Wednesday, February 24, 2021
By Matt Haig
Penguin Group, 2019. 352 pgs. Sci-Fi
Tom Hazard looks like an ordinary 41-year-old man, but due to a rare genetic condition, he's actually over 400 years old. He has recently moved back to London to begin teaching history, but London hides memories around every corner, some centuries old. Tom keeps his condition a secret, which isolates him from everyone except the Albatross Society, a small and secretive group of people who, like Tom, age slowly over centuries. The Society has one rule: never fall in love, as forming attachments leads to trouble. But for the first time in centuries, Tom is captivated by a woman, the school's French teacher. The only way to keep her safe is to stay away from her, but Tom is finding that more and more difficult.
This book bridges the gaps between several literary genres: science fiction, romance, and historical fiction. Tom's present-day story is interspersed with glimpses of his life through the centuries. Some cameos from famous historical figures enliven the text, but the observations about the changes in society over time and the nature of time itself offered some of the most interesting moments of the book.
Tuesday, February 23, 2021
Pan’s Labyrinth: The Labyrinth of the Faun
By Guillermo del Toro and Cornelia Funke
Katherine Tegen Books, 2019. 256 pages. Young Adult
Ofelia and her pregnant mother go to live with her new stepfather in a remote forest in Spain, where he is trying to flush out a group of rebels. Upon arrival, Ofelia discovers there are various magical beings in the area, and finds the entrance to a nearby labyrinth. Her arrival awakens a faun who has been searching for the lost Princess Moanna, the daughter of the king of the underworld. He believes Ofelia is the princess, and has her engage in a series of tests to prove her identity. All the while, Ofelia’s mother becomes increasingly sick, and her stepfather shows himself to be an uncaring and harsh man. Ofelia’s only hope to get away from the chaos of her surroundings is to prove her identity and claim her rightful place on the throne.
This is the novelization of Guillermo del Toro’s 2006 film, Pan’s Labyrinth. It’s been several years since I’ve seen the film, but it felt like the novel followed it quite faithfully. That said, it provided a somewhat different experience being directly inside of Ofelia’s head, such as when she justified the eating of food in the lair of the Pale Man. The world building is fantastic, layering fantasy on history, and the reimagining of fairy tales. There are a lot of layers that can be explored and considered, which is why, despite the fact that I had to take breaks because it was so emotionally visceral, I really liked it. If you like dark-fantasy/horror, this is definitely one to pick up, especially if you’d prefer to get the story without watching the movie.
Monday, February 8, 2021
As Old as Time
Friday, February 5, 2021
Thursday, February 4, 2021
by Emma Lord
Wednesday Books, 2020. 361 pages. Young Adult Fiction
This book is just what it looks like, a warm and fuzzy teenage romantic comedy with just enough parental and school drama to keep it from being too frothy. The writing is witty, the action is fast paced, and the laughs are many. In fact, you might want to be careful where you are reading this book, because I guarantee you will belly laugh several times. This is Lord’s debut and I foresee it becoming a classic in the genre. Her second novel, You Have a Match, just came out and I am super excited to read it.
Tuesday, February 2, 2021
Monday, February 1, 2021
by Natalie Zina Walschots
William Morrow, 2020. 403 pages. Science Fiction.
Anna has a boring job in an exciting industry. She's a data analyst by trade, but she uses that skill set as a hench. In other words, she works as a data scientist for supervillains. After receiving a traumatic injury from a superhero trying to stop her supervillain boss, Anna discovers that by the numbers, superheroes cause more loss of life than even natural disasters. Using her skills, and with the resources of a mysterious supervillain named Leviathan, Anna proves that you don't need superpowers to stand up to those in power. All you need is some clever math, a little social engineering, a well-designed spreadsheet, and a passion (or hatred) strong enough to overcome any obstacle that might get in your way.
Hench is a very clever take on the superhero/supervillain genre of stories. Much in the vein of Marissa Meyer's Renegades or Victoria Schwab's Vicious, Walschots uses the traditional black and white fight between good and evil represented in most superhero media projects, throws it into a bucket of grey, and then uses the result to present an interesting commentary on the adage "absolute power corrupts absolutely." For those looking for superhero stories that go against the grain found in the MCU and DCEU, this book is exactly what you're looking for.