Some time in the next few days I’ll have a lot to say about the year end lists, and we’ll be going back and making some additional edits to our start of season list in light of time crunches and more data. Today, though, I’m taking a moment away from that madness to reflect on series fiction, a topic near and dear to my heart.
I initially came across this one on Jen‘s fabulous spreadsheet. Two stars doesn’t make it a must read, but I still haven’t quite recovered from The White Bicycle. It’s one thing to not have read a Printz winner/honoree personally, and a common thing, it seems, for me to disagree with the winner, but for a book to be so far off the radar that I hadn’t heard of it was really surprising and a cause for chagrin. So I try to pay attention to 1 and 2 star titles that are utterly unfamiliar, in hopes of never being that surprised again.
This is one of those unfamiliar 1-2 star books. [Read more...]
The art of reading for Printz is an interesting one; the pile adds and drops titles throughout the course of the year. With two stars and some buzz, Threatened was a back-and-forther for me — sometimes in the pile, sometimes to the side, sometimes near the top, sometimes moved to the bottom. But when it got shortlisted for the NBA, it came back to the top of the pile with a vengeance. We wondered if anyone would speak up for it…no one had much to say then. Maybe you’ve been saving your comments for a longer post? [Read more...]
Here’s some magic realism by way of fairy tales with writing that’s often achingly beautiful. Some books engage your intellect and others grab your heart; some books, however, immerse you in a sensory experience. The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is this third kind of book. In a densely packed narrative that spans generations, Leslye Walton writes about love, obsession, regret, innocence, identity, freedom, and a lot more, aided by descriptive writing that emphasizes the five senses.
I need to be up front about something. I loved Where Things Come Back. I know it wasn’t a favorite ’round these parts, but I was impressed with the nuance and ambition in its debut author’s writing. John Corey Whaley’s Printz-winning novel made me think and feel and had me excited to read more from him.
The high-concept plot (cryogenically frozen heads!) and the teenage angst (he’s back from the dead wants his girlfriend back too!), oh, how they intrigued and beguiled me. And oh, how I kept waiting for Noggin to deliver on the promise of its authorship. [Read more...]
A few final books we wanted to squeeze in: Reality Boy, which received some buzz early in the year but seems to have fallen off everyone’s radars despite three year-end Best lists; More Than This, a book that has picked up some traction recently as a buzz book and potential contender; and Black Helicopters, which seems strongly divisive but which no one has forgotten despite having first read it months ago — and staying power matters when it comes to awards.
(As a bonus, we each reviewed one of them so you can try to guess which “I” is which blogger!)
Last year, we had a lot of great conversation about Elizabeth Wein’s Code Name Verity, which ended up with a silver medal. This year, we have its companion title, Rose Under Fire. With two starred reviews, will this title go the distance? I’m not so sure; I’ve gone through at least three different stages of thinking about this book. I think I’ve settled on “not likely.”
Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot to enjoy here: The writing is beautiful, and the decision to keep first person diary style benefits this story. It allows for immediate, emotional connection with Rose, and also provides an opportunity to track the changes Rose undergoes through the course of the story. Her change in voice from part one to part two is abrupt and effective; you’re warily drawn in, trying to understand what changes have happened. And the polished writing of the third section gives the book a gorgeous, formal (but still emotional and effective) ending. [Read more...]
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.
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...]