Anna the Girl Witch, by Max Candee is an interesting weaving of fiction and folklore. Although it had a slow start, the mystery surrounding Irvigne Manor and Anna’s heritage drew me in. As an orphan, Anna never knew her parents but instead was raised by Uncle Misha and Mama Bear in the Russian wilderness. On her thirteenth birthday, Anna is about to discover that not only is she not an orphan, but her family is more than a little bit strange.
An Unusual Sidekick
Samwise Gamgee and Hermione have nothing on Squire. Sure, they may be loyal, but can they fit into a backpack? One of my favourite characters in this book was Squire, a disembodied hand. Maybe it’s the fact that for a “sidekick” character, a hand is unusual, but I also felt that the author still manages to infuse such warmth into his character without actually showing any facial expressions or body language other than bobbing and tickling. I think what I liked about Squire was that despite his macabre appearance, he isn’t scary or evil. He’s just…unusual.
A Sneaking Suspicion
The best part of any children’s book (I think) is the sneaking around that occurs as the story progresses and this book was no exception. Whether she was sneaking out to the forest to light a candle and discover more about her family or tip-toeing around the expansive orphanage in Geneva, Anna seems to always find a way to duck the rules and in the process, she takes the readers with her.
A Complex Character
Throughout the book, Anna struggles to uncover who she really is (other than being a witch, of course). While she ultimately discovers that there is a little bit of good and not-so-good in everyone, I thought that the portrayal of her struggle was honest. There were several times where Anna has impulses to do things that aren’t so heroic, but I think that her role models –Anne Frank and Malala Yousafzai — tempers her development and gives the reader a deeper understanding of who Anna is becoming.
If you love a good middle-grade mystery with some supernatural intrigue, then be sure to pick up Diary of Anna the Girl Witch!
What are your favourite supernatural sidekicks?
When you’re on the road as much as I’ve been in the last few weeks, a good audiobook is pretty much key to not going totally insane. I’m happy to say that Court of Thorns and Roses proved to be the perfect antidote to road-craziness. Borrowing from classic fairy lore, this story follows Feyre, a tough huntress who refuses to let the tough circumstances of her family’s life crush her. When Feyre is forced to go and live in the faerie lands after she mistakenly kills a fae, Court of Thorns and Roses is equal parts romance, fantasy and mystery.
Fabulous Fantasy Elements
There are certain rules of writing fairy stories that I’ve read several times – the heroine is usually met by a dashing Fae lord who she DEFINITELY doesn’t like (but will later fall in love with), there are some bargains made (always always a raw deal) and usually an evil fae queen is involved. In many ways Court of Thorns and Roses doesn’t stray from these elements at all, but Sarah J. Maas adds in lots of original details that kept the story feeling unique.
A Steamy Retelling
When I first realized that this was a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, I wasn’t sure what to think. I’ve studied a lot of other retellings during my Master’s year, and not all of them were all that scintillating. However, the slow-blooming romance between Feyre and Tamlin was definitely a wild ride:
“We moved together, unending and wild and burning, and when I went over the edge the next time, he roared and went with me.”
What kept me listening was also the mystery of the blight and Feyre’s adventures in the woods with Lucian as she learned about her new surroundings. Plus, I love that Maas has mixed the world of the fae with a fairy tale classic and added in that element of steamy romance that isn’t always present in fairy stories.
An Overall Good Time…
…Not just because of the “steamy bits,” but because the characters were lovable and the plot was so fast-paced that I wanted to just keep on driving around the block to hear more of the story. If you’re a fan of fairy tales or just like a good YA/NA romance, check out Court of Thorns and Roses, because I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.
What is your favourite New Adult book?
Confession: I’ve never read Vampire Academy. I know, I know. It was a big movie ten years ago…but…it just fell off of my radar and I never read the series. Then, one day last week, I picked up a copy at my local thrift store because, well, why not? When I discovered the #throwbackbookclub organized by EmmaBooks, Adam Silvera and Michael BookLion I knew that I had to give Vampire Academy a shot…
Told from the perspective of Rose Hathaway, Vampire Academy is the story of Rose and her best friend Lissa’s return to St. Vladimir’s Academy after being on the run for two years. Rose, a half-vampire, half-human dhampir must protect Lissa (a full vampire) from the constant threat of the evil Strigoi; what they learn is that inside the academy might be just as dangerous than the outside…
A Whole New (Vampric) World
I’ve read a lot of vampire books during the whole “glittering vampire” phase, but what I liked about this one was the unique use of vampire lore to create an entirely different world. Creating different kinds of vampires like “Strigoi” (the evil ones), “Moroi” (the royal ones) and “Dhampirs” (the half-human guardian ones) added a whole new dimension to the story.
Cool Narrative Devices
Richelle Mead also uses some interesting devices with narration. Although the narrative is told from Rose’s point of view, because she has a connection that allows her to see inside of Lissa’s mind, we are transported to Lissa’s point of view occasionally too. I thought this was a clever way to work with point of view. This and the fact that the mystery was drawn out slowly made Vampire Academy a quick read.
Girl Buddies Rule
My favourite part of this book was Rose and Lissa’s friendship. Even though there is romance in this story, the narrative mostly revolves around best friends and what it means to be a good friend. I think that this is a great message to have in a YA book, because while romance is always fun, it’s also awesome to see girl BFFs represented in a positive, non-catty light.
What books have you been meaning to pick up but haven’t yet? Have you read Vampire Academy? What did you think of it?
As a Jane Austen fan, I knew that for this week’s Waiting On Wednesday, I had to read Persuading Austen, which is a modern retelling of Persuasion. Luckily, I was given an Advanced Reading Copy in exchange for an honest review!
In this version, the Elliots are a family of actors, except for Anne who must take care of her frivolous father and sisters. Just like in the original, Anne was in love with Wentworth, but persuaded to leave him by her Aunt. When Austen Wentworth, now a sizzling hot movie star comes back to star in a new production of Pride and Prejudice, will Anne set aside her pride and win him back?
Literary Geeks Will Love This
Apart from the story keeping relatively close to the original Persuasion (for the first part of the book), there were so many fun references to other Jane Austen novels. I loved this nod towards the originals, because it added an extra layer of depth to the reading experience for fans of Jane Austen’s work. In particular, Anne works for The Northanger Agency, there’s a new production of Pride and Prejudice and Wentworth’s first name is even Austen. That being said, if you aren’t a lover of the classics, there is plenty to keep you turning the pages (quickly).
A Plot that Sizzles
Perhaps my most favourite element of this story was watching Annie crawl out from under the dominating shadow of her family and become her own person. I felt that Brigid Coady did an excellent job of providing Annie opportunities to achieve her goal only to pull them just slightly out of reach each time. Even better, the tension between Anne and Austen keeps the plot sizzling along. It made for an exciting and fun read that I could not put down.
If you like remakes of the classics, or even just a witty, fun romance then pick up a copy of Persuading Austen when it comes on sale July 18th!
You don’t have to be a kid to love picture books, and if you’re like me and can’t resist a beautifully told story with fantastic illustrations then these books might just be up your alley:
- The Fog, Kyo Maclear – I absolutely love all of Kyo Maclear’s picture books. They are all equally clever and beautiful. The Fog, an environmental fable about a bird who is a human-watcher looks like it will be just as gorgeous.
- Dragons Love Tacos 2: The Sequel – When it is discovered that there are no more tacos left in the world, the dragons will have to do something about it to make sure that their beloved tacos are no longer extinct. Having read the first one in this series to my son about eight million times, there’s no way I’ll miss picking up this delightful sequel.
- Goldfish Ghost, by Lemony Snicket – I love everything by Lemony Snicket and this new picture book looks like it will be just as fantastic. Following the story of a childhood pet gone “belly up,” Snicket takes a clever look at the afterlife.
- Life on Mars, by Jon Agee – Playing with visual jokes, a martian follows a little astronaut through the pages of this witty book as he attempts to share some chocolate cupcakes.
- Triangle, by Mac Barnett – Triangle plays a trick on his friend square…what will happen? (I don’t know, but if you loved I Want My Hat Back this looks like it will be just as hilarious.
- Sparkle Boy, by Lesléa Newman – A sweet book about acceptance and being yourself, Sparkle Boy is about Casey, who loves to play with trucks and puzzles but also loves all things glittery and sparkly.
- Ox, Ox: A Love Story, by Adam Rex & illustrated by Andrew Arnold – Told in an epistolary style, Ox Ox is a love story between an ox and a gazelle. Need I say more?
- Not Quite Narwhal, by Jessie Sima – The story of a young unicorn who grew up with a family of narwhals, Not Quite Narwhal is a beautifully told story about not-quite fitting in.
- Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets, by Kwame Alexander – With bright, beautiful pictures to accompany original poems that pay homage to famous poets, this books is definitely going to be a favourite at bedtime for a long time.
- Stack the Cats, by Susie Ghahremani – “One cat sleeps. Two cats play. Three cats stack!” This purrrrfect counting book will be sure to motivate little readers who love cats to learn to count.