Friday, December 30, 2011

Start at the beginning...

Steampunk and post-apocalyptic books may have only just starting getting popular but I think Alan Moore proved that heroines with shaved heads are awesome a long time ago. Thankfully Philip Reeve is rocking all three elements with "Fever Crumb,"the prequal to his Mortal Engines Quartet. If you aren't familiar with that series it is basically a post-apocalyptic steampunk rollercoaster of adventure awesomeness. After almost total destruction of the world from nuclear war, cities roll around on giant machines to escape the natural disasters that ensue. While rolling around the cities eat each other. Seriously. Big cities devour tiny cities, bigger cities devour big cites, and so on and so on. At the same time the cities are fighting a rebel group looking to get cities to finally stay put.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Alien Invasion!

OK, so we all know the standard, typical alien invasion storyline:
1) Technologically advanced aliens launch a full-scale invasion upon an unsuspecting earth
2) Earthlings briefly unite in a valiant, but ultimately futile attempt to resist the invation
3) aliens dominate the earth - all hope is lost
4) some inexplicable disaster befalls the aliens,
who die/retreat/both
5)earthlings unite for a time, then revert to our old ways until the next alien invation forces us to repeat the whole process

H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds is a classic example of this storyline, though I am sure there are a myriad of movies, games, books, etc. that follow the same basic plot.

If you are bored with the standard line, or would just find a bit of a variation on this theme somewhat refreshing, I highly recommend Lewis and Clarke. Not that Lewis and Clarke. Rather Perelanda, book one in the space trilogy by C.S. Lewis (best known for his Chronicles of Narnia series) and Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke, who, among other things, was responsible for a 1945 article that led to the invention of satillite technology. Each author turns the typical alien invasion story on its head.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Ooku: the Inner Chambers

What would happen if most of the men died in feudal Japan and women now ran the country? Ooku: the Inner Chambers by Fumi Yoshinaga explores this idea, with most of the focus on the palace and its male harem. Yes, male harem. As titillating as that sounds, this is a deftly woven tale of politics, intrigue, and love with some amazing art. Ok, maybe it's a little titillating too.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Walking Dead, at Your Library

No question about it, zombies are hot right now. Here are a few notable zombie books I've read recently.

Ever since the first teenager walked the earth, adults have been the enemy. Now it's even more literally true, when a strange virus has turned everyone over sixteen into mindless cannibal monsters, leaving kids and young teenagers to fend for themselves in an increasingly desperate fight. It's not for the faint of stomach, but for those that like their zombie movies both gory and thought-provoking, The Enemy and its sequel, The Dead, by Charlie Higson are a sure bet.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Red Umbrella by Christina Diaz Gonzalez

When I was growing up in the Detroit area in the early 1960's there was a young girl at my school who had just moved from Cuba and was very homesick for her country. Back then, I didn't realize that she was one of many Cuban children whose parents arranged for them to go to the United States to avoid being indocrinated by the new revolutionary government. Reading The Red Umbrella by Christina Diaz Gonzalez took me back to that time and revealed to me just how difficult it must have been to leave everything you've known in your life to start over in a dramatically different world. Fourteen year old Lucia and her little brother Frankie live in a balmy sea side town in Cuba. She has all the normal interests and concerns of a teenage girl such as the upcoming dance, what to wear and whether her crush will be there. Life begins to change in Cuba, though, with the new government and the arrests and disappearance of friends. Lucia and her brother leave as part of "Operation Pedro Pan" and find themselves living on a farm in Nebraska. This is a book about a difficult time in history but written with warmth and humor, painting a vivid picture of what it is like to come to America as a refugee.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Young Adult to Adult and back again...

I was one of those kids who was always in the wrong section of the library. At eight, you are not supposed to be asking for a book on botany from the adult reference librarian, and at twelve, you get strange looks browsing Stephen King in adult fiction! I guess that is why I find the line between adult and young adult books very fluid--who's to say what appeals to people of any age?

Here are two recent adult books that I recommend for teens; the first is for lovers of suspense and mystery and the second is a most unusual blend of science fiction and fantasy. The Lock Artist, by Steve Hamilton, is the story of Michael, an 18 year old lock-picking whiz kid with a crazy past and a criminally certain future. The chapters alternate between glimpses of a bizarre childhood trauma and his present-day life as an increasingly skilled criminal "boxman", one of many slang terms you learn for a safecracker! Toss in a decent romance and plenty of unforeseen plot turns and you have a great read for any age. Among Others by Jo Walton is the story of Morwenna, a 15 year old lonely, disabled student in an English boarding school (but this is NOT a girl version of HP). Like the first pick, this author weaves together the past and the present, revealing dark memories of Mori's childhood with present day journal entries of great sci-fi and fantasy books that sustain her. Her journey includes new friends and old enemies, but I won't give away the details of the final confrontation with her ambitious, black magic obsessed mother. You will have to go there yourself!


Monday, December 5, 2011

Life in a Hoopskirt

When I saw this title, Never Sit Down in a Hoopskirt and Other Things I Learned in Southern Belle Hell by Crickett Rumley, I had a feeling this book would make me laugh.  It certainly did.  Jane is more goth than Southern belle and yet somehow she finds herself picked to participate in the Magnolia Maid Pageant.  The successful pageant girls will represent Bienville for one year, by appearing at various events in the Southern belle outfit, aka the dress with the really big hoopskirt.  Jane has one goal, escape before she's seen in public wearing that dress!  Jane's sarcastic comments, and the crazy situations she gets into are hysterical.  If you want a good laugh, this book has plenty.