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The Evil Wizard Smallbone by Delia Sherman {Just Hatched}

Just Hatched Book Feature

Just Hatched is a feature where I share my first impressions of a book after the first chapter. Check out the announcement post for more information.

Note: I received an advanced copy of THE EVIL WIZARD SMALLBONE from the publisher. Some things may have changed in the final version.

The Evil Wizard Smallbone by Delia Sherman {Just Hatched}

The Evil Wizard Smallbone by Delia Sherman
Published by Candlewick Press on September 13, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, YA
Page Length: 416 pages
How I got my copy: Publisher
Amazon - IndieBound - Book Depository - Barnes & Noble - Goodreads
Purchases made support this blog

When twelve-year-old Nick runs away from his uncle’s in the middle of a blizzard, he stumbles onto a very opinionated bookstore. He also meets its guardian, the self-proclaimed Evil Wizard Smallbone, who calls Nick his apprentice and won’t let him leave, but won’t teach him magic, either. It’s a good thing the bookstore takes Nick’s magical education in hand, because Smallbone’s nemesis—the Evil Wizard Fidelou—and his pack of shape-shifting bikers are howling at the borders. Smallbone might call himself evil, but compared to Fidelou, he’s practically a puppy. And he can’t handle Fidelou alone. Wildly funny and cozily heartfelt, Delia Sherman’s latest is an eccentric fantasy adventure featuring dueling wizards, enchanted animals, and one stray boy with a surprising knack for magic.

3 Stars

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Merrow by Ananda Braxton-Smith eARC {4.5 Stars}

Merrow by Ananda Braxton-Smith is a quiet and beautiful tale of a girl trying to understand her mother’s disappearance and the rumors that have been circulating about her fantastical parentage. This book combines a rich historical setting of Ireland as Christianity is just starting to come into the land and the question of whether the Merrow (Irish mermaid/selkies) are real or not. If you’re looking for a book that sneaks up on you before sweeping you away to a mystical land, this is the one.

Note: I received an advanced copy of Merrow from the publisher. Some things may have changed in the final version.

Merrow by Ananda Braxton-Smith eARC {4.5 Stars}

Merrow by Ananda Braxton-Smith (Secrets of Carrick #1)
Published by Candlewick Press on Nov. 8th, 2016
Genres: Historical Fantasy, YA
Page Length: 240 pages
How I got my copy: NetGalley, Publisher
Amazon - IndieBound - Book Depository - Barnes & Noble - Goodreads
Purchases made support this blog

In this breathless and beautifully crafted tale, twelve-year-old Neen Marrey must separate town gossip from town lore to learn the truth about her mother—and herself.

The people of Carrick Island have been whispering behind Neen’s back ever since her father drowned and her mother disappeared. The townspeople say her mother was a merrow and has returned to the ocean. Neen, caught in her hazy new in-between self—not a child, but not quite grown up—can’t help but wonder if the villagers are right. But if her mother was a merrow, then what does that make Neen?

4.5 Stars

Strengths:
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The Name of the Blade by Zoë Marriott ARC {4 Stars}

The Name of the Blade by Zoë Marriott is a fun and funky adventure through London running from Japanese myths that suddenly have become all too real. Forget anything you’ve heard about The Name of the Blade already! I honestly disagree with a lot of the negative things I’d been worrying about so much that I don’t really understand how I read the same book as everyone else D:. The Name of the Blade is a seriously delightful adventure that is different from the YA we read all too often here in the States and one of the reasons why I love getting books originally published elsewhere :D.

Note: I received an advanced copy of The Name of the Blade from the publisher. Some things may have changed in the final version.

The Name of the Blade by Zoë Marriott ARC {4 Stars}

The Name of the Blade by Zoë Marriott (The Name of the Blade #1)
Published by Candlewick Press on Nov. 11th, 2014
Genres: Contemporary Fantasy, YA
Page Length: 368 pages
How I got my copy: Publisher
Amazon - IndieBound - Book Depository - Goodreads
Purchases made support this blog

When Mio sneaks the family's katana -- a priceless ancestral sword -- from her parents' attic, she just wants to spice up a costume. But the katana is much more than a dusty antique. Awakening the power within the sword unleashes a terrible, ancient evil onto the streets of unsuspecting London. But it also releases Shinobu, a fearless warrior boy, from the depths of time. He helps to protect Mio -- and steals her heart. With creatures straight out of Japanese myths stalking her and her friends, Mio realizes that if she cannot keep the sword safe and learn to control its legendary powers, she will lose not only her own life . . . but the love of a lifetime.

4 Stars

Strengths:
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Horizon by Jenn Reese ARC {4 Stars}

Horizon by Jenn Reese is the conclusion to the Above World trilogy, a mix of sci-fi and fantasy middle grade that has continued to incorporate more and more cool ideas and messages throughout! If you don’t want to be spoiled, check out my review of Above World instead ;-). If you’ve enjoyed this series so far, then you have to read the final book since it continues to deliver all the fun and magic that Above World and Mirage started. We even get chapters from a few new points of view, yey!

Note: I received Horizon from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Some things may have changed in the final version.

Horizon by Jenn Reese ARC {4 Stars}

Horizon by Jenn Reese (Above World #3)
Published by Candlewick Press on April 8th, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, MG, Sci-fi
Page Length: 400 pages
How I got my copy: Publisher
Amazon - IndieBound - Book Depository - Goodreads
Purchases made support this blog

Aluna and Hoku, Kampii from the City of Shifting Tides, and their friends, Equian Dash and winged Aviar Calli, are determined to stop a war. The maniacal ex-scientist Karl Strand is planning to conquer the world with his enormous army of tech-enhanced soldiers . . . unless the four friends can get to Strand first. Aluna’s plan is dangerous: pose as Upgraders and infiltrate the army. But the enemy isn’t what they expected and the strategy begins to crumble. When the friends are torn apart by conflicting allegiances, their slim chance of avoiding war seems to disappear completely. For Aluna and Hoku, what began as a quest to save their own people has become a mission to save the world. But do Aluna and her friends have any hope of defeating Strand if they can’t take him on together?

4 Stars

Strengths:
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4 Stars: Mirage by Jenn Reese

Mirage by Jenn Reese is the sequel to Above World. In Mirage we continue adventuring with our favorite merpeople (but call them Kampii to be safe!), centaur and bird-girl. Mirage takes place mostly in a desert setting, but I’m definitely still counting it for my Mermaid Summer Reading Challenge because it is pretty darn tough to write about mermaids in the desert (even when they have two legs). Reese continues to amaze with her blend of fantasy creatures and sci-fi world. The Above World series may be middle-grade, but I highly recommend it to anyone who is interesting in the premise because I don’t normally read middle-grade/early YA but this series continues to impress me. There may be some spoilers for Above World given that this is a sequel, so if you don’t want to be spoiled, check out my review of Above World instead!

Note: I received Mirage for review from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion. Thank you to Candlewick Press for the opportunity!

4 Stars: Mirage by Jenn Reese

Mirage by Jenn Reese (Above World #2)
Published by Candlewick Press on March 12, 2013
Genres: Fantasy, MG, Sci-fi
Page Length: 368 pages
How I got my copy: Publisher
Amazon - Book Depository - Goodreads
Purchases made support this blog

The desert is no place for ocean-dwelling Kampii like Aluna and Hoku, especially now that Aluna has secretly started growing her tail. But the maniacal Karl Strand is out to conquer the Above World, and the horselike Equians are next on his list. Aluna, Hoku, and their friends — winged Calli and Equian exile Dash — race to the desert city of Mirage, intent on warning the Equians. When they arrive, Strand’s clone, Scorch, has gotten there first. Now the Equian leader has vowed to take all his people to war as part of Strand’s army. Any herd that refuses to join him by the time of the desert-wide competition known as the Thunder Trials will be destroyed. To have any chance of defeating Scorch and convincing the Equians to switch sides, the four friends must find a way to win the Trials. The challenge seems impossible. But if they fail, the desert — and possibly all of the Above World — will be lost to Karl Strand forever.

4 Stars

Strengths:

  • I talked about the awesomeness of a male/female friendship that doesn’t turn into a romance in my review of Above World and I am happy to say Mirage continues the awesomeness. The two MC’s are mer-children that have been best friends forever, but that doesn’t mean that they have to fall in love. Turns out boys and girls can be just awesome friends :D.
  • The romances that are brewing are pretty adorable with the kid love antics though! Remember when you were young and holding hands seemed like a big deal but then you didn’t really know what to do after? Yeah, it’s pretty cute.
  • There is a really awesome message about disabilities and not being “normal.” There are several characters that didn’t form their human + animal forms normally and they are treated poorly by some members of their species. However in the end it is those individuals using their unique strengths that contribute to beating the bad guys. On a similar note, there is a good message about not hating an entire group of people because they are probably not as bad as you think they are. Yey great messages subtly woven into awesome stories!
  • The love saving the day story gets a little old for me, so it was exciting to see Mirage going with the honor saving the day message since I think it’s something that fits the younger audience well.
  • Did I mention there are mermaids in a desert? Not a problem as long as you have legs right? But if you start growing your tail… yeah that’s a problem and it was so interesting!

Weaknesses:

  •  There was a couple of moments where there seemed Mirage would have a love triangle, but then it didn’t, but then it seemed like it again. Let’s just avoid that shall we?
  • The plot of Mirage was fairly predictable, but given the age range, I understand.

Summary:

Above World built an amazing world mixing sci-fi and fantasy elements. Mirage continues to expand that world, showing us different regions and starting to weave the basis for an epic final battle. The bad guys (and gals!) are getting badder, the good guys and gals are getting freaking awesome. If you are a fan of all of those human + animal fantasy creatures (mermaids, centaurs, naga, harpies), then you just have to read this series. I continue to be flabbergasted at how well Reese takes the fantasy critters we all love and makes them fit perfectly into a dystopian/sci-fi story.

Anya from On Starships and Dragonwings – A

 

 Mirage by Jenn Reese

5 Stars: Above World by Jenn Reese

Above World by Jenn Reese is a Nebula finalist (Andre Norton Award) this year, therefore as soon as I spotted it, I had to read it. I’ve been craving mermaid/underwater books lately (I think they make me think of summer, haha), so I was freaking thrilled to discover Above World. While the Kampii don’t want you to call them mermaids, and a lot of the book takes place in the Above World (ie land), this book had such an original combination of fantasy and sci-fi elements as well as an awesome retelling of the traditional mermaid myths. Think about a world were humans have altered themselves to be able to live underwater (tails, breathing devices and all), or fly through the skies (think harpies, but not evil), or gallop across the deserts (centaurs!). That is the world that Above World is set in :D.

I borrowed a copy of this book from the library. All statements are my own honest opinions.

Above World by Jenn Reese Goodreads Amazon | LibraryThing
Title: Above World
Author: Jenn Reese
Length: 368 pages (hardcover)
Genre-ish: Fantasy/Sci-fi hybrid :D (Younger YA)
Rating★★★– such awesome world-building and characters!

Thirteen-year-old Aluna has lived her entire life under the ocean with the Coral Kampii in the City of Shifting Tides. But after centuries spent hidden from the Above World, her colony’s survival is in doubt. The Kampii’s breathing necklaces are failing, but the elders are unwilling to venture above water to seek answers. Only headstrong Aluna and her friend Hoku are stubborn and bold enough to face the terrors of land to search for way to save their people.

But can Aluna’s warrior spirit and Hoku’s tech-savvy keep them safe? Set in a world where overcrowding has led humans to adapt—growing tails to live under the ocean or wings to live on mountains—here is a ride through a future where greed and cruelty have gone unchecked, but the loyalty of friends remains true. — Goodreads

Strengths:

  • One of my favorite things about Above World were the new phrases that Reese came up with to suit a culture that has been living under the sea for generations. They say things like “still as a starfish” because that’s what they are surrounded by! This level of detail to the world made me really happy :D.
  • At first I thought Above World was a fantasy with mermaids, then I realized it was a fantasy with sci-fi roots to explain how all the humanoids came to be. This hybridization was freaking awesome to read.
  • Aluna and Hoku are adorable and I love how they broke various stereotypes. Aluna was a great female character who was a complete tomboy, though her headstrong nature got her into trouble sometimes. Hoku was the one who needed rescuing because he was a complete nerd :D, but his curiosity for technology was quite useful in the end.
  • Above World is proof that best friends don’t always have to fall in love with each other. This was a huge relief ;-) and sends a good message I think. Turns out girls and boys can be just friends if they want, haha.

Weaknesses:

  • As with many books of this age range, there were some convenient developments to get the characters out of various pickles. 
  • While Above World at first seems like a middle grade, I would be very cautious about suggesting this to kids. There were some pretty gruesome moments with all the body part switching technology. I would say Above World is more a light YA given the gore-y parts near the end. 

Summary:

I may be biased due to my current mermaid addiction, but Above World is hands down an awesome fantasy/sci-fi book. I am in love with this world and can’t wait to find out more about the centaur people in the next book :D. While most of Above World has a MG feel to it, there is definitely a lot of weird and gore-y moments given the nature of the technological enhancements everyone has. If you are looking for a fun fantasy that has tech-mermaids (maybe you didn’t realize you were looking for that, but you should be!), great characters and world-building, and a bit of an edge, you have to pick up Above World like NOW.

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Anya from On Starships and Dragonwings – A

 

 Above World by Jenn Reese