How to Succeed in Witchcraft by Aislinn Brophy (ARC Review)

Information

Goodreads: How to Succeed in Witchcraft
Series: None
Age Category: Young Adult
Source: Publisher Giveaway
Publication Date: September 27, 2022

Official Summary

An overachieving teen witch vies for a prestigious scholarship at her elite high school in this contemporary YA fantasy for fans of Never Have I Ever and Sabrina the Teen Witch!

Magically brilliant, academically perfect, chronically overcommitted…

Shay Johnson has all the makings of a successful witch. Now that she’s a junior at T.K. Anderson Magical Magnet School, she’s one step closerto winning the full-ride Brockton Scholarship–her ticket into the university of her dreams. Her main competition? Ana freaking Alvarez. The key to victory? Impressing Mr. B, drama teacher and head of the scholarship committee.

When Mr. B persuades Shay to star in this year’s aggressively inclusive, racially diverse musicalat their not-quite-diverse school–she agrees, wearily, even though she’ll have to put up with Ana playing the other lead. But with rehearsals underway, Shay realizes Ana is…not the despicable witch she’d thought. Perhaps she could even be a friend–or more. And Shay could use someone in her corner once she finds herself on the receiving end of Mr. B’s unpleasant and unwanted attention. When Shay learns she’s not the first witch to experience his inappropriate behavior, she must decide if she’ll come forward. But how can she speak out when the scholarship–and her future–are on the line?

An unforgettable debut, How to Succeed in Witchcraft conjures up searing social commentary, delightfully awkward high school theater, and magical proclamations of love.

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Review

How to Succeed in Witchcraft is a creative and moving story that brings readers to a world that functions very similarly to ours–except it’s magic! Protagonist Shay Johnson faces the same pressures as many high schoolers, taking a full load of AP courses in subjects like Potions and Transfiguration and competing hard for a free-ride scholarship to a magical licensing college. Author Aislinn Brophy seamlessly blends her rich magical world building with these real world concerns, creating a story that is sure to stick in readers’ minds after the last page is turned.

I do admit that, although I very much liked this book, it was at times difficult to read. While Shay’s fixation on academic excellence and balancing too many activities she’s trying to stuff onto her resume can be relatable, and her blossoming relationship with academic rival Ana is just as charming as the actual magic in the book, I hesitate to call the overall book “delightful” as some other reviewers have. At its heart, this book is still about a high school teacher being a predator and grooming underage students so . . . it was actually stressful for me to read at times. I cringed and gagged and really didn’t want to watch this teacher being a creep. The book is very well done and shows how the teacher starts small and builds up, and how his behavior is excused by 99% of people by innocent, and how there are rumors about his hooking up with students but no one seems to care — all the things that, unfortunately, happen in these situations in our own world. It’s sensitive and moving and deeply realistic. But I hesitate to say it was “fun” to read!

So I can see why a lot of the other reviews I’ve seen have focused on the other aspects of the book. Aislinn’s relationship with her best friend, who is bright and talented but can’t seem to get accepted into a magical licensing college and (in Aislinn’s eyes) might have to “settle” for a lesser school. Her relationship with Ana, the other top contender for the coveted college scholarship, whom Aislinn has hated since freshman year. Her time practicing for the high school musical, since the creepy teacher convinced her to join theatre after implying it would boost her scholarship application. All these things are well done, too, and I do think they help keep the book light. Aislinn gets to have fun with her friends, and flirt, and learn all about the highs and lows of theatre. She has such a great high school experience in many ways, and anyone who was in their own high school drama department, or who spent far too many late nights studying for AP courses, or who worried about how to pay for college, will doubtless see a bit of their own lives in hers.

How to Succeed at Witchcraft is an amazing blend of fantasy and contemporary that speaks on important issues while also incorporating a bit of whimsy. Brophy is an author to watch.

Briana
4 stars

If You Could See the Sun by Ann Liang (ARC Review)

Information

Goodreads: If You Could See the Sun
Series: None
Age Category: Young Adult
Source: Published for review
Publication Date: October 11, 2022

Official Summary

In this genre-bending YA debut, a Chinese American girl monetizes her strange new invisibility powers by discovering and selling her wealthy classmates’ most scandalous secrets.
 
Alice Sun has always felt invisible at her elite Beijing international boarding school, where she’s the only scholarship student among China’s most rich and influential teens. But then she starts uncontrollably turning invisible—actually invisible.
 
When her parents drop the news that they can no longer afford her tuition, even with the scholarship, Alice hatches a plan to monetize her strange new power—she’ll discover the scandalous secrets her classmates want to know, for a price.
 
But as the tasks escalate from petty scandals to actual crimes, Alice must decide if it’s worth losing her conscience—or even her life.

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Review

If You Could See the Sun, set in an international school in China where the protagonist is the only scholarship student in a sea of the children of the rich and famous, feels fun and fresh, even as it takes on popular tropes like academic rivals-to-lovers and a protagonist who suddenly finds herself invisible and able to discover the secrets of others.

I enjoyed the detailed setting and the author’s vivid descriptions both of China and the school itself, a distinctly different environment from the local public schools, which protagonist Alice makes very clear with her reluctance to have to transfer to one when her parents inform her they will not be able to pay the tuition for the next semester at her current school. Liang brings the place to life, grounding readers with Alice, the only economically average student in the entire school. (Her status is so unusual, in fact, that the other students are all completely unaware she is not breathtakingly wealthy like them.)

I enjoyed the plot of the novel, and I think this is one area Liang excels. She clearly positions Alice as a star student whose main goal in life is to succeed academically, then demonstrates the increasing risks Alice is willing to take in order to earn enough money to stay at her school. The stakes get higher as the book goes on, and the love interest gets more and more invested and closer to admitting his love.

I do wish there were a little more exploration of Alice’s character beyond her intelligence and ambition, however. While she takes on some morally questionable tasks for cash, the reader really has no idea whether this is “out of character” for her or not. Alice mentions close to the end of the story that her mother’s greatest wish for her is to be a good person but . . . is she one before the start of the book? I mainly got the sense she stays out of the way of others and is a more or less neutral entity, not being kind to others but not being mean (largely because she can’t have a reputation as being unkind if she wants to make connections and succeed in life, so this is pretty calculated). Her one defining personality trait is her academics, and Liang really focuses on that to the exclusion of other traits.

(I tried to be vague in the next paragraph, but some people might consider it spoilery. Skip it if you dislike spoilers of any kind!)

I also was a bit taken aback by the end of the story, where Alice takes on a final, horrifically criminal task that could result in serious harm to a fellow student. The book really struggles what to do with this, ultimately suggesting her actions were rather understandable and forgivable because she didn’t fit in with the rich kids at school and really needed the money for her tuition. (If only the school had given her a larger scholarship, Alice and the book argue, she would not have needed to resort to such things!) There are some throwaway lines about how, ok, it was a bad thing to do and she shouldn’t have done it, and she faces some minor consequences, but ultimately the book implies it’s not really a big deal.

This doesn’t undermine my enjoyment of the book in general, but I admit I am not fully on board with the ethics here, and I got the sense the author herself might have been struggling a bit to reconcile the book’s message about class differences and admitting that, uh, the protagonist did something truly terrible and should perhaps be accountable for that. (Also one of her accomplices was one of the rich kids, who clearly was not doing this because he needed money, and that’s just glossed over.)

Overall, however, this is a fun, quick read that touches on a few serious topics and feels like something a bit different in the YA space. I would recommend checking it out.

Briana
4 stars

The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie

The Body in the Library

Information

GoodreadsThe Body in the Library
Series: Miss Marple #3
Age Category: Adult
Source: Library
Published: 1942

Summary

One morning, the Bantrys awake to find a girl dead in their library. No one in the household knows who she is. To stop the local gossip, Mrs. Bantry enlists the help of her old friend Miss Marple, who must solve the case before the scandal ruins the Bantrys’ reputations forever.

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Review

The Body in the Library is my second Miss Marple novel, and I had no idea what to expect. While Murder at the Vicarage is told in first person by the vicar, this follow-up takes a turn by presenting the case in third person inside. Perspective shifts between Miss Marple and the inspectors on the case remove some of the charm found in a more personal account, while also making some of the story feel a bit redundant. While I still enjoyed the mystery, The Body in the Library probably will not end up on the top of my favorites list.

For some reason, I had supposed that Miss Marple mysteries might be told in turn by various locals who know the keen spinster. I was not expecting the shift to third person in this book, and I found it much less engaging than the vicar’s narrative, which includes many insightful and witty character observations. The trouble is that Miss Marple, as an amateur sleuth, does not possess the resources of the police force and has to pursue her own lines of investigation. So, to ensure that readers understand how Miss Marple put her case together, the book will often describe how the police uncover information or evidence, and then switch to a chapter of Miss Marple finding out the same thing through her own means. Perhaps readers are meant to be charmed by how Miss Marple uses her wits to uncover clues, in contrast to the official way of doing things. But it all feels rather redundant.

Aside from this, however, the book contains the usual witty characterizations from Christie that make her books shine. Mrs. Bantry’s excitement over having an actual murder in her house, while quite inappropriate, also seems awfully true to life. As does a young boy’s fascination with the murder and his desire to collect mementos to show to his friends. People are not always pretty, but Christie is willing to show all their facets in a way that still feels incredibly modern. Change a few details about how life used to be, and such a story feels like it could be set in the present day.

While I am not convinced that The Body in the Library is a book I shall reread, I enjoyed testing my wits against Christie’s once more. Her works tend to surprise me more often than not, and I love reading mysteries where I have to remain in suspense until the very end. I certainly shall keep on reading through the Miss Marple stories, ready to see an overlooked spinster beat the professionals once again.

4 stars

Cat’s Cradle: The Golden Twine by Jo Rioux

Cat's Cradle

Information

Goodreads: Cat’s Cradle
Series: Cat’s Cradle #1
Age Category: Middle Grade
Source: Library
Published: 2012, 2022

Summary

Suri is a street orphan who longs to be a monster hunter. What luck then that a heartless man drives up one day with a monster inside his wagon! This is the start of an adventure that just might take Suri to the place where all monsters cross to enter her country.

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Review

Cat’s Cradle: The Golden Twine seems just the type of middle grade fantasy to appeal to a large audience, so I am unsure why the book, first published in 2012, apparently was never followed by the intended sequels. The book opens with the orphan Suri who lives in a traveling caravan and tells visitors tales of monsters–for a fee. Her true longing, however, is to be a monster hunter. And her opportunity comes when a strange man joins the caravan with one in his wagon. This, along with a chance encounter with a family of monsters who can take on the forms of humans, begins Suri’s adventures. Adventures that are sadly cut short when the book abruptly ends.

Cat’s Cradle: The Golden Twine is one of those books that really just exists to set the stage for the following books. Readers receive an introduction to our spunky heroine Suri, learn that she lives in a country where monsters invade from across the mountains, and watch Suri fall afoul of a family of monsters and set herself up for a future encounter with the prince–who is a bit of a monster hunter himself. Characters are hastily drawn and the worldbuilding is sketchy. But none of that is supposed to matter, as long as readers get the gist of it. The true adventure will start later, when the mystery of the golden twine is revealed.

Unfortunately, however, as of my reading, book two of the series was never published. I tried to ascertain if the republishing of book one is meant to herald a new attempt to get readers for the series and justify publishing the rest of the series. But I could find no mention of book two online. So, while the book is just the type of thing I would want to recommend to tween lovers of fantasy, I feel awkward doing so as long as it seems readers will not be able to finish the story. Hopefully, things will change and we will receive news of book two. If you have any, feel free to share in the comments!

Cat’s Cradle: The Golden Twine is a story I know I would have loved as a tween, and I was excited to enter its world of magic and adventure. I just wish I knew if there will be more magic in the future.

3 Stars

10 Interesting Posts You May Have Missed in July 2022

Post Round-Up

Around the Blogosphere

  1. Sumedha shares her SEO strategy as a book blogger.
  2. The Orangutan Librarian reviews the Netflix adaptation of Jane Austen’s Persuasion.
  3. Abby wants more platonic relationships in YA.
  4. 24hryabookblog talks about critical reading as a book blogger.
  5. The Literary Escapade explains why reading and blogging slumps can be beneficial.
  6. Sammie reviews Etta Invincible by Reese Eschmann.
  7. Michael is easily empathizing with and conflictedly rooting for Poison Ivy.
  8. Lit Lemon shares 5 tips for book bloggers.
  9. Jordyn wants you to help her find werewolf books.
  10. Celeste reviews Dark Earth by Rebecca Stott.
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Highlights at Pages Unbound

2022 “Support Book Bloggers” Challenge: July Check-in

OVERVIEW

This year, Pages Unbound is hosting a challenge to support and promote book bloggers through sharing posts, commenting on posts, and otherwise recognizing book bloggers. If you would like more information on how it works or how to join in, read the introduction post here.

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THIS MONTH’S CHALLENGE

Again, you can do the tasks in any order you like, but July’s “official” task was to Share Books You’ve Read Because of Other Book Bloggers.

Here’s a link to my post about 5 books I read because of book bloggers!

August’s Task

Follow 5 New Book Bloggers (Blogs Less Than 1 Year Old)

Optional: Share a post, Twitter thread, etc. telling others which blogs you followed!

If you wrote a post, shared a Twitter thread, or did anything else this month you’d like to share, please leave a link in the comments. And since we’re supporting bloggers, be sure to check out some of the links that other people have left!

Happy blogging!

Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

Legendborn

Information

GoodreadsLegendborn
Series: Legendborn #1
Age Category: Young Adult
Source: Library
Published: 2020

Summary

After the death of her mother, sixteen-year-old Bree Matthews accepts a place in an early college program at UNC-Chapel Hill, the same school her mother attended. She does not expect to see a flying demon feeding on human energy, right on campus! Bree’s desire to learn more leads her to infiltrate a secret society with roots stretching back centuries. The students involved call themselves “Legendborn,” and say that they are descendants of the original Round Table. Their mission is to fight demons and protect humans. But Bree suspects that the society may have been involved in the death of her mother, and she is determined to learn the truth.

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Review

I have conflicted feelings about Legendborn. While the idea of a contemporary retelling of King Arthur intrigued me, and while I was impressed by the extensive worldbuilding done by Tracy Deonn, at times I could not help but think that Legendborn does feel rather like a debut. The ingredients are all there for a wonderfully immersive story, but it veers quite often into overdone YA tropes and occasionally feels bloated. I could see Deonn’s craft improving, however. While I found the start of the story somewhat painful, by the end I could almost visualize myself picking up the sequel.

Of course, I will be the first to admit that a story filled with YA tropes is not a deal breaker for every reader–some readers will no doubt even love and welcome these tropes! Readers who enjoy a good Chosen One story where the protagonist uncovers hidden powers (multiple ones never seen before, way more powerful than everyone else’s, etc, etc) or love triangles or instalove or lovers to enemies will find a lot to like here. Personally, I tend to enjoy Chosen One stories, though not love triangles or instalove. What really bothered me in this instance was just how many tropes there were, and not necessarily what the tropes were.

I also found it difficult to engage initially with the basic premise of the story because it hinges on the protagonist Bree having zero plan, and, personally, I tend to prefer characters who know what they are doing. Essentially, Bree sees something supernatural, and wants to know more. Then she starts to consider the possibility that the supernatural event is connected to her mother, and she is determined to find out the truth. To do so, she pressures her love interest Nick into rejoining the secret Order he left years ago, even though he cautions her that she knows nothing about the Order and will be endangering her life. (Also his, for that matter.) Bree doesn’t care. She has no idea what the Order is, what it does, how it works, or what will be expected of her, but she decides that joining and engaging in a three-part trial involving things like combat with demons is something she, a normal teenager who has no experience with fighting, will figure out as she goes along. It does not make a lot of sense.

Bree not only does not have a plan. She’s also behaves in a morally dubious manner, that I personally found difficult to sympathize with. She lies and takes an Oath to protect and serve humanity that she does not mean to fulfill. And she positions herself as a loyal fighter who will always be there for her fellow pages, even though she plans to drop them as soon as she is done using them. The Order as an institution is undoubtedly flawed, but many of the individuals in it truly believe in the mission to protect humans from demons, and they are prepared to give their lives to do it. For Bree to lie to everyone about her purpose, and essentially plan to stab them in the back at the end does not make her particularly sympathetic to me, no matter how sorry I am that she’s hurting over her mom. But, because Bree narrates the story, she presents herself as the hero and the Order as the villain–even as she is perfectly willing to use the Order’s resources, influence, and power for herself. I would like to say that the first person narration is supposed to read as unreliable, but it seems that readers are meant to take all Bree’s words at face value.

Indeed, I really wanted a more extended treatment of Bree’s thoughts and feelings as she learns more about the Order and its past. For much of the book, the Order is presented as a despicable institution, an Old Boys Club, that many readers would no doubt love to see burned to the ground. Other characters whisper its name in fear, say that the Order wields wicked powers gained through cursed means, and call them “colonizers” who have brought more harm to the world than good. Bree, interestingly, however, goes from wanting to infiltrate the Order to maybe actually wanting to join it. The story seems to present the idea as Bree one-upping the Order. They don’t want her, but she’s going to become one of them, wield their power, and watch them squirm as she does it. I rather wanted something more visionary, though. If the Order is truly so despicable, I would want Bree to reject their power gained through evil and find a way to either destroy them or renew them through some other means. Seeing Bree become one of the Order does not feel like a victory if the Order is so sickeningly corrupt.

In the end, Legendborn is a book that I would describe as really “YA-y,” if that makes sense. It has many of the typical YA tropes and it just feels like a standard YA book in everything from the way it is narrated in the first-person present tense to the way that it raises serious ethical and philosophical questions, only to let them fall by the wayside in favor of upping the action and the drama. I give credit to the extensive worldbuilding, the raising of important issues like racism and sexism, and the exploration of grief after the death of a loved one. I just hope to see Bree grapple more seriously with the implications of joining a corrupt institution in the sequel.

3 Stars

The Tuesday Club Murders by Agatha Christie

Information

GoodreadsTuesday Club Murders
Series: Miss Marple #1
Age Category: Adult
Source: Library
Published: 1932

Summary

This book of thirteen short stories contains the first appearances of Miss Marple, the old maid who uses her life experiences in the small village of St. Mary Mead to draw parallels to tricky crimes that no one else can solve.  The first six stories have as a framing device a game in which each member of a small gathering must tell an unsolved mystery for the other guests to solve.  The next six employ a similar device at a small party, while the last story has Miss Marple ask for the help of her friend Sir Henry Clithering in saving the wrong man from being convicted of murder.

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Review

The Tuesday Club Murders is a short story collection in which Agatha Christie’s famous amateur sleuth Miss Marple first appeared. The device of having various guests at a party tell stories of unsolved crimes makes for satisfying and varied reading; readers can feel like they accomplished quite a lot in solving thirteen mysteries in such a short time! For my part, I enjoyed the variety of mysteries. Some I was able to solve and feel clever about. Some I wasn’t and I loved being shocked! Certainly The Tuesday Club Murders is a must-read for fans of Miss Marple and Agatha Christie!

Stories with framing devices always challenge me a bit because I tend to get immersed in the story-within-a-story and I resent being pulled back into the framing device–which is often more boring than the story being told. In this case, for instance, there are six people sitting around chatting in the framing device whereas the stories are being told are all about murder and crime! You see the dilemma in making one as interesting as the other. Christie, however, I must say, manages to pull this one off admirably.

Christie puts the bare minimum of writing into the framing device, basically just using it to set up the stories and then letting it go. I approve! However, she uses the small space she gives herself very effectively. Within a few sentences here and there in each short story, at the start and at the end, she not only manages to give very effective character portraits, but also manages to add in mini dramas such as an engagement and break up. The framing device thus proves interesting, but it never overwhelms the mystery-solving aspect. I even understood enough from it to get a good picture of all the characters for later Miss Marple mysteries!

The stories themselves have a good variety, so that even mysteries that seem similar to the others end up having unexpected or at least different solutions. Christie is clearly aware that readers may be catching on to her methods, and she tries to subvert expectations. A character in the framing device, for instance, will ask a question about motives that readers will probably be asking themselves once they have seen similar scenarios play out in a few stories. But the ending will not be the same in the future. Christie wants to keep readers guessing.

Altogether, The Tuesday Club Murders is a satisfying read. The only thing I really did not like was that Miss Marple has to expound on her famous village parallels in every story. But, we get it! She uses her observations of village life to extrapolate and make guesses because human nature is the same everywhere. Saying it once or twice would have been sufficient. Aside from that, however, I really enjoyed this one and intend to keep reading more Miss Marple!

4 stars

A Darkness at the Door by Intisar Khanani

A Darkness at the Door book cover

Information

Goodreads: A Darkness at the Door
Series: Dauntless Path #3
Age Category: Young Adult
Source: Purchased
Published: July 21, 2022

Official Summary

I’ve been cursed, betrayed, and sold into slavery – but the truth I carry can’t be allowed to die.

Only Rae knows the extent of the corruption at the heart of the kingdom of Menaiya, from the noble lord who betrayed her, to the Circle of Mages whose wards protect the slavers from discovery. Injured and imprisoned on a slave ship, Rae’s options are quickly running out. When a desperate escape attempt goes terribly wrong, she finds herself indebted to a terrifying Fae sorceress.

Now Rae will not rest until she has rescued her fellow prisoners and freed her land from the darkness that has taken hold. To succeed, she’ll need every ally she can find—including Bren, the thief who may have stolen her heart. But Bren is hiding his own bloody secrets, and the curses that encircle Rae have sunk their claws into her mind. With her debts coming due and time running short, all the truths in the world may not be enough to save her kingdom, or herself.

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Review

Intisar Khanani has quickly become one of my favorite authors. I fell in love with her storytelling after reading Thorn (a “Goose Girl” retelling), and The Theft of Sunlight was one of my top reads of 2021. I couldn’t wait to continue reading Rae’s tale in A Darkness at the Door, since The Theft of Sunlight ended on a huge cliffhanger, and I was not disappointed. Action, adventure, a bit of magic, a bit of mystery, romance . . . this book has it all, and it’s all led by Rae with her will of iron and a sense of morality she will not have stamped down.

So this is one of those reviews that’s hard for me to write simply because I loved absolutely everything about the book. The plot, the pacing, the characters. There’s not much I could ask to be changed here. Khanani has such a strong sense of both story and her characters that her skill as an author is obvious chapter by chapter, and I personally think it’s absurd her US publisher dropped this book (I bought the UK version, but Khanani has also teamed up with Snowy Wings Publishing to make a US edition available for purchase). Khanani is basically an auto-buy author for me at this point, so I blame any “disappointing” sales of book two on a lack of marketing from the publisher.

Anyway, all the questions I could have had left from Thorn or The Theft of Sunlight have been answered here, and I got to see more of the characters I love (Bren! The perfect thief! Because who doesn’t love a good YA thief character?) and some characters who previously didn’t get a lot of page time (Rae’s badass mother and one of her sisters!).

I also love that the series grapples with some interesting questions, like what justice is and who can mete it out and what recourse “ordinary” people have when the authorities don’t seem to be enforcing it. Khanani tries to make this discussion as nuanced as possible, so readers can see where people on all sides of the question are coming from. Kudos for being able to make me sort of side with a thief!

In short, this is definitely going to end up on my “best books of 2022” list at the end of the year, and I will be looking forward to anything else Khanani publishes. Buy this book. Buy the whole series. If you like fantasy, I don’t think you can go wrong here.

Briana
5 stars

The Mythics #1: Marina and the Kraken by Lauren Magaziner (ARC Review)

Marina and the Kraken by Lauren Magazine cover

Information

Goodreads: Marina and the Kraken
Series: The Mythics #1
Age Category: Middle Grade
Source: Netgalley for review
Publication Date: September 6, 2022

Illustrated by Mirelle Ortega

Official Summary

It’s Pairing Day in Terrafamiliar! Marina has been waiting for this moment—anxiously—for as long as she can remember. Because today’s the day she gets to bond with her animal familiar for life, like every other ten-year-old in the land.

Except after the ceremony ends, Marina doesn’t have one. And she’s not alone . . . four other girls also didn’t get their animal companions. The leaders of Terrafamiliar realize something special is happening: Marina and the other four girls—Kit, Ember, Pippa, and Hailey—are called Mythics

In times of unrest, the Mythics must earn their Mythies—mythical beasts—in quests of courage. But danger lurks everywhere as there are others seeking this mysterious power. And only the Mythics can save Terrafamiliar! 

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Review

Marina and the Kraken is an adventure-filled romp that takes readers on a journey with the titular Marina and her new friends to find their (not!) mythical animal familiars, which they need to do in order to save the world! (They’re just not sure from what yet.) The story is a mix of mishaps and bravery and surprises and fun that will have young readers eagerly turning the pages and daydreaming about what their own animal familiar would be.

The book definitely has a lot of commercial appeal, with its adorable illustrations by Mirelle Ortega, its world where everyone gets paired with a familiar on their tenth birthday, and its focus on five different girls who will each get their own book in the series, so look for for this to be a new obsession for lower middle grade readers.

As an adult reader, I saw places in the narrative where I didn’t think the logistics really worked, but this will likely not be an issue for the actual target audience (or other adult readers, based on my past experience being the only person concerned with logic in books). Even so, the story is engaging, and Magaziner keeps it grounded with protagonist Marina, who is bright also rather anxious and not quite gung-ho to go on adventures and become a hero. So much could go wrong! She, and the readers, must balance worry and bravery as she journeys to find her Mythie familiar and keep her friends safe.

This is certainly a series to keep your eye on, especially if you are a buyer of lower middle grade. Cure, heartwarming, full of jokes and a bit of danger, it has a bit of everything to draw in young readers.

Briana
4 stars