1

Star-Crossed in Romeo and Juliet: This Verona is Full of Strife and… Pizza Sauce?!

bookreview

 

Fakespeare: Starcrossed in Romeo and JulietStar-Crossed in Romeo and Juliet
(Fakespeare, #1)
by M.E. Castle

280 Pages
Middle-grade / Children’s / Retellings
Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group /
Imprint Publishing
Publication Date: May 23rd, 2017
Get a copy here!

BLURB:

Three kids get lost inside Shakespeare’s book and must help Romeo and Juliet finish their story in order to return home in this silly middle school series!

Dear Reader, 

You are reading this because you expressed interest in the Get Lost Book Club. 

Are you ready to embark on a journey to Italy, where you’ll find yourself right in the middle of a major feud between two rival pizza-making families: the Montagues and the Capulets? A swordsman and perfumer will hunt you. There will be disguises, fake pizza, and tomato fights (make sure to duck!). You must help Becca, her stepbrother Sam, and her dog Rufus convince Romeo Montague to ask Juliet Capulet on a date, or you will all be stuck in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet forever! 

Intrigued? Worried? Downright terrified? You should be. But if you’re ready for an adventure, step right up and follow me. It’s time to get lost.

Sincerely,

The Narrator

addtogoodreads

4.5Penguins
Quick Reasons: this was, throughout, laugh out loud hilarious; I LOVE the new “spins” that M.E. Castle put on this classic; the morals and lessons are whimsical, witty, and well-done; the nods to the original play were woven in to this story brilliantly

HUGE thanks to M.E. Castle and Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group/Imprint Publishing for sending me a gorgeous hardcover copy of this title in exchange for an honest review! This in no way altered my read of or opinions on this book.

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Okay, Penguins. Here’s what’s going to happen next: I’m going to FREAK THE FRACK OUT about this hilarious, awesome book…and then you’re going to drop everything you’re doing for the next few hours and go read it! Trust me, the time is well worth it, and passes in a fit of rib-cracking laughter and manic cackling that’s bound to make your (insert family, roommate, lover, children, pet, wallpaper, violent pink flamingo, etc. here) wonder just what it is you’re up to. Which is GOOD, because that means more Penguins wanting to pick this book up, and that means my army will grow even bigger! Yes. This is such a great plan, I can’t believe I didn’t think of it sooner!

 

This book is, as I mentioned a time or two earlier, absolutely gut-bustingly hilarious! Within a page, I was giggling (very obnoxiously, might I add). From the very get go, this book sucked me into the story–almost as literally as the book in the book that eats the main characters, in fact! (Wow, that was a mouthful of a sentence! Let’s not do that again.) The action begins almost immediately upon landing in Verona, though we quickly learn that things are not QUITE like the original play led us to believe. This retelling was super inventive, with some genius spins on the “tragedy” that kept this read perfectly acceptable for young hearts and minds. I really appreciated the amount of humor M.E. Castle put into this, while still maintaining the bigger plot points from Shakespeare’s star-crossed tale of woe.

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The morals and lessons woven throughout the journey–about bullying, and family, and self-love/self-acceptance, and so many other delicious things!–were well-handled and portrayed in a light that made them both entertainingly humorous and super easy to understand. This is such a great book to lead mid-grade readers to, both for the morals AND for the introduction to Shakespeare. While the prose is much less complex (and much easier to understand!) than Shakespeare’s tragedy, the main story is still mostly there–just minus the actual TRAGEDY of the, uh, tragedy.

 

I had an absolute BLAST blasting my way through this retelling, and cannot wait to pick up the next book in this series (and YAY me, I already own it!) These characters are entertaining and set on a path of growth/acceptance; the prose is humorous and enlightening; and the new spins on an old tragedy both made this read unique and were laugh-out-loud hilarious. I definitely recommend this to lovers of middle-grade novels, those seeking a less intimidating introduction to The Bard, and readers who love humor and word play. Be careful when touching this book, Penguins; it just might eat you while your back is turned!

9

Pixie and the Green Book Mystery: Fast-Paced and Entertaining

bookreview

Pixie And The Green Book Mystery (Pixie Book Mystery 1)

Just like in the Never Ending Story, you’ll leap into a magical book filled with unforgettable characters on a quest to save their stories.

Pixie’s school day is an apple disaster, but a trip to the library changes everything. Fairytales have come to life out of their books and danger is lurking. It’s up to our book loving hero to get them out of the mysterious green book and back into their stories. The clock is ticking. Tick! Tock!

addtogoodreads

Pixie Book Mystery #1
Children’s Books / Chapter Books / Fantasy
Wonder Bay Publishing
Publication Date:  November 19th, 2016
Get a copy here!

3.75Penguins
Quick Reasons: adorable, quick, light read; the pace is fast, but believable; love the play on fairy tales; interesting, unique characters; this book promises and delivers HUGE fun; I chuckled several times; even the easily-bored little readers will settle into this quickly

Huge thanks to Coraline Grace and Wonder Bay Publishing for sending me a free digital copy of this title in exchange for an honest review! This in no way altered my read of or opinions on this book.

 

This was a super cute, entertaining, fast-paced chapter book. I was sucked into the story from page one and kept enthralled throughout. There were several moments I even found myself giggling to myself, as the antics of some of the characters were so amusing. The action is pretty fast-paced, and while it seems that a LOT of things happen in a small amount of time, in the end it is also fairly believable–after all, the events take place (for the most part) in a quick trip to the library, and therefore happen in a very short sequence. This didn’t bother me, though; while a lot happens, it is in no way overwhelming, and I followed the story line very easily.

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Pixie and the cast of characters she meets in these pages are strong-willed and independent. I really enjoyed the way Coraline Grace played with fairy tales; the introduction of the Book Guardian brought about a sense of drama and mystery, and enabled her to explore options she might not have been in regards to “changing” the stories the way that this book does.

 

I had a TON of fun diving into this short chapter book, and am intrigued with how the rest of the series will unfold. The plot is fast-paced but believable, the characters are unique and entertaining, and I am so glad to have been given the chance to pick this book up! If you’ve a young reader who is easily bored or distracted in your life, you should try this book–it’s a wild, entertaining ride from start to finish, and is bound to capture even the most fussy of book penguins! The Green Book Mystery is taking over a library near you, penguins; how will the fairy tales YOU adore be changed? You’ll have to read this series to find out!

0

Magical Stories: Cute Stories, Cliche Resolutions

bookreview

Magical Stories: A Collection of Short Stories for Children Aged 3-103

A child’s imagination is something that seems to fade away as we age, but this book will keep that fire alive! You and your children will enjoy exploring the depths of pure imagination, fun, and excitement by reading this book. Not only will you enjoy these aspects, but you will also enjoy a priceless bonding experience, as your minds run wild from the stories that are told in this collection!

In this book you will enjoy:

• Letting your imagination run wild
• Large, bright, artistic and colorful chapter pictures
• 10 easy-to-read stories that you will love to share aloud
• A bonding experience that teaches, educates and exercises the mind
• Stories that your children will absolutely love!

Magical Stories is a book that is full of fairy-tales, which are geared for children, age’s four to twelve, but for absolutely everyone to enjoy nonetheless! As society advances with technology, the simplicity of downloading this eBook makes reading easier, and much more relaxing.

You and your child will love reading this collection over and over again, whether it is breakfast time, or bed time. As things like Television and Tablets are consuming family time at a rapid rate, there is no better investment than sharing a priceless collection of stories with each other.

Fun for the whole family!

This is an excellent storybook primarily aimed for children aged 4 – 12 years. Early readers will enjoy the stories read aloud to them. Kids and children can practice their reading skills or have a parent/teacher read it aloud. These special stories include lessons and morals about building confidence, self-esteem, caring, sharing and love.

Story List:
• Dali the Different Little Dragon
• Finding a Fairy
• The Puppet Show
• Tilly the Polka-Dotted Tiger
• Lilly and the Fairy Land
• Timmy the Elf
• Daisy the Dragon
• Thomas and the Mermaid
• Laura the Leprechaun
• The Adventures of William Scott

Fantasy/Paranormal/Children’s Literature
109 Pages
Publication Date:  November 17th, 2016
Get a copy here!

3Penguins
Quick Reasons: large array of intriguing characters; some well-handled moral implications; the plots seemed overly simplified and, in a lot of instances, rushed at the end; not much action or adventure; I felt a bit bored overall

Huge thanks to Píaras Ó Cionnaoith for sending me a free copy of this title in exchange for an honest review! This in no way altered my read of or opinions on this book.

Let’s start with the small things first, yes? There are SO MANY different characters to be found in these stories. I found myself constantly wondering (as I don’t read story titles ahead of time often) what creatures I’d be reading about next, and what sorts of lives they were bound to live. There is a cute sense of “happily ever after” to the resolution of every story, and the prose is whimsical and poetic enough to entrance even the most finicky of young listeners/readers.

Píaras Ó Cionnaoith revisited some of the characters from his collection of poetry, that I reviewed in the last few months of last year. This was both surprising, for me, and delightful–it enabled me to more fully “see” those characters, and better grasp their stories and troubles. I was especially happy to realize I recognized such characters–while a few I wasn’t so sure about, several I knew immediately from their names. It was nice, being able to revisit and rediscover them in this collection.

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There were, however, some things that I wasn’t so impressed with. There was, for instance, a lot of repetition–the narrator would explain something once, only to follow it up with different word choices two or three more times before moving on. The plot also seemed a bit off-pace; the beginnings seemed to take FAR longer than the resolutions, and the resolutions seemed to be in some instances forced or too easily patched up. There was a sense of off-balance throughout, I suppose, and many of the “struggles” faced by the characters were almost too easily resolved or looked beyond. I found myself, due to this, feeling pretty bored with the read overall.

There were also a lot of instances of awkward or weird phrasing. Several times, I found myself struggling to comprehend just what was being said, or needing to add in or substitute words within sentences to understand. While this isn’t a bad thing–these mistakes were minor enough they didn’t hinder my read TOO much–it was a bit confusing, and interrupted the flow of my reading for several seconds at a time.

All told, this probably wasn’t the best fit for me personally. While these are cute, well-written children’s stories that do a great job at subtly promoting lessons like kindness, friendship, and acceptance…I found the pace of the plot to be a bit off-balance, and the resolutions to be almost too easily reached. It was fun, though, to revisit some characters I discovered in Píaras Ó Cionnaoith’s magical poetry collection. I would recommend this to those with young children, lovers of mythical creatures, and happily-ever-after seekers.

3

Magic Poetry: A Bit TOO Stiff for My Taste

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Magic Poetry: Illustrated Children's Verse for Ages 3-7

This collection of children’s poetry spans over a forty year period. Taking a break from serious writing, I remembered some of the songs and poems I wrote as a young teenager. I thought I’d share them here with you now. They may not be ‘classics’ by no means but I hope your children or grandchildren will find fun in reading them.

The one thing about poetry, I believe, is that it’s everlasting. Words are beautiful and uplifting if they are used in the right way. I hope that by sharing this collection of poetry, it will introduce young minds to a world of endless opportunities. Imagination is like the Universe…endless in its possibilities.

I hope that this work will encourage young minds. I also hope that exploring the mystical realm will ignite creativity to encourage future writers to astound us with their imaginings. It starts with a few simple words.

Children’s/Poetry/Fantasy
46 Pages
Publication Date: August 1st, 2015
Get a copy here!

3Penguins
Quick Reasons: cute and fun; full of fantastical creatures; some of the rhyming felt a bit stiff or forced to me; I wish there had been more “moral” poems; love the graphics/illustrations

Huge thank you to Píaras Ó Cionnaoith for sending me a free copy of this title in exchange for an honest review! This in no way altered my read of or opinions on this book.

 

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This is a super adorable, super fun collection of fantastical children’s poems. I really adored and appreciated the illustrations/graphics that separate each poem and give a “glimpse” into the character coming up–they helped to break up the pages and to keep the flow moving, if that makes sense?

I do wish, though, that a bit more story-telling had been put into the poems. Several of them seem to be saying the same thing– how excited about the fantastical creatures the poet is, and that’s great! But I felt as if a lot of the poems introduced a character in very simple ways and then ended without telling a story or leaving me with anything to think about. Don’t get me wrong, I know this is a children’s book/a collection of children’s poetry, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be poems with stories or morals! Just look at Shel Silverstein, for instance–his poems are super quirky and sometimes very wild, but they all make a statement of some kind. Dr. Seuss is much the same way.

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I did have fun taking a walk through this author’s world. There were a few poems scattered throughout that seemed to be making a moral statement or passing along a lesson, and these proved to be some of my favorites. Several of the poems, though, didn’t present the creature in question in any new or inventive ways, instead calling upon the more well-known lore, which was disappointing–they felt a bit like pieces of cardboard, to me, plopped onto a page without really being colored in as individualized, unique characters.

While the rhyming was sing-songy and fun, I also felt like a lot of it came off as stiff or forced. Several times, I came across poems that changed up the meter or rhyme scheme so much, I couldn’t figure out what rhythm to read them with–I imagine, if I’d been reading this to a child, it might have sounded a bit awkward or mismatched.

 

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Overall, this was a cute read with a ton of adorable illustrations, but I’m not sure I enjoyed it as much as I’d been hoping to going in. While there are a ton of characters and creatures covered, they didn’t really stand up on their own–they felt a bit stiff and unnatural, instead of leaping to life off the pages. I was, in the end, left feeling slightly disappointed, though there were several poems scattered throughout that I might revisit in the future. Still, I recommend this to readers with young children, lovers of fantastical/mythical creatures, and poet enthusiasts of all ages!

34

The Charming Life of Izzy Malone: An Adorable, Sassy, Hilarious Read!

Penguin2.3

The Charming Life of Izzy Malone

Izzy Malone isn’t your typical middle schooler. She wears camouflage combat boots, the stars are her only friends, and after a month she’s set a new record for the most trips to her principal’s office.

But Izzy’s life isn’t so charming these days. The kids at school think she’s a mouthy misfit, her musical prodigy sister gets all the attention at home, and no one takes Izzy’s determination to compete in her small town’s Great Pumpkin Race seriously.

When Izzy’s antics land her in hot water, her parents enroll her in Mrs. Whippie’s Earn Your Charm School. At first Izzy thinks it sounds stupid—her manners are just fine, thanks—but Mrs. Whippie’s first assignment proves intriguing. Tucked inside a letter is a shiny charm bracelet and instructions telling her she will “Earn Her Charm” by performing a series of tasks. For each task Izzy completes, she’ll receive a charm to place on her bracelet. “Complete them all,” the letter says, “and you will have earned a prize unlike any other.”

Soon Izzy’s adding charms to her bracelet. But when a task goes seriously awry and threatens to derail her mother’s budding political career, Izzy has her hands full proving she’s not an emerging juvenile delinquent. Add in some middle school mean girls, a giant pumpkin that could be the answer to all her problems, and discovering she might have a crush on the boy she accidentally punched in the face, and Izzy may just pull it all together and Earn Her Charm. And she’s about to find out the best kind of friends are just like stars: Bright and beautiful, appearing just when you need them, to shine a little bit of light on a dark night.

Middle Grade/Contemporary
Simon & Schuster / Aladdin M!X Publishing
Expected Publication Date:  November 29th, 2016
274 Pages
Preorder a copy here!

4.75Penguins
Quick Reasons: oh my penguins, this read is SO adorable; poignant, powerful, poetic prose; the morals and statements this book makes are ground-breaking; this is a book the whole world needs to read; quirky, endearing characters; a wide range of subjects and focuses; Jenny Lundquist just jumped to the top of my “need to read more of” list

So many HUGE thanks to Jenny Lundquist and Simon & Schuster / Aladdin M!X Publishing for sending me a free ARC of this title in exchange for an honest review! This in no way altered my read of or opinions on this book.

 

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You know, penguins… I really ought to read more middle grade. Every time I finish a midgrade novel, I tell myself this. And every time….I somehow wind up forgetting, until the next time I pick up another midgrade. I just honestly…there’s something SO fun, and innocent, and awesome about middle grade novels. They’re ALWAYS more focused on the morals than on romance (because duh, at this age most kids still believe the opposite sex has cooties). This book by Jenny Lundquist? Reminded me once again why I fell in love with midgrade, and CONTINUE to fall in love with it.

 

 

These characters are vibrant. They are loud. They are all quirky in their ways, and self-conscious, and confused, and conflicted. There are so many emotions, there is SO MUCH human nature, playing throughout this entire journey…and yet every word, every smear of ink, is there for a purpose. Every sentence sets the tone, makes a statement, and left me breathless–which is why, when it came time for me to choose my quotes for this review, I struggled. I had NINE quotes bookmarked. I couldn’t help but add every single one of them to goodreads after finishing–Jenny Lundquist’s words are just too powerful, too poignant, to remain unread.

 

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I absolutely adored the “pen pal” aspect of this novel. In an age where writing physical letters has devolved into emails and monosyllabic text messages… Well, I can imagine the letters featured in this book–and the relationship built around the sending and receiving of them–was something truly special. The fact that someone went out of their way to listen to, and validate, Izzy in ways she’s never really gotten before… that just made it better, in my mind. And the prose is so gorgeously poetic, it called for letters–for an outlet where the abstract, instead of the realistic, could come out to play more. Because Izzy is, in the end, in middle school–and still bursting with creative potential.

 

 

And the morals–the morals and the statements this read makes are SO super important. I feel this, in particular, is a book that the whole world needs to read–ESPECIALLY right now, with all the hatred that’s flying around. Ideas include: bullying; remaining true to yourself; being kind to others; familial love; standing tall under pressure… I mean, I could keep going, but there are a LOT of morals floating in these pages…and each one is important. Each one is poignant, and powerful, and NEEDING to be read.

 

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This was a super entertaining, humorous, fantastic read! The cover is also super adorable, though you won’t necessarily understand all of the artwork until you turn the last page. The characters are charming and vibrantly unique; the focus on relationships and morals is engaging and heart-wrenching; and I have, I fear (though “fear” isn’t quite the right word!) discovered a new author to devour. I recommend this to literally everyone, but especially: lovers of midgrade; those who sometimes forget how unique and special they are; and those who enjoy snarky, sassy characters. I cannot wait to pick up my next Jenny Lundquist book; I only regret not having done so sooner!

2

Wildwood: Coyotes, Bandits, and Bloodthirsty Ivy

Penguin2.3

Wildwood (Wildwood Chronicles, #1)

The first book in the epic middle-grade fantasy series full of magic, wonder, and danger—nothing less than an American Narnia—from Colin Meloy, lead singer of the highly celebrated band the Decemberists, and Carson Ellis, the acclaimed illustrator of the New York Times bestselling The Mysterious Benedict Society.

Wildwood is the first in a planned trilogy.

Wildwood Chronicles #1
540 Pages
Fantasy/Middle Grade
Balzer + Bray Publications
Publication Date: August 30th, 2011
Get a copy here!

3Penguins
Quick Reasons: lyrical, melodic, atmospheric prose; beautifully vivid descriptions and scenes; a few parts of this seemed to drag; quirky, unique cast of characters; vibrant, well-rounded emotions and situations; action-packed and decently paced plot

The illustrations that accompany this story are WONDERFUL, guys–seriously! They are so filled with intricate, delicate details and movement, you’ll feel as if you’ve crash-landed into the middle of the scenes being depicted each time you stumble across a new one. Carson Ellis did a masterful job combining elements of the narrative with his own personal artistic flair, and helped to bring this story more fully to life for me, so huge hats off to the artist!

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First off: this book was not quite what I was expecting, going in. I mean… I’m not rightly sure what I WAS expecting, but a battle between bandits, coyotes, and bloodthirsty ivy was definitely not it. This book has a smattering of dark and realistic undertones that both enthralled me and pushed me away in turn…and I thoroughly enjoyed the journey!

The characters are vibrant and unique, a motley cast of personalities that was both a blur of chaos and a mixed bag of entertainment. I don’t feel as if we really got a SENSE for many of the characters, however–most of them, in the long run, fell a bit flat overall, instead relying heavily on the cliches of their roles to carry them through and/or “round” them out. The only characters I feel we really got an HONEST sense for were Prue, Curtis, and Alexandra–and even they, at times, felt a bit stiff and formal to me.

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The language was also pretty heavy-handed; while I enjoy the lyrical or melodic prose, this book felt a bit TOO overdone in places, and instead became a hindrance instead of an enjoyment. Certain scenes, therefore, felt a bit like I was slogging my way through a bog–a bit heavily weighted, a bit slow to the point. These moments were ones where I found the book to be a bit dragging–a lacking of, I suppose, the type of adventure and action I had fully expected to come across when opening this book.

However, the plot IS full of action, and there are plenty of battle scenes and snarky moments to go around. I especially loved watching how the inhabitants of Wildwood reacted to and interacted with Prue and Curtis; it was in these moments I found the most character growth, the most pertinent pieces of information. And there is, of course, a sort of Narnia-esque feel to this read in general.

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Overall, I enjoyed this read, though it wasn’t quite as full of adventure as I’d been expecting. The illustrations and artwork are beautiful and delicately done, matching well with the vibrant and clashing personalities of the characters we meet throughout the journey. I definitely recommend this to lovers of mid-grade novels; Narnia; and snarky, headstrong female protagonists. There’s an understated magic to this book; perhaps you should give it a try!

3

Sign of the Green Dragon: Sleuthing doesn’t Always Mean Computer Research and Safety

Penguin2.3

Sign of the Green Dragon

181 Pages
Children’s/Middle Grade
CreateSpace Edition Publishing
Publication Date: August 3rd, 2016
Available on Kindle Unlimited
or get a copy here!

Three plucky sleuths. A crumbling skeleton. A buried treasure.

After six months in a new school, Sam’s finally fitting in. He’s the one kid with enough talent to hit the winning home run and bring the baseball trophy back to Haggarty Elementary. But Sam’s guardian is shipping him off to boarding school before that can happen.

When teammates, Joey and Roger, hear his bad news, they plot to hide him until the big game. Their secret cave is a perfect place until an earthquake shatters a wall and reveals a wooden chest with a red-eyed dragon carved into its top. Inside, a bony hand clutches a map with a note, promising treasure.

With Joey and Roger, Sam sets off to track down the clues and hopefully discover treasure. When some puzzle pieces start to make sense, the boys become lost in a labyrinth of underground tunnels, trapped by dangerous thieves and sealed inside an airless tomb.

Sign of the Green Dragon gets a high five for fantasy, fun and some fearsome adventure. If you like intrepid would-be knights on impossible and dangerous quests, you’ll love this story. As one reader says, this book, “has more twists than a dragon’s tail.”

Order now to jump into the adventure.

3Penguins
Quick Reasons: decent action/adventure tale; entertaining; occasional moments of snark and sass; a ‘coming of age’ journey (of sorts); quasi-mystery; perfect for thrill seekers and dragon lovers; some missing words/grammatical inconsistencies; I wish we’d gotten to see more of the magic/dragons aspect

Huge thank you, first and foremost, to C. Lee McKenzie and Createspace Edition Publishing for sending me a copy of this title in exchange for an honest review! This in no way altered my read of or opinions on this book.

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While not necessarily my favorite read of the year, this book was at turns endearing and enchanting. The focus on the boys’ struggles with and attempts at figuring out the “mystery” of this book–what the note they discovered meant, who/what the dragon twins were, and where the treasure was hidden–got somewhat lost in the grand scheme of the ending, particularly when one of the adult characters went missing/was kidnapped and the search for him began. I also felt like, for a book about dragons, I don’t feel like this focused enough on those key aspects–while there ARE dragons, they make sort of an odd, late appearance and do no more than explain that while they’d been “watching over the boys” the whole time, they couldn’t interfere because rules. In the end, I was just a bit let down by the promise of–and then lack of–dragons (but this is because I love books with dragons/dragon lore.)

 

The story, however, was quite a bit of fun. There were tons of humorous, snarky moments–particularly from our main boy, Sam–and I found myself being drawn into this world of mystery and intrigue fairly quickly. The prose is, admittedly, a little blase and young–but given the age this read is targeted for, I didn’t mind this so much. The fact that the characters become wholly consumed by and obsessed with their quest, and therefore don’t really notice the other things happening around them, was also realistic and well-done. I remember being that age and getting the same amount of tunnel-vision, and could easily understand where the boys were coming from throughout the read.

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The plot is fast-paced and action packed, though not weighed down TOO heavily with subjects of import. Sam is, throughout, struggling to figure out his place in the world–recently moved into his uncle’s house, his plight to come to terms with a feeling of helplessness and homelessness was endearing and heart-wrenching. The amount of devotion C. Lee McKenzie put into making and molding dynamic, differing familial relationships was a highlight of this read.

 

Of course, given the rating, you probably already know that this was not necessarily the book for me personally. While I enjoyed the story and the focus on familial relationships, both blood and not, I was disappointed by the seeming lack of actual dragons. There were also quite a few missing words or grammatical inconsistencies that, while not necessarily dragging down my reading progress, did trip me up a time or two throughout. They weren’t big enough to merit much on my radar, but there were enough of them that I started to notice after the first couple chapters.

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Overall, this was a cute coming of age tale with a slight focus on the fantastical. I had a good deal of fun following the boys on their journey–and seeing where Sam’s personal struggles led him at the end. C. Lee McKenzie crafted a read that lovers of mystery, thrill-seeking adventures, and dragons will appreciate–no matter their age! This was a fun read; I can’t wait to see what the future has in store for us from this author!

3

In the Land of Broken Time: Time May Break, But Make Sure You Learn From It

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In The Land of Broken Time: The Incredible Journey

52 Pages
Self-Published
Publication Date: August 3rd, 2016
Available on Kindle Unlimited
Get a copy here!

This book is about the adventures of the boy named Christopher, the girl named Sophia and retriever Duke. By chance they found themselves in a balloon, that took them into a fairyland, where mysterious events happen.

Children wanted to find the way home. The heroes had to solve a lot of mysteries. They learned interesting ways of time measuring and found a time machine.

3.75Penguins
Quick Reasons: action-packed, fast-paced adventure; the whimsy and wonder of this read took me back to my childhood; this mixes “fun” with “learning” and I adored that; some great lessons and morals passed along to readers; not real heavy on the illustrations–but the ones included are super adorable and add to the journey

HUGE thank you to Max and Maria Evan for forwarding me a copy of this title in exchange for an honest review! This in no way altered my read of or opinions on this book.

 

Now, I have a confession to make, dear penguins: this? Was my first children’s book done for a read and review. I mean, I’ve been reading middle grade for a while, but until this moment, had not picked up a children’s book in years (because they’re different, you know–middle grade and children’s books are not the same). Don’t get me wrong–this wasn’t due to some uppity or snooty reason. It’s just that I don’t have kids, I’m not real close to my family members who DO have small children, and I no longer work in a childcare service. I suppose I could still pick up children’s books despite all this, and I might, in the future–but until today, I hadn’t really even considered breaking into this genre for my reviews. And then I read the synopsis for THIS book. And I immediately changed my mind.

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The plot is fast-paced and action packed. Children of all ages (and I don’t necessarily mean just the small ones!) are bound to love the whimsy and wonder portrayed throughout this read. Some of the world-building, however, was a bit confusing for me overall. While I understand the children reached the alternate world through their hot air balloon ride…it was unclear exactly HOW the balloon got them there, or why the world is so similar and yet so different from our own. Of course, I could argue that this is the point–the imagination knows no bounds, and therefore might have played a huge role in a lot of the story, but… I don’t think that’s the case, personally.

 

There are also some great lessons and morals being passed along here. Things like being brave, doing the right thing, and supporting your friends even when things don’t go your way are all called into question and examined closely. Also examined are the differences between “good,” “evil,” and that shady “gray area” in between; try, try, and try again (failure is not an option unless you make it one); and appropriately managing your time. There are, I’m sure, others that I missed or am forgetting about–this book is FULL of lessons and morals, and I loved discovering each of them in turn!

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This is a whimsical, fun, entertaining read–and I’m sure parents and children alike will appreciate the action and the lessons found within the pages. While there are few illustrations, the artwork is adorable, vibrant, and lends even more action to the story/dialogue–as well as, in a few instances, playing key roles in the plot! I am so, so glad I gave this book a chance–and can’t wait to explore, in the future, other reads like it! I definitely recommend to lovers of magical whimsy, “races” to beat time, and moral-laden journeys of friendship and self-discovery.

5

A Review of The Princess Diaries (The Princess Diaries #1), by Meg Cabot

The Princess Diaries (The Princess Diaries, #1)

Goodreads Rating: 3.75 Stars
283 pages
Turtleback Books
Get it here!

Mia Thermopolis is pretty sure there’s nothing worse than being a five-foor-nine, flat-chested freshman, who also happens to be flunking Algebra.

Is she ever in for a surprise.

First Mom announces that she’s dating Mia’s Algebra teacher. Then Dad has to go and reveal that he is the crown prince of Genovia. And guess who still doesn’t have a date for the Cultural Diversity Dance?

– – – – –

3Penguins
Quick Reasons: sometimes witty, mostly annoying main character (sorry, Mia, I just didn’t like you!); diary entry format that felt a bit stiff and disjointed; lots of differences from the movie that I wasn’t expecting; I just don’t think this book did it for me

So…you might all be shocked to learn that I never once picked up this series when I was younger. Not once! Part of this, I think, is because I didn’t know these books even existed until recently. It shouldn’t surprise you, therefore, to learn that I (sin of all sins, gasp of all gasps!) saw the movies before reading this. Which, I’ll admit, might have skewed my expectations just a little out of whack.

I’m not going to tell anybody, not even Lilly. Lilly would NOT understand. NOBODY would understand. Because nobody I know has ever been in this situation before. Nobody ever went to bed one night as one person and then woke up the next morning to find out that she was somebody completely different.

Let’s start with first things first here (just to, y’know, break the mold a little bit). I understand that Mia is only fourteen in this novel, and therefore should not live up to the expectations I set for her when going into this read given that, in the movie, she is older than this. However. I found her to be a bit… annoying. And infuriatingly whiny. And just all-around flat. Like, I get it—this is sort of a coming-of-age story…but I don’t feel like Mia at the end of this book was really that “grown” from Mia at the beginning, aside from the fact that she tells a certain jerkhead off in an instant of anger. I know, I know, there are like, 11 books in this series total, and therefore shouldn’t have expected much growth from a character who is, all-told, supposed to be rather immature. But…I dunno, I expected some? at least a little?

Also, can we just talk about how much nothingness happens in this book? Like…I was expected all sorts of wild, adventurous scenes, and instead was given vanilla ice cream. Where are the mint chocolate chips? The pecans? The banana slices? This read exactly as it was written: as diary entries. Except the person writing those entries is boring, complains way too much about silly things, and doesn’t leave her house often enough. Which in a way does fit with fourteen year olds…but also made this sort of a dull read. Quick, yes, but dull nonetheless.

Maybe nobody has a right to tell anybody to shut up. Maybe this is how wars get started, because someone tells someone else to shut up, and then no one will apologize.

There were some differences in the read that I found interesting…and a bit concerning, in some instances. For example—Mia’s grandmother. I fell absolutely in love with Julie Andrews’ portrayal of Clarice in the movie versions. Book version Clarice, though? Sort of mean, to be honest—and much more prone to “paparazzi baiting” than I expected. I’m not sure how I feel about this. Having loved the grandmother so much in the movies…I don’t know quite how to react to this weird and stilted facimile of a grandma now. Like…sure, she is much more LIKE royalty than I felt movie-Clarice is. But…I don’t like her. Then again, we aren’t given many honest glimpses of her, and given this is Mia’s diary… Well, I suppose you might say I feel as if the narrator has a bit of a biased opinion. Perhaps an untrustworthy one, at this point.

And that ending! Can we just talk about the ending for a second? Because…in less than 10% of the read, everything somehow miraculously closes itself up and ties itself off and works itself out. The ending felt VERY rushed to me, and contrived in a cliché and boring way. You expect me to believe that things suddenly went back to relative normalcy all because Mia stood up to the boy she thought she liked? It wasn’t very realistic, and felt a bit like the author just wanted to get it done and over with.

I whirled around. “It wasn’t just a kiss,” I said. I was getting really mad. “Maybe that’s how you wanted it to look, like it was just a kiss. But you and I both know what it really was: A media event. And one that you’ve been planning since you saw me in the Post. Well, thank you, Josh, but I can get my own publicity. I don’t need you.”

Overall…I’m disappointed. While I get this is meant to be on that cusp between “childrens” literature and “young adult” literature, I feel as if certain aspects were poorly done. I still recommend to lovers of “unexpected fairy tales,” diary entry formatting, and fluffy childrens literature…but I’m not sure I’ll be continuing on with this series. Can anyone tell me if it gets better? Because at this point, I don’t even want to pick up book two.