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I almost didn’t pick this book up, in spite of it being written by Holly Black.  First of all, the cover really creeps me out (yes, I know it’s just a hand and a wrist with writing on it, but it does) and second, vampire novels have almost never done it for me.  But you know, still too lazy to go hunting another author to read when there’s this nice long book by an author I like just sitting there.

When she’s seventeen years old, Tana wakes up in a house full of corpses.  The only other survivor of the high school party turned bloodbath are her charming, irritating ex-boyfriend Aidan, who is already going cold, infected with the vampire disease.  Together with a vampire on the run from the ones who killed Tana’s friends, they have no choice but to head to Coldtown, the city of the undead, where no one who enters is ever allowed out again.

They looked absurdly gorgeous, glowing from the television like fallen angels. Even from the beginning, that was a problem. People liked pretty things. People even liked pretty things that wanted to kill and eat them. )

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown
is definitely a standout vampire novel, and definitely worth the read, both for vampire fans, and people like me who are... not vampire fans.  If you don’t mind your vampires dead scary, this is the book for you.

Holly Black can be found online at her website,, or on livejournal, as [ profile] blackholly .
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So I guess I’m on a little bit of a Holly Black kick.  The local library has all of her books, and I’m lazy enough that I’m not going to go looking for another author before exhausting all of the ones I know I like first.  Also, as I may have mentioned, I’m trying to read more Middle Grade books for actual career reasons, so Doll Bones, being both by Holly Black and Middle Grade, it is.

For as long as they have been friends, Poppy, Zach, and Alice have been playing the same sprawling, never ending game of pretend together, and when they aren’t playing it, they have their heads together planning it, deciding where their dolls and action figures will go next.  Overseeing it all is a very old and very valuable porcelain doll that they have dubbed The Queen.  It’s the Queen who decides, after Zach’s father decides it’s time for him to grow up and throws away his dolls, to take things into her own hands.  hen Poppy tries to take her out of the glass cabinet she has lived in or as long as the three friends can remember, she begins to talk to Poppy in dreams.  Is Poppy just dreaming, is she crazy, is she pretending, or is the Queen really talking to her?  And if the Queen really is talking to Poppy, what does she want, and is she a good queen, or an evil one?

If she was real, then maybe the world was big enough to have magic in it. And if there was magic - even bad magic, and Zach knew it was more likely that there was bad magic than any good kind - then maybe not everyone had a story like his fathers, a story like the kind all the adults he knew told, one about giving up and growing bitter. Anything was better than no magic at all. )

This is sweet, sometimes scary story that kids and adults who like a little spookiness can enjoy.  Really one of my very favorite Holly Black books.

Holly Black can be found online at her website,, or on livejournal, as [ profile] blackholly.
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I am going to be a teacher. I am studying to teach small children. I have a perfectly good excuse for wanting to read children’s books now, thank you very much, as I will be introducing them to my students. Or you know, it’s because I secretly haven’t left childhood behind myself and have no intention of doing so. No, couldn’t be it. Must be the teaching thing.

Anyway, since I have a better excuse to be reading Middle Grade literature than Young Adult, I’m reviewing a Middle Grade novel for a change.

Sophie's greatest dream for as long as she can remember has been to leave her little village, to be spirited away by the mysterious Schoolmaster who takes one very very good and pretty child, and one very very naughty child to The School for Good and Evil to train them to become fairy tale heroes and villains. She is sure that she would make the perfect fairy tale princess, and if she could make one wish, it would be to take her best friend, the weird and sullen Agatha to be her evil counterpart. But when the day finally comes, and Sophie and Agatha are kidnapped by the Schoolmaster's minions, it’s Agatha chosen to join the School for Good, and Sophie who is relegated to the School for Evil. Can Sophie and Agatha, who just wants to go home, band together to get to where they really belong, or are they stuck where they are and where everyone keeps telling them they are meant to be?

“Well, it’s just that in fairy tales, different usually turns out, um... evil.” )

A sequel for The School for Good and Evil is out, titled A World Without Princes. Chainani says that Prince Tedros will have a larger role in the sequel. Whether this lessens the beautiful, beautiful lesbian subtext, or whether it gets more intense, given that title, I don’t know, but I know what I’ll be reading soon as the library gets it in.

Soman Chainani can be found at his website, and more about the book The School for Good and Evil, and its sequel can be found at
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The subtitles I’m giving the book reviews in this trilogy are becoming more and more fanciful.  There is no blood magic in this book, and the subtitle has nothing to do with anything except that there is magic, and organized crime.

Cassel has been forced to pick a side and he’s picked the FBI.  With his brother Barron, he is trying to leave the criminal life behind for good and finish high school before becoming an agent himself and using his powers for as legal a purpose as he can put them to.  But Lila is furious with him, and her father eager to bring him back into the fold, and his is mother neck deep in trouble with the Zacharov crime family for a theft she committed long ago.  And with the FBI reminding him more and more of a crime family itself, Cassel doesn’t know whether it’s possible, or even worth it to work for instead of against the law.

Girls like her, my grandfather once warned me, girls like her turn into women with eyes like bullet holes and mouths made of knives. They are always restless. They are always hungry. They are bad news. They will drink you down like a shot of whisky. Falling in love with them is like falling down a flight of stairs. )

These are not gorgeous books as some of the cover blurbs would suggest.  They are painful, stark, brutal books that rip the false beauty and idealism away from their subject matter.  When I had finished reading them, I was wrung out and exhausted.  I can’t recommend them strongly enough, but I also can’t warn you away strongly enough.

Holly Black can be found online at her website,, or on livejournal, as [ profile] blackholly.
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There was a time when if I had all of the books in a series at once, I would write one review of all of them.  There was also a time when I used to write actual reviews, instead of book report style essays.  Those times are gone now.  We do not speak of those times.

One of the reasons I used to review whole series at once as an attempt to not spoil above the cut text, but oh well.  After this point, here there be spoilers for White Cat.

Cassel’s mother is out of prison, and before she gets back to her old tricks, she has a homecoming gift for her son.  Beautiful vicious Lila, who he has been in love with since childhood is human again, and his mother has worked her to be infatuated with him.  Waiting until the magic has faded would be so much easier if Lila hadn’t decided it was a good idea to go to school with him.  Worse, the FBI is sniffing around, and drawing closer and closer to the Sharpe family secrets, and when Cassel’s brother Phillip turns up dead, he’ll have to dive head first into those secrets if he wants to get out of this alive.

“You’ve just been sitting here chatting with me and my brother’s dead? You knew my brother was dead and you let me - you let me...,” I stammer. “No. No. Why would you do that?” )

Red Glove is a strong second novel in a trilogy, every bit as powerful and page turning as the first and third, with none of the flaws middle novels are so often plagued by.

The same warning that I gave at the end of my previous review still applies.  This is a very good book, but it’s emotionally a difficult read, and potentially extremely triggery.  If you’re considering reading it and worried about it, you can PM me to discuss any specific concerns.

Holly Black can be found online at her website,, or on livejournal, as [ profile] blackholly.

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I have now gotten to the point where I just pop into the library when I’m downtown instead of waiting for an occasion when I actually need to go there.  I’m not sure if this is a sign of my improving mental health, or a new coping mechanism, but the upshot is, I’m reading more, and therefore writing more book reviews, and I am not at this time inclined to figure out a way to make myself read less.   Anyway, this is another one of those series that I’ve been meaning to read for a while and never got around to it.  I’m getting around to them now.

Cassel Sharpe is the only nonworker in a family of magic workers.  He is one of the masses, a mark, there to be conned, cheated, and taken advantage of.  Magic is illegal, and magic workers live on the edges of society, banding together in crime families, setting out on their own as small time crooks, or trying to keep their powers hidden to lead as law abiding a life as they can.  But just because Cassel doesn’t have magic doesn’t mean he’s honest.  When he wakes up on the roof of his school with no memory of how he got there, his own crimes, and a murder he doesn’t even remember committing years ago, come crawling out of the past, just waiting to catch up with him.

“Good kitty. Who’s an amazing killing machine? That’s right! You are! You are a brutal tiny lion! Yes, you are.” )

This is not a happy book, but it’s a good one.  Read at your own risk.  It contains a long list of triggers, many of which are spoilery.

Holly Black can be found online at her website,, or on livejournal, as [ profile] blackholly.

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I had two exams at the library the day before yesterday, and then I had to go for an oral surgery consult (My wisdom teeth are impacted) so as a treat to myself, I took two books out of the library that I’ve been meaning to read for a while: How to Ditch Your Fairy by Justine Larbalestier and Team Human by Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan.

Team Human:

Mel has never liked vampires.  Lucky for her, even though she lives in New Whitby, the famous vampire town, she hasn’t had to have much to do with them.  They stay on their side of town, and she stays on hers.  But vampires have always held a fascination for her best friend Cathy.  When a vampire who was turned as a teenager back in the eighteen hundreds decides to start taking classes at the local high school, it’s Mel’s job to figure out what he’s doing there and chase him off before Cathy finds herself drained of her blood and joining the ranks of the undead herself.

How to Ditch Your Fairy:

Charlie hates her fairy.  Fairies are supernatural good luck talismans, which means they’re supposed to be helpful right?  Her best friend has a clothes shopping fairy and it’s awesome.  Charlie meanwhile has a parking fairy, and at fourteen years old, this means everybody wants her to ride in their car.  After an unfortunate kidnapping incedent, she wants her fairy gone, and she will do anything to make that happen.

Okay, so you don’t get a cut because this will be short.  I decided to review these two books together because I have pretty much the same thing to say about both of them.  I liked them.  They’re clever, fun, charming, and witty.  I didn’t love them, I’m not overly attached to the characters, the settings were interesting, but the books didn’t explore the bits of them that most intrigued me, and I’m not devastated that they’re finished, nor do I want to reread them.  They are light, fun, happy books, and the perfect thing to read after final exams.  They made me feel better about getting my wisdom teeth out, and the fact that my car wouldn’t start, at night in the rain.  If you want something pleasant and diverting, don’t hesitate to pick them up.

Justine Larbalestier has a website at and tweets under the name [ profile] JustineLavaworm.  Sarah Rees Brennan can be found all over the internet, as [ profile] sarahtales on livehournal, on tumblr at, and on her own website,

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I did actually read Unspoken and Untold one right after another, in the parking lot of the grocery store while my grandmother left me in the car without the keys I would have needed to make her car alarm shut up, while she shopped for groceries in a store full of pumpkins (just a few more days, and they’ll all be gone!)  before I even thought about writing a review, but I figured in the interest of not swamping you all with two book reviews in one day, I would hold off on writing and posting my review of Untold.  By the way, this is where you want to stop reading if you don’t want to be spoiled for Unspoken.

Kami and Jared have been bound together since before they were born, and now, just as they have found each other, that bond is suddenly, painfully broken.  They no longer have each other’s comforting voice in their heads, they no longer can tell that the other is thinking and feeling, and they no longer know when the other is lying.  And now that Rob Lynburn has given the town of Sorry-in-the-Vale an ultimatum, and his deadline is drawing near, they could each really use somebody to talk to.  Worse, people in Sorry-in-the-Vale are dying, and and Jared’s friends and families are at the top of Rob Lynburn’s list.

Trigger warning again.  This time there’s less animal cruelty and more attempted suicide. There’s still murder, abusive families, and really f***ed up childhoods, though.  I would like to note that the trigger warnings I put on my reviews are for the books I’m writing about, not necessarily my review.  For example, in my Unspoken review I listed child abuse and animal cruelty, neither of which I went much into, but are very much a part of the book.

“Been chatting much with Jared?” “We often have special moments where I come into a room and he immediately leaves,” Kami said. “I treasure those times.” )

I also wanted to note that the cover blurbs call Unspoken and Untold “darkly funny”.  This is not true.  They are not black comedy.  They will not make you laugh at horrible things.  No, they’re dark and funny, separately and simultaneously.  They will make you laugh, and then hit you with something dark, and then they will make you laugh, and then hit you with something even darker, over and over and over again.  Be warned.

Damn it, now I have to wait almost a whole year before the last book in the trilogy comes out.  I need it.  I need it like air.

Sarah Rees Brennan can be found all over the internet, for example, as [ profile] sarahtales  on livejournal, on tumblr at, and on her own website,  If you like her books, I advise checking out her web presences.  She likes to post short stories in the universes of her novels.
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The good thing about needing to go to the (great big beautiful) main branch of the county library to get my tests proctored is that it drags me to the library. And yes, it does say a lot about my recent mental and emotional health that I have had to be dragged to the library. You might have noticed a dearth of book reviews around here lately. I apologize. Or I apologize for bringing them back, depending on whether or not you’re just here for the fic. It also says a lot about my mental and emotional health lately that I haven’t read Sarah Rees Brennan’s two most recent solo endeavors until now.

Kami Glass has had a voice in her head since before she can remember, like an imaginary friend that she just never grew out of. Now that she’s in high school, this makes her more than a little weird, but she has other things to think about, like starting up the school newspaper she has christened the Nosy Parker, or trying to find some kind of dark and delicious secret in Sorry-in-the-Vale, the small English village where she has lived all her life. But when the Lynburns, the old leading family of Sorry-in-the-Vale come back, and Kami's imaginary friend isn’t so imaginary anymore, the prospect of a dark village secret stops being fun and starts being a deadly reality. And if Kami is to find the secret out before it finds her, all she has to go on are the people of Sorry-in-the-Vale, who aren’t talking, the Lynburns themselves, who definitely aren’t talking, and an eerie local children’s rhyme:

“Forest deep, silent bells
There's a secret no one tells
Valley quiet, water still
Lynburns watching on the hill
Apples red, corn gold
Almost everyone grows old”

Trigger warning (and it seems like everything I read lately needs one) for murder, animal cruelty, abusive families, and really f***ed up childhoods.

“The Lynburns built this town on their blood and bones.” “That was their first mistake,” Jared said. “They should've built a city on rock and roll.” )

I can’t believe it took me this long to read Unspoken. It’s amazing, and I can’t recommend it enough.

Sarah Rees Brennan can be found all over the internet, for example, as [ profile] sarahtales on livehournal, on tumblr at, and on her own website, If you like her books, I advise checking out her web presences. She likes to post short stories in the universes of her novels.
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I don’t usually buy books based on their cover art, but the cover for The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff was so deliciously morbid with that skeletal branch, and those scissors and knives and things above the stroller. Besides, changeling fantasy tends to hit all of the right buttons for me. Plus, the store had it as an audiobook, so I could get my grandmother to pay for it.

Mackie Doyle is a replacement, left in place of a human child by his own kind. Sickly, and unsuited to the human world, he was never supposed to live long, but somehow he has. All he really wants to do is live his human life with his family and friends, and spend time with a girl he likes from his school, named Tate. But when her baby sister changes suddenly, just before she sickens and dies, the town of Gentry starts whispering about changelings and the people under the slag heap, and sometimes they do more than whisper.

All I want is for you to stand here and watch the people you love be horribly mutilated. Is that too much to ask? )

I don’t buy books based on their cover image all that often, but I’m glad this time I did.

Brenna Yovanoff can be found on livejournal at[ profile] brennayovanoff.
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For some reason, the local indie bookstore has gotten more and more concerned about not releasing books before the official release date.  Time was, I could pick up a preordered book the day it came in, even if it didn’t come out for a week, so long as it wasn’t Harry Potter or something.  Not anymore!  So the bookstore had my copy of this for almost two weeks before I could bring it home.  Such are my woes.

What do you mean you aren’t impressed?  Okay, be like that.

With Istanbul far behind them, Alek, Deryn, and the Leviathan sail for Japan, but on the way, Alek finally figures out his strange friend’s secret, and before he can figure out what to do about it, the Tsar himself sends them far off course to Siberia on a desperate mission to rescue the mad but brilliant scientist, Nikola Tesla, who has created a weapon that could end not only the current Great War, but all wars, forever.

“I had no idea at all. But I make it a policy never to appear surprised.” Doctor Barlow sighed, staring out the window. )

I always hate it when a series I love comes to an end, and Leviathan has been a wonderful, fantastic, exciting ride.  I don’t want to get off.  I suppose there’s always rereading, and I hear rumors of a Leviathan movie?

Scott Westerfeld can be found online at, where he has actually posted a least one short story set in the same universe.  Keith Thompson, the series illustrator can be found at
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Unlike Leviathan, I bought the book version of Behemoth, so I got to read it all at one go.  This meant my grandmother didn’t buy it for me, and I didn’t have Alan Cumming’s wonderful narration, but I got Keith Thompson’s magnificent illustrations to make up for it. Sadly, this is the second time I have written this review as my computer lost the first one, aww.

As Alek, grandson of the Hapsburg emperor, Deryn, a girl serving as a midshipman in the British air navy in disguise, and the crew of the Leviathan sail into the capitol of the Ottoman Empire, Constantinople, war is brewing on the continent, and unrest is brewing in the city streets.  Though the empire is nominally neutral, its sympathies lie with the clanker powers and worse, the treacherous actions of Churchill and the British government drive the Empire closer and closer to war with the Darwinists.  But Alek has other things on his mind.  It is only a matter of time before Austria and Great Brittan are officially at war, and if he doesn’t want to become a prisoner, he must escape while he still can.

They reminded Alek of his own poor relations, once wealthy families who’d fallen on hard times but still had an inflated sense of their own importance. )

Oh man, I can’t wait to get started on Goliath!  Really, burning can’t wait!

But I would not want to have a loris for a pet.  They strike me as kind of creepy, actually.

Scott Westerfeld can be found online at  Keith Thompson, the series illustrator can be found at

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So I may no longer have any ambitions of making podfic, but I have found other uses for my books on tape.  It turns out I have free membership to a local gym through my dad’s work, and I need something to listen to while I work out.  Anyway, this means more books on tape, and since my grandmother wants to encourage my workout routine, she’s footing the bill!  You hear that?  Someone else is buying me books!  This hasn’t happened since I was ten and my parents concluded I didn’t need their help in becoming literarily inclined.

Since her father’s death in a hot air balloon, Daryn Sharp has thought of nothing other than getting to fly again, but with her mother and aunts ready to force her into petticoats and corsets and being a proper lady, the kind who would never fly again, Deryn runs away to join the new Royal Air Navy, disguised as a boy.  Growing up, Prince Aleksander of Austria-Hungary has always known he was not in line for the throne, and that as the son of a lady in waiting and her Archduke husband, the court hates him.  But when his parents are assassinated and Europe edges into war, Alek discovers that his parents’ enemies are far more deadly than he dreamed.

“The young prince has been awake all along,” Wildcount Volger’s low voice said. “A bit of advice, Your Highness? When pretending to be asleep, it is advisable not to hold one’s breath.” )

Listening to Leviathan only while I work out is an exercise in delayed gratification, because this book is just that good.  Seriously, I’ve exercised more than I planned just to listen to it faster.

Scott Westerfeld can be found online at  Keith Thompson, the series illustrator can be found at
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I took Graceling with me Law School scouting last summer.  No, seriously, I looked at my to-do list, and saw “Write Graceling review” and felt a little ashamed of myself.  So, anyway...

Kasta was born with a grace, the supernatural gift of killing.  Ever since she was a child, she has been able to kill anyone as quickly or as slowly as her king wishes.  Kasta hates her grace, and hates being the king’s hitwoman.  But with a mysterious danger rising in the seven kingdoms, and a prince from another kingdom with his own lethal grace arriving in her home, everything is about to change.

“Watch for the blue-eyed green-eyed one,” they would whisper. “She killed her cousin with one strike. Because he complemented her eyes.” )

is a powerful, absorbing read and was just as wonderful the second time around as the first.  Cashore’s worldbuilding sometimes falters, but her characterization and plotting keeps me from minding.

Kristin Cashore can be found online at her blog, This is My Secret.
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A while back, I took it into my head that I wanted to try my hand at making podfic.  Then I realized I didn’t have the technical savvy to undertake such an endeavor, but not before I bought a couple of books on tape for research purposes.  I like it.  I can cross-stitch and listen to them at the same time.  Though, this does make it harder to find quippy quotes to use for cut text.  And I can’t write while listening to them like I can while watching reruns of NCIS and Criminal Minds.  Shame.

Ever since Fire was born, she has had a beauty so mesmerizing, people can’t help but fall under her spell, because she isn’t like other people.  She’s a monster, with the fiery orange hair for which she was named, and her perfect face and body.  Fire hates what she is.  But as civil war rises in the Dells, the royal family needs the help of her amazing beauty to help weed out the traitors in their midst, and while she’s there, she must deal with the hatred of the people who remember the cruelty of other monsters, and who fear her ensnaring their weak minded king.

What if while he gaped at her and imagined whatever his small mind cared to imagine, she convinced him to draw his knife and take out his own eye? )

Now, I have a sunny roof to lie down on and a copy of Cashore’s first book, Graceling to dive into.  Wish me luck.

Kristin Cashore can be found online at her blog, This is My Secret.

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So it has become tradition. When a new Sarah Rees Brennan book comes out, I get all ready, read the previous books in the series, and wait. And wait. And check my email and the tracking information, or call the book store, and wait, and wait, and finally, it arrives, like a shower of gold from heaven! Only not like that at all, because that was the Ancient Greeks being strange.  But you know what I mean. Actually, the first time, I reread a bunch of Rees Brennan’s fanfiction, but it comes to the same thing.

With Merris, the leader of the Goblin Market’s proclamation, and Nick showing up as a student at her school, Sin’s life has not been going as well as she hoped. The Aventurine Circle, magicians who feed people to demons for their power are on the move with her friend and rival’s brother among their ranks, and she can’t get rid of the Ryves brothers, to whom she owes a debt that can never be repaid. She must stop the circle and figure out what to do with the brothers if she hopes to keep the Market and its people safe and take her place as their leader.

“Your plan is always killing, Nicholas,” Alan said. “It worries me. I want you to have many goals.” )

The last book in the trilogy is out, which means there will be no more novel snippets from said series or short stories set in the same universe showing up on Rees Brennan’s livejournal. It’s all over. You have no idea how much this grieves me. She called the ones she published between the release of Covenant and Surrender “Surrender Cookies”, which always makes me think that there are these cookies that you eat, and suddenly, *swoon* you feel compelled to throw down your weapons and accept this new guy who insists he’s ruling your country now.

Her livejournal, where you definitely should go, Dear Readers, at least to read the cookies, is [ profile] sarahtales.
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The incense is gone from my favorite indy bookstore. And they had a half off sale on some of their YA fantasy. And I have no willpower when confronted with things with actual words and pages. So I bought the series with the prettiest cover and most interesting back cover summary and went home to devour.

Ted and Laura, and their cousins, Ruth, Patrick, and Ellen play a game every time they get together. Between them, they’ve made a place they call the Secret Country. They’ve been telling each other stories about this place since before they could remember. But now, Ruth, Patrick, and Ellen have moved to Australia, and for the the first time, Ted and Laura have no one to play the game with. When all five cousins find themselves in the real Secret Country, they aren’t sure whether they want to go home, or stay together. But when the Secret Country became real, so did all of its perils.

“Look,” said Patrick, suddenly furious, “I didn’t write this story. I didn’t make things so that all the choices are stupid.” )

Probably another way to put everything I said above is that I enjoyed The Secret Country trilogy, but I don’t think I’ll be rereading it. I’m still undecided as to whether I’ll make the effort to track down Dean’s adult novel, The Dubious Hills, which takes place in the same universe. Maybe if I see it in the library, or have nothing to read. It’s summer, after all. Pamela Dean can be found on livejournal at [ profile] pameladean.
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I have bookstore gift cards from Hanukkah, and they’re burning holes in my pocket.  The laser they’re using was on its highest setting yesterday, so I went nosing around the YA fantasy shelves for something new to read.  To my bemused delight, I found that the next Wicked Lovely book had somehow been published without my being aware.

Ani has been growing stronger since Iriel left the Dark throne and her father returned, becoming more fae and less human by the day.  As her power grows, hungers awaken within her, hungers she shouldn’t have, for touch, and for the dark emotions on which the Dark Court feeds.  With the Dark Court weakening without the Ink Exchanges, Ani’s new power could help save her court.  When Devlin, the High Faery court’s enforcer travels to the mortal world with orders to kill her,  and Bananach, the embodiment of war and chaos offers her a deal for her life, Ani must take Devlin’s help if the Dark Court is to survive at all.  And when Sorcha, the Unchanging Queen begins to change, Ani’s twin hungers and new powers, and Devlin’s faltering loyalties may be the only thing able to save Faery.

Ani had gone to the Dark King’s home knowing it would be another painful experience- and not the fun kind of pain. )

All told, Radiant Shadows is the best kind of second to last book in a series, the kind that makes me crave the finale, makes me want to turn time forward so that I could read it right now.

Melissa Marr can be found on Livejournal at [ profile] melissa_writing.

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I first found this book in my middle school library, just about the time I was getting a little oversaturated with medieval fantasy, and then after I checked it in, couldn’t find it anywhere else. I hadn’t really discovered google magic yet. When I saw it in Borders the other day, I got this little nostalgic smile on my face and snatched it up. I sprint to the cashiers’ counter a lot in that store.

FISH: Meeeeeee!
BOOK: Prrrrrrrrr
FISH: That’s my sweet baby.
CASHIER: Do you mind her, um, petting you like that, poor baby?
BOOK: We’re old friends
FISH: You tell ‘em, baby.
BOOK: Very old friends.
CASHIER: Ooookaaaaay.

I can’t really give an accurate summary of The Tough Guide to Fantasyland above the cut the way I do for most books. It doesn’t have a plot. It’s a series of entries dictionary or encyclopedia style about the workings of a place called Fantasyland, designed for tourists. It’s also one of the funniest, most accurate things I’ve read in a long time.

COATS do not exist in Fantasyland-CLOAKS being universally preferred- But TURNCOATS do. )

I’m completely convinced this should be required reading for anyone writing fantasy, and recommended reading for anyone reading it. Buy a copy! Sleep with it under your pillow! Try not to drool on it! Really, dear reader, I have no idea how to express the sheer awesome that is Diana Wynne Jones’ The Tough Guide to Fantasyland. All I can say is it's short, it's fun, and it's magnificent. Spend a couple hours with it. You won't be sorry. Really, it's just a good idea every so often to take a good hard look at the warts and flaws of our genre, and then be able to laugh at them and go back and love the genre anyway.
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It takes Sarah Rees Brennan a little under a year to put out a new book, unlike some authors who shall not be named *cough Megan Whalen Turner cough* and after the suspense of her last book, as far as I’m concerned, this makes her a semi-divine being.  To my everlasting sadness, however, I wasn’t in town for the release of the The Demon's Covenant, and the mean, nasty new manager at the local indy bookstore wouldn’t let me pick up my copy a few days early.  Seriously, I know they had it.  The woman pulled it out from behind the counter and taunted me with it, the big meanie.

And since I’m applying to work there this summer, I’m now really glad no one knows my real name on the web.

Now that Nick knows the truth about who and what he is, and Jamie’s as safe as anyone else from demons, Mae has been trying to settle back into a normal life.  But she keeps remembering Alan, and Nick, and the Goblin Market and the dancing, and her normal life seems just out of reach.  Soon the choice to be normal is taken from her in the worst way possible, as her brother Jamie’s latent magical abilities bring their old enemies, the Obsidian Circle, out of the woodwork to recruit him, and she has to call on Nick and Alan to get them out of trouble again.  But with Gerald, the new head of the Obsidian Circle, just salivating at the prospect of capturing Nick, and getting clever and inventing new marks, Mae, Jamie, Nick, and Alan could be in more trouble than they can handle.

Can’t spell “Demon” without “emo” )

Sarah Rees Brennan can be found online at her livejournal, [ profile] sarahtales .  Check it out.  She has free short stories set in the Demon’s Lexicon/Covenant universe posted there.  Helps tide you over until the next book, and trust me, with these books, you’ll need some serious tiding over.
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The thing I hate about my favorite authors is that it always feels like it takes them forever to get a book out.  I swear to God, it’s not just my imagination that Magan Whalen Turner takes longer than most.  She’s also just about my favorite.  Fate, I think.

With Hamiathes’ Gift destroyed, the king of Sounis has settled for marriage to a cousin of the queen of Eddis instead of the queen herself.  Suddenly, the king’s nephew, Sophos, finds himself in the precarious position of waiting for the birth of the child who would make him no longer the heir to the throne.  But as the king’s barons ferment rebellion, Sophos is still a valuable political pawn, and soon with the help of a false friend, the barons kill the unsuspecting Sophos’ family and kidnap him to make him a puppet king.  Now he must win his way free to seak the aid his friend, Eugenides, now king of Attolia, and to the queen of Eddis, his beloved Helen.  And if he can do all that, he must then win back his throne and learn how to be a king.

Her chin up, Attolia said, “You think I am overly harsh. You inherited your throne free and clear. And you” -she turned to her husband- “took one ready-made. Sophos has little in common with either of you.” )

What impresses me most about Turner as a writer is that every time I go back to pick apart what makes her books work so well, I end up getting sucked back into the story, and reading them just to read them.
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Those poor hapless bookstore employees,  I just kept badgering them about getting this book, I was looking forward to it that much.  And I read it right away, all those... months... ago.  Yeah, I’ve been ignoring the blog side of things over here.

After Ash’s mother’s death, her father has married again, to a woman Ash despises.  And for good reason.  As soon as her father dies, her new stepmother and stepsisters start to treat her like a servant and trample on the last remnants of her mother in the customs of the house.  When they leave for the city to snare husbands for the daughters, they take Ash along as a lady’s maid.  But Ash meets the King’s Huntress, and for the first time since her mom died feels wanted again...

Sometimes they brewed love potions for girls who hadn’t met their lovers by Midsummer’s Eve, and sometimes the love potions even worked. )

The one thing I noticed, in a book full of lesbian women, there weren’t any gay men.  Of course, this can be forgiven, as there were almost no men at all.  It’s definitely not a book to give to a young man, gay or straight.  Young girls on the other hand... *grin*  Well I enjoyed it, anyway.
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I do on occasion venture into the adult section of the library, almost entirely on recommendations, true, but it does happen. So, since I normally love Guy Gavriel Kay, and I gave him one of my few negative reviews a while back, and my library finally got Ysabel, it’s only been out for TWO YEARS (yeah, that’s like nothing for my library, but, come on, it’s me and a book) I decided I’d review it.

Ned Marriner isn’t sure what he thinks about Provence, but he really likes getting out of school for a while. His father, a famous photographer and his crew are making a book, and between scouting out places for his father to shoot and buying history papers off exchange students, he starts to discover something about his family’s past, and the fabric of history. When the parties to an ancient love triangle come back to haunt the present, Ned and his friends have to race against them to save one of their own...

Melanie wasn't his love, or anything totally stupid like that, but you didn't have to be in love with someone to fight for them. )

Well, I still want The Lions of Al-Rassan back, but in the mean time, Ysabel can consol me.
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So the last book I wrote about hasn't even been released yet, and now I write about books first published in 1981, 1982, and 1984 whose author is already dead?  Anyone have whiplash yet?

These three were part of my score at the half off YA fantasy at my local independent bookstore, though strictly speaking, these books aren't fantasy, speculative fiction, yes, but not fantasy.  Set in the fictional country of Westmark that resembles a late seventeenth century Western European power, the Westmark trilogy stars Theo and Mickle, a printer's assistant, and a beggar with profound vocal gifts.  After Theo and his master print a pamphlet without the Chief Minister's stamp of approval and Theo's master die for it, he flees his small town and meets up with a band of showmen scoundrels and Mickle.  But when Mickle makes a name for herself and the band as an oracle who can raise the dead, they must foil the chief minister and save the king, or die for failing.

Take your nobles who flog their servants, gouge their tenants, or judges who send some wretch to be hanged- they're honest as the day is long. Any scoundrel can be honest. )

Oh Mr. Alexander, why are you dead, if you weren't, I'd kiss you, but your family and the law might object now.
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This little book, with its unassuming solid purple cover is my first bound galley. I use it as a personal justification for trawling other people's friends lists, because that's how I ran across someone giving away their copy (thanks tinachristopher!). The purpleness, the reading it five months before publicationness, all this makes me happy.

What makes me less happy is that this was another one of those reviews I had finished and all ready to post when my computer crashed.

Stop it, Fish, it's not the book's fault.

Nya's little sister is a healer. She can take pain and illness out of a person and dump it into pynvium, a metal that can't hurt like people. Her sister's got a cushy position as a League apprentice, but in the aftermath of the Baseeri conquest, Nya's getting by on odd jobs and petty theft, because while she can take pain out of people, she can't put it anywhere but another person, and they can hurt.

But when League apprentices start disappearing, Nya’s strange, useless talents become the key to getting her sister, and maybe even her nation, back.

This is where usually I have a snappy quote, but it explicitly states no quoting. )

The Pain Merchants
, titled The Shifter in the US (Which is really sad, because The Pain Merchants is a way cooler title), book one of The Healing Wars, comes out October 6, but I got to read it all the way back in May. Suckers. Oh well, it means I have longer to wait for the sequels.

Janice Hardy can be found at her blog, The Healing Wars.

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Because I was about to travel to my doctor's office, several big western states away, I first made my way down to the library.  Nowadays I rarely head down to the library for fun, as University and research has eaten up almost all of my free time.  I sit tucked away in the nonfiction section, packed amidst political documents and journalists’ exposés and try to ignore the plaintive whimpers and yelps from the Young Adult fiction section.  This time, out of habit, my feet guided me across the atrium (such as it is) down to the nonfiction, the clamors and cajoling from the YA titles louder than ever.

Fish's Conscience: No no, you must resist.
YA Books: But you came in this time just for us!
Fish's Conscience: You have far more productive and scholarly things to do.
YA Books: But we never get to see you anymore.
Fish's Conscience: Don't lie!  I see her sneaking down your way and stowing a few of you away each time she comes for school, don't you think I don't.
Fish: Shut up you.  Books!  My sweet YA fantasy, my darlings, how could I have strayed?

It's so wonderful to do something simply for the pleasure of it, entirely without guilt.  High up on the reasons I would like to become a professional writer is that I could call reading my favorite books "market research.”

So, as such the entirety of my travel reading is brand new to me.

I've thought about it and thought about it, and I just don't see how I can write anything resembling a proper review of these two books without spoiling completely.  Besides, I guessed the little twist a few pages in, and it didn't ruin it for me.  All, or at least most of the spoilers are safely below the cut, however.

Young Prince Octavian has grown up in the lap of luxury.  Surrounded by his strange nameless guardians, his every wish is attended to, his education handled with the utmost care by the finest tutors attainable.  Yet something is off.  A strange discontentment fills his elegant mother, and one of the servants whispers that he too has a name, and when Octavian ventures through a forbidden door, he finds out that the one thing his numbered guardians neglected to inform him in his education is that they own him.

It is ever the lot of children to accept their circumstances as universal and their particularities as general. )

These historical novels, told from a perspective so radically different from most of what formal education exposes us (except occasionally by implication) was by turns thrilling and heartbreaking, and I can’t recommend them strongly enough.

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Rose recommended these books to me, and as her birthday’s right around the corner (and of course I gave her books, and a cannoli, but really books) and because I finally got a copy of Fragile Eternity, I decided to bang this out as a thank you.

And also I wanted to express my somewhat complicated thoughts on how I felt when I finally found Fragile Eternity on a “If you like Twilight, read this” display to someone other than the poor bookstore clerk, trapped by his meager wages and forced to listen to my faint gibberings.

Aislinn spends her life pretending she can't see the faeries, because if she ever lets them know she can see them, her life, and the life of her Gran, would likely end the next day.  But even when she doesn't flinch when she sees them grab at her, doesn't run when she sees them following her, she can't help catching the eye of one very dangerous faery.

Alright, I’m about to spoil and spoil thoroughly, just so you know.

The faery king could navigate the school just fine, but he still trailed her like a particularly devoted stalker. )

Leslie wants out.  She wants out of her terrible home life, out of her fear, and out of her brother's grasp, but mostly she wants to claim a little of her own back.  So when she sees a new and strangely compelling tattoo design, she decides to start by claiming her own skin.  But the tattoo isn't just a tattoo, and instead of getting some of her own back, she might just lose it forever.

as if by keeping it as normal as possible maybe it would be normal. It kept her from facing the inevitable pity )

Seth is Aislinn’s rock, the strongest thread keeping her connected to the mortal world, and he's always aware that Keenan is just waiting for him to age and die to have the recalcitrant Summer Queen all to himself.  But when Seth bargains away his mortality, will he lose the love of the one person he sold it for?

So would you have him be as the Summer Girls? Would You see him die if he left you? )

For some reason (possibly the inclusion of certain thematically unimportant but entertaining details) that made the whole series feel like really good fanfic, and no that isn't an insult.  I like fanfic.  I mean, come on, I write the stuff.  Also, I would read Aislinn/Donia.  Does this make me a bad person?

Melissa Marr can be found on Livejournal at melissa_writing.

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I actually wrote a review for Silver Phoenix: Beyond the Kingdom of Xia by Cindy Pon a while ago, but I lost it when my computer crashed, and so this book is actually one of my scores from the half off sale at my local independent book store. I'd been waiting for this book to come out ever since I discovered the 2009 debutantes. Secondary world fantasy based on the mythology of Classical China instead of Medieval Europe? What's not to look forward to?

Bad luck seems to cling to Ai Ling, a too tall girl, dishonored and betrothed, and when her father disappears on a journey to the capital, and a man from the town tries to force her into marriage to pay off a manufactured debt, she flees her village to find her father and save her family. On her way to the Palace of Fragrant Dreams, she must figure out the sinister forces pulling her ever closer to the capital, and the others seeking to ensure she will never get there.

Before I met you, I would not have thought steering a chariot with my mind possible. Now I think, what do I know? )

I really really hope Pon writes a sequel about Chen Yong's own journey, and Ai Ling better be in it!

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There was a half off sale on speculative YA fiction at my local independent book store.  After I stopped caressing book spines saying, "come home with me baby and I'll read you all night long like you've never been read before," I came home with a few new friends and a few old favorites, and I ordered a few more.

I have a very bad habit of reading at the bottom of the steps where I'm perfectly positioned as an obstacle to be tripped over.  So, when my mom came downstairs, she pulled one of my new prizes, The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan (carrie_ryan at livejournal) out of my hands to get me to move and asked a question she really knows better to ask.  "What's the book about?"  I can't really manage anything coherent about a book until I finish, but that doesn't stop me from trying...

Fish: It has Zombies and Puritans.
Mom: What?  That's an unholy duo that should never see the light of day!
Fish: It's good really, It's like The Village only actually good.  It's like Night of the Living Dead meets The Scarlet Letter.
Mom: I couldn't read it.  I'd be too scared.
Fish: I don't blame you, those zombies are really really really-
Mom: *Twitch* Puritans.  I hate Puritans.  I would have nightmares for years.

I'll try again.

Mary's world extends only to the fence around her village, for outside is the forest where the Unconsecrated howl and moan, eager to eat and infect the living.  The Sisterhood do their best to keep everyone within the fences pure, sure that only their strict adherence to God's words will protect them from the fate that must have befallen the rest of the world.  But Mary's mother has told her stories of the world beyond the village, and when her mother is infected and expelled from the village and Mary is sent to join the Sisterhood, she can't get her mother's story out of her head.  When an outsider arrives from another village, and soon becomes a very strange Unconsecrated, Mary must discover what the sisterhood has been hiding.

There is a world out there, out beyond us. And now we are part of that world. It is terrifying and wonderful. )

If all goes as planned, there's going to be a movie made of this book.  I will absolutely not go see it.  *Shudder*  I don't need any more nightmares full of shuffling, sprinting dead.  Actually, (or so I've heard) the movie's supposed to do for zombies what Twilight did for vampires.  Umm, the zombies in The Forest of Hands and Teeth weren't sexy!

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Because I have a very cosy relationship with the people at the local independent bookstore, I got a call as soon as the shipment with Sarah Rees Brennan's The Demon's Lexicon came in and I got to pick it up a few days early.  Rees Brennan, known online as sarahtales (formerly mistful or maya), had already shown herself to be a master writer through her howlingly funny blog and her fanfiction, so I rushed right over.

Nick and his older brother Alan have been running ever since their father died.  Their mother, a former magician, stole a charm from her former lover, another powerful magician, and he and his followers have been chasing them ever since to steal it back and take their revenge.  When a girl Alan fancies comes to the brothers with her own brother, asking for their help in taking a demon's mark off her brother, the magicians close in, and Alan's lies lead them all into terrible peril.

My life was going to flash before my eyes, but it decided to hide behind my eyes and quake in terror instead. )

Oh God, I'm tearing myself up waiting for the sequel, and as soon as that's out and read, I'll be going crazy for the last!  Today's the release date, buy it so I can squee in company!

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When I saw that author Sarah Prineas was offering a signed copy of her most recent book, The Magic Thief: Lost to anyone willing to post a review of it on their blog and on the major book seller sites, I jumped at it, and besides which ran out to buy the first book.  After all, it's a Middle Grade secondary world fantasy with a steampunk slant.  Right there it pushes a lot of my favorite literary buttons.

Conn is a street smart thief from Wellmet's downtrodden Twilight district.  He knows he's lucky.  The Underlord may have put a word out on him and he might be poor as dirt, but he isn't dead yet, or crippled, or sick.  And he has Quick Hands.  So when a well dressed man walks close by, he reaches into his purse and grabs a whole mess of trouble, because the man is a wizard, and stealing from a wizard isn't something anyone wants to do unless they also want to die...

All in all, not a bad system. If you live on the Sunrise side of the river. )

When Conn needs to find a new way to talk to the Magic, he takes on some of Nevery's bad habits and starts experimenting with Pyrotechnics.  People are turning to stone, and Wellmet's Magic is under attack.  But if he gets caught, he could be exiled, or worse...

It sounded like somebody sighing, far, far away, alas, alas, alas. )

All told, I think I will probably contrive a way to get my hands on the last book.
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The library is a dangerous place to do research, so many distractions.

Fish: *Studies like a studious student*
Books: We need you, we want you, take us with you!
Fish: No, no, I cannot!
Books: But we're free.
Fish: Well you can't argue with... No, I've read all of you already.  I am good, I can resist, I will not succumb!
Books: Awwww.
The Grounding of Group 6: Excuse me, um, Fish, you've never read me...
Fish: You poor thing!  I never meant to neglect you so horribly.

I can't resist the pitfalls of such powerful temptation, but I can delay it, checking out my prized finds and saving them for later.

Julian F. Thomson's The Grounding of Group 6 is about a class at a school for young delinquents, a last chance school, where parents send their children to shape up, or if necessary send them to be disposed of.  The five students who are slated to be killed, and their "teacher", the man intended to do the killing, head off into the woods for orienteering, but when he gets to know the kids, and he discovers he's to disappear too, their teacher can't go through with it, and they go on the run.

It helps to think of them as cars... Sometimes a person gets a lemon, even if the name is Cadillac or Rolls... It simply can't be fixed. )

From now on, this book will be added to the pile of books I hold up and wave wildly whenever someone says I read nothing but Fantasy.  At least it's Young Adult.

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Grammy paid me for taking care of her garden and feeding the birds, and you, my dear readers, know what that means.  I bought gas and headed to the local independent bookstore.  I love that place; the people there don't mind if I pull a book off the shelf and just start reading.  They even have convenient armchairs for people like me.  Even when I'm broke, I like to go there with my laptop, chat with the staff, and regale hapless visitors to the Young Adult section with what I think they should read (or buy for the young adults in their lives).

Lo and behold, Shadowed Summer by debut author and  member of the 2009 debutantes Saundra Mitchell sat miss-shelved under the R's, and it's just by chance I saw it while searching for The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Mitchell's fellow deb, Carrie Ryan, which was, alas, not to be found.

Anyway, the plot didn't really sound like my cup of tea, being a ghost story mystery, but it's Young Adult fantasy, and besides, it's Mitchell's first book and I like to support new authors, so I pulled it off the shelf and decided that if I was still reading by page fifty, I'd buy it.  Well, I read the whole way through without even looking at the pages, and rushed over to the counter to buy it.

Iris is a fourteen-year-old girl with a taste for the supernatural.  To alleviate the boredom of living in a town without even a movie theater (and don't I know what that's like) she and her best friend make up ghost stories and spells, all written down in a pair of inconspicuous spiral notebooks.  But that year, Iris' partner in crime has new interests, a boy.  At the same time, ghosts become very real when Iris sees one in a graveyard, the subject of a local mystery from before she was born.  As he keeps haunting her, Iris decides to find the truth behind his disappearance.  And while she's at it, what do her parents have to do with it?

It seems to me that if there were ghosts, the last place you'd find them is a cemetery. )

Shadowed Summer is a good old fashioned ghost story, sort, sweet, by turns spooky and sad, and absolutely hilarious.  In no other genre can a funeral be such a fulfilling, almost happy experience.  Besides, I have now discovered, I'm a sucker for repeated historic grave desecration... All in the name of a good cause, of course.

Saundra Mitchell can be found on Livejournal at anywherebeyond.

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How on earth did two of these end up packed away?  Had everything between my ears rotted away, leaving me an empty skull and a grayish puddle seeping into my chest cavity?  I was so misguided to pack away my fine YA friends and keep out my adult fantasy.  Before I cut open the boxes, I was so desperate to reread these books that I kept checking them out of the local library.  Ah, but those days are over.

Howl's Moving Castle takes place in Ingary, where being the oldest of three is a Very Bad Thing.  Unwilling to suffer the inevitable failure that would result if she tried, Sophie decides to leave fortune seeking to her younger sisters.  Instead, she works in the family hat shop and talks to the hats.  Trouble comes to her, however, when the feared Witch of the Waste comes into the shop and turns her into an old woman.  Afraid of being seen that way, she hobbles away and becomes the house keeper for Howl, a handsome wizard, famed for eating the hearts of young maidens.  In exchange for taking off the Witch of the Waste's curse, Sophie agrees to help Calcifer, Howl's fire demon break his bargain with Howl.  Not of course that he'll tell her what that bargain is, that would be too easy.  I should probably note for anyone worried, that the cuts hide content only about as spoilery as the novels' back covers.

I have caught an everlasting cold, but luckily I am terribly dishonest. I cling to that. )

In Castle in the Air, there is a lot of alliteration.  Abdullah, a carpet merchant from Rashpuht has been prophesied to be raised above all others in the land.  When he buys a magic carpet from a person of suspicious countenance, he rises literally above everyone else and flies over a palace wall and meets a princess with a prophesy of her own.

What do you care? I'm just a daily wish in a bottle to you! )

House of Many Ways, the third and most recent book in the series, and the only one I didn't pack away, seeing as it came out after I finished the packing, is about a young gently reared girl, sent to look after the house of a distant wizard relative.  Charmain though, doesn't know anything about magic, and really, she doesn't care.  She just wants to get back to her books.  When the wizard's apprentice shows up, she starts to wonder if she'll ever get back to her books at all.

If we extrapolate from our findings in my earlier work, we find ourselves ready to approach an extention of the paratypical phenomenology... )

Anyway, I get so annoyed that no one seems to realize that Howl's Moving Castle has two sequels.  According to Cass (also known as [ profile] eatenbyfangirls) she once was supposed to be on a panel comparing the book and the movie, and none of the other panelists knew about the sequels.  Well, something just has to be done, because they rock!  And well, I only pick at them because I love them.

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Having recently collected on a decent sized debt, I had surplus spending money for the first time since November.  The people at my local independent bookstore must have known I had money, because as soon as I had it in hand, those dastardly bookstore types started pumping a siren song straight into my pocket, a siren song that sprang from tantalizingly fluttering pages, calling "booooooks, new booooks, words, paper, crisp spines, things you've never read before, booooooooks!  Buy Booooooks!"  The only question then was which was stronger, the insistent clamber of undiscovered literary wonders, or the soothing whisper of old childhood friends?

I'm so predictable really.  I pulled Uglies of the shelf and crept wide eyed to the counter, vowing to only buy the rest of the series if I liked this one, and not just impulsively buy the whole set because they had words in them.  A few hours later, I was back, the rest of the series clutched to my chest.  I also bought one of those pocket magnifier light things for riding in the car with my family after dark.  The little magnifier and the car's bouncing will combine to make me horribly horribly ill, but it will be completely worth it!

Now, back to the books, before I start babbling again.  Tally is an ugly, a normal looking fifteen year old girl only a few months away from the surgery that will turn her, like all other sixteen year olds, into a perfect looking "Pretty", who gets to leave the ugly dorms for New Pretty Town, one huge, beautiful, never ending party.  Best of all, she gets to be with Paris, her best friend, again.  But after she sneaks into an out of New Pretty Town, she becomes friends with another adventurous ugly, a girl named Shay, who has been left alone in the dorms after she chickened out of running away.  Just before her sixteenth birthday, she makes her choice to run at last, away from the cookie cutter loveliness and vapid self indulgence of life as Pretty, but staying ugly is not an option.  When the city government forces Tally to help them track Shay down, she learns the chilling secrets about becoming a Pretty.

All that glitters is not hovery. Spoilers and analysis, or God this is a long one )

I also learned a great phrase that I shall have to use.  It shouldn't be hard, I feel brain missing all the time.

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So, I made a mistake, and lent The Lions of Al-Rassan to Cat as soon as I dug it out of the box just to show my book craving doesn't rule me, but it does.  It does.  Left without my favorite Guy Gavriel Kay fix, I shelled out the last of my Hanukkah gift certificates for the horribly expensive trade paperback edition of The Last Light of the Sun and read it in one day when I should have been studying for my Law midterm.

In the British Isles of Kay's fictional Europe (the one with the two moons) in the time of Alfred the Great (or his fictional equivalent) Erlings have settled amidst the Anglcyn, paying tribute to their king, while others raid the coasts.  A young man, Bern, escapes his life as a landless servant to join a famous band of Erling mercenaries As two brothers seek to kill a Cyngael who killed their grandfather.  When a Cyngael prince falls to them, his brother and a cleric find themselves in the Anglcyn court as the Erling raiders descend upon them...

A horse, he came to understand, was missing. )

Damn it, I want The Lions of Al-Rassan back.

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When I started college, my mom insisted I pack up almost all of my books.  Instead, I hid as many as I could until she relented and let me have one bookshelf full.  Since then, the cravings for the books I didn't manage to save have been overpowering.  While my mother was out of town last week, I tracked down those boxes and broke into them, ripped the books free and ran away with them to my room until they overflowed my bookcase.  Mmmm, books.

My old childhood friends, these books, and I just had to get reacquainted, so, you know, we've been talking.

Fish: Oh my pretties, I have missed you! *stroke stroke*
Books: Purr
Fish: Now which one of you will I read first?
Books: *Wiggle and wag* pick me, pick me!

The one that keened the loudest was The Moorchild by Eloise McGraw, and since it fits nicely with the other books I've read and reviewed lately, being a fairy book as different from Holly Black's books and Knife as they are from each other, and the Newbery Metal and Honors were just announced and The Moorchild was a 1997 Newbery Honor book, and because it's just a really wonderful book, I'm going to remind everyone about it.

Moql is a carefree child of the Folk, running wild on the moors with the other children in the Mound, but when a human catches her and the Folk learn she can't hide, become invitable, like the rest of them, they realize she's only half Folk, and half human.  Since she's a danger to the Folk beneath the Mound, the Prince of the Folk has her switched for a human baby.  But Moql, now named Saaski, even after she forgets her Folk roots, knows she doesn't belong there either.

Got eyes on the top of me head like )

Really, The Moorchild lives up to McGraw's dedication, "To all children who have ever felt different."

attackfish: Yshre girl wearing a kippah, text "Attackfish" (Default)
Holly Black's Modern Tales of Faerie (Tithe, Valiant, and Ironside) are the sort of books that I don't just lend to friends, I lend them to friends, desperately want to reread them, buy them again, and let the friend I've lent them to keep them.

No matter how hard she tries, Kaye's not quite human, and she stole someone else's life.  Conversely, the brother of her best friend, Cornelius (called Corny), can't be anything other than human.  After a powerful, sadistic Unseelie court faery seduces him and keeps him as a pet, Corny wants to protect himself from the allure of faeries, a feeling that extends to the rest of humanity as a kelpie bewitches his sister into drowning.

In Valiant, Valerie, Val, runs away after she finds her mother sleeping with her boyfriend, and even worse, learns that her best friend knew and didn't tell her.  When she meets three street kids that work for a troll, delivering Never, a potion that protects faeries from iron and makes humans able to work magic, she's eager to leave her old life behind.

Nearly Naked Nixies and Kelpie Quarterly )

Black never condescends from her readers of hides ugliness.  She never dresses up the lives of Kaye with her neglectful mother or Val, Luis, Dave, and Lolli in the subway tunnels.  These are horrible, brutal, enthralling books.

Holly Black can be found on Livejournal at [ profile] blackholly .

attackfish: Yshre girl wearing a kippah, text "Attackfish" (Default)
Because of [ profile] sarahtales ' generosity, I have a UK copy of [ profile] rj_anderson 's Knife (to be released in the US and Canada on April 28, 2009 under the title Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter because Harper Collins was worried readers would think it was a mystery or thriller with no faeries at all...  Mind, most of us would get it because there's a girl with wings on the front) about Bryony, a young faery who lives in the Oak in the back yard of the House.  The faeries of the Oak, magicless after a great catastrophe only barely within living memory are terrified of humans, so when Bryony, the only child they have, escapes from the Oak, if only for a few minutes and sees a human boy from the House, and worse, he sees her, She's dragged back into the Oak.  Even after she's chosen to become the Queen's Hunter, with the freedom to leave the Oak to bring home meat and chase away predators like crows and foxes, she doesn't think she'll meet the boy again, much less that he'd be so interesting.

Pretty little faery... with a great big sharp metal thing )

Anderson's tiny, arboreal faeries and rural setting give her book a welcoming quality.  Her  faeries aren't scary, and Knife isn't the unsettling mix of horror and fantasy that defines most Urban Fantasy.  It's comforting book, the kind that feels like sinking into a hot bath, and it's suspenseful and thrilling without ever relying on creep.  I expect to reread it many times, and I'd recommend it to anyone who likes fantasy, and to any family that reads a book together in the evenings.

attackfish: Yshre girl wearing a kippah, text "Attackfish" (Default)
Remember how I said that The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman made me feel like no one had ever gotten the walking dead trope that right?  Well, someone did, and he did it in an entirely different way.  Garth Nix's Abhorsen books revolve around the dead in a way no other secondary world fantasy I've ever read has.  The heroine and titular character of the fist book, Sabriel, dies as she was being born, and her, known to her only by his title, the Abhorsen finds her spirit in Death and binds it to her body.  In the first pages of the book, we're introduced to the world, the realm of Death, the strange relationship the dead have with the living, and to the  strange, logical magic of the charter.

Except for her charter mark and the magic that goes with it, Sabriel is just like every other student at her upperclass girls boarding school, thinking about what university she wants to go to, and worrying about what will happen when she leaves, but when her father sends a dead spirit to give her the tools of his trade, the seven bells of a necromancer, but bound with the charter as no necromancer's bells ever are, she must cross the wall that separates the magical Old Kingdom from the land she grew up in.

The Old Kingdom is a land in disrepair, where, without the kings and queens and with two of the great charter stones broken with royal blood, the dead have swarmed into the land of the living.  Dead spirits prey on the living to keep themselves in Life, free magic beings spread distraction wherever they go, and necromancers and free magic adepts bargain with and control some of these beings, sending them to do harm, even as they themselves are controlled by a dead thing more powerful than any of the rest, and he's hunting Sabriel...

And that's just the first book.  Even after Sabriel restores the rightful king to the throne and binds Kerrigor, the dead prince who had been controlling the Old Kingdom, there are still problems.  The south west of the Old Kingdom remains stubbornly outside of King Touchstone and Sabriel's control.  No matter how many charter stones he erects, no matter how many dead things and necromancers she defeats, it won't stay free of the dead.  The Clayr, the huge extended family of seers that dwell in the glaciers to the north, can see nothing at all in the region, until at last, they see one of their own, the sightless Lirael on the Red Lake in a reed boat with a dying man.  Now she must leave the glacier...

Cut for Sheer Length )

attackfish: Yshre girl wearing a kippah, text "Attackfish" (Default)
Ever read a book with a trope you've read before and kind of liked and then realized everyone else was doing it wrong, because this book got it exactly right?  That's what reading The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman was like.  I'm not surprised, it was written by Neil Gaiman, and he managed to get me to like post modern short stories so I was really really excited that he had written something new in my genre.  It lived up to and exceeded my expectations.

The novel starts out when a mysterious figure named Jack massacres a family, but while he's killing the others, the baby boy crawls away, out of the house, and into a nearby graveyard.  The ghosts of the graveyard take him in, along with a craggy vampire named Silas and hide him from the eyes of the living.  As the boy, now called Bod, short for Nobody, grows up, Silas and the ghosts teach him the usual things, human and ghostly, and meanwhile, he meets ghouls, a witch's ghost, a normal human girl, a Russian werewolf, an ancient man in wode and his strange and terrifying guardians, and when Silas allows him to go to school, the ordinary children of the village.

And he learns the value of being alive, even when the dead can walk.  "If [he changes] the world, the world will change."

Neil Gaiman gets it all right, the ghouls, the vampire, the werewolf, the walking dead, and Cut for some spoilers, though not all, and criticism )

Books like The Graveyard Book make me want to take my hands away from the keyboard and never write again because I'll never be able to write like that.  Maybe I'll just do whar Bod wants to do instead.  Seems like good advice:

"See the world, Get into trouble.  Get out of trouble again.  Visit jungles and volcanoes and deserts, and islands.  And people.  I want to meet an awful lot of people."

attackfish: Yshre girl wearing a kippah, text "Attackfish" (Default)

One of the most well used and beloved story lines of Young Adult fiction is the coming of age novel. It is this great tradition into which Megan Whalen Turner's novel The Thief arises. I almost wonder what I can say about this book, both because it won the Newbery Metal, and because I came across it when I was the age for which it was intended.

I first picked up The Thief and its sequel The Queen of Attolia from the school library when I was in seventh grade, and then promptly fell sick with a week and a half long flu in which I didn't have enough energy to shamble over to my bookcase to get a new book, so I read them five times in a row, and they're still good after that. That takes a pretty amazing book.

The Thief is about a teenaged boy thief named Gen, who is languishing in the king of Sounis' prison for stealing the royal seal and showing it off in a wineshop to win a bet. The Magus, the king's adviser, drags him out to use his skills for a mysterious quest for an unknown object. He clashes with the Magus, the Magus' two apprentices, and Pol, a soldier as they travel through countryside reminiscent of Byzantine Greece, eventually coming to something like mutual respect after Gen successfully steals the lost symbol of royal authority of the neighboring country Eddis, an immortality granting stone called Hamiathes' Gift.

Turner uses point of view in all three of her novels about Gen (she published the third after I discovered the first two) to great effect. Every character in these books has something to hide, and she uses Gen's perspective to provide both classic and reverse dramatic irony without the reader either annoyed at the other characters' ignorance or feeling cheated.

Unlike most fantasy, Turner's books about Gen don't have magic. As such, they are on the opposite end of the spectrum from Urban Fantasy. They have an alternate universe, but no traditional magic. They have gods, though, scary humanish gods that force the truth of their presence onto the unfortunates they meet. Gen, who must steal an artifact of theirs from their own temple, finds his own world view deeply changed when they begin to answer his prayers quite literally. "No, they don't believe that, Sophos. It's just their religion," he says flippantly at the beginning of the book.

Once my fever went down, I went hunting through The Thief and the Queen of Attolia line by line to see if there really were clues to the surprise endings! Sadly, these endings mean I don't want to give too much away. )

Each of Turner's books is a powerful, character driven novel, unexpectedly moving in their depth.  I have read the covers off of my copies, and hope that my writing style is as influenced by them as I think it is.

attackfish: Yshre girl wearing a kippah, text "Attackfish" (Default)

Really good fantasy isn’t about monsters, magic, and other worlds, it’s about people and the relationships between them.  No matter how many dark lords a hero defeats, readers won’t care unless he feels real.  Websters' Leap by Eileen Dunlop exemplifies this.  It is first and foremost about Jill Weaver, little sister to Tad Weaver.

Jill and Tad’s parents divorce when they are children, and not knowing that Tad, who she worships, wants to live with their father, Jill chooses to live with their mother because she is a better cook.  When her father and Tad move to Scotland, Jill takes it as a personal insult and refuses to speak to her brother.  After one very tense holiday gathering, their parents decide its best to keep them apart until they can grow up.  Every summer, the two switch parents for the holiday, and Jill goes to live with her father in a flat attached to a crumbling Scottish castle where her father gives tours.  Jill couldn’t be less happy about leaving London and her friends behind to spend months surrounded by her brother’s things, but no sooner does she arrive then strange things begin happening, and after messing with her brother’s computer, she is sucked into the past.  Stranger still, everyone there seems to know her, and the second person she sees is Tad.

Cut for Spoilers (but only some): If I Had a Scottish Ruin, I Could Do Some Writing Too )

attackfish: Yshre girl wearing a kippah, text "Attackfish" (Default)

Ever since I discovered that there were books about other worlds, worlds full of magic, I have been an avid reader of fantasy.  Oh, I read before I discovered fantasy, and I still on occasion read other fiction (and a massive pile of nonfiction) fantasy always reels me back in.  My best and favorite companions, the ones that lack covers or are in pieces, or replaced so many times that it sometimes feels as if I spend more on them than on new books, are fantasy.

Strangely though, my favorite books by authors are often their non-fantasy.  Two of the better known fantasy writers still writing are Phillip Pullman, famous for the His Dark Materials trilogy, and Robin McKinley, author of The Hero and the Crown, The Blue Sword, winners of the Newbery metal and Newbery honor respectively as well as numerous retellings of fairy tales and other fantasy.

Yet my favorite books by Phillip Pullman are the Sally Lockhart books.  These lovely Victorian mystery thrillers about opium, weapons trading, stolen jewels, kidnapping, secret societies, and small European kingdoms wove a separate world for me as complete as the best of Pullman’s fantasy.  I babbled and cheered at my parents when Billie Piper (Rose from Doctor Who) starred in the television adaptation in away I didn’t for the movie premiere of The Golden Compass.  The novel gripped me and kept me under the covers with my reading light, and still does when I go back to reread it.

My favorite Robin McKinley book likewise is non-fantasy.  The Outlaws of Sherwood, a retelling of Robin Hood, is so beautifully written that I still have to stop while reading it just to admire the richness of the prose.  This book made me like changes in third person centering.  This is the book that reminds me that I like to write (as if I had any doubts!)

This isn’t to say that I don’t like the fantasy by these authors, far from it!  Pullman’s place on my bookshelf is assured, and my copies of The Hero and the Crown and The Blue Sword require at least a whole dispenser’s worth of tape to hold them each together.  Actually, they’re both also so fantastically worded that I read them when I’m out of energy and figuring out where a period goes sounds like too much work.

Does anyone else find themselves in this same situation, traitor to one’s beloved genre because of an old favorite author’s brilliant non-fantasy?  If so, what books?


Apr. 4th, 2008 11:30 am
attackfish: Yshre girl wearing a kippah, text "Attackfish" (Default)
I usually only buy books that I have read until their spines fell off at the local library so that I may cheerfully do the same thing to my own copy.  Otherwise, I buy books by authors I particularly like, or that a friend lent to me and then inconveniently moved away.  I do not buy books based on their cover art.  Recently it seems that fantasy books have gotten a cover art overhaul, but the old covers of the genre are sometimes outright appalling.

Fish: They’re like romance covers without the beefcake and cheesecake.
Mom: Dragoncake!
Fish: You misunderstand, there is no pinup value.
Mom: I had a Tolkien calendar when I was your age, I pinned that up.
Fish: I think that you should tell Dad about your odd-
Mom: Castlecake!

Truly, cover art is no reflection of the quality of a book, and it happens to the best authors.  There are some books I walked around with unblushingly in my relatively innocent youth and yet now dread to leave my house with.  At times I am relieved when I have read the covers off, so that I can take them out of my house without cringing.  Does anyone else out there have terrible covers to decent books?




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