Random Musings by Frodosco

Posts tagged “Genre Reading Challenge

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger: Frodo’s Review

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda

Summary From Goodreads

IT TAKES THE WISDOM OF YODA TO SURVIVED THE SIXTH GRADE

Meet Dwight, a sixth-grade oddball. Dwight does a lot of weird things, like wearing the same T-shirt for a month or telling people to call him “Captain Dwight.” This is embarrassing, particularly for Tommy, who sits with him at lunch every day.

But Dwight does one cool thing. He makes origami. One day he makes an origami finger puppet of Yoda. And that’s when things get mysterious. Origami Yoda can predict the future and suggest the best way to deal with a tricky situation. His advice actually works, and soon most of the sixth grade is lining up with questions.

Tommy wants to know how Origami Yoda can be so smart when Dwight himself is so clueless. Is Yoda tapping into the Force? It’s crucial that Tommy figure out the mystery before he takes Yoda’s advice about something VERY IMPORTANT that has to do with a girl.

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It’s time for another edition of Frodo’s Hobbit Sized Reviews! This is where I write a review in the time I have before I go to work or before I go to bed. Short and sweet just like 2nd breakfast!

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda is a lighthearted story of some middle school kids and the mystery that is Dwight and his Yoda-shaped origami puppet. I wanted a change of pace from my usual reads and this middle grade book is exactly what I was looking for. It’s funny, an easy read and remembering what it was like to be that age was a treat. The book uses multiple perspectives to piece together what makes Origami Yoda so special in a kind of case file type format. The puppet has been known to (seemingly) predict the future, how does he do it? Some characters believe in the puppet being magical somehow, others are undecided and one is a complete non-believer. Each short story, or case file, is hilarious and sheds some more light on Dwight, his puppet and how from the perspective of a middle school kid almost anything can be amazing and magical.

The underlying theme if you go beyond the humor is that you shouldn’t judge people based on their appearance or some of their habits. Because Dwight is known as a goofball, unobservant and not all that bright it gives Origami Yoda that much more mystique. While some of the kids seem to think Dwight might have more to him than meets the eye it is up to you as the reader to decide. What will you see?

I enjoyed The Strange Case of Origami Yoda. It was a quick read (only 145 pages) and was a wonderful change of pace from the usual books I read that are far more complex. If you want something light to read or need a good laugh I’d recommend picking this one up. It’s the first book in a trilogy and I will likely be picking up the other two books somewhere down the line. Thanks as always for reading!

Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #111/200; Mount TBR Challenge #65/150; 2013 TBR Pile #65/50; Genre Variety Reading Challenge – Category – Middle Grade #27/30

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Review: Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier

Ruby Red

Summary From Goodreads

Gwyneth Shepherd’s sophisticated, beautiful cousin Charlotte has been prepared her entire life for traveling through time. But unexpectedly, it is Gwyneth, who in the middle of class takes a sudden spin to a different era!

Gwyneth must now unearth the mystery of why her mother would lie about her birth date to ward off suspicion about her ability, brush up on her history, and work with Gideon–the time traveler from a similarly gifted family that passes the gene through its male line, and whose presence becomes, in time, less insufferable and more essential. Together, Gwyneth and Gideon journey through time to discover who, in the 18th century and in contemporary London, they can trust.

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This. World. Is. AWESOME!

Usually I dive into characters at the beginning of my reviews because generally that is the focus and how I feel about the book as a whole tends to go by how much I enjoy them, or don’t. However, with Ruby Red I just want to talk about the world that Gier created. For hours. With everyone. Alright I might be getting a bit carried away…

So in this world there is time travel, which is awesome. The MC has cool powers that she has only hinted at to anyone but her best friend and her mother (who I don’t think took it completely seriously) which are pretty incredible, and potentially dangerous should the wrong people learn she has them. Other people have different powers too, but so as not to spoil it I’ll just say at one point someone may or may not have used “the force” in a way. Aren’t I such a tease? ^.^ There are organizations that have complex prophecies that, if completed, may or may not result in powers untold. Oh, and wonderfully detailed descriptions of the time periods that the time travelers visit, who doesn’t love that?! Aaaaah I love this world so much. *hugs*

Oooh and the writing style! The dialogue is captivating, the characters have these in depth conversations and the vocabulary used is expansive and a thrill to read. The way Gier creates this web of family history that even the characters within the families can’t always figure out is intriguing and I’m very curious to see where she goes with it. What ties will be made next? Every scene just felt elaborate and shiny and aaaaah I can’t stop gushing. Books just aren’t written like this very often and it is such a refreshing experience. Love.

So, plot. The general idea here is girl winds up with special time traveling abilities, is completely unprepared and still has to deal with her new powers and resulting change of lifestyle while attempting to complete missions for this group of families that are trying to fulfill a prophecy. Except she doesn’t have a clue what she’s doing because she wasn’t trained at all. Oh, and she isn’t completely on board with some of what she is expected to do on these missions and the supposed “enemy” may not be so bad after all. We see some initial displays of time travel, transition into wonderful action sequences and then get some motivation leading into the second book, Sapphire Blue, by the “enemy” and a little romance. Still with me? Sounds pretty awesome right? I thought so too. ^.^

The romance is where I have some quibbles. No insta-love thank goodness, but certainly some instant attraction on the part of Gwyneth which I’m completely fine with. She likes the other MC, Gideon, right from the start at least on a looks level and as the story goes on she learns more about him along with the reader. However, Gideon doesn’t seem to reciprocate her feelings and we even see him involved with someone else early on. So near the end when one of the characters does a 180 I’ll be honest and say I was a bit frustrated. There weren’t a ton of warning signs (some small ones but nothing big enough to make the kind of change that occurred) and it seemed like it was just a tactic to generate more interest potential in book 2. Meh.

Finally, a bit more on the characters which in a reversal of my usual style I have saved (unintentionally) for last. To tell the truth this is the one area where I just didn’t connect with the book. I couldn’t get invested in what Gwyneth was going through except to marvel at the world and times around her. It isn’t that she is dull or irritating, she just didn’t have any qualities that stood out and grabbed me. Gideon at least had a solid sense of humor and while he is “annoying” in the first half according to Gwyneth, it’s his thing and he owns it. Oh, and the best friend (Lesley) just felt completely fake to me. She was like a robot built to help Gwyneth understand certain developments in the plot and catch up since she is so behind in training. Not thrilled with her character. Until the last 10% of the book or so this was going to really hurt the book for me but then BOOM new characters! Hello friends! I wanted to give the author a hug for introducing these people because I LOVED their characters and I’m sure they will be around more in Sapphire Blue which is a major reason why I’m super excited to read it.

I really enjoyed Ruby Red when all was said and done. The second half of the book, the more action packed half which comes as no surprise, was much better for me because it focused less on Gwyneth, Gwyneth, Gwyneth. The world is immense and complex and just awesome. Gier’s writing is such a nice change of pace from the vast majority of books I’ve read and I can’t wait to experience it again. The new characters introduced at the end of the book gave new life to the story and hopefully as Gwyneth is trained she will be less bland a MC. I don’t know how the romance, if there is going to be any, will impact Sapphire Blue but it should be interesting no matter what. Definitely check out this book and the series! Thanks as always for reading! ^.^

Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #109/200; Mount TBR Challenge #64/150; 2013 TBR Pile #64/50; Seriously Series Reading Challenge #27/51; Genre Variety Reading Challenge – Category – Historical Fiction #26/30

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Day 70: Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger

Day 70

Summary From Goodreads

It’s one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It’s quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to Finishing School.

Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners—and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. So she enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.

But Sophronia soon realizes the school is not quite what her mother might have hoped. At Mademoiselle Geraldine’s, young ladies learn to finish…everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but they also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage—in the politest possible ways, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousing first year’s education.

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There are many words that can be used to describe Etiquette & Espionage. Fabulous. Odd. Hilarious. I don’t know that any combination will adequately describe the book, but I’ll give it a go since reviews are apparently my thing now.

The main reason Etiquette & Espionage is so hard to accurately describe is because it encompasses so many genres. There is the fantastic elements such as werewolves and vampires, both of which are readily accepted by a large portion of society, go figure. Then there are the steampunk elements which go from mechanimals (exactly what they sound like) to floating schools seemingly made out of three dirigibles melded together, to descriptions of machines themselves. There is the urban setting, it is a school after all, even a floating one counts. Oh and the matter of it being in the 1800’s and thus having grand balls, horse-drawn carriages and of course the way of speaking that seems to fit the time. Add that all together and you can see why it is a bit hard to summarize all that Etiquette & Espionage holds in simple terms.

What’s so amazing, or at least in part, about the book is that it combines all of the aforementioned genres seamlessly. The vampires and werewolves? They fit right in with the school setting. The descriptions of different mechanical workings? Doesn’t clash with lessons on a proper curtsy or what size of handkerchief is possible to hide in a given…well, bosom. Even the manner of speech manages to fit in seamlessly with all of the fantastical goings on.

My personal favorite incorporation was the humor. Carriger not only uses standard forms of humor, but with the etiquette involved some specific situations that most books would be unable to take advantage of are used masterfully. Also names, just hilarious and no doubt for the author’s benefit as much as it was for the reader. My favorites were Lord Dingleproops, Mrs. Barnaclegoose and Bumbersnoot. I’m sorry but if you didn’t at least emit a giggle reading those you need to work on your sense of humor!

The characters were excellent too. The main character, Sophronia, is brilliant, funny, and though the school does make her more feminine as it is designed to do, she retains much of her tomboyish qualities as well as her adventurous & reckless tendencies which is always nice to see with a female MC every now and then. She’s pretty but it doesn’t make her act superior, loyal to those she cares about (unless faced with an incoming werewolf) and I can’t wait to see how her character develops. The supporting cast of friends, teachers and even enemies are all done very well. I honestly can’t think of a character I thought was poorly done which is pretty amazing.

Etiquette & Espionage is the first book in a four part series, and I’m definitely looking forward to book two, Curtsies & Conspiracies, which is expected to be released in November of this year. There wasn’t a cliffhanger ending (thank you Gail!) but that hasn’t made my longing any less. There is plenty more “education” left to be had, rules to be broken and hilarity to ensue. I’d recommend this book to anyone, especially since there seems to be a bit about it to appease a fan of any genre type. Thanks as always for reading and come back tomorrow for Day 71!

Genre Variety Reading Challenge #25/30 – Category – Steampunk; Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #70/365

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Day 53: The Obsidian Blade by Pete Hautman

Day 53

Summary From Goodreads

The first time his father disappeared, Tucker Feye had just turned thirteen. The Reverend Feye simply climbed on the roof to fix a shingle, let out a scream, and vanished — only to walk up the driveway an hour later, looking older and worn, with a strange girl named Lahlia in tow. In the months that followed, Tucker watched his father grow distant and his once loving mother slide into madness. But then both of his parents disappear. Now in the care of his wild Uncle Kosh, Tucker begins to suspect that the disks of shimmering air he keeps seeing — one right on top of the roof — hold the answer to restoring his family. And when he dares to step into one, he’s launched on a time-twisting journey
— from a small Midwestern town to a futuristic hospital run by digitally augmented healers, from the death of an ancient prophet to a forest at the end of time. Inevitably, Tucker’s actions alter the past and future, changing his world forever.

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From time travel to ghost-like beings, from the worst disasters in history to cats that shouldn’t have ever existed, The Obsidian Blade has it all. The cat thing is reason enough to read this if you haven’t already, freaky! Anyway, I received a copy of The Obsidian Blade from the amazing people at ARCycling and finally got around to reading it and I’m very glad I did. If you’ve been following my reviews you’ve seen a TON of fantasy so it seemed like it was time to divert a bit, in this case to sci-fi.

The most interesting and compelling element of The Obsidian Blade is definitely the setting/world-building. Due to the crazy amount of time transportation and dimension jumping it is vital that each new “time” is well developed, often very quickly. Somehow, and I give major credit to him for pulling it off, Hautman manages to make each time frame seem realistic and complex, and most importantly unique. You have forests in the distant future, an ancient city, and everything between. However, while many science fiction writers seem adept at creating these alternate times/realities/worlds, etc. it is even more impressive that Hautman’s writing makes our own seem just as interesting as the rest.

As for the plot, that was understandably a bit scattered. With all of the time jumps you have to make sure and follow closely to where the main character, Tucker is and what dangers lurk in that new place. The main goal of The Obsidian Blade seems to be centered on Tucker’s desire to bring his family back together, but that feeling doesn’t really resonate. While his focus does remain singular the story itself bounces around with seemingly no end in sight. Don’t get me wrong, each new “time” is interesting in its own right, but without having a strictly linear fashion to it the story is just…a bit disjointed.

Tucker as a main character was good if not overly memorable. The Obsidian Blade seems more interested in sharing all of these awesome new times and places with the reader then to create a stellar MC. Tucker is fun, a bit annoying with his incessant questioning, but overall enjoyable. While I enjoyed one of the other main characters, Lahlia, to a certain degree just because of her weird mannerisms and odd sense of humor, she is the only one that stood out. The rest I could take or leave really. Some of the beings in the book though? Really cool.

As this is the first book in the series I feel like there is definite potential in its continuation. The creepy/cool beings known as Klaatu could certainly be expanded on. I don’t really care that much about Tucker, but I’ll gladly give The Cydonian Pyramid a shot in order to read more about Lahlia. Besides, I can’t resist more “time” jumping through dimension holes, what nerd-geek can? Overall I enjoyed The Obsidian Blade and it is a solid read for any sci-fi fans. Thanks as always for reading and come back tomorrow for Day 54!

Genre Variety Reading Challenge #23/30 – Category – Science Fiction; Mount TBR Challenge #41/150+; 2013 TBR Pile #42/50; Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #53/365; Seriously Series Reading Challenge #19/44

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Day 46: END: An Apocalyptic Anthology

Day 46

Summary From Goodreads

END features stories about the end of the world from indie publishing’s rising stars. The Mayan Calendar ends on December 21st, 2012, and some people believe that heralds apocalypse. What better way to go out than with a collection of shocking, thrilling, and sexy stories?

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END features six short stories featuring various apocalyptic settings. It features Kendall Grey, author of the Just Breathe series, Ron Vitale author of the Cinderella’s Secret Diary books, Angela Kulig author of The Hollows Series, Amelia James author of the Twisted Mosaic Series, Dennis Sharpe author of The Coming Storm books and Morgan McCoy.

As there are six tales in this particular anthology I decided to cut it in half and talk a little about three of the stories ranging from ones I kinda liked to my favorite so as to give the best overall representation of the anthology without delving into every story and making this post a mile long:

3. Such Sinners We Are – I’m not usually one for spiritual pieces, it has nothing to do with my personal beliefs, just that talking about what’s in them seems to always end in conflict one way or another and I try to avoid that if possible. Such Sinners We Are by Ron Vitale discusses one of the most common apocalyptic scenarios, a good vs. evil battle to claim humanity. The story is told from the point of view of Tommy who is given the ability to see whether people are good or evil and his inner battle to choose to give the power to his little sister or to give into temptation and use it for his own sake. The writing style itself is a bit all over the place in quality, I liked the first part where it seemed pretty clear what the perspective was and sounded like an actual person might (bonus points, seriously in apocalyptic stories especially it’s amazing how often this isn’t the case) but later on the writing got a bit simplistic/repetitive for my taste. I liked it, but I didn’t love it. Decent.

2. Whimper – If even the military can’t control those with powers things could get messy pretty quick. That is what the world shows in Whimper by Morgan McCoy where Levine, someone who has powers but that are defensive in nature, must try and finish the nightmare she’s been living for so long after Maggie, an offensive type, killed her brother. Even though it wasn’t Levine’s intent to do so, once she encounters Maggie that’s all that is left to do, but does she have the strength? Whimper jumps repeatedly back and forth between the past, when Levine’s brother Nathaniel was alive, and the present as she trudges on through the remains of the world. While that takes some getting used to the writing is compelling and the parts about the military are thought provoking. Solid.

1. A Starshot in Hell – An example of what humanity might become at the end of the Earth, ruthless, with only the rich being able to survive. A classic way of looking at things, though not an untrue one, A Starshot in Hell by Angela Kulig shows the worst that humanity might do, stealing, plundering and abandoning their fellow people that are worse off then them to survive. Eden as the main character, one that remains on the charred Earth, is stoic and all but broken. Daniel, conversely, is sent from the ship (of the space variety of course) to rescue her as payment to her father, but can he convince her to leave what home she has left for a man she doesn’t know and a father who left her? A Starshot in Hell definitely made me want to read Kulig’s other works even more since this piece could have been 10 times as long and I would have ate it up. Very good.

Overall I thought END was a solid anthology with a good mix of established writers such as Grey and up and comers like McCoy. The stories were short but pretty good in quality overall, if you enjoy apocalyptic tales then this is a good easy read for you. Thanks as always for reading and come back tomorrow for Day 47!

Genre Reading Challenge #22/30 – Category – Apocalyptic; Mount TBR Challenge #36/150+; 2013 TBR Pile #36/50; Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #46/365

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Day 42: Against All Odds by Rick Cabral

Day 42

Summary From Amazon:  Against All Odds by Rick Cabral

The 40-year odyssey of how the River Cats became Sacramento’s hometown baseball team.

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It’s time for another edition of Frodo’s Hobbit Sized Reviews! This is where I write a review in the time I have before I go to work or before I go to bed. Short and sweet just like 2nd breakfast!

I was jonesing for anything and everything baseball today as it was the first of the 2013 season for pitchers and catchers to report. For those of you who don’t know, besides my obsession with books, my other main devotion is to sports. Baseball is my favorite and as I was watching every 2013 Spring Training video on MLB.com my desire to engross myself further was intensifying. I decided that rather than pick any book at random (none were calling me today either which influenced this as well) I would go find a baseball novella to read since Spring Training games don’t start until the 22nd.

Now that I’ve caught you up I can talk specifically about Against All Odds. Out of the novellas I found, this was in the top two. After beseeching my fellow MLB enthusiasts on Twitter I decided on this one for today (likely the other will be tomorrow’s, just a heads up). Against All Odds is about the River Cats, a AAA minor league baseball team located in Sacramento, California. I haven’t followed the minors very closely in my long time as a devoted sports, and baseball fan, and figured that this would be a fun place to start.

The Sacramento River Cats really did face seemingly insurmountable odds in becoming a reality. Time and time again plans were thwarted just as they seemed to be either beginning or even nearing fruition. Against All Odds went deeper than I thought possible into the minutia of each step in the 40 years it took for Sacramento to get their team. Although I was hoping for more personal anecdotes or stories that would tie into the process, I still enjoyed the novella, despite the middle being a bit laden with details that are interesting only because of how everything ties in together at the end. The ending, with the massive buildup and pent-up emotions involved delivered beautifully. I wanted to be living there just to experience what that rush must have been like for those living in Sacramento when this team finally came “home”.

Against All Odds made me a fan of the River Cats and if you love baseball, especially the details going into what it takes to land a team, then I think you’d enjoy this. As always thanks for reading (and putting up with my other obsession) and come back tomorrow for Day 43!

Genre Reading Challenge #21/30 – Category – Sports; Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #42/365

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Day 41: Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

Day 41

Summary From Goodreads:  

One cold night, in a most unlikely corner of Chicago, two teens—both named Will Grayson—are about to cross paths. As their worlds collide and intertwine, the Will Graysons find their lives going in new and unexpected directions, building toward romantic turns-of-heart and the epic production of history’s most fabulous high school musical.

Hilarious, poignant, and deeply insightful, John Green and David Levithan’s collaborative novel is brimming with a double helping of the heart and humor that have won both of them legions of faithful fans.

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Will Grayson, Will Grayson is a truly “fabulous” collaboration of two very talented authors. With each using their unique style, the combination of John Green & David Levithan is powerful but also perfectly synchronized, neither overpowering the other. Their styles don’t clash at all, and the one complaint I have heard from some that have read the book, the lack of capitalization to signify one of the characters, was not distracting at all. Oh sure, if you are an obsessive grammar-nazi this book may in fact be the death of you, but for the rest of us the story is beautiful and compelling.

Just as it is the crux of the play, the focus of the book seems to be on love, something so complex and intricate that it takes the combined talents of two of the best writers of our generation to bring to life in full. Will Grayson, Will Grayson tackles issues such as homosexuality, depression and perception, both of the public eye and even from your closest friends, especially concerning size. Many would argue that the main characters are the two Will Graysons, but from my point of view I think it was Tiny, the best friend of one and the boyfriend of the other. He brings the two together just by his presence and positive attitude toward life. However, don’t think that Tiny, who is a rather large individual as well as being gay, is just left to be a “happy-go-lucky” individual, no that gets cleared up in the later portion of the book. I won’t spoil it for you if you haven’t read it (which you should), but suffice it to say Tiny explains what it is like to be him and all of the energy, which seems to be wasted most of the time, that goes into pulling off that persona and worldview.

As for the two Will Graysons, they are both equally compelling characters. One for his goofy rules and girl troubles (among other things) and the other for his sarcasm and wit, and his own brand of dating drama. Both have issues that they have to conquer and are likable enough, in their own ways, that you truly do want them to succeed. I can see why some quirks of both characters (complaining throughout the book for both mostly) could be annoying to some, but for me, as someone who suffers from mild/moderate depression, I can understand what they are going through and it just makes me want Tiny to influence them and help change them all the more. It isn’t ever easy, but it can certainly be worth it.

Girl troubles, boy troubles, life as a teenager, homosexuality, happiness, you name it Will Grayson, Will Grayson covers it. I found it to be a fantastic read and it is definitely high up on my favorites, both in Contemporary and overall. I would recommend it to anyone, but especially to YA fans and romance ones as well. This is also a very good pick if you want a book that includes GLBTA issues. Thanks as always for reading and come back tomorrow for Day 42!

Genre Reading Challenge #20/30 – Category – GLBTA; Mount TBR Challenge 34/150+; 2013 TBR Pile #34/50; Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #41/365

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