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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Fantasy, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 26 - 50 of 2,482
26. Echo, by Alicia Wright Brewster, for Timeslip Tuesday

I love the premise of Echo, by Alicia Wright Brewster (Dragonfairy Press, YA, April 2013).  On an alien planet, settled by two waves of colonization from Earth, the apocalypse has been foretold.   But the council, whose members can control the elements with their minds, is determined to prevent it.  And they are willing to keep trying, even when things don't work out--they simply turn back the clock, rewinding time to give themselves another chance.

When Echo begins, it is the fifth rewind.  The council has tried four times already to avert a disaster whose very nature they were at first uncertain of--and with each rewind, they've gained more information.   And they've determined that what they need this time around is a teenaged girl named Ashara Vine.  This comes as something of a huge, mind-blowing surprise to Ashara, who had no idea that she was one of the very few with the ability to manipulate the ether itself.   And it comes as an additional surprise that the man chosen by the council to train her and a small cohort of other young manipulators is her ex-boyfriend, Loken.

Tension builds as Ashara learns about her powers, and the nature of the threat menacing her planet...and builds as she and Loken rekindle their relationship....and builds still more as information from the previous rewinds is revealed, and plots and machinations within the council, and within her world's society, make it more than somewhat uncertain if this time around, the world will be saved.

Do not, however, expect that because this story takes place on an alien world, it is truly science fiction.  The world building is not such that I felt I was on a different planet, despite the two suns, and the powers of the elemental manipulators read like fantasy. 

Do expect that the romance between Ashara and Loken will sometimes overshadow the end-of-the-world plot, sometimes so much so that I was annoyed (there are times when passionate is appropriate, and times when it is really not to the point).   I would recommend this one to those who like romance books that happen to be speculative fiction, rather than to speculative fiction fans who happen to like a bit of romance.

If you enjoy reading about groups of teenagers being trained together to fight with magical powers, you will enjoy that part of the book.  However, if your mind follows more or less the same trains of thought as mine, you too might find it odd that the fact that there's a coming apocalypse is broadcast to all and sundry, causing rather pointless stress (there's no escaping the countdown clocks).  And you might agree with me that the nature of the threat is ultimately rather unconvincing. 

All in all, it's not possible for me to recommend the book wholeheartedly.  However, I did truly like the premise of time travel being used to figure out how to avert catastrophe, and the interesting ramifications thereof!  And your millage may totally vary; here are some other reviews:

Apocalypse Mama
All In One Place
The Urban Paranormal Book Blog

Final note:  this is one for my multicultural book list--Ashara's father is of African descent, which is made beautifully clear in the front cover picture of Ashara! 

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27. Wings of Fire, Book 5: The Brightest Night, by Tui T. Sutherland

Yesterday my ten-year-old and I headed up to Boston, for the launch party of Wings of Fire, Book 5: The Brightest Night.  We enjoyed listening to Tui talking about the series, and enjoyed meeting her when we got our copy signed, and we enjoyed reading the book very much!  I won by a nose, with a clever rear-guard action (getting up first).   And happily, The Brightest Night (Scholastic, March 25) turned out to be my favorite book of the series.

The basic premise of the books is that five dragonets from different dragon tribes were raised together in isolation, told that they were destined to end the war between the three Sand Wing sisters fighting to become the next queen of those dragons.  It's a bloody struggle that drew all the other dragon tribes in as well (except the Rain Wings).  Each book was told from the point of view of one of the dragons, and this is Sunny's story.

Sunny is the sweet one, the cute one, the Sand Wing who isn't exactly all a Sand Wing should be (she's missing the barbed poisonous tale, for one thing), the one who's kind of dismissed by the others.   But inside Sunny is much more than sweet and cute.  She is smart, determined, and brave, and she manages to do more than any of the others for the cause of peace.  

And that's all I'll say about the plot.  Except that it has "scavengers" aka humans in it, playing actual roles, which was a fascinating new development!  And it also has more magical artifacts in it than the other books.  And we meet Sunny's family.  And there's some dragon romance.  But that's really all I'll say....

 Sunny is my favorite heroine of the year.   Any one who's ever been told they are sweet,  and patted on the head, when really they are smart and brave and tough, will relate to her.  She is a truly excellent role model--it would have been easy for her to give up, and stay just the sweet one of the lot, but it is her conviction that peace is possible that makes her  a truly strong force to be reckoned with.

I could spend a lot more words on how great Sunny is, though the other dragonets all have their good points too, and I'm fond of them all. 

I'm very glad that Tui T. Sutherland is going to be bringing us five more dragon books!  There are so many fine young dragons in these books whose stories I want to know more about that this makes me very happy.

Give this series to any nine or ten year old you have on hand who likes dragons (or who you think might like dragons).   They have just tremendous kid appeal, and the larger themes are truly appealing.  The first book and the fourth are a tad violent (just in case you have a truly sensitive reader), but the point of the series is that violence doesn't solve a thing--friendship and loyalty and understanding and appreciating difference are what is important.

Here are my reviews of the previous books:

The Dragonet Prophecy

The Lost Heir

The Hidden Kingdom

The Dark Secret

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28. Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee

Ophelia and the Marvelous BoySome books are special. They have a plot description that sounds like many another book (girl finds herself in a fantastical situation and discovers that she must save the world), but are written in such a otherwordly, atmospheric way that even the adjectives that one might use to describe them aren’t magical enough.

Ophelia Jane Worthington-Whittard finds herself in a foreign city. Her father is an international expert on swords, and has been called upon to organize a gala Christmas Eve exhibition at the city’s museum. Miss Kaminski, the museum director, is very beautiful, but cold and strange, and Ophelia feels uneasy. She spends her days exploring the museum — from Culture of the Cossacks to Mesopotamian Mysteries and everything (everything) in between. In one room, though, she finds a door. That door hides a boy — a marvelous boy — who says that he has been imprisoned by the Snow Queen, and that he’s waiting for the One Other who will be able to use his sword to defeat her. He needs Ophelia to free him — an act much more complicated than just finding the key to the door.

Foxlee’s book is spellbinding; the world she creates is so compelling that I could see every detail, and what is more, believe every detail. I could see the frozen city, feel the cold in my bones, and believe in the uncanny museum, where wolves might roam the dollhouse exhibit.

Any reader would be enchanted to discover this wonderful book, and many of them might find themselves exploring the museum map on the endpapers. For all the eeriness of the museum, I would like to visit and wander its Gallery of Time, among others. Who knows what I might discover?

Posted by: Sarah

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29. The Notebook of Doom: Subject - Chomp of the Meat-Eating Vegetables by Troy Cummings, 90 pp, RL 2

<!-- START INTERCHANGE - THE NOTEBOOK OF DOOM CHOMP OF THE MAN EATING VEGETABLES -->if(!window.igic__){window.igic__={};var d=document;var s=d.createElement("script");s.src="http://iangilman.com/interchange/js/widget.js";d.body.appendChild(s);} <!-- END INTERCHANGE --> The Notebook of Doom by Troy Cummings is part of a new line of books (seven series and counting) from Scholastic 

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30. Video chat: Is YA actually better at feminism than adult lit?

So, I’ve been spending more time these past few months over at IB, but I promise I haven’t forgotten La-La Land.  New Postcards are on the way, including reviews of the 80s classic Annie on my Mind, by Nancy Garden, and the more recent Lost Voices trilogy, by Sarah Porter. In the meantime, I present the following video discussion between myself […]

2 Comments on Video chat: Is YA actually better at feminism than adult lit?, last added: 3/31/2014
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31. The Menagerie: Dragon on Trail, by Tui T. Sutherland and Kari Sutherland

In my review of The Menagerie, by Tui T. Sutherland and Kari Sutherland, I said, "You want a book that hits the sweet spot for the nine-year old mythical creature lover?  This is what you are looking for."  The second book in the series, Dragon on Trial (HarperCollins, March 2014), has strengthened my conviction.

The menagerie in question is home to all manner of creatures, from unicorns and griffins and dragons to a goose that lays golden eggs.   And it is the apparent murder of this goose that is the catalyst for this adventure.  All the evidence points to a dragon named Scratch--and if Scratch is found guilty, he'll be exterminated.

Zoe and Logan, two middle school kids who are part of the Menagerie team, are convinced Scratch has been framed.  But unless they can find who really committed the dastardly deed of goose murder (if murder it was), disaster won't befall Scratch alone--the whole menagerie might be shut down by those in Authority.  Together with a new friend, a were-rooster named Marcus (a great addition to the cast, who provides comic relief that offsets the tension nicely), they set off on a detective hunt to find the answers they desperately need.

What makes this series a stand-out in kid appeal is that it beautifully combines the angsts of middle school life with a truly wonderful ménage of magical creatures.   The characters and the set-up are so convincing that the  menagerie almost seems possible.  It's clear that the authors are truly enjoying themselves--so many fun details about the creatures!--and this enjoyment carries over into the reading experience. 

Although the case of the missing goose is successfully resolved, bigger questions remain--someone is trying to sabotage the menagerie, and the disappearance of Logan's mom (whom he found out in the first book was a tracker of mythical creatures) remains a mystery.  My young one and I cannot wait till book three comes out!

I didn't see anything in this book that made it clear, but I know from the first book that Logan happens to be African American--I hope it's might slightly more obvious in book 3, because it would be nice for readers to be able to pick up on it!

The above-mentioned young one and I are going up to Boston tomorrow to meet Tui T. Sutherland, at the release party for The Brightest Night, the fifth book in her Wings of Fire series!  So exciting.  We are taking this one for her to sign too if possible.... Read the rest of this post

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32. Writing Competition: Fairy Tale Review

Fairy Tale Review is thrilled to announce the debut of an annual contest, beginning this year with Prose & Poetry awards.

We’re interested in poems, stories, and essays with a fairy-tale feel—mainstream to experimental, genre to literary, realist to fabulist. Sarah Shun-lien Bynum will judge prose; Ilya Kaminsky will judge poetry. Both contests will award $1000, and all submissions will be considered for publication in The Mauve Issue.

Reading fee: $10.

Submit online or to:

Fairy Tale Review, c/o Kate Bernheimer
Department of English
University of Arizona
Tucson AZ 85721

Deadline: July 15th, 2014

Awards: $1,000 each

Eligibility & Procedure

All submissions must be original and previously unpublished. For prose, please send works of up to 6,000 words. For poetry, no more than five poems and/or ten pages per entry. Simultaneous submissions are acceptable, but please withdraw your manuscript immediately upon acceptance elsewhere, and note that the reading fee is nonrefundable. Multiple submissions are acceptable, but please note that you will need to pay a reading fee for each submission.

Submit to the Poetry Contest.
Submit to the Prose Contest.

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33. The Race for Polldovia, by James Rochfort

The Race for Polldovia, by James Rochfort (Book Guild, 2014--published in the UK, but also available in Kindle form)

In our world, a little girl named Sophia daydreams about Polly, a sweet and brave princess of a lovely land called Polldovia.  Polly, on the verge of being a grown-up, is just the sort of princess to daydream about--the sort who rescues wounded animals, can speak to horses, and who is beloved by everyone.  For Sophia, the vivid stories of Polly she daydreams are almost as real as ordinary occurrences (going to school, going swimming) and her ordinary, loving parents.

But one day, Sophia's daydreams stop being harmless pastimes.  Polly is in trouble--dangerous, dark trouble, and Sophia's finds herself drawn into Polly's world.   There Sophia must be braver than she had ever imagined she could be, and help Polly save her kingdom from the evil forces that want to conquer it.  With the help of a brave horse whose speed is unmatched, the two girls might be able to find the magical flower high in the hills that will save the kingdom....if they can win the race for Polldovia.

The Race for Polldovia is very much a wish-fulfillment fantasy for a young girl reader (especially one who loves horses!).    The plot is a straightforward quest, with the evil and the good being clearly demarcated--a story line best appreciated by a reader who is new to fantasy.  And I think that the beautiful goodness that is Polly, and the brave goodness that is Sophia, are likewise best appreciated by those who aren't yet cynically leaving behind the days when they too could dream of saving wounded forest creatures (goodness knows that's how I pictured myself back in the day.....).   If you wince at the thought of a beautiful princess saving wounded forest animals, and tenderly kissing the younger child, this is probably not a book for you. 

However, if you have a child who would find that thought enchanting, they might well enjoy it, especially if read aloud.   It is the sort of story that is clearly being told--the authorial voice is right there, and I never forgot that I was reading a book.   Reading aloud would also allow for breaking up some of the disconcertingly long paragraphs (I couldn't help but feel that a stronger editorial hand could have come into play).

In short, a nice story for younger readers that blends a fairy tale feel with a heroine firmly rooted in our world.
disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher

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34. Mini-reviews- Reaper's Novice and Peregrine Harker

Title: Reaper’s Novice
 Author: Cecelia Roberts
 Series:  N/A
Warnings: non consensual kissing
Source: netgalley
Review: Anna is normal. she’s got a boyfriend, she’s doing well at school and  she’s looking forwards to a brilliant musical education. Then her family dies in a car crash, but she makes a deal with Ernst, aka Grim, aka Death. Her family gets to live, he gets her soul, and she gets to work, collecting souls for eternity. She gets used to this, but then she finds out other things about where Ernst comes from...and where she does.
I read this because I saw it on Netgalley and a book like that, with that title, pretty colours, and a girl with a violin, I couldn’t resist.
It starts off quickly. the car crash and meeting Ernst happens within the first few chapters. There’s a bit of mystery that comes up. Other things like the story to Ana’s background and the mythology of the world, which comes in later.
I really liked Ana. She’s cool. She’s a really good violinist (musical  talent always makes me love characters) and then it becomes plot relavent and this is where audiobooks come in handy. She also seems like a really good friend.
I didn’t like Zig. He’s creepy and full of himself. Ernst was cool. Rolf was kind of mediocre until about halfway through, then we get a big reveal and he becomes a lot more interesting.
The plot was good, but near the second half, the plot became quite confusing.  The writing was ok in places, good in others. The more descriptive parts were better written, such as the end bit with the violin, and  Ana seeing her first reaping of an old woman in a hospital, which was the most beautiful part in the book.
Overall:  Strength 3.5, just more a 3, tea to a fantasy novel with good writing.

Title: Peregrine Harker and the Black Death
 Author: Luke Hollands
Series:  N/A
Published:  3 June 2013 by Sparkling Books
Warnings: non consensual kissing
Source: netgalley
Review: Ever since Peregrine’s parents died, he’s worked for the Evening Enquirer. As a result of his behaviour and habit of writing stories of spies and thieves and espionage into his work which is meant to be factual, he is told to write a story about rising tea prices. Begrudgingly, he sets out to do this, and unexpectedly finds himself in amongst secret organisations, smuggling, and assassinations.
The first chapter takes place on a train, the epic conclusions of a match between Doctor Crick and Peregrine. The second chapter reveals that this was just a daydream of Peregrine’s, and that he is actually being told off by his editor and commissioned to write the tea article.
The plot moves along quickly, the investigation taking us many places, such as docks, posh hotels, backstreets of London and to France.
I liked Peregrine. He’s a great investigator, likable, and smart- like a less sad version of Gavroche (from Les Mis). I really like his enthusiasm for his job-and the fact it picks up when a dead body turns up.
I quite like Louisa too-the first time we meet her, she’s got a pistol and her governess is telling her not to fire that infernal thing indoors. Fun!
The pacing is good. There’s always something new happening and you’re kept intrigued throughout. The atmosphere of adventure is ever present-through London and Paris.
 arker. The

Overall:  Strength 3.5, just more a 3, tea to a younger historical mystery that’s a lot of fun.

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35. Interview with Danielle Jensen, Author of Stolen Songbird

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Good morning, Danielle!  Describe yourself in five words or less.

[Danielle L Jensen] Quiet, smart, quirky, obstinate, and ambitious

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Stolen Songbird?

[Danielle L Jensen] Stolen Songbird is about a girl named Cécile who gets kidnapped by trolls to break the curse that has imprisoned them under a mountain for five centuries. At first all she cares about is escaping, but then she learns about a revolution that is forming to help the half-bloods who are enslaved by the full-blooded trolls. When she realizes she might be their only hope, she joins them and their secret leader, the enigmatic Prince Tristan. There is magic, strange creatures, intrigue, and kissing, so get yourself a copy if that’s your sort of thing ?

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Danielle L Jensen] The setting actually came first, which might seem a bit strange until you read it and realize that the location is actually one of the antagonists. Basically I had dream about a city covered by rubble, and the rest came swimming out of my imagination. Forsaken Mountain is based on a real mountain in the Rockies, and once the snow melts, I am totally going to do a vlog on location.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

[Danielle L Jensen] I liked creating the world. It is quite fantastical and exists in a very precarious balance. I also really like a lot of my secondary characters, and I put a lot of effort into creating their personalities.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What gave you the most trouble with this story?

[Danielle L Jensen] The political situation in Trollus is a very major plot arc in the novel, but at one point, it was one of the weaker elements. I went through a lot of revisions with my agent in order to make that aspect stronger and more important, and now it’s one of the parts I’m most proud of.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had a theme song, what would it be?

[Danielle L Jensen] My current theme song is Work B**ch by Britney Spears. Not so much because I want the things she lists in the song, although I wouldn’t turn them down, but because it reminds me that success is a function of effort. Also, it’s a catchy tune to workout to.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What’s one thing you won’t leave home without?

[Danielle L Jensen] Chapstick. The second I realize I don’t have one my lips seem to turn to sandpaper. I’m sure it’s all mental.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name three things on your desk right now.

[Danielle L Jensen] My desk always looks disastrous. But I will name three things sitting on it that you might not expect.

2 troll dolls that I dug out of a box for “reasons”

A Tanda blue-light zit zapper that I’m pretty sure doesn’t work

Arm socks for cold Canadian nights (they are sitting under the calendar)

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you could trade places with anyone for just one day, who would you be?

[Danielle L Jensen] If I could be a guy for a day, I would. Is that weird? Mostly, I think it would give me a much greater perspective on life.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are some books that you enjoyed recently?

[Danielle L Jensen] I recently read and enjoyed The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (aka JK Rowling), The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater, and Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers. Next on my list is a book by one of my fellow 2014 debut authors: The Promise of Amazing by Robin Constantine.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Danielle L Jensen] I like to read, drink coffee, watch movies, and hang out with my friends.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Danielle L Jensen] Twitter: @dljensen_

Website: www.danielleljensen.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Danielle-L-Jensen/259768120828794 

About the book:

For five centuries, a witch’s curse has bound the trolls to their city beneath the ruins of Forsaken Mountain. Time enough for their dark and nefarious magic to fade from human memory and into myth. But a prophesy has been spoken of a union with the power to set the trolls free, and when Cécile de Troyes is kidnapped and taken beneath the mountain, she learns there is far more to the myth of the trolls than she could have imagined.

Cécile has only one thing on her mind after she is brought to Trollus: escape. Only the trolls are clever, fast, and inhumanly strong. She will have to bide her time, wait for the perfect opportunity.

But something unexpected happens while she’s waiting – she begins to fall for the enigmatic troll prince to whom she has been bonded and married. She begins to make friends. And she begins to see that she may be the only hope for the half-bloods – part troll, part human creatures who are slaves to the full-blooded trolls. There is a rebellion brewing. And her prince, Tristan, the future king, is its secret leader.

As Cécile becomes involved in the intricate political games of Trollus, she becomes more than a farmer’s daughter. She becomes a princess, the hope of a people, and a witch with magic powerful enough to change Trollus forever.

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36. Chickenhare by Chris Grine, 157 pp, RL 3

Chickenhare by Chris Grine was published by Scholastic's Graphix imprint in 2013. It was originally published, in black and white, by Dark Horse Comics in 2006, with Book 2, Fire in the Hole, which you can preview here, coming out in 2008. A third book, Fish & Grymps, was planned but never published.  I'm pretty sure I would have instantly loved Chickenhare in its original form, but the

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37. DREAMS OF GODS & MONSTERS (Daughter of Smoke & Bone 3) by Laini Taylor {Review}

DREAMS OF GODS & MONSTERS Daughter of Smoke & Bone 3 by Laini Taylor Series: Daughter of Smoke and Bone Hardcover: 624 pages Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (April 8, 2014) Mark on Goodreads Buy on Amazon Review of Daughter of Smoke and Bone Review of Days of Blood and Starlight In this thrilling conclusion to the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy, Karou is still not ready

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38. Grimmtastic Girls by Joan Holub & Suzanne Williams Book Blast Giveaway

About the Books: The Grimmtastic Girls

Book #1

Title: Grimmtastic Girls #1: Cinderella Stays Late | Authors: Joan Holub & Suzanne Williams | Publication Date: March 25, 2014 | Publisher: Scholastic Inc. | Pages: 192 | Recommended Ages: 8 to 12

Grimmtastic Girls: Cinderella Stays LateSummary: The authors of the hit Goddess Girls series put a fun and girly twist on another super-popular theme: fairy tales!

Once upon a time, in faraway Grimmlandia…

A Grimmtastic girl named Cinderella is starting her first week at Grimm Academy on the wrong foot. Cinda’s totally evil stepsisters are out to make her life miserable. The Steps tease Cinda, give her terrible advice about life at the academy, and even make her look bad in front of her new friends, Red, Snow, and Rapunzel! But when Cinda overhears the Steps plotting a villainous deed that could ruin Prince Awesome’s ball, Cinda, her new friends, and a pair of magical glass slippers have to stop them–before the last stroke of midnight!


Book #2

Title: Grimmtastic Girls #2: Red Riding Hood Gets Lost | Authors: Joan Holub & Suzanne Williams | Publication Date: March 25, 2014 | Publisher: Scholastic Inc. | Pages: 192 | Recommended Ages: 8 to 12GRIMMTASTIC-2-cover-206x300

Summary: Red Riding Hood might have a terrible sense of direction, but her grimmtastic friends are always there to help!

Once upon a time, in faraway Grimmlandia…

Red Riding Hood is thrilled to try out for the school play. Acting is her dream, and she’s great at it–too bad she has stage fright! After a grimmiserable audition, Red decides to focus on helping her friends Cinda, Snow, and Rapunzel save Grimm Academy from the E.V.I.L. Society. But when Red gets lost in Neverwood forest and runs into Wolfgang, who might be part of E.V.I.L., she needs her magic basket and a grimmazingly dramatic performance to figure out what’s going on!


About the Authors: Joan Holub & Suzanne Williams

Joan Holub


Joan Holub has authored and/or illustrated more than 130 children’s books, including Little Red Writing (illustrated by Caldecott Honoree Melissa Sweet) and Zero the Hero. She lives in NC and is online at www.joanholub.com

Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads



Suzanne Williams


Suzanne Williams is the author of nearly 50 books for children, including the award-winning picture book Library Lil (illustrated by Steven Kellogg). She lives near Seattle, WA and is online at www.suzanne-williams.com

Author Blog | Goodreads



Co-authors Joan and Suzanne have written the Goddess Girls, Heroes in Training, and Grimmtastic Girls series. Though they live in different states and hardly ever get to see each other, they spend lots of time together in Grimmlandia.

Facebook (Grimmtastic Girls) | Facebook (Goddess Girls Books)

Online Author Visits


$50 Book Blast Giveaway

Amazon $50 Gift Card

Prize: $50 Amazon Gift Card or PayPal cash (winner’s choice)

Contest ends: April 23, 11:59 pm, 2014

Open: Internationally

How to enter: Please enter using the Rafflecopter widget below.

Terms and Conditions: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. A winner will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget and will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. The winner will then have 72 hours to respond. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours, a new draw will take place for a new winner. Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible entries received. This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. This giveaway is sponsored by the authors, Joan Holub & Suzanne Williams and is hosted and managed by Renee from Mother Daughter Book Reviews. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send and email to Renee(at)MotherDaughterBookReviews(dot)com.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

MDBR Book Promotion Services

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39. The Mark of the Dragonfly: Jaleigh Johnson

Book: The Mark of the Dragonfly
Author: Jaleigh Johnson
Pages: 400
Age Range: 10 and up

I quite enjoyed The Mark of the Dragonfly a brand-new middle grade/middle school fantasy novel by Jaleigh Johnson. The Mark of the Dragonfly is set on another world, one that bears a resemblance to ours, but also includes non-human races and humans with unusual gifts. Piper lives on her own in the bleak Scrap Town 16, eking out a living as a scrapper and a machinist. Scrappers salvage items from other worlds that arrive in certain areas via meteor storms (an example is a book: "Embossed on the front cover was a picture of a girl and small dog. Next to her stood a grinning scarecrow, a lion, and man who looked like he was made entirely of metal.") 

Piper has a gift for machinery, and is good at refurbishing some of the recovered items. But she longs for more. Her life changes forever when she finds a mysterious, fragile girl in the scrap fields. Piper ends up on a quest to help Anna find her home, though the two girls are pursued by a powerful and dangerous man.  

The adult quibbler in me questions how Piper's world can be similar to ours in many ways, despite being on an apparently separate planet. But this wasn't enough to dampen my appreciation for the book. I liked Johnson's inclusion of other intelligent races, coexisting with humans in the world. 

But the real reason that I enjoyed the book is that the characters in The Mark of the Dragonfly are quite strong. Piper is angry about her father's death, and determined to make a better life for herself. She struggles plausibly with doing the right thing. Anna is a bit more of an enigma, by design, but she is fascinating, too. She has only fragmented memories of her life, but she is drawn to books, and can spout various arcane bits of knowledge. There are some nice supporting characters, too, including a potential love interest for Piper (all quite PG, still suitable for upper elementary and middle school kids).

The plotting in The Mark of the Dragonfly moves along quickly, with several dangerous encounters that will keep readers turning the pages. The ongoing puzzle regarding who Anna is, and why she is being pursued, lends a more over-arcing suspense. 

The Mark of the Dragonfly wraps the initial story up nicely. No cliffhangers here. But given the depth of the world that Johnson has created, I do hope that there are future installments. Recommended for fans of middle grade fantasy with strong characters and unusual worlds. This one is going to stick in my memory, I'm sure. 

Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers (@RandomHouseKids
Publication Date: March 25, 2014
Source of Book: Advanced review copy from the publisher

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© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

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40. The People In Pineapple Place, by Anne Lindbergh, for Timeslip Tuesday

The People In Pineapple Place, by Anne Lindbergh (1982)

Ten year old August did not want to move with his mother from the countryside of Vermont to Georgetown in Washington, D.C.  He did not want his parents to get divorced, and his mother to work full time.  And he does not want to wait for the college kid looking after him to get off the phone so as to take him outside.

So off he goes, sad and angry, into the streets, and finds a cobblestone alley called Pineapple Place, where six old house are home to a bunch of kids who seem like they could be new friends for him.   But though the kids, especially April, do become his friends, it quickly becomes apparent that Pineapple Place is rather...unusual.

It is not a spoiler to explain why, because it comes up quite close to the beginning of the story, and is the whole basic point of the point.

Back in the 1930s, a Pineapple Place resident decided that Baltimore was not the best place to be, and started moving all six houses around the country.  And although the residents can leave their homes and venture into the new places they visit, only one of them can be seen and heard by the locals.  And none of them have aged a day since Pineapple Place started its hoping.

Strangely, August can see them all....and the last days of his summer vacation become a bit of a mad-hatter series of excursions around the city- playing with invisible kids leads to wacky situations.    And this is fun to read about, although it's a tad stressful that August's mother thinks for much of the book that he's making it all up.

But the fact that the Pineapple Place folk don't age gradually started casting a pall of horror over it all...especially when April's mother talks of how she had hoped to go back to college, and not spend her days pie-making (which is now her fate for eternity....).   It reminded me very much of Tuck Everlasting, but without the clear acknowledgement  on the author's part that immortality is a bitter fate.  Especially when you can't even interact with new people anymore because of being invisible.

However, the invisibility is alleviated somewhat by the fact that Pineapple Place revisits the 1930s on a regular basis to allow for grocery shopping, as  the residents can be seen in their time of origin.  At one point, they take August with him, and he gets to sight see in the past.  This is the part that makes it time travel.

The book must be read with enough grains of salt to kill a thousand slugs.  Why, for instance, must they scrounge around in trash cans for bits and bobs to use in the present when they are regularly going back to the 1930s for groceries?  How are they paying for their groceries?  Why are they putting up with the dictator of Pineapple Place who started moving them around in the first place?  It really makes little sense.    I am very keen now to read the sequel, The Prisoner of Pineapple Place-- will they escape the madness?

Putting that issue aside, though, it's a fun and rather heart-warming story.  The friendship between August and April is nice, the adventures fun, and the premise certainly is thought provoking.  I imagine that the target audience of 8-10 year olds will be a lot less bothered by it than me, and will probably find it truly magical.

(They will probably all have read Wonder, too, and so the name "August" will be like an old friend. I wonder if we will see an uptick in its popularity 15 years from now...).

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41. The Riverman, by Aaron Starmer

The Riverman, by Aaron Starmer (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, upper MG leaning YA-ward, March 2014)

Alistair and Fiona were friends, back when they were little kids, then they drifted apart.  But now, years later in middle school, Fiona shows up at Alistair's door, and asks him to write her biography.

"To sell a book, you need a description on the back. So here's mine: My name is Fiona Loomis. I was born on August 11, 1977. I am recording this message on the morning of October 13, 1989. Today I am thirteen years old. Not a day older. Not a day younger."

Which is of course impossible.

Fiona has spent days of her life far away from upstate New York in a magical universe called Aquavania.  There she reveled in the creation of her own small world, and there she met other kids, living in the worlds of their own imaginings--bright, extravagant places where to wish is to make things manifest.   But Aquavania is not safe- kids, many of them Fiona's friends, are vanishing.  Their stories, their worlds, themselves are falling prey to the sinister Riverman.

And Fiona is afraid she might be next.

Slowly, as Fiona tells the story of Aquavania, and the shadow of the Riverman falls across its wonders, Alistair comes to believe that there is indeed a darkness haunting his friend...But is it a darkness in our world, or is the magic real?  And what can one ordinary boy do?

Alistair is the single point of view character, and the reader learns and thinks and wonders right along with him.  His fears for Fiona are pretty much those that the reader might have, and his difficulty accepting Aquavania perfectly understandable.   Like Alistair, I found myself dismissive of Aquavania at first, but then, dragged inexorably into a story whose reality was undeniable, I read faster and faster, with sparks of metaphoric connections going off in my mind like crazy.  I grew to have genuine delight in the manifestations of imagination that is Aquavania (accompanied by considerable unease as to the addictive nature of these imaginings), and genuine concern for both kids. And I also developed a really (justifiable) conviction that things weren't going to end up all rainbow-unicorny.

This is the first book of a series, but though the ending isn't neatly resolved, I've read stand-alone books that offered less in the way of closure, and so I did not feel deeply bothered (though I am immensely curious to see what happens next). 

So, yes, I liked The Riverman, and now I am thinking hard about what sort of  reader I would give it too.  I think the older middle school kid, the eighth grader who might be a bit of an outlier, who isn't deeply into more traditional fantasy (there are no dragons, swords, or spells), who doesn't mind being puzzled, might well like it very much indeed.   As well as relating to Alistair, who is a character along those lines himself,  there's much that would appeal--Fiona is a character with spark and zing, the mystery is mysterious, and the reader is not forced to believe, if they don't feel like it, in the magical world, which might appeal to young rationalists.

I would be hesitant to give it to the younger reader who is deeply invested in "story" as a source of emotional comfort, because the whole  point of the book (I think maybe) is stories (beloved imaginings as well as the stories people are living) getting twisted out of true.  There's also mature content--the possibility that Fiona is being abused in real life, and some rather disturbing violence--that makes this not one to automatically hand to the ten year old who loves "fantasy worlds."

Though I am glad The Riverman is getting lots of positive buzz for its own sake, I'm hoping that it will lead more people to Aaron Starmer's first book, The Only Ones (my review, with a white-ed out spoiler at the bottom, so be warned).  I enjoyed The Only Ones lots myself (and it has stuck in my mind just beautifully, always a good sign), but I am particularly fond of it because it is one of the very few books that my hideously picky uncooperative-with-regard-to-reading eighth-grader has truly enjoyed.   So far he is resisting this one, which is deeply annoying, since he fits the description above to a tee.

disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher.


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42. Guest Book Review: The Shadow of the Pyramid by Wendy Leighton-Porter

porterPublisher: Mauve Square Publishing (February 4, 2013)
ISBN-10: 1909411043
ISBN-13: 978-1909411043
Genre: Juvenile Fiction
Ages 8+

Five Stars

Jemima, Joe, their talking Tonkinese cat Max, and their best friend Charlie are off on their adventures again, searching for Jemima and Joe’s parents (somehow trapped in the past) and this time they are headed for ancient Egypt. Using their magical book, the poem containing clues, and Jemima’s necklace with the key, the kids and Max are transported back in time, arriving in the middle of an assassination plot to murder the young king Tutankhamun. Alas, Max has a morbid fear of mummies, having glimpsed a ghastly sight of one on Joe’s XBox game and he’s not too keen on this part of their adventure. They meet Ankharet, the gorgeous cat belonging to Tut’s young wife, Ankhesenamun. Max is totally smitten, but unfortunately Ankharet (who is jealous of Max’s instant popularity) doesn’t feel quite the same way about him. As the adventure unfolds, the kids and the cats, along with Tut’s wife try to stop several attempts on the young king’s life. Max even manages to foil two attempts, displaying a kind of unintentional bravery. The king is entranced with Max and names him “Max, beloved of Amun.” What an honour! Alas, despite their best efforts, once again the kids and Max are unable to change the course of history and cannot prevent the young king’s fate, a mystery which remains to this day. The end of the book is absolutely delightful and kids will just love the twist in this tale.

Max’s fear of mummies and the like afford some absolutely hilarious moments, especially since all his apparent heroics and saving the day are by accident. Author Wendy Leighton-Porter has woven a marvellous mixture of suspense, adventure, history, geography, and culture into an intriguing tale. Using real historical figures, she captures the feel and flavour of ancient times, and puts forward some quite viable theories for exactly what might have happened to Tutankhamun. As in previous books, the kids and Max are totally immersed in history, and this tale will definitely draw eager young readers to join them in the adventure. There are some interesting facts at the end of the book which will no doubt stimulate young time travellers to go and do a bit more research. Learning history the fun way is becoming the mark of this captivating series.

Reviewer’s bio: Fiona Ingram is an award-winning middle grade author who is passionate about getting kids interested in reading. Find out more about Fiona and her books on www.FionaIngram.com. She reviews books for the Jozikids Blog.

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43. Book Review- Dance of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin

Title: The Dance of the Red Death
 Author: Bethany Griffin
Series: Masque of the Red Death #2
Published: 4 April 2013 by Indigo
Source: publisher
Other info: First book was Masque of the Red Death, which I loved. 

Summary :Araby Worth’s city is on fire. Her brother is dead. Her best friend could be soon. Her mother is a prisoner, her father is in hiding. And the two boys who stole her heart have both betrayed her. But Araby has found herself, and she is going to fight back. Inspired by one of Edgar Allan Poe’s most compelling stories, “The Masque of the Red Death,” Bethany Griffin has spun two sultry and intricate novels about a young woman who finds herself on the brink of despair but refuses to give in. Decadent masquerades, steamy stolen moments, and sweeping action are set in a city crumbling from neglect and tragedy. A city that seeps into your skin. Dance of the Red Death is the riveting conclusion to the dark and fascinating saga of an unforgettable heroine.

Review: We pick up where we left Masque of the Red Death, so  Araby has a dead brother, a dying best friend, and two boys that she loves who have also betrayed her. as people seek shelter at Prince  Prospero’s place and Reverend Malcontent spreads disease, Araby and co must try and save the city, and themselves.
I really enjoyed Masque, but somehow, this wasn’t the same. The world was once again, gorgeously written in its full, crumbling glory. The world is distinctly Poe style, which I liked. The seven rooms in Prospero’s palace didn’t come in until the end though, which is a shame, because that was my favourite part about the story this was based on and I was really hoping that it would feature more.
Lots of things don’t come in until the end, really. There’s a lot of running around the city, but it’s hard to see where it all leads to sometimes.
Araby is a bit more forward in Dance, which I liked. Elliot has a hidden agenda. Will is ok, I suppose. No strong feelings about the boys either way. The love triangle was interesting, in terms of the secrets between them all, but I  didn’t really care about how the love side of it ended up.
What I loved, as in obsessed over for a couple of days after reading it, in Edgar Allan Poe’s Masque of the Red Death, was the masquerade ball, and the rooms. I was disappointed with both of these in Dance. It all happens within thirty pages, so it was all crammed together and rushed.
As a  series conclusion, it all felt a bit anticlimactic. I also don’t think everything was fully tied up-there’s room for more in Griffin’s world. Oh well.

Overall:  Strength 3 tea to a disappointing, but still good on its own, conclusion to a beautifully set gothic series.

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44. Soon from Twilight Times Books: The Luthier's Apprentice (YA dark fantasy)

I'm thrilled to announce that my latest book, The Luthier's Apprentice, featuring 16-year-old violin student/luthier/amateur sleuth Emma Braun, will be out in May 15th (ebook) and August 15th (print).

Niccolò Paganini (1782-1840), one of the greatest violinists who ever lived and rumored to have made a pact with the devil, has somehow transferred unique powers to another…

When violinists around the world mysteriously vanish, 16-year-old Emma Braun takes notice.  But when her beloved violin teacher disappears… Emma takes charge. With Sherlock Holmes fanatic, not to mention gorgeous Corey Fletcher, Emma discovers a parallel world ruled by an ex-violinist turned evil sorceress who wants to rule the music world on her own terms.

But why are only men violinists captured and not women? What is the connection between Emma’s family, the sorceress, and the infamous Niccolò Paganini?

Emma must unravel the mystery in order to save her teacher from the fatal destiny that awaits him. And undo the curse that torments her family—before evil wins and she becomes the next luthier’s apprentice…

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45. Great deal on Kindle!

Amazing offer right now, children’s humorous fantasy only £1.99 on Kindle for a limited period. Winner of The Book Awards, February 2014!
Click here for offer.

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46. Death Sworn, by Leah Cypess

I have just read, with much enjoyment, Death Sworn, by Leah Cypess (Greenwillow, March 2014, YA).   It is the story of a teenaged girl, Ileni, who once had prodigious magical ability, and a bright future as a leader of her people, the Renegai.  Now Ileni's magic is deserting her, and soon will be gone entirely.  So her elders send her to teach magic to a clan of assassins, uneasy allies united against a common enemy.  Now Ileni, from a people who abhor violence, must spend the rest of her magic-less life trapped in an all-male world of trained killers, brainwashed to be loyal to their Master (who is fiendishly smart and scary).

Her life, however, might not be long.  Someone murdered her two predecessors, and she might well be next.

She is not sure she cares.

But Ileni refuses to succumb to despair, as slowly begins to unravel the threads of the plot in which she is ensnared.  Though her magic continues to fade, her determination to understand the machinations that surround her grows, and even as she greives for her lost love back home, she finds herself drawn to the young assassin, Sorin, who's been assigned to her as her guide and guard.  And Ileni finds that she can't stop caring about not just her own fate, but about the larger struggle in which she has become embroiled.

And I just ate it all up, because I love character-driven fantasy and really liked Ileni, from whose close point of view the reader sees the story.  I thought her reactions utterly believable, even her feelings for Sorin, which she herself realizes are, uh, complicated by the fact that he is her de facto jailor, and a brainwashed killer.   But Sorin is actually not unsympathetic, and is (possibly) more than just a tool of the assassins' Master....and as the days pass he is shown to be rather likeable (though still, as Ileni reminders herself often, a killer)... and I can understand how a 17-year-old in traumatic circumstances whose life has imploded might not feel like resisting her feelings.  And it is 100% her choice, not his.

The reader does have to make a certain leap of faith viz the whole underground assassin society set up-- it is a wonder that they don't all go more insane than they do, and in retrospect I worry about ventilation and vitamin D deficiency and fresh fruits and vegetables and that sort of thing (presumably the handy underground rivers carry the sewage away, so that's ok).  But I was caught up enough in the story that I refused to let this bother me while reading.

So in any event, I liked Death Sworn lots.

Those who do not like character-driven fantasy set in a rather limited physical environment with only teasing glimpses of the larger political/social point of it all in which there's not much that Happens in an exiting sort of way probably won't like the book as much.  There are maybe forty pages that are Exciting Happenings, but since I have a tendency to skim Exciting Happenings so as to quickly get back to the thinking and feeling part,  this was fine with me.

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47. The Art of Flying, by Judy Hoffman

The Art of Flying, by Judy Hoffman (Disney-Hyperion, Oct. 2013, MG) is a magical adventure in which a bird is transformed into a boy, and an ordinary girl becomes his friend.

Before I begin, I want to say that though this isn't a book that worked for me, it got a good review from Kirkus, and I am perfectly prepared to acknowledge that my opinion might not be widely shared, because it's mostly based on personal taste.

Fortuna, an ordinary girl, embarks on a most extraordinary adventure when her mom sends her to help out two old ladies nearby.  Turns out the ladies are witches, and one of them has just committed one of the worst magical crimes there is--she's turned three birds into people.    When Fortuna arrives at their home, only one is still there, a boy the witches are calling Martin.   The witches plan to rope Fortuna in to keep Martin safe, so that he can be re-transformed, but Martin has a mind of his own--he must find his brother, who is also a boy, and he takes off into the woods.

And Fortuna, somewhat to her surprise, finds herself his ally, and possible friend, bringing him home with her.   Martin's brother has been befriended as well, by Fortuna's old best friend, Peter.

But in the meantime, there is trouble:

--The third bird transformed was a sadistic owl, and now that he is human, he relishes the thought of having more scope for his nefarious pleasures. 
--a third witch wants to get the fist two witches into trouble
--the council of birds hopes to find all three ex-birds, and foil the bad ex-owl
--if Martin and the other two aren't transformed back in time, they will be human forever.
--Fortuna isn't sure she wants Martin to be a bird again.  As a boy, he still has the power of flight, and shares it her in a most magical way....

So.  There are many lots of bits happening, and the result was that I wasn't reading the book I thought I was going to read.  I thought I was going to read about a friendship between boy/bird and girl that was going to be a slow burn, introspective kind of story, but instead the feel of The Art of Flying tilted much more to magical happenings of an exiting sort.   It's the sort of book that really should have a more colorful cover with witches and brightness to it, like an Eva Ibbotson middle grade fantasy, or an E.D. Baker book.   And fans of those two authors should enjoy it lots.

For me, it wasn't a great fit.   The story felt a tad scattered, rather than reading as an organic whole.  There were many point of view shifts, sometimes the particular words used to describe the characters' reactions seemed odd to me, and there were details that didn't help the world of the story come alive.  The council of birds, or "feathren" as they call themselves, didn't appeal to me--the almost comic way in which they are portrayed diminished the gravitas of Martin's situation, which interested me much more.  And I was deeply disappointed by Fortuna...

That being said, I thought the author did a lovely job with her portrayal of Martin as bird learning to be a boy, and I enjoyed that aspect of the book lots.

If you think "magical fun with witches and birds, in which a girl learns to fly" sounds good, give this one a try; if you think "character-driven novel about identity and learning what it means to be human" sounds good, this might not be what you are looking for.

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48. Captain Awesome No. 8: Captain Awesome vs. the Spooky, Scary House, by Stan Kirby, illustrated by George O'Connor, 117 pp, RL 1.5

<!-- START INTERCHANGE - CAPTAIN AWESOME TO THE RESCUE -->if(!window.igic__){window.igic__={};var d=document;var s=d.createElement("script");s.src="http://iangilman.com/interchange/js/widget.js";d.body.appendChild(s);} <!-- END INTERCHANGE --> Captain Awesome vs. the Spooky, Scary House is the eighth book in this super series that debuted early in 2012. With his cry of MI-TEE!, Captain

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49. At long last

There may have been some jumping up and down yesterday when I spotted this on the Magazine table.

nix clariel cover At long last

The Abhorsen trilogy/The Old Kingdom Chronicles is one of my all-time favorite series; I’ve read Sabriel, Lirael, and Abhorsen several times each and listened to the superb audiobooks narrated by Tim Curry many more times. The trilogy even helped get me a job at a children’s bookstore when the manager overheard me busybodily recommending them to a fellow customer.

Clariel (sometimes called Clariel: The Lost Abhorsen) has been nothing more than a cherished rumor among YA fantasy fans following the release of Abhorsen eleven long years ago. Now I have it in my hot little hands and am halfway through it — but, unfortunately, most readers will have to wait until the October publication date. (Nyah nyah.)

I do miss the cover art by the incomparable Dillons, though.

share save 171 16 At long last

The post At long last appeared first on The Horn Book.

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50. How to Catch a Bogle by Catherine Jinks

How to Catch a BogleHave you ever felt like something was lurking in the darkness just waiting for a chance to slurp you up into its slimy cavernous mouth? Certainly it was just your imagination…right? Not if you ask Birdie McAdam. She’s a bogler’s apprentice and she knows all-too-well that bogles (monsters to you and me) definitely do exist, and they are devouring children all over London. Working with her mentor Alfred Bunce, Birdie uses her lilting voice to lure the heinous creatures out of their hiding places so that Alfred can destroy them with the help of the legendary Finn McCool’s sword. Birdie is proud to be a bogler’s girl, but a series of curious events is pointing Birdie’s life in a new direction, no matter how hard she tries to fight the change.

How to Catch a Bogle is a delightfully fast paced and fantastical story filled with interesting characters sure to capture the attention of even the most reluctant of readers. The characters, even the bogles, are well-developed and readers will likely find themselves drawn into this surreal version of London in the late 19th century. Jinks does a great job of bringing the ubiquitous imaginary monster-in-the-closet to life without being overly terrifying. Each of the bogles that Birdie and Alfred encounters is unique and grotesque both while alive and in its death. This book would make for a great classroom read aloud for grades 4 through 6. Or, if you have a struggling or reluctant reader in your midst, grab the superbly done audio version, pair it with the text and set him or her off to discover how much fun a book can be.

Posted by: Staci

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