Category Archives: fantasy

Blog Tour – Anika Arrington’s The Accidental Apprentice

Anika Arrington’s the accidental apprentice
The Accidental Apprentice by Anika Arrington

interview with anika arrington

Tell us a little about yourself and your background? I moved to Arizona when I was 4, and I’ve been here ever since. I’m married to the best guy ever! I just gave birth to my sixth child, and he is just scrumptious. I’m a huge believer in self-education and life long learning, so I read all kinds of non-fiction as well as fiction. I studied at Northern Arizona University for three years: political science, communications, and creative writing. Obviously only one of those really stuck.

When did you decide to become a writer? Decide is such a solid, formal word. I guess I decided not to give up on writing about five years ago. I had started writing stories and given up on them a hundred times before, but I was just in a place in my life where I felt I could really make something happen, and I did.

What are your ambitions for your writing career? Well, at the end of it I would like to look back and be able to say, “I never wrote anything that was untrue to myself.” Beyond that, I just want to keep writing, keep putting books and stories out there, and improving as a writer and a person.

Which writers inspire you? Classical favorites include Dickens, C.S. Lewis, Shakespeare, Edgar Allen Poe, and Oscar Wilde. In a more modern context I love Erin Morgentstern, particularly her Flax Golden Tales on her website. Patrick Ruthfuss is another modern favorite. And I find that a good number of children’s writers really resonate with me: Dr. Suess, Avi, Brandon Mull, Shannon Hale, and Tomie de Paola to name a few.

What are you working on at the minute? Raising my babies. I just had my sixth kiddo in August, and he needs a lot of loving on. So with the release of The Accidental Apprentice I am taking a little break while ideas for the sequel simmer, and then I will jump back in come January. And I am never not working on being a better writer, so while I am taking a break from having a WIP I will do a bunch of reading up on writing and practice and play with older manuscripts like forgotten toys.

Have you written any other novels in collaboration with other writers? Well, I did have a short story published in an anthology, so it was great seeing the group effort behind the scenes, but I’m not sure I have the right temperament for collaboration. It would have to be with someone whose style was either completely different than mine, or who was so in sync with me that they could pretty much write the book themselves.

Do you write every day, 5 days a week or as and when? I wish I wrote every day. i want to. Some weeks I can, others I can’t. I have found that the real change in the way I write in the last year or two is that I don’t wait to feel like writing. I do it when I hate it, when I’m too tired, too stressed, too whatever. And in the end, that’s what it takes to get the work done.

Where do the your ideas come from? A small local honey stand in Pine, AZ.

Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you? I love writing by the seat of my pants and seeing what happens. But I was forced with Accidental Apprentice to create an outline. And I didn’t always stick to it, but it was really helpful when I got stuck from time to time.

Do you read much and if so who are your favorite authors? Writers who don’t read confuse me. But that aside, this year has had me in a bit of a dry spell. I am usually a voracious reader, but between my pregnancy, my other kids, and writing my own book my To-Read list has grown rather than shrunk. Though Patrick Ruthfuss’s “The Name of the Wind” and “The Wise Man’s Fear” were so stinking good I wanted to give up writing and become a professional Patrick fan. I actually don’t tend to latch on to a particular author, but rather individual books that speaks to me. Garth Nix’s “Abhorsen” series was truly excellent, his “Mister Monday” didn’t really do much for me. And that’s ok. That’s the nature of art.

What book/s are you reading at present? “The Circle Maker” by Mark Batterson and “Leaders Eat Last” by Simon Senick

Tell us about the cover/s and how it/they came about. Well, I didn’t have much to do with the cover. The amazing Dale Robert Pease read the descriptions I gave him and then went to work, occasionally asking a few questions. The result is one of my favorite scenes from the book brought to life. I’m really happy with it.

What is your favourite positive saying? Really? I’m a great big cynic most of the time, and yet surprisingly optimistic. I find happy little phrases on the trite side. Just doing my best and being alternatively content and joyful (while making fun of the cheerleaders of the world) as often as possible is enough for me.

What is your favourite book and why? Why do people think that any writer could pick one favorite book? Every book is its own work of art, and thus different. We like different books for different reasons and seasons. I reread Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol” every year at Christmas time, but that’s not my favorite. I can recite “Green Eggs and Ham” from memory, but it’s not my favorite. My favorite is whatever suits the mood and the moment. Right now, I would probably say Shakespeare’s “Much Ado about Nothing.”

What is your favourite quote? The word “quote” is a verb. A quotation however, is a noun, and I might have a favorite one of those. “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” Socrates

What advice would you give to your younger self? You’re a writer, stupid. Just go with it. And YOLO is not a justification for anything!

What advice would you give to aspiring writers? Be observant. Ideas are everywhere. Write them all down. Play with writing. Do it constantly and faithfully and don’t stop. Also have a day job. Try a bunch of different things to give you the life experiences that will feed your creative endeavors later on.

Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included? Never try to write up interview questions at night when you are exhausted and the caffeine has worn off.

About The Accidental Apprentice

The Accidental Apprentice by Anika Arrington

An Excerpt from The Accidental Apprentice

The Accidental Apprentice by Anika Arrington

 About Anika

The Accidental Apprentice by Anika Arrington

Find Arrington on the web: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Amazon | Goodreads

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The Accidental Apprentice by Anika Arrington


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Review: Corbenic

Corbenic by Catherine Fisher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a modern re-telling of The Fisher King, and Parsifal. Cal, running away from his drunken schizophrenic mother, is on his way to his uncle’s house where his uncle has grudgingly offered him a trial job in his accountancy firm, and he gets to take a course at the university one day a week, as well as a place to stay. But he gets off the train at the wrong stop, in the dark and fog, and finds himself at Corbenic, but there is nothing there. He decides to wait for a later train, but realizes that one may not be coming until morning and it’s cold and drizzling. So he makes his way up and overgrown path, brushing his way past brambles, until he hears voices and sees a light. It is two fishermen on a river, one of whom directs him to a hotel up the road, and tells him to say that he sent him. So Cal forces his way up the path, and finds a broken down sign for the inn/castle, and goes inside. Inside, there is light, warmth, and it’s beautiful to him. Someone greets him, and leads him upstairs to a wonderful bedchamber, and tells him there is no charge, since he is their guest. Cautious, but low on funds, he decides to stay. The bell rings for supper, and from out of the rooms around him come men and women dressed in fabulous evening clothes, on their way to a banquet. Once there, he is told that the Fisher King wants him to sit at the head table. Feeling decidedly out of place in his cheap new clothes, he goes to the table, where he finds “Bron,” the Fisher King, is one of the fishermen he met earlier in the boat. He eats course after course of delicious food, and as the banquet progresses, suddenly the others fade out, and from a door behind the table he is seated at, comes a procession: a boy carrying a spear that bleeds from the tip, then two more boys carrying candlesticks, and finally, as a cold wind blows through him, and pain comes agonizingly, just as his mother has described her visions, comes a blonde girl in a green gown, carrying a large jeweled, but dented old cup. A light shines from the Grail cup, and then the procession moves on into a doorway that wasn’t there before, and afterwards disappears. The Fisher King asks him to say what he saw, to ask him what it means, but Cal, afraid that he is becoming a victim to the same mental disease of his mother, and scared by what he has seen, says he saw nothing. The Fisher King bows from pain, and Cal, unsure of himself now, quickly leaves for bed, with the Fisher King saying it will be a long journey. When he awakens the next morning, the castle is not the same. It is an old ruin, and gone are the people, the beautiful wall hangings, etc. It is an open ruin, with leaves, and mold and vegetation creeping in. Stuck into the moldy pillow is a beautiful sword, with a note that tells him it will serve Cal as he has served the Fisher King. He stumbles out of the castle, and hacks his way through the clinging vines and finds himself not far from a village, where he finds his way to his uncle, and tries to forget about Corbenic. But he can’t forget, and he falls in with a group of motley re-enactors, who call themselves Arthur’s men, but speak as if they really are them. He decides, after trying to rid himself of the sword several times, to try and learn how to use it. But he is torn between the nice, upscale life he has wanted, and the desire to set things right. And the legend plays out. Once again, Ms. Fisher outdoes herself in the telling of a legend. She is masterful at imagery and at feelings, delineating characters with swift loving strokes of words, and by their actions, shows them to be who they truly are. No one is perfect – all have flaws that they must work to overcome. But Cal must follow his path, until he figures out what Corbenic means, and come to peace with his past.

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Review: Enchanted

Enchanted by Alethea Kontis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a frothy, silly, enchanting mash-up of almost all the fairy tale memes. Some are crucial to the book’s development, other’s mentioned in passing, and others just plot devices, but they are there. The fun thing, for someone like me who is a fairy tale lover, is identifying them all. Apparently this came out of a challenge at a writer’s workshop in which they were to choose several fairy tale themes from various columns and put them together. She did all of them, inspired by one guy before her who had done the same thing with a different theme set, with The Hand of Don Peron. I used to sit up on Saturday mornings, for years as a kid and pre-teen, reading Andrew Lang’s color fairy books, the Blue Fairy Book, the Lilac, and so forth. He collected fairy stories from around the world, and put them in a large collection of books. Combine that with my own small pb collection, Prince and Princess Stories To Read Aloud, and you get a girl obsessed with the fairy world, and the magic therein. So this book was my delight. It may not appeal to those who don’t have an eye for magic, romance or fey things, but this charming story of Sunday, the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter, who happens to catch the eye of a frog, a prince enchanted by a fairy godmother. They begin a friendship that is precious to her, and one day, when she leaves, she kisses him, and true love breaks the spell. but she is already gone back to her woodcutter’s family, and doesn’t know that he has turned into the crown prince. So the prince devises a series of balls, and much mayhem and matchmaking ensues. Plenty of action, drama, danger and romance brought right, as the sisters all find their place in this magical world. A keeper if there ever was one.

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Review: Tyger Tyger

Tyger Tyger
Tyger Tyger by Kersten Hamilton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the first book in the Goblin Wars series. I was going to give it 4 1/2 stars, but couldn’t decide to bump up or down, so I went with up. If the other books prove as entertaining, then it will stay. If not, down to 4 it goes. This is a real adventure about goblins, and various fae people, set in Cincinnati, but drawing heavily on the Irish folklore about the beginning of the world, and how it split up, and how the Mag Mell, or the fae world was sealed. Teagan is living a normal life of a teen, wanting to go to Cornell and be a vet, when one day her long-lost “cousin” comes to stay at the behest of social services. Finn is almost eighteen and they need someplace to put him until he ages out. But there is something different about Finn Mac Cumhaill. Not only does she feel an instant connection with him, but once he arrives, strange things start happening, and she begins to see … creatures. Finn leaves, realizing he has brought the fae world to her home, but it is too late -the family has been touched, and their past history with the goblin world is about to come to light. Full of tons of fun characters, and folklore, this is a breathless adventure through the Cincinnati area, and Mag Mell. You will meet all the dark fae, and be dragged into their world. My only complaint with the book, and that could be my faulty memory, is that at times it got too complicated for me – with all the old Gaelic names and places, and who did what, and who got rid of who or cursed this one, it got confusing for me, after a night’s respite. But that may be me. Others may find it easy to follow. I hope so, for the amount of sheer goblin information she puts into the book is amazing. You come out of it feeling like there should be a cat-sídhe around the corner. Romance, terror, danger and fun.

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Review: Cinder

Cinder by Marissa Meyer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Once in a while, and I have been lucky lately, a book comes long that fulfills the promise it makes. Cinder is such a book. At once a fairytale, and also a science fiction book, it is the story of the Commonwealth’s greatest mechanic, a partially cyborg 18 yr old girl named Cinder, who is the stepdaughter of a nasty, vindictive woman, who holds her guardianship after the man who saved her (her guardian’s husband) died, and her two stepdaughters, one kind, Peony, and the other cruel, Pearl. They make Cinder work, so they don’t have to, living in poverty, but putting on airs of a higher status. One day, a handsome young man comes to her booth at the market, and asks if she can repair his android – it is vital. It is the Prince in disguise. And so she says she’ll help him. Now very young girl in the Commonwealth is secretly in love with the prince, and Cinder is really no different, so she tries to hide the fact that she is a cyborg. But a nasty plague is consuming the kingdom and soon consumes those around the Prince and Cinder. And she is drafted by her stepmother to be a test subject for an antidote they are working on. Usually the “volunteers” die, but somehow Cinder does not. And so the adventure begins – twists and turns, an evil queen seeking to marry the prince, a secret long lost Princess of Luna who could overthrow the Queen, and a possible cure for the devastating plague. But this seems to be only the first stop in this riotous, funny, tender homage to fairytales. I can’t wait for more. Minor characters take on life, and you care about them, as well as our hero and heroine. The setting is intriguing, New Beijing, centuries after WWIII, and WWIV, and after a Lunar colony has been established on the moon, had time to grow, and now is a threat. The attention to detail is amazing, and you cheer for Cinder, and cry with her, and generally get all the feelings that a good fairy tale evokes. Since I spent countless Saturday morning hours cozied up in my bed with one of Andrew Lang’s fairy books, this one was a breath of fresh air and a glimpse of my past. Highly recommended if you have ever liked fairy stories. I simply can not do it justice.

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Review: The Floating Islands

The Floating Islands
The Floating Islands by Rachel Neumeier
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The cover says it all – a marvelously inventive and thoroughly realized fantasy world, set mostly on a chain of flowing islands, held aloft by the power of a fire dragon in the bowels of each. The states are autonomous from the mainland, but the Little Emperor has been eyeing them for strategic purposes, as stepping stones on his way to his next conquest, since his country’s art is war. The books starts with our hero, Trei, now an orphan, making his way to the islands in search of his mother’s brother, after his father’s brother said they couldn’t keep him since he was only half Toulounnese, and half an islander. The Toulanns are a proud people, and take their pride seriously. His mother’s family welcome him in with open arms and he begins to transition to his new life. But he is filled with dreams of the kajuraihi, men who can fly (with the aid of constructed wings), by a special type of “magic” that allows them to see the air currents and use them, and draw small amounts of power from the sky dragons who fly high around the islands. He wants to be one – to enroll in the school. He meets his cousin Araenè, who likes to dress in boys clothes and go to lectures at the local university on cooking – she wants to be a chef, but in the islands, women are seen as household items only – to get married, learn a few womanly arts and be a good wife and mother. They aren’t treated poorly, just restricted from careers. One day, while out walking, she stumbles into a strange, hidden place -the school of mages, and one of the mages takes an interest in her. When tragedy strikes, she returns, and as a boy, enrolls herself as a mage, since the master she met the first time, saw the magic within her. And thus, our two intrepid heros are set on new careers. But Toulonn has decided to set sail against the islands. Normally they are safe from such incursions, being high in the air, but the Toulonnese are using their mages, and some kind of magic to bring the winds down and thus the islands. It is up to our two to save the day. At once intriguing, and with a fully developed world, it is fun, exciting, poetical, beautiful and you want to know more, about everything. Even minor characters are well drawn, even with a quick stroke. The action never stops, and the excitement builds. There is even some small romance. I can only hope there is more on these islands, as I was captivated by them. Just the sort of place I would love to live.

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The Summer 2012 Kids’ Indie Next List Preview | Bookselling This Week

This is a long list, with several sections, but well worth a look through.  Some sections, such as younger kids, may not interest you, and you can skip through those, but remember, a kid’s book by Kate DiCamillo is worth two YA ones.  😉  Some great titles on the list, like Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore, part of the Fire and Graceling series, and Insurgent, which takes off where the YA SF dystopian Divergent left off.  I’ve been writing my picks down.  Hope you find some for yourself.

The Summer 2012 Kids’ Indie Next List Preview | Bookselling This Week.

Below is a preview of the Summer Kids’ Indie Next List flier, arriving at stores in the upcoming Children’s White Box.

The four-page, full-color flier features the top 10 titles for the summer publishing season and an additional 44 selections spanning all age groups, which are based on nominations from independent booksellers nationwide. All titles include a bookseller quote and full bibliographic information.

The top 10 titles on the list are now also featured on downloadable shelf-talkers.

Looking ahead: The deadline for nominations for the Fall Kids’ Indie Next List is July 13.

The Top 10

1. Bitterblue, by Kristin Cashore
(Dial Books for Young Readers, $19.99, 9780803734739)
“Cashore’s third book is full of intrigue, conspiracies, and secrets. Queen Bitterblue’s rule is shadowed by her father’s legacy of pain, fear, and torture. Believing that the only way to restore her kingdom is to face the past, Bitterblue delves into forgotten histories, stories, and altered memories in her search for answers. Deliciously thrilling and full of twists and turns — plus a little romance, of course!” — Marika McCoola, Odyssey Bookshop, South Hadley, MA

2. Seraphina, by Rachel Hartman
(Random House BFYR, $17.99, 9780375866562)
“Here is a new and original voice that will set the Dragon genre on its ear! Seraphina has an incredible musical talent, one that she must not flaunt in case she draws attention to herself. For Seraphina is no ordinary girl; she is a half-dragon living in a human world that despises all dragons. In this lush world full of secrets and intriguing characters, readers will completely lose themselves. An exciting book!” — Meaghan Beasley, Island Bookstore, Duck, NC

3. Three Times Lucky, by Sheila Turnage
(Dial, $16.99, 9780803736702)
“With its small-town setting, quirky characters, and mystery-laden, fast-paced plot, Three Times Lucky is a wonderful novel for middle readers. That’s to say nothing of 11-year-old Moses LoBeau, who is, for my money, the most winning heroine of any book — children’s or adult — that I’ve read in years. Turnage deserves all the praise she’s sure to get for this book, and then some. Simply a great read!” — David Mallmann, Next Chapter Bookshop, Mequon, WI

4. A Greyhound of a Girl, by Roddy Doyle
(Amulet, $16.95, 9781419701689)
“One day as 12-year-old Mary walks home from school, she meets a mysterious woman who seems to appear out of nowhere. The woman looks young, but seems old, and her name is Tansey, which, as it happens, is the name of Mary’s long-dead great-grandmother. Tansey says she has a message for Mary’s granny. And so, impossibly, four generations of women embark on a midnight road trip to revisit the farm that made them who they are. Doyle’s delightful story is charming, witty, and poignant, a surprisingly fresh generational tale that mothers and daughters will want to share!” — Megan Graves, Hooray for Books!, Alexandria, VA

5. Dragons Love Tacos, by Adam RubinDaniel Salmieri (Illus.)
(Dial, $16.99, 9780803736801)
“Dragons are great! And they love parties — all kinds of parties! And tacos — all kinds of tacos! What could be better, what could be more fun than a taco party for dragons?! Just be careful not to use spicy toppings or the results could be a bit hotter than you wanted. This red-hot little gem will have you planning a party and craving tacos in no time. Just don’t forget to invite the dragons!” — Kris Vreeland, Once Upon a Time, Montrose, CA

6. Insignia, by S. J. Kincaid
(Katherine Tegen Books, $17.99, 9780062092991)
“At 14, Tom Raines is recruited by the Pentagon to train to fight in World War III, a war that is being fought in space by ships controlled by teenagers. While training, Tom learns that the line between enemy and friend is often blurred. With exhilarating battles, some great pranks, and a group of teenagers who are trying to survive military high school, Insignia will keep you riveted from the first page.” — Rebecca Olson, Saturn Booksellers, Gaylord, MI

7. Bink and Gollie, Two for One, by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee, Tony Fucile (Illus.)
(Candlewick, $15.99, 9780763633615)
“If you are not already a fan of the early reader Bink & Gollie, this sequel is sure to win you over. The result of a collaboration between familiar award-winning authors, this is a book of unforgettable characters. Two girls, best friends and an unlikely pair of complete opposites in size and temperament, work as a team to navigate the thrills and wonders of the state fair that is visiting town.” — Barbara Siepker, The Cottage Book Shop, Glen Arbor, MI

8. Insurgent, by Veronica Roth
(Katherine Tegen, $17.99, 9780062024046)
“Picking up where Divergent ended, this sequel gives readers a more detailed glimpse into the other factions, as Tris and Four seek refuge. Still in shock from killing her own friend and losing her parents, Tris begins to doubt herself, especially after someone close to her turns out to be a traitor. As war becomes inevitable, Tris has to decide whether or not to embrace her Divergence. The breakneck excitement, action, and romance, along with a shocking ending, will have you talking about this book for months!” — Joanne R. Fritz, Chester County Book & Music Company, West Chester, PA

9. See You at Harry’s, by Jo Knowles
(Candlewick, $16.99, 9780763654078)
“Knowles plunks the reader down amidst a set of warm, loveable, flawed characters who have to deal with the unimaginable. As a middle child, Fern feels adrift while her busy family tumbles in different directions. When tragedy strikes, through Fern’s eyes we experience the unraveling that can happen to any loving family confronted with a huge loss. Knowles takes the reader’s hand and deftly winds through the maze of grief and shows how navigating with our hearts will always lead us back home.” — Jane Knight, Bear Pond Books of Montpelier, Montpelier, VT

10. Squid and Octopus: Friends for Always, by Tao Nyeu
(Dial, $16.99, 9780803735651)
“Tao Nyeu can work miracles with a simple color palette, spare lines, and gentle, lovely text. Squid and Octopus are true friends. They disagree but don’t argue. They pick each other up when down. And they are charmingly oblivious to their eccentric tastes in socks, gloves, or whatever. Another work of genius from Nyeu!” — Elizabeth Anker, Alamosa Books, Albuquerque, NM

For Ages 4 to 8

Boy and Bot, by Ame Dyckman, Dan Yaccarino (Illus.)
(Knopf Books for Young Readers, $16.99, 9780375867569)
“This is a great picture book to show that we’re all different and have different needs and ways of living, even while we are very much alike! This story of an adorable duo will win the hearts of readers of all ages and is wonderfully illustrated by Dan Yaccarino.” — Elizabeth Anker, Alamosa Books, Albuquerque, NM

Chloe, by Peter McCarty
(Balzer + Bray, $16.99, 9780061142918)
“When a new TV threatens ‘family fun time,’ Chloe uses a little imagination, some bubble wrap, and an empty box to turn things around. Amazing illustrations bring this charming story to life!” — Lisa Fabiano, Wellesley Books, Wellesley, MA

Hippopposites, by Janik Coat
(Harry N. Abrams, $14.95, 9781419701511)
“There are so many concept board books that it’s easy to get tired of seeing the same thing over and over again. But Janik Coat brings life, innovation, and laughs to Hippopposites. While the book starts with a basic small/large spread, it quickly moves to more interesting comparisons, including full/empty in which a layer of cardboard has been physically removed from the book so that children can feel the depression. A fresh design filled with twists on classic concept books!” — Marika McCoola, Odyssey Bookshop, South Hadley, MA

Laundry Day, by Maurie J. Manning
(Clarion, $16.99, 9780547241968)
“When a little shoe-shine boy finds a red scarf, he tries to return it to its owner, by climbing higher and higher up the fire escape of an apartment building in his search. On his way, he meets immigrants from all over the world and receives a friendly ‘hello’ from each. Manning’s use of graphic novel panels perfectly captures the movement of her busy story, while dynamic angles allow readers to take in every aspect of the city. A wonderful exploration of diversity and a celebration of a neighborhood.” — Marika McCoola, Odyssey Bookshop, South Hadley, MA

Mommy, Daddy, I Had a Bad Dream! by Martha Heineman Pieper, Jo Gershman (Illus.)
(Smart Love Press, LLC, $18.99, 9780983866404)
“This delightfully illustrated book is a wonderful aid for children who are frightened by nightmares. Joey, a young kangaroo, wakes and runs to his parents’ bed to tell them of his bad dream. Each time he does so, his parents reassure him and walk him through a logical process that focuses on remembering what he may have done or experienced earlier that could have caused the bad dream. This process gives a child much more control over his life.” — Bob Spear, The Book Barn, Leavenworth, KS

Moo Hoo, by Candace Ryan, Mike Lowery
(Walker Books for Young Readers, $12.99, 9780802723369)
“In this hip companion to Ryan’s funny Ribbit Rabbit, new friends Cow and Owl learn about acceptance and sharing. Engaging illustrations by Lowery add just the right amount of silliness. Ryan’s ‘less is more’ text fits the toddler set to a ‘T’ and will have parents proclaiming this as a storytime marvel.” — Maureen Palacios, Once Upon a Time, Montrose, CA

My No No No Day, by Rebecca Patterson
(Viking, $16.99, 9780670014057)
“Have you ever had a day when your cookie broke, somebody else got to be the princess, the peas were too hot, and your bath was too cold? And then your favorite book made everything alright? Then you, along with preschoolers and mothers everywhere, are going to love Bella!” — Jeanne Snyder, Books & Books, Coral Gables, FL

The Obstinate Pen, by Frank W. Dormer
(Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, $16.99, 9780805092950)

“‘This is what Uncle Flood wants to write with his new pen:
The following story is all true.
But the pen does not write that sentence. Instead it writes:
You have a big nose!
Who knows what to do with a pen that has a will of its own?

This is a very funny story with delightful illustrations about a pen that has its own ideas about what it should write. A wonderful read-aloud!” — Leon Archibald, Bank Square Books, Mystic, CT

Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons, by Eric Litwin, James Dean (Illus.)
(HarperCollins, $16.99, 9780062110589)
“With a song that is readymade for toddler storytime, Pete loses his buttons one by one. But does he cry? Goodness, no. Another wonderful picture book by Eric Litwin with humorous illustrations that James Dean is known for.” — Valerie Koehler, Blue Willow Bookshop, Houston, TX

Rocket Writes a Story, by Tad Hills
(Schwartz & Wade, $, )
“Tad Hills has written the perfect sequel to the wonderful How Rocket Learned to Read. Rocket loves books and words and now he wants to write a story of his own. As he searches for inspiration, Rocket realizes that it’s right in the world around him.” — Beth Puffer, Bank Street Bookstore, New York, NY

Silly Doggy! by Adam Stower
(Orchard Books, $16.99, 9780545373234)
“Lily has always wanted a dog. She wakes up one morning and finds a big furry brown ‘doggy’ outside her bedroom window. He isn’t like other dogs, he doesn’t do tricks well, and he likes to eat weird things, including balls. Lily’s mother tells her that she needs to put up a poster because he probably belongs to somebody. And he does — the zoo! Adorable!” — Debbie Buck, Vintage Books, Vancouver, WA

Zorro Gets an Outfit, by Carter Goodrich
(Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, $15.99, 9781442435353)
“Zorro, the irrepressible pug, is back in Goodrich’s follow-up to Say Hello to Zorro. In this story, the antics of Zorro and friend Mister Bud could almost be told wordlessly, as the delightfully expressive scenes relay how disgruntled Zorro is about wearing a superhero outfit and cape to the dog park. Only when he meets up with another suitably dressed canine does Zorro start feeling happy. Goodrich tells this friendship tale simply and with wry humor. A splendid sequel!” — Maureen Palacios, Once Upon a Time, Montrose, CA

For Ages 9 to 12

Alien on a Rampage, by Clete Barrett Smith
(Hyperion Books for Children, $16.99, 9781423134480)
“David returns for a second summer at his grandmother’s Intergalactic Bed & Breakfast, a vacation spot for aliens. With his friend Amy running all the B&B’s activities and his grandma busy trying out recipes for the town’s upcoming baking contest, David is feeling like the odd man out. Things are even worse after they refuse to believe his warning that the new handyman, an alien named Scratchull, is planning to destroy planet Earth. With only a doglike purple creature named Snarffle at his side will David be able to set things straight before the end of world?” — Ellen Klein, Hooray for Books!, Alexandria, VA

A Boy and A Bear in a Boat, by Dave Shelton
(David Fickling Books, $16.99, 9780385752480)
“With a bear confidently at the oars of his dinghy, a boy sets off on what he supposes will be a short ride. But as days pass at sea with no land in sight, the boy begins to wonder if they could be . . . lost! With adventures on the horizon, this boy and bear will have to keep their wits about them and learn to work together. This is a story that simply brims with warmth and hilarity in a perfect combination, as are this boy and bear!” — Joyce Tiber, Next Chapter Bookshop, Mequon, WI

Deadweather and Sunrise: The Chronicles of Egg, Book 1, by Geoff Rodkey
(Putnam Juvenile, $16.99, 9780399257858)
“When his emotionally distant father, bratty sister, and bullying brother are swept away in a hot air balloon accident, Egg — real name Egbert — is barely able to register the loss. The father of the girl he’s falling for is trying to kill him, there may be magical treasure buried on his family’s land, and he keeps getting captured by pirates! This first book in a new series is filled with humor, adventure, and more bloodthirsty pirates than you can shake a peg leg at!” — Jamie Schildknecht, The Rediscovered Bookshop, Boise, ID

Fake Mustache: Or, How Jodie O’Rodeo and Her Wonder Horse (and Some Nerdy Kid) Saved the U.S. Presidential Election From a Mad Genius Criminal Mastermind, by Tom Angleberger
(Amulet Books, $13.95, 9781419701948)
“Can a seventh grader buy a fake mustache made of real human hair and end up being president of the United States? Yes, if his name is Casper Bengue and he lives in Hairsprinkle. But first Casper needs help from his best friend, Lenny Flem Jr., who, in turn, needs help from the teenage cowgirl queen, Jodie O’Rodeo and her wonder horse, Soymilk, who are the real heroes of this story. Once again Angleberger has created a hilarious, imaginative, gooey novel for middle graders loaded with fun!” — Karen Briggs, Great Northern Books and Hobbies, Oscoda, MI

Flying the Dragon, by Natalie Dias Lorenzi
(Charlesbridge, $16.95, 9781580894340)
“Skye is a soccer-loving American girl, whose relatives are moving to the U.S. for her grandfather’s cancer treatments. In order to help the grandfather whom she has never met, she will have to take a Japanese-language course on Saturdays, and that means losing her place on the all-star soccer team. Skye’s cousin, Hiroshi, has to leave his home in Japan, move to America, and take English lessons. As the cousins struggle with change, their language barrier, and a rivalry for their grandfather’s affection, training for rokkaku — competitive kite fighting — brings them together and helps them find the strength and courage to overcome the obstacles they both face.” — Amy Hussin, Dragonwings Bookstore, Waupaca, WI

Ghost Knight, by Cornelia Funke
(Little, Brown Young Readers, $16.99, 9780316056144)
“Jon Whitcroft feels abandoned. After being sent to boarding school in Salisbury, Jon thinks that the only things he will have to worry about are fitting in and homesickness. Yet shortly after arriving, he discovers an ancient family curse and four vengeful spirits set on sending him to meet his ancestors. Only with the help of his friend Ella and a noble ghost named William Longspee will Jon be able to survive. Filled with murder, betrayal, lies, loyalty, and, of course, true friendship, this book will satisfy the noble knight in all of us.” — Gretchen Shuler, Fiction Addiction, Greenville, SC

Giants Beware! by Rafael Rosado, Jorge Aguirre
(First Second, $14.99, 9781596435827)
“Claudette wants to be a giant slayer just like her father, but why should she wait until she grows up? The villagers tell stories of a terrible giant who loves nothing more than baby feet. If Claudette can just open her father’s secret chest, she’ll have everything she needs to defeat a giant. Once she secures the aid of her brother, an aspiring pastry chef, and her best friend, who wants nothing more than to be a princess, Claudette sets out to slay the giant. With a spunky, pint-sized heroine and a surprising ending, Giants Beware! is certain to be a hit!” — Marika McCoola, Odyssey Bookshop, South Hadley, MA

The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom, by Christopher Healy, Tod Harris
(Walden Pond Press, $16.99, 9780062117434)
“Ever hear of Gustav and Frederic? How about Duncan and Liam? Well, then, how about Prince Charming? These four Princes Charming — unknown by name, but brought together because each has always played second fiddle to their princesses in favorite fairy tales — are eager to prove to their kingdoms that they deserve to be the heroes of their own story. The only problem? They are all — with the possible exception of Liam — woefully incompetent in the hero department. Mix that in with an evil witch, some trolls, and an annoyingly heroic Cinderella and you’ve got a hilarious adventure story boys and girls will love!” — Amanda Hurley, Inkwood Books, Tampa, FL

Iva Honeysuckle Discovers the World, by Candice Ransom, Heather Ross
(Hyperion Books for Children, $14.99, 9781423131731)
“Eight-year-old Iva is certain that she’s destined for greatness and poised to make her first big discovery. But there are bumps in the road — especially her bossy double-first-cousin, Heaven. All Iva wants in the world is to find her great-great-grandfather’s buried treasure and a friend who understands. After many misadventures, Iva despairs of finding either, but it turns out that friendship, like buried treasure, can turn up in the most unexpected places. I loved this charming little book, sprinkled with Southern flair and a quirky cast of small-town characters. Recommended for fans of Clementine and Ivy and Bean.” — Megan Kennedy, Hooray for Books!, Alexandria, VA

Jake and Lily, by Jerry Spinelli
(Balzer + Bray, $15.99, 9780060281359)
“This lovely story about the special bond between twins is unlike anything Jerry Spinelli has ever written. The twins tell their story in alternating chapters. Jake and Lily have always known each other’s thoughts. Even stranger, they both sleepwalk to the train station every year on their birthday. But now that they’re 11, things seem to be changing. Jake starts hanging out with a neighborhood gang, leaving Lily behind. Will Jake’s new friends get him into trouble? Will Lily find a friend of her own? And more importantly, does growing up mean growing apart? A bright and breezy story full of Spinelli’s trademark humor, with an ending that is absolutely perfect.” — Joanne R. Fritz, Chester County Book & Music Company, West Chester, PA

Kepler’s Dream, by Juliet Bell
(Putnam Juvenile, $16.99, 9780399256455)
“Here’s a book that manages to deal with some of the weighty issues that can threaten modern childhood — divorce and a parent’s serious illness — while still acknowledging that life, in all of its whacky glory, does go on. Kids still love Fruit Loops, they still tell little white lies, they worry about bad haircuts, and they can’t resist solving a mystery when one drops in their laps. Delightful, authentic characters make this a fine summer book for middle readers.” — Susan Scott, The Secret Garden, Seattle, WA

The Second Spy (The Books of Elsewhere Volume 3), by Jacqueline West
(Dial, $16.99, 9780803736894)
“The Books of Elsewhere series continues to delight. In her third outing, Olive faces dread on two fronts: Annabelle McMartin continues to haunt her, and she’s starting middle school. When she and her allies begin keeping secrets from one another, it makes it hard to know whom to trust. Olive may have painted herself into a corner in more than one way in this latest art-infused thriller.” — Rosemary Pugliese, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, NC

The Secret Tree, by Natalie Standiford
(Scholastic Press, $16.99, 9780545334792)
“Minty Mortimer loves being a kid. She loves roller derby, hanging out, and annoying her older sister, Thea. Minty’s best friend, Paz, is ready to embrace middle school and a new grown-up image. She wants to impress the cool seventh graders, and she is becoming cruel to Minty. The Secret Tree tells the story of Minty’s last summer as a little kid and Paz’s first summer as a big kid. Unfortunately for their friendship, it’s the same summer. Every fifth grader needs to read this book. So much heartbreak could be avoided if kids could only see the secrets in their friends’ hearts.” — Elizabeth Anker, Alamosa Books, Albuquerque, NM

Summer at Forsaken Lake, by Michael D. Beil, Maggie Kneen
(Knopf Books for Young Readers, $16.99, 9780375867422)
“Spending the summer away from the city and friends was not what Nicholas had in mind. He and his twin sisters are in for a lot of surprises in their dad’s small, lakeside hometown. With a room in a tower, a girl named Charlie who can pitch a mean curve ball, a sailboat named Goblin, it is a place full of surprises and adventure. When Nick finds an old movie called The Seaweed Strangler and a love letter to his father, he has to figure out how all the pieces fit together.” — Margaret Brennan Neville, The King’s English, Salt Lake City, UT

The Unfortunate Son, by Constance Leeds
(Viking Juvenile, $16.99, 9780670013982)
“In southern France in 1486, Luc, the second son of the Count de Muguet is born and rejected by his father and cast out of the castle because he is born without an external ear. Luc is hidden at a farm and is never told of his lineage. He is not deaf, but is sharp in hearing as well as in vision and blessed with a strong work ethic and warmth for others. Luc is taken in by a fisherman and his sister, who also house a girl of the same age. Luc takes to his newfound family, and he and the girl become attracted to each other. Then Luc is taken prisoner by a slaver and sold to a wealthy Arab merchant who becomes his teacher and mentor, forcing Luc to accept that becoming literate and using his gifts to care for others is worth more than freedom.” — Jack Blanchard, Fairy Godmother, Washington, DC

The Year of the Book, by Andrea Cheng, Abigail Halpin
(Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, $15.99, 9780547684635)
“While Anna is struggling with friends at school, she turns to books to find the company of her favorite characters. Real life situations, however, actually begin to show her the joys of real friends. This is a heartwarming story about true friendship and also about being true to yourself.” — Lisa Fabiano, Wellesley Books, Wellesley, MA

For Teen Readers

 Baby’s in Black: Astrid Kirchherr, Stuart Sutcliffe, and The Beatles in Hamburg, by Arne Bellstorf
(First Second, $24.99, 9781596437715)
“Though this is a graphic novel featuring The Beatles, it is primarily a love story — that of Astrid Kirchherr, a young photographer who discovered The Beatles in a basement club and fell in love with their bass player, Stuart Sutcliffe. Bellstorf captures Astrid’s story and The Beatles’ early difficulties while hinting at the post-Beatles life Stuart might have had. A glimpse at the beginnings of cultural icons and an important period of history, Baby’s in Black is ultimately the bittersweet tale of a real-life romance.” — Marika McCoola, Odyssey Bookshop, South Hadley, MA

Dying to Know You, by Aidan Chambers
(Harry N. Abrams, $16.95, 9781419701658)
“Karl, a young man diagnosed with dyslexia, has fallen for Fiorella, a young aspiring writer who insists that if Karl truly loves her, he will write to tell her how he feels. Karl, ashamed of his condition, approaches Fiorella’s favorite author and convinces him to write the letters Fiorella desires. The 75-year-old author attempts to put himself in the shoes of a shy, secretive, 18-year-old — not unlike himself at that age — and writes his first letter to Fiorella. Is the author doing Karl a favor, or is Karl doing the author a favor? Chambers delivers another award-caliber novel full of teenage angst, love, and wisdom about finding your true passion no matter your age.” — Karen Briggs, Great Northern Books and Hobbies, Oscoda, MI

The Enchantress, by Michael Scott
(Delacorte Books for Young Readers, $18.99, 9780385735353)
“The sixth and final volume in this fabulous series following the life of the immortal Nicholas Flamel (The AlchemystThe MagicianThe SorceressThe NecromancerThe Warlock) is Scott’s best installment so far! All of the questions and mysteries from the previous books are answered, and the ending will leave you with your mouth hanging open!” — Madison Butler, Liberty Bay Books, Poulsbo, WA

The Letter Q: Queer Writers’ Notes to their Younger Selves, by Sarah Moon (Ed.)
(Arthur A. Levine Books, $17.99, 9780545399326)
“Here are 64 of the most provocative, sad, enlightening, inspiring tales you may ever read. The stories touch upon many social issues that teens are faced with from day to day — peer pressure, bullying, unrequited love, rejection, the stress of college applications and achievement, ambivalent parents, fight-or-flight friends, love, and sex. The authors succeed in pointing out that these are not just queer experiences but, rather, human experiences.” — Krys Tourtois, Schuler Books & Music, Lansing, MI

Lies, Knives, and Girls in Red Dresses, by Roon Koertge, Andrea Dezso (Illus.)
(Candlewick, $19.99, 9780763644062)
“These 23 classic fairy tales are retold in a way that at once makes them fresh and contemporary and returns the stories to their original darkness. Dezso’s fantastic illustrations are reminiscent of Kara Walker’s silhouettes, and Koertge flips everything you’ve come to expect from ‘ever after’ — including a Red Riding Hood who wants to be swallowed up and a former Beast who longs for his fangs. A wicked little read, indeed!” — Alise Hamilton, Andover Bookstore, Andover, MA

Long Lankin, by Lindsey Barraclough
(Candlewick, $16.99, 9780763658083)
“Long Lankin is a figure of horror from an old English ballad, portrayed in this novel as a bogeyman. True to its roots, the story embodies the sense of an irredeemable evil lurking just below the surface, waiting its time to snatch childhood away. Cora and her younger sister, Mimi, go to visit their Aunt Ida in the countryside, and their arrival awakens in Ida the terror of her own childhood in this retrospectively told story. Long Lankin delivers an atmospheric and engaging rendering of an ancient evil brought to bay.” — Kenny Brechner, Devaney, Doak & Garrett Booksellers, Inc., Farmington, ME

Pushing the Limits, by Katie McGarry
(Harlequin Books, $17.99, 9780373210497)
“I picked up this book and thought, ‘Oh, please save us from another typical high school romance story’ and that is exactly what Katie McGarry has done. Told from the alternating perspectives of Echo — a girl with physical and emotional scars bespeaking a past she cannot remember — and Noah — a self-important fringe-walking bad boy who doesn’t need anyone — this novel is expertly crafted and wholly believable. Sophisticated teens rejoice! Here’s the number-one book on your summer ‘must read’ list!” — Andrea Greenlee, Page One Bookstore, Albuquerque, NM

Shadow and Bone, by Leigh Bardugo
(Henry Holt & Company, $16.99, 9780805094596)
“This debut fantasy riffs on Russian history and folklore. The orphan, Alina, doesn’t know that she controls powers beyond her mapmaker trade and is thrust into royalty and the Darkling’s inner circle, the magical, elite Grishas. With vivid characters, exciting and twisty plots, monsters, romance, and a fully developed otherworld, this is a high fantasy thriller of the first order. I look forward to more from this talented author!” — Maureen Palacios, Once Upon a Time, Montrose, CA

Shadows on the Moon, by Zoe Marriott
(Candlewick, $17.99, 9780763653446)
“While her mother is away, young Suzume sees her father and beloved cousin murdered. She manages to survive with the help of the household ‘cinderman’ and her own magical abilities. What follows is a tale of a girl finding her strength and courage and building a makeshift family from the strangers who come to her aid. The story may have been inspired by Cinderella, but Suzume has more spirit than the cinder girl ever did and will choose her own destiny, even when what she chooses may not be in her own best interest.” — Billie Bloebaum, Powell’s Books, Inc, Portland, OR

Tiger Lily, by Jodi Lynn Anderson
(HarperTeen, $17.99, 9780062003256)
“As a big fan of the original Peter Pan, I was initially a little wary of Anderson’s retelling, but after only a few sentences I was completely sold! Before Wendy Bird, there was Tiger Lily, a mysterious and wild young woman from one of Neverland’s many tribes. She and the infamous Peter share a love story that is beautiful, tenuous, and doomed from the onset. Anderson brings Neverland back to life in a gritty and very real way, and I loved being immersed in that world.” — Amanda Hurley, Inkwood Books, Tampa, FL

Timepiece: An Hourglass Novel, by Myra McEntire
(Egmont USA, $17.99, 9781606841457)
“McEntire has outdone herself with this newest installment in the Hourglass series! This story continues the Hourglass’ search for Landers through the eyes of Kaleb Ballard. But when the ‘powers that be’ issue an ultimatum to find Jack or rewrite time, the Hourglasses realize that there is more going on here that they thought. This novel was a perfect sequel, and I can’t wait to see what will happen next!” — Emily Grossenbacher, Lemuria Bookstore, Jackson, MS

Tokyo Heist, by Diana Renn
(Viking Juvenile, $17.99, 9780670013326)
“At last! A treat for manga lovers and non-fans alike. The mystery of a missing van Gogh masterpiece takes teenage Violet, a budding manga artist turned sleuth, from Seattle to Tokyo and Kyoto in a race to recover the painting and thwart the Japanese mobsters who claim it.” — Jeanne Snyder, Books & Books, Coral Gables, FL

Unraveling, by Elizabeth Norris
(Balzer + Bray, $17.99, 9780062103734)
“This debut features Janelle Tenner, a popular 16-year-old, who carries big responsibilities on her young shoulders. With her FBI-agent dad’s grueling work load and her mother’s bipolar disorder, Janelle must care for her younger brother and balance her own rigorous academic schedule and lifeguard job. When she survives a freak accident involving a runaway pickup truck, she knows this is no ordinary miracle. For starters, she’s sure she actually died, that her slacker classmate, Ben Michaels, brought her back to life, and that her dad is desperately racing to solve a case involving a terrorist time-bomb threat, with an impact that could shake up life on the planet itself!” — F. Josephine Arrowood, The Cottage Book Shop, Glen Arbor, MI

Welcome, Caller, This is Chloe, by Shelley Coriell
(Amulet, $16.95, 9781419701917)
“This fun, quirky novel follows well-liked shoe enthusiast and queen of her universe, Chloe Camden. This girl who loves to talk suddenly has to learn to listen and to see that everyone has problems to deal with in their lives and that everyone needs a friend.” — Larissa Genschaw, Children’s Bookshop, Kent, WA

The Wicked and the Just, by J. Anderson Coats
(Harcourt Children’s Books, $16.99, 9780547688374)
“This is one of the best young adult titles I have read in a long, long, time. The setting is clearly evoked, the unlikable narrator gradually becomes sympathetic, and the message of the book is that juxtaposition of masters and servants, haves and have-nots, slaves and free, has happened throughout history and is still happening. The concerns, politics, and emotions of a young woman in 13th century England are not nearly as foreign to our time and world as one might think.” — Robert McDonald, The Book Stall At Chestnut, Winnetka, IL

A World Away, by Nancy Grossman
(Hyperion Books for Children, $16.99, 9781423151531)
“Eliza Miller, a 16-year-old Amish girl, wants to leave her family to experience the forbidden delights of a society and culture she has never known. Finally, her parents agree to allow her to be a nanny in Chicago for the summer during her ‘rumspringa,’ an opportunity to experience modern life before making her decision to be baptized in the Amish community. Teens will be fascinated by Eliza’s first encounters with technology and the lifestyles that they take for granted. They might even learn that technology doesn’t hold all the answers and be inspired to try some old-fashioned pastimes with their friends!” — Susan Taylor, Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza, Albany, NY

Review: Darkness Falls

Darkness Falls
Darkness Falls by Cate Tiernan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Second book in the Immortal Beloved trilogy, this one starts out with Nasty (Nastalya), still at River’s Edge, home for wayward immortals, working and trying to learn the path to light magyck and to stay away from the dark. But things keep going wrong, she loses her real job in town at the drugstore, she keeps making mistakes, and finally, after all this, she realizes that every time she is around, that’s when things go wrong – the trigger for her was a bread full of maggots, and a soup full of some nasty stuff that turned that way when she came into the room. So she runs out of the house, into the cold winter night, feeling that she is made for darkness. She has had recollections of her mother, the head of the house of power in Iceland, one of eight around the world, using dark magic to stop a gang of raiders from harming her and her children, including flaying a man with just her mind. Nasty believes that she is born of dark stock and will always be that way. Incy or Innocencio, her one time best friend, whom she originally fled from in the first book when he broke the back of a taxi driver who made them get out after they were too rowdy and mean in his taxi. He did it using dark magyck. But Incy finds her, and seems to be the same old Incy she knew for the last hundred years, charming, sincere, and fun. Not the wild haired, insane looking Incy who had been frantically searching for her in her visions of him, and who had killed her best friends in a rage in those same visions. Thinking that she is bound to be dark, and shouldn’t contaminate River’s Edge, she leaves with Incy, and is dragged back down into his brand of “fun.” For a while, she parties, dyes her hair magenta, from the white blonde that River had uncovered in a spell designed to find the real Nasty, and gets “real” clothes, not the ugly work clothes she had at the farm. But still, something isn’t right – she isn’t happy, or even content, losing herself in the parties – she can’t do that anymore. River’s teaching has opened her eyes. The remainder of the book is the coming to grips with who she really is, with who Incy is, and her place in the immortal world. The characters are well etched, although some of the people at the farm are only lightly built, since they have little or no place in the story. Her one-time love/hate guy, Reyn, the Butcher of the North as he used to be called, is also well-drawn -the tormented soul, seeking solace and respite. And River, the head teacher, is revealed as she shows Nasty what she used to be like, back in the 700s in Genoa. An interesting, different take on fantasy, and immortals – not gods, not vampires, just immortals. I wish they would delved deeper into the immortal lore – why are they that way, more about the eight houses, etc. perhaps in the final volume they will. With a trilogy it’s hard to say what should and should be in a book until you have read them all.

View all my reviews

Supervillain Schemes That Ought to Have Worked

Since everyone seems to like these better than the serious posts on some books, here’s one in honor of The Avenger’s opening this weekend.  Enjoy!

Supervillain Schemes That Ought to Have Worked.

One of the great things about supervillains is their lunatic schemes, which usually rely on the phases of the Moon and a squad of cyborg dolphins sailing into the bay at 12:07 precisely. The real reason the good guy always wins is because the bad guy doesn’t keep it simple.

But every now and then, a supervillain comes up with a scheme that actually holds water. One that actually makes sense and doesn’t have an obvious “deactivate” button within easy reach. Sometimes, the hero’s scheme is the one that doesn’t make any sense, and the hero only wins thanks to huge, crazy luck. Here are some supervillain schemes that really ought to have succeeded.

Note: For the purposes of this article, “supervillain” includes not just comic-book villains but also James Bond villains and people like the Master from Doctor Who.

Doctor Doom’s scheme to destroy the Fantastic Four by hurling the Baxter Building into the sun
For once, Doctor Doom has a pretty solid plan, in Fantastic Four #6. He teams up with Sub-Mariner, who also hates the Fantastic Four (except for Sue Storm, whom he has a thing for). They’ll trap the heroes in the Baxter Building, attach Doom’s Grabber device to it, lift the building into space, and throw it into the sun. But Doctor Doom makes one critical error: he leaves the Sub-Mariner inside the building. Doom’s mistake turns out to be good luck for the Fantastic Four. Realizing he’ll die too, the Sub-Mariner turns on Doom and teams up with the Fantastic Four. They defeat Doctor Doom and the Baxter Building gets put back where it belongs.


The Master’s plot to restart his regenerations
When the Master uses up all his regenerations and turns into an angry meatball, he stops screwing around with plans like “get the Ogrons to pretend to be Draconians so the humans will start a war and then the Daleks can show up and do something something… profit!” Instead, he hatches a pretty rock-solid scheme, in which he beams the Doctor a vision of the impending assassination of the Gallifreyan President. When the Doctor attempts to stop the vision from coming true, he ends up framed for the crime, as the Master intended all along. The Doctor comes close to being executed forthwith, which would leave the Master with a free shot at the President’s ceremonial sash. But the Doctor finds an unlikely loophole: On Gallifrey, candidates for President have guaranteed freedom for the duration of the election. So the Doctor decides to run for President, giving himself time to prove his innocence.


Goldfinger’s scheme to render the gold in Fort Knox unsellable
Usually, James Bond villains are stumblebums, coming up with plans that involve hypnotizing women to love chickens and launching flowers into space. But Auric Goldfinger keeps it nice and simple: he aims to have his pilot, Pussy Galore, spray a nerve gas over Fort Knox to neutralize the guards. Then, he’ll enter and plant a nuclear bomb inside, to irradiate the gold so his own gold supply would rise in value. The only reason this plan fails is because Bond manages to seduce Pussy, and convinces her to replace the nerve gas with something harmless. If the guards were really knocked out, Goldfinger could have just walked into the fort unopposed. (His real error? Not finishing Bond off during the “I expect you to die” scene.) Similarly, Max Zorin’s plan in A View to a Kill isn’t totally unworkable — if Max hadn’t betrayed his bodyguard May Day (Grace Jones) and caused her to switch sides, he’d have succeeded.


Harley Quinn’s plan to kill Batman
In the so-wrong-it’s-awesome annual “Mad Love,” which became an episode of the Animated Series, Harley Quinn is tired of being taken for granted by the Joker, who’s obsessed with Batman. So unlike her main squeeze, whose plans to kill Bats usually involve giant comedy mallets and things, she comes up with a plan that actually makes sense. She submits a video of herself to the GCPD pleading for Batman’s help in stopping the Joker – claiming to feels he’s “gone too far” this time. She gives Batman an address to meet her, and when he arrives, springs a decoy, distracting him long enough to knock him unconscious. While out, Harley wraps Batman in chains, then dangles his body upside down over a vat of piranhas (so it looks like they’re smiling). With the blood rushing to his head, and dizzy from a concussion, Batman’s only recourse is to convince Harley the Joker would never believe she was capable of killing him.


The Emperor’s Plan to Crush the Galaxy
Building the Death Star is actually not a bad notion — it makes short work of Alderaan and puts terror into the hearts of any would-be rebels. It’s the ultimate deterrent, really. The Emperor’s gambit only fails because a teenage boy is able to shoot a two-meter exhaust port with his eyes closed.


The Key’s Plan to Kill the Justice League
In Grant Morrison’s Justice League of America #8, The Key, realizing the League’s victory will always be inevitable, manages to trap its members in their own minds, siphoning the energy produced from their victories over imagined enemies. He’s defeated when Connor Hawke arrives for a previously scheduled meeting and shoots him in the face with a boxing glove arrow.


Lindsey’s Last Plan to Kill Angel
Lindsey McDonald’s plan to activate the Senior Partners Fail Safe to kill Angel by endearing himself to Spike only failed because he decided to call himself “Doyle”.


The Joker’s Plan to Become the World’s Greatest Artist/Art Dealer
In the Batman ’66 episodes “Pop Goes the Joker”/”Flop Goes the Joker,” the Joker uses his new celebrity to his advantage, vandalizing a roomful of paintings at an art gallery to create “Joker originals” — thereby heightening their value. After winning a competition (with a blank canvas called “Death of a Mauve Bat”), he opens an art school, charging millions for tuition so only the idle rich can afford to attend. Once he gains confidence with a student whose father owns a fancy museum, he convinces her to replace its paintings with his own, then holds the originals for ransom. But the Joker’s disinterest in art is his downfall — and he accidentally steals a roomful of Alfred’s worthless paintings.


Obadiah Stane’s plan to take over Stark Industries
In the first Iron Man film, Tony Stark managed to survive Obadiah’s attempts to kill him twice. When he’s captured by the people Obadiah hired to kill him in the Middle East, Tony escapes by using his brain and creating the first Iron Man suit. The second time, however, it’s thanks to pure dumb luck – and Pepper Potts’ idea of a gag gift. Right before the big fight scene between Iron Man and Iron Monger, Stane paralyzes Stark with some kind of sonic device. He then pulls the upgraded arc reactor out of Tony’s chest and proceeds to leave him there to die. Fortunately, Pepper has decided to ignore earlier instructions to destroy the first chest-sized arc reactor. If she hadn’t given Stark that arc reactor as “proof that Tony Stark has a heart,” he would have had no way to keep himself alive. Tony Stark would have died, and Obadiah Stane would have won.


Lex Luthor’s plot to sink the Western United States’ coastline and make the desert he owns into expensive beachfront property
In the 1978 Superman film, Luthor’s plan revolves around a pair of nuclear missiles that are being tested. He has his people intercept the missiles, and reprogram their destinations — but one of Luthor’s goons enters the wrong data. Although one missile is headed for California, the misprogrammed one is pointed toward Hackensack, NJ. Since Superman is the only one who can stop Luthor’s plan, the supervillain lures Superman to his hideout. Luthor subdues Superman with Kryptonite, and leaves him to drown, but not before explaining his plan and noting the second missile’s incorrect destination. Luckily for Superman, it just so happens that Luthor’s girlfriend, Eve Teschmacher, has family in Hackensack. She releases Superman after getting him to agree to stop the missile heading for New Jersey. Superman, of course, proceedes to save the day by flying around the world fast enough to turn back time and avert the disaster completely. If that one henchman hadn’t managed to point the missile at Eve’s mother’s hometown, Luthor would have succeeded.


Fire Lord Ozai’s plan to use the power of Sozin’s Comet to take over the world
Like a lot of the schemes on this list, it only fails because someone switches sides. Toward the end of Avatar: The Last AirbenderAang and company decide to wait until the comet passes to try and fight Ozai. That way, the Fire Lord won’t have the extra energy the comet grants to firebenders, and Aang might stand a better chance of defeating him. Unfortunately, that would have been a really bad plan — because Ozai had decided to use the comet’s power to burn down the Earth Kingdom while the comet was still passing, thus destroying Aang’s last hope before Aang even had a chance to launch his attack. Fortunately for Aang, Zuko has switched sides – but not before learning Ozai’s plans. Back in the Fire Nation, Zuko had sat in on a war council and learned about Ozai’s intentions, which he passes along to Aang. This spurs Aang to get his butt in gear, and Team Avatar prepares to fight the Fire Nation early.


Your Summer Beach Reading List for 2012

Some great looking books here – many I will be trying to find and read.  This is escapist fare – no literary Booker prizes probably – just fun and fast reads.  Hope you enjoy the list!

Your Summer Beach Reading List for 2012.

Summer is almost here, and that means one thing: Escape! Everywhere in the Northern Hemisphere, humans will be fleeing their buildings and shedding their protective outer garments, even as the sun grows hotter and more intense. But for some of us, simply fleeing to large bodies of water isn’t enough — we need to escape into stories.

And there’s no greater summer beach reading than a really imaginative, cool adventure story. That’s why we’ve compiled this ultimate list of genre books, that are out now or coming this summer, which make great companions on your voyage to the beach.

Note that this isn’t an exhaustive list of all the books we’re excited about this summer – we’ve picked ones that we think will make good escapist reading for your plane rides and long summer days lazing around.

Top image: Detail from Caliban’s War cover art by Daniel Dociu.

Out Now:

Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline(Arrow)

We loved this fun novel, out now in paperback, where high school kids in a dystopian future try to transform their lives — and save the world — by finding the ultimate easter egg in their favorite immersive game world.

Crucible of Gold, by Naomi Novik(Del Rey)

This is the latest novel in Novik’s beloved Temeraire series, an alternate history in which the Napoleonic Wars are fought with dragons. Needless to say, the dragons alter the balance of power in the world, and the fate of the Americas is quite different from what it was in our reality. That’s what this novel explores, as the great dragon Temeraire and his captain Laurence go on a desperate mission to the Incan empire — where they discover a dragon culture unlike any they’ve ever seen before.

Arctic Rising, by Tobias Buckell(Tor)

We gave a rave review to this eco-thriller about the war that comes after global warming. Full of unlikely allies, and even more unlikely spies, this is a terrific exercise in worldbuilding where bestselling author Buckell imagines the geopolitics of a world where the Arctic Ocean opens up new trade route — and creates strange new cultures in the process. Smart escapism, and perfect to bring to the beaches on the Arctic shore.

Fair Coin, by E.C. Meyers (Pyr Books)

There’s a reason why we called this book “pure crack.” It’s a fast-paced, weird adventure about alternate realities and what happens to the fabric of reality when your wishes come true. If you want your mind blown this summer, pick up a copy of this book.

Your Summer Beach Reading List for 2012

Chaos, by Nalo Hopkinson(Margaret K. McElderry Books)

In this young adult novel, award-winning author Hopkinson tells the story of Scotch, a mixed-race kid dealing with normal high school problems of fitting in and figuring out who she is — until her skin starts exuding a weird black substance, and her brother disappears. What is the “chaos” that’s taking over her city, and can she stop it before everything is swallowed up like her brother was?


Deadlocked, by Charlaine Harris(Ace)

It’s the twelfth Sookie Stackhouse novel, and our intrepid heroine has to juggle a murder mystery (who is that dead person on Eric’s lawn?) while dealing with Eric’s current taste for the blood of a younger woman. The perfect novel for vacation reading.

2312, by Kim Stanley Robinson(Orbit)

Robinson’s already given us a view of terraforming Mars — now he gives us a whole solar system, three hundred years into the future. An unexpected death leads Swan Er Hong, who once designed worlds, into a plot that could wind up destroying them instead. And the fallout could force humanity to face up to both its past and its future. This looks like Robinson’s most thrilling book in years.

The Killing Moon, by NK Jemisin(Orbit)

The author of the acclaimed Inheritance Trilogy goes High Fantasy with the first book in the Dreamblood duology. You can check out our review, in which we call it “a great tale of magic, religion and war, but also a story of all the hard lessons and choices growing up entails.”

The Drowned Cities, by Paolo Bacigalupi (Little, Brown)

Bacigalupi returns to the world of Ship Breaker, for another post-apocalyptic environmental thriller that, by all accounts, is even more intense. Mahlia and Mouse escape from the drowned cities into the jungle, but their peace is shattered when they find a wounded “half man” — a bioengineered war beast named Tool — and face a tough decision.

The Gift of Fire/On the Head of a Pin, by Walter Mosley (Tor)

The author of the acclaimed Easy Rawlins novels returns to science fiction, with two short novels published as a flip book. He’s cooked up two fascinating thought experiments that also double as page-turning thrillers. In one, the Demigod Prometheus — who’s been chained since he brought fire to humanity — finally escapes and comes to present-day Earth. In the other, scientists creating a new kind of animatronics for movies discover something that could transform the human race.


Blackout, by Mira Grant (Orbit)

The final chapter in the Newsflesh trilogy, the saga of the zombie uprising and the new-media people who attempt to chronicle it. And this time, the revelations are faster and more insane than ever. It’s not too late to subscribe to this post-apocalyptic RSS feed, before the zombies get to you. Read the first chapter here.

Your Summer Beach Reading List for 2012

Existence, by David Brin (Tor)

The award-winning hard science fiction author brings us another great near-future story about how technology transforms the world. And this time, he’s dealing with global communication and telepresence — and the ways everything changes when we discover an alien artifact that just wants to help us communicate. Expect a ride that’s both thrilling and mindbending.

Your Summer Beach Reading List for 2012

Redshirts, by John Scalzi (Tor)

This is the Scalzi novel we’ve all been waiting for — one in which his wry wit and his clever insights into human weirdness could be deployed to the absolute best effect. It’s an insanely meta tale of the starship Intrepid, where ensigns and other cannon fodder always seem to die on away missions, while the senior officers survive — but then one ensign starts to discover the truth about the Intrepid’s true nature.

Caliban’s War, by James SA Corey(Orbit)

The sequel to Leviathan Wakeswhich we called “as close as you’ll get to a Hollywood blockbuster in book form.” This time, James Holden and the crew of the Rocinante are dealing with an alien invasion, an “alien protomolecule” wreaking havoc on Venus, and a missing child. And the missing child may just be the most challenging of the three.

Nightshifted, by Cassie Alexander(St. Martin’s)

This is the debut novel that a whopping 50 agents turned down — and then it got a fantastic book deal, after multiple publishers fought over it. It’s easy to see why: Alexander, a nurse in real life, writes a fun, breezy novel about a nurse who goes to work in a clinic where the patients aren’t human. And she stumbles on a centuries-old supernatural feud that no amount of Fentanyl may be able to solve.

Your Summer Beach Reading List for 2012

Blue Remembered Earth, by Alastair Reynolds (Ace)

What if you want a real epic this summer? One which spans 10,000 years of future history and deals with huge, unimaginably cosmic ideas? There’s pretty much only one author who’s going to give it to you: Reynolds, who starts a whole new saga with the Poseidon’s Children series. It starts 150 years in the future, when Africa is the world’s dominant technological and political power — but everything changes when Geoffrey Akinya discovers a strange secret on the Moon. Huge, mind-bending stuff ahead.


Team Human, by Justine Larbalestier and Sara Rees Brennan (Harper Teen)

This is the one to thrust into the hands of all your friends who are still into Twilight. The tagline “Friends don’t let friends date vampires” is enough to hook almost anybody. How would you keep your best friend from dating a vampire who’s inexplicably hanging out in high school?

Your Summer Beach Reading List for 2012

Dust Girl, by Sarah Zettel (Random House Young Readers)

Could this be your new fairytale obsession? Set in the dustbowl town of Slow Run, Kansas, Dust Girl follows Callie, a young girl whose mother goes missing in a dust storm — and then she receives a series of cryptic clues to search for her mother in the Golden Hills of California. Soon enough, she’s caught between warring fae factions.

Your Summer Beach Reading List for 2012

The Apocalypse Codex, by Charles Stross (Ace)

Stross returns to his Laundry Files universe for a fourth outing, in which an American televangelist with miraculous healing powers becomes uncomfortably close to the British Prime Minister. And the agent who’s sent to investigate could cause a bigger disaster than the one she’s supposed to be preventing, if Bob can’t keep her in check. Could this be the time Bob fails to save the world?

Jack Glass, by Adam Roberts(Gollancz)

Britain’s best-kept secret is back, with a weird take on the locked-room mystery, drawing on Golden Age science fiction. This time around, the reader knows that Jack is the killer from the first page — but the solution to the mystery of the three murders will still be a shocking surprise. While all your friends are reading regular murder mysteries, you can blow their minds with this one.

Dark Companion, by Marta Acosta(Tor)

Acosta returns with a cool new take on the “sinister boarding school” story — Jane Williams goes to the exclusive Birch Grove Academy on a scholarship, and finally has a group of friends and a sexy new love interest, the headmistress’ son. But then she starts to notice ominous signs — including the recent suicide of a teacher and the mystery of the fate of the previous scholarship student, whose place she took. Expect a supernatural, disturbing take on class issues, plus a page-turning mystery.


vN: The First Machine Dynasty, by Madeleine Ashby (Angry Robot)

Ridley Scott’s followup to Blade Runner may never actually happen — but in the meantime, there’s this thought-provoking, eerie tale of self-replicating von Neumann (“vN”) robots in a near-future Earth. Amy just wants to be just like regular human girls, even though she’s actually a humanoid robot, capable of growing to adulthood much more quickly — and then she discovers that not only is she different from humans, she’s also not like any other robots. It’s a mile-a-minute thriller, that also manages to pack in tons of fascinating discussions about artificial consciousness.

Zero Point, by Neal Asher (Tor UK)

Actually we’re not sure when this is coming out in the United States — but fingers crossed. Meanwhile, it’s a legal import. It’s the sequel to last year’s The Depature. The Committee has been vanquished and its robot enforcers lay dormant — but the ruthless Serene Galahad is ready to step into the power vacuum, taking control of the Committee’s remaining infrastructure. Meanwhile, whatever trashed the Earth is still out there — and it’s hurtling towards Mars. Space adventure as only Asher can deliver it.

Your Summer Beach Reading List for 2012

In War Times, by Kathleen Ann Goonan (Tor)

The author of Queen City Jazz returns with a mind-bending alternate history that sounds like the strangest thriller ever. Sam is a young enlisted man in 1941, whose older brother is killed in Pearl Harbor. During World War II, Sam invents a device that will remove the human race’s capacity for war itself, and he’s seduced into giving the plans to a mysterious woman. And the device works — although the world is transformed in ways that are difficult to predict. The novel goes all the way up to the 1960s, when Sam and the mysterious spy have to team up to stop the Kennedy Assassination. This is the long-awaited paperback edition of this novel, which came out in hardcover in 2007.

Your Summer Beach Reading List for 2012

Blackwood, by Gwenda Bond(Strange Chemistry)

Bond’s debut YA novel explores the mystery of Roanoake, the lost colony, in a whole new way — as a pair of 17-year-olds in the present day discover that they may hold the key to bringing the missing colonists back. It’s got a teen romance, a supernatural mystery, and some insane surprises that will no doubt keep you flipping pages.