Cuddlebuggery Book Blog > Reviews

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Julia’s House for Lost Creatures is the first title I have read from Ben Hatke but if all his books are like this one, I’m going to hunt them down and read them all. The premise of this picturebook is deceptively simple. A magical Julia arrives into town with her house (which is carried from place to place by a humongous turtle) and settles in by the sea. But her house is too quiet and she’s lonely so Julia decided to open her house to lost creatures of all kinds.

The art of this picturebook is out of this world with bright colours and beautiful lines. The art is wonderfully creative. The typography matches the story perfectly and the writing itself is simple enough for a child to read on their own but Hatke uses some sophisticated diction to keep things a bit challenging. Julia is a fantastic heroine because not only is she capable and friendly, but she is also enterprising and deft with her hands.

Open Road Summer

What happens when you hit rock bottom and your best friend is coincidently about to headline a summer tour around the country? You take advantage of that epic road trip, of course! Reagan O’Neill is a little, well, out of control. Her family life is less than ideal and her ex-boyfriend hurt her beyond repair. Her summer vacation with her best friend and country superstar Lilah Montgomery is the perfect chance to start over. Add an adorable and handsome opening act to the mix and you get a very unexpected surprise. Even though the premise sounds like the perfect summer read, Open Road Summer was a little less awesome and a lot more genetic than I was expecting.

I was really looking forward to the road trip aspect of this novel. However, despite some exceptions, it was more of a “venue-to-venue” sort of trip instead of an exploration of the cities they visited.

Afterworlds

“Everyone was talking about their own work as well, and about the superpowers of their agents, the bloody-mindedness of copy editors, and the perfidies of marketing departments. Darcy was swimming in a sea of publication, and all she wanted to do was drown.”

I’ve long felt that writing is – and always has been – my strength. It’s something that I have always enjoyed doing, and the feedback that it has received over the years has me believing that it’s a skill that I’m at least somewhat competent at. Yet I’ve never had much of an urge to try my hand at storytelling. Essays and reviews are all very well and good, but the thought of attempting a novel’s worth of fiction has never much appealed to me. Perhaps I simply don’t have the patience or work ethic. Perhaps I’m afraid of inadvertently telling a really, really crummy story. Whatever the reason, the concept of writing a book just hasn’t been an interest of mine.

The Zoo Box

The Zoo Box by Ariel Cohn and Aron Nels Steinke is one that tries to marry old classics such as Jumanji (if one can consider it a classic) and Where the Wild Things Are and does not quite succeed. When Erika and Patrick’s parents go out for the night, they leave Erika in charge of her younger brother. She takes Patrick up the attic where they find animal suits and put them on. They also find a box from which, impossibly, animals emerge. The animals, reminiscent of Orwell’s Animal Farm reverse the circumstances and put unsuspecting humans in cages while they go around, popcorn in hand, observing the humans.

I am not a fan of this art style and this affected my reading experience substantially. I found the art to be unsophisticated, especially since I had just finished Hatke’s book intended for the same audience. I found the writing to be overly simplistic and lacking the dips and leaps that usually characterize the language used in a picturebook.

Messenger of Fear

“He is not indifferent, that’s the thing. His too-near voice that seems always to be whispering in my ear is held to a standard of cool detachment, but his eyes and his mouth and his forehead and the way he swallows all speak of reflected pain.”


The opening installment to Michael Grant’s new series seems largely a routine affair. As the introductory piece to a larger work, Messenger of Fear is rather simplistic in both its construction and its establishing of an overarching mythos and cast of characters. It’s all mostly predictable (particularly the big “twist” near the end, which one will likely figure out very early on), following as it does the well-worn formula that so many YA authors have taken to since the meteoric rise of the paranormal romance genre.

This particular incarnation centers on Mara, who awakens in a sort of limbo with no clear memory of who she is or how she came to be in this new dimension.

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