Must Read Monday (66): Titles from Kiran Millwood Hargrave, Sara Crowe, Caroline Carlson & more!

Welcome to another edition of Must Read Monday!

This feature is where I spotlight older, recent, or upcoming releases I am looking forward to. The lists will include all genres I like to read, everything from picture books to comics, children’s lit to adult fiction!

This week: children’s fiction! The titles featured this week are incredible-sounding and looking titles with a wide-range of genre- everything from magical realism, mystery, fantasy and more. Some favourite authors are here, including forthcoming titles from Laurel Snyder and Julie Berry. The other three authors featured here are new-to-me, and all with very well-received titles. There is Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s award-winning and fascinatingly described The Girl of Ink and Stars; Sara Crowe‘s dark and magical Bone Jack; and Caroline Carlson‘s delightfully described mystery, The World’s Greatest Detective.

 

The Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave
Publication: May 5, 2016 by Chicken House
Book Description:

Forbidden to leave her island, Isabella Riosse dreams of the faraway lands her father once mapped.When her closest friend disappears into the island’s Forgotten Territories, she volunteers to guide the search. As a cartographer’s daughter, she’s equipped with elaborate ink maps and knowledge of the stars, and is eager to navigate the island’s forgotten heart.

But the world beyond the walls is a monster-filled wasteland – and beneath the dry rivers and smoking mountains, a legendary fire demon is stirring from its sleep. Soon, following her map, her heart and an ancient myth, Isabella discovers the true end of her journey: to save the island itself.

 

Bone Jack by Sara Crowe
Publication: February 7, 2017 by Philomel Books
Book Description:

Times have been tough for Ash lately, and all he wants is for everything to go back to the way it used to be. Back before drought ruined the land and disease killed off the livestock. Before Ash’s father went off to war and returned carrying psychological scars. Before his best friend, Mark, started acting strangely. As Ash trains for his town’s annual Stag Chase–a race rooted in violent, ancient lore–he’s certain that if he can win and make his father proud, life will return to normal. But the line between reality and illusion is rapidly blurring, and the past has a way of threatening the present.

When a run in the mountains brings Ash face-to-face with Bone Jack–a figure that guards the boundary between the living world and the dead–everything changes once more. As dark energies take root and the world as he knows it is upended, it’s up to Ash to restore things to their proper order and literally run for his life.

 


The World’s Greatest Detective by Caroline Carlson
Expected publication: May 16, 2017 by HarperCollins
Book Description:

Detectives’ Row is full of talented investigators, but Toby Montrose isn’t one of them. He’s only an assistant at his uncle’s detective agency, and he’s not sure he’s even very good at that. Toby’s friend Ivy is the best sleuth around—or at least she thinks so. They both see their chance to prove themselves when the famed Hugh Abernathy announces a contest to choose the World’s Greatest Detective. But when what was supposed to be a game turns into a real-life murder mystery, can Toby and Ivy crack the case?

 

Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder
Expected publication: May 30, 2017 by Walden Pond Press
Book Description:

On the island, everything is perfect. The sun rises in a sky filled with dancing shapes; the wind, water, and trees shelter and protect those who live there; when the nine children go to sleep in their cabins, it is with full stomachs and joy in their hearts. And only one thing ever changes: on that day, each year, when a boat appears from the mist upon the ocean carrying one young child to join them—and taking the eldest one away, never to be seen again.

Today’s Changing is no different. The boat arrives, taking away Jinny’s best friend, Deen, replacing him with a new little girl named Ess, and leaving Jinny as the new Elder. Jinny knows her responsibility now—to teach Ess everything she needs to know about the island, to keep things as they’ve always been. But will she be ready for the inevitable day when the boat will come back—and take her away forever from the only home she’s known?

 

The Emperor’s Ostrich by Julie Berry
Expected publication: July 18, 2017 by Roaring Brook Press
Book Description:

Young dairymaid Begonia has lost her cow, Alfalfa. So she has set off on a search across the countryside even though she has nothing but a magical map to guide her. Along the way she meets a mother and baby, a woodcutter, a very dirty young man, and an eight-foot ostrich.

Meanwhile, the Emperor has gone missing from the royal palace in a most mysterious manner. Was it murder? Was it magic? It will take all of Begonia’s wits to save the empire and get Alfalfa home safely.

 

Blog Tour: Everton Miles is Stranger Than Me by Philippa Dowding

everton-miles-twitter-card
Welcome to one of the stops on the Dundurn Press blog tour for Canadian author Philippa Dowding’s Everton Miles is Stranger Than Me!

philippa_dowdingI am delighted to present a detailed interview I had the wonderful chance to do with Philippa, as well as a review of Everton Miles is Stranger Than Me, Philippa’s latest middle grade read!

Welcome to Fab Book Reviews, Philippa! I am so delighted to have you here! Let’s dig right into the questions I have for you…

Q: When you first started creating Gwendolyn’s world and the concept of the Night Flyers for The Strange Gift of Gwendolyn Golden, were you already thinking ahead to the possibility of a follow-up story involving Everton Miles? 

A: The truth is, I really thought that The Strange Gift of Gwendolyn Golden would be a perfect stand-alone book. At the end of the story, I left Gwendolyn sitting on a swing pondering her future, and it was a wonderful ambiguity that I liked. To fly or not to fly? Who knows what we will become when we are fourteen? But once the book was nominated for an OLA Red Maple award in 2015 (thank you!), I met with a lot of readers who really wanted to know what happened next. I started to think about that, and on re-reading the first book, the boy Everton Miles from the Midsummer Party jumped out at me. He was my way into the sequel.

Q. I was absolutely fascinated by the characters of Abilith, the Rogue Flyer and Celestine, the Spirit Flyer. How do you go about creating such unearthly, intangible characters? What kind of research goes into building a character such as a fallen angel or a spirit?

A: Thank you! I’m glad you liked them!

The forces for good are immortal Spirit Flyers, Celestine and her older brothers and sisters, who watch over Gwendolyn and the other human Night Flyers. They’re benevolent overlords, a bit haughty, smart, useful in their way and well-meaning enough, but endearingly clueless most of the time. They were quite fun to write! I’m a lifelong Star Trek fan, so think early Vulcans from Enterprise, with a touch of Karellen from Childhood’s End (without the menace).

The antagonist, the tragic, fallen anti-hero, Abilith the Rogue, has much darker influences. To breathe life into him and his netherworld, I re-read Milton’s Paradise Lost, Dante’s Inferno, and Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book for his Silas character, and Bod’s trip to the underworld. I went back to Mary Shelley, and H. P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness for his bleak, alien landscape. I revisited the final chapters of Captain Ahab’s tale, as he tried too late to reconnect with his mutinous crew.

What made these characters and stories so beguiling? Personally, I think a great antagonist needs a touch of humanity, a quirk or flaw that we can recognize in ourselves. Although Abilith’s actions over time are monstrous and eventually he becomes a bitter, cruel, sociopathic outcast, his descent began with a single mistake: he fell in love with the wrong creature. Tragic!

Q. Everton Miles is Stranger Than Me is quite a bit darker than the first book of Night Flyers: even more fantastical, heartbreaking, with terrifying elements in the last quarter of the novel. I find most of the best children’s literature has those darker, deeper, elements! What works or characters or worlds were you inspired by while working on Everton Miles? Were these inspirations any different from your work on The Strange Gift of Gwendolyn Golden?

A: The short answer is, while I didn’t have a direct road map of inspiration for the series, I think everything an author reads influences them, and I’ve always loved fantasy.

As a child, I had terrific neighbours, a family of creative geniuses, next door. I highly recommend it! They gave me classic children’s books to read for my birthday. I’ll never forget finishing the first book in the Narnia series when I was about nine, The Magician’s Nephew, and thinking, what IS this? But I couldn’t put the series down. Then they handed me The Hobbit (which is still one of my favourite books of all time), then The Lord of the Rings trilogy, then books by Carlos Castaneda, Philip K. Dick and on and on. After that early love of books, I went on to study English at university, and read everything I could.

I learned early in life that I loved fantasy. So if I had to say what books have inspired me, and what you might find hints of in Everton Miles is Stranger than Me, they’d be an eclectic mix of Milton’s Paradise Lost, E.B. White, C.S. Lewis, Neil Gaiman, Tolkien, a little J.K. Rowling, Philip Pullman, Ian McEwan, plus an unconscious literary stew of other writers.

Q: Given the ages of Gwendolyn and Everton, did you ever consider aiming this series for a teen audience? How might that have- if at all- changed your approach to the story or characters? 

A: Oh, that’s an interesting question. I hadn’t really thought of that, but I did deliberately try to avoid writing really romantic stuff, which seems to be a largish proponent of teen writing. I didn’t want Everton and Gwendolyn’s to necessarily be a love story because there was so much else to cover, although there is a deep friendship and connection there that could one day develop into a romance, which is hinted at.

Also, although Gwendolyn is indeed a little older and wiser than she is in the first book, I couldn’t age her too much. I can tell you, though, that in the first draft of this book, Everton came to life a bit darker than his final self. He smoked, he carried a hip flask, he swore a little. All that had to go in the second draft considering the audience, which was a bit of a shame. I liked that bad boy!

Q: Let’s talk about the genre of magic realism. It is a genre that I often hear about, or read books being described as such but seems a hard genre to define. How would you best describe it in just a few sentences? Beyond Gabriel Garcia Marquez- whose work is widely considered the epitome of magic realism- which authors or works do you think have best captured the magic realism genre in children’s or teen lit?

A: It’s maybe a bit of a literary chameleon. Based purely on my own reading (okay, and a graduate paper on it forever ago), here’s my definition of magic realism: a sub-genre of fantasy, in which one magical element exists in an otherwise completely realistic world, and which does not require further explanation. The magical element simply exists, unquestioned by the characters, and readers must engage in a “willing suspension of disbelief” to read the story.

So to me, magic realism isn’t high fantasy set in a different time and place like Lord of the Rings/Game of Thrones etc, and it’s not an entire fantasy universe like Harry Potter. Magic realism has a realistic, here-and-now setting, with a single magical element that goes unexplained and accepted by the characters and the reader. It’s also the single most important element that moves the story forward.

Examples?

Folk tales are great at this. Think Jack and the Beanstalk. How on earth did three beans turn into an enormous beanstalk with a giant at the top of it? And why didn’t Jack think twice about that?

If you look at classical literature, I’d say Sir Gawain and the Green Knight has all the elements of magic realism. Big green guy bursts into Camelot on Christmas Eve, gets his head chopped off, then picks it up, and calmly sends Gawain on a quest to find him. Since when did severed heads send knights out on quests? And why didn’t anyone think to ask that?

Moving into more recent children’s literature, I’d say one of the most perfect examples of magic realism might be E.B. White’s Stuart Little. Sure he was adopted, but no one questions the fact that he’s a mouse. Or even Natalie Babbitt’s, Tuck Everlasting, where the fountain of youth exists in a ho-hum little every day town.

I recently read Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies by Lindsay Ribar. I’d say that’s a teen magic realism title: boy discovers his family has a magical connection to a dangerous, overhanging cliff and no one questions it.

That’s a start, but there are probably a lot more excellent examples.

Now for some slightly shorter questions…

Q: What were some of your most beloved stories or characters growing up?

A: I loved the Narnia series, The Hobbit, all of Lord of the Rings. But my first book love was Charlotte’s Web. When I first read the book at age eight, I finished it, put it in my lap and looked down at the illustration of Wilbur and Fern. I was so transported and moved, that I knew then and there that I wanted to write stories, too.

Q: What have been some of your favourite reads of the year- anything from adult fiction, to YA, to children’s!

A: My reading is always a year or two (or 10) behind everyone else! Here are the five books that made the biggest impression on me this year:

A Tale for the Time Being, Ruth Ozeki
The Rest of Us Just Live Here, Patrick Ness
The Blackthorn Key, Kevin Sands
The Chrysalids, John Wyndham
The Gargoyle, Andrew Davidson

Q: And I have to ask, will we ever get to visit with Gwendolyn or Everton again?

A: I’ve been toying with a few ideas! My publisher, Dundurn Press, would be happy to have another book in the series, and I’d be happy to write one. So nothing on the screen yet, but stay tuned!

Thanks Michelle, great questions and this was a lot of fun!

Thank you so much for your time, Philippa! This was fantastic and enlightening. I loved hearing all of your answers!

…Read on for my thoughts on the book…

Continue reading

Must Read Monday (38): Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life & Laura Ruby’s Bone Gap

BOOKSTACKSWelcome to another edition of Must Read Monday!

This feature is where I spotlight older, recent, or upcoming releases I am looking forward to. The lists will include all genres I like to read, everything from picture books to comics, children’s lit to adult fiction!

This week’s theme is the 2015 National Book Awards! First up is a finalist in the adult fiction category: Hanya Yanagihara’s critically-lauded A Little Life. I cannot say much about this stellar novel that hasn’t already been said (just take a look here at how many best-of lists it has been on)! Library colleagues have mentioned how tremendous Yanagihara’s writing is- and just how staggeringly sad and complex this novel is. In all honesty, I’m a bit terrified to dive in (given what I’ve heard and read and how high my expectations are), but it is one of my MUSTS (and a reading challenge) of the year. Second up is a finalist in the young adult category: Laura Ruby’s excellently-reviewed Bone Gap. I have not had a chance to read anything previously by Laura Ruby; though after reading starred reviews from Kirkus, VOYA and Publisher’s Weekly Bone Gap immediately went on my TBR. This is another title I have heard great praise about from colleagues and trusted reviewers: Bone Gap sounds wonderful and wonderfully strange, and I think it will make for memorable reading.

 

hyanagihara_littlelifeA Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
Published: March 10, 2015 by Doubleday

When four classmates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way, they’re broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition. There is kind, handsome Willem, an aspiring actor; JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their center of gravity. Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addiction, success, and pride. Yet their greatest challenge, each comes to realize, is Jude himself, by midlife a terrifyingly talented litigator yet an increasingly broken man, his mind and body scarred by an unspeakable childhood, and haunted by what he fears is a degree of trauma that he’ll not only be unable to overcome—but that will define his life forever.

 

lruby_bonegapBone Gap by Laura Ruby
Published: March 3, 2015 by Balzer + Bray

Everyone knows Bone Gap is full of gaps— gaps to trip you up, gaps to slide through so you can disappear forever. So when young, beautiful Roza went missing, the people of Bone Gap weren’t surprised. After all, it wasn’t the first time that someone had slipped away and left Finn and Sean O’Sullivan on their own. Just a few years before, their mother had high-tailed it to Oregon for a brand new guy, a brand new life. That’s just how things go, the people said. Who are you going to blame?

Finn knows that’s not what happened with Roza. He knows she was kidnapped, ripped from the cornfields by a dangerous man whose face he cannot remember. But the searches turned up nothing, and no one believes him anymore. Not even Sean, who has more reason to find Roza than anyone, and every reason to blame Finn for letting her go.

As we follow the stories of Finn, Roza, and the people of Bone Gap—their melancholy pasts, their terrifying presents, their uncertain futures—acclaimed author Laura Ruby weaves a heartbreaking tale of love and loss, magic and mystery, regret and forgiveness—a story about how the face the world sees is never the sum of who we are.

 

Must Read Monday (8): Circus Mirandus and Nooks & Crannies

Welcome to the eighth edition of Must Read Monday! On Mondays I will spotlight some new and/or upcoming releases I am looking forward to. The lists will include all genres I like to read, everything from picture books to comics, children’s lit to adult fiction!

This week I am featuring two recently released children’s fiction titles:

circusmirandus23281919Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley
Published: June 2, 2015 by Dial Books
Fave Canadian author Vikki VanSickle has given this book 5 stars and a comparison to Kate DiCamillo – which would be reasons enough to make this a must-read, as VanSickle’s book picks are fantastic and DiCamillo is beloved. This middle grade fantasy/magical realism debut from Cassie Beasley has been receiving a lot of positive praise (read, for example, this starred Kirkus review). I usually hesitate when a title gets a lot of buzz…but I’m hopeful that Circus Mirandus will live up to the hype!

 

nooksandcrannies23309600Nooks & Crannies by Jessica Lawson, illus. Natalie Andrewson
Published: June 2, 2015 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
This middle-grade novel sounds delightful in so many ways! We have a protagonist named Tabitha Crum who has a penchant for mystery novels; a pet mouse named Pemberley; a puzzling invitation to the estate of a reclusive Countess; and the promise of a mysterious investigation. Nooks & Crannies sounds like an utterly clever and cozy sort of children’s book, one that I could see myself curling up with, while eating croissants and drinking tea. Sounds pretty good to me!

 

If you’d like to join Must Read Monday, please do! Link up or leave a comment about what you’re looking forward to reading- I love to hear what other readers have on their radar!