Fictional Fathers and Fabulous Books — Book Reviews: Spiderwick Chronicles, Sins of the Fathers, White Sand, Beyonders

September 2022 Book Report [Tic-Tac-TBR Wrap-Up]

Last month’s reading roundup included a fantasy adventure series by a new favorite writer, a graphic novel about a group of people living in perpetual daylight who use a sand-based magic system, a mystery about a new grandpa (or two) searching for their new granddaughter’s missing drug-addled mother, and a re-read (for me) of

What’s inside this TBR Wrap Up Article:

  1. List of books read this month
  2. Brief reviews of selected books

And that’s just a few of the books I read this month, inspired by our monthly Tic-Tac-TBR game

(To learn more about the Tic-tac-TBR Game, join our Brilliant Writer Merry Band!)

September 2022 Book List & Prompts:


More book reviews and recommendation lists:

Selected Book Reviews

Books on the board!

Personal Ratings & Review

I use 2 criteria to rate every book on a scale of 1–5:

  1. Content: the ideas in this book are interesting, edifying, and worth learning. (Out of ★★★★★ stars)
  2. Craftsmanship: the work is polished, skillful, and well-written. (Out of ★★★★★ stars)

White Sands by Brandon Sanderson (F)

“The sickness I feel right now, this pain…this is responsibility.”

Prompt: Graphic novel

  1. ★★★
  2. ★★★

(Apparently, reading graphic novels can be a bit of chore, when you’re reading it on a teensy-tiny phone-or-ipad screen. Which is what I did, because I was reading a digital version of the book. Ah, well.)

White Sand is an old story by Brandon Sanderson, one of those old “trunk novels” (stories that writers give up on for reasons), resurrected and reimagined for the comic book format. And the artists did a fantastic job with the series (although I did notice a drastic shift in style halfway through the second or third book, if I recall correctly. It was rather jarring and an odd choice for the publishers, but didn’t really detract from the story).

Speaking of the story: White Sands is about a young man who lives on a side of the planet that is always day (and never night). He is the son of a Sand Master whose father and peers are all able to magically manipulate sand with the kind of power he can only dream of.

But with his tenacity and intelligence, our main character manages to overcome these issues and even become the de facto leader of his group when everyone else is suddenly and mysteriously murdered. As the new leader, he must play politics to ensure the survival of the Sand Masters, with the help of an adventurous woman from the other side (the night side) of the planet.

I haven’t read many graphic novels in the past (I prefer prose, since I write prose and want to expose myself to something I can study). But overall, it was a decent adventure and will definitely please fans of Sanderson, epic fantasy, and clever magic systems.

Sins of the Fathers by J.A. Jance (F)

“When life hands you the unexpected, you just have to run with it.”

Prompt: Book about families

  1. ★★★
  2. ★★★

If you’re interested in a cozy mystery that’s not deliberately super cozy, but still rather fun to read when you want some light entertainment, then JA Jance’s Sins of the Fathers will hit that spot. This isn’t a thriller, but a slowly unfolding story about two fathers and two daughters.

Premise: Private Investigator JP Beaumont gets a visitor one day who comes to him with a baby and a problem — the baby is his granddaughter, and his daughter, who gave birth to the baby and then disappeared, is missing, probably doing drugs on the street. The man needs Beau’s help to track down the missing daughter so that she can legally sign over her daughter’s guardianship to him.

But complications ensue when Beau sees a picture of the missing woman and discovers that she might actually be his biological daughter, thanks to a long-ago indiscretion…

Aside from the somewhat “adult” premise (well, it is an adult mystery, after all), the book doesn’t get really racy or horrific or anything like that. Half the story is about Beau getting the grandpa and baby set up while the other half involves tracking down the missing daughter and her missing partner (the baby’s father), and stumbling on several nefarious reveals.

I was recommended this author by a writer in a forum, and chose this title because of it’s, well, title. I listened to the audiobook version of this story, and it was just the right amount of intriguing for my purposes — interesting enough to keep listening, but not so interesting that I had to stay up ’til 3am to finish it. If that’s the kind of mystery that appeals to you, give this a try 😉

Spiderwick Chronicles by Diterlizzi & Black (F)

“As he held up the makeshift lamp, Jared saw that something had been scrawled in the dust of the desk. Something that wasn’t there before. Click clack, watch your back.”

Prompt: Children’s novel

  1. ★★★
  2. ★★★

I picked up the Spiderwick Chronicles because I wanted to compare and contrast it to the Fablehaven series. Both feature middle-grade heroes who discover a secret parallel world full of dangerous magical creatures in their new home, and have to use their guts and intelligence to survive the ensuing adventures.

Spiderwick Chronicles Book 1: The Field Guide was a lot shorter than I remembered. But I tend to like to read children’s series as one big long book, so consider this Part One to the overall Spiderwick Chronicles series.

The Field Guide was also creepier than I remembered. The first time the kids discover the magical brownie creature in the walls of their new house, they find that he’s threaded a string of dead cockroaches together.

(Wait, what?)

And then the brownie leaves a creepy rhyming message in the dust, and also ties the girl’s hair to her bed while she’s sleeping in revenge for the kids disturbing his home.

The things kids can take, man… *shakes head in amazement*

But, content aside, I’m impressed by the writers’ straightforward narrative voice and their ability to tell a decent story with a limited wordcount. Lately I’ve gotten a lot more impatient with long unwieldy fiction. I can force myself to read past 50–100 pages of a novel, but only with many stops and starts, and although Spiderwick Chronicles isn’t precisely hit my area of interest as a reader, it is a quick, interesting read that doesn’t bore you or make you want to stop reading. And it’s worth studying if you’re a writer also interested in fantastical middle grade adventure!

Beyonders by Brandon Mull (F)

“For each of us destiny is a blend of potential, circumstances, and choices.”


  1. ★★★★
  2. ★★★★

Beyonders begins with a bang, when main character Jason gets swallowed by a hippo and ends up in another world, literally. You’d think, with a hilarious kick off like that, the rest of the book will just be a giant farce of epic proportions, but it actually isn’t.

I picked up Beyonders because I was so impressed by Brandon Mull’s earlier fantasy-adventure series, Fablehaven (about a pair of siblings who discover that their grandparents are running a preserve for magical creatures).

This series isn’t quite as strong as Fablehaven, for me, personally. I think it’s because it lacks the strong family dynamic, and has a somewhat bittersweet ending, as opposed to Fablehaven’s relatively happier conclusion.

Mull has an amazing imagination, one of the richest I’ve ever seen from a middle grade fantasy-adventure writer, and he comes up with the most interesting puzzles, tricks, and journeys for his characters.

The one thing I would say might be a bit of a detraction from his strengths as a writer is his heavy reliance on random magical artifacts. The majority of his stories involve characters chasing after, and briefly using, unusual magical objects, and while that’s a perfectly fine thing to do, it does get a little tiring after the sixth quest for a magical object.

However, overall, I still very much enjoyed reading the Beyonders, and ended up binge-reading the entire 5-book series over 2–3 days. It’s been a while since I’ve liked reading fiction so much, so for that, I have to thank Brandon Mull. And I look forward to seeing what he writes next!

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