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Someday My Printz Will Come
Inside Someday My Printz Will Come

The Story of Owen

owen The Story of Owen

The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim by E. K. Johnston
Published by Carolrhoda Lab, March 2014
Reviewed from final copy

You know we’re not going to get out of here without a Trogdor reference, right? I mean, that’s not in any way the point or even relevant, but it’s still burninating me up inside. Much like the countryside and all those peasants. Which doesn’t get us to the three stars, the three best of year lists (so far), or the placement on the Morris shortlist. The Story of Owen may not have thatched-roof cottages, but it is mostly full of fantastic fantasticness. [Read more...]

A Creature of Moonlight

creature A Creature of Moonlight

A Creature of Moonlight by Rebecca Hahn
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, May 2014
Reviewed from ARC

This is a book that, I’m pretty sure, was written just for me. I love fantasy, I love courtly politics, I love dragons and willful ladies. Somehow, though, even though my review is due, I have to confess that I’m only about half way through. (Sometimes, reading in short bursts on the subway is not my friend, even though it makes for nice visuals.) [Read more...]

The Winner’s Curse

9780374384678 The Winners CurseThe Winner’s Curse, Marie Rutkoski
Macmillan, March 2014
Reviewed from final copy

Not gonna lie. I loved this book. I loved from the pretty dress cover — I know! But I’m a sucker — to the thoroughly unexpected world. I loved the lack of easy answers and the fact that there is more to come. I loved Kestrel’s brilliance and her stupidity, and Arin’s conflicting desires for freedom and to be a good man, in a world where both are not an option. So much love, really.

But my love does not literary merit confer, sadly, so let’s see if there’s a case to be made.

[Read more...]

Death and Love: Sorrow’s Knot & The Coldest Girl in Coldtown

Today, I’m talking about two books that are in my personal top 10 of the year. And both revolve around death and love, two primal, powerful pieces of life.

And they’re both fantastic.

Other than that, they’re really different, and I suspect neither of them has much chance at a Printz nod, which is sort of a shame.

[Read more...]

A Corner of White

A Corner of White A Corner of WhiteA Corner of White (Book 1 of The Colors of Madeleine), Jaclyn Moriarty
Scholastic, April 2013
Reviewed from ARC and final ebook

This is a doozy of a book. Clair talked about the difficulties summing up a complex book like The Raven Boys, but that would be a breeze compared to this one. It’s crowded and strange and whimsical but sort of deadly serious and heavy too.

Also, four stars, three year-end lists, two turtledoves and one not-a-list.

Well, not the turtledoves. (The not-a-list is the NPR tagged and searchable assemblage of best titles.)

So does it have a chance? Or, as a fellow librarian asked, is this one of those books that gets stars just because the reviewers don’t know what else to do with it?

[Read more...]

Midwinterblood

Midwinterblood 200x300 MidwinterbloodMidwinterblood, Marcus Sedgwick
Roaring Brook Press, February 2013
Reviewed from final copy

Let me start with a provocative question: Can a book be so literary that it fails at being a book?

Midwinterblood is full of the sorts of things I’ve hardly thought about since my days as an English major: tropes, motifs, archetypes, foreshadowing, even an ekphrastic device (ok, I had to look that one up, but it’s there; it’s a work in one medium commenting on a work in another medium, here prose commenting on a painting). It’s also told in reverse chronological order, as a series of short pieces that move back in time and seek to illuminate one another and some deeper thematic scope.

Sometimes it’s so full of these things that they seem to crush any cohesive narrative, but at the same time there’s a nimble literary magic happening here that has garnered five starred reviews* and make this one feel like a serious contender.

I’ve read Midwinterblood twice now. I’ve marveled, I’ve complained, I’ve taken extensive notes, and I still waver between work of art and stinking hot mess.

[Read more...]

Seraphina

Seraphina 199x300 SeraphinaSeraphina, Rachel Hartman
Random House, July 2012
Reviewed from ARC

Gosh golly, but I love rereading.

Books change upon acquaintance. They get deeper (or, sometimes, shallower, but let’s not go there); different aspects bubble to the top; when the reader is no longer at the mercy of the plot’s momentum there is time to really savor all the different elements, even those that were initially subtle notes.

(Also, apparently, books are actually pots of soup. Mmmm, soup.)

Seraphina is one of those books that improves upon acquaintance, and which lingers after consuming reading. Having now read it three times, I find that actually, I love this book. And while love is immaterial, I’m also incredibly impressed at the way it keeps revealing new facets (rather like the moment Seraphina first sees dragons in their dragon forms, and realizes that the initially dull scales are filled with all sorts of color, in fact).

[Read more...]

The Chaos (Epic Post!)

The Chaos 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...]

Burning Bleeding Brilliance

girlfirethorns1 198x300 Burning Bleeding BrillianceA big thank you to all who encouraged me to take a second, closer look at The Girl of Fire and Thorns, which I did last week, just before the Morris Shortlist came out.

It’s really pretty marvelous. It’s full on fantasy—no urban or paranormal modifiers needed, no fairy tale retellings or alternate history to be seen. In fact, examined closely, there are tiny hints that this is a Pern sort of fantasy with a science fiction underpinning (this is a new world, one not meant for humans).

So, it’s straight up fantasy (aside from that tantalizing hint about the unknown backstory), but it avoids almost all the tropes: Elisa is not a spunky girl or a badass princess or a typical damsel in distress; she’s smart but lazy; destined for greatness but full of doubts—although also with enough backbone to push through them. She’s lousy at being a princess but she might just be an amazing queen, and the journey she takes from one pole to the other makes for some great reading. It’s also, from the characterization angle, difficult writing: a first person narrator, who needs to tell us all the ways she’s kind of a mess and all the ways she’s becoming fierce and fearsome, without become so telly that it becomes plodding and didactic is no small task to write.

[Read more...]

Just One More

hornbook 225x300 Just One More

CC-licensed image by dougbelshaw

List, that is.

The Horn Book Best of 2011 list posted today.

This means that all of our pre Jan 1 lists are out: BCCB and Booklist should release their lists right around the New Year (so much for a winter break!)

Here’s how it all shakes out:

[Read more...]