Archive for June, 2009

The Uninvited by Tim Wynne-Jones

uninvitedMimi Shapiro needs to take a break from New York City to get away from the NYU professor who is taking things a little too far.  It seems perfect when her father tells her that she can stay at his little cottage in Canada.  It’s definitely in a remote area, but maybe a little too remote.  When Mimi arrives, she finds someone else living there: Jay, a young musician.

Strange things have been happening at the cabin; someone is getting into the house, without any evidence of a break in, and leaving odd things like a snake skin and a dead bird.  Jay blames Mimi, but she has only just arrived and these things have been going on for some time.  Who is Jay, and why is he living at Mimi’s father’s house?  And who is leaving the odd little gifts, and what do they really want?

This is a well-written story packed with action and mystery; well, mystery for the characters, because the reader is told many of the plotlines long before the characters realize what is happening.  It does switch from viewpoint to viewpoint, so it is easy to become lost if you are not paying attention.  Although, the well-developed characters and setting, which becomes a character in its own right, will keep readers wanting to finish the book.  Recommended for sophisticated readers, who like a good mystery.

Anne Quick, Dobbs Ferry

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June 30, 2009 at 8:52 pm Leave a comment

Last of the High Kings by Kate Thompson

kingsThis sequel to Thompson’s magicaly musical The New Policeman finds fiddler JJ Liddy fifteen years removed from his adventure into Tir Na Nog.  Married now, with three children and a wildly successful concert career playing tunes he learned from the Fairies, JJ is yet troubled by the way his life has unfolded.  He had hoped to make a career as a fiddle maker using the magically resonant chiming wood he had been promised by one of the Fairies.  But the chiming wood had yet to be delivered from Tir Na Nog.  Meanwhile, his daughter Jenny is consorting with a powerful goat on the hillside and conversing with a ghost at the old beacon atop the hill.

Clearly Jenny is not like the other children and before long it is clear that she is of fairie blood and is being used by the Puka (the goat creature) to right an ancient wrong.  But Jenny is not sure who she should help.

Those expecting a reprise of JJ’s adventure in The New Policeman, will find that the Last of the High Kings is more mythical than musical, with ancient gods and forces stuggling to have their way with the fate of Earth.  Thompson weaves a readable and engaging tale based upon Celtic legend.  All that’s missing is the music.

John S.

June 30, 2009 at 8:49 pm Leave a comment

Punkzilla by Adam Rapp

punkzJamie, 14 and homeless on the streets of Portland, Oregon sets off on a cross-country bus ride to visit his ailing brother in Memphis, Tennessee.  His journey – revealed in a series of out-of-sequence letters – is anything but linear or chronological.  Adam Rapp seems to be chanelling Jack Kerouac in this tale of mishaps, misadventure and maligned street characters as Jamie finds voice in his always raw, often urgent, sometimes desperate, but never despairing letters to his brother.

Adam Rapp, as usual, takes readers to the edge of YA literature here.  He allows us to peer into the seldom explored shadows where Jamie has found refuge and kindness.  As Jamie determines to somehow find his way out of  a hopeless existence and back to the one stable person in his life, his brother, it becomes impossible to not root for him.

June 29, 2009 at 6:54 pm Leave a comment

Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork

mrwOne of the enduring characters from YA fiction for 2009 is likely to be Marcello Sandoval, a seventeen year old whose Asperger’s-like condition is marked by his unique relationships to music, theology and horses.

He is happy and capable in his special-ed situation where he cares for horses and mentors others on their care.  His father, however, believes it is in Marcelo’s best interest to see what life is like in the ‘real world’ and arranges for Marcelo to work in the mail room of his law firm for the summer.  There he uncovers deceptions and secrets that reveal a world where not everything – or everyone – is as it seems.  Marcelo addresses the puzzles and people he encounters with admirable strength, intelligence and integrity so that in the course of growing more comfortable and assured with his place in his own life, he will surely win your heart.

John S.

June 29, 2009 at 6:25 pm Leave a comment

Charles & Emma : The Darwins Leap of Faith by Deborah Heligman

CEAfter his famous five year voyage of exploration on the H.M.S. Beagle, Charles Darwin began to study the specimens he had brought back to England and started to formulate his theory of natural selection. He also began to ponder his future and whether he would get married or remain single.  When he finally chose his cousin Emma to be his wife, he struggled with an issue that he knew could end their relationship before it even began.

Because Emma was a devout Christian who whose faith was dependent on a literal interpretation of the bible, Charles knew that if he were to share with her his theory that conflicted with her belief, she might reject him.  For awhile, he kept his theory a secret.  But eventually Emma became not only his confidant, but a supportive critic and editor for his writing.  Yet she could never believe that his soul was not in jeopardy for eternity because of his ideas.

Heligman has told the story of one of the greatest scientific achievement within a context of family life in Victorian England that is informative, touching, and inspiring.

John S.

June 29, 2009 at 5:53 pm Leave a comment


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