Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Rabbit Hole, Looking Glass, or Just Some Really Good Beverages....

It's been awhile (okay, maybe an entire month).  I apologize.  I know how eagerly you all (or maybe just myself), await each installment, hovering on the edge of your seats, just dying to know what I've read.  Well, this time I decided to try something new.  I spent the last month reading an entire five-book series, thinking I could then pass along a more informative review.  I'm not sure if this will play out well, but that was my original thought. 

The series that caught my attention is once again from the realm of young adult fiction.  I saw a blurb for the third book in the series on Goodreads; it seemed like something I'd enjoy.  In a stroke of luck, at the end of the December, I found the second and third books in the bargain section at Books-A-Million; for the price of the first book, I got the two bargain books.  Three books for the price of two?  Yes, I will take that deal.  However, the series had to wait for me to finish a few other books first, so it languished on a shelf for a month before I could get back to it.

Leven Thumps and the Gateway to Foo by Obert Skye was not entirely what I expected.  It's the first book in the series, and I suspect it's the first mass-print book by the author.  I gave it three stars on Goodreads, and it's one of the few times I think that I didn't need a half star extra.  Don't get me wrong, it's not a bad read.  It was just.... well let me go over the plot first. 

There is a place where dreams come from, or maybe it's a place they go to.  There is a place that exists outside the realm of reality, that is a conduit for your imagination.  That place is called Foo, and it is in dire need of a savior.  Lucky for them, Leven Thumps will be given the job.  Aided by his new friends, Winter Frore, Geth, and Clover, Leven will race halfway across the world to destroy the only gateway into Foo.  Despite growing up in the most apathetic and abusive of households, Leven is a generous and helpful guy, intending to do his best (unless he's asleep and dreaming of his unworthiness). 

As I was saying, this book has some of the tell-tale marks of being a first by the author.  Or maybe I was expecting too much detail from a YA book.  At times the reading became repetitive and stilted; other times the descriptions were lacking the necessary fleshing-out to bring them to life.  It was like seeing someone with stage fright going through their part, knowing that if they just warmed up and relaxed into it, the performance would be amazing. 

The second book, The Whispered Secret, was of similar difficulty, except the backdrop was Foo instead of reality.  Some of the creatures that inhabit Foo are well illustrated with words, and others were still a little two-dimensional.  It reminded me a lot of reading Through the Looking Glass, or maybe a Seussian version of it.  I could still see the potential for an amazing story, but some of the charisma and dynamism of the plot would be shadowed, like a cloud passing over the sun.  There was still enough pull for me to want to keep going, and I figured I already had the third book, so I kept at it.

Now, it was all starting to come together.  In The Eyes of the Want, the descriptions of the backdrop and the evolution of the characters started to really gather steam.  It was like hearing the engine of a Porsche Boxster rev up.  You could just feel it ready to take off on a wild ride.  Some questions were still left unanswered, but the story was so engrossing that after sailing through the book and having only eighty pages left, I ran out to the bookstore and bought the final two books.... in a snowstorm.  I mean, I really didn't want to get through the third book and have to wait another day or two before I could continue the story.

I swear, I am not a book junkie.

Ok, maybe I am.

Anyway, The Wrath of Ezra and The Ruins of Alder were both outstanding.  The whole thing was polished, well written, and a bit of a nail biter.  I HAD TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED NEXT.  Quite the transformation from the first book, huh?  The author did a good job of sticking with the maturity level of the targeted audience, but there was a lot there for adults too.  Serious topics were glossed with a sheen of humor, and it made harder abstractions easier to grasp.  I think it had a few good life lessons in the series, and there were a couple of plot twists I didn't see coming.  Overall, I could see myself as a nine or ten year old and loving this series.  This would have been right up there with Madeline L'Engle for me as a kid.

Of course, I happen to like plaid elephants and pigs on zip lines, so maybe my version of reality isn't exactly normal either.

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