Review: ‘Savannah Grey’ by Cliff McNish


Savannah Grey

Author: Cliff McNish

Format: galley (available for purchase in hardcover or for Kindle)

Publisher: Carolrhoda Books

Release Date: 4/1/2011

Length: 266 pages

Acquired: from the publisher via NetGalley




Publisher’s summary:

15 year old Savannah Grey has never felt she’s belonged. She keeps her distance, so she’s surprised by her attraction to the new boy Reece.

Then strange things begin to happen: nature, it seems, is exerting an overpowering force on the world. Birds behave strangely; gusts of wind blow leaves so fiercely they seem to lure people away. And Savannah learns she has supernatural powers.

Nature has a purpose for Savannah and her friends. For they are on course to meet the vile and evil Orcrassa, who wants to destroy the world by corrupting nature. And it wants Savannah Grey to help realise its savage intent.

My thoughts, which will definitely include some mild major spoilers:

While I’m not exactly within the target audience for this book, I requested the galley and did my best to find something good in it. I have read and enjoyed many YA books and then recommended them to teens and adults, alike. That won’t happen with this book. Aside from asking my 16 year old daughter to give it a try, that is. I wanted the opinion of someone actually in the target audience to see if perhaps she had a different impression of it. Upon finding out why I wanted her to read the book, however, my daughter declined. She said that if I didn’t like it, she wouldn’t like it.

The book blurb, while short, sounded interesting to me, hence my request for the galley. Even now, I think that something good could have been done with this story idea but as it’s written? No. It just doesn’t work. I’ll give a quick run-down of the story and then explain why.

Savannah Grey, the main character, is a hapless orphan who moves from foster home to foster home, never truly feeling at home. She’s had the same best friend for years and Nina is the only person in Savannah’s life that she feels a real connection with. Until she meets Reece. She feels a kinship with him that she can’t explain, she feels drawn to him.

Then she discovers that they both appear to have the same affliction in their throats and realize that it’s a weapon that they’ll need to fight a monster. In order to protect this weapon until it’s ready to fight the monster, Savannah can and will attack anyone who gets near her. Rather, her body will attack them, since she can hardly maintain control of her extremities or her voice if her ‘weapon’ feels threatened in any way.

Also, interspersed with Savannah’s point of view chapters were sections from the point of view of one or another of the monsters in the story, namely the Ocrassa, an ancient entity with no earthly predators. Some reviews I read enjoyed the inclusion of the monster POVs but I found them distracting and perhaps a bit overkill because in light of the ending of the book, it seems that the Ocrassa’s power and infallibility were trumped up.

Okay… there’s really not much more run-down to cover. Unfortunately, I have more to say in picking it apart though I really feel the need to explain why I didn’t enjoy this book. Again, spoilers will abound so if you have any  desire to read this book, consider yourself warned.

First, I need to cover how awkward it was to read about the main character’s throat trying to attack people. I felt from the get-go that it was her voice that was the weapon and while there was something in her throat that was causing her voice to create monster-killing sounds, it was not her throat that was ‘attacking’ people. It was her voice and every time I read something about her ‘throat’ feeling threatened, etc., it just resonated poorly with me. Further, the idea of a sound, a ‘detonation’ according to the story, from one’s throat literally knocking them to the floor was a bit over-the-top for me.

My second biggest problem was with the inconsistency of the writing. At this point, I don’t recall precisely everything that I found so off-putting but there are a couple of instances that spring to mind. At one point, Savannah was testing her newly developed powers that she assumed would assist her in the fight against the monster and she realized that while her vision was greatly enhanced, she was unable to see in the dark. A few pages later, she mentally lists night vision as one of her powers. Later in the story, Savannah was looking through a window into a parking lot and then a couple of sentences later, she “ran to the window” to look out. Of course, this is an uncorrected galley so my hope is that the published book will have taken care of inconsistencies like this.

Savannah’s connection with Reece was understandable, especially considering the twist at the end of the book, but to chat for a few minutes and then simultaneously realize that this weird growth in their throats is a weapon that’s getting ready to fight a monster? It seemed like quite a stretch and I had to check to make sure the galley wasn’t missing a page or three of dialogue in which they’d had an involved discussion or perhaps saw or discovered something that made them realize that a horrible, nightmarish creature was after them and that it was their duty to fight it with their throats. Of course, that intuition could possibly be explained by the aforementioned big twist but it still lacks believability. One plus I saw with the twist that McNish added was that it would at least explain why Savannah’s ‘throat’ wouldn’t even allow her to kiss Reece.

The rest of it, though? Why the monster allowed her to live while researching her weaknesses? Knowing that a weapon is gaining strength to kill it, it rings hollow to me that an ancient and intelligent force would bother with research. When it kills anything that might be construed as a threat and it knows that Savannah is a threat, why would it go to great lengths to gather information about her? It wants to be sure this strip of a girl is a worthy opponent before it killed her? In a book full of hard to swallow occurrences, that one took the cake for me.

Finally, the coup de grâce on my unfortunate reading experience was the ending.

The very.



Review: ‘The Atomic Weight Of Secrets’ by Eden Unger Bowditch

The Atomic Weight Of Secrets

or The Arrival of the Mysterious Men in Black

The Young Inventor’s Guild, #1

Author: Eden Unger Bowditch

Format: galley (available for purchase in hardcover)

Publisher: Bancroft Press

Release Date: 3/15/2011

Length: 320 pages

Acquired: from the publisher via NetGalley


Publisher’s summary:

In 1903, five truly brilliant young inventors, the children of the world’s most important scientists, went about their lives and their work as they always had. But all that changed the day the men in black arrived.

They arrived to take twelve-year-old Jasper Modest and his six-year-old sister, Lucy he with his remarkable creations and she with her perfect memory from their London, England home to a place across the ocean they’d never seen before.

They arrived to take nine-year-old Wallace Banneker, last in a long line of Africa-descended scientists, from his chemistry, his father, and his New York home to a life he d never imagined.

Twelve-year-old Noah Canto-Sagas, already missing his world-famous and beloved mother, was taken from Toronto, Canada, carrying only his clothes, his violin, and his remarkable mind.

And thirteen-year-old Faye Vigyanveta, the genius daughter of India’s wealthiest and most accomplished scientists, was removed by force from her life of luxury.

From all across the world, they’ve been taken to mysterious Sole Manner Farm, and a beautiful but isolated schoolhouse in Dayton, Ohio, without a word from their parents as to why. Not even the wonderful schoolteacher they find there, Miss Brett, can explain it. She can give them love and care, but she can’t give them answers.

Things only get stranger from there. What is the book with no pages Jasper and Lucy find in their mother’s underwear drawer, and why do the men in black want it so badly?

How is it all the children have been taught the same bizarre poem and yet no other rhymes or stories their entire lives? And why haven’t their parents tried to contact them?

Whatever the reasons, to brash, impetuous Faye, the situation is clear: They and their parents have been kidnapped by these terrible men in black, and the only way they’re going to escape and rescue their parents is by completing the invention they didn’t even know they were all working on. An invention that will change the world forever.

But what if the men in black aren’t trying to harm the children? What if they’re trying to protect them? And if they’re trying to protect them, from what?

My thoughts:

What a very odd story. Very odd. Rather sad and rather confusing and rather unfulfilling, once the last page is turned.

That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy it. Because I did… very much. I’m just feeling a bit let down, like I didn’t get the big reveal I was expecting and quite looking forward to.

I’m left with questions that I was expecting answers to but didn’t get. Questions such as, what were the items that several of the parents took from their children before disappearing mysteriously and why did their parents need them so badly? What was The Strange Round Bird song all about and how did all of the children know it to the exclusion of any and all other lullabies or nursery rhymes? What was the polymer that Wallace was working on so diligently? Who are the men in black and what was this story all about?

Perhaps it’s all just a set-up for the rest of the series, I thought. Perhaps the big plot point was indeed, the children’s invention and maybe the majority of the story revolved around that one thing: the children handing their invention over to the brothers. Which, I ought to mention, was fantastically funny in a “wink-wink-nudge-nudge” kind of way.

I also mentioned that this story was rather sad. As the summary of the book states, the children are all taken from their parents and thrust into a wholly unfamiliar situation with no explanation whatsoever. Their parents disappear with and the people into whose care the children are placed either don’t know what’s happening or won’t say. The children don’t know who to trust. They’re angry and scared, upset at their apparent abandonment while being half out of their minds with worry for their parents. Despite having absolutely brilliant minds, they’re still children and so naturally have trouble adjusting to a confusing and frightening situation… hence the sad.

I’m hoping that the second book in the series will reveal a few of the tibits that Bowditch left behind the curtain in this first installment. I’ll definitely check out the next book but there will have to be a bit more meat in the story to keep my interest and keep me reading.

Fave quotes:

‘It was precisely because of this strange black attire that Jasper knew this man was there to fetch them, and was not some nefarious stranger out to do them harm. Well, he might well be a nefarious stranger out to do them harm but, if so, he was their own personal nefarious stranger, and Jasper knew they had no choice but to follow.’ ~as reasoned by Jasper Modest

“Don’t ‘don’t’ me. Don’t you dare ‘I don’t’ me when you know I know you know you do, you know, I do, don’t you, hm?” ~Reginald Roderick Kattaning

Review: ‘Alcatraz Versus The Shattered Lens’ by Brandon Sanderson

Minor spoiler warning!

I picked up Book 4 of Brandon Sanderson‘s Alcatraz series (which his website describes as ” a humorous fantasy series for ages 9-99″) when I arrived home from work this evening. I turned the last page a little while ago. One thing I like about these books is that they’re such quick reads, I finished in an evening despite not actually reading for five hours straight. I even cooked and ate a quick dinner during the course of my read. Another thing I genuinely enjoy about reading Alcatraz Smedry’s autobiography, is how outrageously funny they are. Yes, they’re written for a Young Adult audience but I can assure you that they’re quite enjoyable to read when one is an adult.

Author’s Foreword:

I am an idiot.

You should know this already, if you’ve read the previous three volumes of my autobiography. If, by chance, you haven’t read them, then don’t worry. You’ll get the idea. After all, nothing in this book will make any kind of sense to you. You’ll be confused at the difference between the Free Kingodms and the Hushlands. You’ll wonder why I keep pretending that my glasses are magical. You’ll be baffled by all these insane characters.

(Actually, you’ll probably wonder all of those same things if you start from the beginning too. These books don’t really make a lot of sense, you see. Try living through one of them sometime. Then you’ll know what it really means to be confused.)

Anyway, as I was saying, if you haven’t read the other three books, then don’t bother. That will make this book even more confusing to yu, and that’s exactly what I want. By way of introduction, just let me say this: my name is Alcatraxz Smedry, my Talent is Breaking Things. And I’m stoopid. Really, really stoopid, So stoopid, I don’t know how to spell the word stupid.

This is my story. Or, well, part four of it. Otherwise known as “The part where everything goes wrong, and then Alcatraz has a cheese sandwich.”


I found myself laughing out loud quite often during the course of this evening and repeatedly wondered at how awesome a writer Brandon Sanderson truly is. He did something in this book that he hasn’t done in any of the previous Alcatraz books and I found it quite brilliant, to be honest. Rather than using the standard chapter headings, such as ‘Chapter 1’, ‘Chapter 2’, etc., Brandon was quite creative with his chapter numbers. Instead of the tired 1, 2, 3 bit… he used things like ‘Π‘ or . Even ‘∞ + 1′. Some of my other favorites were ‘8675309‘, ‘42‘, ‘Act V, Scene III’, ‘24601‘, ‘6.02214179×10^23‘ and ‘NCC-1701‘. Once I reached the pi chapter, which was the third chapter after ‘Chapter 2’ and ‘Chapter 6’, I had to skip ahead and check out all of the chapter headings. I got quite the chuckle out of some of them, most notably Chapter Act V, Scene III during which all of the characters hilariously quoted Shakespeare’s Hamlet. With the exception of one Librarian, who had the wrong tragedy… erm, tragically.

One other absolutely laugh out loud moment came when reading a segment in which Alcatraz was thinking about how awful  his mother really is. Only readers/fans of Robert Jordan’s, and now Brandon Sanderson’s Wheel of Time series will very greatly appreciate this little tidbit, which I will not spoil, as much as I may want to do so. “You? No!”

One thing I found different about Book 4 was the ending, which leaves a major character somewhat incapacitated. It’s rather a cliffhanger and foreshadows the events of the final book in the series which I cannot wait to read! To sum up, I loved this book. It made for quite an enjoyable evening. Brandon really lets his humor run rampant in all of the Alcatraz books, this one especially, and any one of them are quick, fun reads. If you haven’t yet read this or any of the other Alcatraz books I urge you, nay I beg you to do so immediately! Trust me, you’ll thank me for it. In anticipation of your future and most likely, undying gratitude, I say, “You’re most welcome!”