Review – Yesterday Crumb and the Storm in a Teacup (Andy Sagar)

Keywords: fiction, Year 5+, fantasy, magic, tea, witchcraft, funny, mysterious.

What do you think of when you hear the word ‘tea‘?

The front cover

For me, I think of boiling kettles, spoonfuls of sugar, and steam wafting from a mug. I have at least two cups of tea every day – sometimes with a cookie, sometimes just on its own. Not everyone likes tea, of course. But regardless of your opinion, you will end up loving tea by the time you finish reading Yesterday Crumb and the Storm in a Teacup by Andy Sagar.

Yesterday Crumb is a fantasy with witches and magic, but it is also a love letter to tea and its power to heal. A girl named Yesterday (or ‘Essie’) learns how to become a tea witch from Miss Dumpling – a tea witch with her own travelling teashop. Throughout the story, tea has a huge role. It’s like tea in the real world, but with one tiny insignificant difference: the tea Yesterday and Miss Dumpling make…is magical. As in, literally, it’s made with magic and can give you magical powers.

If you drink tea like Miss Dumpling’s ‘Chamomile of Confidence’, you suddenly become more confident in yourself. Another wonderful tea is ‘Jumbling Jasmine’, which gives you the temporary ability to change into any animal you’d like! My favourite part of the tea in this book is that sometimes, you get to see the recipe. It’s fun to read them and see which ingredients seem normal, and which ingredients seem…a bit strange. For example, here’s the recipe for Jumbling Jasmine:

  • One tsp ground cinderspice
  • One tsp finely chopped toothweed
  • A pinch of jasmine petals
  • One teapot’s worth of unicorn milk (boiled, preferably by tea spirit, salamander, or dragon)
  • Optional: pickled starlight, to extend the magic’s longevity.

Interesting ingredients, right? It’s hard to choose a favourite part, but I absolutely love how the unicorn milk needs to be boiled by a tea spirit. You see, tea spirits are really, really cute. Don’t believe me? Look at this little fella!

Isn’t he adorable!? His name is Pascal and I love him with all of my heart! Best character in the whole book, 10/10. He boils water and other liquids for Yesterday’s teas. He’s a little guy who just wants to make tea! Who wouldn’t love him?

The book has also been translated into German!

There are other wonderful characters, of course. Like Yesterday, Jack is a strangeling (a magical child who was left in the human world for too long). He lives and works in the teashop with Miss Dumpling. An inventor, he loves to create new kinds of candies. One candy he’s working on is the ‘Marshmellow of Memory’. When you eat it, you can see a very vivid memory! Oh, and did I mention that Jack has a wolf’s snout? This is because strangelings grow animal parts when they’re left in the human world. Jack has a wolf’s snout, while Yesterday has fox ears. Yesterday actually doesn’t like her fox ears very much (because of them, she was trapped in a circus as a freakshow performer for most of her life). It’s a shame she doesn’t like them, though. I’d love to have fox ears! If you could have an animal part, what would you have? (I’d like some cat whiskers!)

My version of Yesterday Crumb in Animal Crossing: New Horizons!

One thing I would love to see in this book is more illustrations. I’d love to see drawings of not only Yesterday, but Miss Dumpling, Jack, Madrigal – everyone! I suppose a benefit of having little to no illustrations is that you’re free to picture the characters however you want. You’re told in the story what they look like, sure, but we all have very different imaginations; so even if readers are given the same information, they can come up with wildly different ideas of what characters look like!

Here’s a little activity: since there aren’t any illustrations of Miss Dumpling – Yesterday’s mentor tea witch – try to draw what you think she looks like based on what the narration tells us.

A lady stepped out, wreathed in the aromas of cinnamon and gingerbread. She wore a dress like woven candyfloss. Her butterscotch-blonde hair tumbled from beneath a pointed hat around her rosy pink cheeks. Her eyes were the colour of lavender.

Yesterday Crumb and the Storm in a Teacup, page 1.

Here’s what I drew based on that information:

How I pictured Miss Dumpling!

Is my illustration similar to what you pictured? Or did you think she looked completely different? The best part of this activity is that there’s no ‘correct’ answer. One of our rights as readers is to be able to picture the characters anyway we want! Do share any drawings you create of Miss Dumpling, as I would love to see everyone’s different ideas!

Jack, by the German translation’s illustrator, Kristina Kister

So, because this book is truly magical and creative, I sincerely enjoyed it! I actually borrowed from a library to read this, but I love it so much that I’m going to buy my own personal copy. Hopefully, there will be more Yesterday Crumb books soon. I just have to see what happens next and – of course – what other kinds of tea there are!

It’s a fantasy book, so Felipe obviously loved Yesterday Crumb and the Storm in a Teacup. Millie actually loved it too! She enjoyed trying to figure out the various mysteries in the plot and trying to figure out what the characters will do next.

The Bookitties came up with some fun activities you could do

  • Draw a picture of Miss Dumpling based on the paragraph in this review. What does she look like? How is she similar or different to the drawing in the review?
  • Create your own type of magical tea. What power would it give you? What mystical ingredients would it need?
  • If you could replace one of your body parts with an animal’s, what would you choose and why?

Review – Nimona (Noelle Stevenson)

Keywords: fiction, graphic novel, Year 7+, fantasy, politics, good vs. evil, action, fights, humour, bittersweet, villainy, fun!

Graphic novels have a bad reputation. Some people say that they aren’t ‘real books’ or that they aren’t as complex as ‘real literature’. Well, let me be the one to tell you that that’s all poppycock, gobbledygook, and just plain nonsense!

Nimona with dragon wings!

Noelle Stevenson’s Nimona is more than a graphic novel. This is a book about heroes and villains; it is a story where you choose who is a hero and who is a villain. Technically, the main characters – Ballister Blackheart and his spunky sidekick Nimona – are the ‘villains’. That’s what the whole city calls them anyway (and it doesn’t help that Blackheart has a black goatee and a secret science lair, while Nimona is literally a murderous shapeshifter). Blackheart is a loner who never planned to get a sidekick, so imagine his surprise when some random girl who calls herself ‘Nimona’ comes into his lair and tells him she is his sidekick now. For some reason.

Although Blackheart isn’t too excited about having a sudden sidekick, Nimona begins to grow on him. After all, she’s a shapeshifter! Imagine how much her powers would help with Blackheart’s evil schemes! There is a bit of a problem, though. You see, while Blackheart is technically the boss and supposed to be evil or whatever, Nimona is…actually way more violent and malicious. Like, take a look at this scene in Chapter 2:

(Page 1 transcription: Blackheart, “We’ll attack the city using my genetically modified dragons. The king will be attending the parade downtown. Our dragons will swoop down and kidnap him. I’ll announce our ransom demands from the top of the tallest tower. Then we’ll fly off with the king, detonating the tower behind us for emphasis.” Nimona, “Hmm. Not bad. Nice touch with the explosion. However, I do have a few suggestions. Here, I’ll show you.”)

(Page 2 transcription: Nimona, “We could do with more general chaos. I’m talking fire everywhere. We’ll murder the king in front of everyone. Then you crown yourself the new king. And since Goldenloin is sure to try and stop us, I’ll disguise myself to get close to him and take him out before he knows what’s happening!” Blackheart, “No. That is not how I work. You can’t just go around murdering people. There are RULES, Nimona.”)

What do we find out from this scene? Well, Nimona has no problem murdering people, while Blackheart – the guy who’s supposed to be incredibly evil – has ‘rules’. He doesn’t find joy in murdering people. Doesn’t sound too evil to me.

An accurate depiction of the relationship between Blackheart, Nimona, and Goldenloin.

As the story continues, we find out more about Blackheart and Nimona’s different kinds of evilness. It’s actually really interesting how both characters are considered villains and yet they have such different ways of showing it. Meanwhile, there are also ‘heroes’ who fight against them. The main ‘hero’ is named Goldenloin: a blond guy who used to be Blackheart’s best friend when they were both training to be knights. He works for the government who are supposedly the ‘good guys’. Whether or not they’re actually nice people is up to you. Personally, I’m not a big fan.

The book itself is a lovely read! It was very easy to get lost inside the story and read the whole thing in one sitting. But don’t get me wrong: it was easy to read, but that doesn’t make the story simplistic. Actually, the story and its characters are some of the most nuanced and fascinating I’ve encountered for a long while. I read the book a few times in a row to really grasp all the themes and concepts it tackles. Honestly, I think this would be a great book to study in class – maybe in a Year 7+ class about war and politics. There’s some great stuff in this book to explore academically: the concept of good vs. evil, morality, political corruption, protests, what it means to work for ‘the greater good’, friendship, and, of course, love. Because isn’t every great story about love, in the end?

Nimona shapeshifting as the science-loving Blackheart

Also, here was what I was thinking when I finished the book: WHAT AN ENDING. WOW. Reading through the climax genuinely made my heart race. I was so scared for everyone’s safety! I don’t want to spoil anything though, so just know that it’s a wonderfully fitting ending for the story. It’s the type of ending that makes you admire the author’s writing skills while also inspiring you to write a story just like it! It’s not sugar-coated and overly sweet, but it’s not horribly depressing either. It strikes the perfect balance of bittersweetness!

So. Can this book be recommended? Well, I know that Jenny is 100% obsessed with this book and will gladly tell the whole world about how much she loves it! And Felipe is a huge fan of it too, especially the magical elements of the story! With these two kitties recommending it, I cannot help but recommend it too. (But is it really that surprising after I’ve written a whole review talking about how great this story is?) So go ahead and read it if it sounds like your cup of tea!

Review – Kiki’s Delivery Service (Eiko Kadono)

Keywords: fiction, ages 8+, fantasy, slice of life, light-hearted, coming of age/growing up, 13-year-old female protagonist, talking animal sidekick, magic, quirky, funny, inspired a movie!

When you see a movie before reading the book it’s based on, it can change what you expect from the book. I first saw Kiki’s Delivery Service as a film when I was a kid. It’s one of my favourite movies ever and I’ve watched it dozens, maybe even hundreds of times! So when I picked up the original book Kiki’s Delivery Service by Eiko Kadono (and translated from Japanese to English by Emily Balistrieri), all I could think about was the movie. How similar is the movie to the book? What things did the movie leave out from the original story?

The front cover.

Comparing the book to the film is fun, but it can be a little unfair. After all, the book deserves to be read and enjoyed for its own niceness, not because it happened to inspire a nice movie! So, I will try to talk about the book first – only the book.

The story starts with Kiki, a witch just about to turn 13. To be a proper witch, she needs to have a ‘coming-of-age day’: a tradition where 13-year-old witches go and live in a different town for a year and survive on their own magic. There’s a problem with magic, though. Over the years, witches have lost their knowledge of certain skills and spells. So now there are very few magical skills left. For example, Kiki’s mother Kokiri can make magical medicine (like her famous sneeze potion!), but she’s actually the last witch left in the world who knows how to do this properly. And while Kokiri tried to teach Kiki how to make magical medicine, the young girl hates it. Instead, Kiki has one magical skill that she truly loves: flying on her broomstick.

Kiki flying away from her hometown.

While she flies and does her magic, Kiki is accompanied by her little black cat Jiji. Kiki and Jiji grew up together and are constant companions. The wonderful thing is that Jiji can talk…but only to Kiki! Everyone else just hears meows. How amazing would it be to talk to cats and have them talk to you? I want to be a witch now!

So, Kiki and Jiji fly off to find a new town to live in. All Kiki wants is to see the sea for the very first time, so she looks for a town close to the ocean. And luckily, she finds one! The town of Koriko (lots of ‘K’ words in this book!) is a big seaside town with no witch living there yet. The rest of the story is about Kiki’s adventures in the town as she lives there (on her own!) for a whole year.

Kiki’s adventures are really fun to read! You see, this clever witch decides to run her own business – a delivery service, of course! So basically she flies around the town to deliver random things to people. And when I say ‘random things’, I mean it. I don’t want to spoil too much, but here are just a couple of things Kiki delivers:

Kiki on an average delivery.

– A trumpet

– A pair of underpants

– A pacifier

– New Year’s Eve

I won’t tell you how or why she delivered any of these things; you’ll need to find out for yourself!

So, what was it like reading this book? In a word: magical. I really enjoyed following Kiki’s growth into a true witch as she helped people around the town. My favorite part of the book was the characters, especially the two kids Kiki meets in Koriko. One is a boy who is obsessed with airplanes and looks like a dragonfly. The other is a girl who has interesting strategies when she wants to give a present to a boy she likes. It’s fun to see how Kiki interacts with kids her age, because it shows you just how different we can be from each-other. Just because you’re the same age as someone doesn’t mean you’re exactly the same!

I’d say the only thing I didn’t like too much was the book’s pacing (how quickly the story goes). Kiki arrives at the town, we’re told about some of her deliveries, then BAM! It has been a full year and pretty much the end of the book! I would have liked to hear more about her life during that one year.

Here’s the thing: there is a way to learn more about Kiki’s adventures and read about her life. There are actually sequels! However, we cannot read them – unless you’re fluent in Japanese. Yup, none of the other books in the Kiki’s Delivery Service series has been translated to English! Only the first one! So if anyone reading this review is fluent in Japanese, please read the other Kiki books and tell me about them. I’m super curious about what she does next!

By the time I finished reading the story, I completely forgot about the movie version. Both are really nice in their own ways and I recommend both!

This book has fantasy elements to it (of course! there’s a witch in it, after all!), but it’s also a slice-of-life sort of story. So, both fantasy fanatic Felipe and slice-of-life lover Jenny adore Kiki’s Delivery Service!

Review – Eliza Vanda’s Button Box (Emily Rodda)

Keywords: Year 4+, fantasy, magical, light-hearted, emotional management.

The front cover, complete with Sultan and a box of buttons! Can you find Victor and the magic mirror?

Before we start, I just gotta say that I miiiiight be a little bit biased. You see, Emily Rodda – the author of Eliza Vanda’s Button Box – also wrote The Key to Rondo, which happens to be one of my all-time favourite books from my childhood (and a book we have reviewed before!). So there was a part of me that already liked Eliza Vanda before I even read it. I mean, it’s written by a beloved author and it has a pretty cover? Sign me up!

Of course, there is far more to a book than how it looks and who wrote it. There is definitely truth to the idiom, “Never judge a book by its cover”! This review is my attempt at being fair; I’ll try not to like or dislike the book for no good reason at all.

The character of Eliza Vanda is similar to Mary Poppins!

Okay, so let’s start with the plot. Despite its title, the main character of Eliza Vanda’s Button Box is not actually Eliza Vanda! It’s a girl named Milly Dynes, an 11 year old who lives in the seaside town of Tidgy Bay. She lives with her dad Rory and together they take care of holiday houses, which they rent out to people. One of these people is the titular Eliza Vanda, a mysterious woman who brings magic and buttons along with her. Think ‘Mary Poppins’ but with more dress-making!

Other characters include a snobby mouse named Victor, a grumpy black cat named Sultan, and a witch who will remain unnamed, because I don’t want to spoil the plot too much! I will, however, say this:

  • Yes, there is a hidden world that Milly explores;
  • Yes, there are magical creatures and characters;
  • And no, the hidden world is not what you think it is.
Lots of fantasy books involve characters travelling to hidden worlds, like Alice in Wonderland.

After you read a lot of fantasy books, you start to pick up on a lot of similarities between them. You even start to predict what a book must be about. For example, when I picked this book up, I said to myself, “Oh, there has to be a hidden world and the main character has to save the day with magic or something!” While this is the case for Eliza Vanda, the plot is actually not as predictable as it seems. Ugh, I wish I could tell you why it’s unpredictable but I can’t ruin the surprise! Just trust me on this one!

I would like to divulge one spolier, though, because it’s just too cool to ignore.

Every person in this hidden world has emotions. Those emotions, however, take the form of ‘mysies’, which are little creatures that live outside of their bodies. They’re mostly kept in hats, though some people keep them in pockets and bags. Some mysies include ‘Temper’, ‘Memory’, and ‘Sense of Humor’. So whenever someone needs a certain emotion, the mysie comes and whispers in their ear to help out! For example, when one character forgets who Victor is, his memory mysie helps him out:

The man stared at him blankly, then fumbled in a silver mesh purse hanging from his belt. A small, neat, lizard-like creature sprang from the purse and ran up his arm to perch on his shoulder and whisper in his ear…

“Victor!” cried the man, his face lighting up. (Chapter 6, page 71.)

This is what I think a memory mysie looks like!

But if you lose a mysie, then you lose that emotion. It gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “losing your temper”!

I truly love the idea of mysies. Actually, it’s a wonderful way to think of your own emotions; they can be easier to control and understand if you think of them as creatures and pets rather than something untouchable and invisible. The mysies are a vital part of the book’s plot and provide a lot of moments to think about our own emotions. What happens if you lose your ‘Courage’? How would you control a wild ‘Temper’ mysie? You could spend hours thinking about it!

The author, Emily Rodda

Having said all that, the book isn’t without areas of improvement. For example, it seemed a bit too fast-paced to me. There is a main villain, but we don’t hear about them until we’re three-quarters of the way through. It would’ve been much more engaging if the villain was hinted at much earlier in the book then revealed triumphantly near the end. That would be much more enjoyable and dramatic!

This also seems less like a stand-alone book and more like the first book in a series. Everything wraps up a bit too quickly for my liking. Hopefully, this will turn into a series. There are just too many unanswered questions!

The delightful fantasy of this plot appeals to fantasy-loving Felipe, so he had a great time reading it. Surprisingly, Gus actually liked it too! When I asked him why, he just shrugged and said, “You said it was fast-paced, so I decided to read it slowly. It was pretty good, not gonna lie.” So yeah, both Felipe and Gus recommend Eliza Vanda’s Button Box!

(Psst! If this book looks familiar, it’s because I wrote a reading comprehension exercise based on its first chapter! Check it out here!)

Review – The Magic Misfits (Neil Patrick Harris)

Keywords: Year 5+ (ages 8 and up), fiction, humor, adventure, magic, first in a series.

The front cover

I’ve always known Neil Patrick Harris as the womanizer from How I Met Your Mother or Dr Horrible from Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. He filled my childhood with his acting and singing skills. Knowing all of that, I was still surprised to see that he’s talented in yet another area: writing!

The Magic Misfits is the first middle-school book Neil Patrick Harris has written. Once I knew that, I was very impressed. This book has the strong plot and witty narration of someone’s second, even third middle-school book!

But enough about the celebrity author. It’s time to get down to the good part: the book itself. The main character, Carter, starts his journey by doing someone all of us have dreamed of doing at some point: running away from home. (Wait, it’s just me who has dreamed of that? Oh. Okay.) After hitching a ride from a train, he finds himself in the town of Mineral Wells. Like all fictional small towns, it’s all very charming and full of wonder. And yet, something seems…off. Maybe it’s the circus where everyone frowns at you. Maybe it’s the circus boss that has the creepiest smile in history. Maybe it’s literally just the circus, because it’s a crime gang that sullies the honorable name of magic and entertainment. Clearly, they must be stopped. The Magic Misfits tells the story of how Carter tries to bring them to magical justice. As Carter meets like-minded magicians, he gradually understands the meaning of friendship but also of magic.

The author (Neil Patrick Harris) playing Dr Horrible

…Sorry if that last line was corny, but it’s true! The strongest themes in this book are, in fact, friendship and magic. The friends Carter makes are exactly the sort of people you’d want to befriend. For instance, there’s Leila, the confident and wise-cracking escape artist who always makes you feel welcome. Then there’s Ridley, the clever magician who seems mean at first but becomes her true, kind-hearted self once she trusts you. Finally, there’s my personal favourite: Theo, the violinist who can levitate objects with his music. Honestly, if I had a group of friends like these in my childhood, things would’ve been much more magical!

The main strengths of this book lie in the witty narration, adorable illustrations by Lissy Marlin, and “How to do magic” sections (drawn by Kyle Hilton) that are sprinkled throughout the pages. The humour is the main spectacle, though. There were quite a few things in this book that made me chuckle and laugh (out loud!). The first giggles came when I saw the chapter names:

One – the first

Two – the second one

Three – the third of these

Four – one more than three

Five – one less than six

My two favourite chapter names are definitely these:

Eleven – looks like two lines. Or two lowercase Ls, which could be confusing. For example, this is two lowercase L’s: ll. Looks like this 11, right? Confusing.

Seventeen – six more than nine, multiplied by ten, plus three, then divided by nine

So, those are the strengths! Now onto the weaknesses.

The mysterious Mr Vernon

I’d say my main point would be the very late introduction of the twin siblings Olly and Izzy. You can see them on the front cover on the far right wearing green plaid suits and matching hats. Since I saw them on the front cover, I was expecting them to be significant side characters like Carter’s magic friends. I was pretty disappointed to see that Olly and Izzy were only introduced three-quarters into the book and barely had any lines! Hopefully, we’ll get to see more of Olly and Izzy in future books.

The Magic Misfits isn’t a fantasy book. It does, however, deal a LOT with magic. (I mean, ‘magic’ is literally in the title!) Therefore, magic-loving Felipe can’t help but love it! Light-reader Jun was entranced by the light and witty writing style and the genuine fun he had while reading it. Both cats heartily recommend The Magic Misfits!

Review – The Key to Rondo (Emily Rodda)

Key words: fantasy, adventure, fairytale elements, male protagonist, female protagonist, first book in a series, trilogy, 2007.

A short and sweet review for today! If you want a fantasy book with loveable characters, wholesome friendships and a world inside of a music box, this is the book for you. Seriously, it has everything you could possibly want like a model pig named Bertha and a giant talking duck named Freda. (They are the best characters in the book, to be honest.)

Image result for key to rondo front cover
The front cover (featuring Mutt!)

The story revolves around Leo and Mimi, two cousins who don’t particularly like each-other. (Leo thinks Mimi is rude while Mimi thinks Leo is boring. It’s a whole thing.) Their Great-Aunt Bethany Langlander passes away, leaving an old music box to Leo. There are rules that Leo has to follow if he is to take care of this music box:

  1. Wind the box three times only.
  2. Never wind the box while the music plays.
  3. Never move the box while the music plays.
  4. Never close the lid until the music has stopped.

Naturally, Mimi decides to disobey and does the exact opposite, much to Leo’s horror. That’s when the Blue Queen arrives. I don’t want to spoil the plot, but I will say this: the Blue Queen comes from the magical world inside of the music box. The world itself is called, you guessed it, ‘Rondo’. All the music box’s rules are to protect this world and to guard it from intruders. Since they didn’t follow these rules, Leo and Mimi find themselves inside the music box. Why? Because the Blue Queen stole Mimi’s dog (‘Mutt’) and took him back to Rondo. As we all know, stealing dogs is one of the worst crimes you can commit. It makes sense that Leo and Mimi would try to rescue him!

The Key to Rondo: Emily Rodda: 9780545103817: Books
The blurb (feat. Tye the awesome tiger lady)

Rondo itself is a lovely world to read about. Everyone is named after their occupation (e.g. Posie is the town florist) or their personality (e.g. Jolly is…well, a jolly person!). There are also talking animals. They are definitely my favourite characters, especially Bertha and Freda. They’re hilarious. “How are they hilarious?” you ask. You’ll need to find out for yourself!

The book is the first of the Rondo trilogy. Although it may feel a bit unfinished when you complete the book, remember that there are two more books to read! The Key to Rondo introduces us to the main characters and the setting, which helps us to grow attached to everything in the story. Plus, one of the novel’s main messages is about the importance of imagination!

The Key to Rondo is a marvellous fantasy that’s perfect for light readers. Fantasy enthusiast Felipe and casual reader Jun recommend this book!

Review – Book of a Thousand Days (Shannon Hale)

Listen to this narration while you read!

Key words: fantasy, adventure, diary fiction, friendship, romance, growing up, royalty, illustrated, stand-alone, 2007.

Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale
The edition I read as a child.

This is honestly one of my favourite books ever. No, I’m not being hyperbolic. If someone asked me what books I would bring if I was stuck on a desert island, I’d choose Book of a Thousand Days. Twice. (Then I’d bring Little Women, but that’s a story for another post.)

The story is written like a diary, which means its genre is ‘diary fiction’. Adding a bit of spice, the author Shannon Hale decided to create her own world: The Eight Realms. This world prays to seven gods, all of whom represent different things (e.g. Under is the god of mischief). Every kingdom is named after a different god or goddess. One of the kingdoms is named after Titor, god of animals. This is where the majority of the story takes place!

Shannon "buy stuff from ur local bookshop" Hale on Twitter: "More interiors of  BOOK OF A THOUSAND DAYS. 10 years later, I still feel honored that I got to  tell this story… "
One of Dashti’s drawings (this is her self-portrait!)

The main character, Dashti, is a strong and wise teenager who finds herself trapped in a tower for seven years. Trapped with her is Lady Saren, the Lady of Titor’s Garden. Dashti is Lady Saren’s maid. Because of this, she takes care of Saren and pretty much does all the work around the tower (cooking, cleaning etc.). Not gonna lie, you’ll probably be annoyed by Lady Saren a few times. However, she develops into a braver and more self-realised person, as does Dashti. In fact, I’d say that this book is one of the best examples of character development I’ve ever read!

Without revealing too much, I will describe what’s in this book: war, royal romance, executions, wolves, jokes about ankles (it makes sense in context) and an adorable cat named ‘My Lord’. Plus, Dashti adds her own drawings into the diary, which allows us an even closer glimpse into her life.

A map of The Eight Realms

Dashti’s descriptive language is also something to behold. I’d estimate that the way she writes about the world influenced 30% of my own writing style. It’s just so unique! She describes people as having ‘kind eyes’ and uses wonderful phrases like “Ancestors, forgive me”. Some of the most delightful parts of the story are when Dashti sings. Instead of singing full songs, she instead crafts little poems that heal and comfort. Literally. Her songs genuinely heal people, it’s amazing.

Look, I cannot overemphasise how much this book means to me. If you read it, hit me up; I desperately need someone to talk to about this gem of a story!

This is a great fantasy diary, meaning that Felipe and Jenny adore this book! They cannot recommend it enough.

Review – Nevermoor (Jessica Townsend)

Listen to this narration while you read!

Keywords: fantasy, clever, witty dialogue, imaginative, magic, dramatic, a cat is in it and she’s amazing, first in a series.

Leaf 🙂

I’m not exaggerating when I say that this has been on my ‘to-read’ list for years. The only reason I didn’t read it earlier was because of all the glowing praise it was receiving. I know it’s very cynical of me, but whenever I hear that a book is popular and flawless, I’m afraid that actually reading it will disappoint me. Thus, it takes me a while to get around to reading it! It was only when my particularly well-read friend Leaf recommended this that I finally bought a copy of Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow.

The front cover

Dear readers, I severely regret not reading this book earlier. It wasn’t the type of book where everything seems unoriginal. The world of Nevermoor is entirely its own. Before reading it, I was afraid that it would be copying Harry Potter. Other than magic playing a part in the story, the Harry Potter and Nevermoor worlds are completely different!

Can I just say how much I would love to live in Nevermoor? It’s a hidden world where you travel via umbrella (a bit like Mary Poppins) and meet fantasy creatures every day. The world is run on a sort of magic called ‘Wunder’, which makes things even more interesting. You see, the only person who knows how to use Wunder is a guy called the Wundersmith. Spoiler: he is not a good guy. You’ll see what I mean.

The one and only Morrigan Crow (I kinda want to be her best friend, honestly)

As for the main character, Morrigan Crow is an interesting protagonist to root for! She has been treated as a ‘cursed child’ for her entire 11-year-old life. Every time someone in the town has something bad happen to them, they blame Morrigan! It’s ridiculous, I know, yet it happens so often that an official literally has to come to her house every month. This worker then gives a list of all the bad things that happened in the town along with a bill. Yup, a bill. Morrigan’s father has to pay fees for misfortunes that Morrigan supposedly caused! Poor girl. Her ‘curse’ pervades her daily life. Her family doesn’t help. In fact, they loathe her and often pretend as if she doesn’t exist. Imagine that! Morrigan’s father is particularly heartless. I’d like to give him a curse or two and see how he likes it. 😡

As a cursed child, Morrigan is doomed to die at midnight on Eventide (which is this world’s version of New Year’s Eve). She has been preparing herself for her inevitable death since she was an infant. I hope you don’t mind me giving you a tiny spoiler: she doesn’t die. How did she escape death? Read and find out! (It involves a mechanical spider and time travel.)

Fenestra in her grumpy glory

There are many fascinating characters in this book, especially in the secret world of Nevermoor. For example, there’s a giant grey cat who works at a hotel. Fenestra the giant Magnificat is…how do I put this…flawless? I actually love her?? I might be biased due to being a humongous cat person, but there are other reasons for my admiration too! Fen is courageous and hard-working. She comes off as grumpy at first, but once you become closer to her, she reveals her softer side and loves you fiercely. In other words, she is a cat! Hm. Maybe my love for cats is influencing me a bit. Oh well.

This is the type of rollercoaster I was desperately trying to describe haha

This book was a roller-coaster of emotions. It’s a cliché to call something a ‘roller-coaster of emotions’, I know, but that’s what it was! I honestly couldn’t stop gobbling up Morrigan’s adventures in Nevermoor. Things that seemed unlikely or unexpected kept happening at an exhilarating pace. Reading this book was like one of those ‘drop-fall’ rollercoasters (the one where you go up and down on a tower thingy and you never know when you’re going to fall next)! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am going off to buy the sequel: Wundersmith. 🙂

It’s a gorgeous fantasy book, so of course Felipe recommends this! Also, there are elements of mystery in the plot (what is Morrigan’s talent? Why was she rescued?), so Millie encourages you to read Nevermoor as well.

Review – Artemis Fowl (Eoin Colfer)

Read the review along with this narration!

Keywords: Action, fantasy(ish), explosions, male protagonist, female protagonist, crime, magic, villainy, anti-hero, strategy, 8-book series, first book.

The first book’s cover.

Ah, Artemis Fowl. He’s technically a villain, but you can’t help but admire him. After all, he’s clever, quick-witted, and he has a large vocabulary! What’s not to love?

Well, he did kidnap a fairy to collect a ransom, so…let’s just say that he’s a complicated protagonist!

This book is the first of an 8-book series about Artemis Fowl II and his somewhat evil adventures in the world of magic. What’s so interesting is that the main character is a villain. You don’t see that very often in books, especially middle-school books. This kind of character is called an ‘anti-hero‘. It can seem a bit strange at first to root for a villain, but as soon as you know that this character shouldn’t be a role model, it can be very enjoyable! We all have a villain inside of us, after all.

Holly Short (AKA the best fairy captain EVER)

This book is about Artemis’s plan to kidnap a fairy and collect the ransom. The magic world lives underground, hiding from humans. Nobody knows about them; nobody but Artemis. Armed with a secret magic book, he’s able to exploit the fairy rules for his own gain. The fairy he kidnaps, though, is much stronger than he expects. Holly Short, the first female captain in the magic police force, does everything she can to fight back. What follows is an epic battle between fairies and Artemis Fowl which takes place at Fowl’s mansion in Ireland. There are explosions, trolls, and farting dwarves – everything an amazing battle needs!

This book is a thinker. It’s the type that will need concentration, as the strategies of Fowl and the fairies can be quite intricate. There’s backstabbing and double-bluffing galore! If you’re into strategic thinking and outsmarting people, this is definitely the book for you!

As this is a fantasy/action book with plenty of thought-provoking scenes, both fantasy-loving Felipe and big thinker Louise recommend Artemis Fowl.