Curse of the Spider King

Our rating: ****

Seven teens discover that they are the lost Elven lords from Allyra. They all have a special gift or ability. Now, with dangerous minions of the Spider King pursuing them at every turn, and mysterious Elf Sentinels trying to protect them, the teens must decide if they will stay on Earth or go home to Allyra.

Okay, right out of the gate, let me say that this is a good fantasy novel. Lots of exciting action, creepy bad guys, mysterious good guys and a parallel universe to boot. Unfortunately, Curse of the Spider King has no fewer than seven storylines running at a time, which makes for a very confusing time trying to keep track of everybody. Also, six of the storylines retread most of the same basic material six times. Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t read this one. It’s really quite worthwhile. However, based on the ending of this one, I’m looking forward to book two, where the seven storylines will hopefully merge into a more manageable number.

Manuelo the Playing Mantis

Our rating: ****

Manuelo the mantis loves music, and he spends a lot of his time listening to outdoor concerts. One day, he decides to try making an instrument that he could play. Try as he might, nothing works out, and he gets very discouraged. Then, a small spider offers her help, and together they try one last time.

I’d never heard of this book until just recently, but I’m glad I found it. It may not be one of Don Freeman’s most popular books, but the story is unique and sweet. I definitely encourage everyone who enjoys this author’s books (or anyone who enjoys music) to look into Manuelo the Playing Mantis.