The False Princess is like a cozy blanket for your soul, hitting all the right notes while still allowing for a few tense moments and surprises. It begins with despair, as Nalia is cast out as the stand-in, false princess, basically a place-holder for the real princess who's been hidden away since birth. From there her journey is a classic tale of adventure and self-discovery, combined with a friendship so sweet and fiercely loyal that it actually made me cry a few happy tears. If you're looking for a YA fantasy with magic and real heart, definitely check this one out.
Fablehaven is a pretty decent kids' story following the time-honored "siblings stay with an eccentric relative in his mysterious mansion" thread. It's a quick and easy read, which is good since not much happens 'til the halfway point. It picks up from there, though, and carries you through to the end with plenty of action, adventure, and blood-thirsty fairies. Points off for the willfully stupid little brother - you'll spend half the time wanting to throttle him - and one or two situations that try a bit too hard to be funny, but otherwise Fablehaven is a good fantasy adventure aimed at the younger reading crowd. (Not quite as good as, say, Artemis Fowl, but still in that general category.)
Fablehaven is also the first book in a series of five, and I get the feeling the next four will be better, just because the overall premise is so cool. I just hope the annoying little brother gets a little LESS annoying in book two.
The House With a Clock In Its Walls is another kid-stays-with-eccentric-relative story, though this time the child has been recently orphaned instead of just visiting for the summer. It's a deceptively sweet story that packs a creepy wallop, even getting downright scary in a couple places. (I've since seen it described as a "gothic horror for children," if that gives you an idea.)
The Edward Gorey illustrations definitely add to the creepy gothic vibe, and if you're like me, they'll have you reminiscing about Vincent Price and Masterpiece Mystery:
This is my childhood, right here. (Well, not the murder-y parts.)
The House is actually an old book, first published back in 1973, but there's nothing to date it other than that cover up there. (In fact, I had no idea it was that old when I read it - I figured it was from the nineties.) That's probably why the modern reprints look like this:
It's a good cover, although I wish they'd tried to match Gorey's style a bit more.
K, that's it for now!
Anyway, I've since learned that The House is the first in a series of twelve books by John Bellairs, and the most recent was just published in 2008. Nice! I'll definitely be looking up the next one, The Figure In the Shadows.
K, that's it for now!
If you're looking for more of my book reviews and recommendations, you can find the complete list right here. And as always, feel free to share your own picks in the comments; everything I read and review these days is taken directly from your suggestions!