Book Review: The Emerald Atlas

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The Emerald Atlas The Emerald Atlas by
Series: The Books of Beginning #1
Published by in 2011
Genres: ,
Pages: 417

Kate, Michael, and Emma have suffered through ten years of odious orphanage "care"; now they have slipped into the care of the eccentric, disturbingly mysterious Dr. Pym. While exploring their new home, the children discover a magical green book. With that discovery, a decade of tedium dissolves into cascades of dangerous time travel adventures and struggles with a beautiful witch and decidedly less attractive zombielike Screechers.

My Review:

Sometimes the books we love are huge bestsellers we hear about for weeks before they’re published. Then again sometimes we pick something on a whim, based on title, blurb or whatever, just to see. For me The Emerald Atlas was one of the latter. I’m actually really surprised, with so many people doing the Debut Author Challenge, that I haven’t seen one single review of this book yet, good or bad. This is especially surprising considering how much I loved the book!
Of course, it’s not all that surprising that I loved the book in the first place, since it really is a mixture of all my favorite YA/MG series’ rolled into one. Take Harry Potter, add in a good dose of Series of Unfortunate Events and Percy Jackson, and just a touch of Faerie Wars, Peter Pan, and The Mortal Instruments and you’d have something very similar to The Emerald Atlas. Stephens gets the blend of reality and fantasy just right to create my own personal Neverland. (As an aside, I love it when authors create a world so well that it seems to explain other stories as well as their own, and this seems like the perfect explanation of Peter Pan too!)

But the thing I love the most, I think, is that there’s someone and something for everyone in this book. Younger readers will identify with Emma and her need to be different from her siblings, while older readers will identify with Kate, who feels a responsibility to protect Michael and Emma, despite their best efforts at getting into trouble. Those of us much older than the intended audience will see the similarities to the novels we grew up with – Harry Potter and His Dark Materials among others – while reveling in the new and interesting ways these tropes have been put together.

The point, if you haven’t guessed already, is that this book, and it’s sequels, are books to look forward to, to read and to cherish. Find yourself a copy, if you haven’t already, and help spread the word!

Book Review: The Mysterious Benedict Society

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The Mysterious Benedict Society The Mysterious Benedict Society by
Series: Mysterious Benedict Society #1
Published by in 2007
Genres: ,
Pages: 492

After Reynie Muldoon responds to an advertisement recruiting "gifted children looking for special opportunities," he finds himself in a world of mystery and adventure. The 11-year-old orphan is one of four children to complete a series of challenging and creative tasks, and he, Kate, Constance, and Sticky become the Mysterious Benedict Society. After being trained by Mr. Benedict and his assistants, the four travel to an isolated school where children are being trained by a criminal mastermind to participate in his schemes to take over the world. The young investigators need to use their special talents and abilities in order to discover Mr. Curtain's secrets, and their only chance to defeat him is through working together.

My Review:

This book was a little out of my comfort zone, but I’d heard good things about it, so I decided to give it a try. It is most definitely an MG novel, which I don’t mind so much as long as it’s well done, and I think this book was one of the best MG novels I’ve read. As an adult reader, I still had some questions, but they weren’t so pressing that they overwhelmed my enjoyment of the book. I think that’s the true test of a novel for a younger genre (either YA or MG) – can the book be enjoyed without all the answers.

Part of the enjoyment, of course, was the cast of characters. I found Reynie very easy to relate to, despite our difference in age. Kate and Sticky were the perfect Ron and Hermione to Reynie’s Harry, and Constance… well Constance was a nuisance as she is supposed to be, but it makes sense once you find out how old she is. And Benedict, dear old Mr. Benedict, is so cute! He really personified that “tired old man” vibe that we get from all the great mentors; Merlin, Dumbledore and all the rest.

But perhaps the best part for me, and one of the reasons I will definitely be recommending it to all ages, is the tone of the novel. One of my hugest pet peeves as a kid was being talked down to just because I was young. I wanted to be treated as an equal by adults, and I hated people, and novels, that just assumed because I was younger, I was ignorant, and unable to understand. This novel not only avoids that tone, it acknowledges the problem. This is the novel I wanted to read in Elementary School, because I would have felt just as put-upon as Reynie when his orphanage master didn’t even let him try to get into another, better school. Granted Reynie is the extreme, but the main point is still one worth listening to: Children are nowhere near as dumb as adults often make them out to be.

If you haven’t read this one yet, then I suggest you immediately put it on your TBR pile. Besides being educational, it’s pure fun!

Book Review: A Tale of Two Castles

2 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: Book Review
A Tale of Two Castles A Tale of Two Castles by
Series: A Tale of Two Castles #1
Published by in 2011
Genres: ,
Pages: 328
Twelve-year-old Elodie dreams of becoming a mansioner--an actress. She journeys across the sea to the town of Two Castles in hopes of becoming an apprentice to a mansioning troupe, but things do not go according to plan. In spite of Elodie's great talent, the troupe already has plenty of apprentices. Elodie is out of luck: She has no money, no apprenticeship, and no home.
But an opportunity arises. The wise dragon Meenore is in need of an assistant to proclaim ITs powers of deduction and induction. Elodie is in need of a position. And so she becomes the dragon's assistant. When the town's hated ogre, Count Jonty Um, seeks the dragon's help in finding his stolen dog, Elodie is sent to the ogre's castle to get to the bottom of the mystery. More is afoot than just a missing dog. The ogre is in grave danger, and Elodie must use her mansioning skills and her powers of deduction to discover the source of the threat.

My Review:

I have loved Gail Carson Levine for a very long time. Ever since I read Ella Enchanted back in elementary school I knew I had to read anything I could manage. So, when I saw this book up on NetGalley for review, I jumped at the chance.

I will admit, I’ve grown out of MG novels, in general. Even when I was the right age for them, I was very picky – I hated books that were condescending (or that I thought were condescending) just because they were geared toward a younger audience. Levine never does that, and that was why I loved her. And I still love her, but it did take me a while to readjust to a MG novel after not reading any for many years.

This book did not disappoint. Levine sets up her cast of interesting characters well, leaving just enough mystery to keep us interested. I particularly enjoyed the character of Meenore – hints of Sherlock Holmes ran through it’s characterization, but they all seemed to fit really well. I also really enjoyed the juxtaposition of the “monsters” and the “people” and how the definitions of both change through the book.

But the best thing about this book for me, was the story. I genuinely enjoyed this book simply for the pleasure of hearing a story told (or reading one, rather). I enjoyed the twists and turns of the mystery, felt sorry for Jonty Um the ogre, and felt hurt with Elodie. This book was pure fun all the way through, and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a decent story!

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