Holy. Smokes. Bravo, Sherman Alexie, on this spectacular first novel for young adults. Of course the minute I learned this book had come out I went out a bought it in hardcover (eeks!) because I want to support our local authors, even if they're already superstars. If you've ever read a Sherman Alexie novel before, you'll already be prepared for his depressing sense of humour and tongue-in-cheek descriptions of life as a Spokane Indian. If this will be your first time entering Alexie's rez, brace yourself for an emotional ride that skids just above the suface of sarcasm and leaves you going WTF?!? but in a good way. I think. It's hard to tell. This morbidly funny diary details a year in the life of Arnold Junior Spirit, who decides to venture off the rez and become the first Indian student in an all-white school. This novel wouldn't be half of what it is without the fantastic drawings by Ellen Forney. This is a fast read, and a compelling story for all ages.
Author: Sherman Alexie
Illustrations by Ellen Forney
I started planning what to say about this book as soon as I got a few pages in to it, but I still don't know exactly what to think. It's gotten a lot of hype, and according to my middle school librarian source it's fairly controversial because of its purportedly erotic nature. On the one hand, this book never would have made it onto my bookshelf if it hadn't been well-publicized as being edgy, because it is a teen vampire novel. Gag me. But the other interest I had in it was the setting, which takes place mere few hours from my hometown here in the Pacific Northwest. Forks, the town in which the novel is set, really is an ex-logging town on the Olympic Peninsula, and I enjoyed reading the lush descriptions of local forests, beaches, and, of course, weather. The book centers around two teenagers, Edward and Bella, who are in love. It's giving away nothing to say that Edward's a vampire, since the book's jacket says so in the first sentance; however, it takes Bella the first hundred pages or so to figure it out, and the rest of the book she spends all googley-eyed and loopy at his amazing vampire-ness. I can see how this could be a sensuous novel to a young reader, but there are very convenient limits to how far their relationship can go: they cannot really kiss; they cannot have sexual relations; they cannot get too excited around one another or else he might eat her. There's the basic tension for the whole of the novel. In fact, I found their relationship to be extremely suffocating. Often I rolled my eyes thinking to myself, "how can they possibly be so glued at the hip? How can anyone keep up that level of intensity and inseparability?" Ah, but you know? It's a teen vampire novel. Enough said, I guess. But as much as I could rant about the book and it's somewhat under-developed characters, it's mushy main lovebirds, the annoying repetition of different variations of "he's so perfectly beautiful and his breath smells so good and his eyes are so amazing and he drinks grizzly bear blood", there was something that also held my attention. I don't know what it was, but I couldn't put this book down. In fact, I may even read the sequel. I can't explain it. Maybe there's just something so parasitic and mysterious about teen love and obsession that it just makes sense.
When I first heard about the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series it was through this book. I was drawn to it because a rave review from my favourite local bookstore, but also because the cover art looked so Pacific Northwest. It is, in fact, supposed to be set in a more nordic setting, but I couldn't help but think of ancient times in my own backyard San Juan islands. Hey, we have Orcas too, you know. Once again Torak, Renn and Wolf must vanquish a terrible evil that threatens the Forest, and this time their trek leads them to the Sea. Michelle Paver's dedication to first-hand research made the setting come alive for me, and I saw many elements of Haida and Inuit cultures sprinkled throughout the novel, but never too heavy-handed, which was refreshing. Although these book are a little predictable, I still enjoy being transported to a fresh-scented outdoor world filled with spirits, demons, and lots of adventure. I put this in the "Mist of Avalon" catagory, but I would liken it most to Clan of the Cavebears.
Author: Michelle Paver
There is a lot of honesty in this book, although it is sometimes covered up by too much effort to create a parallel world. Once you get past the jargon and the altered realities, you meet a girl who is different enough to be compelling. There are nice touches that made this book stand out for me: her mother is a hard-core military hero (which is different); her father is an alcoholic nutjob who lives in the attic; and the house comes with its very own immaterial servant who ends up nearly stealing our heroine's life force. It could almost be a metaphor of not giving ones self away to easily to please others, but I think I was reading too much in to it. Fun, strange...that about sums it up.
Author: Ysabeau S. Wilce
Are you getting tired of the girl-meets-talking-bear theme yet? Yeah, me neither. This was a terrific novel that wove in elements of Nordic mythology and fantasy together with a strong heroine and compelling story. Bears, weaving, family, solitude, evil sorceresses...all great themes that kept me up way past my bedtime. This would be a great book to curl up with on a cold, snowy day.
Author: Edith Pattou
They're going to make a movie of this, aren't they. Sigh. Oh well. Read the book anyway. It's good. Book characters come to life, heroine must stop them, evil is evil, good is good; all in all a fun read that takes you across a well-drawn European landscape (ah, Italy especially) and kept me engaged throughout.
Author: Cornelia Funke
I get the hype. This book was excellent. It's not technically sci-fi or fantasy, but I felt compelled to read it because of the press it has received, as well as the success of the sequel and journal.
I connected to this book on a personal level for many reasons; I've always been strangely drawn to Arizona, and I see a very strong part of myself in both Stargirl and in Leo. I think the simultaneous desire to fit in and yet stand out—or better yet, stand out and be loved for it—surpasses middle school or high school culture. We can all identify with that, which made it a beautiful read for me as an adult. Hardly any books about high school would find their way onto my bookshelf at this particular time, namely because you could not pay me enough to be a teenager again (don't get me wrong, I loved it. And I would not wish it on anybody all the same breath. Maybe I'll read some trashy teen lit when my daughter is *eeks* in high school).
Anyway, far from being just a cathartic novel about being different, this novel has something truly unique to it, something that captured my heart as easily as Stargirl captured Mica High School. It helps that it is beautifully written. It helps that the characters are, for the most part, fresh and real (with the slight exception of the wizened old man who sits on his porch smoking a pipe). I would recommend this book to anyone who has ever been to high school, who has/had a child in high school, or who wishes they could forget about high school. Basically, anyone. It's a fast read and worth the poetic mental trip to the warm, Arizona desert.
As sequels go, I found this to be a strong and entertaining follow-up on the very popular Fablehaven. Seth and Kendra must go back to Fablehaven (for their own protection, of course) and get into the usual this-could-be-the-end-of-Fablehaven disasters. While Seth didn't annoy me as much this time, he still is his usual out-of-control self, and Kendra is once again the reluctant hero, although this time she posesses fairy powers. The trouble I had is that she hardly ever USES her amazing fairy-ness, so I'm hoping her magic powers will blossom in the third book, due out in 2008. Entertaining, a little convoluted in some places, and overall a very enjoyable book.
Strange book of the Hidden Hero persuasion. A young boy who has so far been treated like garbage discovers he has amazing powers of control over theenigmatic Odylic force (which was a concept explored by real-life scientist Baron Karl von Reichenbach in the 1800s). It has a ring of Jedi Knight-ness to it. The tone of the book is dark and unworldly, with just enough unique narrative detail to make it stand out. It is, by the way, the first of a series which I abruptly found out when the book ended quite suddenly and on a major cliffhanger. Drat.
I picked this sequel up the moment I finished Alanna: The First adventure and read it in one day! I'm totally hooked! I've only read these two books of Tamora Pierce's many titles, but I would say that at this moment I am a fan. I loved that the main character, who is a young woman in disguise (althoughyou'd think that by the time she hasn't grown a beard or had her voice drop her friends may have figured it out) separates sex from love. It's, I think, an unusual concept for a YA book, but I really loved it. It's such a nice spin-off from the conservative idea of abstinence and sex-before-marriage-and-only-if-you're-in-love crap. It was very subtle, and I appreciate that Pierce has given young women an alternative to the hype of sex and made it seem totally natural. Alanna, the main
character, still struggles with love and trust throughout the book which is a welcomed tension. Also, as her closest friends discover she is really a woman, they accept her as much if not more than they already had. No ostracizing here, which is a great message to young women, and even grown women. We all need reminding that we are
wonderful and powerful just for being ourselves.
Author: Tamora Pierce
It took me a while to get in to this book. For one, the copy I got from the library had the dumbest looking cover. It looked like a bad 80's book about horses. I finally bought my own edition that has a less-dumb looking cover and I must say that I've really enjoyed this book. Even though I'm a total tom-boy, it's sometimes a hard sell for me to appreciate a heroine who must prove her strength by completely denying her feminine nature and becoming fully masculine. There is the tension of those who know her secret identity as a woman telling her that she will only be happy if she fully accepts herself, so there is that. Of course, I haven't read the last few chapters yet, and there are many more books in this series, so I could be premature in my judgment. Regardless, I've really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone who liked East by EdithPattou or Mists of Avalon by Marian Zimmer Bradley.
Author: Tamora Pierce
Quaint. Yes, quaint is a good word. Young girl discovers hidden fairy world in her own backyard. I thought it was a good read; it's one of the first ya fantasy book that I read while I was waiting for the next Harry Potter book to come out. There are over-arching messages of conservation, animal kindness, loyalty, and I think it would be a good read-out-loud book. The cover art is beautiful. I absolutely judge a book by its cover, and this author-drawn design is one of the reasons I picked up the book in the first place. If you enjoy books about secret gardens and fairies and quaint britishness and enjoy immersing yourself in a gorse-and-heather sort of landscape (who doesn't?) then this book should definitely find its way on to your bookshelf.
Author: Steve Augarde
This sequel to The Various was not exactly what I was hoping for. It didn't grip my attention the way the first did, but instead left me wanting. The story goes back in time, actually, to explore the life of Celandine, who was considered the family kook because she believed fairies lived in the back brambles, and after reading The Various, we know that she was right. To be fair, I moved on after only a few chapters of this book, so for all I know it gets much better. If you make it through, let me know.
Author: Steve Augarde
Labels: Ones I've put back down...