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The School for Good and Evil: A World without Princes Booktrailer

As you may recall, our Tween reviewer Ceci LOVED The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani. When I got a copy of the next book, which comes out in April of 2014, I knew I had to get her to read it for us. There was squealing. She is reading it now and will get back to us with her review. Until then, check out the very amazing looking trailer that debuted over at Entertainment Weekly.

But in case you don’t know the beginning of the story, here’s the trailer for book 1:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eqnU3ZqvL1k?rel=0]

And here’s the trailer for book 2, A World without Princes:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EDHTWDnwBbU?rel=0]
The School for Good and Evil: A World without Princes by Soman Chainani debuts April 15, 2014 from Harper Teen. ISBN: 978-0-06-210492-2.

November is Science Fiction Month

November is Sci Fi Month.  Here is a look at all of our Science Fiction (in any way imaginable) related book lists.  Also, be sure to join us the week of November 17 – 22 for Doctor Who Week.  We’ll have a variety of guest posts – several a day – where we talk about our favorite Doctor.

Aliens: They’re Here: Science Fiction with actual aliens

Apocalypse Survival Tips from YA Lit

Assasins: Teenage Assassins in YA Lit

Bioengineering (Frankenstein 2012: YA lit with bioengineering)

Dragons (some fantasy, some science fiction)


Epidemics list 1 and list 2 

Environment: Earth Day Dystopias

Fairy Tales (twisted, of course) and Cinderella Retellings (some fantasy, some science fiction)

Politics: A look at the (abuse of) government in YA fiction

Science: STEM Girls, books with female main characters rocking science and math

Science Fiction (see also Weird Science below)

Space, the final frontier (Science fiction that actually takes place in space)

Spies Like Us

Tech:  Teen Tech Week: More than just a game and More Teen Tech Week

Time Travel 

Weird Science


If You Like . . . Try . . .

Buffy then try these  list 1 and list 2

Doctor Who then try these: Basically Read

Sherlock: It’s Elementary

The X-Men then try these: You Could Have Been an X-Men

Middle Grade Fiction

Great Reads for Middle Grade Readers

Creepy Reads for the MG Crowd

The Stories That Haunt Our Childhood: Local legends and superstitions in YA lit

Most areas have some type of local legend that gets passed down through the ages.  Sometimes we hear about them on a large scale, like the Loch Ness monster in Scotland or the Mothman legend in Pittsburgh, and other times you only learn them when you visit the area.  Sit in a pub or sit around a campfire and someone will start telling you the story of how a house is haunted, a child drowned in a lake and haunts the shoreline, etc.

While reading Ashes on the Waves by Mary Lindsey, which I reviewed yesterday, I was really struck by the setting and how it was steeped in a rich local mythology.  In this case the legends were true, there really were Otherworlders that interfered with local life.  Often the legends are not true, though they have no less power over the local culture.  Today I am going to share with you 10 (technically 11) more books that have strong local legends and superstitions, compiled in part with the librarians on the YALSA-BK listserv.

Long Lankin by Lindsey Barraclough
Beware of Long Lankin, that lives in the moss. . . .When Cora and her younger sister, Mimi, are sent to stay with their elderly aunt in the isolated village of Byers Guerdon, they receive a less than warm welcome. Cora must uncover the horrifying truth that has held Bryers Guerdon in its dark grip for centuries — before it’s too late for little Mimi.  (synopsis from Goodreads)

The Diviners by Libba Bray
Evie is shipped off to New York to live with her Uncle, the curator of The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult–also known as “The Museum of the Creepy Crawlies.”  Set in the 1920s, there is a lot of good stuff here.

A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth Bunce
Charlotte Miller has always scoffed at talk of a curse on her family’s woolen mill, which holds her beloved small town together. But after her father’s death, the bad luck piles up

Highway to Hell by Rosemary Clement-Moore
One dead cow later and it becomes clear that a creature of legend is stalking the ranch.

 Texas Gothic by Rosemary Clement-Moore
Amy comes from a long line of witches, but spends her time watching a ranch. Soon bodies are being discovered, a ghost is on the prowl, and everywhere she turns, the hot neighbor cowboy is in her face.

Witchlanders by Lena Coakley
High in their mountain covens, red witches pray to the Goddess, protecting the Witchlands by throwing the bones and foretelling the future.
It’s all a fake.
At least, that’s what Ryder thinks.


The Siren series by Tracia Rayburn
Vanessa’s town doesn’t know what to do when a series of dead bodies wash up on the shore, grinning from ear to ear.

The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab
The Near Witch is only an old story told to frighten children.
If the wind calls at night, you must not listen. The wind is lonely, and always looking for company.
And there are no strangers in the town of Near.

Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley
Just when seventeen-year-old Cullen Witter thinks he understands everything about his small and painfully dull Arkansas town, it all disappears. . . . 

The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff
Mackie Doyle is not one of us. Though he lives in the small town of Gentry, he comes from a world of tunnels and black murky water, a world of living dead girls ruled by a little tattooed princess. He is a Replacement, left in the crib of a human baby sixteen years ago. 

Fury (Book 1 in the Fury trilogy) by Elizabeth Miles
In Ascension, mistakes can be deadly. And three girls—three beautiful, mysterious girls—are here to choose who will pay. Em and Chase have been chosen.

Have more to add to our list? Please share in the comments.

Take 5: Read about your “Mummy” (and Egypt)

Today we are going “Beneath the Surface” for the Collaborative Summer Reading program and talking about Mummies.  Earlier, we shared some movie and programming ideas. But you’ll definitely want to share some good reads as well.  For example, you can’t go wrong with a John Bellairs mystery, can you?  Here you have Johnny Dixon searching an abandoned house for a missing will . . . with the undead at his heels.  Also kicking it old school, R. L. Stine has a good mummy story with Goosebumps #5: The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb.  Tween readers STILL ask about Goosebumps and Fear Street at my library, so don’t be afraid to use them!  Speaking of Goosebumps, do check out Chris D.’s love letter to the Goosebump series.

Here are 5 more Mummy/Ancient Egypt books to share with your tweens and teens . . .

Mummy by Caroline Cooney
Emlyn plots with some co-conspirators to steal a mummy from the museum. 2000.

Wrapped by Jennifer Bradbuy
Trapped in the structured life of the pretty girl parade of a debutant in 1815 London, Agnes unwraps a mummy – and unleashes a secret that could change her destiny.  Party 1 of a series.  2011.

Sphinx’s Princess by Esther Freisner
Nefertiti was more than just a pretty face.  She was also a pawn for a power.  And a woman who tried to rise above what her world tried to make her be.  Book 2 is Sphinx’s Queen. 2009.

Lights of the Nile by Donna Jo Napoli
Kepi must travel alone to the city and stand up to the great pharoah Khufu after she and her beloved pet are captured and separated. 2011.

The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan
Dr. Kane accidentally unleashes the Egyptian god Set who banishes him to oblivion and forces his children, Carter and Sadie, to flee for their lives.  The Gods of Egypt are waking, and they have their sights set on the Kane family.  Book 1 of the Kane Chronicles. 2010.
Do you have some more titles to add to our list?  Share them in the comments.

My Historical Fiction Challenge, an update (Book Reviews for Maid of Secrets by Jennifer McGowan and The Rose Throne by Mattie Ivie Harrison)

When I was in the 8th grade, my parents received a mysterious letter in the the mail.  I soon would learn it was called a “Progress Report”.  In this particular case, it was reporting the fact that I was not making very good progress in the subject of history.  In fact, I was failing. There was punishment involved. And tears.  Eventually, I passed 8th grade history and went on to pass all other history classes. But a hate affair was history was born.

But this only partially explains my struggles with reading historical fiction.  I am an accidental though not apologetic feminist.  One thing that stood out to me in my travels through the history timeline is how prone we are to treating others different, often less than, ourselves.  And as a woman, it stung to learn that there was a time when my parents may have traded me to a man for a cow in marriage.  For the record the man would have married me, not the cow.  Or that I didn’t have the right to vote.  Or that I couldn’t get my tubes tied to prevent myself from dying in pregnancy without my husband’s permission.  So I came to realize that part of what I struggle with in reading historical fiction is how it (sometimes) romanticizes the past and the subjugation of women (or others).  Not all of it, of course, but there is a tendency in historical fiction to have a romantic bent and, in all honesty, I am not very romantic and I don’t find the oppression of any people group romantic.

BUT . . . last year I read Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein which literally knocked my socks off.  See my naked toes wiggle.  Here was a strong, confident, take charge woman rising above the cultural norms. Two of theme even!  And it was just an amazing book.  So this year, I decided to challenge myself and read 5 historical fiction titles.  You can read about that challenge here: Take A Step Back in Time.

So, how am I doing and what do I think? Why, I’m glad you asked.

“themes of empowerment woven into its tapestry of Tudor-set intrigue” – from Between the Covers, on Maid of Secrets

The first title I read was Maid of Secrets by Jenn McGowan.  It is part one of a new series called Maid of Secrets.  When we first Meg, she is part of an acting troupe/gang of thieves.  Interestingly, women couldn’t act in this time period so she is sent out to work the crowd and is a master thief.  Ironically, she is also a great actress.  Meg was awesome because she is very nontraditional; see, for example, master thief.  She is eventually caught and forced to be a spy for the Queen. She is one of many, each of whom have different skills they bring to the table.  There is crossing and double crossing and a threat around every corner.  And sometimes fancy dancing. Also, there is a murderer.  So, as you can see, this was not at all what I was expecting and was a very interesting read.  I thought Meg was a strong female character, there were many others, and there was a lot of nice twists here.  It is a compelling read.  I did have problems tracking some of the characters and their titles, but I am pretty sure that is a reader issue and not a storyteller issue.  I will actually continue to read the series to find out what happens, which is high praise indeed.  This is a must have and I think readers of mysteries and thrillers will be happy reading this title along with historical fiction readers. I give it a 4 out of 5 stars for strong character development, and intricate and thrilling plot, and empowering females while still being realistic to the historical setting.

“There are some secrets worth killing for.  And some deaths that are worth keeping secret.” – Maid of Secrets

Two princesses, two kingdoms, and ancient prophecy . . . 

The second title I read was The Rose Throne by Mette Ivie Harrison.  The first thing you should know is that this is not actually historical fiction, it is fantasy.  But like a lot of fantasy, it has a medieval times sort of feel to it.  Here we meet two princesses from neighboring kingdoms: Ailsbett and Marissa.  They live in a world where men have a certain type of magic and women another, except one of the princesses has no magic in a world that esteems magic more than anything.  Both of these women are forced in various ways to hide their true thoughts and feelings and put in a variety of roles that often make them miserable.  In short, they were forced to be everything I hate about historical fiction, but it IS authentic to what life like that back then would have been (and it is authentic to this fantasy world).  It just makes me ragey (and thankful I was born in the 20th century).  They do grow and make amazing choices, but often at great cost.  I thought that this book was a little slower in its storytelling and incomplete in its world building.  However, my mom borrowed and read the book and she loved it.  It has its charms, for example, I was invested in both the princesses and wanted them to break out of this oppressive life to pursue their passions, but I think it really was a case of wrong reader.  It has 48 reviews on Goodreads with an average rating of 3.29 and I would give it a 2.5 largely in part because I felt it was slow to develop and I would have liked a bit more world building, which may come in the sequels.  Also, the language was a little stilted and formal for me.  My mom, however, would give it a 3.5 and is looking forward to reading more.  I must add, one of the Kings in this story is such a good dad and the other is truly barbaric.  Games of Thrones fans may appreciate another look at Kings and kingdoms wrestling for power.

“I assure you, if I had been in control of myself, I would not have done it.  I would have been safe instead of courageous.” – The Rose Throne

It is interesting to me to even compare the covers.  Maid of Secrets, we see a strong, confident female with her head up and holding a knife.  Everything about her screams power and confidence.  Make no mistake, she is not entirely powerful as she is being held a prisoner by the Queen and forced to serve as a spy, but she has an inner power and confidence that allows her to still have some autonomy.  With The Rose Throne, we see a girl looking down, her head bowed.  One of our princesses, in particular, is very much forced to be in subjugation to the prince that she is betrothed to and his father the king.  In fact, she is in love with another man and must work hard to hide this secret out of fear of what will happen if others learn; It’s a very Romeo and Juliet doomed, star crossed love affair.  So your romantic readers should eat it up (remember, that is so not me.)  And there is romance in Maid of Secrets, so don’t despair.

I have had a lot of teens come in lately and ask for historical fiction.  Demand has been increasing it seems in my area.  Are you seeing the same trend?

Next up, Tarnish by Katherine Longshore.  It comes highly recommended so I am excited.  How about YOU?! What historical fiction have you been loving and why?  Let me know in the comments.

Book Review: Pantomime by Laura Lam

“‘Nice try, love,’ she said, and gave me a quick kiss on the cheek. “It won’t be so terrible, just you wait and see.”

I hoped she was right.

And so I bathed and brushed and shaved and scented myself. All the while, I tried to stifle the feeling that it was like a holy animal from the rural parts of Byssia being pampered and perfumed before slaughter to the Chimaera demi-gods. I may have been feeling a little melodramatic.

Lia had laid all of my clothing on the bed and helped me into my petticoats and undershirt and slid the corset around my torso.

Lia grunted slightly as she pulled the stays. My ribs constricted and I clutched the bedpost.
I felt caged in a corset. The device did give me a bit of an illusion of a waist, I thought, looking at my body in the mirror of my dressing table. Lia slipped the dress over my head and it fell about me in a wave of blue fabric so pale it was almost white. I twisted my hips and the fabric settled into place and Lia fastened the dozens of tiny buttons on the back. The dress was lovely, with simply lines, the only decoration pink satin ribbons about the waist and the high neckline and the hem of the skirt. Mother and I had disagreed on every other dress I had tried on, but as soon as I had come out of the dressing room in the shop on Jade Street, we had both agreed it a success.

Lia plaited my hair into a crown about my head with more ribbon and tiny sprays of baby’s breath. She left little curls about my face and another at the nape of my neck. I sat patiently as she powdered and painted my face in such a way that it did not look as though I was wearing cosmetics at all, which I did not see the point in. I stepped into heeled pink dancing slippers. A little strand of pearls about the neck and elbow-length gloves and a feather fan completed the look.

All dolled up to look like a girl and the illusion was fairly convincing.”
RH Ragona’s Circus of Magic is the greatest of circus of Ellada- if they do say so themselves. Wonders beyond the imagination, where anything is possible, where if you close your eyes you can believe that the magic and knowledge of the Chimeras and Alders still exist, and where people can make a new life for themselves. Iphigenia (Gene) comes from a noble family, but doesn’t fit into the formal world of corsets and crinoline. Enter Micah Gray, joining the circus as an aerialist apprentice and rising star. However, when a secret in their blood could unlock mysteries of Ellada and a civilization long forgotten, choices must be made and relationships hang in the balance.

A wonderfully rich steampunk world, Pantomime gives us Gene and Micah, richly developed characters struggling to figure out who they are within a world that is losing its magic, and more and more are struggling.  Sixteen year old Iphigenia would much rather climb trees than have tea parties, and is certain that with her ‘condition’ she is unsuitable for the noble world of a lady at any rate. Micah, hiding from the authorities, joins the Circus of Magic and tries to learn his place in the world- and possibly falling in love along the way- before his past and present collide. Pantomime is a beautifully written tale about identity and gender, set against a world where illusion is everything and reality is malleable. Secondary characters take on lives on their own, and the world is remarkable:  the history is given through museums and tours that the characters take, rather than through dialog or narrative. For those looking for more of the circus aspect, pair with The Night Circus, while those looking for identity stories similar to those in Pantomime could try Luna by Julie Ann Peters or Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger.  5 out of 5 stars.  As of April 9, 2013, Goodreads has Pantomime listed at 4.06 stars.

I must be under a rock or something, because I didn’t hear of the ‘controversy’ of the official blurb for the book (for reference see first paragraph above). Evidently people were thinking they were being “tricked” into reading a book, and when they were given something different, they were upset. Um, yea. About that. You got a romance and love story, it just wasn’t what you were thinking. You were thinking that Gene and Micah were going to fall in love, yeah?

Told in alternating chapters readers get the story of Gene, chosen by zes noble parents to be raised as a girl, and Micah, a runaway who joins the circus to be trained as an aerialist.  Early on readers figure out that Gene and Micah are one and the same, and that Gene/Micah is an intersex character, which in Ellada is a Kedi, a long forgotten mythical being. Facing surgery to be totally female, ze runs away from everything, loses zirself in the circus, and tries to discover what it is ze really wants out of life, and what the secrets of the Vestige machinery hold for zir. 

Part of the problem is that Micah (as ze is called in the circus) falls in love with two very different people, and has to figure out what zir heart and body wants; unfortunately, ze is determined to keep zir secret from everyone, and that destroys one relationship.

The circus has its own intrigue, as well, and dangers always seem to lurk within from sources both inside and out. The ending seems shoved within the last few chapters of the book, and is at an extremely jarring pace compared to  the majority of the book. I know that while I was expecting something of that nature to happen, I wasn’t expecting that ending. It’s still wonderfully written, and that it is a fantasy with an intersex character is wonderful.

Pantomine is the first of the Micah Gray series.

Book Review: The Other Normals by Ned Vizzini

“All right,” Ada says, “I want you to listen very carefully.” She moves around the room with the confidence of an ER Doctor, opening panels on the walls, setting dials. The thakerak hums and purrs.

“Whoa!” Gamary yells as a sword jabs through the door.

“Open up!” a voice orders. The sword jerks up and down but, lodged in the wood, it can’t get far. From the size of it I know it’s Officer Tendrile’s.

“Hurry up!” Gamary pleads.

“Peregrine.” Ada takes my hand. “You have to go back to cdamp and kiss Anna Margolis, do you understand? We’ll find Mortin in Granger Prison.”

“How? You’re trapped here.”

“I have a service exit,” Gamary says, “if you two don’t get us killed by dawdling.”

“If you don’t kiss her, you won’t free the princess, and the dark shroud of violence that you see will continue to befall us.: She holds up the silver figure. I look into the princess’s eyes. The thakerak sparks, and I sear, for a second, the princess winks at me.

“Why can’t we free her here?”

“Excuse me?”

Open up!

Ophisa- he’s in the Badlands, right? We’ll get an adventuring party together and defeat him. Me, you, Gamary . . . plus we can rescue Mortin and bring him. I’ve demonstrated my worth as a warrior, right? We’ll kill the monster, free the princess, and all live happily ever after.:

“You’re saying you would rather travel to the Badlands, infiltrate Ophisa’s lair, try to avoid the poison that he spits from his unblinking eyes, run under him with a sword, and plunge it into his dark and distended heart . . . than kiss a girl in your summer camp?

“Yes! That’s exactly what I’m saying!”

“You have bowels, Peregrine, I’ll give you that, but-“

“Excuse me?”

“You’re brave. Bowels.”

“Oh. Uh . . . ” I’m embarrassed to correct her, and we are in a time-sensitive situation, but I remember what Mortin said: you should always correct a friend who mispronounces something.
“You’re thinking of a different term, Ada. It’s balls.

“Like male human testicles?

“Yes. Well. Yes.”

“That’s not fair. What do you say for a woman, then?”

Peregrine’s ideal summer of playing Creatures and Caverns disappears in smoke when he discovers that his parents are sending him to summer camp. Worried about his social skills, they’ve decided to ship him off to Camp Washiska Lake, where he’s to learn to interact with his peers and become “normal”. However, when Peregrine discovers the portal to The World of Other Normals, everything he’s learned from Creatures and Caverns and his burgeoning social skills will be needed in order to save both worlds.

Stuck in a world where his parents are divorced and dating their divorce lawyers, and only communicate through their lawyers, sixteen year old Peregrine just wants to play Creatures and Caverns. But when he’s discovered skipping class to play with a friend across town, that’s the last straw for his parents: off to Camp Washiska Lake, which is nothing like the brochures look like. With the camp confiscating his C&C materials, getting jumped in a fight within the first ten minutes, and his friend basically disowning him, Peregrine doesn’t think he’ll make the summer. But then he discovers the portal to The World of Other Normals, which is exactly like the world his C&C is based on- as it should be, as the guy he followed in is the writer of the manuals. Yet the Other Normal world has had their princess captures, and the only way to save it is for Peregrine to kiss a girl on his side of the portal- before it’s too late. Flipping back and forth between the worlds, and changing things on both sides of the lines while he does, can Peregrine save the Other Normals and his World?  Definitely a geeky and sweet coming-of-age story, with hilarious dialogue and awkward situations that make you feel for Peregrine. I’d pair it with In The Wild Nerd Yonder by Julie Halpern or even more gamer books such as Ender’s Game or Ready Player One, depending on what your reader was looking for. 3.5 out of 5 stars. As of March 22, 2013, Goodreads rates The Other Normals as 3.38 stars.

I know kids like Peregrine; heck, I think I married one. They may not be C&C players, they may be Yu-Gi-Oh or Magic players, or engrossed in Assassin’s Creed 3, but their gaming world (card, table, electronic or otherwise) may be their safe space- where they feel in control of something. This is what happens with Peregrine- out of control with his family, with his alcoholic brother, and his school, C&C is the one thing he can control. It’s his safe zone.

I really liked that The World of Other Normals paralleled Peregrine’s real world so closely; in fact, I spend a lot of time trying to figure out the one-to-one relationships of the characters from one side to the other. I knew which one was Peregrine even if he didn’t, but his brother’s was a surprise. I love surprises in the book.  The ending of the book was fun as well, and sets it up for future novels as well, which I hope will come, because I have a feeling Peregrine’s story is far from over. I definitely want to know what happens with Peregrine and Ada.

Take 5: Sci Crossover Authors for YA Looking for More

If your teens are like mine, once you find a voracious reader you cannot keep them satisfied  and if they’re in love with a particular genre they will STAY there until all option are exhausted.  While we’ve been talking about ‘new adults’ in YA, teens crossing over and back into the adult section is nothing new, but many times I’ve found that they want help finding a title or an author that they’ll really like- a series that they can get into.  Here are 5 of my go-to authors for teens that are craving Science Fiction and Fantasy who have devoured everything in the teen section.  

A word of warning, however- since these ARE adult books, there will be adult content. Sex (married and unmarried), GLBTQ content, battles, fighting, etc., on an extent that may not be in teen science fiction/fantasy books.  You know your reader, so recommend appropriately.

The late Anne McCaffrey

Readers that love dragons and new worlds love to jump into the world of Pern and The Rowan series.  If you’re worried about how they might take to it, you can start out with The Harper Hall Trilogy (Dragon Song, Dragon Singer, and Dragon Drums) which can often actually be found in YA Collections as the protagonists are teens themselves.

Mercedes Lackey

Creator of many worlds, I’ve had huge luck with her Valdemar books when teens have tired of the semi-heraldic fantasy science fiction books.  The protagonists all have magic of a sort (mind or physical), and there are evil empires and villains at work.  Her first books may be too violent for some readers (physical war crimes), but the newest series The Collegium Chronicles should be perfect for readers wanting something to expand into.

Kim Harrison

For those who have devoured the witches and vampire novels in YA, but may not quite be ready for Charlaine Harris’ True Blood series (I’m not ready yet, no matter how good they look on TV LOL), there is Kim Harrison and her Hollows series.  A witch, a vampire and a pixy form a detective agency and then comes werewolves and other paranormal beings into the mix.  Readers will definitely be looking for their next itchy witch fix.

Terry Pratchett

Nation was a Printz honor book, and his Discworld series has won numerous awards and touched many lives.  Dealing with the diagnosis of Alzheimers, Pratchett has assured the world that his legacy will live on in the hands of his daughter, which is reassuring to his numerous fans.  Borrowing from some of the greatest minds (Tolkien, Shakespeare, and others), his Discworld will engross lovers of high fantasy from the first pages.

Jim Butcher
I’m not sure who was more upset in our house when Sci Fi (SyFy, my bad) cancelled The Dresden Files, That Guy or myself. I love the contemporary with magic world that Jim Butcher creates, and loved the portrayal that was going on TV.  For teens that see magic in the every day, and want their magic combined with mystery, this is one of the best series around.

Shelftalkers: Off the Page

Once upon a time, there was a book.  Not content to just be a book, it decided to come alive.  Its characters jumped off the page, defying convention.  They chose to be other than what they were written to be.  They chose to make the fairy tale come true.

Some fairy tales are so magical, they come alive – literally.  While reading Between the Lines by Jodi Picoult and her daughter, Samantha van Leer, I was reminded of those enchanted fantasy books that blend the lines between the real and make believe, well real in the world that the fantasy novel takes place at least.  Here are 5 of my favorite fantasy novels where characters come off the page.

Between the Lines
by Jodi Picoult and Samantha van Leer
Delilah spends day after day reading her favorite book, a fairy tale, when one day its main character, Oliver, speaks to her from the page.  Oliver is tired of living the same story over and over again and yearns to know what is out there, beyond the page.  Together the two scheme to find a way to rewrite the story.  This is a sweet, enchanting tale of true love, destiny, fate, and hanging on to your favorite book.

The Neverending Story
by Michael Ende
Here is the story within a story of Bastian, the only boy who may be able to save the stunning world of Fantastica.  All he has to do is reach the Childlike Empress and give her a new name, but in the world of fantasy no journey is as easy as it seems and there are a variety of magical creatures and stumbling blocks on each whimsical page.

by Cornelia Funke
We all have our favorite books, our favorite characters; those that we would love to spend some time with in real life.  What if you learned that your father can “read” characters to life by simply reading their story out loud?  Years ago, Meggie’s mom disappeared.  Together, they will venture into the world of books to try and find her.

by Neil Gaiman
A boy sets out on a quest to find a fallen star and the star turns out to be a beautiful woman, giving new meaning to the concept of wishing on a star.  Technically, if you were going to play a game of one of these things is not like the others, this book would be it.  But Stardust reminds me of the next book on our list, and I like it.  Plus, it’s my list.  So I’m giving it a thumbs up.

The Princess Bride
by William Goldman
A young boy, home sick in bed, is visited by his grandfather who offers to read him a story.  At first he protests, it’s one of those stupid fairy tales, but his is soon drawn into the pages of adventure, giants, revenge, and love twue love.  If you don’t love this book you have no heart and deserve to be wed to Prince Humperdink. That is all.

Join the conversation:
What are your favorite twisted fairy tales?
What character would you like to “read” to life?
What fantasy world would you like to visit?

Book Review: Necromancing the Stone by Lish McBride

The Brief Review:

I love this book hardcore and if you don’t read it minions will die and dragons will torch the Earth.  It will be all your fault.  Plus, you will be missing one of the most laugh out loud reading experiences you will ever have.  People will sit around at dinner parties talking about it, rolling in laughter, and you will feel left out and wonder what you are missing.  And what you are missing is awesomesauce!

The Real Review:

Necromancing the Stone is the sequel to Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride, a title that appears on my Top 10 Reads for Buffy Fans.  That is your first clue that this is a good series.  The question you are asking yourself is this: Why? Here are 5 reasons.

Synopsis: With the defeat of the evil Douglas behind him, Sam LaCroix is getting used to his new life. Okay, so he hadn’t exactly planned on being a powerful necromancer with a seat on the local magical council and a capricious werewolf sort-of-girlfriend, but things are going fine, right?

Well . . . not really. He’s pretty tired of getting beat up by everyone and their mother, for one thing, and he can’t help but feel that his new house hates him. His best friend is a werebear, someone is threatening his sister, and while Sam realizes that he himself has a lot of power at his fingertips, he’s not exactly sure how to use it. Which, he has to admit, is a bit disconcerting.

But when everything starts falling apart, he decides it’s time to step up and take control. His attempts to do so just bring up more questions, though, the most important of which is more than a little alarming: Is Douglas really dead? (from the Goodreads page)

The Snark is Strong with This One

Sam is a likable guy as a main character.  An “average Joe” really who doesn’t really know what to do with his skateboarding, fast food life until FATE takes over and we learn that Sam was never really average because he is a necromancer.  I will save you the trip to dictionary.com and tell you that a necromancer is someone who can raise and control the dead.  And Sam does all of this while punning away and providing snarktacular quips as asides.

“I know you’re frustrated, Sam, but the reality is you’re in a world now where the majority of the people you run into will be able to snap you like a twig.”

“My world was like that before.”
Lish McBride, Necromancing the Stone

“Slow down and explain to us plebeians. If you have to, use sock puppets.”
Lish McBride, Necromancing the Stone

Don’t Let the Snark Fool You, There is Depth

Many people get up in arms when magic and witchcraft and zombies appear in a book, and they definitely have a right to their personal opinions.  But here is the deal: Sam is an incredibly moral young man thrown into a bizarre world with incredible power that could absolutely corrupt him and he struggles immensely with making sure he uses that power responsibly.  He lives in a world where people murder people – even animals – without a second thought and yet Sam has second, third and fourth thoughts and makes some profoundly difficult and moral decisions.  And he is a vegetarian; again another personal lifestyle choice, but another example of how he regards the sanctity of life and his moral character.  A lot of paranormal fiction I read (and I read a lot) has some shady ethics and puts some admittedly despicable characters on a pedestal.  Seriously, sometimes the heroine in paranormal falls in love with a guy that you wouldn’t want your worst enemy dating in real life.  For example, although I love many things about Masque of the Red Death and feel it is an excellent book, one of the 2 male sides of the love triangle just squicks me out – he would not be a real life option for anyone other than those type of girls that write letters to serial killers in prison.  But I digress, my point is this:  Sam is likable, relateable, commendable, funny and thoughtful.  I don’t mean thoughtful like he’ll bring you flowers and open doors on a date, but thoughtful in that he thinks about this world he has been thrust into and what it all means and who he wants to be as a part of it.  He uses both his heart and his noggin to navigate the landscape.  Bottom line: Readers will like Sam and root for him.

“Life is a series of calculated risks, James. I happen to think that this one is worth it.”
Lish McBride, Necromancing the Stone
“Sometimes life offers you up that kind of dichotomy, that soul-shearing rift of two very different things happening at once.”
Lish McBride, Necromancing the Stone
“Fear, left unchecked, can spread like a virus.”
Lish McBride, Necromancing the Stone

The Joss Whedon Family Effect

I believe the underlying meme of the Whedonverse is that we are broken people and we build our own families.  And is this not the quest of the teenage years to find your pack (or hive or group or whatever)?  And the reality is, friends and family sometimes fail us – we can forgive or wake up one day as old cranky people yelling at the neighbors to stay off of our lawn.  Sam’s story is one about finding family, choosing to love and forgive, and accepting the weirdness that comes when your best friend can turn into a grizzly bear.  What?  Oh, did I not mention there were a lot of cool fantasy elements and characters?  My bad.  There are.  It is fun.  There are dragons.  I want a dragon.

“And maybe I was a fool, but I wanted to believe – I needed to believe – that James had started to see us all as friend. As family.”
– Lish McBride, Necromancing the Stone

Bonus Points for Strong Women

I am a huge fan of Brooke.  And Brid.  This is our Brid: “I’m sorry, did you just try to order me around?” (p. 297).  Sam and Brid have some serious bumps in their relationships here; although to be fair, they did meet while being held hostage in a cage together in book one.  Plus, Brid is surrounded by a pack of alpha males that she is supposed to lead, which is no doubt challenging.  And she doesn’t really have an easy time of it here in book 2.  McBride puts her characters through some unkind challenges, because even in the midst of paranormal worlds, real life still happens.  That’s the beauty of it – the characters and heartbreak are relatable even if you won’t find yourself surrounded by magical creatures and such.  But I am holding out hope for Sam and Brid.

Name That Tune

As with Hold Me Closer, Necromancer, every chapter title is a song lyric.  I wondered if McBride would go with movie titles given the nod to Romancing the Stone as the title, but it’s song lyrics.  Right there you have a fun built in contest or way to use your social media page with teens – have them find out what song the lyrics are from.  You will want to as you read.  (Okay so I just went and looked it up, there is a song called Romancing the Stone by Eddy Grant.  The universe is once again in synergy.)

Sample chapter titles:
Hello darkness, my old friend
Our house, was our castle and our keep
Hello, is it me you’re looking for?
Summertime, and the living is easy

I obviously like and recommend this series.  It gets bonus points because I think teen guys will read and love it and Sam.  I am always looking for good guy reads, it is my quest.  Pair this series with A Bad Day for Voodoo by Jeff Strand and Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan.  Necromancing the Stone by Lish McBride is nominated for the 2012 Cybils in the Teen Science Fiction/Fantasy category.  It was published in 2012 by Henry Holt. ISBN: 978-0-805-09099-4. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Top 10 Reads for Buffy fans
Book Review: A Bad Day for Voodoo by Jeff Strand
Book Review: Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan