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Results 1 - 25 of 2,894
1. Carry On, by Rainbow Rowell | Book Review

Author Rainbow Rowell has brought fanfiction to life in her 2015 novel, Carry On.

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2. Classic YA Discussion: Alanna, The First Adventure

Welcome to our discussion for Alanna: the First Adventure! Today we have a special guest joining us, the wonderful Aussie scifi/fantasy author Andrea K. Höst, author of the Touchstone trilogy and a Midnight Garden favorite, And All the Stars. Our backgrounds: Wendy has never read this before, but both Layla and Andrea have. This series seems beloved by most fantasy fans, so it seemed like a great selection for our classics series. *As always, please be aware there will be spoilers if you haven’t read this book yet. Wendy: Thanks for joining our chat today, Andrea! Andrea: Glad to be here!  And it’s a great excuse to refresh my memory: I read the Alanna series a long time ago – long enough that I’ve forgotten most of it (except some vague memories of not going swimming).  It’s a book on the younger end (main character goes from eleven to thirteen).... Read more »

The post Classic YA Discussion: Alanna, The First Adventure appeared first on The Midnight Garden.

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3. Review: An Ember in the Ashes

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir. Razorbill. 2015. Reviewed from ARC.

An Ember in the Ashes
The Plot: It's been 500 years since the Martials defeated the Scholars. At various times Rebellion has been threatened, but the Martials always destroy it.

Laia, 17, is a Scholar. The once studious and education people are now banned from anything hinting at learning. Laia lives with her older brother, Darin, and her grandparents, until the night their home is raided by the Martials and their terrible agents, the silver-faced Masks. Her grandparents are killed, Darin is arrested, and Laia flees into the night.

She stumbles upon rebels who agree to help her free her brother, for a price. Go into the heart of the Martial training ground and spy on their Commandment. To do so, she'll have to pretend to be a slave. But for Darin, she'll do it.

Elias, twenty, is a Martial who has been trained to be a Mask since the age of six. Except he has a secret, kept hidden and deep. He hates the death and torture and violence of what he his, of what he is trained to do. He doesn't want his face to be forever silver. He dreams of escape, even though it will dishonor his Grandfather, but anyone caught running away is brutally executed. As each day goes by, he finds himself increasingly bound to the Martials and to his friends and wondering if the only escape is death.

The Good: Read this book. Now. The only down side of reading this book ASAP is that the sequel is out next summer, and you're going to have to wait that long to find out what happens next.

Read this book. It is a wonderfully complex setting, influenced by the Roman Empire and other ancient cultures. Sometimes a cultural setting such as the one in An Ember in the Ashes either downplays or ignores the consequences and reality of its setting. This book does not do that; it is a brutal, violent world and both Laia and Elias have been shaped and formed by that brutality. (For those who wonder about the violence on the page, I'll put it this way. A book can describe a death in a sentence, a paragraph, a chapter -- this book goes for the sentence or two. Does it lessen the horror of that death? No, it doesn't drag it on for pages and pages.)

Laia masquerades as a slave, but, no, that's wrong. While Laia is spying, she is actually a slave and all that implies. She is owned by the Commandment, who can do anything she wants to the slaves she owns. Laia is beaten and whipped; her name is taken from her. Other slaves have been scarred, branded, mutilated. The possibility of sexual assault and rape is real. So she has to survive both the change in status from free to slave but also figuring out how to be a spy for the rebellion.

Elias has been trained since the age of six to become a Mask, like his mother and grandfather before him. (His mother is the Commandment.) He has seen children whipped to death; he has been beaten; he has killed. He has followed orders. He has become one of the top soldiers. And he hates it. One of the things I love about An Ember in the Ashes is that while it's easy to hate the Martial class and all that Elias is and represents, the reader can't help but like Elias and root for him. To like his friends and understand his loyalties.

If you're wondering, because there is a girl and a boy and it's a young adult book, whether there is a romance -- well, yes and no. Again, complexity! While Elias may look at Laia and see a pretty girl, Laia looks at Elias and sees a dangerous soldier. Elias also is the type who sees Laia as a pretty girl who is a slave so is someone who for that reason shouldn't be touched (not a sentiment towards slaves shared by others.) There's a young man who is a rebel who Laia begins to have feelings for, and Elias has feelings towards another soldier, a young woman, and he's trying to deny them. So this is more a rectangle than anything else, and very realistically done given the different positions of power people have.

The Martial Empire is HORRIBLE. I wouldn't want to live there. But, again with reasons I like this -- when Laia learns more about the history of the Scholars, she realizes that her history and society is more complex than good/bad, vanquished/conquered. Elias looks around him and doesn't like how the Empire treats people, and he may be alone in this. It's hard to tell, because to confess such things would to betrayal, punishment, torture, death. His friends, though, are also likable, though part of this may be that we only see them in a context where they aren't arresting and killing and torturing, though we know that is what they have been trained to do. And truth be told while the ways of his training are harsh and I'm running out of words that mean "brutal," it's also realistic in terms of what is needed to create the perfect killing machine -- and that appears to be the sole aim of Elias's training and schooling.

The ending -- the ending!!! Don't worry, it's a great ending for a first book in the series in that it both works well as an ending for this book but there is also a great lead in to what will happen in the next book. I don't feel cheated or frustrated; I just feel MORE MORE MORE.

And the plot is so great that I don't want to say a word about it.

One more thing. The women in this story! Of course, there is Laia, who will do anything to save her brother but has been fairly sheltered up to this point. Poor, sometimes hungry, but always loved and protected by her family. Her strength is in her ability to survive, to love, to do what it takes.

Then there is Helene. Female soldiers are only accepted once in a generation, and so she is not just the sole female in her class, she's the sole female in her school. She has to be twice as good, ignore twice as much, as those around her. The friendship between Elias and Hel is one of equality and respect.

And Elias's mother, the Commandant. She was the female soldier of her generation. And as the head of the school that trains and forms soldiers, she is the one that every student fears. She is the one every slave fears. And with good reason: punishments, torture, and death all take place at her whim.

There is the Lioness, a legendary head of the Rebellion, brilliant but ruthless and willing to sacrifice anything for her cause.

And there are Laia's fellow slaves, Kitchen Girl and Cook, who have survived years in the Commandant's house, watching other slaves come and go. (And by "go" I mean die, whether at their own hand or the result of the Commandant's brutality.) There is more to each of them . . . .

One more thing. With this book there is always one more thing. I recognized the ancient Rome references in names and family structure; Tahir's guest post at the Perpetual Page-Turner goes into that research, as well as the research needed for everything from weaponry to the names of the other nations and groups in the book.

ARGH. I want to revisit this world, even though I was so worried about Laia that at times I could read no more than a few chapters at a time. My heart just couldn't take it.

OF COURSE this is a Favorite Book of 2015.

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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

0 Comments on Review: An Ember in the Ashes as of 11/26/2015 6:13:00 AM
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4. Inventing a Language

When you create a language for your fantasy novel, you want it to sound as if it were real.


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5. Happy Mermaid Monday!

<< Purchase A Mermaid Calendar Here >>
Explore the mermaids amongst the ocean waters, swimming and resting with their fish and sea life companions. Let the bright and bold colors sweep you away into the underwater imagination of watercolor fantasy artist Sara Burrier.

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6. THE AUGUST FIVE Sadly Did Not Get a Five From Me

Review by Leydy THE AUGUST FIVEby Jenna HellandAge Range: 12 - 18 yearsHardcover: 320 pagesPublisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) (November 10, 2015)Goodreads | Amazon In a world rocked by revolt, your worst enemy can become your greatest hopeFourteen-year-old Tommy Shore lives a life of privilege: he has the finest clothing, food, and education available and servants to take care of his

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7. New book trailer for Emily and the Enchanted Wood!

Check out the book trailer for this fantasy adventure for children!

When in the enchanted wood, Emily finds she has a surprising connection with her little dog and all of the other animals.  When she discovers she needs to help rid the wood of marauding goblins, she must work with the animals to bring peace back to the woodland realm.

Front cover


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8. The Impostor Queen glossary + giveaway

Today, we’re kicking off a mini tour for Sarah Fine’s upcoming book The Impostor Queen! Sarah is one of our favorite authors here at The Midnight Garden, and we’re all pretty excited about her new series. About the Book: Publication Date: January 5th, 2015 The elders chose Elli to be queen, but they chose wrong in this beautifully crafted novel in the tradition of Kristin Cashore and Victoria Aveyard. Sixteen-year-old Elli was a small child when the Elders of Kupari chose her to succeed the Valtia, the queen who wields infinitely powerful ice and fire magic. Since then, Elli has lived in the temple, surrounded by luxury and tutored by priests, as she prepares for the day when the Valtia perishes and the magic finds a new home in her. Elli is destined to be the most powerful Valtia to ever rule. But when the queen dies defending the kingdom... Read more »

The post The Impostor Queen glossary + giveaway appeared first on The Midnight Garden.

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9. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine is a creative retelling of Cinderella. As a baby, Ella was cursed by a fairy to obey any orders that were given to her, no matter what they were. So when her mother dies and her father remarries, Ella must live with her stepsisters, Hattie and Olive. Quickly, Hattie discovers that Ella will obey her and uses that knowledge to her advantage. Instead of being treated as an equal, Ella is forced to be her stepfamily's servant.

Ella meets Prince Char. Together, they have exciting adventures. Slowly, they fall in love, but she knows that if she marries him, an enemy of the throne could command her to do something awful to him. She struggles to protect him and break the curse, but it seems impossible with such a burden as hers. Will she ever gain the freedom required to be with her true love?


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10. CRIMSON BOUND by Rosamund Hodge }} What did I just read?

Review by Elisa CRIMSON BOUNDby Rosamund HodgeHardcover: 448 pagesPublisher: Balzer + Bray (May 5, 2015)Language: EnglishAmazon | Goodreads An exhilarating tale of darkness, love, and redemption inspired by the classic fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood and the extravagant court of Versailles, from the author of Cruel Beauty. A doomed warrior and the king's most notorious bastard must join

0 Comments on CRIMSON BOUND by Rosamund Hodge }} What did I just read? as of 11/8/2015 12:39:00 AM
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Review by Leydy AN INHERITANCE OF ASHES by Leah BobetAge Range: 12 and up Grade Level: 7 and upHardcover: 400 pagesPublisher: Clarion Books (October 6, 2015)Goodreads | Amazon The strange war down south—with its rumors of gods and monsters—is over. And while sixteen-year-old Hallie and her sister wait to see who will return from the distant battlefield, they struggle to maintain their family

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12. Happy Fairy Friday

Original Painting Available Here: 

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13. The Rest of Us Just Live Here: Review

It finally happened. A book was special enough, funny enough, heartfelt enough, and just downright good enough to break the spell. My awful slump might be officially over; and it’s all thanks to Patrick Ness’ sly, hilarious, wry, and absolutely on point observations on growing up and what it means to move on. What is this book even about? It’s hard to pigeonhole this one into a genre! It’s sort of fantasy, sort of paranormal, sort of sci-fi…but it’s not really any of those things. There are definite supernatural happenings going on in the background. But this is very purposefully a book that is not about those happenings. The point is that there are regular, ordinary (well,for the most part) citizens who are just trying to continue going about their lives, even in the midst of very obvious supernatural turmoil. This book is about the ordinary people who just keep... Read more »

The post The Rest of Us Just Live Here: Review appeared first on The Midnight Garden.

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14. Book Cover Competition

My book cover has reached the semi-finals in a great competition run by the Authorsdb website. I would be very grateful if anyone would be willing to follow the link to the site and vote for my cover, if you think it deserves it! Thank you very much if you can.

Vote here please!

Caution - cover FINAL with quote from Piers

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15. A Creative and Clever Standalone }} DREAMSTRIDER by Lindsay Smith

Review by Paola   DREAMSTRIDER by Lindsay Smith Age Range: 12 - 18 yearsHardcover: 400 pagesPublisher: Roaring Brook Press (October 6, 2015)Language: EnglishGoodreads | Amazon A high-concept, fantastical espionage novel set in a world where dreams are the ultimate form of political intelligence.Livia is a dreamstrider. She can inhabit a subject's body while they are sleeping and, for a

0 Comments on A Creative and Clever Standalone }} DREAMSTRIDER by Lindsay Smith as of 11/2/2015 11:19:00 PM
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16. Once Upon a Saga – Fables and the Art of Long-Form Storytelling

By Nick Cross

After 13 years, 14 Eisner Awards, 150 issues and almost 6,000 pages, the Vertigo comic book series Fables has reached its end. What began as a simple postmodern twist on fairy tales quickly evolved into a sprawling, beautiful, dark, engrossing, ambitious and occasionally frustrating saga. As I closed the cover on the final volume, I felt both exhilaration and the sad pang of loss. Under those circumstances, it seemed only fitting to introduce this tremendous grown-up comic series to a wider audience and also take the opportunity to explore the challenge of writing truly long-form stories.

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17. The Glass Sentence AND The Golden Specific by S. E. Grove, 528 pp, RL 5

The Glass Sentence by S. E. Grove is an ambitious, original novel that draws comparisons to the standard bearer of high fantasy for children's literature, Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy which begins with The Golden Compass. In fact, Megan Whalen Turner, author of the superb quartet that begins with The Thief says that not since  The Golden Compass has she seen such "an original and compelling world built inside a book." And, while the compliments and comparisons are warranted, I share the "quivery receptivity" and tentative enthusiasm that Gregory Maguire expressed for this book in his review of The Glass Sentence in the New York Times on June 13, 2014. Grove brings some truly amazing concepts and creations to the table, but sometimes what she does and where she goes with them don't quite do justice to the world she builds and the plot she sets in motion. In spite of this, I am anxious to see where she goes with her story eagerly await the third and final book in this trilogy.

Grove, who says she is an "historian and dedicated traveler," was raised in the United States and Central America, her parents being from both places. One of the most exciting things about The Glass Sentence is that it is set in America and South America, where most high fantasy is set in England and Europe. The Glass Sentence begins with a prologue, a first person account of the "Great Disruption" that occurred some 90 years earlier on July 16, 1799. Writing to her grandson, Shadrack, Bostonian Elizabeth Elli describes  the moment of the break in time that left her suspended over the river her young self was about to jump into. In that moment of suspension, she saw the natural world around her pass through a full year of seasons. Only later did she, and the rest of Boston and eventually the world, discover what happened. The Great Disruption, as Maguire aptly and precisely says, "shattered the normal progress of time and arrangement of nations and eras." The North Atlantic region, now called "New Occident," seems to be on the proper timeline, although Florida is called "Seminole" and the states west of Georgia are "New Akan." The rest of the country, now reverted to unsettled territory, is known as the Badlands or Indian Territory. And New Occident runs on a twenty hour day. 

When the novel begins, we get a rich glimpse of the new political system that has evolved since the world has been tipped into chaos. Young Sophia Tims sits in the sweltering heat of the Boston State House where "the eighty-eight men and two women rich enough to procure their positions" make up the parliament, which is voting to decide on the closing of the borders of New Occident. In 1832, seeking a less corrupt and violent government, it was decided that both seats in the parliament and the opportunity to speak before the parliament would become occasions that must be bought. Thanks to a benefactor, Sophia's uncle, Shadrack Elli, has paid for four minutes and thirteen seconds during which he speaks for keeping the borders open. Elli is the country's greatest cartologer and cartology, (mapmaking is no longer two dimensional) after the Great Disruption, is now a bit like Lyra's reading of the Golden Compass. It involves memories and emotions that are woven into the map itself, and maps can be made of any kind of materials. Truly reading a map is now a bit like having an out-of-body experience and seeing the world through another's eyes. Sophia is learning these skills from her uncle, who understandably does not want communications cut off from this strange new world. Also, both Shadrack and Sophia want the borders open when her parents, who disappeared eight years earlier while on an expedition to help a fellow explorer, might return.

Shortly after the vote to close the borders, Shadrack is kidnapped, his study and map collection ransacked. Sophia finds a hidden map meant for her and, joining forces with Theo, a Badlands boy who ran away from a traveling circus, the two try to make their way to the one person who can help them find Shadrack. By train, boat and wagon, the two travel to the Port of Veracruz then on to Nochtland. A lively band of pirates, captained by Calixta, who I really wanted to see more of, aid the children. A kindly trader named Mazapán who once made his living making marzipan creations for the royals, where everything on the table, from the cloth to the plates to the floral decorations, was made of sugar, also helps Sophia when Theo disappears. There is also the Lachrima, which is a creature sort of like a Dementor, that leaves you unbearably sad and weepy, a creation I am not doing justice to. There are also the Nihilismians, a group that believes that, post the Great Disruption, the world around is a false one. A scholarly group, also prone to evil (the Sandman faction of the group  wear grappling hooks on their belts and submerge people in giant hourglasses), they have archives where they collect accounts from all over the world of time slips. Employed by a veiled woman named Blanca, the Nihilismians are the bad guys in this book, but it was never really clear to me why or for what reason they were so. 

Grove clearly loves spending time in the world that she created, and her characters love to tell stories about their lives and the lives of their loved ones in this world. At a certain point, I felt like almost half of The Glass Sentence was made of characters retelling events in the past. I suppose that this makes sense in a world where time has been fractured and humanity has been altered (some humans bear the "Mark of the Vine," which means they are, in some way, part plant, where others have the "Mark of Iron," and so on) but it also makes for minimal movement among the characters. While I definitely appreciate a work of fantasy that does not rely on constant action to move a story forward, the slow pace of The Glass Sentence does not always deliver the gifts of pacing that I would hope, such as character development. This also makes the world that Grove created feel a bit limitless and without parameters which, in a Dr, Who kind of way, means she can continually introduce new characters, creatures and events to the world. Grove brings The Glass Sentence to an exciting and (knowing this is a trilogy) satisfying end, but it also left me wanting to know more.

Which is why I downloaded the audiobook for The Golden Specific the minute it was released!

The Golden Specific feels like a much stronger, coherent, specific book by Grove, and the continuing story of Sophia and Theo is richer for it. Book 2 finds Sophia and Theo on different continents, both seeking answers. Sophia is still trying to find the whereabouts of her parents. A ghostly presence leads her to a Nihilismian Archive where she is helped by a strangely (for Nihilismians) kind girl. Sophia decides to head to a foreign Age in the Papal States where her parents were last seen and where her mother's diary is being held in a Nihilismian Archive, taking mysterious cargo across the seas with her. She lands in a city devastated by the Plague, a disease with its own strange traits specific to this Age, along with a woman who bears the Mark of the Plant named Goldenrod. She can see the future and produce flowers from her palms. They team up with a Robin Hood-type hunter named Errol who lost his brother to the Plague and is still haunted by his ghost. With the help of a strange map, Sophia tries to find her way to the elusive Ausentinia, a land where you can find anything you have lost. In Sophia's story, readers learn more about the quest that her parents were on and the events that hindered them.

Meanwhile, Theo is stuck in Boston, trying to save Shadrack and his best friend Miles from charges that they murdered the Prime Minister, Cyrill Bligh, who is found stabbed in Elli's study. Theo finds two unlikely friends as he attempts to unravel this political crime. First, Theo hires Winnie, an urchin who hangs out at the State House, to deliver him information. A curious, charismatic MP named Broadgirdle has stepped in to fill the vacancy left after the murder and steer the nation towards exploration, by way of war, of the west. Theo disguises himself and gets a job working for Broadgirdle while at the same time befriending the (seemingly) simpering, spoiled Nettie Grey, daughter of the great detective, Roscoe Grey. Nettie, it turns out, uses her spoiled girl persona as a front, allowing her to sneak around town and dig up clues to for her father's cases. Then, having Grey wrapped around her little finger, she feeds him the clues, making him look like Sherlock Holmes. Together, Nettie and Theo dig up clues, which lead to a deeper mystery involving the Eerie, a spiritual, magical people from the west who number among them Weatherers, people who can reverse the effects of the Great Disruption that cause people to turn into Lachrima, or the Wailing. The two plot paths of Sophia and Theo cross in an amazing way by the end of The Golden Specific in a very fantastic way that, while still wishing that aspects of The Glass Sentence could be more unified and streamlined, makes me all the more anxious for the conclusion of this trilogy.

Source: Review Copy - The Glass Sentence 
Source: Purchased Audio books, The Glass Sentence 
and  The Golden Specific  

0 Comments on The Glass Sentence AND The Golden Specific by S. E. Grove, 528 pp, RL 5 as of 10/30/2015 5:09:00 AM
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18. Impressionable Portraits

Long ago, in a land far, far away (okay, like a few streets away...literally) I used to sit and draw conté portraits in a mall. My boyfriend at the time worked for a shop, who allowed me to sit right in front offering my services. At the time I did it because I could and it made me a little money during high school. But to be honest, I didn't see it as something to rave about or be excited about.

c. 1999

Fast forward almost 20 years, and I can tell you that my view on portraiture has changed...dramatically.

Hand drawn portraiture brings a perspective, quality, and etherial impression a photograph lacks without professional editing. And this is exactly what I hope to bring to you. The act of drawing a portrait is very personal, challenging, and a HUGE honor and gift given to me as the artist.

I have this daydream to hand draw children, friends, and family into fairies and angels. I am starting this new service using colored pencil while I build my watercolor techniques in this subject matter. The idea behind Impressionable Portraits is they are lifelike, and look very close to the realistic photo, but with a hint of whimsy and sketchiness found only in drawing. They are not intended to be photo realistic, but definitely to look a lot like the person being drawn.

c. 2015

I am currently taking commission requests for these portraits, and still have room to get some done before the Christmas holiday. They take about a week to create. Please visit my request page, fill out the information form, and in the subject line write "Impressionable Portrait".

These are 5x7 inch colored pencil drawings for a flat fee of $200. Sprayed and matted in a white mat, ready to be placed in an 8x10 frame.

All I need is the photo, if it's fairy or angel wings, color palette, and something of interest to the individual. 

It's my wish to provide an image filled with wonder, joy, and light around a person you love dearly. As a gift, or for yourself.

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19. MIRRORED by Alex Flinn {Mirror mirror on the wall, who's the mostboring book of all?}

Review by Natalie MIRROREDby Alex FlinnSeries: Kendra Chronicles (Book 3)Hardcover: 384 pagesPublisher: HarperTeen (September 15, 2015)Language: EnglishAmazon | Goodreads Celine's life is the stuff fairy tales are made of. She's beautiful, talented, and brave. Unfortunately, her tale comes complete with a wicked stepmother! When Violet steps into Celine's life, everything changes and weird

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20. SERPENTINE by Cindy Pon }} Diverse and Imaginitive

Review by Sara SERPENTINEby Cindy PonAge Range: 12 and up Grade Level: 7 and upSeries: SerpentinePaperback: 300 pagesPublisher: Month9Books, LLC (September 8, 2015)Amazon | Goodreads Inspired by the rich history of Chinese mythology, this sweeping fantasy is set in the ancient Kingdom of Xia and tells the coming of age story of Skybright, a young girl who worries about her growing otherness.

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21. Review: Shadows of Sherwood

Shadows of Sherwood (Robyn Hoodlum)by Kekla Magoon. Bloomsbury USA Children's Books. 2015. Review copy from publisher.

Media of Shadows of Sherwood
The Plot: A Robin Hood retelling, with Robyn Loxley as a twelve year old girl who seeks her imprisoned parents and allies herself with the have-nots of her world.

The Good: I love retellings, I love seeing what is kept, what is changed, how it's updated.

Confession: this is one of those books that while I'd heard a bunch of buzz, I'd avoided most reviews, wanting to read it fresh. The cover told me that the retelling was also updating the setting, putting Robyn in a modern world.

Well, I was wrong. And right. Yes, it's a modern world but it's not our modern world. The technology seems about fifty years in the future; the city is Nott City, and the discussion of the city and its surroundings, while matching the Robin Hood tales, doesn't match our own geography. So it's not just a retelling; it's a fantasy, in that it's not our world. But it's so close to our world, that even non-fantasy readers will enjoy it. And the names of places and people will make those familiar with Robin Hood smile: Loxley Manor, the Castle District, people named Tucker and Scarlet and Merryan.

Robyn is amazing. Awesome. Courageous, stubborn, smart -- and a bit spoiled. She's the child of privilege who likes to sneak out at night. It's the sneaking out that saves her, when her politically involved parents are taken as part of a coup. Suddenly, she's without anything or anyone and is forced beyond the borders of her comfortable life. For example: Robyn isn't even familiar with money or trading, because chips and credit have always covered her needs. But as she meets others -- a young girl living on her own, a boy who is hiding something -- she adjusts. Forced to be an enemy of those in charge, she quickly sides with the others who are enemies of those in power: the poor, those without connections, those living hand to mouth.

Robyn is biracial; her parents, and their backgrounds, are part of the story and even mystery Robyn is trying to uncover. Mystery may be the wrong word; but while her parents now have powerful connections and jobs, allowing for Robyn's very upper class upbringing, Shadows of Sherwood quickly sketches in the background of their lives and world. And their background is what targeted them during the current coup, and their lives before Robyn's birth is part of what she needs to learn more about to figure out her own present and future. Robyn's hair is braided, and it turns out it's a distinctive style taught to her by her father. It's unique; and when she is alone, seeing another with the same style of braid is one of those clues. While this is not our world, it's a world where skin color and money matter, just in different ways. So while there is the adventure of survival, and helping others, there is also the mystery of the past and the future and finding her parents.

This is the start of a series, and so it's Robyn's origin story. Who she was. How she becomes Robyn Hoodlum, robbing from the rich to give to the poor. With that told; and with the start of her "merry band" coming together, I look forward to what Robyn and her crew will do next.

Because Robyn is terrific. Because the world building is so full. Because it's an inventive retelling that is also true to the source. Because I want more. Shadows of Sherwood is a Favorite Book of 2015.

Meanwhile, while waiting for more Robyn, over at Nerdy Book Club the author, Kekla Magoon, shares a bit about writing this book.

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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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22. Is this Abuse Acceptable? NAMELESS by Jennifer Jenkin

Discussion by Andye NAMELESSby Jennifer JenkinAge Range: 12 and up Grade Level: 7 and upSeries: NamelessPaperback: 336 pagesPublisher: Month9Books, LLC (October 6, 2015)Amazon | Goodreads Four clans have been at war for centuries: the Kodiak, the Raven, the Wolf, and the Ram. Through brutal war tactics, the Ram have dominated the region, inflicting death and destruction on their neighbors.

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23. The Princess in Black and the Perfect Princess Party by Shannon Hale & Dean Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham, 89 pp, RL 2

Last year I reviewed and loved Princess in Black by Shannon and Dean Hale and superbly illustrated by LeUeyn Pham and I am so excited to be reviewing the second book in the series a year later, The Princess in Black and the Perfect Princess PartyThe way I see it, with Princess Magnolia, the Hales and Pham have created a character and series that hits all my literary sweet spots: a high interest chapter book that is a perfect bridge between leveled readers and chapter books, a character who is all things - a princess with her own unicorn and a secret double life fighting monsters. Magnolia can go from wearing a pouffy pink gown and tiara while having tea with the Duchess Wigtower to a black booted, masked and caped crusader with a scepter that turns into a staff for battle and Pham brings her to life with vivid, action filled panache. Best of all, the Princess in Black books are sweet and playful and not the least bit saccharine. 

In The Princess in Black and the Perfect Princess Party, Magnolia is preparing for her birthday party and the eleven princesses (and their steeds) who will be attending the party. Just as they begin to arrive, Magnolia's "glitter-stone ring rang." Monsters are leaving Monster Land, Duff the goat boy's flock is in danger and the Princess in Black needs to perform her signature moves, like the Tiara Trip and the Tentacle Tangle, on them to make everything right with the world again.
Just when Magnolia thinks she can get back to her guests, the party games, the cake and the presents, her glitter-stone ring goes off again. And again. Magnolia juggles her responsibilities admirably. Until she doesn't. My favorite part of The Princess in Black and the Perfect Princess Party are the princesses themselves. Pham's illustrations of Princess Sneezewort, Princess Zinnia, Princess Honeysuckle, Princess Hyacinth, Princess Apple Blossom, Princess Bluebell, Princess Euphoria, Princess Tulip, Princess Crocus, Princess Snapdragon, and Princess Jasmine bring to mind an updated rendering of the singing dolls from the It's a Small World ride at Disneyland, in the best way possible, without the singing. I couldn't stop poring over the pages, taking in all the details. Now, I need to get this books onto the shelves of my library because students have been asking for it for weeks!
Coming February 2016!!!

Source: Review Copy

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24. Happy Mermaid Monday!

Happy Mermaid Monday!
Limited Edition Print Here:

My biggest inspiration ever was Ariel from Disney's The Little Mermaid. She sparked my interest in fairytales, challenged me in drawing, and has always made me swoon to the endless possibilities through dreaming. I created this piece a while back thinking of her, she is timeless to me.

Which mermaid has inspired you throughout the years?
★ Comment below and I'll enter you into a drawing to win a handmade bookmark of this piece! ★

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25. Hook’s Revenge, The Pirate Code: guest post!

One of my favorite people on the planet is Heidi Shulz. She’s the author of the delightfully funny book Hook’s Revenge, which was one of my favorite debuts from last year–and now its sequel The Pirate Code is out! Heidi was actually in Los Angeles last month, and I got to celebrate the book’s release day with her. In the first photo, we’d just eaten mountains of pasta in Venice Beach, and Heidi is beaming over a plate of cannoli. <3 Here’s more about the new book: Fresh off a fearsome encounter with the Neverland crocodile, Jocelyn Hook decides the most practical plan is to hunt down her father’s famous fortune. After all, she’ll need the gold to fund her adventuring in the future. (And luckily, Hook left her the map.) But the map proves to be a bit harder to crack than Jocelyn had hoped, and she’s convinced that... Read more »

The post Hook’s Revenge, The Pirate Code: guest post! appeared first on The Midnight Garden.

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