Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Robert Charles Wilson

Just finished Gypsies by Robert Charles Wilson and "A Bridge of Years," and am now reading The Chronoliths. "The Chronoliths is set in the near future (about 2020) where a giant monument appears mysteriously in the middle of a jungle. Examination of the object show that it is a monument to an unknown military leader celebrating a military victory - 20 years in the future. More of these objects begin to appear, some with catastrophics results when they land on cities and kill hundreds of thousands of people. As the date on the monuments draws closer, people try to ignore their appearance or desperately try to figure out their meaning. Julian Comstock, set in a post-appocalyptic North America, follows a charismatic young military hero who is deemed a threat to the status quo by his uncle - president of the country.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Disguised as a boy, Jacky Faber has been having a grand time as a midshipman aboard H.M.S. Dolphin. Now the masquerade is over, and she has been packed off to a private school to learn to be a lady. But Jacky is not the type of girl to sit quietly learning to embroider. Soon she is embroiled in adventures such a horseracing (to win a bet and save her the estate of her best friend's father), sneaking out at night to sing at a local tavern (to earn money to get back to England) and solve the mystery of a maid who died in suspicious circumstances.
Jacky is a great character - plucky, a bit crude, energetic, and also underneath her streetwise exterior - vulnerable.
There is adventure, humour, mystery, and a bit of romance in this energetic novel that keeps zipping along to the last page.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Night Runner by Max Turner
Zack Thomson is 15 years old and lives in the pschychiatric ward of a hospital in Barrie. He's not mentally disturbed although he certainly has some unusual problems. For instance, he has a severe allergy to sunlight which means that he can only go outside at night. And he can't tolerate any solid food - he only drinks a frothy red beverage that Nurse Ophelia whips up for him every night.
His monotonous life, enlivened only by visits from his friend Charlie, changes abruptly when an elderly man on a motorcycle crashes into the lounge room of the ward. From him, Zack learns that his condition is vampirism, and further, that another vampire is out to kill him.
Zack bolts from the hospital, and with an unknown person (thing?) on his heels ends up at Charlie's family cottage in the Muskokas. Here, his would-be killer is still on his heels, but at least he gets to do some late-night partying with other teens and a tiny bit of a romance before the action heats up again for him.
Short chapters, lots of action, humorous dialogue make this a fast and absorbing read even for the reluctant reader.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Magic or Madness by Justine Larbalestier
Reason Cansino has spent her whole life on the run from a grandmother who supposedly practices black magic. Now, she is forced to live with her grandmother and learns that she herself has inherited magical powers. But she faces a terrible dilemma. If she practices magic she will shorten her life by many years. If she doesn't use her magic powers, she will go mad. Determined to find a way to avoid either fate and to escape her grandmother, Reason steps through a portal which leads from sunny Australia into wintery New York. Only now she is being pursued not only by her grandmother, but also her grandfather who seems much, much worse.
This is a wonderful book, first in a trilogy.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Cybele's Secret byJuliet Marillier
"Wildwood Dancing" introduces us to five sisters who have managed to find their way through a portal into a Faerie Kingdom. At the end of the the story, the eldest sister remains in the kingdom, with the others seemingly barred from ever returning.
"Cybele's Secret picks up six years later with the scholarly sister Paula on a hunt in Istanbul with her father for an ancient artifact which supposedly brings good fortune to its owner. Paula begins to catch glimpses of a mysterious veiled woman who may be her sister and who passes cryptic messages to her about Cybele.
Marillier creates a strong character in Paula, who was very much a secondary character in "Wildwood Dancing." However, the plot concerning Cybele, is rather a weak one. The first part of the book offers only glimpses of who and what Cybele is. This in itself, might have been intriguing if only the second part of the book had followed through with a Cybele worthy of the build-up. But after a harrowing ocean trip, journey through the jungle, and a descent into an Otherworld where the main characters must undergo a bizarre series of tests the payoff seems disappointing.
Not a bad book - readers may enjoy the romantic angle - but not a great one.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Where to start with Smekday? Okay. The earth is invaded by a bunch of aliens called Boovs. The Boovs generously "give" Americans Florida so that they can have the rest of the country. When eleven-year-old Gratuity Tucci's mom is taken by the Boovs to be a translator, she decides that she will drive to Florida by herself with only a cat named pig for company. Along the way, they meet a Boov who calls himself J.Lo (he's been hiding out in the magazine section of a store). J. Lo is on the lam from other Boovs, although Gratuity doesn't know this at first. Eventually, when another group of aliens called Gorgs arrive, J.Lo has to admit that he accidentally sent out radio signals to the Gorg. The Gorgs are much worse than the Boov and will not only kill all humans but will completely destroy the planet. But Gratuity, with the help of J.Lo and Pig manage to save the day.
At over 400 pages, there are alot of detours into side adventures, meeting with quirky characters, and lots of humour. But Gratuity and J. Lo are always at the heart of the story, their initial fear and antagonism gradually giving way to respect and frlendship. A fine book whose story and characters will remain with the reader long after the last page is finished.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer
With five minutes before my kids got home for lunch and fifteen minutes before I had to head to work I was racing through the last few pages of Life As We Knew It. I really wanted to know how things were going to turn out for 16-year- old Miranda and her family who are trying to survive after a meteor knocks the moon into closer orbit to the earth, resulting in tsunamis, earthquakes, illness, and starvation (among other things).
As a reader, you know from page one that disaster is just around the corner. But of course, everyone is looking forward to viewing this night-time spectacle - many of Miranda's neighbours are hosting parties to coincide with the meteor's arrival. Maybe not such a bad idea, since no-one's going to be celebrating again for a long time - if ever.
As the year progresses, things get progressively worse for the family. While not directly affected by tsunamis, volcanoes erupting around the world block out the sun and cause food shortages. The local and national infrastructure is fractured and gradually oil, internet, radio, and medical help disappear. Through it all, life becomes increasingly precarious for the family but they are determined to survive if at all possible.