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The Fearless Travelers' Guide to Wicked Places

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Twelve-year-old Nell Perkins knows there is magic at work that she can’t yet understand. Her mother has been taken by witches and turned into a bird. Nell must journey to get her mother back, even if it takes her deep into the Wicked Places — the frightening realm where Nightmares resides. There she must break the spell and stop the witches from turning our world into a living nightmare.

384 pages, Hardcover

First published March 1, 2017

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Pete Begler

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5 stars
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63 (19%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 119 reviews
Profile Image for Maya.
91 reviews13 followers
August 22, 2016
4.5 stars.

THE FEARLESS TRAVELER'S GUIDE TO WICKED PLACES is about a young girl and her two brothers who embark on a journey to save their mother, who has been turned into a bird. This trip takes them to the Dream World, divided between the Nightmares and the Dreamers.

This was a fun little tale. I think that's what I like most about children's fiction, is the fact that you have so much room to do whatever you want (within reason), and make it as enjoyable and weird as you want to.

I really enjoyed the copious amounts of mythology (I'm a bit of a nut for it) and the imagery was amazing. The characters were fun and likable. I really honestly hope that this turns into a series, because I would love to read more of it.

And seriously, the different types of Dreamers? I love it and I want more. MORE I SAY, MORE!

I recieved a copy of this book from NetGalley for a honest and unbiased review.
1 review
September 12, 2016
My mother got an arch from Netgalley over the summer and I had the privilege to read this work of art. I loved the way that book flowed and how imaginative the book was. The characters were so original and being the comedy fan that I am I was so happy that the author managed to add some comedic relief when the book was getting intense. I would read this book again and again and again! The author created a whole world of craziness and excitement. The balance between adventure, suspense and Witt was incredible and I really hope that the author continues writing and creates a sequel and a third and fourth book and so on! By far this was my favorite YA fiction story I have read since Harry Potter. I would suggest this book for Young adults ages 10-15 as I am 12 and it seemed like the perfect book for my level. Although this book is aired towards YA readers I would strongly suggest that adults should read it as well.
164 reviews2 followers
August 15, 2016
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley for an honest opinon. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and feel it has lots to offer a middle school reader from about 11 years upwards. It was really well written with some beautiful moments that really caught and held my attention. 'The Fearless Travelers' Guide to Wicked Places' has a super lead character in Nell Perkins, who is about to discover that what has made her see the world differently from other children is what will make her a fearless traveler with the ability to defeat the Dark Daughters. Peter Begler creates a truly fantastical world where dreams and nightmares live side by side and sleepers come to share in them. The supporting cast including Nell's brothers, her friend Max and the mysterious Badger all help to create a story that has a slightly scary feel while being quite magical. Well worth adding to a school library or a child's bookshelf.
Profile Image for Sara.
414 reviews45 followers
December 17, 2016
I received this book in exchange for an honest review and this has not changed my opinion of it.

Such a unique look at dreams and where dreams come from and what happens when we sleep. Now throw in Nightmares and Dreamers and skeletons and evil clowns and leprechauns, seriously, this book has basically everything you could ever imagine in it. I loved the magicalness of basically everything in the world. It was a true work of fantasy for middle grade readers. We follow Nell Perkins and her two brothers as they go on a search to help their mother who has been changed back into a bird. There's also a talking cat and a disembodied left hand. All in all, it's really a brilliant work of imagination.

Our characters are fun, witty, and quite real despite what they are going through. Speedy is my favorite most likely simply because he is so optimistic and also a protector of the family. I give this book five out of five beans and HIGHLY recommend this for anyone who loves the fantastical and all things highly imaginative in far away lands!
Profile Image for Fafa's Book Corner.
510 reviews297 followers
October 17, 2016
Mini review:


I received this E-ARC via the publisher and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I was really looking forward to reading this. Unfortunately I couldn't stand the writing style.

Still recommend.
2 reviews
November 16, 2016
How often do you find a book that feels so good that you want to keep it a secret? This is one of them. I found myself going off to bed early to escape inside this world. I even missed my subway. Not only was I entranced by the wonder of it all but I laughed out loud quite a few times. Great Book!
Profile Image for Hannah Greendale.
692 reviews3,241 followers
September 11, 2016
The Fearless Travelers' Guide to Wicked Places has a unique premise and shows real promise, but it falls short in its delivery.

The book opens by alluding that a dark tale lies in store. People have been vanishing from the little town of Mist Falls. Twelve-year-old Nell Perkins witnesses an abduction; she's the only one who really knows what's happening, but no one will listen to her, because Nell Perkins was well known in her small town for claiming to see things that did not exist.

When someone precious to Nell is abducted, she embarks on a dangerous adventure to get that beloved person back. Her journey takes her to a realm where Dreams and Nightmares have come to life. A great start to a story, but . . .

The characters lack emotional depth and suffer in terms of believability. For example, two characters barely react after witnessing the following: In an instant, the truck was lifted from the ground and flung hard against a tree on the other side of the road, with a shattering of glass and crushed metal. Other times, reactions to the mundane are overly dramatic, as when three children see a woman carrying a bird in a cage and they all felt a vast pit of emptiness inside, as though they had seen something terrible happen but could not say exactly what. They simply couldn't put into words why they felt so bad, yet the feeling remained.

Bizarre rules apply to this story, and those rules surface without preamble, making for a jarring experience:

Regarding witches: "The ones hunting you, they hate coffee. They avoid it, especially when sweet. The smell repulses them. They'll steer clear of this booth when they get here, and if you have it on your lips, all the better."

On using icicle shards from a place known as Vazencrack to hide from witches: "As long as we are touching [the ice], or touching what it is touching, no one will be able to see or hear us until the ice melts -- and it will melt. A few pieces like this will give us twenty minutes at most."

The creatures in this book are equally ridiculous:

Eight enormous horses that appeared to be part animal and part machine. The front of the animals -- their heads, necks, and chests -- were horses very real and very alive, but their bottom and back halves were motorcycles. One wheel in the front and two in the back. The creatures were beautiful, their coats made of brilliant gleaming liquid chrome that pulsed with life and their eyes a fierce chestnut color.

Out of a bank of purple clouds flew hundreds of [witches] racing toward them, on the backs of flying octopuses.

In addition, there are several distracting technical issues:

-Characters repeat dialogue:

"That cloud is on the hunt," Badger explained, "That's what this whole storm is about. The storm is a hunting party."
"A hunting party?" asked Nell.
"If [name omitted to avoid spoilers] was taken by that cloud, I am sorry. But listen, don't go looking for that cloud. Trust me on this."
"Don't go looking?" Nell said confused.

-Some of the characters serve the same narrative function, making for an overcrowded cast. The book would benefit from merging these dual-function characters into one person.

-Some words or phrases are used in absolute excess: Suddenly. All of a sudden. All at once. And the phrases Nell realized or Nell knew are relied on heavily throughout in order to explain-away feeble plot devices.

-At times, it feels like the author approached the book as though he were writing a movie script, rather than a novel:

At once, Badger and all the children were no longer looking out of their own eyes but out of Freyja Skoll's eyes, and all were thinking her thoughts, which a great dark tidal wave was passing over them. The ocean was not made of liquid but of insects, black and buzzing. The horrible sea blotted out the light in the sky, sucked the air from their lungs and separated them from one another.

-There are several typos throughout, but this is an ARC so those will presumably be corrected before publication.

To be fair, there are moments when the prose absolutely rocks:

Slowly, horribly, their faces stretched outward and became bird beaks. The beaks were black and sharply pointed, like ravens'. The witches didn't use utensils but stuck their fingers into the hot muck, pulled out snail shells, and cracked them in their pointed beaks, slurping the meat and crunching the shells with delight.

Hawks, buzzards, owls, falcons, and crows, these were the birds of Nightmares, creatures one finds looming in dark branches in lonely woods, circling high in starless skies above abandoned stretches of deserted road, and pecking on windows of unfamiliar, cobweb-dusted houses.

To conclude, The Fearless Travelers' Guide to Wicked Places is a kitschy book that reads like a movie script gone awry -- the kind that warrants walking out of the theater and asking for a refund. Nonetheless, the author's imaginative approach to the dream world will likely appeal to young readers for its over-the-top strangeness.

Special thanks to NetGalley and Peter Begler for providing a free ARC in exchange for this honest review.
September 12, 2016
LOVED THIS BOOK! Beautiful writing. Nell is an awesome character!! Fans of Spirited Away, Adventure Time, The Golden Compass, The Phantom Tollbooth and Alice in Wonderland will be swept away by this crazy inventive world. I also like thought the themes very relatable.

“You will get lost.
You will be afraid
You will fail
You will fight
You will remember
And without doubt:
You will find your way home.”
1 review
November 16, 2016
A MUST READ!!! I was intrigued by the cover and the book did not disappoint. Completely original story that takes readers on a thrilling ride into the world where Dreams & Nightmares live. Nell is a beautifully written character. The book is at turns scary and funny and filled with emotion.
Profile Image for Cassiopeia's Moon.
159 reviews16 followers
October 4, 2016
It has been almost two months since I received this ARC from NetGalley and the digital copy was about to expire. But I could't let that happen and now I have finally finished this middle grade fantasy novel.

The story follows Nelly and her brothers who have to travel into the land of Dreams to rescue their mother. But it is not an easy journey. The Dreamlands are not following the rules of reality, which means everything is possible and nothing is at is seems.


I enjoyed this story very much. It was an easy, magical read and it really sparked my interest in reading more middle grade books. The author have a lot more freedom and is able to leave much more to imagination. This could also be a problem if the author story went all over the place without thought or reason, but Begler did not fall into the trap. The Dreamlands are filled with craziness and but everything feels like an organic part of the story.

What I liked most of the story was how strongly it put forward that you should believe in yourself. Say yes and go for it! That's how you find your mother.
July 14, 2017
Full review at Blame Chocolate.

The Fearless Travelers' Guide to Wicked Places is a wonderful story about a dauntless 12-year-old girl's journey to save her mother and the entire world along with her.

When I first read the synopsis, I felt for sure this would be a nice children's story but probably unable to blow anyone's mind. There had to be at least a thousand other similar plots out there, with equally pretty covers to draw the readers in.

How wrong I was. [...]

From the very first page The Fearless Travelers' Guide to Wicked Places seized my attention and refused to let go. It was definitely darker than I imagined it would be, to the point of chilling me to the bones at times. So I had to wonder just how middle school appropriate it could really be. In the end, I think early teens and adults alike will enjoy this tale of profound courage and endless imagination, and feel inspired to become Fearless Travelers themselves.

I highly, highly recommend this book. It's magical, full of surprises and a true homage to a mother and daughter's unyielding love. It will definitely make you want to go hug your parents/parental figures tight and tell them you love them, just in case there are any witches out there.
Profile Image for trishajennreads.
136 reviews20 followers
March 14, 2019
4.5 stars!

Enchanting. Lovely.

From the the first page, I was hooked. I fell in love with the first poem. Then the prologue. So gorgeous. From the first word, I wanted to read this story aloud. It is beautiful. It is intricate and simple at the same time.

Whew! And that was just the opening pages.

This book begs to be read aloud.

Then I started chapter one. And I continued reading aloud. To myself. I don’t read a lot of middle grade. When I do, I often find it cheesy or too simplistic. This book is not like that. This book begs to be read aloud to a group of tweens. It flows. It’s written wonderfully with a lovely rhythm and just the right balance of sentimental and adventure and description.

Full review on my blog: http://trishajennreads.com/2016/10/21...
Profile Image for Rachel Stansel.
950 reviews15 followers
December 20, 2016
I completely enjoyed this unique adventure full of magic and mystery. Aimed at middle grades, it would appeal to those who enjoy adventure sagas such as Rick Riordon's series. There were times when it felt a bit rushed or a bit slow, but overall the pace was good. The end in particular I felt was quick after the long leadup. I would still recommend this to middle grades or as a read aloud family story.

Full disclosure - I received the book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
65 reviews
September 2, 2016
The Fearless Travelers' Guide to Wicked Places
By Pete Begler

I received an e-ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.
"You will get lost. You will be scared. You will fall. You will flee. You will fight. You will learn. And without doubt: You will find your way home."
The above is a quote from the the Fearless Travelers' Guide (page 205 in my copy) and is its main theme. Kids today (especially girls) are so focused on being perfect. I love this quote and idea so much that I've posted it above my DD's desk. All kids should know that they will mess up but that they can get back up and succeed in the end - if they don't doubt themselves.

The characters each have unique voices which made the story fun to read. Nell (main protagonist) is a self-doubting young person. She has lots of inner conflict and Nell is very hard on herself when she messes us. However, we see her change and grow into a more self aware person. Brother George is snarky but vulnerable. I just loved his bits. Speedy is physically big but emotionally the most tender of the group.
Badger (their mentor) is an interesting character. He has made some poor life choices which leads to having nightmares inside of himself. Badger has learned to control and live with this darkness. However, ultimately, he has learned to forgive himself and move foreword. Again, such an important thought for us all to master. Even Rose, who spends most of the book in bird form, is strong throughout the story as their mother.

A young girl and her siblings must endure challenges and overcome obstacles in order to rescue their mom who has been turned into a bird. Their journey takes them through an ever changing dreamscape (odd scenes and nightmares). As in our dreams, the characters find themselves dealing with situations and creatures that don't always respond to logic. At first I thought this might be annoying but the strong plot running through the core keeps the bits and pieces together.

The story has a dreamlike quality and that intrudes on the believability of the story. For instance, at the end, we are supposed to believe that there is doubt that Rose will remember her children when she returns to human form. All along, throughout the book, the message has been that mothers cannot (I repeat, physically cannot) forget their children. Yet, here at the end of this book, the reader is supposed to believe that Rose will have forgotten her children. I especially found this hard to believe because just a few pages earlier, we had seen other mothers released from their bird form and reunited with their children. The children are warned before they start their quest that their mother might not remember them and then we are again warned at the end. However, everything in the middle belies this point. Was the reader ever in doubt that mom would forget George, Speedy, or Nell? No. However, having grumbled a bit about the unreality of this section, I can say that it ends beutifully. The characters have an impromptu, very joyous celebration.

Another example of the dreamlike quality is that everything works out so perfectly. Badger is released from his nightmare form. Max returns to help Nell in just the nick of time. They return to their home (awake from the dream?) and all is back to normal
In the end, this gave me an odd feeling of not really being invested in their peril.

There were some incredibly beautiful moments in this book. There is a scene with skeletons in the wicked place. Skeletons are inherently scary. However, as the scene progresses, we see their humanity. By the end, the reader is sad to say goodbye to such valiant characters. Really a lovely scene.

The strong message of this story made me love this book despite its faults.
Profile Image for Dani ❤️ Perspective of a Writer.
1,512 reviews5 followers
November 11, 2016
Thanks to NetGalley and Capstone Young Readers for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Nell and her brothers, George and Speedy are in for the adventure of their lives when their mother is turned into a bird and they must fearlessly travel into the Dreamlands to change her back. Accompanied by experienced travelers, Badger and Pinch, they must make their way between nightmares and dreamers to reach the wicked places before the Dark Daughters unleash a plague upon the world.

I was really shredded reading the first half and feeling bored by what is an incredibly inventive tale with dense plotting and imaginative ideas. I could go on and on listing all the details that I just loved. They aren't very developed so some may claim this is a shallow story with shallow characters. I don't think so, but the world takes some pages setting up and instead of just rushing around telling us what's what the author shows us. It makes for a slow beginning because while we are drawn in by Nell the rest of the characters are left to develop later on in the story. George and Speedy definitely come out shooting in the dialogue and while it was clumsily inserted at times i loved everything these two boys contributed! All of this contributed to the first half of the book being a slow read. If you can wade through to the last 40% the second half of the book is explosively good. This is because around this point is when Nell gets separated from her brothers and mentors. Finally we are invested! Up to this point Nell was being led around with what amounts to a parent or guide who is totally in the know. They faced difficulties yes, but I never once doubted she would make it. When she's suddenly in this situation that goes from what we expect to the totally unexpected we suddenly realize she really might not make it. Chapter 23 really saved the day!!

As adults reading what is a child's book, we need the storycraft to be spot on, especially when it comes to having necessary conflict. If the outcome is already certain then we become bored quickly even by cool details. (For example, much was made that her mother would forget the children as a bird but all indicted that she never forgot. This was never a danger to us... Rose was supposed to be a huge conflict for us and never was one. It was a contrivance to me that caused us to take the journey and that's it! When this is developed properly there is no boring drag...as evidenced later when proper conflict is established!) A child may still enjoy the build up as there really are a plethora of enchanting ideas. I feel like I'd give it away to list any of them as part of the power of the book is the wonder as these details are revealed and explained.

I actually absolutely adored Max! I wish that he played a larger role in the book... Nell and Max together was magic, much how George and Speedy together without their sister worked really well. If relationships are working then bank on them! So much imagination was utilized creating the world that the EQ or emotional intelligence within the story was a touch lacking. The better the book the more glaring the errors unfortunately.

The e-copy I received was in a form that did not allow me to quote the book otherwise I would have pulled my most favorite idea (the Fearless Traveler's guide!) and the absolutely spot-on descriptions of George and Speedy. Really there is so much to love about this book and I highly suggest it! I loved the theme that empowers children to overcome their problems and use their brains and not their brawn to get out of difficulties.

I hope another adventure is in the works, as the world building is already done, we can simply slip into the new plot and revisit the characters we came to love...

BOTTOM LINE: A powerful world (with not quite enough conflict) worth the journey!!
Profile Image for Esther.
517 reviews106 followers
October 13, 2016
Got a copy of this book via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

This book took me almost two months to finish. I don't really know why it took me so long to get through. It is the main reason that I give this book 2 stars.

The story overall is very unique, I've never seen a story like this one. There is a lot going on in this book, I think you could make 3 movies out of it, and I don't know if that's a good thing, because the book is action paced but never exciting enough to me. Maybe that is because of my age...

I also think this book would be better to read for kids below the age of 16 or maybe to read aloud in the classroom. I think I would enjoy it much better that way.
I gave the book 2 stars, because I think children will like this book and I can see potential in the story.
Profile Image for Alysa H..
1,343 reviews62 followers
October 18, 2016
This book has a great concept and a strong opening, but ultimately gets bogged down in a morass of its own ambitions. Some of the writing is truly, darkly lovely but its not enough to carry the story.

In the first part, we're introduced to Nell Perkins, an odd girl who frequently sees strange things that no one else can see. Nell is a likeable MG character, and is initially a lot more fleshed-out than anyone else. This includes her mother Rose -- more like a MPDG than a person, if that trope can ever be said to cover non-romantic character relationships. It also includes her two brothers, with whom she soon goes on her journey to the Dreamlands, and their "mentor" figure, Badger, who is mostly a source of exposition and simplistic affirmation.

The first part takes place in Nell's hometown, and contains the only real narrative tension in the book as Nell and her brothers learn what's become of their mother and what they'll need to do to save her. One scene in the local diner is particularly effective at showing these children in peril.

The rest of the book, however, takes place in the Dreamlands and although the author does a fine job displaying his imagination, the story really suffers. The children -- with whom I was not able to retain any sort of emotional connection -- encounter one bizarre surrealist thing after the next, to the point where it becomes tedious and almost to the point where one loses the plot entirely.

I was also a little put off by the fact that Nell is surrounded with boys. Not only are her brothers, her friend Max, and Badger all boys, but so are most of the other characters they encounter, with the glaring exception, of course, of the Witches, who are the supreme and irredeemable Baddies of the book. (Rose, that amazing artsy-farsty English mother of theirs, is somewhat ridiculous as a human but spends almost the entire book transformed into a small bird.) It feels as if the author had second thoughts about using a female main character and thus added in a ton of boys, and they all fight together against evil female witchy matriarchy or something.

This book would probably work better as a movie, not only because of the beautiful strangeness of the Dreamlands but because a truncated length would necessitate a more streamlined approach to plotting. As a book, I think it's too long by at least 1/3. Many kids will like its meandering and its dark and wacky visuals (think classic Tim Burton), but may also lose patience. They may also feel duped when that patience isn't well-rewarded by the pat ending.

** I received a Review Copy of this book via NetGalley **
Profile Image for Nicole.
512 reviews46 followers
December 23, 2016
The Fearless Travelers' Guide to Wicked Places!!! First things first: I received this book through NetGalley.
The book comes out in March 1st, 2017. It's still a while, but I can really recommend it and hope you guys keep an eye out for it.
“You will get lost.You will be afraidYou will failYou will fightYou will rememberAnd without doubt:You will find your way home.”
Summary: Twelve-year-old Nell Perkins knows there is magic at work that she can’t yet understand. Her mother has been taken by witches and turned into a bird. Nell must journey to get her mother back, even if it takes her deep into the Wicked Places — the frightening realm where Nightmares resides. There she must break the spell and stop the witches from turning our world into a living nightmare...
That book was seriously such an fun and weird adventure. At times I was reminded of Alice's journey through wonderland, the frustration that some of the things just very too weird and didn't make sense at all. But I love the creativety of the writer, developing this world and making it come to life through his words. And it worked, the writing was really good.
In the beginning I wasn't that sure, of the story and my ability to really get into the story and care about the characters. It took me a bit but then it really won me over. Especially Nell as a main character, she was just so lovable and I really wanted her to succeed in everything she did. I loved Speedy, wasn't so fond of George (most of the time he annoyed me when he opened his mouth.). I loved Badger and Pinch. And Max.
The book really had some great characters.
I loved the dynamic of Badger with the kids. Pinch and the kids. Badger and Pinch. Rose and her children, even when she was a bird. The whole group just gave me lots of family feels.
There were some really slow parts that didn't really work for me. But overall, I really thought this was a great book, an amazing setting that I haven't read before and was just fun to read.
Profile Image for Juli.
1,844 reviews471 followers
January 10, 2017
You will get lost.
You will be scared.
You will fall.
You will flee.
You will fight.
You will learn.
And without a doubt,
You will find your way home.

Nell Perkins is 12-years old. She loves her mom and her brothers, and lives a relatively normal life. Until a strange storm hits. A weird purple cloud shaped like a skull appears in the air, chasing her and her mother. What happens next sends Nell and her two brothers on a magical journey through Dreamland -- witches kidnap their mother and turn her into a bird. With the help of a Fearless Traveler, the children battle supernatural killer clowns, bird witches, and other ethereal creatures in Dreamland in an attempt to return their mother to human form.

This is a beautiful, imaginative, amazing story!! I couldn't stop reading -- I just kept seeing the story unfold like a movie playing in my head. Dreamland is scary and hauntingly beautiful at the same time. The adventure to return their mother to her human form teaches the children to rely on themselves, to work together and to believe in their skills and intelligence. The tale is also sprinkled with witty humor and interesting supporting characters. I think my favorite side characters are the skeletons the children meet while riding on the bus.

The author, Pete Begler, works in television. I can honestly say that I would LOVE to see a film version of this story! It would be beautiful!! Surely Tim Burton or someone similar could take this and make a hauntingly beautiful movie or television show from it! The world-building is exquisitely creative, the characters are wonderful, and the action is intense. What a fun read! I couldn't put it down!

The Fearless Travelers' Guide to Wicked Places will be published March 1st by Capstone. This is Pete Begler's first novel.

**I volunarily read an Advance Readers Copy of this book. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own. **

Profile Image for Wensday.
130 reviews
August 17, 2016
Reading the synopsis of this book caught my attention right away along with the intriguing cover.

The book's beginning was very exciting but faded in the middle for me. If you find yourself feeling this too, continue to read on as the book picks up through to the end. The writing was good and I found myself getting so into the book that I literally felt a pull when interrupted when reading it.

I hope to get the chance to read more books by Peter Begler. I received an un-proofed copy of the book from NetGalley for an honest opinion.
Profile Image for Dwi Grandison.
33 reviews2 followers
December 17, 2016
Imaginative ! Suspenseful ! Scary ! The story of Nell and her determination to save her mother is inspiring. Nell, with the help of the Fearless Travelers and friends she makes along the way, learns that the things she thought made her strange and solitary are the very things that define her and make her special. There were twists and turns, scary, creepy villains and heart warming friendships and family ties !
Profile Image for Billie.
930 reviews79 followers
February 6, 2017
So, Goodreads sent me a kind of nasty e-mail stating that I had to disclose that I received a free copy of this book. I honestly doubt that, had I given it four or five stars, this would have even been an issue. But, yes, full disclosure, I received a free copy of this book. Free or not, I still wanted it to be better.

Reading this, I got the impression that the author was a huge fan of Neil Gaiman and Zen meditation and thinks "alright" is all right. This book has a bad case of trying-too-hard and I doubt the author had any children as beta readers. It's kind of slow and lesson-y and could very easily be read as a diatribe against women who choose not to have children. (Mothers are the most magical creatures in the world and the Dark Daughters seem to be childless, with the exception of Freyja, who may or may not actually be Fenn's mother.) It's over-written and riddled with spelling and grammatical errors and, quite honestly, could have benefited from the firm hand of a good editor. There's potential here, but it's buried under layers of pretentiousness alternating with preciousness and I was without a shovel.
January 7, 2017
My kids LOVED this book! We read this aloud over the holidays and were all swept away by this magical, ever changing world. It had all the joy and whimsy of a Doctor Seuss book but with moments of real scary stuff (but not that scary!) It reminded us of Spirited Away, the Golden Compass and Coraline. As a mother I also found Nell's quest to save her own Mom, very real and touching.
Profile Image for Donalyn.
Author 7 books5,896 followers
October 2, 2017
I had an "Abandoned" shelf, but I must have deleted it and I don't want to make a new one.
I'm a huge fantasy fan. I didn't enjoy the world-building or the writing style after 130 pages of trying. Too much explaining and not enough revealing. Reads like someone writing a children's book, who hasn't read many in awhile.
Profile Image for Joana Bookneeders.
490 reviews45 followers
February 22, 2017
* Received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you very much! This doesn’t affect the review in any way. My opinions, are as always, my own.*
Since the very beginning, the story is extremely gripping. It has quite a slow start, but you just can't stop reading it!

First of all, the world building was extremely imaginative, creative and purely beautiful. Dreamland is dark and scary, but at the same time its beautiful and inviting. It was really easy to visualize it, with all the detail the author gave. But a thing I really liked, is that he also gave space for our own imagination to unfold.

The story has a lot of twists and action. There's always something happening. Something that doesn't go according to plan, but that in some way puzzles together perfectly. To get their mother back to her human form, Nell and her brothers had to believe in themselves, even if others don't. They had to believe that they could do anything, even if it seems impossible. For as long as you don't give up, you will manage to succeed. It's an important message for everyone and I thought it was very well developed throughout the book.

The characters are very well developed and really easy to connect with. Especially Nell. I really loved her! She was fantastic! And I loved how strong the bond between a mother and a daughter, is shown in the book through her. There's some other characters popping up occasionally that are pretty fun to read about, and that made the book a bit more soft.

The writing was surprisingly good for a middle grade book. I find those often repetitive and basic. But this one was gripping and captivating! It was the type of writing you can feel, you know what I mean? The pace was great and although some times I got a bit lost, I still managed to follow the story pretty easily.
A thing I really enjoy in YA books is that you can profoundly feel the characters. But this book did an amazing job with it! You could feel their emotions so well, that sometimes it radiated through me (which is one of the thing I most like about reading).

The only thing I have to mention is that, this is pretty big for a middle grade book. It's not that it's repetitive, but like I mentioned before, there's always something happening. And I feel that because of that it might not be everyones' cup of tee.

Overall I really enjoyed this book and I would definitely recommend it! I love stories with magic and darkness in them. And this one would be just perfect for Halloween!
Profile Image for zapkode.
1,046 reviews77 followers
January 7, 2017
{My thoughts} – Nell Perkins is a twelve-year-old girl that has a unique understanding of the world around her. She has an uncanny ability to see things, to see people as they are, instead of as the way everyone around her is able to view them.

In the beginning someone important to Nell is taken and she and her brothers go on a journey to try and rescue and save this person. Their journey begins in the awake world and then moves into the dream world and then back to the awake world.

I really thought at times there was a lot of repeating going on between the characters and the dialogue in which they were saying. It for the most part became annoying to keep reading them repeating each other during the same conversation. I also found it hard to like some of the characters in the book because of that, to me they all came off as annoying and rather mindless.

The story for the most part had an interesting premise. It gave a different point of view as to what might be happening when people dream, as opposed to just dreaming and waking up with no memory – it gave a reason as to why that might be the case.

The story moved slow and fast and seemed clustered and confusing at times, it then seemed like it was crawling at others. I know that the writer was trying to get a lot out in a small amount of space, but I’m wondering if he could have done that better, by writing three different books. This particular book has three parts and I think each part could have easily been turned into their own book and it wouldn’t have seemed so off while reading it.

The last couple of chapters seemed extremely rushed to me. It wasn’t a pleasant reading experience towards the end.

I would happily recommend this books to children 8-12 years. It is a possibility that they might enjoy reading it because of it’s different take on the dream world.
Profile Image for Sarah Capon.
44 reviews10 followers
January 4, 2017
Set in a very intriguing world, filled with ghastly and imaginative creatures, and with lots of magical elements. I was so sure I was going to fall in love with this dark fairytale-esque story…But I didn’t. Although it started off well with an original plotline and likeable characters, it soon became confusing and generally a bit...meh. I didn't bond with or relate to any of the characters which meant my emotions throughout were flat lining.

Around halfway through I became rather disenchanted with it all. There was A LOT going on that was meant to come across as quirky and absurd but in my opinion it was just too much. I began skimming over the details and only slowed back down when I detected some drama. I think children will love all the ridiculous magical elements, like entering a bowl of soup with a piece of bread as a canoe and a spoon to transport you to where you need to go, but for me it was OTT (could this be my age showing?)

Recommended for 9-12 as some dark parts and difficult language. Would make a great read aloud to the classroom.
Profile Image for Linda.
892 reviews141 followers
August 31, 2018
Oh Nell.
Okay. I'm going to talk about two things: what a fantastic book this is, and how books disappear.
First. This little item was deceptively small, deceptively pretty and deceptively labeled for Middle Grade. It was all those things, yes. But it packed a wallop.
I loved Nell. She was the underdog, she was the one who was bullied, she was the one who had only one true friend. She was the weirdo, the one with this strange quirk. She also had a very unusual mom, and a seemingly uneventful life (why is it that all the kids I know IRL are whisked off to activities each weekend, but in books they never are?).
She experienced a traumatic event, but that was nothing as to what she was going to experience.
Folks, this book was CRAZY. Every time I thought I knew where we were going, the direction changed. There was some deep scary stuff going on here. It was black and dark and all the un-light words you can think of. There was the threat of death around every corner, in ways you could not even imagine (but luckily Pete Begler did), and then, there was the threat of something else: not being *remembered*. (Because, after all, who is more scared of Alzheimer's? The patient or their loved ones?)
This was Gaiman-esque. There were long-tentacled octopus things - and not the friendly ones with Sponge Bob. There were wicked witches, with beaks and beady eyes. There were heads of animals on humans, and landscapes of, well, nightmares. But the underlying current of it all, the main thing that never stopped mattering, was family. Whatever your family is made of. Didn't matter. Family is the thing.
Did I say I loved it? There were some deep truths here, too:
"The only magic is persistence. This Dream, the one we are all sharing, is not filled with challenges. The dream we all share is made of challenges. Challenge is the fiber that weaves it all together and gives it all its shape. You are here to meet those challenges whatever they may be and Fearless Traveling is the way you will meet them. I have no doubt you are up to the task; just remember who you are and leave the word no behind you." p280
Never ever ever give up.
Even when faced with skyscraper-tall chimpanzees, or whirring clouds of what have you. I mean, the imagination of the stuff that appears in this book. Wowza. Just when you think a dream landscape can't get any more surreal, wait, there it is.
And then, I loved this:
"You know why most people never remember their dreams in the morning?"
"Because they don't think they're real."
"And what do you think?"
"It's all real. Everything."
And the rules of the world building are scattered along like breadcrumbs, appearing just when you need to know them. It was all crafted very believably, and for sure I am going to want to reread this. It was complex enough that I am sure I missed something along the way.
And now. Why isn't everyone singing about this book on the mountaintops? I got this ARC in 2016 at a trade show. It pubbed in March of 2017. And I heard nary a whisper. To be honest, the only reason I plucked it off my shelf was because I was doing a reading challenge this week and it called for reading a book a day. I thought this one looked doable among my stack of MG (it also had a lovely cover which caused me to pluck it from *that* pile early in the week). Well, it wasn't, but that didn't matter once I'd started it. It was fantastic. And it died a lonely horrible death in some remainder pile somewhere. And I want to have a cup of tea with Mr. Begler and find out what he's working on next and tell him how sorry we all are that we didn't see his potential. I hope he's written more. But egads, this one was a delight.
And why is this? I mean, so many good authors are ignored all the time. It comes down to money. I suggest that you ignore the siren calls of the ones that have the backing of a competent marketing team with a nice budget, and look instead for the small houses who may have no money to throw at a book. This was published by Capstone, a small MN press that also last year published the award-winning (Caldecott, MN Book Award) A Different Pond by Bao Phi. So how did Fearless Travelers' Guide get lost? I don't know. I just say, find it again.
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