Let the festivities begin!

It's Cybils season again! The bloggers' choice award for the best children's and YA books of the year. I participated last year as a panelist in the Middle Grade Fiction category, and this year I'm very excited to be part of the Graphic Novels panel! I just can't wait for all the nominations! So if you've read a good one that was published between Oct 2008 and Oct 2009, be sure to mention it on the Cybils blog in October. That goes good books in other genres as well.

If you're looking for good books to read, I highly recommend browsing the Cybils shortlists from past years (link in the sidebar). Some of my favorites have been discovered there.

Announcing the Graphic Novels panel for the 2009 Cybils:

Graphic Novels Panel

We've been working hard behind the scenes on the judging assignments, and we've put together an enthusiastic panel of fans and bloggers to read the best in graphic novels for both young adult and elementary/middle grade audiences.

Panel Organizer: Liz Jones, Liz Jones Books

Panelists (Round I Judges):

Alyssa Feller, The Shady Glade
Maggi Idzikowski, Mama Librarian
Liz Jones (see panel organizer)
Nicola Manning, Back to Books
Kim Rapier, Si, se puede! Yes we can
Gina Ruiz, AmoXcalli
Alysa Stewart, Everead

Judges (Round II):

Walter Biggins, The Quiet Bubble
Justin Colussy-Estes, Guys Lit Wire
Sarah Sammis, Puss Reboots
Sarah Stevenson, Finding Wonderland
Casey Titschinger, Bookworm 4 Life

Son of the Shadows

Post by Ashley
Wow, cool follow-up to Daughter of the Forest, which I loved. This second book in the trilogy follows Sorcha's three grown children, mainly her daughter Liadan, through twisting trials, romance, and tragedies, always driving toward the ultimate goal of reclaiming the three sacred islands that are still under British occupation.

As with many fantasy books, there's a prophecy, but unlike some others, the person destined to fulfill that prophecy isn't immediately clear. Two books into the trilogy, I think we've finally figured out who will bring peace to the warring people in the story.

The writing is beautiful, as always. The story is intricate and very human. The characters are deep and independent and so varied. I love that about all of Juliet Marillier's books. Each person is a personality. So check out this series if you're feeling an itching for a new fantastical literary experience. As with the first one, this contains more adult content than I would deem appropriate for a young teen. So I'll recommend it for 16-18-ish and up.

Frogs and Mice

Two picture books I loved recently:

Nic Bishop Frogs -- Fantastic, amazing photographs! And very nice text as well. Not too heavy, not too light. Its books like these that make me go to the Juvenile non-fiction section more often than the regular ol' stuff. I mean seriously. When there are such fascinating, understandable texts on the ground floor, why would I go upstairs and try to wade through something dull? Love it.

Once Upon a Twice -- by Denise Doyen, illustrated by Barry Moser. Found this one over at the PlanetEsme blog, and she likened it to Jabberwocky. I LOVE Jabberwocky! The version illustrated by Graeme Base. Aaaanyway. This one is not exactly like Jabberwocky, I mean, Carroll made up SO many new words with that one. Practically every other word at the beginning is nonsense. Once Upon a Twice does more with wordplay than word invention. Still, I was tickled by it. And the illustrations are the perfect atmosphere. Check it out!

Emiko Superstar, and Persepolis

I've found myself drawn to graphic novels lately (hehe, get it?). I recently read two that caught my eye.

Emiko Superstar
by Mariko Tamaki and Steve Rolston-- This one won the Cybils award for YA Graphic Novel last year. With that kind of recommendation, I didn't want to pass it up. And I'm glad I read it. It was interesting. I can't say it was my favorite -- I had some issues with it. But as far as writing and illustrating quality? Top Notch. As far as engaging and appealing? Very nice. My issues were more along these lines: Why didn't Emiko break sooner? Why didn't she tell anyone what really went on? And how did she get away with it for so long? So, I guess I don't relate personally very much to Emiko. But I think that the book asks valuable questions about art, life, honesty, etc. What is it about? How one summer can change everything. And how Emiko became a superstar, of course.

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi-- I've heard this one mentioned in the realm of YA, but I categorize it adult. Its the life story of a girl in Iran. An autobiography. It is fascinating, and the artwork is just perfect. I really think the art makes the book successful. In this sort of scenario -- where we're getting scenes from Marjane Satrapi's life -- the facial expressions tell you just what she thinks of it all, as it's happening. If it were all written out, it would be too wordy! Either too gushy or too austere. Anyway. I wasn't thrilled with the ending, but it obviously couldn't have been any other way. And it ended symbolically as well. The first panels tell about Marji's first experiences with wearing the veil, and I assume that the last panel is the last time she's worn it. The humor is great. The language gets coarse, occasionally. And I'm glad it's not my life story. But I'm glad I read it.

Silksinger Released!

Silksinger by Laini Taylor is officially released today! Yay! It's a good one! You can read my review here. You can win a copy from the author herself here. If you haven't heard about this one yet, you'll want to start with the first book, Blackbringer. Have fun!


Forest Born by Shannon Hale is out! I just finished reading it! :D Review to come soon!

Going back in time, but not too far...

I recently read a couple of good old fashioned books.

The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall -- Winner of the National Book Award, this one is very fun. It makes you think. Well, it made me think about days gone by. The days of my childhood. The days of those old live action Disney movies with Hayley Mills in them. The Penderwick family spends the summer vacation in a new place -- on the grounds at Arundel (fictional mansion). I had absolutely no trouble picturing them, because it wasn't too long ago that we took a day trip to the grounds at Allerton (real mansion). The characters are a delight and there is just enough suspense to keep you reading.

Little Heathens by Mildred Armstrong Kalish -- This one is non-fiction. It is "hard times and high spirits on an Iowa farm during the Great Depression." And you know, this book could have been SO boring! But it was really quite interesting. I think my father would enjoy it. He likes to look at what everyday life was like for those who have gone before us. It was occasionally fun to see her describe things that I've done. And occasionally frustrating to here her comment "young people these days will never know..." ha! You underestimate us, old woman! No, I'm just kidding. But I read this one for my book club and we really enjoyed discussing it.

Catching Fire

Post by Ashley
The second installment in the Hunger Games trilogy just came out at the beginning of this month. We had a low grocery bill last week, so I justified adding the $12 book to the cart instead of waiting for four months for my name to come up on the library waiting list. Just like the first, the storyline and writing are extremely engaging. It's the kind of book you shouldn't pick up on a day when you have lots of other things to do. Because the other things you have to do simply won't get done.

The first half of the book was relatively slower paced (though still gripping), but a surprising midbook twist will have you biting your fingernails all the way to the last page. Definite cliffhanger.

As a cohesive, stand-alone book, Catching Fire doesn't measure up to its predecessor. The plot feels slightly scattered, and I finished it feeling like, That was awesome ... but was this book really necessary? It seemed like the plot-forwarding elements introduced in it could easily have been packed into the end of the first and beginning of the third installments. Yes, Katniss and Peeta defied the Capital. Yes, she's become an unwitting symbol for revolution. Yes, she's unsure how exactly she feels about Peeta. These are things I already knew as the first book finished, and they're basically the three points that Catching Fire focuses on. So no earth-shattering revelations here. Just a further developing of plot points that were already in place. There's no doubt that this book acts as a kind of knot-tier between first and third, as do most second books in trilogies. (Obviously I haven't read the third, but this is what I imagine after reading the second.)

That being said, I still say the book is a must-read. It's a great series, and I am really excited to see how the third book will end it all.


Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson

It's a thick one, guys! But totally worth it. I really enjoyed this one.

The eldest princess of Idris is destined to be the bride of the God King of Hallendren. She has trained her whole life in preparation. Her youngest sister is redundant. Until push comes to shove in politics and the girls both find themselves utterly unprepared for their new roles. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Lightsong the Bold, Returned god of Bravery is trying to figure out why anyone thinks he's a god and what his purpose was in coming back to life. Mix in a few other sly and slippery and dangerous and complex characters, and you've got a recipe (wait. How did I get from ranches to recipes?) for ...beef stew? mountain oysters? okay I give up, but it was tasty.

The humor had me choking back laughs. The intrigue had me biting my nails (literally. I caught myself chewing my thumb). The romance was swoonworthy, but isn't the main focus of the book. The magic system is mind-boggling.

Recommended for adult and young adult fantasy fans. Another good one from Sanderson. As my little brother said after reading this, "He kind of gives me hope for the end of the Wheel of Time series." Me, too. And hopefully we'll get to meet him on his upcoming tour! :)

oh, p.s. Sanderson published this book online, so you can get the entire text here on his site. However it is also available in hardback at libraries and bookstores.

Dreaming Anastasia Book Tour

The review of Dreaming Anastasia below is one of the stops on the book tour! You can see other reviews of the book at the following websites, on the date listed next to the link.

Teens Read Too (8/17)

Through the Wardrobe (8/29)

Class of 2k9 (8/29)

Story Siren (8/31)


The Book Resort (9/1)

Marta’s Meanderings (9/2)

Babbling About Books (9/3)

A Passion for Books (9/3)

Day by Day Writer (9/4)

Neverending Shelf (9/5)

YA Books Central (9/6)

The Book Obsessions (9/7)

Dolce Bellezza (9/7)

Books & Literature for Teens (9/7)

Shelf Elf (9/8)

The Shady Glade (9/8)

Debbie’s World of Books (9/9)

Bookalicio.us (9/9)

Ultimate Book Hound (9/10)

Lauren’s Crammed Bookshelf (9/10)

Sarah’s Random Musings (9/11)

Cindy’s Love of Books (9/12)

Presenting Lenore (9/12)

Always Riddikulus (9/12)

Jenn’s Bookshelf (9/13)

Carol’s Corner (9/13)

A High & Hidden Place (9/14)

Looking Glass Review (9/14)

Karin’s Book Nook (9/14)

Shooting Stars Magazine (9/15)

Library Lounge Lizard (9/15)

Book Journey (9/16)

The Book Pixie (9/16)

The Compulsive Reader (9/17)

Slayground.net (9/17)

Booking Mama (9/18)

BriMeetsBooks.com (9/18)

The Written World (9/19)

Hope’s Bookshelf (9/19)

Book Nut (9/20)

Hope is the Word (9/20)

Zoe’s Book Reviews (9/21)

Homespun Light (9/21)

Teen Scene magazine (9/21)

Galleysmith (9/22)

Once Upon a Bookshelf (9/22)

Café of Dreams (9/23)

My Friend Amy (9/23; 9pm EST author chat)

The Brain Lair (9/24)

Ms. Bookish (9/24)

Lori Calabrese Writes (9/25)

Mrs. Magoo Reads (9/25)

Ramblings of a Teenage Bookworm (9/26)

Fantasy Book Critic (9/26)

Into the Wardrobe (9/27)
In the Pages (9/27)

Beth Fish Reads (9/28)

Reverie Book Reviews (9/28)

Dreaming Anastasia ...

... a new novel by Joy Preble, a new author.

Anastasia Romanov's possible survival of the massacre that killed her entire family has been the subject of much historical speculation over the century or so since it happened (or didn't). Author Joy Preble adds a fictional twist to the tale by interweaving magic and involving the infamous child-eating witch of Russian folklore---Baba Yaga. (Save yourself the trouble of trying to say that name ten times fast ... trust me.) If that's not compelling enough, throw into the mix a modern girl named Anne, an unsuspecting descendent of the Romanov line whose task becomes the rescue of trapped-in-time Anastasia. And if you're still not feeling the need to read this book, know that there's also an incredibly handsome hero in the story with piercing blue eyes and great hair that he's constantly raking his hands through.

In some ways, I felt like this book was pulling me in too many directions. And the editor in me couldn't help but nitpick (the Anastasia letter-writing font is too flowery to be really legible, characters' hearts pound a lot in their chests, there's a bit of an overuse of the one-line paragraphs to add drama to a statement, and some character reactions feel a little formulaic---Anne's extreme anger with Ethan, the good guy who tells her she has magical powers and a mission, for instance).

But despite the minor changes I would make (if anyone wanted my opinion ...), I enjoyed the concept of the story, the changes that take place in the characters, and the deliverance of the resolution. I liked Anastasia's ultimate choice.

There are a lot of unanswered questions in the end, but it does tie together satisfyingly enough. This is a fun read. Just don't try to overthink it.
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