Wednesday, January 30, 2019

New Adult Review of Good Night (The Sand Maiden #3) by L.R.W. Lee

42089070Good Night (The Sand Maiden #3) by L.R.W. Lee, 
Charlie Bowater Illustrator
Format:  Ebook
Publisher: Woodgate Publishing
Number of Pages: 418
Published:  January 14th, 2019
Source:  Review copy provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.
 Find it:  Amazon   

Opening Line: I flailed, fighting the firm, muscled arms that bound me."   

First off I want to say how much I love the cover by Charlie Bowater, it's so gorgeous and I so wish there were interior illustrations too.  Good Night is the third book in the Sand Maiden series.  I'd recommend starting with Rock-A-Bye Baby, the prequel to Lullaby (book#2)  to get a better feel for Ali, her relationship with her father and siblings and to better understand the magical systems and worlds of Dream and Wake.  In Lullaby we learned about Ali's escape from Dream to Wake, her encounters with Kovis and his family, how Ali has hidden magical skills, very different from the ones that she had on Dream.  With the story ending in an epic magic competition called The Ninety Eight, where Ali was pitted against some of the top sorcerers of Wake.    

Good Night begins shortly after the events in Lullaby.  Ali and Kovis are now on the run, hiding among the foothills of the Tuliv Mountains while they develop a plan to rescue Kennan (Kovis twin brother) and Alfreda (Ali's sister in Dream).   Ali's father, Ambien has taken control of Kennan and using his connection as Kovis' twin to try and locate them, while making Alfreda control him through her connection to his dreams.  Ali begins the story filled with so many questions and fitful nights of sleep filled with bad dreams.  Where before Ali lulled her charge to sleep, she now feels desperately out of place and misses all of her healer friends and extended family who she hasn't seen since she left Dream.  The only thing that seems certain is that she and Kovis will have to find a way to get to Dream together.  Yet, lurking in the shadows of the trees are "mares,"  beasts that bring the most terrifying nightmares and can rip you to shreds.  Beasts that are working for Ali's father, Ambien, a god they will need to confront if they want to prevent him from controlling all of Wake.  

The story alternates between  Ali, Kovis, Kennan and even Ambien's perspective.  I really enjoyed this approach feeling it gave more insight into each of the characters.  I especially felt like I got a better look at what type of person Ambien is, his desire to control Wake, and why he is so eager to have control over his daughters.   Ambien is very evil, the type of person who will stop at nothing to get vengeance, even tormenting his daughters until he gets what he wants.  The kind of character that made me cringe.  Good Night also really gets at the complexities of Ali's and Kovis feelings for one another, how Kovis is trying to open himself up and forget events in his past or to break down walls that he has.   Just as it looks like he is moving forward,  his brother Kennan makes a confession that reveals a hidden truth uprooting their happiness.  I felt so sorry for poor Kennan, he seems so desperately in love with Ali.  I was so saddened with the way he was being controlled and possessed,  forced to do Ambien's bidding.  I worry what the future holds for Kennan and whether he will truly have his own happiness.     

Ahh, but Ali and Korvis, and the deep bond and connections they share, how they have this lovely playful way of talking to one another, with undertones of intimate sexual desire even in the tensest of situations.   And yes being a new adult book, there are some steamy moments, so be forewarned.  I loved how they can join minds, communicate telepathically and how Ali can see herself from inside Kovis's mind while also being inside her own body.  Sounds disorienting, but because of their deep trust for one another seems to work well.  I'm so happy with the way in which the story resolved, and that there will be possibilities at second chances between these two.  Lastly, I loved getting to know more about Ali's family, especially her aunts, who were hysterical, caring, and had a few tricks of there own, and who hopefully will still be an integral part of the next book.  I know I've said this before about Lee's writing, but I've so enjoyed following along with her writing career and seeing how she develops her characters, the worlds of Wake and Dream and the twists and turns she throws at ya.  As always I will be eagerly awaiting to read more of Kovis and Ali's story. 
Favorite Line " You know not what would ensue if you changed time itself for one, no matter their deeds."  

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

MG Fantasy Review of Thomas Wildus and The Book of Sorrows by J.M. Bergen

43182855Thomas Wildus and The Book of Sorrows by J.M. Bergen 
Format:  Ebook
Publisher: Elandrian Press
Number of Pages: 364
Publishing:  February 2nd, 2019
Source:  Review copy provided by Book Publicity Services in exchange for an honest review.
Opening Line: "Hey Wildus, you ready?"

It's been years since Thomas last saw his father, but he hasn't forgotten the last words  his father said to him, "magic is real."  Since then, Thomas has been holding on to those words while looking for someone to take him seriously in his quest to learn magic.  He's not interested in the kind of magic tricks that magicians perform, he wants to learn real magic.  When Thomas makes a special trip to an old book shop, his father's words begin to have a new meaning.  Thomas not only acquires an ancient book called the Book of Sorrows from the kindly, but mysterious owner with gold-flecked eyes, he also learns there's more to his father's disappearance than he knew and that hidden within him are magical abilities that put him and his mother in potential danger. 

At first glance, Thomas may seem like an average kid.  He loves to read, has been taking Kung Fu lessons for years and especially wants to learn how to perform real magic.  Like your typical twelve-year-old, he hangs out with his best friend Enrique, together they have fun at school competing in their favorite game of doddle wars.  Each time trying to one-up each other by making the other person laugh at their drawings.   The story also contains a bully, but the plot doesn't center on him but rather how Thomas tries to befriend the boy being bullied and bring him into his fold of friends.  It's so nice to see a story with a character who's not fighting or running from the bully but is actively trying to be there for the kid who's being bullied.     

In exchange for borrowing the book from Huxley, the bookseller, Thomas agrees to abide by certain rules to protect and maintain its secrecy.  The Book of Sorrows is both magical and mysterious, with each chapter that Thomas reads, the cover seems to change adding new details and becomes more vivid in its coloring.  Eventually illustrating how the title is fitting to the story it tells him of Isham the magician and the beast that he unleashes.   It isn't long before Thomas encounters a threatening figure who at first stalks him in a van, lurking in his periphery as he's riding his bike.  Then things begin to escalate when an attempt is made to kidnap Thomas.  Fearful, Thomas turns to Huxley and Professor Reilly, a physicist who knew his father.  Together they explain the links between the Book of Sorrows, magic, quantum physics and the magical crystals that they must recover to stop an evil maniac from reawakening the crystals power and destroying the world.   Overall, I thought Thomas Wildus and the Book of Sorrows was a fun story that included some nice messaging, had the right amount of suspense and danger and thought the inclusion of physics brought an interesting touch.    

Monday, January 21, 2019

MG Fantasy/Magic Review: Sorcery for Beginners by Matt Harry

33534892Sorcery for Beginners by Matt Harry
Format:  Paperback
Publisher: Inkshares
Number of Pages: 400
Published:  October 10th, 2017
Source:  Review copy provided by Inkshares in exchange for an honest review.
Find it:  Amazon, B&N, Inkshares, Goodreads
Opening Line:  "Snow fell on St. Petersburg as the young sorceress ran for her life."  

13-year-old Owen Macready considers himself an average kid who gets average grades, has average looks and doesn't want to put forth the effort for sports.  He's not brave or strong, but that's also perfectly fine with him because being average leaves him with plenty of time to play games on his computer.  Recently, Owen's mom decided she wanted a challenge in her career as a veterinarian, so she moved to Sumatra to care for orangutans, and Owen and his dad moved to Las Vegas.   Shortly after starting his new school, Owen tries to intervene when he sees a boy who's being bullied only to have the bully turn on him.  Trying to find a place to hide, he runs into the nearest store, the Codex Arcanum.  It's within this magic bookstore that he meets Euphemia Whitmore and purchases Sorcery for Beginners, a book designed to teach you how to perform magic.  While skimming through the pages of his new book, Owen gets a glimpse of a spell that can rewrite history and believes that if he can learn how to cast this spell he can fix his family and bring his life back to the way it was before his mom left.   Ms. Whitmore cautions him that the book comes with a few rules, he must follow the books directions to learn the spells in order, keep the book's existence a secret and defend it against their worst enemies, the Eculidean's, a secret society of mercenaries who for 500 years have been trying to get their hands on the book. If he's successful, Owen will be eligible to take a final exam and receive his Sorcery Learners Permit and be inducted into their society.   Just as Owen starts getting closer to performing real magic, he not only attracts the attention of the Euclidean's, he also has a run in with the father of the bully he encountered before, a ruthless millionaire who wants to steal magic for himself.  Owen is stuck battling the two sides while trying desperately to keep the Sorcery for Beginners from falling into the wrong hands.  

Sorcery for Beginners is the combination of the fictional story of Owen Macready with a textbook/how to manual for performing magic.   I really enjoyed the illustrations by Juliane Crump and especially the full page spread for each spell.   Each intricate drawing included the hand or body movements needing to be performed, detailed step by step instructions, the materials or components required and the activation words to be spoken to cast the spell.   The activation words included Latin, Greek, Latvian, Arabic or Icelandic words and came with the pronunciation for each word.  Every few pages there were also sidebars providing tidbits of information, or defining the terms being used.  Some I felt weren't overly necessary, like defining the word parchment or what knack meant.  But others like explaining what the Key of Solomon or what a grimoire is,  elaborated on details in the storyline or added some magical historical context to the story.   In this way, it felt like you were learning right along with Owen. 

In addition to the illustrations, I really liked the overall look of the book, everything from the visually appealing cover to the thick pieces of paper with their untrimmed or uncut edges making up the pages of the book (I've come to learn this is referred to as deckled edges).  My favorite thing about the story is the way in which the book speaks to Owen, how it seems to read his thoughts and writes out what Owen needs to do in order to be successful.  Owen can't just rush ahead to perform the spell he wants to perform, that he has to go through each of the steps to get to where he wants to be, while also learning that to undo an event may not be in his best interest after all.  They make for a fun team.  Overall the story is not only informative, full of fun facts and delightful illustrations, but it's also the kind of book I can easily see appealing to aspiring sorcerers or fans of magic.  The story concludes with an Epilogue setting up the story for book two about Cryptozoology, but Sorcery for Beginners can easily be read as a stand-alone.  I'm certainly looking forward to seeing what Matt Harry comes up with next.      

Monday, January 14, 2019

Books that I'm anticipating reading in 2019

Now that my Cybils Awards reading has all wrapped up its time to start looking at the books on my TBR list for 2019.  Books that I'm anticipating reading, have purchased, or are very curious about.  

Middle-Grade Books:  

Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee (releasing January 15th)
This book is from Rick Riordan Presents, with each book inspired by mythology and written by authors from those cultures.  This one has fox spirits and sounds like a fun adventure.  


38251234The Girl with the Whispering Shadow (Book 2 of The Crowns of Croswald) by D.E. Night  (releasing January 23rd)  I read the first book in March of last year and instantly fell in love with it.  It had all the elements I so enjoy, an enchanting magical world reminiscent of Harry Potter, Cinderella and a smidge of Alice and Wonderland.  Can't wait to read this next book.  

 A Sprinkle of Spirits by Anna Meriano
40206380 (releasing February 5th)
This is a sequel to A Dash of Trouble which I read and really enjoyed.  It has baking, Bruja magic, and lovely sister relationships. 

40221339The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman (releasing February 5th)  I'll admit the cover and that the story is set in India really drew me to this book.  I love to read stories set in different places than my own and again this is written by an own voices author.  

 The Lost Girl by Anne Ursu  (releasing February 12th)
This one involves twin girls who are separated for the first time into different classrooms for fifth grade.  

Over the Moon by Natalie Lloyd (releasing March 26th)  Natalie Lloyd's books are a must read for me.  I so loved A Snicker of Magic, The Key to Extraordinary and The Problim Children.  Can't wait to read this next one about a mining town called Coal Top and the young girl who is going to train flying horses. 

The next four books aren't out until later in the year, so I'll highlight more about them at a later date.  


And not to be forgotten are the three YA books on my TBR for 2019:

                  40978009  38237340 35068618

What's on your list for 2019??  Feel free to comment or suggest a book that I shouldn't miss out on.  

Monday, January 7, 2019

MG Fantasy/Adventure Review: The Voting Tree by Gareth Griffith

The Voting Tree by Gareth Griffith 
Format:  Ebook 
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services LLC
Number of Pages: 263
Published:  November 5th, 2018
Source:  Review copy provided by the author via Lodestar Author Services in exchange for an honest review.
Opening Line: "In the Land of Pelas there was winter and there was war."

 The Voting Tree is a fantasy adventure involving a fig tree and an ancient prophecy.  A prophecy foretelling that the true heir to the throne of the Land of Pelas will be restored and will bring an end to the constant winters plaguing the land.  The story opens in the City of Golden Towers where a war has been raging between two bitter rivals, Lord Boreas and his brother the king.  Desperate to acquire control of the kingdom, Lord Boreas attacks the city planning to kill the king.   The story then jumps ahead to the year 2000 in Sydney, Australia where Sam Archer is starting his first day in a new school.  Sam quickly meets Hamish, Sylvia, Athena, and Oscar who invite him to explore the fig tree near their school.  It is Sylvia who encourages Sam to place his hands in a hole leading to the roots of the tree which then portals them to Pelas.  It is here that they meet the young heir, Pelagius.   From there the story alternates between the children's lives in Australia, and their portal adventures trekking through the icy landscape as they make their way toward the city and a confrontation with Lord Boreas.  

I quite enjoyed the distinct differences between the two worlds.  In Pelas, the five friends have to deal with all of the hardships of a place that is endlessly cold, they also have to defend themselves from Lord Boreas' men who are searching for Pelagius.  There's the dynamics of war and how to gather support from the villagers to be successful once they try to take back the throne.   Within Pelas, the children had special roles and magical abilities.  Sylvia and Athena had the ability to speak with animals, and Oscar was found to be the Prince of Talos, aware of battle strategy and adept with a sword.  Sam and Hamish provided friendship and protection to Pelagius.  Each of them "awakened their true self" while they were in Pelas. 

In the real world, Sam and Oscar were initially being tormented by a bully who was spreading lies about Oscar to try and intimidate him.   While their teacher seemed at odds with how to deal with the situation.  Trying to balance being diplomatic, but also seeing the unfairness of the situation.  Hamish was dealing with his own family troubles at home resulting in him sleeping over at Sam's house while his parents sorted out their problems.  I found it interesting that the two worlds never really overlapped with one another.  That when the children were at home, they never had extensive conversations about Pelas.  Or that when they were in Pelas, they didn't really talk about home.  Griffith described this as a veil between the two worlds, not allowing them to see the other side clearly.  Yet, their experiences in Pelas still managed to change them in positive ways.  Sam developed confidence and Oscar awakened the leadership qualities of a prince and learned how to defend himself when he most needed it.  Overall, this was a very fun story with lovely elements of friendship, adventure and finding courage.  

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

2018 Elementary/Middle Grade Speculative Fiction Finalists for the Cybils Award

I'm always excited to be a round one judge for the Cybils (Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers Literary Awards).  This year there were 117 books nominated in Elementary/ Middle-Grade Speculative Fiction, of which I was able to read 92.  Now these seven finalist's move on to the second round judges, with a winner being selected in February.  I'm also excited that Front Desk by Kelly Yang and The Orphan Band of Springdale by Anne Nesbet, which were on my armchair Cybils shortlist list will also be moving on to round two!   Here are the blurbs for the books that we selected and you can see the complete list here.  Happy New Year to you all.  Brenda

by Kenneth Oppel
Harper Collins Canada
Nominated by: Reno
Have you ever had an inkling that something was about to happen? For the Rylance family things have been tough since Mom died. Dad has writer’s block, Ethan’s school project is overwhelming and Sarah, who has Down’s Syndrome, is fixated on getting a puppy. Then, one night, a little blot of ink jumps off Dad’s sketchbook and begins to explore the world by devouring the books it encounters. Ethan names it Inkling, and its inquisitive and caring nature helps the Rylance family work through their grief and learn about themselves. Thought-provoking dilemmas, great characterization, and a swift plot, all make this a book that kids will devour.
Vanatti, Dr. Cheryl S., Reading Rumpus
Love Sugar Magic: A Dash of Trouble
by Anna Meriano
Walden Pond Press
Nominated by: Sarah Sammis
It’s not easy being the youngest of 5 sisters, but what makes it worse for Leo is being told she is too young to help in the family bakery for the annual Dia de los Muertos festival. To top it off, the family secret is revealed by accident – they are Mexican brujas, who put magic to work in their baking! Leo knows could help, if they’d let her. When her best friend starts to fall for a boy, she decides to test her baking magic and prove her talent so she can join in the family traditions. It’s magically realistic, with a family that makes mistakes and forgives and fills the pages with baking love. Readers will warm to this story full of spells going hilariously wrong, baking, family love and friendship.
Kristen Harvey, The Book Monsters
Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow
by Jessica Townsend
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Beth Mitchell
Cursed from the day she was born, Morrigan never expects anything good to happen to her. Then, on her eleventh birthday, she is whisked away to the secret, magical city of Nevermoor and invited to compete in the trials to become a member of the Wundrous society. There is plenty of suspense and action as readers follow Morrigan through the trials, hoping that she will be chosen to stay. This is a very readable fantasy adventure that will keep readers wondering what will happen next, and especially delight Harry Potter fans!
Jenni Frencham, From the Biblio Files
Snared: Escape to the Above (Wily Snare)
by Adam Jay Epstein
Nominated by: Heidi G.
Wily Snare has never left the Carrion Tomb, where he works as a trapsmith for its cavern mage Stalag, designing elaborate traps to foil treasure seekers. Then an acrobatic elf, a moss golem, and a former knight with a floating arm named Righteous evade all of his traps, ambush Stalag and take his most valuable treasure, Wily himself. They want Wily’s quick fingers, wit, and ability to detect and disable traps to raid some of the most challenging dungeons in the realm. But by the end of their adventure, treasure isn’t important to the group–they have become a family. Snared is an action-packed and heartwarming adventure filled with twists and turns and memorable characters, that’s sure to captivate fans of dungeon crawling.
Brenda Tjaden, Log Cabin Library
Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster
by Jonathan Auxier
Harry N Abrams
Nominated by: Angiegirl
Life is hard for the kids who clean the chimneys of Victorian London, especially if the kid is a girl. Nan Sparrow was once looked after by the Sweep, who made her story soup when times were tough. But since his disappearance, Nan’s been forced to climb chimneys for a cruel master. Then the glowing coal the Sweep left her becomes a living creature of ash, her friend and protector, “Charlie.” Nan’s adventure is a heartwarming journey of the magic of love and story, full of vividly drawn characters, from the cruel sweep master Crudd to Nan’s friend the mudlark Toby Squall and the kind teacher Miss Bloom – the last two keeping their Jewish heritage a secret from almost everyone but Nan. And Charlie, the soot “monster,” is the most marvelous of all.
Katy Kramp, A Library Mama
The Stone Girl’s Story
by Sarah Beth Durst
Clarion Books
Nominated by: Kristen
For Mayka, a living girl carved from stone, and the rest of her stone family, the stories of their lives are carved directly onto their surfaces by their maker, and as the marks erode so do they. When there is no one left to refresh the carvings, Mayka ventures into the world of humans to find someone to take up the task, but she learns that not all people can be trusted and that the rules may be different for people of flesh and stone. Old fears and secrets (and a giant carved monster) must be confronted before she finds a way to save her stone family and their stories. This unique fantasy world offers both adventure and thoughtful contemplation about selfhood and story.
Beth Mitcham, Library Chicken
Thisby Thestoop and the Black Mountain
by Zac Gorman
Nominated by: Robin
No one would have picked Thisby Thestoop to be the heroine of a great adventure. And yet, this foundling girl (whose only friend is a slime named Mingus), who lives in a dungeon, feeding and cleaning up after its monsters, saves a prince and princess. The perilous journey of the two very different girls, Thisby shy and grubby and Iphigenia beautiful and entitled, shows how a friendship can be made under the most challenging of circumstances, and the challenge of maintaining a friendship even when trust is broken. Witty, funny, and full of feeling, with memorable characters, both major and minor, this will appeal to gamers and fantasy fans of all stripes, especially those who are looking for real characters with whom they can sympathize and identify.
Sherry Early, Semicolon