Friday, February 22, 2013

Down the Mysterly River, by Bill Willingham (fiction) - talking animals, deadly swords - quest, villains, friendship, memory

book cover of Down the Mysterly River by Bill Willingham published by Starscape
An unfamiliar forest.
Talking animals.
A swordsman attacking to kill.
Not your average Boy Scout camping trip...

Max "the Wolf" has constantly improved his woodcraft skills as a Boy Scout and is a detective at heart, so he and his new companions watch for clues as they travel together in search of answers - and try to stay ahead of the vicious Blue Cutters.

For his first novel for younger readers, Willingham taps the illustrating skills of his Fables  graphic novel series collaborator Mark Buckingham for the masterful sketches of each character, from Banderbrock the badger, Walden the black bear, and McTavish the Monster (or perhaps a cat) to their evil pursuers with swords.

Find this mystery/quest/friendship tale today in hardcover or paperback at your local library or independent bookstore. For a jump into the Fables universe, try  Willingham's Peter & Max  novel which I reviewed here.

I do wonder what the animals in our lives would say to us if we could understand them talking...

Book info: Down the Mysterly River / Bill Willingham; art by Mark Buckingham. Starscape, hardcover 2011, paperback 2012. [author's website] [publisher site] [audio interview]  

My Recommendation: Max is lost in an unfamiliar forest, being chased by swordsmen who’d rather kill than talk, meeting up with talking animals – this has never happened to the top-notch Boy Scout before!

Using his woodcraft skills and powers of deduction (the young teen is a detective at heart), Max “the Wolf” decides to head downstream to find a town (and perhaps his memory). Along the way, he encounters Banderbrock the badger, who likewise is perplexed about being in this unknown forest, but remembers many tales of his daring and brave ancestors.

Dodging the Blue Cutter swordsmen who pursue all trespassers in this forest, Max and Banderbrock join forces with the black bear Walden, formerly sheriff in a quiet settlement in another forest, and McTavish the Monster, who looks very much like a battle-scarred tomcat to Max. All can understand one another perfectly, but their memories of time before this forest have unexplainable gaps.

Chased down the Mysterly River (as Walden named it) by the Blue Cutters and their hunting hounds, the friends try to find Prince Aspen (who is said to know many secrets) or anyone else who could help them escape to safety.

For the Blue Cutters remove everything unique about new arrivals in this forest – and what could be more unique than speech in animals or a Boy Scout with no troop nearby…

Why did the boy, badger, bear, and cat all arrive here at the same time?
Can the quartet avoid the Blue Cutters’ vicious blades?
What will they discover at the end of the Mysterly River?

An epic tale with an unexpected twist from Fables graphic novel writer, Bill Willingham, who undoubtedly enjoyed adventurous stories around the campfire as a Scout. (One of 6,000 books recommended on Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Treachery of Beautiful Things, by Ruth Frances Long (fiction) - supernatural music, dark longings

book cover of Treachery of Beautiful Things by Ruth Frances Long published by Dial
The forest swallowed him.
Jenny watched it, couldn't stop it.
Now it wants her, too.

Hoping for closure, Jenny returns to the woods where her big brother disappeared seven years ago... seven long years of psychotherapy, anxiety medications, and anguish.

Who would think that the beings of fairy tales and legend still lived inside that wood? Shielding themselves from the eyes of city folk, preparing to take back their ancient sites overrun by technology?

Heartbreak and hope, legend and loss, king and queen, monster and lover - dare to enter the Realm and discover for yourself in this mesmerizing debut YA novel by Irish author Ruth Frances Long.

Book info: The Treachery of Beautiful Things / Ruth Frances Long. Dial Books, 2012. [author's website]  [book Facebook page] [publisher site] [book trailer]  

My Recommendation: Tom was swallowed up by the woods when she was a young girl, her older brother snatched from her 7 years ago in front of her very eyes. Jenny returns to Burnam Copse for a final good-bye and hears his unmistakable flute music – and is drawn into the ancient Realm, in the midst of her modern British city!

Attacked by fairies, rescued by a leaf-clad man named Jack, going farther and farther into the green mossy wood that’s immensely larger than the small grove she entered, Jenny is bewildered and exhausted and lost. Will her parents think that she’s been kidnapped, too?

She asks again and again about the flute music she heard, learns that the Piper is in thrall to Queen Titania (once called Mab), meets a faun named Puck, and is nearly caught by the Wild Hunt.

Jenny travels with difficulty to the Palace where she discovers that Tom is the Piper – and that he has no memory of life outside the Realm. Her power to see through illusion makes the teen dangerous to many, coveted by others, and a threat to the power-hungry Queen.

Can Jenny find the key to restoring Tom’s memory in time?
Can she escape from the Realm?
Can she leave behind her feelings for Jack if she goes?

Soon Jenny’s resolve and skill will be tested to the limits as a power shift in the Realm threatens the outside world of mortals – and her actions will decide the fate of both worlds. (One of 6,000 books recommended on Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Spookygirl: Paranormal Investigator, by Jill Baguchinsky (fiction) - vengeful ghosts in the locker room, mystery mansion calling

book cover of Spookygirl Paranormal Investigator by Jill Baguchinsky published by Dutton
Able to see ghosts? All the time.
Talk to spirits? Piece of cake.
See her own mom's ghost? Not a chance...

Violet's aunt thinks her gift is unclean, her dad wonders if she's talked to the ghost of her mom (but doesn't dare ask), and the ghosts in the area just want to chat.

This debut novel won the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award for Young Adult Fiction in 2011, and Dutton Books' editorial staff brought it out in hardback in 2012. Check it out at your local library or independent bookstore now, and see what the ghosts in Violet's town are gossiping about!

Whose ghost would you like to have a conversation with?

Book info: Spookygirl: Paranormal Investigator / Jill Baguchinsky. Dutton Books, 2012. [author's website] [publisher site

My Recommendation: Vengeful spirits in the girls’ locker room, boring school uniforms, and strange rumors running ahead of her… Violet would much rather stay in the apartment above Dad’s funeral home with Buster the ghost, but unfortunately high school is still mandatory.

Ghosts always talk to her, just like they talked to her mom. It’s been ten years since Mom died during a paranormal investigation with her dad, but Violet has never seen her ghost. Some online sleuthing leads Violet to another researcher from her parents’ past expeditions, but the now-semi-respectable psychic tries to convince her to stay away from Mom’s last place on earth.

A dead football player is hanging around Palmetto High’s art room, there’s a possible hell-portal in the girls’ shower, and one of the goth kids claims he’s half-vampire. Senior citizen ghosts (Florida is full of them) help Violet stage a memorable Halloween séance in the cemetery to “scare straight” some kids who want to dabble in the dark arts, but even they warn her to stay far away from the creepy deserted estate where her mother died.

It’s up to Violet to use her psychic gifts to clear up all this, so her new not-so-goth friends help her get ready to visit the estate, and maybe hear from Mom one last time (surely she wouldn’t head to the Beyond without saying goodbye?), but things go bad in a heartbeat.

What can they do to placate the angry attacking poltergeist?
Can Violet ever reconnect with her mother’s ghost?
Are the friends going to make it out of there alive?

Spookygirl, scary fun, terrifying investigations!  (One of 6,000 books recommended on Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.