Monday, May 20, 2013


by Alan Bradley

     Most of us were introduced to the precocious Flavia in "Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie" in 2009. If I was giving a teen girl a book I'd give her this instead of a book with a shallow, whiny, love-sick (sick being the important word) teen heroine. It is written for adults, with nothing inappropriate for any age reader, and is a fun read-a-loud if you can do an English accent.
     Flavia's adventures include five books, and since I never read a series out of order I had to read this 3rd one, in order to read the 4th one, "I am Half-sick of Shadows" now sitting on the bedside table. And then I can finally pick up the 5th one, "Speaking from Among the Bones" from the library. It's exhausting keeping up with myself.
     Motherless Flavia De Luce is the 11-year-old girl we never could have been but somehow we wish we were - for a little while. I love that she calls her bicycle Gladys. Her chemistry experiments and her amateur sleuthing make her a little more interesting than most 11-year-olds. She roams freely in a decaying manor house with a distracted father and 2 older sisters. Her address isn't a number on a street so you know it's grand. Buckshaw includes acres of woodland and boggy streams near a small village which makes it perfect setting for a 1950s British murder mystery.
     The same characters appear in this story. Dogger the gardener who suffers mental lapses due to war wounds, and  Mrs. Mullet who isn't the best cook but a reliable gossip are always able to assist our young sleuth.  Several new characters are just as eccentric and my favorites from the list are the old gypsy and her granddaughter. Gypsies make every story better, since they seem to have a strange and mystical culture.
       I adore this character. She's smart, funny, sassy and still finding out about herself. It's "wickedly funny" so sit by the grate with a cuppa and enjoy trying to keep up with the puzzling twists and turns in the third Flavia adventure.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Fractured Soul/Fractured Light by Rachel McClellan

Fractured Soul/Fractured Light by Rachel McClellan
Here’s a two-for-one review with no plot spoilers. These novels were quick reads and I had fun “buddy reading” with my niece Rachael Dredge. She is the target audience for these YA books since she is still an actual young adult and I’m more of a middle-aged young adult.
Rachael said, “The book ‘Fractured Light' is a clean, easy to read romantic novel with a twist. Fans of 'Twilight' and 'I am Number Four' will enjoy the book. Despite being predictable and hard to get into, it really picks up halfway in and gets you curious about where the series will head as a whole, introducing a mysterious magic system and a quest for self-knowledge. The main character herself, Llona, is nothing very eye-catching (another moody outcast), at least not until the end where she is put to the test.”
I responded with my view which was that the second book is better than the first book. You don’t need to read the first book to understand the second book, and McClellan doesn’t waste pages with too much back-story. There are fewer distracting descriptive phrases in ‘Fractured Light’ which lets the reader enjoy the story without halting the flow.
We get a little more information about Llona and the Auras. One of the questions we all want answered is revealed: “Why can’t I change my hair? It’s always the same. I can’t cut it or color it.” she asks the school nurse.
“It’s the Light in our DNA. It affects some of us physically, changing certain parts of our makeup.” She held up her left hand, revealing a sixth finger. I think Llona was happy to have beautiful white hair as her “Thing about us we would like to change” even before the lecture about having something we don’t like about our appearance.
As the exciting conclusion (I hoped) approached, I found myself willing to read longer in the final stretch. I also appreciated the G rating. Teenagers don’t always use offensive language or sleep with their very young boyfriend – and these characters don’t. It’s safe to give these books to a daughter, granddaughter or even a grandmother.
I will admit I had to find out how to pronounce Llona. It’s "eye-loh-nah" in the US and "ee-law-nuh” in Europe.  After mispronouncing heroines named Hermoine and Esme, I wanted to be able to carry on a conversation with YA readers without completely embarrassing myself.