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The Wishing Spell (The Land of Stories #1) by Chris Colfer

The Wishing Spell

Book Review by Debbie Winkler

Wishing Spell by Chris Colfer

Series: The Land of Stories #1
Author: Chris Colfer; Illustrator: Brandon Dorman
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (July 2012)
ISBN: 9780316201575
Page Count: 438 pages
Format: hardcover

Target Age Group: children ages 9  – 12
My Rating:image_thumb84_thumb1

 

Synopsis:

After the death of their father, twins Alex and Connor Bailey find it difficult to pretend that life is normal.  Their mother is working all the time, Connor is struggling in school and Alex doesn’t have any friends besides Connor.  When their grandmother arrives to help them celebrate their twelfth birthday, she gives them The Land of Stories, a treasured fairy-tale book.  But this is no ordinary book of stories, it contains the tales of real-life people who live in a magical land.  When the book starts humming and glowing, Alex and Connor get sucked into it and find themselves on an adventure of a lifetime as they travel through their favorite fairy tales to locate the eight ingredients needed to create the wishing spell, which might be their only chance to go home.

Review:

This was a fun children’s book that fairy-tale lovers of all ages will appreciate and enjoy.  The Land of Stories is made up of several separate kingdoms.  The Land of Stories MapFairy Kingdom is the home of the fairies, including the Fairy Council, which helps govern and rule the entire Land of Stories.  Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother and Mother Goose are the most powerful members, but other fairies of all shapes and sizes also help rule.  The Dwarf Forests is the home of the seven dwarves who helped Snow White, along with their other brethren.  It is also the home of Froggy, a giant frog the size and shape of a man; the wolf pack, led by the son of the wolf who ate Little Red Riding Hood; the Book Starts to Glow - Book Illustration from Chapter 4witch’s gingerbread house from Hansel and Gretel; Goldilocks, a felon wanted throughout all the kingdoms for her various crimes, starting with the Three Bears; and a host of other characters who prefer to live in darkness.  The Corner Kingdom is where Rapunzel’s tower can be found.  The Charming Kingdom is the home of Cinderella and her Prince Charming, the oldest of four Charming brothers.  Cinderella is expecting their first child at any time and the whole kingdom is thrilled.  Mermaid Bay houses the foam remains of The Little Sleeping BeautyMermaid and her mermaid sisters.  The Sleeping Kingdom is ruled over by Sleeping Beauty and her Prince Charming.  Their kingdom is still struggling to recover from Sleeping Beauty’s 100 years of slumber and people don’t get much done there.  The Red Riding Hood Kingdom is surrounded by a very tall wall to keep the wolves out.  Queen Red Riding Hood lives there, but she leaves all of the boring duties of a Queen to her grandmother.  She is in love with Jack, famous for climbing the beanstalk, which can still be found in this kingdom, but Jack only has eyes for Goldilocks.  The Old Woman Evil QueenWho Lived in a Shoe, Little Bo-Peep and Humpty Dumpty (or his wall, which is all that remains) can also be found there.  The Northern Kingdom is the home of Snow White and her Prince Charming.  Snow White is still struggling to understand what could drive her stepmother, the Evil Queen, to try to kill her so many times.  A Hidden Place is where the Evil Queen is hiding out, plotting to find the eight components of the wishing spell before the twins and The Troll and Goblin Territory imprisons the goblins and trolls who are always trying to enslave humans.  The twins will have to travel to all of these territories to gather the eight magical items that they need to cast the wishing spell and return home.

I loved the setting of this book and really enjoyed meeting my favorite fairy tale creatures.  Chris Colfer also cleverly inserts some additional, original fairy tales Cinderellasuch as “The Twisted Tree” and “The Walking Fish,” which the twins’ father told them when they were younger.  It wasn’t difficult to figure out who the twins’ father really was or who Froggy true identity, but that did not prevent me from enjoying this book.  What I did not enjoy about this book was the twins.  Alex really bothered me.  She is very book-smart, but people stupid and she made a lot of bad decisions in this book.  Alex is more interested in meeting her favorite fairy-tale people than in getting home and doesn’t seem to be that worried about how their mother might be feeling. Fairy Tale Woods Alex forces Connor to kiss a troll princess, then punches him for saving her life when he drags her over a cliff to jump into the ocean.  She can’t read the map that they have to get where they need to go, but finds a way to blame Connor for them getting lost.  Alex was very grating and not likeable at all.  She seems to focus on completely the wrong thing and, while she created more drama in the book, I could have done without her and been completely happy.  Connor, on the other hand, is not a book-smart boy, but at least I liked him!  He manages to find the courage to stand up to some very powerful people and say Little Red Riding Hoodwhat needs to be said.  Connor also has a fun, fresh take on life and I loved hearing his different perspectives of what fairy tales really mean.  He was a lot more adventurous and focused so that they could go home.  I am glad that they were together because, if Alex was the only hero in the story, I might have given up!

The book is well written and fast-paced.  There is a new adventure or fairy-tale creature around every corner and I loved that!  I also enjoyed the backstory that Chris Colfer created for the Evil Queen.  She became a real person instead of one-dimensional villain.  There are so many more villains out there – I can’t wait to see which one Chris Colfer tackles next!  In the end of the book, we learn that the twins truly do belong in the Land of Stories, but they also belong in the real world.  I am sure that they will be spending time in both and will have many more adventures together!

Content:

This book contains some scenes of mild peril and magical violence.  Some characters die by falling to their death, being shot with arrows, stabbed or eaten by wolves.  Some humans are enslaved by trolls and goblins.  Recommended for ages 7 and up.

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Filed under Children's Books, Fantasy Books

Awakening: Moonfell Wood (Awakening #2) Game Review

Awakening: Moonfell Wood

Game Review by Debbie Winkler

Series: Awakening #2
# of Players: 1
Target Age Group: 8 and up
Language: English
Average Game Play: 2 – 8 hours
Type of Game: Adventure, Hidden Object
My Rating: image_thumb84_thumb1_thumb

Synopsis:

Princess Sophia has escaped the castle where she lay slumbering for 100 years, but she still cannot find any other humans!  Sophia ventures into the magical Moonfell Woods to continue her search for her family and encounters the Guardians, who have been waiting for Sophia’s awakening and return.  Solve puzzles, search the scenes and follow the clues to the Witch of the Woods, who holds the key to the location of Sophia’s family.

Review:

This is the second game in the Awakening series  and I enjoyed it just as much as the first one(Awakening: The Dreamless Castle), if not a little bit more.  These games belong more in the adventure genre than in the hidden object genre, in my opinion, but that is definitely a good thing as I am always on the lookout for another great adventure game!  This game picks up where the first one left off, awakening-moonfell-wood-introbut there is a little recap at the beginning for those who did not play the first game.  The story line is simple and is fantasy-based.  Princess Sophia was cursed by a dark figure to sleep for 100 years.  Now Princess Sophia has finally awoken and is looking for her family.  As she travels through the Moonfell Wood, she will uncover clues as to where her family has gone and the true story as to what happened to cause her to sleep for so long.  The story keeps me coming back for more in this game franchise and the graphics make me want to keep playing.  The graphics are beautifully done and seem almost like a fairy tale storybook.

This game is not what I consider challenging (though I did get stuck a few times!), but it is still interesting and engrossing.  Most websites refer to this game as a hidden object game, but there are only a few scenes that are traditional hidden object games.  Throughout the game, you will stumble across a location Awakening-Moonfell-Wood-EN2-awakening-moonfell-wood-2that will give you a list of 12 items that you need to locate within the scene and then you will keep one of the items as a tool to use in your inventory.  Later on in the game, they will show you the shape of the item you need to find (sets of four, another one will appear when you find one) instead of giving you a list.  There are seven magical tarot-like cards that you will need to find 12 awakening-moonfell-wood_screen2hidden objects on each, but you are finding 1 object 12 times (12 jewels, 12 moons, etc.).  I feel that most of the game is spent solving puzzles – and not logic puzzles, though there are some of those – but solving actual puzzle puzzles.  They are not traditional jigsaw puzzles, but there are a lot of items to reassemble and different types of puzzle pieces to put together.  Half of the puzzles have you swapping tiles and rotating pieces to create the picture.  These can be a bit frustrating as you use the same mouse button to rotate the pieces as you do to swap the pieces.  I would be rotating a piece and then accidentally click on a piece near it and it would swap the pieces.  Once you get Awakening Moonfell Wood Square Puzzleused to this, it is not so bad, but it was a minor frustration for me.  The puzzles are mainly squares with square tiles, but there are also some hexagons and triangles.  The other puzzles come in the form of assembling objects with the broken pieces.  A teapot, statues, flowers and other items will need to be put together before you can use them.  The outline of the item is clearly shown and you simply rotate and place the pieces where they belong within the outline.  The best part about the puzzles is that the pieces lock into place when they are placed correctly.  This is true of almost all of the mini games in Awakening: Moonfell Wood.

If you do not like putting puzzles together, than this is not the right game for you.  Almost all of the locations have some sort of puzzle attached to continue to progress.  There are some unique puzzle/logic games that require referring to different charts and maps to assemble and win.  Most of the puzzles are solvable Awakening Moonfell Wood Puzzlewith a bit of time and a willingness to click around until you hit upon the correct sequence.  The key is finding the hint contained in the game to enable you to solve the puzzle you are working on.  If you do not look at a specific item or get a piece of paper with a solution on it, you will not be able to solve the puzzle.  If you have the instructions to beat the puzzle and still are not able to solve it, there is a skip button at the bottom of each puzzle that you can click on after you try to solve the puzzle for a while.  There is no penalty for skipping the puzzles so you can simply play and enjoy the game if you don’t want to deal with these mini games.

To help you play your way through the game, you have a little fairy friend and a journal.  The fairy can give you hints as to where hidden objects are found within the mini games and general directions as to what you need to do to proceed in the game and meet your objectives.  Some of these directions are helpful, others are not.  Keep in mind that the fairy’s advice will vary depending awakening-moonfell-wood-hd-full--screenshot-1on which scene you are standing in.  You may not be able to perform the task that the fairy is giving you hints because you are missing an object or don’t understand the hint.  Try to follow the hint she gives you and, if that doesn’t work, wait for her to recharge and then ask for a hint on another scene to see if it changes.  I found the journal more helpful than the fairy.  The journal has two sections.  One section gives you a list of objectives that you need to perform to beat the game.  These are sometimes really specific (get firewood, feed the bird, etc.) and others are more vague (find the witch, free the guardian, etc.), but they can help give you direction as you progress through the game. awakening-moonfell-wood-3The other portion of the journal will take personal notes as Sophia explores. She will create copies of maps, pictures, and portions of conversations that are helpful.  This was a huge help as the first game made you write down all of the clues you found and now the game keeps track of everything you need for you.  I found myself referring to the journal time and time again, particularly when I was playing mini games and trying to place objects in the correct order or to find the correct glyphs to unlock an item.  Your journal will open up and sparkle when there is new information to be found inside so you can refer to it as often or as infrequently as you wish.

The game is beautifully designed and it was a delight to explore each new location.  There are not very many scenes that you will play through in this game as the designers were quite clever in reusing locations.  Within Moonfell Woods, there are two different sections with a limited number of scenes within Awakening Moonfell Wood Moonlighteach section.  You spend the bulk of your time in the first section of the wood as you figure out what you are doing and try to gather the equipment you need by playing mini games or stumbling across it in your exploring.  Certain tasks can only be performed in the daylight or the moonlight so you will travel through a portal that will take you through day and night.  You interact differently with the scene depending on the sun and the moon.  For example, you can only fish during the day and you can only grow certain flowers in the moonlight.  By having fewer scenes, I felt like the game designers were able to focus on making beautiful details instead of pushing for huge quantities of scenes.  The other nice feature was that the fairy kept you from wasting your time in inactive sections. Once you finish a section, she will pop up and tell you that you don’t need to return and to focus on moving forward.  This was really helpful as I usually spend most of my time wandering aimlessly when I am Awakening Moonfell Woods Sunriseplaying adventure games when I am not sure what to do or where to go.  My only complaint with the game design was the super-picky clicking required. It took me a while to figure out that I was doing the correct thing, but I was clicking just a little too far to the side or below the interactive object.  Basically keep trying if you are sure you are doing the correct thing as you probably are.  There is no penalty for random clicking so you can keep trying all of your inventory items until you hit upon what you need to do.  Also, do not be afraid to click around on the scenes as there are lots of items that you need to pick up that do Awakening Moonfell Wood Waterfallnot seem interactive.  These include pine cones, mushrooms, and more.  Once you pick up one, your inventory will show you how many more you need to find (1 of 8, 1 of 12, etc.) and then you will be on the lookout for them, but it is difficult to find that first item you need.  If you notice that there is more than one of anything on the screen, try clicking on it to see if you can pick it up as you probably can.

If you are looking for a fun adventure-style hidden object game, this is a great series to check out.  It is friendly and relatively forgiving to beginners, but is a fun, laid-back game to play for more experienced gamers.  I love the theme of the game and that the screen is not dark and scary like a lot of the hidden object games out there.  I also loved my little dragon friend!  It was so wonderful to have a reliable heat and light source that I did not need to look for each time – thank you for giving us some permanently helpful items!  I think the quality and the creativity is there in these games and look forward to playing more of them!

Content:

This game is appropriate for viewers of all ages.  There are a few scenes that are a bit gloomy or portraying pictures of  the dark fighting the light, but I do not think that anyone would consider them scary.  This game requires quite a bit of reading to find things, read the objectives and to follow the storyline.  There is no talking during the game so you have to be able to read the conversations to know what is going on and to figure out what you need to do.  Recommended for ages 8 and up.

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Filed under Adventure, Hidden Object, Puzzle/Jigsaw