Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Red Thread

A Novel in Three Incarnations
by Roderick Townley

Dana Landgrave is a normal high school student, except for her dreams. She dreams of people long ago—people who are scared, happy, laughing, sad, and people who are murdered. These repeated disturbing images compel her to see Dr. Sprague, who believes they aren’t dreams at all, but memories from her past lives. Suddenly Dana is seeing similarities between figures in her every day life and the people from her past. Familiar objects, too, come into her hands, so what if souls of centuries ago also turn up? Dana realizes that if that’s true, her murderer from 400 years ago might be involved in her current life. Now she just has to uncover who it is before another deadly crime is committed.

Like Roderick Townley’s Sylvie Cycle, The Red Thread was a gripping and really interesting story, with a unique mystery because of the what-exactly-is-going-on plot entwined with the whodunit one. It was eerie and haunting; not in the way that makes you jump at strange noises or get chills up your back, but in one that makes you think.

****Also posted on YA Books Central.****

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Seafaring Challenge

I Heart Paperbacks
is hosting a Seafaring Challenge, which will run from November 1st, 2007 - January 31st, 2008. The basic criteria for a challenge book is simply this: it must feature something nautical.
This is my first challenge, and I just had to participate due to my love of the sea, sailing, and tall ships. Click the link above to join in the fun. Reviews will be posted to the Seafaring Tales blog

My goal is to reach the rank of Admiral by reading at least four nautical-themed books by the ending date. So far, the list I'll choose from is the following (all of which are new to me):

Peter Simple, by Frederick Marryat
The Sea Wolf, by Jack London
All Sail Set: A Romance of the Flying Cloud, by Armstrong Sperry

Kydd, by Julian Stockwin
Voyage of Midnight, by Michelle Torrey
The Hungry Ocean: A Swordboat Captain's Journey, by Linda Greenlaw
Into the Wind, by Jean Ferris

(I've finished the ones with strike-throughs.)
If you have suggestions for others you think I'd enjoy (especially if they are for kids or teens), please leave a comment.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Flora Segunda

Being the Magickal Mishaps of a Girl of Spirit, Her Glass-Gazing Sidekick, Two Ominous Butlers (One Blue), a House with Eleven Thousand Rooms, and a Red Dog
by Ysabeau S. Wilce

Flora Nemain Fyrdraaca ov Fyrdraaca lives in a rundown house with eleven thousand rooms (but only one working toilet), her mad father, five gazehounds, and no Butler. He was banished, you see, by Flora’s authoritative mother, Commanding General of the Warlord’s army. One day, in a hurry, Flora decides to take Crackpot Hall’s temperamental Elevator to the second floor instead of the very long staircase, but it doesn’t let her off at the expected destination. Instead it takes her to the Bibliotheca Mayor, where Flora finds a faded boy who turns out to be Valefor, the magickal banished Butler himself. He only needs a bit of Flora’s Anima, her magical essence, to become well—and then he could return to his Butler duties and Flora would never again have to do chores. But the sly Butler isn’t telling her everything, and Flora is getting herself into more than she knows. Soon she must go on a long journey...or lose her life.
The beginning may be a little hard for you to get into, but persevere; once Flora discovers Valefor things start to pick up, and Flora Segunda becomes a unique and fast-paced story. It’s a terrific mix of fantasy and adventure, and by the middle I was flying through it and by the end I was wishing that the next book in the series was out NOW.
Visit the author or grab a copy of the Califa Police Gazette to find out more about the forthcoming Flora’s Dare: How a Girl of Spirit Gambles All to Expand her Vocabulary, Confront a Bouncing Boy Terror, and Try to Save Califa from a Shaky Doom (Despite Being Confined to Her Room).

Sunday, September 9, 2007

The Legends of Sherwood

So you’ve heard all about how Robin Hood was dashing and witty, made a fool of the Sheriff of Nottingham, won the golden arrow, saved Maid Marian, stole from the rich and gave to the poor, and was rewarded for it all by good King Richard, and it’s all old stuff, right? Think again; the novels below bring new excitement to the ancient tales, most with some sort of twist.

The Forestwife by Teresa Tomlinson is a completely new take on the legends of Robin Hood. It’s rather more believable than other versions, also, with very little theatrical swashbuckling. Fifteen-year-old Mary de Holt is to be forced into marrying a man more than twice her age when she makes a run for Ecclesall Woods. There she comes to be known as Marian, and an assistant to the Forestwife. As more people seek the Forestwife’s help, a band of people forms; soon it grows to include a group of renegade nuns, a charcoal burner’s daughter, and the young men who follow the teasing Robert of Loxley. All of whom, for various reasons, become outlaws.
The second book in the series, Child of the May, turns the role of main character over to Magda, daughter of Little John. Magda is tired of her mundane life in the forest and longs to go on adventures with Robert and her father.
Both books are unique and unforgettable, making me very sad that I have not been able to get my hands on a copy of the last book, The Path of the She Wolf; unfortunately it has not been published in the U.S. and is much harder to find.

A young mute boy known as Dummy escapes from his harsh master and makes his way to Sherwood, where he literally falls into Robin’s Country. Once past their initial suspicion, the Merry Men take Dummy on as a sort of apprentice to their good-natured thievery. Here in Robin’s sanctuary, for almost the first time he can remember, Dummy is cared for and respected. As he makes friends among the outlaws, Dummy’s voice and memories of his past begin to return, and he may remember surprising things about his previous life. As usual, Monica Furlong fashions a quickly engaging novel about learning the ways of life and making your place in the world, which is suitable and younger readers, but equally enjoyable for teens and adults.

Nancy Springer brings readers an intriguing version in which Marian never makes an appearance. After her mother’s sudden death, 13-year-old Rosemary sets off to find the father she never knew...Robin Hood himself. Befriended by a wolf-dog and the ancient and mysterious aelfe, Ro eventually finds the outlaw’s hideout. But Robin doesn’t know he ever fathered a child—or that Ro is a girl—and Ro feels she must prove herself before she tells him who she really is. The series has a good strong-girl theme without being sexist (the boys in the band get their spotlights, too) or unrealistic, as Ro and her friends wrestle with loyalties and leadership. Rowan Hood: Outlaw Girl of Sherwood Forest is the first of five books in the Tales of Rowan Hood series; don’t miss the rest of the maiden outlaw’s adventures in Lionclaw, Outlaw Princess of Sherwood, Wild Boy, and Rowan Hood Returns.

I began to read In a Dark Wood, but for some reason just could not find the interest to finish it. While hearing of Robin’s trickery from the Sheriff of Nottingham (in this case named Geoffrey) is an interesting idea, for some reason it couldn’t hold my attention. It’s possible that I was simply not in the mood to read it, but I recommend that you try it yourself. If you like it, there is a companion titled Forbidden Forest: The Story of Little John and Robin Hood, also by Michael Cadnum.
The Outlaws of Sherwood—once past the slow beginning—tells a good tale, but the characters don’t really stand out from one another, and Robin McKinley’s writing is sometimes confusing because she adds so many interjections into a sentence. Still, if you can get into the writing style the story is worth reading and enjoyable, with a few new characters appearing.
More Robin Hood Stories for YA & Juvenile Readers: The Gallows in the Greenwood, by Phyllis Ann Karr
Sherwood: Original Stories from the World of Robin Hood, by Jane Yolen and various authors
Robin Hood of Sherwood Forest, by Ann McGovern
Young Marian’s Adventures in Sherwood Forest, by Stephen Mooser