Category Archives: Young Adult

Dark Lord of Derkholm by Diana Wynne Jones

derkholmDark Lord of Derkholm by Diana Wynne Jones

Greenwillow Books, New York, 2001

From my TBR pile. Read for Diana Wynne Jones month and Once Upon A Time VII.

The story takes place in a world of high fantasy, where griffins and young magicians are siblings, pigs fly and the mysterious Mr. Chesney runs Pilgrim Party tour groups from what appears to be our world.  Chesney insists on all the familiar scenes, wizards, demons and horrible battles, which include the deaths of some “expendable” tourists. The tours continually wreak havoc throughout the land and destroy many inhabitants livelihoods.  These people are tired of being exploited, but are helpless to fight back until the dragons show up.  No suprise there.

Dark Lord of Derkholm is a parody, filled with family squabbles, depressed and drunken wizards and adolescents yearling to spread their wings, both figuratively and literally.  It is a joy to read.  It won the Mythopoetic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature in 1999.  There is a second book in this series, Year of the Griffin, which I hope to read sometime in April.

What a master.  I was introduced to Diana Wynne Jones by Ana a couple of years ago, and felt robbed at not having found her sooner.  She was a British author who somehow never received the media push granted to J.K. Rowling.  I have since tried to convince every Harry Potter fan I know to read her books.

Advertisements

6 Comments

Filed under 2013 TBR Double Dog Dare, British, Fantasy, Once Upon A Time VII, Young Adult

Pure by Julianna Baggott

purebaggettPure by Julianna Baggott

Grand Central Publishing, New York, 2012

From my library hold list.  This is the first book in a trilogy.

I read about this one early last year and, being a fan of apocalyptic fiction, was intrigued by the setting and the unusual features of the main characters.  As a young adult novel Pure has some of the draws of The Hunger Games, struggle for survival, adventure, evil adults and budding romance.  What helps it rise above other modern, young adult, post-apocalyptic novels is the strength of Baggott’s world building and her writing.

Pressia lives in a land destroyed by the Detonations.  Like those around her, these deadly explosions have fused her body with other material, in her case, a doll.  Something has allowed these fusions to live and, in many ways, thrive.  There are areas where people, melded with glass, engine parts and animals, struggle to survive.  There are areas where only Beasts survive, beings more animal than human, and places where Dust threatens everything, soil and bits of matter that have taken on a violent life of their own.  And there is the Dome, where the Pure live, and wait to reunited with their brethren.

We know you are there, our brothers and sisters,
We will, one day, emerge from the Dome
to join you in peace.
For now, we watch from afar, benevolently.

But are the Pure truly benevolent?  A young man, Partridge, the son of one of the original designers of the Dome, escapes to the outside.  When he meets  Pressia the two of them find a vital connection and, along with others,  determine to discover the truth buried in their shared past.

Baggott has created a frightening, nightmarish world containing some of the most bizarre beings in fiction,  at least for me.  Living Dust, humans fused with engines, animals, each other..

Our Good Mother speaks only to Pressia now.  “The Detonations hit and many of us were here, alone, in our houses or trapped in our cars. Some were drawn to our yards to see the sky or, like me, to the windows.  We grabbed our children to our chests.  The children we could gather.  And there were those of us who were imprisoned, dying.  We were all left to die.  We were the ones who tended the dying.  We wrapped the dead…”  She sits again in her chair.  “They left us to die and we are forced to carry our children, our children who will never outgrow us, and we will do this forever.  Our burden is our love.”  From pages 286/287.

In her afterword the author states that research for this novel lead her to accounts on the  aftereffects of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Having read many of those accounts I can see their influence.  I look forward to the next book in this series, Fuse.

3 Comments

Filed under 2013 Challenges, 2013 Science Fiction Experience, 2013 TBR Double Dog Dare, Books, Dystopian, SciFi, Thoughts, Young Adult

The Graveyard Book – Week Three

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Illustrated by Dave McKean

HarperCollins, New York, 2008

From my book shelves.  Organized by Carl V, Week 3 of our read-along covers chapters 7 and 8 of Neil Gaiman’s Newbury, Carnegie, Hugo and Locus award-winning novel.   It has been a joy reading along with others and seeing their thoughts.  Please visit Carl’s blog for links to other posts about this deeply felt, wonderfully written book.

In Chapter 8 Silas is drawn away from The Graveyard but refuses to tell Bod where he is going or what he is doing.  Bod’s friend, Scarlett, returns from Glasgow and finds herself in a place that seems awfully familiar.  She is befriended by a nice man, Mr Frost, who takes rubbings of gravestones.   With his encouragement she  eventually discovers Bod’s family history, but this discovery has unintended results.

Bod finally learns about his past, about The Man Jack and his organization, and is faced with a difficult decision.  The choice he makes puts Scarlett in extreme danger and she cannot understand it and cannot forgive him for it.  He looses his friend, and is at a loss understanding why.

In Chapter 9 Bod enters young adulthood and begins to change, finding it harder and harder to see his friends and loved ones.  Eventually he must leave The Graveyard and journey into the wider world.

The Graveyard Book is all about growing up, be it in a normal family or a ghostly one.  We make choices, face the consequences and hopefully grow wiser with each of these steps.  If we are lucky we live in a circle of love, amid friends and family who support us, even when we make bad decisions.

Neil Gaiman states in his acknowledgements that he read Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book over and over as a child and as an adult.  This is a book I love and read-aloud to elementary-aged children.  I can see the resemblance, but Gaiman has created a world of his own, filled with wonderful, caring, sometimes strict beings who surround and support Bod as he grows and finally leaves his home.  Maybe someday we will learn about his adventures in the world of the living.

There is a balance between gentleness and horror in this book.  A balance Neil Gaiman holds brilliantly.

Thanks to Carl V and all the folks who took part in this read-along.

7 Comments

Filed under Books, Carnegie Award, DarkFantasy, Horror, Hugo Award, Locus Award, Newbury Award, R.I.P. VII, Read-Along, Thoughts, Young Adult

The Graveyard Book – Week 2

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Illustrated by Dave McKean

HarperCollins, New York, 2008

Organized by Carl V, Week 2 of our read-along covers Chapters 4 thru 6 and includes an Interlude.  Please visit Carl’s blog for links to other posts about this magical book.

One of the best things about The Graveyard Book is that it is made up of many stories, stories of Nobody Owen, growing up, protected and loved by ghosts and other beings that pass between worlds.

We learn a bit more about his guardian Silas, and Bod learns a bit more about the place where he lives. He meets the ghost of a lovely young witch and tries to do something kind for her.  Leaving the Graveyard for the first time since his arrival he runs into trouble.  Maybe the world of the living, outside of the Graveyard fence, is not the best place for a live boy with a kind heart.  But on rare occasions ghosts visit there, and sometimes the living dance with the dead.

     They took hands, the living with the dead, and they began to dance.  Bod saw Mother Slaughter dancing with the man in the turban, while the businessman was dancing with Louisa Bartleby.  Mistress Owens smiled at Bod as she took the hand of the old newspaper seller, and Mr. Owens reached out and took the hand of a small girl as if she had been waiting to dance with him her whole life.  Then Bod stopped looking because someone’s hand closed around his, and the dance began.
Liza Hempstock grinned at him.  “This is fine,” she said, as they began to tread the steps of the dance together.
Then she sand, to the tune of the dance,
“Step and turn, and walk and stay,
  Now we dance the Macabray.”  From page 159.

During the interlude we discover that the Man Jack needs to finish what he started.

Bod learns to fade and to haunt.  And craving knowledge of the world of the living, he goes to school.

Gaiman has a way about him.  A way of mixing life and death and giving grace to both.  Bod’s story is lovely and sad and joyful all at the same time, and oh so gentle, even at it’s most horrific.    I don’t know how this author does it.  It is a mystery, eerie and beautiful.

9 Comments

Filed under Books, Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-thon, Horror, R.I.P. VII, Read-Along, Thoughts, Young Adult

The Graveyard Book – Week One

 

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Illustrated by Dave McKean

HarperCollins, New York, 2008

From my shelves.  I am reading this book along with others in celebration of R.I.P. VII.   Carl V  suggested that we read The Graveyard Book in three sections, and post our thoughts on consecutive Sundays.  The first section covers Chapters One through Three.

This book has an extremely creepy opening.  The Man Jack goes about his business in a completely ordinary way and the horror builds so quietly from paragraph to paragraph that it is like a dream.  How can a story be frightening and calming at the same time?

A toddler finds his way to a graveyard and is taken in by a community unlike any other I have ever met.  There is so much love here.   I find warmth and comfort among the grave stones, in a place where those feelings are totally unexpected.  The toddler, Nobody Owens, has found a home.

How do the dead take care of the living?  Luckily, there is one who lives in-between and he sees to Bod’s earthly and intellectual needs.  Bod makes a friend, learns his lessons and has adventures.  When his protector, Silas, is forced to take  a journey Bod meets a new teacher.   She is strict in her discipline and who holds a great secret.

It is hard to write about this book without giving much of the story away.  It is layered with horror, mystery, romance and mythology.  I am so glad to be rereading it, going deeper.

8 Comments

Filed under DarkFantasy, Horror, R.I.P. VII, Read-Along, Thoughts, Young Adult

Planesrunner by Ian McDonald

Planesrunner by Ian McDonald

Pyr, Amherst, NY, 2011

From my library TBR holds.  This is the first book in the Everness series.

A great young adult novel, the first in a series,  from one of my favorite science fiction authors.

Everett Singh leads a pretty normal life for a fourteen year old until the day his father is kidnapped.

Everett knows his father is a theoretical physicist, working on the Many-Worlds Theory, but when he tries to explain to the police that his father has been kidnapped they brush him off.

“Do you know what the Many Worlds Theory is?” Everett said. He leaned forward across the table. Previous occupants had doodled stars and spirals and cubes and the names of football clubs on the peeling plastic. “Every time the smallest least tiniest thing happens, the universe branches. There’s a universe where it happened, and a universe where it didn’t. Every second, every microsecond every day, there are new universes splitting off from this one. For every possible event in history, there’s a universe, out there somewhere, right beside this one.” Everett lifted a finger and drew a line through the air. “A billion universes, just there now. Every possible universe is out there somewhere. This isn’t something someone made up, this is a proper physical theory. That’s what physics means: real, solid, actual. Does that sound not so important to you? It sounds to me like the biggest thing there is.”

Through clues and an inter-dimensional map left by his father, Everett opens a gate between worlds and finds himself in a London that is at once familiar and terribly strange, dealing with people from that world, his own world and many others worlds.

McDonald does a fabulous job of making a very complex idea understandable for both young adult and adult readers.  There is adventure, drama and the meaning of family wrapped up in this wonderful story and I can’t wait to read more in this series.

5 Comments

Filed under Review, SciFi, Young Adult

A Banned Book – Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Perigee Books, New York, 2006

I own this one.

For Banned Books Week I decided to read a young adult classic that has been repeatedly challenged and banned in the US and Canada.  I am also including this one in my books for the R.I.P. VI challenge.

This novel was required reading for me in high school.  I read it again in college and, after several decades, have chosen to read it one more time.

This story of a group of boys who survive a plane crash on a small island is probably familiar to many people.  It is, on the surface, a tale of adventure.   On their own, with no adults, the boys can do what they want.  At first there is a sense of order and camaraderie as  Ralph, and his friend Piggy attempt to organize the group.  The boys gather food, plan to build shelters and organize the keeping of a signal fire.  Soon another boy, Jack, gathers a group and takes off to hunt the wild pigs that roam the island.  Jack wants to lead,  invites dissension and eventually something like war.  A tale of adventure turns to a story of horror and madness.

According to Golding,  Lord of The Flies is not simply an adventure story.  When asked he stated, “The theme is an attempt to trace the defect of society back to the defects of human nature.  The moral is that society must depend on the ethical nature of the individual and not on any political system however apparently logical or respectable.”*

I found it to be a narrative on personality, the place of individuals in human society and on group mind, mob mentality.  Of course these are children, would adults behave the same way?

Lord of the Flies wonderfully written, filled with beautiful evocative scenes and nightmarish horror. I read it deeper this time.  It is one of those “required” reading books that I found best read as an adult.

The first rhythm that they became used to was the slow swing from dawn to dusk.  They accepted the pleasures of the morning, the bright sun, the whelming sea and the sweet air, as a time when play was good and life so full that hope was not necessary and therefore forgotten.  Toward noon, as the floods of light fell more nearly to the perpendicular, the stark colors of the morning were smoothed to pearl and opalescence; and the heat – as though the impending sun’s height gave it momentum – became a blow that they ducked, running to the shade and lying there, prehaps even sleeping.  From page 58.

Toward midnight the rain ceased and the clouds drifted away, so that the sky was scattered once more with the incredible lamps of stars. Then the breeze died too and there was no noise save the drip and trickle of water that ran out of clefts and spilled down, leaf by leaf, to the brown earth of the island.  The air was cool, moist and still.  The beast lay huddled on the pale beach, and the stains spread, inch by inch.  From page 153.

*This quote is from Notes on Lord of the Flies by E.L. Epstein from my copy of the book.

19 Comments

Filed under BannedBooksWeek, Classic, Horror, RIP VI Challenge, Young Adult