The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer

“‘Once upon a time’ These are the most magical words our world has ever known and the gateway to the greatest stories ever told. They’re an immediate calling to anyone who hears them-a calling into a world where everyone is welcome and anything can happen. Mice can become men, maids can become princesses, and they can teach valuable lessons in the process.”

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The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer, is the story of a pair of twins, a boy and a girl, named Conner and Alex Bailey. In the book, Conner and Alex accidentally get transported into the fairy tale world, and they want to find a way back home. But, the only way to get back to the real world is to collect certain items that are dangerously hard to comeby. These items form the Wishing Spell, and will grant the twins passage back home. In this person vs. person conflict, Conner and Alex must work tirelessly to obtain the necessary items before time runs out.

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I have to admit, when my brother first recommended this book to me, I was a bit skeptical. However, as soon as I was a couple chapters into this book, I was hooked. But, since it did take a couple chapters, I would rate the book a four out of five. In my opinion, there is a healthy balance of action (mild action, if I may add) as well as some valuable lessons learned and a conflict that kept me on the edge of my seat. I particularly enjoyed the part of the book when Alex and Conner are retrieving a specific item from the bottom of the sea, and encounter The Little Mermaid herself. In general, the main reason I enjoyed the book was because of the widespread presence of characters from all the fairy tales we know and love, including Snow White, Jack from Jack and the Beanstalk, Rapunzel, and Cinderella. The only criticism I had with this book was the way Chris Colfer twisted some of the stories to comply with his plot. For example: in the book, Red Riding Hood is an elected queen, and has her own kingdom. This is obviously a departure from the original story, but it can be easily forgiven. Because of its universal subject matter, this book will appeal to a wide range of audiences, but I would particularly recommend it for ages 8-13. It would also be a good book for a group read. The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell is the perfect book for a reader who loves fantasy with a little action.

Extra Note: In case you loved this book and want more, there are three more books in this series, which I have listed below. Enjoy!

2. The Land of Stories: The Enchantress Returns

3. The Land of Stories: A Grimm Warning

4. The Land of Stories: Beyond the Kingdoms

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Free to be Me by Stasi Eldredge

For this buzz, I’m going to have to say this book is girls only. I’m sorry to guys out there, but this one’s for the gals. The book I will be buzzing about today is called Free to be Me by Stasi Eldredge. On the front of the book is the subtitle “becoming the woman God created you to be.” This book was really helpful, and reading it was kind of like having a heart to heart with other girls who were at the same stage in life as me! I really recommend this book to all girls between the ages 11-14, although I would encourage moms to read this book with your girls, otherwise beforehand, just to make sure it’s okay for your daughter. I will say it does include some mature content that may want to be reviewed by an adult beforehand.

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In the book, Stasi relates to her readers through stories from her own life. Something that really stuck out to me was confidence. She teaches you that you are beautiful in God’s eyes, and that He created you for a specific reason. It really gave me a self-esteem boost, and I was reminded that I’m not just another person on this planet, but a person on this planet who was created for a reason.

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Stasi is also actively involved with Ransomed Heart Ministries, along with her husband, John. I will post a link to their website below, and I encourage you to check it out. Stasi does mention in it in Free to be Me, however you should still check it out.

Well, thanks for reading, and I hoped you enjoyed this buzz!

Ransomed Heart Link:

http://www.ransomedheart.com

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

It was a hot and sunny day out on the endless ocean, but he definitely wasn’t enjoying it. It had been over a month since he had seen anyone besides the men with him. He had been drifting on his life raft for thousands of miles, and he was weak, starving, and helpless.

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand is the true story of Louis Zamperini, a former Olympic runner and later airman who served in World War II. Now I know you’re thinking, “Ugh, Bella’s buzzing about another World War II book, here we go…” and yes, I am obsessed with the World War II era, however if you do not read any of the other WWII books I have buzzed about, PLEASE read this one!

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When Louis was at his peak in his running career, he was drafted for World War II, and became a bombardier in the U.S. Army Air Corps. Unfortunately, on one of his bomb squad’s missions, their plane was downed and most of the crew died, except for Louis and two of his crew members. The men drifted for almost two months, with little to no food or water. They were finally captured by the Japanese and taken to POW camp after POW camp, and were tortured by various Japanese generals. It wasn’t until after two years of endless labor and torture that the POW camp that Louis was located at was finally liberated.

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This book was pretty hard to keep reading at some points, just because of how gruesome and awful it was. Some of you will not want to read this book for this reason. However, if I may ease your conscience ever so slightly, you can read the original version, but then Laura Hillenbrand wrote a second version that was adapted for young adults. I read the adapted version, and I am glad I stuck with that. Based on what you think you can handle, you can choose your version.

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One of my favorite parts of the book is Louis Zamperini’s perspective of D-Day. After hearing about the two years of endless torture that Louis and his friends endured, I almost felt like I was the one being rescued alongside Louis.

Unbroken is a really amazing book, and I really encourage everyone to read it at some point in their life. However, it’s pretty mature content, so I would have to recommend it to ages 11 and up, just because of the intensity of the torture and abuse at the Japanese POW camps. But overall it is an amazing story and has really given me strength and courage to face each day. It also really gave me perspective on my problems. If Louis can get through two whole years of torture, then I can overcome the challenges that I am faced with each day.

There is also a movie that is awesome that I also encourage you to watch AFTER you read the book!

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

“Here’s what I think: the only reason I’m not ordinary is because no one else sees me that way.” These are the wise words of 10-year-old August Pullman, and they are so true! Wonder by R.J. Palacio is the story of August Pullman, who was born with a severe facial defect. He was homeschooled all this life, until fifth grade rolled around, and August and his family decided to try a traditional school. Unfortunately, it took a while for Auggie to be accepted among the students of Beecher Prep. Not everyone at the school was comfortable with his face, and some even thought that they would become ‘infected’ if they touched him. Eventually, he does make friends that don’t care about what he looks like, but it is a good lesson to us to treat others how we want to be treated, and to not judge people by what they look like on the outside. It’s actually quite crazy how, for middle schoolers and even adults, we still to this day have problems with accepting new people into our everyday lives. This was a very good reminder to me, and maybe it will be for you too.

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Wonder is probably on my top 10 books list, just because of its simple and relatable themes, and of course the awesome story. One of my favorite parts is when Auggie meets one of his best friends, Jack Will. Jack is considered one of the ‘cool’ kids at Beecher Prep, but what I loved is that even with that popularity, Jack still reached out to August. The boys developed a friendship that was not based on what Auggie looked like on the outside, but on the good qualities of the both of them.

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Another great thing about Wonder is that it is appropriate for a wide range of audiences. Although there is some bullying in the book, most of the characters are pretty young, but the book also appeals to adults as well. That being said, I would recommend this book to readers ages nine and up, and I strongly encourage adults to read this book along with kids. It might be a fun partner or group read. Either way I encourage you to read this book, whether it is by yourself or in a group!

In addition to Wonder, R.J. Palacio has written two other books, one called Julian (a sequel to Wonder), and 365 Days of Wonder, which is a book of compiled well-known quotes or ‘precepts’, with one for each day. I happen to own 365 Days of Wonder and Wonder, and I am looking forward to getting the chance to read Julian.

If you liked Wonder, you might also enjoy:

  • Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper

Love Does by Bob Goff

Immerse yourself in the wild and whimsical life of Bob Goff. A lawyer by day, missionary by night, Bob will impart you with wisdom beyond compare. Love Does by Bob Goff is not quite like any book I have ever read. It is nonfiction, but never dull. Bob talks about actions that speak louder than words, and his book is full of stories that prove just how much love can do.

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Bob is the founder of Restore International, which works in Uganda, India, Iraq, Somalia, and Nepal. Restore International’s mission is to change a few lives for the better through fighting for freedom and human rights, and working to improve educational opportunities. Many of Bob’s stories are set in one of these countries, and some of the situations he has been in are truly amazing. On one trip to India, Bob and his three children rescued some children that were being trafficked and held hostage in a shed in the bush. Through his organization, he also started a school in Uganda. This school started out with only a couple students, but it has since expanded from a day school to a boarding school with over 400 students. When Bob sees a need, he doesn’t think ‘somebody should do something about that’. Instead, he thinks about himself, and what he can do to make a difference in that situation. And whether that be carrying a bucket of water bottles down Main Street and handing them out to people who look thirsty, or rescuing children in India, Bob strives to make a difference wherever he goes.

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I also had the privilege of meeting this spunky and enthusiastic author a few weeks ago. I found him to be very engaging and inspiring. He told stories from his life and his book, and afterwards, to my great surprise, he agreed to go out for frozen yogurt with us! He was very down to earth, and he invited us all to come to Uganda with him. Then again, I suspect he does that to everyone. The following passage sums up the book pretty well: “Being engaged is a way of doing life, a way of living and loving. It’s about going to extremes and expressing the bright hope that life offers us, a hope that makes us brave and expels darkness with light. That’s what I want my life to be all about – full of abandon, whimsy, and in love.” If you would like to get more involved with Restore International, please visit http://restoreinternational.org.

The target audience for this book is really adults, but in my opinion, mature kids (probably ages 12 and up) who want to be inspired to live a more meaningful life would enjoy this book. My personal favorite part of the book is when Bob talks about encouraging his kids to write letters to world leaders. These letters turn into trips to visit those leaders in their own home countries, resulting in amazing adventures for the Goff family.

Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment by James Patterson

“The funny thing about facing imminent death is that it really snaps everything else into perspective.” (Patterson, 2005, pg.1) This is the first sentence of the first Maximum Ride book, The Angel Experiment. It’s also what Max and her gang face for a big part of their lives- imminent death.

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Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment by James Patterson is a action-packed, exhilarating story of six kids who are very different from everyone else. Max, Fang, Iggy, Nudge, The Gasman, and Angel. Aside from being mostly human, they have wings, and the bone structure of a bird. The flock spends a good chunk of their life running from the scientists who had once created them and the scientists who were now trying to re-capture them. To do this, the scientists sent out Erasers, or blood-thirsty werewolves whose mission is to recover the ‘mutant bird kids’.

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Set in modern-day America, this is the story of six outcast children, trying to find out who they are, and where they came from. My favorite part in this book is probably when the flock (What Max refers to as all of her ‘siblings’ and her) are all flying through the air. The way that Max describes the feeling of flight makes you feel as though you were up thousands of feet with her. However, the book is a bit violent, on par with something like The Hunger Games, so I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone under age 12. Overall, I loved The Angel Experiment. I’m not quite done with the series; however, I am definitely hooked, and you will be too, as soon as you read this first installment.

In addition to this book, there are eight other books in the series:

  1. The Angel Experiment
  2. School’s Out Forever
  3. Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports
  4. The Final Warning
  5. Max
  6. Fang
  7. Angel
  8. Nevermore
  9. Maximum Ride Forever (Which won’t be released until May 4, 2015)

There will also be a Maximum Ride movie sometime in the future, however the release date is unknown. Stay tuned!

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

She was in shock. Her mother was gone. Her brother was dead. And she was in a strange place that scared her.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak describes the compelling story of Liesel Meminger, and her hardships of living in the slums of Munich, Germany during World War II. When her mother is unable to take care of her, Liesel must travel to new parents that will take care of her- Hans and Rosa Hubermann. Hans is a kind old man with watery gray eyes, and Rosa is a gruff, plump, rock of a woman. This story tells of how Liesel adjusts to this new, rough life, and the people that cross her path. Then, a strange man, Max Vandenburg, comes into their lives. He is a Jew, running from the Gestapo, and looking for  a place to hide from the Nazis. As Liesel gets to know this strange man, she realizes how much they they have in common. They have both lost so much in their lives, and they find both themselves both in this same unfamiliar place.

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Some of my favorite parts are when Liesel is actually stealing books, or when she is with her hilarious best friend, Rudy Steiner. Their relationship is the heart of the story.  This quote from the book is one of my favorites:

“A snowball in the face is surely the perfect beginning to a lasting friendship.”

I also love the line when Death says, “The consequence of this is that I’m always finding humans at their best and worst. I see their ugly and their beauty, and I wonder how the same thing can be both.”

But really the whole book is amazing.

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I loved this book! Of course, I love all things related to WWII and the Holocaust, but the story itself is quite compelling, and it’s interesting to get the perspective of the average German people during the war. This book does include some mature content, so I wouldn’t suggest that anyone under 10 read it. It is also strange in the sense that it is written from the perspective of Death, so obviously it isn’t the happiest book in the world. Again, for those of you that aren’t a big fan of books without happy endings, this isn’t the book for you. But through all of this, it is an incredible, POWERFUL story, and I highly recommend it. Also, there is a movie, The Book Thief, which you don’t want to miss- AFTER you finish the book!