Tag Archives: magic

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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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.

Fluffy Hugs by Richard Dodd

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fluffyFluffy Hugs by Richard Dodd, e-book, 60 pages, published by Smashwords in 2015.

Fluffy is a baby emperor penguin, born in captivity within a zoo. Fluffy is a little different to the other penguins in the enclosure, as he can understand what the humans are saying. He discovers he has other magical abilities too, which he can put to good use helping animals and people.

Fluffy Hugs is a short and simple story; a bit of magical fun with one of the cutest animals in the world, a fluffy, grey penguin chick. Who could resist such a sweet little fellow? I would definitely hug him! Being able to use his hugs to help is an unique talent, but I really liked his ability to travel about the world just by thinking about it.

Fluffy Hugs did not take long to read. My seven year old could probably knock it over pretty quickly too, and I think she would enjoy it a lot. Magical animals are in at our house! There were a handful of simple line drawings within the book which I liked. I think the story could have been enhanced by more illustrations, due to its short nature.

Fluffy Hugs would be suitable for lower primary school students and reluctant older readers. It is the first book in a series chronicling Fluffy’s adventures. The next book in the series, Minty Visits, is also available now.

 

*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.

Invisible Magic Wand by Rafael Jacimin

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invisiblemagicwandInvisible Magic Wand by Rafael Jacimin, and illustrated by Van der Saim, picture e-book, 30 pages, published by Gripper Products/ Look Under the Rocks in 2017.

Caspian’s Grand-pa has given him an empty box. He says that inside is an invisible magic wand. With this special wand, Caspian can change the way time flows.

Apparently the gift from Grand-pa is for Caspian’s Un-birthday. Just what is an un-birthday? I have no idea. But if I ignore that bit, the story is okay. The premise is fun, I mean, who wouldn’t like a magical wand that could change the speed of time? The execution, however, lacked finesse. The layout of the e-book wasn’t great either. Some pages had text that flowed onto the next page, or had a word next to the picture instead of below it.

I also didn’t like the style of illustrations. Each page has a digital image to accompany the text, but they seemed a little flat and slightly disproportionate, and just not to my taste.

Invisible Magic Wand is suitable for lower 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.

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.

Diary of Anna the Girl Witch by Max Candee

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diaryannacoverDiary of Anna the Girl Witch by Max Candee and illustrated by Raquel Barros, e-book, 117 pages, published by Helvetic House in 2016.

Anna Sophia has lived in an orphanage since she was six. Her early years were spent in the care of Uncle Misha in the wilds of Serbia but she knows nothing about her birth parents or her family. On the night of Anna’s thirteenth birthday she is given some small clues about her heritage, including a carved hand that can come alive! Oh, and she’s a witch with developing powers that she must learn to control. Learning about herself is not the only thing on Anna’s mind though, her best friend was adopted by a rich couple nearby, and now she is acting very strangely. Anna decides to get to the bottom of things, but she may be facing more danger than she could have imagined!

I was captivated by this story from the first couple of chapters. The plot was interesting, engaging and flowed smoothly. I knocked it over quite quickly, enjoying the action and magic. The story was a little dark, but very good. It was short enough not to be intimidating for younger readers, but due to the themes of child slavery and kidnap, it may suit more mature readers, or require some adult guidance. I think it would best suit upper primary school and lower high school students.

I was surprised by the lack of surprise and fear form Anna’s friends when some of her powers were displayed. Instead of being scared or awed, Jean-Sebastien just thought it made her kind of cool in a weird way. I don’t think that’s the sort of reaction that most people would make on discovering their friend can perform magic.

There were some illustrations throughout the book. These were done as mostly black and white line drawings, with just a small part of each picture coloured. This really drew the eye to the coloured object, emphasising it. I liked this touch.

Anna was an interesting character. Each chapter began with a diary entry written by Anna, and then the story was continued from Anna’a first person perspective. I felt like I got to know her better with the addition of the diary entries. She was kind and protective of her friends, and I liked her. She developed much more awareness of herself through the story, learning about her past and about her capabilities. She also learns an important lesson about remaining kind and good, and not letting revenge or malice cloud her heart. This is a lesson we can all take on board.

Squire, the animated hand, was a little creepy! Who enchants a carved fist? He was very helpful for Anna though, and I’m sure he makes a good companion for a witch. He’s much easier to hide than a cat or a toad. I was glad he couldn’t talk though, that would have taken it too far!

Diary of Anna the Girl Witch finishes with and ending designed to lead onto a sequel. I was left wanting to read the next book soon; it promises to be an exciting series.

 

*I obtained this book as a digital copy from Netgalley. I did not receive any other remuneration, and this is an honest review composed entirely of my own opinions.

Ruined by Amy Tintera

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ruinedcoverRuined by Amy Tintera, paperback novel, 355 pages, published by Allen & Unwin in 2016.

Em is a Ruined without magic, considered useless by her people, and inadequate to rule Ruina after her parents. However, she has other talents which come to fore when her parents are murdered, her sister kidnapped and her home burnt to the ground. With the help of a few faithful friends, Em seeks her revenge by infiltrating the enemy’s castle to bring about their destruction. She doesn’t count on feeling anything but hatred for the Prince of Lera, but sometimes things just don’t go to plan.

I read a sneak peek of Ruined at Epic Reads, and then went straight out and bought myself a copy. I was completely intrigued and simply had to read the rest of Em’s story. I was not disappointed. It has magic, royals, action, fantasy, deception and romance. Sure, it had some similar elements to books such as Red Queen, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and The Selection, but I never get sick of reading this sort of young adult fiction, especially those with a strong female lead. I also really enjoyed the battle and fight scenes. It was good to find a book that didn’t skimp on epic sword battles and bloodshed.

The world in which Em and Cas live seems to be split into four kingdoms, though I was a little confused as to the physical locations of them in relation to eachother. There was a brief description of where they lay, but I could have done with a little map for reference. I like a visual of new worlds, but overall it didn’t matter that much. It was much more important to know that Lera was attempting to conquer everyone else. It also wasn’t clear exactly why the Lera King was so hellbent on destroying all the Ruined. There didn’t seem to be a precipitating cause, just that of fear of what they might do, which is a ridiculous reason for extermination, but one that is not unprecedented in our own history, minus the magical ability of course. These were my only real complaints about the book, but perhaps more will be revealed in the next book.

The story was fast-paced and I appreciated all the action. It kept me flipping pages quickly right to the end. The romance was nice too, slowing building, both of them being unsure, but love can conquer anything, right? Nothing too racy either, so still good for younger readers. I liked learning about some of the politics too, and about how the kingdoms viewed one another.

I actually really liked both Em and Cas. Em was so determined to get her revenge and find her sister when she started out, but she developed some doubts as she got to know Cas. She softened and matured as the story progressed. Casimir also matured greatly through the story. He just didn’t take enough interest in what was going on between the kingdoms before Em came into his life. He trusted his parents, and what they were doing to protect the kingdom. Most children believe completely in their parents, and it can be difficult to accept that they may not be everything the child thinks they are. He was beginning to question some of his parents’ methods when dealing with the Ruined, but without Em, perhaps he would never have been brave enough to speak up and oppose them. His parents were quite cruel in many ways, and I didn’t like them. I also never liked Jovita, Cas’ cousin, she just seemed so sly all the time.

Ruined is suitable for high school students, and is the first book in a trilogy. I can’t wait for book two!

Bleeding Snow by Caroline Peckham

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bleedingsnowcoverBleeding Snow (Rise of Isaac book 2) by Caroline Peckham, e-book, 212 pages, published in 2016.

In this sequel to Creeping Shadow, Oliver, May and their friends have burst through the gateway to Glacio, only to be immediately captured and imprisoned by the Queen’s men. The Queen’s son has been kidnapped by the horrible gem trolls of the mountains, known as Grolls. She forces the group to accompany a band of hunters led by Hector Rook on a perilous journey in an attempt to retrieve the young prince. They must travel through ice and snow, and face murderous beasts, huge Grolls and soldiers led by an insane commander. Even if they survive, gain their freedom and their Gateway keys, the delay might still cost May her life.

Another fast-paced installment in The Rise of Isaac series, Bleeding Snow had me intrigued right from the first chapter. I was excited to get into this book, and I wasn’t disappointed! There was a lot of action, some of it rather gruesome and violent, but exciting none the less, along with magic and a little romance. I really enjoyed the description of their mountain journey, and the fight scenes. The whole story is well written, and the characters are complex. And I just love the book’s cover!

I feel like I really know the main characters. I like most of them immensely. I am beginning to like Quinn a lot more now too, and even Larkin has shown some improvement through this story. I’m not saying I like him yet, but there is potential for him to become a better person. The addition of the hunters was interesting and welcome. Despite his gruffness and dislike for magic I became rather fond of Hector, and I’m hoping to learn more about him in the next book.

Commander Xen was pretty scary. Cruel and powerful, he was a formidable enemy, and not one I would like to meet in a lonely mountain pass. It seemed incongruous that he cared for and even showed tenderness towards the boy Nex, but perhaps evil villains do need a sidekick! I liked that he was hampered by his magical illness, otherwise he would have been far too powerful. The Queen was pretty evil too, but in a more hands-off kind of way. She was conniving and manipulative, and I didn’t care for her at all.

In this book we learn more about Isaac and William, and what happened to Alison when she disappeared. Isaac reminded me a bit of Voldemort in his pale and sickly appearance from his exile in Vale. I didn’t like or trust him, I feel that he is capable of doing anything to gain his objective, no matter what or who he destroys in the process. William is acting rather despicably too, but I didn’t get the same evil loony vibes from him that I got from Isaac. Both him and the Vark, Kogure, were able to send shivers down my spine.

Bleeding Snow is suitable for high school students, and is perfect for fantasy fans. It is the second book in The Rise of Isaac series, following on from Creeping Shadow. I can hardly wait for the next book in the series!

 

*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.

Delilah Dusticle’s Transylvanian Adventure by A. J. York

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DDtrans coverDelilah Dusticle’s Transylvanian Adventure by A. J. York and illustrated by Gavin Childs, e-book, 149 pages, published in 2014.

Delilah and Abi have formed a very successful cleaning company called “Dustbusters”. They have a whole team of cleaners working for them and they have endless work keeping them occupied. Delilah is wonderful at removing dust that others just can’t, she whips out her duster and simply eradicates the dust! Whilst cleaning for one of their clients, Delilah receives a letter from Count W. Dracula requesting her services in preparing his castle in Transylvania for a large function. Delilah and her workers, Dev, Billy and Doris travel to Transylvania, meeting the rather eccentric Count. Delilah gets much more than she expected on her first overseas gig!

This is the second book in the Delilah Dusticle series. The story picks up with Delilah and Abi in their successful business venture, but leads Delilah to discover so much more about herself. There were fairies and spies, and of course a very annoying villain ready to be overthrown in this delightful fantasy. It was a fun and engaging story, with plenty of magic and humour. The chapters are short and the plot easily followed, making it perfect for early independent readers. There are cute colour illustrations at the beginning of each chapter too.

I quite like Delilah. Her ability to eradicate dust is pretty amazing, but she is also clever, kind and generous. Abi is similarly endowed, except her special ability is to create incredible and beautiful dusters. Winnie, aka Count Dracula, was a complete card! His antics and his style made me laugh. I do wish I could have some fluffy duck slippers that quack when I walk! His assistant, Ulrik was also a funny character. All of the characters are interesting, and well developed.

I read Delilah Dusticle’s Transylvanian Adventure in a single sitting, and now I am ready for Delilah’s next adventure. It is most suitable for primary school students, but I really liked it! I think this book could be read independently of the first Delilah Dusticle story, though both are worth reading.

 

*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.