Thursday, December 21, 2006

Valiant: a modern tale of faerie by Holly Black

Valiant: a modern tale of faerie

Val makes a shocking discovery at home that makes her question everything. She runs away finding herself on the streets of New York City and falls in with some other street teens who live in the tunnels under Grand Central. Through them she is introduced to the Faerie world. Not the Tinkerbell from Disney kind, but the dark cloven-foot, trolls, gargoyles and other nasty things that will use you up and spit you back out again kind. Surprising herself Val bonds with Ravus, a troll who protects the exiled faeries living in NYC and uses the street teens to deliver potions that protect faeries from iron poisoning. But when faeries start dying from the potion that should heal them all fingers point at Ravus and it's up to Val to prove them wrong.

Black uses very obvious themes here about running away instead of dealing with family issues and drug use. Only instead of a real drug (though it resembles every use of heroine I've ever seen in the movies) the teens use "Nevermore" which is actually a concentrated form of magic which helps the faeries stave off iron poising, but which gets humans high. I was a little surprised by the language. There are a couple of instances of the F-word in the first chapter and it recurred through out.

Val makes the transitions to and from the streets fairly easily which I find rather unrealistic. As well, as the handy appearance of Ruth, Val's best friend from, which makes Val's efforts to save the faerie world a little easier.

This was an exciting and quick read though. Sure to please readers looking for a little bit of fantasy injected into a real world setting.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

13 Little Blue Evelopes by Maureen Johnson

I decided to put this title on one of my Teen Book Club lists for the spring, but couldn't wait to read it myself.

After her Aunt Peg's death Ginny receives a package with direct instructions from her aunt to pack a backpack, leave all her electronic trappings and guidebooks home and get on a plane to London. Once she's completed that task 13 more little blue envelopes will lead her around Europe to experience it as her aunt did. She learns some new things about her aunt and herself along the way.

I liked this book and it was a quick read. I kept wanting to know what her aunt had for Ginny to do next and what lesson she would learn from it.

My major complaint is the plausibility of a 17 year old having trusting enough parents to let her go off to Europe alone with no communication except for the handwritten posted kind (It's in the rules). Ginny doesn't change in huge ways by the end of the book but she's seen more, done more and has more to think about which in my opinion was the aunt's goal all along. Peg was a driving force in Ginny's life until she died and had promised to see Ginny through high school and college to help her through those confusing and awkward times in life. Failing that I think Peg concocted this scheme as a way to bundle all those little bits of helpful advice into a short period of time and in a dramatic (Peg was an artist after all).

There are some touching moments and having been to the UK, where Ginny's travels start I felt nostalgic at the mentions of places I've been.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Peace on Earth; Good Will Toward Men

Except for that peace part. Because it's offensive.

At least that's what a Colorado home association has told it's residents when it told a couple to take down their peace sign Christmas wreath or face a $25/day fine.

Colorado law says that homeowners associations cannot prohibit residents from displaying American Flags, service flags, or political signs that might influence an election. Restrictions on other displays however are not addressed in the law.

So at this time of year when Christians around the world are celebrating the birth of their Messiah who preached peace, love and tolerance, who was probably the most famous hippy in history, a peace sign is being considered "offensive."

That's right offensive. Because while we are at war and have lost 2,000+ American soldiers, the message of peace is offending our neighbors.

We all know that Christmas has become horribly secular, commercial, and material. It has degenerated into the worshiping of fat, jolly Santa instead of Christ, but at least the "holiday spirit" seemed to remain. Despite arguments over the proper way to greet your neighbors "happy holiday's" "merry Christmas" "Happy Hanuka...Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice etc" at least the well wishes were there. I don't know about you, but I'll take all the happy and merry wishes I can get regardless of the holiday it's attached to. I need them.

But now even that is gone. No longer can we even wish for peace. Wish that our young men and women, and those citizens of other countries weren't put in harms way, weren't fighting and dying. When did peace become something bad? Even if you agree with the justifications for war, don't we all wish they weren't a necessity?

I might as well put away my ornaments, twinkle lights, and poinsettias.