Tag Archives: fiction

International buddy road trip – Amazon style

wwoman warbringerLike the recent Wonder Woman movie, this book lets Diana Prince be Wonder Woman with no apologies.  She’s fast and strong and can whip that lasso around and deflect bullets, too.  So what?  She’s been training for this moment her whole life, even if she might not have realized it.

Instead of saving a downed pilot, she saves Alia Keralis, a rich girl who turns out to be a Warbringer, a modern relative of Helen of Troy.  In saving Alia, Diana has messed things up for a whole island of Amazons and possibly the world, too.

And this is where it gets really fun.  After landing in New York by mistake, Alia reconnects with her brother Jason, his friend Theo, and her bestie Nim.  A gala is destroyed by bombs and dudes with semi-automatic weapons, and Diana must do what she can to protect Alia long enough to get her to a place that can cleanse her of her Warbringer heritage and fast enough to beat a deadline.

If your road trips usually involve wealthy people jetting off to Greece, morphing into gods of panic, and fighting off lots of men in tactical gear in black vehicles, more power to you.  For those of us who live much quieter lives, we can still enjoy the chase, worry about possible betrayals, and be happy about the conclusion.

There’s just enough information about Greek history and myths to keep it interesting and moving along, without seeming like we’re going to be tested on everything at the end.  And Wonder Woman?  She’s awesome – smart, funny, strong, strategic, and even kind – just like we’d expect her to be.

Wonder Woman:  Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo

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The grim reaper does not ruin this party

denton little 2Denton Little was supposed to die in the last book, but he didn’t.  He doesn’t die in this one, either.

Surviving is complicated when there are government agencies interested in keeping the status quo, however.  There may be false identities, strange viruses, car chases, lies, secrets, a romance or two…

There’s some behavior that might be deemed inappropriate for younger readers (drug and alcohol use, sex, etc.) but if you can get past that, you’ll love this sweet, wild ride.  The voices of the characters are among the best-written I’ve come across in books for teens and/or young adults, because they’re so honest, quirky, sarcastic and funny.

A note:  If you haven’t read the first book, get it first.  You won’t find a lot of explanation and back story in this one, which I found refreshing but might be confusing if you’re trying to read it as a stand-alone.

Denton Little’s Still Not Dead by Lance Rubin (sequel to Denton Little’s Deathdate)

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Power corrupts for young readers

4539e647-thelist-3d_0c70dk0c70di000001I love a good dystopian novel.  There’s something about worlds gone wrong that usually makes the one we’re in seem less awful. A friend currently reading The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood says it’s having the opposite effect on her, but I’m going to try to stay optimistic here.  Rock on, goodness!  Stay strong, light!

The List imagines a world where Noa, who has survived the chaos and ruin of the Earth’s human civilizations, has saved a group of people in a place called the Ark.  Is it creepy that this guy seems to think he knows what caused the ruin of the world and has to solve it all by himself?  Um, yes.  No democracy.  No choice.  Noa knows what’s best for everyone, and that might include some brutal behavior on his enforcers’ parts as well as some cruel and unusual punishment.

Letta goes along with a lot of Noa’s nonsense, because as apprentice to Benjamin the Wordsmith, she is a protector of words and will become someone important in the Ark.  The List, it turns out, is a list of the approved words – 500 of them or so.  All other words are forbidden, unless you are part of the ruling class, of course.

Being banished from the Ark could mean death—even if Noa’s enforcers don’t kill you—but Letta connects with some people living different lives outside and begins to see how different the world could be with more freedom.

It had kind of a slow start for me, but this would be great for fans of The Giver and other books by Lois Lowry, as well as those who love Lisa McMann’s The Unwanteds series.

The List by Patricia Forde

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Love. Loss. Revenge. A little history. A little fantasy.

book of pearlIf you are looking for a straightforward action story, do not read this book.  If you are 100% anchored in reality, maybe take a pass.  If, however, you are on vacation, like to think about alternate realities, or don’t mind a love story which stretches far beyond the “normal” lives of two people, find a way to get your hands on The Book of Pearl.

I think it’s fair to say that Timothée de Fombelle has reached a status with me that almost touches Kathi Appelt.  I sought this book out, ordering a copy from England when I didn’t see it in the libraries around me. (Apparently, on further research, it won’t be released in the U.S. until Feb. 2018.  So that’s why…)  I loved de Fombelle’s Vango stories and have recommended them to several kids who like action but also appreciate good writing and story development and all kinds of twists and turns.  He’s not a popular author in the U.S., I don’t think, but maybe he should be.

And the extra work was worth it.  It’s a beautiful book, although maybe not one that you’d want to try to read in just a chapter a day.  There are a lot of characters to keep track of, characters who dip in and out and who might just seem to inhabit the fringes until suddenly they don’t.  There is evil and loss and quite a bit of sadness, but the joyful moments are almost luminous.  (I’m assuming the translators get some gold stars for that, too.)

It’s the perfect book for a long afternoon of quiet in a state forest.  Detach from technology and give it a try.  It’s not exactly a happy ending, but hey—he’s French.  Deal with it.

The Book of Pearl by Timothée de Fombelle

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Fangirls and glass slippers

geekerellaA fondness for Star Trek (or Starfield).  A love of cons.  A pumpkin orange vegan food truck.  A fairy god-seamstress.  Evil stepmother.  Mean stepsisters.  Glass slippers.

It’s all here.  It might sound a little clichéd at first, but Geekerella does a splendid job of mashing all of these worlds together, creating a heroine who’s more than a Disney princess waiting around for a guy and including support characters who are fully formed and seem appropriately geeky or evil, depending on their role.  Elle is an outsider in an image-obsessed family, and her Prince Carmindor has challenges of his own.  It’s a sweet, modern re-telling, perfect for a summer afternoon, especially if you are a fan.

Geekerella by Ashley Poston

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3 simple reasons to give York a look

york

  1. Puzzles — also clues, ciphers, and  mysteries to solve.
  2. Quirky public transportation options and elevators that go sideways.
  3. Kids out to save their world from an obnoxious developer.

Fun, fun, fun.

York: the shadow cipher by Laura Ruby

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Why Timmy Failure always makes me think about philosophy

timmy cat

I understand (I think) the beauty of Timmy Failure books.  I have written before about the joy I find in reading the chapter titles, stunners like Unforgivable, That’s What You Are and Wasting Away Again in Marge and Rita-Ville. 

And there is always Timmy, so fabulously clueless about absolutely everything that you begin to wonder if he is really an absurdist genius.  Or maybe he’s an existentialist.  (Merriam-Webster defines existentialism as “a chiefly 20th century philosophical movement embracing diverse doctrines but centering on analysis of individual existence in an unfathomable universe and the plight of the individual who must assume ultimate responsibility for acts of free will without any certain knowledge of what is right or wrong or good or bad.”)  I looked it up, just to be sure.  It’s been a while since I studied philosophy.

Yes, yes, I know.  The author of Timmy Failure: The Cat Stole My Pants is not writing for middle-aged white women who go off on philosophical tangents.  And yet.  There’s a certain genius about a character and a series of books which both make you laugh out loud at the ridiculousness of it all – something most definitely NOT to be sneered at in this troubled world – and then very quickly bring you back to the reality of a character’s life.  How does any kid deal with an absent father, an imaginary and difficult polar bear sidekick, AND a confusing world which demands both doing what everyone else does and being an individual?

And those frog underwear are to die for, too.

Timmy Failure: The Cat Stole My Pants by Stephan Pastis

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Epistolary joy

Yours-Sincerely-Giraffe-cover-LRGiraffe, Penguin, Seal and Pelican are all kind of bored.  Pelican’s sign sets things in motion, and before you know it, animals from very different parts of the world are communicating and becoming friends.  It’s a little silly, very sweet, and pretty short – just long enough to create a perfect picture of the characters and carry them to their predictable yet wonderful conclusion.

Letter-writing is something of a lost art these days.  Taking the time to sit down with paper and a pen or maybe at a typewriter – who takes the time to do that now?  There are not even that many emails; we seem to live by text and emoji.

I miss those days – the six page letters from a boyfriend about nothing important, the cards from my grandmother about the weather and her flowers, the musings my much-loved college friend wrote about her writing and her life, although I rarely knew what she was actually doing with her time. Because of this, I think, dipping into an epistolary novel is a delightful escape, especially if there are penguins and pelicans involved.  I would have loved it for its form, but the characters are a joy, too.  It’s perfect as a bedtime story read over a few nights or as a read-aloud for younger kids.

Yours Sincerely, Giraffe by Megumi Iwasa and Jun Takabatake

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Anger. Grief. Bitterness. Oh, and some fun.

optimists“This group…it’s like a twisted version of The Breakfast Club.

Hmmm.  I was just thinking the exact same thing.  And the author has now taken care of my whole intro to the book.  Whew!  That was hard work.

Petula’s art therapy group is an emotionally bruised group of kids which she would rather not be a part of.  If only she hadn’t thrown that cup at the other counselor…  They snipe at each other and make rude remarks, yet are somehow  exactly the kind of people she needs.  It’s only with Jacob’s arrival that they really begin to pull together and trust each other, however.

Adults are often making life miserable for Petula, but even the principal, her parents, and the goofy and well-meaning art therapist have their moments.  I loved the way the author took these wounded and struggling people and made them real, bringing their joys and sorrows into the light.  There is sadness galore, but there is also hope.   And it is funny, at least in the way that people joke after death or screwing up their lives or alienating their families.  Oh, and there are Canadians in it.  That’s a bonus, too.

Optimists Die First by Susin Nielsen

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Clayton, Cool Papa, and Wah-Wah Nita

I cclayton-birdan relate to Clayton Bird.  I may be a middle-aged white woman living in Iowa, but I understand his pain.  I might not have grown up with a blues-playing grandpa–mine was known to ride a banana seat bike now and then, but wouldn’t have known what to do with a guitar—but I know how important people other than parents can be when you’re growing up.  I remember being angry about injustice when I was a kid, or at least what I saw as injustice in my own life.  And I know grief, really crushing grief that hides out in unexpected places and hits you at all the wrong times.

Clayton is the kind of character everyone can relate to on some level, although he might not look like many of the kids I knew growing up.  That’s what’s so wonderful about Rita Williams-Garcia’s work.  Her characters are simultaneously universal and completely unique.  The small details make you think of your Uncle Rich or that kid you went to school with who had a goofy nickname or your best friend’s mom or whoever.   His story, like many of Williams-Garcia’s, celebrates an ordinary life with extraordinary moments—moments which reveal quite a bit about our society as a whole and how kids navigate it. Her characters’ experiences reach out to you, whoever you are, wherever you live.  It’s a gift we are so, so lucky to be able to witness and enjoy.

And if all that weren’t enough, Ms. Williams-Garcia mentions Kathi Appelt in her note at the end of the book.  We all know (or maybe we don’t) just how crazy I am about Kathi Appelt.  I’ve practically thrown her books at the 5th graders I visit if I find out they have somehow managed to miss them.  And  I don’t stop at once a year – she comes up repeatedly.  Actually, I’ve kind of done the same with Rita Williams-Garcia’s books (One Crazy Summer, P.S. Be Eleven, Gone Crazy in Alabama) because they are a different and wonderful brand of fabulous.   Clearly, I’m just going to get worse.  Prepare.  Beware.

Clayton Bird Goes Underground by Rita Williams-Garcia

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