Wednesday, June 10, 2009

YA Roundup: A Triplet of Titles

I've read a number of YA novels lately, but just haven't got to writing up proper reviews. I'm going to just give a quick blurb on three that I've just finished:

Sun and moon, ice and snow / Jessica Day George
New York: Bloomsbury, c2008.
328 p.

This one was irresistible to me because it is based on one of my favourite fairy tales, "East of the Sun and West of the Moon". Like the author, I read the version illustrated by P.J. Lynch years ago and was enthralled by it. This story starts out with a poor and crowded family in a small house somewhere in what appears to be Norway. The youngest daughter doesn't have a name; there are so many children that she ends up just being called "pika" (which means girl). Her oldest brother is a sailor, but gets home from one voyage a ruined man - he seems to have suffered some trauma which he won't talk about. Pika meets up with an enchanted white reindeer when she is quite young and afterwards has the ability to understand animal speech (leading to some amusing dialogue). This comes in handy when a huge polar bear bursts into their cottage and tells Pika he needs her to go home with him; if she does her family will prosper. She does, and the story then follows the familiar arc of the fairy tale. It is fleshed out with wonderful descriptions of the endless winter their country is suffering through, the marvellous details of the ice palace Pika and the bear live in, the servants at the palace (wonderful), and much more. It is enchanting and smoothly told, hewing to the original but adding lots of unique touches. I really enjoyed it.
Other views:
Review by Claire at Lands of Pleasure
Review at Bookalicious

Wondrous Strange / Lesley Livingstone
Toronto: HarperCollins, c2009
327 p.

I wanted to love this book, I really did. A Canadian author, theatre and Shakespeare, and fairies. Sounds great! And I am sure that for the right reader it would be fantastic, but for me it was just ok. Neither the writing itself nor the love story really did it for me. But, there were many creative and notable elements: using Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" as the play our heroine is involved in when she discovers her fairy heritage is great. It really works and lends itself to many interwoven elements of the mortal and fairy worlds. There were some wonderful characters - I especially liked the Kelpie that Kelley rescues; it's very sweet for a creature from Mab's realm! And the inclusion of the Wild Hunt gives the tale a dangerous edge which adds some complexity. There is also the city of New York, which is an intricately drawn character in itself. I found lots of interest even if I didn't absolutely love it myself but can see it being loved by others.

Other opinions:
Bookshelves of Doom
Dar at Peeking between the Pages

Here's the atmospheric book trailer I found on Lesley Livingston's website:

Exchange / Paul Magrs
London: Simon & Schuster, 2007, c2006.
295 p.

This book caught me with its back cover blurb:

Following the death of his parents, 16-year-old Simon moves into his grandparents' claustrophobic bungalow, which quickly becomes a refuge from his bullying peers. United by their voracious appetite for books, Simon and his grandmother stumble across the Great Big Book Exchange - a bookshop with a difference. There they meet impulsive, gothic Kelly and her boss, Terrance - and the friendships forged in the Great Big Book Exchange result in startling and unsettling consequences for all of them.

Doesn't that sound great? Sadly, I didn't enjoy it much at all. I found the last line of the blurb misleading; Simon and his grandmother meet Kelly and Terrance and use the Great Big Book Exchange, but there don't seem to be any consequences at all. A possible romance between Simon and Kelly, and Terrance and the youthful grandmother, both come to naught. Everyone's lives go on exactly the same as they did at the beginning. Simon perhaps begins to feel a bit less distraught about his parents' loss, but there's not much change evident. Winnie, his grandmother, reads a book from the Exchange written by a childhood friend; this brings about a reunion, but even that fizzles and doesn't change the trajectory of their lives. And his grandfather is a jerk. This book was shortlisted for the 2006 Booktrust Teenage Prize in the UK but I can't picture many teens wanting to read this. At least there were a few apropos bookish quotes to enjoy -- this one comes near the beginning and made me smile:

Simon was suddenly realising: I'll never have enough time to read all the books I want to. Even if I read every hour, every day of my life and if I took breaks only to eat and sleep enough to keep me alive... I'd still never read everything. There were too many novels out there. They stretched into infinity and usually he would find that thought consoling ('I'll never run out of stories to distract me! To fill up my time!') but today the thought of reading and reading and never getting to the end; of never really getting anywhere... this thought actually made him shiver.

But here are a few other opinions:
Marineko's review at Dreaming out loud
The Good, the bad and the Bookish


  1. I just finished SUN AND MOON, ICE AND SNOW and enjoyed it well enough, but the humor in WONDROUS STRANGE made me like that one better. It takes all kinds, right? :D

  2. I really want to read the first book, I just read the second one and agree with you for the most part, and I have never heard of the third book before!


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