June 27, 2013

Mini-Reviews: Middle Grade Mischief

Sorry for the six of you who saw this when I accidentally posted the draft!

Thrice Upon a Marigold Thrice Upon a Marigold by Jean Ferris (Marigold, Book 3)
Available now from Harcourt Children's (Houghton Mifflin)
Review copy

I am a fan of Jean Ferris.  Her books are often both funny and poignant.  But THRICE UPON A MARIGOLD didn't quite work for me; the magic has gone out of the series.  Part of it is that Marigold, the former heroine, proved to be rather useless.  But this one just wasn't as funny as the first two books in the series.

It's a shame, because the heroine and hero are interesting people.  The daughter and son of the kingdom's most notorious criminals, they've grown up to be law abiding.  When they get wind of a plot to kidnap the princess, they instantly move to protect their future ruler.  But what should be a caper, like the title promises, is never that lively.  Fans of the series will want to finish it, but there's little in THRICE UPON A MARIGOLD for newcomers.

The Menagerie The Menagerie by Tui T. Sutherland and Kari Sutherland (first in a series)
Available now from HarperCollins
Review copy

THE MENAGERIE was already on my TBR when it appeared in the discussion spurred by Varian Johnson's post "Where are all the black boys?"  Logan Wilde is the new boy in town and hasn't quite found where he fits in yet.  Then he discovers a griffin in his room, which leads him to the Menagerie, run by his classmate Zoe Kahn and her family, with help from his other classmate Blue.

I think THE MENAGERIE will appeal to young cryptzoology fans, but I found it a little disappointing.  (I'm still happy I moved it up in my TBR.) Zoe lives in fear of SNAPA, the regulatory body that keeps the animals a secret and could shut the Menagerie down.  That would be enough, but apparently SNAPA has moved to killing the animals that escape or belong to a shut-down shelter.  It's just pointless villainy.

THE MENAGERIE really is cute.  I loved all of the animals, especially the baby griffin Squorp.  I liked the burgeoning friendship between Logan, Zoe, and Blue.  But I wish there was a reason for SNAPA to be evil.

The Fellowship for Alien DetectionThe Fellowship for Alien Detection by Kevin Emerson
Available now from Balzer+Bray (HarperCollins)
Review copy

Haley is a highly motivated student who applied for an odd summer program because she stumbled upon a mystery perfect for a budding journalist.  Dodger applied to the same program, hoping to discover the truth behind a phenomenon that makes him even more awkward than he might be otherwise.  Thus, the two set out to find aliens on their summer vacations.

And Suza Raines, featured in interludes throughout the novel, keeps living the same day over and over.

I enjoyed THE FELLOWSHIP FOR ALIEN DETECTION and I am always going to give props to standalone science fiction.  I do feel it ran a bit long, especially for the target age group.  Much of the sections before Haley and Dodger meet could have been streamlined.  I am happy that the book kept going back to Suza, because she was my favorite character.  Focusing on her would've gotten boring fast, but the amount given of her repeating life was the right amount of creepy.

However, the length does make THE FELLOWSHIP FOR ALIEN DETECTION a good candidate for keeping a passenger occupied on a long car ride.  Given the multiple road trips featured within, I think THE FELLOWSHIP FOR ALIEN DETECTION is a great choice for the sci-fi lover on the road this summer.


  1. Baby griffen love on my part too! Basically, the baby griffens make the book.

  2. Bummer about Thrice; I believe I read and enjoyed the first book but didn't try the second although it seems up my alley. With a title like that, it really suggests caper and I'm sad it didn't live up to that promise.

    1. Yeah. The first one is excellent and the second is too from what I remember, but this one was a touch of a letdown.

  3. I've been meaning to read THE FELLOWSHIP FOR ALIEN DETECTION - good standalone MG sci-fi is like a unicorn: rare and precious! I'll need to check out these other titles, too. Love the mini-review format!

    1. It's even rarer than its wonderful YA cousin.

      I love mini-reviews too! I'm considering doing them for some other books too because they make it so easy to catch up.


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