A Modern Fairy Tale

Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen” had inspired many fantastic works in the last few years, including Disney’s Frozen and Anne Ursu’s Breadcrumbs. Fans of the latter will definitely want to check out the latest Snow Queen-inspired novel, Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee.

The story takes place in a magical, labyrinth-like museum in a country where the snow never stops. While exploring the museum one day, Ophelia discovers the prison of the Marvelous Boy, a boy who never ages and who is destined to give the sword to the hero who will slay the Snow Queen. Though still grieving the death of her mother, Ophelia agrees to team up with the Marvelous Boy to help him defeat the Snow Queen and end the endless winter.

What I loved most about this novel was its careful balance of fantasy and reality. While much of the plot and the tone of the story feel like a dreamy or sometimes nightmarish fairy tale, Ophelia’s grief and its effect upon her family keep the heart of the story incredible real.

Audiobook for Kids: Malcolm at Midnight

Many favorite children’s books feature heroic mice, but what about heroic rats?

In Malcolm at Midnight by W. H. Beck, we meet Malcolm, a rat who becomes a class pet when fifth-grade teacher Mr. Binney mistakes him for a mouse. When Malcolm learns about rats’ bad reputation, he decides it might be best to let everyone continue thinking he’s a a mouse, especially after he joins the Midnight Academy, a secret society of class pets that has vowed to keep the school safe. But when the leader of the Midnight Academy goes missing and everyone discovers Malcolm is really a rat, he will have to set off alone to save the school from real evil of McKenna School.

Reminiscent of Kate DiCamillo’s The Tale of Despereaux but with a familiar classroom setting, this book would be a good choice for animal lovers and children with classroom pets.

For more books featuring heroic rodents, check out this list.

Available for Download through AADL: Books by Local Author Tristan Gregory

All four titles in The Wandering Tale series by local author Tristan Gregory are now available for download from the catalog! Satisfy an appetite for adventure (think swords, knights, and damsels and distress) with these little gems. Tight schedule? No worries - read a novella in one sitting!

If you're looking for something a little meatier, try Gregory's epic fantasy novel Twixt Heaven and Hell, where one wizard who dreams of peace will clash with a power-hungry warlord in control of sorcerers and demons in a battle to save his precious land and people. Full of magic, action, and plenty of atmospheric suspense - fantasy fans won't want to miss this one!

To download a book, click on one of the links below, then click on the book cover image underneath "Download This Item". Easy!! (If you aren't logged into your AADL account, you'll be prompted to do so - still pretty easy).

The Swordsman of Carn Nebeth (Wandering Tale 1)
The Three Fingers of Death (Wandering Tale 2)
The Giant of Tidesmouth (Wandering Tale 3)
The Crown Unconquered (Wandering Tale 4)

Twixt Heaven and Hell

Le Morte d'Arthur (a short story to whet your appetite)

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #450 - For All Ages

Here is something extraordinarily fun and quirky and I hope, unexpectedly moving as well.

"If Roald Dahl had rewritten The Picture of Dorian Gray to include a gang of 24 bandits and a giant balloon, the result might have been Gianni Rodari's wonderfully improbable novel that, for all its humor, is loosely based upon the 1978 kidnapping and murder of Italian politician Aldo Moro" and that! would be Lamberto Lamberto Lamberto.

When we first meet 93-year-old millionaire Baron Lamberto, he has been diagnosed with 24 life-threatening ailments, one for each of the 24 banks he owns. But when he takes the advice of an Egyptian mystic and hires servants to chant his name over and over again, he seems to not only get better, but younger, to the chagrin of his ne'er-do-well nephew who is impatient to inherit.

When a terrorist group lays siege to his island villa, his team of bank managers has to be bussed in to help with the ransom negotiations, and a media spectacle breaks out . . .

Gianni Rodari (October 23, 1920 -April 14, 1980) was an Italian writer and journalist, most famous for his books for children. The recipient of the Hans Christian Andersen Award in 1970, Rodari is a household name in Italy among educators and parents, not to mention children. Influenced by French surrealism and linguistics, Rodari advocated poetry and language play as a way to recover the rhythm and sound of oral tradition and nursery rhymes. One of Italy's most beloved fables, Lamberto is only now translated into English. Much of the charm lies with Maggioni's ink drawings in this edition.

ALA's 2014 Reading List Winners - Librarians' Top Picks in Genre Fiction

Congratulations to this year's winners in 8 genre fiction categories, just announced at the American Library Association's Midwinter Meeting in Philadelphia. It is great to see among them some first novels. An added value of the Reading List (as opposed to the Notable Books) has always been the inclusion of the shortlists which enriches the readers exploration of the genres.

Adrenaline Winner:
Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews. This modern spy novel pits two covert operatives against each other in an intricate cat-and-mouse game. As Dominika and Nathaniel ply their tradecraft, they navigate the moral ambiguities of a post-Cold War world where no one is as they seem and betrayal is business as usual.

Short List
The Caretaker by A.X. Ahmad, a FFF (blog)
Ghostman by Roger Hobbs, a FFF (blog)
Lexicon by Max Barry
Lost by S.J. Bolton

Fantasy Winner
Vicious by V.E.Schwab. A friendly rivalry turns vicious when college friends Victor and Eli obtain super-human powers and use them for very different purposes. This dark paranormal fantasy, a riveting tale of vengeance and redemption, proves that extraordinary powers don’t necessarily make superheroes.

Short List
The Necromancer’s House by Christopher Buehlman
A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan
American Elsewhere by Robert Bennett Jackson
The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker, a FFF (blog)

A Hilarious Pirate Adventure – With Magic!

I am so excited about this new pirate adventure, Magic Marks the Spot by Caroline Carlson. Two years ago, I had the chance to hear an excerpt read from the pre-published manuscript and have been looking forward to its release ever since. After reading it, all I can say is this book completely lived up to my expectations. I loved it!

Hilary Westfield wants nothing more than to be a pirate, but when she submits an application to the Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates, things don’t go quite as planned. After discovering that Hilary is a girl, the league decides to forward her application to Miss Pimm’s Finishing School for Delicate Ladies. Soon Hilary and her pet gargoyle are packed off to finishing school, but you can bet it isn’t long before they escape to the high seas and join in the hunt for a magical treasure.

Fans of Diana Wynne Jones or Patricia C. Wrede will definitely want to check out this first book in a planned trilogy.

You can find out more about this debut author by visiting her website: http://carolinecarlsonbooks.com/

Teen author Libba Bray skillfully weaves together historical fiction and fantasy in The Diviners

Teen author Libba Bray first gained notoriety for her unusual Gemma Doyle series, which includes New York Times bestseller A Great and Terrible Beauty, Rebel Angels and The Sweet Far Thing. These books skillfully and unusually blend historical fiction with fantasy, merging the world of an early twentieth century girls boarding school with an alternative universe only accessible to those with the Sight.

After completing the Gemma Doyle trilogy, Bray wrote Going Bovine, the story of a 16-year-old boy with mad cow disease, which won the Printz award from the American Library Association. In 2012, however, Bray again delved into the fantasy/historical fiction genre and produced The Diviners, the first in a new trilogy. Set in 1920s New York City, The Diviners introduces Evie, a 17-year-old girl from Ohio exiled from the Midwest and sent to live with her uncle, who is the curator of the unusual Museum of American Folklore, Superstition and the Occult. Along with spending her time embracing everything that comes with living in Prohibition-era New York, Evie is drawn into an investigation dealing with a series of occult-related murders. And, although she does her best to keep it a secret from everyone around her, Evie’s supernatural power may be the only thing that will help catch the murderer at last!

Bray’s rare ability to accurately depict historic American settings while injecting them with believable fantastical turns has made fans of the Gemma Doyle trilogy and of Bray’s writing in general ecstatic over the release of The Diviners. Filling a truly unique niche in teen fiction, the book can be enjoyed by adults as well. The second book in The Diviners series, Lair of Dreams, will be published in August 2014, and you can read more about the series as a whole here.

Audiobook for Kids: Whispering to Witches

Whispering to Witches by Anna Dale is part fantasy, part mystery, and plenty of fun.

As the story begins, Joe is not happy about being sent to Canterbury to spend Christmas with his mother, but on the train ride there, something peculiar happens. Soon Joe finds himself teaming up with a young witch named Twiggy to investigate the mysterious incident, which seems to have something to do with a missing page from a famous magical book. Can they find the missing page before it falls into the wrong hands? And is there more to this mystery than meets the eye?

While I found this book has been frequently compared to the Harry Potter series – with its train rides, witches and magical candies – I actually found myself thinking of it more like a book by Diana Wynne Jones. Something about the voice and the tightly-plotted mystery, I suppose. Its narration, though, by John Curless did remind of Jim Dale's performance in the Harry Potter audiobooks. Fans of either who are looking for something to try this holiday season may wish to check it out.

The Peculiar and The Whatnot

The Whatnot, Stefan Bachmann’s sequal to his much praised The Peculiar, is finally here! The world that Bachmann has created is very reminiscent of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell but written for a younger audience. It also includes some steampunk elements which give the story an added element of interest. It can get quite dark at times, and Bachmann does not shy away from subjects like murder and kidnap. The very first sentence of The Whatnot tells you this is a darker story than than the cute, mechanical cricket on the cover would lead you to believe.

"Pikey Thomas dreamed of plums and caramel apples the night the faery-with-the-peeling-face stole his left eye."

If you can get past menacing images like the above, The Whatnot is likely to be an entertaining read. Both books deal with animosity between the faery and human world where half-faery, half-human children (known as Peculiars) are not accepted by either groups. The Whatnot's opening chapter introduces a brand new character and the reader is soon entranced once again by the world of humans and faeries. This book, like the first, offers dark mystery juxtaposed with moments of whimsy which results in an intriguing balance.

Bachmann’s premier novel was met with very high praise in such publications as The New York Times Review, The Lost Angeles Times and Publisher's Weekly. Click on any of the publication titles to see the reviews.

The Hobbit Returns

December 13th is the big day! The day where Lord of the Rings fans put on beards and march their furry feet over to the nearest theater to check out The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, the second in the film trilogy based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s book The Hobbit: Or, There and Back Again.

The book and films tell the story of a hobbit named Bilbo Baggins who heads off on an epic quest to reclaim Lonely Mountain and its treasure from the dragon Smaug. Along the way is high adventure and many encounters with other creatures, namely the band of dwarves that he travels with. It is on this journey that Bilbo meets the creature Gollum, and where he first lays hands on “the one ring” that changes his life, and that of Middle Earth, for all time.

Perhaps you’ve caught the trailer before a recent new film, or have watched it online. SMAUG! To get yourself in gear, why not check out the first film, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, to see just where things left off. It's available on DVD, Blu-ray, and a special 2-disc DVD set.

It might also be worth checking out some of the new books related to the new film! AADL has The Hobbit : The Desolation of Smaug Official Movie Guide and The Hobbit : the desolation of Smaug : visual companion for your viewing and reading pleasure. See you at the theater!

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