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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

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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!

4

Blog Tour (Review): The Voyage to Magical North

The Voyage to Magical North
by Claire Fayers
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Release Date: July 5th 2016
Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Adventure, Magic, Childrens, Pirates, Fiction
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Synopsis:
Twelve-year-old Brine Seaborne is a girl with a past–if only she could remember what it is. Found alone in a rowboat as a child, clutching a shard of the rare starshell needed for spell-casting, she’s spent the past years keeping house for an irritable magician and his obnoxious apprentice, Peter.
When Brine and Peter get themselves into a load of trouble and flee, they blunder into the path of the legendary pirate ship theOnion. Before you can say “pieces of eight,” they’re up to their necks in the pirates’ quest to find Magical North, a place so shrouded in secrets and myth that most people don’t even think it exists. If Brine is lucky, she may find out who her parents are. And if she’s unlucky, everyone on the ship will be eaten by sea monsters. It could really go either way.
I live in South Wales, birthplace of the famous pirate, Henry Morgan. I used to work at Cardiff University, first in health and safety (you will notice that my pirates fight VERY safely) and then in the university science library. Now I write full-time at home with my husband and my two cats, usually stopped every chapter or two to let them in or out of the door. (My cats, not my husband: he can already open doors.)
In my free time, I like skiing, flying kites, and music – I can play the cello a bit and I’m learning the piano. I enjoy gardening and grow a lot of fruit and veg so if I come to visit you don’t be surprised if I bring a jar of jam.

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4Penguins
Quick Reasons: well first and most importantly, there are magical zombie flesh-eating penguins in this book!; awesome action/adventure story mixed with oral narratives and sea folklore; terrifying, creatively unique world-building; spine-chilling villains; great coming-of-age narrative with some heart-bending, wise moments; this was such a fun read!

HUGE thanks to Claire Fayers, Henry Holt and Co Publishing, Netgalley and The Fantastic Flying Book Club for setting me up with an advanced 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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First things first: THAT COVER! Penguins, is that cover gorgeous! I mean seriously, just LOOK at it–you get the gist of this story without even having to crack open the cover, and I just adore when book designers manage to do that so beautifully. I knew, before I even read the synopsis, that I needed to read this book–and I am so so pleased to say I wasn’t wrong.

This mid-grade novel is at turns darkly humorous and incredibly terrifying. There’s so much snark being flung between the pages, I feared I might drown in it if I weren’t careful–and yet each character, in turn, is brought into a darker, scarier light…before finding that middle ground I so love in character development. That moment where the lightbulb blinks on, and I realize I know them exactly as I should. Basically, these characters are hilarious, and witty, and SO full of vibrant life I found myself wanting to be them throughout the read–or, at the very least, to know them.

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This book is also filled with realistic relationships and wholly natural, completely HUMAN doubts/fears. Each character is 3D–crafted and molded with the story, instead of feeling like paper dolls shoved in for entertainment purposes. No character is “just” anything–each is individualized, equally important, and entertaining or terrifying in their own rights. Each character is COMPLEX…and I appreciated that so, so much. In a book such as this, sometimes character development falls to the wayside to give emphasis to the adventure. Claire Fayers, instead, made each equally weighted and important, giving readers a well-rounded, awesomely enthralling book!

The plot is not lacking on the action/adventure front. This book begins with a bang, and doesn’t let up until the very end. Claire Fayers took well-known sea folklore and molded it with (and around!) the magic of this world. Her narrative is both convincingly real and utterly fantastic, leaving little room for readers to question the story or become lost in the details. The world is both very similar to our own…and yet, somehow, still vastly different. Well-known animals (I mentioned the flesh-eating penguins above!) are both very easy to “see” as their realistic counterparts…and terrifyingly, drastically changed to suit the story.

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This was, overall, a fantastically magical and entertaining read, and I cannot WAIT for you guys to pick it up! Not only is the cover beautiful–the story, the characters, the snark and the wisdom all come together to make a cohesive, enthralling journey. I definitely recommend this book to lovers of magical realism, sea voyages, and coming-of-age narratives. If those things appeal to you, or if this review sounds like your type of book, PICK IT UP!

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A Review of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (Fairyland #1), by Catherynne M. Valente

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (Fairyland, #1)

Goodreads Rating: 3.97 Stars
247 Pages
Feiwel & Friends Publishing
Get a copy here!

Twelve-year-old September lives in Omaha, and used to have an ordinary life, until her father went to war and her mother went to work. One day, September is met at her kitchen window by a Green Wind (taking the form of a gentleman in a green jacket), who invites her on an adventure, implying that her help is needed in Fairyland. The new Marquess is unpredictable and fickle, and also not much older than September. Only September can retrieve a talisman the Marquess wants from the enchanted woods, and if she doesn’t . . . then the Marquess will make life impossible for the inhabitants of Fairyland. September is already making new friends, including a book-loving Wyvern and a mysterious boy named Saturday.

With exquisite illustrations by acclaimed artist Ana Juan, Fairyland lives up to the sensation it created when the author first posted it online. For readers of all ages who love the charm of Alice in Wonderland and the soul of The Golden Compass, here is a reading experience unto itself: unforgettable, and so very beautiful.

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5Penguins
Quick Reasons: lyrical, beautiful prose; TONS of character growth and wise-reaching moments; the whimsy in this read is FANTASTIC; the characters are well-rounded and entertaining; the plot is action-packed and fast; there was one huge plot-twist I didn’t see coming; overall, plot twists were not an integral part of this read; the descriptions are poetic and easy-to-imagine

HOLY IMAGINATION AND WHIMSY, BATMAN!

I mean, seriously—this book is packed with vibrant prose, creativity, and lyrical wisdom patched to readers in subtle, small moments. Overall, this was exactly my kind of book—and now I’m wondering why it took me so long to get to it!

But no one may know the shape of the tale in which they move. And, perhaps, we do not truly know what sort of beast it is, either. Stories have a way of changing faces. They are unruly things, undisciplined, given to delinquency and the throwing of erasers. This is why we must close them up into thick, solid books, so they cannot get out and cause trouble.

I have nine highlighted sections in this book. Which, for me, is a fair number—I usually only find one or two (three, at most) moments that REALLY stand out to me as “quotable.” This book, on the other hand, I found such moments practically on every other page. The prose is lyrical, poetic, and absolutely beautiful. It seeps from the pages, into the readers’ pores, to burrow and spread like fungus. It sweeps readers out of their personal realities and into a world far-away and much-different—into a world where dreams come true and adventures are found on the wind. Of course, if you’re not a reader who appreciates or likes poetic reads, this book probably isn’t the best choice for you—there is a LOT of abstract language and open-ended descriptions to be found.

There are also a great many “wise” moments hidden within the poetry. There are moments when the narrator, semi-unreliable as it is, breaks off from the story to shove a moral into readers’ faces at full-speed. These were the moments I most appreciated the narrator—when the story stopped, just for a moment, to tear back the fourth-wall and remind me that I WAS reading, not actually living the story. And despite the wisdom to be found, there’s also a ton of snark and sarcasm coming into play. Little things introduced in the very beginning are brought back pages or chapters later. Catherynne M. Valente put her heart and soul into weaving this tapestry of a story together, and she did it with a sort of fairy tale-esque, whimsically delightful poignancy.

“That’s what a map is, you know. Just a memory. Just a wish to go back home— someday, somehow.”

The characters are well-rounded and complex, always breathing in and shaping up the ways they view the world or tackle their battles. There were a few “plot-twist” moments, but for the most part, this relied more heavily upon a thriving and artful imagination to drive the plot, not on things leaping out at readers to startle or take by surprise. There was really only ONE moment that caught me off-guard—a key point made pretty early on in the read brought back in one sweeping, sort of half-whispered moment of “hey, remember me?”

“This is for washing your wishes, September,” said Lye, breaking off another of her fingers with a thick snap. “For the wishes of one’s old life wither and shrivel like old leaves if they are not replaced with new wishes when the world changes. And the world always changes. Wishes get slimy, and their colors fade, and soon they are just mud, like all the rest of the mud, and not wishes at all, but regrets. The trouble is, not everyone can tell when they ought to launder their wishes. Even when one finds oneself in Fairyland and not at home at all, it is not always so easy to remember to catch the world in its changing and change with it.”

This book is filled with whimsy, magic, and wisdom. I recommend to lovers of mid-grade novels, coming-of-age tales, and those with a stomach for poetically beautiful prose. If you don’t mind a story that sweeps you out of reality and plops you into a wholly new and as yet-unexplored world, this is definitely the read for you! I can’t wait to jump into the second book of this series; I have a feeling there’s many more surprises yet in store for me.

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A Review of Trollhunters, by Guillermo del Toro and Daniel Kraus

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In San Bernardino, California, children are going missing.

The townspeople don’t believe the rumours of trolls, but fifteen-year-old Jim Jnr knows that they’re a very real threat. At night, is anyone safe?

TROLLHUNTERS is a funny, gruesome and undeniably del Toro-esque adventure perfect for teen readers and fans of Pan’s Labyrinth.

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Quick Reasons: trolls! (I mean, what else does a girl need, really?); fun, witty humor; interesting and multi-layered characters; inventive, entertaining plot; coming-of-age/finding yourself

First things first: If you own the hardcover of this, and haven’t taken the dust jacket off yet…DO IT. Drop everything you’re doing right now, find the book, and peel that top cover off. And then stare in awe—the naked hardcover is absolutely GORGEOUS. Also, the dust jacket isn’t half-bad either. The whole outside package? A definite killer in my book.

Having watched many Guillermo del Toro films, and having read The Strain, I went in to this read knowing what to expect from him: disturbing, fearsome creatures; highly imaginative settings; a riveting, action-packed plot.  Having NEVER read Daniel Kraus before, I wasn’t sure WHAT to expect.  I wasn’t disappointed.

So: trolls. And not just ANY trolls, but evil, child-stealing, flesh-eating trolls. Taking over the world (or, in this case, the town).

I really enjoyed the characters. As a focal point of the story, the multi-faceted and complex personalities clashed, wove together, and found their way through this journey beautifully. The trauma that Jim’s dad experiences as a child—of watching his big brother literally disappear into the darkness—has haunted him for years, mutating into a paranoid, delusional, panicky state. At least, this is what Jim has grown up believing—until the night he’s inducted into the world of trolls, and missing Jack Sturgess…who hasn’t aged since the day he vanished.

As the story unfolds, the humor and witty banter employed by Jim, his best friend Tubs, and the many interesting characters they come across left me giggling. The prose is descriptive and, as expected from the master of horror, often disturbing when thought about for too long.

I enjoyed the relationship growth, as well—the characters and their motivations are realistic and natural, given the story. The “good” trolls are easy to forgive and empathize with, the fact that Tubs cannot understand them makes for some awesome mood-breakers.

Of course, being a mid-grade novel, there are several “expected” plot points used throughout to keep the story going/keep readers interested. These don’t, in the end, detract from the enjoyment of the reading in my opinion, and are at times flipped on their heads or employed in unexpected and inspiring ways.

This was a solid first step into young adult/mid-grade writing for del Toro, and while I can’t speak much toward Daniel Kraus, I really enjoyed this collaboration!  I definitely recommend to others who enjoy trolls, alternate worlds, and finding yourself in the midst of chaos.