The Vengekeep Prophecies

The Vengekeep Propheciesby Brian Farrey

Every person is much more than they seem.

The Vengekeep Prophecies has been sitting in my pile for nearly a year.  I got it just as the school started and there it sat waiting to be read.  I’m glad it was patient.  Reading it made me think about the idea of choosing between what you should do and what you want to do.  It led me to think about the importance of finding a way to contribute by following your passion and knowing what you are good at.  If you haven’t had a chance to read it yet, pick it up and give it a try.

Vengekeep is the name of the town where Jaxter and the Grimjinx family live.  The family makes their living by pulling cons, creating forgeries and pickpocketing.  The wisdom and skill of the profession has been passed down for generations in the family album detailing the Grimjinx history; each entry ending with ‘and then we were rich beyond belief.’   Jaxter is twelve and now is his time to add to the family legacy and continue the story.  The only problem is that Jaxter is a klutz of the very worse kind and that doesn’t bode well for his future success.

On his first solo mission, Jaxter burned the Castellan’s house down and landed the family in gaol.  But staying in gaol wasn’t what the Grimjinxes were destined for.  Each year Vengekeep has an Unveiling of the five hundred year old tapestry foretelling important events for the town’s upcoming year.  For centuries the Vengekeep scholars have been studying and interpreting the tapestry, making plans to avert any foretold danger and keeping the city prosperous.  This year the tapestry predicts a very bleak future that can only be overcome by the family marked by the star.  The Grimjinxes are that family.

Jaxter looks at all the horrors depicted on the tapestry.  How are they ever going to survive them? Each one seems to be a worse horror than the one before. It is going to be a disastrous year – why then are his parents so calm?   They seem to be enjoying their status as the keepers of the city.  That is until the lava monsters arrive and their plan unravels.  Jaxter may not have inherited his family’s skills but he does have knowledge.  Nanni had said, “The things you learn in books will outshine all of us someday, you mark my words.”  Maybe that is true.  Jaxter is going to need everything he has learned along with courage, friendship and creativity if he is going to beat the Vengekeep prophecy.

At the beginning of the book Jaxter wonders if his family is ashamed of him.  It can be hard to choose – doing what you think you should or doing what you want.  Do you have to choose?  Read The Vengekeep Prophecies to find out.



The Whizz Pop Chocolate Shop

The Whizz Pop Chocolate Shopby Kate Saunders

You may not know it, but magic is everywhere.  You go through your day never noticing it, but it’s there.  Well, at least it is in The Whizz Pop Chocolate Shop.

Oz and Lily didn’t know about magic either until their family arrived at 18 Skittle Street. Their dad had just inherited the property from his Uncle Pierre.  A bit strange because he had never met his uncle and the house had been empty for nearly seventy years. The twins hadn’t been expecting much, but everything seemed perfectly intriguing once they got there.  The house was large and homey, with a terrific backyard, and the workshop where the, once famous, Spoffard confections had been made still smelled of chocolate. There seemed to be a cat (something Lily had always wanted); maybe the same one in the photograph of Great Uncle Pierre if that could be possible. The electricity was still on.  Incredibly, the house was everything they could possibly want or need and so the family moved in.

In their first night at the house Oz and Lily learn they have been brought there for a reason.  They are the only ones able to keep Isadore Spoffard from selling Immortality Chocolate to the terrorist group known as the Schmertz Gang eager to take over the world.  Recruited by Demerara – indeed the exact same cat in the seventy year old photograph, the twins join the Secret Ministry of the Unexplained, a division of M16 (of 007 fame.) The SMU polices the misuse of magic to help maintain the world’s equilibrium.  Right now that balance in teetering on the edge.   You’ll have to read The Whizz Pop Chocolate Shop to discover how it the plots and plans “unmold.”  You’ll be smiling through every page.


Fyre (Septimus Heap, #7)Angie Sage does a masterful job of bringing all the characters from the first six books of the Septimus Heap series together in Fyre. Septimus is 14 and he has chosen magical over alchemical.  He has made his commitment.  Past and present weave together setting the stage for what looks to be a very bright future indeed. Septimus will become the next ExtraOrdinary Wizard.  His main challenge at the moment is to decipher the glyphs on the tower roof.  Beetle is the newly appointed Chief Hermetic Scribe of the Manuscriptorium.  He is sorting and classifying and working to locate missing pieces in the documents of the history of their magical world. Jenna, soon to be the new queen, must learn all she can about the Queen’s Way.

Their tasks are pushed aside by a challenge from the Darke Domaine.  The evil contained in the two-faced ring is ever-changing and strong.  If they are ever to be free of it, it must be denatured in the true alchemical fyre.  This is not an easy task – especially when magic and deceit are in play so even what they think they know, they do not.  To achieve this goal Septimus must use all his skills –  magical and alchemical and he will require the knowledge, support and genius of everyone he has met in the past and present, living or not.  Everyone and everything will be needed to bring the evil begun DomDaniel to an end.

Septimus is the seventh son of a seventh son who must study his craft for seven years and a day before becoming the new head wizard.  It is fitting that his tale comes to a close in the seventh book of this series.  Unpredictable, funny and exciting – you’ll love reading Fyre even though it means leaving behind characters and a story you can’t get tired of.  I loved reading this series and I think Fyre is the best of them.  Enjoy!

In a Glass Grimmly

In a Glass Grimmly (A Tale Dark & Grimm, #2)a companion to A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz  You can find out more about him by clicking on his name.

Where the first book follows Hansel and Gretel through various Grimm fairytales this book follows cousins Jack and Jill through Grimm and Anderson tales , along with rhymes from Mother Goose.  Jack and Jill are not happy in their respective homes.  Jack longs to be admired and Jill longs for beauty and both are bent on making decisions that will enable them to reach their goals.  Off to a rough start, they find themselves working together with the help of a talking, three-legged frog.

After making a deal with a strange baby-faced ancient woman, Jack and Jill set off on a quest that sends them to many different places.  They go to the clouds where they meet a murderous group of giants who are outwitted after stunning amounts of vomit.  From there they journey to the sea only to find beautifully cruel mermaids and then on to the goblin market where truth is not valued, nor are body parts or life.  Lastly they find themselves underground where they befriend an enormous salamander that smells worse than any combination of smells you can imagine – and that is on the outside before they enter his gullet to retrieve a lost treasure.

Irreverently disgusting, this book is full of revolting delights.  It is a well written blend of fairy tale telling with a vocal narrator who offers cautions and belated apologies for events that may have scared or offended.  Along the way there are other ideas to ponder…

One is the ravens’ distinction between being confused and being con-fused.

“As long as you are con-fused you will never find what you seek.  Even though it is right there.”

“There is this weird thing that happens, when you stop worrying so much about what other people think of you.  When you are no longer – to use the ravens’ word – con-fused.  At that moment, you suddenly start seeing what you think of you.”

You’ll love it from beginning to end.  Enjoy!


Dragonborn (The Flaxfield Quartet, #1)by Toby Forward

Book 1 of the Flaxfield Quartet

don’t be deceived by the cover – this is a book for seasoned fantasy readers who’ll be okay with a little confusion and patient enough to have their questions answered as the story unfolds throughout the series.

Dragonborn begins with these words:  Flaxfield died on a Friday…  Flaxfield had been teaching Sam to become a wizard.  Sam is halfway through his apprenticeship – he knows some magic but not enough.  He is completely alone but for his dragon and best friend, Starback. Everything that is familiar to Sam disappears in that instant.  Flaxfield’s past apprentices come back to the cottage to honor their master as the rules dictate – while there they question Sam and don’t believe he is an actual apprentice.  They frighten and confuse Sam enough so that he runs away in search of someone or a way that will help him complete his apprenticeship. He is determined to become a full wizard.  That he will not lose.

Sam’s journey follows a tracing of trails that weaves worlds and times together.  For a time Sam loses Starback because he meets a roffle.  The roffle leads Sam to a school for wizards suggesting he can finish his apprenticeship there.  Once at the school, Sam discovers that it is not what he needs at all. The magic taught there is not what he wants to learn.  Most of the teachers and students there lack respect for the rules of real magic, the important kind.  Magic is wasted there so it becomes weak and useless. Sam leaves there too.

Almost as soon as Sam begins his journey, the other Flaxfield wizards realize that Sam might be “the one” and they go in search of him. Starback, no longer with Sam, but wishing to help, sees this and leads them away from Sam.  He leads castle he once knew.  Then it was teeming with life.  Strangely now it is lifeless and dark, but it is away from Sam and Starbuck hopes that will keep him safe.

Separated from his friend, Sam’s lonely journey continues.  Glimmers of hope appear around some of the bends, while shadows of evil slip through at others. Sam is on a quest, one that threatens his very life.  It seems he has no choice but to follow the path before him.  There is no running from destiny and by the end of the book I had a inkling of what that destiny might be. There is evil magic abroad and an old danger is gathering strength.  It seems that Sam and Starback have an important part to play in this unfolding battle.

I have much more to learn about magic, dragons, Flaxfield, Flaxfold, Tamrin and Ash and I can’t wait!  Dragonborn is the first of four books.  I am eager to read them all.  I had many questions as I read.  It was challenging to keep the characters and the action straight. Jot some notes. They may help you understand the sides and that’s important.  I found myself rereading large sections of the book to make sure I understood how the pieces fit together.  This is a complex book – one to read and read again and enjoy.

The Spindlers

The Spindlersby Lauren Oliver

a intermediate adventure with an eerie twist

The first thing I noticed when I opened The Spindlers was the dedication:  To Patrick, of course –  And to my sister, who has rescued me many times from the dark, and for whom I would gladly go Below.  Hmm… I thought as I began to read…  “One night when Liza went to bed, Patrick was her chubby, stubby, candy-grubbing and pancake loving younger brother, who irritated and amused her both, and the next morning , when she woke up, he was not.”

A few sentences later I read:  The fake-Patrick picked up his spoon and gave Liza a look that chilled her to her very center.  Then the fake-Patrick began to eat his cereal, methodically, slowly, fishing all the alphabet letters out of his Alpha-Bits one by one and lining them up along the rim of his bowl.  … I-H-A-T-E-Y-O-U.

Patrick was somehow both there, and totally gone.  Because of this, their parents see no reason to notice.  They are caught up with  the search for missing reading glasses and the endless cycle of working hard and worrying about paying bills on time.  If Patrick is to be saved, it is totally up to Liza.  She knew there were worlds beyond and below.  She’d heard the stories, and though she hadn’t been sure they were true, she wondered now that Patrick was gone.  Had his soul been stolen by the Spindlers.  Though he was a pain, he was her brother.  He was her friend and it seemed to Liza that she must try to find and save him if at all possible.  And so she went looking.  She discovered more than she had ever dreamed of and she had the courage to go Below.  That is how she met Mirabella, the mascaraed rat, learned of the lumer-lumpen, discovered the seeds of hope and found the truths that come to you in your dreams.

Liza is off on a challenging quest in a land that is totally unique and far from kind – and yet it is just down the stairs and a bit below from where you are reading right now.  Will you dare to go?   Will your courage hold ?  Once you’ve made your decision you’ll have a great tale to tell…if you return.

Ordinary Magic

Ordinary Magicby Caitlen Rubino-Bradway

278 pages for intermediate and middle grade readers who want a little magic and a little fairness in their lives.  Ordinary?  What is that?

When ordinary is not normal and normal is an illusion, how can you be sure of what you know?  Abby Hale is the youngest of five.  On her twelfth birthday she heads to the guild where the mages will give her some tests and learn what magical abilities and talents will be.  The Judging is an exciting to day!  Abby can hardly wait to discover her magical ranking.  Her family has gathered.  A celebration has been planned.

Abby walks through the door and into the testing – her score… zero.  Abby Hale – youngest of an important magical family, sister of one with a nearly perfect score … has no magic.  She has nothing.  She is nothing.  She is an “ord.”

In one moment Abby’s life is changed.  What will she do?  How will she survive in a place where she is no longer wanted and no longer safe?  Though Abby has a family who loves and accepts her for who she, that is not typical.  Traditionally Ords are abandoned or sent away.  Having no value to society, they are sold or stolen and forced to do things only the non-magical can do.  King Stephen wants to change that – but will it be in time to help Abby?

Ordinary Magic is fun.  You’ll like the new places this book takes you, but it will make you think.  Ordinary…what does that really mean?

Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat

by Lynne Jonell

I read this book in 3rd grade (With Mrs. Eaves as a teacher!) and I remember how I could really feel the story, especially the evilness of Miss Barmy. I hope you can too… Enjoy!

It feels to Emmy like she has no parents at all. They are always off on trips, exploring faraway places and she is stuck at home with her nanny Miss Barmy. Emmy never talks back to her nanny, nor does she refuse vegetables, not do her homework and things of the sort.  Miss Barmy is very mean to her and she makes her eat and drink peculiar things. She writes letters to her parents, but she never gets a response. Life is not so great.

Emmy does not have many friends, but she likes to sit by the classroom pet, the Rat.  This was because she could hear him speak. A rat, speaking! Nonetheless, he was rude and and angry all the time. No one else could hear him until one day, when a boy in her class, Joe gets bitten by him. Joe is talking to Emmy and in response to him saying “I was just trying to feed him a carrot. You’d think he would have been grateful.” the Rat said “Ha!” Joe was stunned. He had to leave right after, but for most of the rest of the book, Joe becomes 4 inches tall.  Read this story and In guarantee that you will want to read the next book, Emmy and the Home for Troubled Girls, right away.

Click on the book cover to access Lynne Jonell’s website and her summary of the book. And click here to see the video book review on YouTube courtesy of 60secondrecap PickoftheWeek.


“Jonell takes readers on a merry, sometimes scary romp… It’s fun to watch remarkably good Emmy and especially bad Barmy spar.”

— Booklist, starred review

The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe

The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe (Chronicles of Narnia #1) by C.S. Lewis

The Pevensie Children have just been sent to live with a Professor Kirke, since their parents feel that is unsafe for the children where they were living in World War II. Soon after they arrive, they start to explore the curious and enormous house. Wandering aimlessly, they stumble upon a room without anything in it. Except a very large wardrobe. Peter, Susan and Edmund leave the room and they are not in the least bit interested. Lucy, the youngest of the four, stays and ends up getting inside. Doing this unlocked a whole new world for the children… literally! Deep inside the wardrobe Lucy found herself standing in a “snowy wood.”

If you are a fantasy reader, then this book is for you. It has lions, an evil witch and a magical wardrobe that is the entrance to a different world… Narnia.

Click on the picture to access the C.S Lewis Website.

Click here to buy this book from!

As always, leave a comment if you have read this book or you just want to comment!

The Cabinet of Earths

The Cabinet of Earthsby Anne Nesbet

256 pages that will have you wondering how time and life could go – if you could live forever, would you?  If you could change others, would you?

The Cabinet of Earths is a beautiful thing.  A startling combination of glass, wood and metal – of sculpture, design and light that flows and buzzes with energy.  In the beginning – in the 1890’s – it seemed like a good plan to bring magic and science together.  The unity of the Lavirotte and Fourcroy families seemed to be a strong one.  They discovered away to capture the sands of time and store the essence of life away.  Granules of earth in a bottle, one for each person who would become immortal and live as long as the keeper of the Cabinet of Earths was able to keep them safe.  But in 1944, when brother betrayed brother and son killed son, the balance of life and time, of science and magic was upset.  The Cabinet has been waiting and now that Maya is close by change seems inevitable.

After Maya’s mom’s battle with cancer she has the opportunity to fulfill one of her greatest wishes – to spend a year in Paris with her family.  Maya’s dad was invited to work in a laboratory exploring his specialty, Physical Chemistry.  The Society offered to pay their moving expenses and had given them an apartment.  The offer was too good to pass up and that is how Maya and James, her five-year old brother, found themselves in Paris.  That is how they discovered the Salamander House, the man with violet-blue eyes and The Alchemical Theater.  That is how they discovered the fountain of the missing children, their long lost cousins, Henri-Pierre and seemingly invisible Louise and how they found themselves in a historical tangle of intrigue, science and magic.

Thank goodness for Valko, Maya’s school friend.  He helps Maya negotiate the social circles of school, the confusing roads and squares of the city and keeps her grounded when she could easily be caught up in her worry and questions.  Why does the brass salamander look at her?  How can glass move and flow?  What is anbar, the hourglass?  How can people be unseen and invisible?  How can people be perfectly beautiful?  Valko helps her plan and establish priorities.  But will he always be there? Read The Cabinet of Earths to discover what happens when captured time is let go and magic and science are released – does it end, does it change, what continues in its place?