The Immortal Nicholas Flamel & His Secrets

Michael Scott has crafted a fantasy series based on names and locations that bear significant weight in history. This series is about twins that get swept up into the dangerous and magical world of Nicholas Flamel. If anyone thinks to themselves “Oh, that’s the guy from Harry Potter,” then you need to know that Nicholas Flamel was a real person. He does not only exist in Harry Potter! With that said, the newest installment of the series is called The Necromancer, which continues to story of Sophie and Josh Newman.

Since I don’t want to give away any spoilers, I’ll talk about the first book from the series: The Alchemyst. This is the book that begins the adventure. Sophie and Josh start their day going to their respective jobs across the street from each other. Soon, they discover that everything they learned from history books, from their archeologist parents, from school, is not true. The gods and goddesses of ancient lore exist and they are angry with the human race. Some want to destroy it while others simply do not care. Sophie and Josh discover that they hold the power to stop the downfall of the human race, even at fifteen. The twins are told that they have rare and powerful auras (fields of energy that surrounds their bodies). Josh has a pure gold aura while Sophie has pure silver.

I love this series. It’s exciting and constantly keeps me on the edge. Scott is immensely knowledgeable in history as well as mythology. He masterfully weaves together creatures and historical figures into a seamless history. I love the pace he’s taking to reveal the secrets, too. Just enough information is being released to keep the readers interested and just enough is being withheld to make the reader long for the next installment. The teaser chapters at the end of the novels are also fantastic touches. Scott gives the reader a taste of what’s going to come and it’s delicious. A wonderful thing about this series is that it fuels my desire for travel. He describes beautiful places all over the world and while I see them in his writing, I want to see them for myself.

The Necromancer was the most breath catching release of the series yet. I worried for the characters and whooped for joy when they escaped their predicaments. I felt the same doubts and concerns when Sophie and Josh learn new information. The secrets are coming out all over the place and there is still so much more I need to know. I need to know which path the twins will choose, is Perenelle all that she says she is, why did Danu Talis fall, and everything else these characters are hiding. This world of magic and mythical creatures fills me with joy. I recommend this series for anyone that is a big fan of Harry Potter or adventure in general.

The Necromancer will be officially released May 25th, 2010. It will be available at all the usual suspect book sellers (Borders, Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com). Check out Michael Scott’s web site here.

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The Fallen has Arisen

The Fallen, which contains two books (The Fallen and Leviathan) is the first half of a four book series. These books chronicle the adventures of Aaron Corbett, an 18 year old boy that is the focus of a life changing prophecy. Aaron becomes prey to killer angels that merely want to eradicate the unclean and make the world all nice and sparkly for their creator. Is that so much to ask? It is Aaron’s job to fulfill the prophecy and survive.

Another series of books that can be appreciated by boy and girl alike! Hurrah! With an older male protagonist and the idea of fighting for salvation, hope, and reunion, neither gender is alienated by the story. There is a faint element of romance, but it doesn’t hound the reader throughout the entire story. The writing was good, though sometimes the cliches were noticeable. I still enjoyed the story telling, however. There is adequate excitment and the story does not drag on, though sometimes there are details that the reader doesn’t necessarily need (like the exact type of shirt that Aaron slept in). The plotline has been tackled in many ways by many writers, but Sniegoski gave the idea new life by making Aaron ordinary and extraordinary at the same time. He’s an everyday teen, but deep down he knows what needs to be done and won’t let anything stand in his way. I definitely recommend this for anyone that enjoys action and stories about saving the world.

Also, there is an ABC family film adaptation of The Fallen. It was a mini-series in 2006 starring WB’s The Vampire Diaries Paul Wesley as Aaron. Film review isn’t my area of expertise, but I recommend the film adaptation as well.

Visit Thomas E. Sniegoski’s website here to find out more about his work.

Zinc May Not be Magnetic, but Zink is!

Today I had the privilege to have a chat with the author of Prophecy of the Sisters, Michelle Zink. She’s a New York mom with a lot of spunk and energy.

Prophecy of the SistersThis novel begins with a rainy day and a funeral, setting the mood for the rest of the novel. Sadness is there, even when there is love and passion. Siblings Lia and Alice stand on opposite sides of a prophecy, of a war that stretches back through their ancestry. But are the roles they were built for the roles they intend to play? The eerie language held me captivated throughout the entire novel. The magic within the novel was not overdone, it was subtle and felt new. Zink has an understanding of myths and it shows throughout her writing. Wives tales that we have grown up with are there in the underbelly of her haunting series. Next to be released is Guardian of the Gate.

Kiss My Lit says: Hello Mrs. Zink, how are you today?

Michelle Zink says: Hi, Mary!

Michelle Zink says: I’m good! How are you? And you can call me Michelle or MZ if you want! ❤

Kiss My Lit says: Heh, thanks. I’m pretty good, glad that I was able to steal my parents’ internet.

Michelle Zink says: Me, too! I’m glad I was able to get my grocery shopping done on time! 😀

Kiss My Lit says: Hooray!

Michelle Zink says: So you can just feel free to ask away!

Kiss My Lit says: Well, what attracted you to the Young Adult genre?

Michelle Zink says: I always feel like it picked me! I think everyone has an age that they are perpetually stuck at (at least in their own mind). For me, it’s about nineteen. It’s such a magical, terrifying, exhilarating time of life!  I remember being a teenager so vividly, and I still love reading about that time of life. The fact that I have tremendous admiration for teens – for their enthusiasm and passion and open-mindedness – just makes the chance to connect with them an added bonus!

Kiss My Lit says: It’s great you feel that way, what do you think about adult fiction writers that are jumping on the Young Adult bandwagon?

Michelle Zink says: I think anything that contributes to the collective repository of reading material – especially for teens – is a good thing! I also think having writers come to YA from other genres increases our likelihood of seeing fresh story lines. Sometimes YA can start to feel derivative. Like everyone’s basically writing the same thing with different names and places. It’s very possible adult fiction writers can bring something new to the table. In fact, I’ve read less YA since I’ve been writing, because that I worry about someone else’s story or voice creeping into my own work. Also, I’m oddly inspired to create fresh YA stories after reading adult ones!

Kiss My Lit says: So you have three kids, how do you feel about what they’re reading in school? Is there anything you’d suggest?

Michelle Zink says: Actually, I have four! Honestly, they don’t read much in school that is inspiring. Especially at the high school level, I wish they’d rethink some of the work they assign. I don’t think it speaks to the modern teenager, and while I see the merit in introducing young readers to the classics, I sometimes think it comes at the cost of turning off far more teens to reading in general. As for recommended reading, my youngest daughter (10) is totally infatuated with the MG series, Warriors. My 13 YO son really enjoy Star Wars fan fiction and the Rangers Apprentice series. My oldest daughter (15) is a girl after my own heart. She loves Graceling, White Oleander (a MUST read for college students it if you haven’t read it – the movie doesn’t count!) and anything by Tamora Pierce or Ellen Hopkins. Unfortunately, my musician son, who is almost 18, doesn’t read as much as he used to. That said, his very favorite is Catcher in the Rye, and he does read Star Wars fan fiction a lot. He’s more of a movie buff, though!

Kiss My Lit says: Graceling was awesome. Has she read Fire yet? Cashore made me cry.

Michelle Zink says: She did! And she loved it every bit as much! Believe it or not, I’m JUST finishing Graceling now. I’ve owned it for so long, but it took me this long to get to it!

Kiss My Lit says: I recommend it a lot, Katsa is way too strong a character to not introduce to young girls. What other books have you read recently?

Michelle Zink says: I adored Incarceron by Catherine Fisher and Finnikin of the Rock by Mellina Marchetta. ADORED! Both flawless novels, in my opinion. I do have a fondness for adult literature, though, and I highly recommend Shadow of the Wind and The Angels Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (very dark and Gothic) and anything by Sarah Waters (especially Fingersmith and The Little Stranger). Both authors are beyond brilliant.

Kiss My Lit says: I understand writing wasn’t always your career choice, what was your first career?

Michelle Zink says: My first career was in sales and marketing. I got into it as a way to face my fear, because I’m terribly anxious and shy and self-conscious in front of people. You know how people say “everything happens for a reason”? Well, they’re right! All those years in sales and marketing, going to trade shows, giving presentations, leading client meetings, etc., forced me to learn how to fake confidence. It comes in handy on tour, believe me!

Kiss My Lit says: I do believe you. I started reciting poetry competitively just so I can tolerate having the attention of more than ten people at a time. How did your family feel about your switch in career?

Michelle Zink says: They were very supportive. My kids, especially, always believed in me. When I would feel financially desperate and say, “I should probably just go back to work,” they’d say, “No. You should keep writing.” I don’t think my then-husband was happy to lose my income. But that would be one of the many reasons he’s my then-husband. 😉

Kiss My Lit says: Nonfiction. I personally think you made a good choice.

Kiss My Lit says: What myths inspired you when working on Prophecy of the Sisters?

Michelle Zink says: The biggest is the biblical legend of the Watchers. They were angels sent to watch over mankind, but they fell in love with mortal women and were banished from heaven. After that, they were known as the Lost Souls. The entire Prophecy mythos is based on that legend, and almost all of my books are based on real legends and myths.

Kiss My Lit says: And do you think your series is going in the right direction?

Michelle Zink says: Well, it’s completely finished now as I just last week turned in my final edits to book three. I always feel like the story already exists somewhere, and it’s really just my job to channel it correctly. When I try to impose my own will on the story, it feels wrong, off, to me. Which is why I don’t do it! LOL! Because of this, Prophecy feel like it came full circle for me. I hope it feels that way for readers, too.

Kiss My Lit says: What experiences have you gained since the publication of Prophecy?

Michelle Zink says: Oh, man! That’s a loaded question! So much! Just the experience of seeing a piece of my creative soul go out into the world has been fraught with wonder and joy and fear. I’ve become a much better writer through the opportunity to work closely with my editor on three books. This is an added bonus to publication that no one talks about but that is not to be underestimated. Most importantly, I’ve connected with so many amazing readers and writers from all over the world (the Prophecy series is published in over 25 countries).

Kiss My Lit says: Wow, that’s incredible. I think it’s great that you feel so open with your fans, too. Do you think that having that openness helps you with your writing?

Michelle Zink says: Actually, it can HURT the writing. That’s because it’s hard to tune out all the amazing readers who love Prophecy and have their own ideas about how things should go. When I was writing books two and three, I’d hear their voices in my head. “Will Sonia get a boyfriend? I really want Sonia to have a boyfriend!” Will Alice stay evil?” “What about James? I want to see more of James!” Lol! I have to make a concerted effort to listen to the story, because it’s not going to be as fulfilling for the reader if I don’t do that. But having a direct relationship with my readers HAS had a positive impact on my life in so many ways. It’s wonderful to connect with such passionate readers and it’s an honor to know that they feel that way about my work.

Kiss My Lit says: Speaking of readers, I have two blog followers who asked me to pass along a couple of questions. Matt would like to know: What is your most memorable piece of writing from when you were in school?

Michelle Zink says: Aw, you asked your blog readers for question?! How did I miss that in my Google Alert? That’s a great idea! I don’t really have one piece of writing that stood out for me. I was always tinkering. Playing with short stories and angsty poetry! I think tinkering is underrated as an improvement device for writers!

Kiss My Lit says: Ha ha, true. I actually posted on my fan page, and then my phone auto-corrected your name to Sink. It made me sad.

Kiss My Lit says: Andrew asks: When drawing inspiration from real people, how much of a character comes from that person rather than from her imagination?

Michelle Zink says: I’m sorry I didn’t see that! I try to comment when bloggers post about me or my work. 😦 But I understand, because my phone still auto-corrects “MZ” to “MS”. Lol! As for Andrew’s question, very few of my characters are inspired by real people. They come to life almost fully formed for me, and I fill in the details based on what will serve the story.

Kiss My Lit says: Another one popped up, Liz would like to know if it is more satisfying to hand write the story or would you rather type it?

Michelle Zink says: I always type because I can move faster that way and I’m very strict about the amount of work I expect from myself. When I’m drafting a new book, I usually write it in under three months. That would be tough to do if I had to handwrite and then type it up. Plus, typing is now second nature to me, and my thoughts come much more smoothly at the keyboard than they do at the page!

Kiss My Lit says: What’s your best advice for writers just starting out?

Michelle Zink says: Finish something. I know it sounds simple, but we writers are famous for our infatuation with shiny new ideas. We tend to work on something for a while until it gets tough or boring. Then we abandon ship and start something new. But you will never be a published writer if you don’t finish something, and you will never learn as much from any conference, mentor, class, or how-to book as you will through the process of starting and completing an entire book.

Kiss My Lit says: Simple, yet effective. Thank you so much for all your time. I have two last questions, though. What is the exact release date of Guardian of the Gate and is there anything you’d like to share with readers?

Michelle Zink says: It’s totally been my pleasure, Mary! Thank YOU for taking the time to speak with ME! Guardian of the Gate releases August 1st, and I hope to announce a new series sometime this year. Stay tuned…

Michelle Zink has her very own blog! You should check it out and leave her comments. Her newest book (Guardian of the Gate)  is already available for preorder at book sellers such as Borders and Amazon.

Happy reading!

For Boys Only

So, a customer came up to me while I was cleaning the kids section and asked me what I would recommend for a teenage boy. At that moment, I had nothing. Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot to recommend in the Young Adult section for teen boys. First we must consider what kind of boy the recommendation is for. If he doesn’t like fantasy then it’s going to be more difficult.

Walter Dean Myers has a large body of work consisting of realistic and historical fiction, interesting to boys and girls alike. Key titles include: Fallen Angels, Monster, Slam! and Hoops. Gary Paulsen is also an author boys may enjoy; his work consists mostly of survival stories such as Hatchet, The River, and Brian’s Winter. I also feel that John Green offers some solace for boys in need of something to read– An Abundance of Katherines, Paper Towns, and Looking for Alaska are all about the boy’s side of romance. David Levithan would be a good recommendation for boys that are more on the sensitive side, exploring male characters that are not as represented in Young Adult fiction (Boy Meets Boy, Love is the Higher Law, Wide Awake and his collaboration with John Green: Will Grayson, Will Grayson). Another great writer for boys is Markus Zusak, an author that crafted a story about a female protagonist from death’s point of view as well as a novel about a young man who needed to turn his life around through the mysterious messages left by an anonymous guide (The Book Thief and I am the Messenger). King Dork by Frank Portman is a modernized Catcher in the Rye, often alluding to its inspiration in order to keep the story moving. Lastly, Tweak by Nic Sheff opens up a pathway into the dark world of drugs, something that boys should learn about sooner or later.

Fantasy is an easier genre to develop recommendations for, since boys that like fantasy are more willing to forgive the slightly gushy goings on between characters. Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments may have a female protagonist and teen angst, but there is enough focus on the inner workings of both male leads that a teenage boy could be interested (City of Bones, City of Ashes, City of Glass). Amelia Atwater-Rhodes also offers a lot for both genders of teen reader, her Shapeshifter series shifted between female and male narrators, continuing the story. None of the female characters spend time on angst (Hawksong, Snakedance, etc). James Patterson expanded into the Young Adult genre with several titles, Maximum Ride, Dangerous Days of Daniel X, and Witch & Wizard are all worthy titles for boys. I would also recommend Maggie Stiefvater’s Faerie series. The first book, Lament may not seem like something boys will like due to  the main character being an Irish girl that can see faeries and plays the harp, but the sequel, Ballad, was told from the point of view of Deirdre’s bag-piping smart ass best friend, James. Percy Jackson and the Olympians is often recommended for teen boys; my hesitation with this series is that it is independent reader, not Young Adult. Though, Harry Potter is also independent reader but developed into an adult read as well as one for kids. A very popular title for boys, though I’m not sure how I feel about it, is the Inheritance Cycle series. The writing isn’t great but if it’s story you’re looking for then Paolini has great organization and elements of story telling (Star Wars but with dragons). My last recommendation for boys is Catherine Fisher’s Incarceron, a story about a young boy in a literal prison and a young girl in a cultural prison.

I hope this helps parents looking for what to get your boys in order to spark their interest in reading. If you have any questions about the books listed here, feel free to e-mail me.

All books mentioned above available through your local bookseller.

Holly Black: The Darker Side of Young Adult Lit

I just finished Holly Black’s collection of short stories; The Poison Eaters and Other Stories. I’ve had the privilege of being introduced to Black’s writing when I was still in high school. My English teacher offered the students that had the best scores a chance to read whatever book we wanted. She had a class set of advanced reader copies of Tithe, Black’s first novel. My teacher told me that it was a modern faerie tale. I was in.

TitheTithe was raw and edgy, filled with shadows that hid conspiracies and secret plot points. Kaye was a protagonist that walked the razor’s edge of sanity. Everywhere she turned, faeries were there calling out to her. Black’s use of detail is enchanting, gripping the reader and pulling them under into a dark world made of very dangerous creatures. Black finds beauty in mundane objects, giving a destroyed merry-go-round horse an ethereal quality, creating magic where there was none to be found. Kaye becomes a pawn in a deadly game between two courts of faerie. Her childhood friends, filled with innocence and folly, have darkened over time. She finds herself navigating the double-sided words and tricky riddles that sprinkle the language of the fair folk. Kaye needs to rely on what she learned as a human to help her survive the world that had always called to her. The plot played out beautifully, keeping the reader on the tips of their toes, forever surprised and rethinking.

ValiantThe sequel, Valiant, was no disappointment. Beginning in a familiar Jersey setting, the main character (Val) finds herself in Manhattan. She starts living on the streets after finding out that her boyfriend and mother were having an affair. She finds herself living in a subway tunnel with a couple of junkies and a boy who is gifted with the Sight. This novel maintained a similar feeling of dark treachery moving behind the scenes. Black also approaches a very important topic among young adults; drug abuse. The drug of choice for these characters is like nothing any junkie has every shot up; it was a faerie medicine that gave mortal humans a taste of magic. This novel was intense and vibrant, revealing the desperate damage that teen girls can experience and how they choose to deal. The gritty truth of living on the streets, the heartbreaking honesty of kids that do what they have to in order to survive, and the youth that can’t live without their fix, all of these things are strongly represented in our rotten reality. Valiant does beautiful work of creating a glowing light around the despair that drags us down in everyday life.

IronsideThe conclusion to the Modern Faerie Tale collection, Ironside, tied the first two books together with wit and creativity. Characters came together from each novel, creating a tapestry of relationships that are as fragile as a snowflake. Roiben and Kaye’s relationship teeters, as precarious as it always is. Val is not as prominent in this novel, but one of her street rat friends is. Kaye is pulled into an impossible task in order to prove her love to Roiben. The faerie courts, as always, are treacherous and ready to destroy the balance that Kaye has become accustomed to. Yet again, Black twists words into unnatural but beautiful shapes. She uses words they way her faeries do, creating curses and spells of redemption. Ironside was engaging and twisted in all the right places. Black understands the complexities of human and faerie nature so well that the characters on the page could be sitting next to the reader, telling their tales in shaky, excited whispers.

The Spiderwick ChroniclesHolly Black continued her career with the Spiderwick chronicles, a short series of five books created for children. These treated faeries with the same eerie respect and understanding that they are not all light and flowers, they are much darker than we anticipate. Our heroes in these books are much younger than the cheeky teens in her young adult novels. She continued the story in Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles, utilizing the beautiful and detailed artwork of Tony DiTerlizzi. The artwork compliments Black’s writing with careful lines and outstanding imagery.

The Good Neighbors: KinThe Good Neighbors: KithThat was not the only time that Black teamed up with an artist. She also has a series of graphic novels with Ted Naifeh titled The Good Neighbors. While graphic novels tend to be a short read, Black and Naifeh craft a marvelous tale of shadows and trickery that makes you take the time to truly look at the images. Kin and Kith chronicle the story of a young girl whose mother mysteriously disappears after an argument with her father. Kind will be the conclusion to this series. Rue starts to see things after her mother’s disappearance, things she can’t explain. When faeries begin to circle her life, taunting her and her father, Rue must figure out what this has to do with her mother. The inner working of Rue’s mind reveals the confusion of being raised to believe you are what you are not.

The Poison Eaters and Other StoriesAside from several compilations, Black released a collection of her own short stories. Poison Eaters and Other Stories contains several stories that were featured elsewhere before finally being bound all together. I first read “The Coldest Girl in Cold Town” in The Eternal Kiss, a vampire anthology. Black consistently defies the expectation of the supernatural and approaches it with a darker perspective, an honest perspective. She realizes that the world is not shining and filled with white beauty. The world is dark and painful. She shows this in each short story. Black’s active imagination utilizes every corner of magic and mystery. She often takes advantage of a familiar New Jersey setting or resorts to New York. She takes the creatures that are frequently romanticized and brings to the table the “what ifs” that are never considered. What if being a vampire is not romance and living forever in secrecy? What if faeries didn’t just want to play pranks? What if a tailor could save a life?

Black’s next release will be the first in a series called Curse Workers in May 2010. The novel will be called The White Cat. She will also be featured in several anthologies due to be released this year. The one that I am looking forward to the most is Zombies vs. Unicorns. I’m down for the unicorns. They’re some tricky creatures. Besides, Zombies are fairly simple to figure out.

See Holly Black’s website here to find out more about her books and her writing.

Forget-Her-Nots, Forgettable? I Think Not.

Forget-Her-Nots by Amy Brecount White

Forget-Her-Nots by Amy Brecount White is due to be released Tuesday, 3/23/2010.

I found this on the street date shelf in the backroom at work. The street date shelf is where books that have a specific release date that cannot be broken are placed. I don’t really see Young Adult books there often, with the exceptions of major authors like James Patterson, Stephenie Meyer, or L.J Smith. From what I understand, this is White’s premier novel. I picked it up before my shift to see what it was about.

This novel is about a fourteen year old girl attending a posh boarding school. At first I thought that it had all the makings of a teen drama that had been rinsed and repeated excessively. After reading a bit, I realized I was wrong. While there are those elements, Laurel is a girl trying to cope with the loss of her mother by revisiting the place where she went to school. Of course; where there’s grief, there is a mysterious message left to you by the person you are grieving. Laurel’s mother left her a clue leading to the Victorian language of flowers.

This is where the novel opens, introducing the type of character Laurel is; not terribly strong but not wishy washy either. She shows backbone when making snide comments towards the obnoxious boy in class. She doesn’t let people intimidate her, though she does not seek out confrontation. Here is where description falters– even though Laurel’s personality is clear to me, her appearance is a mystery. Her description of the backup characters are pretty standard: blonde sidekick, black-haired Asian romantic lead, and the roguishly handsome bad boy with an attitude.

The inspiration for this novel, the language of flowers, was heavily researched. I’m impressed by the amount of detail that went into that first tussie-mussie (bouquet with secret message) that Laurel made. Here is also where what makes Laurel special is introduced. She can awaken magic within flowers; use them to make things happen. I have yet to see this in a Young Adult novel. I was entranced by the first few pages, forgetting that I had to start working soon. White made use of real pains and real issues that teen girls face and gave her character a way to overcome it. It’s a coming of age story where the main character will actually grow before the readers eyes. I look forward to seeing what else White can do. The writing is soft and elegant, feminine but still strong.

If you’re interested in learning more about Amy Brecount White’s book Forget-Her-Nots, you can visit her site here. You can also read an excerpt of her novel by clicking on the “books” tab.