Tag Archives: fantasy

Locke & Key

I stopped reading off my controversial book list for a while because I needed to buff up on modern comics for a graphic novel club I’m planning on launching at my school and thus I became totally obsessed with the Locke & Key series by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez.

Locke & Key cover

This story has got everything that lovers of fantasy and horror look for in a good novel. It’s fast paced, super scary, has huge cliffhangers, and takes place in a verse that is totally realistic and easily imaginable.

The story follows the lives of three sibs: Tyler, Kinsey and Bode Locke, who just moved to their family’s rural New England home. What they don’t know is that the house is full of secrets, and most importantly secret keys, which unlock doors that make the impossible, possible.

From turning into a ghost to super strength to gender bending, the keys that the Locke family uncovers offer endless possibility. There is a dark force afoot though, something evil that is terrorizing the family, in search of the Omega Key, and who knows what door that will open. 

A few people have told me that the first book is über confusing and that keeping the characters straight is a total pita. I cannot disagree, the first book is hard to follow, there’s a lot going on. If you can hold out though– if you can make it to the second book you are sure to be hooked on what I think it one of the greatest horror stories of recent memory. Perhaps that shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, as Joe Hill is the progeny of famous horror novelist Stephen King.

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes scary stories! Be careful though, this is a graphic novel and as such there are pictures of violence, blood and gore, and other scary stuff.

You know what’s next: stay uncomfortable, keep reading!

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Hunger

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I got in a thing for a while where I was reading a lot of a certain type of book. I read a number of books about meth for a couple weeks, which was just charming, and then moved onto eating disorders. I’m totally not gruesome at all. Anyway Hunger, of course, was part  of the eating disorder stint.

Of the novels that I’ve read lately that feature anorexia or bulimia Hunger has got to be one of the better ones. Lisbeth Lewis, the main character, has been listening to her “thin voice” for sometime, and unsurprisingly it is causing her relationships to deteriorate. Things are rocky with her boyfriend, her parents, and she’s not even speaking with her best friend. She’s terrifically depressed and attempts to take her own life.

After a mysterious stranger hands hands her the scales of Famine she must travel to world depriving populations and crops of the sustenance to live. None of it sits right with Lisbeth though, and as she discovers her ability to help strangers and maintain the balance she also must look within herself and find the will to survive in the real world.

Hunger is a fast read that deals with the troubles that teens face in an amusing and poignant manner. Perfect for readers who don’t want to spend a dog’s age getting into a novel, this slim volume provides just the right amount of escape from the daily grind.

The Hobbit

hobbit cover

Tolkien, J.R.R. (1966). The hobbit. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. Print.

Reader’s Annotation

Enter the magical world of Middle Earth where little people, Hobbits, are just as common was dwarves, elves, shape shifters and giant spiders in the deep dark woods. This story is sure to capture your imagination as you join Bilbo and the 13 dwarves of Thorin Oakenshield’s company to rescue a long lost treasure from the clutches of the evil and foul wyrm Smaug.

Plot Summary

Bilbo Baggins enjoys a quite life in his home under the hill at Bag End in Hobbiton, he enjoys long walks, second breakfast, and tending to his poetry and garden. In short, he leads an ideal life for a Hobbit, full of good food and completely lacking in anything out of the ordinary. Until one day when Bilbo runs across a troublesome wizard, Gandalf, who introduces him to a group of even more troublesome fellows: thirteen dwarves bent on retrieving a pile of treasure buried in a mountain hundreds of miles away. What’s worse is that the treasure has been commandeered by a dragon and Gandalf has convinced the dwarves that Bilbo is just the fellow to get it back. In a very un-Hobbit like manner, Bilbo joins this company of dwarves on an adventure that changes his life forever.

Critical Evaluation

I’ve read this book more times than I can count and it never stops being excellent. The world that Tolkien created in The Hobbit, is a world that I would gladly live out my days in. From the rolling hills of the Shire, with its verdant farm lands and fields that produce the most excellent hops, as evident in the Hobbit’s fondness for beer. To the endless trails where countless adventures away. Elves are no more than a few days walk away with the stoicism and riddled way of speaking, languishing the days (or years) away in the company of Elrond in his beautiful home in the valley of Rivendell sounds like a fine pass time. If you prefer a bit of danger wander into the Misty Mountains or try adn treat with the sneaky elves in Mirkwood, just watch out for trolls and giant spiders.Yes, for me after all these years it’s really the world that Tolkien has created more than anything else.

Author Information

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born in 1892 in South Africa, and moved to England at age 2 after his father died. His mother passed on when he was 12, leaving Tolkien and his brother orphans. The boys lived with their aunt, Beatrice Suffield, and later with another unrelated woman, Mrs Faulkner, and were provided for by their family priest Father Francis Morgan, until Tolkien entered Exeter College at Oxford in 1911.By the time he entered Oxford he had already mastered Greek and Latin, and went onto to study the Classics, Old English, Gothic and other Germanic Languages, as well as Welsh and Finnish. Around 1913 Tolkien dropped his study of the Classics turned his focus onto English Literature and Language.

In 1925 Tolkien returned to the college as a professor and there he befriended C.S. Lewis, who shared Tolkien’s love of myths, language and folklore. Lewis and Tolkien founded the Inklings in the 1930s where they gathered with several friends to share and critique their work. Tolkien is best known for The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, and the prequel to them both The Silmarillion. He also authored The Adventures of Tom Bombadil and Other Verses from the Red Book; Smith of Wootton Major; Unfinished Tales of Numenor and Middle-earth; The Book of Lost Tales, Part I and Part II, as well as several translations of ancient myths.

Genre

Adult, Young Adult, Juvenile, Cross Over, Fantasy

Curriculum Ties

n/a

Booktalk Ideas

Reading Level/Interest Age 

12+

Challenge Issues

The Hobbit has portions with violence and magic. This may offend some readers. As always the library urges readers to choose material that is right for them. We are supporters of the ALA Library Bill of Rights and thus do not support censorship of material. The library will reconsider items and reserves the right to make the finals decision after review by the board.

Reason for Inclusion

I included The Hobbit in this project because it is the book that made me the nerd I am today. I read it for the first time in the 6th grade, and hundreds of times since, and never looked back. It should be required reading for any fan of fantasy fiction ought to be in every young adult library.

The Magicians (The Magicians, #1)

Grossman, L. (2009). The Magicians. New York: Viking. Print.

This book is part of a series, both titles are included in the collection.

Reader’s Annotation

Quentin Clearwater has been smarter than everyone, and desperately bored by life, for as long as he can remember. Life starts to look up for Quentin when he discovers that magic is real and is admitted into a super exclusive college of magic in upstate New York, but even magic gets boring eventually. Will Quentin be able to find the adventure he’s looking for? At what price?

Plot Summary

Quentin Clearwater is a genius, but he’s not very happy. To distract himself from his own plight he obsesses over a series of Narnia-esque children’s books that take place in the magical land of Fillory. Things change for Quentin when he ends up accepted into a school of magic, like Hogwarts for college kids. As Quentin discovers the extent of his magical powers he expects to find fulfillment in his own ability, but somehow always ends up looking for more. After graduation Quentin and his friends embark on a path of hedonistic pleasures, striving to fight off the ennui of regular human existence. Quentin remains disconsolate until he and his friends discover that not only is Fillory real, but that they’ve found a way in. Will access to this magical wonderland be everything that Quentin had hoped for? Will his impossible quest give his life the meaning he’s always sought after? Follow Quentin and his friends as the venture into magical lands and discover the depth of their own being.

Critical Evaluation

This book, and its followup The Magician King also included in the collection, is excellent. Even though the main character, Quentin, is totally whiney and insecure, you can tell by Grossman’s writing that he’s like that on purpose. Indeed, even Quentin’s girlfriend Alice remarks on the idiocy of Quentin’s self-obsession. I can get behind a character who is written to be purposefully selfish, it’s the ones that come off that way unintentionally that rub me the wrong way. This book explores the question that every scifi and fantasy nerd ever have been wondering about since they picked up their first copy of the Hobbit: what if? What if those impossible lands we’ve been reading about since we were kids are real? We learn quickly that our imaginings come with a price, but Grossman’s characters are so good and the book so well written you’ll want to read it again and again.

Author Information

Lev Grossman lives in Brooklyn, New York and studied comparative literature at Harvard and Yale. He also the author of the bestseller The Codex and is a writer and book critic for Time magazine.

Genre

Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy, Magic

Curriculum Ties

Literary response and analysis grades 11 and 12:

3.3 Analyze interactions between main and subordinate characters in a literary text (e.g., internal and external conflicts, motivations, relationships, influences) and explain the way those interactions affect the plot.

3.4 Determine characters’ traits by what the characters say about themselves in narration, dialogue, dramatic monologue, and soliloquy.

3.8 Interpret and evaluate the impact of ambiguities, subtleties, contradictions, ironies, and incongruities in a text.

3.9 Explain how voice, persona, and the choice of a narrator affect characterization and the tone, plot, and credibility of a text.

Booktalk Ideas

How does the Fillory than Quentin and his friends find compare to the Fillory that they had hoped for?

How does Fillory compare to Narnia?

Why does Quentin sleep with Janet?

Is Quentin a reliable narrator? What personal flaws does Quentin have that make him reliable or unreliable?

Reading Level/Interest Age 

17+

Challenge Issues

This book is intended for older readers. The library does not keep a circulation history for each user, but trusts that parents and their children have established guidelines for what is appropriate reading within their own households. The library supports the ALA Library Bill of Rights and defends each patron’s right to read. This book is not intended for educational purposes, though it does support several curriculum points of the CA Dept of Education for literary analysis. Patron’s are welcome to challenge materials and requests for reconsideration are reviewed by the board. Final decisions will be made by the director.

Reason for inclusion

One of the best books on magic and young people published, a real winner.

Tithe (The Modern Tales Of Faerie, #1)

Black, H. (2002). Tithe. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books. Kindle.

This book is part of a series, all three titles are included in the collection.

Reader’s Annotation

Kaye and her mom have been on the road a long time. When fate takes a turn for the worst and sends them back to their New Jersey roots, Kaye doesn’t spend anytime looking for her childhood friends, the faeries she whiled away the hours with before she and her mom left. That is until she runs into another faery and begins to realize everything she thought she made up as as child is true, and that knowledge just may cost her her life.

Plot Summary

Critical Evaluation

Tithe is gritty fantasy novel that takes place within the back drop of the working-class, ironed-imbued, run-down New Jersey streets. Holly Black writes poor real good, anyone who grew up with parents who never coud quite make ends meet will recognize the world that she has created. The beautiful thing about the world that Holly has created is that despite the alcohol abuse and absentee parents there is still magic around every corner.

Author Information

Genre

Curriculum Ties

Booktalk Ideas

Reading Level/Interest Age 

15+

Challenge Issues

Reason for inclusion