M.J. Rocissono’s book description:
FRANKIE FRETINI has had a horrible year. And, just when he thinks things are looking up, well…all heck breaks loose. It happens in home-ec class just moments after the girl of his dreams, Jenny Moran, invites him to the annual town carnival. Still dazed from the unexpected invite, Frankie accidentally plasters the face of school bully, Brick McDuddy, with a giant scoop of chocolate mousse.
Embarrassed, and fuming mad, Brick plots to deliver his painful revenge at the carnival. When Frankie, and his pals, Sam, Beef, and Bookworm show up to meet Jenny, Brick and his nasty bootlickers, Harold “The Horrible” Dunson and Billy “Scat” Pile, chase them into the eerie tent of an old Gypsy fortuneteller named Mala. Trapped with nowhere to run, Frankie makes a pact with Mala not knowing that he and his pals would be swept through her crystal ball to Medieval Italy. Now, their only hope to return home rests in Frankie’s hands.
He must kill the evil Italian witch, Il Strega Diavolo, and rescue Mala’s twin sister, Tsura. But, can Frankie find the courage to face the Strega?
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Travis Borne’s review:
Every once in a while comes a storyteller who can take you to a really, and I mean REALLY, swallowed-me-whole—and I didn’t want it to end—special place. Beyond the Wicked Willow was my favorite book. Period. I’ll just bluntly leave it at that—and I read a lot of books.
This is a CLASH of epic TITANS, “Goonies” swallowed by the the rabbit hole. A nonstop ride of ups and downs, word-sculpting genius: one magnificent destination, one trial and tribulation, one adventure after another…until heroes are born, forged from their harrowing experiences, from difficult decisions decided and put forth into action, and true heart, hearts that are the essence of purity—the stuff legends are made of. Beyond the Wicked Willow is overqualified to trumpet words such as: EPIC! And saga, otherworldly, harrowing, spooky, hypnotizing, mesmerizing—and heartwarming. If you do not laugh, and cry when reading this, then perhaps, you’re not human. Words…? Heartwarming, yep, that’s the one that stands out most for me. This story elevates the very word “HEARTWARMING” into a new dimension all its own, high in the clouds, a cascade of raining bliss, a masterfully concatenated culmination of events that will force you to STOP READING, because emotions get that STOKED. My heart was ready to explode, tears just a raining. And my kids were like, there goes Dad again… But it was joyous rapture. Yep. And it had a nice besprinkling of schadenfreude (which I always LOVE), but not too much, just right. Gotta hate those bullies, and love it when…
Beyond the Wicked Willow teaches lessons of gold, didactic level: zero. It’s splendid!
Come on, you’re overdoing it, Travis. What makes it so special, really?
Well, the story starts out with some things that happened long, long ago, bad things, spiders, witches, curses. And then some nerds in today’s day and age. I pictured ’em like myself and some friends I knew, 80’s nerds. Unique in their own way, but nevertheless, still nerds, goodhearted, albeit scared nerds running from bullies, like they’ve always been running—for their entire lives. They’re a good bunch of kids, though, if there ever was a good bunch of kids: each quirky, doubtful of themselves, unique, and expertly honed to perfection by such a masterful—and I’ll use the word again, “storyteller,” because I believe the very word “storyteller” puts a gypsy’s crystal ball, or a spooky campfire-spin into the mix. Storyteller, story told. Told well.
Beyond the Wicked Willow flows well and contains a million pieces of a fantastical puzzle, and they all fall right into places. It’s majestic, adroitly told without seemingly, the author having to try too hard to unleash the magic. Excellent flow. Yep, it’s magical. There’s crystal balls, time travel, special gifts from very special people, and myriad tie-ins.
You’re kidding me, Travis.
Nope, think, the red-white-suited dude, think baby…ahem, think even, three wise dudes, fables and folklore. Think a million cool little splotches just like that, peppered in to keep your interest piqued. (Intentionally made cryptic to limit spoilers).
Totally! Anyway, the cool nerds run from the mean “bullies,” and run right…back in time!
What follows is probably the most epic, color-stuffed, wondrous and terrifying, magnificent journey I’ve ever been on. It reminds me of all those choose-your-own adventure novels. And…float away…I’m a kid again, reading them, all of them over and over to get to experience all the choices, you know. And then I suddenly grow up and look back on all that reading, all those choices, all those smells, good and, well, farts from the fat kid in our small group of friends. And dragons, fast-moving whitewater streams, close-call escapes, colorful plant life and mountains and ominous caverns. More burps…kids, kids just like I was—regular kids trying to get safely down a school’s locker-lined hallway, a hallway stuffed with nerds—and bullies. Fights after school (at the carnival…hint), and tribulations that really are, too much for any kid to have to go endure.
But—and I must finish this review I am totally enjoying because the book was that fun—just say, that if you take all of those books I had read when I was a kid, toss in The Clash of the Titans, with Medusa and many of those cool fables, even The Goonies, mind-state inflamed as though I’d just finished watching it at about 8 years of age…you know, take all THAT stuff, all THOSE adventures, and smash ’em together, it might add up to what I just finished reading, before dinner this evening.
Wow, indeed. And dinner was great, BTW. During it, I struck up a conversation about the book I had finished less than 30 minutes earlier. Beyond the Wicked Willow: Chronicles of a Teenage Witchslayer. I told my wife—taco dinner by the way, with pasta and squash, yum—that, “Dang…I just finished reading this awesome novel. It’s about these kids… There’s ogres and wolves… And witches and wizards (in disguise), and cornicellos…” And I went on and on…
I continued, telling my wife, “Really, babe, you know, that was probably one of the best, if not ‘the best,’ books I’ve ever read.” And I truly meant it.
She said—and I am being dead honest about all of this—she said that I should take it easy, not go overboard.
And I told her, “But I always go overboard, that’s how I roll.”
And she replied, “No, I mean you have to be honest.”
And I said, “I am.”
“No, really. This book, babe, it really was that good.” And I went on to tell her how it would be a cool movie, and about some of the adventures Frankie had went on with his pals: Bookworm, Sam, Beef, Ambroggio, Capricia, and all the others. I told her, “I must give this book 6 stars out of 5, honestly, because it’s that good.”
“Travis, the review is too long!”
“Okay, I’ll finish up. I dare anyone to read this masterfully woven tale and prove me otherwise. Overboard? No way! 6 stars solid. I loved it. I cried. I laughed. And I honestly had to put it down several times because of emotion overload. And I’m gonna read it again, too!”