Sunday, January 30, 2011 | | 12 comments

It came as a bit of a shock to realize that I hadn’t reviewed a single, measly book by my most favorite author. Not that her books are measly, mind you, but just that it was fun to write that in a sentence. Also, you can forget that ‘bit of a shock’ part and insert HUGE, crazy, tilt-your-world-on-its-axis shock instead. That is to say: when I realized that I hadn’t actually reviewed anything by Robin McKinley, I had a minor heart attack. The rest of my favorite authors are all represented in my archive. How did this HAPPEN?

I’ll tell you the reason right now: I’m a coward. For a very long time I kept putting it off, thinking that ‘one day I’ll wake up and just feel like writing about how much I love The Blue Sword, and I’ll use eloquent language, and…’ That’s about where I’d dribble off into silence, because I could never actually imagine using suitable prose to describe how much I love that book. Barring divine intervention, a review was never going to get written. AND, since I feel this intensely about practically everything Ms. McKinley has written, the task looked impossible.

At this point, you may politely point out that I am a crazy person, and isn’t this little thing that I’m writing right now a review of a McKinley book? Why yes. It is. It is happening because at ALA (in June) last year I was very very lucky, and picked up an ARC of Pegasus at the Penguin booth. I then read it in September after I found out that I was losing my job. It was all sorts of soothing and wonderful and just what I needed, and it deserved a review, no matter how paltry the talent of the person behind the blog. So let’s get down to business.

A gorgeously written fantasy about the friendship between a princess and her Pegasus.

Because of a thousand-year-old alliance between humans and pagasi, Princess Sylviianel is ceremonially bound to Ebon, her own Pegasus, on her twelfth birthday. The two species coexist peacefully, despite the language barriers separating them. Humans and pegasi both rely on specially-trained Speaker magicians as the only means of real communication.

But it is different for Sylvi and Ebon. They can understand each other. They quickly grow close-so close that their bond becomes a threat to the status quo-and possibly to the future safety of their two nations.

New York Times bestselling Robin McKinley weaves an unforgettable tale of unbreakable friendship, mythical creatures and courtly drama destined to become a classic.

Pegasus felt at the same time like a dream of a fantasy and also intimate and heavy with emotion. It featured McKinley’s trademark smart heroine who feels like an outsider among her own kind, but forms fast friendships in spite of it. The novel also had a deep connection to geography and language. As a visual person, I had no trouble ‘seeing’ the land of the pegasi in my mind’s eye. And though it might be distressing to read the language of the pegasi aloud, the words had a way of murmuring along in the back of my mind.

For me, Pegasus was an instant favorite, and the descriptions of flight, bits of subtle humor and the wide scope of the story (where so much is below the surface, so much inferred, so much to dream about) were the best parts. It isn’t a fairy tale, but definitely fantastical and mythic. Sylvi and Ebon were strong, wonderful characters - the sorts that you would like to be, if you were faced with the kind of trouble they face. All in all, the book was just...ideal.

If all of that sounds like a eulogy of praise, it is. I feel this scary amount of love towards almost all McKinley books. So yes, I am biased. Biased by years of reading satisfaction and sensational writing. BUT. Even I understand that there are those who would have a lukewarm reaction to this novel. What do the members of this rare tribe look like? First: they don’t like fantasy, ever, no ifs ands or buts about it. You can forget the Narnia novels, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, anything with magic at all. If it isn’t real, can it. Second: they need romance. Can’t tolerate a book without it. Get antsy if no one is kissed by page 100. Third: cliffhangers are the stuff their nightmares are made of.

If that didn’t sound like you, I’d suggest Pegasus. Strongly. And yes, it is one story broken into two parts. But the second part is coming SOON, and it’s totally worth it. Really.

Recommended for: anyone interested in developing their sense of wonder, those who appreciate high fantasy and also those looking for a good introduction to it, fans of YA fiction as well as fans of beautiful writing, and anyone who knows how to find the ‘real’ and important things in any setting, no matter how fantastical.

[I got an ARC of Pegasus from the Penguin/Putnam booth at ALA 2010. I also got a hardcover for Christmas, because I loved it that much. I'm donating the ARC to my sister's 7th grade classroom in Washington State.]

teaser tuesday (59)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011 | | 14 comments
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!

“‘When Mr. Hirst pulled the pistol, I tried to take it from him.’

Deryn shut her eyes. Striking an officer – another hanging offense.

‘Very sensible of you,’ Dr. Barlow said. ‘This ship won’t get very far without its master of mechaniks, will it?’”

p. 48 of Scott Westerfeld’s Behemoth


Sunday, January 9, 2011 | | 8 comments

Take one part science, two parts mystery, and a half portion of teenage angst. Mix in water travel, adventure, and an uninhabited island wildlife preserve, and what do you get? Non-stop action!

Now let me back up. I’ll be upfront: I never would have read this novel from the description on the back cover alone. Or even that description I wrote in the paragraph above. No, I picked this one up because it had a mesmerizing cover and a snappy title. It was sitting there, unloved, in a stack of ARCs at the Razorbill booth at ALA last summer while everyone shimmied and squirmed past to reach that last, elusive copy of Robin McKinley’s Pegasus.

Lucky me, I’d already scored my copy, so I was wandering (as all natural born book lovers will, in a bookstore, library or at a conference), letting my eyes drink in the scene and the books. Then out of nowhere – BAM! I’m looking at a girl running away, in a book cover that reminds me of, oh, the movie poster for every action flick ever. But probably most strongly of Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. What can I say? It looked dynamic.

So that’s how I came to be in possession of this book. And I will say that I like it best as a paperback (having gone to the bookstore now and picked up a hardback for comparison, of course). It feels immediate and changeable, just as the cover art suggests. But enough musing on the outer wrapping – what’s the book ITSELF like?

Tory Brennan, niece of acclaimed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan (of the Bones novels and hit TV show), is the leader of a ragtag band of teenage "sci-philes" who live on a secluded island off the coast of South Carolina. When the group rescues a dog caged for medical testing on a nearby island, they are exposed to an experimental disease strain that changes their lives forever.

As the friends discover their heightened senses and animal-quick reflexes, they must combine their scientific curiosity with their newfound physical gifts to solve a cold-case murder that has suddenly become very hot--if they can stay alive long enough to catch the killer's scent.

Fortunately, they are now more than friends – they're a pack. They are Virals.

Virals was lively action in a captivating setting with mystery, science, and a sprinkling of danger to make life interesting. In other words, plot-driven excitement that put me in mind of the best that a Nancy Drew/CSI/Lost sort of adventure could conjure. For what it was, it was entertaining.

So – down to the meat – what wasn’t it? Number one: a love story. Not that it couldn’t develop in the future, mind you, but this one isn’t it. Number two: big on character development. You may have seen the words ‘plot-driven’ above. I meant them. The book isn’t shallow, but it’s not a platform for deep thoughts or character change, either. It’s an adventure story. Number three: girls-only reading. I think that Virals will appeal mainly to guys. I KNOW it’s got that tomboy and science geek thing down pat, but the next most likely audience (in my opinion) is the male half of the teenage equation. Great adventure reading, mysteries, and unexplained diseases? Should appeal to both sexes.

Final verdict: worth the read. While this wasn’t one of my typical choices, it entertained me for a couple of hours on a rainy day, and the non-stop action was a great diversion. I’ll be looking out for the next installment.

Recommended for: mystery and action lovers, those Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys readers all grown up, fans of Bones, CSI and other mystery/forensics shows, and perhaps that reluctant teen reader you know – guy or girl – who might be thrilled by a little bit of action adventure.

[Full Disclosure: I picked up this book at the Penguin booth at the American Library Association Annual conference in June 2010.]

reanimation giveaway winners

Sunday, January 2, 2011 | | 5 comments
Oh dear, oh dear deer dear… I’m late! I meant to announce winners for my latest giveaway weeks ago, but then everything got away from me. And when I say everything, I mean everything. I still haven’t mailed some of my Christmas gifts! Someone out there may be as behind as I am, but I rather doubt it. In the meantime…I hope all of you had lovely holidays and are looking forward to another year (hopefully) full of wonderful surprises.

The winners of my ‘reanimate the blog’ giveaway are:


and Margay Roberge!

Congrats, winners! Each winner will receive $25 US for either the Book Depository or Amazon. Many thanks to all entrants! May your year be happy, healthy, and hilarious. If you didn’t win this time around, stay tuned for another contest coming soon. And, you know, stay awesome.

welcome to a new year

Saturday, January 1, 2011 | | 6 comments

I don’t like to make resolutions, and I especially don’t like sharing them. Come to that, I don’t like being forced to say what I’m thankful for at Thanksgiving. That information is weirdly personal, and I’m not sure anyone really needs that much access to my thoughts. Very probably that is something to work on in my character. I also feel like sharing resolutions or thankful thoughts ties you to them – you can’t unsay that stuff, and people always seem to REMEMBER.

Be that as it may, I voiced two New Year’s resolutions in public last night. The first was to blog more. Everyone there immediately protested, “But you blog so much already!” Which you, dear reader, already know was unfortunately untrue in November and December 2010. I will get back in the swing of things.

And the second resolution: to learn how to make Beef Wellington. I am rather determined to become a good cook (moving up from ‘fair’), as I am already a good baker (though I’d like to get to ‘excellent’ in that category, now that I think of it). Wish me luck! I will of course share my exploits. Notice I didn’t just say successes. If I fail spectacularly and remember to take photos, you can be sure it’ll go on the blog.

[photo of beef wellington from]

When I look at my two resolutions, I can’t help but think that they are small things. But often the ‘small’ things make such a difference in quality of life and a sense of purpose that they turn into big things. What are your ‘small’ resolutions for the New Year?

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