Monday, June 30, 2014

MMGM: One Wish

by Michelle Harrison  
(May 6th 2014 (UK), Simon & Schuster Childrens Books)

Book Description: Tanya Fairchild has been able to see fairies as long as she can remember. But these fairies are nothing like the ones in storybooks; they're vicious and always punish Tanya when they think she's stepped out of line. When her mother takes her on holiday in the small beach town of Spinney Wicket, Tanya may finally get some respite from both her fairy tormentors and the concern of her parents' divorce.

But soon she discovers a magical wishing tree and meets Ratty who, like her, can see fairies. Little does Tanya know, she and Ratty are in for a dangerous, magical adventure, and that there are evil forces out there, bent on capturing them.


Michelle Harrison's constructed a well-realized magical world where second-sight, the ability to see fey creatures, is a rare and often problematic gift. It's so refreshing to see a story break the mold of mischievous (but really harmless) fairies a la Tinker Bell. Despite their size, the fey here are genuinely frightening, able, if they so wish, to do one fatal harm.

While characterization as a whole is somewhat uneven, our protagonists are three-dimensional and compelling. Tanya is brave and deeply moral, a girl who, despite the difficulty of her situation, never hesitates to do the right thing. Ratty is lonely but self-respecting and tough. Turpin, Ratty's fairy guardian, is the best character here. Her rough-around-the-edges personality is appealing and her cleverness is absolutely indispensable.

The writing is easily one of the book's biggest strengths. It's beautiful in simplicity, suffused with magic and highly readable. The plot is fun and absorbing, with alternately entertaining and creepy episodes, but its smaller scale compares unfavorably to the other books in the series.


Though teased in the very beginning, the book's main conflict and antagonist are too long in coming. There's also a major lapse in logic which, if addressed, actually solves the book's main conflict, making the entire adventure pointless! (SPOILERS: Why didn't Don just wish for Ratty to be protected from magical harm? Also, why didn't he just smash the hourglass that held the memory in first place?)
To me, the ending is contrived and doesn't completely make sense, but I'm willing to bite if it means more books in the series.

Verdict: A real treat for established fans, but newcomers to the series should start with the even-better Thirteen Treasures.

Rating: (7/10)

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Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Eighth Day

by Dianne K. Salerni
(April 22nd, 2014, HarperCollins)

Book Description: Life hasnt been kind to Jaxson Aubrey. His father has passed way in a car accident, leaving him an orphan and in the questionable care of 18 year-old Reilly Pendare. His life becomes more complicated when, on the Wednesday after his thirteenth birthday, he wakes up to find a world without people. He later discovers that he is a Transitioner and can access an extra day (Grunsday) of the week. Reilly also turns out to be a Transitioner, and the person who can answer Jaxs questions both about himself and the mysterious girl next door who in only lives in the eighth day.


The premise is very intriguing and the inclusion of Arthurian myth made it very fresh and compelling. The writing style helped as well as it was simple, but fluid and funny enough to appeal to the intended audience.

I thought both Riley and Tegan were very interesting characters and would have liked to see more of them here. Hopefully, we'll learn more about them in future books. 


For me, there were three main problems in this book. One was Jaxs frequently stupid decision-making and inability to both convey and understand simple pieces of information. It was really frustrating, because it made it seem like the author didnt think the reader deserved a more competent protagonist. It also undermined the goodwill Jax gained at the beginning of the book.

The second problem was Jaxs relationship with Evangeline. His near-obsessive devotion to her felt both creepy and unjustified, especially considering that other vassals (people in a similar position to Jax) didnt seem as pathetic.

The last was Evangelines importance. It was a bit shoehorned and felt exaggerated, mainly because she was a rather bland character. She was often ineffective and was more a plot ploy than a real character.

Verdict: Despite its failings, The Eighth Day is still a fun, light, fast-paced read best suited for younger audiences and those who wont be too bothered by contrived and somewhat lazy storytelling.

Rating: (6.5/10)

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Mark of the Dragonfly

by Jaleigh Johnson
(March 25th 2014, Delacorte Books for Young Readers)

13-year-old orphan Piper Linny lives in Scrap Town Sixteen, where you must scavenge the detritus that falls from the heavens in violent meteor storms to survive. Being an exceptionally talented machinist, she is able to scrape by fixing machines that no one else can, but she desperately wishes to leave home and start a new life elsewhere.
When she finds the unconscious Anna in the midst of a meteor storm however, her vague plans for the future are unexpectedly expedited. On the girl's arm is the mark of the dragonfly, the emblem of the king of a neighboring territory and those under his protection. Piper wishes to return Anna to Dragonfly Territories for a reward, but a terrifying stranger has other plans for her. To escape, they board the well-protected fright train 401 and along the way, they discover secrets no only about Anna but also about the mysterious man pursuing them.


  • Johnson's world-building melds familiar elements with newer ones to create a novel setting that's genuinely more than the sum of its parts.
  • The action never flags and Johnson is able to maintain such copious twists and turns that once the story really picks up, it's hard to put the book down.
  • Piper is a truly worthy heroine. In a time when foolish decision-making is frequently used to forward plot, Piper's courage, kindness and – most importantly – common sense make her a compelling protagonist.
  • While other characters are well-drawn, Piper and the super-intelligent but fragile Anna's relationship takes center stage, offering a refreshing change from the standard YA romance.


  • The initial setting may dissuade those already tired of dystopian worlds, but thankfully Piper does not linger in Scrap Town Sixteen.
  • The introduction of the main antagonist was problem. He was introduced suddenly and in a far too pedestrian way, undermining Anna's genuine fear of him.
  • Gee and Piper sounded quite a bit older than thirteen and to me, this stretched credibility somewhat.

Verdict: A superior adventure that combines dystopian fantasy and steampunk to deliver a tale with something for everyone.

Rating: (9/10)

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Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Glass Sentence (The Mapmakers Trilogy # 1)

by S.E. Grove
(June 12th 2014, Viking Juvenile)

Book description:

In 1799, an event known as the Great Disruption changed the world forever. Lands and continents broke apart, each flung into a different age.
Thirteen-year-old Sophia Tims lives with her renowned ‘cartologer’ uncle in Boston, New Occident, the new hub of western civilization. Her parents, famous explorers, disappeared years ago while traveling to a different Age. When her uncle, Shadrack Elli, is kidnapped and New Occident threatens to close it borders forever, Sophia must race against time not only to save her uncle but her world as well. 


The world building is incredible and all comparisons to Pullman are warranted. S.E. Grove is a historian by trade and it’s evident in the richness and completeness of her world. 
When I first read the book’s premise, I really couldn’t imagine how the writer was going to convey the multiple ages. But Grove takes her time to set up her world and does it well enough for you to never feel lost or confused. There is much to see and experience in Sophia’s world, from fascinating creatures to complex belief systems. I won’t describe the details here, as I believe they are best discovered within the context of the book. The true standout, though, is the maps, from how they function to their importance in this dizzyingly inscrutable world.  Grove’s idea of maps is one of a kind and alone a worthy reason for reading this book.
Sophia, though not especially heroic, is a kind, intelligent girl who always rises to the occasion, despite the overwhelming situations she is put in.
Most of the book is (wisely) dedicated to explaining the world and how it works. Still, the plot is engaging enough, with only minor lulls aside from the slow beginning. 


The writing is decidedly this book’s biggest weakness. It’s plagued by unevenness, alternating between serviceable, clunky and sometimes masterful –especially when describing sights and sounds.
Secondary characters and occasionally main characters also fall victim to the clumsy prose. They frequently lapse into robot-speak, particularly when there is exposition to be conveyed.  Though few characters are downright dull, none are genuinely compelling. The first fourth of the book is a problem as well. It’s too long and uneventful, possibly putting off less patient readers. 


In a sea of traditional fantasies, The Glass Sentence breaks the mold. Unique, fresh and truly inventive, the world that Sophia and her friends inhabit is worthy of visiting and revisiting and more than makes up for the books shortcomings. A sophisticated and intelligent read recommended for all ages. 

Rating: (8.5/10)

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