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Preview: Finding Wonderland: The WritingYA Weblog

Finding Wonderland: The WritingYA Weblog



...still seeking Wonderland, we won't grow up.



Updated: 2018-02-23T16:46:54.900-08:00

 



Turning Pages Reads: THE RULES AND REGULATIONS FOR MEDIATING MYTHS AND MAGIC by F.T. LUKENS

2018-02-23T05:30:36.530-08:00

Welcome to another session of Turning Pages! Synopsis: Hungry to inhabit his true self, Bridger Whitt will do anything to find a job to help him finance attending college out of state. He’s desperate enough to take a Craigslist interview with a weird entrance exam... no, a seriously weird entrance exam, as in, "Will you enter the office via the window?" He's determined enough to ignore any… little oddities about his magically-everywhere boss (exactly what was Pavel doing out at Lake Michigan when Bridger was there and just happened to be being drowned... by... Things with sharp teeth and cheerfully malicious expressions?!), and has almost entirely tuned out the disembodied voices he sometimes hears around the office. Despite discovering his boss’s true identity, regardless of learning that his crush, Leo, may actually crush on him right back, despite all signs lining up for a HEA, Bridger still can’t find a reason to stay home. After all, there’s nothing to do, and nowhere to grow in the provincial, conservative small town of Midden, Michigan. You can only discover what's real, if you go away and pursue it. Real life can only be magical elsewhere… right? Observations: Truly, there's no place like home - and this novel brings that theme fresh life, by examining the presupposition that a.) our high school and college years are The Best Years of Our Lives (TM), and b.) that those Best Years can only happen well away from the familiar, known, and loved. This book talks about coming out and Becoming in a way which allows it to be a process that happens internally, and externally, with constant course corrections and revelations along the way. The romance, while not central to the plot, is just squeezable. However swoon-worthy the romance is, however, what I most appreciate is how much this is a family story. In the best and most inclusive, expansive of ways, F.T. Lukens reminds us that family CAN mean a long-suffering mother who works her butt off for you, and is hopeful she's making up for you not having a Dad, but also it can additionally mean a tough-as-nails Harriet-the-Spy type who loves you, spies on you, then kicks your butt for keeping secrets - like the sister you never knew you needed, a boss and a mentor who both challenges you to rise up, but holds you as you fall apart, and pixies who cheer for you in tiny, tinny, high-pitched, annoying voices, but come on, at least they're not laughing while unicorns try to kill you this week. Or, whatever. With endless dry humor and plenty of quirky charm, this book never tries too hard, or goes for the easy laugh. It removes itself from some of the stereotype of YA lit with a tight, loving relationship between teen and parent, and allows older people and younger people the respectful, reliant relationships they sometimes have in real life. And the humor just gives the difficulties and subtleties Bridger has while navigating the real world even more life. There's magic. There's mythos. There's a really cranky Sasquatch. While the novel is YA in spirit, it also crosses over for to be enjoyable for other ages, and could be appropriate for adults through older middle grade. While Bridger is definitely moving along toward adulthood - but this doesn't mean he's making all adult decisions - definitely not in the thriving metropolis that is... Midden(and I can't even tell you how much I love that name). Conclusion:F.T. Lukens brings a joyfully charming innocence into this endearing adventure of a snarky, fearful boy who thinks he is fleeing toward the big, real world — when THE RULES AND REGULATIONS FOR MEDIATING MYTHS & MAGIC reveal that there is more wonder, magic, love, — and terrifying unicorns — in the known world he knows than he could have ever imagined. While I try to review without bias, this was one of my all-time FAVORITE Cybils books of 2018, I have zero chill discussing it, and I want you to read it, too. I received my copy of this book courtesy of Duet Books, for the Cybils Awards, for which this book was a finalist. You can find THE RULES AND REGUL[...]



Cybils Review: NEW SUPER-MAN VOL. 1: MADE IN CHINA

2018-02-22T13:04:00.990-08:00

Synopsis: Reboots seem to be the story fad du jour when it comes to comic franchises, and while there have been some reboots of Superman, I doubt you've seen one like this before. Brought to you by the writing talents of our own local NorCal comics genius Gene Luen Yang, along with illustrator Viktor Bogdanovic, one of this year's Cybils finalists for Young Adult Graphic Novels was New Super-Man Vol. 1: Made in China. This "DC Universe Rebirth," as DC is calling it, posits a brand-new origin story for your rebooted Superman, one steeped in DC universe lore as well as more recent traditions in Chinese comics. This time, the would-be Superman starts off as a blustering teenage bully from Shanghai named Kong Kenan. After accidentally saving his own bullying victim from a marauding supervillain, Kenan attracts the eye of a super-secret group trying to build a homegrown Chinese Justice League—they need a Superman, and they think Kenan's perfect for the part. Kenan is stoked: he has fancy powers and his new friends include Chinese Wonder Woman. What could possibly go wrong? Observations: This is a really fun, international/multicultural take on the Superman comic adventures—kudos for diversity and for introducing new characters and storylines to a classic (some might even say old-fashioned) franchise. And, of course, Gene Yang's writing is always stellar, so this one has a good balance of entertainment and deeper themes, such as politics, family, and, naturally, good vs. evil. Readers will catch a glimpse of some ongoing sociopolitical issues in China through the lens of popular culture—both shared pop culture AND some stuff that will be new to readers, such as some homegrown Chinese superheroes that are not too thrilled with this new Justice League homing in on their crime-fighting turf.click to embiggenNot every reader is into superheroes, but those who are will surely enjoy this one. Effort has been put into making Kenan a relatable teen character with regular human storylines, while still packing the story with superhero adventure and humor. That extends to the artwork, too, which was well done: solid and not overly exaggerated superhero-style character design, good flow to the layout, and fast, exciting storytelling.Conclusion: Pushing diversity to the forefront of comics makes some stodgy grouches go a little nuts, but personally, I'd rather read this new take over the old chestnut. Sorry, dudes. More variety in stories is always good. And I think this one is also being marketed in China, which is, I hope, a success. I received my copy of this book specifically for the Cybils, courtesy of the publisher. You can find NEW SUPER-MAN VOL. 1: MADE IN CHINA by Gene Yang and Viktor Bogdanovic at an online e-tailer, or at a real life, independent bookstore near you! This work is copyrighted material. All opinions are those of the writer, unless otherwise indicated. All book reviews are UNSOLICITED, and no money has exchanged hands, unless otherwise indicated. Please contact the weblog owner for further details.[...]



Cybils Review: WHERE'S HALMONI? by Julie Kim

2018-02-19T15:49:15.889-08:00

Synopsis: Uh-oh, Grandma's gone missing…. In this year's Cybils winner for Elementary/Middle Grade Graphic Novels, Where's Halmoni? by Julie Kim, Noona and her little brother Joon decide to visit their Halmoni (Grandma in Korean) only to find that she's mysteriously disappeared. Following a set of animal tracks on the floor, they climb through an odd new window and discover a magical forest world peopled with characters from Korean folklore, such as dokkebi (not-so-scary goblins) and various clever and/or greedy animals that help and/or hinder their quest to find Halmoni.

In the process, the kids themselves learn more about Korean culture and language; in fact, some of the creatures they meet speak Korean, and we, like the kid protagonists, have enough context to figure out SOME of it—but never fear; you'll find a really cool visual glossary in the back of the book. It was like a fun little quest of its own to find the corresponding image and Hangul text in the glossary.

Observations: This was an intriguing adventure with lots of action, relatable kid protagonists, and plenty of humor. The characters from Korean folktales, which are explained in the back of the book, make this one feel both traditional and new. For readers unfamiliar with Korean culture, it's a friendly, welcoming opportunity to learn a few new tidbits and also see the similarities between kids across the world. (The little boy's candy stash in his backpack and the epic Rock-Paper-Scissors battle in particular made me smile.)



The images are beautiful, tactile, and present a sort of cross between traditional picture books and graphic novels. Korea, of course, has a strong comics tradition of its own, and this is also a clear influence on the art. The story is simple and in many ways universal, with a folk tale structure, and the author does well in conveying meaning whether in English, Korean, or purely visual form.

Conclusion: Very charming and with many re-read possibilities. It kind of felt like a Korean interpretation of Where the Wild Things Are.


I received my copy of this book courtesy of my library. You can find WHERE'S HALMONI? by Julie Kim at an online e-tailer, or at a real life, independent bookstore near you!



Thursday Bits and Bobs and Whatnot

2018-02-15T10:13:09.461-08:00

...I'll leave you to decide which are the bits, which are the bobs, and which are the whatnot.

Firstly, I don't want anyone to miss the great Kickstarter project that has been launched by our good blogging friend Lee Wind of “I’m Here. I’m Queer. What the Hell Do I Read?” Lee says:
With your help, and the help of our community, the professionally designed, copy-edited, and published book of my young adult novel, “Queer as a Five-Dollar Bill,” will become a reality. 
Together, we’ll donate at least 400 copies to LGBTQ and Allied Teens.

Together, we can change lives, shift the cultural conversation, and empower every teen who reads it to dig deeper, be inspired, and create their own future.
Donate to the Kickstarter and watch the video right here. You can also check out Lee's Facebook Live event coming up: "I’ll be doing a Facebook Live event on Feb 19 at Noon Pacific to demo 'instant antiquing' (what Wyatt is doing in the first chapter of the book) and celebrate the project President’s Day-style."



In case you missed it, don't forget the Cybils Awards have been announced! Check out the winning titles for 2017 over on the Cybils blog, and stay tuned right here on Finding Wonderland for upcoming reviews of nominees and finalists from the Spec Fic and Graphic Novels categories.



Cybils SpecFic Bookmark: THE HEARTS WE SOLD by Emily Lloyd-Jones

2018-02-15T04:58:04.248-08:00

The Cybils Speculative Fiction Bookmark:As a panelist for Cybils YA Speculative Fiction, Round 1, I'm going to be briefly writing up some of the hundreds of book I read as part of the award. As panelist conclusions are not for public consumption, the purpose of these write-ups is to keep track of what I'm reading, and will mostly touch on plot synopsis, with minimal comments on thematic tropes. Synopsis:Deirdre Moreno would like to just be the kind of girl who does well in school, makes her way in the world, and never looks back, but she can't be. For one thing, anxiety stalks her like a rabid beast. For another thing, she's got reasons for that anxiety; it's been carefully cultivated by her father for years. She's been "damned if you do, damned if you don't" for so long that when her merit scholarship to her boarding school is revoked, it's enough to send her seeking what she never, ever, ever thought she'd be looking to find: a demon, to make a trade. They'll take body parts. You see people with prosthetics all the time, and you wonder if they're happy, if they got what they paid for... Dee finds the answers to many of her questions, when she meets a bunch of weird kids who call themselves "the heartless," and the daemon who traded for their...hearts. She gets what she needs, to stay in school, but the possibilities for fortune and loss suddenly are much, much bigger than she'd ever imagined. There's another world, just beyond a thin curtain of reality... and it's incursions into this world are a terror Dee's not ready to face. All she can do is hunker down and remember that the choices she made are what have gotten her this far -- and all she has to do is choose to keep going. As things get more and more surreal, it's one of the hardest choices she's ever had to make. Observations: This is a tricky novel to discuss without presenting spoilers, however, much of the narrative arc is obvious: girl meets demon, girl makes deal with demon, girl realizes she's been a.) duped, b.) got what she didn't think she wanted, c.) fades off into the unfinished lore of folktale history. Most readers have heard the phrase "selling one's soul to the devil," and read for English Lit the requisite cautionary lore from Faust, but this is an unique reimagining of devils, and those deals and exchanges. While most of the story is spent with Dee doing what she's told, fulfilling expectations, the real story begins when she discovers how much one doesn't have to lose, without a heart. How buoyed and lightened one's decisions can be. Once she and her troop of "the heartless" are freed from the normal constraints of humanity, no one - including the daemon - can predict who they'll become... or what they'll do. Conclusion: Collecting souls, to a demon, one would imagine has some point, but why would anyone want a heart? The answer of what one can do with a heart, that hopeful, deceitful, unpredictable, emotion-centric thing - and what or who we are as humans when we give ours away make for an absorbing narrative that will leave readers thoughtfully considering the state of their own vibrant, living, beating centers - and possibly leave them with an excuse to take up knitting again. I received my copy of this book courtesy of the public library. You can find THE HEARTS WE SOLD by Emily Lloyd-Jones at an online e-tailer, or at a real life, independent bookstore near you! This work is copyrighted material. All opinions are those of the writer, unless otherwise indicated. All book reviews are UNSOLICITED, and no money has exchanged hands, unless otherwise indicated. Please contact the weblog owner for further details.[...]



CYBILS AWARD ANNOUNCEMENT

2018-02-14T11:23:57.002-08:00

Congratulations to all of the winners! We're especially thrilled about...

Elementary/Middle Grade Speculative Fiction: THE DRAGON WITH THE CHOCOLATE HEART, by Stephanie Burgis

MG Fiction: REFUGEE, by Alan Gratz

YA Graphic Novels: SPILL ZONE, by Scott Westerfeld

YA Fiction: PIECING ME TOGETHER by Reneé Watson

See the entire list of excellent books with a little plot write-up on the Cybils Award website. And cheers to all those who nominated and participated!




2♦days@the treehouse: Challenge February

2018-02-13T04:51:03.040-08:00

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Welcome back to our monthly Second Tuesday writing challenge!

From January - June, every second Tuesday of the month, we're going to post an image here on Wonderland of a Creative Commons licensed Flickr picture to which you can respond - with poetic, prose, or whatever kind of writing - and hopefully, you'll share a link in the comments below, so that we can visit your site, read your work and respond. No genre or style limit - just come and join the fun!


Welcome back, it's February, which brings with it, famously, Black History Month, Groundhog Day, that Presidential birthday weekend which translates to "Monday off," and, of course, who can forget Valentine's Day... or, less memorably, National Grapefruit Month, and I am here for THAT, despite myself. This month's image comes from Flickr user Left Hand Rotation of Madrid, Spain, presenting us with Los hombres de Musgo de Béjar. I'm intrigued by the stories which will come from this image, so without further ado:

I'm not going to bother with Inlinkz this month; just leave your link in the comments below, and we look forward to reveling in your inspiration! Happy writing!




Cybils Countdown

2018-02-09T05:27:01.679-08:00

Pssst! There's just five more days....

Every single year, the Caldecott, Printz, Newberry, and other awards come up with tons of wonderful titles that... most people have already heard of. And, that's not awful. These books are well-read, widely reviewed, and often touted by major reviewing bodies for their literary impact. But, sometimes "literary" doesn't take into account "beloved."

In 2006, the Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Awards were founded to address that particular issue. The Cybils Awards accepts nominations from hundreds of ordinary people - young adults and kids, librarians, teachers, and parents - so that the year's panel of judges can read and discover books that might not be famous or popular, but which have both literary merit and kid appeal. Over the years, the nominations have expanded to include self-published books, audio books, and book apps, as well as the usual general categories of for younger and older readers.

Though there are still hundreds of books released each year which get lost in the shuffle, there's been a slight decline in the last year in nominations. Is the gap between books awarded and books beloved finally closing? Or, were we all so distracted with politics in the last year that we forgot to read? We at Finding Wonderland are going to do our best to be more vocal about our support for the Cybils Awards, and remind each other to read widely - and wildly - and to recommend books as hard as we can. We want to see new book vloggers and avid book bloggers, readers, audio-book junkies, reader's advisory librarians, and everyone, really come together to keep young adults and children - and the adults who can't get enough of their wondrously literary books - talking books, swapping books, and best of all, reading.

To that end: in just five days, the 2017 Cybils Awards will be revealed. Watch. This. Space!




When That Book Won't Do

2018-02-07T15:54:11.992-08:00

Yes, hello. We read & talk books here. No, really. Maybe you've experienced this, too. You pick up a book, read a chapter, put it down. Meh. You pick up another book - that one everyone's been talking about - and after three chapters, you're bored. You pick up the current #1 on the NYT list, the one your very best friend just loves, and it... underwhelms. You're confused - and a little worried. Is it me, or them? How can it be that everybody loves this book... except me? It happens to me, sometimes, after the Cybils. When I've had someone else (all of you!) choosing my reading influences for three months, I can be a little... slow at picking up books on my own. It happens. You get over it. It's winter, and that's usually prime reading time... but sometimes, a case of the winter blahs means that nothing tastes right, nothing looks right, and nothing IS right - not clothes, not foods, and not stories. For me, it's an outgrowth of my seasonal affective disorder, and I hate, hate, HATE IT when I get like this. I wear out even myself with this attitude of "Everything is just crap, and I'm over it." The thing is, IRL it often happen that you're "Meh" about books other people are fired up about. Normally our diversity of tastes and interest isn't scary but revealing, providing us with an opportunity to find new things to appreciate that might be out of our usual wheelhouse. However, when we're struggling to appreciate the intensely intellectual book that everyone is talking about, or failing to feel the love for the scorching hot romance of the year, and feeling like we'll never enjoy a book again, it gets really worrying... Still, we promise, swear, and pinky-swear, that this is perfectly normal (& we're talking to ourselves as well as you). Especially referring to that book everyone else loves, don't worry - you'll love it later. Lend it out now. Read it next month. You'll pull out of this book-block thing in time, but until you do, here are a few tips to see you through: Acknowledge that THIS IS TEMPORARY. This, too, shall pass. Really. It's mood-based, and moods change.Try not reading. You're not enjoying it, and isn't it time to catch up on that new Star Trek series? The Ocean's 11 movies? How about that Super Mario?Rekindle your other creative senses. Sew. Paint. Sculpt. Play with squishy sand. Practice the piano that's under four feet of dust. Sing.Try changing the way you read. A comic book, graphic novel, or audio book might find its golden age just now.Try reading only books on paper. Between the laptop, the tablet, the phone, and everything else... you may just need an old-school breather.Try narrative games. Video games which tell a story - Kingdom Hearts, Portal, The Legend of Zelda - might get you back in the game, literally.Reread an old favorite. For many people, reading a book that they have almost memorized helps rekindle their love of the art.Keep lists of books which don't work - and make note of their genre or style. Now, choose something outside of that genre/style.Visit your local library and check out back copies of The Year's Best Fiction. Short stories or magazine articles may be about your speed.Pick up a book you would NEVER read. Horror? High fantasy? Hard science? Non-fiction? Romance? Give it a whirl.Visit your local library, and check out... coffee table books. Non-verbal picture books. Give the word part of your brain a rest.Acknowledge that there is more to life than reading. Granted, we have no idea what that "more" might be, but we've been told this is true... It's kicked off to be a tough winter, what with yucky politics, yucky weather, and being sick, re-sick, and sick again, all the while trying to hold onto your regular routines and responsibilities. We know! But like Spring follows winter, a reading hunger will follow a reading fast. In the meantime, we hope we've given y[...]



Monday Review: IN SOME OTHER LIFE by Jessica Brody

2018-01-29T11:23:04.277-08:00

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Synopsis: I've finally been able to get back to some pleasure reading after a long stint of Cybils reading (which has now slowed down), and I picked up Jessica Brody's In Some Other Life for a bit of fun escapism—and I was not disappointed. As you might know, I enjoy fiction about parallel universes; this one follows high-achieving Kennedy Rhodes, superstar of the student newspaper at Southwest High. Her life seems great: cute longtime boyfriend, supportive family, ever-loyal best friend, and high hopes for getting into the Columbia journalism program. Her only secret regret is that she didn't attend the prestigious Windsor Academy, which sends 89 percent of its graduates to Ivy League schools.

Then, the disasters start piling up, culminating in one fateful moment: Kennedy takes an accidental fall down the steps and wakes up….in the life of some alternate version of herself: an alternate version that DID end up at Windsor Academy. As you might guess, at first it seems amazing and incredible, but looks can be deceiving…

Observations: This book was, above all, tongue-in-cheek funny. In some ways it felt like something I'd pair with my book The Latte Rebellion in terms of tone and style, as well as underlying theme—a well-meaning, earnest, but flawed main character gets caught up in circumstances beyond her control, and has to own up to her decisions in order to truly make good. While Kennedy isn't perfect, sometimes to the point of being annoying, her imperfections are completely relatable, and are in fact necessary for her overall growth.

I did end up guessing the big story twist relatively early on: the clues were clear and it seemed fairly obvious that alternate-Kennedy was up to something, and so I assume the reader is meant to realize what's going on before the narrator does. That was my only quibble with the story, though. The way everything wraps up was very satisfying, and I enjoyed how the various loose ends are dealt with, leaving things just a bit open-ended. And, as a bonus, the chapter titles were really fun.

Conclusion: This was a highly enjoyable story, with good pacing that kept me wanting to read it even when I probably should have been reading more Cybils finalists. Recommended for fans of paranormal and/or spec fic with a humorous twist.


I received my copy of this book courtesy of my library's ebook collection. You can find IN SOME OTHER LIFE by Jessica Brody at an online e-tailer, or at a real life, independent bookstore near you!



Happy New Year--and Happy Writing!

2018-01-15T12:36:23.974-08:00


Words of wisdom from Lawrence Ferlinghetti's typewriter in the Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., augmented with a few extra for those of us who need them.

May your 2018 be the best writing year yet!

XO,
Sarah and Tanita



2♦sdays @ our treehouse - 1/18 Challenge!

2018-01-16T16:02:27.923-08:00

A few years back, B&N's Teen blog put up a post about which anthologies, in their opinion, had gotten the art of the young adult short story right. Their list included some headlining authors as well as smaller lights in the field. YA collections have always been useful for introducing lesser-known writers, which is why a couple of smart people in the industry, Nova Ren Suma and Emily X. R. Pan, have kicked off FORESHADOW. "FORESHADOW: A Serial YA Anthology is to offer a unique new online venue for young adult short stories, with a commitment to showcasing underrepresented voices, boosting emerging writers, and highlighting the beauty and power of YA fiction." This monthly anthology is the opportunity that many writers have been waiting for. To that end, our writing group thought it would be fun to do a little exercise of our own. Through the first (technical) half of 2018, January - June, every second Tuesday of the month, we're going to post an image here on Wonderland of a Creative Commons licensed Flickr picture to which you can respond - via short story (potentially something to be polished for subbing to Foreshadow or elsewhere), poem, or just a scene polishing up dialogue, setting, characterization, or anything else you'd like to work on. Maybe you're doing Morning Pages, and writing three pages first thing. You can certainly come up with some thoughts on this image, and even some thoughts which might spur some deeper creativity. For two weeks, you can join the fun by posting a link to share. We'll keep the momentum going the following month by posting another image the second Tuesday of February, the 13th, and so on, until we take a breather for summer. We hope this will be the little kick in the pants you need to get writing, keep writing, or polish up your skills. And without further ado, this month's image: Harryhausen Skeletons, by Flickr user Jürgen Fauth of Berlin. Happy Writing! Please consider sharing your link! An InLinkz Link-up This work is copyrighted material. All opinions are those of the writer, unless otherwise indicated. All book reviews are UNSOLICITED, and no money has exchanged hands, unless otherwise indicated. Please contact the weblog owner for further details.[...]



~Hiatus!~

2018-01-08T13:43:18.280-08:00

Happy Reading, friends! We're busy Cybils-ing, so see y'all on January 9th!




Thursday Review: THE BOOK OF DUST by Philip Pullman

2017-12-21T08:00:44.358-08:00

Synopsis: This was one of my "waiting on" titles of 2017—the His Dark Materials trilogy is one of my favorites (and one I wish I'd read as an actual young adult), and I've enjoyed other books by Pullman as well. The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage is the first in another trilogy, it seems, and it's a prequel to the adventures of Lyra in His Dark Materials. To my mind, it was worth the wait.

This story also concerns Lyra, but she isn't the main character this time. In fact, she's just a baby—a mysterious baby, as it turns out, who is being cared for by the nuns of a village priory outside Oxford. In that village lives our main character: a boy named Malcolm, whose parents run an inn. Malcolm lives at the inn, so all kinds of interesting gossip reaches his ears, and thus it is perhaps not such a huge surprise that he witnesses the unfortunate death of a spy and ends up with the spy's secret message in his very own hands…

Observations: I don't want to give away too much of the story, because it's too delightful to watch it unfold (plus you can always read the cover blurb). I will say that I was happy to return to this alternate world very like our own, and root for a hero with curiosity, tenacity, and an innate sense of right. Malcolm is truly good, and his love for the baby Lyra and determination to keep her safe drive the story and keep the reader hanging on every word.

Of course, any story that involves good vs. evil would be incomplete without a truly bad baddie, and Pullman has a talent for pushing just the right buttons to make the reader really uncomfortable—the enemy here takes the form of a truly frightening individual, and the philosophical underpinnings of WHY he is evil are possibly even more frightening.

Conclusion: I can safely say that, despite a few quibbles here and there with the style, I enjoyed this almost as much as the original trilogy, and sank gratefully and willingly back into the vivid world of Lyra's Oxford. Now I'm anxious for the second book…


I received my copy of this book courtesy of my library's ebook collection. You can find THE BOOK OF DUST: LA BELLE SAUVAGE by Philip Pullman at an online e-tailer, or at a real life, independent bookstore near you!



Cybils SpecFic Bookmark: IN 27 DAYS by ALLISON GERVAIS

2017-12-19T06:13:24.461-08:00

The Cybils Countdown Continues!The Cybils SpecFic Bookmark: As a panelist for Cybils YA Speculative Fiction, Round 1, I'm going to be briefly writing up some of the hundreds of book I read as part of the award. As panelist conclusions are not for public consumption, the purpose of these write-ups is to keep track of what I'm reading, and will mostly touch on plot synopsis, with minimal comments on thematic tropes. Synopsis: One melancholy feeling day, Hadley Jamison arrives at school to hear that a boy she'd been in Freshman English with has committed suicide. The feeling of melancholy she feels quickly swells to true grief. She hadn't spoken with Asher Morales in years. Really, she only stared at him in Freshman English and blushed a lot... but it seems wrong that he's dead, wrong that someone who had such obvious depths - even if he never spoke to her to share them with her - could have thought his life wasn't worth living. Seeking closure, Hadley lurks at the back of the church where his funeral service is being held. She lingers at his casket, wondering what she could have said to change things. She meets his family, and, on the way home, is accosted by the most terrifying man she's ever seen. Parchment white skin, knife-edged cheekbones, and the most insinuating smile. He takes her to coffee, and she's powerless to escape him. He has a proposition for her - a little job he'd like her to do. If she'll just sign a contract to help out, he'll drop her back twenty-seven days in time. She'll have a chance to save Archer, and right a little wrong in the Universe.The guy says some vague things about danger and trouble, but Hadley's only hearing that there's a chance to bring Asher back to his family. Her parents are on yet another business trip, and the last person she talks to every night is the doorman. What else does she have to do with the next month, anyway? But Asher is not easy. He's rude. He's abrupt. He's closed off and cold. Hadley's doing everything she can to get close to him, but if someone doesn't want you as a friend, you won't be friends. Is it worth it to keep trying? Is it worth caring for someone who doesn't care for you, especially if it looks like it might cost you your life? Semi-Spoiler-y Observations: Originally published on WattPad, this is a fast-paced, emotionally engaging adventure which leaves the reader little time to do anything but hang onto their hat and be dragged into the narrative. A dominant culture girl with a cast of mostly white friends (Asher is Italian) Hadley is a very regular, ordinary girl who is suddenly thrust into a cosmic tug of war essentially between death and chaos. While she is chosen to take a stand against chaos, I found myself with a tiny question of "Why?" I kind of wished for a little bit of ...mystery or backstory to give her character some depth. Her parents are workaholics with money and impeccable tastes, but how did the Universe know that Hadley was worthy of taking on this huge task? Does this second chance business happen for anyone else? Most people won't worry with nagging questions like this one, however, and will race into the story. As an adventure, giving a human being the power to fight on the side of life, it is compulsively readable.Conclusion: For anyone who has wished that they could have a second chance to make things right, this story will be the best of wish-fulfillment catnip. A slow burn romance, a boisterous Italian family, and a chance to tally one up for the side of good vs. evil makes this a light, fun, vacation read. I received my copy of this book courtesy of the publisher. You can find IN 27 DAYS by Allison Gervais at an online e-tailer, or at a real life, i[...]



Cybils SpecFic Bookmark: SHE MYSELF AND I by EMMA YOUNG

2017-12-15T09:43:28.543-08:00

The Cybils Countdown Continues!The Cybils SpecFic Bookmark: As a panelist for Cybils YA Speculative Fiction, Round 1, I'm going to be briefly writing up some of the hundreds of book I read as part of the award. As panelist conclusions are not for public consumption, the purpose of these write-ups is to keep track of what I'm reading, and will mostly touch on plot synopsis, with minimal spoiler-y comments and thematic tropes. Synopsis: Rosa is young, British, and has had a debilitating nerve disease which has taken her freedom. Quadriplegic and feeling like a burden on her family, she is eager and excited when a controversial "cure" emerges - the chance to swap her brain into the whole and healthy body of a comatose American girl named Sylvia who was also white and young. The family flies to America, and the surgery is done... but Rosa's doubts begin. Is she still... herself? Is she now someone else, too? Is she also carrying Sylvia's soul? Is it fair to go on if Sylvia - whom Rosa is now convinced is a resident somehow in her body - is unhappy? An unhealthy obsession with Sylvia begins, as Rosa researches her, stalks her family, and eventually attempts to insert herself into the life of the girl who is gone. With the help of a journalist with whom she becomes entangled, Rosa escapes from the medical facility where she's meant to be healing, and walks away from her own life to immerse herself in Sylvia's - hurting her own family, and ultimately herself. As she struggles to come to grips with who she is now, and who she's supposed to be, now that she's inhabiting Sylvia's body, Rosa falls in love and finds that the questions she had matter less than living her very best life, and being happy. Observations: Speculative fiction has been debating the merits and demerits of brain swaps since the first very amusing black and white science fiction films. It's one of the last Big Questions about consciousness and the soul and the "you-ness" of a person. Rosa feels a lot of guilt after the surgery - guilty for being excited that she's attractive, guilty that she is attractive to others, guilty that she is just who she is, and not someone better or more deserving. She is conflicted and spends a lot of time in her head, coming to various conclusions about whether or not Sylvia is a reluctant rider in their shared body, or if Sylvia should take over and Rose should step back. She had a lot of questions, and I was dissatisfied with the conclusions Rosa came to, because she was derailed by her romance. Rosa watches a movie with a friend about a man who chooses to die rather than live with a disability... and especially since Rosa has lived with a disability, one that had really hit her from the ages of ten to eighteen, that seemed an odd choice, and I expected her to react differently to the film. The author doesn't give us much information about Rosa's disease or the nature of its progression, or enough backstory to help us understand what what her life was really like, before having her brain swapped. Rosa's disability is framed against her parent's anxieties and her concern with not being a burden to them, but that tells us nothing about how she lived and what she did - which argues that the life of a quadriplegic person is of so little interest that the reader wouldn't have wanted to know anything about it. Which isn't true. This was one of the biggest quibbles I had with the novel. Conclusion: An interesting and time-honored concept in speculative fiction, the brain swap remains one of the last bits of "undiscovered country" in our physiology. Rosa deals with questions and worries to that many a teen will relate. The idea of[...]



Cybils SpecFic Bookmark: BROKEN CIRCLE by J.L. POWERS & M.A. POWERS

2017-12-12T07:47:00.677-08:00

Happy December! The Cybils Countdown Continues!The Cybils SpecFic Bookmark: As a panelist for Cybils YA Speculative Fiction, Round 1, I'm going to be briefly writing up some of the hundreds of book I read as part of the award. As panelist conclusions are not for public consumption, the purpose of these write-ups is to keep track of what I'm reading, and will mostly touch on plot synopsis, with minimal comments on thematic tropes. Synopsis: Adam just wishes he could sleep. That's what normal people do: see their fathers. Sleep. Go to school. Talk to people they might kind of crush on. Normal would be great, but it's just not in the cards. First, Adam's mother vanished when he was four, and his dad is always gone, and never around when he needs him... except Adam sometimes sees him in his dreams. Adam instead lives with his cranky, paranoid grandfather, who believes everyone is out to get him. Adam's next challenge is that he can see... shadows on people. He knows when they're going to die, and no matter what he does to try and tell them... they die anyway, even if he's changed their path. Finally, speaking of dreams, there's this kind of... monster who basically hugs him to death when he dreams, and then he wakes when his dream-Dad saves him. Lacking sleep and overdosed on coffee, Adam fights monsters in a waking dream at school one day. Unfortunately, he wakes up with everyone believing he's had a nasty psychotic break. In the name of getting him "help," his father enrolls him in a residential school... which isn't for kids with psychiatric problems at all. It's for kids with the power to be soul guides. Adam finds opening to him a world he could never have imagined in his deepest, scariest dreams. He finds a place to belong, which surprises him, and feeds his soul. He also finds out about his mother - who disappeared in mysterious circumstances - and the whys and wherefores of his parents' relationship. He also finds himself going up against a shadowy organization which is bent on destroying him, and maybe his school, too. Adam's going to need to accept a few key things before he can move his story further - and unravel the unknowns between him and his goal of being normal... well, as normal as a guy who can drop into Limbo can be.Observations: In many ways this story is familiar - there have been myriad other Secret Identity novels in which the Lost Prince or Boy Who Lived is unaware of a birthright world just on the other side of a bland retaining wall. He twists in the wind in a world where he doesn't belong until, voila, the hidden door opens, the wall vanishes, and the world, with its thousand shades of gray, opens. Nothing is pure good or pure bad anymore, the character stumbles and drifts until he meets a band of plucky outliers, and together they navigate this new plane. There are PLENTY of Potter elements in this book, but it is not about the new-things-per-page lovely whimsy which drive the earliest Potter novels. This book is dark and grim and Adam's existence is both snarkily amusing and realistically painful. While there have been other YA novels riffing on the idea of the Grim Reaper, and while the cover with the elegant scythe on it is a dead giveaway of some of the narrative elements, there is a lot of difference here to be discovered. Readers will rejoice in the brother-and-sister team's worldbuilding, which is rich and detailed, and while the twists in this book are mostly known before the character knows them, the characterization and remix of mythology will keep readers reading. Adam's self-effacing, sarcastic voice will work well for many readers. Conclusion: Come for [...]



Coming Soon to a Blog Near You

2017-12-08T01:19:00.258-08:00

If you haven't yet had a chance to grab Sara Lewis Holmes' newest book The Wolf Hour the following posts and her various guest post/interviews around the web will raise this book on your TBR list.

Sara's talking music with picture book writer Liz Garton Scanlon. Calling it a "musical novel by a lyrical poet," Liz's interview arrives just in time for Poetry Friday. Liz asks Sara questions which are both deep and broad, and, frankly, Sara says, have her learning more about her book post-publication than she knew going in! That sort of interest and scrutiny is what we can all only hope for in our book interviews!

Sara's earlier interviews on THE WOLF HOUR can be found at Laura Purdie Salas' site, where she also talks of the music in poetry; at Charlotte's Library where she unpacks some of the deeply intriguing quotes from the book; Maureen Eicher's review at 'By Singing Light' and our interview here at Wonderland, which kicked off this slowly perambulating blog tourback in September.

Cheers, and happy reading!




Cybils SpecFic Bookmark: THE MARROW THIEVES by CHERIE DIMALINE

2017-12-05T04:55:11.157-08:00

Happy December! The Cybils Countdown Continues!The Cybils SpecFic Bookmark: As a panelist for Cybils YA Speculative Fiction, Round 1, I'm going to be briefly writing up some of the hundreds of book I read as part of the award. As panelist conclusions are not for public consumption, the purpose of these write-ups is to keep track of what I'm reading, and will mostly touch on plot synopsis, with minimal comments on thematic tropes. Synopsis: After the Melt, nothing is the same as it was, though Frenchie has heard stories. Epidemic disease, flooding, earthquakes and other disasters rage and the natural world is wildly out of balance. And then, the madness takes hold, as people lose the capacity to dream. In tribal communities, whispers of "Recruiters" surface. It seems that, together with the Church, the world has discovered a cure for the hopelessness and madness, and a way to save themselves. As always, this salvation comes through the blood of sacrifice - but only the sacrifice of some. The indigenous people in North America have not been touched by the chaos in the larger world. Their communities remain ...sane, and in the marrow of the indigenous peoples has been discovered to be a cure. "Recruited" into "helping" to save the world, indigenous people are being forced into residential housing and robbed of their bone marrow. It saves those unable to dream - and decimates the tribal populations. With his father gone, his mother abandoning him and his brother lost to him, Frenchie at sixteen is shattered, heartsick, desperate and ill. Feverish and self-destructing, he stumbles on two other Elders and a passel of little kids also seeking their loved ones and trying to make some sort of a family and a home on the run. Wary and hopeful, he falls in with their pack, and begins to lose his heart to this band of survivors - and to make room in his heart for real love. Survival, however, can wear a person to the bone, and then disaster, which is always so close, strikes. In their quest to regain what they've lost, Frenchie and his team find what they weren't expecting -- in loss, promise, in conviction, re-connection. Through disaster and rebuilding, they learn that the things we love we truly never let go. Observations: Every time I hear people telling me that post-apocalyptic fiction or dystopia is dead, I find a book in which there is a new and clever way of fleshing out what could be a stale and weary literary device. The author doesn't just plug North American indigenous tribes into a trite formula, however, but deeply weaves truth and metaphor into a conflicting and revealing story. That the world ends badly and everything goes to hell is, of course, the basis of a post-apocalyptic novel, but too often speculative fiction then retreats into a story of mostly white females escaping from zombies or something. I especially appreciated this book because a.) there is a family here, with the sacred love between siblings that allows them to sacrifice for each other, b.) the story has nonwhite allies who have put their sweat and blood into saving people, and thus does not further the white savior narrative, c.) there is love of all kinds, and in fact that love story rises above the darkness and desperation of familiar losses and desperation. The disaster-and-survival aspect of the post-apocalyptic narrative is another place where the book is different... despite the impacts of global warming, earthquakes, and floods, the survivors don't seem unable to face the task. Not that living rough as an 'Apocalyptic Boy Scout' is anything but wearying and a[...]



Cybils SpecFic Bookmark: SONG OF THE CURRENT by SARAH TOLSCER

2017-12-04T13:05:06.458-08:00

Happy December! The Cybils Countdown Continues!The Cybils SpecFic Bookmark: As a panelist for Cybils YA Speculative Fiction, Round 1, I'm going to be briefly writing up some of the hundreds of book I read as part of the award. As panelist conclusions are not for public consumption, the purpose of these write-ups is to keep track of what I'm reading, and will mostly touch on plot synopsis, with minimal comments on thematic tropes. Synopsis: The Oresteia are the river - they've never been anything or done anything but skim up and back, hauling and freight throughout Riverlands as is their fate, through the auspices of their god. A fair bit of smuggling happens up and down the river, too, but the god stays mum, the wherries are sturdy, and there's always extra space for whatever, right? It's a free and easy life, freight-hauling, smuggling, and knowing the other wherrying families moving through the waterways. Caro was sure this was her fate, too, but the god never speaks to her - she's of age and past it, but even though she trolls her fingers into the water and listens hard, she never...quite...hears. It is the private heartbreak of her life, to be calling and calling, and never answered. And then, on a day when too many other of the wherry families have lost their barges due to a terrifying act of piracy, Caro's father is arrested. Smuggling's the charge, but it's mainly for refusing to ferry goods for soldiers. What's IN that ridiculous crate, anyway? To spare his life and commute his sentence, Caro agrees to carry the box without her Da -- only to realize she's being pursued, first by a mysterious fast cutter, and then, by every two-bit pirate and murderous dog in Riverlands. The smooth-talking courier who claims to know everything is obviously not telling her the truth. If only Caro knew which way she was supposed to go! Politics, treachery, and lies are also in the churning waves - as well as gods and monsters. As Caro immerses herself in the current, a steadying hand on the tiller, she has to navigate these waters safely, or more than just her life and her father's life will come to an end. Observations: Readers who enjoy fast-paced adventures with a whiff of politics will like this one. There's no overwhelming feeling of danger, as the plot twists aren't hidden, but easily discerned. This reads more as a safe adventure, in which the reader can be carried along without anxiety, knowing that, even though there are a few unexpected splashes along the way, the river runs true.The idea of gods and them speaking is not often encountered YA lit, and this book contains an interesting exploration of this. Many readers will find the idea of life-guaidance via water entity an intriguing one. Readers who enjoy books which tell a simple story, and reveal a simple truth may find themselves drawn to the characters in this novel. Mistaken - or hidden - identity is often a fun trope, and though the way in which it is used in this novel is as familiar as a song, and readers will likely see it coming, it is nonetheless still fun. Who we are, and where we belong is something which can be determined ONLY BY US, and many teen novels, with their emphasis on the herd's decisions or parental input, can miss this. As teens, we spend a lot of time hoping this is true, and not sure we believe it, but this novel verifies: there is a place for us, and only we can find it, defying what our mothers are, or what our fathers say, there is a way forward for just US... if we have the courage to take the wheel and sail that cutter into the [...]



Just Reporting In...

2017-11-30T19:18:43.193-08:00

...with a quick "hello, we aten't dead." But, between Cybils season, day jobs, time-stealing leisure activities, rewrite hell, and Thanksgiving family hijinks, both Tanita and I have been sort of quiet on the blog front. But we are persisting and keepin' on, and will be back soon. Speaking for me personally, I will have a LOT more time starting in about three weeks, when the fall semester ends and I finish grading the hilariously gigantic backlog of student assignments I have left. So expect some reviews after that point from me, and possibly one or two quick posts in the meantime.

In any case, you can also find me Monday, Wednesday, and Friday posting at the Cybils blog, highlighting judges' reviews of nominated books. And, oh, I suppose you can find me procrastinating on Twitter a few times a day.

Hasta luego!



Cybils SpecFic Bookmark: JANE, UNLIMITED by Kristin Cashore

2017-11-28T00:00:16.604-08:00

The Cybils Speculative Fiction Bookmark:As a panelist for Cybils YA Speculative Fiction, Round 1, I'm going to be briefly writing up some of the hundreds of books I read as part of the award. As panelist conclusions are not for public consumption, the purpose of these write-ups is primarily to keep track of what I'm reading, and will mostly touch on plot synopsis, with minimal comments on thematic tropes. Synopsis: Jane is unmoored within her own life. College doesn't suit, living with three grad students and working at a coffee shop is hideous. The world is unfair and awful, but it's what Jane has, after the death of her Aunt Magnolia. She longs for something nameless - and it walks into the coffee shop. Her old tutor, Kiran Thrash is rich, disaffected, and deeply unhappy. She doesn't understand Jane's staying in her world, going in circles, when she could come home to the Thrash family mansion to be unhappy with an old friend. So Jane packs up her possession, including her trunks of umbrellas, which she makes as ongoing art projects, and goes away with Kiran, to Tu Reviens, the island mansion her aunt told her to visit if she ever got an invitation. After months of directionless wandering, at least Jane has this. Or, so she thinks. There's something SUPER weird going on at Kiran's. First, Kiran's stepmother has just vanished - entirely. No one knows where she's gone. Second, while there's a gala happening in a few days, and there are tons of people there, there is more than just party-prep going on as rafts of people wander in and out. Some of them seem to disappear in hallways or in the library, others of them seem to have found a secret door - and was that a man with a gun!? The house either has a haunting spirit, or a baby somewhere, from the wailing in the walls. And there was this one little girl she saw, digging holes in the lawn. There's a rambunctious dog, a couple of wealthy ladies, and whole raft of bewildering servants - some of whom act a whole lot more like they own the house than that they work there - Kiran's boyfriend, and Kiran's very handsome brother, Ravi, who adores the priceless - odd, and sometimes tacky - art located throughout the mansion, and has just had his prized Vermeer stolen. Jane should really just hang out with her lathe and saw and finish working on her precious projects. No artist in the world has it as good as she does, with the ability to just potter along and make art in this gorgeous, gorgeous place, surrounded by the sea, with amazing food to eat whenever she wants it, and a beautiful suite of rooms -- but Jane can't help her curiosity and her desire -- her need -- to figure out what's going on at Tu Reviens. As it turns out, the servants knew her aunt! Surely there's something of her left behind - more than just her photographs. Surely, someone can tell her something about the woman she adored, but discovers that she didn't fully understand. But, every bit of knowledge changes Jane - and every choice comes with a price. Leaping down the rabbit hole after any number of clues she doesn't understand could change Jane's story forever. Observations: NB Readers who come to this book looking for a GRACELING or BITTERBLUE readalike will be disappointed, as it is not medieval-era fantasy, nor are there swords or kingdoms. After the death of her parents, the discovery that college wasn't really a good fit, and then the death of her Aunt Magnolia, who has for so long been her touchstone, Jane doesn't have much control [...]



Cybils SpecFic Bookmark: MURDER, MAGIC, AND WHAT WE WORE by KELLY JONES

2017-11-21T03:47:05.700-08:00

The Cybils Speculative Fiction Bookmark:As a panelist for Cybils YA Speculative Fiction, Round 1, I'm going to be briefly writing up some of the hundreds of book I read as part of the award. As panelist conclusions are not for public consumption, the purpose of these write-ups is to keep track of what I'm reading, and will mostly touch on plot synopsis, with minimal comments on thematic tropes. Synopsis: Annis Whitworth's world quietly crumples when it's discovered that not only has her father died under rather unlikely circumstances (but why was he traveling on a night with no moon?) that all of his money has vanished. The father she barely knew is, in a way, only a minor loss, but Annis had been promising herself for too long that she was going to get to know him -- and now it's too late. It feels like it's too late for everything, including regret. The servants are sent packing, the lease on the house is terminated, and Annis and her Aunt Cassia are away to make their way as governesses or companions. Only, Annis isn't going to go quietly. As she is taking in a rather ghastly mourning gown, she makes the discovery that she has the power within her hands - and within her needle - to save them. All she has to do is ply her trade -- but despite her friendships with woman who manage shops, Cassia insists that no girl in trade will ever be able to hold her head up. Determined, Annis whips up a disguise and sets herself up as a dressmaker. For anyone else, it would be a tame endeavor to measure, cut, and sew, tamely minding a shop created solely to outfit Society women, but not for Annis. She saves a friend by chasing off a would-be rapist, delves into the secrets of the Quality, finds clues and trails after strangers. She decides to follow in her father's footsteps and set herself up as a spy. After all, if he could do it, why not? Observations: Fans of Patricia C. Wrede's SORCERY AND CECELIA, Mary Robinette Kowal's SHADES OF MILK AND HONEY or Gail Carringer's ETIQUETTE series will find a kindred spirit in Annis Whitworth. Grieving, impetuous, and ridiculous, Annis is everything we love about Regency heroines. She is well-dressed and well-spoken, hyperfocused on gossip and Society, completely oblivious to ways to avoid trouble, and slightly unable to avoid saying just the wrong thing. This novel gently mocks the social conventions and the mores of the Regency, while celebrating girlhood friendships, bluestockings, and the flinty spirit of womanhood which, when backed into a corner, is unpredictable and can do ANYTHING. Conclusion: An unusual magical power, spies, and derring-do bring together a fast-paced and satisfying Regency romp celebrating the power of demure womanhood, and leaves rooms for readers to want seconds. I received my copy of this book courtesy of the public library. You can find MURDER, MAGIC, AND WHAT WE WORE by Kelly Jones at an online e-tailer, or at a real life, independent bookstore near you! This work is copyrighted material. All opinions are those of the writer, unless otherwise indicated. All book reviews are UNSOLICITED, and no money has exchanged hands, unless otherwise indicated. Please contact the weblog owner for further details.[...]



Cybils SpecFic Bookmark: THE EPIC CRUSH OF GENIE LO, by F.C. YEE

2017-11-20T14:19:49.051-08:00

The Cybils Speculative Fiction Bookmark:As a panelist for Cybils YA Speculative Fiction, Round 1, I'm going to be briefly writing up some of the hundreds of book I read as part of the award. As panelist conclusions are not for public consumption, the purpose of these write-ups is to keep track of what I'm reading, and will mostly touch on plot synopsis, with minimal comments on thematic tropes. Synopsis: Eugenia "Genie" Lo - one of way too many Eugenias of her generation - has always been a bit of a firebrand. Unlike her fashionable friend Yunie - another Chinese Eugenia - Genie finds her center in her homework - which she does routinely, expertly and superbly - and in ignoring her mother's ranting, which she also does like a boss, because her mother is always screaming about something. A Bay Area kid living in the SiliValley, she also bitterly acknowledges that she's just like most of the hordes of teens living in the land asphalt, parking lots, bubble tea shops and strip mall nail salons: she's an education junkie. She's high-achieving. She's Asian. She's desperate to get out of the reach of her mother's voice, and into A Good School. Princeton, for preference, or even Harvard. So, when this weird new guy at school scopes her out and says, "You belong to me...?" Oh, nu-uh. Nope. Not in this lifetime. Genie Lo has way too many other plans - mainly to work on not being just like her father and to get the heck out of dodge.But Quentin Sun - new guy - is not prepared to leave Genie alone, and soon, Genie realizes she needs him - and not just because he's ridiculously good looking. Quentin is all Genie has to teach her what she needs to know to save the world... and soon it's time to school herself on perfecting a whole new set of skills -- those of demon fighting. Genie's pretty sure she can't do it, but Quentin Sun is only an international transfer student in Earth's realm... in the Heavenly Realm of the Jade Emperor, he's the Monkey King, down to the love of peaches and the fuzzy tail. ...And Genie? Well, she's a reincarnated sidekick of his. Quentin's convinced that he and Genie's shared power will be enough to answer the rash of demon incursions on Earth - and into the Bay Area. They're terrifyingly strong and flesh-eating, and it's crucial Genie gets on board with the plan before more people - human people on the earth plane - are brutally murdered and eaten. But, what about being on track for an Ivy League? What about all of her plans? Right now, Genie's got a lot of studying to do - about everything, including the world as she once believed it to be - and there's not enough time... Observations: Many YA readers were first introduced to this oldest and greatest of Chinese fables, the story of the Monkey King, in Gene Luen Yang's AMERICAN BORN CHINESE. The adventures of the Monkey King in that book are myriad and surreal. Author F.C. Yee renders these same surreal battles between "the good guys" and the demons through the eyes of one of the newest good guys - a sarcastic, short-tempered California teen who just wants to get on with things so she can polish up her college entry essays and go back to crushing her opponents on the volleyball court. Readers seeking the trope of the "strong female character" will find a lot more than they bargained for here. Genie is strong both physically and mentally, and by meeting these characters from Chinese myth, she is learning to be strong spiritually. There is [...]



Cybils SpecFic Bookmark: WONDER WOMAN: WARBRINGER by LEIGH BARDUGO

2017-11-14T04:43:07.086-08:00

The Cybils Speculative Fiction Bookmark:As a panelist for Cybils YA Speculative Fiction, Round 1, I'm going to be briefly writing up some of the hundreds of books I read as part of the award. As panelist conclusions are not for public consumption, the purpose of these write-ups is primarily to keep track of what I'm reading, and will mostly touch on plot synopsis, with minimal comments on thematic tropes. Synopsis: Diana knows, as her mother's daughter, that everything she does is going to have more weight. Her mother is the queen of the Amazons, and Diana has her place on Themyscira by accident of birth, rather than right of sisterhood as the other warriors there have earned. Diana knows that everyone believes her to be small and easily broken, the least of her tribe. She only wants her chance to prove herself -- which seems to come in the form of a plane crashing off the shore of their hidden island. Diana saves the human girl from the wreckage, but breaks Amazon law... and soon discovers she's made more of a lasting, horrific mistake than her little law-breaking led her to believe. Meanwhile, the human girl, Alia, was only on the plane - without her brother's permission - because since their parents' death, he NEVER let her go anywhere or do anything, ever. She just wanted to prove that she didn't need the Keralis name to protect her, and she could take a biology internship with strangers, and do just fine. But, no - a bomb on the plan changed those plans, and now she's stuck with a half-dressed supermodel type who was obviously raised in cult. She thinks Alia is some kind of violence magnet -- and she's trying to convince her that she needs to go to Greece to stop a world war. The people chasing the two girls are not imaginary illusions from a cult, regardless of what Alia longs to believe. It is going to take nerves of steel to outwit their pursuers, survive betrayal, and make herself safe again... if she even survives. The only way to do this is to trust her shieldsisters and stand together. Observations: Sister in battle, I am shield and blade to you. As I breathe, your enemies will know no sanctuary. While I live, your cause is mine."Readers seeking representation of strong female friendships will find them in this book. Alia, Nim, and Diana do not always trust each other, nor believe in how the other sees them, but in and out of the face of danger, their interactions are both amusing and instructive in terms of sisterhood and how true friends should be. Diana is inexperienced in terms of American society, but she isn't ignorant or naive, her people having studied men, nations outside their own, disease, weapons, religions and history for years before coming across examples of the real thing. Likewise, though she is uneducated in all things Greek mythology, Alia is able to inform herself by reading and study, which allows her to be prepared. "It's a trap for us. Alia and I always have to be better. We always have to be a step ahead. But the stronger you get, the more you achieve, the more people want to make sure you know your place." He bumped the back of his head gently against the rock. "It's exhausting." - WARBRINGER, p. 272-3 Including Diana's friends as people of color in this novel allowed the author to make some interesting choices and parallels between the lives of superheroes and the lives of successful people, especially people of color. I found it intri[...]