Moby Clique

Moby Clique (Bard Academy, #3)Moby Clique by Cara Lockwood

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This has only 4 and 5 star reviews on Amazon, but I very nearly gave this a one star DNF. However, I made myself finish it, and I’ll grudgingly say it did get better. The idea for the series is intriguing, if a bit Harry Potterish, with teachers who are the ghosts of dead authors (in a kind of purgatory) and with the conjuring of fictional characters. Even our heroine, Miranda, is apparently at least partially the descendant of a fictional character herself, which gives her some sort of special powers. Without giving too much of the plot away, Miranda will face an eventual confrontation with Ahab on the Pequod, and with Moby Dick. Cara Lockwood does seem to have a good ear for teen dialog as well as teen angst and drama, and a good sense of humor. I’m just a long way from being a teenager and found it rather tedious.

Book Description:
Some literary classics have been around for centuries. Miranda Tate’s just hoping to survive junior year…. Her summer reading assignment is Moby-Dick, but Miranda’s vacation hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing. Between working at her stepmother’s hideous all-pink boutique, and having broken up with her basketball champ boyfriend Ryan, not to mention snoozing her way through one of literature’s heaviest tomes, she’s almost looking forward to returning to Bard Academy. That was before her kid sister Lindsay smashed up their dad’s Land Rover and got shipped off to Bard herself. Is the punishment Lindsay’s — or Miranda’s? A private school staffed by the ghosts of famous dead writers is hard enough to navigate without a freshman kid sister in tow, but now Miranda’s trying to sort out her feelings for her brooding friend Heathcliff, who happens to be a fictional character, while keeping Bard’s secrets from her nosy sister. And when her nemesis Parker handpicks gullible Lindsay to be a Parker clone, Miranda knows a storm is brewing. Then, Lindsay disappears in the woods…and a frantic search sends Ryan, Miranda, and Heathcliff to Whale Cove, a spot rumored to hide a sunken pirate’s ship. But something — or someone — even more ominous and terrifying lurks there. Can Miranda stay the course and save her sister?

Opening paragraph:
Call me bored.

As in — terminally.

I’m a hundred pages into the Longest Book I’ve Ever Read — Moby-Dick — Bard Academy’s summer reading requirement. If you ask my opinion, Herman Melville could’ve shortened this tome by about five hundred pages if he wasn’t so long-winded (I mean, twenty pages alone on the color white? Yeah, I got it — okay? The whale is WHITE. Sheesh. Get on with it!).


The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag

The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag (Flavia de Luce, #2)The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag by Alan Bradley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The first book in this series was such a brilliant debut, that I just couldn’t give this one 5 stars, but nevertheless, I enjoyed it immensely. Flavia is a wonderful, precocious, almost scary child. The mystery wasn’t quite as compelling in this one – Flavia is never in any great danger – so it comes across as more of a cozy than the first book. But we have all of the same wonderful characters and a few new ones – Dieter, a German POW, Mad Meg, and Aunt Felicity, who might be the only adult who understands and appreciates Flavia. And we have some delightfully humorous situations – the vicar naked in the woods, the two tea room ladies with their Russian samovar (almost a character in its own right), Mad Meg and her penchant for shiny objects, Flavia’s sisters constant attempts to convince Flavia that she is adopted, and the opening with Flavia imagining her own funeral. I recently “reread” the first book on audio, and followed up with this one. The narrator Jayne Entwistle has the perfect voice for Flavia. Highly recommended.

Book Description: Flavia de Luce, a dangerously smart eleven-year-old with a passion for chemistry and a genius for solving murders, thinks that her days of crime-solving in the bucolic English hamlet of Bishop’s Lacey are over—until beloved puppeteer Rupert Porson has his own strings sizzled in an unfortunate rendezvous with electricity. But who’d do such a thing, and why? Does the madwoman who lives in Gibbet Wood know more than she’s letting on? What about Porson’s charming but erratic assistant? All clues point toward a suspicious death years earlier and a case the local constables can’t solve—without Flavia’s help. But in getting so close to who’s secretly pulling the strings of this dance of death, has our precocious heroine finally gotten in way over her head?

Exit Actors, Dying

Exit Actors, DyingExit Actors, Dying by Margot Arnold

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

First published in 1979, the first of the Penny Spring and Toby Glendower mysteries is showing its age a bit. Still good fun – reminds me a bit of Jane Langton, or Alisa Craig. Middle aged amateur sleuths, academia, witty, good plotting, interesting settings. I picked this up because the name Glendower is Welsh. Indeed, we are told that Tobias Merlin Glendower was born in Swansea, and that his father had been a “wild-eyed fanatic on the subject of Welsh nationalism and, for that matter, all things Welsh and wonderful. No wonder the word ‘Celt’ to Toby was like a red flag to a bull! As a compensation for the thorough brainwashing of his childhood, Toby had become almost an equal fanatic in other directions” namely Greek antiquities. He is a near genius with a photographic memory and a particular gift for languages. But it is Penny who seems to be the star of the show – described as “forty-eight years old, five-foot-one, and a dumpy five-foot-one at that.” She has her own brand of maternal instincts, the curiosity to get herself into trouble, and the ingenuity to get herself out of it again. They make a good pair.

The “who done it” was a bit convoluted, but it kept me guessing, and all the pieces fit together in the end. My only quibble was with some of the language seeming a bit racist – a black man and a Native American man described as “bucks”, for example. But it was written over thirty years ago. I definitely plan to continue with the series, and will hope that we might see something of Toby’s Welsh roots.

Book Description: American anthropologist Penelope Spring and British archaeologist Tobias Glendower are traveling in the Mediterranean. One day in a Greek amphitheatre, Penny comes upon the corpse of a beautiful young movie actress. And Toby discovers a body there too, that of a black actor decked out as a Roman gladiator. Investigating among the cast and crew filming “The Travels of Telemachus,” they encounter enough plausible suspects to confound themselves and the Turkish police. At steadily increasing risk to their lives, to be sure.