The Egypt Game

August 20, 2010 at 10:27 pm (Children's lit, Juvanalia, Mystery, Suspense) ()

The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder

The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
originally published 1967
Dell, 6th printing, 1986
215 pages
Genre: Children’s lit, mystery, suspense

Jacket copy: The first time Melanie Ross meets April Hall, she’s not sure they’ll have anything in common. But she soon discovers that they both love anything to do with ancient Egypt. When they stumble upon a deserted storage yard behind the A-Z Antiques and Curio Shop, Melanie and April decide it’s the perfect spot for the Egypt Game.
Before long there are six Egyptians instead of two. After school and on weekends they all meet to wear costumes, hold ceremonies, and work on their secret code.
Everyone thinks it’s just a game, until strange things begin happening tot he players. Has the Egypt Game gone too far?

Book report: When I’m ready for bed, I read a little. Sometimes, when I’m reading a massive tome (think The Game of Kings), I’ll pick up a lighter volume, usually YA, to read before bed so that I can properly relax without thinking too much. But there are certain books I shouldn’t read before bed, because then I don’t go to sleep. Such is the case with The Egypt Game, one of the many books I appropriated from elementary school teachers (sorry, Ms Kunishima!), which I picked up just before going to sleep, and them promptly read all the way through. It’s just that engaging. And good. Not to mention suspenseful. When things start happening in Egypt, it gives me chills.

Even though I’ve read it literally dozens of times since I was six, and sort of know exactly what happens, Snyder is just so dang good at creating tension and atmosphere that I’m gripped by it and cannot put it down. I haven’t read much else by her, but I can say definitively that The Egypt Game and Eyes in the Fishbowl are two of the finest examples of juvenile suspense fiction out there. And they were both penned back in the Sixties. Why was there such great kid fiction in the Sixties? Seriously: Harriet the Spy, From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, The Outsiders (which I haven’t read, but I hear it rules), A Wrinkle in Time, The Pigman, etc etc etc, so on and so forth. Need I say more? Read the rest of this entry »

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The Valley of Horses

August 20, 2010 at 2:53 pm (Adventure, Romance, Trashy novel) (, , , )

The Valley of Horses by Jean M. Auel

The Valley of Horses by Jean M. Auel
Bantam, 17th printing, 1985
544 pages
Genre: Alternate history, pre-historical fiction, fantasy

Jacket copy: HERE IS AN UNFORGETTABLE ODYSSEY INTO A WORLD OF AWESOME MYSTERIES, into a distant past made vividly real, a novel that carries us back to the exotic, primeval world we experienced in The Clan of the Cave Bear–and to the beautiful Ayla, the bold woman who captivates us with her fierce courage and questing heart. Cruelly cast out by the ancient Clan that adopted her as a child, Ayla now travels alone in a land og=f glacial cold and terrifying beasts. She is searching for the Others, a race as tall, blond, and blue-eyed as she. But Ayla finds only a hidden valley, where a herd of hardy steppe horses roams. Here, she is granted a unique kinship with animals enabling her to learn the secrets of fire and raw survival–but still, her need for human companionship and love remain unfulfilled. Then fate brings her a stranger, handsome Jondalar, and Ayla is torn between fear and hope–and carried to an awakening of desire that would shape the future of mankind.

Book report: Are you fucking serious? No, for reals, as not good as this book is, that jacket copy is absolutely terrible. Someone ought to be ashamed of themselves. I mean, Ayla wasn’t cruelly cast out by the Clan, it was Broud. They had no choice in the matter. And, well, nevermind. The whole thing is just silly. The important thing here is that Jean Auel goes off the proverbial deep end in the book, which is unfortunate, because it’s only the second (and weakest) of the series.

Don’t get me wrong, I was all about the Earth’s Children series in seventh and eighth grade. One of my friends, either Tina or Kym, was way into it, too, and we would make snide jokes about Jondalar’s prowess. That was right when The Plains of Passage came out, and more than any of the others, that book is all about fucking. Excuse me, I mean Pleasures. Yeah, that’s right, that’s what Auel calls sexing, Pleasures with a capital pee. If that doesn’t drive you batty, though, the novel itself will.

It begins well enough, with Ayla heading for the mainland beyond the Clan’s peninsula, and for the Others who might be there. Unable to find anyone, she settles in a valley for the winter, figuring to stay alive until the next year, when she can try seeking out her own kind again. As Ayla settles in to her new abode and goes into full survival mode, across a continent two young men leave their home to go on a pre-historic Grand Tour. Jondalar (OMG, he’s got violet eyes, blonde hair, and is like catnip to women–and did I mention his massive tool? because Jean M. will until you want to barf). Jondalar and Thonolan (love these names) encounter new cultures of people not all that much unlike themselves, and along the way, Jondalar not only Pleasures hordes of women, but also is exposed to flatheads, aka Neanderthals, or Clan. This is significant because later he will meet up with Ayal, and will need to learn a Very Important Lesson about humanity. Read the rest of this entry »

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Missing Pieces

August 10, 2010 at 8:34 pm (Juvanalia, Young adult) (, )

Missing Pieces by Norma Fox Mazer

Missing Pieces by Norma Fox Mazer
originally published 1995
Harcourt, 1st edition, 2007
149 pages
Genre: YA fiction, juvanalia

Jacket copy: Jessie Wells doesn’t know her father. He left one day, saying he’d be back in a few hours. But he never came back. Curious about her father, she decides to do some investigating. But she may not be prepared for what she discovers …

Book report: The jacket copy makes it all sound so much more scandalous and interesting than it really was. I mean, those ellipsis, they suggest something nefarious or ominous … and there really isn’t anything of the sort. Jessie’s dad just got bored of having a family, and he wasn’t much interested in his child. Not that it’s a bad book, or anything, but it’s not suspense. It’s about a teenage girl who wants to know where she came from, who doesn’t know anything about her father but that he was handsome and he left her and her mother and never came back. Though she’s always wondered about him, things finally come to a head when a school assignment sends her looking for her family history. But her mother was orphaned young, cared for by an elderly aunt, and Jessie’s father is AWOL–so she decides she must find out anything she can about him.

Along the way we see the difficulties she and her mother have caring for their aging Aunt Zis, who is more and more prone to forgetting where she is and what she’s doing. And Jessie tries to make her two best friends befriend each other, while one BFF’s family falls apart. And she navigates the tricky waters of coming to like her BFF’s crush–and finding out that he likes her, too. And she finds out that the handsome hero her mother married is only one layer of the father she never knew. Read the rest of this entry »

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It’s Not the End of the World

August 10, 2010 at 7:35 pm (Children's lit, Juvanalia) (, , )

It's Not the End of the World by Judy Blume

It’s Not the End of the World by Judy Blume
originally published 1972
Atheneum Books, 25th printing, 2001
169 pages
Genre: Juvanalia

Jacket copy: Karen couldn’t tell Mrs Singer why she had to have her Viking diorama out of the sixth-grade showcase. She felt like yelling, To keep my parents from getting divorced. But she couldn’t say it, and the whole class was looking at her anyway.

Karen’s world was ending. Her father had moved out of the house weeks before; now he was going to Las Vegas to get divorced and her mother was pleased! She had only a few days to get the two of them together in the same room. Maybe, if she could, they would just forget about the divorce. Then the Newman family could be its old self again–maybe. But Karen knew something she didn’t know last winter: that sometimes people who shouldn’t be apart are impossible together.
So she felt like yelling at Mrs Singer. And then Mrs Singer did something surprising …

Book Report: What a difference a generation makes. When Judy Blume first published It’s Not the End of the World, the world was a very different place, and divorce was not unheard of, but still unusual. Second wave feminism had hit, and starting in the late Sixties, the no-fault divorce revolution was causing sweeping changes in American families. To me growing up in the Eighties, divorce was no big deal–my parents had been divorced throughout my entire conscious life, and lots of my peers had divorced parents. But for Karen, it’s a very BFD indeed, the biggest one she’s faced. I’m sure it was very helpful reading for lots of kids back in the day–and that it still is–though my monstrous and savage little self would have wondered what all the fuss was about. So while I intellectually understood that it’s a big deal for some people to go through a divorce, my understanding has been tempered by what I read, including Blume’s treatment of the matter in INtEotW and other novels, especially Just as Long as We’re Together. Read the rest of this entry »

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