July Micro-Reviews


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Hocus Pocus: the Sequel by A.W. Jantha
Hocus Pocus (the movie) is a cult classic, and continues to be a family favorite in my house. This sequel does a smashing job of bringing the Sanderson Sisters, along with Max, Alison, and Dani, into the 21st century. The storyline is appealing, with Max and Alison now “Mr. and Mrs. Dennison” and their daughter Poppy taking center stage. The Sisters are as ghastly and hilarious as ever, and Salem just as colorful.

As a fan of the movie, I found the re-telling of the original story (the first half of the book) unnecessary and repetitive. I confess, I skipped much of the original story and went right to the present day. The new story is fun, quirky, and has just the right amount of tongue-in-cheek scariness. Total fun for Hocus Pocus fans.

Publication Date: July 10, 2018
Published by: Disney
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

E5E6DF37-8155-4137-8A03-458DA31ADCB1Storm Runner by J.C. Cervantes
Another in the “Rick Riordan Presents” series, this explores Mayan mythology. I really love that Riordan is helping authors explore world mythology, but I wish there was a little more originality in this story. There are so many similarities to both the Harry Potter and Percy Jackson books that I stopped keeping track. There’s nothing really wrong with the story – it’s fun and fast and very engaging – but it’s been told before. That’s my “adult” review.

That said, this is aimed at kids, and many of them may not have read the older books. They will find this a wild ride, with a cool new character who is pretty relatable even as he discovers his powers. Other characters will definitely appeal to kids – Hondo, the pro-wrestler fanatical uncle; the pretty, mysterious girl who can turn ito a hawk; and the laid-back, surfer-dude troll are just a few of the fun characters here. The plot is well-developed, everything gets tied up at the end, and the good guys win. Recommended.

Publication Date: September 18, 2018
Published by: Penguin/Random House
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

2EBF5C32-434F-440D-899C-95FD15C72652Begone the Raggedy Witches by Celine Kiernan
The Raggedy Witches are my absolute new favorites! I love how they glitter, and I adore Mup and her love of color. Stories about witches and goblins and other fantastical creatures abound in juvenile (and adult) literature these days. Celine Kiernan, who has been described as “Ireland’s J.K. Rowling”) has succeeded in creating a new type of witch and a new world that is reminiscent of some magical lands (I was actually most reminded of The Hazelwood), but full of lovely, imaginative details all her own. I adored the dance and vocal magic concepts, and even the “curse” of speaking in rhyme. The absolute best thing about this book, though, is Mup. She is a character to remember, and one who I hope to see in future stories. Mam is also a character to watch. She seems to waver between the “good” of The Duchess and the “bad” of The Queen, so her development in future stories could be quite entertaining. Recommended for middle grade fantasy readers.

Publication Date: September 11, 2018
Published by: Penguin/Random House
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Willa of the Wood by Robert Beatty


WillaBeatty’s debut, Serafina & the Black Cloak, was at the top of my “Best Of” list for 2015 and I have devoured the two sequels, so picking up Willa of the Wood was a no-brainer for me. I have come to expect lush description, clever plotting, and memorable characters from Beatty, but I was unprepared for the flat-out gorgeousness of Willa of the Wood.

Willa is a wholly original character, a member of a Faeran clan living in the Great Smoky Mountains. She is a girl who thinks for herself despite living in a brutal patriarchy, clinging to and preserving the old ways of wood magic taught to her by her Mamaw. She is curious about the “day-folk” and begins to question the hardline social structure of her clan, led by the god-like padaran. This, of course, leads to a break with the clan and a new beginning for Willa but not without some death and destruction.

To be sure, there is far more violence in this book than in the Serafina series, although there is a lovely nod to Serafina in the form of a gorgeous panther. There is also supreme gentleness and caring for nature and fellow beings – Faeran, human, and animal. One of the most interesting things here is the way in which Willa relates to and communicates with trees. To her, trees are living beings and the day-folk who slaughter them with their axes live in “lairs” made from their carcasses. Willa is saved more than once by calling on the power of trees and plants.

Willa is a complex character who moves between the world of the Faeran and that of humans. She is a bridge between two distinct cultures who inherently mistrust each other. I look forward to more stories about Willa and her clan.

Highly recommended for upper grade readers.

Publication Date: July 10, 2018
Publisher: Disney/Hyperion
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Blue Moon Narthex by N.J. Donner


 

It’s 1919 and thirteen-year-old Cole McCarthy just wants more time with his father, who is a busy railroad executive. But a horrific train accident leaves Cole’s stepmother as his only family. Alone and lost, Cole wanders his family’s estate and runs into an old family friend who gives him a special object that belonged to his father.

Cole just wants to be a kid, not the owner of the most powerful object in the world. The Blue Moon Narthex is made from tangible bits of Karma and gives Cole the power to transport himself and control Karma.

Now, Alsin Gideon, traitor of the Legion of Karma, is on rampage to take Cole’s narthex and add to his body count. For their safety, Cole and two of his prep school friends are pulled into the enormous secret headquarters of the Legion, which operates like an underground 1920s spy organization. While living at the secret location, Cole learns about the secret double life of his father.

With the pressure to find his role within the legion, maintain a strained relationship with his stepmother, and live up to a daunting legacy left by his father Cole, withdraws and makes secret plans to take on his father’s enemies.

Alsin Gideon cleverly taunts Cole, to meet him at a prearranged battle meant for his father. Cole’s anger and determination boil over and he is willing to risk his powerful tool and Karma’s stability for the hope of getting his parents back.

Will Cole, along with his friends, be able to work together to bring back his parents, keep Karma’s in balance, and stay alive?

Book Title: The Blue Moon Narthex by N.J. Donner
Category: Middle-grade Fiction (Ages 8 to 12) 360 pages
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Steele Page Press
Release date: February 7, 2017
Tour dates: June 4 to 29, 2018
Content Rating: PG (Some violence between forces of good and evil, but it’s not bloody or gory)

To follow the tour, please visit N.J. Donner’s page on iRead Book Tours.

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Meet the Author: 

N.J. Donner is a dad who loves to tell stories and create worlds. He has created 3D models of parts of the Legion’s secret headquarters and drawn extensive maps of the underground world where the Legion operates. He loves to explore and to figure out why and how things work, including Karma.When he’s not writing, N.J. runs a successful steel fabrication business in the Midwest. He loves to travel with his wife, Amanda, and their three children.

Six books are planned for the series taking the three main characters and the Legion of Karma to new continents and new adventures across the world.

Connect with the author: Website ~ Book Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Instagram

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