Tag Archives: adventure

Potion Masters #1: The Eternity Elixir (Frank L. Cole)

3 Jan

Squinks, if you want to start the new year off with the right book, I’ve got the perfect one for you: Frank L. Cole’s Potion Masters: The Eternity Elixir.  I guarantee you’ll be able to say you’ve at least read one great book this year.



1.  I love practically everything about this book.  But let’s start at the beginning.  The premise is exciting: there is a secret society of potion masters and 12-year-old Gordy Stitser’s mom is one of the best Elixirists around.  That can only spell trouble for Gordy … and it’s the making of a great adventure.  His mom has been training Gordy in the art of potion-making, which is fun enough already, but what I love is the fact that Gordy actually wants to hone his skills.  He actually wants to study.  Isn’t that great?  (Feel free to roll your eyes now.)

2.  Gordy is a great protagonist.  He’s curious and thoughtful and creative and courageous.  He loves to experiment with and without his mom’s permission, but he’s got a lot of respect for both of his parents, which means they have a great relationship.  I think I’m drawn to Gordy because he doesn’t rest on his laurels.  He may have an insanely incredible innate talent at Deciphering and Blind Batching, but he’s eager to continue developing his skills.  I have lots of admiration for that.  Throughout the story, Gordy encounters difficult decisions he has to make, but he uses the right amount of his heart and head to choose his path.  All in all, he’s a very likable protagonist, and one I’m eager to read more about.  I only hope that there are skeletons in his closet that will be revealed in future books because I think Gordy has the makings of a classic character.

3.  And where would main characters be without their loyal sidekicks?  I’m glad that Cole doesn’t leave Gordy to his own potions.  Adilene and Max are good friends who care so much for Gordy that they run to his side (and potential danger) the moment Gordy calls them.  The only criticisms I have of this book are mild ones that I hope will be rectified in future novels.  One, Max is sometimes a little too rash.  I get that he’s excited to help Gordy, but his excitement sometimes leads to trips, spills, and near catastrophes.  I can’t fault him for his loyalty to Gordy, and even his grudging appreciation for Adilene, but sometimes, I wish Gordy would tell him to shush a bit more.  Two, Adilene doesn’t get as much page time as Max, and I’d’ve really loved reading how she might have handled Bawdry’s energy.  And I bet she’d have come up with a better name than “Slim” and “Doll”.  I think Cole could have used her contributions as much as he used Max’s.  Lastly, I found a few too many similarities between this trio and another famous literary trio.  I wonder if maybe in future books Gordy, Adilene, and Max might separate their quirks to solidify themselves as golden in their own right.



4.  I absolutely understand why parents must not be part of the story in middle-grade stories.  Children have to develop the essential parts of their characters independent of adult, especially parental, influence.  Kids would have much more different adventures if, say, they had to go home every day after school instead of only for summer vacation.  So, I’m glad that Cole seems to have found a sweet spot that allows Gordy’s parents to be part of the action without getting in the way.  In fact, I love the secondary plot involving Gordy’s mom, Wanda, and her sister, Priss.  And I’m very, very curious to discover if Gordy’s dad, Gordon, knows more than he’s revealing … (Wouldn’t that be awesome?)

5.  I love the potions the Elixirists mention and use in this book.  As a textbook-chemistry-loving (i.e. I love learning about compounds and reactions without feeling any inclination to concoct my own, or participate in and write up any lab reports) and etymologically passionate (i.e. I do have a degree in and love for linguistics) nerd, Cole’s potions speak to me in a fierce way.  There’s the Disfarcar Gel, Goilicanje Juice, and Oighear Ointment, to name a few.  I’m sure many people will learn a little bit about a lot of languages from the compendium in this book.  Speaking of which … there’s a glossary!  I love, love, love maps and glossaries, and the inclusion of a list at the end of the story was like a little gift I devoured at the end.  I also love that the Tranquility Swathe originated in Canada.  That’s just so Canadian.

6.  This is one of those stories that seems to have been so well plotted even before it was written because every chapter was compelling.  There are tons of action scenes, but enough downtime in between, to flesh out the characters and the rising action.  I read the whole thing really quickly – as in I picked up where I left off at the end of Chapter 18 (really good, btw), and in no time at all, I was finished Chapter 38 (even better).  I hope we don’t have to wait too long for the follow up.  But until then, check out the trailer for the first book below:



7.  Teachers/parents, Potion Masters: The Eternity Elixir was one of the last books I read in 2017, and it’s the first one I’ll champion in 2018.  It’s a great story for boys and girls alike, seasoned and struggling readers alike, and those who love and are lukewarm to fantasy alike.  Readers will encounter fast-paced adventure, inspiring creativity, true friendships, complicated family matters, and a lot of fun.  I’ll be picking up this title for my school library, so I will probably create a reading-comprehension handout.  Feel free to check back here in a few weeks to see if I do!


5 Squinkles


Frank L. Cole’s Online Corners
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Thank you, Shadow Mountain, for sending me a copy of Potion Masters: The Eternity Elixir in exchange for an honest review.

All Squinklethoughts expressed herein are entirely my own.


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
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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.

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
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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.


Mutant Bunny Island (Obert Skye)

7 Nov

If you’re looking for a story about cute, fluffy bunnies, then this isn’t really the book for you.  Well, actually, hang on.  There ARE cute, fluffy bunnies here, but don’t forget that even the title warns you that mutants abound.


Mutant Bunny Island Squinklethoughts

1.  I like stories that are smart-funny, not just slapstick-funny.  Skye’s writing has that in spades.  I loved all the word play in the book, most especially because I think my students will really appreciate his cleverness.  I mean, the first chapter is called “Getting Squiddy with It”, for goodness’ sake.

2.  Perry is a lovable character whom, I think, many people will be able to identify with.  I would much rather stay indoors than enjoy the allergens outside – though for him, he’s avoiding newts, not ragweed.  He seems to have a great relationship with his dad.  I wish the author had explored more the reasons his mom isn’t in the picture, but it looks like Mr. Owens is really trying to be a good dad AND friend to Perry.

3.  Rain is so annoying at first, and it takes quite a while for me to warm up to him.  I suppose there’s not much to do on his island, but still.  I’m glad he becomes less annoying towards the end.

4.  I’m also glad that although there are hints of Perry blushing around Juliet, that storyline doesn’t dip into romance, which the story doesn’t need.  If there’s to be another book with these characters, I’d be more interested in seeing how the friendship among Perry, Juliet, and Rain develop than in any potential love story.  And even without a love plot, I’d love to read Perry’s awkwardness at dealing with girls.

5.  One of the best things about this book is that it intersperses elements of graphic novels with the narrative structure.  The artwork after every chapter not only provides back stories of Admiral Uli and the rest of the squids that Perry wishes were his friends, but it also serves to give readers a pause from the main story.  For many of my kids who sometimes have a hard time getting through novels, this set-up is absolutely perfect.


Mutant Bunny Island 2


6.  The squid humour is great.  Just thought I’d add that in again.  Our library copy has already been borrowed and loved, so I know this will be a great hit amongst my kids who love funny, fast-paced stories with great art.

7.  Teachers/parents, want to see if this is book is for your child/ren?  Check out a sample here.


4 Squinkles


Obert Skye’s Online Corners
Facebook | Twitter | Chapters/Indigo


Eduardo Vieira’s Online Corners
Facebook | Twitter | Chapters/Indigo


Thank you, Harper Collins, for sending me a copy of
Mutant Bunny Island in exchange for an honest review.

All Squinklethoughts expressed herein are entirely my own.

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