Category Archives: Fairies/Magical Realms

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.

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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.

The Land Without Color by Benjamin Ellefson

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landwithoutcolorcoverThe Land Without Color by Benjamin Ellefson and illustrated by Kevin Cannon, paperback, 168 pages, published by Beaver’s Pond Press in 2015.

For his birthday, Alvin is given a special pocketknife, which comes in very handy when he finds himself transported to another world. The Kingdom of Color does not live up to its name; when Alvin arrives, the colour has been leached from the land and its inhabitants. With his new friends, Permy the squirrel and Ronaldo the mouse, Alvin sets about discovering the cause of the colour loss and how to recover it.

A fantastical adventure with dragons, goblins, man-eating plants, talking animals and free ice-cream and candy for all! The Land Without Color is a wonderful lollop through a magical world that will appeal to a wide range of children. It is well written with good description and some black and white illustrations scattered through the book. Character development was really good, and I got to know Alvin as I followed on his adventure. Though only twelve, he is brave and compassionate with a well developed sense of right and wrong. I liked him a lot, however, Permy was definitely my favourite. The dragon with two heads was an interesting creature, long necks and a giant coiled body. I liked that one head was blue and the other red, and the blue one could breath ice cream instead of fire. That’s a pretty nifty trick!

Junk food is extremely bad for the residents of the Kingdom of Color, as it is the conduit for the colour loss. It also results in a loss of energy and drive, whereas eating vegetables and fruit gives the people back their colour and energy. The message was clear; “Eat Your Vegetables!” I liked this as a theme, and I thought it was well executed. At first the message was subtle, but it became quite strong by the end, and was reinforced through the story. I hope it works to help kids eat veges and fruit!

The Land Without Color is suitable for middle and upper primary school students. Adults will most likely enjoy sharing this book with their child too, I did! This book is the start of a series, with the next book, The Great Sugar War, expected out in late 2016.

 

*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.

A Fairy Extraordinary Christmas Story by A.J. York

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Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00002]A Fairy Extraordinary Christmas Story by A.J. York, chapter e-book, 67 pages, published by A.J. York in 2015.

Tallulah is a Christmas Fairy in a beautiful white gown, with white feathery wings. During the festive season she adorns the very top of the Anderson’s tree, otherwise she lives in the attic. There, she can mingle with the other Christmas decorations, and those that belong to the Easter box and the Halloween box. After many years, a Christmas arrives when the decorations are not taken out of the attic, and the house is very quiet. Tallulah and her friends venture downstairs to investigate.

A Fairy Extraordinary Christmas Story made me think of the movie ‘Toy Story’, except with holiday decorations. It reminds us that the holidays are best shared with everyone, and that the magic of Christmas lives in all of us, even when we have grown up and have children of our own.

The story is easy to follow and uses reasonably simple language. It is a good length for children not long reading chapter books too. The illustrations at the beginning of each chapter were simple and cute. I really liked the Easter Bunny, both the illustration and the character. He was a nervous little fellow, but I could easily picture him with his little line of Easter chicks.

This Christmas themed chapter book is suitable for lower to middle primary school students. It would be a nice book to share with young children in the lead up to Christmas.

 

*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.

Dragons at Crumbling Castle and Other Stories by Terry Pratchett

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IMG_4945 (1)Dragons at Crumbling Castle and Other Stories by Terry Pratchett, paperback collection of short stories, 339 pages, published by Corgi in 2015.

This is a delightful collection of short stories written by Terry Pratchett when he was a young man working as a journalist.

I read Dragons at Crumbling Castle and Other Stories with my eight year old daughter. She has marveled at my complete collection of Discworld novels, and wondered why I like them so much, so I thought it was time she discovered Pratchett too. This was a good book to get her started, and we enjoyed reading it together.

My favourite story was “Dok the Caveman”. Dok was a caveman inventor, always inventing something new, and often creating havoc with his new invention, but I loved his enthusiasm. It was a very funny story! My daughter liked the tales of the Carpet People, with their adventures among the fibres of the Rug.

Most of the stories were funny, with insights into the kinds of stories that Pratchett would produce later, but these really are his early work, when he was developing his style and perfecting his tale-telling abilities. I far prefer the Discworld novels, but Dragons at Crumbling Castle is a nice, easy to read kids book. My daughter would like to try some other Pratchett now, which makes me very happy!

There are black and white illustrations throughout the book which to me looked like the work of Quentin Blake, who illustrated Roald Dahl’s books. I was mistaken in this belief though, the illustrator is actually Mark Beech, he just has a very similar style, I guess. None the less, I liked the illustrations, and thought that they complemented the stories very well.

Dragons at Crumbling Castle is suitable for primary school children and up. Many adult Pratchett fans will enjoy it too, just try not to compare it to the Discworld novels!

 

 

The Hippity Dippity Witch by Lorraine O’Byrne

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hippitydippitycoverThe Hippity Dippity Witch: Trouble in Willow Grove by Lorraine O’Byrne, e-book, 138 pages, published by Updrift in 2015.

To avoid a spelling test Jenny ditches school and goes to visit Willow Grove, a wood where her animal friends live. Since her last visit to Willow Grove, a young witch called Marigold has been wreaking havoc with her poor spell work. Marigold is the niece of Willow Grove’s resident witch, Griselda, who will not be impressed by Marigold’s interactions in the wood.

This was a quick and entertaining read. It contained short chapters, which are great for younger kids, and some black and white illustrations scattered through the book. I enjoyed reading about Marigold’s mishaps, which often made me laugh. I think this would be an excellent book to share with my kindergartner.

I enjoyed reading The Hippity Dippity Witch; it was well written, and the plot flowed nicely. The story finished with hints towards a sequel, so hopefully there will be more books to come. I was surprised by the twist for Jenny towards the end of the story, but thought that it fit nicely.

The characters were interesting. Marigold was a bratty, dislikeable girl with a temper, though her mistakes were rather funny! I liked her rhyming spells, it’s just a shame that they never quite worked. Jenny on the other hand was a caring, polite and gentle child who talks to animals. I liked Griselda too, she was a talented witch, who was also strong and kind.The little woodland creatures were funny, especially after their encounters with Marigold!

The Hippity Dippity Witch is a wonderful story for lower to middle primary school students. I hope there will be more stories about Jenny, Griselda and Marigold soon!

 

*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.