Shadow Magic and Dream Magic

Shadow Magic is the Cybil, Dream Magic is the sequel. We read them back to back and very quickly. We’d have read another if there was one.

At first, I thought this was going to be just another middle grade fantasy with female characters in the supporting role — turns out, that’s not the case at all. (Though there are more male characters than female, obviously. Because magic is against the law for women and men are the adventurers, etc.)

Good series, the giant bat is cool and so is the troll (I wonder if she’ll be in the next book or if she’s going home. I hope she sticks around.) I’m not a huge fan of the zombies but you can’t have everything, can you?

Two Middle Grade Cybils

Look at me reading all of the Cybils. (Well not all of them, obviously.) These two were good!

I started off kind of grouchy because the main characters in The Evil Wizard Smallbone are all male. All of them. Oh sure, we have a few solid female supporting characters (four, I think) but, bah humbug. Women and girls can be “evil wizards,” too. Whatever. The story was fun and I did like every single character, even if most of them were male. I loved the bookstore and the seals and wolves and the coyotes. Also loved the ending.

I loved everything about The Firefly Code except the ending — and that’s only because I am way too invested in these characters lives and I want to know what happens to them next! (The second book just came out but I can’t reserve it at my library yet and I’m grouchy about that.) This is the story of what happens when you start engineering your kids… the good, the bad, and the downright painful. Science is amazing. Technology is amazing. We can do a lot of good things with both — where you draw the line though, that’s the kicker, isn’t it?


Woot! A Cybil I loved, loved, LOVED. Run was excellent. Both Agnes and Bo felt like real people. I especially liked the ending — Agnes’s parents behaved true to character rather than tying things up in the perfect happily ever after. (And, I admit I might have shed a tear or two there towards the end.)

PS. Four books in the first four days of the month. How long has it been since I could say that?

The Goblin’s Puzzle: Being the Adventures of …etc.

I finally read a book from the Cybils shortlist! Can you believe it? We’re almost nine months into 2017 and I think it’s my first. Ugh. Oy. I miss YA, middle grade, and children’s fiction. Sigh.

Worse yet, I did not love The Goblin’s Puzzle: Being the Adventures of a Boy with No Name and Two Girls Called Alice. In fact, I came close to saying I hated it. TW read it first and when I asked her how it was, she said it was “OK” but she made that face that means she didn’t/doesn’t like something. I see now why she felt that way.

I wanted to love it. It’s a CYBIL for goodness sake. I liked the kids, I liked the dragon and the goblin and even the ogre. The bad guys were well-written bad guys. But… the slavery storyline.

I understand why the author decided to write this (sort of) but I just kept picturing some middle school or late elementary school kid reading this and I do not think it was the right story. It certainly wasn’t the right ending. I mean do we really want to teach kids that the white powerful man only abolishes slavery because it won’t have any negative effect on his wallet or his kingdom because his kingdom doesn’t really have slaves anyway? (Yes, I know this is actually fairly true but the way it was told in the story actually celebrated the King’s decision without pointing out the problems with his decision. It’s a very shallow dive into this very complex issue.)

Also, the whole part of the story where the progressive white girl and the goblin (ugh) had to explain to the slave boy why slavery was bad and convince him (trick him?) into believing he shouldn’t be a slave boy. Really? We really need to perpetuate the idea that slaves liked being slaves and without the benevolent white folks dragging them out of slavery they’d still be there?

OK I didn’t mean to write all of this… clearly, since it’s a jumble. I could write more but I won’t because … whatever.

The adventure was fun. The kids, the dragon, the goblin, (and even the ogre) were fun. If you could strip out the underlying badly told aspects about slavery it would be a terrific book.

2016 Cybils Shortlist

While I’m not going to attempt to read all of the Cybils Finalists, I will be reading many of them — and I encourage you to read them as well. They are always excellent books. ALWAYS. (And, I’m really excited by the audiobook category! And, I’m confused by the board book category…)


Out of Abaton, Book 1 (Library Edition): The Wooden Prince
Raymie Nightingale
The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, the Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog
When the Sea Turned to Silver

Easy Readers and Early Chapters

Elephant & Piggie Like Reading! The Cookie Fiasco
Elephant & Piggie Like Reading! We Are Growing!
Rabbit and Robot and Ribbit
Snail and Worm: Three Stories About Two Friends
The Great Antonio
The Infamous Ratsos (Ratso Brothers)
Dory Fantasmagory: Dory Dory Black Sheep
Juana and Lucas
Mango & Bambang: The Not-a-Pig (Book One) (Mango & Bambang 1)
The Princess in Black and the Hungry Bunny Horde
Weekends with Max and His Dad
Where Are You Going, Baby Lincoln?: Tales from Deckawoo Drive, Volume Three

Elementary Non-Fiction

Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear
Giant Squid
Pink is for Blobfish
Plants Can’t Sit Still
Step Right Up: How Doc and Jim Key Taught the World about Kindness
The First Step: How One Girl Put Segregation on Trial by Susan E. Goodman (2016-01-05)
Tortuga Squad: Kids Saving Sea Turtles in Costa Rica
Animal Planet Strange, Unusual, Gross & Cool Animals
Floodwaters and Flames: The 1913 Disaster in Dayton, Ohio
Masters of Disguise: Amazing Animal Tricksters
Some Writer!: The Story of E. B. White
The Inventors of LEGO Toys (Awesome Minds)
The Slowest Book Ever
Will’s Words: How William Shakespeare Changed the Way You Talk

Elementary/Middle Grade Graphic Novels

Bera the One-Headed Troll
Compass South (Four Points)
Lowriders to the Center of the Earth (Book 2) (Lowriders in Space)
Mighty Jack
Princess Princess Ever After
The Nameless City
The Wolves of Currumpaw

Elementary/Middle Grade Speculative Fiction

Shadow Magic
The Evil Wizard Smallbone
The Firefly Code
The Goblin’s Puzzle: Being the Adventures of a Boy with No Name and Two Girls Called Alice
The Memory Thief
The Voyage to Magical North

Fiction Picture Books

A Hungry Lion, or A Dwindling Assortment of Animals
Ida, Always
One Day in the Eucalyptus, Eucalyptus Tree
Strictly No Elephants
The Night Gardener
There’s a Bear on My Chair
They All Saw a Cat

Board Books

Cuauhtemoc: Shapes/Formas
Dinosaur Dance
Follow the Yarn
Look, Look again


Fresh Delicious
Garvey’s Choice
Guess Who, Haiku
The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary
To Stay Alive: Mary Ann Graves and the Tragic Journey of the Donner Party
When Green Becomes Tomatoes

Middle Grade Fiction

Full of Beans
Ghost (Tracked)
In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse
Ms Bixby’s Last Days
Save Me a Seat
Some Kind of Happiness

Middle Grade/YA Non-Fiction

A Storm Too Soon: A Remarkable True Survival Story in 80 Foot Seas (True Storm Rescues)
Bubonic Plague: When Plague Invaded America
Fashion Rebels: Style Icons Who Changed the World through Fashion
Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor’s Story
Ten Days a Madwoman: The Daring Life and Turbulent Times of the Original “Girl” Reporter, Nellie Bly
This Land is Our Land: A History of American Immigration
We Will Not Be Silent: The White Rose Student Resistance Movement That Defied Adolf Hitler
Blood Brother: Jonathan Daniels and His Sacrifice for Civil Rights
Blood, Bullets and Bones: The Story of Forensic Science from Sherlock Holmes to DNA
Every Falling Star: The True Story of How I Survived and Escaped North Korea
In the Shadow of Liberty: The Hidden History of Slavery, Four Presidents, and Five Black Lives
Radioactive: How Irène Curie and Lise Meitner Revolutionized Science and Changed the World
The Borden Murders: Lizzie Borden and the Trial of the Century
The Plot to Kill Hitler: Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Spy, Unlikely Hero

YA Graphic Novels

Dare to Disappoint: Growing Up in Turkey
Faith Vol 1: Hollywood and Vine
Lucky Penny
March Book Three
Monstress Volume 1: Awakening
Ms. Marvel Vol. 5: Super Famous

YA Fiction

A Study in Charlotte (Charlotte Holmes Novel)
Salt to the Sea
The Serpent King
The Weight of Zero
This Is Where It Ends

YA Speculative Fiction

Labyrinth Lost (Brooklyn Brujas)
Still Life with Tornado
The Door at the Crossroads
The Keeper of the Mist
This Savage Song (Monsters of Verity)
When the Moon was Ours: A Novel

2 Cybils Non-Fiction/Poetry

These might be the last books I read from this year’s shortlist. The year has run out of days and I’ve run out of interest in reading books that I’m just not THAT interested in. I might pick them up later if the mood strikes me. Or, I might not.

Finishing with these two non-fictions makes me pretty happy, even if I didn’t finish the full challenge. Both were excellent and I’m really glad I read them.

I Will Always Write Back made me yell a lot, about clueless white people. It also caused me to pull out my wallet and make some donations.

House Arrest was pretty darn good but it made me want to break things. It also made me just a little bit weepy.

9 Easy Readers/Early Chapter Books from the Cybils Shortlist

I’m not linking all of these because OMG, too many…

– A Pig, a Fox, and a Box — was fine, really simple and easy.

– Don’t Throw It to Mo! — was ok, too, but this confused us because it’s rated “one letter” above A Pig, a Fox, and a Box and it was significantly harder. I think we don’t understand the Scholastic level program anymore. (TW was troubled by this one because the Mo doesn’t play (football) very often (meaning, he’s a benchwarmer)…)

– In, Over and Under on the Farm was cute. I like the flaps and will see about reading it to JMP when he arrives for Christmas.

– Ling & Ting: Twice As Silly was ok. I didn’t love it. Kind of boring, really.

– Picture Perfect (Sofia Martinez) was better than I expected it to be. I like the use of Spanish in the book (and the glossary in back.)

– Big Bad Detective Agency was pretty ho hum, really. I think I’m just kind of tired of these types of stories. lol.

– Ranger In Time #1 troubled me SO MUCH. A dog who is just playing around in his back yard, minding his own business and digging holes, as one does, when he’s suddenly transported in time and… he’s a dog, he spent the whole trip across the Oregon Trail looking for his people and trying to do a GOOD JOB so his person would find him. Good lord that was troubling to me. People time traveling is fine, but animals? NO. Don’t do that. Gah.

– Dory and the Real True Friend confused me. LOL. I was confusing Dory with Violet Mackerel and was trying to figure out why this felt so out of character to the previous books. Hahaha. Once I realized my error, I settled into it. The thing is, I don’t particularly like the Dory books. I mean, they’re fine. But Dory doesn’t speak to me. lol.

– Lulu and the Hamster In the Night was fun. I like Lulu and Mimi. I like them a lot. I like their grandma, too.

3 More Cybils

Now, all that’s left are poetry, early readers, some non-fiction and… yea. A whole lot of books. Anyway, on with the tracking of the ones I have read…

Bone Gap was not the book I expected it to be. Which is impossible for me to explain (I’ve tried, TW doesn’t get it, lol) so I didn’t quite love it. I did like it, though. I think.

I did like Inheritance of Ashes but not as much as I expected to. I found both sisters to be a little… annoying, which made it hard for me to really care whether they could sort out their relationship.

Shadowshaper is the one I had heard almost nothing about (shocked, not shocked, sigh) and had no expectations about. I loved it. Even when I was cursing the damn #patriarchy (which was all the way through it.) Loved this one because I loved Sierra (and her grandmother, even if we only got to know her toward the end.)

2 Cybils Shortlist, Middle Grade SciFi/Fantasy

I wasn’t really looking forward to either of these books but ended up enjoying both, though one more than the other…

I really loved The Dungeoneers. Some of the characters were really complex and that’s something I like in middle grade fiction. The good guy was a bad guy who maybe was also a good guy except he wasn’t. And, that was hard. I hope I can read the next one in the series. Someone remind me…

Mars Evacuees was the book I was saving for last because I wasn’t enthusiastic about it at all. I don’t really like “space fiction” all that much. (Don’t hold it against me, y’all.) And, true to form, TW liked this one more than I did. Something about the tone didn’t feel like it was middle grade. TW disagreed. I don’t know — it took me a long, long time to care at all about any of the characters and the ones I cared most about were not the “Mars Evacuees.”

The Fog Diver

My expectations for The Fog Diver were low. Another post-apocalyptic/middlegrade/ya/adventure book. Ho hum? OK not ho hum, because I LIKE this genre but still… turns out, this was one of the better ones.

Really clever cultural references gone wrong, gone very very wrong. Likable characters. A plot that moved fairly quickly. Mostly it was the cultural references that got me.


Off-topic but not really: I’m considering not doing the Cybils Challenge next year. Or ever again. It’s not that I don’t love these books, I do. But, so many of them are series’ books and I just can’t keep up with the series’ while also reading a bunch of newly introduced series. When I try, I find myself reading nothing but YA and Middle Grade fiction/scifi/fantasy. I need to find some sort of balance. So… stay tuned, this may be the last full shortlist challenge I attempt. Figures, since odds are high that I’m not going to successfully complete it, for the first time – ever.