Sunday, January 17, 2010
Friday, January 15, 2010
Each human character in Xanth is born with a unique magical ability, called a talent. In addition to the human characters, Xanth is populated by centaurs, demons, dragons, fauns, gargoyles, goblins, golems, harpies, merfolk, naga, nymphs, ogres, zombies, curse fiends, and other fictional beasts.
Geographically, modern Xanth resembles the real-life state of Florida. One major exception to this is the Gap Chasm, an enormous canyon a mile wide which completely bisects the country. Xanth has a connection with the normal world, which is referred to as "Mundania," its people are called "Mundanes". Although any citizen of Xanth can enter Mundania at any time through an isthmus in the northwest, Mundanes enter the isthmus in Xanth from random geographic locations and time periods throughout history.
The Adult Conspiracy is one of the prominent features of the Xanth world. Nearly every book except the very early ones contain references to the Conspiracy and its effects, particularly those novels in which the main characters are children. At its core, the Adult Conspiracy seeks to protect children from knowledge that could bring them to great harm. The precise age for entering into the world of the adults is age 18, corresponding to the age of majority in most places. The primary principle that inducts children into the Conspiracy is the understanding of the secret of "summoning the stork." In Xanthian terms, "summoning the stork" literally means to put out a call to summon a stork which will deliver to the couple a child. Other faculties of the Adult Conspiracy include censorship of foul language and the inability to have childish fun.
*Description taken from the Wikipedia entry for Xanth.
I discovered the Xanth series by Piers Anthony when I was around 12 years old. It was one of the first young adult/adult series that I read and once I discovered them, I read every novel in the series that I could get my hands on.
At the moment, there are 33 books in the series. The first book is A Spell for Chameleon. This introduces the magical world of Xanth and its magical human inhabitants, except for Bink, who apparently is without magic. Bink sets off to see the Good Magician Humphrey, who has a giant book of answers, to find out why he has no magic. Thus begins a fantastic and pun-filled adventure that sparked a wildly popular fantasy series!
When I started reading this series, though, I did not begin with the first book. I randomly picked up book 17, Harpy Thyme, and instantly fell in love with the characters and world. One of the great things about this series is that you CAN pick it up anywhere. Though there are a few themes that continue and develop throughout the series, each book basically stands on its own.
Each has a separate cast of main characters, its own series of puns, romance, adventure, and a satisfying conclusion.
Another thing that I really enjoy about this series is that it is fun and romantic, and sometimes a little wild, but without being outrageous or smutty! With the inclusion of the "Adult Conspiracy," Anthony guarantees that there are no gratuitous sex scenes and swearing is almost nil. There is a lot of suggestiveness, but a twelve-year old CAN read these books without being traumatized!
The newest book in the series is Jumper Cable. It is another fun addition to the series, though I personally was not fond of one of the characters, a wood wife, who spoke using "nature terms" throughout the book. For example, she would say "Yew look very nice today." I was constantly correcting the words in my head as I read them, so my brain began to hurt if I read for too long in any given sitting. Other than this character's speech pattern, though, it was another excellent Xanth book.
If you are looking for a fun and light read, try one of Anthony's Xanth books.
Friday, January 8, 2010
Thursday, January 7, 2010
Rich and Jade series: Book 3
by Jack Higgins
Rich and Jade Chance are once again on the run— but this time, trouble finds them while their father is away on his own mission. After a breathless chase through an amusement park, Jade is taken hostage by a man from Chance’s past who is plotting a dastardly political coup in the Middle East with nuclear weapons as a threat. Worse still, the President of the United States is on his way to the region for a summit meeting. It will take all of the Chance family’s wits and skills to find the bomb and defuse the threat—and time is running out.
I thought this was an excellent choice for tween boys, reluctant readers, and girls who like the "Gallagher Girls" series. The chapters are short, it is action packed right from the first page, and though it involves some geography and politics, it is all written in an extremely easy to understand language. In fact, this book almost read like you were watching it happen on a movie screen. Definitely recommended for those sometimes hard to please tween readers.
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
In case you haven't already caught wind of this...
The Kane Chronicles: Book One
Due out on May 4, 2010.
Product Description (courtesy of Amazon)
Since their mother’s death, Carter and Sadie have become near strangers. While Sadie has lived with her grandparents in London, her brother has traveled the world with their father, the brilliant Egyptologist, Dr. Julius Kane.
One night, Dr. Kane brings the siblings together for a "research experiment" at the British Museum, where he hopes to set things right for his family. Instead, he unleashes the Egyptian god Set, who banishes him to oblivion and forces the children to flee for their lives.
Soon, Sadie and Carter discover that the gods of Egypt are waking, and the worst of them--Set--has his sights on the Kanes. To stop him, the siblings embark on a dangerous journey across the globe--a quest that brings them ever closer to the truth about their family, and their links to a secret order that has existed since the time of the pharaohs.
Sunday, January 3, 2010
This year, though, I have decided to try three book challenges. I am signing up for an audio book challenge, a Support Your Local Library book challenge, and a historical fiction book challenge (all info below). I commute about 45 mins. each way to work 5 days a week and have officially become addicted to audio books, so I decided to go whole hog on that one and agreed to "read" 20 titles. I work in a Library and check out nearly all of the books I read from my workplace. Therefore, I committed to reading 100 titles from my Library. Lastly, I realized this year, that though I never seem to pick up any historical fiction titles on my own, through recommendations, books I have to review for SLJ, and reading books that are up for awards, I end up reading a bunch of historical fiction every year, and I end up really enjoying them. So, I played it somewhat safe on that one and decided to just commit myself to 6 titles this year.
These are the challenges I signed up for:
1. The Support Your Local Library 2010 Challenge, hosted by J. Kaye's Book Blog.
2. The Audiobook Reading Challenge, hosted by Royal Reviews
3. The Historical Reading Challenge, hosted by Royal Reviews
For more information, you can check their blogs for all of the rules and to sign up.
Good luck on all of your challenges!!
Thursday, December 31, 2009
Well, my official books read total was 205. I thought that I had read more, but the official "Books Read" monthly notebook does not lie. That total is books I read for fun, ones I reviewed for SLJ, and ones that I listened to in audiobook format.
Here is a list of some of my favorite books from this past year, broken into my own "genre" categories (or stolen from yabooknerd's fantastic year end list). Not all of these books were published in 2009. I tried really hard this past year to read books that were recommended to me over and over, some of them being much older!
In no particular order:
Best Endings of Great Series
The Last Olympian - Rick Riordan
Silvertongue - Charlie Fletcher
Best Follow Up Book
Everwild - Neal Shusterman
Best Fantasy Books
Eon: Dragoneye Reborn - Alison Goodman
The Books of Umber: Happenstance Found - P.W. Catanese
Quick and Fun Paranormal Romance
Moonlight - Rachel Hawthorne
Best Ghost Story
The Graveyard Book - Neil Gaiman
Best Realistic Fiction
The Summer I Turned Pretty - Jenny Han
Best Science Fiction AND Flat Out Romance Triangle (Quadrangle?)
The Host - Stephenie Meyer
Leviathan - Scott Westerfeld
Best Dystopia Novels
The Maze Runner - James Dashner
Catching Fire - Suzanne Collins
Best Mythology Book
Radiant Darkness - Emily Whitman
Death by Bikini - Linda Gerber
Best New "Got Me Hooked" Series
Chicagoland Vampires - Chloe Neill
Best Tween Book
Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life - Wendy Mass
Bloody Jack - L.A. Meyer
Best Fairy Tale Retellings
Hush: An Irish Princess' Tale - Donna Jo Napoli
Princess Ben - Catherine Gilbert Murdock
Best "New to Me" Author
Maria V. Snyder - Poison Trilogy, Glass Trilogy
Utterly Shocking, Yet Compelling
Living Dead Girl - Elizabeth Scott
Book That Had Me Bawling
Before I Die - Jenny Downham
Best Use of Librarians in Story
Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians - Brian Sanderson
Samurai Shortstop - Alan Gratz
Killer Unicorns, Need I Say More?
Rampant - Diana Peterfreund
Thursday, December 24, 2009
About three years ago, my mother gave me the book, Skipping Christmas by John Grisham. It is the book that inspired the movie, Christmas with the Kranks. What a wonderful story!! It's about a couple, the Kranks, that are fed up with the hoopla of the holidays and decide that because their grown daughter will not be coming home for Christmas, they will instead take a cruise over the holidays! Their decision to boycott offends everyone in their neighborhood and at work, and soon they are at odds with everyone they know, but they are standing firm in their decision...until Blair calls to say that she is coming home, after all! As they panic, their neighbors and friends pull together to help them make this holiday the best ever for their daughter. It's a touching story of people coming together at the holidays and recognizing that the holidays really are about friends and family instead of all the muss and fuss.
Then, of course, there a favorite of children and adults alike...The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg. A wonderful picture book, also recently turned into a movie, telling the story of a boy who is unsure whether or not he still believes in Santa Claus. On Christmas Eve, he is magically whisked to the North Pole on the Polar Express. The train takes them directly to Santa's magic workshop and all the children on the train are able to experience the wonder of the holiday. This boy is also chosen to receive the first gift of Christmas and chooses one of the sleigh's beautiful silver bells. He loses it on his way home and is momentarily devestated, but finds it wrapped from Santa under the tree on Christmas morning. The best part of the story, though, (the part that always, always, makes me cry) is that only those that believe in Santa can hear the bell jingle and slowly everyone but the boy loses the ability to hear it. He never stops believing!
So, in the spirit of these wonderful tales...
Merry Christmas to All!!!
Check out this huge pile o'books that Mari Mancusi is giving away for the holidays!!
Want to check out the details and enter?
Go to her blog at: http://marimancusi.blogspot.com/, then get follow her directions for reblogging, tweeting, etc. and you could win!
Keep your fingers crossed for me (and I'll keep'em crossed for you if you enter too!)
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
by Neal Shusterman
The Skinjacker Trilogy: Book 2
There was the rumor of a beautiful sky witch, who soared across the heavens in a great silver balloon. And there were whispers of a terrible ogre made entirely of chocolate, who lured unsuspecting souls with that rich promising smell, only to cast them down a bottomless pit from which there was no return.
Everlost, the limbo land of dead children, is at war. Nick the "Chocolate Ogre" wants to help the children of Everlost reach the light at the end of the tunnel. Mary Hightower, self-proclaimed queen of lost children and dangerous fanatic, is determined to keep Everlost's children trapped within its limbo for all eternity. Traveling in the memory of the Hindenburg, Mary is spreading her propaganda and attracting Afterlights to her cause at a frightening speed.
Meanwhile, Allie the Outcast travels home to seek out her parents, along with Mikey, who was once the terrifying monster the McGill. Allie is tempted by the seductive thrill of skinjacking the living, until she learns a shocking secret: Those who skinjack are not actually dead.
It had been awhile since I read Everlost, which came out in 2006, so at first I had a little trouble remembering what had transpired in the first book. Once I sorted things out mentally, though, this book sucked me right in and blew me away! Shusterman is a master at creating a new world with its own distinct rules and mores. Each character grows in interesting and revealing ways. Mary Hightower's progression into a dangerous fanatic was especially disturbing and compelling to read! There are so many revelations and twists in this book, it's incredible that it still flows in a distinct storyline. When I finished this book, I literally had to pause to catch my breath and now I am upset that the final book in the trilogy is not yet published.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
The Summer I Turned Pretty
by Jenny Han
Belly measures her life in summers. Everything good, everything magical happens between the months of June and August. Winters are simply a time to count the weeks until the next summer, a place away from the beach house, away from Susannah, and most importantly, away from Jeremiah and Conrad. They are the boys that Belly has known since her very first summer -- they have been her brother figures, her crushes, and everything in between. But one summer, one wonderful and terrible summer, the more everything changes, the more it all ends up just the way it should have been all along.
This is my first Jenny Han book, though I've heard great things about Shug and I keep meaning to go and read it. This book was wonderful. Belly is a very realistic character...you feel her awkwardness, her earnestness, her yearning for love, her "brattiness." She is what I think I was as a fifteen year old. Han has a beautiful way of drawing the reader in. You know, or at least have an inkling of what's really happening, but still she surprises and tells each scene with such delicacy that it is truly wonderful storytelling.
Having had the experience of finding out that someone in your family has cancer and then having to live with the fallout...realizing that life never will be the same, and yet, needing to continue on in life as much as possible, this book really spoke to me personally. I was pulling for everyone in the book with all my heart. It was realistic and yet, left me filled with wonder and hope. Highly recommended.