Here are some shorter musings of recent MG Fantasy reads. These are all Cybils nominated books in my category of MG Speculative Fiction.
Gabriel Finley and the Raven's Riddle by George Hagen
Based on Norse mythology and in a contemporary setting, Gabriel Finley and the Raven's Riddle is an interesting story about a family who has a proclivity for bonding with ravens and the sinister links some of this has to the past. I found it to be an adequately entertaining book if a little long. One thing that kept annoying me was how often Gabriel blindly trusted random people with the full story of what was going on. And nothing came from that. He was so trusting and everyone he trusted turned out to be trustworthy. Even when he thought momentarily one or two would betray him, turns out they are, in fact, totally willing to be on his side. How nice and convenient for him. I think this would be a great book for people who love riddles. (Though they are basically all the same riddle with similar answers and structure.)
Hook's Revenge by Heidi Schulz
I can see why so many people like Hook's Revenge a lot, but it is not written in a style I find particularly enjoyable so reading it was more of a chore than not at times. I do say hurrah for an intrusive narrator who talks to the reader without making himself obnoxious. Well, no more obnoxious than intrusive narrator is automatically. In the beginning I found Jocelyn to be entirely unlikeable and only made sympathetic by how much more unlikeable and gross everyone else around her behaved. This doesn't ever work for me as a tool for characterization. However, by the end of the books some actual real character development had happened, and I liked Jocelyn very well indeed. Her adventures in Neverland are perfect, as is her quest. And I absolutely loved the characterization and treatment of Peter.
The League of Seven by Alan Gratz
This is fun and I enjoyed the concept of the seven heroes coming together each with a different talent and focus. I can see kids really enjoying this. I've seen steampunk not work in several MG books but I think it works well here. For me personally this is one too many books I've read recently with Edison as the big bad villain turning him almost cartoonish. So many books have been doing this lately with, of course, Tesla on the good side. (Albeit as crazy as he ever was.) It is becoming a bit of an overused trend. I get that Edison was a terrible human being and he did many people wrong, but I think we've hit the threshold with him as evil sic-fi villain. Let's do something different now.
Seven Wild Sisters by Charles de Lint
Seven Wild Sister takes place many years after the end of The Cats of Tanglewood Forest. I liked this considerably more than it predecessor as it was more of a typical fairy tale and less meandering in its telling. I didn't love it though and think that may just come down to this author's style not being my thing. It was an interesting story and I did enjoy the fairy war and how that turned out. I also loved the sibling aspect, which is what kept me reading this all the way to the end.
Winterfrost by Michelle Houts
This is an adorable and fun read perfect for 3rd-4th graders around Christmas time. It would probably make a great 2nd grade read aloud too and would fit very well into a study of the way different cultures and countries celebrate the holiday season. I enjoyed the characters, and the adventure was a good one though the level of peril was quite low. I do find it hard to understand why any parents would leave a 12 year old home alone with a baby, but okay.