Author Birthdays: Eoin Colfer

Today, May 14th, is the birthday of Irish author Eoin Colfer.

Perhaps best known for his Artemis Fowl series, Colfer has been on the New York Times Best Sellers list many times over.

In 2008, Colfer wrote Airman, a teen novel which Publisher's Weekly believes is "An homage both to the 19th-century science fiction of H.G. Wells and Jules Verne, and to the superheroes of Marvel and DC comics..."

More recently Colfer has written a sixth book, And Another Thing... for Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series.

One of his most interesting recent works is the collaborative novel Click. Published in 2007, it is the work of ten well-loved authors, including Colfer. Each of the authors, including such greats as Linda Sue Park, Gregory Maguire, and Tim Wynne-Jones, wrote a chapter of the life and impact of a photographer named George Keane. Also, the royalties for the book are donated to Amnesty International.

Gunslingers and Dark Towers

Think of Clint Eastwood. Now think of King Arthur and his knights. Now think of post-apocalyptic horror stories. Now imagine all of these elements swirled into one epic series. This is The Dark Tower series by Stephen King. King has described this series as his magnum opus and has been releasing installments of it for the past 30 years. The first novel of the series, The Gunslinger, was published in 1982, and the 7th and most recent book of the series (confusingly also named The Dark Tower) was published in 2004. Suddenly, waiting a year for J.K. Rowling to release the next Harry Potter book doesn't seem like it was so bad.

Marvel Comics has created an ongoing series of graphic novels based on Stephen King's original series. The comics series of The Dark Tower acts as a prequel to the main storyline of the novels. The comics tell the story of how the protagonist, Roland Deschain, becomes the man known as the gunslinger. Marvel has released four collections of The Dark Tower graphic novel series to date, which you can pick up right here at AA

A Game of Thrones

After the very suspicious death of the King’s right hand man, Lord Eddard Stark of Winterfell travels south to take over the position left by his old friend and mentor. Stark and his family soon find that subterfuge, cruelty and plots are more in fashion at court than duty and honor. Things aren’t much better at home. As winter approaches, men are disappearing, and an unknown menace stirs in the north.

A Game of Thrones is the first part of George R. R. Martin’s critically acclaimed 7 part series, A Song of Ice and Fire. So far only four of the seven have been released, but the scope and power of Martin’s writing rivals that of authors such as Robert Jordan or Margaret Weiss.

HBO has begun filming a television series adaptation of A Song of Ice and Fire. If you liked The Tudors, keep your eyes peeled for this one. I can’t wait to see Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister. Word on the street is that this will hit the airwaves in Spring 2011.

The Song of the Lioness

Teen author Tamora Pierce's quartet, The Song of the Lioness, is a great fantasy series for independent young girls becoming young women.

The series starts out with the book Alanna: The First Adventure. In it, we meet Alanna, the young daughter of a nobleman, who wishes to become a knight, which is traditionally a role for sons. Alanna decides to disguise herself as a boy in order to achieve her dream, and the story follows Alanna through the steps of page and squire. We meet many characters, all of whom will warm the coldest heart, especially the king of thieves, George Cooper, and one of Alanna's instructors, Sir Myles.

The second book, In the Hand of the Goddess, picks up with Alanna still as a squire. The main plot of this one is a war between Alanna's country and a neighboring one, as well as Alanna's desire to be able to behave as a girl, and to be able to love. At the end, we go with Alanna as she faces the Ordeal, which will either make her a knight, drive her away, or even kill her.

However, if you realize that there is a third book, you'll figure out that the killing won't happen. In The Woman Who Rides Like a Man, Alanna has started out on her quest as a lady knight, and encounters the renegade tribes of desert people in the South. There is no huge villain or battle in this book, but there is a pretty good quarrel.

The last book, Lioness Rampant follows the third very well. It introduces us to new friends, brings us a really cool treasure, and shows us that Alanna has finally grown accustomed to her womanhood. Unlike the third, there is an epic battle, which will most likely leave you crying.

Any girl who likes a strong, female heroine, as well as a good dose of magic, a talking cat, and maybe a wee bit of witty romance, will find this series as one she cannot put down. I know I'm going to be reading the next series that takes place in Tortall, The Immortals.

Steampunk Discovered (and rediscovered)

If you (like me) are new to Steampunk, here is a good definition : "A subgenre of science fiction, it typically (but not always) employs a Victorian setting where steam power and advanced technologies like computers coexist and often features themes, such as secret societies, found in mystery novels."

Though steampunk has been around since the 1980s, (check out these classics) there is a recent crop of exemplary new titles. A personal favorite is Boneshaker by Cherie Priest - a must-read for alternative history fan. It's the 2009 winner of the PNBA Award; and has been nominated for the 2010 Hugo and the Nebula Awards.

Seattle, 1860, rumors of gold, greedy Russians and inventor Leviticus Blue's Incredible Bone-Shaking Drill Engine set the stage for this "impressive and auspicious genre-hopping adventure". When this machine inadvertently triggers the release of a deadly gas that transforms people into the living dead, a wall is built around the uninhabitable city to contain the epidemic. 16 years later, teenage Zeke Wilkes, Blue's son, impetuously decides that he must go into the walled city to clear his father's name. His distraught mother Briar, follows in an airship to try to rescue him.

Boneshaker is exceptionally well written. The plot credibly builds around zombies, steampunk technology, underground societies, mad scientists in a mix of horror/mystery. The fast-paced action is balanced by captivating characters, a strong female protagonist, and tender mother-child relationship. The young courageous Zeke will appeal to the YA crowd.

I first discovered the versatile YA author and an associate editor for Subterranean Press Cherie Priest in her genre-bending adult debut Fathom : a chill/thrill fantasy tale set in her native Florida. Part fairy tale, part modern gothic horror, it had me sleepless for a week.

Teen vampires...before Twilight?

It's hard to believe, but the incredibly popular vampire "genre" for teens existed before Twilight.

Authors such as L.J. Smith, Christopher Pike, Meredith Ann Pierce, Amelia Atwater-Rhodes, Annette Curtis Klause, and Mary Downing Hahn created vast literature for teens on the subject of vampires before the year 2000. While it is easy to find a score of vampire fiction written today for teens, it is very interesting to take a look back, before the apparent influence of Stephenie Meyer.

That is not to say that these authors haven't gained from the success of Twilight. L.J. Smith's Vampire Diaries series turned to television last year, and her Night World series was recently re-released. Annette Curtis Klause had one of her books made into a movie in 2007.

One of the more inspirational of these authors would be Amelia Atwater-Rhodes. She was first published--in novel form--in 1999 at the tender age of 14. She is still going strong today, too!

So, if you're looking for some good teen vampire fiction, as I know we all must be, take a look at some of their works. I'm not necessarily saying they're better than Twilight, but I might be saying that you can certainly see some eerie similarities.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #206 : Let's meet the girls

Inspired by a real event, Heide Durrow's first novel, The Girl Who Fell from the Sky * won the 2008 Bellwether Prize for best fiction manuscript addressing issues of social justice.

As this measured and sorrowful tale unfolds, the girl – Rachel has come to live with her grandmother in a mostly black community of Portland, Oregon. Light-skinned and blue-eyed (thanks to her Danish mother), Rachel is the only survivor of a family tragedy – her mother having thrown her children off a roof, jumped to her death. We watch as Rachel, smart, disciplined, and self-possessed, endures her grief and confronts her identity as a biracial woman in a world that wants to see her as either black or white.

Meanwhile in Chicago, young Jamie, a witness to the rooftop incident, re-lives the horrific event in his mind constantly while enduring even worse fate in the hands of his prostitute mother.

As the child of an African American father and a Danish mother, Durrow brings piercing authenticity to this provocative "family saga of the toxicity of racism and the forging of the self”. It succeeds as both a modern coming-of-age tale and relevant social commentary. (Check out the author's amazing family album) .

In Ali Shaw’s charming debut The Girl with Glass Feet, young Ida Maclaird returns to remote St. Hauda’s Land because she is strangely, and slowly turning to glass. There she meets Midas Crook, a lonely islander who prefers to see the world through his camera lens. As Ida and Midas search for the mysterious scientist who might hold the cure to Ida's affliction, they stumble onto mysteries from the past that further bind them together.

Inventive and richly visual, a fable of young lovers on a quest, Girl combines magic realism and the conventions of a romance. Enchanting, melancholic yet whimsical. Totally captivating. Shortlisted for the 2009 Costa First Novel Award and longlisted for the Guardian First Book Award.

Ali Shaw is a graduated of Lancaster University and has since worked as a bookseller and at Oxford’s Bodleian Library.

* = Starred review

Get out your hammocks

It may be a bit rainy this week, but last week's weather reminded me that summer is near at hand, and accordingly I started thinking about what books I want to read out in the backyard under the warm sunshine. As a kid, I loved to read books about magic during summer vacation. One of my favorite authors was Edward Eager, whose Magic series can still make me feel like magic may just be waiting for me around the next corner I turn. I was also a fan of Susan Cooper, whose book, The Dark is Rising, inspired the movie The Seeker. Cooper's books are full of British folklore as well as magic of her own imagining. I read Joan Aiken's The Wolves Of Willoughby Chase over and over in elementary school and I just recently discovered that it is the first in a wonderful series of books set in alternative history, in which wolves rule England's wilderness and the King of England is constantly threatened by revolutionary plots.

Swan Song

This is my last blog for aadl.org. It has been my pleasure to share this bit of cyberspace with you. Instead of trying to create new content, I feel it is time to bring some of my old blogs back to life. Hope you enjoy them...

If I should die before I wake... where I discussed my most favorite books, the Bible and The Hobbit.

The Martians are coming, the martians are coming. War of the Worlds in its many forms.

This is l33t, where the lines between reality and fiction get a bit blurred and I learned I'm not very l33t.

Psychohistorically Speaking, honoring the the grandmaster of science fiction, Mr. Asimov.

Going on a bug hunt. This book has its share of controversy. I'm not militaristic, but I do respect those that are willing to serve.

Have Sword Will Travel about my hero, Conan.

If TV killed the book, what did the Internet kill? This story scares me a bit. Does it scare you?

The Captain's Tale, where Captain Nemo dies. Gotta love a giant squid.

The Last Man Alive, one of my son's favorite stories and I think what got him hooked on horror books and movies.

and lastly, the blog that made me famous...

Move over Spice Girls, the story of Dune

As the great Douglas Adams said, "So Long and Thanks for all the Fish".

Ponyo - "The Little Mermaid" Reincarnated

Ponyo, a children's animated film released in theaters in 2009, is a great, fresh take on the classic Hans Christian Andersen tale "The Little Mermaid."

In Ponyo, "a young boy named Sosuke rescues a goldfish named Ponyo, and they embark on a fantastic journey of friendship before Ponyo's father forces her to return to the sea. Ponyo's desire to be human upsets the balance of nature and only Ponyo's mother, a beautiful sea goddess, can restore nature's balance and make Ponyo's dreams come true."

With a famous English voice cast, including stars such as Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon, Tina Fey, Liam Neeson, Cloris Leachman, and Lily Tomlin, Ponyo is entertaining and intriguing, though it may be a little slow or long for younger children.

There is also a bit of an environmental theme in the movie, influencing the audience to help keep the oceans clean.

Oddly enough, there are diverse other reworkings of "The Little Mermaid." These include a teen fiction novel, Midnight Pearls, in Debbie Viguié's Once Upon a Time series; an adult fantasy novel entitled The Mermaid's Madness by Jim C. Hines; and of course, the most well-known, the Disney film adaptation of the story.

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