LumberJanes

aprilThe LumberJanes is a strange but fun graphic novel suited for tweens.

The girls in the comic are quirky, diverse, and have hilarious one liners like “I have many skills. Falling is among them.” They make fairy tale references as they battle mysterious wildlife and often exclaim the names of famous women where there would normally be an “oh my God”. A lot of the references might be lost on kids but they are amusing for readers who recognize the names.

Why are hipster Yetis so odd?

Because they can’t even.

The graphic novel is broken lumberjanes1-e1406304295769down into chapters based on the badges the girls earn as LumberJanes.

While it has the pace and interest level appropriate for ages 10-13 the girls do use words like “jerk”, “stupid” and “what the junk” in place of swears and I know some parents might object to it.

It’s off the wall and has no real explanation in Vol. 1 for why there are 3 eyed beasts and possessed boy-scouts…but if you like fun stories about adventurous girls this is worth a look.

Tomorrow’s Kingdom

If you haven’t read the Gypsy King read that first.

Maureen Fergus hooked me with the first two installments of the trilogy so I was excited to dive into the final book. Like the other books in the series, Tomorrow’s Kingdom is an exciting fantasy adventure.

The idea of a lost royal child having a unique perspective towards peasants, servants, and outcast tribes that will unite the kingdom is a bit cliche, but I must admit I enjoy it. There’s modern sensibilities towards prejudice and class divide injected into a setting of castles, corsets, horses, and adventure.

The romance is steamy but not explicit. The war has action but is not gruesome. These factors make the book appropriate for teens although I think many adults would enjoy it as well.

The villains are despicable men who are greedy, misogynistic and violent but they are also believable. They have reasons to be the disgusting people they are, formed by both nature and nurture they are well rounded characters.

This is a series I would recommend to readers looking for historical adventure, strong female characters or medieval fantasy. The fantasy elements do not play a large role, so it would appeal to people primarily interested in adventure who don’t mind a touch of legend or a sprinkle of magic in a story.

Karma

I received Karma by Cathy Ostlere as a submission for the YABA and it was selected as an honour book.

This is one of the most beautifully written novels I’ve read since my undergrad. It’s in verse, with the narration and dialogue formatted in a unique and stylistic manner. If not executed correctly such a bold format would have taken away from the story, but Ostlere used it to enrich the text. In stark contrast to the last novel I read, Blood Red Road, the dialogue flowed naturally and it was always apparent who was speaking even without quotation marks.

This novel illustrates the difficulties of immigration from the perspective of a first generation Canadian. Maya is Indian to Canadians, and Canadian to Indians. She is always the outsider, and stands out in every culture she belongs to. Born to a Hindu mother and a Sikh father, Maya follows elements of both religions and cultures. Her mixed heritage puts her in grave danger when during her trip to India the Prime Minister is murdered, and the two cultures go to war on one another.

The book is marketed as a love story, and it does contain a compelling one,  but that is not what got my attention. The very nature of humanity is explored as Maya deals with survivor’s guilt. It not only places blame on the rioters who burn men alive and rape young girls, but on those who stand by and do nothing to stop it. Maya is justifiably frozen by fear as the horrors take place, but she later thinks about how many lives could have been saved if the bystanders spoke up. The denial of everything that happened by the government and so many people in the city is chilling, and leaves a lasting impression.

The snowball effect of hate, as the men fight an eye for an eye reminds me of the beautiful take on a nursery rhyme that plays at the beginning of the film Free Zone. Click this link and read the subtitles. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FuBo5z0fr8A

This would be a fabulous choice for a book club, because it deals with so many great discussion topics:

-identity

-prejudice/acceptance

-depression/mental illness/suicide

-poverty/ class systems

-apathy/denial

-family

I think this novel has much wider appeal than it’s hot pink cover shows. I think the cover is beautiful with the swirly fonts, but there is plenty in this novel that would appeal to boys, and I don’t believe many would pick this up.

Leviathan

Leviathan (Leviathan, #1)Leviathan is the fantastical historical fiction where WWII is between the Darwinist and the Clankers. I really wanted to love this book. It’s got a lot of guys reading, teacher’s excited, tons of positive things. Truth is I’m not feeling it, I’m trudging through reading a few pages at a time- forcing myself to go back to it. I just realized I’m at the halfway point, groaned and thought if it’s a chore to read I need to move on.

This is not a failure on Westerfeld’s part! It’s not that it’s a terrible book, in fact it has a lot going for it (that I’ll outline in a minute). The thing is that I don’t like war stories, and I don’t care about the mechanics of how things work. I don’t care why a car works if it does, I don’t care how a TV shows me images recorded across the world. This book is aimed at people who are interested in war and ships and the mechanics of things. People who like that, will like it.

Here’s what the book does right:

  • Strong female characters. Scott Westerfeld writes female characters the way female authors do. I love that about him. I can’t think of any male author I’ve read lately that does such a good job at portraying gender dynamics in a patriarchical society. I noticed this in the Uglies series too. 
  • Class barriers. Alek was ignorant of how the people in his country lived, just as they are ignorant of the politics his family were involved with. Can a politician do a good job without knowing the plight of the people? Can the people vote without understanding the political issues? Westerfeld makes me think about it (politics lesson potential?) My favourite quote from the book is about Alek’s disconnect from his people;

“He spoke French, English, and Hungarian fluently, and always impressed his tutors in Latin and Greek. But Prince Aleksandar of Hohenberg could barely manage the daily language of his own people well enough to buy a newspaper.”(125)

This is the kind of thing that makes me love Westerfeld, the big ideas about society.

  • Simplification of grand concepts for teens. Dr. Barlow’s recognition of the similarities between the cat, mice, bees, flowers idea and the war in Europe (195).

Here’s where he loses me

  • The Beasties: While I love animals and find the concept of genetic engineering intriguing, the beasties in this book give me the heebie-jeebies! I would be on the other side of the war, one of the close minded Monkey Luddites they make fun of in the book. I don’t think constructing living beings for our convenience is right. Being inside the living ship would creep me out to no end and I wonder how much that poor beast suffers having a crew control it? These are the good guys creating these monsters? I didn’t finish the book or the series, so maybe not in the long run.
  • The Machines: again in theory, kind of cool. In practice, I don’t want to hear that much about them.
  • The Pacing: I feel like hardly anything happened in the first half of the book. So much was put into creating the world that the action dragged. YA books are usually pretty quickly paced, this dragged for me.

Conclusion

I’m an old fuddy duddy woman who isn’t the target audience. I can see why the young guys are eating this up, and my props to Westerfeld who I can see has talent. It’s just not my thing and there are so many books I want to read in my TBR pile that I’m moving on. I really wanted to love this book 😦 but we can’t choose who or what we love.