Friday, June 30, 2006

Wizards at War--Diane Duane (contains spoilers)

Title: Wizards at War
Author: Diane Duane
Pages: 552 p.
Publisher: Harcourt
ISBN: 0152047727

I read the first book in this series, So You Want to be a Wizard, when I was around 10 years old. That would be TWENTY years ago.

And I still love it just as much as I did then.

Wizards at War is the eighth book in the series. Having read the first 7 is required to truly understand and appreciate the eternal conflict between the Lone Power and the wizards. In this book the wizards must deal with expanding dark matter called pullulus. The pullulus is causing the universe to expand too quickly, causing senior wizards to lose their power and their faith, and causing regular humans to lose all emotion but anger. This is a dangerous situation and it's up to the young wizards to sort it all out. While Nita and Kit search for a powerful weapon to help defeat the pullulus, Dairine and Roshaun discover the pullulus is just a distraction--a diversionary tactic used by the Lone Power to cover up an even more important mission. The young wizards join forces to battle the Lone Power and help usher a new benevolent Power into the world, but not without casualties.

In previous books Kit's dog Ponch began "making worlds" and exhibiting wizardly power himself. At the end of this book we know why. Each species is given a Choice--we learn that the Powers That Be offered the dogs more power and wisdom but only if they walk the new way alone and leave their human companions. The Lone Power offered them the world but only if they kill the people first. The dogs refused both offers. The Powers That Be understand their choice is made from loyalty and allow them to have some power but not all wizardry until they are faced with the Choice again. At the end of the book the dogs are faced with the Choice again and this time Ponch chooses the new way--in order to save Kit and his humans. Ponch becomes more than what he is, he becomes the dogs' version of the One, the Godlike Power that exists in every species. Ponch must leave Kit in order to do this but not without heartache and tears. There is a happy ending though and Kit discovers that Ponch exists in ALL dogs now and is not truly gone.

I sped through this book in just a few days. Fans of the series will not be disappointed. Duane has done a wonderful job of universe-building and it's easy to forget that this is fantasy and not science fiction. I look forward to reading the next one and hope there is a next one. This book had a finale feeling to it, but there's enough loose ends to warrant another story. And fans certainly want one.
Reading: Dunno yet.
On My Nightstand:

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Inexcusable--Chris Lynch

Title: Inexcusable
Author: Chris Lynch
Pages: 165 p.
Publisher: Atheneum Books
ISBN: 0689847890

Keir Sarafian is a good guy. He's a football player, a soccer player, and liked by all. He has a great relationship with his father and his two older sisters who have gone away to college.

Or so he thinks.

Keir is a confused, messed-up kid, living in a dream world. His father is an alcoholic, and while not abusive or mean, he's not the best influence for Keir. Keir begins to follow in his father's footsteps abusing alcohol and other drugs. He has some violent tendencies--he tackled an opposing football player so hard the kid couldn't get up--earning him the nickname "Killer." He cannot accept responsibility for anything and when the "investigation" into the tackle determines that Keir did nothing "wrong" he refuses to acknowledge otherwise. He believes he is a good guy, and good guys don't do things like that.

They also don't rape their friends.

The story opens with Keir and his friend Gigi arguing over what Keir did to her. He claims he didn't do anything because he is a good guy and good guys know that "no means no." We see flashbacks of the events leading up to the fateful night between Keir and Gigi. And Keir eventually learns that the way things look in his head are not the way things really are.

The story is gripping, the pace keeps the reader interested, and I had a hard time putting this down. But I was slightly disappointed. All along I kept expecting something more to happen to show the truth and when the truth was finally revealed (to Keir), I thought there should have been more discussion. I *think* that his father is an alcoholic, but is he really? I was left with a lot of questions about Keir's family--why did he think they were perfect when they clearly weren't? Why did his sisters go so far away? And did his nickname "Killer" mean that he killed the other boy?? I really liked this book, I liked the way it was written, I liked the story. It left me with a lot of questions, but maybe that's a good thing? Maybe it's good that I didn't get a nice neat wrapped-up movie-ending with a clear denoument. Maybe it's good to be left with questions.

Added 6/30/06
I think I know why I felt "disappointed". I've been searching for some excuse, some justification, some reason that Keir could have done this. If there was a scene with his father abusing him that would somehow explain how he could do something like this. But it wouldn't really--Lynch got it right--this is inexcusable. I think if I'm disappointed in anything it's in humanity, and not the book.
On My Nightstand: Wizards at War--Diane Duane

Monday, June 19, 2006

Dough Boy--Peter Marino

Title: Dough Boy
Author: Peter Marino
Pages: 221 p
Publisher: Holiday House
ISBN: 0823418731

Tristan is an overweight teenage son of divorced parents. He's happy with his parents' divorce, they're much happier separate than together; while he's not exactly happy with his weight, he's not bothered by it. He has a good relationship with his parents and their new partners. He gets along very well with his mother's live-in boyfriend (Frank), who is also overweight, and shares the love of ice cream sundaes with him. Everything is fine in Tristan's life, until Frank's daughter comes to visit and then live with them. Kelly is not only thin and beautiful, she's a health freak and completely judgemental about Frank and Tristan's weight. It's not enough for her to express concern over their size, she has to make them feel bad about it. Tristan weakens under her constant abuse and bullying until he finally explodes.

Dough Boy starts off somewhat slow. With the big type and the plot I wasn't sure if this was really a teenage novel. But I stuck with it, and it was worth it. Tristan is a sympathetic character. He's not perfect--he lets his "friends" take advantage of him and he ignores his true friends in the process. Kelly may be thin and tough, but she's vulnerable too. The main characters are mostly 3-dimensional and learn something by the end of the book. There's an incident of teen sex and references to teenage male genitalia, but nothing is gratuitious and everything is handled well.
Reading: ?
On My Nightstand: More, more, more.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Avalon High--Meg Cabot

Title: Avalon High
Author: Meg Cabot
Pages: 288
Publisher: HarperCollins, 2006
ISBN: 0060755865

Ellie starts her junior year at a new high school in a new town miles away from her friends and old school. Her parents are both professors--medieval scholars--and on sabattical to research their particular topics. Ellie's mother is an expert on the Tennyson poem the Lady of Shalott (who Ellie is named after--Lady Elaine who committed suicide after Lancelot spurned her for Queen Guinevere). Her father is studying an old sword. This brings Ellie to Annapolis and Avalon High. Although not excited to start a new school, Ellie changes her mind when she runs into Will, a boy she feels she has met before but just can't place. Ellie is instantly attracted to Will, but unfortunately he's dating the most popular girl in school, cheerleader Jennifer. Ellie's new friends try to hook her up with Will's best friend Lance but she definitely prefers Will, and Lance is smitten with Jennifer. Will's evil step-brother Marco turns out to be his half-brother and exposes Lance and Jennifer's secret relationship and then tries to kill Will.

Each of the characters is based on legend--A. Will Wagner is King Arthur, Jennifer is Guinevere, and Lance is obviously Lancelot. Marco is Modred and there's a teacher Mr. Morton who is clearly Merlin, although not as powerful or wise. Ellie's role seems obvious in the beginning but turns out to be a surprise.

I love Arthurian legend and I loved this twist on the once and future king. Cabot has written a realistic fiction romance novel with elements of fantasy and suspense. Knowledge of Arthurian legend enhances the reading, but is not required. Girls will definitely be drawn to this story, but the romance is not so overwhelming so it turns off boys. Although the characters are in high school, there's nothing preventing middle schoolers from enjoying the story. The romance never progresses past the kissing level.
Reading: Doughboy--Pete Marino
On My Nightstand: Lots more

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