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1. Cakes in space by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre

Imagine packing up your home, leaving Earth and setting out to travel across space to colonise a new planet.

The journey will take so long you’ll be put into a cryptobiotic state. But there is absolutely nothing to fear: You’re on sleek new spaceship, looked after by a team of well-programmed robots, and everything has been carefully thought through. When you finally arrive at Nova Mundi (it only takes 199 years to get there), you’ll be woken up to a delicious breakfast and the start of a whole new and wonderful life.

It sounds great, doesn’t it?

cakesinspacecoverAnd so it is in Cakes in Space by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre. Astra and her family are on their way to their new home but – you’ve guessed it – something goes wrong. Astra wakes from her suspended sleep, and feeling peckish goes off in search of a chocolate biscuit.

The Nom-O-Tron (a highly developed version of Star Trek’s Replicator) satisfies Astra’s request, but when she’s tempted to ask for something a little more outlandish (how many times have you seen the word “Ultimate” used to describe a dish?) something goes awry. Soon Astra is hurtling through space surrounded by cakes which have learned to evolve. Cakes which are fed up of being eaten themselves. Cakes which have developed a killer instinct.

Will Astra be able to save her family from the Ravenous Crispy Slices and Ferocious Fruit Cakes stalking the spaceship’s corridors? How much more complicated will things get when a second front opens up and her spaceship is raided by alien life forms known as Poglites, desperately searching for their holy grail, that technology which they haven’t been able to master: SPOONS.

Yes, this is a totally surreal and deliciously outrageous story of friendship, ingenuity and hundreds and thousands.

It’s fast-moving, exciting, just ever so slightly scary in that enjoyably adrenalin pumping way and above all it’s FUNNY! Add into the mix some genuinely beautiful writing (sometimes young fiction is all about the plot and the language – especially for an adult reading it aloud – can be somewhat unremarkable, but Reeve at times writes sentences which I found myself wanting to copy out), a plot which will enthral both boys and girls of a wide age range, and the subtle inclusion of some philosophically meatier issues (the consequences of greedy desire, the demonisation of that which we don’t know and can’t name) and you’ve got yourself a remarkable book.

Image: Sarah McIntyre. Please click on the image to be taken to the original blog post - well worth reading!

Image: Sarah McIntyre. Please click on the image to be taken to the original blog post – well worth reading!

McIntyre’s illustrations are a crazy but perfect mix of 1950s brave new world sleekness and outrageous sponge-and-icing based fantasy. I’m delighted that Astra’s family are mixed race (this isn’t mentioned in the text at all, but how great to see some diversity just as-is, without it being an issue in the book).

The top-notch content of Cakes in Space is matched by a stunningly produced physical book. Like last year’s Reeve and McIntyre production, Oliver and the Seawigs, this is first being published as a small hardback in pleasingly chunky, strokingly hand-holdable format. Everything about the book is appealing.

After indulging in a solo read, I read this book aloud to both girls over a couple of days last week. Before we’d even finished the books my girls were off to raid the cutlery draw in the kitchen for highly prized spoons to create a collection of which any Poglite would be proud.

spooncollection1

spooncollection2

Carefully curated, they labelled every spoon with where it had been found in the galaxy, its rarity and its monetary value (I can see how this could develop into a Top Trumps game…)
spooncollection3

Spoons are one thing, but cake is another, and I couldn’t resist the opportunity to host our own mini Cakes in Space party. We baked a host of fairy cakes and then turned them into KILLER CAKES…

cakesinspace3

Lollies made great eyes on stalks…

cakesinspace6

… as did Maltesers and Aero balls.

cakesinspace9

We had fun making teeth out of snapped white chocolate buttons, tictacs and rice paper snipped to look like rows of sharp teeth.

cakesinspace10

We also had some Ferocious Florentines and Sinister Swiss Rolls (helped along with edible eyes).

cakesinspace4

cakesinspace5

Other characters from the book were also present: The Nameless Horror was a big bowl of wobbly jelly dyed black with food colouring and with licorice shoelaces reaching out across the table, and jars of purple gloop (thinned down Angel Delight, again dyed to give a good purple colour) with gummy snakes in them made perfect Poglite snacks. Alas these were guzzled before I got to take a photo!

Preparing for the party was at least as much fun as the party itself…

cakesinspace7

Great music for a Cakes in Space party includes:

  • Cake by Mindy Hester & The Time Outs – heavily influenced by George Michael’s Faith
  • Peggy Seeger with Ewan MacColl, “The Space Girl’s Song”
  • I like Pie, I like Cake by the Four Clefs
  • To the Moon by the Mighty Buzzniks
  • Man in the Moon by The Full English. This comes from the album Sarah McIntyre listened to a lot whilst illustrating Cakes in Space.
  • Crunch munchy honey cakes by The Wiggles… not everyone’s cup of tea but it is sort of earwormy…
  • Other activities which would make for a great Cakes in Space party include:

  • COSTUMES! Sarah McIntyre and Philip Reeve have the most amazing Cakes in Space costumes (you can see them here), but if you want some inspiration for your own costumes you could try these: Using a bucket and plastic tray to create an astronaut costume as per Spoonful, how to create a papier-mâché helmet on StitchCraftCreations, a Pinterest board dedicated to cake costumes.
  • ROBOTS! I’d pile a load of “junk” from the recycling bin on the table and let the kids loose on designing and building their own robots or spaceships. NurtureStore has some ideas to get you going.
  • SLEEPING PODS! For the grown ups at the party if no-one else… You could use large cardboard boxes painted silver lined with duvets, and with the lids cut out and replaced with something see-through, with bottle tops/lids stuck on for the various buttons… you get the idea!
  • We’ve all heard of Death by Chocolate, but what’s the nearest you’ve come to being killed by a cake?

    Disclosure: I received a free review copy of Cakes in Space from the publishers.

    4 Comments on Cakes in space by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre, last added: 8/18/2014
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    2. Monday Review: THE FALCONER by Elizabeth May

    I enjoyed this book a lot more than I thought I might, given that it has faeries, and I'm sort of burnt out at the moment on the whole faeries thing. But The Falconer by Elizabeth May does something new with the concept. I'd describe it... Read the rest of this post

    0 Comments on Monday Review: THE FALCONER by Elizabeth May as of 8/11/2014 12:41:00 PM
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    3. The Flying Bath and developing a bathroom library

    With pretty much all clock-watching abandoned for the summer holidays we’ve been sneaking reading into unusual places. First we boosted breakfast feasting on books with our toast rack displays, and since then we’ve been squeezing in extra reading at the other end of the day – at bathtime. When the kids were little we were big fans of the plastic books you could immerse in water but now we tend to have a stack of comics and magazines (for all ages) on hand in a magazine rack.

    bathroomreading

    It doesn’t matter so much if comics and magazines get wet – a short spell on the washing line or a radiator fixes that, and if they end up really too wrinkled and dog-eared for reading, they’re ripe for recycling as collage material.

    readinginthebath

    Of course, another way to enjoy reading at bath time is simply to sit on the floor and read a favourite book to your kids whilst they can’t escape from the tub, and what better than a bath-time themed book for such an occasion (Scottish Book Trust has some great recommendations here)?

    When news of a flying bathtub which saves animals in distress reached our ears we had to check it out…

    flyingbathIn The Flying Bath by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by David Roberts there’s a hotline to a team of firefighting, thirst-quenching, mud-washing pals who use their bath to fly the world over, saving animals who have come unstuck thanks to a lack of water.

    As you’d expect from Donaldson, the superhero antics are told in rhyme, with a refrain which kids will quickly sing-song along with. Roberts’ illustrations are detailed and have an older feel to them especially when compared to some of the other illustrators Donaldson is often paired with. I personally love his eye for pattern and texture. His architectural drawings are beautiful in their clarity and precision, and Roberts has had enormous fun with the choice of telephones used to dial 999.

    Despite all this, I have to admit that this isn’t a book I’ve fallen madly in love with. I found Donaldson’s text requires a little practise to read out loud (a surprise, given that normally her poems-in-picture-book form trip off the tongue). This makes me too aware of the technicalities of the rhyme to simple enjoy the ride with the rescuing animals. And the text is more a series of flights of fancy rather than an extended narrative with a traditional story arc.

    HOWEVER.

    However, however, both my kids thought this book rather delightful and funny, and had a lot of fun spotting nods to other books Roberts has illustrated. Indeed my kids enjoyed this book so much they immediately came up with an idea for ‘playing by the book’ by creating a bathtime mosaic set, mirroring the tiled wings of the flying bath.

    We grabbed a bunch of foam sheets (such as these) and cut them up into squares before letting them loose in the bath.

    bath1

    The kids loved having the tiles floating all around them – it was like “bathing in a rainbow” said J! Both kids enjoyed making different tiled patterns around the bath, exploring repetition – a visual rhythm, if you like!

    bathaftermath

    Whilst it turns out this book was great for maths play, it’s also a book that could be used in science classes for kids in nursery and the first years of school, gently exploring drought, forest fires, and the need for water for life (both for animals and plants). You could team it up with some research about water charities, for example Waterbridge Outreach.

    waterbridgelogo

    waterbridge2

    I’m a supporter of this particular charity because it aims “to give children in developing communities hope for the future through nourishing their minds and bodies with books and water.”

    Yep, water and books. A good combo, no?

    Waterbridge Outreach donates books in English and local languages and funds clean water and sanitation projects in communities and villages in the developing world. You can read about some of their projects here.

    So it turns out that even if a book isn’t the best thing I’ve read all year, there’s still a lot to be said for it. It can inspire play, it can make children laugh, it can start conversations, it can even lead to a good deed or two!

    If you want music to go along with reading The Flying Bath you could try these songs:

  • Bartleby Finkleton Will Not Take a Bath by Steve Weeks
  • Bath Time by The Sing Sings
  • Bathtime Blues by Uncle Moondog (listen for free on Myspace)
  • For more extension activities which work well with this book why not try:

  • 15 Fun Bath Time Activities That Don’t Include a Rubber Duck! (from Babble.com)
  • Water Math & Science Activities for Kids Ages 3-6 from The Measured Mom
  • Taking books and bath times one step further with this bath tub made out of books!
  • Are you a bath or a shower person? Do you have a bathroom library?

    Disclosure: I received a free review copy of The Flying Bath from the publishers.

    4 Comments on The Flying Bath and developing a bathroom library, last added: 8/11/2014
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    4. Tea Party or Fist Fights? Why Action Scenes are Hard to Write!


    COMING: March, 2015


    ActionViolenceIn my current WIP, I want to up the action and make this a physically exciting story. So, I bought a great ebook, Action! Writing Better Action Using Cinematic Techniques by Ian Thomas Healy. It’s great, as I said, and breaks down the actions into easy components that can be easily mastered. Even for me, it’s easy.

    Healy says that great action scenes put characters into motion and the “effective description of that motion is what makes the difference. . .
    I get that part. But here’s what stumps me: “At its most basic level, an action scene is an expression of plot or character development through violence.”

    Violence. As in people hitting each other, shooting at each other, killing each other. Yep. That kind of physical violence.

    It’s been a long, long time since I was in a knock-down drag-out fight. That was with my younger brother when I was about 15, and we were fighting about whether the overhead light was on or off while we watched TV. I never had the chance to play football, which is a pure Show-Don’t-Tell version of testosterone. When my daughters played soccer, I cringed when they played tea party on the field: Oh, you have the ball? Well, take your turn and when you are finished, I’ll take my turn. Teaching aggression (much less violence) to young ladies is hard.

    Our society trains women to avoid violence. We teach our daughters aggression now on a soccer field, but step off the field and it’s tea party time again. Women writers are at a disadvantage in writing action scenes.

    Because Healy says that a great action scene needs violence.
    Heck, I can’t even work up a good case of Road Rage.

    Motivation. The hardest thing for me is to motivate the characters. I can block out the action and get the characters fighting. I’ve seen enough action movies to be able to do it. (Go watch The Transformers latest movie if you want non-stop violence. Wow. It must take up 75% of that movie.)

    But WHY are these characters resorting to violence? (See, even our language makes it hard to use violence: “resort” implies that violence is a last option and the choice to use it is not easy.) Why would the characters use fists, swords, guns or other weapons against someone else? Healy helps with blocking out the sequences of actions and building them into longer sequences. But he says little about the character motivations.

    In one sense, this is an escalating of tensions. Almost any motivation would work: revenge, for example, could easily escalate into violence. Two rivals for a fortune in gold could escalate an argument into violence and death. For violence to take place, there’s a line that needs to be crossed. Polite society demands that people restrain themselves, and that self-control must break for your characters, shoving them into a no-holds-barred action. Violence. It’s an escalation and it’s a letting go of social restraints. It’s a willingness to take action and a determination to get something done—no matter what.

    Sounds like a good way to increase the tension and stakes in a story. Yes, often action stories are physical stories, without much in the way of characterization. You’ve heard it said that you either write an action story or you write a character story. A cross-pollination though, could create an intriguing mix. This time, I’m shooting for a story with better balance between action and character.

    Cinematic. In some ways, this mix will be more cinematic. The sights and sounds of the action are crucial to the success of the scene. And yes, as I am writing, I am trying to visualize the actions in my head; I’m trying to see it as if it is on the big screen. Healy’s title is right on, violence—action scenes—are cinematic.

    Thanks to Healy’s advice, I am making lists of what he calls “stunts,” or isolated pieces of actions, that will build into “engagements,” or movement across a setting, which will ultimately build toward some climactic “resolution.” I am taking baby steps in building a chapter with interesting action, um, violence.

    Look out. I’m strapping on my boxing gloves, er, getting ready to type the next chapter of this new action-adventure story.

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    5. The Glass Sentence by S.E. Grove

    The Glass SentenceWe all know that different countries have different customs that make it an adjustment to travel across borders, and that there’s a famous saying trying to explain how disconcerting it can be to adjust to those different customs: “the past is a foreign country.” But what if each foreign country was in the past? Or more specifically, what if by traveling across borders, you could travel to different times?

    In The Glass Sentence, the Great Disruption happened in 1799–the world’s countries came unstuck in time and each settled in a different era. Boston remained in the 18th (and then 19th) centuries, but Canada and northern Europe reverted to the Ice Age, the Italy and western Europe returned to the middle ages, and the western part of America and Mexico has settled in a mixture of many ages, including the distant past and parts of the future!

    Sophia lives in Boston with her uncle Shadrack, a famous cartologer–he maps not only the way to get to different countries and eras, but can map sights, smells, and even memories from certain places. Soon after Shadrack shows Sophia his secret map room, filled with maps that seem almost magic, he is kidnapped by thugs working for a terrifying creature who will do anything to find the one map that Shadrack says he doesn’t have. Sophia teams up with a boy escaped from a traveling show to track down Shadrack’s captors, and as she travels into the Baldlands, finds herself farther from Boston–both physically and mentally–than she could have ever imagined.

    This book is wholly original and utterly amazing. The imagery and descriptive language is such that I could perfectly see every landscape, every character, every object, no matter how fantastical. The book stood alone perfectly well, but I was thrilled to discover later that it is the first book in a series! I look forward to the continuing adventures of Sophia and Shadrack, and I can’t wait to see what countries and eras they visit next.

    Posted by: Sarah


    0 Comments on The Glass Sentence by S.E. Grove as of 7/31/2014 12:48:00 PM
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    6. Review: Oliver and the Seawigs by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre

     

    May Contain Spoilers

    Review:

    Oliver and the Seawigs is a cute, cute book!  Ten year old Oliver Crisp has spent his entire life exploring all of the unexplored areas of the world, and he’s tired of it.  What Oliver wants is to wake up in his own bedroom, in his own house, and go to school every day.  When his parent sadly realize that there is nothing left to discover, they resign themselves to a boring life living in their long neglected house.  Oliver is delighted, and he is anticipating finally being settled.

    Poor Oliver’s non-roaming life comes to an abrupt end.  After not even a day, his parents disappear.  They had taken their dingy out into the bay to explore the new islands that mysteriously appeared during their long absence from their house.  When the raft washes up on shore, minus his parents, Oliver knows he has to take matters into his own hands.  He grabs his explorer pack, hops in the dingy, and sets off in search of his missing mom and dad.

    I loved Oliver.  He is a take-charge kid, and he doesn’t panic when his parents go missing.  He has had plenty of disaster training during his adventures with his dare-devil parents, and he immediately puts it to good use.  Little fazes him; not a talking seagull, a near-sighted mermaid, or even an island that isn’t really an island but a living,  breathing creature.  Okay, so the troop of sea monkeys almost does him in, but he quickly tamps down his fears and focuses on the task at hand.  He must save his parents from their own folly.

    In addition to encountering one outlandish mishap after another, Oliver and the Seawigs is lavishly illustrated with amusing, cartoony pictures.  Working seamlessly with the prose, the illustrations add even more character to an already charming tale.  I believe this book will appeal equally to boys or girls, as well as their parents. 

    Highly recommended.

    Grade:  B+

    Review copy provided by publisher

    From Amazon:

     

    A lively step up from early chapter books, this seafaring romp is packed with hilarious art, lovable misfits, meddlesome monkeys, and tons of kid appeal.

    When Oliver’s explorer parents go missing, he sets sail on a rescue mission with some new, unexpected friends: a grumpy albatross, a nearsighted mermaid . . . even a living island! But the high seas are even more exciting, unusual, and full of mischief than Oliver could have imagined. Can he and his crew spar with sarcastic seaweed, outrun an army of sea monkeys, win a fabulous maritime fashion contest, and defeat a wicked sea captain in time to save Mom and Dad?

    The post Review: Oliver and the Seawigs by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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    7. Coming-of-age tale, The Stream by A.R. Silverberry

    If I were not already a fan of A.R. Silverberry’s from Wyndano’s Cloak, I now would be after the exhilarating adventure of The Stream. Silverberry’s masterful storytelling technique will have you hooked from the onset. So much so for me, I was unable to concentrate on anything else until the end.

    The courage and fortitude of Wend from childhood to manhood will melt your heart. Life lessons are learned along the way for those open to all the glory the universe has to offer and for those who choose to live in darkness their lives are bound for a different path. The Stream is a spell-bounding fantasy and imaginative world the reader will embrace from the first sentence and will not be able to let go off until long after the conclusion.

    About A. R. Silverberry:
    A. R. Silverberry writes fiction for adults and children. His novel, WYNDANO’S CLOAK, won multiple awards, including the Benjamin Franklin Award gold medal for Juvenile/Young Adult Fiction. He lives in California, where the majestic coastline, trees, and mountains inspire his writing. THE STREAM is his second novel. 

    Follow him at www.arsilverberry.com

    EXTRA, EXTRA…not only is A.R. Silverberry an accomplished novelist he writes about pertinent topics. Tomorrow he visits Write What Inspires You! with his guest post… "COPPA for Authors.promise, it's worth the revisit!

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


    Best wishes,
    Donna M. McDine
    Multi Award-winning Children's Author


    Connect with

    A Sandy Grave ~ January 2014 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ 2014 Purple Dragonfly 1st Place Picture Books 6+, Story Monster Approved, Beach Book Festival Honorable Mention 2014, Reader's Favorite Five Star Review

    Powder Monkey ~ May 2013 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ Reader's Favorite Five Star Review

    Hockey Agony ~ January 2013 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. ~ Reader's Farvorite Five Star Review

    The Golden Pathway ~ August 2010 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc.
    ~ Literary Classics Silver Award and Seal of Approval, Readers Favorite 2012 International Book Awards Honorable Mention and Dan Poynter's Global e-Book Awards Finalist












    0 Comments on Coming-of-age tale, The Stream by A.R. Silverberry as of 7/30/2014 8:56:00 AM
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    8. TURNING PAGES: SILVER TONGUE, by Evelyn Ivy

    Pull up a chair, for an adventurous novel with a lovely fantasy feel. Skyships, blunderbusses and gale cutters give this the perfect pinch of steampunk, but doesn't get in the way of the narrative. Though the fine-print on the cover says this is a... Read the rest of this post

    0 Comments on TURNING PAGES: SILVER TONGUE, by Evelyn Ivy as of 7/29/2014 3:04:00 PM
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    9. The Way to the Zoo: John Burningham

    Book: The Way to the Zoo
    Author: John Burningham
    Pages: 40
    Age Range: 4-8

    The Way to the Zoo by John Burningham is a picture book about a little girl named Sylvie who discovers a secret doorway in her bedroom that leads to a zoo. The animals are friendly, and sometimes Sylvie brings some of them back into her house. The small bear is cozy to sleep with, but the penguins make a splashy mess in the bathroom. And when Sylvie forgets to close the door to the zoo one day, chaos ensues. 

    The Way to the Zoo reminded me a bit of Barbara Lehman's Rainstorm, and a bit of Philip and Erin Stead's A Sick Day for Amos McGee. All three books feature implausible events related in a completely matter-of-fact manner. My four year old daughter thought that The Way to the Zoo was hilarious, and asked immediately that I read it again. 

    Burningham takes his time with the story. Instead of jumping in to where the girl finds and opens the door, she first glimpses the door from her bed, decides to wait to check it out in the morning, and then forgets, and doesn't look inside until after school the next day. He uses a relatively basic vocabulary, and explains what's happening in detail. I think that The Way to the Zoo could function as an early reader for some kids. Here's an example (all on one page spread):

    "It was getting late. Sylvie had to get back 
    to her room and go to sleep because she
    had school again in the morning.

    Sylvie asked a little bear to come back
    with her. He did and slept in her bed

    She made sure the bear was back in the
    zoo and the door in the wall was closed
    before she left for school."

    This passage is, of course, also good for teaching young readers about foreshadowing. 

    Burningham's illustrations are in pen, pencil pastel, and watercolor. The are minimalist, with only the faintest suggestion of backgrounds, lots of white space, and the details left to the reader's imagination. This isn't my personal favorite style of illustration - I couldn't always tell what kind of animal was being represented, for instance. But the pictures made my daughter laugh, particularly one involving birds in the living room, and another in which a rhino lies on the floor covered up in towels for the night. 

    The Way to the Zoo has a timeless feel, support in particular by the apparent freedom that Sylvie has from parental oversight. It would make a nice school or library read-aloud for K-2nd graders. Recommended for home or library use! 

    Publisher: Candlewick (@Candlewick) 
    Publication Date: August 26, 2014
    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).

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

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    10. Alliance, by Mark Frost | Book Review

    In Mark Frost's second book of the Paladin Prophecy series, Alliance, we pick up right where we left off with Will and his friends. The Paladins are still after him, and the group must outwit them to find the secret of the school, and Will's own family history.

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    11. jack the castaway

    by Lisa Doan Darby Creek / Lerner  2014 Smart kid, dumb parents, and a menacing whale shark! What more could a kid want from a book?  Jack is a sheltered kid on the cusp of puberty living with his Aunt Julia safely in Pennsylvania. Or at least he was living safely until his Aunt met with misfortune and Jack was forced to call his world-traveling parents home from their latest scheme,

    0 Comments on jack the castaway as of 7/9/2014 11:19:00 PM
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    12. Hilda Wade, a Woman with Tenacity of Purpose

    I never wrote anything about Hilda Wade, did I?

    So, obviously I’m pretty into Miss Cayley’s Adventures. So into it that I was kind of terrified of reading anything else by Grant Allen, which is why Hilda Wade has been languishing on my Kindle (and then my other Kindle) for several years. I shouldn’t have worried, though. Hilda Wade is good and bad in almost exactly the same ways as Miss Cayley’s Adventures is good and bad.

    It’s narrated by Dr. Hubert Cumberledge, who is to doctor-narrators what many of Carolyn Wells’ protagonists are to lawyer-narrators, except that unlike most Carolyn Wells protagonists, he is capable of seeing women as people. Most of Grant Allen’s characters are capable of seeing women as people. Grant Allen’s female characters command respect.

    Anyway, Hilda Wade is a nurse, and she and Dr. Cumberledge work at a hospital with Professor Sebastian, who is a Great Man. That doesn’t necessarily mean he’s a good man, though, and Hilda Wade knows he’s not. It’s pretty clear to the reader early on that Hilda a) does not like Sebastian, b) had some special purpose in coming to work for him, and c) probably wants revenge for something he did to her father. Eventually these things also become clear to Sebastian, and even, eventually, to Dr. Cumberledge.

    Dr. Cumberledge is only moderately bright, compared to Professor Sebastian’s genius and Hilda’s superhuman intuition, but he’s pretty likable, mostly because his awe of Hilda turns out to be greater than his awe of Professor Sebastian. Early on, he’s skeptical of her concerns about Sebastian, but she slowly convinces him, and it works because he respects her and listens to her and is willing to see her point of view. And for all that the novel goes way downhill once he is convinced, that’s a really nice thing.

    After that, the book gets adventurous and racist and sentimental, but wound to a close entertainingly enough that I never wanted to put it down. Apparently the last chapter was written by Arthur Conan Doyle from Grant Allen’s notes after his death or during his final illness. I have to say, I wasn’t a huge fan of the last chapter, but I don’t know that him not dying would have helped–he has a tendency to fall apart toward the end of a book. That’s the thing about Grant Allen, though: he starts off so strong, and builds up enough good will, that he’s free to make a mess of things later on–it doesn’t really matter that much. I guess Grant Allen’s heroines are better than his books, which doesn’t bother me at all, because the opposite is so much more common.

    Lois Cayley is still better than Hilda Wade, though. She’s funnier.


    Tagged: 1890s, adventure, africa, grantallen, london

    1 Comments on Hilda Wade, a Woman with Tenacity of Purpose, last added: 7/9/2014
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    13. The Islands of Chaldea by Diana Wynne Jones and Ursula Jones

    The Islands of ChaldeaThe books of Diana Wynne Jones were a constant throughout my childhood and teen years. Of the nearly 100 books by her listed in our library system’s catalog, there isn’t a single one that I haven’t read at least once, if not repeatedly.

    After Jones passed away in 2011, I naturally thought that I would never again read a new book by her. But first there was the posthumously published Earwig and the Witch, a short, snappy book about an orphan and her curious adoptive ‘family.’ It was definitely appealing, but it had that abrupt, unpolished quality that posthumously published books often have. I would recommend it to a reader, but it didn’t capture my imagination the way so many of Jones’ books had. Yet again, I thought that was that.

    Fully three years after her death, though, a full-length novel by Jones has appeared–it was discovered amongst her papers, and polished and completed by Jones’ sister, Ursula Jones, already an author in her own right. This was the final (?) Diana Wynne Jones novel that I had been waiting for–it has a story that sucks a reader in almost instantly, characters who are defined simply but indelibly, and a setting so well-described that one can see it.

    Aileen is an apprentice Wise-Woman, cared for by her Aunt Beck, the Wise Woman of Skarr, one of the group of sovereign islands known collectively as the Islands of Chaldea. Aileen has only just attempted her first initiation when she and her aunt–and a prince, and a castle servant–are sent off on a whirlwind quest that requires them to visit every island.

    As is typical for Jones, our heroine has more reserves than she believes (but is never a wet blanket about her insecurities), there are wonderful animal companions, and adult authority figures are often Very Cranky.

    I hope that it is taken as a compliment when I say that I cannot tell at all where Ursula Jones’ contributions come in–the book hangs together perfectly as a whole, with no disjointed transitions or developments that ring false. I highly recommend the book, both on its own merits, and as a satisfying send-off to Diana Wynne Jones’ magical oeuvre.

    Posted by: Sarah


    0 Comments on The Islands of Chaldea by Diana Wynne Jones and Ursula Jones as of 6/30/2014 12:13:00 PM
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    14. Review: Knockdown by Brenda Beem

    May Contain Spoilers

    Review:

    Knockdown piqued my interest because it’s a survival story, and it takes place on a sailboat.  The mega-tsunami threatening to destroy every coastline in its path also seemed pretty interesting.  I haven’t read a post-apocalyptic story like this before, so I was game to give it a shot.  I really enjoyed it!

    Toni’s at dive practice when her father sends her a text message to hurry to the marina where the family sailboat is docked. She’s worried and confused when he won’t answer his phone, and neither will the other members of her family.  She hears from teammates that disaster is headed in their direction. Mega-tsunamis are rushing toward the Pacific coastline, created after historic seismic events in Indonesia.  They have 18 hours until the tsunamis hit the Oregon coastline.  They have 18 hours to evacuate before the monster waves crush everything in their path.  Only when she gets to the boat, her parents aren’t there.  Only her twin brothers, and some of their friends, are waiting at the dock.  Toni doesn’t want to leave without her mom and dad, but they left strict instructions to head out to the ocean if they didn’t arrive by a certain time, and when they are no shows, the teens have no choice but to brave the open waters without them.

    Goodness! Up until the tsunamis knockdown the sailboat, I was on the edge of my seat.  Literally.  The pacing is fantastic; it’s unrelenting and tense, and I could hardly breathe.  I didn’t understand how Toni and her small band of friends were continuing to function.  There is a raging wall of water bearing down on them, and their only hope of survival is to get far enough out to sea, seal up the boat, and hang on as the waves toss it about, flipping it over like an angry child with an unwanted toy.  Having once been caught in rough waters in a disabled boat, I could easily imagine how helpless Toni felt as their vessel was batted to and fro.

    I was worried that after the tsunami raged by, the story would slow to a crawl.  That did not happen.  Though the teens survived the waves, they still had to survive the new world they found themselves in.  Coastlines all around the world were ravaged, island nations wiped clean, and most modern conveniences a thing of the past.  With the little group struggling to survive, suddenly the teens find themselves in need of water and provisions.  Worse, as the climate begins to change, sliding towards a new Ice Age, they must find ways to keep warm.

    Toni is a capable narrator.  She easily conveys her feelings and fears, her dreams and hopes.  The boat is overcrowded, and tensions and personality conflicts begin to pick away at morale.  When tragedy strikes, it seems that the team will unravel into chaos, and Toni wonders how they will survive afterwards.  She worries that she’ll never see her parents again, and knows that the life she once had is long gone.  I really liked her and found it easy to relate to her.

    I didn’t realize that Knockdown was the first in a series, or I might have passed on it.  I’m glad I didn’t.  The ending is satisfying, and I knew that Toni had found a temporary shelter from the destroyed world around her.  I liked the characters and I want find out what happens next, so I’ll be looking forward to Toni’s next adventures.

    Grade:  B

    Review copy provided by publisher

    From Amazon:

    A sail boat can tip over and come back up again. Sailors call this a knockdown.

    In eighteen hours a mega tsunami will hit the Pacific Coast. It will leave in its wake massive destruction and the threat of an ice age.
    Sixteen-year-old Toni, her brothers, and their friends race the clock as they sail Toni’s family boat far out to sea. They must get beyond where the wave crests, or the boat will be crushed.

    Without their parents to guide them, the reluctant crew improvises. Romances bloom and tempers flare. There is no privacy. Cell phones won’t work. The engine breaks down. They are running out of time.

    Even if they survive the wave, there is nowhere in this ravaged world to go. When disaster strikes, it is up to Toni to find the strength to lead the crew when her brothers cannot.

    The post Review: Knockdown by Brenda Beem appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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    15. Seven Stories Up, by Laurel Snyder | Book Review

    In Seven Stories Up, Laurel Snyder combines humor and friendship to spin a rich story of adventure, sprinkled with Snyder’s signature magic and mystery.

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    16. Book Review- Spireseeker by E.D.E. Bell

    Title: Spireseeker
     Author: E. D. E. Bell
    Series:  Spireseeker #1
    Published:  October 2013
    Length:472 pages
    Source: author
    Summary : Spireseeker is an epic fantasy tale by debut novelist E.D.E. Bell in which the heroine, Beryl, is forced from the only home she's ever known and must discover her true identity in order to confront one of her own kind, before the evil Aegra is able to enslave all of Fayen’s creatures.
    Please join us in sharing this creative new novel about Beryl, a young elf who discovers that she is not who she thinks she is but instead is looked to as the one remaining hope to save her home. Communicating with the diverse creatures of the land, Beryl and her unlikely companion march through mountains, forests, and deserts to defeat evil—even as that evil seeks to destroy them first. Though a classic fantasy tale, we promise this one will be unlike any you've read. Experience it today!

    Review: Beryl believes herself to be a normal girl until she is able to heal her grandomther when she is badly wounded, and she is told that  she is an elf. And not just any elf. She  has a unicorn’s blessing, enabling her to do the healing, and is also believed to be the one to  free the land of Fayen from the grasp of Aegra, who uses her blessing to manipulate loyalty to help her eliminate the other elves.
    The fantasy world is different to those I’ve met before. Each elf can be blessed by an animal that gives them a unique gift, which I liked learning about. 
    I really liked the characters. Beryl and her healing powers and Kick, the human companion, were fun to read about and get to know. The culture ofthe elves was fully developed and so were all the other cultures of animals. I quite liked the fact that the nonhumanoid characters played a larger part than they often do in other high fantasy stories.  
    The writing style is simple, with more formal language during the council meetings  and more modern language occasionally that feels out of place.
    Pacingwise, it starts off well, introducing new powers, new ideas and new quests for Beryl quickly. The middle is quite slow, It picks up towards the end, when Aegra finally appears more after an introduction at the very start followed by 70% of Beryl’s adventures. I think it would have been nice to see her a bit more, to break up the  sameness of the visiting various groups of animals and the discussing in the council, which does get a bit boring after some time. The action scenes were better  written than the talky ones.  

    Overall:  Strength 3 tea to a fantasy with great characters but was really dragged out in the middle.

    0 Comments on Book Review- Spireseeker by E.D.E. Bell as of 5/29/2014 4:17:00 PM
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    17. Interview: Joe Scott, Author of ‘The Friend Ship Friendesha’

    joe-scottJoe Scott is a contractor and real estate developer who built a thriving enterprise from a truck and a toolbox.  He has negotiated thousands of business deals involving corporate executives, homeowners, bankers, laborers, and union officials.  In addition, he has hired, and been hired by, individuals from every walk of life.  Through these dealings, Joe has learned that all people fall into three types -  givers, takers, and those who both give and take.  Knowing how to recognize and cope with all three types is the key to his success.  In this children’s series, he hopes to instill in kids a good foundation for a happy and positive life.  His first book, “The Joe Dial”, released in 2011, is age appropriate for those who are 12 to 95 years old.  The Friend Ship Friendesha series is based on the adult book, “The Joe Dial.”

    Visit: http://www.friendesha.com 

    Thank you for joining us today,  Joe Scott. When did you first get bit by the writing bug?

    I have been writing for 7 years.

    Why did you decide to write stories for children?

    I wanted to help my children and grandchildren discover their positive power to effect the world, their friends and family.  I also wanted to deliver a clear, non-bullying message.

    Do you believe it is harder to write books for a younger audience?

    You need to make the book short, simple, and to the point, and also easy to understand.

    What is your favorite part of writing for young people?

    book1I want to instill in them a good foundation for a happy and positive life.

    Can you tell us what your latest book is all about?

    Meet the Friendeshans, a lovable race of beings who spread friendship and positive energy throughout the galaxy!  In this first book of an inspiring new series, the Friendeshans encounter the Oily Spoilies, creatures that thrive on meanness and negativity.  What will happen when an Oily Spoily spy get aboard the Friendeshans’ ship?!

    What inspired you to write it?

    My children, grandchildren, and future generations.  I am hoping it will instill in them a good foundation for a happy and positive life. 

    Where can readers purchase a copy?

    Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kindle and ebook.

    What is up next for you?

    Book 2 of the series is also available, book 3 is being illustrated and books 4 and 5 are in queue.

    Do you have anything else to add?

    As the series unfolds, the Friendeshans will travel to Eart, where they will work their pozzi-power on our planet.  For any child who has ever been bullied or picked on, the Friendeshans are like loyal, invisible friends they can carry with them in their imaginations.  With the Friendeshans around, every child has a friend!

    Thank you for spending time with us today, Joe Scott.  We wish you much success.

     


    1 Comments on Interview: Joe Scott, Author of ‘The Friend Ship Friendesha’, last added: 5/31/2014
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    18. To Write is an Awfully Big Adventure – Anna Wilson

    Last week my son was in a school production of Peter Pan. It was a wonderfully colourful and often humorous production which left many of us adults feeling nostalgic for childhood and its gift of imagination. It also had me immediately reaching for Finding Neverland, a film about J M Barrie’s friendship with the Llewelyn Davies family which was the inspiration for the play of Peter Pan. We watched it as a family last weekend to prolong the magic we had enjoyed while watching the play.



    While watching the film, my daughter made a comment to me about writers and how they get their ideas. There is a scene where Sylvia Llewelyn Davies’s mother bends down to talk to Peter and his brothers, a coat hanger in her hand, which she points at the boys, emphasizing her opinion. The link with Captain Hook is clear, as we see the old lady through Barrie’s eyes. She leans into Peter, seeming to brandish the coat hanger aggressively, much as the Pirate Captain uses his hook to threaten Peter Pan.

    My daughter whispered to me at this point in the film: “Is that what it’s like when you are writing – you see something like the hook in the sleeve and it makes you think of what to write?”

    Of course, it is not always like that: most writing is an uphill climb with pitifully few flashes of inspiration such as the one in the film, and who knows how J M Barrie really pieced all the images together into a finished product? However, I have had a couple of eureka moments, and they have come when I was least expecting them – often when I have not consciously been thinking about a story at all.

    The most recent occasion was nearly two years ago (which goes to show just how infrequently they happen!) when I was listening to an old friend talk about a terrible disaster she had suffered. Her house had burnt down. As she told me the incredibly strange circumstances surrounding the fire and the events that followed, I felt a shiver run down my spine. She was giving me the perfect missing link to a story I was struggling with. Everything she said was offering me answers to plot problems. As I drove home I could not believe this had happened. There was no other way of looking at this: it was a gift.

    I wrote it all down the moment I returned to my desk – and it worked! Everything fell into place. I immediately felt guilty that I was robbing my friend’s life to fix my story, so I phoned to tell her what had happened and to ask her permission. Luckily she was thrilled and even said it was wonderful to think something good had come out of her misfortune. Of course I changed a few details to make her story fit with mine, just as J M Barrie changed things, turning Peter’s grandmother into a male pirate (so the film leads us to believe).

    Writing, to paraphrase Peter (not to mention the name of this blog) is an “awfully big adventure”. A writer never knows where ideas will come from; they can come at us sideways, from an unexpected source. The trick is to keep our eyes and ears open at all times. And always to believe in fairies.

    Anna Wilson
    www.annawilson.co.uk
    www.acwilsonwriter.wordpress.com


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    19. Orion Poe and the Lost Explorer, by Will Summerhouse | Dedicated Review

    Orion Poe is an eleven-year-old boy who lives in Maine with his grandfather who is the caretaker of a lighthouse. When a large storm rolls in one evening, Orion discovers a washed-up boat and an injured man. From this moment on, he finds himself fighting for survival on a mysterious expedition full of unexpected and non-stop adventure that is connected to the historic event of an explorer, John Franklin, who was lost in the Arctic in 1847.

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    20. Orion Poe and the Lost Explorer – Middle Grade Monday

    Title: Orion Poe and the Lost Explorer Written by Will Summerhouse Published by Shake-a-leg-Press, May 19th, 2014 Ages: 8-12 Themes: adventure, exploration, steampunk, Arctic, 19th century history, Sir John Franklin Speculative Fiction 1st Award announced last Saturday at Book Expo America by Amazon … Continue reading

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    21. Reading in Tandem: "The Lost," by Sarah Beth Durst

    It's bits of ephemera -- a favorite song that popped into your head like a mini-book soundtrack, who you think would be best as the lead if they ever turned it into a movie, your fervent hope that they never, ever, turn it into a movie -- things... Read the rest of this post

    0 Comments on Reading in Tandem: "The Lost," by Sarah Beth Durst as of 5/19/2014 3:54:00 PM
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    22. Two Shall be Born

    I mostly avoid reading Marie Conway Oemler books I haven’t read before — I dread the point at which there won’t be any left I haven’t read. So I’ve been putting off reading Two Shall Be Born for, like, five years at least.

    I don’t know if it was worth waiting for. I don’t, at this point, expect any book of hers to live up to Slippy McGee or A Woman Named Smith, and this one certainly doesn’t. But that’s not to say it isn’t pretty interesting and weird, and that’s all I really want, I guess.

    I don’t want to say that this is Marie Conway Oemler’s Ruritanian romance, although it has a bit of a flavor of that. And I’m not sure if I want to say that this book is Mary Roberts Rinehart-ish in the same way that Slippy McGee is Gene Stratton Porter-ish, but there were moments when it seemed to have more in common with Rinehart than with Oemler’s other work. I only recognized Oemler in flashes — the disheveled single-mindedness of an artistic genius, the hero who looks like “a young god with good morals,” anything relating to what Irish people are like.

    The premise of the book is, I suppose, about people falling in love at first sight. Fortunately, that’s not actually what the book is about. Countess Marya Jadwiga Zuleska’s love interest doesn’t even appear until what feels like more than halfway through the book, but apparently isn’t quite. Really it’s Marya Jadwiga’s book, but I didn’t feel like I got to know her as well as I got to know anyone in A Woman Named Smith or Slippy McGee or evenThe Purple Heights.

    Marya Jadwiga is the daughter of a famous scholar and Polish patriot who apparently functions as some kind of spymaster for a Polish independence movement. Everything he has, he contributes to this movement — including his daughter, who he educates so as to make her as useful as possible to him. It’s not really clear exactly what that education consists of, or how he intends to use her, but I think the book would have been so much better if it had been. Anyway, we never really find out what he meant to do, because his impending death and the pressure exerted on him by Russian and German agents force him to change his plans and send Marya Jadwiga to America.

    I mean, other stuff happens first. But I don’t really know how to get into it without spoiling the grisliest axe murder I’ve read since The After House, so.

    Once she gets there, there’s a little bit of a Samuel Hopkins Adams in The Flagrant Years vibe, and once we’re introduced to Brian Kelly there’s a bit of a Samuel Hopkins Adams in general vibe, neither of which upset me. Brian’s story gives us a little of the character makeover thing — he’s had a fight with his rich dad and run off to become a policeman, and of course he learns to be a very good one. But, as with Marya Jadwiga, I wished more time had been spent on the learning part. If not the traffic policeman stuff, more than a few vague hints about other, more exciting police work would have been appreciated.

    Brian and Marya Jadwiga meet one evening after Marya Jadwiga stabs someone (yeah, it’s pretty cool) although they’ve already seen each other and fallen in love at first sight at that point. Brian brings Marya Jadwiga to his boarding house, and the final turns of the plot take place there, among the friends he’s made. But the two of them, having gotten the falling in love part out of the way at the beginning, don’t seem to have much to say to each other.

    It’s as if, having already fallen in love, they don’t need to get to know each other. And that’s what I hate about stories where people fall in love at first sight, because the getting to know each other part is the best part, and I don’t understand why anyone would want to skip past it. Especially Marie Conway Oemler, who’s so, so good at having her characters enjoy each others’ company. I mean, Sophy and Alicia. The Author and anyone he appreciates properly. Armand de Rancé and Slippy McGee. There’s no pair of characters in Two Shall be Born that made me feel like just seeing them interact was enough, except maybe the Kelly siblings. Some of that might be because it’s meant to be a very serious book, with attempted rape and beheadings and people watching each other die, but Oemler wasn’t really a serious story kind of author.

    I did enjoy Two Shall be Born. I just think Oemler could have done something batter. I mean, that, and I wish I could read A Woman Named Smith or Slippy McGee for the first time again.


    Tagged: 1920s, adventure, marieconwayoemler, new york, poland

    2 Comments on Two Shall be Born, last added: 5/21/2014
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    23. “It’s Only Scary Because It’s New”

    I just did something that was not objectively scary at all. No rational person would think so.

    Yet for me it was slightly terrifying. I’ve been putting it off for years because I knew it would scare me.

    But I’m not into being limited by my fears, so today I did the thing.

    And the whole time, I repeated a line in my head that I heard last weekend in a movie called The Internship, written by and starring Vince Vaughn. It was a sweet and funny film and I ended up watching it twice over two days. Obviously I recommend it.

    The plot of the movie revolves around Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson entering a summer internship program at Google. When they first arrive on campus, they’re a little lost, and Vince suggests they ask for directions from the person in this car going by. Only there’s no one in the car. It’s self-driving.

    For a brief moment, both men stand there in shock. But then Vince turns to Owen, slaps him on the back, and says, “It’s only scary because it’s new.”

    And isn’t that true? About so many of the things we’re afraid of? Until we’ve done it once and can see what it’s about, we put it off and fear it and avoid it. At least I do.

    Or at least I did. I’m actively working to let go of that habit.

    So thanks, Vince. I needed that. I needed it over and over this morning on a loop inside my head.

    Maybe some of you out there could use it, too. Because maybe this is the summer you do whatever that thing is for you.

    Be brave! It’s the most fun way to be!

    And remember, you can always decide to do the thing now and schedule your fear for sometime later when it’s more convenient.

    Come on, gang. Let’s do this.

    0 Comments on “It’s Only Scary Because It’s New” as of 5/20/2014 6:16:00 PM
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    24. TURNING PAGES: FLIGHT OF THE GRIFFONS, by Kate Inglis, illus., by Sydney Smith

    Rarely do I get something as absolutely delightful in the mailbox as the unexpected package I received all the way from Halifax this week. It brought news -- big news: There are still PIRATES in the backwoods of Nova Scotia. Pirates -- and get this... Read the rest of this post

    0 Comments on TURNING PAGES: FLIGHT OF THE GRIFFONS, by Kate Inglis, illus., by Sydney Smith as of 5/23/2014 9:36:00 AM
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    25. Women Heroes of World War I & Reporting Under Fire

    Women Heroes of World War 1: 16 remarkable resisters, soldiers, spies, and medics  by Kathryn J. Atwood Women in Action series Chicago Review Press. 2014 ISBN: 9781613746868  -- and Reporting Under Fire: 16 daring women war correspondents and photojournalists by Kerrie Logan Hollihan Women in Action series Chicago Review Press. 2014 ISBN: 9781613747100 Grades 8 and up This reviewer used copies

    0 Comments on Women Heroes of World War I & Reporting Under Fire as of 5/26/2014 11:06:00 AM
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