November 24, 2013 at 11:44 pm (Fantasy, Ms. Ryan's Reviews, Realistic Fiction, Uncategorized)
Bobby is a Dublin kid, always in trouble. He thinks nothing of stealing money, crashing cars, or dodging the police. In fact, these are the things he most enjoys. Only when he’s out of control does he feel truly alive.
To save her son from inevitable trouble with the law, Bobby’s mother moves the family to a small house in the Irish countryside. There, she says, they will start a new life.
“I won’t stay,” Bobby tells her. “I’ll go back to the city, first chance I get.”
Bobby thinks the country is a bore, with its cows and daisies and broken-down stone walls. And it isn’t just boring, either. It’s creepy. The man who last rented this house disappeared without a trace. The people before him were rumored to have murdered their own daughter. And now, Bobby’s little brother is talking about strange noises during the night.
Suddenly, Bobby is scared: scared of the wild energy inside him, of the future that seems so hopeless, and most of all, of whomever — or whatever — is visiting their house in the dark.
(For all you eighth-graders: this is a really good novel for book forms because it’s full of symbolism and character development. And it’s also very suspenseful — I read it in one day.)
October 17, 2009 at 4:09 am (Fantasy, Ms. Ryan's Reviews)
*Check out the author’s response to this post! (Comment below.) How exciting that Michelle Zink is already working on the third book in the series. I can’t wait for the second one to come out!
In honor of Halloween, I thought I should feature a dark novel, and this one, a sort of fantasy-thriller, is absolutely perfect for a chilly October afternoon. It opens in a cemetery, on the day of Lia’s father’s funeral. She and her twin sister Alice, along with their little brother, are now orphans. Lia is grief-stricken, and her mourning is intensified by the appearance of a strange, circular mark on her wrist. It’s the sign of the jorgamund, a snake eating its own tail. Instictively, Lia knows to say nothing about it — not to her friends, not to her aunt, not even to Alice, her twin sister. Especially not to Alice.
Thanks in part to a mysterious book discovered among her father’s possessions, Lia begins to suspect that the jorgamund is part of an ancient prophecy, one that’s been turning sister against sister for thousands of years. Now, Lia and Alice have inherited the curse. One twin is destined to be the Guardian, the other, the Gate; one to protect the world from evil, the other, to invite evil in. It seems crazy at first, but when Lia meets another girl with a similar mark on her wrist, she can no longer deny the forces at work within and around her. But what exactly is her role in the prophecy? Is she the good twin or the evil twin? And what can she do to keep the demons at bay?
This novel has all the ingredients of a good gothic suspense story and then some: countryside estates, seances, messages from the dead, hellish creatures threatening the world’s ruin, and even the threat of sibling murder. I’m warning you, it’s dark. Just look at the cover! (But isn’t the cover awesome, though?)
November 12, 2008 at 11:50 am (Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Ms. Ryan's Reviews, Realistic Fiction)
Is there really a man in the moon? Is it just an illusion of a face on the moon’s surface, looking down at us, or could there really be a mysterious life force up there with which we humans have a special, mystical connection?
This question sounds a bit wacky, but you might start asking yourself the same thing if you read this novel. In the summer of 1961, a strange man appears at Justine’s house just as her family seems to be at its absolute worst. Her father has no job, her brother, Ricky, suffers from an exhausting illness, and her mother is running herself ragged trying to keep everyone alive. Justine spends the hot summer days stuck inside with Ricky, dreaming of freedom and joy and adventure.
Then, Mr. Lunas shows up, straight from the cornfields. Justine’s father recognizes him as the man who saved his life during the war; still, the man’s true identity is a puzzle. He talks about Earth as if it’s a foreign country, he enchants the family dog, and he tells Justine that anything is possible. Of course, she doesn’t think Mr. Lunas really means anything is possible. That’s just something nice people say, right? But when Ricky’s illness takes a terrifying turn, Justine prays that Mr. Lunas might be right.
Man in the Moon is an inspiring story that will remind readers that each new day is an opportunity for greatness, friendship, and magic.
August 15, 2008 at 12:10 pm (Fantasy, Ms. Ryan's Reviews)
Well, I’ve finally finished the Tiffany Aching trilogy. How sad. I wish there were ten or fifteen more to go. In Wintersmith, Tiffany is thirteen and still the favorite young witch of Granny Weatherwax. But other people are starting to notice Tiffany now, too, like Roland, the Baron’s son, who pens letters and sends watercolor paints in the mail. Love is in the air, although Tiffany refuses to admit it to Granny Weatherwax, Mrs. Treason, Miss Tick, or any other overly curious old witch. Complicating these innocent flirtations is the Wintersmith, the spirit of winter, powerful enough to freeze the world over with a few frosty breaths. Because of an innocent mistake, Tiffany catches the Wintersmith’s attention, and he’s suddenly acting very…well, strange — fashioning snowflakes in the shape of little witches and sculpting ice roses in Tiffany’s garden. Who knew the god of winter was such a romantic? Tiffany is flattered (after all, this is no small conquest), but she’s also afraid, and with good reason. The Wintersmith isn’t supposed to be in love with a human girl, and his feelings are throwing the seasons out of balance. Summer might never come again. The lambs on the chalk might starve. Everybody might die. How can Tiffany get the Wintersmith off her back without breaking his ice-cold heart? Can her little blue warrior friends, the Nac Mac Feegle save the day? And what about Roland? Has he actually grown up enough to help her out of this mess, or is he still the pudgy, spoiled little boy from The Wee Free Men? If you haven’t given this series a try yet, please do. Thanks to Mrs. Pruchnik for recommending it to me!
July 16, 2008 at 7:40 pm (Fantasy, Ms. Ryan's Reviews)
Tiffany Aching, the plucky heroine from The Wee Free Men, leaves the chalk to begin her apprenticeship with Miss Level, a witch with two bodies, one mind, and an invisible housekeeper named Oswald. At first, witchcraft seems a bit dull to Tiffany; Miss Level spends more time visiting elderly neighbors and delivering babies than casting spells or gazing into crystal balls. Perhaps Tiffany should have just stayed at home making cheese! But there’s something she doesn’t know: she’s being stalked by a “hiver,” an ancient body-snatching creature that enters the mind of its victims and slowly drives them mad before killing them. This is one battle Tiffany definitely doesn’t want to fight alone, especially not so far from home. But will the Nac Mac Feegle, her tiny blue friends, make it in time to help out? And will Tiffany ever get a proper pointed hat? Harry Potter fans, rejoice! Here’s another young witch who will truly enchant you.
July 5, 2008 at 2:02 pm (Fantasy, Ms. Ryan's Reviews)
Tiffany Aching is a farmgirl on the Chalklands. She makes cheese. She babysits her pesky little brother. She feeds the sheepdogs. And when she grows up, she wants to be a witch.
That’s right, somewhere in her bones Tiffany just knows she’s destined for magical, important things. So when a monster appears in the lake near her house, Tiffany jumps to action — she baits the monster with her little brother and then hits hits it over the head with a frying pan. That takes care of that, but the oddities don’t end there: Tiffany also begins to see tiny little blue men all over the place who call themselves the “Nac Mac Feegle,” a band of bite-sized warriors who drink whiskey, wreak havoc, fight, and steal everything they can lay their hands on.
Together, Tiffany and the Nac Mac Feegle must stand up against the evil Queen of Fairyland, who is kidnapping children and sending nightmarish ghouls into the world. The Wee Free Men is the first in Terry Pratchett’s mega-famous Tiffany Aching series. I listened to it on CD and laughed out loud as I was driving along in my car. Other drivers shot me strange looks on the highway. I didn’t care, I just kept laughing. I’m heading to the library today to get the second book, A Hatful of Sky, and will let you know if measures up to the first. Has anyone else read this series? It’s on the summer reading list. Did you love it?
May 19, 2008 at 5:42 pm (Fantasy, Ms. Ryan's Reviews)
Have you ever felt confused about why a certain book is so popular? That you’re the only person who isn’t going wild over some novel that you think is just OK at best? The last time I felt that way was with A Great and Terrible Beauty, which was a big letdown for me after all the hype. (Kathleen, thanks for agreeing with me on this one!) Sadly, I am right now experiencing a similar disappointment with Keturah and Lord Death. So many people have told me to read this one, and I’ve just finally gotten around to it. Only one more chapter to go, and unless it totally amazes me, I think I’m going to just have to scratch my head and wonder. What popular books have you not liked as much as you thought you would?
April 27, 2008 at 7:25 pm (Fantasy, Ms. Ryan's Reviews)
There are at least twenty novels set in McCaffrey’s fantasy world of Pern. Dragonsong is the fourth book in the series, but it’s the first book in the Harper Hall trilogy (which is a series within a series), so you can read it even if you are new to McCaffrey and the world of Pern (as I was).
Everyone in Pern lives in underground villages or “holds” because it’s too dangerous to live outside. Every so often, “Thread,” a flesh-eating spore, rains down for hours from a nearby planet. To protect themselves, the people of Pern depend on dragons, who can destroy Thread mid-air with their fire, and dragonriders, the men who care for and control the dragons.
Meanwhile, Menolly, a 14-year old resident of the Half-Circle Seahold, is miserable. Her father, a stern fisherman, has forbidden her from writing songs, partly because she is a girl, and partly because only official “Harpers” are allowed to compose music. In despair, Menolly runs off, and, as luck would have it, finds herself stuck outside during a Thread storm.
Desperately, she finds shelter in a cave, where she also discovers a nest of hatching dragon lizards — flying, miniature dragons which are so rare that most people don’t even believe in them. Because Menolly is the first person to feed the nine lizards, they grow dependent on her. Now, she must find a way to survive long-term on the surface of Pern and to nurture her new astonishing family of lizards.
Dragonsong was a huge treat for me because I was able to forget the real world and live in Pern for a while. It’s a perfect novel for anyone who likes imaginary worlds full of bizarre dangers over which only dragons can prevail.
April 24, 2008 at 11:47 am (Fantasy, Ms. Ryan's Reviews, Realistic Fiction)
Lily and Jane have always been very different, even though they’re sisters and only one year apart. While Lily cares about things like school, friends, sports, and boys, Jane is only interested in games of magic and make-believe, always claiming to hear voices that nobody else can hear and see people that nobody else can see. Lily dismisses her sister’s ridiculous claims, but when Jane dies and Lily begins to sense her sister’s continuing presence around the house, Lily begins to rethink her ideas about spirituality, the imagination, and death.