Book review: Maya and the Book of Everything by Laurie Graves.

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Laurie Graves – Maya and the Book of Everything (2016, Hinterlands Press) 

A mysterious library, magical books, and unexpected journeys to new lands and times?  A resourceful, intelligent, and thoughtful teenaged protagonist that we can relate to and love and root for?  A clever, fresh (and extremely relevant) take on the classic battle between good and evil?  Creative plotting, beautifully realized characterization, precisely detailed world building, and perfect pacing?  I’m all in.  Laurie’s book really is everything!

As it is the season of gift giving, if you’re having a difficult time buying for the young teenagers in your life, well, have I got a suggestion for you.  And while you’re at it, click an extra copy into your cart for yourself.  Because we could all use a Book of Everything in our lives.  🙂

(I’m sure glad she’s already working on the sequel because I’m not certain how long I can wait, given that juicy wallop set up at the end…).

 

Book review: The Harvest by Chuck Wendig.

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Chuck Wendig – The Harvest (Book Three of The Heartland Trilogy) (2015, Skyscape)

Broken, battered, and full of fury and fight, the gang’s (mostly) all here, as Cael McAvoy and his friends struggle to survive and marshal forces against their crushing Empyrean overlords in a twisted world driven by the commodity of genetically-engineered corn.  Complications plague them: divided loyalties and politics, love triangles (quadrangles? “Squares” doesn’t have quite the same ring), infection and mutation from the same strain of Blight that affects the corn crops, killer androids, and, oh yeah, a group of seriously frightening female assassins. As in Under the Empyrean Sky and Blightborn,  the other books in the trilogy, Wendig’s world-building is staggering in scope and crazy-inventive, and he doesn’t pull any stylistic punches…he shoves the reader from edge to edge and keeps the action dialed up quite a few notches above what you think you can possibly stand.  It’s a fantastic ride and a fitting finale to this dark, creative trilogy.

The Door is Ajar: Martians Abroad and Last Day on Mars.

This week, I’m featuring a couple of books about the Red Planet….

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Martians Abroad – Carrie Vaughn (2016, Tor, New York)

Martian teenager Polly Newton desperately wants to become a starship pilot and she is excited and ready to begin her training…until her mother, the high-powered, not-to-be-challenged director of the Martian Colony, derails Polly’s plans and sends her and her twin brother Charles to an exclusive boarding school on Earth.  Headstrong, stubborn, and understandably angry at her mother, Polly struggles to fit into her new surroundings and deal with bullying classmates and stern teachers, until she and Charles uncover a secret about the Galileo Academy that has dangerous ramifications for the students at the school and Polly launches herself into action to save them all.  (Pun intended, of course).

Sounds pretty tantalizing, right?  That’s why I picked this book up.  And I loved, loved, LOVED the whole “fish out of water” scenario – Vaughn’s descriptions of how the foreign students try to adjust to Earth (the gravity, the food, the air, the open spaces, the use of water) are absolutely captivating and realistic.  The details of travelling in space are thrilling, as well – it’s all extremely brilliant stuff and beautifully executed.  But…and here’s the thing. To be fair to Vaughn and her fans, I haven’t read the Robert Heinlein story that this book is apparently inspired/influenced by (Podkayne of Mars), so I should probably do that before making a snap judgment.  It is possible that Martians Abroad is a decent representation of that earlier work – but even so, it doesn’t mean I have to be impressed. It was disappointing to me that despite the juicy depth of its scenery, the book suffers from a pretty much non-existent plotline and the motivations of the characters are vague and unrealized and quite frankly, nonsensical in certain cases.  The surprise resolution is wimpy, undeveloped, and…utterly confusing.  To me.  I did read a review from NPR that suggested that this book hearkens back to the classic, more innocent SF novels, where the stories are heavy on tech and world-building and not so much on gritty plots and action, which seems accurate, and much nicer and way more positive than what I’m saying here.  So…pick up Martians Abroad and let me know what you think after you’ve finished it.  How off-base am I on this one? (Hee hee, another pun).

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Last Day On Mars – Book One of Chronicle of the Dark Star – Kevin Emerson (2017, Walden Pond Press, New York)

After the Earth is destroyed by the sun, which is beginning to go supernova, mankind establishes a colony on Mars to garner the resources and technology so that they can flee once again as the red planet is threatened.  In 2213, the time has finally arrived for the big departure, and young Martian student Liam Saunders-Chang and his friend Phoebe spend their final bittersweet day on the only planet they have ever called home trying to solve a terrifying mystery and desperately struggling to stay alive as everything they know comes crashing down around them.  Emerson’s first novel in the Chronicle of the Dark Star series is aimed at a pre-teen audience, but it transcends its target, with whipsmart humour, solid world-building, and an inventive, yet believable scientific foundation that will appeal to older readers (including adults) as well.  Liam and Phoebe are wonderfully-drawn and relatable, and I particularly loved the focus on the emotional rollercoaster they suffer on the Last Day.

If all that wasn’t enough, there is a positively gripping cliffhanger that has me utterly piqued for the next book.  Nicely done!