Category Archives: Fairies/Magical Realms

Journey From Skioria by Kandi J. Wyatt

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Journey From Skioria by Kandi J. Wyatt, e-book, 140 pages, published in 2017.

After Tania is washed overboard, she awakes far from home in a world unknown to her. There she meets and befriends Trilicius and Holly, part of a group of tree-dwelling people. In order to help Tania find her way home again, they join forces with some other peoples from the nearby lands. Together they make the long journey over the mountains, along the coast, rivers and lakes, and through fields to the lands of the humans.

Journey from Skioria is by the author of the Dragon’s Future series, which was wonderful, so I was pretty excited to read her next adventure. The adventure begins within the first few pages as Tania meets Trilicius and is brought back to Skioria, where, though she is only a child, she stands as tall as the adults she meets.

While this is a fast read, it is well written, with appropriately levelled language and clear imagery. The world of Skioria is carefully crafted, immersing the reader in the forest, its people and their lifestyle. The three groups of peoples, Skiorians, Terrans and Avarians, are also well described and developed. The pace was steady, with some bursts of action. I expected more action than there was, but the developing friendships between the group members, some family secrets and discoveries still made this an exciting read.

All of the characters were interesting. Trilicius and Fil made me laugh; such a pair of jokers! It also amused me when all of Trilicius’ hair kept getting caught in the bushes as they traveled. I liked Fyrh best; he was also the one that grew the most as a character through the story. His backstory and family history, and what he learnt on the journey was a high point of the book.

I am still wondering a few things, such as how Tania ended up so far away after falling into the ocean. Also, Tania was gone for such a long time, were her parents searching for her? Did they fear the worst? Their reactions weren’t quite what I expected. Having said that, I am no longer a child myself, and probably wouldn’t have thought that way when I was!

Journey from Skioria is a heart-warming adventure suitable for middle and upper primary school students. It is also a good book to share aloud with 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.

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An Unlikely Friendship by Jasmine Fogwell

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An Unlikely Friendship by Jasmine Fogwell, paperback novel, 118 pages, published by Destinēe Media in 2016.

Ten year old James and his parents return to their village home after a year living in the city. Whilst looking for a new house, the family stay in the local inn, where James meets the mysterious old lady that lives on the third floor. They soon discover that they have both encountered something in the forest that no one else believes really exists.

An Unlikely Friendship is the first book in The Fidori Trilogy. It is a short and easy read that I finished quickly. The writing was simple and  clean and the plot was easy to follow with some black and white illustrations. It was interesting enough to keep me reading, and to make me want to read the second book. However, if the other two books are of similar length to this one, I think that it could have been presented as a single book, rather than be divided into a trilogy. It was just really getting into the story when the book came to an end.

Overall I liked the premise and the execution. I would have been super excited to discover and befriend creatures like the Fidoris as a child, and if I’m honest, I still would be! The description of the Fidoris was excellent, and I can easily picture these funny little creatures living above the forest canopy. The description of Mrs. DuCret was also good; she seemed like a very lonely and unhappy old lady until James came into her life. Their burgeoning friendship, though a little strange, was good for both of them.

An Unlikely Friendship is most suitable for middle to upper primary school children. I am looking forward to continuing the story in the next book, The Purple Flower.

 

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

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Frogkisser by Garth Nix

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Frogkisser! by Garth Nix, paperback novel, 328 pages, published by Allen & Unwin in 2017.

Princess Anya usually hangs out in the library reading about magic and hiding from her evil stepstepfather (her stepmother’s new husband). Being the younger sister, she is not heir to the throne, and little is expected of her, that is until her sister’s latest beau is turned into a frog. Anya promises to find him and return him to his former princely self, aided by some magic lip balm. Anya sets out on an epic quest to locate the ingredients required to make the lip-balm, accompanied by one of the talking dogs of her court. Their departure is hastened by the news that Anya’s step-stepfather has decided to take the kingdom for himself, and wants Anya out of the way.

I suppose that Frogkisser! could loosely be described as a re-telling of the old tale of The Princess and the Frog. It is fairytale-esque, with princesses, talking animals, magic, villains, and wizards. It is full of adventure, quests and friendship. However, it is not a romantic tale of happily ever afters. Finding love is not on Anya’s mind, instead she must save her kingdom, her sister and her people from the destruction that her step-stepfather has begun to wreak. Of course, she can hardly do this single-handedly! By her side is her trusty, though somewhat over-eager canine companion, and the princely frog, who are soon joined by a boy turned newt. Throw in a mischievous young female wizard, a female Robin Hood figure, some dwarves and a transfigured otter and you’ve got this thoroughly amusing tale. All the characters were wonderful, though I particularly liked the Gerald the Heralds that kept popping up with news all over the place. These harbingers of all things mundane and important made me laugh.

It was great to see such a strong and young female protagonist for whom there is no romantic plot. She just gets on with what she needs to do. That’s not to say she isn’t scared or unsure, but she overcomes that to accomplish her tasks without needing to be ‘saved’ by some boy. Nix challenges the traditional gender and race roles with humour and irreverence, creating an entertaining and empowering read.

While Frogkisser! is aimed at a YA audience, I felt that it would be suitable for younger kids too, from upper primary school age. I would especially recommend this as a good read for tween and teen girls as an alternative to the traditional romantic fairytales. I thoroughly enjoyed Frogkisser!; it was my first Garth Nix novel, but it will not be my last!

 

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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.