And now we are at the review I’ve been most excited about all year! The one that made me curse the linear nature of the calendar year, and the September publication date (editing note: I just found out Amazon listed this as out in June. I didn’t have to sit on this review??). All this waiting! All my bottled up excitement! I’ve had a few other books surprise me once I’ve picked them up this year, but this is a title I went into intrigued about — that cover! That premise! URBAN FANTASY, I HEART YOU. And while I am not here to report that this is a perfect book (does such a thing even exist?), I am happy to say that I’m not alone in my excitement. Four starred reviews. A myriad of lists (both summer reading recommendations and year’s best). But not just critical love; there’s been blog buzz and reader buzz for this title, too. [Read more…]
Symphony for the City of the Dead, M.T. Anderson
Candlewick Press, September 2015
Reviewed from ARC
One of my favorite books last year was Candace Fleming’s The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia. Despite having a ton of critical praise for its tight, thrilling narrative and thoughtful approach to complex history, it didn’t manage to snag a Printz (although it did win lots of other great awards). Symphony for the City of the Dead is, in many ways, a wonderful sequel to Fleming’s book. M.T. Anderson begins Symphony with Dmitri Shostakovich’s childhood, just before the end of the Romanov reign and the rise of Lenin. For the first half of the book he alternates between chronicles of Shostakovich’s life and the political and social upheaval in Russia beginning with the Bolsheviks and the revolution straight into World War II. The siege of Leningrad and the composition of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 7 are the main focus of the rest of the book. Anderson—a two-time Printz honoree—does very good work here but a few things in Symphony may keep the author from earning his third Printz.
I’ve had a busy two days, catching up on a few of the swing books we’ve got on the slate for our in-person Printzbery discussion this weekend. Also a busy few days sniffling and crying since both books are heavy on the feels.
Today, two historical fiction books I’d love to talk to about, both set during World War II (making this an apt post to publish on the first night of Hannukah).
One is a lovely novel in verse that I don’t think has gotten much attention — zero stars, no buzz — but I was deeply touched by it and want to shine a little reflected glory on it by sticking it in the conversation even if it’s so dark of a horse it’s nearly invisible.
The second is a critical darling and I just don’t seem to have read the book everyone is raving about, so I’m eager to hear what others see in this one.
So join me below the fold for Paper Hearts and The Emperor of Any Place.
Wednesday, the YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults (which I persist in calling ENYA even though I think that never really caught on the way I hoped) shortlist was released.
And today we have the YALSA Morris award short list!
So many fabulous books. Let’s take a look at the surprises.
So, confession time: I haven’t finished this book yet. I was originally scheduled for my usual Friday post, and I figured I’d have enough time to get to the last page and type up my thoughts in my usual efficient manner (ha). Only, as often happens, life got in the way, and now that my post is due, I’m writing my review, and I’m also still reading. Multi-tasking talents! I have them!
No, actually — not even a little. But what I can do is write up my impressions so far. Illuminae is (and here’s my rationalization for not having finished) a big book — 599 pages. It’s been awarded three stars since its publication in October, and lots of people are buzzing about it. [Read more…]
Here’s a novel that is exactly what its title indicates it will be: a song for Ella Grey. David Almond’s lyrical novel—his third (!) to come out this year—is about the desperate first love of one’s youth that can inspire for a lifetime. The surprise of this song is that the singer isn’t Orpheus; it’s Claire, Ella’s best friend. It’s about love, obsession, magic, and loss. In a year when Almond already has a six-star novel, it’s not likely that Ella Grey could ever have been more than a dark horse contender unless the critical praise matched or exceeded its predecessor. More than that though, Ella Grey is strange and rare, a book that will leave readers in a daze trying to understand what they’ve just experienced.
I have just realized that we’ve reviewed a lot of historical fiction this year. Karyn was talking about a strong year for fantasy, but I’m over here impressed by historical fiction in 2015. Or our sort-of-historicals, as is the case for one of these.
This week, we’ve got two past winners, and both authors provide an important, engaging look at history. Both have no problem examining some of the, let’s be polite and say “less savory” aspects of US history. One, though, focuses on a real-life person, and the other works in elements of history to a fantasy/horror filled world. One book is short, one is very long. So similar, and yet so different! [Read more…]
In the meantime, I wanted to say a few words about the awesome SLJ Best Books list.
Sometimes I forget to highlight it, because you’re here, and we’re lucky enough to be part of the SLJ blog network, which means you probably already know all the SLJ newsy goodness.
It’s a fantastic list and I always like comparing editor lists to the books we’re looking at and seeing where the differences lie. And there are some differences…
I already told you this is a great year for fantasy, and I’m back to today to continue building the case.
And this is probably the one that most deserves the Printz, because for all the brilliance of The Scorpion Rules, the originality of Archivist Wasp, the many delights and flourishes of Bone Gap, this is the most literary of the year’s amazing genre bumper crop. It may also be the most overlooked and least buzzed of the bunch, making this a proper dark horse contender.