Friday, May 31, 2013

Picturebook Review: The Dark by Lemony Snicket, Illustrated by Jon Klassen

Picturebook Review:  The Dark
Words: Lemony Snicket
Pictures: Jon Klassen
Published by Little, Brown and Company, 2013
Illustrations done in gouache and digitally

Goodreads Description:
Laszlo is afraid of the dark.

The dark lives in the same house as Laszlo. Mostly, though, the dark stays in the basement and doesn't come into Laszlo's room. But one night, it does.

This is the story of how Laszlo stops being afraid of the dark.

With emotional insight and poetic economy, two award-winning talents team up to conquer a universal childhood fear. 

My Review:
Opening the book with thick black endpapers and young Laszlo illuminating the story about to unfold, I was immediately drawn into the story. The title page is in the cone of light from the assumed flashlight. It's as if to say, 'these words have been lit for the sole purpose of telling this story, and as soon as it is finished, will be swallowed again by darkness'. It appears a bit mischievous really. A little scary even. 

Being a long-dedicated fan of Lemony Snicket, and more recently Jon Klassen, I had high expectations for this book. It is difficult to judge a book without regards to its author's and/or illustrator's reputation, so I will do my best. The Dark is a wonderful book, and it reflects Snicket and Klassen's reputations well. However, I must say I (just  as an aside!) I missed Snicket's sharp wit. His writing was still very clever, but this book is much more tame in comparison to some of Snicket's other works. Okay, I'm done with that now. Let's get on to the story!

As written previously, this is a really wonderful book. The story is simple, yet animated.   The dark is personified by Laszlo. It has a voice and invites Laszlo into his "room". The reader does not know the dark's intentions, so there is much anticipation what will happen to Laszlo as he enters the dark alone. The unknown, that fear, was livable throughout the story. Laszlo followed the dark, and even with his flashlight to light his path, he was still always surrounded by dark. "[A]nd even though the dark was right next to Laszlo, the voice seemed very far away."It certainly sounds suspicious. And truly, my favorite part of this story, is that even after all Laszlo overcomes, the fear isn't instantly or entirely eradicated. The dark will always be mischievous and Laszlo continues to linger in the light. 

I really enjoyed the illustrations as well. As touched on earlier, the lighting was masterfully done, and its relevance to the story personified through the verbal narrative. Klassen does a great job at reflecting Laszlo's childhood fears with color and size. Every color had some dark hue or shadow to give the setting of the story and offer a visual narrative that correlates with the verbal. Also, Laszlo is always very small. Chairs, doors, and stairs seem to tower over his small body. I don't think I need to interpret this any further, but I thought the illustrations were combined perfectly with the text. The two narratives really came together to tell the story. Snicket and Klassen make a great team. Character and anticipation were developed throughout the book with a satisfying, yet slightly unresolved ending. 

I'm going to give this book 5 out of 5 foxes. It was fantastic. It is a simple, you might even say common, story. However, it is very powerful, especially good for young readers with fears of their own. This book is clever in that much of what the book states, is actually unsaid in the narrative. It has a lot of feeling, and I think young readers can appreciate Laszlo's learning experience. Especially since it doesn't simply announce that one should not be afraid of the dark, rather to acknowledge the fear and welcome it. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Zahn's Review: Magyk by Angie Sage

Magyk [Septimus Heap #1]
by Angie Sage
564 pages
Published by Harper Collins, 2005

Goodreads Description:
The seventh son of the seventh son, aptly named Septimus Heap, is stolen the night he is born by a midwife who pronounces him dead. That same night, the baby's father, Silas Heap, comes across a bundle in the snow containing a new born girl with violet eyes. The Heaps take this helpless newborn into their home, name her Jenna, and raise her as their own. But who is this mysterious baby girl, and what really happened to their beloved son Septimus?
The first book in this enthralling new series by Angie Sage leads readers on a fantastic journey filled with quirky characters and magykal charms, potions, and spells. Magyk is an original story of lost and rediscovered identities, rich with humor and heart.

My Review: 
While reading this book, I felt that it was beautifully told, with a great amount of detail. It is a book I strongly recommend!

On his day of birth, Septimus Heap is pronounced dead, and is replaced in his family by a newborn girl. Years later, she is found to be the lost princess and must go into hiding, for there is many who want to kill her. All the while, they find Septimus may not be dead. Just what happened on the day of his birth??

I loved the great story this book holds. It was great! I loved that all the characters were unique. Some were wizards, some army boys. All had their own way of doing things. This book was a great twist of action and mystery in a package - excitement and adventure! Who doesn't love that? Plus, the whole story comes out in a great way to keep you reading. 
I thought the writing style was descriptive. The author obviously knows what her readers want, and does a good job with it. It's one of my favorite books; I think everyone should read it!

I rate this book five out of five foxes for being a book you can't put down!

Reviewed by Zahn

Monday, May 27, 2013

Review - Blood Red Road by Moira Young

Blood Red Road (Dustlands #1)
By Moira Young
459 pages
Published by Margaret K McElderry Books, 2011
Source: Scholastic Book Fair
Buy: Amazon - BN - Book Depository

Goodreads Description:
This fast-paces YA debut novel has it all: smart, savvy characters making their way through an eerily dystopian society, with all the requisite action, adventure and romance characteristics of the genre vividly and at times, chillingly portrayed.
In a wild and lawless future, where life is cheap and survival is hard, eighteen-year-old Saba lives with her father, her twin brother Lugh, her young sister Emmi and her pet crow Nero. Theirs is a hard and lonely life. The family resides in a secluded shed, their nearest neighbour living many miles away and the lake, their only source of water and main provider of food, gradually dying from the lack of rain. But Saba's father refuses to leave the place where he buried his beloved wife, Allis, nine years ago. Allis died giving birth to Emmi, and Saba has never forgiven her sister for their mother's death. But while she despises Emmi, Saba adores her twin brother Lugh. Golden-haired and blue-eyed, loving and good, he seems the complete opposite of dark-haired Saba, who is full of anger and driven by a ruthless survival instinct. To Saba, Lugh is her light and she is his shadow, he is the day, she the nighttime, he is beautiful, she is ugly, he is good, she is bad. 
So Saba's small world is brutally torn apart, when a group of armed riders arrives five day's after the twin's eighteenth birthday, snatch Lugh away. Saba's rage is so wild, that she manages to drive the men away, but not before they have captured Lugh and killed their father. 
And here begins Saba's epic quest to rescue Lugh, during which she is tested by trials she could not have imagined, and one that takes the reader on breathtaking ride full of romance, physical adventure, and unforgettably vivid characters, making this a truly sensational YA debut novel.

My Review:

Blood Red Road was a beautiful dystopian novel - an enchanting and daunting landscape, vivid and emotional characters, as well as a unique writing style. Moira Young delivers.

Following Saba on her quest to rescue her twin brother, Lugh, she becomes rapidly exposed to the dangers and terrors of her world. She meets people and sees things she’d never heard of when living in isolation with her father, brother, and younger sister. Saba was the perfect shadow to Lugh as a child, but after their eighteenth birthday, he is taken from her. Now Saba has to follow him across a rough landscape filled with even rougher people in order to rescue him. Only now, she has a shadow – her little sister Emmi, whom she hates. This story is brimming with adventure. It has an old, Western-style vibe, but with futuristic, dystopian elements. It was honestly such a good read!

I loved the adventure in this book. It is gritty and terrifying and sometimes just repulsive, but I felt it. I felt the fear, the desperation, and red-hot anger that Young wrote about. I was enchanted with the setting and my curiosity raved over the Wreckers. Young doesn’t go into detail about how this bleak future came to be, but clues allow the reader to imagine it all on his own. Wreckers – its not a new idea, certainly, but I loved the way Young played on the idea of self-demolition. This dystopian is imaginative and flexible enough for readers to be coaxed into it from the first page.

I was also very fond of the characters. I think Saba makes a good feminine hero, and her transformation throughout the novel is inspired. Saba doesn’t just become tougher throughout the novel, but she changes too; she’s more mature, wiser. I have to say though, Emmi was my favorite character. Written from the viewpoint of Saba, Emmi is just the annoying, useless (and slow) little sister. Emmi becomes a wild, loyal, and insightful girl by the end of the novel. Although only nine, she proves herself as a true heroine. I was just as amused with characters such as Ike, Tommo, and Jack. Them with Saba made an interesting team. A very dynamic group indeed, and all with their own strengths and weaknesses.
Also, the strong emphasis on family among all the characters, both blood family and adopted family was fantastic and really set this book apart from other dystopian novels. And I can't leave out that readers will be satisfied with Saba's love interest, Jack. The story stays away from love triangles for the most part, which was a huge relief. Also, Jack and Saba's relationship isn't emphasized throughout the story, but does give the story an extra balance, a new relationship for Saba to explore. I think the romance aspect was well written, but my favorite is still the adventure. 

Lastly, I thought the writing style was very creative.  I think it’s important for a writer to try something new as long as it fits with the essence of the story, and Young’s style was impressive. At first, the unique character accents drove me nuts. I couldn’t seem to produce those sounds in my head. But then I got it, and it flowed so perfectly. It gave the whole story a unique feel, and I felt like I belonged in it as well since I that language was what I was reading – it wasn’t just part of the character, but the story.
In fact, character voice wasn’t really defined beyond Saba’s, since the book was written from her point of view. No quotations were used to identify speaker, but I think this really helped with the flow of the book as well as put the reader in the perspective of Saba. The less punctuation, the less distracting the actual text is. Young’s on to something here. Also, there were no chapter markings, which helped with the flow of the story even more.

I thought this story was very imaginative and intriguing. I was very fond of Saba and the rest of the character’s development set in Young’s dystopian future. The landscape is very creative as well as the way it was used (a land ship for instance). The voice throughout the novel was engaging and welcoming to the story, although it may seem off setting at first and take some time to read it through smoothly. Also, Saba has a pet crow and that made me jealous. 

I give this a four out of five foxes. 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Daily Dahl 5/26/13

The Daily Dahl - Sunday Edition
26 May 2013

Today's feature comes from Publishers Weekly. It's about two cousins and their serendipitous book publication. It was such an adorable story, I had to share it!

Article Title: Lost and Bound: A Misplaced Notebook Finds a Publisher
Found at Publishers Weekly website
Originally written by Sue Corbett
Published May 23, 2013

My Summary: 
When cousins Isabelle Busath and Isabelle Thordsen, ages 10 and 8 respectively, lost their hand-crafted rule book at a Walmart parking lot, I'm sure they were only hoping to have it returned to them. What actually happened is much more amazing. 
When the Walmart employee tried to return the lost rule book to its owners, he ended up contacting the local news to seek out the owner. From there, the story was picked up nationally. 
The girls were returned their rule book, and in response to their creative endeavor, were offered publication.
The book featured over 150 rules, but after some editing, now contains almost 200 rules written by the cousins. The text will be kept in its original format, with the girls' handwriting, misspellings, and illustrations. 
For a look at some of the rules of the book, click the link above. They're so much fun! My personal favorite is "Don't color on people". Those are words of wisdom for every soul, and an uplifting read for those who want to experience the cousins project to guide their younger siblings. 
Look for the book this October from Simon and Schuster!

Corbett, Sue. "Lost and Bound: A Misplaced Notebook Finds a Publisher." Publishers Weekly. Publishers Weekly, 23 May 2013. Web. 25 May 2013.
Publishers Weekly Contact Information HERE

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Guest Post: D.D Chant, Author of Broken City and more!

From D.D Chant:

Hello everyone!

My name is D.D. Chant and I’m 26 years old, you can call me DeeDee. I’m an Indie Author who writes new adult novels, I also sing in a band with my sister, we're called Gentian. We’ve recently had two of our songs played on Radio Devon, which is VERY exciting!!! 

The main genres that I write in are sci-fi, dystopia, historical and a little chick-lit! I know that’s a bit of a weird combination! If you’re wondering which is the hardest to write, I’d have to say historical. There are so many more rules that you have to follow, historic events that you have to work in to your plot. Although I have taken some liberties with history, I’ve tried to stick to the facts when I can. 

People often ask me why I write and more especially why I would choose to self-publish. The first question is easy to answer: I write because I love writing! To me it’s like reading your favourite sort of story, only you get to decide how it all ends!!!
The second question is a little more difficult to answer. I guess it’s because it’s a bit of an adventure! I like the freedom of writing stories that I would want to read myself, and that I can price my books at .99p. As an avid reader myself I know how expensive a book addiction can be!

‘Broken City’ is my first published novel, a romantic adventure set in a broken world. It’s the start of a series set in a dystopian near future and tells the story of Deeta, a young woman who has never left the building she was born in. The next book in the series, ‘Broken Truce,’ is awaiting editing. I’m hoping to have finished and published it in a few months time.
Check out her book "Broken City" at Amazon and Smashwords!

Also, here's a short clip about her book! (find it at youtube

At this point I’d just like to say a huge thank you to Zooey for reading and reviewing Broken City! I really appreciate it! ;-P
My second series is called ‘The Lady Quill Chronicles,’ a romantic adventure set in Saxon England. The first book, ‘The Promise’, tells the story of five foster brothers and how a single battle changes the course of their lives forever. I’m half way through book two, ‘The Vow’, at the moment and I’m so excited! You know how sometimes when you’re reading a series and in the first book you really get attached to the characters only to find out in the next book they have mysteriously disappeared??? I hate that!!! All of the main characters from the first book make an appearance in the second, or have a jolly good reason for being absent!!!

Find The Promise at Amazon and Smashwords

My 3rd series is called ‘The Chronicles of Discord’. ‘Fracture’, the first book, is also a dystiopian adventure/romance. The story is set far in the future when the world has united into 3 super powers who are at war with one another. The Tula and the Una hate one another and the Free Nation must choose a side to fight on. Caught in the middle of them all is Astra, a young woman who guards a secret that could destroy them all…

Read her newest series at Amazon and Smashwords

I also have a series of short stories: ‘Claire and the Party’ and ‘Claire and the haircut of Doom’. They were great fun to write and I’ve had such a great response that I’m planning a full length adventure for Claire in the future! More than that I cannot say! ;-P

As a special perk for Zooey’s followers I’m giving away free digital copies of ‘Claire and the Party’!!! Just go to the link bellow and enter this code: WA32H

GET the FREE book "Claire and the Party" by D.D Chant!!
The coupon code runs out on the 5th June 2013.
Thank you so much for listening to my rambling, I hope that you’re tempted to try one of my books. If you do I hope you like it!!! Thank you again to Zooey for having me on your blog!

Follow D.D. Chant
D.D. Chant’s Facebook page
D.D. Chant’s Blog

D.D. Chant’s Twitter page
D.D. Chant’s Goodreads page
D.D. Chant’s Wattpad page

I also found some of her band's, Gentian, music here at reverbnation. Check it out. Sounds good!

And now, I want to say a HUGE thanks to DeeDee. Thanks for being so patient with me while I was reading your book. And thank you for sharing this great piece of literature with me!

I finished reading "Broken City" just before I finished school and it was a great escape from worrying about exams! Chant creates very realistic characters and an epic adventure. She is a very talented writer and I especially enjoyed her particular writing style. Chant has a unique 'writing voice', if you will. I loved the fluid language and the first person narrative of Deeta. "Broken City" is an excellent read! I definitely recommend getting this one, and while your at it, pick up a free copy of her book "Claire and the Party".

Friday, May 24, 2013

Picturebook Review: Henry Hikes to Fitchburg by D.B Johnson

First, I’d like to take this time to introduce this new project of mine. I realize at this point my blog has mostly been dedicated to YA literature, but I recently made the decision to make a weekly picturebook feature. This idea came to me from my sister, who is about to enter into student teaching and is looking for books to fill her future classroom with. I know she’ll be an amazing teacher, but her search for classroom books has sparked my interest in producing the best classroom materials for her.

I find the picturebook to be a unique and fascinating genre. There is so much to explore between the verbal and visual contexts. I will take time to discuss different elements of the text and the art as well as include a brief review of the plot.

A note to those with young children in their care (parents, siblings, teachers, and other guardians): You’ve all heard that reading to your child is important. And it is. Very important in my opinion. But I also believe that we should be choosy about which books we introduce to new and young readers. Picturebooks are meant to be fun, cute, playful, moralistic, and instructional. However, some books, simply take one or more of these elements too far. For example, a book about cars with wheels on it probably puts too much playfulness in the book. Children are meant to want to open and read the book, not use it like a matchbox car. That’s why I’ve taken on this project. For those of you who already read to children or who will one day soon. My purpose is to display quality books for you to share with young readers. If you have read one of these books to a child I would love to hear your feedback! I like to read to my niece and nephews, but they’re growing quickly and won’t be reading picturebooks for too long now. 

Picturebook Review: Henry Hikes to Fitchburg 
by D.B Johnson

Published by Houghton Mifflin, 2000
Illustrations – colored pencil and paint on paper

Goodreads Description:
Inspired by a passage from Henry David Thoreau's "Walden," this wonderfully appealing story follows two friends who have very different approaches to life. When the two agree to meet one evening in Fitchburg, which is thirty miles away, each decides to get there in his own way and have surprisingly different days. 

My Review:

This story features Henry David Thoreau as a bear. He and his friend choose different paths to an agreed meeting place. The juxtaposition between the two is paralleled on each page spread; Henry walks and experiences a nature-filled path while his friend chooses to work different labor jobs to earn a train ticket.
It’s an adorable story. The theme of enjoyment and connection with nature is evident on each page, but is in no way pedantic. Henry’s path is filled with adventure and curiosity, and child readers can relate to Henry’s curiosity and appreciate his calm.

The art in this book is phenomenal. Color and line guide the illustrations and tie in the verbal text to the visual. The colors reflect the sunlight on every page. Shadow and Sun are evident in the colors and almost seem to be in some sort of tug-of-war. A vibrant green fills the spaces in each illustration, and the red and blue theme appeals the adventure of the story.

My favorite part of the illustrations is the use of line. The illustrations use line to compare the paths of Henry and his friend. The lines contrast in direction and shape, which convey feelings of leisure or discomfort. Lines surrounding Henry tend to be round while his friend is most often illustrated with slanted and vertical lines to convey the hectic surroundings of city life compared to the peace of nature.
While reading this book, stop to ask the child what he or she sees in the illustrations. Point out color and line and see what they can interpret. There are so many unique details in the illustrations, such as Henry’s friend’s pocket watch. This is definitely a book to read multiple times. Honestly, this a good story for adults to read with children because I’m sure many parents and guardians would enjoy this book just as much as the child. 

I would give this book 4 out of 5 foxes

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