Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Aleks Mickelsen and the Twice-Lost Fairy Well (Zaria Fierce #4) by Keira Gillett

Author: Keira Gillett 
Format: eBook 
Publisher: Keira Gillett 
Number of Pages: 260 
Date Published:  July 7th, 2017

Source:  In exchange for an honest review, an ebook was provided by the author for free. 

I really enjoyed reading the first three books in Gillett's Zaria Fierce series and was excited to see that the adventures weren't over for Zaria and her friends Geirr, Filip, Aleks, and Christoffer.  Although this fourth book features Aleks in the title, The Twice Lost Fairy Well still includes all of the children I've come to know and love adventuring across the Norwegian countryside once again. There's just something so comforting about returning to Zaria and the gang, while also learning more about Aleks story. 

Aleks Mickelsen is a changeling who would rather be an average teenage human boy then have anything to do with his fey heritage.   After the gang's last adventures, he'd be happy if he never saw a troll or dragon again.  If Aleks gets his wish, he will completely become a human on his sixteenth birthday and leave his fey abilities behind forever, including his pointy ears and the ability of never getting lost.   Yet, when mysterious accidents begin to occur to Aleks and his friends, they become suspicious that someone or something may be targeting them. Then Aleks sister Nori shows up, after having escaped from Niflheim, and tells them how there is a third dragon, Fritjof on the loose and he's the one who's been behind all of their troubles.  At first, the gang doesn't believe her, but slowly recognize signs that Fritjof is trying to escape from the Under Realm and he's one mean dragon bent on wreaking chaos.   

Gillett's books always include plenty of action and I love the adventures that the gang has across Norway as they try to prevent Fritjof's escape.  Fritjof appears to be an excellent foe for the gang, having the power to make people doubt his very existence, even interfering with Aleks abilities.  There's plenty of instances of their getting lost and separated, as well as tough situations like being captured and jailed by trolls.  Throughout, these friends have come to depend on one another, with each bringing their own set of skills to the mix.  I've really come to enjoy the bond that they share and the more of Gillett's books that I read, the more I feel like I'm beginning to understand the uniqueness of each of the magical kingdoms they travel through, as well as the Norwegian folklore these stories are based on.   Aside from the adventuring,  I really love the illustrations by Eoghan Kerrigan which are beautifully detailed bringing the characters and story to life.  He draws some of the best dragons and trolls that I've seen,  but this time around I particularly liked his banshees and bears, o.k. so basically all of the illustrations from the series. While not everything is resolved by the end of The Twice Lost Fairy Well,  I'm very curious about what the future has in store for Aleks.  He's kinda on a time clock to get his wish for becoming a human, but as he loses his magical ability of never getting lost, he begins to realize that also means that he might not be able to help them on this quest.  And maybe being a fey isn't as terrible as he once thought.  Interesting things to contemplate as I await the next book of the series.  

Friday, July 14, 2017

Friday's Future Favorites


This is a new monthly feature on the second Friday of each month from Brandy at Random Musings of a Bibliophile  highlighting the excitement for upcoming books.  I have three books that I can't wait to read.

Jessica Lawson wrote  Nooks & Crannies, The Actual &Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher and Waiting for Augusta, all books that I really enjoyed reading.  I really like the premise of an old bottle and the covered bridge.  

Due to release: September 5th, 2017

"In the tradition of Rooftoppers and Three Times Lucky, critically acclaimed author Jessica Lawson returns with her fourth whimsical, lyrical, and heartfelt middle grade novel about a girl who’s desperately trying to keep her life together, when everything seems to be falling apart.

In the weeks leading up to Gilbreth, New York’s annual AutumnFest, twelve-year-old woodcraft legacy Minna Treat is struggling with looming deadlines, an uncle trying to hide Very Bad News, and a secret personal quest. When she discovers mysterious bottle messages under one of the village’s 300-year-old bridges, she can’t help but wonder who’s leaving them, what they mean, and, most importantly…could the messages be for her?

Along with best friend Crash and a mystery-loving newcomer full of suspicious theories, Minna is determined to discover whether the bottles are miraculously leading her toward long-lost answers she’s been looking for, or drawing her into a disaster of historic proportions."


Anderson is an auto-buy author for me, I love the variety of books that he writes.  Books like Mrs. Bixby's Last Day and Posted, and then there are fantasy's like Dungeoneers and Insert Coin to Continue and well Granted's cover just has me all curious.  I especially want to know about that yellow leaf.

Due to release:  February 13th, 2018

Granted, a hilarious, heartfelt, and unforgettable novel about a fairy-in-training and her first wish-granting assignment.

Everyone who wishes upon a star, or a candle, or a penny thrown into a fountain knows that you’re not allowed to tell anyone what you’ve wished for. But even so, rest assured: There is someone out there who hears it.

Ophelia Delphinium Fidgets is no ordinary fairy—she is a Granter: one of the select few whose job it is to venture beyond the boundaries of the Haven and grant the wishes of unsuspecting humans every day. It’s the work of the Granters that generates the magic that allows the fairies to do what they do and to keep the Haven hidden and safe. But with worldwide magic levels at an all-time low, this is not as easy as it sounds. On a typical day, only a small fraction of the millions of wishes made get granted. And even granting those promised few means navigating a human world fraught with danger.

Today, however, is anything but typical. Because today Ophelia is going out on her first assignment. And she’s about to discover that getting what you truly want takes much more than a handful of fairy dust.


Natalie Lloyd is another auto-buy author for me.  I loved A Snicker of Magic and The Key to Extraordinary, I have pages and pages of quotes from her books.  Isn't that cover just gorgeous too?  

Due to release:  February 6th, 2018

From the New York Times bestselling author of A Snicker of Magic and The Key to Extraordinary comes a new middle grade series about seven strange siblings all born on a different day of the week and the neighbors who keep trying to tear their family apart.

When the Problim children’s ramshackle bungalow in the Swampy Woods goes kaboom, the seven siblings and their pet pig have no choice but to move into their Grandpa’s abandoned old mansion in Lost Cove. No problem! For the Problim children, every problem is a gift.

Wendell and Thea—twins born two minutes apart on a Wednesday and a Thursday—see the move as a chance to make new friends in time for their birthday cake smash. But the neighbors find the Problims’ return problematic—what with Sal’s foggy garden full of Wrangling Ivy, toddler Toot’s 365 stanktastic fart varieties, and Mona’s human catapult.

Truth be told, rumors are flying about the Problims! Rumors of a bitter feud, a treasure, and a certain kind of magic lingering in the halls of #7 Main Street. And the neighbors will do anything to get their hands on those secrets—including sending the Problim children to seven different homes on seven different continents!

With a snicker of Lemony Snicket, a dollop of the Addams Family, and a healthy dose of charm, The Problim Children is an unforgettable tale about adventure, family, and finding the courage to tackle any problem heart-first.

What books are you looking forward to?  Feel free to leave a comment.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

MG Fantasy Review: Jorie and the Gold Key by A.H. Richardson

Sorry for being so MIA lately on the blog and Twitter.  I've been a bit under the weather and it's taking me longer than I anticipated to get back into reading and blogging, but now that I'm getting back into the swing of things,  I'm happy to highlight the second book in A.H. Richardson's series, Jorie and the Gold Key.  You can read my review and an excerpt of the first book here.

Jorie and the Gold Key by A.H. Richardson

Publisher: Serano Press
Format:  Paperback
Number of Pages: 247
Published:  November 25th, 2015
SourceIn exchange for an honest review, a review copy was received from the author.
Why I wanted to read this:   Continuation of Jorie and Rufus' adventures.  Plus there are dragons.  

In book one of the series, Jorie had just moved into Mortimer Manor with her great Aunt Letty and started a friendship with her next door neighbor, Rufus.  The two find a mysterious book leading them to a small lake or "Tarn" which then transported them to Cabrynthian.  A world of dragons, shape-shifters and a struggle between The Great One, a Wizard and Lord Fodomalk an evil sorcerer from Shyloxia, who was trying to capture the powers of three magical stones for himself.  Jorie and Rufus were tasked with locating the three stones for the Great One so that he could protect them from Lord Fodomalk.   

Jorie and the Gold Key takes place shortly after the events of book one, Lord Fodomalk has taken possession of the three magical stones and plans to use their power to unite Cabrnthius and Shyloxia under his rule.  However,  Jorie is still the Atir or chosen one and despite Lord Fodomalk having the stones, he still fears that she has some power to defeat him.  Meanwhile, Jorie has been on a trip with her great Aunt Letty and upon returning to Mortimer Manor learns that Rufus is stuck entertaining Nigel, a friend of his grandfather's grandson.  Nigel is quite stuck on himself and isn't quite the exploring type, which complicates things when Jorie and Rufus' are summoned to return to Cabrynthius in order to save the world once again.  Despite their reservations, Jorie and Rufus take Nigel with them to Cabrnthius, where he is kidnapped by Lord Fodomalk to try and extract information on Jorie's plans.  Things quickly escalate into a rescue and retrieval of the magical stones from Shyloxia.  

The first book in the series, Jorie and The Magic Stones, really had that sort of classic feel to it.  Two kids exploring around Mortimer Manor, the Tarn and being whisked to another world for an adventure.  There was just the right amount of tension to keep it interesting and did I mention there was a baby dragon who acted like a puppy?  The second installment has a similar adventurous feel to it.  Jorie and Rufus make plans to return to the Cave of Fire with the key they found while exploring it in the first book to determine what it unlocks, and whether or not they can use what is inside to defeat Lord Fodomalk. Nigel at first comes off as snooty and full of himself, but he really grew on me and seemed to round out the trio.  Professor Schrinch, Rufus' former teacher, also made an appearance, and I particularly liked how he seemed to turn over a new leaf by trying to help Nigel while they are locked up inside of Shyloxia together.  As I said before, the fantasy elements are written well,  there is plenty of adventure coupled with humor and the short chapters, making this an ideal read-aloud.  Overall, a wonderful friendship story and I'm looking forward to the next book in the series.     

 About the Author:

A. H. Richardson was born in London England and is the daughter of famous pianist and composer Clive Richardson. She studied drama and acting at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. She was an actress, a musician, a painter and sculptor, and now an Author.

She published her debut novel Jorie and the Magic Stones in December 2014. At the request of those who loved the first ‘Jorie’ story, Richardson wrote the sequel,  Jorie and the Gold Key, and she is currently working on the third book in the series.

She is also the author of Murder in Little Shendon, a thriller murder mystery which takes place in a quaint little village in England after World War Two, and introduces two sleuths, Sir Victor Hazlitt and his sidekick,  Beresford Brandon, a noted Shakespearian actor. She has more ‘who-dun-its’ planned for this clever and interesting duo… watch for them!

A. H. Richardson lives happily in East Tennessee, her adopted state, and has three sons, three grandchildren, and two pugs. She speaks four languages and loves to do voiceovers. She plans on writing many more books and hopes to delight her readers further with her British twist, which all her books have.

Readers can connect with Angela on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.

To learn more, go to

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Series I've Been Meaning To Start But Haven't

Apparently, I read a lot of books that are part of a series.  Now whether I've read the next book is a whole nother thing.  I also seem to have quite a few YA series that I'm hoping to read.   Here are ten that I've been meaning to start or one's I need to finish already.  

1.  I really love Maggie Stiefvater's The Raven Cycle series but have yet to start any of the books in the Mercy Fall's series.   

6068551    6654313   9409458

2.  Megan Whalen Turner's The Queen's Thief series.  Now I've read the first book, The Thief but really need to get back to reading the rest.  

40158  40159  6527841  8306741

3.  I've always liked the look of Danielle Paige's Dorothy Must Die series.  I know nearly nothing about this series, but that title has me really curious.  

 18053060  18602341  18602406
4.  Rachel Hawkins Rebel Belle series.  Aren't these covers intriguing and oh so gorgeous?  A Southern high school with sassy characters.  


5.  Evelyn Skye's The Crown's Game series.  Another series that I hardly know anything about, except that it's set in Russia and has a magical duel.  

 26156203  27211901

6.  From Goodreads:  "She’s more gunpowder than girl—and the fate of the desert lies in her hands."  I'm really interested in the setting and finding out more about that gunslinging girl.

 24934065  29739361

7.  My kiddo read the first book and enjoyed it.  I've been looking for a mystery and this seems like a good fit.  

23272028  30256105

8.  Another series with strong female characters that I want to know more about.

21414439  29939390

9.  I 've read the entire Percy Jackson and The Olympians series,  the first three of The Heroes of Olympus series, and only the first book in the Red Pyramid series.  After that, there were too many for me to keep up.   I have so many of his series that I need to get back to reading.  The Trials of Apollo is one that comes to mind. 

26252859  30145666

9.  The Greenglass House seems like it's a book right up my alley.  From Goodreads: " A rambling old inn, a strange map, an attic packed with treasures, squabbling guests, theft, friendship, and an unusual haunting mark this smart middle-grade mystery in the tradition of the Mysterious Benedict Society books and Blue Balliet's Chasing Vermeer series."

18222716  29540279

What series would make your list?  Feel free to leave your Top Ten Tuesday link in the comments and I'll check it out.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Historical Fiction Review: The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt

10263191The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Format:  Ebook

Number of Pages: 272
First Published:  June 1st, 2007
Source: Library
Why I wanted to read this:   I've always been intrigued by the cover and I was looking for a historical fiction book to read.  

Opening Lines: 
 "Of all the kids in the seventh grade at Camillo Junior High, there was one kid that Mrs. Baker hated with heat whiter than the sun.   Me.         And let me tell you, it wasn't for anything that I'd done."

The Wednesday Wars takes place during 1967 across nine months of Holling Hoodhood's school year at Camillo Junior High in Long Island.   Each Wednesday half of Hollings class goes to Hebrew School and the other half got to Catechism leaving Holling alone with his teacher, Mrs. Baker.  Mrs. Baker keeps him busy clapping erasers and cleaning up around the classroom, until the day she decides they should read William Shakespeare's plays together,  further confirming to Holling that Mrs. Baker hates his guts.   While at school, Holling also experiences teasing from his classmates, but nothing compares to the pressure he receives from his father to stay on Mrs. Baker's good side.  Otherwise, his father's business risks losing an architectural contract with Mrs. Baker's family.  Holling just wants to make it through the year in Mrs. Baker's class.

Holling's impression of Mrs. Baker is that she is an "evil genius,"  someone who hates his guts, but over the course of the story, his opinion of her begins to shift through their shared reading and discussions of Shakespeare.   Holling is a pretty bright kid and receptive to the idea of reading Shakespeare because he already loves to read books like Treasure Island, Kidnapped and The Call of the Wild.  Although, he can't fathom how Shakespeare could ever compare to those books.  But both Holling and Schmidt do demonstrate that Shakespeare's plays aren't boring, they actually have a lot more going on then even Holling first thought.   I must confess I've only read a few of Shakespeare's plays, so some of the characters names and quotes were new to me, but what I enjoyed most was Holling and Mrs. Baker's discussions about the play's.  How The Merchant of Venice was about becoming who you're supposed to be, how The Tempest is about how defeat helps us to grow.  Each play Mrs. Baker selected corresponded to something happening in Holling's life,  and through their discussions, Holling's character began to change and grow in some wonderful ways.  Holling's also learns that he made a lot of assumptions about Mrs. Baker and that he needs to be the person he wants to be, not who his father thinks he should be.  

The Wednesday Wars also incorporates historical events like the Vietnam War, the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy into the storyline through Mai Thi, a character who is a Vietnamese refugee, and Holling's interactions with Mrs. Baker, whose husband later in the story goes missing during the war.  Hollings sister also illustrates the protests that were going on during the war.   Just the kind of historical fiction that I like to read, it doesn't feel like I'm being told everything, rather seeing them through Holling's storytelling.  One not so surprising thing was how much things don't seem to have changed since the time being reflected.  How standardized tests and bomb drills were things Holling experienced growing up, and how even today's children have similar issues as those presented in the book with kids practicing active shooter drills, racism and bullying still occurring.   

Ahh, but Mrs. Baker, what a lovely teacher, she made me tear up in the same ways that reading Ms. Bixby's Last Day did.  One of my favorite parts of the book was when she and Holling went on a tour of sites around town like the Quaker Meeting House, a station on the underground railroad, and the Saint Paul's Episcopal School, where British Soldiers were housed during the American Revolution.  With the important point that " you see houses and buildings every day, and you walk by them on your way to something else, and you hardly see."    With Holling observing that he "saw his town as if I just arrived."  

This was truly a wonderful read, filled with laugh out loud moments, excellent character development, and so many memorable quotes I'd love to share, okay maybe just one more, but then go read it for yourself please.  :)

"But her nefarious plot to bore me to death failed again, because The Tempest was even better than the Merchant of Venice."

Did I pique your interest or have you read The Wednesday Wars before?  Feel free to leave a comment.  

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Father's in Middle grade books

Top Ten Tuesday is a Meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish  This week's Top Ten is all about those fathers. 

Most of the time the parents in the books I read are either whisked away, murdered, died or are off some place in need of rescue.  Which makes this Father's Day related Freebie a bit of a challenge, but I'm going to attempt to tackle it nonetheless.   

Pa from Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder  

I can't recall the number of times that I've read this series, probably as often as we watched the TV series.  Pa was the strong, silent, family man.  Always willing to help out in his community and loved his family dearly.   

Arthur Weasley from Harry Potter series Always intrigued by Muggle items and how they work.  Another father who is dedicated to his family and won't take anyone messing with them.   


Atticus Finch from To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Now I've heard that Atticus Finch is very different in the sequel to this book, which is why I haven't read it, but from what I recall of To Kill A Mockingbird he was a wonderful father.  He seemed to have strong convictions,  wanting his children to respect people while instilling honesty and integrity.  


Starr's father, "Big Mav" in The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

I got the sense that Big Mav loves his family and wants his children to be successful, with education being important.  This is a tight-knit family filled with humor and love, which is refreshing to see.  

Now if I was picking books for my father-in-law these authors would be at the top of the list.  



Know of any awesome dads that I've missed in my MG/YA list?  Feel free to leave a comment or link to your Top Ten Tuesday.  

Friday, June 9, 2017

Friday's Future Favorites

This is a new monthly feature on the second Friday of each month from Brandy at Random Musings of a Bibliophile   highlighting the excitement for upcoming books.  I have three books that I can't wait to read.

1.  Godsgrave is the continuation of the Nevernight series by Jay Kristoff.  Mia is a kick butt assassin who is out for revenge on the people who killed her family.  I really liked Mia the assassin and she's not to be trifled with.  

Due to release: September 5th, 2017

Assassin Mia Corvere has found her place among the Blades of Our Lady of Blessed Murder, but many in the Red Church ministry think she’s far from earned it. Plying her bloody trade in a backwater of the Republic, she’s no closer to ending Consul Scaeva and Cardinal Duomo, or avenging her familia. And after a deadly confrontation with an old enemy, Mia begins to suspect the motives of the Red Church itself.

When it’s announced that Scaeva and Duomo will be making a rare public appearance at the conclusion of the grand games in Godsgrave, Mia defies the Church and sells herself to a gladiatorial collegium for a chance to finally end them. Upon the sands of the arena, Mia finds new allies, bitter rivals, and more questions about her strange affinity for the shadows. But as conspiracies unfold within the collegium walls, and the body count rises, Mia will be forced to choose between loyalty and revenge, and uncover a secret that could change the very face of her world.

300253362.  I'm still eagerly waiting for Maggie Stiefvater's Ronan series, but there were a few things that struck me about All The Crooked Saints.  First the cover, I love the inclusion of owls and roses.  I also recalled hearing somewhere that she referred to this book as her dark creepy standalone and can't wait to see the doodle she made in my preordered copy.   I'm also curious about the setting of Colorado.  

Due to Release:  October 10th, 2017 

Saints. Miracles. Family. Romance. Death. Redemption.

The book takes place in the 1960s in Bicho Raro, Colorado and follows the lives of three members of the Soria family—each of whom is searching for their own miracle. There’s Beatriz, who appears to lack feelings but wants to study her mind; Daniel, the “Saint” of Bicho Raro, a miracle worker for everyone but himself; and Joaquin (a.k.a. Diablo Diablo), who runs a pirate radio station at night.

"The Soria family are saints as well, and the miracle they perform for pilgrims to Bicho Raro is as strange as most miracles are: They can make the darkness inside you visible. Once the pilgrims see their inner darkness face to face, it’s up to them to perform another miracle on themselves: banishing the darkness for good. It can be a tricky business to vanquish your inner demons, even once you know what they are, but the Sorias are forbidden to help with this part. They’ve all been told that if a Soria interferes with the second miracle, it will bring out their own darkness, and a saint’s darkness, so the story goes, is a most potent and dangerous thing." - Maggie Stiefvater, EW interview.


Lockwood & Co., Book Five The Empty Grave

I can't wait to read the next book in the Lockwood & Co. series:  The Empty Grave.  Things were kinda left unresolved and I can't wait to see what's in store for Lucy, Lockwood, and George.  

Due to release:  September 12th, 2017

The Empty Grave (Lockwood & Co. #5) by Jonathan Stroud   

Five months after the events in THE CREEPING SHADOW, we join Lockwood, Lucy, George, Holly, and their associate Quill Kips on a perilous night mission: they have broken into the booby-trapped Fittes Mausoleum, where the body of the legendary psychic heroine Marissa Fittes lies. Or does it? This is just one of the many questions to be answered in Book 5 of the Lockwood & Co. series. Will Lockwood ever reveal more about his family's past to Lucy? Will their trip to the Other Side leave Lucy and Lockwood forever changed? Will Penelope Fittes succeed in shutting down their agency forever? The young agents must survive attacks from foes both spectral and human before they can take on their greatest enemy in a climactic and chaotic battle. And to prevail they will have to rely on help from some surprising--and shadowy--allies. Jonathan Stroud once again delivers a rousing adventure full of danger, laughs, twists, and frights. 

What books are you looking forward to?  Feel free to leave a comment.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

MG Mystery/Adventure: The Door in the Alley (The Explorers #1) by Adrienne Kress

25268434The Door in the Alley by Adrienne Kress
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Format:  Hardcover

Number of Pages: 246
Published:  April 25th, 2017
Source: Library
Why I wanted to read this:   Looked to be a rousing adventure.

Opening line:  This story begins, like most stories do, with a pig wearing a teeny hat."  

12 yo Sebastian is literal, logical, and practical.  Each day he follows the same routine and likes it that way.   That is until he and his cousin Arthur get into a fight and Arthur huff's off, leading Sebastian to follow him down an alley with a mysterious sign for The Explorers Society.   Once Sebastian's home, he can't help thinking about the sign and his curiosity takes him past the alley again.  This time he rescues a pig wearing a hat, which he tries to return to the Explorers Society.   Once inside, he is questioned by the director and is sentenced for trespassing, despite being invited in.  His punishment, minding the society and cleaning.  Sebastian tries to set a good example, do all the right things because he feels like he's finally found a place that he fits in, but in order to stay, he's been tasked with breaking a rule.  Still eager to please, Sebastian tries to break a rule and finds a box with pictures of people referred to as the Fillipendulous Society, members who were thrown out of The Explorers Society.   Meanwhile, Evie"s across town attending another dinner away from the orphanage at the meek, boring Anderson's House, until some men barge in and demand that the Anderson's turn over a key.  Evie barely escapes with a letter from Mrs. Anderson and a request to find the Explorers Society, which is where she runs into Sebastian.   The two team up using the mysterious box of Sebastian's and the letter from  Evie's grandfather, the infamous Alistair Drake of the Fillipendulous Society.   What ensues is an adventure to locate the remaining members of the Fillipendulous Society and rescue Evie's grandfather.  

The Explorers is similar to The Name of This Book Is A Secret by Pseudonymous Bosch, with both books being filled with humor, adventure and a narrator that sneaks into the dialogue from time to time.  The Explorers has plenty of excitement, mystery and two likable characters who learn a lot from one another, despite being somewhat opposites in their personalities.  It's refreshing to have a character like Sebastian who enjoys education so much. So much so that when Evie suggests that he skip school to help her track down the Fillipendulous Society members, he almost has a panic attack.  It actually weighs on his conscience.  Evie does help him tremendously in loosening up and seeing that sometimes logic can't answer all of your question's and you're left with taking a risk.  Well, in Sebastian's case a calculated risk.  Evie and Sebastian also develop this sweet friendship, and how cute is Sebastian when "Evie looked at him with one of her totally unreadable expressions.  And then suddenly she smiled, and it felt like the sun breaking through dark stormy clouds, and Sebastian felt a wave of relief wash over him."    Adorable.  There's also a hint of magic with one of the members of the Fillipendulous Society seeming to control animals or communicate with them somehow, but it isn't really clear yet.  Overall, lots of adventure and perilous situations as the two try to outwit the bad guys who are after the key as well.    

Edited to add:  There are lovely illustrations throughout, with my favorite being the moment that Evie meets Sebastian in the alley.