Chuck Bass as Tybalt FTW:
Chuck Bass as Tybalt FTW:
Invisibility, by Andrea Cremer and David Levithan
The Circle: The Engelsfors Trilogy--Book 1, by Sara B. Elfgren and Mats Strandberg
Our Song, by Jordanna Fraiberg
Thorn Abbey, by Nancy Ohlin
Maid of Secrets (Maids of Honor), by Jennifer McGowan
Mystic (Soul Seekers), by Alyson Noël
Nantucket Blue, by Leila Howland
Never (Lightbringer), by K.D. McEntire
Nothing but Blue, by Lisa Jahn-Clough
The Originals, by Cat Patrick
Reboot, by Amy Tintera
The Reluctant Assassin (W.A.R.P.), by Eoin Colfer
The Savage Blue (The Vicious Deep), by Zoraida Cordova
Fall of Night: The Morganville Vampires, by Rachel Caine
Ender's Game (Movie Tie-In) (The Ender Quintet), by Orson Scott Card
Icons, by Margaret Stohl
If I Should Die (Revenants), by Amy Plum
The Lucy Variations, by Sara Zarr
The 5th Wave, by Rick Yancey
Abandon Book 3: Awaken, by Meg Cabot
Chantress, by Amy Butler Greenfield
Criminal, by Terra Elan McVoy
The End Games, by T. Michael Martin
New paperbacks (that I've read):
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, by Jesse Andrews:
I loved it for Greg, who—unlike many a boy in books about cancer—is not wise, thoughtful, mature, sweet, generous, or even all that nice, but is real, relatable, slappable**, and hilarious. I loved it for Earl, who is just plain wonderful—and who, even though Greg is so self-absorbed that he hardly even knows him, comes off as a real, believable person. A real, believable, hilarious person.
Zenn Scarlett (Strange Chemistry), by Christian Schoon:
Zenn Scarlett has a great sense of place, both physical and political; wonderfully described alien species that aren’t at all anthropomorphized; a likable heroine, tight pacing with lots of chapters ending on exciting old-timey serial cliffhangers, and a good amount of humor. I enjoyed it hugely...with a few minor caveats. (You totally knew that was coming, didn’t you?)
Throne of Glass, by Sarah J. Maas:
Celaena is a swaggering, smart-mouthed heroine—with a secret past, naturally—who hides her pain and fear behind a smirking exterior. She’s comfortable in her own skin and with her own sexuality, and her vanity is strangely charming. She holds grudges and is quick to lash out, but those who are lucky enough to call her “friend” know her loyalty and warmth.
The Innocents, by Lili Peloquin:
But while the writing itself is actually really decent, Razorbill’s packaging of The Innocents is the most exciting thing about the book. The drama isn’t particularly dramatic—more angst than action—and the shocking behavior of the characters looks almost wholesome compared to what went on in Beverly Hills, 90210 over 20 years ago.
Gilt, by Katherine Longshore:
Katherine Longshore’s depiction of Catherine Howard is quite well-rounded. She’s manipulative, tempestuous (behind closed doors), power-hungry, selfish and short-sighted, but it’s always worth remembering that she’s also 16 years old. She’s married to an ailing, sad old man, and she longs for romance. That she would chafe at her lack of freedom is easily understandable, that her power would occasionally go to her head is easily believable, and the rare glimpses we get of her sadness and her fear are affecting. It’s a darker, more nuanced portrait than the Sexy Nose Hair cover art implies.
Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein:
Trust me? Add this to your list. Don’t trust me? Add it to your list anyway. Fan of historical fiction? Espionage? World War II stories? Add it, add it, add it. Even if your tastes don’t usually tend in that direction, you need to pick it up anyway. It will make you dissolve into a puddle, and then, once you’ve recovered, you’ll immediately read it all over again. That’s what I did.
Black City (A Black City Novel), by Elizabeth Richards:
LONG STORY SHORT: WILL YOU LIKE IT? IT DEPENDS.
Shadow and Bone (Grisha Trilogy (Shadow and Bone)), by Leigh Bardugo:
Before the story even starts, there’s a map and a list of intriguingly named soldier types like “Tidemakers,” “Alkemi” and “Heartrenders.” Among those factors and the cover, I was predisposed to like this book before I even started reading it. And, overall, I did... with a few reservations.
One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies, by Sonya Sones (new edition):
The parts about the Hollywood high school are priceless, Aunt Max is awesome, and like What My Mother Doesn't Know, it's predictable, but not in a bad way. Oh, and she's a big reader, so there are a couple of poems that are basically reading lists of awesome YA books. Rad.
1. Divergent, by Veronica Roth
2. The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green
3. Insurgent, by Veronica Roth
4. Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins
5. Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins
American Booksellers Association, National (Children's Interest):
1. The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green
2. Wonder, by R.J. Palacio
3. Looking for Alaska, by John Green
4. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs
5. The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak
New York Times (YA):
1. The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green
2. Divergent, by Veronica Roth
3. Insurgent, by Veronica Roth
4. Looking for Alaska, by John Green
5. The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak
Publishers Weekly (Children's Frontlist):
1. Middle School: How I Survived Bullies, Broccoli, and Snake Hill, by James Patterson and Chris Tebbets
2. Dork Diaries 6: Tales from a Not-So-Happy Heartbreaker, by Rachel Rene Russell
3. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs
4. Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins
5. The Third Wheel, by Jeff Kinney
1. The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green (#9 overall)
2. Divergent, by Veronica Roth (#10 overall)
3. City of Bones, by Cassandra Clare (#20 overall)
4. Insurgent, by Veronica Roth (#21 overall)
5. Dork Diaries 6: Tales from a Not-So-Happy Heartbreaker, by Rachel Rene Russell (#48 overall)
Lizzie Skurnick Books are now available through our subscription book club. Whether you are in a reading group, choosing a gift, or just want to build (or rebuild) your own collection of classic young adult titles, you can get the books you loved as a teen delivered right to your front door. All subscription plans include FREE SHIPPING.
Of course, as I'm currently rather poor, I'm unlikely to actually sign up in the near future, but it's awesome to know that it's AN OPTION.
Although it's certainly not the only YA space opera in existence, I credit Beth Revis' Across the Universe trilogy—comprised of Across the Universe, A Million Suns, and Shades of Earth—with bringing the subgenre to a more broadly mainstream readership... WITHOUT sacrificing the science fiction elements or simply setting a popular storyline in outer space.
In other words, this is not Twilight or The Hunger Games or Harry Potter in space. Each installment of Across the Universe is something different—the first book is a murder mystery, the second a political thriller, the third a frontier adventure—but they're all tied together by the overarching story, by ongoing themes of growth and independence and choice and sacrifice and leadership and love, and by the coming-of-age of the main characters.
The trilogy is exciting and romantic and epic and surprising and original; it stars a refreshingly difficult heroine and showcases OUTSTANDING character development; each book is very much one part of a larger whole, but still works as a satisfying story unto itself; as the best science fiction stories do, it explores current-day issues in a futuristic setting WITHOUT being overly obvious or preachy; it's atmospheric and claustrophobic, it contrasts the wondrous vastness of space with the frustration of being stuck—maybe forever—on a ship that may never reach its destination; it's realistic in that the characters face difficult, complicated situations to which there are no easy answers...
I could go on, but that's enough from me, take it away, Beth!
When I finished the first draft of Across the Universe, one of the first things I did was go to my small local indie bookstore and ask for all the YA science fiction they had. I wanted to know the market inside and out. And what I found was…no market. My bookstore had three SF novels on the YA shelf: Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games, Stephanie Meyer's The Host, and Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game. And while I’d read all three, what I wanted was more: more variety, more diversity, more space, just more.
Fortunately, in the past few years, there’s been a boom in YA SF. There is a lot more available—and more coming. I actually had a really hard time narrowing down this list to just ten titles! In the end, I decided to restrict myself to works that were published between 2011 and the end of this year. Although two of my selections are dystopians, I tried to err on the side of sci fi. So, without further ado, here’s some of my personal favorite modern YA SF—in no specific order, as I love them all equally.
Origin, by Jessica Khoury
Pia is a child of science—literally. Born in a science commune hidden in the jungle, she has been raised to be the perfect scientist. As she learns more about who—and what—she is, she must decide whether it is worth it to choose her own destiny, or take the one carefully planned for her. This novel has some of my favorite elements of sci fi: a healthy mix of philosophy, action, and possibilities.
Memento Nora, by Angie Smibert
Of all the novels on this list, Memento Nora scares me the most, because it is eerily close to being true already. Nora lives in a world where people have given up their freedoms due to fear of terrorist attacks—and many choose to give up their memories, too. When she decides to hold on to her memories—despite the bad ones—she realizes just what true terrorism is.
Hourglass, by Myra McEntire
I love a time travel novel. The first of a trilogy, Hourglass tells the story of Emerson, a true Southern girl who sees ghosts. Except they’re not ghosts. They’re echoes of the past—a past that Em can travel to. With hot boys, a healthy dose of snark, and an appropriately twisty plot, this book is such a fun read.
Cinder, by Marissa Meyer
Cinder is so high-concept that you can tell what the book is by looking at the cover—it’s a sci fi retelling of Cinderella with a cyborg instead of a princess. Brilliant, am I right? Cinder has cyborg-feet, a Prince, an evil queen that lives on the moon, and such an entertaining voice that I couldn’t put the book down. The sequel, Scarlet, tells the story of Little Red Riding Hood with a Wolf who’s a spaceship captain, and I am chomping at the bit for the next title coming, Cress, which features my favorite fairy tale, Rapunzel.
For Darkness Shows the Stars, by Diana Peterfreund
Beautifully told, this novel is a retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion in a far-future New Zealand. This isn’t a novel about an apocalypse—it’s about what happens after, to the ones who live far past a world event that rocks the whole world. But it’s also a love story, a commentary on technology, a story of class and prejudice, and so much more.
Tempest, by Julie Cross
Did I mention that I love time travel novels? I so do. Pick this one up for the hero, Jackson. He starts off as a jerk with a special talent for falling back in time, but when something truly traumatic happens, he finds himself stuck in the past—and given a chance to save the life of the girlfriend whose death he’s partially responsible for. Jackson’s older than most YA characters, and definitely a boy—but all the more realistic because of it.
Control, by Lydia Kang
Coming December 2013
Lydia Kang is a genius. No, I’m not exaggerating. She’s a doctor. She knows science inside and out. And it shows in this smart novel of a future where genetics have gone awry. Ostensibly, this novel tells about a group of teens on the run; their genetic mutations and anomalies have made them very special to the wrong people. But more than that, this is a book about loving someone not despite their differences, but because of them. And I’m not talking about just romantic love (although there is that), but also familial love, friendship, and more.
Tandem, by Anna Jarzab
Coming October 2013
This is a book about parallel worlds. In the multiverse, there are many different copies of people in different worlds. In her world—this world—Sasha is an ordinary girl. But in another world, she’s a princess. Dragged across the multiverse, she must learn what happened to the original princess, how to save the people she’s come to care about, and, maybe, how to get home.
Perfect Ruin, by Lauren DeStefano
Coming October 2013
A mix between science, alt-history, fantasy, and something unique all its own, Perfect Ruin is the perfect follow up to the Chemical Garden trilogy. Fans of Avatar: The Last Airbender will love the unique wordplay of the new world Lauren’s created, and those sick of dystopians will love the utopian portrayal of Internment at the start of the novel. The best part? Internment is truly a unique setting for a cast of amazingly unique characters. You will love them all.
These Broken Stars, by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
Coming December 2013
I was so lucky to get an early copy of this book! This is exactly the sort of sci fi I wished I’d had growing up. It starts off in what is essentially a Titanic of the stars, a luxury spaceship that provides a contrast between the two main characters—a girl born to opulence and a poor boy who’s risen the ranks of the military. When the ship crashes—and they’re the only survivors—they must find a way home on an inhospitable alien planet. You will absolutely, positively not be able to guess the end of this explosive book.
Love Minus Eighty, by Will McIntosh
This one’s not YA, but it reads like one (in that it’s not hard SF, has a quick pace, is more focused on characters than most adult SF, etc.). It’s an absolutely fascinating look at a possible future where, if you’re hot and young enough when you die, you can be frozen, revived only if you’re willing to be a contracting bride for the very rich. There’s some adult language in this one, and some racy ideas, but nothing too inappropriate on-screen, so mature readers will definitely be able to get a lot out of this adult title, and I highly recommend it. It’s a modern Philip K. Dick / Twilight Zone hybrid.
Previously:Lauren Roedy Vaughn's Five Favorite Literary Adult Mentors... Plus Two Characters Who Need One.
As I always get a giggle out of Travis Jonker's One Star Review Guess Who posts, I figured I'd swipe the idea and post the occasional one-star Amazon review of a much-lauded YA title.
So, can you guess what book this disappointed reader is reviewing?:
Only two words: Children's book.I decided to read the book after it got a positive review from Lebron James but as you may already know he did not go to college. Can't believe i spend $5 on this crap, so prepare to be disappointed.
As that one didn't include any details, here's another one about the same book:
WOW!!! With all of the movie hubb-bubb I figured I better look into reading this.
No way, Jose!! Didn't like it from about page 20, when the whole premise of the book
is laid out. The whole kids-killing-kids aspect of it was distasteful and disturbing. The
whole ""we're a happy in-love couple trapped in these "games" ". The whole wolf-pack at the
end was over-the-top, bad enough to kill these kids once, but, twice???
I could go on, , ,but, , ,this book is much to do about nothing!!!
I keep an eye on new titles through Baker & Taylor's Booking Ahead and CATS Booking Ahead emails and by using the fancy Advanced Search function at Amazon.
I read lots of blogs, I get recommendations from friends and family and library patrons.
I pick up books that are mentioned in the acknowledgements of other books.
I pick up books because I like their cover art, and I pick up books because I am horrified-yet-fascinated by their cover art.
I pick up books because they've been blurbed by a trusted source. (But I avoid putting TOO much stock in blurbs.)
I pick up sequels and books by authors I've read and enjoyed.
When I'm feeling ridiculously nerdy, I search Novelist for specific topics and read a bunch of books along similar lines (hence lists like this).
I buy used and new and I check books out of the library, and I get quite a lot of unsolicited review copies in the mail.
Like I said: A VARIETY OF SOURCES.
What I DON'T use very often are Book Recommendation Engines. Not because I have anything against them, just because I tend to find them and play with them and then forget what they're called.
SO. LET'S MAKE A LIST.
I shall use Howl's Moving Castle and The Book Thief as my test subjects.
Your Next Read: "At YourNextRead we only feature books you have told us you have read, enjoyed and recommended for others to read. If you do not understand what you are meant to be looking for then YourNextRead is for you...!"
For fans of Howl's Moving Castle, YNR recommends: Castle in the Air, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, The Two Princesses of Bamarre, Fairest, The Lives of Christopher Chant, The House of Many Ways, and Dragon Slippers.
For fans of The Book Thief, YNR recommends: The Fault in Our Stars, Paper Towns, I Am the Messenger (twice!), To Kill a Mockingbird, Night, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (*shudder*).
What Should I Read Next?: "Enter a book you like and the site will analyse our huge database of real readers' favorite books to provide book recommendations and suggestions for what to read next."
For fans of Howl's Moving Castle, WSIRN? recommends: Ghosts I Have Been, I am Mordred, The Perilous Gard, Erec Rex, The Children of Green Knowe, I am Morgan le Faye, Rowan of Rin, Restoree. (As it's such a long list, I only listed the first eight... but as I scrolled down, it continued to get more and more bizarre, with recommendations like Sideways Arithmetic from Wayside School and Rooftop. ROOFTOP. To be fair, Sorcery & Cecelia was there, too.)
For fans of The Book Thief, WSIRN? recommends: Daughter of Venice, The Tales of Beedle the Bard, The Clothes on Their Backs, Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie, Guernica, Alone in Berlin, Midnighters #1, and An Acquaintance with Darkness. (Further down? ONE FISH TWO FISH RED FISH BLUE FISH. I don't even. Boy in the Striped Pajamas shows up, too: although my hatred will never abate for that book, it makes more sense as a pick than DR. SEUSS.)
Bookish: "Bookish is an all-in-one website that uses patent pending technology to provide a book-centric, contextual and personalized experience, all with the goal of helping readers find their next book. We serve smarter book recommendations, original book lists and articles, and author and book pages for classics and new favorites."
For fans of Howl's Moving Castle, Bookish recommends: Abhorsen, Calling on Dragons, Sleeper Code, Rose Daughter, and Spindle's End. (Sleeper Code?? Calling on Dragons is a good call, though.)
For fans of The Book Thief, Bookish recommends: Where Things Come Back, Skullduggery Island (?), and Mattoo, Let's Play! (????)
There's other content, too: both pages link up to an extensive list of the author's other books as well as user reviews; The Book Thief is also included on a list called YA FOR BOYS (<--sideeye) and has a section devoted to favorite quotes.
BookLamp: "Much like Pandora.com was created to provide a practical outlet for the Music Genome Project, we created BookLamp.org to allow readers and writers to use the tools that we’ve developed over the years. BookLamp is the public face and home of the Book Genome Project, so please check it out and let us know what you think."
HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE IS NOT INDEXED. Which is, obviously, a travesty.
For fans of The House of Many Ways, BookLamp recommends: Stopping for a Spell, Earwig and the Witch, The Servants, Magyk, and We Have Always Lived in the Castle. Re: the Shirley Jackson, I don't even.
For fans of The Book Thief, BookLamp recommends: Speak Through the Wind, Faith, The Blind Contessa's New Machine, Amagansett, The Rosary Girls. As I haven't read ANY of those, I can't offer up any pithy wisdom.
Hunch: "Hunch’s ambitious mission is to build a ‘Taste Graph’ of the entire web, connecting every person on the web with their affinity for anything, from books to electronic gadgets to fashion or vacation spots. Hunch is at the forefront of combining algorithmic machine learning with user-curated content, with the goal of providing better recommendations for everyone."
HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE IS NOT INDEXED. See above for my opinion on that matter.
For fans of Diana Wynne Jones, Hunch recommends: A.A. Milne, Nicholas Christopher, William Golding, Markus Zusak, China Mieville, Philip Pullman, Susanna Clarke, Katharine Kerr, and Margaret Atwood. I especially approve of the inclusion of Mieville, and Zusak was a rather hilarious coincidence. (Either that or I'm just getting punchy. There are waaaaaay more of these websites than I thought.)
For fans of The Book Thief, Hunch recommends: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, A Thousand Splendid Suns, Water for Elephants, The Girl Who Played with Fire, Middlesex, The Shadow of the Wind, The Kite Runner, and The Hunger Games. So, mostly other Book Group Picks?
TasteKid: "TasteKid is a discovery engine that provides on spot, relevant, music, movies, TV shows, books, authors and games recommendations, based on one's existing preferences. The purpose of these recommendations is discovery and taste exploration. Sometimes, less known items are recommended instead of more similar, yet much more popular ones, in order to increase the chances of discovering something new."
For fans of Howl's Moving Castle, TK recommends: House of Many Ways, Castle in the Air, Terrier, Lirael, Abhorsen, The Princess Bride, Stardust, Through the Looking Glass, Harry Potter, Fruits Basket, and a few others.
For fans of The Book Thief, TK recommends: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, The Messenger, Fault in Our Stars, The Night Circus, Paper Towns, Shadow of the Wind, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Sophie's World, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, I Capture the Castle, and a few others.
Bookseer: While it has a great look, this one just uses Amazon's top recommendations, so I'll just list the first of each list.
For fans of Howl's Moving Castle, Bookseer recommends: Castle in the Air.
For fans of The Book Thief, Bookseer recommends: Divergent. AHAHAHAHAHAHA.
Gnooks: "Gnooks is a self-adapting community system based on the gnod engine. Discover new writers you will like, travel the map. of literature and discuss your favorite books and authors." This one is by author, not title, and so while it's not particularly helpful in this case, it's still WICKED COOL.
For fans of Diana Wynne Jones, Gnooks points us to: Patricia C. Wrede, Lloyd Alexander, Susan Cooper, Tamora Pierce, Bruce Coville, Gerald Morris, AND MANY MORE.
For fans of Markus Zusak, Gnooks points us to: Hugh Laurie (<--based on his ONE book, I guess?), Carlos Ruiz Zafron, Jonathan Stroud and David Levithan.
Which Book: "If you're not good at remembering book titles, or if you are the sort of reader who likes to choose by browsing round a little and seeing what tempts you, whichbook is the perfect solution to help you find what you are looking for." This one uses sliders, so you can search for a sad-funny-disturbing-optimistic book, or a happy-serious-safe-bleak one, or anything in between.
[EDITED TO ADD TWEET]
BookLikes: "Discover great books by exploring blogs and let others discover best books thank [sic] to your book reviews. Writing reviews was never so easy, fast and engaging - connect your review with a single book or whole book series."
As far as I can tell, this site is just trying to be a mashup of Tumblr and GoodReads?
BookVibe: "BookVibe digs through your Twitter stream to show you books being discussed by your friends (the people you follow). We have bought a ton of books ourselves from our friends’ “book streams” and we hope that you will enjoy seeing what books your friends are talking about. We compile this for you on one handy page and send out a weekly email digest highlighting books from your book stream."
No robot recommendations here, either, though I signed up for it anyway because I'm a sucker.
And then, there are the personal reading databases that double as recommendation engines:
GoodReads: "Goodreads is the world’s largest site for readers and book recommendations. Our mission is to help people find and share books they love." AND TO PROVIDE A SPACE FOR PEOPLE TO BRING THE DRAMZ AND GET INTO BIG NASTY (though entertaining) KERFUFFLES. ALSO, IT'S OWNED BY AMAZON.
The recommendation engine is vaguely based on user ratings rather than on the plug-in-a-title-get-a-recommendation model, and in my experience, provides bizarre results. Last time I checked, it was telling me I'd like nonfiction about punk rock.
Not that I have anything against nonfiction about punk rock, but judging by the almost 1,500 books I've rated, you'd think that the computer would be able to tell that my reading tastes lie in a different direction.
Shelfari: "Shelfari introduces readers to our global community of book lovers and encourages them to share their literary inclinations and passions with peers, friends, and total strangers (for now). Shelfari is a gathering place for authors, aspiring authors, publishers, and readers, and has many tools and features to help these groups connect with each other in a fun and engaging way. Our mission is to enhance the experience of reading by connecting readers in meaningful conversations about the published word." ALSO OWNED BY AMAZON.
For fans of Howl's Moving Castle, Shelfari recommends: a bunch of other books by Diana Wynne Jones.
For fans of The Book Thief, Shelfari recommends: In My Hands, Milkweed, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Tunes for Bears to Dance to, Something Remains, Diary of a Young Girl, Tales from the Secret Annex, World War II, Never Let Me Go, Edelweiss Pirates: Operation Einstein.
LibraryThing: "LibraryThing is an online service to help people catalog their books easily. You can access your catalog from anywhere—even on your mobile phone. Because everyone catalogs together, LibraryThing also connects people with the same books, comes up with suggestions for what to read next, and so forth."
For fans of Howl's Moving Castle, LT recommends: Castle in the Air, The Pinhoe Egg, A Sudden Wild Magic, Sabriel, Sorcery and Cecelia, Spindle's End, So You Want to be a Wizard, Searching for Dragons, Rose Daughter, and A College of Magics.
For fans of The Book Thief, LT recommends: I am the Messenger, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, The Thirteenth Tale, The Help, Water for Elephants, Behind the Bedroom Wall, Room, People of the Book, and A Thousand Splendid Suns. (That list seems to start out with related titles and then just devolve into Common Reading Group Picks.)
LibraryThing offers lists of BOTH LT recommendations AND user recommendations for both titles, which is a super feature: in both cases, the user recommendations seemed more accurate to me.
Not launched yet:
Valioo: "You shouldn't waste time or money with the wrong books. Life is too short for such mistakes. We are developing a quick, fun and easy way to rate your books and receive highly personalized recommendations."
Real-live people providing online readers' advisory:
[Recommended in the comments] The Seattle Public Library provides this service via their website. As I'm not a patron—the form asks for a library card number—I haven't tried it out, but the idea is definitely a cool one.
PHEW. What have I learned?
That while these various recommendation resources are certainly entertaining, and could definitely point readers in some INTERESTING directions, that none of these engines can really hold their own against a one-on-one with a reader's advisory expert.
Anyway, I'm sure there must be more: which ones did I miss? Also, do you use them, and if so, which one is your favorite?
I loved Shadowfell. Like, I loved it A LOT.
I am so, so happy to say that Raven Flight doesn't come close to disappointing. It's just as fabulously superb an epic fantasy as the first book, and it's left me in the same sort of tizzy: ALL I WANT IS THE NEXT INSTALLMENT. AND IT'S GOING TO BE, WHAT? ANOTHER YEAR, PROBABLY? AUUUUUUUUUUUGH.
Although she is small, prone to sickness, and not a fighter, Neryn is the best hope for the resistance against King Keldec's brutal reign: as the only known Caller in existence, only she can bring the Good Folk into the fight on the side of the humans.
It's been a few weeks since she arrived at the rebel's base in Shadowfell. She's rested now, healthier, and now it's time for her to set out again: in order to wield her power properly, she needs to find and train with the four Guardians of the realm. She's already met with the Master of Shadows, but now she needs to find the Hag of the Isles, the Lord of the North, and the White Lady... and due to the timing of the impending battle, she only has a year and a half to to travel to three far-flung corners of the country, find the well-hidden Guardians, train with them, and make it to Summerfort in time to challenge Keldec at the midsummer Gathering after next.
So, yes, in terms of format, it's a classic quest novel. But here's what sets it apart from your run-of-the-mill quest novel—and, for that matter, your run-of-the-mill fantasy, period:
Neryn. As I said in my review of the first book, Neryn isn't an overly badass, swaggering heroine. Yes, she wields huge power, but her strength lies in her thoughtfulness, in her empathy, and in her disinclination to wield her power without fully understanding it. In more grasping, ambitious hands, it could be used to manipulate and enslave the Good Folk, and in lazy or feckless hands it could be used purely for convenience, but Neryn uses it to ask, and to be heard.
She is very aware that waging war will result in deaths on every side, and because of that, her great empathy is also a weakness: her training forces her to confront the idea that she won't be able to use her power effectively unless she makes peace with the fact that some of the fey who join the rebellion will very definitely die, and very possibly at her command. Translation: Raven Flight deals with the emotional and moral implications of leadership, and it deals with said implications with depth, subtlety, complexity.
Even MOAR emotional complexity. Relatedly, it also deals with the difficulty of being a double agent: Flint has affection for some of the men in his troop—and even, to a degree, for King Keldec—and while his belief in the rebels' cause is stronger, it's still a hard road to walk.
The romance. As in the first book, Neryn's romance takes a backseat to the rebellion. She sees Flint very rarely, and she realizes over the course of her journey just how dangerous personal connections are... and the following exchange gets to the heart of the debate that plays out over the course of the book:
"Perhaps this is best. We are each other's weakness."
"We are each other's hope," I said, and although every instinct urged me to throw my arms around him, to press my body against his, to hope him close, I withdrew my hands from his and took a step back. To be a warrior of Shadowfell was to put the cause before all else.
"At the end, you may indeed be all alone. If that is unbearable, if you cannot do without your friends, if you cannot go on without love and support and comradeship, then best you give this up now, before you travel farther down the path. Weigh it up, lassie. It's indeed a hard road."
But is it better to proclaim your love, to be aware of it, to have an understanding and risk your heart and the possibility of later being forced to make the choice between your heart and your country... or is it better to protect yourself and your heart by hiding your love away and never speaking?
Similarly, what is a more powerful force for bringing about change: anger? or hope?
THIS BOOK EXPLORES SO MANY QUESTIONS.
The storyline. OH MY GOD, THE THINGS THAT HAPPEN. It made me feel so very many feels. In particular, Neryn's description of the goings on at the Gathering make it very, VERY plain why Keldec's reign needs to end, and why people are so afraid to defy him. It's a devastating scene—as the hero/quest cycle goes, this segment may as well represent Neryn's descent into Hell—made even more powerful by Neryn's response to it: knowing that she can do nothing to stop it, she watches and bears witness, vowing to use the memory to always keep the rebellion forefront in her mind.
I could go on—the brogue! the cranky fey! the vast array of fey! THE BIRDS WHO WEAR LITTLE FELT BOOTS! the ultra-passing of the Bechdel Test! the parts where I cried! OH MY GOD, THE ENDING!—but I'm pretty sure that A) no one is still reading, and B) I've made it pretty clear how much I loved it.
It doesn't have the same homebody vibe as Chalice, but I could see this series appealing to fans. Beyond that, though, if you're at all a fan of the epic-type fantasy, DO NOT MISS IT.
Book source: Review copy from the publisher.
...marks the first time I've seen a gargoyle as a romantic lead, and the fact that the heroine is almost more drawn to Luc Rousseau’s gargoyle side than to his human side gives it a nicely gothic flavor. There are some steamy scenes that are quite effective, the sense of time is interesting—a scene that focuses on one character is often followed up with one about another character during the same period of time—and...wow. I’ve run out of nice things to say.
I feel like I've hit a patch of disappointing reads.
The Snowy Day and the Art of Ezra Jack Keats is the first major exhibition in this country to pay tribute to award-winning author and illustrator Ezra Jack Keats (1916–1983), whose beloved children’s books include Whistle for Willie, Peter’s Chair, and The Snowy Day. The exhibition invites visitors to discover over 80 original works by this groundbreaking American Jewish artist, the first to feature an African-American protagonist in a modern full-color picture book. With works ranging from preliminary sketches to final paintings and collages, the exhibition also offers a reading area for visitors of all ages, drawn from Keats's art and stories.
So, if you're in Philly between now and October 20, check it out!