Monday, August 23, 2010

Can magic save the world?

Trickster's Girl by Hilari Bell

In this world of the future, fears of terrorism fuel restrictions on how people may live their lives. Each state in the United States has its own border crossing. You are monitored at all times and must always have appropriate ID. In this paranoid new culture, it's hard to connect with nature. And nature itself is under attack: rainforests are dying of disease and the disease is spreading. A world without trees and growing plants is unsustainable but all government effort is placed on keeping citizens safe.

Kelsa is mourning the loss of her beloved father and harboring ill will against her mother for sending him to hospice for his last days, instead of bringing him home to die. She does not realize she is being watched by an unusual young man. A young man full of magic, who has realized that Kelsa, too, possesses magic. He recruits her to use their combined magic to heal the world.

This is an exciting fantasy adventure, steeped in Native American folklore. By setting this story in the Pacific Northwest and Canada, and by using Kelsa's growing understanding of her own grief and resentment as a theme, the story feels realistic and would appeal to lots of teens. The fantasy elements are subtle and quite beautiful. The contrast between the passionate human, Kelsa, and the dispassionate trickster, Raven, makes for a fine dynamic. I highly recommend this!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Hunted by Deadly Aliens

Ten alien children and their guardians are rocketed from their planet moments before it is destroyed by an invading army. Their destination is Earth. Their mission is to "hide in plain sight" and be safe: they represent the last of their kind. They are protected by a charm that dictates that the young people can only be killed in order. The alien destroyers are on Earth, seeking out the children. Numbers one through three have been killed. This is the story of Number Four.

John Smith (Number Four) and his guardian Henri arrive in Paradise Ohio and John sets out to fit in at high school. But the local bully is making that hard. Befriended by a beautiful girl and a geek obsessed with alien abductions, John grows to love his new town. Will he need to pull up stakes and run, as he has so many times before? Or will he stand and fight for his life?

This book reads like a movie. And, indeed, the movie is coming out in February and I, for one, can't wait. The writing is a little clunky (for example, "embarrassingness" instead of "embarrassment")but you quickly care for the main characters and the plot is non-stop action. Part of a projected 6 part series!

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Bells by Richard Harvell

The innocent, struggling for survival in an indifferent and often hostile world, is a recurring theme in good literature. Richard Harvell taps into that and gives us his own unique spin that is part Dickens, part Gunter Grass and totally original. Written as a letter from a successful man to his son, the novel spans the beautiful and the grotesque in telling a story totally original and touching.

In 18th century Switzerland, a nameless waif spends his first years in a bell tower, cared for by a deaf mute mother who can only truly hear by ringing the town's bells. Surrounded by the deafening cacophony, the child begins to understand music not just with his ears, but with his entire body. This imprinting of music defines the child's destiny.

The child is dubbed Moses when he is rescued from the river by two worldly and resilient monks, who serve as his protectors. Moses' extraordinary voice is both a blessing and a curse: some seek to silence it and others try to own it. For a time he is protected in the Abbey of St. Gall and becomes the star singer in the choir. His voice is so beautiful that the choirmaster conspires to have Moses castrated to preserve the voice. That act catapults the action as Moses sets out on a harrowing journey to find true love and to fulfill his destiny as a great singer.

The structure of The Bells is an opera, although that only becomes apparent as you finish reading it. Long parts of the story reflect the recitative of 18th century opera and then a flurry of intense chapters form the aria. The love story between Moses and Amalia plays out against the backdrop of Orfeo ed Euridice. This is not heavy handed; one reads the story and the richness of structure, character, setting reverberate after, just as the tolling of bells does not end when the last note is struck.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Best Book of Summer

Yes, I know we have a lot of summer left.  But nothing I read will be better than The Passage by Justin Cronin. I finished this book several weeks ago and haven't written about it because words fail me.  I babble about it to everyone I meet and I carry images from it with me still.  So here's my feeble attempt to tell you about it.

In the not distant future, the government is tinkering with a newly discovered virus.  The virus has the potential to extend human lifespan indefinitely, if it can be buffered enough not to kill the infected person.  In order to engage in final testing, death row inmates are convinced to be test subjects.  Something goes terribly wrong.

Does this sound like a dozen science fiction/end of the world books you may have read?  The Passage has been compared to The Stand (King) and The Road (McCarthy).  Justin Cronin elevates this material to a new level.  He populates his huge canvas with characters rich and compelling and flawed and human.  He does not demonize his demons nor does he glorify his heroes. Read it simply as a story and it's a great one. Read it as a fine piece of literature as well.  While the premise is genre-restricted, the scope and wonder of this novel transcends genre.  It is, like most great books, about being human. Just read it...then come talk to me. There's much to talk about.

Summertime...and the reading is easy (Part 1)

After a dry spell when I started many books and finished none, I read three fabulous books in a row. Whew...I was worried that I had fallen out of love with books.  So here they are, in no particular order.

City of Dreams by William Martin tells parallel stories. In the present, antiquarian bookseller and unlikely action hero Peter Fallon accepts a challenge to locate a cache of New Emission Money. These bonds were issued to finance the fledgling American economy in the 1780's. They may now be worth billions. In the past, a street boy and a prostitute fall in love during the American Revolution and their fates are forever tied to those same bonds. The backdrop to both stories is New York City and offers a fascinating peek at the city of the past and of the present. The mystery of the present day features amusing twists and lots of action.  But the real heart of the book is the love story of Gil and Loretta and their fabulous city of dreams.

WWW: Watch by Robert J. Sawyer is the sequel to WWW:Wake.  In Wake, the world wide web becomes sentient.  His awakening as Webmind is the result of a new technology which allows 16 year old Caitlyn to see after being blind her entire life.  In Watch, Caitlyn begins the hard task of teaching Webmind to understand human concepts like compassion, morality,and love.  At the same time, governments around the world discover Webmind and set out to destroy him because he is a security risk and potential terrorist tool. This is a clever and thought provoking tale from the author of one of my favorite books: Flashforward. A satisfying conclusion also hints at another book to come.

Jeffrey Deaver's The Burning Wire is another mystery featuring brilliant investigator Lincoln Rhyme. Rhyme is confined to a wheelchair but with the help of his brilliant partner Amelia Sachs he is able to track down murderers using forensics and logic.  Electricity looms large in this installment: a murderer is using the power of the grid to kill innocent people all over Manhattan.  Ironically, the instrument of death is also part of what keeps Rhyme alive.  As Rhyme and Sachs struggle to track down the killer, Rhyme's own health is in jeopardy and the killer keeps one step ahead of them.  A pretty satisfying mystery which will give you pause every time you plug in your toaster!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Spring Roundup

Here's a quick roundup of new books in the library. Better hurry: we'll start packing for the Big Move very soon.

Forget-Her-Nots by Amy White. Laurel has the power to use flowers to change people. Controlling her power is a challenge. Her mother died before Laurel could be properly trained. No control might create a strange set of love matches and a prom riot!

Lies:a Gone novel by Michael Grant Zil sets fire to the town in a misguided attempt to get rid of the teens with powers. Dead Brianna walks among the living and Drake is back. Why are the dead rising in Perdido Beach?

Side by Side (808.81) pairs art from around the world with international poetry, often in original language & English translation.

No Angel (364.106) is Jay Dobyns scary good true story of infiltrating the Hell's Angels motorcycle gang as an undercover cop.

from I Can't Keep My Own Secrets: six-word memoirs by teens famous and obscure (808): "Learned that sometimes friends aren't forever."

In Rwanda, Angel Tungaraza makes a living baking cakes. Her cakes heal broken hearts and bridge differences. Baking Cakes in Kigali (FIC Parkin)

Falling Hard:100 Love Poems by Teenagers Here's a sample: "I am/the flour/to your tortilla/baby." In library 811 Fal

Newes from the Dead by Mary Hooper. Anne Green, a servant who survived a hanging in 1650 England, wakes up on the dissection table. Based on a true story!

The Smartaleck's Guide to U. S. History by Adam Selzer is a very funny take on all things U.S. history. For example, President Harrison was the last president to sport a beard. He was also afraid of light switches, having been shocked by one. "Alexander Graham Bell was really disappointed when people started answering the phone by saying 'Hello.' He wanted people to say "Ahoy.'"