Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Cybils Fantasy and Science Fiction Nominations

The final tally of nominations in the fantasy and science fiction category is 88 books. Here is the complete list, along with links to reviews that have been written by the fantasy and science fiction nominating and judging committee members since the beginning of the Cybils. Reviews should not be taken as an indication of how committee members will vote on a book.

This list would make a great gift guide for holiday presents for a young fantasy and science fiction fan, or just a good reading list if you're looking for some of the best genre books of the year.

Abadazad: The Road to Inconceivable
by J.M. DeMatteis and Mike Ploog
Reviewed by Sheila | Gail

Agent Boo: The Littlest Agent
by Alex De Campi and Edo Fuijkschot
Reviewed by Sheila

Amazing Flight of Darius Frobisher, The
by Bill Harley
Peachtree Publishers
Reviewed by Michele

by Chris Abouzeid
Penguin: Dutton

Artemis Fowl- The Lost Colony
by Eoin Colfer
Hyperion: Miramax
Reviewed by: Gail | Cassie

by Terie Garrison

Avielle of Rhia
by Dia Calhoun
Marshall Cavendish Children's Books
Reviewed by Kim

Beast of Noor, The
by Janet Lee Carey
S&S: Atheneum

Beasts of Clawstone Castle, The
by Eva Ibbotson
Penguin: Dutton
Reviewed by Michele

Beka Cooper: Terrier
by Tamora Pierce
Random House
Reviewed by Sheila | Sarah | Gail | Michele | Kim | Cassie

Bella at Midnight
by Diane Stanley
Reviewed by Gail

Blue Bloods
by Melissa de la Cruz
Reviewed by Gail

Book of Story Beginnings, The
by Kristin Kladstrup
Reviewed by Michele | Sheila

by Serena Robar
Penguin: Berkley

by Delia Sherman
Penguin: Viking Juvenile
Reviewed by Michele

Charlie Bone And The Hidden King
by Jenny Nimmo

by Catherine Fisher
HarperCollins: Greenwillow
Reviewed by Sheila | Gail

Darkling Plain, A
by Philip Reeve
HarperCollins: Eos
Reviewed by Sheila

Death of a Ghost
by Charles Butler

by Maureen Johnson
Penguin: Razorbill
Reviewed by Gail | Michele | Sheila

Dream Spinner
by Bonnie Dobkin

Endymion Spring
by Matthew Skelton
RandomHouse: Delacorte
Reviewed by Fairrosa

by Christopher Golden and Ford Lytle Gilmore
Penguin: Razorbill

Erec Rex: The Dragon's Eye
by Kaza Kingsley
Firelight Press

Evil Star
by Anthony Horowitz
Reviewed by Michele

The Extraordinary and Unusual Adventures of Horatio Lyle
by Catherine Webb
Reviewed by Gail

Eye Pocket: The Fantastic Society of Peculiar Adventurers, The
by E.J. Crow
DNA Press
Reviewed by Michele

by Brandon Mull
Shadow Mountain
Reviewed by Kim

by Gail Carson Levine
Reviewed by Gail

Fetch, The
by Chris Humphreys
RandomHouse: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Reviewed by Michele

Floating Island, The
by Elizabeth Haydon
Tor: Starscape

Gideon: The Cutpurse
by Linda Buckley-Archer
S&S: Simon & Schuster
Reviewed by Michele | Gail | Erin | Kim

Gilda Joyce\, and the Ladies of the Lake
by Jennifer Allison
Penguin: Dutton
Reviewed by Gail

by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
RandomHouse: Delacorte

Good Fairies of New York, The
by Martin Millar
Soft Skull
Reviewed by Sheila

by Lois Lowry
Houghton Mifflin: Walter Lorraine Books
Reviewed by Erin | Gail | Fairrosa | Michele

by Anthony McGowan
S&S: Simon & Schuster
Reviewed by Gail

Here Be Monsters
by Alan Snow
S&S: Atheneum

Here, There Be Dragons
by James A. Owen
S&S: Simon & Schuster
Reviewed by Sheila | Michele (spoiler review)

High School Bites: The Lucy Chronicles
by Liza Conrad
NAL Trade

by Nina Wright
Reviewed by Kim | Gail

Horns & Wrinkles
by Joseph Helgerson
Houghton Mifflin
Reviewed by Michele

Horse Passages
by Jennifer Macaire
Medallion Press
Reviewed by Sheila

Into the Woods
by Lyn Gardner
David Fickling Books
Michele | Gail

King of Attolia, The
by Megan Whalen Turner
HarperCollins: Greenwillow
Reviewed by Fairrosa

by Philip Reeve
Reviewed by Michele | Gail

Last Days, The
by Scott Westerfield
Penguin: Razorbill
Reviewed by Kim | Gail

Last Dragon, The
by Silvana de Mari
Hyperion: Miramax
Reviewed by Cassie | Sheila | Gail | Kim

Last of the Wilds
by Trudi Canavan
HarperCollins: Eos

Legend of Zoey, The
by Candie Moonshower
RandomHouse: Delacorte

Life As We Knew It
by Susan Beth Pfeffer
Harcourt Children's Books
Reviewed by Kim | Michele | Gail

London Calling
by Edward Bloor
RandomHouse: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Reviewed by Kim | Michele

Looking Glass Wars, The
by Frank Beddor
Penguin: Dial
Reviewed by Gail | Erin | Kim

Lurkers, The
by Charles Butler
Usborne Publishing Ltd.
Reviewed by Gail | Kim | Michele

Magic Lessons
by Justine Larbalestier
Penguin: Razorbill
Reviewed by Kim | Gail

Monster Blood Tattoo: The Foundling
by DM Cornish
Penguin: Putnam
Reviewed by Erin

New Moon
by Stephenie Meyer
Little, Brown (Hachette)

Peter Pan in Scarlet
by Geraldine McCaughrean
S&S: Margaret K. McElderry
Reviewed by Gail

Pinhoe Egg, The
by Diana Wynne Jones
HarperCollins: Greenwillow
Reviewed by J.L. Bell

Privilege of the Sword
by Ellen Kushner
RandomHouse: Bantam Dell
Reviewed by Gail

Prophet of Yonwood, The
by Jeanne Duprau
Random House
Reviewed by Kim | Sheila

Ptolemy's Gate
by Jonathan Stroud
Hyperion: Miramax
Reviewed by Gail

by Melanie Gideon
Penguin: Razorbill
Reviewed by Gail | Kim | Michele | Sheila

Quest of the Dragon Stone
by Ami Blackford
Red Cygnet Press

Ranger's Apprentice: The Burning Bridge, The
by John Flanagan
Penguin: Philomel

River Secrets
by Shannon Hale

by Jason Hightman
HarperCollins: Eos
Reviewed by Gail | Sheila

Sea of Monsters, The
by Rick Riordan
Hyperion: Miramax
Reviewed by Sheila

Septimus Heap #2: Flyte
by Angie Sage
HarperCollins: Katherine Tegen Books
Reviewed by Gail | Michele (spoiler review)

Shadow in the Deep
by L.B. Graham
P & R Publishing

Shadow Thieves, The
by Anne Ursu
S&S: Atheneum
Reviewed by Gail | Kim

Silver City
by Cliff McNish
Carolrhoda Books
Reviewed by Sheila | Michele | Gail

Sir Thursday
by Garth Nix
Reviewed by Gail | Kim

Sisters Grimm: The Problem Child
by Michael Buckley
Reviewed by Michele

Softwire: Virus on Orbis 1, The
by PJ Haarsma
Reviewed by Gail | Michele

Stones of Abraxas
by K Osborn Sullivan
Reviewed by Michele

Summer King, The
by O.R. Melling
Amulet Books
Reviewed by Kim

Sword of Anton
by Gene Del Vecchio
Pelican Publishing Company

Temping Fate
by Esther Friesner
Penguin: Dutton

Tide Knot, The
by Helen Dunmore

Travels of Thelonious
by Susan Schade and Jon Buller
S&S: Simon & Schuster
Reviewed by Gail | Kim | Michele | Sheila

by Penni Russon
HarperCollins: Greenwillow
Reviewed by Kim

by Ursula Le Guin
Harcourt Children's Books
Reviewed by Gail

by Joseph Bruchac
Penguin: Dial

Wall and the Wing, The
by Laura Ruby
HarperCollins: Eos

by Terry Pratchett
Reviewed by: Gail | Sheila

by Maureen Doyle McQuerry
Idylls Press
Reviewed by Michele

Wuthering High
by Cara Lockwood

Updated to include all reviews through January 21.

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Sunday, November 26, 2006

Cybils F/SF weekly wrapup: 11/19/06 - 11/26/06

Here are the Cybils nominees reviewed this week by the fantasy and science fiction nominating committee:

  • The Beasts of Clawstone Castle by Eva Ibbotson: reviewed by Michele
  • Gideon the Cutpurse by Linda Buckley-Archer: reviewed by Michele
  • Gossamer by Lois Lowry: reviewed by Erin
  • Homefree by Nina Wright: reviewed by Kim | Gail
  • Larklight by Philip Reeve: reviewed by Michele
  • The Last Days by Scott Westerfeld: reviewed by Kim
  • The Lurkers by Charles Butler: reviewed by Gail | Kim
  • Peter Pan in Scarlet by Geraldine McCaughrean: reviewed by Gail
  • Silver City by Cliff McNish: reviewed by Sheila
  • Voices by Ursula K. Le Guin: reviewed by Gail

You can find more reviews by the Cybils fantasy and science fiction committee here and here.

Keep up with the Cybils by subscribing to the feed at the Cybils site. Every day (except Sunday) we'll be posting a new "review of the day" of a nominated book.

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Saturday, November 25, 2006

Wow, I thought we had it tough.

Thanks to Gail Gauthier, I discovered this fascinating post that Linda Sue Park wrote about being a panelist for the National Book Award for Young People's Literature. I found it especially interesting, since I'm involved in reading books for the Cybils Awards. But our 87 books my category seems paltry compared to the 280 books Park and the other panelists had to read for the National Book Awards. And they read them all!

Friday, November 24, 2006

Book Review: The Silver Sequence

The Silver Child
Silver City

by Cliff McNish

The Silver Sequence is a strange, frightening, and exciting series about a group of special children defending the world against a threat from outer space.

In book 1, The Silver Child, six children begin to transform in bizarre ways. Thomas develops a healing power that the others call Beauty. Helen begins to read minds. Emily and Freda become insect-like, skittering about on all fours. Walter becomes a giant. And Milo undergoes the most extensive transformation, a tranformation that he might not survive even with all Thomas' healing power. All six children are drawn to Coldharbour, a part of the city which is abandoned except for the garbage dumps. The children are the only ones who can hear a noise that they call The Roar, which they understand is a danger approaching from outer space. Somehow, these six special children will have to use their powers to defend the Earth against the Roar.

The Silver Child is a horrifying but mesmerizing book. There are other books where children transform and become saviors, but in most books it's depicted as a beautiful and wonderful thing. This book shows what it must be like to suddenly find your body or your mind changing in ways beyond your control, and to be yanked away from everything you know. It must be a terrible, frightening thing, and the changes that the children go through in The Silver Child are just that: terrible and frightening. Even the changes that seem like they would be cool, or at least innocuous, like Thomas' Beauty and Helen's mind reading ability, are shown to have their terrifying side. Imagine not being able to shut out the thoughts of those around you, including all the animals and insects. Imagine feeling your healing power yanked out of you whenever there is someone in need, whether you want to or not. And the changes that Milo goes through are so much worse in that his body is completely changing.

And yet, there is a beauty in the changes too. Emily and Freda are loving and lovable, and they are the glue that hold this unusual family together. Walter would do anything for his new family. And as horrible as Milo's changes are, in the end he becomes the most amazing and beautiful of all.

While The Silver Child sets the stage for what is to come, in book 2, Silver City, the battle with The Roar really begins. All the world's children are now coming to Coldharbour, and the first six are busy trying to use their special talents to care for and protect the new arrivals. Thomas discovers a strange group of children called the Unearthers. Thomas had tried to withhold his Beauty from Milo when Milo really needed it, so now Thomas feels compelled to give the Unearthers as much Beauty as he can, in spite of his misgivings about their transformation. Helen uses her powers to reach out to the Roar and try to find out as much about it as she can. Milo protects the children that have arrived in Coldharbour, and Walter does his best to care for them. And Emily and Freda go on a perilous journey, a journey which will take them to the limits of their endurance and beyond, to find the only being who may be able to help them against the Roar.

The Silver Sequence is a remarkable story about transformation and personal sacrifice. In the crowded fantasy genre, The Silver Sequence is truly unique and imaginative. It's not always a comfortable book to read—at times it's so shocking that you want to put it down, and yet you can't stop reading it. You really come to care about the characters, and even when they act selfishly in the face of such horror, it only makes them more human and makes you love them more. It's the kind of book that you can't stop thinking about even after you've turned the last page.

Book three of The Silver Sequence, Silver World, is due out in the U.S. in March. (It's already available in the U.K.)

Silver City is a Cybils nominee.

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Thursday, November 23, 2006

A Very Unfortunate Song

Last month, we purchased The Tragic Treasury, a collection of songs related to the Series of Unfortunate Events, and my son was quite taken with it. He's played the CD over and over again, and goes around the house singing the songs. He even learned to play a couple of them on his guitar.

The other day, my husband was driving and found himself with one of the more persistant songs from the CD stuck in his head. So he wrote his own words and made up a parody of the song. Here it is, sung to the tune of The World Is A Very Scary Place:

This song…is starting to annoy….I find
Its words…and melody won’t leave…my mind
I hope…to never hear this tune…again
Each time…it plays I lose anoth…er friend
I hum…this song it’s stuck inside…my brain
Infect…ing all my thoughts, I’m going…insane
Oh, if…I had a knife I’d cut…it out
It’s worth…the pain of this I have…no doubt
I’d rather…be dead than have to hear…this song
It’s bad, awful notes are altogeth..er wrong
Sweet death…please come and find me now…I pray
End this…my torture take me far…away

Ninth Carnival of Children's Literature

Anne-Marie has posted a great Carnival of Children's Literature with a Thanksgiving theme, on A Readable Feast. Anne-Marie asked the question, "What are you thankful for in children's literature?" and got some great answers from a variety of bloggers.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Cybils F/SF weekly wrapup: 11/12/06 - 11/19/06

The fantasy and science fiction nominating committee has been reading like crazy trying to get through all your nominations! We're up to 79 nominees so far. I'm really fortunate to work with such great people on the F/SF nominating committee. We're not reviewing every book we read; there's just too many nominees for that. But we have managed to review a number of books we felt were deserving of mention:

  • Beka Cooper: Terrier by Tamora Pierce: reviewed by Sheila
  • The Book of Story Beginnings by Kristine Kladstrup: reviewed by Michele
  • Gilda Joyce and the Ladies of the Lake by Jennifer Allison: reviewed by Gail
  • Gossamer by Lois Lowry: reviewed by Gail
  • Horns and Wrinkles by Joseph Helgerson: reviewed by Michele
  • Larklight by Philip Reeve: reviewed by Gail
  • Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer: reviewed by Kim and Michele
  • Monster Blood Tattoo by D. M. Cornish: reviewed by Erin
  • Pucker by Melanie Gideon: reviewed by Gail
  • The Shadow Thieves by Anne Ursu: reviewed by Gail

I'd also like to thank the following publishers for generously providing review copies to make it easier for us to evaluate the nominees:

Abrams Books for Young Readers
Candlewick Press
Carolrhoda Books
Flux Books
Harcourt Children's Books
Houghton Mifflin
Idylls Press
Little, Brown Books
Marshall Cavendish Children's Books
Medallion Press
P & R Publishing
Peachtree Publishers
Random House
Simon & Schuster
Shadow Mountain
Soft Skull Press

If you haven't sent review copies, and would like the addresses of the science fiction and fantasy nominating team members, you can email me at sruth@wandsandworlds.com

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Cybils Nominations: Last Call!

Today is the last day to nominate books for the Cybil awards! You have until midnight tonight (Eastern time) to get your nominations in. Check the list of nominations first, to make sure that your nominee hasn't already been nominated. Multiple nominations do nothing to help a book, so if your first choice has already been nominated, you would do better to nominate another book, if you have another favorite. Be sure to read the rules first then post your nomination in the comments for each category.

Here are the list of nominees so far in the Fantasy and Science Fiction category:

A Darkling Plain by "Philip Reeve"
Abadazad: The Road to Inconceivable by J.M. DeMatteis, Mike Ploog
Agent Boo: The Littlest Agent by Alex De Campi
Anatopsis by "Chris Abouzeid"
Artemis Fowl- The Lost Colony by Eoin Colfer
AutumnQuest by Terie Garrison
Avielle of Rhia by Dia Calhoun
Beka Cooper: Terrier by Tamora Pierce
Bella at Midnight by Diane Stanley
Blue Bloods by Melissa de la Cruz
Braced2Bite by "Serena Robar"
Changeling by Delia Sherman
Charlie Bone And The Hidden King by "Jenny Nimmo"
Corbenic by "Catherine Fisher"
Devilish by "Maureen Johnson"
Endymion Spring by Matthew Skelton
Enemies by Christopher Golden and Ford Lytle Gilmore
Erec Rex: The Dragon's Eye by Kaza Kingsley
Fablehaven by Brandon Mull
Fairest by "Gail Carson Levine"
Gideon: The Cutpurse by "Linda Buckley-Archer"
Gilda Joyce\, and the Ladies of the Lake by "Jennifer Allison"
Golden by "Jennifer Lynn Barnes"
Gossamer by Lois Lowry
Here Be Monsters by "Alan Snow"
Here, There Be Dragons by James A. Owen
High School Bites: The Lucy Chronicles by Liza Conrad
Homefree by Nina Wright
Horns & Wrinkles by "Joseph Helgerson"
Horse Passages by "Jennifer Macaire"
Into the Woods by "Lyn Gardner"
Larklight by "Philip Reeve"
Life As We Knew It by "Susan Beth Pfeffer"
London Calling by Edward Bloor
Magic Lessons by Justine Larbalestier
Monster Blood Tattoo: The Foundling by "DM Cornish"
New Moon by "Stephenie Meyer"
Peter Pan in Scarlet by "Geraldine McCaughrean"
Privilege of the Sword by "Ellen Kushner"
Ptolemy's Gate by "Jonathan Stroud"
Pucker by "Melanie Gideon"
Quest of the Dragon Stone by Ami Blackford
River Secrets by "Shannon Hale"
Samurai by Jason Hightman
Septimus Heap #2: Flyte by "Angie Sage"
Shadow in the Deep by "L.B. Graham"
Silver City by Cliff McNish
Stones of Abraxas by "K Osborn Sullivan"
Sword of Anton by Gene Del Vecchio
Temping Fate by Esther Friesner
The Amazing Flight of Darius Frobisher by Bill Harley
The Beast of Noor by "Janet Lee Carey"
The Beasts of Clawstone Castle by "Eva Ibbotson"
The Book of Story Beginnings by "Kristin Kladstrup"
The Eye Pocket: The Fantastic Society of Peculiar Adventurers by "E.J. Crow"
The Fetch by "Chris Humphreys"
The Floating Island by Elizabeth Haydon
The Good Fairies of New York by "Martin Millar"
The King of Attolia by "Megan Whalen Turner"
The Last Days by Scott Westerfield
The Last Dragon by Silvana de Mari
The Legend of Zoey by "Candie Moonshower"
The Looking Glass Wars by "Frank Beddor"
The Lurkers by "Charles Butler"
The Pinhoe Egg by "Diana Wynne Jones"
The Prophet of Yonwood by "Jeanne Duprau"
The Ranger's Apprentice: The Burning Bridge by John Flanagan
The Sea of Monsters by "Rick Riordan"
The Shadow Thieves by "Anne Ursu"
The Sisters Grimm: The Problem Child by "Michael Buckley"
The Softwire: Virus on Orbis 1 by PJ Haarsma
The Tide Knot by "Helen Dunmore"
The Wall and the Wing by "Laura Ruby"
Voices by "Ursula Le Guin"
Wintersmith by "Terry Pratchett"
Wolfproof by Maureen Doyle McQuerry
Wuthering High by Cara Lockwood

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Book Review: Beka Cooper: Terrier

Beka Cooper: Terrier

by Tamora Pierce

Beka Cooper is an unusual teenager. It's not just her ice blue eyes that are disconcerting to look into, or the fact that she hears the voices of the dead riding the pigeons and the dust spinners in the street. What really sets Beka apart is her persistance and her determination, qualities will serve her well in her chosen career in the Provost's Guards, or Dogs as they are called. But first she has to survive her apprenticeship as a Puppy, attached to two experienced Dogs. Two out of every ten Puppies die, and Beka is assigned to the Lower City, the poorest, most dangerous, and most crime-ridden part of Corus. And big things are happening in the Lower City; very quickly Beka becomes involved in not one, but two, major cases involving the disappearance and death of inhabitants of the Lower City. People disappear from the Lower City all the time, and at first neither the Dogs nor the Rogue, the city's crime lord, show any interest in these new disappearances. But Beka lives in the Lower City, and its people are her people. She is determined to see that justice is done. And like a terrier, when Beka sinks her teeth into something, she never lets go.

Beka Cooper: Terrier is an exciting book that grabs you from the first page. The first couple of pages are journal entries of other people connected with Beka, and then the rest of the book is told in first person from Beka's point of view and structured as journal entries. Beka is an absolutely fascinating and compelling character, and the first person point of view draws you in to her world and makes you identify with her from the first. The other characters in the book, from Dogs to criminals to ordinary people, are equally interesting and well-developed. One of the fascinating things about this book is that the line between right and wrong is so blurry: the Dogs work with the criminal syndicate to keep order; they take bribes and overlook some criminal activity in order to get the important ones and keep the city safe. Some of the characters on the "wrong" side of the law seem quite...likeable, and while most of the Dogs are admirable, there are a couple who are less so. And I have to say something about Beka's remarkable cat, Pounce. Anyone who loves cats will adore Pounce, and it's clear that Pierce herself has had relationships with cats. (Cat people will understand that we don't own cats - they deign to share their lives with us).

I don't often talk about the cover in my reviews, but I feel that I have to say something about the cover of Beka Cooper: Terrier. It's so beautiful that I actually took it off the book while I was reading it, so that it wouldn't get messed up. The cover depicts Beka with her baton, surrounded by the pigeons. The artist has managed to capture Beka perfectly; her stance and her expression convey both her toughness and determination and her shyness. The dustjacket has a metallic bronze sheen to it that is tastefully done.

Beka Cooper: Terrier is a prequel to Pierce's Tortall series, but it quite stands on its own and you can enjoy it without having read any of the other books. I highly recommend this book; adults as well as teens will enjoy it. Read it! You won't be sorry that you did.

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Sunday, November 12, 2006

Cybils F/SF weekly wrapup: 11/5/06 - 11/12/06

It's been a busy week for the Cybils nominating committee for fantasy and science fiction. We're up to 65 nominations and reading as fast as we can. While we can't possibly review every book we're reading for the awards—it's going to be hard enough getting them all read—the nominating committee is enjoying reviewing some of the books read. Here's a wrapup of book reviews from the F/SF nominating committee for the last week. Note: these reviews don't necessarily reflect how the books will fare in committee, so don't study them too hard looking for clues about which books will make the short list. We're looking at specific criteria for the awards, and in many cases we look at a book differently for a review than in evaluating it for the awards.

Gail Gauthier wins the award for the most books read and the most books reviewed this week. This week she's reviewed:

...and that's only a fraction of the books she's read! The woman is a reading machine!

Miss Erin also reviewed Gideon the Cutpurse, by Linda Buckley-Archer

Kim Baccellia reviewed The Prophet of Yonwood by Jeanne DuPrau

Finally, I reviewed these books:

If you haven't nominated anything yet, you only have about a week left, so get busy! First read the rules and the FAQ then go nominate!

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Chat with Sisters Grimm author Michael Buckley

Michael Buckley, author of the hilarious Sisters Grimm series, will be text-chatting with fans on the Wands and Worlds community fan site on Sunday, December 3 at 7 PM Eastern/4 PM Pacific. Join us for a chance to chat with Michael and ask him questions about the series and his writing. You must be a Wands and Worlds member to attend the chat, but membership is only $5 for a full year, which will include access to any other upcoming author chats (and we're working on setting up some others).

Click here for more details about the chat

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Book Review: Abadazad Book 1: The Road to Inconceivable

Abadazad #1: The Road to Inconceivable

by J. M. DeMatteis and Mike Ploog

Kate Jameson loved her little brother Matt. After her father left, her mother was too preoccupied to spend much time with the children, so Kate took care of Matt. Every night she would read to him from his favorite series, Abadazad, a series of books about a little girl named Little Martha who goes to a fantasy world. When Matt disappears at a street festival, Kate is devastated. She blames herself, but she also blames her mother for not being there. Now, five years later, fourteen-year-old Kate is an angry, bitter teenager. But then the elderly woman who lives in a nearby apartment claims to be Little Martha, and tells Kate that Matt isn't dead. Could it be possible? Kate wants to believe, but it sounds too crazy. But Kate is about to discover that things aren't always as they seem.

I have to confess that I wasn't enthused about reading Abadazad. It's a hybrid between a text novel and a graphic novel, and I'm more of a word person. It's hard for me to decipher those little pictures and figure out what's going on. But when I turned the page and saw an illustration of the cover of the fictional book-within-a-book Little Martha in Abadazad, by Franklin O. Davies, I knew that I was going to like Abadazad: the cover of Little Martha looks like the cover of an Oz book, and it's clear that the Abadazad series is a tribute to the Oz books.

Davies wrote, I dunno, nineteen or twenty Abadazad books that were all published between 1898 and 1924, starting with Little Martha, then Queen Ija of Abadazad, The Eight Oceans of Abadazad, Professor Headstrong of Abadazad, The Enchanted Gardens of Abadazad, The Balloonicorn of Abadazad, The Edges of Abadazad, The— Well, I think you get the idea. After Franklin O. died, his daughter, PJ Davides, wrote fifteen more. There are still people writing Abadazad stories today.

Abadazad is edgy and fun, and the authors manage to pack a surprising amount in such a short book. The graphic novel sections are short enough that even an old fogey like me could handle them, but the graphic sections and the short, easy to read text make this a book that will appeal to reluctant readers. I liked the idea that Little Martha was really an African-American, and Davies changed her in the books to make it more appealing to middle America, but I wish that the real Little Martha was depicted wearing something other than overalls and a straw hat—it just seemed to me to be a stereotyped image. OK, so I guess she's dressed like that because she's supposed to be a turn-of-the-century farm girl, but hey, this is Abadazad. Couldn't she be dressed in any way she wanted to?

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Thursday, November 09, 2006

Book Review: The Good Fairies of New York

The Good Fairies of New York

by Martin Millar

Two Scottish fairies on a binge get lost and end up in New York, where they collapse in the home of Dinnie MacKintosh. The two fairies, Heather and Morag, split up after an argument, and Morag moves across the street, where she "adopts" Kerry, a beautiful but lonely young woman with Chrons disease. Heather, on learning that Dinnie is a fellow MacKintosh, decides to make him her project, in spite of the fact that he is unpleasant, overweight, anti-social, and a terrible violin player. Meanwhile, a group of Cornish and Irish fairies who had been traveling with Heather and Morag, end up in Central Park. Puckish chaos and mayhem ensue, as the fairies variously steal, binge, incite race wars, and try to get Dinnie and Kerry to fall in love with each other.

The Good Fairies of New York is unlike anything I've ever read before. By turns rollicking and cutting, it's funny and great fun to read. The social commentary on issues like race relations and homelessness is pointed but humorously done, and it never gets in the way of the story, which moves along at a fast pace. The characters are fascinating and sympathetic; even Dinnie starts to grow on you.

This is NOT NOT NOT a book for children. In fact, as I read it, I started to feel a bit like a prude - I found parts of it quite shocking. The fairies engage in quite a bit of drinking and sex, although I thought that part in general was not overly offensive. However, I thought that the phone sex channel which Dinnie watches was over the top. I realize that it's important in the development of Dinnie's character, but I personally found it hard to read.

Adults and worldly older teens who are not uncomfortable with crude sexual references will find this book quite engaging and worth reading.

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Book Review: The Prophet of Yonwood

The Prophet of Yonwood
by Jeanne DuPrau

Nickie Randolph's great-grandfather has died, leaving the family his grand old house in Yonwood, North Carolina. Nickie travels to Yonwood with her Aunt Crystal to fix up the house to sell it. Nickie's mother can't come because she has to work; Nickie's father is away, working on a secret government project. But Nickie secretly hopes that she can find a way to convince her family to keep the house instead of selling it. Nickie has an idyllic vision of living in a small town with her family. In Yonwood, she believes, the impending war will be far away and she and her family will be safe.

But Yonwood is not as she expected it to be. On the surface, it seems like an average rural small town. But Nickie begins to see strange things happening, and to suspect that something is going on under the surface. She learns that a woman in Yonwood, Althea Tower, has had a vision of the war, and that the town considers Althea to be a prophet. Everyone in the town believes that they will remain safe as long as they follow the instructions of the Prophet, as interpreted by the town matriarch, Mrs. Beeson. Nickie comes to believe this as well, and is determined to avoid sin at all cost.

Avoiding sin turns out to be harder than Nickie expected, and she discovers that it's not alway easy to know the "right" thing to do.

The Prophet of Yonwood is a loose prequel to The City of Ember and The People of Sparks, although except for the war, the connection isn't obvious until the end of the book. Like its predecessors, (in publication, if not in time) The Prophet of Yonwood is a fascinating exploration of the social forces at work in a small, semi-closed society, and what happens when change comes to that society. It's also in many ways a traditional dystopian novel; what seems idyllic on the surface turns out to have a disturbing core. The characters are interesting and well-developed, although I really miss Lina and Doon. Nickie is a good character, but she can't match those two for interest.

Each of the books in this series has been very different from the others, and I've enjoyed all of them greatly. DuPrau is a talented writer who excels at creating characters that you care about, and situations that make you think.

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Saturday, November 04, 2006

Book Review: Here, There be Dragons

Here, There by Dragons

by James A. Owen

In March, 1917, a young man named John, on medical leave from his battalion in World War I, receives a note from his mentor asking him to come. But when he arrives, his mentor is dead, the victim of an apparent murder. At the crime scene, John meets two other men: Charles, an editor at Oxford University Press, and Jack, a student at Oxford. The three young men are soon swept up in an adventure, as they become the caretakers of the Imaginarium Geographica, an atlas of the Archipelago of Dreams, where all the lands of myth, legend, and fairy tale are found. Accompanied by Bert, an earlier caretaker, and his daughter Aven, they take off for the Archipelago on the Indigo Dragon, a dragonship. There, they must save the Imaginarium Geographica, and the Archipelago itself, from the Winter King, who is determined to rule the Archipelago.

I have a dilemma about this review. The problem is that the book has a secret that isn't revealed until the ending, and if you don't know the secret, much of the book seems derivative. So I've decided to reveal part of the secret, but not the whole thing. All the caretakers of the Geographica have been influential thinkers, scientists, and writers, and the three heroes of this book are no exception. I won't tell you who they are, although you may figure it out from clues in the story (or you may read it elsewhere, since it's been widely written up). Once you understand that all the things the adventurers encounter in the Archipelago are tributes of a sort, and not just copies, then you can enjoy this as a fun adventure and appreciate all the references, and the creative way that they are put together.

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Book Review: The Book of Story Beginnings

The Book of Story Beginnings

by Kristin Kladstrup

The year is 1914, and a boy named Oscar living in rural Iowa finds a book called "The Book of Story Beginnings." The book is blank, except for one story beginning written by someone a long time ago, and Oscar writes the beginnings of three stories in it. Then he disappears, and his family never hears from him again.

Almost a hundred years later, Oscar's great-niece, Lucy Martin, moves into the house in Iowa with her family. Lucy finds the Book of Story Beginnings, and after reading Oscar's story beginnings, she writes one of her own. That's when the trouble starts. Lucy's father turns into a bird and flies away, and just at that moment, Oscar reappears. Oscar tells her his story, a story that was set into motion by what he wrote in the Book. Then he and Lucy set out to find and rescue her father and set things right.

The Book of Story Beginnings is a fun book for anyone who loves books or writing. Like Inkheart and Inkspell, it delves into questions of self-determination and whether characters have lives independent of their creators, although it's lighter than that series. Lucy and Oscar embark on a marvelous adventure that weaves together elements from all three of Oscar's story beginnings, as well as Lucy's. In the process, the two children discover that while the author may set the story in motion, it's up to the characters to finish it. They find that, in the end, we're all responsible for our own happy endings, and that some endings are really beginnings.

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Friday, November 03, 2006

Book Review: Corbenic

by Catherine Fisher

After a childhood spent taking care of his alchoholic mother, Cal finally gets a chance to leave home. He's going to live with his uncle, a successful accountant who has offered Cal a job and a place to live. But Cal gets off the train at the wrong stop, and finds himself in the middle of nowhere, in a place called Corbenic. In Corbenic, Cal stays at a mysterious hotel called the Castle, and dines with the proprietor, a handicapped man named Bron who appears to be the Wounded King or Fisher King of the Grail legend. At the dinner, Cal sees a vision, but denies having seen it, a denial which dooms him to a path of suffering. Before Cal can find peace, he must learn to confront the pain in his life, to forgive and to seek forgiveness, and to make choices about the life he wants to lead.

Corbenic is an intense, dark, and deeply emotional book. Catherine Fisher does a remarkable job of juxtaposing the ancient with the modern in unusual ways, such as the bohemian reenactors who may or may not be the knights of King Arthur's court. Cal is not a very likeable character, at least not at first; he seems shallow and selfish and even cruel to his mother. But as the book progresses and the layers are peeled back, you see the deep emotional scars that Cal tries to hide, and the pain that he copes with by trying to control everything in his life.

As with Fisher's other books, the writing is highly poetic and full of symbolism. For example, in some ways, Cal is the wounded king, although his wounds are internal rather than external. In fact, the whole internal/external dichotomy is never resolved, leaving open the question of whether Corbenic is real or an internal symbol of Cal's pain and healing. But in the long run, it doesn't matter, and Corbenic makes the Grail legend real and relevant, and not just some dusty story about ancient knights.

Corbenic is probably too intense for most children. There's nothing overly frightening, but there is tragedy, and the emotions, particularly in Cal's relationship with his mother, will be disturbing to those not developmentally ready to deal with them. But the dark, emotional nature of the book will probably appeal to many teens.

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Cybils Fantasy and Science Fiction Committees

We finally have a full roster for the Cybils Awards nominating and judging categories in the fantasy and science fiction categories. Yea! I'm really excited that we have some great people on the committees. Here's the complete committee list:


Sheila Ruth, Wands and Worlds

Michele, Scholar's Blog

Gail Gauthier, Original Content

Erin, Miss Erin

Kim Baccellia, kbaccellia


J.L. Bell, Oz and Ends

Fairrosa, Fairrosa's Reading Journal

Sarah Beth Durst, Sarah's Journal

Greg Fishbone, Greg R. Fishbone

Cassie Richoux, Bookwyrm Chyrsalis

Publishers who would like to submit review copies can request the addresses of the nominating committee members from me at sruth@wandsandworlds.com.

What's that you say? You haven't nominated a book yet? Well hurry on over and read the rules then nominate your favorite book! One nomination per person per category, please, and duplicate nominations don't help a book (it's not a popularity contest) so check first to see if your book has already been nominated. Nominations are open until November 20, and anyone can nominate, even the author or publisher of the book.

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