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Not Your Sidekick, C.B. Lee. Charming teen superhero YA science fiction romance. I suppose technically this is authorities-with-secrets but, I don't know, it never made me roll my eyes about it? Like there were reasons that these particular kids ended up in a position to uncover the lies and fight the system other than Their Innate Teen Resistance To Conformity or whatever. Anyways, I thought it was all pretty obvious but fun and nice and had some good character beats and I appreciate recommendable happy queer teen romance. I mean, adult readers might find it too young for them, but I like there being Good Books For Teens out there, if that's not too patronizing. I mean, I can see some young bisexual Asian girl being like "holy shit A Protagonist Like Me, and she gets the girl, eeee", I don't think we're even at the point yet where we have an abundance of those. I certainly remember compulsively rereading every teen romance I could get my hands on where the girl was taller than the boy (the pattern of many of my early crushes), which was, like, one Sweet Valley High novel and a novella in a collection I've never been able to track down again. Anyways, it turns out this is the first of a trilogy and the next one's going to focus on the trans shapeshifter character, yay.

When The Moon Was Ours, Anna-Marie McLemore. I picked this up because it won the 2016 Tiptree, and I admit I found it very slow going for awhile. Super-poetic magical realism family drama angst romance. I did eventually get through it and did enjoy some of the imagery and language, and how it unfolded, but I still kind of think it could have been about half as long for the actual story. But, much like the previous book, that may be because this book was not For Me; I totally think some young trans person is going to read this and it's going to be Their Book, the thing they write quotes from in their journal and get tattoos of when they turn 18, or at least put on their list of their ten books that most explain who they are. Older YA, if only because I'm not sure younger YA readers would have the patience for the style.

The Lotterys Plus One Emma Donoghue. Did I randomly find a book about a poly family on my library's middlegrade new books shelf? I *did*! Well, it turns out the two dads are married and the two moms are married and they're probably not polying much except to live in one giant house and have kids together, but, like, I am not trying to erase the distinctions here between romantic and familial love, but a middlegrade book probably isn't going to get much into that distinction anyways. This book is definitely from the wish-fulfillment-fantasy genre one might call "what kind of life would we make if money was no object" - there is an enormous lottery win in the backstory - and would probably make a fascinating period piece for people outside the contemporary-liberal cultural context, either past or future. The Lottery dream life is joyously racially and ethnically diverse, warmly accepting of disability and difference (we are very overtly taught the word "neurodiversity"), self-consciously Wacky (so many cutesy names and misheard words) and Unstructured (so much homeschooling) and Literate (some of the books that get name-dropped seem more random than others). I was... not entirely convinced on the main theme about adjusting to accepting a grandpa with dementia into their family instead of finding a dedicated care facility for him... his dementia is conveniently at just the right stage to elide some of the more gritty burdens of caregiving, and his racism and homophobia conveniently soften once he gets to know everybody (there is probably a book to be written that seriously grapples with the question of asking minor children to endure microaggressions in their own home in the name of non-institutionalized caregiving/loving generously, but it wasn't quite this book. probably needs to be own-voices.). And there's a few bits of other weirdness (an AFAB kid who says they're not a girl but is still given she/hers pronouns because they also don't claim to be a boy... I swear we have a good third pronoun for this situation...). But overall it was sweet and goofy and I've always had a fondness for the wacky slice-of-life adventures of characters with an abundance of family and money, going back to, like, Eight Cousins and Cheaper By The Dozen (which both have some uncomfortable racist content as I recall so yay for contemporary readevenvaguelyalikes). If you ever thought it would be cool if Dykes To Watch Out For and the Ramona Quimby series had a baby and it was a feelgood middlegrade, here you go!
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I am so happy.

I can't write a review, because Megan Whalen Turner book. (The MATCHLESS SATISFACTION omg you guys.)

I did a complete reread of the series before reading it and am glad I did. I imagine some people might read this one and then go back and reread others and enjoy them in that direction too.



Apr. 4th, 2017 02:35 pm
psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
Like a River Glorious, Rae Carson, second in the trilogy that started with Walk on Earth a Stranger in which a girl who can sense gold dresses as a boy and plays Oregon Trail. I liked this one less well than the first one: [spoiler cut]
Read more... ) Anyways, I'll surely read the third one.

Frogkisser!, Garth Nix. Enjoyable, super-readable middle-grade fantasy, nice twists on fairy-tale tropes. Reminded me a great deal of Patricia C. Wrede's Enchanted Forest books which is an excellent thing for there to be more of in the world. I'm hoping I can get Junie to read it although it's got "kisser" in the title so she's reluctant.
psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
Justine Larbalestier's latest makes for very depressing reading given current events. It's well done, just, bleah. Nothing I needed. Major content warning behind the first spoiler cut, further discussion behind the second.
1.Read more... )
2.Read more... )


Dec. 5th, 2016 11:34 pm
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The Raven and the Reindeer, T. Kingfisher who is Ursula Vernon, 2016. A nifty YA novelization of "The Snow Queen" fairytale, with shapeshifting, and the having-to-overcome-feeling-stupid part of being a hero, and lesbians, and realizations about dangling after jerkboys. Recommended, especially if you like Fire and Hemlock.

A Closed And Common Orbit, Becky Chambers, 2016. Sort-of sequel to Long Way To A Small Angry Planet, although most of the characters from that aren't in this one. This one is more serious and intense, grapples SFnally with some not-unfamiliar brain stuff? Also I criiiiied so much oh my gosh, really hit some of my buttons for that. Recommended but while I think you *could* read them in either order, this one definitely spoils some stuff that happens in Long Way so my suggestion is to read them in publication order.

The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate, Jacqueline Kelly, 2016. Sequel to Evolution of etc. Kelly has answered my objection about the previous book and laid out a path by which Callie might actually escape and make it to college! Really hoping we get a third one of these with some bigger time jumps so we can see her do it. Are series that start with a juvenile protagonist and follow them all the way into adulthood rarer now than they used to be? I mean, there's Harry Potter, but I feel like stuff like, oh, all the big classic old timey girls series, Anne and Little House and Betsy/Tacy, and then the fantasy classics like Dragonsong and Alanna, there's this whole thing where the content (and, especially in the older series, the complexity of the writing), "grows up" along with the characters. I don't know whether someone could sell a series like that today - specifically I don't know whether Kelly might have. I guess there's Princess Diaries, hrm.

The Case of the Invisible Dog and The Case of the Secret Scribbler, E.W. Hildick, illustrated by Lisl Weil. We've finally caught up to McGurks I remember! Not all or even most of the details - I think I would have read these in like 1984, and never re-read them past elementary school - but there's bits where I'm like "oh yeeeah, this is familiar." Invisible Dog is really charming, and Secret Scribbler involves an Actual Crime TM!

The Storyteller, Evan Turk, picture book, 2016. I don't follow the Caldecott (so no idea what they've been awarding) but I could see this making the list. Really neat story about storytelling, with nested framing stories. Junie was intrigued and wanted to discuss further, which she rarely does about her reading!

Zoom, Istvan Banyai. Q was fascinated by this wordless picture book in which steady "zooming out" reveals scenes to be pictures cleverly inset in other scenes. After we went through together he spent a long time flipping back and forth through the pages "zooming".
psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
Goldenhand, Garth Nix, 2016. Ties off threads from Clariel and the novelettes "The Creature In The Case" and (less directly) "To Hold The Bridge" as well as being a direct sequel to Abhorsen. This being Nix, there are some good settings and sequences here (that was true in Clariel too, despite my general lack of enthusiasm for that book, and this one is definitely more enjoyable), but it definitely felt like a "late book" for a series, as the momentum and creative energy winds down and runs out. If you love the characters you'll probably enjoy seeing them in action again and knowing they get closure on a bunch of fronts, but if you didn't feel like you needed to read "Creature in the Case" you can probably continue to ignore everything after Abhorsen without fear you're missing something great.

I did really like this bit: Read more... )

Full Fathom Five, Max Gladstone, 2014. Third in publishing order of the five-going-on-six-book Craft Sequence; chronologically after both Three Parts Dead and Two Serpents Rise and does involve some characters/situations from those books. Creative energy still going strong for Gladstone at this point in his series, at least. The legal-thrillers-but-with-magic aspect of these means that they're pretty satisfying (truths discovered, injustices rectified) and the magic makes for some good wow in the worldbuilding. There was a bit in the middle of this one I found profoundly moving. I remember that when I read the first two back-to-back I felt like that was too much of the same thing at once, so I'm not going to rush out to catch up on books four and five of the series, but I definitely look forward to reading them when it seems like a good time.

Hold Me, Courtney Milan, 2016. In the contemporary series that started with Trade Me. You can analyze all the dimensions to these fantasies - women get the courage to take what they want! wealthy, powerful men feel lucky that these women give them a chance! but they're really well done, and aren't most books peddling some kind of fantasy of power/justice/hope/what have you. Milan writes her characters with a lot of sympathy and nuance and real-life Stuff to deal with - this whole series seems to be shaping up to have a theme of emotional vulnerability. So it's heavier, than, like, Crusie (although there's definitely still some wackiness here, including a secondary character whose future book I can't wait for). Also the couple in this one is a trans Latina woman and a bi Asian dude, which is just *neat*, like, I'm not really up on the self-published contemporary scene but I know I've never found a trans character on the romance racks at the library.


Oct. 6th, 2016 07:19 pm
psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
Swarm, Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan, and Deborah Biancotti, second of the trilogy that started in Zeroes. Spoiler cut for major spoilers.
Read more... )
psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
Man, maybe when I'm all the way down the Duolingo tree I should celebrate by reading a book in Spanish, I haven't tried that in twenty years.

Anyways. The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, Jacqueline Kelly, is a middle grade about an 11-year-old girl in 1899 Texas who becomes interested in evolution and bonds with her naturalist grandfather. It's been awhile since I read anything in the "girl in historical setting resents limitations/expectations of her gender" genre (although heck knows I used to devour them when I was younger) so I don't remember if they all felt this bittersweet - Callie longs to go to university and see the world, but there's zero indication that this is going to be possible, and quite a bit of indication that she's going to be expected to give up her dreams and conform. So it's more like a "she's getting this magical time in her young life before reality descends" book than "and then she totally grew up to be Kate Sessions" (or whoever your fave lady naturalist is at the moment), despite her grandfather name-dropping a list of historical lady scientists. (Curie, Martha Maxwell, Anning, Kovalevskya, Isabella Bird.) There's apparently a sequel, I'll be curious to see whether this changes.

Company Town, Madeline Ashby. Near-future thriller is not my favorite genre, but as I often think about these books, this one has some clever sfnal ideas in and around the running around, including a woman whose birthmark is natural face-recognition-software camouflage, and post-Singularity AIs trying to meddle with the past. It more or less all hangs together - I found some of the scenes/plot developments at the end kind of muddled, so that I had to reread a couple of times to sort out what was meant, but I got there eventually. And it was very readable in general, in the sense of pace and momentum, and had some good lines, and a neat setting, and, I mean, near-future thriller isn't my *least* favorite genre either, sometimes it's fun to read about someone running around having fights/solving murders/etc and this one has a good protagonist and perspective, so, hey.

Eleanor & Park, Rainbow Rowell. Waaaah nostalllgia. Better critics than I have written about the somewhat awkward handling of race in this novel, so let me just say, that's there, but my white privilege let me focus more on the teen-romance parts than the dubious-representation parts, and Rowell does so well with capturing the immensity of that first romance and the intensity of every particular tiny step? I read so much slashfic where people confess their feelings and someone has a dick up their ass five seconds later, I really love the contrast of teen stories where someone very daringly touches a collarbone on the eighth date. Anyways, I ended up crying on the couch at one in the morning listening to "Get Lost" very very loud in my headphones (which isn't even my personal teen heartbreak nostalgia soundtrack, that would be more like REM/U2/Metallica, but it's become the iconic album of those emotions for me), which was an excellent outcome as far as I'm concerned, so, recommended if that sounds good to you.
psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
So I just finished League of Dragons, the final book in Naomi Novik's Temeraire series, and Carry On, Rainbow Rowell's version of the final book of a YA fantasy series she originally invented as a Harry Potter analogue for Fangirl, although this is not, in fact, the series as it existed in Fangirl, this is the book it actually is, a book in our world. Novik is still active in fandom and I'm a big fan of her fanwork (as well as prowork); I don't know who Rowell is but there is *no way* she wasn't in HP fandom and I would love to know who she was if someone ever wanted to slip me that secret under the table. I'm just really fascinated by the whole business of having that context, as a reader, although it also feels like a delicate subject, maybe partly because SRB has been vocal about disliking people talking about it in her case? But, argh, this is too interesting to be too taboo to talk about! Novik and Rowell are doing really different projects but are doomed to end up on the same syllabus when someone gets to teach a class on this stuff in 2035 or whatever; I suppose you could consider this a sketch of a paper for that class.

(If you just want to know if I'd rec them, without spoilers, then yes, both; the Temeraire series is fantasy alt-history done excellently, and I think Carry On would be interesting to anyone who ever thought much about Harry Potter. (I would love to know whether it makes any sense outside of that context, but who on earth is going to want to read it who doesn't know Harry Potter?))

Under the cut there are spoilers about shipping, for the very end of League of Dragons, and for earlier books in the Temeraire series, but I've tried to avoid other references to plot events in both books.

Read more... )
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Lizard Radio, Pat Schmatz, co-won the 2015 Tiptree. So I'm a giant hypocrite: this book is totally a YA dystopia with Authorities with Secrets, a genre I usually claim to be quite sick of, and yet I loved it. Maybe it's not that I'm a hypocrite, maybe this one is really that unusually good? It's more character-driven, smaller in scope, more of the important drama is internal instead of societal. Also I'm a huge sucker for a nonbinary protagonist, and while the book's world is sfnal in how it deals with gender, the nbness felt like real-world nbness in that sfnal setting, which I liked. It was just really good teen-coming-of-age-in-conflict-with-their-society, plus some neatly-handled worldbuilding of being very concrete and specific in its details (a lot of fun invented slang) and entirely blank on anything it doesn't actually *need* to mention, so, we get this very narrow intriguing glimpse of this world, without anything like a backstory dump.

You-might-like-it-if: The Giver, the Stranger/Hostage series? Uglies? I almost want to say Clockwork Orange, although it's been a million years since I reread that, and Lizard Radio has a super likeable protagonist so it's not a great parallel? Oh, that brilliant Samatar story, "How to Get Back to the Forest", I thought about that a lot.
psocoptera: ink drawing of celtic knot (ha!)
This is possibly the easiest to read of Patrick Ness's novels - which, given that his other books are the Chaos Walking series, which remain some of the most difficult and upsetting books I've ever read (but, I mean, are phenomenal and important in what they're grappling with) and A Monster Calls which waaaaah and More Than This which, like, several content warnings there, so, yeah, Ness, not to be picked up lightly. The Rest Of Us Just Live Here has its share of hard stuff but, I don't know, still manages to be very funny and relatable, and that's part of the point?

The premise here is that this is a book about some of the "normal" kids at a high school that periodically faces supernatural problems (gods, vampires, etc) that the "indie kids" have to dramatically deal with. So, the "normal" kids have all kinds of, like, real, human interpersonal stuff going on, against the background of the latest supernatural threat. Ness keeps a lot of different threads going, any one of which could probably have been An Issue Book in the hands of a lesser writer, but all together, it makes a bigger point about everybody having stuff going on, and there's some beautiful moments here about pity vs caring, and loving your friends, and, inevitably, I cried, but not in the Monster Calls way. More like the Team Human way, and that is my #1 if-you-liked recommendation for this, it feels a lot like Team Human in its genre meta and emotional beats. Also, more generally, Buffy, maybe Karen Healey's The Shattering.

I'm going to put some non-specific spoilers behind a cut, first a character thing I really liked, and then some content-warning-ish stuff. Read more... )
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I don't remember now exactly why I lost interest in Dream Thieves, but I decided to read the rest of the series after all, and went through Blue Lily, Lily Blue in a few days, and The Raven King in pretty much one morning, plus a few chapters. I enjoyed them! For awhile in Blue Lily I felt very conscious that I was Reading These Books Because I Like To Keep Up With What The Kids Are Talking About In YA These Days, but eventually I got immersed. I still kind of feel that if you were only going to read one Maggie Stiefvater book ever, it should be Shiver, but I definitely like these as a series more than I liked the Shiver sequels (Linger/Whatever/the one I didn't even read), so if you're only going to read one Stiefvater *series*, go Raven Cycle.

I've been trying to figure out what to compare them to, since that's one of my favorite review-games. There's a kinship to the Dark Is Rising books - a small group of young people dealing with magic, kings and their wizards, Wales, etc - although the Raven books don't go so heavily for the trappings of myth, and they're much more teen-character-drama-driven. Emotions-wise, they're closer to Darkest Part of the Forest, although they weren't so powerful, for me. Some Sandman-territory stuff, ghosts, dreams, spontaneous fish. There are some good lines and nothing I found particularly annoying (in the last two books, at least), so, hey, a complete YA fantasy series! And there's lots of fic!


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