Airborn by Kenneth Oppel

120Tragedy averted!  For the first third of Airborn, I thought I’d maybe found the first Kenneth Oppel book I didn’t like.  While airships are always amazing, I just wasn’t hooked by Matt’s story.  Not even the recklessly intelligent Kate could get me further than: oh, okay.  BUT THEN PIRATES.  Sky pirates!  And shipwrecks on deserted islands that are not quite as deserted as previously assumed!  AND CLOUD CATS, which are like dragons, but with cat features!  It turns out Oppel couldn’t have tailored a book more to my tastes.

As always, I really like the way Oppel balances a kid-friendly innocent-seeming world with some really disturbing reality.  Death happens, and not only to those who deserve it.  The good guys are pretty uniformly good, but the bad guys…are not entirely bad.  I really liked getting to see into the daily life of Pirate Captain Szpirglas, although let’s be real – a charming sociopath would have been fascinating to me no matter what.

Airborn has science, adventure, exploration, and romance bound up in a really fun slightly fantasy world.  I’m desperate to read the next one in the series, but my library doesn’t have it available for Kindle checkouts!  Agggh!

Book Jacket

Matt Cruse is a cabin boy on the Aurora, a huge airship that sails hundreds of feet above the ocean, ferrying wealthy passengers from city to city. It is the life Matt’s always wanted; convinced he’s lighter than air, he imagines himself as buoyant as the hydrium gas that powers his ship. One night he meets a dying balloonist who speaks of beautiful creatures drifting through the skies. It is only after Matt meets the balloonist’s granddaughter that he realizes that the man’s ravings may, in fact, have been true, and that the creatures are completely real and utterly mysterious.

In a swashbuckling adventure reminiscent of Jules Verne and Robert Louis Stevenson, Kenneth Oppel, author of the best-selling Silverwing trilogy, creates an imagined world in which the air is populated by transcontinental voyagers, pirates, and beings never before dreamed of by the humans who sail the skies.

Release Date:  February 2004

The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel

17846771I am totally in love with Oppel’s writing style.  I will probably say that at the beginning of every review of his book, because I keep thinking something will break the spell, but every single book is amazing!  He is fantastic at creating worlds that sit just this side of reality…everything is recognizable until it isn’t.  Whether it’s a sasquatch or a truly creepy hag or a painting that grants immortality – Oppel keeps us guessing about which ones are real, and which ones are imaginary.  I may be hasty in proclaiming this, but I think it’s my new favorite kind of fantasy.

In addition to the awesome overarching setting, the plot is completely fascinating.  A cross-Canada train ride full of nighttime adventures running the roofs and daytime performances with a circus troupe, every single page is exciting.  Will and Maren and Mr. Dorian are great – another one of Oppel’s talents is in creating characters that are neither good or bad, but somewhere in between.  The other circus performers are super interesting, and I wish we’d gotten even more of them.  The danger feels real, the stakes are high, and now I really want to go on another cross-country train trip of my own.  Continue reading

The Edge by Roland Smith

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The Illyrian Adventure by Lloyd Alexander

There has never been a better opening paragraph than this one:

Miss Vesper Holly has the digestive talents of a goat and the mind of a chess master.  She is familiar with half a dozen languages and can swear fluently in all of them.  She understands the use of a slide rule but prefers doing calculations in her head.  She does not hesitate to risk life and limb–mine as well as her own.  No doubt she has other qualities as yet undiscovered.  I hope not.

Now that is a heroine.  From the first page (and every page thereafter) I was completely enthralled by Vesper’s persuasive wit.  Added to the fantastic characters was a really fun plot–an Indiana Jones-type treasure-seeking adventure.  The book is short, and its brevity quickens the novel’s pace.  Where modern YA books might describe long treks through the jungle or every detail of a banquet, Alexander bypasses these scenes with clever paragraphs that add to the dry humor of the story.

I really enjoyed reading about Vesper and Brinnie’s adventures, and I will definitely be on the lookout for more in the series in future. Continue reading

Netflix Rec: Long Way Round and Long Way Down

Back when I had bad hair and worse skin, my adolescent celebrity crush was the Ewan McGregor from the Star Wars prequels and especially from Moulin Rouge.  That Scottish accent!  That blindingly adorable cheeky smile!  So imagine my shrieking delight when I found Long Way Round and Long Way Down on Netflix, two multi-episode documentaries of Ewan McGregor and his friend Charley Boorman motorcycling across Asia and Africa.  Continue reading