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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Review: 'The Mirador'

THE MIRADOR: Dreamed Memories of Irene Nemirovsky by her Daughter
By Elisabeth Gille
Fictionalized biography
September 2011
NYRB Classics
ISBN: 978-1590174449                                                                

Elisabeth Gille was five years old when her mother was taken to the death camps and didn't return. Her father suffered the same fate. She and her older sister survived when a German officer saw the older girl's blonde hair and told their governess they were not taking any children that night. The governess understood. She and the children disappeared.

Decades later, when she was older than her mother ever became, and although she remembered nothing about her, Elisabeth tried to see the world through her mother's eyes. That attempt is The Mirador. Her mother was the once acclaimed, then forgotten, then reclaimed, writer Irene Nemirovsky. In pre-WWII France, Nemirovsky was greatly admired for her novels such as David Golder, the story of a Jewish banker who loses, then regains, a fortune. Reactions to this novel and Nemirovsky's being published in right-wing journals before her death made her a controversial figure as well as a celebrated writer.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Review: 'The Last Dragon'

By Jane Yolen
Illustrated by Rebecca Guay
September 2011
Dark Horse Comics
ISBN: 978-1595827982

Dragons once ruled the islands on the edge of the land where men lived. But men settled on the islands and eventually conquered the flying serpents. For the last 200 years, men believed there were no more dragons. But they were wrong.

The first person to disappear is the healer, who had a timely conversation with his daughter Tansy about dragonsbane just before he makes a decent dinner for the dragon. Tansy is his youngest daughter and the one who will become a healer as well.

In true fairy tale fashion, she has two older sisters, who fill Mary and Martha roles as worker and dreamer. They and other villagers react to the dragon's menace in ways that show, in true fairy tale fashion, how fear makes people foolish.

Three boys are sent to scour inland for a hero to vanquish the dragon. They find someone, all right,  but Lancot isn't quite what he seems (just as his name isn't quite Lancelot, he isn't quite heroic when we meet him). But because this is a fairy tale and it is written by Jane Yolen, Lancot and Tansy find a way to slay the dragon.

Jane Yolen's words and Rebecca Guay's art combine superbly for a richly detailed story. Dark Horse shows once again why it is a serious publisher in a field that encompasses a wide range of storytelling themes and styles with publications such as this. And Jane Yolen shows once again why she is one of the grand storytellers of our time.

©2011 All Rights Reserved CompuServe Books Reviews and reprinted with permission

Monday, October 24, 2011

Review: 'Scorch City'

By Toby Ball
September 2011
St Martins
ISBN: 978-0312580834

Fifteen years after the events in The Vaults, Toby Ball's brilliant noirish debut, his Scorch City follow-up takes an even darker turn. War veterans have returned, broken in spirit and body, while a more menacing threat worries some. A Red menace, that is.

Hovering over Scorch City's strands of a burgeoning civil rights movement, religious leaders and police corruption is the paranoia of people scared by the idea of communism and, even worse, the idea that someone might be a Commie in secret.

And a secret is how the story begins. A blonde woman's body is found washed up on the river near the Uhuru Community, an African-American enclave of shanties set apart from the bustling city. Its leaders of a Communist faction within the community contact influential columnist Frank Frings to contact in turn incorruptible policeman Piet Westermann to do the unthinkable. Westermann -- the true blue Lieut -- agrees to move the body so attention is turned away from the community even as the investigation into the young woman's death proceeds.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Review: 'Breadcrumbs'

By Anne Ursu                                                                    
Middle grade/YA fiction
September 2011
Walden Pond Press
ISBN: 978-0062015051

Hazel is a precocious fifth grader who believes in magic and the power of stories, and who relishes time with her best friend, Jack, more than anything. During recess after a particularly intense snowstorm, Jack gets hurt. Then he changes, Then he disappears in Anne Ursu's brilliant and enchanting Breadcrumbs.

What happened is that an imp made a magical mirror, flew it toward the sun to take a look at the entire Earth, and got too close (shades of Icarus!) The mirror shattered and shards fell across the world. One piece fell into Jack's eye. He is whisked away by a Snow Queen who offers him Turkish Delight. (When Jack says, “Huh?” the queen replies that it was “Just a little joke”.)