Adventures of Rusty and Ginger Fox

by Tim Ostermeyer

{ 2010 | Synergy Books | 48 pgs }

On Amazon this book has all 4- and 5-star reviews. While the pictures are quite stunning (and adorable), the book as a whole is mediocre at best. I think that, intentional or not, people are more likely to view a book favorably when they’ve received a copy to review. The other possibility is that people are just easily impressed and have poor taste. Which do you think it is?

My first complaint is that the author is listed as “Master Photographer and Author.” As far as I can tell, “master photographer” is more of a title one gives oneself than an actual certification of any sort, so it seems rather pompous of Ostermeyer to bill himself as such. To be fair, his photographs are very well-done. Baby foxes romping through the forest? Yes, please!

My second complaint is the “story” of Rusty and Ginger, two red foxes who go exploring. The writing is absolutely miserable. It’s fun to read facts about each new animal the foxes encounter, but these are side-notes to the story itself; when the foxes come across a treasure chest on an island and then enlist the aid of two little girls to open it, that’s going too far. The nail in the coffin was when the girls decide to share the money in the chest with the poor. You surely know that I’m a big advocate of helping others, but what does the girls’ generosity have to do with a book about foxes?!

My third complaint is the design of the book. Someone had a little too much fun with Photoshop effects. I don’t know how to describe it very well – it looks like most of the pictures have been “watercolored” around the edges to make room for the text. The title of the book is not only a hideous color, but it’s been “textured” to look like…I can’t even tell. It looks ridiculous. On the frontispiece is “This Book Belongs to _____” and its counterpart at the end of the book is “Have a Nice Day!” Wow.

I will say, the Bwun enjoyed looking at the pictures. So there you have it. This book is great for one-year-olds and those who have no sense of good writing or aesthetics.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of Adventures of Rusty and Ginger Fox to review, but that didn’t influence my opinion. Obviously.


The Familiars

by Adam Jay Epstein and Andrew Jacobson

{ 2010 | HarperCollins | 368 pgs }

The Familiars is the first Harry Potter-inspired book I’ve enjoyed. It has just enough similarities to the Harry Potter universe to be engaging for a young Harry Potter fan, but plenty of its own charm and ingenuity. (Also, it was co-written by authors whose last names start with E and J, the last two letters I needed for my 2010 reading challenge. Perfect!)

The main character here is Aldwyn, an alley cat who is mistaken for a familiar (a wizard’s companion) in a magical pet store. He bonds with his young loyal (the wizard who chose him) instantly, but disaster soon strikes and Aldwyn must continue to pass himself off as a magical creature while he and two other familiars try to save the world. I would give you more detail, but – that would spoil it.

As I understand, Sony Pictures is working on a movie adaptation. You know what? I think I’ll probably go see it! In the meantime, you should read the book.

Dragon and Thief

by Timothy Zahn

{ 2003 | Tor Books | 256 pgs }

I’ve never been so embarrassed to admit liking a book.

Dragon and Thief is the first book in Zahn’s Dragonback series. From the first page, it was laughably bad. The writing really is atrocious and I read several passages to the Romgi so he could shudder, too. And yet…I hate to say it…once I got past the poor quality of the writing, the plot was actually interesting. In fact, it was so engrossing that (please forgive me) I want to read the other books in the series now.

The plot doesn’t save everything: one of the major problems with any sci-fi/fantasy novel is the inability of the author to effectively communicate their own unique sci-fi/fantasy elements. For example, in Dragon and Thief, one of the main characters, Draycos (yes, Draycos), belongs to a race called the K’Da; the K’Da are three-dimensional beings who require a host on whom they can become two-dimensional. Does that make sense? If it does, I’ve done a better job explaining the concept than the author did. Draycos is the first character to be introduced in the book and until the second main character, Jack Morgan, comes along, there’s not much more explanation about the 2D/3D thing. Confusing. And, like so many books of the same genre, Dragon and Thief is not very imaginative (apart from the K’Da and their strange properties).

That being said, I stand by my enjoyment. Once I was able to more or less tune out the bad writing, it was a quick, fun read.

But in all honesty, I’m still embarrassed to recommend it…