Finishing up 2013: Part I

100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson, A-

I enjoyed this slightly unusual book about a boy who, in the farmhouse where he’s staying with family, discovers cupboards that connect to other worlds. Parts of the premise were difficult to believe, and the book was clearly written to be the start of a series (I hate that). But some of the writing was excellent. I liked it enough to keep it, and I plan to read the sequel.

The Bad Child’s Book of Beasts by Hilaire Belloc, B

Rhymes about animals. Too short, dated.

The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly, A-

This is the story of a boy who is flung into a terribly dangerous world where he meets some dwarves that sound like they came from a Monty Python movie, a sort of female version of Dr. Moreau, and other elements of fairy tales and classic stories that have been turned upside-down. Some might call it “derivative” or “a pastiche,” but I thought it was original enough and that the jumbled elements worked together because the story is framed as a journey. While The Book of Lost Things seems like it ought to be a book for young adults, I think it’s just a little too dark. Recommended for adults only.

Duma Key by Stephen King, B+

A contractor who sustained lasting physical damage from a construction-site accident goes to a Florida key to convalesce. There he discovers an artistic talent so powerful that he seems able to affect the future by painting it. But, as his painting ability grows, an ancient evil is rising.

Parts of Duma Key are beautifully written. As I recall, nothing happened for the first 100 pages except the main character’s recovery, but it was engrossing. The problem was the silly, old evil that he had to combat later in the book. That part just didn’t work for me.

Edible Front Yard by Ivette Soler, A- and Sugar Snaps and Strawberries by Andrea Bellamy, A-

I’m thinking about doing some small-scale gardening someday, and I hoped these books could help me get an idea of what to grow and where. I don’t remember too many details about either book, but I thought both contained adequate information to get a beginner started. They convinced me that I should grow strawberries, blueberries, or potatoes at some point. But a big failure for both books, IMHO, is that they discussed every type of pest that might invade a garden except deer. If I do ever start gardening here, deer are likely to be a huge problem, so I will have to look elsewhere for strategies for dealing with them.

Half Moon Investigations by Eoin Colfer, B

In Half Moon Investigations by Eoin Colfer, a 12-year-old detective takes on a seemingly innocent case that could ultimately put his life in danger. I could tell almost immediately that this book wasn’t going to be a favorite. The writing is tolerable, but the characters and events are all nearly unbelievable. I just couldn’t get past certain things and that ruined the fun for me.

The House Between the Worlds by Marion Zimmer Bradley, B+

In this book, the main character is Cameron Fenton, who takes part in a test of a new drug, called antaril, which is supposed to increase ESP. For Cameron, it does more than that. It allows him to astrally project himself into other worlds. During these drug-induced “trips,” he discovers that all the worlds are in danger. There are those who would rip apart the boundaries between the worlds for pillage and plunder. To stop them, he must find the House Between the Worlds.

The House Between the Worlds used to be one of my favorite books. Maybe I was in a bad mood when I reread it this, the umpteenth, time. Or maybe it has finally become too dated (it was, after all, written when Dungeons & Dragons was really hot). If I had graded it only on this most recent reading, it would have fared worse than a B+, but how can we not forgive our oldest and dearest friends some flaws?

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