The Raven King, by Maggie Stiefvater

Well, after the last few years of pouncing on every previous book in the Raven Cycle, by Maggie Stiefvater, and turning the pages with feverish intensity, I am so very glad that I don't have to worry about Blue and the Raven boys anymore!  At least, not as much.  But it was very worrying there while it lasted, what with Blue's curse (that the first kiss she gives her true love will kill him) and the very real real real likelihood/possibility of Gansey dying (not just because of him being Blue's true love) and Ronan's rather difficult nature and unusual family circumstances, and Adam's rather difficult situation and abusive family circumstances.  I have wanted very badly indeed for everyone to get happy endings....

So then The Raven King (Scholastic, April 26, 2016) arrived in the mail, brightening my day and filling the next few evenings, and I can't say much about the specifics of the story because that would be unfair to anyone who hasn't read the books (because you should read the books!).

But I can say a few things--

1.  if you have time to refresh your memory with a re-read, that would be good.  It took me a while to get back in the swing of things and remember who all the secondary characters were, and all the very many bits of story that happened (I found myself thinking of Bruegel a lot as I started reading--it's a very dense landscape, that requires immersion and attentiveness to full enjoy).

2.  The best part of the books has always been the friendship, a friendship as deep as love, between the main characters.   This part got even better.  A new Raven boy has joined in, Henry, who you may remember from the last book....and he's great and interesting in his own right (there are more tremendously attractive and intelligent and truly individual boys in this series than any other I can think of, and really this is the only thing that keeps me from pressing the books into the hands of my own target audience, because these boys are so charismatic it's hard for real ones to measure up)  and, unlike all the other main characters, Henry the new kid isn't white (Korean mother, father from Hong Kong).  So it's nice there's diversity.  (There's also an LGBT bit thrown into the larger mix here).

3.  How, I wondered for the past few years, will Maggie Steifvater wrap everything up without a cataclysm in a way that is satisfying?  Especially now that she has unleased a demon who is destroying the magical forest of Cabeswater.  She does (except for one thing I'm not sure about (highlight to see)--what happened to Noah?)

So basically, if you like twisty, mythology-rooted, magic impinging on reality, character-driven fantasy, read these books if you haven't already!

disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher in the sort of package in the mail form that makes blogging worthwhile!


This week's round up of middle grade sci fi and fantasy from around the blogs (4/24/16)

Welcome to this week's round-up of middle grade fantasy and science fiction gather in my blog reading!  Please let me know if I missed your post.

The Reviews

Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians: The Scriveners Bones, by Brandon Sanderson, at Nerdophiles

Deadweather and Sunrise, by Geoff Rodkey, at Leaf's Reviews

The Eye of Midnight, by Andrew Brumbach, at Ms. Yingling Reads

Hatter Madigan: Ghost in the H.A.T.B.O.X. by Frank Beddor and Adrienne Kress, at Ms. Yingling Reads

The Girl in the Tower, by Lisa Schroeder, at Cracking the Cover

The Girl of Ink & Stars, by Kiran Millwood Hargrave, at Mr Ripleys Enchanted Books

The Girl Who Could Fly, by Victoria Forester, at Pages Unbound

The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home, by Catherynne M. Valente, at Puss Reboots

Hour of the Bees, by Lindsay Eagar, at Randomly Reading

Hunters of Chaos, by Crystal Velasquez, at Puss Reboots

Infestation, by Timothy J. Bradley, at Jean Little Library

The Inquisitor's Mark, by Dianne Salerni, at Tales From the Raven

Jurassic Classics: The Prehistoric Masters of Literature by Saskia  Lacey, at The Haunting of Orchid Forsythia

The Key to Extraordinary, by Natalie Lloyd, at Life With the Tribe

Key Hunters, books 1 and 2, by Eric Luper, at Ms. Yingling Reads

Monstrous, by MarcyKate Connolly, at Book Yabber

The Nocturnals: The Mysterious Abductions, by Tracey Hecht, at Mom Read It

Pilfer Academy, by Lauren Magaziner, at Middle Grade Marioso (not sure it's fantasy, but it sure is improbable in real life!)

The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse, by Brian Farrey, at Fantasy of the Silver Dragon

Shadow Magic, by Joshua Khan, at BN Kids Blog

Spaced Out, by Stuart Gibbs, at BN Kids Blog

Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard, by Jonathan Auxier, at Charlotte's Library, BN Kids Blog, and Sense and Sensibility and Stories

The Sword of Summer, by Rick Riodan, at Leaf's Reviews

Thursdays With the Crown, by Jessica Day George, at Fantasy Literature

The Tournament at Gorlan, by John Fanagan, at Log Cabin Library

Unidentified Suburban Object, by Mike Jung, at Random Musings of a Bibliophile

Wednesdays in the Tower, by Jessica Day George, at Fantasy Literature

Will Wilder: The Relic of Perilous Falls, by Raymond Arroyo, at Mr Ripleys Enchanted Books

Authors and Interviews

Lauren Oliver and H.C. Chester (The Screaming Statue) at This Kid Reviews Books and Literary Rambles

Brian Farrey The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse. at From The Mixed Up Files

Ted Sanders The Keepers: The Harp and the Ravenvine at The Children's Book Review

Liesl Shurtliff (Red: The True Story of Little Red Riding Hood) at The Hiding Spot

Rick Riordan at The Guardian, and talking specifically about writing as Apollo in The Hidden Oracle at the Barnes and Noble Kids Blog

Other Good Stuff

Fairy Tale chapter book chat at School Library Journal

"Guess the dragon in children's literature" quiz at the Guardian

Thought on history and memory in the works of Diana Wynne Jones at The Book Wars

A list of "top ten middle grade fantasies that made me laugh out loud" at alibrarymama

and finally, NASA continues to be utterly cool with this new series of travel destination posters, incuding one for our very own planet "where the air is free and breathing is easy" (I meant to post this link last week, but it is even better for this Earth Day week)

Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard, by Jonathan Auxier

I don't usually post a review first thing Sunday morning, because my weekly round-up always comes then.  And it will come today...but I am tired of not having anything myself to contribute (the last few weeks have been brutally filled with other commitments) so I am quickly offering a review of Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard, by Jonathan Auxier (Harry N. Abrams, April 2016), the sequel to Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes. The first adventure of Peter Nimble was not quite to my personal taste; I didn't understand why so many people loved it so fervently.  Happily for me, I enjoyed this second book much more, partly because the main character, Sophie Quire, is tailor-made for bibliophiles.

Sophie is a book mender, working in her father's book shelf carefully and skillfully repairing books, a trade her murdered mother had taught her.  But the town she lives in has been overtaken by a movement led by Inquisitor Prigg to purge nonsense from daily life--and nonsense means all magic, and all books, because books of course are full of a magic of their own.  When Sophie is arrested for saving some books from the to-be-burned pile, she is saved by two unlikely heroes--Peter Nimble himself, and his friend Sir Tode (a knight transformed into a hooved catlike creature).  Peter Nimble is not there by chance.  He has come to deliver a very special book to Sophie, the Book of Who.  It is on of four magical books, each with their extraordinary ability to answer their own question--Who, What, When and Why.  Each book had a storyguard to keep it safe, and now Sophie finds herself the storyguard of the Book of Who.

Then she finds herself running for her life as she and Peter (and Sir Tode) set out to try to find the other three books, before Inquisitor Prigg, and other enemies as well, can get their hands on them!  The dangerous excitements of Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes are here as well, and there is one hair raising adventure after another.  But there's more depth of character to Sophie's story.   Peter, for instance, finally shows weakness and self-doubt, making him more human and relatable.  His blindness is still magically compensated for, but the loss of his hand becomes a genuine handicap.  And Sophie herself is a fine character, one such as any book loving girl can relate to.  On the plus side, she is also a kid of color, a brown-skinned girl (like her foreign mother) in a world of white faces.

It's not just an adventure, but a testimony to the power of stories.  And though there's still a bit too much of the adventurous shenanigans for my own very personal taste, it's a fine read, and Auxier's any fans should enjoy it very much indeed. 

(by way of warning for sensitive younger readers--some of the adventures and characters are rather horrible--for instance, one character's mouth is sewed shut--memorable, and not gratuitous, but disturbing.  Lots of people and animals die.  Not all books are saved....)

disclaimer: review copy received at ALA.


The Mechanical Mind of John Croggin, by Elinor Teele--blog tour

Welcome to this stop on the blog tour for The Mechanical Mind of John Croggin, by Elinor Teele (Walden Pond Press, April 12, 2016).

This is a great book to offer kids who are fans of quirky characters caught in tensely amusing situations!  John Croggin is basically a slave to his aunt who runs the family coffin making business with an iron hand, and who plans to rope his little sister Page in as well.  His mechanically oriented mind has dreams that reach far beyond coffins.  So one day, when the opportunity comes in the form of a travelling circus, he and Page escape.  The circus offers only a temporary shelter, but a kindly baker offers hope of a more permanent home, until John comes up with a scheme for a chicken-poo powered oven that goes horribly wrong and they must take to the road once more....still hunted by their evil aunt!

Today for my blog tour stop Elinor Teele has provided a Q and A with Maria Persimmons, the kindly baker.  Thanks Elinor!  She's my favorite character.

The owner of the Rise and Shine Bakery, Maria Persimmons is a plump and generous woman who smells – I swear on my honor – exactly like cinnamon. For this interview, I met her after the breakfast rush in her kitchen.

 Q. It’s very good of you to spare me some time.

 A. Come in, come in! Come and be welcome! Oh, did I get flour on your fingers? And your suit? And up your nose? I’m so sorry. I seem to wear gluten like a badge of honor. Here, have a chocolate chip cookie.

Q. Thank you. Holy mother of… these are delicious!

A. Special recipe. A little trick or two that I learned from my Dad.  

Q. Does your father still help with the business?

 A. No, I’m afraid he’s passed away. But he was an engineer by trade, just like my friend John. He loved everything to do with cogs and gears and steam and fire. I still have the boat that he made for my bath. It blows bubbles while it turns dirty scum into building blocks.  

 Q. He sounds like a wonderful man.

A. Oh, he was. Quiet and kind. He was the one who encouraged me to start my own business.

At this juncture, Maria asked if we might continue the interview outside in the chicken coop. She needed to collect eggs from her prize-winning Henrietta hens. 

Q. Did you find baking difficult at the beginning?

A. Of course! Everyone does. Here, would you hold this basket for me? John and Page usually help, but they’re tinkering with a top-secret project. 

Baking is like writing a book – you don’t know what works until you’ve tried it. I spent years experimenting with weird recipes and techniques.

And most of my first creations were terrible. Dense, dull, overworked and underproofed. My attempts at cumin coriander custard went straight into the bin. It took me ten or more years to get a simple brown loaf right. 

Q. But you’re better now?

A. Perhaps, a little. But I’m still mucking up every day.

Please ignore Griselda’s expression. She always looks that way when someone is sticking a hand under her bum.  

Q. You don’t mind mucking up?

A. Oh, I mind! Especially when my customers tell me things taste dreadful. I hate creating work people find disgusting. I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t mind.

Q. Yet you still keep at it.

 A. Because I love it. I love the moment when you open the oven door, and the room fills with memory, and you think to yourself: “today, I might have got it right.” I don’t think I’ll ever be a famous chef, but I hope to be a respectable baker.    

Thanks Elinor!

And thanks Walden for the review copy.  Just as a final note, Walden's prepared an Educational Activity Kit for parents and teachers that looks very helpful and interesting in a science meeting writing way, and which does not offer instructions for how to build your own chicken poo oven!


This week's round-up of middle grade fantasy and science fiction from around the blogs (4/17/16)

Nothing from me this week--work and other life sucked me dry...but here's what other people posted!  (let me know if I missed yours).

The Reviews

The Adventures of Lettie Peppercorn by Sam Gayton, at Pages Unbound

The Book of Wonders by Jasmine Richards, at Leaf's Reviews

The Books of Ore series, by Cam Baity & Benny Zelkowicz , at Geo Librarian

Castle Hangail, and other Ursula Vernon appreciations, at Dead Houseplants

Charmed by Jen Calonita, at Cover2CoverBlog

Cogling by Jordan Elizabeth , at Books Beside My Bed

Curiosity House: The Screaming Statue by Lauren Oliver, at Teen Librarian Toolbox

The Dragon Whistler, by Kimberly J. Smith, at Always in the Middle

The Eighth Day, by Dianne K. Salerni, at The Secret Files of Fairday Morrow

The Enchanted Egg (Magical Animal Adoption Agency 2) by Kallie George, at Jean Little Library and Jen Robinson's Book Page

The Genius Factor: How to Capture an Invisible Cat by Paul Tobin, at Sharon the Librarian

Half Upon a Time, by James Riley, at Tales From the Raven

The Legend of Sam Miracle, by N.D. Wilson, at Random Musings of a Bibliophle

Lilliput, by Sam Gayton, at Jenni Enzor

My Diary from the Edge of the World, by Jodi Lynn Anderson, at That's Another Story

Once Upon the End, by James Riley, at Akossiwa Ketoglo

Once Was a Time, by Leila Sales, at The Children's Book Review

The Palace of Glass, by Django Wexler, at The BibloSanctum

Perijee & Me by Ross Montgomery, at The Book Zone (for boys)

Red, by Liesl Shurtliff, at Pages Unbound

Rise of the Wolf (Mark of the Thief #2) by Jennifer A. Nielsen, at Log Cabin Library

Talking to Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede, at Leaf's Reviews

Wing and Claw, by Linda Sue Park, at Book Page

Three at School Library Journal-- The Midnight War of Mateo Martinez, by Robin Yardi, The Remarkable Journey of Charlie Price, by Jennifer Maschari, and The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle, by Janet Fox. 

Authors and Interviews

Linday Eagar (Hour of the Bees) at Literary Rambles

Django Wexler (the Forbidden Library series) shares a few of his favorite libraries at Nerdy Book  Club

Leila Sales (Once Was a Time) at Laurisa White Reyes

Lauren Oliver, with Max the Knife Thrower (Curiosity House series) at Kid Lit Reviews, and with H.C. Chester, at Read Now Sleep Later

Cam Baity & Benny Zelkowicz (The Books of Ore) at Novel Novice

Other Good Stuff

At the Guardian, Jackie Morris shares her selkie drawing process for her newest book

At alibrarymama, Katy shares her top 12 middle grade fantasies for diverse readers


This week's round-up of middle grade science fiction and fantasy from around the blogs (4/10/16)

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

The Reviews

The Accidental Afterlife of Thomas Marsden, by Emma Trevayne, at Geo Librarian

Alcatraz vs The Evil Librarians, by Brandon Sanderson, at Log Cabin Library

Calling on Dragons, by Patricia Wrede, at Leaf's Reviews

The Caretaker's Guide to Fablehaven, by Brandon Mull, at Sharon the Librarian

Charmed, by Jen Calonita, at Sharon the Librarian

A Colouring Book of Hours: Castle, by Marcia Overstrand and Angie Sage, at Read Till Dawn

Cuckoo Song by France Hardinge, at Leaf's Reviews

The Firefly Code, by Magen Frazer Blakemore, at Jen Robinson's Book Page

The Gallery of Wonders, by Marc Remus, at The Children's Book Review

The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home, by Catherynne M. Valente, at Tales of the Marvelous and SF Bluestocking

Hour of the Bees by Linsday Eagar, at Next Best Book

The Impossible Quest, by Kate Forsyth  (series review) at Charlotte's Library

The Inn Between, by Marina Cohen, at Cracking the Cover

The Iron Trial, by  Holly Black and Cassandra Clare, at Kitty Cat at the Library

The Mage of Trelian, by Michelle Knudsen, at Read Till Dawn

Magrit, by Lee Battersby, at The Bookshelf Gargoyle

Once Was a Time, by Leila Sales, at Good Books and Good Wine, For the Love of Words, and Mother Daughter Book Club

The Paladin Prophecy, by Mark Frost, at Buxton's Fantasy and Science Fiction Novels

The Remarkable Journey of Charlie Price, by Jennifer Maschari, at Always in the Middle

The Screaming Staircase, by Jonathan Stroud, at Jean Little Library

The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse, by Brian Farrey, at Akossiwa Ketoglo

Time Travelling With A Hamster, by Ross Welford, at Bart's Bookshelf

The Treehouse series, by Andy Griffiths, a post by me at Barnes and Noble Kids Blog

The Wild Robot, by Peter Brown, at the New York Times

The Wooden Prince, by John Claude Bemis, at Bibliobrit

Authors and Interviews

Leila Sales (Once Was a Time) at The Book Cellar, Cracking the Cover, Good Books and Good Wine

John Claude Bemis (The Wooden Prince) at Tales From the Raven

Jonathan Auxier (Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard) at Nerdy Book Club

Peter Brown (The Wild Robot) at Barnes and Noble Kids

Other Good  Stuff

Folklore snippets about the River Man at Seven Miles of Steel Thistles

How Terry Pratchett's truckers changed the life of writer Tom Nicholl, at The Guardian


The Impossible Quest, by Kate Forsyth (series review)

The five books that make up The Impossible Quest series, by Austrailian author Kate Forsyth, are absolutly spot on for the eight or nine year old who loves fantasy, but who isn't quite ready for the middle grade big league--the sort of kid whose a really strong and eager reader, but not emotionally ready for truly harrowing violence or romance or, heaven forbid, cute little animals who die.  I don't often wish my now 12 year old was a 9 year old again, but after reading the books myself I did so wish I could send them back in time a few years for his third or fourth grade reading pleasure!

The story is fairly standard stuff--four kids (two boys, two girls) thrown together as unlikely allies when their homeland is invaded.  They are a young knight in training, the son of the castle cook, the witch's apprentice, and the daughter of the manor, and they have no clue what they are going to do about defeating their enemies.  They do, however, have a riddling prophesy to guide them on what seems at first to be an impossible quest...and so they set out on a journey that ends up making the impossible into reality.

Four mythical animals must be found--unicorn, gryphon, dragon, and sea serpent.  One is introduced in each book, and forms a special bond with one of the kids, and I think this aspect of the book in particular has just tons and tons of kid  appeal.  Each of the kids also has a magical item that they have to figure out how use properly, and each has special strengths that they bring to the group.  As dangers are overcome in each book, the kids are forced to make out of their four conflicting personalities and backgrounds a cohesive fighting force. And they actually come to genuinely like and care for each other, putting aside various preconceptions and old grudges.  The characters are each given turns as the primary point of view, which helps make each one unique and compelling; the adventure never overshadows the personalities, and worries, and hopes of the adventurers.

The adventures themselves are a fine introduction to fantasy questing, and Kate Forsyth does a very fine job at vivid descriptions.  The drowned city full of writhing sea serpents, for instance, was more than a bit memorable.  It is not a sweetness and light fantasy for the young, but it is written for young readers--there are things that are horrible (like the army of bog men, reanimated victims of past sacrifice), but the horror is not delved into so deeply or emotionally that it is distressing. 

In short, though this series doesn't add much in the way of diversity to the upper elementary fantasy available, and doesn't break wildly imaginative new ground, it is does fill a niche for younger readers wanting epic adventures. The books would also be fine for older middle grade kids who like fantasy but who aren't the strongest, most committed readers-- the short chapters, short overall length, and fairly rapid fire adventures will make the pages turn.

The books were released in Australia two years ago, and are now being published here in the US all at once by Kane Miller (which is very nice indeed from a parent's point of view, because if your kid likes book 1, you can trot out books 2-5 without waiting for ages between books!)

The books in the series are:
Escape from Wolfhaven Castle
Wolves of the Witchwood
The Beast of Blackmoor Bog
The Drowned Kingdom
Battle of the Heroes

(you won't find the US editions for sale on Amazon, as Kane Miller is a strong supporter of indie bookstores.  The links above go to Barnes and Noble; you can also get them through your independent bookstore in June).

disclaimer: review copies recieved from the publisher


Lizard Radio, by Pat Schmatz

When I saw that Lizard Radio, by Pat Schmatz (Candlewick, September 2015), had won the YA Tiptree Award, it was a natural next step to actually read the copy of it that has been in my TBR for months....I think I hadn't read it sooner because the cover reminds me of the 1970s tile in the bathroom of an old and dingy house I once lived in...and also because the blurb at the back references "a mysterious saurian race" and I am not a fan, in general, of saurian stories.  But now I have read it, and found it good!  It is off my TBR pile!  I can recommend it!  Yay!

Just by way of quick intro--it is almost our world, but with a dystopian fascist overlay, different slang, different drugs, and a nasty way of tucking all non-conforming people (political agitators, criminals, gay and gender ambiguous people) away forever in a prison city of their own.

Kivali was just a little baby, wearing a t-shirt with a lizard picture on it, when she was found by Sheila.  Sheila, being unpartnered, had to fight to keep the baby as her foster child, but she succeeded, and then raised her with the story that she is a little lizard child, dropped on earth by suarians, and though this wasn't Sheila's intention, Kivali has ended up believing this, and feels more lizard than human, listening to "lizard radio" when meditating.  In large part this is possible because Kivali is a "bender," with a gender score just barely tilted toward female, and she doesn't do human socialization very well (I found myself think of her as being on the autism spectrum, though this isn't explicit).

In Kivali's world, teens have to go to Crop Camps to get their hands dirty and to get indoctrinated before they can be Integrated into proper society.  Failing out of Crop Camp more than once means being stuck in the prison city.  And as the book begins, Sheila is making Kivali go and get it over with.  

Crop Camp is sort of like a religious youth group (lots of emphasis on everyone joining together to find the One) meeting agricultural work camp, and the heavy emphasis on community and belong is made more palatable for people like Kivali by the drugs the campers are given every evening.  For the first time, Kivali has friends, and is accepted, and nicknamed, in a friendly way, Lizard.  She finds passion for the first time in the kiss of a bright shinning fellow camper girl.   And she feels that she has stepped out of her lizard skin, and is actually a person.

But the ruler of Crop Camp wants to manipulate and control the kids, and freedom of thought is not tolerated.   Campers disappear.  Those who aren't conforming are confined.  Lizard cannot stay, but where can she go?  And how can she leave her friends?  What is a young lizard, who wants to be loved, to do?  For Lizard is still a little lizard, trying, as she herself puts it, to get her tail out from under the boot of the camp director.   Her answers come from her recognition that she doesn't have to choose between binary opposites, but can instead find power in being both and neither....

So the vibe I got from this reminded me somewhat of The Scorpion Rules, by Erin Bow--the kids forced together under adult control, with threats keeping them corralled, and a protagonist who hasn't been in the habit of reaching out to other people.   This one, though, is an almost totally character driven spec fic story; the world around Lizard is bad and difficult, but the point is how she as an individual is going to make it through.   Lizard is a brave and hurting and seeking protagonist, one to be held in the heart of the reader.  And though there's no firm ending, there's a bit of hope she'll find hope, somewhere.  Not a book if you want dramatic action with bombs and stuff, but more a book if you want a person trying to be a good lizard, or good person, in difficult and painful circumstances occasioned by a tangly plot full of mysteries.


This week's round-up of middle grade sci fi and fantasy from around the blogs (4/3/16)

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

The Reviews

Ambassador, and its sequel, Nomad, by William Alexander, at Dead Houesplants

The Boy Who Lost Fairyland, by Catherynne M. Valente, at Puss Reboots

Chase Tinker and the House of Mist, by Malia Ann Haberman, at This Kid Reviews Books

The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle, by Janet Fox, at The Children's War

Cuckoo Song, by Frances Hardinge, at The Cover Wars

Fridays With the Wizards, by Jessica Day George, at Read Till Dawn

Grounded, by Megan Morrison, at The Daily Prophecy

The Night Parade, by Kathryn Tanquary, at Randomly Reading

Out of Abaton: The Wooden Prince, by John Claude Bemis, at Buxton's Fantasy and Science Fiction Novels and Tales from the Raven

Pip Bartlett's Guide to Magical Creatures, by Jackson Pearce and Maggie Stiefvater, at Next Best Book

Rules for Stealing Stars, by Corey Ann Haydu, at Children's Books Heal

Searching for Dragons, by Patricia C. Wrede, at Leaf's Reviews

The Secret of Platform 13, by Eva Ibbotson, at Fantasy Literature

Secrets of the Ancient Gods: Thor Speaks, by Vicky Alvear Shecter, at Jean Little Library

Secrets of Valhalla, by Jasmine Richards, at Views from the Tesseract

Under Plum Lake, by Lionel Davidson, at Views from the Tesseract

Unidentified Suburban Object, by Mike Jung, at Not Acting My Age

The Wild Robot, by Peter Brown, at The Book Smugglers

The Wildings by Nilanjana Roy, at Fantasy Literature

Two at Ms. Yingling Reads--The Final Kingdom, by Michael Northrup, and The Girl in the Tower, by Lisa Schroeder

Authors and Interviews

Jaleigh Johnson (Secrets of Solace) at The Hiding Spot

Other Good Stuff

A Tueday 10 of sci fi gateway books (the fifth post in a series) at Views from the Tesseract

A horse-lovers guide to The Blue Sword, at Tor


When is a small thing big enough to make you walk away from a book?

There are lots of valid reasons not to finish a book.  There are big ones, like when a book is offensive to your beliefs, or has opinions and perpetuates stereotypes that you find toxic.  There are practical ones, like the book falling behind a bookshelf and you feeling too weak to move all the books so you can move the shelf and rescue it, or it falling behind the radiator of a little used room causing you to wander the house sadly and hopeless not finding it.  And then there are the very small reasons, that make you wonder if should keep giving the book a chance, even though you know it will probably not work out well.

For instance, I have just put down a book at the start of the third chapter for the following small reason--

A character is sitting under an old, dying oak tree, and he remembers how he used to climb it as a boy (me--wonders if climbing oak trees is something that other people are able to do, because they haven't, in my experience, struck me as climbable, but I'm willing to give the character the benefit of the doubt, especially because I just looked at pictures of oak trees and found one even I could climb, shown at right), but then he remembers eating its fruit (and he's not thinking about acorns!).

This might be a deal breaker for me.  It seems to me that the author wasn't really thinking of her tree as an oak tree after all.  And if the author can't keep a tree straight, and if the copy editor didn't catch it, what other inconsistences and wrong details will there be in the rest of the book?  I can no longer trust the author to smoothly deliver quality world building, and I am not inclined to keep going.

And if the species of tree doesn't matter, why is the author bothering to put it in?  If Megan Whalen Turner, for instance, has a character thinking about an oak tree, I can be sure that there is a point to its oak tree-ness; maybe, I might think, it is a reference to an oak tree/character relationship in a Rosemary Sutcliff book.  Maybe she is alluding to Philip of Macedon's oak tree diadem.  Maybe there will more oak tree metaphorical-ness further along in the book.  These things are fun to think about, but are only possible when you trust the author to build the book world with care and attention.

If the oak tree really seems meant to have been an apple tree, I'm not sure it's worth going on.

Am I being too picky?  The book was ok otherwise; not great, but reasonably interesting....

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