Some shorter musings on some recent reads.
Baker's Magic by Diane Zahller
I typically enjoy Zahler's books, but this one was particularly fun to read. It has many fairy tale type elements: missing parents, helpful guardians, evil guardians, simple magic, and a precocious pet. There are also pirates. All of these come together to make an exciting, adventurous tale. There is a quest and magical baked goods that made me hungry for raspberry tarts. I recommend this to any person who enjoys fairy tale type stories of magic and epic quests. I feel the story is not being served well by this rather boring and innocuous cover.
The Goblin's Puzzle: The Adventures of a Boy With No Name and Two Girls Called Alice by Andrew Chilton
There are a lot of characters and several storylines. A quarter of the way through the book I found myself very annoyed at the jumping around and lack of cohesion. The storylines still hadn't come together in any way and because it was bouncing so much I felt like I didn't really have a feel for any of the characters. But I decided to keep going anyway. Even though things do come together a bit better, I never connected to the story or characters in any real way. It didn't sit well with me thematically either. I think it could be a fun read for some, it was definitely not for me though.
A Most Magical Girl by Karen Foxlee
This was a really fun find. I didn't realize Foxlee had a new book out this year until I found it at the library. The plot moves quickly and doesn't leave much room for character development so sometimes I was disbelieving at how fast Annabel embraced her "destiny" and attacked her quest. Annabel is sent to her great aunts shop in the not so fabulous part of London when her mother suddenly needs to go abroad. While with her aunts, Annabel discovers she is a witch considered "a most magical girl" destined to save magic kind from an evil dark wizard. It goes along like standard MG fantasy fare but I do like that Foxlee subtly twists the chosen one trope.
The Scourge by Jennifer Nielsen
This is a blend of dystopian like fantasy. The world building is incredibly weak, but the characters make it entertaining enough to overlook most of that. I personally found the plot to be far too predictable, but a middle grade audience who hasn't read as widely may find it more exciting. Nielsen has a problem with pacing in her novels and that is just as true here. There are places where it drags and the end is incredibly rushed. For kids who really enjoy thrilling tales with just the right amount of peril, this is a goo done to have on hand even though it isn't ground breaking or amazing.
Sticks and Stones by Abby Cooper
Sticks & Stones is about a girl who has the words people are thinking about her show up on her skin. This is problematic as she is entering the minefield that is middle school. It's an interesting concept and the book has good things to say about embracing who you are, not allowing others to dictate how you feel about yourself, and the pains of growing apart from friends and everything changing. These lessons don't come with a light touch though. It's very much a Lesson book and the writing is awkward and clunky in many places. I think there are a lot of books that do what this one is doing better and with more subtlety.