MINI-REVIEWS: Jack’s New Power, Villain School, Decline & Fall

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50. Jack’s New Power by Jack Gantos
Publication: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (September 30, 1997), Paperback, 214pp / ISBN 0374437157
Genre: MG Fiction

Read: May 30-31, 2011
Source: Library Book sale


This is less like a novel and more like a short story collection of vaguely related events, and unfortunately it’s kind of boring. After the greatness that was Dead End in Norvelt I wanted to really like this one, too, but for the most part I was, well…bored. Oh, it’s got some funny bits in it, and some sad bits and some “oh that was clever” bits, but on the whole, when I think back on it, I remember a sort of bland gray color. I wouldn’t recommend starting with this book if you’ve never read a Jack Gantos book before, although you might like it if you like JG’s other books.


Just okay.

58. Villain School: Good Curses Evil by Stephanie S. Saunders
Publication: Bloomsbury USA Childrens (August 30, 2011), ARC Paperback, ? pp / ISBN 1599908484
Genre: Children’s/MG Fantasy, Adventure

Read: June ?-25, 2011
Source: BEA 2011

This title will be released on August 30, 2011.


I think if I was younger I’d like this book more. It’s got a magical school where vampires and werewolves and monsters from Scooby-doo movies learn about being “villains,” and there’s a quest and a princess (who is actually pretty wonderful) and it’s kind of funny, but in a way that comes off as trying too hard. It’s not a bad book, it’s just one that severely tests my powers of ignoring things that don’t make sense (why must vampires/werewolves/etc. be villains? Because they just are, apparently). I’m sure if I was younger– more in the range of readers it’s targeted for– I wouldn’t have a problem just going along for the ride. But as an adult reader, I was disappointed.


It’s not bad for what it is, but I wanted it to be something more.

61. Decline & Fall by Evelyn Waugh
Publication: Dell (1972), originally published 1928, Paperback, ~270pp
Genre: Fiction, Satire

Read: July 1, 2011
Source: Free book box


The bad thing about reading so many books in one month is that one tends to forget things about the books you read at the beginning. Decline & Fall was the first book I finished during my July book-a-day plan, and I’ve almost forgotten everything about it. That’s not a good thing! I can’t remember anyone’s name, I barely remember the plot, and all that’s left is a vague impression that I enjoyed reading it. I had to read the summary on its Wikipedia page to refresh my memory, and even then I was like “oh, did that really happen?” I feel really bad about this, as I do like Waugh’s books and considering that I rated this one 4.5 birds I must have really liked this one. Unfortunately I keep getting bits of it mixed up with A Handful of Dust; I guess it’s a good thing this is a mini-review instead of a full one.

Anyway, despite my memory problems, I did really like Decline & Fall. It’s got that same sort of hard-edged satire that AHOD has, only without the downer ending (although I did like AHOD’s ending). It’s also kind of more surreal than AHOD, which was a lot of fun, and though I don’t think I laughed out loud I did smile widely for a large portion of it. After reading three of Waugh’s books I think I’m getting a feel for his type of humor, which is good, and I think also I’m starting to see a pattern with the characters, which is less good. I prefer it when authors mix up their tropes and whatnot, and Waugh doesn’t seem to be doing that. Then again, I’ve only read three of his books– maybe the fourth one will have more variety.


An excellent book, despite my having almost entirely forgotten it.

4 thoughts on “MINI-REVIEWS: Jack’s New Power, Villain School, Decline & Fall”

  1. Hm, never a good sign when you forget a book two minutes after finishing it. Now I am concerned about my own experiment with Evelyn Waugh — I’ve just started reading Brideshead revisited and so far am mildly in favor of it. But only mildly.

    1. I don’t think it’s as cute as the other cute books I’ve reviewed lately, mostly because I don’t think it’s all that well-written. But if you can get it from the library or something, it might be a nice way to spend a couple of hours.

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