10/31/11

The Afterlife, by Gary Soto


There are a number of books next to me as I type, waiting to be reviewed, but in an effort to be Seasonally Appropriate, I picked the ghost story.

That being said, The Afterlife, by Gary Soto (Harcourt, 2003, 168 pages), is something of an un-deadish sort of ghost story. Sure, the main character, Chuy, is dead--knifed because made the wrong comment the wrong time. But he's still very much a Mexican Americn teenaged boy, still tied to the real world of Fresno, CA. Although Chuy does have ghostly superpowers, as it were, and no-one living can see him, Soto is not particularly concerned with not with exploring the supernatural. Rather, the reader is given the reactions of those who knew and loved Chuy, and, in turn, his reactions and realizations, as death gives him the perspective that allows him to really see his own life.

It's not all listening in on conversations, though. Chuy is also interested, not unnaturally, in trying to make sense of why he was killed, which means tracking down the thug who killed him, and maybe getting revenge. And he's not the only recent ghost in town--there's also Crystal, a girl who's just committed suicide...who becomes his friend.

This isn't a book for those who want things to Happen, as not much does. Even the main character being knifed isn't particularly tense--it is so fast and random that Chuy is dead before he, or the reader, can blink. But Soto's fine writing brings to life Chuy's relationships with friends and family, and the experience of being teenager, and wondering what the point of one's life/death is. Chuy's ghostly abilities and the mystery of what will happen next add interest.

It's one that I think will appeal to teenagers (boys in particular) trying to make sense of their own lives. They might well want something similar-- to hear what others think about them, to take action against those who hurt them without worrying about consequences, to meet and become friends with a member of the opposite sex, with no one else around to judge or compete.

10/30/11

Middle grade science fiction and fantasy--this week's round-up for your reading pleasure (and mine)!

Here are all the middle grade fantasy and science fiction related blog posts etc. I found this week; please let me know if I missed your!

The Reviews:

The Apothecary, by Maile Meloy, at Eva's Book Addiction

The Bassumtyte Treasure, by Jane Louise Curry, at Charlotte's Library

Beasts (The Mystic Phyles) by Stephanie Brockway and Ralph Masiello, at Charlotte's Library

Blue Fire, by Janice Hardy (Healing Wars book 2) at books4yourkids

The Cheshire Cheese Cat, at Books of Wonder and Wisdom

The Crowfield Curse, by Pat Walsh, at Bookish

Darkfall, by Janice Hardy (Healing Wars book 3) at books4yourkids

Dragon Castle, by Joseph Bruchac, at Fuse #8

Elliot and the Pixie Plot, by Jennifer A. Nielsen, at Boys and Literacy

Galaxy Games, by Greg Fishbone, at TheHappyNappyBookseller

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland...., by Catherynne M. Valente, at Reads for Keeps

Ghostopolis, by Doug Tennapel, at Karissa's Reading Review

Goliath, by Scott Westerfeld, at Karissa's Reading Review and Biblio File

Jake Ransom and the Howling Sphinx, by James Rollins, at Becky's Book Reviews

Jake Ransom and the Skull King's Shadow, by James Rollins, at Becky's Book Reviews

Kevin's Point of View, by Del Shannon, at Nayu's Reading Corner

Lair of the Bat Monster (Dragonbreath) by Ursula Vernon, at Good Books and Good Wine and Jean Little Library

Liesl and Po, by Lauren Oliver, at Ex Libris

The Magic City, by E. Nesbit, at Tor

Masterwork of a Painting Elephant, by Michelle Cuevas, at Book Dragon

Monstrum House: Locked In, and Creeped Out, by Z. Fraillon, at Cracking the Cover

The Mostly True Story of Jack, by Kelly Barnhill, at Random Musings of a Bibliophile and Paige in Training

The Orphan of Awkward Falls, by Keith Graves, at My Favorite Books

Pilot and Huxley, by Dan McGuiness, at Jean Little Library

The Princess Curse, by Merrie Haskell,at The Adventures of Cecelia Bedelia

The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic, by Jennifer Trafton, at Good Books and Good Wine

Small Persons With Wings, by Ellen Booream, at slatebreakers

A Tale Dark and Grimm, by Adam Gidwitz, at The Book Smugglers

Tuesdays at the Castle, by Jessica Day George, at Sonderbooks and Random Musings of a Bibliophile

The Wikkeling, by Steven Arntson, at Becky's Book Reviews

Wildwood, by Colin Meloy, at My Reading Frenzy

Kate aka Book Aunt compares and contrasts this year's trio of mice books.

In the spirit of the season, at Great Kid Books you can find a compilation of truly creepy stories.

And I also want to mention the Animorphs Re-Read that's ongoing at the Intergalactic Academy

Authors and Interviews

James Riley (Half upon a Time) at Cynsations

Roderick Gordon at The Guardian on self-publishing Tunnels, and how it became the start of a successful series.

Greg Fishbone (Galaxy Games) shares his experiences on "surviving the sophomore outing" at Cynsations, and talks about "making the jump from writer to author" at Adventures in YA and Children's Publishing.

Leonard Marcus annotated the fiftieth anniversary edition of The Phantom Tollboth, and stops by Educating Alice to chat about it.

An interview with M.P. Kozlowsky (Juniper Berry) at From the Mixed Up Files

Other Good Stuff:

NPR's Kids' Book Club
kicks off with Neil Gaiman and The Graveyard Book.

Alice in Wonderland fans must read this article in The Guardian, and consider visiting Liverpool.

You've probably already seen the official trailer to The Secret World of Arrietty--but if you haven't, here at The Book Yurt is one of the many places you can watch it. I tried to read The Borrowers to my boys, but the beginning is slow, and it didn't take sigh sigh.

A giant lego figure washes up on a Florida beach--


I'd suggest not reading the news story; it's more fun to imagine one's own! My mind immediately rewrote The Iron Giant, by Ted Hughes....

And if you're looking for something to add a little rainbow sparkle to your holiday table:

You can actually buy this--visit ThinkGeek to see what's really in the can!

And finally, never before seen illustrations for the Hobbit, by JRR Tolkien, can be seen at The Mary Sue:

10/27/11

Beasts (The Mystic Phyles), by Stephanie Brockway, illustrated by Ralph Masiello

Beasts (The Mystic Phyles), by Stephanie Brockway, illustrated by Ralph Masiello (Charlesbridge, 2011, middle grade, 137 pages).

Abigail is unhappy with her lot in life. She lives with her strict grandfather and nutty grandmother in a ramshackle mansion (partly burned in the fire that supposedly killed her father) in a small town, eighth grade isn't treating her very well, and everything seems dismal. But then a black cat shows up on her 13th birthday, with an envelope fastened to its collar...

The poem that Abigail finds inside leads her to a letter from a "Devoted Friend" that starts her on a secret quest to learn as much as she can about mythical beasts. "Send word of your progress via the cat," writes the anonymous author of the letter. "It's very important for you to begin this research. But even more important, tell no one!"

Abigail ignores the last instruction, and with the help of her best (and only) friend, Charley, she begins to fill her journal with information and illustrations about all manner of mythical creatures. But then a letter arrives from the Board of Mystical Management, warning Abigail to stop research, and her grandfather, always curiously restrictive, starts acting like a prison guard...

Undeterred, Abigail continues her study of mythological creatures. The secrets and mysteries she discovers will change her life forever!

Abigail's story and her research are presented in a scrap-book style journal, with her notes and drawings of mythological creatures (and even the occasional haiku) interwoven with diary entries detailing the trials and tribulations of her life. It makes for an interesting reading experience for a fast reader like me--the information presented was so fascinating and the illustrations so very much worth stopping to look at, that, instead of galloping through Abigail's story, I was compelled to read is slowly, allowing the mystery to build very nicely.

Abigail is a not unusual character--the outsider who finds herself part of a magical world. But her voice was compelling, and her circumstances certainly interesting! I can easily imagine many a pre-teen girl empathizing with her, and cheering for her as she pursues her quest for knowledge (which, in a nice touch, involves lots of surreptitious visits to the town's used book store and library).

Although I have read many, many children's books about mythical creatures, I learned new things (which I appreciated). Abigail's entries include quotations from original sources, and illustrations of actual "evidence" (photographs and the like), as well as Ralph Masiello's illustrations, and she doesn't just describe the creatures, but also critically considers mundane explanations for some of the sightings and legends. A bibliography and page of fascinating links is provided at the end.

This is the sort of book that would make a great present for the nine or ten year old girl just starting to find her way into fantasy. For one thing, it is attractive as all get out--it has that very appealing novelty book look to it, with copious illustrations look to it, vaguely reminiscent of the -ology books. But unlike those books, which some readers might find too fact laden, there's an interesting story carrying the reader forward. And the way the text is broken into small segments makes it a friendly book for the younger reader.

The book ends with many unanswered questions (the mysterious fire, the identity of the anonymous letter writer, and more), and the promise of a second book, focused on fairies, to come. I'll be looking forward to it!

Here are two sample pages:


Disclosure: I met Ralph Masiello the first year I blogged, and he gave me a lovely dragon picture--his Dragon Drawing Book, had just come out. So, knowing that The Mystic Phyles would feature lots more of Masiello's art, I was predisposed as all get out to enjoy the book!

Disclaimer: review copy gratefully received from the author

10/26/11

Waiting on Wednesday--The Cabinet of Earths

The stack of books to be reviewed grows, but this is Library Book Sale set up week, and time has not stretched to accommodate everything I want to do....

So here's a quick Waiting on Wednesday post:

I have been wanting to read The Cabinet of Earths, by Anne Nesbit (Harper Colllins, January 2012) since I first heard about it almost a year ago!

Here's the summary from Goodreads:
"All Maya really wants is for her mother to be well again. But when her baby brother James goes missing, 12-year-old Maya has to take on the magical underworld of Paris, in which houses have bronze salamanders for door handles, the most beautiful people are all hooked on the sweet-smelling “anbar,” and a shimmering glass Cabinet of Earths has chosen Maya to be its next keeper. With the Cabinet’s help, Maya may be able to do for her mother what doctors cannot: save her from death, once and for all. But now that the clock is ticking for James, the price the Cabinet demands may be too high."

And my anticipation was strengthened when Sarah Prineas (whose Magic Thief books I like very much indeed!) blurbed it thus (found at Goodreads): "Reading this book is like discovering a treasure box full of rare and wonderful things. If you open it, you'll find a brave and good-hearted girl hero, the mysterious streets of Paris, and a magical cabinet full of life itself. The writing is luminous and absolutely compelling. It's the best thing I've read in a long, long time."

Doesn't that sound as appealing as all get out?

10/25/11

The Bassumtyte Treasure, by Jane Louise Curry

The Bassumtyte Treasure, by Jane Louise Curry (Atheneum, 1978, 130 pages--books sure were shorter back then....)

Sometimes it's fun to read a book that one doesn't have to; one that's not from the pile of books received for review, or the pile of unread books acquired over the past year, or the pile of library books for Cybils reading. So the other day I took home from the library The Bassumtyte Treasure, just because it looked like a Charlotte-ish kind of book. Happily, it was, and as an added bonus, there was timeslip element, making it Useful as well.

Ten-year old Tommy Bassumtyte had lived happily with his old great aunt in New England, but when the child welfare authorities began to investigate his circumstances, the threat of foster care loomed...So his great aunt preemptively sent him off to live with his only other living relative, in a beautiful old house in England.

His cousin, another Thomas, gives him a warm welcome, and the old house is a thing of beauty, full of treasures of Bassumtyte's past. Among these is the portrait for a small boy, from the time of Queen Elizabeth--who looks just like Tommy. But all is not entirely well--cousin Thomas is recovering from a nearly fatal mountain-climbing accident, and struggling to eke out a living as a translator, while the bills mount and a greedy would-be buyer of the house and its contents plots on the sidelines. The only hope, as far as Tommy can tell, is to find the lost treasure of his family. To do so, he'll have to decipher the clues in the rhyme his grandfather taught him, and unravel a mystery 400 years old.

That mystery reverberates into the present--a mysterious woman from the past mistakes Tommy for the other little boy of long ago, and seems concerned for his safety. But it is not until Tommy himself finds himself back in the past (albeit briefly, and as a spectator) that the pieces of the puzzle fall into place...

Those with an interest in Elizabethan intrigues, and those who like books with beautiful old houses full of treasures should enjoy it as I did--as a pleasant, quick escape from the modern world! A bonus, as far as I'm concerned, is that embroidered treasures are prominently featured, and one of these provides an important clue (I like reading about embroidery).

The mystery isn't that hard to figure out, nor is it original, which might have some readers rolling their eyes, but the tension raised by the possible loss of the house adds a convincing worry. Sadly, the romance between cousin Thomas and the very nice young daughter of the vicar, who is a curator (I think) in a museum in Oxford, was much too abrupt for my taste--there was a lot that seemed to go un-narrated. I could have happily read many more pages about them! But since the book is told from the point of view of a ten year old boy, I guess it might well have appeared abrupt to him too!

There are two time-travelish elements--the woman in grey who is so concerned about keeping young Tommy safe is arguable a ghost, and not someone travelling in time (although one brief, tantilizing section, told from her point of view, suggests otherwise), but Tommy's glimpse of the Elizabethan past definitely counts. Disappointingly for us time travel fans, he doesn't actually leave his room--he just looks out the window, and so his trip to the past is simply the deus ex machina of the plot (less than two pages...sigh).

Oh well. You can't have everything, and at least there was embroidery....

Edited to add: thanks to Jennifer's comment, I visited my library system and piled up a huge virtual stack of Jane Louise Curry books to read. Her most recent book, The Black Canary, is an excellent time travel story--you can read part of the first chapter here, and here's my review.

(although there's a boy main character, this is one I'd give to girls--there's not much Action or Drama. And, a tad unfortunately, it's explained that the name Bassumtyte comes from "bosom tight" as in clasped to the chest, and one can imagine snickers from the immature).

10/23/11

This Sunday's round up of middle grade science fiction and fantasy postings from around the blogs



Here's what I found this week in my blog reading! Let me know if I missed your post.

The Reviews:

The Adventures of Sir Gawain the True, by Gerald Morris, at Oops...Wrong Cookie

The Alchemyst, by Michael Scott, at A Strong Belief in Wicker

The Apothecary, by Maile Meloy, at Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog and At Home with Books

Bigger than a Breadbox, by Laurel Snyder, at 100 Scope Notes and DogEar

Breadcrumbs, by Anne Ursu, at Ex Libris and Reading in Color

The Chronicles of Harris Burdick, by Chris Van Allsburg, at Bookends

Circus Galacticus, by Deva Fagan, at The Intergalactic Academy and Book Aunt

Dr. Procter's Fart Powder, by Jo Nesbo, at Mister K Reads

The Eyeball Collector, by F.E. Higgins, at Karissa's Reading Review

The Flint Heart, by Katherine & John Paterson, at Geo Librarian, Moirae (the fates) book reviews, and Random Musings of a Bibliophile

Ghost Hunt, and Ghost Hunt II, by Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson, at Charlotte's Library

Goliath, by Scott Westerfeld, at Boys Rule Boys Read

Guys Read: Thriller, edited by Jon Scieszka, at Books Kids Like and Good Books and Good Wine

The King of Ithaka, by Tracy Barrett, at The Book Smugglers

Liesl and Po, by Lauren Oliver, at Sassyreads

The Magnificent 12: the Call, by Michael Grant, at Fiction Addict

The Midnight Zoo, by Sonya Hartnett, at Books Kids Like

Noah Zarc, by D. Robert Pease, at Susan Kaye Quinn (actually from the week before this one)

The Ogre of Oglefort, by Eva Ibbotson, at Charlotte's Library

The Princess Curse, by Merrie Haskell, at Madigan Reads

Princess of the Midnight Ball, by Jessica Day George, at Library Mama

Radiance, by Alyson Noel, at The Reading Chic

The Son of Neptune, by Rick Riordan, at The Elliott Review, The Book Zone (for boys) and Bookyurt

Trouble Twisters, by Garth Nix and Sean Williams, at Good Books and Good Wine

Tuesdays at the Castle, by Jessica Day George, at Book Aunt and Charlotte's Library

The Unwanteds, by Lisa McMann, at Reading Vacation

Wildwood, by Colin Meloy, at Just Booking Around

Authors and Interviews:

Edward Ormondroyd (David and the Phoenix, Time at the Top) in a two part interview at Noblemania (thanks to Oz and Ends for the heads up). On trying to write a sequel to David and the Phoenix:

"Well, the Phoenix was irrevocably gone, so I substituted a gnome-like figure, and he and David set out on a quest, carried by a flying suitcase...but of course without the old Phoenix it was as useless as Gone with the Wind without Scarlett O'Hara."

(here's what I said about the book, back in 2009)

A podcast interview with Delia Sherman (The Freedom Maze) at Small Beer Press.

Hilari Bell (The Goblin War) at The Enchanted Inkpot

Greg Fishbone (Galaxy Games) at Maranda Russell and Pembroke Sinclair

Simon Haynes (Hal Junior: the Secret Signal) at Susan Kaye Quinn

Kat Heckenbach (Finding Angel) at Magical Ink

Other Good Stuff

NPR has started a book club for kids--first up, The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman. From the site: "Click here to submit your thoughts and questions about The Graveyard Book. And be sure to listen to All Things Considered on Monday, Oct. 31. Gaiman will be on the program to chat about his book and answer some of your questions."

Lucy Mangan asks "What makes a classic?" over at the Guardian. Many fantasy books are mentioned.

At Great Kid Books there's a celebration of The Phantom Tollbooth. (Question: am I the only hard core aficionado of fantasy for kids who doesn't like this book? I didn't read it as a child; I've tried three times as an adult and it just isn't for me).

"What is Speculative Fiction" at the Accidental Novelist (a mg and ya perspective)

Catherine Fisher has been named Wales' first Young People's Laureate (the majority of her books tend to be more YA, like Incarceron, but some, like the Oracle Betrayed et seq., are good upper middle grade reads)

The shortlists for the Galaxy Book Awards (UK) have been announced, and on the children's list is A Monster Calls.

and finally, here's what travel in the future might look like--walking around on floating clouds while drifting randomly. I think I would get bored rather quickly, but the first 10 minutes would probably be lovely!

10/22/11

Dewey's Read-a-thon today!

Thanks to all who organized Dewey's Read-a-thon! Even though I am a weak reader who needs to sleep, I read four books and a half books, plus three chapters of another, and listened to 2/3 of one and the first six chapters of another. And made good progress on the front hall renovation project! On the downside, it was perhaps a mistake to buy that Nutella...too tasty for my own good.

8:00 End of Read-a-thon! 76 pages of The Mystic Phyles: Beasts read with great enjoyment.

7:07 am Woke at six, later than I had hoped, and curled up with Secrets at Sea, by Richrd Peck. It is a delightul tale of a family of mice off on a late 19th century ocean voyage to Europe.

Still time to read one more book....

9:08 The exigencies of children have meant that I read nothing in the last hour and a bit...we are now all going to snuggle in the big bed and continue reading Wizard of Oz (part of a determined effort to promote Cultural Literacy whether they want it or not). (edited to add--three chapters read). I am quite likely to fall asleep first, but I hope to be back in the read-a-thon saddle early tomorrow morning.

7:49 Listened to the second disk of The Secret Zoo while sanding the front door Am struck by how many similies the author manages to include, and wonder if I would have noticed it if I were reading to myself (am also struck by how long it is taking to sand the door. It was originally varnished wood, and that is what we are getting it back too--they painted on top of the varnish, so a lot of the paint came of with no trouble. It's just the bits in all the ornanmental trim that are a pain).

Read a book that I just wanted to read for fun, not because it was a review copy or for the Cybils--The Bassumtyte Treasure, by Jane Louise Curry. Enjoyed it very much, except that the romance was dissappointingly rapid; I'll be using it for a Timeslip Tuesday down the line. Was pleased to see she wrote another time travel/old house book--Poor Tom's Ghost, and will be adding it to tbr list!

4:50 Forced to visit library for an hour for son's homework assignment, but managed to get the hall ceiling painted while listening to the first disk of The Secret Zoo! Disk three of the Fiend and the Forge failed to play properly...sigh!

1:17 Have now listened to the first two disks of The Fiend and the Forge, and read a Cybils mg sff book--Drop In (Tony Hawk's 900 Revolution), by Donnie Lemke. Not my cup of tea--I have no sympathy for skateboarders who wreck public railings, and the concept of powerful fragments of a mystical skateboard doesn't exactly appeal....But if you are a skateboarding teenaged boy (don't think may of those read my blog) it will probably appeal a lot more to you!

Mini Challenge: Book Puzzles! (Hosted by One Librarian's Book Reviews) Guess what titles these pictures represent:

1. (easy)


2. (a tad less easy) The

10:51 Listened to audio book of The Fiend and the Forge while sanding the front door, doing dishes, and cleaning the kitchen....am giving up on keeping track of time "read."

8:48 am First book completed--We Are Not Eaten by Yaks, by C. Alexander London. Pages read--238 pages (I had already reached page 114), time spent reading 48 minutes. Eleven-year-old twins Oliver and Celia Navel are forced to take part in the adventure of a lifetime hunting for the lost library of Alexandria, and their mother (who was lost while looking for it several years ago. What the kids want is to stay home and watch tv. What they get is Danger! Excitement! Unappetizing meals!

Thrown off an airplane on the way to Tibet, the twins must confront the perils of nature--cliffs, waterfalls, etc., the perils of cryptozoology--yetis, the perils of the Poison Witches, and, worst of all, the perils of unscrupulous, power-hunger types who would kill for key to the lost library of Alexandria....

Those who enjoy action-packed extravaganzas of strange adventures should enjoy it lots.

Introduction:

I'm reading from southern New England, on a cool crisp morning with a nice little fire burning in the wood stove, and tasty snacks on hand. Children and house renovation projects on hand also; husband off at an Irish pipers' convention, so the children and the house will both be demanding my attention....the chickens, however, are safely at home under the barn, so I don't have to worry about them (when they free range, it takes a bit of attention to make sure they aren't free ranging into the neighbor's yards....they generally don't, but still one has to keep an eye out).

10/21/11

The Ogre of Oglefort, by Eva Ibbotson

The Ogre of Oglefort (Dutton 2011 in the US, Macmillan 2010 in the UK, middle grade, 247 pages) by Eva Ibbotson, which I just read a few days ago, is now my favorite book of hers. I'd tried her other middle grade fantasy (Dial-a-Ghost, The Secret of Platform 13, Island of the Aunts, etc) and found them just fine; I've tried her YA fiction (which actually were published for the adult market back in the 20th century--thanks Kate for the clarification), and again, pleasant, but not so as to Love.

The Ogre of Oglefort, on the other hand, pleased me very much indeed, in as much as it has many of my favorite story elements in a nicely written package.

These elements include:

Element 1. A quirky "family" of sorts--a collection of mythical/magical creatures (a hag, a troll, an enchantress, and others) eking out a life for themselves rather unhappily in London.

"The Hag and the troll were good friends, and by the time they had drunk three cups of tea they felt better. After all when so many Unusual Creatures were going through bad times, losing their homes, doing jobs they would never have thought of doing in the olden days, it was wrong to grumble, and life at 26 Whipple Road was really not too bad." (page 6)

But then the Hag's familiar, a toad named Gladys, refuses to come to the Summer Meeting of Unusual Creatures, which forces the Hag to desperately look for a new one, and which leads to

Element 2. An orphan boy (I don't know why it is, but many (though by no means all) books with orphans are very good). The Hag and the boy had made each others' acquaintance through the bars of the orphanage gate, and when he hears of her trouble, the boy begs to becomes the Hag's familiar, and they head off on

Element 3. An interesting journey/quest/task. In this case, the Hag, the boy, a wizard of dubious competence (with an extremely domineering mother) and the troll confront an Ogre on a far off island who has, apparently, kidnapped a princess. This might not sound on the face of it all that interesting, but there are lots of twists, one of which is

Element 4. A castle/large house with garden that has fallen into disrepair, and the main characters must work to get it all in shape again. Bonus points for outside work.

Of course there's more to the story--the ogre, the princess, the other people they meet at the ogre's castle all have parts to play! But the elements above, and the deft humour which Ibbotson brings to her telling of them, made this a book that I enjoyed very much indeed. Recommended highly as a light and diverting read for the younger middle grade fanasy reader, and for those who share my taste in books.

10/19/11

Waiting on Wednesday--The Double Shadow, by Sally Gardner

Here's a book I'm looking forward to lots--The Double Shadow, by Sally Gardner (out in the UK November 3):

"Arnold Ruben has created a memory machine, a utopia housed in a picture palace, where the happiest memories replay forever, a haven in which he and his precious daughter can shelter from the war-clouds gathering over 1937 Britain. But on the day of her seventeenth birthday Amaryllis leaves Warlock Hall and the world she has known and wakes to find herself in a desolate and disturbing place. Something has gone terribly wrong with her father's plan. Against the tense backdrop of the second World War Sally Gardner explores families and what binds them, fathers and daughters, past histories, passions and cruelty, love and devastation in a novel rich in character and beautifully crafted."

WW II! Families! Memories! "Rich in charcter!" I'm not sure about the passions and cuelty--I'm not really a passions and cruelty kind of girl. But I trust Sally Gardner (author of The Red Necklace and its sequel, The Silver Blade). So I might well be adding this one to my Christmas present list (thanks to the wonder of the Book Depository. To which, incidently, I have a handy link in the sidebar that gives me a small commission when utilized...)

You can watch the trailer for The Double Shadow here at Sally Gardner's website.

And here is the meme home, at Breaking the Spine.

Ghost Hunt, and Ghost Hunt 2 --Chilling Tales of the Unknown

If you are looking for a good Halloween read for you middle school kid (or for yourself), I heartily recommend Ghost Hunt: Chilling Tales of the Unknown (Little Brown 2010) and its sequel, Ghost Hunt II (2011). These books, written by Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson, the ghost hunters of the television show Ghost Hunters, are fictionalized accounts of actual investigations. It's not clear exactly where the line between "fact" and "fiction" lies, which I found a tad vexing, but what is clear is that these are exciting and spooky stories, guaranteed to make the young reader shiver!

Stories include a ghost ship, wrecked anew every August of the coast of Maine, a drowned boy anxious to reveal where his body lies tangled underwater in the roots of tree, restless prisoners of Alcatraz, and many, many more. The framework for these stories is the investigations conducted by the Atlantic Paranormal Society (TAPS). Free of charge, TAPS investigates ghosts--answering calls for help from those who are troubled by restless spirits. They arrive on site, set up their ghost hunting equipment, and conduct their paranormal detective work...uncovering many poignant, and scary, stories in the process.

What makes the fictionalized stories included in these two anthologies more than just creepy ghost tales is that TAPS actually adopts a scientific approach to the question of ghosts. Efforts are made to rule out natural explanations for creepy phenomena--small critters rustling in the walls, banging shutters, strong electromagnetic fields generated by appliances that can make people feel ill. The TAPS team does their field investigations first, and then the historical research, so that suggestions from the latter don't influence what they see during the former. The techniques they use during their investigations are presented in detail at the end of the books, along with step by step instructions on how to conduct a ghost hunt, and test cases where the reader can put the knowledge and tips provided by TAPS to work. My own scientifically-minded 11 year old ate up these parts of the book (and he enjoyed the stories as well).

I still don't believe in ghosts (although I certainly can't offer rational explanations for some of the phenomena reported in these stories). But these spooky encounters did make for gripping reading. I just wish that it had been made clearer in the text that the stories are fiction--it says "fiction" on the front flap, but you wouldn't know from reading what's inside that these weren't entirely factual accounts.

Here's the Ghost Hunt website, where you can peruse more ghostly evidence at your leisure....

(another one for me to contribute to the RIP Challenge, where you can find many more scary books for your seasonal reading pleasure--this was the 542 review of the link roundups!)

disclaimer: review copies received from the publisher

10/18/11

TimeRiders, by Alex Scarrow, for Timeslip Tuesday

TimeRiders, by Alex Scarrow (Walker, 2010, upper middle grade/YA, 405 pages)

The three of them should have died. Liam was on board the Titanic, Maddie's flight was blown up by terrorists in 2010, and a fire was supposed to claim Sal's life in a future India. But instead, just a the last minute of their lives, they are recruited by a leader of the Time Riders, and given a chance to step outside of time. Their headquarters--a pocket of time in New York City, September 10th and 11th, 2001 (allowing them to watch what happens over and over again). Their mission--to work together to identify the workings of other time travellers, and stop them before history can be unalterably changed. With them will be "Bob," a computer brain inside a human body.

Before they finish their training, they are plunged into a time catastrophe of epic proportions. A deluded genius has gotten control of a time machine, and headed back to Hitler's headquarters. He plans to take over the world himself, and make a better future than the one that actually played out (ours), but his vision is going to lead to an apocalypse. Unless the three teenagers (and Bob) can stop him.

Liam and Bob head off into the past, arriving just as Germany conquers the United States. Back in New York in 2001, civilization has utterly and totally collapsed. All is confusion and disaster, but where there's life, there's hope, even in a New York crawling with cannibalistic mutant humans...

My mind utterly refused to wrap itself around the nested confusions of the time travel portrayed here. As I read, questions kept coming up in my head, distracting me from my reading (why 2001? Why is the TimeRiders organization so poorly organized and staffed? Is there really an organization at all? The guy that recruits them seems to be acting alone--just who the heck is he? Why do things keep noticeably changing in 2001 when the actual changes happened in the past? How many times can time travellers visit JFK's assassination before there's a massive pile up? etc. etc.)

I squashed these doubts as best I could, and was rewarded with sections of interesting story (Liam and Bob's adventures back in the conquered US made for good reading), but I was never able to care all that much (I liked Bob, the not-human character, best). That being said, those who are fans of action and suspense will almost certainly (judging by the positive reviews over at Amazon) like it much more than I did.

The second book in the series, Day of the Predator, involves time travel to the time of the dinosaurs, and I think I'll skip that. However, the third book, The Doomesday Code, takes them back to Sherwood Forest--I might well look for it when it comes out in the US (this is a UK series,with the fifth book coming out there in February, 2012; here's the series website).

10/17/11

Tuesdays at the Castle, by Jessica Day George

Tuesdays at the Castle, by Jessica Day George (Bloomsbury, 2011--out now in Canada, Oct 25 in US, 240 pages)

I will start by saying that this is the best castle I have ever met in my whole life. Castle Glower is magically alive--changing itself, and its furnishings (most often on Tuesdays) to reflect its opinion of its residents, or sometimes for no apparent reason. The royal family realized, for instance, that the oldest son was destined to be a wizard when the castle started filling his room with books and astrolabes, and it was clear that the second son, Rolf, would be king when his room was moved next to the throne room. Princess Celie, the youngest of the family, loves her castle deeply. She knows it better than anyone else, and it seems to return her affection (I love the tower room it makes for her!).

When Celie's royal parents are ambushed while away on a journey, and declared dead, Rolf must assume the throne. But the council of advisers is led by an unscrupulous traitor, who has invited an evil neighboring prince into the castle. Gradually it becomes clear that this prince has designs on the throne himself.

Grief stricken though they are, Celie, Rolf, and their older sister Lilah believe their parents are still alive. But can the three of them, even with the help of the castle, hold off the machinations of the traitors and usurpers until the rightful king and queen return?

Truly my love for this castle knows no bounds. But that's not all I enjoyed about this book. It was incredibly refreshing to see three children (although Lilah is a teenager, and Rolf not much younger) holding off the bad guys without Special Powers. They are most definitely kids, grief stricken but determined. It's true that they have a magical castle on their side, but mainly what they have to rely on is their wits, as they try to untangle the plot surrounding them, and use the castle's tricks to best effect. In the end, it is Celie's great pluck that saves the day most satisfactorily (with the help of the castle!).

This one should delight any right thinking eight or nine year old lover of fantasy, and likewise any reader older than that who loves a good castle adventure! I would have liked, perhaps, to see more explanation of why the council of advisers turned so traitorous, and I felt a smidge of abruptness at the end, but other than that, I enjoyed it thoroughly and highly recommend it.

(review copy received from the publishers 4 days ago; pounced on gleefully and read in a single sitting....)

10/16/11

This week's round-up of middle grade fantasy and science fiction from around the blogs

Welcome to another fun-filled middle grade science fiction and fantasy round-up of what I read around the blogs this week! Please let me know if I missed your link; please feel free to email me links at any time during the week.

I am toying with the idea of offering these round-ups as a direct email newsletter type thing--would anyone be interested?

Reviews:

13 Gifts, by Wendy Mass, at Book Nut

The Apothecary, by Maile Meloy, at The New York Times Book Review

Breadcrumbs, by Anne Ursu, at Good Books and Good Wine and Waking Brain Cells

The Cheshire Cheese Cat, by Carmen Agra Deedy and Randall Wright, at TheHappyNappyBookseller

Chronicles of the Red King: The Secret Kingdom, by Jenny Nimmo, at Charlotte's Library

Darwen Arkwright and the Peregrine Plot, by A.J. Hartley, at lucy was robbed

Finding Angel, by Kat Heckenbach, at Magical Ink

The Grimm Legacy, by Polly Shulman, at Jean Little Library

Harding's Luck, by E. Nesbit, at Tor

The History Keepers: the Storm Begins, by Damian Dibben, at Mr Ripley's Enchanted Books

The Inquisitor's Apprentice, by Chris Moriarty, at Good Books and Good Wine and Charlotte's Library

Ivy and the Meanstalk, by Dawn Lairamore, at Reading Vacation

Justin Thyme, by Panema Oxridge, at Charlotte's Library

Liesel and Po, by Lauren Oliver, at books4yourkids

Phillipa Fisher and the Dream Maker's Daughter, by Liz Kessler, at What's Happening in Rm 249

The Princess Curse, by Merrie Haskell, at Library Mama and The Book Smugglers

Rip Tide, by Kat Falls, at Karissa's Reading Review, Book Reviews and English News, and Bart's Bookshelf

The Royal Treatment, by Lindsey Levitt, at Good Books and Good Wine

Skulduggery Pleasant: Death Bringer, by Derek Landy, at The Book Zone (for boys)

Son of Neptune, by Rick Riordan, at A Backwards Story

A Tale Dark and Grimm, by Adam Gidwitz, at So Many Books, So Little Time, The Book Zone (for boys) and Brooke Favero

Wildwood, by Colin Meloy, at Books Kids Like

A Year Without Autumn, by Liz Kessler, at Birdbraind(ed) Book Blog and Becky's Book Reviews

Authors and Interviews:

Janice Hardy (Darkfall) at Literary Rambles

Greg Fishbone (Glaxey Games) at Odds and Ends and From the Mixed-up Files (the full tour schedule can be found here)

Kimberley Griffiths Little (Circle of Secrets) at From the Mixed-up Files

Patrick Carman (one of the authors of Guys Read: Thriller) at Literary Asylum

Simon Haynes (Hal Junior: The Secret Signal) at Susan Kaye Quinn

PHC Marchesi (Shelby and Shauna Kitt and the Dimensional Holes) at Susan Kaye Quinn

Adam Jay Epstein and Andrew Jacobson (The Familiars) at The O.W.L., and at The Enchanted Inkpot

Matthew Kirby (Icefall) at Whatever (even though Icefall isn't, technically, fantasy, it still reads as such!)

Shannon Messenger (the forthcoming Keeper of the Lost Cities--congratulations, Shannon!) at Author Turf

An interview with Stacy Whitman, of Tu Books (publishers of multicultural sci fi/fantasy for kids and teens) at Diversity in YA

Other Good Stuff:

A steampunk appreciation of Scott Westefeld's Leviathan trilogy at Tor

The science behind Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, at theeldertree

Fifty years of The Phantom Tollbooth at The New Yorker

A panel of authors addresses the question "Magical Schools: What are they Good for?" recapped at Tor

Trivia Tuesday at Books Kids Like features A Wrinkle in Time

Very excitingly, Shannon Hale has announced that there's a forthcoming sequel to The Princess Academy!

Here's a news item I missed--the winners of the 2011 Golden Duck Awards (for excellence in Children's Science Fiction Literature)

And I missed this article in the Guardian last week on "The enchantments of witch fiction." (One of my favorite books, Witch's Brat, by Rosemary Sutcliff, is mentioned)

Nominations have closed for the Cybils; here's the list of what was nominated for mg sff (down about 25 from last year's 150). It will change somewhat as a few books get shuffled around categories. If anyone wants to read along, at Hope is the Word you can find an Armchair Cybils challenge.

At Seven Miles of Steel Thistles, Katherine Langrish has a lovely mystical voyages series--up now, Jason and the Argonauts.

And just in case you want inspiration for Halloween desert, here's a gallery of horrific cakes!

10/15/11

Cybils nominations close tonight; here's what I nominated

Having waited till the last minute to do the bulk of my nominating for the Cybils, I found myself with several categories for which the books I would have chosen were already on the list. However, I did get some favorites added:

For my picture book, I chose You're Finally Here, by Melanie Watt.

For middle grade fiction, I chose Where Do You Stay, by Andrea Cheng (this is my personal pick for the Newbery. I think the writing is utterly stunning. I'm a little doubtful about its Cybils chances, though--I think the cover works against it).

For middle grade/YA nonfiction, I chose my favorite of the Thinking Girls Treasury of Real Princesses--Nur Jahan of India, which was careless of me, because it was published two weeks before the deadline.

For YA science fiction/fantasy, I chose Wolf Mark, by Joseph Bruchac

and for middle grade fantasy/science fiction, I still don't know--I'm still hoping that some of the books from which I'm trying to choose will be picked up by others!!!! I ended up going with Season of Secrets, by Sally Nicholls.

(If anyone can remind me of any lovely poetry books or non-fiction picture books that haven't been nominated, I'm open to suggestions!)

Chronicles of the Red King: The Secret Kingdom, by Jenny Nimmo

Chronicles of the Red King: The Secret Kingdom, by Jenny Nimmo (Scholastic, 2011, middle grade, 224 pages)

Long ago, in a secret kingdom in Sub-Saharan Africa, a baby boy named Timoken was given wondrous gifts by a forest jinni--a cloak of moon spider silk to give him magical powers, and a vial of the water of life--and his sister was given a magical ring. But when Timoken was still a boy, evil viridees, deadly spirits from the forest, came hunting for the gifts, and overran his peaceful land. Timoken and his sister were the only survivors, escaping by flying away into the night....

Now Timoken and his sister are wanderers. Joined by a camel, also alone in the world, they search for a place that they can call home. But as they fly over Africa, and beyond, the viridees pursue them....and Timoken's sister is lost to him.  Timoken and the camel travel on, and at last meet an unlikely band of allies--children captured from Europe to be sold as slaves. To bring these children home again, and to find a home for himself, Timoken must draw on all his powers and confront the viridees head on.

This story is a prequel to Nimmo's Charlie Bone series--Timoken will grow up to become the Red King of legend, Charlie's ancestor. But it is not at all necessary to have read those books first. The Secret Kingdom stands on its own, although Charlie Bone makes cameo appearances.

This book has an old fashioned, fairytale feel to it, quite different from the Charlie Bone books (which might disconcert, and even disappoint, fans of that series). The story is unfolded slowly, and is told in somewhat formal language. There's a sense of things described rather than intensely lived, and a slight distance from the thoughts and feelings of the characters. I'd suggest reading this before the Charlie Bone books--it seems to me more suited for younger readers who want a linear story-line, where event follows event in (more or less) unbroken flow.

That being said, this isn't a passive story in which nothing much happens. There is action, some of it violent; once Timoken meets up with the other children, the pace quickens, and dangers are more immediate. People are killed, but not gruesomely. Three magical leopard cubs somewhat randomly, but not unpleasantly so, add to the excitement.

But it is the fairytale images of Timoken, innocent and brave, and Gabar the camel, grumpy but loyal, flying over the world, always in danger, never at home, that stick in my mind. Although I can easily imagine young readers enjoying this on their own, I think it would make a particularly lovely book to read out loud--it's easy to imagine the eight year old child asking eagerly for more...

"Spring came, and the boy and the camel moved on. Sometimes they would stay on the edge of the same village for almost a year, and sometimes they moved on, swiftly. They flew over a sea that Gabar thought would never end. They soared over mountains so high that the camel's hair froze into rigid tufts of ice, and Timoken thought his cold nose would drop off. But still the ring urged them on. "Not safe, yet," it would whisper." (page 95)

I was a tad disappointed that the fantasy elements didn't have more of a Sub-Saharan African feel; it seemed like a missed opportunity. But on the other hand, it a refreshing change to see an African boy becoming a hero king with magical powers, and shown as such on the cover!

10/13/11

The Inquisitor's Apprentice, by Chris Moriarty

The Inquisitor's Apprentice, by Chris Moriarty (Harcourt Children's Books, 2011, upper middle grade)

In an alternate late 19th-century New York, the tenements are packed with magic-using immigrants, each ethnic group with its own flavour of spellworking. 13 year old Sacha has grown up in a Jewish neighborhood taking the local magic for granted--like Mrs. Lassky's bakery, where customers can buy a mother-in-latke ("you pick the perfect son-in-law, we do the rest!") or "deliciously efficacious knishes....guaranteed to get any girl married within the year."

But in Sacha's New York, practicing magic is against the law--the wealthy few make no profit from what they can't control. And so the NYPD includes Inquisitors--policemen whose job it is to solve magical crimes. When Sacha reveals that he can see it when people work magic, Inspector Wolf takes him on as an apprentice Inquisitor.

Now Sacha and fellow apprentice Lily Astral (of the fabulously wealthy Astral family), are following Wolf through the city as he tries to solve what could be his most important case yet. Someone is trying to kill Thomas Edison....and there are even darker machinations at work, as capitalism and magic clash!

I utterly loved Moriarty's magical New York, the best magical New York I've ever read. I loved the details of how each ethnic group has its own brand of magic, I loved the fun Moriarty had with her rich families (John Pierpont Morgan becomes J.P. Morgaunt, owner of the Pentacle Shirtwaist Factory), and Andrew Carbuncle write a best-selling memoir, Wealth Without Magic. And I loved seeing Teddy Roosevelt, Thomas Edison, and Harry Houdini in this strange setting!

I adored Inspector Wolf. He reminded me a bit of Lord Peter Whimsey, crossed with Howl, with a dash of Eugenides, mainly because he is very, very good at not revealing all that is going on inside his brilliant mind.
Although, looking back at his description, none of them (especially Lord Peter) would be as sloppy:

".... he seemed to go to great lengths to be as unglamorous and unmagical as possible. His long, lanky legs were encased in baggy trousers that had never seen the inside of a tailor's shop, let alone a fitting spell. His jacket hung off his bony shoulder like a scarecrow's sack. His hair looked like it hadn't been brushed for weeks. His spectacles were covered with smudges and fingerprints. And his dishwater-gray eyes wore a sleepy, absentminded look that seemed to say Wolf was still waiting for the day to bring him something worth waking up for.

As far as Sacha could tell, the only remotely interesting thing about Maximillian Wolf was the extraordinary collection of food stains on his tie."

I also enjoyed the unlikely friendship that grew (slowly, and with difficulty) between Sacha and Lily. Part of the difficulty comes from the vast difference in their social status, and this is just one of many ways in which Moriarty brings
themes of religion, class, immigration, and prejudice into her story telling. These issues simultaneously drive the plot and give depth to the characters and their actions. With its subtext of social justice and its New York setting, this would make a great book for the fan of mg sff to read while Occupying Wall Street. (In fact, I just learned, after typing that, that someone sent the Occupy Wall Street library four copies!).

So The Inquisitor's Apprentice got top marks, as far as I'm concerned, for world-building and character. It is, however, perhaps not for everyone. Some might find that the pace of the book is slowed down by the information given to the reader, and that the action and adventure of the story are not sufficiently front and center. I'm also not sure that a young reader will enjoy this one quite as much as the reader who actually knows something about turn of the century New York...much of the entertainment came from enjoying Moriarty's many little twists.


That being said, I personally enjoyed it tremendously (laugh out loud enjoyment, alongside some genuinely poignant moments, including one that still makes me teary eyed*), and want more about Inspector Wolf please!

Looking for other reviews to link to, I found Cory Doctorow's at Boing Boing, where he mentiones the period-style black and white illustrations. It came as a surprise to me that there were illustrations. I was too busy reading to notice them.

Other glowing reviews at Book Aunt and BooksForKidsBlog, and a rave review from a ten year old at Fresh Ink

And here's an interview with Morarty at The Enchanted Inkpot


*for those who have read the book--it's the bit about the coat with the money sewn into it.

(disclaimer: ARC received at BEA)

10/12/11

Justin Thyme, by Panama Oxridge for (this Wednesday's) Timeslip Tuesday

Time got away from me the last few days, so Timeslip Tuesday falls on a Wednesday this week!

Today's book is Justin Thyme, by Panema Oxridge (Inside Pocket, revised edition, 2010 in the UK, 2011 in the US, middle grade, 368 pages). It is a story set in a Scottish castle that combines domestic insanity with an intriguing mystery...and throws in time travel right at the end.

Little do the residents of Thyme Castle know that all heck is about to break loose. It all begins when young Justin, boy genius and self-made billionaire, receives an anonymous gift for his thirteenth birthday--a mysterious watch--which inspires him to build a time machine. His father, Sir Whilloughby Thyme, is shaken by this idea. He had once been a great inventor himself, and had almost perfected a time machine of his own-- before defying the ruthless enemy who had wanted to wrest the invention from him. The enemy is still out there--waiting and watching Thyme Castle...

Inside the castle, Justin begins to peacefully unravel the mysteries of time. But all heck breaks loose when Justin's mother, returning after disastrous expedition to the Congo, is kidnapped, and the kidnapper demands a time machine as the ransom.

Someone in the castle is a spy. But is it the newly arrived long-lost grandfather, suffering from amnesia, the freakishly strong cook with secrets in her past, who arrived with no references, the eccentric bird-watching tutor, the computer-literate gorilla, or the most unusual gardener and his snooping wife? And who is the evil mastermind, come back from Sir Whilloughby's past to trouble the present?

Justin and his older sister Robyn (not natural allies) set to work to save their mother by unraveling the mysteries that surround them. For Justin, being a boy genius, this includes converting his vintage motorbike into a time machine, in a desperate effort to save his mother before the dreaded Thyme Curse claims another life....

I'd highly recommend this one to those who enjoy solving puzzles, spotting clues, and, in general, trying to second-guess the author! And more so to those who enjoy over-the-top domestic eccentricity. It is, quite simply, a fun book, that should please its target audience of middle grade kids very much.

I myself became a tad doubtful when I realized a gorilla was part of the Thyme family montage--I am not, personally, a huge fan of the domestic bizarre. It took me the first hundred pages to get into the swing of things, but at that point Oxridge drew me into to the story so well that I found myself enjoying all the oddness (even the gorilla), despite myself. I felt much the same when I realized that the main character was a boy genius (I don't care for them), but by playing Justin off the other characters, Oxridge managed to make him interesting (and those that are newer than I am to this trope will probably find him interesting from the get go!)

This is the first of a four part series, and the time travel aspect of the larger story arc doesn't really begin until the very end of this volume. In fact, I was wondering right up to the end if I could justifiably use this as a Timeslip Tuesday book at all--sure, there are pages of notes from Justin's efforts to work out his theories of time, and his dad had invented a time machine prototype of his own...but that wouldn't have been enough. But just as I was giving up hope, Justin succeeded in traveling through time, and his true adventures seem about to begin. I'll be looking for the next book, to feature on some future Timeslip Tuesday!

The US edition of Justin Thyme was just published in September, and it just came out in paperback in the UK, where the second book in the series, Time Running Out, was just released.

(disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher)

10/10/11

The Industrial Revolution, with 25 Projects, by Carla Mooney

The Industrial Revolution: Investigate How Science and Technology Changed the World, with 25 Projects, by Carla Mooney (Nomad Press, 2011)

This new addition to Nomad Press' Build It Yourself series is one of the best I've read (both in terms of books in the series, and books for kids about the Industrial Revolution!). It introduces not just the cool inventions (like the cotton gin and the spinning jenny), but it explains clearly why they were embraced, and what the social and economic repercussions (both good and bad) were.

The technology buff will be fascinated by that side of things, the young reader drawn more to stories of people will be fascinated not just by meeting the inventors themselves, but by stories of how the lives of working people were changed. My own son liked best the accounts of the worker protests, and strikes violently disbanded.

This series always offers engaging activities to complement the history, but in this case they are especially good ones, I thought. Building your own canal lock, for instance, and weaving with your own hand loom....

As is also a trademark of this series, rather simple black and white drawings are included. The only actual vintage illustrations are those on the cover. So this book, I think, would work best side by side with original source material to bring it to life.

(review copy received from the publisher)

10/8/11

This Sunday's round-up of middle grade fantasy and sci fi

Every week, I scour the blogs (at least, those that are in my reader, a list that is getting longer and longer) to extract posts of interest to fans of middle grade fantasy and science fiction. Here's what I found this week (please let me know if I missed your post, or the posts of your friends and family! Send me links at any time during the week!)

But first. Nominations for the Cybils close on the fifteenth of October. Many fine books have been put forward in middle grade sci fi/fantasy, but I've pulled together a list of books that haven't been nominated, just to remind people who might love them passionately that they aren't on the list yet.

The Reviews:

Airborn, by Kenneth Oppel, at The Secret Adventures of Writer Girl

The Apothecary, by Malie Meloy, at Karissa's Reading Review, Shall Write, and Boomerang Books

A Beautiful Friendship, by David Weber, at Book Aunt (Kate, aka Book Aunt, wrote to tell me that this is a good one for middle grade readers, even though it's listed as YA, so here it is)

Behemoth, by Scott Westerfeld, at YA Bibliophile

The Blue Umbrella, by Mike Mason, at Back to Books

Bigger than a Breadbox, by Laurel Snyder, at Stacked

Breadcrumbs, by Anne Ursu, at A Backwards Story, The Book Rat, Galley Smith, and The Book Smugglers

The Cheshire Cheese Cat, by Carmen Agra Deedy and Randall Wright, at My Reading Frenzy, Random Musings of a Bibliophile, and There's a Book

The Crimson Shard, by Teresa Flavin, at Nayu's Reading Corner

Darwen Arkwright and the Peregrine Pact, by A.J. Hartley, at Lucy Was Robbed

Diamonds and Doom (The Raven Mysteries) by Marcus Sedgwick, at Wondrous Reads

Down the Mysterly River, by Bill Willingham, at The King of Elfland's Second Cousin

Flood and Fire, by Emily Diamond, at Charlotte's Library

The House of Arden, by E. Nesbit, at Tor

Icefall, by Matthew Kirby (it might not be fantasy, but it sure reads like it) at Charlotte's Library, Cracking the Cover, Figment, and Fuse #8

The Inquisitor's Apprentice, by Chris Moriarty, at Boing Boing and The Scattered Bookshelf

Liesl and Po, by Lauren Oliver, at Candace's Book Blog, Karissa's Reading Review, A Backwards Story, and Reading Vacation

The Obsidian Dagger: Being the Further Extraordinary Adventures of Horatio Lyle, by Catherine Webb, at Bart's Bookshelf

Sally's Bones, by MacKenzie Cadenhead, at We Be Reading

Sea of Trolls, by Nancy Farmer, at One Librarian's Book Reviews

The Secret War, by Matt Myklush, at Reading Vacation

Secrets of the Crown, by Adam Jay Epstein and Andrew Jacobson, at Shannon Whitney Messenger

The Shadows (Books of Elsewhere 1), by Jacqueline West, at Jean Little Library

The Storm Begins (History Keepers) by Damian Dibben, at Nayu's Reading Corner

A Tale Dark and Grimm, by Adam Gidwitz, at My Reading Frenzy

The White Assassin, by Hilary Wagner, at Shannon Whitney Messenger

Authors and Interviews:

Maile Meloy (The Appothecary) at Boomerang Books

Matthew Kirby (Icefall) at Cracking the Cover

Margaret Peterson Haddix (who has a story in Guys Read: Thriller) at Literary Asylum

R.A. Jones (The Obsidian Pebble) at The O.W.L.

Matt Myklush (The Secret War) at Reading Vacation

Clete Barrett Smith (Aliens on Vacation) at The Enchanted Inkpot

Teresa Flavin (The Blackhope Enigma, and its sequel, The Crimson Shard, just released in the UK) at Nayu's Reading Vacation

Hilary Wagner (The White Assassin) at Literary Rambles

Erin Mcguire (illustrator of Breadcrumbs, by Anne Ursu) at A Backwards Story

Patrick Ness was on a blog tour to celebrate the US release of A Monster Calls; Tasha at Waking Brian Cells was the last stop, and has the full list.

Anne Ursu (Breadcrumbs) was also on tour; here are some stops--Galley Smith, at Book Rat, and at The Book Smugglers, where you can find more links.

And Galaxy Games, by Greg Fishbone, was also on tour--you can find the stops here , and here's a guest post by Greg Fishbone at Susan Kaye Quinn

At her blog, Illustration Matters, Joan Charles talks about her work in progress--illustrating The Ice Castle, by Pendred Noyce.

Other good stuff:

At SF Signal, Simon Haynes (Hal Junior: The Secret Signal) asks "Where all the junior science fiction has gone"

The Canadian Children's Book Centre announced a new award: The Monica Hughes Award will honour excellence in the children’s science fiction and fantasy genre and comes with a $5,000 cash prize which will be awarded annually beginning in October 2012. And the winner of the Canadian Children's Literature Award was Plain Kate, by Erin Bow (thanks to Cynsations for the news).

You've probably heard this already, but The Washington Post has announced that Rick Riordan will be working on a new series based on Norse mythology.

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