Sunday, May 31, 2009

4 YA titles: Starfinder by John Marco, Olivia Kidney by Ellen Potter, Gossamer by Lois Lowry and The Dead and the Gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer

I hate to read great books and not mention them at all, so I'm going to do some quickie reviews of 4 YA titles. The first book I have not yet read, but my son whipped through it in one night and I'm anxious to read it . . . . plus, I wanted to mention it because the author kindly sent me a copy.

Starfinder by John Marco is, according to my son, "a quest story". I don't know the details because I haven't read it, yet, but it's at the top of my "Want to Read ASAP" pile. My copy is an ARC in which the author made a mistake on an autograph and he offered it to me when I declined a poster won through his now-defunct blog. I love books that I can share with my teenager (and Starfinder was already on my wish list), so I said yes and probably peppered my thanks with numerous exclamation points.

When the book arrived, I handed it to my son. He took one look at it and said, "Put it on my bed, please." That night he read it from cover to cover. Last week kiddo said, "I can't wait for the next Skylords novel!" I told him he'll have to wait, since the first just came out in hardback. I thought his enthusiastic recommendation was worth sharing. I'm supposed to ask John Marco to write faster, also. I think I'll skip that bit.

Olivia Kidney by Ellen Potter - After reading SLOB, I vowed that I will read everything Ellen Potter has ever written and I was not kidding. But, boy, was this book hard to find! My local stores didn't carry anything at all by Ellen Potter, I didn't spot any at my library (although I opted not to bother with their insane database; I'm hoping all of her books were checked out) and I had to get help from Ellen -- who told me she thought her books were kept in the independent reader section -- to find a copy of the first in the series at Borders.

All of that effort was worth it. Just like SLOB, Olivia Kidney tells the story of a youngster who is strong-willed and has a sense of humor but is dealing with turmoil from loss. Olivia has just moved to a new apartment, where her father is the superintendent. After losing her key, she meets some oddball neighbors, including a ghost, and goes on a somewhat surreal romp through her apartment building. Talking lizards, a vicious pirate, a princess, a woman whose apartment is entirely made of glass and a medium who wants to talk about her shopping are just some of the characters Olivia encounters. This is a 5/5. I think next time I'll just place an order for everything else Ellen Potter has written.

Gossamer by Lois Lowry is a huge departure from her dystopian series, which began with The Giver. Littlest One is learning her job as a Dream Giver. She and Thin Elderly have been assigned to the home of an older woman. They gather memories from objects and give the woman pleasant dreams. When an unhappy young boy comes to live with the older woman, he is followed by the Sinisteeds -- dark creatures who plague people with nightmares.

The Sinisteeds won't harm the dream givers as long as they stay out of sight, but Littlest One and Thin Elderly must hide whenever the evil creatures arrive to give the little boy nightmares. Together, Littlest One and Thin Elderly decide to combat the Sinisteeds by finding the best possible dream material to strengthen the old woman and young boy while, across town, another dream giver helps a young woman get her life in order.

I just loved Gossamer. It's a sweet, touching book in which little creatures watch over humans and try to make them happier by giving them pleasant dreams. Just after I closed the book, I read Nymeth's post about Feeling Like a Kid by Jerry Griswold, which describes the five areas that are essential parts of the childhood experience and how those become elements in children's novels. I realized Gossamer touched on all 5 of those areas: Scariness, snugness, lightness, aliveness and smallness. The dream givers sleep together in a heap (very snug); Sinisteeds and nightmares are scary; Littlest One wishes she had wings (lightness) and is very small; dreams are created by actual creatures (aliveness). Fascinating! Another 5/5.

The Dead and the Gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer has been on my wish list since I finished Life As We Knew It. There were things I disliked about the first in the series, but I still wanted to read the second book to get a glimpse of this dystopian story from a different viewpoint. In Life As We Knew It, the moon is hit by a meteor and shoved too close to the earth, causing panic, tidal waves & massive death, earthquakes and volcanoes and the end of life as those characters knew it. Because it takes place in a northern state, far from coastline, there are hints of the devastation in New York City and other coastal areas, but no actual scenes. The Dead and the Gone follows a young man and his sisters as they try to survive in New York City with both parents and their elder brother away and no way to find out if they're alive.

I liked the book, but I felt like The Dead and the Gone was missing something -- chiefly, I felt like the true dangers of having food to eat while others were starving was watered down. I expected a little more violence and terror. Life As We Knew It made my heart pound. The Dead and the Gone did not. I just love that cover, though, don't you? I want to frame the cover.

3/5 - an average read. I like dystopian novels a lot or I'd probably give it an even lesser rating. I don't regret reading it and might even reread it someday, so I still recommend the book but it's not a favorite.

Next up will be a sneak peek and review of the second book in Dr. Carl Werner's evolution series: Living Fossils.

Right now: I have to do housework. Bummer. Happy Father's Day to the daddies out there!


  1. Wow...those are some great books :D You absolutely have to read Starfinder!! I finished it last night and my review is scheduled to go up at midnight tonight. Glad your son enjoyed it so much!

    I do love the cover of The Dead and the Gone...and I agree with you. Life as We Knew It was much better I thought, but I still really enjoyed The Dead and the was so damn depressing though!

  2. I have been doing housework too. :)
    I am interested in reading more of Lois Lowery's books. I read The Giver in school years ago. Until then my towering TBR pile is calling my name. :)

  3. Chris,

    I'm going to have to slot Starfinder in between the scheduled ARCs, but maybe in 2 weeks. Fingers crossed. I've seriously overbooked myself -- worse in July than June, but June is bad enough. I'm glad to know you enjoyed it, too!

    Yep, both of those books were depressing. It seemed like there was never a ray of hope in The Dead and the Gone, though, whereas Life As We Knew It ended on a hopeful note. Yep, I still enjoyed both and whipped right through them. I just love dystopian novels.


    Housework. Blecch. :)

    Gossamer was a sneak-in between ARCs. Every now and then, I get sick of feeling obligated to read in a specific order and rebel for a day or two or three. I got my copy from PaperbackSwap (and it's a former elementary library book -- kind of cool because it has a nice, tough cover). Fortunately, it's a really quick read. I think you'd love it.

  4. Wonderful reviews - I've added a few more books to my list. I love Lois Lowry and loved Gossamer. Your review makes me want to reread it.

  5. Wow those all sound so good! :) Umm father's day honey you're a little early. ;)

    I'll have to look into those. :)

  6. Booklogged,

    Isn't Gossamer a sweet book? I loved it, too. And, I do want to read more by Lowry. After closing The Giver, I checked out the next book from the library, though, and discovered I couldn't read two dystopian books in a row, so it went back unread.


    It wasn't me -- hubby told me it was Father's Day. He even called his dad. Haha. Funny. I didn't bother looking at the calendar, since he not only ignored Mother's Day but left the country on that day.

    The books are all great. Even The Dead and the Gone has stuck with me. I thought there were some things that she did very well but it just wasn't a terrific book -- it was more average.

  7. Love your review of Ellen Potter's book. I'll have to find one of hers and read.

    Didn't realize Lowry's The Giver was a series. What's after The Giver as its next on my YA list to read?

    I have to read Life As We Knew It next week as well so I'm glad to see there is a second book (even if its not as good).

  8. Bree,

    I love Ellen Potter's writing. I hope you do, too. :)

    I looked the Giver Trilogy up at Wikipedia and it says the second book is Gathering Blue, followed by Messenger. I haven't read either of those, yet. I checked out Gathering Blue and decided I couldn't read two dystopian novels in a row, but someday I'll get to them.

    Oddly, I enjoyed both Life as We Knew It and The Dead and the Gone, even though I had plenty of problems with both books. Be prepared. When things go wrong, they just keep getting worse and worse, but as I recall there's a light at the end of the tunnel in Life as We Knew It.

  9. You really confused me there for a minute. I thought I missed Father's Day! I've been awake since 2:30 this morning and it was quite a jolt to read your Happy Father's Day wish. Thank goodness your hubby was wrong!!

  10. Les,

    I should probably go back and edit that out. I haven't even bothered to look at the calendar to see when Father's Day *really* is. To be honest, even after 19 years, Father's Day still pisses me off. I know my husband's a father and I should pay attention, but I don't. I like skipping right past it.

  11. I really enjoy the Lois Lowry book, too! I am supposed to read Starfinder. I must get around to it! I put the Ellen Porter book on my list at the library.

  12. Kailana,

    Isn't Gossamer sweet? I can see myself reading it many times, in the future. Same with Ellen Potter's books. I like her style. I'm looking forward to Starfinder, but I have to get those ARC piles hacked down!!


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