Tag Archives: Fantasy

The Fantasy World of Funke’s Reckless

Cornelia Funke is a genius. She just is. I listened to her newest book (although not that new anymore – first published in September 2010), Reckless. It captivated me from start to finish. The beginning of the story drops on the reader like a parachute out of nowhere. You are immediately immersed and confused with your surroundings. As you make your way from beneath the parachute another layer drops and another. I love this type of storytelling when it is done well. William Faulkner does this incredibly well. As a reader, you are forced to take a leap of faith that all will become clear or at least somewhat clear.  Funke can join the ranks of Faulkner-esque storytelling.

Reckless re-imagines fairy tales. Actually, it creates its own fairy tale but within a world of familiar fairy tales — however, these familiar fairy tales have become darkly twisted. The witch and the gingerbread house are real, a tailor with scissors for hands hunts people for their skin, and fairies are selfish creatures. Jacob Reckless has been living in both the real and this fairy tale world. He has been traveling through a mirror and finds solace in escaping to this hidden world where he steals enchanted artifacts for money. Everything changes when Jacobs younger brother, Will, follows him into his strange world. Will becomes infected with a curse that slowly changes his skin to stone (becoming a Goyl)–jade to be exact. Once Will’s skin becomes completely jade he will be lost forever. Jacob, Fox–a beautiful shape-shifting vixen/fox–, and Clara–Will’s girlfriend from back home–must race time to find something or someone to save Will.

Age Group: 14 and up
Genre: Young Adult / Fantasy
Themes: Magic, Fantasy, Fairy Tales,
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, imprint of Hachette Book Group

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A Lesson in Narrative Voice

I have survived another holiday season. I apologize for my self-imposed blogging silence. I have tons of posts to write and have not settled down to write them.  Until now.

I finished a book, way back in December, called, The Name of This Book is Secret by Pseudonymous Bosch (I have to look up how to spell Pseudonymous every single time I write it).  The book is quite enjoyable (a great first book to the series). It follows two  precocious children, Cass and Max-Ernest. The book (I will refer to it as “the book” because it has a long title) is about kids solving a mystery and saving the day but it is also about the existence and even intrusion of narrative voice.

In general, the narrator in a book can blend so perfectly into the storytelling that you have to remind yourself someone or something is telling the story and it is NOT the author.  Sometimes the narrator is a character, well the narrator is always a character, but sometimes it is a character in which the action is happening directly to.  And sometimes the narrator is just there, hovering and watching the characters from above.  Understanding the importance of the narrator was key in my literature education. The Name of This Books is Secret is a wonderful example of narrative voice and specifically unreliable/ridiculous narration. The narrator is simply hilarious (even when s/he does not mean to be).

Cassandra (also known as Cass), the survivalist enthusiast, and Max-Ernest, the non-stop talker, join forces to discover the secret hidden in a box called The Symphony of Smells, or at least they try to discover the secret. The box leads them to discover the evil workings and diabolical plans of Ms. Mauvais and Dr. L. The book is filled with adventure, intrigue, and a great sense of humor. Read it and be prepared to get hooked.

Age Group: 8/9 and up
Genre: Middle Grade Books / Fantasy / Mystery
Themes: Magic, Friendship, Discovery, Secrets
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, imprint of Hachette Book Group

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Adventure, Fantasy & Jim Dale = The Emerald Atlas

 

I love listening to audiobooks (as you may have discovered from a previous post, Listening to Words). When I found out that Jim Dale, the reader for the Harry Potter audio series, narrated a new book called The Emerald Atlas, by John Stephens, I practically squealed with excitement. I had heard great things about The Emerald Atlas (especially from Erin at Random Acts of Reading). I was excited to read the book, but learning of the audiobook I became even more excited. I was not disappointed.

The Emerald Atlas is delightful. Maybe delightful is not quite the right adjective. “Delightful” makes it sound unassuming and “nice.” The Emerald Atlas is exciting, intriguing and wonderfully written.

The Emerald Atlas is about three precocious siblings who are whisked away from their parents at a very young age to protect them from a merciless evil. Kate, the oldest, is the only one to remember their parents. Michael, the middle, is quite nerdy and loves everything that has to do with dwarves. Emma, the youngest, will be the first to bully her brother and the last–if anyone else tries to bully him then they will have to talk to her fists. The three kids are passed from orphanage to orphanage until finally landing in a mysterious town called Cambridge Falls. There they find an enchanted book, a kind of emerald atlas. This book transports them to a past time in Cambridge Falls where they must defeat a wicked Countess. The world of The Emerald Atlas involves dwarves, giants, wizards, and witches. It is a great fantasy book and if you have enjoyed the Harry Potter books then you must pick this one up. I can’t wait for the next book in the series.

Non and I had the privilege of meeting John Stephens at The Why Chromosome Event, hosted by Bridge to Books. Stephens was delightful; and this time “delightful” is exactly the right adjective. I told him that the audiobook is fantastic (as if he needed my validation). We spoke briefly about how amazing Jim Dale is as a reader. Stephens described a dinner outing with Jim Dale in which Dale would order food using various Harry Potter character voices. I only wish I could hear Dolores Umbridge order a burger with fries (I’m sure this is not what Jim Dale ordered).

Age Group: 9 and up
Genre: Middle Grade Books / Fantasy
Themes: Family, Siblings, Time, Magic, Dwarves
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, imprint of Random House

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Side note: Audiobooks in general are amazing. If you haven’t tried listening to one then get some recommendations from friends or myself so that you start the experience out right. There have been times when a reader has not captured the world or voices correctly (or at least in my opinion). Neil Gaiman has started an amazing audiobook production called Neil Gaiman Presents, which can be downloaded/purchased from Audible.com.  He matches readers with books and understands the importance of a well-read audiobook. See a review of one of the adult titles, The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break: A Novel (from Bookriot.com).

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Another side note:

Don’t forget about the Giveaway Schmiveaway! Win a signed Andrew Smith book! The giveaway ends December 10th at midnight, PST.

   

Enter to win by subscribing to Read Schmead and by posting comments. Every current and new subscriber is entered into the contest automatically. If you happen to leave comments on posts then those will count as additional entries. Winners will be picked randomly.

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Book Festivals are Exhausting, but Oh So Awesome

This weekend was fantastic.  Exhausting but fantastic.  Saturday I was selling books at the Mission Viejo Book Festival.  (Side note: Latitude 33 Bookstore closed at the end of August, but I have been adopted by another wonderful bookstore located in Irvine called A Whale of A Tale Bookshoppe.)  I was able to meet Cornelia Funke, author of Dragon Rider, the Inkheart Trilogy, Igraine the Brave, and many other great titles.

Cornelia and Me

Cornelia in her amazing dress and Alex (owner of A Whale of a Tale)

My Enthusiastic Face

At the OC Book Festival myself and Non helped out Robyn Hawk (Check out her blog Reading it All) with the YA/Teen Stage.  It was a hot day but the line-up that Robyn put together was just so cool.  (See how I did that–hot and cool.  I’m a dork).  The event started with a Tween Panel moderated by the ever so funny author of the School of Fear series, Gitty Daneshvari.  It featured the following authors: Greg Taylor – Killer Pizza series, Helen Stringer – Spellbinder and Midnight Gate, Greg van Eekhout – The Boy at the End of the World, Mark Jeffrey – Max Quick series.

The Tween Panel

Me and My BFF

Gitty was a fantastic moderator and I utterly adore listening to her talk.  She is just the funniest and I like to imagine we are best friends who exchange witty, self-deprecating remarks about our imagined illnesses and ridiculous fears.  We laugh and then we cry and then we check our WebMD Apps.

Following the panel were authors Frank Beddor (Looking Glass Wars series), PJ Haarsma (Softwire series), Lisi Harrison (Monster High series), and the very likeable Holly Goldberg Sloan, author of I’ll Be There.

Frank Beddor and PJ Haarsma

Me and Holly Goldberg Sloan

The Teen Lit (Keeping it Real) Panel featured:  Jessi Kirby – Moonglass, Kirsten Hubbard – Like Mandarin, Lindsey Leavitt – Sean Griswold’s Head, and the awesome Andrew Smith with his new novel, Stick.  The portion of Stick that Andrew read made me so eager to read the entire book.  He truly has an amazing narrative style.

The Teen Lit Panel

Me, Andrew Smith, and Non

The rest of the day was filled with paranormal/supernatural lit.  The Paranormal Panel included:  Emma Michaels – The Thirteenth Chime and Anasazi, Inara Scott – Delacroix Academy, Cindy Pon – Kingdom of Xia series, Gretchen McNeil – Possess, Jeff Mariotte – Dark Vengence.  Kami Garcia, co-author of the Beautiful Creatures series, and Heather Brewer, author of the Chronicles of Vladimir Tod series and now her new series The Slayer Chronicles, drew large crowds.

Kami Garcia

The Paranormal Panel

Heather Brewer

The final two authors, Nancy Holder and Amber Benson, rounded off a great day at the festival.  I purchased Amber’s series, Calliope Reaper Jones, and can’t wait to start it.  Amber’s writing style is so smart and funny that I know it will be awesome.

Me, Nancy Holder, Amber Benson, and Non

Amber Benson

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I Am Number Four

Review by Nōn Wels: Check out his writing/political/philosophy blog, A Thousand Screaming Rabbits

Typically, I like to read the book before I see the movie. And I am not entirely certain why that is the case. Perhaps, as I often hear, it’s a matter of preserving the vision you have created after reading the book. This way, the characters, the imagery, they are your own, not to be muddled by the perceptions of the filmmakers. Or, rather, maybe it’s to do with the fact that the book almost always precedes the film, and there is some sort of unnamed hierarchy or chronological importance tied to it.

Frankly, I have no idea. The order, in some respects, is irrelevant. But I’ll let you make that decision.

As I intimated, this wasn’t one of my typical moments. After seeing the movie, I was inspired to pick up a copy of the book I Am Number Four, written by Pittacus Lore.

The story is a fine mix of high school adolescence, coming-of-age and science fiction. John, the protagonist, is an alien from the planet Lorien. One of nine warriors (or “Garde”) in total, John is Number Four (hence the title). This is significant because the Mogadorians, the other non-Earth entities, are out to kill John and all of the rest of the Garde. The caveat, however, is that they need to kill in order, from One through Nine.

After finding out that Number Three had been killed, John and his guardian, or “Cepan,” Henri move, once again (they are always on the move), to the little town of Paradise, Ohio. It is in this town they are both faced with their toughest challenge yet.

With the Mogadorians close on their trail, John and Henri must make a choice. Do they stay in Paradise, alongside John’s new girlfriend Sarah, his friend Sam, the geeky conspiracy theorist, Bernie Kosar, the mysterious yet loveable beagle, and the first place they ever felt at home?

With John’s developing “Legacies,” or powers, do they stay and fight to protect their new home?

You’ll have to pick up a copy to find out for yourself!

Just know that you’re in for an enjoyable ride.

Oh, and a ride that contains telekinesis, shape-shifting creatures, and, you know, things like fighting daggers that consume the energies of living plants and trees for their source of power. Little things like that.

Check out the movie’s official website.

Age Group: 12 and up (Contains bad language and teenage/adult content)
Genre: Young Adult / Science Fiction / Fantasy
Themes: Science Fiction, Aliens, Teenagers, Superhero
Publisher: HarperCollins

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Postmodernism in Feed?

Feed by M.T. Anderson

Feed, by M.T. Anderson, left me thinking about it for months and I even forced a friend to listen to the audiobook.  I needed to share with someone this inexplicable, yet totally real, world Anderson creates in Feed.  This review is long overdue.  I read this–actually I listened to the audio version of this book quite a while back, perhaps a few months ago.  There is something about this book that intrigued, frightened, and repulsed me–but I loved it.  My friend enjoyed it, but not nearly as much as I.  He just couldn’t find the main character, Titus, in any way likeable.  Titus is not likeable.  He is a quintessential teenager in a future that is dominated by consumerism and instant gratification.  He is not meant to be likeable.  I look back on my teen years and at times I find myself unlikeable.  The choices/decisions I made that were usually driven by a hormonal and insecure ego led to some ridiculous moments.  I look back and shrug my shoulders, chalking it up to my age, but when I am forced to relive teenage years through Titus it is almost unbearable.  He is utterly self-centered!  But again, he is also intriguing.  He develops a relationship with Violet, a socially aware teenage girl who contributes to Titus’ development as a character.  His fascination with her and her fascination with him is what drives this book.  You love her.  She forces Titus to confront issues of consumerism, the deteriorating natural world, and the global impact of technology on society in the most pleasantly benign manner.  She does not preach at Titus, but wholeheartedly shares her concerns as with a lover or an intimate friend.

Anderson never specifies  how far in the future the novel takes place, but it is clearly the Future with a capital “F.”  The first scene features Titus and his pals taking a trip to the moon as if it were the same as going to the mall.  The slightly annoying vocabulary of these futuristic teens captures the age perfectly.  In Anderson’s Future, most humans are implanted with a “feednet” that delivers pop-up like advertisements directly to your brain the minute you step into a store or look at a billboard.  Imagine walking around and you happen to catch a glimpse of an empty Starbucks cup, immediately the Feed will shoot a verbal advertising assault to your mind.  It’s like having radio commercials broadcasting directly into your brain.  Corporations are capable of monitoring what your interests are directly from your brain waves.  It is kind of creepy.  Privacy is non-existent.

M.T. Anderson - The Mastermind

The thing that makes this young adult Sci-Fi novel postmodern is its ability to create a world where language has become stupified by the future and by technology.  Titus is unable to write because all messages are sent through the mind, like a telepathic instant messenger.  The novel focuses on an uneasiness and suspicion towards the future, as well as the past.  The short snippets of the Feed disorient the reader at times, always reminding the reader of the constant pro-consumerism intrusion into the internal self.  Interiority is being exploited.  The result of such a world leaves humans only able to ingest information but never digest, resulting in a shallow humanity and utterly vacuous teenagers.  The question remains–Is there redemption for Titus?

Did I mention I kind of love this book?

Age Group: 16 and up (Contains bad language and teenagers being teenagers)
Genre: Young Adult / Science Fiction
Themes: Science Fiction, dystopian, social issues, postmodernism
Publisher: Candlewick Press

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Comic Books for TV: The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead on AMC aired on October 30th. It was enjoyable. Compared to the comic book there was a bit more characterization and I thoroughly enjoyed the additions/changes for television. Check out both the TV show and the comic book, by Robert Kirkman.

Also, check out the young adult book Zombies vs Unicorns edited by Justine Larbalestier and Holly Black.  The book is a series of short stories alternating between Unicorns and Zombies.  At the beginning of each story Justine, the advocate for Zombies, or Holly, the lover of all things Unicorns, explain why their particular creature is better than the other.  Personally, I am ready for some zombie unicorns.  (Published by Simon & Schuster)

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