Beauty Queens

The book begins with a plane crash.

Sometimes it’s very on the nose (for someone who calls herself an intersectional feminist), but I’m very pleased that Libba Bray unapologetically laces this story with lessons about racism, sexism and feminism. I was looking for another book by Bray, but any will do if you want to discover the style of an author.

Beauty Queens on their way to a pageant end up in a plane crash. While they slowly discover that they’re worth more than their looks, the sponsor and producer interject commercials and hostile take overs to make sure the reader still remembers her place.

It’s a parody, a complaint, an educational pamphlet and a book stuffed to the brim with girl power. Just when it gets a bit too much, it adds heart. A smart read for both girls and boys.

Beauty Queens, Libba Bray, Scholastic 2012

The Road of the Dead

When the Dead Man got Rachel I was sitting in the back of a wrecked Mercedes wondering if the rain was going to stop.

The Road of the Dead doesn’t fit in just one box. It comes from the YA section, but it’s brutal enough for an adult read. It’s about family and being different, but it’s always a detective, trying to discover how the main character’s sister died. And with main character Ruben being able to ‘feel’ people out, there is a hint of fantasy as well.

It’s a stubborn book, demanding some of the reader’s investment before it curls open into a story about small towns and big egos, grown rotten through capitalism. It’s uneven as well, like sometimes the author was unsure about something and works extra hard to convince his reader.

Not bad, not good but yet slightly compelling, this is for quick readers with a nose for detectives.

 The Road of the Dead, Kevin Brooks, Scholastic Inc 2006

The Fall

Tal stretched out his hand and pulled himself up onto the next out-thrust spike of the tower.

My love for Garth Nix’ work is no secret. Time and again he creates new, fascinating worlds and feeds them to his readers without any trouble. The books for younger readers are a little bit milder, while those for a bit older can taste something bitter from time to time.

And he works in series, which means there’s always something new to read. In the world of The Seventh Tower there are Chosen Ones, people with sunstones and malleable shadows, and underfolk. They live in a world of darkness and magic controlled by light and stones. Our protagonist needs to take care of his family and needs to steal a Sunstone. Of course, things don’t go exactly as planned ..

Garth Nix always provides accessible, cool fantasy for every reader. And I’m happy that I have a new series that will keep me provided for a few months.

The Seventh Tower: The Fall, Garth Nix, Scholastic Inc 2000

Abandon

Anything can happen in the blink of an eye.

I know it’s an incredibly easy shot,  but: please abandon your ideas about reading this novel. I’ve heard about Meg Cabot before, possibly even read some of her work, and I had the faintest memory of people recommending this series to each other. I have to stop trusting my memory or other people’s recommendations.

Abandon  used the myth of Hades and Persephone and dumps it on two very moody teenagers. The not-Hades love interest can’t communicate if he can’t use violence or moping, while the not-Persephone is an incredibly naive, slow-witted, klutz of a girl. Possibly up there with Twilights Bella.

Main character Pierce has died once, and returned. People around her die, she doesn’t know what John wants from her and she can’t adjust to her second chance at life in a whole other place. He tries to warn her with unclear hints while she blunders through everything.

Can you like a story when two of the main characters are so incredibly annoying? Because Cabot gives a nice set of ideas, written nicely. She’s just using the wrong poles to hold it up in the air.

Abandon, Meg Cabot, Scholastic Inc 2011

Infernal Devices

At first there was nothing.

Just when you thought Philip Reeve was getting close to stale (more unlikely adventurers and humans-can-be-this-evil bad guys), he turns things upside down and creates with Infernal Devices just another thrilling fantasy novel.

This one starts with a ‘[amount of time] passed’ angle, risky because it can look sloppy (was the author bored of his own work?), but pulls it off with keeping the story close to that in the previous books. This time the protagonist is a daughter of the previous ones, and – not entirely willingly – she drops head first in a lot of adventure.

The world has evolved to war (again), the resistance is fleshed out some more and new parties give the now familiar experience some extra shine. There’s corruption, pirates and (double-)spies, slaves and coming-of-age lessons.

What I continue to like from these books is that one of the main characters is very unlikeable. She has some excuses for her behaviour, but is never woobified or excused. It is what it is and some people simply never change. All too often every character has likeable features, regularly even when it’s the bad guy. Hester continues to be black/white and adds some spice to the story that way.

Infernal Devices, Philip Reeve, Scholastic 2006

The Invention of Hugo Cabret

The story I am about to share with you takes place in 1931, under the roofs of Paris.

This book is gorgeous. That can be largely attributed to the amazing pencil drawings in it, lifting the story to a different level.
The Invention of Hugo Cabret: a novel in words and pictures is the book where the film Hugo was based on. I didn’t watch the film, so I could take the story in without any expectations.

And it was a pleasure. This novel is lighthearted, colourful, detailed like quality clockwork and sweet. Looking at the cover was enough to make me smile and I’m just the littlest bits of sad for finishing it so quickly (there are a lot of page filling pictures and drawings).

Read it, look at it, enjoy it. Nothing more needs to be said.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret: a novel in words and pictures, Brian Selznick, Scholastic 2008