Review of Shadow Magic by Joshua Khan

Thorn, an outlaw’s son, wasn’t supposed to be a slave. He’s been sold to Tyburn, an executioner, and they’re headed to Castle Gloom in Gehenna, the land of undead, where Thorn will probably be fed to a vampire. Lilith Shadow wasn’t supposed to be ruler of Gehenna. But following the murder of her family, young Lily became the last surviving member of House Shadow, a long line of dark sorcerers. Her country is surrounded by enemies and the only way she can save it is by embracing her heritage and practicing the magic of the undead. But how can she when, as a girl, magic is forbidden to her?

Just when it looks like Lily will have to leave her home forever, Thorn arrives at Castle Gloom. A sudden death brings them together, inspires them to break the rules, and leads them to soar to new heights in this fantasy with all the sparkle and luster of a starry night sky. Book 1 of a three book series.

This book is spellbinding. From the moment I started I found it hard to set down. The chapters are all the perfect length. It flows well. There are lots of little word games and word connections for readers to find, which is quite fun. I loved all the aspects of this novel, and there were no parts I glanced over or was annoyed at having to read to get to the juicy parts.

I absolutely loved the characterization; everyone had such solid personalities and attitudes, especially for the teenagers. There wasn’t as much forward knowledge of the thoughts and feelings of the adults, but that was understandable. The knowledge and love of different hobbies and activities shown by the main characters in their daily lives was refreshing, even if they might not like their overall jobs.

I loved this book, and am only sad I didn’t realize it was a three book series based on the blurb on the back when I purchased it at the store. I will, of course, continue on to finish this series- hopefully sooner than later! I do believe this was written for a younger audience, but that doesn’t make it any less awesome!

Star Rating: ✯✯✯✯✯

Review of Gib and the Gray Ghost by Zilpha Keatley Snyder

Gib and the Gray Ghost

Companion to Gib Rides Home
By Zilpha Keatley Snyder

Star Rating: 
Genre: Young People/Young Adult Western
Number of Pages: 240Date Started: June 26, 2017
Date Finished: June 28, 2017

Synopsis: (From Amazon)Gib and the gray ghost
Gib Whittaker is leaving the Lovell House Orphanage for the second time in his young life. He’s going back to live with the Thornton family, who are free to take him in again now that Mr. Thornton has died. Life has changed on the old ranch, and Gib can go to school. But he’s still doing all the chores in the barn and stable. He’s not exactly farmed-out labor anymore, but will he be adopted for real this time?

Luckily Gib has his beloved horses to care for, especially the beautiful thoroughbred, Black Silk. Then one day a strange horse gallops in out of a snowstorm, a handsome dapple-gray who has been severely whipped and starved. He’s frightened and dangerous. Gib knows he must find some way to save this magnificent horse — and in the attempt, he finds one place where he will always belong.

If you have or know of a young reader who loves horses, this book was definitely geared towards them. Gib faces some difficult challenges in this book, both with horses and with finding his own place in the world.There were some points where I thought the author should have spent a bit more time explaining horse terms, since I doubt the target audience will be switching to a dictionary to figure it out. Despite that, I quite enjoyed all the horses, and the talk of various bits and how to get them to behave. When Gib was giving Livy riding lessons, it would have been nice to have more context about what he told her to do.

All in all I quite enjoyed the story. It was a nice read without too many big words, something that I would recommend for elementary school kids, or preteens/teens that maybe aren’t into reading, but are into horses.

Author Biography: (From Wikipedia)
Zilpha Keatley Snyder was an American author of books for children and young adults. Three of Snyder’s works were named Newbery Honor books: The Egypt Game, The Headless Cupid and The Witches of Worm.

Review of Cloaked in Red by Vivian Vande Velde

Cloaked in Red
By Vivian Vande Velde

Star Rating: 
Genre: Young Adult, Young People
Number of Pages: 128
Date Started: April 21, 2017
Date Finished: April 25, 2017

Synopsis: (From Amazon)
So you think you know the story of Little Red Riding Hood, the girl with the unfortunate name and the inability to tell the difference between her grandmother and a member of a different species? Well, then, try your hand at answering these questions: Which character (not including Little Red herself) is the most fashion challenged? Who (not including the wolf) is the scariest? Who (not including Granny) is the most easily scared? Who is the strangest (notice we’re not “not including” anyone, because they’re all a little off.)? Who (no fair saying “the author”) has stuffing for brains? Master storyteller Vivian Vande Velde crafts eight new stories involving one of the world’s most beloved (and mixed-up) characters in literature. You may never look at fairy tales in quite the same way again.

Firstly, I could have sworn I had read something by this author before, which was part of why I was so excited to pick this up, and yet looking through the author’s list of published works, I hadn’t seen one that I have previously read. That being said, this book was a quick, fun read of small Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale retellings.

I loved that each story had its own little moral. My favourites were probably The Red Cloak, which is the first story, Little Red Riding Hood’s Family, Deems the Wood Gatherer, and Why Willy and His Brother Won’t Ever Amount to Anything. There are 8 stories total in the book.

The Red Cloak was my absolute favourite, in which our main character, Meg, has personality and intelligence, even if she is at that age where she is just beginning to mature. She acts responsibly, and admirably, and by the end learns that although her parents might not act as wise as she wises, they still might know a thing or two.

Little Red Riding Hood’s Family showcases a rather childish couple, and their very interesting matriarch. Deems the Wood Gatherer features many stories mashed together, with an oblivious and amusing main character. Why Willy and His Brother Won’t Ever Amount to Anything is amusing due to the sheer meta nature that one realizes at the end.

All in all, if you have Prime Reading and like fairy tales– go for it!

Author Biography: (From Amazon)
There is nothing listed about this author on Amazon, so I suppose one could picture her however they wish.

Review of My Very UnFairy Tale Life by Anna Staniszewski

My Very UnFairy Tale Life
By Anna Staniszewski

Star Rating: 
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy/YA Urban Fantasy
Number of Pages: 208

Date Started: March 28, 2017
Date Finished: March 28, 2017

Synopsis: (From Amazon)
You know all those stories that claim fairies cry sparkle tears and elves travel by rainbow? They’re lies. All lies.

I’ve spent my life as an official adventurer. I travel across enchanted kingdoms saving magical creatures and fighting horrible beasts that most of you think are only myths and legends. I’ve never had a social life. My friends have all forgotten me. And let’s not even talk about trying to do my homework. So – I’m done!! I’m tired and I want to go back to being a normal girl. But then along comes “Prince Charming” asking for help, and, well, what’s a tired girl like me supposed to do?

What if you had something you were great at, but the novelty had worn off and you weren’t sure you wanted to keep doing it? Enter Jenny’s UnFairy Tale life. There are so many great messages that this novel gets across. Learning that what you thought you wanted and would make you happy isn’t going to if you have to give up things you enjoy is a great lesson all people can learn from. Relating to others and trying to make meaningful connections is also something that can be difficult when caught up in your own life. Facing your fears can be difficult, but there’s a solution to everything, if you look hard enough. Of course, Jenny’s “kindergarten phrases” as she calls them are usually great life advice that all of us could use a refresher in.

I absolutely love the tie in between Earth with Jenny’s aunt’s love of animals, and Jenny’s love of mini golf, and how that transitions to Speak and trying to defeat the dastardly villain.

Although listed in the teen category, I think this book would fit the perfect niche of 5th grade on, as there is a great story line and a lot of reminders about how to be a good friend, and a good person, for all.

Author Biography: (From Amazon)
Born in Poland and raised in the United States, Anna Staniszewski grew up loving stories in both Polish and English. She was a Writer-in-Residence at the Boston Public Library and a winner of the PEN New England Susan P. Bloom Discovery Award. Currently, Anna lives outside of Boston, Mass. and teaches at Simmons College. When she’s not writing, Anna spends her time reading, eating chocolate, and challenging unicorns to games of hopscotch. You can visit her at

Review of The Mirror’s Tale by P. W. Catanese

The Mirror’s Tale
A Further Tales Adventure
By P. W. Catanese

Star Rating: 
Genre: Young People/Young Adult
Number of Pages: 288

Date Started: December 10, 2016
Date Finished: December 14, 2016

Synopsis: (From Amazon)mirrors_tale_front_cover
Everyone has heard the story — the dwarves, the talking mirror, the evil witch. But this tale doesn’t belong to Snow White anymore….

Bert and Will, the twin sons of the baron of Ambercrest, are best friends. They do everything together and can’t help it if trouble just seems to…find them. But the baron is fed up and has decided that separation will keep them out of mischief. One twin, he proclaims, will stay in Ambercrest for the summer, while the other will be sent to The Crags — a foreboding, rocky outpost on the edge of the kingdom.

It is there, hidden in a forbidden black chamber, that one of the boys discovers a bejeweled and mysterious mirror. What is the precious object? And why does it make him feel so…powerful? Soon the twins’ kinship is replaced by dark magic and deceit, and a kingdom hangs dangerously in the balance. What becomes of one who is ruled by the forces of evil? And can brotherly love conquer a consuming quest for power?

I love that there are elements of the classic fairy tale of Snow White in this book. I think that the story was perfectly entwined so that it didn’t deal so much with the fairy tale as it referenced it as most stories are– an event that most people don’t know the entire truth about. The depth of characterization was surprising and refreshing for the grade level, giving the villains realistic and understandable qualities and traits that readers might also face.

There are so many morals that one could take out of this book, including but not limited to: sometimes the life path you dream isn’t one that suits you, you can always improve your own behaviour if others find you act inappropriately (which is a far better plan than to act out and potentially hurt someone you care about), that not everything is as it seems.

Author Biography: (From Amazon)
If you would like to read P. W. Catenese’s biography, check his Amazon page here.

Review of Jinx by Sage Blackwood

By Sage Blackwood

Star Rating: 
Genre: High Fantasy/Young People/Young Adult/Children

Number of Pages: 384

Date Started: June 22, 2016
Date Finished: June 23, 2016

Synopsis: (From Amazon)jinxThe highly acclaimed first book of a fantasy adventure series set in a mysterious forest, starring a daring new hero.

“Readers will thrill to journey with Jinx” (SLJ, starred review), a wizard’s apprentice, as he sets off on a quest through the dangerous Urwald, a magical forest full of wizards and were-creatures, and discovers that it is more complex than he could imagine, and that it needs him more than he could ever guess.

This humorous and smart tween fantasy adventure is perfect for fans of Septimus Heap, The Sisters Grimm, and Fablehaven.

Supports the Common Core State Standards

This story is magical.  I am so glad that this book is the first in a series because as I got further and further along I was really worried that I wouldn’t get to continue on and learn more about Jinx’s life.  The Urwald is perfect.  Simon is the perfect differentiation from Jinx’s stepparents.  Jinx is refreshing and unique without shoving anything in your face.  The characters are gripping, the plot is intriguing, and I found myself less and less willing to set the book aside.  I definitely think this book is along the lines of Howl’s Moving Castle but this book has such unique qualities that it’s hard to compare it to anything.  The magic seen is new, refreshing, and interesting.  Everything you thought you might have known about magic and magical creatures might be right, or it might be turned on its head, depending on the person.  There are great morals, and it’s overall an amazing book.

Author Information: (From Amazon)
Sage Blackwood was born in Chicago and grew up in New York State. She graduated from Antioch College and the University at Albany, and taught ESL for many years. Her first fantasy novel, JINX, was selected as a Best Book of 2013 by Kirkus, Booklist, School Library Journal, and Amazon.

Review of A Little Princess; being the whole story of Sara Crewe by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Star Rating: 
Genre: Young People, Young Adult
Number of Pages: 2649781435142091_p0_v4_s260x420

Season Read: Fall

Synopsis:(From Amazon)
At Miss Minchin’s Select Seminary for Young Ladies, young Sara Crewe enjoys the friendship of her classmates and the staff–much to stern Miss Minchin’s disdain. When Sara is unexpectedly impoverished, she is forced to become a servant under Miss Minchin’s control. To escape her dreary life, Sara imagines herself a princess, and her experiences soon teach her that being a princess on the inside counts more than any outward expression of royalty.

I love this novel so much.  What’s wrong with being a princess?  Being a princess is hard work.  You have to remain poise and collected no matter what adversity strikes you.  You have to do what is good for all above what is good for yourself.  You must also be kind.  Are those not the attributes many like to see in not just women, but all people in society?  There is a great deal of difference between “princess” and “damsel in distress.”  Sara is an amazing character who, despite everything horrible going on around her, tries to remain strong and trustworthy for those who rely on her.And I still love the 1997 movie just as much, although there are some significant changes to what happens.  Most of the changes between the book and movie adaptation could have been done to make it easier to understand the complete story for a new generation, and to tell the story without having a three hour movie.

500px-Frances_BurnettAuthor Bio: (From Wikipedia)
Frances Eliza Hodgson Burnett (24 November 1849 – 29 October 1924) was an American-English writer of plays and prose fiction. She is best known for the three children’s novels Little Lord Fauntleroy (published in 1885–1886), A Little Princess (1905), and The Secret Garden (1911).

For more information, check out Frances Hodgson Burnett’s Wikipedia page.


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Review of Castle in the Air by Diana Wynne Jones

Castle in the Air
A Companion to Howl’s Moving Castle
By Diana Wynne Jones


Star Rating: 
Genre: Young People
Number of Pages: 400

Season Read: Late Spring/Early Summer

Synopsis:(From Amazon)castle-in-the-air-by-diana-wynne-jones
Young merchant Abdullah leads a humble life. Or he did until a stranger sold him a threadbare—and disagreeable—magic carpet. Now Abdullah is caught in the middle of his grand daydreams. Waking one night in a luxurious garden, he meets and falls instantly in love with the beautiful and clever Flower-in-the-Night. But a wicked djinn sweeps the princess away right before Abdullah’s eyes, leaving the young man no choice but to follow. This is no ordinary quest, however, for Flower-in-the-Night isn’t all the djinn has stolen. Abdullah will have the so-called help of the cantankerous carpet, a cranky genie in a bottle, a dishonest soldier, and a very opinionated black cat. Will this motley crew be able to find the djinn’s mysterious dwelling and rescue a castle full of princesses?

Howl’s Moving Castle was sheer perfection.  While this novel is set in the same world, and many of the previous enchanting characters resurface, it seems removed from the amazing setting we came to love.  Abdullah may be easy to relate to, given that he is always lost in a daydream, but he seems otherwise boring.  His family is horrid, and although Abdullah does find a quest, it is half by luck that he does.  While the adventure was interesting it took quite a while before the characters from Howl’s Moving Castle became prevalent.

Nevertheless, looking forward to see what the third book connected to these two is like!

Author Bio:
Diana Wynne Jones has had a career spanning four decades, and for more information about her, please visit her Amazon page.


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