Sunday, March 16, 2008

Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life - Wendy Mass

by the author of "a mango colored space", "jeremy fink and the meaning of life" is a great mystery novel for kids. if you enjoy the work of blue balliet you'll want to check out this new offering from mass. on his thirteenth birthday, jeremy fink's father is told by a fortune teller on the pier in salt lake city that he will die when he is 40. his dad cannot help but let his life be coloured by this dire prediction, and so chooses to embrace life and live by the motto that one should always eat dessert first. in his 39th year, when jeremy is 8, jeremy's dad is killed in a car accident. never having quite gotten over this jeremy does not like surprises, has a limited diet of peanut butter sandwiches and candy, and refuses to venture more than four blocks from his apartment. shortly before jeremy's thirteenth birthday his mother receives a package in the mail. jeremy and his best friend lizzy cannot resist the temptation and open the package, only to find a locked box inscribed "the meaning of life: for jeremy fink to open on his 13th birthday". the box is from jeremy's dad. however, the box needs four keys to be opened, and the keys have been lost. thus, jeremy and his friend lizzy are thrust into an adventure that will take them through the summer and they will go places, do things and meet people that they never would have suspected. as jeremy races against time to find the lost keys that will unlock the meaning of life in time for his thirteenth birthday. this is an exciting mystery that kids will be excited to solve.

What I Was - Meg Rosoff

meg rosoff is officially my favourite ya author. i really think that this woman cannot fail to write a psychologically gripping novel. one of the most amazing things about her i think is that she hasn't fallen into the trap of repetition. although i think i would be able to recognize a rosoff book if presented with one, it is not in the same way that you recognize a book by the hooblers or by hiaasen. "what i was" takes place in the early 60's, and is set in a somewhat decrepit boarding school on england's south-east coast. the narrator is a teen aged boy, who is, according to himself, rather non-descript in both character and appearance. he is one of those boys of who it might be said is failing to reach his potential, but you might just be being polite in saying that. desperate to escape from the gaol that is this particular british public school he befriends a young man who lives alone in a fisherman's shack on the shore. finn is everything our narrator is not, self-assured, capable and beautiful, although somewhat socially inept. as their friendship grows rumours of "perversion" grow and the narrator's need for finn's company eventually lead to destruction. another great book by rosoff, and quite a bit darker than most boarding school novels. don't expect the public school system to be presented with many redeeming qualities herein.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Castle in the Air - Diana Wynne Jones

who knew that there was a sequel to "howl's moving castle"? i'll let you know who didn't know. yeah, that would be me. which is extra funny because "howl's moving castle" is one of my favourite books of all time (as well as an excellent animated film by famed director hayao miyazaki). bad llama. anyway, although howl, sophie, and calcifer, as well as several other residents of ingary that were introduced in "howl's moving castle" make appearances in "castle in the air", the latter does not really build on the plot of the former.

in "castle in the air" the story centres on a young and starry-eyed rug merchant named abdullah, who lives in the desert city of zanzib. he spends much of his time dreaming that he is actually a prince who was stolen from his royal family by bandits and will one day marry a princess, etc. one day he experiences a chance meeting with a strange man who sells him a magic carpet and from there the story takes off (ha!). the magic carpet transports abdullah to the garden of the princess flower-in-the-night. they fall in love, but the princess is stolen by a djinn. abdullah thusly embarks on a quest to rescue the princess acquiring a genie in a bottle along the way. can you say aladdin? anyway, it's a fun story, though i do wish that my favourite ingarian trio played more prominent roles. ah well. there's a third book to the series that is coming out this summer (house of many ways). i highly recommend you read the works of this great british writer if you enjoy high fantasy... anything along the lines of j. k. rowling, o. r. melling, charles de lint or pamela dean.