Sunday, November 25, 2012

Cybils Panic

This is the part of Cybils season when I start to panic. I can read, or I can write a review. I can write a review, or I can read. I can ponder and be thoughtful, or I can start going through all those e-books...

Realistically, it's not possible for me to mention every book I read for the Cybils, no matter how much I'd like to. And maybe I wouldn't like to; I'd rather spend the time reading and considering books, and preparing to thumbwrestle it out with the other first round judges when it comes time to turn our individual shortlists into a representative group shortlist. Before we get there, I want to read everything I've been offered, at least in part.

And blah blah blah. I can't fit in full reviews, sadly, but here are a few books I've read recently.

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman (Random House - Books for Young Readers) has been all over the place, but I hadn't read it, and I can see why so many readers liked it. It's set in a fantasy world that draws from various time periods, and you can tell by the cover that there are dragons. There is also music; generally, as a (retired) musician, I can't stand music themes in fantasy, but this is well done. What is perhaps the most well done are themes of being mixed, of being other, of being outside of behavioral norms, of being smart, of elbowing one's way into a world where one is not accepted, of breaking all of society's rules to follow the rule of love. This turns out to be the first in a series; I'm curious how the themes will play out in future installments.

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi (Harper) is, sure, a dystopia. Juliette lives in a world that's been battered and misshapen environmentally, and a mysterious military force is in charge. There are soldiers, mysterious factions, and narrow escapes. But none of these hooked me; instead, I found the writing style compelling. Juliette is dangerous. She's a weapon. (And she's a weapon in a way that I think fans of Graceling might like.) She's been in jail, and she's lost her mind. Her thought processes and a use of strikethrough to indicate what she's suppressing, changing her mind about, kept me turning pages until the end. This is the first book in a series.

Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan (Random House - Books for Young Readers) is exactly what I've been hoping for from this author. Kami lives in Sorry-in-the-Vale, and one day, her imaginary friend, the one who she's always talking to in her head, shows up. Kami is tenacious and funny, and not willing to simply stand by while people get murdered. There's a well-rounded supporting cast and a sense of modern-day Nancy Drew about the whole thing, and Sarah balances the humor with the gothic themes--not an easy task. P.S. Even though Barnes and Noble doesn't seem to like it, I think that cover is awesome. Really, truly awesome.

172 Hours on the Moon by Johann Harstad, trans. Tara F. Chace (Little, Brown - Books for Young Readers; previously published by ATOM), is horror...on the moon! NASA has some secrets to cover up, and it's time to get back into the space race. What better distraction than a lottery where three teenagers--here, one from France, one from Japan, and one from Norway--are selected to be astronauts? They'll train! They'll do press junkets! They'll cover up the previously unadvertised moonbase! Don't get too attached, though. This looks like science fiction, but it's actually horror.

In Fair Coin by E.C. Myers (Prometheus - Pyr) Ephraim's mom thinks he's dead. They found his body. They found his wallet with his library card inside. And when he retrieves the wallet, there's a coin in it. Turns out, that coin grants wishes. Wonderful wishes, like "I wish my mom wasn't a horrible parent" and "I wish that girl would like me." Only, with each wish, the world has to bend to make it happen. There are unexpected consequences, and before long, Ephraim has to decide whether some things are worth having.

Erebos by Ursula Poznanski, trans. Judith Pattinson (Annick Press in this edition), is another book in translation, and one that looks like horror but reads like SF. Or maybe it's just a thriller. Maybe I kind of hate labels in YA. At any rate, imagine that you got this very secret, very interactive computer game. One that's more than a game. This is the scarier, not at all funny, and more dangerous version of Vivian Vande Velde's Heir Apparent. If you're a gamer or a watch-over-the-shoulder player, you'll recognize the moments when you get that icky feeling in the pit of your stomach...

Everett Singh sees his father get kidnapped in Planesrunner by Ian McDonald (Prometheus - Pyr). His mother doesn't quite believe it. The police cover it up. And pretty soon, smart, athletic Everett receives a file, one that opens up to become a beautiful computer program. And not long after, his flat is ransacked, he's being followed, and everything is going wrong. His father discovered something that maybe he shouldn't, something others would like to have, and then Everett is tracking down his father, not just on the streets of London, not just across international boundaries, and not just off this planet, but across universes.

Sadly, Blogger won't allow for all the tags I'd like to use.

These books are nominated in the YA SF/F category for the 2012 Cybils. I reviewed a copy that I owned for Seraphina and Unspoken, and the rest were provided by their publishers, with no explicit or implied strings.

1 comment:

  1. Glad to have your take on Unspoken, however briefly. That's the Brennan book I've been looking forward to, though I haven't read the others yet, either. Bumping it up my to-read list.

    (Here's hoping this isn't a duplicate comment; something odd happened when I first hit Publish.)


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