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The Adventurers Guild (Zack Loran Clark & Nick Eliopulos)

5 Dec

The next great adventure is upon us, Squinks.  Even if you don’t initially choose to be part of the Adventurers Guild, you will find yourself hooked and wanting more.  Clark and Eliopulos’ story  is one you must get your hands on right away.

 

Adventurers Guild Squinklethoughts

1.  One of the first things I look for in an adventure story is whether the main character has someone he or she can count on.  I don’t like stories where there’s only one main character traversing lands and discovering things on his or her own because there’s no one for that character to talk to, bounce ideas off, or just generally depend on.  I was in luck with The Adventurers Guild, for there are TWO main characters at the beginning of the story, with a handful more of important secondary characters that join by the end.

2.  Zed (the city’s only half-elf) and Brock (his handsome, long-time best friend) each hope to be chosen for the Mages and Merchants Guilds, respectively.  But just when they think they’re about to start new chapters in the lives as members of their guilds, Alabasel Frond, the Guildmistress of the Adventurers Guild chooses Zed.  How could Brock not follow his best friend, even though this guild is known for losing its members to fates worse than death?  Brock’s decision to volunteer for the Adventurers Guild because Zed is chosen may not have been entirely altruistic, but all throughout the story, over and over again, there is evidence of how much Brock truly cares for his best friend.  And Zed feels the same about Brock.  If I cared not at all for the story, that fact might have been enough to keep me reading.  Their friendship is one for the ages, and you just wish you could be friends with both of them.  These two characters are funny and fun to be around.  I’m really glad the authors decided to alternate the focus of the chapters between the two of them.  The story is still told from third-person perspective, but readers get a slight bias towards one of the boys in each chapter, which adds depth to each character in turn.

3.  I love the Guildculling and the energy and anticipation that surrounds it.  I’ve always enjoyed doing surveys or quizzes that sort me into a particular group, so I liked learning about the different guilds in Freestone and how each is responsible for the safety of its citizens.  I’m very eager to learn more about the different characters in each guild, especially those in some of the lower guilds that didn’t get much screen time.

 

Adventurers Guild 2  

4.  I also love Liza’s character.  She can hold her own both in wit and with weapons.  She puts up a tough façade, but she slowly reveals bits and pieces about her to the boys, and it turns out that she can make Brock blush.  She’s by no means perfect, but she’s definitely interesting.  I love the way her storyline is going, and I can’t wait to see how she develops as an Adventurer.

5.  Alabasel Frond is a wonderful character.  Most of the time, I think she’s unfeeling, but she’s fierce and unabashedly loyal to her apprentices and Freestone.  Of all the characters in the story, she’s the one that has so much more to give, and I really want to know more.  Like Brock, I don’t know that I’d want to be friends with her, but …

6.  What makes this story great is that it is both a plot- and character-driven one.  The kids have a mission to save the world, and there are tons of great twists and turns and Dangers along the way.  You never know who to trust!  But what makes this story a must-read is the cast of characters that Clark and Eliopulos have created.  They jive together in a way that is at once recognizable and unique.  Even the annoying Micah has his moments that make you feel something beyond your initial loathing for him.

 

Adventurers Guild 3  

7.  Teachers/parents, The Adventurers Guild is a story you must have on your shelves.  If your kids haven’t read Zed and Brock’s adventures yet, buy or borrow a copy of this book, and give them an early Christmas present.  They’ll never forget it.  Of course, that means that you’ll be on the hook for the next titles in this awesome series, but you’ll get there when you get there.  The co-authors’ writing is funny and fresh, which make for an utterly compelling story.  (There’s a line on page 80 where Zed laughs out loud in response to something that Jett says, and I laughed out loud even before I read that the character laughs out loud.  Oh, and my eyes got misty in a few places.)  There’s so much to love about this one.  I can’t wait for what’s next.

8.  Which Guild would take you in?  Find out here.

 

5 Squinkles

 

Zack Loran Clark’s Online Corners
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Chapters/Indigo

Nick Eliopulos’ Online Corners
Website | Twitter | Goodreads | Chapters/Indigo

 

Thank you, Disney-Hyperion, for sending me a copy of The Adventurers Guild in exchange for an honest review.

All Squinklethoughts expressed herein are entirely my own.

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Tales from Adventureland #1: The Keymaster’s Quest (Jason Lethcoe)

22 Nov

If you love visiting Disney parks, especially Adventureland and the Enchanted Tiki Room, and your heart is eager to go on a little adventure, then this is the book for you!

 

Tales from Adventureland - Keymaster's Quest Squinklethoughts

1.  The Keymaster’s Quest is a fast-paced adventure that grabs you from the very start.  I’m really glad that there wasn’t a whole lot of downtime in between chase scenes and fight scenes and escape scenes.  That meant that I didn’t skim quickly through any particular part: I was riveted to the story the whole way through.  From a mansion in Oregon to the waters of the Pacific Ocean (literally) and onto the Hawaiian islands, readers journey alongside Andy Stanley as he fulfills his grandfather’s mission.

2.  I love how awkward and clumsy Andy is.  These qualities make him someone you really want to root for.  It also makes for an excellent protagonist in a story that is so quintessentially a bildungsroman.  Not that that is what my students will pay attention to.  They’ll just love how awkward Andy is and how funny he can be … and maybe how there’s a little bit of him in all of them.

3.  I wasn’t all that pleased that Andy leaves for his adventure without personally talking to his parents.  I know it’s important for the main parental figures to get out of the way so that the adventures can truly start, but I still would’ve liked to see him make a phone call or something to let his mom know he’s okay.

4.  What a great location for a story – the Polynesian islands!  There’s so much natural beauty and, of course, potential traps put into place by ancient magic.  Maybe it’s just because I’ve always loved stories based in Hawaii, but it was really hard not to lap up every detail of the islands that Lethcoe offers.  I loved reading about Pele, Kapu, the menehune, and all the other magical island dwellers in the story.

5.  Ned Lostmore’s friends are a hoot!  I so want to know more about them and how they came to be part of the Explorers’ Society.  I’m particularly enamoured with Madame Wiki.  She seems like she’s got quite a story to tell.

 

Tales from Adventureland - Keymaster's Quest 2  

6.  This is the first book in a series, but I’m not entirely sure how long the series will last.  On his website, Lethcoe alludes to the idea of a trilogy, but three books really aren’t enough!  I really hope there are way more stories based on the various rides and lands in the Disney Parks.  I think a Jungle-Cruise-themed adventure is up next (or soon), and I’m so ready for that!

7.  I really wanted some Dole Whip while I was reading this story.  I can’t wait for more Disney adventures this Christmas.

8.  Teachers/parents, this is an excellent story to add to your shelves.  Even if your kids are not as Disnerdy as I am, they’ll still love Andy’s adventures.  What really drives this story is Andy himself whom Lethcoe brilliantly colours as sweet and smart and sensitive.  He’s exactly what many kids are at his age, and his lack of certainty mixed with his stalwart desire to be brave is both heartwarming and encouraging.  I’m sure many kids will find a kindred spirit in Andy.

 

4.5 Squinkles

 

Jason Lethcoe’s Online Corners
Website | Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter | Chapters/Indigo

 

Thank you, Disney Books, for sending me a copy of Tales from Adventureland: The Keymaster’s Quest in exchange for an honest review.

All Squinklethoughts expressed herein are entirely my own.

The Magic Misfits (Neil Patrick Harris)

21 Nov

I love everything about The Magic Misfits – from its title to the cover art to the fact that it’s written by one of my favourite actors ever.  This is a completely magical read that I finished in one sitting and has left me hungry for more.

 

Magic Misfits Squinklethoughts

1.  The Magic Misfits.  What a great title.  Who hasn’t ever felt like a misfit at least a few dozen times in his or her life?  As a teacher, I know I often seem all cool and collected (ha), but rest assured: I’ve had many a misfit moment in my school days.  (And a few since then, too, but we won’t talk about that.)  The title alone will hook you into thinking that you will find a kindred spirit in Carter, and you wouldn’t be wrong.

2.  Carter is such a great hero – a kind, courageous new hero I’m so pleased to introduce to my students.  He’s had a hard life, but he hasn’t let it beat him down.  I love that he develops, on his own, his tenet of never stealing, even though he’s raised by a thieving uncle.  Carter is not super trustworthy of others at first, and we can’t blame him, but he also wants to believe in them, which just goes to highlight his indomitable spirit.  He’s smart, funny, and a little dented – a perfect MC in my books.  He has so many more stories to tell.

3.  Leila, Theo, and Ridley are awesome companions.  They’re not all alike, so they don’t always agree with one another.  This makes for some great conversations.  But, like Carter, they’ve got big hearts.  Izzy and Olly round up the group very nicely, and I’m eager to learn more about them.  In fact, I want to learn more about all of them.  We get to meet a little of Theo’s family, but there’s so much more to explore about his tuxedo-wearing ways and Ridley’s reasons for being confined in a wheelchair.  I’d also love more stories about Leila’s two dads.  It was great of Harris to create a dramatis personae full of people with different personalities, divergent back stories, and unique talents.  A cast of misfits that fit so well together.  I love it!

4.  When Theo doesn’t even bat an eyelid when offering Carter a place to stay – The Feels.

5.  Uncle Vernon, Purveyor of Illusion and the first to befriend Carter in his new runaway life, is an enigma I want to demystify.  There are so many breadcrumbs about his childhood and his daily life that I’m just as interested in him as I am in the kids.  (Also, I love that he’s an Uncle Vernon and that there’s an allusion to Aunt Petunia in the novel, too.)

 

Magic Misfits 2  

6.  There are lots of magic tricks revealed in this story (but shh, don’t share them with non-magicians!).  This is great for young and old readers alike who would like to learn a little more about the tricks and illusions magicians perform.

7.  Loved the ending!  But boy, does it ever epitomize the whole “always leave ‘em wanting more” motto in showbiz.  I want more Misfit magic!  Luckily, there seem to be three more books planned in this series.  On the one hand, yay … three more books!  On the other hand, I really loved this story, and I’m a little sad that there will only be three more.  Perhaps we can persuade NPH to write beyond just four books?

8.  I wonder if Al A. Kazam is a real person.

9.  Teachers/parents, there are so many teachable lessons here.  I’ll be adding this title to our school library (especially since the author states at the beginning that the ARC is but a sapling in comparison to the finished copy), and I’ll also be putting together some reading and discussion questions for my students.  Among other topics the book explores are: what it means to fit in, how a person’s experiences shape him/her, what “magic” actually is, and creating families from friends.

 

4.5 Squinkles

 

Neil Patrick Harris’ Online Corners
Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Chapters/Indigo

 

Thank you, LB Kids and HBG Canada, for sending me a copy of The Magic Misfits in exchange for an honest review.

All Squinklethoughts expressed herein are entirely my own.

Have Sword, Will Travel (Garth Nix & Sean Williams)

3 Nov

I picked this book up because of the slogan that was pitched to me: “Live by the sword … Die by the sword … No matter how often the sword yells at you.”  Seriously, Squinks, you’ll get sucked in because of the talking sword, but you’ll stay for the adventures.

 

Have Sword, Will Travel Squinklethoughts

1.  Odo and Eleanor are great friends, and that, for me is the mark of a great story.  Odo is thoughtful and patient, but he doesn’t necessarily want to be a knight.  Eleanor, on the other hand, is also considerate, but a little more impulsive, and has always wanted to be knighted, to take after her mom.  It’s a great set-up for some excellent conflicts in the story.

 

Have Sword, Will Travel 3  

2.  Biter is funny!  He’s sarcastic and quick-witted, but pragmatic and to the point, too.  At many times throughout the story, I actually thought that there were three people travelling north.  Then I remembered that while Biter is a great character who moves the plot along and is instrumental to the action, he’s just a sword, bobbing his way alongside Sir Odo and Squire Eleanor.

3.  I love the names of the villages and townsfolk that Nix and Williams came up with.  They definitely give me nostalgia for my university classes where we learned about various Alfrics and Æthelreds.  I read the ARC version of this book, which didn’t have the illustrations in the final text, but I’m happy to say that the published book has a map for endpapers!  I love maps.  It’s so much easier to appreciate Odo and Eleanor’s adventures when you can see (not just imagine) how far they travel.

 

Have Sword, Will Travel - Map 

4.  I like that lady knights are not just possible in this fictional world, but commonplace.  And not just knighthood through marriage or royal blood either … the authors depict ladies as knights with the intent to combat enemies and defend honour.

5.  I don’t know if there’ll be many more books in this series, but I sure hope so.  There is still so much growing up to do by Odo, Eleanor, and even Biter whose recollection of his own story is a bit fuzzy.  I want to know more about Odo’s siblings and Eleanor’s mother.  I want to encounter Toland, Master Thrytin, and the urthkin again.  Mostly, I want more adventures, and I want to see how the friendship develops between Odo and Eleanor – not necessarily romantically.  It’s always interesting for me to see how a character changes alongside another character with whom he/she has been friends since childhood.  I can only imagine the kinds of conversations the two will have about the best routes to travel, the most efficient ways to parry a blow, and the need to wash every day (Odo).

 

4.5 Squinkles

 

Garth Nix’s Online Corners
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Chapters/Indigo

 

Sean Williams’ Online Corners
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Chapters/Indigo

 

Thank you, Scholastic Canada, for sending me a copy of Have Swords, Will Travel in exchange for an honest review.

All Squinklethoughts expressed herein are entirely my own.

The Blackthorn Key #3: The Assassin’s Curse (Kevin Sands)

12 Sep

I love that so far, for the last three years, I’ve had a literary adventure to look forward to in September.  It almost makes going back to our regularly scheduled school program bearable.  Almost.  I’m just glad there’s another Blackthorn Key book.

 

Blackthorn Key - Assassin's Curse

Squinklethoughts

1.  The original Blackthorn Key series was absolutely fantastic.  I got a copy of it during the summer of 2015, and I made it the book for our novel-study unit a few weeks later.  I couldn’t put it down, and I’m glad that Kevin Sands has kept up the series.

2.  Christopher and Tom’s friendship is one for the books (hehe).  They get along so well, but more than that, you can tell that they have genuine respect for one another.  Christopher is, by now, known for getting himself into scrapes – completely by chance, of course – and solving riddles to get out of them.  But Tom is equally important in this adventure, and I’m glad that this is addressed in the opening pages, for while Christopher has saved London numerous times, his best friend has saved him just as often.  It’s a really great friendship that I love to read about.

3.  The addition of Sally (and Bridget) to the fold is aces.  Some of my kids weren’t too thrilled about it at first, but they eventually came round to appreciating Sally’s role with the boys.  Indeed, she does a great job again in this story where she handles her own as the Lady Grace.

4.  Kevin Sands is funny.  The banter among the trio is funny and witty – totally my type of humour.  Christopher is always thinking up crazy schemes, and Tom is one step ahead of him.  Well, he just knows his best friend well.  Even though he never stops Christopher from doing things, like turning famous paintings in the Louvre upside down, he’s comfortable enough to give Christopher a piece of his mind.  And Sally is great at keeping the peace between the two of them when things get too hot to handle.

 

Blackthorn Key - Assassins Curse - Quote

 

5.  I love that this book takes the kids to Paris.  My students were so pleased to be able to translate the various French phrases before Sands gives their English translations.  In fact, I would have liked more of this in the story.  Maybe it’s because we all grew up with French classes every day, but I thought readers could’ve definitely handled the challenge of figuring out les expressions françaises.  I mean, it’s like a code in itself, trying to understand another language, eh?

6.  I’m so happy that Master Benedict is everywhere in this book, just as he is in all the other books.  I think his conversations with Christopher may be my favourite parts of the entire series.  Kids need to know – everyone needs to know – that the people we love leave indelible prints on our hearts.  I just love that Sands explores this.

7.  I think I like this book more than the second one, Mark of the Plague.  Not quite sure why.  It might be that the codes and puzzles feel harder this time round, or that it’s set in Paris, or that the kids are surrounded by royalty, or that the storyline is full of Knights Templar allusions … I just loved it all.  I couldn’t put it down.

8.  I hope that Sands stays true to his pattern and that a fourth book will be due next September.  Actually, I hope another story comes out sooner because boy, the cliffhanger at the end!.  But I’ll be happy as long as this series continues for many more books to come.  It really is that great.

 

5 Squinkles

 

Kevin Sands’ Online Corners
Website | Facebook | Twitter | Chapters/Indigo

 

Thank you, Simon and Schuster Canada, for sending me a copy of The Blackthorn Key: The Assassin’s Curse in exchange for an honest review.

All Squinklethoughts expressed herein are entirely my own.

 

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