Monday, October 17, 2011

Magic Candy and a Mind Reading Marigold

Last week, I finished two books, both of the young adult genre. We'll present these in the proper order, shall we? That means you're up Candy Shop War! Go on! Move it!

The Candy Shop War
By Brandon Mull
Young Adult
Published by Shadow Mountain
363 pages

You may know Brandon Mull from his New York Times bestselling series Fablehaven. That's where I first heard the name. I've actually read the first book in the series, but haven't read the others yet. I'm a slacker where that's concerned.

This book wasn't quite what I expected it to be, and once I started reading, I wasn't sure I was going to like it at first. It won me over in the end. I wouldn't put it on my list of favorite books of all time, but it was still pretty good. I think it's a book that will have a lot of appeal for a younger audience (younger as in preteen or thereabouts).

The book tells the story of four kids who just want to make it through school alive and avoid the school bullies. If they have a little opportunity for adventure, that's all the better. One such opportunity presents itself in the new candy shop in town. Mrs. White, the owner of the shop, takes a liking to the kids and offers them samples of her secret candy, candy that gives them extraordinary powers. Thrilled with the ability to defy gravity, change your appearance, and use mirrors as a means of travel, they gladly continue to return to Mrs. White for new candy. But with each new assortment comes a higher price, and when the risks become lethal, suddenly this magical candy isn't worth it anymore. But backing out isn't so easy.

I was expecting this book to have a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory feel. Here's why. The first thing it says on the back cover under praise for The Candy Shop War is, "Mull...dishes up a crowd-pleaser as delicious as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." Okay, so I've never actually read that one (goodness knows why as I'm a fan of Road Dahl), but having read enough of Dahl's work, I had a certain style in mind, and Mull's book isn't like that. That's not a bad thing, it just threw me off at the beginning.

I also wasn't sure if I was going to like it because of some of the dialogue, and a little bit of how one of the characters acted in the beginning. But once it really gets into the adventure and mystery of it all, I started to like it better, and neither of those things bothered me anymore. Plus it was getting more exciting, and I was genuinely wondering how they were going to sort everything out in the end. I like how things worked out especially because things didn't go according to plan a few times, but they were still able to figure out a way to solve it. I just can't believe I couldn't figure out how they were going to get out of the situation in the end! When it happened, I was like, "Brilliant! That's the only way it could have happened! Why didn't I see that?"

Not a hard read. I can see kids reading it on their own or with a parent or even a teacher reading it in a classroom setting. I always loved when my teachers read to the class. Good times indeed.

Once Upon a Marigold
By Jean Ferris
Young Adult
Published by Harcourt, Inc.
266 pages

Part comedy,
Part love story,
Part everything-but-the-kitchen-sink

That's our introduction to Once Upon a Marigold from the front cover. I'm a bit of a fan of fairy tale like stories, whether they be retellings or very much unique in plot but still with that fairy tale feel. This book fits into that. Like The Candy Shop War, I wouldn't number this book among my top favorites. However, it was enjoyable and had a clever plot that makes me smile just thinking about it.

Every one who knows anything about life at all knows that love doesn't always come easy...especially when you're the foster son of a forest troll. Such is the case with Christian, a lad who ran away from home at the age of six determined never to return. That's when Ed, the troll, found him and took him home. They have a pleasant life together, but when Christian finally gets the nerve to send a p-mail (that's mail by pigeon, don't you know) to the princess across the river, that life is turn upside down and twisted in a complex series of knots. So begins Christian's correspondence with Marigold, a unique princess with the uncanny ability to read minds. He is soon head over heels, but he knows he doesn't stand a chance at winning the heart of a princess. To make matters worse, he discovers Marigold's mother is bent on having the kingdom for herself, even if that means taking drastic measures.

This book is fun, creative, and a quick read. I think my favorite character is Ed, mostly because he tries to use so many well known expressions, but he gets them wrong every time. Christian never quite knows what he means, but he pretends that he does. This book is clever, and it too will have a great appeal for young readers.

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