the moorchild

I love the blogosphere. I professed my lifelong love of Eloise Jarvis McGraw in this post, and Jenny asked if I’d read Greensleeves, one of her lesser-known titles. I hadn’t even heard of it. I did some investigation, and found that it wasn’t in print, my library doesn’t have it, and copies are going for $40 or more online (a bit beyond my price range). But while looking around I discovered that McGraw had written MANY books that I didn’t know about, one of which was The Moorchild, an award-winner. Take a great author, add a fairy story, and then price the paperback at under $5, and I’m sold. And I just happened to win a Book Depository gift card in a blog contest at the right time, so…yay! Did I mention that I love the blogosphere? Yeah, that.

Half moorfolk and half human, and unable to shape-shift or disappear at will, Moql threatens the safety of the Band. So the Folk send her to live among humans as a changeling. Named Saaski by the couple for whose real baby she was swapped, she grows up taunted and feared by the villagers for being different, and is comfortable only on the moor, playing strange music on her bagpipes.

As Saaski grows up, memories from her forgotten past with the Folk slowly emerge. When mystery of her past is revealed, Saaski must make hard choices and face danger in many forms.

The Moorchild is Saaski’s story. Saaski is a changeling, though she doesn’t know it. The story of her eventual knowledge and recollection of how she came to be a changeling form the bulk of the story. I think the summary tells you most of what you need to know about the plot. What I can add are comments on the beauty of the language, the varied context of the story (which gives you enough detail, but not too much to ruin any surprises or wonderings) and the absolute suck-you-into-the-tale quality that McGraw books seem to have as a trademark.

The story is set in an indeterminate village on the edge of the moor. That doesn’t sound exciting, does it? Well, it might you have a thing for ‘the moor’ like I did after reading The Secret Garden one too many times as a child. But say you don’t have an over-developed sense of romance about the moor already. McGraw’s description will inspire a sense of longing to see it, to feel it and to hear it. The prose is effortless and yet holds deep emotion.

That’s what I can say about The Moorchild. It’s fraught: with confusion, with sorrow, with loveliness and just a touch of mischief.

Best of all? It’s a story suitable for all ages. I’d recommend The Moorchild to those interested in: ridiculously good children’s fiction, myths and legends, fairy tales, family dynamics and a taste of the wildness that lives in all of us.

This book qualifies for both Once Upon a Time reading challenges.

2010 dystopia challenge

Friday, May 28, 2010 | | 13 comments
Rhiannon is one of those people in the blogosphere who I just ‘click’ with. Not that we’ve had a long correspondence or anything (because we haven’t), and not because it’s necessarily mutual (is it creepy to have a one-way ‘I admire you’ thing? don’t answer that!), but just because I read her reviews and say to myself, “That’s EXACTLY how I feel!” Of course after the high of feeling completely understood, I realize that there’s nothing more to say about such and such a book, so I give up and go on. *grin*

What I meant to say in that last paragraph is that Rhiannon has fantastic taste, and I was inspired to go on a dystopian reading kick by the dystopia challenge she set last year. And this year she’s doing it again, so I’m taking part as well. In her words, “The challenge is to read, ponder and review as many dystopian books as I can before spring. The coldest and darkest months of the year are to be stuffed full of zombies, hazmat suits and oppressive ideologies. What could be cozier?”

Indeed. Part of that, if you didn’t catch it, corresponds to the fact that she lives in the Southern Hemisphere, where they’re just now heading towards winter. I’m taking the easy road and reading my dystopian novels in the bright light of summer. I know, I’m a wimp. But there you have it. Check out her reading list here.

My longlist (which I won’t get through, but sounds good):

Ariel by Steven R. Boyett

Birthmarked by Caragh M. O’Brien

Genesis by Bernard Beckett (I've been trying to finish this title for 6 months!)

Inside Out by Maria V. Snyder

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Matched by Ally Condie

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness

Obernewtyn by Isobelle Carmody

Restoring Harmony by Joelle Anthony

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson

The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness

The Line by Teri Hall

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

The People of Sparks by Jeanne DuPrau (sequel to The City of Ember, which I loved)

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Wish me luck!

i was so wrong about that book!

The Book List is a short and fun meme that allows you to share books with the blogosphere and make a list. Who doesn't love lists (quiet, you!)? It is hosted weekly by Rebecca at Lost in Books.

This Week's Topic is: 3 books you thought you’d hate but ended up loving

1. To Have and to Hold by Mary Johnston

I mentioned that I was homeschooled in this post. As a part of that, my mom traveled to curriculum fairs and teaching seminars on a regular basis. Usually we’d dread her return, because she’d be all fired up with new strategies and so many new TEXTBOOKS! It was overwhelming, to say the least. One time, though, she returned with this title and insisted on reading it to us almost as soon as she’d unpacked. I was ready to hate it. Had already decided on it. But the adventure! The romance! The historical setting! The story caught my attention in spite of myself, and I’ve re-read it several times since.

2. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

For several years I lied to my swim lesson and swim team kids. That sounds really reprehensible, doesn’t it? What sort of role model was I? I, dear audience, was the girl who hadn’t read any Harry Potter, and didn’t want to. I didn't want to tell those kids that I hadn't read the books, either. I was determined to be the only person in my generation who hadn’t touched the series. I was sure they were badly written and not worth my time. Well, I was sure up until the night before I left for my second trip to Chile, when I realized I didn’t have any suitable books for the 10-hour plane ride. So I gave in and borrowed my roommate’s copies, and I ended up staying awake for hours to read them all. Suffice it to say…I was wrong.

3. At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon

My grandmother has had an amazing effect on my reading taste. No, really. She lives in upstate New York, and whenever she visits or I go to visit, I somehow end up reading one of her books. It’s uncanny, really. I am always sure that I won’t like whatever it is, and I’m always sucked in. This probably means that we have very similar taste. I try not to shudder at that, even though it’s true. So I was pretty positive that I wouldn’t like reading about a middle-aged priest in a small Carolina town…but it turns out I was wrong. I gobbled up the entire Mitford series in a month or two. And some Nicholas Sparks, and some James Patterson…and you get the idea. Books I usually don’t review here, but read guiltily and then give away to my local thrift shop.

What are three books you ended up liking in spite of yourself?

lemon bar cupcakes will win you friends

It is true. I know, because it worked for me. Sort of. I suppose in the interest of full disclosure I should admit that all the taste testers were already my friends. But Lemon Bar Cupcakes totally CEMENTED our pre-existing friendships. And that is kind of true. Or something.

I got this recipe from Party Cupcake Ideas, via a twitter link from the fabulous author Lisa Mantchev. In fact, the lady in question is hosting a Cupcakeathon today in honor of the Perchance to Dream book publication date. Check the event out at her blog. And honestly? Go make some cupcakes! Because they’re perfect for any celebration AND for the everyday, too. Plus, extra friends. You can’t go wrong there (I don’t think, anyway).

Lemon Bar Cupcakes


1 box of your favorite lemon cake mix

1 small package lemon instant pudding

1 cup sour cream

3/4 cup water

3/4 cup oil

4 eggs


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
 In a large bowl, mix together dry ingredients. Add wet ingredients and mix together for several minutes.
 Batter will be fairly thick in consistency.

Bake for 20 minutes. When you remove the cupcakes to cool, you might notice that they are indented in the middle. This can be smoothed out when you add your lemon bar frosting.

Lemon Bar Frosting

This is where I fudged. If you look at the recipe from Party Cupcake Ideas, you make the frosting from scratch. I…didn’t. Here’s what I did do:


1 large can prepared whipped white frosting

fresh-squeezed juice of two lemons

zest of one lemon

extra powdered sugar (a cup or two?)


Mix ingredients together until you’ve got something that is icing-like consistency. Scoop into a quart- or gallon-sized Ziploc bag. Seal bag. Cut a small corner of bag off. Ice the cupcakes with swirls of lemon bar frosting! Maybe it’s not gourmet, but it works. Oh! And those little yellow balls? Are chewy Lemonheads. LOVE!

teaser tuesday (38)

It's Teaser Tuesday, a bookish blog meme hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Here's how it works:

Grab your current read and let it fall open to a random page. Post two (or more) sentences from that page, along with the title and author. Don’t give anything vital away!

“‘I see people and animals and monsters with’—he nearly said horrible faces—‘strange landscapes.’ Mel could feel everybody’s eyes on him. He hated being the center of attention.”

-p. 14 of Mike Wilks’ Mirrorscape

i am the messenger

Monday, May 24, 2010 | | 9 comments

My friends are startlingly skeptical of my reading habits. And that’s a good thing, because it pushes my comfort zone and sometimes knocks me out of a rut. The friend who looks like Matt Damon (you remember, I mentioned him in this post?) asked me the other day to name one book I’d read recently that ‘could actually happen.’ What he wanted to know is if I ever read any realistic fiction (this is a valid question when you look through my blog over the last couple of months). I am slightly ashamed to say that I couldn’t think of any titles on the spot.

But I’d heard marvelous things about I Am the Messenger from both The O.W.L. Review and Persnickety Snark recently, so I decided to bump that selection up the TBR pile and try my hand at something not fantastical. Ha. Was I wrong, or what? It’s not that it’s not realistic fiction, because it is. It’s just that Markus Zusak, author of The Book Thief, is such a skilled writer and storyteller that his tales seem magical, regardless of the absence of any so-called fantastical elements.

I Am the Messenger is a mad dash into adventure, and a lesson in hope and despair. It features a disgustingly ordinary young man who discovers a mission to do something for someone. Well, it’s more like he’s forced into the mission. But it changes his life. So who is behind this plot, and what does it all mean for those living their lives on the brink? And better yet, what does it mean for our hero?

Meet Ed Kennedy—underage cabdriver, pathetic cardplayer, and useless at romance. He lives in a shack with his coffee-addicted dog, the Doorman, and he’s hopelessly in love with his best friend, Audrey. His life is one of peaceful routine and incompetence, until he inadvertently stops a bank robbery. That’s when the first Ace arrives. That’s when Ed becomes the messenger…

Chosen to care, he makes his way through town helping and hurting (when necessary), until only one question remains: Who’s behind Ed’s mission?

Winner of the 2006 Printz honor, I Am the Messenger is a cryptic journey filled with laughter, fists, and love.

Ed sounds slightly absurd, right? And his situation is. But at its heart, this tale is about someone ordinary, with an ordinary/strange life, discovering himself and viewing those around him in a new light. It’s got poignant moments. It’s also got absolutely gorgeous and gutting prose. And it lays out the brutal, gritty truth that humans have both potential for good and for harm.

But Ed isn’t the only character on the scene. Ed’s dog (yes, the one addicted to coffee) has his own persona. And the memorable people that Ed comes into contact with, from his friends to his mysterious foes, are by turns interesting, sweet, sinister and heart-wrenchingly honest. These co-adventurers are what make this book tick. Zusak weaves vignettes of lives in need into the greater narrative with humor and care, and the result reads like genius.

Recommended for: fans of literary fiction (yes, I promise you’ll like it!), YA realism, zany adventures, coming-of-age stories and mysteries. Also? For all of us who wonder if one ‘good deed’ can truly change a life.

glittery undersea cupcakes and a winner

To celebrate the release of the second book in her Théâtre Illuminata series, author Lisa Mantchev is instigating (I mean, hosting) a cupcakeathon. I will be posting my review of Perchance to Dream and results of any baking on Tuesday, which is publication day. BUT. In the meantime I have the results for my giveaway of a paperback copy of Eyes Like Stars, an ARC of Perchance to Dream, and some fairy-glittery-cupcakey goodness.

The extra-lovely paper goods (read: set of 6 beautiful cards) were crafted by my sister, Ginny. She has more photos on her blog. I just gave her some parameters about what I wanted (blue/green/lovely/fairy/glittery/undersea), and she came up with these gorgeous specimens. I think they fit Perchance to Dream to a T.

And now what you’ve all been waiting for: the winner! Help me congratulate...

Bianca of Wicked Good Books

Who answered the question “What is your favorite play or dramatic work?” with:

“Since I'm always always going to plays and musicals it’s really hard for me to choose an all-time favorite, so I'll pick my favorite that I've seen THIS year.

John Lennon & Me was an amazing show I saw at a high school back in February. Dealt with a girl living with cystic fibrosis. Made me cry.”

Many thanks to all who entered! Your comments about plays and operas and films were inspiring and wonderful. In other words? You rock. Keep it up.

paper clip zoo

Thursday, May 20, 2010 | | 10 comments
Even if I’m minding my own business on the internet, I sometimes run across things that scream CUTE! WHIMSICAL! AMAZING! Or in other words, ‘BUY ME NOW, sucker!’ And this time I didn’t refuse.

image via Fridge Door

image via Rakuten

These are called D Clips instead of paper clips, and are designed by Midori Stationary in Japan. I bought mine (whale, squirrel and chickadee) from JetPens.

I did not receive any monetary compensation for this post - it's just me and my internet shopping habit.

books i've been meaning to read for...forever

The Book List is a short and fun meme that allows you to share books with the blogosphere and make a list. Who doesn't love lists (QUIET, you!)? It is hosted weekly by Rebecca at Lost in Books.

This Week's Topic is: 3 Books that have been on your TBR (to be read) list the longest…

1. My Invented Country by Isabel Allende

I went to Chile (and fell in love with it) in the summer of 2004. I went to Spain in the fall of 2004. I bought this book in Spain. And I have taken it EVERYWHERE with me. It survived the after-college book purge, another trip to Chile, moves to Florida, Georgia, and Seattle, and it now resides on a shelf in my DC apartment. I always mean to read it, but somehow it never happens. That may also be due to the fact that I bought the Spanish-language version, and I read about three times slower in Spanish than in English. One day I will read this book! Sigh.

2. Enna Burning by Shannon Hale

I love Shannon Hale’s books. I read The Princess Academy, The Goose Girl and Book of a Thousand Days in quick succession. And then I bought Enna Burning and River Secrets…and they’ve just been SITTING. ON. MY. SHELF. Accusing me, making me feel guilty, and proving that even with books by the authors I love, I can still be the ultimate procrastinator. Probably not something to put on the résumé, eh? But I intend to read this one by December, because it's on my 'Once Upon a Time' reading challenge list.

3. The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig

As a long-time fan of The Scarlet Pimpernel and the Regency period in general, it is a travesty that I haven’t read this book. It was a birthday gift, and a good one. From the year 2007. I just have never gotten around to reading it. But I will, never fear! Because the cover is just too gorgeous, and one of these days (probably a rainy day, with hot chocolate) I will discover just how much of a fool I’ve been to delay.

What are three books you’ve put off reading?

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