Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Sky Inside

by Clare B. Dunkle

Martin’s birthday arrives along with signs of spring in the neighborhood; the speakers produce pleasant music that some of the older neighbors call “birdsong.” At thirteen, Martin feels he is too mature for the childish present his parents give him, an Alldog. Large or small, sleek or fuzzy—all the dogs you ever wanted rolled into one! Little does Martin know that his dog—christened “Chip”—will help him discover the mysteries that suddenly pop up. A strange packet is arriving at his father’s job, and Martin’s little sister, a Wonder Baby, is being sent off to a special school that Martin doesn’t get a good sense about.
But what can a young boy and his toy dog and do against the powerful adults and their highly sophisticated bots? But with Martin’s stubbornness and a dog that is a lot more than a toy, it might be a lot more than you think.

Somehow I was not at all apprehensive when I learned that Ms. Dunkle’s newest book would be sci-fi. I knew she could do it, and do it very well, and she did. Just as with her previous novels, The Sky Inside easily transports readers to another world, this is one that is both alien and familiar. I didn’t enjoy this book as much as the Hollow Kingdom Trilogy or By These Ten Bones, I think just because this one was not quite as original a setting. With less romance and a bit more action than the author’s other books, The Sky Inside is appropriate and suited for younger children, but is very satisfying for older readers as well.

Look for the sequel coming in 2009, titled The Walls Have Eyes.

Friday, May 23, 2008

A Meme for Two

Jordyn and Aella tagged both of us with a meme, and Book Brat tagged just Ink Mage. The rules for this one are:

  1. Pick up the nearest book.
  2. Open to page 123.
  3. Find the fifth sentence.
  4. Post the next three sentences.
  5. Tag five people and post a comment to the person who tagged you once you’ve posted your three sentences.
The closest book to Ink Mage is Mary Hooper’s Newes from the Dead:
“Everyone in the room looked keenly at Dr. Petty’s face, watching for any shade of change upon it. He repeated the question once more, before shaking his head and concluding quietly, ‘She does not respond.’ Robert felt his heart fall.”
The closest book to Tyto Alba is Pirate Wars, by Kai Meyer:
“The ray bore him past a balustrade, barely a stone’s throw from the two mysterious figures. Griffin felt a prickling on his skin, a tickling and scratching, as there sometimes was over the deck of a ship when a mighty stroke of lightning came too close. Like an invisible explosion, the certainty flared in him that there were things happening on this balcony that would decide the fate of Aelenium, perhaps of the entire world.”
We’re so late in doing this, is there anyone left untagged?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


by Beth Kephart

Elisa Cantor sees the world very differently from other people, while the world sees her as a nobody. She is below her classmates’ radar, undercover. Only boys slide up and speak to her in low voices, asking her for a love poem they can give to their current romantic interest. The simple, undercover things most people don’t notice, like a leaf leaving a tree, the river, and the red coat of a fox against the snow inspire Elisa’s poems.
One boy for whom she has written poems for catches Elisa’s interest; Theo agrees that she’s one-of-a-kind, but he still seems to want to be friends with her. But with his jealous and mean-spirited girlfriend around, they can only meet at the frozen pond at night and skate.

Cyrano de Bergerac, ice-skating, friendship, and writing. Elisa’s story doesn’t focus on any one thing besides Elisa and her exploration of the world and who she is, and her growing confidence. The emotions, the scenery, and the characters are so beautifully described with Beth Kephart’s poetic writing that you just have to love it. From the summary, I did not think I would enjoy Ms. Kephart’s newest book, House of Dance, but now I am very much looking forward to reading it and will definitely check it out.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Remembering Raquel

by Vivian Vande Velde

“It’s amazing how much dying can do for a girl’s popularity,” observes Vanessa Weiss, a classmate of the fifteen-year-old and recently deceased Raquel Falcone. Vanessa is one the many people whose distinct thoughts on death we hear. Other classmates, teachers, relatives, friends, witnesses to her death, an EMT, and a potential date also share the emotions they struggle with. Some feel guilt, others sorrow, most are shocked and confused and want to do something, but they don’t know what. Everyone wishes they had been nicer to her. One woman gives them a way to “commemorate and memorialize Raquel’s life.”

I read Remembering Raquel in about two sittings (it could have been one, but I was interrupted) and thought it is probably the deepest of Vivian Vande Velde’s work yet. Even if this short book, she managed to give an unusual look at the impact death—especially an unexpected one—can have on our lives.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Brontë & Dickens Challenge

I’ve officially entered my first challenge(s). Yay! Recently I’ve been into reading historic novels—mainly Jane Austen, but I want to expand my list of old books. So I’m joining Becky’s Brontë Sisters and Charles Dickens Mini-Challenges. The goal is to read and/or watch two books or movies by Dickens, and two by a Brontë. I plan on reading:

Jane Eyre
Bleak House

And since I’m fond of watching the movie adaptations either before or after reading the book (for comparison), I’m going to watch the 1985 miniseries of Bleak House. Of course, I might decide to read/watch MORE Dickens and Brontë, but for now I won’t bite off more than I can chew. ;-) Wish me luck!

Twisted Fairy Tale Challenge Complete

I’ve completed Enna Isilee’s Twisted Fairy Tale Challenge by reading:

Beast, by Donna Jo Napoli
A Curse Dark as Gold, by Elizabeth C. Bunce
The Swan Kingdom, by Zoë Marriott
The Swan Maiden, by Heather Tomlinson

I did read Cindy Ella, too, but couldn’t come up with enough to say about it to review it.

Thanks to Enna Isilee for hosting this challenge! I had a lot of fun with it.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

The Swan Maiden

by Heather Tomlinson

Doucette is the youngest, overshadowed by her two beautiful sorceress sisters, who have the one thing Doucette has always longed for: a swan skin. She was born without one, her parents tell her, and will never have the chance to transform herself and soar through the sky with the wings of a swan. But then one day, while cleaning the house like a good chatelaine, she finds something with soft white feathers, edged in gray; Her swan skin. Betrayed by her parents and giddy with her new power, what effects will Doucette’s roiling emotions have on those closest to her, including herself?

The Swan Maiden, inspired by French fairytales, tells a simple, sweet, and lovely story. It only took me one day to read, and kept me entertained, although not on the edge of my seat with excitement. My only real complaint with this book was that the romance—especially at first—was very rushed and undeveloped. We see Doucette and Jaume together only three times before “he’s so kind” and “I’ve always admired you” turns into “let’s get married”! Fortunately the fairytale feel of the novel keeps it from seeming completely ridiculous.

Look for the author’s Aurelie: A Faerie Tale, coming September 2008.

Fourth book read for Enna-Isilee’s Twisted Fairy Tale Challenge.

Thursday, May 1, 2008


by Mary Jane Beaufrand

The youngest of the Pazzi children, and a girl without beauty, Flora is the forgotten one in the family. But she gardens and helps her Nonna in the kitchen and doesn’t mind. Too much. Being out of the way of politics, it’s not until the Pazzi fortune starts to dwindle that Flora begins to open her eyes to the issues around her, such as the Medici, an extremely ambitious rival family. Flora’s passage from innocent girl to indomitable young woman may be filled with danger, mystery, and murder, but small, insignificant people sometimes turn out to be the strongest and make the biggest difference. Flora—with the help of her friend Emilio—is determined to survive no matter what it takes.

I don’t feel like I can give a very accurate report because I think I would have enjoyed Primavera a lot more if I’d been in a different mood or state of mind when I began reading. It was good and entertaining, but I didn’t especially love it, and I’d definitely like to read more by Mary Jane Beaufrand, but I really don’t know what else to say; Nothing made it stand out in my mind, possibly because it had similarities to Daughter of Venice and The Falconer’s Knot and so wasn’t a hugely original setting in my mind.
Although a lot of places are rating this book for ages 9-12, I definitely would not suggest it to any nine-year-olds; there are several horrifying and bloody scenes that Flora witnesses.
For an interesting contrast, read Carolyn Meyer’s Duchessina.

Read and for my Royalty Rules Reading Challenge.