Friday, October 24, 2008

Ratha's Courage demand exceeeding availability: where to find it

The good news is that Ratha's Courage has been selling well. The bad news is that it's running out of stock in many places, including If you're trying to locate a copy, it is still possible to find one. Here are some suggestions:

Edited to add: you can also purchase Ratha's Courage as an e-book from
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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Book Giveaway for Teen Read Week!

This week is Teen Read Week, an annual event created by YALSA, the young adult division of the ALA. In honor of Teen Read Week, I'm going to be giving away a set of three books from the Named series, by Clare Bell: Ratha's Creature (book 1), Clan Ground (book 2), and the newly published Ratha's Courage (book 5).

For a chance to win, all you have to do is to write a limerick relating to this year's Teen Read Week theme, "Books with Bite," and leave your limerick in the comments. Your limerick could be related to the theme in general, or it could be about your favorite book with "bite". To get you started, here's a limerick written by Clare Bell, author of the Named series:

With October comes Halloween night
When we dress up to give folks a fright
Costumed as bats
Or black Named clan cats
And read all the best books "with bite".

Entries must be posted by this Saturday, October 18, at 11:59 pm Eastern Time. The winner will be selected by random drawing, 'cause, well, I was recently a judge in a writing contest and I know how hard it is to pick one winner from so many good entries. I'd rather celebrate and enjoy all your limericks rather than having to choose one as "best".

The winning entrant must be able to give me a shipping address for review copies, so anyone under 18 should check with your parents first. You don't need to give me your address unless you win (please don't post it here!) and I promise I won't do anything with your address other than ship you the free books!

So limerick away! I look forward to reading your entries!
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Monday, October 13, 2008

Readergirlz Night Bites author chats!

Oops. I am so late with this that I missed the first one. Sorry! But it's not too late to chat with a fabulous lineup of authors. In honor of Teen Read Week, which has the theme "Books with Bite," Readergirlz is hosting a series of themed author chats, called Night Bites, every night this week!

Here's the schedule:

Sorry that I didn't tell you in time to catch this one:
Monday, Oct. 13: Multicultural Bites with authors Coe Booth (TYRELL), An Na (THE FOLD), and rgz diva Mitali Perkins (SECRET KEEPER)

But don't worry, look at all these authors you can still catch!
Tuesday, Oct. 14: Verse Bites with rgz diva Lorie Ann Grover (ON POINTE), Stephanie Hemphill (YOUR OWN SYLVIA), and Lisa Ann Sandell (SONG OF THE SPARROW)

Wednesday, Oct. 15: Contemporary Bites with Ally Carter (CROSS MY HEART AND HOPE TO SPY), rgz diva Justina Chen Headley (NORTH OF BEAUTIFUL), and Maureen Johnson (SUITE SCARLETT)

Thursday, Oct. 16: Fantasy Bites with Holly Black and Ted Naifeh (THE GOOD NEIGHBORS), rgz diva Dia Calhoun (AVIELLE OF RHIA), and Tamora Pierce (MELTING STONES)

Friday, Oct. 17: Gothic Bites with Holly Cupala (A LIGHT THAT NEVER GOES OUT), Christopher Golden (SOULLESS), Annette Curtis Klause (BLOOD AND CHOCOLATE), and Mari Mancusi (BOYS THAT BITE).

All the chats take place at 9pm Eastern/6pm Pacific in the Readergirlz forum on MySpace. (You have to be a MySpace member to participate)

For more information, see the readergirlz web site or the YouTube video.

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Friday, October 10, 2008

Book Review: The Diamond of Darkhold

The Diamond of Darkhold
The Fourth Book of Ember
by Jeanne DuPrau

It's been a tough winter in the village of Sparks. A caved-in roof damaged much of their already short food supply, and there had been an unusual number of illnesses and accidents. Lina and Doon are still adjusting to life on the outside: the hardships and the dangers which are very different from those faced in the underground city of  Ember. They want to do something to help the village, so when an old book purchased from a roamer seems to allude to something important hidden in Ember, Lina and Doon plan an expedition to return to Ember and search for it. But plans go awry, and what they find in Ember is far different from what they expected.

The Diamond of Darkhold is an enjoyable book, as all the books of Ember have been. It's great to see Lina and Doon back together again, solving problems. There's plenty of excitement and suspense and adventure. And I really liked that what they found in Ember was different than what they - and the reader - expected. Fans of the Ember series will definitely want to read it.

However, I have to say that I don't think it's quite as good as the first three books. One of the things that made the first three books so powerful was the social context that frames the story. In the City of Ember, it was Ember itself, that great underground city, and the effects that the breakdown of the city had on the closed society. In the People of Sparks, it was the conflict created by the merging of the two groups, and the stress caused by the strain on resources of a vastly increased population. In the Prophet of Yonwood, it was the dystopian theocracy created in the name of the Prophet. But in The Diamond of Darkhold, there doesn't seem to be a larger social issue at the heart of the story. Sure, there are shortages in Sparks, but that doesn't seem to be the overarching social theme like we had in the other books.

Another way to look at it is that in each book, there is a city which is as much a character as any person in the story: Ember, Sparks, and Yonwood. In The Diamond of Darkhold, there is still Sparks, but it doesn't get developed as a "character" any more than it already was in the second book. There's also Darkhold, but it's a small society, and only plays a role in part of the book.

Another gripe I had was the way that children were portrayed in this book. In all the books, but especially the first one, there is a subtheme of empowerment of children. In the City of Ember, Lina and Doon find that most of the adults in the book either don't take them seriously, or actively try to stop them. So they take matters into their own hands to save their society. I think  this is a theme that resonates with a lot of children because they often feel the same powerlessness in their own lives.

In The Diamond of Darkhold, Lina and Doon, of course, are still doing important things, but all the other children are either belittled or disempowered. Near the end of the book, a child's treasures are taken away from him without permission when they suddenly become important to the society. When he complains, he's told "you'll be proud to know they're going to be used for something important." I had been expecting that the child would suddenly be the owner of something valuable and important, and to see them taken away from him without compensation (and by Doon, who, while still a child, is older than the other child) grated on my nerves. Also, while Lina and Doon are off trying to find the hidden "treasure," some of the other children go on a quest that ultimately ends up accomplishing little except getting the children lost and sending them back to Sparks for adult help, which ultimately makes the whole thing seem silly and pointless.

I know that I've said a lot of negative things, and it seems like I didn't like this book, but I really did like it. I think it's just that I expected so much of this book, that I felt a little let down when it didn't live up to my expectations. I do recommend it, though, especially to anyone who has read and like the other books. If you haven't read the other books, they're wonderful books and should be at the top of your TBR. Here are my reviews of the others:

The City of Ember

The People of Sparks

The Prophet of Yonwood

Also take note that the City of Ember movie was released today. I haven't seen it yet, but it looks good from the pictures and trailers, and I'm looking forward to seeing it. I'm hopeful that, for once, Hollywood may have managed to capture the true spirit of a beloved children's book.

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Friday, October 03, 2008

Books with Bite: Teen Read Week booklists!

October 12-18 is YALSA's Teen Read Week 2008, and the theme this year is "Books with Bite!" I think it's a great theme, and I asked the teen members of the Wands and Worlds community to suggest books that they recommend which would fit the theme. They suggested so many books that I had to break the list into two parts: Books with Bite: Creepy Creatures, which includes Prehistoric Animals, Vampires, Werewolves, Dragons, Creatures and Monsters, and Aliens, and Books with Bite: Animals, which is self-explanatory.

Anyone who thinks that teen readers are "boxed in" to the young adult category of books should meet the Wands and Worlds members. I was amazed at the diversity of books they recommended. The list includes classic novels, modern novels, and graphic novels, not to mention one interactive book, and the reading level ranges from middle-grade to adult.

These are all books that the teens enjoy reading and would recommend to others. I mainly acted as organizer and moderator. I tried not to censor their selections, other than to make sure that all the books fit the theme, and was pretty liberal about that. Basically, if I wasn't sure a book would fit, I asked how it fit the theme, and if anyone suggested a way, I went with that. I did make some suggestions to get the discussion going, but only included those if at least one person said, "Yeah! I love that book!" A few of the books on the list appear to be out of print, but I decided to include them anyway, in the hope that they are still available in some libraries.

It's my hope that these lists can be helpful, either to teens looking for good books, or to librarians, booksellers, parents, teachers, and other adults to whom teens may turn for recommendations. I'm providing the lists here in three forms:
  1. A raw/formatted html text in the blog post below, and which you are welcome to copy and post on your own blog or web site if you wish. (You can even copy the source, if you want to retain the formatting).
  2. An attractively formatted downloadable PDF, suitable for printing and giving out. You may freely copy these without permission as long as you are not selling them. (And while I hope that they're helpful, I can't imagine that anyone would actually want to pay for them, anyway)
  3. A BlueOrganizer widget, that you are welcome to place on a blog or web site. The widgets are fully customizable with many options.
Here are the downloadable PDFs. Click on the thumbnail to download the full sized flyer:

Books with Bite: Animals  Books with Bite: Creepy Creatures

Here's the widgets:

And finally, here's the actual text, if you'd like to copy it directly:

Books with Bite: Animals


Warriors series
by Erin Hunter
First book: Into the Wild
Love, friendship, intrigue, and war among clans of wild cats.

Ratha and The Named series
by Clare Bell
First book: Ratha’s Creature
Fiery prehistoric cat Ratha brings change to her clan.

The Tygrine Cat
by Inbali Iserles
A young cat exiled from his homeland struggles for acceptance and seeks to understand his mysterious power.

Varjak Paw and The Outlaw Varjak Paw
by Sf Said
illustrated by Dave Mckean
A young cat from a sheltered life is forced to go outside for the first time as he seeks help to save his family and home.

Lionboy Trilogy
by Zizou Corder
First book: Lionboy
A boy who can speak to cats sets off on a journey across Europe and eventually the world, aided by cats and even
lions along the way.

The Jungle Book
by Rudyard Kipling
A boy raised by wolves, and tutored by the panther Bagheera and the bear Baloo, faces off against the fierce tiger Shere Khan.

Tomorrow’s Sphinx
by Clare Bell
In a future world, a telepathic black cheetah, exiled from her clan due to her unusual color, rescues a human child.

Dogs & Wolves:

The Sight and Fell
by David Clement-Davies
A white wolf and a black wolf deal with the consequences of prophecy in the mountains of Transylvania.

by Marion Dane Bauer
The last-born and smallest wolf in the litter seeks to find his place in the pack.

Snow Dog
by Jim Kjelgaard
A dog must take down the black wolf that had murdered his family when he was a pup, as well as learn to survive
on his own.

Old Yeller
by Fred Gipson
A beautiful, exciting, and tragic story of a boy and his dog in late 19th century Texas.

White Fang
by Jack London
The adventures of an orphaned half-wolf, half-dog in the wilderness of northwest Canada.

Call of the Wild
by Jack London
Buck the dog is kidnapped from his California home and sent to the Alaskan wilderness as a sled dog, where he
encounters both cruelty and love.

Wolf’s Rain (Manga)
by Bones
illustrated by Toshitsugu Lida
In a world where wolves are nearly extinct, the last four wolves can disguise themselves as humans.

InuYasha (Manga)
by Rumiko Takahashi
A teenager is transported back in time in Japan and releases a dog half-demon.

Wolf Series
by Jane Lindskold
First book: Through Wolf’s Eyes
A girl raised by wolves may be the long-lost heir to the throne.

A Dog’s Life: Autobiography of a Stray
by Ann M. Martin
The life and adventures of a stray dog, told in the dog’s words.

Other Animals

Seekers Series
by Erin Hunter
First book: The Quest Begins
Three young bears from different species on quests that will bring them together.
Animal: bears

Hermux Tantamoq Adventures
by Michael Hoeye
First book: Time Stops for No Mouse
A gentle watchmaking mouse gets drawn into adventure and mystery
Animal: mouse

Guardians of Ga’Hoole
by Kathryn Lasky
First book: The Capture
A young owl faces danger and adventure
Animal: owls

Watership Down
by Richard Adams
A warren of rabbits made homeless by a land developer encounter many dangers as they search for a new home.
Animal: rabbits

Redwall series
by Brian Jacques
First book: Redwall
The adventures of various animals in and around Redwall Abby in the fantasy world of Redwall
Animal: various

Fire Bringer
by David Clement-Davies
A young deer may be the fulfillment of a prophecy and the only hope of the deer against a tyrannical ruler.
Animal: deer

Silverwing Trilogy
by Kenneth Oppel
First book: Silverwing
A young bat, the runt of his colony, gets separated from the colony and finds adventure and new friends as he tries to find his colony.
Animal: bats

Tarka the Otter
by Henry Williamson
The life of an otter in the countryside
Animal: otters

Jonathan Livingston Seagull
by Richard Bach
The story of a seagull who follows his dreams
Animal: seagulls

Fruits Basket (Manga)
by Natsuki Takaya
An orphan moves in with a mysterious family who can change into the animals of the Chinese zodiac.
Animal: various

+Anima (Manga)
by Natsumi Mukai
A group of children with animal powers, shunned by human society, search for others with similar abilities
Animal: various

Mistmantle Chronicles
by M. I. McAllister
illustrated by Omar Ryann
First book: Urchin of the Riding Stars
An orphaned young squirrel serving as page to a Captain of the Guard becomes embroiled in court intrigue when his Captain is accused of a murder
Animal: various

Raven Quest
by Sharon Stewart
A raven exiled from his community after being falsely accused of murder sets off on a quest to find the Grey Lords, who can save his people.
Animal: ravens

The Waterstone
by Rebecca Rupp
The world is drying up, and twelve-year-old Tad faces
adventure, danger, and mysteries as he seeks to restore
the water before it’s too late.
Animal: various

His Dark Materials Trilogy
by Philip Pullman
First book: The Golden Compass
In an alternate world, two children and their animal daemons try to save the universe.
Animal: various

The Jungle Book
by Rudyard Kipling
A boy raised by wolves, and tutored by the panther Bagheera and the bear Baloo, faces off against the fierce tiger Shere Khan.
Animal: various

Books with Bite: Creepy Creatures

Prehistoric Animals:

Ratha and The Named series
by Clare Bell
First book: Ratha’s Creature
Fiery prehistoric cat Ratha brings change to her clan.

Raptor Red
by Robert Bakker
A female Utahraptor struggles for survival in a hostile prehistoric world.

by Kenneth Oppel
A young, prehistoric bat-like mammal, born with deformities that let him fly and navigate in the dark, uses his special abilities to save his colony.

Chronicles of Ancient Darkness
by Michelle Paver
First book: Wolf Brother
A 12-year-old orphan in a prehistoric world bonds with a wolf cub, and the two of them battle evil magic to save the world.


Twilight Saga
by Stephenie Meyer
First book: Twilight
A teenage girl falls in love with a vampire, exposing her to a dangerous world.

House of Night series
by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast
First book: Marked
In a world where vampires coexist with humans, a teenage girl is marked as a vampire and begins to attend the House of Night school for vampires.

Vampire Knight (Manga)
by Matsuri Hino
A student at a school attended by humans during the day and vampires at night seeks to find a way for the two groups to coexist peacefully.

Vampire Academy series
by Richelle Mead
First book: Vampire Academy
Two friends at a school for vampires deal with social pressures and dangers from a different group of vampires.

by Bram Stoker
Real estate agent Jonathan Harker has been hired to find a London home for Transylvanian Count Dracula, putting his fiance Mina in danger from the vampire.

Blue Bloods
by Melissa De La Cruz
A teen at a prestigious private high school discovers that she is descended from a line of privileged society vampires.

by Kate Cary
The Dracula story continues with the next generation, as a young woman is enticed to become the bride of Captain Quincy Harker from Transylvania.

by Justin Somper
First book: Demons of the Ocean
Twins Connor and Grace are shipwrecked and separated; one ends up on a pirate ship, the other on a ship of vampire pirates.


Lonely Werewolf Girl
by Martin Millar
A laudanum-addicted, Joan Jett loving, teenage Scottish werewolf princess hides with a couple of humans in London, while her family battles for the werewolf throne.

Blood and Chocolate
by Annette Curtis Klause
A sixteen year old werewolf girl falls in love with a human boy.

Twilight Saga
by Stephenie Meyer
First book: Twilight
A teenage girl falls in love with a vampire, exposing her to a dangerous world.

Maximum Ride Series
by James Patterson
First book: The Angel Experiment
A group of children genetically enhanced with bird DNA giving them the ability to fly escape from the lab where they were bred, and are on the run from half-human, half-wolf predators called erasers.


Inheritance Series
by Christopher Paolini
First book: Eragon
A fifteen year old boy discovers a dragon egg, becomes a Dragon Rider, and works to overthrow a tyrant.

Dragon’s Keep
by Janet Lee Carey
A princess born with a deformity that some consider a curse is abducted by a dragon.

Dragon Slippers series
by Jessica Day George
First book: Dragon Slippers
A poor girl becomes a dressmaker and secret friend of dragons.

Dragon Trilogy
by Chris D’Lacey
First book: The Fire Within
A college student discovers that a clay dragon given to him as a gift can come to life

Age of Fire
by E.E. Knight
First book: Dragon Champion
A lone young dragon survives the massacre of his family and goes in search of his own kind.

Dragon Rider
by Cornelia Funke
A young dragon sets off in search of a sanctuary where the dragons can be safe from humans, and encounters an evil dragon bent on destruction.

Hatching Magic
by Ann Downer
When a wyvern belonging to a thirteenth century wizard goes through a time hole to lay her egg, the hatchling is found by an 11-year-old girl in twenty-first century Boston.

The Dragonriders of Pern
by Anne McCaffrey
First book: Dragonflight
Humans bonded with dragons protect their planet from a threat that falls from the sky.

The Dragon Hunter’s Handbook
by Lori Summers
Everything you need to know to become a dragon hunter.

Dragonology: The Complete Book of Dragons
by Ernest Drake and Dugald Steer
Interactive guide to dragons.

Creatures and Monsters:

Artemis Fowl series
by Eoin Colfer
First book: Artemis Fowl
A teenage mastermind plans to steal the fairy gold and battles the elite fairy police

Deltora Quest
by Emily Rodda
First book: The Forests Of Silence
Three young companions are on a quest to recover the seven lost gems of the magic Belt of Deltora, to overthrow the Shadow Lord.

Harry Potter
by J.K. Rowling
First book: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
An orphaned boy learns he is a wizard, and attends Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians
by Rick Riordan
First book: The Lightning Thief
A boy with dyslexia and ADHD learns that the Greek gods still exist and that he’s really a demi-god and pursued by

Chronicles of Narnia
by C. S. Lewis
First book: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
The adventures of human children in the magical world of Narnia.

Tsubasa (manga)
by Clamp
A young man goes on a quest through alternate worlds to save his friend, when a mysterious symbol at an archaeological dig scatters her memories.

xxxHolic (manga)
by Clamp
Watanuki Kimihiro is tricked into becoming a servant to a witch, after he seeks her help in getting rid of the spirits that haunt him.

Firebringer trilogy
by Meredith Ann Pierce
First book: Birth of the Firebringer
The prince of the unicorns faces dangers as he and his friends go on a pilgrimage for their initiation.

Power of Three
by Diana Wynne Jones
Three children - two with special powers and one ordinary - may be the only ones who can break a curse on their


by K.A. Applegate
First book: The Invasion
Children who can morph into animals battle aliens to save the world.

The Host
by Stephanie Meyer
A woman whose mind is possessed by an alien refuses to submit to the alien, and together they seek the man she

Ender Series
by Orson Scott Card
First book: Ender’s Game
A young genius is trained to fight aliens attacking Earth.

This list was compiled from recommendations made by the members of the Wands and Worlds community, a fan site dedicated to children’s and teen fantasy and science fiction. The following members contributed to the list: Adderfang, AshfurForever24, Coalfang, CloudWind, Crescentmoon, Fireblossom, Forestpelt, Gingerleaf, Hawkstorm, Heartwing, Icestar, Kitten-Chan, Lightfrost, Losty, Mossflower, Rabbitfoot, Rathacat, Sandcloud, Sevenclaws, Shadow, SheilaRuth, Spirithunter, Spottedstar, Swiftstep, Tawny/Moony, Waterstripe, Wolf.
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Thursday, October 02, 2008

Kidlit auction closing soon!

I've posted a couple of times about the Brightspirit Relief Fund charitable auction that I've been working on, which is being held in memory of a 10-year-old girl named Emmy Cherry who lost her life, along with both of her parents, in a tornado that swept through central Arkansas. The auction is raising money for literacy, tornado and storm relief, and animal organizations, with a focus on the communities of Arkansas near Emmy's home town.

I wanted to let you know that the auction is closing this coming Saturday, October 4, at 5pm Eastern time, so if you were thinking about bidding on any of the items, don't delay much longer!

The auction has many autographed children's and young adult books and other kidlit-related items, donated by a variety of authors (and others). These are some of the newer items that were added since I last posted here:

  • Signed copies of Dragon Flight, Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow, and the forthcoming Princess of the Midnight Ball, donated by author Jessica Day George

  • Signed copies of Fell and The Alchemists of Barbal, donated by author David Clement-Davies

  • Signed copies of Into the Wild and Out of the Wild, donated by author Sarah Beth Durst

  • Signed copies of He's with Me and Save the Date, written by Erin Hunter #4 Tui Sutherland under the pen name Tamara Summers, signed by Tui

  • Signed photos of Tui Sutherland's adorable dog Sunshine

  • Three new Warriors shirts

  • A beautiful Arashi no Ryo dragon painting by Wands and Worlds community member Spirithunter.

  • A Warriors embroidered book bag, signed by Erin Hunter

  • A poster made from a painting of Brightspirit painted by Arkansas artist Roberta Gray, from descriptions sent to her by Erin Hunter

  • Various Warriors posters, signed by Erin Hunter

  • A picture of Brightspirit, Shiningheart, Braveheart, and Shasta, made by Wands and Worlds community member Silent

View all items at the auction home page
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Cybils 2008 nominations now open!

In case you hadn't heard, nominations are now open for the 3rd annual Children's and Young Adult Literary Bloggers awards, better known as the Cybils! Created by the community of children's literature bloggers in response to established children's book awards that seemed to place too much emphasis either on literary merit at the expense of kid appeal, or on popularity regardless of literary merit. The Cybils were created to find the balance between the two, and award those books with both kid appeal and literary merit. In the first two years, the Cybils have been wildly successful, recognizing great books that haven't always been recognized by the establishment, creating a stir in the children's book community, and, in turn, helping to bring the community together.

Nominations opened yesterday for the 2008 Cybils awards, and will close on October 15. Anyone can nominate a book by posting a comment on the appropriate category of the Cybils blog (one nomination per person per category, please). Books must be published between January 1 and October 15, 2008.

There have been many great books nominated already, but there's a lot of good ones that I don't see on the list yet, so go and nominate your favorite books of 2008! Be sure to look at the previous comments to make sure that the book you want to nominate hasn't already been nominated. Multiple nominations don't help a book - it's not a vote - so you'll basically be wasting your nomination if you suggest a book that's already been nominated.

Nominate your books in the appropriate category here:

If you aren't sure what category your book goes in, post it here. 

Read the rules and details here.
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