"review" · fiction · guestblogger · juvenile lit · Lit · mystery · N · recommend · series · series

{book} fly by night

Hopefully we will be seeing more and more of guest: N to the point she will have a regular “column” with clever name and logo and everything. This would be a really good thing. It is always good to see her and it was a pleasant surprise when she sent me the file for today’s post.

It is Banned Books Week and just so happens N picks up an already read copy of Fly By Night by Frances Hardinge. Okay, so it isn’t really happenstance, because if you’ve read Fly By Night you probably lack surprise that a conversation on censoring people’s reading material would bring this particular book to mind. The young heroine Mosca Mye’s father was sent into exile for writing dangerous material. Printing presses are illegal and if the printed word (no matter what the surface) does not have a seal of approval by the Stationers Guild, well, bad things can and will happen. So N doesn’t speak to this aspect of Mosca’s adventure, but offers a recommendation that should tempt you to give Fly By Night a go in celebration of Banned Books Week or any other week hereafter. ~L


Maybe if Mosca Mye had been born on the day of Goodman Boniface and had been a child of the sun instead of the flies, maybe if her eyes had not turned as black as hot pepper, maybe if her father had not been Quilliam Mye the outcast from Mandelion who wrote dangerous books, maybe she would not have met Eponymous Clent.

As luck would have it for us readers, the book certainly begins with a determined Mosca Mye, having set her uncle’s barn on fire, encountering the singular Eponymous Clent, a very eloquent man whose abilities with words get him out of trouble–and occasionally into it. This time his talents land him an unruly secretary and her dangerous goose as they escape the flooding town of Chough and head towards the city of Mandelion. While Mosca had accompanied Clent for something new, she could never have prepared for the adventure that followed. Warring cities, hidden plots, conspiracy, an illegal printing press, the destructive bird-catchers and the sinister locksmiths challenge Mosca and Eponymous to decide who they should work for and whose lies should they believe.

This is a beautifully written story that grows on you the more you read it. Frances Hardinge applies her limitless imagination through fantastic descriptions, wonderful (and sometimes dreaded) characters, captivating dialogue, and a plot that will come at you from every direction and surprise you constantly. She continuously keeps her characters and situations believable, yet new and refreshing at the same time. The time and location it is set in is unbelievable, and it is always something I admire of her when I read Frances Hardinge’s books. In this case, you emerge from a flooded city into a fanciful land of teahouse boats that are pulled along by kites, small marriage houses, chapels full of beloved idols, towers far off, and rowdy bars. Hardinge’s funky, creative style shows in this masterpiece. Even her chapter titles reflect this, starting with A is for Arson and ending with V is for Verdict.

This book is a world filled with thieves, liars, dukes, duchesses, saints, good intent, mal intent, deviousness on both sides in general, wordsmiths, conspiracies, danger, and banned literature! I think I may be drooling.

Anyone who loves mystery, suspense, action, adventure and just reading in general should gravitate to this. Being an avid reader is suggested. Suggested ages are 10 and up.

~Natalya Lawren

Fly by Night by Frances Hardinge

HarperTrophy, 2008.

Tradepaper, 512 pages.

we own it.

L’s review of Fly Trap (the book following Fly By Night).

In which L makes nice comments about Fly By Night without actually “reviewing” it.

L on Hardinge’s Lost Conspiracy, a “review

N on Well Witched aka Verdigris Deep, her “review “

yeah, we’re fans.. how could you tell?

guestblogger · N · Uncategorized

{life+writing} Inspired Writer

Natalya aka the daughter aka guest blogger N asked for this to be posted:

Hello all! This is your favorite guest blogger, N!

The other day I was stuck. I couldn’t write anything, not even edit works in progress. Mom aka L suggested I peruse her “Look Here” Pinterest board, pick an image and write a story for it. Below is an excerpt (the beginning, a first draft) of the result of that suggestion. Another result of that suggestion is this decision to start a personal writing challenge/project I am calling “Inspired Writer.” It has several parts.

First of all, I’m looking for inspiration from you. Leave a comment here or on the above page (tab: “inspired writer project”) and suggest:  links to inspiring sites or photos/paintings; quotes; movies; parts of plays or stories; poems; artwork; books; anything you find interesting or inspiring. It can even be your own work!

I will look at your suggestions and use them to write.

I will slowly post beginnings of potentially longer works, teasers, or maybe short stories or poems with whichever “spark” you contributed that inspired it.

After a certain date [             ] I will ask you all to vote on which “inspired writing” you want to see continued. I will start with the one with the most votes and if I have time, continue onto 2nd, then 3rd, etc.

Thank you for your contributions and encouragement!



*note from L. N is 12, a 7th grader, so please keep that in mind when contributing and know that I will be screening accordingly. Thank you for helping this young writer out on exercising her voice and skills.


My Heart Bled Ink

Day 1: Precious Existence

My mother keeps me away from the others. The others keep away from me. They tell each other that I am a plague. My mother tells me that I am a fragile flower. I tell myself that I don’t exist.

My mother is sure I exist; she combs my hair and coos pretty adorations for me, telling me that I am her fragile flower. She is trying to convince herself that I am there, that I am real. The doctors say that I exist. Them and their cold metal contraptions pressing against my chest. They frown when they say I exist. Because I might not exist much longer. This makes my mother cry, this makes my father run away. Their precious piece of porcelain might shatter. They place me on velvet cushions, rub me down with silk.

Must be careful.

I am precious.

Day 2: Lying and Sighing

I don’t believe their lies.

I do not tell them this. I smile when they want me to smile, I cry when they want me to cry, but I will not speak. Why would I need to speak when others already want to ignore me? I will grant their hidden request.

This upsets mother. This is when the velvet rubs the other way. When something is wrong with me, why can there not be another flaw? If the center of the flower is dead, do the petals matter? If the theme of a story is lost, do the words need to continue on?

—————————————————-by Natalya Lawren (September 20, 2012)

{image: Head of a Young Woman-Leonardo da Vinci}

"review" · fiction · guestblogger · Lit · N · recommend · sci-fi/fantasy · series · young adult lit

{book} adams’ hitchhiker’s guide

{“A Suprised Looking Whale and Bowl of Petunias” by Jonathan Burton}

The daughter is stopping in to share:

The inaccurately named Hitchhiker’s Trilogy.

I find it flabbergasting that one can lay in a field in Innsbruck, Austria, in 1971, being faintly drunk and having a horrible day overall, and brilliantly (though slightly deliriously) come up with a wonderful idea for a book, promptly forget about it for 6 whole years, and still come up with this wonderful, crazy series. I am utterly astonished…. and tempted (not the drunk part; I’m 12). Being a writer myself, I should know that these ideas come to you at the craziest times and that it is vitally important to have something to write on and write with at all times. However, while most writers have ideas at crazy, random moments, few, if any, have the ideas that Douglas Adams possesses. It takes some wicked skill to do what he did. Do you want to know what he did, and what is so fabulous about it? You should, and if you do not, then why did you come and read this blog in the first place?!

First of all (I know, dreadfully boring beginning, right? The boring essay beginning I am firmly against), he begins–or middles–the so-called, “trilogy” with the book, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It starts us off by introducing his main character: Arthur Dent, a fairly normal English man who is fond of his house, because he lives  in it, loves tea, works at a local radio station, is against bypasses, and has a very strange friend who saves his life, but to his consternation, not his home.

Over the course of the book we meet: Ford Prefect (not a typo for “perfect,” I can assure you), a hitchhiker who got stuck on earth for fifteen years and is the reporter for the biggest, best-selling book, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy; Zaphod Beeblebrox, a crazy, froody president of the galaxy with two heads, three arms and an overdeveloped magnetism for trouble; Trillian, a human who got picked up by Zaphod at a party he gatecrashed who is probably the most sane and sensible of the group; Marvin, a depressed robot that was made by the Serious Cybernetics Corporation before they figured out how to make their genuine people personalities actually work; and Eddie, the annoying computer interface to Heart of Gold, a new, one of a kind spaceship that Zaphod just happened to steal. There are other minor characters I could mention at this point, but it might ruin it for you, which might cause you to join up with other discontented readers and spend all of your time plotting how to mob me, which is not suggested. Listing minor characters (however charming they may be) would take up too much space, and it would take a lot more time than I have to spend at this time on minor characters (no matter how amusing they are).

 {another of the talented Jonathan Burton’s illustrations, check out his portfolio and find more of his Hitchhiker’s images here.}

You might notice I am going on many digressions, well so does Douglas Adams in his books and that adds most of the humor, so you might as well get used to them if you want to read his books (which you do!).

<<spoiler alert! If you want to know something about the book that isn’t too big a spoiler in my opinion, but will probably be a spoiler nonetheless, please go to the very bottom of the post and read the asterisked spoiler there! Thank you for your time and consideration. >>

Overall, the first book, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a story involving the disgusting Vogons and their nasty poetry, some tea, towels, tons of hitchhiking, lots of improbability, a realization that involves mice, and the answer of life, the universe, and everything. Oops, I forgot to add, a whole lot of ridiculousness—maybe you picked up on that though.

PART TWO PEOPLE! Or, the second book.

Now that all that silliness is done, I will move on to his second book, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe. This starts off with learning that the main characters are still alive, annoying, and ridiculous as always while they are fleeing from the Vogon construction fleet. Stuck, Zaphod holds a séance to summon his crabby great-great-grandfather, Zaphod the fourth, whom inevitably launches them into an adventure of proportions which include: Frogstar World B, blowing off fate to go to the restaurant at the end of the universe, meeting a bunch of unlikely ancestors, escaping death for the millionth time, and a whole bunch of other nonsense.


See, that wasn’t so long, now was it? [it is N writing this, after all. ~L] In the next book, Life, the Universe and Everything, our gang of characters are split up; Arthur, living in a cave, being insulted, and slowly going mad on a prehistoric earth; Ford, wandering the same prehistoric earth, until they find each other, chase after a couch, find themselves in a cricket match, and learn about an entirely different, more deadly form of “Krikkit” (which Ford desperately tries to ignore and attempts to find a place to drink and have fun). Meanwhile, Marvin is stuck in a swamp, being dreary as usual, this time determined to depress a very exuberant mattress. At the same time, Zaphod is in a mood and is drinking himself silly to which Trillian responds by teleporting herself randomly somewhere else. Arthur finds himself in a very bewildering encounter with an unknown enemy and learns how to fly, before Trillian, himself and Ford reunite (to Fords delight) at a party, which is, of course, ruined and all four of them find that they are drawn in, whether they like it or not, to save the universe.

Now I’ll warn you, that I could go on forever, because the “trilogy” consists of 5 books, not including And Another Thing by Eoin Colfer, which is the sixth book in the trilogy. Instead of continuing or beginning to talk about each one separately, I’ll just say that they are great. All six books are equally ridiculous and I advise you to read them all.

Douglas Adams was able to lay in a field, a little drunk, and have a crazy thought; through doing this, he created a wonderful series of absurdity, of brilliance, of towels, and extraordinary universe. Reading this series will make you laugh and quote it out loud so many times that people will think that you have finally gone absolutely crazy. Crazy in a good way, I hope.

Here are some tips to being a true, obsessed fan of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

1. Read it over and over and over and over and over.

42. Repeat.

2. Always, constantly, no matter how many times they tell you to shut up, keep quoting the guide.

3. May 25th is towel day. It celebrates Douglas Adams. Only the geekiest people know about it and celebrate it, and it is celebrated all over the world. All you have to do is carry a towel around with you all day and quote like crazy.

 *the world is utterly destroyed as you know it. Just thought you ought to know.


The daughter aka N aka Natalya should be a more frequent guest-blogger than she is. When she finally finished the whole Hitchhiker’s Guide series this summer, she agreed to write something and well, it was becoming a series in itself. She surrendered what she had and L  tuned the above “review” a smidge & added images.

The Guide is an experience, and few things make a dinner conversation more interesting than exchanging favorite sequences and quotes from the books. The Guide has an infectious quality, and the symptoms of an outbreak of fandom vary. However, the exposure comes highly recommended, and better earlier than late.

book list · chapter/series · guestblogger · N · recommend

{book list} n’s summer reading recs (pt1)

I’ve a guest-blogger today. Natalya (aka the daughter) promised me some posts and a couple weeks in, she hammers out one with 2-parts! Come back tomorrow for numbers 11-20 of her summer reading book recommendations. ~L


Yes! Your favorite contributor on the blog is back! (And will hopefully keep updating and more lists and reviews.) This time around I have created a list of some of the best reads for summertime. They are listed from first to twentieth using the criteria of how light (cheerful) or humorous, how thick, how easy to read, and how enjoyable the book is overall. All the books are fantastic, even the last one is great, so you just read them all, or pick the ones that seem to appeal to you. Enjoy and continue to have a wonderful summer!

1. The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place by E.L. Konigsburg (Aladdin 2004)

This is a quirky, fantastic book, featuring Margaret Rose and her uncles and her uncles’ towers. This book is about the realistic fact that all good things must come to an end and how, while her uncles are giving into it, Margaret is refusing to let go of the tower, no matter what. This story gives you the contented feeling that there is nothing that determination and creativity can’t conquer.

2. Letters from Campby Kate Klise (HarperTrophy 1999).

One thing I admire of this series of different books is that it never has pure narrative. Never. It consists of letters, menus, schedules, pictures, and more, but carries the plot better than some books with the traditional narrative. This book shows how evil summer camps may be and the bravery and resourcefulness of children. The clashing of characters and brothers and sisters is hilarious as they communicate by letters and eventually work together to fight the horrible camp counselors and owners. A fairly quick, but captivating read.

3. Savvyby Ingrid Law (Dial 2000).

What power would you inherit on your 13thbirthday? This is a book of magic, but in a practical, down-home sense. Our character is so well-created, you feel who she is, why she would do something. This is an awe-inspiring journey of a girl trying to go and save her daddy, with a–I promise–happy ending.

[omphaloskepsis review]

4. Chompby Carl Hiaason (Random House 2012).

Another glorious book from Carl Hiaasen! This book talks of endangered animals and blends a world of humorous circumstances and hilariously written characters as a popular wildlife TV show and animal trainers have to sort their differences and work together to find TV star Derek Badger while protecting a young girl from her abusive father who is hunting for her. You will be racing through it, praising Carl Hiaasen once more!

5. Because of Winn-Dixieby Kate DiCamillo (Candlewick Press 2000).

This popular summer classic runs a beautiful chill up my spine, at the beauty, and the characters; especially at the bittersweet ending. If you haven’t read it, ask yourself, “What am I doing? How in the world have I not read this book?” and start reading. If you have read it, read it again and maybe again. The friendship between the two characters and the more friendships that come from it will warm your heart more than imaginable.

6. Un Lun Dunby China Mieville (DelRey 2007).

This book is the thing that fantasy-lovers will drool over! The oddness of everything shows China Mieville’s creativity, while the comparisons with London (which will leave you laughing hours later) show his wit. He leads you in, making you believe this is a normal fantasy, using the usual characters, the usual plot, and suddenly turns everything around; leading you into the fantastic realm he has created. The rapturing story will suck you into it, only to reluctantly spit you back out when you finish the story!

[omphaloskepsis review]

7. The Westing Gameby Ellen Raskin (Puffin 1978)

This mystery has become a favorite of mine. It is a mystery not only to read, but for you to solve! (I’m still waiting for the board game though.) The characters Raskin creates and the ways each come about are surprisingly unique and clever and the resolution is fitting, perfect even, although it certainly won’t cross your mind immediately, if at all. Sit back and relax with this clever, cleverly written mystery.

8. My Name is Minaby David Almond (Hodder Children’s Books 2010).

This book is a companion to Skellig, but has its own story and is perfect just by itself. Mina, a free-spirited young girl, is fighting her way into the mix of what is normal, and what her own feelings are. Not only is it an enjoyable read, with a character you come to love, there are activities for you to do, perfect for filling your summer with!

[omphaloskepsis review]

9. Utterly Me, Clarice Beanby Lauren Child (Candlewick 2002).

This book is a favorite in the household, and beginning to a hilarious series. This story is about a young girl and looks like it is written by one, with the unique changing and positioning of the writing. Clarice Bean is a creative, outgoing, young girl, determined to be a detective, just like the main character of her favorite series. This book, while aimed towards the younger audiences, is perfect for both young and old.

10. Alvin Ho: Allergic to Camping, Hiking, and Other Natural Disastersby Lenore Look, LeUyen Pham (illustrator) (Random House 2009).

I have to admit, this is a little kid’s book. Yes, it is. But you can’t be too old for a good book, can you? This little boy, Alvin, is scared of everything. Yes, this is a book in a series. The whole family is fairly quirky. His father curses in Shakespearean, his brother too. Even though this book is short, and might not be an award-winner; it is short and sweet, making you laugh your socks off. Trust me, children and young adult books can be the best type.

[omphaloskepsis review]


———–comeback tomorrow for 11-20 on the list of summer recommendations.

guestblogger · N · Uncategorized

the door

Last year, after reading Half-Minute Horrors (HarperCollins, 2009), a collection of short short stories collected and edited by Susan Rich featuring well-known authors/illustrators, the daughter and I decided to try writing our own half-minute horror. The result was The Door and Bodies of Water, both of which we published in our Spring 2011 Edition of the zine TalyaWren. Below is Natalya’s The Door shared with her and the zine’s permission. (please seek permission if you want to share this, for whatever reason).

I asked permission to share this because I was thinking It’s Halloween! Happy Halloween! and because the Spring 2012 Edition of TalyaWren has been on my mind. Natalya has decided on a theme for the zine project and we are organizing ourselves to send out letters for submissions, etc. More on this later. Meanwhile, enjoy my then-10-year-old’s “horror” story in which I tried to interfere little.

by Natalya Hill
+ a smidge by
Leslie Hill Darnell
(October 2010)

The Door


Was it a floorboard or an opening door? Or was it my overactive imagination?
It is silent again. And now shadows seem to crowd the room.
Out of the corner of my eye I spy what haunts me every night: a door that I have never opened.
I was the only person I knew of in this house. I shiver at the thought. No one to hear my screams for help. And no working phones either; which again means no help, I realize—too late…
I had never thought of a phone until now—stupid me!

My room is upstairs and the once locked door was adjacent my only exit. I had carved a triangle into the door to mark my exit so as not to confuse the otherwise identically carved and painted doors, but I can’t make it out in the dark. And I can’t take the risk of choosing the wrong door. Why can’t I remember if the door was to the left or right?
No leaving, no window?—I’m trapped…with something…something terrible.

Was the locked door opening? Or was it my exit closing?
I can make out only one door.
Sudden is the urge to investigate. Was it the door with the mark?
No, I can’t, musn’t…

Was something by my bed? I turn my head to the left, hair sticking to my damp face as it swung with the jerky movement. I push aside my blankets with as much stealth as trembling hands will allow, all the while squinting through the darkness, blinking rapidly to focus.
Toes propel me forward even as I barely touch the floor, propelling me away from an absent window. Quick breaths track my progress through the black.
The edge of the door bumps the tips of the fingers that were still groping for the exit. I step back to catch the edge of the door, slowly, readying to launch myself behind it and away from that something by the bed.

Why not through the doorway? the dark quietly creeps out to whisper. It’s like a magnet, compelling me out of the bedroom. But into where? The hallway or…
And yet my legs move with purpose, forward, toes catching on the door frame, but still I step through as if in a trance—feeling everything and yet not. And then

5 years later…
A haunted house? If anything the Decrepit Painted Lady was mundane; comfortably normal; and I liked it for that very reason. True, the previous owner had disappeared. But it can’t be…
I turn at the sound of a scritching of nails on wood. My overactive imagination, I laugh to myself, but then, with whom else would I laugh? I’m the only one here.

This room will be my room. I can look out onto the garden and I can even spy the alleyway from here. As for the locked door that is without a key, another closet? I inspect the door out of the corner of my eye as I turn around in the middle of the room. No phone jack, and poor signal—no signal. I tuck my cell in my pocket. I’m sure I’ll be fine with the one line downstairs. I pull out a list to add “buy a phone.”
The list was ripped from my hand. I turned around to realize the window was open when it should have been closed and locked. I whip back around to where the paper had flown and is now sticking to the exit. When had that closed?
I collect the paper with a trembling hand. Curious how the paper didn’t slip to the floorboards. I pull it away from the carving of a triangle that pointed…
…to the corner of my eye.
Red bleeds along the edge of the paper.
I grip the knob of the bedroom door with a damp hand. And I see it move. From the corner of my eye.


The door.


Edward Gorey’s long lost daughter


(Newly 11) Natalya’s conversational question of the evening?

“If I had die one of the deaths from The Gashlycrumb Tinies I would rather choke on a peach or drown in a lake.”

“Daddy, what would you do? “

When pressed on the point, he said “Ennui.”

Natalya figured “Falling down the stairs would just hurt too much. And I definitely wouldn’t want to get assaulted by bears; that would be scary and hurt.”

To which I replied, “I don’t know, if I broke my neck right away, falling down the stairs wouldn’t be that bad.”


Yes, this is my morbid family.

You can bet one of Natalya’s classes will be experiencing a recitation of the book very very soon.

And then her mother will experience a call from the school counselor.


my review of Edward Gorey’s The Gashlycrumb Tinies.

a slide show at fanpop

guestblogger · juvenile lit · N · recommend

3 book recs from N

Natalya received a Reading Journal for her 11th birthday and has offered to share a few of her entries with us today.


The Annoyance Bureau by Lucy Frank

Simon&Schuster, 2002

169 pages, hardcover (med.font)

(from the Library)

4/5 stars.

In short, The Annoyance Bureau is a wonderful book.

In the fifteen hours since Lucas Graham arrived in New York City, his own annoyance level has skyrocketed. […]

And who are these strange, green-coated guys milling around, muttering into walkie-talkies — guys only twelve-year-old Lucas and this Santa [outside of Book World] seem to see? Lucas overhears the words“annoyance removal,” as if they’re attuned to his innermost wishes. Something weird is going on. Weird, but irresistible.

Now this old man, Izzy Gribitz, is talking about bungling agents, secret passages, this mysterious remote control-like device, and something called the Annoyance Bureau. What does it all mean?

“That,” says Izzy, “is for me to know and you to find out.” ~publisher’s [and N’s] comments.

A quirky thriller. Follow Lucas and be prepared to laugh!

if Philip K. Dick’s story Adjustment Team, or the 2011 George Nolfi film The Adjustment Bureau comes to mind. There is a reason; though this, I believe takes a much more light-hearted approach. ~L


I, Emma Freke by Elisabeth Atkinson

Carolrhoda Books, 2010

233 pages, hardcover (med.font)

(from Library)

4.2/5 stars

A heartfelt story, I, Emma Freke, is a wonderful story of acceptance. Emma who is above average height for a 12-year-old is an outcast until she goes to a Freke family reunion and finds out that maybe she’d rather be her own freak, rather than be a Freke.

“Life wasn’t always like this.

In fact, when I was younger and dumber I usually had one or two friends to play with at recess. My grades were good but nothing special. Then my height and brains took off one summer. Even my dull hair turned redder. to make matters worse–to make matters impossibly worse–my name is Emma Freke. Like if you say it slowly, Am a Freak.” ~back copy

I am looking forward to reading this one myself, as N highly recommended it. ~L


An Acceptable Time by Madelieine L’Engle

Square Fish, 2007 edition. Originally published: 1989.

(owned copy)

4/5 stars.

Polly O’Keefe has recently moved in with her grandparents, the famous scientists, Alex and Kate Murry, when she wanders into a time 3,000 years before her own. Perhaps it’s not an accident–as she’s told by two druids: When a gate between circles of timeopens, it opens for a reason. When the gate closes behind Polly and her friend, a gravely ill Zachary, the reason becomes clear. In this desperate time, can Polly keep herself and Zachary alive until the gates reopen to bring them home? ~back cover

The people across the lake believe Polly is a goddess: and as everyone knows, only the blood of a goddess can bring the rain… (~N)

An Acceptable Time is the fifth and final  book in the Time Quintet series. If you appreciate the others, you’ll like this one. Madeleine has done a great job portraying a new character out of the off-spring of old characters–characters (like Meg’s parents) have been allowed to change over time. The read is better if you’ve read the first four books.

Out of the series, I really liked Many Waters (#4), An Acceptable Time (#5), and A Wrinkle in Time (#1); and in that order. The others were no less good necessarily, just a little slower, less action.

I have yet to read them all. and it is recommended to read them in order (for the sake of knowing who the characters are). ~L


N is currently reading: Deadly by Julie Chibbaro (Atheneum Books, 2011)

am trying to talk her into a list of her favorite reads from the summer. ~L