M Is for Magic

Title: M Is for Magic

Author: Neil Gaiman

Genres: Children | Fantasy | Paranormal | Quickies

Length: 272 pages

Source: Purchased

Format: Paperback

Rating: 3.75/5

Premise:

A collection of 11 short stories by Neil Gaiman.

Review:

I had read 5 of these stories in other Gaiman books but even those were a pleasure to reread.
Gaiman has such a way with words. At times I was a bit frustrated because a lot was left unsaid and I need resolution to feel fully satisfied but I can admit it is part of the magic. They are short stories, little snippets of magical worlds spun from a mind I cannot help but admire.

Admitedly, I did not find all of them enjoyable. Sunbird in particular seemed to stretch on and on forever and ever and it did actually bore me, although the ending was surprising.

My favourite tales were The Price, Chivalry and October in the Chair – even if this last one had me on my toes to know what happened next.

These stories will please young folks as well as older ones and they make for a wondrous, quick read, so I definitely recommend the book.

Read from Jun 15th to Jun 19th, 2016

GR Review

A Monster Calls

Title: A Monster Calls

Author: Patrick Ness

Genres: Children | Contemporary | Fantasy | Horror

Length: 240 pages

Source: Purchased

Format: Paperback

Rating: 4.5/5

Premise:

Thirteen-year-old Conor has had a terrible nightmare ever since his mother fell ill.
When a monster starts visiting him, he is not scared. That is, until it tells Conor what he wants from him… The truth.

Review:

I never knew children fantasy fiction could be weaved quite like this. This book had me intrigued, excited, curious and immensely sad. I wish I had gotten the illustrated version, since I have heard wonders about it.

The story stands on its own, though. Conor’s life was turned upside down ever since his mother got ill and he deals with it the best way he can, in all aspects of his life.

This is the first book I have read by Patrick Ness and I thoroughly enjoyed his writing. It was clear and unpretentious and yet it made me feel so emotional at times.

Conor’s character had a lot of depth. He is 13, dealing with a horrible situation that has several repercussions on his life. He is incredibly brave but he is also a young boy and I found him very believable. Most of the other characters were very well conceived as well, particularly his grandmother.

I am not giving it 5 stars because I was not quite swept by everything, such as Harry’s character for instance; I simply cannot see a kid that age choosing to bully like that or his father actually going back to America when he knows his son’s mother is about to die.
Also, it was fairly predictable and I am sure I would have related much more if I were younger.

However, as a whole this was a pretty amazing, emotional book about love, loss, grief and guilt and I think everyone should read it at some point in life.

Read from April 10th to April 11th, 2016

GR Review

Krabat

Title: Krabat

Author: Otfried Preußler

Genres: Adventure | Children | Fantasy | Horror

Format: Mobi

Length: 275 pages | 3037 locations

Source: Netgalley

Rating: 3.5/5

Premise:

One night, young Krabat starts having strange dreams directing him to a mill. At first he ignores them, but then he feels compelled to follow the orders, a decision which will change his life forever.

Review:

My first reaction to Krabat was that it was obviously not originally written in English.
I found it difficult to believe it is a children’s book because it deals with pretty heavy stuff, namely black magic.

Our Krabat is a 14 year old boy who makes a living out of begging with two other kids. Then he moves to a creepy mill with a terrifying master and 11 other journeymen.

The story has the feel of a folk tale. I was enthralled by the sense of elusiveness conveyed by the writing. All the dreams and rituals played a major part in it as well.

I had a bit of a difficult time relating to Krabat, though. During his first times at the mill, he was aware that the journeymen were hiding something from him and when something odd happened he would notice and comment that it was weird. However, I never really felt him shocked. He would see all those things happen that made no sense and he would just embrace them and move on. Sort of like Oh, we’re flying? And here I was thinking the clouds were mist.

I guess I felt that the transition from regular, christian life (because he did go to church when he was young) to black arts one occurred much too quickly. Even though I appreciated that there was no clear good versus evil struggle in the book, I remember reading exactly one reflection and that was him saying that those black arts could give a man lots of power and he would like that. That was it. Not a single time did I see him wondering if what he was doing was wrong or about the consequences of such actions.

As the story developed, I felt it got a bit too descriptive at times. I know nothing of mill workings so I felt my mind drifting away on and off.
There were some things I did not really get. For instance,if the master did not want them to read from the book, why did he teach them black magic in the first place? Just so they could work more easily? Or so he would have an excuse to kill a journeyman?

However, I feel that I cannot really use my usual references to measure my enjoyment because the story was just so different. For example, in another book the insta-love would have bothered me immensely. Here it still did a bit but it was so integrated in the magic that it was okay.

I felt the ending was rushed but overall I had a great time reading Krabat and recommend it.

Disclaimer: I would like to thank the publisher and Netgalley for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Read from Oct 03 to Oct 08, 2015
GR Review

Winell Road

Title: Winell Road

Author: Kate Foster

Genres: Adventure | Children | Fantasy | Science Fiction

Format: Mobi

Length: 146 pages | 2210 locations

Source: Netgalley

Rating: 2/5

Premise:

Jack has lived in Winell Road all his life. It is the most boring street in existence and now, with Jack’s best friend gone for school break, Jack simply does not know what to do with himself.
Then a weird object appears in the sky, and shortly after that encounter new neighbours move in. There is something fishy about them but Jack cannot point his finger as to what. One thing’s for sure: he will not be bored any longer.

Review:

This is a book I am sure kids will enjoy very much. Our Jack is a perfectly normal young man who lives in a boring street and has boring parents. Then, out of the blue, aliens. What kid would not appreciate an escape from reality like that?
I, however, cannot say I enjoyed it much.

It felt formulaic to me, although I suppose that’s to be expected of a children fantasy book. However, there were several things that I felt I was supposed to take at face value that made no sense to me.

For example, his parents. A father who creates useless inventions in the basement and a mother who only seems to garden and spy on neighbours… How the heck do these people pay the bills?

And then there was stuff that felt much too easy, like Roxy and Jack appearing out of the blue from the alien world in the basement and his father would simply not notice them? Cause he was so wrapped up in his work? Come on.

Overall, the novel is fast paced and there’s interesting stuff like aliens, a secret world, doors which access that secret world and whatnot. It just felt like a jumbled mess and the ending was beyond rushed. I still don’t get the point of the final confrontation – making Roxy the bad guy and her mother being an evil mind-controlling alien and then… Nope, it was all a lie. Why?? Just so you can create a shock factor twice? It was all so pointless…
And I still cannot believe all the compliments everyone spewed about Jack, when Roxy did all the work and suggested pretty much all solutions to every problem they encountered.

As a novel, it did not quite do it for me. As a series of disconnected adventures, it could entertain. The writing is pleasing enough. I wish the story had been more cohesive and that the ending hadn’t felt so flat.

Disclaimer: I would like to thank the publisher and Netgalley for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Read from Sep 11 to Sep 14, 2015
GR Review

Teagan of Tomorrow (Legend of Rhyme, #3)

Title: Teagan of Tomorrow (Legend of Rhyme, #3)

Author: Jaime Lee Mann

Genres: Adventure | Children | Fantasy

Format: Mobi

Length: 144 pages | 1505 locations

Source: Netgalley

Rating: 3.75/5

Premise:

After evil has been banished again, Asher and Ariana find themselves in a different time. Everything seems dangerous and they have no idea what the purpose of modern things is. Can they stay safe? Can they return to their time and be reunited with their parents?
Can a girl named Teagan, who looks remarkably like Ariana, be the key to get them back home?

Review:

First of all, oh my gosh, look at that cover. How pretty. I am sure children will love it and feel drawn to it.

Regarding the contents, they were pretty good as well! Even though this book is clearly part of the Legend of Rhyme series, it is very different from the previous because the characters are older from the get go, and part of the narrative takes place in modern times, which makes it very easy to relate to Teagan and her struggles.
And when odd things start to happen to her, well then, things start getting interested and the reader is sure to become engaged, regardless of the age.

Miss Jamie painted beautiful pictures with her writing. Her words were striking in different ways, from her descriptions of the world awakening under Teagan’s magic to Grimblerod’s diet – she can do both pretty and ugly so well.
Her descriptions of our world viewed by people from another time were also spot on and tremendously engaging.

One of my favourite things about this series are the questions for discussion at the end of the book. It both takes the book to another level and hints that some of the things that bothered me due to being unanswered will be approached in further book(s).
I also loved the Caine family tree – sadly, it was unreadable in my Kindle, the picture was too small. It is a huge help though, since several characters were introduced in the previous book.

Teagan of Tomorrow is one of the best books in the series so far.
However, I felt it ended too suddenly. It was too short and it felt like not much happened, especially because some information was repeated. For instance, almost everything Elora had told Teagan (like about the pendant or her heritage and other things) was later repeated by Calla and/or Freya. Otherwise, it would easily be my favourite of the bunch.

Also, I am always weary when it comes to time travelling. I suppose it’s fine if the travel is to the future, but when it comes to the past it is a whole different matter. It made no sense to me whatsoever that Grimblerod would return to goblin/toad form or that Sibley would return to a fairy – especially since she was not even born back then. I suppose some theory could be created that travelling back in time cancelled the spell to turn them human, but then why did it not cancel the previous spell as well? I didn’t even get to know what the new evil was or what became of it…

Alas, lots of questions left unanswered, as usual. But I still had a lot of fun and thoroughly enjoyed reading Coraira’s descriptions. Jamie Lee Mann has a way with words that just carries you away. I love how she uses different verbs to describe the characters’ actions, not just he or she ‘says’ something. And I appreciated how she would use other senses to awaken the reader’s interest, particularly scent. I am not even that big a fan of pie and I was salivating! Probably because I felt how hungry the characters were.

So even if I was not 100% satisfied with the book because I wanted more and because I wanted several questions answered before diving into the next book in the series, this is one of those reads that is more about the journey than the destination.
And as I mentioned before, I believe older audiences will appreciate the book just as much as younger ones. So do dive in – but make sure you read the previous two, or you won’t get much of what is going on.

Looking forward to the next book in the series. That sneak preview at the end was incredibly interesting.

Disclaimer: I would like to thank the publisher and Netgalley for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Read from Sep 05 to Sep 07, 2015
GR Review

Into Coraira (Legend of Rhyme, #2)

Title: Into Coraira (Legend of Rhyme, #2)

Author: Jaime Lee Mann

Genres: Adventure | Children | Fantasy

Format: Mobi

Length: 202 pages | 1975 locations

Source: Netgalley

Rating: 3.75/5

Premise:

After having defeated the evil one, twins Asher and Ariana are now reunited with their parents, and all finally get some answers regarding the truth behind the curse.
Now, a new evil has been unleashed. While learning they have new powers and learning how to use them, Ariana and Asher will try to keep the kingdom of Coraira and all the realms safe.

Review:

I found the second book of the Legend of Rhyme series generally more enjoyable than the first one, in part because there were more answers. The imagery was, again, stunning, particularly of Coraira. I am sure little girls will absolutely love the unicorns and beautiful streams and flowers and animals, and the boys will appreciate the dragons, for instance. I for one grew fond of Wink and Fidget, although I felt Fidget’s character changed a bit since the first book but the fact is they were hilarious – and particularly liked the living map.

It did not fully satisfy me though, and not only because it is a children’s book.
For one, it presents a lot more characters than the first book and I have to admit at some point I did not know who some were any more, let alone how they were related.
There were also a few things that felt off for me:
I did not understand why Ariana was immediately Calla’s successor and Asher was not even considered.
I was not a fan of the thing with the pendants, especially if Ariana’s power was that great she should be able to come and go as she pleased once she trained enough. I felt some other explanation should have been given for her not to be able to return once she made the decision to become Calla’s successful and go to Coraira.
Similarly, I did not get why the twins would take their grandmother there when she was simply tired and would obviously recover if she rested, and knowing they would not be able to use the pendants again.
And finally, I have to admit I did not like the thing with Asher’s voice. It gave room to a funny scene, where his voice sounded older, but it just sounded like an easy escape of the situation. Now I am left wondering what will happen to Asher’s voice, the real crystal. Or why the crystal they used was green when Calla said the spell turned the crystal blue.


I know it’s a children’s book, but I feel some scenes should have been better elaborated. For instance, the thing with Rebecca’s reaction to the bee sting could have been more dramatic and yet it was over almost as fast as it began. It’s the sort of thing that I don’t think would hurt the book’s audience much but might actually reel older readers in. It didn’t have to be gross or very detailed, just a bit more of a build-up, so that the resolution had more impact. Instead it kind of renders the magic almost meaningless, as if too easy.

Overall, I had a good time reading Into Coraria and the ending left me wanting to know what happens in the third book. It looks like it will become more contemporary fantasy, which is a great, unexpected twist.

Disclaimer: I would like to thank the publisher and Netgalley for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Read from Aug 19 to Aug 21, 2015
GR Review

Elora of Stone (Legend of Rhyme, #1)

Title: Elora of Stone (Legend of Rhyme, #1)

Author: Jaime Lee Mann

Genres: Adventure | Children | Fantasy

Format: Mobi

Length: 206 pages | 2030 locations

Source: Netgalley

Rating: 3.25/5

Premise:

In the Kingdom of Falmoor, no set of twins stay intact. During the night, one of them is taken away, although he or she appears dead. Why does this happen? And what does Gwendolyn’s pure heart have to do with it? Or her descendants’?

Review:

I found Elora of Stone a very nice adventure book for young children.

I finished it with more questions than answers and there were a couple of things that did not quite add up, like why Gwendolyn was so upset when she found out about the marriage contract and yet when she meets Lochlan she does not seem to recognize his name, even though she was just reading about it, for instance.
I wanted to know more about the 200-year-old lady, how exactly the twins who were taken turned into fairies, who Lochlan’s twin was, what had happened to Larque’s children, and oh so much more but in the end this was a sweet book for very young kids, who don’t mind stuff not being thoroughly explained.

There’s plenty of action and stuff to keep them interested. There’s a clumsy magician with a great heart, a girl with a pure heart who attracts all sorts of woodland critters, there are fairies and pixies and pretty landscapes and magic, both good and evil. And there are children they can relate to, even if they sounded a bit older than 12 to me.
The few pictures were nice as well and I kind of wish there had been more.

It’s the first book in a series, so I understand that there has to be a cliffhanger, I just wish there hadn’t been so many of them, so I could have appreciated the book more.
I also wish the author had stuck with third voice, instead of constantly switching narrators, most often in first person, present, but not always. I thought it was confusing and unnecessary.

I recommend the book to very young children (7 and up) and that they get the rest of the series as soon as possible, so that they will not be as disappointed by the ending as I was.

Disclaimer: I would like to thank the publisher and Netgalley for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Read from Aug 16 to Aug 17, 2015
GR Review