Category Archives: series

Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde

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Published in 2009 and classified under the genres of fantasy fiction / science fiction, Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde is a far cry from other books with similar titles. Fforde is best known for his ongoing Thursday Next series and fans will find his standard flair in this dystopian tale. The story takes place in Chromatacia, where your social status and standard of living is dictated by your ability (or lack of ability) to see natural colour. As an example, Eddie Russet can only see red; meaning that every other natural colour appears grey to him and he only sees other colours (blue, yellow, purple, etc) by means of artificial enhancements to those items as produced by the national colour grid.

Jasper Fforde

Chromatacia exists at least 500 years in the future after some sort of disaster wipes out current civilization. The population is governed by the rules of Munsell, which include some truly bizarre decrees such as a ban on spoon manufacturing. The entire place is highly complicated and convoluted, making for much more entertaining reading then it would reality. Protagonist Eddie Russet gets sent to the outer fringes to perform a chair census and in the process enters into a plot to break down the colour boundaries and work towards a more cohesive society.

Fforde incorporates wit, whimsy, revolution, and more into this engaging piece of fiction. With two more books slated to pick up where Shades of Grey ends, there is sure to be plenty more to look forward to from Jasper Fforde in the future.

 

 

 

 

 

Interview with Shane Peacock

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author picture of Shane PeacockShane Peacock was born in a place that doesn’t exist … the city of Port Arthur, Ontario. He grew up in Kapuskasing, Ontario, then earned a Bachelor’s degree (Honours) in English and History from Trent University, and a Master’s degree in Literature from the University of Toronto. Shane worked as a labourer for Spruce Falls Power and Paper Company, a wilderness bush sprayer for Ontario Hydro, and a box mover for a university bookstore. But ever since childhood, his mind was on other things: on extraordinary people and events, on personalities who made legends of their lives, on what motivated them, and what made others accept supporting roles. He set out to write about such individuals, some real, some invented, and others so eccentric that they seemed to be a combination of both. Because he writes about unusual subjects, his research methods have, at times, been out of the ordinary too. He has learned the arts of tight-rope walking, silent killing, trapeze flying, and sumo eating, all in the service of his art. Shane and his wife, journalist Sophie Kneisel, live with their three children on a small farm near Cobourg, Ontario, where he continues to search for and imagine larger-than life characters. In his spare time he enjoys playing hockey, reading, and walking the wire, pretending that he is the hero in each story.

Shauna Kosoris: You are most well-known for your Boy Sherlock Holmes series.  What inspired you to write about a young Holmes?

Shane Peacock: The Boy Sherlock Holmes series grew from an idea for a novel about racism and prejudice, and the need for the opposite of those two horrible things, justice. There was no one named Sherlock Holmes in the first draft of the first novel. It was a story about a brilliant half-Jewish boy in Victorian London, plagued by racist tormentors in school, who ends up being implicated in a murder and must find the villain. It wasn’t until someone suggested that my character could actually be Sherlock Holmes that I re-constructed the novel to make it about him. That allowed it to grow in both its appeal and complexity.

That most certainly would allow the story to grow in interesting ways.  More recently, you were involved in the Seven series; how did you get involved in that?

Eric Walters asked me to be involved in the Seven Series. We had been friends and colleagues for a while, and when he came up with his brilliant idea of a series written by seven different novelists, with novels all with the same starting point (a grandfather’s dying wish that his seven grandson’s attempt the seven amazing things on his bucket list), I thought it would be fascinating to be part of it, almost like a writing exercise.

That does sound like fun!  Did you choose to write Adam Murphy’s stories in the Seven Series/Sequels/Prequels?

I most definitely chose to write Adam Murphy’s stories in the Seven Series/Sequels/Prequels. Eric simply gave the other six authors the premise of the series and then we all created our characters and took them where we wanted them to go. One of the many strengths of this triple series is the uniqueness of each novelist’s creations in their respective novels.

Your new series, The Dark Missions of Edgar Brim, centers around a very sensitive character who suffers from night terrors.  Did you plan for your protagonist, Edgar Brim, to have this sleep disorder?

The Dark Missions of Edgar Brim was always meant to be a book about fear and, in particular, a story about a boy who suffers from a sort of anxiety disorder (though it certainly wasn’t called that in his day). I added the sleep disorder known as “sleep paralysis” or “the hag phenomenon” to his character, a terrifying ailment that most certainly still plagues people when they wake up suddenly and cannot move. Some people, over the centuries, report some sort of presence in the room with them, often a sort of hag or witch who is sitting on their chest, paralyzing them, squeezing the breath out of them. Edgar Brim struggles with this throughout my horror trilogy.

Both your Boy Sherlock Holmes series and your new series about Edgar Brim are set in the Victorian era.  Why does the Victorian era/Gothic period appeal to you so much?

I think the Victorian period appeals to me so much because it occurred after photography had been invented but before moving film, so we can see images of people and places and buildings and machinery from that time, but they sit or stand there, ghostly and immovable. I am fascinated by the idea of making it move in my novels, of animating that fascinating historical period, especially in London. I am also a huge Charles Dickens fan … that will do it to you!

In the middle of working on all of these series, you’ve also written a children’s picture book.  Why did you decide to write a picture book about Vincent van Gogh?

As is often the case with artists of all genres, I didn’t choose to write a picture book about Vincent van Gogh as much as it chose me. I had written a short story about him long ago that Karen Li, a brilliant editor at Owlkids Books, learned about and asked if I might consider turning into a picture book. I am an admirer of Van Gogh, of his genius, his individuality and courage, and an enemy of bullying, so I put those two things together in “The Artist and Me” and told what turned out to be a unique picture book that has, thankfully, met with great critical acclaim.

All of your books to date have been aimed at younger audiences, both young adult and children.  Why do you like writing for these younger age groups?

Actually, my first book, The Great Farini, was for adults, all my plays, documentaries, journalism and even a novel I am working on now, are for adults.

Whoops, that’s my mistake.

But I do enjoy writing for the younger audiences. It is definitely fun to be anywhere from six to eighteen again. And it is also intriguing to tell stories that are challenging, as all YA literature is if you try to get it right – to stay on plot, make your work exciting, AND make it say something and be structurally and stylistically interesting.

It is often commented that my books are like adult novels for kids.

So what are you working on now?

I am writing the second novel in the Edgar Brim trilogy, entitled Monster, as well as a new picture book, and the adult novel. I also have an idea for a Teen romance (a very different sort of one) and am developing a strange new YA series.

Wow, you’re very busy – good luck with everything!  Finally, let’s talk a bit about reading.  What book or author inspired you to write?

I think the aforementioned Charles Dickens may have been the greatest influence on me. My father actually read us Oliver Twist and other Dickens works when we were pretty young and I was absolutely enchanted by the characters and the worlds I encountered. I am also a big fan of The Little Prince, which is prominent in each of my novels in the Seven Series, Sequels and Prequels.

Is there a book or author that you think everyone should read?

Well, everyone should read Shakespeare. I know he is difficult for young people, but he is undoubtedly the greatest writer who ever lived and his stories are absolutely alive. They are magical. But Dickens is close behind.

And what are you currently reading?

I have been reading a lot of classic Horror stories for The Dark Missions of Edgar Brim, lots of Frankenstein, Dracula, Poe, and I recently read an amazing novel called Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, which is 1,100 pages long and very complicated but also rewarding. At this moment, I’m part way into Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. The Fault in Our Stars, which I’ve somehow avoided for a while, is up next.

cover picture of Edgar Brim

Case Histories by Kate Atkinson

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case-histories

I have been a huge Kate Atkinson fan since “Life after Life”, and so it was that I picked up this older title full of expectation.  I wasn’t disappointed!!  Case Histories is exactly that: the history of 3 cases of retired police inspector turned private investigator Jackson Brodie.  Thirty years after incident of the first case (a missing child), Brodie begins to make connections with case two (young daughter is randomly slaughtered in her father’s law office) and case three (a new young mother finds being a wife and mother not to her liking).  Brodie’s own life overlays the complexities of these cases – he is divorced and has a young daughter with whom he is trying to keep connecting.

Jackson Brodie, Atkinson’s investigator, headlines in 3 more of her novels.  He is a likeable and sympathetic character who gives you laugh-out-loud moments, as well as empathetic head-shaking.   Relationships are at the heart of this novel, not the crimes committed, and the development and interconnectedness of these relationships are what make this a great read. Atkinson is a true architect of story building.  The layers of each story – told from multiple viewpoints and varying points in time – add to the reader’s growing understanding of these relationships, the characters’ motivation and actions as each case develops.  As a result, this is not easy reading and some readers may find it confusing. But the end result is worth the effort, and hopefully you will find yourself, like I, looking forward to Brodie’s antics in book two – One Good Turn.

This title received a 3.5 star rating out of 5 on Goodreads: an online community of readers.

Barb Philp is a librarian with the Thunder Bay Public Library (www.tbpl.ca)

Interview with Erin M. Evans

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Erin M Evans author photoERIN M. EVANS got a degree in Anthropology from Washington University in St. Louis—and promptly stuck it in a box. Nowadays she uses that knowledge of bones, mythology, and social constructions to flesh out fantasy worlds. She is the author of the Brimstone Angels Saga, including Fire in the Blood and Ashes of the Tyrant. She lives in Washington State with her husband and sons.

Shauna Kosoris: All of your published novels, including your first, The God Catcher, are set in the Dungeons and Dragons Forgotten Realms campaign setting which is owned by Wizards of the Coast. How did you get involved with Wizards of the Coast?

Erin M. Evans: I started out working at Wizards of the Coast as an editor in their novels department. The opportunity to write a book in the Ed Greenwood Presents Waterdeep series came about because the editor of that series, Susan J. Morris, was running a limited call (she’d requested manuscripts from a few specific authors) and was short a proposal. She’d read some of my work, so she asked if I’d fill in. Turns out I had a pretty good idea in The God Catcher!

I guess you did!  After The God Catcher, you started writing your Brimstone Angels series, which is still ongoing. Twin sisters Farideh and Havilar from that series are tieflings.  Why did you decide to write about half-human, half-demons?

Technically, tieflings are mostly human, with some devil blood (at most a quarter). Honestly, I’m drawn to the way they can’t hide what they are, but that what they are is hugely misunderstood. Tieflings look like they might be devils themselves–but really they’re as complicated and free as humans. So if you’re a tiefling, what do you do? Do you fight it? Do you spend your life trying to be perfect so that people don’t assume you’re a monster? Do you just become a monster, because that’s what everyone expects? Couple that with the fact that they aren’t members of a homogeneous culture–tieflings can pop up anywhere someone’s gotten frisky with a fiend–and there’s a whole lot of nuance to explore.

Your highly conspicuous twins were raised by someone just as conspicuous: Mehen the dragonborn. Why did you decide to add him into the mix?

Because I like dragonborn! That’s really it in a nutshell. But, too, Mehen is one of those characters who just came together very quickly and with much certainty. He felt right and I’ve loved writing about him.

I’ve heard that you wrote a whole lot more about the dragonborn in Ashes of the Tyrant, the fifth book in your Brimstone Angels series, which just came out in December.  What was it like writing about their culture in the Forgotten Realms, a setting where not a lot has previously been written about them?

I enjoyed it quite a lot! The dragonborn are newer additions to D&D, and in the Forgotten Realms in particular they hadn’t been very deeply detailed. I had the opportunity to fill in the gaps between the handful of sources–this is one of the things I like best about writing tie-in fiction. The game needs things like racial ability bonuses and alignment notes, homelands and origins, but for a novel you need a sense of the day-to-day, what that race’s culture means to them. Finding ways to show how and why those rules are true in a way that feels like a living, breathing society is a blast.

It sounds like you make good use of your degree in Anthropology during your writing.

Oh yes (see above!). It comes most in handy when fleshing out cultures and thinking about how the intersection of different societies comes out. Thinking about people not just as individual characters, but as members of a group, influenced by that group’s values and shortcomings.

You’ve written extensively in Forgotten Realms, a fantasy setting that’s been around for almost thirty years.  Are there any details that you were able to add to the setting?

Oh, lots! The dragonborn culture is a big one. I also came up with the explanation for the tiefling appearance change, the Toril Thirteen and their involvement in the Ascension of Asmodeus. I got to shake up the royal line of Cormyr, and create the pradixikai, the elite erinyes of Malbolge. I got to come up with some adaptations for the modern Harper groups. Generally, if the idea’s been good enough and I’ve been persuasive enough, they’ve let me.

What are you working on now?

I just turned in The Devil You Know, the sixth book of the Brimstone Angels Saga, available October 4th (and for pre-order right now!). I’m working on a new series as well, something of my own, a sort of epic fantasy family saga, starting with a short story for a forthcoming anthology.

Oh, how exciting!  I’ve just got a few questions about what you read to finish up.  What book or author inspired you to write?

You know, I don’t want to name it, because what finally pushed me was reading a book that I hated! I was fourteen, my mother had been telling me my whole life that I should be a writer and I wasn’t into it. Then I read this book I was expecting to love, and I just hated it. I decided I could do better and started writing my own version. It wasn’t better–I was fourteen and had no idea what I was doing–but it got me going.

That’s totally fair.  Is there a book or author that you think everyone should read?

I think everyone should read out of their comfort zone. Pick up a mystery. Pick up a book of poetry. Pick up a romance, a Western, a true crime, a space opera. Especially if you want to write, you should try everything, see what each kind of book is best at.

That’s great advice!  Finally, what are you currently reading?

Right now I’m reading three books: Hallow Point, a noirish fantasy involving fairies in the 1930s by Ari Marmell; a hilariously raunchy short story collection called Cocktails at 7, Apocalypse at Midnight by Don Bassingthwaite; and a nonfiction book about Santa Muerte by R. Andrew Chesnut.

Ashes of the Tyrant book cover

Young Adult Books with Buzz (End of Winter Edition)

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New Series from your Favourite Authors

 From the author of the Under the Never Sky series:  riders

Riders by Veronica Rossi: Recovering from the accident that most definitely killed him, Gideon finds himself with strange new powers. He has become War, one of the legendary four horsemen of the apocalypse. Over the coming weeks, he and the other horsemen are brought together to help save humanity from an ancient evil. They fail. Now–bound, bloodied, and drugged–Gideon is interrogated by the authorities about his role in a battle. If he stands any chance of saving his friends and the girl he’s fallen for–not to mention all of humankind–he needs to convince the skeptical government officials the world is in imminent danger. But will anyone believe him?

 

From the author of the Defiance series:

  Shadow Queen by C J Redwine: Lorelai Diederich has one mission: kill the wicked  shadowqueenqueen who took both the Ravenspire throne and the life of her father. In the neighboring kingdom of Eldr, when Prince Kol’s father and older brother are killed by an invading army of magic-wielding ogres, the second-born prince is suddenly given the responsibility of saving his kingdom. To do that, Kol needs magic—and the only way to get it is to make a deal with the queen of Ravenspire, promise to become her personal huntsman…and bring her Lorelai’s heart. But Lorelai is nothing like Kol expected—beautiful, fierce, and unstoppable—and despite dark magic, Lorelai is drawn in by the passionate and troubled king. But Irina isn’t going down without a fight, and her final move may cost the Lorelai the one thing she still has left to lose.

From the author of the Alice in Zombieland series:

First Life by Gena Showalter: There is an eternal truth most of the world has come to accept: Firstlife is merely a dress rehearsal, and real life begins after death. In the Everlife, two realms are in power: Troika and Myriad, longtime enemies and deadly rivals. Tenley “Ten” Lockwood is an average seventeen-year-old girl who refuses to let her parents choose where she’ll live—after she dies. Both sides do anything to recruit Ten, and soon she is on the run, caught in a wild tug-of-war between the two realms who will do anything to win the right to her soul. Who can she trust? And what if the realm she’s drawn to isn’t home to the boy she’s falling for? She just has to stay alive long enough to make a decision…


New Books  revengewild

 

Revenge and the Wild by Michelle Modesto: Seventeen-year-old foul-mouthed Westie, the notorious adopted daughter of local inventor Nigel Butler, lives in the lawless western town of Rogue City where she sets out to prove the wealthy investors in a magical technology that will save her city are the cannibals that killed her family and took her arm when she was a child.
The Assassin’s Heart by Sarah Ahiers: Working as an official assassin in her kingdom’s highest-ranking clan, Lea pursues a forbidden relationship with a boy from a rival clan that she believes is responsible for her parents’ murders.

This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp: Minutes after the principal of Opportunity High School in Alabama finishes her speech welcoming the student body to a new semester, they discover that the auditorium doors will not open and someone starts shooting as four teens, each with a personal reason to fear the shooter, tell the tale from separate perspectives.

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Bluescreen by Dan Wells: Using her smart-device brain implants to enjoy a higher quality of life in mid-20th-century Los Angeles, teen Marisa Carneseca experiments with an allegedly safe virtual drug only to become enmeshed in a dangerous conspiracy.

The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Hellig: Growing up beside her father on a time-traveling ship that ventures to real and imaginary places, 16-year-old Nix struggles to preserve her life when her father obsessively pursues a map in a past time period in ways that threaten her existence.

 

 

Series Roundup

Calamity, bk 3 in the Reckoners series by Brandon Sanderson

Half Lost, bk 3 in the Half Bad series by Sally Green

Traveler, bk 2 in the Seeker series by  Arwen Dayton

Burn, bk 2 in the Four Sisters series by Elissa Sussman

Nothing Bad Is Going to Happen, bk 2 in the No One Else Can Have You series by Kathleen Hale

Newly added to the blog:

Come Read With Us Forever and Ever: Books Featuring Creepy Twins

 

Book descriptions via GoodReads.com & NoveList.

For more YA booklists and new releases, visit tbplteens.tumblr.com