Thursday, January 24, 2008

Other blogs of note

Gentle reader, if you've grown tired and weepy-eyed due to the idyllic pace of life here on Hushabye Mountain... wake up. For the rest of you, here are some other places where fine reviews may be found:

  • 3 Evil Cousins. YA reviews by YA teen readers.

  • Deliciously Clean Reads. The blog that pointed me to Iris, Messenger, although their other reviews haven't managed to grab my attention quite so well.

  • Fantasy Book Critic. High volume with giveaways and author interviews (well, the other ones occasionally have those too), but the idiosyncratic formatting gets on my nerves. And I haven't really been grabbed by any of the reviews, either.

  • OF Blog of the Fallen. Thoughtful reviews focused on fantasy and sci fi.

  • And, finally, Shannon Hale's blog, which doesn't exactly feature reviews but does have some neat interviews with other authors like Libba Bray, Megan Whalen Turner, Sherwood Smith, and so on. Look for the "Squeetus exclusive" posts.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians

By Brandon Sanderson.

+1 for cleverness, but -2 for not going anywhere except to the sequel. Sure, a lot of stuff happens, but it seems to be there more to introduce all the clever ideas you'll need to know for book 2 than to advance the plot or develop the characters. (Well, maybe they are all just supposed to be silly, but there are a few hints of something more...) Also, points lost for foreshadowing that I will probably have forgotten by the time I read the sequel, such as the line about hair dye and the somewhat negative impression I got of a certain character.

On the other hand, there is lots of cleverness: people who have magical Talents for breaking things, arriving late, tripping and falling to the ground, and saying things that don't make sense. Honest. Also, witty observations about how stairs are more advanced than elevators, lanterns than lightbulbs, and swords than guns.

It was also reminiscent of A Series of Unfortunate Events, which I haven't even read, due to the narrator's repeated insistence that he isn't nice.

Cute and clever overall, but it doesn't seem to go anywhere much. Perhaps books two and three will be more rewarding... when they come out.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Some more books

I am accumulating a whole list of books that I have little to say about even though I might have liked them. So, here are some of them:

Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson. Mentioned in several places (e.g., Melissa Marr's blog), I found it quite readable, but a little too obvious with its secrets.

Wicked Lovely, by Melissa Marr. Fairy who always gets what he wants decides he wants a human girl, who refuses. Resolution is a little too facile, perhaps, especially after the darker elements that are introduced (the Summer Girls), but it's good light reading. I think the jacket has a better hook than I'll ever come up with: three rules for what to do around invisible fairies, starting with "Don't stare at invisible fairies."

Terry Pratchett's Tiffany Aching books. I actually read Wintersmith first and then went back and read The Wee Free Men and A Hat Full of Sky. I think I liked The Wee Free Men best; it manages to combine a lot of humor with a credible plot and some serious ideas about dreams.

Kristen Britain's The High King's Tomb. This is the third book in her Green Rider series. There were some surprising twists, some in the form of thwarted cliches, and some unsurprising ones in the form of fulfilled cliches. I don't know if I'll read the next book or not, as I'm starting to think I have better things to do with the time given to me.

Shannon Hale's Book of a Thousand Days. The diary of a maid and her princess, who are locked in a tower for seven years when the princess refuses to marry the man her father chose for her. Well, actually, things happen and it ends up being only two and a half years... I found it a little dryer than some of her other books, but a lot of other people seem to like it a lot. Also of interest is the rejected titles list on Hale's web site, containing gems such as "One Steppe Forward, Two Steppes Back."

Stephenie Meyer's Twilight and sequel, New Moon. (I haven't read Eclipse yet.) Vampire romance in a sleepy, rainy Washington town. My teenage sister loves them. Also, Meyer has some interesting twists on vampires that I haven't seen before.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Voices and Powers

By Ursula K. Le Guin. Voices is the second book of the Annals of the Western Shore (whose Western Shore?), but is only loosely tied to the first book (the two characters who reappear in this one are so changed after at least 17 years that they seem like different people). Powers, the third book, meets up with characters from the first two books only at the very end.

I don't know why I enjoyed this book so much. It lacks the pervasive humor of several of the other books I've reviewed recently. The premise involves a secret library in a city overrun by invaders who hate books, but the knowledge contained within does not, in the end, seem to have much to do with the story, which is more about attitudes towards knowledge and learning. The narrator, a girl named Memer (although it took me 20 pages to realize it was a girl), plays a pivotal role in her city, but one that is more behind-the-scenes and functional than glamorous. I can tell you now, she is not a warrior princess.

I also liked the third book, Powers, but I find myself unable to explain exactly why. It concerns a young man named Gavir who was enslaved as a young child and educated to become a teacher to the children of the house that owns him. It made me think about the nature of slavery, as Gavir sees nothing wrong with being a slave in a house with a just master, and he mentions how the slaves of his house used to mock other slaves who were less well cared for. He later speculates that it was fear that made them react that way.

I recommend these both. I don't remember Gifts, the first book, having a big impression on me, but I suspect I might like it more if I reread it. All three deal with serious topics without much of the levity that has been in the other books I've enjoyed lately. Perhaps there will be another book; there is at least one major hanging end from Powers, mentioned early on and then left for the reader's curiosity to pick at.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

The Chaos King

By Laura Ruby. This is the sequel to The Wall and the Wing, which I reviewed a long time ago.

In the city where everybody (well, almost) can fly due to an accident with a silver pen... the pen has fallen into the hands of grows, who like shiny things, and someone sinister is out to get it. Vampires, an octopus, a giant sloth who likes M&Ms, and a book of badly written greeting card poems all have something to do with what's going on...

Filled with a hilarious and zany sense of humor, this book is full of many fun things, including pop culture references like Amazon (Gurl's, sorry, Georgette's cat Noodle lkes to shop there) and Harry Potter. This is not exactly a big surprise since the previous book introduced a plastic hand with all the answers that the notorious Professor ordered off of eBay. If you like silly but highly entertaining young adult books ("Remember that wireless telephone you invented as a child? What happened to it?" "Uh... I think I dropped it..." "Exactly! And someone else found it, picked it up, and now everyone has one!"), you should like this and its precursor, The Wall and the Wing.

Actually... the spine says this is a juvenile. I suppose it depends on which library you go to.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Iris, Messenger

By Sarah Deming. Found via Deliciously Clean Reads.

Clever, funny book about a girl going to Erebus Middle School (hah) who discovers something about herself. Actually, it's handed to her in pieces, starting with a package containing Bullfinch's Mythology and hand-stamped with a turtle shell which arrives on her twelfth birthday.

This is also a little silly, but short enough that the lack of significant plot (quite a few chapters are retold Greek myths, and the rest is Iris being snarky) doesn't get annoying.

What did get a little annoying was the repeated use of names in dialogue. "Iris, dear?" "Yes?" "Iris, did you know...?" "Let me tell you a story, Iris." I don't need to be reminded nearly so often who's actually talking, and I don't think I had that much of a problem with it as a child either, although I will admit that numerous lines (i.e., more than ten) without any indication of the speaker can make me go back and count ("Abe, Becky, Abe, Becky, Abe, ..., so I guess Becky is saying this line even though it would make more sense from Abe..."). However, this book had the opposite problem.

Other than that, cute book, although the plot seems underdeveloped. I'm reminded of the DWJ story about an adult reader who said her books were too complicated, while the adult's child said "Don't worry: I had no problem understanding them!"