Thursday, August 30, 2012

Here Lies Arthur

by Philip Reeve

Here Lies Arthur follows the life of a young girl named Gwyna after an attack on her village. When no one else survives, she is left all alone and escapes into the woods. There, she meets Myrddin, a bard rumoured to have magic, who saves her. Gwyna finds out the Myrddin is trying to unite Britain, which after being attacked by the Saxons, is now split up into many small kingdoms and villages. Only under the rule of Arthur, the leader of a fierce war-band, does Myrddin think this can be achieved. However, several obstacles stand in their way.

One of these, Gwyna finds out, is convincing some people that the gods are on Arthur's side. To do this, Myrddin has Gwyna rise out of the lake as a goddess of water and give Arthur a sword named Caliburn in front of the non-followers. After successfully tricking them, Myrddin disguises Gwyna as a boy and takes her to be his servant.

When I first picked up this book and saw who had written it I wasn't eager to start it. After being unimpressed by Reeve's Fever Crumb series (though my Mom and co-author of this blog liked it very much) and finding the Hunger City Chronicles only OK, I wasn't expecting much from this book. However, this book didn't win the 2008 Carnegie Medal in Literature for nothing.

This book ended up being quite a page-turner with an interesting mix of fast-paced moments and funny ones.  I found it shorter than most books of the same genre; however, after reading it, the length seemed just right. It is not a stay-up-all-night-reading-under-the-covers book, but one that I enjoyed reading for fun because the plot and the general idea was so clever and interesting.

I also found this book so appealing because it took the myths and put history behind them. This made me think about whether there actually was an Arthur and if there was one, how close the real one could have been to the Arthur portrayed in the legends and myths.

I would recommend it for teens who love historical fiction, but especially ones who know the King Arthur legend and would understand how cleverly the book is written. Because I know the legend myself, I'm not sure if people who do not know it would find Here Lies Arthur confusing or not.

Overall, I am very satisfied with the book and hope to keep a more open mind about Philip Reeve's books.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Dear George Clooney, Please Marry My Mom by Susin Nielsen

Susin Nielsen’s first book, Word Nerd, is one of my favourite young-adult novels of the past few years, and it had won a number of Canadian book awards. I looked forward to reading this second novel but I did wonder if it would live up to expectations, and I'm happy to report that I enjoyed it just as much as the first.

The story centres around twelve-year-old Violet who is trying to cope with her parents' separation, especially the fact that her father is now living with his young and beautiful second wife in a luxurious home in Los Angeles. Dismayed with the string of losers that her mother had found through dating services and worried about her most recent romantic interest, Violet attempts to set her mother up with the ideal man, George Clooney.

Like Word Nerd, this novel features hilarious situations, heartwarming moments, and quirky memorable characters. A few of the characters from the first book reappear in this one in more minor roles, and I was more than pleased to encounter them again, as I particularly love Nielsen's portrayal of her characters. She has a way of making each person unique, no matter how "ordinary" he or she is.