Showing posts from September, 2011

The Blackhope Enigma, written by Teresa Flavin, 288 pp RL 4

"An old castle, a strange painting and a mysterious labyrinth" is the tagline for Teresa Flavin's debut novel The Blackhope Enigma, and this unique combination does not disappoint. A swift moving tale, the story beings with a prologue set in Venice, 1582, that introduces us to the sought after painter, poet, swordsman and designer, Fausto Corvo. It seems that Corvo, through much study and hard work has learned how to harness the planetary powers to Earth and "infuse his paintings with life." However, through the bragging of one of his apprentices, Corvo's secret skills have become public knowledge and rich and powerful men are after him. Along with his three apprentices, Corvo and his three magical paintings scatter to the four winds, leaving four centuries worth of scoundrels in his wake all searching for the paintings and their hidden powers. 
In present day Scotland, fourteen year old Sunniva (Sunni) Forrest is in the Mariner's Chamber of Blackhope …

A Murder of Crows...

This current phenomena has been noted by others, but since I happen to be posting reviews of two corvid-centric books this week, I thought I'd make official note of it.
In July of this year Betsey Bird was first to call the trend to my attention with her post, 2011 The Year of the Raven. In my opinion, Mortlock and The Blackhope Enigma have the most concentrated use of corvids as characters and even have central figures in the stories named after them (Lord Corvus and Il Corvo). Here are the covers of a few crow/raven books I have reviewed or will be reviewing soon...

And a few I would like to review!

I can't think of another single person, place or thing that has appeared in so many books in such a short space of time.

Mortlock, by Jon Mayhew, 376 pp, RL 5

I first discovered Jon Mayhew and his debut novel, Mortlock, while perusing the Waterstone's Children's Book Prize 2011 Shortlist, the British version of the Newbery. Mayhew found himself in very good company, including Newbery winner Rebecca Stead and her novel, When You Reach Me and Janice Hardy and book one in her marvelous Healing Wars series, The Shifter. When I read the synopsis of Mayhew's novel I knew right away that I wanted to read it but was unable to because, despite the many awards it has won in England, it does not have an American publisher - yet. I emailed Mr Mayhew to ask if he had found an home for his book in America. The very friendly and generous Mr Mayhew informed me that he has not yet found an American publisher for his book but gladly sent me a copy of his first book as well as his second, The Demon Collector. Mayhew is planning a total of three books in all with the same geographical setting but different main characters.
While reading reviews fr…

Daphne's Diary of Daily Disasters, written and illustrated by Marissa Moss, RL 3

Marissa Moss is creator of the original illustrated diar,y Amelia's Notebook. This series first hit the shelves in 1995. Moss's Max Disaster series debuted in 2009 is now she is back with Daphne's Diary of Daily Disasters. The first two books in the series (which have cool fuzzy covers and different colored pages in each book) look just like composition books with the name/schedule page at the start of each book, always filed in by Daphne in a funny way. Daphne also tapes a "favorites" list to the front of the diary that tells the reader her favorite color is pink, she lives in Oakland, is nine years old and has a best friend named Kaylee. She also likes pizza, but not pepperoni, origami and collecting cute Japanese erasers. At the end of each diary, Daphne tapes a different weekly cafeteria menu with her personal comments. The books in the Daphne's Diary of Daily Disasters series are shorter than Amelia's Notebooks and, with the main character being youn…

Americus, writte by MK Reed, art by Jonathan Hill, 216 pp, RL MIDDLE GRADE/TEEN

Americus, written by MK Reed with art by Jonathan Hall is amazing on so many levels for me. I have a deep appreciation for the art of illustration, so I was bit disappointed when I turned to the first page of  Americus and saw that it is illustrated entirely in the traditional black and white comic style without any shades of gray. Still new to the genre, I had yet to read a graphic novel in this style. Most of my reading experience has come from brightly colored, highly imaginative fantasy graphic novels for younger kids. However, by page 5 of Americus I was so completely engrossed in the story that I forgot all about the beautiful colors and magical creatures I thought I longed for. Instead, I was carried along by the story of Neil Barton, a bookworm who usually likes to fly under the radar but who is challenged to speak up when he loses one best friends and is about to lose another as a group of parents threatens to censor his favorite book series and remove them from the public li…

Bake Sale, written and illustrated by Sara Varon, 158 pp, Reading Level 3

I fell in love with the works of Sara Varon when I came across her first graphic novel Robot Dreams a couple of years ago. I was  very new to graphic novels at the time and her wordless story of friendship was charming and just a little bit haunting as well, her illustrations simple, sometimes silly and always deeply descriptive. And I love robots. Now, with Bake Sale she covers another favorite of mine, food! As with Robot Dreams, the copy on the jacket flap of the book captures the essence of the story better than I could. "Cupcake's life is pretty good: He's got his bakery, his band and his best friend. Things aren't always so easy, though. Sometimes Cupcake could use a little help. But is he looking for it in the wrong place?"

Over dinner at Eisenstein's Sandwich, Eggplant shares a new cookbook written by his Aunt Aubergine, who is Turkish. While flipping through the pages, Cupcake is astonished and thrilled to learn that Eggplant's aunt is good friend…

The Wikkeling written by Steven Arntson, illustrated by Daniela J Terrazzini, 234 pp, RL 4

The Wikkeling, by Steve Arntson, a Seattle based writer and musician, is an eye-catching book. With a square shape instead of the traditional rectangular, no dust jacket and beautiful, thick, cream colored pages, I was drawn to it right away. Upon opening it, I was thrilled to discover even more to love. Besides vivid silhouette illustrations, artist Daniela J Terrazzini provides twenty-two pages of of magic in the middle of the book. Reminiscent of Tony diTerlizzi's gorgeous Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You, a fully illustrated companion to the Spiderwick series of chapter books, the colorful pages by Terrazini in The Wikkeling reproduce a long lost book called The Bestiary, compiled by Aristotle Alcott, Henrift, and Friends. Examples of Terrazini's work can be seen below.
Of course, magnificent illustrations are difficult to produce without a wonderful book to inspire them and Steven Arntson's The Wikkeling is just that. Arntson take…

The Seeing Stick, written by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Daniela J Terrazini

The Seeing Stick is an original Chinese fairy tale written by the prolific (and prolifically award winning) Jane Yolen. First published in 1977 with illustrations by Remy Charlip (author and illustrator of the brilliantly fun picture book Fortunately and friend and muse to Brian Selznick, who asked him to pose as George Méliès while he was working on the Caldecott winning The Invention of Hugo CabretThe Seeing Stick was reissued with new illustrations by Daniela J. Terrazini in 2009. I have not seen Charlip's version, but Terrazini's is a beautiful work of art and the book itself is yet another magnificently packaged book published by Running Press, the house that brought us Steven Arntson's The Wikkeling, yet another superbly and uniquely packaged children's book with artwork by Terrazini. Interestingly, both The Wikkeling and The Seeing Stick were designed by Frances J Soo Ping Chow.

The Seeing Stick begins, "Once in the ancient walled citadel of Peking there l…