Archive for the ‘YA fiction’ Category

Mortal Fire

Canny Mochrie has been packed off with her stepbrother Sholto and his girlfriend Susan for the summer, as Canny’s mother and stepfather are going on vacation, and Canny isn’t trusted to be left alone–much to her annoyance. Sholto and Susan are planning on spending the summer interviewing survivors of a coal mine disaster in Southland, as well as conducting folklore research. The disaster happened thirty years earlier, but strange echos and repercussions are still felt in the community. Sholto and Susan are fully occupied with their tasks, leaving Canny somewhat at loose ends, so she begins exploring the valley they are staying in. She finds a house seemingly outside of time, occupied by a strange (and handsome!) young man. Will Ghislain Zarene be able to answer the questions that no one else can, including who Canny’s father is? Or will Canny become trapped in the magic that binds the valley and the house inside it?

Mortal Fire takes places in a sort of alternate New Zealand in 1959; there are extremely important flashbacks to alternate WWII. Canny’s mother is the equivalent of Maori, and Canny is mixed race, but she does not know who her father is, as her mother has hardly ever spoken of him. This is important! Politics and race relations and iron lungs and identity and magic and bees and so much plot. It’s an amazing book, and it is apparently set in the same world as Knox’s Dreamhunter duology, which I have not read, although those apparently take place in a different era, and focus on a different aspect of magic. But I know I need to read them.

This book sneaks up on you: you think it’s going to be one thing, and then it makes a CRAZY LEFT TURN halfway through and becomes something completely different. Sort of the way Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones does, once the fae get involved. So I guess if you like that (and it’s one of my very favorite books) you’ll probably like this one, but it’s also *completely* different from Fire and Hemlock. They just vaguely of have the same feel to them, in the way that threatening magic encroaches into our world.

Mortal Fire

Source: borrowed from library, but I have since bought my own copy

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Or rather, a snowed-in weekend. Winter decided to give the midwest one last snowstorm, hooray. At least this wasn’t my weekend to work, and today the library is closed for the holiday anyway, so it really wasn’t too difficult to deal with–I sat on the sofa with Lush Puppy, drank cocoa, and read books:

Zombies vs Unicorns edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier
It’s a short story collection about zombies and unicorns! Generally speaking, I liked the zombie stories better, but there were a few *really* good unicorn ones. My Team Zombie favorites: “Bougainvillea” by Carrie Ryan, “Inoculata” by Scott Westerfeld, and “Prom Night” by Libba Bray. My Team Unicorn favorites: “The Care and Feeding of Your Baby Killer Unicorn” by Diana Peterfreund and “Princess Prettypants” by Meg Cabot.

Poison: A Novel of the Renaissance by Sara Poole
Ehhh, it could have (should have!) been a lot better. It took itself far too seriously, desperately wanting to be a Serious Historical Novel, but there were too many anachronisms for it to work, and not enough fun to gloss over the issues. It’s pretty sad that a book featuring the Borgias and their household so prominently is kind of boring. I did finish it, because I was invested enough to want to see how the story ended, but I won’t bother reading the sequel.

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig
I just started this book today, and it’s a much better historical novel. It doesn’t take itself at all seriously, and it’s quite frothy and fun. In fact, it makes me want to go back and reread The Scarlet Pimpernel, because the story takes place shortly after the Revolution and even features the erstwhile Scarlet Pimpernel himself! As well as other dashing spies, silly young ladies, and lots of good dialogue. I may not wade my way through the entire series, but if the book remains entertaining, I’ll happily pick up the next few titles.

Jane’s fame: How Jane Austen Conquered the World by Claire Harman
This is a lot more scholarly than I expected, so it’s taking me much longer to read it than I had originally anticipated. But I’m really enjoying it–I like that it combines research and a thorough biography with trivia and pop culture. It’s amazing to realize how global Jane Austen’s influence has become, and to see the diverse ways her work has been interpreted and adapted.

Source: all books borrowed from library

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ALA has announced the 2011 Youth Media Awards. Congrats to all the medalists!

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Monsters of Men

This is the third and final book in the Chaos Walking series. You can read my thoughts about The Knife of Never Letting Go and The Ask and the Answer here.


Todd and Viola have finally been reunited in the ruins of New Prentisstown, but their momentary relief and happiness at finding each other alive is short lived.  The battle for power between Mayor Prentiss and Mistress Coyle takes on terrifyingly new dimensions as their arena expands: the native Spackle are massing to attack, and the first scout ship from the colonists has arrived.  Brutal and extended warfare appears unavoidable. And somehow, amidst all the violence surrounding them, Todd and Viola have to survive and rise above the chaos and destruction and unspeakable choices to save their world–and themselves.

Every book in this series is better (and more difficult) than the last. Each book broke my heart in new ways, and then patched it back together. I spent the entire final quarter of this book a hopeless mess, crying to the point of feeling ill. I can’t wait to read them all again.

Chaos Walking has won lots of critical acclaim, but is still flying quite far under the general radar, which is a shame. This last book especially deals a lot of the same themes as Mockingjay, but does a much better job of it. I like The Hunger Games fine, but Chaos Walking is by far the superior series. The story is more sophisticated, the characters are more fully developed, and the world-building is more complete.

I’m recommending them to everyone at the library I possibly can.

Source: borrowed from library

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For nearly a thousand years, humans and Pegasi have had an alliance. Because of this alliance, Princess Sylvi is bound to her Pegasus Ebon, her Excellent Friend, on her twelfth birthday. But things are different for Sylvi and Ebon than they are for everyone else: they do not need an official Speaker to communicate, but instead can speak directly with each other. Such a thing has never been known to happen before, and this new and frightening change makes powerful factions in the kingdom uneasy. Everything comes to a head at Sylvi’s sixteenth birthday, when the unthinkable happens.

First of all: I LOVED THIS BOOK. Robin McKinley is one of my favorite authors, and this is one of the best books she’s written in quite a while. It feels a lot like the Damar books, which are amongst my favorites of hers. Sylvi is very much like Harry and Aerin, in that she is something of a misfit who doesn’t quite fit into the established order of things, but she’s going to soldier on doing things her own way regardless and hopefully she’ll be able to overcome all the obstacles in her path. On the other hand, Pegasus is nothing like the Damar books–it’s not connected to them in any way, and Balsinland is very different from Damar. But it is a high fantasy with a female lead who struggles to find her own place in the world around her, aided and hindered in equal parts by those around her.

I also love the connection that Sylvi and Ebon share. Their friendship is very real, and rings true. It doesn’t matter that they are two different species, they truly care about each other, and therefore the reader cares about them too. We should all be so lucky to have such an excellent friend in our lives.

And now I must wait forever until the second half comes out in 2012 and the story is resolved. Argh!!

Robin Mckinely’s website and blog.

Source: borrowed from library, but I’ll be buying my own copy

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Here’s some interesting bookish links:

Kirkus 2010 Best Books for Children and Teens I have sadly read only a very few of these books. But should I ever run out of things to read, this will be a good place to start.

A Screenwriter’s Hogwarts Decade I had no idea that the same person had been the screenwriter for all but one of the Harry Potter movies. And I also had no idea how closely JK Rowling had been involved with the movies.

James Frey’s Fiction Factory and James Frey’s Next Act which combine to paint a horrific picture. Liz B has an excellent roundup of related links over on A Chair, a Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy. It’s not so much *what* he’s doing as *how* he’s doing it that’s the problem. That contract is BAD.

The Bookseller Who Doesn’t Read Novels He clearly cares about the business and is working very hard to make it succeed, so I’ll just cringe mildly and move on.

My bright idea: English is on the up but one day will die out Language nerd alert! He makes good points, and I think he might have a case. But we won’t live long enough to see if he is right or not. C’est la vie.

The Book Collection That Devoured My Life No comment.

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Top 100 YA Books

The two giant projects that have been eating my time and my brain are done, more or less, so I will ease back into blogging by doing a listy-meme post and gradually work my way back up to Actual Content. (That’s the plan, anyway; we’ll see how it goes.)

Adele over at Persnickety Snark was querying people on Twitter way back in the spring to help her out with a top YA titles list. I confess, I did not participate in the survey although I did think about it–there were giant projects eating my time and brain, after all–but I’m more than happy to comment on the results.

I’m pleased to see a lot of the titles on the list, as they are favorites. There are, of course, a few titles I disliked, but only #96 truly horrifies me, and is probably the only one I would *refuse* to read. The titles I have read are in bold, and the titles I would like to read are in italics.

1. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

2. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

3. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

4. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

5. Northern Lights by Philip Pullman

6. The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen

7. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

8. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

9. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

10. This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen

11. Looking for Alaska by John Green

12. Just Listen by Sarah Dessen

13. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

14. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

15. City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

16. On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

17. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

18. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

19. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

20. Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen

21. Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

22. Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

23. Graceling by Kristin Cashore

24. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

25. Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty

26. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

27. Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce

28. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

29. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling

30. Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

31. A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

32. Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden

33. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart

34. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

35. The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

36. Paper Towns by John Green

37. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling

38. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

39. A Tree Grows In Brooklyn by Betty Smith

40. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

41. Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen

42. The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman

43. Evernight by Claudia Gray

44. Sabriel by Garth Nix

45. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling

46. Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

47. Forever by Judy Blume

48. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

49. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

50. The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot

51. Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

52. Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

53. The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper

54. Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

55. Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta

56. Second Helpings by Megan McCafferty

57. Dreamland by Sarah Dessen

58. Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer

59. Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

60. Fire by Kristin Cashore

61. The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier

62. Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block

63. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

64. Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta

65. How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff

66. City of Glass by Cassandra Clare

67. Keeping the Moon by Sarah Dessen

68. Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer

69. Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison

70. If I Stay by Gayle Forman

71. The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner

72. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

73. Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast by Robin McKinley

74. The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley

75. Feed by M.T. Anderson

76. The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants by Ann Brashares

77. Go Ask Alice by Anonymous

78. Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr

79. Lord of the Flies by William Golding

80. Someone Like You by Sarah Dessen

81. The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

82. Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson

83. The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

84. Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder

85. Shadow Kiss by Richelle Mead

86. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi

87. An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

88. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon

89. A Ring of Endless Light by Madeleine L’Engle

90. Glass Houses by Rachel Caine

91. The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume I: The Pox Party by M.T. Anderson

92. Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech

93. Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher

94. Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles

95. Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols

96. The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks

97. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

98. Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

99. The Pigman by Paul Zindel

100. The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley

You can see the list and more information here

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