Helen

"Jane, Unlimited" by Kristin Cashore

I am an unrepentant fan of Kristin Cashore and her work. I hold up Jane, Unlimited to the universe*, and all in it, and say, “There! See? Kristin Cashore is brilliant!” She spreads her literary wings and soars in this novel, sharing intriguing ideas and plying her craft with consummate skill. She has created an abundance of settings and a diverse crowd of splendid, memorable, complicated, (and sometimes flawed), characters to surround, intrigue and infuriate, brave, broken-hearted Jane.

Kristin Cashore fans, I beseech you, don’t read any more, just dive in and enjoy.

If you need convincing - oh ye of little faith - Ms. Cashore has sewn into the fabric of this book dozens of her favourite places, settings, books, works of art, and other interesting things. Use it as the focus of a book club, together with Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier; Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte; The House of Mirth, by Edith Wharton, A.A. Milne’s Winnie The Pooh, Chapter 8: In Which Christopher Robin Leads an Expotition [sic] to the North Pole and more. (See the author’s acknowledgements) The book club could also virtually visit the paintings, sculptures and museums mentioned in this novel, but I digress.

Jane explores a rambling architecturally mismatched mansion – alternately an A.I. spaceship, which makes Arthur C. Clarke’s HAL look like a lap dog - pursuing four mysteries. She finds a living library, undulating with colour (the books catalogued by the hues of their spines); a heroic, almost telepathic basset hound; secret passages and portals; an alternate world; multiverse theories; art history lessons; extraordinary sculptures and paintings including a Rembrandt and last but not least, many gorgeous, eclectic umbrellas, critical to several plot points... Actually so is the basset hound. Recommend this book to ardent readers, both young adults and grown-ups.

(*I should say Multiverse.)

YA SCIENCE FICTION / FANTASY / ROMANCE / DIVERSE / LGBTQ / ACTION / ADVENTURE MYSTERY

Hardcover LBN pr1271112

Audiobook LBN pr1294394

"Strange the Dreamer" by Laini Taylor

Featuring a brilliant plot and beautiful writing, Strange the Dreamer illustrates Laini Taylor’s excellent originality in magical world building as it follows the adventures of an orphan named Lazlo Strange. On top of this Taylor's characterization of at least twenty main players is outstanding in this symphony of a novel. Together with The Diabolic it is among the most exciting books I’ve read in years. Recommend it to everyone! Particularly recommend this book as an adult cross-over, and to Philp Pullman, Kristin Cashore and Veronica Roth fans. I started this book in print but finished with the audio. This gorgeous, almost musical writing deserves to be heard aloud.

YA FICTION

Hardcover LBN pr1200964

Audiobook LBN pr1199767

 

"I Have No Secrets" by Penny Joelson

Jemma has severe cerebral palsy and is unable to communicate. Despite this she has a keen intellect and takes in everything that happens around her. When her care-giver, Sarah, goes missing, Jemma knows who’s responsible. He knows she can’t talk and so he taunts her and sends the police in the wrong direction. Then Jemma’s family hears of a new technology that might help her speak. Suddenly, Jemma’s in a race to locate Sarah and tell the police, before her kidnapper learns Jemma is able to implicate him. Woven into the mystery is lots of content that shows what Jemma’s life is like. Never didactic, it will nevertheless help readers relate to young women like Jemma.

This YA mystery is suitable for bright kids reading above their age or for younger YA readers. Romance is not a key plotline and nothing violent is directly described.

DIVERSE YA FICTION

Paperback LBN pr1262187

"The Diabolic" by S. J. Kincaid

Patrons who are Kristin Cashore fans and long for another Katsa novel, take heart! You will find some solace in this book’s ferocious, ruthless, yet irresistible heroine.

Nemesis lives on a remote planet with Sidonia, a senator’s daughter, and Sidona’s parents. Nemesis is a Diabolic, a humanoid servant altered, enhanced and trained since birth to be the lethal, devoted protector of Sidonia. Nemesis has not, however, been trained in courtly manners, as a diplomat or spy. Too bad as when Sidonia is called to court – essentially as a hostage, to thwart her father’s rebellious ideas – Sidonia’s father decides to send Nemesis in her place. Their planet is so isolated that no one has seen Sidonia since she was a child, nor is anyone aware of Nemesis’ existence. Once ensconced at court, Nemesis forms alliances, makes enemies, and in the process reveals her own integrity and honor. She makes a friend whose ideas appeal to her but differ from Sidonia’s. Also Nemesis attracts the dangerous affections of the emperor’s son and she is baffled to realize that Sidonia sincerely returns her devotion. In all these aspects, Nemesis learns - and teaches the reader - about humanity.

This is one of two favourite outstanding books I’ve read recently (I’ll review the second next month). I went back and started reading Kincaid’s previous Insignia series (Insignia LBN: 820788, Vortex LBN: 909515 - haven’t made it to book three yet, Catalyst, LBN: 996260. That series is also fantastic) Nemesis’ story continues in October. Can’t wait! (The Empress, LBN: 1273536).

YA FICTION

Hardcover LBN pr1203005

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