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Magyk ~ Angie Sage

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magykRelease Date: 3/14/2006
Author Info: Website Facebook | Twitter
Series: Septimus Heap Series , #1
genre: fantasy
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
ISBN: 9780060577339
Age Range: 9-12
Source: Library

As a fairly new school librarian, I feel that I need to do some catch up when it comes to middle grade fiction. There is so much out there. I’ve heard a lot of people talking about the Septimus Heap series, so I thought I’d pick up the first book Magyk.

Silas Heap is on his way home from the healer with some herbs for his wife who has just given birth to their seventh son, Septimus. Along the way,  he finds a baby girl abandoned in the snow. He picks her up and carries her home only to find that his own son has died. Silas is asked by a fellow wizard to care for the little girl as his own. He finds out later that the Queen has been assassinated and a Supreme Custodian has taken over the castle.The Heaps take in the little girl, Jenna, and she grows up in their run down but cozy home filled with books and brothers.  On her tenth birthday, the Supreme Custodian sends an assassin to kidnap Jenna so he can deliver her to the evil necromancer DomDaniel. The Heap family is on the run with the help of the ExtraOrdinary Wizard, Marcia Overstrand, to protect their youngest daughter.

Angie Page creates a wonderful, fantastical world. She develops a great atmosphere both in the castle and at a witches cottage hidden in the marshes. You can almost feel the damp and fog. At 565 pages, the book is substantial, but moves along at a brisk pace. The characters are well developed and while there are a fair amount of them, they all have unique personalities. She makes even some of the evil characters appear sympathetic. Sometimes. The Heaps are a wonderful family as lovable as the Weasleys. Aunt Zelda is a wonderfully eccentric character. Of course, my favorite was Boy 214 who while not having a real name and barely talking at all throughout the book somehow managed to burrow his way into my heart. I look forward to following their further adventures.

Five Favorite Things About Magyk:

  1. I love that Silas’s father has turned into a tree and that Silas wanders the woods trying to find him.
  2. The quote describing where the Heaps live, “If you were foolish enough to cast your eye around the Heaps’ room hoping to find a space in which to sit, the chances were a book would have found it first.”
  3. Ghosts can move around only in places where they had visited when they were alive.
  4. Shield bugs.
  5. Marcia Overstrand’s purple python-skin boots.

Spy School by Stuart Gibbs

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spyschoolRelease Date: March 6, 2012
Author Info: WebsiteFacebook
Series: Spy School
genre: spy
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 978-1442421837
Age Range: 8-12
Source: Library
Imagine surviving another dreary day in middle school only to find a James Bond look alike in your living room ready to whisk you off to become a teenage spy. For Ben Ripley, it sounds to good to be true and yet how can he pass up an opportunity to do something cool for once in his life. Unfortunately for Ben, he has to tell all of his friends that he’s going to a science school thus solidifying his nerd status. Not-to-fear, dodging would-be assassins keeps Ben pretty preoccupied.

This book was such great fun. Sure, Ben Ripley is not Alex Rider or young James Bond, but odds are more readers will identify with Ben than with the other two young men. Spy School is action-packed and funny. I found myself cheering for accidental spy student, Ben, the whole way through. Gibbs certainly knows how to create interesting characters. Ben’s relationship with the beautiful, invincible Erica Hale a.k.a “ice queen” and descendent of the first American spy Nathan Hale makes his growth as a spy more believable. It also makes Erica a more sympathetic character.

The pace moves quickly with one impossible scene after another and some great plot twists. The ending took me by surprise for sure. I was in the middle of a reading slump and Spy School helped me to get out of it. I immediately picked up the sequel, Spy Camp.

Five favorite things about Spy School:

  1. Ben is a math genius and he uses algebra as a tactic to combat an enemy
  2. Ben always knows what time it is
  3. Erica knows where everyone is at all times
  4. The underground tunnels all under the school
  5. Alexander Hale, the James Bond of spy school, drinks Gatorade not martinis

Blog Overhaul

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I think it’s time for a blog overhaul. I’m hoping to get new content up soon! I will be focusing more on children’s and YA lit with a few adult books thrown in. I know work with children and teens in grades pre-K through 8. I feel like I’m constantly trying to catch up with each age group, but having a lot fun doing it.

In the meantime here are a few books I’m looking forward to reading:

 

 pigeon_needs_bath_lg  Riverman  UTNS-cover1
The Pigeon Needs a Bath ~ Mo Willems The Riverman ~Aaron Starmer Under the Never Sky ~ Veronica Rossi

The kids at my school whether they are three year olds or third graders LOVE Mo Willems!

Ringing in the New Year with The Wellingtons

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This song is in heavy rotation at our house these days. I first found this band on the music website The Sixty One. The site kind of makes me crazy, but I’m glad I found The Wellingtons. I love listening to my son singing along. It’s one of the few adult bands that he likes. Note that the drummer is wearing a Star Wars shirt. That helps, too.

The Winter Sea – Susanna Kearsley

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There are some books that just make the rounds at my library. Everyone has been talking about The Winter Sea. Leading up to Christmas, whatever I read put me to sleep instantly, so I didn’t want to start something that I wasn’t going to be able to finish. I took Kearsley’s book home a few days before my vacation started and it was an instant cure for my reading dry spell.

In The Winter Sea, historical fiction author, Carrie McClelland visits her friend and agent in Scotland. On her way, she drives by Slains Castle and feels an instant connection to it. In hopes of curing her writer’s block, she rents a cottage in the nearby village of Cruden Bay and her novel practically writes itself. Carrie writes the story and then does her research only to find what she has written was true.

In Carrie’s story, Sophia Paterson travels to Slains Castle to stay with her aunt the Countess of Errol. Slains Castle is the headquarters of the Jacobite movement. Plans are being made to return James to Scotland and soon Sophia becomes sympathetic to the cause. She is drawn to John Moray one of the major players in paving the way for the would-be king. Since Moray is a wanted man, he is forced to stay at the castle instead of rallying his fellow Scots to his cause. While at the castle Sophia and Moray form a bond, but they both know that their time is short and Moray will soon return to France to serve his king.

At first, I thought the plot device of having an author as a main character was going to be a bit gimmicky, but I was drawn into the story right away. Carrie is likable and her friend’s in Cruden Bay made it hard for me to put this book down. Jimmy Keith and his sons, Stuart and Graham, are never far away. I’m definitely a sucker for a Scottish accent and some of Jimmy’s speech had me searching for a Scottish glossary. And Graham, what can I say? How is it possible to fall in love with a character when he is only on the page for a moment giving another character directions? I’m not sure, but did I mention he has a dog named Angus?

With most books that move from the past to the present, I usually find myself preferring one time period over another. With The Winter Sea, I was pretty much satisfied in either time. I must confess to knowing very little about Scottish history, so I enjoyed learning about the Jacobites. Being of Scottish descent, though woefully ignorant of most things Scottish, I always enjoy learning a little more about my heritage. I changed my banner in tribute. My husband is desperate to visit the above castle that bears the name of my family’s clan. Of course, no Scots inhabited the castle after the 14th century, but my husband must tell everyone who will listen about the castle and that it is on Loch Ness. Kidnapped is one of his favorite books, so I think he’s jealous.  It is odd that the head of my clan lives in New Orleans, but I digress.

The Winter Sea is one of my top picks for 2010. It’s the kind of historical novel that I love. There are lots of historical details but the story doesn’t focus on the major historical events, rather the everyday people involved. Kearsley’s characters are unique and the secondary characters often shine as much as the main ones.  The scenery is spectacular. I found myself trying to invent an excuse to rent a cottage near a Scottish castle myself!

A Pair of Graphic Novels

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I haven’t read a graphic novel in a while, but I came across reviews for the following two books that made me want to get some graphic novels on my nightstand ASAP.

The Dapper Men ~ Jim McCann & Janet Lee

“Enter a world in between time, where children have played so long it’s almost become work, machines have worked so long they have begun to play, and all the clocks have stopped at the same time. This is how this land has remained, until 314 dapper-looking gentlemen rain down from the sky and set off in different directions to start the world anew. Now Ayden, the only boy to still ask questions; Zoe, the robot girl all other machines hold dear; and the Dapper Man known only as “41″ must discover what happened that made time stop, understand what their true places are in this world, and learn what “tomorrow” really means. The sun is setting for the first time in memory, and once that happens, everything changes! The Return of the Dapper Men is a visually stunning fairy tale that combines steampunk with fantasy and science fiction with Renaissance style, brought to life from the minds of award-winning playwright and comic book writer Jim McCann (New Avengers: The Reunion) and critically acclaimed visual artist Janet Lee. Together they have created a world where J.M. Barrie, Lewis Carrol, and Maurice Sendak meet Jim Henson and Tim Burton. All sharply dressed in a pin-stripe suit and a dapper bowler hat.”

If only one or two of the things in the above product description were true I’d be interested, but the combination is irresistible. I think I’m actually going to buy this one. Everything about it is so unique from the artwork to the storyline. I think it’s a must have.

Empire State ~ Jason Shiga

“Jimmy is a stereotypical geek who works at the library in Oakland, California, and is trapped in his own torpidity. Sara is his best friend, but she wants to get a life (translation: an apartment in Brooklyn and a publishing internship). When Sara moves to New York City, Jimmy is rattled. Then lonely. Then desperate. He screws up his courage, writes Sara a letter about his true feelings, and asks her to meet him at the top of the Empire State Building (a nod to their ongoing debate about Sleepless in Seattle).”

Just from the above description, I already like Jimmy. He seems like the kind of guy you want to root for – a lovable slacker who decides to take a chance at love.

Anna and the French Kiss ~ Stephanie Perkins

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Chelle gave this book to me not long after she read it, with a casual – whenever you get the chance – no pressure.” So, I should have taken note. But, I was busy applying for a new job and then preparing for an interview. After I got said job, I was too busy with that and then reading some required Westerns. Several stomach bugs and colds later I decided a nice romance in Paris might be nice.  This was so much more than that. What on earth was I waiting for!

Anna Oliphant has been sent away to boarding school in Paris. She misses her mother, younger brother, best friend and potential love interest all back in Atlanta. Her writer father who sent her to Paris – not so much. Anna is a budding film critic with a website where she posts her reviews. Her life takes a turn when she walks straight in to Etienne St. Clair an American with a French father and a British accent. Swoon worthy, too. It sounds like a recipe for one inflated ego, but St. Clair is nice. He’s annoyed by the fawning girls and friendly to the unpopular. St. Clair helps Anna overcome some of her insecurities about Paris and enables her to be more independent. But, Mr. Perfect does have a few faults like a girlfriend named Ellie.

I was smitten with Anna from the first paragraph. She’s a strong character, smart and funny but with enough flaws to make her easy to identify with. Plus, it’s Paris! If I had read this book as a teenager, my brain would have exploded! I would have been begging my parents to send me to SOAP. It’s hard to write much more without spoiling and gushing, so I’m just going to give you a list instead of reasons why I felt such a connection to the book. I’m sorry it’s so “all about me,” but I’m hoping it will be a little teaser without ruining the experience of reading Anna.

8 Connections to Anna and the French Kiss

1) I was obsessed with all things French as a teenager. Every report in my European History class was about France.

2) I had a poster of Napoleon on the front of my bedroom door (see #1). I’m not kidding. I actually think that I took down a door-sized poster of James Dean to put it up much to my mother’s chagrin.

3) Instead of insuring my parent’s Jeep so that I would have a car to get around, I spent my savings on a second school trip to Paris. I went almost 20 years without driving as a result.

4) I love the books that Anna reads in her English class. Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto is one of my favorite books and one of the few I’ve read more than once.

5) I love books where they talk about food a lot. Kitchen is the book that really opened my eyes to that.

6) What librarian wouldn’t get excited about a book with a girl who loves the OED. I have always dreamed of finding one at a yard sale for cheap. Hasn’t happened.

7) Neruda is one of my favorite poets (and a lot of other people’s, too!). My husband and I each read one of his love sonnets at our wedding, including the one quoted in this book! It’s a good one.

Finally,  Etienne was my favorite boy name in French class.