Friday, June 29, 2007

Harry Potter tag

Alyssa of The Shady Glade tagged me for a cool Harry Potter meme. Thanks, Alyssa; I'm always glad for an opportunity to talk about Harry Potter! Here's my answers to the questions.

1. Butterbeer or pumpkin juice?
I've always thought that pumpkin juice sounded disgusting, so it'll have to be butterbeer, which sounds delicious to me.

2. What House would you most likely (or want to) be in in Hogwarts?
I've always been a brainy nerd, so I'd probably be in Ravenclaw.

3. If you were an animagus, what animal would you turn into?
Most definitely a cat! I've always had cats, and I think I'm part cat myself.

4. What character do you empathize with, or resemble best?
Like many of you here, I see quite a bit of myself in Hermione.

5. What position do you play at Quidditch?
I think I'd like to be a beater. It would be pretty satisfying whacking the bludgers at people.

6. Which teacher is your favorite?
Of all the teachers that we've seen, definitely Lupin. Of the regulars, it would have to be Professor McGonagall. I love how she is strict, but fair, and empathic when she needs to be.

7. Any Harry Potter 7 predictions?
Too many to list! Snape dies saving Harry. Neville proves that there is more to him than we think (and may die heroically). One or both of the Weasley twins will die. Harry, Ron, and Hermione will survive. Harry will not defeat Voldemort in a climactic duel but will overcome him in some unexpected way. Crookshanks will turn out to be an animagus.

I always hate tagging people for these things, but I'll try Michele and Kelly. (Kelly, I know you're on vacation, but hopefully you'll see this when you get back.)

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Interview: Lisa Ann Sandell

Song of the Sparrow is a beautiful verse novel about Elaine of Ascolat, a character who appears in the Arthurian legends. I was so taken with this book that when I saw that author Lisa Ann Sandell was going to be at BEA, I asked if I could interview her. Luckily, she was able to make time for me, and we met at the Scholastic booth on Saturday afternoon after her autographing session. I recorded the interview on my iPod and then transcribed it from the recording.

Click here to read my review of Song of the Sparrow.

The interview:

This is your second novel in verse. Why do you write in verse?

I don’t only write in verse. But for this book it felt very natural. It felt natural first, because of the canon into which it is going to live, and second, I wanted to evoke this sort of dreamy world, and a world where nature is really important.

Your bio says that you’ve been interested in the Arthurian legends and tales for a long time. How did you first get interested?

That’s a good question. I remember watching the movie The Sword in the Stone when I was a little kid, and the romance and the adventure of it really stayed with me. Then in college I wrote my thesis on Lancelot.

What did you write about Lancelot?

The thesis was Thomas Malory’s infatuation with the tragic hero. It was more academic than that, but in doing the course, I read a lot of the texts.

I found your afterword really interesting. I’m glad you put that in because I really learned a lot from it. I always think of there being the Arthurian stories but reading what you wrote I really realized that there are many different versions.

That’s interesting, because when researching this book, I read a lot of history books, and some of the ancient ones. It was very interesting to see the way that Arthur is represented so differently from text to text.

That actually ties in to one of my other questions. I thought it was very interesting that you represented all the elements in a historical way, and tried to have a way that they could really have happened, like Merlin putting the sword into the earth. It was very realistic and seemed like it could really have happened that way. Why did you decide to cast it that way?

I got so wrapped up in the research—I love doing research; it’s a great way to procrastinate. I was really interested in trying to make it as historically accurate as I thought it could be, given the fact that nobody really knows if Arthur really lived. I was so intrigued. We really know so little about it.

Which is fascinating, because there’s so much written about it...

I think that the mystery allows us to imagine, and it makes it a really rich period to mine for stories. It gives us a lot of room to make stuff up.

And I guess there are themes in the Arthurian stories that are timeless.

Arthur is a figure that people have loved for centuries and he’ll continue to be that kind of figure, because he represents everything that is good and everything that can give people hope. Another thing that struck me as I was doing the research and trying to plot out this book, was that that was a time of war, and this is a time of war, and people want to look for hope and ideals to get behind and believe.

There’s a lot of imagery of trees in the story and the trees seem to play an important role. What’s the importance of the trees?

I wanted to evoke nature in Elaine’s life. I mean, she lives outside, she doesn’t live in a house. Being the only girl in the camp, I think, gives her a sense of loneliness. And trees are always there and they’re solid and they’re sturdy and a battle isn’t going to take them down. I think that they represent a sense of security and validity that she doesn’t have in her everyday life. But, there’s also the basic fact that they’re there and she’s there too. Her life is outdoors.

Usually the story of Elaine seems to be a tragic story, and yet yours is very hopeful. What did you hope to convey by presenting it in this way?

Having read all of these Arthurian legends, I’ve seen the women be treated really unfairly. They never get to be heroes and they never get to do anything really meaningful. They’re either waiting to be rescued or they’re bringing down the whole show. I felt like they deserve a better story. I chose to write about Elaine because of the John William Waterhouse painting of her that I love. She’s so luminous and beautiful and I just wanted to try to do better by her, to give her a more important part to play. And throughout the various texts, this character, who is known as Elaine of Astolat, or the Lady of Shalott, she usually falls in love with Lancelot and she gets rejected and then she dies. That doesn’t actually happen to women! Because I was placing the story in a more historical context I wanted to write a more realistic story.

Thank you for taking the time to talk to me!

It was so nice to meet you! Thank you very much!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Dark Dreamweaver news

I just wanted to share a couple of items of news about my husband's book, The Dark Dreamweaver:
  • My son David created a Dark Dreamweaver calendar at, using images from the book that he had colorized using Paint Shop Pro. We got an email today that his calendar was selected by as one of "Today's Best!" The calendar appears on the home page for today, and after that it will stay in their "Today's Best" gallery. There's even a cool little award ribbon that appears on the product page. Click here to see the calendar.
  • Aja King at Reader Views gave The Dark Dreamweaver a great review! Aja said, "If author Nick Ruth wanted to keep me up at night and have me spend every available moment with my nose stuck in his amazing book, “The Dark Dreamweaver,” he totally succeeded!" Read Aja's review here. 11-year-old Aja is also an author; her book is Three Grin Salad.
  • Now you can get The Dark Dreamweaver as an ebook for free! It's available as a free, advertising supported download from (If you were at BEA, they were the people on Segways outside the Javits center). Click here to download The Dark Dreamweaver.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

More congratulations

Congratulations also to Gail Gauthier for today's official release of A Girl, a Boy, and a Monster Cat! The book isn't fantasy or science fiction, but Gail was on the fantasy and science fiction nominating committee for the 2006 Cybils award. and she's a lifelong science fiction fan. A Girl, a Boy, and a Monster Cat is a humorous book for younger elementary children. Congrats, Gail!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Annotated Snow White

One of my favorite features on Sarah Beth Durst's blog is her occasional postings of a fairy tale annotated with humorous observations and comments. Usually she posts obscure fairy tales that she read in doing the research for her book, Into the Wild, but today, in honor of the imminent publication date of Into the Wild, she posted an annotated version of Snow White. It's really funny; check it out!

Congratulations to Sarah on the official publication date for Into the Wild! Read my review here.

Summer Blog Blast Tour: Wednesday

The Summer Blog Blast Tour continues, and today I'm taking particular note of an excellent interview with Holly Black at Shaken & Stirred.

View the entire interview schedule here!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Summer Blog Blast Tour: Tuesday

The Summer Blog Blast Tour continues, and there are more excellent fantasy and science fiction interviews posted today:

View the entire interview schedule here!

BEA: Books and other cool stuff

Two weeks ago, we attended Book Expo America, the largest book industry trade show in the U.S. Here's some of the interesting things that we saw and books we came home with. I'll start with the books, in no particular order. All descriptions are provided by the publishers, and in no way reflect my opinion of these books. I haven't read any of these yet.
  • The Penguins of Doom (From the Desk of Septina Nash) - by Greg Fishbone
    Description: Dear Reader, In order to make this book I had to escape from a mad scientist, adopt a trio of wild penguins, become an Olympic freestyle skateboarder, collect a whole bunch of empty yogurt containers, and find my missing triplet sister. In order to enjoy it, all you have to do is read every page. Thanks for doing your part! Sincerely, Septina Nash, Main Character
    Blooming Tree Press / 182 pages / Ages 9 - 12 / On sale date: July 7, 2007 (7/7/07!)

  • Nightmare Academy by Dean Lorey
    Description: Charlie Benjamin isn't like other kids. His nightmares are so powerful, they open portals straight to the heart of the Netherworld, letting horrifying monsters come through. After a Class 3 Netherstalker invades a sleepover and tries to eat everyone, the Nightmare Academy offers to help. But when Charlie's entrance exam allows a deadly Named into our world, he and his new friends must fight to protect us all from the monsters that rush in when the lights go out.
    Harper Collins / 320 pages / Ages 10 and up / On sale date: August 21, 2007

  • Two Moon Princess by Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban
    Description: To Andrea, the life of a princess is not a dream; it's tedious and stifling. But the certainties of her life, both good and bad, are thrown into chaos when she accidentally travels to an alternative world, from a cave on a forbidden beach in her family's kingdom to the warm and carefree life of Southern California. Then, a careless visit to the cave results in terrible consequences: a brewing war between kingdoms, her sister's love for the wrong man, Andrea's own conflicted feelings for an enemy leader, and dark family secrets exposed. Andrea must act to resolve problems which she helped to create, and she faces many difficult choices, torn between duty and desire on so many levels.
    Tanglewood / 324 pages / Ages 9 and up / Pub date: October, 2007

  • Unlocking Harry Potter: Five Keys for the Serious Reader by John Granger
    Description: Unlocking Harry Potter offers the serious reader five keys to open the text of the best selling books and reveal why they are so popular. Ranging from the familiar Hero's Journey to the esoteric symbols of Literary Alchemy in Harry Potter, Unlocking is a delightful explanation and exploration of the qualities in Ms. Rowling's work that resonate with the spirit of our times and those that transcend it. The five keys Granger discusses are narrative misdirection , how the point-of-view shapes our understanding (and mis-understanding) of what happens, literary alchemy, the historical language of personal transformation, postmodern themes, how Ms. Rowling is writing the epic of our politically correct times, hero's journey, the repeated elements that give each book its structure and narrative drive, and traditional symbolism, the iconographic use of images and events to transcend the world in story. No serious fan of Harry Potter, no serious reader of great fiction, will want to miss the Hogwarts Professor's unlocking of Ms. Rowling's wonderful stories.
    Zossima Press / 312 pages / On sale now

  • What-the-Dickens: The Story of a Rogue Tooth Fairy by Gregory Maguire
    Description: When ten-year-old Dinah and her two siblings are trapped by a terrible storm, cousin Gage keeps their spirits up with an unlikely story—that skibbereen, aka tooth fairies, live in warring colonies right in your neighborhood. Dinah is skeptical at first, but when the real world seems unbearable, stories told by candlelight have a way of becoming real. Dinah starts to—wants to—believe. Don't we all?
    Candlewick / 304 pages / Ages 10–13 / Pub date: October, 2007

  • The Strand Prophecy by J. B. B. Winner (J.B.B. Winner is a pseudonym for a father and twin daughters who wrote the book together)
    Description: The Strand Prophecy is a science fiction epic set in the present day. The action begins on the steps of the White House, with stops in the jungles of Brazil and the deepest regions of Africa. Strand, a troubled and reluctant superhero discovers the beginning of a rapid evolutionary cycle. One in which new life and new predators will quickly emerge to threaten all of human existence. He races against time and the U.S. military to protect the innocent, safeguard his niece and along the way, perhaps find redemption for his brothers death. Strand's action-packed adventure delivers non-stop intensity, mystery and surprise from its first page to it's last. (Read David's review of this book)
    Missile Rider Publishing / 336 pages / Available now

  • Igraine The Brave by Cornelia Funke
    Description: Princess Igraine dreams of becoming a famous knight just like her great grandfather, but the truth is, life at the family castle is rather boring. Until the nephew of the baroness-next-door shows up. He's got a dastardly plan to capture the castle and claim as his own the wonderful singing spell books that belong to Igraine's magician parents. To make matters worse, at the very moment of the siege, her mom and dad botch a spell, turning themselves into pigs! Aided by a Gentle Giant and a Sorrowful Knight, it's up to Igraine to be brave and save the day--and the books!.
    Scholastic / 224 pages / Ages 8-12 / Pub date: October, 2007

  • In the Serpent's Coils by Tiffany Trent
    Description: Ever since her parents died, Corrine's dreams have been filled with faeries warning her of impending peril. When she's sent out to live at Falston Manor, she thinks she's escaped the danger stalking her. Instead the dreams go stronger, just as girls begin disappearing from school. Then Corrine discovers letters of forbidden love from a medieval monk who writes of his entanglement with a race of vampiric Fey—the same Fey who haunt Corrine's dreams. Who are these creatures and what do they want? Corrine knows only one thing for sure: another girl will disappear soon, and that girl might just be her.
    Mirrorstone / 304 pages / Ages 12 and up / Pub date: September, 2007

  • Erec Rex: The Monsters of Otherness (Erec Rex, book 2) by Kaza Kingsley
    Description: Erec Rex has returned to save Alypium from the grasp of the evil Shadow Prince. But it is not without a price. If he succeeds, he could turn into a far worse villain than his own enemies. Erec learns more about his past, trust, honesty, and friendship as he hurtles toward his inevitable fate.
    Firelight Press / 368 pages / Ages 9-12 / Pub date: October, 2007

  • Fablehaven: Rise of the Evening Star (Fablehaven, book 2) by Brandon Mull
    Description: At the end of the school year, Kendra and her brother, Seth, find themselves racing back to Fablehaven, a refuge for mythical and magical creatures. Grandpa Sorenson, the caretaker, invites three specialists- a potion master, a magical relics collector, and a mystical creature trapper- to help protect the property from the Society of the Evening Star, an ancient organization determined to infiltrate the preserve and steal a hidden artifact of great power. Time is running out. The Evening Star is storming the gates. If the artifact falls into the wrong hands, it could mean the downfall of other preserves and possibly the world. Will Kendra learn to use her fairy gifts in time? Will Seth stay out of trouble? Can they overcome paralyzing fear? Find out in book 2 of this bestselling series
    Shadow Mountain / 456 pages / Ages 9-12 / Available now

  • Beowulf by Gareth Hinds
    Description: The epic tale of the great warrior Beowulf has thrilled readers through the ages — and now it is reinvented for a new generation with Gareth Hinds’s masterful illustrations. Grendel’s black blood runs thick as Beowulf defeats the monster and his hideous mother, while somber hues overcast the hero’s final, fatal battle against a raging dragon. Speeches filled with courage and sadness, lightning-paced contests of muscle and will, and funeral boats burning on the fjords are all rendered in glorious and gruesome detail. Told for more than a thousand years, Beowulf’s heroic saga finds a true home in this graphic-novel edition.
    Candlewick / 128 pages / Ages 9-12 / Available now

  • Muggles and Magic: An Unofficial Guide to J.k. Rowling and the Harry Potter Phenomenon by George W. Beahm
    Description: "Muggles and Magic" is the first general interest book, resource guide, and reference work for Rowling's millions of fans. Organized in six sections with appendices, this 400-page book is a treasure trove of information and trivia about Harry Potter, Rowling's most famous literary creation, and the phenomenon that surrounds him.
    Hampton Roads Publishing Company / 377 pages / Available now

  • The Feathered Cloak: The Trilogy of the Tree: Part I by Sean Dixon
    Description: When eleven-year-old Freya meets Morton—a peregrine falcon who has been stripped of his feathers—in the woods near her home, she has no idea what to make of him. What has happened to this poor creature, and what force has destined that he cross her path?

    Before long, Freya and Morton have embarked on an adventure that will take her far, far away from her goatherd father’s small house. As the often bad-tempered girl and the once-majestic bird begin to form an unlikely bond, they find themselves at the centre of a battlefield—one that pits old against new, god against mortal, peace against war, pagan against Christian, and brother against brother. Is this the end for the race of Norse gods and goddesses, and the Vikings who fight in their shadows? Or simply the beginning of a bigger story…

    In The Feathered Cloak, newcomer Sean Dixon whisks us back to a time part real and part imagined, weaving myth and history into an epic tale for young readers.
    Key Porter Books / 200 pages / Young Adult / Pub date: August, 2007

  • Atherton #1: The House of Power by Patrick Carman
    Description: Edgar, a gifted climber, is a lonely boy scaling the perilous cliffs that separate the three realms of Atherton: a humble fig grove; a mysterious highland world of untold beauty and sinister secrets; and a vast wasteland where he must confront an unspeakable danger that could destroy the people of Atherton. When Edgar discovers a book which contains the history of Atherton's origins and ultimate apocalypse, his world--quite literally--begins to turn inside out.
    Little, Brown Young Readers / 352 pages / Ages 8-12 / Available now

And here's a couple of non-book items that caught my interest:
  • Butterflies are one of my family's interests, so we couldn't resist The Book Bug, a cute little critter that holds your book open while you read. Perfect if you read while eating, like I do!

  • Miyu Magic Stones are a fascinating concept that has the potential to be the next big thing. They're real, polished semi-precious stones, designed for kids to collect. But more than that, each stone is associated with a "magic power," and also comes with a code that can be entered on the interactive web site. There's a variety of accessories, including a necklace that you can swap stones in and out of, and a collector's box. There's also a book tie-in, The Emerald Boy. They aren't available in the U.S. yet, but according to the company they are very popular in the Netherlands, where they originated. They should be coming to the U.S. soon. Why do I think this could be the next big thing? Because while the cynical parent in me sees this as a clever marketing scheme, my inner child really, really wants one...or two.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Summer Blog Blast Tour

Colleen at Chasing Ray has organized a fabulous Summer Blog Blast author tour. All this week, a lineup of authors is being interviewed on a variety of blogs around the kidlitosphere. The full schedule has been posted everywhere, so I won't post it here again. I will, however, point out some interviews of particular interest relating to the theme of this blog: fantasy and science fiction.

Today, take a look at these interviews:

More great interviews on the schedule for tomorrow! You can see the whole schedule here.

Last minute carnival submissions

Tomorrow (June 19) is the last day to submit posts to the June Carnival of Children's Literature, hosted by A Year of Reading. The theme is "The good news from the kidlitosphere" and the carnival will be posted on June 23.

Not sure what the carnival is? Read an explanation from Chicken Spaghetti.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

What's the deal with Fairies?

Last week, lectitans asked, What's the deal with fairies?
Why do these creatures captivate our imaginations so?
Since I've read 3-1/2 faerie books in the last week (and I have an ongoing fascination with the fey) I wanted to try my hand at answering.

I think part what makes fairies so interesting, even more so than other fantastic creatures, is that they are so similar to us and yet so different. Although the faerie come in many varieties, they are often humanoid, and sometimes look very much like humans. They live in societies like we do, but their societies are based on very different rules. That makes them fascinating and exotic.

Also, dealing with the folk carries with it an element of risk, since they can behave unpredictably (at least to us). You could end up with a valuable gift, or you could be killed or kidnapped for hundreds of years. Even that valuable gift may end up having different results than you expect. So there is a certain excitement in dealing with them, which makes them good fodder for stories.

Finally, I think there's something very appealing in the idea that there is a hidden world or hidden folk just around the corner, if we could only see them. It appeals to our sense of adventure.

And, who knows? Maybe that hidden world does exist. I know that there are rational, intelligent people today who still believe that faeries are real.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Book Review: Song of the Sparrow

Song of the Sparrow
by Lisa Ann Sandell

16-year-old Elaine lives at the army encampment with her father and her brothers, Tirry and Lavain. Nine years earlier, Elaine's mother was killed by Picts, and since then she has lived at the encampment, sewing the men's clothes and healing them after the battles. Being the only girl in camp can be lonely, and Elaine longs for a friend. But when Gwynivere joins the camp, betrothed to Arthur, she and Elaine take a dislike to each other, and not only because of their mutual attraction to Lancelot. The two women are very different: Elaine is accustomed to the freedom of camp life, and Gwynivere is a lady in every way. As the threat of the Saxons increases and great peril threatens Britain, can the two women overcome their differences and find friendship?

Song of the Sparrow is a beautiful novel in verse which tells the story of Elaine, the Lady of Shalott. Author Lisa Ann Sandell attempts to paint a realistic picture of the time in which Arthur might really have lived. All the familiar aspects of the Arthurian stories are here, but portrayed in a way that they might really have happened. The sword in the stone, for example, is a symbolic gesture: Merlin thrusts the sword in the earth for Arthur to draw forth as a symbol of his role as protector of the land.

Sandell's rich imagery brings to life the world that Elaine lives in, from the beauty of nature to the horrors of war. The verse form works well with the realism of the story; it creates a vivid sense of place. There's plenty of excitement, too, as this Elaine is not the type to stay at home while the men go off to war.

The characters, especially the women, are three-dimensional and interesting. Sandell felt that the women in the Arthurian stories are treated poorly: most are shallowly defined characters that are either victims or villians. She felt that the women of Camelot deserved better, and set out to do justice to the women by create real, fully fleshed out characters. In this, she succeeded brilliantly. The Lady of Shallot is no longer a pale, tragic figure who dies of heartbreak (as if someone could really die of heartbreak!) She's a powerful character, a strong woman trying to do the best she can in a man's world. Even if you aren't a fan of the Arthurian tales, this is a story you can enjoy for its own sake.

An author's note at the end discusses King Arthur in a historical context, the few historical mentions of him and the development of the legends. It's clear that Sandell has done her research. (In fact, she wrote her college thesis about Lancelot). A bibliography provides suggestions for further reading.

I interviewed Lisa Ann Sandell at BEA, and will be posting that soon.

Monday, June 11, 2007

2nd Blogiversary!

Today is my two year Blogiversary! I totally missed my first blogiversary, so I was determined I wasn't going to miss it this time. I made my first post on June 11, 2005. I never introduced myself or anything, I just jumped right in and posted a wrapup of BEA 2005 as my first post.

I really didn't get the whole blog thing at first, and when I started this blog, I had comments turned off. Why would I want anyone commenting on my posts, I wondered. After all, what if someone criticized me? Eventually, from reading other blogs, I began to understand that blogging is really about community (at least here in the Kidlitosphere) and commenting is an integral part of the blog experience. So eventually I turned comments on, and Michele was the first person to comment on one of my posts. (And in 2 years, not one person has ever said anything negative!)

Wands and Worlds was actually around for a while before I started the blog. My son and I started it together as a book review and directory site, since we both love fantasy and science fiction. But after a while, I realized that while the original site worked well as a directory for finding books, there wasn't really any way for people to find out about new reviews that we posted. We tried doing a newsletter for a while, but it was a lot of work and never really worked out the way we wanted it to. So I started blogging as a way to post more news-related items.

Eventually, the blog grew into something more: a personal expression, a place to post my special reviews, and a part of a community. I've since started another blog, whose sole purpose is news announcements: new books, forthcoming books, and new reviews on the main site. Most of those posts are automatically generated from the programs we use to administer the main site. So this blog is a place for me to express myself and be part of the community, and that one is strictly for updates.

48-hour book challenge: wrap-up

I started the 48-hour book challenge on Friday morning at 8:38 AM. I basically finished up late Saturday night; I didn't get a chance to do any reading before church on Sunday morning. I only read three books, so I'm obviously not in the running for any prizes, but I had a great time doing it, and I'm so grateful to MotherReader for organizing it, and to her husband for helping administer it.

I decided to read books with a faerie theme for the challenge, since it's something I'm interested in, and I had several books on the theme that I have been wanting to read. (And I'm reading one more, Wildwood Dancing, by Juliet Marillier, as an apres-challenge dessert). It's interesting reading a bunch of faerie-related books back to back; you start to see a lot of common themes and characteristics. They're all based on the same folklore and sources, after all. But in spite of the commonalities, each of the books I read treated the theme in its own unique way.

I'm totally in awe of Little Willow, who read 16.5 books, and Midwestern Lodestar, who read 20 in the 48 hours. I don't know if anyone read more, but these two had pretty impressive stats!

My final stats:

Number of books read: 3
Books read: ironside: A Modern Faery's Tale, Faeries of Dreamdark: Blackbringer and Wicked Lovely.
Pages read: 1084
Time spent Saturday: 9 hours 45 minutes
Time spent Friday: 5 hours 50 minutes
Total time: 15 hours and 35 minutes

Saturday, June 09, 2007

48-hour book challenge status

Today was a much better day than yesterday, but looking at some of the other status posts, I'm nowhere close to winning anything (go Midwestern Lodestar!) Still, it's been fun. I'm off to bed now, and I only have a little bit of time in the morning since I started at 8:30 AM. I expect I'll be able to read a little bit more in the morning, but not another whole book (do partial books count towards the page count?)

Here's my stats so far:

Number of books read: 3
Books read: ironside: A Modern Faery's Tale, Faeries of Dreamdark: Blackbringer and Wicked Lovely.
Pages read: 1084
Time spent today: 9 hours 45 minutes
Time spent yesterday: 5 hours 50 minutes
Total time: 15 hours and 35 minutes

Book Review: Wicked Lovely

Wicked Lovely

by Melissa Marr

Aislinn has the Sight; she can see the faeries all around. It's a genetic trait that she inherited from her mother and her grandmother, who raised her when her mother died. Grams drilled the rules for survival into Aislinn: don't look at the faeries, don't speak to them, don't attract their attention. If the fey know that you can see them, they may blind or kill you.

So when two faeries actually approach Aislinn and talk to her, she's justifiably alarmed. But the danger is greater than even she imagines. For one of the faeries is the Summer King, who has chosen her to test to be his queen, a test with dire consequences for failure. The Summer King has been bound by his mother, the Winter Queen, who is a kind of supernatural version of Mommie Dearest. The Summer King's powers are limited by this binding until he can find his true Queen, but any girl who fails the test is doomed to be subject to the Winter Queen until the next candidate tries. All Aislinn wants is a normal life, but she finds herself trapped in a situation with no good outcome possible.

I have to confess that reading Wicked Lovely immediately (minutes!) after reading Holly Black's ironside, at first it seemed like a pale imitation. Aislinn even digs her fingernails into her palms just like Black's Kaye does. However, as I continued reading, the book drew me in and became a fascinating book in its own right. Melissa Marr's story is unique and surprising and quite delightful. The plot has some surprising twists, and the characters are interesting, including a sizzling love interest.

Note: I originally posted this review late Saturday night at the end of the 48-hour book challenge, and I don't feel that I did the book justice. So I've gone back and edited the review to beef it up a bit.

327 pages

48-hour book challenge status

Number of books read: 2
Books read: ironside: A Modern Faery's Tale and Faeries of Dreamdark: Blackbringer
Pages read: 757
Time spent today so far: 3 hours 50 minutes
Total time: 9 hours and 40 minutes

Book Review: ironside

ironside: A Modern Faery's Tale

by Holly Black

As Roiben's coronation as King of the Unseelie Court approaches, Kaye is uncertain where she stands. She doesn't feel like she completely belongs in either world, faerie or human, and she's not certain where she stands with Roiben. The Unseelie Court sees her as a liability and an inconvenience, and they tolerate her only for the sake of their new King. Goaded by some of the Unseelie Court, Kaye publicly declares her love for Roiben and he gives her an impossible quest to prove her love: find a faerie who can tell an untruth. If she succeeds, Kaye will be his consort and sit by his side; if she fails she can never see him again.

While Kaye seeks for something that doesn't exist, she and Corny, who is conflicted after his experience in Faerie, along with Luis from Valiant, are drawn into the impending war between the Seelie and Unseelie courts. The devious Silarial, Queen of the Seelie Court, is determined to rule both courts and will stop at nothing to triumph over Roiben.

Like Tithe and Valiant, ironside is a dark and compelling book. Even if I hadn't been reading it for the 48-hour book challenge, I probably would have read it straight through; it's a hard book to put down. Black is brilliant at showing how the faeries can be both horrifying and seductive, often at the same time. But where Tithe conveyed the horrors of the monsters of Faerie, this book is more about the monster within. It's also a great twist that the Queen of the Seelie, or Bright Court, is devious and cruel, while the King of the Unseelie, or Night Court, is a compassionate faerie who struggles to "be like ice" as is required of the Unseelie King.

ironside is definitely my favorite of the series. Holly Black is a gifted writer and I hope that she continues to write YA fantasy.

323 pages

Friday, June 08, 2007

48-hour challenge status

Well, in over 13 hours since I started the 48-hour book challenge, I've only actually read for 5 hours and 50 minutes. Where did the rest of the time go? I really couldn't tell you. I didn't have anything else major to do today, but for a good part of the day I was only able to read in 15 to 20 minute increments. Every time I settled in to read, there was a new interruption. I never realized just how much of my day is eaten up by the interruptions! Of course, some of those interruptions were my son, which is really more important than reading, anyway. (I do have to keep my priorities straight!) But I really thought I'd be able to put more time into it today.

Here's my totals so far:

Books read: 1 (Fairies of Dreamdark)
Pages read: 434
Total time: 5 hours and 50 minutes.

Book Review: Faeries of Dreamdark: Blackbringer

Faeries of Dreamdark: Blackbringer

by Laini Taylor

Magpie isn't like other faeries. Accompanied by her band of crows, she travels the world, capturing devils that the unwitting humans have released from the bottles in which they've been imprisoned for thousands of years. But when she finds an empty bottle with a broken seal bearing the sign of Magruwen, the Djinn King, she knows that this is no ordinary devil. For Magruwen himself to have sealed the bottle means that its occupant must be powerful. And indeed, the horror that has been unleashed on the world is a monstrous shadow known as the Blackbringer, which devours everything in its path. Magruwen and the other Djinn withdrew from the world millennia ago, and the magic of the faeries has diminished over the years. Magpie and her friends are all that stands between the world and this new horror.

It's hard to describe Faeries of Dreamdark: Blackbringer in a way that does it justice. Start with a richly imagined world, add a heroine who is not only courageous but obsessed, stir in a bunch of other interesting characters, and throw in some stuff about dreams and the relationship and responsibility between a creator and his creations, and you've got a potent mix.

Faeries of Dreamdark: Blackbringer is a wonderful book on many levels, but at its core what really makes it work is the interactions between the characters, especially between Magpie and the other characters. Magpie is astonishing in her stubbornness, her determination, and her devotion to her friends. She's a young woman on a mission, and she's not going to let anything stand in her way, even her creator. One of my favorite scenes has her facing off against the Djinn King, creator of the world, in a like-father-like-daughter type contest of wills. The other characters in the book are equally interesting, including a young man who overcomes his physical limitations in surprising ways, and matches Magpie in personal heroism.

434 pages

Not cool, Scholastic!

Scholastic is promoting the new Harry Potter book with a replica of the Knight Bus, which is touring around the country. Visitors to the Knight Bus can record a 30-second video about Harry Potter, and are given a password where they can view their video online. I think some of the videos are also going to be selected to be displayed on the web site.

David and I visited the Knight Bus during BEA and we each recorded a video. To have a chance to record a video, we stood in line in the broiling sun for over half an hour outside the Javits Center.

I just got the following email from Scholastic:

"We just found out that due to unfortunate technical problems, the sound did not record on any of the BEA videos which is why they are not uploaded."

So after waiting in line all that time in the heat, we have nothing to show for it. I didn't even get to see my son's video, because he didn't want me to watch while he recorded it. He thought he would be able to show it to me on the web site.

I understand that technical problems happen. They did offer to send my son a "care package" to make up for it, so they are doing what they can to rectify a bad situation. But it's still very disappointing.

Harry Potter 7 U.S. Deluxe Edition artwork posted!

Scholastic just posted the artwork for the U.S. Deluxe Edition of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows! The stunning artwork shows Harry with, I assume, Ron and Hermione, riding a dragon. A dragon? Hmmm. David and I are wondering if it's Norbert? Click here to view the artwork.

Thanks to Brooklyn Arden (who obviously would know) for the link.

2007 48-hour book challenge: starting

It's 8:38 AM on Friday and I'm officially starting my 48-hour book challenge. The first book I'm going to read is Faeries of Dreamdark: Blackbringer by Laini Taylor. I'm currently in the middle of a couple of books, but I'm going to put those aside for now so that I can count whole books for the challenge.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

48 hour book challenge 2007

We're only hours away from the official start of the 2007 48-hour book challenge! Created by MotherReader, the challenge invites you to read as many books as you can within a 48 hour period. The 48 hours can take place any time between tomorrow (Friday) morning at 7 AM and 7 AM Monday morning. There are prizes for the most books read, most pages, and most time spent, as well as some random prizes. Click here for the official rules and click here to sign up in the comments.

I'm not a very fast reader, so I don't expect to win. For me it's a personal challenge, but mostly it's a good reason to spend the weekend reading. I have three books lined up, which is probably all I can handle. If I finish those by some miracle, I have plenty more. I love fairies, so I decided to go with a faerie theme and read some books that I've been wanting to read:

I'll be starting my 48 hours on Friday morning, since Sunday will be a busy day for me. I'll check in with a post in the morning when I start.

The Dark is Rising - say what?

Others have posted the latest news about the upcoming The Dark is Rising movie, but I feel compelled to comment on it. In case you missed it, Devin Faraci wrote at that Walden Media has pretty much changed everything about the book: "The answer seems to be to keep the concepts and ideas from Cooper’s novel and throw much else out..." They've even "...dropped all the Arthurian stuff from the film." Faraci makes no secret of the fact that he didn't like the book and approves of the changes.

Um, excuse me? Didn't they realize when they took on this project that that annoying "Arthurian" stuff is kind of key to the story? It's true that the "Arthurian stuff" isn't as important in this particular book as it is in some of the others in the sequence, but when you take the series as a whole, the Arthurian link is kind of a central concept.

It sounds like Walden has stripped this story of its heart and soul. They've taken a story rich in folklore and turned it into an action movie. Now, I like a good action movie as much as the next person, but that's not what this book is about! It's an exciting book, not a "slog" as Faraci claims, but the excitement doesn't come from Indiana Jones style action sequences.

The Dark is Rising Sequence is one of my favorite series of all time. I'm sad that they've gutted it of any beauty or meaning. I'm often cautious about seeing movies of favorite books, because it makes me upset when the director's vision is different than mine. But it's safe to say that this is one movie I won't be seeing. Susan Cooper, my heart goes out to you. Your masterpiece deserves better.

Devin Faraci's report on

Leila's comments on Bookshelves of Doom

Fuse #8's comments

Help one of our own

Here in the Kidlitosphere, we're not just bloggers, we're a community. And when one of our own gets dissed, we won't stand for it. Michele at Scholar's Blog lost her day job - the one that pays the bills - because it was outsourced. She has the opportunity to do some work from home, but unfortunately, she doesn't have a broadband connection and so the telephone charges would eat up most of the income she would earn from working at home. Kelly at Big A little a is outraged - and she's doing something about it. Kelly is taking donations to help Michele pay for a broadband connection so that she can continue to work. Help one of our own! Click here for information on how you can donate.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Upcoming fun

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Book Discussion Group: The Ruby in the Smoke

The Scholar's Blog Book Discussion group has started a new discussion. This month the book is The Ruby in the Smoke, by Philip Pullman. If you've read the book, go on over and join the discussion!

Monday, June 04, 2007

I'm in awe

I'm not a writer, but I'm in awe of the Disco Mermaids for their kind gesture. In honor of Jay’s first book, Thirteen Reasons Why, they are going to pay the tuition for someone to attend the SCBWI summer conference. All you have to do is give thirteen reasons why the Disco Mermaids should pay your tuition, and you could be the lucky winner. It's their way of giving back for all that SCBWI has given to them, and I found it to be a touching gesture.

Way cool, Mermaids.

Click here for the details.

8 Things Meme

I'm not too big on talking about myself - it sounds so egocentric and frankly, I'm just not all that interesting. But I've been tagged not once, but 3 times: by Michele, Gail, and MotherReader. So I'll play along.

Here are the rules:

Each participant lists eight facts/habits about themselves. The rules of the game are posted at the beginning of the post, before those facts/habits are listed. At the end of the post, the player then tags eight people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know that they have been tagged and asking them to read your blog.

So here's my eight things:

1. I dreamed of being an astronaut when I was in 9th grade. I had articles about NASA's planned space shuttle and space exploration taped to my mirror. But since I don't even like roller coasters, this probably wouldn't have been a good career choice.

2. In 11th grade I got involved in theatre and dreamed of being a Broadway star. But since I can't carry a tune, that wouldn't have been a good career choice, either.

3. After a short stint at college, I went to a trade school to study graphic arts. I actually worked as a graphic artist for a short time. But since I have no sense of design, that wasn't a good career choice, either. I know good design when I see it, I just can't do it.

4. Working in the graphic arts (and some college classes) led me to a job as a programmer working on publishing systems (back in the days before desktop publishing.) I did excel at that and continued in that field until my son was born in 1995.

5. After over a decade of part-time college classes, I finally earned my bachelor's degree in 1995, while I was pregnant with my son.

6. Since I have so many interests that I couldn't settle on any one thing, my degree is in "Liberal Arts and Technology."

7. I consider my greatest talent to be persistence and a stubborn refusal to give up no matter what happens or what anyone says. Most of my successes in life can be attributed to my tenaciousness. I can attest to the fact that if you bang your head against a wall enough times, you do make a dent in it.

8. I'm actually a very shy person but the internet has saved me. I have no problem putting myself out there in the virtual world, but it's very hard for me to approach someone and talk to them in social situations. I'm getting better at it, though, through sheer persistence and tenaciousness.

I don't think there are 8 bloggers that I know that haven't done the meme, so I'll just tag a couple that I think are untagged or haven't done it yet. I tag Greg Fishbone (let's see you make a word of the day about that!), Kim, Sarah, and Alyssa. Y'all don't have to participate, but if you feel like it, consider yourselves tagged.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

BEA Kidlit drink night

I don't like noise or crowds, and I'm basically a shy person. So when I arrived at the Landmark Tavern for my first Kidlit Drink Night, I was dismayed to see crowds of people jammed into a tiny strip in front of the bar. But, knowing that most of those people were kidlit people, and thus good folks, I took a deep breath and plunged in. I'm glad that I stayed, because I had a great time and met so many interesting people that I can't possibly remember them all.

I was thrilled to finally meet fellow Cybils organizers Liz B. and Fuse #8, as well as Cybils Fantasy and Science Fiction judge Greg Fishbone, author of the forthcoming The Penguins of Doom. (You can win a manuscript page from Penguins of Doom by commenting on certain posts on Greg's blog.)

Sisters Grimm author Michael Buckley was there, and I told him how much we enjoyed the new book and how thrilled my son and I were that the Empire State Building had been lit up in purple the previous day. (If you've read the latest Sisters Grimm book, you'll understand the significance of that). Harry Potter editor Cheryl Klein introduced herself to me, "Hi, I'm Cheryl Klein, an editor at Arthur A. Levine Books..." which seemed very modest considering that I knew who she was as soon as she said her name.

Other fabulous people I talked to, in no particular order, included:

  • Flux editor Andrew Karre,
  • Dian Curtis Regan, author of Princess Nevermore and Cam's Quest.
  • Michelle Knudsen, author of Library Lion
  • Erec Rex author Kaza Kingsley and publisher Neil Jobalia
  • Jenny Han, of the Longstockings, and author of Shug.
  • Carrie Jones, author of Tips on Having a Gay (ex) Boyfriend, who was the sweetest and nicest person. I'm sad that I'll probably never read her book, because high school books just aren't my thing. (I had enough of high school the first time around and have no desire to relive it). But I hope her book makes the challenge list so it'll get lots of attention and teens will read it to find out what they're being prevented from reading. I'm just kidding, of course, but I do hope her book gets lots of attention, because she deserves it.

I know there are many people that I'm forgetting, so if you talked to me and I left you out, please leave a comment!

More BEA and Kidlit drink night wrapups from:
Fuse #8
Jenny Han
Edited to add:
Liz B.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Another reason why small press is better

Today is the official opening of Book Expo America. We arrived at the exhibit halls shortly after they opened this morning and plunged into the crowds searching for the new and interesting. The number of people here is staggering. Trying to get through the HarperCollins area reminded me of Mardi Gras: you didn't walk through so much as you pressed through, surrounded by so many people on all sides that you could barely move. HarperCollins only had three YA ARCs available that we could see, and none of them appealed to us enough to take them, although Nightmare Academy did intrigue me a bit and I was tempted to take it. But we're trying not to overdo it and only take the books that we really want to read and review, after previous years when we've taken so many books that a back ache was the biggest thing we got from BEA. We also visited the Penguin booth where they had Seeing Redd, the sequel to The Looking Glass Wars. Although I did read The Looking Glass Wars, I thought it was excessively violent, and the sequel didn't appeal to me enough to want to carry it around.

After this largely unfruitful search through big-publisher land, we ended up after lunch in the small publisher area, where we had a great time. The aisles were uncrowded and we saw a lot of interesting things, which I'll be posting more about later. It's a shame that many people never make it to the small press area, because there was a lot to see and do there, but I'm selfishly glad, because it made the afternoon much more enjoyable for us.

We ended up our afternoon at the Candlewick Press booth, where as usual they bent over backwards to help us out. Candlewick is a great company and I like a lot of what they do. At my son's request, they promised to send us a review copy of Mythology, the upcoming new entry in the ologies series.

Also today we interviewed Shelly Mazzanoble, author of Confessions of a Part-time Sorceress: A Girl's Guide to the D&D Game from Wizards of the Coast. Shelly was delightful and I'll be posting that interview soon.

Now I'm off to the autographing area for a couple of books, and then I'll be headed to the Kid Lit Drink Night. I hope to see some of you there!