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Someday My Printz Will Come
Inside Someday My Printz Will Come

Does Never Fall Down Stand Up to the Hype?

Never Fall Down, Patricia McCormick
Balzer + Bray, May 2012
Reviewed from ARC

National Book Award Finalist. Three stars. Patricia McCormick. Never Fall Down is a critical and popular darling, and there is absolutely no question about the emotional impact of the story. You would need to be a stone to stay dry-eyed reading about the atrocities Arn sees and endures under the Khmer Rouge.

So let’s cut to the chase. There’s really only one conversation anyone is having about Never Fall Down, and it’s all about the voice.

[Read more…]

Bitterblue

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore
Dial Books, May 2012
Reviewed from an ARC

I should probably be honest: I read this book as a fan first. I enjoyed Graceling and was impressed by Fire; I was more than curious about Cashore’s new book. Once I stole borrowed — with total intent to return! Someday! — Karyn’s copy, I read it and figured I was just reading it for myself. I love how feminist these books are, I love how strong Cashore’s protagonists are. But Bitterblue has stayed with me through the year, and it received four stars, bumping it into auto-contenda status. Yay!

So I’m being upfront and outing myself as a fan from the get-go — really trying to own my baggage, I suppose. But let me also say right at the start: I think this is a good read but unfortunately I suspect it’s not quite as strong on reread. [Read more…]

A New Kind of Fairy Tale: Dust Girl

Dust Girl, Sarah Zettel
Random House, June 2012
Reviewed from ARC

Welcome to the Dust Bowl as you’ve never seen it before, peopled by lots more than, well, people, in a new series that covers some of the same territory as American Gods or The Flight of Michael McBride (sadly out of print, but a crossover treasure if you can find it). I don’t think anyone has done this sort of story in YA before, where the nearest readalike would probably be the not-actually-anything-like-this Far West trilogy by Patricia Wrede. Or possibly O Brother Where Art Thou, with its vague magic realism, and which I found myself thinking of as I read Dust Girl; it’s neither a book nor YA, but does seem to be familiar to lots of teen readers.

So we’re definitely talking original. Original in concept, original in execution, and (although it’s a funny word to use given the Dust Bowl setting) altogether fresh.

It’s also first in a trilogy, and if we know anything about series books, it’s that first books that make no bones about being first (as opposed to books that turn out to be first but weren’t apparently conceived, pitched, and/or branded as such) don’t tend to fare terribly well. Also, it’s (obviously) fantasy, which, statistically speaking, is another award black mark, although not a death knell.

But it’s pretty damn awesome. Does it stand a chance?

[Read more…]

A Confusion of Princes (or, Khemri’s Clearly Excellent Adventure)


A Confusion of Princes, Garth Nix
Harper, May 2012
Reviewed from ARC

Let’s go back in time for a moment, to the heady golden days of science fiction as the place where sweeping stories examine the nature of humanity and also contain explosions and cool tech.

Are you with me?

Because A Confusion of Princes is a throwback in the best way possible.

This is pure space opera, which grows from adventure and Western roots. In this case, it’s space opera with a dash of coming of age and lots and lots of fun tech (only it’s tek here, and there’s a ton of it, each bit more inventive than the last), all of which adds up to the contemporary version of a Boy’s Own adventure.

[Read more…]

Data: Readership Poll Results

With 120 results, here are the results!

(If you haven’t taken the poll, you can still access it here. If the responses increase significantly, I’ll post updated data, of course.)

Google Forms plays badly with anything, and Excel hates me, so this is just the straightup data for now. I’ll try to play with the Excel files until we have actual usable data (at least sorted by most read to least), but that could take me ages so I thought I should post what I could. With apologies.

[Read more…]

The Chaos (Epic Post!)

The Chaos, Nalo Hopkinson
Margaret K. McElderry, April 2012
Reviewed from final copy

Over at Heavy Medal a month or so back, in the comments, the question was raised about emotional v intellectual engagement.

In a nutshell: is it fair that we tend to preference books with which we engage emotionally?

In that discussion, Mark Flowers (hi, Mark!) of Cross-Referencing said:

None of this is to say that emotional reaction should be taken out of the equation, but if we are really going to evaluate a book, we need to look at the how and the why of those emotional reactions, not just the fact of them.

I’ve been holding that comment in my head. “I feel” is, after all, invalid in Printz conversations if we leave it as an emotional reaction. But the question of the how and why takes that reaction and allows it to become another path by which to examine facets of writing and assess excellence. How does the author engage the reader? Is the emotional engagement or lack thereof in some way a response to the particulars of the writing? And how do we unpack the writing to get at the heart of the how and why? Because that’s where we find meat worth discussing in the context of the Printz.

[Read more…]

Dying to Know How this Is YA

Dying to Know You, Aidan Chambers
Amulet Books, April 2012
Reviewed from ARC

Look, Aidan Chambers is an immensely accomplished writer. He was one of the early Printz winners, people write critical essays about his books, and he plays quite impressively with form in many of his novels. He certainly has a a steady command of his language, and while there are aspects of Dying to Know You I don’t like, when it comes down to it a lot of this is stylistic quibbling and reader preference, which is not a Printz-worthy argument.

Not stylistic? The decision to have this ostensibly YA book narrated by a 75-year-old man.

75. Let that sink in for a moment.

[Read more…]

The Obsidian Blade

The Obsidian Blade by Pete Hautman
Candlewick, April 2012
Reviewed from an ARC

I have a feeling this is going to be a short review, in part at least because I didn’t finish reading this one. Yes, we’ve gotten to my first DNF of the year (at least, my first public blogging about a DNF title; rest assured, there have been others). (Er. We all know that DNF is Did Not Finish, yes? I first saw Liz B use that acronym at Teacozy, so I’m assuming it’s a thing. A Thing, actually.)

Can I also just mention that I’m super bummed to out myself as someone who did not finish a Pete Hautman book? Because I would really prefer, as a fan, to be raving about this book — it’s science fiction! It’s full of action! It’s Pete Hautman! National Book Winner Pete Hautman! He will write any book and make it pretty awesome! Pete Hautman, people! [Read more…]

Radiant Days?

Radiant Days, Elizabeth Hand
Viking, April 2012
Reviewed from final copy (that I bought for myself the day it came out)

I’ve probably said this before, but by and large I love this blog. I love talking to intelligent, passionate people about books. I love disagreeing and I love having my mind changed. I even love, although sometimes the way we love shots for keeping us disease free, the way the responsibility of the blog makes me a more honest librarian, by which I mean someone who has to leave her reading comfort zone behind regularly.

But here’s what I don’t love: having to go on record talking smack about books I want to defend but in the end, just can’t.

[Read more…]

Checking In: What Have You Read So Far?

CC-licensed image by Flickr user Kristin Roach

So, maybe it’s just that we haven’t had a lot worth saying, or maybe it’s just that the seriously chatty readers (hi, Elizabeth!) are muzzling themselves for various reasons. But comments have been pretty mellow, and we’re thinking there might be a readership question.

Also data is cool and we’re curious what the general readership is of these critically acclaimed titles.

So won’t you take 3 minutes (maybe 3.5, depending on whether you need to cross reference with a reading journal of some sort) and fill out this Google Form about readership? (It refused to embed, so apologies for the redirect.) We’ll post results in a week or so for anyone who’s interested.

And then come back tomorrow for the first of the Q2 posts!