THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN
Some middle grade stories are the sort that just grab you and turn you inside out, all the feelings layered deeply within every page. The One and Only Ivan is one such story, with a depth of emotion that catches you, yet mitigated with a humor in the very words that inspire those heart-felt responses.
Ivan is a gorilla on display at a small carnival off a main route. He lives there in his domain alongside an older elephant named Stella, a scrappy dog dubbed Bob and a ton of other small animals. He has also made friends with the little girl who comes and sits by his enclosure each night while her father cleans. He is content, or at least numb, to his life. But all that changes when baby elephant Ruby is brought in to replace Stella.
Armed with a promise to Stella that he will change Ruby’s lot in life, Ivan sets about putting his artistic talents to use in order to communicate with his human friends. But he’s just a gorilla. A gorilla who has been in this cage for so long, his memories of a time before shuttered away, leaving him wondering if he’ll ever be capable of fulfilling his promise, of ever seeing anything but the inside of the cage that has been his domain for so long.
This one is easy to read, with laugh-out-loud commentary from Ivan (and Bob!) that breaks up the serious issues of captivity and animal abuse, leaving this book sweet and wonderful rather than heavy. Highly recommend for all ages, but in particular for artists, because there are many touchstones for young artists (and old!) that will bolster anyone creative.
Posted in Recommendation
Tagged book, contemporary, contemporary fantasy, fantasy, fiction, furry, furry fiction, katherine applegate, MG, middle grade, novel
THE STONE ROAD
The Stone Road is a gothic fantasy set on a future Earth where much of our modern technology has been lost. On the day Jean was born, a distant Furnace burned to life. That Furnace calls to the people of her town, seducing them away with an irresistible call. An irresistible call that Jean, herself, has never felt. Since that first day, awful occurrences always happen on Jean’s birthday. The day becomes an ill omen and she blamed for all that befalls the people of her town.
Born to a family with the power to hear the dead, Jean has always known them as presences under the ground. They grab at her toes as she walks in the dirt, their voices filled with hate and fury. But they are stuck, unable to move on down the stone road, for something closed the road off. So the dead simply gather beneath the surface while outside of the town the monsters linger.
Jean is raised by her grandmother, who slowly reveals all that Jean will be responsible for, from the monsters without, to the dead within. And forever unmentioned, but always looming, is the day when Jean must face her Trouble–that ever-burning Furnace.
This is a tale for those who love reading of slow unveilings of mysteries and powers. We follow Jean’s struggles throughout her childhood, learn along with her of all the horrible beauty and monstrous friends that stand beside her in her town. The characters are distinct and memorable—from a tree that carries their story on its bark, a not-quite man who is always an artist, a bird called Bird, and a man who boasts all the grace of the leaves dancing in autumn.
However, be aware, there are questions that remain unanswered and answers that never truly had questions by the end of this novel. This story will leave you with a wild taste of a world that feels more removed from our own than many fantasy novels.
Thank you to Erewhon Books for the eARC of The Stone Road by Trent Jamieson!
A Tribute to Anne McCaffrey and Pern
ed by Todd McCaffrey
The dedication for Dragonwriter is to “all those who have found solace in the Worlds of Anne McCaffrey and Pern” and that’s exactly who this collection is for. All of us who’ve dreamed of her dragons, of flying her brainships, of being a Talent in our own right.
These essays all encompass different aspects of the same great woman, yet cross and overlap consistently to paint a picture of this larger than life, mischievous person who is Anne McCaffrey. Some of the essays head into the history of McCaffrey’s career, detailing certain aspects or shedding light on events that became turning points. Some of them give larger, more macro-oriented overviews. And some are more personal, more focused on the relationship between essay writer and McCaffrey.
All of the essays come from the writer’s specific viewpoint, highlighting the ways they knew McCaffrey and how she affected or influenced them. The writers are an eclectic bunch, with some of them being fellow writers who were either inspired by or mentored by McCaffrey in some way. Some of them knew her in other ways, such as being an editor she worked with, convention runners, a singer/songwriter, a cover artist, and, of course, her children, each of whom leave their own mark within these pages.
I recommend this non-fiction book for all who fell in love with McCaffrey’s fiction, regardless whether it was Pern who first brought you to her work or another of her series, especially as The Ship Who Sang is referenced a great deal, particularly in one emotional essay. This will only heighten your appreciation for these stories, as well as making you fall in love with the woman behind the words.
Posted in Recommendation
Tagged anne mccaffrey, book, dragonwriter, essay, essays, fantasy, non-fiction, nonfiction, novel, pern, sci-fi, science-fiction, todd mccaffrey
This week the stories are about leaving worlds and homes and histories in the past. They deal with heartache, yes, but also of looking forward, into the future.
ALL WORLDS LEFT BEHIND by Iona Datt Sharma is about a woman named Priya whose family had access to a portal world. But as she prepares for both a funeral and her own wedding, she realizes that she is losing her hold on this portal world, that it might very well slip from her grasp. Published in khōréō magazine.
WINGS OF LIGHT by ANNA MADDEN is a tale about an ant warrior desperate to defend her colony from attack, yet is given a responsibility that doesn’t conform to the life and death she had expected for herself. She’ll have to come to terms with this new responsibility, for the future of her colony depends on it. Published in Hexagon Magazine.
Posted in Recommendation
Tagged anna madden, fantasy, fiction, hexagon, iona datt sharma, khoreo, magazine, sci-fi, science-fiction, short reads, short stories, short story
THE NIGHT CIRCUS
A black and white circus only open at night; tents and performances that blend the extraordinary with the real; an exhibition competition displayed for all the world to see. Those are the heart and soul of The Night Circus.
From a very young age, both Celia Bowen and Marco have been chosen to be the competitors in a dangerous game involving manipulation and enchantment. They train in vastly different methods under completely different teachers until the venue for their competition is set. From there, their battle spans years and continents and involves more and more people who have come to love the circus as their own. And in the process, the two are drawn to one another.
This tale is told magically, with prose that takes you on a journey through this circus, describing in intricate detail the tents, the performers, the manipulated elements that astound and spark excitement. There is love invested in these details that bring this setting to life, moreso than even the characters that walk and live and love among the black and white tents.
While there is a large cast, this is not a character story. Though there is romance, it is quick and distant rather than intimate. The mystery of The Night Circus is less mystery than it is mystical, with us along for the ride to discover just what might happen to all the people who have become intertwined with the venue.
This is, first and foremost, a story about a circus, and the love one has for that own special place filled with the people we care about most. I’d recommend this story for those needing to be stolen away to a place of wonder, for those wanting to enjoy the reading more than getting to the end of the journey. For those who love circuses and for those who don’t, but would love the chance to fall in love with one anyway.