Friday, November 28, 2008

I Met a Dragon Face to Face: A Poetry Friday Post

I Met a Dragon Face to Face
by Jack Prelutsky

I met a dragon face to face
the year when I was ten,
I took a trip to outer space,
I braved a pirate's den,
I wrestled with a wicked troll,
and fought a great white shark,
I trailed a rabbit down a hole,
I hunted for a snark.

I stowed aboard a submarine,
I opened magic doors,
I traveled in a time machine,
and searched for dinosaurs,
I climbed atop a giant's head,
I found a pot of gold,
I did all this in books I read
when I was ten years old.

Today is Black Friday, one of the biggest shopping days of the year. I thought it would be fun to post a poem today that speaks to the magic of books. Books have always been my favorite present to open and I hope that you'll be buying books for your family and friends this holiday season.

To learn more about Poetry Friday, visit Big A little a. This week's Poetry Friday round-up is at Lisa Chellman's blog.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Chalice by Robin McKinley Book Review

Chalice by Robin McKinley
(Hardcover, Penguin)

Mirasol has always been content with her simple life as a beekeeper. She enjoys tending her bees and selling her honey concoctions to the locals. Then the Master and Chalice (basically, the king and queen, although it is rare that the two are married) of Willowlands die in a terrible fire. The diving rods choose Mirasol to be the next Chalice. Suddenly, her hives are overflowing with honey and her bees are behaving rather strangely. Mirasol must use her honey concoctions to speak to the earthlines and fix the land, all while helping the new Master, a man who is part fire element and part human.

This is the first Robin McKinley book that I've read and I loved it. With its magical elements and its down-to-earth heroine, Chalice is one of the best fairy tales I've read this year. For a book lover, Mirasol was the perfect main character because she immediately holes herself up in the castle's library upon learning that she is the new Chalice. Mirasol reads book after book in an attempt to figure out what her new job entails. As a nature lover, I was fascinated by Mirasol's bees. Mirasol could taste the types of flowers that her bees used in each hive, so she made batches of honey that were useful for various things, such as headache remedies, tension tamers, and burn relief. As Chalice, Mirasol finds each of these honey concoctions helpful in her various tasks. There is also an element of romance in this book, just the right amount for a fairy tale. The new Master was sent away seven years ago to learn how to become a Fire Elemental. Called back by his new duty as Master, he is barely human. He has blackened skin, red eyes, and his touch can burn through to the bone. Mirasol, however, is not afraid of him and works tirelessly to show her people that he is the rightful Master. As I was reading this book, I wished that I was in the middle of a forest with a pot of honey beside me. This book is perfect for anyone who likes fairy tales or strong heroines.

Chalice has been nominated for the 2008 Cybils Awards in the Science Fiction/Fantasy category.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Twilight: A Movie Review

Last Friday, I headed off to the theater with a bunch of girl friends. Our destination was "Twilight" (and Edward, in all his on-the-screen glory). All but one of us had read the Twilight books and we were very excited.

From the very first scene, I loved Kristen Stewart as Bella. She fit the role perfectly and really embodied how I had pictured Bella in my mind. It took me awhile to warm up to Robert Pattinson as Edward, though. I actually can't really think of a good reason why. By the end of the movie, I thought he was great. Maybe it was because I kept thinking of him as Cedric Diggory. Maybe it was because I didn't expect Edward to be quite so obviously tortured. Anyway, by the end, I was rooting for Edward and wishing that "New Moon" was already being filmed.

I read only one review before going to see the movie. It wasn't a terrible review, but it also wasn't a glowing review. Personally, this is how I prefer my reviews. Too good and I'm always disappointed by the actual movie. Too bad and I don't even want to go see the movie. This reviewer had a big problem with the special effects in "Twilight." And I agree, for the most part. The special effects are slightly cheesy and not that exciting. The part where Edward and Bella are sitting in a tree and talking is cool. The part where Edward runs up the tree with Bella on his back...not so cool. When I heard how much money the movie made during opening weekend, all I could think was, thank goodness, hopefully, they can afford better special effects for the next movie. The reviewer also had problems with the baseball scene. I personally thought it was really cool. Of course, that's probably because I was expecting it to be bad based on what the review said.

Perhaps the most telling thing about the movie, though, is that my friends and I all left the movie theater happy. One girl is a HUGE fan and we were worried that the movie wouldn't live up to her expectations. It did. One girl hadn't read the books and we were worried that she wouldn't get the hoopla. She did. She even gushed as we walked out, "I want to marry Edward!"

However, the best part of the movie for us was when Charlie shows Bella to her room in one of the first few scenes and the camera panned to a "Reading is Sexy" sticker on Bella's corkboard. My friends and I all have that pin and so we sort of squealed when we saw it. It was also pretty cool to see a bunch of people lined up outside our theater an hour before the next showing, sitting there and reading and talking about the book. I'm sure they were all thinking the same thing as me when I left the theater. Oh, I can't wait to see New Moon. (Although, how are they going to make Jacob age so much??!! He's such a baby face in "Twilight.")

Movie Rating:

Bite Me by Parker Blue Book Review

Bite Me by Parker Blue
(Bell Bridge Books, Paperback)


Having decided that half-demon Val is a bad influence on her little human sister, Val's parents kick her out of the house on her 18th birthday. Val's luck isn't all bad though. She befriends a telepathic hellhound and a cute vampire hunter. As a half-demon, Val is specially equipped to hunt vampires so she joins the special forces team and starts to make a life of her own. All that is threatened when the vampires target her little sister.

Bite Me is a captivating first novel. Val is a spunky heroine who is struggling to control her demon side. Tormented by the demon that lives inside her, Val distances herself from the people that she loves. Fantasy fans will enjoy Val's exploits as a vampire hunter and Twilight fans will appreciate Val's inner turmoil. There are, unfortunately, several references to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, including the tagline on the cover of the book, "Don't call her Buffy. Unless you're ready to meet her inner demon." It was the only bit of pop culture that was in the book and it seemed to detract from the writing. I say, let the audience draw Buffy comparisons on their own. Fang, the hellhound, was also a little over the top at times. His jokes and sarcasm were sometimes too corny for me to fully appreciate. I did like the idea of a faithful hellhound, though, and appreciated his heroic efforts. All in all, this was a fun book and I will definitely be checking out the sequel. I'd like to learn more about Val's special talents and see her begin to accept her heritage.

Bite Me has been nominated for the 2008 Cybils Awards in the Science Fiction/Fantasy category.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman Book Review

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
(HarperCollins, Hardcover)


Bod is not your usual boy. For one, he lives in a graveyard. That's not all though. Bod was raised by the ghosts of the graveyard and he's learned a few, shall we say, tricks of the trade. Bod can walk through walls and he can fade into the background so that no one notices him. This trick comes in particularly handy because Bod is being hunted by the man who killed his parents.

The Graveyard Book is pure delight from start to finish. This is the first book that I've read by Gaiman and, after the first couple of pages, I knew that I was in the hands of a master storyteller. The graveyard where Bod lives came alive for me. I felt as if I was walking between the gravestones, seeing the ghosts for myself - motherly Mrs. Owens, mysterious Silas, and clever Liza. To me, the thing that was most indicative of Gaiman's mastery was the fact that this story is unabashedly scary. It's written for ages 10 and up. The world isn't always sunshine and playgrounds and Gaiman isn't afraid to give kids a darker reality. But if you're like me and can't sleep after watching a horror movie, fear not. This book if full of humor, loveable characters, and a top-notch ending for our brave, orphaned hero.

This book reminded me a lot of a favorite series of mine, Joseph Delaney's The Last Apprentice books. The Last Apprentice books are also dark and exciting, with the added bonus of having fabulous woodcut drawings at each chapter.

The Graveyard Book has been nominated for the 2008 Cybils Awards in the Science Fiction/Fantasy category.

The Crimson Thread by Suzanne Weyn Book Review

The Crimson Thread by Suzanne Weyn
(Simon Pulse, Paperback)


Bridget and her family move from Ireland to America in search of a better life. Bridget rechristens herself "Bertie" so that she seems more American and acquires a job as a seamstress for one of the richest families in New York. Bridget finds herself relying more and more on a mysterious man named Ray. First, Ray buys her some crimson thread that she coveted; then, he rushes her little sister to a doctor and pays for the medicine; lastly, he helps Bridget sew a dress one night when her father rashly promises her employer that she can "practically spin straw into gold." As much as Bridget needs help, she wonders what type of payment Ray will want in return.

The Crimson Thread is part of the "Once Upon a Time" series, books that retell classic fairy tales in a new way. This one happens to be a retelling of Rumpelstiltskin. I've enjoyed most of the books in this series and The Crimson Thread was another enjoyable read. It's short and easy to read in one sitting. Retelling fairy tales seems to be a current trend in teen literature Lately, I've read a lot of dark, twisted, Grimm's-fairy-tale-esque retellings and, quite frankly, they just don't do it for me. I rather like magic and happy endings which Suzanne Weyn delivers in The Crimson Thread. The beginning and ending were slightly cheesy, but perfectly palatable. If you like fairy tales, I recommend this book and the "Once Upon a Time" series.

The Crimson Thread has been nominated for the 2008 Cybils Awards in the Science Fiction/Fantasy category.

Masterpiece by Elise Broach Book Review

Masterpiece by Elise Broach
(Henry Holt, Hardcover)


Marvin is a beetle. A beetle who can swim and draw. When James, the boy in whose house Marvin lives, gets a pen and ink set for his birthday, Marvin can't help but try it out after James goes to sleep. Marvin's life changes when James wakes up to discover Marvin painting. James' parents think that James painted the delicate drawing and take him to an art museum. There, James is recruited to duplicate a famous painting in order to catch art thieves. Before they know it, James and Marvin are caught up in art heist.

Masterpiece is written for middle readers, a younger audience than what I normally review here. It's an excellent book though and perfect for younger siblings or cousins. What little kid can resist an adventure? And Marvin is definitely caught up in a mystery that will capture the attention of young readers. There are art lessons sneakily inserted into the story, so it's not only an exciting read but also an educational one. I never thought I could love a beetle, but Marvin captured my heart.

Masterpiece has been nominated for the 2008 Cybils Awards in the Science Fiction/Fantasy category.

Friday, November 7, 2008

I Hear America Singing: A Poetry Friday Post

I Hear America Singing
by Walt Whitman

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand
singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,
The wood-cutter's song, the ploughboy's on his way in the morning, or
at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of
the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young fellows,
robust, friendly,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.

I'm sure this will be a popular poem this week and I just couldn't resist posting it. What an amazing and historic week this turned out to be!

To learn more about Poetry Friday, visit Big A little a. This week's Poetry Friday round-up is at Check It Out.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr Book Review

Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr
(HarperTeen, Hardcover)


Leslie has a dark secret, a secret so crippling that she's been afraid to live for the past year. In an effort to take back control of her life, Leslie decides to get a tattoo on her back. The ink used for her tattoo, though, contains elements of faerie that make Leslie aware of a world that she didn't know existed, and she isn't sure she wants to know.

Ink Exchange is a dark and somewhat disturbing tale of faeries. Like it's companion book Wicked Lovely, Ink Exchange is built on a world where faeries co-exist next to humans, though mortals as they are called cannot see the faeries. Leslie knows nothing of the faery world when she decides to get her tattoo. All she knows is that her brother sold her for his next high and she's afraid it might happen again. Leslie is a broken, damaged girl when we first meet her. When she chooses her new tattoo, Leslie thinks that she is merely choosing to take her life back. Little does she know that she's allowing a dark faerie to control her. Leslie is a fighter with attitude though and she valiantly trys to maintain control, with the help of her friends Aislinn (main character of Wicked Lovely) and Niall (a faery whom Leslie has a crush on). Niall is broken and damaged in his own way and it's interesting to see how the two characters deal with their fates. As with Wicked Lovely, I didn't see the ending coming. The ending I chose was a little neater, more happy, but Melissa Marr's ending was powerful and perfectly right for Leslie. That's why I'm just the reviewer, not the writer.

If you're wondering whether to read Wicked Lovely first, it's not necessary. Ink Exchange is definitely a stand-alone and not a sequel. However, if you're interesting in reading Wicked Lovely, I recommend reading it first because Ink Exchange picks up shortly after Wicked Lovely left off and, thus, gives away the ending of Marr's first book. I also highly recommend these books for fans of Holly Black.

Ink Exchange has been nominated for the 2008 Cybils Awards in the Science Fiction/Fantasy category.