Book Review: Spying on the South by Tony Horwitz


Author: Tony Horwitz
Title: Spying on the South: An Odyssey Across the American Divide
Narrator: Mark Deakins
Publication Info: Penguin Audio (2019)
Other Books Read by the Same Author:

Summary/Review:

A few months ago when author Tony Horwitz died, I learned that he’d recently released this new book of his unique blend of history, travel, cultural exploration, and literary journalism.  When I saw that his final work was based on following in the footsteps of one of my favorite historical figures, Frederick Law Olmsted, it seemed as if it was targeted at me.

Olmsted is best known for innovating the field of landscape architecture and designing some of America’s most notable city parks and park systems, college campuses, hospital grounds, the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition Midway Plaisance, and the grounds of the US Capitol.  Prior to his career in designing parks, Olmsted worked as a journalist, and much like Tony Horwitz, he traveled to places and wrote about his experiences. From 1852 to 1857, he traveled through the American South submitting his dispatches to the New York Times.  In 1861, just before the outbreak of the American Civil War, his writings were compiled in the book Journeys and Explorations in the Cotton Kingdom, which remains a significant first-hand document of antebellum Southern society.

Olmsted was anti-slavery, a moderate position at the time compared with abolitionists who wanted to immediately free all enslaved people, and in some cases extend the full rights of citizenship to the freed African Americans.  Anti-slavery advocates, which included Abraham Lincoln and other early Republicans, sought to prevent the expansion of slave-holding to new territories and carry out gradual manumission.  Olmsted believed that practice of slavery was inefficient and had a deleterious effect not just on the enslaved people, but on the white society as well.  A goal of his travels was to meet with Southerners, civilly exchange views, and convince them of the error of their ways.  Olmsted would be disappointed, finding Southerners entrenched in their beliefs and uninterested in civil discourse on the matter of slavery.

Tracing Olmsted’s route through the South in 2015-2016, against the background of the contentious presidential election leading to Donald Trump’s victory, Tony Horwitz would also find a deeply divided America.  Some of his encounters with Southerners who supported Trumpist ideology and believed in all manner of conspiracy theory are deeply disturbing.  More disturbing still is that many of these same people treated Horwitz warmly and were happy to speak with him, as long as he hid his own political views.

The travelogue is interesting as Horwitz first journeys down the Ohio River through West Virginia on a ship towing a coal barge, offering insight into a tedious but dangerous job that some “country boys” have found as a source of income in an economically depressed region.  His next river journey is on board a luxurious replica paddle wheeler with stops at historic plantations where the tour guides tend to ignore the enslaved people who made them possible.

In Louisiana, Horwitz is joined by a friend from Australia who is literally nearly killed by the artery-hardening Southern cuisine.  They also enjoy the bizarre Mud Fest, where monster truck drivers come together to drink and drive their modified vehicles through a giant mud bog for a week. Nearby, they visit the site of the Colfax Massacre of 1873, where 150+ black men were murdered by a white militia organized to reverse the reforms of Reconstruction.  To this day an historic marker on the site only recognizes the deaths of three of the white aggressors.   Continuing on his own across Texas, Horwitz tries and fails to debunk a conspiracy theory about a compound of Islamic extremists and participates in the Battle of the Alamo reenactment, oddly set against the background San Antonio’s tourist trap attractions.

Perhaps one of the more interesting parts of the book is the Texas hill country where German immigrants settled before the war, and Olmsted found a community he thought could serve as an example of Free Soilers in the South.  150 years later, the German community persists – albeit in some cheezy ways – and Horwitz describes a part of Texas that doesn’t fit my preconceived notions of the state.  Horwitz travels by mule, a humbling experience, in the west of the Texas.  He concludes his narrative along the border with Mexico where he interacts with both the border patrol and the mixed American and Mexican communities.

In many ways, Spying on the South is a sequel to Horwitz’s best book Confederates in the Attic.  It’s also more somber and unsettling.  20 years ago one could chuckle at Confederate devotees as a dwindling number of hobbyists devoted to living in the past.  Today that same energy has been channeled into a dangerous movement that has reached its political ascendancy.

Recommended books:

Rating: ****

Book Review: Someone Who Will Love You in All Your Damaged Glory: Stories


Author: Raphael Bob-Waksberg
Title: Someone Who Will Love You in All Your Damaged Glory: Stories
Narrator: Raphael Bob-Waksberg, Baron Vaughn, James Urbaniak, Kimiko Glenn, Colman Domingo, Natalie Morales,  Raúl Esparza, Will Brill, Stephanie Beatriz, Emma Galvin, and  Nicholas Gonzalez
Publication Info: Random House Audio, 2019
Summary/Review:

This collection of short stories focuses on love, and the deep emotions and tragedies that go with it.  Bob-Waksberg is noted as the creator of BoJack Horseman, and his stories have the same mix of melancholy with the fantastical and a wry optimism.  He also enters his stories in creative ways such as a bulleted list, a missed connections personal ad, travel articles, and instructions for the party game Taboo.

Standout stories include:

“Most Blessed and Auspicious Occasion” – a parody of the Wedding Industrial Complex where a couple’s attempts to have a simple wedding are upended by their families’ insistence on keeping with their culture’s traditions of slaughtering goats and exchanging commitment eggs.

“The Serial Monogamist’s Guide to Important New York City Landmarks” – a guide to the city where every landmark reminds one of a moment in a past relationship.

“Rufus” – written from the perspective of a dog who relates a story that touches on his man’s new boyfriend, a relationship that ends partially because of his man’s devotion to Rufus (although Rufus is not aware of this, he just wants the door to be open).

“You Want to Know What Plays Are Like?” – a woman caustically reviews a community theatre performance, slowly revealing that the playwright is her brother, and discovering that the story is based on their family’s tragic past.

“More of the You That You Already Are” – narrated by a man who works in a presidential theme park dressed in a large-headed mascot costume of Chester A. Arthur as he struggles to keep his job as management begins replacing cast members with genetically-modified mutant Presidents.

As weird as this all sounds, these stories are clever and heartfelt.  It’s definitely worth a read, or a listen.

Recommended books:

Rating: ****

Book Review: Good Omens


Author: Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
Title: Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch
Narrator: Martin Jarvis
Other books read by the same authors:

Pratchett:

Gaiman:

Publication Info: Prince Frederick, Md. : Recorded Books, 2009 [originally published in 1990]
Summary/Review:

Several years ago, I read Good Omens, and hearing the buzz about the new tv series adaptation, I thought it was worth revisiting this book in audio format, charmingly narrated by Martin Jarvis.  This was the first book I read by either author at the time of my previous reading.  It is no less than a satirical fantasy about the Apocalypse.  More specifically, satire of the religious beliefs around the End Times mixed with satire about quirky, middle-class English life (the biggest flaw of this book is that it can get bogged down in the “quirky, middle-class English life” bit, past the point of being funny).

The main characters of the book are the angel Aziraphale and the demon Crowley, who have formed a partnership over the eons due to their both liking humanity for their own reasons, and thus wishing to avoid the end of the world.  Early in the novel, the son of Satan is born, and due to a mix-up by the Satanic nuns at the hospital, the baby is mixed up with another baby.  11 years later, when the Apocalypse is too begin, the child groomed to be an Anti-Christ is an ordinary boy, while Satan’s actual son is Adam Young of the Oxfordshire village of Lower Tadfield.

The plot shifts among  several characters. Aziraphale and Crowley trying to sort out the mix-up without getting in trouble with their Higher Ups (and Lower Downs, I suppose for Crowley?). Adam and his gang of friends Them get into esoteric mischief as Adam becomes aware of his powers.  Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – War, Death, Famine, and Pollution (who took over from Pestilence after the invention of penicillin) assemble and ride, picking up some Hell’s Angels along the way who give themselves names of things that annoy them. And Anathema Device is a witch who knows everything that will happen because she is the descendant of Agnes Nutter, a 17th century witch who wrote a book of accurate, but highly specific predictions. She is brought together with Newton Pulsifer, a nerdy bloke who seems to stumble into becoming one of the last Witchfinders for a paycheck.

A lot of it’s corny, and as I’ve said, sometimes the jokes are belabored.  Nonetheless, it’s a clever and funny work of two of the great fantasy writers of our age.

My original review from 2004:

A very silly book about the Apocalypse run amok. Sometimes the tongue-in-cheek writing style got a bit annoying, but there were always some clever bits to redeem it. While mostly a parody of Apocalyptical legend, there is also a strong undertone about good & evil and faith in a higher being. For all the comic cynicism, the message about God here is surprisingly positive.

Favorite Passages:

It is said that the Devil has all the best tunes. This is broadly true. But Heaven has the best choreographers


Crowley thought for a bit. “You must have had records,” he said. “There are always records. Everyone has records these days.” He glanced proudly at Aziraphale. “It was one of my better ideas.”

(As someone who works in archives and records management, I’m particularly amused that a demon invented records.)


The small alien walked past the car.

“C02 level up 0.5 percent,” it rasped, giving him a meaningful look. “You do know you could find yourself charged with being a dominant species while under the influence of impulse-driven consumerism, don’t you?”

Recommended books:

Rating: ****

Book Review: The Trick is to Keep Breathing by Janice Galloway


Around the World for a Good Book selection for Scotland

Author: Janice Galloway
Title: The Trick is to Keep Breathing
Publication Info: Normal, IL : Dalkey Archive Press, 1994.
Summary/Review:

The narrator of this novel is Joy, a 27-year-old women who works as a drama teacher and is struggling with depression, anorexia, and alcoholism. The accidental death of the married man who was her lover prompts a breakdown which leads to her spending time in a mental institution (where she doesn’t get much help).  The fractured narrative uncovers both the events of her traumatic events and the societal expectations of women that have lead to her current state.  This is a challenging book to read, both due to the raw emotions of an honest appraisal of depression, and the stream of conscious style of writing. One feature Galloway uses is adding snippets of text to the margins as if Joy is annotating the novel.  It took me waaaaay too long to finish reading this book, but I’m glad I did because it is a powerful story of mental health issues that are too often hidden.

Recommended books:

  • In Transit by Brigid Brophy
  • Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen

Rating: ***1/2

Book Review: The Kingdom Keepers: Disney At Dawn by Ridley Pearson


Author: Ridley Pearson
Title: The Kingdom Keepers: Disney in Shadow
Publication Info: New York : Disney Editions, c2010.
Summary/Review:

In the third books of the Kingdom Keepers series, the story is starting to wear thin.  This book is much longer than its predecessors and feels bloated.  There are a number of false starts to getting the plot moving that don’t really add anything as far as character beats go.  There’s also a love triangle crisis among Finn-Amanda-Charlene that comes out of nowhere and seems unnecessary.

Nevertheless, when the action gets going, the Kingdom Keepers stay up all night fighting the Overtakers in Epcot in attempt to rescue their mentor Wayne.  The action culminates in a full-on tech rehearsal of Fantasmic! where they battle of good versus evil is very real.  I think the final sequence stands well by itself and if the novel were trimmed down to simply support it, the novel would be a much better addition to the series.

 

Rating: **1/2

Comics Review: Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor


Here are reviews of all nine volumes in the Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor series to date.

Author:  Al Ewing & Rob Williams
Artists: Simon Fraser, Boo Cook
Colorist: Gary Caldwell, Hi-Fi
Letterer: Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt
Title: Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor, Vol. 1: After Life
Publication Info: Titan Comics (2015)
Summary/Review:

The first set of Eleventh Doctor comic adventures introduce a new companion (between the Ponds and Clara), Alice Obiefune.  I immediately love Alice, because she’s:

  1. a library assistance, and her job skills are shown as valuable on adventures with the Doctor.
  2. she’s a character who is depicted as grieving and depressed, and her storyline is handled accurately and sympathetically.
  3. she stands up to the Doctor’s condescending ways and challenges his assumptions.

There adventures include picking up another companion, John Jones, who is a thinly veiled David Bowie from the late 60s before he becomes famous.  Basically he’s there for running Bowie gags while the focus remains on Alice as companion.  They also visit with Robert Johnson in 1930s Louisiana, who happens to already be acquainted with the Doctor.  But the main conflict in various places in space and time is standing up to the evil SERVEYOUinc, and not always meeting their agents in chronological order.

The Eleventh Doctor comics are refreshing and fun, and I hope keep up the good work, because the Tenth Doctor comics kind of became as slog.

Rating: ****


Author:  Al Ewing & Rob Williams
Artists: Simon Fraser, Boo Cook, Warren Pleece
Colorist: Gary Caldwell, Hi-Fi
Letterer: Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt
TitleDoctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor, Vol. 2: Serve You
Publication Info: Titan Comics (2015)
Summary/Review:

This volume starts off with a terrific story of the Doctor figuring out how to escape the destruction of the TARDIS while repeatedly hopping backwards in time.  ARC joins the TARDIS crew for a distinctively odd trip of companions: grieving human, parody of David Bowies, and blob of something that’s not quite defined yet.  Other stories put the TARDIS Team in the middle of an endless war that threatens to capture Earth in collateral damage and the gravest threat yet from SERVEYOUinc, which appears to take over the Doctor. It’s a bit of a step down from the first volume, but still a rollicking good adventure.

Rating: ***


Author:  Al Ewing & Rob Williams
Artists: Simon Fraser, Boo Cook, Warren Pleece
Colorist: Gary Caldwell, Hi-Fi
Letterer: Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt
TitleDoctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor, Vol. 3: Conversion
Publication Info: Titan Comics (2015)
Summary/Review:

Another spectacular visual and storytelling device in the comics sees the four main characters split into different parts of the TARDIS, with distinctive art for each concurrent story.  The Doctor also goes through the humbling experience of having the TARDIS turn against him for his misbehavior.  There are also Cybermen in ancient Rome and a motorbike race on the Berlin Wall in 1976.

This volume ties up the threads in the SERVEYOUinc and Talent Scout stories, as well as the Jones and ARC, uh, arcs.  I look forward to reading more adventures of Alice and the Doctor.

 

Rating: ***


Author:  Si Spurrier & Rob Williams
Artists: Simon Fraser & Warren Pleece
Colorist: Gary Caldwell
Letterer: Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt
TitleDoctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor, Vol. 4: The Then and the Now
Publication Info: Titan Comics (2016)
Summary/Review:

A new story arc has the Eleventh Doctor being tracked down for a genocidal crime he can’t remember quitting. New companions join in the form of Abslom Daak, a rageful man with a vendetta against Daleks, and The Squire, a soldier who previously fought alongside the War Doctor. The plot is a complex muddle of things brought up from the Time War that probably don’t need to be explained, but it does feel like it’s going somewhere.

Rating: ***


Author:  Si Spurrier & Rob Williams
Artists: Simon Fraser, Leanrdo Casco, Warren Pleece
Colorist: Gary Caldwell, Arianna Florean, Nicola Righi, Azzurra Florean, Rodrigo Fernandes
Letterer: Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt
TitleDoctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor, Vol. 5 The One
Publication Info: Titan Comics (2016)
Summary/Review:

The pursuit of the Then and Now continues, with some revelations and a lot of confusion, and effort to be “epic” without really earning it.  River Song and The War Doctor and The Master all join the plot.  And that’s not all.  It’s okay, I guess.

Rating: **


Author:  Si Spurrier & Rob Williams
Artists: I.N.J. Culbard, Simon Fraser
Colorist: Marcio Menys, Gary Caldwell
Letterer: Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt
TitleDoctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor, Vol. 6 The Malignant Truth
Publication Info: Titan Comics (2017)
Summary/Review:

The Doctor’s secret revealed!  Shocking surprises!  Really?  I just wanted this storyline to finally be over.  It does finish up better than a lot of what preceded it, for what it’s worth.  I did enjoy the War Doctor getting to act as the main protagonist, and Alice being awesome.  She’s a great companion and deserves better stories.

Rating: ***


Author: Rob Williams, Alex Paknadel
Artists: I.N.J. Culbard, Leandro Casco, Wellington Diaz, Simon Fraser
Colorist: Triona Farrell, Gary Caldwell
Letterer: Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt
TitleDoctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor, Vol. 7: The Sapling: Growth
Publication Info: Titan Comics (2017)
Summary/Review:

A new storyline, with a new character – The Sapling – who is basically Groot with the ability to steal memories and cause genocide.  There’s a cool sequence where every year on Earth is happening at the same time and the Doctor and company have to take a double decker bus to 1968 where the people have erected a wall around their time. It’s much cooler in illustration!

Rating: ***


Author: James Peaty, George Mann
Artists: I.N.J. Culbard, Andrew Leung, Ivan Rodriguez, Wellington Diaz, Klebs Junior, Leandro Casco
Colorist: Triona Farrell, Stefani Renne, Thiago Riberio
Letterer: Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt
TitleDoctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor, Vol. 8 The Sapling: Roots
Publication Info: Titan Comics (2017)
Summary/Review:

The Sapling is growing, the Doctor and Alice are still missing their memories, and Ood Sigma needs help. They also visit a Memory Ark and a medieval village where the Sapling becomes a renown historical figure.  Good fun.

Rating: ***


Author: Alex Paknadel, Rob Williams
Artists: I.N.J. Culbard, Ivan Rodriguez, JB Bastos, Luiz Campello
Colorist: Triona Farrell, Thiago Ribeiro, Stefani Rennee
Letterer: Richard Starkings and Jimmy Betancourt
TitleDoctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor, Vol. 9 The Sapling: Branches
Publication Info: Titan Comics (2018)
Summary/Review:

The finale of The Sapling saga.  Like all these comic storylines, my patience begins to wear thin with the plots as they go along.  But at least this one is only three volumes along.  There’s also a renegade member of The Silence known as The Scream behind it all, but it’s kind of a meh idea since I think the tv shows did all they could with The Silence.  Still some awesome Alice moments though.

Rating: **1/2

Book Review: One Giant Leap by Charles Fishman


Author:Charles Fishman
Title: One Giant Leap: The Impossible Mission That Flew Us to the Moon
Narrator: Fred Sanders
Publication Info: Simon & Schuster Audio (2019)
Summary/Review:

50 years after the United States first landed people on the moon and returned them safely to Earth, the story of the Apollo program in the popular imagination is compressed.  The general story is that three courageous men flew into space and two walked on the moon and planted a flag. There have been moments in popular culture that offered glimpses into the bigger story – the movie Apollo 13 which showed the nerds at Mission Control as the real heroes rather than the jocks in space, and more recently the book and movie Hidden Figures that brought greater awareness to Black women performing calculations by hand for the early space program.

The goal of One Giant Leap is to broaden the understanding of the Apollo Program, getting a better sense of the tens of thousands of people who worked millions of hours over 11 years to get those two men to the moon (and then repeat if five more times). NASA had people working on the project in all 50 states, a sign of both the scale of the project and the need to divide up government spending to gain wide support.  Fishman also asks the question of whether flying men to the moon was worth the cost and effort, and provides some interesting answers.

Going to the moon was never popular, as it polled poorly throughout the 1960s.  People, now and then, asked whether that money and effort would be better spent solving a problem on Earth. Fishman wisely notes that budgets generally don’t work in a way where funding for Apollo could’ve been easily redirected to, say, ending poverty, but also that a discrete project with an defined end goal is actually easier to pull off than more dynamic problems such as ending poverty, racism, and war, and they need not be mutually exclusive.  Fishman also notes that despite the high cost of the Apollo Program, it did achieve its goal within the stated time, unlike other government programs that do not receive similar criticism. The Vietnam War, which occurred roughly contemporaneously with the Apollo Program, cost six times as much, lead to hundreds of thousands dead, and destroyed much of the country it was supposed to save.

One person surprisingly not that much interested in exploring space was John F. Kennedy.  His famous “we go to the Moon” speech (analysed in depth in this book) came in the context of the embarrassment felt at the USSR beating the US to every key space exploration milestone and the failed Bay of Pigs invasion. Within in two years, Kennedy was looking to cut NASA funding and set a more leisurely timeline toward landing on the Moon as long as it looked like the Soviets weren’t going to get there first (and perhaps a bit selfishly, since NASA original promise of landing on the Moon by 1967 was pushed back, JFK saw no need to push a big program that wouldn’t even come to fruition until after his potential second term was over).  Kennedy’s assassination ironically saved the Apollo Program as it made a true believer in the space program, Lyndon Johnson, the President, and Kennedy’s “we go to the Moon” speech became an impetus to complete the mission in his honor.

Looking back on Apollo, people wonder what it’s legacy is since no humans have ever returned to the Moon and it did not usher in a Space Age.  Fishman offers that the true legacy of Apollo is not the Space Age, but the Digital Age.  In order to navigate the lunar module to the Moon and then rendezvous with the command module, the Apollo Program needed innovations in interactive computing and integrated circuitry. These advances sped up the development of computers that have revolutionized all aspects of society over the past 50 years.  Apollo also stood as a model of innovative project management. Even the more mundane nature of later space programs like the Space Shuttle and the International Space Program is a sign of the success of Apollo as it has made space exploration routine.

If there’s one critique of the book is that the narrative doesn’t flow as the author jumps around from topic to topic and could’ve spent more time diving into particular issues.  Nevertheless, the topics and anecdotes he shares are interesting, and include:

  • the key role of Bill Tindall, an aerospace engineer with the ability focus in on minute details, and who’s memos – called Tindallgrams – became must-read material within NASA
  • NASA almost forgot to pack a flag on Apollo 11, and a great analysis of the cultural importance of the flag planting ceremony on the Moon
  • how the lunar rover aided greater exploration of the Moon on later missions

Recommended books:

  • A Man on the Moon: The Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts by Andrew Chaikin
  • Moon Shot: The Inside Story of America’s Race to the Moon by Alan Shepard
  • Lost Moon: The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13 by Jim Lovell

Rating: ****

Book Review: Kindred by Octavia E. Butler


Author: Octavia E. Butler
Title: Kindred
Narrator: Kim Staunton
Publication Info: Recorded Books, Inc., 1998 [Originally published in 1979]
Summary/Review:

I’ve only recently become aware of the late science fiction author Octavia E. Butler, whose contributions to the genre have likely been overlooked due to her being an African American woman.  This novel, starting in the bicentennial year of 1976, tells the story of Dana, an African American writer repeatedly torn from her own time in California and sent to antebellum Maryland plantation.  There she has to save the life of a boy, and later a man, named Rufus, the heir of the plantation owner.  Early on, Dana discovers that Rufus is her own ancestor, so her existence depends on his survival.

This book does not shy away from the malignant evils of slavery – beatings, selling off family members, and rape.  But it get’s even more uncomfortable in how on Dana’s increasingly longer visits to the past, she grows to consider the plantation as home, and develop a fondness for Rufus.  Dana’s devotion to protecting Rufus is unsettling considering that Alice, a freed black woman who is reenslaved by Rufus over the course of the novel, is also her ancestor, and Dana never shows the same level of concern for protecting her. It’s something akin to the Stockholm Syndrome, or more accurate the way in which its possible for one to look past the most grievous faults of family members and friends.

Dana is married to a white man named Kevin, and one occasion she brings him back in time with him, stranding him there for several years when she bops back to the future.  Although Kevin is a progressive white man, he is still not capable of understanding the power dynamics that privilege him in the past over Dana.  Nevertheless, Dana’s knowledge of the future and seemingly magical power to appear and disappear over time gives her something of a an advantage over Rufus in their ongoing relationship.

This is a powerful and well-constructed novel that feels very contemporary despite being over forty years old.  Much like reading Ursula Leguin, I had to remind myself that Octavia E. Butler actually inspired and informed many of the conventions of later time-travel fiction.

Recommended books:

Rating: ****

Book Review: The Kingdom Keepers: Disney At Dawn by Ridley Pearson


Author: Ridley Pearson
Title: The Kingdom Keepers: Disney At Dawn
Publication Info: New York : Disney Editions, c2008.
Summary/Review:

Finn, Charlene, Maybeck, Willa, and Philby return for another adventure as the five young teenagers who defend Walt Disney World from the villainous Overtakers.  The story begins with a parade celebrating the return of the kids’ DHIs (holographic hosts who work in the Magic Kingdom), but the appearance of their friends Amanda and Jez forebodes dark times ahead in the Most Magical Place on Earth.

Amanda and Jez are orphans with magical powers only just being revealed to the rest of the Kingdom Keepers, and the are known as Fairlies, as in “Fairly Humans.”  When Jez is abducted the Kingdom Keepers not only need to find her but also avoid falling asleep and having their DHIs trapped in the Overtakers’ new server.  They spend the day at the Animal Kingdom struggling to keep awake as they solve these mysteries.  Charlene gets a particularly good boost in her character as she gets to disguise herself as DeVine, the camouflaged, stilt-walking performer, for reconnaissance purposes.

Aaaaaaaaand, the novel ends on a cliffhanger, meaning that my daughter and I will most certainly be reading the third book in the series.

Rating: ***1/2