Saturday, June 22, 2013

Story’s End Marissa Burt
353 pgs.
Target audience: Middle Reader
Rating: Wizard

In this compelling sequel to “Story’s End,” the Talekeepers’ lies are finally exposed – the lies about the Unbinding, the lies about the Muses breaking their oath, the lies about Story never having a King, and the biggest lie of all – how Tale Master Archimago defeated the Muses and saved Story. Una, Peter and their fellow rebels are working hard to educate all the characters about their true Backstory and to motivate them to fight against the Enemy, Fidelos, who has returned. Una, who was written in from the Land of Readers, has a secret of her own, one which could spell the end of all who live in Story. The Enemy is desperate to find the Lost Elements which would allow him to rewrite Story thereby eliminating all who oppose him. Fairy tales become topsy-turvy in this cleverly written fantasy. Since characters live in districts according to their genre like the Dystopians, Horror Hollow or the Romantics, there is something for everyone. The imagination  of the reader is stretched and pulled in thrilling new ways. After all, what child hasn’t dreamt of diving into a book’s story? The twists and turns, fairytale puns, overturned stereotypes will delight readers both young and old. For maximum enjoyment it is best to read “Storybound” first. Recommend to fans of “Inkheart” by Cornelia Funke. (This book provided for review by Children's Lit -

Saturday, June 8, 2013

The color of rain Cori McCarthy
351 pgs.
Target audience: Ages 13-17
Rating: Wizard

Rain has lost all members of her family, taken by the authorities, except her little brother, Walker, who desperately needs a cure for the Alzheimer-like disease that’s been decimating the population of Earth City. The sick, the Touched, are treated with contempt and disgust. Rain needs to get to the Edge where the Mecs could help him. To pay for this she’d do anything, even prostitution like her friend Lo. After Walker has an accident her plea for help is answered by a charming pilot, Johnny, and Ben, his Mec assistant. Johnny offers her safe passage in return for her complete willingness. Despite Ben’s whispered warnings she agrees. Once on board, Walker is frozen in a capsule for the duration. She awakens to find dozens of girls like herself including Lo classified by color and pimped out to crew and passengers. Rain is made a red which means she’s exclusively Johnny’s girl. Fierce competition and fear keep the girls alive. Johnny’s methods are cruel and sadistic and he’s intensely possessive of his redhead. Rain is determined to visit her brother and with Ben’s reluctant help she discovers the true mission of this strange ship and what it means to the missing Touched from Earth City. This well written story is fast paced, nerve-wracking, and disturbing all at the same time. Rain is a likeable character and her plight is so horrific that the reader can’t help but root for her. The sex is mercifully not romanticized and details glossed over but the violent punishment and retribution dealt by Johnny are graphic and not for the faint at heart. Rain’s terror of what Johnny might do to her brother and her confusion about Ben's motives for helping her ring true. Recommended for older teens. (This book provided for review by Children's Lit -

Dance of Shadows by Yelena Black
369 pgs.
Target audience: Young Adult
Rating: Wizard

Despite the family tradition, Vanessa applies to the New York Ballet Academy because she needs to discover what happened to her sister, Margaret. She disappeared in her freshman year from the same institution after being cast in the lead role in the school production, The Firebird. It will come as no surprise that Vanessa is also chosen for the lead role by the perfectionist and overbearing choreographer, Josef. The male role is given to the gorgeous and charming Zeppelin who takes a keen interest in Vanessa despite his relationship with the senior queen bee, Anna. Another student, Justin, who’s secretive and standoffish manner keeps her from heeding his advice to avoid Zep. Along with the usual struggles against initiation rites, grueling schedules and senior cliques, she and her friends try to solve the mystery of Margaret’s disappearance. When one of her friends drops out without any obvious reason and the school seems oddly unconcerned, the girls’ research leads them to some frightening facts about the school’s bizarre reputation for student disappearances – each one cast in the lead role to perform Josef’s tailor made “Danse du Feu.” The rehearsal room with its eerie blackened wall with white dancing silhouettes, demonic summoning and ritualistic dancing take this teen romance to the next level. The story starts slow but picks up pace with the added supernatural element and becomes hard to put down. The descriptions of the ballet steps and routines are realistic and add to the believability of the plot. This debut balances teen romance, mystery and the occult well and leaves the reader anxious for more after the cliffhanger ending. (This book provided for review by Children's Lit -

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Hocus Pocus Hotel Michael Dahl
Illustrated by Lisa K.Weber
204 pgs.
Target audience: Ages 8 to 11
Rating: Wizard

Today at Blackstone Middle School, Charlie Hitchcock or Hitch, like so many unfortunate souls before him, receives the dreaded summons from the school bully, the biggest boy in seventh grade, Tyler Yu. But when he meets Ty in a back alley it is not to use Charlie as a punching bag, but to make use of is famous detecting skills. Ty lives with his parents in the Abracadabra Hotel which was built as a refuge for retired magicians. The prospects of Ty using his wages to buy his dream motorbike drop when a magician disappears before Ty can collect his rent money. Other odd and spooky happenings prompt this unlikely pair to form an investigative team. Ty’s knowledge of the hotel layout and Hitch’s acute visual memory plus cryptic messages from the elevator operator ensure success.  The boys turn the hotel upside down while discovering lots of magician’s tricks as they go. Brightly colored illustrations combined with the Sherlockian notes drawn in black and white by Hitch are sure to appeal to the budding detective who can use Hitch’s diagrams to solve the mystery along with them. This delightfully funny and entertaining first volume will surely become a fan favorite. (This book provided for review by Children's Lit -

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Finding Angel by Kat Heckenbach
291 pgs.
Target audience: Young Adult
Rating: Wizard

Angel’s past is a blank slate, her memories buried deep within her. She longs for her real parents and to find out what happened to take them away. Her foster family is very kind and caring but Angel knows she belongs elsewhere, she’s different. Immersed in her drawings of fantasy creatures, Angel lives the life of any ordinary teenager while looking after her younger foster brother, Zack. That is, until she meets an odd boy, Gregor, with a foreign accent in the library. She and Gregor have an intense and unexplainable connection similar to the tingly feelings she occasionally gets when near trees. One night Gregor saves her life with his Gatemaking magical talent and takes her to his world, the Island of Toch, which is incidentally Angel’s homeland as well. Soon Gregor helps her to learn magic and access her Finding talent. Even with the island’s protective magic, evil lurks in the woods, an evil that desperately wants Angel’s power. Kat has created a wonderfully imaginative one of a kind world in which fantasy fans will revel. The descriptions of the forest and its flora are delightfully rich and detailed. There are trees, such as the Silver Spruce and the Bronze Oak which are named after the metals or alloys they contain that serve as conduits for their magical power and protection – how cool is that? There’s also tamed and wild dragons of all sizes, an Elven musical rock band and an ancient prophecy not to mention the man using science to regain his own lost power by stealing Angel’s. There’s lots of suspense and a nice blend of magic and science. Readers will be anxious for the next installment in this new fantasy series. (This book provided for review by the author, Kat Heckenbach).


Friday, May 17, 2013

Riley Mack stirs up more trouble by Chris Grabenstein
324 pgs.
Target audience: Ages 8-12
Rating: Wizard

Crises abound at Fairview Middle School and Riley and his crew – tech savvy Jake, theatrical genius Brianna, strong and loyal Mongo and boy magician Jamal are there to right injustices wherever they see them. This time they uncover a plot to sabotage the talent show where Brianna plans to sing her way to a college scholarship. The local country club is hosting the event. The gang’s nemesis, Sarah Paxton, whose father runs the club, is also competing. At the same time Riley and friends stumble upon an ecological disaster at their favorite swimming hole where all the fish are found belly up. They trace the source of the toxins to the newly built golf course at the country club. The kids know Mr. Paxton is up to no good and to prove it they need to find out what’s underneath the nineteenth hole. This is a grand mystery caper with something to please everyone – impersonations, chemical lab tests, nighttime digging, disguises, shady corporate deals and more. These clever, resourceful, detention worthy middle schoolers will have readers on the edge of their seats. Don’t miss a grade A blast of the best kind of troublemaking. (Book provided for review by Children's Lit -


Friday, May 10, 2013

Fyre by Angie Sage
Illustrated by Mark Zug
Target audience: Ages 8 to 12
Rating: Dragon

Sage wraps up the “Septimus Heap” series with the mastery of a true storyteller. She weaves all the threads of the six previous volumes together into a magnificent tapestry. Nearly all the characters are reunited in the final attempt to vanish the Darke forever. Marcellus Pye is busy deep beneath the castle intent on Awakening the Fyre which can be unpredictable and difficult to control. It is the only known substance powerful enough  to DeNature the Two-Faced Ring which holds the essence of the two most dangerous and powerful Darke Wizards. Over five hundred years ago the first Extraordinary Wizard, Hotep-Ra, trapped them in the ring and it is now Sealed inside the Wizard Tower.  Marcia suspects Marcellus is up to more than rebuilding the Alchemie Tower and Alchemie Way, so she assigns Septimus to him for one month. Septimus is torn between his desire to learn more about Alchemie and his love for his work at the Wizard Tower. Jenna is crowned queen and is determined to save the Dragon Boat, whose heartbeat she can no longer hear. Will the past come back to haunt them and pull them back into the Darke Domaine or will our Magykal troupe save the kingdom once again? Fans of this series will not be disappointed and get exactly what they expect from this gifted writer – swamp snakes, magical bowls, flying dragons, secret chambers, ghostly encounters, Fyre creatures, Djinn transformations, royal coronations, maps, humor, fabulous illustrations and much much more. We can only hope that Sage will continue to entertain us with more fantasy. It would be advisable to read this series in order. (This book provided for review by HarperCollins).