Of course, since I've declared this blog to be mainly fantasy and science fiction, I would start with a book that doesn't quite fit into that category. But Ruiz Zafon's The Prince of Mist should satisfy most fans of the fantastic, even though the story is grounded in reality.
Carlos Ruiz Zafon is a Spanish author who mainly writes books that fall into the 'magical realism' category. While some authors (Atwood) use this label to keep their books from falling into the ghetto of 'fantasy.' In Ruiz Zafon's case, however, this label fits best, and it's his familiarity with the genre, as well as his fantastic skill as a writer, that keeps this from being just another teen fantasy novel.
At it's core, this is a fairly straightforward ghost story romance, mainly from the point of view of a preteen boy. There are other ghost-type beings in the story, but no magic-wand-wizard and warlock-style magic.
The story, barring a few twists, is nothing I haven't read before, but the skill with which Ruiz Zafon writes makes any story a pleasure to read.
Highs: Writing quality
Lows: Fairly generic story premise
Verdict: A quick read, but a pleasure the whole way
Further Reading: Shadow of the Wind, Enchanted Glass