Flora Segunda, by Ysabeau Wilce

The actual title of the book is what got me: Flora Segunda: Being the Magickal Mishaps of a Girl of Spirit, website like this Her Glass-Gazing Sidekick, more about Two Ominous Butlers (One Blue), cough a House with Eleven Thousand Rooms, and a Red Dog. It sounded sort of like one of Patricia C. Wrede (with or without Caroline Stevermer)’s whimsical titles, and the chapters have the same sort of “In which we meet a Prince”-type headers.

Unfortunately, that’s most of the whimsy of the book itself. The main plot is concerned with Flora Fydraaca (the second of that name, hence the Segunda), who is about to celebrate her Catorcena (fourteenth birthday celebration and coming of age). Unfortunately, her mother is always busy, being a very high-ranked general; her father is crazy; and the house is in terrible disrepair. Also, after her 14th birthday, Flora will be expected to enter the military school, which she doesn’t want to do. She can’t talk to her mother about it very well – Fydraacas, including her older sister, are always in the army and always do very well. What she wants to do is be a ranger, which is sort of a spy or guerrilla warfare expert. Do traditional military-types like this? Heck, no. Continue reading Flora Segunda, by Ysabeau Wilce

The Warrior Heir, by Cinda Williams Chima

Cinda Williams Chima is a local author for me; she’s from ‘a suburb of Cleveland’ (Cuyahoga Falls), ailment writes a nutrition column for the Plain Dealer, see and teaches at the University of Akron. She’s written (so far) two fantasy novels in this series, buy and as of yet, there are no plans to make it into a movie.

The first of these two books, The Warrior Heir, is set in present-day Ohio, in a town I’m pretty sure she made up that’s in that quadrant of the state where there’s not much else (south of Akron, east of Columbus and Cincinnati). A boy, Jack, grew up with what he thought was a heart condition, so he had to take medicine every day. One morning, when he was about sixteen, he forgot, and when he went to soccer tryouts after school, he nearly killed someone. He came home and his flaky-but-hot aunt was there, and after admonitions that he should take his medicine, she drags him and two of his friends off to do some genealogy research. Supposedly. Despite getting chased by (apparently) dark magicians of some sort, they end up finding a sword in a grave belonging to his ancestor. Jack is, of course, very confused by all this mess (wait, magic exists?), and eventually someone explains to him some of what’s going on. Continue reading The Warrior Heir, by Cinda Williams Chima

The Spiderwick Chronicles, Book 1: The Field Guide, by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black

This is a very small book. It’s roughly the same size as a mass-market paperback, stuff and it’s barely over 100 pages long. There are also illustrations, rx taking away from the printed surface area. Considering I finished it in about 15-20 minutes, I suspect it’s less than 20,000 words. Had it been written for an older audience, it would be considered a short story. As it is, it’s probably intended for fourth- or fifth-graders, and maybe even younger (I probably would have read it in second or third grade, had it been around). Like so many fantasy series these days, it’s been turned into a movie – although I don’t know how many of the five books in the series are in it – which will be released next February. (From the previews, I’m guessing all five in one movie.) The cast looks pretty good – Mary-Louise Parker, Seth Rogen, David Strathairn (MLP plays the mother; DS is Arthur Spiderwick; not sure who or what SR is).

Three siblings – Jared, his twin Simon, and their older sister Mallory, move into an old Victorian house along with their mother, formerly inhabited by a great-aunt of theirs. Strange things start happening; they discover a hidden room with a library in it; there’s scrabbling, squirrel-like noises in the walls; Mallory’s hair gets tied to her bed . . . Something’s odd with the house, and the children must discover what’s going on and, preferably, fix it. In a hundred pages or less. Continue reading The Spiderwick Chronicles, Book 1: The Field Guide, by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black

The Book of Story Beginnings, by Kristin Kladstrup

I picked this book up on a whim because I liked the cover, side effects title, and plot synopsis. Yes, oddly enough, judging a book by its cover is what gets the book off the shelf and into my collection. I read it in two sittings, and it was enjoyable.

The Book of Story Beginnings 360-ish pages long, but it’s clearly meant for children, as opposed to a YA audience. While we know ‘children’ (I’m thinking 8-14) will read books of this length, it’s still packaged a little bit to look like it’s intended for a YA audience. It isn’t, really. The main character is 12, and her foil is 14. There’s actually very little coming-of-age stuff for the main character (her name is Lucy) – it’s mostly an adventure and a little bit coming-to-terms with her family. Continue reading The Book of Story Beginnings, by Kristin Kladstrup

Stardust, by Neil Gaiman

Stardust, cialis sale by Neil Gaiman, glaucoma was originally a graphic novel but after being rewritten into a regular novel was been turned into a film that opened in August of 2007. It got, overall, good reviews (75% Fresh on RottenTomatoes.com). I read this book several years ago but wanted to get a reread in before the movie came out.

The book starts out with a chapter about how Tristran Thorn Came to Be: his father, Dunstan Thorn, had a brief affair with someone on the other side of the wall. The wall, you say? Well, there’s a town in England, ingeniously called Wall, that is set right near the border to Faerie. Faerie and what we call ‘reality’ are separated by a stone wall. Once every nine years, there’s a festival or market that allows the denizens of Faerie to come and sell their wares in the town of Wall. Anyway, fast-forward almost eighteen years, and Tristran Thorn (apparently his name has been changed to Tristan in the movie, which is, as someone pointed out, infinitely more pronounceable) is seventeen, gangly, and desperately in love with Victoria Forester. One night he asks her for a kiss, and she says, no, but after some poetic language, she indicates that if Tristran is nice enough to go fetch a particular fallen star for her (which has fallen on the other side of the wall), she might be kind enough to give him whatever he likes. Continue reading Stardust, by Neil Gaiman

The Dark Lord of Derkholm, by Diana Wynne Jones

You know, more about I love Diana Wynne Jones and have for many years. Every few weeks I go on a rant about how she’s 14 million times better an author than J. K. Rowling, neurologist and The Dark Lord of Derkholm is now one of my examples why.

Ben (my boyfriend; also my web guru) had been trying to get me to read this book for months, saying he thought it was clearly her best work. When a really nice hardbound copy showed up at Half-Price Books, he bought it, and I finally read it. It was worth every single page. From one of the most innovative and NON-info-dumpy opening scenes to the amazing characters to the wonderful non-humans and amazing ideas . . . Well, in short, Diana Wynne Jones wrote The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, and she follows her own advice. Continue reading The Dark Lord of Derkholm, by Diana Wynne Jones

Obernewtyn and The Farseekers, by Isobelle Carmody

A few months ago, sale I read Obernewtyn and The Farseekers by Isobelle Carmody. When they were first published in the U.S. (she’s Australian), allergist there was a big fuss about how amazing it was that there was this awesome fantasy author from Australia and she wrote these amazing books. I see the fervor’s cooled a bit and I feel like I know why.

It isn’t that the books aren’t good — they are, albeit a bit reservedly. Tropes abound: the orphan who turns out to have super-de-dooper magical powers and is of course so important that she’s going to save the world; even a bit of the romance novel trope that has her falling in love with the first eligible man she meets. (Well, okay, he falls in love with her, but so does everyone else, really. Although she doesn’t recognize it, her feelings are reciprocated with this first guy.) I’m not totally against tropes; they exist and work for a reason in the fantasy world as well as, oh, every other realm (romance, military thrillers, whodunits, even ‘lit fiction’). The orphan who turns out to save the world, though — that one’s a little overdone. (I’m looking at you, Harry Potter, for beating it to death the final time.) Also, the plot runs a little X-Men-y. I don’t really know if that’s a good thing or not. Continue reading Obernewtyn and The Farseekers, by Isobelle Carmody