Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Bloom, by Kenneth Oppel

Kenneth Oppel has done it again. He has to be one of the most versatile writers out there: every book he writes is different from the last, and they are all solidly good to fantastic. Bloom is on the fantastic side of the scale. It's the most entertaining plant-based apocalypse since Little Shop of Horrors.

There has needed to be a book about invasive aliens ever since the gardening world decided that's what they should call introduced plant species that run rampant over native species and become impossible to eradicate. Oppel has obviously had to deal with invasive aliens, because he understands how terrifyingly inimical to human life they can be. I know from personal experience that Himalayan blackberries have an intelligent malice and are actively hostile; so is Scottish broom. In Eastern North America I think it's kudzu. Alien plant species taking over the planet is an entirely plausible scenario! 

I love that Oppel sets Bloom on Salt Spring Island, iconic home to the most down-to-earth, organic, genuine, eccentric collection of farmers and artists in Canada. It just makes the wrongness of the black spiky grass that appears everywhere overnight that much more offensive. (Side note: I read a review that thought the community's swift and organized response to the crisis was unrealistic, but it didn't read that way to me at all. That's kind of how we do things here.)(*Waves Canadian flag a little bit.*)

I liked the variation on the Special Chosen One that Oppel sets up for his three young protagonists, and their different reactions to it, and the reluctant friendship that develops among them because of it.

I love the way he uses allergies: I don't want to say anything spoilery, but I think he also has personal experience of how disabling they can be!

Kudos for all the present, supportive and intelligent parent figures—they're actually involved in solving the problem but there's a plausible reason why the three teen protagonists have a key role.

Bloom is not as creepy as Nest, which was quiet, slow-burn, seriously-mess-up-your-head horror. Bloom is fast and loud and full of peril that can be attacked with chainsaws. (I love that everyone on Salt Spring Island knows how to use a chainsaw!)

Great fun! Hmm. Need a fun vegetarian meal for my food analogy—is that a contradiction in terms?! Maybe veggie pizza! Yes, with those banana peppers to give it some spice. And now I'm going to listen to the Arrogant Worms Vegetable song.

Friday, October 9, 2020

Quick! There's still time to nominate for the Cybils! Also I read Return of the Thief and I am still babbling incoherently.

October arrived without me noticing, and I suddenly realized that Cybil's season has arrived! The Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards want you to nominate your favourite books from 2020. Anyone can nominate! You have until Oct 15, so don't procrastinate! (I'm mostly talking to myself here.)

Don't know which book to nominate? Charlotte's Library has a helpful list of un-nominated (at the time) Middle-Grade Speculative Fiction, and alibrarymama has more.

I ... gosh, I've hardly read any of this year's YA and Middle Grade. It's just been—well, it's been 2020. I will be looking forward to the lists of nominees to get my reading recommendations for the next little while. Let's see: Deeplight has been nominated already; so has Call Down the Hawk; so has Return of the Thief.

Return of the Thief! The long, long, long-awaited final book of Megan Whalen Turner's Queen's Thief series. I managed to make it last two whole days, but I had to finish it last night. It was so, so, so, so good. That's all I've got for you right now: I don't even know where to begin to talk about it. There are elephants. They are awesome. 

I think I need to read all six books in order now and see the whole grand scope of the story play out and notice all the little details that she weaves together with such deft trickery (she's been keeping track of all this for more than 20 years, people!) and take the time to savour these characters. I love these characters so much. I'm so sad this is the last book, but so happy they are all infinitely re-readable.

I'm not sure I'll actually be able to write a review of Return of the Thief. A master's thesis, maybe.

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving, everyone! I am thankful for authors like Megan Whalen Turner and books like Return of the Thief and characters like Eugenides and Attolia and Eddis and Pheris and fellow bloggers who I can squee with about how awesome authors and books are. And organizations like the Cybils that keep the conversation going and support new and diverse authors so that we and our kids can keep having wonderful reading experiences!