Archive for the ‘Fantasy’ Category

Seventh Son

December 5, 2012

Seventh Son

Author: Orson Scott Card

Title: Seventh Son

Genre: Fantasy

Publication Date: July 1987

Number of Pages: 241 pgs.

Geographical Setting: Northwestern American Territory

Time Period: Late 18th to early 19th century

Series (If applicable): Tales of Alvin Maker Series; Book One

Plot Summary: Alvin Junior is the seventh son of a seventh son. Such a birth brings to one great powers, even those of a Maker. Evil forces however, are set on killing the child before he can reach adulthood and realize his true potential as a seventh son of a seventh son. This evil force, known as the Unmaker, uses those around Alvin in attempts to kill the child, including his father and Reverend Thrower. There is hope for young Alvin though, a young girl has been acting as a guardian angel, watching over him. She is known as a torch and can see the heartfires in everyone around her. This young girl, along with the help of Taleswapper and Alvin’s family, will help Alvin learn how to best use his powers and relinquish the forces of evil.

Subject Headings: Magic; Healing; Good and evil; Frontier and pioneer life; Maker, Alvin; Guardian angels; Nineteenth century

Appeal: Brothers and Sisters, Historical Figures, Good Vs. Evil, Alternative American Frontier, Religion, Builds in Intensity, Folklore, Fantasy, Hexes, Magic, Guardian Angels, Late 18th to early 19th century

Three appeal terms that best describe this book: Magic, Good vs. Evil, Alternate American Frontier

Three Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

1. Storytelling : An Encyclopedia Of Mythology And Folklore edited by Josepha Sherman  (2008)

If you liked reading about different types of myths and Folklore found in Seventh Son, then you may want to check out his book. It’s a compilation of different Myths and Folklore stories told throughout the world. In these stories you will hear about both good and evil creatures that live among us (so to speak).

2. Children of the West: family life on the frontier by Cathy Luchetti (Apr 2001)

Like in Seventh Son, this book shows you what life was like, for families, back in the early 19th century. Alvin and his siblings worked hard each day to put food on the table even with the help of their special knacks. Read about the daily life and activities of real people who grew up during this time.

3. The arrow and the cross: a history of the American Indian and the missionaries by John Upton Terrell. (1979)

This book recounts how missionaries form the Protestant and Catholic church set out to convert the Native Americans to their own religion and the resistance they received from them. In Seven Sons, Alvin is visited by a Native American Indian who wishes to show him the ways of good. Reverend Thrower wants to fulfill his duty and see to it that a church is build and those in down renounce their beliefs in magic. This book will also give you a good insight on what can be expected in the second book of the Alvin Maker series, Red Prophet.


Three Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

1. Armageddon’s Children by Terry Brooks (Aug 2006)
If you liked reading a story about a young boy who possess powers to save the world from evil you may want to check out this book. Set in a futurist United States, where evil forces enslave survivors of the ruined country, one man sets out to find a child that could save them all.

2. The Briar King by Gregory J. Keyes (Dec 2002)
An evil force of death is reawakening. A monk realizes that the text he is translating contains ancient curses meant to awaken this evil. Only a special lineage can prevent the evil’s take over. Those who have the power to stop this evil fight for their lives. If you like reading a story about good vs evil, a small few banding together to save the world, and folklore, than this book is for you.

3. New Spring by Robert Jordan (Jan 2004)
If you liked reading about the fate of the world resting in the hands of newborn boy, then this book is sure to please. After hearing that a boy born of prophecy, and destined to lead the world against the dark Shadow forces, two men set out to find and protect the infant known as the Dragon Reborn.

Name: Madison Gailus

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The Graveyard Book

October 31, 2012

The Graveyard Book

Author: Neil Gaiman

Title: The Graveyard Book

Genre: Horror, Fantasy Fiction

Publication Date: October 2008

Number of Pages: 312 pgs.

Geographical Setting: Cemetery grounds in Great Britain

Time Period: Present Day

Series (If applicable): N/A

Plot Summary: When he was just a baby Nobody Owen’s family was murdered by the man called Jack. Fortunately for Nobody he escaped this man and crawled to safety to the cemetery up the hill. There Mr. and Mrs. Owen found the boy and with the help of his new guardian Silas the boy would grow up protected in the graveyard. He is given “the freedom of the graveyard” which allows him to communicate with the dead and the living. He even learns skills of fading, dream walking, and the languages of nonhuman being. Over the years however curiosity got the best of him and he finds himself on many adventures, both in and out of the graveyard. Some involving witches, ghouls, ghosts, werewolves, snake like creatures and more. Even attending a school for the living doesn’t go as planned for Nobody. Throughout his youth, the man named Jack is in constant pursuit of the boy and wishes to finish what he started years ago. He will not stop until his job is complete.

This coming of age story will appeal to those in their teen years as well as any adult with an imagination. Darkly written at times with a chilling atmosphere, this book is sure to please those who like suspense novels. Witty and humorous at times, this book will ease those who don’t want to be “scared to death” but enjoy a darker tales.

Subject Headings: Orphan boys, Cemeteries, Ghosts, Supernatural, Werewolves, Dead, Boys

Appeal: Orphan boy, Graveyard, Murder, Ghosts, Suspenseful, Friendships, Creepy, Witty, Fast Paced, Bittersweet, Coming of age, Scary

Three appeal terms that best describe this book: Coming of Age, Scary, Ghosts

Three Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

1. Weird encounters: true tales of haunted places (Sep 2010)
This book tells the stories of over 75 hauntings and supernatural experiences found throughout the United States. If you liked the idea of a boy growing up in a graveyard and at times haunting people you may like to read about “real” haunting in the US.
Similarities: Ghosts, Graveyards, Scary

2. Orphan Train Rider: One boy’s true story (1996) by Andrea Warren
Tells the story of one mans trip on the orphan train and how over 200,000 abandoned children were relocated to new homes between 1854-1929.
Similarities: Orphan boy, Coming of age
3. Dogtown: Death and Enchantment in a New England ghost town (2009) by Elyssa East
Tells the story of a ghost town in Massachusetts. Where murder took place and witches still hold ceremonies in the woods surrounding the town to this day. People claim sightings of pirates and ghosts.
Similarities: Ghosts, Murder, WitchesThree Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:1. Ghostgirl (Aug 2008) by Tonya Hurley
If you liked reading about a boy growing up in a graveyard, you may like reading about a girl who goes to a high school for the dead. She lives among the dead but wishes to go to the school dance with the living and her crush. Switching roles from a live person living with the dead to a dead person wishing to be alive again will give readers a chance at a different view on the meaning of life and death. Similarities: Ghosts, Fantasy, Death2. Miss Peregrine’s home for peculiar children (Jun 2011) by Ransom Riggs
If you liked reading about a boy with some unusual abilities then you’ll enjoy Miss Peregrine’s home for peculiar children. In this book a young boy goes to visit the orphanage his grandfather was sent to in order to escape the Nazi’s. Upon arriving he finds that the children from his grandfathers stories are still there and are in danger and so is he.
Similarities: Orphans, Suspenseful, Supernatural, Creepy

3. The replacement (Sep 2010)
Mackie, a changeling, replaced a human baby when he was just a baby. Every seven years the inhabitants of the underground dwelling take a human baby as a sacrifice and leave in its place a changeling. Now with another baby gone, Mackie finds himself going back to his place of birth and setting things right, before the townspeople find out who he really is.
Similarities: Creepy, Fantasy, Supernatural

Name: Madison Gailus

Castle Waiting by Linda Medley

October 24, 2012

Castle Waiting coverTitle: Castle Waiting, Volume I

Author: Medley, Linda

Publication Date: 2006

Pages: 457

Geographical Setting: Castle Waiting, a safe-haven in a fairy tale world

Time Period: Once Upon a Time

Genre: Graphic Novel, Fairy Tale

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: Castle Waiting begins at the end of Sleeping Beauty’s story, the part where she runs blindly off with Prince Charming.  Abandoned and essentially purposeless, her former ladies-in-waiting along with few other eccentric characters have created a sanctuary past the brambly hedge at Castle Waiting for those seeking peace and refuge.  The story we are brought into is only one among a host of others before it, and it begins on a dark and stormy night with a clandestine meeting between a lady and a bear, her bodyguard.  Lady Jain, our heroine, is on the run and, as we soon find out, pregnant.  She flees her home in sadness, bound for Castle Waiting.  The premise sounds cliché.  Castle Waiting is anything but.  Upon arrival at the castle, Lady Jain is greeted a stork-headed butler, a doctor who only appears wearing a beaked plague mask, a silently gruff but secretly gentle blacksmith/handyman, three ladies-in-waiting who finally have a lady, and a bearded nun.  Yes, a bearded nun.

Told through a linked set of stories, Castle Waiting draws heavily from fairy- and folk-tale conventions and spins them in a feminist light.  That isn’t to say that all the male characters are weak or bad.  In fact many of them are quite gentle and good—except for the ones who aren’t.  But they are generally not as important as the female characters, who are independent and empowered, taking care of themselves and others.  This is a joyous and humorous and optimistic story.  Bad things have happened, do happen, and probably will continue to happen, but we are assured the happiest of endings.  The art and the text blend seamlessly.  Illustrated in black and white with strong line work that is as expressive as it is lighthearted, the frames are reminiscent of woodcuts adding to the fairytale quality of the work.  This is a great choice for those who have found other graphic novels too over-stimulating.  It would also be a good crossover for those who enjoy romance or fairytale-style fantasy, or those who simply crave a warm, lighthearted read.

Appeal Characteristics: Engaging, joyful, upbeat, lighthearted, feminist, magical, warm, humorous, Fairy Tale, Quirky Characters, expressive art, detailed setting, smart, domestic, charming

Subject Headings: Fairy Tales, Graphic Novels, Magic, Knights and Knighthood, Nuns, Princesses, Pregnant Women

Three Terms Best Describing this Book: Joyful, Engaging, Charming

Similar Fiction: 

The Indispensable Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson

The much beloved comic strip featuring a boy with an unbeatable spirit and his sagacious stuffed tiger will bring readers the same joy and optimism found in Castle Waiting.  The artwork here is spare but delightfully expressive.

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

Three sisters return to their hometown to help care for their dying mother in this domestic fiction.  This novel explores the relationships and bonds between women under exceptional circumstances and features an idyllic setting populated with quirky and endearing characters.

These Children Come at You with Knives, and other Fairy Tales Stories by Jim Knipfel

This book offers re-imagined fairy tales with a decidedly darker turn.  The polite eccentricities found in the characters of Castle Waiting are twisted here into vulgar oddities.  The optimism and warmth may be absent from these tales, but the stories will certainly offer laughs—albeit of the morbid and inappropriate variety.  Only readers who enjoy their fairy tales told at a slant and who don’t mind their humor dark should attempt this book.

Similar Non-fiction:

The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam by Ann Marie Fleming

This graphic novel details the true story of Chinese magician and vaudeville performer Long Tack Sam, and his great-granddaughter’s quest to bring him back into the public light.  A moving story told through a collage of artifacts from both his and her life, this biography maintains an upbeat optimism in the face of turbulence, uncertainty, and racism.

In the Kingdom of the Fairies: A memoir of a Magical Summer and a Remarkable Friendship by Susan Coyne

A moving story about a five-year old girl who for one summer believes her pen pal to be a fairy princess.  In reality it is her elderly neighbor, a man who loves literature and wants to encourage the imagination this girl.  This memoir will appeal to any adult who still believes in the power of make-believe.

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

Another memoir told in the graphic novel format, this story told by a cult comic strip artist details the author’s relationship with her father during her childhood.  Bechdel’s writing is both witty and moving, and her artwork features strong line work and a monochromatic palette that allows the expressions of the characters to stand out.

Name: Jessica

The Night Circus (Audio Book)

October 24, 2012

Author: Erin Morgenstern

Title: The Night Circus

Genre: Fantasy

Publication Date: 2011

Number of Pages: 512

Geographical Setting: Predominately London and Concord, Massachusetts but several worldwide settings (traveling circus) as well.

Time Period: 1873-1903

Plot Summary:

Set in the late 19th century, The Night Circus tells the story of a darkly enchanting traveling circus that opens when the sun goes down. While the circus is made up of a large cast of workers and performers, the plot revolves around two young people skilled in magic- Celia, the circus’ illusionist who possesses the ability to manipulate the world around her, and Marco, a former orphan with a knack for altering physical settings. Due to an ancient feud between their instructors, Celia and Marco are bound to compete against each other in a magical challenge that will test their skill and endurance. Unsure of exactly how a winner will be determined, Celia and Marco approach the challenge with fear and distrust of their less than noble mentors and complicate their arrangement further by falling in love. While the story of the young lovers skilled in magic is at the heart of the plot, Morgenstern includes a slue of additional characters who are strangely bound to the circus itself. Memorable secondary characters include the Murray twins whose birth on circus grounds results in their own magical abilities and Tsukiko, a mysterious contortionist with secrets of her own. Morgenstern writes an engrossing tale that includes multiple plot lines and smoothly vacillates between the past and the future. Celia and Marco’s romance is as endearing as it is heartbreaking and the mysterious magic that surrounds the circus is intriguing and thought provoking. Written in a lush and elegant style, The Night Circus is a fascinating dark fantasy story about love,  mystical circumstances, and a spectacularly magical circus that bewilders both its patrons and performers.

Regarding the audio book specifically, Jim Dale tells this spectacular story in a voice that is both engaging and haunting. His varied dialects for this large cast of characters are enjoyable and believable. Reluctant listeners might find Dale’s reading an excellent introduction to the world of audio books and will perhaps seek out addition titles that he has read.

Subject Headings: Circus, Circus performers, Competition, Games, Good and Evil, Magic, Magicians, Magicians’ apprentices, Nineteenth century

3 Appeal Terms: Magical, Thought-Provoking, Elegant

Appeal: Engrossing, Unhurried, Atmospheric, Dark, Magical, Dramatic Characters, Intriguing, Complex Storyline, Flashbacks, Imaginative, Multiple Plot Lines, Plot-Centered, Thought-Provoking, Elegant Language.

Non-Fiction Read-Alikes:

The Circus at the Edge of the Earth: Travels with the Great Wallenda Circus by Charles Wilkins

Writer Charles Wilkins takes the opportunity to travel with the Wallenda Circus on a worldwide trip that spans several weeks. He describes the intriguing circus performers in rich detail and notes the physical danger in which they put themselves in order to remain a part of the show. For readers whose curiosity of circus life was peaked while reading The Night Circus, The Circus at the Edge of the Earth offers an engrossing true adventure story.

Josser: Days and Nights in the Circus by Nell Stroud

Josser is an autobiographical work that tells the story of 18-year-old Stroud who joined a traveling circus after a family tragedy. Readers who wish to explore the relationships among a real circus family might enjoy this non-fiction title.

The Tarot: History, Symbolism, and Divination by Michael Robert Place

The Night Circus includes several detailed descriptions of tarot cards, mostly through the perspective of Isobel the fortuneteller. For readers who took interest in this aspect of circus life, The Tarot offers additional information on the history of reading as well as symbolism found in the cards.

Fiction Read-Alikes:

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

In a society where magic is nearly non-existent, Gilbert Norrell is the only working magician until he meets Jonathan Strange who will become his student. After observing the depth of Jonathan’s skill, Norrell becomes jealous and controlling and a rivalry quickly develops. Readers seeking another dark read about rival magicians in the 19th century might enjoy this title.

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

Quentin Coldwater, a high school student, is delighted to discover a university devoted to teaching magic. Eager to change his seemingly dull existence, Quentin enrolls in this fantastical college and begins studies in wizardry. He quickly learns that magic lessons are more difficult than he previously imagined and finds himself tangled up in an alternate universe’s war, which leads to a compelling adventure. Similar to The Night Circus, The Magicians is dark and suspenseful. Readers seeking additional fantasy reading that includes a coming-of-age theme and magicians might appreciate this book

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

For The Night Circus fans who are seeking additional circus reading but would like to delve outside of the Fantasy genre, Water for Elephants might be an enjoyable title. Set in the 1930s, Water for Elephants tells the story of young Jacob who impulsively joins a traveling circus after the sudden loss of his parents. Jacob quickly finds work caring for the exotic circus animals but finds himself falling in love with Marlena, an equestrian star, who is married to the disturbing animal trainer. Jacob’s adventures in this richly detailed circus make for a fast-paced, engaging read. Water for Elephants also offers flashbacks similar to The Night Circus and emphasizes the love story in a circus setting. Readers who enjoyed the romance between Marco and Celia might appreciate this work of Literary Fiction.

Annotation by: Elizabeth Hopkins

Welcome to Bordertown: New stories and poems of the Borderlands

September 26, 2012

Welcome to Bordertown: New stories and poems of the Borderlands

Edited by Holly Black & Ellen Kushner Introduction by Terri Windling

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Publication Date: 2011

Number of Pages: 517

Geographical Setting: Multiple Locations, mostly in Bordertown, present day

Series: Bordertown

Plot Summary:  Bordertown, the town on the border between The Realm and our land where neither magic nor technology is reliable, has reappeared after a 13-year absence from the human world; although, the residence think it has only been 13 days.  New humans are pouring into Bordertown with new technology and ideas.  The authors in this anthology, much like the characters in the stories, are a mixture of old Bordertown writers and new, who grew up reading the books and jumped at the chance to contribute to a new volume for this beloved shared world.  Since this book is a compilation from several different authors, the engaging stories each have their own unique feel.  The stories and poems in this anthology touch on many subjects, including, but not limited to love, identity, music, and horror, and sometimes all in the same story.

Subject Headings: Borderlands; Imaginary place; Elves; Humans; Magic; Parallel universes; Supernatural; Runaways; City life, Family life, Friendship.

Appeal:  engrossing, deliberate, series characters, well-developed, character centered, gritty, contemporary, magical, eccentric, poetic, atmospheric, dark, world building, shared world.

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: world building, character detailed, dark.

Three fiction read-alikes:

The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher (urban fantasy, strong sense of place, magic)

This series is about a professional wizard, Harry Dresden, who sets up shop in Chicago as a private eye.  The books in this series are a cross between hard-boiled detective and dark fantasy fiction with a strong sense of place.

Boondocks fantasy edited by Jean Rabe and Martin H. Greenberg

This anthology of urban fantasy contains a collection of 20 stories featuring a mix of characters from folklore and people you might meet on the street today.

The modern fae’s guide to surviving humanity edited by Joshua Palmatier and Patricia Bray, 2012;

This is a collection of short stories about fairies surviving in the modern world.  Stories range from humor to dark fantasy.

Three related non-fiction titles:

The Fair Folk edited by Marvin Kaye

This 2006 award-winning anthology contains six short stories, from blithe to sinister, involving Fair Folk and the humans who come into contact with them.

Fairy tales in Electri-City by Francesca Lia Block

A short book of poetry involving mythological beings and a girl looking for love in present-day Los Angeles.

Weird U.S. : the oddyssey continues : your travel guide to America’s local legends and best kept secrets by Mark Sceurman, Mark Moran, Matt Lake.

Part of a series of travel books discussing the weirder parts of the U.S. tourists try to avoid and thrill seekers search for.

Name: Shira

Game of Thrones: The Graphic Novel: Volume 1

September 26, 2012

Game of Thrones Graphic Novel

Author: George R. R. Martin, adapted by Daniel Abraham, art by Tommy Patterson

Title: A Game of Thrones: The Graphic Novel: Volume 1

Genre: Fantasy

Publication Date: 2012

Number of Pages: 240

Geographical Setting: A fictitious continent, Westeros, is composed of nine regions, each governed by a ruling house, which in turn are ruled over by a King of The Seven Kingdoms.

Time Period: The story takes place on an alternative world, but the time period resembles Earth’s Middle Ages.

Series (If applicable): This graphic novel is an adaptation of the first half of a novel entitled A Game of Thrones, by George R. R. Martin, which is itself the first volume of a planned seven part series of epic fantasy novels, collectively known as A Song of Fire and Ice and five of which have been published to date. A Game of Thrones: The Graphic Novel: Volume Two is scheduled to be published in June of 2013.

Plot Summary: As mysterious omens portend the return of a mysterious ancient evil from the frozen wastelands beyond his northern kingdom of Winterfell, more pressing political concerns drag Lord Eddard Stark to King’s Landing, where he is asked to serve as the “King’s Hand” to his friend King Robert Baratheon, King of the Seven Kingdoms, in his hour of need. Conspiracies and rumors of conspiracies which threaten to topple Baratheon, seem even to include the queen’s own clan, the power hungry Lanisters. Meanwhile, Daenerys Targaryen is King’s Landing-bound, carrying the mysterious dragon eggs which are the only legacy of her clan’s former claim to the throne. This character-driven story which unfolds along multiple plot-lines, weaves a complex portrait of a civil war set in a world of kings, knights and barbarians, but with long-dormant magic beginning to reassert itself. The artwork is richly detailed pencil and ink, and the layouts give focus mostly to the characters, emphasizing the dialogue, with the occasional wide-angle or splash panel which help evoke the lushly-imagined world of the story.

Subject Headings: Nobility, Knights and knighthood, Good and evil, Violence, Rulers, Magic, Dragons, Imaginary places

Appeal: compelling, deliberate, engrossing, atmospheric, dangerous, dramatic, closely observed, detailed, intriguing, multiple points of view, strong secondary characters, vivid, well-developed, character-centered, episodic, multiple plot lines, sexually explicit, detailed setting, exotic, political, complex, well-crafted, witty

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: atmospheric, character-centered, well-crafted

Similar Authors and Works (why are they similar?):

 3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

300 by Frank Miller

Readers who respond to the rich atmosphere generated by George R. R. Martin’s research into Medieval history may appreciate this vivid graphic novel retelling of the last stand of a band of Spartan warriors, led by King Leonidas, against an overwhelming force of Persians at the Battle of Thermopylae.

The Book of Five Rings: A Graphic Novel, by Miyamoto Musashi, adapted by Sean Michael Wilson, illustrated by Chie Kutsuwada

This classic treatise on swordsmanship and the way of the samurai, here translated into graphic novel form, may appeal to readers of A Game of Thrones who revel in depictions of swordplay and ancient forms of combat.

The Wars of the Roses, by Alison Weir

Readers who want to peek behind the curtain at George R. R. Martin’s process, may wish to read about the real Wars of the Roses, which he researched in writing A Game of Thrones. This epic dynastic battle between the royal houses of Lancaster and York would forever impact the British monarchy, and led to the rule of the Lancastrian Tudor dynasty for over a century.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Conan: Volume 1: The Frost Giant’s Daughter and Other Stories adapted by Kurt Busiek, art by Cary Nord

Robert E. Howard’s pulp classic, “sword and sorcery” hero, Conan the Barbarian, receives the glossy, painted, graphic novel treatment. Although myth and magic are more front-and-center here than in A Game of Thrones, Conan’s world is similarly well-developed, with complex societies and cultures as the backdrop to the non-stop violent action. This volume contains a series of short tales that illuminate Conan’s backstory, including the young warrior’s meeting with the titular frost giant’s daughter, an ice nymph.

The Eye of the World: The Graphic Novel, Volume 1 (The Wheel of Time) by Robert Jordan, adapted by Chuck Dixon, art by Chase Conley

Featuring elaborate world-building filled with complex political machinations not unlike George R. R. Martin’s, this graphic novel adaptation follows a rag tag band of adventurers on a quest to find the Infant Dragon Reborn and save their world from evil.

Dark Tower: The Gunslinger: Vol. 1: The Journey Begins by Stephen King, adapted by Robin Furth, art by Sean Phillips and Richard Isanove

Readers who enjoyed A Game of Thrones, which refracts the Middle Ages through the prism of the fantasy genre, may enjoy the parallel world that King has constructed, which blends the Old West with Arthurian quest. The story follows a knight-like gunslinger, Roland, as he journeys toward the Dark Tower, claimed to be the nexus of all realities.

Name: John Rimer

Anansi Boys

July 24, 2012

Author: Neil Gaiman

Title: Anansi Boys

Genre: Fantasy

Publication Date: 2005

Number of Pages: 334

Geographical Setting: London, England; Florida; the mysterious Caribbean island of St. Andrews; and various magical places where gods reside

Time Period: Current day

Series:  No, but follows the lead of Gaiman’s 2001 story American Gods

Plot Summary: Charles “Fat Charlie” Nancy’s father had been an embarrassment to him his entire life. Even after his estranged father’s less than respectable death, things don’t improve. At the funeral, Charlie learns that, not only does he have a long lost brother, but that his father was actually the West African trickster god Anansi. Charlie hurries back to his home, job and fiancé in London, hoping to forget everything he’s learned. Things go from bad to worse when Charlie’s brother, Spider, shows up on his doorstep leading to even more chaos for Charlie. This darkly-humorous fantasy adventure is filled with engaging characters and folklore particulars. Gaiman’s vivid descriptions and witty dialogue expertly tie the multiple plotlines together, weaving the story into a satisfying and upbeat conclusion, as artfully as any spider.

Subject Headings: Anansi (Legendary character) – fiction; Fathers and sons – fiction; Brothers – fiction; Fathers – death – fiction; Adult books for young adults – fiction; African folklore; Tricksters – folklore; Gods and goddesses – African; Magic – fiction; Triangles (interpersonal relationships) – fiction

Appeal: Darkly humorous, dramatic, upbeat, magical, detailed characterizations, vivid, character-driven, intricately-plotted, stylistically complex writing, descriptive, engaging, witty

3 terms that best describe this book: Darkly humorous, intricately-plotted, magical

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Chabon, Michael, Wonder Boys; A humorous, upbeat, character-driven novel about the chaos that ensues when an author, unable to fulfill the great expectations thrust upon him, meets up with two cohorts over the course of a weekend literature conference. Though not fantasy, this book contains the rich descriptive writing, the humor and wit found in Gaiman’s work.

Fforde, Jasper, The Eyre Affair; The year is 1985 and England has been reimagined in this entertaining fantasy, where literature is held sacrosanct and stands at the center of the culture. It is, however, under siege by the third most wanted villain in the world and it is up to clever and tenacious Thursday Next to fight this menace. Witty and intricately-plotted, this story combines humor with high drama, social satire with romance.

Pratchett, Terry, Nation; Fans of adventure and fantasy will fall into this funny and engaging  yet thought-provoking story of Mau, the sole survivor of a tidal wave that wipes out his island home, and Daphne, a smart British girl full of energy and common sense. Together they work to rebuild Mau’s island nation. The narrative deftly balances the difficulties faced by the characters with funny, often hilarious episodes told engagingly with wit and humor.

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Chopra, Deepak, Life After Death: The Burden of Proof; Chopra draws upon both cutting-edge scientific information as well as religious traditions as he skillfully and thoughtfully explores what happens to us after we die.

Hurston, Zora Neale, Every Tongue Got to Confess: Negro Folk-Tales from the Gulf States; This is a fascinating account of the wit and redeeming ability of folktales and the art of storytelling as recorded by one of the pre-eminent writers of the 20th century. Hurston brings an authoritative yet personal perspective in her praise of African-American stories and storytellers.

Lott, Bret, Fathers, Sons, and Brothers: The Men in My Family; Drama and humor are employed in this brief but heartfelt memoir where the author writes, with respect and love, about the relationships of the men in his family.

Name: Patty Daniel

The Fortress Of Solitude

July 23, 2012

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Author: Jonathan Lethem

Title:  The Fortress of Solitude

Genre:  Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Literary Fiction

Publication Date: September 2003

Number of Pages: 528

Geographical Setting:  Brooklyn, NY

Time Period:  1970’s — 1980’s

Plot Summary:  Jonathan Lethem’s semi-autobiographical novel follows the parallel stories of Dylan Ebdus and Mingus Rude, two friends growing up in Brooklyn, NY during the 1970’s and 1980’s.  Dylan is white, and is constantly bullied by his Black and Hispanic peers.  He’s also struggling to deal with his mother’s abandonment of him and his emotionally distant artist father.  Mingus is black, and while dabbling in petty crime, he helplessly watches his father, a formerly successful soul musician, destroying himself with drugs.  The two teenagers’ friendship is built on their mutual love of superhero comic books, graffiti tagging, and they’re possession of a magic ring (given to them by a dying homeless man) which grants its wearer the powers of flight and invisibility.

Subject Headings:  Male Friendship, Race Relations, Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.), The Seventies (20th century), Bullying and bullies, Magic Rings

Appeal:  Leisurely-paced, Autobiographical, Urban, Nostalgic, Candid, Descriptive, Lyrical, Poetic, Epic, Authentic, Character-driven, Multiple point of views, Vivid, Episodic, Tragic, and Details of comic books, graffiti tagging, drugs, and music

3 terms that best describe this book:  Character-driven, Strong sense of time and place, Tragic

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

 1)    The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

Deals with a character coming-of-age in a multicultural and urban setting during the 1970’s and 1980’s.  He is also bullied and seeks refuge in comic books and science fiction.

2)    The Rachel Papers by Martin Amis

On the eve of his twentieth birthday, a young man prepares for college while trying to win over a girl named Rachel.  A character-driven coming-of-age novel.

3)    Emmaus by Alessandro Baricco

A lyrical, coming-of-age story that follows four friends as they move from adolescence to manhood, while being attracted to the same woman.

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

 1)    Comic Book Encyclopedia: The Ultimate Guide to Characters, Graphic Novels, Writers, and Artists in the Comic Book Universe by Ron Goulart

The two protagonists are obsessed with comic books, and many different titles and characters are referenced.  The above encyclopedia serves as an excellent guide to those unfamiliar with comic books, especially those that deal with superheroes.

2)    The Neighborhoods of Brooklyn, edited by John B. Manbeck

Brooklyn, NY, especially the section known as Boerum Hill, plays a pivotal role in the novel, and the above book gives a thorough introduction to those unfamiliar with the city’s many nooks and crannies.

 3)    Graffiti Kings: New York City Mass Transit Art of the 1970s by Jack Stewart

The characters in the book spend a great deal of time perfecting their graffiti tags throughout Brooklyn’s many landmarks.  This book deals with the origins of this controversial urban art form.

Name:  Vadim Seyfer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Graveyard Book

July 17, 2012

The Graveyard Book

 

Author: Neil Gaiman   Illustrator: Dave McKean

Title: The Graveyard Book

Genre: Fantasy, Suspense, Thriller

Publication Date: 2008

Number of Pages: 307

Geographical Setting: England

Time Period: Modern

Plot Summary: This is the story of “Nobody” Owens (nicknamed Bod for short) who as a toddler, escapes his home while his family is murdered. He wanders into a graveyard and ends up being raised by the dead. As he gets older he finds out the truth about his family and “the man Jack” who is still out to kill him. This adventurous fantasy starts out a bit relaxed, but becomes more quickly paced towards the end. It is a suspenseful and sometimes creepy story filled with witty and engaging language and characters. Neil Gaiman portrays the atmosphere and characters of this old English graveyard using dialect-rich language.

Subject Headings: Cemeteries, Ghosts, Werewolves, Orphans, Dead, Supernatural, Paranormal

Appeal: scary, suspenseful, quick-paced, witty, heartwarming, dialect-rich, engaging characters, atmospheric, creepy, humorous, clever, descriptive, attention grabbing

3 terms that best describe this book: suspenseful, witty, engaging plot and characters

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

1.      Creepy Chicago: A Ghosthunter’s Tales of the City’s Scariest Sites by Ursula Bielski (Illustrated by Amy Noble) – Just like the haunted graveyard in The Graveyard Book, this book tells about local Chicago sites that are said to be haunted.

2.      The Haunted Cotswolds by Bob Meredith (Illustrated by Peter Reardon) – This book would appeal to readers who would like to learn about a true ghost hunter who writes about supernatural happenings throughout Cotswold.

3.    England: An Illustrated History by Henry Weissser – There are many historical references in The Graveyard Book so this nonfiction companion would appeal to those who would be interested in learning more about the history of England.

Ursula Bielski (Author)

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3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

1.      The Color of Magic: A Discworld Novel by Terry Pratchett – If you enjoyed the British “feel” and humor in The Graveyard Book, you may also enjoy this.

2.      Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill – You may enjoy this book if you enjoy reading scary fiction books about ghosts.

3.      The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling – The Graveyard Book has a similar theme to Kipling’s book where a child is raised under unusual circumstances.

Name: Patty Prodanich

Magic For Beginners

July 16, 2012

Author:  Kelly Link,  (Author)Shelley Jackson ,(Illustrator)

Title:  Magic For Beginners

Genre:  Fantasy, Horror

Publication Date:  2005

Number of Pages:  297

Geographical Setting:  United States, Anywhere

Time Period:  Modern Day

Series:  Short Story Collection

Plot Summary:  This collection of 9 short stories is for those who want something different in their fantasy.  These stories take place in the modern day, or do they?  For example, one story, The Hortlak is a tale of a young man falling in love with a girl in a convenience store.  It just so happens the convenient store is located next to a vortex that zombies emerge from time to time.  They don’t eat people anymore because ‘they are done with that now.’  Another story, Stone Animals is about a man and his wife moving to suburbia with their kids, and everything is going well, except for the rabbits.  The rabbits watch them while they sleep, plotting their next move.  Catskin is a folk tale set in modern times, where witches do gruesome things and cats speak on cue.  The Great Divorce is about a man who divorces his wife, who just so happens to be dead.  All of these tales are amusing, witty, brash, and indeed, magical.

Subject Headings:  Magic–Supernatural–Ghosts–Zombies–Mediums–Occult–Folktales–Witches–Gypsies–Haunted Houses–Aliens (Space)–Cats–Rabbits–Art–Lawn Ornaments–Young Adults–Television (shows)–Libraries–Dreams

Appeal:
Candid, Playful, Sarcastic, Quirky, Humorous, Shocking, Edgy, Whimsical, Believable Adults, Teenagers, Bizarre,  Creepy, Unpretentious, Succinct, Euphoric, Lyrical

3 appeal terms that best describe this book:  Whimsical, Humorous, Sarcastic

3 Similar Fiction Works and authors:


The Tough Guide to Fantasy Land
Diana Wynne Jones.  Those who enjoy Kelly Link’s sense of humor will enjoy this sarcastic “travel guide” to the fantasy genre.  This book is for those who enjoy the fantasy genre, but also always laugh at the tropes and cliches associated with it.  For example, the reader will learn the importance of always having a map, knowing the difference between Magical Amulets and Talismans and why merchandise of any description is always in bales.  The book is like reading a fantasy dictionary, only fun.

The Light Fantastic
Terry Pratchett.  The Light Fantastic is just one of the books in Pratchett’s Discworld series that will appeal to fans of modern magic, witches, and humorous, funny characters.  His books are fast-paced, charming, and very silly.  His books are delightful, satirical, and very wry.

PastoraliaGeorge Saunders.  This collection of short stories will appeal to readers for it’s offbeat tone, over-the top characters, and dark themes mingled with bizarre comedy.  Saunders tales are full of twists and alternate realities, quirky situations and puzzling locales.

3 Similar Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

Exercises in Style,
Raymond Queneau.  Those who enjoy Link’s work will immediately notice her rich writing style, full of fantastical details and ideas.  Exercises in Style is a creative writing explosion of ideas that takes one story and tells it 99 different times, in different styles, tones, and even languages.  The stories themselves are indeed fictional, but this is a book about the writing process, and those who appreciate it.

The Art of Fiction, Notes on Craft for Young Writers.
John Gardner.  This book is another interesting tale for readers of all ages on the creative process of making fiction.  The tone is serious, but also comical and optimistic in tone.  The sections on art, techniques, and common errors are particularly revelatory.

The Fantasy Film (New Approaches to Film Genre) Katherine A. Fowkes.  This film guide provides analyses of various fantasy genre films throughout the years, including The Wizard of Oz, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and Shrek.  It is a good overview of the genre along with critical responses and includes photos and screen shots as well.