June 18, 2005

The Thing from Planet Fortis, Chapter the First

I feel terrible that TadMack has had to put my words on the blog for me, because I've been too busy to post anything for a while. I've really been wanting to, and I've been devouring books by the armload in my spare moments, piling them on the bookshelf next to the computer so I could post reviews. So now those reviews have finally started to materialize. Here are a few brief, rapid-fire, pre-digested blurbs that will maybe inspire you to get to your library or bookstore this summer. More to come soon.

A while ago, TadMack mentioned a book called The Greenstone Grail by Amanda Hemingway. I finally found it at Cody's in Berkeley and was pleased to find it one of the more absorbing and fascinating sci-fi/fantasy novels I'd read in a while. The protagonist is a young adult, but it's one of those pieces that appeals to a more broad age range. I found it in the sci-fi section, not the YA area, and definitely the darkness and danger are very real--a perfect counterpoint to the main character's coming-of-age. Nathan finds that not only does his world contain magic, but his family is intimately involved in it, and this magic links him to exotic places in other universes. Another book that I'm glad has a sequel on the way.

Quite some time ago, I read Jaclyn Moriarty's Feeling Sorry for Celia. This book from Australian writer Moriarty was written entirely in epistolary form--letters and notes between the main character, her mother, and her pen pal at another school. We learn about Elizabeth's best friend Celia and their increasingly complicated friendship, all through Elizabeth's letters to her new friend. It's about friendships changing and life going on, but it's also just a riot to read.

Moriarty's newer book, The Year of Secret Assignments, was just as hilarious and satisfying. A ridiculously conceived pen pal program between two high schools is related through the letters of some of the troublemaking, troubled, wisecracking, complicated students involved in the letter-writing. Three girls--best friends--write to three guys at their rival high school, and hilarity ensues. They send each other on ridiculous secret missions and get together for crazy hi-jinks, but all is not entirely well in happy-pen-pal-land. This book is so much fun, the characters' voices are very real and very smart, and I'm pretty sure I'm going to have to read it again before long.

Last but not least--on occasion I check out random books from the YA section of my library. I pick up these random books because there is some thoughtful librarian who will set out particular books in open spaces on the hardback shelf, as if they're new books on display, though they aren't always new. There are the occasional paperbacks placed with the cover facing out instead of the spine facing out, as if somebody is telling me, "this one's a good one--read this one." So sometimes I pick them up if they seem appealing. This week I picked up Mind Games by Jeanne Marie Grunwell, another novel told in semi-epistolary form. This one, however, takes the format of a group science fair project in which the students are experimenting with ESP. For a book chosen at random, I thought it was surprisingly good. The characters were engaging, the idea and format were interesting and original, multiple viewpoints were treated evenly, and the potentially heavy theme of mental super-ability versus mental disability was treated with sensitivity and even humor. Not bad at all. A quick and enjoyable read. The only major flaw I could see was that the characters sounded way too mature to be in seventh grade. Ninth grade I might believe, but twelve-year-olds? No. But this in no way stopped me from enjoying the book.

More reviews soon...


Anonymous said...

I always pick up the 'display' books from the YA section too, but I always feel guilty... like the librarians are just staring at me going, "who is that WENCH who is destroying my display!?"

Summer booklists. Going to my head.

Anonymous said...

AND, I only put your words on the blog for you 'cause I happened to have them around. Don't worry about not blogging -- at least you HAVE a job right now!

Anonymous said...

Three cheers for The Year of Secret Assignments! Reading that late at night and whooping with laughter has me seeking out anything else Jaclyn Moriarity has written. Fun.