Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Maze Runner

by James Dashner

Oh, damn bloody hell! This excellent young adult book is the first of a planned trilogy; the second book might be out in October, but my library doesn't appear to have it on order yet. I dare say it's very close to almost as good as The Hunger Games, and finishing it certainly gave me similar feelings of elation laced with frustration, despair and impatience.

I heard about it in a short article about teen dystopian fiction in the June 14, 2010, issue of the New Yorker. It's an interesting article comparing/contrasting adult and young adult literary dystopias (dystopiae?), and it mentions The Hunger Games, of course, and several other books I decided to read based on what it said about them. This is the first of those that I've read. It's exciting, filled with danger and death, combining elements of Hunger Games, Ender's Game, 13 Monkeys, in a wrapping of fresh mystery and cruel unknowing: memory wiped, a young man wakes in the center of huge maze that changes every night, as yet unsolved by the 40-some young men already trapped there. Oh, and there's scary mechanized creatures that mostly come at night, mostly.

Just as a side note, I think the author might be Mormon. A page on the website for the book has a link to a profile of him in the Deseret News, a Mormon newspaper. Interesting, since Orson Scott Card (author of Ender's Game) is Mormon, as is Stephenie Meyer (Twilight series). Wonder if Suzanne Collins (The Hunger Games) is too?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Eleventh Grade Burns

by Heather Brewer

I've never read any of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series, and I think the movies so far are pretty hilarious (though unintentionally so), but I'm glad I haven't invested a lot of energy in mocking Twi-hards. Because this series is my Twilight. Having read the third book, I'm no longer capable of objectively assessing the writing. I'm too wrapped up in the story and blindly loyal to the protagonist, young half-vampire-half-human Vladimir Tod.

The next book is supposed to come out in September, but as far as I can see my library doesn't have it on-order yet. I'll just die if they don't get it!

The Kingdom of Ohio

by Matthew Flaming

Grrrr. This book was annoying. It didn't deliver much on the transdimensional time travel angle that made me interested in it in the first place. Yes, time travel occurred — or did it?! — but it didn't really make sense and wound up feeling romantic and New Age-y, a bit in the vein of Nicholas Sparks (who makes me gag). It's not that I expected hard science fiction, but it came so close to an explanation that comports with known physical laws, and then it just crapped out like a middle schooler's attempt at suspense that ends with "and then I woke up."

It's not terrible, I just didn't like it, but I can see how others might. Personally, though, I don't know why I even read the whole thing.

Antique Bakery, vols. 1-4

by Fumi Yoshinaga

I've praised the work of this author previously (here), and I have to say this series totally delivers! And lots of other people must like it too, because it's also been made into a television series in Japan and a movie in Korea. It combines great storytelling with beautifuly soft and stylish illustration, and the characters are intriguing and well-developed.

A fancy patisserie owned by a lower-middle-aged former businessman — who, as a child, was abducted and held captive and fed cake for several weeks before escaping — is the setting and back-story. A bit of a ladies' man, he's very suave and attractive but ultimately unlucky in love. One of the other characters, a young former boxer apprenticed to the head pastry chef, calls him "geezer," but the age difference is barely noticeable in the illustrations. The main visual cue that sets him apart is his subtle stubble.

Rather unassuming, maybe even slightly geeky at first glance, the incredibly talented head pastry chef is frequently referred to as "a gay of demonic charm," due to his siren-like ability to seduce anyone who comes near, be they gay or straight, male or female. Somewhat unusual for yaoi manga, he came to terms with his homosexuality in high school and since then has been about as "out" as he can be within the weird borders of Japanese culture. There is, however, one person impervious — actually, more like oblivious to his charms: the fourth employee of the bakery is very tall, quite dopey and, since childhood, fiercely loyal to the owner.

It's easy to see why this became a TV show, with it's underlying story and episodic story arcs. The series doesn't include any actual sex that I can remember, but it definitely includes frank discussion of sexual themes, so it's PG-13 for sure. (On the cover, it's rated "mature, for 18+".)