Sunday, January 27, 2013

New haul of books

Back to the blog after what seems like nearly forever. Fortunately, on the web nothing gets cobwebs or aggravates allergies with collected dust...

It's rather Middle Grade-ish over here in literature... I've finished John Flanagan's Brotherband Chronicles book 3, The Hunters (fun, but a little too much to swallow at some points) and am now starting on the so-far-excellent Sway by Amber McRee Turner. Also in my library pile:

A Brief History of Montmaray, by Michelle Cooper. (I know I have heard of these books around the place.)

Darkwater by Catherine Fisher... After Incarceron, do I need too much of a reason to read Fisher's books? She's got an incredible way with descriptions, and though she's not without her plot inconsistencies, I've been overall delighted with her imagination and ideas.

Clare Vanderpool's Moon over Manifest: another one I've heard about but never actually read, so I'm looking forward to trying it out.

Selling Hope by Kristin O'Donnell Tubb. Historical fiction, a vaudeville troupe, and Halley's Comet... The premise interested me while I was browsing the Juvenile Fiction section at my library.

So, hopefully, there will be more reviews soon.

Also, I have some thoughts on Ellen Potter's The Kneebone Boy that I'm still trying to get in order. Am I the only person who was not 100% pleased by this one? It seemed to be trying a bit too hard to be "realistic" and ended up more on the disillusioning side.

P. S. - For the readers of my last "Waiting on Wednesday": I was a bit underwhelmed by Stiefvater's The Raven Boys, but then after Scorpio Races, I had the bar set fairly high. Raven Boys seems to be well-loved by many, though, so that might just have been my expectations getting in the way.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

"“There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve,” Neeve said. “Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.”

It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive.

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.

His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

From Maggie Stiefvater, the bestselling and acclaimed author of the Shiver trilogy and The Scorpio Races, comes a spellbinding new series where the inevitability of death and the nature of love lead us to a place we’ve never been before." 

After my enthusiastic reaction to The Scorpio Races, I couldn't help giving an extra glance to Ms. Stiefvater's new book. I was initially dubious because it seemed to center around romance, but Kirkus starred it, and besides, I'm hungry for another magical, wild trip like Scorpio Races gave. A few weeks will show me whether my anticipation is well-founded. (Here's hoping!)

Cover picture comes from the author's website.

"Waiting on Wednesday" is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Taken by Storm, by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

A vivid, wrenching, entirely worthy conclusion to an excellent trilogy.

Take everything we've seen from Ms. Barnes before in this series and mark it up by fifty percent - the violence, the emotional impact, the shocking plot twists - then reduce the size of the book by a fourth, and you'll have this speed-reading terror of a foil-bound trilogy-closer. (I'm going to be speaking about it as though it's the end of the the series; it has a definite ring of finality to it that I hope goes undisturbed, and from what I've heard on the author's site, it will.)

If anyone's reading this and doesn't know the first two books... click on the "shapeshifters" tag and find my reviews of them. Here we have Bryn, the human girl raised by a werewolf pack after the murder of her parents... Bryn, who has by this book grown up a good deal and taken her own very unique place in her raw, wild, and dangerous world.

I'm saying very little here, to avoid spoilers. Because trust me, for this book, you don't want'm. I was on the metaphorical edge of my seat the whole time. Suffice to say that a long-held question of mine was answered, one of Evan's predictions came true that I didn't believe would, and one of my predictions did as well. Two plot points that we both expected also occurred. Not that I'm saying this book is predictable - I was eeping the whole while.

There will almost certainly be a few points at which you will beg, "Don't let it end like this!"
Almost certainly a few to the tune of, "Is there honestly a way out of this?"
Wordless exclamations are also not inappropriate at many spots.

I'm not entirely positive what I think of Callum's prescience as a plot device. It may have annoyed me... I'm honestly not sure whether it did or not. On the other hand, it annoys other characters, too.

For those of you who read Hunger Games, you'll probably come to notice that Ms. Barnes has jumped on the "surprise chapter endings" bandwagon. I'm not un-sorry. But I did have to cover a few endings with my hand because my nervous eye has a tendency to jump ahead of my reading.

(I just turned on Handel's "Messiah" again. I think I did this writing the review of the first book, too. I detect a trend here?)

Age rec: This is going to stop all of nobody, but probably fifteen and up? And up? (chuckles nervously) Just for violence and some slightly disturbing scenes related to same. Unlike the previous two books, I found some parts of this one uncomfortable. Trust me - not because of the romance, so for any of you who worried that the third book would involve flagrant indecency, lay your minds at rest. [I am about to slightly qualify that last statement with a very indefinite and small spoiler that avoids naming names: One of the characters becomes pregnant while unmarried, but the fact alone is established onstage, without any indecent content in sight.]

Bottom line: The promise held out in the first two books is amply fulfilled and then some.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

To whom may be concerned

Due to scheduling being very full these days, I won't be blogging regularly (if at all) for the next few months. However, I intend to return at least in time for the reviewing of Jennifer Lynn Barnes' Taken by Storm (neep neep! so excited).
However, I intend to continue reading, and if anything completely amazing occurs, I shall wave my flags once more.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Two new MG/YA releases I read this week

Both of these books are fresh, new, well-written additions to the MG/YA shelves. I highly recommend the two of them.


, by Marissa Meyer

I have my friend to thank for lending me this one... the same friend who convinced me to read The Perilous Gard, so you see I owe her a lot.
Cinder is ... a sci-fi retelling of Cinderella, set in New Beijing, far into the future. There's a Lunar colony (with a mind-controlling ruler), a bunch of neat technology, a lightly-written romance, a terrificly sad event that I still am trying to figure out how the plot could have worked without, and a mint of good writing.
Plus, the Cinderella character is a cyborg. Yes, I said a cyborg. And the whole thing works, yes, it works! Even though I guessed one of the twists, I didn't care. There were others I didn't. Also, I appreciated the Chinese culture references throughout the book. Though I've nothing against most of the futuristic novels out there, they seem to focus on the United States, and it was refreshing to see a different setting and society. One plot point seemed a little weak to me, but that's the only objection I could think of.
There's lots to love in this book.
Even though if you carry the book around without the dustjacket, you may get asked about the "Meyer" in metallic red type on the spine... (Had to explain to a pal of mine, no, not THAT Meyer!)

Age rec: Really, this could be MG. I can't recall anything that would stop me from giving it to a middle-schooler... no mature content, not even any swearing that I remember. The only problem would be some rather chilling descriptions of the letumosis plague hospital - and, of course, the nasty behavior of a few characters.


Winterling, by Sarah Prineas

I got this one for fun from the local library. I'd read enough reviews to believe there was nothing really amazing on the plot front, but I'm glad I picked it up anyway. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it!

It's nothing too amazing on the surface... girl discovers her parents belonged to another world, finds gateway, enters, has adventures... but Sarah Prineas weaves the loveliest story together. The elements may sound cliched - an evil Lady who must be defeated, a land bound in winter, a tricky shapeshifter boy as companion to the heroine - but don't be deceived. Winterling is far more than the sum of its parts.

There's the imagery of the "dying crown" of leaves, of Fer's jacket, of the black feathers; the swift poetry of the Hunt's ride through the night; the strict rules of the land involving threes and oaths and bindings; the herbal magic, concrete and yet symbolic at the same time. The writing is simple and flowing.
For all that I thought the plot sounded cliched at first - its individual parts were not, though the main concept was... familiar. Yes, that's the word for Winterling: "familiar." But in a good way, like N. D. Wilson's Dandelion Fire felt familiar. Stories like that can be retold because they work.
And I haven't even gotten into all the neat stuff that makes this book special - the landscape descriptions, the moon reflection in the water, the subtle humor spread throughout - and the wolf guards! Those wolf guards! ...Words fail me.

Age rec: I would say MG and up. Nothing I can recall that would give any trouble.

Friday, January 27, 2012

"Unspoiled" - My addition to the Queen's Thief week!

Chachic had the wonderful idea of making a Queen's Thief week - and lots of other bloggers jumped in to help! I fear I'm not deserving of their far more experienced company, but here is my attempt to add to the discussion.

If you have not read through book 2 (The Queen of Attolia) DO NOT PROCEED... Part of this post is ABOUT how I proceeded years ago and got a spoiler!

Some Thoughts about Suffering, Spoilers, Gen, and Attolia

I was such a bad reader about those books, at first.
I didn't like the brief description of The Thief in my library's brochure, so I made up my mind I wasn't going to read the books. In which case, I thought, what matter a few spoilers?
Now, it wasn't as bad as it could have been. The choicest secrets - Gen's identity, Gen's tricks, Gen's eventual romance - all remained unrevealed, by some miracle. But one thing I did manage to learn: that the main character gets his hand cut off in the beginning of book 2. I didn't know this fellow at all then, so I wasn't much in the way of caring at the time. I did think, "What, [checks mentally] this is a kids' book, right?"
In the end - I can't remember exactly what put me over the edge - I read The Thief, quickly following with The Queen of Attolia. I was expecting that particular scene when it came; I had steeled myself for it. My original reaction, then, was much less dramatic than those of other Gen-fans. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to have read it with no prior warning.
And then I found out, sort of...
I'd lent The Thief to some of my kid friends and, after their enthusiastic response, I dropped by one afternoon with book 2. Idly, I began to read aloud the first paragraphs. (Lots of stuff about the interior architecture of megarons - fascinating, wasn't it?) The kids thought I'd hit on something fun. We settled down to read.
Well, it was ... something else again.
No, actually the kids seemed remarkably unperturbed by it. I was the one who suddenly noticed how terrifically awful those first four-odd chapters were. I mean - Gen! and Attolia... When I'd read it on my own, I'd known what was coming, and though I was affected, I don't think I really comprehended it all 'round. But when I really got a look at it, I wanted to cry. Because there is real suffering in those chapters, for pretty much everyone - physical suffering, mental suffering, guilt, worry, fear. In another story there might have been an easy way out, but not here. Here decisions are made, nasty things happen, and Gen pays the price for being the daring thief. And oh, what a price.
For the first time, I understood entirely why Eddis declared war.


But it still didn't shake my firm conviction that Eugenides and Irene belong together. What happens in the dark dungeons of Attolia's castle is a deed ordered by a political personage - the Queen of Attolia. But Gen, in what I can only say is a staggering feat of empathy, recognizes the woman beneath the disguise built of necessity. He is able to separate the politics from the person. And Gen has always worked more with people than with politics.
So I, like Gen, must have somehow seen beyond the mask myself. For I have read the first four chapters of book 2 aloud, my throat tight with sympathy, and cheered as Eddis confiscated the caravans' goods and went to war to avenge her Thief's injury - but as I open the cover of each book, and softly set them closed at last, I wish the Queen of Attolia may find joy.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Michael L. Printz Awards

The Michael L. Printz Award site informs me (thanks, Charlotte, for the links to the lists!) that The Scorpio Races has won a Printz Honor!

Congradulations, Maggie Stiefvater, on a good book that's gaining its laurels already.

(Also there is The Returning on the list, which blog readers know did not go across well with me. But I am not going to say anything against the Printz commitee tonight!)