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Book Review – Out of This World by Douglas E. Richards

Out of This World - RichardsTitle: Out of This World
Author: Douglas E. Richards
Publisher: Paragon Press (Midpoint Book Sales and Distribution), Copyright 2012
Genre: Contemporary Fantasy (YA/MG)

Zachary & Jenna are having breakfast when suddenly there is a shimmering in the air and their parents disappear. What are two bright middle school kids to do but jump through after them? Well….

It’s certainly noble, but they are just kids, so they don’t even pack a lunch, a change of clothes, a flashlight, or even a toothbrush (which made me wonder how bright they really were).

They find themselves transported to another world and almost run over by a pair of transparent (literally) people who seemingly don’t welcome their presence and encourage them to leave through another shimmering portal. Thus, their adventure begins, jumping through portals in search of their parents, and finding themselves in different worlds populated with strange and often dangerous creatures.

Each encounter provides a simple, ethical lesson about cooperation, overcoming prejudice, positive thinking, intelligence, loyalty, caring, responsibility, or understanding. These aren’t quite ‘bang you over the head’ morality tales, but they are definitely geared toward younger readers. Still, they are endearing and entertaining to even older readers.

So far, so good. The characters are simple but believable, the settings are well constructed, the plot flows smoothly and logically… for about 80% of the way through.

If you don’t want a spoiler, stop reading this review now.

Still with me? You sure? I’m going to reveal the ending. I don’t often do this, but this one rather bugged me. If you don’t want to know, stop reading this.

Okay. You can’t say I didn’t warn you.

It’s all ‘magic.’ The beings that abducted their parents used ‘magic,’ and they don’t know how it (or much of anything else) works. That’s about all the explanation we get. It’s not quite as bad as saying it was all a dream, but it’s close. There is nothing about parallel worlds, multiple dimensions, or holes in space-time. All we get for an explanation for how all this happened is that it was ‘magic.’ Humans can do magic too, but the Earth has an anti-magic field around it that makes it almost impossible. Oh, and the San Andreas Fault is not really a geological fault line between continental plates; it’s a magically sensitive area that will rupture if the aliens prevent portals from opening between their world and ours.

After the first 80% of the book in which our two heroes act with bravery, reason out problems, and demonstrate a considerable amount of highly ethical behavior, to have this all trumped by ‘magic’ was something of a letdown and, at least to me, seemed to nullify the moral lessons in the book. Yes, learning, reasoning, and ethical behavior are fine, but magic is easier and so much more convenient. If you have magic, you don’t need all that other stuff. That’s how the aliens live, in any case, and humans can be just like them.

I found the first part of this book engaging and well done for a middle grade book. The ending, I felt, was something of a cop out.

This is, of course, my personal opinion, and I do tend to be a bit tough when it comes to fantasy novels.

Book Review – Shelby and Shauna Kitt and the Dimensional Holes by P.H.C. Marchesi

 My Rating: 4.5 Stars

Shelby and Shauna Kitt are kids with special abilities and an abundance of “positive energy.” It is this unique energy that makes them the most suitable people on the planet to save not only our world but also the parallel world of Miriax from the Klodians who inhabit a third parallel world. Dimensional holes have opened between Miriax and Earth, and between Earth and Klodius. They must be closed and Shelby and Shauna are called on to help. These young heroes are engaging and likeable. The adult characters may sometimes seem childish or simplistic to older readers but I think younger readers would find them believable.

This wonderfully imaginative book is sure to appeal to Middle Grade readers. It’s a bit Little Prince, a bit Wizard of Oz, a bit Alice in Wonderland and a lot of fun. What I like especially are the lighthearted tone and positive mood that are carried throughout the book. The plot is strong enough to carry your interest and the tone is just silly enough that you know not to take it too seriously. This combination makes for a very enjoyable reading experience.

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