Thursday, September 27, 2007

Cybils 2007!

In case you haven't noticed (and how could you miss it!) The 2007 Cybil awards are gearing up. A call for volunteers to serve on committees was put out and the response was overwhelming; all the nominating and judging committees have been filled. The list of bloggers serving on all the committees have been posted on the Cybils blog. To see the amazing, fantastic members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy committees, Click here! You can view the complete list of all committee members on the Cybils blog.

All of the category organizers have been introducing themselves, too, so be sure to check out the profiles. The official Cybils web site is up and running, too, including discussion forums.

Best of all, nominations open October 1! That's only a few days, so start thinking about what book you want to nominate for each category. Anyone can nominate a book; you don't have to be a blogger. All we ask is that you limit your nominations to one nomination per person, per category, and no duplicate nominations. (It won't help a book at all to have multiple nominations. Really!)

Help us spread the word and make the 2007 Cybils even bigger and better than 2006! If you have a blog, post about it, and if you have any contacts in the media, please let them know (or pass their name on to the Cybils team.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Book Review: The Titan's Curse

The Titan's Curse
Percy Jackson & the Olympians Book 3
by Rick Riordan

When Percy, Thalia, and Annabeth sneak in to Westover Hall boarding school to help Grover retrieve two half-bloods, they encounter a deadly Manticore. Annabeth is thrown over a cliff, and the others barely survive with the help of Artemis and her Hunters. When Artemis goes on a dangerous mission, she orders her hunters, all immortal preteen girls, to take sanctuary at Camp Half-Blood. But when Artemis disappears and the Oracle makes a new prophecy, a combined group of Hunters and Half-bloods go on a quest to find and rescue Artemis before it's too late. But the prophecy predicts a grim future. Who will be lost in the land without rain? And who shall perish by a parent's hand?

The Titan's Curse breaks little new ground, but it's just as fun and clever as the previous books in the series. Filled with excitement and Riordan's trademark humor, it's a book sure to appeal to kids and adults. The Titan's Curse did do more to convey how disconcerting it would be to have an Olympian god or goddess as a parent. All the normal parent-child issues are magnified, and how can you have a close relationship with a being who is so much larger than life? Even when Poseidon compliments Percy, it's an uncomfortable, awkward moment. Even with all that, though, and in spite of the danger, one can't help but feel it would be cool to be a half-blood.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Book Review: The Sight

The Sight
David Clement-Davies

In a cave in Transylvania, two wolf cubs are born, one white, one black. Could the white cub, Larka, be the white wolf that heralds the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy? Larka's mother's sister, a powerful and evil wolf named Morgra, thinks so, and in her anger and her hunger for power, she curses Larka and her family. Morgra has the power of the Sight, an ability to see far things and to see through the eyes of animals, but she seeks the ultimate power foretold in the prophecy.

As Larka's family flees, trying to escape both Morgra and the prophecy, they encounter danger after danger as the prophecy, and Morgra's curse, seem to be coming true. They are also pursued by a pack of rebel wolves forming a greater wolf pack under a harsh leader named Slavka. Slavka seeks to wipe out belief in the Sight, the prophecy, and all superstition, and Larka's family is caught in the middle between Slavka and Morgra. As Morgra calls forth the power of Wolfbane, the evil one, can the love of the family overcome Morgra's ambitions and the prophecy itself?

This is an incredibly rich, detailed and complex book. The story is deep and moving, drawing on many sources including Christianity, history, folklore, and fairy tales. Clement-Davies brings to life the wilderness of the Carpathian mountains and the lives of the animals with beautifully expressive language and metaphor. There are some interesting plot twists that caught me by surprise, and that's not easy to do.

This is not an easy book to read; with its complicated plot and detailed language, it may be challenging for some young people. I was a little put off by the message, which seems a little heavy in the last part of the book. But in general, teens who are good readers and who enjoy a richly imagined animal fantasy will find a lot to like about this book.

A sequel to The Sight, Fell, will be published this month by Amulet Books.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Cybils: Start your engines!

The Cybils awards are now seeking volunteers to serve on the nominating and judging committees. If you are a blogger who writes about children's and/or YA books, or a children's/YA author who blogs, please consider volunteering to help choose the best books of the year! Go here to read more about it and volunteer!

Nominations will open October 1!

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Book Review: Firestar's Quest

Firestar's Quest
Warriors Super Edition
by Erin Hunter

Several months have passed since the battle with BloodClan, and life in ThunderClan is settling back to normal. But then Firestar begins having visions of a strange gray cat with white patches, and of a group of terrified, fleeing cats. What does it mean? Then Firestar learns that there used to be a fifth clan, a clan that was driven out of the forest by the other clans, apparently with the consent of StarClan. Did StarClan lie when it said that there have always been four clans in the forest? Accompanied by Sandstorm, Firestar sets out on a quest to find and restore the lost clan. But can anything restore Firestar's faith in StarClan?

A standalone book set between the first and second Warriors series, Firestar's Quest is probably the best Warriors book so far. The quest format drives the story along, while the themes of faith and responsibility give it depth. It's quite satisfying watching Firestar and Sandstorm assemble a ragtag group of cats into a true clan. The fact that it's a story that's been done before—for example, in sports movies from The Bad News Bears to Major League—doesn't reduce its power as a story, and it's very well done here. It's also satisfying to finally see Firestar work out his relationship with Sandstorm, and work through his conflicted feelings about Spottedleaf. We were cheated on seeing that bit of his life, since The New Prophecy books start with the relationship pretty settled and Firestar a family man.

Firestar's Quest is a must read for fans of the series; longtime fans will especially appreciate the return to Firestar's point of view. Those new to the series should find that this book stands fairly well alone, although some time will be needed to acclimate to the Warriors culture and terminology.

By the way, it's hard to tell from the cover image, but the cover isn't yellow, it's a beautiful gold foil.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Goodbye, Madeleine L'Engle

From PW: Beloved children's book author Madeleine L'Engle passed away last night at the age of 88. Her books were a big influence on me as a child. I loved A Wrinkle in Time and A Wind in the Door, (the other Time Quintet books hadn't been written yet) and I still have my copy of Dragons in the Waters with a bookplate proclaiming that I won it as a middle school reading award.

It's a sad year when we lose both Lloyd Alexander and Madeleine L'Engle in the same year.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Cybils return!

Some of you may remember a little known (Ha! Just kidding!) award last year called the Cybils...

Officially known as the Children's and YA Bloggers Literary Awards, but better known as the Cybils, it was a massive effort by the children's book blogging community to identify the best books of 2006.

Now - drum roll please - the Cybils have returned! Well, almost, anyway. Officially, October 1 will be the launch of the 2007 Cybils awards, but founders Anne Boles Levy and Kelly Herold have been busy behind the scenes getting everything ready. While you're waiting, you can check out the new blog design. No more white on black! Yay! Please note, though, that most of the information on the site, including committee members, is still old information from last year. So if you were thinking of volunteering, don't worry: you didn't miss your chance!

Book Review: Skulduggery Pleasant

Skulduggery Pleasant
by Derek Landy

When Stephanie's Uncle Gordon dies, Stephanie's life is changed forever. Not because she misses him, although she's almost the only one who does, and not because she inherits his fortune, which she does, but because she discovers the existence of magic. Stephanie meets a mysterious stranger at Gordon's funeral, a stranger who claims to have been her uncle's friend. The stranger, who calls himself Skulduggery Pleasant, turns out to be a walking, talking skeleton! Skulduggery is a detective and an elemental mage, and Stephanie soon teams up with him to solve the mystery of her uncle's death. Suddenly, breaking and entering, battling monsters, and confronting evil mages is all part of a days work for Stephanie.

Skulduggery Pleasant is one of those books that you just can't put down. It's exciting, it's funny, and it's filled with interesting characters doing interesting things. You just can't help but like Stephanie - her stubbornness, courage, and impulsivity make her a character to be reckoned with. The witty repartee between Skulduggery and Stephanie is hilarious and one of the delights of the book:

"So why do they want me to be there? Aren't I the innocent young girl being led astray?"

"See, I don't really want them to view you as the innocent young girl. I want them to view you as the rebellious, insubordinate, troublesome rapscallion who has made herself my partner. Then maybe they'll take pity on me."

Skulduggery Pleasant is a fun, fun book that will appeal to kids and adults who love adventure, excitement, magic, and humor.

Younger and more sensitive readers should know that there is a fairly high level of violence in this book. The humor takes the edge off of it, but some people may still be disturbed by it.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Book Review: Middleworld

The Janguar Stones: Book One
by J&P Voelkel

Fourteen-year-old Max Murphy is used to getting his own way. So he's dismayed to learn that his parents, who are archaeologists, are heading to Central America for a dig and that they've signed Max up to spend the summer at a camp that builds character in teenagers through survival training. But when Max's parents disappear, Max finds himself heading to San Xavier (a fictional Central American country) to search for his parents, instead. In San Xavier, Max is caught between factions seeking the Jaguar Stones, ancient Mayan stones of power. Accompanied by Lola, a Mayan girl who can communicate with monkeys, Max tries to find the Jaguar Stones, summon an ancient Mayan king, and rescue his parents from the Mayan Lords of Death, before the evil Count Antonio DeLanda can collect the stones and take over the world.

Middleworld is a fast-paced, unique, and fascinating story. The non-stop action drives the story along, while at the same time the book provides a fascinating look at Mayan culture, both ancient and modern. While some elements of the story are fictional - notably the country of San Xavier and the Jaguar Stones themselves, the authors go to a great deal of effort in both a preface and in the appendices to separate fact from fiction. Those appendices provide a great deal of information about the Maya for anyone interested in learning more, and a bibliography gives an extensive list of sources.

The only problem I had with the book was that because Max is spoiled, selfish, and petulant at the beginning of the book, he's not a very likable character. These flaws are important to the story, and he does develop and grow as the story progresses, but it makes it very hard to identify with him for the first part of the book, which tends to yank you out of the story. By halfway through the book, he's become a much better character, and the the second half of the book is much enhanced by the addition of two ancient Mayan royals in the form of howler monkeys, who provide a welcome comic relief.

The book is enhanced with beautiful illustrations by Andrea Voelkel and Jon Voelkel.

All it all, Middleworld an enjoyable book that should appeal to adventure-loving reluctant readers, as well as young people interested in ancient cultures.