Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Land of Stories: the Wishing Spell By Chris Colfer

Cover image for The wishing spellTwelve year old twins, Alex and Connor, are mourning the death of their father, and adjusting to having their mom work all the time. One memento of their father is a book of fairy tales, but one day the book starts to act strangely.  It glows and makes noises, until one day it sucks the children into the land of fairytales.  There they meet all their fairy tale favorites who are currently living their lives a decade or so after their famous stories.  Alex and Conner find a journal that tells them about a wishing spell that might be able to take them back to their own world, so they go on a quest to find the ingredients they need for the spell.  They are not the only ones hoping to have an impossible wish granted and the others looking for the ingredients are not nice people.

This is a cute fractured fairytale story for those who like E.D. Baker's Frog Princess stories and Michael Buckley's Sister's Grimm series.  It is appropriate for a younger, but very confident reader because almost everyone they meet is actually pretty nice to them, and even the bad guys are not evil to the core.

It is interesting because as I read the book I kept thinking, "this is pretty good, but the writer sounds inexperienced."  One of the reasons I thought that was because, even though Alex (a girl) and Connor (a boy) have different interests, there wasn't much difference in their personalities.  Especially, when the action heats up near the end of the book the author treats them as a single person, and they sayand do several things in unison. I guess what I am trying to express is that the story doesn't arise from the characters.  The author came up with the story first, and then moves the two characters through it like a kid might move his Lego guys through a pretend adventure.  When I looked up the author, I found out he was only 22 when the book was published. That means he was probably only 20 or younger when he wrote it. It will be interesting to read the second book in the series and see how the writing matures.  (438 p.)

Monday, June 29, 2015

Frederica by Georgette Heyer

Cover image for Frederica Frederica, at 24, is the oldest of four orphaned siblings.  They have only partly aristocratic heritage, and are of modest means.  Frederica is determined that her beautiful younger sister, Charis, should have her first "season" in London and find a suitable match to secure their futures.  She approaches a distant bachelor cousin to ask him if he will sponsor Charis' "coming out."  Lord Averstoke agrees only because he knows it will infuriate his sisters who have been begging him to do the same for their less handsome daughters.  Little does Averstoke know how much Frederica and her precocious younger brothers will add energy and interest to his otherwise boring life.

Ok, so I succumbed to another Georgette Heyer.  I think this one may be my favorite. The pacing is faster than the first two I read, and there are some genuinely hilarious scenes. I love the relationship between Alverstoke and the little brothers and the way he gradually comes to adore Frederica, without her even realizing it.  I wish someone would make it into a BBC movie. This was a delight and appropriate for teens or adults. 437 p.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Pet and the Pendulum by Gordon McAlpine

Cover image for The pet and the pendulumIn this final adventure of the identical twin, great-great-grand nephews of Edgar Allan Poe, Edgar and Allan are up against their greatest challenge yet.  Their arch enemy, Professor Perry, has returned disguised as the ghost of Edgar Allan Poe.  He tricks the twins into believing that Poe was murdered and that they must expose his murderer in order to release his spirit to the great beyond. Meanwhile, the space ship that acts as their parent's tomb is hurtling toward Baltimore and the twins may be the only ones that have any chance of stopping it.  Can the twins foil Professor Perry's plan and stop the space ship disaster before it is too late? As always, the twins get help from some historic literary giants from the great beyond and from their preternaturally loyal and intelligent cat. This is the funny and exciting end to a cleverly written series.(208 p)

Monday, June 8, 2015

Once Upon a Midnight Eerie by Gordon McAlpine

Cover image for Once upon a midnight eerieThis is the second adventure of Edgar and Allan Poe, identical twins who are psychically linked. In this one they are in New Orleans staring in a movie about their great-great-great-uncle, Edgar Allen Poe.  While on a tour of a historic grave yard they meet some ghosts and who were killed by the famous pirate Captain Lafitte in the 1800's.  The Poe twins, along with their new friends, Em and Milly Dickinson, vow to avenge the ghosts by proving that Lafitte committed the murders.  Meanwhile, the mother and sister of the evil Professor Perry, the villain from the first book, are after them.  Those who liked the first book in the series will enjoy this second one.  It is full of the same kind of witty humor, hi-jinx and literary puns.  The Dickinson twins are a nice addition and I hope to see them in future episodes.  (170 p.)

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

False Colours by Georgette Heyer

Cover image for False coloursThis is another cute Georgette Heyer period romance.  Chrisopher and Evelyn (a male, despite the female sound of the name) are identical twins.  Evelyn is the first born and is destined to inherit the family fortune and the title, Lord Fancot.  Christopher (Kit) has gone into the diplomatic service and is on the way to making a successful career for himself. When their widowed mother gets into considerable debt problems, Evelyn agrees to a marriage of convenience that will allow him to clear her debts.  On the day that Evelyn is scheduled to meet his intended's most influential relatives, Evelyn is nowhere to be found.  Lady Fancot convinces Kit, who just that day returned after 3 years abroad, to go in Evelyn's place, pretending to be Evelyn, so that the relatives will not be offended and the planned marriage will not be canceled. It is easy to see where this is going, right?  The woman whom Evelyn was engaged to marry, Cressida, doesn't recognize the switch at first, but finds she likes "Evelyn" better on the second and subsequent meetings, than she did when they first met. Evelyn still is no where to be found, and Kit is forced to continue his charade while slowly falling for his brother's fiancee. The plot is predictable, but the book is full of quirky and endearing characters and interesting relationships.  This book is not quite as squeaky clean as The Reluctant Widow.  Almost all the main characters at some time in the book mention extra-marital relationships they have had, and there is the double standard that men can engage in these kind of things without much scandal, but if a woman does, she is ruined for life. As long as you are willing to forgive this cultural flaw, the book is a fun read, and I must admit I have checked out another by the same author.  (341 p)

(I have been reading these because I jog on a little trampoline as part of my daily exercise.  I used to watch video while I am jogging, but have discovered, if I make the text on my Kindle rather large, I can read instead. This is a good thing because I don't really want to watch PG-13 videos, and I have seen all my PG videos many many times.  I decided my jogging reading can be just for fun, and doesn't have to be children's literature for my job).