Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Alchemyst by Micheal Scott

The Irish King of Fantasy makes a blazing start to a saga based around the life and times of the mysterious Nicholas Flamel in The Alchemyst. This book has piqued my curiosity in the past and I was lucky to finally get around to reading it. How does it hold up against so many other modern fantasies that came out around this time? Well, let's dive right in.

The story tells of Josh and Sophie Newman, a pair of fifteen year old twins living in San Fransisco. Josh gets a job working at a bookstore with a mysterious Nick Flemming, but quite out of nowhere one day, he catches his boss and a mysterious stranger in the midst of an magic battle. It turns out that Nick is actually the legendary Nicholas Flamel, the immortal alchemist and the keeper of a mysterious book called the Codex. When Nicholas's wife, Perenelle, is kidnapped and the Codex is stolen, Nicholas whisks Josh and Sophie away from their everyday lives. He believes that they are part of an ancient prophecy and he must Awaken their magic potential and protect them from the nefarious Dr. John Dee.

First thing I noticed about this book sadly doesn't give off a very good first impression. It's very cliche at times. You've got the "normal" kids who turn out to be the "super-special-something-or-other" and "fate of the world depends on" blah blah blah. It's very formulaic in that it tries everything there is to try that you'd expect in a modern fantasy. Even the villain, who is based off a real life person who just so happened to be the first ever 007 (look it up), is reduced to a very generic bad guy who honestly spouts out phrases like "You have something of mine and I want it back", "Nobody can save you now", "Together, we shall rule the world", etc. It's the same dialogue that you find with any villain out there and it just takes the threat out of him.

Now that that is out of the way, I can say that this book definitely does have a plus side. That being the characters and the characterizations of the ancient creatures used in this book. Many of the beings and places used in this book are based off real characters from several different mythologies come together. I'm a bit of a sucker for mythology so seeing so many different characters come together in one story was actually pretty cool. Very much the same way that the Percy Jackson books pulled this off (and, yes, I'm getting to those later) each character has a lot of spice and an interesting modern twist on it. The Warrior of Irish lore is a teenager who uses nunchucks against dead people, Bastet the Egyptian Cat Goddess and turn the cutest kitty into a ferocious human-cat hybrid and so forth. Nicholas and Perenelle Flamel are also really interesting characters. They're never really together in this book, but you can see they each have their strengths and weaknesses and how flawlessly they work together, to warn the other of danger and so forth. They're all really interesting and really well done.

Then we have the main characters, Sophie and Josh. Much like in The Land of Stories I reviewed awhile back, it's the female twin who is the more enthusiastic about this adventure where the male twin is a bit more grudging. Unlike The Land of Stories's Conner, Josh's reluctance to take part in the story is a bit more annoying. Maybe it's because he's a teenager or something, but every single twist and turn of this story has him complaining and demanding to go back to their normal lives, despite knowing a bunch of Elder Gods want to kill him. He also is prone to having these "I don't trust you" tantrums with Flamel that tend to just make me roll my eyes. It gets to the point where the villains do everything short of offering him cookies to come over to their side. I won't give away how this is resolved, of course, but it's hinted how it will play out ultimately. There are four more books in this series so I'll have to see how it plays out.

Final Verdict
Much like Sophie and Josh, there are hots and colds to this book. I didn't hate it at all, don't get me wrong, but there are flaws to it and some things that I've just seen done better in other stories. On the other hand, it's rich with history and mystery and mythology. Things that I really enjoy and really manage to spice up the story. There were twists I didn't expect and ones that I did. Ultimately I'm going to say that this one is probably worth checking out at your local library. I do plan to read the sequels to this book and do hope the rating picks up in the future.

Next Time: Kutesosh gajair'is!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Gender Game by Bella Forrest

I was pretty wary when I decided to give this book a shot. The idea of two countries that were literally men vs. women, a lone wolf female protagonist, and a title that sounds ever so slightly like another, much more popular series caused me to hesitate. Ultimately, I picked it up and decided to give it a shot in case it exceeded my expectations or gave me something to rant about. Which did it end up being? Well, I'll tell you.

This is the story of Violet Bates, who lives in a world made up mostly of two countries, Matrus and Patrus. She lives in Matrus, the country controlled by women where they are given every opportunity they could want and are ruled by their Queen Rina. Violet, however, is an outcast because she'd been caught trying to smuggle her little brother Tim out of the country. After years trying to survive in the labor force and two counts of womanslaughter, Violet is given a choice. She can take on a top secret mission for the Queen or face death for her crimes. Violet is shipped of to Patrus, the male dominated country where women's rights don't exist, and is married to another Matrus spy named Lee. Together they work to steal back a treasure stolen from their country and make it out with there lives. Throw in a handsome fighter whom Violet befriends (a little too closely) and things only get more complicated.

Now, this story pleasantly surprised me. It could have very easily gone the easy route and made Matrus this wonderful, happy land where obviously they are right and Patrus is wrong because girls rule and boys drool and yadda yadda. Yet it smartly doesn't do this. Matrus is just as crazy-over-the-top sexist as Patrus is. Any boy born in Matrus who is deemed "uncontrollable" is sent away to preform heavy labor for the rest of their lives (though in the book there are other suspicions as to what happens to the boys of Matrus). Women in Patrus are treated practically as property, unable to do anything outside of their father/husband's permission and suffer serious punishment if caught wandering around unsupervised. Both sides are the most extreme form of sexism and neither are right. That's the real struggle of the story. The knowledge that both sides are wrong and wondering what must be done to bridge this gap.

Violet, the main character, is slightly less successful. Her thoughts and actions don't always match up. Her Matrus brain goes on and on telling the reader that she's independent and strong-willed and a true Matrus woman. When she goes to Patrus, however, she fits in pretty darn quickly and easily for someone with such a female empowered upbringing. Mind you this is a woman who was had little to no training on undercover procedures. The only training she gets before being shoved into Patrus is learning how to use a gun...that's it. Also keep in mind that she never actually ends up using a gun in this book. Ever. Not once. Also she falls almost at once for the handsome Viggo, a man she's meant to betray, and it just shows how obviously she's underprepared for this kind of task. She gets emotionally invested right away and even makes critical errors that jeopardizes her mission. However, she's not annoying or holier-than-thou and does have the ability to learn from her mistakes. She's just okay for me.

The plot kind of drags at times as, far too often, things tend to go exactly according to plan. There's this thing I notice in books and movies that when a plan is explained in detail, it never goes right. It's only when the plan is a mystery do things work out. It's a cliche that actually works to a story's advantage. Here, however, the plans that are explained go exactly like they should. Only once or twice do things happen to mess up the plan, but they are almost immediately fixed and the plan still goes smoothly. It's not until the last 5% of the book (I read this as an ebook) do things get interesting and you see the bigger picture taking place. I admit, I was shocked at how things worked out near the end of the book. I didn't see the plot twist coming, so well done on that. I just wish there were more things like that in the book. It's like it saved all the unpredictability for the end. It really built up the sequel, which I might get around to, so much so that this one felt a little neglected. Hopefully things will pick up.

Final Verdict
This book just fell right in the middle for me. Not fantastic yet not horrible. Things that I liked and things that I kinda didn't. It asks the right questions but never gives the answers. There are some tense scenes, some action, the chemistry between Violet and Viggo is handled much better than most books handle this kind of thing. So, ultimately, I'd say that if this book sounds interesting to you, go buy it but wait for it on paperback!

Next time: Yes, this is the guy they're talking about in Harry Potter. No, it's not written by that guy from The Office.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

Another classic tale of mystery and macabre in one of Agatha Christie's finest works. I'm glad I finally got around to reading this. Mysteries are becoming fewer and further in between in this day and age when everyone wants answers immediately. I'm one of those people who has a hard time figuring out the answer to the mystery as I go, but that's when they're the best, isn't it? It's no fun when you can guess the ending and, I'm going to tell you right now, I did not see this one coming.

The story is of ten strangers invited to an island get away for the weekend at the behest of one U. N. Owen. When they get there, however, their hosts are nowhere to be found. A mysterious message accuses each of them of a terrible crime for which they were never punished and, to their horror, they start dying off one by one in accordance to a morbid nursery rhyme they found in the house.

This kind of story is exactly why Agatha Christie is the queen of mystery. The whole story is filled with atmosphere and tension as the house guests try and save themselves and discover the culprit behind these killings. Every person gets his or her time to explain who they are and where they are coming from. You get to see into their heads and determine for yourself if they're guilty of the crimes of which they are accused. You quickly figure out that these people are all deeply complex and each one is a brilliant character. Anyone could be guilty of murder and it just adds to the tension and it's just a delight.

There's a lot of death to be found in this story as well. The nursery rhyme of which the murders are based off of is filled with all kinds of sticky ends, including poisoning, hanging, and getting cut in half! With each new day, a new verse is used and a new victim is found. The whole thing just builds up dramatically and you feel the dread with each new dawn. An ongoing storm prohibits both escape and the possibility of help and you're left wondering who, if anyone, is going to make it off the island alive.

The best thing about this story, however, is that the answer is not given in the climax of the book, as you find so often with modern mystery. It's only with the very last page to you fully understand the circumstances of the murders and who, ultimately, brought about this horrific event. I didn't see it coming and I'm just going to say right now that it's impressive. The details hidden throughout the book are so fine, so cleverly hidden, that you can hardly blame yourself for missing them. It's just an awesome bombshell of an ending and it's just written fantastically.

Final Verdict
An excellent mystery that lives up to its potential. It's no wonder this thing is a classic and it's no surprise that this thing is going straight onto the Shelf of Recommendation! I hope for a chance to read more of Ms. Christie's work in the future, especially if it's as good as this one was.

Have you read the book? What did you think? What's your favorite Agatha Christie mystery out there? Comment below and share your thoughts.

Next Time: Battle of the Sexes just got a lot more intense....

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Doctor Who: The Stone Rose by Jacqueline Rayner

This month marks the second year of my being a Doctor Who fan! Hard to believe it took me so long to get into this series, but I'm really glad I did. Yet, even now, I have a hard time calling myself a true Whovian seeing as there are some fans out there way more knowledgable than me and I haven't seen any of the original episodes. Even so, when I saw this little beauty at the bookstore and saw that it featured my favorite Doctor (he's everyone's favorite, let's be honest), I just had to get it!

This story is of the Doctor and his companion, Rose Tyler, as they happen upon a museum one day to make a strange discovery. A statue of the goddess Fortuna that looks exactly like Rose! The Doctor and Rose go back in time to ancient Rome to discover the mystery behind the statue but find several more mysteries taking place at the same time. People are going missing, a strange girl can predict the future, the Doctor must discover the truth before it's too late.

As one would expect, this reads exactly like an episode of the show, just with much more detail and more chances for twists and turns. Everyone in the book is wonderfully in character. The Doctor truly reads like the 10th Doctor would, with matching mannerisms and quirks. Rose is very well done too, very compassionate and kind but with an unfortunate affinity for getting herself into perilous situations. There's also a kindly Roman couple, the mysterious semi-accurate fortune teller, and an alarmingly skilled sculptor with a deadly secret. Each character has their time to shine and everyone has their part to play in the grand scheme.

As with any adventure the Doctor would find himself on, there are many layers to this story. The past, present, and future all blend together to add to the story. That being said, it does tend to make the story very complex. There's no straightforward answer, but a series of little answers that add up to a very complicated overall solution. Just the kind of thing that one would expect in a story about a guy who could travel through time. The story isn't without its fun, thought. It takes moments to allow the Doctor to be the Doctor and deal with the misadventures he tends to find himself in. For example: the Doctor in a gladiator fight. Enough said.

Final Verdict
The book isn't very long and makes for a pretty simple read, even if the ideas tend to get complex. Any fan of the show will enjoy it and I can say that it's definitely worth your money at your local bookstore!

Next Time: Ten little Indians, sitting down to dine....

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

I love steampunk! It's just one of the coolest styles and art forms currently in existence with the unique and awesome ability to make the past the future and the future the past. This book is a great introduction to that idea. Set right at the start of World War I but each side equipped with technology far beyond its time, it's a great adventure with some great characters.

The story is of two young soldiers. Aleksander Ferdinand, son of the Archduke of Austria-Hungary, and Deryn Sharp, a girl disguised as a boy in the British Air Service. Europe is divided into two separate and yet equally powerful groups, the Clankers and the Darwinists. The Clankers, which make up the countries of Germany and Austria-Hungary use enormous technological creations made of steel and iron. Britain, France, and Italy, however, are Darwinists, who use machines made up of advanced living creatures (usually sea creatures) making airships and living weapons of the beasts. In the midst of the war between the two powers, Alek and Deryn find themselves fighting together in a bitter struggle for survival.

If you might not have gotten it from what I just told you, this is a very advanced and clever book. The designs and ideas behind these things are ingenious and very much the steampunk style. It is, however, a good thing this book comes with pictures because I had a heck of a time trying to figure out what these things looked like on my own (while I can deeply appreciate the art and style of steampunk, the mechanics of it are a little beyond my tiny brain). While most of the book reads fairly simply, the science is so advanced that some people just aren't going to get it. Makes it a bit harder to pinpoint the real target audience this book is going for. Still, just the idea that somebody could turn an honest-to-goodness living, breathing whale into an airship and have people live in and walk around inside it is just an amazing idea.

The characters in this book are also great to read about. Alek is strong-willed and a deeply-minded Clanker who believes that the Darwinist creations is blasphemy, yet he's young enough to be open minded and allow himself to be helped, even if it's by is supposed enemies. Deryn is also a great character, an excellent pilot who just wants a chance to prove herself, even if it means keeping a huge secret. She's often torn between what she wants to do and what a man would do in her position. She and Alek manage to become fast friends, despite the obvious differences, and make a good team that can make logical decisions in a time of crisis.

The plot it fast-paced and the book doesn't shy away from the fact that this is a war. People die and do not come back, brutal attacks take place, and our characters often face real peril. It doesn't reach Thin Executioner levels of "this is hopeless", but each moment is felt and you feel the rush of the on-going battle around our heroes. There's also just enough actual, historical fact in this book that people can learn from in. The moment Alek started talking about his parents going off to a parade I was like "Uh, oh. I know what that is." That's another fun thing about this book, you can go along with history and figure out what comes next and so forth. It all comes together in a great story full of science, action, intrigue, and friendship.

Final Verdict
This was just a great book that any steampunk fan is going to enjoy. It's something for everyone and I'd say that it's absolutely worth your money at your local bookstore!

Did you read the book? What did you think? Are there any other good steampunk style stories out there? Comment below and share your thoughts.

Next Time: Allons-y!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

This is the kind of book that I was talking about last week when I said that both younger and older readers would enjoy it. I didn't really know what to expect when I found this book and picked it up off the shelf at the store. While I've seen stories like this one before, I don't think I've seen anyone do it as well as this book did. I mean it is really, really well done. Let's get to it.

Conner O'Malley's life is taking a very serious turn for the worse. He's got a lot to deal with for a thirteen year old boy. A sick mother, an overbearing grandmother, a deadbeat dad, bullies at school and a terrifying reoccurring nightmare takes over his world. On top of all that, a monster is visiting him just after midnight almost every night, telling him things he doesn't believe and asking him things that he cannot say.

The beauty of this story is the question of just how much is real and how much is in our protagonist's own mind. It's a very clever way of looking into the mind of someone so young going through so much and seeing the world how he sees it. I'm glad I read this as now, when I'm an adult and can truly understand the emotions of every character in this book. I can see why the adults treat Conner the way thad do and understand why they do, even if Conner can't. On the other hand I also remember what it was like to be Conner's age and can understand his emotions through all of this as well. With this in mind, every character in this book is very real. Even the bullies behave like real people would (evil, snot-nosed, bratty people, but my point still stands).

Also, as I said, one of the best thing is the "monster" and who or what it is. If this monster is real, how does nobody else notice it? If it's just a figment of Conner's imagination, how can it leave physical evidence behind? Overall, though, is what the monster represents and how it impacts Conner's behavior and changes how he sees the world. There is a visual journey in this book that takes you through the lessons that you'd learn in any given psychology class and breathes life into them. It makes the journey personal and you're pulled into Conner's world so well that you feel everything he feels and want to do everything he does. It's brilliantly written and beautifully captured.

Another thing that I wanted to talk about is that I got the illustrated version of this book and thank goodness I did. The artist, Jim Kay (who also does the illustrated Harry Potter books) does just a fantastic job with this imagery. It's all in black and white but there's such depth and character that it just brings the story to life and sets the mood for it. The depictions of the monster are wonderfully detailed and intricate and I just loved it. This book is apparently going to be a movie sometime in the future and if it looks half as good as the book does, you can bet on me being at the theater on opening weekend.

Final Verdict
Fabulous. Just a fabulous book written so perfectly, captured so brilliantly, and it's just the story that everyone needs once in awhile. It makes me want to check out more from Ness and more from the author who inspired the story, Siobhan Dowd, and this book is going straight onto the Shelf or Recommendation!

Have you read the book? What did you think? Comment below and share your thoughts.

Next time: It's time to for another historical redo, only this time history is going to get a lot more steam-powered....

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Viking's Apprentice by Kevin McLeod

This is another book mostly intended for younger readers and, unfortunately, this is the first on of these that I've read that really feels like it. There are plenty of books out there that are intended for younger readers that older ones can enjoy too. Books like Harry Potter, A Series of Unfortunate Events, even the The School For Good And Evil books that I reviewed awhile back. That's why I picked this book up in the first place. Sadly, while younger readers might enjoy this one okay, I don't really think older readers would enjoy it very much.

This is the story of a young boy named Peter and his best friend George, who are excited to spend their summer holidays with Peter's grandfather Jacob in his luxurious home in Campbell's Cove. What none of them realize is that a horde of trolls and goblins, lead by a mysterious Master, have a terrible plan to kidnap the children of the Cove. It's very fortunate, then, that Peter's Granddad is a centuries-old viking who has the power to put a stop to the evil Master's plan.

First off, it's kind of refreshing that these kids are actually excited to visit a grandparent when so often the kid is grumbling and annoyed about having to do so. The problem is we get over half way through the book before anything really happens. I mean it. Over half of the book is a set up, giving hints about what is to come and these kids just walking around the house and the cove seeing everything that it is humanly possible to see. Once the action starts, however, it does not stop! Seriously, the last half of the book is one long, continuous, never stopping battle. It's almost kind of exhausting to get through, and keep in mind this battle goes on for just one night but the way it's written you'd think it took a week. And the battle comes really out of nowhere. One minute the kids are going to bed and all of a sudden fighting and battle and running and screaming! It's just chaotic.

Also, the title is a bit of a lie. For a book entitled The Viking's Apprentice there's really no apprenticing that goes on in this book. They say that Peter will be his grandfather's apprentice, but there's no training, no lessons, no indication on what being an apprentice will consist of in the future. In this midst of all this chaos they just kinda say, "Hey, guess what? You're going to be a viking too one day. Cool, huh?" and completely ignore it for the rest of the book. Also, Peter's supposed to be the titular apprentice in this book, yet the book focuses way more heavily on George, his best friend. It's like it can't decide who the main character is. Heck, Peter hardly says or does anything in this book. It mostly focuses on George, as he's the one who is seeing Campbell's Cove for the first time and he develops a crush on one of the girls who lives there. It also focuses a lot on Granddad, as he's the leader in this battle and he's the one with the story and who knows what's going on half the time. Peter is just kind of along for the ride. He never does anything. Heck, I think that even the dog does more than Peter. They talk a lot about that dog. To the point where he kind of gets in the way. It's also really confusing when you give your almighty viking character and your dog similar names. There were a few times when I wondered why Granddad was barking before I realized what was really going on. It was pretty distracting.

While there are a lot of cool ideas to be found it this book, the lack of information behind it kind of takes away from the wonder of it all. Yeah, it's really cool when things come to life in the house to form an army, but we're never told why they do. Yeah, these villains are threatening and dangerous, but we're never told why they're doing what they do. It's like the whole thing is one long information dump. We're being told that all this stuff is happening, but it doesn't give us reason to care why these things are happening. Now, a younger reader might not really care about that kind of thing and just enjoy the ride. Like I said, there's imagination and some good ideas in this book. They just aren't executed very well. Maybe if it took it's time a little more, gave it a different title, and for heaven's sake get rid of that stupid dog, we'd I'd have better things to say about this book.

Final Verdict
Might be good for kids, but not so much for the grown-ups. Choppy and ill-paced, but still imaginative and containing some good ideas. It's not like there was anything harmful or morally incorrect about this book. I didn't get angry or hate it. I just felt lost a lot. For that reason, if your kid wants to read it, save your cash and check it out at your local library.

Have you read the book? What did you think? Are there any other younger reader books out there that older readers would enjoy? Comment below and share your thoughts.

Next Time: Now, here's a younger reader book that everyone can benefit from....

Sunday, November 6, 2016

The 13th Sign by Kristin O'Donnell Tubb

Ever feel like your zodiac sign just doesn't seem to match with your real personality? Maybe that's because you have the wrong one. The 13th sign is a clever dive into just what the world might be like if an extra sign was thrown into the mix and how it would affect everyone. Granted it is a seriously exaggerated take on such a thing but, still, it's interesting nevertheless. Let's take a look, shall we?

The story is of a young girl New Orleans named Jalen Jones who is dealing with the stresses of her Nina (grandmother) being very sick. When she discovers a mysterious book entitled The Keypers of the Zodiack (their spelling, not mine) she accidentally unlocks the 13th zodiac sign, Ophiuchus the healer. All of a sudden, everybody's personalities have changed. People are picking up habits they didn't have before, things they could do before are now impossible, and they possess phobias for things that never used to bother them. On top of all this, the twelve zodiac signs have come to earth and are now trying to attack Jalen for disrupting the order. Jalen must now defeat the zodiac signs and return them to the heavens before the personality shift becomes permanent.

Like I said, this concept is pretty interesting and done very creatively. While being a very simple, quest-like story, each challenge is unique and clever. While some of the signs just try to attack Jalen, most of them come in the forms of tricks and puzzles. For instance, Gemini the twin makes a carbon copy of Jalen's best friend and she has to figure out which is her real friend and which is Gemini. Little touches like that keep the story interesting and the challenges are spaced out carefully so the story doesn't feel too rushed, even if the whole adventure takes place in the space of a single day.

I was worried, at first, if this would be a bumpy ride when it came to the characters. Jalen, at first, is very whiny and a bit self-centered. Thankfully, after the personality shift, she becomes much more driven and determined and someone I'm a little more willing to follow into this story. The whining doesn't always go away though, but then again she is dwelling on the fact that her grandmother is on death's door and dealing with her father's disappearance, so I can't really fault her for that. Her friends, a brother and sister pair named Brennan and Ellie, also become better after the personality swap and become useful characters who are nice to have around.

There are times when the story practically comes to a full stop while the characters read from The Keypers of the Zodiack in order to figure out how to defeat each sign. These pauses can come in the middle of tense situations and can kind of take away from the moment and be a bit distracting. There are also some villain-type characters that kind of come out of nowhere and don't really contribute anything except getting in the way and frankly I think the story could do without them. While the ending comes with a satisfying and honestly refreshing turn of events, it does kind of hang open, as if there's a possibility for a sequel. I kind of wish they hadn't done that as it's just fine as a stand-alone and doesn't need to carry the story any further. That and a few inconsistencies with the mythology behind the zodiac kind of annoyed me, but the story didn't focus on them so I didn't either.

Final Verdict
The 13th sign is a good, straightforward, quest story based on a clever idea. I enjoyed it pretty well, despite a few minor flaws, but I think anyone can pick this up and enjoy it just fine. If it sounds up your alley, then I'd say that this is worth your money at your local bookstore.

Next time: This kid's What I did on my summer vacation essay is going to be pretty epic....

Thursday, November 3, 2016

The Land of Stories by Chris Colfer

That's right, everyone! Kurt from Glee makes his writing debut in The Land of Stories series. I was really excited when I saw that he was the author of this series and decided to give it a shot. The guy can sing, he can act, he can dance, and now he can write. Who knew?

The story is thus: Alex and Conner Bailey are twins living with their mother, who is trying to make ends meet after the death of their father only a short time ago. When their birthday comes around, their grandmother leaves them a book of fairy tales that they used to read as a family. Alex then discovers that the books is a portal to the Land of Stories, where all the classic fairy tale characters live. When she and conner accidentally fall into the portal, they find themselves without a means of getting back home. So they seek out the Wishing Spell, that can grant them any wish they desire, and meet a multitude of colorful characters along the way.

This book was actually a lot of fun to read. It's been awhile since I've been able to read something laid back and easy and just overall likable. The characters of Alex and Conner make a good team by balancing out each others flaws with the other's strengths. Alex is really the kind of person we wish we would be if we found ourselves in an adventure like this, excited and happy and enthusiastic, while Conner is probably more like what we'd really be, rushed and irritated and missing things like electricity and indoor plumbing. The fact that they balance each other out so well makes them a great pair of main characters and good protagonists for the story.

Now this is written with a younger audience in mind, and at times it can kind of show. There are a few times when the suspension of disbelief is pushed just a little too far. For instance, a twelve-year-old girl climbing up a fifty foot tower by hand without so much as a rope is kind of pushing it and there are one or two situations they get out of almost right away that seems just a little too convenient. Still, like I said, it is for younger readers and it is a fantasy so these things don't necessarily hurt the story. Just sometimes, it can be a little distracting.

That being said, the layout of the kingdom and the personalities of the characters are really colorful and interesting. Too often with stories like these are the fairy tale characters useless or unkind, but in this case, they're actually pretty understanding and helpful. They all come off as intelligent and dignified (with the possible exception of the purposefully over-the-top Red Riding Hood). The villain, the Evil Queen, poses a real threat in the story and I really like the addition of the Huntress, her silent servant who will stop at nothing to help her mistress get to the Wishing Spell before the children do. There's also a plot twist in the story that, I admit, I did see coming but not so badly that it ruined the book for me. The foreshadowing here was subtle enough that not everyone will be able to predict the ending, so kudos there.

Final Verdict
The Land of Stories is quick, fun, clever take on the fairy tale world story and I enjoyed it. I kind of reminds me of Once Upon A Time before that show started to suck. Good characters, an interesting plot, great world building and I'm going to say that it's definitely worth your money at your local bookstore.

Have you read the book? What did you think? Any other good books for younger audiences that you'd like to see here? Comment below and share your thoughts.

Next time: Time to check my horoscope for today...wait a minute...what the heck is Ophiuchus!?!