I’m really getting excited about Wordstock, the book festival that culminates in a big book fair this coming weekend, filled with publishers and books and activities and author readings. It’s especially exciting that this year I’ll be attending as press, and I’ll get to interview authors and artists about their books.
But if you don’t live near Portland and can’t make it yourself, don’t worry! I’m here to bring you as much of the book fair as I can: I’ll have book reviews and interviews, and I’m sure I’ll come away from the weekend with a long list of books to add to my reading list.
For now, to whet your appetite, a preview of some of the books I’ve read in preparation for this weekend’s interviews. These books below are all by folks who will be attending Wordstock, and I’ll have full reviews and interviews with all of them after the fair.
Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes by Jonathan Auxier
Peter is a blind orphan, forced into a life of crime by the unsavory Mr. Seamus. He’s an expert at sneaking and picking locks, the greatest thief you’ve never seen. One day, however, he steals a box containing the titular fantastic eyes, and is whisked off into an adventure filled with fierce battles, mysterious riddles, and vanished kingdoms.
I absolutely loved this book. Auxier has a knack for words and his narrator has just the right amount of wry humor. The story is fresh and original, and Peter is a wonderful character. There’s a bit of violence in it, some of it quite gruesome, which I wouldn’t recommend for very young readers, but tweens and young adult readers will find it fascinating.
Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion
I’d heard of Warm Bodies some time ago — Marion originally self-published it, but then it was picked up by Atria Books and published this year. It’s a zombie story, but it’s a love story. Yeah, you read that right.
I’ll have an in-depth review of this one soon, but this is another book that I just didn’t want to end. Zombie purists might not like it, but I think there’s a long tradition of getting inside the heads of monsters — even the original Frankenstein’s monster was sort of a zombie, if you think about it, and the plot involved its self-awareness and misunderstandings of its intentions. R is a young man, a zombie, who falls in love with a young living woman, with curious implications for them all.
It’s a heck of a story, and Marion uses (un)death to make some keen observations about life.
Americus by MK Reed and Jonathan Hill
I wish I’d read this before last week, because it’s a fitting one for Banned Books Week. In the town of Americus, OK, trouble is brewing, and it centers on a book series titled The Adventures of Apathea Ravenchilde. Local activists are trying to get the book banned, and the town’s librarian (along with high schooler Neil Barton) are fighting to keep it.
This graphic novel covers a wide range of subjects: it’s about the travails of high school (particularly as a small-statured nerd) and making a stand. It’s a coming-of-age story. But above all, it’s a commentary on the controversy surrounding the Harry Potter series, particularly the reaction that some conservative religious groups have had to it.
The book isn’t perfect — I felt that the characters were a bit stereotyped and some of the book banners were really straw men without a lot of substance — but overall it’s a good fictionalized account of what has really happened in communities across the country. If you love books and libraries (and particularly if you’ve found yourself defending the Harry Potter series), you’ll really appreciate this book.
The Name of This Book Is Secret by Pseudonymous Bosch
I’d seen the Secret Series in bookstores and had made a note to check them out but somehow they’d fallen off my radar until recently. So far I’ve just read the first one, though the fifth (and final) volume You Have to Stop This has just been published. The books will remind you a lot of Lemony Snicket — the narrator is intrusive and warns you not to read the books, and you get a lot of asides.
However, this story about two kids fighting a secret society has some real potential, and I think despite the similarity to Mr. Snicket, Pseudonymous Bosch has crafted a pretty fun series for middle grade readers. I’ll have more after I finish the next four books, but I won’t have time for all of them before this weekend.
The Familiars by Adam Jay Epstein and Andrew Jacobson
This is another middle grade series — the second book Secrets of the Crown was just published last month, so I read the first volume to get up to speed. It’s a story of magic and wizards, told from the point of view of the three familiars, animals that assist the wizards with their magic. Aldwyn is an alley cat who ducks into a magic shop to escape a bounty hunter … and is then adopted as the familiar to a young wizarding student.
Most of the book is about Aldwyn’s attempts to cover up the fact that he’s not actually magical, while joining two other familiars (a bluejay and a frog) on a challenging quest. There’s definitely a strong influence on this series from you-know-who, and I cant help thinking that it’s not entirely new. However, it’s still a pretty fun ride and for younger readers who enjoy Harry Potter this is another series with some similarities, albeit with talking animals.
That’s what I’ve read so far, though I’ve also got a few interviews set up with others. I’m looking forward to sharing some more books with you next week!