Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Land of Stories: The Enchantress Returns

After decades of hiding, the evil Enchantress who cursed Sleeping Beauty is back with a vengeance.
Alex and Conner Bailey have not been back to the magical Land of Stories since their adventures in The Wishing Spell ended. But one night, they learn the famed Enchantress has kidnapped their mother! Against the will of their grandmother, the twins must find their own way into the Land of Stories to rescue their mother and save the fairy tale world from the greatest threat it's ever faced.

I finished reading this book a while ago. Wow, I've been slacking. Things just caught up with me. Anyway, let's get on with the review.

So, this sequel definitely lived up to the first, with this major cliff hanger at the end. After venturing into Storyland once more to rescue their mother, and meeting some new friends along the way (Mother Goose), and running into old ones too (Froggy), Alex and Connor are faced with an even bigger adventure than their quest for the Wishing Spell in the first novel. It turns out that in order to defeat the Enchantress, they're going to have to go on another scavenger hunt; but this time, it's far more dangerous than the last. And in the end, they must assume responsibility of some amazing powers.

I will openly admit it: every time a fairy-tale villain was introduced, I sort of had a mini-heart attack. I just love fairy tales so much, and I have the same reaction when it comes to Disney. Yes, this book was great. A wonderful follow-up to the original! If you love fairy tales, you will enjoy this book.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell

Alex and Conner Bailey's world is about to change in this fast-paced adventure that uniquely combines our modern day world with the enchanting realm of classic fairy tales.

The Land of Stories tells the tale of twins Alex and Conner. Through the mysterious powers of a cherished book of stories, they leave their world behind and find themselves in a foreign land full of wonder and magic where they come face-to-face with the fairy tale characters they grew up reading about. 

But after a series of encounters with witches, wolves, goblins, and trolls alike, getting back home is going to be harder than they thought.

In the midst of the maze of books calling out to me as I browsed through my local Barnes and Noble, one book shone like a beacon on a pedestal in the young readers section of the store, and I beelined to it. Low and behold, here it was. A book about two kids who go into the fairy tale world. Obviously, I needed to read it. So, glancing around and making sure no one was witnessing me nearly crying tears of joy in the children's section, I snagged the book and quickly bought it. After finishing it and loving every word, I snatched up the second one--The Land of Stories: The Enchantress Returns--and am currently reading that now. 

The Wishing Spell spends a bit of time in the beginning developing the characters, which is always a good thing because I am a stickler for character development. If I don't connect with the main characters, I don't like the book. Luckily, The Wishing Spell was chock full of it. Each character had a distinct personality, and the author, Chris Colfer, even included new personality traits for the all-too-familiar fairy tale characters, giving this story a brand-new spin.

The first installment of The Land of Stories series focuses on the twins' journey home from the fairy tale world. After encountering an oversized frog who Conner quickly names "Froggy", they learn that the only way back to their world is through the Wishing Spell, which involves a surplus of memorable fairy-tale items that need to be collected, including Cinderella's glass slipper, the spindle of Sleeping Beauty's spinning wheel, a piece of basket from Red Riding Hook, a lock of hair from Rapunzel...the list goes on. Fortunately for them, someone has already attempted the Wishing Spell and has recorded their steps in a journal that Froggy collected. So the twins set out on a journey of a lifetime.

Another reason I loved this book was because of the added fairy tale elements. It goes into the mysterious back story of the Evil Queen, and divulges new information that will keep the reader on their toes. 

The writing style is irresistibly innocent and simplistic, in a way that captures the curiosity and novelty of childhood. With likable twins as main characters and encounters with all the fairy tale characters we grew up reading about, plus a mysterious family secret, what more could a devoted fairy tale fan such as myself ask for? 

I can only hope that The Enchantress Returns lives up to the first novel! (And I'm sure it will). Please give this book a try. It is like the golden-spun version of the TV series Once Upon a Time. (Which I love, by the way. Did anyone see season 2? I died after the cliffhanger. How could they do that to us?? I need season 3 NOW!!!!)

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Princess of the Midnight Ball

Rose is one of twelve princesses forced to dance through the night in an underground palace. The key to breaking the spell lies in magic knitting needles, an invisibility cloak, and—of course—true love. Inspired by "The Twelve Dancing Princesses,"this novel is as captivating as it is fresh. Enchanted readers are sure to clamor for the new companion, Princess of Glass, also publishing this season.

I just recently finished reading this book. After debating for about a YEAR whether or not I should buy it, I finally did, as I am on a Twelve Dancing Princesses kick. Jessica Day George is a great fantasy novelist and I enjoyed the story very much, though the dynamic was quite different from Entwined, which I had already fallen in love with. I have to say that I didn't enjoy this retelling as much as Entwined, but I still thought it was a whimsical and enjoyable read. 

Now, this is probably because I am biased, after having read Entwined for nearly a dozen times. This story is told from a third person omniscient perspective, relating the points of view of Galen, the soldier and savior, Rose, the eldest princess, and occasionally the King Under Stone. Much of the time, the story focused on Galen and his adventures and backstory, which I thought was a new and fresh take on the story. But because much of the story was focused on Galen, I felt that the princesses--the characters around which the story revolved--were a little underdeveloped. As I said before in my Entwined review, figuring out how to balance the characters and allow their personalities to shine equally is extremely difficult considering there are so many prominent characters. I wouldn't say that this new version was worse than Entwined, but simply that it was different. 

The story begins by explaining how Galen received his magical wraith cloak and also how he met the princesses in the first place (through gardening). One of the huge differences between Princess of the Midnight Ball and Entwined is that in this story, the princesses are cursed to dance night after night due to a deal their mother made with the King Under Stone. Therefore, they hate it. It was never made particularly clear whether they would have enjoyed dancing had they not been forced to do so night after night after night, but I get the impression that the answer is no. In Entwined, however, the princesses love dancing more than anything, and it goes into more detail about the different dances. In this book, however, the reader isn't even invited to the Midnight Ball until halfway through the story, which keeps intrigue high, but is also a bit disappointing; I would have liked to have read a more detailed account of their dancing instead of the story simply telling the reader that they danced. The difference is all in the description.

This story also focuses more on the church and religious aspects of the time period. The bishop proves to be a prominent villain as he attempts to point the girls' disappearances night after night toward witchcraft, which was a major crime back then, worthy of hanging. 

Overall, the story was pleasurable and thrilling toward the end. I finished it in a day. I would recommend it. :)

Friday, August 2, 2013


Come and mend your broken hearts here.
Just when Azalea should feel that everything is before her—beautiful gowns, dashing suitors, balls filled with dancing—it’s taken away. All of it. And Azalea is trapped. The Keeper understands. He’s trapped, too, held for centuries within the walls of the palace. So he extends an invitation.
Every night, Azalea and her eleven sisters may step through the enchanted passage in their room to dance in his silver forest, but there is a cost. The Keeper likes to keep things. Azalea may not realize how tangled she is in his web until it is too late.

Heather Dixon's "riveting" novel certainly entwined me. From the first word, I couldn't put it down, and it has quickly become one of my favorite books of all time. 

I am in the middle of rereading it for the 10th time (not even an exaggeration), so as you can probably infer, I definitely recommend this book. 

(No spoilers included).

The story is a retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses (my favorite fairy tale). The part I love best about this book is the fact that it still manages to maintain its innocence while also providing intriguing mystery, thrill, and romance. Overall, it is the perfect book.

I also love the interactions between characters and how each princess has her own distinct personality--which isn't easy to accomplish, as there are twelve prominent characters. Making sure that all of them were included in dialogue and scenes couldn't have been easy. As an author myself, I understand the challenge this poses, and I think that Heather Dixon did a marvelous job of balancing all of the characters. 

After tragedy strikes the family, Azalea and her eleven younger sisters are forbidden from dancing. Unable to repair the broken relationship with their father, the King, before he leaves for war, they feel that more than ever, dancing is the only way to mend their hearts. Confined to the palace and cut off from everyone else, the girls feel more forlorn than ever. But then, Azalea discovers a passage that leads her an her sisters into a silver-frosted forest with a huge pavilion and a mysterious Mr. Keeper for company. Here, the girls can dance as much as they like. But there is trouble afoot, and it may be too late for Azalea to save her family.

I don't want to give too much of the story away, but that's the gist of it. Please read this book. You will not be sorry. I can't express to you how much I love this novel. You will discover the "flickery bit" of magic inside of you as you read, mending your heart along with the girls. This book is a breath of fresh air, a cool summer breeze, a frosty winter breath, a blooming daisy....there aren't enough nature related metaphors to describe my love for it. 

Thanks for writing this book, Heather Dixon. I, along with so many others, are grateful to you.