Reviews by camelsamba
ground-breaking classic mystery
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My first introduction to Wilkie Collins was in high school (senior year?), when I read The Moonstone because it seemed totally obscure compared to the others on the list. I started this title because it was available as a free ebook and I had been reminded that it was an early and well-regarded example of the mystery genre. I eventually switched to the audio version. I knew it was one of the first mystery / detective novels; from the prologue (which did not appear in my ebook) I also learned that this was one of the first books told from first person point-of-view, and/or multiple points of view. True to that style, the audiobook has multiple narrators. And what wonderful narrators they are! Very expressive.

And in their capable mouths, the story came alive for me. Details that might have bogged me down when I was reading were now intriguing. I was amazed yet again at the issues of class & society, the speed of the post, the far reach of trains. The plot seems to go on too long at times (20 CDs!), and I figured out a few of the twists ahead of time, but overall the story did not turn out like I had expected.

If you get bogged down reading the print version, borrow the book on CD.
i don't like Korman's style
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My 10yo son said he would rate this 9 out of 10, but I'm more like 2 of 5. And even though he thinks it's a fabulous book, the part he mentions is when the dog runs onto the football field. All that tension, all those...events, and the most memorable part is the fairly minor plot point where the dog runs onto the field?

There are so many things not to like about this book - these kids make some really stupid (and highly illegal!) choices. Okay, so it's true that teens (and pre-teens, which they must be if they're just starting middle school) don't have fully developed brains, but if they're smart enough to make all these schemes and do all this...stuff... (e.g. Melissa and her hacking), can't they see the idiocy of various decisions? Even 1 or 2 of them? And the adults seem way too intent on jumping to conclusions without evidence (like hello? did the police ever fingerprint the display case? or double-check for extra keys?).

On the other hand, I did stop many times and point out just how stupid something was, and ask for or suggest alternatives. We discussed it, a lot. But does that sink it? Or is the 10yo more likely to remember Operation Stakeout and try to come up with his own similar scheme next time he feels cornered? I think I'm taking this too seriously...

It is an exciting plot, and there are some good messages in the resolution, but it took an awful lot of me gnashing my teeth to get to that point. Maybe I just don't like Korman's style.
genre bending horror tale
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Parts of this book are pure comedy gold, but I did not love it nearly as much as my 10yo son. He would rate it a 20 on a scale of 5 - although the girl book chapter might have taken it down a notch (even for him), because that really was tiresome.

Peeve: it seems to me that in the humor chapter, the alliterations were actually all tongue twisters, and the idioms were more like clichés than idioms. Or am I wrong about that? It bugged me as I read it.
silly and heartwarming
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I am reviewing the story itself, not the book on CD, since we read this instead of listening to it.

This is the second Mr Chickee book, and refers at times to some incident in the previous one (Bucko going over a dam), but I don't feel that we missed crucial aspects of this book by not having read the first. Some of it seemed superfluous (like parts at the beginning about the FBI(?) agent) but perhaps they are important to the series? And if Russell and Richelle's names were more different, it would be easier to read aloud :^)

This story is laugh out loud funny at times, but also makes good points about friendship, persistence, and self-awareness. My 10yo son really enjoyed it (although some of the laugh lines were beyond his awareness of the world / pop culture). He immediately wanted to go to Flint to see the Vernor's mural, so we went online to find pictures. I found one web page where all these people were waxing nostalgic about how as kids they loved their parents to park in front of it, etc etc. - which is ironic, given that the FEAR kids have of it was emphasized over and over again in the story. (My son did eventually get to see the mural about 6 months later, and he did not fall in. But I thought it was notable and spoke to the power of the book that as soon as he heard he would be near Flint, he asked about the mural.)

The text often changes rapidly from serious to silly and back again. For example:

Ms. Tiptip said, "... Through many years of flum-flubbing we've recognized that one of the more beautiful things about having ignorance erased is that it leads to many more questions being asked. You discover that knowledge, instead of causing you to be satisfied with what you've learned, causes you to hunger for more and more knowledge."
Russell said, "Hey! That sounds like how I feel if I eat just one Triple chocolate Double Butter Extra Sugared Candy Delight---I want more and more. Mmm! Like the commercial says, 'Obesity isn't such a bad price to pay after all.' "
Mr. Chickee said, "Well . . . it's sort of like that, Russell." He blinked rapidly again, then said, "You know what? It's nothing at all like that." ....
funny and serious
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This book is laugh out loud funny at times, but also makes good points about friendship, persistence, and self-awareness. My 10yo son really enjoyed it (although some of the laugh lines were beyond his awareness of the world / pop culture), and wants to go to Flint to see the mural. [Note: he managed to see it ~6 months later. He did not fall in.] We went online to find pictures of the giant Vernor's mural, and I found one page where all these people were waxing nostalgic about how as kids they loved their parents to park in front of it, etc etc - which is ironic, given that the FEAR kids have of it was drummed into us as we read :-)

This is the second Mr Chickee book, and refers at times to some incident in the previous one (Bucko going over a dam), but I don't feel that we missed crucial aspects of this book by not having read the first. Some of it seemed superfluous (like parts at the beginning about the FBI(?) agent) but perhaps they are important to the series? And if Russell and Richelle's names were more different, it would be easier to read aloud :^)

A couple of examples of how rapidly the text can change from serious to silly:

Ms. Tiptip said, "... Through many years of flum-flubbing we've recognized that one of the more beautiful things about having ignorance erased is that it leads to many more questions being asked. You discover that knowledge, instead of causing you to be satisfied with what you've learned, causes you to hunger for more and more knowledge."
Russell said, "Hey! That sounds like how I feel if I eat just one Triple Chocolate Double Butter Extra Sugared Candy Delight---I want more and more. Mmm! Like the commercial says, 'Obesity isn't such a bad price to pay after all.' "
Mr. Chickee said, "Well . . . it's sort of like that, Russell."
He blinked rapidly again, then said, "You know what? It's nothing at all like that." .... [p 97]


Russell felt a glow in his heart. A spreading warmth. It was the fact that someone he'd admired for years admired him too. It was an acknowledgment of one of the strongest desires in human beings, the desire to be accepted. To be understood. To feel as though you are a part of a family.
It was that or the first twinges of severe heartburn caused by the incredibly filthy habit of eating bloodsucking parasites. [p 195]