Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Water Mirror - by Kai Meyers

I was really enjoying listening to Water Mirror on CD until I got to about the middle of the book and an envoy of the princes of Hell arrived. Seriously, I did not see the book headed in that direction (or at least part of me was in denial that it was headed that direction). Much like Cornelia Funke, Kai Meyers is a popular German author of fantasy for children/young adults, but only recently translated into English and published in the US.

The book begins with two orphaned girls, Junipa and Merle, being delivered to be apprentices to Arcimboldo, a creator of magic mirrors in the city of Venice. The girls are instant friends. Both girls are unusual; Merle was found as a baby floating in the canals in a basket that also contained a magic mirror. Junipa is blind, but Arcimboldo puts mirror glass in her eyes, which allows her to see for the first time. After a party, Merle and another apprentice overhear city councilors who have captured the essence of the Flowing Queen who protects Venice from Egyptian Invaders. Merle steals the vial that contains the essence of the Flowing Queen and drinks it before the men can turn the vial over to the Egyptians. Thus Merle joins the Flowing Queen in a quest to escape the city and find help to save Venice for the Egyptians.

I hated the part of this book where Hell opened up so an envoy could offer an alliance to protect Venice. It was especially creepy listening to it because the reader voices every other character in the book with mild variation, but his voice gets all computer distorted and high-pitched screechy for the representative from Hell. It was like fingernails on a chalk board.

I also am not a fan of books that have no conclusion. I knew that this is part of a series, but I prefer books that wrap up at least some of the plot instead of leaving you completely hanging. I want to know that Harry Potter temporarily escaped Voldemort even if I don’t know that he’s won the war; and I want to know that Percy Jackson finished his latest quest even if I don’t know if ultimately he is the Hero who will save the Greek Gods. Water Mirror stopped abruptly a third of the way through the story and seems very incomplete. It didn’t seem like a stand alone novel. Readers who enjoy it can already pick up the second book, Pirate Curse, but they’ll have to wait patiently for the third.

Friday, May 26, 2006

July - Graphic Novels

We will be discussing graphic novels (kind of like long comic books) at Emily’s. A few of the titles are really limited so you probably want to reserve them right away. They are very fast reads so please try to share them with other club members so everyone gets a chance to read them.

Kristy's great idea : a graphic novel by Ann M. Martin Limited Copies

The Demon of River Heights by Stefan Petrucha (Nancy Drew Series) Limited Copies

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems (a picture book)

Babymouse: Beach Babe by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm Limited Copies

Maus I: A Survivor’s Tale by Art Spiegelman

The Great Cow Race by Jeff Smith (BONE Series)

Thursday, May 25, 2006

It pays to know people in high places

I'm so excited I have to brag!

Columbus Children’s Theatre will be doing a stage adaptation of Stephanie Tolan’s Newbery Honor novel Surviving the Applewhites. The play doesn't run until October, but next month they are holding a reading to get suggestions from the local theater community. Luckily I happen to be very good friends with two fine actors who have worked with CATCO and they have invited me to come along. Not only will Stephanie Tolan herself be there, but so will the person who helped her with the adaptation . . . Katherine Paterson! How can I wait a whole month?

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

New Movie in the works

Well, it was only a matter of time.

Jeff Stockwell Adapting Edward Tulane

And the blurb doesn't even get the book title right.

The same site mentions that Dakota Fanning and Teri Hatcher will be voicing characters in an animated version of Neil Gaiman's Coraline. I know some people think Coraline is brilliant and everyone is calling it a modern Alice in Wonderland, but I have to say I thought it was just plain weird.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Sea of Monsters (Book 2) - by Rick Riordan

Percy begins book two with a new friend, Tyson, who is rather slow but very loyal. After an uneventful year in seventh grade, Percy looks forward to spending another summer at Camp Half Blood, but disaster strikes on his last day of school. Percy and Tyson flee with Annabeth to Camp Half Blood only to find it under attack. Meanwhile, Percy’s dreams reveal his best friend Grover is a captive of Cyclops Polyphemus.

The second book in the Percy Jackson & The Olympians series matched the fast pace of the first book. Fans will be delighted in this much awaited sequel. I really enjoyed it, but again I would probably have an even greater appreciation if I followed the Greek Mythology side of the story. On his blog Rick Riodan says that he’s already received several emails from readers who have finished his second book and are ready for the third. I can’t spoil the plot but part of a prophecy about Percy that is mentioned in the first book is revealed in the second book, and I can’t wait to see what happens next!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

New Books

I love hearing about new books I can look forward to. I recently read this interview with Gail Carson Levine the reminded me of why I love Gail Carson Levine and really made me look forward to her newest book Fairest.

Today I came across this list provided by Publisher's Weekly of galleys being handed out by the BookExpo America Exhibitors. Here they are:

Publishers are giving away a handful of noteworthy debut novels:
Skinny by Ibi Kaslik (Walker, 2220), a story about battling anorexia.
Alabama Moon by Watt Key (FSG, 2204), about a boy who has grown up in the forest and finds himself in an institution in Alabama after his father dies.
The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga (Houghton, 3339), about a comic book geek whose life is turned upside down when he meets a "goth" girl.
Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard (HarperTempest, 2538), a Desperate Housewives combination of suburban murder, scandal and intrigue.
The Candy Darlings by Christine Walde (Houghton/Graphia, 3339), in which two candy-addicted friends go up against a powerful clique at school.

Three adult authors try their hands at children's books:
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne (Random House/Fickling, 1824), from the Irish author of three adult novels.
The Lighthouse Land (Book 1 in a trilogy) by Adrian McKinty (Amulet, 3502), a teen fantasy from this adult crime fiction writer.
Haters by Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez (Little, Brown, 2812), a YA novel from the author of The Dirty Girls Social Club.

New works from popular authors:
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation by M.T. Anderson (Candlewick, 5715), the first of a two-part story.
Escape from the Carnivale by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson (Disney Editions, 2831), the first in a series of chapter books based on characters from Peter and the Starcatchers.
An Abundance of Katherines by John Green (Dutton, 2938) the second novel by the author of Looking for Alaska.
Part of Me by Kimberly Willis Holt (Holt, 2230), in which linked stories trace four generations of a family.
Fairest by Gail Carson Levine (HarperCollins, 2538), a fairy tale loosely based on Snow White.
The Oak Inside the Acorn by Max Lucado (Tommy Nelson, 5739), about a little acorn that grows up to be a big oak tree.
Miracle on 49th Street by Mike Lupica (Philomel, 2938), a holiday story with a basketball theme
The Snow Spider by Jenny Nimmo (Scholastic/Orchard, 5800), first in a trilogy.
Bread and Roses, Too by Katherine Paterson (Clarion, 2726), about a girl's experiences during the 1912 millworkers' strike.
Beka Cooper: Terrier by Tamora Pierce (Random House, 1824), the first in a new Tortall trilogy.
The Wish House by Celia Rees (Candlewick, 5715), in which a boy is intrigued by the family that has moved into a deserted house.

And don't miss these sequels:
Crispin: At the Edge of the World by Avi (Hyperion, 2831), the companion to Crispin: The Cross of Lead.
Peter and the Shadow Thieves by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson (Disney Editions, 2831), a sequel to Peter and the Starcatchers.
Ruler of the Realm by Herbie Brennan (Bloomsbury, 2221), the third novel in the series that began with Faerie Wars.
River Secrets by Shannon Hale (Bloomsbury, 2221), featuring the characters from The Goose Girl.
Voices by Ursula K. Le Guin (Harcourt, 2528), the follow-up to her Gifts.
Dark Reflections: The Stone Light by Kai Meyer (S&S/McElderry, 2838), the follow-up to The Water Mirror.
New Moon by Stephenie Meyer (Little, Brown/Tingley, 2812), the sequel to Twilight.
Maximum Ride #2: School's Out—Forever by James Patterson (Little, Brown, 2812), sequel to The Angel Experiment.

Some new takes on teen life:
A Girl Like Moi: The Fashion-Forward Adventures of Imogene by Lisa Barham (Simon Pulse, 2838), the start of a series about a teenage fashionista.
Powers by Deborah Lynn Jacobs (Roaring Brook/Brodie, 2230), a romance between two teens whose psychic powers are unlocked when they are together.
Side Effects by Amy Goldman Koss (Roaring Brook/Brodie, 2230), about a teenager dealing with cancer.
Loving Will Shakespeare by Carolyn Meyer (Harcourt, 2528), about the boy who became the playwright and the farmer's daughter who became his wife.
Good Girls by Laura Ruby (HarperTempest, 2538), about a good girl who can sometimes be bad.
Notes from the Midnight Driver by Jordan Sonnenblick (Scholastic, 5800), about a boy who must do community service at a senior center.
Cathy's Book by Sean Stewart and Jordan Weisman (Running Press, 3429), an interactive fantasy.

And for those interested in reference:
Pick Me Up (DK, 2950) is a reference book that, according to the publisher, is organized like a miscellany, inspired by the Internet, styled like a video game and informed by pop culture.

Ahhhh, so much to look forward to!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Elsewhere - by Gabrielle Zevin

Wow! I haven’t read a book this imaginative and intriguing in a really long time. I struggle with summarizing books in my reviews for two reasons: 1. I want these to be reviews, not just summaries and 2. I hate spoiling surprises. I don’t even read the descriptions on the backs of books because I do not want to know what is going to happen. I like being surprised by a story, and this one definitely surprised me.

That said, without spoiling too much, the basic premise of this book is that a 15-year-old girl, Liz, dies and travels to Elsewhere, where the dead live and age backwards until they become babies and they are sent back to Earth. Now this does not agree with my vision of the afterlife at all, but maybe that’s partially why I find this book so intriguing; the book is so creative I don’t think it’s similar to the way anyone envisions the afterlife, and because it’s so visionary, conflicts come up that I have never imagined before so this book was incredibly thought provoking.

A lot of people would be happy with the prospect of growing young, but the news makes Liz angry and depressed. She knows she will never go to prom or go to college or travel the world, and the only connection she has with her old life is watching her family from the observation decks in Elsewhere. She feels her life in Elsewhere doesn’t matter because she knows the exact date it will end and she’ll be sent back to Earth to start over.

There are three tiny parts of this story that I could have done without. The first two are pretty similar, when Liz watches her parents on earth having sex and when Liz watches her best friend Zoey lose her virginity after Prom. The book only provides as much detail on those two events as I just provided you, but just the idea of Liz watching both of those things is creepy and gross and it really wasn’t necessary to advance the story. The third was also unnecessary, when Liz sees mermaids in the ocean. As bizarre as the plot of this whole novel may sound, it wasn’t until Liz saw mermaids that I found myself thinking, “That is so unrealistic!”

There’s a little bad language and a few trite moments, but overall I really enjoyed this book. Liz’s voice rings true as a teenager struggling to grow up. I promise the book is better than I make it sound!

Monday, May 08, 2006

Among the Free - by Margaret Peterson Haddix

The newest (and final) installation of The Shadow Children Series, Among the Free by Margaret Peterson Haddix, has been released. I was surprised to hear this would be the last in the series. I wondered how Haddix would finish up her complicated plot. The answer: almost as simply as possible (a little too simply if you ask me, but I still enjoyed the book).

The Shadow Children Series is set in a futuristic society where a law was passed to combat overpopulation by limiting every family to a maximum of two children. The series begins following Luke, a third child raised in hiding; a shadow child. Luke joins up with other third children in the battle against the corrupt population police for their freedom. The books in the series alternate between the perspectives of different third children working with Luke. Among the Free returns to Luke’s perspective for the dramatic conclusion.

I’m not sure this book would do well as a stand alone because depends too much on character development from previous books, but I was happy with it as the conclusion. The books continues in the series’ themes of hope, the consequences of mob mentality, and what freedom really is.

I’m anxious to see what Haddix writes next!

You can read an interview with Haddix about writing Among the Brave here.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Bella at Midnight - by Diane Stanley

I thoroughly enjoyed this fairy tale by Diane Stanley. Some might call it a Cinderella story; it does include glass slippers, a godmother (although she is not a fairy), a mean stepmother, and two stepsisters, but even with all of those elements it departs far from the European Cinderella tale I grew up with.

Bella is born to a knight. Her mother dies in childbirth so Bella is sent away to a wetnurse and virtually forgotten by her arrogant father. She grows up as a peasant befriended by Prince Julian who was nursed by the same woman. She didn't know that her peasant family is actually a foster-family until her father reclaims her at the age of thirteen. In truth, her father doesn't care about her, but after he remarrys, he begins to wonder if Bella looks like her mother so he sends for her. He feels no guilt about sending her away and not providing her with the upbringing a knight's daughter should have. Bella's stepmother and her daughters have already suffered great losses. They were forced into Bella's father's home after they lost everything and he was cruel. The stepmother finds Bella's presence the ultimate insult and does nothing to welcome her into the family. Bella is constantly criticized and left to sleep in the kitchen. When Bella hears the king is attempting to begin a war and Prince Julian's life is in danger, she sets out to do what she can to save him.

The prince does not fall in love with Bella at a ball, there is no pumpkin carriage, and Julian doesn't try a glass slipper on every maiden. I absolutely loved this story for its originality. The author included enough of a background story to help me understand why the stepmother was so mean and why Bella's godmother wasn't more involved in her life.

I was also particularly interested in the way this story dealt with the miraculous. In the beginning of the story, most of the wondrous things that happened are explained as magic, just as they are in most fairy tales. There's a magic emerald ring that can show you the person you most want to see, and Bella inherits and magic comforting touch. As the story proceeds, the bigger miracles at the end of the book aren't explained as magic, they are explained as works of God. I found this unusual for a fairy tale because everything could have easily been explained as magic. None of the other reviews that I've read have even mentioned the strong religious under tone of this book. Because God has to be left out of school, God is also being left out of most books so this book stood out to me for more than just its original plot.

I was enthralled from the beginning of this book and I think that you will be too.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Making changes

As you've probably noticed, I'm making some changes to the book club blog. There's a new banner with some of the books that we've read. Somehow as I was pulling them off of my shelves last night, I managed to get one in there that we didn't read. There's a prize for the first book club member to figure out which one I included by mistake (it's not a major prize so don't struggle too much with it). As you can tell I'm still trying to figure out some of the formatting so hopefully the site will look better soon.

I'm also adding links to the blogs of some of our book club members. I love reading these blogs, and I thought that you might enjoy them too. It's a good way to get to know some of the other book club members a little better. If you know of any blogs that I am missing, please let me know.

I haven't had any objections so I'm going to start posting reviews of other books that I read on this site along with all of our book club postings. I was going to write a new review today, but I ran out of time so check back later if you're interested.

Let me know if you have suggestions for any other changes that I should make.




I will never look at the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants the same way again. If you are at all interested in the books you have to read this article that Fuse #8 pointed to. She is right, I will never trust Ann Brashares again!

Monday, May 01, 2006

June - Multicultural Literature

We'll be meeting at Anna's and here are her picks:

Day of Tears: a novel in dialogue by Julius Lester, which was this year’s Coretta Scott King award winner. It’s historical fiction centered around the largest sale of slaves in the US. It’s told through multiple views so you get some really interesting perspectives.

The Tequila Worm by Viola Canales
Sofia grows up in the close-knit community of the barrio in McAllen, Texas, then finds that her experiences as a scholarship student at an Episcopal boarding school in Austin only strengthen her ties to family and her "comadres."

Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, Gary Schmidt
In 1911, Turner Buckminster hates his new home of Phippsburg, Maine, but things improve when he meets Lizzie Bright Griffin, a girl from a poor, nearby island community founded by former slaves that the town fathers--and Turner's--want to change into a tourist spot.

Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan
Esperanza and her mother are forced to leave their life of wealth and privilege in Mexico to go work in the labor camps of Southern California, where they must adapt to the harsh circumstances facing Mexican farm workers on the eve of the Great Depression.

Ellington Was Not a Street
Illustration by Kadir A. Nelson By Ntozake Shange