I am delighted to have Guest Reviewer Nicholas Bolzman with me today! 

Nicholas and I met as students at Patrick Henry College (PHC) in 
Virginia. He has made many smart decisions in the time I have known him. The top three decisions that stand out to me (in no particular order) are: 
  1. To earn his Juris Doctorate from Michigan State University College of Law,
  2. To marry the lovely Christina Bolzman (née Ishizu), and 
  3. To read young adult fiction.

Well Nicholas, I think our readers would love to know what inspired a young lawyer to delve into young adult fiction?

I’ve enjoyed young adult fiction for some time, but I got particularly reacquainted with it the summer after graduating from PHC. My brain couldn’t handle anything else. 

Since then, I’ve kept an eye open for new titles, it’s my light pleasure reading in a world of cases and dense articles. I also enjoy mystery, so the Flavia de Luce novels were a natural fit (my wife actually ran across a reference to them on another blog some years back and insisted that we needed to see if they were any good). And one tidbit that didn’t make it into my actual Flavia de Luce review was that the car scene that the author describes actually appears in the series, but you have to wait until book five.


Ooh..intrigue! What else in the way of young adult literature is on your horizon? 

As for other books, I’ve enjoyed Rick Riordan’s mythology series (although I still think the original Percy Jackson series was his best). 

If you’re into something a little more disturbing, there’s always Ransom Riggs’ Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (he takes old distorted/weird black and white photographs and turns them into a story). 

The first two books in Tony DiTerlizzi’s WondLa series have also been enjoyable. 

Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games was less so. I have reviewed Book One as well as Books Two and Three.
And finally, I’ve enjoyed several of Cornelia Funke’s books.

I really loved your Hunger Games reviews! They have really whet my appetite for your review of The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie that we'll be sharing with our readers in a moment. But before I let you go, would you share some interesting tidbit about yourself?


Let’s see, an interesting tidbit about me. Despite my analytical law student side, I really do greatly enjoy literature. I think that is one of the lasting effects of my PHC lit classes. 

Oh, and one of my favorite Young Adult authors is Robert Louis Stevenson.

It was wonderful having you with us today, Nicholas! Thanks very much for taking the time to answer my questions...and for sharing your review of The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

You can all keep up with Nicholas' latest posts on his blog Looking for Overland.

And now, you can read for yourselves what a certain lawyer has to say about a certain tween detective....

An incorrigible detective

Flavia de Luce is a normal 11 year-old living in England in the 1950s. She is tormented by her older sisters, in need of a mother, virtually ignored by everyone else, misunderstood, bright, and a legend in her own mind.

And she is an amateur chemist,

who lives with her Father (an ardent stamp collector) and two sisters (the aforementioned persecutors) in an ancient Victorian house,

and she has a passion for poisons,

and the habit of discovering dead bodies (no, they are not connected to her love of poisons—the worst she uses that for is to add the occasional skin irritant to her sister’s makeup kits).

Ok, so maybe she isn’t quite normal. But she wouldn’t have it any other way.

We first meet Miss de Luce in The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, blindfolded and locked in a closet. How she got there, and how she escapes, are matters beyond the scope of this review. Needless to say, she does.

Only to discover a corpse in the cucumber patch, of all places.

She then strikes up a friendly rivalry with the local police Inspector Hewett, each trying to solve the case first. As the new corpse is tied to an old one, the case gets beyond what anyone initially imagined. (Were Inspector Hewett to be asked about the “rivalry,” he would likely wryly grin and characterize it as Miss de Luce getting in the way of the investigation. So it’s probably best we didn’t ask him.)

But then, Flavia has always been like that. The author Alan Bradley describes her thus:

"Like Athena, who sprang fully formed and fully armed from the brow of Zeus, Flavia simply appeared," the author says, speaking from his home in British Columbia. "She walked onto the page of another book I was writing, and simply hijacked the story. I had no idea who she was or where she came from, and because of that, I resisted her. It took Flavia a while to make me shut up and listen." More than hijacking the story, Flavia eventually forced the abandonment of the project. "I was working on another book set in the 50s about this young woman broadcaster on an exchange programme. I was well into it - about three or four  chapters - and as I introduced a main character, another detective, there was a point were he was required to go to a country house and interview this colonel," Bradley recalls. "I got him up to the driveway and there was this girl sat on a camp stool doing something with a notebook and a pencil and he stopped and asked her what she was going and she said 'writing down number plates' and he said 'well there can't many in such a place' and she said, 'well I have yours.' I came to  a stop. I had no idea who this girl was and where she came from, and I couldn’t get past that point until I sorted out who she was."

The author is now five books in with one more scheduled, and I’m still not sure he has sorted out exactly who this utterly precocious and incorrigible heroine is. Nor am I sure it’s even possible.

Flavia cannot be sorted out. But viewing the world through her eyes is certainly an enjoyable adventure.

You can join her in the following books:

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag
A Red Herring Without Mustard
I Am Half-Sick of Shadows
Speaking From Among the Bones
The Dead In Their Vaulted Arches (not yet released)

I love audiobooks! They are such a practical and enjoyable way to make books an even bigger part of your life than they are now. I “read” the complete Spiderwick Chronicles this way. I particularly enjoyed the first two books: The Field Guide and The Seeing Stone. This may be because I was making a gingerbread house and baking Christmas cookies at the time. It could also be that the characters and situations were exciting in context, and could be easily be related to by any child or adult. Humanity reigned in the beginning; fantasy roared at the end. Courage, thinking outside the box, sibling dynamics, the effect of divorce, why people are thought of as “crazy”—all of these were well explored throughout the series.

For a target age group of 6-10, however, violence, and at times cruelty, were graphic and intense. Mark Hamill’s voice acting no doubt accentuated this, so each child would likely be bringing different levels of “scary” to the stories. All things considered, this series was excellent. I love learning from fantastic writers like Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black.

    PictureAt the First Lady's Desk in the East Wing...lots of great books behind me:)

    I am a homeschool graduate, former White House Intern, and entrepreneur who writes and speaks to encourage young people and parents to live positive, joyful lives by embracing their strengths, pursuing their passions, loving people, and having fun.




    March 2013
    November 2012