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Rather than be forced into an arranged marriage to a prince from another country who A) can't be bothered to even MEET her before getting hitched, let alone even CORRESPOND WITH HER, and B) expects her to have a magical ability that she DOESN'T HAVE, Princess Arabella Celestine Idris Jezelia, First Daughter of the House of Morrighan, runs away with her maid.
They travel hundreds of miles, doubling back and leaving false trails and doing everything they can to avoid being followed—disobeying the king, after all, is an act of treason, and punishable by death—and eventually make their way to a small fishing village on the coast, where they settle down and get jobs as barmaids. It's hard work, and a very different life than either girl is used to, but they're both very happy there.
But despite their best efforts at avoiding detection, there are at least two men on their trail: one is the prince, who is partly angry about Lia's flight but MOSTLY curious about her, and the other is the assassin who has been ordered to kill her.
EVERYTHINNNNNNNNNNG. There's action and romance and romantic complications; the characters are smart and strong and the emotions are palpable; the focus seamlessly shifts from Lia to the Prince to the Assassin and back again; the worldbuilding and creation of multiple cultures is super; the details about daily life are just as compelling as the action sequences. As you'd expect from a girl who's grown up a princess, Lia is capable of being QUITE imperious when roused as well as QUITE bossy, but she's also wonderfully stubborn and hugely empathetic and even if I didn't always AGREE with her decisions, I understood them. There are threads about family and duty and friendship, and OH MY STARS, IF YOU LIKE HIGH FANTASY, THEN JUST READ IT.
Very occasionally, the dialogue would veer from Semi-Olde-Fashionedy-Formal-Fantasy ("You serve the Kingdom of Morrighan well on this day, Arabella.") to Modern-Day-American ("Pull your royal head out of your ass and get used to it!"), but that is a TOTALLY minor quibble in the face of SO MUCH AWESOME.
OH MY GOD DO I SERIOUSLY HAVE TO WAIT UNTIL 2015 FOR THE NEXT INSTALLMENT?
He’s a fan of wordplay, and has developed his own personal slang, a creative combination of stream-of-consciousness, cockney rhyming, pop-culture references, and plain-old Scottish teenager. All that, when peppered with the unintentional vocalizations that fly when he’s nervous or upset, guarantees that you’ve never read anyone quite like him.
If you’re not in a questioning frame of mind and would like an adventure with atmosphere, some chills, and a bit of romance, give it a try! If you’re feeling like something with stronger character development, give it a miss for now, and pick up Jenny Davidson’s excellent The Explosionist instead: While it’s different in tone—it’s a much quieter book—like Dark Metropolis, it’s about a European girl who stumbles upon a sinister, world-altering plot, but it’s meatier in every department.
I really WANTED to like this book. I mean, based on the premise, it looks practically tailor-made for me. But, alas. The main, overarching reason it doesn’t work is this: It reads like two or three different drafts of the book were smooshed together into a non-cohesive, often incoherent mess.
If you still* haven’t read Kendare Blake’s AnnaDressedinBlood, you may want to do that before reading what I have to say about the sequel, GirlofNightmares. Because, you know. Spoilers. If you’re a fan of Supernatural or Buffy, though, you really must give the duology a try. Like both shows, it’s a fabulous combination of gore, humor, wit and intense creepiness that recognizes genre conventions while still being emotionally truthful about friendship, love, loss and sacrifice. To top it off, both books are printed in rust-colored ink: the color of blood
Aspiring “authors” Kendall, 18, and Kylie, 16, arrived for their book signing at Barnes & Noble at the Grove in Los Angeles, where they posed with the novel for three minutes, scowled and refused to answer questions, then sat down for their obligatory book signing with all the enthusiasm of teenagers in a summer school algebra class.
Photographers stood in awe as security staffers surrounded the pair just minutes later, declaring “the signing is over.” Barnes & Noble organizers plead in vain for the girls to fulfill their duties, but no dice.
ETA: I have now educated myself by reading their Wikipedia pages. Yay.
Cleary is just one example of an author who wrote for a certain age range, but whose writing can benefit and engage the ages beyond. As a kid reader, Mr. and Mrs. Quimby’s worries about money and jobs and childcare was brushed aside by me as “boring parent stuff,” because while Cleary was validating the idea that all kids worry about their parents on some level and while her books could be a way for kids to talk to their parents about these anxieties, I just wanted to get back to Ramona putting burrs in her hair. Now, as an adult re-reader of Beverly Cleary, those bits of the books that I pushed aside as a kid are almost too painful to read as a parent.
And now I want to re-read the whole series.
Strike that, now I want to re-read EVERY SINGLE CLEARY BOOK.
The New Visions Award, which was created in 2012, will be given to a middle grade or young adult fantasy, science fiction, or mystery novel by a writer of color. Established by Tu Books, an imprint of LEE & LOW that publishes YA and middle grade science fiction and fantasy, the award is a fantastic chance for new authors of color to break into the world of publishing for young readers.
Claire is now in her thirties, but she STARTED OUT as a teen detective: first, running around Brooklyn solving mysteries with her two best friends according to the tenets laid out in Jacques Silette's detective handbook/philosophical treatise Détection, and then, investigating the disappearance of one of those friends.
She never found her.
It's been years since she's been in New Orleans—she left after her beloved mentor was murdered—but now she's back, investigating the disappearance of a District Attorney who went missing during Hurricane Katrina. It's full of great descriptions and depictions of post-disaster wreckage, New Orleans culture, and gentrification; the dialogue is excellent, there's a fantastic sense of place and atmosphere, and the mystery itself is tight tight tight. It's about innocence lost and about lost innocents, about history repeating itself, about different ways of dealing with tragedy and about how easy it is to lose one's self.
All that would be fantastic on its own, but where the book really shines is in Claire's voice, which reads both totally original AND classic noir. She's got a deep well of sadness and anger, but she's also understatedly hilarious. To say that she's not entirely reliable is probably an understatement—she's got a history of psychiatric problems as well as a penchant for abusing drugs and alcohol on a regular basis—but, at the same time, I never doubted that she was speaking her own truth.
I had a few issues: there is some unnecessary repetition in description and explanation (her truck, what wet is, info about OPP), but more bizarrely, there is a refrigerator that mysteriously appears out of nowhere (at first I chalked it up to her semi-instability, but as there was never another moment like it, I'm pretty sure it was a weird continuity error):
Newish appliances in the kitchen and a hole where the refrigerator had been. p28
Next I took prints from some spots around the house a visitor was likely to touch, labeling them as I went. The doorknobs. The refrigerator. p36
And, this is completely a matter of personal taste, but the Quaker parakeets as a metaphor for the forgotten/lost/unwanted of New Orleans was a little too LOOK IT'S A METAPHOR for me.
But, overall, HOLY COW I LOVED IT, and I'm going to request book two from the library TODAY.
I read this YEARS ago, and apparently never wrote about it. Which is sad, because it was great.
It's about a 10-year-old girl detective who skulks around a shopping mall, trailing suspects and investigating imaginary mysteries... until she disappears, never to be seen again. Twenty years later, a mall security guard—who was a classmate of hers—spots her on the surveillance footage...
June, 1950. When we first meet eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce, she's tied up, gagged, and locked in a dark closet. Not for long, though: her older sisters Ophelia and Daphne may have her beat in terms of pure physicality, but they'll never be a match for her brain.
So when a real tangle of a mystery arrives at Buckshaw—quite literally at the front door—Flavia isn't just intrigued: she's ecstatic. She doesn't know what the dead jackdaw means, or why it has a Penny Black postage stamp impaled on its beak. But she does know that it means something to her philatelist father: and whatever it is, it isn't good. When she finds a dying man in the cucumber patch later that night—a man who she saw arguing with her father just hours before—the mystery becomes that much more intriguing... and with her father as the most logical suspect, her need to find out the truth becomes that much more urgent.
A couple of weeks back, I put together a list of stories about airships. Included on the list was Lucy Saxon’s Take Back the Skies, which is one I’ve been looking forward to for quite some time. It’s about a girl who disguises herself as a boy and stows away on a smuggler’s airship to escape her abusive father and avoid an arranged marriage. Romance, steampunk adventure, and SAVING THE COUNTRY all figure in. Sounds fun, right?
1. Back up your assertions with pearl-clutching statistics that don't really mean anything: Most YA books are bought by adults, omg the shockhorror. Most groceries are also bought by adults, but that doesn't mean that said adults are ingesting all of that food.
As I said to my father when he was concerned that the dude at Sam Goody thought he was buying that New Kids on the Block cassette for himself, "Um, I doubt it. And also, do you really think he cares? And also also, why exactly do you care so much about what the cashier at Sam Goody thinks?"
2. Base all of your sweeping generalizations on two blockbusters: Good job, you've read The Fault in Our Stars and Eleanor & Park. You are now totally justified in assuming that every other YA book is exactly like one or both of them.
I'm going to start doing that with EVERYTHING now: Rather than read a broad range of adult fiction, covering lots of genres and eras and styles, I shall read two extremely popular modern realistic fiction titles that have been adapted into movies—say, one by Nicholas Sparks and one by Janet Evanovich—and then I'm going to go ahead and judge ALL OF ADULT FICTION on the basis of those two novels. Because logic.
3. Show off your knowledge about the topic by name-dropping titles you've read... like The Westing Game and Tuck Everlasting. So what if neither of those books happens to be a YA title? PIDDLING DETAILS DON'T MATTER WHEN TALKING ABOUT LITERARY JUNK FOOD.
4. When there is pushback about your sweeping generalizations, be pithy and dismissive! Be sure to shake your head sadly and comment about how surprised you are that teachers and librarians and parents and booksellers and authors and agents and editors and publicists AND YES, EVEN REVIEWERS—people who have spent hours and days and years immersed in this rich, diverse, multi-faceted world—are taking this all so personally. After all, when you said "Fellow grown-ups, at the risk of sounding snobbish and joyless and old, we are better than this," you weren't talking to or about THEM.
You were just talking to the idiot masses, who should be reading Dickens.
Read @slate YA piece. It dismisses satisfying endings and sympathetic characters as YA, then says Dickens, king of both, is ok.
5. Rather than taking the opportunity to recommend readalikes, shame readers for what they enjoy! Telling them that they're stupid and immature and incapable of reading critically will definitely make them rely on you for future advice, to trust your opinion in all things, and above all, to PUT DOWN THE YA AND PICK UP THE UPDIKE!
My publisher, Tor Books, is sending 200 free copies of the paperback of my novel Little Brother to Booker T Washington High School, because it's the first school where any of my novels has been challenged by the school administration. Little Brother had been selected and approved as the school's summer One School/One Book reading pick, and the school librarian Betsy Woolley had worked with Mary Kate Griffith from the English department to develop an excellent educational supplement for the students to use to launch their critical discussions in the fall. The whole project had been signed off on by the school administration and it was ready to go out to the students when the principal intervened and ordered them to change the title.
My nephew is 7, but is a pretty advanced reader. My sister-in-law is having difficulty finding books that give him the reading challenge he wants, without content that is too far beyond his years. (He doesn't like things that are too mysterious/scary and isn't quite ready for fantasy themes like wizards/witches, etc.) He's already powered through just about everything by E.B. White, some Beverly Clearly, old Thornton Burgess, etc. - basically my sister-in-law and I have been raiding our own childhood bookshelves for ideas. Do you or any of your followers have any suggestions for a budding bookworm? Would love some more modern options, but he's also just as happy in the classics.
This request is geared a bit younger than my specialty—off the top of my head, Roald Dahl's less-scary titles (like, NOT The Witches), Geronimo Stilton, the Judy Moody and Stink books, the My Weird School series, Eric Berlin's Winston Breen books, and Blue Balliett come to mind, though those are all pretty broadly ranged in terms of reading level—so I'm passing it along to you all.
Despite all of the emotionally charged issues (adoption! cancer! dead dog! grief! first love! coming of age! unreliable parents! the meaning of life!) and interest-piquing details (mysterious psychic! stolen ice cream truck! vintage cookbook that includes intriguing personal notes! cameo by Jude Law!) and plotting that is moved along by many serendipitous events, The Secret Ingredient is just kind of...dull. Although her meditations on cooking and food have a nice placid sort of energy, the rest of Olivia’s narration plods, and despite the likable nature of most of the characters, the dialogue feels superscripted—heavy conversation after heavy conversation after heavy conversation, and none of the characters ever seem to have any trouble whatsoever articulating anything—and thus, unbelievable.
Here's a tip for all the fictional characters out there: If your book begins with a quote from Pride and Prejudice, don't go out with a guy named Wickham. You should know better than that. Go for the grouchy brooding guy. He'll be rad. I promise.
Readers who stick with it will learn that McNeal knows exactly what he's doing: Jacob is on just as much of a journey as our young protagonist is, and as he changes and grows, his deepening connection to and affection for Jeremy & Co. makes that emotional distance shrink and disappear. As the story goes on, his voice grows steadily warmer and warmer...and then, when the darkness comes—AND HOO BOY, IT COMES—steadily more frustrated, worried, urgent and, as he has the benefit of hindsight: guilty.
Fans of Gratton's work—if you haven't discovered her yet, you're in fora treat—have probably already read this one. It's another roadtrip story, this one about a berserker and a prophetess searching for Baldur, who's gone missing. While the relationship dynamics and the family secrets are totally compelling, and while Gratton does a great job of integrating familiar myths but keeping the plotting unpredictable, for me, this one was all about the worldbuilding, which was FANTASTIC.
While I have a love for independent bookstores—I worked in one for years and continue to shop in them on a regular basis—I also use Amazon a whole lot.
Because it's convenient; because it allows me to shop in my pajamas; because the prices allow more bang for my buck; because sometimes, I need a Lawrence Block book, a bolt of tulle, a pound of loose-leaf tea, and a new pair of tights, and taking three hours out of my weekend (not to mention all of that gas) to drive all over creation just isn't in the cards.
Their tactics in the battle with Hachette have me totally grossed out, though—because of how the authors are affected, but also because of how we as customers have been affected—and I haven't been able to bring myself to order from the big A lately. And so I'm glad to see that indies are taking advantage of the fight:
Now independent bookshops have moved to profit from the situation, after the American Booksellers Association produced two digital banners reading "Thanks, Amazon, the indies will take it from here", "Independent bookstores sell books from all publishers. Always", or "Pre-order and buy Hachette titles today". The association said the banners have been shared by hundreds of shops, quoting Bear Pond Books in Montpelier, Vermont, which wrote: "Can you imagine if your local bookstoreintentionally delayed selling you books just because we were mad at the publisher? Luckily at Bear Pond we actually like books and respect our customers!"
Because, all the way back to when I was an actual bookseller, I've always said that that's where indies have the upper hand: in building community, in their personal relationships with consumers, and in putting customer service first.