Thursday, November 27, 2008

Book Review: The City in the Lake

The City in the Lake
by Rachel Neumeier

Timou is the daughter of the mage Kapoen, growing up in a small, remote village. Timou never knew her mother; Kapoen brought her from the city as a baby with no explanation. Unlike her father and the other villagers, Timou is fair and pale, with light hair and pale eyes.

Under Kapoen's tutelage, Timou is learning to be a mage, to find the stillness which is the heart of magecraft. But when Timou is around Jonas, a young man recently moved to the village, she has difficulty finding the stillness, because of the confusion he causes in her heart.

Far from the village, past the great forest, is the City. The City is the heart of the kingdom, and the King is the heart of the City. But the King's younger son and heir has disappeared, taking the heart of the City with him. In Timou's village, the effect of the disappearance is felt when babies, both animal and human, start to be stillborn. Kapoen sets off to the City to try to help, warning Timou not to follow him no matter what happens. But when Kapoen doesn't come back, Timou ignores his warning and sets off to find her father.

The City in the Lake is an immensely satisfying book heavy with myth, metaphor, and symbol. It's beautifully written book with a fairy-tale feel but more depth than a fairy tale. It draws on myth and folklore for some of the imagery and elements, yet it's a wholly original tale.

This isn't a book that all teens will appreciate. I know teens that will love it, but I also know teens that will find the long symbolic passages of wandering through the forest to be boring. This is a book for teens (and adults) who love rich language, good writing, and depth of plot and characterization, but who don't need action around every turn. There is excitement, and suspense, and conflict, but it's not a fast-paced book.

It was also a pleasure to read a book that is complete in itself; so many of the books that I've read lately leave plot threads unresolved to set up for a sequel.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Book Review: Eon: Dragoneye Reborn

Eon: Dragoneye Reborn
by Alison Goodman

Twelve energy dragons protect the land, each dragon linked to a human Dragoneye, who channels the dragon's power in exchange for giving his hua, or life energy, to the dragon. The twelve dragons represent the twelve points on the compass and the twelve animals of the zodiac. Every year, one of the twelve dragons becomes the ascendant dragon. On New Years Day, twelve boys are presented to the newly ascendant dragon as candidates; the one chosen by the dragon becomes the new Dragoneye apprentice.

Eon is unusual among the candidates. Permanently crippled from a hip injury, he would normally not be eligible to be a candidate. But Eon can see the dragons - all of them - an exceedingly rare ability. Eon is unusual for another reason: Eon is really Eona, a girl. Girls are considered inferior, and not eligible to be Dragoneye candidates. If anyone were to find out that Eon is really a girl, it would mean death for her and her master, the man who discovered her and who is sponsoring her in her candidacy.

But there's more at stake then Eon's own future, as she soon finds herself caught up in court intrigue and power struggles for control of the empire.

Eon: Dragoneye Reborn is an original and fascinating fantasy which includes elements of several Asian cultures, although not based directly on any one specific culture. Gender identity is a key theme of the book, as the idea of what makes one male or female is explored throughout the book. Although the idea of a girl disguised as a boy is an old one, it's handled well and not always in the expected ways. So effective is Eon's deception that, even knowing that she's female, I'm struggling with whether to use the male or female pronoun in writing this review. There is also a Contraire, a woman in the body of a man, who is revered in her own land but reviled in this one, and only tolerated because she is a guest of the Emperor. There are also many eunuchs, some with male characteristics and some with female characteristics, and herbs that can temporarily alter the Sun (male) or Moon (female) energy in a person.

I found some of the key plot points to be predictable, but it didn't diminish my enjoyment of this well-written fantasy. Rather, I was so wrapped up in the story that I found myself shouting at Eon when I could see things that she hadn't figured out yet. There are many fascinating characters; in addition to Eon, I especially liked Lady Dela, the Contraire, Ryko, her eunuch guard, and Chart, a crippled boy living at Eon's master's house, and who is her friend.

Eon: Dragoneye Reborn is a richly detailed fantasy that will appeal to anyone who loves stories of exotic lands, court intrigue, interesting characters, power struggles, secrets, and personal heroism. It's the first book of duology; although the story is wrapped up in a satisfying way, there are some plot elements left unresolved.

As one would expect from a book that deals so extensively with gender, there are some mature elements (starting with the question of what is a eunuch.)

Eon: Dragoneye Reborn will be published on December 26, 2008.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Cool interviews! Anticipated sequels! My picks from the WBBT.

As you may know, the Winter Blog Blast Tour, organized by the fabulous Colleen Mondor of Chasing Ray, is going on right now throughout the Kidlitosphere. It's a great lineup of author interviews on a variety of kidlit blogs. I wish that I had the time to read all the interviews, but unfortunately, I don't, so I've been just dipping my toes in and reading the ones that interest me. Here are some of my favorites:

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Cybils 2008 Nominee Widget

There's a fresh new widget available from Jacketflap that rotates through the Cybils 2008 nominees and displays a different one with each page view:

Powered by

You can customize the widget to select the colors and which category or categories you want to display. Mine displays only the fantasy and science fiction nominees (both age groups) but you can display all nominees for all categories, if you want. I've added one to the sidebar - see it over there on the right (you might have to scroll down a bit). To get your own, click on the "get this widget" link in the widget itself, or click here to go to Jacketflap and get one

Book Review: The Mystery of the Fool & the Vanisher

The Mystery of the Fool & the Vanisher
by David and Ruth Ellwand

The Mystery of the Fool & the Vanisher is a fascinating and slightly creepy little story, told in the format of a journal-within-a-journal and illustrated with exquisite photographs. In the first journal, photographer David Ellwand follows a strange light through the woods to an old, dilapidated house, where he finds a locked chest. When he is able to get the chest open, he discovers that the chest contains some mysterious items, as well as what turns out to be wax phonograph recordings. The recordings tell the story of another photographer named Isaac Wilde, who in 1889 is commissioned as the official photographer on an archaelogical dig into an old hill fort believed to be inhabited by the faerie folk. What Isaac Wilde discovers at the site, and his attempts to photograph it, put him in conflict with the leader of the dig, and lead him, and Ellwand after him, into trouble.

I enjoyed The Mystery of the Fool & the Vanisher and found it an interesting, although quick, read. The photographs are beautiful, and worth going back and spending some time with after the first read. Some of them are pictures of natural settings, others are still life pictures of the "found items" and meticulously constructed out of natural objects. I studied photography as a teen, and had thoughts of being a professional photographer, so the photographs were definitely the highlight of this book for me. My favorite was a dramatic, sepia-toned photograph of the dilapidated house with clouds behind it.

Although I enjoyed the book, I'm not quite sure whether kids and teens would enjoy it or not, and who the audience may be. It may be too simplistic a story for the fiction readers, but too fictional for the non-fiction readers. I think it's most likely to find a home among kids who enjoy the "ology" books, because it has the same kind of "fiction as non-fiction" approach, although it lacks those books' interactivity. It also may appeal to visually-oriented young people and those with an artistic nature. This may be a book to put out in a library display and let kids be drawn in by the eerie cover and the beautiful photographs.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Cybils 2008 Nominees: Fantasy and Science Fiction: Teen

I just posted the list of Cybils 2008 nominees for Fantasy and Science Fiction: middle and elementary here. Now, here's the list of nominees for Fantasy and Science Fiction: Teen:

Adoration of Jenna Fox
written by Mary E. Pearson

Reviewed by: lainitaylor | Nettle |

written by Cliff McNish
Lerner Publishing Group

Reviewed by: Charlotte |

written by Heather Tomlinson
Henry Holt

Battle of the Labyrinth
written by Rick Riordan

Bewitching Season
written by Marissa Doyle
Henry Holt

Bite Me
written by Parker Blue
Bell Bridge

written by Lauren Myracle
Abrams for Young Readers

Reviewed by: EmsBookshelf | Nettle |

Book of Names
written by D. Barkley Briggs
NavPress Publishing Group

Breaking Dawn
written by Stephanie Meyer
Little, Brown

Reviewed by: EmsBookshelf | tcr |

written by Christopher Paolini
Random House Children's Books

Reviewed by: AmandaBlau |

written by Robin McKinley
Penguin USA

Reviewed by: Charlotte |

Charm for a Unicorn
written by Jennifer Macaire
Calderwood Books

Cherry Heaven
written by L. J. Adlington

Reviewed by: tcr |

City in the Lake
written by Rachel Neumeier
Random House Children's Books

City of Ashes
written by Cassandra Clare
Simon & Schuster

Reviewed by: AmandaBlau | tcr |

Crimson Thread
written by Suzanne Weyn
Simon & Schuster

Reviewed by: EmsBookshelf |

Curse Dark as Gold
written by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Reviewed by: EmsBookshelf | Nettle | tcr |

Cybele's Secret
written by Juliet Marillier
Knopf Books for Young Readers

written by Lauren McLaughlin
Random House Children's Books

Reviewed by: EmsBookshelf |

written by Stephanie Spinner
Knopf Books for Young Readers

Reviewed by: Nettle |

Dead and the Gone
written by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Dead Girl Walking
written by Linda Singleton

Reviewed by: Charlotte |

Dead Is the New Black
written by Marlene Perez

written by Simon Holt
Little, Brown

Reviewed by: Nettle |

written by Charles de Lint
Penguin USA

Dragon Heir, The
written by Cinda Williams Chima

Dream Girl
written by Lauren Mechling
Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers

Reviewed by: Nettle |

written by Claudia Gray

written by Jenny Davidson

First Duty
written by Marva Dasef
Sam's Dot Publishing

written by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Simon & Schuster

Reviewed by: Charlotte |

Generation Dead
written by Daniel Waters

Reviewed by: AmandaBlau | Nettle | tcr |

Ghosts of Kerfol
written by Deborah Noyes
Candlewick Press

written by Kristin Cashore

Reviewed by: AmandaBlau |

How to Ditch Your Fairy
written by Justine Larbalestier
Bloomsbury USA

Reviewed by: AmandaBlau | Charlotte |

Humming of Numbers
written by Joni Sensel
Henry Holt

Hunger Games, The
written by Suzanne Collins

Reviewed by: AmandaBlau | tcr |

written by Nancy Werlin
Penguin USA

Reviewed by: Nettle | tcr |

Penguin USA

In the Company of Whispers
written by Sally Lowenstein
Lion Stone Books

Ink Exchange
written by Melissa Marr

Invisible Touch
written by Kelly Parra

Knife of Never Letting Go
written by Patrick Ness
Candlewick Press

Lament:The Faerie Queen's Deception
written by Maggie Stiefvater

Last of the High Kings, The
written by Kate Thompson

written by Tom Becker
Franklin Watts

Little Brother
written by Cory Doctorow

Reviewed by: AmandaBlau | Nettle |

Lonely Werewolf Girl
written by Martin Millar
Soft Skull Press

Reviewed by: AmandaBlau |

Magician: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel
written by Michael Scott
Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers

Masks Rise of Heroes
written by Haydon Thorne

Melting Stones
written by Tamora Pierce

written by Marilee Brothers
Bell Bridge

Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit
written by Nahoko Uehashi

Must Love Black
written by Kelly McClymer
Simon & Schuster

written by Terry Pratchett

Night Road
written by A. M. Jenkins

Night World No. 1 : Secret Vampire/Daughters of Darkness/Spellbinder
Simon & Schuster

Reviewed by: tcr |

Nobody's Prize
written by Esther Friesner
Random House Children's Books

written by William Nicholson

Oh. My. Gods.
written by Tera Lynn Childs
Penguin USA

Reviewed by: tcr |

Other Book
written by Philip Womack
Bloomsbury USA

written by Obert Skye
Shadow Mountain

Poison Ink
written by Christopher Golden
Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers

Reviewed by: Nettle |

Posse of Princesses
written by Sherwood Smith
Norilana Books

Pretty Monsters
written by Kelly Link
illustrated by Shaun Tan
Penguin USA

Reviewed by: tcr |

Princess Ben
written by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
Houghton Mifflin

Reviewed by: EmsBookshelf |

Ranger's Apprentice: The Battle for Skandia
written by John Flanagan
Penguin USA

Ratha's Courage
written by Clare Bell
Imaginator Press

Reviewed by: Charlotte |

Red Necklace
written by Sally Gardner

written by Gemma Malley
Bloomsbury USA

written by Amanda Marrone
Simon & Schuster

Reviewed by: Nettle | tcr |

written by Catherine Fisher
Hodder Children's Books

Saving Juliet
written by Suzanne Selfors
Walker Books for Young Readers

Reviewed by: Charlotte |

Secret of Bailey's Chase
written by Marlis Day
Echelon Press

Secrets of the Survivors
written by Mark L. Eastburn

Sky Inside
written by Clare Dunkle
Simon & Schuster

written by Kenneth Oppel
Harper Collins Canada

Stone Crown
written by Malcolm Walker
Walker Books Australia

Stowaway: Stone of Tymora, Book I
written by R.A. Salvatore
and Geno Salvatore

Stranger to Command
written by Sherwood Smith
Norilana Books

Sucks to Be Me
written by Kimberly Pauley

Reviewed by: EmsBookshelf | tcr |

Summoning, The
written by Kelly Armstrong

Reviewed by: EmsBookshelf |

Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow
written by Jessica Day George
Bloomsbury USA

Reviewed by: Charlotte |

Swan Kingdom
written by Zoe Marriott
Candlewick Press

written by Carol Snow

Reviewed by: EmsBookshelf |

Tender Morsels
written by Margo Lanagan
Random House Children's Books

Tim, Defender of the Earth
written by Sam Enthoven
Penguin USA

Time Paradox
written by Eoin Colfer

Treason in Eswy
written by K. V. Johansen
Orca Books

Twelve Kingdoms, Volume 2: Sea of Wind
written by Fuyumi Ono

Two Pearls of Wisdom
written by Alison Goodman

Untamed: A House of Night Novel
written by PC Cast
and Kristin Cast
St. Martin's Griffin

Vampire Academy: Frostbite
written by Richelle Mead
Penguin USA

Reviewed by: tcr |

written by Lisa McMann
Simon & Schuster

Reviewed by: tcr |

Wild Talent

Reviewed by: Charlotte |

Worldweavers: Spellspam
written by Alma Alexander

Zoe's Tale
written by John Scalzi

Zombie Blondes
written by Brian James
Feiwel & Friends