Monday, July 30, 2018

Magickeepers #1: The Eternal Hourglass by Erica Kirov

The Eternal Hourglass (Magickeepers, #1)My name is Nick, and my father is the worst magician in the world. I've learned that I come from a strong lineage of real magic, and I have the rare ability to see into the past. I've come to live with many of my mother's cousins, but the leader of the Shadowkeepers, Rasputin, is determined to get me. His minions have already infiltrated our compound! It must have something to do with an hourglass that can stop time, but I don't know how I fit in. My mother left me a key when she died, but I don't know what it opens or why it's burning my chest. Damian and Theo are the strongest magicians I know, but I've been told I'll be more powerful than them both. Maybe, someday, I can get back to my life of skateboards, cheeseburgers, and pizza.

While this book told another story of a boy discovering his new powers, the scenario was a little different. This type of character is often thrown together with strangers or new friends, but this time he was inserted him into a clan of cousins and other relatives. Isabella became his cohort in this book. I'm always amazed when characters like Nick disregard the orders and suggestions of more knowledgeable characters and put themselves and others in danger. In general, almost all of his talents centered around the family's Vegas magic act, although he later used them to help solve the mystery of the hourglass. The author included historical references to Houdini to describe the power of the timepiece and the coercion of Rasputin and his Shadowkeepers. There was another mini-mystery surrounding Theo. He was supposedly the most powerful magician in the family but allowed Damian to be in charge. It had something to do with the death of Nick's mother, but the truth didn't appear until the book's resolution. Overall, I enjoyed the story and recommend you try it too. 

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Ulysses Moore #2: The Long-Lost Map by Pierdomenico Baccalario

The Long-Lost Map (Ulysses Moore #2)My name is Rick, and I was so excited yesterday to be invited into Argo Manor, that huge, strange house up by the ocean cliffs. Twenty-four hours later I find myself in ancient Egypt, standing in a dark room full of hundreds of slimy snakes. Jason and I can't get back through the time-traveling door until we solve the riddle clues left by Ulysses Moore. We must find a map hidden in The Room That Isn't There, but everyone says the room and map don't really exist. That doesn't make sense. A young girl named Maruk is helping us, and it's a good thing too. We must search through underground tunnels that lead to thousands and thousands of possible hiding places. We now know we're in a race, because a woman named Oblivia Newton is here too. I first met her on my way to Argo Manor when her car knocked my bike off the road. We need to beat this evil woman to the map. 

The story picked up immediately where the first book ended, and you need to read it first. The speculative fiction aspect of this book was the time travel. Nothing else amazing happened, although there was something different about Jason that hasn't been explained yet. He was able to mentally guide their boat to the time portal, and he used his senses to search in a darkened room. Different from the first book, this one added more danger, as Oblivia and her henchman had more prominent roles in the events. Oblivia bribed and threatened Egyptians to help find the map. Manfred was left in the present day setting and planned an assault on Argo Manor. Jason's twin sister Julia had already returned from Egypt and needed to help with defending the home. You know how most (not all) books have happy endings? Well, this one wasn't exactly like that and ended with the conflicts for the next book in the series. Overall, it was a good mystery but didn't knock my socks off. 

Saturday, July 28, 2018

School for S.P.I.E.S. #3: Ends of the Earth by Bruce Hale

Ends of the Earth (School for S.P.I.E.S., #3)My name is Max, and it’s really hard being a double-agent, especially trying to hide my plans from Mrs. Frost, the head of LOTUS. I want to escape the headquarters of this evil organization, but Frost says she wants to adopt me!? I'm sure it's just a ploy to capture my dad, but I don't know if I can trust him. I mean, he used to work for LOTUS and tried to get me to turn on my friends. LOTUS has now stolen a mind-controlling device, but I need to find out what they're going to do with it. I need to get into Frost's office, but there are cameras everywhere. They even have vicious dogs and a tiger patrolling the grounds. The only way into the office is by sneaking through a bathroom adjoining the room. That bathroom happens to be Vespa's, a beautiful blond who's already stabbed me in the back once before.

It had been a few years since I’d read the previous books in the series, and I recommend you read them first. This conclusion of the trilogy was told from alternating points of view, since Max was captive and his friends were outside planning for his rescue. Max's situation was a little wacky, since he was kind of treated like a new LOTUS agent while being held captive. He wasn't allowed to leave the fortress on his own, but he was allowed to participate in a kidnapping. Wyatt was my second favorite character. He was a technology whiz and loved breaking codes and hacking computer systems. However, he didn't enjoy doing the other spy stuff like fighting and anything else athletic. Cinnabar was another of Max's friends who didn't have the same reservations about combat. She was determined to rescue Max and was able to adapt during tense situations. The author mixed adventure and action with a bit of humor. Max's friends contributed friendly banter with each other, while Max enjoyed messing with the LOTUS agents. He knew how to push their buttons and liked to push his limits. Overall, this was an entertaining series, and I think you should give it a try.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Jack Blank Adventure #2: The Secret War by Matt Myklusch

The Secret War (Jack Blank Adventure, #2)My name is Jack, and a sleeper agent has announced the Rustov are planning another attack on Imagine Nation in five days. He also mentioned a conspiracy leads all the way to the Inner Circle, but which leader could possibly be involved? The truth about a spyware virus infecting the Mechas has come out even though I haven't completed my secret project to create a cure-code. The virus would allow the Rustov to take control of the androids and use them as tools or weapons. It's hard trying to prevent the invasion, while Smart continues to attack me with accusations that I'm helping the Rustov. He also keeps saying he's going to unveil the SmarterNet to stop them, but people should be concerned when Smart is this excited about anything. He says he's the smartest man on Earth, but sometimes he's really stupid.

You should read The Accidental Hero first. This book continued Smart's efforts to prove Jack was a Rustov spy, and the complications it created for Jack. Some of the accusations were true, and Jack wasn't sure if he might be forced to assist the enemy. Having the virus speak inside his head only added to the conflict, as it seemed to reinforce a possible loss of control. An unexpected twist regarding his virus popped up near the end. Jack's character fell into the common hero problem of trying to cover up problematic secrets only to create bigger problems along the way. He even admitted during the resolution that all of the conflicts and difficulties in the plot might have been avoided if he had told the truth in the beginning. However, it would have created a boring story! This book added a couple more students to the plot, and Jack was finally able to work with a team. This cooperation was very shaky due to Jack's decisions and added to the suspense of the whole book. Jack's alliances seemed to come and go like a yo-yo. There was an anticipation that everything was going to fall apart at some point, probably at the worst possible time. On a pleasant note, a surprise character joined the fray during the book's climax. I'm looking forward to reading the last book in the trilogy, The End of Infinity

Monday, July 23, 2018

Ulysses Moore #1: The Door to Time by Pierdomenico Baccalario

The Door to Time (Ulysses Moore, #1)My name is Jason, and my twin sister and I just moved to Argo Manor. Julia is more athletic than me, but I'm more adventurous. I discovered a hidden parchment with ancient writing, and it's kicked off a mystery surrounding our new home. Rick, a boy I met in school, has joined us and has added knowledge of local stories. The previous homeowner, Ulysses Moore was an eccentric man, and we're sure the messages we've found were written by him. I feel there must be a huge grotto under the manor, but Julia won't believe it until she sees it. I found a secret door behind an armoire, and now we have four strange keys left by Ulysses. I'm sure there must be a secret passage behind the door, and then our adventure will truly begin. The only limit is our imagination. 

Most of this book read like a mystery, as the kids tried to figure out clues left around the property. The fantasy genre didn't kick in until the story neared the end, so the rest of the series should be more fantastic. The three kids made an interesting team due to their different talents. Jason was the adventuring risk-taker, Rick was intelligent with knowledge of local history, and Julia was supportive of her brother, although they maintained some playful banter throughout the plot. The only suspense in the plot came from the pursuit of solving the clues, so I didn't feel emotionally invested. Nothing opposed the children's efforts beyond their own mental and physical abilities. I didn't understand why a female character made a cameo appearance early in the story, since she wasn't much of a factor. She wanted to gain possession of the manor, but her interest and efforts had no effect on the events. I'm guessing she'll become more important in the future, but I didn't think she was needed in this book. Overall, The Door to Time was a nice blend of adventure and mystery and should appeal to most upper elementary readers. 

Dragons in a Bag #1 by Zetta Elliott

Dragons in a Bag (Dragons in a Bag #1)My name is Jax, and Ma received a bouncing package from Madagascar. Ma's not really related to me, and she happens to be a witch. I know Madagascar has many strange animals, but I was not expecting the package to contain three baby dragons! Ma says we need to take them to another dimension, because Brooklyn doesn't have enough magic anymore. Ma and I didn't get along right off the bat, but I think I may want to become her apprentice. Unfortunately, the transporter went wonky, and we ended up in another time, in a world full of toothy dinosaurs. The last thing I heard was a growl in the bushes and then Ma sent me back home. Now, Trouble says he can help me find Ma again, but something’s wrong with one of the dragons.

The target audience for this book is upper elementary, and that seems about right. The story moved quickly and wasn't overly complicated. Jax was leery about staying with a strange lady, and Ma made it clear she didn't want him around. The early parts of the plot were fairly realistic, except when Jax let an intelligent squirrel into the kitchen. Because of the book's title, it was obvious the mysterious package contained dragons, but they were used as props and didn't have an active role in the events. Ma's feelings toward the dragons weren't as clear, as she didn't attempt to hide the package from Jax but didn't share any information about it either. The possibility of the dragons' imprinting with humans most concerned her. Imprinting is when the baby animal connects and identifies with the first animal caring for it. The plot took a big turn once Ma caught up with Jax after he ran away. Even so, the revelation that Ma was a witch and the package contained dragons didn't cause any discomfort or stress for Jax. They quickly planned to travel to another dimension, and the action kicked up. The conclusion seemed too sudden, and it bugged me that things weren't resolved. Luckily, I sequel will be coming. Overall, it was a cute story and should appeal to many eight to twelve-year-old readers. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Dragon's Egg by Sarah L. Thompson

Dragon's EggMy name is Mella, and I have the rare ability to care for our Inn's herd of domestic dragons. There are rumors of wild dragons roaming the forest, but no one had actually seen one... until I came across a black egg left in a cave. Unfortunately, my discovery led to a dragon's death, and I've promised to guard the egg and return it to the land of the dragons. Thankfully, Roger, the dragonslayer's apprentice, has offered to accompany me, since I've never been this far into the forest. We must trek into the mountains,find an opening near a huge waterfall, and the Hatching Ground will be found between the Fangs. Everything had been going fairly well until we were captured and tied up by a nasty man named Damien. It seems Roger has failed to tell me about an important secret from his past.

The plot moved along quickly with moments of suspense caused by Damien and the dragons. Mella was an admirable character, as she was determined to honor her promise to a dying dragon. Honor was very important to Mella and Roger, and it was a big factor in the resolution of the conflict. Mella constantly cared for the egg and was concerned when she thought it might cool. She was willing to protect it with her life. On the other hand, she felt guilty for leaving her herd of dragons behind at the Inn; her absence would upset them greatly. Roger's character was a paradox. He was apprenticed to a Defender, guardians against wild dragons, yet he offered all of his support to aid Mella in her quest to save the dragon egg. The problems created by Roger's secret lingered throughout the whole story, and it was clear the secret would need to be addressed by the end. I could have seen this book being written as a more detailed adventure for older readers, but it worked well for an upper elementary audience. Overall, it was an entertaining book that most young readers will enjoy.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Worldquake Sequence #1: Dragon's Green by Scarlett Thomas

Dragon's Green (Worldquake Sequence, #1)My name is Effie, and the Otherworld is real! My grandfather left me all of his books when he died, and I'm angry that my father sold 499 of them to a Diberi named Leonard Levar. The evil Diberi want to absorb the magic within them to grow more powerful. My grandfather hid the 500th book, Dragon's Green, so I can use it to find the Otherworld. I faced a princess-eating dragon within the book's story that allowed me to find my cousins and my grandfather's lawyer. They said I'm a true hero, and a ring I inherited has endowed me with strength to fight the Diberi. I'm still learning to manage my magical force, and I'm happy for the support from my new friends. The spectacles I've given Maximillian provide him with great knowledge, but I pray they can help us develop a plan to rescue my grandfather's library. 

The plot moved a little slowly for me in the beginning, as a clear conflict with tension didn't appear until I was over a hundred pages into the book. However, everything came together in the second half and grew into an exciting climax. I liked the use of boons that helped Effie unknowingly form a team, as the magical objects could only be activated by various characters. A letter opener became a sword, a glass ball helped with healing, and a wand enhanced a young witch's powers. Worldquake Sequence referred to the separation of worlds occurring sixty years prior to the story. The way books were used as portals to the Otherworld was creative, as the stories themselves became the gateway, not the book. The grandfather's training popped up throughout the plot, including Effie's unusual method for stopping the dragon. Also, the grandfather's death may not be permanent, since Effie was told he might return to the Otherworld sometime in the future. Again, I had a little trouble making sense of the events in the first half of the book, but I enjoyed the plot much more once things cleared up. Overall, I think I'll be giving the sequel, The Chosen Ones, a chance sometime soon.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Dragonwatch #2: Wrath of the Dragon King by Brandon Mull

Wrath of the Dragon King (Dragonwatch, #2)My name is Seth, and Celebrant continues to test the defenses at Wyrmroost. Surprisingly, the Dragon King invited Kendra and I to a feast, and there would be terrible consequences if we didn't go. The event began with Celebrant killing one of his guards who had challenged him for the crown. Then, as food was served, the king declared war on anyone opposing him! Our griffins were killed in the royal stables, and we now have two days to trek home. 

Unfortunately, I only read about a fourth of the book in a preview copy. The format and characters are the same as previous books about the magical creatures of Wyrmroost and Fablehaven. Seth always seems to be the wildcard, as his impulsiveness often leads to problems. In this book, he wants to steal dragon bones after Celebrant's duel which would negate any protective spells during the feast. Another wildcard may be Seth's cousin. He just knowingly saw magical creatures for the first time, and it's unknown what he'll do with the knowledge. I assume it will have an important effect, since the author chose to include it. I'll withhold any further comments until I finish the book this fall when it comes out. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

A Babysitter's Guide to Monster Hunting #2: Beasts and Geeks by Joe Ballarini

My name is Liz, and I am a babysitter, sworn to protect innocent kids from deadly monsters. Kelly defeated the Grand Guignol last month, so the other six Boogeymen will be seeking revenge against her. She babysat baby Theo for me while I searched for the Spider Queen Serena, but I wasn't prepared for the anger I felt when I found my little brother changed into a big, blue, furry monster. Serena is biting humans to create an army of minions, so it looks like war has already been declared. She always seems to be one step ahead of us, and Mama Vee is missing too. Luckily, Kelly does a pretty good job for a newb, and the Spider Queen hasn't gotten her fangs into Theo yet. He's destined to grow up and become a great monster killer. Unfortunately, right now, monsters have a super sense of smell that can detect his stinky diapers!

I continue to be amazed at the entertainment value of this series. I never would have imagined being enamored by a worldwide group of young babysitters. I'm impressed by the adventure, action, and humor in the fast-paced plot. Kelly is the main character, and everyone can relate to her life as a middle school student. There are moments of forgetting her homework, problems with an old friendship, and complications of first love. However, most of the story focuses on the monsters' efforts to capture little Theo. You must keep reminding yourself that this diapered baby is supposed to grow up and defeat all of the monsters. In addition, his unexplained wails are actually warnings that monsters are nearby. An unusual twist to the plot is that Serena is transforming most of the minor characters into her puppets. Consequently, readers must constantly question everyone Kelly meets along the way. Are they under Serena's control. Another emotional complication pops up early in the story when Kelly fails to pass her babysitter training. How can she be a special monster hunter when she can't even pass her classes? I can highly recommend this series to you; you don't really need to read the first book in order to enjoy this one.

Monday, July 9, 2018

The Lost Books #1: The Scroll of Kings by Sarah Prineas

The Scroll of Kings  (The Lost Books, #1)My name is Alex, and I am the royal librarian. At least until the queen figures out I've been lying about my identity. I never received any proper training, but everybody assumes I know what I’m doing. The queen’s given me two weeks to organize a cavernous library that's been neglected for years, but she doesn't even know the dangers found here. The books are frightened of something hidden on the shelves, volumes with strange covers that have already killed three other librarians. I've barely survived books that conjured up strangling vines, devastating earthquakes, and raging storms. Why are all the books targeting me and trying to end my life? There are so many secrets to uncover! The Lost Books, the queen’s uncle, and the Red Codex.

I randomly found this book on my library's shelf of new releases, and I'm glad I did. The story oozed with imagination, as paper was used to create different characters. The characters weren't made from paper, the sheets of paper were Alex's flying assistants. Evil books mesmerized readers into deadly situations, and the cause of this dangerous change was unclear. The young queen found the library hard to understand, and she found Alex annoying. However, she admired Alex's honesty, loyalty, and determination. The author included many subplots that were easy to follow; authors sometimes make their books confusing by describing too many problems. Alex had issues with his father, the queen was unaware of her uncle's plans, the prince felt useless, and Alex wanted to save all of the books, even the ones trying to kill him! The conflicts overlapped, and the author neatly blended them together. The thing I liked best about the book was the fact Alex was always the underdog. The queen gave him two weeks to perform an impossible task for which he was totally unprepared. He was forced to act alone, and the Red Codex was a constant mystery in his mind. Some readers may not like this book, but I highly recommend you give it a try.

Casper and Jasper and the Terrible Tyrant by Tilia Klebenov Jacobs

Casper and Jasper and the Terrible TyrantMy name is Casper, and my twin brother Jasper and I were literally thrown into a crowd of people when we were only six months old. Of course, it wasn't until now that we learned our real parents have been slaving away as prisoners all these years. We don't even know what they look like. Jasper and I have never been known as rule-followers (just ask our teachers), so any sensible person could have predicted we'd run away to rescue our parents. I must admit I was a little uncomfortable about being eaten by werewolves and drowning in the swamp, but the giant troll named Guthrum the Sinister came in pretty handy. I'm sorry we tricked him into burying "magic" yarn, but desperate times called for creative thinking. I'm not sure how we'll rescue our parents and mess up the count's plans for the deadly black ice, but we'll think of something.

Some readers might not enjoy the word play in the book, but I found it amusing. Younger readers will probably miss the references to old pop culture. The twins had a special bond, and their teamwork was formidable. They used language as a weapon or tool, as they confused and manipulated people they met. They managed to get past Guthrum by bribing him with yarn, and they later escaped from the same troll by using their words. Guthrum was an endearing character, since he was sincere and only wanted to do his best. I'm not sure I've ever read a book where all of the antagonists are so simple and gullible. The only one with an actual sense of evil logic was the "princess". She was a poor, needy girl who managed to become Count Wilhelm Scream's most powerful confidante using confusion and trickery. She was as ruthless as the count, as they both enjoyed inflicting pain on others. The plot jumped around to several settings, which I don't enjoy, but the imprisoned parents displayed the same magical tongues as their sons. They were able to persuade the guards into making the prison arrangements more bearable for their fellow inmates. The author left some unfinished business after the climax, but everything was resolved in the end.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond #1: The Serpent's Secret by Sayantani Dasgupta

The Serpent's Secret (Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond, #1)My name is Kiran, and I was rescued by two princes after a rakkhosh destroyed my home. My parents always called me a princess, but Lal and Neel have taken me to a kingdom in another dimension. I'm slowly realizing my life in New Jersey wasn't real, as my twelfth birthday broke a protective spell. I've learned that my mother is actually a moon maiden and my father is the Serpent King. He wants to change me into a snake like my seven older brothers, but Lal and Neel are tasked with my protection. Neel has a right to be angry with me, but I’m getting tired of being reminded about it. Lal’s kinda dead now because of things I mistakenly said, so Neel and I must venture into the Serpent Kingdom, where my father will probably want to kill me.

The rakkhosh is a Hindu demon, and the kingdom in this book definitely has an old Indian feel to it. The princes wore turbans with shoes that curl up at the toes, and there were many references to Indian folklore. Kiran seemed to be an ordinary girl, although she sensed her own uniqueness. The true impact of her parentage wasn’t revealed until the climax. A highlight to the story was her relationship with Neel. While her first attraction was to the kind and handsome Lal, she developed a shakier realationship with Neel. She found him arrogant and annoying but slowly came to a mutual understanding. Neel was angered by his father but fully understood why Lal was the crown prince, even though it left Neel feeling invisible in his father’s eyes. The book included some humor, as one character liked to share silly bird riddles throughout the whole plot. It also shared several life lessons including the message to not judge people based on social status. Overall, this was an entertaining book to read, and I think you should give it a shot.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

The Forbidden Library #4: The Fall of the Readers by Django Wexler

The Fall of the Readers (The Forbidden Library, #4)My name is Alice, and the fate of the world rests on my shoulders. I successfully imprisoned Geryon, but the other Readers are laying siege on me. I can't let them continue their cruelty toward magical creatures and the labyrinthine. Ending says she will help me if I take control of the Great Binding that holds a powerful prisoner. She says I must enter a labyrinth created by all the Readers that is protected by many formidable guardians. I don't know what will happen once I complete the quest, but I trust Ending and I will be able to make things right. However, Geryon and the Dragon have warned me the labyrinthine cannot be trusted, despite the fact Ending has always helped me and supported me in the past. I wasn't ready for the truths to be revealed, but I probably should have seen the signs. 

You need to read the whole series; it will be worth your while! Alice's quest completed the first half of this book, but Part Two was much more interesting. The "truths" mentioned above added creative complications to the whole situation and explained all of Alice's unique abilities. She was the most admirable character due to her empathy for others and her desire to make things right. She wanted to keep her friends safe, so she needed to learn how to share dangerous tasks. All of the creatures trusted Alice and rallied around her. She owned all of her decisions, since her desire for revenge against Geryon led to disastrous consequences. Ending was a cat-like creature in charge of guarding the library. Her power was clear from the beginning, but the author included details throughout the plot that questioned her motives and true self. This created an underlying conflict that continued through the whole series. I found these books by randomly choosing the first one on-line, but I can highly recommend the series to lovers of fantasy and magic.

Monday, July 2, 2018

The Forbidden Library #3: The Palace of Glass by Django Wexler

The Palace of Glass (The Forbidden Library, #3)
My name is Alice, and I must get revenge against Geryon for killing my father. I don't have the power to stop him, but Ending says I can trap my mentor by using a book called The Infinite Prison. An opportunity to travel to the land of fire-sprites arose when Geryon announced he was going to be gone for seven days. Ending says the fire-sprites  may help me locate the Palace of Glass where I'll find the book I need. However, she says I'll face the most dangerous perils in existence, and I might not be able to escape. I'm learning how much other people detest Readers, but I'm not like them. It's hard to convince these people that I'm not violent and deceitful like Geryon. Ak fire-sprite named Flicker is now my guide, but I can tell he doesn't like me. It won't really matter if I don't survive my quest. 

You need to read the previous books in the series first. This one was different from the others, since Alice ventured out on her own. In previous books, she needed to coordinate her efforts with other apprentices. Alice’s mission to defeat her powerful mentor created a tremendous amount of danger and suspense. This was the man who trained her and was the most feared Reader in the world. The author amped up the tension even more by imposing a time limit on Alice’s quest and having her carry a watch to insert reminders. In addition, it seemed like the climax would be facing Geryon, but the author managed to add an unexpected twist to it. Alice was an admirable character, as she tried to maintain her positive qualities. Every new character despised Readers, and Alice displayed an unusual empathy for them. Eventually, many of these characters changed their views, although it didn’t carry over to the older Readers. The plot brought up a huge issue about how Alice’s quest might affect others, and I’m sure it will continue in the sequel.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Unwritten by Tara Gilboy

UnwrittenMy name is Gracie, and I should have trusted my mother. I now know I shouldn't have gone to the author's book-signing, and I shouldn't have let her sign the parchment. How was I to know she’d disappear? My mom wouldn't have been captured by Queen Cassandra, and I wouldn't have had to enter a portal into the storybook land of Bondoff. My mom told me the author had me killed by the queen in the original story, but I’ve now learned that I was the actual evil character. My behavior is being pulled by the story, but there’s some way for it to be rewritten. If not, my friend Walter will die a fiery death.

This book had a creative premise with Gracie and her mother escaping from inside a story by traveling to the "real world". She had disturbing dreams about Cassandra but didn't know much about her previous life. The author added a unique twist to the plot once the setting returned to Bondoff. The characters were controlled by the words previously written in the story, except for Cassandra and Gracie. This complicated things for Gracie, since her mom didn't remember anything about events outside the story. If I could change the book, I would have given examples of the queen’s evilness to build suspense. All of the characters said she was bad, but the worst  example ended up not being true. I typically like to learn about characters by their own actions and words, so I wanted to see more about the queen. The plot was easy to read and moved along swiftly. Younger middle grade readers should love it!