A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd

Midnight Gulch used to be a magical place, a town where people could sing up thunderstorms and dance up sunflowers. But that was long ago, before a curse drove the magic away. Twelve-year-old Felicity knows all about things like that; her nomadic mother is cursed with a wandering heart. But when she arrives in Midnight Gulch, Felicity thinks her luck’s about to change. A “word collector,” Felicity sees words everywhere—shining above strangers, tucked into church eves, and tangled up her dog’s floppy ears—but Midnight Gulch is the first place she’s ever seen the word “home.” And then there’s Jonah, a mysterious, spiky-haired do-gooder who shimmers with words Felicity’s never seen before, words that make Felicity’s heart beat a little faster. Felicity wants to stay in Midnight Gulch more than anything, but first, she’ll need to figure out how to bring back the magic, breaking the spell that’s been cast over the town . . . and her mother’s broken heart.

snicker

A Snicker of Magic had been sitting on my ‘to read’ shelf for a while.   As a librarian, and lover of words, I immediately fell for this charming middle grade read. Set in the magical town of Midnight Gulch, Tennessee, readers are introduced to a variety of quirky characters.  I found it hard to keep track of the cast of characters, as they were mostly introduced with a long back story.   Besides the excess characters, one very special little lady stood out; the narrator, 12 year-old Felicity Pickle.  I could relate to her love of words and social anxiety. She explains, “… I like words; I collect them. I like poems, songs, stories…everything. But words never sound right when I try to string them together and say them out load. They’re just for me to keep (p.38)”. Felicity sees words, and they appear in a variety of different ways. My favourite was for ‘believe’- “The letters were made of melted sunshine. They dropped down the window glass, warm and tingly against our faces (pg.8)”.Although I enjoyed her visions of hovering words, I got irritated with the overuse of her word ‘spindiddly’ (better than awesome).

Overall, it’s a positive, uplifting tale of the magic of words and stories.  I loved the hopeful and satisfying epilogue in which Felicity asserts, “

“…I’m convinced Midnight Gulch can’t be the only magical town in the world. I bet there’s a snicker of magic on every street, in every old building, every broken heart, every word of a story. Maybe it’s hidden away and you need to look harder for it. Or maybe the magic is right there, right in front of you, and all you have to do is believe (p.309)”

Review: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Chapters synopsis: Legend holds that Glendower, a vanished Welsh king, sleeps  beneath the hills until he’s needed. The first person to find him  will be granted a wish-either by seeing him open his eyes, or by  cutting out his heart.

Gansey has it all-family money, a car, time for extracurriculars  and friends-but he’s always loved the tales of sleeping kings. He  thinks he’s found one, too, or at least the area where one might  be: in the town of Henrietta, Virginia. And the best way to be  there is to attend the prestigious Aglionby Academy for Boys.

Blue is the daughter of the town psychic in Henrietta, Virginia,  but is too practical to believe in things like spirits or true  love. Her policy is to stay away from Aglionby boys…but it may be  that one in particular can change her mind about magic, and maybe  even love.

What a disappointment. This book had the coolest premise and started off brilliantly.  Yet, with every turn of the page, I became less and less interested.  This was my second attempt to read the book. Back in July, I gave up on this book after a couple of chapters.  After continually hearing about how fabulous it is, I figured I must have missed something and picked it up again.  Unfortunately, I remain one of the few that just don’t understand the high praise!  I really pushed myself to finish this time and struggled to make it halfway through. With so many books on my to-read list, I am officially giving up.  I found the shifts in narration confusing, the amount of back and forth between history lesson and actual story annoying, the plot dull, and the writing style too descriptive (ultimately affecting the pacing of the story).  Most of the time, I struggled to piece everything together and understand what exactly was going on.

Overall, I remain one of the few that hoped for more. Although I didn’t enjoy The Raven Boys, this book was highly praised and received many starred reviews including, Publishers Weekly that raved, “It’s a tour de force of characterization, and while there is no lack of event or mystery, it is the way Stiefvater’s people live in the reader’s imagination that makes this such a memorable read.” Booklist praised-“[T]he book is marvelous, for not only is it filled with marvels, it is also a marvel of imagination and, more prosaically, structure. Rich, too, in characterization, this fantasy/mystery rises to the level of serious literature, leaving readers hungering for more.” Therefore, I still urge you to pick up Raven Boys and let me know what you think!

Review: Magisterium by Jeff Hirsch

Goodreads: Sixteen-year-old Glenn Morgan has lived next to the Rift her entire life and has no idea of what might be on the other side of it. Glenn’s only friend, Kevin, insists the fence holds back a world of monsters and witchcraft, but magic isn’t for Glenn. She has enough problems with reality: Glenn’s mother disappeared when she was six, and soon after, she lost her scientist father to his all-consuming work on the mysterious Project. Glenn buries herself in her studies and dreams about the day she can escape. But when her father’s work leads to his arrest, he gives Glenn a simple metal bracelet that will send Glenn and Kevin on the run—with only one place to go.

Expected Publication- October 1st 2012

With a little bit of action, adventure, fantasy, and dystopian elements, this book has a little bit of something for everyone—except me.  It was an OK read but most of the time, I was utterly confused.   Many bloggers have pointed out the similarities of the book to Lord of the Rings (however, I have no idea if this is true as I’ve never had any interest in LOTR whatsoever!)

At first, I was intrigued by the two differed worlds of the Colloquium and Magisterium (land of magic) and how the main character Glenn was connected to both.  However, the lack of explanations really started to bother me and the questions began to rise.  I also didn’t enjoy the amount of unimportant secondary characters.   They didn’t really play a big role and it was like one minute they were there and the next gone.  In the end, the storyline pacing was just a bunch of really strange things happening really quickly one after another.  It felt like I was reading about Hirsch’s crazy dream or bad drug trip!

The ending was also not in any way satisfying.   I detest that kind of cliff hanger! I would LOVE to hear if you liked this book and why.  I’ve never read anything by Jeff Hirsch before, so maybe I just don’t get him or the story he was trying to tell.

Review: Horten’s Miraculous Mechanisms: Magic, Mystery, & a Very Strange Adventure by Lissa Evans

 As if being small for his age and also having S. Horten as his name isn’t bad enough, now 10-year-old Stuart is forced to move far away from all his friends. But on his very first day in his new home, Stuart’s swept up in an extraordinary adventure: the quest to find his great-uncle Tony–a famous magician who literally disappeared off the face of the earth–and Tony’s marvelous, long-lost workshop.  Along the way, Stuart reluctantly accepts help from the annoying triplets next door… and encounters trouble from another magician who’s also desperate to get hold of Tony’s treasures. 

Horten's Miraculous Mechanisms: Magic, Mystery, & a Very Strange Adventure

Expected publication: April 3rd, 2012

The strange and wonderful cover art of Horton’s Miraculous Mechanisms immediately caught my eye at OLA 2012.  What a fun, adventurous story for middle graders. The readers follow Stuart on his quest to solve a series of puzzles from his uncle (a magician that has mysteriously disappeared). This story was very fast paced and will keep the attention of the most reluctant of readers. It even sneakily teaches new vocab words through Stuart’s father love of words (he is a crossword puzzle designer).  For those that love Willy Wonka and Lemony Snickett—this book is for you!

Look for the second installment of this series to be released this Fall.

Book Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

                                                            Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Daughter of Smoke and Bone, #1)

 

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor was one of the most hyped YA novels of 2011. Although curious, I was reluctant to read it because fantasy is not my preferred genre. After much encouragement by a publishing rep, I gave in and picked up the book.

Publishers Blurb:

The note was on vellum, pierced by the talons of the almost-crow that delivered it. Karou read the message. ‘He never says please’, she sighed, but she gathered up her things. When Brimstone called, she always came.

In general, Karou has managed to keep her two lives in balance. On the one hand, she’s a seventeen-year-old art student in Prague; on the other, errand-girl to a monstrous creature who is the closest thing she has to family.

Raised half in our world, half in ‘Elsewhere’, she has never understood Brimstone’s dark work – buying teeth from hunters and murderers – nor how she came into his keeping. She is a secret even to herself, plagued by the sensation that she isn’t whole.

Now the doors to Elsewhere are closing, and Karou must choose between the safety of her human life and the dangers of a war-ravaged world that may hold the answers she has always sought.

 MY REVIEW:

“Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love. It did not end well.”  This fantastic beginning gives a glimpse into the storyline and draws you in right from the start.  These opening lines are just one of my favourite quotes from this unique book. Indeed, Taylor’s writing is beyond imaginative and like nothing that I’ve ever read before. She succeeded in using mythology elements and rich imagery to create a dark and fascinating world. I loved being transported into a different world that some very interesting creatures (known as chimaera) call home. These creatures are half human, half animal, yet Karou considers them family. After all, they raised 17 year-old Karou before she moved into her own apartment in Prague to attend art school.  With tattoos and blue hair, the mysterious Karou lives a secret life from her friends, often disappearing from them to run strange errands for the chimaera, including the collection of teeth.  The secret of teeth, and many more unknowns are revealed slowly throughout the book.  However, I must warn you that some parts (character and world building) do move a little slow, and can be a bit confusing to grasp, but when you finally figure out how all the pieces of the puzzle fit together, it is amazing.

Although this book is catalogued as a Young Adult book, the writing is detailed enough to appeal to an older audience.  The historical and mythology aspects are so detailed that the reader must give their full attention and not be distracted in any way to absorb the story fully.  I found myself having to go back to re-read some parts, so I’m sure that if I read the book again, I would pick up on stuff I missed.  As I mentioned before, fantasy doesn’t usually appeal to me, but this book has a little bit of everything, including: fantasy, action, romance, and mythology. I truly hate to compare this book to Twilight (because Daughter of Smoke and Bone is SO much better) but I do feel that fans of Twilight would also love this book.  There is that aspect of a Romeo/Juliet romance, strange creatures, an ancient war, and folklore. 

Clearly, Karou’s story is not over because Daughter of Smoke and Bone ends with twists and surprises in the epilogue.  There are so many unanswered questions for both Karou and the reader. The ending is just the beginning, and I can’t wait to read the sequel.  In this book about love, peace, and the magic of hope, I leave you with my favourite quote:

Hope can be a powerful force. Maybe there’s no actual magic in it, but when you know what you hope for most and hold it like a light within you, you can make things happen, almost like magic.”

 

More Praise for Daughter of Smoke and Bone:

“Author Taylor has created a variety of worlds, time frames, and creatures with such detail and craft that all are believable…Readers will look forward to the suggested sequel to this complex, exciting tale.” (Booklist )

“[A] breath-catching romantic fantasy about destiny, hope and the search for one’s true self” (The New York Times Book Review )

“Thrillingly fresh and new” (Entertainment Weekly )

 

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