December 31, 2009

Is That A Tumbleweed Blowing Past?

Yeah, so we're still recovering from the SFF Cybils deliberations, at this late date. They went late. We started drinking coffee early.

There was reading. There were characters discussed. And dissected. There were concerns about homogeneous shortlists, and conjecture about inclusiveness. There were more discussions. The odd (very) cyborg. An occasional sniffle from The Weeping Corner, as nominations were pried from cold, dead hands. There was not even a small, well-contained bloodbath, which was unexpected. No one died, and we came away with a KICKIN' shortlist for the judges to slave over, which will be announced via the Cybils website on New Year's Day.

And then, it's all on the judges. Poor judges.

We'll be going back to sleep now, waking to turn over and luxuriate in reading something that isn't on anyone's list except our own. Oh, and stay tuned -- more Cybils reviews forthcoming as they get written. Eventually. Sometime after the ball drops...

December 22, 2009

Holiday Library Extravaganza

I happily spent some time at the library today retrieving one of my holds that came in--Need by Carrie Jones--as well as a few other goodies for my holiday enjoyment: Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen, Does My Head Look Big in This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah, The Secret History of Moscow by Ekaterina Sedia, and The City & The City by China Miéville. But in order to merit a book binge, I feel like I ought to at least provide briefs of the last library haul. So here goes.

Gilda Joyce: The Dead Drop by Jennifer Allison is the latest installment in the Gilda Joyce psychic detective series. By now, Gilda's nearly fifteen, and she's about to start a summer internship at the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. Of course, no Gilda Joyce book would be complete without a mystery, and this time, it's some ghostly museum visitations. I've enjoyed seeing Gilda mature over the course of the series while still retaining her quirky charm, and Allison spins a fun mystery with an appealing supporting cast.

Lost: The Magic Thief Vol. 2 by Sarah Prineas is just as exciting and un-put-down-able as the first volume. I was completely absorbed by the continuing story of budding wizard Conn, apprentice to the wizard Nevery--as a character, he's cerebral and internally focused, stubborn, yet endearing; an unusual combination. However, these characteristics serve him well as he embarks on a quest to save the disappearing magic of the city of Wellmet, regardless of the consequences. I really, really love this series and I adore its narrator.

The Miles Between is by Mary E. Pearson, author of The Adoration of Jenna Fox, which is a fabulous futuristic read. This one takes place in the present, but it, too, has elements of what I'd call magical realism. Destiny Faraday's moved from boarding school to boarding school ever since she was seven years old and hasn't been home since. Now, going on ten years later, she's on a strangely fortuitous road trip with a few of her classmates and for the first time she finds herself opening up, confiding her feelings of abandonment and allowing herself to feel the unfamiliar support of friendship. This is a story with twists and surprises, and much-needed catharsis.

Frances Hardinge, I think, is one of my favorite authors, and The Lost Conspiracy--her latest novel--just confirmed that suspicion. All I can say is, it's such an incredible book that the moment I finished it, I wanted to pick it back up and read it again right away. That almost never happens. Mysterious, distant Arilou is one of the Lost of Gullstruck Island--meaning she has the ability to send her senses out into the world, away from her body. Her caretaker is her younger sister, Hathin. Both are members of the Lace, a tribe reviled by the island's ruling class, who colonized it generations before. This is such an impressively, staggeringly complex and layered novel, from the nuances of how the island's peoples interact, to the traditions and legends of each group, to the indomitable spirit of Hathin, the primary narrator of the story, and how she changes and comes into her own over the course of the novel. For fantasy fans, this is a must-read, in my opinion.

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly is a charming historical novel about plucky "Callie Vee," an eleven-year-old girl who, in 1899, doesn't quite fit in with her family or society. Only her grandfather truly appreciates and nurtures her love of science, while her family seems to just want to turn her into a pie-baking, lace-tatting future housewife. The wealth of historical (and scientific) detail really make Callie's world come alive. One caveat, though: you must never tell my dad about the author. As I was reading the jacket bio, it said that she is a practicing physician AND lawyer. Without a doubt, this would only prompt my dad to exclaim "See?? You could have been a doctor AND a lawyer AND still been a bestselling writer!" To which I say fie.

I just finished reading Tantalize today, a novel by the blog goddess Cynthia Leitich Smith. If you like vampires and werewolves, you'll enjoy this book, but even if you're not a huge fan of that genre, this is still a gripping murder mystery with elements of dark fantasy that complement rather than compete with the story. It takes place in a sort of alternate present in which vampires and werewolves are known to society; it reminded me a little of Robin McKinley's Sunshine in that respect. Narrator Quincie Morris is absorbed with the opening of her family's restaurant, the vampire-themed Sanguini's, when they suddenly find themselves in need of a new head chef. While the police investigate the violent death, Quincie's dealing with finding a new chef, putting up with her uncle's increasingly weird behavior and icky wanna-be vampire girlfriend, and trying to hide her feelings for her half-werewolf best friend, Kieren. This is a fast-paced and suspenseful read with a lot of fun gory AND culinary details (if you like that sort of thing!).

December 21, 2009

Turning Pages: 1 Last Princess & Death by Weather

How could I have forgotten Once a Princess by Sherwood Smith, whose strong female character in Crown Duel/Court Duel made her one of my all-time favorite authors?? (And how could I have forgotten the unfortunate cover which looks like it does not say "got books?" but something ... else?)

I just got princess'd out, I guess.

Sasha's parents had a fairytale romance. In the middle of L.A., her flower-child mother, Sun, met a prince from a magic kingdom, and Prince Mathias took her away through a magic portal to his kingdom for several marvelous years, where Sasha was born. Unfortunately, she barely remembers it, or him, anymore. When she was ten, her father sent she and her mother away, with a promise to follow them when it was safe. He never came.

Fighting heartbreak, Sun did what she had to do to make a normal life for her daughter. Normal with... extras. Fencing. Sword training. And a lot of hurried, dark-of-night moves all over the country with name-changes. By the time she's a teen, Sasha is sick of it, and sick of believing that they're hunted. Of course, once she's tricked into going through the portal into the kingdom of Khanarenth, on the planet of Sartorias-deles -- she becomes a believer, fast, and is grateful for the moves she's learned, which keep her alive. Now that she's there, she wants to stand and fight for her father's kingdom, and find loyal subjects to rally for the cause of her birthright, but isn't sure who she can trust. Aren't pirates inherently untrustworthy, and princes trustworthy?

Both Sun and Sasha are fun, strong female characters, and you'll enjoy this "Happily Ever After" read, too.

So, this Cybils has brought up a lot of end-of-the-world novels -- Death by Weather, I call them. Ice, by Sarah Beth Durst had a light touch with the environmental stuff, and the danger wasn't from the weather -- but it's a good example of the right way to talk about the environment -- with a light touch. The Tomorrow Code, which Aquafortis has already ably reviewed, struck me as having a slightly heavier hand, and a few moments of "Eh?" in amongst the other good stuff.

Zenith, by Julie Bertenga is the most recent Death by Weather novel I've read, and it is the sequel to Exodus which I reviewed last year. It wasn't really a stand-alone, but there are plenty of new characters introduced.

Mara has sailed away from the drowned city she came to know, in search of a new world. She has taken the street urchins from New Mungo with her, and together they hope to find Greenland -- and a place to start over. Fox stays behind to fight the corrupt government of New Mungo, and Mara hopes he will join them someday. Yet, the memory of their love fades, when Mara meets Tuck, a thief whose people live on boats. I thought this was pretty fickle of her, but really, it showed her as a flawed but realistic young character -- she loved the one she was with. Together Tuck and Mara weather disasters and battle with the Ilirians, the barbarians who live in stacked cave dwellings. All these troubles bring the New Mungo crew closer together...but Fox's memory will be with Mara always, too. There's a definite open door to a sequel, which was, to say the least, surprising.

My favorite Death by Weather novel of this Cybils cycle is Saci Lloyd's The Carbon Diaries, 2015. Laura Brown's family is a typical UK family -- they drive their own cars, stay in their own rooms, listen to their own music, make calls on their own phones and watch their own TV's. They're just like everybody else, and when the UK government makes a top-down decision to cut energy emissions by 60% and begins to ration energy with Carbon cards -- it hits them as hard as it hits everyone else.

As Laura's diary relates, the things that happen are terrible -- the SmartMonitors which everyone has to install will cut the energy off if you overuse. The Brown's have to sieve out cheese sauce from the hard bits of the macaroni -- because the power shuts down mid-cooking. And the fridge.

Mandatory Carbon Education classes take place at school -- which Laura flunks. She also flunks her finals. And the boy she likes totally ignores her. And her sister is being this total witch -- and selling black market energy credits with the neighborhood bad girl. And her parents... are falling apart.

Life keeps happening, when the environment crashes.

Power outages. Droughts. Floods. The world of 2015 is obviously messed up. And getting worse. Laura and her friends keep waiting, hoping, that things will get back to "normal," and yet chaos is the new normal. Yet, somehow Laura has a funny, funny life, filled with loud, punk rock music, snarky, irreverent observations, and the truth: that we are a energy-guzzling disaster of a culture, that we have no idea how to change, hold back, or diminish our carbon footprint, and that crap is coming down. Soon.

Yet, we are also a people who love each other, who find ways to make life worth living, and when push comes to shove -- and God help us, do we have to be shoved hard -- we figure out a way to fight to keep our heads above water. We are better than we think we are.

This novel reminds us of all of that, and what we owe to ourselves and our world -- all without ridiculously heroic characters, single-dimensional bad guys, and didactic preaching. It's a keeper.

It's the end of the world as we know it. Read all about it in Zenith, the spectacular The Carbon Diaries, 2015, and get your Grrl Power on with Once a Princess, at an independent bookstore near you!

December 20, 2009

Turning Pages: The Happily Ever After Girls

I have fought myself free from the clinging stickiness of pineapple upside-down cake and acres of ice cream and candy canes to bring you this reading report. Yes, I am still reading. I have to hunker down in the corner in the homes of friends and relatives, ignoring everyone, but I will embrace the hardship of finding a quiet place to read, in a houseful of people and squealing toddlers and yapping dogs, for you. Yes, it's all about you. And has nothing to do with the fact that I'd almost rather have dental surgery than be in a roomful of thirty ebullient, holiday-happy people. Nothing to do with that at all.

So, from the floor of the closet in my godparent's house, with my trusty laptop in hand, I observe that the Cybs SFF this year has seen a lot of girls in flounces and frills, a lot of girls in fairytales. Whether the tale was sort of time travel-y and modernesque, as in the lighthearted Prada & Prejudice, or more traditional feel, as in The Amaranth Enchantment, there are plenty of "happily ever after" stories for those who enjoy closing a book with a happy sigh.

Prada & Prejudice by Mandy Hubbard, introduces us to Callie, feeling out of sorts and lonely on her class trip to London. Feeling herself in need of a pick-me-up, she decides to buy some genuine Prada shoes. Of course, she doesn't really wear heels, but that's not the point. Money buys happiness, right? A trip and a sprawl takes our Prada-wearing heroine to a knock on the head -- and back in time -- in her jeans -- to Jane Austen's time. Callie is NOT a good fit for the time -- her inability to be a close-mouthed young maiden of the time ill-suits the matriarch of the family clan where she lands. They think she's an eccentric American cousin, come to be married off. Callie figures it doesn't hurt to play along... for awhile. In the course of her back-to-the-future visit, Callie performs CPR, plays the one song she can -- Heart & Soul -- on the pianoforte, and bravely takes on social convention to preserve a friend from marrying a man thirty years her senior. This novel is kind of predictable, but it's the perfect bathtub read, you can finish it in one setting, and smile.

The Amaranth Enchantment, by Julie Berry is a 19th century version of Cinderlla. Lucinda Chapdelaine was once the precious child of loving, wealthy parents, but when they went to the ball -- all asparkle in jewels and lovely clothes -- they never returned. Lucinda has grown up indebted to her aunt for taking her in, and she slaves for her in her jewelry shop, hoping for a day when things will change. Enter a handsome, mysterious buyer, a street thief, and a striking woman named Beryl. Oh, and a goat. And a dog... Lucinda manages to go on The Magical Mystery Tour of a fairytale, and after many, many, many loops and surprises, it all ends Happily Ever After. There was no chance it would not, in spite of the goat.

There were quite a few elements in this one which I was not sure about -- not to mention the cover with the girl holding an amaryllis flower, which is not an amaranth stalk -- but the cover is a small thing over which to quibble, and completely out of the author's control. I did wish for a simplified storyline with perhaps one fewer fantastical elements and a more straightforward relationship with Beryl as godmother-of-sorts, but even with these shortcomings, this was a new take on the Cinderella story, which is universally recognizable, and not easy to revise. And it does have that happy ending. And a big dress.

Ash, by Malinda Lo, also sets up the typical Cinderella story -- after the loss of her mother, a young girl gains a stepmother and stepsisters, loses her father, and her home. All Ash has left of her mother is stories -- and a favorite book of tales, which lighten the long, dark lonely hours. Fairies are alive and well in Ash's world, though there are those who don't believe in their existence. They are attracted to Ash's emotions -- her longing for her mother, her grief -- her vitality. Ash does indeed have an enchanted dress, and catches the eye of a fairy prince called Sidhean, but her "happily-ever-after" becomes something greater. The King's huntress, Kaisa, also has stories, and her world is firmly bound in the here and now. Ash, reawakening to herself after a long time of being lost in longing and grief, learns to stop chasing fairytales.

The Princess & The Bear by Mette Ivie Harrison is apparently a sequel to the Princess and the Hound, but reads as a stand-alone, which is always good. In it, a bear and a hound live in wordless harmony, once something more than they are, but staying together in an unusual way, sharing a cave. When it appears that the forest in which they live is being endangered by a magic-wielding cat-man, the bear and the hound find their way to a castle at the edge of the wood, where the prince knows the hound's speech and can understand the danger. The bear and the hound are un-enchanted -- the bear becoming the King he once was, and the hound who was once a woman becoming a woman once more. At times, each wishes again for the cloak of enchantment. The hound cannot run and hunt and smell as she had -- and the bear is terrified of making a mistake as a king. Hadn't things been easier when he was just a beast? The subtle love story for me takes precedence over the somewhat heavy-handed environmental message that is woven through, but it all blances in the end nicely.

In Princess of the Midnight Ball, by Jessica Day George, the story of the dancing princesses is revisited. I kind of hate the Grimm Brothers tale, but George reanimates the story in a plausibly satisfying way by introducing another character -- that of Galen, a career soldier who has been in a twelve-year war, and has returned home with only his honor, his ability to knit, and his all-round "hero" ness intact -- he's nice to old ladies and helps out. He becomes a gardener at the castle -- keeping an expensive horticultural legacy alive, while the kingdom wallows in debt and on the brink of disaster -- and there he meets Princess Rose, the eldest of the dancing princesses. To Galen the charge is given to find out how and why the princesses are wearing out their shoes so quickly. It is for Rose's sake that he tries with all his heart. Of course there's a love story there. And flouncy dresses.

Tiger Moon, by Antonia Michaelis, is an unusual type of fairytale, in the tradition of One Thousand and One Arabian Nights. Raka, a South Asian bride of 19th century India, is doomed, and she knows it. Her husband has "acquired" her as a perfect thing of beauty, and she's beautiful enough, but she's not what he thinks she is -- mainly, she's not a virgin, and the penalty for that is pretty much death. He's a busy man -- and with myriad other wives, illness, business concerns, etc., he hasn't yet had time to find out Raka's secret... so, while her life trickles down like sand through an hourglass, she finds companionship in a young servant, Lalit, and tells him the tale of Farhad, a sixteen-year-old thief who was told by the Hindu god, Krishna, to rescue his daughter Safia from being married to the Demon King. Aided by a sacred white tiger, Farhad, in ensuing stories, becomes a brave, capable character who is a hero and Safia a noble princess who is worth any price. Together with Lalit, the reader is transported from Raka's silken prison to Safia's, gifting the reader with lovely, lyrical storytelling that reflects colonial India in a way that Kipling would have envied. A real surprise in the crop of fairytale books -- don't miss the great GLW review by Steve Berman.

My final "fairytale" pick is really atypical, and I'm almost not sure that it fits, except that in the end, young Kipp is no longer an ordinary guy, but a prince among men. And you can have fairytales with princes who don't wear big dresses. Just sayin'.

Stealing Death by Janet Lee Carey begins with death - accidental, stupid deaths, which are the worst kind. Kipp leaves his little brother to watch the stove while he chases a beautiful white stallion, and when he returns, he is left with only a little sister, after his brother and family are consumed in a house fire which could only be his fault. Despite the loss, life must go on, for Kipp's family were indentured to a Zolyan Lord, and there are debts to be paid. He and his baby sister become the lowest servants -- but Kipp has been given a gift. At the height of his grief, the power of his people, the Naqui, has come upon him. He sees things others don't -- including the being who takes his family away -- Gwali, the Stealer of Souls, with his magical sack that sends souls to Kwaja.

Kipp wants that sack, badly. He might not be able to get his brother and parents out and back from Kwaja, but he can darned well make sure that his sister doesn't go into the sack, or the girl he loves, who is the daughter of the Zolyan Lord whom he serves. After all, it only seems fair to take back from death what he's stolen from you.

Of course, nothing is that simple, and once Kipp has the power of the sack... well, things change.

Like Tiger Moon, this novel has a massive scope and lush characters set against the backdrop of loss and the harshness of a land and culture. Another unexpected gem in the fairytale haul, and you'll enjoy this one too.

Books make great Christmas -- or after-Christmas gifts, and you'll be able to find The Amaranth Enchantment, the surreal Prada & Prejudice , and Ash; the very subtle The Princess & the Bear, the traditional Princess of the Midnight Ball, the desirably different Tiger Moon and the not-quite-in-this-category Stealing Death -- all at an independent bookstore near you!

December 17, 2009

Greetings! of Whatever Season...

This picture is from the Library of Congress of course, and what cracks me up the most about it is that oh, a good half of these folks wouldn't be saying Merry Christmas or its equivalent, but it's good fun anyway. Hope your winter holidays are happy, wherever you are, and whatever you're doing! Cheers!

December 13, 2009

Zombies v. Unicorns v. Vampires...

Good news, Team Zombie! Michael Spradlin's It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Zombies, illustrated by Jeff Weigel, is the quintessential Christmas book for the zombie lover. (Does Team Vampire have something this cool? No, Team Vampire does not.)

Now you can hum along to your favorite carols, while fresh brains are roasting on an open fire, and your loved one is nipping at ...your nose. Hm. That one sounds ominous. Anyway, the titles that made me laugh out loud are:

I Saw Mommy Chewing Santa Claus, and Deck the Halls With Parts of Wally.

...honestly, this is so gross it made me giggle; it's the perfect antidote for... well, I'm not sure what. It'll make you laugh, though, and probably most of the 8-year-olds you know, too.

O, bring us a hippocampus, o, bring us a hippocampus, o, bring us a hippocampus and a cup of good cheer...

Good tidings to you. Or something like that.

You can find It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Zombie at an independent bookstore near you! Just, beware of the grayish, slow-moving people in the parking lot...

December 10, 2009

Whole Lotta W00t! and a Bit of Mourning.

There is exciting news from the Readergirlz. Firstly, they deserve heaping congratulations for being awarded the National Book Foundation's first Innovations in Reading prize. (Do NOT miss the photo and coverage of the lovely co-founders accepting the award!) Secondly, this month's featured author is the squee-worthy Tamora Pierce, and her Trickster novels Trickster's Choice and Trickster's Queen--which, incidentally, were the first of her novels that I picked up, and then I was hooked.

Also, did you know that Charlotte's Library has started doing weekly roundups of blog posts about middle-grade fantasy and sci-fi? Go Charlotte! This week's roundup is here, and features reviews of Blackbringer and The Lost Conspiracy (which I'm currently having trouble putting down), a tween mythology book buying guide, and much more. A very worthwhile project.

Meanwhile, we're all reeling, I'm sure, from the news about the demise of Kirkus Reviews (thanks to Yat-Yee for the link). There's already been some interesting Twitter discussion about what the death of traditional reviewing outlets might mean for online and blogging reviewers. I'm still trying to process what I think about it all.

And that's all I've got for now...I still owe you some book reviews, and I promise to catch up eventually...

Multicultural SFF? Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is...

Via SF Signal -- Oh, here's a project that is so close to my heart. Aquafortis mentioned it to our writing group on Tuesday, and I've just gotten around to checking them out. Please, watch the video.

Previously in my life, I wouldn't have thought that there would be a necessity for a publishing house that was strictly for multicultural SFF for young adults and children. I would have thought, the major houses really need to step up. I would have assumed that there weren't a lot of multiethnic SFF writers writing. I would have come up with all kinds of thoughts on the topic, including the worst one, I'm sure there's multicultural SFF for kids and teens out there somewhere. I just haven't found it yet.

Yes, once upon a time, I wouldn't have thought that there would be a necessity for a publishing house that was strictly for multicultural SFF for young adults and children.


I'm on the Cybils SFF committee this year, kids, and with the notable exception of Cindy Pon and Malinda Lo... and, now that I'm looking, Hiromi Goto and Nahoko Uehashi, there's not a lot of ethnic makeup in SFF represented. This is not to say that there aren't characters of color within a novel, but cover representations -- are not "representing." And it makes me wonder. Where are the Latino weredragons? The African American starfighters? The Native wizards and the Asian faeries?

Every kid wants to see themselves represented in a work. Every young adult wants to imagine themselves flying or throwing fireballs or hacking apart vines to save the sleeping... prince. Why can't everyone play?

Et vous? Et tu, multicultural peeps. Tu Publishing. Please, pass the word along.

December 07, 2009

SFF Monday Freebies! Freebies, I Say!

Via Kids Lit Blog: Award-winning science fiction author Will Shetterly (author of the uniquely readable and surreally Southern Dogland) has created a YA novel in the SFF genre that's apparently great. Tons of assistant editors agreed. Too bad the senior editors weren't on board.

You can read Midnight Girl free, this minute, before some enterprising editor scoops it up, at Scribd. Check it out.

Via Galaxy Express: Paranormal Romance fans, take heed: it's the SFR Holiday Blitz. If you like both SFF and romance, there's probably something in here for you. 12 bloggers have teamed up with 17 authors for your chance to win over 30 SFR books, which is just an amazing number. Just click and leave a comment at any or all of the participating blogs -- and you're in like Zen.

Happy Monday!

Wicked Cool Overlooked Books: The Jennifer Adventures

It's the first Monday of the month, and while you're still trying to figure out what happened to November, it's already time for Wicked Cool Overlooked Books!

You're completely over zombies and vampires and the whole werewolf thing, aren't you?
Oh. Well, while you're biting your nails and waiting for the people on your library holds list to READ FASTER ALREADY, check out what I found - a new old books!

Fourteen-year-old Jennifer Scales really resents her mother. She kind of resents her father, too, but he's gone much of the time, on business, and when he's home, he geeks out and lectures her on all kinds of detailed things. She tunes him out, just like she tunes out her Mom. The only thing that really matters to her is soccer, and after executing a mid-air flip and kicking the ball into the goal -- which caused the whole game to stop and everyone to stare at her -- Jennifer's not really sure she's got soccer anymore.

At least her Dad comes home after that.

Her parents try and insist that she stay home for awhile, just to be "safe." But they won't tell her anything really, except that she needs to stay close, and that they'll explain "later."

Right. First they ignore her, then they lock her in her room? Jennifer's not having that, obviously. It's only after she's coughing up blood while her teeth shift around in her mouth and burping out gusts of fire on the sidewalk a block from her house that she realizes she maybe should have tried a little harder to get an explanation.

When she morphs into a half-ton weredragon, complete with wings, fangs, and breath-of-fire, it's a bit late for explanations. Now she knows what she is, knows she's going to need a lot of training to discover and control new skills, and oh - last detail. This morphing thing will happen at the crescent moon -- twice a month, every month, forever. Welcome to the rest of your non-human life.

To say that she's pissed is a major understatement. But, things get better. And then, a lot worse.

Written by fairly well-known author, Mary Janice Davidson, and her husband, Anthony Alongi, the Jennifer Scales series began in 2005 - which means you have a few to read before you're caught up. Jennifer Scales and the Ancient Furnace is the first, followed by Jennifer Scales and the Messenger of Light, Jennifer Scales and the Silver Moon Elm, and the final book in the series thus far is pending: Jennifer Scales and the Seraph of Sorrow which came out in January. Read excerpts here.

Davidson's books generally are quirky romance novels about vampires or mermaids, which have put her on the bestseller list more than once, but I had zero idea she wrote specifically for young adults. I've only read the first book so far, but it really kept my interest -- I mean, seriously, weredragons?! -- and there are Unexpected Twists that kept me guessing right up until Jennifer figured things out. This series is the perfect thing to read while you wait for what new half-human thing is going to come howling out of the woods next door.

Buy Jennifer Scales and the Ancient Furnace and all the other Jennifer Adventures from an independent bookstore near you!

December 01, 2009

Writers: Opportunity Knocks

More good news for the short story contingent in YA fiction!

The other day we hailed the 2010 debut of THE ENCHANTED CONVERSATION. Now today, it's YARN - a nicely evocative title that makes me think of tall tales.

From the site:
Welcome to YARN. Our mission is to publish the highest quality creative writing for young adult readers, ages 14-18, and those in other age groups who enjoy young adult lit. Published quarterly, YARN will feature short fiction and creative essays, poetry, and an author interview. Our interactive sections will allow for discussions about published work, as well as reviews of recent YA books. We seek to discover new teen writers, and publish them alongside established writers of the YA genre.

For those of a more specialized writing theme, ALIMENTUM is seeking fiction and creative nonfiction around the subject of food. Their regular reading submission period is September 1, 2009 to March 1, 2010, and there's still time for you to get familiar with them and submit something. I've just read the most amazing feast poem and a short story about gristle and bone of family life -- stuff I hope to see in print. Check them out.

Happy December! And Stuff.

Today's post is on the order of "random notes and errata" since I still haven't quite managed to sit down and write a few more overdue reviews...but NUMBER ONE on the list of items is something important I forgot to include in my LAST batch of reviews--I meant to include information about where I got each title, in the interests of full disclosure. So: I received Katman at random (but happily) from the publisher. I requested Skulduggery Pleasant: The Faceless Ones from Derek Landy's publicist prior to our WBBT interview. I bought Zoe's Tale at my local B&N. And, last but not least, I borrowed Peeps from my mom.

Now, I know that I don't usually go into much personal detail on this blog, because this is the Not About Me blog (as opposed to the All About Me blog). But I had to include a quick personal digression today because it is, in fact, writing-related. On Sunday, I experienced for the first time the oddness that is being an interview subject--a local college student had an assignment to interview someone in her desired career, which in this case happened to be novel writing. I was quite happy to help, newbie though I might be. But it was such a bizarre experience. I think I blather when I'm nervous. And I sure did blather. Blah blah blah, me me me. It was weird, because I was being asked about myself, my writing, etc., but talking about myself for an hour made me feel really self-obsessed. And I also realized that I CAN in fact spend a fair amount of time on self-blather, and that disturbed me because of its implications for everyday conversation: DO I actually spend more time talking about myself than I realize? Being interviewed made me very conscious of that possibility. As a result, I am now officially whipping out my bud-nippers and nipping this topic in the bud (to misquote Redd Foxx on Sanford & Son).

To conclude: a few links I ran across recently. Ever read The Annotated Alice? Ever wish more books had educational annotations like that? Bookdrum is a site that uses multimedia internet resources to annotate and illuminate various books. And they need reviewers to help add to the site. (Via Donna @ Bites.) Also, there's a new silent auction running for YA writer and librarian Bridget Zinn, to help her offset the costs of cancer treatment. Check out the details at Jone's Deowriter blog, and bid on exciting items including manuscript critiques.