Reckless by Cornelia Funke

December is Best of...
So I was going to do some of the best books of 2010, but I fell in love with Summerland (and was shocked I had never read it before), and felt the need to include it. The rest are new titles from 2010, including a new author. There are adventures, action, romance, magic, and grief...a little bit like my 2010. What were some of your favorites from this year?

Jacob Reckless is lost after his father disappears. He doesn't understand why his father would leave, and frequently visits his study, full of his father's things. One night, he is drawn to a mirror that hangs there, with an inscription that reads “the mirror will open only for he who cannot see himself.” He discovers the mirror's secret, and enters the Mirrorworld.

It's a magical land, filled with fairy tales come to life, witches, dwarfs, goblins. Jacob is enchanted with the world, and spends more and more time there. He leaves behind his mother, and his brother Will, whose devotion to his brother is unflagging. Over the years, Jacob spends less and less time in our world, choosing instead to live his life inside the mirror. He befriends a shapeshifting girl-fox, whose enchanted dress allows her to shift between human and fox. He works for an abusive treasure hunter, and gains favor with the Empress. He watches as the humans begin to lose the war to the Goyl, the warriors made of stone, after a spell from the Black Fairy begins to turn human soldiers into Goyl.

It is this last development which causes him the most pain. One day, shortly after his mother's death, Jacob brings Will into the Mirrorworld...and Will falls victim to the Goyl curse. Will's girlfriend follow him into the mirror as well, and soon the four of them - Jacob, Fox, Will, and Clara - are off searching for a cure to save Will, whose skin is slowly, unmistakably becoming jade.

Jacob knows there is no known cure for the Goyl curse, but he is determined to make up for his mistake in allowing Will to enter the mirror. They brave the Gingerbread House, and the Tailor, the Enchanted Forest, and Sleeping Beauty's Castle. They enter the realm of the fairies, and the Goyl fortress, they sneak into the Empress's castle...all looking for a cure.

Meanwhile, the king of the Goyl Kami'en searches for the jade Goyl...the legend says that he who possesses the jade Goyl will be invincible. Can Jacob find a cure before the Goyl find Will? Is there even a cure possible?

This is a masterful blend of fairy tales and modern fantasy, with Funke's traditionally enchanting writing. Each chapter opens with a illustration, and each character draws you in. Highly recommended for middle school through high school.
"Clara's scent was the same one Fox smelled on herself whenever she lost her fur. Girl. Woman. So much more vulnerable. Strong and yet weak. A heart that knew no armor. The scent told Fox all about the things she feared and from which the fur proteced her. Clara's hasty steps wrote them onto the dark soil, and Fox didn't need her nose to know why Clara was running. She herself had tried to run from pain before," (Funke pg. 136, 2010).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
Incarceron by Catherine Fisher
The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman

Funke, Cornelia. (2010). Reckless. New York, NY: Little, Brown.

Summerland by Michael Chabon

Ethan Feld hates baseball. He isn't any good, and he wants to quit. He tries to explain to his father...but his dad and his best friend, Jennifer T., both say he can't quit right before a game. So he goes, and Ruth's Fluff and Fold's Roosters lose another one...

On the way to the game, he could have sworn he saw a bush baby. Of course, the chances of a bush baby being in Clam Island, Washington are nearly impossible. It turns out, what he saw was a werefox named Cutbelly. Ethan has been recruited by Chiron "Ringfinger" Brown to be a hero. He learns that there are, in fact, four worlds. Our world (the Middling), the Summerlands, the Winterlands, and the Gleaming...which is lost. Cutbelly takes him to the Summerlands (well, the other Summerlands) to meet the ferishers of the Boar Tooth Mob (they don't like to be called fairies) because Coyote has decided to bring about the end of the world, or Ragged Rock (aka Ragnarok), and they need Ethan's help.

Ethan's just a kid, what can he do? He isn't even good at baseball! "Ringfinger" suggests he give up the outfield, and try catching...and suggests that Jennifer T. try pitching. Somewhat overwhelmed by this new revelation, the two kids decide to give it a try, with surprising success. While they prepare to enter the Summerlands, and take on Coyote, tragedy strikes. The Boar Tooth Mob are attacked by Coyote, leaving only their leader Cinquefoil behind, and Cutbelly and Ethan's dad are kidnapped. Not knowing what else to do, Ethan and Jennifer T. decide to bring their friend Thor along, to act as a Shadowtail that can help them cross between worlds. Using Cinquefoil's 'grammar' (ferisher for magic), they fix up Mr. Feld's old stationwagon and the balloon from his Zeppelina (his prototype for "the affordable family airship") into a flying contraption to take them on their long journey.

They embark, picking up friends and having adventures along the way. After a few stops, it becomes apparent that they will have to play baseball to get to the Winterlands to stop Coyote. Their team is a bit ragtag, including Ethan, Jennifer T., Thor, Cinquefoil, Taffy (a sasquatch), Grimalkin John (a minature giant), Pettipaw (a wererat), and Spider Rose (a ferisher from the Dandelion Hill Mob). They even recruit a real MLB player, Rodrigo Buendia, to be their ninth man.

Meanwhile, in the Winterlands, Coyote has tricked Mr. Feld into adapting his Zeppelina design to use as a way to poison the Lodgepole, the Great Tree of the Worlds. Mr. Feld saves Cutbelly from certain death, but starts to lose himself as he works to help Coyote. Can Ethan find him in time, and stop Coyote from destroying the worlds?

This story, written by Pulizer-prize winning author Michael Chabon, weaves together multiple mythologies and creates a world akin to Harry Potter's by building something new from old stories. The book is a daunting 500 pages, but I rarely got bored, and I don't even like baseball. Highly recommended for baseball/fantasy fans of all ages. I also recommend the audio version, read by the author.

"Some things that are invisible and untouchable can nevertheless be seen and felt." (Chabon, 2002).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon (YA/Adult crossover)
Nation by Terry Prachett
Un Lun Dun by China Mieville

Chabon, Michael. (2002). Summerland. New York, NY: Hyperion Books.
Chabon, Michael. (2002). Summerland [audiobook]. Minneapolis, MN: HighBridge Co.

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

What is life without Bailey? That's the question that Lennie keeps asking herself. Now that her sister is dead, how can life keep going?

A freak heart problem caused her sister to drop dead at 18, leaving Lennie, Gram, and Big (Lennie's uncle) all alone. Also in the "left behind" category is Toby, Bailey's boyfriend. He spends a good amount of time over at the house, and it seems like he's the only one that understands what Lennie is going through. Her best friend Sarah doesn't get it, none of the kids as school know what to say, and she doesn't want to talk about it anyway.

One of the ways she deals with it, is by writing poems to Bailey on any scrap she can find: used coffee cups, backs of receipts, the bottom of her shoe, branches of trees...peppered throughout the text are excerpts of her poetry; remembered conversations with her sister, observations on her thoughts, or questions she'll never get to ask again.

Lennie refuses to pack up any of Bailey's things. As they shared a bedroom, she likes being surrounded by the feel of her sister, the smell of her clothes, her perfume, her clutter...she even refuses to do the laundry. In an attempt to bring her out of her shell, Gram invites Toby over. The two of them collide in their grief...their proximity enough to resurrect Bailey for a few minutes, and at the time it feels so right...but afterwards, she can't believe her own actions.

Finally back at school, all the buzz is about the new boy, Joe Fontaine - hottie horn player, and general musical genius - definitely swoon worthy. Sarah is all over Lennie to hang out, to talk, to gush about boys, and Lennie just can't handle it. She starts eating lunch in a tree outside the school, only to be found by none other than Mr. Fontaine himself, who asks her to play a duet! Lennie turns him down, retreats to The Sanctum (her room), and tries to find Bailey in the emptiness.

Her grief is overwhelming, and it seems she may never find a way out. When school lets out for the summer, she begins her routine of jobs, but continues to hide out at home. Every morning, Joe comes by and joins Gram, Big, and Lennie for breakfast...something that wins over them all, and even entices her to play with him: he on guitar, she on clarinet. A budding romance is definitely blossoming...but is she allowed to be be happy in a world without Bailey? And can she stop herself from self-destructing?

So powerful and touching, with elements of whimsy and heart-wrenching truth that anyone who has dealt with loss will understand. Who knew there were love stories that even overcome heart-break?
"When I'm with him,
there is someone with me
in my house of grief,
someone who knows
its architecture as I do,
who can walk with me,
from room to sorrowful room,
making the whole rambling structure
of wind and emptiness
not quite as scary, as lonely
as it was before," (Nelson pg. 80, 2010).
*Library Link*
If you liked this, check out:
If I Stay by Gayle Foreman
Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
It's Not Summer Without You by Jenny Han

Nelson, Jandy. (2010). The Sky is Everywhere. New York, NY: Dial Books.

The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan (The Kane Chronicles, Book 1)

Carter and his little sister Sadie have spent most of their life apart. After their mom died, Sadie went to live with her grandparents, and Carter stayed with their dad. Dr. Julius Kane is a famous Egyptologist, and Carter travels extensively with him, never staying in one spot too long.

One day a year, on Christmas, the three reunite. Dr. Kane and Carter meet Sadie at their grandparents house, and head to the British Museum...Sadie can't believe that her dad is wasting their one day together on another museum... Neither Sadie OR Carter can believe what they see when they follow their dad into the Egypt exhibit.

He seems to be chanting, and the Rosetta Stone is glowing blue! Then some ghost or demon or something rises up and locks their dad in a coffin! Then these other two people show up, and the creepy guy disappears...but Sadie and Carter have no idea what is going on! Their uncle Amos comes to pick them up, and he has a few more answers. It turns out their families are descended from the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt...and that magic really exists...and Egyptian gods are real, and their dad just woke several up and set them free. Oops? Suddenly, Sadie and Carter are expected to go to the House of Life, and learn magic, so they can save their father (who is locked in a coffin, remember)...and defeat the evil god Set, who wants to destroy the world. Also, they only have 5 days.

Luckily, they have some helpful (if somewhat unconventional) allies. Sadie's loyal cat is actually the goddess Bast, and they bring along Uncle Amos's pet baboon Khufu. They also recruit the help of Thoth, the god of knowledge, to learn how to defeat Set. They even visit the land of the Dead, and Anubis (who Sadie thinks is really hot) on their quest.

This action packed adventure has a perfect blend of mythology and modern, along with a good dose of humor, and a touch of romance. This is another gem by Riordan, and highly recommended for fans of Harry Potter or Percy Jackson.
"'Carter,' Amos said, 'the Egyptians would not have been stupid enough to believe in imaginary gods. The beings they described in their myths are very, very real. In the old days, the priests of Egypt would call upon these gods to channel their power and perform great feats. That is the origin of what we now call magic. Like many things, magic was first invented by the Egyptians. Each temple had a branch of magicians called the House of Life. Their magicians were famed throughout the ancient world,'"(Riordan pg 72, 2010).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:
The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan (The Heroes of Olympus, Book 1)
The Alchemyst: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel by Michael Scott
The Cabinet of Wonders by Marie Rutkoski (The Kronos Chronicles, Book 1)

Riordan, Rick. (2010). The Red Pyramid. New York, NY: Disney/Hyperion Books.