A Cast of Stones, by Patrick W. Carr

A Cast of Stones, by Patrick W. Carr

Reason for Reading: Review copy was provided by publisher through Net Galley for an honest review.

Errol Stone has grown to manhood as the town-drunk in an out-of-the way village. When a messenger from the capital city comes for a reclusive monk, Errol offers to help deliver the message in exchange for enough money to keep him in drink for a week. But he is attacked while trying to deliver the message, and is consequently swept up into an intrigue that he’d rather ignore. He and the monk must travel to the capital city, for it appears that the childless King might soon be on his deathbed, and corrupt politicians are vying for the throne. This story also throws hints about an evil force more powerful than man which might overthrow the land if the King dies without an heir. 

I really enjoyed this story. I was sucked in from the beginning, and I could easily empathize to poor Errol’s feelings that events were circling outside of his control. He was a very real character to me, which is rare in YA fantasy. The world-building was also impressive in this book. The world was built upon foundations expected for Christian Fiction, but it had the right ratio of realistic to fantastical elements to make it a fun and easy read. My one complaint is that the book ended in a cliff-hanger. The basic quest that was begun in this book was completed, thankfully, but it left many threads dangling for the next book. Luckily, that book will be published later this year. This story is suitable for young teens and up. 

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs

2012 Book 163: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs

Reason for Reading: I was originally going to give it to my dad for Christmas, but it wasn’t as amazing as I thought it would be


Jacob has grown up believing that his grandfather’s tales of adventure and magical children were a fantasy. However, when Jacob’s life is suddenly turned upside down, he must go on a quest to a tiny island off Wales to see the orphanage his grandfather grew up in. There, he discovers that there was some element of truth in his grandfather’s stories…and he finds out that his life is in danger. This book was a fantastic idea. Riggs used some unique vintage photographs that he’d borrowed from a few collectors and built a story around the weird images. The photos were fascinating…I really loved looking at them. And I was excited to see what sort of story was built around them. However, the story was a bit contrived. I suppose that it would have to be, given that it’s built around some randomly rescued photos…So Riggs deserves some credit for a good eye and a creative idea. His writing was a bit lack-luster…as I said, it was a bit contrived, and it leaned too heavily on formulaic fantasy. Shades of X-men, Groundhog Day, etc. abound. Nothing wrong with using old formulas, of course – no concept is every fully new – but overall the writing just didn’t hold its own. I might or might not pick up the next book in the series…we’ll see. 🙂 I’ll probably read it eventually because I imagine Riggs’ writing might improve on the second book, and it will seem less contrived if it’s based on plot development instead of photographs. 🙂

Pictures of Hollis Woods, by Patricia Reilly Giff

2012 Book 78: Pictures of Hollis Woods, by Patricia Reilly Giff (5/17/2012)

Reason for Reading: It was there

My Review 4/5 stars
Hollis Woods is a 12-year-old orphan who has run away from every foster home she’s ever lived in. As a last-ditch effort, she is placed with an elderly lady who is “good with girls like you.” In her new home, Hollis is finally happy, until she realizes that her foster mother has a fading memory, and she must hid this fact from the state in order to stay where she is. This book is simply precious. Hollis seems so real–snarky but sad, brave but insecure, and willing to do whatever it takes to care for her foster mother. This short book could be appreciated by adults as well as people in 5-8th grades.

Dave at Night, by Gail Carson Levine

2012 Book 70: Dave at Night, by Gail Carson Levine (4/30/2012)

Reason for Reading: Because it was there

My Review 3.5/5 stars
When Dave’s father dies, Dave is separated from his brother and sent to an orphanage. Dave finds a way to sneak over the wall of the orphanage and wanders the streets at night, where he meets many interesting characters (both high society and from his own social class). In his adventures at the orphanage and the streets, Dave learns a little bit about himself and what he needs in life, he grows to accept his problems and embrace his gifts. This is a sweet little book.

The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgeson Burnett

2012 Book 23: The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgeson Burnett (2/5/2012)

Reason for reading: Working on reading some of the classics that I should have read when I was a child but never got to (despite my parent’s encouragement).

My Review: 4/5 stars
10-year-old Mary was being raised as an emotionally neglected, but very spoiled, brat in colonial India when she is suddenly orphaned by a cholera epidemic. She is sent to the house of a rich uncle in England, where she is ignored. Despite these tragic events, Mary somehow manages to make friends, and discover the magic of nature, for the first time in her life. This was an adorable book, though greatly contrasted from A Little Princess, in which the main character was sweet and lovable all the way through. I hadn’t thought I’d seen the movie when I read this book, but clearly I have since I knew the story too well. I will have to re-watch the movie now.

Maniac Magee, by Jerry Spinelli

2012 Book 20: Maniac Magee, by Jerry Spinelli (1/30/2012)

When homeless runaway Jeffrey “Maniac” Magee arrives in the highly segregated town of Two Mills he meets Amanda Bealle, an African American girl who shares his love of reading. Soon, Maniac Magee moves in with the Bealles, enraging racial tensions among their African American neighbors. He ends up sleeping on the streets, or sometimes with other down-and-outs, all the while amazing everyone with his friendly nature, athletic feats, and complete color-blindness. Maniac Magee’s story is engaging not only because of the positive social theme, but also because of the delightful prose and wonderful characters. A wonderful book for kids around the age of 9-12, I’d say. 5/5 stars

A Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett

2012 Book 9: A Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett (1/18/2012)

A Little Princess is a classic story of a rich little girl who is put under the care of a bitter, selfish schoolhouse matron. At first, the girl is treated as a star pupil; but when her father dies a ruined man, she is cruelly forced to become a servant of the schoolhouse—but her sweet, vibrant nature keeps her alive during these hard times. I have seen quite a few movie adaptations, but the book is much better than the movies. This is a good book for people of all ages to read. 4/5 stars.