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Showing posts from October, 2011

Sir Gawain the True

I read Gerald Morris's The Squire's Tale a couple of years ago. While I didn't dislike the experience, I wasn't wowed by it either. I have recommended the series to others I thought might enjoy it but I haven't been inclined to continue it myself. When I heard Morris was writing another Arthurian series for younger readers I was interested to see how he would do writing for a younger audience. Sir Gawain the True is the most recent book in The Knights' Tales. I enjoyed quite a lot, far more than I did the book in the older series.

"Now everyone who knows anything at all about knights knows that they used to dress in metal suits and bash each other off their horses with pint sticks called lances. This only makes sense, of course. Anyone who happened to have a metal suit, a horse, and a pointy stick would do the same."

A brilliant way to begin and what I appreciate the most about the storytelling here. The words flow naturally from one to the next and Mor…

Favorite Newbery Winners

I wasn't planning on doing a My Favorite Things post this week, but when given inspiration for a perfect topic I will take it. Plus I'm sick this week. Really sick. Going to bed at 8 every night sick. Not much reading has been happening and I'm running out of stockpiled reviews to post. So this was excellent timing. (I now have antibiotics and will hopefully be pulling out of this funk soon.)

In that article I linked to up there Jonathan at Heavy Medal makes some very interesting points. I like the points he is making and agree with them. I like the little exercise he provided for everyone more and that is what I'm running with, and for the purposes of this post will play by his rules (mostly). Meaning I will stick to the last 50 years of Newbery Winners. For the purposes of full disclosure I have only read 30 of the 50 titles.

Here are my Top 4 Picks (because I couldn't decide on which book to give the #5 slot) :

 Rounding out the Top 10 I would choose: From the M…

My Very Unfairytale Life

In the acknowledgements for her book My Very UnFairytale Life Anna Staniszewski describes it as her "wacky little book". It is indeed a whacky little book but in a way that is fun and not too ridiculous especially if you are of the age of the intended audience. Elementary school me would have loved this book with a fervent and fierce devotion.

You know all those stories that have fairy godmothers coming into change the lives of ordinary girls? Well this is that in reverse. Jenny is an ordinary girl sent to help change the lives of magical creatures. Instead of being armed with a magic wand, Jenny relies on a repertoire of cheesy cliches to make a difference. Sure sometimes baby dragons try to burn her head off and unicorns charge after her, but that's all part of the fun. Except Jenny is not having much fun. She is in middle school and she wants a life and normal friends. Instead she gets a candy addict gnome guide and an old adventurer who keeps an eye on her. When fac…

Tuesdays at the Castle

Anyone who is a fan of magical kingdoms and heroic princesses pay attention. Jessica Day George's new novel Tuesdays at the Castle is a must read. It is a story of peril, adventure, magic, and heroism that will greatly appeal to any young (or possibly not so young, as in  me) lover of fantasy.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Tuesdays at Castle Glower are Princess Celie's favorite days. That's because on Tuesdays the castle adds a new room, a turret, or sometimes even an entire wing. No one ever knows what the castle will do next, and no one-other than Celie, that is-takes the time to map out the new additions. But when King and Queen Glower are ambushed and their fate is unknown, it's up to Celie, with her secret knowledge of the castle's never-ending twists and turns, to protect their home and save their kingdom.

Celie is a great little heroine. The youngest of four children she is beloved by everyone in the kingdom, particularly the Castle. This has not made her …

The Mostly True Story of Jack

If you are looking for a creepy sort of story that is not too dark or scary then The Mostly True Story of Jackby Kelly Barnhill may be just what you want.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

When Jack is sent to Hazelwood, Iowa, to live with his crazy aunt and uncle, he expects a summer of boredom. Little does he know that the people of Hazelwood have been waiting for him for a long time. . . .
When he arrives, three astonishing things happen: First, he makes friends-not imaginary friends but actual friends. Second, he is beaten up by the town bully; the bullies at home always ignored him. Third, the richest man in town begins to plot Jack's imminent, and hopefully painful, demise. It's up to Jack to figure out why suddenly everyone cares so much about him. Back home he was practically, well, invisible.

The book is, for the most part, a mystery. Puzzle pieces are handed out one at a time and the reader has to put them together to see the big picture. How quickly this happens and…

The Big Crunch

I have been wanting to read The Big Crunch by Pete Hautman ever since I read Kate's review of it at Book Aunt earlier this year. It is not often you find a book about ordinary every day teens in a typical relationship in YA books. No one here discovers their romantic interest is a vampire/werewolf/fallen angel/creature of Faerie. No one here turns out to have magical or supernatural powers or a hidden mythical heritage. There are no tragedies/disasters/psychological traumas in the characters past. It really is a book about two average kids who have a very typical relationship. If that wasn't attractive enough there is also the amazing cover which I just like to stare at.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

June and Wes do not "meet cute." They do not fall in love at first sight. They do not swoon with scorching desire. They do not believe that they are instant soul mates destined to be together forever.
This is not that kind of love story.
Instead, they just hang around in…

The Flint Heart

The Flint Heart is a "freely abridged" version of a story written by Eden Phillpotts. Katherine Paterson  and her husband, John Paterson, did the abridging. Katherine Paterson is a beloved by me (and many others) author so I was naturally intrigued. Add to that I had heard buzz long before the book came out that John Rocco's illustrations for it were beautiful. Rocco's illustrations are indeed beautiful and the best thing about the book. The best thing by far because they were they only thing about the book I actually enjoyed. (They are very beautiful color illustrations and I'm sad they were wasted on this story.)

Synopsis (from Goodreads):
An ambitious Stone Age man demands a talisman that will harden his heart, allowing him to take control of his tribe. Against his better judgment, the tribe’s magic man creates the Flint Heart, but the cruelty of it causes the destruction of the tribe. Thousands of years later, the talisman reemerges to corrupt a kindly fa…

The Girl of Fire and Thorns

The Girl of Fire and Thornsby Rae Carson is a fantasy full of magic, myth, and intrigue. This is one of my favorite types of book but also the type of book that I have the highest standards for. I am happy to say that this one met them. I liked this book lots. Despite the fact that there are some flaws that I can see bugging some people, for me it worked and worked well. So well that I have lots to say about it. If you are interested in my thoughst read on or you could just stop now and go read the book.


Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness.
Elisa is the chosen one.
But she is also the younger of two princesses, the one who has never done anything remarkable. She can’t see how she ever will.
Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king—a king whose country is in turmoil. A king who needs the chosen one, not a failure of a princess.
And he’s not the only one who needs her. Savage enemies seet…

The National Book Award Nominees

For Young People's Literature. Because who cares about the grown up books? Well, some people. I just don't happen to be one of them. Here is a where you can find the complete list (grown up books and all). For purposes of the National Book Award "Young People's Literature" has a broad range, as you can see from the list of nominees.

And the nominees are:
Chime by Franny Billingsley (my review)
Flesh and Blood So Cheap by Albert Marrin
Inside Out and Back Again by Thannha Lai (my review)
My Name Is Not Easy by Debby Dahl Edwardson
Okay for Nowby Gary D. Schmidt (my review)
Shine by Lauren Myracle

Let's break this down:
AGE: 3 2 YA, 3 MG
GENRE: 1 Fantasy; 1 Non Fiction, 1 Contemporary, 3 Historical Fiction

ETA: At the request of the NBF Lauren Myracle has withdrawn Shine. You can read more about that here.

The mock Newbery blog Heavy Medal has discussed 4 of these books as possible Newbery contenders.

I'm interested to see how this will play out. I have read 3 of…

A Monster Calls

I can not remember the last time a book made me cry. Books often sadden me and leave me feeling verklempt, but I can't remember the last time a book caused streaming down my cheeks, concerning and then amusing my husband, tears. Patrick Ness did that with this book.

A Monster Calls is about a boy named Conor. Conor's mother is undergoing treatment for cancer. Instead of getting better though, she is getting worse. At school Conor has become nearly invisible. At home he is helpful but dreads the interference of his grandmother and the allusions to a time when Conor might be seeing her on a more regular basis. And Conor is having a recurring nightmare that is causing him to lose sleep. Then one night at 12:07 Conor gets a visit from a Monster. He is not the monster Conor fears, though he is certainly monstrous. The Monster has come to tell him stories. Three stories in fact. And then Conor must tell him a story containing the terrible truth that he fears more than anything.

T…

Fall Reading

Fall is my favorite time of year. The crisp air, the smell of the leaves, breaking out the comforter, bringing the sweaters out of hibernation, apples, pumpkins, the spices they both cook in, all of it make me gleeful and happy to be alive. It is also the only time of year that inspires me to read specific books. Why I don't know, especially as only one of the books can be considered a "Fall" book.


The Perilous Gardby Elizabeth Marie Pope is the one that makes sense as it takes place during the Fall, with its climatic scene occurring on All Hallow's Eve. The scent of fallen leaves and woodsmoke in the air sets a perfect atmosphere for reading this one. I read this book around Halloween every year and this year I'm making my 4th-6th grade literature students read it too, so I'm going to be reading it more than once. I'm so excited.

Howl's Moving Castleby Diana Wynne Jones is a favorite of mine that I read for the first time during the fall, and I think t…

Bloodline

Somewhere this year I came across a mention of Bloodline Rising by Katy Moran and was intrigued. Then I discovered it was a sequel to her first work Bloodline and so decided to start there. I was looking forward to this as it takes place in Anglo-Saxon Britain and is all about the complexities of warring chieftains and complex bonds between people.

Summary (from Goodreads):
Warring kingdoms, bloody feuds and a battle for survival...Step back into the Dark Ages with this riveting, epic adventure from a debut writer."Set in Dark Ages Britain", this is the powerful story of Essa, whose father Cai, a travelling bard and occasional spy, leaves him behind one night at a settlement of the Wolf Clan. Essa is a survivor and forges new allegiances and even love, but never stops wondering why his father never came back. The settlement is under threat from cruel Mercian bands across the forests, and Essa is caught up in a heart-stopping journey to avert disaster. A battle is ine…

The Chesire Cheese Cat: A Dickens of A Tale

I don't really do animal stories. There are only two that I have ever read and desired to reread or read aloud to my children. (Charlotte's Web and The Tale of Despereaux) Now a third book can be added to this collection. I saw enough reviews praising The Chesire Cheese Cat: A Dickens of a Tale, some written by others also wary of animal stories, that I decided to give it a try. Really, the premise is hard to pass up even for someone like me who is jaded toward the genre. A cat who likes to eat cheese forms a partnership with an Inn full of mice, and then throw Charles Dickens in for good measure. I ask, who can resist that?

He was the Best of Toms. He was the worst of Toms. Fleet of foot, sleek and solitary, Skilley was a cat among cats. Or he would have been, but for a secret he had carried since his youth. A secret that caused him to live in hidden shame, avoiding even casual friendship lest anyone discover-

Skilley, a cat who hates the taste of mice and the feel of them goi…

The Demon King

Cinda Williams Chima's Seven Realms Series has been getting a lot of buzz recently due to the release of the third volume The Gray Wolf Throne, so I decided (with some encouragement from a reliable source) that maybe it was about time I read the first volume, The Demon King. This has everything a high fantasy novel should have Wizards, mountain clans that breed Warriors, a looming Peril, characters with hidden destinies, a ragamuffin type hero. It is predictable but well written. If you are a fan of High Fantasy with a good dose of court intrigue (I am) and enjoy books with well written characters and intricate plots (I do) then you may want to give this series a try.

Summary (from Goodreads):
This novel marks the first giant step in a momentous fantasy journey orchestrated by Cinda Williams Chima, the author of the popular Warrior Heir series. Its two chief protagonists are ex-thief Han Alister, an impoverished commoner, and Raisa ana'Marianna, the headstrong Princess Heir…