the Dreamer – Laini Taylor)

61yt-aCI16L._AA300_I loved this character. She was charismatic, feisty, and wasn’t afraid to stick up for herself. She also didn’t rag on the main character, Lazlo (with whom I felt an immediate kinship) just because he was bookish, unlike a lot of the other characters.

Rubeus Hagrid (Harry Potter – JK Rowling)

ebafecac73151e5c53694808c9a14ce0Well, I had to give myself one! 😉 I LOVE Hagrid. I always have. He’s compassionate towards the children and animals, extremely loyal to those he deems worthy, and just so…well…lovable! (Side note: I still think Robbie Coltrane was the best casting in the entire HP series. He completely epitomized my Hagrid!)

And, now, since I’m having so much trouble with this category…I’m going to cheat a bit and give you three books where the minor characters turn into the main characters!

Welcome to Night Vale (Joseph Fink & Jeffery Cranor)

51IZUXor7hL._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_The authors of the Welcome to Night Vale podcast took a handful of very minor characters and an even more minor subplot and managed to turn it into a brilliant novel-length adventure, delving into parts unknown for parts even more unknown.

NPCs (Drew Hayes)

22088245In this book, the NPCs (non-player characters) in a role playing game end up having to become the heroes they usually despise in order to save their town from a tyrannical king. It’s actually a really great story about finding strength you didn’t know you had.

The Rest of Us Just Live Here (Patrick Ness)

23830990Ever wonder what it’s like to live in an apocalyptic town when you aren’t the hero? This book reads like a John Green novel set in the Buffy Universe, but focuses on the kids who aren’t trying to save the world.


So give a girl a hand, who are some of YOUR favorite minor characters?

Book Review – The Juliet

Book: The Juliet – Author: Laura Ellen Scott

Genre: Adult, Adventure, Western?, Treasure Hunt

Description from Goodreads:

During Death Valley’s great wildflower bloom of 2005, retired cowboy actor Rigg Dexon gives a rootless woman a gift that will change her life forever: the deed to The Mystery House, a century old shack long thought to be the hiding place of a legendary emerald known as The Juliet. Willie Judy remembers Dexon from cereal commercials she watched as a kid, but now she’ll spend the next seven days searching for the truth about him, the house, and herself, as the history of The Juliet reveals the American Dream’s dark side—one that is corrupt, bawdy, and half insane. (see listing here)

My Review:

Where to start…

This was an odd one. Though the description above focuses on only two characters, the book itself is more about the history of the jewel and ALL of it’s owners, not just Rigg & Willie. The entire lifetime of the Juliet is shown, along with all the despicable things people did to each other in order possess the gem.

I will say, the novel hopped around quite a bit in the Juliet’s history, going back and forth between all the owners’ stories at once, instead of running a direct timeline. This made sense in the context of the story, but it was somewhat difficult to follow. The author DID include the dates at the beginning of each section, but I still had some trouble remembering who lived in which year, though not enough to throw me out of the story.

It helped that I really liked the author’s writing style. All the characters seemed completely believable, which, considering the wide variety, was pretty impressive. Even though most of the characters were all similarly greedy, the author managed to imbue each of them with their own sense of purpose and individuality. And, as easy as it would have been to go overboard with the ways in which the characters obtain the Juliet, you never have to throw on the “suspension of disbelief” switch in this novel. Even the most unbelievable of twists seemed entirely believable with this cast of characters.

The author also managed to encapsulate the time periods in which she was writing fairly well, without falling into the common pit of overdoing the accents & dialogue or focusing too much on historical details. The scenes in older time periods were just as easy to follow as the modern ones and, though there was some description of the locations/clothes/etc, the focus stayed where it should, on the Juliet and her devotees.

I ended up really enjoying this book. Putting all the bits and pieces of the story together into one cohesive storyline made me feel like I was also on a treasure hunt, the treasure being the Juliet’s history rather than the stone itself.

Similar Book(s):

Yyyyeeeaahhh…I got nothin’. So I’m just going to list the author’s other works. 😉

Death Wishing & The Mean Bone in Her Body