Categories
Contemporary Fantasy Middle Grade Young Adult

ARC Review: Dwarf Story by Professor W.W. Marplot

  • Title: Dwarf Story
  • Series: no – stand alone
  • Author: W.W. Marplot (G.D. Marplot)
  • Publisher & Release: Waxing Gibbous Books – June 30, 2020
  • Length: 404 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⚡ for younger readers!

“I found a dwarf, and there is something funny growing in my yard”

So begins the story of Arty & Co! Here is the synopsis from Amazon:

First, Arty finds a sweaty, bearded ax-swinging warrior Dwarf scaring his dogs. Soon enough, Emma, Cry, and other middle-school friends also find fairy creature—Elves, Spriggans, Pixies, and a hoped-for Dragon—crashing into their normal homework-doing, backpack-carrying, phone-charging schooldays

Why are these magical beings here? What should be done? Is that ax sharp? Can Pixies be given aspirin? Arty, with his friends—and spying jerks and questionable strangers with long names—follow the clues and try to find out, even as things turn dark and dangerous. The mythical beings take sides.

The Gwyllion, that legendary Old Woman of the Mountains, has a sinister plan that will turn the neighborhood into a fantasy battleground.

Thank you so much to Books Forward for my copy of Dwarf Story! Arty woke up one morning and found a dwarf, thus starting a scientific adventure. Or an artistic adventure if you ask Emma. An awesome adventure if you ask Cry. The three friends each find their own fairy and have to navigate a war as an ancient force returns to reclaim Long Island!

This is a super cute middle grade fantasy, mixing modern with fantastic. There are dwarves, pixies, libraries, old books, giants, cell phones and a bit of everything for every reader.  The advertised age range is 9-14 and definitely qualifies as a “clean read” – AKA something I would personally hand a Catholic 10 year old.  There is also a good amount of basic learning in the story, an intro to some of  the Irish legends and fairy folklore in general.

Arty and Emma are the two main characters.  Arty is more scientific, and Emma artistic.  The book includes a lot of learning and more informational bits that are well tuned to younger readers.  Arty spends a lot of time reading books as he is putting the pieces together to learn about what’s happening with the fairy folk.  Some parts of this honestly might drag for some kids, and there are whole chapters where literally nothing happens, and the characters are complaining of being bored.  Generally with younger kids I would say axe all of this “boring” content, but it still reads quickly with short chapters, even at over 400 pages.  This is where I knocked the stars off the rating – a slightly older kid would be more tolerant of this where I can see a 9 year old maybe flipping until something exciting happens.

Despite the lulls in action, the pace and exciting bits are pretty well even throughout the book.  The end was a bit anticlimactic, with the biggest battle occurring mostly off-page, and the ultimate fight almost entirely glazed over in another characters recap of the action.  I understood how we were mostly just following Arty’s role, and the puzzle involved, but I would have liked to be in on more of the battle action even as a bystander, or another “Mary” chapter.

The characters split the chapters to tell what happened throughout, and I did like them all.  It was told in a 1st person POV but they were talking directly to the reader at times.  This is a great format for engaging kids too.  The other thing I liked is that the kids really did seem to act their ages (around 13) and I would recommend most for that middle-school aged group.

Overall I think kids will enjoy this, and it is entirely age-appropriate for any reader.  A great intro to fantasy and fantastical creatures that could really encourage kids to keep reading in the genre.

Thank you again to Books Forward for my advanced copy!! The book releases on June 30th and I would preorder now if I had kids!!

Categories
Contemporary Paranormal Young Adult

Echoes Between Us by Katie McGarry

Thank you so much to BookishFirst and Tor/Forge Books for my advanced copy of Echoes Between Us by Katie McGarry! Synopsis from GoodReads:

Veronica sees ghosts. More specifically, her mother’s ghost. The afterimages of blinding migraines caused by the brain tumor that keeps her on the fringes and consumes her whole life haunt her, even as she wonders if it’s something more… Golden boy Sawyer is handsome and popular, a state champion swimmer, but his adrenaline addiction draws him to Veronica. A girl with nothing to live for and a boy with everything to lose–can they conquer their demons together?

I do not read a lot of young adult contemporary because as a 30 something year old, I can never identify with the characters or stories, and I am SO HAPPY to say that this is not the case with this amazing book.

First I just want to comment on the location: I originally thought that the book took place in Saranac Lake because of the TB hospital and note up front, but there is a portion of a real diary included in the novel from a patient at the hospital. The book actually takes place somewhere in Kentucky, but I still was jumping at home being mentioned in a book at all.

I loved the characters and the lessons they learned. Veronica is dealing with a brain tumor and believes that she is living life to the fullest… or is she just waiting to die? Sawyer is a popular kid who has a whole houseful of his own issues, and the unlikely couple end up empowering each other to confront their fears.

The book revolves around a school project that Veronica and Sawyer are doing together, to prove or disprove that ghosts exist. The themes about residual hauntings are absolutely beautiful, concluding that these are caused by emotions and events too powerful to leave the mortal world, and they can haunt a person in their day to day decisions. There may or may not be evidence of other ghosts in the story, but those are part of the fun of reading.

It is not a ghost story though, I thought it was shaping up to turn into one but it really isn’t, it is SO much more. The book deals with delicate and important themes like depression, alcoholism, enablers, addiction in general, and mortal illness. Poor little Lucy, Sawyer’s younger sister, seems to be the wildcard in the story and I just felt so bad for that little girl.

The one part that I wasn’t quite thrilled with was Sawyer’s voice when we first met him, I don’t really like cryptic language that usually means a poor attempt at foreshadowing. Stick with him though because it ends up making sense, and he ended up being my favorite of the dual points of view.

I think Veronica and Sawyer have a great relationship though and their groups of friends are really, truly good friends, which is shown towards the end of the book. Their dad’s are also great characters, V’s dad is a big amazing papa bear and I loved him, then Sawyer’s dad at the end stepping up and taking care of his kids was a good message as well. I think this is a great book for young adults and teens (and even adults) to read. It made me really think about some of the aforementioned themes … I can’t get this residual haunting concept out of my head.

I would totally recommend this book to ANYONE, which is rare for me. It publishes January 14th so check it out if it sounds up your alley!

Categories
Contemporary Crime

Hands Up by Stephen Clark

Thank you so much to Stephen Clark for providing me with a free copy of his book in exchange for an honest review!

Hands Up is Clark’s second novel. It is a mix of police procedural, black lives matter activism, political, and social commentary – tackling the highly controversial topics of white on black shootings, police brutality, casual and overt racism, gang violence, complicated family ties, and confronting one’s own fears and biases.

Here is the synopsis from GoodReads:

Officer Ryan Quinn, a rookie raised in a family of cops, is on the fast track to detective until he shoots an unarmed black male. Now, with his career, reputation and freedom on the line, he embarks on a quest for redemption that forces him to confront his fears and biases and choose between conscience or silence.

Jade Wakefield is an emotionally damaged college student living in one of Philadelphia’s worst neighborhoods. She knows the chances of getting an indictment against the cop who killed her brother are slim. When she learns there’s more to the story than the official police account, Jade is determined, even desperate, to find out what really happened. She plans to get revenge by any means necessary.

Kelly Randolph, who returns to Philadelphia broke and broken after abandoning his family ten years earlier, seeks forgiveness while mourning the death of his son. But after he’s thrust into the spotlight as the face of the protest movement, his disavowed criminal past resurfaces and threatens to derail the family’s pursuit of justice.

Ryan, Jade, and Kelly–three people from different worlds—are on a collision course after the shooting, as their lives interconnect and then spiral into chaos.

So the story is told from the three alternating points of view of Ryan, Jade, and Kelly, and the book puts us in Ryan’s head as his story is the only one told from the first person POV. Ryan is immediately painted as a bit of a crooked cop, then I found myself with a very neutral to indifferent attitude towards him throughout the rest of the book. The three characters are, as the synopsis says, essentially on a collision course.

The story and plot itself kept me rapidly reading throughout. I didn’t so much care for Kelly’s point of view except for how he seems to represent the circle of violence coming to an end. Then starting again. Uncovering how the shooting actually occurred and following the family’s quest for justice both seemed real enough. I could respect Regina (the victim’s mother) for originally not wanting to be in the spotlight, and Gail represented that loud minority of people who blow these things sky high. Regina was probably my favorite character in the whole book as she had some of the most reasonable lines and felt like the most relatable character to me.

The whole book from the family ties to the protests was pretty excellent until the romance aspect – I will not elaborate due to spoilers but even though I could tell and appreciate what the author was trying to do, it didn’t work for me. it didn’t seem plausible. Ryan doesn’t seem like the type who would be on such a moral high ground, then act with frank infidelity no matter how you spin it, then act on impulses like that? It worked for the plot but really threw me from reality to …. “really?”

Also regarding the ending of the book…would Ryan really trust Jade after all that happened? The ending just seemed so implausible that it dropped me from a five to about a three star rating. Still the book is important and feels very necessary in today’s world. It is a brave and diverse topic to handle and I think it was done well; both sides were represented with equal biases. One example is that the pastor in the book mentions that blacks are killing more blacks than white cops. The book recognizes where the real problems in society lie, and acknowledges that a few very loud people can absolutely blow up an issue that is definitely important, but maybe not the biggest overall thing that people are facing at the time.

Even with the ending throwing me off so hard, I think I can tell that Clark was a journalist because my mind is pretty clear on what issues are relevant to him. I feel like this review is a jumble but I fully encourage everyone to read this book. I have daily opportunities at work to examine my thoughts and feelings on various peoples and situations, but this book could be so important for those who don’t have that chance. Especially in America where there is so much debate over these issues and a sense of unity is needed more than ever.

Thank you again to the author for providing a copy of the book for review! Here are The author and the book’s social media links, and at least as of 11/21/19 the book is free on Kindle Unlimited so I would really encourage everyone to check it out!

https://twitter.com/StephCWrites

https://www.facebook.com/stephcwrites/

https://www.amazon.com/Hands-Up-Stephen-Clark-ebook/dp/B07X36LH8Z

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/47642331-hands-up?from_search=true&qid=awTpkHztaV&rank=3