Tag Archives: Action-adventure

The Unusual Suspects, Michael Buckley

The Unusual Suspects, Michael BuckleyThe Unusual Suspects by Michael Buckley
Illustrated by  Peter Ferguson

Publisher: Amulet Books
Pages: 290 plus afterword (Paperback)
Form: Novel
Series: The Sisters Grimm #2

Rating:

For Sabrina Grimm, living in a community of fairy-tale characters means always being ready for trouble. And something is definitely wrong at her new school. The adults seem too angry, the kids seem too sleepy, and the gym teacher likes dodgeball way too much. Of course, her little sister, Daphne, is having the time of her life. (Who wouldn’t with Snow White for a teacher – she’s so good with little people!) But when Sabrina’s teacher, Mr. Grumpner, is found dangling in a giant spider’s web, even Daphne’s convinced Ferryport Landing Elementary has a monster problem. Can the Sisters Grimm solve the crime?

So, after reading a few stories in a row that didn’t quite ‘click’ with me I thought I’d pick up something nice, easy, and fun – and this proved to be exactly what I needed. Without spoiling the first book too much, The Sisters Grimm is a fractured fairy tale/fairy tale mash-up series following the adventures of  Sabrina and Daphne Grimm as they solve fairy-tale crime and try to track down their abducted parents. If I’m honest, it’s not the best-written of series so far, but it’s very fun, the ideas are good, and as a sucker for reimagined fairy tales I’m kinda moving towards loving it. Enough that I’ve already put in a library reservation for the next book anyway.

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The Fairy-Tale Detectives, Michael Buckley

The Fairy-Tale Detectives by Michael Buckley
Illustrated by  Peter Ferguson

Publisher: Amulet Books
Pages: 284 plus afterword (Paperback)
Form: Novel
Series: The Sisters Grimm #1

Rating:

For Sabrina and Daphne Grimm, life hasn’t always been a fairy tale. After the mysterious disappearance of their parents, the sisters are sent to live with their grandmother – a woman they believed was dead! Granny Relda reveals that the girls have two famous ancestors, the Brothers Grimm, whose classic book of fairy tales is actually a collection of case files of magical mischief. Now the girls must take on the family responsibility of being fairy tale detectives. Their first case? A roller-coaster ride of an adventure to stop a giant from destroying their new hometown.

And a high 4 stars (yeah, that rating system is definitely getting a haul-over in January). I really enjoyed this book. It’s not perfect by any means and a lot of it felt quite predictable but it’s aimed at younger children than most of the books I’ve been reading this year and it’s got a nice cosy childhood feel to it. It’s also in a genre I tend to like – fairy tale mash-ups. It seems you can’t escape them at the moment what with Once Upon a Time (started strong, got too boring to watch a few episodes in) and Grimm (started dull, got stronger as the series went on) as well as the flood of mediocre Snow White and Red Riding Hood films in recent years trying to be the next ‘big thing’. People seem to have cottoned on that they don’t have to pay copyright charges on fairy tales and are milking it for what it’s worth.

For me though my affection for the genre started when I was very small with Each Peach Pear Plum – a classic of the ‘read aloud to your baby’ picture books – and The Jolly Postman and The Jolly Christmas Postman – a brilliant interactive pop-up series for young readers that I honestly cannot recommend highly enough for people with young kids. Of course there’s the retellings – Revolting Rhymes and The True Story of the Three Little Pigs were practically required reading in primary school and they’re both great – but for me it’s always been about the shared-world thing where characters from different and sometimes very disparate fairy tales live alongside and interact with  each other. Jasper Fforde does a similar thing for and adult audience with his Nursery Crime series and uses out-of-copyright literary characters for the same purpose in his Thursday Next series (both brilliant – Thursday Next more so than Nursery Crime). And anyone who’s been reading my blog/following me on  goodreads for any length of time knows I’m totally hooked on Bill Willingham’s Fables series which transports fairy tale characters to modern-day New York. So…how does Michael Buckley’s work compare? And is that even a fair question? Continue reading

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Ivanhoe, Sir Walter Scott

Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott

Publisher: Collector’s Library
Pages: 680 – including introduction and afterword (Hardback)
Form: Novel

Rating:

First published in 1819 when Sir Walter Scott was at the height of his powers, Ivanhoe is a spellbinding tale of adventure, chivalry and romance in twelfth-century England where the Saxons are at loggerheads with the occupying Normans. Young Wilfred of Ivanhoe has been disinherited by his father because he has fallen in love with his father’s ward, Rowena. It takes the help of Richard the Lionheart and of Robin Hood and his Sherwood Forest outlaws to ensure that the gallant Ivanhoe can claim his inheritance on his return from a crusade to the Holy Land.

Full of memorable characters – Cedric of Rotherwood, the diehard Saxon; the fierce Templar knight Sir Brian de Bois-Gilbert; the Jew, Isaac of York, and his beautiful, spirited daughter Rebecca; Wamba and Gurth, Jester and swineherd respectively – Ivanhoe is rightly considered one of Scott’s finest achievements.

I first started reading Ivanhoe when I was eight and promptly managed to lose my copy among the piles of books lying around the house. Although I didn’t get very far it stuck with me – mainly because of the cover, a knight on horseback – and is something I’ve been meaning to pick up again ever since without really knowing much about what it was about. So naturally when I spotted this beautiful little edition in the ‘three for two’ pile I grabbed myself a copy without even bothering to read the blurb. And boy…if I had actually finished reading this when I was eight it would probably be one of my favourite books ever. Everything about the story is practically designed to appeal to eight-year-old, Robin Hood loving, King Arthur obsessed, me; jousts and tournaments, conniving villains, witch trials, castle sieges, nobility in disguise, plots of high treason…Robin Hood himself even puts in a pretty major appearance! From twenty-three-year-old me, however – who expects a bit more in terms of characterisation and knows a lot more about medieval history – it only gets a 4 star rating. While I had immense fun with it I just can’t quite love it with the passion I know that little-me would have.

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