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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: fantasy, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 26 - 50 of 2,674
26. Escape from Netherworld—Twiggy the dwarf

Escape From Netherworld jacket

Escape From Netherworld jacket

Hey, gang! Sorry for the interruption in posts—I spent most of last week in New York City visiting art directors, editors and creative directors. Now I’m back and I want to show you something I worked on this summer.

Here is jacket art for Escape from Netherworld—it’s about a group of role-playing gamers who are somehow transformed into their characters and transported into an alternate realm: Netherworld.

My pal, the extraordinarily talented Gina Datres, is the book’s designer and she called me in to illustrate the jacket. After some discussion and rough sketches back & forth we hit on the idea of 3 individual images of the gamers going through their transformation. For the 2 guys, I drew the gamers in pencil but fully rendered their characters in paint. I work with watercolor (gouache), so I traced some of the drawing with a wax candle. Since watercolor won’t stick to wax, you can see the drawing of the gamer ‘through’ the painting of the character. Piper, the elf-girl, doesn’t change in size enough to make that idea work so I made her hair a magical element that swirls around her as it grows.

If you’d like to buy a copy of Escape from Netherworld just click here.

Author: David Kuklis
Designer: Gina Datres
Illustrator: John Manders
Editor: Nan Newell
Published and Printed by:
Word Association Publishers, Tarentum, PA 15084
ISBN: 978 1 59571 994 2
Available for purchase:
wordassociation.com   —   1 800 827 7903
barnesandnoble.com
amazon.com

Let’s start with Twiggy the dwarf. As usual, here are the rough sketches, tight sketches, color studies and final paintings.

rough sketch of group tight group sketch—rejected Twiggy alone Vince transforms into Twiggy color study final image

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27. Egg & Spoon by Gregory Maguire, 479 pp, RL 5

Many of you probably know Gregory Maguire as the author of Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. I discovered it a year or so after it was published in 1995 in the bargain section of the bookstore where I worked and remember how thrilling it was to read back then. Long a fan of fairy tales, I was amazed to learn that a meal could be made of a behind the scenes, adult

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28. The Monsterator, by Keith Graves -- and other fiendish delights (ages 5-9)

Do your children want to be something goulishly great on Halloween? Do monsters delight them? There's no doubt that The Monsterator, with its bold promise of 625 monsters inside, will captivate many young readers who dream of something "screamingly scary."
The Monsteratorby Keith GravesRoaring Brook, 2014
Your local libraryAmazonages 5-9
*best new book*
Young Master Edgar Dreadbury finds your standard Halloween costumes a terrible bore. "I wish I could be something screamingly scary. / Something fanged and foul and horribly hairy!" Graves draws readers in with rhyming text that is a delight to read aloud, but he really grabs readers when Edgar steps into The Monsterator. All of a sudden, Edgar is completely transformed "from his teeth to his toes."
The Monsterator, by Keith Graves
"When the machine finally quit,
Edgar crashed through the door.
He banged on his chests with his fists
and roared."
The Monsterator, by Keith Graves
I love how Graves strikes just the right balance between frightening and fun for first and second graders. But what they will love most of all is the surprise at the end, when they can "monsterate" young Edgar, by turning a series of flaps to create hundreds of different creatures.

If you like this, you might like some of these other monsterish favorite picture books:
The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers, Macmillan Books. Illustrations of The Monsterator are copyright ©2014 Keith Graves, used with permission of the publisher. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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29. Spotlight and Giveaway: Court by Cat Patrick

I have enjoyed everything that I’ve read by Cat Patrick, so I was super excited to see that she has a new book coming out. I wanted to share with all of you because I think her writing is awesome…and well, there’s a giveaway you can enter!  So have at it!  Read about Court and then enter away!

 

court_96

Title: Court

Author: Cat Patrick

Date of Publication: October 23rd 2014

  goodreads-badge-add-plus-d700d4d3e3c0b346066731ac07b7fe47   About Court: For more than 400 years, a secret monarchy has survived and thrived within the borders of the US, hiding in plain sight as the state known as Wyoming. But when the king is shot and his seventeen-year-old son, Haakon McHale, is told he will take the throne, becoming the eleventh ruler of the Kingdom of Eurus, the community that’s survived for centuries is pushed to the limit. Told through four perspectives, Court transplants us to a world that looks like ours, but isn’t. Gwendolyn Rose, daughter of the Duke of Coal, is grudgingly betrothed to Haakon — and just wants a way out. Alexander Oxendine, son of the Duke of Wind and Haakon’s lifelong best friend, already grapples with external struggles when he’s assigned to guard Haakon after the king dies. And commoner Mary Doyle finds whispers in the woods that may solve — or destroy — everything, depending on your bloodline.

Money. Love. Power. Community. What’s your motivation?  

Amazon

  Q&A with Cat:

-Where did the idea came from?

After writing The Originals, I wanted to write something from multiple character perspectives. Around that time, I was thinking of my home state of Wyoming. A friend had recently driven through, and I thought about how people who aren’t from there don’t really know that much about Wyoming—it could be its own world, hiding secrets. It could be its own kingdom.

-Out of all the 4 perspectives, which is the hardest to write?

Surprisingly, the boys’ voices came easiest. (And there used to be two more!) As for one POV being more difficult than the others, I think the real challenge was developing each voice individually with only a heaping handful of chapters per character.

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

Any craft grows with practice, and I hope that I’ve become a more controlled writer as I’ve published more books. I’m definitely more of a risk-taker than I was in the beginning, as well.

What 5 things would you like readers to know about you?

That I’m the greatest mommy in the world. (Say my children.) I love, and am inspired by, wind. I can kill it at Dance Central on Xbox. I share a birthday with one of my siblings. I once met Muhammad Ali.  

Excerpt: HAAKON

Before he was the enemy, James Haakon McHale III was just a seventeen-year-old in what most people knew as the state of Wyoming, wishing he was somewhere other than the predawn forest with a rifle in his grip.

“It’s colder than moonlight on a tombstone,” Haakon muttered, blowing on his fist. His thick-soled boots swish-thumped on the hard earth as he skillfully avoided twigs, rocks, and low branches.

Alexander Oxendine—youngest son of the Duke of Wind, wide receiver, video game button masher, and Haakon’s best friend—laughed into his collar. It could’ve been mistaken for a cough.

“It’s colder than a whore’s heart,” Alexander said, his tone cautiously low. They were the youngest members of the hunting party, and were only allowed to take part because of their rank. Haakon could think of a thousand superior privileges.

He glanced around to make sure none of the other men were paying attention—especially his father. Smirking, he said, “Colder than a polar bear’s balls.”

The pair stifled laughter.

“Than a witch’s—”

“Too easy.”

“Colder than a dead woman’s touch,” Alexander said.

Haakon checked again, dialed down his voice even more, and said, “It’s colder than Gwendolyn Rose’s kiss.”

“Quiet!”

It was Haakon’s father: dictator, fun-spoiler, and—regrettably for his son—the tenth ruler of the Kingdom of Eurus, also known as the Realm, the monarchy hiding in plain sight in the depths of the Democracy known as the United States of America.

Every schoolchild knew the story. In 1670, after Joseph Dyer’s wife died in the Great Plague in London, he brought his five daughters to what would become the United States one hundred years later, seeking a better life. But it soon became apparent that his family would never thrive under strict Puritan rule in New England–which banned higher education for girls and taught submissiveness above all else, and which centered around extreme religious beliefs that were counter to Dyer’s own.

A friend, John Seymour, who was—controversially—married to a Native woman, suggested that they set out together in search of a new home deep within America’s treacherous unknown. Seymour’s wife had been attacked; her family persecuted. Seymour believed that rather than fighting the Natives, they should live in harmony with them.

Dyer, Seymour, and several other men and their families snuck away. After a long and dangerous journey, together they created their version of paradise: a kingdom that blended the best of England with Native cultures. Dyer was thought of as the Father of the Realm, and Seymour’s Native wife, who ensured their survival through tribal relations, the Mother.

Rather than cause a revolution, the founders decided to keep the kingdom secret. Inside the borders of what they’d eventually stake claim as Wyoming, they’d follow their own rules. Outsiders wouldn’t know they were different because they wouldn’t understand.

Outsiders weren’t to be trusted.

Dyer’s youngest daughter, captivated by the ancient Greek she wouldn’t have been allowed to learn in Puritan society, named the new kingdom Eurus, meaning <em>east wind</em>. She pronounced it “air-us.”

“But the winds here blow from the west,” Haakon had asked his father once—before Dad was King James. That was when it was okay to ask questions. When curiosity wasn’t an imposition.

“That’s right, Haakon,” his father had replied, straw between his teeth. They’d gone on a walk together. The sun was setting on an easy day. His dad had pointed toward the eastern horizon. “The wind here does primarily blow from the west, but our founders blew in from the east. That day, the wind changed directions.”

Haakon frowned away the memory of days never to return, and refocused on the trees. He walked as soundlessly as he could in his camo fleece jacket and vintage Levi’s, his rifle nestled in the crook of his left arm, a round in the chamber. He was on the left edge of the group, three rows behind his father. Evenly spaced gaps between them, the men were like migrating geese, locked in formation.

Geese hunting deer.

“Were you drinking last night?” Haakon’s father had demanded on the way to the meeting point that morning. “Is that why you’re so tired?”

“I’m tired because it’s so early that the birds aren’t even awake yet.”

“Good. Because you know what the consequences will be if you start drinking again.” They’d shared the backseat of the armored SUV; Haakon had done his best to preoccupy himself with his cell phone.

“Yes, sir, I know.”

“You need to turn that thing off before we arrive. And when’s your next haircut? You look slovenly.”

Will you just get off my back. Haakon had thought at the top of his lungs. What he’d said, though, was simply, “Yes, sir.”

There, in the forest, Haakon toyed with the idea of raising his gun and shooting King James square in the back of the head. Right there under his hat, just above the rise of his custom down hunting vest. He could do it. Even with the others present, he knew there’d be no trial, no trip to Corby. But offing his father wouldn’t solve anything. In fact, it would make life a lot worse. Because with his father gone, Haakon would be in charge.

Haakon would become the King of Eurus.

The thought made him want to puke.

 court_teaser1  

 

  About Cat Patrick:

Cat PatrickCat Patrick is an author of books for teens. Her debut novel, FORGOTTEN (available now), is about a girl who can remember the future instead of the past, and was praised by NYT bestselling author of Thirteen Reasons Why, Jay Asher, as a “mindbending,” one-sitting read. The book is being translated into 21 languages and Paramount bought the movie rights, with True Grit’s Hailee Steinfeld attached to star as the main character, London Lane.

Patrick’s second (unrelated) novel, REVIVED, is about a girl who’s part of a secret government program to test a drug that brings people back from the dead. REVIVED will be available in the US May 2012, and in the UK and Australia Summer 2012.

Patrick lives near Seattle with her husband and twin 3-year-olds, and is afraid of zombies, planes, and zombies on planes.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads 

 

 a Rafflecopter giveaway      

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The post Spotlight and Giveaway: Court by Cat Patrick appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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30. Once upon a time, part 1

I’m writing from Palermo where I’ve been teaching a course on the legacy of Troy. Myths and fairy tales lie on all sides in this old island. It’s a landscape of stories and the past here runs a live wire into the present day. Within the same hour, I saw an amulet from Egypt from nearly 3000 years ago, and passed a young, passionate balladeer giving full voice in the street to a ballad about a young woman – la baronessa Laura di Carini – who was killed by her father in 1538. He and her husband had come upon her alone with a man whom they suspected to be her lover. As she fell under her father’s stabbing, she clung to the wall, and her hand made a bloody print that can still be seen in the castle at Carini – or so I was told. The cantastorie – the ballad singer – was giving the song his all. He was sincere and funny at the same time as he knelt and frowned, mimed and lamented.

The eye of Horus, or Wadjet, was found in a Carthaginian’s grave in the city and it is still painted on the prows of fishing boats, and worn as a charm all over the Mediterranean and the Middle East, in order to ward off dangers. This function is, I believe, one of the deepest reasons for telling stories in general, and fairy tales in particular: the fantasy of hope conjures an antidote to the pain the plots remember. The street singer was young, curly haired, and had spent some time in Liverpool, he told me later, but he was back home now, and his song was raising money for a street theatre called Ditirammu (dialect for Dithryamb), that performs on a tiny stage in the stables of an ]old palazzo in the district called the Kalsa. Using a mixture of puppetry, song, dance, and mime, the troupe give local saints’ legends, traditional tales of crusader paladins versus dastardly Moors, and pastiches of Pinocchio, Snow White, and Alice in Wonderland.

marina2
A balladeer in Palermo. Photograph taken by Marina Warner. Do not use without permission.

Their work captures the way fairy tales spread through different media and can be played, danced or painted and still remain recognisable: there are individual stories which keep shape-shifting across time, and there is also a fairytale quality which suffuses different forms of expression (even recent fashion designs have drawn on fairytale imagery and motifs). The Palermo theatre’s repertoire also reveals the kinship between some history and fairy tale: the hard facts enclosed and memorialised in the stories. Although the happy ending is a distinguishing feature of fairy tales, many of them remember the way things were – Bluebeard testifies to the kinds of marriages that killed Laura di Carini.

A few days after coming across the cantastorie in the street, I was taken to see the country villa on the crest of Capo d’Orlando overlooking the sea, where Casimiro Piccolo lived with his brother and sister. The Piccolo siblings were rich Sicilian landowners, peculiar survivals of a mixture of luxurious feudalism and austere monasticism. A dilettante and dabbler in the occult, Casimiro believed in fairies. He went out to see them at twilight, the hour recommended by experts such as William Blake, who reported he had seen a fairy funeral, and the Revd. Robert Kirk, who had the information on good authority from his parishioners in the Highlands, where fairy abductions, second sight, and changelings were a regular occurrence in the seventeenth century.

The Eye of Horus, By Marie-Lan Nguyen, Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Casimiro’s elder brother, Lucio, a poet who had a brief flash of fame in the Fifties, was as solitary, odd-looking, and idiosyncratic as himself, and the siblings lived alone with their twenty servants, in the midst of a park with rare shrubs and cacti from all over the world, their beautiful summer villa filled with a vast library of science, art, and literature, and marvellous things. They slept in beds as narrow as a discalced Carmelite’s, and never married. They loved their dogs, and gave them names that are mostly monosyllables, often sort of orientalised in a troubling way. They range from ‘Aladdin’ to ‘Mameluk’ to ‘Book’ and the brothers built them a cemetery of their own in the garden.

Casimiro was a follower of Paracelsus, who had distinguished the elemental beings as animating matter: gnomes, undines, sylphs and salamanders. Salamanders, in the form of darting, wriggling lizards, are plentiful on the baked stones of the south, but the others are the cousins of imps and elves, sprites and sirens, and they’re not so common. The journal Psychic News, to which Casimiro subscribed, inspired him to try to take photographs of the apparitions he saw in the park of exotic plants around the house. He also ordered various publications of the Society of Psychical Research and other bodies who tried to tap immaterial presences and energies. He was hoping for images like the famous Cottingley images of fairies sunbathing or dancing which Conan Doyle so admired. But he had no success. Instead, he painted: a fairy punt poled by a hobgoblin through the lily pads, a fairy doctor with a bag full of shining golden instruments taking the pulse of a turkey, four old gnomes consulting a huge grimoire held up by imps, etiolated genies, turbaned potentates, and eastern sages. He rarely left Sicily, or indeed, his family home, and he went on painting his sightings in soft, rich watercolour from 1943 to 1970 when he died.

marina3
Photograph by Marina Warner. Do not use without permission.

His work looks like Victorian or Edwardian fairy paintings. Had this reclusive Sicilian seen the crazed visions of Richard Dadd, or illustrations by Arthur Rackham or John Anster Fitzgerald? Or even Disney? Disney was looking very carefully at picture books when he formed the famous characters and stamped them with his own jokiness. Casimiro doesn’t seem to be in earnest, and the long-nosed dwarfs look a little bit like self-mockery. It is impossible to know what he meant, if he meant what he said, or what he believed. But the fact remains, for a grown man to believe in fairies strikes us now as pretty silly.

The Piccolo family’s cousin, close friend and regular visitor was Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, the author of The Leopard, and he wrote a mysterious and memorable short story about a classics professor who once spent a passionate summer with a mermaid. But tales of fairies, goblins, and gnomes seem to belong to an altogether different degree of absurdity from a classics professor meeting a siren.

And yet, the Piccolo brothers communicated with Yeats, who held all kinds of beliefs. He smelted his wonderful poems from a chaotic rubble of fairy lore, psychic theories, dream interpretation, divinatory methods, and Christian symbolism: “Out of the quarrel with others we make rhetoric; out of the quarrel with ourselves we make poetry.”

Featured image credit: Capo d’Orlando, by Chtamina. CC-BY-SA-2.5 via Wikimedia Commons

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31. Exquisite Captive: Review

Finally, a paranormal romance where the focus is on the paranormal and not a human who unwittingly stumbles upon it. Exquisite Captive is a breath of fresh air. It has jinni in it. Jinni! This book is full of unique, immersive mythology, swooning romance, and the importance of free will. Although we briefly go into the heads of a few different characters, at the heart of it this story is about Nalia. Nalia is a jinni, and not just that. She is the last surviving member of the ruling class of jinni, called the Ghan Aisouri, meaning she is one of the most powerful jinni alive. After escaping the slaughter of her people by the fire-wielding Ifrit she is sold into the jinni slave trade, called the Dark Caravan, and enslaved to Malek, a man who never seems to age and refuses to use his third wish, which is the... Read more »

The post Exquisite Captive: Review appeared first on The Midnight Garden.

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32. It’s not on any chart / You must find it with your heart

345px PP MaryMartin Its not on any chart / You must find it with your heartPlease join me on Saturday the 25th at the Boston Book Festival for “Masters of Fantasy,” a panel discussion with Soman Chainani (A World Without Princes), Holly Black and Cassandra Clare (The Iron Trial), and Gregory Maguire (Egg & Spoon). We’ll be talking about–well, I guess I should get on that right quick, as I’m the moderator–but FANTASY. 1:00-2:00 PM, Emmanuel Church sanctuary, 15 Newbury Street, Boston. FREE.

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The post It’s not on any chart / You must find it with your heart appeared first on The Horn Book.

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33. Creepy short stories: mysteries & thrillers for ages 10-13

I have never liked horror movies. Never. Ever. But I know that scary, frightening stories have a real appeal for many people. So how do I recommend them for my students? It's a challenge -- especially gauging that right balance between spine-tingling-fright and oh-no-way-too-frightening-for-10-year-olds.

Here are four short-story collections I am recommending to students. Please be warned: if they are too scary, stop reading. That's what I've done in many cases.

Cabinet of Curiosities
36 Tales Brief and Sinister
by Stefan Bachmann, Claire Legrand, Katherine Catmull and Emma Trevayne
HarperCollins, 2014
Podcast + Website
Your local library
Amazon
ages 10-13
Four "curators"--Bachmann, Legrand, Catmull and Trevayne--have gathered together ominous tales, organizing them into different themes ranging from tricks to cake, luck to travel. There are ghost stories, monster stories and bizarre stories. Some have direct villains, while others set a creepy tone without letting you exactly see what's menacing the main character.

The curators have a terrific website Enter the Cabinet with many tales, both ones from the cabinet and others freshly added. My current favorite is The Door Downstairs, with a courageous heroine, eerie setting, and psychological themes. For extra creepy fun, check out the podcasts the curators recorded. Katherine Catmull's recording of "Dark Valentine" is enough to haunt my dreams tonight.

Here are some other favorite collections of frightening stories:
Guys Read: Thriller
edited by Jon Scieszka
Walden Pond / Harper Collins, 2011
Your local library
Amazon
ages 9-12
Jon Scieszka's collection has great kid appeal, with contributions from 10 different superb authors. I loved Matt de la Peña's story "Believing in Brooklyn" about a wish-making-machine, with its creepy coincidences and touching ending. What would you wish for if you could have anything you wanted? If you like this, check out all the Guys Reads collections.
On the Day I Died
Stories from the grave
by Candace Fleming
Schwartz & Wade Books, 2012
Your local library
Amazon
ages 11-14
Fleming begins this collection with a version of "The Vanishing Hitchhiker." In her version, the young teen who picks up the hitchhiker is told to take her shoes to the graveyard where she's buried--and he discovers a crowd of ghosts, all wanting to tell him how they died. Fleming sets her story in White Cemetery, an actual graveyard outside Chicago, and each story takes place during a different time period. She deftly weaves in many pieces of historical details, but these never overwhelm the stories.

I found these stories more frightening--certainly too frightening for 4th graders, and probably more suitable for 6th graders. All of the stories center on how a teenager died, and that aspect really got to me. I haven't shared this collection with students yet, so I can't gauge kids' reactions.
Haunted Houses:
Are You Scared Yet?
by Robert San Souci
Henry Holt, 2010
Your local library
Amazon
ages 10-13
The spider story in this collection, "Webs," scared me so much that I couldn't finish reading this collection. As soon as I say that, kids start clamoring for this collection. Here's what I wrote when I originally read this collection:
In one story, a boy’s family is vacationing in a house that is taken over by spiders. Now, these aren’t your typical garden spiders. They are spiders who want revenge for the damages done to their forest and homes. Danny starts to get worried when he finds the rabbit cage filled with spider webs, and then realizes that the bundles in the corner are the dead rabbits encased in spider webs. The story proceeds to even creepier, as Danny discovers more ways the spiders have wrecked damage on previous owners of the house. Needless to say, every time I walk into a spider’s web now, I jump even higher.
The stories in these collections are NOT for everyone, but I know that many of my students clamor for frightening stories. Do you have any favorite short story collections that you hand your 4th, 5th and 6th graders? How do you judge what's too scary?

The review copy of The Cabinet of Curiosities was kindly sent by the publishers, Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollins. The review copy of the other collections came from our school library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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34. Princess in Black by Shannon Hale & Dean Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham, 89 pp, RL: 2

I did not want to like The Princess in Black by Shannon and Dean Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham. I am tired of princesses and equally tired of princess backlash. I am weary from trying to excavate and explain the potential of a princess in a plot (see my review of A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett) and I am wary of mash-ups that have the air of a Disney enterprise. However, I

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35. Zac’s Destiny entered for an award!

Zac’s Destiny, my Sword & Sorcery fantasy, has been entered into an award for Kindle books! I would be eternally grateful if any of you could offer your votes? Thanks so much if you can.

No need to sign in or give any details. Just click on the number of stars you think my book deserves to vote!

Click here to vote.

Cover with quote

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36. BOOK REVIEW: Touch of Steel (Clockwork Agents #2) by Kate Cross

The Wardens of the Realm are a group with extraordinary abilities, dedicated to protecting England from any threat. But in this steam-powered world, there’s a fine line between enemy and ally… Reeling from her brother’s death, beautiful American spy Claire Brooks has vowed revenge on the member of The Company who she believes to be responsible: Stanton Howard. But when she chases the man to London, Claire is captured by the Wardens of the Realm and placed in the custody of the Earl of...

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37. Eerie Elementary Book 1: The School is Alive! by Jack Chabert, illustrations by Sam RIcks, 90 pp, RL: 2

Eerie Elementary by Jack Chabert is yet another fantastic series that's part of Scholastic's much needed Branches line. These books are "specifically designed for newly independent readers who are ready to make the exciting leap from leveled readers, but not quite prepared for a traditional chapter book." In the school where I am a librarian and the majority of 3rd, 4th and 5th graders

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38. A Middle Grade Teacher’s To Be Read List

A Middle Grade Teacher’s To Be Read List | Storytime Standouts

A Middle Grade Teacher's To Be Read List by a Guest Post by @1prncsIt’s been a while since I did a top ten list of….well, anything. So, here’s what is on my To be Read list this year. Mostly for school, but I love reading middle grade and young adult fiction even if it’s just for me. So here it goes:












A Middle Grade Teacher's To Be Read List Hook's Revenge by Heidi SchulzHook’s Revenge by Heidi Schulz
Middle grade fiction published by Disney-Hyperion

I’ve already started this funny tale about the Captain Hook’s thirteen year old daughter, Jocelyn. She’s sent away to boarding school by her grandfather so she can learn to be a lady. All she really wants is to be a swash-buckling, sword-wielding pirate. When she learns of her father’s death, she sets off on a quest to avenge it.

I have started this book in my classroom and I love it. The kids laugh out loud and so do I. Jocelyn is a great character, as is her ally, Roger. It’s a pleasure to read a book with a girl main character that the boys enjoy as well. It’s got great pirate speak, a longing for adventure that kids will connect with, and memorable characters.

Hook’s Revenge, Book 1 Hook’s Revenge at Amazon.com

Hook’s Revenge, Book 1 Hook’s Revenge at Amazon.ca

A Middle Grade Teacher's To Be Read List Swindle by Gordon KormanSwindle by Gordon Korman
Middle grade fiction published by Scholastic Press

Korman is always on my recommendation list during our library visits. When my eight year old brought Swindle home, I told her that I’d like to read it with her because I know a lot of kids who enjoyed it. During a sick day last week, she found the movie on Netflix. First, I didn’t know there was a movie. Second, normally we would read the book first. But, we were feeling lazy so we decided to watch. The movie was very well done– it made my daughter laugh and it made me want to read the book even more.

When the character finds a vintage baseball card, he doesn’t know the value and gets swindled by a pawn shop owner. The quest to get his card back is entertaining and funny. This book is on my list as a possible read aloud.

Swindle at Amazon.com

Swindle at Amazon.ca

A Middle Grade Teacher's To Be Read List Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly HuntFish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
Middle grade fiction published by Nancy Paulsen Books

There are several things that make me want to read this book. The author wrote one of my favourite books that I read last year: One for the Murphys. That alone makes me want to read more by her. When checking out the title on Goodreads, one of my favourite quotes was included in the write up: “Everybody is smart in different ways. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its life believing it is stupid.”

Then, when I read the summary, I thought: YES. Great topic. Ally has hidden the fact that she can’t read from the people in her life and has successfully moved from one school to the next without anyone knowing. But when her newest teacher looks closer, past the trouble making side she presents, he finds her secret and helps her. We all learn in different ways and it’s essential that we have books that show kids that it is okay to be different. It’s okay to need help and not everyone learns in the same fashion. It’s up to us, as the adults in their lives, to help them find their own road to success. I can’t wait to read this one.

Fish in a Tree at Amazon.com

Fish In A Tree at Amazon.ca

A Middle Grade Teacher's To Be Read List Smile by Raina TelgemeierSmile and Sisters by Raina Telgemeier
Middle grade fiction published by Graphix

I can’t read every single book I see my students or daughters enjoy, though I try to read a good portion of them. I’ve seen enough students go through Smile to know that it hooks readers. When one student saw Sisters in my TBR pile, she was thrilled because she was re-reading Smile for the third time. I told her she could read Sisters and she said, “Just let me finish re-reading Smile first.” She started Sisters later that day and finished it the next. That’s enough of a recommendation for me.

Smile‘s main character (Raina) wants to fit in, like any other grade six girl. An accident that leads to fake teeth makes that harder than she thought. A variety of other game changing issues present themselves while she’s dealing with full headgear. It sounds like exactly the kind of book that pre-teens would connect with.

Sisters offers another connectable theme for kids: sibling rivalry and confrontation. Raina isn’t close to her sister Amara, even though she wanted to be, but when family strife and a new baby brother enter the picture, they have to learn how to depend on each other.

I often recommend Telgemeier to students who are unsure about what to read. She offers real issues that kids can relate to and the graphic novel aspect takes away some of the fear or uncertainty for reluctant readers. She also does the Baby Sitters Club graphics, which students love.

Smile at Amazon.com

Smile at Amazon.ca

A Middle Grade Teacher's To Be Read List Escape from Mr. Lemoncellos's Library by Chris GrabensteinEscape from Mr. Lemoncellos’s Library by Chris Grabenstein
Middle grade fiction published by Yearling

This book has been on my list for a while and I already started it twice. It’s like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory meets Night at the Museum. The first time I started it was in class but there was a hold on the book and it didn’t seem fair to hang onto it when a kid was waiting for it (I’m exceptionally fair like that). The second time was the same thing, only at home with my own kids. I loved the beginning both times but often start too many books at once and am forced to choose. Since last year was the year of Jaron and Sage because I was addicted to the Jennifer Nielsen’s trilogy, I had to put this one aside. But it’s remained on my list because I know it is going to be fantastic.

Kyle, surprisingly, wins a chance to spend the night in a brand new library, unlike any library ever known. Mr. Lemoncello is a game maker who develops a number of twists and turns in a real life game that Kyle must find a way to escape.

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library at Amazon.com

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library at Amazon.ca

A Middle Grade Teacher's To Be Read List The Invisible Boy by Trudy LudwigThe Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig
Middle grade fiction published by Knopf Books for Young Readers

If Adrienne Gear recommends it, I’m likely going to read it at some point. I warn my students every year that you are never too old for picture books. They offer some of the best morals and insights we can find. Picture books also offer students a chance to really utilize the strategies we teach them such as connecting, making pictures in their head, and predicting. The fact that it is a picture book sometimes lessens the anxiety during reading lessons, allowing them to learn and connect in greater ways.

Brian is a boy that no one notices. He never gets included in games, birthday invites, or activities. When Justin comes to his school, Brian is noticed for the first time. Even if the story didn’t sound so wonderful and so connectable, the beautiful pictures would pull me in.

The Invisible Boy at Amazon.com

The Invisible Boy at Amazon.ca

A Middle Grade Teacher's To Be Read List Grimmtastic Girls by Joan Holub and Suzanne WilliamsGrimmtastic Girls by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams
Middle grade fiction published by Scholastic

Two more authors that I love (the write the Goddess Girl Series and Heroes in Training) have another series, The Grimmtastic Girls. I might be bias because my eleven year old loves these two authors so much and the Goddess Girl series is one of her (and my) absolute favourites. They have a great writing style and their characters are loveable, even when flawed. Obviously, I’m a little behind because when I saw one in Scholastic, I found out there are four so far.

Grimmtastic Girls #1: Cinderella Stays Late at Amazon.com

Grimmtastic Girls #1: Cinderella Stays Late at Amazon.ca

A Middle Grade Teacher's To Be Read List Treasure Hunters by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein
Middle grade fiction published by Little, Brown and Company

A few things make me want to read this one: James Patterson. Chris Grabenstein. And my enjoyment of Hook. Patterson has several books for kids that I see being enjoyed in the classroom. His middle school series is entertaining and my recent venture into the world of swaggering pirates makes me want to take a look at this book.

Diving is part of the Kidd siblings lives. But when their parents going missing, they face the biggest treasure hunt ever: finding them.

Treasure Hunters at Amazon.com

Treasure Hunters at Amazon.ca

A Middle Grade Teacher's To Be Read List Stranded by Jeff ProbstStranded by Jeff Probst
Middle grade fiction published by Puffin

Another one that I ordered long ago, I need to finally read this one. I try to find books for the classroom that both the boys and girls will be drawn toward. I want them to see the fun in reading, to see that it just takes one book, the right book, to pull you in and make you a reader. The fact that students know who Jeff Probst is and watch Survivor, intrigues them. We need to find ways to invest them in reading and all it has to offer.

When four new siblings (blended family) get stranded on an island, they must get to know each other, and trust each other, fast. If they want to get home, they need to find a way to work together.

Stranded at Amazon.com

So there you have my TBR pile for the 2014-2015 school year. I should probably get off of the computer and get started. I’m certain I will get distracted by other books that peak my interest, but my goal is to get all of these done by June. What is on your to be read list this year?

Storytime Standouts - Raising Children Who Love to Read

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39. Three by Zetta Elliott

The Magic Mirror by Zetta Elliott. Illustrations by Paul Melecky. Rosetta Press, 2014. Review copy. Kamara suffers from the mean words of a boy at school until her Gramma comforts her and shows her the ancient mirror kept in a back bedroom of her old house. Kamara willingly cleans Gramma's mirror and discovers a magical storytelling window into her own family history. Generations of brave,

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40. The Yeti Files: Meet the Bigfeet by Kevin Sherry, 122 pp, RL 1.5

The Yeti Files series by Kevin Sherry is just about the best thing EVER! Sherry, who is the author of some very funny picture books that I enjoyed reading out loud at story time when I was a bookseller, is perfectly suited to take the helm of an endeavor like this, in terms of illustration style and sense of humor. And his appreciation of large magical and non-magical creatures. Book 1 of

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41. 6 Fabulous Dragon Books

Manelle Oliphant Illustration - Illustrator and Writer

Six of my favorite dragon books

I recently had had so much fun creating a short story called Princess and Dragon. But my love for dragon stories started years ago. Here are six of my favorites.

Dealing with Dragons: The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, Book One by Patricia C. Wrede

This book is classic in my mind. I still remember the friend that recommended it to me when I was in junior high-school.  I’m forever grateful to her since I’ve loved the series and Patricia C. Wrede’s books ever since.


Thirteenth Child (Frontier Magic) By Patricia C. Wrede

Speaking of Patricia C. Wrede, this is one of her new books. I love it. I really want to be best friends with Eff the main character. This book has dragons and tons of other magical creatures. It also has a fun historical element which grounds the story and makes it feel like it really happened.

Seraphina By Rachel Hartman

This is a newer novel as well. It’s well crafted and fun. The dragons in it are different than dragons are normally depicted, and the story… I just can’t get over how much I loved it. I’m excited to read the sequel. 

Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George

This book is similar to Dealing with Dragons in that the main character is a girl who challenges the status quo by refusing to be a damsel in distress. But the story its self is original and fun.  (I’d say I love it again but I’ve said it a lot already. I do love it though.)


The Bee-Man of Orn by Frank R. Stockton illustrated by PJ Lynch

I have to be honest, I love this book for the pictures. They are beautiful. If you haven’t looked at PJ Lynch’s illustrations this is a good place to start.

Saint George and the Dragon By Margaret Hodges Illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman

This book won the caldecott medal in 1985. The illustrations by Trina Hyman have been a big influence on me. If you haven’t seen her art this is another good place to start.

 

Princess and Dragon by Manelle Oliphant Don’t forget to download my short story Princess and Dragon.  You can download it by clicking any of the following links.

Princess & Dragon PDf (20) Princess & Dragon ebub (13) Princess & Dragon mobi (11)

 

 

Did I miss any great dragon stories? Let me know what they are I’m always up for reading more about Dragons.

 

Learn more about how you can support the creation of more stories like Princess and Dragon by clicking here. 

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42. Book Trailer for ‘Caution: Witch in Progress’!

Watch the great new trailer for the children’s humorous fantasy, ‘Caution: Witch in Progress’. Out now on Kindle worldwide!

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43. Princess and Dragon

Manelle Oliphant Illustration - Illustrator and Writer

Princess and Dragon

To download this story for your devices click the links below.

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Princess and Dragon

A Short Story By Manelle Oliphant
Text and illustrations © 2014 by Manelle Oliphant
I

 stood under the bridge and clenched my sword tighter. I took a few breaths and tried to relax my hand.

“A sword in an iron grip can’t move.” Keegan’s taunt, from the three short weeks he’d spent training me, rang in my head.

I pushed it from my mind. Here in real life I didn’t see how a relaxed hand would help. My body trembled. I gripped the sword tighter. Iron grip or not the sword would be more useful in my hand than on the ground.

I put my free hand on the damp bricks, and slowed my breaths.

In.

Out.

In.

Out.

The trembling stopped. I listened.  I tuned out the river and heard It on the bridge above me.

It’s not a big dragon, about the size of a peasant’s cottage. I took another deep breath. It’s not a big dragon, I told myself again. It didn’t help. It meant if he wanted to eat me he’d have to do it in pieces rather than all at once.

Breath in.

Breath out.

Don’t think about being eaten.

I tuned out the water again and listened to the bridge groan every time It took a step. I heard It breathing and It’s tongue slither in and out.

Ssss.

Ssss.

Ssss.

It tasted the air for a princess taste. I hoped the damp covered my sent.

Thump, creak, It stepped closer.

Ssss, he tasted the air again. “I know you’re there princess. We killed your parents. Your brother doesn’t have long for this life and I plan on sending you to join them.”

It spoke the truth. The dragons killed my parents three weeks ago. Keegan lay sleeping in the castle sick ward with burned leg and missing arm. If It killed me and Keegan died, the dragons could claim these lands, and the people in them.

I gripped my sword with both hands and crouched. Another thunk as he stepped closer to me across the bridge.

Breath in.

Breath out.

I stood, ready for an attack from either side.

Breath in, glance left.

Breath out, glance right.

I saw It’s shadow above me. It moved. My heart beat. Dragon face in front of me. Time slowed. My death in his eyes. His big dragon mouth opened and heat surrounded me. Keegan’s training kicked in and my body reacted. I slid to the left  and swung my sword, two handed, strait down on his neck. Hot dragon blood splashed my arms. I swung again.

Thunk!

The head fell to the ground at my feet. I took a breath and lowered my arm.

Splash!

Fizzz.

I jumped and yanked the sword back up. The dragon’s body fell into the shallow river. Water hit my face and arms, cooling the burns from the dragon’s blood. Steamy fog surrounded me. Still holding my sword ready, I peered through it until I saw It’s body. No movement.

I killed It.

My body started to tremble again but I controlled it long enough to climb out of the bridge’s shadow into the sun. I collapsed on the riverbank. My body trembled more. Tears came so I sat up. They gushed up through me and out of my eyes. Unstoppable. I sobbed and sobbed.

“Princess! Princess Nora! Are you okay?”

Footsteps ran toward me.  I turned and wiped my eyes and nose on my sleeve. Bran, our captain of the guard, squatted beside me. He saw my tears and burned arms. His hands, like birds, fluttered around my head and down my arms as he checked for injuries. “Are you harmed princess?  I’ll call the doctor.”

“Bran no, I’m ok.”

Bran nodded but looked me up and down once more. I still held my sword in one hand. I had forgotten about it. He took it from me. I let him.

He noticed the dragon. “By all the saints!” He took a deep breath. “Princess, I’m glad you’re alright! When we got separated I… your brother will never forgive me…I’m glad you’re alright!”  He ran his hand through his hair and stopped talking.

  He sat. Water splashed around the dragon’s body in front of us. I took deep breaths until my body calmed.

He stood, helped me up, and handed me back my sword.

“We’ve driven them back for now, my lady. We’ll have a few days before they attack again.” He looked at the dead dragon again. “I think we should celebrate tonight.”

I looked at it too. It was dead. I was alive.  I nodded at him. “Yes.” We needed to celebrate this small victory.

We’d won the battle, but the war had just begun.

Thanks for reading.

If you enjoyed this story share it with your friends.

Learn how you can support the author and the creation of other ebooks like this at http://www.patreon.com/manelleoliphant

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44. Book Trailer for Zac’s Destiny

Please check out my book trailer for Zac’s Destiny on YouTube!

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45. The Haunted Library, by Dori Hillestad Butler -- new series for beginning readers (ages 6-9)

New readers love finding series that make them laugh and bring them back for more adventures. These chapter books fill an important step in children's reading development. I was excited to hear that author of one of my favorite series, The Buddy Files, has just written a new series: The Haunted Library. I think our 1st and 2nd graders are going love this silly mix of humor, ghosts and mystery.
The Haunted Library
by Dori Hillestad Butler
illustrated by Aurore Damant
Grosset & Dunlap/ Penguin, 2014
Your local library
Amazon
ages 6-9
When the Outside wind blows Kaz away from his home and separates him from his ghost family, it's a scary thing. Kaz finds a new home and discovers a human girl who can see him. It's unsettling at first, but Claire is friendly and reassures Kaz that she can see lots of ghosts. In fact, she has a ghost notebook where she keeps track of all her ghostly sightings!

Kids will have fun learning the ins and outs of Butler's ghost world, but they definitely won't be scared. Damant's cartoonish illustrations emphasize the humor involved, and the friendliness of each character.
Kaz and Claire, from The Haunted Library
Kaz and Claire set out to solve the mystery of the library ghost -- trying to figure out who's turning off the lights and scaring the library patrons. Kaz wonders if it's his lost brother, and Claire wonders if her grandmother knows more than she's letting on.

I especially love the interplay between the simple sentences and the illustrations in this chapter book. As you can see below when Kaz and Claire are chasing another ghost through the library, the illustrations show the action to guide readers in a crucial moment. The words add enough description for readers to add more to their "mental movies", especially helping them understand the characters' emotions.
Enjoy sharing this new series, either as a read aloud with 1st graders who are eager to read more chapter books with you, or with 2nd graders ready to try chapter books on their own.

For more fun, check out the rest of The Haunted Library Blog Tour. Tomorrow, I'll be interviewing Dori Hillestad Butler with some questions my students wanted to know. Come back to see her notebooks, her own haunts and more pictures!

If you're looking for other series I love sharing with 2nd graders, check out these other suggestions:
The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers, Grosset & Dunlap, an imprint of Penguin Books for Young Readers. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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46. Atmospheric audiobooks

These audiobooks offer intrepid listeners stories of supernatural and psychological suspense, all with vividly evoked settings.

stroud screaming staircase audiobook Atmospheric audiobooksIn the world of Jonathan Stroud’s The Screaming Staircase (first book in the Lockwood & Co. series), ghost-busting firms employ psychically sensitive children to neutralize supernatural pests infesting London. Lucy Carlyle joins an indie agency — consisting of Lucy, amiable teenage owner Anthony Lockwood, and sardonic George — just before Lockwood accepts a client with a very haunted property. Miranda Raison’s narration imbues Lucy with the right balance of droll humor and compassion for uneasy spirits. Her pacing ratchets up the tension while allowing the teens’ snarky banter room to breathe in this thrilling and funny story. (Listening Library, 10–14 years)

sedgwick midwinterblood audiobook Atmospheric audiobooksMarcus Sedgwick’s Midwinterblood chronicles life on a remote Scandinavian island—going backwards from the future to the distant past — through seven related stories. The tales gradually reveal Blessed Island’s dependence on a strange drug and disturbing history of human sacrifice. Each tale centers on two bonded souls, reincarnated variously as family members, lovers, and intergenerational friends, who reunite only to be wrenched apart again. Narrator Julian Rhind-Tutt ably captures the emotional extremes of this unsettling novel: the uncanny recognition and tender reunion of the protagonists; the desperate fear and violence of their community; and the dark machinations of the island itself. (Listening Library, 12–16 years)

foxlee midnight dress audiobook Atmospheric audiobooksNew girl Rose’s sharp edges gradually soften through relationships with classmate Pearl and eccentric dressmaker Edie in Karen Foxlee’s The Midnight Dress. Edie teases out Rose’s past and shares her own as they sew Rose’s (possibly magical) gown for the upcoming harvest festival. Reader Olivia Mackenzie-Smith transports her listener to a specific era and place (1980s coastal Australia) while also imparting the lyrical prose’s dreamy sense of once-upon-a-time. But there’s no happily ever after here: interspersed interludes reveal that one of the girls has disappeared; Mackenzie-Smith gives these interludes an ominous tone as they progress inexorably towards betrayal and tragedy. (Listening Library, 14 years and up)

lockhart we were liars audiobook Atmospheric audiobooksAfter a two-year absence due to an accident she can’t remember, Cady returns to the private island where her beautiful, privileged family spends its summers. Relationships (particularly among Cady, her same-age cousins Johnny and Mirren, and family friend Gat) feel oddly strained, and no one will tell Cady what happened the summer of the accident. The pieces of her fragmented memory slowly come together to reveal a truth more devastating than Cady (or the listener) could have imagined. The shocking denouement of E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars hits hard — and even more so with narrator Ariadne Meyers’s disbelieving, heartbroken delivery. (Listening Library, 14 years and up)

For more on recommended audiobooks from The Horn Book, click on the tag audiobooks. From the October 2014 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

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47. YA supernatural baddies

Looking for a book to send a chill down your spine? These four new novels involving creepy paranormal characters are perfect for the occasion.

ritter jackaby YA supernatural baddiesAbandoning university for a (failed) archaeological dig in the Carpathian Mountains, Abigail Rook, star of William Ritter’s Jackaby, finds herself aboard a ship bound for America. Landing in the town of New Fiddleham in 1892, the young Englishwoman begins working for the remarkable Mr. R. F. Jackaby — a detective whose perceptive observations are of the paranormal variety. Right away, they’re hot on the heels of a murderer — in the process encountering a banshee, a shape-shifter, and a redcap goblin. It’s a riveting mash-up of mystery and folklore, with vivid details and striking turns of phrase. (Algonquin, 12–16 years)

winters cure for dreaming YA supernatural baddiesIn Cat Winters’s The Cure for Dreaming, seventeen-year-old Olivia Mead supports women’s suffrage while her overbearing single father adamantly does not. Dr. Mead hires handsome visiting hypnotist Henri Reverie to set Livie straight about men and women’s proper roles and squelch her ability to argue. But sympathetic Henri hypnotizes Livie to see the way things are — not accept them. Livie’s visions, unsettling and surreal as nightmares, end up empowering her in this story about hypnotism and emotional manipulation. (Abrams/Amulet, 12–16 years)

kiernan into the grey YA supernatural baddiesTwin teens Patrick and Dominick move with their family to a shabby seaside cottage. Pat sees that Dom is being haunted by a young boy’s ghost, while Pat himself has nightmares about a WWI soldier. Eventually Dom is utterly possessed by boy ghost Francis, and Pat is desperate to do what he can to retrieve his brother. Celine Kiernan’s storytelling in Into the Grey is confident, powerful, and poetic. The twisting plot involves family love, local history, loyalty, and protectiveness, with a well-drawn cast of characters, energetic drama, and dialogue pierced with Irish dialect. (Candlewick, 12–16 years)

knudsen evil librarian YA supernatural baddiesSixteen-year-old Cynthia Rothschild’s ordinary junior year goes to hell — literally — when Cyn and her crush Ryan catch new librarian Mr. Gabriel unmasked with demonic wings and fangs in Michelle Knudsen’s Buffy-esque Evil Librarian. Cyn and Ryan team up to research demon-kind, recruit allies, prepare for a showdown with Mr. G. and co., and put on a damn fine musical production (she’s the tech director, he’s a theater prodigy). Smart, loyal, and witty, Cyn is an engaging heroine. Fans of Cynthia Leitich Smith’s Tantalize series or Larbalestier and Brennan’s Team Human will enjoy this blend of supernatural action, school story, romance, and dark comedy. (Candlewick, 14 years and up)

From the October 2014 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

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48. Dissonance: Review

The concept of Dissonance is one I’ve always found interesting, but haven’t read very much of- parallel universes. This book has a very intricate and fresh idea about a world with multiple universes that are based on sound and frequency. In this world there is the primary Key World and an infinite number of other worlds that are created from the choices people make and are populated by alternate versions of people, called Echoes. There are a small number of people who can go between these worlds, called Walkers, who destroy any broken worlds to maintain the Key World. I loved the world of this story. It managed to take a very complicated concept and describe it in a way that wasn’t heavy on the exposition, wasn’t too confusing, and worked well as an intrinsic part of the plot. I loved how the plot was mainly rooted in the mechanics... Read more »

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49. A bookish microcosm of Russia

My family often wonders about my propensity to jump from one seemingly unrelated topic to another, often within seconds.  What they usually don't realize is that in my mind, the topics are connected; I've merely forgotten to fill them in on the links.

With that in mind, I offer you three new books on Russia that in my mind, are dramatically different and yet completely complementary.  A young adult nonfiction book, a young adult fantasy, and a children's picture book a microcosm of Russia in history, magic and dance.

I recently had the pleasure of reviewing Candace Fleming's, The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of the Imperial Russia (Random House Audio, 2014).  My review and an audio excerpt are linked here.

You can read my review or any number of stellar reviews, but I will sum up  by saying that whether you listen to the audio book or read the print copy, The Family Romanov is a fully immersive experience into the final years of tsarist Russia - the time, the place, and  the tragically doomed family.

I was happily mulling over this excellent book when I immediately received an opportunity to  review Egg & Spoon by Gregory Maguire (Brilliance Audio, 2014).  I had received a galley copy of Egg & Spoon in the spring.  I thought it looked intriguing, but hadn't had time to read it.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that it is a folklore fantasy that takes place - of all places - in tsarist Russia.  I couldn't believe my good fortune.  The book was enhanced by my recent reading of The Family Romanov.  With the history of modern tsarist Russia fresh in my mind, the location and historical setting was vivid, leaving me more time to ponder the story's underpinning of Russian folklore, of which I was mostly ignorant.  I knew little of the witch, Baba Yaga and her peculiar house that walks on chicken legs, and I knew nothing of the magical Russian firebird.

My reviews are linked here and here.  Again, you can read my review or any other, but I will sum up by saying that Egg & Spoon is grand and magical - a metaphoric epic for readers from twelve to adult.

I was so happy to have read these excellent books in tandem and was recommending them at every turn, when I happened to hear an interview with Misty Copeland on the radio speaking about her experience dancing in the Russian ballet, The Firebird. What a coincidence, I thought - the firebird flies again in my milieu. A greater coincidence ocurred at work when I received my new copy of Misty Copeland's, Firebird. (Putnam, 2014)  Reading Egg & Spoon gave me an historical context for The Firebird ballet, and Misty Copeland tied it all together - a modern and immediate manifestation of history's struggles and stories - all rising like the mystical firebird.

So there you have it, my serendipitous encounter with Russian history, folklore and culture.  As our two countries struggle with our relationship, may we always remember that there is more to a country than its leaders and politicians.  There is always us, the common people. And as Egg & Spoon and Firebird will show you, there is always hope.



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50. Spotlight and Giveaway: By the Magic of Starlight by Serena Gilley

This morning I have an excerpt and giveaway for By the Magic of Starlight, which is available now!

BY THE MAGIC OF STARLIGHT by Serena Gilley (October 7, 2014; Forever Yours E-Book; $0.99)

Beyond the limits of sight, magical beings live in the Forbidden Realm. The two worlds were once connected, but the desires of man forced their separation. Now, desire may bring them back together . . .

Raea is a fairy with a secret. Beneath a veil of moonlight and mist, she did the unthinkable: shared a night of exquisite passion with Kyne, the fairy-human hybrid whose touch makes her tremble. Now she can’t forget the feel of his hard body and hot kiss against her skin. Their connection is undeniable-and forbidden.

Kyne’s hunger for Raea is insatiable. As a fairy, he should be beyond the lure of lust, but as a man he can’t resist the pleasure only she can provide. Yet if the Fairy Council is correct, their love will unleash a secret with the power to destroy the Realm forever . . .

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About the author:

Serena Gilley grew up reading fantasy and fairy tales, and believing there was a distinct possibility that both of them were real. Somewhere. Even all these years later, Serena’s belief in magic and mystery hasn’t diminished. In fact, She is living out her own happily-ever-after with a handsome prince in a beautiful castle, taming dragons and granting wishes every day.  Okay, so the prince is a regular guy, the dragons are really just teenagers, and the wishes she grants are as spectacular as frozen pizza on Friday night, but it’s a fantasy world just the same.

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“Listen,” Raea said, her voice close behind him as he fluttered down from the tree. “Can you hear that sound?”

He listened. Yes, there was a sound. It was low, an indistinct hum that he had initially ignored as the usual buzz of a forest at night. But she was right, this was something slightly different. It droned on in too even a tone to be insects or rustling leaves.

“It’s coming from there, where those rocks jut up from the earth,” he said, pointing.

It was a useless gesture, of course, but she must have found the spot on her own. The brush of her wings began moving in that direction.

“It is. There’s a dry creek bed just through these shrubs. It looks like we’re in a valley at the base of a hill. The rocks seem to be covering something.”

He followed her voice and the droning hum got louder as he approached. Whatever was making the noise clearly was hidden under the rocks. Without some sort of magic, there was no way they were going to get under them to investigate further. He laid his hand on the largest of the rocks and found it to be warm. Too warm to have been hidden here under the forest canopy all day.

“What’s making it so hot?” Raea asked.

“I don’t know.”

He moved to the next rock. It was warm, too. How could that be? They seemed to be standard rocks, the same material as any other rocks he might expect to find in this area. What would make them hot to the touch? Were they heated from below?

He moved to another rock and put his hand on it. But this one was soft. And it had breasts.

“Um, that’s not a rock,” Raea said.

“No. I like this much better than a rock.”

He jolted when he felt her hand unexpectedly reach for his groin. She made contact and must have intended for that. She giggled, but did not remove her hand.

“This feels something like a rock.”

“And you know why that is,” he said. “It’s because of you, Raea. Even invisible you make me want you so badly.”

“I know. I feel it, too,” she whispered, stroking him slowly. “The protection from the dust must be wearing off. I know we’re in danger and don’t have any Sizing Dust, but I can’t seem to think about anything except you, Kyne.”

He traced the form of her body, her breasts, the curve at the small of her back, the heated juncture between her legs. He moaned when she pressed herself against him, fisting his cock as if she would drag him to release right here and now. She was up against the warm rock; its weathered, flat surface provided perfect leverage for him to explore every inch of her. He found her lips and he kissed them. Then her neck, then her shoulders, then lower to tease her invisible nipples.

“I think I’m on fire, Kyne. You’ve got to do something, please. Come inside me; I need you.”

“You know I can’t do that. But by the Skies, I can do this.”

He slid down her, his hands skimming her hips and her thighs until his mouth was positioned just right where he wanted to be. He nuzzled her there, burying himself in her scent. Her legs parted and he tasted her core. She groaned in surprised pleasure.

“I can totally do this,” he repeated.

 

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The post Spotlight and Giveaway: By the Magic of Starlight by Serena Gilley appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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