Tuesday, February 13, 2007

A Hat Full of Sky, by Terry Pratchett, 2004 (Tiffany Aching and the Wee Free Men #2)

Tiffany's off to the mountains to learn proper witchery, leaving behind the Chalk, the sheep, and the Baron's son Roland, a connoisseur of curtseys. But something sinister is searching for just such a host as Tiffany's powerful mind, and Tiffany finds she can't leave the blue, six-inch Nac Mac Feegle behind, wherever she goes. A take-no-prisoners sequel with at least as many belly laughs as the first. Smart and delicious. Most strongly recommended; read the books in order.

Friday, February 09, 2007

A Great and Terrible Beauty, by Libba Bray, 2003

With her mother's 1895 suicide in a Bombay marketplace, 16-year old Gemma Doyle begins to have alarming visions that fill her with a terrible foreboding of a power seeking to devour. Her family whisks her off to England to Spence Academy for girls to erase the scandal and make a lady of her. But strange visions follow, as does a swarthy young Indian, Kartik, who warns her not to tamper with the power beneath them. The novel invokes Victorian England's obsession with spiritualism and sensuality.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Wizard at Work, by Vivian Vande Velde, 2003

All the wizard wants is a quiet summer of fishing and gardening, but no, people keep insisting he solve their problems, and so the longsuffering wizard is summoned to every end of the kingdom in this episodic, fractured fairy tale novel. You just might learn the real story behind some tales you thought you knew. The understated, wry wizard is superb. Smart, funny, recognizable yet new, every tale is surprising but right, and carefully woven into the theme of the whole. For young middle grade up through advanced dementia, strongly recommended.

The Great Good Thing, by Roderick Townley, 2001

"Sylvie had an amazing life, but she didn't get to live it very often." From this enticing first line unfolds a post-modern, funny, clever, dramatic, psychological, sad, delicious fairy-tale fantasy. Where other narratives attempting this kind of storybook-comes-to-life format flop and fizzle, The Great Good Thing (so aptly named) never misses. To summarize would be sacrelige; hurry and read it. After you've read it, tell me what you expected from Thomas. It merits a new category in the Julie Berry blog: vehemently recommended.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

The Charm Bracelet (Fairy Realm #1), by Emily Rodda, 2000

Jessie hates to think of Granny leaving Blue Moon, her mountain home, but Jessie's mom says she must, now that she's taken a fall and her mind's not working like it should. Jessie wonders if it's not the fall, nor living alone, that's affected Granny, but the loss of her charm bracelet. A midnight summons from the wall to the secret garden shows Jessie that Granny is the true queen of a fairy realm that's now in terrible danger. A trite, patronizing narrative. Textual clues suggest an 11 or 12-year old Jessie, but illustrations and the utter mindlessness of the character, narration, and plot suggest a girl of six or seven, which is probably the target market. Overwritten, obsessed with and justifying its wise and "kindly" adults at the expense of its child hero. A Babysitter's Club of young girl fantasy. Some may enjoy it, but from me, not recommended.

Wild Robert, by Diana Wynne Jones, 1989

Heather hates living at Castlemaine, where her parents are curators, and where tourists flock like sheep, leaving her no private place except the mound at the edge of the lawn. When Heather accidentally summons from the mound the glowing form of Wild Robert, once the heir to Castlemaine but for some treachery on account of his witchcraft, she finds she has far greater problems than tourists on her hands. A brush with the past that offers as much complication as romance, short and tightly written early middle grade fantasy. Strongly recommended.

The Clue of the Linoleum Lederhosen, by M.T. Anderson, 2006

When Katie needs a break from solving hideous horrors and crimes, she, her best friend, Lily, and Jasper Dash, Boy Technonaut, head to Moose Tongue Lodge on Resort on scenic Mt. Anderson (look twice at the name) for some detection-free R&R. But it seems they're not the only action-thriller book series heroes present, and nefarious crime has followed, nay, summoned, them there. The second in Anderson's nutty "Thrilling Tales" series promises a large second helping of the absurdity found in Whales on Stilts. It may depend even more heavily than the first title on allusion and parody of the childhood pulp fiction series of yesteryear, and therefore may make more sense to adult readers. Still, recommended.