Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Good Series for Younger Siblings

It's been fun reading all of the middle grade novels that were nominated for the Cybils. Some, I've reviewed here because they have teen appeal. Such as The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (fabulous and highly recommended). One book that deserves a shout out is Grim Hill: The Secret Deepens by Linda DeMeulemeester. This is book two of the Grim Hill series. In this book, Cat Peters has two main concerns: the girls versus boys soccer game and her sister's sudden obsession with magic. This is a cute book about sports and team work, as well as a fun story about the fairy world. When Cat's sister Sookie finds an old turban in the attic and begins performing magic tricks while wearing it, strange things happen in their town. Winter winds blow in and freeze the town. Kids start falling asleep and not waking up. So it's up to Cat and her friend Jasper to solve the mystery of the turban and venture back up Grim Hill into the fairy realm. Fun and adventure-filled, this book would be great for any younger sibling, especially if they like soccer and magic.

Lament by Maggie Stiefvater Book Review

Lament by Maggie Stiefvater
(Flux, Paperback)


Deirdre is a talented musician. So talented that she's caught the notice of faeries. Including Luke, who is also a musician and helps Deirdre to unlock her own magic powers. Luke seems to be protecting her from the faeries that want to harm her, but Deirdre's grandmother warns her to stay away from Luke. As the solsice nears, the faeries ramp up their efforts to hurt Deidre and she must act fast to save her friends and Luke.

I love fairy tales. There's just something so exciting about escaping to a world that might possibly exist around us. Lament is drenched in Celtic lore and reminded me a lot of Wicked Lovely. Both books have main characters that only recently became involved in the faerie realm and both have heroines that possess extra magical abilities/destinies. Deirdre's friend James also attracts the faeries with his bagpipe playing. That sets up a love triangle that isn't quite resolved by the end of the novel. I read that Stiefvater has a sequel coming out so perhaps it will be resolved in the second book. The magical elements of this book were intriguing and clearly well-researched. I had a harder time with some other elements of the book. In particular, the women in Deirdre's family each had their own encounters with faeries and Deirdre's grandmother can still see them. Towards the end of the novel, the faerie queen tells Deirdre that she will grow up and live a boring life. The inconsistency of that statement bothers me. If Deidre's grandmother can still see faeries, why can't Deirdre continue to interact with them? Hopefully, this will be explained further in the sequel. Overall, this was a good, dark tale of faeries and the humans that find out about them. Great for fans of Melissa Marr or Holly Black.

Maggie Stiefvater has a great website that lists more information about her books and short stories.

Friday, December 19, 2008

In Memory: A Poetry Friday Post

Threads of Her Journey
by Raymond A. Foss

A tapestry is being stitched
story by story,
step by step, thread by thread
Pictures of her life come alive
with threads of gold,
of silver, of royal purple,
of hope, of faith, of love
her story unfolding
in the fabric, the knitted
tapestry of her life.

This week's Poetry Friday post is in memory of a fellow blogger, Dewey.  Dewey's blog, The Hidden Side of a Leaf, was one of the first blogs that I started reading and, in my mind, she stood as an example of the very best things about blogging: great book recommendations, lively discussions, and community. She touched many lives in her blogging career and she will be very much missed.  This poem made me think of her because in the past couple of weeks, I've read so many wonderful stories about her in the blogosphere, about her generosity, her creativity, and her love of books.

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

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Must Love Black by Kelly McClymer Book Review

Must Love Black by Kelly McClymer
(Simon Pulse, Paperback)

Philippa has worn black for the last couple of years. She's not goth. It just makes it easier to pick out her outfit in the mornings and she doesn't have to worry about spills and stains. So when she sees an ad in the local paper that says, "Wanted: Nanny for 10-yr-old twins. MUST LOVE BLACK," it seems like a no-brainer. Philippa finds out that these twin girls are mature beyond their years and are in need of a little fun and love.

On one hand, this is a light love story about a wallflower who falls for a cute guy. On the other hand, this book is a story about loss and finding one's way back from the depression it brings. Philippa's mother died and now her dad is remarrying. When Philippa applies for the nanny job, she's trying to escape her new family and memories of her mom. When Philippa meets the twin girls, she learns that they've lost their mom, too. I thought it was touching that Philippa tries to make the over-serious girls have fun. She takes them sailing, makes them go swimming, and even talks their dad into buying them a pet. All the while, Philippa's own heart starts to heal as she realizes remembering her mother and mourning her are two different things. This is a short, cute book that deserves a read. The main fault I have with the book is the cover. This isn't a book about being goth and I think the cover belittles the subject matter.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Magician by Michael Scott Book Review

The Magician by Michael Scott
(Hardcover, Delacorte Press)

The Newman twins are back and this time their adventures take them to Paris. There they must come to terms with Sophie's new magical powers and help Nicholas Flamel recover the book that will maintain his immortality. The supposedly evil Dee has told Josh some stories that make him doubt his sister and Flamel. Is Josh just jealous because his powers haven't awakened yet or is Dee telling the truth?

The Magician is the second in The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series, picking up where The Alchemyst left off. I hadn't read The Alchemyst and normally, I hate jumping into a series without reading the first book. However, I picked up The Magician and found it very easy to get into the story of the twins, Josh and Sophie. Michael Scott does a great job explaining the events in the first book without spending too much time on the details. So even if you haven't read The Alchemyst, I recommend that you read The Magician and here's five reasons why...

#1. The gargoyles on the Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral come to life.#2. Nicholas Flamel visits his home, which is an actual building in Paris. Being a huge Harry Potter fan, I made a special side trip while in Paris to visit the Auberge Nicolas Flamel. Flamel makes an appearance in Harry Potter & The Sorcerer's Stone (or The Philosopher's Stone for all you folks abroad).

#3. There is a really cool battle scene on the River Seine where Josh fights an ancient creature. The creature was released in The Alchemyst when Dee destroyed Yggdrasil, the World Tree that is located at the center of the universe and is an important component of Norse mythology.

#4. One of Nicholas Flamel's friends magically sets off fireworks all around the Eiffel Tower. My picture isn't actually of fireworks, but this picture was taken at night and the Eiffel Tower was all lit up and sparkling. Apparently, it does that. If ever you're in Paris, head over to the Eiffel Tower around 11pm. It's an amazing sight to see.

#5. I saved the best for last. The exciting ending of The Magician takes place in the Catacombs of Paris. Now, thousands of bones piled into intricate patterns in the underground of Paris may sound like one author's creative imagination, but these Catacombs do really exist. I've been there. It's very spooky. And an utterly cool place to stage a book's final battle. The Catacombs were created in the 18th century because the graveyards of Paris were overflowing with bodies, causing disease to become rampant in neighboring dwellings.

You may be thinking that my obvious love affair for Paris has shaded my opinion of this book. I did take all these pictures myself and Paris remains one of my favorite cities. This book, however, is fantastic in its own right. Scott weaves together Norse, Greek, and Roman mythology ( and probably other mythologies that I just didn't recognize) in these books. It's easy to get caught up in the adventure and magic, and Josh and Sophie are complex, interesting characters, connected by their birth and yet highly individualized. I would recommend this series for anyone who likes the Percy Jackson series as well as anyone who likes books filled with magic and excitement.

**A note about spelling: In the books, Nicholas' name has an 'h' in it. On the actual building in Paris, the 'h' is left out.

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