Season of Secrets, by Sally Nicholls

Season of Secrets, by Sally Nicholls, (2009 UK, 2011 US--cover shown at left, Scholastic, middle grade, 225 pages).

Molly and her older sister Hannah have been taken in by their grandparents after the death of their mother; their father, depressed and working odd hours, can't look after them. The girls hope that he hasn't abandoned them in this small town in the north of England forever--someday, surely, they can come home. But as the days pass, Hannah gets angrier, pushing against her new life as hard as she can, and one cold rainy night she decides that she and Molly will run away.

That night Molly, alone in the dark, sees the Wild Hunt sweeping after its prey with savage ferocity, and finds the hunted man--bloody from the teeth of the hounds. But when she brings her family back to help him, he is gone, and no-one believes he was real, except for Molly herself. As the seasons change, she will meet him, and the Wild Hunt, again....

The central story is that of a child coping with the death of her mother, but the tension and unhappiness of the day-to-day is broken by Molly's encounters with this strange man, who has stepped into her life from the old, old stories of England. He is part of a struggle that plays out every year, as the seasons change--cold versus warmth, light versus darkness, life versus death. When summer comes again, the broken and bloody stranger comes into his own, and Molly's family begins to come back together too.

Some people have suggested that Molly's stranger is a coping mechanism, a sublimated metaphor for her grief and healing. I like metaphors just as much as, if not more than, the next person, but I see no reason not to believe that Molly has, in fact, really met the Green Man aka the Oak King aka the ancient personification of the force vitale of Summer. Whichever way the reader wants to go with it, this fantasy part of the story adds depth and thought-provoking-ness to the small tight world of Molly's grief.

Although the mix of the realistic and fantastic worked beautifully for me, it might not be to every reader's taste. I can imagine that some of those who like sad family stories might find the fantasy intrusive, and those whose ears prick up at the mention of the Wild Hunt might feel disappointed that there wasn't more to that part of the story (it pretty much stays in the background like a tapestry on the wall, as opposed to actual unicorns or what have you trotting through).

Here's another anxiety I have about recommending this book, that I want to make clear. I loved Molly (not least because she is an avid reader!), and wanted to hug her, and thought she was a beautifully written character, yet she never actually does anything, in either the real part of the book, or the fantasy part. Actually, no-one really Does anything--all are moving forward, but not via brisk and vigorous action (with the possible exception of those whose progression includes a bit of wild hunting....). So I think that this is one for those readers who would, if they had to pick either Character or Plot to be marooned with on a desert island, would go with Character.

That would be me, and I thought it was a lovely book. The writing, the characters, and mix of fantasy and reality, and the mix of sadness and hope make this one of my favorites of 2011.

Here's Sally Nicholls talking about her struggle writing about the unreal at Strictly Writing. Her first book was horribly unbearably all to real (a boy dying of cancer) and never have I cried more over a book than that one. But even though I put it down every two pages to cry (Nicholls should have asked for a kickback from the makers of Kleenex), I kept reading because it was really good...

And here are some other reviews of Season of Secrets, at Fuse #8, Bloggin' 'bout Books, Madigan Reads, and at The Guardian


Akata Witch, by Nnedi Okorafor

Akata Witch, by Nnedi Okorafor (Viking 2011, YA, 349 pages)

Twelve-year-old Sunny was born in America, but when she was nine, her parents moved back to their homeland, Nigeria. Not only is she neither American nor Nigerian, she is also albino, African in her features but with pale skin. In other words, Sunny doesn't fit in.

And she has just seen the end of the world in a candle flame.

When Sunny makes friends with three other kids from the margins of her world of school and home, she finds out just how different she really is, but at the same time, she finds a community. She is one of the Leopard people, whose talents for the deep, rich magic of juju sets them apart from the non-magical Lambs who make up most of the world's population.

Together Sunny and her friends must learn to use their varied magical gifts--because they are about to be pitted against a dark and fearsome enemy, hell-bent on raising a spirit that would bring chaos to the world.

(Sorry for the facile comparison, but I can't help it- Harry Potter in Nigeria).

For the setting, the cultural details, and the shear refreshing difference of an African magic, I recommend it highly. It is utterly fascinating to read about an African system of magic--the way it is taught, the stories behind it, the many details of its particulars that Okorafor includes. Much of the book concerns the four main characters finding their Leopard Person mentors, and learning the ways of their magic, and this sort of thing always appeals to me! I especially enjoyed Okorafor's inclusion of excerpts from Sunny's first rough guide to being a Leopard Person--"Fast Facts for Free Agents." It added a nice touch of wry humour.

On the not so plus side, the final confrontation came on too abruptly and passed too quickly--it was a bit of a let down.

Still, this was an engaging book. I didn't quite fall hard for it--I kept wanting to like this more than I was. Okorafor spends so much writing time on showing details of what is around the characters that there doesn't seem to be much space in the story for them to truly flower in my mind. Sunny is an exception to this--she's the focus of the story, and I did feel that I knew and liked her at the end of the book!

This is a "young adult" book," and I kept waiting for the characters to behave in young adultish ways--for their relationships to be developed, for introspection, for emotional tension. But although the characters uses YA language "what a bitch" "I don't need my ass kissed" and "damn," it didn't quite move into the emotional territory of teenage life.

In short, it's a fast and refreshing read, and if you're looking for new imaginative territory in the genre of kids discovering their magical abilities, this would be a book to try.


Ruby Red, by Kerstin Gier, for Timeslip Tuesday

Ruby Red, by Kerstin Gier (Henry Holt 2011, YA, 336 pages)

16-year-old Gwyneth lives with her mother and siblings on the top floor of the family's ancestral home in London. Living beneath them in grand style are her grandmother, her aunt, and her polished and beautiful cousin Charlotte, the special one, the one the family assumes has inherited the family ability to travel through time.

But it is ordinary Gwyneth who finds herself time-travelling, and who finds herself in the midst of a conspiracy stretching back centuries--a secretive organization of Guardians wants Gwyneth to fill a crucial role in their machinations. Plunged into mysteries, caught between two different factions among her time-travelling kin, and accompanied in her time-travelling by the insufferable (but very handsome) Gideon, Gwyneth must decide (with too little information to make it easy) just whom she can trust.

This is great fun! The twists and complexities of the plot make for fast reading--along with Gwyneth, the reader has little clue at times what's happening in the larger scheme of things, but things roll along nicely before too much doubt creeps in (sometimes I have doubts when reading about centuries-old mysterious cabals of mystic-ness, but not here; at least not until I closed the book). And in large part this momentum comes from Gwyneth. She's a great narrator--matter-of-fact, observant, and entertaining.

Those who read time travel stories for the excitement of exploring the past won't find that emphasized here. Time-travel, in Gwyneth's world, is controlled by a device operated by the mysterious society. Her first few solo timeslips are the classic "gah I'm in the past and totally unprepared and what the heck do I do experiences," but once her family finds out what's happening, the Guardians determine the location and time period of her travels (giving the wardrobe folks the opportunity to prepare suitable clothes). It also helps make time travel less awkward for her that she's mainly meeting her own family, or members of the organization--no pesky explanations needed!

Anyway. Like I said, it's great fun, it's fast, and and it will (probably) leave you wanting the sequel (it had something of the same feel to it as, for instance Paranormalcy, by Kiersten White). It may also leave you annoyed with the sexist pig Guardians and doubtful about the way Gideon's eyes are described (I am tired of boys with exceptionally lovely eyes).

Ruby Red was written in German (that's what I thought was the German cover at right, but it's actually the Norwegian one...). The translator, Anthea Bell, is the same one who did such a good job with Inkheart (she's also the translator of Asterix--here's an interview with her in which she talks about that).

I don't know if I would have picked up on it if I hadn't known the author was German, but Gwyneth reminded me strongly of a German girl who was my best friend years ago, more than she reminds me of my English friends and relations. Did anyone else feel the same thing?


This Sunday's Middle Grade Fantasy and Science Fiction Round-up

Welcome to today's round-up of the blog posts I found over the past week about middle grade (ages 9-12, give or take) science fiction and fantasy books! Please let me know if I missed your post, and please feel free to email me links any time during the week!

The Reviews:

13 Treasures, by Michelle Harrison, at Random Musings of a Biliophile

Attack of the Ninja Frogs (Dragonbreath) by Ursula Vernon, at Library Chicken

The Boy at the End of the World, by Greg van Eekhout, at The Book Smugglers (you can read the first two chapter for yourself at Tor).

City of Ice, by Laurence Yep, at Charlotte's Library

Double Spell, by Janet Lunn, at Charlotte's Library

Entwinned, by Heather Dixon, at Liri Dilectio

The Gift, by James Patterson, at Ms. Yingling Reads

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, by Catherynne Valente, at Charlotte's Library (where I am one of a number of people giving away a copy!)

Haunted Houses, by Robert D. San Souci, at BC Book Talk

Juniper Berry, by M.P. Kozlowsky at Charlotte's Library

No Passengers Beyond this Point, by Gennifer Choldenko, at Middle Grade Mafioso

The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic, by Jennifer Trafton, at Becky's Book Reviews

The Rumplestiltskin Problem, by Vivian Vande Velde, at Becky's Book Reviews.

Savvy and Scumble, by Ingird Law, at Random Musings of a Bibliophile

Say Cheese, Medusa, by Kate McMullan, at T.F. Walsh

Sir Gawain the True, by Gerald Morris, at Jean Little Library

A Tale of Two Castles, by Gail Carson Levine, at Page in Training and YA Bibliophile

The Throne of Fire, by Rick Riordan, at Beyond Books

The Time Travellers, by Linda Buckley Archer, at Shannon Whitney Messenger

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, by Grace Lin, at Libri Delectio

Wolf Brother, by Michelle Paver, at My Brain on Books

A World Without Heroes, by Brandon Mull, at Taking a Break

Authors and Interviews:

Nathan Bransford (Jacob Wonderbar and the Cosmic Space Kapow) at Literary Rambles

Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams (The Goddess Girls) at somewhere in the middle

Greg van Eekhout (The Boy at the End of the World) is a Big Idea poster at Whatever

M.L. Welsh (Mistress of the Storm) at Nayu's Reading Corner, and you can enter to win the book at this post on her blog.

Christine and Chrisopher Russel (Warrior Sheep) at Manga Maniac Cafe

Katie Hines (The Guardian) at Lindsay's Ramblings

Other Good Stuff:

Here's J.K. Rowling talking about Pottermore:

And not, strictly speaking, middle grade, but it's interesting to see that Neil Gaimen seems to be seriously contemplating writing a sequel to American Gods (via Galley Cat).

The Locus Awards were announced yesterday; here are the results from the "Young Adult" category:
And finally, this is, more or less, the story of my life this time of year--books and flowers (although there's also family and work of course). From the gallery of Su Blackell:


The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, by Catherynne M. Valente (2011, Feiwel and Friends, middle grade/young adult, 256 pages).

In this lovely fairy tale, a twelve-year old girl named September is whisked off from Omaha, Nebraska to Fairyland by the Green Wind. Accompanied by a most charming Wyverary (child of a library father and a Wyvern mother), September journeys in classic fairyland adventure style from one wondrous encounter to the next (the herd of wild velocipedes, the marvellous baths of the heartbroken soap golem, the land where it is always autumn, and much more).

But as she travels, things get darker. This fairyland is a place where things have gone badly awry under the rule of the Marquess, she of the fabulous hat and seemingly absolute power. The Wyverary's wings, and those of all flying creatures, have been chained, and this is just one of the Marquess' oppressive edicts.

Each choice September makes leads her deeper and deeper into an adventure with Consequences. She is not a Chosen One, but when, toward, the end of the book, she is offered the chance to simply say goodbye to the story she's become part of (a story that's going not well at all), she has to decide if she will choose to stay, to fight for her friends, and for fairyland itself...

This is a lovely book for those who love words, who love pictures made in their minds of wonderful things. Those who crave the toothsome joy of thought-provoking escapism will find themselves well satisfied.

"...September read often, and liked it best when words did not pretend to be simple, but put on their full armor and rode out with colors flying." (page 51) And this makes September, the titular Girl of this story, the ideal reader for her own adventure, for this is what Valente's words do, as she tells a story that is at once as simple as can be, but which has a tremendous sweetness of depth and caring.

On the other hand, those who find intrusive narrators vexing might well be a bit put-off, because such intrusions do happen here, and they do underline the fact that one is Reading a Story. This makes the experience one of engaged consciousness, as opposed to one of unbroken readerly immersion (does that make sense?). I didn't have a problem with it here, although with other books I've found it annoying.

The Girl Who... is evocative (as others have pointed out) of other classic journeys in fairyland (Alice, The Phantom Tollbooth, The Wizard of Oz); I think it might be closest in feel to The Neverending Story (but I like this one lots more--it has much more zest). It is being marketed as YA, but for no particular reason that I can think of, other than that Valente is known for her adult books, and those readers might balk at being asked to read a children's book.

There are illustrations at the start of each chapter by Ana Juan, but I think they are scary. I don't like oversized heads. You can look at the art in more detail via Macmillan, where there's lots of bonus material.

And finally, here's a particular small thing I appreciated: September's mother (who works in a WW II airplane factory, while her father is fighting in Europe) is very much present in her daughter's thoughts (not excessively, but enough to make her part of September's story). Even though we don't meet her till the very end, she became very dear to me--I can't find the exact quote, but there's one brief mention of the very brave and cheerful face she puts on to friends and neighbors, so brave, despite how tired she is, that they do not offer casseroles. I find this immensely piquant.

Thanks to the publishers and to Zeitghost Media, I have the opportunity to give away a copy of this book-- please leave a comment by noon EST on June 30 (North America only). Do enter to win (here and at all the other blogs giving it away this week) --it is really a lovely book.

It is also the only book to win the Andre Norton Award (the young readers version of the Nebula) before it was published--Valente wrote it first as an on-line book, which was then picked up by its current publisher.


For fans of Daddy-Long-Legs--her two Patty books are free for Kindle readers

A public service announcement for kindle users:

Just Patty, and When Patty Went to College, two lovely school stories by Jean Webster (author of Daddy-Long-Legs) are currently available in free ebook editions for kindle users. These are both excellent reading, although not as brilliant as D.L.L. Her Jerry books are also available for free, but these are eminently skip-able.


The Diversify Your Summer Reading Challenge (from the fine folks at Diversity in YA)

Straight from the Diversity in YA website:

"Now that the Diversity Tour is over, Diversity in YA is moving on to our next big DiYA endeavor: the Diversify Your Summer Reading Challenge!

This summer, we’re challenging readers to read books that feature a diverse world, to read beyond their comfort zones, and to just plain dive into some wonderful stories. Our challenge will have two components: one for libraries, one for readers and book bloggers. At the end of the summer we’ll be giving away some wonderful book prizes donated by publishers."

For more details, head on over here.

I already make an effort to read diverse sff (there's a list up at the top of my blog with links to the seventy books I've posted about to date), but I'm thinking that I might challenge myself to do some reading outside my comfort genre...even going so far (gasp) as to read some books for grown-ups...I'll be musing about this further as I quickly read the 151 (give or take 100) books on my tbr pile in the next few days, and quickly write reviews of the books I've read that should be on the list (Silver Phoenix and Fury of the Phoenix, I'm looking at you in particular).

And I'm think also of roping my older boy (turning 11 this summer) into the challenge as well--he is, after all, the reason I started actively looking for diverse middle grade books (and he's been neglecting his own blog of late). And revisiting that post of two years ago, I see (somewhat to my chagrin) that there are marvellous recommendations in the comments that I never (hangs head) followed through on.


Juniper Berry, by M.P. Kozlowsky

Juniper Berry, by M.P. Kozlowsky (Walden Pond Press, 2011, middle grade, 240 pages)

Juniper used to have a happy life, before her parents became famous, before they moved to the splendid isolation of a mansion behind locked gates. And now her parents have no time for Juniper, or even any interest in her...

"Juniper just never thought she would be kept out as well. But indeed, everything was at a distance. The world outside might as well have been the moon or Mars or the event horizon of the blackest of black holes. She had, by now, grown accustomed to her isolation, carrying her binoculars everywhere, spying from afar, searching for what she was missing. There was a telescope on a tripod in her bedroom, a monocular of some age that she always kept tucked away in a convenient pocket, goggles for underwater adventuring, a microscope and magnifying glass for that world even smaller than hers. Discovery and exploration were her salvation; if she couldn’t go out into the world, she could bring the world to her: the stars, the insects, the unsuspecting distance. Everything but her parents." (pp 2-3)

More sinister than just her parents neglect are the strange physical manifestations of wrongness they are exhibiting. When Juniper makes her first friend, a boy named Giles from a neighboring mansion, and learns that the same sort of thing is happening to his parents, she's determined to solve the mystery and set things right.

The two children venture through a doorway in an old and sinister tree, and there they find both terror and temptation. They, like their parents, are offered the dearest wishes of their hearts by the hideous denizen of the tree...but the price is one that no-one can pay...at least, if they want to keep their souls.

This is a story that evokes fairy tales and myths--the descent into the dark other realm, the temptation by the evil being, the dangers of wishes coming true. And it's a gripping story, especially in the first half when the exact nature of what's happening is still a mystery, and the suspense grows most delightfully. It's clear that something is afoot, but it's still very much a lonely child story, and getting to know Juniper in this part of the story was my favorite part of the book!

The actual mechanism through which wishes are granted, and the sinister set-up under the tree, didn't work as well for me-- too much suspension of disbelief was required, a few too many questions left unanswered, and I felt the bad guy talked too much. In short, the whole under-tree world didn't coalesce for me into scarily wondrous evil of great emotional punch.

Still, there is an appealing dreamlike quality to this, not happy day dreams but darker ones, where the fears of childhood come true. And this quality serves the book well, and should win it friends.

Other reviews at The Book Yurt, The First Daughter, The Book Smugglers, and The HappyNappyBookseller

NB: Walden Media is celebrating the release of Juniper Berry with a really nifty writing contest for kids, with a July 1 deadline. Details here.

Far Away Across the Sea, by Toon Tellegan, for Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is a meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, where bloggers share the books they can't wait to read.

My pick for today is Far Away Across the Sea, by Toon Tellegan, illustrated by Jessica Ahlberg, coming out this October from Boxer Books. I've been waiting for this one ever since falling hard (very hard) for last years Letters to Anyone and Everyone (here are my thoughts on that one). Tellegan's stories are beautiful read aloud to ones child, and lovely things to savour oneself, with Ahlberg's illustrations adding tons of piquancy and charm.

Far Away Across the Sea appears to offer more of the same gently surreal happenings in the lives of anthropomorphic animals. I am especially anxious to see if there is any news of the poor elephant, last seen floating off in the middle of the ocean....Oh elephant. My heart aches for you.


Double Spell, by Janet Lunn, for Timeslip Tuesday

Double Spell, by Janet Lunn (Tundra Books, 2003, originally published as Twin Spell, back in 1971)

"The twins found the doll on a cold wet Saturday in early spring. They found it in an antique shop, which was odd because neither Jane nor Elizabeth had ever thought of going into an antique shop before. At age twelve, they didn't think much about dolls anymore, either. And yet, on this rainy Saturday morning, they did both" (p 1)

The little old wooden doll calls out to the twins, and acting on a whim she can't explain, the owner of the shop lets the girls have it in exchange for what little money they have on them. When their great aunt decides to turn the large old family house over to the twins' family, they are pleased to think that their doll will have a home worthy of her...and very pleased themselves with their new tower room.

But strange things have entered the girls' lives with the coming of the doll, and the move to the new house. The doll seems to be leading them back into the past...memories that aren't their own are flickering in and out of their everyday lives, and someone, or something, is playing poltergeit-like tricks on their family. Because long ago, the doll belonged to another little girl...and there are dark secrets from the past waiting to come to light. Time is about to twist for Jane and Elizabeth, and bring the past to the present.

This is the sort of just on the edge of horror story great for the nine-year-old-ish girl. The time-slippishness makes the mystery very intriguing, especially toward the end, when I was reading at the edge of my seat, all feverishly anxious. Of course, being me, I enjoyed the more mundane aspects--moving into the big old house, doing historical research in the library, and making doll clothes--just as much, if not more!

I would have loved this one as a child, and enjoyed it just fine as an adult. Even though it was written forty years ago, Double Spell is not at all dated (there's the dated old cover on the right), and should easily win itself new friends.

Janet Lunn is perhaps best known for another time slip story, The Root Cellar--someday I will be going back to re-read this one for another Timeslip Tuesday!

(thanks, Anamaria of Books Together, for sending this one my way!)


City of Ice, by Laurence Yep

City of Ice, by Laurence Yep (Starscape, a Tor imprint, 2011, middle grade, 384 pages), is the second book in a trilogy set in 1941 in an alternate version of our world, a place where there are dragons, and shape shifters, and all manner of other "mythological" creatures living among human-kind. And in this world, there are also gods and goddesses...not always kindly, but incredibly powerful.

In City of Fire, young Scirye swore an oath to the goddess Nanaia to avenge her sister's death at the hands of a foul dragon, and his foul master, Mr. Roland, and to rescue the priceless artifact that they had stolen, one of the Five Lost Treasures of Emperor Yu. If Mr. Roland gains control of them all, he will have mastery over the whole world.

Scirye and her brave lap griffin are joined in this quest by two street urchins Leech and Koko, both of whom have more to them then meets the eye, and by Bayang, a dragon whose mission to assassinate Leech (its a long story) takes a back seat to the more important goal of revenging herself on Mr. Roland's dragon, an ancient enemy of her people.

In City of Ice, the quest of the odd assortment of companions takes them to the frozen north (where Canadian mounties patrol the skies riding on the backs of giant birds, among other marvels). There they must confront Mr. Roland and his minions (both human and monstrous ones), but there they find new friends, not least of whom is the great bear spirit of the north himself.

The action and adventure are virtually non-stop, and the pages are full to the brim with fantastical creatures and places. Yep's world is a place where ancient peoples are alive and well-- the Sogdians, the masters of the Silk Route, are thriving as traders in the wilds of the north, and Scirye's people, the Kushans, ancient rulers of the region around Afghanistan and northern India, are still a major world power. For shear extravagant fun with alternate world building, this series is hard to beat.

My one reservation is that there wasn't enough time spent on character development (plot comes out ahead here, hands down). I think that part of the problem, for me, is that the point of view keeps switching between the three main characters, so that we don't get to see for ourselves what they are thinking and feeling, we are told. The introduction of several new major characters here in City of Ice further diluted the personalities of the main characters.

There is, however, one truly interesting relationship, that between the boy Leech and the dragon Bayang (who is hands down the most interesting character). I'm curious to see how this relationship plays out in the third book, but what I'm really hoping for that Leech and Scirye, who up to this point seem not particularly interested in each other in any way, despite being travelling companions, Notice each other and emotional complications ensue. One thing that makes it clear this is a middle grade book is that so far in the series there are no hints of any romantic feelings whatsoever!

Perhaps in book 3, City of Death, things will be different, and this will happen. I'll definitely be reading it--like I said, the world building is tremendously fascinating...and even though I lean toward character, I still enjoy an exiting story, such as this series offers.

This is a series that deserves more attention than it seems to have gotten--what with the adventurous pursuit of the bad guys, the direct participation of sundry deities in the course of events, the panoply of monsters and mythological creatures, and the quirky cast of characters, it's one I'd recommend to younger fans of Percy Jackson, for whom the romance aspect of that books was the least interesting part!

Added bonus: the diverse cast of characters (none of the central characters are European, or of direct European descent), and the non-Eurocentric mythological background, makes this another one for my multicultural sci fi/fantasy list.

Here's another review, at Eva's Book Addiction

disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher


This Sunday's mg sff roundup!

Welcome to this Sunday's middle grade sci fi/fantasy round-up, in which I've gathered together as many blog posts about mg sff as I could find! If I've missed yours, do let me know, and do feel free to email me links at any time during the week!

It being Father's Day, I have been wracking my brains trying to come up with Good Fathers in mg sff. The best one I could come up with is the dad in A Whole Nother Story--sympathetic, interested in his kids, and determined to bring their mom back. I also like Septimus Heap's father lots. But mostly dads seem deader or absenter even than moms....and even nice dads, like Min Li's in Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, get pushed of stage pretty fast...

Do you have a favorite mg sff dad?

The Reviews:

Astronaut Academy: Zero Gravity, by Dave Roman, at Geek Dad and Charlotte's Library

The Beejum Book, by Alice O. Howell, at Books & other thoughts

Cinder and Ella, by Melissa Lemon, at its all about books and Reading Vacation (where you can also find this character interview)

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, by Catherynne Valente, at Just Booking Around

Goliath, by Scott Westerfeld, at The Compulsive Reader

Invisible Inkling, by Emily Jenkins, at Postcards from La-La Land

Juniper Berry, by M.P. Kozlowsky, at TheHappyNappyBookseller

Kat, Incorrigible, by Stephanie Burgis, at Random Musings of a Bibliophile

The Lost Hero, by Rick Riordan, at One Librarian's Book Reviews

My Father's Dragon, by Ruth Stiles Gannett, at Anita Silvey's Book-a-Day Almanac

Nation, by Terry Prachett, at Stacked (audiobook review)

No Passengers Beyond this Point, by Gennifer Choldenko, at Bookends

Noah Barleywater Runs Away, by John Boyne, at Adventures of Cecelia Bedelia

The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic, by Jennifer Trafton, at Becky's Book Reviews

The Seven Sorcerers, by Caro King, at books4yourkids

Spellbound, by Jacqueline West, at Books Together

A Tale of Two Castles, by Gail Carson Levine, at Charlotte's Library

Zombiekins, by Kevin Bolger, at Somewhere in the Middle

Other Good Things:

At Cracking the Cover
, you can read about how a father and his son turned their bedtime ritual into the fantasy novel Sword of Darrow.

At Seven Miles of Steel Thistles, Fairytale Reflections continues with Gwyneth Jones, and Anita Slivey looks back with fondness at Brian Jacques

For Harry Potter fans, head over to Tor, where there's an ongoing Potterpalooza celebration going on until the release of the final movie. And of course there's
Pottermore....coming soon.

And finally, to celebrate the release of Juniper Berry (my review coming up on Wednesday, d.v.), Walden Media is holding a writing competition:

"Juniper Berry
is a story about a girl trapped in a modern-day fairy tale: a world that is both terrifying and enticing. After you read the first two chapters, write your own story of terror and temptation in 500 to 1500 words. Make your story appropriate for kids. The first sentence should start with “Mother and father aren’t quite right.”

Who: The contest is open to US residents between the ages of 9 and 14.

When: Send your entry before July 1, 2011.

Prizes: One winner will receive the following prize:

  1. One Apple® iPad®
  2. Selection of Walden Pond Press eBooks, hardcovers and paperbacks
  3. Story featured on walden.com
More details can be found via the link above.


New Releases of Science Fiction and Fantasy for kids and teens, the second half of June, 2011 edition

Here are the new releases of fantasy and science fiction for kids and teens from the second half of June1 There were so few I was able to include pictures, which is nice.

My information comes from Teens Read Too, and the blurbs are lifted from Amazon.

Middle Grade

OF THE WORLD by Greg van Eekhout "Fisher is the last boy on earth-and things are not looking good for the human race. Only Fisher made it out alive after the carefully crafted survival bunker where Fisher and dozens of other humans had been sleeping was destroyed.
Luckily, Fisher is not totally alone. He meets a broken robot he names Click, whose programmed purpose-to help Fisher "continue existing"-makes it act an awful lot like an overprotective parent. Together, Fisher and Click uncover evidence that there may be a second survival bunker far to the west. In prose that skips from hilarious to touching and back in a heartbeat, Greg van Eekhout brings us a thrilling story of survival that becomes a journey to a new hope-if Fisher can continue existing long enough to get there."

SCARY SCHOOL by Derek the Ghost "You think your school's scary? Get a load of these teachers:

Ms. Fang, an 850-year-old vampire
Dr. Dragonbreath, who just might eat you before recess
Mr. Snakeskin—science class is so much more fun when it's taught by someone who's half zombie
Mrs. T—break the rules and spend your detention with a hungry Tyrannosaurus rex!


Gargoyles, goblins, and Frankenstein's monster on the loose
The world's most frighteningly delicious school lunch


The narrator's an eleven-year-old ghost!

Join Charles "New Kid" Nukid as he makes some very Scary friends—including Petunia, Johnny, and Peter the Wolf—and figures out that Scary School can be just as funny as it is spooky!"

THE SECRET PRINCE: KNIGHTLEY ACADEMY by Violet Haberdasher "Knightley Academy is back in session, and Henry Grim is confident that nothing else can prevent him from earning his knighthood. But Henry and his friends quickly discover that their professors have made some troubling changes to the curriculum -- an old classroom filled with forgotten weapons. It is the discovery of this classroom that prompts Henry and Valmont to become the unlikely leaders of a secret battle society. But disaster strikes as Henry, Adam and Frankie find themselves stuck as Partisan School servants. Yet something is rotten in Partisan Keep. And when Henry is discovered by a secret society of outlaws with a sinister purpose, he must come to terms with a great sacrifice that will take him away from everything he has ever known and wanted. The stakes get higher and tension mounts in the second installment of Violet Haberdasher's fresh, fast-paced, and always surprising Knightley Academy books."

The Young Adult books:

THE ASCENSION: A SUPER HUMAN CLASH by Michael Carroll "They'd done it. Not only had Roz, Abby, Lance, and Thunder survived their first battle with a super villain, they'd defeated him. Krodin was dead, and they had saved the world. Now everything could go back to normal-good old, boring normal. School. Parents. Friends.

But three weeks later, the world suddenly changes. The United States is under martial law, the people are little more than drones, and where Central Park should be there now stands a massive glass-and-steel building, home to the all-powerful Chancellor.

In Michael Carroll's follow-up to the acclaimed Super Human, the world has been remade in the Chancellor's image, and it's about to get much much worse. Only this young band of heroes has a chance of stopping him, but can they return the world to what it was, or will they be stranded in this alternate world forever?"

BREATH OF ANGEL: THE ANGELEON CIRCLE by Karyn Henley "The stranger’s cloak had fallen back, and with it, a long, white, blood-stained wing.

When Melaia, a young priestess, witnesses the gruesome murder of a stranger in the temple courtyard, age-old legends recited in song suddenly come to life. She discovers wings on the stranger, and the murderer takes the shape of both a hawk and a man.

Angels. Shape-shifters. Myths and stories—until now.

Melaia finds herself in the middle of a blood feud between two immortal brothers who destroyed the stairway to heaven, stranding angels in the earthly realm. When Melaia becomes a target, she finds refuge with a band of angels attempting to restore the stairway. But the restoration is impossible without settling an ancient debt—the “breath of angel, blood of man,” a payment that involves Melaia’s heart, soul, and destiny."

Randy Russell
"Till death

Jana Webster and Michael Haynes were in love. They were destined to be together forever.


But Jana's destiny was fatally flawed. And now she's in Dead School, where Mars Dreamcote lurks in the back of the classroom, with his beguiling blue eyes, mysterious smile, and irresistibly warm touch.


Michael and Jana were incomplete without each other. There was no room for Mars in Jana's life—or death—story. Jana was sure Michael would rush to her side soon.


But things aren't going according to Jana's plan. So Jana decides to do whatever it takes to make her dreams come true—no matter what rules she has to break."

ETERNITY: A FALLEN ANGEL NOVEL by Heather Terrell "As Ellie comes to grips with her destiny as the Elect One, her relationship with Michael grows tense. When she meets a mys­terious boy named Rafe, things get even more complicated.

Yet the time has come for the Elect One to stand against the group of evil fallen angels who are bent on destroying the world. In order to face the immeasurable malevolence heading her way, Ellie tries to put her personal life aside. But she soon learns that whoever holds her heart also holds the key to mankind’s salvation—or destruction. As the end days approach, Ellie is faced with an epic decision. Who does her heart really belong to? And is her love strong enough to save the world?"

FINS ARE FOREVER by Tera Lynn Childs "On Lily Sanderson’s eighteenth birthday she’ll become just a girl—still a mergirl, true, but signing the renunciation will ink Princess Waterlily of Thalassinia out of existence. That leaves plain old Lily living on land, dating the boy she loves, and trying to master this being-human thing once and for all.

Now that Lily and Quince are together, mer bond or not, she’s almost content to give up her place in the royal succession of Thalassinia. But just when she thinks she has everything figured out, the waves start to get rough. Lily’s father sends a certain whirlpool-stirring cousin to stay with her on land. What did Doe do to get herself exiled from Thalassinia and stuck in terraped form when everyone knows how much she hates humans? And why why why is she batting her eyelashes at Lily’s former crush, Brody?

The seafoam on the raging surf comes when a merboy from Lily’s past shows up—Tellin asks Lily for something that clouds her view of the horizon. There’s a future with Quince on land, her loyalty to the kingdom in the sea, and Lily tossing on the waves in the middle. Will she find a way to reconcile her love, her duty, and her own dreams?"

GRIFFIN RISING by Darby Karchut "For centuries, rumors have abounded of a lowly caste of supernatural beings known as the Terrae Angeli. Armed with the power to control Earth, Fire, Wind, and Water, these warriors secretly serve as guardians for mortals in danger. But for one young angel-in-training, Griffin, life is hell as a cruel master makes his apprenticeship a nightmare. On the verge of failing, a new mentor, Basil, enters his life and changes it forever. Taking on the identity of father and son, Griffin and Basil forge a special bond where honesty and trust go hand in hand to secure Griffin's destiny as a Terrae Angeli. Griffin's belief in himself and the love of a mortal girl are the perfect combination in overcoming the darkest days of his life. But will it be enough for him to succeed? For Griffin, it's time to angel up."

HAUNTING VIOLET by Alyxandra Harvey "Violet Willoughby doesn't believe in ghosts. But they believe in her. After spending years participating in her mother's elaborate ruse as a fraudulent medium, Violet is about as skeptical as they come in all matters supernatural. Now that she is being visited by a very persistent ghost, one who suffered a violent death, Violet can no longer ignore her unique ability. She must figure out what this ghost is trying to communicate, and quickly because the killer is still on the loose.

Afraid of ruining her chance to escape her mother's scheming through an advantageous marriage, Violet must keep her ability secret. The only person who can help her is Colin, a friend she's known since childhood, and whom she has grown to love. He understands the true Violet, but helping her on this path means they might never be together. Can Violet find a way to help this ghost without ruining her own chance at a future free of lies?"

LUMINOUS by Dawn Metcalf "As reality slips and time stands still, Consuela finds herself thrust into the world of the Flow. Removed from all she loves into this shifting world overlapping our own, Consuela quickly discovers she has the power to step out of her earthly skin and cloak herself in new ones-skins made from the world around her, crafted from water, fire, air. She is joined by other teens with extraordinary abilities, bound together to safeguard a world they can affect, but where they no longer belong.

When murder threatens to undo the Flow, the Watcher charges Consuela and elusive, attractive V to stop the killer. But the psychopath who threatens her new world may also hold the only key to Consuela's way home."

A NEED SO BEAUTIFUL by Suzanne Young "We all want to be remembered. Charlotte's destiny is to be forgotten.

Charlotte's best friend thinks Charlotte might be psychic. Her boyfriend thinks she's cheating on him. But Charlotte knows what's really wrong: She is one of the Forgotten, a kind of angel on earth who feels the Need—a powerful, uncontrollable draw to help someone, usually a stranger.

But Charlotte never wanted this responsibility. What she wants is to help her best friend, whose life is spiraling out of control. She wants to lie in her boyfriend's arms forever. But as the Need grows stronger, it begins to take a dangerous toll on Charlotte. And who she was, is, and will become—her mark on this earth, her very existence—is in jeopardy of disappearing completely.

Charlotte will be forced to choose: Should she embrace her fate as a Forgotten, a fate that promises to rip her from the lives of those she loves forever? Or is she willing to fight against her destiny—no matter how dark the consequences?"

SHADOWCRY: THE SECRETS OF WINTERCRAFT by Jenna Burtenshaw "The Night of Souls—when the veil between the living and the dead is thinnest—is only days away. Albion is at war . . . and losing. The wardens have descended, kidnapping innocent citizens for their army, but looking for one in particular.

And fifteen-year-old Kate Winters has just raised a blackbird from the dead.

As her home is torn apart by the wardens, Kate's discovery that she is one of the Skilled—the rare people who can cross the veil between life and death—makes her the most hunted person in all of Albion. Only she can unlock the secrets of Wintercraft, the ancient book of dangerous knowledge. Captured and taken to the graveyard city of Fume—with its secret tunnels and underground villages, and where her own parents met their deaths ten years ago—Kate must harness her extraordinary powers to save herself, her country, and the two men she cares for most. And she'll make a pact with a murderer to do it.

Those who wish to see the dark, be ready to pay your price."

THE SLICE: KILLER PIZZA by Greg Taylor "Four months after they discover that their new place of employment, Killer Pizza, was a front for an underground Monster Hunting Organization, Toby and his fellow rookie Monster Combat Officers, Annabel and Strobe, have been invited to New York City to tour KP Headquarters. But the exclusive tour is cut short when a monster emergency sends the trio off on a secret mission delivering Calanthe, a beautiful 14-year-old, defecting monster with serpent-like abilities, into the Monster Protection Program. It seems like an easy assignment until the teens realize Calanthe is the sacrificial offering in a ceremony set to happen in a few days and her people will stop at nothing to get her back!"

SPELLBOUND by Cara Lynn Shultz "What's a girl to do when meeting The One means she's cursed to die a horrible death?

Life hasn't been easy on sixteen-year-old Emma Conner, so a new start in New York may be just the change she needs. But the posh Upper East Side prep school she has to attend? Not so much. Friendly faces are few and far between, except for one that she's irresistibly drawn to—Brendan Salinger, the guy with the rock-star good looks and the richest kid in school, who might just be her very own white knight.

But even when Brendan inexplicably turns cold, Emma can't stop staring. Ever since she laid eyes on him, strange things have been happening. Streetlamps go out wherever she walks, and Emma's been having the oddest dreams: visions of herself in past lives—visions that warn her to stay away from Brendan. Or else."

SONG OF THE OVULUM: CHILDREN OF THE BARD by Bryan Davis "It has been fifteen years since Billy and Bonnie Bannister helped repel the demonic assault on Heaven. Now they and Ashley Foley sit in a maximum security prison where the authorities conduct experiments on them to learn the secrets of long life. Earlier, the world’s acceptance of dragonkind crumbled, and the Enforcers took the infant twins born to Billy and Bonnie and stole Excalibur, hoping to develop a weapon to battle the dragons that are sure to try to rescue their allies. All the while, a great secret from the past is being revealed to Bonnie through a dream. Joran and Selah, teenaged children of Methuselah, have been trapped in a strange world for centuries, yet still able to manipulate certain events in our world during that time.

Walter Foley finds the Bannisters’ son and hopes to use his dragon traits to help him rescue the prisoners. In the meantime, an ancient demon locates the Bannisters’ daughter and plans to use her to help him discover the hiding place of the most powerful ovulum in the world and squelch its protective song. With that ovulum in his possession, he will be able to conquer and control both Earth and Second Eden.

The fate of two worlds now rests on the Bannisters’ two teenagers who must use their dragon traits and their innate courage to battle demons, a sorceress, and soldiers in a military compound in order to rescue parents they don’t even know."

TORN by Erica O'Rourke "Everyone has secrets. Even best friends.

Swirling black descends like ravens, large enough to block the glow of the streetlights. A dull roar starts like a train on the ‘L', a far-away rumbling that grows louder as it pulls closer, until it's directly overhead and you feel it in your chest, except this doesn't pass you by. Verity, white-faced and eyes blazing, shouts through the din, "Run, Mo!"

Mo Fitzgerald knows about secrets. But when she witnesses her best friend's murder, she discovers Verity was hiding things she never could have guessed. To find the answers she needs and the vengeance she craves, Mo--quiet, ordinary, unmagical Mo--will have to enter a world of raw magic and shifting alliances. And she'll have to choose between two very different, equally dangerous guys--protective, duty-bound Colin and brash, mysterious Luc. One wants to save her, one wants to claim her. Which would you choose?"

Update on the Spring into Summer Read-a-thon and me

The nice thing about participating in a read-a-thon, like the one I am doing currently (hosted over at Squeaky Books) is that it encourages me to read the low priority books. So yesterday evening and today I made my way through three books borrowed from the library discards, and (yay!) I get them out of house and back to the library booksale closet on Monday.

They were

Trapped on the Golden Flyer, by Susan Fleming, 1978 (boy trapped on a train stuck in snow; readable, but not as exciting a survival story as I'd hoped, so no need to rush out and get this one yourself). 123 pages

Secret of the Unicorn, by Robin Gottlieb, 1965 (utterly implausible premise of 12 year old girl never having heard of unicorns, and the believing they might be real so she can find one and use its magic to cure her father. The treasure hunt that ensues isn't bad, but isn't enough. Look for this one if you are collecting books about the Cloisters in NY, otherwise not). 115 pages

The Wee Free Men, by Terry Pratchett, 2003 (enjoyed this one, which I'd never read before, but wasn't quite as blown away by it as I had hoped. Probably because the idea of being surrounded by so many wee free men is not appealing). 263 pages

Bringing me to a grand total of 1029 pages for the read-a-thon!

And now back to my book in progress--The School of Emerys End (1944), about two English girls in WW II who enroll in their (recently deceased) great uncle's orphanage as orphans, so as to fulfil a bizarre provision of his will. This one wasn't an ex-library discard, but rather on loan from my sister, so it too can expect to move on out of the house soon.

The current mini challenge is to anagram-ize our names--Charlotte's Library becomes SCHOLARLY, BRATTIER, which isn't bad...try it yourself here


Karma, by Cathy Ostlere

Today and tomorrow I'm taking part in the Spring into Summer readathon, over at Squeaky Books. Today is my first day of summer vacation, but sadly, unlike the happy summers of childhood, there's more than just reading and eating cookies--I have to go into work for a few hours this afternoon.

But still. One reads as much as one can. This morning I began the read-a-thon with Karma, by Cathy Osteler, and have just finished, and my heart is heavy and my eyes a bit teary.

Do not be deceived by the pink cover with the romantic profiles of the boy and girl. This is a dark and heavy book, but mercifully, even in the darkness there is beauty and hope.

Karma is the story of Maya, child of a Hindu mother and a Sikh father, who immigrated to Canada after their forbidden marriage. When her mother commits suicide, she and her father take the urn of ashes back to India, and arrive just in time for the October, 1984, assassination of Indira Gandhi, and the retaliatory killings of thousands of Sikhs. She is separated by her father, and thrown into a nightmare of chaos and death.

But Maya is fated to live. She is taken in by a family in the desert town to which she had randomly fled, and Sandeep, the 17 year old adopted son of that family (a boy who has still not been able to face, or even fully remember, the past horror of his own life), becomes her friend....

Told in the form of diary entries (first by Maya, then by Sandeep, and finally by Maya again), in a free verse form, this is a stunningly, achingly powerful story. It is not for the faint of heart. The brief, lyrical description of the castration of little boys during the bloodbath in New Delhi, for instance, is horrible (and will stick in my mind forever), and it is but one of many horrors.

But the light that Ostlere's beautiful and moving writing brings to this story makes the book worth reading. Hard questions are asked, and sad stories are told, and it is good and important that these things be done, and the stories not be forgotten, and that people think, and care, and try to do better. Ostlere has no easy answers, but the reader is left hopeful that healing is possible.

Side note--in general, I don't care for stories written in free verse format--my eyes skittle too fast over the pages. Here, possibly because the "free verse" was in the form of diary entries, I found it easy to loose myself in the story.

I won this book in a give-away from Niki at Wicked Awesome Books -- here's her review. (Thanks Niki!)

Mother Goose Picture Puzzles, by Will Hillenbrand, for Poetry Friday

For Poetry Friday, and also for Tidy Up Loose Books Day (which we actually celebrate every day in our house), I offer Mother Goose Picture Puzzles, by Will Hillenbrand (Marshall Cavendish, 2011, 40 pp).

My own children learned their Mother Goose rhymes with the same Richard Scarry book that I had when I was young, but if I had had on hand a copy of Mother Goose Picture Puzzles I would most definitely have read it to them early and often. Likewise, if I had a two- or three-year-old to buy a book gift for, this would be on my list.

Hillenbrand's version of Mother Goose incorporates rebus-es (rebi?) into twenty of the classic nursery rhymes (ie, there are pictures of "mouse" and "clock" instead of the words in Hickory Dickory Dock). The pictures are (for the most part) self-evident to even a little one, but what makes it fun is that the things pictured appear in the larger illustrations with word labels. This adds another interactive element to the book, as you try to find the word that goes with each picture, and is a nice way to acquire a bit of word recognition.

I would have loved it as a two-year old (I'm pretty sure), and I wish I had it when my own boys were two or three! I enjoy Hillenbrand's illustrations lots in general, and the ones in this book are particularly charming.

disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher, and it is off to be donated the library today, which will give me a sense of accomplishment all out of proportion to the actual progress made viz moving books off of temporary storage piles and into more permanent homes.

The Poetry Friday Round-up is at Check It Out today!


Astronaut Academy: Zero Gravity, by Dave Roman

Astronaut Academy: Zero Gravity, by Dave Roman (FirstSecond, 2011, 176 pages), is a wild and wacky sci fi graphic novel for kids, that has much charm, wit, and even poignancy.

Astronaut Academy, a boarding school in space, is very strange. The Spanish teacher, for instance, is a panda, another teacher an elf, and another a bunny, and the curriculum includes dinosaur-driving lessons.

To this school comes Hakata Soy, a boy with a heroic past and attractive/messy hair (depending on who you ask). One of the downsides of having a heroic past (in this case, joining up with your pals to assume the form of Metador, a big robot transformer-like thing so as to more effectively defeat bad guys) is that the bad guys might want revenge...and so Hakata Soy all unwittingly is followed to Astronaut Academy by trouble.

The story jumps between the points of view of multiple students--the ultra rich bratty girl, the jock, the loner, and (my favorite character) Miyumi San, who's the girl I would want to be friends with--the outsider girl picked on by the rich brat and her sidekick. It took me a while to get in the swing of things, what with all the cast members (who seemed at first like a collection of stereotypes, but grew rapidly more interesting) and the strangeness of the set-up (which never became less strange), but it was well worth it.

The story qua story is diverting, and the characters (rich brat Maribelle excepted) engaging and more multifaceted than one might expect (even the rich brat), and (this is what made me enjoy the book most of all) the language Roman uses tickled my fancy considerably. He uses emphasis to great effect, and his characters have a tendency to use exaggeratedly performative speech, which was nicely mixed with more relaxed dialogue.

(pause while I comb the book looking for an example that makes clear what I was talking about and conveys why I find this very pleasing)

I wasn't able to find a perfect example, but maybe this will do:

Mirabelle: "Holy smokes! How come that laser didn't fry us into scattered ashes?"

Hikato: "My 3-in-1 jacket is CUSTOMIZED with a damage resistant nylon shell."

Hikato: "Like the rocket books, compliments of my best pal, Gadget Thompson (who I wish would return my phone calls and distress signals)."

Maribelle: I was gonna use Miyumi as a human shield, but I guess this works well enough. Oooh! And pretty soft too." (page 133)

Bother. I'm not sure that works to convey how charmingly stilted I found much of the prose. Would it convince you to try this book if I mentioned that the bad guys attack a planet of bunnies while wearing robotic bird costumes and saying "chirp chirp?" If I told you the dinosaur race scene was a masterpiece of absurd charm? Or how about if I told you that there were characters who really touched my heart with their uncertainty and loneliness (hugs one lonely boy in particular)? And they are a beautifully diverse lot of kids too, for those who want to read, as it were, in color.

I am not, in general, good at reading graphic novels, because I have a hard time pulling my eyes away from the words. My first try at this book, I did, in fact, put it down because I was getting confused. The second time, though, having some familiarity with the story, I loved it! And what is, perhaps, more to the point, so did my personal representative of the target audience. I brought this one home from Book Expo America, and within two days my 10-year-old had read it four times.


Ultraviolet, by R.J. Anderson (Waiting on Wednesday)

Stopping by my friend Chachic's blog yesterday, I read her thoughts on R.J. Anderson's forthcoming book, Ultraviolet. I'd enjoyed Anderson's fairy books (Knife et seq) and was curious about this one...and now, having read Chachic's post, I'm sold!

So today, for my Waiting on Wednesday book (this is a meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine), I am officially putting Ultraviolet on my to be acquired list! Here's the blurb, from the author's website:

(UK & US, June/September 2011)

Ultraviolet coverOnce upon a time there was a girl who was special.
This is not her story.
Unless you count the part where I killed her.

Sixteen-year-old Alison has been sectioned in a mental institute for teens, having murdered the most perfect and popular girl at school. But the case is a mystery: no body has been found, and Alison's condition is proving difficult to diagnose. Alison herself can't explain what happened: one minute she was fighting with Tori -- the next she disintegrated. Into nothing. But that's impossible. Right?

And here's the part of Chachic's post that hooked me:

"At first, I thought it was going to be a straight up contemporary YA novel set in a mental institution for teens. I was worried that it would be too gritty or bleak for my taste but that didn’t happen. Instead, the novel transformed into something with hints of magic realism with maybe a bit of fantasy and to my surprise, science fiction was thrown into the mix."

Coming September, 2011, from Carolrhoda Books.

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