Sunday, October 19, 2008

Imaginary Enemy - Julie Gonzalez

wha?! i was pretty confused for the first half of this book. we had it catalogued as ya, but our protagonist, jane, spends the entire first 109 pages progressing from elementary through to middle school. it's not until page 110 that she actually hits high school. so you can understand my confusion. here i am reading a ya book and the main character is only in grade 2. for a long time. not just a quick flashback to explain everything that came before.

"imaginary enemy" is the story of jane white, who feels like the only neutral colour in a box of saturated primaries. her siblings and her neighbours all revel in their eccentricities while jane decides to toe the line of the status quo in search of popularity and acceptance. two things that seem to elude her. her desire to fit in ends up alienating her from the people who care about er the most.

however, jane isn't as normal as she'd like to think. perhaps the best example of this being her imaginary enemy beelzebub, who she writes to whenever things go wrong in her life. events seem to come to a head though when bubba starts writing back.

The Stowaway - R. A. and Geno Salvatore

back when i was living in london my roommate g. was all into the "forgotten realms" books, especially the ones starring everyone's favourite dark elf, drizzt. if you don't know the "forgotten realms" think "dungeons and dragons" or "dragonlance" and you've got a pretty good idea. of course he managed to get me into them as well, and we had some good arguments about how you actually pronounce drizzt; would it be like drizz-it or drissed? i was also able to get him to visit the public library in town to fulfill his "forgotten realms" addiction. good times.

ok, now fast forward. the year is 2008 and salvatore, the creator of drizzt has released a "forgotten realms" book for younger readers co-written with his son geno. drizzt is on the cover and i'm sure he was one of the book's main selling points. however, he's really only a bit player in this particular series. here the main character is a young boy named maimun who possesses a stone that presumably has some sort of magical powers that only he can control. unfortunately maimun doesn't have a clue what the stone does so he just carries it around with him everywhere. although maimun doesn't have a clue about the stone it appears that a demon named asbeel does and he really wants the stone, enough to devote many years to tracking maimun and murdering everyone who offers him refuge. ok, so this is your typical high fantasy set it a pre-industrialized world populated by every sort of fantasy creature you can imagine.

but does it succeed? is it a good book? well, it certainly wasn't as engrossing as salvatore's drizzt books, and perhaps trying to sell it as another volume in the saga of drizzt does it a diservice. i didn't love it. however, i'm sure there are lots of people out there who will. and it would be a great suggestion for kids who are into high fantasy and read the junior "dragonlance" books or series like "ranger's apprentice".

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Wicked Lovely - Melissa Marr

well, here's another one to add to the list. i really do love dark urban fantasy, and i'm happy to count melissa marr among other great authors of the genre like charles de lint, holly black, pamela dean, and o. r. melling. "wicked lovely" is the story of a high school girl named aislinn who has the dubious gift of being able to see faeries. and they are apparently everywhere. however, since most 'normal' people can't see faeiries aislinn has had to spend her whole life pretending she can't see them or else terrible things might happen. all has been going well and good until the faeries begin to take an interest in her. suddenly ignoring them isn't working anymore. and she's not going to be able to run away. when the summer king decides he wishes to take aislinn for his bride, aislinn must find a way to trick the trickster or else risk losing everything and everyone she loves.

Barnaby Grimes: Curse of the Night Wolf - Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell

seems like this is going to be another fun series from the author/illustrator team that brought us the edgeworld chronicles. "barnaby grimes" is a victorian gothic thriller set in the streets of a fictionalized london, england. riddell's illustrations lend the story an air of steampunk as well, which i quite enjoyed. this is the story of barnaby grimes, a tick-tock lad (errand boy) who delivers everything from packages and messages to observations on the aggressiveness of the local bullfinch population. barnaby's preferred method of getting from points a to b is referred to as "highstacking", which is not at all unlike parkour (look it up), which takes him across the chimney's of his city. one fateful night barnaby happens across a large and vicious wolf, which he is luckily able to do away with by knocking it into a vat of glue. however, when he retraces his steps to investigate he discovers that an old friend of his appears to have been a victim of the wolf, though there is nothing left of his body. concerned and curious barnaby utilizes his considerable sleuthing abilities to find out more about the mysterious wolf. barnaby is eventually lead to the door of dr. cadwallader's clinic, and that's when things start to get really dangerous. this is an easy to read story that will be perfect for young people who want a bit of a darker element in the story. however, be warned, this book does get a little gruesome in places and the illustrations (particularly the first one) are somewhat disturbing.