Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Confessions of a Teen Sleuth by Chelsea Cain

So as it turns out, Nancy Drew, girl detective, was actually a living person*. She told several of her adventures to her college roommate Caroline Keene. Caroline wrote the stories out and used them to write a series of books. Nancy's major objection was how often Caroline got things wrong. At her death, Nancy sent a manuscript to author Chelsea Cain in order to clear up the facts. That manuscript makes up Confessions of a Teen Sleuth.

Every chapter contains a different mystery, and with every chapter, Nancy gets older and older. It becomes incredibly sad to read about a 50-year-old woman still calling herself a girl detective. There's some serious drama in this "real" story. Nancy finds out that her mother is not actually dead, but living her own adventurous life. Then comes the juicy romantic details. Nancy was in love with Hardy Boys' Frank. They even had a love child together. Frank and Nancy weren't meant to be (She said that it was as if they lived in seperate worlds). She married "special friend" Ned Nickerson and named her son Ned Jr. Yet, no matter how she tried to settle down to a domestic life, Nancy felt herself being pulled to solve the mysteries around her. She becomes estranged from Ned and Ned Jr. in a similar way that her own mother became estranged from her.

Confessions of a Teen Sleuth contains lots of cameos from other teen detective stories, including the Hardy Boys, Cherry Ames (Star of a series of nursing books), the Bobbsey twins, Trixie Belden, even the Wakefields have a tiny mention. Encyclopedia Brown appears as a tubby middle-aged detective who still lives with his mother. This book is ridiculous, but that is really to be expected. It states that it is a parody right on the cover. There are some moments that made me snicker a bit, but a lot of the humor is the equivalent of reading a movie movie (As if the viewers of movie movies can read). Obviously, Chelsea Cain read lots of Nancy Drew in order to get the details right, right down to Nancy's titian hair. I wouldn't say that this book is raping your childhood, assuming that childhood contained lots of Nancy Drew. It's really more of a minor assault charge with some consensual snogging of childhood memories, snarking with love.

*In the novel Confessions of a Teen Sleuth. Nancy Drew was not actually far as I know.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Discord's Apple by Carrie Vaughn

The world is at war again. Food is being rationed, there are checkpoints and patrols in every city. What the world needs now is magic.

Magical objects were hidden away in the storeroom centuries ago because they were no longer needed. Now, with the global war, the objects are being claimed again. Evie Walker just returned to Hopes Fort for Christmas and to take care of her dying father. She doesn't know anything about her destiny as keeper of the storeroom. Once she enters the room, sees the objects, and gives the glass slippers to the old woman at the door, she realizes that there are some things in which we are not given a choice. The choices are made for us.

Evie runs into trouble when a polished woman shows up for an object. The woman is Hera, wife of Zeus. She is seeking the golden apple of discord. This apple was fought over by Hera, Aphrodite, and Athena. Aphrodite won the apple and caused the Trojan War by presenting Helen to Paris. Hera still believes that the apple belongs to her. Evie instinctively knows which objects belong to which people, and the apple is not for Hera. The world is in shambles as it is, Hera and the apple can make everything oh so much worse.

Alex was a prominent feature in Homer's "Odyssey." His name was Sinon and he was the man who convinced the Trojans to take in the giant wooden horse that led to their downfall. Shortly after the war, Alex was taken by Apollo. He learns important lessons about gods during his stay. First, gods don't understand that raping people isn't cool. Second, gods are actually just people with extraordinary abilities. Regular people saw the abilities and decided to worship them, so the gods became distant from humanity. They used humans as playing pieces in their games. So Zeus ended the age of the gods and stored away the magic.

Apollo put a chain around Alex's neck that gave him eternal life. Alex is seeking anything that will take the chain off and end his life. Evie and Alex, plus King Arthur and Merlin, Evie's father and his adorable giant wolfhound Mabe, have to defend the apple and the Storeroom from Hera and her accomplices.

Discord's Apple seamlessly mixes mythology and history. The narrative skips around from the present events to Alex's experiences in his Sinon days to flashbacks of former Walkers creating and guarding the storeroom. It all comes together into a really great story.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Matched by Ally Condie

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Matched opens at Cassia's Matching Ceremony. The Matching Ceremonies take place on the girl's 17th birthday. They get to dress up in a fancy dress instead of regulation clothes and eat fancy food and cake instead of regulation food. Cassia's match ends up defying the odds. Most girls are matched with boys from other cities far away, complete strangers to imagine and dream about. Cassia is matched with Xander, her best friend. She already knows everything about him, but when she watches the data card with his information, she is surprised to see another face on the card. She knows the second face as well.

Ky moved to their city after his parents were killed. Officials tell Cassia that he obviously couldn't be her match. His inclusion must have been a sick joke, because Ky is an aberration. Aberrations are kept separate from regular citizens, not allowed as many job opportunities and definitely not allowed to match. Cassia was friendly with Ky before, but after seeing his face on her data card, she actually takes the time to see him.

They spend time together while hiking as a leisure activity. He teaches her how to write, she teaches him a poem that her grandfather left her before he died. It may not seem like much, but the Officials have long ago whittled all music, books, poems, pretty much everything, into a concentrated selection of everything worth knowing. There's the 100 Songs, 100 Paintings, 100 Poems. Everything else was destroyed. Before Cassia's grandfather died on his 80th birthday, which is the same age everyone dies, he showed her a hidden compartment in her grandmother's compact. The compartment held a paper with two poems, poems that are not included in the 100 poems. One poem was Dylan Thomas' "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night." Cassia starts to relate to that poem. She begins to understand that it might be better for everyone to make their own choices. By the end of the book, there aren't any significant changes, but it's a decent setup for some action in the sequel.

I wanted to read this book because there were so many great comments on the cover, and they compared it to The Hunger Games. Cassia seemed a bit stupid at the beginning, but it was really just a result of following the rules and thinking everything was for the Greater Good. I'm still hoping she gets more of a Katniss Everdeen attitude by the next book. Overall, Matched was a strong book. There were times, especially near the end, when I was incredibly absorbed in the plot. It was a great start, and while I usually loathe when books are part of a series, I must say that I am looking forward to reading more of this book.

Matched comes out November 30. Thanks to Penguin for sending an Advanced Reader Copy to my B&N location.