Thursday, September 6, 2012

Drive-by Reviews

Two quickies that I've read and that have been languishing in my drafts:

Redemption in Indigo by Karen Lord (Small Beer Press; has also been published by Quercus; the top image is the Quercus edition, I believe) is a book that's won or been listed for a nice handful of awards. It's fantasy based on a Senegalese tale by a Caribbean writer--at least, the beginning of it is--and to me, had a lot of the flavor of the SF end of fantasy in the middle, bookended with oral storytelling and a fairy tale feel on both sides.

Paama's husband is so much trouble that she left him behind and returned to her parents. He's traveled to meet her, and his arrival heralds a string of problems: he fills empty places and paranoia in his soul with food, and his first act as a village guest is eating the prize peacock. While a familiar spider man shows up in the story, Paama has a few tricks up her sleeve as well, and this marks her as someone to receive the chaos stick...

While there are madcap bits to this story, Paama wrestles with some pretty big questions, including what she'd do if she could change the future--and what might happen if she did.

Coming in under 200 pages, this is a great plane-length read.

 I have the second version of The Conch Bearer by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni (from various publishers over the years, but I'll credit Simon &Schuster - Aladdin), but it stayed on my shelf for a long time. I think that's because this was published in the middle of the Potter years. Drop me in a bookstore sometime between 2002 and 2012, and I can probably tell you the date based on the independent reader/middle grade/YA selections. For a while, the big trend was boys having magical quests; while you could argue that this never really goes out of style, there was sure a deluge in at least a few retailers for a while.

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is probably best known for her adult fiction, including Palace of Illusions and Mistress of Spices. In my head, this book is MG, though it may have been marketed as YA. Anand, a young boy who works in a tea shop, is given an opportunity to be charitable, and this is the start of a grand cross-country adventure during which he must battle demons, learn from his wise old mentor, and put up with an annoying girl to protect a magical conch that must be returned to its owners.

That doesn't necessarily sound so different, I know, but the choice made at the end of the book (it's got a sequel, which I haven't read) was something I found very surprising, and not something I think gets considered in most books marketed for children.

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