Goblins! An UnderEarth Adventure by Royce Buckingham

Title:  Goblins! An UnderEarth Adventure

Author:  Royce Buckingham

Hardcover:  232 pages

Date Published:  2008

Publisher:  G. P. Putnam’s Sons (div of Penguin Young Readers Group)

ISBN:  9780399250026

PJ put on one of his father’s spare POLICE jackets. “C’mon, we’re already here.  Besides, you said it takes an hour round trip to get to the border crossing and back.  Any smugglers would probably still be forty minutes away.”

PJ was reaching to put the car into park when something moved in the darkness.  A patch of shadow shifted against a background of dark trees.  As soon as he noticed it, it was gone.  “What was that?” he said.

“What was what?” Sam said, staring into the forest.  “I can’t see a thing.  It’s pitch-black.”

PJ reached down and flipped the headlight switch.  The sudden light glared on a dark, husky human shape in front of the car.  It waved a club-shaped object and brought it down onto the metal hood of the cruiser.

Wham!

“Smuggler!” Sam yelled.

PJ’s foot was still on the gas pedal.  He jammed it down instinctively, and the car lurched forward.  There was no time for the figure to move.  Thud!  It went down like a bowling pin and disappeared beneath the bumper.

PJ hit the brakes and the police cruiser jerked to a stop.  He took a deep breath and quickly locked the door.

“You hit him!” Sam cried.

“I know,” PJ breathed, staring into the woods.

“He’s under the car!”

“I know!”

“What if he’s a farmer or something?”  Sam said.

“You’re the one who screamed that he was a smuggler.”

“How do I know who he is?”

“It’s your stupid little town!”  PJ snapped.

A low, pained growl rose from beneath the car.

“He’s alive,” PJ said, relieved.  “Let’s get out of here.”

“We can’t leave him,” Sam said.  “There’s no way he can be okay after you smushed him.”

PJ shook his head.  “Dude, I just ran over a guy in a borrowed police car.  My instincts tell me to drive far away and never speak of this again.”

-Goblins! An UnderEarth Adventure by Royce Buckingham, pages 16-17

Goblins! by Royce Buckingham has been some of the most fun 200-some pages of reading I’ve had in a while.  The characters are normal, average teens who are called upon to act in extraordinary ways to save each other and to protect their world from the goblins of the UnderEarth. 

One of the things I like about this book is that there are no 100% evil bad guys in the book, they’re a mix of good and bad.  While PJ would prefer to stay out of things, he chooses to step up and take responsibility for his actions and for Sam, who was left in his care by his father.  Sam wants adventure, and bites off a lot more than he can chew, but nevertheless manages to prove he has a heart of a warrior.  The goblins have silly, descriptive names like “General Eww-Yuk,” “Slurp,” “Slouch,” “Thick,” etc,  enjoy eating humans, fighting, humans as well as each other, are dumber than a bag of hammers, yet they are extremely inquisitive and quick to learn and adapt.

Another thing that I liked about Goblins! is that the writing is simple, the details are just enough to make things easy to picture but not so thick that it bogs you down.  At times it reminds me of The Spiderwick Chronicles, and at other times Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth.

Besides having a highly imaginative setting and great actions scenes, including 7 foot bugs-versus-human battles, it also has a great sense of humor.  It is a book with teenagers as the heroes and main characters, so the surliness and sarcasm of the age often shines through.  For instance:  When Sam is brought before General Eww-yuk by the goblin Bargle

“Have you talked to it?” Eww-yuk asked.

“Yes,” Bargle said.  “It barks the words ‘screw’ and ‘off’ … over and over.”

-Goblins! An UnderEarth Adventure by Royce Buckingham, page 71

I think this book is ideal for the tweenage-early teen years, 9-14, and probably more for boys than girls, though I think Mags will enjoy and laugh at it.  I’d also like to warn that this book does contain the deaths of central characters that readers may get attached to, so if your reader is potentially sensitive to this, then you might want to wait. 

For being one of the most enjoyable, reality-suspending, relaxing books I’ve read in a long time, a book that wasn’t teaching the reader or delivering a message (if it was, I didn’t notice at all), a book that was just like losing 25 years and being on the playground again…  I give Goblins! An UnderEarth Adventure by Royce Buckingham 4 out of 5 stars.  It probably won’t win any awards, but it is pure pleasure.

 

Don’t forget to sign up to win a copy of Goblins! An UnderEarth Adventure in the Great Goblins! Giveaway. Contest ends 11;59 pm, May 31st, with the winner to be announced on Monday, June 1st!

You Suck: A Love Story by Christopher Moore

Title:  You Suck:  A Love Story

Author:  Christopher Moore

Hardback:  328 pages

Date Published:  2007

Publisher:  HarperCollins

ISBN:  9780060590291

MiscellaneousYou Suck is a sequel to Moore’s book Bloodsucking Fiends.

It turned out that superhuman vampire strength came in handy when shaving a thirty-five-pound cat.  After a couple of false starts, which had them chasing Chet the huge shaving-cream-covered cat around the loft, they discovered the value of duct tape as a grooming tool.  Because of the tape, they weren’t able to shave his feet.  When they were finished, Chet looked like a big-eyed, potbellied, protohuman in fur-lined, duct-tape space boots — the feline love child of Gollum and Dobby the house-elf.

I’m not sure we needed to shave all of him,” Tommy said, sitting on the bed next to Jody as they considered the bound and shaven Chet on the floor before them.  “He looks creepy.”

“Pretty creepy,” Jody said.  “You’d better drink.  Your wounds aren’t healing.”  All her scratches, bruises, and love bites were completely healed, and except for a fleck of shaving cream here and there in her hair, she was as good as new.

“How?” Tommy asked.  “How do I know where to bite him?”

“Try the neck,” Jody said.

-You Suck:  A Love Story by Christopher Moore, pages 29-30

You Suck by Christopher Moore is a fun, light read about two young vampires in love who must face the difficult tasks of being UNDEAD in a day-slave world.  They face the HUNGER and must feed, they must deal with vampire killers, they have to find an apartment, and… for the LOVE of ALL things UNholy!  They have GOT to figure out a way to drink a cup of joe without the coffee making a forceful return trip to spooge on their shoes!

While, technically, this book is a sequel to Moore’s Bloodsucking Fiends, it is more than capable of standing alone.  The past events are mentioned in a very natural way, so that you don’t have that sense of being late to the party. 

Some of the best qualities of You Suck is the unusual characters and the way they all mix together.  Take Blue for instance:  An aging Vegas hooker whose career-prolonging gimmick is that she’s painted blue from head to toe, inspiring the reoccurring line, “Didn’t you want to bone a smurf when you were a kid?”  And then there’s Abby Normal (day slave name, Allison Green) who is the  emo/goth/vamp-wannabe minion of Jody and Tommy, our romantic heroes.  And one of my favorite characters of the book is William, the dirty, fat, drinking/stinking bum with the 35-pound cat.  William makes his money sitting in high-pedestrian areas, holding a sign that says “I’m poor and I have a huge cat” and charging passersby to touch his huge cat. 

Another quality of You Suck that I enjoyed is Moore’s sense of humor, his sarcasm and his ease-of-reading writing style.  He doesn’t take himself too serious as a writer, and mixes up the story telling from omniscient 3rd person and “Diary of a Put Upon Goth (closet perkie) Girl,” the subjective point-of-view of Abby Normal, which provides the outsider-wanting-in view.  And Abby’s journal entries are so funny, complete with self-abasement and bunny-trails and updates on her sister’s head lice problem.

You Suck:  A Love Story by Christopher Moore was my first experience with the author, but it won’t be my last :-)  In some ways, he reminds me of Janet Evanovich, who is one of my favorite “fun authors.”  I give You Suck 4 out of 5 stars :-)  It’s a fun book you can sink your teeth into ^,…,^

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The following video just really makes me chuckle.  The guy in the vid could SoOOooOoo play Jared if they ever make a movie version.

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Title:  Neverwhere

Author:  Neil Gaiman

Paperback: 400 pages

Date Published:  1996

Publisher:  Harper Torch (div of HarperCollins)

ISBN:  9780380789016

“So what are you after?”  Richard asked Hunter.  The three of them were walking, with extreme care, along the bank of an underground river.  The bank was slippery, a narrow path along dark rock and sharp masonry.  Richard watched with respect as the gray water rushed and tumbled, within arm’s reach.  This was not the kind of river you fell into and got out of again; it was the other kind.

“After?”

“Well,” he said.  “Personally, I’m trying to get back to the real London, and my old life.  Door wants to find out who killed her family.  What are you after?”  They edged along the bank, a step at a time, Hunter in the lead.  She said nothing in reply.  The river slowed and fed into a small underground lake.  They walked beside the water, their lamps reflecting in the black surface, their reflections smudged by the river mist.  “So what is it?”  asked Richard.  He did not expect any kind of answer.

Hunter’s voice was quiet and intense.  She did not break her step as she spoke.  “I fought in the sewers beneath New York with the great blind white alligator-king.  He was thirty feet long, fat from sewage and fierce in battle.  And I bested him, and I killed him.  His eyes were like huge pearls in the darkness.”  Her strangely accented voice echoed in the underground, twined in the mist, in the night beneath the Earth.

“…And I shall slay the Beast of London.  They say his hide bristles with swords and spears and knives stuck in him by those who have tried and failed.  His tusks are razors, and his hooves are thunderbolts.  I will kill him, or I will die in the attempt.”

-Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, pages 226-227

Meet Richard, Richard Mayhew… Dick.  Mild-mannered, Scottish born, hard-working London resident and all-around nice guy.  Richard is affianced to the eager, forward-thinking and career-driven (read:  controlling and pushy) Jessica who sees Richard as a project:  lots of potential, but also lot of work.  Richard’s life is dull, he has no family, and Gary, his co-worker, is his only friend… other than Jess… I mean Jessica.

Then, as he and Jessica are on the way to dinner with her boss, they come upon a strange girl, hurt and bleeding, in need of help.  Richard is compelled to help the girl, to which Jessica gives him an ultimatum:  Either he leaves the girl for someone else to help, or he can consider their engagement over.  Richard has no choice BUT to help and leave Jessica to dine with her employer alone.

However, in helping the girl, whose name is Door, he quickly finds his life is turned upside down, literally.  Suddenly, he no longer exists.  People don’t seem to see or hear him.  Cabs won’t stop for him.  Even the people in his office don’t know him and his desk and all his cubicle’s contents are gone.  Bewildered and feeling alone, he returns to his apartment to take a bath, only to be surprised by his landlord showing his place to a couple looking to rent.  He is forced to return to London Below to find Door and to find a way to get his life back.

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman is like Alice in Wonderland meets Grimms Fairy Tales, with a bit of Wizard of Oz and an ending reminiscent of El Dorado.  London Below is like a walk through history.  Every thing and everyone who has slipped through the cracks and has been lost, overlooked, and forgotten can be found in London Below.  Creatures lurk in the sewers and under subway platforms, and everyone is dangerous. 

Neverwhere is an urban fairy tale, with the teeth to scare you and fill your inner child with wonder.  I really enjoy Gaiman’s writing style, as well as his ability to weave a magical web of a story that draws you in and keeps you entranced.  When it was exciting and intriguing, I couldn’t put it down; I had to know what happened next.  And when it wasn’t being scary, I didn’t wantto put the book down because I was enraptured by the story itself.  The idea that somewhere Roman soldiers who deserted are huddled around a campfire, telling dirty jokes in Latin.

With Neverwhere, Gaiman flexes his imaginative muscles, but it’s more than just a fantasy book.  It has  a mystery to solve, both Richard and Door mature through their adventures, and prejudices have to be overcome if they want to survive.  Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman is a well-crafted story and I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

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Ever wonder where Gaiman gets his story ideas? In this vid clip, he reveals his source :-)

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