Saturday, March 11, 2023

Carnival Quest (The Candy Shop Wars #3) by Brandon Mull

Carnival Quest (The Candy Shop War #3)
By Brandon Mull
Published by Shadow Mountain
Publication Date: March 14th, 2023

 Watch the Book Trailer:

The Blue Falcons is a secret kid’s club that fights against a family of villainous magicians. Using an impressive arsenal of magical candy, Nate, Summer, Trevor, and Pigeon defeated Belinda White, a sinister candy shop owner who almost seized control of their town, and her brother, Jonas White, a maniacal arcade operator who tried to turn the planet into his personal puppet.
Now, the Blue Falcons believe they must battle the third sibling—Camilla, who has brought the Dreams and Screams International Carnival to their town of Colson, California.
Rumors are spreading about the new carnival. Those who visit feel compelled to return. Some who enter the labyrinthine Fun House disappear for days. And the Big Top is said to bewitch audience members.
The Blue Falcons think they know who is responsible and are ready to fight, but the carnival blocks any outside magic. Without their favorite enchanted treats, how can the kids save their town?
When weird dreams start to plague everyone who has visited the carnival, the worlds of magic and reality collide. With the help of a new magical enforcer, the Blue Falcons will need to learn to use the magic of the carnival against itself, including a host of new magical carnival candies, and tap into the power of their own dreams to battle their greatest adversary yet.
When I saw this book was available for review, I decided to request it, even though I hadn't read the other books in the series, because my nine-year-old son had read them--and I figured he'd think I was cool if one of the books I reviewed was one he was interested in! Haha, I really did request it because of my son's interest in this series, and he really was impressed that I got to read an advanced copy of the third book--he excitedly told his friends at school about it. (I DID read the other two books before I started this one, although I don't think it would have been entirely necessary to understand and enjoy this one.) 
For me as a reader, this is probably a 3-star book: the plot and setting are well-developed and very detailed; the characters are relatively flat (I'm a character-driven reader so that was a bit of let-down for me) and the language/writing style is all right. It's great that there's a carnival map at the beginning of the book to help readers see where everything is. There aren't as many new magic candies in this book, which was something I really enjoyed about the previous books. (The ones in this book also didn't seem as appealing--clown lips? YUCK!) So, as an adult reader of a middle grade book, this book is good; as a parent, this is definitely a book I'd give to my kids. And for the intended audience (at least my son), this book is a hit.
For my son, this is a 5-star book. This is his review:
"I liked how it's exciting and they have to use their brains to figure out what's happening and how to solve the problems. I liked how the carnival expanded and that there lots of hidden things about it. I like the names of the characters, and I think Nate is funny. I like that they can use magic to turn into different things and have different powers. I like the stuff about dreams. I like that there's a bunch of different characters, and it's really interesting."
So, he really enjoyed it and has started asking when Brandon Mull's next signing event is so he can see him and get his books signed! So, with it getting 3 stars from me and 5 stars from him, we'll average at 4 stars.
I read an ARC provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own.

About the Author: 
BRANDON MULL is the #1 New York Times best-selling author of the Fablehaven, Beyonders, and Five Kingdoms series. A kinetic thinker, Brandon enjoys bouncy balls, squeezable stress toys, and popping bubble wrap. He lives in a happy little valley in Utah with his wife, Erlyn, their eleven children, and a dog named Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Brandon loves meeting his readers and hearing about their experiences with his books. 

For author interview requests, please contact Callie Hansen at 

Other Books by Brandon Mull: 
The Candy Shop War Series 
The Candy Shop War 
The Candy Shop War: Arcade Catastrophe 

Fablehaven Series 
Rise of the Evening Star 
Grip of the Shadow Plague 
Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary 
Keys to the Demon Prison 

Dragonwatch Series 
Wrath of the Dragon King 
Master of the Phantom Isle 
Champion of the Titan Games 
Return of the Dragon Slayers 

Five Kingdoms Series 
Sky Raiders 
Rogue Knight 
Crystal Keepers 
Death Weavers 
Time Jumpers 

Beyonders Series 
A World without Heroes 
Seeds of Rebellion 
Chasing the Prophecy 

Advance Praise: “A fun fantasy novel in which plucky children explore an evil-infused carnival to save the world from its creepy embrace.” —Foreword Reviews 
“Magical minions of various (and sometimes gross) abilities, Mull trots his twist-laden plot forward to a well set-up climax. He dishes up a crowd-pleaser as delicious—if not so weird— as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." —Kirkus, from book 1 
“A delectable fantasy adventure where magical candies give four friends super powers to save their town.” —Foreword Reviews, from book 1 

Saturday, March 4, 2023

Bash (vol 1) by Rudy Gobert

Bash! (vol. 1)
Written by Rudy Gobert and Hellef Bay
Illustrated by Vince Serrano
Published by Titan Books

Synopsis (from the publisher):
Young Rudy comes from the poor neighborhood of Nevilia, but dreams of a being a BASH star, and his talent might just make it happen: but can he make it while threats come from every corner of the galaxy? 

Throughout the universe, there’s one sport that everyone’s a fan of: BASH! A brutal, high-octane version of basketball: its players are rockstars, legends, gods, and for young Rudy, a poor kid from Nevilia, his only dream is to be one of them. 
Rudy’s got talent, but talent is nothing without practice and so he sets out to become the best BASH player in the galaxy, always training, always reaching for jut one more dunk. And while Rudy is starting to get noticed by the teams and the talent scouts, other, more sinister forces have started to creep out from the shadows, jealous of this rising young star. 

I'll start out with a few disclaimers: my family are lifelong Utah Jazz fans and we were quite disappointed when Rudy Gobert was traded away in the off-season, and Gobert is my daughter's favorite player. So, I'm probably inclined to like this book--but at the same time, as a former librarian and an avid bibliophile, I've read a LOT of books and will be (kindly) honest if I don't like a book. So, that said, when I saw that Gobert had a graphic novel coming out, I immediately went to NetGalley to see if I could get an eARC to read it early; the publisher graciously granted my request. I did have issues with the formatting--the book displayed sideways and split pages into two--no matter what device I tried to read it on. So, it wasn't the smoothest reading experience, and I definitely want to get my hands on a physical copy to read, but I still got a good enough feel for the book to give an honest review. 

The book spent a lot of time on backstory (which makes sense, as it's the first volume in a series), so there's not a ton of action but enough to keep it interesting. There are appealing storylines--the main character wanting to excel at Bash, a hyped-up basketball-like sport; his father having left the family years before and the impact on him and his mother; as well as the political storm that he has no idea is coming, as earth's colonial rule Sybelius is sending a delegation to find that missing father, who is more than he seemed. All of those will draw readers in and want them to know more. There are really cool details--like the rules of bash, which include environmental changes during the game--and the illustrations are terrific. There were some clich├ęs--a parent who doesn't love the game that the main character loves, an opponent with a pretty girlfriend that he doesn't treat well--as well as some ideas that weren't developed as well as I would have liked (I didn't find the mother's reasons for blaming the bash to be strong enough, and the reason why so many people love this game even though it can lead to death didn't come through). Characters are mostly flat, and sometimes the writing felt stilted, with an over-reliance on dialogue to explain things that happened in the past, which didn't quite feel like realistic conversations, as well as moments that the language seemed to reflect the fact that English isn't Gobert's native tongue. None of those are huge problems, and readers who are looking solely for entertainment rather than planning to write a review might well skip right over them. 

Overall, I think it's an interesting book that will appeal to a lot of teenagers as well as fans of basketball and of Gobert himself. I definitely want to continue the series to see what happens next! 

4 stars!

I read an eARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.