A Pinch of Magic by Michelle Harrison

a-pinch-of-magic-9781471124297_lg.jpgTitle: A Pinch of Magic

Author: Michelle Harrison

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

Published: March 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 368

Price: $16.99

Synopsis:‘A SPELLBINDING STORY, STEEPED IN MAGIC. I ADORED IT’ – Abi Elphinstone, author of Sky Song 

Three sisters trapped by an ancient curse.

Three magical objects with the power to change their fate.

Will they be enough to break the curse?

Or will they lead the sisters even deeper into danger? …

The enchanting new story from Michelle Harrison, author of the bestselling THIRTEEN TREASURES trilogy 

Praise for A PINCH OF MAGIC:

‘BRILLIANT’ Emma Carroll, author of Letters From The Lighthouse

‘This delightful tale fizzes with magic and races along at a fantastic pace. This book completely charmed my socks off!’ Alex Bell, author of The Polar Bear Explorers’ Club

‘Simply phenomenal! A breathtaking quest for survival and freedom, bursting with brave heroines, enchanted objects and deadly dangers. And at its heart is a powerful and beautiful message of sisterly love and loyalty overcoming jealousy and betrayal’ Sophie Anderson, author of The House With Chicken Legs

‘What a glorious book this is! I was utterly captivated by the Widdershins sisters’ Lisa Thompson, author of The Goldfish Boy

‘Take three sisters, add the cruellest of curses and a pinch of magic, and you’ll have a tantalising tale you cannot put down’ Tamsyn Murray, author of Completely Cassidy

‘Gutsy and rude, full of warts-and-all family love, Harrison’s latest has the wry enchantment of an E Nesbit classic’ Guardian

‘A fabulous magical adventure’ Sunday Express

‘Fantasy and adventure appear on every page of this spellbinding tale’ The Daily Mail

~*~

Three sisters – Betty, Fliss and Charlie – live in Crowstone with their grandmother. Their father is in jail, and their mother is dead. Crowstone is like a small English village, but seemingly without the trappings of the twenty-first century. Opening on Halloween in the days and weeks before Betty turns thirteen. They’ve never been allowed to leave Crowstone’s bounds, but in a daring attempt, Betty and Charlie try – only to be dragged back home by their grandmother, and the story of an old curse within the Widdershins family, that condemns them to stay within the bounds of Crowstone – or they’ll die.

Fliss and Betty decide to do some digging – they uncover links to Sorsha Spellthorn, whose story is woven throughout the novel as the girls work to break the curse that was laid upon their family one hundred and fifty years ago. The question is – how will they do it, and will they succeed?

This book was a recommendation from the awesome, friendly Merrill at Book Face, Erina Fair, my local indie bookshop where I find the majority of my reads outside of review books and quiz writing books. I’ll be talking about them in another post about Love Your Bookshop Day, which was yesterday, the tenth of August.

Back to the book – and I loved it. Filled with magic, mystery and family ties, it is a delightful and wonderful book that I thoroughly enjoyed, and found myself longing to get back to it whenever I had to put it down so I could find out what was going to happen to the Widdershins. It is exactly the kind of book I love, and I think it is fabulous that the staff at Book Face know what to recommend to me – and when, because it feels like this week was the right time to read this book.

Each sister is unique, and brings something delightful and special to the story, where they journey through their area and even through time to race to break the curse. It has everything, as I said before, but it is especially wonderful because it focuses on family love, rather than romantic love, and the lengths family goes for to help each other. We need more books that focus on family, and this is one to add to the list.  I am looking forward to the sequel – if there is one – when it comes out.

Pages and Co #1: Tilly and the Bookwanderers by Anna James

Pages and Co 1.jpgTitle: Pages and Co #1: Tilly and the Bookwanderers

Author: Anna James

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Harper Collins

Published: 17th June 2019

Format: Hardcover

Pages: 400

Price: $14.99

Synopsis: A magical adventure to delight the imagination. Eleven-year-old Tilly has lived above her grandparents’ bookshop ever since her other disappeared shortly after she was born. Like the rest of her family, Tilly loves nothing more than to escape into the pages of her favourite stories. One day Tilly realises that classic children’s characters are appearing in the shop through the magic of ‘book wandering’ – crossing over from the page into real life. With the help of Anne of Green Gables and Alice in Wonderland, Tilly is determined to solve the mystery of what happened to her mother all those years ago, so she bravely steps into the unknown, unsure of what adventure lies ahead and what dangers she may face.
~*~

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of books that take place in bookshops or libraries, or both – aimed at all age groups and as a book lover and weekly visitor to my local bookstore, I am loving these books and feel right at home in them. Tilly and the Bookwanderers is exactly this kind of book.

Tilly has lived with her grandparents her whole life, ever since her mother, Beatrice, disappeared shortly after she was born. All she has left is a necklace with a bee, and a few stories. While on mid-term break, she discovers a box of her mother’s old books while helping her friend, Oskar, find a book for their school holiday reading. One day she bumps into Alice from Alice in Wonderland and Anne of Green Gables in Pages and Co. Bookshop, and soon she is drawn into their books and others, and the mystery of her mother’s disappearance all those years ago, unsure of what is to come.

Living above a bookstore is an ideal scenario for any reader, and Tilly always surrounded by books, which is where the mystery starts. Throughout the book, she encounters characters from many classic works, including Lizzy from Pride and Prejudice and Sherlock Holmes. There were many things I loved about this book, from the setting, in a uniquely delightful bookstore that I would love to be able to visit beyond the page, the magic of reading, and the Underlibrary, and the ability to meet characters in the books I read.

In a way, we all wander through the books we read, disappearing into their worlds for hours on end, and often feeling like we are part of that world. While in the real world, we often feel like everything melts away as we read and we enter the worlds of Hogwarts, or Lyra’s Oxford, or many of the fictional worlds and settings we visit – real or imagined (and sometimes a combination), Tilly is able to draw herself into these worlds.

Perhaps it seems a bit much to have bookstores and libraries featuring so prominently in books, but for me, there is definitely something enjoyable about this – it allows people who adore these kinds of books to see a world they inhabit daily but in a fantastical and relatable way. The bookshop and books become more than  just the setting – they become characters that enrich the book and narrative, and make the reader want to dive into the worlds of the books in the novel, as well as the novel itself. It was a feeling I had, and it is definitely one that permeates my reading, and makes Tilly’s adventures magical and wonderfully written, and I am very keen to read the second book when it comes out.

What is lovely about this book and its idea of book wandering is that one does not lose the ability when they become an adult or hit puberty – people of all ages can book wander, and all in this series have to deal with Enoch Chalk, who I am sure will appear in future books as he creates havoc in his quest against Tilly and her family. Another great start to a new series I am sure will be  savoured and loved.

The Dragon in the Library by Louie Stowell

the dragon in the library.jpgTitle: The Dragon in the Library

Author: Louie Stowell

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Nosy Crow/Allen and Unwin

Published: 25th July 2018

Format: Paperback

Pages: 224

Price: $12.99

Synopsis: Save the library, save the world!

Kit can’t stand reading. She’d much rather be outside, playing games and getting muddy, than stuck inside being quiet with a book. But when she’s dragged along to the local library at the start of the school holiday by her two best friends, she makes an incredible discovery: the local library is run by wizards … and she’s one too! The youngest wizard ever, in fact.

But someone is threatening to tear down the library and disturb the powerful magical forces living beneath it. And now it’s up to Kit and her friends to save the library… and the world.

The first book in a fantastically exciting, imaginative and brilliantly funny new series.

~*~

It’s the first day of the summer holidays, and Kit can’t wait to go out and climb trees and get muddy. But her best friends, Alita and Josh, want to go to the new library and check out the latest book in a series they love, Danny Fandango. While they are there, they meet the new librarian, Faith. Alita and Josh head off to scour the shelves, leaving Kit alone to explore the library. When she finds herself pulled into a book of dangerous animals, and has to be rescued by Faith, Kit learns that she is a wizard – the youngest wizard in the world in fact. Showing her powers earlier than usually expected, Kit has to keep the secret from her family – but Alita and Josh overhear, and the three friends and Faith are soon pulled into a quest to save the library from a horrible man called Hadrian Salt – a developer who wishes to take the new library and build a shopping centre. So Kit, Faith, Josh and Alita set out to save the library – and uncover a much more sinister plot, involving the secret hidden beneath the library.

Kit is the third of five children – and at the start of the novel, feels quite left out between her perfect older sister, her rebellious big brother and the youngest children, a toddler and a baby. So when she discovers she is a wizard, she finally has something that makes her special – but like in most stories about wizards, she cannot let anyone know, and her newfound powers are unpredictable.

Louie Stowell combines wizards, dragons, and libraries with a diverse and adorable cast of characters, whose passions for magic and the written word were my favourite aspects of this book, and everyone who reads this book will be able to see various aspects of themselves in all the characters in the book, whether it is what they look like, or what they love or their personality, which is really delightful and fabulous.

Their fight against Hadrian Salt is only just beginning – his quest to buy the library is more sinister than imagined, and it will be up to Faith, Kit, Alita and Josh to save the library – but of course, as the first in the series, there will be much more to come, and I think we will see much more of Salt in subsequent books.

With a reluctant reader as the main character, supported by a diverse cast – Alita, Josh and Faith – Kit is the a wonderful and fun character, and hopefully this book will appeal to eager readers who will see themselves in Alita, Josh and Faith, reluctant readers like Kit, and readers of all ages, genders and races, who will find something about each character to relate to, which I find really nice, and Louie Stowell has pulled this off in a brilliant way to show aspects of the real world alongside magic and fantasy elements.

As the first in a series, it does a fantastic job of setting up the plot and the characters and the challenges they will be facing in subsequent books. I love the idea of a dragon living below the library, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – 20th Anniversary House Editions by JK Rowling

Azkaban 20 RavenclawTitle: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – 20th Anniversary House Editions

Author: J.K. Rowling

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Bloomsbury Australia

Published: 13th June 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 468

Price: Hardback – $27.99 Paperback – $16.99

Synopsis:Let the magic of J.K. Rowling’s classic Harry Potter series take you back to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Issued to mark the 20th anniversary of first publication of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, this irresistible Ravenclaw House Edition celebrates the noble character of the Hogwarts house famed for its wit, learning and wisdom. Harry’s third year at Hogwarts is packed with thrilling Ravenclaw moments, including the appearance of the inimitable Professor Trelawney!

With vibrant sprayed edges in Ravenclaw house livery, the book features beautiful house-themed cover artwork with intricate bronze foiling. With an exciting, bespoke introduction exploring the history of Ravenclaw House, and exclusive insights into the use of the Patronus Charm by favourite Ravenclaw characters, the book also boasts a spectacular image by Kate Greenaway winner Levi Pinfold of Cho Chang conjuring her Patronus. All seven books in the series will be issued in these highly collectable, beautifully crafted House Editions, designed to be treasured and read for years to come.

A must-have for anyone who has ever imagined sitting under the Sorting Hat in the Great Hall at Hogwarts waiting to hear the words, ‘Better be RAVENCLAW!’

Gryffindor: Harry’s third year at Hogwarts sees more great Gryffindor moments and characters – including Harry’s mastery of that most advanced of charms, the Patronus – not to mention four of the most memorable alumni, Messrs Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs.

Hufflepuff: Harry’s third year at Hogwarts sees more great Hufflepuff moments and characters, not least their Quidditch team’s triumph over under their captain – and Hufflepuff heart-throb – Cedric Diggory.

Ravenclaw: Harry’s third year sees more great Ravenclaw moments and characters -not least Harry’s first highly perfumed lesson with the inimitable Professor Trelawney, who – true to her house – proves to have exceptional mental powers.

Slytherin: Harry’s third year sees more great Slytherin moments and characters – including Professor Snape’s masterful potion-making, and Draco Malfoy’s typically sneaky attempt to sabotage the Gryffindor Seeker.

~*~

Each year for the past three years, Bloomsbury had released house editions for each of the first three novels in the much-loved Harry Potter series. This year, 2019, marks twenty years since the third, and my favourite novel, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkabanwas published in 1999. In his third year, Harry returns to Hogwarts after notorious mass murderer, Sirius Black has escaped from the wizard prison, Azkaban. The entire wizarding world has believed that Sirius murdered twelve Muggles and fellow wizard, Peter Pettigrew not long after Voldemort killed James and Lily Potter and failed to kill Harry. But there is more to Sirius’ story than everyone thinks they know.

Azkaban 20 Gryffindor

Throughout the year, Hogwarts hosts the Dementors from Azkaban – guards you drain the happiness out of everything and can only be expelled with the use of the very advanced Patronus charm. Finally, in this novel, Harry has a decent Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher in Professor Remus Lupin – who knows to distribute chocolate after a Dementor attack and teaches his students more than they have learned with their previous teachers, especially Gilderoy Lockhart. Lupin’s presence and the arrival of Sirius are perhaps why this is my favourite – they provide a link to Harry’s parents and early life in the wizarding world he never thought he had or would ever have.

It is also where the story begins to get darker, and has a sinister feel creeping in, that starts to lead into what is to come in books four to seven to conclude the series. As Harry gets older, each book gets longer and darker – and the rest of the house editions will be released on dates to be announced.Azkaban 20 Hufflepuff

In the house editions for the third book, the house content for the four houses: Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw and Slytherin, revolves around key moments and characters linked to the story, as per the above descriptions, and look at the Patronus’s for four key characters: an otter for Hermione Granger, the wolf for Nymphadora Tonks, a swan for Cho Chang and the doe for Snape. These are attached to an overview of the Patronus Charm. The House Specific content in each book adds to the story and gives more insight into the Wizarding World and the characters who populate it. It makes for a rich reading experience for new and old readers of the series.

Azkaban 290 Slytherin

I am enjoying collecting these house editions, particularly the Ravenclaw ones, and am looking forward to seeing how Ravenclaw house is explored in future books.

Book Bingo Seven: Written by an Australian Woman

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And thus ends March, and my seventh book bingo of the year with Theresa Smith and Amanda Barrett. I’ve just got one book to present this week, and this book fills the square “written by an Australian Woman” – which I intended to write weeks ago, but got caught up in all the other squares, and will hopefully be able to fill some of the tricker ones soon.

48987121_1508329715968294_4870693570241101824_n

zelda stitch 2So this week, to check off a book by an Australian woman, I’m using Zelda Stitch Term Two: Too Much Witch by Nicki Greenberg. Following on from the first book, Zelda’s mishaps as a witch continue to plague her, but she’s still trying to protect someone on her class, and make sure that more people don’t find out she is a witch. Her snarky cat, Barnaby is back, and causing even more mischief as Zelda tries to navigate her life as a teacher and life as a witch.

A fun book for kids, my full review is here.

Come back next fortnight for Book Bingo Eight, which might just be a double bingo!

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Harry Potter: A History of Magic by JK Rowling, British Library

pb history of magic.jpgTitle: Harry Potter: A History of Magic

Author: JK Rowling, British Library

Genre: Exhibition Catalogue/Non-Fiction/Fiction

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Published: 18th February 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 256

Price: $34.99

Synopsis:Harry Potter: A History of Magic is the official book of the record-breaking British Library exhibition, a once-in-a-lifetime collaboration between Bloomsbury, J.K. Rowling and a team of brilliant curators. As the spectacular show takes up residence at the New York Historical Society from October 2018, this gorgeous book – available in paperback for the first time – takes readers on a fascinating journey through the subjects studied at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, from Astronomy and Potions through to Herbology and Care of Magical Creatures.

Each chapter showcases a treasure trove of artefacts from the British Library and other collections around the world, beside exclusive manuscripts, sketches and illustrations from the Harry Potter archive. There’s also a specially commissioned essay for each subject area by an expert, writer or cultural commentator, inspired by the contents of the exhibition – absorbing, insightful and unexpected contributions from Steve Backshall, the Reverend Richard Coles, Owen Davies, Julia Eccleshare, Roger Highfield, Steve Kloves, Lucy Mangan, Anna Pavord and Tim Peake, who offer a personal perspective on their magical theme.

Readers will be able to pore over ancient spell books, amazing illuminated scrolls that reveal the secret of the Elixir of Life, vials of dragon’s blood, mandrake roots, painted centaurs and a genuine witch’s broomstick, in a book that shows J.K. Rowling’s magical inventions alongside their cultural and historical forebears.

This is the ultimate gift for Harry Potter fans, curious minds, big imaginations, bibliophiles and readers around the world who missed out on the chance to see the exhibition in person.

~*~

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I first reviewed the hardcover edition of this book when it came out in 2017, coinciding with the twentieth anniversary of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, and now, have read and reviewed the same book in paperback to coincide with the upcoming twentieth anniversary of my favourite book in the series, Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban because not only do we get the fantastic Professor R.J Lupin, but Harry gains a godfather – Sirius Black. To help write this review, I have used some parts of my last review, as many of my previous comments and appreciations are the same.

Since 1997, Muggles around the world have been captured by the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, starting with the immortal lines of number four Privet Drive. Since 2017, to celebrate each twentieth anniversary, House Editions for each book, and this year, the House Edition of Harry Potter and the Prisoner pf Azkaban will be released.

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Harry Potter: A History of Magic is an exhibition that ran at the British Library, and this book gives those who have been unable to visit the exhibition a chance to see the artefacts that inspired the magic behind the series. It shows a whole literary and historical world of magic that influences the fictional worlds.

Each subject at Hogwarts is based on a real-world example of magic – Herbology, Charms, Transfiguration, Divination and so forth. Each culture around the world had their own traditions that had similarities and differences, and reading about these was fascinating, especially ancient traditions, such as curse tablets from Ancient Greece. Exploring these aspects of magic in the real world, and exploring what they meant to the cultures they emerged from, is interesting and intriguing from a historical and literary perspective, and these traditions could be used to shape many a magical or fantastical world other than just Harry Potter.

Allowing people who could not physically get to the exhibition to experience it through the book is a good idea, and a good resource to start with if you’re researching historical aspects of magic, and many of the historical aspects were familiar to me as I have done a historical course called the Art of Magic.

This review is shorter than my hardback one, as they have the same content, but my previous review can be read here.

Bella Donna: Coven Road by Ruth Symes (Bella Donna #1)

Bella Donna 1.jpgTitle: Bella Donna: Coven Road

Author:  Ruth Symes

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Allen and Unwin/Picadilly

Published: 7th January 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 180

Price: $14.99

Synopsis: A witch, a cat and a lot of magic!

A witch, a cat and a lot of magic!

Some girls dream of being a princess, but Bella Donna has always longed to be a witch. The only thing she wants more is to find a family to take her out of the children’s home where she lives. But no one seems quite right until she meets Lilith.

With Lilith’s help, will Bella Donna be able to make both of her secret wishes come true?

Beautifully illustrated throughout by winner of the Egmont Best New Talent award, Marion Lindsay.

~*~

Bella Donna is an orphan, living at the Templeton Children’s Home with her friend Sam – the two are inseparable and keen to find their Forever Families – the ones who will accept them for who they are and what they love. For Bella Donna, she has always wanted to be a witch – and wants a family who will accept her for who she is and what she wants to be. When they’re five, they make a pact that they will both wait for their Forever Families – the ones who will accept them for who they are, and with whom they can be themselves. When Lilith adopts Bella Donna, she feels Lilith is the right person for her, but why? What is it about Lilith that makes Bella Donna think this is her Forever Family? What follows is a series of shenanigans as Bella Donna enters Coven Road, and starts her time there pretending to be something she is not, until Lilith helps her reveal her wishes and find her new identity within Coven Road – and from here, Bella Donna find a way to keep secrets, and when things go wrong, can Bella Donna fix things and save her new family?

This is a new series to Australia, by British author Ruth Symes. Told in first person from Bella’s perspective, the first book in the series is funny, charming and touching – a story of family and friendship, and acceptance set in what I imagine is a small, British village – it has that feel to it and all the charm of British children’s literature throughout the years and decades. Bella Donna is not a perfect female character. At nine years old, she makes mistakes, she isn’t quite perfect but at the same time she just wants to fit in: much like any child growing up.

It is her awkwardness and imperfections that make Bella Donna such a great character as she grapples with friendship at school and keeping her secrets back in Coven Road – secrets, that if she reveals, could mean she has to leave Lilith and Coven Road. Bella Donna also has a charming friendship with Sam from the children’s home that remains strong throughout and though she makes new friends, Sam will always be there for her, and she will always be there for him – it is a celebration of friendship between boys and girls, and a celebration of liking things that might not be seen as acceptable or normal – but somehow Bella Donna makes it all work – school, her new home, her new identity and family – and so begins a series that is charming and amusing, and a rather quick read – but very enjoyable for kids, and anyone who likes a good story about magic and witches.

What Bella Donna does is take the scary image of the witch and turn it on its head. Sure, Bella Donna dresses like you’d imagine a witch might, but the magic that resides in Coven Road draws on all aspects of witches and fantasy, and links them all together in a very creative and uplifting way that is charming and reinforces positive friendships and individualism. I look forward to seeing where Bella Donna goes next.

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