Category Archives: Contemporary Fantasy

The Witches of Worm by Zilpha Keatley Snyder

Written in 1970, Witches of Worm introduces us to a very different kind of middle-grade. In this short book, Jessica is a twelve-year-old girl who “rescues” a cat she names Worm, only to discover the decision may lead to her own demise.

Title: The Witches of Worm 
Author: Zilpha Keatley Snyder 
Series: Stand-alone.
Publish Date: February 1, 1973
Genre: Middle-grade fantasy
Source: Purchased by the reviewer.

Publisher’s Description:

Jessica has read enough books to know that her cat Worm must be a witch’s cat. He’s cast a spell on her, but to whom can she turn? After all, no one will believe that Worm has bewitched her . . . or worse…

 


Kat Mandu says…

Maybe people who read this in the seventies wouldn’t have realized that the lead character of Witches of Worm, Jessica, is actually well on her way to becoming a sociopath. Seriously, this girl has some issues. She can lie well and displace the blame just as easily. Not to mention she says some pretty creepy stuff to Worm – threatening to abuse him, to stop feeding him, pinning the blame on him for all her silly, childish pranks. There are several incidences where she’s physically cruel to Worm, and also a mention of how she beats a dog with a stick and her friend Brandon had to stop her. And overall, she’s angry and bitter. If it hadn’t been for her regret at the end, I’d say she was definitely going to lead a very dark life.

However, she’s also very young and doesn’t exactly have the best role model in her life, as her mother is never around and when she is, she tries to be manipulative and emotional.

This story isn’t really about witchcraft or magic, like I originally thought it might be given the title. But it does make you wonder about the different devils in everyone, and how many are able to shove aside the guilt for their mistakes onto someone else. Really, that’s what this book is about. In it, Jessica does a lot of bad things – pull pranks on her paranoid landlord’s wife, shrink her mother’s dress on purpose, shove Brandon’s trumpet out a high window and break it. She then convinces herself that her creepy-looking cat is the culprit behind her evil acts. But really, she’s just messed up. A messed up kid, but messed up nevertheless.

It’s also rather about forgiveness in a way.

I was intrigued by this story and all its weird interactions. I don’t really read stuff written this long ago unless it’s a “classic.” Or at least not kid’s books. So I give it a four because the plot really hooked me. 

 

Other recommendations…

…you might try  The Egypt Game, also by Zilpha Keadley Snyder, not to mention The Seance by Joan Lowery Nixon and A Gift of Magic by Lois Duncan.

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Troll Whispers by Ashley C. Harris

This stand-alone novel set in the Troll Universe gives readers a closer look or how Cordelia came to be who she is in the later novels!

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

TitleTroll Whispers 
Author: Ashley C. Harris 
Series: Troll Universe (trilogy)
Publish Date: May 2, 2017
Genre: YA Fantasy
Source: Provided by the author/publisher.

Publisher’s Description:

The highly anticipated standalone novella from the International Bestselling TROLL series!

At the age of seventeen, Cordelia Connor’s teenage life is not what it seems…. By day, she attends high school and pretends to be normal. But by night, she and a select group of other teens, called the Knights, spend their time training and sparring. They are preparing to fight the most magically seductive and wicked creatures of all, the trolls.

Cordelia yearns for her classroom life to end so she can help hunt underground. But time seems to be going by ever so slowly, especially while she watches other high schoolers date and have fun. To Cordelia, non-knight boys are off limits. Something that’s not a disappointment until the new kid, Daemon Banks, shows up.

Daemon is nothing like the knight boys or high school males she has known. He’s taller, stronger, faster, and up to something in Cordelia’s little beach side town. Because he’s a normal human, whatever his motives are… they should be off limits. But when a possible troll sighting sends the knights to a débaucheras party that Daemon is attending. Suddenly, his and Cordelia’s worlds get scrambled, and she’ll have to decide if she should let Daemon in.

Who to trust becomes alarming as troll sightings and mischief turn into a grave battle. Because of a traitor among the knights, the perilous treat only seems to be multiplying in Cordelia’s world.


Luna Lovebooks says…

Likes: The overall story is entertaining and fairly original. I enjoyed reading it. It was interesting to know the back story to Cordelia’s character and get a little more immersed in the world of trolls. There were a few twists and surprises that I did not see coming that made my jaw drop. Troll Whispers is a fairly fast-paced read.

Dislikes: This is an advanced readers copy, but there were still numerous areas with awkward/repetitive wording that I hope gets fixed before the final copy. While it is a good read, I feel it could be a bit more engaging. There are sections that lagged for me.

Taking into consideration that this is an advanced copy I give this book three knives. 

Our reviews in this series…

Other recommendations…

…you might try  Troll Series by Ashley C. Harris, Camp So and So by Mary Mccoy, The Beast Is an Animal by Peternelle van Arsdale.

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

Superheroes in Prose, Vol. 1: Welcome to Prose by Sevan Paris

Doom and disaster strike for our young hero Gabe, who’s only trying to save the world and survive his freshman year of college at the same time.

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

TitleSuperheroes in Prose, Vol. 1: Welcome to Prose
AuthorSevan Paris
SeriesSuperheroes in Prose, Book 01
Publish Date: January 19, 2012
Genre: YA Superhero Fantasy
Source: Provided by the author

Publisher’s DescriptionImagine you have the power to fly.

Pretty awesome, right? Imagine you have the power to levitate or crush something the size of a Winnebago. Equally awesome. Now … here’s the catch: having the power means you are bonded irreversibly to a smartass, sociopathic alien life form.

Not so awesome.

So, what would you do with all of that power? The way I figured it, I had one of two options: Option #1) Use it to commit crime or Option #2) Use it to fight crime. My name is Gabe Garrison and I chose Option #2.

This is my story …

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Kat Mandu says…

In this fantastic superhero book, readers meet Gabe – a teenager who’s got an alien “M” inside his head. M’s presence has given him out of this world abilities, so he decides to join the rank of superheroes within his hometown of Prose. But that’s when the trouble begins.

Told in four different stories, Volume 1 is action-packed as it follows Gabe and M as they take on rogue superheroes, dating, and plenty of notorious supervillains with manipulative plots of world-domination.

I was really drawn to this, especially since it reminded me a lot of the television show, Danny Phantom, a cartoon I was once obsessed with (and let’s face it, I still am). It has the same silly yet serious feels, while dealing with familiar superhero tropes: like harboring a secret identity from your mother, trying to balance real life and hero life, and the fine lines of morality AND mortality.

I really love Gabe and I’m also quite fond of Pink, one of the “registered” heroes who is capable of possessing almost everyone. And though he’s also kind of a dick, I find Casa’s character is integral to the plot and makes things a lot more interesting for Gabe, as he has a very dangerous agenda.

All in all this was fun and I’m glad I had the chance to read it! Five stars!

Other recommendations…

Recommended for fans of Jennifer Estep, Kirsten Brand, Lexi Dunne, and Sarah Raughley.

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

Etched In Bone by Anne Bishop

I LOVE THIS SERIES! I can’t tell you how happy it made me to have another installment to read. Usually, I save these books for audio because the narrator is so awesome. But when the book became available on NetGalley, I just couldn’t wait.

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

etched-in-boneTitle: Etched In Bone
AuthorAnne Bishop
SeriesThe Others, Book 05
Publish Date: March 7, 2017 Roc
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Source: NetGalley

Publisher’s DescriptionNew York Times bestselling author Anne Bishop returns to her world of the Others, as humans struggle to survive in the shadow of shapeshifters and vampires far more powerful than themselves…

After a human uprising was brutally put down by the Elders—a primitive and lethal form of the Others—the few cities left under human control are far-flung. And the people within them now know to fear the no-man’s-land beyond their borders—and the darkness…

As some communities struggle to rebuild, Lakeside Courtyard has emerged relatively unscathed, though Simon Wolfgard, its wolf shifter leader, and blood prophet Meg Corbyn must work with the human pack to maintain the fragile peace. But all their efforts are threatened when Lieutenant Montgomery’s shady brother arrives, looking for a free ride and easy pickings.

With the humans on guard against one of their own, tensions rise, drawing the attention of the Elders, who are curious about the effect such an insignificant predator can have on a pack. But Meg knows the dangers, for she has seen in the cards how it will all end—with her standing beside a grave.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


ivana 100Invested Ivana says…

After Marked In Flesh’s very large political conflict, the conflict in Etched in Bone is closer to home. Detective Crispin James Montgomery’s brother comes to town and puts the delicate balance of the courtyard in danger.

There are some interesting themes in this book. The main theme, the impact a toxic person has on the lives of others, will hit home for so many readers. I’m guessing just about everyone has been in the radius of a toxic person at some time or another. Even while we recognize their influence, many times we feel powerless against it. Monty and his family, along with the whole Lakeside Courtyard, feel helpless against the influence of Monty’s brother, Cyrus James—a self-centered, manipulative, immoral jerk. Though many of the residents of the Courtyard, including Monty and his mother, know that Cyrus James should be turned out, the Elders who are visiting the Courtyard want to understand how one bad human can impact a stable group, and so demand that Cyrus be allowed to stay.

Another theme in this book is overcoming addiction and increasing impulse control. Meg and her friends have come up with an alternative to cutting herself for prophecy. She has combined several decks of fortune telling cards in an attempt to create the Trailblazer Deck for other blood prophets. We see Meg deliberately using the cards when she has the compulsion to cut, even hear her thought process. This is excellent modeling and I’m so glad Bishop included it in this book. Lack of impulse control is linked to so many bad things like criminality, poor relationships, poverty, addiction, and other things that prevent one from having a genuine and satisfying life. It seems our country is suffering from a major lack of impulse control right now, and having good models is crucial.

Fans of the romance between Simon and Meg will be happy. Meg is beginning to grow and heal from her trauma, and though it is happening sooooooo slowly, this book finally marks a progression in the relationship between the two.

badge5v5Each book in this series gives me “big things” to think about while also thoroughly entertaining me. I love all of these characters and the careful life they’ve built. I’m looking forward to release day when I can “reread” this in audio. 😉

Our reviews in this series…

Other recommendations…

Again, this series is so unique, I can’t really recommend anything quite like it. But for other excellent urban fantasy series, see my favorites list.

I received an ARC or review copy of this book from the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

The New You by Kathleen Leverich

Welcome to Saturday Shorts, in which we review shorter works such as short stories, novellas, middle-grade books, and graphic novels.

In The New You, Abigail is a young girl who just moved to the big city. She’s got a new step-mother as well and as she adjusts, she realizes she has lost who she used to be and wants to find herself a new identity

the-new-youTitle: The New You
Author: Kathleen Leverich
Series: stand alone
Publish Date: June 1, 2000 Scholastic
Genre: MG Magical Realism
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s Description: Abigail and self-esteem have not gone hand in hand ever since she transferred to a new school. And the harder she tries to fit in, the more things seem to come out awkward and wrong. But when she makes friends with three savvy older women, gets a fabulously flattering haircut — and ultimately what she earnestly believes is a completely new identity, suddenly things begin to look up. Is it all wishful thinking or a glimpse into the future?

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Kat_Mandu_100

 

Kat Mandu says…

In The New You, Abigail is a young girl who just moved to the big city. She’s got a new step-mother as well and as she adjusts, she realizes she has lost who she used to be and wants to find herself a new identity.

This is an okay coming-of-age story. It’s very young so I put it at lower middle-grade on my mental shelf. The New You was one of the books that I found while going through some of my old books; I couldn’t remember much about it besides that it had a future-meets-present feel, so I reread it. Boy, I wonder if I liked it more back then because my feelings toward it have definitely changed if so.

Abigail has managed to lose her friends, her hometown, and everything else she once was. Now that she’s in a new school and new city, she doesn’t quite know where she fits in. She wants to make friends but doesn’t know how because she doesn’t know if they’ll like her. So she stumbles on a makeover place called The New You in a phone book and decides to go there (a twelve year old wandering around in a NYC type area at dark? *shudder*).

What she finds is three women who treat her kindly and take her in, giving her a makeover. After a few hours of feeling comfortable around them, she starts to become ill, and goes home. She wakes a few days later and discovers she was sick. But when she starts to tell her family about the experiences she had, they tell her they never happened. In fact, she starts to investigate but finds out that the building she went to doesn’t even exist, let alone the people she met.

Yet Abigail remains hopeful and is much more comfortable in her own skin. She makes friends and realizes that these friends and these experiences are more like deja vu, and that her “dream” was just a projection of the future.

badge2v4If you’re looking for something simple and young, this book is for you. It just wasn’t for me. I missed the action that a lot more YA offers these days. Since this is an older book, it’s a lot more innocent. Which, there’s nothing wrong with, but I like my magical-realism a bit grittier.