Monday, March 2, 2015

A Dragon's Guide to the Care and Feeding of Humans by Laurence Yep & Joanne Ryder, illustrated by Mary GrandPré

 photo 1101891564.01._SX175_SY250_SCLZZZZZZZ__zps6idb8az9.jpgA Dragon's Guide to the Care and Feeding of Humans
by Laurence Yep & Joanne Ryder, illustrated by Mary GrandPré
Published by Crown Books for Young Readers, March 10, 2105
160 Pages • ISBN 978-0385392280 • Hardcover
I picked up an ARC of this book at #ALAMW15

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Book description:
Fans of How to Train Your Dragon will love this whimsical tale, the first in a series, by a Newbery Honor winner, featuring charming illustrations and pet "training tips" in each chapter.

Crusty dragon Miss Drake has a new pet human, precocious Winnie. Oddly enough, Winnie seems to think Miss Drake is her pet — a ridiculous notion!

Unknown to most of its inhabitants, the City by the Bay is home to many mysterious and fantastic creatures, hidden beneath the parks, among the clouds, and even in plain sight. And Winnie wants to draw every new creature she encounters: the good, the bad, and the ugly. But Winnie’s sketchbook is not what it seems. Somehow, her sketchlings have been set loose on the city streets! It will take Winnie and Miss Drake’s combined efforts to put an end to the mayhem... before it’s too late.

This refreshing debut collaboration by Laurence Yep, a two-time Newbery Honor winner and a Laura Ingalls Wilder Award winner, and Joanne Ryder features illustrations by Mary GrandPré.


What an unexpected surprise! I had picked up a copy of A Dragon's Guide to the Care and Feeding of Humans on a whim at #alamw15, having not one clue as to what it was about. Yesterday, I was looking for something to read, and picked this up just to check it out and ended up reading it in the one sitting. The story follows Miss Drake, a curmudgeonly dragon who has taken on a new "pet" in the form of Winnie, the grand-niece of her previous pet, Amelia (or Fluffy as Miss Drake liked to call her). Winnie is strong willed and very sure herself and at first Miss Drake finds this very discouraging and realizes she's going to have to be very assertive in training her new pet. (Of course, the question actually becomes, exactly who is the pet here?)

Miss Drake, on a shopping excursion for some new tea and biscuits, also buys Winnie a new sketchbook that may be more that it appears to be, and when Winnie starts to sketch all the marvelous, magical creatures she is discovering, the sketchbook releases a magic all its own and the sketches come to life! It is up to Miss Drake and Winnie to find the sketchlings before they are discovered by both the magical and nonmagical worlds.

Putting this all down, A Dragon's Guide to the Care and Feeding of Humans sounds like a typical middle grade adventure story, but what took me completely by surprise was that the story is just as much about love, loss, and the importance of family as it is about anything else. Amidst all the magic and missteps and adventures in the story is a growing underlying theme of the importance that both friends and family can have in a person's life, where friends become family and family become friends. The conclusion is one of the most touching endings to a book that I have read in a very long time, and made me think fondly of those that I have loved and lost in my life. The connections between Miss Drake and Amelie, Winnie and her father, and eventually Miss Drake and Winnie are made so incredibly real in such a short book. Laurence Yep and Joanne Ryder have crafted a beautiful and fun-filled story, and Marie GrandPré's accompanying illustrations are perfect. I would recommend this to anyone with or without a young person in their life; anyone will be able to enjoy this whimsical tale about the strength and love of families. Highly recommended.

A Dragon's Guide to the Care and Feeding of Humans is published by Crown Books for Young Readers and will be available March 10, 2015.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sarton Sunday 22 II 2015 - The Fur Person by May Sarton

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 photo 039334990X.01._SX175_SY250_SCLZZZZZZZ__zpsxnneddv1.jpgIn Time Like Air
by May Sarton
Published by W. W. Norton & Company, December 1, 2014 (1957)
120 Pages • ISBN 978-0393349900 • Paperback

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Book description:
A delightful, whimsical tale—one of the most popular books for cat lovers ever written, now newly illustrated. May Sarton's fictionalized account of her cat Tom Jones's life and adventures prior to making the author's acquaintance begins with a fiercely independent, nameless street cat who follows the ten commandments of the Gentleman Cat—including "A Gentleman Cat allows no constraint of his person, not even loving constraint." But after several years of roaming, Tom has grown tired of his vagabond lifestyle, and he concludes that there might be some appeal after all in giving up the freedom of street life for a loving home. It will take just the right human companion, however, to make his transformation from Cat About Town to genuine Fur Person possible. Sarton's book is one of the most beloved stories ever written about the joys and tribulations inherent in sharing one's life with a cat.

The Fur Person is a book that I think any cat lover will cherish. I reread it every couple of years and can always see so much of my cats in Tom Jones (even though my cats are girls). We follow Tom Jones on his journey from a Cat About Town to his discovery of a loving family, and his evolution with his new family, Brusque Voice (May Sarton) and Gentle Voice (Judy Matlack), from Gentleman Cat into a Fur Person. I would imagine that May Sarton took some literary freedom in relating Tom's early years before he became part of her and Judy's family, but his time with them is based on his true adventures. It's a charming little story that I think any cat lover can relate to.

I would have to say that this is by far Sarton's most successful book commercially, only due to the fact that this is the most reprinted book she has published. Just in the last couple of years, there have been two new gift editions published, a hardcover edition and this paperback edition.

Monday, February 16, 2015

In Search of Lost Dragons by Elian Black'Mor, Carine-M, & Jezequel

 photo 160690464701_SX175_SY250_SCLZZZZZZZ__zps3fd82984.jpgIn Search of Lost Dragons
by Elian Black'Mor, Carine-M, & Jezequel
Published by Dynamite Entertainment, February 3, 2015
224 Pages • ISBN 978-1606904640 • Hardcover

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Book description:
On the trail of dragons forgotten, an intrepid illustrator and reporter journeys from Europe through the Middle East and finally to Saigon in search of the dark caverns and mountaintop perches where the elusive winged serpents dwell. With the gift of seeing the invisible, our explorer friend records each encounter in a journal of gorgeous, fully painted artwork, capturing every majestic and fearsome visual detail of the scaly behemoths, and accompanies his findings with snippets of local lore as evidence that these hidden beasts continue to shape the world in ways we may never expect!



In Search of Lost Dragons is a travel journal kept by a reporter as he travels the world in search of dragons. The journal entries are very disjointed, to the point where I thought I was missing pages in my volume, but in the end, there is something of a cohesive story being told throughout as the journalist continues his search for dragons, discovering long lost nomadic tribes and long hidden cities in the process; still, I'd have to say that the "story telling" is rambling to say the best. The art in the book, however, is gorgeous. Presented as photographs and sketches of the various species of dragons discovered on the journey, the art in this book is stunning. Just take a look at the book trailer above to see what I'm talking about. I didn't know a thing about this book, and ordered based on what I saw in that trailer, and I'm so glad that I did. The dragons are simply gorgeous.

So, what the story lacks in cohesiveness, the art absolutely makes up for it detail. This would be a great addition to a fantasy library!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

What I'm reading now

Sarton Sunday 15 II 2015 - In Time Like Air by May Sarton

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PhotobucketIn Time Like Air
by May Sarton
Published by Rinehart & Co, 1958
80 Pages • Hardcover

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REFLECTIONS IN A DOUBLE MIRROR

There is anxiety hot in the throat,
The dark wood where even lovers get lost,
The axe held loosely, dangerous in the hand,
That might slip, those cloudy dreams of threat.
There is always ahead some next, more awful test,
Or again the bog, indifference, dragging quicksand;
There is the never-ending battle with
The unforgiven, unforgiving self for truth.
It may all prove untenable for lack of hope,
Something we cannot deal with or escape—

These are the things we lie awake to ponder.

There is in each of us a healing mother;
There is the hand cradling the axe, breaking
Dead wood down, held lightly with clean grace;
There is the help we can give each other,
And every morning, light at our first waking
As if each day a blessing did take place.
Despite all fumbles, bungling, we endure,
Manage to go on building the hard inner core,
A free self that might harbor faithful love.
There is more in us than we have learned to give.

These are the things we lay awake to ponder.


My favorite poem from the collection.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Friday, February 13, 2015

I am Princess X by Cherie Priest, illustrated by Kali Ciesemier

 photo 054562085601_SX175_SY250_SCLZZZZZZZ__zpsd240f214.jpgI am Princess X
by Cherie Priest, illustrated by Kali Ciesemier
Published by Arthur A. Levine Books, May 26, 2015
240 Pages • ISBN 978-0545620857 • Hardcover
I picked up an ARC of this book at #ALAMW15

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Book description:
Best friends, big fans, a mysterious webcomic, and a long-lost girl collide in this riveting novel, perfect for fans of both Cory Doctorow and Sarah Dessen, & illustrated throughout with comics.

Once upon a time, two best friends created a princess together. Libby drew the pictures, May wrote the tales, and their heroine, Princess X, slayed all the dragons and scaled all the mountains their imaginations could conjure.

Once upon a few years later, Libby was in the car with her mom, driving across the Ballard Bridge on a rainy night. When the car went over the side, Libby passed away, and Princess X died with her.

Once upon a now: May is sixteen and lonely, wandering the streets of Seattle, when she sees a sticker slapped in a corner window.

Princess X?

When May looks around, she sees the Princess everywhere: Stickers. Patches. Graffiti. There's an entire underground culture, focused around a webcomic at IAmPrincessX.com. The more May explores the webcomic, the more she sees disturbing similarities between Libby's story and Princess X online. And that means that only one person could have started this phenomenon - her best friend, Libby, who lives.


Libby and May, best friends in school, created Princess X. They wrote and drew her adventures, creating a world all their own. Yet, when Libby dies in a car accident with her mom, Princess X and all of her adventures are lost to May, who now has to find her way in life without her best friend. Several years go by, and one day May is wandering Seattle when she discovers a Princess X sticker on a window. Slowly, she discovers that everywhere she looks now, there is Princess X. She soon finds out that there is a webcomic at IAmPrincessX.com, and there is an entire mystery surrounding who is behind its creation. May thinks she knows, but that would have to mean that her best friend isn't actually dead after all. With the help of Trick, the computer hacker from upstairs, May goes on a search to discover the truth behind IAmPrincessX.com and the truth behind Libby's death.

I was talking with a friend about the book and asked me how I would describe it, and I found I couldn't really categorize it. I've been thinking long and hard about this, and I think I'd have to call it an urban mystery. It definitely has a fantasy feeling to it with the inclusion of the webcomic in the story, but that's not really the best way to describe it to someone.

This is Cherie Priest's first jaunt into YA, and it is actually quite the satisfying adventure. While there are aspects of the story that seem a little farfetched to me (I can't really go into them, as they all relate to parts of the mystery), everything comes together nicely in the end. The pacing of the book also felt a bit rushed to me, as sometimes May and Trick jumped to conclusions a little too quickly and accurately, but it kept the story moving along and there really is no part of the book that drags. The inclusion of pages from the webcomic is a great touch given that so much of what goes on in the books stems from what is happening in the webcomic. I'm actually hoping that Priest and Ciesmier continue the Princess' adventures online at some point. I'm hoping the final copy is printed in the pinkish-purple ink that the ARC is; a clever connection to the color of Princess X's dress.

The one thing that made me most satisfied with I am Princess X is the lack of an immediate love connection between May and Trick. Too often in YA, I feel like the girl falls for the boy for all the wrong reasons (sometimes for the right reasons), but it so often feels forced, just to give that romantic tension in the story. It is refreshing to read a YA where there is no tension between the the girl and the boy, because I just don't think it would have worked at all in this book. This story is truly all about May and Libby, and if Priest had created that romantic tension in the story between May and Trick, then that would have absolutely felt forced to me. For this reason alone, I want to give Cherie Priest a high-five over this book.

You can pick up a copy of I am Princess X by Cherie Priest on May 26, 2015. from Arthur A. Levine Books.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Sarton Sunday 8 II 2015 - The Land of Silence by May Sarton

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PhotobucketThe Land of Silence
by May Sarton
Published by Rinehart & Co, 1953
99 Pages • ISBN 978-0393009255 • Paperback

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I send you love forward into the past.

from LETTER FROM CHICAGO

Many of the poems here begin to speak of Sarton's search for solitude and how she is becoming familiar and even accepting of the need and benefits of a solitary life. One of my favorite lines from her poetry came from this book, as well. "I send you love forward into the past." came from her poem, Letter from Chicago, which was written for Virginia Woolf, as she was thinking back on Woolf's life and the personal pain that Sarton felt for her loss. I can't help but think of this line whenever I think of those close to me who have left my life.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Avengers: Time Runs Out, Vol 1 by Jonathan Hickman, illustrated by Jim Cheung, Stefano Caselli, Mike Deodato Jr., Valerio Schiti, Kev Walker, Nick Bradshaw, Paco Medina, & Dustin Weaver

 photo 078519341301_SX175_SY250_SCLZZZZZZZ__zps7e902726.jpgAvengers: Time Runs Out, Vol 1
by Jonathan Hickman, illustrated by Jim Cheung, Stefano Caselli, Mike Deodato Jr., Valerio Schiti, Kev Walker, Nick Bradshaw, Paco Medina, & Dustin Weaver
Published by Marvel, January 27, 2015
144 Pages • ISBN 978-0785193418 • Hardcover

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Book description:
TIME RUNS OUT! For Earth's Mightiest Heroes and the Illuminati, it has all been building to this. Following the startling events of Original Sin and the revelations as to what the Illuminati have been up to all this time, this cataclysmic saga jumps forward to the day of the Final Incursion. See what awaits our heroes in the future as the table is set for the astonishing climax of Jonathan Hickman's acclaimed runs on Avengers and New Avengers.

COLLECTING: Avengers 35-37, New Avengers 24-25


So, this is where everything has been leading over the last couple of years in the two main Avengers titles. Jumping 8 months into the future to the day of the final incursion (I think? - there seems to be a lot going on in just that one last day...), the Avengers are scrambling to try to come up with a solution to the problem at hand with the multiple Earths destroying each other. Personally, I felt like this portion of the story jumped around way too much, but that may because both titles (Avengers and New Avengers) feel like maybe they'll be converging soon. Part of the problem is that there are plot points finally being drawn to a close that have been drawn out for 3 years over the two titles. Luckily, I just recently read thru all of these issues, so I'm a little more familiar with what's been going on, but I'm sure anybody falling into this story now would be completely lost. Of course, this is also all leading to the Secret Wars story running this summer thru all of the Marvel Universe, so it's probably important to know what's going on here if you want to know what's going to be going on later.

I did really enjoy this. It's exciting seeing where all of these stories have been going, finally. I only wish that these stories weren't so Avengers/Illuminati/Cabal-centric. Something this big should be affecting all of the other Marvel titles now, instead of waiting to see how they affect the titles after the final incursion leading into Secret Wars. Alas, until the Marvel Cinematic Universe crashes, the Avengers titles are going to be where all the action takes place in the Marvel Comics Universe for quite some time I'm afraid. (Part of me misses the days when the X-Men were the focal point for almost all of the big crossover events happening in the Marvel Universe.)

If you've been following along with the Avengers titles and are curious as to how these plot threads are coming to a close, this volume is definitely for you. If you're just now deciding to jump in because of the upcoming Secret Wars event, I'd recommend starting back a couple years' worth of reading with both the current run of Avengers and New Avengers.