Blog Book Tour and Giveaway: The Blue Moon Narthex by N.J. Donner

Published by Steel Page Press LLC Genres: Adventure, Fantasy, Middle Grade

Welcome to The Blue Moon Narthex Book Tour! Today is my stop on the tour hosted by Irish Banana Tours and I will be sharing my review of The Blue Moon Narthex. This is a great new series for middle-grade readers and is sure to capture their attention.  Remember to enter the awesome giveaway at the bottom of the post! You don’t want to miss it!

 

The Blue Moon Narthex

Author: N.J. Donner

Publisher: Steel Page Press 

Pub. Date: Feb 7th, 2017

My Rating: 3 Stars

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ABOUT THE BLUE MOON NARTHEX:

The balance of good and evil has been left in the hands of a thirteen-year-old… Since the beginning of time, Karmanic matter worked silently and unassisted keeping good and evil in balance, until growing greed in the world meant Karma couldn’t keep up. As World War I rages, the secret Karmanic Sovereign Legion works behind the scenes to help Karma.

 

A suspicious train accident and an odd stone-shaped object that belonged to his father thrust Cole McCarthy and two schoolmates into the middle of this battle to keep dark forces in check.

 

With only the powerful stone, a letter, and grandfatherly Norm to guide them, the trio must unravel clues and tap into unknown strengths to discover who Cole’s father really was and keep themselves and those they love safe.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

N.J. Donner is the author of the new Karmanic Sovereign Legion books. N.J. loves to explore. The world fascinates him and he wants to figure out why and how things work, including Karma.

College adventures took N.J. far from his small Nebraska hometown to the southern hemisphere and the inner city. This was the beginning of his wanderlust and today he loves to travel with his wife, Amanda, and their three children.

N.J. became the first person to graduate with a minor in international affairs from Nebraska Wesleyan University and spent the years right out of college building a successful steel company.

LINKS: Website | Twitter | Facebook | YouTube | Instagram

 

MY REVIEW:

The Blue Moon Narthex is a middle-grade fantasy is made for readers who enjoyed the Percy Jackson and Harry Potter series. It is filled with adventure, friends, mystery and even a bit of magic. Were there moments and certain things about the three main characters that reminded me a little (maybe a bit too much) about the Harry Potter series- yes. However, since this is the first book in the series I still believe there is time for it to become more defined, and hold its own with future books. Now that we got that over with, let’s move on to how fun this book is to read. My advice is that if you are a grown adult (like myself…most days) please keep in mind this book is meant for Middle-Grade readers.

 

Thirteen-year-old Cole and his two best friends Britten and Sasha are suddenly thrown into a secret world they didn’t know even existed. The world of the Karmanic Sovereign Legion is dedicated to fighting evil. This is the world Cole’s father was involved with before he died. Cole inherits the Blue Moon Narthex stone which leads him and his friends to the Coreseum. The Coreseum is a school where the kids are divided into groups depending on their talent and given a role to master as part of their education.

 

Hopefully, as the series develops the main characters will come into their own voices. Though they are likable, they do read a bit “younger” than 13. I also feel that their personalities need to be a bit more defined and individualized. Then again, when was the last time you met a 13yr old that was completely self-confident and sure of themselves? There were also times that their immaturity turned me off a bit, I do love the friendship between these characters and how they are always there for each other.

 

Though the characters need a bit of work, the world building is fantastic in The Blue Moon Narthex. While reading the book I felt like I could “see” the Coreseum, the Narthexes and the “sliding”. The author did a wonderful job describing and explaining these places and things in detail. Though I would have liked to see the “real” world and WWI appear or factor in a bit more into the story. The war is only mentioned a few times but not enough for such a huge world event. But then again, maybe the author was avoiding it on purpose. After all, we dive into fantasy to get away from “reality”, and placing the war more prominently would have taken away from the fantasy.

 

Being given a thorough background on the mythology of the world, and details on how Karmanic Matter is discovered and used kept me intrigued and fascinated. It also made the world of the Karmanic Sovereign Legion come to life for me. The concept of “sliding” into different dimensions is what I really loved about this book. It’s one of my favorite things to read about in science fiction/fantasies because I would love to be able to do it myself.

 

Overall, I believe that the Blue Moon Narthex will captivate younger middle-grade readers and transport them to an exciting new world, filled with mystery, friendship and even a bit of magic.

 

*I received this book in a promotional package from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

 

GIVEAWAY: 

Enter for your chance to win a Blue Moon Narthex Swag Box

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FOLLOW THE TOUR

Week 1:

2/6: Swoony Boys Podcast – Review

2/7: Tales of the Ravenous Reader – Q&A

2/8: Kara the Redhead – Spotlight

2/9: Young Adult Rocks – Review

2/10: books are love – Top 10

Week 2:

2/13: Such A Novel Idea – Q&A

2/14: Book Stacks Amber – Excerpt

2/15: Books Buying Beauty – Review

2/16: Red House Books – Guest Post

2/17: Basic Book Blog – Review

Week 3:

2/20: The Irish Banana Review – Review

2/21: Lisa’s Loves – World Building

2/22: Pondering the Prose – Review

2/23: Who RU Blog – Novel Secrets

2/24: The Plot Bunny – Review

 

Middle Grade Book Review: If The Magic Fits by Susan Maupin Schmid

Middle Grade Book Review: If The Magic Fits by Susan Maupin SchmidIf the Magic Fits (100 Dresses, #1) by Susan Maupin Schmid, Lissy Marlin
Published by Random House Books for Young Readers on October 25th 2016
Genres: Adventure, Fantasy, Middle Grade
Pages: 304
Goodreads
three-half-stars

Inside an enchanted castle, there’s a closet—a closet with one hundred dresses that nobody ever wears. Dresses like those need a good trying-on, and Darling Dimple is just the girl to do it. When she tries on Dress Number Eleven, something unbelievable happens. She transforms into the castle’s Head Scrubber! It turns out that each dress can disguise her as someone else. And Darling is about to have an adventure that calls for a disguise or two…or a hundred.

If the Magic Fits is the book every little girl who enjoys playing dress up and pretty gowns needs to read. Because in this story, elaborate and magical dresses have the power to transform the wearer into someone completely different.

Our heroine isn’t a princess, and wasn’t “born in a tower or a golden chamber”. Darling Dimple is a simple 10-year-old girl who works in the castle. Everything changes when she discovers a room filled with elegant and marvelous gowns. Upon trying one on, she realizes that they possess magic which transforms the wearer into someone completely different.

Darling is a believable and lovable character. The type of heroine kids can look up to. When one day Darling overhears a plot to release the stone dragons of the castle, she seeks out a way to use the dresses to stop the villains and save the kingdom.

Even though I am far older than the target audience for this enchanting book, I really like the story. I love fairy tales and this is the kind of tale I would have loved as a child. Younger readers who love fantasy, beautiful gowns, castles, princesses, and dragons will also enjoy this story.

Schmid does a lovely job creating a fun and descriptive world with her words. The writing will enthrall and captivate the reader. If not for the nearly 300 pages, this would be a perfectly well put together fairy tale. Due, to the length of this book younger readers, might feel a bit overwhelmed. However, older pre-teens should have no problem with the length.

If you are looking to regain a little bit of that childhood sparkle or have young readers that enjoy a well written and beautiful fairy tale, make sure to pick up If The Magic Fits

Thank you Netgalley for providing me with an E-arc in return for an honest review.

three-half-stars

Graphic Novel Review: Hilda and The Stone Forest by Luke Pearson

Graphic Novel Review: Hilda and The Stone Forest by Luke PearsonHilda and the Stone Forest by Luke Pearson
Published by Flying Eye Books on October 4th 2016
Genres: Adventure, Fantasy, Graphic Novel, Middle Grade
Pages: 64
Goodreads

Hilda may be grounded, but that won’t stop her from heading off on another daring adventure! But everything is thrown off course when her mother catches her and is dragged along for the ride. Furious with each other, the bickering pair find themselves lost in the land of the trolls, forced to embark on a dangerous journey to make their way home. And to make matters even more difficult, Hilda has to do so . . . as a troll? Buckle your seatbelts for a crazy body-swapping adventure!
Luke Pearson is the artist and writer of the Hilda series of graphic novels. He has fast become one of the leading talents of the United Kingdom and United States comics scene, garnering rave reviews from the New York Times and the School Library Journal. He was the winner of the Young People's Comic category at the British Comic Award in 2012, and he has been nominated for the Eisner Award's Best Publication for Kids and Best Writer/Artist in 2013. He has recently written and storyboarded multiple episodes of the cult classic show Adventure Time. He lives in Bristol, United Kingdom.

Hilda and the Stone Forest is a fast paced, fun and vivid graphic novel. This was my first time reading one of Hilda’s stories and I was completely charmed by her inquisitive nature. In many ways, the curious Hilda reminds me a little of my younger self. I probably didn’t sneak off to as many adventures as Hilda. In this book, Hilda’s mom has had enough of Hilda always being late for dinner. She warns Hilda to not go off again, but when Hilda doesn’t listen her mom decides it’s time for a grounding.

However, grounding Hilda really doesn’t do much to stop her from going off on a new adventure. Things go a little askew when her mom catches her about to jump into a magical portal. They both end up getting sucked in and thrown out of a different opening. Hilda and her mom end up in an eerie stone forest filled with trolls. Together with Twig (Hilda’s adorable pet), they must find their way home. With no magic portal insight though will they ever be able to get home?

I really love how Luke Pearson is able to capture the vitality and curious nature in Hilda. The fully illustrated pages (all the way to the very edges of the page) is visually stunning. These fully illustrated pages really helped to immerse me in the story. The bold and colorful illustrations also gave the story movement and a good pace. As you start to read it, you can already sense from the drawings that Hilda is on the move and on a mission.

Hilda and the Stone Forest is all about bravery, adventure and of the comfort in knowing that our home will always be there to return to no matter how far off we wander. I am so glad I found this story, and I will definitely be checking out the other Hilda books. I highly recommend Hilda and the Stone Forest to readers that enjoy graphic novels full of excitement, adventure, and odd creatures.

Thank you Flying Eye Books for providing me with a review copy in return for my honest review.

Middle Grade Book Review: Carter and the Curious Maze (Weird Stories Gone Wrong #3) by Philippa Dowding

Middle Grade Book Review: Carter and the Curious Maze (Weird Stories Gone Wrong #3) by Philippa DowdingCarter and the Curious Maze (Weird Stories Gone Wrong #3) by Philippa Dowding
Published by Dundurn on August 6th 2016
Genres: Adventure, Fantasy, Middle Grade
Pages: 136
Goodreads
three-half-stars

The fair is dull, dull, dull, and nothing interesting will ever happen to Carter again …… that is, until he discovers the curious maze. Nothing has ever happened here in the history of the world, he thinks. But the maze has some strange secrets, and the spot Carter stands upon has seen some very exciting events over the centuries.Once Carter enters the maze, odd people begin to appear. First he meets Mr. Green, the mysterious, creepy maze-keeper, then a leaf-covered girl, a lost little boy in old-fashioned clothes, a wounded British soldier, and finally an eighteenth-century native boy who seems very authentic, indeed.When Carter eventually escapes the curious maze, the fair is all wrong. There are too many horses, ladies in bonnets, and what’s a freak show doing there? Carter begins his travels through time, and his dull afternoon is about to get very, very interesting.

Carter thinks he is too old for his town’s fair. He thinks it’s boring and that nothing exciting will ever happen there but when a creepy/sinister old man challenges him to beat the hedge maze everything changes. After Carter enters the maze, he begins to realize that this is not your average maze and that strange things are happening around him.

The maze is curious indeed because it causes Carter to travel back in time through various historical periods. He starts in the present and goes all the way back to when the very first European settlement happened in his hometown. I really wished the book was a bit longer because it would have been nice to get a little more depth to the characters, and to maybe push the limits of the time-traveling maze. However I understand that this is meant to be a middle-grade book, and it’s designed to be a manageable read for most kids. Of course, my favorite characters were the creepiest ones, like Mr. Green (keeper of the maze) and the leaf girl. There was an overall dark vibe around them, and the maze to me was the star of the book. The story is centered around Toronto’s history, and I suppose that could be great for young readers learning about Toronto, or who are young history buffs. I think this would be a great book to read to a classroom doing local history, and definitely a great way to help students think about how one place can go through so many changes through the years.

As I said, I really thought the maze was a character in itself. I would have loved to find out more about the maze and how it came to be. I love the concept of time travel and I really enjoy historical stories, which is why I asked to read this book in the first place. This was a fast read, and though the beginning of the story was a little boring, I did get into it a bit more as things started to happen with the maze. I feel like Carter didn’t really understand the different time periods he visited and that for a boy of 12, he should have probably had those history lessons in school, but maybe he just didn’t really care for history. I’m a history buff, and have always been ever since I was a small child, so maybe that is why I could not relate to Carter’s lack of local knowledge.

Overall, I enjoyed all the history the author was about to put in the book, and I could see this being a book that lots of middle-graders could enjoy especially if they like a little fantasy mixed with history. Definitely, read it if you are from Toronto, or you enjoy books with traveling fairs and time travel.

A special thank you to Netgalley for providing this book in exchange for an honest review.

three-half-stars

Middle Grade Book Review: Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand

Middle Grade Book Review: Some Kind of Happiness by Claire LegrandSome Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers on May 17th 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Magical Realism, Middle Grade
Pages: 374
Goodreads

THINGS FINLEY HART DOESN’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT
• Her parents, who are having problems. (But they pretend like they’re not.)• Being sent to her grandparents’ house for the summer.• Never having met said grandparents.• Her blue days—when life feels overwhelming, and it’s hard to keep her head up. (This happens a lot.)
Finley’s only retreat is the Everwood, a forest kingdom that exists in the pages of her notebook. Until she discovers the endless woods behind her grandparents’ house and realizes the Everwood is real--and holds more mysteries than she'd ever imagined, including a family of pirates that she isn’t allowed to talk to, trees covered in ash, and a strange old wizard living in a house made of bones.
With the help of her cousins, Finley sets out on a mission to save the dying Everwood and uncover its secrets. But as the mysteries pile up and the frightening sadness inside her grows, Finley realizes that if she wants to save the Everwood, she’ll first have to save herself.
Reality and fantasy collide in this powerful, heartfelt novel about family, depression, and the power of imagination.

Some Kind of Happiness is the story of Finley, she is eleven years old, has a vivid imagination and is dealing with some major things in her life. Anxiety, depression and the ever nearing truth that her parents are getting a divorce. Finley is spending the summer at her grandparents’ home so that her parents can have some time together to figure out how they will move on with their relationship. Finley has never met her dad’s side of the family because something very serious and secret severed their relationship a long time ago. Finley is not happy about being there, she doesn’t want to be among strangers and she is worried that they will discover her own secrets, her “blue days”. Thankfully, to combat her anxiety and to deal with the days when she feels like she is underwater unable to move or breath, Finley has the magical world of The Everwood. The Everwood lives inside the stories in Finley’s notebook, it is a special place she created to help her feel safe, and to express her herself freely. To Finley, The Everwood is only real upon the many pages of her stories, but once she starts to explore the woods behind her grandparents’ home, she realizes that The Everwood is very much real. Along with her cousins, they set off on an adventure that will forge friendships, uncover long-buried family secrets and help Finley face her fears.

I would first like to say that I LOVED Finley. She made my heartache with how broken she is and how unable to handle her feelings of anxiety and depression she is. Claire Legrand did a masterful job in capturing how torturous it can be for anyone to deal with depression and anxiety, especially someone as young as Finley. It is one of the reasons I  applaud this book and feel like everyone should read it no matter their age. These are real issues that are affecting many people, young and old. Books that dealt with these types of mental illness where nowhere when I was growing up, and I wish they had been around. Young readers suffering from similar afflictions as Finley need stories like these to be written. They need to know that they are not alone, they are not being judged and that there are ways to obtain help. I loved that Finley made lists, I love that she loved words. I love that even though Finley was clearly struggling she still had fight in her and was able to create stunning stories. I was glad that Claire Legrand chose to have Finley coop with her afflictions by writing and using her imagination. In many cases of anxiety and depression, those suffering from these ailments don’t often cope in a healthy manner, so I am glad that Claire pushed a creative outlet as a way to help with coping.

One of the things I loved the most about Some Kind of Happiness is how the book is divided into chapters that take place in the whimsical Everwood, and then in Finley’s real world. I think these excerpts from Finley’s notebook about the Everwood are absolutely exquisite (they reminded me of when I was a child and spoke to the trees in my backyard). These passages also were a very clever way to let us know what was going on inside Finley’s mind. Though these passages seem like “make-believe” you come to find out that they are actually how Finley is describing the world around her and how she “sees” things.

I also enjoyed Finley’s family (mainly the cousins), it reminded me of how I grew up surrounded by my grandmother, aunts, and cousins. My family wasn’t as formal as the Harts, or as neat, but I do understand what it’s like to have a strong bond with my cousins growing up. I think it was very important for Finley to connect with her cousins and find acceptance among them. I think their support and love helped her in her journey to understanding herself and her feelings. The Bailey boys/pirates were also characters that I really enjoyed. They were wild and free and reminded me of the neighborhood kids my cousins and I would sometimes be allowed to play with (but that my grandmother never really trusted…just like Finley’s grandmother). The way the Baileys and her cousins willingly went along with Finley’s make-believe world of The Everwood really touched my heart. It’s tough to find friends that will “humor” you in what others might find eccentric and their desire to play along with Finley’s fantasy carved a little place in my heart for all of them.

The plot revolves around Finley and her desire to uncover the truth about why her grandparents and father have an estranged relationship with the help of her cousins and the Bailey boys. In getting closer and closer to the truth, Finley must come to terms with her own secrets and that she will have to face them head on. The writing really is lovely and though melancholy I think the tone is just right. Claire Legrand does an amazing job capturing the voice and thoughts of an eleven-year-old girl, and I love how “reality” and “fantasy” mixed together to create this story. Some Kind of Happiness is a bit sad and I cried at various parts but it is also full of hope and beautifully written. The book is marketed for middle graders but I would highly recommend it to readers of all ages.

Thank you, Simon & Schuster for approving my request to read Some Kind of Happiness in return for an honest review.

You can also read my recap of the middle-grade panel and book signing for Some Kind of Happiness at The Blue Bunny Books and Toy shop  here.

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Claire and I during her signing of Some Kind of Happiness at The Blue Bunny Books and Toys shop.