Saturday, December 10, 2005

The Living House of Oz

Some of my earliest memories are of my mother reading the Oz books to me, even before I could read them myself. Later, when I learned to read, I read my mother's battered copies over and over. As an adult, I purchased new copies and read them yet again. So I was delighted to receive a review copy of a new Oz book, The Living House of Oz, by Edward Einhorn.

Buddy lives in a very strange house. Not only the furniture, but the house itself, are alive. But Buddy doesn't think that's odd, because he's lived in the house his whole life. His best friends are his bed, the dresser, the window, and all the other furniture in his room, but especially the Earl of Haberdashery, the irrepressible hat stand.

Buddy has lived in a variety of places, but he hasn't seen much of the world outside the house, because he and his mother are in hiding. His mother Mordra is a sorceress, and it's against the law to practice magic in Oz. For safety, Buddy isn't allowed to stray far, and every time they are in danger, Mordra moves the house to a new part of Oz.

But Mordra can't hide forever, and eventually she is arrested by Glinda and taken to to the Emerald City to stand trial. Buddy is determined to rescue her, and sets off for the Emerald City along with the house, all its furniture, and the Earl of Haberdashery leading the way.

Reading Edward Einhorn's book, I am immediately transported back to Oz and back to my childhood. The Living House of Oz is a delightfully fun, imaginative, and whimsical book - a true heir to the Oz tradition, yet innovative in its own way. The Earl of Haberdashery is a delight, and a worthy addition to the Oz pantheon of characters. I hope to see more of him in future books! The story is funny and exciting and moves along quickly, yet behind the humor lies a serious question about how much power governments, even just and well-loved governments, should exercise over their subjects. Is the law banning the use of magic just?

Beyond the story, the book is well-crafted and a work of art in its own right. The illustrations by Eric Shanower add much to the story. Shanower has managed to create illustrations that fit right into the Oz history - Ozma still looks like Ozma, for example - yet add his own unique style and vision.

Click here to buy The Living House of Oz at

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Warriors Series and Erin Hunter Chat

Several years ago, we were traveling through North Carolina and stopped at a rest area late at night. We noticed a lot of cats prowling around, and we asked about them. The caretaker of the rest area told us that there were wild cats living in the woods around the rest area. At night they came up to the rest area in search of food.

I wondered what it might be like for these cats, living wild in the forest, especially those who had been pets and had gotten lost or run away. After reading Erin Hunter's Warriors books, now I have an idea! Erin Hunter has created a vividly imagined cat society, complete with its own customs, religion, and history.

I haven't read the original Warriors books yet, but I just read the first several books in the second series, Warriors: The New Prophecy, and I found them to be enjoyable, exciting and moving. The cats are fully developed characters who experience conflict and growth, and I quickly became attached to them. I see why these books are so popular with the teens and pre-teens.

Erin Hunter is really two authors, Cherith Baldry and Kate Cary, writing under a pseudonym. We're very excited that Cherith has agreed to participate in a chat with the members of our Wands and Worlds community on December 11.
Click here for more information about the Erin Hunter chat

EDIT: This chat was a couple of years ago, but we've had a couple more chats with Erin Hunter and other authors since then. For more information about our author chats, see this page.

Please note that blogger seems to be broken, and won't display more than 200 comments, even if you click the "Newer" link. So if you commented on this post and it doesn't show up, I'm really sorry. There doesn't seem to be anything I can do.

What to buy the fantasy fan on your list

If you are looking for the perfect gift for a child or teen who loves wizards, dragons, and the like, check out my Holiday Gift Guide for the Young Fantasy Fan.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Goblet of Fire Movie

Sorry that I haven't posted in a while! Things have been really busy.

We went to see the Goblet of Fire movie last week, and I was pleasantly surprised. I haven't really enjoyed any of the Harry Potter movies. For the most part they have just been recreations of scene after scene from the book, with all the subtlety and mystery lost. But I actually enjoyed this one. Director Mike Newell did it right: he didn't try to reproduce the whole book, and he changed what needed to be changed to make it a better movie. Film is a different medium than print, and what makes a good book doesn't necessarily make a good movie, and visa versa. I actually thought that the film did a better job than the book of conveying just how isolated Harry felt - how it must have been to have everyone, including Dumbledore and even Ron, think that he did something that he shouldn't have and that he was out for the glory. Newell also injected just the right amount of humor to balance the suspense, and it made for a very enjoyable film. The acting was good, and the three principal actors especially have really come a long way.

The movie wasn't without it's flaws. I wasn't impressed with the depiction of the maze, and I thought Wormtail should have been in a little more pain after cutting off his hand. But overall I thought it was a good movie.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

The Penultimate Peril

The Penultimate Peril, Book the Twelfth of The Series of Unfortunate Events, is by far the best book of the series. Daniel Handler's keen wit, evident in all the books, has been honed here to a fine point. It's fun and funny, and there are many surprises and unexpected twists. But beyond that, it's a book of surprising depth and sophistication. The book is a dizzying feast of literary allusions, social satire, and philosophical exploration, wrapped up in a package that is, quite simply, fun to read.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Modern Knights and Fast Cars

If you like action-packed adventures with plenty of excitement, fast cars, and modern day knights, then The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp is a book you shouldn't miss!

Click here to read our reviews

Monday, October 03, 2005

Fantasy/SF Free E-book Offer Extended

Note: I posted this special offer last week, but I wanted to let you know that the offer has been extended until October 15. So if you missed the original deadline, or if you were unable to order because has been having trouble keeping the books in stock, you have another chance to take advantage of this special offer.

Some of you know that my husband Nick is also a juvenile fantasy author. His first book, The Dark Dreamweaver, has received numerous good reviews and was a finalist for the Benjamin Franklin awards.

We're excited that this month marks the release of the second book in the series, The Breezes of Inspire. To celebrate, we have arranged a special offer: 3 free fantasy/sf e-books and a premium membership in Wands and Worlds for anyone who purchases The Breezes of Inspire between now and October 15.

One of the free E-books is The Dark Dreamweaver, so that if you haven't read book 1, you can read it and get caught up before reading book 2. The other two books are great fantasy/sf books generously offered by their authors: The Pocket and the Pendant and Rairarubia.

Click here for more information and to order

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Bookstore heaven for fantasy/sf fans in Richmond

I discovered a wonderful bookstore in Richmond, Virginia! It's called Creatures 'n Crooks, and it specializes in fantasy, science fiction, horror, and mystery. They have a great selection of books in these genres, and the staff are very knowledgeable and helpful. And, if you're lucky, you'll get to meet the bookstore cat Hamilton. My husband Nick did a booksigning there today, and Hamilton made himself comfortable at the author table and kept Nick company the whole time.

If you live in Richmond, or even if you are just visiting, you owe it to yourself to visit this great bookstore!

Click here to visit the Creatures 'n Crooks Bookshoppe web site

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Fantasy is better than reality

I'm not a big fan of reality TV. I see enough of real people every day, and I prefer to spend my recreation hours with fantasy. But one reality show, The Amazing Race, has caught my interest. There's something fascinating about watching how the stress and the competition affects people and their relationships: some bicker and fight, letting the stress tear their relationship apart, while others bond even more strongly under the stress.

Last night, in the first episode of a new race, the Black family was one of the latter type. This family was just too good to be true: they supported, helped, and encouraged each other; they were unfailingly kind, polite, and respectful not only to each other but to the other teams as well. You couldn't help but like them.

So why were they eliminated in the first round, while the family that spent the whole night yelling at each other moved from 10th place up to 6th place? The Black family should have won; after all, the good guys usually win, don't they? In a fantasy they would have. But reality is messy, and things don't always work out they way they should. And that's why I like fantasy.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005


I'm a huge fan of Cornelia Funke; in my opinion she's one of the best young adult fiction writers of the twenty-first century. Her new book Inkspell may be her best ever - even better than Inkheart! Read our reviews of Inkspell

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Wizardology Released

Wizardology, an interactive compendium of wizard-lore, is now available. This book would probably make a great gift for any child interested in wizards. To be honest, I haven't seen it yet, but the two previous titles in the series, Egyptology and Dragonology were beautiful, interesting, and fun interactive books. I will be surprised if this book isn't equally well done.

Buy Wizardology from

Friday, September 09, 2005

The Reading Tub

I want to thank The Reading Tub for the great review of my husband's book, The Dark Dreamweaver. You can read the review here.

The Reading Tub is a 501(c)(3) public charity dedicated to promoting children's literacy through various projects. It's also a great place to read reviews of children's books and find new books to read. Their reviews are thorough and include a lot of great information. One really useful feature is, "If you liked this book, try..." with links to other similar books. Since they review books from small press as well as large publishers, it's a good site to find worthwhile books that you might not see elsewhere.

Click here to go to The Reading Tub

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Lionboy: The Truth

The third and final book in the exciting Lionboy trilogy, Lionboy: The Truth, is now available. Set in a future that seems not too distant, the Lionboy trilogy tells the story of Charlie Ashanti, the boy who can talk to cats. When Charlie's parents disappear, Charlie gets caught up in an adventure in which not only his parents' lives, but the fate of the world is at stake. Can Charlie and his friends the lions evade the people chasing them, find Charlie's parents, save the world - and get the lions home succesfully to Africa?

Buy Lionboy: The Truth on

Sunday, September 04, 2005

The Book of Mordred now available

I just noticed that The Book of Mordred, by Vivian Vande Velde, is now available on, although the publication date is listed as September 12. I haven't read this book yet, but it looks like an interesting recasting of the Arthurian legends with a different perspective on Mordred, who is traditionally the villian.

It's fascinating to me how so many different writers, such as Mary Stewart, Marion Zimmer Bradley, T.A. Barron, Jane Yolen and many more, can develop such different and interesting perspectives on the legends of King Arthur and all the characters surrounding him. I hope that The Book of Mordred will be a worthy addition to the genre.

Question for parents of teens

Today I'm asking for help from all you parents of teens - and I'd love to hear from the teens as well. Our goal with Wands and Worlds is to be a resource for information about fantasy and science fiction for children and teens up to about age 16. However, since I'm not the parent of a teen yet (David is 10), I have a little difficulty in providing guidance about appropriate content for teen readers.

It's important that you understand that I'm not talking about censorship here. I don't believe in censorship, and I think that, as has been mentioned in the comments for a different post, most teens are going to read what they want to anyway. Each parent has to decide if they will try to restrict what their teen reads, and I don't want to get into that.

What I do want to talk about is comfort level. To make this easier, let's use the movie ratings system as a basis for discussion. Parents: at what age would you be comfortable recommending an 'R' rated book to your teen? And teens, are you fully comfortable reading books with adult subjects like sex, murder, extreme violence? (Frankly, I have difficulty with some books that are excessively violent!) If so, at what age did you start reading such books?

Please use the comments link below to express your views. Thanks!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Eldest is Here!

Eldest, the sequel to the bestselling fantasy Eragon, was released today. It's a thoroughly enjoyable book, and much better than Eragon.

Click here to read my review of Eldest

Friday, August 19, 2005

Another new book: The Land of Elyon, Book 2

Good news for fantasy fans! New books are coming fast and furious this month. The latest new release is Beyond The Valley Of Thorns, Book 2 of The Land of Elyon series by Patrick Carman. The first book, The Dark Hills Divide, tells the story of a girl named Alexa Daley, who lives in a city (actually a series of cities) entirely surrounded by walls. When Alexa tries to find a way outside the walls, she discovers that the city is in danger. With the help of several talking animals, Alexa must solve a mystery and save the city. In the new book, the walls are down, but the danger isn't ended, as Alexa finds herself involved in a new battle.

Also, don't forget - only 4 more days until the release of Eldest, the sequel to Eragon!

Thursday, August 18, 2005

New books in Deptford Histories and Molly Moon series

New books have been recently released in both the Deptford Histories and the Molly Moon series:

  • The Oaken Throne is the second book in the Deptford Histories series, a prequel to the wonderful Deptford Mice trilogy, a slightly dark fantasy series by British author Robin Jarvis.

  • Molly Moon returns in Molly Moons Hypnotic Time Travel, the third book in the popular Molly Moon series.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Goblet of Fire to be rated PG-13

It's official: the Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire movie will be rated PG-13. It's a shame that Warner Brothers couldn't tone it down a bit, because now a lot of younger Harry Potter fans won't be able to see it. But, to be fair to Warner Brothers, the source material is pretty graphic. I mean, there's not much you can do to tone down Wormtail cutting off his hand.

The larger problem, or course, is that the last three Harry Potter books are much more intense than the first three. As much as I love the Harry Potter books, I think that this was a mistake on JKR's part. A lot of younger kids are getting interested in the series, especially since the wonderful Jim Dale audiobooks enable kids who are too young to read them to enjoy them. But, kids who can handle books 1 through 3 may not be able to handle books 4 and up, and parents are faced with a choice of denying their kids the books until they get older, or allowing them to read material that may disturb them.

I know that J.K. Rowling didn't intend this, and probably couldn't have foreseen the problem. But in retrospect it's obvious that the first books are kids books that can be enjoyed by adults and teens; the later books seem much more appropriate for a teen or adult audience. As Harry grows up, so are the books.

The release date for the movie in the U.S. is November 18th.

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell wins Hugo Award

I love being right. I've been telling everyone how great Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is, and now the World Science Fiction Society has awarded it the Hugo award for best novel! This is not a children's book, but many teens will enjoy it.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

A Reviewers Life

Maybe I'm not cut out to be a reviewer. Sure, it's great to get free books from the publishers (especially when we get them in advance of the publication date!) And it gives me a warm feeling to write a good review and know that I'm helping both the readers and the author. But...there's a down side, too, which is having to write a negative review.

I have a Baby Blues cartoon taped up on my bookshelf. Zoe is reading a book and her dad asks how she likes it. "It's terrible!" she replies. Her dad asks why she is still reading it, and she answers, "If somebody went to the trouble of writing a book, the least I can do is read it."

That pretty much sums up the reason I have trouble writing a bad review. Somebody wrote the book; somebody spent days and weeks and months and maybe years poring their heart and soul into the book. How can I criticize the book without hurting that someone? I remember saying once that I could never be a manager because I could never fire someone or give a bad performance appraisal. "Sorry, Fred, you just aren't doing a good job." How could I ever look someone in the eye and say that? Writing a bad review is kind of like that.

And yet, as a reviewer, I have a duty to the people (that's you!) who depend on my reviews. I've read a couple of books lately that I just didn't like, and some of them were praised highly by other reviewers. If I don't give my honest opinion, how can you, the reader, make an informed decision, based on all the opinions, about where to spend your time and money? So, I'll just have to brace myself and write an honest review, in the gentlest way possible.

A reviewers life is hard. Now, don't you feel sorry for me? OK, I'm off to read my advance copy of Eldest so that I can review it for you. It's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it...

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Warriors: The New Prophecy #2: Moonrise

Fans of Erin Hunter's wildly popular Warriors series will be happy to know that Moonrise, the second book of the Warriors: The New Prophecy series, is now available.

Buy Moonrise from

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Unfortunate Events: Help Find the Missing Title

I just received the following message from Harper Collins:

"We are deeply upset to inform you that both the title of upcoming Book the Twelfth in A Series of Unfortunate Events and Mr. Snicket himself have been reported missing, unknown, or both. With the book's publication scheduled for October 18th, 2005, the situation is dire.

Alarmingly, the public's help is now required to uncover important details regarding Mr. Snicket's new book before it is too late. Volunteers everywhere are invited to visit, where an official investigation is underway. Anonymous sources say that clues at that website and elsewhere are sure to lead to a series of shocking revelations."

It appears that a new clue will appear every day. Solve all the clues and you will be rewarded with information about book 12 in The Series of Unfortunate Events!

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Harry Potter and Summer Vacation

Where will you be Friday night at midnight? If you are reading this blog, chances are that you'll be at a Harry Potter party, celebrating the release of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. We will be too, but it won't be anywhere near our home. When Scholastic announced the release date for Half Blood Prince, we had already had a vacation planned for that date. But Harry Potter fans like us don't let a little thing like vacation stand in the way of a Harry Potter release! We found a book store near our hotel that is having a party and preordered the book, so we're ready!

This isn't the first time this has happened; J.K. Rowling must have access to our vacation calendar. When the release date for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was announced, we already had plans to be in Disney World that week. Undeterred, we ordered the book for release date delivery from, and requested that they deliver it to our hotel in Disney World. So, when we got back to our hotel after a day at Disney, the book was sitting on our hotel room bed waiting for us! We sat on the porch of our hotel room and began to read:
""The hottest day of the summer so far was drawing to a close and a drowsy silence lay over the large, square houses of Privet Drive...."

I'll always remember that moment as one of the highlights of our vacation. A new Harry Potter book and summer vacation. It doesn't get any better than this.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

New installments in Pendragon and Edge Chronicles Series

Just a quick note to let you know that new books were just released in two popular series today. The Last of the Sky Pirates is the fifth book in the Edge Chronicles, by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell. In the land of The Edge, there are many assorted creatures, places, and people. From the DeepWoods to the floating city of Sanctophrax, the Edge is filled with interesting mysteries, not all of them pleasant. There are many creatures in this land, but the most feared creature in the wood is the Gloamglozer, a terrifying creature who can change shape.

The Pendragon Series, by D. J. MacHale, tells the story of Bobby Pendragon, a fourteen year old boy who travels the territories of Halla trying to save them from the evil Saint Dane. In book 6, The Rivers of Zadaa, he travels to Loor's home territory of Zadaa. He soon learns that all the water in Zadaa is gone, and he must stop this terrifying plot.

We'll be reviewing these books soon on Wands and Worlds. But for now, the books are available on or at your favorite bookseller:

The Last of the Sky Pirates

The Rivers of Zadaa

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

The Second Time Around

A good book is one that is just as enjoyable to second time around. A great book is one that gets better on the second reading. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is one such book. Right now, I'm reading it for a second time, and, I wouldn't have thought it possible, but it's even better the second time around. Of course, part of my enjoyment this time is that I'm reading it to David, and sharing a good book makes it even more fun. But part of it is discovering all the wonderful details that I missed the first time around. There's so much in this book that you don't "get" the first time around, that it really bears a second reading.

If you haven't read Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, I highly recommend it. If you have read it, read it again!

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

Saturday, June 11, 2005

BEA Special Report

Excitement was in the air. Writers, publishers, booksellers, librarians, and reporters all in one place - brought together by a shared love of books. We spent the weekend at Book Expo America-or BEA as it's known by insiders-the largest trade show in the book industry. It seemed like everyone important in the book world was there, and you never knew who you would run into. At one point, I was standing at the DC Comics booth and looked over to see a co-Executive Producer for the Everybody Loves Raymond television show, standing next to me.

We started out Friday morning by attending the Children's Book and Author Breakfast. Jim Dale, the marvelous voice of the Harry Potter audiobooks, was the master of ceremonies, and the speakers were Daniel Handler, the legal, literary and social representative of Lemony Snicket, and Pam Muñoz Ryan, author of Esperanza Rising and many other books. Jim Dale teased the audience by saying that yes, he does know who dies in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, but he's sworn to secrecy and can't say anything. Daniel Handler was great, as I had expected, but I was surprised at how funny Pam Muñoz Ryan was. Then Jim Dale treated us to a live performance of an excerpt from Prisoner of Azkeban.

After the breakfast, we started walking the floor. We picked up advance copies of upcoming books, inquired about our favorite series, and went to autographing sessions. The third member of our family, Nick Ruth, had an autographing session of his own, signing advance copies of The Breezes of Inspire, his upcoming sequel to The Dark Dreamweaver. We met a lot of nice people and had lots of fun. Overall it was a great experience! Here's some highlights of our BEA experience:

  • HarperCollins announced that Book the Twelfth of the Unfortunate Events series will be released on October 18th. Unfortunately, they're keeping the title secret for now. Probably for Lemony Snicket's protection.

  • Daniel Handler was autographing copies of The Grim Grotto on behalf of Lemony Snicket, but he couldn't get through the mob in the time - some 200 people were turned away autograph-less, even though Handler's time was extended an extra half-hour.

  • Handler should have a publisher like Christopher Paolini's publisher, Knopf, which cracked the whip to make sure Paolini got through as many fans as he could before his time ran out. We were lucky enough to get an advance copy of Eldest, and we'll post a review as it gets closer to the publication date.

  • Cornelia Funke's new book, Inkspell, sequel to the bestselling Inkheart, had a line stretching almost as far as the line for Eldest. We got there early to get a copy. We got in line, and next thing we knew, the line stretched around the corner. We have started reading Inkspell, and it promises to be just as good, if not better, than Inkheart!

  • We were disappointed that Jonathan Stroud wasn't at the show. The autographing schedule had indicated that he would be autographing the third book in the Bartimaeus trilogy, but apparently his plans changed and he couldn't be there. We did find out the title of book 3: Ptolemy's Gate, and it looks like it will be available in January or February.

  • Tamora Pierce was there, signing advance copies of The Will of the Empress. her upcoming book which reunites the four now-grown heroes of the Circle of Magic series. We had previously met her at a science fiction convention, so we stopped by to say hello. She is really funny and nice.

  • We also got advance copies of The River of Zadaa (Pendragon, Book 6), The Oaken Throne (The Deptford Histories, Book 2), Shadows on the Stars (The Great Tree of Avalon, Book 2), Bruce Coville's new book, Thor's Wedding Day, and a host of other lesser known but still interesting looking books. Look for reviews of these books coming up in future months.

Visit our Forthcoming Books page to find out more about these and other titles coming soon!