It has all your favourite things! Adventure, maps… and a sad ending.

The-Girl-of-Ink-and-Stars-by-Kiran-Millwood-HargraveTitle: The Girl of Ink and Stars
Author: Kiran Millwood Hargrave
Interest Level: Year 7 +

They say the day the Governor arrived, so did the ravens. And the songbirds, in their despair, flew backwards into the sea. That’s why there are no songbirds on Joya.

Isabella loves stories and her father, an explorer and renowned cartographer, is a master storyteller. But since the Governor arrived on their island, there has been no need for map making – exploration is forbidden and no one is allowed to leave the island.

When her best friend Lupe, the Governor’s daughter, goes missing – Isabella is determined to help find her. Armed with only ink, parchment, her knowledge of the stars and the stories of her father, Isabella joins the search party to navigate the island’s forgotten territories. But the monsters in her father’s stories are more real than she could have imagined, Isabella must face her fears to find her friend. The vivid descriptions and stunning rendering of the book itself will draw you into this beautiful tale of courage and wonder. The debut novel of Kiran Millwood Hargrave showcases her flair for poetry and love of short stories, embedded within this fantasy tale.

Highly recommended: **** (ofr)

 

 

An unusual recipe for a brilliant book

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METHOD:
1. Find a desiccated bat.
2. Mix it with some water.
3. Drink it, and
4. see what the future holds for the offspring of each and every person you come across in the next few weeks.
What could go wrong?
Glory’s present isn’t easy. Her mother has died, and her father doesn’t want to leave his chair, his computer, or the copious amounts of comfort food that seems to provide little consolation for life’s miseries. Glory’s only friend is not so friendly, and she is about to graduate school with no plans for her future. Glory obviously needs the soothsaying bat juice to provide direction for her life!

But it seems that the future is not so bright. The second American Civil War is only decades away, and Glory has a vital role to play…
This is another thought provoking book from the author of Everyone Sees the Ants, Ask the Passengers, and Reality Boy. A.S. King is an extraordinary writer, who successfully twists and morphs genre in such a way so as the reader never loses the sense that every event in the book could happen in real life. This is a book for older readers who enjoy dystopian themes but who are looking for more than a rehashed The Hunger Games.

Wonderful: (ipe) *****
Author: A.S.King
Interest Level: Year 9+

A sparkling sequel in an original and magical series

Cracks in the Kingdom CVR.pdTITLE = THE COLOURS OF MADELEINE Book 2: THE CRACKS IN THE KINGDOM

AUTHOR = JACLYN MORIARTY

GENRE = FANTASY, FAMILIES, RELATIONSHIPS, ROMANCE, GRIEF, FATHERS, FRIENDSHIP, GROWING UP

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 9+

Jaclyn Moriarty has crafted a wonderful sequel in a clever and thoughtful series. Filled with a delicious blend of magic, science, adventure and romance…with credible characters who will draw readers into their stories. Again the book follows the stories of Elliott (in Cello) and Madeleine (in Cambridge, the World) but there is an added strand to the story in the sequel: the story of Princess Ko’s attempts to retrieve her royal family members who have been sent into the World by Hostiles (where they have forgotten their identities and ties to Cello). So there is an added political intrigue behind their new adventures, especially as Elliott is part of the team who have been nominated to help find the royal family … even though this means working with Madeleine to open up the crack between their worlds, despite the risk of death if he is discovered.

This book is about mirrors and cracks: in the world, in families and in individuals: he depths we will go to in order to find and/or protect our loved ones … the grief we will feel at their loss. It is also about politics and looking beneath the surface of people: spies pop up at every turn, allies and friends may have hidden depths of despair … no-one is quite as they seem.

Moriarty balances each strand of the story cleverly, with plenty of new twists and turns in the plot and in the characterisations.  As in the first novel (A Corner of White, read a review here), Jaclyn Moriarty’s writing simply sparkles: it is an absolute joy to read each line. Readers will be left asking for more, and impatiently awaiting the last volume in the series.

Read an interview with Jaclyn Moriarty about writing this series, here.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

A witches brew indeed

undermy hatTITLE = UNDER MY HAT: TALES FROM THE CAULDRON

AUTHOR = JONATHAN STRAHAN (ed)

GENRE = SHORT STORIES, WITCHES 

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 8+

If you like witches then you will love this book. Every story is about a witch or wizardly being – some are dark and scary, some are hauntingly beautiful, some are quite funny and clevr as they play on common witch mythology. There are longish stories and there are poems ( Some witches fit the ‘black hat, black cat” mould and some really stretch this image to its limits: so some stories will appeal to younger audiences and some to older readers (“The threefold world” by Ellen Kushner). This is not just a book about magic spells (“Payment Due” by Frances Hardinge and “A Handful of Ashes” by Garth Nix), it is also a book about the magic of life (although you may need the tissues for “Stray Magic” by Diana Peterfreund). Whilst some of the stories hark back to older times, others focus on a more modern wicca experience (“Little Gods” by Holly Black) Some stories are a little spooky and some are unexpectedly warm-hearted and some manage to combine elements of both (“The Witch in the Wood” by Delia Sherman). An absolute favourite is the very clever “The Stone Witch” by the queen of Australian fantasy, Isobelle Carmody.  Fantastic Aussie author Margo Lanagan , provides a suitably weird and thoughtful : “Crow and Caper, Caper and Crow”). The funniest story (in a dry sort of way) continues the wizardly detective work of Jim Butcher’s hero, Harry Dresden  in “B is for Bigfoot).

Basically, there is something in this collection for everyone: whether you are a huge wiutch fan, or even if witches are not reasly your fave .. Dip in a nd out .. choose fave authors or try someone new … that’s the fun  of a collection of stories. And the introduction which sketches in the historical and literary background of witches will delight witch lovers and intrigue those new to (or less enthusiastic about) witches. Plus bios of authors at the end are very readable and add to the overall enjoyment of this book.

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

A brilliant end to a wonderful series

black heartTITLE = THE CURSE WORKERS (Book 3): Black Heart

AUTHOR = HOLLY BLACK

GENRE = FANTASY, MAGIC, FAMILY, RELATIONSHIPS

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 8 +

This is the third and final book in an intriguing series. Fans of the previous 2 books are sure to be satisfied with Holly Black’s clever conclusion. As usual, Cassel Sharpe finds himself in a tricky situation: trying to keep his mother alive and out of jail, trying to keep away from a life of crime, he has signed up to help the Feds. But can he trust them? Or do they simply want to use him as so many others have used him before?

And is his heart destined to be broken…again? The only girl he has ever loved truly despises him (and given that he once turned her into a cat and his own mother once worked a spell on her, Cassel can’t really blame her). But his heart so wishes it was otherwise.

Meanwhile his best friends are fighting, a girl he doesn’t trust wants his help and the principal keeps threatening to kick him out of school. Life was never meant to be this complicated .. was it?

A  terrific book and a wonderfully inventive series … Cassel Sharpe will worm his way into your heart …even if he thinks his own heart is blackened.

Highly Highly Recommended (dma) *****

An exciting foray into the gearpunk world

TITLE = THE RITHMATIST

AUTHOR = BRANDON SANDERSON

GENRE = GEARPUNK, ADVENTURE, MAGIC, FANTASY,SERIES

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7-9

Journey into the “Gearpunk” world of “the Rithmatist” for fun, fantasy and adventure. Young Joel is the son of a chalk maker and an enthusiastic devotee of Rithmatists, those who use chalk drawings to wield magic. Using complex mathematical formulae and symbols, Rithmatists can create in chalk elaborate defences and mount attacks against enemies. They can also create chalklings to further extend their powers. But what if these abilities are used against the Rithmatists themselves?? Who can stave off such attacks??

Joel is keen to help: he has an amazing knowledge of the Rithmatist’s lore and would dearly love to be able to wield power as they do; but he missed his opportunity as a youngster. Can he join forces with the professor and the remedial Rithmatist student, Melody, to save the day?? Or will he simply make enemies of those with great power? This is an exciting foray into a new fantasy series – one with engines powered by unusual gears and cogs, one with an odd mix of mathematics and magic, one where courage is needed to face great odds.

An exciting mystery and fantasy set in a gearpunk world created by a famed fantasy writer: Brandon Sanderson. Check out his website and blog here.

Check out the book trailer below, too:

Highly Recommended (dma) *****

Magic, witchcraft and curses … a brand new series kicks off!

TITLE = SPELLCASTER

AUTHOR = CLAUDIA GRAY

GENRE = FANTASY, WITCHES, FAMILY, FRIENDSHIP, GROWING UP

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 8-10

Claudia Gray has abandoned her vampires, vampire hunters and werewolves and replaced them with Witches and Steadfasts in her latest spellbinding novel.  Nadia is a young Witch or Spellcaster who was being trained by her mother. However, when her mother left home she not only abandoned her family she also effectively ended Nadia’s training. So Nadia has plenty of skill at spellcasting but lacks the ability to control her spells.

One of the rules of witchcraft with which Nadia is all too familiar, however, is that spellcasting is a female task and no witch should ever share her knowledge of magic with a male. Nor is a Steadfast (a companion who enhances a witch’s spellcasting abilities) ever likely to be a male. So the last thing that Nadia expects when she moves to a new town is that her Steadfast could potentially be the young man who she admires from afar, the same young man who is a town outcast due to the family curse which is likely to end in insanity! Worse still, this same young man just happens to be a pawn in the power of a very, very strong witch who seems set on destroying the town and all its inhabitants.

Unless Nadia can harness her powers in time to save herself and her new friends. So the scene is set for a tale of magic, mystery and romance set against a ticking clock … will Nadia’s plans succeed in time … and at what cost?? This is sure to be a hit with fans of Claudia Gray’s and all those teen girls looking for a quick, light read.

Recommended (dma) ****

Ebook companion stories to entice Cassandra Clare fans

Kindle ebook review: Kindle 4

THE BANE CHRONICLES 1: What Really Happened in Peru by Sarah Rees Brennan & Cassandra Clare

A short story based on the character Magnus Bane from “The Mortal Instruments” series.

Genre= Fantasy, Magic

Fans of “The Mortal Instrument” series, especially fans of the character, Magnus Bane, will no doubt enjoy this companion story. It is certainly an intriguing look into his past adventures in Peru, with the occasional touch of humour but at times the story seems a tad self-indulgent and the ending may disappoint some.

 

Kindle ebook review: Kindle 4

THE BANE CHRONICLES 2: The Runaway Queen by Cassandra Clare & Maureen Johnson

A short story based on the character Magnus Bane from “The Mortal Instruments” series.

Genre= Fantasy, Magic

This companion story is sure to delight fans of “The Mortal Instrument” series, especially fans of the deliciously extroverted warlock, Magnus Bane. Set in Paris during the French Revolution we see glimpses of the Magnus we know and love: flamboyant, self-assured and clever. With its mix of gorgeous young men and evil vampires this story is a lovely excursion into the strange world of Magnus Bane.

A companion eBook story to enjoy

Kindle ebook review: Kindle 4

A SLIVER OF DOUBT (by Michael Pryor) : A Laws of Magic short story

Genre= Fantasy, Magic, Adventure

Fans of “The Laws of Magic” series will thoroughly enjoy this journey into the world of Aubrey Fitzwilliam: filled with Magic, Mystery and political intrigue … with a dash of romance and humour thrown in for good measure! And if you haven’t read the series, why not try this as a sampler?? (The first chapter of Book 1 (A Blaze of Glory) is included at the end of the short story as an added sweetener).

Magic may not seem all that magical sometimes…

TITLE = MAGIC OR MADNESS Book 2: MAGIC LESSONS

AUTHOR = JUSTINE LARBALESTIER

GENRE = MAGIC, FANTASY, FRIENDSHIP, FAMILY

INTEREST LEVEL = YEARS 7-10

As a sequel to “Magic or Madness” this book will satisfy readers who loved the first book in this trilogy. This is an unusual fantasy series, as having magical powers appears to be more of a curse than a wonder, for Reason and her friends and family. Either you use your magical powers and die young (like JayTee’s mum) or you don’t use your powers and go mad (like Sarafino, Reason’s Mum and Tom’s mother). Having learnt this the hard way in Book 1, Reason and her friends are hoping that Esmerelda’s magic lessons will teach them how to save their magical energies so the 3 young friends can live a little longer.

However, things don’t quite go to plan. It seems that Reason’s hated father may be trying to steal more of their magic by breaking down the special doorway that provides a link between Reason’s Sydney home and New York. Whilst Reason finds herself back in New York desperately trying to find answers, the others have a different battle on their hands. There is betrayal and uncertainty from many sides as the 3 teenagers struggle to work out who they can trust and what secrets to tell.

The novel draws to an exciting end which provides answers to some questions for our young magic makers but will also make readers keen to lay their hands on the final book in the trilogy. Is history about to repeat itself in the Cansino family or will Reason find a way to help herself and others??

Highly Recommended (dma) *****