Category Archives: Kat Mandu

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.

A Dream of Ashes by Orlando A. Sanchez

Ava James has been framed for murder – and the real culprit behind the Mystic deaths is drawing closer to home with every kill.

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

TitleA Dream of Ashes 
Author: Orlando A. Sanchez
Series: Chronicles of the Modern Mystics 
Publish Date: April 27, 2016
Publisher: OM Publishing
Genre: Urban fantasy
Source: Provided by the author & Wordslinger.

Publisher’s Description:

Mystics. Magic. Murder.

A Rogue Mystic. A Ruthless Killer. A Dark Secret.

Ava James is a fire mystic with the Mystic Investigative Division. As a branch of the Enclave, a worldwide mystic organization, the MID is feared, respected and reviled. When the half-charred body of a Mystic is found, the Enclave sends her to investigate the strange death. Ava finds that all the clues point to the killer being a fire mystic, one of her own. Accused by the Enclave of working with the killer she must solve the case before a secret buried in her past is revealed and destroys her world.

Can she save herself? Will she find the murderer?

If you like hardcore, fast-moving action, complex mystical powers and an unstoppable heroine, then you’ll love Orlando A. Sanchez’ thrilling new series: Chronicles of the Modern Mystics. Buy A Dream of Ashes and join Ava on her adventure today!


Kat Mandu says…

In A Dream of Ashes, readers are introduced to Ava, a mystic with the ability to create and manipulate fire. Right from the beginning of the book, she’s been framed for several vicious murders she didn’t commit, not to mention she’s being hunted by a group of obviously wicked mystics trying to kill her. As she tries to navigate her way through a unique New York City without getting caught or killed, she’s gotta figure out where her uncle is and just who he was taken by. But getting mixed up in the affairs of mystics much more powerful than her is not what she intended, so she’ll need every ally and skill she can get.

Likes: This really is full of action and cool visuals, so it reads like a fast-paced movie with lots of awesome graphics. Plus, you know, the majority of the characters are Japanese, so ninjas. Either way, I really loved the easy-to-read flow of the book and I was quite fond of the quirky one-liners Ava gets to dish out.

What didn’t grab me: Like my fellow reviewer, this book was lacking in that really strong world-building that really would have made this a five for me. I had the feeling that the more the author wrote, the more ideas he came up with, which is nice but makes the beginning lackluster compared to the final moments. I would get caught up in the action but was left wondering just what Enclaves were and what Enforcers did and how everything worked out. Even if the info isn’t dumped at the beginning and spread out in hints throughout the book, it would have improved that clear structure of Ava’s New York/Japan aka “Mystic world.” I just didn’t get much that would help me really understand how everything works.

The only other thing is that there is quite a few organizations that come into play, plus numerous allies. I wish I could have gotten some more details on them as well, so I didn’t have to go back and ask myself “Okay, what did these guys do again?”

I just think this needs a clearer focus, but overall, I was impressed and give this three stars.

Luna Lovebooks says… 

“Go lick your wounds. When I see you next I will erase your existence.’ He turned and walked away as the sphere turned opaque and shifted us away from Nezu. We are going to die.”

Likes: This book is fast paced and action packed! Much like poor Ava, the reader doesn’t get to stop and rest. The characters and world are interesting, if not fully developed. Ava was resilient, but still vulnerable and had moments of weakness.  I love the fact that she is strong but not super woman. The mysterious Ghost and his daughter are two characters I’d like to get to know better. I would also love to know more about warders and mystics in general. This may slow down the book a bit, but it would also back up the world building.

Dislikes: I feel there are too many unanswered questions, even if this is the first book in the series. The cover is part of what drew me to pick up this book. But when I received my copy the cover is very pixilated and loses some of its beauty. I’m am sure that as a writer Sanchez knows the world he is creating. It feels solid, but as a reader I was lost.  There isn’t much information given about enclaves, mystics, or those special sticks. I feel that the plot should have slowed down to give some more world building to the readers.

Over all I give this book 4 mystics. 

 

Other recommendations…

If you like magic with unique systems and spins, we’d recommend Brandon Sanderson, J. F. Lewis, and M.K. Hobson. 

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

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

In this contemporary YA, you meet Melinda, a girl in high school whose dark secrets have destroyed both her reputation and her life, making her an outcast. But the closer you get to the truth, the more you realize all the things she’s sacrificed to protect herself.

TitleSpeak
AuthorLaurie Halse Anderson
Series: stand-alone
Publish Date: October 22, 1999
Genre: YA Contemporary
Source: Purchased

Publisher’s DescriptionThe first ten lies they tell you in high school.

“Speak up for yourself–we want to know what you have to say.”

From the first moment of her freshman year at Merryweather High, Melinda knows this is a big fat lie, part of the nonsense of high school. She is friendless, outcast, because she busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops, so now nobody will talk to her, let alone listen to her. As time passes, she becomes increasingly isolated and practically stops talking altogether. Only her art class offers any solace, and it is through her work on an art project that she is finally able to face what really happened at that terrible party: she was raped by an upperclassman, a guy who still attends Merryweather and is still a threat to her. Her healing process has just begun when she has another violent encounter with him. But this time Melinda fights back, refuses to be silent, and thereby achieves a measure of vindication.

In Laurie Halse Anderson’s powerful novel, an utterly believable heroine with a bitterly ironic voice delivers a blow to the hypocritical world of high school. She speaks for many a disenfranchised teenager while demonstrating the importance of speaking up for oneself.

Speak was a 1999 National Book Award Finalist for Young People’s Literature.

Possible spoilers beyond this point.


Kat Mandu says…

Melinda is both fierce and feeble, plus her thoughts are right up my sarcastic alley. Often she is dark and miserable and you can tell she just wants to scream. Other times she is soft and vulnerable, which is when she opens up and explains why she’s elected to stay silent.

A couple months before the story takes place, Melinda and her friends attend a junior/high school party in which Miranda becomes intoxicated and is raped by one of her older classmates. After her ordeal, she calls the cops and becomes the pariah of the school because they’re busted.

Her old friends have left her behind in the dust afterward and she’s alone, except for a girl who acts like her friend but really isn’t.

She moves through school in a daze, failing most classes and refusing to interact with the majority of teachers and schoolmates. The only class she’s really into is art – and her projects have to revolve around trees. She does like her art teacher, but he, too, has his own issues.

But anyway, little by little she comes out of her shell, revealing to her former friend what happened to her that night and even confronting IT as well. Eventually, she’s reading to speak.

This is a wonderful novel I flew through. The writing is great, Miranda’s voice is spectacular and edgy, and I have the sad feelings that many girls who have been in similar situations would appreciate this book.

Other recommendations…

Recommended for fans of Courtney Summers, Ellen Hopkins, and Terry Trueman.

Upcoming Read Along With Luna Lovebooks

Hey readers! For two years now I’ve hosted book read-alongs for One Book Two. For those of you new to the concept, a read-along is like a book club! A group of book lovers getting together to read the same series and discuss what we love or hate about it. Since I’ve wrapped up my  high fantasy read-along, it’s time to begin another one!

But a girl can’t run all the read-alongs on her own, sometimes she needs some help from fellow book-loving reviewers. And in that case, I’d like to introduce Luna Lovebooks, who is hosting her very first read-along. Join her in the Goodreads group for discussions and other fun stuff!

Hi everyone! 

I’m super excited to host my first read along! Starting soon, we’ll be reading The Last Dragon Chronicles by Chris D’Lacey! I got the first book many years ago and fell in love with the imagination and the message of the first few installations. I recently acquired the last book in this fun middle-grade series so I’m looking forward to reading the series in its entirety with you. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do! The read-along beings May 15th and should end shortly before Independence day, but of course you can read at your own pace. The entire schedule is as follows:

The Last Dragon Chronicles – MG Fantasy

May 15 – May 21 – The Fire Within by Chris d’Lacey
May 22 – May 28 – Icefire by Chris d’Lacey
May 29 – June 4 – Fire Star by Chris d’Lacey
June 5 – June 11 – The Fire Eternal by Chris d’Lacey
June 12 – June 18 – Dark Fire by Chris d’Lacey
June 19 – June 25 – Fire World by Chris d’Lacey
June 26 – July 2 – The Fire Ascending by Chris d’Lacey

Remember to join the One Book Two group for any other information, not to mention the chance to join in on discussions between other readers, polls and potential giveaways. We’ll see you May fifteenth!

Talking to Dragons by Patricia M. Wrede

Daystar is all grown up and off to the Enchanted Forest on his first adventure. Armed only with a sword and good manners, Daystar is kicked out of the house by his mother, Cimorene, and told to figure out what he’s supposed to do. But when it comes to the secrets of the Enchanted Forest, discovering your destiny isn’t always easy.

TitleTalking To Dragons 
AuthorPatricia Wrede 
SeriesEnchanted Forest Chronicles 
Publish Date: September 1, 1993
Publishers: Houghton Milton Harcourt
GenreMG/YA High Fantasy 
Publisher’s Description: Always be polite to dragons! That’s what Daystar’s mother taught him…and it’s a very wise lesson–one that might just help him after his mom hands him a magic sword and kicks him out of the house! Especially because his house sits on the edge of the Enchanted Forest and his mother is Queen Cimorene.

But the tricky part is figuring out what he’s supposed to do with the magic sword. Where is he supposed to go? And why does everyone he meets seem to know who he is?

It’s going to take a particularly hotheaded fire-witch, a very verbose lizard, and a badly behaved baby dragon to help him figure it all out.

And those good manners certainly won’t hurt!


Kat Mandu says…

Although this book was written by the author first, it’s actually the last in the series and takes place quite a few years after the events of the first three books. Daystar, the son of Cimorene, has no idea that it’s his duty to rescue his missing/sleeping father, Mendenbar, and all the while stopping the wizards forever. But first he’s gotta navigate through the Enchanted Forest.

Along the way he meets a very feisty fire-witch named Shiara, a couple elves, Antorell, and the old gang – Morwen, Telemain, Kazul, and of course, his own father. I find it’s interesting that his magic works a little differently than Mendenbar’s, but has similar effects, as it’s very good at getting him out of trouble.

This story has a lot of dialogue and kind of drags in certain spots where everyone is just arguing or plotting, but the plot is a lot more engaging and makes up for it. I’m very fond of the way the author kind of makes this a stand-alone novel, so that readers don’t have to read the first three to understand the story. Though, if you had read the first three, you’d probably know exactly what was going on and wouldn’t have to wait.

When I first read this series back in grade school, I actually read this one first and loved it, so I read the whole series backwards. It gave me a very different read and one I enjoyed. Now that I’ve read it in its chronological order, I realize that I probably missed quite a few details going backwards. 

Regardless, no matter how you read it, this is a great series for kids and adults. If you like some reimagined fairy tales, magic, and adventure, you’d love the Enchanted Forest chronicles. I know I enjoyed rereading it.

Our reviews in this series…

Other recommendations…

If you like dragons, magic, and adventure, you might try Susan Fletcher, Tamora Pierce, or Diane Duane.