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Can I tell you how much I like this book? I reviewed it several months ago for AudioFile Magazine and could hardly wait until they published my review so that I could freely blog about my affinity for it! Although "swashbuckling" is the term I've seen most often in reviews of The Accidental Highwayman, I would characterize it as a mix of daring deeds and derring-do, of historical fiction and magical conviction. You can read my official review here, I listened to the audio version, but would guess that the printed copy is equally enjoyable.
Amidst a grim 18th century English setting arises the accidental highwayman, Whistling Jack. Teenager Kit Bristol makes the unlikely yet unavoidable transformation from circus performer to manservant to famous highwayman tasked with the rescue of a mysterious princess from an enchanted coach. Narrator Steve West employs the English "standard accent" for his presentation of the gallant robber. He delivers non-stop action and suspense while maintaining an air of wise contemplation suited to this retrospective narrative of daring deeds from a magical past.
This is the first in an expected series. Judging from the effort expended on the series' official website, http://kitbristol.com , they knew right out of the gate that this one would be popular! Enjoy the goofy trailer (there are two more on the site).
Note: As a fledgling ukulele player myself, I love that Ben Tripp plays the ukulele in this trailer.
Macmillan is celebrating the 40th anniversary of Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt. They posed the same question for 40 bloggers: “What if you could live forever?” Here’s my answer -
I am new to Tuck Everlasting, and after reading the book, it did make me think. What if I could drink from the spring, knowing that I would live forever? Would I do it? If I had answered the question when I was 20, I probably would have jumped at the chance. Think of the things I could accomplish! I could devote myself to a cause, like finding the cure for cancer, and know that time wasn’t concern – I had all the time in the world, after all. But that decision relies on the wisdom of being old enough and mature enough to realize that the gift of time comes with an obligation to do something good for the rest of humanity. If I had found that spring when I was twenty, I would have taken a drink, and probably lived a life like Jesse. The youngest Tuck, Jesse thinks that their unnatural life should be lived to the fullest. Go off and do your own thing, without any concerns about societal obligations. His life view makes sense – they have to keep the spring a secret, they can’t put down any roots for fear of causing suspicions because they don’t age, so why should he go out of his way to do anything for anyone else?
At my present point in time, though, if I stumbled on that spring, no, I would not take a sip. Why not? Having had to say goodbye to people I loved, the thought of doing it repeatedly, and often, is a huge deterrent. Think about it – if you lived forever, but nobody else did, you’d be saying goodbye an awful lot. You’d be alone a lot. With each death, it feels like sliver of my soul dies, too. How long before there wasn’t anything left of me that really mattered? At least the Tucks had each other to while away the endless years of their life. But what if it was just you, and you were alone? Sure, you could make connections with others, fleeting friendships that to you lasted the blink of an eye. What would that be like? Maybe that’s why Tuck considered that drink from the spring a curse instead of a blessing.
What do you think? Would you drink from the spring?
Doomed to – or blessed with – eternal life after drinking from a magic spring, the Tuck family wanders about trying to live as inconspicuously and comfortably as they can. When ten-year-old Winnie Foster stumbles on their secret, the Tucks take her home and explain why living forever at one age is less a blessing than it might seem. Complications arise when Winnie is followed by a stranger who wants to market the spring water for a fortune . . .
One of my favorite reads of 2014, Burn for Me is an action packed race to save Houston from a psychopathic mage who uses fire to level anything in his path. Set in an alternate world where a serum gave some people incredible magic powers, Nevada is a private investigator struggling to make ends meet for her family. When she’s given the mission to bring in Adam Pierce before he kills anyone else, she knows that she’s a sacrificial scapegoat for the powerful families that own her firm and rule Houston. Nevada can tell if someone is lying to her, and she knows that everything she’s been told so far is a lie.
Mad Rogan is after Adam Pierce for reasons of his own. He’s another human with unmatched destructive powers and even fewer ethics. He can kill with the flick of his wrist, arouse with a thought, and reduce a city to rubble. I loved this guy! He does what he wants, with little regard for the consequences, because for Mad Rogan, there are no consequences. Wealthy beyond belief, powerful beyond measure, Mad Rogan is godlike with his powers. He is an indifferent, brutally decisive god who doesn’t hesitate to act, and it’s a good thing for Nevada, because without his help, however reluctantly she’s accepted it, she would be toast. Literally.
Nevada is a very strong heroine who doesn’t realize the extent of her magic. She knows that she can tell if someone is telling the truth, but she doesn’t know that she can compel another to speak the truth. Mad Rogan discovers this, rather unpleasantly, when someone tries to kill Nevada’s grandmother. I thought he deserved it. He’s a guy you can’t entirely trust, and after their initial introduction (he kidnaps she), I didn’t think he would ever come across as a convincing romantic lead. He did. That’s part of the magic of this book. Nevada’s influence on him changes him. Mad Rogan has willingly done terrible, terrible things, things he doesn’t regret or even feel the slightest twinge of remorse over, but Nevada tempers his impulses to just let loose with his magic, at least when someone isn’t trying to kill them.
I loved this book! I wasn’t going to read it at first because of the cover, which I don’t think represents the book well at all. I thought it would be a PNR with lots of sexy times – it’s not. It’s more of an urban fantasy with a strong heroine, a badass hero who finally meets his match, and a whole lot of sexual chemistry. And a ton of adrenaline-laced action scenes. I LOVED it! I want MOAR!! And I want it NOW!!
Review copy proved by my local library
#1 New York Times bestselling author Ilona Andrews launches a brand-new Hidden Legacy series, in which one woman must place her trust in a seductive, dangerous man who sets off an even more dangerous desire . . .
Nevada Baylor is faced with the most challenging case of her detective career—a suicide mission to bring in a suspect in a volatile situation. Nevada isn’t sure she has the chops. Her quarry is a Prime, the highest rank of magic user, who can set anyone and anything on fire.
Then she’s kidnapped by Connor “Mad” Rogan—a darkly tempting billionaire with equally devastating powers. Torn between wanting to run and wanting to surrender to their overwhelming attraction, Nevada must join forces with Rogan to stay alive.
Rogan’s after the same target, so he needs Nevada. But she’s getting under his skin, making him care about someone other than himself for a change. And, as Rogan has learned, love can be as perilous as death, especially in the magic world.
I'm back from vacation and have some catching up to do! If you're a frequent reader, you'll know that I review books for AudioFile Magazine. Once submitted, I cannot reprint my reviews here, but I can offer a quick rundown, and link to the reviews as they appeared for AudioFile.
I love Cornelia Funke's dark fantasy titles. The Inkheart trilogy is a favorite series, and I thoroughly enjoyed Reckless, the first in the Mirrorworld series. I was thrilled when offered an opportunity to review her new early chapter book fantasy, Emma and the Blue Genie, especially when I discovered that she is the narrator. My review of Emma and the Blue Genie is here.Suggested for ages 7-10.
(I only reviewed the audio copy, but the print copy is lovely - small and special and delightfully illustrated)
It's Halloween, and the perfect time to choose some spooky stories.Witches, wizards and ghosties...read on for some mainly funny, occasionally frightening, books featuring witches, wizards and other Halloween happenings. I've organized them roughly by age of reader and slipped in a book of my own.
Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson and Axel Schlieffer
Julia Donaldson is the queen of the rhyming picture book, and this one is features a wonderfully traditional (if benevolent) warty-nosed witch, complete with cat and a very over-crowded broomstick...
Winnie the Witch by Valerie Bierman and Korky Paul
It's Wilbur the cat and the wonderful illustrations - veering from all dark, to a world of colour - that absolutely make this book for me.
The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy
The classic adventures of the accident-prone Mildred Hubble at Miss Cackle's Academy are ever-fresh and delightful.
The Best Halloween Ever - by Barbara Robinson
I have to admit I haven't actually read this yet - in fact I only just discovered it existed. But it's by one of the funniest childrens' writers ever, Barbara Robinson, about one of the funniest families ever, the Herdmans. They produced a hilarious Christmas Pageant so I'm looking forward to what they'll do with Halloween...
Bella Donna by Ruth Symes
An ordinary girl, who just happens to be a witch...or rather a witchling. A contemporary take on witches.
Witch Baby by Debi Gliori
I think this would be a book my own Wild Thing character would enjoy - because, like her story, it concerns a little sister whose behaviour is driving her older sister crazy. Only this little sister is a witch. Sibling rivalry with a big dose of magic thrown in.
Jessica Haggerthwaite: Witch Dispatcher by Emma Barnes
Yes, this one's by me! Jessica Haggerthwaite wants to be a famous scientist and is determined to foil her mother, Mrs Haggerthwaite's, witchcraft business. Her plans come to a head at a disastrous Halloween Party for her mother's magical pals and their familiars.
Charmed Life by Diana Wynne Jones
DWJ is my favourite fantasy author and I could have chosen several of her books: Witch Week or The Time of the Ghost or Howl's Moving Castle. Charmed Life is one of the Chrestmanci series, and is perfect for Halloween as it is during a grand dinner party at Chrestomanci Castle ("because they always do lots of entertaining around Halloween") that the magic really goes awry, with the help of a pinch of dragon's blood. A truly wonderful book.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling
The most famous boy wizard of all, and Azkaban is my favourite of his adventures, because that time changing plot is just so fiendishly clever.
The Midnight Folk by John Masefield
Older and darker in tone, this classic novel is one of my all-time favourites. The witches, including the terrifying Mrs Pouncer and her friends, are genuinely scary, as is Abner Brown. There is a wildness to time and setting. And Nibbins the cat is probably my favourite Witch's cat of all.
Coraline by Neil Gaiman
A bit of a change of subject matter here, as most of my list is funny rather than terrifying, but if you want something truly spinechilling then Coraline fits the bill. Just why is that mother with the button eyes so disturbing? But don't blame me if you (or they) get nightmares.
What have I forgotten? Please nominate your favourite Halloween reads.
There is a quarrel inside me about fairies, and the form of literature their presence helps to define. I have never tried to see a fairy, or at least not since I was five years old. The interest of Casimiro Piccolo reveals how attitudes to folklore belong to their time: he was affected by the scientific inquiry into the paranormal which flourished – in highly intellectual circles – from the late nineteenth century and into the twentieth. But he also presents a test case, I feel, for the questions that hang around fairies and fairy tales in the twenty-first century. What is the point of them? What are the uses of such enchantments today? The absurdity of this form of magical belief (religious miracles are felt to be different, and not only by believers) creates a quarrel inside me, about the worth of this form of literature and entertainment I enjoy so much. In what way am I ‘away with the fairies’, too?
Suspicion now hangs around fairy tales because the kind of supernatural creatures and events they include belong to a belief system nobody subscribes to anymore. Even children, unless very small, are in on the secret that fairyland is a fantasy. In the past, however, allusions to fairies could be dangerous not because belief in them was scorned, but because they were feared: Kirk collected the beliefs of his flock in order to defend them against charges of heterodoxy or witchcraft, and, the same time as Kirk’s ethnographical activities, Charles Perrault published his crucially influential collection (l697), in which he pokes fun, with suave courtly wit, at the dangerousness of witches and witchcraft, ogres and talking animals. Perrault is slippery and ambiguous. His Cinderella is a tale of marvellously efficacious magic, but he ends with a moral: recommending his readers to find themselves well-placed godmothers. Not long before he was writing his fairy tales, France and other places in Europe had seen many people condemned to death on suspicion of using magic. The fairy tale emerges as entertainment in a proto-enlightenment move to show that there is nothing to fear.
The current state of fairy tale – whether metastasized in huge blockbuster films or refreshed and re-invigorated in the fiction of Robert Coover, Donald Barthelme, Margaret Atwood or, most recently, Helen Oyeyemi (Mr Fox, and, this year, Boy Snow Bird) does not invite, let alone compel, belief in its magic elements as from an audience of adepts or faithful. Contemporary readers and audiences, including children over the age of 6, are too savvy about special effects and plot lines and the science/magic overlap to accept supernatural causes behind Angelina Jolie’s soaring in Maleficent or the transmogrifications of the characters. Nor do they, nor do we need to suspend disbelief in the willed way Coleridge described.
Rather the ways of approaching the old material – Blue Beard, The Robber Bridegroom, Hansel & Gretel, Snow White and so on – opens up the stories to new meanings. The familiar narrative becomes the arena for raising questions; the story’s well known features provide a common language for thinking about families and love, childhood and marriage. Fairies and their realm allow thought experiments about alternative arrangements in this world. We are no longer looking for fairies at the bottom of the garden, but seeing through them to glimpse other things. As the little girl realises in The Servant’s Tale by Paula Fox, her grandmother through her stories ‘saw what others couldn’t see, that for her the meaning of one thing could also be the meaning of a greater thing.’ In the past, these other, greater things were most often promises – escape, revenge, recognition, glory – but the trend of fairy tales is turning darker, and many retellings no longer hold out such bright eyed hope.
Featured image credit: Sleeping Beauty, by Viktor M. Vasnetsov. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.
Woozy is a terribly well-meaning wizard who’s keen to help his friends, but more often than not he gets somewhat mixed up and his spells don’t quite do what they’re meant to. With the help of his pet pig Woozy flies around trying to sort things out, and in the process it becomes clear that whilst it may not be magic, it is certainly something quite magical that helps put the world to rights.
Lots of humour, great rhythm and rhyme (enormous aids when practising reading because they help with scanning a line, and predicting how words should be pronounced), and clear, bright and colourful illustrations all add up to a lovely book perfect to give to your emerging reader.
To celebrate the publication of I interviewed the author of Woozy the Wizard: A Spell to Get Well, Elli Woollard, about her work. Given Elli is a poet, I challenged her to answer me in rhyme….
Zoe:Rhyming seems to be in your blood. Where did this passion come from?
Elli Woollard: The thing about me is I sing quite a lot
(I rather enjoy it; the neighbours might not),
And I guess if you’re singing for much of the time
Your mind sort of slips into thinking in rhyme.
Zoe:How does your blog, where you regularly publish poems/works in progress, help you with your writing?
Elli Woollard: My blog’s like a sketchbook for scribbles and scrawls
And all of my mind’s muddly mess.
I write them all down, and sometimes I frown,
But some make me want to go ‘YES!’
Elli on the Dr Seuss book bench that was recently on view in London.
Zoe:What would your ideal writing location/environment be like and why?
Elli Woollard: A hot cup of coffee, a warm purring cat;
There’s not much more that I need than that.
Working at home is really quite nice
(Except when the cat thinks my fingers are mice).
Zoe:What was the most magical part for you in the process of seeing Woozy the Wizard come to life as a printed book?
Elli Woollard: Writing, writing, is ever so exciting,
Especially when you’ve finished and say ‘Look!
All of my creations now come with illustrations!
Bloomin’ heck, I think I wrote a book!’
Zoe:What tips do you have for kids who love to write poetry?
Elli Woollard: Use your ears, use your eyes, use your heads, use your feet,
Stand up proud, read aloud, and just listen to that beat.
Feel the rhythm, feel the vibes of the poetry you’ve heard,
And think about the magic that’s in every single word.
Zoe:Which poets for children do you like to read?
Elli Woollard: Donaldson (Julia), Rosen (Mike),
Lear (Edward) and Milligan (Spike),
I could go on, and write a long list,
But so many good ones I know would get missed.
Zoe:Thanks Elli! I’m already looking forward to the next outing for Woozy, in spring 2015!
Hold on to your broomsticks because today we have someone special visiting. She’s a bit of a drafter and doodler, a fellow resident of the magical Gold Coast and a wickedly wonderful conjurer of stories. Snap Magic is her latest light-hearted, fairy tale inspired fantasy novel about friendship and young girls approaching the precipitous edge […]
A majestic unicorn for today. Created with graphite pencil on Strathmore drawing paper and inked with Micron Pigma Brush Pen in black.
I have been really enjoying the inktober event. Not only seeing everyone else’s contributions, but also for my own creativity. I am not one to usually like to ink, but lately I have found it quite zen. I remember telling my fellow comrades on #Zero2Illo that I really hated inking. When asked to clarify why, I found that I really could not answer except that I just wasn’t experienced enough with it. Now that I have been dabbling ever since, I find inking more and more relaxing than frustrating. Thanks to Inktober, I am able to improve my skills even more.
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.
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.
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.
Please welcome Anton Strout back to the virtual offices! Anton has a guest post to share, so check it out.
Name 5 things Lexi WOULD have in her purse
In THE SPELLMASON CHRONICLES Alexandra “Lexi” Belarus isn’t the sort of woman who finds herself with a purse in hand often. Instead she prefers the fashionable roominess of a designer backpack as the life of Manhattan’s only practicing Spellmason is a hectic one where carrying capacity wins out over handbag cuteness every time. Let’s peek inside, shall we?
1. A 40 lb. book made of solid stone
Spellmasonry—the art of wielding power and imbuing stonework with life—is a lost art, known only to Manhattan’s Belarus family with 24 year old Alexandra relearning it. That means she is reliant on the secrets her great-great grandfather wrote centuries ago in a book that’s natural state is solid stone. Only a Spellmason can open this tome, transforming it to paper, but it means it’s the number one thing Lexi has on her at all times. While some arcana can be memorized and cast at will, there is much for Lexi to learn and practice in this voluminous and heavy tome.
2. One standard composition notebook (covered in various stains)
Lexi hasn’t quite achieved the prowess of her great-great grandfather at Spellmasonry, but she’s making do in this modern world. Much of what isn’t spelled out in the stone book is scattered throughout two secret libraries, the content coded throughout multiple volumes, forcing Lexi to compile a spell book of her own. The stains come from working with much of the alchemy that is involved in the trial and error of imbuing stone with the properties of the living.
3. 3 and 1/2 cell phones (broken screened)
The woman carries around a large stone book in her backpack, is on the run from witches and warlocks, and is fighting winged creatures made of stone. There’s a lot of smashy smashy going on in all that, and technology does not react well to thinks that go bump in the night.
Carrying on with the theme of #3, the human body also does not always play well with the resulting spells cast from the abovementioned witches and warlocks or the flick of a gargoyle’s wing that sends her and her friends flying into an alley wall. As a fleshy, fleshy species, we don’t take to the smashy smashy too good. Hence? BANDAGES!
As if her backpack wasn’t heavy enough, let’s just throw one more brick in it, shall we? But not just any brick, no! We’re talking about Lexi’s first experimental attempt at imbuing stone with life, her humble, painted on smiling Bricksley. Usually he can be found in one of the Spellmason libraries shelving books or returning alchemical supplies to their cabinets, but ever so often our happy little brick golem stows away for a little field work. Sneaky little Bricksley!
Ace Mass Market
$7.99 | 320 pages
September 30, 2014
When Alexandra Belarus discovered her family’s secret ability to breathe life into stone, she uncovered an entire world of magic hidden within New York City—a world she has accidentally thrown into chaos. A spell gone awry has set thousands of gargoyles loose upon Manhattan, and it’s up to Lexi and her faithful protector, Stanis, to put things right.
But the stress of saving the city is casting a pall over Lexi and Stanis’s relationship, driving them to work separately to solve the problem. As Stanis struggles to unite the gargoyle population, Lexi forges unlikely alliances with witches, alchemists and New York’s Finest to quell an unsettling uprising led by an ancient and deadly foe long thought vanquished.
To save her city, Lexi must wield more power than ever before with the added hope of recovering a mysterious artifact that could change her world—and bring her closer to Stanis than she ever thought possible…
PRAISE FOR THE SPELLMASON CHRONICLES
“Excellent character development. The ending leaves this whole world open in a great way…My favorite part of this is the use of magic…It feels organic and interesting.”
“Thrilling…Skillful characterization enriches a story that is filled with peril, loss, treachery and sacrifice. Great stuff!”
—RT Book Reviews
“High stakes, high tension, stark contrasts, well-rounded cast and dialogue complete with quips and banter.”
—Urban Fantasy Land
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Anton Strout is the author of the Spellmason Chronicles, including Stonecast and Alchemystic, and the Simon Canderous series including Dead Waters, Dead Matter, Deader Still, and Dead to Me. He was born in the Berkshire Hills mere miles from writing heavyweights Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville. He currently lives in historic Jackson Heights, New York (where noting paranormal ever really happens, he assures you!). In his scant spare time, he is an always writer, a sometimes actor, sometimes musician, occasional RPGer, and the world’s most casual and controller-smashing video gamer. He currently works in the exciting world of publishing and yes, it is as glamorous as it sounds. Visit him online at www.antonstrout.com.
All the training in Heaven couldn’t prepare me for the war on earth, nor for the love, loss, or loneliness humans feel. There are things worse than death, and every last one of them is hunting people like us. Even though we all feel human at times, we must remember, we are not them, we are their watchers.
In England, 1270 A.D., Auriella (pronounced yurr-ee-ella) flees her village after being accused of witchcraft. Pursued by nightmarish creatures, she struggles to accept the truth about her humanity. Filled with fairies, dwarves, pixies, dragons, demons, and monsters, Knight of Light is an enthralling tale that will capture the imaginations of readers young and old.
The Watchers Series has been described as Braveheart meets Supernatural. The mythology for the series is based on many theological texts from dozens of sects with correlating themes. Ancient writings include the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Traditional Apocrypha, the Pearl of Great Price and the Kabbalah. The Watchers are supernatural beings in human form whose duty it is to protect and guard mankind from the armies of darkness. Unfortunately, as the Book of Enoch mentions, some of these Watchers go bad.
Although the mythology is based on these texts, Deirdra Eden’s, The Watcher’s Series, is written in a traditional fairytale style with a young girl’s discovery of incredible, but dangerous powers within herself, a cast of humorous side-kicks, a quest for greater self-discovery and purpose, and villains of epic proportions.
Though the Greek and Roman crewmembers of the Argo II have made progress in their many quests, they still seem no closer to defeating the earth mother, Gaea. Her giants have risen-all of them-and they’re stronger than ever. They must be stopped before the Feast of Spes, when Gaea plans to have two demigods sacrificed in Athens. She needs their blood-the blood of Olympus-in order to wake.
The demigods are having more frequent visions of a terrible battle at Camp Half-Blood. The Roman legion from Camp Jupiter, led by Octavian, is almost within striking distance. Though it is tempting to take the Athena Parthenos to Athens to use as a secret weapon, the friends know that the huge statue belongs back on Long Island, where it might be able to stop a war between the two camps.
The Athena Parthenos will go west; the Argo II will go east. The gods, still suffering from multiple personality disorder, are useless. How can a handful of young demigods hope to persevere against Gaea’s army of powerful giants? As dangerous as it is to head to Athens, they have no other option. They have sacrificed too much already. And if Gaea wakes, it is game over.
Age Range: 10 – 14 years
Grade Level: 5 – 9
Series: The Heroes of Olympus (Book 5)
Hardcover: 528 pages
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion (October 7, 2014)
The New York Review Children’s Collection 9/23/2014
Age 9 to 13 258 pages
.“New Year’s has passed. Twelfth Night is almost here. Krabat, a fourteen-year-old beggar boy dressed up as one of the Three Kings, is travelling from village to village singing carols. One night he has a strange dream in which he is summoned by a faraway voice to go to a mysterious mill—and when he wakes he is irresistibly drawn there. At the mill he finds eleven other boys, all of them, like him, the apprentices of its Master, a powerful sorcerer, as Krabat soon discovers.
During the week the boys work ceaselessly grinding grain, but on Friday nights the Master initiates them into the mysteries of the ancient Art of Arts. One day, however, the sound of church bells and of a passing girl singing an Easter hymn penetrates the boys’ prison: At last they hatch a plan that will win them their freedom and put an end to the Master’s dark designs.”
“It was between New Year’s Day and Twelfth Night, and Krabat, who was fourteen at the time, had joined forces with two other Wendish beggar boys.”
Krabat has a strange dream he feels he must follow. The next day he slips away from the other two boys in his vagabond group and goes to the mill of the sorcerer. Krabat and eleven other boys work grinding grain for long days and nights. It is hard work and Krabat has a difficult time keeping up, until Tonda, the lead journeyman and Krabat’s new best friend, lightly touches Krabat while uttering a few words under his breath. Suddenly, Krabat can work as if he gained the strength of many men; the work is still laborious, yet Krabat can work with ease. Krabat has been with the mill almost one year when Tonda dies. Days later, Krabat, now three years older, becomes a full journeyman and a new boy replaces Tonda, sleeping in his bed and wearing his old clothes, just as Krabat had done one year earlier, though he did not know this until the new apprentice arrived that he slept in the bed and wore the clothes of the journeyman he replaced.
Year 2 is not much easier for Krabat. He thinks of Tonda regularly, who, in a dream, tells Krabat to trust Michal. Michal is similar to Tonda and helps Krabat when he needs help. The millwork is still long and hard, but he can easily get through it with the magic the Master teaches his little ravens in his Black School. Once a year, the boys mark each other with the sign of the Secret Brotherhood, pass under the yoke at the door, and take a blow to the check delivered by the Master, reaffirming their roles for another year.
Various Covers, pt. 1
Year 3 sees Krabat ready to leave the mill. He tries to leave three times and three times, he finds himself back in the mill. He runs to the east as far as he can run—but is still on the grounds of the mill. Krabat runs to the north—only to be at the mill. Krabat can escape but one way—death. Year three’s new apprentice is one of the friends Krabat left when called to the mill. The young boy recognizes the name Krabat, tells of having a friend by that name, but does not recognize Krabat who is now many years older than the boy is. Krabat takes his friend under his wing; much like Tonda had done for him.
Krabat cannot let go of the voice of a young singer from the village. Girls and journeymen of the Master’s mill tend to end in tragedy for at least the girl—including Tonda’s girl—and often the boy as well. Krabat knows this, yet still wants to meet this girl. She could become his savior, except no one has ever outwitted the Master. With the help of a couple of other journeymen, Krabat sets about a plan to gain not only his freedom, but also that of the other journeymen as well. This would mean the end of the mill, the end of magic, and the end of the Master. The Master has his own plan involving Krabat; an offer Krabat should find hard to resist yet does. Instead, Krabat places his life in the hands of the village girl. Can this girl pull off what no one before her could?
Various Covers, pt. 2
I have never been disappointed by a New York Review Children’s Book and Krabat & the Sorcerer’s Mill is no exception. When originally written in 1971, winning many children’s book prizes, some of the German words were archaic and difficult, especially for American children. The translator replaced those words, never losing the story or its basic scheme of horror, love, and friendship between those held in bondage. It is easy to understand why Neil Gaiman calls Krabat & the Sorcerer’s Mill “one of his favorite books.”
After his dream, when Krabat is walking to the mill, each person he asks for directions or simply meets, tells him to stay far away from the mill. The villagers tell him dark, strange things occur at the mill; yet Krabat ventures on, compelled to find this it. For a beggar boy the mill must seem like Heaven. Krabat gets a warm bed and filling meals that do not scrimp on meat. No more singing for his supper and traveling on foot from village to village is indeed a blessing. But the work grinding grain from dusk to dawn is laborious and leaves Krabat exhausted. Then an older boy, Tonda, steps up to help Krabat. Krabat must keep Tonda’s help secret, as the Master would not be pleased his new apprentice received assistance.
The Master is unsympathetic, mysterious, and dangerous. He has secrets of his own. With only one eye, the Master seems to be able to see everything, regardless of where it might occur. Many times, he follows Krabat into town, showing up as a one-eyed raven, or a one-eyed horse, and even a one-eyed woman, all with a black patch over the useless eye—that he cannot disguise. Krabat sees these creatures but never makes the complete connection as to it being the Master.
Krabat & the Sorcerer’s Mill will delight kids who like adventures, mysteries, and magic. Though the Master deals in the black arts, there is nothing in the story that will scare anyone. At times, the writing feels long, and at times, it is long, yet never arduous or out of place. Preussler spins a tale so complete one wonders if such goings on really occurred in seventeenth-century Germany. Krabat & the Sorcerer’s Mill will keep kids entranced as they read this gothic tale of orphaned boys finding a home with a dangerous wizard. I enjoyed every word of this captivating story. Krabat & the Sorcerer’s Mill tends to be best for the advanced reader. Adults will also immensely enjoy this alluring tale.
I admit it! I wanted to read House of the Four Winds because of the cover. I think it is absolutely breathtaking. We all know the problem with judging a book by its cover, though. Sometimes the story doesn’t live up to that gorgeous cover. In this case, I’m glad I did pick it up. While the pacing was occasionally frustrating, House of the Fours Winds was a gripping read none the less.
I can’t think of the last Mercedes Lackey novel that I’ve read. It’s been years and years, so I was curious to see if I’d like her writing style now. I don’t think I liked it way back when, but after reading this, I’m going to have to give her backlist another look. The storytelling reminded me of Diane Zahler, told to a slightly older audience. While House of the Four Winds is an adult fantasy, I don’t think there is anything objectionable within the pages, making this a great candidate for a motivated younger reader looking for a challenge. Clarice, the heroine, is 18, making her highly relatable to a teen reader, and I thought the writing skewed young.
The set up was a bit difficult to swallow. Princess Clarice is the oldest of twelve daughters, and after her mother finally gives birth to a son, the girls are all informed that they must make their own way in the world. Swansgaard, their tiny kingdom, would be ruined if the treasury had to provide for twelve dowries. Instead, each girl will seek her fortune upon attaining the age of 18. Clarice, gifted with a sword, has decided to become a swordmaster. Unfortunately, she needs some practical experience if she expects to attract any students, so off she goes, seeking adventure.
Disguised as Clarence, she buys passage on a ship bound for the new world. Once aboard the ship, she questions the wisdom of her decision. The captain and the senior officers are cruel men, quick to punish the crew for any infraction. The only solace is her friendship with the young navigator Dominick. He is the opposite of the captain; good and kind, he is outraged by the treatment of the crew, but he is powerless to help them. Until the day the men are pushed too far, and they take up arms against their leaders. Before she knows it, Clarice finds herself caught up in the munity, even taking an active part when Dominick’s life is threatened.
So, yeah! House of the Four Winds has a cross-dressing heroine, mutiny at sea, pirates, and magic. The first 10% of the book dragged for me, and I was tempted to put it down. I have so many books to read that a slow start almost guarantees a quick trip back to the TBR mountain. By 15%, though, I couldn’t put it down. The pacing slowed periodically, but I liked the characters so much that I didn’t mind getting to know them better. Much of the book is character driven, with bursts of action and danger, and while I was expecting more action, I didn’t mind its absence. The treacherous journey under the control of the evil sorceress more than made up for it, and the end of the book was fraught with terrible challenges for the ever shrinking crew to deal with.
Another thing I enjoyed about the book – Clarice is a strong, intelligent heroine. She saves Dominick far more often than he saves her, and I really enjoyed that. Instead of waiting for her prince to find her, Clarice took control of whichever situation presented itself, and became her own prince. That doesn’t happen nearly enough in the books I read. Now I’m curious to see if her sisters are as confident and capable as Clarice, so I’m looking forward to the next book in the series.
Review copy provided by publisher
Mercedes Lackey is the New York Times bestselling author of the Valdemar series and romantic fantasies like Beauty and the Werewolf and The Fairy Godmother. JAMES MALLORY and Lackey have collaborated on six novels. Now. these New York Times and USA Today bestselling collaborators bring romance to the fore with The House of Four Winds.
The rulers of tiny, impoverished Swansgaard have twelve daughters and one son. While the prince’s future is assured, his twelve sisters must find their own fortunes.
Disguising herself as Clarence, a sailor, Princess Clarice intends to work her way to the New World. When the crew rebels, Clarice/Clarence, an expert with rapier and dagger, sides with the handsome navigator, Dominick, and kills the cruel captain. Dominick leads the now-outlawed crew in search of treasure in the secret pirate haven known as The House of Four Winds. They encounter the sorceress Shamal, who claims Dominick for her own—but Clarice has fallen hard for Dominick and won’t give him up without a fight.
Full of swashbuckling adventure, buoyant magic, and irrepressible charm, The House of the Four Winds is a lighthearted fantasy romp by a pair of bestselling writers.
I was in the mood for a quick read, so when I saw Cursed, it’s like it was calling my name. All it took for me to start reading this were the following words: “Vengeance Dealer” and “Werewolf.” Yeah, I was all over that! I loved this short read – the pacing is blistering, the romance hot, and I loved the wolves.
I’m not going to lie, though. It took a long time to like Darcy. At first, she impressed me with her boldness and confidence. Then I started thinking about what she was doing and I thought, “Damn, girl! That is so not right!” A Vengeance Dealer, Darcy’s clients engage her services to curse the men who have hurt them. On the surface, that’s just great. Girl power and all that. But under closer examination, she’s not much better than the men she’s trying to teach a lesson to. In fact, she’s worse. She collects bodily fluids (semen, no less), casts a spell on it, and curses the guy to lust for her for the rest of his life. She then promptly vanishes without a trace, reveling in the satisfaction of a job well done. Ugh!
Not to worry, though, because Karma has a particularly nasty joke to play on Darcy. After having the best sex of her life, she curses her latest victim. Only to discover that he’s a werewolf. Ho boy!! Things can’t get any worse! Or can they? Werewolves have a gift for hunting, and they never forget a scent. Darcy’s on the run for her life, with a very pissed off supernatural creature on her trail. Her pathetic skills at witchery are no match for Raven and the rest of his pack, and Darcy is about to learn the error of her ways.
I am all about the pack. I want to get to know each and every one of them. I think Mayhem is my favorite, but that’s probably because he’s in charge. Raven is a younger pack member, still coming into his powers, which can be tenuous when he’s emotionally charged. The guys are members of a popular rock band, and while the idea is really cool, I wonder at the practicality. How are they going to be guests on daytime talk shows or shoot music videos at the beach when they are confined to their wolf forms during the day?
Anyhoo, Cursed is the perfect read for a lazy afternoon. It really is a fun read. The hero is hot, the heroine is redeemed, and then she totally kicks ass. Where is Book 2? (It’s not out until October – boo!)
Review copy provided by publisher
Her biggest mistake comes with fangs…and a nose for tracking her down.
The Order of the Wolf, Book 1
Wherever there’s a lying, cheating scumbag who’s broken a woman’s heart, Vengeance Dealer Darcy Wells is there. So what if she isn’t the most skilled witch around? She’s only using one spell, which leaves the hapless male suffering tormenting lust for one woman. Her.
The beautiful part? This curse comes equipped with a blinding agent, allowing her a clean getaway. Unrequited lust, coming right up! As far as Darcy is concerned, it’s justice served. Her next target: Raven Glock, rock band bassist and drop-dead-gorgeous sex god.
When Raven lays eyes on the luscious Darcy, he gives her what he promises all the starry-eyed groupies who toss their panties at him—one unforgettable night in his bed. Sex with Darcy is so epic that he forgets his cardinal rule: to get her out before morning.
At the crack of sunrise, Darcy serves Raven a face full of cursed ash. But something goes horribly wrong…and she finds herself magically tethered to one pissed-off werewolf.
Worse, breaking the spell could cost her everything…maybe even her life.
Warning: Sexually explicit language, tattoos, piercings, and giant…um…feet. Wet panties are a given. Author assumes no responsibility for spontaneous ravishment of significant others, pool boys, or local pizza delivery personnel.
I have a couple cover reveals this morning. First up: I read about The Elementalists last week, and the plot sounds intriguing. Besides, anything with dragons gets a second look from me. What do you think of the cover?
It is the hottest year on record for the fifth year in a row, and famine riots spread across much of Africa. Along the Gulf Coast, the hurricane season is one of the worst in memory. The latest in a string of 9.0 strength earthquakes has claimed two-hundred thousand lives in central China. Far below the earth’s crust, imprisoned in ancient slumber, the elemental powers of the land grow restless…
All seems normal in small town Virginia, where fifteen year old Chloe McClellan dreads the start of her sophomore year. Whip-smart, athletic and genuine, she’s also a bit of an angry loner who is totally unaware of her charms. Despite her plans to stay under the radar, Chloe becomes a target for the fiery queen of the It-girls in fifth period gym. She then draws instant notoriety when she’s struck by lightning after her first disastrous day of school. As if that weren’t bad enough, she soon comes to believe, that either she’s going insane, or her accident has unleashed a powerful and terrifying creature from the mythological world—triggering the final countdown to the world’s sixth great extinction level event.
Chloe finds some solace as she inexplicably wins the affections of an unlikely trio of male classmates: the earthy and gregarious captain of the football team, the flighty stoner with a secret, and an enigmatic transfer student who longs for the sea. All the while she struggles with the growing realization that “Dragons” exist, and she may be the only one who can stop them.
The Elementalists, book one of the Tipping Point Prophecy, follows Chloe and her group of friends, and enemies, as they struggle to save humanity by harnessing the power of the elements.
This is C. Sharp’s debut novel. He studied English Literature and Anthropology at Brown University and Mayan Archaeology at the Harvard Field School in Honduras. He works in film and commercial production. Chris now lives in Concord, MA with his wife and daughter.
The twelfth of August marks the Feast of the Prophet and his Bride, a holiday that commemorates the marriage of Aleister Crowley and his first wife Rose Edith Crowley in the religion he created, Thelema. Born in 1875, Crowley traveled the world, living in Cambridge, Mexico, Cairo, China, America, Sicily, and Berlin. Here, using Aleister Crowley and Western Esotericism as our trusted guide, we take a closer look at the man and his religion.
In 1898 Alesiter Crowley was initiated into the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn as Frater Perdurabo. The teachings of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn were based upon an imaginative reworking of Hermetic writings further informed by nineteenth-century scholarship in Egyptology and anthropology. The order was structured around the symbolism of the kabbalah and organized into temples that were run on strictly hierarchical lines. Authority was vested in leading individuals, and initiates were given a rigorous and systematic training in the “rejected” knowledge of Western esotericism. They studied the symbolism of astrology, alchemy, and kabbalah; were instructed in geomantic and tarot divination; and learned the underpinnings of basic magical techniques.
Crowley’s magical self, Perdurabo, was a part of his concept of selfhood. In his own words:
As a member of the Second Order [of the Golden Dawn], I wore a certain jewelled ornament of gold upon my heart. I arranged that when I had it on, I was to permit no thought, word or action, save such as pertained directly to my magical aspirations. When I took it off I was, on the contrary, to permit no such things; I was to be utterly uninitiate. It was like Jekyll and Hyde, but with the two personalities balanced and complete in themselves.
The base camp of 1902 expedition for K2. Aleister Crowley is in setted in the middle. By Jules Jacot Guillarmod. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
In 1902, Aleister Crowley was a part of the team who made the second serious attempt to climb the world’s second highest summit, K2.
Frontpage from a published versions of Liber AL vel Legis. By Ordo Templi Orientis. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
In the spring of 1904, while on his honeymoon in Cairo, Egypt, he received a short prophetic text, which came to be known as Liber AL vel Legis or The Book of the Law. The book announces the doctrines of a new religion called Thelema, with Crowley—referred to in the book as “the prince-priest the Beast”—as its prophet.
The most important book of The Holy Books of Thelema, The Book of the Law is a channeled text that consists of 220 short verses divided into three chapters.
The core doctrines of this new creed of Thelema were expressed in three short dictums: “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law,” “Love is the law, love under will,” and “Every man and every woman is a star.”
Thelema Abbey in Cefalù, Sicily, by Frater Kybernetes. CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
Thelema Abbey was established in the small Italian town of Cefalù in the period between 1920 and 1923. It consisted of one large house occupied by a small number of Crowley’s disciples and mistress(es). Life at the Abbey was for the most part Crowley’s attempt to translate his magical and Thelemic ideas into social reality. For the participants, the regime of life involved a great deal of occult and sex-magic activity as well as experiments with various mind-and mood-altering substances, such as hashish, cocaine, heroin, and opium.
Alyssa Bender is a marketing coordinator in Academic/Trade marketing, working on religion and theology titles as well as Bibles. She has worked in OUP’s New York office since July 2011.
I love this series so much that I preordered Sisters’ Fate as soon as I noticed it listed on Amazon. Book 2, Star Cursed, ended on such a great cliffhanger, and I could hardly wait to see what happened next. The wait was agonizing. There are times when I enjoy a series, but then I lose interest in the period between releases. The Sisters’ Fate release date was close enough to when I finished Star Cursed that I didn’t forget about it. Good thing, too, since I have the attention span of a small bug.
The narrative picks up right were it left off. Maura has erased Cate right out of Finn’s memories, and now she’s nothing but a stranger to him. What? Wow! What an awful thing for her to do! I hated Maura! She has one priority, and that’s herself! She will do anything to earn praise from Inez, the new leader of the Sisterhood, even betray her sister. And then not be one bit apologetic for her horrible actions. No wonder Cate simmered with rage every time she had to interact with her sister. I really wanted to see Cate kick her butt, but I know that wouldn’t have done anything to change Maura’s attitude.
Cate is worried about how the Brotherhood will react now that Inez has reduced their leaders to mindless vegetables. Will they start a second Terror, killing any woman or girl suspected of being a witch, without a second thought? Inez’s agenda frightens Cate, so she attempts to establish ties with the Resistance. She knows that she has to stop Inez and her followers somehow, but she realizes that she can’t do it alone. Making an uneasy truce with Merriweather, who runs an illegal newspaper that reports on the actions of the Brotherhood without censorship, things finally start falling into place. Then her temper gets the best of her, threatening everything she’s worked so hard to accomplish.
To up the stakes, Cate is not only fighting against those that would destroy all witches, there is also a fever raging through New London, and nobody seems to be doing anything about it. Since it originated among the poorest citizens of the city, there’s not a whole lot of concern at first. So what if a bunch of river rats die of the fever? When the disease jumps to the wealthier occupants of the city, it’s the perfect opportunity to blame the witches for cursing the populace with the illness. Once again, the witches become a convenient scapegoat to control the population through fear and intimidation. The Brotherhood did awful things to anyone who got in their way, and then they orchestrated convincing cover stories for every heinous act the committed. They made powerful, frightening villains.
I thought Sisters’ Fate was a fitting end for the series. All of the loose ends are tied up, and the conclusion is very satisfying. I was even able to forgive Maura, at least a little bit. The romance was well done, and while it ended with a Happy For Now, you know that everything will work out for Cate in the end.
I highly recommend The Cahill Witch Chronicles. There’s a sweet romance, action, and interesting world building. It comes to a satisfying end with Sisters’ Fate, so if you like YA paranormal romance, give this series a try.
Grade: B+ / A-
Review copy provided by publisher
A fever ravages New London, but with the Brotherhood sending suspected witches straight to the gallows, the Sisters are powerless against the disease. They can’t help without revealing their powers—as Cate learns when a potent display of magic turns her into the most wanted witch in all of New England.
To make matters worse, Cate has been erased from the memory of her beloved Finn. While she’s torn between protecting him from further attacks and encouraging him to fall for her all over again, she’s certain she can never forgive Maura’s betrayal. And now that Tess’s visions have taken a deadly turn, the prophecy that one Cahill sister will murder another looms ever closer to its fulfillment.