Holly Black is coming to Seattle!

Okay, okay, I get it now. It took me a while to appreciate Holly Black's work. I started with her co-written series The Spiderwick Chronicles (which, by the way, I actually listened to as an audio book, read by the ever-amazing Mark Hamill!!—I *highly* recommend it), which admittedly targeted a slightly younger audience than her usual crew. Then I read Tithe, which for some reason I just really didn't get into at the time (I'm tempted to go back and reread it now). So I put Holly Black away on a back shelf for a while and moved on.

Then, I heard that both Holly Black AND Cassandra Clare are coming to Third Place Books in Seattle to promote their newest releases! TWO young adult writers in one night, for free? What?!? So, of course, I answered the call of duty and picked up both Holly Black's White Cat, which is the prequel to her new release Red Glove and Cassandra Clare's City Of Bones, which I actually had read AGES ago and never picked up the sequel. Lucky me, now I can read all the way through her newest release The City Of Fallen Angels without interruption. Hey, sometimes being behind the times is a good thing!!

So let me talk with you about White Cat for the moment. Great book. Late-middle-school and up, if you're curious, due to some party scenes and adult situations. I'd let a 14 year old read it if they seemed mature enough. I love stories that are set solidly in an alternate world, where the magical elements of that world are seamlessly integrated into the over-all story. In this world, people can be "workers", able to manipulate various elements of the human condition from emotions to memories and beyond. Holly Black's strength here is assuming we already know this, but in a way that never borders on confusing. Huh? Yes, of course everyone has to wear gloves because no one can touch each other due to potentially hazardous magical workings. Duh, of course. Old news.

And so, with the alternate world of Holly Black's imagination clearly set, we engage immediately in a story of Cassel, who awakens to find himself on the roof ledge of his boarding school with no memory of getting there. He only recalls dreaming about a white cat. After being sent home, we find he is the youngest brother of three in a family of low-level criminals, all of whom are Curse Workers. His mother is in jail for using her emotion-working powers, and his brothers are both involved in the local cartel of semi-magical thugs. Only Cassel is ungifted and has always been told he is basically a dud——or is he? As he continues to be plagued by a white cat—both in reality and in his dreams—he begins to unravel the mystery surrounding his own potential, his past, and his family.

Red Glove promises to be a stellar second installment in the Curse Workers series. If you're a Seattle local, check out Holly and Cassandra (oh yeah, we're on first-name basis) at Third Place books. Otherwise, you can check out her appearances here to see if she is coming to a bookstore near you!

The Hunger Games






Suzanne Collin (author of the "Gregor" series) hits it out of the ball park with THe Hunger Games. First in a series of three, this novel has gotten nothing but rave reviews and for good reason: it will hook you in and leave you craving more. In a futuristic post-apocalyptic world (don't the best ones seem to start that way?) there are 13 districts rippling out from the Capitol; and in order to mark the failed uprising of the 13th district, the Capitol holds the immensely popular Hunger Games. Each year two tributes from each District are chosen to compete to the death in a staged arena until only one victor emerges. Did I mention that the tributes are children? But of course. Because how best to perpetually punish a botched rebellion and keep people under the Thumb than by killing off their children? Sick? Totally. Disturbing? Absolutely. WIll you be able to put it down? Not a chance.

Imagine "American Idol" meets "Gladiators". The tributes are cast into a spotlight that echos the bustle of starlets in Hollywood, are filmed at every moment, are watched by every citizen. Main character Katniss is strong and savvy, Peta is kind and constant; both come from the shambles of District 12 and must fight to stay alive in the Hunger Games arena. But the methods they use will have the Capitol panicked and the populace rioting.

Believe the buzz. It's a great read for young adults and grown-ups alike. You'll be reaching for the sequel withint days.

Shiver


Basic idea: boy turns to wolf every time it gets too cold.

Imagine if Twilight's Jacob character was an emo teen who turned into a regular old wolf (instead of a werewolf) and eventually would get stuck forever as a forest-dwelling howler and you've got Sam, one of two mains characters in Shiver. Grace has watched a certain yellow-eyed wolf roam outside her home ever since she was bitten by a pack of wolves as a child. The affinity she feels for this certain wolf becomes realized when she discovers that he is, in fact, a shape-shifting boy named Sam, and the two develop a plodding smooch-filled teen relationship that largely involves him waiting in Grace's car while she goes to high school. As is my major complaint with most teen books, the parents are conspicuously infantile or absent. In this case, the parents are artistic dingbats who are never home and when they are home tend to do weird things like paint in the nude and forget to make dinner, which makes it very easy for Sam and Grace to develop a lets-play-house relationship. Maybe there really are parents like this. I don't know. Even being raised by a single mom as a teen I wasn't allowed to have my bedroom door closed with my boyfriend over, so maybe it's just outside of my reality.

Anyway, the language is lovely and the first half of the book is especially well-written. It invokes the feel of the stark northern mid-west (think Leif Enger's Peace Like A River>. While not fully developed, the characters are thoughtful and interesting and the premise of the wolf transition is a new take on the ever-popular werewolf theme. If you're on Team Jacob and need some good werewolf filler, go ahead and pick it up!

Upcoming Posts

Geez, what a slacker I am!!! The problem is, I've been reading so many wonderful YA books way too fast and not catching up on reviewing them. But believe me, there are some seriously STELLAR novels out there that I want you to get your hands on!!!

Here is a list (you can hold me to it!) of upcoming posts:

✔ Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
Catching Fire by Susan Collins
City of Bones (Mortal Instruments) by Cassandra Clare
Tempted (House of Night Novels) by P. C. Cast and Kristin Cast
Betrayed (book 2 of above)
Fablehaven: Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary by Brandon Mull y
Vampire Academy (Vampire Academy, Book 1) by Richelle Mead
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

NEW ONES:

FIre by Kristin Cashore
Gracelingnby Kristin Cashore
The Maze Runner by James Dashner

I feel like there's more, but I'll start there! Hurray for awesome fiction. Check back soon, and thanks for reading!

The Forest of Hands and Teeth




Zombies + post apocalypse=good stuff. In a futuristic America, there has been a zombie invasion that has reduced the known world to a single clearing of people fenced in by a system of metal gates. The Unconsecrated, as the zombies are called, bang and drone at the gates daily trying to get at the small settlement of humans and can turn a person by biting them. Our story's heroine, Mary, has lost both parents to the Unconsecrated and is forced to live with the Sisters, the religious core of the society. But when a young girl seeks refuge from somewhere outside of the fence, Mary begins to believe the stories she has heard of a world outside of the fence, and of the ocean.

It's a page turner. I read through it in just a few days. I felt a bit disappointed by the ending, and Mary's incessant and sometimes illogical drive bothered me. There's romance, surprisingly—considering it's hard to think of anyone getting hot and bothered with zombies milling about trying to eat people. As with many Young Adult novels, there's the suspension of belief that the only people left to save society are teenagers, but what can you do. Lyrically written, engaging and well-paced, this zombie thriller is a perfect October read.

Click this link to watch a video preview of this book!

So long time...

Oh, it's been ages since I've posted a book review! In part, it's due to the busy-ness that is the holidays, especially here in Seattle where we got snowed in like we've never gotten snowed in before! But it's also because I've been absolutely HOOKED on the Sookie Stackhouse books by Charlaine Harris, which are not what I'd consider kids' lit. They could maybe get by as a good teen read. I think I would have enjoyed them as a teenager, especially if there was already this vampire frenzy stirred up by Twilight. I just finished the last Sookie Stackhouse book and the next one isn't due out until May. What am I to do??!? Does anyone have any suggestions of good reads in the meantime?

SO, in kidlit-dom, I have just picked up Airman by Eoin Colfer, who wrote the very enjoyable Artemis Fowl series. I miss faeries and demons already, but I'm putting faith into Colfer that he will deliver.

I will try much more earnestly to be a more frequent blogger!

Bookmarks

I'm making all my Christmas gifts this year. Crazy? Always. Especially since this year, in addition to have a three-month old baby AND a 3-year old toddler, we just all had the plague, otherwise known as the Norwalk virus. Anyway, I've been working on these bookmarks for my bibliophile friends. I culled through various book quote and hand-selected the best of the best. I can post them later, if you would like to repeat this project for your own gift-making.



I've been totally into Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse books. I won't officially review them since they are NOT young adult novels, but they are SOOO much fun. If you liked Twilight, you'll like these. It's like if Twilight had some friggin' backbone. HBO has been airing a series called True Blood based on these books. I rented the pilot episode for free from Blockbuster and couldn't stand to be left on such a cliffhanger, so I went out and bough Dead Before Dark the next day!

Sookie is a waitress in Bon Temps, Louisiana and has what she calls a "disability": she can read minds. Vampires have recently "come out of the closet" and Sookie unexpectedly realized that she can't read a vampire's thoughts, which is a most welcome relief. Soon she finds herself deeply involved in the emerging vampire culture and discovering more than she ever knew about various creatures that go bump in the night. Sexy, mysterious, funny, wicked fun. Little candies.

You'll find a lot of similarities between Twilight and this series, but I'd probably be more comfortable with my teenage daughters (when I have 'em) reading this series than Twilight, oddly enough. There's tons of sex, but it's not dealt with in the weird mormonistic way that Twilight deals with sensuality. What I really like about the books is that Harris has really thought about what it would be like if vampires really did make a sudden appearance on the cultural scene. Special airlines, hotels, bars. Synthetic blood markets. Fang-bangers (humans who get a kick off being bit). Drinkers (human junkies for vampire blood). New rights, laws, and regulations. Very fun for the brain.

I'll post the book quotes soon!
Welcome to today's guest blog by authors Ethan and Christine Rose! This husband and wife team has co-written their debut novel Rowan of the Wood which I'm about half-way through and it's totally fun. They've interviewed their main character, Cullen, on how it feels to be the the star of a book. Don't forget to check out the Rose's give-away!!! Follow their links and also check the previous post for more information. Christine Rose will be around all today to answer any questions you may have, so please feel free to leave comments! Thanks to the Roses for dropping by and sharing their interview with us, and congrats on your award-winning debut novel!



C&E: We’re here today with Cullen Knight, the hero of our new book Rowan of the Wood. Tell us Cullen, how does it feel to be a main character?
Cullen: Well, to be honest, it kinda sucks. It’s like having your most personal thoughts and most embarrassing moments published by the National Enquirer.
C&E: I guess we don’t give you much privacy.
Cullen: Are you kidding? I’ll be in the bathroom doing, well, you know, and I’ll be wondering if you’re watching and taking notes for your next book!
C&E: Well sure, Cullen, we can see how that might be annoying, but it’s for the good of the book. We have to make you a well-rounded character!
Cullen:
C&E: Okay! Let’s move on. Tell us about becoming a wizard. That must be exciting!
Cullen: Yeah, it must be; but I’m never around to see it… remember?
C&E: Um.
Cullen: Yeah! What’s up with that? I don’t really become a wizard?! I’m just possessed by a wizard!! And whenever I start to spaz out, he takes over my body and turns bullies into mice or something. Thanks for that, btw. As if I wasn’t mocked enough before, now when I’m scared my body is taken over by a wizard! What are you two drinking?
C&E: At the moment, Chocolate Martinis, with a peppermint twist.
Cullen: Okay Trudy. I guess we see where the inspiration for that character came from!
C&E: So! That about does it--
Cullen: You know that Stephanie Meyer lady gave her protagonist a hunky boyfriend. What about me?
C&E: --for our interview with Cullen Knight today.
Cullen: Do I get a girlfriend? What about a romance for me?
C&E: Join us Thursday (12/11) on Midnight Twilight Blog for our interview with Fiana.
Cullen: Her? You’re going to interview that psychopath? You know she’s insane, right?
E to C: Just walk away. Just walk away.

Please follow Christine & Ethan on the rest of their Geekalicious Blog Book Tour. Tomorrow they'll be over at Harmony Book Reviews with a guest blog post entitled After Twilight Comes the Knight. For the complete tour schedule and information about their holiday contests (giving away over $600 in prizes, including a digital camcorder), visit their webpage and sign their visual guestbook while you're there!

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Christine and Ethan Rose are the authors of the new YA fantasy novel
Rowan of the Wood, available wherever books are sold. They
live in Austin, TX with their three dogs and Shadow the Cat.
HREF="http://www.christineandethanrose.com">www.christineandethanrose.com
* www.rowanofthewood.com

Rowan of the Wood Guest blog tour!!!

Dejah View is excited to host Christine and Ethan Rose, authors of the new, award-winning YA fantasy novel Rowan of the Wood during their Geekalicious Yuletide Blog Book Tour! The authors are stopping by here on Sunday, December 7th to interview their protagonist, Cullen Knight.

An ancient wizard possesses a young boy after a millennium of imprisonment in a magic wand. He emerges from the child in the face of danger and discovers Fiana, his new bride from the past, has somehow survived time and become something evil.

The authors are also hosting a contest on YouTube and giving away a digital camcorder just for following four simple steps. Check it out!

Come back and visit on Sunday, read their blog, and post comments. The authors will be available all day Sunday and Monday to answer your questions. Every comment on this blog is an entry to win a signed, limited edition print of Christine's Green Man II painting. The authors are also giving away autographed books and over $600 in other prizes through their website.


More cool book-lover gift ideas

There was a lot of good ju-ju about the "Reading Is Sexy" mug, so I thought I'd pass on some otherway cool holiday gift goodies!

How can you not totally be in love with this kids' shirt?!?! from BuyOlympia.com I also love their "guybrarian" tee-shirt, all by artist Sarah Utter. They have seriously awesome stuff over there...books, mugs, tees, music...and paper goods from my most FAVORITE designer, Jill Bliss! Her journals are so beautiful. I have gone through three of them, and they'd make wonderful gifts for taking notes and reflecting on all those great books for the readers in your life. But, being the financially-challenged DIY mom that I am, I'm leaning towards making gobs of these bookmarks. I love how creative people are! I just get lost in the world of craft blogs. Almost as addicting as clicking through the vast and neat-o world of kidlit blogs. I'll keep my eyes out for other awesome gifts for bookworms!

Peeps



I am totally in love with Scott Westerfeld's books. This wasn't a strong as the Uglies series, but it still hooked me. The premise is that vampirism is caused by a parasite. Original, huh? Our particular parasite-positive, or "peep", is a guy who got infected on a one-night stand but due to some biological quirk isn't the blood-hungry raving monster that other peeps are. Instead, he helps track down nutty peeps and help them into recovery. But when he goes on a search to track down the peep who infected him, he begins to find a slew of mysteries and oddities that will have you reading way past your bedtime.

Handmade gifts for book lovers

Sew, Mama, Sew! is blogging its second annual guide to a handmade holidays. It's a terrific site, and if you're into craftiness you should check it out. Today's theme is handmade gifts for book lovers. Be sure to take a peek! While not handmade, per say, the Reading Is Sexy mug is especially cool. It's made out of 100% biodegradable corn plastic and comes from our neighbor to the south, Olympia! I have a button on my purse with this logo and get comments on it all the time.


I just finished three awesome books, so check back soon for some fresh reviews.

Also, in the holiday spirit, don't forget to preorder copies of J.K Rowling's Tales of Beedle the Bard!!!! You can do that by clicking the image below..

MotherReader: The Comment Challenge: 21 Days To Community

MotherReader: The Comment Challenge: 21 Days To Community

MotherReader is hosting a Comment Challenge! The goal is to post 100 comments between now (well, really it started November 6th) to November 21st. The idea is to make commenting on fellow kidlit blogs a habit. Commenting builds community and readership, and maybe even links you to your very own book-reading soul mate. It's a great way to explore the awesome world of kidlit blogs, which I'm only just now starting to journey into. If you have a kidlit site, or are a bibliophile, please comment below!!! I'll check out your site and, if we jive, I'll add you to my blogroll.

Movies

Here are two previews of upcoming YA books that have been made into movies! I can't wait!!

Twilight Trailer in HD




City Of Ember Trailer

Twilight has been especially anticipated up here in the pacific northwest, as much of it was filmed right in Forks, WA, La Push, and Portland, OR. Forks is giving tours now of the town complete with Bella's truck, house, and school. You can watch the short news clip about it by clicking here.

Any other rumors out there about YA books that are going to be made into movies?

Artemis Fowl: The Time Paradox



I got this hardcover, if you can believe it, so that I would have a guaranteed good book to read while I was recovering from childbirth. I was not disappointed. I can't say that I fully enjoyed The Lost Colony, but this one renewed my faith in the wonderful Artemis Fowl series. Artemis has to get back in time to stop himself from committing a horrible crime—selling the last animal of soon-to-be extinct species. He has to hurry in order to get a cure for his rapidly ailing mother, who he believes has been infected by a viral strain of fairy plague.

Author: Eoin Colfer

The Secret of Platform 13




When I first saw this book on the library shelf, I though "What a cheap rip-off of Harry Potter!" referring, of course, to the famous platform 9 and 3/4. Not only that, but the story is about a prince who is stolen away from the mythical wizarding world to live obliviously in the real world, where he is kept as a slave in the basement by a horrid family who dotes on their fat, spoiled son. Believing the fat, spoiled son to be the stolen prince, a group must try to convince the wrong child to come through the magical platform 13 that connects to the magical world where his parents wait desperately for his return. But then I read the publishing date. This book was written years before Harry Potter first graced our shelves. J.K. Rowling wasn't even on the spectrum yet! So no one can really blame Eva Ibbotson of plagiarism of any kind, can they? Once I discovered that, I was able to enjoy the book much more, so now you can know that too in case the idea of copy-catting would otherwise turn you off to this wonderful read. Please check out this quick and fun read!

Author: Eva Ibbotson

Outcast





I am so in love with this series. It's a cross between Clan of the Cavebear and Mists of Avalon. This is the fourth book in the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series by Michelle Paver; it's set in prehistoric times and is primarily about a young boy named Torak, his pack-brother Wolf (who really is a wolf, that's not just a name), and his best friend Renn. Torak has the ability to communicate with wolves, being as he was raised by them (it's not as Jungle Book as it sounds), and connects in the first book (Wolf Brother) with an abandoned pup. As Torak is also freshly orphaned, the two become "pack-brothers" and go in search of a larger tribe that they can form up with. Torak's abilities mark him as destined for great and dangerous things, and as he goes on his adventures in search of Soul Eaters and evil spirits, he is accompanied by Renn, a mage of the Raven clan. What I personally find most fascinating about these books is the portrayal of Wolf. Normally I really don't go for getting inside the heads of animal characters, but Paver's writing is so well-crafted that I look forward to chapters from Wolf's perspective. Paver completely understands the dog/wolf mentality and behavior, so it is believable as well as engaging. And as in the Clan of the Cavebear series, you can't help but learn a little about the medicinal properties of plants and the secret lives of forest animals.

Author: Michelle Paver
In this book, Torak is outcast (as the title implies). He must constantly be on the run from surrounding clans while trying to find a way to prove he is not a Soul Eater. However, a mysterious enemy has gotten a hold of his name-spirit and is slowly draining the sanity and strength from Torak. Wolf watches helplessly while Torak goes mad, and Renn must find a way to not only track down Torak but to release him from his trance. An underlying plot set us up nicely for the fifth book, Oath Breakerr.

Breaking Dawn




There, it's done. We know what happens to Bella and Edward, and our love-sick vampires live happily ever after. There was a lot of bad press about this book, which concludes the series that began with Twilight, but I actually thought it was one of the strongest. If you haven't read it and intend to, skip this review because it contains SPOILERS.

First off, I've always felt that these books had a strong pro-abstinence/anti-premarital sex slant to them. It was fun when it created this sexual tension in the first book or two, but then it started getting wearisome. On the one hand I just wanted Bella and Edward to get it done and over with and stop making such a big deal about it; on the other hand I couldn't imagine what would support the story if they did. Breaking Dawn answers the dilemma, but not exactly in the way I envisioned. Yes, Bella and Edward wait until they marry (at 19). Yes, they have sex soon after at Bella's request since she wants to still be human. They conceive a weird half-vampire baby which has to be chewed out of Bella's womb by Edward in a very Rosmary's Baby kind of way. Bella becomes vampire, Jacob falls in love with baby, blah blah blah. By the way, the way Bella treats Jacob is totally sick. She leads him on and acts so pious about it. It's mean. Anyway, all ends well. Against all odds these books are absolute page turners.

So now we have the MOVIE coming out soon! All of us up here in the Pacific Northwest are particularly excited, being as this series is set in Forks, Washington. Parts of the film are filmed up here in our neck of the woods (and in Portland, OR, mainly). What do you think of the casting? I'm not sure what to make of the gigantic pompadour sported by Edward . Despite the Conan hair, all the previews I've seen so far look really promising and I'm going to make absolutely sure to do my YA bibliophile duty and get a babysitter so I can see this in the theaters.
Author: Stephanie Meyer

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist




This entire novella takes place in the space of one long night. It's a story about the strange and very sophomoric encounter and romance between two high school seniors who meet at a punk club. Nick, recently dumped by his first love, tries to avoid looking pathetic in front of said ex-girlfriend by asking a random girl, Norah, to be his five-minute date. This leads to a long night of give-and-take emotional and sexual episodes between Nick and Norah that are pretentious at best. Written in alternating first-person chapters, this narrative is full of f-this and f-thats, so if you're language sensitive this wouldn't be up your alley.

This book was strange. Norah's exactly who I thought I could be in high school: this hard-outer core chick who was really smart, eccentric, and straight-edge with this inner turmoil but clear mind (none of which was true, by the way). But what I found most strange about the book was that it had pop cultural references to MY generation, which is at least one or two generations older than the age of the characters. Either I'm old enough to have things of my generation becoming retro already, or the authors, who are my peers, are waxing nostalgic and believing that somehow teenagers in high school at this moment relate to My So Called Life and Heathers as cult classics. I dunno. Maybe.

In a nut shell, it's a very teenage book. It's everything I find most annoying about the teenage mindset now that I'm an adult (and a parent), everything I thought was so cool back in school that I'm annoyed with myself now for believing in. It pulls apart the younger me and the older me. Maybe that's why I just had to read it and finish it. In sum, a nostalgic trip for us old fogies, an engaging story for younger readers, and I actually would recommend it (as I do any YA book that is put to movie form).

Books have been read, babies have been born, etc.

I haven't posted anything on this blog in a long time, namely because for some reason I've had a lot of trouble accessing it on my old computer. But now I have a laptop (!!!) that is able to log onto my site again. The other reason is that I just gave birth to my second daughter! She is beautiful. Luckily the reason is NOT lack of reading material. I've read some good ones, so please check back soon. I may start looking into hosting this blog through typepad.com, so I'll keep you posted. THanks for your patience, and happy reading!

Gifts




I was excited to see a young adult book by Ursula LeGuin, but I was slightly disappointed. A warning: the first chapter seems like it's going to focus the book on a certain character who has run away and joined a new family. It's not. In fact, the rest of the book has nearly nothing to do with this one character. Just so you don't get confused like I did when the rest of the story went on without him. This is a story set in a fantasy medieval land in which certain people have certain powers. These powers, called Gifts, run in the family and perform a specific, subtle task, such as being able to communicate a little with animals or bend wills. The main character (who,again, is not the character introduced in the first chapter) is expected to have the gift of Unmaking (or something...I read this book months ago, sorry) and should be able to kill with just a controlled thought like his father can. Unfortunately, he doesn't seem to show any signs of the Gift until he is startled on two different occasions and destroys whatever it is that scared him. Believing his powers to be out of his control, he follows the advice of his father and commits himself to being blindfolded. However, as time goes on, he questions the validity of his self-imposed blindness. This is an interesting story, because in the end it applauds mediocrity and mistrust in one's self. On the other hand, it undercuts the competitive aspect of our culture and questions what is expected of us. The ending strikes me as a metaphor to a gay son coming out to his his homophobic father. Actually, it's very parallel. I only wish the character was a little more confident in himself at the end, just to make it more cathartic.

Author: Ursula LeGuin

The Tail of Emily Windsnap




I suppose some nostalgic part of me still loves the idea of mermaids, which is why I borrowed this from the library. It's a good book for a middle school-aged child. The story revolves around a young girl who suddenly discovers that she's a mermaid in the water and human on land, although for some reason she's never experienced the transformation in, say, the shower or bath. It encourages sneaking out at night, keeping secrets from adults, assuming your mother is a moron who needs to be cared for, and being suspicious of authority figures, but if you're okay with that, it's a decent story.

The Sea Trolls



This Nordic adventure incorporates plenty of familiar tales and names: Odin; Beowulf; Thor, ect. The story actually revolves around a young boy studying to be a Bard and his young sister who are captured by a band of "Beserkers" who strongly resemble Vikings. What I found most interesting about this book was the absence of true villains, with the exception of the half-troll queen. Those that I thought would be so-called evil persons turned out not to be, which was quite refreshing. The wearisome aspects of the novel, however, include overt similarities to Lord of the Rings, including a specially-made cloak given as a gift to conceal the hero from the giant spider. Hum....Still a fast read, interesting themes, historical references subtly interwoven, and a fun trip to Middle Earth. Which is actually the land this novel takes place in. I know, I feel like I've read that name somewhere before, too.

Author: Nancy Farmer

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules



I think I read this book too fast. I zipped through it while my daughter was taking a nap, which I think was only about an hour. It definitely is worth a re-read. I had just seen Jeff Kinney speak at my local bookstore; this book was hot off the press and inscribed with his John Hancock, and I was so inspired to get through this as quickly as possible. Seeing Jeff talk about his book was a real treat. The audience was full of bused-in children from local schools, all of whom were clutching their copies of Diary of a Wimpy kid close to their chest and raising their hands at every opportunity.

I was not surprised to learn that Jeff (I figured since he wrote "to Dejah" in my book inscription that we must be on a first name basis, see) did not intend to market this book as a children's novel. Instead, he said he wrote it to be of the "nostalgic adult" genre like Jean Shepherd's A Christmas Story, but that the publishers instantly saw it as a terrific read for younger children. It is most popular now, as I think I mentioned in my review of the first book, with so-called "reluctant readers". Awesome. With both books on the New York Time's best-seller's list, I doubt he's complaining.

The second book absolutely lived up to my expectations. There were no cheap punches or short-cuts taken that tried to cash-in on the first book's success; instead, the sequel took it to the next level and I felt I got to know Greg even better (and perhaps see why he is the way he is).

So, bravo, Jeff ol' pal. You rule!

Author: Jeff Kinney

Love, Stargirl



Stargirl still works her magic, even when she's pining over her lost love.

This follow-up to Stargirl is written in letter/diary format by Stargirl herself, and it's interesting to see what goes on in her head. I loved getting glimpses into what appear to be totally normal trains of thought and actions, until you step back and realize that the actions are so very Stargirl, meaning eccentric and slightly bizzare. This novel is filled with love and compassion, the occasional melancholy and love-wisting, and an overall sense of creating community through random acts of kindness. I see so many elements of people I love in Stargirl, and I will keep these books on my shelf for a yearly re-reading.

Author: Jerry Spinelli

Green Angel



Yeah, yeah, Alice Hoffman writes a young adult book, blah blah blah. I found this to be overly prosy and immaturely crafted. It tried to have a dark goth sense about it and perhaps that's just not my genre. I finished it in about an hour (it's only 116 pages long) so I can't rightly say it's "one I've put back down", but I wouldn't read it again or give it to a friend. I think I would have enjoyed this book when I was an early teenager and going through my "nobody understands me and my deep poetry" phase. So there's that going for it.

Author: Alice Hoffman

Lioness Rampant





I absolutely loves this series. Alanna is a unique and enjoyable character; I raced through these books like candy. This last installment, I felt, was the weakest of the four. I kept feeling like I was missing pages, and the plot meandered a tad. It didn't have the same steam-rolling action that the first three had for me. Still, a highly recommended series for all ages.

Author: Tamora Pierce

Specials


This third installment of Scott Westerfeld's post-apocalyptic vision had me up way past my bedtime. As in the first two, we follow Tally Youngblood through her series of surgeries and hope that through it all she retains a sense of self, and yet we as readers can see the ways in which she is altered through Scott's use of language and unique compounds (bubblyheads, icy-making, fashion-missing, ect). I found his style to be unique and engaging. Westerfeld's underlying themes of environmentalism, bucking authority, and self-awareness come through loud and clear in this third book, and I thought it quite strong. I would recommend this series to any sci-fi or fantasy fan, although I think it translates well into many genres.

Author: Scott Westerfeld

Pendragon: the Merchant of Death



This book was recommended to me by a high school English teacher friend; he said that it was really popular with his students. I finally found the first book in the series (is it really so hard to put numbers on the spine? Really?). It's very teenager in tone, since it's primarily written as a diary. It doesn't go too overboard, but sometimes it's annoying. Other than that, it's a story about a teenage boy who finds out he's a Traveler meant to save the fate of a distant world. Gotta love those unknown hero plots. I think they are worth a shot; it was a good, quick read. It won't be the top sequel on my list, but it's definitely on my cue for upcoming reads.

Author: DJ MacHale

Pretties



The sequel to Uglies is just as good. Missing is the great hippy commune out in the woods, which has been replaced—in questionable taste—by a found group of "primitive" mankind. Still, I enjoyed reading this book and getting back into his post-apocalyptic world of pretty-making. The language is slightly different; or, I should say, the vocabulary is different because even though the book is not in first person it mimics the new "pretty" way of talking. Once you get over that it's well-crafted. These books were recommended to me by my mother-in-law, and I hear they are very popular with both gals and guys. I can see why; there is much to grab on to in this series, and it's an accessible and interesting read.

Author: Scott Westerfeld

Uglies


When I read the first paragraph, I thought this was going to be another lame teen novel. It begins, "The early summer sky was the color of cat vomit." It goes on to detail what you would need to feed your cat in order to get the correct color of sunset-barf. I don't know why the author chose to keep this opening: it has nothing to do with the rest of the tone or writing of the book. So don't judge it on the first paragraph. After that, I was instantly hooked on this post-apocalyptic novel about a world in which everyone is surgically made to be "pretty" when they are 16. The world in which all the "uglies" and "pretties" live is very well developed, with original details, innovations, and flaws. The writing is effortless and I enjoyed the characters. The novel is not exactly unpredictable; yet, I was hooked from start to end.

If you like science fiction, I found a Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. short story called "Harrison Bergeron" that is similar in theme, except that instead of trying to raise everyone up to the standard of equality, the future world is bringing everyone down to a generic level.

Definitely check it out!

Author: Scott Westerfeld

Diary of a Wimpy Kid




This was given to me by a middle school librarian who wanted to suggest to me that more books be written in this format (I like to draw and write), because it's very easy for struggling readers to connect to. The print is large and "handwritten", the drawings are clever, and the book is quite long, even though it only took me about an hour to read. Yet, there was nothing about the book that was remedial. It's not in the same class as Sherman Alexie's Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian , but it's comparable in both style and theme. You could say that Diary of a Wimpy Kid is the middle school, white, tamed down version of
Sherman Alexie's book, but still has the same undercurrent of biting honesty. I think it's genius and speaks to a larger audience than just troubled readers.


Author: Jeff Kiney

Peter and the Secret of Rundoon



The concluding book of this very fun trilogy had me a tad disappointed, but over-all I had a wonderful time reading the Peter Pan books. They are creative and fresh, the writing is great, and the innovations on the classic tale feel very exciting. The whole time I felt like I was reading the "truth" behind the made-up story of Peter Pan, or a prequel to what what would eventually become a classic tale. As with the first two, they are excellent read-out-loud books and are infused with Dave Berry's humour throughout. No going wrong with these books, even though the last one felt a little slow and disjointed to me.

Authors: Dave Berry and Riley Pearson

Meet your daemon

In celebration of Philip Pullman's Golden Compass being made into a movie, you can go to the official website and answer a twenty-question test to find out who your daemon is.

I have a sneaky feeling there are only something like 10 options. When I googled it, I saw instantly that most people had snow leopards as their daemons. Mine, by the way, was Aenad the Jackal, which stood for modest, spontaneous, responsible, sociable, and solitary. Nevermind the whole usher-dead-spirits-to-the-netherworld association. So there you have it. Because there aren't enough ways to waste time on the internet.

http://www.goldencompassmovie.com/

MALE AND FEMALE FANTASY?



Nothing kinky. I mean this purely as a gender issue in sci-fi fantasy. I've been putting a lot of thought into this, especially since my husband keeps wanting me to review books like the Hobbit and Redwall and Stardust. I've read them. They just didn't hold the same amount of interest for me as other books I've been reviewing here, and I finally decided it's because there is a vast difference between "male" and "female" fantasy. Let me preface this by saying that I generally don't buy into stereotypical gender differences, but that's not to say that I don't acknowledge gender differences. And it's funny that I would find them so starkly in young adult fantasy books.

Okay, here's my thought. There is a style of fantasy written primarily for boys and men. I can spot it almost instantly. The best example, of course, is The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. A very small handful of female characters. Mostly action. Mostly fighting or preparing to fight. Of course, Tolkien is also an exception to the style in that he includes plenty of lush description and even a fair amount of character insight. Other books, though, tend to stay on the surface of characters and have an almost lackadaisical quality to the writing; it's sparse, and almost self-aware. I had a creative writing teacher who once said some books have the feeling that the author is looking over your shoulder while you read and distracting you. I would say that Male Fantasy has that quality. The best example of this is Neil Gaiman's Stardust. Two-dimensional characters who move swiftly from one tension point to another. Women as objects or evil witches. Stupid little author asides (I find this to be true of all Neil Gaiman's books, by the way).

Female fantasy follows similar sterotypes. Shannon Hale's Book of a Thousand Days comes to mind. There is one small scene of violence, but otherwise the majority of the story is set inside of a tower. For almost three years. But you get to know the characters so well. You're inside of Dashti's head for the entire novel. The Twilight Saga is overtly feminine literature. Each novel builds up to a big scene at the end, but otherwise dwells of character development (not to be confused with maturity) and insights. The language is prosaic and descriptive, and plots follow a long, general arch, as opposed to male literature which would look more like an EKG readout if it were drawn linearly.

There are plenty of androgynous books out there, too. All the Harry Potters, His Dark Materials, the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness all come instantly to mind. Perhaps they have just the right combination of the above qualities?

So there, Hubby; I've now reviewed the Hobbit and Stardust.

New Moon and Eclipse




Disclaimer: I am writing this BEFORE I've even finished a cup of coffee (and I can hardly open my eyes before two cups, generally), after having stayed up late so that I could finish Eclipse. I'm debating what sort of verdict to render upon this whole series. Of the three Twilight books, I found New Moon to be the most readable. For one, Edward is gone for most of the book, and we are introduced to a new character. So there's already more action than in the first novel, in which Bella and Edward basically breathe on each other for about three hundred pages. For the record, I like Jacob. Until he phased, I pictured him as a larger version of Noah Hathaway AKA Atreyu from the Neverending Story. He was my first movie-star crush. Which I think just dated me. But it was enjoyable nonetheless.

So New Moon gets a thumbs up. Enjoyable, still somewhat suffocating, but with more action than just watching Edward sparkle in the sunlight.

Now on to Eclipse. As Aunt Linda would say, I give this book an "Oh Brother." It was agonizing to watch Bella and Edward play house. Trust me, I married my high school sweetheart (who I love, but I'm trying to make a point); I KNOW what two teenagers playing house is like. It causes extreme eye-rolling and annoyance. Edward becomes a disturbing combination of father and husband, and is borderline abusive under a facade of keeping the damsel in distress out of too much distress. Meanwhile Bella becomes a contrite whine-fest who spends the whole book playing the field and then wanting others to berate her for it because she's too immature to stop.

Issues of sex and marriage abound, and I really don't know what I thought about the presentation of either. It felt like author Stephenie Meyer was trying to appease too many camps: teens who want to read a good sex scene (don't hold your breath); parents and publishers who don't want the book to be a sex-fest (you'll be pleased); and some kind of moral christian proper order of events that goes love, marriage, lose virginity, become a vampire. In the end, it becomes a contrived tension point that goes absolutely nowhere. So there.

Well written, interesting, but suffocating, contrived, and VERY teenager-ish. I'm glad I read them. I think they're worth it, and I'm glad to see so many people, teens in particular, reading them. It satisfies the teen need to feel that there's something super dramatic going on that the adults are all oblivious to. Also, no matter what you look like or who you are as a person, you might smell good. To vampires and werewolves. Enough to make you the center of a mythical world. And best of all, you might end up with the splendid choice of an overprotective vampire father-husband or a drooling immature werewolf brother-boyfriend. And isn't that what we all secretly desire?

Author: Stephenie Meyers

Book of a Thousand Days



Another great work by Shannon Hale! I fell instantly in love with Dashti, a Mucker (you have to read the book to find out what that is!) who lived on the steppes of ancient Mongolia before becoming a lady's maid. When the Lady she serves is imprisoned in a tower, Dashti is locked up with her and keeps a journal of their imprisonment. This is a lovely, compassionate book with faceted characters and beautiful setting. I thought I had this book figured out in the beginning, and I was delighted to be wrong. LIke all of the Shannon Hale novels I've read so far, the heroine is strong and caring and will win you over. Great read-out-loud!

Author: Shannon Hale

Jack of Fables, vol. 2



If you aren't familiar with Bill Willingham's Fables, you're missing out. This graphic novel series follows the lives of Fables living in a secret section of New York City. Snow White runs the town (although King Cole is officially the mayor) and they are plagued constantly by the Advesary who originally drove them from their fable Homelands. I couldn't read these fast enough. Thank god there were the Jack of Fables spin-offs or I would be very sad indeed. The two graphic novels entitled Jack of Fables detail the exploits of Jack Horner (AKA Jack of beanstalk fame, Jack the Giant Killer, and even Jack Frost).

Authors: Bill Willingham and Matthew Sturges

The Golden Compass


I just reread this book, and liked it even more the second (or third?) time around. I wanted to be all brushed up before I go to see the movie. As with almost any book, I'm sure the movie will never equal the richness of the written text (the one exception is the Princess Bride, which I thought was a stupid book but one of the greatest movies of all times), but I'm looking forward to it none-the-less. I'm a total Philip Pullman fan, so I expect I will gripe and fawn in equal parts over the Golden Compass movie. I never realized what a fantastic read-out-loud book this is, but I began reading it to my daughter and we both found it enchanting. The book on CD is also very enjoyable; it's supported by a full cast (who are much more authentic than my fake Cockney and London accents, but my daughter doesn't seem to care). The complexity of the Dark Materials plot lends itself well to frequent re-reading. Even this time through I caught things I didn't previously. So if you haven't already, dust this off and curl up with a blanket and cup of coffee before going to see it in the theaters.

Author: Philip Pullman

FOLLOW-UP: I saw the movie. It was actually better than I expected. The film rearranged some sequence of event that worked to not only condense the plot but make it more linear and focused; and the conflict between the Church and free will was made much more clear. I admit that the books left me working harder to discern the importance of Dust, the reason the Maagestrium was after the control of Dust and the purpose of the Intercisions. The movie actually clarified a lot for me. The morphing of Pan and the other daemons also worked very well. Yay!

The Woman Who Rides Like A Man



I'm so totally hooked on this series. They transport me every time, and I love the journey. This is the third book in the Lioness Quartet, and I think they're just brilliant and pulpy in the best sort of way. Alanna is a great heroine and I think her love life is so fun: should she marry Jonathan, the hasty prince who has been her lover but who might want to marry for the wrong reasons?; or should she side with George the King of Thieves, who loves her completely but has a dangerous life style? We still don't know. But Alanna stays true to herself and follows her heart, even if it may take her away from both of them.

Author: Tamora Pierce

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian




Holy. Smokes. Bravo, Sherman Alexie, on this spectacular first novel for young adults. Of course the minute I learned this book had come out I went out a bought it in hardcover (eeks!) because I want to support our local authors, even if they're already superstars. If you've ever read a Sherman Alexie novel before, you'll already be prepared for his depressing sense of humour and tongue-in-cheek descriptions of life as a Spokane Indian. If this will be your first time entering Alexie's rez, brace yourself for an emotional ride that skids just above the suface of sarcasm and leaves you going WTF?!? but in a good way. I think. It's hard to tell. This morbidly funny diary details a year in the life of Arnold Junior Spirit, who decides to venture off the rez and become the first Indian student in an all-white school. This novel wouldn't be half of what it is without the fantastic drawings by Ellen Forney. This is a fast read, and a compelling story for all ages.

Author: Sherman Alexie
Illustrations by Ellen Forney

Twilight



I started planning what to say about this book as soon as I got a few pages in to it, but I still don't know exactly what to think. It's gotten a lot of hype, and according to my middle school librarian source it's fairly controversial because of its purportedly erotic nature. On the one hand, this book never would have made it onto my bookshelf if it hadn't been well-publicized as being edgy, because it is a teen vampire novel. Gag me. But the other interest I had in it was the setting, which takes place mere few hours from my hometown here in the Pacific Northwest. Forks, the town in which the novel is set, really is an ex-logging town on the Olympic Peninsula, and I enjoyed reading the lush descriptions of local forests, beaches, and, of course, weather. The book centers around two teenagers, Edward and Bella, who are in love. It's giving away nothing to say that Edward's a vampire, since the book's jacket says so in the first sentance; however, it takes Bella the first hundred pages or so to figure it out, and the rest of the book she spends all googley-eyed and loopy at his amazing vampire-ness. I can see how this could be a sensuous novel to a young reader, but there are very convenient limits to how far their relationship can go: they cannot really kiss; they cannot have sexual relations; they cannot get too excited around one another or else he might eat her. There's the basic tension for the whole of the novel. In fact, I found their relationship to be extremely suffocating. Often I rolled my eyes thinking to myself, "how can they possibly be so glued at the hip? How can anyone keep up that level of intensity and inseparability?" Ah, but you know? It's a teen vampire novel. Enough said, I guess. But as much as I could rant about the book and it's somewhat under-developed characters, it's mushy main lovebirds, the annoying repetition of different variations of "he's so perfectly beautiful and his breath smells so good and his eyes are so amazing and he drinks grizzly bear blood", there was something that also held my attention. I don't know what it was, but I couldn't put this book down. In fact, I may even read the sequel. I can't explain it. Maybe there's just something so parasitic and mysterious about teen love and obsession that it just makes sense.

Spirit Walker



When I first heard about the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series it was through this book. I was drawn to it because a rave review from my favourite local bookstore, but also because the cover art looked so Pacific Northwest. It is, in fact, supposed to be set in a more nordic setting, but I couldn't help but think of ancient times in my own backyard San Juan islands. Hey, we have Orcas too, you know. Once again Torak, Renn and Wolf must vanquish a terrible evil that threatens the Forest, and this time their trek leads them to the Sea. Michelle Paver's dedication to first-hand research made the setting come alive for me, and I saw many elements of Haida and Inuit cultures sprinkled throughout the novel, but never too heavy-handed, which was refreshing. Although these book are a little predictable, I still enjoy being transported to a fresh-scented outdoor world filled with spirits, demons, and lots of adventure. I put this in the "Mist of Avalon" catagory, but I would liken it most to Clan of the Cavebears.

Author: Michelle Paver

Flora Segunda



There is a lot of honesty in this book, although it is sometimes covered up by too much effort to create a parallel world. Once you get past the jargon and the altered realities, you meet a girl who is different enough to be compelling. There are nice touches that made this book stand out for me: her mother is a hard-core military hero (which is different); her father is an alcoholic nutjob who lives in the attic; and the house comes with its very own immaterial servant who ends up nearly stealing our heroine's life force. It could almost be a metaphor of not giving ones self away to easily to please others, but I think I was reading too much in to it. Fun, strange...that about sums it up.

Author: Ysabeau S. Wilce

East




Are you getting tired of the girl-meets-talking-bear theme yet? Yeah, me neither. This was a terrific novel that wove in elements of Nordic mythology and fantasy together with a strong heroine and compelling story. Bears, weaving, family, solitude, evil sorceresses...all great themes that kept me up way past my bedtime. This would be a great book to curl up with on a cold, snowy day.

Author: Edith Pattou

Inkheart



They're going to make a movie of this, aren't they. Sigh. Oh well. Read the book anyway. It's good. Book characters come to life, heroine must stop them, evil is evil, good is good; all in all a fun read that takes you across a well-drawn European landscape (ah, Italy especially) and kept me engaged throughout.

Author: Cornelia Funke

Stargirl




I get the hype. This book was excellent. It's not technically sci-fi or fantasy, but I felt compelled to read it because of the press it has received, as well as the success of the sequel and journal.

I connected to this book on a personal level for many reasons; I've always been strangely drawn to Arizona, and I see a very strong part of myself in both Stargirl and in Leo. I think the simultaneous desire to fit in and yet stand out—or better yet, stand out and be loved for it—surpasses middle school or high school culture. We can all identify with that, which made it a beautiful read for me as an adult. Hardly any books about high school would find their way onto my bookshelf at this particular time, namely because you could not pay me enough to be a teenager again (don't get me wrong, I loved it. And I would not wish it on anybody all the same breath. Maybe I'll read some trashy teen lit when my daughter is *eeks* in high school).

Anyway, far from being just a cathartic novel about being different, this novel has something truly unique to it, something that captured my heart as easily as Stargirl captured Mica High School. It helps that it is beautifully written. It helps that the characters are, for the most part, fresh and real (with the slight exception of the wizened old man who sits on his porch smoking a pipe). I would recommend this book to anyone who has ever been to high school, who has/had a child in high school, or who wishes they could forget about high school. Basically, anyone. It's a fast read and worth the poetic mental trip to the warm, Arizona desert.

Fablehaven: Rise of the Evening Star



As sequels go, I found this to be a strong and entertaining follow-up on the very popular Fablehaven. Seth and Kendra must go back to Fablehaven (for their own protection, of course) and get into the usual this-could-be-the-end-of-Fablehaven disasters. While Seth didn't annoy me as much this time, he still is his usual out-of-control self, and Kendra is once again the reluctant hero, although this time she posesses fairy powers. The trouble I had is that she hardly ever USES her amazing fairy-ness, so I'm hoping her magic powers will blossom in the third book, due out in 2008. Entertaining, a little convoluted in some places, and overall a very enjoyable book.

The Hollow People (The Promises of Dr. Sigmundus, Book 1)




Strange book of the Hidden Hero persuasion. A young boy who has so far been treated like garbage discovers he has amazing powers of control over theenigmatic Odylic force (which was a concept explored by real-life scientist Baron Karl von Reichenbach in the 1800s). It has a ring of Jedi Knight-ness to it. The tone of the book is dark and unworldly, with just enough unique narrative detail to make it stand out. It is, by the way, the first of a series which I abruptly found out when the book ended quite suddenly and on a major cliffhanger. Drat.

In the Hand of the Goddess (Song of the Lioness)


I picked this sequel up the moment I finished Alanna: The First adventure and read it in one day! I'm totally hooked! I've only read these two books of Tamora Pierce's many titles, but I would say that at this moment I am a fan. I loved that the main character, who is a young woman in disguise (althoughyou'd think that by the time she hasn't grown a beard or had her voice drop her friends may have figured it out) separates sex from love. It's, I think, an unusual concept for a YA book, but I really loved it. It's such a nice spin-off from the conservative idea of abstinence and sex-before-marriage-and-only-if-you're-in-love crap. It was very subtle, and I appreciate that Pierce has given young women an alternative to the hype of sex and made it seem totally natural. Alanna, the main
character, still struggles with love and trust throughout the book which is a welcomed tension. Also, as her closest friends discover she is really a woman, they accept her as much if not more than they already had. No ostracizing here, which is a great message to young women, and even grown women. We all need reminding that we are
wonderful and powerful just for being ourselves.

Author: Tamora Pierce

Alanna: The First Adventure


It took me a while to get in to this book. For one, the copy I got from the library had the dumbest looking cover. It looked like a bad 80's book about horses. I finally bought my own edition that has a less-dumb looking cover and I must say that I've really enjoyed this book. Even though I'm a total tom-boy, it's sometimes a hard sell for me to appreciate a heroine who must prove her strength by completely denying her feminine nature and becoming fully masculine. There is the tension of those who know her secret identity as a woman telling her that she will only be happy if she fully accepts herself, so there is that. Of course, I haven't read the last few chapters yet, and there are many more books in this series, so I could be premature in my judgment. Regardless, I've really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone who liked East by EdithPattou or Mists of Avalon by Marian Zimmer Bradley.

Author: Tamora Pierce

The Various



Quaint. Yes, quaint is a good word. Young girl discovers hidden fairy world in her own backyard. I thought it was a good read; it's one of the first ya fantasy book that I read while I was waiting for the next Harry Potter book to come out. There are over-arching messages of conservation, animal kindness, loyalty, and I think it would be a good read-out-loud book. The cover art is beautiful. I absolutely judge a book by its cover, and this author-drawn design is one of the reasons I picked up the book in the first place. If you enjoy books about secret gardens and fairies and quaint britishness and enjoy immersing yourself in a gorse-and-heather sort of landscape (who doesn't?) then this book should definitely find its way on to your bookshelf.

Author: Steve Augarde

Celandine



This sequel to The Various was not exactly what I was hoping for. It didn't grip my attention the way the first did, but instead left me wanting. The story goes back in time, actually, to explore the life of Celandine, who was considered the family kook because she believed fairies lived in the back brambles, and after reading The Various, we know that she was right. To be fair, I moved on after only a few chapters of this book, so for all I know it gets much better. If you make it through, let me know.

Author: Steve Augarde

Septimus Heap: Magyk



Engaging, but repetitive. If you've just finished
Harry Potter, DON'T read this, because the similarities will annoy you.
It's actually a decent book, just not that original. Seventh son of a
seventh son plot (there must be something truly magical about that,
because I see that theme a lot), unknown hero, witches,boggarts, evil things. Fun, but you've read it before. If, however, it's that kind of thing you've read before but can't get enough of,definitely check this book out! It's followed by Flyte and Physik.

Author: Angie Sage

The Goose Girl



This is based on a fairy tale that I've never read,but it doesn't matter. It's a great tale about a usurped princess who must live in the guise of a goose girl at the castle until she can rightly prove her identity. It turns out she makes a pretty good goose girl, considering she can talk to birds. There's not much that will come as a surprise plot wise, but there is plenty to delight in with rich writing, beautiful descriptions, a strong heroine, and a classic—yet unique—story.

Author: Shannon Hale

Wolf Brother


Beautiful nature descriptions await you in this first of three novels by Michelle Paver. Set in the Stone Age, it's a mix of Clan of the Cave Bear, Princess Mononoke and Lord of the Rings (thematically, anyway. Obviously not as epic). There's even a Gollum kind of character about halfway through the book that I actually think is pretty unnecessary,
but oh well. It's a good story anyway. Another boy/girl save the world
combo (aided by a wolf, which actually works. Usually I tend todislike
books where one of the main characters is an animal), with the boy
being the central character in a quest to rid the Forest of an enraged
demon. This could have been a really trashy book full of stereotypes;
instead, it is a refreshing, well-described, uniquely fleshed-out world
that had me reaching for the sequel . It is followed by Spirit Walker and Soul Eater

Author: Michelle Paver

The City of Ember



Boy/Girl combo must save world, but no one listens to them because they're kids. Sigh. Is this a common theme because it's easy to write or because it's true? Anyway, City of Ember does a great job of creating a world that is slowly dying. The writing is well-paced and subtle details bring to mind a fully-formed, dark grey world with memorable characters, flushed out with just the right amount of mystery. When I was younger I lived in Siberia, and the City of Ember actually reminded me a lot of small-town Soviet Union. Basically, girl and boy must escape a world that is quickly falling into darkness, and hold the sole key to salvation. Again, the mother in me is quick to gasp at the idea of bringing a little tiny toddler along on their dangerous journey (I know, I'm paranoid), but it's okay; she's fine. I didn't get into the sequel (the People of Sparks). I tried, but it just didn't have the same mystery to me as the first. It doesn't quite matter, though; the first was a good story all on its own.

Author: Jeanne DuPrau

The Dark Hills Divide: the Land of Elyon, Book 1



I always love books with good heroines. This girl talks to animals. So that's fun. This book touches on themes of questioning authority, animal kindness, and personal strength, all of which are coninuously great themes to read no matter what age you are. Alexa is an enjoyable character to follow as she discovers what lies beyond the dark, guarded walls that enlose the town she has always lived in. It's the first in a series of books about the land of Elyon. I guess I wasn't inspired enough to pick up the second yet, but there are memorable details of this story that encourage me to eventually re-visit the series. Harry Potter fans will see a lot of similarities between Pervis and Snape. Actually, they'll see a lot fo similarities, but such is the way of fantasy fiction I suppose.

Author: Patrick Carmen

The Spiderwick Chronicles



This was one of the funnest books-on-CD that I've ever heard (topped only by the Harry Potter books-on-CD). They are read by the ever-talented Mark Hamill, that hunk of a dreamboat from my childhood who does a formidable job of troll voices (of course, you must keep in mind that he went on to do the voice of the Joker in the Batman cartoons, so he's not without expirience). These were very fun books. Being a sound recording, I apparently missed out on some neat drawings, but I highly recommend these books to anyone.

Author: Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi

The Lightning Thief



What a great way to get in to Greek mythology! Loosely similar in theme to Harry Potter (boy doesn't know he has magical powers and must use them to save world) but very well thought-out. There wasn't a dull moment in the book, and I even got over the snarky adolecent style of narrative. I'm looking forward to the sequel.

Author: Rick Riordan

The Invention of Hugo Cabret



Don't be swayed by how thick this book is. It's actually a fast read, mainly because it's composed of a mix of illustrations and very short paragraphs. It's a great idea, and it works well here. There are great stills taken from old silent films, and a masterful meshing of historical fiction and fantasy. Beautiful illustrations, and a good plot, too. It's based on a real life Parisian film maker who has been recrafted into a fictional toy maker. You'll love the feeling of being in historic Paris. At least I did. And I don't even like Paris.

Author: Brian Selznick

Nacky Patcher and the Curse of the Dry Land Boats



A very odd book, but engaging somehow. Sort of like Firefly meets young adult fantasy. Whereas many books are, I feel, erroneously targeted for young kids just because the main character is a kid, this book actually features an adult as the main character. The use of nautical terms is great. I really can't put my finger on why this book
is good; it was perhaps just enough out of the ordinary to be tantalizing.

Author: Jeffrey Kluger

The Looking Glass Wars



A retelling of Alice (or, Alyss, as it should be) in Wonderland. Fully realized and creative storytelling. There is a lot of violent aspects of the novel (in case you are a sensitive reader or parent of one), but it is coupled with a very strong heroine and good morals (not giving in to the dark side, for example. Might does not make right, stuff like that). The drawings annoy me because they look like they were ripped off straight from Star Wars, so I listened to the book on tape.

Author: Frank Beddor

The Mysterious Benedict Society



Fun, engaging. Slightly mysterious, well-drawn characters. Slightly disturbing twist at the end, at least from this mom's point of view, although I think it's supposed to be a little creepy. You want to know what it is? SPOILER ALERT!!!!!: one of the main characters is actually a two year old. I find this very bizzare. What is a two year old doing away from her mommy and daddy this whole time? See, that's what you get when you have a mom reviewing children's books.

Author: Trenton Lee Stewert

The Sisters Grimm






Another for the ranks of "children go reluctantly to kooky relative's house only to find themselves immersed in a fantastical world" theme. However, this is a fun read that pits the Grimm sisters against the trapped inhabitants of Ferryport Landing, a town full of Fables. While the characters can be a little cliched, I found this to be an engaging and fun read. There are currently six books in the series, although I haven't yet read the last one. Sorry, I don't think I got the photos of the books in the right order.

Author: Michael Buckley

The New Policeman



WOW, this book is the best I have ever read about Irish traditional music. My hubby and I have played Irish trad for over a decade, and were delighted to find many well-loved tunes headlining each chapter. I had to sit by a piano or fiddle the whole time I was reading this book. It's slow to start, but picks up towards the middle, so stick with it. Hats off to Kate Thompson (who composed her own tune that is included in the book) for this great novel!

Author: Kate Thompson

Wise Child



Wise Child is a book about a young girl who becomes apprentice to a village healing woman, Juniper. Wise Chile is reluctant to go, since the villagers consider Juniper to be a witch, but Wise Child soon comes to realize that superstitions and rumors don't come close to describing the amazing woman that Juniper turns out to be. FIlled with medieval lore about plants and herb use, lifestyles, and healing knowledge, this is a wonderful book for anyone who enjoyed Mists of Avalon and Clan of the Cavebear. As Wise Child grows into a young woman, her skills and knowledge become finely honed tools as she aids Juniper in her healing arts. This book is actually the second book in a series written by Monica Furlong, who was, ironically, a stout Christian. However, reading-wise it is sequentially the first book to read. It is followed by Colman and Juniper.

Author: Monica Furlong

Princess Academy



If I describe the plot of this book, it will sound silly. But believe me, this is yet another fine Shannon Hale novel that will have you up past your bedtime. I love the Nordic elements of this book; you'll feel like you're constantly in on the set of Heidi.

Author: Shannon Hale

Eragon



I really bought into the hype. I bought the book, for goodness sake, and I hardly EVER buy a book I've never read before. Yes, yes, it was written by a teenager and yes, it has gotten great reviews and yes, it was made into a movie. I thought the book stunk. It was a bad retelling of Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and Dragonriders of Pern. These are all respectable stories, and archetypal, but GOD I got sick of seeing them poorly rehashed in this novel that was in need of heavy editing. I didn't like the main character. If Luke Skywalker was whiny, this kid was downright obnoxious. He is guided by a man who is a one-dimensional mix of Aragorn and Obi Wan Kanobe, who we know from the minute we meet him is more than who he says he is, which leaves me wondering if we were supposed to be surprised when he reveals his true identity? Please. Congrats to Christopher Paolini for writing a best-selling novel that appealed to tons of kids; but I've heard this story before.

Author: Christopher Paolini