Category Archives: Fairies/Magical Realms

The Special Book Box

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I received two book boxes in May from The YA Chronicles; there was the regular monthly instalment, and the special pre-order box for A Court of Wings and Ruin (ACOWAR) by Sarah J Maas.

I get excited every time a book box is due, but waiting for the ACOWAR box was torture! I greatly enjoyed  the first book in this series, A Court of Thorns and Roses, and it was definitely love through the second book, A Court of Mist and Fury, so I was extremely ready to dive into the third book once it arrived. (Read my review of A Court of Thorns and Roses here). Getting the book in a book box was a bonus, and the contents of the box were gorgeous; it’s my favourite box so far.

I developed a terrible book hangover after finishing A Court of Wings and Ruin. I actually didn’t pick up another book for several days, I just wanted to stay in Feyre’s and Rhysand’s world. It’s now been a couple of weeks and I’m still struggling to get really enthused about a new read! Luckily the contents of the book box are keeping me happy.

Included in this box is the book (I chose the UK paperback version as it matched my other books), A Night Court tote bag by Paperly & Co, a smelly candle by Kool & Co, a beautiful Feysand bookmark by Read And Wonder, a ribbon bookmark by Charmed Fiction, a cute baby Rhysand sticker by Taratjah, an art print by Charlie Bowater, and a really big button pin by Evie Bookish.

It’s difficult to decide which is my favourite item in the ACOWAR box, it’s all pretty awesome, but I was especially impressed with the bookmarks. And the bag… and the artwork… and the button…

Lovely bookmarks.

Pretty ribbon bookmark.

 

It’s going to be hard to top this box!

If you’re interested in getting a young adult book box subscription, hop on over to The YA Chronicles.

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Escape From Witchwood Hollow by Jordan Elizabeth

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Escape From Witchwood Hollow by Jordan Elizabeth, e-book, 178 pages, published by Curiosity Quills Press in 2014.

After her parents are killed in the terror attacks of 9/11, Honoria moves to the rural town, Arnn, with her brother, aunt and uncle. The town is bordered by a forest, known as Witchwood Hollow. Over the years many people have wandered into the woods never to return. The legend of the witch is well known about town. Soon after arrival, Honoria is introduced to the woods by a couple of kids from her new school, but instead of being afraid, she finds a kind of peace among the trees. Could the witch help her reunite with her parents or will she become trapped forever?

Escape from Witchwood Hollow was an easy and fast read which I really enjoyed. The story was appealing and intriguing, while the characters were interesting and well-written. There was an undertone of sadness throughout the story, with many of the characters experiencing the loss of a loved one, or being lost themselves.

This book is not about witchcraft per se, it is more about historical occurrences becoming an urban myth, and the way that such a myth is regarded by locals and newcomers to the area. The story centres on Honoria, and her experiences in Arnn and the woods in 2001. However, it is also about Lady Clifford, an immigrant new to the Arnn area during the 1600s, and another English immigrant, Albertine, who arrives in Arnn in 1850. Both of whom entered the woods never to return. I liked the way the story spanned across and entwined the stories and times of the three young women.

I felt sorry for Honoria, given the tragic loss of her parents. Her behaviour felt realistic for the situation. Something good for Honoria from the move to Arnn was her burgeoning friendship with her neighbour, Leon. Proximity brought them together, but a shared interest in local history and the legend of Witchwood Hollow strengthened their bond. I really liked everything about Leon, he was my favourite character.

Something I found a little odd in the story was the obsession with clothing brands. It was weird, and completely redundant to the story, so why emphasise their fashion choices?

Escape from Witchwood Hollow is suitable for upper primary and high school students and is perfect for fantasy lovers.

 

*I received this book from the author as a digital copy in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

Valentine by Jodi McAlister

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valentineValentine by Jodi McAlister, paperback novel, 389 pages, published by Penguin Random House Australia Pty Ltd in 2017.

Four teenagers in the seaside town of Haylesford were all born on Valentine’s day of the same year. Pearl, Finn, Cardy and Marie have grown up together, but now they seem to be marked by the birthday they share. Who or what is after them? And why? Pearl is determined to find out what is really going on, but she might need a little help.

This book came in a book box from The YA Chronicles, and I knew nothing about it when I started to read. And wow! I probably wouldn’t have picked Valentine up myself, assuming that it was a romance novel, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it is actually a paranormal fantasy with some romance. And it is really awesome to boot!

From the first chapter, I knew I was going to have trouble putting Valentine down. The plot was intricate, weaving itself into a fast paced ride of darkness and delight. Every chapter’s end had me saying “just one more chapter…” And there’s another book coming in this new series! Yay! There is a short preview at the end of Valentine, which will have to sustain me until Ironheart‘s release next year.

Valentine is not a fairytale, but it is a tale of faeries. Real faeries who are cruel and unforgiving, and zealously pursuing their task without thought to its effects on the humans. They are ruthless and powerful, with some pretty neat tricks up their sleeves. There were two groups after the Valentine babies, the Seelie and the Unseelie, and while one lot was evil, the others weren’t that much better. The way the Unseelie controlled the black animals to frighten and torment was very creepy. I will never be able to see a black cat again without wondering about its evil intent.

I liked the way the story was told, though it took me a little while to catch up with some of the abbreviations in the lingo, such as PDA. That made me feel a bit old! Still, the plot was dramatic and engaging; a very satisfying read. There were some lusty scenes, which may not be everyone’s cuppa, but I thought they were well written, and appropriately utilised for the story.

Pearl was such an interesting and deep character; strong and passionate, I instantly liked her. Most of the characters were quite complex, and I enjoyed getting to know them all. I was amused by Pearl’s denial of her feelings for bad boy Finn, while crushing on Cardy, who is considerably different in personality and looks. She had a great relationship with her older brother and sister, who were also her guardians. I disliked Finn at the start, he just acted like such a jerk, but he improved. As I got to know him better, I realised that he wasn’t all that bad, much more sensitive than I expected.

Valentine is most suitable for middle to upper high school students and older.

Guardian of the Gold Breathers by Elise Stephens

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goldbreatherGuardian of the Gold Breathers by Elise Stephens, e-book, 176 pages, published by Updrift in 2015.

After Liam’s father dies, his life begins to change, culminating in his mother remarrying and them leaving Dublin behind for a house in the country with his new step-father, Dr Parker. Liam is unhappy about these changes, but at least he meets some interesting people at the new house; the housekeeper Hannah and the gardener Michael. Liam is led to a dragon egg, and Michael instructs him on how to hatch it. Then Liam is set on a path to prove who he is and to help a distant fairytale kingdom right the wrongs of the past.

Guardian of the Gold Breathers is a lovely, though sometimes sad, fantasy novel. Fairies, goblins, and even a troll are brought to life as Liam learns about the real fairy stories.

The story felt a little familiar; lonely boy discovers he is something more, passes trials to prove himself, fulfils destiny. Still, it was well written and entertaining, and I enjoyed it. I liked the old tale of the Guardian and the Prince, and the idea that somewhere dragons and men once lived happily side by side.

Michael was an especially intriguing character, surrounded by much mystery. He was my favourite, though I also liked Liam and Hannah. Liam had a lot going on in his life, and I think he would have really suffered had he not met Hannah and Michael when he did. I mostly felt sorry for his mum, marrying Dr Parker because he could provide for them. Dr Parker I disliked quite a lot. His scientific work using live dogs was awful, but I also hated the way he treated Liam. He was insensitive to the boy’s feelings whilst being derisive of Liam’s love for reading and map making. Dr Parker didn’t even try to listen or understand Liam.

As Guardian of the Gold Breathers is under 200 pages, it would be suitable for slower readers interested in fantasy, who might otherwise be daunted by a longer book. It’s also great for kids who like fairy tales and dragons.

Guardian of the Gold Breathers is most suitable for middle and upper primary school children.

 

*I received this book from the author as a digital copy in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

Wondrous by Travis M. Riddle

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wondrousWondrous by Travis M. Riddle, e-book, 388 pages, expected publication on January 17th, 2017.

In an attempt to block out his parents’ arguing, nine year old Miles hops into bed and tries to go to sleep. When he opens his eyes, instead of being in his room, he is in a strange, damp forest, in a land that is being torn apart by civil war. Rompu is also being ravaged by an evil dragonish creature conjured from another world. Could Miles be the only one strong enough to defeat it?

There was virtually no introduction to this story. I would have preferred a little more background, and setting of the scene before diving into the fantasy world of Rompu. My impressions of the story  improved as I continued to read, and I came to really like it.

The characters were detailed and interesting. Each main character was meticulously described, and I felt like I got to know them all. Miles was a confused and complex child with some issues mostly stemming from his parents’ divorce and his grandmother’s death. His discomfort in Rompu is apparent, but he endeavours to be brave and to move forward into what must seem a terrifying experience for him. Mortimer and Jaselle were kindly characters with a bit of attitude, but it was Kriket that made me laugh the most!

There was a lot of action, some of it quite violent. At times, one action scene bled into another, moving so fast I felt like I wasn’t catching it all. Within the first two chapters alone, Miles had already been in several altercations, including two where some of the creatures were burnt. A few of these sequences contained confronting and graphic violence.

During the story, there would be scenes from Miles’ home life, before he ended up in Rompu. These scenes just flowed straight on from the rest of the story, and sometimes it took a moment for me to realise I was reading about a memory of Miles’, as there was nothing to separate the text between the scenes. I did get used to the way the scenes from Austin and from Rompu integrated, but I feel like a younger reader could become easily confused by the lack of distinction between the present and the past. I had a strong sense that Miles was simply having a rather vivid dream whilst trying to avoid the reality of his fighting parents.

I think a little polishing would transform Wondrous from great to awesome. Wondrous is suitable for upper primary through to high school students.

 

*I received this book from the author as a digital copy in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

Upside-Down Magic by Sarah Mlynowski, Lauren Myracle, and Emily Jenkins

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upsidedownmagicUpside-Down Magic by Sarah Mlynowski, Lauren Myracle, and Emily Jenkins, paperback novel, 196 pages, published by Scholastic Inc. in 2015.

Nory’s magic isn’t quite right. She is trying to learn how to turn herself into a kitten, but every attempt ends in disaster. So when it is time for Nory to enter magic school she is placed in a special class for magical misfits, the Upside-Down Magic class, with a bunch of kids whose magic is also considered not quite right. Here Nory might find acceptance and friendship, but only if she can be herself.

The cute little kitten with dragon wings on the cover piqued my interest, and the story sustained it. I love the idea of an all magic world where everyone has a certain type of magical talent. It would be pretty awesome to change into different animals at will, though Nory’s versions could be a little problematic! Her ‘bitten’ (half beaver, half kitten) antics were very funny, despite the utter destruction she wrought.

The story was an easy read for me, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, finishing it off in one day. It reminded me a bit of The Worst Witch, with the unintentional consequences of their magic, which often made me laugh. It was just a fun story to unwind with, and I think it would be great for my children to read.

Each child in the Upside-Down Magic class is a little different. They have all experienced bullying or ostracisation to some degree, making them feel alone and frustrated, and wanting to be ‘normal’. By bringing them together in this class, they are able to see that they are not alone, form friendships and question what ‘normal’ really is. The kids were well written and I could see what a day in their classroom would entail. They are all quite unusual with quirky talents. I definitely would not like to turn into a rock every day though! I like Ms Starr’s enthusiasm and confidence, she is an interesting character, whom I am sure will never give up on any of her pupils. And of course, there is the requisite mean kid/bully in Lacey and her group. They were horrible, especially to Elliot, who thought they were his friends.

Upside-Down Magic is a great read for primary school children. I am recommending it to both my 7 and 9 year olds. I am also keen to read the next book in the series, Sticks and Stones.

Nobody’s Story: The First Kingdom by Stephanie Mayor

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1stkingdomcoverNobody’s Story: The First Kingdom by Stephanie Mayor, paperback novel, 248 pages, published by This Story is Mine Publishing in 2016.

The First Kingdom is the second book in the Nobody’s Story series. This book follows on from The Golden Locket, which saw Stephanie, and her cat, Angel, arrive in the land of Metilia after opening her locket for the first time. Now the Familian Princes have arrived in Metilia purporting to want peace between the nations. Whilst Princess Stephanie and her friends are showing the Princes around Yorkyin Land, Stephanie suddenly disappears seemingly into thin air. She finds herself alone in a strange and unknown land. Her journey home is full of danger, excitement and new friends.

I was super excited when The First Kingdom arrived! It had been a long wait, and I was looking forward to a trip into Metilia. It seems first I had to visit with those awful Familian princes, Kirk, Joel and Nathaniel. They are such a scheming lot. Then back to Metilia and beyond, a beautiful country full of talking animals, Princes and adventures. Within this book, you will find clans of big cats and wolves, mysterious strangers, kidnapping witches, giants, exciting new lands to explore and even a dragon!

This fantasy novel is beautifully written with witty characters and an exciting plot. I really enjoyed learning the history of Artinear and Metilia through Zanir’s teachings. Mayor has created a fantasy world rich in culture and history, with many layers still yet to be unravelled. The landscapes are stunning, and the inhabitants intricately described. It was quite eye-opening to visit Camtra and Famila, two countries that are very different from Metilia!

I really loved the new characters, Zanir and Icha. The sly fox, Icha, was particularly funny, while his two little kits were very cute. Zanir was more serious, but still had her moments of humour, and I enjoyed the conversations she had with Stephanie while they travelled. The skirmishes between Angel and Chitchat also made me laugh a lot. Deep down, the feisty cat, Angel really adores Chitchat, despite his squirrelyness, I’m sure of it! Angel generally makes me smile with her sassy attitude and her dislike of all things princely, her fierce loyalty and love for Stephanie and her ability to sleep at the drop of a hat. She was rivalled by the newcomer, Zanir, who also becomes dedicated to protecting Stephanie. It will be interesting to see what sort of relationship Zanir and Angel will develop in the future.

The chapter titles gave me a kick. There were some great puns there, which made me snort-laugh more than once!

The First Kingdom is suitable for middle and upper primary through to high school students, and will appeal to anyone interested in fantasy and adventure. I was ripping along through this book, but I forced myself to put it down, as I just didn’t want it to end yet. Oh, the wait for the next book will be too long…. but it will be oh so exciting when it’s here!

 

*I received this book from the author, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

 

Minecat: A Whole Lot of Ocelots by P.T. Evans

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minecatcoverMinecat: A Whole Lot of Ocelots by P.T. Evans, e-book, 64 pages, published by Montage Publishing in 2016.

When Jason’s cat, Spike, gets sucked into the computer, he finds himself in Jason’s Minecraft world. After watching Jason play Minecraft for hours on end, Spike finally gets to build the world himself. He takes full advantage of this to make his perfect home.

Minecraft has many fans around the world that play regularly. I am not one of these people, but I have watched my daughter play, and she talks about her game often, so I wasn’t completely in the dark. I had not seen ocelots in the game before, but after reading this my daughter went and found some ocelots and domesticated them just for me to see!

I rather enjoyed Minecat. It was a short and quick read, but the story was fun. It is a chapter book using reasonably simple language with short sentences and chapters. The allure of Minecraft will get the readers in, and the engaging story will keep them reading.

Spike is quirky, sweet and funny. And maybe just a little bit egocentric! I liked it when he was re-arranging Jason’s Minecraft house, adding climbing stations, beds, and eating all the flowers. Those spiders were a tad creepy, but the domesticated ocelots were very cute!

There are some illustrations in the story, such as images from Minecraft, often with Spike added to them. I liked the way Spike was drawn, he is pretty cute, and his insertion into the images and photos worked well. My favourite picture was where Spike was swinging on a vine in the jungle. The pictures suit the story.

My fourth grader loves Minecraft and spends hours playing it with her friends. She also loves cats. When I told her I had a copy of Minecat for her to read she was very excited. She read it quickly in one sitting, and has already re-read it a couple of times. She thought it was an excellent read for any Minecraft fan, though it was a bit easy for her. She’s quite enthusiastic about reading more in this series.

Minecat: A Whole Lot of Ocelots is suitable for primary school students. It would also suit reluctant readers, especially those with a love of Minecraft.

 

*I received this book from the publisher as a digital copy in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

Deathcat Sally by P.S. Brooks

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Layout 1Deathcat Sally by P.S. Brooks, 387 pages, published by Pegasus Elliot Mackenzie in 2015.

After hitting a cat in the road, Sally is also struck down and seriously injured. Still recovering from her injuries several weeks later, her life takes a bizarre turn when the cat she hit appears as an ethereal presence sprouting from her left shoulder. And he talks, a lot. Now Sally can hear other animals too, maybe it’s the effects of the accident and the medication, but it seems terribly real. Things get even worse when she keeps falling asleep straight into a desolate and ruined land where beasts lurk trying to kill her.

This fantasy horror tale was intriguing and difficult to put down. I’ve never read a book where an animal spirit was spliced to a human before, so I wasn’t sure what I was expecting, but this was more than I could have hoped for. Interesting, engaging, and it discussed issues such as cruelty to animals and humanity’s misuse of the environment. It was quite dark overall. Tortured animals, trapped souls, anger and hate. It gave me a lot to think about. I’m quite fond of animals, and I would never intentionally hurt one, but this book made me wonder what more I can do to help the animals. All animals are important to the earth, we should remember that more often and make sure to look after the ones we have left.

The pace of the story was quite quick, and I liked the writing style. I also liked the action scenes, especially the one on the platform over the fire pit and in the coliseum. The latter was rather gruesome, definitely fodder for nightmares!  The author used good descriptive language to really pull the reader into No Man’s Land. Picturing such desolation and destruction, and the pain and anger of its inhabitants was terribly depressing. Yet I had to read on because I was so sure Sally and Zachary would find a way to help all of those souls trapped there.

There were so many animal characters I found myself a little confused as to which was which. I had to re-read bits with the animals to try and get them straight, but still didn’t quite manage it. The main characters were very well written and developed. I got to know Sally and Zachary quite well. Zachary was by far my favourite character. He was not impressed to find himself attached to Sally, and he makes sure she knows it. He was loud, rude, and often lewd, yet he had tender moments too. He made me laugh a lot. His total obsession with Malibu the leopard, despite her rebuffs, highlighted his persistence and self-confidence. Such a wonderful character; I will remember him for a long time.

There are a some black and white illustrations scattered through the book, all of which were very good. The images were done by the author, who is very talented. I love his style of illustration.

Due to some of the grisly scenes and themes, Deathcat Sally is more suited to mature readers in high school. It is a great book for adults too.

 

*I received this book as a digital copy from the author, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

The Adventures of Adam and the Incredibly Mysterious Zorkins by Ronnie Glaser

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zorkinscoverThe Adventures of Adam and the Incredibly Mysterious Zorkins by Ronnie Glaser, chapter book, 118 pages, published by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform in 2016.

Adam Brown is ten years old, with an older sister, Lizzie and best friend, Howie. Behind his house are some woods that he likes to play in and explore.  As Adam and Howie go on adventures, Adam sometimes hears singing that no one else hears. The voices help him out when he’s in trouble. Whilst in his treehouse in the woods, he hears the singing again, and finally meets the Zorkins. These two tiny magical beings want to befriend Adam, but can he keep them a secret?

This chapter book is a quick read, perfect for early independent readers. It would be nice to share aloud with younger children also. The story is easy to follow and the characters are interesting. The language is age appropriate, but not repetitive. I liked the adventures (and mishaps) that Adam and Howie got into. They are quite lucky the Zorkins were looking out for them!

It took about half the book to get to the point where Adam actually meets the Zorkins, which surprised me. I thought the Zorkins would make themselves known to Adam much sooner. Instead they stayed out of sight, but still accompanied him on adventures until they were ready to show themselves.

All the characters were likeable, except for the school bully, Bobby. He was a mean lump of a boy. I didn’t really get a clear picture of what the Zorkins looked like, just that they were humanoid in appearance and very small. There wasn’t enough description for me, but I don’t think that would matter much to the intended audience. I did like the way the Zorkins complemented each other, with one being somewhat brusque and irritable, while the other one was calm and reasonable. They were funny little creatures.

The Adventures of Adam and the Incredibly Mysterious Zorkins is suitable for lower and middle primary school children.

 

*I received this book as a digital copy from the author, who asked me for an honest review of this book. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.