Tag Archive | Series Review

Series Review: Jackaby, Beastly Bones, The Map, by William Ritter

jackaby1and2

Series: Jackaby

Titles: Jackaby (#1), Beastly Bones (#2), The Map (#1.5)

Author: William Ritter

review

Overall Thoughts

jkbybb

Okay, where do I even start? I’m addicted? I think I did overhype it to myself, so I didn’t love it as much as I hoped I would? But I still enjoyed it a ton.

This is basically what would happen if a Sherlock Holmes type person could see supernatural/fantastical things and had a female assistant instead of Watson, and was in late 1800s America instead of England. I’ll admit that I’m addicted primarily because of Jackaby himself, since he’s the sort of character that I like to read, especially the bickerings between him and the heroine, Abigail, through whose eyes the story is told.

I’m also torn on the fact that Jackaby and Abigail aren’t a romantic item. There’s… ahem… someone else for Abigail. And while she and said person are admittedly adorable together, some little part of me still kind of almost wants her and Jackaby to be a thing, especially with the other little part of me that wonders if Jackaby kinda-sorta-likes-her even if he would obviously never notice/admit it. But that’s not a big deal. Their friendship/partnership is still great as-is, and in a way it makes it better, I suppose, since romance isn’t tangled in between. So I can get on board with that, I guess. And the vague romance bits are a very minor sideplot — these are mostly about the mysteries, which was kind of refreshing in a sense. ๐Ÿ™‚

Thoughts by Book

jackaby

Jackaby (#1)

5starrating

I loved the “feel” of this one. Despite the touch of American stuff, which gives it just enough of a different kind of flavor, it feels almost like Holmesian London, which was fantastic. You get a sort of dark, shadowy, cobblestone street at night under a moon and gas streetlamps sort of feeling, where there could be a murderer or a creature from fantasy legend (or both) lurking in every shadow or towering building, and it’s fantastic.

The mystery is intriguing, with just the right amount of hints and evidence and mystery, with the ordinary police force thinking it’s ordinary, and Jackaby insisting it was unnatural. I just loved it! It’s kind of creepy, but in that way that I like (normally I don’t like creepy stuff, but this felt just right, somehow, so I didn’t mind; it wasn’t terrifying, just eerie).

I guessed the main parts of the mystery. Which was fantastic. One likes to feel smart, you know? Though there were, of course, a couple things that made me go “OH, of course I should have gotten that!” But the main things… totally had it. (Or at least variations. Which is fun too, because there’s so many things it COULD be, all your various guesses, and then you’re like “ohhhh, it was THAT one!”) I’m kind of addicted to mysteries, suddenly… I must read more!

Also, can I just say, the supernatural/fantasy aspect with the legendary creatures bits and so on, was a lot of fun. Especially with a banshee and… well… the other certain creatures of Celtic and other folklore, which I will not give away in this review. ๐Ÿ˜‰ But suffice it to say, it was really cool reading about it and going “oh, yes, I know about those legends!” It makes one feel connected.

jkbybb2The dialog was fabulous, of course. Jackaby and Abigail and their interactions are just my favorite thing about it. And Jackaby’s weird house/office and his laboratory and weird mix of science and fantasy, and the duck, and the pond on the third floor, and Jenny is interesting, and I love how Jackaby accidentally blows things up and stuff when he’s trying to cook. (Paprika, not gunpowder, Jackaby!) It’s just kind of a glorious mess and I love it. โค So that part, with all the quirkiness of him and his life, was definitely far from a disappointment! I think Abigail handles it all rather well. XD

It’s also pretty hilarious/awesome his interactions with the actual police/detectives. They’re kind of wary and weary of him, and he’s just all chipper and “yep, let me just wander into the crime scene and poke around and it’s obviously a sinister creature who did this, by the way.” And the Inspector fellow is just like ready to strangle him. It’s awesome. Oh, and Charlie was a great character too! I guessed his twist too (or most of it) and… yes. Bwahaha. I really like his character. ๐Ÿ™‚ All the great characters!

Though I do wish we’d learn more about Jackaby himself! Since it’s all from Abigail’s point of view, we get little hints about him and his past and various things, but not nearly enough! I want backstory and reasons and his NAME and all the things about him being a seer and his history and everything and slkjdlkjdlkjl I just want to know about all the Jackaby things, please! *waits on the edge of my seat for book 3*

All in all, really enjoyed “Jackaby”!

beastlybones

Beastly Bones (#2)

4starrating

So even though this sequel kept me more hooked and turning pages faster than even the first one, I didn’t enjoy it as much as “Jackaby.” Possibly partly because of that… I don’t like being really stressed out by books? It went into a more creepy feeling than the first one, maybe? Other people might like this one even better, because it’s more “original” than the first book, but sometimes I prefer familiar to “original.”

It’s kind of hard to explain my thoughts on the book without giving major spoilers about the plot… but I’ll try.

I’m giving this one 4 stars primarily for Jackaby himself, of course, and how much I in general enjoyed his and Abigail’s and Charlie’s interactions with each other. As a sequel, I’m already immensely attached to this trio, so it was great to see them again and that’s the main reason. Part of the 4 stars is also, yes, for a couple of brilliant things in the plot, and for the fact that I couldn’t put it down, and for the humor/awesome dialog.

So if it had just been those things? Instant 5 star. As it was, I had complaints about this one, which might otherwise have dipped it into the three-star territory; and they’re probably all petty and inconsequential, but oh well. Also, I think that most of my complaints will be things in its favor from others’ points of view, because I’m an odd duck. ๐Ÿ˜› (My name is not Douglas, though. …Yes, I went there.)

For one thing, the setting was totally different than the first. I really enjoyed the London-esque feeling in the first, whereas this one was out in the American countryside and felt like it was trying and failing a bit, to be more like a western or… something? That was odd to me, and didn’t seem to fit the feel of the first one. (Like I said, others might find this cool/original.)

jkbybb3Then there was the fantastical/supernatural/fantasy element. In the first one, I really enjoyed the mentioned creatures/legends, because I felt like I knew them, and they were familiar. In this one, though, there were a bunch of weird random things, clever, yes, but some of them kind of creeped me out. So except for an eventual twist which did bring a fantasy creature I’m used to (and is a total spoiler but was kind of awesome and also terrible at the same time), I just felt… disconnected from the fantasy elements.

Also, in the first one, I could relate to Abigail pretty well most of the time, trying to find her way in a new place and deal with Jackaby. But in this one, it was all about her obsession with dinosaur bones and her wondering about being an independent woman. Now, no offense to anyone, but dinosaur bones bore me to death. I was just like can we please have something interesting now, please? And I think she was doing an okay job at being “independent” as a woman in the first one, without being stuck-up about it like these kinds of “strong women” do in books. In this one, there was this reporter lady who was feeding Abigail all these lines about such things, and I think Abigail did fine on her own before this lady came along. Ugh. So anyway, no to the dinosaur bones, until the twist in the plot (which I’d begun to predict–points for me! Though they really should have figured it out way earlier. EVIDENCE, peoples!) later in the story, which made it become interesting again. So that was kind of awesome. ๐Ÿ˜€ I won’t say anything more about it, but you’ll know when you read it. Fabulous. โค

And then the characters. I didn’t like any of them.

…Okay, that may be harsh.

Obviously I still adore Jackaby, and also Charlie, and Abigail SOMETIMES… (we’ll get into that), and I have nothing against the old farmer, poor fellow. But everyone else I pretty much disliked, felt “meh” about, or loathed. Which is not good when I think you’re not supposed to? I’m sorry! I don’t usually rant, but pardon me for a moment while I rant about some characters, and I apologize to anyone who liked them.

Both the excavating fellows (forgot their names, sorry; I read this from the library and sent it back, so I don’t have the references for names or quotes — which is killing me because ALL THE AWESOME QUOTES WHICH I DON’T OWN) were awful — the younger one because I kept suspecting him of things because he was young/handsome/slightly slimy and very goodmannered, and the other because he was a total JERK who is simply painful to read about because he’s going around being grouchy and bullying everyone through contracts. I’ll admit he wasn’t so bad eventually, simply because the other characters wouldn’t play his game, but still. Bleh. It was awful with these dinosaur bone people treading all over this poor farmer guy’s rights and acting like they’re in charge. I hated that. They made me want to throw the book. Sometimes it’s just really hard to read things like that, for me at least.

The trapper fellow who was Jackaby’s friend was okay, but I never got into him. His accent was supposed to be some sort of mountain-man/western/southern/rural drawl thing, I think? Which I’ve never been into in print — it comes across as annoying to me, all the “ya’s” and… I don’t know, it doesn’t read well, somehow, and almost is demeaning because it’s almost like it’s being made fun of. I LIKE trappers/mountainmen/western/southern/rural people/places, but I don’t like when they seem backward. I don’t have anything against him, per se, I just didn’t click with him and thought it was weird that he and Jackaby were friends. The twist about HIM, I felt should have been all… “wow”? But I was just kind of “…um, okay then.” about it.

And then the reporter lady. UGH. I simply loathed her. And she’s supposed to be a likeable character, I think! But she just had this annoying “I do whatever I want” thing going and was always quipping things (kind of like Irene Adler in the Robert Downey Jr. movies, but without anything likeable about her) and annoying me over being a “strong heroine” sort of person who despises men and kept getting in the way and leading Abigail astray about poor Charlie (gaaahh.) and just… I loathed her. (And I don’t CARE what happened at the end, I still don’t like her and it can’t make me, and I suppose I should feel bad but I don’t.) She made me want to throw the book again. (I didn’t. It’s a library book. And I wouldn’t actually throw books because that would be wrong because books are still precious things even when one does loathe characters in them. But still.)

And I was annoyed at Abigail a good bit in this one. I liked her fine in the first book, and occasionally in this, but sometimes I just wanted to smack her in the back of the head with a noodle and go ABIGAIL COME ON. It’s petty, I suppose, but I wanted her to dislike the nasty characters as much as I did, but she was too patient with them. Okay, so that’s not good reason; I must be a horrible person. But really, did she have to put up with them?? And the bone obsession, which like I said, I just couldn’t understand. Mostly, though, her pigheadedness about Charlie through most of it. JUST MARRY HIM ALREADY, WOMAN. (Okay, so I have a slight uncertainty about that too because I kind of like the idea of her and Jackaby, too. Oh well. I apparently can’t decide. But still.) Though I must admit that a lot of this made for some really excellent scenes, where she was half getting romantic advice from Jackaby on the subject and he was just like “oh my goodness please no do not involve me seriously why are you doing this to me just stop” but at the same time giving her almost advice and it was hilarious and awesome. XD And then the ending… yes. All of the yes. With the train and all. ๐Ÿ˜€ *cackles*

But my goodness, I didn’t mean to turn this into a bashing party. I’m sorry! The book is actually quite good, I couldn’t stop reading it, it was very absorbing, and I really loved lots of it! It just wasn’t quite as amazing as the first one, to me. Like I said, though, I bet that all of the things I disliked about it, will probably not be a problem to other readers, so don’t let me stop you from reading/loving this book. It’s definitely an intriguing book, and I’m not going to stop reading Jackaby things because like I said, I’m addicted… I guess I just feel strongly about this book in many ways, which is actually a good thing!

And I can’t really be too mad at any of the problems, because then along comes Jackaby and some of the banter and I’m just “yep, I love this so much.” So.

BOOK THREE RIGHT NOW PLEASE AND THANK YOU.

themap

The Map: A Jackaby Story (#1.5)

5starrating

Oh my word, this story! GAH. *huggles it* Okay, so it’s a short story/novella type thing, which is free on Kindle, set between Jackaby and Beastly Bones. It’s a short, fun read, and has an even different feel than the other two, but I simply LOVED it.

It’s Abigail’s birthday, and Jackaby takes her on a treasure hunt with an old map and fantastical things ensue. But get this: it’s entirely based around trying to find the treasure from the Irish song “Whiskey in the Jar.” This kind of totally made my day!!! Just… the idea of it. I suppose for anyone who reads it who’s not familiar with the song, they’d just be like “whaaat?” but since I grew up on old Irish songs and always loved that one, it was simply fabulous.

I hardly have anything to say on this one because I don’t want to ruin any of the plot, but it was just a rollick and I loved it. It had its share of perils and such, but mostly it was just an excuse for Jackaby and Abigail to go on an adventure together and interact, which was just so much FUN! I think sometimes, some of my favorite character pairings/groups could just do NOTHING plot-wise and I’d still enjoy it. In a way, big scary mysteries/adventures/problems which constitute “plot” can even take away from the fun of simple character interaction which is my favorite part of some things.

(Like in Avengers 2, my favorite part is when they’re hanging out together trying to pick up Thor’s hammer, just bickering and having fun. It’s the BEST! I’d watch a whole movie about them hanging out; it’s almost not as fun when they have to go do PLOT things… So, just an example.)

Anyways, it’s so worth it just to see them interact, but the rest of the plot is fun too, and the hints from the song (some of which I guessed), and the touch of almost-steampunk with an airship and all, and the goblins with their semi-Scottish accents which was so fun to read, and THAT ENDING. So much. โค

Basically, READ IT. It’s just fabulous and I adore it to bits.

summary

From Goodreads:

Jackaby (#1)

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 Jackabyโ€™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 itโ€™s an ordinary villain, but Jackaby is certain itโ€™s a nonhuman creature, whose existence the police–with the exception of a handsome young detective named Charlie Cane–deny.

Doctor Who meets Sherlock in William Ritterโ€™s debut novel, which features a detective of the paranormal as seen through the eyes of his adventurous and intelligent assistant in a tale brimming with cheeky humor and a dose of the macabre.

Beastly Bones (#2)

In 1892, New Fiddleham, New England, things are never quite what they seem, especially when Abigail Rook and her eccentric employer R. F. Jackaby are called upon to investigate the supernatural.

First, a vicious species of shape-shifters disguise themselves as a litter of kittens, and a day later, their owner is found murdered with a single mysterious puncture wound. Then in nearby Gadโ€™s Valley, now home to the exiled New Fiddleham police detective Charlie Cane, dinosaur bones from a recent dig mysteriously go missing, and an unidentifiable beast starts attacking animals and people, leaving their mangled bodies behind. Charlie calls on Abigail for help, and soon Abigail and Jackaby are on the hunt for a thief, a monster, and a murderer.

The Map: A Jackaby Story (#1.5)

Abigail hopes that her birthday will slip by unnoticed and uncelebrated, but her employer, detective of the supernatural R. F. Jackaby, has other plans. Using magical party crackers that teleport the pair to unknown destinations in time and space and a cryptic map that may lead to a forgotten treasure, Jackaby intends to give Abigail what he considers to be the best gift of all–adventure.

Abigail and Jackaby must tame an enormous (and carnivorous) rabbit, defend a castle, and master a dirigible if they want to find the treasure and get back to New Fiddleham alive.

factoids

Genre/Category: Mystery, Fantasy, Historical Fantasy (also The Map had a touch of possibly Steampunk?)

Age Group: Young Adult (From my memory, they’re quite clean, which made me happy!)

Published: 2014, 2015, 2015, respectively

Pages: 299 hardcover (Jackaby), 295 hardcover (Beastly Bones), 57 kindle (The Map) (651 pages total, so far)

Series: Jackaby series list on Goodreads. These 2 and a half will be followed by a 3rd novel, Ghostly Echoes, releasing August 23, 2016 (I NEED IT YESTERDAY OH MY GOODNESS)

When Read: February 7-8, February 10, and February 12, respectively

Favorite Character: JACKABY (I’ll be honest, Charlie is also awesome)

Other Notes: Got the novels from the library, and the novella free on Kindle!

Cupcake awards to anyone who made it through reading this whole post.

(I should probably rethink my idea of doing a “series review” when I actually have a lot to say about each of the books… But I just like this idea of doing it all at once, so I did it anyway. :P)


Thanks for reading!

Dream away in those pages . . .

~ The Page Dreamer

 

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Series Review: The Snow Spider, Emlyn’s Moon, The Chestnut Soldier, by Jenny Nimmo

mgcntrilogy

Series: The Magician Trilogy

Titles: The Snow Spider (#1), Emlyn’s Moon (#2), The Chestnut Soldier (#3)

Author: Jenny Nimmo

review

Overall Thoughts

These were slim books, each of which I read in a sitting, and I was in the mood for some short reads, so that was nice. I’m not sure what I think of them overall? I mean… I enjoyed them okay, some of the writing was lovely, and it’s obvious that they’re not meant to be taken too seriously — just fun adventures written for kids.

They follow a modern Welsh boy (Gwyn) from age eight to thirteen, as he discovers he’s the seventh descendant from the last magician in his family line — which has a magician every seven generations since a Welsh magician of legend named Gwydion. So Gwyn has inherited his ancestor’s magic in his blood, and he has to learn responsibility for it and how to look out for his friends and occasionally fight fantastical things, while trying to keep it all from the various relations/neighbors who, due to the modern setting, don’t understand these things. The usual. ๐Ÿ˜‰

I did really like the Welsh setting. I’ve read a few books, now, set in semi-modern-day Wales (these particular ones were from the 1980s) and they all had a similar “feel,” so I found that to be neat. The ancient craggy hills, the wild wind, the old legends creeping into modern day, the sort of almost-lilt of the slightly-odd way they talk even in English, and the occasional smattering of Welsh words dropped here or there.

It may just be the shortness of the books, but I did often feel like things were rushed or not explained well enough. Some of it was super vague and I was confused about what was going on a lot. But like I said, they don’t seem like they’re supposed to be super in-depth. Still, a bit more of explaining things might have been nice. Some of the characters seemed to change randomly, which was weird? But that might have been just me. Sometimes it just felt oddly… unfinished.

One thing that I didn’t like so much, and is a common problem in contemporary novels (one of the reasons I avoid them generally) was the dysfunctional/not getting along of families. Though at least these each tended to focus on one family/problem per book, and generally sorted out most of it by the end, so that was good. I do like seeing repaired families. ๐Ÿ™‚ Still, it’s rather difficult for me to get through the stuff before, in order to get there. I just… don’t enjoy reading that stuff. (Some people call it “conflict” and insist that books need that sort of thing. I believe there can be plenty of “conflict” without that sort of uncomfortable mess.) So, one of those “it’s not you, it’s me” sort of things for these books and me.

I quite loved the scraps of Celtic legend thrown in here and there, weaving into the story. That was great! I’m trying to remember specific things it mentioned that I knew about… But anyway, I feel like there were a few things I’d read of before, and even if I hadn’t, it felt… comfortable. In that eerie, mysterious Celtic way, you know. I’m just used to such myths and legends and it feels quite natural to have them built in like this. So that was enjoyable for me.

Oh, and something that really annoyed me (I know it’s inconsequential, sorry) was the excessive use of exclamation marks after dialog. I think it was just an ’80s thing and/or a children’s-book thing, but it felt like they were always quipping or yelling, even though they weren’t supposed to be, and it felt kind of condescending. But that’s just a minor issue and I eventually got mostly used to it. Still, thought I’d mention it.

So… I don’t know, a bit of a mixed bag. There were a few things I really enjoyed about it, but a lot of the overall feeling was one of incomplete meh-ness… but I dunno. By the end of the trilogy I did realize I’d become somewhat attached to the setting and some of the characters. It just felt kind of homey. I think I’ve figured out that happens to me for most things I spend three books in. ๐Ÿ˜‰

I’m not sure I particularly recommend them? But some people who like modern fantasy, and don’t mind small books about very young kids written for a younger age, might enjoy them. I’m not sorry I read them, or anything, and found some enjoyment for myself, they’re just not 100% my “thing” and I don’t know if they’d be others’ either.

Additional Notes on Each Book

snowspider

The Snow Spider (#1)

3starrating

I remember starting this out, accidentally, late one night, and then staying up to finish it. I was thinking, near the end, of possibly giving it 4 stars, since it was rather intriguing and some of the writing was pretty, and I tend to be fairly generous in my star-ratings. Then the ending was a little flat for me, so I settled on 3 stars. It’s not a bad book, it was just… okay for me. I wished a few things had turned out slightly different, and some of it wasn’t well explained. But I did enjoy it okay and it kept me interested, and the Welsh setting/legends were fantastic. (It’s also quite appropriate how Gwyn’s birthday/when people disappear and all, is on Samhain.)

emlynsmoon

Emlyn’s Moon (#2)

3starrating

This was mostly from the POV of Nia, a girl minorly mentioned in the first book. I think I wasn’t expecting that. This one actually reminded me a lot of the Julia Redfern books by Eleanor Cameron (just add a little magic). About a very young, very reckless/hotheaded girl who gets into scrapes, though her continued lying got to me a little, especially since half the time I really understood it, and half the time I… didn’t. I also loved Nia’s art school project part of the plot — quite lovely (though with some misfortunes along the way. *wince*). It was also quite interesting to see the hero of the first book, Gwyn, from another perspective! And then there was Gwyn’s cousin, Emlyn. There could have been more to his story, but I enjoyed his part of it all the same. He was a great addition (I’m sorry, I can never resist the golden eyed/slightly troubled boys).

chestnutsoldier

The Chestnut Soldier (#3)

4starrating

I don’t really do half-stars but… this one might be 3.5? I think I overall liked it better than the first two, but I’m not sure if it quite reaches 4 star distinction? I don’t know. The plot was much more interesting to me though, the whole mystery/legend surrounding Evan, the strange distant “cousin” (he’s not actually) of Nia who comes to stay at their village. The fascinating question of who he was, when, and all, kept me quite interested. I did wish that Emlyn had been in it more — he barely showed up, it seemed to me. This one was rather scarier than the first two, perhaps, but it also had more of the Welsh things instead of just the silvery people from the first two. All in all, my favorite of the trilogy. By this time I’d become rather attached, methinks. Anyways, it had its problems, but I still enjoyed it quite a bit and was pretty satisfied, I think, with how it all turned out. ๐Ÿ™‚

summary

From Goodreads:

The Snow Spider (#1)

1snspOn Gwyn’s 9th birthday, his grandmother tells him he may be a magician, like his Welsh ancestors. She gives him five gifts to help him–a brooch, a piece of dried seaweed, a tin whistle, a scarf, and a broken toy horse. One blustery day, unsure what to do with his newfound magic, Gwyn throws the brooch to the wind and receives a silvery snow spider in return. Will he be able to use this special spider to bring his missing sister, Bethan, home? THE SNOW SPIDER spins an icy, sparkly web of mystical intrigue that sets the stage for the next two books in this outstanding trilogy.

Emlyn’sย  Moon (#2)

2emmnYoung magician Gywn and his friend Nia have been warned to stay away from Emlyn Llewelyn, the strange boy who claims his mother lives on the moon. And yet, a mysterious magic continues to draw them to him. But why? It’s up to Gwyn and Nia to solve the mystery, with the help of Arianwen, the Snow Spider. Readers will race along with Gwyn in this fantastic magical adventure to rescue Emlyn and his family before it’s too late.

The Chestnut Soldier (#3)

3chsdrGwyn can feel danger coming in the wind. Somehow he knows the warnings have to do with the broken toy horse that holds the evil spirit of a prince who lived long ago. When Gwyn discovers that the prince’s dark soul has escaped from the horse and is seeking revenge Gwyn, Emlyn, and Nia have to figure out how to save the mysterious soldier who claims to be Nia’s distant cousin. With the help of the Snow Spider, can they recapture the prince’s soul without hurting the Chestnut soldier?

factoids

Genre/Category: Contemporary Fantasy

Age Group: Middle Grade

Published: 1986, 1987, 1989

Pages: 128 hardback, 154 hardback, 203 paperback (485 total)

Series: The Magician Trilogy (also called the Snow Spider Trilogy). List on Goodreads.

When Read: February 6, February 20, February 22, respectively (2016)

Favorite Character: Humm… Well, I liked Emlyn in the middle book, and in the final, I’d say Evan (sometimes… whenever he was… ahem… himself).

Other Notes: Book 1 I got from the library; book 2 was given to me; I found book 3 at a library sale.

Read for the Fantasy Love February Reading Challenge hosted by Grace @ Fictionally. (This is my first review for the mini-challenge… I will hopefully have a few more coming this week! Don’t worry, there will be some medieval fantasy adventures too. ;))


Thanks for reading!

Dream away in those pages . . .

~ The Page Dreamer