Lizzy Speare and the Cursed Tomb by Ally Malinenko

I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Summary: Meet Lizzy Speare…

…a normal twelve year old girl with a talent for writing, who has a very not
normal family secret. And when Lizzy’s father vanishes, that secret will change
her life in ways unimagined. (Spoiler Alert! It turns out that Lizzy, or
Elizabeth S. Speare, is the last living descendant of William Shakespeare.
Shhh! Don’t tell anybody!)

Then Lizzy and her best friend Sammy are kidnapped, awakening in the faraway
land of Manhattan. Their host is Jonathan Muse, whose job is to protect Lizzy
from becoming the latest victim in a family feud nearly five hundred years old.
Could that be why the mysterious, eye patch-wearing Dmitri Marlowe is after
her? (Spoiler Alert 2—he’s the last living descendant of Christopher Marlowe, a
friend and rival of Shakespeare’s. But keep it to yourself!) Is Marlowe after
Lizzy’s family fortune rumored to be kept in Shakespeare’s tomb? Does he seek
artistic immortality? Or Revenge (with a capital R) for a death long, long ago?

In a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse, Lizzy and Sammy are thrust into the realm
of the mythical and fantastic—from satyrs and Cyclopses to Middle Eastern cab
drivers and Brooklyn hipsters—in what is truly “an improbable fiction” as the
Bard himself once wrote.

My thoughts: What a book. I wish I could just say, “The book is amazing.” and be done with it. I have to admit, I wasn’t sure I would like the book quite so much. One the one hand, the fact that the summary mentioned Shakespeare and Marlowe was enough to convince my literature student self that that was the book for me. On the other hand, the title is a bit cheesy-sounding and the cover made me wonder if it would turn out to be a little too teenagery for me. But it was great – very imaginative, funny and so very unique! It was… delicious… is it alright to call a book that? 

I am not exactly a Shakespeare fanatic, mostly because it hasn’t been very long since I started reading him and I’m far from done. One fine day it suddenly occurred to me that I had never read any of his plays, so I went on a sort of ‘Bard(ing) spree’ when I read all my now-favourites. It must be very hard to have real authors as characters in your book (like Dickens in Pratchett’s Dodger) and Ally has done a wonderful job incorporating Shakespeare and all the secrecy surrounding him into her story. I would recommend this book to all middle grade readers / teenagers, if not anything else, it would certainly be a good, unlikely introduction to a great writer.

It is such a charming concept and the fast paced plot makes it all the more enjoyable! The book was bigger than most middle grade fiction I’ve read in a while and I do admit, there were parts that could be called unnecessary. The book could have been shortened, if that’s ideal for the intended readers, but somehow I still found it to be a quick, breezy read.

The characters are quite Harry Potter-esque (which, coming from me, is a huge compliment) – people you instantly identify yourself with, or better yet, characters who are bookish doppelgangers of people you know in real life! Lizzy is an endearingly spirited character, bold and funny, a little headstrong and very literary. Sammy is great too and Jonathan, well, he’s something else. I think it’s best to discover them all on your own and I suggest you go grab yourself a copy of this book right now, right here!

(Coming up soon: A featured post by Ally Malinenko about none other than the Bard himself.)

The Adventures of Stanley Delacourt by Ilana Waters

I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. The Adventures of Stanley Delacourt is a middle grade
fantasy novel written by Ilana Waters.
Summary: Ten-year-old Stanley Delacourt loves his quiet life in the
peaceful village of Meadowwood. At least, he does until his best friend is
killed. Then the town library—where Stanley lives and works—is burned to the
ground. The individuals responsible for both tragedies are a nasty group of
soldiers. They work for the kingdom’s new leader, Christopher Siren. With the
grown-ups too fearful to take action, Stanley vows to confront Siren. He plans
to get answers and demand justice. Little does he know that his journey will
involve sword-wielding knights, kidnapper fairies, and dark magic. 

Stanley has only two allies back home: a witch named Meredith, and a young
apothecary called Sophie. Can they help him discover the reason behind Siren’s
crimes and end this terrible reign? Or is Stanley set to become the next victim
in the tyrant’s evil plot?
My thoughts: I used to look at books like Artemis Fowl and you know,
Percy Jackson and imagine how much I would have loved reading them in my ‘middle
grade’ years. I relived those years, so to say, when I read almost all of Diana
Wynne Jones’s books in a week. This is another of the books that I am sure I
would have loved a whole bunch of years ago. Now, it took me a little time to
get past the way it was written. It sounded childish, which I know was
intentional, but it was something I am not used to reading. Being a child at
heart (the kind who still enjoys reading Enid Blyton’s short stories), though,
it didn’t take long for me to be hooked on the book.
The author has created a world with intricate detail and
what was surely a lot of research, but what I like the most is that she has
managed to avoid the one thing that spoils fantasy series more than anything
else: information overload. We get to know just enough at just the right time to
enjoy the book, while still being curious enough about the new world to read
the sequel. The characters are kind of typical in place, but I like the
contrasts in the characters. I especially like all the female characters in the
books. The word that describes the writing style best is: fun! I could tell the
author enjoyed herself thoroughly writing the book, with its poetic flow and the
actual comical poetry written in it. It was an honest effort and the style as
well as the magic in the book kept reminding me over and over of Diana Wynne
Jones’s books. I was almost entirely sure the writer had used her as an
inspiration. It wasn’t the perfect book I’ve read: I mean, there were thing
clearly inspired, arguably borrowed from other books, it wasn’t the most
original or unique and it wasn’t written quite as impeccably as I would have
liked, but it is a great book nonetheless.
For those of you, who are used to reading middle grade novels (i.e.
if you are actually that age or you’ve never quite grown up in your head, like
me) this would be quite an enjoyable book and I would certainly recommend you to try
it. Grab your copy right here! To know more about the author, check out this nice little interview.