Review: Ice Dogs by Terry Lynn Johnson

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

Oh, dear, where to start?  I loved this book!  I received a surprise copy in the mail, and I was chomping at the bit to read it.  I had posted previously about Ice Dogs, because I think the cover is so striking, but I was worried that something bad was going to happen to one of the animals.  What if one of them died?? That would have ruined the reading experience for me.  I am STILL traumatized by Where the Red Fern Grows, and I read it when I was, what, 13.  While I can’t remember the death of every human character in A Game of Thrones, I still get upset over the death of Lady.  Ugh!  Reading stories with animals can be so trying for me!

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Review: The Ice Dragon by George R R Martin

 

   The Ice Dragon

Most CERTAINTLY  Contains Spoilers

Review:

I enjoyed The Ice Dragon – until the end.  Considering the amount of death and mayhem in The Game of Thrones, I should have expected some unpleasantness in  this book, but because it’s being marketed to MG readers, I was caught by surprise.  True to life, the children in George R R Martin’s stories aren’t immune from the turmoil of war,  and Adara learns first hand that opposing forces make no distinction between non-combatants and enemy soldiers.

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Review: Time-Traveling Fashionista and Cleopatra, Queen of the Nile by Bianca Turetsky

The Time-Traveling Fashionista and Cleopatra, Queen of the Nile

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

I enjoyed Louise’s first adventures as a Time-Traveling Fashionista, so when I was offered the opportunity to revisit  her, I jumped at the chance.  This is the third book in the series, and this time, Louise is going to Ancient Egypt!  How could I possibly resist?

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Mini Review: Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman

Fortunately, the Milk

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

"I bought the milk," said my father. "I walked out of the corner shop, and heard a noise like this: T h u m m t h u m m. I looked up and saw a huge silver disc hovering in the air above Marshall Road."

"Hullo," I said to myself. "That’s not something you see every day. And then something odd happened."

Find out just how odd things get in this hilarious story of time travel and breakfast cereal, expertly told by Newbery Medalist and bestselling author Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Skottie Young.

Review:

I love Neil Gaiman’s writing, and I love that he’s so entertaining in so many different creative arenas.  He creates for adults and children with equal skill, and don’t forget his celebrated writing for comics.  He confidently stretches his creative muscle, and his audience is made the richer for his efforts.

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Blog Tour – Review: Sleeping Beauty’s Daughters by Diane Zahler

Welcome to my stop on Diane Zahler’s blog tour for her newly released Middle Grade fantasy Sleeping Beauty’s Daughters.  I’m excited to be part of this tour because I love Diane’s books!  I’ve read almost all of them, and they have all captivated me with her twists on familiar fairy tales.  As the title of Sleeping Beauty’s Daughters suggests, this is an alternate version of Sleeping Beauty that chronicles the adventures of Sleeping Beauty’s daughters. They are 12 and 9, and don’t understand why they live such an isolated existence.  There are no sharp knives or scissors, or anything with a pointy end to be found anywhere in the castle. All food is sent from the local village in bite sized pieces.  Their father heads to the village to get his hair cut, and the castle guards don’t even have weapons (maybe they have mallets to fight off possible threats of attack?). 

After Luna accidentally cuts herself, giving their emotionally fragile mother quite a fright, they learn about their mother’s history.  She was cursed as a baby, and after being pricked on the finger, she fell into a deep, deep sleep that lasted one hundred years.  Their father awakened her with a kiss, and when the evil fairy Manon discovered that they were living their happy ever after, she cursed them again.  This time, it would be one of their daughters that would fall into a deep, deep slumber, only when she woke up, everyone she knew and loved would be dead and gone.  That’s really scary!  It would terrify me to find myself completely alone, so I could easily imagine how terrifying that thought was to Luna and Aurora.  When Aurora pricks her finger due to Luna’s carelessness, it becomes a desperate race to find their fairy godmother before Aurora takes a really, really long nap.

As in every Diane Zahler book, the characters made the story for me.  They are young and have little practical world experience, yet they rally together to accomplish great things.  Luna is stubborn and bold, while Aurora is more timid and hesitant to face new challenges.  Her idea of a good time, like mine, is curling up in the library with a good book.  The curse and the threat of sleeping for a century get them both moving to find a cure, and with the help of an orphan fisherman, they head off into danger.  Each adds strength to their group, and without all three working together, they would fail at their task.  They all grow and gain confidence as they face one frightening challenge after another.  They aren’t content to just sit around and wait for an adult to solve their problems; nope, they dive right into action, determined to find a way to reverse the terrible curse that’s been placed on Aurora. 

The other thing I love about these books is that the girls don’t take a backseat to the boys.  They are every bit as brave, strong, and courageous as the guys.  Probably more so, because the girls are the ones to get things moving in the first place.  I like that they wait to be rescued; they take control of their own destiny and try to figure things out for themselves.

Sleeping Beauty’s Daughters is very fast-paced, as the sisters race against time to save Aurora from her terrible fate.  Along the way they learn to embrace both the good and bad in each other.  They also make friendships that will last a lifetime, and face terrors beyond their imagining.  Through all of their adventures, they discover a new appreciation for each other, and the courage to overcome any obstacle – together.

So…did I like it?  You bet!  4.5 / 5 stars! 

 

About the book:

The classic fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty is transformed into a dazzling new story of two sisters fighting a powerful curse by Diane Zahler, the acclaimed author of The Thirteenth Princess. Briskly paced and full of lush descriptions, readers who enjoy the work of Shannon Hale and Gail Carson Levine will be swept away by this spellbinding novel.
The daughters of Sleeping Beauty, Princesses Aurora and Luna, have grown up in a cliff-top palace by the sea, where they are carefully protected by their parents. No one visits, the girls cannot stray beyond the castle walls, and all sharp objects are forbidden here.
But accidents will happen—particularly when an old curse still has power. Soon, in spite of all precautions, Aurora is struggling not to slip into an enchanted sleep.
Frantic, the princesses accept the help of a young fisherman named Symon and embark on a daring ocean voyage to find their aunt—a fairy who may be able to break the spell. From fearsome beasts to raging storms, many dangers befall them, yet they must not give up . . . for if Aurora sleeps, she will not wake for one hundred years.

Be sure to check out the other stops on the tour:

August 27: www.theresabook.com

August 28: www.bookalicious.org

August 30: http://www.iceybooks.com/

August 31: www.greenbeanteenqueen.com

September 1: http://mundiemoms.blogspot.com/search?q=zahler

You can learn more about Diane by visiting:

Website

Twitter

Facebook

Interview with Ellen Booraem, Author of Texting the Underworld and Giveaway!

Please welcome Ellen Booraem to the virtual offices this morning.  Ellen dropped by to chat about her latest release Texting the Underworld.  She also brought along 2 copies of her new book for you to win!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Ellen Booraem] Lifelong daydreamer and late-bloomer, now living the dream.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about Texting the Underworld?

[Ellen Booraem] It’s a hero’s tale, featuring a fearful South Boston 12-year-old named Conor O’Neill. One school night, a young banshee named Ashling turns up in his bedroom, telling him that someone in his family is about to die. (Banshees are ancestral spirits who wail before the death of a family member.) Convinced that the death will be his beloved grandfather, Conor comes to believe that he must prevent it. He ends up visiting the Underworld, hoping to strike a bargain with the Lady who runs things there.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Ellen Booraem] Reading Abbey Lubbers, Banshees & Boggarts by the late British folklorist Katharine Briggs, I discovered that banshees weren’t always the ghastly old crones I’d thought they were. (I grew up in Massachusetts in a partly Irish household and neighborhood.) Briggs said that in some traditions they were maidens who’d died too young.

I got thinking about such a maiden and how she’d feel about losing her life and spending eternity as a harbinger of death. Inside of an hour, I had Ashling the banshee, killed by cattle raiders in fifth-century Ulster and offered a bargain by the Lady: Serve just once as a banshee, and she gets a new life. (In the universe of this book, we’re all reincarnated.) Fearful Conor arrived in my head next, and two hours later this was his story, a kid who finds his courage trying to save his family.

At first, I figured the afterlife would be Celtic. But I soon realized that (obviously) the Irish aren’t the only ones with an afterlife. So the Underworld became multicultural and a bureaucracy, with all these death gods wearily registering the Dear Departed and shipping them back to the world for their new lives.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Conor?

[Ellen Booraem] Timid, smart, tortured.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If Ashling had a theme song, what would it be?

“Songs from the Heart: Walking the Night/Give Me Your Hand” by Celtic Woman. (“And the song that we once knew/ Brings me back to you./Pipes play within me once more.”)

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name one thing Conor is never without.

[Ellen Booraem] His cellphone.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things will you never find in Conor’s pocket?

[Ellen Booraem] A fake spider, a hockey puck, a rock-climbing carabiner.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Ellen Booraem] A shower, a nap, and a walk in the woods. (Since we’re talking in threes.)

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Ellen Booraem] A computer (totally addicted to the keyboard), a quiet room (no music, unfortunately), and a calm spirit.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What was your biggest distraction while working on Texting the Underworld?

[Ellen Booraem] The internet. Sometimes I turn off the modem, figuring that the time it takes to turn it back on will give me a chance to get my discipline back.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Ellen Booraem] The Water Castle, by Megan Fraser Blakemore. Is it fantasy? Is there a fountain of youth, or is it all fakery and coincidence? You’re never really sure, and that’s a lot of fun. Also, the characters are utterly real and round.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Ellen Booraem] I’ve been a reader since I first held a book in my hand. So I’d have to say Yertle the Turtle, by Dr. Seuss. Confirmed slightly later by Fair, Brown and Trembling (an Irish version of Cinderella).

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Ellen Booraem] Read! Also walk, garden, kayak in the summer, ski in the winter. Sit out and watch the trees move when it’s warm enough. If not, sit inside and watch the fire in the woodstove. I also like to travel, but I don’t do it as often as I’d like. The week has only seven days, unfortunately.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Ellen Booraem] Through my website (ellenbooraem.com) , my facebook page (Ellen Booraem’s Books) or twitter (@EllenBooraem). I love hearing from readers!

These were very entertaining questions, Julie. Thanks for inviting me to Manga Maniac Café!

[Manga Maniac Café] Thank your for visiting today!

Ellen’s blog tour for Texting the Underworld ends tomorrow (August 22) at We Do Write. See you there!

Giveaway!

US shipping addresses only, please!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

About the book:

Texting the Underworld

A fantasy for ages 10 and older

Penguin/Dial Books for Young Readers

In stores August 2013

Conor O’Neill always thought spiders—and his little sister, Glennie—were the worst kind of monsters life had in store. That was before an inexperienced young banshee named Ashling showed up in his bedroom.

The arrival of a banshee, as Conor soon learns, means only one thing: Someone in his family is going to die. Not only will Ashling not tell him who it is, it turns out that she’s so fascinated by the world above that she insists on going to middle school with him.

The more Ashling gets involved in his life, the harder it becomes to keep her identity a secret from his friends and teachers—and the more Conor worries about his family. If he wants to keep them safe, he’s going to have to do the scariest thing he’s ever done:  Pay a visit to the underworld.

If only there were an app for that.

About the author:

Ellen Booraem’s TEXTING THE UNDERWORLD, a middle-grade fantasy about a scaredy-cat South Boston boy and a determined young banshee, hits bookstores in August (Penguin/Dial Books for Young Readers). Her earlier middle-grade fantasies are SMALL PERSONS WITH WINGS (Penguin/DBYR, 2011) and THE UNNAMEABLES (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2008). A former weekly newspaper editor and reporter, she lives in coastal Maine with an artist and a cat, one of whom is a practicing curmudgeon. She’s online at ellenbooraem.com, and also blogs at enchantedinkpot.com and scene13ers.wordpress.com.