Wednesday, October 31, 2007

More Books for the Beast

Because it's finally nice and cold and I'm actually wearing a sweater today, today's song is Ten Degrees and Getting Colder performed by Nanci Griffith.

A Great and Terrible Beauty Libba Bray

After the murder of her mother, Gemma Doyle is shipped from India to a stuffy finishing school in England. There she deals with the regular issues of popularity and clique-dom, as well ominious visions that have a bad habit of coming true. All she knows is that Circe is coming, but what that means besides growing shadows, she can't say.

Part historic fiction, part supernatural thriller, Bray attempts to explore the gilded cages Victorian women were forced to live in. In doing so, she's created a cast of thoroughly modern characters who never feel guilty for going against society's, and their mothers', expectations of them. It works much better on a supernatural-thriller level than the historical fiction level. The modernity of the characters in action and attitude didn't sit right.

I'm looking forward to reading Rebel Angels.

Raven's Gate (The Gatekeepers) Anthony Horowitz

Matt was given one chance to stay out of jail. He can go live in a remote village with a creepy, old lady, or go to jail. Once there, things are horribly worng. Anyone who tries to help him dies. When he tries to escape, all roads lead back to the same intersection...

I'll have to admit I haven't read it since I was in 4th grade, but it vaguely reminded me of The Dark Is Rising Sequence, but I can't put my finger on why.

Overall, a little underwhelming-- I expected more from Horowitz.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The song of the day is Senses Working Overtime by XTC. No real reason, it's just in my head.

Free Rice gives away 5 grains of rice to starving people for every vocabulary word you get right. Probably not the best way to feed the world, but it sure is fun.

Kampung Boy by Lat

Lat is one of the best known and loved cartoonists in Asia. He's won all the top awards in Malaysia and this is his classic, originally published in 1979, but finally available in English for our reading pleasure.

And pleasure it is.

This story starts with Mat's birth, in a small village in Malaysia. We follow him as he makes friends, goes to the Islamic school, fishes, and rides his bike into town to buy supplies with his dad.

There's no internal conflict or overreaching story arc besides life in general. A bit episodic and verging on nostalgic, it's a wonderful pick for kids and adults alike.

A funny look at childhood, it's Lat's drawings that make this story so phenomenal. His figures are simple, but their facial expressions are priceless, as are all of the teeth and tongues.

The circumcision scene is my favorite.

Town Boy by Lat

This is the most welcome sequel and follows Mat from the kampung to Ipoh, where his entire family moves after selling off their land to the tin company. Here, Matt grows up and we follow him through middle and high school. He makes new friends, goes on dates, and starts seriously studying art.

A must-have for those who enjoyed Kampung Boy, one only hope that a third is on its way, as the ending is even more bittersweet than that of the its predecessor.

Full disclosure: Town Boy was provided by the publisher at ALA after I did a little squeal when seeing it.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Let's Go Red Sox (clap clap clapclapclap)

What a long couple of days it's been. Dan and I were going to go out tonight, but I feel asleep while he was looking up movie times. Now I'm up and we're watching the baseball game (bottom of the 7th) and playing Scrabble.

Except we're super-dorks and playing Scrabble on Facebook, which means we're sitting next to each other on the couch, with our laptops in our, um, laps and playing.

Today was Books for the Beast. Gail Giles gave a great talk. You wouldn't know it from her books, but that woman is hilarious. With a most excellent pair of pink shoes.

There were book discussions and then Mark Siegel gave a most excellent talk about his work both as a graphic novelist and as the Editorial Director for :01. You know how obsessed I am with them.

Yesterday I went to the doctor and got my flu shot and so now my arm hurts.

The day before that I went to Kids Are Customers, hosted by the Maryland Library Association. I got to spend some time with Susan of Wizards Wireless and Julie of Reader's Carousel.

There was a lot of great information (I'm already geared up for next summer's Summer Reading Program. Oiy.) and Lulu Delacre. I'm still processing a lot of stuff from both days.

Book reviews and more information will follow.

And with that, the Sox have won the game and Dan has wiped the floor with me Scrabble-wise.

Ah well.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Horror Weekend

Hmmmm... my 48 Hour Challenge training weekend did not exactly go down as planned. I blame the Oxygen network for showing What a Girl Wants (horrible movie that I love) followed immediately by Bend It Like Beckham. If I didn't have that party to go to, I don't think I ever would have gotten off the couch.

But, I did get some reading done:

What Happened to Cass McBride? Gail Giles

Cass is the horrible, awful, perfect, resume-packer "it" girl of her high school. David Kirby (loser) asked her out. Cass wrote a bitchy note to her best friend. David Kirby read it and hung himself.

David's brother Kyle wants Cass to suffer for what she did. He wants Cass to pay for all the pain she caused David and others. Kyle wants Cass to pay. So he drugs her, kidnaps her, and buries her alive.

Told in multiple perspectives-- Cass, Kyle, and a third person narrative of the lead detective trying to find her, Giles has written an engrossing psychological study--both of Kyle and of Cass. It's suspense and will keep you turning the pages. Make sure you finish it well before bedtime.

Now, lots of manga. (This is a series-- later reviews will have minor spoilers for earlier titles. You've been warned)

Death Note, Volume 1: Boredom Tsugumi Ohba

Shinigami (death gods) have notebooks in which they write down people's names. Once in the book, the person dies. Ryuk (a Shinigami) is bored and drops his notebook. Once a human picks it up, it belongs to the human. Light Yagami picks it up and starts killing off criminals, one by one, making a safer and better world.

L is an unseen super-detective brought in to solve the case. What L doesn't know is that Light's father is in charge of the case. Knowing the moves of the police allows Light to always stay one move ahead, but for how long?

A really fun read. I checked out the rest that my library had right away.

Death Note, Volume 2: Confluence Tsugumi Ohba

Light knows Ray's name. But how to get the names of the other FBI agents? Meanwhile, L is working much more closely with the police. In person, in fact.

L suspects Light and Light knows it. It's a battle of wits and will. Who will come out ahead?

I love the way L and Light second guess each other's intentions. A great look into to genius minds.

Death Note, Volume 3: Hard Run Tsugumi Ohba

So, L has placed 64 microphones and cameras in Light's room. They're tricky to work around, but nothing Light can't handle is Ryuk can lay off the apples for awhile.

Meanwhile, L has approached Light at school and started to forge a friendship. Light knows L suspects him and is constantly aware of being watched and scrutinized.

Then, Light's father has a heart attack. Light knows it's not Kira, but it also seems there's a new Kira in town-- one that threatens to blow everything out of the water.

Death Note, Volume 4: Love

The new Kira has tracked Light down and fallen madly in love with him, much to Light's chagrin. But, the new Kira has Shinigami eyes, so she may be helpful after all.

Meanwhile, L has asked Light to join the taskforce, but still highly suspects him, which Light knows.

Things are getting good here, but I have to say, Misa Misa annoys me. She's so annoyingly girly. The only good thing is I think she annoys Light as well.

Death Note, Vol. 5: Whiteout

Misa Misa and Light have both given up their Deathnotes. They no longer have any memories of anything, or of being Kira.

Too bad that as soon as Light went into lockup, all the killings stopped so L suspects him more than ever. To compensate, L has handcuffed himself to Light at all times.

But a new crime wave has hit. Not only are criminals dying, but so are strategic businessmen. It all leads to a group of 8 young men at the Yotsuba corporation.

Misa and Light have no idea how Kira's working, but the investigation is heating up.

Light's given up the deathnote, which means no more Ryuk, which is too bad. I liked him. I hope we get more in the future.

Death Note, Volume 6: Give-And-Take

L has Misa infiltrate the Yotsuba group to see which one of them is Kira. The new Kira has Rem's notebook. Rem respected what Misa did with the book but is sick at how the new guy is treating it. Rem touches her with the notebook, so she (Rem's a she!) can talk to Misa again.

Rem tells Misa everything. Rem wants Light to succeed, and tells Misa to follow Light's plans exactly. But Misa doesn't listen.

Light still doesn't know he's Kira, but L suspects him more than ever.

Saturday, October 20, 2007


First things first, there are three additions to the blogrolls, one to each. I decided to put Bittersweet under "Bookish Blogs" because Molly tends to write about books more than anything else. YA readers, keep an eye out for Miss Molly. Trust me.

Also, Diversey Grand is back to blogging, so she'll go on, because she's cool.

AND! Working with Diversey and some other cool women, my new project is Puffery. We talk about toiletries and stuff. If you think I have opinions on books, don't get me started on bubble bath. And really, the bathtub is the best place to read books, right? It's still in its infancy, but I hope you'll check us out.

Next week Saturday, I'm going to Books for the Beast, a YA lit conference up in Baltimore.

There are two small group lit discussions, each with a 5 title reading list. I should, uh, probably get cracking on that, shouldn't I?

OK, that's a little disingenuous, as there were a few items on the list I've already read. (Private Peaceful was reviewed here and Revenge of the Witch which I blathered on about recently here. Also, Kampung Boy which is part of my reviewing backlog.)

Earlier this week, I finished two of the books. So that leaves 5 to go. So, basically, this is a read and blog weekend. I'm considering myself in training for next year's 48 hour challenge. But with a paper to write for school. And a bunch of reviews to write that aren't for the blog. And a bunch that are. My "to review" pile is staggering up. Not to mention the list. I have about 64 unblogged books right now. Aiyo.

Anyway, the ones I've read so far are... (hopefully, by the time I'm done posting, I'll know if I want pizza or Chinese for dinner and will have stopped craving sharp cheddar cheese. I don't want to go to the grocery store. It's raining. Finally.)


Double Helix by Nancy Werlin

There's always been something special about Eli. Something he can't quite put his finger on. His mother is dying a horrible, prolonged death from Huntington's. His father his pushing him to get the genetic test. Eli doesn't want to know. What would he do if the answer was yes and he knew what would happen when he reached middle age?

On a drunken impulse, Eli writes an email to Dr. Wyatt, a father of modern transgenics, asking for a job as he takes a year off between high school and college. By some miracle, he gets it. Eli's father is dead set against Eli taking the job. Eli knows his parents knew Dr. Wyatt when they were students, but what is the mystery?

How many basements does Wyatt Transgenics have?

This book raises many of the basic questions about medical and bio ethics. The twisty ending is fairly predictable, but it's very well written and a good read.

I'm just not entirely sure why it's in the suspense/horror category. I guess it's kinda suspenseful. Overall though, a good read.

No Shame, No Fear by Ann Turnbull

This is for the historical fiction section.

At the beginning of the English Restoration, Susanna Thorn leaves her rural home to find work in the city. Her father is in prison and the government has taken their cow, bed, and loom to make up for the tithes to the Church that her Quaker family hasn't paid.

William Heywood is the son of an alderman. He's just finished studying at Oxford and at the end of the summer, will start his apprenticeship to a silk merchant in London.

William and Susanna meet by chance and can't stop thinking of each other. Risking scandal, William seeks her out at meeting. They fall in love. Parliament passes the Quaker Act and meeting is outlawed. With the tumult and chaos of all the adults in their lives going to jail, William and Susanna cling to each other even more.

Told in alternating points of view, Turnbull writes a gripping and terrifying account of Quaker persecution. She works in an amazing amount of detail and history without it ever stepping over the story.

My only problems lie in the love affair. Will turns to Quakerism and leaves the values he was raised with behind at the drop of a hat. It seems really sudden. He never really questions turning away from his family and the luxury he was raised in.

Also, they go a lot further than you usually see in historical fiction. (Seventeenth century petting?!) I'm wavering on this. I know what was "proper" in the context, but hormones are hormones, and I've also wondered if there is a research gap between the proper ideal and the practice of real life.

That said, the Chinese food is on its way I need to go find out What Happened to Cass McBride?

Friday, October 19, 2007

autumn leaves were turning to the color of her hair...

I am not happy this October. October should be about sweaters and the smell of neighbors with fireplaces enjoying them. October is crunching leaves and pumpkin pie and early bathches of mulled wine.

October is not in the high 70s. (Really DC? High 70s? In October? Why do you hate me so?)

le sigh

I am a northern girl at heart.

But, in books, things are different. My picks for October are up at the Biblio File Store. Be sure to check those out and support my book habit.

Here is today's poem. It's really a song. Lots of people have sung and I'm not sure who wrote it. It contains my favorite lines about fall When you knew that it was over/ Were you suddenly aware/ That the autumn leaves were turning/ To the color of her hair

Round, like a circle in a spiral
Like a wheel within a wheel.
Never ending or beginning,
On an ever spinning wheel
Like a snowball down a mountain
Or a carnaval balloon
Like a carousell that's turning
Running rings around the moon

Like a clock whose hands are sweeping
Past the minutes on it's face
And the world is like an apple
Whirling silently in space
Like the circles that you find
In the windmills of your mind

Like a tunnel that you follow
To a tunnel of it's own
Down a hollow to a cavern
Where the sun has never shone
Like a door that keeps revolving
In a half forgotten dream
Or the ripples from a pebble
Someone tosses in a stream.

Like a clock whose hands are sweeping
Past the minutes on it's face
And the world is like an apple
Whirling silently in space
Like the circles that you find
In the windmills of your mind

Keys that jingle in your pocket
Words that jangle your head
Why did summer go so quickly
Was it something that I said
Lovers walking allong the shore,
Leave their footprints in the sand
Was the sound of distant drumming
Just the fingers of your hand

Pictures hanging in a hallway
And a fragment of this song
Half remembered names and faces
But to whom do they belong
When you knew that it was over
Were you suddenly aware
That the autumn leaves were turning
To the color of her hair

Like a circle in a spiral
Like a wheel within a wheel
Never ending or beginning,
On an ever spinning wheel
As the images unwind
Like the circle that you find
In the windmills of your mind

Pictures hanging in a hallway
And the fragment of this song
Half remembered names and faces
But to whom do they belong
When you knew that it was over
Were you suddenly aware
That the autumn leaves were turning
To the color of her hair

Like a circle in a spiral
Like a wheel within a wheel
Never ending or beginning,
On an ever spinning wheel
As the images unwind
Like the circles that you find
In the windmills of your mind

You can listen to a great version here: Les Moulins De Mon Coeur (The Windmills Of Your Mind) by Toots Thielemans but, it looks like Napster changed the way they do things? So maybe you can't just listen for free all nice and easy anymore? Or is it just because I'm blogging this from the computer I have Napster downloaded onto? Anyway, it's a good song.

It will be sweater weather soon, right? Please?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Scary, Cold Winters

The Last Apprentice: Night of the Soul Stealer by Joseph Delaney

After Revenge of the Witch, I wondered how quickly the premise would get old and these books start to all read the same. Three books in, this hasn't happened yet, and I'm starting to think it won't.

The weather is cooling and it's time for Tom and the Spook to move to his winter house. It promises to be a long, cold winter and Anglezarke is nowhere near as nice as Chippenden. There's no garden-- the witches and boggarts are buried in the basement. The Spook's past is coming back to haunt Tom with dire consequences. It's going to be a bitter winter, and when the Spook is taken out of comission, it's up to Tom to make sure that spring will eventually come.

The dark is gathering forces and it's starting to become obvious that these first few volumes in the series are just the warm-up for what's about to come. I can't wait.

(Reviews of Revenge of the Witch here, Curse of the Bane here)

Monday, October 15, 2007

I'm a Card-Carrying Library Card Carrier!

I went back to my Alma Mater this weekend to help plan my 5 year reunion. Even though it will really have been 6 years. My college was weird like that, and in a lot of different ways.

Dan and I were invited to a house party and served a mixed beverage that entails Keystone Light and Sunny D. And everyone freaking out and getting down to the exact same song we all freaked out and got down to back in the day. (For your listening enjoyment, I present you with that SAME song. So you can freak out and shake your booty. Like A Prayer)

I wandered around new buildings and old buildings and was comforted that the old smells were still there.

And, while looking for the Chinese department so I could say a hearty ni hao to my old profs, I accidentally stumbled into Kelly's office. Well, outside her office. I met her later for coffee. She gave me more books and Dan was not amused. :)

Do you know did amuse Dan? And myself? This:

I Am America (And So Can You!) by Stephen Colbert

[T]his book is for America's Heroes. And who are the Heroes? The people who bought this book. That bears repeating. People who borrow this book are not Heroes. They are no better then welfare queens mooching off the system like card-carrying library card-carriers. For the record, we're not offering this book to libraries no free rides.

For the record, welfare queen that I am, I got it at the library.

For those of you without a TiVo who like to go to bed a resaonable hour and therefore might not be familiar, The Colbert Report is a spin-off of The Daily Show. What Daily Show does to fake news, Colbert does to fake punditry. In a perfect send up of The O'Reilly Factor, Colbert offers biting social and political commentary in a way that frequently makes me want to pee my pants in laughter.

And now it's in book form. Reading much like Colbert's monologues (with margin notes that read a bit like an extended segment of "The Word") we get his faux-conservative thoughts on everything from Immigrants to Family, Sex, and Science. And it comes with stickers!

Parts of it, especially in the beginning, go on a bit long, but overall, it's pretty hysterical. I highly recommend it along with Jon Stewart's America (The Book).

And, some thoughts to leave you with:

Think books aren't scary? Well, think about this: you can't spell "Book" without "Boo!"

On why you don't need to take comparative religions? Jesus Wins

Why not take Women on Women: The Literature of Liberation? It's not what you think

"In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth." Sorry, Darwin-huggers, bit it's not "In the beginning, a monkey evolutioned gay marriage."

Nothing is less American than the Army-Navy game. Whichever side you pick you're rooting
against our boys.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Super Super Spy!

So, maybe it's just girl detective week here at Biblio File. (Well, probably not, as I think I'm out of girl detective books.)

Anyway, I was going to say some other things not book related, but they all sound cool in my head and then really dumb when typed out. Ah well.

Today's song is one of my favorites. Erin McKeown's Float

Anyway, regular readers may well be aware that Kirsten Miller's Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City was one of my favorite books last year. (And, I'd like to give a huge shout out to Ms. Miller, who read my blog and my plea for a t-shirt and hooked me up.)

Well, Miller has completely outdone herself with Kiki Strike: The Empress's Tomb.

Not to completely take myself back to 3rd grade, but I feel I need point out one of the main lessons of this book:

Secrets secrets are no fun
Secrets secrets hurt someone

You'd think that, after what happened last time, the girls would know that they have to be honest and open with each other. You'd think they know they have to trust each other.

But, because of some very big, explosive secrets, everyone assumes Oona has gone over to the dark side and won't give her the benefit of the doubt. And something's wrong with Kiki, but she's not telling.

But who has time to worry? Giant squirrels are mugging innocent New Yorkers, there's a hungry ghost on the loose, the Irregulars keep finding kidnapped Taiwanese children, and psychologists are just weird. And, on top of it all, Ananka's grounded and about to sent off to boarding school.

There are some very bad things going down in New York, and there's only one band of renegade girl scouts up to the job. But they might just have to save themselves first.

This is even better than the first (who thought that was possible?!) The stakes are higher, the twists are um... twistier... the secrets are bigger, deeper, and will keep you guessing. Plus, it has a hungry ghost, and you know how much I love hungry ghosts. If I had to have one complaint, I was surprised Ananka didn't already know about hungry ghosts. She knows everything! Especially about ghosts!

Now, when I finished the last one, I said that couldn't tell if it was a series, but I hoped it was. The last sentence of this one? Definitely another book coming, and now I really, really can't wait. And my buddy icon hasn't changed.

But, if you haven't read Kiki Strike yet, get thee to a library or book store. Get both books now. Check out the website. (I can't wait until the store is up!) You'll thank me.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Super Spy!

First things first, the new translation of Pippi Longstocking illustrated by the most wonderful Lauren Child is now out. I saw some sample pages at ALA and *drool*.

But today, I thought we'd deal with some old school mysteries. And when I say old school, I mean old school. Super old school. So, today's song is Secret Agent Man.

Anyway, I would like to give a shout out to the fabulous Miss Dana, who loaned me these books in the first place, because she collects first editions of such things-- before they were repeatedly revised.

But, before we get the mysteries, let's put some things in context.

So, first up we have The Girl Sleuth: on the trail of Nancy Drew, Judy Bolton, and Cherry Ames by Bobbie Ann Mason

Despite being subtitled "On the trail of Nancy Drew, Judy Bolton, and Cherry Ames," Girl Sleuth spends most of its time discussing Nancy Drew, Honey Bunch, and the Bobbsey Twins. Mason has written a nice, light read on girl mysteries and their feminism roots. The problem lies in that she never entirely figured out what her thesis was. Part of my feels that Mason's upset because Nancy didn't grow up to have the same ideas she did. She spends a lot of time justifying why she loved and read them so much as a kid and how they were really good for her. And then goes on to blast them for being sexist and a bad influence on today's (which, at publication, would be the 70s) youth.

The feminism angle is heavy on 70s second wave rhetoric and some of the coded sexual language seems far fetched (hidden items as virginity and villains as symbolic rapists.)

I much preferred Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her by Melanie Rehak (which is the only book today that Dana didn't loan me. I loaned this one to her.)

In this Girl Sleuth, Rehak gives a very interesting account of the Strademeyer Syndicate who oversaw the ghost-writing of a lot of early century series books for kids. She also profiles Mildred Wirt and Harriet Adams-- the two women who were Carolyn Keene. There is also a great history of women's liberation and its effect on Nancy Drew. Very well done and very readable. I highly recommend it to those who are interested in a history of Nancy Drew.

But now, onto the books

Nancy Drew: The Secret of the Old Clock by Carolyn Keene

Now, this is not the same book I read a few summers ago and discussed here. This is the original. It jumps straight to the plot and is ludicrously un-PC. I have no idea how Nancy finds out about Mr. Crowley's will. It also takes much earlier than the current version. You can tell because of such sentences as "His wife had died during the influenza epidemic following the World War." And such sentences that I now find funny sad, "She was anything but attractive, for she was tall and slender to the point of being 'skinny'." More offensive, but better written than what's being published now.

The Bobbsey Twins in Washington Laura Lee Hope

So, the Bobbsey's all go to Washington and have many adventures and solve a mystery involving things I don't remember. What I remember is that Mr. and Mrs. Bobbsey are the WORST parents in the world. There 5-year-old regularly completely wanders off all through DC and no one (a) notices or (b) cares. Yes, for kids to solve crimes and have adventures, there has to be a certain amount of lack of adult supervision, but this was ridiculous. As was the portrayal of African-Americans. Wow.

The Clue of the Stone Lantern Margaret Sutton

Ok, this one, I really enjoyed. There are some gender role issues, but Judy seems to fight them. The mystery was really cool and I didn't feel like smacking most of the characters. This is a series I could definitely read more of. Also, rather well written. I mean, I was actually a little scared when Judy got herself in scary situations. Usually, with Nancy Drew I just yawn. Kids should still be reading this. Even if Judy is grown up and married and stuff.

Dana Girls: By the Light of the Study Lamp Carolyn Keene

So, when I know I won't get to review a book for awhile, I make notes to myself so I remember. I will give someone a prize if they can decipher the following for me:

"same ghostwriter as Nancy--liked black people though! in all of them! terrible!"

No idea what that means, besides something on my view of race relations in the Dana Girls world. But pro or con? I liked the book. I liked how (a) there were two girls and they were both strong and neither was a dumb side kick and (b) they were at boarding school so that solved the no parents issue. Plus, I like boarding school stories. This was my second favorite of the bunch.

Dana sent me a whole 'nother batch of these super old school mysteries, so I'll be curling up with some more soon. Maybe if it ever actually gets like fall--it's mid October and in the upper 80s WTF?! is up with that?!

Saturday, October 06, 2007


Want to hear something totally embarrassing? There are books I read last October that I haven't reviewed yet. Yeah, I'm really that far behind. (Well, kinda. I've been really good this summer about blogging a book shortly after I read it, but there's all this stuff from before then... oiy.)

Today's song is Tyrone [Live Version] by Erykah Badu. It has nothing to do with anything, it's just in my head.

Oh, and I'm over at Geek Buffet today, talking about banned books. I hope y'all take a look at the banned books lists in the right sidebar. The 2007 list has had a lot of books added in the past week or so.

Anyway, some good books for an upcoming winter, with short reviews because I read them a really long time ago...

As Simple as Snow by Gregory Galloway

Otherwise known as the book that totally ruined Looking for Alaska for me.

Our nameless protaganist is just a normal guy, until he meets Anna, the new girl in town. Anna's written an obituary for everyone in town. Anna likes codes-- especially the one developed by the Houdini's and is obsessed with the numbers stations.

But then, Anna disappears, her dress found by a hole in the ice. But is she gone? And if she is, where?

Haunting and tragic. Be sure to check out the website.

I may have been the last person on earth to read Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke.

I liked it. English magicians have long studied magic, but few have dared try to actually use it. But Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell will break that taboo to help England win the Napoleonic Wars and become the toast of London society. Their partnership will turn to rivalry and the fairies aren't really that happy about any of it, either.

A delightful Regency comedic romp, complete with footnotes about the history of English magic.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Of Plums and Kitchens

Yesterday was staff in-service day at work. The closing speaker was E. Ethelbert Miller, editor of Poet Lore. He read a fantastic poem by Tim Barnes, "Spoons, an Appreciation" but I can't find a copy of it to share with you.

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about the poetry and beauty of the everyday. So, I share this one with you today.

"This is Just to Say"

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the ice box

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

--William Carlos Williams

Emily Beeson at whimsy has the round up!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Urban Fantasy

Well, the song of the day is...Cibelle's London, London. I find it fitting... also, is anyone listening to the music I post? I'd love some feedback on the new feature!

Un Lun Dun by China Mieville

As Mieville primarily writes for adults, this book got a lot of buzz from places that normally wouldn't look twice at a children's book.

Sadly, as most of these reviewers haven't picked up a children's book since they were children, they might have over-hyped it a bit as best thing written for children EVER.

Now, it is really good. Really, really good and I was going to nominate for a Cybil, but someone beat me to the punch.

Zanna and Deeba are two council estate girls in London. Weird things have been happening-- graffiti praising Zanna's name and animals paying attention to her. During a sleepover, the girls see a broken umbrella hovering under the window, they follow it. There they discover UnLondon, an abcity, an underground world built out of London's junk and cast offs.

Included in the junk and cast offs is the smog-- London's pollution is not only malevolent, but it has a mind of its own. UnLondon needs the Shwazzy, the chosen one who will lead them through the tough times again. Zanna is that Shwazzy.

Except, when they come back to London, Zanna doesn't remember anything, so it's up to Deena to save the city, no matter what the prophesy says.

Mieville's world is intricate and well thought out. Deeba's accent, however, is uneven. Being an estate kid, she will often use double negatives and will say "fink" instead of "think" but, amazingly enough, she never drops her final "g"s. A reader will go for pages listening to Deeba speak in standard English, and then one word will slip in-- it jars the reader and pulls them out of the story a bit.

However, and I think this is one of the only books I will ever say this for, if you like Harry Potter, especially later, darker Potter, I would recommend this book. (Especially if you're still pondering Dumbledore's feelings on prophesy.)

I'm still having nightmares about giraffes. I promise, you'll never look at them the same way again...

Fablehaven Brandon Mull

So, I really enjoyed Miss Erin's review of Fablehaven: Rise of the Evening Star, but thought maybe I should start with the first book in the series. So I did.

Kendra and Seth aren't all that excited to spend the month with their Grandpa and Grandma Sorensen. They don't visit that often, Kendra and Seth have never been to their house, and, well, come to think of it, no one's seen Grandma in awhile at all.

When they get there, Grandpa has all of these weird rules that really put a dent in their fun. It doesn't take the kids long to figure out something very, very strange is going on at Grandma and Grandpa's...

What's strange is that Grandma and Grandpa are caretakers of Fablehaven-- a refugee for mythical creatures. Now that their eyes are open, Kendra and Seth can see fairies and satyr's and naiads... But even now that the rules make sense, Seth still can't follow them and the consequences are disastrous.

Overall, Fablehaven is fun adventure, but Mull has obviously spent time poring over folklore and fairytales to weave into his well thought-out world and plot.

I'm very much looking forward to getting my hands on a copy of the next one!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

National Book Festival

Welcome to DC! Home of the Library of Congress's National Book Festival!

I had some issues getting out of bed, so Dan tried to drive me into town, but a lot of it was shut down. So, he dropped me off and I trotted off, catching some of the sights along the way.

Finally! The Festival!

With the Capital!

Mrs. Frizzle was there, along with her Magic School Bus.

I wanted to go inside, but the line was looooooooooooooong.

Arthur was there, along with The Berenstain Bears and other PBS characters.

And of course, I got to hang out with the fantastic Sara Lewis Holmes, author of Letters from Rapunzel

Gail Carson Levine read from her new book Fairy Haven and the Quest for the Wand. It's obvious she's used to talking to school groups and it was crowded event.

Then I ran over to see Nancy Pearl.

Funny lady!

Holly Black gave a fascinating talk about urban fantasy and urban legends and folklore. Even though she read from Ironside: A Modern Faery's Tale (sequel to Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale) most of the questions were about The Spiderwick Chronicles.

Gene Yuen Lang (of the most awesome American Born Chinese gave a great talk about comics and why you shouldn't get into them. (He had 3 reasons why, but I can only remember 2-- you'll slowly starve to death and it's not sexy. I think the third was the fact they take forever to draw and write.) His kids are super-cute and his talk was great.

Patricia McCormick talked about her research for and the writing process involved in her book Sold which I haven't read yet, but now I absolutely must.

Then, to wrap of the day, M. T. Andersen gave a great talk about the American Revolution, inspiration (including some great stories about what his experiences working at McDonalds that went into Burger Wuss), and getting into the eighteenth century voice. (Oh, and because I was wondering, I asked, and the next Octavian Nothing comes out NEXT fall.

All in all a great day! Also, if you've made it this far with me, Cybils nominations are open, so get over there already! And the song of the day is Polaris and Waiting For October...