So, Dodger is a heartsong book for me. I realize it’s not perfect — certainly not with regard to accuracy, which we’ll get to in a moment — but it is almost perfectly put together, and is certainly enough of an exemplar of voice, style and thematic development that I hope the 2013 RealCommittee will take a serious look (or maybe a second look) at it. In view of all the great titles before us, I would be surprised to see it take the gold, but you’d have to be a real nasty geezer, to borrow a term from Dodger himself, to snipe at any accolades thrown Sir Terry’s way. [Read more...]
Alright, y’all, I’m having a rough blog post, OK? Because I have here two books that I thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyed reading for myself. But when I switch to my magical Printz-o-vision, neither Keeping the Castle nor For Darkness Shows the Stars stands up to a more critical analysis. Pity me, the poor blogger, who has to write up why these books that are decidedly entertaining reads just don’t work in the context of our blog. Boo!
For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund
Balzer + Bray, June 2012
Reviewed from a final copy
Let’s start with Diana Peterfreund’s For Darkness Shows the Stars. It’s a retelling of Persuasion, set in a dystopic future. This title got one starred review and a lot of love in our comments — ha, and the last time that happened, I ended up reviewing Where Things Come Back…well, we all know how THAT ended. [Read more...]
I love a good, sad book. A real weepie is all my joy. I’ll try to avoid reading them, I’ll say, “oh, I’m not really in the mood for reading that,” but the truth is, a book that can bring on a nice, cleansing cry is pretty much always up my alley. And you guys, this book is so sad. I lost count of my Kleenex. And, ok, I have a cold, so let’s handicap the first 5. There were still at least 5 tear-filled Kleenex by my bedside table when I was done (also, I am a terrible housekeeper. Pity my tidy husband.).
What’s so sad? London is grieving the loss of her beloved big brother (older by a year, barely) and best friend, Zach. They grew up as the kids of globe-trotting missionaries, then settled down in Florida, where they met & fell for their first loves at about the same time. Now Zach is dead, under circumstances that don’t become totally, horribly clear til nearly page 300, and not only is London at sea without her closest friend, confidant and ally, but her normally loving dad is distant and her mom is somehow both vacant and hostile. It’s a terrible burden for a girl who needs her parents so badly, and Williams is good at making us feel both London’s gaping loss and at giving us glimpses of the distinct awfulness of losing a child that her parents are suffering.
This story of one kind of life coming to a close and another one — a sadder, more difficult kind of life, but one full of hope, friendship and love, too — beginning is moving and compulsively readable, but it is not particularly literary.
Grave Mercy and The Wicked and the Just are, in so many ways, polar opposites.
But how often do we see YA books set in the Middle Ages? Not very, which makes it almost impossible not to think of these in a compare and contrast essay. So that’s what you get.
Both feature strong female heroines, well defined settings, and a fascinating story. Oh, and divided nations (France/Brittany and England/Wales), strangely fitting since I’m putting the final edits in to the accompaniment of the election results rolling across the TV. But that’s about where the compare part ends, really, because mostly these are very different books.
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.
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.
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...]
No Crystal Stair: A Documentary Novel of the Life and Work of Lewis Michaux, Harlem Bookseller, Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, with artwork by R. Gregory Christie
Carolrhoda Lab, an imprint of Carolrhoda Books, February 2012
Reviewed from final copy (courtesy of my public library)
Vaunda Nelson, author of the Coretta Scott King Award-winning Bad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy U.S. Marshal, has produced a truly significant work of documentary fiction in No Crystal Stair. It is particularly noteworthy in the categories of accuracy, story, theme, and illustration, but is shaky in terms of voice and style. Voice is especially important to me — a dealbreaker, in fact — so while I can see it as a nominee, I doubt it will make the Final Five when it comes time to vote.
First, the good (and there is a lot of good here):
I’ve got that feeling again, the one I had about There Is No Dog, that sense of bafflement because the book I read may not be the book others read. This is a 3-star book* that also made it into the New York Times. It’s ambitious for sure, but I’m beginning to think I only notice ambitious writing when it doesn’t quite pull itself off. It’s original, except that somehow it reminds me almost unbearably of Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking Trilogy, all inverted.
(I should note that most of the time I try really hard not to read the actual text of the reviews in journals or on other blogs until AFTER I’ve done my writeup, to try to avoid being influenced by others. As soon as I press publish, I’ll be off to read away.)
I am hoping that a conversation will illuminate this novel, so I’ll start by laying my cards on the table.