Saturday, December 16, 2017

Age of Myth

Age of Myth
By Michael Sullivan
Del Rey, 2016. 409 pages. Fantasy

Since time immemorial, humans have worshipped the gods they call Fhrey, truly a race apart: invincible in battle, masters of magic, and seemingly immortal. But when a god falls to a human blade, the balance of power between humans and those they thought were gods changes forever.

Now only a few stand between humankind and annihilation: Raithe, reluctant to embrace his destiny as the God Killer; Suri, a young seer burdened by signs of impending doom; and Persephone, who must overcome personal tragedy to lead her people. The Age of Myth is over. The time of rebellion has begun.

This is the first  book of a pretty traditional high fantasy series. As a fan of the genre, I appreciated the notes that the author hit, though I did feel like it made the book a little more predictable. The characters are enjoyable and interesting, and the plot is fast-paced. The stakes are fairly small in this book, but the battle scenes are well depicted, which makes me look forward to the prospects of a full on war in the next books.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Always and Forever, Lara Jean

Always and Forever, Lara Jean
By Jenny Han
Simon & Schuster, 2017. 325 pages. Young Adult

Jenny Han surprised fans when she revealed that she would be writing a concluding third novel to her duology that follows the life of craft-loving, wistful Korean-American Lara Jean Covey Song. Now in her senior year, life is looking pretty good. She and her boyfriend are in love, her widower dad is finally getting re-married, and college acceptance letters are coming in the next few weeks.

Never comfortable with change, Lara Jean is happy to attend nearby University of Virginia with her boyfriend. But change is looming on the horizon. When she doesn’t get in to UV, Lara Jean is forced to confront difficult life choices and is confused between choosing what her heart is saying or her head. And what does this all mean her relationship with her boyfriend?

It is always delight see the world through Lara Jean’s eyes, so I was excited to pick up this third book after P.S. I Still Love You. Lara Jean is an insightful and authentic character, and I have enjoyed reading about her journey from child to adult. This is a satisfying conclusion, but if you’re like me, it may leave you wishing to know more about what happens to Lara Jean at college and beyond.


Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Feral Youth

Feral Youth
By Shaun David Hutchinson
Simon Pulse, 2017. 310 pgs. Young Adult

Ten teens have been sent to a tough summer camp meant to help them get their life back in order before they end up in juvie, or worse. The culminating camp experience is when they are blindfolded and driven out to a remote location in the woods. They have three days to make it back to camp, completely on their own. With their survival skills put to the test, tensions start to run high as their hunger, exhaustion, and general discomfort increases. To pass the time and create a semblance of unity, they have a story telling competition. The stories are varied, but show that perhaps these teens are less “feral” and more deliberate and justified than society believes.

This collection of short stories was inspired by Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, and each story was written by a different author, making the individual voices and storytelling styles that much more distinct. Even with that, it worked extremely well felt like a cohesive whole. The stories touched on a lot of sensitive social issues (bullying, sexuality, assault, etc.), and did so in a way that felt realistic. Youth are too often painted in a negative light, but this collection shows how misleading a label or singular action can be. Overall I quite enjoyed the book and really appreciated the different perspectives.


Monday, December 11, 2017

Far From the Tree

Cover image for Far from the tree
Far from the Tree
By Robin Benway
Harper Teen, 2017, 374 pages, Young Adult

When Grace, an only child who was adopted at birth, ends up having to give up her own daughter to adoption, she begins to wonder about her biological family. Soon she meets her biological siblings, Maya and Joaquin, and Grace discovers that she’s not alone. Together the three help each other through tough trials, and try to find out what happened to their birth mother.

The themes used in Far From the Tree could easily make this book veer into After School Special territory. It discusses tough issues like teen pregnancy, adoption, life in the foster care system, alcoholism, bullying, and divorce. The thing that keeps this book from being a complete downer is that it also covers themes such as the power of love and the strength of family. The story is told from the point of view of three different characters, and while I liked some of them more than others, each character felt fully fleshed-out and well formed. I found myself pretty engrossed in the story, and read with almost perpetually misty eyes. To me, Robin Benway has hit on the same formula that made books like Eleanor and Park and The Fault in Our Stars so powerful. It’s no wonder that this book was just awarded the prestigious National Book Award!


Friday, December 8, 2017

Sourdough: a Novel

Sourdough: a Novel
By Robin Sloan
MCD, 2017. 272 pgs. Fiction

Robin Sloan's new novel, Sourdough, is a delightful blend of magical realism, quirky characters, high tech, and a very special sourdough start.  Lois Clary works at a San Francisco tech company where many of the programmers exist by eating (actually slurping) a nutritive gel named Slurry. She discovers a local restaurant that delivers sourdough bread and delicious spicy food.  When the restaurant closes and the owners leave Lois their sourdough start to tend she begins to bake.  Mastering the magic of mixing flour, water and sourdough starter, she shares the delicious bread with co-workers and then looks for a venue to sell bread through one of San Francisco's many farmers markets. She ends up with a stall at a high-tech food emporium where the vendors are all experimenting with innovative food formulations.  As the new market nears its opening day, complications arise when Lois researches the history of her unique sourdough starter and begins to understand its microbial complexity.

Sloan's novel is both fluffy and fulfilling.  You will want to have a loaf of really good bread on hand when you sit down to read it. SH

Monday, December 4, 2017

Midnight at the Electric

Cover image for Midnight at the Electric
Midnight at the Electric
By Jodi Lynn Anderson
Harper Teen, 2017, 257 pages, Young Adult

Kansas, 2065. Adri has secured a slot as a Colonist--one of the lucky few handpicked to live on Mars. But weeks before launch, she discovers the journal of a girl who lived in her house over a hundred years ago, and is immediately drawn into the mystery surrounding her fate ... Oklahoma, 1934. Amid the fear and uncertainty of the Dust Bowl, Catherine fantasizes about her family's farmhand, and longs for the immortality promised by a professor at a traveling show called the Electric. But as her family's situation becomes more dire, Catherine must finally separate illusion from reality and sacrifice everything she loves in order to save the one person she loves most. England, 1919. Lenore struggles with her grief for her brother, a fallen British soldier, and plans to sail to America in pursuit of a childhood friend. While their stories span thousands of miles and multiple generations, Lenore, Catherine, and Adri's fates are entwined in ways both heart-breaking and hopeful.

This book reminded me a lot of I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith in that it’s beautifully written, mostly in the format of letters and journal entries. Anderson’s settings and characters are written with loving detail, which is a pretty amazing feat given the format. I read this book a few months ago, but I can still conjure up memories of the beautiful way Anderson describes the chocking horror of the Dust Bowl, and the utter loss Lenore feels for her brother. While Adri’s storyline isn’t quite as strong as the other two, it helps tie everything together in a unique and hopeful way. Overall, this ends up being a story about love and the power of friendship and family.  Those who read this book are in for a treat!