The Familiars series

Phoebe and I have read all of The Familiars series together–even though she is almost fourteen, we both still enjoy reading a book together. I figured she would outgrow the desire to have her mom read to her, but not yet!

At the moment, there are four books in the series: The Familiars, Secrets of the Crown, Circle of Heroes, and Palace of Dreams–all authored by Adam Jay Epstein and Andrew Jacobson. They are more middle grade than young adult. The are a good alternative or companion to the Harry Potter novels.

The main characters are the animal companions to magic workers, not the human wizards. The books focus on three: Aldwyn the cat, Skylar the blue jay, and Gilbert the tree frog. They go on many adventures with and without their human “loyals”: Jack, Dalton, and Marianne, respectively. Jack and Marianne are also siblings. It is set in a fictional world that has its own rules and geography.

The adventures Aldwyn, Skylar, and Gilbert go on are fun, and there is a lot about friendship building, family in the broadest sense of the word, and learning to use their magic powers. There are definite funny bits, particularly with Gilbert, who always seems to find himself in a scrape. There is mild danger and suspense, but nothing that should cause too much stress for younger readers.

I recommend it as a good family read since it can appeal to a broad range of tastes. Now for Phoebe’s review! Minor spoilers ahead.

The Familiars, by Adam Jay Epstein and Andrew Jacobson, is a great series. It incorporated my favorite things that I look for when I am reading a book: magic, animals, and mystery. The Familiars is about three animals, a bird named Skylar, a cat named Aldywn, and a frog named Gilbert. They are the familiars of three students at a magical school called Turnbuckle Academy. They go on quests together, saving the world that they live in.

It is hard to choose a favorite character. I love all three of them for different reasons. If I had to choose one, I would probably choose Skylar. She was the brains of the trio, and she was often saving their lives when they got into a sticky situation.

I was often able to relate this series with the Harry Potter series. You have a Aldwyn, who is the main character, and is more or less the center of the story. He comes from a life as a street cat, with no family. You have Skylar who is the girl in the trio, and the one with all of the smarts. If there is a life or death situation for the trio, she is the one who usually figures out how to save them. And then, you have Gilbert. He is the humorous one, and the one that often is a little clueless. Although he helps in his own ways, he sometimes makes the situation worse.

I also liked how each of the familiars had a magical power. Aldwyn is telekinetic, Skylar can create illusions, and Gilbert can see the future through puddle viewings. This gave them all something unique that only they could do. I would recommend this book to more of a younger audience. I read the last book last month, but I read the other three books several years ago, which is when I enjoyed them the most.

Everything, Everything

The final book selection for our teen book club this year was Everything, Everything, by Nicola Yoon. This is a really fast read–I finished it in two days, and I wasn’t under any pressure to read it quickly. It is just really compelling, and it hooks the reader–you must know what happens next.

As Phoebe notes below, she was turned off by the book initially because it is touted as a young adult romance, but that is not all it is. There are elements of mystery, family relationships, and growing up. Maddy has an extreme immune system disorder–she is basically allergic to everything. So, as a result, she never goes outside, and few people come to her. She pretty much lives in a bubble.

All of that starts to change when Olly and his family move in next door. He and Maddy start with texting and chat, but it doesn’t satisfy them for long, and Maddy begins to push against her restrictions. There are consequences to this, and there are some revelations, but, for the most part, the story unfolds in a way that is believable and realistic. I enjoyed the story, even though I am far from the target audience.

There is a sex scene, but it is really subtle, and it is possible to “not see it” if you don’t want to. One of the younger readers in the group talked about the characters “making out,” and the scene could be read that way.

Potential talking points include what parents feel they need to do to protect their kids, teen relationships, and living with chronic illness.

Now for Phoebe’s review!

Everything, Everything, by Nicola Yoon, is a great book. Normally, I hate romance books, but this was the perfect balance; it was romancy, but not too romancy. Everything, Everything is about a girl named Maddy who is so sick that she can’t leave her house. Then a boy named Olly moves next door. Maddy falls in love with Olly. With the help of her nurse, Carla, she gets to meet Olly, and they develop a relationship. Maddy starts to take more risks, and dangerous situations result.

What I liked about this book the most is that although it is a romance book, romance isn’t all that it is about. It is about Maddy’s quest to meet Olly and her struggle to have a life despite her illness. Another thing I liked about this book is that Maddy is homeschooled, and she likes to read. Throughout my one year of being homeschooled, I have not read a book where any of the characters happen to be homeschooled.

This book has a lot twists, and I think I might give some other romance books a chance now that I read Everything, Everything. I would recommend this book to people who think that they don’t like romance books. If it hadn’t been for my homeschool book club, I would have never read this, but I am glad I did. I look forward to reading Yoon’s next book, The Sun is Also a Star, and seeing the movie version of Everything, Everything when it comes out.