Eric Recommends: ‘Fablehaven,’ ‘Brief History of the Dead,’ ‘King Dork’

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Some books I’ve read recently and can recommend to you. The links in the titles take you to Amazon.com, where if you buy anything — even if it’s not the item you originally clicked on — I get a tiny kickback. So click on a link and do a lot of Amazon shopping, is my point.

“Fablehaven,” by Brandon Mull. With J.K. Rowling about to wrap up her Harry Potter series, the world needs a strong new children’s fantasy series, and I believe “Fablehaven” has every right to be it. Set on a Connecticut preserve for “whimsical creatures” (fairies and brownies, as well as less peaceful beasts), the first book in the series has two children, a brother and sister, visiting their grandparents, who are caretakers of this magical land. Naturally, there is trouble. Mull creates an exciting, imaginative new world, and writes with wit and intelligence. (For once the kids actually talk and act like KIDS.) It’s a few pages before the magic kicks in, but once it does, it’s a fantastic and thrilling read.

“The Brief History of the Dead,” by Kevin Brockmeier. The genius of a good book is in the intangibles, the deft turn of a phrase, the subtle but powerful command of the language. That’s what this intriguing, contemplative novel has going for it, along with a fantastic premise. The chapters alternate between two locations. One is the “city of the dead,” where everyone goes after they die to dwell for a time before finally moving on … to where, no one knows. (No one knows for sure what determines how long they stay here in limbo, either.) The other locale is Antarctica, where a woman is on a research expedition and has thus missed out on the virus that has wiped out most of the world’s population. It’s a sweet, sometimes comical book about life and death and important stuff like that.

“King Dork,” by Frank Portman. Tenth grader Tom Henderson is a misfit and an outcast, forever coming up with band names for his would-be rock group (starring him and his one friend) and trying to stay under the bullies’ radar. He finds his dead father’s copy of “Catcher in the Rye” in the basement, and some notes scribbled in it send him on a search for clues about his old man’s life. The novel is hilariously written from Tom’s point of view, with trenchant observations about high school, rock ‘n’ roll and life in general. One of my favorite funny books of recent months.

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