The Land of Stories: The Enchantress Returns Book 2 [Chris Colfer]

17722973After decades of hiding, the evil Enchantress who cursed Sleeping Beauty is back with a vengeance.

Alex and Conner Bailey have not been back to the magical Land of Stories since their adventures in The Wishing Spell ended. But one night, they learn the famed Enchantress has kidnapped their mother! Against the will of their grandmother, the twins must find their own way into the Land of Stories to rescue their mother and save the fairy tale world from the greatest threat it’s ever faced.

My thoughts on the novel: I had been utterly bewitched by the first installment, so I was eager to dive into the second book of Alex’s and Connor’s magical adventures. The author once again revisited the story of some famous fairytale characters, offering a fascinating new narrative.

The book focuses on a high-profile villain better known as Maleficient in our regular versions of the Sleeping Beauty tale. The background story the author has concocted for the Enchantress is riveting and compelling. Once more, the reader is given some valid life lessons about love, friendship and compassion. For children and adults alike, the Land of Stories series is a beautifully written storyline that you won’t be able to put down until you reach the end.

The Enchantress Returns is a gripping, captivating and touching fairytale. Highly recommended!

Bring on Book 3!!

My score: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ (=a must-read)

Forks, Knives and Spoons [Leah DeCesare]

There are three kinds of guys: forks, knives, and spoons. That is the final lesson that Amy York’s father sends her off to college with, never suspecting just how far his daughter will take it. Clinging to the Utensil Classification System as her guide, Amy tries to convince her skeptical roommate, Veronica Warren, of its usefulness as they navigate the heartbreaks and soul mates of college and beyond. Beginning in 1988, their freshman year at Syracuse University, Amy and Veronica meet an assortment of guys—from slotted spoons and shrimp forks to butter knives and sporks—all while trying to learn if the UCS holds true. On the quest to find their perfect steak knives, they learn to believe in themselves—and not to settle in love or life.

My thoughts on the book: I had first requested the novel on NetGalley but wasn’t quick enough to download the file that was archived shortly after. Anyway, I was really keen on reading it because I was curious about the whole kitchen utensil classification of men. So, months later, I finally took the time to buy a copy online and read it.

Overall, I thought the novel was endearing and entertaining. It was fun to read about the American college experience. The fraternity and sorority societies are culturally foreign to me, but I enjoyed reading about them. Somehow, the action unfolding in Syracuse University made me think of the US show Felicity also set at a time when people didn’t have smartphones or Internet and still used letters and audio tapes. There’s a real sense of nostalgia for this decade.

It’s a well-paced novel with a deep message for girls. It’s moving to watch the main characters navigate college life, love life and friendships. Even though there were some lengthy moments when I slightly disconnected from the intrigue, I had a very good time seeing Amy, Veronica and Jenny grow into mature women, laughing with them during their attempts to categorize men and find their right match, their steak knife! 😊

I like that the story starts at the end of the eighties and then covers a vast period of time. It gives enough time to watch the protagonists evolve in a credible way. The relationships between Andrew and Amy, but also Amy and Matt are a major highlight of the book. But I must say that I have a soft spot for Joey and Veronica who are an unusual but heart-melting pair.

All in all, if you’re looking for a heartwarming, fun and witty novel, I really recommend Forks, Knives and Spoons.

My score: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ (=I loved it)

Molly Bell and the Wishing Well [Bridget Geraghty]

Molly Bell is an eleven-year old girl who used to be a whimsical, sporty type of a child with a zest for living. All that has been turned upside down by the untimely death of her cherished mother two years ago. To make matters worse, her father is getting remarried to a high-maintenance beauty that Molly seemingly has nothing in common with, and she comes with an annoying six-year old son, Henry, who finds a way to wreck everything in his path.

Molly can’t find anything about her new circumstances to be excited about, until her Aunt Joan tells her about the wishing well at Molly’s grandparents’ farm. According to Aunt Joan, every wish she ever made there came true. And it just so happens that Molly and Henry will be staying at the farm for a week while their parents are on their honeymoon. Molly is convinced if she could just find that wishing well, she could wish for her mom to come back to life and everything will be okay again.

But Molly is in for a few surprises, and more that a few hard lessons about being careful what you wish for when the consequences of Molly’s selfish desires wreak havoc on her entire family. Can Molly make things right again through the wishing well? Or will she need to find it within herself to bring back the joy in her life that has been missing all this time?

My thoughts on the book: When I read the summary of this children’s book on NetGalley, I was very keen on delving into it. And I wasn’t disappointed. Although the book is very short (about 100 pages), it is filled with emotions and conveys a beautiful, profound message.

Through young Molly’s perspective, the author deals with the following themes — losing a parent at a young age, struggling with grief and anger, finding it hard to accept new family members (especially a new mother and a new young sibling).

The writing style is easily accessible for a young audience. I thought it was fast-paced and well written. It is both very descriptive and dynamic. You can easily follow Molly’s stream of thought, her frustration and her pain. I thought her difficult relationship with fidgety Henry was very interesting and evolving in a credible way.

The wishing well is a relevant symbol about hope. Can Molly finally find some closure and come to terms with her pain? Will she let people find their way to her grieving heart? I was afraid that given how short the book is, it would leave me wanting for more. But, the author managed to include all the necessary ingredients. It never feels rushed and there are no overlong passages. So, sometimes, shorter is better!

Molly Bell and the Wishing Well is a touching, moving tale about loss, family love and support, as well as new beginnings.

My Score: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ (= A must-read)

Disney Beauty and the Beast Volume 2 [Mallory Reaves]

In Disney’s live-action film “Beauty and the Beast,” Belle, a bright, beautiful and independent young woman, is taken prisoner by a beast in his castle. Despite her fears, she befriends the castle’s enchanted staff and learns to look beyond the Beast’s hideous exterior and realize the kind heart and soul of the true Prince inside.

This manga explores the Beast’s struggle as he tries to move on from his past and learn what it is to love.

My thoughts on the book: Contrary to the first volume which was very difficult to read due to the odd disposition of the pages in the PDF version, I must admit that this volume 2 was far easier and more pleasant to read because it was displayed one page at a time. It made the reading experience less frustrating.

Overall, the illustrations are as good as the first book — very elaborate and neat. However, I didn’t find the Beast very convincing. I think the face looks too human. Anyway, that’s quite minor flaw in the bigger picture of this manga. Speaking of which, I’m not really a manga reader (not at all actually), but given the theme, I was really looking forward to discovering this version of the classic tale.

Based on the Beast’s perspective, this second volume offers a different, interesting angle. The drawings and sketches are expressive and vibrant. I do prefer the first volume because it’s more girly, but this one is worth having a look as well even though it’s more masculine and rough around the edges since you have direct access to the tortured soul and stream of thought of the Beast.

My Score: ♥ ♥ ♥ (= I liked it a lot)

 

The Little Mermaid [Metaphrog]

The Little Mermaid is Hans Christian Andersen’s most celebrated tale and is beautifully adapted here as a graphic novel by the Eisner award nominated duo Metaphrog (Sandra Marrs and John Chalmers), winners of the Sunday Herald Scottish Culture Awards Best Visual Artist 2016, and authors of the acclaimed The Red Shoes and Other Tales.

The Little Mermaid lives deep under the ocean and longs to see the world above. When at last she is allowed to rise to the surface at age fifteen, she falls in love with a young prince. In order to become a human and to be with him, she makes a dangerous pact with the Sea Witch.

My thoughts on the book: The Little Mermaid is one of my favourite tale from growing up. And I must admit that when I first read the “real” story written by Andersen, I was sad that the mermaid didn’t get a happy ending like she does in the Disney version. But, if you really think about it, the fact that most of the original versions of fairy tales are actually very dark is far more interesting. It gives more food for thought on some level, even though you keep thinking that they deserve to be happy, and it’s quite unfair and frustrating.

That’s why I really liked this new edition of the famous story. It is based on the original storyline. It’s a gripping story boasting beautiful illustrations.

I really enjoyed it, except for one little fact — I was really disappointed with the way the Prince looked. He has very feminine, almost androgynous facial traits. He didn’t strike me as attractive at all. But that’s very biased one might argue.

My score: ♥ ♥ ♥

See You in the Cosmos [Jack Cheng]

An astonishingly moving middle-grade debut about a space-obsessed boy’s quest for family and home.

All eleven-year old Alex wants is to launch his iPod into space. With a series of audio recordings, he will show other lifeforms out in the cosmos what life on Earth, his Earth, is really like. But for a boy with a long-dead dad, a troubled mum, and a mostly-not-around brother, Alex struggles with the big questions.But for a boy with a long-dead dad, a troubled mum, and a mostly-not-around brother, Alex struggles with the big questions.

Where do I come from? Who’s out there? And, above all, How can I be brave?

Determined to find the answers, Alex sets out on a remarkable road trip that will turn his whole world upside down . . .

For fans of Wonder and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Jack Cheng’s debut is full of joy, optimism, determination, and unbelievable heart. To read the first page is to fall in love with Alex and his view of our big, beautiful, complicated world. To read the last is to know he and his story will stay with you a long, long time.

My thoughts on the novel: What a lovely surprise! See You in the Cosmos is an entertaining, touching tale about a young boy passionate about space and alien lifeforms and who embarks on a riveting journey through America.

I thought the author really managed to capture and recreate this very particular stream of thought youngsters have. You get a narration made up of long sentences reflecting the incredible amount of ideas that go through the mind of Alex.

I was not only moved by his perspective of the world, but also very amused by his candor and funny interpretations of things he hears and sees, especially when faced with young adult problems. He tries to make sense of everything and everyone surrounding him.

He’s a very smart, mature eleven-year-old who has to deal with a broken family — a strong character who helps make this story a beautiful tale with a strong message about love, family, friendship and chasing after your dreams.

I highly recommend this novel to the young public who can easily identify with Alex, but also to teenagers and adults who will definitely get something out it too.

My score: ♥ ♥ ♥

Petticoat Spy [Carol Warbuton]

Colonial Massachusetts, 1775
Abigail Stowell is a rarity for her time. The comely young woman is educated, outspoken, and attuned to the charged political climate around her. She is a staunch Patriot. In short, she is a rebel. So when Gideon Whitlock, an avowed Tory, rides into her village, Abby is not only put off by his politics and arrogance but is also annoyed by her undeniable attraction to him.

When she observes a clandestine meeting between her Patriot father and Gideon, Abby soon realizes that in a world divided by loyalties, not everything is as it seems. Soon she is drawn deeper into political intrigue than she ever dreamed possible. And just as feelings begin to heat up between Abby and Gideon, the shot heard round the world ignites the beginning of war between the colonists and the British redcoats. There is no time for hesitation, and Abby finds herself thrust into a world of intrigue, treachery, and terror. Lives hang in the balance, and Abby will stop at nothing to support the Patriot movement—but will her allegiance to the cause mean losing the man she loves?

My thoughts on the novel: Petticoat Spy had all the enticing ingredients to become a book I would utterly love — strong female character, historical tale, some spying, much family drama and a promising love interest… Even the sleek cover instantly caught my eye! I was supposed to adore it! So understand my frustration when I started to realise that I couldn’t relate to the story. Why on earth couldn’t I fully enjoy it and “get into” the book?

To be fair, I did find some scenes captivating, especially those where Abigail finds herself in danger. She has to be extra cautious, witty and inconspicuous. Given the context and the social climate, it was quite fascinating to watch her navigate her mission — an extraordinary destiny of hers. But I never really connected with the characters. I thought the intrigue began to gain intensity in the last half of the book with the whole drama surrounding her aunt Caroline and uncle Joseph. I thought it was quite well narrated.

I think it might have been a better idea to have Abigail begin her full-on infiltration mission in Boston much earlier in the plot. Maybe it lacked intensity in the first half. That could explain why I never really delved into the intrigue. Maybe it’s just the style that didn’t speak to me!?

Overall, I thought the book had great potential and I actually quite liked the ending which was satisfying and well-paced. I just wished I had connected with the overall intrigue on a much deeper, emotional level. I remain slightly disappointed but I believe it deserves 2 hearts which means “I liked the book” (which I did) according to my scoring sheet. If only I liked it more…

Finally, the author added some historical facts at the end of the book. A very good idea!

My Score: ♥ ♥