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"I thought you might sleep through it." The creature smiled. Saki's voice was little more than a whisper. "Sleep through what?" It leaned over. She stared into its will-o'-the-wisp eyes. "The Night Parade, of course."
The last thing Saki Yamamoto wants to do for her summer vacation is trade in exciting Tokyo for the antiquated rituals and bad cell reception of her grandmother's village. Preparing for the Obon ceremony is boring. Then the local kids take interest in Saki and she sees an opportunity for some fun, even if it means disrespecting her family's ancestral shrine on a malicious dare. But as Saki rings the sacred bell, the darkness shifts. A death curse has been invoked...and Saki has three nights to undo it. With the help of three spirit guides and some unexpected friends, Saki must prove her worth-or say goodbye to the world of the living forever...
In writing your story, did you ever find yourself concerned with how to best approach "edgy" behavior on the part of your characters? If so, what were your thoughts, and what did you conclude? Why do you think your decision was the right one?
Though my protagonist certainly isn’t the most “edgy” in terms of behavior, she does start the story with a pretty big chip on her shoulder.
Saki’s act of rebellion is the catalyst that sets off the main events of the plot, so it had to be significant enough to provoke consequences without losing too much sympathy for her character.
To find this balance, her motivation was the key. From the beginning, Saki is a flawed hero with a lot of internal conflict; she’s trying to manage a toxic adolescent social life and her own need for acceptance from her peers, so it’s understandable when she caves to some of that pressure and makes a few bad decisions.
Making a big mistake may seem like the end of the world to a lot of people—and Saki certainly thinks so in the story—but I decided right from the concept stage that I wanted to deconstruct that idea. A lot of the books I read growing up had a protagonist with a very strong sense of self, but Saki doesn’t have that yet. Her weaknesses are very human, and sometimes even a little petty. She’s still getting to know the person she’s becoming and that’s okay. Another key theme of the story is forgiveness, and Saki’s journey is all about second chances.
As a fantasy writer, going in, did you have a sense of how events/themes in your novel might parallel or speak to events/issues in our real world? Or did this evolve over the course of many drafts?
Writing longhand in Osaka
The theme certainly evolved as the characters found their voices, but a sense of duality was there from the very beginning: city and country, young and old, modern and traditional, humans and spirits.
Anytime these things are put side-by-side there’s a tendency to pit them against one another. Go one step further and people start to separate themselves based on these perceived qualities.
One of the major themes of Saki’s story is finding the balance. Part of her journey towards self-discovery is recognizing that she can be dynamic and adaptable, and that she can inhabit more than one world at a time. In a world that seems increasingly divided in its thinking, I believe that’s a quality we should all aspire toward.
On a more concrete level, the story speaks to the issues of age, multi-generational families and tradition. Saki understands on some level why some of the rituals her family performs during the Obon holidays are important, but until she has an experience of her own she doesn’t feel as connected to the tradition.
Younger generations worldwide are facing similar experience gaps. The world we live in now is simply not the same as the world our parents and grandparents grew up in, so unless we invest some of our time in communication there is a lot we risk losing. Fittingly, this was one of the themes that took the longest to mature.
In both fantasy and reality, understanding the past is usually the surest way to help prepare for a brighter future.
Following his father’s puzzling disappearance and his mother’s death, ten-year-old Samuel Baker goes through the motions of living in a world turned upside down. He wears an Apache talisman, a long ago gift from his father, in hopes its promise of strength and guidance is true. But what he truly wants is the power to bring his parents back.
Heartless Aunt Janis is elated at the prospect of becoming Samuel’s legal guardian. She is sure an orphan boy will elicit such an outpouring of public sympathy that her husband will win his Senate bid by a landslide. But when Grandpa Tate arrives, things don’t go as expected, especially when black lightning strikes!
Read an Excerpt:
Samuel stood beside his mother’s rain-speckled casket. He had cried his tears dry, so there was no point in trying to find more.
“Chin up, young man,” Aunt Janis said as her fingers nudged Samuel’s jaw upward. “Death is just part of life, and our photographer needs a good picture of you for the newspapers.”
A camera flashed, leaving Samuel’s red and swollen eyes burning as if stung by the sun instead of grief.
So many important days had come and gone without his father, but surely he would come home today, wouldn’t he? Samuel closed his eyes. He pretended his father was beside him holding his hand. They had a right to hold hands, he told himself. Not because he was ten, but because it was his mother’s funeral. Two years had passed since his father left, never to be seen again. Vanished, was the word his mother had used. Into thin air, she’d said.
“Take that silly thing off.” Aunt Janis flicked Samuel’s wood and bead necklace.
“No,” he said and shook his head. “My dad gave it to me.” It was a pinewood tile, the size of a domino shaved nickel-thin, which hung from a leather cord around his neck. Burned onto the front side of the wood was a lightning bolt. Its flipside bore the blackened imprint of a tribal dancer. It had a turquoise nugget and a shiny black hematite bead strung together on each side. His father had given the talisman to him with a promise: It will guide you and give you strength when you need it most.
Today, dressed in a black suit and starchy white shirt, Samuel wore it in hopes the promise was true.
As mourners gathered, Samuel’s friend Brian came to stand beside him. “Hey,” he said.
“Hey,” Samuel answered without taking his eyes off the casket.
“Is that the necklace your dad gave you? You don’t usually wear it.” Brian’s wire-rimmed glasses slid down his straight arrow nose. He pushed them back up the bridge with one finger until they encircled his eyes again. “Can I see it? I promise I’ll give it right back.”
“It’s not a necklace.” Samuel pulled the leather cord off over his head, mussing his overgrown blond hair. “It’s a talisman.” He handed it to Brian. “My dad said it would help me, but it hasn’t done anything yet. I think it was just one of his stories. It’s probably just an old piece of scrap wood with a couple rocks tied to it.”
Brian shrugged after examining the piece then he handed it back to Samuel. “I think it’s cool. You should keep wearing it anyway.”
Nodding, Samuel hung the talisman around his neck again, but this time he dropped it down beneath his shirt where it was no longer visible. It felt warm against his skin.
“Has anybody told you where you’re going to live now?” Brian asked.
“Probably with Aunt Janis and Uncle Jack.”
Brian frowned. He kicked the tip of his shoe into the muddy soil. “They live so far away. Why can’t you just stay here and live with Mrs. Abel? She doesn’t have any kids.”
Mrs. Abel was their fourth grade teacher. She had plainly stated to all who would listen that her job was to teach the proper use of the English language to children who behaved properly. A babysitter, she had said, she was not. Today, she stood in the rain with the other mourners, eyeing the ground where the hem of her long, gray dress lay caked in mud. Tufts of brown hair jutted out from under her pink plaid scarf. Even though she stood a few feet from him, she had not spoken to Samuel since his mother’s death. Few people had. Everyone had words for Aunt Janis and they talked to Uncle Jack, but no one but Brian and a few classmates had spoken to him. Maybe talking to an orphan was harder than talking to a normal kid.
“If you’ve forgotten the magic that lives in a child’s heart, this book will remind you. Black Lightning is a rare and beautiful mythic journey about one boy’s struggle with paralyzing grief and the powerful bonds that can carry a person through this world and beyond...” W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O’Neal Gear USA TODAY and NEW YORK TIMES bestselling authors of People of the Thunder
Meet the Author:
Everyone has a story. Tell it so well that the world listens!
Karen (K.S.) Jones grew up in California, but now lives in the beautiful Texas Hill Country northwest of San Antonio with her husband, Richard, and their dogs Jack Black, Libby Loo, and Red Bleu. Black Lightning is her first middle-grade novel. She credits her love of fantasy to the early influences of authors J.R.R. Tolkien, Jules Verne, and H.G. Wells. Her award-winning first novel, Shadow of the Hawk, a Young Adult Historical, released in 2015.
by Becca & Andye (squee!)
THE ROSE & THE DAGGERThe Wrath and the Dawn #2by Renee AhdiehAge Range: 12 and up Grade Level: 7 and upSeries: The Wrath and the DawnHardcover: 432 pagesPublisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers (April 26, 2016)Audio CDPublisher: Listening Library (Audio); Unabridged edition (May 3, 2016)Goodreads | Amazon | Audible
The much anticipated sequel to the
A TYRANNY OF PETTICOATS: 15 Stories of Belles, Bank Robbers & Other Badass Girls
Edited by: Jessica Spotswood
Hardcover: 368 pages
Published by: Candlewick Press (March 8, 2016)
Goodreads | Amazon
From an impressive sisterhood of YA writers comes an edge-of-your-seat anthology of historical fiction and fantasy featuring a diverse array of daring heroines.
Review by Natalie
FIRSTLIFEEverlife #1by Gena ShowalterSeries: An Everlife NovelHardcover: 480 pagesPublisher: Harlequin Teen (February 23, 2016)Language: EnglishGoodreads | Amazon
Tenley "Ten" Lockwood is an average seventeen-year-old girl…who has spent the past thirteen months locked inside the Prynne Asylum. The reason? Not her obsession with numbers, but her refusal to let her parents
THE GLITTERING COURT
By Richelle Mead
Series: Glittering Court #1
Hardcover: 416 pages
Publisher: Razorbill (April 5th, 2016)
Goodreads | Amazon
The Selection meets Reign in this dazzling trilogy of interwoven
novels about three girls on a quest for freedom and true love from #1
internationally bestselling author Richelle Mead.
select group of
Review by Sara..
THE GLITTERING COURT
By Richelle Mead
Series: Glittering Court #1
Hardcover: 416 pages
Publisher: Razorbill (April 5th, 2016)
Goodreads | Amazon
The Selection meets Reign in this dazzling trilogy of interwoven novels about three girls on a quest for freedom and true love from #1 internationally bestselling author Richelle Mead.For a select group
Review by Sara...
THE MIRROR KING
The Orphan Queen #2
By Jodi Meadows
Hardcover: 544 pages
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (April 5, 2016)
Goodreads | Amazon
Wilhelmina has a hundred enemies.HER FRIENDS HAVE TURNED. After her identity is revealed during the Inundation, Princess Wilhelmina is kept prisoner by the Indigo Kingdom, with the Ospreys lost somewhere in
I will give Victoria Schwab credit: she sure knows how to build a captivating world full of deftly defined characters, and a creeping, sentient magic. It also doesn’t hurt that she has in her arsenal the capacity to wield a wicked sentence or two. But it’s a strange feeling when you give a book a 3 star rating, yet still feel as though you are a black sheep. I was absolutely enchanted by the first volume, but this one didn’t quite hit the same mark for me. We pick up the story four months after the events of A Darker Shade of Magic. Lila has taken her adventuring to the high seas in her delightfully audacious quest to see “everything.” Kell and Rhy are left behind in Red London struggling with the consequences of the powerful decisions made at the end of the first book. Their storylines converge when all... Read more »
Lewis Carroll, J.R.R. Tolkein, and Philip Pullman are three of the many great writers to come out of Oxford, whose stories are continually reimagined and enjoyed through the use of media and digital technologies. The most obvious example for Carroll's Alice in Wonderland are the many adaptations in [...]
Review by Krista
Glass Sword (Red Queen #2) by Victoria Aveyard
Length: 14 hrs and 39 mins
Narrated By Amanda Dolan
Series: Red Queen, Book 2
Release Date: 02-09-16
If there’s one thing Mare Barrow knows, it’s that she’s different.Mare Barrow’s blood is red—the color of common folk—but her Silver ability, the power to control lightning, has turned her into a weapon that the royal
There’s a short answer and a long one. The short: in January 2012, popular YA author Libba Bray gave a speech to over a hundred writers at Vermont College of Fine Arts in which she brought us through the ups and downs of her writing career.
Three times in the course of an hour she said, “Don’t go writing your hot pterodactyl boyfriend novel.” She meant that we shouldn’t slavishly follow the trends. But I was struck by the phrase.
When I approached her afterwards and said that I was getting an idea, she encouraged me to follow up, and a little later the whole first chapter, in which the pterodactyl, Pyke, arrives at Vista View High in a calamitous fashion – by landing unceremoniously on the cross-country running champion, Jocelyne Legault – more or less fell out on the page for me.
The longer answer takes me back more than ten years when I was riding a train from Toronto to Ottawa. I had been at some publishing event or other, and was full of the possibility of new stories.
The train rounded a bend and Lake Ontario came into sight. On a rock by the shore a great blue heron, which looked like an ancient creature, pierced me with his gaze. It was the oddest feeling – I felt locked in direct communication with an intelligence not only from another species, but from a vastly different time.
Seconds later the landscape changed, the heron was gone, but I pulled out my pad and scribbled furiously for several pages about a heron who is able to change into a man at will, and who wanders into the big city from time to time almost as a vacation from his usual existence.
After a time I stopped writing because I realized I didn’t know enough about herons to proceed. Over the years, I worked on several versions of this story, and got sidetracked with an interest in Kafka, whose "The Metamorphosis" (1915) famously envisioned a man who wakes up one morning transformed into a bug. I was drawn to the idea of introducing something startlingly unreal and fantastical, but continuing the rest of the story in as realistic a fashion as possible. I was also, like so many others, attracted by the dreamlike nature of Kafka’s writing.
The story morphed and became at least two entirely different novel-length manuscripts that sputtered for various reasons and never quite worked. And then: “Don’t go writing your hot pterodactyl boyfriend novel.” I was seized with yet another possibility to work with some of the same ideas and influences, and perhaps not take it so seriously this time.
What was the timeline from spark to publication, and what were the major events along the way?
U.S. cover art
That first chapter poured out of me within a day or two of hearing Libba Bray speak in January 2012. I sent a full draft to my agent, Ellen Levine, in late December 2013, so it took me about two years to write much of the manuscript.
During most of that time I told nobody what I was working on. I like the freedom to go wherever I want on the page and to fail privately in ridiculous ways if need be.
After that strong opening chapter fell out, I slowly went over that material again and again for clues about how the story must proceed with these characters in the situation they find themselves in.
Before showing the draft to Ellen, of course, I got feedback from my wife Suzanne, and from friends and family, and made it as strong as I could.
Ellen contacted me enthusiastically in February 2014 and I worked on some more revisions for her. She sent it out to publishers in March and, although a lot of editors passed on it, we did get offers in April, with Caitlyn Dlouhy at Atheneum winning out.
I was way up north in Dawson City, Yukon Territory, Canada at the time as writer-in-residence at Berton House when the phone line to New York started to burn up. It was exciting and strange, to be so far away and yet to have such interest suddenly welling up about my unusual pterodactyl novel. (Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend, it turns out, is the first novel of mine to be published simultaneously in Canada, the United States, the U.K. and elsewhere.)
U.K. cover art
I got a chance to meet Caitlyn in New York in July 2014, and U.K. editors in September. When I was in New York I also spent time at the Museum of Natural History which just happened to be showing a major exhibit on pterodactyls!
Some of the latest research changed the way I thought about the physicality of Pyke, and made it into the book. A lot of the revisions for Caitlyn involved strengthening middle parts of the story and ending it in a way that stayed true to the characters, and to the strangeness of the whole telling.
Again – I kept going back to the beginning for inspiration. The manuscript was pretty well finalized by April 2015, and I was reviewing galleys in October.
There wasn’t a major crisis or anything, no pitched battles, but Caitlyn and I did have strong discussions about all the characters and themes.
I take it for granted that my creations will feel real to me, but it’s lovely when an editor so fully immerses herself as well.
What were the challenges (literary, research, emotional, logistical) in bringing the story to life?
Nothing about this story was straightforward. On the opening page, Pyke appears as a speck in the sky, and by the end of that chapter he is the first inter-species transfer student in the history of Vista View High.
The initial challenge – how do the students accept him as anything but a monster come to eat the school? – I skirted in my first draft by summarizing the changes in a paragraph or two. It was only fairly late in revision that I realized I needed to show in scene those crucial minutes after Pyke has landed on Jocelyne and then carried her to the school nurse for attention.
Pyke is not the main character, of course – the story actually belongs to the student body chair, Shiels Krane, an A-type leader whose well-ordered plans for her graduation year have nothing to do with dealing with a pterodactyl who steals everyone’s heart, including her own.
In that way I was able to shift the question about believability – if Shiels buys into it, then it’s easier for the reader to believe, too. I did do a lot of background reading on pterodactyls, but in my mind I was treating Pyke as the ultimate bad-boy boyfriend, and that’s part of the fun of the story, watching characters adapt to a ridiculous situation that turns normal and then actually seems familiar.
We do it all the time in real life, just not with pterodactyls! So often writing fiction convincingly is a matter of taking care of the tiny details, making those seem lifelike, so that the huge lies one tells hardly stand out at all.
What made you commit to the writing life? What did you sacrifice for it?
I was very lucky to attend a graduate writing program when I was young, only 24, at the University of Windsor, where my mentor, Alistair MacLeod, happened to be a brilliant writer and terrific teacher. Without that early formation, I’m not sure I would’ve stuck with it, given all the difficulties I had initially in publishing anything at all.
It took me seven years of strong effort after graduation to get a single short story accepted in a literary journal (for which I was paid $50). My first three novel manuscripts were rejected before the fourth was accepted, and even that one sat in the publisher’s office for over a year before I got a yes.
Along the way I decided I was not going to be the sort of writer who lives in a tiny room in the YMCA, turning his back on life so that he might have time to write. I have worked at a number of full-time jobs that, fortunately, also fed my sense of life and society, and so nurtured my writing as well.
But if I hadn’t married and had children, I doubt I would have written for younger audiences. I faced a really tough decision at around age 40 when the excellent government job I had (as a writer and researcher on international human rights for the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada) seemed to be too much to handle on top of novel writing as well.
Some of my adult novels were suddenly doing well, and I had to make a choice. It was a big gulp – our children were young, Suzanne had just started a doctorate program, and there was no extra money in case things went badly. So with family support I sacrificed the security of a regular paycheck, but was fortunate enough to have waited until my art was strong enough to withstand the pressures of such a decision.
It was the right thing to do, and I haven’t really looked back, especially since part-time teaching at the Vermont College of Fine Arts allows me to use my skills, and helps keep the wolf from the door during the inevitable down times in a writing and publishing life.
What about the business of publishing do you wish you could change?
I would love it if editors were not so extraordinarily busy, if they could somehow always keep a sense of the leisure of reading while opening up a new manuscript.
Editors often have crushing workloads and it means “quiet” stories often don’t have a chance to get their attention, they’ve got too many submissions to wade through before going back to their email backlog etc.
I know, it’ll never happen, and the really good editors do find ways to let themselves fall into a story when they read, no matter what their to-do list looks like. But I do think a lot of fine writing is overlooked because of the craziness of today’s schedules.
Review by Shannon
THE WINNER'S KISSby Marie RutkoskiSeries: The Winner's Trilogy (Book 3)Hardcover: 496 pagesPublisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) (March 29, 2016)Audible Audio EditionListening Length: 12 hours and 13 minutesProgram Type: AudiobookVersion: UnabridgedPublisher: Listening Library Goodreads | Amazon | Audible
War has begun. Arin is in the thick of it with untrustworthy new
The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle by Janet Fox has a fantastic set up for either a work of historical fiction or a fantasy novel. Intriguingly, it is both! Katherine, Robbie and Amelie Bateson live in London with their parents and their Great-Aunt Margaret. As the bombing of the city increases, the Batesons take the first good opportunity to get their children to safety. In this case, it is Rookskill Castle in remote Scotland. The owner of the castle is Aunt Margaret's cousin, Gregor, the eleventh Earl of Craig. Recently married, the Earl is in need of money and also has recently taken ill. His new wife has converted the castle into a boarding school for a small number of evacuees. But, from the moment they arrive, Kat knows that there is something very wrong at Rookskill Castle.
While there are murmurs of a German spy hiding somewhere in the castle early on in the novel, another, more compelling story unfolds, starting in 1746. Lenore is the lady of Rookskill Castle but, unable to produce an heir for the lord, she fears for her life. On the edge of the forest in a crumbling hut, a magister offers Lenore hope - a charm for her chatelaine that will produce an heir. Over almost three hundred years, the Lady and her charmed children have existed on the outskirts of the castle grounds, the magister taking a part of the Lady with every new charm and replacing it with a clockwork mechanism that can only be seen in the moonlight. With the twelfth charmed child, the Lady, now called Eleanor, will have a power and security that she has longed for since her grim, painful childhood centuries ago.
Kat, eager to learn her father's trade - clock repair (not spying, as he now works for M16) is a practical child and skeptical of the dubious magic dotty Aunt Margaret promises when she gives Kat her own chatelaine before the children leave for Scotland. But, as Kat and her siblings, along with Peter Williams, an American transplant, suffer confusion, crankiness, and punishments as they get in the way of Lady Eleanor's plans, she begins to believe in the magic her aunt spoke of. With the instructors and staff at the castle under a spell, it is up to Kat to battle the Lady and rescue the souls of her friends and siblings.
I enjoyed this book, but I wished it had been a little bit more, despite being 400 pages long. Reading the blurb for The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle, I was very excited. Yet, it didn't come together quite the way I had hoped it would. Perhaps because I had recently read and been very impressed and moved by The War that Saved My Life (and watched a few too many BBC shows set during the war, like The Bletchly Circle and Land Girls) I expected more from the possible German spy plot, however, from the start, Fox makes it clear that Lady Lenore is looking to fill out her chatelaine and collect enough souls to continue living forever, making the spy subplot less than relevant. In fact, it is almost an aside when, near the end of the story, one of the instructors is revealed to be a German spy. Fox introduces a wireless, a father who is a spy and even an Enigma Machine, but they really don't contribute much to the plot. Neither do the two instructors who, 200 pages into the novel reveal that they are spies working for a special forces unit researching magical artifacts, the occult and paranormal experiences, especially anything that the Nazis might use to gain power. This plot thread takes a (far) back seat to the story of Lady Lenore, but I think it could have added so much more tension and excitement to the plot. I also think that developing and deepening twelve-year-old Kat's character could have added so much to the story. She is so cookie-cutter, stereotypical at the start - dutiful big sister, dutiful daughter, a little bit of a crush on Peter and she doesn't really change much over the course of the novel, even if she does come to believe in Aunt Margaret's magic. Like the special forces spies who show up half way through the novel, Kat's genius math skills show up and allow her, through the tireless working of algorithms, to break the German code. The elements of The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle are all wonderfully fascinating and together they make for a great story. For me, though, the story telling doesn't live up to the story elements.
Some of my favorite books ever are the books of C.S. Lewis's Narnia series. The fantasy of leaving home and entering a land where a child can experience talking animals, mythological creatures, desperate (and deadly) battles - where a child can be perceived as making real, respected choices - where good deeds are rewarded by kindness and love and bad deeds are punished, but only by "just desserts" - I read these books (and still read them) over and over.
They articulated lessons without didacticism. Included in those lessons were reflections of the real world of the characters, World War II era England, and an interesting Arthurian tilt to the Pevensie children's experiences of Narnia.
So for me, the young reader, reading these books in America during the post-war years, they had the taste of something "historical" and of course foreign.
And then there were the myths and fairy tales I devoured. The Red Fairy Book, the Anderson and Grimms's tales, Greek and Roman myths and legends - I read these over and over, too. In my mind history became inextricably linked with the fantastic.
And why shouldn't it? The truth is that we are all shaped by perception, and even history is subject to personal interpretation. (If you don't believe me, check out the new hit musical "Hamilton".)
My first three novels are historical YA romances. When I wrote Faithful (Speak/Penguin, 2010), set in 1904 Yellowstone, I sought to capture the natural magic inherent in that environment of spouting geysers and colorful hot springs.
In my second YA, Forgiven (Speak/Penguin, 2011), I tried to capture the dark magic of the terrible 1906 San Francisco earthquake. By the time I wrote my third YA, Sirens (Speak/Penguin, 2012), set in 1925, I added full-on fantastical elements, including a ghost, an approach I felt was consistent with the 1920s obsession with spiritualism and magic.
I realized that as a writer I was drawing closer and closer to crafting books like the ones that so captivated me as a kid. It has become my goal, now, to try and evoke the same wonder in my readers as I felt when I was young.
It's set in World War II; the children are sent out of London during the Blitz; there are enigma machines and short-wave radios and even spies. But...there are also ghosts, and magicians, and a ghastly monster, and only magic can save the day (while itself being a double-edged sword.)
Whether writing historical fiction or fantasy, the objective of suspension of disbelief can only be accomplished if the world-building is sound. In historical fiction, that means lots of research to get interesting tidbits right. In fantasy, it means crafting an environment in which those interesting tidbits feel right.
I loved writing The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle. I loved being able to play with a world that is both real and fantastical, where terrible and beautiful things did happen, and could happen. I can't wait to try it again.
In the world of Quill, creativity is bad. It counts as an infraction, and on the day of the Purge, every thirteen year-old is put into three categories: Wanted, Necessary, or Unwanted. Wanteds are honored, Necessaries become slaves, and Unwanteds are sent to their deaths.When Alex Stowe is sent to the Death Farm after the Purge, he discovers that being Unwanted doesn't bring death... it brings the discovery of a whole new world called Artime.
In Artime, creativity is allowed. Even encouraged. The wild-haired leader, Mr. Today, helps each artistic Unwanted learn that they can hold their title like a badge. Because in Artime, creativity is a magical gift... and a weapon.
It's the first book in the Unwanted Series, and I am so excited for the last one to come out in April! If you like dystopian novels and magic, then you should totally try this book out!
Rise of the Ragged Clover SERIES: The Luck Uglies, #3 Written by Paul Durham Illustrated by Pétur Antonsson Harper 3/01/2016 978-0-06-227156-3 400 pages Ages 8—12 “Once a Luck Ugly, always a Luck Ugly. Until the day you take your last breath.” “Against all odds, Rye managed to find her father, Harmless, in the …
Two years ago I enthusiastically, excitedly reviewed The Mark of the Dragonflyby Jaleigh Johnson, saying that it was the best fantasy novel I had read in quite a while. I also speculated about a sequel, hoping to learn more about the curious artifacts that arrive in the world of Solace by way of dangerous meteor storms. With The Secrets of Solace, Johnson delivers a novel that, while not a sequel to The Mark of the Dragonfly, is set in the same world and, if possible, even better than the first. And, best of all, The Secrets of Solace is takes place in the Archivists' Strongholds, where the artifacts are taken to be studied and experimented with. In the eight years since I began my blog, and in the fifteen years before that while working as a children's bookseller, I read a lot of middle grade fantasy novels, especially when the genre exploded after the release of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone in 1997. However, I hit a saturation point where, while the books were good and satisfied my love of traveling to other, magical worlds, they did not necessarily stand out or leave a mark on my memory. Johnson's novels stand out and are very memorable. She is a masterful world builder and her stories are seamless. Her characters are compelling, and her main characters are strong, curious, intelligent girls who are good with machines. If you are feeling a little burned out on middle grade fantasy novels, Johnson's books are the perfect palette cleansers.
The main character in The Secrets of Solace is Lina Winterbock, an orphan living in Ortana. Ortana is one of the three archivists' strongholds that abut the Hiterian Mountains, beyond which are uncharted lands. Lina is a junior apprentice to Zara, a teacher and member of the archivists' ruling council. The ruling council has been especially busy lately with the flood of refugees escaping the escalating war between the Merrow Kingdom and the Dragonfly Territories, giving Lina lots of time on her own. Lina thinks of herself as a new breed of archivist, an "explorer archivist." She has spent so much time crawling through the air ducts and tunnels that thread throughout the mountain that she has been able to map them all as well as discover long lost workshops, overhear secrets and more. As Lina says of herself, she has been "hiding and listening for a long time."
In fact, Lina has discovered a long lost workroom that was partially obscured by one of the frequent cave ins that happen on the mountain. Inside is an aircraft, something that the king of the Dragonfly Territories has been working on creating, something that would allow the inhabitants of Solace to explore uncharted lands. After twisting through the museum-like rooms and moss covered corridors of Ortana, Johnson's story takes off like a rocket when Lina encounters young Prince Ozben, the "spare heir" to the throne of the Merrow Kingdom. Ozben has been secreted away to Ortana and is in hiding from assassins. Together the two work to stay a step ahead of the assassins and the archivists who are growing weary of Lina's mishaps and suspicious of her behavior. Johnson includes an especially magical twist in the form of the aircraft, while also ramping up the dangers and complexities of impending war.
The Secrets of Solace was hard for me to put down, something that happens less frequently than I would like these days. Johnson does something that I especially appreciated in this novel, something that almost never happens in a middle grade fantasy: the hero of the story confesses to an adult who can help. I realize that it makes for good tension, but I often find myself feeling frustrated with characters in fantasy and adventure books who find themselves in deep and, for whatever fabricated (or real-ish) situation, do not turn to an adult for help. I think it is the mark of a truly good writer to be able to craft a plot that allows the main character to turn to an adult for help and continue on with a suspenseful climax to the story, which is exactly what Johnson does in The Secrets of Solace.
Have You Seen My Dragon is Steve Light’s ode to city living. A boy solicits help from readers as he searches for his slithery, green dragon. The dragon hops around the city and takes readers on a counting journey. Adults and children alike will love the detailed artwork touched by bursts of color! Don’t be afraid to count along as Steve reads Have You Seen My Dragon on Read Out Loud.
KidLit TV’s Read Out Loud series is perfect for parents, teachers, and librarians. Use these readings for nap time, story time, bedtime … anytime!
Enter a fascinating, ornately drawn cityscape and help a boy find his dragon while counting objects from hot dogs to traffic lights. In the heart of the city, among the taxis and towers, a small boy travels uptown and down, searching for his friend. Readers will certainly spot the glorious beast, plus an array of big-city icons they can count. Is the dragon taking the crosstown bus, or breathing his fiery breath below a busy street? Maybe he took a taxi to the zoo or is playing with the dogs in the park. Steve Light’s masterful pen-and-ink illustrations, decorated with meticulous splashes of color, elevate this counting book (numbers 1 20) to new heights. Maybe the dragon is up there, too.
ABOUT STEVE LIGHT
Steve Light is the author and illustrator of several books for children. When he isn’t writing, he’s teaching pre-k students in New York City. Steve is a collector of fountain pens; he has more than 80. When Steve isn’t writing and illustrating he can be found creating models — some of which are inspired by his books –, or carving storybooks; wood dolls and props that fit in a box, which can be used to tell stories. Steve lives in New York City with his wife.
I finished You Were Here by Cori McCarthy the other night and it was so satisfying! Told in alternating voices, this is a story of grief and stubbornness and the need to put the past to rest. Serious stuff! McCarthy's mix of characters, words and graphics spins this book right along. I worried at first that this would just be another "dead family member" book. Then it morphed into a book about meeting unrealistic expectations and then it turned into a graphic novel and the whole time this group of five teens are fighting, musing, obsessing, and engaging in risky behavior - lots and lots of risky, perilous, dare-devil behavior. (Definitely Teen Readers!)
So read it. It is emotionally manipulating, but most good books are. And the resolution is realistic and, as I mentioned before, satisfying.
The Wrinkled Crown by Anne Nesbet is a wrinkled book. Linny lives in Lourka where no trail is a straight line - or even the same from trip to trip. Here stories can change reality. When Linny breaks the most sacred taboo in the hills, her best friend and tether-twin, Sayra, is the one who pays the price. Linny takes her forbidden lourka - a stringed musical instrument - and runs away to the Plains to find a cure for Sayra's fading away illness. Linny and her friend, Edmund, are caught up in a civil struggle between a faction that believes everything should be mapped, straight, smooth and mechanical - and a faction that honors magic and wrinkles of all sorts. I ended up skimming and, alas, skipping. If I had more time I may have enjoyed the arguments and adventures and authoritarian quasi-villains. The book is as wrinkled as its title. But it is a solid beginning of a new magical trilogy(?) or series. (Grades 5 through 7, though younger readers with skills and stamina will enjoy this book.)