Spell and Spindle, by Michelle Schusterman

Spell and Spindle, by Michelle Schusterman (Random House, middle grade, July 2018), is  an excellent pick for kids who like fairy-tale infused creepy noir! I liked it lots too, and found it both clever and moving.

The Museum of Peculiar Arts is shutting down.  The neighborhood around it has gentrified, and now that it's 1952, people aren't interested in the old oddities and curiosities that it holds.  11-year-old Chance loves it, though; he's been helping its old owner, Fortunato,  maintain it, and is especially fond of a Penny, a child-sized marionette, who's possible the last survivor of a legendary puppet show from long ago.  The museum's closing isn't the only big change Chance faces--his family is moving out of the city to one of the bright new suburbs, and Chance hates that idea. 

Penny is likewise unhappy.  Though wooden, she is alive inside...and though her memories are foggy, she knows she does not want to spend years in storage.

Then Forunato offers her to Chance...and he accepts.  When he touches her strings, he hears her voice inside his head, as clearly as she's always been able to hear him.  And then things get creepy. There's a villain in the piece, a puppeteer who is pulling many strings.  One string that he pulls swaps the spirits of Penny and Chance, and now it is his soul trapped in the wooden body, while Penny is free to be alive.  Being a decent person, she's appalled by Chance's fate, but has no clue how to swap back, and conflicted feelings about giving up her new life.

But Constance, Chance's big sister, figures out what's happened. And she is not conflicted at all--she's going to rescue her brother, using her pretty astounding gift of conviction (the sort of conviction that can change reality through shear determination).  And Chance, though for all intents and purposes a damsel in distress held by an evil warlock, is simultaneously doing his best to rescue himself, and his fellow imprisoned marionettes, using the tools he has--his ability to see, and to think (the narrative shifts between his point of view and the two girls).  Penny is also in need of rescue, though the exact particulars of the magic in which she is trapped are a mystery for most of the book, and she also helps with the rescue; not with ostentatious heroics, but mainly with her decency.  

So basically this is a book about three strong characters who are all very likeable, whose relationships are founded on sibling loyalty and complicated feelings about what it means to be alive, trapped in a magical mystery with a distinct touch of 1950s noir (for instance, a radio character named The Storm provides inspiration to the kids, and is alluded to, and even quoted, often).   There's an emotionally satisfying mystery to be unraveled that's bigger and more deeply rooted than the immediate situation.  It also has lots of nice gender-stereotype confrontations, like Chance's parents' dismay when he brings the marionette (basically a giant girl doll) home with him, and Constance's attitude toward fairy tales--"I just don't think it's fair.... that boys with magic are written as exceptionally smart, but girls with magic are written as exceptionally mean." (p 118)

Or as Kirkus (in agreement with me) says in its starred review:

"The beautifully creepy plot deftly weaves together old-time–y fears with fresh outlooks through richly realized characters who feel immediate and modern despite the 1952 setting. Especially well done is the approach to gender, as Chance, Penny, and Constance all struggle with different realities of embodiment and expression without resorting to cheap sentiment or heavy-handedness."


This week's round-up of middle grade sci fi and fantasy from around the blogs (8/19/18)

A light week; perhaps I was not alone in not having much time for reading because of family visits, summertime fun, home renovation projects, and going to work.....Please let me know if I missed your post!

The Reviews

Amulet Keepers (Tombquest #2), by Michael Northrup, at Say What?

The Brimstone Key (Clockwork Chronicles #1), by Derek Benz and J.S. Lewis, at Say What?

A Dragon's Guide to Making Your Human Smarter, by Laurence Yep and Joanne Ryder, at Say What?

Everland, by Wendy Spinale, at Prose and Kahn (audiobook review)

The Girl in the Locked Room: a Ghost Story, by Mary Downing Hahn, at The O.W.L.

The Language of Spells, by Garrett Weyr, at Read Till Dawn

The Rose Legacy, by Jessica Day George, at Kid Lit Geek and Pages Unbound.

The Law of Finders Keepers, by Sheila Tunage, at The Winged Pen 

Rune Warriors, by James Jennewein and Tom S. Parker, at Say What?

Serafina and the Black Cloak, by Robert Beatty, at The Secret Files of Fairday Morrow

Snared, by Adam Jay Epstein, at Geo Librarian

Sputnick's Guide to Life on Earth, by Frank Cottrell Boyce, at Always in the Middle

The Way Past Winter, by Kiran Milwood Hargrave, at alittlebutalot

two at alibrarymama--Aru Sha and the End of Time, and The Serpent's Secret


This week's roundup of middle grade fantasy and sci fi from around the blogs (8/12/18)

Welcome to this week's roundup of all the middle grade sci fi/fantasy blog posts I found; let me know if I missed yours!  Nothing from me this week, because instead of blogging I took my oldest boy to start his freshman year at Bard College, where I'm sure he'll be very happy, but sob.

The Reviews

Aru Sha and the End of Time, by Roshani Chokshi, at Indictoday

The Assassination of Grangwain Spurge, by M.T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin, at Prose and Kahn

Bites Back (Project Terra #2), by Landry Q. Walker, at Ms. Yingling Reads

The Chalice of Immortality (Magickeepers 3), by Erica Kirov, at Say What?

Dactyl Hill Squad, by Daniel Jose Older, at The Booklist Reader

A Darkness of Dragons, by S.A. Patrick, at Mr Ripleys Enchanted Books

 Dreaming Dangerous, by Lauren DeStefano, at Say What?

The Girl With the Dragon Heart, by Stephanie Burgis, at Chrikaru Reads

The Goose Girl, by Shannon Hale, at Prose and Kahn

The House With Chicken Legs, by Sophie Anderson, at Hit or Miss Books

Ice Wolves, by Amy Kaufman, at The Adventures of Cecelia Bedelia

The Language of Spells, by Garret Weyr, at Redeemed Reader

The Legend of Greg, by Chris Rylander, at Redeemed Reader

Money Jane: The Hunt for a Legendary Magic Thief (How to Set the World on Fire #2), by T.K. Riggins, at Chanticleer Book Reviews

The Mysterious Benedict Society, by Trenton Lee, at Book Nut

The Scroll of Kings (The Lost Books #1), by Sarah Prineas, at Puss Reboots

The Selkie of San Francisco, by Todd Calgi Gallicano, at The Neverending TBR

The Surface Breaks, by Louise O'Neill, at What Vicky Read

Tilly and the Bookwanderers, by Anna James, at Alittlebutalot

Toaff's Way, by Cynthia Voigt, at Reading Rumpus

Tribute (The Cleaners #1), by Chris Knoblaugh, at Thrice Read Books

The Turning, by Emily Whitman, at Magic Fiction Since Potter

Authors and Interviews

Roshani Chokshi (Aru Sha and the End of Time) at The Story Sanctuary

Charlotte Salter (Where the Woods End) at The Winged Pen

Gavin Neale (The Price of Magic) at Read it, Daddy

Other Good Stuff

New in the UK, at Mr Ripleys Enchanted Books


Tom's Midnight Garden, by Philippa Pearce, adapted to graphic novel form by Edith, for Timeslip Tuesday

Tom's Midnight Garden, by Philippa Pearce, is a lovely classic timeslip story, and I'm thrilled that it's now out in the world as a beautiful graphic novel, from French artist Edith (Greenwillow, 2018).

Here's what I said in my post from years ago on the original book (published in 1958):

Tom had been looking forward to the summer vacation--he and his brother Peter had great tree house building plans. But when Peter came down with measles, Tom is sent off to stay with his uncle and aunt, in a small flat that had been chopped out of an old Victorian house. Unable to sleep, Tom is drawn downstairs by the grandfather clock in the hall outside striking thirteen, and opening the back door of the house, finds the Garden...

"a great lawn where flower-beds bloomed; a towering fir-tree, and thick, beetle-browed yews that humped there shapes down two sides of the lawn; on the third side, to the right, a greenhouse almost the size of a real house; from each corner of the lawn a path that twisted away to some other depths of garden with other trees."

Great and terrible is Tom's disappointment the next day, when he opens the same door and sees only dustbins--the land belonging to the old house had been built up years ago. But the next night, the clock strikes again, and Tom steps back again into the past when the garden still existed. There he meets small orphaned Hattie, who also longs for a playmate, and night after night they share the trees, the hiding places, the orchard, meadow, and river, and all the other things that every perfect garden has.

But time doesn't stay still. In the past, Hattie grows older, in the present, Tom grows more desperate to enjoy the garden before he has to go home, and his brother Peter grows lonelier. And at last, one night Tom opens the door, and the garden is no longer there.

This isn't a book where Lots of Things Happen. It is subtle in its buildup, and unhurried in its descriptions. The small adventures that Hattie and Tom have in the garden and its environs are not particularly strange and wonderful--but because these two children have become friends across time, each one suspecting that the other is a ghost, their encounters are magical. And because Pearce takes her time in describing each of Tom's visits to the garden, and describes at length as well Tom's daytime thoughts, as he tries to figure out what is happening, the reader gets to follow at Tom's pace, and appreciate it all along with him.

So I was curious to see if the graphic novel would be able to convey both the shear wonder of the garden, and the tight focus on what Tom is thinking.  Yes to both counts, although perhaps more successfully for the later.  Which is a bit ironic perhaps, but the garden the words built in my mind pretty much defies illustration.   Still it is beautiful.  And we really do get a very good sense of Tom in the daylight world struggling to make sense of what is happening, and the ending as presented here is I think even more successful than in the book; it is a bit more sustained and given a bit more weight by the juxtaposition of words and images.

So in short, yay for this wonderful opportunity for kids who wouldn't be drawn to an old English book to meet this lovely story!


This week's round-up of middle grade sci fi and fantasy from around the blogs (8/5/18)

Here's what I found this week; please let me know if I missed your post!

The Reviews

The Basque Dragon by Adam Gidwitz and Jesse Casey, at Geo Librarian

Bob, by Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead, at Children's Books Heal

The Boy from Tomorrow, by Camille DeAngelis, at Charlotte's Library

Breadcrumbs, by Anne Ursu, at Confessions of a Bibliovore

The Door to the Lost, by Jaleigh Johnson, at Charlotte's Library

The Dragon of Lonely Island, by Rebecca Rupp, at Semicolon

Earth to Dad, by Krista Van Dolze, at Fantasy Literature

The End of  Infinity, by Matt Myklusch (Jack Blank #3), at Say What?

The Eternal Hourglass (Magickeepers 1) by Erica Kirov, at Say What?

The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone by Jaclyn Moriarty, at Hit or Miss Books

A Friendly Town That's Almost Always by the Ocean, by Kir Fox and M. Shelley Coats, at For Those About to Mock

The Griffin's Feather (Dragon Rider 2), by Cornelia Funke, at  Always in the Middle

The Frozen Telescope (The Uncommoners 3) by Jennifer Bell, at Magic Fiction Since Potter

The Long-Lost Map (Ulysses Moore 2) by Pierdomenico Baccalario, at Say What?

Loot, by Jude Watson, at The Secret Files of Fairday Morrow

The Pyramid of Souls (Magickeepers 2), by Erica Kirov, at Say What?

Small Spaces, by Katherine Arden, at Fuse #8

Spell and Spindle, by Micheller Schusterman, at Rajiv's Reviews

Spindrift and the Orchid, by Emma Trevayne, at Say What?

The Thorn Queen, by Elise Holland, at Say What?

The Train of Lost Things, by Ammi-Joan Paquette, at Michelle I. Mason

Willa of the Wood, by Robert Beatty, at A Backwards Story

Winterhouse, by Ben Guterson, at Rajiv's Reviews

Authors and Interviews

Four authors, including MG fantasy writer Zetta Elliott, talk about self-publishing, at Jane Friedman


The Door To the Lost, by Jaleigh Johnson

The Door To the Lost, by Jaleigh Johnson (Delecorte, July 2018), is one of the strongest middle grade (for 9-12 year olds) fantasies I've read so far this year.  Magic, character, world-building, and plot all work just beautifully together.

Rook is the child of a magical people who came to her current world through a portal.  Her people brought magical wonders with them, and magic was everyone's darling, until the portal closed in an explosion of magic that had horrible consequences.  Just before the explosion, a boatload of children came through from the world of magic, arriving with no memories of their former lives, into a world that now looked at magic fear and suspicion.  Rook was one of those children, who made her own way off into the world, and now she is an exile

An exile with magic.

Rook can make portals with chalk, that open to wherever she wishes them too.  She uses them to escape the security forces of the town that's her base of operations, and to help others in trouble with the authorities get away.   The door she uses most, though, leads to a refuge she shares with another exiled girl, Drift.  It's a space with no other way in or out, and it is their nest.

But the one door Rook can't seem to draw is the door that will lead her and Drift back to their own true home.  And lately Rook's doors haven't cooperated as well as they should.  Doors keep opening into a snowy woods she can't  recognize.  And then one day a shapeshifting fox boy comes out the woods, into Rook's town....and Rook and Drift, with barely enough money for themselves, have another mouth to feed.

That's the set-up.  What happens next is the arrival on the scene of a strangely powerful woman who would use the girls and their magic to open a portal back to the magical homeworld, even though it means taken them on a journey through the Wasteland, the epicenter of the magical cataclysm.  Many adventures ensue, friendships are tested, new friends are made.

Though there's lots of magic (the best sort of middle grade fantasy magic, that doesn't come with instructions, but has to be worked with), and lots of adventuring, a its heart this is a "best friends in exile" story, with a generous dash of "found family" theme, where the magic and adventure serve the emotional arc, instead of taking it over.

Kirkus gave it is star, calling it "your new favorite fantasy." I wouldn't go quite that far, but I do recommend it highly. 


The Boy from Tomorrow, by Camille DeAngelis, for Timeslip Tuesday

The Boy from Tomorrow, by Camille DeAngelis (Amberjack Publishing, middle grade, May  2018), is the sort of book that makes me glad I went with "timeslip" instead of "time travel" for my Tuesday postings, because there isn't any time travel (in the sense of people popping out of their time into someone else's), but time gets very slippery indeed!

Alec and his mom have moved from the city out into an old house in a small town after his parents split up.  It's a lovely old house, full of secrets...not the least of which is an old Ouija board.   Fooling around with the board one night with a new friend, Danny, Alec opens up a line of communication to Josie, the girl who lived in the house 100 years ago, and they become friends across time.  Josie has left letters for Alec to find, filling in details of her life, and when the Ouija board is replaced by a phonograph that lets them actually talk, their friendship becomes even more real.

Josie's life is not happy; her spiritualist mother is cruel and downright abusive to her little sister Cassie.  And Alec can only watch from 100 years away...distracting the girls with stories and songs not yet written, and finding more about their lives in the library archives, though he can't bring himself to find out everything....he doesn't want to know, and neither does she.  But Josie and Alec both know that she and Cass must escape their terrible mother and the virtual imprisonment in which they live, even though it will end their friendship.

And so the ending is bittersweet, with one final letter coming to wrap up all the loose ends long after she has died.

It's told in alternating perspectives of the two kids, so that the reader gets to see both sides of this strange friendship.  It's almost like reading two different overlapping stories, because the characters and their lives are so beautifully delineated and just right for their particular time periods.  External interest in Josie's side of things is added by her mother's spiritualism (she's rather famous, and good at what she does), and on Alec's side of things by his having to cope with his parent's divorce and his new life.  There's a generous dollop of creepiness, though never going over the edge into supernatural horror, although Cass's doll, with whom she has a physic bond that is more than a bit disturbing, comes close.

In short, it is rather a magical book, blending contemporary and historical fiction beautifully!  "Spellbinding." says Kirkus.

(sigh.  Instead of interesting letters about their lives left by my boys in our own old house, children of days to come will find, hidden in the walls, little notes saying "you are stupid" and other witty jests.)


Two fun underwater picture books

Sometimes it's a nice change when the books you get in the mail, unasked for and unexpected, are picture books!  Especially when they are fun, and rather relatable, picture books such as one can happily write about.  Both are by Carrie Bolin and Jessica Firpi, illustrated by John Graziano, from Ripley Publishing (May 2018).

Bremner and the Party is the story of a puffer fish who becomes just a mess of nerves when he gets a party invitation.  All those horrible anxieties many of us feel are his--will he be too early? too late? will everyone else know each other?  and so forth.  But he has one anxiety that is more particular to him--will he puff up if  the stress gets to be too much?  He bravely goes to the party anyway, and sure enough, he puffs....but many other guests are puffer fish too, and they join him, and all is well!  Though most of us don't puff, we might well have other quirks that make us feel different and awkward, so it's a nice message that other people might be dealing with similar things, and you can be social and make new friends regardless!  A nice reminder for all shy readers that they probably aren't alone in feeling dread when facing the prospect of a party, and that quite possibly they will have a good time after all.

Sharkee and the Teddy Bear starts with a teddy bear falling into the ocean...Sharkee has never seen one before, but he wants it, and now it has sunk out of sight, so he drags his fishy friend by the fin to ask all sorts of other sea creatures if they have seen it.  A fairly standard, but gently humous, hunt ensues, leading to an ending of surprising sweetness when the bear is found, cradled in the many arms of a baby octopus.  Sharkee is tempted to be fierce, and take it by force, but instead he snuggles down and cuddles both the bear and the octopus....

In short, two pleasant and entertaining picture books!

(I was surprised they are from Ripley, but this mystery was solved when I cleverly read the jacket--the heroes of both books are mascots at Ripley's aquariums, the shark in the US and the puffer fish in Canada).


This week's round-up of middle grade science fiction and fantasy from around the blogs (7/29/18)

Welcome to this week's round-up; please let me know if I missed your post!

The Reviews

Across the Dark Water (Riders of the Realm 1), by Jennifer Lynn Alvarez, at Dogpatch Press

The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge, by M.T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin, at Booklist Reader

Bob, by Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead, at Geo Librarian

The Boggart Fights Back, by Susan Cooper, at The Booklist Reader

A Chase in Time, by Sally Nicholls, at Minerva Reads

The Door to Time (Ulysses Moore 1), by Pierdomenico Baccalario, at Say What?

Dragons in a Bag, by Zetta Elliott, at Say What?

Ends of the Earth (School for Spies 3), by Bruce Hale, at Say What?

The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm, at Pages Unbound

The Girl With the Dragon Heart, by Stephanie Burgis, at Family Bookworms

Ghost Boys, by Jewell Parker Rhodes, at Books My Kids Read

The Lost Continent (Wings of Fire 11), by Tui T. Sutherland, at Hidden in Pages and Charlotte's Library

Night Flights, by Philip Reeve, at Magic Fiction Since Potter

The Search for Delicious by Natalie Babbitt, at The Book Smugglers

The Secret War (Jack Blank 2) by Matt Myklusch, at Say What?

The Turning, by Emily Whitman, at Charlotte's Library

The Turnkey of Highgate Cemetery by Allison Rushby, at The Children's War

TwoSpells, by Matt Morrison, at Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

The Very Little Princess, by Marion Dane Bauer, at Tales from the Raven

Two Han Solo books, at Boys Rule Boys Read

Authors and Interviews

Armand Baltazar (Timeless – Diego And The Rangers Of The Vastlantic) at The Geekiverse

Kim Ventrella (Bone Hollow) at Watch.Connect.Read.

K.A. Reynolds (The Land of Yesterday) at Literary Rambles

Other Good Stuff

Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain Tells a Fresh Story with Old Tropes at Tor

It is almost August, and that means the call for Cybils Judges is right around the corner!  If you want to be part of a really great reading experience, get ready to apply!   That means making sure you have reviews up on your reviewing platform of choice for the category you're interested in (like, for instance, middle grade speculative fiction, the category that I'll be chairing again this year).  Here's an older post I wrote about why you should apply, and you can learn more at the Cybils website.  You're also welcome to ask me questions directly!


24 Hour Readathon--Intro post plus Wings of Fire: the Lost Continent

Hi I'm Charlotte, reading from Rhode Island.  There is no particular book I'm hoping to read: I'm hoping the 24 Hour Readathon this weekend will help me make progress in general; the thought of spending a good chunk of tomorrow eating ice cream and reading is very appealing!  It is horribly muggy here in Eastern Standard Time....

Half an hour into reading, I've finished the book I was on--Wings of Fire: The Lost Continent, by Tui T. Sutherland (Scholastic, middle grade, June 2018).   This is the latest installment in a long-running and very, very popular series of books about young dragons.  There are several series-es, each starring a fresh group of young dragon characters, and The Lost Continent is the start of a new set of adventures.  So it's a reasonable place to start your Wings of Fire reading, if you really don't want to go back to the beginning (The Dragonet Prophecy; here's my review).

The Lost Continent wasn't, of course, lost to the tribes of dragons who already lived there, and young readers who love all the care and attention paid to making each tribe of dragons distinct and special will love meeting three new varieties of dragon.  It wouldn't be much of a story, though, if the three groups of dragons lived in harmony and nothing happened.  So, as it is the case throughout the books, there is bitter and unjust conflict in which bad things happen to good dragons.  There is also genocide and the worst dragon-racial injustice of any of the previous books.  This made it hard reading, especially at first, because until I got invested in the particular dragon characters, I wasn't at all sure I wanted to spend time with the Hivewings and the Silkwings (the Tree Wings weren't on those first few pages, because genocide).

But Blue, the young Silkwing who's the central protagonist, grew on me, and then he teams up with Cricket, a most unconventional Hivewing who is my most favorite dragon of the whole series.  She is smart and sharp and thinks for herself and loves books and questions things, which makes her a great candidate for an important role in the revolution!  It makes her a good balance for Blue, as well--he's an interesting sort of hero, because he doesn't actually want to cause trouble; he wants to cooperate.  When he realizes that cooperation is no longer an option., because of terrible circumstances, he has to practice very hard at not following rules.

And once again I find myself in the position of closing the book, and wanting the next one now!  Especially since, as we knew would happen from reading the ending  reading the previous series, Moon gets to enter this story too!

I just looked back at my review of The Dragonet Prophecy, and see that I said:

But even beyond those details of story, what pleased even cynical me most was that there were themes here that I was happy to have my son think about--loyalty to friends transcending blind loyalty to tribe, the need to empathize with other points of view, the need to try your best to shape your own destiny, and not be someone's tool, and the senselessness of war.

and I continue, with this new adventure, to appreciate the way in which Tui T. Sutherland can make readers think, and care, and want to change, bad and difficult things without being preachy, and to show darkness, but with the hope that it can be lifted.


The Turning, by Emily Whitman

The Turning (Greenwillow, July 24, 2018) is Emily Whitman's first foray into middle grade, and I hope there will be more mg to come from her!

This is the story of Aran, a boy born to a selkie mother, who is late to take his own seal form.  He keeps up with his seal kin as best he can; even though he's not able to become a seal, he is still a phenomenal swimmer, and doesn't suffer from the cold.  But he's growing too big for his mother to help him travel for long distances, and his kin are beginning to worry that he'll never become truly one of them (after all, his father was human), and he might even pose a danger to their survival (a boy swimming with seals attracts attention....)  When his mother sets out on a long distance mission to seek council from the wise elders far to the north, she reluctantly finds a human home in which he can wait for her.  And so Aran must live as a human boy...

It is hard.  The minutia of being human (the cloths, the food, the daily life) are difficult, but more worryingly, Maggie, the woman he's staying with has a husband, prone to drunken violence, and though he's out at sea, there's the risk he might come back before Aran's seal mother does.  He makes a good friend, a bi-racial girl named Penny, who he learns to trust, and he learns to read, discovering the magic of books with her and her grandfather.  Being human isn't so terrible after all, but the call of the sea is strong, and Aran longs to swim again with his selkie family.

And then his mother doesn't come back when she promised too.  And the drunken husband comes home, and Maggie's life is in danger.  Aran flees out into the open ocean, with only the moon for company, but he can only swim so far....

Fortunately, there's a happy ending that makes the worrying worthwhile!  (Kirkus really didn't like the ending, for what it is worth, but I think that is a perfect ending for young middle grade readers!)

Give this one to myth and magic loving, dreamy sort of readers on the younger middle grade side (9-10 year olds), who will be entranced by Aran's life as both boy and seal child.  Though of course the particulars of Aran's situation won't be shared by those readers, his difficult situation of growing up into a conflict of who he's expected to be, who he wants to be, and who he's going to be able to become is deeply relatable.  Aran's naivete is understandably great, and young readers, with the advantage of having lived as humans their whole life, will be moved by his journey toward understanding and accepting his dual identity.

disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher


Furyborn, by Claire Legrand, for Timeslip Tuesday

I am writing this with some reluctance, because it is horribly hot inside my house (no a.c.) and the keyboard is unpleasantly warm (wrists must be kept up and away from it!), and also because it is something of a spoiler to come right out and say Furyborn, by Claire Legrand (Sourcebooks, May 2018) has time travel in it. However, since I figured this out very quickly, it is not a disastrous spoiler (I am usually very very slow to figure things out). And in any event, the time travel serves only to set in motion the paths that the characters must follow, and so reviewing of the book actually requires no further mention of it. Time travel ex machina, and on with the story, as it were.

The people who live in the kingdoms where Furyborn takes place once had a war against angels (who could, just as easily, have been called demons, but in any event--non-human beings of immense magical power who were not nice to humans). Against them rose saints--people with gifts of elemental magic, who were able to imprison the angels, and be at peace... for a while. But the prison has broken, and the war must be fought again.

Two young women, separated by centuries, find within them the magical powers such as the saints had wielded, fulfilling a prophecy foretelling two queens.  One will be a queen of light and salvation and the other a queen of blood and destruction. Rielle is sure that her command of all seven elemental forms of magic, and her fervent desire to protect her kingdom and those she loves, mean that she's the Sun Queen. But first she must endure seven trials to prove her magic, and her ability to control it. If she can't, she dies. A thousand years later, bounty hunter Eliana knows of Rielle only as a distant legend.  But Rielle's story continued long after she herself was gone, and now Eliana must pick up its pieces, and join the fight against the  (truly evil, loathsome, horrible) Undying Empire...And so she becomes a leader in the Rebellion, discovering that she, like Rielle, has magical gifts.

It's a pretty violent book, with rape and cruelty and death and lots of collateral damage. This isn't really my favorite thing to read about, but I kept on with increased interest--I liked Rielle's magical trials, and I liked Eliana's ethical dilemma (can someone who has done bad things be a good person?), and I'm all in favor of a good rebellion.  Claire Legrand has a true gift for making what she's writing about seem very real, and very immediate to the reader (which, given that what she's writing about often is rather horrible, is a mixed blessing).

For the most part, though, the book read like an extended introduction to the real story of the rebellion, which is just about to get going for reals when the book ends.  There's also more of Rielle's story to come as well.  So if you have patience for lots of magical and violent shenanigans that do more to set up the story than advance it, and love stories of girls discovering that they are powerful and magical, and finding love (and having sex), you might well love this one.  I was interested enough so that I'll want to read the next book, but I wasn't knocked off my feet.

The reviews are pretty polarized on Goodreads, which is interesting, but I put myself right in the middle.  Possibly because I'm not the teen girl demographic who is most passionate about books like these (I didn't, for instance, enjoy the Throne of Glass series).


My update page for the second day of the 24 in 48 Readathon

(if you're here looking for this week's round-up of mg sci fi/fantasy, it's here)

So I read for only ten  hours yesterday, and got another hour in this morning, which leaves me with 13 hours of reading in the 15 and a half left of today!  Thank goodness I have an audiobook I'm enjoying.

The first challenge of the day is:

your favorite, under-the-radar book

Which is hard.  Because lots of my favorite books are mid 20th century British girls books, and those aren't under the radar if you like that sort of thing too.....so I'm going with a recent book that I recommend to everybody, that grown-ups might not be reading because it is a graphic novel for younger readers--Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World, by Penelope Bagieu

9:24 am. have reached 12 hours of reading.  It is a good thing it is raining, not just because we need it, but because I will not be tempted to swap reading for weeding....

10:33 am have reached 13 hours; 11 to go....no breaks for me today if I am to reach 24.  Have just finished Final Draft, by Riley Redgate--can't think of a better realistic fiction book to offer the young lesbian/bi-curious sci fi geek teen in your life.  Will recommend to a couple of kids I know in my son's class.

12:07  have now reached 14 hours, 30 minutes--9 and a half to go.....and it's time for another challenge!

What’s the oldest children’s book you have, or a book you’ve held onto since your childhood? Share it with us!

I have my grandmother's copy of Anne of Avonlea, clearly much loved and much read, into which she'd tucked fashion drawings she'd made as a girl....growing up on a farm in Eastern Oregon, with unsympathetic Prussian parents, she didn't have much in the way of books or fashion, so I find this rather poignant.

4:15 pm another three hours of reading (mostly listening); 6 and a half hours left!

5 pm Have just finished Furyborn, by Claire Legrand....about which more later this week.  5 hours and 45 minuts left....but unlikely that I'll make it.

6:35 pm 4 hours and 35 minutes left to read...and the Final Challenge of the Readathon!

we want to see the first book on your shelves, and the last book on your shelves.

I cannot answer this question.  I have 14 bookshelves on the first floor of my house, and lots more upstairs.  I don't know how I'd pick first and last.   Since the bigger point of the question is how do you organize, I can speak to that--I'm a clumper, based both on genre, and my personal attachment to the author.  That's all the organizing I do- I don't alphabetize by author or title.  It can make things interesting at times when I'm looking for a specific book, but mostly my feelings are constant and I find things.

This week's round-up of middle grade fantasy and science fiction from around the blogs (7/22/18)

Here's what I found in my blog reading this week; please let me know if I missed your post!

The Reviews

The Book Jumper, by Mechthild Glaser, at Kara Armstrong

Carnival Magic, by Amy Ephron, at Children's Books Heal

Dragon's Egg, by Sarah L. Thompson, at Say What?

Dragon's Green, by Scarlett Thomas, at Say What?

The Elsewhere Emporium, by Ross McKenzie, at Mr Ripleys Enchanted Books

The Girl Who Drank the Moon, by Kelly Barnhill, at Leaf's Review

The Language of Spells by Garret Weyr, at Waking Brain Cells

The Legend of Podkin One-Ear, by Kieran Larwood, at Patrick Samphire 

Longburrow: The Gift of Dark Hollow (The Five REalms #2) by Kieran Larwood, at Log Cabin Library

Marabel and the Book of Fate, by Tracy Barrett, at Ms. Yingling Reads

MINRS3, by Kevin Sylvester, at Ms. Yingling Reads

The Song of Glory and Ghost, by N.D. Wilson, at Pages Unbound

The Train of Lost Things, by Ammi-Joan Paquette, at Charlotte's Library

The Tunkey of Highgate Cemetery, by Allison Rushby, at Falling Letters

Willa of the Woods, by Robert Beatty, at The Cultress

Authors and Interviews

Rebecca Caprara and illustrator Laura Diehl (The Magic of Melwick Orchard) at MG Book Village

Clive King, author of the classic mg time slip story Stig of the Dump, has died.

Kai Wallace (City of Islands), at Nerdy Book Club

Other Good Stuff

The video premiere of The ASsaniation of Brangwain Spurge, at Fuse #8

Filming begins on Jacqueline Wilson's retake--Four Kids and It,  of E. Nesbit's Five Children and It, at The Guardian

Keeper of the Lost Cities raises some interesting questions, at Pages Unbound


The Train of Lost Things, by Ammi-Joan Paquette

The Train of Lost Things,  by Ammi-Joan Paquette (Philomel Books, March 2018)--a sad middle grade fantasy, but full of comforting love.....

Marty's dad is dying, and Marty is on the verge of actually realizing this awful fact is true.  But he's distracted--he's lost the jacket his dad gave him, and all the pins, each a special memory, that his dad had given him to fasten to it.  One of his dad's stories was about a train of lost things, travelling the world and holding all the precious belongings lost by kids over the years, and Marty, desperate to believe that there is something he can actually do to fix things, set outs to look for it.  Miraculously, he finds it, and with another young searcher, a girl named Dana, gets on board.

But the train of lost things is a mess.  There's no driver or conductor to keep things on track, just a lost girl named Star.  You only get the one night on board to find what you lost, which doesn't give Marty or Dana much time to find what they lost.  Somehow, the three kids must get the train fully up and running again....

Though there is no magical happy ending in which Marty's Dad miraculously recovers, there is love and closure at the end.  So though it is terribly sad, it's not utterly heartbreaking.

It's a very vivid, very quick read.  The characters are made very real, with very little page time; we don't get told everything about them, but they are solid. The train is a marvelous place, and every young reader will be reminded of the precious things they themselves lost, and so it's a book with great emotional resonance.  Give this to young readers who like their magic to come with a helping of Sad, or vice versa.  Obviously this one works best if you can just suspend disbelief and ride the magical rails, but even if you have a cynical side to you (raises hand) you can't help but be moved.

(this weekend I'm reading like crazy for the 24 in 48 Readathon; here's my progress post....)_

24 in 48 Readathon-book log

After a week spent on Jury Duty, I am ready to read!  Being on the jury didn't take any more time, on paper, than going to work, but it took more emotional energy, and I didn't have any to spare for blogging.  But happily, this weekend I'm taking part in the 24 in 48 Readathon, which will motivate me beautifully (d.v.)!

After 45 minutes of reading, I've finished my first book, The Train of Lost Things, by Ammi-Joan Paquette (my review)

After 1 and half hours of reading, I've finished my second book, The Winter Room, by Gary Paulsen.  It was a fast read because it has no plot to speak of, and it was very short (103 pages)

After 1 hour and 45 minutes of reading, I've finished my third book--Polly Diamond and the Magic Book, by Alice Kuipers, an easy reader sort of book, just 106 generously illustrated pages in a large font.

another two hours of  reading (mostly listening) for a total of 3 hours and 45 minutes at 1pm....and it's time for a readathon challenge--

share a book that has expanded your worldview or changed the way you look at something, whether it’s another culture, gender, race, a new concept, social justice issues

One of my 15 year old's summer reading books this year is Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe, which was one of my own summer reading books when I was around that age.  For me, it was my first meeting with Colonialism, and it was mind opening, to say the least.

Have now reached 5 hours and ten minutes, with the completion of Madam, Will You Talk? by Mary Stewart, one I reread once every ten years or so.....6 hours and 50 minutes of reading before I get to my goal of 12 hours before bed....

6 hours and 40 minutes of reading done...5 hours and 20 minutes to go (although realistically more like 4) and it's time for the next challenge:

Show us your nightstand books, or tell us how you decide what to keep on your bedside table! Is it everything you’re reading? Do you limit it to one book? Are your bookshelves so full that your nightstand is, essentially, another bookshelf? Share your situation with us!  

Here's my nightstand, which is, in face, another bookshelf.  I don't keep many books on it, because I tend to take whatever I'm reading upstairs and finish it, and reshelve it fairly quickly.  Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix will probably stay there for a while, though, until I get a taller lamp!

I have made it to eight hours!  have just completed Sweet Revenge: Passive Aggressive Desserts for your Exes and Enemies.

Made it to nine hours, and finsished The Candle House, by Pauline Fisk.  Odd British fantasy.

and now up to read in bed for maybe another hour!


This week's round-up of middle grade fantasy and science fiction from around the blogs (7/15/18)

Here's this week's round-up of mg sci fi/fantasy; please let me know if I missed your post!

The Reviews

Aru Shah and the End of Time, by Roshani Chokshi, at Kara Armstrong

Beasts and Geeks (A Babysitter's Guide to Monster Hunting #2) by Joe Ballarini, at Say What?

Bob, by Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead, at Kid Lit Geek

Casper and Jasper and the Terrible Tyrant, by Tilia Klebenov Jacobs, at Say What?

The Dragon's Tooth, by N.D. Wilson, at Leaf's Reviews

Dreaming Dangerous by Lauren DeStefano, at Read Till Dawn

Dying to Meet You, by Kate Klise, at Tales from the Raven

Float, by Laura Martin, at Redeemed Reader

The Forest, by Krysta Wagner, at Kitty Cat at the Library

The Game Masters of Garden Place, by Dennis Markell, at Ms. Yingling Reads

Kima, by A.H. Amin, at Kelsey Ketch

The Language of Spells, by Garret Weyr, at Cover2Cover

The League of Beastly Dreadfuls, by Holly Grant, at Small Review

Nightbooks, by J.A. White, at Ms. Yingling Reads

Scream and Scream Again, ed. by R.L. Stine, at Ms. Yingling Reads

The Scroll of Kings (The Lost Books 1), by Sarah Prineas, at Say What?

Serafina and the Black Cloak, by Robert Beatty, at Rajiv's Reviews

The Serpent's Secret, by Sayantani Dasgupta, at Say What?

Snowglobe, by Amy Wilson, at A Little but a lot

The Storm Keeper's Island, by Catherine Doyle, at Charlotte's Library

The Turnkey of Highgate Cemetery, by Allison Rushby, at Charlotte's Library

Willa of the Wood, by Robert Beatty, at Jen Robinson's Book Page

Wrath of the Dragon King (Dragonwatch 2), by Brandon Mull, at Say What?

Two at alibrarymama--The Trials of Morrigan Crow and The Book of Boy

Authors and Interviews

Robert Beatty (Willa of the Wood) at A Backwards Story

Catherine Gilbert Murdock (The Book of Boy) at The Horn Book

Mary Winn Heider (The Mortification of Fovea Munson) at From the Mixed Up Files

Other Good Stuff

at the B. and N. Kids Blog, I wrote a post about when your kid is ready for The Lord of the Rings


The joy of having to reorganize your shelves because your favorite authors are writing new books, with specific referrence to Rachel Neumeier's newest book

I have been very kind to myself this past month, lavishly buying books that I knew I'd enjoy.  For instance, I treated myself to Rachel Neumeier's newest, an anthology called Beyond the Dreams We Know, which has stories set in a variety of her worlds (and one that isn't).  I enjoyed it very much, particularly the story set in the world of The Floating Islands, in no small part because the main character, a girl of no social status to speak of, points out a problem to the powerful men in charge, and they listen to her respectfully and agree that action is warranted.  It was all very good reading though, and if you like Rachel's books, you need it.  Which is what I told myself, and so I bought it....

And I also have been binge buying Lois McMaster Bujold's Penric and Desdemona books, because they are so much the perfect comfort read fantasy sort of thing I love.  I am unfortunately a little late to the part, though, and the first book of the series, which I got from the library, is out of print and now costs c. $200, which is more than I can spend on a book at this time (and for the foreseeable future sigh).  And I also treated my self to Bryony and Roses, by T. Kingfisher (the third of her books I now own) and am pretty sure that I'll be steadily buying everything she's ever written as funds allow (I need more than one birthday a year....).

Which led to one of the nicest sort of problems a bibliophile can have--how to fit these books, with comfortable space left for new ones, on the shelf of "best loved sci fi/fantasy that isn't necessarily kids books and that isn't Ursula Le Guin or Robin McKinley."  Because those two, and most of the best loved middle grade books, are on their own special shelves.

So all the Elizabeth Goudges got moved to the hallway shelf, books I don't need to own got put in the library donation box (like Charles Williams...not going to re-read him again to the best of my knowledge and belief although now I am having second thoughts....), and  Sarah Beth Durst got to move from small over-flow shelf 1 to main shelf, and that is good.

Here are before and after pictures of Main Shelf (although the Goudges had already left the top shelf), and left hand side of hall shelf.  As you can see, I now have lots of room for more of Rachel's books, room for the new Megan Whalen Turner and new Patricia McKillip (d.v.), and room for more everyone else too (although there won't sniff be new DWJones books....but on the other hand there are lots of Discworld books I need).  So this will hold for a little while at least....

nb:  this is a tiny fraction of my books...I'm very lucky in the Patrick proved to be a dab hand at building built in bookcases, and very generous in allowing my books the lions share of them; you can see an earlier iteration of some of my shelves here.  The big bookshelf of this post used to be my son's, but he decided he'd rather have the guest room across the hall and took all his Warriors and Rangers Apprentice books with him, and the bookshelf became open to new occupants...

(in case anyone is worried about me, as well they might be- the bookself is bolted to the wall).

So in any event, a lovely interlude, both reading-wise and shelving wise!

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