Mini Reviews: Magic and Chills Edition + Giveaway

March 27, 2014 2 star books, 2014, 3.5 star books, 4 star books, fantasy, giveaway, Kim, middle grade, mini reviews 67

Today I’m taking a look at three books, two fantasy and one thriller, all featuring female leads ranging the badass spectrum from “totally” to “eh, not really.” One of them is also one of my favorite reads of 2013 and we’re giving away a finished paperback! Two of these covers are so summery and fantastical and leave me just longing for warmer weather. Even though it’s spring, the cold weather is hanging on here in Philly; it snowed just a few days ago! Coincidentally, I didn’t like the snowy covered book nearly as much as the pretty fantasy books. Let’s see what happened.

A Snicker of Magic Natalie Lloyd Title: A Snicker of Magic
 Author: Natalie Lloyd
 Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
 Release Date: February 25, 2014
 Publisher: Scholastic Press
 Age Group: MG
 Source: Advance copy provided by the publisher

 A Snicker of Magic is such a charming and delightfully Southern little story. The enchantingly named Felicity  Pickle is on a quest to restore magic to the town of Midnight Gulch and break the curse on her mother’s    wandering heart. Felicity has a special kind of magic herself: she can see words, the feelings of a moment, rising  above the heads of strangers and infiltrating the most unlikely of places.

Having moved around constantly, Felicity just wants a place to call home, a chance to make friends and build meaningful relationships. Most of all, she wants her dad to come back. Her journey as she works through each of her goals and struggles is both heartbreaking and lovely. On her first day at yet another new school the words she sees for herself are: “dork”, “lonely”, and “clutzerdoodle.” It’s not hard to empathize with dear Felicity.

She meets the utterly adorable Jonah, a sweet boy on a mission to spread good will. It’s easy to love Jonah, who sees the best in everyone and encourages them to see it themselves. Felicity doesn’t have a crush on Jonah, she as an “inflate” because he makes her heart swell like a balloon. I know, right? It’s too adorable. Plus, they get to have magical ice cream. Magical ice cream!

Told in a refreshing and enchanting voice, Felicity’s story of finding a home, the love of family, and the importance of good deeds is as heartwarming as it is miraculous. As she herself would likely say, it’s spindiddly!

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The Well's End Seth FishmanTitle: The Well’s End
Author: Seth Fishman
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Release Date: February 25, 2014
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Age Group: YA
Source: Advance copy provided by the publisher

I’m sad to say I was pretty disappointed with The Well’s End. Touted as a “high stakes” adventure, I never once felt the thrill or the danger promised. In fact, I often felt like this book takes place in an alternate universe where human behavior has different consequences than it does in our world.

Mia was inexplicably violent. Early in the book, a douchebro classmate is taunting her so she calmly smashes his face with a textbook. She’s sent to the principal’s office but isn’t even considering that she’ll be expelled. The teacher was alarmed, but not overly so that a student just smashed someone’s face with a textbook. I scratched my head. It’s a prime example of the weird inconsistencies between action and consequence and situation and behavior evidenced throughout the book.

There is also the presence of the much dreaded “instalove.” Mia meets the unfortunately named Brayden at a party one night. By the next day, and in the middle of a viral breakout, she is in love with him and trusting him blindly. They pause to make out in the middle of action scenes that are supposed to be fraught with tension. What are you doing?! You guys need to move! This is neither the time nor the place. I am the last person to complain about a romantic storyline, but in this case it really felt forced and inorganic to the story. The whole book takes place over the course of just a few days. There simply wasn’t enough time for the relationship to realistically develop. Much like the story as a whole, it felt shallow and juvenile. The one note characters, instalove, inexplicable actions, and failure to thrill make this one eminently skippable.

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8113512Title: Poison
Author: Bridget Zinn
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Release Date: March 12, 2013
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Age Group: YA
Source: finished copy provided by the publisher

This is such a sweet, funny, and fun fantasy romp. It reminded me a tiny bit of Ella Enchanted in the fairy tale-like feel. We follow the story of Kyra, a smart and capable potions master, on the run after a failed attempt to murder the princess, her best friend. Why did she do it? Can she succeed next time with the help of a charming vagabond and an exceedingly adorable miniature pig?

Now, the thing is we’ve got a badass potions assassin, strong female friendship, and a swoonsome companion. We have daring magic, alluring mystery, and enchanting adventure. But the very best thing, better than all of those combined, is Rosie the tracker pig.

I am the last person to be won over by an adorable animal in a book. I’ve never had a pet (it’s super sad, I know), and while animals are cute and all, most of the time I look on them as strange little aliens roaming about the Earth. Rosie floored me. I could have lived with a terrible fate for any of the other characters. But if anything happened to Rosie I would be devastated. This is not to knock any of the other awesome elements of this book. Rather, it’s just a testament to how outstanding and endearing Rosie is. It takes talent to make a character with no dialogue so easy to connect with and so emotive.

There is one scene, pretty shortly after we’ve met her, where Rosie is merely distressed and my heart was aching. Just distressed! No major terrible happenings!  I practically had tears springing to my eyes as I whispered, “No, Rosie, don’t be sad. It’ll be okay. You’ll be fine.” And when I think about it now, months after I read this book, I feel that same ache all over again. It’s a rare book that has that sort of emotional staying power.

I’m so sad that this is the only book we’ll ever have from this author, as she passed away in 2011. Her humor is so infectious and her big heart shines right through the pages. Still, I’m grateful that we have this delightful, charming, and playful story. This is the sort of book I’d reach for as a comfort re-read on a rainy day. It’s a story sprinkled through with warmth and heart and one I’d pick up any time I want a humorous lift in my spirits.

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Thanks to our friends at Disney Hyperion we have a finished copy of Poison to give away to our lovely readers.

All you have to do is fill out the Rafflecopter form and leave a thoughtful comment below telling us why you love fantasy books OR which YA fantasy books are your favorites!

Open to US and Canadian residents aged 18 and older, or 13 and older with parental permission. Good luck!

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Poison is really such a funny and sweet story. I just know that it will  tickle you pink.

kim teal

 

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

 

 

 

 

 

67 Responses to “Mini Reviews: Magic and Chills Edition + Giveaway”

  1. Barrie

    Poison is such a great book! I hadnt thought of the Ella Enchanted feel to it until just now, but I totally agree. I really wish we would have been able to have had more adventures in that world. There were a bunch of more stories that I would have loved to have heard.

  2. Lark @ The Bookwyrm's Hoard

    I heard so many wonderful things about this book when it came out… and then it slipped off the front burner due to all the other books I wanted to read — and my library’s incomprehensible lack of a copy. (They’ve since remedied that, but until I saw your review, I’d forgotten to check back with them.) But I have to say, as much as I enjoyed other people’s reviews, you really sold me with Rosie the tracker pig. She sounds delightful!
    Lark @ The Bookwyrm’s Hoard recently posted…Sunday Post – 4/06/14

  3. Celeste

    I think YA fantasy is my favorite genre. Some favorites include the Graceling Trilogy, the Killer Unicorn series (which was way better than I expected it to be), Daughter of Smoke and Bone, the Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in Ship of Her Own Making and its sequels.
    Celeste recently posted…Picture books with Racial or Ethnic Diversity

    • Kim

      You are a gal after my own heart, Celeste! Those books are favorites of mine as well. Except for the Killer Unicorn series which I’ve never heard of. I will have to check those out so thank you for that!
      Kim recently posted…Review: The Forever Song

  4. Harleen Kaur

    I am so very excited to read this book. I love reading books about fairytales. They really are my favorite, but I don’t know too many out there. Do any of you guys have recommendations?

  5. Darith L.

    Poison sounds so magical! I’d love to read it! Sad to hear about the author, but I hope everyone will read her books.

  6. fishgirl182

    I have an ARC of Poison from ages ago. Your review makes me want to go home and finally read it. I might just do that…And I have heard nothing but good things about A Snicker of Magic and need to add it to my library soon.
    fishgirl182 recently posted…Manicure Monday (57): Silence

  7. Susan T.

    I love anything related to fairy tales so this attracted me immediately! Once I heard there was a tiny pig involved I was sold!

  8. J. Oh

    I hadn’t heard of Poison, but I’m excited to read it! I might actually say YA fantasy is my very favorite genre of books (though, within that category, I’d probably put high fantasy first, and fairy tale retellings second). I love that they allow the reader to explore new worlds with fantastic possibilities while (usually) relating universal problems and motivations. I also generally prefer children’s/YA to adult because I don’t have the stomach for a lot of explicit elements (I’ve been told I would love Game of Thrones if they could write a children’s version). But while I do love middle grade fiction especially, I find myself more consistently reading YA because it still allows more in-depth development than MG.

    Some of my recent favorites are The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale, Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge, and (so far) the Frost Chronicles by Kate Avery Ellison.

    • Kim

      YA fantasy is my favorite as well. :) There is something so alluring and absorbing about watching characters sort through very human problems in a fantasy setting. I am totally with you on that. Adult fantasy and YA fantasy are totally different beasts yet both have their place (and yeah, the Game of Thrones books are not for the faint of heart). I’d say I love YA fantasy more because of the abundance of female leads and they’re much more likely to have a romantic plotline. Romance! Give me all of the romance! :)

      Oooh I haven’t heard of the Frost Chronicles before. I will have to check them out!
      Kim recently posted…Discussion: The Luckiest Girl + April book announcement

  9. Valerie @ Innocent Smiley's Reviews

    Poison looks like a really good fantasy YA, I don’t remember the last time I’ve picked up an original fantasy YA story, since I’m been reading so many fairy tale retellings. There are just way too many books to read :P

    Haha just read your review on A Snicker of Magic, and where does this magical ice cream come from? And what’s a clutzerdoodle? It seems like a fun book to read :)
    Valerie @ Innocent Smiley’s Reviews recently posted…Top Ten Tuesday #5

    • Kim

      Oh there is something so enjoyable and comfortable about diving into a retelling. I feel you! But as far as originals go, you can’t go wrong with the sweet and adorable POISON. :)

      Haha why it comes from the magical ice cream factory, of course! “Clutzerdoodle” is one of the words Felicity makes up about herself (she has many) that is self deprecating but in a really cutesy and charming way. She is adorable. It really is such a fun little book. Heartwarming too!
      Kim recently posted…Discussion: The Luckiest Girl + April book announcement

  10. Shannelle C.

    I want to enter this because I remember borrowing Poison before, and I loved it! And I hate it that there’s nothing else by Bridget Zinn, who has such a promising talent in Poison. I just hate it. The good never stay long here.

    Sadly, Philippines, so I can’t get a copy. But I will try to find it somewhere around here, if I can. It’s something definitely worth buying. :) Glad you’re giving others the chance to read it.
    Shannelle C. recently posted…Fangirling Friday: Alice Zhang and Her Fandom Art

  11. Pili

    The first one sounds adorable and I’ll keep it mind for the bf’s nieces and nephew!
    As for Poison, I agree!! I absolutely loved it! It was sweet, funny and hugely entertaining! And yes, Rosie the pig totally stole the limelight there! It’s so sad that we won’t ever get another book by this author…
    Pili recently posted…Friday Reads: Split Second by Kasie West!!

    • Kim

      Yeah, SNICKER is so, so cute. I think it would be especially affecting for any middle school girl who feels like a loner/outsider.

      Yay!! I’m so glad to encounter a POISON fan! And especially another Rosie fan. I knew you had good taste, Pili! :) I wish there were more books like it.

    • Kim

      SNICKER has personality for miles! You are spot on with that observation! POISON is just the cutest, sweetest, most adorable story of a pig…I mean, no. It’s definitely about human characters who…what? Oh who cares?! I abandon all pretense! You really just want to meet this pig.
      Kim recently posted…Discussion: The Luckiest Girl + April book announcement

  12. Cait @ Notebook Sisters

    I’d looove to read Poison. It sounds so cute and just that little bit of magical fluff. YES PLEASE. But okay, Well’s End is freaking me out a bit…smashing kids with textbooks?? That’s not normal teenage behaviour. I mean, that might be the POINT, but that kind of viciousness needs to have a reason and get resolved or SOMETHING. I hope. *shivers* I don’t think I’ll be going after that one.
    Cait @ Notebook Sisters recently posted…The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton (emphasis on strange)

    • Kim

      Ohhh “magical fluff” is the perfect way to describe POISON! Yes! It is just so, so lovely. :)

      Yeah, WELL’S was just so weird. What is this strange universe where smacking a fellow student in the face with a textbook *in class* is apparently normal behavior? This happens quite early on in the story and only serves to underline how nonsensical so many of the other behaviors we see really are. And nope, there’s no reason or resolution to the violence. The viral breakout happens while she’s on her way to the principal’s office. We’ll never know what was to come of the textbook to the face smashing!
      Kim recently posted…Discussion: The Luckiest Girl + April book announcement

    • Kim

      Oh how wonderful! You just made my heart swell up with joy! I can’t wait to see what you’ll think of it. And it is so sad that this is the only book we’ll have but it’s so delightful you’ll be grateful for the good cheer it brings. Ha and yes. How wonderful to unexpectedly wake up to book credits last week! A dream come true.
      Kim recently posted…Discussion: The Luckiest Girl + April book announcement

  13. Olivia Ngai

    I read fantasy because I think it’s amazing how people can imagine and create whole new worlds, with their own laws and governments and systems of how things work. Books like Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson and the Harry Potter series just blow my mind because the details are so rich and the magic is so strong that it all feels real, like if I close my eyes then that world comes alive.
    Olivia Ngai recently posted…Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan

    • Kim

      It is amazing indeed! I agree with you. :) For me, I’ve always loved the opportunity to escape reality and belong so wholly to another world. My very favorite books are always the ones that leave me aching that I don’t actually live in the world of that book. And for being such a fantasy fan, I am ashamed to say I’ve never read any Sanderson! I really need to rectify this. *sigh*
      Kim recently posted…Discussion: The Luckiest Girl + April book announcement

    • Kim

      You should be just antsy to read it! It’s so good and sweet and fluffy. Haha me? I’m adorable? Ha, thank you. Today someone told me I am “effervescent” so that was fun. Now I have an “adorable.” What a winning day for me!

  14. Wendy Darling

    POISON is so, so sweet–I’m glad you reviewed it for us, Kim, and I’m glad we have a copy to give away! I’m really sad we won’t get another book. Also, another things you should know about me, and partly why I liked what I read so much: I LOVE pigs. I mean, I have a soft spot for many animals, but I especially love pigs. Someday I shall have one.

    It’s sad that WELL’S END didn’t end up living up to your expectations, but I’m really happy to hear SNICKER OF MAGIC is so cute! I’m looking forward to reading that sometime soon.

    • Kim

      It warms my heart to review POISON and give it a little boost and some love. Hee, that is so sweet that you love pigs. They are really lovable. Didn’t Charlotte teach us well after all?? ;) Right after college I worked for a local historical society that was based out of an 18th century farmhouse. When the Society bought the property it came with a Vietnamese pot bellied pig who lived out in the barn and we took care of him. There were horses in the paddock… It was all very idyllic.

      I think you’ll really like SNICKER! There’s some decent food porn in there. :)

    • Kim

      Yeah, it’s too bad about THE WELL’S END. But POISON is such an adorable story, Yahong. If you already love animal sidekicks you are going to LOVE Rosie. It doesn’t take long for her to squirm right into your heart. Good luck in the giveaway! :)
      Kim recently posted…Mini Reviews: Magic and Chills Edition + Giveaway

    • Kim

      Normally I am also pretty indifferent to animals in books (and younger siblings because I have a yawning empty void in place of a soul). Probably Rosie and Manchee from the CHAOS WALKING series by Patrick Ness are the only two bookish animals that’ve really gotten to me. But my love for Rosie knows no bounds. I never know a tiny little pig could be so emotive and endearing. I love you, Rosie. :’) Oh yeah and Fred and Kyra were cute too. :p
      Kim recently posted…Mini Reviews: Magic and Chills Edition + Giveaway

    • Kim

      SNICKER is just scrumptious! My favorite of these was POISON, though. I wish Rosie was real and she could be mine.

  15. Katie @ Spirit of Children's Literature

    I just got a copy of A Snicker of Magic, so was excited to see you review it here, and happy also that you enjoyed it! I think it sounds like a delightful read, and of course, I’m interested in any book cover with ice cream on it. :)

    I was wondering about The Well’s End…

    I have never heard of Poison, but a “tracker pig”? Sounds fabulous! I didn’t even see the pig on the cover at first. I’m always on the lookout for books with strong female friendships, so definitely want to read this.
    Katie @ Spirit of Children’s Literature recently posted…Top Ten Things on My Bookish Bucket List

    • Kim

      SNICKER is very adorable and certainly a worthwhile read! The magical ice cream is so great. There are so many great elements of the book. And some strong spritual themes that I’m sure will be of particular interest for you. :)

      Yeah, that’s too bad about THE WELL’s END. :\ Oops…

      Oh you *need* to read POISON! It is the cutest. And Rosie the tracker pig is the best of life. Everybody could use some Rosie in their lives.
      Kim recently posted…Mini Reviews: Magic and Chills Edition + Giveaway

    • Kim

      Yeah, it makes my heart swell up a bit to be able to give POISON a little boost like this. I just want everyone to know about it! Get a little more sunshine in your life!! And you will seriously love this pig.

    • Kim

      *happy sigh* Their banter was so good. I love bantering couples! They are almost always guaranteed to be a fav. :)

  16. Kate

    I love YA fantasy. In adult fantasy it sometimes becomes too serious and I just enjoy the lightheartedness of YA fantasy. One of my all time favorite fantasy novels (and just novels in general) is East by Edith Pattou. I’m a sucker for a good fairytale retelling and Pattou’s rendition of East of the Sun, West of the Moon is just so vivid and fraught with fable and superstition.
    Kate recently posted…Book Review: Panic by Lauren Oliver

    • Kim

      I enjoy the more lighthearted approach in YA fantasy as well. I mean, I also love adult fantasy but there is something so fresh and fun about the vast majority of YA fantasy books. Also, they have a much larger proportion of female MCs than adult fantasy books do, I find. I’ve not heard of EAST before but I will certainly have to check it out. I’m very fond of retellings. Thanks for sharing. :)

  17. Victoria

    This book looks really interesting! I love that Rosie seemed to strike such emotion from you. I love animals, and I happen to have a dog named Rosie, so that definitely drew me in to this story, as well as the concept. I love how on the cover you can see Rosie peaking out from behind the tree, too! Thank you so much for sharing and for this opportunity!
    Victoria recently posted…Booking Through Thursday #1

    • Kim

      Oh it’s so funny and charming! I’m pretty sure it’s impossible to *not* love Rosie. She’s the real star of the show here. And you’re welcome! I’m so pleased to have the opportunity to share this sweet book. I must spread the Poison love!

  18. Mary @ BookSwarm

    I NEED some magical ice cream. Do they have sweet cream? That’s my fave. Mia sounds like she has a touch of the sociopath in her (and by a touch, I mean a lot). Between that and the insta-love/trust, I’m gonna pass. However, I absolutely adored Poison. Sweet and cute with a touch of sass and an awesome animal friend. How can you go wrong? So sad that this bright writer passed away. Great minis!
    Mary @ BookSwarm recently posted…Speed Date with Mickey: THE LONESOME YOUNG by Lucy Connors

    • Kim

      Hee! I don’t remember if there is sweet cream specifically but there are *so many* fun flavors mentioned throughout the book. I wish they were real! There’s a “Blackberry Sunrise” ice cream that brings you memories-but you never know whether they’ll be good or bad. Hijinks ensue.

      Yeah, The Well’s End was just so weird. Mia, what on earth is wrong with you?? The violence/instalove juxtaposition was also super strange. It would be like Brayden comes in and bashes in the face of a bad guy with bat and then they’d make it. *bash bash bash* “Thanks for saving me, Brayden! Let’s kiss!” That’s the book. :\

      Poison is the best. It’s so sweet and I just love it to pieces. I want Rosie for myself!! And it is so, so sad that we’ll only have this one book from Bridget Zinn but I’m so glad we at least have this adorable little adventure.
      Kim recently posted…Mini Reviews: Magic and Chills Edition + Giveaway