Monday, September 29, 2014

Today at The Estella Society: A Two-Year Review

the good books
Join me today over at The Estella Society as I recap my first two years (44 books) of the Top 100 Chapter Books Project.

Feeling accomplished,

Saturday, September 27, 2014

RIP IX: Constable & Toop

What will definitely rank as one of my favorite reads of this RIP season (I'm calling it early) is Constable & Toop by Gareth P. Jones. I didn't know that I was looking for a book with ghost protagonists (and one plucky living kid) until I picked up this one and got lost in the rules and procedures of the world of the dead.

Sam Toop has always lived above the funeral parlor with his father and he has always been able to see ghosts. Usually they just ask for help with their unfinished business but he's about to be drawn into a much more serious business: that of saving the ghostly world -- with the help of ghostly boys, dogs and bureaucrats.

Though it's marketed to middle grade readers, I thought the story was well-written enough to please older readers too. It takes a bit of effort at the beginning to get used to switching between multiple narratives (it changes each chapter between three or four story lines) but once you learn patience, it pays off with a story where you find yourself truly caring about the fates of ghosts. Because, though Sam is the main living character of the story, I'm not sure that he's any more important than ghostly paper-pusher Lapsewood, young and transparent rogue Tanner, or the comical and clearly insane Marquis. I can't wait to give this one a reread during a future RIP season.


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Invitation to Read Along: A Night in the Lonesome October

Hello again! I've been busy lately with back to school and traveling and a bunch of other stuff so I haven't been blogging. I've still been reading though and I'll be catching up with reviews in the next week or so. Anyway, I wanted to pop in now to invite all of you to a read-along and give you time to pick up the book in the next week.

I got this email from Chicago Review Press a couple of weeks ago and couldn't resist --
It’s now two weeks until October 1, and that means one thing: it’s time to reignite the beloved October tradition Roger Zelazny fans have been celebrating for the past two decades. Please join Chicago Review Press in celebrating one of the greatest science fiction writers of the 20th century for our first annual A Night in the Lonesome October Read-A-Long. The book is being re-issued by Chicago Review Press for October 2014.
What better way to re-introduce readers to this spectacular dark comedy or those unfamiliar with Zelazny’s work than with a month-long celebration of the book? The book, which is split into 31 chapters, is a mix of humor, horror, mystery, and fantasy. It’s considered by many (from Kirkus to George R. R. Martin) to be Zelazny’s best novel, and there is a tradition among its fans to read the book, one chapter a day, each day in October
Starting Wednesday, Oct. 1, we’ll have a weekly meet up, where we’ll chronicle our read-along via Chicago Review Press’s social media (@Chireviewpress) and the hashtag #gooddogsnuff. We’d love for you to follow along, or post your own thoughts on the book (If you’re not familiar with the book, it’s narrated by Jack the Ripper’s loyal dog, Snuff).
The 31 chapters of this book are very short so this is a commitment of only a couple of minutes a day through the month of October (and if you fell behind, catching up would be easy). You could also add a read of the Neil Gaiman short story "Only the End of the World Again", inspired by Zelazny's tale. I would do that but I happen to have just read it this summer. How was that for blind foresight?

So, how about it? Is anyone up for a "humor, horror, mystery, and fantasy" read in October?


Monday, September 8, 2014

RIP IX: Twelve Minutes to Midnight and Shadows of the Silver Screen

I'm not entirely sure where I first heard of Christopher Edge's Penelope Tredwell books but when I was making my RIP list, I remembered them and decided to get the first two books from the library.

Twelve Minutes to Midnight introduces us to Penelope Tredwell, a young orphan who has inherited the running of a literary magazine, the Penny Dreadful, from her father. What was once a barely successful business has become an immensely popular publication due to the macabre stories written by Montgomery Flinch -- who is secretly Penelope herself. However, in the Victorian society she lives in, it would never be acceptable for a girl to be the author of these stories so she has created the Flinch persona, even going as far as hiring an actor to portray the author in public. When the Penny Dreadful and Flinch are contacted by the head of the Bedlam Asylum and asked to help solve a mystery, Penelope is the one secretly tasked with unmasking the villain.

In Shadows of the Silver Screen, Penelope has the chance to see one of Montgomery Flinch's (her) stories, The Daughter of Darkness, brought to life by a man who claims to have created the first motion picture camera to capture both color and sound. But what this camera actually captures is what Penelope must find out -- before it's too late.

I read these two books with just one other in between. I was excited to embark on another adventure with Penelope Tredwell so soon because these stories are truly terrifying. I thought they would be typical middle grade fantasy mysteries but they're really horror stories. Penelope's life is seriously in jeopardy more than once and the villains are terrible people, but not in a cartoony, Count Olaf sort of way. Luckily, Penelope is a strong character who is able to defeat these villains and the writing is such that you really feel her angst at being marginalized and ignored. I found myself rooting for her to get her due, even when I knew it wasn't likely.

The third book in the series, The Black Crow Conspiracy, has recently come out and I'm just waiting for my library system to get it (presumably after it is released in the U.S.).

Caught up by the dreadful,

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Joining Up: Witch Week (October 31-November 6)

Lory at The Emerald City Book Review is starting a new yearly event -- Witch Week! The first year will focus on the inspiration for the event -- Diana Wynne Jones.
Calling all fantasy lovers! I'm excited to announce that from October 31 to November 6 I'll be hosting Witch Week, a chance to read and discuss our favorite books and authors, and discover some that may be new to us.
This year the focus will be on the incomparable Diana Wynne Jones, author of so many fantastic books and (as far as I know) the originator of the term "Witch Week." As we learn from her novel of that name, starting on Halloween we enter a special time "when there is so much magic about in the world that all sorts of peculiar things happen," and when stories carry a particular power. What better time to celebrate and share the magic of reading?
Our "official" read-along book will be Witch Week (naturally), with a discussion on Guy Fawkes Day, November 5. Don't know what Guy Fawkes Day is? Read the book, and you'll find out!
There will also be other DWJ books featured daily and a giveaway. I'll be guest posting about Power of Three on November 1!

So, head on over to Lory's blog and let her know you want to participate -- because it's six long months until the next DWJ March.

Waiting for the witching hour,

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Today at The Estella Society: The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

Yep, I'm still reading chapter books over at The Estella Society and the one I'm featuring today is an absolutely amazing book -- The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly. Head over and read my thoughts on this modern gem.

Girl power! Equalization between the sexes!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Kicking Off RIP IX

Last year, I had a ridiculous list of twenty books for Carl's Readers Imbibing Peril VIII challenge. This year, year number nine, the big IX of RIPdom, I improved upon it ... with a thirty book list! Most of these are TBR books with a couple of library books thrown in. I hope to get through about half of these, possibly more since I have two heinous travel days (23 hours total on planes and in airports) to and from the east coast in September and the joy that is Dewey's Readathon in October.

I've made a Pinterest board like last year featuring all of the books that you can check out below (they link to Powell's non-affiliately if you want to shop for any of them). I'm most looking forward to reading more Discworld books (I've paused in the series for too long so it's time for more Death and Witches) and I'll probably reread the other two Samuel Johnson books before getting to The Creeps. It's one of my favorite series! First up though will be the Christopher Edge books because they're library books and have waiting lists on them so I probably can't renew. I'll be reading those on September 1 (or possibly August 31 because who am I kidding ... I love the RIP challenge!).

Are you participating in RIP this year? What book are you most looking forward to reading?


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

New Release: The Ghost in the Electric Blue Suit

Graham Joyce's The Ghost in the Electric Blue Suit begins by introducing us to college student David Barwise, who has just arrived at a seaside resort in 1976 Skegness to start a summer job. He's ended up there because it's the location of the only photo he has of his father. He doesn't know much else about the man who died years ago but he has a strange notion that the answers are in Skegness. He ends up finding a lot more than he bargained for there -- unconventional relationships, ladybugs and a ghost in an electric blue suit.

Powell's has created a pretty cool companion playlist for the book. I wish I had found it before I read the story so that I could have listened along to Lou Reed, Patti Smith, Kate Bush and more while I journeyed with David through a summer of varied co-workers, vacationers and leisure activities. Even though it turned out to be a different type of story from what I would normally read, I still enjoyed it quite a bit. It took me to a time and place that I've never visited before, introduced me to people I wouldn't have met otherwise and made me think about memory and the past in a different way. The crafting of the story was superb, even in the most uncomfortable moments of David's summer.

I definitely want to read something else by Graham Joyce. Any suggestions?

Returning to shore and (relative) safety,

p.s. I received a copy of this book to review from the publisher.

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