What books hold a special place in your heart?

I read a lot of books.  Some of them I forget about almost straight away, but others stick with me long after I’ve turned the last page.  There are only a handful, however, that have a lasting effect on me and hold a special place in my heart.

Some books feel as if they’ve been written just for you, like my favourite children’s book, Inkheart by Cornelia Funke.  As soon as I started reading it I knew that I would love it, and the more I read it, the more I felt like Cornelia had written it just for me.  She felt exactly the same about books and stories as I did and it was like she had put the thoughts and feelings inside my head down on paper.  I can’t tell you what I was doing or where I was at the time I first read it because I was completely caught up in the story and didn’t want it to end.  My favourite adult book, The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, also had this effect on me.  I’m going to meet him at the Auckland Writer’s Festival in a couple of weeks and I think I’ll probably die of excitement just listening to him talk.

Some books unsettle you and creep in to your head so that you can’t stop thinking about them.  Alex Shearer’s The Speed of the Dark was one of those books for me.  I can’t remember much about the story (I will have to reread this again soon) but the sense of mystery and feeling of unease I got while reading has stuck with me for many years.

Some books just wrench your heart out, by putting you in to the head of a character that faces some horrific situations.  I’ve just finished reading Morris Gleitzman’s books about Felix, Once, Then, Now and After.  These were books that I had been meaning to read for a while but hadn’t got around to reading.  Last year one of my best friends, who is a school librarian, told me I had to read Once.  I did and I’m incredibly grateful to her for making me do so, as this book (and it’s sequels) had a huge impact on me.  Morris Gleitzman is a very talented storyteller, who can write incredibly funny stories as well as incredibly sad and moving stories.  Morris’ stories of Felix’s fight for survival in Poland during World War II are heartbreaking and I know that I will always carry these stories in my head and my heart.  Once, Then, Now and After are stories that everyone should read.  I’ll be meeting Morris Gleitzman at the Reading Matters Conference in Melbourne next month and I’m sure I’m not the only one who will be telling him how much I love these books.

What books hold a special place in your heart?

Fearless by Cornelia Funke

Every time I read a book by Cornelia Funke I’m taken to a magical place filled with all sorts of wonderful creatures and characters.  While her worlds are strange and very different from ours there is also something really comforting about stepping in to them.  With Cornelia Funke you know that you’re going to read a story that will enchant you and I find myself instantly transported there from the first page.  I can still remember the first time I read Inkheart (my favourite children’s book) and feeling like Cornelia had written the book just for me.  Her latest series, starting with Reckless and now Fearless, is aimed at an older audience but filled with all the things I love about her writing.

After saving his brother, Jacob Reckless faces death from the fairy’s curse burning in his heart. In search of a cure he returns to the Mirrorworld, where he is reunited with Fox, a beautiful shape-shifting girl. He has one more chance: a golden crossbow, with the power to both save and destroy life, buried in a dead king’s tomb beneath an invisible palace. Jacob must cross continents, face monsters and men – including a dangerous rival – and learn what it means to stay alive.

Fearless picks up where Reckless left off and takes us back in to the Mirrorworld.  We join Jacob and Fox on a kind of ‘Amazing Race’ through the Mirrorworld to find the head, hand and heart of Guismond the Witch Slayer, which will lead them to the crossbow.  On the opposing team is Nerron the Goyl, a treasure hunter like Jacob, prince Louis and his entourage.  Each wants the crossbow for their own means and they’re incredibly determined to get to it first.

Cornelia’s remarkable characters and creatures fill the pages of this book, from the stone-skinned Goyl and the slimy Waterman, to the mysterious Mr Earlking and the sinister Bluebeard.  Some of the creatures are all her own creation, whereas others, like the Trolls, Giants and Dijin you will have met before in other stories.  I love the way that Cornelia weaves fairy tales in to the story too.  As Jacob is a treasure hunter he often gets sent to retrieve magical items for important people, like Cinderella’s glass slipper or the goose that lays the golden eggs.  You never follow Jacob on any of these quests though, you only hear about them in passing when he’s recounting the tales with his mentor Chanute or Valiant the Dwarf.  The character in Fearless that I found most intriguing was the Bluebeard, a sinister character who appears charming, but hides his true nature behind his clean-shaven face.  Watch out for this guy because he’s really creepy.

Fearless (and Reckless) are certainly darker and grittier than Cornelia’s Inkheart series, but fans of that series will love this one.  It’s like Cornelia has instilled the essence of the original fairy tales into her stories.  I really hope that there are more books to come in the Mirrorworld series, as it feels like Cornelia has just scratched the surface of this world and has plenty more to reveal about her characters.

5 0ut of 5 stars

Win a copy of Reckless and Fearless

I have a copy of both Fearless and the first book in the series, Reckless to give away.  To get in the draw all you have to do is enter your name and email address in the form below.  Competition closes Tuesday 9 April (NZ only).