Good Reading

12 01 2013

As balm for my writing spirit and fodder for my creative muse, I read four books over my two-week break. One of them was assigned for my job – a book we will be teaching next month. I can hardly keep up with my book club reading list, but one of the titles I read came from there.

Thankfully, the other two books were purely for pleasure. Of course, no writer can read without ulterior motive. I read from the fantasy genre to expand my vision and generate ideas and enthusiasm for my work in progress.

The Grimm Legacy

The last book I read was The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman. This novel is one that my book club is reading. With a tag line like “Borrow the magic – if you dare,” I was ready to be hooked.The-Grimm-Legacy cover

A middle grade fantasy, this book offered a fun-filled adventure in a magical place located in New York City. A high school girl gets a job in a depository for all sorts of historical items. If places like this exist, I had no previous knowledge of them, so this was fascinating – almost like a fantasy world.

Objects from a magical collection are disappearing and Elizabeth determines to solve the mystery with the aid of her fellow pages. An atypical quest ensued and I rode along.

While Shulman’s approach to magic wasn’t completely original, the author distinguished herself from others by putting fairy tale items into a new location and with special powers usually reserved for – fairy tales.

The writing was concise and the voice strong. Characters resembled typical teenagers enough to gain my empathy. The plot moved along at a good pace and when I reached the two-thirds mark, I wanted to find out how it was resolved, so the story was a page-turner.

I recommend this book for sixth through ninth graders who know their fairy tales well enough to appreciate the allusions. Adult lovers of fairy tales, magic and a good story will also enjoy reading this book.

Dreamlander

I have been enamored with K.M. Weiland since downloading her free pamphlet on developing characters. That was months ago. I read her blog but had never read any of her books.

dreamlander-200When I read the book trailer for Dreamlander, I tried to resist. “Resistance is futile” sang my Kindle app. Amazon gladly sent the book to me after “one click.” The novel dawdled on my iPad for several weeks.

This is a fantasy story with an interesting twist – it’s all a dream. I know! How did the beginner’s ploy get published and read by many? Everyone lives two lives – the one they remember by day and the one they sometimes recall when they dream at night.

The protagonist has to save Dreamland. Crazily enough, he’s one of very few people who can remember both worlds and therefore can live full lives in both of them. Crazy, as in loony-bin insane, is what he thinks he is when he’s introduced to the idea. In fact, since he thinks it’s all a dream, he makes a life-altering decision in Dreamland. The rest of the story recounts his attempt at restoring the balance to both worlds.

In the back of my mind, I suspected the solution he worked toward wasn’t going to give him the desired outcome. I hoped he would get the happily ever after he dreamed about, but my worst fears came to pass.

I don’t want to spoil this story for anyone, but I must say that even though this book didn’t give me the ending I wanted, it gave me an ending that satisfied. Weiland effectively creates two worlds – Chicago from our world – and leaps between them seamlessly in a way I wouldn’t have predicted would work. But it does.

Her characters are compelling, realistic and relatable. They are just imperfect enough that the reader loves them and cheers for their success. If the reader is me, she cries for several chapters near the end when all hope seems lost.

I will read this book again at my leisure and make notes. How did Weiland make this story work? I’m going to dissect it until I figure out her secret.

If you’ve got a free weekend coming up: read. Read these two books and escape into the alternate reality of fantasy. Is it any wonder this is my favorite genre?

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