Tiny Sunbirds, Far Away

Father was a loud man.

Nigerian city family moves to their family in a rural town. The culture shock, proximity to oil companies, lack of money and ever-present violence chance every family member.

I like to read novels set in Africa, how they show the different picture mainstream (Western) media neglects to use, how the people there just want the same things from life as the people here. Sometimes that comes with uncomfortable truths. Timi and her children can’t stay in the city because her employer only wants married women as employees and Timi’s husband left her. White foreigners are prospering from Nigerian oil and the corruption around it while their factories pollute the environment and create a violent atmosphere in small towns. Wives have no say in the decision of their husbands, boys are allowed an education while girls should do ‘female’ things.

The reader looks through the eyes of daughter Blessing, a twelve-year-old who is torn between loyalty to her direct family and the adventures of the unknown, provided by her wise grandmother.

It’s a colorful, easy-to-read story that packs several punches.

Tiny Sunbirds, Far Away, Christie Watson, Other Press 2011

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Abandon

Anything can happen in the blink of an eye.

I know it’s an incredibly easy shot,  but: please abandon your ideas about reading this novel. I’ve heard about Meg Cabot before, possibly even read some of her work, and I had the faintest memory of people recommending this series to each other. I have to stop trusting my memory or other people’s recommendations.

Abandon  used the myth of Hades and Persephone and dumps it on two very moody teenagers. The not-Hades love interest can’t communicate if he can’t use violence or moping, while the not-Persephone is an incredibly naive, slow-witted, klutz of a girl. Possibly up there with Twilights Bella.

Main character Pierce has died once, and returned. People around her die, she doesn’t know what John wants from her and she can’t adjust to her second chance at life in a whole other place. He tries to warn her with unclear hints while she blunders through everything.

Can you like a story when two of the main characters are so incredibly annoying? Because Cabot gives a nice set of ideas, written nicely. She’s just using the wrong poles to hold it up in the air.

Abandon, Meg Cabot, Scholastic Inc 2011

Days of Little Texas

There is this girl in my dream.

The life of a teenage missionary preacher turns horror in a questioning story about God, family, ghosts, souls and growing up.

Sixteen year old ‘Little Texas’ (real name: Ronald Earl) gives public healings but starts doubting the Holy Trinity and himself when he’s slowly growing up. Visions of a dead girl and stories about a possessed island don’t make the growing up part any easier.

Days of Little Texas gives the critic of religion plenty of excuses to roll their eyes, while at the same time it offers plenty of question pieces about “Is there more between heaven and earth”.

‘Little Texas’  faith and trust in his religion unravels quickly and bumpy and the entire situation (what even happened?) refuses to tie up neatly. It’s a book for both sinner and saint.

Days of Little Texas, R. A. Nelson, Knopf 2009

Oh Dear Silvia

He sits with a sense of being watched, although he himself is the watcher.

I should have known better than to pick the book with the comedy genre sticker on it. Just like trying to find a fantasy book that isn’t part of a series, I continue to look for a book that deserves its comedy genre sticker.

It’s not that oh Dear Silvia is completely without laughs. It’s just all of them stem from awkward and cringe-worthy situations. Silvia is in a coma after a fall from her balcony. Every chapter is for someone from her life, visiting her in the hospital, showing a different side to the patient. Is she a selfish mother, a life-saver, a role model, a loveless monster or all of them combined? Or none of the above?

All the anger directed at Silvia seems definitely deserved, until the plot shows its backside and you remember that there’s always more to the eye than one can see. It’s not funny, but it’s reality. And with or without Silvia, the people around her will continue to build their own version of it.

oh Dear Silvia, Dawn French, Joseph 2012

The Battle of the Labyrinth

The last thing I wanted to do on my summer break was blow up another school.

“The next Harry Potter” a blurb on the back says. Little did I know that I could take that literally. The Battle of the Labyrinth is almost as entertaining as the previous Percy Jackson and the Olympians books but some plot lines and scenes seem to be copied a bit too liberally. Good thing there are smaller plot lines that make sure it doesn’t feel like a complete rip off.

Percy’s growing closer to his feared sixteenth birthday (there is a prophecy about it), but before that plenty of things happen to distract him. Kronos is becoming stronger, traitors and old friends pop up and then there’s Annabeth and the growing discomfort between them. Because heck, what does a fourteen year old half-god does with those weird feelings?

Rick Riordan goes full out on mythology again, mixed up with contemporary USA and teenage issues. It’s fun, fast and easy-to-read. I’m ready to be surprised with the final book of the series.

The Battle of the Labyrinth, Rick Riordan, Hyperion Books 2008