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…]
Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
HarperTeen, May 2015
Reviewed from final copy
I’ve been considering this a graphic novel roundup — we’re short on time, you may have heard? — but now that I’m sitting down to write it, I’m finding myself with a lot to say about Nimona. I can’t guarantee that we’ll have a chance to circle back around to March 2 and Ms Marvel 2 and 3. (It would be the M cubed post, unless we’re able to fit in EVEN MORE GNs. And with the year going as quickly as this one is, don’t underestimate our ability to add and add and add! I mean, I am not convinced that any of those sequel Ms will go the distance at Printz table conversation, but I want to live in a world where Kamala Khan is considered for Printz candidate alongside John Lewis, OK?) [Read more…]
What an ingenious little (okay, big) book this is.
Maguire is at his best when he’s being sly and subverting tropes and expectations; he did it to genius effect in Wicked, which remains one of my favorite novels, and while his overall body of work is uneven, when his writing shines it’s positively lustrous.
This is him at his best.
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 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…]
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.
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.
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?
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.
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).