5 stars · Fantasy · middle grade

Nightbooks by J.A. White: a magical middle-grade novel

36425992

Nightbooks

author : j.a. white

pages : [hardcover] 304

favorite character : lenore

summary :

Alex has loved scary stories his whole life.

He never imagined he be trapped in one.

When Alex sneaks out in the middle of the night, he becomes imprisoned by the witch Natacha in her magical apartment. Another child in the apartment, Yasmin, assures Alex that she’s already tried every means of escape. Only Natacha holds the bonekeys that lead back to their world, and she’ll never part from them.

But Natacha likes stories. And Alex’s only chance for survival is to keep Natacha satisfied by reading her one of his own hair-raising tales each night. But Alex is running out of time—and original stories—and he’s desperate for a way out of this twisted place.

review :

All of us know the power of a story.

When Alex sneaks out at night to destroy his stories, instead he ends up trapped in a witch’s lair–er, apartment. To keep her from cursing him, or worse, he must tell her a different scary story each night.Nightbooks is like a combination of 1001 Nights and Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Alex needs to please the witch with his horror stories long enough to escape, or he’ll be permanently trapped in the witch’s apartment.

This story was so unique and magical and absolutely lovely. It’s a middle-grade book and exactly the sort of story my middle school self would have loved. It was very creepy; there were moments that freaked out present-me as well. I think readers will appreciate having Alex as a main character, too, because so many readers are interested in the creation of stories, even if they aren’t writers themselves. Alex experiences many of the struggles typical writers do, and maybe that only occur to horror writers. Plus there’s the whole cursed-by-a-witch threat hanging over his head, which would be sure to give anyone writer’s block.

The setting and the way magic interacts with it is so cool and vivid that I could picture it all. Honestly, I could see them turning this into a neat children’s movie. The way that the setting itself feels like a character and influences the plot so much is done incredibly well.

The writing is fun, too, and I love that we actually get to read Alex’s stories as he tells them. It’s a testament to J. A. White’s skill that Alex’s stories have a completely different voice and feel to them than the rest of the plot. We know when we’re reading Alex the narrator, and we know when we’re reading Alex the writer.

I think that readers will absolutely adore Nightbooks. It’s a standalone and a very quick, magical, creepy read. It’s completely unique, and middle-grade readers will love getting something new on their shelves.

5/5 stars

 

5 stars · Fantasy · series

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab is all I want in fantasy

A Darker Shade final for Irene

a darker shade of magic

shades of magic #1

author : v.e. schwab

pages : [hardcover] 400

memorable quote :

“I’m not going to die,” she said. “Not till I’ve seen it.”
“Seen what?”
Her smile widened. “Everything.”

favorite character : holland

summary :

Kell is one of the last Antari—magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons; Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black.

Kell was raised in Arnes—Red London—and officially serves the Maresh Empire as an ambassador, traveling between the frequent bloody regime changes in White London and the court of George III in the dullest of Londons, the one without any magic left to see.

Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see. It’s a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.

After an exchange goes awry, Kell escapes to Grey London and runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.

Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they’ll first need to stay alive.

review :

This book is truly a rollercoaster and, wow, I can’t believe I waited so long to read it.

There are some books I know I’ve been hyped too much about and can’t enjoy. Then there are some that live up to the hype, exceed it–maybe deserve more of it. A Darker Shade of Magic is certainly the latter.

And, yes, I’d heard a lot of good things about this book. But I dove into it without even reading the summary–without knowing much about the plot really. Apart from assuming it had something to do with magic. (Yes. There is plenty of magic in this book. What. A. Shock.) I loved not knowing what I was getting myself into. What the world was, what the plot was going to be, what the characters goals and motivations were. I wanted to find out within the story and it truly delivered.

This is the first book I’ve read by this author and I already know I need more to devour. The writing is just captivating. I love the way that the world was built. And there was absolutely no info-dumping! I hate that more than almost anything else in fantasy novels. The characters were so nicely fleshed out that you came to feel for even the most minor of them. I wanted more of some who only appeared on a few pages!

That said, some of the main characters were a little predictable in their little heroic roles. I’m excited because the way this book left off leaves more room for interesting and unexpected things to happen. For these characters to really branch out and flex their wills and abilities in this world.

Basically I need book two like yesterday.

This is a book I’ll recommend and reread. It’s a book with characters I love and a world I can immerse myself in and a story that hooks me in. I can’t wait to see what happens next!

5/5 stars

 

5 stars · fairy tale · fiction

Stardust by Neil Gaiman: everything I need in life

18280911

Stardust

author : neil gaiman

pages : [paperback] 266

memorable quote :

Have been unavoidably detained by the world. Expect us when you see us.

favorite character : tristran

summary :

Young Tristran Thorn will do anything to win the cold heart of beautiful Victoria—even fetch her the star they watch fall from the night sky. But to do so, he must enter the unexplored lands on the other side of the ancient wall that gives their tiny village its name. Beyond that old stone wall, Tristran learns, lies Faerie—where nothing, not even a fallen star, is what he imagined.

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Neil Gaiman comes a remarkable quest into the dark and miraculous—in pursuit of love and the utterly impossible.

review:

WORDS CANNOT EXPRESS HOW MUCH I LOVED THIS BOOK.

tumblr_lsk2y3rnth1qehyg7o1_500

Not that I can ever underestimate Neil Gaiman anymore. After The Ocean at the End of the Lane and The Graveyard Book (just to name two), I’m ready to devour everything he’s ever written. Luckily for me, Stardust has been on my mental TBR for years. My physical TBR for a pile. Now I’m kicking myself because, after reading it, I realized that this is one of my absolute favorite books for the year–if not of all time.

It’s that amazing.

If you love fairy tales, or retold fairy tales, you’ll love this one. It’s like a fairy tale for adults–but not, you know, those adult themes. It’s the kind of perfect you want to go into knowing almost nothing about, just so you can fall headlong into the story and fall in love with Tristran Thorn.

Apart from the fact that I kept thinking “Tristran” is just a really complicated way of saying “Tristan”, our hero was amazing. Mostly because he isn’t perfect. He’s a little foolish, making promises to people he barely knows about things he hardly knows about. Running off to lands he knows absolutely nothing about and accepting help from people he’s just met. But he has such a kind heart, such good humor, and such a loving soul that you can’t help rooting for him and desperately hoping that the people he meets along the way will root for him, too. Because, of course, he’s entered the land of Faerie, where nothing is ever quite as it seems and most creatures aren’t as nice as you would like them to be.

But it’s oh so magical.

I don’t know why I love stories about Faerie so much when the creatures aren’t so nice. Maybe because it means most of the characters will be inevitably witty or clever. Tristan is kind of accidentally both of those things, which makes him even more endearing.

And then there are the other characters. I can’t delve much into them, because I don’t want to give anything away. I want you to step into this book, into this world, and be sucked in as deeply and immediately as I was. You’ll want to own this book, re-read it immediately, and share it with everyone you know.

I don’t think you’ll be surprised to hear I’d recommend Stardust to literally anyone. So what are you waiting for? Go take a trip to Faerie.

5/5 stars

 

5 stars · fiction · young adult

The Graces by Laure Eve was such a weird and awesome book

25365584

The Graces

author : laure eve

pages : [paperback] 432

release date : september 1 2016

favorite character : river

summary :

Everyone said the Graces were witches.

They moved through the corridors like sleek fish, ripples in their wake. Stares followed their backs and their hair.

They had friends, but they were just distractions. They were waiting for someone different.

All I had to do was show them that person was me.

Like everyone else in her town, River is obsessed with the Graces, attracted by their glamour and apparent ability to weave magic. But are they really what they seem? And are they more dangerous than they let on?

This beautifully-written thriller will grip you from its very first page.

review :

This book was so different from what I thought it was going to be and I loved it.

River is an odd teenager. She doesn’t really have any friends, had to leave her old town under mysterious circumstances, and has a weird home life. Her mom isn’t around much but she desperately wants River to fit in. So when River begins to hang out with undeniably the weirdest–and for some reason most popular–family in town, she doesn’t specify to her mom that she’s hanging with the Graces. Rumored to be witches, they hardly ever let anyone into their inner circle. But River’s in, and she wants to know all of their secrets.

I think what a lot of people will find difficult to digest about this book is that River is such an unlikable character. But she’s interesting. Her way of thinking is kind of crazy, so you literally have no idea what she’ll do next–or what lengths she’ll go to in order to impress the Graces or gain their trust. She’s determined to be the one person who’s worthy of the Graces’ times, so it’s obvious that she looks down on everyone. I know a lot of people can’t push through characters like her, but it’s so worth it and I loved reading everything from her perspective because everything was slightly twisted.

While I didn’t exactly not see the plot twists at the end coming (well, I’d guessed a few, not all), I was excited that the book took the turn that it did. Because for so much of the book, it was so cool to see how everything that could have been magical could also have just been pure coincidence. It was like reading two books at once-a contemporary and a paranormal–that come together at the end into something awesome.

I’d definitely recommend this book. It’s so different from anything else that I’ve read, the characters and narrative are awesome, and the building plot is so great.

5/5 stars

 

1 star · Fantasy · young adult

DNF Review: Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes

12954620

Falling Kingdoms

Falling Kingdoms #1

author : morgan rhodes

pages : [hardcover] 412

summary :

In the three kingdoms of Mytica, magic has long been forgotten. And while hard-won peace has reigned for centuries, a deadly unrest now simmers below the surface.

As the rulers of each kingdom grapple for power, the lives of their subjects are brutally transformed… and four key players, royals and rebels alike, find their fates forever intertwined. Cleo, Jonas, Lucia, and Magnus are caught in a dizzying world of treacherous betrayals, shocking murders, secret alliances, and even unforeseen love.

The only outcome that’s certain is that kingdoms will fall. Who will emerge triumphant when all they know has collapsed?

It’s the eve of war…. Choose your side.

Princess: Raised in pampered luxury, Cleo must now embark on a rough and treacherous journey into enemy territory in search of magic long thought extinct.

Rebel: Jonas, enraged at injustice, lashes out against the forces of oppression that have kept his country cruelly impoverished. To his shock, he finds himself the leader of a people’s revolution centuries in the making.

Sorceress: Lucia, adopted at birth into the royal family, discovers the truth about her past—and the supernatural legacy she is destined to wield.

Heir: Bred for aggression and trained to conquer, firstborn son Magnus begins to realize that the heart can be more lethal than the sword….

review :

I’d heard really great things about this series so I picked upFalling Kingdoms from the library, planning to marathon the rest of the books that are currently out if I liked this first installment. I have to admit that I was completely surprised that I didn’t end up liking this book–to the point where, 250 pages in, I didn’t end up finishing it.

Fallen Kingdoms is, basically, a YA fantasy novel that in those few hundred pages didn’t show me what was unique about it. The characters weren’t exceptional or relatable, to me. One of them creeped me out from the start because he’s in love with his sister (who, I’ll admit, is known to be adopted at the start by the reader, but he doesn’t know!) and I’m still not sure if he’s supposed to end up as a hero or a villain. Besides him, most of the characters end up doing things that are completely stupid. Starting international wars for literally no reason. Running off to countries where every person there wants you dead–without any protection and when you’ve hardly stepped outside the palace in your life. In most books, I can overlook rash or stupid decisions because something interesting will happen or the character will end up learning from their mistakes. I’m not willing to sit through a book series that looks like it’ll be longer than four or five books to see what’ll happen with these people.

The writing wasn’t so great, either. There was nothing in it that made me feel immersed in this world, which is supposed to be ancient and have elements of magic. I wasn’t awed by any of it, really, and that disappointed me. I love learning about new fantasy worlds and their rules and conflicts. ButFalling Kingdoms just has three pretty mundane kingdoms that have been falling apart from even before these books begin. I can’t even count the number of times I sighed because I was bored, or frustrated, with this book that I’d been looking forward to.

I definitely won’t be continuing this series and I’m not sure if I’d try something else by this author, but I wouldn’t recommend Falling Kingdoms. There are so many other fantasy series out there that are better.

1/5 stars

 

4 stars · Fantasy · fiction · young adult

The Ring and the Crown by Melissa de la Cruz

The Ring and the Crown

author : melissa de la cruz

pages : [hardcover] 384

memorable quote You are young still, Sister Myrddyn, but one day you will learn that a false victory is a hollow one.

favorite characters : gill & marie

summary :

Princess Marie-Victoria, heir to the Lily Throne, and Aelwyn Myrddn, bastard daughter of the Mage of England, grew up together. But who will rule, and who will serve?

Quiet and gentle, Marie has never lived up to the ambitions of her mother, Queen Eleanor the Second, Supreme Ruler of the Franco-British Empire. With the help of her Head Merlin, Emrys, Eleanor has maintained her stranglehold on the world’s only source of magic. She rules the most powerful empire the world has ever seen.

But even with the aid of Emrys’ magic, Eleanor’s extended lifespan is nearing its end. The princess must marry and produce an heir or the Empire will be vulnerable to its greatest enemy, Prussia. The two kingdoms must unite to end the war, and the only solution is a match between Marie and Prince Leopold VII, heir to the Prussian throne. But Marie has always loved Gill, her childhood friend and soldier of the Queen’s Guard.

Together, Marie and Aelwyn, a powerful magician in her own right, come up with a plan. Aelwyn will take on Marie’s face, allowing the princess to escape with Gill and live the quiet life she’s always wanted. And Aelwyn will get what she’s always dreamed of–the chance to rule. But the court intrigue and hunger for power in Lenoran England run deeper than anyone could imagine. In the end, there is only rule that matters in Eleanor’s court: trust no one.

review :

I tried to read Melissa de la Cruz’s Blue Bloods series a long time ago but couldn’t get through the first book. I have to admit that first I was attracted to this gorgeous cover, then I wanted to see what the story was about. I’m trying to get outside the box with my reading lately and this is nothing nothing I’ve ever picked up before. It’s like an alternate historical fantasy, with tons of drama and intrigue. While Cruz’s dramatic flair didn’t work for me with her other book, I loved it in this one. I absolutely never knew what was going to happen next and couldn’t predict how the novel would end.

There are a lot of characters involved in The Ring and the Crown and in the beginning it can get to be very confusing. Every chapter focuses on a different character but there is nothing helpful like the character’s name in the chapter header to let you know who is going to have the main viewpoint. That is one annoyance I had, having to read on-tempted to skip ahead a little-until I realized who had the focus and where they were in the novel. But I loved the characters enough not to be too angry; there wasn’t a specific character that I enjoyed reading about more than the others. I didn’t want to skip any chapters. I feel like the storylines progressed so quickly I didn’t have time to miss anyone or a certain aspect of the narrative.

I have to admit, I both loved and hated the romance aspects of this book because it ended up leaving me heartbroken. It really demonstrates that nothing can work out perfectly in the world, no matter how much you want reality to turn into a fairy tale. The beautiful descriptions of people and the opulent places in which they stayed made it all feel like a wonderful dream, yet the very real danger and intrigue brought everything down to a grittier level.

Another part of the book I found interesting with the magic that was very real in that world. I loved seeing how it was or wasn’t used in their reality. It was odd to see a regular historical monarchy with real magicians at their beck and call. I think that fantastical aspect added another element that I really liked because I was glad that it wasn’t simply the personal drama driving the plot forward.

And then I finished just to find out that this is the first book in a series! Even though I feel like it could have been a standalone, I’m so excited to see what else could happen and can’t wait to get my hands on book two! I’d recommend this book to everyone. It’s so interesting, will leave you on the edge of your seat, and will definitely have you so emotionally invested you won’t want to put it down.

4/5 stars

4 stars · Fantasy · fiction

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy

author : karen foxlee

pages : [hardcover] 240

memorable quote And you might think a name is just a name, nothing but a word, but that is not the case. Your name is tacked to you. Where it has joined you, it has seeped into your skin and into your essence and into your soul.

favorite characters : opehlia & the marvelous boy

summary :

A modern-day fairy tale set in a mysterious museum that is perfect for readers of Roald Dahl and Blue Balliett.

Unlikely heroine Ophelia Jane Worthington-Whittard doesn’t believe in anything that can’t be proven by science. She and her sister Alice are still grieving for their dead mother when their father takes a job in a strange museum in a city where it always snows. On her very first day in the museum Ophelia discovers a boy locked away in a long forgotten room. He is a prisoner of Her Majesty the Snow Queen. And he has been waiting for Ophelia’s help.

As Ophelia embarks on an incredible journey to rescue the boy everything that she believes will be tested. Along the way she learns more and more about the boy’s own remarkable journey to reach her and save the world.

A story within a story, this a modern day fairytale is about the power of friendship, courage and love, and never ever giving up.

review :

I have a special affection for children’s stories that are modeled after fairy tales. I think  it’s so important for everyone to embrace their imagination and allow it to thrive. While there were some parts of this novel that seemed rushed for me, I really did enjoy it and hope to read more by this author in the future!

Ophelia was a fantastic protagonist. Not only is she still grieving the loss of her mother, something no girl should have to do, she’s small, asthmatic, and her father and sister have changed and seem to have little time for her anymore. Finding a mysterious boy in a museum opens up a whole new world for her. I loved seeing Ophelia change throughout the story and I felt like I could really connect with her, especially her doubts and her hope that everything would turn out alright in the end.

I did get very frustrated with her family in this book, mostly because it was obvious how much she needed them and they tended to ignore her. Of course she was speaking about impossible things so they assumed she was making it all up, but she’s young and deserved more than they gave her. The end settled most of this for me.

Some of the scenes were bothersome because they were more summary than action and I would have liked to have seen how they played out rather than have them told to me. As with my frustration with Ophelia’s family, this was made up for elsewhere, but kept me from giving this read a full 5 stars.

I really think that younger readers will fall in love with this story and the characters in it. Older readers like me will be able to enjoy this quick read. I think it contains a great message as well as two great protagonists to root for!

4/5 stars

If you like this book, you might also like Catalina or A Kiss in Time.

3 stars · Fantasy · fiction · romance · young adult

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

 

The Scorpio Races

Author: Maggie Stiefvater

Pages [hardcover]: 409

memorable quote: One of the lines in Finn’s code is that you’re not to say anything about Finn being attractive to the opposite sex.

favorite characters:
finn & holly

summary:

It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.

At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.

Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen

review:

Ugh.

Okay. I read Shiver a few years ago with good hopes because the premise sounded awesome, and it was . . . just not the way it was executed. Characters either too exaggerated or left bland, writing awkward, nothing really clicking for me . . . I never continued with that series, and didn’t think I’d read anything by the same author, until this came along. Yet again, the premise caught me, and boy, they know how to get you hooked real good. Plus, I read and heard a lot of people saying that this book was awesome, so much better than the whole wolf trilogy, and that I just needed to give it a shot. So I did.

It could have been worse, really. I know that’s not the most encouraging point to begin with, but I did like the minor characters. Finn. The American, Holly. Even the three sisters. Problem was, I liked them a heck of a lot more than the major ones, Puck and Sean. Even the antagonist, Mutt. I honestly can’t remember if they explained why Puck is called Puck instead of Kate. How did she get a nickname like that? I’d be interested to know, but can’t tell if I found out and it slipped my mind . .

Gabe, Puck’s other brother, was annoying, as he was supposed to be, but he also made no sense. What good brother would practically abandon his siblings just to make himself happier? His decision to leave could have been postponed until they were all back on their feet and it would be less selfish for him to leave. I can’t think of anyone I know that would leave their younger siblings to fend for themselves, only because they couldn’t deal with it any longer. What sort of excuse is that?

I really liked the setting. The entire island, closed off, was easy to picture, and seemed like a magical place to live, aside from the incessant smell of fish and the man-eating horses. At first I couldn’t understand why anyone would risk their lives in these races, aside from getting the money, but learning about the traditions and beliefs of the place helped me to get a feel of their unique culture. The only part of the setting I couldn’t quite grasp was what time period it was supposed to be in. I thought it was far in the past . . . then cars came in. And there were mentions of America, so probably modern times. Then bowler hats . . . and cameras with ‘gigantic bulbs’. Clarification would have been good, if only to get a feel for the outside world in comparison to the close-knit society on Thisby.

I couldn’t ever really connect with the characters, or get invested in the plot, because the entire thing frustrated me so often. It took me forever to read this. It was another seemingly brilliant concept that ended up disappointing me. I’m not sure if I’ll be tricked into reading another Maggie Stiefvater novel, eventually . . .

I give The Scorpio Races 3/5 stars. One for the ending, one for the concept, and one because I think someone, somewhere out there will probably like it better than I did.

4 stars · books to movies · fiction · history · young adult

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

The Invention of Hugo Cabret

Author: Brian Selznick

Pages [hardcover]: 533

memorable quote: Even if all the clocks in the station break down, thought Hugo, time won’t stop. Not even if you really want it to.

Like now.

favorite characters: Hugo & Etienne

summary:

Orphan Hugo Cabret lives in a wall. His secret home is etched out in the crevices of a busy Paris train station. Part-time clock keeper, part-time thief, he leads a life of quiet routine until he gets involved with an eccentric, bookish young girl and an angry old man who runs a toy booth in the station. The Invention of Hugo Cabret unfolds its cryptic, magical story in a format that blends elements of picture book, novel, graphic novel, and film. Caldecott Honor-winning author-illustrator Brian Selznick has fashioned an intricate puzzle story that binds the reader like a mesmerist’s spell.

review:

 I was really looking forward to reading this book-mostly, I’m not going to lie, because of the pictures. Yeah, that’s right. There are so many of them, because Brian Selznick is going for a new feel in this book. Sort of a cinematic reading experience. Sounds crazy? Maybe it is, but it sort of works. Seeing pictures of a fight scene helps me picture everything better than simply reading about it, but some chases in books can be particularly descriptive, too. I can just say it was a good experience, the images were wonderful, and I hope to read more books like this in the future. Pictures shouldn’t be just for kids!

This book was a bit predictable, which disappointed me. I was looking for some conspiracy, some twist, that would shake me up and make me look at the book in a different light. I know not every novel can work out that way, but I don’t want to be able to see the end from before the middle of the book. While I kept reading on, that definitely detracted from my enjoyment of the entire thing.

This is really a quick read! I read it in a few days, but could have easily done so in a couple of hours. What with the big font, small pieces of writing, and page after page of illustrations, I was literally flipping through the pages to see what would happen next.

While I recommend this book, mainly for the unique premise, I wouldn’t see to hold your breath while waiting to read it. It’s a sweet little story, but not one that knocked my socks off.

PREDICTABLY PLOTTED. 3.5/5 stars

4 stars · fiction · romance · young adult

The Spell Book of Listen Taylor by Jaclyn Moriarty

The Spell Book of Listen Taylor

Author: Jaclyn Moriarty

Pages [hardcover]: 479

Opening Lines: After midnight, the apartment waited, still in the moonlight and the heat. A moth touched its wing to the front porch light, and the apartment cleared its throat sharply.

Memorable Quote: When she got back from taking Cassie to school Fancy knew that she ought to be working on her wilderness romance. She had promised thirty thousand words to her editor by tomorrow, and she had only written eleven. Specifically:
His rhinoceros smelled like a poppadom: sweaty, salty, strange and strong.
Her editor would cut that line.

Favorite Characters: The Canadian next door & Cassie

Summary:

The Zing family lives in a world of misguided spell books, singular poetry, and state-of-the-art surveillance equipment. They use these things to protect the Zing Family Secret one so huge it draws the family to the garden shed for meetings every Friday night.

Into their world comes socially isolated middle grader Listen Taylor, whose father is dating a Zing. Enter Cath Murphy, a young teacher at the elementary school that Cassie Zing attends, suffering from a broken heart. How will the worlds of these two young woman connect? Only the reader can know!

Review:

This book definitely caught me by surprise. I picked it up randomly, expecting to enjoy it because I’ve read a few other books by Jaclyn Moriarty and loved them; they each had their own writing style and unique way of drawing me into the story. The Spell Book of Listen Taylor was no different in that respect. It was told through a variety of characters who all had their own specific quirks and personalities that came through in the text.

I’d like to get what I disliked about the book out of the way so I can get to the good things. First off, I have no idea why this novel is marketed as a young adult book. I read somewhere that it was originally published as adult fiction, but that changed somewhere along the way. But most of the main characters-and this book follows many different characters-are adults, around 30. Only one is YA aged-Listen is 12. So much of the writing centers around ‘adult’ subjects-affairs, marriage, commitment-that doesn’t apply to someone my own age, though that doesn’t mean it’s automatically not interesting. Even though I haven’t exactly experienced these things, I could still get into the book and want the best for the characters.

Another thing is that it is long, and needlessly so. Sure, I liked reading all the little things that added together to make an incredible book, but the journey seemed to take longer than necessary. I’ve read books of this length before, and they’re usually packed with action. While I enjoyed the flashbacks, back stories, side plots, and tiny things that connected the characters, something seemed off about it. Perhaps less would be more, even though I ended up liking the excess.

Yes, I did like The Spell Book of Listen Taylor. At some points it was so ridiculously funny I wanted to burst out laughing, even when I was in a public place, where such a thing would be incredibly awkward. This is one of the most twisty, anything-goes, hilarious books I’ve read in a while. It’s not perfect, but I’m alright with that.

The characters were fantastic, from little Cassie to Mrs. Zing. They all had their flaws, some prominently displayed, some hidden. All needed to work out their own problems, and find their own happiness. I keep flipping the pages so I could figure out what would happen next with Listen’s spell book, and what exactly the Zing Family Secret was. I loved coming along for the ride, and I can’t wait to read more by Jaclyn Moriarty. I give The Spell Book of Listen Taylor 4/5 stars.