Category Archives: books

Recently Read: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

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Well done, ma’am. Well done!

This book was fantastic. Rich and unique descriptions, complicated and unique characters, an intriguing and unique plot — noticing a pattern here?

The description on the backcover of this book is wonderfully vague. It only barely hints at what’s inside and it’s great, because I went through this book free of bookcover spoilers or expectations and with no idea what was coming, which made it all the better when it happened. In fact, I’m even going to hide the last sentence of it under a cut, and pretty much everything behind the cut will be, well:

So, if you haven’t read this book and you like YA fantasy, read it. Karou is a fantastic, complex, flawed character and the people in her life are fleshed-out and real. Also, it made me really want to visit Prague again and see it with new eyes! It’s such a gorgeous, old world city. Likewise, this book is just beautiful to read and enjoy, and I am eagerly awaiting the upcoming release of the sequel, Days of Blood of Starlight.

Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”; she speaks many languages–not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out. Read the rest of this entry

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Recently Read: The Hex Hall Series by Rachel Hawkins

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It’s been a sparse summer for posting, but a decent one for reading! So here’s a shot at a new series of posts on books I’ve recently read and my thoughts on them. I’ll try to stay away from spoilers, but it’s possible a few small ones may slip in, so be forewarned! Doing these is somewhat inspired by a blog I recently found called Young Adult Fiction and Whiskey Sours. Being a fan of both of those things, it was no surprise that I found the blog enjoyable, too! Check it out if you’re also a fan.

The US covers have this nice reflection theme going on for all three novels.

Summer of 2012 has been a YA fantasy-heavy summer for me. I blew threw the three novels in the Hex Hall series by Rachel Hawkins. The first book, of the same title, starts us of meeting Sophie Mercer, a sixteen-year-old witch being shipped off to boarding school for supernaturals (or Prodigium, as they call it) who have trouble staying under the radar. On an island off the coast of Georgia, snarky Sophie’s journey starts off feeling very been there, done that. Young magically-inclined kid goes off to magic school and hijinx ensue, hmm, I’ve heard this one before… but, thankfully, it gets better. Read the rest of this entry

Thursday Tropes: After the End

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I love a good post-apocalyptic story. Hell, I even enjoy ones that aren’t that good, because just the hint of one will perk my ears. And given the proclivity of this kind of setting lately, it’s safe to say I’m not the only one. Just

It’s Ellen Page in the post-apocalyptic future! (Actually, the resemblance is a coincidence, but I’m sure she’d have something quirky to say if it were her.)

yesterday I came across some trailers for an upcoming game, The Last of Uswhere a version of the Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, the fungus that can create a zombie ant, has jumped to humans and created zombies and lead to the collapse of civilization as we know it. I know so very little about the gameplay, the plot, anything, but I know it looks gorgeous and I’m suddenly we’ve got a PS3 and I’ll be able to play it! I’ve also written before about another such setting I ate up (a coincidentally interesting choice of words on my part) when I wrote about Feed by Mira Grant, which features fantastic world-building. The third book and final book in that trilogy, Blackout, releases later this month and I can’t wait to read it.

When reading up on TLOU the other day, a few things occured me. One, this was a perfect topic for my next Thursday Tropes post! Two, I clearly have an itch to write my own post-apocalyptic story, so I should work on that at some point. And three, why are we obsessed with post-apocalyptic stories? I’ve come to at least one conclusion: it’s real-life fanfiction crossed with cautionary tale. Read the rest of this entry

Thursday Tropes: The Love Triangle

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The Love Triangle.  Because we all know that love and relationships are only complicated when a potential second suitor comes along, and apart from that, it’s all rainbows and good times and everyone gets along.

Waaaait a second.

Why hook up with the still living when you can have the undead popsicle, amirite?

My beef with the love triangle is how overused it’s become. Now, do love triangles happen in real life? Of course they do. And do they keep fiction interesting? They certainly can. But it’s become a staple, it often seems, rather than a useful tool among many others in the writer’s toolbox. I get the impression that a lot of them are added in because that’s what people are told will sell books (or other media), rather than it being in there because it helps the story and develops naturally.

Of recent love triangle fame is, of course, the Twilight series. Which is funny since this is a triangle that isn’t a triangle. Yes, I read them, and yes, I’ve seen the movies. Yes, I think it’s awful. It’s like a train wreck, I can’t look away! Plus the unintentional hilarity is fantastic. But I digress. This now hugely famous love triangle isn’t one because at really no point does Bella ever seriously consider Jacob. Briefly in New Moon, when it looks like Edward’s gone forever, but hot damn, she literally jumps on a plane to fly halfway across the world the second she learns that’s still an option! Jacob, buddy, that should’ve been your first enormous clue that she was just not that into you.

But thanks to this series, love triangles have taken on new life as a given in YA, it feels like, becoming cliche, boring, and overused in the process. Read the rest of this entry

Hankering for some Sci-Fi

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I caught a look at this really awesome and interesting Scale of the Universe site the other day via Facebook — which I recommend you check out, too. In case you ever thought you were a big deal, or knew it all, here’s an FYI: you’re not and you don’t, because my god is the Universe huge. And beautiful. And I love the music they set to that page. Which brings me to…

The breathtaking beauty of a star being born in the Carina Nebula.

A hankering for some sci-fi! I’m largely a fantasy reader when it comes to the good ol’ SF&F section of the bookstore; in the last few years, that’s focused even more directly on urban fantasy and modern-day paranormal stuff. But after that website, I’m looking for some recommendations on some good science fiction literature to check out.

Now, I’m not talking hard sci-fi. Interesting but understandable jargon and science and ideas are perfectly fine, but I’m not a scientist and I’ve no aspirations to be one. Something that’s interesting, different, has good story and characters. Something that appreciates not only the fun of a space adventure but the beauty of the universe would be extra great to get my hands on.

Suggest away!

Dog-eared

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My copy is autographed by Gaiman. "Mind the Gap!"

In a fun game of Don’t Rest Your Head this past Sunday, the Mad City we ended up in at the end reminded me a lot of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, which I read years ago. Enough that I was interested to pick up the book again this morning for my commute. I got 20 or so pages in before arriving at work, and as was my habit years ago but hasn’t been of late, I dog-eared the page I was on to mark my place — and then had to smile as the corner easily folded down because it had been dog-eared when I first read the book. A nice little reminder, a new kind of note of familiarity, a little sign to welcome me back to a place I’d been before.

There are a lot of reasons people resist e-readers, other than the price, and I can respect a lot of them. I don’t get the “book smell” one — I’ve never noticed a particular smell to books. I’m sure there is one, everything has a smell (except for iocaine powder!), but I’m not a smell-oriented kind of person. In this case, I’m visual. I love covers, I love how books look, all lined up on my bookshelf, or sitting on my nightstand. Given that, you’d think I’d hate folding pages to mark my place, because doesn’t that destroy the perfect look?

Nah. Just like sneakers are meant to get dirty, and bumpers to get scuffed, books are meant to be used and read and to show the signs of it. I’m picky, though. I hate cracked spines, but I love creases in them; I get irritated by rips or a little water-damage, but I love a cover that’s gone a bit soft from being held.I love that I folded a page that I’d already folded, knowing I’d been there before, that this was my book. I think I treasure that fact even more than this being an autographed copy.

And these are the things you can never get out of an e-reader. There’s no real sense of ownership, of nostalgia. There’s no way to know you’ve been here before, beyond the fact you know the story. Some e-readers let you highlight passages, sure, but that feels more distracting than anything, because you also have to read what everyone else has highlighted. It draws your eye to that sentence before anything else on the page,  you end up reading it out of context instead of being able to enjoy it on your own. (This happens to be one reason that I’m glad I have a Nook instead of a Kindle; no highlighted passages.)

Hello, Page 25, my old friend.

Do I still enjoy having an e-reader? Hell yes! I can carry as many books as I like with me at a time, I can easily go read a previously read book without swapping it out on my bookshelf. Having an e-reader is great. But there are some things it just can’t replace, whether that’s the smell or the feel or the vivid covers…or just an old, dog-eared page inside a well-worn cover.

Can Young Adult Fiction Grow Up?

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The novel I’m working on, Ghostlight, is very clearly in the Young Adult Paranormal (YAP) genre. Bette is 17, a high school senior, as are her friends, and there are ghosts. Bam, YA, done. See also such series as The Vampire Diaries, Harry Potter, Twilight, the list goes on.

But she’s also a character I can easily see in what’s come to be called the Urban Fantasy (UF) genre: Bette in her 20’s, in a city somewhere, doing some manner of paranormal-related work, be it a professional ghost hunter, a PI, a journalist with a secret, and so on. In a number of ways, the story I’m writing is Bette’s origin story, her first adventure into the paranormal, the point at which her life changes, the events that set her on a certain path. See also such series as The Dresden Files, Southern Vampire Mysteries/True Blood, Mercy Thompson, Greywalker–the list, again, goes on.

Really I just wanted an excuse to post this awesome picture.

What I’m writing for Bette now is the kind of story that the Urban Fantasy novels will often mention in passing, but don’t usually go into details on. Those novels largely skip ahead to when the character is established in their weird world; whereas for the YAP novels, this is the story that they cover, how it started, how the character went from normal to paranormal, how that world got weird in the first place. While both types have their similarities and differences, there’s one big difference I’m seeing right now: the YAP novels tend to be contained by a set number of books, usually a trilogy, while the UF novels are much more open-ended.

I can see Bette’s story being contained, spanning 3 or 4 books and then ending there, with the future becoming a big blank slate. But I can also see it continuing on, her growing up and finding a new place in the world, her being not just the YAP heroine, but the UF one as well.

As far as I know, this isn’t something that’s been done before, a Young Adult character/series developing into an adult-focused Urban Fantasy series. I can certainly see why, there are plenty of reasons for it. Who do you market the books to, those books generally (or at least often) have a very different tone and subject matter, there’s no ‘transitional’ genre out there for this. It’s the reason why TV shows about high schoolers rarely manage to survive when those characters go to college. You’ve got characters you like, a setting you like, actors you like, and the reality is that most people don’t all stick around in the same town they grew up in when they go to school.

Harry Potter: The Jack Bauer of Aurors

But, I can also see reasons why it could possibly work. For one thing, your readers are growing up, why not a character who grows up with them? As well, a book series doesn’t face the same issues of having to always be tied to one place, certain characters, certain actors. It’s easier to change those up in a book than in a TV show. And while one may say there’s no transitional, I’d argue that YA is the transitional genre. Some very real and meaningful events, thoughts, and conflicts can and often do come up in YA. Death, love, broken hearts, hardships, prejudice, poverty, family issues — all of these frequently come up in YA and are explored and dealt with in thoughtful, satisfying, and mature ways.

It might be challenging — and, of course, this is all assuming I finish this book, get it published, and have enough success to keep doing more featuring Bette — but I do think it’s possible. I’d like to approach the whole idea thinking it’s possible, and that because whatever adventure Bette has now may end, it doesn’t mean she can’t have more of them later in life.

Let’s be honest, if JK Rowling decided to write books about Harry Potter’s adventures as an Auror, who wouldn’t want to read that? It would be awesome! (No, I’m not saying I’m the next JK Rowling, as awesome as that also would be. But HP is a series that had many mature themes for what was a “kid’s” book, so it well illustrates my point here.)