The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow. 4/5
A lovely fantasy novel. January has grown up the ward of a rich many who supports archaeology and is always seeking the rarest things for his collection. He employs January’s father, who goes to remote locations hunting such things, or so January thinks until the day her father manages to send her his autobiography. In it, he explains that the world is full of doors that open into other worlds, and that many of them are inhabited; he himself is from such a world, and his travels hide his true purpose: to find January’s mother, lost in a different world. Not only does January believe in this, she realizes that she has a special gift: she can create such doors and move through them. As such, she’s very valuable to her guardian and his friends, who are unpleasant and supernatural, and there’s a long chase right out of one of January’s beloved pulp novels in which she must get away, find her father, and protect her friends–one of whom is also from another world, and does quite a lot of protecting of January herself–before the bad guys get hold of her. I loved the descriptions of the other worlds, and the characters, while not as deep as I’d have liked, were engaging enough.
Last Ones Left Alive by Sarah Davis-Goff. 3/5
A good post-apocalyptic, people-eating zombie novel set in Ireland and on one of its offshore islands. Orpen, her Mam, and Maeve, her Mam’s lover, live mostly safely on their small island after a zombie plague kills off most of the world. Maeve trains Orpen on combat; Mam teachers her about medicinal herbs. When Mam and Maeve must travel to the island, Orpen, still a small child, fends for herself. Mam comes back infected, and Maeve forces Orpen to begin making the hard decisions and even harder actions her life now requires.
Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano. 4/5
A meditative book on grief and loss and the necessity of communication. When Edward, 12, is the sole survivor of the plane crash that killed 191 other people–including all of his immediate family–he’s taken in by his distant aunt and uncle. He soon builds a family of his own, though, and eventually discovers why his own family has been so remote. While Edward’s story progresses, the stories of the rest of the passengers on the flight also move forward in small minutes and large actions, until we understand that they too–like us all–need to be able to communicate with one another. The dreamy and fairy-tale like qualities of the writing sometimes deflect from the harsh realities that the characters face, but I think most readers will want that gentleness, given the subject matter.
The Art of Taxidermy by Sharon Kernot. 4/5
An utterly engaging and intriguing narrative of poems about a child–later a young woman–and her ability to see beauty in death, despite the social and familial pressures not to do so. The writing is evocative and visual–and visceral–and the reading experience that it provides is unique and lasting.