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It started as a family Christmas card photo by photographer Per Breiehagen and his wife Lori Evert. In 2007, the Minnesota resident’s family dressed their adorable three year-old daughter Anja in traditional Norwegian clothing such as Stakk dress from Ål, where Breiehagen was raised, reindeer shoes from the Sami people in Northern Norway, and an elf hat and took a series of photos that would change their lives forever. Based on overwhelming positive feedback from friends and family who received the Christmas card, Breiehagen expanded the project. His vision was to stage scenes the evoked the traditional folklore of Norway that he had grown up listening to. In addition to Anja’s captivating costume, Breiehagen attempted to make the photos as authentic as possible. He took Anja to beautiful outdoor winter landscapes in both Minnesota and Norway. Anja posed with actual reindeer in Norway and held traditional Telemark skis from 1840 the Breiehagen had sought out to use as photo props. As the scope of the photos became more fantastic, Breiehagen incorporated digital compositing to create scenes of the “little elf” meeting a polar bear in Antarctica and other fanciful imagery that could not be created without digital enhancements. The photos continued to gain popularity and were featured in several holiday advertisement campaigns, including one for Chicco, a popular baby product brand.
The photos took on a new life this year when Breiehagen and Evert created the picture book, The Christmas Wish. The book tells the story of a little girl who lives “in a place so far north that the mothers never pack away the wool hats or mittens.” The girl longs to be one of Santa’s elves. One day, she sets out on a journey through the great Northern wild to find Santa. Along the way she is helped by several animals including a cardinal, reindeer, polar bear, horse and musk ox. She also has a chance to see the Northern Lights. Eventually, she does find the man in the red suit and he flies her home on his sleigh. The true charm and magic of this book are the stunning photographs. Some of my favorites include one of Anja placing a note on the door of the Norwegian Sauna announcing her departure to find Santa, the three year old girl curled up next to a polar bear napping, and Santa’s sleigh flying over snow covered hills taking Anja home. With careful staging and digital enhancement, the winter scenes are stunning, the animals are beautiful and the young girl in the traditional Norwegian garb is irresistibly cute. This story is one that is sure to captivate the imagination of children this holiday season and leave parents a bit awe struck as well.
Posted by: Kelly
By: Jen Robinson
Blog: Jen Robinson
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Dystopia / Post-Apocalypse
, Late Elementary School
, middle grade fiction
, peggy eddleman
, science fiction
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Book: Sky Jumpers
Author: Peggy Eddleman (@PeggyEddleman)
Age Range: 8-12
I'm grateful to author Peggy Eddleman. Because Sky Jumpers got me out of a bit of a reading funk. I've been slow to get through books, and have actually abandoned several of late. But as soon as I started Sky Jumpers, well, I just wanted to keep reading. And that's what we're looking for, isn't it? Books that you just want to lose yourself in? Sky Jumpers fits the bill.
Sky Jumpers is middle grade post-apocalyptic fiction with a strong female protagonist. Sky Jumpers is set in a largely depopulated world, following the "green bombs" of World War III. Twelve-year-old Hope lives with her adoptive parents in White Rock, a small (apparently mid-western) town that is struggling to survive. Besides undertaking basic activities (like growing food), the folks in White Rock pour all of their energy into trying to invent things. The green bombs have changed just enough, including the chemical properties of steel, to make this a tricky business. And Hope, our heroine, though courageous and decisive, well, Hope is singularly bad at inventing. But when her family and her town,are in danger, Hope doesn't hesitate.
The world building in Sky Jumpers doesn't feel contrived, despite the obvious editorial convenience of the green bombs having changed some things but not others. It feels like realistic fiction, with a dash of unconventional science. As an engineer myself, I enjoyed the focus on inventions (even though the inventing life wasn't a good fit for Hope). This is the kind of book that will make kids want to invent things themselves.
Hope is a solid character. She's a bit reckless, and ends up in trouble a lot. But she has her vulnerabilities, too. Like this:
"When Carina finished showing her invention, she sat next to me and put her hand on my knee. "It's okay, Hope. I'm sure you're not the only one bad at inventing."
Maybe I wasn't. But it definitely felt like I was the worst. Like everyone else was at least good enough." (Page 48-49)
"I couldn't help wondering how many times my parents had wished they had a kid with their own genes, someone they could have passed on their talents to. Someone who didn't keep messing things up." (Page 65)
(For the record, she has great parents. It's not them making her feel like this.) Only gradually does Hope come to recognize some of her strengths.
Other things I liked about Sky Jumpers:
- Sky jumping is very cool, though I won't spoil it by telling you what it is.
- The plot, particularly in the second half of the book, is action-filled and suspenseful, and steers away from being too grim for middle grade readers.
- Hope has a male best friend who is not a love interest, and another male friend who might be. But it's all very PG so far. No visible love triangle, which is refreshing.
- There's a very cute five year old who tags along with the big kids, and adds opportunities for being protective. But Brenna is strong-willed and fun, not a helpless doll.
- There's a little bit of looking at "relics" of the previous society, which is something that I always enjoy. The kids in Hope's class are fascinated by the idea of wall to wall carpeting, for example. And they don't really believe what they hear about cell phones at all. Sky Jumpers is set 40-odd years after World War III, so there are people who remember "before". Hence the emphasis on inventing things to make life easier.
In short, Sky Jumpers has an action-filled plot, a pleasing emphasis on science, and likeable characters, all set against a compelling backdrop. I was pleased to see Sky Jumpers listed as "Book 1", because, although the plot is thoroughly wrapped up in this book, it would be a shame for this level of world building to be squandered on a single book. Sky Jumpers is highly recommended for middle grade readers, or anyone who enjoys adventure.
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers (@RandomHouseKids)
Publication Date: September 24, 2013
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
FTC Required Disclosure:
This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).
© 2013 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook.
Right on the cover next to a skull and crossbones, this book asks “Who’s the most rascally rat to sail the seas?” Of course the answer is none but Pi-Rat.
Once you open the book you’ll know why. Maxine Lee has created a graphic tour de force that should hook any 4 -6 year old boy worth his salt. Bright colors, bold shapes and “fearsome” dialog—“There are no rules on my mighty ship—we do whatever we like!” speak volumes to little guys—and girls– who are testing the limits of hard fought independence from toddlerhood.
Starting right on the cover there’s a cutout that makes it look as though a larger than life Pi-Rat menacing a sword is crawling through a porthole and into the readers lap. And what a Pi-Rat he is; half swash-buckling and half endearingly goofy as he explains to his “crew” and the reader that he’s not afraid of anything. Crocodiles, sharks, even—gasp–the dark are just trivial nuisances to this gang of ruffians.
There’s only one thing that can cause these buccaneers to quake in their boots. It’s big and bold and bossy.
If you can’t guess what powerful being it might be that can put real terror into the soul of Pi-Rat and his mutinous mob, sail right over to the picture book shelves and prepare to walk the plank to merriment.
Posted by: Eileen
Boy Scout Troop 77 is off for a camping week-end in the remote beach campground of Halape, Hawaii. The boys are various ages – ranging from 11 to 15 and the adult leaders are two of the fathers. Everyone is excited about the week-end which begins early in the morning with a long, hot, grueling hike from the trailhead down to the campsite.
As senior patrol leader for the troop, Dylan has some extra leadership responsibilities that are often complicated by snide comments and actions by Louis, who is the newest and angriest member. Dylan tries to stay as far away from Louis as possible. Halape is a beautiful and serene campsite. The swimming is good, the food is delicious and the stories and legends around the campfire are just scary enough. The first night goes well.
During the second night they experience a massive earthquake which is followed by a tsunami that destroys their campsite and threatens their lives. The fun camping week-end quickly turns into a survival week-end that has the boys not only demonstrating their bravery, but also has Dylan and Louis bonding in ways that will last a lifetime.
This book is based on actual events that took place in 1975. The author’s cousin was one of the boys in Troop 77. The adventure of camping in such a remote area and the ultimate survival make this an exciting and enjoyable book.
Posted by: Wendy
Fortunately, the Milk
May Contain Spoilers
"I bought the milk," said my father. "I walked out of the corner shop, and heard a noise like this: T h u m m t h u m m. I looked up and saw a huge silver disc hovering in the air above Marshall Road."
"Hullo," I said to myself. "That’s not something you see every day. And then something odd happened."
Find out just how odd things get in this hilarious story of time travel and breakfast cereal, expertly told by Newbery Medalist and bestselling author Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Skottie Young.
I love Neil Gaiman’s writing, and I love that he’s so entertaining in so many different creative arenas. He creates for adults and children with equal skill, and don’t forget his celebrated writing for comics. He confidently stretches his creative muscle, and his audience is made the richer for his efforts.
Fortunately, The Milk celebrates one father’s quest to safely deliver a bottle of milk to his children so they can enjoy their breakfast cereal. His journey begins with an abduction by snot aliens, and includes time-traveling dinosaurs, sparkly ponies, pirates, and even wumpires. Who would have ever thought that a trip to the corner store for a little milk could be so perilous. The clever prose is enhanced by different fonts and illustrations to make a visually appealing read. The story is funny and fast-paced, with many death-defying situations for the father to find his way out of. All because he went to the corner store for that life changing bottle of milk.
I have an ARC, so Skottie Young’s artwork wasn’t final. What artwork there is, however, is quirky, visually charming, and fits the tone of the story to a T. This is a fun, fun read, and if you have younger kids at home, it’s a great book to read together.
Review copy provided by publisher
So, Captain Blood Day. Yay!
Actually, though, I completely forgot about it until last week, so instead of thinking seriously about which Sabatini book I might want to talk about next, I just grabbed The Romantic Prince off my bookshelf. I read it once before — whenever Batman Begins came out, if the ticket stub I was using as a bookmark is any indication — and I recalled being pretty pleased with it.
If you’ve spent any significant amount of time reading Redeeming Qualities, you’ll know that I’m kind of fascinated by the way novelists solve problems. In particular, there’s a thing you get a lot in romance and adventure novels, where the hero is situated in such a way that it would be dishonorable for him to take any action whatsoever to resolve whatever issue he’s having. And often, as it is here, the issue is mostly just that the hero can’t be with the heroine. And sure, I love the resultant pining, but I also love watching the author’s resultant struggle to steer the characters to a happy ending without in any way impugning their honor. That’s Rafael Sabatini’s principal task in The Romantic Prince, so obviously it’s a lot of fun to me. It doesn’t hurt that the actual barriers keeping Count Anthony of Guelders and Johanna Claessens apart are strong enough that Sabatini doesn’t have to resort to the completely avoidable misunderstandings he seems to like so much.
Anthony is the fictional eldest son of the real Duke of Guelders. He’s also the cousin and best friend of Charles, Duke of Burgundy. But mostly he’s a classic Sabatini character: he begins the book by deciding that the world he lives in is no place for a gentleman. He leaves Charles’ court to travel around incognito and try to be more like Jacques de Lalaing and ends up falling in with a hapless Zeelander named Philip Danvelt. Danvelt introduces Anthony to Johanna Claessens and her father, a rich burgher, and it quickly becomes clear that Anthony and Johanna are exactly the right amount of ridiculous for each other. Anthony knows that it’s not really appropriate for him to make the daughter of a merchant his countess, but it takes the Governor of Zealand having him escorted back to Charles’ court by force to stop him from marrying her anyway.
Eventually Johanna marries Danvelt, making everything super uncomfortable for everyone. This is where Sabatini stops adding obstacles and starts solving them, predictably but also interestingly. Sire Claude de Rhynsault’s pursuit of Johanna and prosecution of Danvelt may look like problems, but they’re actually the machinery that’s eventually going to free Johanna from Danvelt and Anthony from Charles.
So yeah, I like The Romantic Prince. I enjoyed the intricacies of the plot, the heroine who for once doesn’t believe literally everyone else in the world over the hero, and, perhaps most surprisingly, the cast of characters. Sabatini’s prone to making almost everyone but the hero and heroine totally morally bankrupt, to the point where characters who start out by seeming like okay people are, by the end, cringing and groveling and turning on anyone who’s ever been nice to them. The only Sabatini novel I can think of with even half a dozen really likable characters is Captain Blood, which is maybe one of the reasons why it’s my favorite. The Romantic Prince doesn’t have anything like Captain Blood’s merry band of pirates, but Sabatini does reverse his usual MO by making Danvelt initially seem like a completely worthless human being and then giving him bits and pieces of his humanity back. It would probably be more accurate to say that he goes back and forth, but Danvelt is a better person in his last appearance than in his first, and I’m counting that as a win.
Another character worthy of note is Kuoni von Stocken, Rhynsault’s fool. You may recognize the name from “The Fool’s Love Story” — the hero of that story and the not-quite-villain of this one both seem to have taken their name from a Swiss (?) legend that I’d be able to relate if I knew German, or if Google Translate was better. This Kuoni, like Sabatini’s earlier character of that name, is a jester, but he’s got beady eyes and evil features instead of the other’s lean sardonic countenance, and spends most of the book treating other people as his puppets. And yet he too gains some humanity, and is kind of hilariously perplexed by any actions that aren’t guided by self-interest in ways he’s familiar with.
The Romantic Prince is not available in full online, but this edition at Google Books makes some chunks available as a preview. Also, if you don’t mind partially spoiling yourself, you can read a version of the story upon which Sabatini based The Romantic Prince here. He also did a short story version more closely based on the original for his Historical Nights’ Entertainment. The Historical Nights’ Entertainment version sticks closely to the historical account, but somehow I like the shorter, simpler version best. Still, I can see why Sabatini can’t go for the original, more satisfactory ending: once Sabatini creates Anthony to be the hero of the story, Charles has the potential to become a deus ex machina, and while most of the changes Sabatini makes are at Charles’ expense, I see why it has to be that way — or why Sabatini feels that it does, at least.
Anyway, happy Captain Blood Day. As ever, if you’re going to spend September 19th talking like a pirate, make that pirate Peter Blood.
, the netherlands
Blog: Welcome to my Tweendom
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, arc from publisher
, Scholastic Press
, arc 8/13
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By: Stacy Dillon,
Gordon Korman isn't exactly a newbie in the realm of children's literature. As Canadian kids, we all read This Can't Be Happening at Macdonald Hall and as a librarian I know that he's been publishing solidly all along. But here comes my confession...I hadn't read his books for a long, long time. I am very happy that I picked up the first book in The Hypnotists series. Not only is this book a page turner, but it has humor, big ideas and suspense all rolled into a great story.
Jackson (Jax) Opus is a seemingly regular NYC kid. He's just trying to get to basketball with his best friend Tommy Cicerelli, but the bus just passes them by. In a fit of desperation, Jax jumps out into the bus lane in front of the next uptown bus and stares the driver down until he stops. Jax apologizes upon boarding the bus and implores the driver to get them to 96th Street as soon as possible. The bus takes off and is soon speeding through red lights, passing stops, and terrifying everyone. Once at 96th Street, the driver stops, lets the boys off, and resumes his regular route.
Then comes the basketball game. Jax is not evenly matched against Rodney, but somehow he is managing to hold him off. And when Jax wants him to miss, he does.
What is going on?
After a series of seemingly unrelated events, Jax ends up being recruited Dr. Elias Mako, founder and director of The Sentia Institute as a part of their New Horizons program. Dr. Mako seems to come with his own tagline - "Dr. Elias Mako has devoted his life to New York City education and is an inspiration to every single one of us." Anyone who comes into contact with Sentia seems to repeat these same words.
But Jax's parents are all for it. Jax learns that he comes from some very powerful bloodlines. Both of his parents families had the gift of hypnotism, and Jax seems to have inherited a rare command of his gift. After spending every extra hour at Sentia, Jax is getting uneasy with the whole thing. He has questions and nobody seems to want to answer them. Being able to hypnotize people seemed like no big deal when it involved extra gravy and hopping up and down, but add some political intrigue and scandal and throw in computers and blackmail, and Jax's abilities could take a very different and dangerous turn.
Korman has written a thriller that will get kids thinking big. How are our opinions formed? How are we influenced? Where would you draw the line when it comes to sticking by your values? The relationship between Jax and Tommy is perfect and laugh out loud funny. Their dialogue is authentic and readers will definitely want more from these two!
ERUPTION!: Volcanoes and the Science of Saving Lives
(Scientists in the Field series)
by Elizabeth Rusch; Photographs by Tom Ullman
Houghton Mifflin. 2013
Grades 6 and up
To review this title, I checked the book out of my local public library.
Me: Aiden, what do you want to be when you grow up?
Aiden: A VUL-CAN-OLOGIST!
ME: A what?
Aiden: I want to study volcanoes and
The Quiet Pirate by Stephanie Thatcher, Duck Creek Press This is the second picture book by Stephanie Thatcher - the first was a boisterous story called Great Galloping Galoot about a clumsy giraffe. I think this new book will be just as popular. Barnaby is the cabin boy for a crew of disreputable and noisy pirates. Poor Barnaby can’t even yell from the crow’s nest - so he gets rubbished by the other pirates. But one day, while they’re celebrating a treasure haul with a extremely loud party, something truly terrible happens to the rest of the crew... Guess who’s left with the gold - and the ship? It’s a very readable and funny story for both adults and children - and the latter will definitely have a frisson of delighted terror when the pirates meet their ghastly end. The bright, spacious cartoon illustrations are great fun, especially the assortment of rascally pirates. This book will be given to my grandsons, aged 5 and 4 - I know they’ll love it. (Also available in paperback) ISBN 978 1 877378 81 2 RRP $29.99 Hb $19.99 Pb Reviewed by Lorraine Orman
It's not every day that you read a book set in Vienna that has really nothing to do with the stereotypical Vienna. I mean, there's the odd schnitzel, a few mentions of Mozart, but only in a passing kind of way. It's funny how some cities seem to... Read the rest of this post
This has all the earmarks of a great series: an engaging, realistically flawed main character, stupendously detailed world-building, and tons of new-things-per-page. It's got adventure and heart -- but felt uneven. I wasn't aware this novel would... Read the rest of this post
This book is allegedly for MG. Well, my inner fifth grader is all kinds of happy right now, then. And my inner sophomore. And my Alleged Adultness. This is a Cybil potential, all right, straight up. It has heart-pounding adventure, right out of the... Read the rest of this post
Blog: Children's Books, and Other Cool Stuff
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, boys and girls.
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, Children books
, discovering yourself
, eternal life
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By: David D Bernstein,
Welcome all to my first Author Spotlight feature where you will get a chance to meet a well known author and learn about the writing process.
1) What were your favorite children books, when you were growing up?
I read practically every Nancy Drew there was, plus Harriet the Spy, The Little White Horse, and I gobbled up all of Phyllis Whitney’s mysteries, A Wrinkle in Time, etc. I could go on, but I won’t. Basically, I read a book a day all during elementary school. Maybe that’s why I love writing for the middle-grade audience.
2) What was the inspiration behind writing your book?
Several things! The magical, mysterious world of butterflies . . . spooky Louisiana swamps, old plantation houses, islands in the South Pacific . . . and a girl who is connected to all those things through her Grammy Claire.
I love mysteries; too, as you can tell from my childhood favorite books, and I wanted to try my hand at writing an actual mystery that didn’t have ghosts or paranormal elements. Just a girl with a brain and secret letters and keys in a mysterious house, trying to help her grandmother who died in an untimely way and who slowly gives her secrets from beyond the grave to figure out the people who are trying to destroy these unusual butterflies.
It was also very rewarding to write about a very smart and very cool grandmother because I never knew my own grandmothers, (and I hope I can be a very cool grandma too someday!).
3) How many Drafts and rejections did you have before your book was published?
Since this isn’t my first book and it was already under contract to Scholastic through a proposal I sent to my editor, I didn’t have any rejections—but I racked up hundreds in the year’s previous to selling my first book. And, after my first three books were orphaned, and before I landed a three-book contract with Scholastic, I had a period of 8 years where I was writing like crazy, but not selling anything. Rejections come with the territory of publishing. Now I do about 3-5 drafts of a new book, and two more with my editor and one with the copy editor so each book goes through a lot of hand and eyes.
4) Why Butterflies?
Butterflies are inherently mysterious. They start out as a little tiny egg on a leaf, turn into a creepy-crawling green caterpillar, then become a white chrysalis or cocoon – and finally, almost like magic, this gorgeous, colorful creature hatches from a white blob and can FLY! And they look like dancing flowers.
Some of the most fun I had writing this novel was researching the butterfly quotes at the beginning of each chapter and putting them in a spot where they reflected what happened in a particular chapter. But two of the quotes do not come from *famous* or well known scientists or movies. One is from my daughter and the other is from Tara’s Grammy Claire herself.
5) What can "When the Butterflies Came" teach our children?
I write a lot about families with secrets; families who are going through tough times and upheavals and changes—and show how that affects my 11-12 year old main characters. The heart of every story is the knowledge that families are important and they love each other in the end. They can be crazy sometimes, but their core belief is that they work together despite difficult and heart-wrenching events. They stand up for each other, pull together, and can come through hard times stronger than ever.
6) Can you see your book on the Big Screen?
Not yet - and movie rights are still available! I’m hoping Hollywood—or even some small director—will hear my secret wish, or discover my book when his child brings it home from the library or the Scholastic Book Fair. . . a director that has always loved butterflies and falls in love with my book. I can always dream, right?
7) What future book plans do you have?
I just turned in my fourth manuscript to my editor at Scholastic for publication summer of 2014. She’s reading it now while I wait chewing my fingernails that she will like it and I won’t have to shred it and start all over (that’s actually happened to me before so I know first-hand how crazy-making it can be). This new book is middle-grade as well and has time slipping and a cursed doll and a girl who lives in an antique store.
Fall of 2014 will be my Young Adult debut with Harpercollins for a book I’ve been researching and writing for nearly ten years so I’m pretty thrilled about finally selling it. It’s an ancient Middle Eastern story about the roots of belly dance in the women’s world, including goddess temples, tribal warfare, camels, and frankincense.
Thank you so much, David, for a great interview and featuring me on your blog!
Here are a few links for your readers:http://www.kimberleygriffithslittle.com/
(I have some awesome book trailers on my website on the Home Page with on location filming in the swamps as well as original music by some friends of mine. Scholastic liked the one for The Healing Spell
so well; they commissioned the music to put on their website.)
I frequently complain about the plethora of authors switching tracks from adult books to YA novels, and not bringing their best game. This is not one of those complaints. Sophronia took a deep breath. " What, precisely, will I be expected to learn... Read the rest of this post
In the world of judging a book by its cover, I'll admit, I caved. I was interested in this novel solely because of its cover, and because it was put out by a Canadian press. I find that I enjoy historical fiction from Canada, because it's generally... Read the rest of this post
Halfway through The Mystery, by Samuel Hopkins Adams and Stewart Edward White, I decided that I definitely was not going to review it. But now that I’m done, I kind of feel like I have to. It’s just so weird. At least, it seemed weird do me, but I’m not really in the habit of reading slightly sci-fi pirate-y horror stories, so.
The Mystery has a Frankenstein-esque framing narrative, which takes place aboard a Navy ship, the Wolverine. The ship is sort of wandering around the ocean, blowing up wrecks, when it comes across a schooner called the Laughing Lass. This is odd for two reasons: first, that the Laughing Lass had disappeared two years before with eminent scientist Dr. Schermerhorn, journalist Ralph Slade, and its captain and crew. The second reason is that the ship is entirely uninhabited, beyond the dead bodies of a few rats. That, and there’s food and still-warm ashes from a fire, so the Laughing Lass can’t have been unmanned for long. Then…well, more mysterious stuff happens. And eventually one of a large number of missing people shows up and tells his story, and it’s absorbing and awful.
I usually have trouble with books fueled by impending doom, but not here. Or rather, I was pretty freaked out the entire time I was reading, but not in my usual, irrationally upset about bad things that haven’t happened yet way. Actually, I think I might have been reacting to it the way people are supposed to react to scary books and movies but that I never do. I mean, I’m not going to start reading more scary stuff, because I’m still a wuss, but I’m closer to understanding the appeal than I was a week ago.
I should probably also mention the animal slaughter. There was a lot of it. It was very effectively horrible in the traditional sense of the word, and I can’t believe I managed to get all the way through it. I just — there are a lot of dead seals, okay? A lot.
In conclusion: way to go, Samuel Hopkins Adams. I trusted you, and now I don’t. And I guess it could just be Stewart Edward White at fault, but, not having a whole lot of information on the subject, I’m going to blame them equally.
Technically? This is a WCOB - one of those wicked cool, overlooked books. The technicality surfaces when you realize this anthology is made up of previously-published pieces by author Ruth Nestvold. Asimov’s Science Fiction mag, Realms of Fantasy,... Read the rest of this post
The greatest hamburger-themed stickers Disney has ever produced.
Delicious izakaya in Tokyo with Merrick, Leo & KB. My favorite dishes were the kimchi udon pasta & the tofu cheesecake. YUM.
Gion Kitana, as recommended by Tara (formerly) of Sweet Breams. Make sure you get the dekitate, their fresh ice cream. So good.
Yakisoba at Mizuno, Osaka. Their okonomiyaki is out of this world. I discovered the restaurant by following two people in Osaka who seemed to be on a mission to eat. I do that when I travel. Not creepy.
Sushidai in Tokyo.
Matcha green tea paste
at Ippodo Tea, recommended by Yoko of Homako
Kaboucha fried goodness.
Thanks to the lovely friends who sent suggestions and made our trip that much more delicious and delightful. Special shout to Merrick for housing KB & me, and teaching us some key Japanese words. Good host. Arigatou gozaimasu.
Well, you know what they say about middle books.No? You don't? Well, "they" usually say that in any trilogy, the middle book is awful - that it doesn't give you any new information, and that it doesn't do anything but take up space. Sometimes this... Read the rest of this post
I know I’ve said before that no one ever should have let Alice Williamson publish without Charlie, but I think I’ve changed my mind. I’m still not a fan of To M.L.G., and Shay says that The Adventure of Princess Sylvia isn’t so good either, but I just finished The Girl Who Had Nothing and I’m really glad it exists. (For what it’s worth, while this book is credited solely to Mrs. C.N.Williamson, it was published while he was alive.) This book, though. It’s like a cross between Miss Cayley’s Adventures and The Career of Katherine Bush, and it’s not as good as either of those, but that just means that it’s not as good as the beginning of Miss Cayley or everything but the end of Katherine Bush. It’s better than the less good parts of both of those.
The girl in question is Joan Carthew. Abandoned by her actress mother at a young age, Joan lives in a Brighton boarding house and works as a household drudge for the mean proprietress. Eventually she gets fed up and runs away, but instead of, I don’t know, looking for work or begging or something, Joan throws herself under the wheels of a wealthy woman’s carriage and uses her subsequent injury to insinuate her way into the woman’s house. Joan is, at this point, twelve. Yeah, she’s kind of a badass.
Lady Thorndyke takes Joan in, sends her to finishing school, and eventually adopts her, but then she dies, having neglected to update her will, and Joan is left penniless again. That’s okay though, because she still has the following:
• Her finishing school education
• A fashionable and expensive wardrobe
• Knowledge of shorthand and typewriting
With these, she embarks on her career as a con-woman. Other people call her an adventuress, and she apparently thinks of herself as a highwayman (“rather a gallant one”), but basically she makes her living off conning people. It’s great.
She starts by taking the job that George Gallon grudgingly offers her after Lady Thorndyke dies. She makes herself extremely valuable there for long enough to pick up some knowledge of a secret business deal, which she manages to parlay into two months living on a yacht on the Riviera and a few hundred pounds for spending money. That interlude doesn’t go on for as long as she’d like, but Joan escapes unscathed and is soon in Cornwall, going by the name “Mercy Milton” and getting her landlady and the girl she used to babysit well established in life. That episode leaves Joan with little money, but the landlady’s house in Bloomsbury now belongs to her, and going forward it becomes her home base, the place where she stays in between adventures.
Basically, everything is awesome. Joan manages to be both ruthless and human in a way that really surprised me. In most books of this type — books about adventuresses, I guess — the heroine is only allowed to be capable and independent up to a point. It’s as if heroines of this kind are being allowed to take on a male role, having agency and adventures, but have to return to a passive female role in order to have a happy ending. Either that or they’re horribly punished. Joan does, inevitably, fall in love and settle down of the end of the book, but for the bulk of it, she’s allowed to play both the male and female roles simultaneously, lying and stealing and acting as a protector to other women but also caring about people and examining her feelings and things.
I found the ending to be incredibly abrupt. It was the thing I liked the least about the book. But I wonder if it was sort of on purpose — if A.M. Williamson didn’t want to add in the romance at all but thought she had to. I think she had to, too, but not in a bad way, and I wish she’d drawn out that portion of the story more. It’s interesting, though, that Joan’s love interest seems to be there mostly to affirm that Joan is a good person. She’s not particularly happy about the way she’s lived, but he tells her over and over again that everything she’s done has been okay. I want to wait at least one more Alice without Charlie book before I declare this a trend, but I hope this theme of good women doing bad things without being made to seem like bad women continues. It’s pretty cool.
Reader Gut Reaction: The first book in this trilogy, Under the Never Sky, was on my radar since it launched, but I hadn't gotten around to reading it until my library recently dangled a free e-book version of it and its sequel in front of me. Being... Read the rest of this post
Reader Gut Reaction: I remember reading Tiffany Trent's first Hallowmere book for the Cybils way back when, and I had enjoyed it much more than I'd expected to—I can't say Southern Gothic historical fantasy is my thing, but she crafted a fun and... Read the rest of this post
Author: Jane Murphy & Allison Fingerhuth
Illustrator: Neal Sharp
Publisher: Mutt Media
Buy it at Amazon
Pipper’s food blog is popular, and her readers expect her to dish up some tasty morsels. But Pipper is stumped, and doesn’t know what her next topic should be. When she meets with her friends, she stumbles on the idea of finding the “secret ingredient” to the best biscuit. They help her make arrangements, and off she goes on a trip around the world.
Unbeknownst to her, Bull Bogus of Bogus Biscuits has sent out a spy, hot on her tail. Bumbles follows diligently behind, leaving chaos in his wake. But Pipper has been warned about Bumbles, and she’s watching for him. Pipper meets some interesting characters and samples some wonderful food along the way. And when she finally discovers the secret ingredient, her friends agree. Her blog is a success, as is her newest enterprise.
Pipper’s Secret Ingredient blends adventure, friendship, and food in delightful proportions. Kids will enjoy Pipper’s travels, while cheering for her to outsmart Bumbles. And everyone will agree that the secret ingredient is perfect, and well worth the search. I highly recommend this entertaining adventure.
Reviewer: Alice Berger
ALL RIGHT. I know I say this every time, but I ♥ Tu Books. It's just the kind of publishing company so many people were waiting for - because where else can you tell your crazy YA tales of monsters, the Malleus Maleficarum - the Spanish... Read the rest of this post
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The adventures I have, when I randomly buy, pick up, or otherwise gank books! Once again, I am SUPER EXCITED because I've found another Cybils contender so early in the year. I'm a Luddite at heart, and I have had access to ereaders for years, but... Read the rest of this post