Reckless: Surprisingly Not a Wreck.

Cornelia Funke has done it again! She has created another beautiful fantasy, but this time it seems that she is targeting adults. I discovered Funke with the release of Dragon Rider. Yes, I know, a children’s book. Say what you will! That book was great. The landscapes were picturesque and beautifully described, the character was one I could support, and the story was wonderfully told. Since that book I was driven to read her other works. Thief Lord, which was more planted in reality, had some of the best dialogue I have ever read. Who can forget the epic that was the Inkworld trilogy? Those stories are what I dreamed about as a child. The ability to bring books to life was all I wanted for Christmas… well, that and the power to control static electricity… but no one got me that, either.

Reckless is the story of a boy who finds his place on the other side of an enchanted mirror. Jacob Reckless becomes entranced by the world that lay hidden in his father’s abandoned office. As a young man he makes the discovery, and then over the years he constantly disappears into that other world. He leaves reality behind with each visit, including his mother and younger brother, Will. The story officially begins with Jacob and his brother as adults. Will has been afflicted by a disease that is the stuff of fairy tales. The boys live up to their names, Jacob risks bringing his sensitive brother into a world that he is not ready for, and Will keeps risking the love of his life as they search for a cure. Jade stone spreads across Will’s skin like a plague and mythic Goyl (humanoid creatures made from stone and fiery rage) hunt him for that legendary color. The world is filled with dangers, dwarves, vixen girls, and unicorns that could rip you apart.

Cornelia Funke has a way with language. I always want to learn German so I can read her books the way she writes them. She has a beautiful landscape that expands and grows inside of her mind and she lets it develop every time she writes. Her characters are filled with life, truth, and faults. It is their inner torment that makes them beautiful and stand out in a world that is constantly changing and threatening them.

Reckless will drop on September 14th, 2010. Her books can be found, as always, at Borders.com. If you have a chance, check out her world. It has plenty to offer.

Come back this weekend for a special surprise! Happy reading, lovelies.

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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.

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.