Daughter of the Forest

I am not usually a fan of fantasy literature. Too many contrived histories and geographies and unpronounceable names. But, I have a weak spot for Ireland and druids and wise-woman healers and when I came across a promising story, which had consistently excellent reviews, I decided not to let the “fantasy” sticker deter me. I am glad I did not miss this one.

Daughter of the Forest is the first in the Sevenwaters Trilogy -- though with the recent publication of a fourth Sevenwaters story, does that make it a quartet? Richly evocative of roughly the dark ages, when the soul of ancient Ireland was threatened by the arrival of Christianity, it is part history, part adventure, part fairy tale and wholly engaging. Beautifully crafted by author Juliet Marillier, the plot is an adaptation of the fairy tale The Six Swans. Yes, the six brothers are turned into swans by the wicked step-mother and their only sister must weave shirts in utter silence to save her dear brothers from the spell. But, Marillier takes that thread of a tale and transforms it into the most believable story imaginable.

That is just the beginning. In the subsequent Sevenwaters books, the story of the next three generations of this magical family unfolds in an Ireland still landscaped with dense forests, populated with wise druids, herbal healers, seers and harping bards, and entwined with magic.

The Graveyard Book: Audiobook

When a family is murdered only their baby son escapes, crawling away from his house and into the local graveyard. The boy is taken in by the ghosts and named Nobody Owens, otherwise known as Bod.

Even though he is alive, the ghosts and Bod's mysterious guardian Silas, teach him all the ways of the dead and make sure the graveyard is the safest place for him. But one day the man who killed Bod's family comes back to find him...

Neil Gaiman is both the author and audio performer of The Graveyard Book, a beautiful and gripping tale inspired by Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book. Gaiman's voices for his characters are spot on. You haven't lived (or perhaps had a fulfilling afterlife), until you've heard his rendention of Nehemiah Trot, the graveyard's very own poet. Each CD also begins with a superb musical rendition of the Danse Macabre. If you like this audiobook, you might also enjoy Coraline, another scary book for children read and written by Gaiman and soon to be a major motion picture.


Author Kate Elliott has created for her readers a complex world in her Crossroads series. Book one, Spirit Gate introduces us to a lawless land called Hundred. The godlike Guardians are gone. The eagle-riding Reeves have lost their ability to keep the peace. Now, the people of the Hundred are under attack by a new force. Who will defend the land?

The story continues in book two, Shadow Gate.

Wickedly Good Fun

The Broadway musical Wicked is heading to Detroit in December! The musical opened in 2003 and is based on Gregory Maguire’s novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. The novel is an imaginative retelling of L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz. Wicked is from the perspective of Elphaba, the misunderstood Wicked Witch of the West. It explains her history and childhood, and as one might guess, it isn’t what you expect!

Maguire continued the story with the release of Son of a Witch in 2005. It delves further into Liir’s story, the mysterious boy from Wicked. The third novel in the series is A Lion Among Men. Recently published, it focuses on the Cowardly Lion and his exploits. Get in the mood to see the musical by reading the books and listening to the cast recording.

Twilight: Audiobook

You may have noticed the buzz when Stephenie Meyer's fourth book in the Twilight series, Breaking Dawn, just came out this August or when the Twilight film grabbed Harry Potter's original release date of November 21st (it's not Twilight's fault, don't get mad at them). All this publicity also means that the original Twilight novel is still in hot demand here at the library. But if you're like me and you enjoy audiobooks, then there's a significantly shorter holds list on the Twilight audiobook.

As for the story and audio themselves, for any who've managed to avoid the media, Twilight is a vampire teen romance novel. For personal reasons Bella Swan (the name kinda makes me think of a certain Pirates of the Caribbean character) arrives in the small town of Forks to live with her father. Used to the warmth and sun of Arizona, Bella languishes in the dreary gloom of Washington state until she meets a strange boy at school...

A kid's adventure...

What happens when you take your average teenager, stick him in the body of a warrior and thrown him into a land of elves and magic? You get The Knight and the The Wizard by Gene Wolfe. The story is told from the view of Sir Able of the High Heart. He is an American teenager who enters the world of Mythgarthr. There, an elf queen transforms him into a powerful man. Able then uses the body to become a knight and eventually a wizard all to win the love of Disiri the Mossmaiden.

A seafaring adventure...

What happens when you take the sea-faring storytelling of Patrick O'Brian and introduce fantasy elements? You get Robin Hobb's The Liveship Traders trilogy. In book 1 Ship of Magic we are introduced to the Vestrit family, one of the oldest of the merchant families in Bingtown, the hub of trade. At her father's death, Althea's family liveship Vivacia is passed to her sister's husband Kyle. The spurred Althea then strives to regain his birthright. The story is continued in Mad Ship and Ship of Destiny.

Trickster's Choice: Audiobook

Alianne of Pirate's Swoop is in for a trouble when a trickster god makes a wager with her. Her adventures take her far from home and everything she knows, but Aly's quick wits and special skills will be needed to save her life and the lives of others.

This follow-up to Tamora Pierce's original Alanna series is even better than the previous series. I loved Aly's spunk and mischevious nature that made it clear why she was chosen by a trickster. There's a cool little musical intro and outro to the novel and Trini Alvarado, who read the original Alanna adventures on audiobook, reads these as well with just as much warmth and talent.

Alanna the First Adventure: Audiobook

Summer reading is approaching. Remember you can listen to books too, so why not try an audiobook?

In this first book by Tamora Pierce, Alanna wants more than anything to be a knight, but it's not allowed for girls in the country of Tortall. She finds a way to sneak into the school for boys, but she has a long and arduous road ahead of her before she can claim her shield.

Trini Alvarado, an actress who played Meg March in Little Women, reads the story. There are no special effects but her reading reminded me of an enthusiastic teacher and brought back good memories of elementary school storytimes. The audiobook our library owns is on cassette, but if you don't have a cassette player and would really like to listen to it, the CD version is available on melcat.

In this day and age it seems stories about girls wanting to break the gender role are at least as common as the ones who don't, so I was originally skeptical of this story. Alanna's desire to do boys things didn't seem enough to define her as an interesting and individual character. But the school drama of her knights training and the fast paced adventure got me interested enough to read the rest of the stories which I also recommend.

Fantasy author and former Ann Arborite Robert Asprin dies at 61


Robert Asprin was reportedly reading a novel by British fantasy writer Terry Pratchett when he died in bed last week at the age of 61. Asprin, author of the Thieves' World and Myth Adventure series, and the 1990 bestseller Phule's Company, is said to have effectively invented the humor fantasy genre back in the 1970s. Local historian Wystan Stevens recalls: "Asprin wrote many of his books in longhand, on legal pads, while nursing cups of coffee at the Brown Jug on South University Avenue."

Read more about Asprin in wikipedia.
Asprin's obituary.

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