OK, this was supposed to be a nonfiction roundup, and it sort of still is, because I am going to talk about a few titles. However it also sort of isn’t because I definitely have one title that I want to focus on. I’m also slightly skipping around in time (through the magic of this blog post and not actually a time machine, or anything) — but in order to fit this all in, I’m writing about two titles from the fall with a mid-year title. Obviously we can focus on any title in the comments — but I’ve got a rave coming on and I wanted to warn you all about that from the start. [Read more…]
Anna and the Swallow Man, Gavriel Savit
Knopf, January 2016
Reviewed from ARC
For the first posted coverage of the season, I thought I’d start with one of the earliest publication dates on our list. Anna and the Swallow Man came out in January. It had huge pre-publication push; we received at least 4 copies just to the school Joy and I work at, at least one of which was in a lovely paper slip cover. And it picked up three stars out of the gate (HB, The Bulletin, and PW): not a bad opening to the year. So does it live up to the hype or the buzz?
Okay, not all the books, but three books for the price of one post: The Golden Day, Winger, and The Midnight Dress.
(It was going to be four books, because I stayed up way too late reading More Than This the other night, but I think I need to sit on that for another day or so before I can do it justice.)
Other than the facts that all three feature murders and have garnered three stars, these aren’t linked by anything other than that they needed to be talked about in the context of awards season.
Short stories aren’t always my favorite – collections can be so uneven sometimes; I’d rather spend time in a big long novel. But Margo Lanagan seems to be trying to convince me that I – even I! – can love a collection of short stories. Yellowcake is everything you’d expect – a generally strong collection of stories full of beautiful writing; disturbing images; colliding, twining themes. It’s s strong contender, although I’m not totally convinced it will take a medal in the end.
Let’s talk about what’s good here first. The language, of course (“Styx water is sharp and bites inside your nose.”): effective, unexpected, powerful. Her carefully crafted dialogue provides clues and insights into her characters (Gallantine’s very few, studiedly casual, deceptively mild lines gave me chills, for instance). Lanagan is an amazing writer, and she does her usual awesome job here, too. [Read more…]
Another (and last for the year) guest post from pinch-hitter Joy Piedmont. This time, Joy raves about a book that made the contenda list with three stars but mostly deserves recognition as a serious buzz book. I’m a long time fan of Adele Griffin’s, and this is, I think, a stronger candidate than her last few YA titles when it comes to award chat. But I’ll let Joy explain why…
All You Never Wanted: it’s a gem of a title, isn’t it? It’s a warning, a temptation, and a promise written directly at you, pulling you in.
And Adele Griffin’s latest has more than a great title. It’s an engaging study of two teenage sisters told from their alternating perspectives. Attention-seeking Thea and anxiety-stricken Alex seem to be direct descendants of Edith Wharton’s characters. (It’s no surprise that in a recent online Q&A, Griffin revealed that she went through a Wharton phase, and discussed how that may have influenced AYNW). Like Wharton’s, Griffin’s characters are complex and fully realized in an exploration of wealth, privilege, class, desire, jealousy, and anxiety.
In the end, it’s a gorgeous little TARDIS of a novel.
(Bigger on the inside, for you non-Whovians).
My first draft for this post, which sat in WordPress for two weeks, taunting me, read as follows: “So much to say! And none of it coherent!”
You know how I delayed and delayed writing about The Raven Boys? And then was kind of indecisive anyway? The same musical cue should play now, because I’m feeling the same way. Only more so.
Brides is, in so many ways, magnificent, but something doesn’t entirely gel (think of Misskaella, pulling those nodes of light together — and now imagine her missing one. It’s still magic, but it doesn’t actually produce the desired result.)
Do I think this doesn’t deserve the Printz as a result? No. Well, not exactly. I don’t know.
This is likely a top fiver based on any consensus polling of Someday readers, and I would not be surprised if the same were the case for the RealCommittee as well (remember, though, that I can’t be trusted with predictions because I am always wrong, so I probably just killed Brides‘ chances), but I am really conflicted just the same; this is a book I want to assess by sitting back and listening while other folks debate it, and through that let my own thoughts come to some conclusion. Sometimes it’s much easier to think responsively, because I need that collision of ideas to push my own thinking.
But it would be incredibly lazy to leave my assessment at “I don’t know”, so I am giving coherency a try. Also, although this is the first time we’re talking about Brides in depth, consider this the opening to discuss this one for the Pyrite* shortlist, and shout your thoughts in the comments.
You know a book’s a big deal when the visiting public librarian gives it a shiny booktalk and then all the students want to do is keep hearing about that book, to the exclusion of all the other books said librarian brought. That book is this book: every day. Levithan’s latest has three stars, and is on a slew of year’s best books lists. It’s on our shortlist, too, so we’ll be looking at it again in just a few weeks. (I have to admit, I’m really happy about that, because I think that a few weeks of sitting with this book will help me digest it a little. I just finished it and I suspect that my enjoyment of it is clouding my Printz-vision. Well, that and the fact that I just plain enjoy reading David Levithan’s books.) [Read more…]
I [redacted but it starts with F and is something Ed might say] love this book.
I actually started this post once before, and I had nice things to say, but I was being a bit dismissive. It’s “sweet and light,” I said. Ah, the perils of only reading a book once.
Then I started rereading, and realized that this is a quiet treasure.
Historical fiction is tough.
Too often the fiction takes a back seat to the history, and readers are drowned in detail or left feeling vaguely cheated by secondary characters who flesh out the story but whose experiences seem to cover a laundry list of additional details.
This is not to say that historical fiction can’t make for a darn good read, but the gap between a darn good read for an hour (or five) and a book you want to raise above all others with a shiny sticker is actually a pretty big one.