December 17, 2020

Abbreviations #114: Prosper Redding, Cassidy Blake + The Girl and the Witch's Garden

Alexandra Bracken’s middle grade fantasy series Prosper Redding, which includes The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding and The Last Life of Prince Alastor, was a delight to devour in October. The series begins with Prosper Redding, the most unexceptional member of the Redding clan, discovering that he shares his body with a fiend named Alastor. Prosper is determined to rid himself of the fiend, and make sure that Alastor doesn’t play any nasty tricks on him or the rest of the world. But the more secrets they uncover, and the more truths revealed about the Redding family and the fiends, these two might just find themselves dealing with bigger problems. I really enjoyed this duology! While the first book starts off slow, it does eventually pick up and crescendo right into that exciting ending and stays steadily paced through the actual series finale. It was fun to read a story filled with magical mayhem that was part family saga, part save the world! Bracken’s narrative voice is very fun and cheeky, and the humor in this novel worked particularly well. I appreciated how Prosper and Alastor’s journeys were reflections of the history that had brought them into their current predicament, as well as sharing similarities (despite the very different extenuating circumstances). It was, in fact, one of the most entertaining reading experiences I had all year, and I’m so glad I finished out the series during spooky season too! (P.S. I also listened to both books on audiobook as narrated by Kirby Heyborne, and he did a fantastic job voicing these characters, particularly Alastor.)

The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding (Prosper Redding #1) was published on September 5, 2017.
The Last Life of Prince Alastor (Prosper Redding #2) was published February 5, 2019.

I picked up Victoria Schwab’s middle great paranormal series (AKA the Cassidy Blake series) on a whim during the month of October, and I’m so happy I did! Cassidy is our heroine, and after a near-death experience where she was saved by her ghost bestie Jacob, she can see ghosts and travel through the veil at will. In City of Ghosts, Cassidy’s parents have gotten the opportunity to film a show based on their bestselling book series and they’re taking Cassidy along with them to Edinburgh to shoot the first episode. While she’s in Scotland, she learns more about her connection to Jacob, her ability to interact with ghosts… and also gets involved in mayhem around a murderous ghost. After things wrap up in Edinburgh, they move on to Paris in Tunnel of Bones to film another episode. Things continue to escalate for Cassidy, and this time, there’s a child ghost that needs to be put to rest. The plots for both books are fairly straightforward, and paired with Schwab’s ability to write compelling stories, they were great entertainment. They might not necessarily be new favorites of all time, but I did enjoy the atmospheric settings in both novels, the creepy yet fascinating brushes with the paranormal and seeing the changes in Cassidy after each of her experiences. If you’re looking for middle grade that ghostly, and filled with mayhem, murder and mischief, this is a series that I would definitely recommend! Very much looking forward to checking out Bridge of Souls next year. (P.S. I listened to both books on audio! They felt incredibly atmospheric and added an extra oomph to the mystery and anticipation and scares in the books.)

City of Ghosts (Cassidy Blake #1) was published August 28, 2018.
Tunnel of Bones (Cassidy Blake #2) was published September 3, 2019.

There were two things that made me want to read The Girl and the Witch’s Garden: that beautiful cover design that feels reminiscent of Studio Ghibli work and the mention of a mysterious secret garden. Fortunately, Erin Bowman’s middle grade debut ended up being a very charming, likable read! Piper winds up having to spend the summer at her grandmother’s estate, putting her right in the path of her estranged mom who abandoned Piper and her dad years before. Piper runs into the three children being fostered at the Mallory estate and learns that, because they are gifted with special abilities, they’ve been tasked with finding a way into the magically concealed garden on the estate in order to retrieve a powerful substance. That’s the bare bones of this tale, and the truth is that middle grade-aged Alexa would have been head over heels for it. It has so many elements that I really like, including fascinating magic, enchanting setting and budding friendships. It also, like many other middle grades, doesn’t shy away from tackling more difficult themes (like Piper’s father being very ill, her pain at her mother’s abandonment, the fear of everything changing), even while wrapping it all up in the intriguing mystery surrounding the estate and the magic. It all came together beautifully! The Girl and the Witch’s Garden might not be a new favorite (which is more to do with me not being the actual target age group audience), but it was a lovely, well-written tale.

The Girl and the Witch's Garden was published on June 23, 2020.
I received an e-ARC from the publisher for review via NetGalley.


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