Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘YA’

YA At Its Best

41w-kjfxSrL._UY250_Charla Visits Earth by Dianne Astle
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

Charla Visits Earth is a wonderful short story that is almost believable, if it weren’t for the dragon and mermaid, and for all we know maybe they’re real too. Just having returned from a trip to Vancouver, it was the perfect time to read this tale by Ms. Astle, as it takes place in the same region of Canada, and includes places I visited.

Ben is a student at Fairhaven boarding school, a private school whose principal, Miss Templeton, is also the Earth’s Watcher, though only a few students are aware of such. Ben is one of those who knows, because of a previous visit he made to another world where he met Charla, a mermaid. It is quite an adventure when Charla turns up on earth to see Ben and wants to explore the city and see what life is like on this planet.

“Everywhere Charla looked there were things she never, in her wildest dreams, imagined, and humans came in so many different colors and shapes, and wore such a wild variety of clothes. It made her own world seem so plain and ordinary and drab. Mer all had the same color hair, the same dark eyes, and they dressed alike.”

This story is an off-shoot from the author’s novel Ben the Dragon. I haven’t yet read her other stories, but after reading Charla Visits Earth surely will. Her writing is to the point, descriptive, and endearing.

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They Live in the Sea

CryOfTheSeaCry of the Sea by D. G. Driver
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

I don’t usually use personal pronouns in a review, but I love this book. With little preamble, I was running along the beach with Juniper Sawfeather, and her American Indian father, Peter, as they document an oil spill on there local beach. What they discover is surreal, and fighting for every breath. After making sure they aren’t seeing things, they try to save the mermaids.

One of the wonderful things about this tale is that it is completely believable. When 17-year-old June (Juniper) describes the mermaids, you can see them before your eyes. Unlike Disney versions, these creatures are silver-scaled, have gills, webbed hands, bald heads, and tails. Somewhat like a seal, but with human-like arms, hands, and eyes. It seems reasonable that they could have evolved without ever having been caught before, thus the countless stories, fables and history surrounding mermaids.

It turns out that June’s father is the head of an emergency environmental organization, and her mother, Natalie, is an environmental lawyer. Over the next few days, the mermaids existence becomes public, with resulting dismissals, and believers. A large oil company, Affron, hijacks the remaining mermaid from the marine mammal rescue center June and her father have taken it to. Over the next few days all hell breaks loose, within there family, community, internet, and national news.

Cry of the Sea never lags, or stops for a breather. It is a splendid ride exploring friendship, family dynamics, teen friendships, first romance, earth concerns, ethics, and public opinion. If either of the other two books in Ms. Driver’s series (Whisper of the Woods, Echoes of the Cliffs) are half as good as this one , they should be read immediately.

 

Coming Into Her Own

The Buddha of Lightning Peak: Cycle of the Sky
By Yudron Wangmo
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

A lot of authors, agents and publishers say their story is “unique”, but rarely does the tale turn out to be that different or “special”. The Buddha of Lightning Peak is an exception. The characters in the story are like many people I know, and experiences they have lived, but I’ve never read something that combined them all into one tight, believable and well-crafted novel such as this.

Denise “Dee” is a teenager who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is also black, lesbian and part of a meditation group. She has a variety of friends, including Leslie and her BFF, Shanti, as well as her mentor/teacher, Sandy. She isn’t a strong environmental advocate, until she learns of a mining operation about to start up next to her beloved summer camp and mountain.

The author reveals life through Dee’s eyes and perspective, and reveals the thoughts, emotions and experiences that many teens go through, especially teenage girls. The Buddha of Lightning Peak is an insightful and entertaining story that reveals Dee coming into her own strength, realizations, and sense of connection and community. I rarely read stories twice, even good ones. This will be the exception.

(The author provided me with a free ebook in exchange for an honest review.)

BuddhaLightningPeak600x600

“Must Read” Indeed!

amazon-cover-with-mca-gold-seal-rsElizabeth’s Landing
By Katy Pye
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

Let’s get straight to the point. This is one hell of a good story for adults of all ages (young and old). It deserves all the awards it has received and then some. Superior to many traditionally published works, Elizabeth’s Landing combines complex characters, believable families and community and global environmental issues, with a seamless and engaging flare.

Uprooted mid-school year to the Texas coast town of Port Winston, Elizabeth escapes from her cantankerous grandfather, missing her absent reporter mother, and her seemingly submissive father, to explore the county’s last wild haven, called Wayward Landing Beach. It is there that she discovers nesting sea turtles and is faced with some local teens bent on harming her and the turtles. While trying to save the turtles, she meets Maria and Tom from the Science Center and is drawn to their work and mission.

It is obvious from the get go that Ms. Pye has extensively researched her subjects: turtles, shrimping, habitat, The Gulf Coast, The Horizon Oil Spill, and local politics; and integrated them into the story without any trace of regurgitating news or sounding like a lecturer at a science museum. Elizabeth, her family, friends, and those she meets at the Marine Science Center, are imbued with realistic doses of sadness, anger, frustration, determination, secrets, fear and hope.

What’s not to like about Elizabeth? She’s shy, concerned about how she is perceived by others, lonely, and out of step with other kids at school. She doesn’t think her father understands her or stands up to her grandfather, who is always putting them down. She’d rather die, than tell anyone how she feels and when she does, she’s afraid she’s revealed too much. If she doesn’t sound like other people her age, or yourself when you were a teen, then you must be perfect. Reader’s will identify with and root for, Elizabeth, as if she is your friend, daughter or sister.

If it’s not been stated clearly or often enough, Elizabeth’s Landing is a fantastic novel. “Must Read” is often used to advertise stories and get people’s attention, but in this case Ms. Pye has written a story that is truly a must read.

Gabriel Constans is a reviewer for The New York Journal of Books, a novelist, screenwriter, journalist and non-fiction writer. His latest work of fiction is The Last Conception.

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