October 30, 2009
We're a little sad today to bid farewell to our buddy Eisha from 7-Imps. There aren't too many duo girl blogs in our "age" group (i.e., that started when we did), and we sort of shared a kinship with the neighbors at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. Eisha shared more of herself than she thought, with her incisive poetry choices for Poetry Fridays (remember that scary awesome Thomas P. Lynch diatribe? Or that gorgeous one by the female sufi?). She introduced me for real to Naomi Shihab Nye and the Poets Upstairs. She had the amazing ability to find photographs and artwork and music videos that coordinated just perfectly with her posts, and usually meant I spent more time perusing other sites and messing with Youtube than working, but whatev. We're totally impressed with Eisha's mad cool rare manuscript archiving job at Cornell, and though we are sorry it takes her out of children's lit, we're happy she's lovin' the awesomeness and letting it take her.
(Ridiculously, I feel like I'm losing a friend. It's insane; duh, Eisha still exists, she's no further away than she was before, but it was a fine illusion of having her close, to know her blog address. What fools we mortals be, attributing tactile space to the blogosphere. Feh.) Eisha of the Cool Name, we will miss you. We wish you happy trails, and wicked kicks to take you there.
October 28, 2009
Serendipity Literary Agency, in collaboration with Sourcebooks and Gotham Writers' Workshop, is hosting its first Young Adult Novel Discovery Competition for a chance to win a one-on-one consultation with one of New York's leading YA literary agents!
The top 20 submissions will all be read by a panel of five judges comprised of top YA editors at Random House, HarperCollins, Harlequin, Sourcebooks and Penguin. All 20 will receive free autographed copies of Writing Great Books for Young Adults by Regina Brooks. Of the 20, they will pick the top five submissions and provide each author with commentary and a one year subscription to The Writer magazine. ONE Grand Prize Winner will have the opportunity to get feedback on a full YA manuscript and win a free 10-week writing course courtesy of the Gotham Writer’s Workshop. Read all the details carefully, because you'll want to be sure and have the fine print nailed down. Once you're sure of the rules, submit here.
In honor of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo.org)—an international event where aspiring novelists are encouraged to write an entire novel in 30 days—entries for the YA Novel Discovery Contest will be accepted from 12:01am (ET) November 1 until 11:59pm (ET), November 30, 2009.
YA literary agent Regina Brooks, along with editors at Sourcebooks, will read all of the entries and determine the top 20 submissions. These submissions will then be read by Dan Ehrenhaft, head Acquisitions Editor at Soucebooks Fire; Alisha Niehaus, Editor at Dial Books for Young Readers (Penguin); David Linker, Executive Editor at HarperCollins Children’s Books; Michele Burke, Editor at Knopf Books for Young Readers (Random House); and Evette Porter, Editor at Harlequin. These judges will whittle the top 20 down to four winners and a grand prize winner—all five will be provided commentary on their submissions.
So, if you were only THINKING you MIGHT do NaNo this year, here's a bit of incentive, eh? Good luck.
Hat tip to Inkygirl.
October 23, 2009
Mel loves to draw, and Fa Theum loves Mel, so it's no surprise that the priest hangs his sketches. Despite being the son of a poor weaver, in a village where everyone wears dull brown -- because the poor do not have the Pleasure of color, Mel is happy. He dreams, and his wild imagination, even in just plain soot-ink on carefully hoarded white paper from Fa Theum, provides him hours of entertainment. While it's unsurprising that Mel's skill brings him joy, it's astounding to him is how much of a fuss is being made over his sketches. Mel never knew how important art was, and that it wasn't supposed to be enjoyed by the poor, even in black and white. But now that he's an apprentice to the great artist Ambrosius Blenk, he learns that there's more to artwork than meets the eye. Even the pigment is not what he thinks it is... A picture isn't just a picture. It can be a gateway. An escape. It can be everything.
London artist Mike Wilks brings his mind-bendingly meticulous artwork to his newest medium of storytelling and opens up a world of clocks and cogs, mechanism and mystery in this suspenseful and unique story. If you're a fan of mysterious, intricate worlds, you'll enjoy Mirrorscape. It drew comparisons to Monster Blood Tattoo, which is a high compliment indeed, so check it out.
It's never a good thing to be so behind your classmates that you feel like a freak, so when Laurel finally starts to get acne, in the form of a little blemish in the middle of her back, she actually breathes a sigh of relief. She's always had weird eating preferences, which have worried her parents, but she filled out all right. Maybe now this little spot means that her period is probably on the way. She's fifteen, after all, and it's way past time for all systems to be up and running. It's a great time for a new start, after all, Laurel is attending high school after ten years of homeschooling. And if the cute braniac in biology turns out to be more than a friend, well... the world is full of possibilities.
Course, it's never a good thing when what you thought was your first zit, turns into a boil. And then a tumor. And then...
Laurel isn't sure WHAT the heck is going on with her body, but she's frantic -- and desperate and terrified. Turns out that zit sure isn't what she thinks it is.
WINGS, by Aprilynne Pike is a fresh tale of fantasy which discards the usual tropes about faeries and elves in place of something unique and fun. It's 100% VAMPIRE FREE! Laurel is an engaging, ordinary high school student who does the best she can with a stunning -- and suddenly dangerous world, and remains true to herself and her friends. I look forward to seeing what else new author Pike will bring to the fantasy scene.
There are things which we learn in childhood which are viscerally frightening -- a ghost story will hit us the wrong way, and we'll be unable to sleep for looking at an opening in the closet door. A cousin's whispered story will have us avoiding mirrors after midnight well after all such fears should have faded. In Malice by Chris Wooding, the scary bit is a dark comic.
It's only something silly-spooky people have heard before -- you get the comic -- and you'll have to track it down, then you gather the things you'll need, and say the incantation six times. And then...
Well, nothing happens. It's just a comic book. It's just a stupid superstition. There is no Tall Jake, and no matter if you burn cat hair or whatever and call him six times, he won't come and take you away.
Malice is not a comic book like Luke, Heather, Seth and Kady think...
My favorite pink-haired librarian is not in favor of this book, as the cover is 3-D, and it makes it hard to shelve, but this is Goosebumps for the UK set, and horror fans will appreciate it.
Strange Angels by Lili St. Crow has already been reviewed here by Aquafortis, but I add it to my "it's not what you think" list for some unexpected twists. The premise - motherless girl, ghoulie-hunting father, vampire-attracting girl -- has kind of been done, most recently in The Devil's Kiss. However this was... somewhat unexpected, and is the beginning of what promises to be a long series. Definitely not vampire or zombie free, but an intriguing book nonetheless.
You can find Mirrorscape, as well as Wings, and Malice, and Strange Angels, all 2009 Cybils YA SFF Nominated Books, at an independent bookstore near you!
October 21, 2009
Aquafortis and I are always interested in giving props to writers from our neck of the woods. Ying Chang Compenstine, who we interviewed in 2008 about her YA novel, Revolution is Not A Dinner Party (which won 19 literary awards, woot!), is a Bay Area author who has a new picture book out called Dumpling Boy, illustrated by James Yamasaki.
Ying also celebrates the release this month of a collection of Chinese festival-themed ghost stories for older readers, called A Banquet for Hungry Ghosts. Dumpling Boy has a yummy looking simplified recipe for dumplings (Boy-free, the author assures us) which kids can make themselves.
The Hungry Ghost Festival is a festival which occurs on the seventh month in the lunar calendar; apparently at that time, the gates of the underworld open, and unleash the ghosts onto the world for a month so that they can eat. Many Asian and Southeast Asian families leave offerings of food near graves and shrines. If that's not a pre-made setting for a fully creepy collection of stories, I don't know what is...!
Ying is an author who knows the way to her readers' hearts. For the release of her hungry ghost book, she hosted a FOURTEEN COURSE Chinese banquet for her guests. And you just know they had dumplings.
Why am I suddenly starving?
You can find Dumpling Boy or A Banquet for Hungry Ghosts at an independent bookstore near you!
October 19, 2009
There's nothing worse than watching a movie and observing the hero or heroine -- or, if you're watching Star Trek, the extra guy in the Away team -- moving toward making a fatal mistake. There's that sense of "No, no! Don't go in there!" as you watch the girl head merrily down to the basement where the machete wielding psycho is waiting. That feeling comes along in fiction as well. It's not always pleasant to read a character making a bad choice, but a good story allows a character to use a bad choice, and not let it overwhelm them utterly.
It worked out well for the three girls in Lips Touch, for the most part. For one thing, they got their kisses... and they willingly -- and sometimes painfully -- chose those kisses over other, safer things they could choose. But, not everyone gets a good bargain from their bad choices...
Kate Thompsen's Creature of the Night introduces 14-year-old ex-Dubliner Bobby, who has recently been relocated to the country against his wishes, as his mother's money troubles are kicking down their door. In Dublin, Bobby was the pickpocket and runner for his cousin's crew; the fast one who could make the snatches. But his real love is stealing cars. There's not much of a high for Bobby, in the farming village of Ennis where they now live... so, he steals a car, and hightails it for his home turf.
Whoa, bad choice. The first of several, actually.
Foul-mouthed, angry; a boy on the dole with an aggressive sense of entitlement, Bobby both hates and adores his young mother, whose mercurial temperament has made him resent her and her manipulations. He's got no idea who his Dad is, and shifts the blame for that, and all the other miseries in his life, to his mother's account. After the Skoda he stole is totaled, and they're close to getting kicked out of their new life -- which is what Bobby wanted... isn't it? -- Bobby's forced, for the first time in his life, to face a consequence for his actions, and to work off the worth of the car. Being a dogsbody for his landlord, Mr. Dooley, means talking to the family and listening to the grandmother, who tells him a spooky story about a baby who disappeared, about a fairy changling left in its place, an unsolved murder, and a little woman who haunts the house where they now live.
Bobby's not got too much time to worry about that sort of nonsense. He refuses to fill the bowl of milk for the fey, as Mrs. Dooley warns him to... until his little brother starts talking about the tiny woman who comes in through the dog door...
This is a novel with the lightest touch of horror, real horror -- a good, creepy tale for those who like their books with just a touch of goosebumps.
It's probably never a good idea to leave a tour company, if you're not savvy enough to make your way out of the country and get yourself home. Period. Though most of us hate guided tours, we all know that any travel irritation is exacerbated if you a.) don't speak the language, b.) piss off the hotel concierge, and c.) trespass.
The storybook village you found behind the massive thorny hedge? You probably should have avoided. The hot girl you saw, lying asleep at your feet? You probably shouldn't have kissed.
Honestly? Bad, bad choice.
Alex Flinn's A Kiss in Time is a rote retelling of the Sleeping Beauty tale; for me, the modern setting and the ultra-spoiled princess in addition to a contemporary prince still doesn't sell it for me. I never fell in love with Princess Thalia, nor with the prince-in-error, Jack, and I admit to being bewildered as to how this story adds anything new to the already overflowing canon of fairytale retellings. Though the characters are merely sketched instead of drawn dimensionally, they do change, a bit, and if you love a frothy dress and a "happily ever after" tale, this one might just be for you.
Even professionals know better than to go out onto the ice without telling anyone where you're going, or where you'll be. Cassie's not quite a professional yet, but she's closer than a lot of her father's interns, and yet, she does it anyway. It's just that the massive polar bear is so close. She just wants to track it and tag it on her own, to prove to her father that she's more than ready to be an Antarctic scientist. So, she takes off after the bear.
While the reader may think this is the moment of "Ooh, bad choice," it's not quite as bad as it could be. For one thing, the massive polar bear confirms for her the strange stories her grandmother told her, growing up, and relieved her of the fears that her mother had abandoned her. That choices opens up the world to Cassie, as the mundane fades in comparison to the magical.
But Cassie chooses to gamble with what she has... and ends up losing everything.
Ice, Sarah Beth Durst's retelling of East of the Sun, West of the Moon has a gorgeous, romantic cover, which is initially beguiling, and it continues to improve from there. The novel starts with the contemporary trappings of technology and logic, but the vestiges of reality begin to fade only moments into the story. At the height of the novel, the fantastical heroine's journey takes on a dreamlike sensibility, as the reader follows the spark the author's imagination far beyond where we expected to go. Fairytale lovers will embrace this sweetly simple tale, and sleep with it under their pillow.
You can find Lips Touch: Three Times, as well as Creature of the Night, as well as A Kiss in Time, and Ice, all 2009 Cybils YA SFF Nominated Books, at an independent bookstore near you!
In Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side, by Beth Fantaskey, there's a bit of vampire whining -- which made me snicker every single time. Math girl Jessica Packwood is fairly... normal. She lives with her über-vegan parents (sneaking only the occasional sloppy joe at school) and mucks out the barn and does her chores and is the anchor of the math club. She has really zero dreams of being a princess, and, unlike her earthy best girlfriend, Mindy, is only sneakingly interested in the opposite sex. When the luscious looking Romanian boy, Lucius Vladescu, appears to be stalking her, she's not flattered, she's irritated. So what if he's heartstoppingly gorgeous, and smart? He's also rigid, misogynistic, snobby, and a whole host of other really annoying things. Jessica is SO not into all of that.
And really, Lucius's whining about that is gut-bustingly funny. He's bewildered and offended. In his letters home to his Uncle Vasile, he complains that usually women throw themselves at him. Where on EARTH does this little math-addict from linoleum-infested Woodrow Wilson High, who has no idea who she really is, where on earth does she get off ignoring him? He's rich! He's royal! He's... going to really regret ever leaving his castle in Romania to find her.
Although the ending was a teensy bit contrived for my taste, this sassy Princess Diaries Meets Vlad the Vampire comedy skips along nicely. If you need to know how to date the undead, this one's for you.
Oy, Amanda Beeson. Even her name sounds high-toned and sulky. She's the Queen Bee of Meadowbrook Middle School, and works hard to maintain her frosty distance from the little people surrounding her. She has to -- or else.
Tracy Devon is nothing like Amanda. She's at the low end of the popularity pole, and is practically invisible comparatively. Unfortunately, Amanda's forgotten the lesson she knows about keeping her distance, and she's taken notice of Tracy. And now, she's too close to the other girl's problem of invisibility. Way too close.
Amanda's weird predicament really does bring out a few bursts of self-pity and whining, but her big personality shines through in this unique first-in-a-series novel, Out of Sight, Out of Mind, by Marilyn Kaye. Amanda's one of the Gifted, and it'll be fun to see how the rest of the books in the series unfold.
And, finally, you can't really round up the whiners without including the screamers.
No, seriously. Kaylee Cavenaugh would really give a lot not to be one of the screamers, but sometimes, a scream just works its way up through her, and she can't control it. She's done some time in mental hospitals, and fears that her panic attacks are out of control forever. First, her vision darkens on a particular person. And then, the scream starts.
As it turns out, Kaylee isn't exactly crazy. She just sees people who are going to die...
Aside from asking myself WHAT was going on with the cover (is this supposed to be Kaylee? No, seriously? The whole Irish thing with the harem outfit?), I found myself wishing that junior Kaylee wasn't quite so dependent for her mental health on Nash Hudson, the gorgeous senior who pulls her back from the brink when one of her "panic attacks" hits at a club where she and her best friend, Emma, have slipped in illegally. However, this is a novel that is meant to have a big helping of romance (Hi, Harlequin!) and so her leaning on his is meant to underscore just how close they're getting. It's not entirely successful, but this will be a favorite romantic series for die-hard paranormal romance fans.
You can find Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side, as well as Out of Sight, Out of Mind, and My Soul to Take, all 2009 Cybils YA SFF Nominated Books, from an independent bookstore near you!
October 17, 2009
Bloodhound (The Legend of Beka Cooper, Book 2), by Tamora Pierce is an easy novel to get into -- and not just because I read the first book in the series when it came out. Pierce has made sure to leave enough clues to Beka's world in the set up of the novel that the "dogs" and the Provost's guard force seem merely episodic. This time, Beka is being sent away from the town where she lives and her
comfortable place between her friends in the Watch and her friends in the district who are thieves and entertainers -- for her own safety. Beka is resentful that she's being sent to Port Caynn to investigate something as simple as counterfeit coins, but it turns out that not only is there a hunky man to keep her occupied, the investigation heats up all around her. Her "puppy" skills of sinking her teeth into a case and not letting go are crucial, and fans of the series will enjoy watching Beka's Dog skills go Bloodhound, as she and her senior partner do a bit of sleuthing.
Carpe Corpus (Morganville Vampires, Book 6), by Rachel Caine, is another book that I've struggled to get into. Fortunately, since I don't have time to read the previous five volumes, the premise is simple enough: Morganville was doing just fine as a Human/Vampire city, under the auspices of the vampire Amelie, who had marked Claire Danvers as one of her own, to be treated with special care, as a loyal human. Not everyone liked it, but it was...workable. Except that Amelie was overthrown by a bloodthirsty vampire called Bishop. Now her boyfriend and his father, vampire hunters, are held captive, and Morganville is under the thumb of a bloodthirsty, vicious despot. Claire would do anything to save her boyfriend Shane, up to and including begging Bishop for his life, and further gaining the hatred of the townspeople by serving as his errand girl and notifying the townspeople of their status as prey. Amelie's got a plan -- but after all the power plays and bloodshed, it's improbable that Morganville is going to ever be the same.
Catching Fire (The Second Book of the Hunger Games), by Suzanne Collins, is not a stand-alone either, and readers will step right into the turbulent tale that left off in Book 1. The Capitol is still insane, Peeta and Gale are still the boys Katniss' mind, and President Snow is still scary as heck. Nothing much has changed, even though Katniss is a Hunger Games victor. She's still uneasy, and in a few pages, you'll see that she was right to be. As usual, there are a plethora of choices in front of her, and she doesn't make the right choice at every turn, but oh -- reading the book is a can't-put-it-down, heart-pounding adventure. Have been looking forward to this one!
Recently The Spectacle recently had a two part discussion of this book -- it contains spoilers, be warned, but it's always fun to read what authors think about a popular series.
There are tons more sequels, but these are the ones I've gotten to thus far. Check out some of the earlier books in the series, and enjoy!
Bloodhound, as well as Carpe Corpus, and Catching Fire, all 2009 Cybils YA SFF Nominated Books, from an independent bookstore near you!
I admit that I have a hard time with sequels.
They make the Cybils reading a bit hard for me.
If the sequel you nominated isn't stand-alone, I feel... somewhat obligated to figure out the thread of the story. How else can I honestly say if it's worth putting into my shortlist or not? Unless it's book 8 of a 18 book series, I usually do my best to find and skim at least one previous book in the series. Occasionally, this is really time-consuming.
It's not like I'm going to complain about having a new excuse for reading, though.
This week's Cybil's reading had a whole lot of sequels going on -- but happily, most of them turned out to be awesome.
The Ask and the Answer, The: Chaos Walking: Book Two by Patrick Ness was a tricky book to get into; it's not a stand alone, but is the sequel to The Knife of Never Letting Go, which I've had sitting on my TBR shelf for months. Yes, I've had it, but never read it, fearing an emotional backlash from the many wailing reviewers who said, "Oh, MAN! The ENDING!!!!" I have a horror of endings which leave me waiting a year, in agony. They make me... in a word, cranky. (They make TechBoy even worse, so I generally try to hide books from him that will have him mumbling and walking around kicking things.) Since I had enough other stuff to read, I could avoid that "Oh, MAN!" moment. Did putting off the first book save me? No. I read it in one setting, and plunged into the sequel, which picks up right where the first leaves off. Angst! Violence, danger, torture, war -- these huge themes are simply swirling through The Ask and the Answer, which is gritty and important and real, and talks about human nature and the corrosive nature of absolute power. I was so sure that things would finally be OVER in this book, and then... those last few pages happened. Yes, Virginia, the sequel also ends on a cliffhanger.
On the up side, the UK hardcover version has a REALLY neat, transparent dust cover.
Awakening, The (Darkest Powers, Book 2), by Kelley Armstrong is also not really a stand-alone, but I was thrilled to read the first book in the series. Can you say School Story + Xmen? I love this series to bits. Normal high school student, Chloe, suddenly starts hearing voices and seeing things. A tiny mental breakdown she doesn't want to show up on her school transcripts (never stopping to think that mental issues really aren't the sort of thing to show UP on transcripts. Or are they? I should check my own...) leads her to Lyle House, a group home, filled with Really Weird Kids. Simon is charismatic and gorgeous. His "brother" Derek is huge, acne-ridden, constantly bathing to keep down his rampant b.o., and he's the grumpiest, meanest person EVER. Her roomie is adorable -- but some of the other girls are SERIOUSLY evil. It's just a group home, though. And in two weeks, she'll be going home. Not. Book II picks up with Chloe on the run from this alleged group home, which is not at ALL what she thought it was. Oh, and Simon and Derek aren't at all like she thought they were. And that could be good. Or not.
That little "not" keeps things nicely off-balance, and keeps readers eager to know what's next. Kelley Armstrong is really very good at that, and I look forward eagerly to the rest of this series. I'm not fond of the cover, really, since the novel keeps it real about acne and stuff, and the chick on the cover is airbrushed perfection, but don't worry -- the story more than makes up for any cover inconsistencies.
Blood Promise (Vampire Academy, Book 4), by Richelle Mead is really tough to get into -- but a fourth book in a series is always tough. In previous books, Rose has learned about different kinds of vampires, and their kin, and has made a promise to her friend, Dmitri, that if it ever came down to a choice between him being a good guy or one of the bad guys, she'd make sure he didn't stay on the dark side. Now the Academy's peace has been breached -- students and teachers killed, and the Strigoi have even taken captives. Dmitri has been kidnapped,and it's up to Rose to take him out.
It's a lot easier said than done, when keeping one promise means breaking another.
Because this isn't a stand-alone, and it's so far into the series, I'm not as emotionally invested in Rose and her troubles, but it might be worth reading back a ways to see how this all started.
You can buy The Ask and the Answer, as well as The Awakening, and Blood Promise, all 2009 Cybils YA SFF Nominated Books , from an independent bookstore near you!
October 15, 2009
Nevertheless, people have been fascinated with the Alice thing for ages -- the whole idea of a reversed world that is just on the other side of some metaphorical wall (or hole in the ground), where things you expect to be safe are not, and things which look harmless, like playing cards, can be fatal, and your size can change at a moment's notice. There are two nifty versions of the Alice thing coming out this year -- and one I hadn't taken into account comes from the SciFi -- oh, excuse me, SYFY channel. (Let's not get me started on Imagine Greater. Egregious grammar. Seriously.) Following are both trailers... and I've gotta say that even though I'm not a big Alice fan? I'm excited about both of these.
I thought this first Alice was based on the Frank Beddor Looking Glass Wars series, but it doesn't look like it, not exactly. Can I say how scary good Kathy Bates is, as The Red Queen? Isn't it nice when an actress over thirty can still work and be ...menacing? She does menacing very well indeed. Alice looks a bit frantic, but also like she KICKS people. Which I kind of like. I very much would want to kick people if I fell down a hole and there were all of these ...cards MESSING with me. Only, the Red Queen is remarkably non-flat and multi-dimensional.
Is the padded room scaring anyone else but me?
Can Helena Bonham Carter's head be any bigger? It cracks me up that it STAYS like that. Tim Burton always knows how to make movies that look like some fever dream. I love it. Alice looks fluffy and pretty and ...totally out of her depth. The cat looks like a carnivore.
I still don't get why Alice drinks from the little bottle that says Drink Me. I mean, would you? But I'll get a kick out of watching these new versions of Alice explain how what she does is perfectly normal, and look forward to seeing her modern adventures get underway.
Hat tip to SF Signal
October 13, 2009
Speaking of travel, Aquafortis is safe and sound in Italy, and would be waving hello if she could. (Yeah, right. Italy... blogging. Hmm. Which wins?) Meanwhile, with two days left before Cybils nominations close, the Science Fiction and Fantasy nominations are up to 121! It's going to be a really exciting and hard trek to get all of those books winnowed out to the top ten in YA and MG. We're all looking forward to it.
Remember Problem Novels? Publishers these days don't want to touch them with a ten-foot pole, but not everyone hates them. Back in the day, they were the stuff of which ABC After School Specials were made. They informed generations, and shaped what they thought of teen pregnancy, STDs, and all those other things your parents wanted you to sit down and watch TV about, instead of discussing with them. What's your favorite? CORA wants to know.
A work in progress, now for your listening and viewing pleasure: it's Twilight: The Musical. It's... painful. So, so, painful... and yet, a labor of love, and bad wigs... You know you want to watch.
October 08, 2009
But ANYWAY. Before I leave. A few things. Our blog bud and writing friend Beth Kephart is Readergirlz Writer in Residence this fall, and we couldn't think of a better person to inaugurate what's hopefully a recurring feature.
Check out Lee Wind's roundtable with authors whose books have recently been challenged, including Ellen Hopkins, E. Lockhart, and Frank Portman. It's a little late for Banned Books Week, but it's never too late to remember that books are challenged year round and not just one week a year...
It's National Arts and Humanities Month--check the map to see if something exciting is happening in your area. (There's a big ol' goose egg happening in MY town. Of course.) Teen Read Week is also coming up this month, with the Readergirlz hosting some incredibly fabulous authors including Patrick Ness (who we like very much), Justina Chen Headley, Cassandra Clare, Cynthia Leitich Smith, and Readergirlz Holly Cupala, Lorie Ann Grover, and Dia Calhoun.
Lastly, but TOTALLY not least, is something that Tanita did not mention here but on her author blog, which is that she is doing a Snoopy dance for the most excellent reason that her latest novel Mare's War is under consideration for the ALA Best Books for Young Adults 2010 list. Woo hoo and Snoopy dancing!! Read more about her book, as well as Sara Lewis Holmes' latest release, and hang out with the two of them and Adrienne and Jules, over at the 7-Imp Dance Party.
October 05, 2009
We always complain there aren't enough good YA mysteries. How do you like your mysteries served with science fiction? I found I liked it just fine.
Published in the UK and the US between 2005-2008, the Traces books by UK author Malcolm Rose are the tightly written first cases in a young Forensic Investigator's professional life.
In Futuristic England, where the North is posh, and the South -- including London and Cambridge -- is a lawless, slum-infested disaster, the Authorities have taken over. They've instituted a few programs, to insure maximum productivity, prosperity and satisfaction for those who participate. The Authorities are in charge of your parenting, education and job placement. They will also arrange a Pairing for you, because they know you best, and can do better for you than you can yourself.
There are few surprises in this new world, because The Authorities strive to take the surprises out of life. Most people are a homogeneous brown -- a perfect multicultural mix. Most people do what they're told, take the jobs they're suited for, and the Pairings they're given. The Authorities don't seem that bad...mostly...
Into this rigidly controlled world, 16-year-old Luke Harding graduates as the youngest forensic investigator, ever. After his start as a smart alec and troublemaker, he has faintly surprised The Authorities with his brilliant deductions. Together with his Mobile Aid to Law and Crime, -- the floating spherical robot he calls Malc -- and his daily breakfast of pomegranates (don't ask.), Luke is pretty happy to be leaving, and is ready to take on the professional world. There are a few small snags, though: first, despite him tampering with her science grades on the school computer, Luke's best friend and girlfriend is a musician, not a scientist, which makes her ineligible to be Paired with him. Next, just after his last final, there's a murder... at the school.
Aside from the ghoulish realities of him having to do his first real case on such familiar ground -- it's just not professional to want to flee or throw up, but when you know the victim, everything is twice as hard -- there's a twist. The person who died is someone he has good reason to dislike. And all the evidence points to Luke himself as the prime suspect.
...Considering the fact that the Mobile Aid is the one who keeps reminding Luke of this, he knows he's got limited time to clear himself. And Malc reports everything Luke says or does in his investigations to The Authorities. Everything.
All of the series have intriguing crimes, and the first in the series, Framed! was selected by the United States Board on Books for Young People (USBBY) and the Children’s Book Council as an Outstanding International Book for 2006. From infiltrating a cult, to tracking down multiple girls with the same name, to solving crimes based on a lightning strike, in a sports arena or hospital, Luke is never unequal to the challenge of finding the meaning in the details. The mysteries are truly challenging, and amateur sleuths will be pleasantly puzzling over the traces of evidence linking suspect to crime.
As a forensic investigator, Luke is in many ways as single-minded as his rather amusingly literal-minded computer. Despite his brilliance, he's not above asking for help from his friends, including Jade, who is allowed as a character to be brilliant in her own arena. As with most crimes in real life, issues of class, race, and culture crop up fictionally as well. In futuristic England, people who are born pigment deficient are ostracized and treated as worrying aberrations. Profiling and "the usual suspects" are dealt with differently as well, encouraging the reader to indulge in some out-of-the-box thinking without making didactic statements of any kind.
The copies I read are paperbacks, and even in paperback there is tremendous attention to creativity and neat bottom-of-the-page effects to make things fun. If you are entertained by tuning out emotional angst and ferreting out clues, enjoy the highly specialized and detail-laden world of forensic investigation, and like your futuristic books to be rooted a bit in the here-and-now, this series will be right up your fjord.
I got my review copies of Malcolm Rose's Traces: Luke Harding, FI series at the Hillhead Public Library, and then actually tracked the last three down at various small bookshops around the UK. I freely admit to being both cheap and poor, so this actual book-buying in a country where I'm going to have to pack them up to go home means I REALLY am now a fan. I'm loving Malcolm Rose books so much I'm looking forward to tracking down his earlier detective series, Lawless & Tilley, too, and really, any other futuristic mysteries of his I can get my hands on.
Of course, you can buy Framed! as well as Lost Bullet, the strange case of Roll Call, the fourth novel, Double Check, the one with the great frog x-ray, Final Lap, and the 2008 mystery, Blood Brothers at an Indie bookseller near you.
October 03, 2009
THAT should be interesting. The books alone wouldn't make that great of a long-term series, so I assume the characters will be having other adventures.
ALSO: Apparently I'm a guest at Michael Spradlin's Five On Friday this week. Thanks, Michael!
October 02, 2009
October 01, 2009
"Kevin, let's cut to the chase—why don't you want to say the Pledge?"
I want to scream! Why won't anyone actually listen to the words I'm saying instead of hearing what they want to hear? "I never said I didn't want to say it. I just want to know why we have to say it. They're two different things. Can you tell me why we have to say it?"
"Well, you don't have to say it..." The Doc fidgets.
"But everyone does. Ever since we were kids. And no one questions it. No one asks why. We just keep doing it, and if we don't, we get crucified. Like not putting ribbons on our cars."
It's a book about what it means to be a hero, yes, and the different definitions people have of that deceptively simple and brief four-letter word; but on an even broader level it's about ideals and idealism. We all have our ideals that we want to or are expected to live up to, but for the fact that we're also all too human, and more or less imperfect. Kevin Ross, aka Kross—the book's narrator—saved a girl at school from assault by a wanted criminal, but he was just in the right place at the right time, and nobody knows his true reason for being there. If they did, they might not think he was such a hero.
But for now, he's an exemplar for his small, relatively conservative town (the same town of Brookdale where Lyga's other books take place)...that is, until a misunderstanding over some "support the troops" ribbon magnets escalates into a town-wide hullaballoo over free speech and patriotism. Kross, who hangs out with a group of sort-of misfits self-dubbed the Council of Fools, is caught in the middle trying to defend his own opinions from attack, and his friends seem to be equal parts help and hindrance. In the end, what it means to be an ideal hero, an ideal brother, an ideal friend or patriot, really isn't set in stone but is a bit more elusive, perhaps more of a journey or a learning process.
It's possible that some readers might find Kross's rather lengthy moments of realization to be a bit "teach-y" in the sense that they give the book the appearance of having a very clear agenda (which I suppose it does have)--but Kross is a pretty introspective narrator, so it didn't bother me to see his thought process in action. To me, this was another winner from Lyga, who's 3 for 3 with this reviewer.
Two words: It's ON.
Have you seen the COOL nomination form??? Voting for your favorite picture book, poetry collection, chapter book, MG or YA fiction or speculative fiction -- ONE BOOK PER GENRE, s'il vous plait -- has NEVER been easier.
It's my joy to serve once again on the YA SFF panel, which this year is divided into MG and YA, while Aquafortis is serving as a Graphics Novel judge. We are going to have SO. MUCH. FUN.
Join in. Nominate today!