Merry Day-After-Christmas!

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas.  We certainly did!  My husband is home from work for a few days, so I plan on doing lots of reading.  I received THE SCORPIO RACES from him, so just as soon as I finish LIESL & PO, that’s what I’ll be reading.

How about you?  Did you receive any books as gifts?

Book Review: TUESDAYS AT THE CASTLE, by Jessica Day George

From Amazon:

Tuesdays at Castle Glower are Princess Celie’s favorite days. That’s because on Tuesdays the castle adds a new room, a turret, or sometimes even an entire wing. No one ever knows what the castle will do next, and no one—other than Celie, that is—takes the time to map out the new additions. But when King and Queen Glower are ambushed and their fate is unknown, it’s up to Celie, with her secret knowledge of the castle’s never-ending twists and turns, to protect their home and save their kingdom. This delightful book from a fan—and bookseller—favorite kicks off a brand-new series sure to become a modern classic.

First of all, I want you to know that I just rubbed my hands together in delight, because I am so, so excited to review TUESDAYS AT THE CASTLE, by Jessica Day George! This is such a marvelous book, by such a marvelous author. Jessica’s books are always utterly gobble-worthy…but there’s just something extra-special about this first title in her new middle grade series. Maybe it’s the setting…

The Land of Sleyne sounds picturesque, with its mountains and bowl-shaped valleys, but it’s the castle that serves as the home for Sleyne’s king (Glower the Seventy-Ninth) and his family that thrills me. After all, what child (or young-hearted adult, for that matter) doesn’t long for secret passages and magic? The layout of Castle Glower is in a constant state of flux, so it’s like one gargantuan maze of secret passages, built through magic. Now that is my idea of a fantastic setting—a castle that can alter its form at will. And yes, I said at will, because Castle Glower has a will. The castle is a key character in TUESDAYS, and come to think of it, maybe it’s the array of characters that has me gushing over this book.

The castle is like a human in so many ways, even suffering from boredom! But unlike humans, who tend to eat potato chips and watch movies when bored, Castle Glower “stretches,” resulting in an added turret here, a room there, and sometimes even a whole new wing. This seems rather whimsical of the castle, but don’t be fooled. Castle Glower is not a character to be trifled with. Those who visit the castle had better mind their Ps and Qs, or they could end up like the Ambassador of Bendeswe, who found himself walled into his bedroom once the castle found out he was a spy.

Another character to love is Princess Celie, who is spunky, courageous, and smart. She also possesses an atlas of the changing castle, and it is for this reason, perhaps, that the castle pays special attention to Celie’s needs, even growing escape routes when she needs them, and boy, does she need them! This is a girl who attracts adventure, for sure. I can’t wait to read more about her in the other books in this series!

There are also lots of other wonderful characters in TUESDAYS, such as the handsome Pogue Parry, the odd-but-loveable Prince Lulath of Grath (and his doggies), the spine tinglingly evil Prince Khelsh of Vhervhine, and, of course, Celie’s family. I love the relationships between Celie and her siblings, in particular. Her older brother, Rolf, is the second son of the king and queen, but the castle “chose” him to be King Glower’s heir, by moving his suite of rooms next to the Throne Room. Celie’s older sister, Lilah, is capable and a bit bossy, but proves her worth many times over in TUESDAYS. Celie’s oldest brother, Bran, was sent to a college for wizards after the castle kept furnishing his rooms with books and astrolabes. It is, in fact, on the journey to witness Bran’s graduation that Celie’s parents (who sound like the best king and queen ever) are ambushed and…well, you’ll just have to read the book if you want to know what happens to them and to Celie and her siblings as a result.

I do love the setting and the characters in TUESDAYS, but there is so much more to love, too! Jessica’s writing is simple, but vivid. The story moves quickly—there is never a dull moment. There is so much to love, and every element of the book works with every other element, creating a tight adventure story that any reader will enjoy.

And now for a bit of good news:  TUESDAYS AT THE CASTLE came out today, so you don’t have to wait to pick up your own copy!  Yahoo!

*Read my interview with author Jessica Day George (who also happens to be one of the hosts of Bookshop Talk, along with moi) here.

 

Reader’s Dilemma

I’m back, after a wonderful vacation to the central Oregon coast! Ah, me, the lighthouses! The seals and sea lions! The tide pools! The seafood! The sand!  I was not expecting such lovely, sandy beaches. But the place where we went had both rocky cliffs and sandy beaches. It. Was. Amazing.

But I’m glad to be back.

However, I read a lot on my vacation, and I’m now facing a dilemma:  Which book do I keep reading first?

A word of explanation:  Normally, when I start a new book, I start at least two at the same time. Then, when one starts to bore me, I put it aside and finish the one that I’m loving. Usually I go back to the book(s) I put down once I’m finished with the *superior* book (unless the book(s) I put down turned out to not rock very much).

So…

Which book of the three totally rocking books I’m reading right now do I finish?!? Here are the contenders:

Jessica Day George’s TUESDAYS AT THE CASTLE (an ARC):  Completely fantastic middle grade adventure with a lovable heroine and a castle that thinks! This book is killing me, it’s so good!

Geraldine McCaughrean’s THE GLORIOUS ADVENTURES OF THE SUNSHINE QUEEN: Gloriously rip-roaring middle grade adventure that takes place aboard a paddle steamer on the Missouri river.  McCaughrean may be British, but she’s got this bit of American historical fiction down, pat!

Gail Carson Levine’s A TALE OF TWO CASTLES:  This is Gail’s first adventure-mystery middle grade, featuring the lovable Elodie, and the story is based loosely on the tale of Puss ‘n Boots. How cool is that?

I must say, I love this dilemma.  I find it so wonderful that I have so many great books at my fingertips!

Based on my (very brief) book descriptions, which one would you finish reading first?

*UPDATE:  I decided to finish Jessica Day George’s book first!  I didn’t consciously make the decision–I just picked it up to read a bit while I was on my eliptical, and I couldn’t put it down!  I got in a great workout.  Lemme tell ya, this is a fantastic middle grade novel!  I cried twice!  I’m going to save my review until the book’s publication, which will be in October.

Book Review: WITCH WEEK, by Diana Wynne Jones

I love Diana Wynne Jones’s quirky wit!  I think of it as “British wit,” because it’s shared by some of my favorite British writers:  Diana, Terry Pratchett, J.K. Rowling, and Neil Gaiman.  I’m hoping my British ancestry means I can tap into that wit at some point.

WITCH WEEK is one of the Chrestomanci novels, which means the character, Chrestomanci, shows up.  And I do love Chrestomanci.  He’s charming, to say the least.  But WITCH WEEK stands very well on its own, too.  The writing is positively delightful.  It feels like a conversation rather than a reading.  I love the setting (a slightly run-down boarding school for witch-orphans), and I love the variety of characters.  Each character is fully realized, which is wildly tough to accomplish in a short middle grade novel.  The reader dives right in and gets to know the witch-orphan characters by reading their journals in the first few pages of the book.  I want to be best friends with Nan Pilgrim (what a great name for a witch!), and I think that I, like the unfortunate Miss Hodge, might have a bit of a crush (literary, of course) on kindly and harried Mr. Wentworth.

Try the Chrestomanci novels if you enjoy the Harry Potter books!

Eadric, the Beloved Puke Bowl

I’m over at Bookshop Talk today, talking about E.D. Baker’s fun middle grade fairy tale, THE FROG PRINCESS.  I read this delightful story to The Flute (my oldest but still not very old daughter) last winter, while she dealt with pretty much continual illness.  The book charmed her to the point where she named her “puke bowl” after one of the main characters…

Head over to Bookshop Talk to hear the whole story!