Fablehaven by Brandon Mull

In my ever continuing search for YA fantasy, I’ve come across another great series. This one, Fablehaven by Brandon Mull, is about Kendra and her brother Seth who are forced to visit their reclusive grandparents while their parents go on a cruise. But Grandma is visiting some unknown aunt and Grandpa is acting strange–strict, full of rules that are strange. Seth, the rebellious one of the two siblings is determined to break all the rules while Kendra, the obedient but inquisitive older sister is determined to discover the truth about Fablehaven. What she discovers is that the property is actually a magical preserve for mythical creatures like fairies, satyrs, and naiads. And there is something threatening the preserve.

Like Riordan does with the Percy Jackson series, Mull manages to weave mythology with modern times to create a new, exciting reality. His world bears some similarity to that of the Sisters Grimm, magical creatures relegated to a particular place, but the similarity ends there. His world is utterly his own. He explains things like why cows are worshiped in some parts of the world and what it’s like to look at the world from the perspective of an immortal. But he manages to go further, examining the idea of good and evil, of the virtues of rule-breaking, of what secrets are best kept or revealed, of whether mortality or immortality is a better life to live.

Mull has created a rich and imaginative world that always keeps you guessing. The writing is solid and though some of the lesser characters (such as Dale the caretaker) could use some more personality and backstory, the main characters are well-defined and distinctive.

The series has another four books for me to read (one coming out this March) and I can’t wait to get started on them (though I’m reading Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games at the moment so it will have to wait until after that).

Nearly every review I’ve seen about this series mentions Harry Potter. I hate that every series about magic is now compared to Harry Potter. Harry Potter is a great series, JKRowling has had a level of success that is unprecedented, but it isn’t the be all and end all of children’s fantasy. Yes, it is the degree of success that everyone aims for, but you can’t replicate the series in some other form. Some other good series will take its place. JKR has opened the door for kids to love reading and and they will search out other series that capture their imagination, but they won’t expect a duplication. Fantasy series will have similarities, but every one is different. They should be judged on their own merits, not merely in relation to another one.

Either way, I think Fablehaven stands on its own. And I hear that it is in the works of becoming a movie. Can’t wait to see that.

The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game by Michael Lewis

Many people have seen the movie by now and, as someone who loves to compare books to their adaptations, I felt that I should read the book. The two start out similarly enough, counting the less than five seconds it could take from the snap of the ball in a play to ending someone’s career. But from their they diverge in a lot of ways.

While the movie focuses solely on the life of Michael Ohr and how he came to play left tackle in the NFL, the book has a much larger undertaking. Lewis delves into the history of the sport and seeks to explain its evolution–from running game to passing game, from the left tackle being considered the same as any offensive lineman to being considered a unique and high-paid player. A part of me was interested in this information. The politics of sports is always fascinating to me since there’s so much going on that just being a fan of the sport you might miss. At the same time, that information isn’t as compelling as Michael’s story.

This is the problem with a story being told from an outsider’s perspective (as opposed to from the point of view of someone who actually lived through the experience), it feels somewhat removed and impersonal and the outside facts tend to intrude.

The one thing that the book had that the movie lacked was more details about the before (Michael’s childhood) and the after (what became of the Tuohy family and Michael). There’s more explanation of how Michael ended up where he did, though I think Lewis makes it all too simple to explain someone’s entire nature.

It’s not the best of the sports books I’ve read in the last few months, but it is interesting to see how it differs from the movie and for football fans, there’s a lot of information about the sport that’s cool to learn.

Interested in reading the book? Check it out here: The Blind Side