Mac on the Road to Marseille by Christopher Ward

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Mac on the Road to Marseille by Christopher Ward
Published March 28, 2015 by Dundurn
Young Adult/Middle School
Format: e-book; 164 pages
Also By This Author: Mac in the City of Light
Goodreads | Amazon
My Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥

Synopsis:

Fifteen-year-old Mackenzie returns to Paris to attend the Christmas Eve wedding of her Dad’s old friend, Rudee Daroo, and the love of his life, dancer Sashay D’or. Mac is told about the annual New Year’s taxi road rally, this year hosted by the Marseille Marauders, the nastiest lot of drivers you’ve ever seen.

Partnered with hulking cabbie Blag Lebouef, Mac manages to convince her parents that the road rally is more like a carefree drive in the French countryside than the death-defying cutthroat rivalry it’s always been. Negotiating brutal weather, cryptic signage, outright sabotage, random flocks of sheep, and zigzagging back roads, Mac and Blag might be the perfect combination of cunning and brute strength, though they are both extremely strong-willed and rarely agree.

On the road, she makes the startling discovery that the clues the drivers have been given during the rally could lead to the discovery of some valuable missing artwork. Is that worth losing the rally over?

Thoughts:

So, I did not know that this book was a sequel before I started reading it. Oops! Although, to be fair, it wasn’t listed as a sequel when I requested to review it. About a quarter of a way through reading it and not being able to understand who all the characters were, I did some searching on Goodreads and found that Christopher Ward published Mac in the City of Light a year before Mac on the Road to Marseille, and suddenly the book became easier to follow & enjoy.

Mac is a 15 year-old California native who is visiting France when she gets coerced by a friend to be a passenger-seat navigator for her friend Blag who is competing in a scavenger hunt type road race. Mac has to figure out destination points during the race based on clues laden with “French-isms.” This part was particularly enjoyable for me because I could make out the puns and the allusions to French culture.

Weaved in among the road race, there is also an art theft mystery that Mac becomes entangled in. If you decide to read this book for yourself, don’t become confused when the story suddenly plunges into the world of art museum robberies. But don’t worry, the road race and the art theft are woven together at the end.

Read This Book If…:

…you have a vivid imagination (it will help bring the descriptions of France to life).
…you enjoy the thrill of a race!
…you are familiar with France and/or enjoy experiencing it through literature.

Final Musings:

This book felt more appropriate being labeled “Middle Grade/Middle School Reading” than “Young Adult.” If I was a parent to an imaginative pre-teen, I would probably purchase Mac on the Road to Marseille and it’s prequel Mac in the City of Light for him/her to read. Christopher Ward’s style of writing would be even more enjoyable if it was read aloud, with all the emphasis on the French idiosyncrasies and nuances :)

Whole In The Clouds by Kristine Kibbee

Whole In The Clouds

“Don’t forget, dear. This is you. This is your strength and your compassion and all the love inside of you. This is you as you truly are.”

Whole In The Clouds by Kristine Kibbee
Published Nov 6, 2014 by Illusio Baqer (Zharmae Publishing Press)
Middle Grade Fantasy
Format: e-book; 156 pages
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 3/5

Synopsis:

Cora Catlin is a misfit at best, and an outcast at worst. She feels out-of-place, as if everything is backward and something is missing from her life.

And then, on her first day of middle school, everything changes.

When Cora encounters an elfin stranger who speaks of the magical world Clouden, an entire kingdom hidden up in the sky, she can’t wait to leave her boring, humdrum life behind. As Cora travels to her new home, she finds herself transformed–and if that weren’t enough, she has to adjust to royal parents, talking Pegasuses, a raging war, and an alluring love interest as well.

Exploring this new land, Cora unearths wonders and secrets beyond her wildest imaginings, discovering the meaning of true friendship, love, and what it means to feel whole.

Thoughts:

Whole In The Clouds was a really refreshing read for me. I haven’t read a Middle School level book in quite some time, mostly because I’m suspicious of what I might find in them, but this one was not what I was expecting (in a good way). Right from the start I realized that Cora is not your typical twelve-year-old girl. She doesn’t daydream over boys, she doesn’t have sleepovers with her friends (because she doesn’t have any), and she doesn’t have any hobbies. Like many preteens, Cora is bullied by her classmates and because of this she is self-conscious about her appearance and she begins feeling lonely and out-of-place.

Seeing Cora as an outcast was really sad. The bullies in the beginning of the story gave me compassion for Cora right from the get-go, and then I developed a soft spot for her when I discovered that Cora loved adventures. (I love adventures too!) I was really excited when the fantasy aspect of the novel set in. I haven’t read very many recent fantasy novels, but this one borrowed a few qualities from Harry Potter and Narnia, two of my favorite series. After Cora finally arrives in Clouden, the novel develops this exciting & mysterious atmosphere.

There are several areas of the book that did seem a little cheesy and unrealistic to me, I have to admit, but there were also a lot of things I really liked. The most interesting thing for me was the difference between a person’s appearance in Clouden and their appearance in The Backworlds (or the real world for us). In The Backworlds, as we know, looks can be deceiving. A physically charming or beautiful person can really be evil or malicious on the inside. In Clouden, our inside characteristics are reflected in our physical appearances. Cora, who is kind, compassionate, and selfless, holds this ethereal presence in Clouden even though in The Backworlds she is mocked for her plain appearance. This “our outsides reflect our insides” idea resonated with me and I appreciated the extra virtue that those who are beautiful on Clouden aren’t vain about their appearances.

Cora squinted through the darkness at the mirror and was astounded to find someone else staring back at her. An ethereal girl looked quizzically through the glass. She had flowing copper-red hair that glistened like spun silk and a pair of the most haunting green eyes Cora had ever seen. Her skin was the color of baby-doll porcelain and when coupled with her slightly flushed rosy cheeks resembled strawberries and cream. The girl’s mouth, pursed in confusion, was delicately shaped, her lips a natural crimson that no makeup could duplicate.

Whole In The Clouds made me feel all sorts of emotions: happiness, sadness, suspense, anxiety, and I even gushed over the little bit of romance that was woven in. I was a little disappointed in how quickly and cleanly everything was wrapped up at the end, but I was satisfied in the ending and overall I really enjoyed Kristine Kibbee’s second novel.

Read This If…:

…you love characters who are pure-of-heart
…you wish your pets could talk
…you enjoy stories about good vs. evil
…you crave an adventure!

Final Musings:

Although Whole In The Clouds felt a bit cheesy at times, overall I really enjoyed the purity in Cora and her story. Cora is a very mature, caring, and selfless main character who has a heart for those around her. This novel is a fun fantastical read that deals with bullying, parent-child relationships, and believing the best in people.