6 Rated Books Book Reviews

Book Review: Straw House, Wood House, Brick House, Blow by Daniel Nayeri

Title: Straw House, Wood House, Brick House, Blow

Author: Daniel Nayeri

Genre: Speculative Fiction, Western, Young Adult, Novellas

Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication Date: October 11th 2011
Hardcover: 432 pages

Written entirely on an iPhone, this quartet of YA novellas by Another Pan and Another Faust author Daniel Nayeri showcases four different genres.

This bold collection of novellas by Another series author Daniel Nayeri features four riveting tales. These modern riffs on classic genres will introduce young adult readers to a broad range of writing styles that explore universally compelling themes such as identity and belonging, betrayal and friendship, love and mortality.

Straw House: A Western sizzling with suspense, set in a land where a rancher grows soulless humans and a farmer grows living toys.

Wood House: This science-fiction tale plunges the reader into a future where reality and technology blend imperceptibly, and a teenage girl must race to save the world from a nano-revolution that a corporation calls “ReCreation Day.”

Brick House: This detective story set in modern NYC features a squad of “wish police” and a team of unlikely detectives.

Blow: A comedic love story told by none other than Death himself, portrayed here as a handsome and charismatic hero who may steal your heart in more ways than one. With humor, suspense, and relatable prose, this hip and cutting-edge collection dazzles.

Stand alone or series: Stand alone novellas

How did I get this book: Review Copy from the Publisher via NetGalley

Why did I read this book: I first heard about this book at BEA when we were given copies of one of the four stories at the publisher’s booth. I thought the idea sounded cool and I love reading short stories.


Straw House, Wood House, Brick House, Blow1 is a collection of four novellas, each written in a different genre, although ALL of them have a fantastical element, placing this collection firmly into Speculative Fiction territory.

Toy Farm opens the collection and is a Western. Set in a farm, where Toys grow from the earth and are tended by the farmer’s daughter and by the Scarecrow who acts as the Sheriff. The toys’ gentle life is shaken by the attack of a group homunculus who may look like humans but have no soul – unlike the toys. The battle for their lives is fought by their Sheriff, a boy who needs to become a man. This story is a bit convoluted (it takes some time to realise what the hell is going on) but raises interesting questions about what is means to be human.

Our Lady of Villains is a Sci-fi story. The story is set in the near future in a dystopian world where a Corporation runs the world, nanotechnology runs amok and everybody lives in a virtual Second Life. Although there are some cool things about this story (for example, villains are the new heroes and vice-versa), it felt too artificially constructed for my tastes and by the time the identity of the Lady of Villains (a new Goddess, to be worshiped) was revealed I was already uninterested.

Wish Police comes next, and is probably my favourite story of the bunch (I would not be averse to reading more stories about this Wish Police, in fact). It is a detective story with an interesting premise: this branch of the police prevents certain types of wishes from coming true. The detectives – including a talking fish and a former Djinn – go around trying to catch a Wish turned human before he causes any real trouble.

The final story is a romance called Doom With a View and is narrated by Death himself, a cool narrator to a sweeping love story between star-crossed lovers. This story is light and funny but left me…cold.

And ultimately, this is the feeling I have towards this collection: reserved indifference. I feel like I should have enjoyed it more because the stories are not bad at all. They are well written and some of them have really interesting premises (although those interesting concepts needed more space to develop). But they are perhaps too…safe? Each story follows their “genre” to the letter with little to no room for true originality. I understand that this collection is meant to be an introduction to these types of stories to Young Adults and I guess I could say it is indeed a competent introduction. I just feel readers deserve more than mere competence or paint-by-numbers introductions. I feel that Straw House, Wood House, Brick House, Blow lacked true heart.

A final note: as the official blurb and many reviewers will make sure to tell you, this book was written on an iphone. I am perplexed as to why this seems to be so important as to be included in the official blurb: WHY does it matter to a reader at all WHERE or HOW the book was written? What difference does it make if it was written on an iphone, a typewriter or…whatever?

Notable Quotes/Parts: No excerpt but check out the cool book trailers for each story HERE. This is the one for Wish Police

Rating: I wavered between 5 and 6 but will go with 6 – Good.

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  1. I can’t for the life of me, figure out why the book was thus titled especially considering how each story has its own title


  • Maureen E
    October 11, 2011 at 8:38 am

    It sounds excessively gimmicky to me, especially with that iPhone mention. (“iPhones are cool; the fact that we wrote on them is cool; kids will think this is cool; we must mention it!” is how I imagine that logic going.)

  • April
    October 11, 2011 at 10:49 am

    Great and honest review!

    I don’t know if I’ll pick this book up though. Mostly because of how many gimmicks seemed to be involved, but also because words cannot express how disappointed I am that it wasn’t a set of novellas centered around “The Three Little Pigs.”

  • Stephanie @ Read in a Single Sitting
    October 11, 2011 at 8:41 pm

    The iPhone mention killed it for me–otherwise I might have been tempted to pick this one up. The concept’s great, but it’s a shame that the execution isn’t quite there.

  • A. Reader
    October 25, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    I’m surprised by the above comments. You won’t pick up the book and read it because it was written on an iphone and that feels gimmicky to you? I agree most with the reviewer’s final note: what does it matter what the story was written on? You read (or don’t read) a book because the concept appeals to you (or not). And I don’t mean to make anyone feel uncomfortable for their comments, its just that I’ve already read the book and, well, I really liked it. The concepts were playful, original and totally magical; each stories’ language and pacing played true to its genre’s themes and tropes…and the humor was a blend of goofy, tongue-and-cheek and, when playing off cultural references, nuanced and deeply clever.
    I am very happy I read it… and I’m glad I did so before reading the above comments, because they would have discouraged me unnecessarily.
    But as Levar Burton used to say on Reading Rainbow, “You don’t have to take my word for it.” If you are intrigued by the concepts, I would encourage you give it a try. You may find yourself delightfully surprised… I certainly was.

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