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Bri Meets Books

Children's and YA literature reviews.

Category Archives: fantasy

princesshyacinthPrincess Hyacinth isn’t your normal princess. She floats. And that’s not a metaphor for her delicate manner of walking lady-like, she literally floats in the air. The only solution is for the king and queen to weigh her down with a heavy crown and jewels. But she wants to fly, and a new friendship will help do so.

A collaboration of two big names in the children’s literature world, Princess Hyacinth is a visual delight. Lane Smith’s illustrations are usually bright and loud, all over the page.  Here they’re  watercolors, more restrained and delicate. The story’s words are art themselves, when Princess Hyacinth floats up, so do they.   The visual play with words continues as the princess careens across the sky.

The ending is great. I love when a children’s book steps outside of the realm of neatly tying up things, it sparks imagination in children and in this dreamy fairy tale, it’s perfect.

Title:  Princess Hyacinth (The Surprising Tale of a Girl Who Floated)
Author:  Florence Parry Heide (Illus. by Lane Smith)
Date: September 2009
Publisher: Schwartz and Wade (Random House)
Pages: 48
Format:  Hardback


When he was six years old, a child was found in a locked bank vault in the city of Dunce. He’s suffering from amnesia and only a small scrap of paper offers a clue: his name, Bran Hambric. His parents’ whereabouts are unknown, and so according to Dunce law, whoever found him is responsible for his welfare. The task is entrusted to Sewey and Mabel Wilomas. But nobody, not even Bran, realizes how important the boy’s survival is, and his connection to the titular Farfield Curse.

Reading Bran Hambric: The Farfield Curse, the similarities of Harry Potter will occur. However, after the publishing of the Potter series, such comparisons were inevitable. Literature throughout the ages has been littered with the archetype of the hero, a boy of extraordinary power and living in ordinary circumstances. Bran Hambric has another thing in common with Mr. Potter: A sharply written novel with engaging characters, a twisting storyline, and equal dashes of humor and action.

Author Kaleb Nation started Bran Hambric when he was fourteen years old. He completed the novel in 2007. It all started with his imagining a boy and a banker waiting on a rooftop for a burglar to arrive. As Nation tells it, he wrote five hundred pages in six to nine months. The result is a novel meant for middle grades but enjoyable by all ages.

Starting in on Bran Hambric, once I was invested in the story, I didn’t want to leave. You know a book is good when you’ll torture yourself on an elliptical for another thirty minutes to read it! The characterization is great, from the curmudgeonly yet likable Sewey Wilomas (my favorite) his health-obsessed wife Mabel to the characters who aid Bran Hambric in his search for the truth – Adi and Astara. The book is filled with scenes of Bran’s family life, Sewey’s outlandish behavior, the mysterious world of gnomes, mages, and etc. This wait for more action, however, might bore younger readers. With so many wild incidents (odd occurences at a town fair, an unusual bookstore visit), older readers should be entertained nonetheless. The villain, Baslyn, is amiss for a good deal of the book, but his evil presence still fills the novel, making the confrontation of him and Bran thoroughly creepy, and worthwhile.

Nation has mentioned he has enough material written by five more sequels, and hopefully, Bran Hambric: The Farfield Curse leaves readers anticipating more, as Bran is a promising new character whose story has much left to tell.

Copy for review received from the publisher.

Title: Bran Hambric: The Farfield Curse
Kaleb Nation
Date: September 9, 2009
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Pages: 336
Format: Hardback

I conducted an interview with Kaleb Nation as part of the blog tour, with the help of Sourcebooks. You’ll find it below!

The world of Bran Hambric is inventive, with a variety of magical creatures, items, and beings. If there could be one magic-related item, creature, or person from your novel that was in the real world, who or what it would be? Why?

I think (as most people probably already expect!) I would really enjoy having a gnome around! Gnomes are such wonderful creatures and can do so many things, and I think a gnome would be a wonderful friend to have as well.

We learn in Bran Hambric there’s several different types of mages. Into which category do you think you’d fall?

I think I would most likely be an Illian. Illians are drawn towards books and writing, and I think that I can relate to Adi in that way as well!

Who have been your greatest writing inspirations? What advice would you give to other aspiring young authors?

I think one of my greatest writing inspirations has been Stephenie Meyer, not so much of her writing style but because of the way that she interacts with her readers. She has an interesting way of making her readers feel as if she’s talking directly to them, even if there might be 500 or 1000 people at the event. I always want to have a connection with readers the way she does.

I think that the advice I would give to other young writers is to really stick with it and make sure that you enjoy what you are writing. There are a lot of rough times when you’re writing a book with little hope of it being published, so it’s important that you’re writing a story that you enjoy, not just something you think will sell!

One of my favorite elements of the novel is the diverse cast of the characters. Each of them was compelling in their own way, from Mabel’s constant paranoia about imaginary germs to the curmudgeonly yet still oddly likable Sewey. Do any of the characters within your book have facets to their personality that you’ve drawn from yourself or other people you know?

I think that every character in the book draws upon certain aspects of myself or people that I have met in real life. I think that Bran’s interest in drawing is very much his version of my interest in writing. Some of Sewey’s crazy driving was directly inspired by my early driving lessons! And my family went through some sort of a health craze for a year or two a long time ago, so I think that Mabel’s health obsession might have been inspired by that somewhat (though greatly exaggerated in her case!).

I know from your website you’re a composer yourself. A good deal of authors sometimes mention particular songs or genres that have influenced them, such as Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight and the band Blue October. Is this the case with you and Bran Hambric?

There were many songs and bands that I found over the years to fit with writing Bran Hambric. But since I wrote the book between ages 14 and 20, my musical interests naturally changed a lot over the years. At the beginning of writing, I almost entirely wrote with Enya playing in the background. Closer to the end though, I switched to a more random assortment or rock, with a lot of Anberlin and Shiny Toy Guns. Nowadays, it’s a mix of those bands and a lot of movie soundtracks, especially from the Lemony Snicket movie and Finding Neverland.

If you could live inside any children’s book, what title would it be and why?

I think I’d love to live in the world of Lemony Snicket, as dreary as it might seem! It’s so quirky and strange I’d have a wonderful time exploring it.

My thanks to Kaleb and Sourcebooks for letting me participate in the blog tour. You’ll find the rest of the stops on the tour below. There’s some great stops, be sure to visit them all! Also check out Kaleb Nation’s Official Site, BranHambric (where you’ll find music composed by Kaleb for the novel), and Sourcebooks’ Bran Hambric page. You can download the first four chapters here and enter Sourcebooks’ contests for signed soundtrack CDs, Bran’s necklace, and more.

Blog Tour Schedule

Sunday, August 30th

Jenn’s Bookshelf

Homespun Light

Monday, August 31st

Dolce Bellezza

Bobbi’s Book Nook

Tuesday, September 1st

The Looking Glass Review

Beth Fish Reads

SMS Book Reviews

James Holder’s YouTube Channel

Wednesday, September 2nd

Reading Rumpus

Katie’s Literature Lounge

Ultimate Bookhound

Thursday, September 3rd

Brimful Curiosities

Charlotte’s Library

Friday, September 4th

Bran Hambric by Kaleb Nation

Saturday, September 5th

Library Lounge Lizard

Sarah’s Random Musings


Sunday, September 6th

Cindy’s Love of Books

Monday, September 7th

Lauren’s Crammed Bookshelf

Grasping for the Wind

Life After Twilight vlog channel

Tuesday, September 8th

Shooting Stars Magazine

Mrs. Magoo Reads

Lori Calabrese Writes

Wednesday, September 9th

The Brain Lair

The Children’s Book Review

TV Watch Online

Thursday, September 10th

The Friendly Book Nook

Book Journey

Stephanie’s Written Word

Home School Buzz

Friday, September 11th

The Inside Scoop With Chandelle

Booking Mama

Saturday, September 12th

Zoe’s Book Reviews

Lit for Kids

Sunday, September 13th

Never Jam Today

A Bibliophile’s Reverie

Monday, September 14th

Café of Dreams

Marta’s Meanderings

A Book Blogger’s Diary

The Reader’s Quill

Tuesday, September 15th

a book in hand

Not Just for Kids

Wednesday, September 16th

Write for a Reader

Thursday, September 17th

Howling Good Books

The Written World

Friday, September 18th

Always Riddikulus

YA Books Central

Saturday, September 19th

Ms. Bookish

Into the Wardrobe

Zoe Marriot’s debut, The Swan Kingdom, is a fantasy based on the Han Christian Anderson tale The Wild Swans. The cover art (pictured left) reflects the beauty and power within in the novel.

Princess Alexandra, of Farland, lives in a “beautiful and lush Kingdom,” that’s kept alive by the enaid, “the life of the world.” She’s taught in the ways of healing magic and “workings” by her mother. Alexandra grows up loved by her mother and doted on by her brothers, which help offset the distance she feels from her father. After her mother’s death, a mysterious woman banishes Alexandra and her brothers. Alexandra, armed with perseverance and fierce love might vanquish the woman and restore order to her kingdom.

Alexandra is an excellent character, as her mannerisms and inner self are realistic – like any young girl in her mother’s shadow, she has doubts in her abilities, and looks upon herself as the least favored in her father’s eyes. Marriot’s prose is electric and brings Alexandra alive, with stirring passages as Alexandra must confront not only the outsider who has banished her and her brothers from their kingdom, but also her doubts.

Marriot writes very sparingly, without overly flowerly descriptions of the kingdom and the magic within, and the effort leaves a powerful novel rooted in a familiar tale, yet with a magic all its own.

The Swan Kingdom is available now from Candlewick Press.

Copy for review provided by the publisher.

I began Skulduggery Pleasant one night, after my power had gone out during a particularly rough storm, which was a fitting enviroment for the novel, I felt. I read it aloud to my mother, and together we entered the world of Stephanie Edgley and didn’t look back.

Stephanie Edgley is your average twelve-year old girl who attends school, listens to music, and feels like she doesn’t quite belong in her quiet and normal life. Oh, and her best friend is a talking fire-conjuring skeleton named Skulduggery Pleasant.

Derek Landy’s debut novel Skulduggery Pleasant begins with a frenetic pace and doesn’t let up for the length of the book. A worthy contender with the likes of Harry Potter and Lemony Snicket’s works, it’s the tale of a hidden family secret, a stolen sceptre, powerful magic, and darkness unseen. The dialogue is fast and witty, and written very tongue in cheek. Landy’s style reminds me of a Christopher Moore for the younger set.

After the death of an author uncle, known for his tales of magic and darkness, Stephanie enters into his secret life led (reluctantly) by Skulduggery Pleasant. Landy’s character of Stephanie Edgely is a welcome addition to the children’s literature world. She’s headstrong yet determined, and the dialogue is completely accurate for a girl of her age. She’s a real child, still navigating the careful world between childhood fantasy and adult realizations.

Also notable is Skulduggery Pleasant. More than just a skeleton, he’s a complex character with a rich and carefully-crafted history. But Skulduggery is only one great part of the novel. The rest of the world is just as enchanting, with a tailor who crafts clothes unique to the wearer and nearly invincible, vampires, and tricky trolls, not to mention a peculiar Canary Car.

The novel captivates the reader from start to finish and is the promising start to a seven book series. The book is available in hardcover now from HarperCollins.

An excerpt is available on the book’s official site. Viewers can also read character profiles and an interview with the author, watch a video starring Skulduggery, listen to scary MP3s, and enhance their desktop with creepy wallpapers inspired by the novel.

Review copy provided by the publisher