Flora & Ulysses – Kate DiCamillo // The Last Temptation – Neil Gaiman // Doll Bones – Holly Black

Even though it’s actually Sunday, this still technically counts as a Fiction Friday! Man, I’ve really missed reading books for fun.

Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures:

“It begins, as the best superhero stories do, with a tragic accident that has unexpected consequences. The squirrel never saw the vacuum cleaner coming, but self-described cynic Flora Belle Buckman, who has read every issue of the comic book Terrible Things Can Happen to You!, is the just the right person to step in and save him. What neither can predict is that Ulysses (the squirrel) has been born anew, with powers of strength, flight, and misspelled poetry — and that Flora will be changed too, as she discovers the possibility of hope and the promise of a capacious heart. From #1 New York Timesbest-selling author Kate DiCamillo comes a laugh-out-loud story filled with eccentric, endearing characters and featuring an exciting new format — a novel interspersed with comic-style graphic sequences and full-page illustrations, all rendered in black-and-white by up-and-coming artist K. G. Campbell.”

I borrowed this from my boss because I heard it was good, and man, I’m glad I did! It’s super cute and has a really sweet message at the end. The illustrations are adorable – you wouldn’t think a half-bald squirrel would be cute, but Ulysses is precious!

My favourite character – apart from Ulysses – was Dr. Meescham who was both hilarious and enlightening. I also liked how dramatic William Spiver was and how Flora came to accept him, despite her initial misgivings.

There were many layers to this book, all of them equally enjoyable: the comic books Flora loved, her relationships with her parents, Ulysses’ story…I loved that, like The Invention of Hugo Cabret, there were chapters that were entirely illustrated in comic-book form that advanced the plot and made it easier to image the characters.

Like I mentioned up above, the ending was really sweet and was something that I think a lot of children will benefit from reading.

The Last Temptation:

thelasttemptation

“Neil Gaiman brings shock rocker Alice Cooper’s concept album to life in a surreal sideshow of the soul! Join a young boy named Steven on a surreal journey of the soul, as an enigmatic and potentially dangerous Showman seduces him into joining his carnival. Celebrate the 20th Anniversary of this seminal Gaiman work, returned to print for the first time in over a decade. Fully remastered in color, this Deluxe Edition incorporates complete scripts to all three chapters, black-and-white thumbnail art of pre-colored pages, an original outline of the project by Neil Gaiman, and a collection of letters between shock rocker Alice Cooper and the author!”

One of my Christmas gifts from Ro was this newly re-released edition of a Gaiman comic book. I haven’t gotten around to reading any of Gaiman’s comics yet (there are so many and, as someone who has never been a huge comic fan, it’s a bit daunting), but this was a good start.

I liked the Theatre of the Real – it was creepy and scary and could definitely mess with your head – like most of Gaiman’s worlds. The comic was written in such a way that I probably would have guessed it was a Neil Gaiman work even before reading his name on the cover.

Michael Zulli’s artwork is very well done. Again, I’m not a big comic reader, so I don’t really have a basis of comparison, but in my humble opinion, they were eye-pleasing.

While I realize the Showman is supposed to be Alice Cooper (the persona, not the person), I couldn’t help thinking that if this had been made into a movie 15 years ago, Johnny Depp would have done an incredible job as the villain.

The only thing is, now I feel the urge to listen to Alice Cooper…

Doll Bones:

“Zach, Poppy, and Alice have been friends forever. And for almost as long, they’ve been playing one continuous, ever-changing game of pirates and thieves, mermaids and warriors. Ruling over all is the Great Queen, a bone-china doll cursing those who displease her.

But they are in middle school now. Zach’s father pushes him to give up make-believe, and Zach quits the game. Their friendship might be over, until Poppy declares she’s been having dreams about the Queen—and the ghost of a girl who will not rest until the bone-china doll is buried in her empty grave.

Zach and Alice and Poppy set off on one last adventure to lay the Queen’s ghost to rest. But nothing goes according to plan, and as their adventure turns into an epic journey, creepy things begin to happen. Is the doll just a doll or something more sinister? And if there really is a ghost, will it let them go now that it has them in its clutches?”

I also borrowed this book from my boss, after we briefly bonded over a mutual admiration of Holly Black. I have to say, though, it wasn’t as scary-good as I hoped it would be.

I imagine it would have scared the pants off of me when I was younger, which I guess makes sense (since it’s a middle-grade novel). I did relate to the children and how they felt like they should grow up but they weren’t ready to stop playing (story of my life!). But there were parts in the middle that sort of lagged, parts where I was waiting for the Queen to do something terrifying, but nothing happened.

Yes, it was creepy; yeah, there were moments when I wondered how wise I was to be reading it after midnight; but overall, it wasn’t a long-lasting fear. It was those brief seconds of a heightened heart rate, and then…nothing. No after effects, no peeking over my blankets to make sure I was still alone…nothing. Still a decent read, though, and recommended if you like Holly Black.

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